Monday, December 31, 2007
I was going to post this later this evening, just before I go out to dance the new year in around a bonfire, but I made the mistake of playing it again and got so worked up, I can't wait. So if you're already in the mood for a jam featuring B.B., Bo, Ray, James, Fats, Jerry Lee, and a host of others, here it is. It's even better the second time. And if you can stay in your seat through this one, you need new speakers!
As I get older, that decreasing supply becomes mesmorizing. It moves whether I move or not. It threatens to leave me staring fixated as I lose all opportunity to finish what I imagine is "my work." I only see the back of the tapestry and it is not a pretty sight, albeit colorful.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
"[T]he institutionalized ownership of one human being by another - is arguably the most disempowering system ever created by humans. It is intended to degrade and humiliate to the point that a person no longer feels agency over his own life. Like other systems of injustice, its effects can run so deep that when the institution is removed, the sense of indignity continues for members of the formerly repressed group until there is an open and comprehensive addressing of past injustices and the pain caused by the systematic abuse. In the last 25 years, in countries recovering from severe oppression, "Truth and Reconciliation Commissions" have been set up to accomplish these tasks. Peru, South Africa, Morocco and East Timor are just a few of the places where TRCs have helped their societies heal and have facilitated reform by acknowledging past wrongs and ensuring that the horrors of history will not be repeated.
"Because there has been no significant attempt to deal with the history of slavery in this country, it is as though our collective mind has been asked to exist in a state of cognitive dissonance. There are no national monuments in the US to former slaves, although they exist for almost every other group who has sacrificed for the "vital interests" of the nation. As a country, we prefer to pretend that slavery never happened, or that it existed too long ago to be relevant to our lives today. This historical amnesia comes easier to some than to others, and it may be that those who have the hardest time reconciling some sense of injustice with the legal rights afforded to every American are young black men. They know that they should feel powerful - after all, they are young and living in the "world's greatest democracy." But for many there must also be (what I imagine as) a constant, gnawing sense of indignity whose source may be vague, and which is easily manifested in rage, aggression, and other substitutes for true empowerment. To a young, misguided and righteously indignant person, a gun equals power."
Ignore this truth, if you want to, but over at The Free Slave earlier today, I ran across a quote by Lao-Tzu: “To pretend to know when you do not know is a disease.” And to pretend you're asleep when you're not asleep is not only stupid, but can be very, very dangerous.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
- slam dunks Mychal Bell,
- turns him from a victim into a weapon against not only himself, but against his team mates,
- destroys six young lives while protecting the White racist instigator who most certainly was supportive of the noose-hangers, if not a noose-hanger himself,
- circumvents and then neutralizes community support for the Jena Six,
- and teaches those who don't know better that The Man always has the power, just as he threatened the Jena Six from the beginning.
Monday, December 10, 2007
And I've been thinking about how what Conrad saw and what Hampton experienced laid the ground work for the dual consciousness of my current students of color, who have been socialized to carry the belief in their hearts that they are inferior to people who look like me and that it is hopeless to imagine that they will ever be allowed to assume that their human rights -- the rights they OWN as citizens of the world -- will be respected.
My White students will write in a heartbeat how happy they are to live in a country where everybody's human rights are protected and how terrible it would be to live in a place like Iraq or Afghanistan where people are denied those rights. And my stomach turns. And my heart breaks a little more. And I become a little sadder.
Then I remember what Martin Luther King, Jr., once said: "I look forward confidently to the day when all who work for a living will be one with no thought to their separateness as Negroes, Jews, Italians or any other distinctions. This will be the day when we bring into full realization the American dream -- a dream yet unfulfilled. A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few; a dream of a land where men will not argue that the color of a man's skin determines the content of his character; a dream of a nation where all our gifts and resources are held not for ourselves alone, but as instruments of service for the rest of humanity; the dream of a country where every man will respect the dignity and worth of the human personality."
And I become a lot more resolute.
And then I listen to a poem such as the one written and recited here by Roger Bonair-Agard and I smile. Because where there is life, there is hope. And where there is breath, there is life. And so far, we're still breathing.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
I've been trying to figure out what it is we celebrate on Thanksgiving. "A bountiful harvest," we're told. A bountiful harvest the Europeans would not have had, had the indigenous "savages" of the Western Hemisphere not taught them how to produce it before the Europeans decided the continent wasn't big enough for all of us.
This has, unfortunately for millions in the world over the past four centuries, become the pattern of the United States as a culture and as a nation. We come smiling (most of the time) and then strike mercilessly and without, it would seem, conscience of any kind. What kind of people, one wonders, has NO conscience? And what might be the eventual destiny of such a people?
European capitalists snatched North America from the native civilizations that had lived here for thousands of years and, in a matter of only two centuries, have all but destroyed it, building cities that even many of us now seek to abandon. The process of laying waste to all of the beauty and abundance that had sustained itself for millions of years has now unapologetically poisoned the soil, polluted the air and waters, and exterminated the wildlife to the point of extinction. But first had to come the genocide of the indigenous human protectors of all the natural magnificence the Europeans so coveted and then so destroyed.
So we will belly up to the table today -- those of us who can afford to do so (and the statistics tell us that we are fewer than ever this year, with one out of ten in the U.S. not having enough to eat, many of these being children) -- and we will eat our way into a stupor. This "celebration" is to thank whoever we thank that we have much at the expense of others, that we are "safe" in a world where we support making others unsafe, that we have a "right" to do whatever we must to maintain our strangle-hold on the resources of every other people in the world, even our "allies," and to maintain that strangle-hold by any means necessary, knowing full well the ultimate result of such a plan for mass collective suicide.
What we need to be grateful for is that we have not, as yet, met our demise as a nation and as a people, that we can yet set a different course. There are repeated examples throughout history of populations who lived long in bondage and then struck out on their own for a promised land with no idea of where that was or what it would look like. Perhaps we, too, need to set our hearts toward the highway, as it were, to opt to survive and flourish rather than struggle and waste away, in bondage to a way of life that increasingly bewilders and reduces us. As more and more of us are touched by the cancer of our addiction to fear and materialism, more and more of us will come to imagine (as John Lennon once suggested) a different, better world, where we can be proud of something besides our credit limit and our military might.
In the meantime, we might want to be grateful, as well, that there are still remnants of the indigenous peoples we so summarily decimated. Their history is long. Their wisdom is deep. And if we learn to honor what is true over what is illusion, if we look inside our hearts instead spending all our resources decorating our social and physical outsides, if we ask for the guidance we so desperately need from those who have lasted so very long even in the face of ruthless attack on every level, perhaps there is hope for us yet.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
The American fruit giant Chiquita has been hit with a new lawsuit on behalf of victims of Colombian paramilitaries. Earlier this year Chiquita admitted to paying one point seven million dollars to a right-wing Colombian paramilitary group on the U.S. terrorist watch list. On Wednesday, nearly four hundred Colombian plaintiffs filed a civil suit seeking almost eight billion dollars in damages. Plaintiff attorney Jonathan Reiter said Chiquita should be held accountable for the killings it helped fund: "The principle on which this lawsuit has been brought is that when you put money into the hands of terrorists, when you put guns into the hands of terrorists, then you are legally responsible for the atrocities, the murders and the tortures which those terrorists commit."Why am I not surprised?
Chiquita says it fell victim to an extortion attempt and made the payments only to protect its employees. But a private investigator hired by the plaintiffs disputed Chiquita’s denials. The investigator, William Acosta, says his findings leave no doubt over Chiquita’s complicity: "Most of the victims during our interviews in Colombia always mention Chiquita as being the party which sends people to threaten them."
Chiquita is already facing another lawsuit from relatives of one-hundred forty-four people killed by Colombian paramilities. The company has paid a twenty-five million dollar fine to the U.S. government, but none of the money has gone to the victims’ families.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
New Orleans public housing residents have been fighting for over two years to return to their homes. Many of their units were minimally damaged by the storm, but the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has shut them out. HUD plans to demolish most available public housing units and replace them with mixed-income housing. While there are good arguments for mixed-income housing, HUD's plan calls for far fewer total units of affordable public housing, and it completely ignores short-term housing needs. The inevitable result will be thousands of low-income residents--most of whom are Black--pushed out of the city.
S.1668 honors the right to return of all New Orleans public housing residents and takes steps to preserve affordable housing in New Orleans. It requires the re-opening of at least 3,000 public housing units and ensures that there is no net loss of units available and affordable to public housing residents. The bill quickly passed in the House earlier this year, and after thousands of ColorOfChange.org members pushed for the Senate to take action, the bill was introduced to the Senate by Senators Landrieu and Dodd. Now the bill is in danger of dying.
Last month, the Bush administration came out against the idea of reopening public housing units in New Orleans, with a HUD representative making the dubious claim that HUD "can't get people into" existing housing units because "they won't come home." Louisiana Senator David Vitter opposed the plan on the grounds that it would "re-create the New Orleans housing projects exactly as they were," which is simply not true. What no one can dispute is that the failure to provide affordable housing for low-income residents has contributed to the huge drop in the Black population in the city. Whether they'll admit it or not, opponents of S.1668 are working to reinforce this trend.
The Gulf Coast needs a housing policy that welcomes all citizens home, not just those who are wealthy, privileged, or White. The Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act is the last great hope for New Orleans public housing residents who want to come home. But it won't pass if we don't fight for it. Please join Color of Change in demanding that your senators support S.1668.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Garvey and Garveyism by Amy Jacques Garvey
The Negro Revolution by Robert Goldston
As I have already stated, there are many, many more such books. And I have only listed books, though there are some essays (such as "Dynamite Growing Out of Their Skulls" by Calvin C. Hernton, ") and even some letters (such as "The Letter from the Birmingham Jail" by Martin Luther King, "Letter to a Farm Boy" by Lorraine Hansberry, and James Baldwin's "if they take you in the morning" letter to Angela Davis in the 1970's) that are so classic on the topic that they stand alone on their own merit. And it could be argued that many of the poems, fictional stories and plays written by African-Americans since the 1700's have been couched in either recounting, defending, explaining, or inciting Black resistance in one way or the other. You will have to find out that on your own (and I hope you will, no matter what your skin tone).
In any case, I just listed here the first few that came to mind. What books on African and African-American resistance would you add?
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Friday, November 02, 2007
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Today is the day women of color document the silence. Today is the day they get to talk about the violence that is so much a part of their lives. Violence without apology. Violence without repercussions for the perpetrators. Violence without recourse for the victims.
And to make sure people listen, they will be wearing red. To make people sit up and pay attention, they will be flaunting their redness. To make people notice. And so will I. "Listen to my sisters," I will demand. Listen to my sisters who have been silent for too long. I will stand beside them while they document their silence. I will make my own broken body a wall for my sisters so that no one can rise against them wherever we are together.
We will cry with one voice, my sisters and I. We will sing together and croon our nightmares to sleep. We will grant no space to ignorance, no space to fear. We will link arms and stride into a new day. Like long-legged horses, we will run over hills that hold up a sky full of crimson clouds full of tears of joy that women of color will be silent no more.
At 8:00 p.m. (CST), women of color and their allies all over the United States will read the following litany aloud. Feel free to don red and join us and report to the organizers of this national action that you have done so here. And then, whatever else you decide to do, you might choose to watch the film above about Samburu women in Kenya who created a village named Umoja (Unity) after they were cast out of their families because they had been raped. Maybe you would like to share it with others who would appreciate knowing that this is really not just a national movement, but is the dawning of a new sun. Around the world. And it is red.
Out of the Silence, We Come: A Litany
Out of the silence, we come
In the name of nuestras abuelas,
In honor of our mamas
In the spirit of our petit fils,
In tribute to ourselves
We come crying out
Documenting the torture
We come wailing
Reporting the rape
We come singing
Testifying to the abuse
We come knowing
Knowing that the silence has not protected us from
the physical pain
the emotional shame
the auction block
Once immobilized by silence
We come now, mobilized by collective voice
Dancing in harmonious move-ment to the thick drumbeat of la lucha, the struggle
We come indicting those who claim to love us, but violate us
We come prosecuting those who are paid to protect us, but harass us
We come sentencing those who say they represent us, but render
Out of the Silence, we come
Telling our stories
Fighting for our lives
Refusing to accept that we were never meant to survive
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
But the DREAM Act would have made it impossible for youth who are already U.S. citizens to go to college. No, that's not right.
The DREAM Act would have made young people all over the world leave their homes just to go to school at U.S. colleges. No, that's not right.
Um...the DREAM Act would have given "undeserving" and "undereducated" farm workers a "free ride" into college. No, that's not right.
Well, what was the problem with the DREAM Act?
Oh, yeah. It would have documented (pun intended) that immigrant children are a wealth of intelligence and energy that makes a lie out of the claim that "White" people are superior and that migrating peoples are bad for the United States as a nation.
If you didn't know about the DREAM Act or if you didn't realize that it has been pushed off the table for another year, at least, or if you just want to read about how it was defeated and by whom (for future reference), you can visit kyledeb at his fancy new blog, Citizen Orange, dna at Too Sense, and XicanoPwr at Para Justicia y Libertad!.
Friday, October 26, 2007
"About what?" I asked.
"That there's definitely going to be a Civil War in this country over race," he responded.
"But we could change that if we want to," I countered.
"But we won't," he continued.
I searched his face, looking for something, anything, I could pin hope to.
"Kennedy said, 'Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable.' That suggests that we have a choice. We don't have to make peaceful change impossible..." I said quietly.
But he was already gone, his back passing through the door of my classroom on his way to tomorrow.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Good night, new friends. Sleep well.
The poster featured here is another one by Ricardo Levins Morales and is available from Northland Poster Collective. It's a take-off on the very popular children's book entitled "Goodnight, Moon."
Sunday, October 21, 2007
"But on Wednesday, October 31, 2007, I will be wearing red; that uncomfortably womanish shade of scarlet that suggests a certain looseness, appreciation of blues, likelihood to walk the streets at night, willingness to be loud, dedication to self, and a deep refusal to be rendered invisible. Red, the color so many of us are told to avoid because of its Western association with the marked, fallen woman; red, that rich, rapturous, full, so-bright-it-looks-as-if-it’s-had-a-good-meal ruby color, red so intense, it’s nearly purple. Yes, that color – that’s the one I want to mark my outrage at the rape and torture of Megan Williams, a 20-year-old woman in West Virginia; the sexual assault of a Haitian woman and her son in West Palm Beach, Florida; and the continued violence visited upon women of color.
"Red is the color I choose, because I am not interested in being invisible. I am not interested in being forgotten. I am not interested in being a sidebar conversation. I am not interested, because I will be the womyn who walks into the room wearing the color red, who makes the conversation stop, and gently suggests another topic – the role of violence and abuse in women’s lives perhaps? I am interested in being seen. I am interested in hearing what communities of color, so recently outfitted in black to mark the injustice done to the Jena 6, will do to mark the violence and injustice done to Megan Williams.
"For me, the color red is about boldness. It is a vibrant color that cannot be ignored. Beyond the pink of feminism, and even the purple of womanism, red is a color that says, “stop and see.” On October 31st, we ask women of color and their allies, to break the silence and invisibility surrounding violence against women of color, by choosing to be seen. By choosing to be vocal, to be brave, to be bold and work to stop violence against women.
be bold / be brave / be red / stop the violence
"We are asking organizations and individuals to host rallies and speak outs on Wednesday, October 31, 2007 at various monumental sites (i.e. The Lincoln Memorial, Seattle’s Arch, Chicago’s Bean, Atlanta’s MLK memorial, etc.) located in their cities or to host rallies and speak outs at locations that represent the political, economic, and/or social power of their cities such as the local court house, the local chamber of commerce, the local police department, and the local city council. Groups can also consider rallying in sites where specific violence against women of color occurred.
"Hosting a rally dedicated to eradicating violence against women of color at the locations where business is conducted, where laws are made, and where justice is rendered is revolutionary. It demands that laws be written specifically to protect women of color from violence. It demands funding to be made available to women of color organizations who work to end violence against women of color. It demands that justice be served by compelling city leaders to create spaces in the city where women of color are safe."
If you want to get on the band wagon (and of course, you do), you may contact the organizers here.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
The all-White jury in the home town of the guards only needed ninety minutes to determine that no crime at all had been committed by these grown men who from where I sit killed a fourteen-year-old boy without a backward look. The physician who originally ruled that Anderson died because of a latent Sickle Cell trait (in spite of the film) and whose determination was ultimately over-ridden by that of a real doctor, went out to celebrate with the guards after the verdict was read.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Recently, I have been contacted by several who caused me to consider once again that there was a time I wanted to run something international, but I have consciously chosen instead to engage myself in opening up that world to other, often younger, souls with great heart and great energy. Angela in Paris, Samantha in China, and Marc in the blogosphere honor me. I have made a difference. I am changing the world. I stand grateful.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
I got taken to church today. In a church. And the Rev. Al Sharpton did the taking.
The good Reverend, whose National Action Network was a driving force in Jena, Louisiana, recently when twenty to fifty thousand people descended on that town in a show of solidarity not seen in decades over a single incident, looked introspective as he waited in a row of ministers for his turn in the pulpit. But from the time he adjusted the microphone until he whirled abruptly, with perfect timing, and retook his seat, Sharpton was totally in control. And he knew it. He displayed the savvy of a man who, as the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church minister and host, Rev. Moses Gordon put it, has reached "his season." But there was no arrogance. No grandstanding. In fact, none of the stuff I was prepared to see--and forgive him for.
I told myself I wouldn't take notes, even though I know Sharpton is a master of the turned phrase and I knew I would be blogging about the service. In fact, I let the first couple of zingers go by before I jerked out my pen and began hastily jotting down all I could, considering the speed with which he spoke and the way he went from point to point like a man who is paying by the minute to do so.
During his introduction, Rev. Gordon said that he had told his visiting counterpart that he could speak or he could preach, but that he should deliver whatever he perceived as necessary and the end result was electrifying. For a man who has been mercilessly castigated and ridiculed, Rev. Al Sharpton is not only a formidable orator, but an unapologetically inspiring man and I, for one, was inspired. I hooted. I wept. I applauded. I jumped to my feet so many times, I was hard-put to keep track of my pen.
"People talk about what happened back in the day," he started out. "But this is the day! Some folks go to church and don't do anything out in the world where the work is waiting to be done. Going to church is supposed to prepare you to DO that work! The reason I went to Jena is that those could have been MY sons. That could have been MY daughter calling me up to tell me she got into a fight at school and was sentenced to twenty-two years."
Then, in response to those who have criticized the mass mobilization in Jena, he declared, "You can't cause pain and then tell people how to holler. Hanging nooses -- the symbol that's been used to threaten our lives for over one hundred years -- is not a prank. If it was only a prank, how come it didn't happen until after African-American boys sat under that tree?"
In the dark, he explained, roaches will come out to eat a six-course meal, but when you turn the lights on, they all scatter. "The march wasn't designed as a solution," he went on. "but to expose the problem. On September 20th, we turned the lights on. If you don't want the lights on, you must be hiding something."
Addressing the rangling for position so often highlighted in and encouraged by the media between the more well-known African-American leaders and organizers, Rev. Sharpton euphemized, "If I'm drowning, then I want whoever's got a branch to help me. We can argue when I get to shore about who gets the headline, but right now, get me out of the water!"
By now, he was systematically attacking every possible excuse a person could have for laying low in the face of institutionalized oppression. "If you expect the ones who knocked you down to lift you up, it won't happen!" he warned. "If they wanted you lifted up, they wouldn't have knocked you down in the first place!"
He had chosen as the framework for his presentation the story from the Old Testament in the Bible about a powerful meglomaniac by the name of Nebuchadnezzar who threw three young men into a fiery furnace for not bowing down to him. It was not hard to follow the analogy. And the end of the story, of course, is that, when the men are thrown into the flames, they don't die. But Rev. Sharpton didn't even mention that. It wasn't the point he was going for. The point he was going for was that, in the face of the flames, they didn't bow down.
"If you're scared, say you're scared!" he bellowed. "And then sit down and shut up and let somebody else stand up and talk who isn't scared!"
I came unglued. I yelled and applauded so long with tears streaming down my face, I became convinced that the wall to wall crowd, virtually entirely African-American, must surely think I was nuts. But I didn't care.
See, I've been edgy the last few days since I committed to do a campus presentation on "What is Racism and How Do I Know I Have It?" You know how I write. Well, imagine this stuff coming out of my mouth, complete with inflections and expressions, face to face with my listeners. It can create some emotion, let alone I'm talking to folks who sport "Proud Redneck" bumper stickers on their F-150's. So, yeah, I was scared. I know I've been doing this for decades, but this is a new venue. And while I absolutely believe I'm here "on assignment," it doesn't mean I don't feel the pinch. The pinch, in fact, was all over Al Sharpton's face when he left the building, escorted by huge African-American sheriffs to his vehicle, though he had earlier quipped light-heartedly, "I want to meet Jesus, but not today. I still have work to do."
So I was afraid. But three days ago, I found out Sharpton was coming to my little town. So I went to hear him, of course.
My mother swears that I wasn't more than four when I was riding down the highway with my parents one afternoon, stuck my head out the window and screamed into the rushing wind, "Look out, world, here I come!" That was a long, long time ago, but that little girl's still in there. She took me to see Al Sharpton today. He took us all to church. And now I'm ready to do the work that's waiting.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Saturday, September 29, 2007
You may have read my response to a recent Whitlock column posted last Sunday. Not being familiar with "The Big Sexy" -- what Whitlock calls himself (see photo above) -- and his meteoric rise as a writer in this country, I was fairly low key in my presentation. In his post, on the other hand, Modi knows and tells the backstory. This is one you really don't want to miss. It's worth reading for the writing alone. But it also describes in graphic detail a classic example of the effects of institutionalized oppression in the name of racism in this society.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
From what I understand, only about one out of ten of the early European colonists wanted to overthrow Great Britain and establish the United States. Which means that the vast majority (90%) of the population were just fine with the way things were. Whatever you think of the revolutionaries' motives (such as wanting to be The Power instead of cow-tow to it); whatever you think of their hypocrisy (such as keeping slaves and having sex with them while talking and writing about "freedom"); whatever you think of their practices (such as shooting uniformed soldiers in the back from behind trees), they were ultimately successful in casting Great Britain adrift. While it's true that they had MASSIVE help from Poland and France, among others, they did not have the internet...
The poster featured above is available from Northland Poster Collective.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
White people don't get it. They only have one consciousness: White supremacy. They are born into a society (and yes, even a world) wherein they can expect certain reassurance of their right to privilege. Some White people argue that because they are now or came up poor, they experience the same problems as people of color, which is, frankly, so lacking in grasp of the reality of the situation as to be simultaneously heart-wrenching and ludicrous.
You want to know where the preventive medicine is, Mr. Whitlock? It marched in Jena last Thursday. Where were you?