Monday, September 29, 2008

Thick Women Rock: Venus & Serena Williams and Jennifer Hudson


In pop culture, music, television and Hollywood, the standard size for
a woman is size 4 and 130 pounds, max.
Venus, Serena and Jennifer
defy this norm. They are brown skinned Black women
who are not
size four's and they do not have blond hair. These women aren't
Beyonce, Halle or Rhianna.

Venus and Serena's position in the American hierarchy of beauty
is a little different from Jennifer as they are athletes, and thus are
subjected to these ridiculous claims that they look like men.

Historically, one of the myths used to justify enslaving Black women
is that we were just like the men, so it was reasonable for us to work
in the fields along side them. Being like men, it was okay for us
to pick cotton in 100 degrees sun up to sun down, because it didn't
bother us.

The myth of Black femininity is why the questioning of Michelle
femininity wasn't just about Michelle Obama but also about
the history of Black women. We run the risk of being called masculine
if we refuse to be objects and express our opinions or respond
when we are attacked. The idea is that if Black women have have an opinion
and the courage to express it, they have to prepared to have their femininity
card revoked.

Frequently, in pop culture books on relationships state that
one of the reasons why Black men have a hard time dating us,
is because we are "super women", "who don't need a man",
"we talk to much"and consequently are not feminine. In our
culture femininity equals motherhood, but, motherhood isn't
considered work and in addition to working as mothers most of
us have always worked outside the home.
It is clear that we are on the wrong side of the equation in this
femininity algebra problem. Which leaves the question, where
does our femininity come from? My answer is that we define it
for ourselves

Questioning our femininity runs long deep. As a result
Venus and Serena are arguably symbols of the myths, albeit
unnamed, that we continue to battle in order to have the right
to be perceived as humans who should be quiet and be pretty.

I have always supported the notion of women playing sports,
especially for young women as it has a tendency to teach you that
your body isn't just something can be sexual, but that it
can be strong and resilient but also fragile and hurt as well.

Which brings me to Jennifer Hudson. While Jennifer's
issue isn't being called masculine per se, she trying to negotiate
her place in an industry that typically writes off women
who look the way that she does. An article in the Sunday
New York Times spoke at length about her career, how down to earth
she was and I kept waiting to hear about how the way she looks
impacts her career. While the article didn't discuss that, it did
discuss the angst around her cross over potential.

It seems that Clive is trying to figure out how to make a Jennifer Hudson
cross over album. She is in an interesting position. She doesn't look
like other R & B stars, she has been in movies
she has won an Oscar,
but as never had platinum album. Based on the article, I am unsure
whether she or Clive knows who her base audience is. It appears that
they are trying to both appeal to the Dream Girls audience and the Sex
and the City audience. In the article Jennifer states,

“I can’t just put out an R&B song and expect that to go over for everyone,” she said. “I can’t do that with a pop song either. On the album there’s a hip-hop song, a gospel-inspirational song for my church base, and then we have to have the big ballads for fans through ‘Dreamgirls’ or ‘Idol.’ And of course I’m black, so we have to have music for African-American people, which is more on the R&B end. It’s a huge fan base, and that was the scariest part, which is where the pressure came in.”
This is interesting as Black music that can cross over has suffered a
variety of fates. If the music is all over the place Black folks may not
buy it. If it is pop, she may develope a wider white base but leave her
leave her Black fans behind.

I am rooting for her. I want her to win. Like Venus and Serena, they
are thick Black women who don't look like the dominant images
of beauty that we are presented with on a daily basis. Because of this,
their successes and struggles symbolize an attempt to create a
a wider definition of beauty and at the end of the day, this is
healthy for all of us.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Faith and Biggie : A Review of Keep the Faith


I read Faith's memoir, Keep the Faith, by Faith Evans
with Aliya S. King, this weekend. I was surprised by the tone,
it was honest, readable and ultimately made you want to like her.

She starts off the book giving the first couple chapters to her childhood
and familial background and then goes into her relationship with
Biggie and her musical career.

Perhaps what was most refreshing was her honesty about how,
when she was a teenager, she dated a dude who hit her, was verbally
abusive and how she finally decided to leave that relationship.

It was interesting to learn that she graduated high school at the top
of her class and subsequently attended Fordham University in The Bronx.

There are a few things that I was surprised to learn. For example,
early on before they were all famous Biggie asked Faith to take Kim
shopping and to the gym. I was also surprised to learn how honest
Biggie was about sleeping with other women. She would ask him,
he told the truth, yes. They would go on being husband and wife,
in the way that you do when you have that kind of information.
It was as simple as that.

Perhaps what is most beneficial about the book is that it provides a behind
the scenes to young women who are interested in getting involved in
the music industry. She talks about gaining the courage to ask
Puffy to pay her for her song writing contributions. She walks the reader
through what it was like to learn how publishing credits are allocated.
She talks about her managing the relationships professional and
private with Puffy, Missy, Mary and 112, in a way that I don't recall anyone
from our generation doing so.

I must admit that I was drawn to finishing the book because I was
interested in seeing how honest she talked about Biggie hitting her.
Given the fact that Pepa just published a book Lets Talk About Pep,
where she mentions being abused by Treach and Kim Osorio, former
editor The Source discusses in her Straight from the Source
how she endured sexism galore while at the helm
of that magazine, I wondered to myself if we were beginning
to be honest about the violence against women in our neighborhoods
and in our music.

I am trying to connect the dots between our attitudes towards the
violence that women suffer in hip hop to the violence that we see
against women in our communities. While reading Keep the Faith
I was looking for how she framed Biggie hitting her. What is interesting
is that the only incident that she mentions is him shaking her and
pushing her down after he found out that she recorded a song with
Tupac. However, they both committed act's of violence against people
that they thought were, or actually were the other persons lover.

Ultimatly the book will resonate with you if you interested in Hip Hop,
stories about women in the music industry or a story about
a stormy relationship between two lovers who came of age in
the eyes of the public. If you find yourself or Barnes and Noble or
Amazon, pick it up, its a great weekend read.

Monday, September 22, 2008

On Waiting Around for A Man


A few weeks back I was speaking with Tracey Rose about how as women,
we will drop what we are doing, a paper or a project,
to kick it with a man.
I understand that a distraction is a distraction,
and sometimes you desire
one because you just don't want to
be working on what you have in front
of you at that moment.

However, there is something to be said how men can put work
first and companionship second, whereas we are willing to sacrifice
our work, for the opportunity for companionship.

I mentioned this to Filthy and he offered that as women,
we are socialized to make the love from a man our number one priority.

He and I than began to have a discussion about how one of the ways that
patriarchy measures manhood is by dollars so it makes sense
that heterosexual men are willing to put emphasis on work
over a desire to be with a woman. They do this because they have
been socialized to do so. This is a narrow cell to live in.
I sensed in him that it was a moment of realization for both of us.
It became clear that this may have a tendency to damage the quality of
life for both women. In that moment, I became empathetic towards
men about the fact that we may expect them to perform in ways that
they haven't been taught or given the tools to carry out.

Capitalism is able to maintain its hold over the spirits of men by telling
them that they are what they take home after taxes

Furthermore, as Black people, who were originally brought to this
country to work for free, and to give birth to children to work
for free, I suggest that we be cautious with tying our humanity
to pay after taxes.

I also added that if men are encouraged to pursue work
over women, then implicit in that line of thought is
that women or a woman will always be around to be pursued.
This would indicate that we are expendable, replaceable
and in ample supply.

In addition, I heard him tell one of his friends in a conversation
about how women go about relationships differently and the
the implications that this may have for community organizing work.
He mentioned how women have a more astute understanding of
the fact that relationships need to be nurtured along in order to
thrive. I liken it to a church metaphor. If you attend Bible study
on Tuesday, and church on Sunday where you eat Ms. Johnson
cobbler or Ms. Jacksons greens, it is much easier to help Ms. Johnson
with her landlord problem
if you have been eating and praying with
her twice a week for the last
6 months.

Filthy and I went on to have a conversation about how, because
of our socialization, we tend to constantly evaluate
our careers against our relationships, trying to see how the fit, if they
are mismatched, how they are progressing into the future and
finally whether may be healthy or unhealthy. He remarked,
matter of factly that men tend not to do this because they are
not socialized to evalaute their careers against their families.

After that conversation I thought about the messages that
fairy-tales send us, I thought of my roommate in law school who
was working class Persian lady from Los Angeles who joined
a fancy and expensive art collectors group with the hopes of
meeting a rich man at an event, I thought of how some women
go to college with the hopes of meeting their husbands.

As for focusing on work or choosing companionship, I have done
both. On one have I have been too rigid in
insisting that my kicking it time is planned out ahead of time,
just so that I don't, in my opinion let a dude know that he can
disrespect my time by calling me in the middle of a
afternoon Tuesday afternoon, (we were both students)
saying "What 'chu doing? I am on break from class,
you don't have class today, why don't you come through?"
I remember look into the phone like, dude you don't have it like that.
He then accused me of treating relationships like work product.

I have also shelved working on a project to hang out with a guy.
I knew that I was suppose to read for class, but I got a offer for
Sangria and see a new independent film. Next thing I knew I was in
the shower and out the door.

However, it became clear to me 2 years ago,
that there seemed to be something amiss in a mans
ability and perhaps more importantly the societal
expectation that he should focus on his work yet, I should
be flexible when he was free.

For instance,The Graduate stayed in the library. Sure, he liked
him some,
and would give lip service to wanting to hang
out, but whenever I would
catch him on the phone, he was
going to or coming from the library. In seeing how dedicated
he was to the library, and with my competitive nature,
I started going to library for five and six hour stints.

It was in observing him that I came to see how someone
placed reading and writing at the center of their schedule
and built everything else around it. I am sure he dated and
that were women on the scene, but his main priority was taking
care of his grad school work.

Thinking about this issue has reinforced, for me, how the
gender roles and
expectations that we are expected shape
our choices and actions.
For instance, even when my female friends
have mentioned to me that I should focus, or that men are a distraction
for me, or that I should not give out more than I am getting, I think to
myself that their
comment is about them, not about me. I also think
that perhaps they are not
taking care of the things that they need to
do hence the desire to tell me what to do. I have also wondered if they
would say the same
things to me if I were a man.

Thats not to say that they don't mean well when they say
these things because more than likely they do.
However, I know that all personal transformation takes place
from the inside out, so someone inquiring about my essays,
about how my book is going, how grad school is going, how 100 V
is going, how Filthy is going and then proceeding to tell me
that I need to focus, is highly unlikely to inspire reflection
or transformation.

What I do know after reading think about this, is that being
a gender rebel is not for the faint of heart, feel me?

Any one tell you to focus recently?
Have you had any second thoughts about changing your
plans to hang out with someone

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Welfare for {White Male} Billionaires: $700 Billion Dollar Bailout, The Mugshots


Click to enlarge.

I was reading the Sunday Times and came across this photo spread.

Classic material. 700 Billion dollar material.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Welfare for {White Male} Billionaires: $700 Billion Dollar Bailout


What in the hell on Gods green earth is going on? A $700
BILLION dollar bailout with our tax dollars.

With our pay 28% of your paycheck in taxes
tax dollars.

Who is going to pay for this?

Steven Pearlstein writes in the Washington Post about the
loss of wealth that we are facing,

What we are witnessing may be the greatest destruction of financial wealth that the world has ever seen -- paper losses measured in the trillions of dollars. Corporate wealth. Oil wealth. Real estate wealth. Bank wealth. Private-equity wealth. Hedge fund wealth. Pension wealth. It's a painful reminder that, when you strip away all the complexity and trappings from the magnificent new global infrastructure, finance is still a confidence game -- and once the confidence goes, there's no telling when the selling will stop.
He also ties in the connection between foreign wealth, cheap credit (loans
and credit cards) and the housing industry. He writes,

But more than psychology is involved here. What is really going on, at the most fundamental level, is that the United States is in the process of being forced by its foreign creditors to begin living within its means.

That wasn't always the case. In fact, for most of the past decade, foreigners seemed only too willing to provide U.S. households, corporations and governments all the cheap money they wanted -- and Americans were only too happy to take them up on their offer.

The cheap money was used by households to buy houses, cars and college educations, along with more health care, extra vacations and all manner of consumer goods. Governments used the cheap money to pay for services and benefits that citizens were not willing to pay for with higher taxes. And corporations and investment vehicles -- hedge funds, private-equity funds and real estate investment trusts -- used the cheap financing to buy real estate and other companies.

Two important things happened as a result of the availability of all this cheap credit.

The first was that the price of residential and commercial real estate, corporate takeover targets and the stock of technology companies began to rise. The faster they rose, the more that investors were interested in buying, driving the prices even higher and creating even stronger demand. Before long, these markets could best be characterized as classic bubbles.

Welcome to "Globalization".

Republicans sure are quick to talk about handouts, a welfare
state, welfare queens, lazy liberals, but isn't this bailout Welfare
for Billionaires

I have a fundamental understanding of what has happened in the housing
market. It is perfectly reasonable the government has to intervene.

BUT. The people who were responsible for monitoring this
need to be fired and there needs to be an examination
of, going forward, what kind of regulation will be taking place.

What message is the government sending if it preaches the fact
that the free market is the most efficient form of a market,
then steps in to bail out firms with our TAX MONEY without our

The roles and responsibilities of both the organizations and individuals
that profited need to be analyzed and held accountable.
The organizations need to be forced to dissolve to kick into the $700B
and the individuals need to
be fired and replace by people screened
by the Office of Government Accountability or another similarly situated

What ever happened to "The Free Market"?

Why don't we apply strict liability of No Child Left Behind to the banking/
mortgage/finance complex
No Bank Left Behind?

What if the folks acted unconscionably, who were complicit in us winding
up in this mess, were fired.

The idea of a No Child Left Behind type of accountability being applied
to the banking and housing industry would be amazing.

$700B could sure buy a whole lot of Public Montessori preschool and

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hip Hop Isn't Political


Hip Hop isn't political. A Hip Hop show isn't political. An album
isn't political. At best, a rap song is similar to what I do here on

this blog, which is provide social commentary.

Ludacris's song is not political action.

Kanye saying George Bush doesn't care about Black people
is not a politcal action.

Puffy talking
about the high price of gas is not a politcal action.

A political action is one that results in a group moving closer to a
goal that
serves that groups interests or agenda.

For instance, the republicans chose Palin to energize their evangelical
base. In energizing their evangelical base they are increasing
the likelihood of folks turning out and voting for the republican party
ticket, thus increasing their chances serving their agenda by winning,

Our lack of an understanding political history leads to our thinking
that hip hop is, in fact, politcal.
In the book, Stand and Deliver: Political
Activism, Leadership and Hip Hop Culture
Yvonne Bynoe explains the
difference between a hip hop show and a politcal
movement. She writes,

After almost twenty years, the unproven assumption is that because a recording artist sells millions of records, his or her celebrity tranalsates into political clout, as if the artists buying public equates to a potential voting block. A rap artist can surely bring out the masses to a rally, but he or she can't get 'em to the polls or them actively engaged with an issue.
It doesn't have to be this way. There are tens of thousands of us.
We have the potential to constitute a movement.

However we have to understand that wearing an Obama t-shirt
does not make us political. What we need is a vision/agenda and
willingness to VOTE folks out who decision do not support our

Bynoe goes on to explain what those of us in the hip hop generation
have to do
in order to be political. She writes,
...It is time for the Hip Hop construct a more sophisticated dialogue about what constitutes leadership, politics and political action....Political power comes from influence and influence comes from the ability deliver (or deny) money, votes, or both to a politcal candidate, legislator, or politcal party; in the words of MC Lyte, all the rest is "chit chatter."
I went to an Obama Mixer on Sunday. The general idea of the mixer
was to discuss what how our work would like if Obama won or loss.
We decided to do a voter
teach in on Friday September 26th, the
night of the first debate. We believe that this is an exciting time
because folks who would normally not care about an election are excited.

However the next step is to maintain that excitement, to get folks to
the polls and involved in their communities on a local level.
If you
are interested in attending contact me at (m . dotwrites AT gmail . com).

In short, just because Hip Hop isn't political it doesn't have to remain
this way. A show isn't political. A CD with a song about Katrina is not
political. You want to know what is political? The republican leadership
I went to the GoPac website and was floored at just how
accessible and well funded it was.

Again our situation doesn't have to remain this way. With the Obama
related interest in the election, through collective action we have the
potential to find our voices and develop an agenda.

The voter deadline for NY is October 10th. Go to your States board of
website to confirm both that you are registered and the site
of your local polling location.
The presidential election is Tuesday November 4th.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Some Children Are Disposable


Because what is happening on the streets of Harlem to black
boys and girls is also happening on all America's streets to
everybody. It's a terrible delusion to think that any part of this
republic can be safe so long as 20,000,000 members of it are
menaced as they are.

Th reality that I am trying to get at is that the humanity of this
submerged population is equal to the humanity of anyone else,
equal to yours, equal to to that of your child. I know that when
I walk into a Harlem funeral parlor and see a dead boy lying there.
I know, no matter what the social scientists say, or the liberals
say, that it is extremely unlikely that he would be in his grave
so soon if he were not black
-James Baldwin, Words of a Native Son
Playboy December 1964

People vote differently when they have skin in the game.

They MOST certainly vote differently when their children comprise
said "skin".

I had this thought in mind while reading folks rationalize why
it was "expected" for the Obama's to send their children to
private school because they are "lawyers" or the children
of a senator.

I don't have an issue with where the Obama's send their
children to school per se. I have an issue with our whole
hearted acceptance of an individualized approach to education
that clearly does a disservice to our young people (across ethnicities).

Where is our willingness to critique and reform an educational
and economic
system that has allows parents, policy makers,
and politicians to focus on "their children" and say "good luck"
the others.

It takes a village went out with the Jheri Curl, hunh?

Its easy to be angry but then I began to think about what
an alternate future could look like.

How different would our neighborhoods look if the police
officers had to live in the neighborhoods they served?

How would our schools look if teachers had to live in the
neighborhoods they taught in?

What if public servants had to send their children to public schools?

If the children of the well off are only those that receive a
first rate education then isn't that more of a feature of an
rather than a Democracy?

All children, in this country are entitled to a first rate education
regardless as to whether their parents are senators, janitors or addicts.

I don't mean a drill and kill education. But an education that builds
critical thinkers who are content with who they are as human beings
and feel that they have a contribution to make to society.

Baldwin continues in the same essay about how the fate
of all of our children, and I would argue similar to the fate of
our global economy is tied together. He writes,
As long as my children face the future they face, and come to ruin
that they come to, your children are in danger too. They are
endangered above all by the moral apthay which pretends it isn't
happening. This does something terrible to us. Anyone who
is trying to be conscious must begin to be conscious of that apathy
and must begin to dismiss the vocabulary which we've use so
long to cover it up, to lie about the way that things are.
-James Baldwin, Words of a Native Son
Playboy December 1964

How Did You Find It?


How did you find this blog?

The internet anthropologist in me wants to know.

On the internet we wind up on sites often through
circuitous means.

I am putting together a piece and knowing how you found the
blog would really do me a solid.

How did I decide to blog? Reading Hashim's Hip Hop Blogs.
I guess that is the way I "found" it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Why Can't the Obama's Send Their Kids to Public School?


Apparently the Obama's send their daughters to a private school

I find it tre interesting that we are questioning whether 
his daughters should go to private or public school
and what it says about Senator Obama as a leader
when we don't question the decisions of our elected leaders, 
school teachers and administrators to send not send  their 
children to the public schools that they work for.

Chicago schools have been in the news lately.
Last week, in order to bring attention to the inequity in school
and headed to a suburban school district and attempted to 
enroll to shed light on inequitable funding between school
districts. In New Trier, a suburb, spending tops at $17K per student,
whereas in Chicago, it tops off at $10,400K per student.

In light of this funding discrepancy, why is Senator Obama
expected to send his kids to schools, that teachers,
white Teachers (the majority of public school teachers in this country
are white women) would never send their children to?

I am torn on this. As a product of both public and private institutions
they both have their merits and drawbacks. What I do know, is
that education is expensive, and that until we acknowledge that
nothing will be done and analyze why what stops folks from
acting, nothing meaningful will be done.

I also know that failure creates jobs and that people would 
rather talk about "a culture of poverty" rather than about
how many people pay their mortgages off of jobs related
to the academic failure of low income students.

As parents, we all want to give our children better than what we had.
However, public servants are obligated to serve not only their families
interests but the interests of the public as well.

Perhaps, the question then becomes, where does Obama's public life
end and his private life began.

Rather than be interested in where the Obama daughters attend school,
perhaps we should be more interested in how inequitable schools are 
funded in Chicago between low income districts and affluence districts.

Providing quality education to all is a benchmark of a healthy democracy.
As a rule, I listen to a persons words, and I also watch their actions.
It is clear that commenter's are interested "they own", the rest be damned.
It ain't blatant neglect, but it is neglect just the same.

Look at the following comments it appears that folks want a better 
educational system. In the meantime, their children are enrolled 
in Chicago Day Prep school. No time for fake ones. Check out some 
of the comments for the Times article,
"Any parent who doesn't send their child to the school that best
meets their needs is irresponsible"

"I am not a believer in sacrificing my child for the potential- but not
certain- benefit for society"

"Children are not the sacrificial lambs for the greater good. As someone
who attended public school all her life, and managed to get into and 
graduate from The University of Chicago...I would have loved to have
attended the Lab School". 
What would happen of all the parents of students at underfunded schools
said that they wouldn't send them there any longer unless they were funded equitably.
Logistically, it would be a nightmare, but it would sure bring attention to the situation.

Black people in this country have a had a real tenuous relationship with 
education. Throughout history, we have always been fighting to learn.
At first it was illegal for us to read. Then we were allowed to read 
but in our sub par schools, just the same, we made do with what we had.
Then the schools were "desegregated", but first little Black boys and
girls had to be escorted to schools by the national guard because racists
where not interested in going to school with them.

Implicit in the spirit of many of the commenter's messages from the 
quoted above is that the lives of some children are worth more than others.
stated that only 32 percent of Black men enrolled in high school in
New York graduated on schedule. Yes. 32 percent. If this is the case in
New York City, then I wonder what the case is in say, LA, Chicago, 
Baltimore and Philly.

The bottom line is until we treat the education of ALL children the way 
we treat the education of "our" children the 2008 Jim Crow system of 
education will persist.

As long as we have two educational systems we will have two America's.

Where is the Democracy in that?

Monday, September 08, 2008

What Stops You from Acting?


You can imagine how amped up I was when I noticed that the
100 Visionary widget jumped $40 this weekend. While I was amped
up about it this summer, my essays have taken over as my 
dominant focus in the last few weeks or so. I admit that this is largely
connected to the fact that  three weeks ago, I accepted that many folks
would rather just talk  about "the problem" than take action.

Which brings me to the question.

What stops you from acting?

Is it time, not knowing what do to or where to go?

For me, it is a fear of whether people will show up

Now this is odd, especially since I blog about a pretty
niche topic, Hip Hop, Feminism, Sexuality and Politics,
yet I have a healthy and consistent readership.

People like you show up every day to read, so part of 
me had to check myself, as that was clearly evidence
that people do show up. However, reading is not the same
as coming together the purposes of addressing an issue.

On the other hand, I believe the people want to do good. I am not
saying that I don't think they don't have a darkside, because they do.
I just also know that they want to do good as well.

I have an old friend that would always say that my naivete would get me
in trouble one day. As I have gotten older, I have learned that many
folks are out for self and that it is prudent for me to allow
their actions to confirm who they are instead of just granting
everyone the benefit of the doubt on gp.

Since deciding to do 100 V I was finding that every time I encountered
a person, I wonder are they really real or are they just talking that yack.

For instance, when thinking about the reflection retreats I mentioned to Filthy
that I should try and form like Voltron with the other bloggers and he was like,
"it is important that you keep in mind that many Bloggers, may just be that,
bloggers, they just want to talk. Just because they blog, they may not be
interested in taking action."

He didn't mean no disrespect, he was just trying to get me to recognize real.

Which brings me to the widget. 

Baldwin says to act is to commit and to commit is to be in danger.
I add on that to commit is to commit to personal transformation
and that is what stops folks from acting. To commit to transform is 
bugged out ish, because by its very nature you are stepping out on faith.

In the past three weeks I have been reading essays and books about 
Black Women Organizers, Street Harassment, The History of Black Feminism, 
Wage Suppression, German Social Theory.

The difficult part is taking what I read, sharing it, and figuring out
how to use it to address some of the ish that we face every day.

Its hard, because the whole time, in my head, "They ain't gonna show up,
folks just wanna complain, blar, blar, blar".

Then I have moments like the other day when I am in Au Bon Pain,
a fancy Starbucks like coffee and sandwich chain, and the 
Black lady operating the cash register is saying "This company don't care about
me, they don't pay me even a tiny fraction of what I make for them all day"
and I think to myself, wow, did she just do the knowledge to "surplus value"
and man I wish I had a flyer for these Hip Hop and Feminism study groups,
I would give one to her.

It was at that moment that regardless of the doubts that I had, that little moments
would come along and push me towards acting, whether I would accept them
as they nudge they were or not was up to me.

What stops you from acting when you see something taking place
that you know is wrong

What have you told yourself, in order to walk away from a problem?

What stops you from taking the step from talking to action?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I am White First and an Artist Second


Have you ever noticed how, in interviews, Black artists
are asked whether they are
artist's firsts or Black first?

I wish a nucca would come at me with that.

Today, I refuse to validate that kind of binary thinking.

I would reply, Would you ask Sarah Silverman whether she was
an artist first or Jewish first?

As far as I am concerned, with that kind of question, the interviewer
is calling the artist "the other" without saying it directly.

I thought of this artist first question when I came across an article
explaining that Tre Ellis wrote the screen play for The Inkwell,
that Matty Rich directed it, and that Tre and Matty eventually fell
out over the movie
Maria Ricapito of Entertainment Weekly writes,

Better known as the author of two poignant novels (Platitudes and Home Repairs), Ellis, 31, worked for more than two years on the screenplay of The Inkwell. He wanted to direct it, too, envisioning the semiautobiographical story-set in the black vacation enclave of Inkwell Beach on posh Martha's Vineyard, Mass.-as ''something beautiful, bittersweet, elegant,'' as ''a black Summer of '42.'' Disney was receptive, and in 1992 its Touchstone Pictures agreed to take the movie on. But nothing turned out as Ellis hoped, and for that he blames Rich, a 22-year-old who seems to like taking potshots at his elders.

Ellis' complaints began after Disney decided that The Inkwellneeded a director with some experience. He says he could handle the disappointment-''I thought I could learn from (the director),'' he recalls-but Disney kept suggesting Matty Rich.

Rich had made his debut in 1991, at 19, when Straight Out of Brooklyn won an award at the Sundance Film Festival. The gritty story of a family living in a Red Hook public housing project, Brooklyn put Rich among John Singleton, Mario Van Peebles, and other directors of the so-called Black New Wave. But the film's unrelenting naturalism-it turns on poverty, domestic violence, drugs, and gunplay-and its crude craftsmanship didn't make Rich an obvious choice for the genteel Inkwell.

''I wanted someone who'd been of age in '76, who understood the milieu of the black bourgeoisie,'' the author says. Even Disney executives agree that Rich doesn't fit the profile; he was only 4 years old in 1976, lived in Red Hook until age 10, then moved to a better neighborhood nearby. David Hoberman, president of Walt Disney/Touchstone, allows that ''It was certainly a stretch for him.''

It makes since that they had different, ahem, visions, for the film.

I always thought it was odd that Larenz was talking to doll in the movie.
It makes sense that he was suppose to be talking to a

One for the history of Black Movies, eh?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

What if All the Women Went on Strike?


The response to Sarah Palin's candidacy has me thinking about
many things, one of which is childcare.

While I wrote on Friday about how we need to think
about voting for allies
instead of voting for symbols, I also find the
notion of questioning her ability
to be vice president in light of the
number of children she has to be particularly anti-woman.

Has fatherhood every been seen as a barrier to being the president?

I have another question for you. How many children does John McCain
have? Off the top of my head. I don't know.

But, I can tell you that Ms. Palin has five because it has been reported over
and over again since last Thursday.

Notwithstanding the thinness of her resume, that she has five children
and is currently a public servant is further evidence of her ability organize
and run arguably anything.

This systematic devaluation of maternal caregiving is despicable,
anti-woman and wreaks of patriarchy.

Which leads me to my next question, What if all the women (and men
who supported them) went on strike for one week in this country
for the
purposes of demanding federal and state supported childcare?

Childcare is an issue that affects all of us regardless of ethnicity
and class and it would provide a great opportunity organize people
across a broad range of backgrounds.

Childcare is expensive and necessary in a capitalist economy where
parents work outside of the home. All of us are affected by it
either directly because we have children, or indirectly because
we care for our family members children, or because our co workers
miss work in order arrange for, or provide, childcare.

How would this country look if (the majority of) women went on strike
for a week and remained home?

Monday, September 01, 2008

How to Survive in East Oakland


I spoke to my momma yesterday and apparently because of the
slate of robberies in Oakland, the police have posted up outside
one of my favorite restaurants, Mommas Royal Cafe.

This place is amazing.
Farm fresh eggs for avacado, tomato
and crab omelette's, fresh salsa and Peerless coffee.
Living in Oakland
this past year, I have spent many a Saturday there.
When Filthy
came to visit in February, I took him there. When I would
visit from New York, my dad would
pick me up from the airport and
we would go there directly. One of my homies from college is a
waitress there, so when I walk in I greet folks and feel like I am
at home.

The place is an Oakland institution.

The police are posted up outside of Mama's because there have
been a serious
of take over robberies in Oakland. These aren't
just regular robberies.
These cats are robbing the employees of
their personal belongings
and robbing the cash registers.
The KTVU news reports,

The latest in a brazen series of takeover-style robberies of Oakland restaurants and businesses had left two employees nursing minor injuries and bruises Monday after they were pistol-whipped in separate Sunday attacks.Over the weekend, the pace of violent takeover-style robberies picked up with four taking place since Friday night. The robberies have followed a similar pattern -- two or three hooded bandits target the business around closing time, storm in with at least one gun drawn and then flee with an undisclosed amount of cash.
Welcome to The Town.

Yes, a police presence may work in the short time. But it is
not a long term solution.
Many folks are reacting saying that
people live with violence everyday in less affluent and low income
areas of Oakland, so why do the certain business and affluent
neighborhoods receive protection.

The answer is simply that the police are a tool of the state and
as such are responsible
for protecting the rights of property
When we understand this, we will understand why the
police are sitting in
front of Mama's and not out in East Oakland
investing x, y or z murder that
occurred last night.

It's amazing to me how we allow politicians to enact policy
that is reactive, then get mad when we have the same problems on
our hands.

When I read about the robberies I thought of study I came across
earlier this year titled, The Public Returns of Public Educational
Investments in African American Males by Henry Levin
positive fiscal impact of graduating more Black men from high school.

The paper makes the argument that if we graduate more young
Black men from high school, they are more likely to work in the
above ground economy, pay taxes (and implicitly child support),
and less likely to receive public assistance, go to jail and receive
medicare, thus the savings to the state.

To be able to implement such a policy would be a reflection of our will
and our priorities.
If we know that crime is related to education and
and we don't make politicians create policy that reflects this
then the consequences in our society is our fault.

James Baldwin says to act is to commit and to commit is to be in

I am both haunted and motivated by this statement.
I think we are already in danger if young people are robbing
in restaurants and our only solution is to place police officers in
front of them for protection.

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