Thursday, January 3, 2008

on the move...

Whew! The streets was hot so a brother had to keep it movin. i have migrated to a new address for the dois mil e oito:

come check me out over there and let me know what you think. cool?


Monday, December 31, 2007

pahty ova. pahty done.

My man asked me if i make New Year’s resolutions. i told him that i didn’t, that i don’t really believe in the arbitrary demarcation of time (i’m difficult like that sometimes). But his question did set me to thinking about the year gone by and where it has placed me in respect to the person i claim i strive to be.

The thing is that I’m not struck by any particular thoughts or feelings of 2007. I spent the first 6 months in Brazil, a majority of whose time and lessons I have voluntarily forced to the fringes of my consciousness. (maybe I’ll write on that at some point). Then the rest of the time has been subsumed by trying to discover and settle into the life of a graduate student.

Kinda makes me wanna say it’s been an uneventful year. Now whether or not this is true is not as important as the fact that the thought can occur to me. And it makes me realize this: 2007 was the first year of my life that i stepped out on my own, unsupported by the safety nets that had previously held me down. i moved to Brazil with my own money. Entered graduate school on my own accord. Even bought my own health insurance! All of this i did when i could have gone other ways, did other things.

2007 was the first year to test whether or not the previous twenty-some-odd had prepared me for this moment of stepping into myself and making my claim on the world; of establishing the foundations of the lifework these years set me up to discover; of doing my damn thing, holding it di-down! This is what 2007 was. And i failed. i failed.

But hold up. Don’t misinterpret this as vain self-deprecation. Rather, it is an accurate assessment of the year’s course of events as told by he-who-lived-it. And let’s be real. i’m sure some of the older folks could tell you some years are better than others. Besides, i honestly don’t feel too terrible about it. That, i realize, is what is most dangerous of all.

The Lazy One’s greatest skill and comfort is discovering the motions. There is no challenge. No uncertainties. This year, i continued the motions i’d discovered over the past few years. i was that fish that be swimming up under the shark. i didn’t challenge myself. i ain’t try to fly. And the fact is that this year was uneventful precisely because i didn’t make anything happen. But come on. It’s a comfortable life i got going for me. i know i’ma do well for myself by not even trying. Read a few books. Write a few papers. And in a few years ya’ll be calling me doctor.

The misappropriation of talent. This is not my calling.


So 2008 soon come. Maybe i don’t make resolutions because they require me to see them through, to challenge myself with vigilance to break with the motions. A contract with myself whose breaching only results in the decadence of character. And, well, i’m too lazy for all that (is character all that important anyway?). But i know my calling. And worse for my laziness, i know what i need to do in order to pursue it.

2007 is done. May bad habits finish with it.


Friday, October 5, 2007

Reflections on the Jena 6 Movement Part I

Tuesday night, I did a radio interview for a show out in LA. The topic had something to do with youth activism and the Jena 6 case and I was supposed to be talking about October first’s national walk-out. The other guest was a rapper from LA involved in a project dealing with youth out there.

It was cool. But it demonstrated what seems to be the conventional understanding (and flaw) of this whole ordeal. Walk with me.

Youth activism. My man in Brazil used to say “activists do activities.” I agree. As much as folks around here love to use the term (and use it they do!), the fact is that “activism” reduces organizing to a mere hobby. It emphasizes the activity at the sacrifice of the theory. That’s not praxis. That’s just doin thangs for the sake of doing them.

Ok semantics. I understand. And that’s really tangential to what I’m even tryna say. So let me return. It’s the youth part that’s my real concern.

On September 20, when thousands of beautiful, beautiful Black people gathered outside the courthouse in Jena, Louisiana, we were excited to see how many young folks came out. A vast majority of the thousands present were under the age of thirty, mostly college students. Admittedly uncertain of exactly what we expected to come out of the day (especially after the intended sentencing date was cancelled due to the overturning of Mychal Bell’s adult conviction), many were sincerely disappointed with the way things went down.

Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton commandeered the microphone. No surprise. Jesse was spitting the same things he was spitting back when he splattered Dr. King’s blood on his face. No surprise. Reverend Al showed up in a stretch Navigator trailed by two (empty) stretch limousines with a touch-up to make the most astute AKA jealous. No surprise. But what is surprising is that we, the overwhelming majority who were visibly displeased with the ostentatious display of tired rhetoric, failed to do anything about it. We allowed them to carry on. This is where the issue lies.

Older folks have called our generation lazy, apathetic, materialistic, and so forth. This is a debate that doesn’t particularly interest me. But if there were one thing that this day showed us, it is what the older generation is: paternalistic. Here we stood, the lazy, apathetic, materialistic generation who took off from work/school/our regularly scheduled program to board busses from as far away as Los Angeles to participate in something that was of the utmost importance to us, only to show up, tired, sweaty, hungry, and listen to a roster of speakers who were not speaking to us, but rather to the small minority of their own constituencies.

The fact is that so-called Black leadership has a vested interest in the status quo. Jesse Jackson can father “illegitimate” children and still have the money to pay lawyers and child-support. Al Sharpton can roll in limos and keep his perm tight. They live well and keep their sheep close at bay. A viable movement, whether of youth or not, openly challenges their ability to remain comfortable. They are not concerned with causing waves, just splashing the water to create the illusion of a rocking boat. The reality is that if we are truly concerned with creating change, we need to do it ourselves. And it can’t be done through the traditional means deemed “acceptable” by mainstream society. Mainstream society is responsible for our plight. It can never provide the formula for our Liberation.

And perhaps even worse than their microphone monopoly is that we allowed the shenanigan to proceed uninterrupted (we do not claim the New Black Panther Party…I won’t even go into that). I can’t place all of the responsibility outside of us. See, we are not confident enough in ourselves to assert our ideas and visions. When something goes down, we get upset, then defer to the older folks for a plan. When their plan includes things that we don’t find relevant, we either participate with expressed resignation, or forget about it (I think this is what they mistake for apathy).

So Tuesday night I’m on this radio show and they talking about “youth activism” and how proud they are to see the youth come out. This is whack to me! There is something so very paternalistic about claiming this to be a “youth movement.” “Aww, how cute, you guys are standing up for what you believe in. That’s great! Just be home before the street lights come on.” Are you with me or am I buggin?

No one called the Civil Rights movement a “youth movement;” this is not what they said about the Black Power Movement; the liberation movement of Azania (South Africa) was not dubbed a “youth thing.” And the people who led these were our same age: mid teens to late twenties. Referring to this as a “youth movement” suggests that it is only a phase, one that its participants will simply “grow out of.” While I am not so naïve as to believe that everyone is in it for the long-haul, I do understand that labeling this a youth movement prevents people from thinking in long-terms; protracted struggle becomes (or remains) as strange a term as Uhuru.

You underdig?


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

National Walk-Out

We All Live in Jena
National Call to Action
Monday, October 1st, 2007 at Noon, Central Time.

Artist/ Activist Mos Def along with M1, Talib Kweli, Common, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Sankofa Community Empowerment, Change the Game, the National Hip Hop Political Convention, and student leaders from 50 campuses call for a National Student Walk-Out to rally and show support for the Jena 6, who are being denied their human rights by the Louisiana criminal justice system.

Judge J.P. Mauffray and District Attorney Reed Walters have engaged in a string of egregious actions, the most recent of which was the denial of bail for Bell on Friday. We call for:

1. All charges against the Jena 6 be dropped
2. The immediate release of Mychal Bell
3. The United States Department of Justice to convene an immediate inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the arrests and prosecutions of the Jena 6;
4. Judge Mauffray to be recused from presiding over Bell 's juvenile court hearings or other proceedings;
5. The Louisiana Office of Disciplinary Counsel to investigate Reed Walters for unethical and possibly illegal conduct;
6. The Louisiana Judiciary Commission investigate Judge Mauffray for unethical conduct; and
7. The Jena School District superintendent to be removed from office.

Join the Movement!

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Collective Letter for the 20th of September

We, concerned Black students of the University of Texas at Austin, join the National Day of Protest to Free the Jena 6. The Jena 6 are six young Black men who have fallen victim to the unjust and racist American criminal justice system. Today, September 20, 2007, we come together with hundreds of thousands of Black and non-Black citizens across the country to support our brothers’ quest for justice.

The case of the Jena 6 begins in September of 2006. White students at Jena High School hung three nooses from a tree traditionally reserved for white students. While the white students were initially expelled, the board of education overruled the decision, playing it down as an “adolescent prank.” They were eventually given two-days of in-school suspension. Black students staged an impromptu demonstration under the tree. Days later at a school assembly, District Attorney Reed Walters responded that he could “end your lives with the stroke of a pen.” Shortly thereafter, a group of white students jumped a Black student, Robert Bailey, at a local party. The following day, an argument ensued outside of a local convenient store where a white student pulled a shotgun on some Black students. The Black students wrestled the gun away. Bailey, among them, was later charged with theft of a firearm, second-degree robbery, and disturbing the peace.

The events culminated on December 4th when Black students jumped a white student for bragging about having beaten up Bailey. The white student checked into a local hospital and was released a few hours later to attend a school event. Six Black students -- Mychal Bell, Carwin Jones, Theodore Shaw, Robert Bailey, and Bryant Pervis – the Jena 6, were arrested and charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Mychal Bell, 16, the only one to have had a trial, was tried as an adult and convicted of attempted murder by an all-white jury. Bell faced a miximum 22 years in prison. This past Friday, the conviction was dismissed. The District Attorney must decide whether or not he wants to re-try Bell as a juvenile. The other 5 await trial.

But we are not deceived. The recent overturning of Mychal Bell’s conviction is little more than an attempt to pacify and mislead those outraged by this egregious miscarriage of justice. While Bell will no longer be charged as an adult, he still faces a possible re-trial in juvenile court. It would be both erroneous and naïve for us to believe that justice has been served. Justice would be the complete dismissal of all charges; justice would be the freeing of the Jena 6; justice would be reparations not only for the Jena 6, whose lives have been interrupted, but also to their families and the Black community of Jena who have been traumatized by this ordeal. Justice is not a re-trial in a court system that has proven itself unjust.

While the specifics of the Jena 6 case are startling, they are not altogether surprising. Similar to Hurricane Katrina, not unlike the New York Police Department’s murder of Sean Bell, this case exposes a wider set of issues still prevalent in today’s society, namely the persistence of deep-rooted structural racism perpetuated by the myth of a color-blind society.

But it is both inspiring and encouraging to see that, despite a lack of mainstream media attention, people all over the country have mobilized in support of the Jena 6. We understand that neither a court decision nor a protest alone will prevent these atrocities from occurring in the future. This can only be done through the radical transformation of American society. However, we find it imperative to come together in order to build a foundation from which these aims may be met. We, as concerned Black students, stand firm in our pursuit of justice.

Friday, September 14, 2007

We Sick

A few weeks ago, in an interview with Amy Goodman, Curtis Muhammad said, “You know, people like me get accused of being a conspiracy theorist or something. But this is stuff people can see!” He was talking about Katrina, the government-sponsored attempt to exterminate the Black population of New Orleans, Louisiana.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately – Curtis’ statement, Katrina, and the larger climate of Black genocide, not only in this country, but anywhere White supremacy has rooted itself, i.e., the entire world. Perhaps even more than these things, I’ve been thinking about Black complacency, the complete and utter self-distancing from, even denial of (!!!), such events. And by “self-distancing” I mean self-deluding.

What will it take for us to realize that this place ain’t for us? What will it take for us to comprehend that this place is killing us? A few years back, this brother told me he wished they’d bring lynching back so that Black people would wake up, so that we’d see that a middle class nigger is still a nigger. Many of us swore Katrina was our generation’s lynching. We were wrong.

And there’s been so much lately, too. The Jena 6 ( The sister in West Virginia who was kidnapped and raped by 6 red-necks, including a mother and her daughter as well as a mother and her son, most of whom have some sort of criminal record. Despite using racial slurs while committing their atrocities, the 6 will not be charged with hate crimes.
( Then the subtler, yet continual injustices: barred access to decent public education; rising incarceration rates of both Black men and women despite decreasing crime; the connection between (mis)education and incarceration, the criminalization of Black youth; lack of employment; gentrification, or the forced displacement of poor citizens; denial to health care; the list goes on…and on.

Some people take this is a reason to keep fighting, continuing the struggle for “justice and equality.” But I ask: how can an unjust system produce justice? Ameirca has never been just, nor does it have the potential to be. Just look at the roots of its political philosophy. Asking America to be just is like asking a pig to be clean. And beyond that, why do we strive to be equal to Americans, that is, white folks? Don’t we have any sense of history? To be equal would be to be equally murderous, torturous, dastardly. Is this what we want?

Using the standards of a society that hates you to dictate your aspirations and ideals, then constantly turning towards said hateful society for approval breeds self-hatred. When we hate ourselves, we allow things like Katrina or Jena or West Virginia to happen, then call them “isolated incidents,” or worse, say they have nothing to do with race. When we hate ourselves, we abdicate our dignity out of infantile self-interest. And when we hate ourselves, we never allow ourselves to admit, no matter how much writing there is on the walls, that our master doesn’t love us.

What’s the matter boss? We sick?

Indeed. We real sick.

Holler at me if you wanna get well.


Friday, August 3, 2007

The Illest of Recipes

The other night, I had one of the best dinners of my life.

Downtown Newark.
Black owned restaurant w/ good service.
(you know how Black folks could be, as much as I hate to say it)
Good, healthy food.
Summer evening.
Money in my pocket.

Already a checklist for greatness. But it’s just the appetizer.

The main dish:

Tracee and Jason, my two best friends.

For dessert:

Love with a scoop of non-stop laughter.
Smiles in a doggy-bag.

Give thanks for life.