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Unit Three, Week Eighteen. Diving the Sunken Place: We Convene in Honor of Craig "muMs" Grant

Teach Out Gathering Time: Sunday, April 4 5:00 - 7:00 pm

Meeting ID: 984 4028 7294

diving the sunken place: intersectional histories, black aesthetics, and violence in american cinema

week eighteen

Craig "muMs" Grant’s biggest success as an actor was the role of "Poet" on the HBO prison drama Oz, but fans of that series were accustomed to seeing him credited simply as "muMs." It was a name he adopted as a young man when he was exploring rap and slam poetry, influences that he said changed his life.

Before hip-hop,” he said in “A Sucker Emcee,” an autobiographical play he performed in 2014, “I couldn’t speak.

Grant compiled a small but ongoing career as an actor. He appeared on Oz throughout its six-season run, beginning in 1997. He turned up in bit parts on series including Hack, Boston Legal and Law & Order, as well as in movies like Spike Lee’s 2000 Bamboozled. Before his Oz breakthrough, he was a familiar presence on the slam poetry circuit in New York and beyond; he was featured in the 1998 documentary “SlamNation” as part of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe slam team.

He returned to his poetry/rap roots often, appearing onstage with the Labyrinth Theater Company in New York, where he was a member of the ensemble. He performed at colleges and small theaters all over the country.

I love words,” he told The Indianapolis Star in 2001. “Anybody ever wanted to buy me anything for Christmas or my birthday, they can buy me a dictionary. The bigger, the better.

Grant died last week in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he was filming the Starz series Hightown, in which he had a recurring role. He was 52.

He was born in 1968, in the Bronx, New York. His father, Samuel, was a locksmith and carpenter at Montefiore Hospital; his mother, Theresa (Maxwell) Grant, was a teacher. Grant graduated from Mount Saint Michael Academy in the Bronx and was taking college courses in Virginia when he said he started exploring writing, seeking to infuse poetry with the energy of the rap music he enjoyed.

"The problem with poetry is, a lot of the audience sometimes has a short attention span,” he told an Indianapolis paper years later. “So poetry has to have rhythm to capture people who can’t listen for so long. They’ll just close their eyes and ride the rhythm of your voice.

He took the name “muMs” when he was around 20. He was in a rap group, he told The Philadelphia Daily News in 2003, and still had a bit of a youthful lisp, so a friend suggested he call himself “Mumbles.”

In 2003, Grant released a spoken-word album called “Strange Fruit,” taking the title from the song about lynchings famously recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939. “Today, strange fruit means we’re the product of everything Black people have been through in this country — Middle Passage, Jim Crow, segregation,” he told The Baltimore Sun in 2004. “It’s a new way of looking at it. The metaphor of strange fruit means life and birth for me, where it used to mean lynching and death. Blacks have been doing that for years, taking the bad and flipping it, making the best of a bad situation.

We dedicate this week's gathering and study in The Teach Out to Craig "muMs" Grant. May he rest in power.

*Parts of Grant's biography here were taken from The New York Times features, 3/27/21.


our week eighteen viewing

queen and slim (2019)

Queen and Slim is available on Amazon, HBO Max, and hulu.


our weekly provocations

  1. Cobb, November 2019, The New Yorker, "The Powerful Perspective of Queen and Slim"

The Powerful Perspective of “Queen & Sli
Download • 4.49MB

“For Us and by Us”_ What ‘Queen and Slim
Download • 5.30MB

3. Interview with Lena Waithe and Melina Matsoukas on Queen and Slim


outro, our weekly intention

The greatest reward of this constant interrogation, confrontation with the brutality of my country, is that it has freed me from hosts and myths.

--Ta-Nehisi Coates



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