This poet from Vermont is a Seattle institution… Courtesy of Rajnii Eddins
When Rajnii Eddins moved from Seattle to Vermont 12 years ago, I felt that city had lost much of its culture. Her mother, Randee Eddins, founded the African American Writers Alliance, an organization I became involved with in the first half of the 1990s. When I was teaching high school literature at Seattle Central College in the second mid-1990s, the best mind in the class was undoubtedly Eddins. Indeed, he read to the class the entire ebony rich book by Zora Neale Hurston Their eyes looked at God impeccably. They understood him, and he understood the novel.
In the 2000s, Rajnii Eddins was a member of a woefully underrated but hugely influential rap group of its time: 500 Years, as in 500 Years of Slavery. He also made guest appearances on a number of 206 records, one of which is Gabriel Teodros’ beautiful and moving one. labor of love. He also commissioned one of the 206 greatest hip-hop tracks ever produced, Helladope’s “Mind Shiftin'” cutscene:
The Eddins had a home near downtown Renton that rose above and overlooked the Renton Municipal Airport. The events they organized there attracted artists from all walks of life. Both were a cultural institution. They were also finalists for Foreign’s Gong Show (if I remember correctly). According to former 500 Years member and current DJ KEXP Teodros (whose memory I trust), the Eddins also hosted a Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute series, The Poetry Experience, which had a massive impact on 206 hiphop. (According to Teodros’ recollection, Macklemore learned to rap there.)
Then the Eddins moved to Vermont. What a waste of talent. But Rajnii Eddins is back to read new poetry at Wa Na Wari tonight and also this Saturday, April 23, at the same venue.
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