KALW’s Bay Area Beats: Micah Tron

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KALW’s Bay Area Beats: Micah Tron

Originally aired/published on KALW

Micah Tron is a rapper born and raised in San Francisco. She’s a queer woman of color, but the hurdles she has faced go even beyond her race, sexual preference, and gender. She lived in a shelter, was displaced by Hurricane Katrina and a few years into her twenties, she was diagnosed with epilepsy. But she hasn’t let this stop her from pursuing her music career – she says it actually motivates her. After her nephew was born deaf, she learned sign language, and her latest dream is to make music for the deaf community. She spoke with reporter Lo Benichou about her story.

MICAH TRON: Tramicah Dimpsy is my government name. Micah Tron is my artist name.

When I was younger, my mom got me a karaoke machine for Christmas and I had been dying for it, too, and I got it and I was juiced and so I started…downloaded instrumentals from the internet, put them on CDs, and putting them into the karaoke machine and then rapping in my beats and making little cassette tapes.

I was trying to dabble into poetry because I was into the whole Def Jam on HBO thing. I was also thinking about journalism at the same time that’s why I went to New Orleans for, to study journalism – I wanted to be a writer, but music was really my passion.

So it was me and my sister and my other brother, and it was just us three, and my mom, she raised us all, by herself. I felt like she is the strongest woman I’ve ever known. She worked two or three jobs but we always stay fresh. We lived in the projects, but we always stay fresh!

“The Sky is Falling Down” was a song I wrote awhile back. Three characters, coming together – and they all have these trials and tribulations. People who come from that kind of background – the kind of background I came from, really – but, you know, there is a way to make it. I feel like I am the odd bird in my family.

There was one point we stayed in a shelter and I had a mentor who they assigned to me. And I feel like she opened up the whole world to me, because I lived in the projects and my family was so closed minded. I didn’t really get to see a lot of the city and so she took me to places like the DeYoung Museum, she took me to Crissy Field. I had never seen Crissy Field before in my life.

We did a lot of stuff – it was so mind-blowing. It opened my whole eyes to the city. I had never known, you know. Then she disappeared, I never saw her again. And I know that she was a lesbian and I think that may have impacted me somehow, too. I felt like I came out at two different times, one to my family was the most recent because my family is kind of small-minded and bias against a lot of kind of people. But before that, I was just doing me – everybody pretty much knew.

I always thought it was an opportunity. There’s not many lesbian rappers trying to really get out there. I moved around a lot. I actually stayed at my dad’s house for a while in Georgia. He came and got me before the hurricane hit. I was going to Dillard University and it was a week before the hurricane and I got displaced.  It set me back so far.

I think I just now caught up to where I need to be, but as far as school-wise, they lost all of my information, my scholarship, my records and all of this so I was starting over really. I was with a friend and we were in my room and I just blanked out. And I blacked out. My friend said you know you really just had a seizure and you need to go get some help.

I saw the doctors and they put me on medication and I went from medication to medication and I felt like the medication made me sicker, so I stopped taking medicine. I am lucky that it hasn’t happened yet on stage. I am afraid it will happen but I try not to think about it. It was the Lil Kim show. That was my like, big boom of the year. I had been doing small club events and little stuff here and there for like non-profits and stuff like that, but when I got the opportunity to do that, I was stoked! I felt like I was priority. He called me for the opportunity – it was not something I applied for or that I tried to get, I was called up and I was her opener. I was the last person to go on before she did, so that was really cool. I’m working at a school called SEED, it’s a school for deaf toddlers and infants.

That’s one of my new ideas – I’m feeling like I want to make music for deaf people. They feel the tempo of the music and they feel the punch of the music but the sounds are different. It’s something they feel and internalize differently than other people because I feel like people who hear music don’t really listen to music – they just hear it. They feel it, they boppin’ to it, but they don’t really internalize the sounds, instruments, words everything that’s inside the songs.

I feel like I want to do something like that to bring out the music in a song so people can see it from a different side. That’s what I want to do, really – to travel. To get my music everywhere so I can show everybody who I am, so people can experience something different from somebody who is in a realm of people who get overlooked all the time. I think it’s our time to stand up.

KALW’s Crosscurrents: New Version of The Marine Mammal Center Piece

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Note: KALW aired an edited version of my piece about the Marine Mammal Center in January 29, 2013. This article is copied from their website

A place for unwell marine mammals to be loved, set free

The standard breakfast at the Marine Mammal Rescue Center, in Sausalito, is fish, fish and more fish. It’s so fishy, in fact, that the volunteers who donate their time also donate some of their clothes to the special animal hospital.

elephant seal Perucita 2[7]

“Whatever clothes you wear here, you can’t wear anywhere else,” says Carol Wilson, a volunteer for 10 years who was there on a Friday morning helping prepare breakfast, mostly herring, in the huge industrial-looking kitchen.

“It’s really hands-on, I do amazing things here. I gave shots to animals, I have taught countless seals how to eat fish, I have drawn blood from dead animals,” says Wilson.

Volunteers are charged with sorting big bricks of frozen fish for the marine mammals. They thaw them out and make sure there are no lacerations. The smallest cut can have enough bacteria in it to harm the animals, and the discarded fish goes into the grinder. Once breakfast is ready, the fish is carried out to the pens in metal buckets

Being that it is an animal hospital, some of the fish is used to deliver medicine.

“You can tell it is a med fish because the end of the fish is cut off… And the pills are stuffed inside,” Wilson says.

Volunteers wear rubber boots and slickers, like rubbery fisherman’s overalls, and step through a solution of hydrogen peroxide before going in and out of the animal pens, and from the pen areas to other areas of the center.

Every morning the veterinarians go through each patient’s chart and decide how much they get to eat. Education volunteer Tamara Thomas must feed one and three-quarter kilograms of fish to a California sea lion called Fulano.

Each animal has a name.

“The person who calls in the rescue, when you see this animals sick, injured, hurt somewhere, they get to name that animal – they get to name that patient,” Thomas says.

But there are other means of identifying the animals. Each one has an orange tag with a specific number on its front flipper. That way, if a patient like Fulano ends up back in the hospital, they’ll be able to recognize him.

It’s necessary to take precautions when entering the pens. Volunteers stand behind wooden boards that look similar to riot shields as they prepare to serve breakfast to a pair of sea lions named Wolverine and Bandicoot. The boards have teeth marks in them.

“You want to always stay behind the board,” Wilson says. “Sea lions are fast and they have teeth and they bite.”

“So we are going to toss a fish in just to get it in the pool. Everybody eats in the water, in the pool,” Thomas says.

There are two reasons for throwing fish in the water: it distracts the animals while people enter the pen, and it keeps them sharp. These animals aren’t pets – they’re patients – and they’ll eventually return to the ocean where they will have to hunt and fish in the water.

Rescuing these animals is a human responsibility, according to Jim Oswalt, a spokesman for the Marine Mammal Rescue Center.

“These animals strand on beaches and other spots for a reason, either illnesses, in some cases caused by human activities, ocean trash entanglements, gunshot wounds and other bad things that happen to marine mammals as a result of humans,” Oswalt says.

The center also does scientific research that directly contributes to human medical science. Some of these animals come with cancers and illnesses that can also affect humans. Thanks to the research that the center conducts, it is known that the algae blooms that are a danger to marine mammals are the same ones that keep humans from eating oysters during certain seasons.

“We get animals, California sea lions in particular, who are suffering from what’s called ‘domoic acid poisoning.’ It’s toxic algae, basically,” Oswalt says.” Now, it’s caused by harmful algal blooms, which is a naturally occurring thing in the ocean, but what isn’t natural is the spread of it.”

Marine mammals eat the fish that have eaten that algae and then become sick, in some cases suffering from seizures that can destroy the brain over time, according to Oswalt.

“It also makes them disoriented so pretty soon you see animals ending up on the highway in the Central Valley for instance…we get a rescue call saying ‘we see an animal here on I-80,’” he says.

Once an animal is given a clean bill of health it is ready to be released. It is brought to the beach in a large kennel and set free. Of course, the Marine Mammal Rescue Center keeps track of the ones they’ve released with those little orange tags. And there are many of them – swimming up the California coast right now.

“The Making Of” Project

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“The Making Of” Project

The Kitchen Sisters and KQED are launching a new program. “The Making Of” is about things are made. How you, your neighbor, your co-worker make things. It’s a deeper look at an art human beings have been performing for years, the art of making… I will be the project’s intern. But I am also telling a story. The one of sugar skulls and the Day of the Dead. Stay tuned!