You Think They Playing With This Power?

“Fuck y’all expect? You thought it [was] sweet out here? You thought they was playing about this power?” – Khairi Akili, 18 Dec 2011(Twitter Status Update #148569511237398529)


I’ve been attempting to “spruce” up Asylum, while figuring out the angles necessary to monetize without detracting from purpose and offending you all. That being said, I have been doing niche analysis using this list of 100 websites(why has “blog” become such an atrocious word? Over-saturation? Supersaturation?) that are more than likely to be associated with our little Asylum here. That tends to be the nature of using labels, you get generalized and lumped into groups without a dedicated assessment of nuance or abstraction of subtle differences. In most analysis from the respected community of people that are sought out to label the works of others, the irredeemable yet irresistible, Mighty Owl’s Asylum is going to be labeled as a “personal blog.” Which – in this market – is traffic suicide. Thus, it helps to get a label from our peers that we can begin to build a niche marketing scheme from.


While assessing the marketing(advertising, as well as branding) strategies of the websites within the niche umbrella of “Black websites,” I began to wonder about security. Many of the sites in the overarching niche are running PHP based platforms such as WordPress and vBulletin. Asylum also runs on this sort of platform, WordPress, although self-hosted. The risks here tend to be slightly minimal due to the Open Source’s community and regular updates from the guys and women over at WordPress. However, I’ve had several successful sql injections on Asylum and client sites, so I know many of the vulnerabilities of this platform. As this article on BBC’s website infers, with the many new standards being developed and forced upon developers and designers alike, the web 3.0 will be a hacker’s free strip club with no tipping expectations and free drinks(Think: a car with the key stuck in the ignition and the door left ajar for most black hatters). So, that led me to concerns about the Black community’s surfing habits.


The direction of the technology community is the mobile phone. Most Black people that I know aren’t really aware of what the interweb is exactly. It is my contention that most think it is a video game console. With the advent of so much communication power via the most inexpensive phones, I began to witness very comical, but dangerous, activities. I was visiting an ex-girlfriend and her children(that I helped raise(always have to throw that in)) at her cousin’s house, and he began to brag about a robbery he and some of his comrades had committed. Now, the details of the plan had been sent via text prior to the actual act. He pulled out the phone and showed us the sms messages that had been exchanged in an attempt to belittle the statements of one of the participants. For some reason, he has the luck of a millionaire rapper that can’t speak the English language beyond a third grader’s comprehension, because they never were apprehended. This isn’t the only time I’ve had to explain to someone the exact nature of what interconnected computing machinery is.


I had decided to allow my family and friends from childhood to have access to my Facebook status updates. While going through some of the profiles of my family members, I noticed that there were images of people holding guns and the neighborhoods were readily identifiable(thus those involved “apprehend-able”). There were images of drug usage and paraphernalia all through out some photo albums. I left a status that hinted about probation officers and judges also having Facebook accounts, and got a “you ain’t me, cuzz! I do what I want…” thrown in my face at the next family gathering(ironically, in front of a federal probation officer…). So much for open hand among relatives…


The point of those two anecdotes is that many in the Black community are just bridging the digital divide and are crossing that bridge via mobile phones. The idea of private and protected two-way communication is still in their heads. We are entering an age where I will be able to sniff out ports on your phone for applications that will allow me to charge your significant other a nice fee for those breast shots you got from ol’ babe on Twitter that are still on your phone. The government has long had this power if I’m becoming aware of it. And, they don’t seem to be playing with this power out here(uhuru, Lion).


That bit of thinking, coupled with a growling stomach, caused me to want to inspect the security of the sites on the list. I figured, if I were looking to cause some mischief as the typical hacker(think: demographics), this list would probably make for a good playground. There are political and social reasons for this and if I have the skill set, or rudiments any way, why not peek a bit, right? Might be able to offer my services. I clicked the link to the forum dedicated to Assata Shakur, and before I had a chance to copy and paste the url into the port sniffer, I read this:


“When I entered prison at the tender age of 22, I felt like my world was coming apart and life was not worth living. There were no more secrets and I had to strip naked in front of everyone, including men, because they thought it was funny. I was made to spread my buttocks and the officer looked. If I had a gun, I would have ended my life right then. I was placed in a 12×12 cell to be under observation because of the amount of time I had to serve. They feel, if you have a long sentence, then you may try to kill yourself. I cried day in and day out asking the question so many ask, “Why God, why did you allow this unjust thing to happen?” I could not understand how this loving God that my Big Mom had told me about as a child could allow those sworn in to serve and protect to come in and completely lie. I was let out of solitary in April 1995 and went to a unit filled with 100 females.


One bad part about this entire situation is the women I have encountered. I met this woman who told me she was driving down the highway and her baby would not stop crying so, she stopped and threw her child over the bridge. Guess what, she left me here. She has gone home. So many have killed their own children, but none have received the amount of time my sister and I have received. I truly believe that I would have come out better IF I had committed a crime of murder. I have never been one to judge someone and that is why so many come to me and share their thoughts. I must admit sometimes, I get so angry when it involves a child. I get angry with the Mississippi judicial system because here my sister and I sit with double life and this person took an innocent child’s life.”


Anybody that knows me, knows my story, and also knows that I’m fairly sensitive in a tear drop sort of way about the conditions we face in Prison America. These words, the words of Jamie Scott while incarcerated in Mississippi, had the expected effect on someone who isn’t too far from the struggle and has written a few thousand letters from behind enemy lines him Self. That made me think about a discussion that I had with Khairi Akili once about developing some sort of communication medium, an outreach newsletter, with those inside. That would mean time dedicated to writing more than I am currently here with Asylum, as well as printing and postage charges. But, I figure, it is the least I can do, and hey, like Chey_Marly_mom wrote(as in not typed) to me once, somebody has to be the advocate for those without advocacy.


Energy has to be organized in order for us to recognize it as power. At times, it is difficult to set aside the differences that we share, or to overlook the inevitable failings of character that show them Selves in our allies and comrades from time to time. I don’t have much in the way of finances, but I do have a damning persistence and a passion that numbs the pains associated with poverty and the fears that come with having to accomplish impractical goals in the face of impossible obstacles. If you are not watching the throne presently, you should be, they’ve decided that the peasants not only should scamper for work, but should be highly monitored while doing it. The shortcomings of my comrades will not be enough to make them my enemy in a contest where my true enemy will toss me into a cage and make me sit in front of a hole in a door begging for a phone call to communicate with the outside world and call it,”justice”. The reactionary online battles will only cause this ark, this Asylum of ours, to be considered a momentary bit of interesting word play to those that will not know me as a contemporary, but only a name in history. We all might find it worthwhile to consider our efforts and contributions to this united front that we already have, and already belong to.