More about Jamila Woods, The CMA & BSA’s Sweetback History

Burnt Sugar at The Museum of Modern Art Chicago

Poet and vocalist Jamila Woods was raised in Chicago, IL and graduated from Brown University, where she earned a BA in Africana Studies and Theatre & Performance Studies. Influenced by Lucille Clifton and Gwendolyn Brooks, much of her writing explores blackness, womanhood & the city of Chicago. Her first chapbook, The Truth About Dolls (2012), was inspired by a Toni Morisson quote & features a Pushcart-nominated poem about Frida Kahlo. Her poetry is included in the anthologies The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop (2015), Courage: Daring Poems for Gutsy Girls (2014), and The UnCommon Core: Contemporary Poems for Learning & Living (2013).

Jamila is also a vocalist & songwriter, focusing primarily on soul/hip-hop centered music. Her musical lineage includes Erykah Badu, Imogen Heap, Kirk Franklin, and Kendrick Lamar. Raised in her church choir, Jamila’s musical aesthetic involves choral layering in addition to the hip-hop tradition of sampling & allusions.

Woods’s debut solo album HEAVN, released earlier this summer, has received enthusiastic reviews from Pitchfork, SPIN, MTV, Nylon, and Noisey; her work with her band, M&O (fka Milo & Otis) has been featured by Okayplayer, Spin, JET and Ebony Magazine

Jamila is currently the Associate Artistic Director of non-profit youth organization Young Chicago Authors, where she helps organize Louder Than A Bomb (the largest poetry festival in the world), designs curriculum for Chicago Public Schools, and teaches poetry to young people throughout the city.
The MCA’s mission is to bring artists and audiences together, presenting contemporary art and culture in ways that illuminate what it means to be a citizen of both Chicago and the world. The MCA’s current home at 220 East Chicago Avenue was the first US commission for renowned German rationalist architect Josef Paul Kleiheus.  Located one block east of the historic Water Tower, the MCA champions the provocative side of contemporary art and culture.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The museum is generously supported by its Board of Trustees; individual and corporate members; private and corporate foundations, including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; and government agencies. Programming is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency. Museum capital improvements are supported by a Public Museum Capital Grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.  The MCA is a proud member of Museums in the Park and receives major support from the Chicago Park District.

The revisionist Burnt Sugar Arkestra make their MCA debut playing the soundtrack to Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, the film odyssey by actor/director/composer Melvin Van Peebles. Shot on a shoestring budget over the period of 19 days in 1971, the renegade film got scorching reviews but grew to be one of the top-grossing releases of the year, kickstarting the 1970s genre known as Blaxploitation. The do-it-yourself spirit extended to the soundtrack, recorded by then-unknown big band powerhouse Earth, Wind & Fire—and composed by Van Peebles—which alternated hymn-based vocals and jazz rhythms, creating a sound that prefigured sampling in hip-hop.  In 2010 Van Peebles choose BSA to be his “21st century EWF” for the theatrical debut of “Sweet Sweetback”  with two sold-out nights and a live ARTE stream of the second night at the Sons d’hiver Festival in Paris France.