Thoughts on Fear of a Black President

Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote what I found to be the best encapsulation of the tension that has come with being a Black president. Coates captured it all from the hope and sense of ownership to the disgust and frustration within our community as well as the reception of President Obama and what his blackness means outside of our community.

 

What gripped me most was the theme regarding what do we mean and what should we expect when we say we have a Black President (or really a Black anything, for that matter). As Coates noted in his article, we love President Obama’s employing cultural signals and behaviors, but we also long for that “speak- truth-to-power” defiance. We want that avatar of our anger and rage just as much as the effortless portrayal of who we are culturally by our own in high places. What real good is understanding the finer points of giving dap, a command of Al Greens lyrics, or a child touching his hair in the light of death of young Black men and women in Chicago, extra judicial murders of Black folk in general, and predator drones? For many, especially those of us with immediate survival needs: Federalism, the nature of political process, reelections and the calculus of race ring very hollow as explanations in the face of such an environment.

 

While Obama still has to bear that criticism, I find that I also have to weigh the potency of racism in this country that demands as Coates says,” twice as good and half as black”. A lot of times we discuss authenticity in terms of hair and one’s adherence to different models and I think Coates engagement of this theme injects the nuance of a given person’s situation into the understanding of what authenticity means. It is easier and far sexier for us to view authenticity as this unbending adherence to a particular set of rules rather than sort of struggle to embody what we believe. A journey that is often beset with challenges, experiences, and situations where we stray, modify, or confirm those principles. The philosophies and principles we live by are born of human experience and not the other way around. As such, these philosophies and principles cannot hope to cover every single situation we face. Our lived experience is too complex to be pinned in like that. So what happens when in a situation where you have every intention to do good but must compromise and risk your ability to use your position positively in the future? What happens when such a decision is a matter of survival or ability to provide for one’s family? As Coates discusses, such a calculation is as relevant to the President in his position as it is to us in our day to day lives.

 

In short, intent counts.

Dear Sheltered Black Children: Crip Walking IS NOT Being Unapologetically Black

So, yeah, I grew up in St. Louis and got my principles and familial instruction from the East side of the Mississippi. I suppose I learned at an early age the realities of gang culture from my mother’s sister’s children as I lost hope in being respected as an intellectual. By the time “Colors” was released (“re” + “leased”) to a media forum my eleven year old sensory apparutus could ingest, I already had known the impact of Illinios gang culture. Although, it would take years before the white inclusive Spanish Disciples would expand into Brooklyn or Larry Hoover’s Gangster Disciples would reenact the Brothers Of The Struggle(BOS[S]) segment of the chapter by unifying with the Nation of Islam, I understood the nuance of Black urban tribal culture very well.

Unfortunately, I was not precocious enough to know exactly how accurate Dr. Dre’s words in the introduction to NWA’s second album, “Straight Out Of Compton” would be:”Prepare to witness the strength of street knowledge…”

During the nineties, an influx of western United States urban culture would infect the national cultural expression. I suppose, being in the midwest, my first encounter with the tribal step and communication device known as the “Crip walk” was from a video being hosted by Video Jukebox of the same name. The Crip walk was the apex of the gang sign with regard to tactile communication. It not only looked good, it was the archetypal ressurection of that same element that gave the bass beats of Hip Hop a feel reflective enough to be dubbed a ressurgence of the talking drums. As a teen in a St. Louis era entrenched in gang violence, the Crip walk symbolized a vehicle of pride and disrespect to anyone outside of that particular gang. As the influence of Crip culture spread, and most importantly As WC from the WC and the Maad Circle and ICe Cube’s West Side Connect Gang illustrated that movements and passion of the tribal expression, it became popular to more bourgeois and professional class of Black Americans. As young brothers such as my self succumbed to the traps of urban USA, those without such precarious realities associated the media processed urban artifacts as “Black culture”. Many, not quite understanding the bloodshed surrounding the acts, would soon embrace these impliments as entitlements concomittant of their birthright.

So, yeah, when I saw the victory dance of Serena Williams at the 2012 London Olympics after winning a gold medal, I laughed and shook my head as is popular in this digitized era. I didn’t associate her enthused movements as a political statement beckoning me to be prideful of my ethnic heritage. I had been enclosed in the tanks with the Bloods and Crips. I had seen the makeshift daggers referred to as “shanks” being pulled out early mornings during the waves of gang warfare in front of my bed daily. It didn’t remind me of how united we are in struggles; it reminded me of every brother I watched fall to gang violence. And although I am immensely proud that the younger Williams has found another historical etching for her name to reside on, those of my elders and peers that created a lane for certain behaviors to exist will never find their names regurgitated although their pain and sacrifice allow for such appealling caricatures of their expressions of honor. But whatever.

Maybe I’m taking things too serious. I am torn. In some rooms of my thinking, I am overwhelmed by the sheer influence of a culture that caused so much pain. In another cavity of ruminating, I wonder about those that swung on or shot at those that performed the ritual expression of Crip culture. Sure, it is the expression of an Afkan (Afrikan Amerikkkan) tribe…but it is also the expression of that same tribal warfare that many of us suffered in. Some have suggested that the impact of the motions are less acute among Bloods. And sure, I remember the videos showing DJ Quik rejoicing in the steps. However, I am always reminded of Fat Joe taunting B2K for Crip walking (like that was what was up). Fat Joe is an East Coast native, yet he natively understands the representation of a cultural artifact that deserves a certain degree of respect and treatment. Everyone can’t walk around with five stars on their shoulders and get salutes. Everyone can’t claim to hold doctorates. These are symbols and emblems of a culture within our society that reflect a certain level of accomplishment. I am not concerned with a Compton native that has lost a loved one to gang violence, (well, okay, maybe I am after writing that), but my main issue is that Black people don’t think that something that we have received in popular culture doesn’t become some symbol of political power in the face of a Europe that gave the world the USA flag, the Irish kelt, the Black United States of American branding, and the German swatstika. Serena Williams did that dance for her Self. She did not do it for me, nor the many brothers I came of age with that would have slapped her for doing it in my neighborhood. When Michael Phelps lit that pipe up in celebration of his victory, no one said it was,”unapologetically Anglo-Saxon.”

Crip walking after a victory, no matter how innocent, is not being “unapologetically Black,” it was just unapologetically Serena. I am not sure how her behavior works to assist or defuse the criminalization of Black urban people by doing a tribal dance reflective of criminalized Black urban people at a time when that expression is solely an expression of tribal(gang) culture. She didn’t do just a Black dance…she Crip walked. Crip walking is not a dance. I have not forgotten to capitalize “Crip” in of my usages of it in this piece. That is for a reason. Once again, Crip walking is not a “dance”, it is an expression of loyalty and dedication to a particular military operative. There is a certain level of respect and acknowledgment attached to those particular movements because they communicate a message to those who helped to initiate the movements.

I do not write this to be condemning, yet I also do not want my words to ever be mistaken as conciliatory at any point. I do not like children Crip walking around me without understanding the precise nature of their expression. Serena Williams decided to use her feet to spell out “Crip” — as that is what Crip walking is — I did not. Nor did the Afkan community. Nor is that in any way a device I can at this time condone to reflect my courage in the face of Anglo-Saxon social acceptance. Serena Williams expressed her ebullience, not the children of tribes collected into one people through enslavement and divided back into tribes called gangs due to repression.

“Olivia”: The Song The Whispers Should Have Yelled

What is the world coming to?
So many are used and abused/
There’s over ten million girls, who are lost in this world/
What will your kinfolks say?
Olivia, the slave/
It must be tearing their heart in two/
Listen close, they’re calling you (Olivia, Olivia)

Olivia the slave, got distracted on her way, to grandmother’s house/
A wolf in lamb’s clothing came,
Blew her mind and changed her ways/
And now she’s turned out/
Lost and turned out…

—(from the song “Olivia (Lost & Turned Out) by The Whispers, 1978)

Many Olivias sat in front of the television last night, critiquing loudly the atrocities shown on VH1 while silently comparing every aspect of their lives wondering, “am I like these women?” And chances that the answer to that monolithic question is more than likely “yes,” simply because the eye has committed to the actions seen and actuated the process in the mind. It’s science by Steven Spielberg and Nicholas Rothschild. Go learn.

Ok, so maybe the plot to keep Black women under the trance of baby daddies, the come-up and the redefined role of a whore might not be by the conspiracy of two Jew-mongrels but in the same, mongrels have become the incestuous breed of Olivias who marry the idea that “I can be like them without being like them” with the unfortunate generational behaviors that go unidentified and uncorrected.

I sat and looked at my Twitter timeline, my heart being shredded on a mandolin of “Girl, she’s a hot-ass mess” and “he’s just a trifling, no good man.” I was sick from the self-deception; that the Olivia on the screen wasn’t a mirror image of those watching; that under all the misdirected bashing were Black women who identified with the situations so abhorrently displayed on that screen. I watched the comments, cringing at each scroll upwards, knowing that the so-called disgust expressed on my timeline was only going to be translated into similar dialogue after changing the channel to another identity-warping program that had no intention on projecting a better image of women with integrity and upstanding decision-making skills. I wanted to unfollow every person that commented on that Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta show because their presence in my timeline was making me question my own self-worth and wanting to identify with the populous. Then I had to make a decision:

I put the phone down.

Like my foot, smack, the law or anything else that fits in that colloquial phrase it was crucial that I turned away from what the disheartening “conversation” of my Twitter community and focus on paint swatches. Something. Anything other than that. Because in the end, what else can be said about a subject so beaten and worn like the vagina of a Rosie the Riveter figure who gave the prostitutes a chance to recoup when the soldiers got back from war? A decision, once again, to watch a group of depraved women who continue to make bad choices based on the apparent need of actuated love and redirection to ideals that not only work for Black women, but work for any woman who is being prepared for a man who is also being prepared for matrimony and nation-building. This is what has been said, what needs to be said, and some, time and time again. Because of the way of the universe, if you’re not part of the solution, then you are a part of the problem and endorsing [watching] the continuous obstruction of mental correction of young women is only showing the networks that you WANT to be lost; that you want your time to be taken up by a bunch of people who don’t make sense and want you to have an opinion about their motions that don’t make sense. Lost and turned out 2.0.

People are going to do what they want to do, no doubt; do they know why they do the things that they seemingly want to do though? Of course not. Is that part of their list of “wants”? Lord, please let it be. Media hypnosis has once again drowned out the whispers of those who know best and bolstered the cackling calls of ghetto darlings who would much rather be called urban because it sounds better. C’mon people. This really does not have to be the “world in which we live.” Perception of the perception is making it that way and those that give the thumbs up to the networks to keep the crap coming are only waiting to reproduce children who only know bullshit.

Yes.

Now. Learn how to say no and holla at an Olivia the next time you see one. She probably needs GPS.

On National Insecurity…

Insecurities are internalized fears. When we measure our Selves based on ideals inculcated by our social apparatus, and fear that we aren’t measuring up– we tend to project what are the recognizable portions of insecurity. For Afkans, or Afrikan Amerikkkans for short, this can be a slippery slope of sorts. Being that our social apparatus here in the United States was built intentionally with the thought of breaking the internal faith of Afkans, and thusly, creating the Afkan — our insecurities are grosssly multiplied. The ideals inculcated by our social apparatus are all outside of the range of realistic possession. Even a wondrously gorgeous woman like Beyonce is forced to alter her appearance to mimic more Anglo-Saxon features. Afkans in the United States are not permitted a stable and reasonable example by which to compare as an unfiltered baseline. Possibly, this is why, even in 2012, most of Afkan leadership across diverse sectors, are either members that are of interracial couplings, or of lighter hues. It is as though, our collective subconscious is wired to project this insecurity, that if we aren’t following those of our own ranks that possess Anglo-Saxon features, we aren’t going to be accepted socially.

Now, if Beyonce is having issues with her looks, what does that say for sisters that are even further away from the present United States’ standard of beauty? Vivica Fox has had a nose job. Vivica. Janet Jackson has had cosmetic surgery to mimic the features of Anglo-Saxon women. Ms. Jackson(only because I am ‘nasty’). It needs to be noted that insecurities are internalized as objective realities. The more a person depends on the reflections and approval of a social group, the more the internalization affects them. In the socialization of the United States, in the same manner that boys learn fairly early to judge other boys based on physical strength and bravery, girls learn that there is a pecking order based on beauty standards. Often, the way that society deems a woman to look, she deems her Self to look as well. Some women treat the romantic or even sexual approaches of men as foolish or predatory simply because they can’t believe that a man would want them. The treatment they have received from others based on their looks is now being projected.

“Generally, the idealized self or fantasized self refers to what the individual perceives or fancies himself to be, or what he would like to be, how he would like to be perceived by others, to be related to by others and how he relates to or would like to relate to others, in order to experience self-satisfaction, positive self-regard, peer acceptance, favorable personal and social distinction, as well as maximized feelings of pleasure, joy, power, security, and perhaps, feelings of superiority…It is these personally and culturally acquired ideal standards against which the individual measures and evaluates himself. If the discrepancy between the way he perceives himself to be and his internalized ideals– standards against which he measures himself– are not too large, then he may experience a reasonable sense of accomplishment, self-satisfaction, and positive self-regard. If the discrepancy is too large, then he may experience feelings of failure, frustration, and self-contempt…” — Dr. Amos Wilson, ‘Black On Black Violence’, pg. 97

As a collective, Afkans imbibe social intoxicants via the media and objectively through social interactions that are informed by a power structure built and commanded by Anglo-Saxon males mainly from the psychological and physical domination of Global Original peoples. There are no ways to absolve an objective reality without force or persuasion. Often, what occurs in the physical or even in the mind is an occurence. It happened. How we respond to occurrences as an albeit subjective response is where a strong desire for critical thought and pride in Self is necessary.

“Now they departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. Then they told him, and said: ‘We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.’

Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, ‘Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.’

But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.’ And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, ‘The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.'” Numbers 13:26-33

The response mechanism for Afkans is dangerously insecure. If an Arab in Iraq defecates too loudly around an Anglo-Saxon presence, they are a terrorist. You can not whisper a thought about a thought regarding anti-Anglo-Saxon empires without being labeled, packaged, and shipped off into marginality. Their ability to forge quick and cohesive propaganda has gotten so robust that they don’t even worry about vocalized threats that don’t offer a capital gain. You are not a terrorists for attacking White people– White people kill thousands of White people regularly. You are a terrorist when you threaten White people and you have something worthy of being stripped for profits.

This is not to say that Afkans are sensitive. In fact, Afkans are not sensitive enough. Afkans are the only ethnic group formed in the West that hasn’t warred protractedly with their oppressors without a sizable reparation given from Western Allied Powers. Hell, the IRA is still incensed with the Catholic Church. Afkans must develop a response to any and all attacks that reflects pride in their people and a love for Self strong enough to wish to exist beyond the reservations of prison plantations. This pride in Self doesn’t have to be an arrogant, substance lacking posture. It can come from a genuinely humble place, but it must come. No one can make the world love Afkan people enough to redistribute the wealth in this country to the proper owners — the land laborers of slavery, and the workers– but the Afkan better have enough love for them Selves to recognize and create means of redistribution them Selves without their insecurities of not being capable crop up.

“…humility means two things. One, a capacity for self-criticism. And this is something that we do not have enough of in the Black community, and especially among Black leaders. The second feature is allowing others to shine, affirming others, empowering and enabling others. Those who lack humility are dogmatic and egotistical. And that masks a deep sense of insecurity. They feel the success of other is at the expense of their own fame and glory.” – Cornel West, “Breaking Bread”, pg. 50

Who is “Black”

Discussions of negritude are pretty commonplace in my slice of Black twitter but no discussion is a contentious as the discussion surrounding Hypodescent or as it is more popularly known, The One Drop Rule.

Hypodescent mean that in a place when one group is deemed superior and another is inferior should one from the “superior group” have a child with someone from an “inferior” group the child is deemed to be of the inferior group hence “One drop of black blood” makes you Black (as in noun form denoting a distinct group of the African Diaspora).

Historically this concept was codified into law in the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 and similar laws abounded elsewhere in this nation. White Folk were serious about protecting strict standards of who was white and who was not for the purpose of providing privilege and preserving group power structures. Authenticity was and continues to be essential.

The one drop rule is without a shadow of a doubt is rooted in a legacy of white supremacy. Thus we have to ask the question does the practice of accepting those denoted Black by the one drop rule an act of self hate.

This discussion becomes particularly relevant in the light of Fanon’s comment regarding the necessity of oppressed people defining themselves outside of the logic of their oppressor as the first step of liberation. As a practical example many religious groups or philosophies stress a name change as symbolic of locating oneself out of the logic of one’s oppressor or oppression. Also if we consider the history of Black folk so many of the folks we consider our greats have grappled with the idea of who we are due in no small part to the cultural losses we have sustained, the pieces we retained, the hostility of the society that formed around us, and our creativity in the attempt of making sense of it or least live in spite of it.

The way I was introduced into the Hypodescent discussion was through a discussion regarding confronting Colorism and light skinned privilege. Colorism being the practice of using Light skinned capital “B” Black folk or “mixed” (I put that in quotations b/c its fairly idiomatic given that most people that identify as Black have some non Black heritage and even among our African heritage we are the product of many different ethnic groups) identifying folks to represent all of the different shades that we consider to be Black people. Light skinned privilege being the favorable treatment given to those with fairer skin because of the racist top down color structure that conveys value on how to close to white you are. The problem even though we may see lighter complexioned or mixed folks as kin that darker Black folk are being erased and devalued because of the standardization and pursuit of whiteness.

Some argue that this is grounds for reorganization in who we call kin. I agree that we need to codify what it means to be us but I do not agree with the idea that the only Black (ethnic group) people are black (skin color) people. I find that the United States African Diaspora is its own ethnic group descended from the many African peoples that were brought here. As we well know those identities were stripped and in favor race terms which I find to be illegitimate and inaccurate and existing within the same logic of white supremacy that we would seek to avoid. So adhering to race identifiers doesn’t make sense to me. So that puts us in the unique position of not only choosing a new name but also trying to find a new answer to the historical question that every generation of us have had to grapple. To me benefitting from colorism doesn’t eliminate one’s negritude and after all not everybody we would identify as “light skinned” or “redbone” are mixed. And of those that are mixed what role should a person’s should a person’s identification play in whether they are a part of us are not? If that’s not a factor what are our standards of negritude? How are these standards communicated from one generation to the next? How do we even begin to implement such a thing? What happens to the folk who are left out?

The more I investigate the issue, the more questions arise that I am not prepared to deal with and yet I am not satisfied with the solutions presented thus far. This is a difficult question that members of the United States African Diaspora must begin to deal and eventually answer.

Bail Bond Amounts In High Profile Cases(Infographic)

On April 22, 2012, George Zimmerman, the murderer of 17 year young Trayvon Martin walked away from John E. Polk Correctional Facility with an unidentified man into a BMW Sports Utility Vehicle on a $150,000 bond set by Judge Kenneth Lester, Jr. of Sanford, Fla. In lieu of these heart twisting events, I took it upon my Self to compile a list of bail bonds set in court cases of prominent individuals, or at least individuals that came to prominence because of the charges or incidents surrounding a case. What I’ve compiled is interesting to me, mainly the bail bonds set on the five young Afkan(Afrikan Amerikkkan) men from Jena, Louisiana. According to my research, and personal predicaments from time to time(insert Owl’s charming smile here), a bail bond is set in an effort to allow a person a modicum of freedom(defined here as not being in a cell, tank, or open bay confinement unit ran by state or federal personnel) while their case is being tried. Those that don’t get bonds are supposedly assumed to be “flight risks” — that is, they are rabbits waiting for a cage to spring so that they might. The amounts for those being tried ought to reflect their income and ability to pay such collateral. As we can see from the compiled data, such is not always the case. I do further the understanding here to ward off petty polemicist, each state is governed by various precedents and judges are allowed to operate within a fairly arbitrary space in these matters. Very much like the sentencing process, the judge has precedents they can consider, but these are not written in stone and often based on the personality of the judge in question.

 

I’ve presented the infographic in full here as a .png file(Portable Network Graphic) that can be right-clicked and saved or dragged and dropped onto your computing system. I also have a .pdf file that can be visited online or saved to your system as well. That is linked here.

 

@GraffitiDC :: Another Asylum Outing…

Perhaps there is no better form of artistic expression than that of music to demonstrate the peculiar dynamics of the European aesthetic. The European mind responded to music in precisely the same way as it responded to every kind of phenomenon with which it was presented. Music was analyzed, dissected, “studied” and translated into the language of mathematics. It was written down, and then it could be “read” as one would read a mathematical equation. And true to the pattern of European development, the intellectuals who created this new music were successful in introducing it into the culture as a whole because the culture itself was predisposed to value such an approach. – Marimba Ani, “Yurugu”, pg. 210

Recently, it was submitted in passing that I don’t often show outward support for the leading actress of my love life, B. Sharise Moore, as she is known on the spoken word scene–on the poetry scene. For those that don’t know me, my mother birthed me with my arse gently placed on my backside and pepperly prepared for the kisses of them who believe I owe them what only she deserves and hasn’t even gotten since her relocation. But, since my Brie wiped the floor(I have always loved that saying) at last night’s slam competition, I figured I’d do what I always do: analyze Afkan cultural influences.

Graffiti DC for what I could gather from the host and hosting parties is a poetry slam event organized originally by Beny Blaq in Washington, DC. His efforts extended beyond him Self to include spoken word artists Rasheed, Pages, Ya Ya and Drew Law. As Benny so repetitiously announced throughout the evening, the event was sponsored by Fuze food and beverages — although, Mr. Blaq(I can only assume this monicker alludes to the brother’s crisp skin hue) was donning a Coors t-shirt…never you mind that, however. For those that do not know what a slam is, a poetry slam is a competitive poetry event. Although most polished hosts will pay tribute to the idea that poetry is subjective by having the crowd “boo” the judges and applaud the poet, there is typically a pot at stake. Thusly, five crowd participants are tasked with objectifying the subjective as the poetry performers shoot dice with their vulnerabilities verbalized in measured vibrations and voted from zero to thirty.

Granted, that last paragraph was fully loaded with Owl’s subtle yet not so much point of view on poetry slams as I’ve gotten to know them(as if the pieces leading quote couldn’t let on that I would be swaying the writing a tad bit). The event’s “sackgoat”, or the poet who performs a poem in order to allow the audience to see how the judging will occur was a poet named G. After his performance, the judges scattered in random places throughout the venue held up small whiteboards with numbers on them displaying their overall critique on the piece quantified(see what I did there?).

After his gauging performance was complete, the first contestant was ShellySaysSo. Now, I can always tell when Baltimore is in the building because Ra, Slangston Hughes and Rebecca aren’t too far away. I am always delighted to see them and the support they show their fellow poets is commendable. Shelly would deliver a piece discussing the double standards of male and female sexuality entitled,”I’m a Freak”. The topic was presented in a fresh manner: a first person female perspective explaining why she feels the need for a courting process when she enjoys sex possibly more than the men the poem narrates to. I was relieved that the piece didn’t present it Self as a scathing attack, but a practical and insightful handling of an oft disputed condition. Shelly would receive a 23 even for the piece.

As I have been told, the contestants are grouped in four person teams that compete against each other for the right to move to the final round of two spoken word artists. Shelly would be the first contestant in her group of four forming the first round. The second performer, Mike, would recite a romantic piece, using Shelly as a focal. I don’t mind the romantic pieces flowing from the mouths of Black males, I feel as though the audience wanted something more edgy or “deep”; let’s say, they want Dead Prez’s “Mind Sex” as opposed to, I don’t know, LL’s “I Need Love”. I could see the eye rolls and furled lips from the audience as Mike recited. He would leave the stage with Benny reading his scores “from most disrespectful to highest”. And no that is not a common statement for these affairs. He scored a 15.

IEmpress, did her thing, as usual. Politics aside, I was moved by her humility through out the night(that means she took it upon her Self to speak to me, and yes, many don’t pass a second glance over me, but the true and loyal followers of Asylum know just how acclimated Owl has become to that treatment). I was also enamored by the piece. She represented the righteously cynical(sure, you can always win o’l Owl over with justified cynicism) with a piece discussing her policy dealing with female friends and male suitors. She was given a 25.7 for the piece.

As you can by now tell, I’m sure, I have my own feelings about the poetry slams. I attended the poetry slam in Alexandria, Virginia hosted by the beautiful and eloquent, ShellyBell, and I also watched a youth poetry slam at the 5th and K Busboys and Poets hosted by the broke baller, Droopy. What I dislike is that my favorite pieces that don’t fall from the lips of Brie hardly ever win because of things like:

The Poet isn’t popular with that crowd.

The Poet isn’t discussing something that is heartfelt amongst that crowd.

The Poet isn’t groomed efficiently for public recitation.

The Poet doesn’t seem to be in agreement with aggressive female homosexuality.

I’ll stop with my list of poetry slam pet peeves for now, but the gist of my concerns is that, although Graffiti DC is extremely polished in its assessment of performance poetry, poetry slam audiences, and thus the judges surrounded by them, aren’t created equal. This isn’t a new argument. Talaam Acey, spoken word phenom, also dedicates a few paragraphs to the murky waters of poetry slams in an essay on “Gay” poetry in his book, “Excellent Exposure”.

In many ways, I believe, and I’ve expressed this elsewhere, I will always be the preferred outcast. I don’t partake of my words without due consideration. An outcast is one that has been cast out from a group. The out cast of a genus is typically that animal born first of a necessary mutation for natural selection to select accordingly. The casting out is actually a blessing, as it was when mutant white people where born of melanin secreting people. For that last thought, please consult Dr. Francis Cress Welsing, the notion isn’t mine alone. Poetry is supposed to be the expressed thoughts of the out casted. One of the first documented spoken poetry pieces of history is a Kemetian(ancient, ancient Egypt) that discusses a poor man soliciting a bureau of law proscribers and explaining class and the right by which even the poor have to proper Ma’at. But hey, these are only my thoughts…what other thoughts would you expect Owl to be able to best write about?

The second half of the competition began with a poem about a male’s perspective of having an aborted child. It was performed by a poet named Hoffa, and he used a technique of speaking about his daughter as if she had been here on earth and he missed her. An interesting piece, to say the least. He would walk away with a 27.1.

The second poet of the second round was the ever so devasting, the one and only, her muthafucking Asylum-ness…B. Sharise Moore(yes, niggaz, clap from your cubicle #shyt). Since my staff pays the bills around here, I don’t mind being biased. She took a rusty broken industrial sized, kitchen mixer leg sharpened from fear of being fucked in prison style shank and worked the crowd over. She did her personage piece of the meeting between Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye’s father that you can listen to here, and purchase on the album “”. She would drip blood from the microphone back to where I was standing with a 29.8 from the judges.

Yeah, of course, your favorite ex-convict slash ex-drug addict slash and plus ex-homeless writer felt all standing ovation for the queen inside but didn’t have to show it. I sort of understand now what inspired Jay-Z’s verse on “That’s My Bitch”.

But, hey, the story doesn’t stop there…

The last competitor of the round was a Jonie that spoke something towards her fearlessness for being in love with a woman. Automatic crowd pleaser. The only way to beat that was to be an Asian with southern swagger in an Afkan(Afrikan Amerikkkan) mounted venue discussing how hard it was to grow up Asian around Whites. She would walk off the chopping block with a 29 even.

The round was ended with a few more jokes for Beny The Dark, and a round of poems from Drew Law, Pages, YaYa, and Rasheed. Pages and Drew went head up with pieces discussing what they would do to the females of the audience sexually, then Pages broke off to do a piece about how he would wish to be a cigarette since that would get his father’s attention. Rasheed and Yaya would both do pieces together and separately. I was in deep combat with my part-time atheism and full time “Fuck Christianity” as Rasheed waxed poetically about the fear Jesus would have in actually coming back to earth. The section was wrapped up with Drew law.

The finalist, as you must have calculated already were B. Sharise Moore and Jonie. They would have to compete against one another without an edge from their previous score. B. Sharise Moore would perform her critique of the Education System in USA and Jonie would do a love piece. I slept with the winner who walked away with a clean 30(Highest score one can receive).

*Smiles*

I could have left you there, but I will not. I totally appreciate the work and effort of all named artists and those that appeared that night. It is difficult to write about people that are loved by the person you love without being overly offensive, or dick riding to the point of nausea. No matter how much money is on the table and how many bills will get paid with said money…no matter how much sex will be received by poets by poetry appreciatists…the bottom line should be about expression, and to all those new to these digital parts, I pray ye understand my expression is necessary for me to sleep without fighting. Not a metaphor there.

*Smiles*

Breaking The Silence :: The Rekia Boyd Story

“Just watching the news story about that 22 year old woman who has been shot in the head, and I’m like,’I feel sorry for that family’…” – Martinez Sutton, brother of Rekia Boyd

 

On March 21, 2012, 22 year old Rekia Boyd was killed by Chicago cops after visiting with friends on Chicago’s W. 15th place. According to attorney James D. Montgomery, Rekia was with friends as an off-duty Chicago Police Detective Dante Servin told a neighboring group to “shut up” and opened fire after the ensuing exchange of acrimonies. During an attempt to flee, Rekia was struck in the head and died a little over 24 hours. Her friend, Antonio Cross was struck in his hand.

 

The defense of Servin rests on Chicago Police Department’s allegations that Antonio was brandishing a weapon and that Servin felt his life was in danger. According to witnesses and a thorough investigation of the scene, no weapons had been found. Some proffer the notion that Cross’ phone may have been mistaken, to this Cross mentions that he had the phone to his ear while he was talking in it.Cross asks, “How the fuck you think my phone was a weapon?”

 

 

The family of Rekia Boyd have filed a lawsuit for this unlawful death.

 

Her murder comes after the sentencing to 40 years in prison of another slain Afkan(afrikan amerikkkan), 61 year old Howard Morgan. Morgan shot 28 times after being pulled over by Chicago Police on February 21, 2005. The former police officer was said to have shot at the officers that attempted to p’d roll him, but no evidence of such has been found.

 

It is awfully trying to be Afkan in this country with such incidents amassing at alarming rates. It can also be even more trying to keep up. With the media fiasco that has burst forth like an alien from Sigourney Weaver’s stomach after Trayvon’s slaughter, it can be overwhelming to channel one’s energy in so many directions. According to Ohm and his law, intensity of a charge is reduced by the resistance to flow on that charge. Interestingly enough, the resistance on the charge of the attention span of most of us, is too many murdered innocent Afkan people. Yet, the mainstream media murmur surrounding Rekia’s name has elicited a response of sexism from certain sectors of the Afkan community.

 

As a writer that spent a considerable amount of time following the murder of Aiyana Jones by Detroit police, I believe the accusatory remarks of gender bias to be akin to a mark on a pregnant elephant. That is, it’s an enormous stretch. The cause of Rekia Boyd has traction, but two other considerations beyond her gender might be better fit for the researcher without an agenda to begin answering the question why hasn’t this been discussed more.

 

Firstly, Trayvon Martin’s admitted murderer, George Zimmerman, is walking free and doesn’t have a badge. This case sparked an outrage due to the elements. Now, I will never be accused of defending mainstream media, I’m sure, yet, the manner in which the details of the incident trickled down to the public caused it to garner our attention in a way that most media outlets would be fools not to bite. A young boy is murdered holding a can of tea and a bag of skittles. He was Afkan. He was wearing a hoodie. His assailant is recorded on a phone call being told by local authorities to stop following him. The killer was not charged and much of the country was made aware of a little known statute referred to as the “Stand Your Ground” law.

 

Is this to say that Rekia’s murder is less important? Why ask stupid questions? The human filter is not always made active by quantified salience. Sure, we do live in a patriarchy. Sure, this does imply certain hegemonic psychological conditioning. However, for one to automatically assume that the reason Rekia Boyd hasn’t gotten the same media attention as Trayvon Martin is due to her gender simply lacks breadth. Rekia Boyd didn’t get the same reaction as Trayvon Martin’s murder, partly because of the image presumed of Travon Martin. And also because the Chicago Police Department is not the Sanford Police Department.

 

Much of the information surrounding Rekia Boyd is unfortunately one-sided. We have a police officer we know very little about being protected by a department in a political machine notorious for corruption and cover-ups. The situation should be understood thusly, Antonio got shot in the hand and charged with a misdemeanor assault on a police officer. White terrorism with a bit of propaganda as garnish. However, it makes the story less chewy for a media sponsored by corporate bottom lines, whether the bias is white liberal or white conservative. The initial media presentation of Rekia’s murder was that of an innocent bystander being shot as a police officer defended him Self. This is what trickled down to the public. The reaction of most to the story was to wait for more details to surface. There wasn’t much for an outburst to develop from. George Zimmerman didn’t take the initial steps to make him Self look justified as a citizens killing what at that times was a 17 year old that much of the world thought looked like a 14 year young child by the images of Trayvon we were presented.

 

As stated, this piece isn’t to defend the mainstream media, I don’t get paid enough to defend any established structure. I am simply addressing those that may be soiling Rekia’s name by limiting their thoughts to a prescribed agenda reaction. There is a genocide happening in the United States and Rekia is just one of the many victims of this ethnic wipe out to go without a large media presence. It hurts to read that the reason for her lack of attention is such a small detail when there are more obvious reasons she hasn’t been spoken of more largely. Furthermore, when the media doesn’t work in the way you wish it to, take the media into your own hands. Ask President Obama why he hasn’t spoken about a murder of such appalling circumstance in his own city, he is the only one that owes you that.

My Response To Porgy and Bess On Broadway(2012)

Editor’s note: Before we delve into this piece, would like to take the time to thank Nikki for such an eventful weekend in New York City. Asylum will always be indebted and I’m sure I would have never been exposed to much of what I have been if it had not been for your extended loyalty and commitment to our family.

 

 

An understanding must always be undertaken when discussing figures of history: I’m discussing what has happened and was recorded of a person. Often, in Afkan discussion, we mistake what we have heard of a person from source 1082 and not what we may have actually witnessed for our Selves or known of someone from primary accounting methods. I never met Dubose Heyward, I may have liked him. I never knew Malcolm X, may have disliked him. So, in my efforts to write critiques regarding historical figures, I attempt to be objective for the sake of my ignorance, and subjective with regard to my complete knowledge of Self. That is not saying I have complete knowledge of Self, for my Self is a dynamic, subject to change; I am, however, referring to those elements that have remained core components that I can be sure of in as much as I’m sure the Sun will remain in a fixed enough position for the Earth to round about its axis.

 

A part of this Self, I speak of and know of is my need to bond with those of my Afkan heritage. The romantic element of any nation, tribe, religion, any grouping of humans, is exactly that which that unit’s cohesive agent is. We are all bound by emotional strands, physical ecological realities, or we are not at the same time. Logic allows for a cold, or objectifying treatment of life, yet it doesn’t remove the fact that all of life is living and that all of the living are dependent or interconnected in some way. It is the romantic ideology that compels the will to act in a manner suitable for sacrifice and commitments that cold logic cannot always clone. The cowardly can be logical; the cowardly cannot always be faithful to the trust of those that need them to be in the face of ominous circumstance. When the braves of a people are limited and must resort to the employ of cowards to do that which even the brave flounder, it takes an emotional appeal that extends into the imagination, not the analytic recesses. In this regard, it is always necessary to know what every imagination, what every creation, and thus what every artist and creator, has in their mind and what is the response to these creations on the collective mind. It must be remembered that the phrase “Uncle Tom” originated not in the sphere of objective reality, but in the imaginations of a White woman for a white male audience. Yet, how often do we hear White males using the phrase colloquially? How often do we hear or read Afkan peoples using it?

 

Now, in mentioning all of that, what are you preparing us for, eh? I don’t mind White writers writing whatever they choose; I just don’t wish to allow it to pass without a critical eye for symbols and messages that are born of the taints of White privilege born of European global domination that allows Whites to continuously feel comfortable crafting pieces about Afkan of all eras and periods. Media images have defined movements and cultural behaviors since the written word appeared, and it should be the effort of any Black(Afkan) media analyst to regard all works composed by other than Afkan about Afkan to be held as propaganda that could spark mass gas chambers to be filled. If I am to be applauded for critiquing the works of Tyler Perry or even Aaron McGruder, I shall not be of the type of rat’s bastard spawn, filled with insecurity of my own culture and skin, that I can’t critically assess those that helped to forge the stereotypes and shallow witticisms that plague the works of the aforementioned.

 

 

I tend to hold this view especially when applying my sword and monocle to period pieces. Especially period pieces written by Southern Whites born during the late 1800s (any hundreds really, but those really get the McNulty treatment). Such a piece is Dubose Heyward’s Porgy, which is the book that became the play that became the operetta, that became the wonderful and entertaining Broadway production my sister from another sex act entirely treated me and Brie to the past weekend. The production of the Broadway performance was superb in execution. David Alan Grier’s “Sportin’ Life” was vivid and captured the essence of the trickster beyond even the work it Self through his use of obvious stage contraptions that were not actual props(i.e., his constant leaning on stage scaffolding, a device that lesser skilled talents might abuse to the detriment of a convincing performance). The colorful clothing arrangements complemented the rich vocal assortment, which, like that blending of cast costumes, cascaded in a harmonizing that captured you from the opening act to the last. It truly was an event to behold. An experience worthy of all that vibratory magnetism that surrounds much of Broadway, and those works which come to represent it in real time.

 

Porgy and Bess, the Broadway musical, is the story of a crap game gone bad when a local drunken dope fiend, Crown, loses and kills the fader, Robbins. Without telling too much of the plot, although you should expect spoilers, Porgy, a crippled beggar gives the drunken dope fiend’s lady, Bess, a place to hide after she turns down the offers of the local dope dealer, “Sportin’ Life”. And although the production is awfully compelling, I couldn’t resist the urges of my analytic process when watching a musical rendition of a crap game of Afkan gentle folks acted in front of me in a sea of predominantly White ticket buyers. I immediately thought of Ice Cube’s “What They Hittin’ Foe?”(Amerikkka’s Most Wanted(1991)) and other Hip hop mentionables that have often gone under fire by the same class of Afkan that will most likely be defending the White Heyward and Jewish Gershwin. As an Afkan (Black) media analyst, it is has become an almost impossible task for me not to question the motives of why a particular cultural artifact, whether well meaning or not, actual or just practical for storytelling purposes, was used. This is especially the case for productions with cultural Afkan overtones and predominantly Afkan casts. I have a right to question anyone outside of the Afkan experience, I don’t care if your mother sucked fifty Afkan penises in the back of her father’s car while she grew up in an Afkan neighborhood; all Afkan can’t tell the Afkan story, why should it be so easy for those other than Afkan to do it?

 

 

It often needs to be thought about, who trained Afkan film writers, other Afkan film writers, or other than Afkan film writers? Was it not other than Afkan peoples that had their hands on the development of film first? Did the Afkan somehow fund a movie production to teach other than Afkan people how to write for film and film going audiences before other than Afkan people wrote for film and all other than Afkan audiences? Have I somehow confused you here? Do you need to read this all over? Please, I’ll wait right here…

 

Where did the mammy caricature originate? Although the depiction of women of an imaginary small Gullah village named, Catfish Row — symbolized in the Broadway performance by nine (my numerologists readers should have a field day with this play given its use of complete and incomplete notions {the play starts with a child’s birth} used throughout the scripting) planks of wood holding up the wooden set where the thespians performed– these women are very much styled as the mammy. In fact, all of the Afkan women in the play would easily fit into that type with the exception of Bess, played by a very alluring and just damn fine Audra McDonald, whose type is the whore, the loose and easily accessible licentious dark woman, or Jezebel/Sapphire, a caricature often associated with Afkan women. The male characters, although slightly more robust, still capture elements of the slave narratives as sold to European American audiences. We have the Buck exemplified by the drunken Crown. This savage rapist image that allowed for Ku Klux Klan memberships to swell, oh wait, that could have possibly allowed(yes, I’m moving my right hand closed around an open circular space in a jerking up and down motion), after the release of D.W. Griffith’s ‘Birth of a Nation’. Although the trickster image appears heavily in Gullah and Yoruba lore, in the character of Sportin’ Life it takes on the elements of “slickster”, not buffoonish in any manner, but the sophisticated fast talking caricature spoken of in J.A. Rodger’s “From Superman to Man”.

 

 

I do not in any right feel the need to be “fair” to a writer’s work who has direct descendants that not only owned slaves but apparently lived pretty well-off because of them, so I’ll write this out rightly, the women are shown as the unifying force of the story, very much like the mammy caricature is shown as the leader of the Afkan people. Whether objective reality supports this or not, and whether I support this or not, this is the continued message throughout the piece. We see a much respected Porgy being chastised by the women who will not give him his cane as a means of keeping him immobile to convince him towards their thinking. It is also the women that alienate Bess and instruct her not to seek Porgy for a rest haven. It is also the women that embrace her and invite her to the community picnic held on the island where she is left to be raped by Crown (a rape scene on the stage was very impacting given the level of groping by the actor Phillip Boykin). I was happy to see a media production where an Afkan man is seeking to not only commit to an Afkan woman, but also to defend her, sure. I’m also pleased to have seen a performance whereby a group of Afkan women that are married to Afkan men come together to defend an Afkan man. I’m also pleased to point out a production that points to the historical reality of the Gullah. I do believe I’ve been kind enough to this child of Afkan slave torturers.

 

It should noted here that Heyward wrote Porgy based on an actual Afkan that was considered to be a criminal. As an informally trained White writer whose family had fallen from grace after the Emancipation Proclamation and subsequent fall of the South, Heyward had been persuaded to write a piece about Afkans that would allow him to compete with the more sophisticate White writers in the community of writers that he belonged to. As stated before, I probably would have really liked this guy. But, I have to ask, if Heyward were an Afkan understanding how powerful imagery works in writing as well as how imagery transcends cultures, would he have gone with an Afkan story of a criminal and whore? It is a compelling story. Porgy and Bess is much more intricate than its critics have allowed it, and much more complex than Gershwin’s adaptation, replete with inconsistency after inconsistency, frames it. I do agree with Langston Hughes, Heyward was able to do what most of his White counterparts crafting the Afkan experience elegantly and poignantly. However, I still must wonder if he were forced by conscientious responsibility to pick a storyline, would it have been that of a crippled beggar forced to defend an Afkan drug addict from her murderous and rapist lover? Porgy, and its variation, Porgy and Bess, is an ugly tale. It is a very dark piece. Heyward’s ethnicity and his family’s background only makes the piece more dark for me.

 

Certain questions ought to be raised. Why is it when an Afkan portrays Afkan women as needy, drug addicted, and weaker than enamel dentures soaking in lemon juice, they are attacked for being born Tyler Perry? Yet, those descriptions were written with Porgy and Bess in mind. Has it become a part of our culture that only White Jewish males are allowed to go unquestioned with depictions of Afkan (Afrikan Amerikkkan) women in roles stereotypical or demeaning? Had Tyler Perry been the director of “Color Purple” instead of Steven Spielberg, would we have demanded the lynching party we usually rally together behind films that display women in no different manner than the Jewish film maker? We laugh when White women attempt to exhibit our styles, yet we let a White Jewish man tell us how our “Girlfriends” should act?

 

I don’t mind anyone doing whatever with media. I do have a problem when I can’t ask questions in the same country “Birth of a Nation” and “Colors” were filmed. I know what impact images can have on the lives of individuals and thus communities. Afkan pretend to endure for the sake of artistic value, and yet, the Anti-Defamation League would have their balls deep down Tyler Perry’s esophagus if he crossed the same lines we allow his Jewish counterparts to cross since the early 1900s in media. I am appreciative of classic works such as Porgy and Bess. I thought the imagery of an Afkan community coming together against White terrorism in the form of brutal and draconian police detectives was refreshing. But White Jewish liberals have always had a soft spot when it comes to violence in their exploitation; ask an NAACP member. However, I would ask anyone reading this to consider whatever facts and accurate insights or perspectives I provide with this piece.

 

I also don’t have any extra fucks to give with those that might label me filiopietistic here. As known, I am an Afkan loyalist and my works aren’t of the academic type constructed by intellectual cowards hiding behind objectivity for the sake of grants, loans, tenure, or appearances on some news anchor or political pundit’s couch positioned just so precisely for camera purposes. Excuse my existentialism, but every human is at war, and every collective formed due to warlike circumstances either of environment, animal, or other human collectives. Good writers don’t toss words on pages and make classic literature no matter how much Western theories of evolution might suggest such goofy notions. A lot of thought goes into a masterpiece, and a lot of impact occurs with collected thought. My job is to ask the questions that you don’t when thinkers hope you aren’t.

 

As always, thanks for reading this…