Monday, March 30, 2009

Michelle Obama and The Black Female Body


As early as January, I knew that Michelle Obama's body
would be a radioactive site and catalyst for a public

discussion about race, class and gender.

About a month ago, I was brainstorming podcast ideas and
the two
that I chose were Michelle Obama and the Black female
and Babies Vs. Dreams.

Not more than a week later after I chose these did

Maureen Dowd write about being in a taxi with David Brooks,
who referred to Mrs. Obama's arms as "Thunder and Lightning."

There was an ensuing discussion on whether Michelle Obama
should cover up her arms in photogr
aphs. Dowd writes,

In the taxi, when I asked David Brooks about her amazing arms, he indicated it was time for her to cover up. “She’s made her point,” he said. “Now she should put away Thunder and Lightning.”

I’d seen the plaint echoed elsewhere. “Someone should tell Michelle to mix up her wardrobe and cover up from time to time,” Sandra McElwaine wrote last week on The Daily Beast.

I knew that Michell Obama's body was going to ripe
area for dialogue because she is the first African American
woman to be treated as a symbol of fashion of beauty

who is not a singer or a movie star or athlete.

I am also not surprised by Michelle Obama's body being
held up to public scrutiny, as Black women's bodies

have historically, always been held up to public scrutiny.

Michelle Obama is not a set of body parts she is an
accomplished lawyer, mom and wife.
With regard to her accomplishments, I am particularly
drawn to, inspired by and would like to replicate her
work with the Chicago chapter of The Public Allies. Public Allies
is an or
ganization that encourages young people to work on
social issues in nonprofit groups and government
In many ways Michelle Obama reminds me of a
loose embodiment
of Claire Huxtable from The Cosby Show.
Stylish lawyer, mom and wife

Intuitively, I knew Michelle Obama's body would be up for discussion
because of the history of publicly appraising the Black female
Historically, in the United States, the Black female body has been
on public display and subjected to public appraisal since chattel slavery.

Historically, the wealth of this nation has been tied to the health
of the Black female body. Enslaved Black female laborers
cotton and tobacco, cleared land and
produced Black children
who were enslaved, became laborers. The healthier a woman

was, the more she worked and the more children she had who worked,
the more children she had, the wealthier the country became

Given the history of how the African American female
body has been treated in the United States, the public
attention that she is receiving is a natural
extension of what has happened to us since we arrive here.

The discussion about her body reveals things about
us that we may not rather admit. Our discomfort about race,
the legacy of slavery and the tendency to treat women in general
and Black women specifically like objects.

She also stands out because she does not fit a White
standard of beauty or a Black mainstream standard
of beauty
, for that matter.

In the Newsweek article, "What Michelle Means to Us"

Allison Samuels discusses what Michelle Obama's brown
skin means to African American women. She writes,
Michelle is not only African-American, but brown. Real brown. In an era when beauty is often defined on television, in magazines and in movies as fair or white skin, long straight hair and keen features, Michelle looks nothing like the supermodels who rule the catwalks or the porcelain-faced actresses who hawk must-have cosmetics.

Who and what is beautiful has long been a source of pain, anger and frustration in the African-American community. In too many cases, beauty for black women (and even black men) has meant fair skin, "good hair" and dainty facial features. Over the years, African-American icons like Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, Halle Berry and Beyoncé—while beautiful and talented—haven't exactly represented the diversity of complexions and features of most black women in this country.

That limited scope has had a profound effect on the self-esteem of many African-American women, including me. "When I see Michelle Obama on the cover of magazines and on TV shows, I think, Wow, look at her and her brown skin,'' said Charisse Hollands, a 30-year-old mail carrier from Inglewood, Calif., with flawless ebony skin. "And I don't mean any disrespect to my sisters who aren't dark brown, but gee, it's nice to see a brown girl get some attention and be called beautiful by the world. That just doesn't happen a lot, and our little girls need to see that—my little girl needs to see it.''

Samuels goes on to discuss how Michelle Obama
an serve as a reminder that we can exercise,
take care of ourselves and still have fly hair. I can identify
with this. Even though my hair is natural, the steam room turns my
twists into an lopsided afro, every time. Its irritating. Samuels
discusses how Mrs. Obama exercise routine may impact
us when she writes,
A self-proclaimed fitness junkie who works out every morning, Michelle could actually encourage women of color to take better care of themselves. African-American women face alarmingly high rates of high blood pressure and obesity. And like everyone else, we have plenty of excuses for being sedentary, including the always-present fear of messing up our carefully done hair. "I look at her and think, I have two kids and she has two kids,'' said my friend Tamara Rhodes, a 37-year-old public-safety officer in Long Beach, Calif. "If she can find time in the day to do her thing to look good—why can't I? She looks good and in a way that I can see myself looking—not a size zero—but really healthy.''
There have been other articles written about Michelle Obama's body.

Last November, Erin Aubrey Kaplan wrote "The First Lady
Got Back
" for Salon. On one hand while the article was warm
and appreciative of the fact that a woman with curves
would be a first lady in The White House. The article also

struck me as salacious. I cringed at seeing the word "boo-tay"
in the same to Michelle Obama's. The tone seemed a little
too informal given the seriousness of the topic.

Gina McCauley, a writer, lawyer and activist
who runs
What About our Daughters made
it clear that she didn't care for Kaplans article. McCauley felt

that Kaplan was enhancing her career at the expense of writing
in an exploitative way about Michelle Obama's body.

Taking these two views into consideration, I believe that
African American women, regardless of where we fall
on the color, body or political spectrum,
the prominence of Michelle Obama has created a space for
us to talk about things that we wouldn't normally do publicly.

This is a great thing, in light of the fact that our needs often take
the back burners to the needs of our parents, our partners, our
jobs and our children.
I say this with the understanding that there is a distinction
between Black women talking about themselves, and mainstream media
talking about us.

I am light. As my momma would say, high yellow. When
I visit Oakland in the spring or summer, I turn copper. When I mentioned
this post to a male friend he asked me, "Why does this matter to you,
you are light?" I responded, "This isn't about me, this is about little Black
girls seeing a brown skinned Black woman, who isn't an entertainer,
be treated in our society like she has a contribution to make." He


While African Americans do not talk about it publicly, we
have pervasive color issues. We are not alone. Many Asian
folks, Indian folks and Caribbean folks do as well. I contend
that having color issues around beauty is one of the
consequences of being descendants of a group of
people who have been colonized. Being light
especially for Black women, historically has meant having
to resources and being perceived as being more attractive.
Being light has meant being able to assimilate into main stream
American culture more easily. Being light has meant an easier
time finding a husband.

We can't post racialize our way out of this. The only way to change it is
to understand why it is this
way, and work to correct how it plays
out in our everyday lives

I was reminded of how loaded Michelle Obama's body is
for some people when I visited a The Field Negro blog today
and a reader was upset over the fact that the Saturday
London Times published a picture of Michelle using a ho

to dig into the ground.

Mrs. Obama looked fly. She was dressed head to in New York
all black. She rocked a fitted sweater with leggings,
cinched waist belt,
patent leather boots and her hair was styled.

While I wasn't offended by it, I could see how someone
felt that there was an inconsistency between the photographs
of the other prominent women featured in the photo stream.

I just wonder how healthy it is to constantly be reacting
to perceived racist portrayals. Besides, the Obama's did
just break ground on a garden, which is what the photograph
was commemorating.

But then again, I can understand the sensitivity.

We live in a culture African American people start speculating
about whether a child's hair will be "good" while the baby is still
in the womb.

We live culture where Chris Rock recently made a documentary
titled, "Good Hair" after his daughter came up to him
crying, saying, "Daddy, why don't I have good hair?"

How can we be post racial, if we don't have a fundamental
understanding of how race works in the first place?

I also am led to wonder, whose interests are being served
constantly repeating that we are living in a post racial society?

When it comes to Michelle Obama, we see her and our issues,
with a capital "I" get triggered. Being triggered is fine,
so long as the anger is focused and not reactive. That being
said, I am excited that we are having an open an honest
dialogue about Black women, race, gender and standards of beauty.

Blog Talk Radio Podcast:
Michelle and the Black Female Body
Sunday April 4th 6-7pm EST.
Call in. (
347) 843-4723. Join us.

Do you think there is Michelle Obama and a
Slavery Connection?

If not, where does the fascination with the Black
female body come

When will we deal with race and for that matter gender?

3.29.09 Tweets of the Week


Many of you use Twitter, some of you don't. I like it
because of the forced brevity, irony
and nerdy
lunch table aspect.
I share with you.

My first edition of Tweets of the Week.

The Hip Hop industry is a lot like sausage (II). When
you get to see how this shit is really made you think maybe you
don't wanna fuck w/ it
Sausage really? I get his point tho' sadly.

marshaambrosiusFloetry break up??? Yes we did part on
bad terms, yes I did write about it on my album, & no I haven't
seen or talked to her in months/years

Marsha did a "Ask Marsha day" and is answering
personal questions. Awesome.

Showbiz & A.G. "Broken Chains" (Unreleased

AjanaM...NYC MTA Alerts is now following you on twitter. damn...
I don't like the creepy follow either.

MZ_of_TSSThe McDonalds I used to work @ stepped up in the clutch
3 words. Filet. O. Fish.

djdnice @2boldent Music is personal. When I made records,
I made them for ME first.
D Nice is awesome.

straightbangin@Dart_Adams alexander hamilton>rip hamilton>
anthony hamilton>hamilton college>charles hamilton

I like the idea. Not really feeling Anthony Hamilton's placement:)

jackyj510Icon_lock@danamo Bring back NakedCartWheels!!
Naked Cartwheels was Danyels blog. She influenced me.

Teena Marie new single with Faith Evans

I always like new Faith Evans. You read her autobiography?

Tweets of the week. Tweets of the week. Tweets of the Week.
Tweets of the week. Tweets of the week. Tweets of the Week.
Tweets of the week. Tweets of the week. Tweets of the Week.
Tweets of the week. Tweets of the week. Tweets of the Week.
Tweets of the week. Tweets of the week. Tweets of the Week.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Empress Sharhh is the Nicest Emcee Since Jay Electronica


Mos Def Points out Doom's Awesome Idiosyncrasies.

On the new Doom album, Born Like This, there are many guest stars,

Ghost, Rae, but I had Empress Sharrh joint on repeat for the last twenty
minutes. Take a listen. I'll wait.

She had me at , "Sign away your publishing for Jordan's and loosie?"

Say word?

I feel like she made this song for me.

Seeing as The Clipse, on of my favorites,
called me a Tree Huggin' ass bitch,
it feels good to feel like a song was made for me.

Still Dope
represents what is both sad and fresh about hip hop.
On one level, I
thinks its fresh that she even made it. On another, its all
bad that songs like this are so few and far in between.

On this song Doom wears is Boom Bap big band composer hat
to the fullest. Listen to the changes in the hook. The rhythm
shifts, the horn
section gets amplified. The beat sounds like
Showbiz on acid with a live horn section. I couldn't believe
my ears when I heard it, I
thought that the song blended into
another. Then I realized
that this is classic doom ear drum
manipulation. Enjoy.


Yeh? Ney?

Too weird?

Not weird enough?

Empress Sharr on some 9th Wonder?
Or Kanye or Salaam Remi. Awesome.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Dirty Drawls Love


In mid January, a woman, a middle class, beautiful Jewish
shared a story with me about dating.

Among many things, she talked about dating men who drank,
and drank, and drank and wondering why she continued to
pick these dudes.

She went on to describe what it meant to shift from repeatedly
dating men that were unavailable and deciding to only get serious
with men who wanted to be in a relationship
with her.

I thought hmmmmmm. Dating a man who wants to be in a
relationship with me.
That's cool.

Being willing to walk away if we don't want the same thing.
Hard, but possible.

Hard because, in our society, women we are raised, to want to snag
the most handsome dude with the highest salary.

There was one thing that she said that stuck with me. She described
how she got to a point right before she met her current husband.

She had been dating with the intention of finding a partner, and because
of this within 2 or 3 dates, after the man made his intentions
known implicitly or explicitly, she kept it moving or proceeded.

She didn't look at his resume, she didn't take into consideration
how attractive he was, she didn't consider whether he had a co-op,
or his MBA, the simple criteria was did he want to be in a relationship
and was he interested in a relationship with her?

Hearing her say this gave me the courage to start drawing
the line in my personal life. What I have found is that
there is a difference between a fence and a wall and most
people, will understand that you not only love them, but you love yourself
as well, so you cannot allow them to trample all over your boundaries.

Which brings me to Filthy. A couple of months ago,
he showed up on my block with yellow tulips, fresh quiche and
orange juice. My three favorites. I had just moved,
so he didn't know my exact address, just the cross streets.
He had just planned on waiting for me to cross his path.

I was flattered.

His action was precipitated by the fact that we had just
had a conversation earlier that week, and had planned
on linking up, but I because of new information
I received, I was just on some "wait and see."

One of my male homies was like "Wassup with you two,
what are you going to do?" I said, its on him. He responded, " I
say this as a man, he may not know how extreme this situation is.
You know, how, when you are about to get laid off, you come in
early, you leave late, you kiss up extra at meetings,, this situation
requires that work."

So I mentioned this conversation to Filthy and I also said, "I need
to be with someone who treats me like The Gift. You see, I knew
you were The Gift, you were my friend, I brought you tulips when I
met you. At this point in my life, I need to be with someone
who understands that I am The Gift as well."

He was like, "What do you mean?"

I explained that, "This means being considerate, and doesn't
necessarily have to do with a ton of money. For instance, I like
taco's from the taco truck on 8th ave and 14th street, you could show
up to my door with 3 of those. They are $2 each.
I like tulips, a dozen at Trader Joes is $6. Its not about the money
its about thinking about another person, as much as you
think about yourself. That doesn't mean that you can't plan
a weekend get away. I am down for that too. Ultimately tho,
I am not going to fight you to be with me. Both of us are much
too special for that."

It was scary saying this to him. I didn't know if he was going
to balk, or agree or decide I had gone crazy. I was standing
up for myself.

But I had to do it, and the odd thing has been, every since
I said it to him, it has been easier to recognize that I needed to
explicitly say what I need from others, without paralyzing fear
that they dramatically indifferent to my request.

Besides, I also knew that I had prayed for God to take
him out my life and only bring him back when he was
ready. I had not anticipated that his being ready would
require for me to work on being ready, to work on my
patience and my willingness.

I talk a whole lot of smack about personal transformation,
but it is completly different to actually believe that a person
can do it
and to watch and support them while they try.

So, he showed up to my door, flowers, quiche and a half gallon
of Tropicana. Ready to wait. Willing to be considerate.

Looking back on that day, I could only think that this must
be a that dirty drawls love that my momma mentioned
when I growing up.

I want that for myself. I like it.

I also want to be disciplined enough to ensure that my needs
are met. But, I don't won't to be so caught up in the past that
I get in the way of my (our) future

Besides, grudges stifle creativity and kill Love.

In the end. I am content. Its bumpy at times, other
times its flawless and familiar.

I can't front. I adore the blue eyed bandit.

You have any Dirty Drawls Love lately?

Why is it so hard to say "this is what I need, I will not
be distracted, I am drawing the line here

Why does Tropicana OJ taste so good but cost
so much?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Is a Black Web Browser Racist?: BET x Kevin Kelly x Blackbird


Earlier this week I mentioned to my friend
that I was going to write about the fact that
many people thought that the Black web browser,
Blackbird, was racist.

A little background. Blackbird is a web browser,
created and
operated by 40A, Inc., a company founded by three
African American entrepreneurs, Arnold Brown II,
Frank Washington, and H. Edward Young, Jr.

On Tech Crunch, Robin Wauters describes it saying,
The browser displays a pre-set news ticker on top, pulls in news content from Google News that might be of interest to African-Americans, and features a section with video content from online TV sites like UptownLiveTV, NSNewsTV, DigitalSoulTV and ComedyBanksTV. Other than that, there’s a lot of integration with the most popular social networks, a ‘Black Search’, preset ‘Black Bookmarks’, etc. There’s also a ‘Give Back’ program that streamlines donations to a number of non-profit organizations (Blackbird intends to donate 10% of its 2009 revenue to these partners as well).
Here is the Blackbird pitch,

Because we know the 20 million African Americans online need tools to build and foster community now more than ever.

Because we know that 85% of African Americans prefer online news and information from the Black perspective.*

Because we know that you are twice as likely to be among the first to discover new trends and use advanced technology compared to the general population.*

*Source: PEW Internet and American Life Project 2004

By trade, my friend is an Information Architect,
so she is far more comfortable with trafficking in data
than I am. I like data too, but more for sociological purposes,
but this discussion show me that she is the rare breed that is a
high level aerial thinker that understands technology, business,
user experience.

While I initially was going to just focus on whether Black Bird was
racist, the more I spoke to her, the more I became
in the convergence of race, data and capitalism on
the internet.

She likened a Black web browser to someone deciding
which library she could go to. I responded saying that
there are Black libraries, and that Black libraries
have more Black stuff then regular libraries, so what is the

She said the internet is different. The issue is about
data and searching. Her question, was who is search
whom and for what purpose? I didn't get it because I was thinking
about it on a one to one search level. What she was referring to
was who is searching whom in a more institutional sense.

On the blog Open Anthropology, Maximilian Forte, clarified two things
about Blackbird. The first issue that he addressed is around
unexamined racial assumption's about other web browsers
such as Google, Firefox and Explorer. The second
issue is about the assumed racial "neutrality" (if there is even
such a thing) of other web browsers.
Forte writes,
There is no claim here that any of the other browsers are inherently “white.” What seems obvious is the desire to create what is, in a sense, a pre-loaded portal that immediately directs users to African American content online, linking them with other users at the same time in some cases.
Perhaps the problem is that of invisibility generated by assumptions, that the very conception, selection, design and layout of elements on a browser come out of a North American, white, “geek” cultural stratum, and that therefore to many white, middle class, North American users the cultural assumptions remain invisible, the browser appears normal, intuitive, self-evidently rational, etc. I have some sympathy for this argument (not that I think that Blackbird was designed to address this argument even remotely).
Once mentioned to me that it was about the data,
I immediately thought that the owner of a Black web browser
would be able to sell ad's based on the number of presumably Black
people who have downloaded and use it.
It then appeared to me that there was a huge economic
to creating a Black Firefox.

Image courtesy of Praized Blog.

She went on to say that Google is trafficking in data,
not necessarily search. Then she offered that because the
future of the internet is about data linking to data, that I should
watch the Kevin Kelly Video.

On the Praized blog, Sebastian summarizes the Kevin Kelly video
nicely when he writes,
Phase 1 of the Internet was all about linking computers together and sharing packets. Phase 2 was about linking pages (when the Web came along) and sharing links. Phase 3, the next phase, will be about linking data. Linking to the information inside the page down to the elemental unit (what I often call “atomization). This new semantic Web will understand the meaning of words. For example, ”Pacifica” (a small town near San Francisco) is a place with attributes.
I then asked what is an example of data linking? Her response.
Mashups, which are largely enabled by API technology. She went
on to say that API technology enables more data linking
because it allows programmers to create documents that have
universal extensions. For instance, a ".pdf" cannot talk
to a word ".doc", and a ".gif" can't talk to an "mp3." API
technology makes this issue moot and will conceivably
allow all documents to talk to each other.

She also went on to add that the API technology
has an additional impact. First it allows for folks to build on
an already existing technology, such as Blackbird how is built on
Firefox. She used the example of how the original source code for
Firefox is like the English alphabet and each time a coder
adds something new to a program, it is the equivalent of
adding more letters to the alphabet.

It then began to make sense that is about the data.
At that point I started looking for a notebook to start scribbling
ideas for this post.

She went on to say that she couldn't clearly see how a Black browser
could add any value.

Her rationale was that the data indexed on a Black Browser
may be of interest to someone who is researching

Black people for presumably Black data. I agreed. I immediately
this could be for good or for bad.

I then asked, what is the difference between BET and Blackbird?
She pointed out that BET is a push media, it creates content whereas
search engines and browsers, are pull media, they pull content.

She then expressed that she wanted the broadest net possible
when pulling, and doing her search.
And that by using a browser that was
self identified as
Black, that she may be limiting herself to the number
sites that
the browser indexed. She also said that by appearing in a Black
browser, a website runs the risk of being treated like a "Black Website",
segregated from the rest of the world. This of course presumes that
if you are indexed
by Blackbird, that you will not be indexed
by Google, which
doesn't make sense.

I responded saying that being Black offline is being Black
online as well (with the exception of people who impersonate
other races/ethnicity's online)
and that this reminds me of our
tendency to think that the internet
will serve as some
digital race cleanser.

The internet is created and used by human beings,
human beings that may or may not suffer from the ism's.
Racism. Sexism. Ageism.

This does not disappear once you log on.

Then I began to think, is a browser for women sexist?
If not, then why is a Black browser racist? I thought back to's statement that she didn't want a Black browser because
it would limit her "library." I immediately thought of two things.

The first is that information has always been political tool in African
American history.

Second, we come from a people who were punished for
learning how to read. We live in a country that once deemed it illegal
to teach us how to read.

Thirdly, we live in a country that was once so staunchly segregated that
the only way to get Black news was by creating Black newspapers,
because "regular" newspapers did not hire Black folks.

In fact, it would be amazing to see Blackbird index Black publications
prior to integration. But I digress.

Many of the comments made about Blackbird being racist
reminded me that when thinking abut technology, we operate from
the assumption that there is a racial clean slate, which
can't be further from the truth. The biases and assumptions
that we have offline, are siting there on the keyboard with us

Only when we acknowledge that, can we have an honest discussion
about race, data and technology.

Is a Black web browser, racist?

Why were white people so offended by a Black
Web Browser?

Why is there a need to NOT be segregated on the internet?

Would you use Blackbird?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

'Yo Momma's a Socialist: From a Production Economy to a Finance Economy


While we once had a robust economy, with factory
and production jobs supported by strong unions,
this is no longer the case
and it must be understood
in order for us to make any meaningful, sustainable
in our lives and in our economy.

How did we get here? We went from a nation of people who
things to a nation where a relatively small number of people
made a lot of money moving money around, selling money
trading money.

The next time someone tells me that Obama's a Socialist I
am going to tell them, "'Yo Momma's a Socialist."

The Shift from a Production Based Economy to a
Consumption Economy.

It is important to understand that we were a nation
of farmers,
then a nation of producers, in factories,
and now we have become
a nation largely of
consumers, service workers and finance workers.

In the book Bad Money, Kevin Phillips, the former
Republican Party strategist turned
harsh critic of the Republican
outlines the shift made from being a production based
economy to a finance
centered economy. Phillips writes,
The financial services sector in the 1990's became the largest sector
of the U.S. private economy. By 2004-2006 financial services represented
20-21 percent of the GDP , manufacturing represented just 12 or 13 %.
....continued in the next post.

'Yo Momma's a Socialist: From Production to Consumption '
'Yo Momma's a Socialist: Reagan and Bush, "The Banks Will
Never Be Allowed to Fail"

'Yo Momma's a Socialist: Podcast

The 'Yo Momma's a Socialist Podcast is a conversation
that Filthy and I recorded last September. We discuss
American Consumption, Racism, WWII, Adult Onset Poverty,
Why More Schooling Isn't the main Solution, Lenin, Fordism
The Soviet Union
, Why Products Don't Last Anymore, Germany.

Thoughts? Do you agree? Disagree? Need more info?
All your money is in Euro's so it doesn't matter?

'Yo Momma's a Socialist Series: Put the Bank Executives in Jail with Maddof?


The Criminal Nature: Are Tax Payers Corporate
Shareholders Now? Should some bank executives
put in jail cells next to Bernie Maddoff?
Maureen O' Dowd describes the conflicts that arise with
giving tax payer, the money that you pay to the government
every April 15th to
institutions who made money off of money
instead of products.
She writes,
At least the old robber barons made great products. When you make money out of money, unmoored from morality and regulators, it must unhinge you. How else to explain corporate welfare queens partridge hunting in England, buying French jets and shopping for Lamborghini's?
O'Dowd has arguably been the only public voice in a
mainstream publication
that admitted that the executives
who are enhanced their bottom lines
at the tax payer expense
should be treated like the criminals they are.
She states,
More than a disappointed parent, they need a special prosecutor or three. Spare the rod, spoil the jackal. Anyone who gave bonuses after accepting federal aid should be fired, and that money should be disgorged to the Treasury.
O'Dowd ends her piece with the statement,
The president needs to think like Andrew Cuomo. “ ‘Performance bonus’ for many of the C.E.O.’s is an oxymoron,” he said. “I would tell them, a) you don’t deserve a bonus, b) where are you going to go? and c) if you want to go, go.
Maureen O'Dowd has been, arguably one of the only people
in mainstream media to say publicly that that the executives
who took tax payer money and gave their employees bonuses
should be prosecuted and sent to jail for what they have done.

I think that there is an unwillingness to criticize
at the end of the day, many of us, want to be
rich one day,
so we are reluctant to criticize the people
that are. What this
misguided thinking fails to take
into consideration is that,
given the nature of this
finance centered economy you are
are likely to spend your
life toiling in the service economy
as a waitress, retail sales person,
or as a nurse, than you
are to wind up affluent.

Something very similar happened in Hip Hop. There was a
when rap artist criticized drug dealers. Now they rarely
criticize them
because they want to be like and or live like them.

I will argue that there is a connection between this
shift and
the current depression that we are now experiencing.

'Yo Momma's a Socialist: From Production to Consumption '
'Yo Momma's a Socialist: Reagan and Bush, "The Banks Will
Never Be Allowed to Fail"

'Yo Momma's a Socialist: Podcast

The 'Yo Momma's a Socialist Podcast is a conversation
that Filthy and I recorded last September. We discuss
American Consumption, Racism, WWII, Adult Onset Poverty,
Why More Schooling Isn't the main Solution, Lenin, Fordism
The Soviet Union
, Why Products Don't Last Anymore, Germany.

Yo Momma's Socialist: Reagan & Bush, "The Banks Will Never Be Allowed to Fail"


Ronald Reagan & Bush: "The Banks will Never Be Allowed to Fail"

Nationalizing banks isn't new, the modern American capitalist
economic system
presumes that the financial sector will be bailed
on on
a regular cyclical basis.

In Bad Money, Phillips also discusses the shift from a production economy
to a service and finance economy. This idea supports the assertion that
bail outs are a current and necessary feature
of modern American Capitalism.
He writes,

In the late 1980's the government decided that finance,
not manufacturing or even high tech, had to be the sector on
which they would place its strategic chips- would "pick as a winner...
farms and factories were expendable, but certain business and
financial institutions would not be allowed to fail.
Would not be allowed to fail.
Would not be allowed to fail
Would not be allowed to fail
. Phillips goes on to write about the specific kinds of
assistance offered
to banks.
Since the 1980's there have been three kinds of
assistance that
have been sought from (and generally provided):
bailouts when pivotal institutions, loans, profit
methodologies got
themselves in trouble services in trouble;
Liquidity for the Fed
required to keep the wealth escalator
benign regulation and law making. Favoritism is what
it use to be called.
In an interview in N+1 Magazine, Geography Professor, David
Harvey explains why the modern American Capitalist economy
assumes that bailouts will occur on a regular basis.
He explains,
Instead of saying there is a systemic problem, which
periodical erupts,
in the history of capitalism, we tend to
look at this peculiar incident of the
present. But the property
market crises have played a crucial role historically

in triggering major downturns past economies
...The global downturn of 1973, everybody says it was oil. But
the actual recession started six months before the oil
embargo....with a global crash in the property markets. If you look

at what brought the Japan economy down at the end of the
1980's it was speculation
in the land and property markets. If you
look at the recession in this country during the savings
and loan
crisis ...something like a thousand banks were on the watch list- it was

as property market thing.
Harvey uses plain language to describe why this mortgage
crisis has affected us differently than the crises of the past.
He writes,
This is not unique to the history of capitalism. What is different
this time around is the extent of it, and the degree to which finance
changed its manner: For instance when the property market crashed
in 1973, it was mainly local banks that got caught out, because if you
had a mortgage, you had it with a local bank, so the mortgage market
was localized. During the 1980's, the mortgage market became
securitized , and they started to put together all these mortgages
and push them onto organizations like Fannie Mae and Freddie
Mac, or they would get package onto collateralized debt obligations
and sliced up and sold to a pension fund in Florida or a bank
that had excess liquidity in Germany.
Harvey also had some really interesting things to say about
how risk was managed through out the globalization of
American mortgages. He offers,
The mortgage market became really global. This was
suppose to spread
the risk. Which to some degree it did.
But as it spread risk, it built more risk. People at financial
institutions thought that if you spread risk, you eliminate
risk, which of course you haven't done.
Harvey then goes on to discuss how we should all equally shoulder
the burden of the failure of the banks. He explains that,
Technically everybody should, but we have a structure
of state power which is dedicated to protecting the integrity of the
financial system. So in the effect what happens in that
state uses it power to bail out the financial institutions.

..If you look at cities like Cleveland and Baltimore, the
foreclosures wave has been like a series of financial Katrina's.
After reading this, I would imagine that it is easier
to see how the current cycle of bailouts has very little to do
with subprime markets or middle and low income
Black and Latino
home owners buying more house
than they could afford, per se.

Harvey concludes with the statement that the Capitalist
economy has been about growth and that we need to prepare
our selves to live in a society where there will be no growth.
He mentions
that every economy needs a surplus, some
extra cushion
just in case things go bad. He suggests that
we think
about our surplus being held by the government
but controlled by the American people. While the tone
somber and it was encouraging as well,
"What we see the system beginning to get rockier and rockier,
and it is time that people started to say, "look, this system cannot
continue in this way." So the best case scenario is the growth
of a political movement.
I will discuss my thoughts about this idea in an upcoming
on local, green, artistic & sustainable economies.

'Yo Momma's a Socialist: From Production to Consumption '
'Yo Momma's a Socialist: Reagan and Bush, "The Banks Will
Never Be Allowed to Fail"

'Yo Momma's a Socialist: Podcast

The 'Yo Momma's a Socialist Podcast is a conversation
that Filthy and I recorded last September. We discuss
American Consumption, Racism, WWII, Adult Onset Poverty,
Why More Schooling Isn't the main Solution, Lenin, Fordism
The Soviet Union
, Why Products Don't Last Anymore, Germany.

Thoughts? I know you have some.
Is it too much to grasp?
Or does your bank account tell you that you
don't have a choice BUT to try and understand it?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Boston Dynamic Big Dogs: The New World Order Lives


I was on the phone with my homie earlier.
She is all things geeky. An Information Architect,
she hangs out at MIT taking free workshops on nerdy
stuff and she likes to take notes on our conversations.

When she talks, I listen.

Today, we were talking about the new Facebook design
and the rush to create a hard drive for the world.


Then she told me to Google Boost Dynamics.

I saw this robot and it gave me the creeps.

Scarier then 10 Freddy Kreugers.

I immediately knew that it was a military robot.

I also immediately thought, what defense would the American
public have against one hundred thousand of these being leashed
on us?

The Big Dog is funded by The Defense Advanced Research
Projects Agency, which is under the Department of Defense.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, your tax dollars at work.

What do you think of the Big Dog?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Problem or The Solution: 100 Visionaries


I AM SEAN BELL, black boys speak from Stacey Muhammad on Vimeo.

"I'm already scared in New York, because of all this crime on the
street, but now theirs cops are killing us, that means are hero's
are the murderers, like the bad guys now."

It all started with the watching people debate whether
Rihanna deserved to be hit.

As a Black feminist who writes about violence and rage,
I was particular intersted in how this conversation has played out
in pop culture in general and in the Black community specifically.

When you are a thinker, with a sense of obligation, it can
be hard. It has been hard for me. Hard but not impossible.

I see myself as being beholden to the young men in the video above.

I wasn't sure what I was suppose to do, but I knew it was something.

So I re-sent Ann another design for 100 Visionaries. She was open
and we worked out a project schedule.

Then I saw someone twit, "Don't let the need to be perfect
stop you from doing something."

I am always interested in what stops me and us from acting.
Perfection and fear are the two main sources.

Then things started to happen.

The first thing is that I read that the bloggers and the
unions were getting together to start a political action
committee that would elect local politicians
and hold President Obama accountable. I thought, awesome,
that is what I want for 100 Visionarie
WASHINGTON — A group of liberal bloggers said it was teaming up
with organized labor and to form a political action
committee that would seek to push the Democratic Party
further to the left.
I began to think that if I got our 100 Visionary infrastructure running
then we could poly with them and try to make some REAL change.

The second thing was the firing of Liz Smith from The Post.
I figured if she got the ax, then there was truly a new day in
publishing. The day after I learned that I decided to publish an
anthology of essays on hip hop, masculinity/femininity.
My rationale was, why go through a gate keeper, when
I know enough people who would be willing to contribute?
I also thought it would be the first of its kind.

The third was that in sketching the 100 Visionary site,
I decided to make an issues campaign spread sheet.
It is hard to think both big and small picture simultaneously.

I need your help with doing so.


I invite any of you who are interested, and want to make a
contribution to e-mail me any suggestions.

If you are on gmail, e-mail me, and I can
add you to the google documents list. This will allow you to
update the spreadsheet on your own time.

I am excited about the idea of those of us who care
and want to take an action on a a systemic and local level.

This is the change we can believe in. It feels good to be
a part of the solution.

Focused Anger in '09 Love.

What do you think it will take to get folks to move from
talk to action?

What are you excited about this year?

Did you work on the Obama campaign?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Rihanna, Sasha & Malia


A couple of weeks ago, 50 cent conceded that
getting beat by Chris Brown
wasn't real to him. James
Montgomery of MTV News writes,

"After I saw the photograph, that wasn't funny anymore," 50 said. "I didn't have any information on it. You're just going on what the public actually had. It shifts the whole thing. Even if you're saying you're in a dysfunctional relationship, I understand that. There's a point when you're already past a woman fighting you back. You look at [the picture], and it's obviously past that point. There's some issues there that definitely gotta be addressed. Not to take any shots at Chris or Rihanna or take sides in any way, [but] it's really not cool. It's not funny anymore, so there will definitely be no more reference to that from me in any way."
Why is a picture needed in order to convey the
seriousness of the topic?

In many ways, I think that it wasn't real for many people.

According to The Domestic Violence Institute, Black women
comprise 8% of the U.S. population but in 2005 accounted
for 22% of the intimate partner homicide victims and 42%
of all female victims of intimate partner homicide.

African Americans account for a disproportionate number
of intimate partner homicides. In 2005, African Americans
accounted for almost 1/3 of the intimate partner homicides
in this country.

According to a survey conducted by Tufts University,
-Approximately 40% of Black women report coercive contact
of a sexual nature by age 18.
-The number one killer of African-American women ages 15 to 34 is

homicide at the hands of a current or former intimate partner
-In a study of African-American sexual assault survivors, only 17%
reported the assault to police
Last weekend, I was discussing my idea for this post with
Birkhold. I mentioned that, what if, instead of Rihanna it
were Sasha or Malia Obama who was assaulted by their
boyfriend? Malia is 11, and , in 8 years she could be college
student who is dating an R & B.

I chose Sasha and Malia, because collectively,
the Obama girls
tend to elicit a kind of respect
for Black femininity
that I think that all Black
women deserve.

Unfortunately, we have a tendency to organize the
respectability of Black women into a hierarchy.
"Hoe's on the bottom. Triflin' baby momma's in the middle,
wifey at the top.
" All of us are human, all of us deserve to
be respected.

I was discussing this post with Birkhold. I asked
"What if it were Malia. What if Malia was 19 and a
Harvard, Howard or Spellman and was assaulted by her
boyfriend. Would we have to see proof in order to believe

that something happened or at least to not make a joke
of it?" He responded, "That it wouldn't make a difference
to many people because, in American culture, there is a
strong tendency to explain men beating women as
boys will be boys behavior."

I have also been thinking about of Real Housewives of Atlanta.
Last fall I remember seeing one of the first episodes,
and all I could think is that "Why is a shallow portrayal of
women as gold diggers being presented to us as

As I watched the show I became far more interested
in their background narratives, I felt myself wanting to hear
them discuss the abuse that they suffered that has caused them
to try and pursue healing through obtaining material items.

Material and or human beings can't fill God sized holes.

I got my answer. In this month's Essence, Denene Millner
interviews Nene Leakes and Lisa Wu-Hartwell of The Real
Housewives of Atlanta. Millner writes,
Leakes recalls the first time she spent the night at the man's house, just a short time into their relationship. "When we got ready to go to bed, he took out a gun and laid it on the nightstand," she says. "I'd never been around a gun before. It really freaked me out. My thoughts were, Okay, I need to do what he says. I need to be really nice tonight. That should have been my warning." But Leakes failed to heed her own intuition.
This reminded me of Rihanna and her intuition.

I told Birkhold that if a dude put a gat on my dresser,
the countdown would be on for me to figure out
how to get out of that bedroom alive.

We began to discuss the different ways that women asses
He pointed out that the way my intuition works isn't
the way intuition works for other women. His
was that if I came up with a brother, father or
who carried a gun, and if when he had that gun
I felt protected
while I was out in the street, then it may not
be that odd
, to me, for a man that I am dating to take a gun
out and set it on the dresser the first
night I stayed over.

I was floored. I never thought about it that way.

We talked about how when a woman decides to leave
an abusive relationship, that it isn't black and white.
That women attempt passive resistance, they attempt
to leave and that many feel compelled to stay because they
may have children.

All I could think was, I hope Chris doesn't have to kill her
in order for more of us to start taking this issue seriously.

Black women are killed by their partners at a disproportionate

Do you think it would be different if it were Malia?

What has to happen for us to change our boys will be
boys thinking?

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