By Malik Al Nasir – A protégé of Gil Scott-Heron and a student of The Last Poets.
One of the biggest influences on my life was Gil Scott-Heron. He was an accomplished author, poet, musician and teacher. He encouraged me to become productive and to explore the possibility of academia through poetry.
After a traumatic childhood, I travelled away to sea for a number of years. While I was away, I taught myself to read and write using poetry. I would send poems to Gil and when we’d meet up to go on tour together, he would give me pointers on how to make the poetry more effective or how to use language better. Our friendship and mentorship developed from then on.
In 2004, I published a volume of poetry under my former name of Mark T. Watson, (my name before I converted to Islam). The book was called Ordinary Guy and was a tribute to both Gil Scott-Heron and our mentors, The Last Poets.
Gil had seen me through both iterations of myself, both as Mark and then later as Malik and he was very much my political and my academic mentor. In 1986, I met The Last Poets and in 1992 they introduced me to the faith of Islam, which is when I changed my name to Malik Al Nasir. The Last Poets were more my spiritual and religious mentors ever since but I performed and recorded some poetry with them as well. Jalal Nuriddin (of the Last Poets) even wrote a poem about me called Malik’s Mode, which outlined my transition from Mark to Malik and is the foreword to my book Ordinary Guy.
I was asked to produce Jalal’s iconic Hustlers Convention Live at the Jazz Café, marking the album’s 40th anniversary in 2014. This was staged specifically for the film of the same title, which I featured in alongside Chuck-D, Immortal Technique, Melle Mel, KRS 1, Fab Five Freddie, Ice-T, Sonia Sanchez, Nelson George and more. The opportunity to open for Jalal and to produce this historic event was an honour for my band – Malik & The O.G’s.
After more than 20 years of hard work and study, under some of the greats of the spoken word genre, I am touring Canada with Jalal during Black History Month 2016. It will be my first time in Canada, as well as Jalal’s debut Canadian performance. I’ll be opening up for him at Dispatches for Tomorrow at Harbourfront Centre’s Kuumba Festival, February 6th 2016 at 9pm.
Dispatches from Tomorrow will take place at Harbourfront Centre’s Kuumba festival, presented by TD Bank Group. A three-day festival that explores the theme of “Black Like We” through music, spoken word, discussion, comedy, dance and family activities for all ages.