Erica Caines’ “All In Love Is Fair” :: A Critique Of Sorts

Erica Ryan Caines
Words reside in my spirit, entangle my mind and captivate my imagination…I live for words. I live through words.



Every now and again a body of work comes across the Desk of Asylum that reminds me of those written works that initially sparked my own word wielding. What I liked most about this particular bit of inspiration is that it dealt with love. And yes, romantic love, eros. And I think the brilliance of Ms. Caines’ work is that she embodies it in such a fashion as it does not feel overly saturated and oozing with awkward sentiment. It does not read like a book of poems about a love I have never felt. The words reflect a love and an infatuation with a person like the ones I have felt. For that reason Erica’s writing stands out.


I do not want to cover every piece in her 71 paged book, you should do that for yourself! However, I do wish to highlight three of her poems. The book is divided into three sections of work. The first section is entitled,”Amor Incipit”, and here are the words of one the pieces from that section that stand out to me:


Erica Ryan Caines
A hidden interest only shared with the stale pages of a
long kept notebook
Desires I can’t ever seem to be able to overlook
My pen knows my thoughts all too well
Gossipping on yellow tinted pages, anxious to tell.


Details about the makings of you.
Your structured suits and silk ties in vast shades of
Your eyes; the clearest shade of brown


How my world seems to stop motion whenever you
come around
My pen and I tell those pages things we wouldn’t dare
share with anyone else
Those surreptitious moments I try to keep to myself.
Like the bit of joy I get from our everyday exchanges
and smile
Followed by a silent prayer for you to stay awhile
I could never let you know any of this, you see
So instead, this is a well kept secret between myself, my
pen and my diary



I enjoyed the wording here. Mainly the line,”the clearest shade of brown.” As a Black man, it is one of those details you don’t get to read often. Not too many people in my life have described my eyes as having a clear anything!!! I also was moved to draw a line under the words,”Gossiping on yellow tinted pages…”, which for me was just a great usage of framing in a space more prone to sentimental musings. I have never read or heard anyone considering their private writings in books dedicated to private writings as “gossiping”. But the notion is not lost on me either! It is a rich detail that I have grown fond of while reading Erica’s work.


Erica Ryan Caines
At the edge of a cliff staring at what’s awaiting not
scared of the results terrified of the journey vowing to
wait for me vowing to stay with me
I trust in your word.
A true feat.
I leap…
I fly against the breeze Arms stretched out, free-falling
Fear escapes me
Thoughts surround me Wondering if at this very
I feel what you feel.
Vowing to wait for me
Vowing to stay with me
I take comfort in your words
A true feat.
Only you, I agree to fall for No longer suspended in air
Suspended in this moment
No more anxiety
Safe…within love



Found in the second section of her book, entitled, “FreeFall,” is one of those poems I enjoyed due to the topic it dealt with and the manner in which it was dealt. In much of the poetry I have been exposed to, the issue of love, especially romantic love is such a binary. Here is a piece that deals with the middle ground, that flux, the initial stages of being vulnerable enough to let go. It is aptly titled by the metaphor and imagery of a free-fall. The risks of sacrificing one’s emotional space are depicted as the edge of a cliff, or at least that which one might meet staring down, anyway! And it resonates. I enjoy her logic here. The idea that love, yes, romantic love, can also be a choice. The poem’s clear statement through the vivid images is that the speaker is making a dedicated and conscious choice to trust someone(“I trust in your word”) and to release themselves, so to speak, into that trust. Which as the phrase “fall in love” is typically used to state the opposite. Normally, the idea of “falling in love” is this unconscious and overly emotional sentiment; yet, Erica invites us to view it as a choice, still a leap and “a true feat”, but a choice, nonetheless.


Erica Ryan Caines
He tried to be something he wasn’t
I tried to be something he wanted
Entrapped in lust,
Disheveled by love.
Love, such an awkward multifaceted term
A magic fix, something earned
Battered by the effort
Hypnotized by the comfort
Strangers dressed up as lovers
Raw emotion surfaces under covers
Passions streaming towards each other
Drawn to each other
Magnetic forces camouflaged as fate
A straining hardship to keep the faith
Nothing more than a lie…



In the last and final section of Erica’s “All In Love Is Fair”, “Amor Desinit”,she escorts us through the finality of a relationship, the bitterness, and the more than philosophical ruminations of exactly what “love” in its romantic notions–and possibly the romance itself– should be or might be. One of my favorite pieces in this section(I actually had a hard time picking one from this section–go figure), is entitled,”Fabrication”. In it, Erica’s opening lines work their way like a sharp glass clawing through my mental membranes.


“He tried to be something he wasn’t/I tried to be something he wanted”


It is a haunting depiction of a romantic entanglement, but like much of her writing in this book, it is aided by the comfort of resonance. The idea that I am attempting to stress about her work is just how blatant the economy of it is. After reading that first line, I wanted to say,”ouch” for the brother! No overly dramatic metaphor was needed there. Just an acute, candid, and well phrased insight. Her vulnerability is extended through this one as she admits to a romance based more on physical compatibility than that “awkward multifaceted term”. The title of the poem is given its double entendre quality by the expression,”Raw emotion surfaces under covers”. Fabric-ation indeed.


Erica Caine’s “Love” is not the fantasy romance poetry. It is not quasars and lofty metaphors built on space ships. It is the real thought process coded in the verbal economy of poetry of a Black Woman intentionally inviting a Black Man into her exclusive and protected emotional space. Even as a budding poet, this being her first collection of poetry to meet print, I still was put in the mind of Lucille Clifton while reading her work. Erica Caine is a witty, edgy, honest, and serious poet. I have thoroughly enjoy interacting with her words in this collection.


Crucial Race Theory

The title of my post, Crucial Race Theory, is a play on critical race theory, which, according to Wikipedia, is “an academic discipline focused upon a critical examination of society and culture, to the intersection of race, law, and power”. Critical race theory holds that white supremacy is maintained over time and that the law has something to do with it, and works at achieving racial equity and anti-subordination.


What happened on Saturday, January 24, 2015 at Forsyth and Central in Clayton, MO must be seen through the lens of racial, social, and cultural history. Our actions, behaviors and thoughts are shaped by our past and our environment, and this is the context we must bring in order to understand what we see, and often do.


There are people who insist we are all the same. Then why do some have such a different experience of the world, and they happen to be black? So the inferiority and pathology explanations fill the void, in their understanding of the world.


Two friends of mine, using their right to free speech, attempted to unfurl a “Ferguson Is Everywhere” banner at the pro-police rally at St. Louis County Police Headquarters. One, Misty, is dark and heavy. The other, Elizabeth, is petite and may be seen as “white”.


As they tried to keep the banner unfurled, a tussle ensued. I was standing right there. I did not see any punching, or kicking, or spitting, anything like that. Here’s the video of that portion of the incident:



Between being egged on by the crowd, and trying to decide between physically abusing a small white woman or the larger black woman, the police appeared to tire of the scene, and grabbed Misty. They sort of trip-dumped her to the ground, and then marched her away by neck-hold. The neck-hold appeared to be quite painful and unwarranted. (The whole “arrest” seemed unwarranted.)


After they got past the kiosk and at the car, I was able to get more video. Here’s that one:



So, to be didactic about it, we have a rally in which 100% of the people roaring for the police on scene are white. Most of the law enforcement officers are white. By putting their hands on Misty, the police relied on past custom and historic power relations among ethnic groups. By inflicting pain on her, they make her anonymous and singled out, simultaneously. She is hurt. She is in trouble. And the voices bay even louder.


This is why we hammer “Black Lives Matter” and bat down “All Lives Matter”. This is one incident of degradation that can be analyzed and understood through “crucial” race theory. This involves empathy, the ability to see something from the viewpoint of another, writ larger.


People are treated differently, in part of a hierarchy of privilege that, admittedly, is in flux, waxing and waning and intersecting according to context and milieu. However, white supremacy still generally rules the day. Though socially complex, a pro-police rally such as this one is pretty easy to understand ON THE GROUND. It’s one of the ironies of street showdowns involving generations of history and cultural practice. No one is in favor of chaos and disorder.


Would the crowd have cheered so lustily if the police had treated any of the pro-police folks that way? Would the struggle with police have been as violent had they chosen to drag off Elizabeth? If you don’t know the answers, you don’t get it. Do get it. Black lives matter.

MikeBrownNotes ::

Articles In This Category Relate To The Mike Brown Forever Movement And The Ferguson Protesters
27 Red Camels

Tetsuo and Youth: A Dictionary-esque Album Review

Lupe Fiasco:


(noun) a West Chicago raised, enigmatic, often polarizing, skateboarding, ever-ranting, rapping rubix cube.


Tetsuo and Youth:


(noun) Lupe Fiasco’s 5th studio album, named such because Fiasco “likes the way it sounds.”



Stand Out Tracks




a hook-less, 8:45 epic poem accompanied by angelic voices and repetitive keys, Mural could very well be a stream of consciousness freestyle that can stunningly hold the attention of any fan of lyrical mastery.


Prisoner 1 & 2 (featuring Ayesha Jaco)-


a cinematic pairing of strings and keys in 2 distinct movements where the perspectives of an inmate and CO are exposed. Briefly interrupted by rattling chains, a poem entitled “The New Jim Crow”, and screeching crows, Prisoner 1 & 2 paints an eerie description of how mass incarceration tragically alters the psyches of those employed by prisons and those behind bars.


“Love is looking over various errors/And hate is habitually accelerating terror/ Everywhere but the mural/ I just wanna be collected when I call god damn/ I don’t wanna be accepted; not as all as I am/ Visitor, visitor, prisoner, prisoner, land.”


Chopper (featuring Billy Blue, Buk of Psychodrama, Trouble, Trae tha Truth, Fam-Lay, & Glasses Malone)


a gritty banger outlining Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Physiological, Safety, Love/Belonging, Esteem, Self Actualization) from a hood/impoverished perspective.


“That’s why I look at God kinda odd/ Cuz these are the cards that he deal us/ Ramen can’t fill us/ Medicaid can’t heal us/and the mamas can’t stop us/and these choppers might kill us.”


Deliver (featuring Ty Dolla $ign)-


Deliver oozes over a sizzling bass line and examines the root causes of violence, drug addiction, and urban decay that have led to the specific refusal of pizza chains to deliver to urban neighborhoods.


“The ghetto is a physical manifestation of hate and a place where ethnicity determines your placement/a place that defines your station/reminds you niggas your place is the basement/white people in the attic/niggas sellin’ dope/white people is the addicts/white folks act like they ain’t show us how to traffic/all that dope to China ya’ll don’t call that trappin.’”


Madonna (And Other Mothers in the Hood) (featuring Nikki Jean)


Just as Mary lost Jesus on the cross, Madonna captures the unmitigated grief and unanswered questions of mothers who have lost children to violence in the streets.


“They sent them all to the slaughter/ Baby mama, no father/ He was hanging round them murderers/ And them prostitutes and them robbers, yeah/ Them dope fiends and that water, yeah/ Wit’ angel dust in they nostrils, yeah/ They hit em up wit’ that chopper/ She was holdin’ him, in her hands/ Just like Stigmata, yeah/ Said you gon’ live here forever/ Salvation and treasure/ You gon’ live here forever, yeah/ Died like Ricky on his mama couch/ Right there in his mama house/ Only child, the holy mama’s your mama now/ Mama said my son never been no killer/ Mama said my son never been no gangster/ No drug dealer, no gang member/ Mama said my son never been no trouble/ Mama said my son never been no trouble.”


Final Thoughts




(adjective) great in amount, extent, degree, or importance; exceptional. “Tetsuo and Youth” is singularly one of the most complete studio albums released in recent years.



(adjective) being essential, indispensable, or requisite. From its acrylic on canvas cover art to the odes to double entendre, symbology, and subtleties not seen since “Food and Liquor I” and “The Cool”, Fiasco has created a kaleidoscopic observation of urban violence, racial profiling, mass incarceration, lust, depression, and the possibilities of growth and redemption.




(adjective) having all parts or elements; lacking nothing; whole; entire; full. This album is a tapestry of thought provoking subject matter and stellar production that can only be described as cohesive abstraction.


On Accessibility In Writing

So, I was talking to someone today and the topic of accessibility came up with regard to OWL’s Asylum. The idea of accessibility with regard to writing is that the writing is capable of being understood. Understanding, of course, is the key word there and the point of contention because it is the most subjective aspect. People understand in different ways. That understanding is not solely based on their interactions with particular symbols like words that they know the meaning of, but also how they know the meaning of that word, how deeply they have considered how or when people apply or use that particular word, and even that word’s texture or feel, it’s rhythm as well as its connotations. So, understanding is not just about a level of socialization whereby a person has been taught the function of a particular word in society, but also how that word once given life actually functions in society.


Let me say this:


All lessons come with an admixture of pain. If it is an actual lesson. If one has actually learned a thing, has developed a full context of conscious awareness about something that also informs(or possibly awakens) subconscious connections allowing for a gut level reaction with a new found accuracy, then they have will have undergone a certain degree of pain to get there. Learning should be difficult. Building muscles is painful; sure, it feels good, and the results tend to be attractive to everyone, but the process is the endurance of pain. In the same way one builds physical endurance in order to build physical strength, one has to embrace the cognitive dissonance associated with developing a new understanding and codifying new symbols of information to memory. The best analogy I can think of for this to be conveyed best is the difference between the free gym and the gym with a monthly subscription fee. No matter which gym you go to, whether you spend no money or hundreds of dollars on a gym with your own personal trainer and a nigga to come and wipe the sweat off of your brow, if you do not have the initial strength and discipline to utilize that gym for its purposes, its level of accessibility means nothing much. If you do not have the discipline and a few core understandings, or a desire to learn them, then no matter the layers I write with or the price I place on the writings will matter.


Now, for me, Asylum is mainly free. I have charged for e-books in the past, and I got an advance check for some research that lead me to being a co-author of a publish textbook. However, most of what I do that really has had impact, I did not charge for. In that way, my writing is accessible. I also attempt to convert much of what I read into a vernacular more common to those that I interact outside of the US academic mind space. In this way, sure, one still needs to be willing to at least google a few words I use here and there, but I have for the most part already parsed the symbols(words) used to convey the understanding or the logic into code(language) the majority of my readers will have familiarity with. Accessibility has to be defined as something that respects levels of prior attainment, with also a respect for lack of attainment elsewhere. A person do not have to have spent one hundred thousand dollars on an education to read OWL’s Asylum; they just probably would have needed to read the books that come with a one hundred thousand dollar education.


Or the desire to.

The What Niggaz && The Who Niggaz

The What Niggaz and Who Niggaz have to come together

The What Niggaz are the Niggaz that mastered What Training

   They Became, Whats.

The Who Niggaz are the Niggaz that mastered Who Training;

   They Became, Whos.

What Niggaz greet each other with,”What Are You?”

Who Niggaz greet each other with,”Who Are You?”

Some Who Niggaz also mastered What Training,

    But The What Niggaz that did not master Who Training

       Do not like to let those Who What Niggaz have their own What.

Some What Niggaz also mastered Who Training,

    But The Who Niggaz that did not master What Training

       Do not like to let those What Who Niggaz have their own Who.

But All Niggaz, both Who and What alike come from Nigga.

And all people that come from Nigga have Ofay as Foes.

And Ofays like to remind What Niggaz what they are.

And Ofays like to remind Who Niggaz who they are.

But What Niggaz do not like being reminding Who Niggaz are what.

But Who Niggaz do not like being reminding What Niggaz are who.

A What Nigga was running away from a fight,

    A Who Nigga called that What Nigga a coward.

A Who Nigga was running away from a fight,

    A Who Nigga called that Who Nigga by who that nigga was.

A Who Nigga was applying for a job from a What Nigga,

    A What Nigga asked that Who Nigga what that nigga was.

A What Nigga was applying for a job from a Who Nigga,

    A Who Nigga asked that What Nigga who he knew.

The What Niggaz and Who Niggaz have to come together

The What Niggaz are the Niggaz that mastered What Training

    They Became, Whats.

The Who Niggaz are the Niggaz that mastered Who Training;

    They Became, Whos.

What Niggaz greet each other with,”What Are You?”

Who Niggaz greet each other with,”Who Are You?”

Some Who Niggaz also mastered What Training,

    But The What Niggaz that did not master Who Training

       Do not like to let those Who What Niggaz have their own What.

Some What Niggaz also mastered Who Training,

    But The Who Niggaz that did not master What Training

       Do not like to let those What Who Niggaz have their own Who.

But All Niggaz, both Who and What alike come from Nigga.

And all people that come from Nigga have Ofay as Foes.

And Ofays like to remind What Niggaz what they are.

And Ofays like to remind Who Niggaz who they are.

But What Niggaz do not like being reminding Who Niggaz are what.

But Who Niggaz do not like being reminding What Niggaz are who.

A What Nigga was running away from a fight,

    A Who Nigga called that What Nigga a coward.

A Who Nigga was running away from a fight,

    A Who Nigga called that Who Nigga by who that nigga was.

A Who Nigga was applying for a job from a What Nigga,

    A What Nigga asked that Who Nigga what that nigga was.

A What Nigga was applying for a job from a Who Nigga,

    A Who Nigga asked that What Nigga who he knew.

The What Niggaz and Who Niggaz have to come together

The Green DJHTY

Eleven Very Short Thoughts On US Black Media Space

  1. The concern with historical(as well as ahistorical) political narrative is that it often supposes a pattern similar to fiction story.
  2. And in its format(crisis-confrontation/labors/development-resolution), some students might think this is how life resolves itself, too
  3. Systems are often extended through time based on the assumption of secure and infallible processes.
  4. Fairy tales, myths, folklore, and the like present these formats to us, these narratives, and yet much of life works much differently.
  5. Much of the west is saturated in a psychology that presupposes binary realities, characters based not on internals, but externals.
  6. Often our society reduces us to not WHO we are, but what we are, and especially in the USA, what we have obtained.
  7. We often understand the devices used in the thirty minute sitcom, and yet, we still often process like a character of a thirty minute sitcom.
  8. We often tend to seek one method for solution for one problem at a time in an existence where multiple problems ALWAYS persist.
  9. We wish as individuals to be treated outside of the set of our human similarities and yet treat human problems as constants.
  10. Instead of thinking that, “hey, this worked for them it MIGHT work for us,” we tend to say,”this occurred for them it HAS to be the way.”
  11. We are often socialized to assume and presume security in a space defined by its insecurity and lack of permanence.
The Green DJHTY

Empire As Metonymy For Nigga Rich :: A Semiotic Analysis Of Lee Daniels’ Empire

The use of metaphor and metonymy in symbol creation throughout communication is replete and yet often does not generate much discussion outside of academic trained spaces. In much of media analysis(yeah, that academically trained space), and by extension, Black media analysis, however, the use of metaphor, metonymy, simile, and other semiotic analysis devices are visited quite often. As it is a principle of OWL’s Asylum to make Black Media Analysis as accessible(raw) as possible, I have here discussed the metonymy of the title “Empire” as it is used in a trailer for the upcoming television show on Rupert Murdoch owned 21st Century FOX controlled FOX Television. Within the context of the discussion, I show that the term “Empire” is used less in a political fashion, but as a metonymy for a particular sort of success often displayed in hip hop imagery and storytelling. This particular connection leads me to develop a relationship between the show “Empire” and Starz Inc owned Starz cable station broadcast, also executively produced by Fifty Cent(nee Curtis Jackson), “Power”.



At the time of this writing, for about three weeks now, there has been a commercial airing for a new show. Due to the show starring one of my favorite actresses, Taraji P. Henson, I have decided to loan the show a few denominations of my attention. The show, “Empire” is executively produced by the same guy that directed “The Butler”, Lee Daniels, and also stars Terrance Howard in the lead role of drug dealer turned music executive, Lucious Lyon. What struck me beyond the show’s very closely related thematic elements with another show executively produced by Fifty Cent about a drug dealer’s rise to power, that so happens to be entitled “Power”, was the use of the term “empire” for the title.


The use of the term “Empire” here to express a family business of entertainment as opposed to say, something that could be more akin to an actual empire is noteworthy to me. In many ways, “empire” here sort of suggests metonymy in its associating rulership and the trappings of a dominant imperial conquest with what one might be able to flesh out as the “American dream” in a higher expression of capitalist attainment, but definitely not its highest. It is in this vein that I sort of find the use of the term of “empire” to refer to a successful Black entertainment company troubling. Where shows such as “Game Of Thrones” use terms like “empire” to suggest, well, an empire, the image of US Blacks is much less ambitious in scope. In this sense, the term “empire” here also works as a metaphor for political power; unfortunately, as a symbol communicating such erroneous ideas in a world where Barry Obama cannot be elected president of the United States and also discuss police oversight without having to invite police personnel light years beneath his pay-grade to the White House, I do wish there was a space for a more realistic image of power beyond the consumerist notions found in the average radio rotation heavy trap hop track.


It is also very telling, and probably a good time to mention here, that “Empire” as a textual semiotic device, or sign, represents and reflects the ideals of US Black capitalistic success as “power” is used as the title of show in the same genre as(or simply a carbon copy following after the ratings success of) Fifty Cent executively produced along with CBS Television Studios, Mawuli Productions Inc. and Atmosphere Television, “Power”. Once again, we have a show that associates power with the financial success and asset attainment as well as lifestyle of the accomplished street drug dealer turned not so illegal product trading businessman. Where the show “Empire” uses the sign “empire” in a way that is closer to what I would define as metonymy for the purpose of encompassing the show’s theme quickly, I see the term “power” used in the Fifty production a little differently. The main character of Fifty’s show, James “Ghost” St. Patrick (played by actor Omari Hardwick), is the symbol for Fifty Cent in some ways. The nightclub owner that happens to also be a drug dealer in the space of the fictitious New York urban scene seems extremely close to the iconography Fifty Cent uses for his own personal branding. The term “power” as a title also extends itself to connect aspects of Fifty’s personal branding, specifically how it ties Fifty’s written products, the book coauthored with “48 Laws Of Power” writer, Robert Greene, named, “The 50th Law”. By implication, this would make the book about Fifty Cent (nee Curtis Jackson), the 50th law of power. This, of course, works in the same overall container for me concerning US Blacks and the idea of power versus US Whytes. Robert Greene’s “48 Laws of Power” is a discussion of spies, military leaders, and their exploits; the idea of power here tends to be the type wielded by the heads of state. So, there is this connection and association with US Blacks and “power” as well as “empire” that tends to be less political, and while definitely financial, just more consumerist.



Consumerism is not the only term I can think of to describe the notion of power and empire exemplified through the show. It would be remiss of me as a Black media analyst to not consider bell hooks’ framework of Whyte patriarchal capitalism here. Both shows make a certain implication about male figures as head of the “throne” so to speak. Both shows are almost long form hip hop videos in that regard, with the show “Empire” even having the “bitter” US Black woman who “does what she has to” in order to feed her children which causes her to be incarcerated. This is a theme we’ve visited more than once in the history of US Black media, and it does not seem to be straying too far from the cliché of the urban Black female trope. I also add here simply to be in alignment with the Whyte patriarchal capitalism part that “Empire” airs on FOX(owned by 21st Century Fox which is still headed by the world-renown Rupert Murdoch),at the time of this writing, and “Power” is entering its second season on Starz network(owned by Starz Inc, whose CEO is Chris Albrecht and partly owned by The Weinstein Company[this can be found on the corporate website here]). Neither media company even remotely owned by US Blacks, but like the themes of both shows, Whyte controlled US Black media images are pretty much the going cliché.


#MikeBrownNotes :: The Believing Community of 2014

When I worked at World News in Clayton I heard horror stories for years from customers just out of the St. Louis County Jail, which was two blocks south of the store. Upon their release, many would find their way to the convenience store on the corner where they would get candy and cigarettes. Someone was jailed for weeks for parking tickets. An ill woman spent three days in jail because nobody had $200. Things like that. These two persons were black.


Was it really true? Could these things happen to Americans in the 21st century? Certainly, they’re leaving something out, I thought. We are notified almost daily that these things and worse do happen. I had protested only once before, in early 2003, in the run-up to the (predicted) disastrous Iraq War. It lasted one day, a Sunday. I asked my then-wife if she would gather our five-year-old boy and come with me. She declined, so I went alone. I remember liking being part of a multiracial crowd, and that people wearing strange costumes disturbed me.


I’m a good deal older than the persons who spurred the rebellion against police brutality and racism in St. Louis in 2014. I had consciously given up on fighting the world as I found it, and retreated into a world of watching, listening to, and writing about Major League Baseball, specifically the hometown St. Louis Cardinals.


My conscience prodded me to protest, however. The militarized response to unrest on W. Florissant Avenue was not a good introduction to its practice. That scared me. The sight of MRAP’s and snipers was a major deterrent. I couldn’t fathom it going well over there, but the mere notion of police pointing guns at citizens in the street simultaneously enraged me.


I went to a gym populated mostly by blacks and got a lot of bad looks one day. I was already in a mood. CNN was on in the locker room. I said something against cops, loudly. I received quizzical looks from the men around me. I became hyperaware of my own whiteness and my apparent “cop-ness” and left. It was at that time I determined I had to get down to W. Florissant. I never would have been out there had the young adults not withstood the test; had not defied the state’s attempt to bully protesters into submission.


I wondered, how are they different from me? What are their lives like? Some lives are, at times, harrowing. A young man was threatened where he stayed by a baseball bat-wielding homeowner. Another woman stays with friends or at hotels for short durations. I know a pregnant woman who sometimes goes hungry.


You listen more than you might be used to doing. You make some mistakes, which surprise you, because you think you are down. Even if you think you know everything there is to know about race, you don’t.


These are the connections I wish to make here. The woman in the hotel? She would excel in college. I think of the education she has given herself this year and believe it would hold up to any other. This woman has flexed her imagination, tested her endurance, traveled, met many people, and expresses a creativity and drive that others notice. She is kind to all. She sets a great example.


The people I have met are often very resourceful, ambitious, evince a powerful sense of self, and extremely hard-working. “I need money to do this service.” She finds a way to get it. “I have to get to two meetings tonight.” He stays up ‘til 3 am planning an action.


It manifests as indomitable will, but it is augmented by confidence in the future. The young leaders of #Ferguson exhibit a confidence in their own futures that belies the objective data, which is what young people do, in all spheres! They inspire those around them with their energy and their belief in the cause. The young leaders constantly drag the rest of us along with them.


I had forgotten how it felt to believe I could get what I want. These folks, many of whom have had fewer opportunities than me, generally don’t give up. “I believe that we will win” is infectious, in a crowd, at night.


We’ve struggled with the course of events. We didn’t get an indictment of Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Mike Brown.


Brittany and Alexis often say “Let’s get free, y’all.” None of us is free when a policeman shoots an unarmed teenager to death because he is afraid; because his mentality is warped.


So I see connections—to our past, in our circumstances—and to our future, through the lives of these people who are supposed to outlive me. Many Americans fret and just wish to be unyoked from this country’s racial legacy. Time is neutral, Martin Luther King reminded us, in his Letter From Birmingham Jail. The young grasped this, and presently attempt to wrest a city toward the future.


We’re on a different footing now. We’re at a higher base camp. The summit is not in sight, yet it exists as a vision in the minds of the believing community—the community we made in the summer and fall of 2014.

MikeBrownNotes ::

Articles In This Category Relate To The Mike Brown Forever Movement And The Ferguson Protesters

Oprah Cannot Afford The Flight To Ferguson And Other Socio-Political Observations

In a recent interview hosted by People’s Magazine, Oprah Winfrey does something her years as a White Woman’s favored daytime negro do not seem to afford her any expertise is: she gave a socio-political critique and analysis.


Her particular critique of a socio-political movement that she has neither funded, visited– or based on her comments– studied was the Mike Brown Forever movement, that global revolt inspiring collective of actions sparked by the protest of residence of Canfield Green apartments in Ferguson, Mo. The billionaire who sold almost half of her brand name and had to hire Madea to come help her buy it back seems to have forsaken years of study of political actions and any experience on the ground. Her entry point into this brand new expertise as a political scientist with a special focus on social protest is the new movie she not only stars in, but also acts as producer(read that as part financer) of. One of the world’s richest women has found her voice on the topic of social change in the United States from financing and acting in a small role of a film that has to doctor the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr because they couldn’t afford to pay to license the usage of such wordings on the $20 Million dollar budget they had to work with.


Instead of the former fat pocket chica of Chicago, which happens to be a four hours drive away from Ferguson, Mo where Mike Brown was murdered, a four hours that is apparently too much for the boss of Tyler Perry to take out of her busy schedule to observe and give morale, admitting that she has absolutely no clue about what is going on in Ferguson directly, she decided to use her legacy and platform as a punching bag. As quoted here(“Oprah Winfrey’s Comments about Recent Protests and Ferguson Spark Controversy” ), here(“Protesters slam Oprah over comments that they lack ‘leadership'”), here(“Oprah suffers Twitter backlash for comments about protesters” ), and here(“Oprah Comments On Ferguson Protests & Upset Protesters!” ), and if any of these links decide to be removed or altered, I have also included the video of the People interview and the full transcript of the conversation as well:



Winfrey & Oyelowo, People Magazine(Dec 2014)
Oprah: “I’m a person who lives my life based on intention. I don’t do one thing without thinking about what is my intention first. And I’ve been living my life that way since 1989. And it really just, ya know, it’s ordered my life in such a way that you have, you meet divine order all the time because you’re doing things on purpose. So, I think that what can be gleamed from our film, Selma, is to really take note of the strategic intention required when you want real change. Mmm. Strategic, peaceful intention when you want real change. Mm. I think it’s wonderful to, to, to march and protest. And it’s wonderful to see all across the country people doing it. But what I really am looking for is some type of leadership to come out of this to say this is what we want. Right. This is what we want, this is what has to change and these are the steps that we need to take to make these changes and this is what we’re willing to do to get it. And, and when you watch Selma. That’s what Selma is all about, it’s all about the strategy. Those marches just didn’t happen, and they weren’t happening, happening haphazardly, they were happening out of an order, and their design for change. That’s my feeling about it.”


Oyelowo: A, and, and, to jump off of that, what I think is so divine and beautiful about Selma coming out at this time is, a), it shows: This isn’t new, we’ve had this before, and there are very direct parallels. Ferguson, I feel, when it initially happened, it felt like it was a black problem. When we saw the footage of Eric Garner, it became an American problem. And you saw that in the way that black and white, young and old came together to say, this is not okay. It was the same thing in Selma.


Oprah: Exactly the same thing.


Oyelowo: It was, you know, in, in, in the sense that voting rights, or the lack of it for black people, was a black problem. When you saw Bloody Sunday, it became an American problem.



“What I’m looking for is some kind of leadership to come out of this to say, ‘This is what we want. This is what has to change, and these are the steps that we need to take to make these changes, and this is what we’re willing to do to get it,'” Winfrey told People magazine.


Purely as a Black Media analyst taking in a certain text for the first time, I have to consider certain allusions being made her that baffle me. Firstly, the notion of this movement being “leaderless” is silly. There are leaders in Ferguson, Mo representing the Mike Brown Forever movement, there is just more than one. There are several organizations in Ferguson and the St. Louis area that are major key players working for some semblance of justice in not only the Ferguson arena, but also in the names of Kajieme Powell, Droop Myers, and Antonio Martin. There was an entire delegation including the parents of Mike Mike Brown that presented a case to the United Nations. What there has not been is a dictator that could easily be swayed by a multibillion dollar media interest. What there has not been is one single face to put on this movement other than Mike Brown, which, as the interview goes on, seems to be the major concern for not only Oprah “I’m Too Sexy For My Blackness” Winfrey, but also her Afrikan paramour, David Oyelowo(OWL is totally kidding with the “paramour” part. We at the Asylum have no clue as to whether Winfrey and Oyelowo are having sexual relations or not).


In the interview, one of the more overlooked aspects, is a statement regarding Mike Brown and the initial phases of the movement. Oyelowo states, “What I think is so divine and beautiful about Selma coming out at this time is, a), it shows: This isn’t new, we’ve had this before, and there are very direct parallels. Ferguson, I feel, when it initially happened, it felt like it was a black problem. When we saw the footage of Eric Garner, it became an American problem. And you saw that in the way that black and white, young and old came together to say, this is not okay. It was the same thing in Selma. ” One of the major concerns voiced by one of the young leaders of the Civil Rights Movement that is not mentioned in this discussion of the Martin Luther King, Jr. led segment of the march on Selma, Alabama in the early months of 1965, namely, Kwame Ture (nee stokely Carmichael) is the dependence of US Blacks on a White set of institutions and what he referenced as “national sentiment”. What Oyelowo overlooks in his ahistorical and context-less comparison of two dynamic events–the protests formed around the murder by Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson of an unarmed Mike Mike Brown and the voting registration campaign of the early 1960s in Alabama–is that, as dauntingly dangerous it is two compare these two extremely disparate instances of justice campaigning, both were regarded, funded, recorded, broadcast, championed and whatever other verb one can think of to describe “included to the degree of defining”, Whyte US citizenship who from day one positioned it as A) A Black Problem and B) A United States Problem. It is also necessary to return to the words of Kwame Ture who actually happened to be directly involved in a major way with the voting registration drive in Alabama in the early 1960s, not just some actor, actress, producer, or otherwise financial beneficiary whose only study and involvement with the movement to date is the product of capitalistic investment.


Kwame Ture & Charles V. Hamilton, “Black Power, The Politics Of Liberation”
…there is a clear need for genuine power bases before black people can enter into coalitions. Civil rights leaders who, in the past or at present, rely essentially on “national sentiment” to obtain passage of civil rights legislation reveal the fact that they are operating from a powerless base. They must appeal to the conscience, the good graces of the society; they are, as noted earlier, cast in a beggar’s role, hoping to strike a responsive chord. It is very significant that the two oldest civil rights organizations, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Urban League, have constitutions which specifically prohibit partisan political activity. (The Congress of Racial Equality once did, but it changed that clause when it changed its orientation in favor of Black Power.) This is perfectly understandable in terms of the strategy and goals of the older organizations, the concept of the civil rights movement is a kind of liaison between the powerful white community and the dependent black community. The dependent status of the black community apparently was unimportant since, if the movement proved successful, that community was going to blend into the white society anyway. No pretense was made of organizing and developing institutions of community power within the black community. No attempt was made to create any base of organized political strength; such activity was even prohibited, in the cases mentioned above. All problems would be solved by forming coalitions with labor, churches, reform clubs, and especially liberal Democrats.



Kwame points out in 1967 with shrewd foresight that there would be a need to empower US Blacks beyond a dependence on Whyte institutions because the gains made by US Blacks in such relationships would only become eroded over time, a point he makes while citing the erosion of public school integration gains he witnessed in the early 1960s. Fast forward to June 25, 2013, some almost 15 years after the passing of Kwame Ture, the Supreme Court of the United States of America in a 5 to 4 vote effectively gutted out one of the most important aspects of the Civil Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 in (please catch this)SHELBY COUNTY, ALABAMA v. HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL, ET AL., the stipulation that made certain Southern states accountable to report any changes made to their election laws and to have those changes federally approved. So, while Oyelowo presents on one hand an argument and interpretation that reads as obviously oblivious to the context within which the movie he lauds and the events the movie inaccurately portray, Oprah nods in agreement while on the other hand lending credibility to a specious argument that frames Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s methodology as basically the ONLY methodology worthy of consideration outside of the historical and objective trajectory that shows a political stratagem not only worthy of criticism now, but that had received worthy criticism by someone that worked with Dr. King then!!!


Let me close on this note, not only does Oprah and Oyelowo get the details of the film they should have studied the events they are supposed to be reenacting wrong, they by way of lack of apparent research get the details wrong regarding the movement of protest and civil disobedient actions stemming from the desire to call to justice the officer that killed Mike Mike Brown. While it is my thinking that Winfrey is well within her rights to wait for whatever messiah might fall from the sky, her desire to have that messiah present demands seems to be oversight. Since prior to the mobilization weekend held in October(“Ferguson October”) that galvanized activist nationwide to join in the St. Louis area in a series of actions including one involving Professor Cornel “I came to get arrested” West(how did Oprah miss that?), there has been a list of five demands. These demands, as well as an addendum to those original demands here at this online location I have linked to. These demands were read to the St. Louis Mayor in an action that same Monday on which Cornel West was arrested outside the Ferguson Police Department with other activists and clergy at the St. Louis City Hall. The facts would show that Winfrey has no clue as to what she is talking about. As far as waiting on some majestic messiah to fall from the clouds, I cannot speak too directly to that, other than to say, I personally am not and have not been waiting on anyone to lead; I have been waiting on justice to prevail. I would think waiting on justice in the United States of America with regard to its slave descendants is also a very wasteful pursuit, just one I deem less wasteful of resources than waiting on the Black Messiah if it ain’t a record being recorded by D’angelo.


Given that Winfrey obviously has no clue about what she is talking about, as a Black Media Analyst and thus semiotician, I do now wish to question why the hell is she talking about this at all…

MikeBrownNotes ::

Articles In This Category Relate To The Mike Brown Forever Movement And The Ferguson Protesters
seven tears

Pain As Expertise In The Attention Economy

Often I find it difficult to dissect when a person is actually narrating a tale of woe based on their own story, or based on one they’ve heard spoken from a member of their in-group. Identity politics provides this really interesting space where stereotyped horror stories are capable of not only avoiding attack for branding individuals as cookie cut, but also allows for that cookie cut group to have as logo the same shared pain trope. I am pretty sure when Herbert Simon spoke about the attention economy, he did not realize the major factor to consider in harnessing attention in an information rich society would be to scream loudly, “my ouchie hurts, too!!!”


It is not that doubt that many of the members of the more privileged class of whichever oppressed group is getting the most burn behind the atrocities faced by their more alienated and marginalized brethren and sistren do not experience the same level of pain. Wait, I am totally lying. I pretty much fully doubt it. That does not make me a bad guy, it makes me critical of those using warmed over narratives that once represented genuine epochs of human suffering. Now, these narratives only work to generate a few rebroadcasted social media updates of a clever hashtag in a sea of copy and pasted overly dramatic hyperbolic tales of woe. It would seem as though the badge of belonging among certain in-groups in media space is to not only belittle the less unfortunate among a particular group, but to also steal the lived experiences of them while over-exaggerating particular aspects of one’s own life to stretch to fit the one-hundred and forty character tear jerking Twitter blast necessary to complete initiation. I suppose it is simply too humane for the lumpen and proletariat to actually have to experience as a lifestyle the most damaging share of society’s incessant hostilities, they must also have their voices maimed from their very mouths as well.




Get Your whyte Ally Card Here :: Thoughts on Allies Across Intersections


Alright, all jokes aside for the moment…


Shayla C. Nunnally, Trust In Black America: Race, Discrimination, And Politics, pg. 9
Organized terror against black Americans(e.g., in the form of actions by the Ku Klux Klan and other antiblack groups) and state-sponsored unequal protections for black Americans by whites (or even by blacks who held a negative view of the value of black life) also signaled how much people inside or outside political institutions could be trusted to act on behalf of blacks’ interests and protection. Even blacks who internalized racism could act in ways that were adverse to black interests (Woodson[1933]1999). Moreover, blacks who did not challenge their subjugated status in society were referred to as “good,” whereas those who contested their status were referred to as “bad”(Hartman 1997).



Topics such as these almost demand a use of humor to break some of the tension. Immediately, I am begged to answer a certain question: what does it mean to be an ally? That is not as easy as typing the term in some search engine and clicking the first dictionary entry link that pops up. In dealing with contemporary identity politics, the term “ally” typically comes with a shade(pun not so intended) of pejorative. The term “ally” in most instances here are not to imply someone or some group that share an enemy or obstacle and have agreed to see that enemy defeated or obstacle overcome. In this space, it often means something different. “Ally” in this space, as much of today’s academic filtered jargon with its incessant need for hypercritical context, tends to be used as a means to belittle those that are not a part of a particular group seeking heightened visibility while battling an oppressive force. The term “ally” in this space points more often than not towards those that are actually a member of said oppressive force in some fashion.


So, initially I ran across the phrase, “male ally” used by Whyte Feminist ideologues discussing their disdain with Whyte Males attempting to “assist” them, and how their assistance was either simply a form of exploitation, or just not assisting them any way and needed to be critiqued to the point of what many might refer to as being “hen pecked” in some other spaces. Then I heard or read the phrase, “Whyte Female Ally” being bandied about in the more academic Black Feminist spaces referring to Whyte Women Feminist making Black Women invisible in Feminist narratives(which I thought was funny given the history of Black Women and Whyte Women in those particular spaces, but that’s another essay, I am sure). A few months ago, during a protest outside of the Ferguson(Missouri) Police Department, I saw a Vine clip where White supporters(?) where being asked to stand in front of Black protesters while police used a tactic of random arresting, and the phrase “White Ally” had begun to be tossed about pretty vehemently since then.


I am almost never one hundred percent sure where I stand on these sorts of issues where group and alienation based on some extremely superficial or very abstract quality are determining factors. Especially when I consider my own histories and my understanding of human behavior. It is difficult for me embrace a space that would minimize a John Brown and his Branch of the United States League of Gileadites as “ally”, but put Russell “Harriet Tubman Rape Tape” Simmons on a pedestal as brother of the struggle. It simply does not add up well to me. The fictive kinship obligation must be honored by a certain set of traditions and blatantly agreed upon rites whereby one is held accountable to the covenant of said fictive kinship. I have a problem with a space that would reduce Che Guevara to some hapless adventuring “ally” and yet treat “Fill-in-the-blank” Black Celebrity who shows up 130 plus days after it has become a popular trend to wear a t-shirt/hoodie with a murdered Black person’s last words on it in a trendy t-shirt/hoodie with a murdered Black person’s last words on it!!!


None of what I am writing is to absolve any responsibility for respecting sacred space on the part of those seeking to genuinely assist a group being oppressed, marginalized, or being made invisible by a group they might be a member of. Lawd knows, I am sick and full of disgusted gut vomit of the Tim Wise and Michael Skolnik brand of ofay-splaining and patronizingly nauseating White savorisms. However, some Whyte folks actually deserve a little more credit for their social responsible acts and deeds in spaces of US Black oppression. Once again, I am not writing this to remove any standard of testing one’s allegiance to a particular group’s cause or fight against oppression, yet, in fact, what I am writing is to expand that standard to not only those that might belong to a group or class of society that one is being oppressed by, but also to one’s own group membership. I understand the need for security of the Black voice and of any voice that is often either more easily silenced due to society not wanting to hear it, or because society has not provided that voice the proper space to give that voice’s particular narrative a hearing. For me, if a person is going through what I am going through day for day to obtain or at least lay down the ground work for justice, liberty, or whatever hip and cool phrase that means, “a cessation of the bullshyt”, then they are not my ally; they are my teammate, my comrade.


Kwame Ture(nee Stokely Carmichael) and Charles V. Hamilton, Black Power: The Politics Of Liberation, pg. 81-82
At the beginning of our discussion of Black Power, we said that black people must redefine themselves, state new values and goals. The same holds true for white people of good will; they too need to redefine themselves and their role. Some people see the advocates of Black Power as concerned with ridding the civil rights struggle of white people. This has been untrue from the beginning. There is a definite, much-needed role whites can play. This role can best be examined on three different, yet interrelated, levels: educative, organizational, supportive. Given the pervasive nature of racism in the society and the extent to which attitudes of white superiority and black inferiority have become embedded, it is very necessary that white people begin to disabuse themselves of such notions. Black people, as we stated earlier, will lead the challenge to old values and norms, but whites who recognize the need must also work in this sphere. Whites have access to groups in the society never reached by black people. They must get within those groups and help perform this essential educative function. One of the most disturbing things about almost all white supporters has been that they are reluctant to go into their own communities—which is where the racism exists—and work to get rid of it. We are now speaking of whites who have worked to get black people “accepted,” on an individual basis, by the white society. Of these there have been many; their efforts are undoubtedly well-intended and individually helpful. But too often those efforts are geared to the same false premises as integration; too often the society in which they seek acceptance of a few black people can afford to make the gesture. We are speaking, rather, of those whites who see the need for basic change. Yet they often admonish black people to be non-violent. They should preach non-violence in the white community. Where possible, they might also educate other white people to the need for Black Power. The range is great, with much depending on the white person’s own class background and environment.



A Message to My Last Messiahs

Luke 12:49-53
I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.



Who are we to the world?


Another sun laid under the moon tonight as his blood poured out in the street. Across the ocean, many more suns and earths are shot, bombed, raped and maimed. Daughters of kings cry until their life ends and sons of queens look in a daze as they watch the will of another overtake what they’ve yet to know was theirs.


We are crucified for the sins of others. Who are we to the world?


Our energy harvested, every misdeed done against the last messiahs make the wicked feel stronger; every ounce of blood spilled by those that agree to evil, take communion and make bread from the broken bodies. And yet still miracles are performed. Still the will to stand up, still the will to create more people and build families, still the desire to be more than just another image made in the likeness of those that died before us.


And to what avail will it cost the world, that it loses its soul at the death of each one of us?


The earth loses its soul at the death of each one of us.


Where is salvation from the cross that we bear? Who said this was our cross to bear? Where is the judgment against those who sacrificed our children to bring division between us?


Generations before claim we’re doing it wrong even though there’s no difference in death as both the old and young are being slaughtered; the elders are slaughtered with complacency and the youth assassinated by state-supported programs. An example from times past and ages to come, how many times has the world been set on fire due to the division created to choose between life and man-made laws? Is socio-economic codes of legalese more important than the lives it strives to stifle?


Who are we dying for? Are we the sacrifice for those who trespass against us?


How many times throughout the story of spiritual trial and human error do we have to do this? How many times do we have to die for the sake of “progress?”


When did violence become the order of the day? When did self-defense become shunned? When did sacrifice of the very life you need to love, become a form of love?


Step back and look at what billions have come to agree upon: that you are to die for the shortcomings of a people who cannot conceive how you are still here. Millions around the world wonder how you have survived being at the neck of your enemy and still find the strength to hope and have faith. A story told during every astrological age about you and how you would die so that others could live.


Who are you? Who are we to the world? Will we die and leave the world in wonder of if or when we’ll return or will we find strength in our divinity to withstand this trial until blood no longer falls from our bodies and we overcome the lynch mobs that try to turn us into the scapegoat for their mischief?


You are not a sacrifice. Your life matters.


To my last messiahs: be the final call to order for this place. Let no further division come between you and your parents and your children for the sake of a people who’d rather see your past wiped from memory and future wiped from prosperity. It is a crime for the wicked to make you be their god and praise the fact that you die every day, despite what way of luxury and privilege you made for them, so that they can live their fantasies of a world free from your beautiful faces. As many of us have heard before, we are not at war with flesh and blood but with spiritual wickedness in high places; places that aim to make a profit off of your death and sell the story of your lifeless body to future generations to only say “these people died so that you could live,” in hopes that you resurrect only so that they kill you again.


May you be the last messiahs, that no one else dies so that wickedness and falsehood can live. Re-write this story so that it will never, EVER have the same ending again.


I love you all. You are chosen.

Inspiration ::

Articles In This Category Convey An Sense Of The Uplifting And The Hopeful

#MikeBrownNotes :: Molly’s Memo

On August 9, 2014, I got a text from a friend. “A kid was shot by a cop in Ferguson,” it said.


I found out, after a few texts and a phone call, that the kid was a teenager and that police officer had killed him even though he hadn’t been armed. I learned that his body was still in the street, even though it had been well over two hours since he’d been killed.


A little while after getting off the phone with my friend, he sent another text: “You going to the vigil?”


In St. Louis, when someone is killed, there is almost always a vigil of some sort. People go to these vigils, hold a candle, sing a song or say a prayer, and go home. I have been to a few vigils, so I thought I knew what I was doing. It did not occur to me that this was not going to be a vigil. It did not cross my mind that deciding to say a few prayers for a dead teenager would lead to four months of protesting, city and county council meetings, and what is probably going to be a lifelong fear of police.


The evening of August 9, I saw a grieving community met with dogs. I saw questions met with increased police presence and an armored truck. I saw flower petals laid in the street to cover the blood of someone’s baby. It was sick.


Over the following days I continued to go back to Ferguson. I’m a shy person when in any new situation or with people I don’t know, so I usually stood off to the side and waited for someone to speak to me. Attempts at vigils continued, but always resulted in overreactions from police. We were tear gassed, shot at with rubber bullets, screamed at and called names. I saw people arrested for no reason. I saw people whose spirits seemed to be breaking right in front of me, but I also saw people whose spirits seemed to be emerging, powerful and angry and full of energy. More than once, I was helped out of clouds of tear gas or escorted to my car by groups of young black men I had never met before – the same people being referred to as violent and criminal in the media.


And me? I protested because I believed I was morally obligated to. This is MY town. I love Saint Louis. I have lived here my entire life (with the exception of two years of undergrad). I could not not protest. I could not sit at home and watch the news while people – my neighbors – were being tear gassed and shot at. So I kept going back.


The tear gas eventually stopped, and armored vehicles were no longer present, but protests continued. Sometimes police were laid back, and other times we were met with large numbers of police in riot gear. Sometimes, police would go crazy for no reason. One night, Thomas Jackson, Ferguson’s Chief of Police, agreed to march with protesters. After the march had progressed less than 100 feet, a Ferguson officer ran into the crowd of protesters and began grabbing people. Ferguson and Saint Louis County officers followed him, shoving, grabbing and beating peaceful protesters. Chief Jackson was completely unhurt; the same was not true for at least three protesters. Seeing people – people I had come to know and love – be beaten like that remains the worst thing I have seen happen since August 9th. After the people who had been arrested were taken away, the rest of us stood across the street from police officers in riot gear. We screamed at them while they laughed at us, secure in the knowledge that their behavior is accepted and will go unpunished.


At some point – I’m not exactly sure when – I realized that this was not a one-off. Police here have been covering things up for years, and have almost always gotten away with it. Local elected officials here have been ignoring the needs of their communities for years and nearly always get reelected anyway. Our state government and federal government have allowed this to happen and have often participated in the oppression of black people and the black community in Saint Louis and elsewhere. Our schools under-educate and under-prepare children for college and for life. My moral obligation has shifted a bit: while I still protest and take part in actions, I also feel compelled to facilitate changes in my community in more traditional ways. We have huge problems with racism, poverty and a lack of adequate education in Saint Louis (and while these issues are not unique to Saint Louis, this is where I can most clearly see them and am best equipped to help change things).


On November 24th, it was announced that the grand jury had opted not to indict Darren Wilson for the murder of Mike Brown. I was in the crowd across from the Ferguson Police Department when the announcement came. The crowd was much larger than normal and full of anxiety. Mike’s mom, Lesley McSpadden was present. Almost immediately after the announcement, people took off running in different directions and glass windows were being shattered. Many people screamed – in anger and in sadness. Police looked afraid, and cameramen looked eager. Despite the months I’d spent protesting in this place, I reverted back to my habit from August. I stood off to the side, looking for someone I knew. And the police started launching tear gas. Later that night, buildings burned down and businesses were looted. A young man named DeAndre Joshua was murdered, shot in the head and his body burned. Police did little except launch tear gas and fire bean bag rounds. It was the worst night I can remember St. Louis having.


The failure of the prosecutors to secure an indictment of Darren Wilson only increased my desire for change. I realized that, if I want a better future for my potential children (and nieces, nephews, grandchildren, etc.), I have to fight for it – by protesting, by lobbying, by organizing and by doing my best to convince others to do the same.

MikeBrownNotes ::

Articles In This Category Relate To The Mike Brown Forever Movement And The Ferguson Protesters

Maids don’t have maids…

Maids don’t have maids…


No one says, as a child, “when I grow up, I want to be a maid.” That’s not a job many people aspire to have. Maids do the dirty work. They clean up after people. They make sure the living conditions of others is comfortable. Often times its a disgusting, exhausting, thankless job. Wealthy employer throws a soiree. The guests are enamored by the beautiful space. Everything lovely; neatly in its place. The host offers a simple thank you in response to their compliments. They may even go into the history of how they acquired a wonderful piece of art. They do not, however, mention the maid. “Yes, the maid does a fabulous job at making sure my home is clean” No…that surely is not the response many would have. The maid does not get the credit. No (public) accolades will come her way. Nothing. Why? It’s her job. It’s what she’s supposed to do, isn’t it?


After a long days work of doing and being for others, the maid goes home. She returns to her own humble abode to breakfast dishes in the sink. Ironing board still out from having pressed her uniform. Makeup and toothpaste residue on the bathroom sink. Bed unmade. Basket full of laundry. What a mess… Who will clean up after her? Who will make sure her home is presentable? Who will clean and sanitize, vacuum for the maid?


The maid has no maid…No, the maid must be a maid to herself as well. An exhausting job. A never ending job. One that is so important, it can’t be left undone. But who? Who takes care of the maid? Who supports the supporter? What a lonely thing it is to always be for others, and not have anyone to be for you. How emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually draining to give of yourself until there’s nothing left, and still have to muster up the strength to give to yourself also. Because…who will be a maid for the maid…

Inspiration ::

Articles In This Category Convey An Sense Of The Uplifting And The Hopeful

It Is Not Your Job To Be A Jerk :: On Social Media Vulnerability And Distance

If the only people that are elected to public offices of representation are those that are skilled at hiding their vulnerabilities or lack transparency, what does that say about the entire body of elected officials? That’s just a really provocative way of opening an essay, not exactly what I want to write about here. What I do want to write about here is about public digital space and how that impacts personal relationships. As I wrote in this piece about here about the Law of Acceptance, I think it is necessary that we all take a step back from machines that promote antipathy more than they promote sympathy or fear. What does OWL mean by that?


The distance created by the devices used to connect to the interweb and thus our social media applications provides us with a lot of space for not caring or not being close enough to feel threatened by social miscues. In fact, it is very difficult to read a social miscue across a screen even if it is a video stream. Which means there are going to be a number of errors of judgment. Couple that with the often overlooked factor of personal entitlement that in some ways is accurate or at least understandable. We pay a bill for our phones, we pay a bill for our interweb access, we pay a bill for our electricity. We are paying to communicate and often in a space where we are paying we wish also be treated with a certain VIP status if all that means is being less than cordial to the hired help. The interweb for most people is an escape, it is a form of entertainment, and the most analogous form of entertainment seems to be the video game. In video games, I can kill my best friend and still borrow money from him five seconds later. In social media, there is a slight disruption in that particular paradigm!!!


Going back to the idea of acceptance: it really can be easy to forget that there is someone on the other side of the screens that we are typing into, but there is. Not only is there another human on the other side of the screen that we are typing into, but they are going through their own day, tumultuous or other. As a portion of the escape, as a portion of the entertainment, treating others like text-based punching bags becomes a predominant sport. Ideas and concepts become our digital weaponry;Google and Wikipedia are like the Ammu-nation of the social media world as we arm ourselves to belittle someone, often our actual “friends” and family, while our ideologies form our digital gangs. Ideological gang banging is the plot of this game and yet, there is no turning of the game and laughing about it with friends.


In places of business, the “professional” notion is to keep political and religious discussions out of the office/work place. Online in social media, it would seem as though the opposite is at work. Ideological gang banging demands that the hot button topics of the day, or even the hot button topics of two thousand years ago are always on the table. These tend to be issues and concerns that generate the most personal passion and they should. We are discussing the intentional and blatant attack of the ideas and beliefs that form a person’s identity. I do attempt to tread lightly with identity politics because they are fragile by nature. They are designed and programmed into us(socialized) with the intention of being used as forms of defense and separation. Add to that the social reality that some people simply do not feel they are performing “intelligence” without arguing and debating everyone they scroll past!!! And some humans learn best by challenging those that possess greater amounts of data.


For me and as a tenet of Asylum, objectivity is necessary for acceptance, but so is sympathy and empathy. It does me know good to know that fire will burn me if I do not handle the fire appropriately as well. It does no good for me to know that you are offending by XYZ topic if I am only going to bring XYZ topic up every time we have digital exchanges unless my goal is just to be a jerk. I am willing to give a permissible set of offensive moments to those that operate under the auspice of “shock” programming, but there should be an announced and promoted distance from engaging directly with people that might not “get” the joke like stand-up comics might customarily do. In superficially marketed and cliche driven hip hop certain things might be more acceptable, but in emotional day to day check to check driven regular real grown people life, what is understood often has to be explained two or three times in very small words.


Even in the less interpersonal digital space, the need to accept certain realities goes neglected. If I am operating a more raw sort of presentation of my perspectives of society, that might demand a more organized manner of updating social media sites. For instance, if I know that discussing or updating about sexual activity is going to need me to having images in my content, then I might want to consider what time the audience I cater to most is at work. Not a lot of thought needed, but some. It is an acceptance that these are tools that connect me to other people with lives and emotional considerations and not just characters on a screen that disappear from existence into some programming trash collection function of the application.


In a world where we are more and more connected to people that we really do not hold any reasonable obligations of transparency on, distance and respect for emotions seems perfectly civil. When dealing with people who are not being paid from my taxable income to be vulnerable for the purposes of integrity, I do not find it meaningful to force them to adhere to my way of thinking or reasoning. I know that I operate a fairly “raw” and often jarring Twitter account, I am also one of the few people with over ten thousand followers on the application that still keeps up with people I followed four years ago. I do not pretend to owe anyone any explanations, but I also make sure to follow up any statement that might be off-putting with a reminder that I am just a cordial fellow who has seen a lot of society’s ills from the bottom of society’s shoe. Yet, I am not paid to debate anyone, I am not paid to be “thick-skinned”, there are no immediate incentives for me to embrace attacks on my beliefs with a smile.


It is probably not your job to be a jerk.



On The Law Of Acceptance or Admitting Ignorance As Intelligence

In a lot of ways, the most important lessons I have gleaned from my existence, my struggles, and my observations of protests and social political struggle is the law of acceptance. Now, anyone that has been reading my writing for more than a year now knows that Asylum is nothing near New Age Spirituality. Not to disparage New Age Spiritualist, but for the sake of clarity. When I type something such as “the law of acceptance”, what I am writing or aiming at in giving understanding of is that in my set of survival skills, a tenet crops up that suggests before I begin attempting to change or alter or even become emotionally charged by a thing or condition, I have to accept that it is in as many ways as possible given a certain respect for time and priorities. With respect to that tenet, often the first thing or condition I have to accept is my own Self.


(Okay, so this really is beginning to read like some New Age Spiritualist works, huh?)


I simply find that it is dangerous to make major moves in life without considering what it is I actually want, without accepting my most authentic pursuit. For me to initiate life altering transitions with no weight given to what I actually want, the other roads to what I want, or the even the possibility of not gaining my most authentic pursuits from a particular course of action is precarious. Then there is for me the basic act of emotional energy preservation. Easily typed: some things are just not worth the frustration or over excitement. I accept that a degree from a prestigious university might open many doors for a person(as it should) but that it does not mean that person is now more intelligent(as it should not).


The prayer, or mantra, in Alcoholics’ Anonymous is,”Accept the things I cannot change.” In my thinking, I would go so far as to write, “also, accept the things I can.” That completely revolutionizes the next two pleas in that particular prayer, but I think what I’m hinting at is felt. “Acceptance” does not mean for me to be overly submissive or to reduce myself to the influence or power of some thing or condition. It only means that I make myself aware of existence, admit that it exists, and note its fundamental, potential and actual qualities. Nothing more. That might read like a lot, but most of us reach adolescence with the ability to assess and analyze most of what needs to be assessed and analyzed rigorously fairly quickly and adeptly. Now, whether we choose to give certain situations “the benefit of the doubt”, overlook “the red flags”, or not follow “our first minds” is on us– not the ability to do or the faculty of doing.


We accept a thing or condition when we know it. Now, often, the term “know” is confused with the term,”presume”. I can “presume” to know a thing when I make the mistake of thinking that because I have an experience with something similar, or what I assume to be similar, and not the actual thing or condition and take actions that pronounce that error. An example would be fitting here: I do not know all US Whyte people. I am not even sure such a feat is humanly possible. The label I use is even questionable and should be questioned. “Does OWL mean Caucasians descending from Britain or can this also include those of Spanish heritage? How much ‘Whyte’ blood makes a person in OWL’s labeled group ‘Whyte’?” However, I make statements regarding the collective of United States citizens that might fall under the nomenclature of “White Person” or that identify as such pretty often. I accept that I know that I do not know. I accept that my ignorance may never be resolved on the topic of having a full enough knowledge of every US citizen that identifies or could reasonably be identified as “White Person”(given a proper standard set of defining elements). Now, for own my respect of accuracy and a certain respect for authenticity, I might force myself to sprinkle qualifiers in such a way that my use of the phrase “Whyte People” becomes “some Whyte People” or “the Whyte People I know or have come into contact with“. In this way, I sort of nod at my acceptance of a certain ignorance that cannot be resolved.


I can often be found making the statement,”Know what you want. No, really know what you want.” And what I mean by that is knowledge in the same way as one has with their more intimate items. Before I commit to some deed or transitioning factor, I should be well acquainted with it. As acquainted as I can be, with the ideal being a familiarity with that which I claim to want on the level of knowledge that I have of my boxer brief size. See, there used to be this confused state I would found my Self in where I had run around telling everybody how I wanted a particular thing or condition, and then I once I obtained it, I found that I really did not want it. And I would literally and loudly proclaim,”Oh, this is not what I wanted!!!” And that makes me look much more unconscious than I deem socially healthy. I was willing to accept that I had made such a goofy choice, but I was not willing to accept it as a course for my character development.


We will probably always find ourselves in situations where we are in pursuit of something with the notion that the course of action that immediately presents itself is the “best” route to what it is that we want. Ignorance of things and conditions seems to be fairly common in life. The amount of data to be known literally stretches the universe and possibly beyond. That is the first thing to accept. In the next case, in the act of wanting and in the act of admitting, there has to be a pronounced manner that affords us space to be honest about what actually is. That is acceptance, that act of knowing and admitting we know what actually is as opposed to what we wish things or conditions to be. It is human to not know what works or what a tempting item actually is prior to it biting us. What helps is accepting that we do not know which opens up the option of actually finding out what some thing or condition actually is.



#MikeBrownNotes :: Allegiance, Fictional, and Pledges

Why do people of St. Louis celebrate a Cardinal’s game more than they protest and show disdain for a police department that hides and protects a US “Law enforcement” agent that kills it’s youth?


Human beings are indeed strange…


To date, I have lived through three World Series wins. None of my college debt was paid off. No one approached me with an interest free loan or grant for my business. In fact, not much ever benefits me when this occurs. What is it about humans that groups formed through heavy negotiation for the purpose of entertainment can garner our support more than those organically melded like vine to bark for the purpose of socio-political awareness if not change?


I can understand the Whyte folks. Although, race is an extremely convoluted and murky bit of abstract conceptualization, I do understand “-isms”. I understand loyalty for no other reason than belonging feels good and logical argument against it, no matter how sound or cogent, just cannot sway me to cross the borders of that cognitive dissonance. Fictive kinship when your team is the US Whytes must feel nice. Like winning not only the World Series, but the world(“…the world, Craig”). I understand why people bond to and justify the organization of evil in high places. What is it about the fictive ties of racial solidarity twisted and knotted under the whip of ofays and whip crackas, that cannot seem to surmount the bonds of territorial fanaticism even in under the impenetrable countenance of blood drenched paddy rollers?


What is the point of claiming a “Blackness” that only matters when celebrities that taunt us with their riches are given contracts by Whyte media corporations? Has the collective brunt of “Blackness” become simply a litany of “Who’s on first” and “Who’s on tonight”? And for that matter of fictive tacit bonds, how can a person be more emotionally charged by the actions of a team that only bears a nominal loyalty to them when those that actually live in St. Louis–metropolitan and other areas–are asking for support and none is given? It is “cool” and acceptable socially to show allegiance to a baseball team that bears the name of the city, but not to actual citizens in the city?


I am actually willing to never get answers to any of these questions. There is a certain existentialist reflection I have allowed to eat past midnight in my mind. One of my new favorite US Black urban aphorisms is,”it is what it do.” I do not know how much I am able to alter the thoughts of those I see loudly supporting a patriarchal penis massage in athletic garb while secretly supporting or not supporting at all the growing movement of a child slain in their city.


I am more willing to simply note my observations and do my best to begin placing names on the actors engaged.


MikeBrownNotes ::

Articles In This Category Relate To The Mike Brown Forever Movement And The Ferguson Protesters

#MikeBrownNotes :: Monoliths, Media, Murders

As I was going through my nightly and daily chore of collecting data about St. Louis from my Twitter list, it occurred to me that the neighborhoods where Mike Mike Brown, Kajieme Powell, and Vonderrit Myers were murdered by police are not high crime neighborhoods or even high poverty neighborhoods. That is to say in more colloquial terms, they were not in the “hood”. I feel it is unnecessary to note that even if any of these young men were to have been fighting the police, the excessive force utilized by the police is still highly unwarranted and questionable. I will also type that no matter where these young people found themselves class-wise, they did not deserve to have their lives snatched from them. However, because there is a set of arguments in defense of the racial profiling occurring in these situations, I do find it not only an objective reality(“it is what it is”), I also find it necessary to alter the imagined framing in the minds of those that only know the Black community from television or only know these areas from televised coverage.


There is a discussion rooted in respectability politics that frames each of these young men as hostile predators with no ties to the systems of assimilation and social mobility. This idea that Mike Mike was not preparing to go to a trade school, that Kajieme’s mother is not a professional class woman, and that Von was not attending a community college. From my vantage point, the environments do not suggest that these young men represent some overly aggressive and super human strength most likely garnered from scripted images of US Black males. This idea floating about of “impoverished” suburbs continues this theme of poor Blacks and most importantly a theme of criminalized Blacks. Which leads me to a few other thoughts in respect to these cases. And interestingly enough, much of this particular discussion is being had among US Blacks.


US Blacks are not a monolith. Chinese people are a monolith. Quiet as kept, much of the Arab Islamic world is monolithic. Nigerians are a monolith. Now, that being said, what does OWL mean when he types,”monolith”, because it is probably different in scope than what most assume. It should be noted early on that no two people are totally alike, and that perspectives within a group of thirty million or more people is going to produce a full gamut of variables and distinctions. Therefore, in my thinking, it is childish to even begin to apply the term “monolith” in a manner that suggest a group of people being all of the like mind. No, for me a monolith means what it should mean, a unified whole with a central vision and an articulated set of principles and agreements defining the standards of inclusiveness.


US Blacks are not a monolith, not because Lawrence Otis Graham-upon seeing his elite status does not fit the definition of most US Blacks for what makes a person culturally “Black”- says that Blacks are not a monolith, but because US Blacks have not agreed to be a monolith. But, US Blacks need to be a monolith. Monolithic people are capable of framing the narratives surrounding the murder of their own in their own voice without feeling the need to appease outside sentiments. One, most monolithic groups are not policed by foreign presences even when on foreign soil, and secondly, most monolithic groups do not have to explain why their youth do rebellious things without it making those youths incorrigible savages requiring a death sentence by one man firing squads.


No, US Blacks are not all the same. We are not all characters(caricatures?) of some 1990s hood classic or secondary plot extra of a rap video. But some of us are. And when and where we are, there does need to be context reflecting the Whyte supremacist structure of the US socio-economic framework. And when we are not, that particular objective condition needs to be stated loudly and clearly.


MikeBrownNotes ::

Articles In This Category Relate To The Mike Brown Forever Movement And The Ferguson Protesters