.Artelia Green Honors Ancestors and Yoruba Origins

Tiffani Marie maintains the legacy of her great-grandmother

Tiffani Marie is on a journey, and it’s a wild ride. To hitch onto her wagon is to join a real-life superwoman who’s a singer/songwriter and a podcaster, a video, film and record producer, a mother, a social activist and a San Jose State University professor. Her academic work focuses primarily on the impacts of racism, poverty, gentrification and socioeconomic adversity on the health and well-being of Black youth and their communities.

Marie frequently refers to herself as a “recovering academic” because of her unconventional position that schooling in its present state is destructive more than instructive and that the institutions which employ her should be dismantled and recreated.

Marie is also the descendant of Artelia Green, her maternal great-grandmother who was bound in the state-sanctioned violence of slavery as a sharecropper in Arkansas. She died when Marie was 12 years old.

“I was really afraid of her when she was alive,” Marie said. “I distanced myself and didn’t know how to interact with her.”

Even so, Marie was fascinated by her great-grandmother’s self-agency. She learned that Green sometimes left the family for months to spend time in nature; likely to restore the remnants of trauma due to her life’s inequities.

Choosing to honor her Yoruba origins and her great-grandmother by naming both herself as a performing artist and her band, “Artelia Green,” Marie said it’s “the best way to have my people say her name and maintain that legacy.”

Another way is in the upcoming release of her new album, In No Particular Order. The first single released from the album is called “Ghetto Children Funk.” 

“In the first half, it explicitly names stressor after stressor in relation to state-sanctioned violence,” Marie said. “The second half is a true story: a man I met who had a farm in Georgia. He was a lawyer and had moved there from East Oakland. During the pandemic, all the elders came to eat at the farm he’d developed. It was how they survived because they were scared of going to grocery stores. That half is imagining more sustainable ways of being.”

The music-video version wraps around the Bell Man, a houseless person from her childhood who pushed a cart in Bayview. Viewers see Marie, her adult body folded into a tiny wire cart, and follow two Black youths who escape into the natural world and are welcomed by “elders.” They rest in the embrace of belonging, feeling safe, seen and heard.

Despite claiming—like the title—“there’s no particular order” to the songs in the new album, there is. The tracks walk from “Ghetto Children’s” I’m-a-rapper energy to songs bursting with the freshness and messiness of becoming a mother, and songs that shred form and reveal vulnerability, such as the last track, named after her daughter, “Cashmere.”

It frightens Marie to be in creative spaces where structure dissolves and rules fly away—a process she insists is essential in finding solid ground on which to build new worlds. On her podcast, Apocalyptic Education, children and young adults express their fears.

“In a recent podcast a college student speaks of overwhelming stress, and my former students are on the podcast,” Marie said. “They’re pouring into him all the teachings and the research they’ve conducted about ancestors, self-love. It makes me know the kids are going to be just fine. Black children have everything inside themselves they need to thrive. We’re the ones we need to worry about. Our work needs to be dedicated not to fixing kids, but removing barriers to what’s holding them down.”

Marie says pushing aside obstacles blocking youth greatness involves a two-step process with a satisfying coda: “Remind them they and their lineage are sacred, prioritize their health and well-being, honor them as blessings. The kryptonite to the genius and creativity of Black children, and vital to improve their health and well-being and reduce unnecessary deaths, are building new policies and practices that focus on and support culture, community and consciousness. My music is a reminder of that.”

For more info on Tiffani Marie or to listen to Artelia Green’s music, visit arteliagreen.com.


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