Saturday, December 27, 2008

Detroit and Black Labor

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I have a thing for Wise Jalapeno chips, so I went to the bodega
to get some the other day, and ended up in a conversation with a
neighborhood man who was
old enough to be my father, about
Philly and Detroit.


He mentioned that his son is at
Temple. He asked me if I went to
Temple, I said no, but that I had visited
Philly this summer, that
I had friends that went to Temple and that the row homes there
were beautiful.
He explained to me where his son lived and
how its wild for
the night there. I was like, yeah, some parts
of Philly,
Oakland , Chicago and DC have murders that approach
New York from the 1980's style.
I added
that I was delighted to see all this attention
being
being shined on Detroit recently, as I have always had a
soft
space in my heart for the city.


When I mentioned Detroit, he lit up and told me that he had been
to Detroit
recently and that the men were just "wondering around
aimlessly."
I guess he thought I was about to trash black men.

Uh. Negatory.


I mentioned that Detroit, like many other cities were
left for death after deindustrialization
and the crack era.

That it is a place with roughly only a million people
but it was
built for 5 million.
Finally, I added that when the system we live
in
has decided that your labor is no longer needed you are left
for dead
.


I know he was like, "No more talking to sassy black girls in bodegas."

I will not blame individuals for status, when it has been

made clear by the economic and politcal system
that
they are only useful as warm bodies to fill a prison.


Black labor used to be needed and simultaneously
resented, then it was Chinese labor, now its Mexican
labor.
Any guesses on whose next?
I didn't say that to him,
but it is what I thought.


Detroit?
The Bail Out?
If We Nationalize the Banks and the Cars,
then Why NOT
HEALTHCARE?


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Michelle Wallace and Illmatic

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The World Is Yours (Remix)


Rare is the person who can conceptualize the hood,
in all its pain, beauty and promise.

Two pieces that do this are Nas's Illmatic and
Michele Wallaces, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman.
Whats strikes me about both pieces is that they illicit an
emotional response. In addition, Black Macho is particularly
moving because Michele focuses on how gender influences
the lives of Black women in urban environments. She writes,

Now I want you to picture a little black girl in a jungle
that has no
tigers and lions, but poverty, ignorance,
welfare centers, tenements,
rats, roaches, inadequate
schools, malevolent teachers, pimps,
Forty Second Streets,
heroin, hypodermic needles and methadone,
opportunistic
preachers and community leaders, a narrow range
of career
possibilities , always impending pregnancies, sterilization

and illogical court system, and two races of men who prey
upon her
as sexual chattel and a beast of burden. And
suppose that behind this
black girl, there was a whole
string of little black girls who had faced
this same jungle
with their imaginary advantages and been defeated.
Would
it not be an act of unkindness, of extreme justice really, to
tell
her that she was a woman of strengths, of exceptional
opportunities.
Any one of the above mentioned phenomena, my seem
innocent
on its face. But when the "ignorance, welfare centers,
tenements,
rats, roaches, inadequate schools, malevolent
teachers, pimps,
Forty Second Streets, heroin, hypodermic
needles and methadone,
opportunistic preachers and
community leaders, a narrow range
of career possibilities"
are taken together, it becomes very
clear exactly what some
young black women are facing in their day to day lives.

Looking at the The World is Yours video isn't a reminder of what
young men and women in Harlem, Detroit, Oakland and Philly
are facing, yet I do feel a sense of urgency when watching it.
It's not that the jack moves portrayed feel intense, its the foreshadowing,
the moment right before that has me on needles while I watch it.
This video 4 minutes of 49 seconds of sheer grimeyness.

On the song Memory Lane Nas opens, giving a description
of the hood that came to mind while reading the above
Michelle Wallace passage. He raps,
I rap for listeners, blunt heads, fly ladies and prisoners
Hennessey holders and old school niggas,
then I be dissin a unofficial that smoke woolie thai

I dropped out of Kooley High, gassed up by a cokehead cutie pie
Jungle survivor, fuck who's the liver

My man put the battery in my back, a difference from Energizer

Sentence begins indented with formality
duration's infinite, moneywise or physiology
Poetry, that's a part of me, retardedly bop
I drop the ancient manifested hip-hop, straight off the block
I reminisce on park jams, my man was shot for his sheep coat
Chocolate blunts make me see him drop in my weed smoke

It's real, grew up in trife life, did times or white lines
Both Nas's and Michelle are saying I present
to you the stories of some folks who are trying
to survive in a world, stories of folks who have been told
at every turn that their survival is irrelevant.

This is why both of these two pieces move me.

Wow. I think this was an actual thugs, feminist and boom
bap
post. Nice.

Sweeter Than Ben and Jerry's

TwitThis


All Clips Gaffled from Grand Good

I saw Tribe at a Rock the Vote Concert in '96, somewhere
in the boonies of California.

I don't remember them being so pleasurable to watch
as Qtip is in the above clip.

I hate sterile hip hop shows, where people stand around
like they are bored at an industry party.


This clip indicates that Tip's show is the exact opposite.

I now wish I went to the concert. Fail.



I bought, with cash, every Count Bass D cd that I own,
which is about three of them.

Dead at "If you had to stop doing it, Im doing this for you."

Truest thang I heard all day.

Happy Holidays Blog fam.

~m.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Not Gone Be Able to Do: The Love Below

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Matthew and (Re)nina
Forte Green, Brooklyn June 2008

It's been about a month since my relationship ended, or -if you
will, changed.


I have never known a human being that I could spend five
or six consecutive
days with and not want to kill them after
day 3, or be enraged at them, or see the roots of resentment
growing like weeds.
The days would be productive, filled with
reading, writing, meals and mashing.


This was my relationship with Matthew, p
reviously known has
Filthy Dubois.


When the end velocity started, at first I thought there was someone
else, and then I learned that it
was us. Ironically, in the midst of
the all this, young SJ an ex and dear friend
from Texas, called
me out the blue and apologized for being angry at me for how
things ended between he and I. We hadn't spoken in months.

So we are talking, and he hears the trembling in my voice and
I let on what was
happening and in a moment of eerie clarity, he
said, "Wow, I did the
same thing to you." Meaning that he let a lot
of time lapse before telling me that he was having major
problems with the relationship. He waited until he couldn't
take it any more and decided that it was over. I was grateful for
the fact
that he made the connection
, sad for the fact that it
was true
.


My girls are optimistic. I am neutral and here is why, both
Matthew and I believe
that love is being willing to extend
yourself for the spiritual growth of
another person. If we both
love each other, but want different commitments
then I have
to let him go. As much as I don't want to, I have to. To do anything
else is to be greedy and to try and assert my will over the will
of what
is. That's not extending myself, that's trying to control it.
That's not my job. Resisting it requires praying almost 5 times a day,
no lie. But I do it.
We may work or exert courage in directions other than toward spiritual growth. and for this reason all work and courage is not love. But since it requires an extension of ourselves, love is always either work or courage. If an act is not one of work or courage, then it is not an act of love. There are no exceptions.
from The Road Less Traveled
We have been in contact, albeit limited (while writing this, ironically
I received a long e-mail from him.) Through this haze, he has
coached me through school application deadline
madness, assisted
me with my writing sample and offered to read my personal
statement (along with 5 other people- hi Mean Sexy, Jonzey and
Songee
.)


We were friends before, and in many ways, the evidence of that
part of the relationship is bright and clear. In many ways,
having
a friendship basis, makes all of this that much more
difficult. Sometimes,
I just wanna shake 'em, like dude, how
can you say that it
has never been like this with anyone else
before, but commence
to putting it on pause. But I hold
back, because if this is what
he believes has been willed to be,
then I can only respect that
.
I still be wanting to shake him tho.
However, I'm sure I wouldn't want any dude pressing me if I
was like,
"Nah ock, I'm not where you are and I need to move
around.
"

That being said, human bonds are incredible. In many ways
this turbulence
with him has shown me the strength of other
bonds in my life.
And not just the strength of the bonds, but that
once created, they never go away.
For me, that idea has always
been abstract, but now that I have seen
it operate in my life in real time,
I have experienced how it works.
It is in coming to understand these
bonds, and the bumpiness of this relationship that I am learning
how to
fall back gently, and not just cut him off. Which is what I
have seen people do, time and again, in my biological family.


In early December, Matthew and I had a sort of peace inducing
conversation. Then record scratch,
I woke up a few days later, livid.
It came to me
that I stepped to him in July about feeling over committed.
Instead of saying something to him, I could have been scandalous
and just kept it to myself and commenced to lining up
back ups.

However, human beings are not objects, or positions, that
can't be lined
up. I have also been reminded that to expect
someone to do something that I know how to do is short
sighted
and unfair. People come to you with the tools that they have.

I was angry that I had the courage not only to feel it, BUT to share,
whereas, he didn't. It felt like he was on the take.
I knew that there
was a risk me saying to him, "Aye blood, I feel over committed" and
upon reflection, I realize that I
felt that he was selfish in being
unwilling to take the same risk
with me.

All it required was "Ne, I'm having second thoughts." Subsequently,
when I brought this up he has apologized
profusely, and said
that he didn't know how to say it at the time. Lord knows that there
are things that I haven't known how to do in the past, like manage
my anger, which has helped me to kill not one, but two relationships.
I understand that he didn't know how to say it, I have forgiven him.

"Truth or reality is avoided when it is painful. We can revise
our maps only when we have the discipline to overcome
that pain. To have such discipline, we must be totally dedicated
to truth
. That is to say that we must always hold truth, as best
we can determine it, to be more important, more vital to
our self-interest, than our comfort." From The Road Less Traveled
Looking back, I have changed over the course of the relationship and
I am grateful for it.
My writing voice is clearer, I have a far more nuanced
understanding
of how much of what we see in society is rooted in
history, and my
recovery game (in terms of being related to people
with addictions), has been taken up a notch.

I have also resolved to pursuing writing and school work that is
self directed and in line with who I am and what I believe in.

Yet and still, the cold Christmas and colder New Years has me
light weight shook. But, it just reminds me to be in the moment.

Besides, there is always 2009!

I bet this post was a surprise. Wink. Nod. Wink.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Advice for New Bloggers: How to Build Your Readership

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Readership is built, reader by reader. I was reminded
of this last Thursday. I was waiting for the train, and a man
made small talk
with me while we waited on the platform.
Once the train arrived and we sat down he
proceeded to
inquire about what I "did", then told me he had a 9 to 5
and a business. I reached in my bag to get my lotion and
started to put some on my hands. He reached into his bag and
did the same, and said "Why should we give our money to Duane
Reade when we could buy our products independently?"
His lotion smelled like cherry-apple. I don't do cherry-apple.


If there is one thing that I am particular about it is lotion.
I like fancy
lotion and its one of the major indulgences that
I will probably
always allow for myself.


That being said, he took out his catalog, asked me if I finished
holiday
shopping, I told him no, that I was looking for something
for my six year
old nephew. The man proceeded to show me a catalog with
telescopes. I just shook
my head at him with a big smile and said,
"I would never buy a telescope for a six year
old."

He then asked me whether I would be intersted in shopping
with him
this holiday season. I responded flatly, no.

It was clear to me that this salesmen knew very little about building
relationships.
He would have been much better served by making
small talk. He could have tried to make a connection with me
about something and then handed
me his card, telling me that he has a
small business and that if I was
interested in supporting an
entrepreneur and using some great
products to contact him.
He decided to try and sell first, then get consent later. A no-no.

This incident inspired me to share what I have learned about
blogging
over the last three years.

Know Your Audience
I write about a very niche yet intersectional topic, Thugs,
Feminist
and Boom Bap. This translates into urban Culture,
Feminism, Hip Hop,
Gender, Politics in general, Political
economy specifically, The law,
and Black artistic culture.

Some are interested in just the feminist discourse,
others in hip hop, some in the gender talk and finally others
in the intersection of all of the above.
That being said, people do not always agree with what I
have to say.
Trust, they e-mail and tell me. But, what they do
say is that they appreciate
what I have said.

The lotion salesmen did not know is audience.

Ask You Readers What They Want
Every once in a while, I will ask folks what they want me to
write about.
Recently I did this and a couple of people
e-mailed me and said
they wanted to me write about
"How to Be in Pain and Not Fall Apart."
This, of course
was difficult to write. However, yesterday, I was surprise to
received a thank you
e-mail, which was a month after I wrote
the original piece.


Follow Your Numbers
I check my links on Technorati, Site Meter and Feed Burner
almost
every other day. From looking at this I learned that I
get a lot of traffic
on issues pertaining to Black women and
the Black female body.
Because of this I take time to write
about the Black female body in popular
culture. This has
included essays on Venus and Serena Williams,
a post titled "Thick Women Rock" and finally a post titled,
"Buffy the Body is Venus Hottentott."

I also get a lot of referrals from a piece I wrote called "The
100 Worst High School
s in America", which has me wondering
whether there should be a follow up post
where people write in
and compare their schools from a student centered
point of view.

Visit Other Sites

Visit other sites and leave comments. Its genuine. It gets your
voice
out there and it is a great way to drive links back to your site.

Do NOT Asked to Be Linked To

This can be tricky. If other people like your content they will link to you.
I will link to people in a post if I think my readers may be interested,
or as a show of support for the site. Asking can be perceived as being tacky,
unless you have already linked and it is clear that the folks who read at
your requestee's site would like the content on your site as well.
If someone links to you, thank them. I try and do so every time I see
myself linked somewhere.

Talk About What You Know
I talk to other bloggers about how specific my niche is.
The feedback has been that specific is fine because
people will come to you to hear about the new Kanye
album, but will stay to hear you talk about the financial
crisis or the price of gas.

That being said, paying attention to these six things
should enhance your readership.

Try out some of the tips and let me know how they
turn out for you.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rafi Kam and Underachieving Hip Hop Writers

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Last month Rafi posted an exchange with Oh Word
contributor Abe Beame about why
he didn't run a piece
about Stakes is High on his site.


Rafi is snarky. He points out my mistakes it irks the

sh-t out me. He also has a "write the f-ck better" tone.

That being said, after I read this exchange
I came
to understand that he does it to everyone and
that, ironically, he would make a great editor, minus the
condescension.


In the excerpt below he goes back on forth with Abe
on the merits the De La Soul piece.

JayK4: If you follow the thought through to its conclusion, it invalidates theyre entire argument, theyre regelated to crotechedy old retards too stupid to know times have changed without them, thats why I struggled with it
JayK4:
it basically says their entire thesis is a lie they hide behind so they dont have to face the truth
JayK4:
you dont see that?
IRafi22: let me ask you something
IRafi22: when de la soul criticize the same thing about rap on de la soul is dead and buhloone mindstate
IRafi22: did it bother you then
JayK4:
I was 9 when buhloone mindstate came out
IRafi22: ok i mean when you listen now
JayK4:
I listened to it for the first time in college
JayK4:
ummmm, not as much
JayK4:
its more subtle
IRafi22: what are your thoughts on the album… is it similarly retarded and crotchety
JayK4:
the impetus is the same
JayK4:
but youre right craft matters
IRafi22: ok its more subtle.. but your problem wasnt the lack of subtlety
IRafi22: as stated it was thesis
IRafi22: and moral stance
JayK4:
their message is more effective depending on delivery, very good IRafi22: no
IRafi22: not very good
IRafi22:
very bad
JayK4:
but not even more effective
IRafi22:
JayK4: If you follow the thought through to its conclusion, it invalidates theyre entire argument, theyre regelated to crotechedy old retards too stupid to know times have changed without them, thats why I struggled with it
JayK4:
your just caught up in the product
JayK4:
yeah
IRafi22: do you realize how many things are wrong with that sentence
JayK4:
enlighten me
IRafi22:
1) you dont give a thread of any sort to follow through
IRafi22:
lets see from peoples comments who picks up on this being you calling de la crotchety old retards
IRafi22:
lets see
JayK4:
well its buhloone mindstate my friend
JayK4: subtelty
IRafi22: but without the genius
IRafi22: 2) you dont have the right to call de la crotchety old retards….
JayK4: you and noz might be offended
IRafi22:
i’m not offended
IRafi22: i want coherence
IRafi22:
and i want your execution
IRafi22:
to match your intent
IRafi22:
it does not
JayK4:
you and noz might understand what my conclusion implies
IRafi22: you will earn the right to call de la crotchety old retards when you make a logical argument supporting it


"you will earn the right to call de la crotchety old retards when
you make a logical argument supporting it."


In many ways this is a rule that guides me as a writer.

All assertions need evidence, other wise you might get called out.

Sometimes, I write around the margins about things that maybe
5 or 6 people care about. Rafi's post reminded me of how both the
act of writing and the fact these 5 or 6 people read are meaningful because
it is about making a contribution.

I was glad to see that he stood up for De La. It reminds me
of how I go hard for Kanye. Like really? 808's is THAT bad?
Liking 808's is gay?The only valid emotion for Black men
is murderous rage? Uhhhh. Negatory.

Thank you Rafi.

De La Soul, crankety old men?
When was the last time someone irked you?
Thoughts on life on The Margins?

The Silence of Black Women Writers

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Black writers are a cursed lot.

By its virtue of its origin, suture and function, black writing is
mission conscious and is necessarily a hazardous undertaking.
In turn being a black writer is an enobiling, exigency and black
literature constitutes one of the supreme enrichment's of black
culture and black life. This has been and is the burden as well
as the heritage and legacy of every black person who takes
up a pen in the United States. ~Calvin C. Hernton
In October and November I spent a lot of time reading looking
for connections between the misogyny in the civil rights movement
and in hip hop.

I hit the nail on the head while reading Calvin Hernton's book
The Sexual Mountain and Black Women Writers.
Hernton spendsin time analyzing the swift effort to condemn
both Ntozoke after
For Colored Girls hit Broadway and
Michelle Wallace after Black
Macho came out.

Hernton sum's it up when he says,

Although we keep looking for the men in The Color Purple to
be white, they are black men, our men, committing deeds
we cannot help but associate with slavery. The analogy
unbearable, the irony
is burning. Black men who are themselves
victims of oppression victimizing
black women in what looks
like the same oppression? A system of oppression
within
another system of oppression.
(Can Victims Be Perpetrators came
out of this reading.)
Which brings me to last night. I was at a function and a black man
asked me what
I wrote about. I said hip hop and feminism. He then
put up
the two fingers and said, "Are you an L?" and I looked at him,
unphased
, as I saw it as a teachable moment. Then I said, eye brows
furrowed, "Hunh?" He joked "There is nothing wrong with that as long
as I can watch." I guess he THOUGHT he was going
to humiliate me.
All I could think was my ipod died two weeks ago,
my relationship
died three weeks ago and I took the GRE this morning,
nothing
really was going to f-ck with me.


I let him speak, he stuttered and stammered and then he noticed
that I was serious. I responded saying "It's interesting that I say I am a feminist
and you joke about me being a lesbian, I am currently writing a piece
titled a A World Built on Black Pussy." He raised his eyebrows this time.
It was clear that I was serious. I added, "The rappers talk about it all the
time, but if I do, I am being tacky." We were then able to have a more
civil conversation that wasn't based his lesbian fantasies.

In his comment, I was reminded about how normalized it is for men
to be so flip towards women, women who are strangers, about
sex. Yet, as a woman if we have the gall to say something back we risk getting
the Michelle Wallace, Ntozake Shange treatment. Silenced. Dismissed
and told you are being used by The Man against BLACK people.

I am happy I didn't come at him hella sideways. I mean. What
good could have come of that? Besides I think god puts me
in those situations because I don't look for victims, or opportunities
to humiliate people who have neanderthal-esque gender politics. I see
it as a chance to be like "eassssy star, lets think about what
you just said and the implications of it."

Being an M.dot is hard.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Black Women, Property Twice

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(Video of an Altercation between Black Israelites
and some Black women passerbyers.)

About a month ago I was sitting in a Professors office explaining my
research interests (labor, sex, Black women), how I was working
on a theory of how Black Women are Property Twice. He listened,
became agitated then finally
said, "I really don't like when people
try and connect slavery
to things going on now, there is no data."

In the conversation, I was trying to connect the Video Vixens to
Venus Hottentott (word to Dallas Pen) and he was like, NO.

Property once, property again.

The Professor agreed that hip hop was global, but felt that
the Vixens
constituted a minute part of the hip hop equation.
Really. All I could think was, have you seen BET lately?
Uh, okay.


I looked at him and continued talking to him and thanked him
for sharing what I would imagine would be a critique of my work.

I was reminded of this experience when I stopped in Barnes and Nobles
on Saturday and read that Charles Johnson has been critiquing
Toni Morrison, saying in so many words that "she needs to stop writing
about slavery."

Funny, I don't think Johnson could fix his lips to critique Holocaust
scholars, and say that they need to stop writing about.

Again. The message was, "no slavery talk, people."

Later Saturday Night
I went out Saturday Night and my experience made it clear to me
that I, and arguably many black women, and perhaps women in general
have been trained to
tolerate being touched in non consensual ways.

A friend of mine who is a DJ had invited me to three things in the
last month. He sent me a text regarding an event that was by my house,
so I decided to go.
I have been under a rock for the last 6 weeks.
So this was special.

We both LOVE boom bap, and I knew he would be surprised to see
me, as I saw him last June of 2007, so I figured it would be a nice
break in my routine.

So I am there, rapping along to Black Moon, or Ghost or CL
and this dude grabs my wrist and I unfurl his fingers from around it.
A little bit later, and he does it again and I almost flipped out on him.

I remember that historially, I would take my thumb finger and stick
it into a dudes hand if he ain't get the picture. In many ways,
it was a small act of resistance.

The more I thought about it, I realized that him touching me was
typical dancefloor behavior that many of us
have been subjected to since we first started going out.

The second time he grabbed my wrist I was reminded of going
to a party in the Bay over Christmas break, after my first semester
of school in New York. I wasn't even 21 yet.


The party was in Hayward, and was typical California in the
cut hood ish. I remember dancing with this guy, and he kept rubbing
on my booty. I don't remember how I stopped him, but I remember
him saying, "If I can't get my feel goods, then I ain't dancing with
you", and he walked away.

When the dude on Saturday kept grabbing my wrist, I flashed back
to that night in Hayward. I also began to think about Cynthia Grant
Bowman's essay on street
harassment and how it affects women.
She discusses how it impacts our ability to be ourselves, our ability
to function and just have serenity in our day to day lives on the street,
and the ability to move from point a to b in the street without the threat
of violence or 8 million cat calls, hey shorties, what up boo, hey miss, etc.

I am thinking about Toni, and Charles telling her "no mo slavery talk."
I am thinking about the Professor telling me that connecting
slavery to now is out of pocket.
I am thinking about how I am complicit in contributing to an environment
that normalizes or is neutral on violence against women. My wrist was
grabbed, yet thirty minutes later
I still sang along with snoop, "I got freaks
in the living room getting
it on and they ain't leaving to till six in the mo'ning."
I am thinking about what it means to finally realize, after all these years
that I, and arguably we, have been trained to tolerate being touched,
and how all hell breaks loose when we say stop.


Make any connections lately?
Anyone tell you to stop?
Thoughts on street harassment?
Thoughts on the video?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Paul Beatty is an Effin Genius

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I read Slumberland last September in one evening.
Yes, it was that good. Its a book about a DJ who makes the

perfect beat and sets off to Germany on a mission to find a jazz
artist, the Schwa, to make it complete.

Race, Hitler, Jazz, Interacial Dating, Porn, you ask for it, its in this book.

My favorite part is when he gets to Wynton Marsalis,
who, for the record, doesn't care for hip hop.

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I have a critique
for just about everyone. Feminist's, hip hop, Black people,
my moms, my peers, other bloggers, white folks, the hood.

In fact, my rationale is that if you aren't critiquing it,
then you probably don't love or understand it.

Imagine my surprise when Paul brings it to Wynton.
He writes,

I hate Wynton the same way Rommel hated Hitler. Whenever
I hear Marsalis's trumpet playing I feel like the Desert Fox
forced to come to grips with the consequences of
totalitarianism after the war has been all but lost. At east Rommel
had Wagner. All I've got is Wynton. His musical Valkeries arrive
not on winged steeds but astride caged birds.
Wynton Marsalis reminds me that I was born wearing the wrong
uniform. That I am a Negro-Nazi, who only being a DJ and not
a general or politician or a movie director, is at best a functionary
or house party gauleiter.

The existentialist's stay that the flap of a butterfly's wings in
the jungles of Mauritania can cause a hurricane in the plains
of Kansas, but a high C from Wyntons Marsalis's trumpet
doesn't even change your mood
much less your mind. And I
don't know whether or not Marsalis's music is an allegory for
race, American Democracy, or black fascism, but I do
know that the Schwa's music is anarchy. It's Somalia. It's the
Department of Motor Vehicles. Its Albert Einsteins hair.
How ironic, that Wyntons new book is titled, get this,
Moving to a Higher Ground, How Jazz Can Change Your Life.

This is why, ladies and gents, Paul Beatty is a genuis.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Why People Hate 808's and Heartbreak

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Kanye and Alexis

I listened to 808 and Heartbreaks last week for about two days straight.
It is an album that needs to be played loudly, in your trunk, on your
headphones or in the living groom.

I came to it through the back door as I wasn't really tripping off of it
until I saw folks at The Smoking Section speak and I read the comments
section. I figured if that many people were hating on it, then I should give
it a listen.

Besides, I typically rock for the underdog.


I also knew that given the loss that he experienced in the last year
and the fact that he is a Gemini, he was going to go all out on the album.

Word to Tupac.

The more I listened to the album, the more I realized that this
cat was in a lot of pain, and trying to articulate it.

To say that he "sounds like" T-Pain misses the point by looking
at just the sound, but ignoring the content. T- Pain ain't never
said anything that made me think about nothing.

Whereas, 808's and Heartbreak, helped me with being in
reflection mode last week.

Besides, listening to the beat and not the lyrics has been a troubling
issue in hip hop since The Chronic.

Break up albums allow an artist to lay it on the line. 808's is no different.
In fact, Marvin Gaye's Here my Dear, Erykah's Mamas Gun are some
other examples that come to mind.

Other than the loss of someone, when are you really vulnerable?

Listening to the album and hearing him describe those
post break up slug penetrate moments, I came to realize
that he was being both vulnerable and in pain and in our culture that
is a no no for men, and antithetical to Black manhood. That is if
if you believed what you saw in hip hop.

It was then that I realized that the only acceptable emotion
for Black men to publicly express and still retain their
masculinity
is rage.

Kill a hundred fools? Cool.
Murder, stab, rape? Fine.
Sad over losing our ex? Blasphemy.

In many ways, 808's and heartbreak is a blues album.

That classic since my baby left me blues music.

In fact, the beef over this Kanye album underscores
the stark differences between the Blues and hip hop.

With the blues, Black men could be complex, emotional
human beings.

With hip hop, at least with regard to the dominant narrative,
they can only be self destructive machines.

I wonder what BB King thinks?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How to Be in Pain and Not Fall Apart

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There is a fine, fine art to being in pain and not falling apart.
I have had several challenges in the last month. I was facing deadlines,
different areas of my life were flatlining, others were soaring,
it was real.

There are about four things that I have identified that have been
integral to being able to be in pain and not fall apart. They are
faith practices, a community of healing, self care and time.

Faith Practices
What ever your faith practices are, you will have to rely on
them a little more than usual and perhaps get into them a little
more intensely than you normally do. When your spirit is sideways,
and you have been brought to your knees, in many ways faith is all
you have.


Community of Healing

I don't go to the hardware store for bread, I wouldn't go to the zoo to
get a loan. I try and go to the proper places for the proper help which
means that try and see out folks who are a little more spiritually advanced
than I am when crisis mode has me against the wall.
I have about six people
who are more spiritually more grounded than
I am who I can reach out to
when I am trying to make sense of something.
This is new for me. I learned
last year that I needed these folks in my life, when I saw a friend who had
his own community of healing and realized that he dealt with things entirely
differently than I did, and he was far more sane and stable.

These six people are comprised of friends and family, others are people
in a self help fellowship
that I am a member of and then there are folks in my faith
community.
In terms of being in pain, the only way through it is through
it
, and I hate it. Not above, under or below, but through. There may be
moments where you feel like you are falling apart,
and that is okay, it is
a part of the process.


Just like my dear friend and colleague Tracey Rose mentioned
to me
today, "You have to sit with the feelings because as long
as you fight them,
they continue to get stronger." I was floored.
I looked at the phone, like, she crazy. However, I didn't disagree,
I listened and it helped.
I sat with them, listened to some Al Green
and some new Kanye, it was uncomfortable, but ultimatly I felt transformed.


Self Care

Self care entails doing kind things for yourself. This may be watching
The Cowboys, making cinnamon rolls or going to the movies. There is also
an element of not beating up on yourself when things don't go the way
you expected them. In many ways there is a kind of grace to it. For
me the ultimate self care is a pedicure and brunch, but with the economy
being what it is, the $30 spent on a pedicure and fancy eggs and toast
can used on a cell phone bill, a metro card, or my perpetual
library fines
. The general idea is that you take some time to be kind to
yourself.

Time
Being in pain and getting through it takes time. Giving that the holidays
are upon us, being around family can be both comforting and amazing,
however it can trigger old wounds. Getting through the pain takes time
and in many ways, being around family shows us that if we don't deal
with it, it will be sitting there waiting for us, whether we like it or not,
year after year. The notion that all this takes time is arguably, one
of the most challending for me to deal with, and perhaps for you as
well. For me it entails accepting that I only have control over myself,
my actions, my thoughts. While I may want things to happen in the
time that I want them to, I simply can't make them. Thats a fact of life.
So I struggle. I struggle with sitting with it, getting the work done that
needs to be done, and I am so grateful for when the pain is lessened
a bit. When that happends, it feels like a boot has been removed
from my throat, and
dios mio am I grateful.

I hope that these help you. I'd like to hear what you think
about my suggestions.

How do you cope with pain?
The big three, alcohol, sex, rage?
Do you shut down?
If you have tools, who taught you?

Biany,
Joseph, Marquette, Matthew, Pathanapong,
Raquel,
Salina, Tracey, thank you for inspiring me to write this.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Can Victims Be Perpetrators?

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Yesterday the internet was abuzz with the fact that
Prince might be homophobic.

Carmen from New Demographic commented on
Twitter that
this didn't make sense. She wrote ,
"I'm still amazed that Prince is a
homophobe.
I mean, isn't there a good chance he's been gay-

bashed in his life? (Even if he's not gay)
.
I responded
back saying that she
presumed that possessing
a "fringe Black masculinity" would make him more
likely to be tolerant. I added that tolerance, like hate is taught.
She responded saying she agreed, but it was still sad.

I agreed.

Even before I read the evidence of what Prince said, I suspected that
if Prince was being intolerant, then perhaps may have something
to do with his interpretation of the tenets of his faith practices.

This Prince moment also reminded me that our generation has a
hard time accepting the fact
that victims can be perpetrators.

The question of whether victims can be perpetrators
has been on my mind for a while. A couple of weeks ago,
I was having conversation I had with Krisna Best, of the
Hip Hop and Democracy Project
, which grew from my review
of Byron Hurts film, Barack and Curtis.

Below I provide two quotes, which in my opinion
get to the issue of our discussion of whether victims
can be perpetrators.

Krisna wrote,
Your example of the white woman reminds me a lot of
the whole "black on black crime" thing. This is where
I start to disagree with you. There's a white supremacist
tinge to the black-on-black-crime concept because it
pathologizes, if you will, black behavior. Black folks commit
crime not because of a pathology or because of false
consciousness, but because of much larger structural
circumstances and is related to my point about this generation
breaking with the conditions of work
. They see the old arrangement
as providing no road out of the circumstances of our society,
not because they believe in their inferiority or whatever the
conclusions of this bogus psychoanalysis are.

I responded,

Aren't you pathologizing them into permanent victimhood?

They have agency. They can choose. We all choose to sell crack
blog, have children, vote, join the army. I am completely aware of
the fact that our choices take place within the range of options
available to us, and that often times our parents class status
dictates exactly which options we just may have.

Let me ask you this? Do you think that D-boys/Pimps have agency?
While he didn't respond at the time to my question,
he has done so since I posted this.

The notion of victims being perpetrators weighs heavy on
my mind, as I have been reading a lot about the Black Power
Movement, Gender and Sexism for the past few weeks.
You may be surprised, but, there were folks who felt that Black
men weren't capable of being sexist
because they were
victims of racism
. Somehow, they some folks to believe that being a
victim, they couldn't be a perpetrator.

Now this of course makes no sense. For example, Black folks
who have been victims of racism can be prejudicial towards others
Black folks regarding skin color.
Paper bag party anyone?

Thats the horror of racism. It corrupts. It poisons.

Once we decide to refuse to look at people solely as victims
who have nothing to contribute, and to see people as subjects
who have agency and a will to change, the path will be laid for
us to have personal transformation on an individual and societal scale.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Homoeroticism of "Punks Jump Up to Get Beatdown"

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I was on a road trip recently and "Punks Jump Up" came on XM radio,
so it was uncensored.
It had been a long time since I heard Brand Nubian
in all of their raw boom bapness. The contrast between the serenity of the
gold, orange, yellow
trees and the Rocky horns in the songs intro
couldn't have been more stark.

Yet there was something priceless about the moment.

I turned to Filthy and was like, why is Brand Nubian
talking about gay men so much? As both Sadat and Lord Jamar
mention gay folks in their verses.

Oh yes, Im the bad man, and bad men wear black.
And if it comes to droppin bombs, yo, Im with that.
Though I can freak, fly, floow, fuck up a faggot.
Dont understand their ways I aint down with gays.
-Sadat X

Did you want some more? I didnt think so.
Just got whipped like a faggot in the clink, so

I suggest you take your bloody mess and find a piece of wire,
Fix your broken jaw, then its time to retire.
-Lord Jamar
My first reaction was that was that it was quasi homoerotic.
No, I am not saying that Sadat or Lord Jamar are gay.
What I am saying is that looking back at the lyrics 15 years later,
in total, the lyrics are over the top, anti-gay and they make me wonder
why does doing harm to gay cats play such a central role in this song?

One answer is that what is present in American culture is acutely
obvious in Hip Hop. Crime, homophobia, single parenthood.
You name it, both America in general and Hip Hop specifically has it.

The irony is that I saw Sadat perform his verse of the song
this summer, and he did deleted the word "faggot" from his verse.
Granted the performance was in Park Slope, at Prospect Park, so
he may have inferred that it wouldn't have played too well in uber
gay friendly neighborhood.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Check it In

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I. Missed. You. All.

I have a few posts percolating.
They are:
Obama as the Black Savior,
On Feeling Irrelevant Because of Obama Win
The Politics of Michelle Obama's Body
The History of Hip Hop Blogs,
Rafi, De La Soul and Crankety old men,
Black women and street harassment,
Black Feminism 101,
How to be in Pain and Not Shut Down.

Good. Clean. Fun.
I can't even begin to tell you what happened
in the last few weeks.

We now have a Black president. I shut down the blog for the first
time EVER. I needed to get it in, and I didn't want to half step
it with you all or with myself.

All I have to say is that it culminated yesterday in me showing up
to take the
GRE with an ID that expired last month and I WAS
NOT LET INTO THE
building.

Needless to say, I light weight flatlined. I'm alive, here, writing
and prepping to bring the insightful analysis that angers some
and delights many.

Besides, in the last few weeks, I have been looking around the
blogosphere, and I am not trying to clown or nothing, but most
these cats aren't saying nathin. I mean. Zero. Its bugged out.
They actually aggregate AP news articles, and do
so horribly. What is that?

What have you been up to?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Closed

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I am closing just for a couple of weeks. I am facing 4 deadlines.
You know it must be real because I have never not posted
before,
ever. No matter what I was going through.
I am just trying to prioritize and focus. I will try and
Twitter.

I will be back.

~m.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Reading Blogs at Work

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I was speaking to Robbie a couple of weeks ago. He asked me
how my History of Hip Hop Blogs piece was coming along (meaning
that it has gotten way bigger than I anticipated).

I told
him it was large, and that I wasn't sure whether to make
it
into one, two or three parts. He responded saying that most
people cut and paste, so I shouldn't
be bothered with the length.

Experience has shown me there there is
only so much that
you all are willing to read before you glaze over
and stop
altogether.
My question for you is, what is your technique
for reading blogs
at work? Do you cut and paste? Do you
read on your phone? Do you avoid
blogs at work?
Are blogs firewalled at your job?


Im curious.

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