For an issue focused on dance and dancing, I wrote about Adrian Piper's seminal participation video, Funk Lessons (1983). I channeled those fraught moments of power, authority, and skepticism experienced teaching in predominantly white environments.

On Tokens
We know that the same word means a number of different things. Token. Transportation. Travel. Movement.
Back in the day (when I used to teach and sometimes make video art) I used to show this tape to my students as a
lesson for them and for me. Part of the lesson for me was a reminder. To remind me that my white students
probably couldn't help it. They may not know any black people. You can't expect people to know things that
you haven't taken the time to tell or teach them.
There's a saying about catching more bees with honey. So
sweet. But what does it mean to be nice to well-meaning but clueless white people? And why is it so hard
sometimes? Chances are the white person in front of you is not the specific perpetrator of oppressions and
innumerable wrongs that beset and vex you. Chances are.were. It was someone else. Their aunt or uncle or great
great something. But still when I think about art, work, labor, and commerce—about receiving money in exchange
for engaging with capitalist society. Receiving money, tokens, and other things you need to make your way in the
world. I think about the long history of colored people, interacting with white people—and their special, specific
problems. This is about my own oppression. That to me is what work is about. Traditionally and historically.
Historically, me/you—people of your skin color, background, gender, orientation, and persuasion, were most likely
not paid for your work or labor. Isn't that where the term Miss Ann comes from? Miss Ann is a term used inside the
African-American community to refer to a white woman who is condescending and arrogant in her attitude. It was a
pejorative way of commenting on imperious behavior from white women., particularly when it came with racist
undertones. It is seldom used among African Americans today. And I think this is what the older Black lady meant.
About taking some shit. You use terms like Miss Ann to name behavior that you will most likely not be able to do
something concrete or lasting about. You poison Miss Ann's coffee for example. You spit in Miss Ann's tea. This
was the creative output and endeavor of the indentured, oppressed, and overrun everywhere. When you are lone,
alone you may have to take some shit. But later, in narration, in the re-telling, you make it different. You change the
experience and what it felt like altogether.
I met an older woman. Black doesn't crack so it's really impossible to tell how old she may actually have been. She
was old. Older. And because of the occasion she was one/want to give out advice. How do you do it? How do you
get to your age in this country? In this place? And look so unburdened? With what we have to deal with? With all
that we have to bear? We were the first generation she starts out. When you're the first one in the door you have to
take some shit. Put up with certain things. The key is not to take too much shit. Take some—for future generations
—but not all of it. .
unpackaged self for all to see. p5

The idea and the importance of funk comes from the depths of black American life,
particularly that aspect of black America which never got around to integrating. p7
Funk is the means by which black folks confirm identity through rhythm, dance, bodily
fluids, and attitude. But every booty is funky. P6
Funk: The Music, the People, and the Rhythm of The One
~Ricky Vincent

On Funk Lessons: A Collaborative Experiment in Cross-Cultural Transfusion
Funk is the means by which black folks confirm identity through rhythm, dance, bodily fluids,
and attitude. But every booty is funky. Ricky Vincent, Funk: The Music, the People, and the Rhythm of The
One, p6
Funk Lessons is a video document of a series of collaborative performances instigated by
Adrian Piper between 1982-1984. Funk Lessons, the video, documents a November 1983
performance recorded while Piper was on a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Stanford
University. Funk Lessons was a series of performances in which Piper, a black female
conceptual artist teaches, guides and gently schools her predominantly white audience a brief
and insightful lesson on the aesthetics, semiotics, and athleticism that
support/embody/create/make up the African-American genre of popular music known as “funk”.

From the far left corner of the image, Piper commands the room. Clad in gray sweatpants,
trainers, and a black shirt, Piper is in full-on coach/trainer mode. She is wearing her play clothes
and ready to demonstrate dance moves. Piper is speaking into a microphone mounted on a
three-legged mic stand. The mic stand's arm points the microphone directly towards her mouth.
Piper is the only person amplified. Her audience looks on in various poses. Hands in front
pockets, arms akimbo, one-arm crossed with other arm balled underneath the chin. (Would they
change their stance if they could see themselves? Gross. We've seen those skeptical faces
before). The floor is the witness to the tape/project's intentions.Three spotlights behind the
group, backlight Piper's audience/collaborators. The spots create distorted but singular shadows
on the hard wood floor. This is the transfusion for now, these shadows overlapping on the floor,
the shapes of light breaking through on the floor. This is the crossing of cultures, for now.
Because before you can dance with this predominantly white room of pupils, you have to school
them on the basics of funk and getting down. And this is what I love about this tape. About the
exercise and enterprise of teaching and learning (pedagogy) that it professes. It is fun, liberating
even but it does so while staying well within the bounds of the teacher-pupil dynamic. While the
tape is about the practice of dancing to funk and a micro-history of the act itself, you can't leave
these things to chance, free-styling, or self-interpretation. It's a testament to Piper's rigor and
precision, it is worth mentioning what this tape is not about. It's not a history of funk. It doesn't
tackle complex configurations such as capital F funk—aka The Funk—or spend time trying to
wax philosophical about the Mothership, The One, or Funkentelechy. It's specifically about the
release, the pleasure, and the tk of moving one's feet, arms, and head in a rhythmic and
emotional response to the sound of funk music. This is a lesson about a certain kind of
assimilationist enterprise, the act of creating space. Creating space in a room, within a complex
set of ideas, on a college campus, on the dance floor. Creating space in a room, within a
complex set of ideas, on a college campus, in your mind, in your life(where you live, where you
work), on the dance floor.
(I see you lone black brother/sister almost cut-off and underlit in the right corner of the frame)
your eyes are front later you'll sweep across the dance floor. How I feel you and reach back to
1983 to prop you up—all in your glory, mock turtleneck beauty, or is it pain? )