Friday, January 30, 2009

Vibrate Higher


A dear friend sent me an e-mail this morning, inviting me
to his wedding and also commenting on my situation with Filthy.
I'm telling you this for a couple reasons. First, as my friend, I wanted to share this good news and my feelings with you. I hope you have some sense of how much I want this woman in my life and what I'm willing to do to create the most happiness that I can for her. Secondly, as my friend, I want you to have this understanding because I hope that you'll accept no less for yourself.
The above paragraph is an excerpt from an e-mail he sent and
it really resonated with me, especially
since I was playing "She Lives
in My Lap
" at the time.

I am moving this week, so I just removed my cd's from under my bed,
and popped Andre in. I haven't seen my cd's in 8 months and I miss them.
They are my old
friends. The D.O.C, Al Green and Fiona all are getting
bumped today.

I have learned a lot about myself in this last week.
Things that I don't think I would have been prepared to
learn or address had I not been been for the love turbulence.
I'm grateful.

Have you learned anything about yourself recently?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Spread Love its the Brooklyn Way


Streets to Suites is a film directed by Marquette Jones,
a dear friend of mine.
The first thing that I noticed when
watching this short
is that I felt that sense of anticipation
that typically occurs when I reading a good short story.

I love that "what is going to happen next" feeling.

She is currently working on her first feature titled,
"Round on Both Sides." I look forward to seeing
it as well (hint, throat scratch, hint.)

Jonzey is big on subtext and it shows.
The film has the feel of a music video, but an eye for the small
details that make up everyday life.

In watching this I am reminded to how little we hear
of Black men, who grind everyday in our communities.


The above video Castaway Voters: Felons in Virgina
is by another friend of mine, Garland McLaurin,
who is a filmmaker as well. He currently produces short news
documentaries for American News Project. I was particularly
moved by this piece because of my interest in voter
disenfranchisement, and the right for felons to vote. I was also
great to hear directly from black men, "I want to be a part of society",
that's real talk.

Here are some more videos from Garland.

On the Road to the Inauguration
Eviction Day: Foreclosure Crisis.
Lincoln and Race

You watch anything good lately?
Any thoughts on the two videos?
What will it take to get a good distribution model

Friday, January 23, 2009

Barack Obama and Shirley Chisholm


On the evening of November 5th in Brooklyn, you would have thought
that Juneteenth and
the Fourth of July had occurred. Cars were
bars were full, White Folks, Black Folks and Asian folks
were happy that their
candidate won. D-boys that I had never seen
on my block, who hustle
behind closed doors had their big red cups
out. They were
elated that a Black president had been elected.

I felt a little bit different, as I spent the evening reading Paula Giddings
phenomenal book "When and Where I Enter."

Tracey Rose told me that, in Bed-Stuy a young Black man told her that he
that he could do anything. She also mentioned how older Black
women were reaching out to her
and simply being more expressive
and emotionally available.
I didn't think of anything of it at the time
because I connect with
people all the time when I am out and about.
I make it a point to.

However, when I thought of others, instead of focusing on myself,
I realized how important the collective mood can be when we are
focusing on the positive or for that matter, on the negative.

I have been reluctant to write about Obama's election largely because
I haven't wanted to steal anyone's joy

However I realize that, as a writer and thinker, I am not doing anyone
any good but censoring myself.

The point that I am trying to get at is that I am skeptical about
"The Change"
and I am more concerned about "The Power."
When I mention this to friends and colleagues, the responses range
from disagreement, to cynicism, to understanding.

I get the feeling that people, some middle class Black folks that I know
are more interested in doing some good, you know Wu Tang is for
the kids
and all, but ultimatly they want to get closer to "The Power"

I am not so concerned with President Obama's ability to govern, as I think
he will be as clear thinking leader
of the free world in as much as we have
had previous leaders of the free world.

My issue is with our unwillingness to ask the hard questions of ourselves,
about the Economy, about Healthcare, about Education and how we
treat every day human beings based on "The Power" and "The Change."

I mean, look at the consumption spurred by the campaign. We really
appear to be a people who think that we can buy our way to social justice. I wonder
if the discipline that is required to be the change and to analyze "The Power"
is within us. The next time you read the news paper and you see an article
on the economy, ask yourself whose interests are being served by
whatever topic is being discussed, ask yourself why its being discussed
at all. This is the way that I go about trying to analyze "The Power."

Nationalizing Citibank? Bernie Maddoff is on house arrest?

I sometimes get the sense that in our desire to get rich or die trying we
are willing to overlook the way in which power works in our society

because of our sincerest hope that we may one day benefit from it.

Power is the ability to right a wrong and make yourself whole
after you have suffered a setback. Power is the ability to find another job
after you have been laid off. Power is the ability appeal and win a
dismissal from your University, Power is the ability to make the same
amount of money that your colleague of a different gender or race
earns for the same job, Power is the ability to tell the police that
they WILL NOT search you on your own block.
Power is the ability
for a Black mother to keep her son from
being put in Special Ed in the
first grade.

On November 5th, as I sat reading "When and Where I Enter", I was
reminded of several things, one was the history of the law
as it pertains to human beings and the other Shirly Chisholm's campaign

and the Black male response to her campaign.

In 1972,
Chisholm became the first major-party black candidate for President
of the United States and the first woman to run for the Democratic
presidential nomination.

"When and Where I Enter" sets forth the argument that the first
African Americans who arrived here were indentured servants,
not chattel slaves. Meaning that that their enslavement was NOT
based on their race. It was purely based on labor needs.

It wasn't until the slave owners and the law makers decided that
they needed to make as much as possible from the labor of Black
and white indentured servants that that race based

slavery arose. The laws changed to reflect this need. Think
about it, in a Patriarchal society, the identity of the child
is tied to his or her father. This is why we take on the fathers
last name, for heir reasons. The law changed so that the mothers
status dictacted the status of the child. An Enslaved mother and a Free
or Enslave father created an enslaved child. This is the way that
the law changed to reflect the new needs.

White women were sold into slavery as well for having sexual
relations, or having children with Black men. It's deep.

With regard to Chisholm, Black male politicians responded
to her decision to run for for president with cynicism and benign
hatred. Giddings writes,

Chisolm's candidacy would suffer even more at the hands of
Black leaders, who by the early seventies were almost exclusively
men. Black politicos explored several options in 1972. On was to run
favorite sons in several states; another was to throw support behind
McGovern; and a third to support a single Black candidate. None, however,
it seemed to include Shirley Chisholm. She became vividly aware of this
after hearing the results of a Black strategy meeting that took place
outside of Chicago which included Julian Bond, Imamu Amiri Baraka,
Percy Sutton, Richard Hatcher, Jesse Jackson, Roy Innis, Willie Brown,
Basil Patterson and Clarence Mitchell III.

What was really bothering the Black males at the meeting was...more directly
hinted at by a Washington Post reporter (anonymously): "In this first serious
effort of Blacks for high politcal office, it would be better if it were a man."

"From the beginning....her campaign was plagued- by charges that
she was captive of the women's movement. In 1972 association with an
organization like NOW was enough to dampen the kind of Black grass
roots enthusiasm needed to transcend the other obstacles in her campaign."

In Black Macho and the Myth of the Super Woman, Michelle Wallace
goes on to describe the ways in which Black male politicians viewed
Shirley Chisolms presidential candidacy in 1972. Wallace writes,
Around the time that Shirley Chisholm was running for President in 1972,
Redd Foxx....made a joke about her. He said that he would prefer Raquel
Welch to Shirley Chisholm any day. The joke was widely publicized in the
Black community, and thought quite funny. There was something about
it that made black men pay attention to it and savor it.

Every since then it really baffled me to hear black men say that
black women had no time for feminism because being black came first.
For them, when it came to Shirley Chisholm, being black no longer came first
at all. It turned out what they really meant all along was that the black man
came before the black woman. And not only did he come before her, he came before her to her own detriment. The proof is that, as Shirley Chisholm
announced her intention to run, black men pulled out their big guns and aimed
them at her. They made every attempt to humiliate her, not only as a politcal
being but also as a sexual being.
That Aunt Ester and Chisholm have a resemblance isn't
lost on me. The fact that Red Foxx both insulted
Aunt Ester on the regular and made a joke about Chisholm as
well isn't lost on me either.

That being said, given the way Black male politicians responded

to Chisholm, and the history of how the laws have been used to structure
society to ensure that labor needs have been met and to keep those who have
The Power with The Power, I wasn't surprised by the passage of Prop 8.

If a country
can simultaneously enslave millions of African people, while
it stages a fight against
it's own oppression (ie. The American Revolution),
then why was it so inconceivable that Californians could vote against gay
marriage and for a Black president?

The Change or The Power?
Any Thoughts?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Now I'm Realizing that I Love Her


I got the call on Christmas Eve. "Ne, I made a mistake."

It was Filthy.

I listened, and we decided to link up in mid January.

So, he came to a meeting that I spoke at this past Saturday.
I was nervous and vulnerable. But, I felt fearless and good.
The speech went well.

He then broke the news. he was ready to commit. Ready
to think about the future, a long term future.

I was guarded but excited.

Then the other shoe dropped.

He had lied to me y'all.

2 lies

In December, he pursued the woman he had a borderless
they mashed, and to top it off, they kicked it
on New Years Eve.

When I learned this, I started looking for sharp objects.

This made me look at the decision to commit in a whole other light.

At first, when he mentioned that he wanted to commit,
I would have been satisfied with a change in his facebook
and taking a trip to somewhere sunny this winter
and perhaps meeting some parents. But this shit was
scratch where my gat, get out my face because my "cut you

if you still, shoot you if you running" Texas roots are about to come out.

Two lies.

One was that I told that when he was in BK last December, and I asked him
where he stayed, his response was, with my boy T's friend.

I just learned, that it was with her.


He was suppose to go to Philly for New Years.
That was a lie. He spent it with her.

All I could think of was Gotty saying, I told you so. You see,
when the relationship ended after Thanksgiving, I called Gotty. Aye blood, your boy is done.
Gotty: Really. What happen. This other jawn, his homie came at him, made her feelings
known, put LOVE on it, and he shook. She cut herself OUT of his life,
and now he claims he is grieving her, but now can't do it.
Gotty: Man, he is trying to pop at her right now, trust me, I know this,
I been there. I am not so sure. He kinda jacked up.
Gotty: Alright, don't listen to me. Imma listen to you, it just doesn't make sense.
Gotty: It don't have to. Take care of your self mayne.
So, to get this information now, I am hella stuck.

It's God's now.

Ironically, I asked God to take him out my life, and only bring
him back (or for that matter anyone into my life) when he was
ready. I asked to only have people in my life who have the
courage and the will to love or the will to build
the capacity to do so. Now that it has happened, I am having a
hard to with the process. God is funny.

I have been thinking about something one of my married homies
said to me. He basically mentioned that in his experience,
men ask themselves whether they are ready, and if they are they proceed
and they aren't they keep it moving. It had nothing to do with me.

Filthy is apparently at a point where he has had the serious commitment
conversation with himself and decided to proceed, but for me its
foul how it happened.

My girl has told me that I am focusing on the negative. That a
man's and or person's willingness to learn how to put another's feelings
ahead of his own is a time to be celebrated
especially because he or she is probably going to need some help. She has
a point, but I got ice chips in my heart man.

His contention is that he had to go through what he went through

to get to the point he is at now. And the outcome is what matters.
I hear it, but I still give that shit the side eye. Ice chips melt, right?

I also look at it like this.
He is a good man. He challenges me. Is gentle. Is encouraging.
He my friend.

But he is also Bleek. Not Memph, who I have always had a
crush on since forever. But Bleek, Bleek Gilliam. I don't do Bleek.
I realized that Filthy was Bleek last August when I learned of the four
boxes of W.E.B Dubois books, amongst the 12 boxes of books.
In my mind, I might as well had been dating DJ. CRACK ERA FAIL.

Given all this. Peep the nitty gritty.

It's incredible, because there have been
some serious conversations had about the future, about
residences being changed, five, ten and twenty year plans.

I have learned a lot about my shortcomings as well. I have
learned that I have a hard
time asking for what I need and I
can sometimes play the victim
in order to avoid taking action.
Ouch. Admitting it is the first step to changing it. Right? Right.

I also understand that relationship gray areas exists. In the past,
once, I have carried a torch for another person. This torch
impacted my ability to really connect and be with the person
I was with at the time.

But then again.

I was 20 years old then. And we ARE not
20 years old anymore.
I have also done my fair share of scandalous. BUT. I have been honest.

I have a code.

Right now, I face the risk of walking away from the love that was
meant to be or staying with a person that made a mistake but also
understands that this is the chance to show that he can make good
on his word, and for him to take the opportunity to make tangible efforts to
continue to make good on his word.

He is trying. He is trying to do something he has never done before,
he is trying to step out on faith and live the life of Bleek after he can no
longer play the trumpet
. At this point I can just sit back and watch
how it unfolds.

The ante has been upped.

I gave it to God.

How to Be in Pain and Not Fall Apart is in full effect.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mercury is in Retrograde and I Feel It


I spoke with my brother yesterday and he mentioned to me two different
instances where people in our family, our uncle
and his mother in law,
indicated that they were either scared of him
or felt that he had an
I was pleased that he felt close enough to me to share, but I
helpless with regard to what to do or say, so I simply asked him
how he felt? His response, "I don't know."

Here is the story. He went to pick up the kids, my niece and
nephew, from their
maternal grandmothers house, and he
was his normal moody Gemini
self. Before he went to go get
the kids, he and his wife had an argument.

He said thank you and good bye to their grandmomma but he
was short and to the point. Based on my experience with
grandmothers, they like to chat.

On top of that, he was a street dude, and he is quiet. This combination
can make people uncomfortable.
(Believe it or not, I can be quiet too, lol.)
My response was, "Aye, blood, I know you have made changes in
life, but you were a street dude since '89, so that part of you
probably comes out when your mad at people and it
probably intimidates

He laughed, at the street dude comment. Pheew. Tension, diffused!

I asked him if he considered just hanging out or talking directly to
mother in law when he didn't need something, just so that she
could get to
know him better. He said he would think about it but
that they "don't be picking
up their phone." Which is true. I conceded
that it is hard to connect with folks, and when they don't reach back
it can be type difficult. I also said that she is his mother in law
and that
that name and title exists for a reason.

Mercury is in retrograde.

My brother then goes on to tell me about hanging
out at a bar owned by
an old friend of ours near Grand Lake. He
commences to telling me
how he almost had to "do something"
do a gay dude who kept
walking in and out of the spot. I responded,
"why do you need to
do something to someone just because he is
gay and looking at you?
" I continued, "Men and women say shit to
me all the time, but I don't flip out on them. In fact it happens to
most women starting at around 13."

He wasn't convinced.

His response, tight lipped, through clinched teeth is
"If that persons
orientation is different than
yours, than that's out of pocket."
I had to tread lightly, because he is familiar with my gender
but also is steadfast in his own, and doesn't mind arguing.
So I say, "Well, someone harassing me is just that, someone
harassing me
, sexual orientation doesn't make it more right or
more wrong,
and it doesn't merit me being violent. Where is the
tolerance in
wanting to do something to him?"

He hesitated, which is what I was looking for.

I also said that one of the reasons
why I engaged with him in these
conversations is because I know that my
nephew is learning
how to be a man from him, so the things I say
could impact my
little round-eyed, chubby-cheeked nephew.

He gave me a flat, "ummm hmmmp."

Mercury is in retrograde.

Only after reflecting on the conversation did I realize that my
could stand to be on the receiving end of some
tolerance from our Uncle and his mother in law, and that he
could also stand to be more tolerant of the gay men that he

Its hard to shake that Oakland Rage.

Last night, I was in the Barnes on Court Street chatting with
a cat who
does music in both NY and Philly, he thought
he knew me from somewhere.
One of The Last Poets strolls
up and starts talking to us about everything from
Obama, to
Black Nationalism, Gaza & Israel.

It was nice. Often times I feel like an old head when dialoging
with young bucks so it was great to be on the other end of
the spectrum.

Let's be clear. I did not agree with everything the man said,
but he is my elder, so I had to listen respectfully. Then the
scratch moment happened, where he said that he agreed with
Jesse Jackson when Jesse said that he wanted to "Cut Obama's
nuts off."

I was like, hold up, my heart started speaking before my mind
could stop me, "You mean to tell me, given the history of
lynching and castration of Black men by whites in this
country, you could cosign on an African American man,
talking about castrating another African American man
who is a presidential candidate?"

He responded, "Yes, its different. "

I then asked , "Where is the tolerance in that line of thought?"
He responded, maintaining that it was different.

I was done, I said what I said to say.

It was interesting because I held my tongue, until it became clear
that it simply wasn't just for me to do so anymore. Writing about it
after the fact comes easy, but at the moment it was tight hard because
I didn't know how he was going to respond.

All I know, is that it has been three days in, and I have been
the bearer of tolerance. Yikes.

Mercury out of Retrograde on 1/31. Countdown.

You show tolerance towards anyone lately?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Curse of Being a Black Artist


Ice Cube helped me in '92

I think I have fallen in love with Camus (a dead white Algerian
philosopher who argues that the death penalty is premeditated
) and Anthony Hamilton simultaneously.

What does this have to do with being an artist? Everything,
simply because over the last few days I have been apart of
a few conversations on the tension between art and commerce.

Two days ago, on Twitter, Indieplanet and I were having a discussion
about art, commerce, Joe Budden/Vlad flap up.
indieplanet @mdotwrites Its a bigger issue of basic ethics.
Too many blogs/video sites decide at some point to exchange
ethics for page views.

indieplanet @mdotwrites Re: Budden/Vlad - What are your
thoughts on the whole situation. I think its a bigger picture that
video sites should consider.

indieplanet @mdotwrites Shouldnt it be possible to make a
contribution AND get paid?? It is possible (not common)
to change the game & have morals
@indieplanet Its like running with the Dope man. Sooner or
later, someone is going to test you, and you are going to have
to choose.

Yesterday, Dart Adam's sent me a link to an essay of his which outlined,
amongst many things, how the The Telecommunication's Act
spearheaded mergers and acquisitions in radio and how these
changes impacted hip hop.

To cap it off, yesterday, Brooklyn Bodega posted a Facebook note asking

"Does Money Ruin it All?" He wrote,
the other day one of our family posted a comment that he was no fan of 'Notorious' because too many people had profited from its production. He cited Memebrs of Junior Mafia, Puff and I assume he also had a problem with Ms. Wallace as she looks to have been in charge and arguably received the largest check.

So the question is does the presence of money make it impossible to produce a work of pure artistic integrity?
The responses ranged from, "as long as the Wallace family is
then it is all good" to "making money is practical
for everyone including artists",
and finally "this is a less of an
issue of the evils of capitalism and rather a question
of authenticity."

Many of the comments reflect a fundamental lack of understanding of
capitalism and both how it has historically impacted art and how it impacts
hip hop and Black artists specifically.
Because capital is productive
property, there will always be a move to
exploit the the property to
obtain the most returns.

This is why we have 5 CSI's, 6 Indiana Jones's and Hannah Montana
dish towels.

Quality be damned.

Think about it, art is referred to as intellectual property for a reason.

And here is where the tension arises. If our music, our precious
Hip Hop
music began as a voice for the under represented, what does it mean
for us to be so silent about its current state of affairs?
And, if we are
silent, do we deserve better than what we receive? Why are we
so reluctant
to admit the way in which the market has impacted our art?

I have watched both Saul Williams and KRS rationalize getting
money with Fortune 500's. And I thought to myself why
be coy, why not just say, "Ya'll, I got bills to pay."

Lets be clear, I do not claim to be on a pedestal. If Coke/Sony/Steve
Madden/ came calling and wanted to work with me and I chose to do so, I
wouldn't turn around and say to you "Well the executives
at Coke/Sony/ like me, so this is a great partnership." I would
understand that they want to rock with me because they feel that
I may be able to enhance their shareholder value. Simple as that.

So if you see my face and big {teeth} smile on the back of a Brooklyn
Erotica anthology at the end of the year, lets be clear, I had to pay
some bills and I am okay with that

I guess, I am really perturbed at the fact that we all clearly understand
the nasty bottom line of the Dope game, but when it comes to
the ways in which the nasty bottom line of Capitalism
affects our art
we get shook.

Statement was very similar to another statement that I read by
(pronounced Cam-moo, like shampoo.) In the essay
The Wager of our Generation, Camus writes,

The aim of art, the aim of life, can only be to increase the sum
of freedom and responsibility to be found in everyman and the world.
It cannot, under any circumstances be used to reduce or suppress that
freedom, even temporarily....

No great work of art has been based on hatred or contempt. There is
not a single true work of art of art that has not in the end addressed the
inner freedom of each person that has known and loved it.
In an interview on Verbalisms, ran by the phenomenal and formidable
(wink) Raquel Wilson, Dan Tres OMi interviews Wise Intelligent of PRT
on the role that
art and music plays in our culture. He writes,
There are quite a few people who feel that music that is created to raise the consciousness of a particular community is irrelevant in the age of what William C. Bansfield calls the post-album age wherein the music created is commercially driven and marketed to a specific segment of society. Wise Intelligent, the front man for the influential hip-hop group Poor Righteous Teacher, always felt and continues to feel that he was galvanized by the spirit of the people to take up the mic to educate the masses. It is a tragedy that Wise Intelligent, who penned one of the best odes to Black women with “Shakyla,” is forgotten when it comes to bringing knowledge of self beat up and compressed into hip-hop form.

Where does Anthony Hamilton fit in? His album is the first one in
a very
long time, that both instrumentation wise and lyrically, has
helped me make sense
of my life. He has helped me be okay with
my new found freedom
. The irony is that it isn't Hip Hop,
and because am notoriously
boom bap oriented and it feels weird.
I will add that Q-Tips The Renaissance has been in
rotation as well.

Anthony Hamilton also comes into play because the title of his
connects to an essential question asked by Camus, which
is what is the
point of life? While I do not have an answer to that, I
have been thinking about the roll that music plays in affirming
who we are.

In 1992, I had Death Certificate to make sense of what was going on
in LA, in the Streets of Oakland and in my family life.
What music do
the young bucks of today have to help them make
sense of their lives?

What music do they have to help them make sense of the rage that they
feel about the murder of Oscar Grant?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Black on Black Murder and Oscar Grant


It is simply impossible to have an intelligent discussion about Black
murder, without grounding it in political economy, history and

Over the weekend, the New York Times featured a piece by Tobin
Warsaw on the Oakland Riots
which is essentially about the ways
in which the double standard that some Black people have on Black on
Black violence versus white on Black violence.

In the post, Warsaw quotes Stanly Crouch who essentially
maintains that Black men are killing each other because they can
and that more black men have killed each other in the history
of American culture than white men ever have. One could easily
infer that Oscar Grant's death is relatively small in the grand scheme.
There is nothing
restorative, just or humane about this line of thinking.
This logic is flawed. Crouch writes,

Before the victories of the civil-rights movement, many of the murders of black people during the most intense redneck reigns throughout the South were committed by those once infamously known as "poor white trash." What is now so appalling is that the street gangs that currently terrorize black communities across the nation do so with astonishing levels of murder and mayhem, but they are so often defined by supposedly empathetic liberals—of any color!—as victims of race and class.

I never heard this glib hogwash when the murderers were white and the resultant corpses were black. No one ever explained that the lower-class rednecks, who were responsible for terrorist actions and murder, did so because their own wretched poverty made them feel desperately inferior to the white upper class of the South. When the killers were white, the issues were justice and injustice, not social station or income. Perhaps what they actually thought was that white people, unlike black people, have responsibility for their actions.

By shifting the focus from the murder of a Black man by the
in a city and a state that is notorious for sanctioning violence towards
Black people to the murder of Black men, by other Black men,
runs the risk of making light of the seriousness of the murder
of Oscar Grant.

Furthermore in the above quote, Crouch fails to take into consideration
that poor whites have always had
something that no Blacks have
every had, their whiteness

Crouch's stance is also dangerous because it serves
to create a hierarchy of murder that doesn't take into consideration
the historical violence against Black people in this country and the ways
in which the legal and political system have united to perpetuate
oppression towards Black people.

Redlining, 3 Strikes, The 1986 Anti Crime Bill, Welfare Reform, Jim Crow.
Call it "The Confluence."

onflating the murder of a black man by a a white cop serves to only mystify
and conceal the issues at hand which are the historical violence that
Black men and women have suffered in this country, the financial
incentives associated with maintaining the prison industrial complex
and black anti black racism

Crouch, however, does get into why financial incentives involved
in remaining apathetic to Black on Black murder.
He writes,
The social and fiscal conservatives should be alarmed by—if nothing else—the billions this country has to pay for the murders, the rehabilitation, the mutilations, the disability, the psychological trauma, and so on. But no: whether on the left or the right, they are all pigs at a trough of clich├ęs.
Crouch mentions how expensive it is, but he fails to make a connection
the livelihoods supported by black crime.

I contend that one of the reasons why there is complacency around
the murders of
so many Black men is that the murder and
imprisonment of Black
men and women keeps a lot of people
. In small largely white towns around
the country prisons
have replaced steel mills and other factories as large employers.

Fernanda Santos of the New York Times writes about the impact of
the closing of prisons on rural towns,
As rural economies across the country crumbled in the 1980s and the population of prison inmates swelled, largely because of tougher drug laws, states pushed prison construction as an economic escape route of sorts. Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, an average of four prisons were built each year in rural America; the rate quadrupled in the 1980s and reached 24 a year in the 1990s, according to the federal Agriculture Department’s economic research service.
When we think about the economic incentives for policy decisions
surrounding the creation and privatizations of prisons then perhaps
we can have a different conversation about Black men, crime and

When I lived in Oakland last year and was looking for work, my cousin
who works at juvenile hall, offered to help
me get a job. An entry level, the
position paid $60k. I was floored. To top it off, it was a union position

and because I had college and some graduate school I could have
probably earned
more than $60K. $60K is a lot of money to someone
who is looking for a job.

There is a connection between high unemployment, the easy
of guns, the drug/gun/murder culture in the hood,
and black anti black

I maintain that only when the ways in which these issues intersect,
and that the policy, budgetary and community decision address
the above issues, point for point, will we make any headway.

That being said, what would the non-profits, charter schools,
after school programs do if Black men weren't killing each other?
What would they focus on then? What would rappers rap about?

Furthermore, what would the non-profit industrial complex do
without the prison
industrial complex?

While I think that Crouch's argument about black on black and white
on black murder is flawed, I agree that the senseless
murdering of black men by black men needs to be addressed,
discussed and eliminated.

Let me be clear, I find the murder of Black men, by black
men to be racist.
They aren't killing the symbols of power
that play a roll in upholding the system that oppresses them.
They don't kill the judges, the correction officers,
the probation officer's, task force or state troopers or
FBI agents.

They kill other black men.

Lewis R. Gordon a professor of Philosophy at Temple University
lays out the notion of Black Anti Black Racism, wherein he describes
how black people can act racist towards other black people.
Granted it is a difficult notion to swallow, but it is what it is.

Hate is hate.

I think that it is time that we cultivate dialectical thinking and dual

Contact Ella Baker Center if you want to help

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Bart Police Kill an Unarmed Man, Oscar Grant, on New Years Day



Oakland haunts me.

Last week, I started trying to convert my essay's on the
crack epidemic into a memoir and the above sentence
came to mind.

As many of you know, on early New Years day , the BART
police killed an
unarmed man, Oscar Grant.

I felt my heart flip in my throat when I heard the woman say
they just shot him.

Oakland haunts me.

I hate that moment. The moment in the hood where the violence
sparks and we have no fucking idea of what is going happen next.

Richard at Fem-men-ist captures it when he writes about being at the riots,

I head down 14th street towards Webster... and that's as far as i get. A couple blocks further down, the crowd looms, and its a riot crowd. i can smell something burning, and Broadway is obscured with smoke that could be the source of the smell, or tear gas. A metal hulk slowly rolls out of a backlit cloud of smoke. it is a paramilitary tank with a mounted water cannon. Is this my neighborhood?
It is really easy to think of Oakland as the home of side shows, The Black
Panthers, the spiritual seat of pimp mythology. It is easy to think of Oakland
as San Francisco's pathologized other.
However, there is a very
strong thread of Wild Wild West street justice
that permeates
the culture of Oakland. A shoot first and maybe ask questions later
steelo that is both reflected in how the police and how the hood
resorts to
violence to deal with rage and retribution. Furthermore
there is a shoot first and ask questions later attitude associated
with American foreign policy. Operation Iraqi Freedom anyone?

In fact the confluence of rage, revenge and retribution is palpable
in Oakland.

I shuddered when I read the account of a woman, Nia Sykes,
wax matter-of-factly about violence at the riot. She sounds cool as a fan,
but I know rage when I see it.
Demian Bulwa and others from the San Francisco
Chronical write,

"I feel like the night is going great," said Nia Sykes, 24, of San Francisco, one of the demonstrators. "I feel like Oakland should make some noise. This is how we need to fight back. It's for the murder of a black male."

Sykes, who is black, had little sympathy for the owner of Creative African Braids.

"She should be glad she just lost her business and not her life," Sykes said. She added that she did have one worry for the night: "I just hope nobody gets shot or killed."

Lets be clear, the riots didn't happen until a week passed without a word
from BART executives.

Lets also be clear that it wasn't until the riots occurred that national
news took an interest in what happened.

It is also important to note that the BART police are not OPD.
They are officers specifically hired, trained and compensated
by Bay Area Rapid Transit.
This merits being noted simply
because they earn $64K
per year, at the entry level. This is an important
distinction because they are not under compensated $32K/year
NYC cops.

That being said, Oscar Grants death is clearly personal to me. December
28th 2003,
at approximately 5am the Oakland police tried to kill my brothe

I had just came home from New York, fresh with my new engagement ring.
Ambivalent, proud, scared. In many ways, I felt grown.

My mother got the call at that deadly time of the morning. The
it could only be bad news time. My brother was at Highland Hospital.
That we needed to come. We piled in her boyfriends truck and headed
to Oakland's public hospital, Highland. The sun was coming up.
The sky was orange sherbert and periwinkle blue. Gorgeous, the way
that the Oakland sky is notorious for.

I was in shock because we had just taken my niece to see Bad Santa
at the Metreon in San Francisco on 27th.

The police knocked teeth out of his mouth. Cut his lip open.
Opened his head.
Handcuffed him to a fence and beat him, in front
of a group of eye witnesses in the heart of deep East Oakland.

I didn't feel so grown anymore. I was scared of what the police
had done to my brothers face.

My brother ran from the police that night. Had been running for years.
They caught him,
and commenced to letting him know the
consequences of his actions.

I wrote the FBI, OPD's internal affairs and John Burris
(the attorney for The Rider
Trails.) Burris's office ultimatly
told me that while my brother suffered
from being harmed
by the police, a jury would not be particularly

receptive to a formerly convicted D-Boy, albeit even if he
wasn't hustling

I also became intimately acquainted with Bay Area
Police Watch
, which is a program ran by the Ella Baker Center

for Human Rights. They were the only institution that listened to
me. They ultimately found an attorney to take my brother's case
pro bono, however, by that time the statue of limitations had ran.
In many ways Ella Baker has inspired me to
start 100 Visionaries.

Back to Oscar Grant.
This video reminds me of both the
historical worthlessness of the Black body,
as it pertains
to the state. Of lynchings, of Tuskegee syphilis experiments,
the bombing of Black little girls in churches, of Sean Bell, of, of, of.

It reminds me of 1989, Task Force in my living room,
my brother handcuffed, and feeling incredibly powerless.
It reminds me of how that situation on the BART platform
could have gotten even further out of hand
had someone
else on that platform had guns and decided to use them.
You see, I was raised to believe that everyone had a gat.
In the flat lands of Oakland many people do.

Let's be clear about how this is a teachable moment about who
does and doesn't have power in our society.

When you live in a society where the people who taken an oath
to serve and protect you, can conceivably smoke a person
who looks like you in front several witnesses.
You feel powerless.

Furthermore, it is reasonable for you to feel powerless and
want smash the
symbols of the power that you do not have.

Rage can only turn to violence when unchecked.

In many ways, rage is violence.

For many young folks, the idea is to carry a gat, because it is
clear that no one will protect them.
This means always staying

15 years ago, Ice Cube said on Death Certificate, "I would rather
be judged by twelve than carried by six." This is the code of the
streets that I know.

Yes, there are major fallacies to this argument. To put it simply,
it invites that
eye for an eye logic, which is incredibly harmful,
because if we all do
an eye for an eye, we will all be blind.

But think about this, power is the ability to restore yourself after you
have suffered
a set back in life. To right a wrong.

What power do the people in this situation have?

BART possesses and has and exercised the power to be silent.

Some folks in Oakland exercised their power to burn property
and be destructive.

Think about this as well.

What does an Obama presidency mean to Oscar Grant,
Oscar Grants family,
or the people who were in Downtown
Oakland on Wednesday night saying "We Are All Oscar Grant."

I know that some of you may balk at my bringing Obama in this.
Think about it this way. Where does Oscar Grant fit in our
"post racial" society?

I ask you all this question because last year it was
revealed to me that part of
my purpose is to ask the
uncomfortable questions. Not just affirm what you already know.

On Wednesday morning, someone Twittered me a message
asking if I was going to the protest. I responded saying
that I was not in Oakland, and that I don't do protests.

However, I also thought, if the BART police will smoke a man
on a BART platform in front of arguably 20 to 30 witnesses,
then what would stop the OPD from smoking other people
at a rally/protest riot?

That being said.

Oakland haunts me.

But I am not only just haunted. Courtney stays on me about
100 Visionaries. Last week, I sketched the website and now
I am just looking for a template and finalizing a color scheme.

Shooting incidents like these remind me that so much work
has to be done. As individuals we can stand and be reactive,
bumping gums all day about how horrible the police are.
Or, we can be reflective, strategic and decide exactly which
part of the system we are going to come together to analyze
and change.

I ride for the analyze and change approach, because while
Oakland still haunts me, my goal, god willing, is to be able to
rest assured that at the end of the day I contributed something
other than just hot air.

If you want to get involved contact the Ella Baker Center for
Human Rights
. They are on the ground. They are organized
and they can use your help. Below I have attached an excerpt of
and e-mail I just received from them.

This week, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights joined the call for justice in the shooting of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year old unarmed man shot dead by a BART police officer on January 1st, 2009, at the Fruitvale BART station. As an organization that has tackled the issue of police brutality and accountability for the past 12 years, we share in the anger, sadness, and frustration this tragedy has stirred within our community and beyond.

Several Ella Baker Center staff members -- and many of you -- attended the January 7th rally at the Fruitvale BART Station. We were joined by hundreds of other activists from all over the Bay Area, a crowd that mirrored the incredible diversity of our region. Youth read poetry inspired not only by their pain, but also by their hope for justice; elected officials stood with the community; activists led chants and local performers shared their souls through song. It was a sight to behold.

As you may have heard, some people then led a march from Fruitvale to the Lake Merritt BART station. While most of the march was peaceful -- and at times even beautiful -- a small number of participants succombed to their overwhelming anger, rooted in a long history of police misconduct and lack of accountability, and lashed out with inexcusable behavior. The Ella Baker Center believes the fight for justice must sometimes be taken to the streets, and does not condone vandalism or the destruction of property while speaking truth to power.

That's why we must keep our focus on the issue of justice for Oscar Grant and his family. We'll need your help as we continue to speak out in protest to ensure that this case is handled with respect and urgency.

Specifically, we demand:

  • A thorough, independent investigation into the training, supervision, and arrest procedures of BART police.
  • A full criminal investigation to be conducted by the State Department of Justice of all officers involved in the shooting that evening.

In addition, we're joining forces with the Courage Campaign and to support a bill by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and Senator Leland Yee that would create a civilian oversight board for BART police. Senator Yee and Assemblymember Ammiano are ahead of the curve in calling for this kind of legislation, and they'll need our support to get it passed and signed into law. Click here to sign the petition:

Please also join us in helping turn this tragedy into hope for change by making a donation to Oscar's family. Checks should be made payable to "Wanda Johnson" (Oscar's mother), and sent to Ella Baker Center at 344 40th Street, Oakland, CA 94609. We'll then pass along all donations to Oscar's family.

We are all deeply saddened by this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Oscar Grant III. In the coming months we hope you'll join us in demanding justice and continuing to work for peace and opportunity in our communities.

In solidarity,

Jakada Imani
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

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