Dry Creek Band of Pomo Indians
Dry Creek Band of Pomo Indians
Ras K’dee is a Pomo/African musician from Sonoma County, California, who has been compared to Gil Scott-Heron and Marvin Gaye. He is a community educator, and renowned lyricist, producer, lead vocalist and keyboardist for Bay Area-based Audiopharmacy ― a live, world hip-hop ensemble that has toured together for 16 years to local and international venues in Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom, Holland, Switzerland, France, Japan, Indonesia, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Ecuador, Morocco, Oman, and Cyprus. In 2003, Ras co-founded, and is current director of, a Native youth media organization called Seventh Native American Generation (SNAG). Its annual magazine features the art, photos, music, and writing of Indigenous youth. Ras also leads summer youth workshops and is a producer and occasional co-host of a Northern California radio program, “Bay Native Circle.” He has been featured in numerous publications, such as Smithsonian Magazine and Native California News. His many awards include “Most Earnest and Up and Coming Band,” KQED American Indian Local Heroes Award, and American Indian Film Award Best Animation Short for “Injunuity.”
“My song ‘Be There,’ featuring singer/songwriter Desirae Harp (Wappo/Diné), is about being there for your people in their time of need. It is about the little ways that we show up for our loved ones, standing in solidarity to support each other. It reminds us of our power to unite for collective liberation. The music video was filmed in snow-covered Yosemite Valley and the dry land of Joshua Tree, California, and takes us into the grey, gritty streets of San Francisco. Visuals are woven in and out of contrasting environments as a symbolic struggle of life aiming to achieve balance.” —Ras K’dee
Watch Ras’s music video here.
What does the idea of “justice for Native communities” mean to you?
Native justice means a return of stolen lands, honoring treaties, restoring our rights to land and water, and living rent-free in our homelands. It also means acknowledging our birthright to clean water, access to land for planting, harvesting, and gathering; and the freedom to hunt, fish, and grow our families without bureaucracy. Also, there are such disparities in resources for Natives. I recall throughout my childhood that we weren’t able to drink the water in our community, a situation that didn’t change until recently. My tribe didn’t even have electricity until the 80s and just in the last few years, we acquired access to the Internet.
What do you think needs to happen in the world to achieve justice for Native communities?
We need many villages to be rebuilt. It starts with reclaiming lands, land stewardship projects, and the returning of vast areas of lands to tribes for tribal management. Once we can begin the process of rebuilding and restoring our villages and communities, we can truly transform to healthy nontoxic, sustainable housing, and provide the language and cultural support to revitalize our communities. We must stop waiting for government handouts and grants, and start to rebuild ourselves with the resources and community power that we have within.
How do you express justice through your artwork?
The ongoing theme in all our songs is Native justice, sovereignty, and self-determination. I produce music that shares solutions and common dreams and messages of peace to move us toward the shift that we want to see in a sustainable and healed village. My musical inspiration is deeply rooted in my experience as a cultural artist, invoking songs and dances from traditional ceremonies of my Native people, and telling stories of resistance, healing, community, and empowerment understood and felt universally by all people.
Is there anything else you would like to share about Native justice and your artwork?
I have traveled with my band internationally for many years. Being able to share my music with the world is my favorite part. It is a powerful way to inspire people, who have told me that our music saved their lives. I would also like to share that in 2019, I started building the first-ever sustainably built, Indigenous-led, multimedia center of its kind called the NEST Community Arts Center in my Pomo homeland of Sonoma County. I am currently fundraising to build a visual arts studio, yurt gathering space, and bathhouse. Future building plans include SNAG Magazine’s offices, print studio, dance studio, holistic healing space, communal living space, and music studios.