Golden Fire

The body pays for a slip of the foot and gold pays for a slip of the tongue.

– Malawian Proverb

See she fine and she fly,

and she fire,

got a smile bring a shine to your eyes.

And she lit and she thick and she fit,

hella thick stacking chippers.

-Free! Mason Jar

The clear and present societal ascension of U.S. Black Women and Women of the African and Caribbean diasporas in all fields of human endeavor presents as the shiniest two sided coin in the history of civilizations.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2019, Black women — presumably a loose configuration of Black American women and women from the diaspora – are second only to hispanic women in employment growth between the eve of the last Great Recession in 2007 and 2019.

Employment rates for Hispanic women — between 25 and 54 — increased by 2.2 percentage points, since May 2007. Black Women came in second, adding 1.6 percentage points in the same period.

To be sure, these gains can be considered remarkable given the overall trajectory of Black women the world over in the past 500 years.

However, to keep the discourse even, one must flip the proverbial coin and let it spin back to 1971.

It was that year that many historians and cultural critics consider the birth of modern neoliberalism in the west. 

President Richard Milhouse Nixon took the country off the gold standard, removing the peg of solid gold to the U.S Dollar. And for the first time, the nation lived on thin-air credit. 

This is significant turn of events because it happened just as Women’s lib was taking off on the backend of the Vietnam War and it was a year before Shirley Chisholm became the first woman to run for the highest office in the land.

The industrial malaise, oil crises, and lack of skilled labor opportunities that followed, catapulted black women into all areas from clerical to paraprofessional, to professional.

The 1980s saw the rise of Oprah Winfrey, the 1990s, Halle Berry and a new visibility for a new black aspirational elite emerged. 

The heady, high-rolling 1990s ushered in wealth reflected in Hip-Hop and in the bourgeoisie circles.

Visibility, respectability and representation was the new freedom, the culmination of the civil rights movement, buttressed by rampant consumerism and street violence among the impoverished classes.

In the post-Patriot-Act new millennium, the black community still has Oprah now with her own network and the Queen of Pop Beyonce as bellwether of Black Female Achievement.

Tack on the significant gains in political office by Black American and diasporic women and the gains look astonishing on television.

Flip the coin again and you see an equally astonishing gap in home ownership and net-worth for the community as a whole. 

The Brookings Institution found in February of 2020 that based on 2016 data a typical white family had a net worth of $171,000, compared to $17,150 for their Black counterparts.

Heads: We win, in pictures, on television, in movies, in pop culture.

Tails: We find ourselves losing in an irreconcilable neoliberal project where the cult of self and the glimmer of personal achievement obscure the mean and median of Black life in the Global North.

Black Women the world over, uplifting stories notwithstanding, have families.

Scholar Adolf Reed, Jr. quipped in a 2018 Baffler article titled, “The Trouble With Uplift,” that a “race-conscious or antiracist discourse, historical exploration in popular culture was less important than the propagation of tales of inspiration and uplift.”

It is that uplift, that perceived mobility, those inspirational stories, those incremental gains, those glossy diversity brochures and lustrous profiles and photo shoots that obscure the tale of the tape of systemic inequality. 

Such is the neoliberal spectacle.

When the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. remarked that he feared he had integrated his people into a “burning house,” it is important to note that in the Global Pandemic-era in the Global North, that house burns in a spectacular flame of molten gold. 

That gold is either melted down and sold to the highest bidder or stands still – burning slowly with an alluring light illuminating the spectre of growing economic inequality, climate change and the potentiality of the totalitarian reign of political whiteness. 

It is a light we cannot turn away from in the coming months and years, it is a golden fire.

I Don’t Debate, I Share

So, my whole “I Don’t Debate, I Share” campaign grows out of my spiritual practice of Open Hand.

In Western cultures, we are taught to separate our business and sexual/romantic experiences from our spiritual and ethical principles. While I do not claim an Eastern philosophy, Asylum does employ Eastern-like interpretations of transcendence and Unity.

From that standpoint, I do not see my spirituality as distinct from my business practices. There is no separation, only Interplay.

Furthermore, for far too long, I have been involved in and an observer of people using this overwhelmingly abusive addiction to debating as a means to establish order by academics and their minions be an excuse for why people lack basic communication skills.

“I Don’t Debate, I Share” Because I have witnessed far too many young people who ought to be more focused on networking, be consumed by verbal nitpicking.

“I Don’t Debate, I Share” Because I have met far too many bright ideas living inside insecure personalities confusing exclusive academic jargon with language that could actually reach those they whine about not listening to them.

Prisoners Even In Death

The Old Imperial Farm Cemetery

The Old Imperial Farm Cemetery sits in the sprawling suburban town of Sugar Land as a symbol of the city’s past, present and future.  The cemetery is the resting place of 31 convict workers, a space surrounded by iron fences and decaying barbed wire. Freedom still eludes these prisoners, even in death. It hosts figures like Fred Carson and Taylor L. Odom, men who died while trying to escape. Their graves are marked with cracked head markers, eroding names and inmate numbers. It’s their final resting place, sinking into the dry ocean of the Texas heat.

It’s a cemetery whose importance is hidden in its history. Specifically, that of convict leasing.  Convict-leasing was a system of chattel slavery enacted post civil war. The South lost its access to free labor and created in its stead, a cheap, unregulated labor market to sustain itself. Soon after its creation, African Americans, particularly men, were arrested for minor offenses like jaywalking or not following town and county curfews.

Legal officers convicted these men of felonies then sent them to labor camps. The South found its new labor source. The Imperial Prison Farm story is one regarding Fort Bend County and the state of Texas at large collaborating to build a system of labor on the backs of prisoners.   According to the historic marker in place, the private prison was founded in 1878 post civil war due to area plantation owners struggling to work the fields and the mill. The owners, years later, formed Sugar Land after the convict lease programs were financially successful. Soon after the state of Texas emulated this success across the state creating successful towns and areas of business and commerce based around the labor and revenue generated from prison labor. For Reginald Moore the steward of the Old Imperial Farm Cemetery he believes the city of Sugar Land , Fort Bend County and the State of Texas owe the men and women who are interned in this sunken prison. “Sweat equity… “he said  These guys wrongfully incarcerated for trumped up charges and they have sweat equity in this land that they should be compensated for this. “ These people and their descendants should have some type of compensation, some type of apology, some of restitution, recognition and reparation of some sort for all the sweat equity they put in. They brought Texas out of a destitute situation, out of the Civil War and all the companies that benefited from the exploitation of these men and women .

The Old Imperial Farm Cemetery

Moore believes that the labor of the inmates should be compensated by the State of Texas Department of Corrections whose leasing of the workers to private entities and municipality rebuilt Texas and created billions of dollars in  infrastructure and private construction.

Moores battle to save the true history of Sugar Land and Fort Bend County has extended into the council chambers . To this day he has not received real agreements in writing on the preservation of the historical sites and finds.

Alice Walker ::: Chicago Humanities Festival

Globally acclaimed activist, Black womanist, and award winning novelist, Alice Walker is a central fixture in literature. This interview with her delves into the life-altering impact of her life and body of work. Walker will also discuss and share from her new bilingual collection of poetry, Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart. This program was recorded on October 28, 2018.

Alice Walker’s “Taking the Arrow Out of Your Heart”

A keynote speech from literary colossus, Alice Walker, at the Stanford Contemplation by Design Summit discussing how we might heal from trauma caused by various atrocities of Whyte Nationalism and Whyte Supremacy.

The Linkages Between Rap Music, Neoliberalism, and Black Subjectivity: Rifts in Understanding 21st Century Black Males

” … public attention is more easily drawn to acts, images, and threats of black male violence than any other form of racial address.” 

Dr. Tricia Rose (Black Noise, Introduction)

” … Dozens of … rap records depict MCs as risk-taking street entrepreneurs consistently having to make ends meet, responsible for success/failure.”

Dr. Lester Spence (Knocking The Hustle, PG 2)

“Just as artists must be suppressed for fear of their influence over colonized populations, so too must journalism contend with the same repression.”

Dr. Jared Ball (I Mix What I Like, Dr. Jared Ball, pg. 119)

I picked the quotes above for precise reasonings.

In Tricia Rose’s Black Noise, she argues that Hip Hop is a platform that brings about the social change that “is committed culturally and emotionally to the pulses, pleasures, and problems of black urban life in the face of … diverse constituencies.” (Cf. Black Noise, Tricia Rose, Page 4)

Lester Spence’s Knocking The Hustle as well as his earlier work, Stare In The Darkness, pushes against Dr. Rose’s Black Noise wherein both he holds the position that Hip Hop has politics and political aptness to many degrees, but it can “lead a person to believe that he has more political efficacy” for simple being a rap consumer, in which he tests using finding from The 1993 Black Politics Study and 2003 St. Louis Young Citizen Study. (Cf. SITD – Page 77)

Within Dr. Jared A. Ball’s I Mix What I Like: A Mixtape Manifesto, he gives readers a deeply Pan Afrikan-centered analysis of Hip Hop as it combats subjectivity due to being made by constituencies of Black folks undergoing “Internal Colonialism” in America, in which he theorizes to a T. (Cf. IMWIL – Page 14)

All the quotes from the books cited above discuss Hip Hop (to some degree) and it’s communicative apparatus know as rap music in ways I appreciate and ways I cannot fully support. What they all do well is situate Black maleness into a space of subjection which is rightful the institutional-material atmosphere many of us reside in. They each address Black male MC’s egalitarian role that they play in relation to their respective communities and clans, but to varying degrees. What is missing from one of these texts is often visible in others. For example where Ball gives space to theorization of Hip Hop and its audiences and influencers through a theme focusing on exploitation in a colonial fashion, Rose forces us to consider the reality through her vantage point of the sociopolitical scene encasing Hip Hop, which is appreciated because she is one of the first female cultural critic to map out why Rap music is like it is today. Spence does something similar to Rose albeit mainly to establish Hip Hop as an arbiter of neoliberal governmentality and politics using tests, surveys, and data.

Although all three texts discuss neoliberal logic’s internal and external effect on Black populations, they don’t call explicitly call it “racial neoliberalism” or consider Black males to be neoliberalized Post-humans (Adams Burten, 2017). Though they all understand the vulnerability of Black people generally, only Dr. Spence and Dr. Rose make arguments about Black males as if they occupy an exceptional space where they can control they destiny through tactics of neoliberalism—entrepreneurial thinking, claiming and showing expertise, and uplift logic that has no real understanding of the material realities influencing its sway. Dr. Ball actually talks about Black males in his book less than Dr. Spence and Dr. Rose and still has a more progressive outlook in terms of the point of this article.

Neoliberalism is many things, but the aspect that I will focus on is its ability to create value-based markets and apply those market systems to the world’s social hierarchies. In laymen’s terms…Common sense was replaced by neoliberal thought…it became commonplace to tell people that look like me it’s their behavior’s fault that the system penalizes them. It became commonplace to suggest that more businesses accompanied by financial literacy philosophy in Black communities where more than half the residency makes less than 40k/year (and have a median wealth of $1700) would reverse Black economic turmoil. It functions like propagandized consciousness predicated on the accumulation of capital by any means necessary. And you know what? It doesn’t surprise me that a people whose ancestors were considered capital investment would flaunt any slight bit of capital they may come across today. Black communities have had a pro-capitalist sway without fully being capitalists at relevant measures due to annexation from the US financial realm. Being that Hip Hop, and by extension, Rap music, has aided and abetted neoliberalism’s firm grip on Black consciousness (unconsciousness?), it reaffirms its teleological logics—proving Neoliberalism’s point basically…

But the last time I checked, if my understanding of the intellectual bravado put forth by Critical Race Studies serves me and my memory right, Blacks/Africans are more or less subjugated wherever we preside. So…why do political discussions do so bad with articulating that fact for US Black people, entirely, and, US Black males in particular? The obvious answer is in the first sentence although the nuance gets deeper. Hip Hop, even as an insurgent medium for autonomous creativity, is no outlier to this politically induced dysfunction.

We’ve been manipulated.

Colonized.

Massacred.

Mischaracterized.

Then, masqueraded in our delusions of self.

Hip Hop as a social vehicle for Black cultural expression has assisted in the explanation of such happenings to Black people. So…no need to delve too deep into it, except to always remember that politics is “professionalized” war. But our only issue is that, Hip Hop’s oral tradition of Rap music could be described as almost anything other than “professional”—its intricate idiosyncrasies dealing with the genre’s capacity to generate respectability politics through dissemination, notwithstanding. Rap can’t seem to escape neoliberalism (not by itself, at least…) because it’s a cultural product of Black people. The suppressive powers that be™ like it that way though and it’s shown by which shows and people they give green lights to. And hell, At this point in the game, you have to expect your raps and Hip Hops to come fully seasoned with neoliberal rhetoric.

We may even admit in 25 years that The Breakfast Club is the foremost Black neoliberal media project in public radio currently, doubling as bootstrap-crazed Niggerbreakers that compares (mostly) Black men and women to steeds weekly.

Saul Alinsky On Not Being Afraid To Speak Directly

Saul Alinsky Just Say, “Power”

 

First, by using combination of words such as “harnessing the energy” instead of the single word “power”, we being to dilute the meaning; and as we use purifying synonyms, we dissolve the bitterness, the anguish, the hate and love, the agony and the triumph attached to these words, leaving an aseptic imitation of life. In the politics of life, we are concerned with the slaves and the Caesars, not the vestal virgins. It is no just that, in communication as in thought, we must ever strive toward simplicity…it is a determination not to detour around reality.
“Rules For Radicals”, Saul Alinsky

 

It Is A Determination Not To Detour Around Reality

 

Euphemisms allow us to wrap sugar around Life’s more salty and bitter diabetic moments. Academics hide simplicity behind confused Latin words concatenated with Greek words. Our populace is attacked when they elect politicians crude in demeanor, but clear and vivid in speech. Saul Alinsky, and his oft-cited manual on grassroots organizing, “Rules For Radicals”, argues in favor of terms like “power”, “self-interest”, and even “compromise”.

Rules For Radicals By Saul Alinsky

 

Black Media Trust depends on our ability to communicate honestly and accurately. Even more to Alinsky’s point, there is a blindness in a politics that cannot accept as its goal an expression of power. As stated above, Alinsky discusses a demonizing of that term “self-interest” and all those ideals it might conjure. He writes:

 

 

Self-interest, like power, wears the black shroud of negativism and suspicion. To many the synonym for self-interest is selfishness. To many the synonym for self-interest is selfishness. The word is associated with a repugnant conglomeration of vices such as narrowness, self-seeking, and self-centeredness, everything that is opposite to the virtues of altruism and selflessness. This common definition is contrary, of course, to our everyday experiences, as well as to the observations of all great students of politics and life. The myth of altruism as a motivating factor in our behavior could arise and survive only in a society bundled in the sterile gauze of New England puritanism and Protestant morality and tied together with the ribbons of Madison Avenue public relations. It is one of the classic American fairy tales.

“Rules For Radicals”, Saul Alinsky

 

Saul Alinsky

 

Saul Alinsky frames “self-interest” in a similar manner to how I have framed obligatory fictive kinship. That is, it is mirage taken as life-giving medicine. I have no problem with social teachings that inspire a belief in a “wholesomeness” of people. However, that wholesomeness has to be defined by more than a hegemony historically honoring those subordinate to their needs from lower strata. That “wholesomeness” has to be measured beyond symbolic smiles in photoshopped images of Protestant ideals. It cannot be a wholesomeness that only allows hypocrisy from rich and highly celebrated while crucifying simple missteps by those hated for being poor or homeless.

Erica Caines’s “All In Love Is Fair”

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

 

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:

 

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
blue.
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
Erica Ryan Caines

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.

 

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
moment
I feel what you feel.
Vowing to wait for me
Vowing to stay with me
I take comfort in your words
A true feat.
Finally
Only you, I agree to fall for No longer suspended in air
Suspended in this moment
No more anxiety
Safe…within love

 

Erica Ryan Caines

 

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.

 


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…
Erica Ryan Caines

 

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.

Creation Caters To Creators

I have been working on polishing my portfolio over at the J. Farand site. As I have been going over design details and copy, I considered my position and roles I have played over the years. Primarily, my role in marketing, promoting and amplifying others via Twitter. It is not a very well rewarded or honored task, it is very much like being on special teams in organized football.

 

I do not kid my Self about reward and prestige. This world does not operate on “likes” that do not perform any tangible magic spells. I am not an artist, I am a designer. I communicate using visual mediums and symbols for objectives that can be felt, folded, and pay a fee. Framing this notion more succinctly: I give audiences what they want out of what I have, and I have what audiences want, because I enjoy making that particular thing. In this way, I do not chase money, or even pander for approval, but I also do not go broke for some moral obligation to work no one likes other than my Self.

 

I think it is often necessary to remind my Self that it is quite human to enjoy fruits of my labor. Work should not be reduced to some sacrifice that causes you to martyr your well-being every day. There is no moral conjunction in suicide for just to prove you can kill your Self. Maybe when I was younger, producing work for others at low cap offs was understandable, but not today.

 

And I would highly suggest that anyone reading this not torture their selves in some cult of art that cannot sustain its creator. There are not many precepts I am willing to say for sure about Life and Nature, but it damn sure seems as though Life enjoys Living. Creation rewards Creators by extending them as long as possible with some of its own value.

A Poet’s Toolkit :: 20 Poets Worth Reading By B. Sharise

  • Ntozake Shange
  • Sonia Sanchez
  • Tyehimba Jess
  • Harryette Mullen
  • Victor Hernandez Cruz
  • Larry Neal
  • Jayne Cortez
  • Quincy Troupe
  • June Jordan
  • Amiri Baraka
  • E. Ethelbert Miller
  • Yusef Komunyakaa
  • Rita Dove
  • Shel Silverstein
  • Sterling Plumpp
  • Sylvia Plath
  • Gwendolyn Brooks
  • Etheridge Knight
  • Camille T. Dungy
  • Elizabeth Bishop