Friday, December 25, 2009

A Love Letter to Ms. Fancy.


A few weeks ago I woke up and realized that I am the person that I wanted
to be when I was thirteen.

At thirteen my closest friend was Fancy and we were in middle school together
in East Oakland. We were nerdy, and skinny, not what the streets want, no?

If the library had it we read it. I was partial to all the Judy Blume's,
Beverly Cleary's, Sweet Valley High's and when I found Walter Dean Myers
I was home.

We traded library books and Sassy issues the way 8 year old boys traded
baseball cards.

We rode that Emporium Capwells basement in downtown Oakland like
a Long Island Outlet mall the day after Christmas.

It was through my friendship with her that I saw how people treated
brown skinned Black girls. In some ways we learned how to negotiate
our femininity together.

By 15, we discovered Berkeley's Telegraph avenue, clothing stores, book stores,
used record stores, natural hair, sewing
and fashion magazines. While I liked
The Source
magazine, more than Seventeen, we both shared our love of the glossies.

In many ways I became myself in that era, or at the very least the ground was being
set for me to claim it in high school.

She was always more of an alternative head than me, putting me on to Neneh Cherry
and being the first Black person that I ever knew to bump Alanis Morissette.

Our goal was to become Fresh Girls.

Fresh girls were natural, maybe wrote graffiti (or was at least cool with the crew
with the most ups), were smart, had cute clothes,
some of which they made
and their own style.

After middle school, I left Oakland to go to high school in 'Frisco,
and a little after that she moved back East. We had a plan for her to move
to NY to model and design clothes and I would go to college and
design clothes, sell vintage clothes or write and just be AROUND hip hop.

I move to NY for school and she got married and had a baby, and for a hot minute
I was like dude, what happened to our plan? Being young and immature
I had a resentment.

Now that I am older I realize that all women have to make choices about
baby dreams vs. career dreams, especially when we live in society that needs
children, yet refuses to support the people who are implicitly charged with raising

I also now realize how much of a gift it is to think of something at 14 and actually
be able to do it 4 years later.

Back then I wanted to be nappy, be around Black art, eat good food and read
a lot.

Three weeks ago I realized that I am in fact this person.

I get to be nappy, write about Black women and pop culture (and my relationships)
and have the
things that I say be taken seriously by my blog readers and my professor's
and this is awesome.

I googled Ms. Fancy a couple of weeks ago and found out she wasn't that far from me.
In a twitter conversation with @prisonerswife I talked about how I wanted to say
something, but I didn't want to come out the blue and the last few years of my life
have taught me to leave well enough alone when it comes to people. I try to live by
if it don't fit don't force it. This isn't hallways successful. I try to realize that people
will be bothered when they want to be, otherwise I should leave them be.

@prisonerswife responded saying something along the lines of, "people say things
like that just because they don't want to step up" and I was like, "I'm pretty much a courage
bear. If God wants me to be in contact with her, we will cross paths."

Ms. Fancy Facebooked me Tuesday.

Merry Christmas. Woot.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Beyonce Incorporated: R&B, Thugs and Whiteness


Here is the thesis and intro ya'll. Peace to Birk and Jess for helping
me organize the beginning, I swear that's the hardest part, because the
rest of the framework flows from there.

In writing this I was reminded that its not enough to have something
to say. Its not enough to have read the books to be informed. It's only
enough when
I can frame and deploy a convincing argument.

If you have any questions, leave them below, and I will try and work them
into the paper.


Beyonce Incorporated: R&B, Thugs and Whiteness

Since the 1998 crossover breakthrough of Destiny’s Child, Beyonce Knowles has

been a star on the rise. Since then she has released numerous albums, both with

Destiny’s Child and as a solo artist, she has starred in or served as a supporting

actor in several major motion pictures, and has married a multiplatnuim selling rap

artist. In short, Beyonce is everywhere, including the bank. In fiscal year

2007-2008, Beyonce reportedly earned an estimated $87 million dollars.

Given that black wealth is incredible rare in the United States (Oliver & Shapiro, 2006),

the reasons for Beyonce’s incredible success are worth exploring.

In exploring the reasons for Ms.Knowles’ success, I am primarily concerned with

the intersection of popular culture and the day to day lived experience of African

Americans. Often times we listen to music without considering the fact that it isn’t

neutral and that it also has an affect on the ways in which we go about our lives.

Beyonce Knowles is an accomplished, talented and attractive, singer, actor,

entertainer and fashion designer.

She is also is fast becoming an entertainment empire in and of herself. While she

“grew up in a four-bedroom home in Houston's upscale third ward with her father,

Mathew, a salesman at Xerox and Johnson & Johnson mother, Tina, a hair salon

owner, and sister, Solange Knowles, sings.”According to Forbes magazine,

Ms. Knowles has “sold upwards of 118 million records, won ten Grammys,

starred in seven films and headlined three solo tours” (Rose, 2009). Her endorsement

deals are extremely lucrative. She has had them with “Tommy Hillfiger L'Oréal,

Giorgio Armani Diamonds perfume, Samantha Thavasa handbags” and in the last

year, “she's added deals with Crystal Geyser and Nintendo DS to her résumé” (Rose, 2009).

Further more, the blue chip corporation, General Mills just underwrote her most recent

tour, I AM (Rose, 2009). Rose goes on to note that “Beyoncé constantly works and

reworks her act, watching every two-hour performance on tour--even after her

hundredth appearance--taking notes on how to improve. "I'm never satisfied," she

says, adding with a nervous laugh, "I'm sure sometimes it's not easy working for me."

Then, seriously: "I've never met anyone that works harder than me in my industry”

(Rose, 2009). Indeed, given the fact that she employs four hundred people and

arguably many more through touring and merchandising, she, in many ways is a


According to Marxist theory on cultural hegemony, “the class, which is the dominant

material force in society, is at the same time its dominant intellectual force”(Strinati, 131).

Beyonce Knowles earned an estimated 87 million dollars in fiscal year 2007-2008 not

only because she is talented and attractive but also because her most popular work

serves the interests of the white ruling class elites, such as the presidents of Fortune

500 corporations and Madison avenue advertising firms, wall street investment bankers,

television and record executives. She serves the interests of the ruling class by

normalizing and never questioning the impact that white supremacist patriarchal

capitalism has on black heterosexual relationships. Lyrics such as “pay my auto

bill, pay my telephone bill”, thug worship such as “ if his status ain’t hood, I ain’t

messing with him, he better be street if he looking at me” and “them hustlas keep

on talking, they like the way I’m walking” reify the stereotype of the black, male,

sexy thug. These lyrics also deploy the patriarchal notion that African American men

are only worth what they can contribute financially. Furthermore such lyrics are

problematic because they place the economic issues facing black heterosexual couples

squarely on the shoulders of individuals while obscuring the structural forces acting on

the lives of such couples such as a historically segregated educational system, a

segregated housing system, a discriminatory bank lending system, an oppressive

police system, historically discriminatory judicial system, the war on drugs, the war

on poverty and a largely self serving non-profit industrial complex.

I am making this argument because I am concerned with the package that her

message comes in, the content of message that is deployed and the impact that

this has on the masses of society, as popular culture is where most people learn

about society by deploying lyrics that focus on black women asking black men

for money for utility bills, that celebrate black men as the mythic thug, Beyonce

Knowles both reifies the stereotype of rugged, violent, black men who work in the

underground economy. This is important because applying white hegemonic market

ideology is harmful to Black heterosexual relationships, given the fact that historically,

Black workers tend to be some of the lowest played workers in the United States

economy (Oliver and Shapiro).


Monday, December 14, 2009

Beyonce and Black Women's Empowerment


Educated Sistah Girl asked me some really good questions about
the Beyonce Post
from a couple of weeks ago.

I kept trying to respond in the comments but blogger wasn't having it,
so I have made it into a blog post itself.
Below is my response to her



Thank you for taking the time to comment. Your
responses have me thinking. I am going to try and
respond to the
questions/comments that haven't been
answered already.

You said:

The up and coming artisits like Jazmine Sullivan and Melonie Fiona are sickening to me with songs like Bust Ya Windows and that song on the radio abt 'I dont care if you are cheating I just want to be with you'. They are pop artists. They are much more detrimental to our culture byt not the White Ptriachal Capitalist System that you speak of...more like in a Willie Lynch Kind of way.
This is interesting. What do you mean by this? Why is it sickening?
What do you mean by a Willie Lynch kind of way?

You said:
I woudl argue that Beyonce says that she needs a baller because she is a baller. Do you mean to tell me that a woman worth xxM should be dealing with a guy worth xxH? It makes for an imbalanced relationship and is much more unheathy.
Why does Beyonce need a baller when she is married to Jay-Z and recently made
$87M 2007-08.

not sing about her marriage? Whose interest are being served by this?
What does this mean given the ways in which Black women who date
wind up dead or in jail?

You said:
I happen to think that Beyonce is close to the modern-day Tina Turner... to the media
You are right and I am going to root Beyonce in a Tina Turner, Josephine Baker
and maybe even Lena Horne lineage.
However, we must look at
image AND content.
Tina and the Yonce ain't sing about the the same shit.
They were also
produced by two very different historical moments and that
has to be
accounted for to.

You also made two really profound comments that I am going to respond to at length.

The first:
Even Upgrade you is a testament to being with someone who is
"on your level" and bypassing those guys who will be bad for you.
Not because he can't give you anything but because you need to
have similar level of ambition (if not interests) to be in a HEALTHY
relationship. Many of her songs (Irreplacable, Me, Myself and I, Diva,
Put a Ring on It) are about empowering women to be independant.
This is needed in our community because there are way too many
women in unheathy relationships because they think they need a man.
Their ambition in life is to be someone's woman. The reason that
Beyonce appeals to so many is because she can sing about that
strength, that fierce independance and then show vulnerability in love

with a song like Flaws and all.
The second is:
Many of her songs (Irreplacable, Me, Myself and I, Diva, Put a Ring
on It) are about empowering women to be independant. This is needed
in our community because there are way too many women in unheathy
relationships because they think they need a man. Their ambition in
life is to be someone's woman.
We have are working with different assumptions. I am glad that you commented
because it is forcing me to think through my assumptions
and state them

Assumption Number 1

I do not assume a patriarchal view of the family or relationships.

More about patriarchy here.

Black women asking Black men for money for the rent is not

This is really akin to two people fighting for crumbs from 'Massa
bosses table.

Our economic system serves the interest of the ruling class, a ruling class
made up of White people, to serve the interests
of White people.

Beyonce's music serves the interest of the ruling class because it talks
about "empowerment", in terms of the most historically oppressed people
(aside from Native Americans) in the United States, arguing with each other
over paying the rent.

Black men and women beefin' with each other about money,
instead of focusing on an economic system that is created by White
people to serve the interests of White people is the complete antithesis of
empowerment because it has us looking at ourselves, instead of the system
that creates these conditions.

I'm realize in reading your statement that if I had a patriarchal view of
relationships THEN it would be true, this may seem empowering.

In this society, if we were going to "ask" any men for money, logically it
should be gay White men. They are White men, so they tend to be better paid,
and because they are gay, they tend to choose when they have children, as
they are is less likely pregnancy accidents. This is material because having
children is a high predictor of poverty in the US.

Our American economic system presumes that a group of people will
be financially exploited. Historically, this group has been black men
and women.

Empowerment arises in a system that pays Black men and women enough money
to survive, or even one that pays Black men and women the same amount
that White men earn, for the same jobs.

Empowerment arises in a system that forces some folks to live simply so that
OTHERS may simply live.

Women do 2/3rds of the worlds work for 1/10th of the pay. I want MY
9/10ths of pay back.
Black men didn't take it from me, so they can't give it back.
Getting it from Black men isn't the issue.

Assumption Number 2

Black men have been woefully underemployed
since after WWII, so
walking around expecting them to have money simply isn't the issue.

Its an insult to measure ANY person by what they have, Black or otherwise.

Human beings are children of God.

What you have and who you are are two different things and Pop music/culture
in general and Beyonce's music in particular is harmful because it normalizes
the idea that relationships are based on financial transactions, fuck love.

This is not to say that we shouldn't have
standards and just date anyone but we
must ALSO
look at how the system limits the options that Black people have
in this society.

I hear you, as women we are socialized to put relationships ahead of everything else.
I have worked VERY hard, and still work hard at making my spiritual life, my artistic
life, my work at the center of my day to day , not just my relationship. In order to do this,
I had to do a lot of unlearning what I was taught as a young girl about who was suppose
to be when I grew up. I wrote about it in this post titled, "On Waiting Around for a Man."

I am going to repaste a part of the above quote again, because it reminds
me of something else.

You write:
As far as the videos she has "Normalizing consumption and exchange-based
heterosexula relationships, she has plenty of other songs that are just as
popular, if not dancable (which doesnt realy mean much...ppl dont LISTEN
to dance songs for the lyrics), songs that speak to giving your all to a
relationship, appreciation for your partner, and recognizing the person
he/she is. Dangerously In love, Flaws and all, and Halo. Even Upgrade
you is a testament to being with someone who is "on your level" and
bypassing those guys who will be bad for you. Not because he can't
give you anything but because you need to have similar level of ambition
(if not interests) to be in a HEALTHY relationship. Many of her songs
(Irreplacable, Me, Myself and I, Diva, Put a Ring on It) are about
empowering women to be independant. This is needed in our community
because there are way too many women in unheathy relationships
because they think they need a man. Their ambition in life is to be
someone's woman. The reason that Beyonce appeals to so many is
because she can sing about that strength, that fierce independance
and then show vulnerability in love with a song like Flaws and all.

This is a profound statement.

Where is the middle ground for a heterosexual Black woman between
refusing to be a doormat and loving Black men in the face of limited
employment options that they have?

Is the issue that we need to learn love ourselves?

What is the connection between black women's empowerment and self love?

Is the issue that Black men need to learn how to love themselves as well?
Would Black teenage boys kill each other the way
that they do if they loved

Black men with Awesome credentials, Ivy League etc, have a hard time getting
and keeping a job.
If Ivy League Black men can't get a job, and if we value men
by how much money they have, then don't we have a problem? Is the problem
us our the system that we live in? What will it take to redefine what it means
to love?

I am pushing this conversation to get us to think along the lines of the system
that we live in, along with, thinking in terms of individual relationships we have.

All in all, I hope this was responsive.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What Sarah Palin Taught Me About Beyonce


I am working on a paper titled, "How Beyonce and Capitalism Undermined
R&B's Ability to Normalize Black Love."

The title may change to Beyonce Incorporated, as that is more focused
and more appropriate for academia.

My professor wants me to l shift my focus to the media's investment in, what I have
called, the Beyonce Beauty Aesthetic, light skinned, size 4/6, curvy, blond hair.

I am not interested in just talking about the media, I am interested in how
Beyonce is a tool
for maintaining US hegemony and the ways in which
she normalizes really
fucked up, patriarchal, Black heterosexual relationships.

I am fascinated by a light skinned, middle class Black woman
from the Houston suburbs who sings about needing a soldier, who
she could upgrade, so that he can put a ring on it, and if he likes her he
can put her in his video phone.

Conversely, why is a woman worth tens of millions of dollars singing
about needing a baller

I'm intrigued by this binary of success that allows one Black woman at a time
to be a megastar, with the general prerequisite being that she is lightskinned
and talented, and while all the rest remain pretty marginalized.

Kelis. Amel.Tiombe.Georgia Ann Muldrow.Algebra. Aaries.Goapele, Solange etc.

Estelle,Chrisette, Erykah may get some mainstream play, but for the most
part they are regulated to the VH1 Soul channel and its requisite circuit.

Mary may get some pop play.

By and large Billboard-wise Alicia and Mariah are presented to us
as Black Pop R&B stars. (Did I miss anyone? I may have, and I sure you
all will let me know in the comments.)

Both are light skinned. Both keep their sizes in a 4-6-8 range.

In trying to figure out how to frame this paper, I called Moya and asked for her

She suggested that I read Summers piece about how Beyonce is simply
just doing her job.

Summer makes the argument that Beyonce is doing her job, singing,
dancing, shimming and making work out music and that to expect
her to expect her to do anything else is implicitly naive.

Her job is to be a diva, and she most certainly does it well.

While, I agree that she most certainly is doing a job, my job is to show
how her efficiency is related to both the larger project of maintaining
white supremacist patriarchal capitalism and how the songs normalize
some really patriarchal, and implicitly violent Black heterosexual relationships.

How did I get to Beyonce from Sarah Palin?

I was talking with another professor about politics and Sarah

I mentioned that my issue with my generation is that they are far too focused
on Sarah Palin and not on the people who are willing to vote for her in 2012.
That calling those folks stupid will not discourage them, and that it may,
in fact, embolden them

She responded saying that there needs to be both a focus on Palin and a focus
on the people who support her. Her rationale was that some people, because
of their platform, influence and power, need to be made to shut up, because the
things that they say are harmful and can cause other groups of people to do
harm. She used Rwandan genocide as an example.

She made it clear that we need to see Palin as a willing participant in her

It was at that moment that I had a better idea of how to frame Beyonce.
My homie Jess said that I should lay out the facts and then make my
argument, given the fact that multiple arguments can be made on the
same facts.

I now understand that the argument section has to be simultaneously on the
Beyonce and the culture that she influences and create's.

Culture is US hegemony's goon.

Culture does hegemony's day to day dirty work.

It was then that I realized that when I write this paper, that I will not
write about Beyonce per se, but about the power that she has, and
the harm that is done when Black women dating hustlers is normalized.

All people need love. Hustlers too.

Women of all races have dealt with people who operate in the underground
economy. I get that.

However, this must be reconciled with the fact that the most popular Black pop
singer in the world is continually singing abou needing a baller, and perpetually
valuing men for what they can give.

If Black men are only worth what they can give, then they must be worth very little,
as they are woefully under or unemployed. There are nearly1 million of them in prison mainly
for non violent drug offense, largely selling small amounts of crack or other drugs.

In a country where 1 in 15 Black men is incarcerated
this is a problem.

Black and white women are going to jail at unprecedented rates too.

Human beings deserve to be loved regardless of how much cake they have.

Peep game.

Folks want Jay Z to rap about being married.

Jay Z will not rap about being married to Beyonce because young
White men, other non Black people and perhaps some Black folks,
do not want to hear about it.

Jay can be married to the game, but he can't be married to her.

The reason why I am writing this piece for the women,
that I know of from East Oakland, California, who have gotten shot in the
face, kidnapped, stuff into trunks, have caught been caught hustling
or dealing with hustlers and are now doing dumb ignorant time or they
are dead.

This morning, I woke up and while I was making coffee I remember my
patna from elementary school, Tange. In the early early nineties, Tange's
cousin got shot in Brookfield while sitting in the car with her boyfriend,
who was a hustler. The killer murdered both of them. Peep game. When I saw
Tange, she was spooked because she looked like her cousin. So when people
saw her they would say her and say, "Girl, I thought you were dead." They thought
she was her cousin because they looked similar.

People may not care, because the lives of Black women are not important
to them. Or they may think I am putting ten on two.

Their lives are important to me.

So I write.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Musing on Precious and Shaniya Davis


Every scene in a movie represents a choice by the director, every
line in a
book represents a choice by an author.

A significant portion of my understanding of what it means to be an artist
in New York is rooted in the PUSH era. When I visited New York in '97 to
look at colleges, I stayed a couple nights at Barnard with my friends and
was able to watch Sapphire read from the novel way back then. When I
finally moved here I would see her around the city. For me, she was a
walking, living, embodiment of a Black woman writer.

I went to see Precious Friday night and on the way, I reread the
so that I would have proper context. I wanted to see it in
a theater made up of mostly Black people as I was concerned not
only with the film, but how the audience read it.

It was sold out in Chinatown I trooped all the way down to Georgetown,
by the water, which is pretty and reminds me of Brooklyn Heights.
The audience
was approximately 60 percent Black and 40 percent

I appreciated the fact that Lee Daniels used the book as the main text
the screenplay. I also appreciate the fact that a young Black woman was
the subject of both the book and the film.

However I wondered, like so many other people why does it take a teenaged
dark brown skinned, Black, pregnant, illterate, HIV positive, incest victim for
black womens subjectivity to make to the silver screen?

In mainstream media, are we either marked pathological beings or video vixens?

Last Monday, I asked on Twitter, whether Black women (who follow me)
would be going to see Precious. One friend had already went to see it,
and two said that they wouldn't because they "weren't trying to deal with
all that" right now. The women on Twitter said that they had gone or
would be going to see it. However they were concerned with the ways
in which White people were reacting to it. I was immediately reminded
of this notion of reflected appraisal theory which involves a person
evaluating them selves through the eyes of another.

I wondered if by being concerned about White reception to the film,
where we in fact doing that.
I also thought it was interesting to ask
why White people enjoy Precious, but that we never talk about
white teenagers enjoy rap music.

I was biased towards the movie because of Armond Whites article
(and Juell Stuart's article in Color Lines.) But I realized that
Armond may
have read the film differently had he read the book recently.
His critique is
that the film lacked an analysis of the structural forces
that created both
Precious and her momma. And this is true. But the book
lacks this as well.
Sapphire clearly alludes to it through the scenes
where Precious is in the
reading and writing class, her meetings with
the social worker, and her
meetings with her middle school principal. But the state of the world and
Black women and never mentioned explicitly.

If a viewer knew nothing about Black women and saw that film, they
would think that we are crazy, diseased, pathological, animals.
not explicitly talking about the forces acting on our lives, the film

runs the risk of placing the responsibility for the conditions of their lives
exclusivly on the shoulders of the characters.

Where did Precious's momma come from? What made her like that?

The film and the book take place in 1986. There are three major sctructural

forces acting on Black people in general and Black women specifically
the country in urban areas. The crack epidemic is at full tilt, piles
of Black
bodies were the streets, there is movement to sterilize low
income Black women,
and HIV, which is categorized as a both a White
gay mans and drug addicts
(of all races) disease, is killing Black people
on the low.

Ironically, I last week I was also assigned to read Cathy Cohens Boundary of
AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics and the first two
chapters Cohen
lays out some the structural forces impacting Precious's life
such as the failure to provide adequate HIV care to Black people.

Which brings me to Shaniya Davis. I hope when reading about the lives
this little girl and her mother that we think about the structural forces
impacted a mothers willingness to sell her daughter into prostitution.

I told Jonzey two weeks ago that we are undergoing a paradigm shift.
That the conditions will continue to worsen until we collectively do
about it.

The murder of Derrion Albert, the raping of the teenager outside of that high
school in Richmond, the Fort Hood killings a couple of weeks ago and
the prositition and murder of Shaniya Davis are all connected in that
reveal aspects about the status and detoriotion of our collective humanity.

Back to Precious. The the main structural weakness in the movie
ispresent in the book which is that
there is no explicit conversation
about the forces acting on
these womens lives.

The film also has another structural weakness. The music video montage

scenes are exist with the specific intent of iliciting laughter from the audience,

which in fact is what happened. These were the consistent scenes in the film
where folks laughed at Precious. These scenes were not in the book and I
would imagine Daniels inserted them to add some lightness to an otherwise
intense film. However, in doing so, he drowned out the subtle transformation
that Precious went through. Its like he went Hype Williams with The Color
Purple, in those scenes.

The subtle transformation is what is special about the book. We have
all had subtle transformation. They don't happen overnight. They happen,
little by little, day by day, month by month, and "suddenly" we are a new person.

Precious started out pregnant, and illterate, by the end of the book, she was
able to articulate that she was raped by her father, she questioned that fact that
the state wanted her to do workfare rather than continue her education,
she also articulated that she loved herself, her children and that she wanted an
education, and she moved out of her momma's house.

In the film Precious "walks off into the sunset" with both of her children. Jonzey
points out that the reality is that this young woman is HIV postive, will
die soon and that
these children will be orphans. As Jonzey said, is
it possible that Black woman director would have dealt with that differntly?
Perhaps. Its hard to say given the fact that the book ended
with scene where
Precious has left her momma's house and is in a shelter, playing with
mothering her son.

You see the movie, what did you think?

What does creating a Black women's Bollywood look like?

We clearly have the money, we simply need the will, strategy and
fortitude to tell our own stories?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Crack and Hip Hop Politically Underdeveloped Young People


On a fluke a few of weeks ago, I picked up a dvd about
Black Panthers and the student and employee strike at
State that created the first Black Studies department in the country.

It was in watching this video that realized that both crack and hip hop
politically underdeveloped young people.
Much of this statement comes
out of my reading two or three books a week
along with five or
six articles last month, while simultaneously watching the fall out

from Sasha Frere Jones's post about the end of hip hop and a post
about rap critics. Blog posts, long blog posts take a lot of work. At least
coherent ones do.

Reading and writing is labor and I am thinking about to which
ends, those of us who are in our twenties and thirties, are reading
and writing.

While watching the responses percolate, I wondered what would
if we invested the same time in rap blogs in making politics
to address our lives?

What is our investment in a music that has made it clear that it doesn't

give a fuck out us in a time where we live in an unsustainable world?

For the folks who say that hip hop is related to a political project, I would say,
place a link in the comment section. By political I mean a group of
people organizing to serve a communally determined group agenda.
This doesn't mean that it hasn't
served as a conscious raising tool,
in the past, but Post Chronic or even Post Blueprint, the music has
ceased being for itself and currently exists for Black respect and White dollars.

Given that this is the case, what does this mean for Black people
and what does it mean for Black music?

To the extent that this applies globally, remains to be seen
Chuck D has argued extensively that young people globally have
used rap music as tool to make sense of their position is society.

Based a couple of documentaries that I have seen about hip hop
in Cuba and North Africa, to a certain extent this is true.

Given the impact of AID's, mass incarceration and the systemic
undereducation of Black, White and Latino students, what are the
in which that the music, at least since The Chronic, has helped
us make sense of our world?

I come from the Leroi Jones school of Black music, which looks at
Black music both as it relates to our history in this country, and as being
representative of a particular point in time in this country.

Three month's ago, Rafi said that rap music use to be the street talking
to the street. In commenting on the ways in which Nike used Cube's
Today is a Good Day for a skateboarding commercial he

It’s just another example of hip-hop’s transformation to lifestyle
marketing tool and its astonishing disconnect from the reality it
used to represent....Three years ago I saw a big hip-hop show in
New York City just days after Sean Bell’s murder. The city was
buzzing with rage and confusion everywhere except inside the
show where the incident wasn’t even mentioned. I said back then
that there was “a time when rap was supposed to speak to and
speak for the streets”. But shows like that Rock the Bells performance
and ads like this one from Nike show how far we’ve come from that.
The acts and songs of that era are being used to market to aging
hip-hop fans like myself but it is all sound and no fury.
Rhythm and Blues affirms Black humanity, modern rap music affirms
our subhumanity.

This doesn't mean that Rhythm and Blues was all warm and fuzzy
Black humanity encompasses both the aspects that we are proud of

our collective darkside as well.

Birkhold thinks that this is really crude statement, and criticizes me for
saying so. Yes it is crude. But I stand by it, because Black music
changed from a being for itself to being for others. Rafi's comment
is an illustrations of this.

This isn't a conscious vs. thug dichotomy. My argument is a little more

nuanced than that.
Cube, Dre, Too Short, were dudes, street or not,
talking to the street.
Peep the VH1 NWA documentary, The Worlds Most
Dangerous Group. Popular gangster rappers wanted
to make some money
but they were trying to become corporations themselves. That wasn't an option,
so it wasn't a goal.

I mentioned the content of this piece to Birkhold shortly after I wrote it and
he disagreed with my statement that rap use to exist for itself, and is now being
for others
(thuggin' for cash),

His issue was with the fact that rap has always been, for the most part,
about Black men performing Black male, machismo, fantasy. Being for others.
Cold Crush brothers, Funky Four Plus One, Africa Bambaata were either on some
party shit, some machismo steez, or some super Black masculinity. He tried
to say that Cube was from the suburbs, but he's from South Central, according
to Wikipedia. However he did attend
Phoenix Institute of Technology in the
fall of 1987, and studied Architectural Drafting. Chuck D, Russel and I believe,
Run DMC were middle class cats from Long Island and Queens respectively.
In rap, Black men have always been performing some other 'ish and I
agree with that.

However, I responded that, while it very well may be true that early rappers
were performing a macho, fantasy, partying, Black masculinity,
the scale, risk and harm in the1970's and 80's isn't analogous to
1990's and 2000's.

The fact that Byron Hurt made a movie, Barack and Curtis, about Black
masculinity comparing 50 to President Obama is indicative of this.

Currently, rap music is conflated with Blackness. As a result some Black
children who are not from the 'hood feel compelled to perform thuggery in
order to be accepted. After all the sacrifices their parents have made,
pursuing higher education, moving to the suburbs, working the corporate
gig, the children want to be exactly what their parents have been sheltering
them from, a thug. The pervasiveness of rap music in 1990's and 2000's
plays a big role in making this possible.

The notion of acceptance and assimilation is an important one. In fact, much
of the homophobia that we observe in both American culture and in Black culture
stems from the resentment that a gay man or lesbian woman
has the audacity and courage to walk around being who they want to be,
not who others expect them to be. We have been socialized to resent the
courage to be queer. We are angry because they refuse to fit into the box that
society has created for them, and we are uncertain of how to get ourselves
out if it.

Back to Huey. Watching the documentary on The Panthers, the irony of fact
that Huey Newton was murdered in a dope deal gone bad
on the streets of
West Oakland isn't lost on me.

In listening to Eldridge speak in the documentary, it became to clear that
while I was familiar with
his open and aggressive misogyny, as he famously
stated that he practiced raping Black women, as preparation for raping he
white women. He was also charismatic, extremely handsome a
nd in some
ways the clip of his speech reminded me of many of the rappers that I
grew up listening

All these cats accomplished a lot in their twenties and their thirties.
What are we doing?

How can our generation build a movement when we can't even
be honest
with ourselves about where we are?

There has been very little analysis about the ways in which Black communities
have been impacted by 20 years of the war on drugs.
There has also been
very little analysis of the ways in which crack
wiped out the last vestiges of
60's and 70's era Black resistance.

What does it mean that 30 years later our young people and many older
people are more concerned with whether the music
is dead than with
whether neighborhoods that birthed the music
will survive over the next ten
years given the impact of globalized
gentrification of 'hoods in the US and
around the world?

Have you been to Biggies old block lately?

How was the FBI able to eliminate the Black Panthers but unable to contain
The Crips and The Bloods?

If Black peoples contribution to this country has been music and free labor,
what does it mean when our music is a lifestyle
marketing device, and that
Black men are systemically under and unemployed?

Thank you for reading this. Clearly, I am trying to work some thangs out.
In proofreading this piece it has become clear how Sociology of the Self
is teaching me how to look at the person and society simultaneously.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Academic Capitalism: Moving from Talking to Doing/Being


Last Thursday, while I was doing a presentation on Academic Capitalism
in class, 600 students, mostly Black, conducted a march protesting
the firing of the associate provost of equity and diversity, Dr. Cordell Black.

In addition to this, not only are the departments and offices serving
folks facing merger, but The Classics and The Chemical
and Life Sciences andComputer, Mathematical and Physical Sciences
are as well.

The question for me is who is cutting, what is the unstated
and stated rationale behind it
and to what extent is this process

It was only slightly ironic that this erupted on the day in which
I did this presentation.

I have found myself in the middle of struggle and in creating a democratic
There appears to be a desire on behalf of my campuses
to scalpel out the Negros and the "low earning" programs.

I suspect that there
is a desire to raise the profile of the school, by
reducing the number of Black
students enrolled in the University. There
is a connection between US News and world report ranking and SAT and
GPA's of students.

Been there, done that, seen it coming
a mile away. This process is both
scary and liberating.

Scary because a friend saw a facebook comment about academic
capitalism and sent me a message saying that I may want to reword

my comment because employers lurk on face book.
Its liberating
because I feel that I am an active participant in changing the
world in real time.

The way that I keep my mind right, if I have to go to zero, again, and I am forced
to leave school I will move back upstate and waitress or move to Vegas
and waitress.

It is hard to keep the fear of repercussions in check.

But my
only option is to walk timidly, and I didn't survive the crack epidemic,
law school and now grad school to walk timid. I am a child of God.

This process is forcing me to respect people who have done this work before.
I was hella smug about the pride march in DC because I didn't see
sufficient evidence that the white gay movement did substantial
building with the LGBTQ movement of color in California and
to be having ANOTHER march.

Now that I am in the middle of doing base building, I am far more
If I am learning anything about basebuilding, it is that you never
what you will learn, who will be useful. I am learning that I just have to
be honest, let people know what I am doing, and that folks will either
join or

I am learning to start small. Small is good, because small is how everything
It's hard. It continually means meeting people where they are. I have to
meet with people, send emails to folks I don't know and do know
check my ego at the door, listen, wait for emails, disagree with folks. Stay
continually TRYING to meet with people, ask questions and continually check
the desire to be bossy.

I am an old head. I sent and email to a professor saying that "I don't march"
but I want to be useful, not just complaining on the sidelines waiting for someone
to advocate for me. However, it seems like young folks seem to want to march
and meet with the administration.

She responded saying,

What does a march achieve and are those necessary goals at this point? For example, media attention, shame as a persuasive line of argumentation, personal release of anger etc. Is a march an effective strategy in relation to the nature of the administration? Is the march the beginning and the end of political activity? What other types of activity should immediately be on the table to supplement the march.

In other words I think that this is important because it politicizes the
student population, it shows the admin. that students are alert, it can
potentially build alliances through media attention. If it fizzles out without
any additional work e.g. teach in, petitions etc. then it becomes easy for the administration to wait it out. So it's not everything but its also not nothing.

I was relieved when I read her words, because she articulated my

I am more interested in seeing how power is laid out how, how has this process
has worked in the past, who has resisted this kind of thing successfully, and what
are peoples frame of reference?

We all have a stake in how this plays out. The University is a microcosm
of society.

Thoughts? You been apart of a struggle before? Any suggestions or kind words will be appreciated.

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