Monday, July 30, 2007


this past saturday and sunday, new york city's dusty randall's island hosted hordes of hip hop fans at the ROCK THE BELLS North American music festival, sponsored by Guerilla Union.

ROCK THE BELLS has called itself a "world-class hip hop plaftorm" and features over twenty politically conscious and activist hip hop acts, including big names such as rage against the machine, wu-tang clan, cypress hill, mos def, talib kweli, nas, EPMD, the roots, and rakim.

amazingly, of the fourteen performances scheduled this weekend for the main stage, only one featured a woman performer - erykah badu played one set on early sunday evening, as the sole woman included amongst the festival's main attractions.

apparently, a fifty minute set is all the representation women of color get at this festival and by extension, hip hop and the revolution ROCK THE BELLS is intended to be a platform for.

gender diversity on the only other stage at the festival, the "paid dues" stage, was no better without fair and equal representation of women amongst the eight acts that played over the weekend. to boot, badu's name appears misspelled on the ROCK THE BELLS randall's island lineup.

"represent + respect + recognize".... black manhood?

for a political, musical event that claims to "capture and define a movement," the nearly exclusively male ROCK THE BELLS lineup denies both the existence of women and our centrality to hip hop. are there no women voices that shape urban culture and should therefore direct the discourse of the tour? is this our answer to backwards, misogyistic hip hop - more men holding mics and the erasure of women?

and for a tour that claims to be revolutionary in ideology and focus, the absence of women performers and a focus on issues of gender equality and women's rights, fits into the larger question raised by the pecularities of the festival: which revolution exactly is ROCK THE BELLS calling for?

i have no doubt that zack de la rocha kept it real and fresh and incendiary with all he communicated while on stage and that anyone who had not yet heard any tracks off of fear of a black planet was changed for the better after seeing public enemy. the new york city, los angeles, and san francisco dates on the tour also featured an Axis of Justice tent dedicated to local activism. the presence of groups such as Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Safe Space NYC, Immigrant Communities in Action, La Otra, and JUST US, is evidence of a commitment to immigrant rights, labor rights, economic justice, youth development, and anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-war, anti-homophobic activity.

hoowever, while the content of the art of the tour itself is bold and necessary, the marketing and audience of ROCK THE BELLS remain far less than revolutionary. ROCK THE BELLS is compromised by the corporate sponsorship that seems to be used across the board to finance and support other tours of this size and scope. the frontpage of the website encourages fledgling revolutionaries (i.e. fans) to "join the mobile hip-hop revolution" which entails having news sent to your phone about "music, lifestyle, fashion, and more" but nothing more discernibly substantive. in general, the ROCK THE BELLS website, unlike the Axis of Justice site and tent, is astonishingly apolitical and commercial - as SanDisk, Rockstar Energy Drink, and Heineken are sponsors.

the terrible irony of corporate backing for a hip-hop tour with mostly performers of color is intensified by the fact that the festival is orchestrated by an organization called Guerilla Union that sports a star logo that strongly echoes the flag of the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional.

many of us here at the north star were excited at the prospect of being able to catch rare performances by rage, public enemy, and of course mighty mos, but were unable to afford the concert tickets. elizabeth, camille, and i were near the east 125th street train station on saturday morning and saw more white people than there ever are in harlem on line for buses to randall’s island. surely many other hip hop fans were unable to attend the show for financial reasons – particularly working class and poor kids and kids of color. the fact that most of the people on line for the festival were white men is a testament to the adverse effects of the cost and marketing of the festival and the fact that the buying and selling of the counterculture is still as profitable as ever.

my friend and soul-brother stanley attended ROCK THE BELLS and recounted to me his experience at the festival in the midst of a nearly all white crowd. he observed that when rage declared fox news was a fascist news station and that george w. bush should be tried as a war criminal, much of the crowd seemed to tune out.

brother stan remembers looking around in frustration at the other concertgoers, drunk and apparently oblivious to the immensity of what was unfolding on stage. he remembers wondering at the people surrounding him, “how are you going to wear a wu-tang shirt and not know the first four bars of ‘triumph?’”

for those uninterested/opposed to rage’s “political talk” or who do not know more than the chorus of “shimmy shimmy ya,” the allure of ROCK THE BELLS must be something other than the quality of the political discourse, the rhymes, the music. much of the allure surely resides in a covetous obsession with blackness as a commodity and hip hop as a fad.

the performers at ROCK THE BELLS were acutely aware of exactly who had come to see them and what the limitations and hypocrisies of the crowd were and their commentaries throughout the set were reflective of that, according to brother stan. the GZA knows white frat boys in the front row will not be at the forefront of a hip-hop revolution.

for artists as innovative and forward thinking as the roots to be included on a tour that includes more corporations than women constitutes an inconsistency of art, politics, and ethics. are we to join the men who will apparently be leading us to the future, toward change, toward... consumerism? looks like the hip hop revolution is committing the sins of white patriarchy.

these shortcomings of the festival are lost opportunities to further politicize the tour, to educate and organize with hip hop narratives. ROCK THE BELLS is an exciting congregation of some of the best talents and intellects in hip hop and music in general. the festival has the great potential to be a radicalizing experience for any true member of the hip hop generation who can afford to attend. the tour would broadcast a clearer political message with lineups, audiences, and sponsors that are more radically inclusive and representative.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

it ain't privilege, it's injustice

to pick up where the north star left off with what some have called our "scathing critique of white Leftist culture"...

a particular phenomenon in the immensely white Leftist circles at yale is a rhetorical and ideological obssession with the notion of White Privilege.

it is not uncommon to hear a white liberal campus organizer at yale say something along the lines of, "we white students at yale walk around enjoying a great deal of privilege because of the color of our skin - it is because of this privilege that we must work to uplift the citizens of new haven."

within the veins of the activist community at yale that even venture to contemplate issues of race, the ability to acknowledge and discuss White Privilege is considered a great testament to one's radicalism.

however, the fact that most white students at yale (or in this nation) do not think critically about the relationship between their whiteness and social power does not mean that those white, self-professed progressives who recognize their social and economic privilege have accomplished anything more than a certain degree of honesty about history.

news to the aforementioned self-congratulatory white Leftists:

the much-beloved term "White Privilege" fails to capture the reality of racial injustice in this nation. moreover, unquestioning and incessant talk about the special position that white people inhabit in society reproduces racial divisions in progressive movements and upholds the logic of White Supremacy.

not exactly revolutionary...

“White Privilege” is a misnomer for it suggests that white people enjoy socioeconomic advantages and benefits beyond a standard level of rights and opportunity (which presumably non-white people are afforded). however, the term does not account for the exploitation and disfranchisement of people of color that is a consequence of “White Privilege.” people of color do not possess the freedoms and protections of full and actualized citizenship. the legal and social structures of this nation do not merely demonstrate partiality towards white people but also simultaneously deny people of color the most basic of human rights, such as housing, health, education, justice, peace. the corollary to what some would term “White Privilege” is “colored degradation.”

for example, if the world were organized by “White Privilege” rather than “Racism,” a police officer might be especially kind to white people while nonetheless providing people of color with legal protection, aid, fairness under the law.

and so the white Leftists who think they are down because they have got the courage to lamentably declare, “We’ve got White Privilege,” it would be more accurate and truthful to say instead, "We are beneficiaries of racism," or "We participate in a racialized system of oppression."

how much more reluctant is the race conscious white activist to admit that his “privilege” has a consequence, that his whiteness is more than merely a personal reality about his own social power but is also an agent of violence.

as a blactivist at yale, i have found it rare to emerge from an organizing conversation or meeting with a white peer without a guilt-stricken or self-righteous allusion to “White Privilege.”

the insistence of many white campus activists upon talking about their White Privilege ad nauseam re-inscribes racial stratification and therefore begs the question:

“do you articulate the reality of your whiteness in a spirit of honesty and repentance or as a means of clinging to the privilege and social order you claim to seek to destroy?”

part of the project for white activists in recognizing their “privilege” should be the rejection of it – one must repent from, rather than embody an identity that represents oppression in its representation of privilege. “White Privilege” ought not be considered permanent or inherent, as if it inescapably resides in a white activist’s skin.

there is great violence enacted on the strategy and, more importantly, the soul of a community when the reality of "White Privilege" is used as a reminder of the agency and power white activists hold and that peers of color allegedly do not and may never possess. “White Privilege” is a construction that can be drained of its power if it is rejected - rhetorically and by individual and organized collective action.

the ceaseless, widespread rhetoric of White Privilege is also often used to describe the special commission or power that white Leftists feel they have in political efforts to make change. manifest destiny has well taught us to be wary of the salvific missions of white folk. the assertion that whiteness qualifies one as best suited to make change not only disempowers and excludes people of color from the struggle to reshape their own lives but is paternalistic and supremacist in logic.

it is undoubtedly necessary that the white activist recognizes that there are social responsibilities that accompany each social position and that there are moral imperatives associated with each identity, but to believe that it is “White Privilege” which enables change corroborates rather than disrupts the notion of white power. and for all who believe that change comes from the bottom up, for all who believe in the power that resides in the folk and in the collective, and for all who believe in the grassroots, the notion of a white folks’ coalition for justice is heresy.

it is a great contradiction and injury that so much of white Leftist culture hinges upon the use of “White Privilege” as a badge, shield, or excuse. such toxic rhetoric and action naturalize and uphold the racial injustice that undermines the integration, equality, and solidarity we profess to seek.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Ghetto Bus?

‘Ghetto Bus Tour’ glorifies Chicago’s projects
Monday Jul 23, 2007 — By Clutch
The yellow school bus rumbles through vacant lots and past demolished buildings, full of people who have paid $20 for a tour of what was once among the most dangerous areas of this or any other city in the United States.

But for the woman with the microphone, this “Ghetto Bus Tour” isn’t just another way to make a buck from tourists. It’s the last gasp in her crusade to tell a different story about Chicago’s notorious housing projects, something other than well-known tales about gang violence so fierce that residents slept in their bathtubs to avoid bullets.

“I want you to see what I see,” says Beauty Turner, after leading the group off the bus to a weedy lot where the Robert Taylor Homes once stood. “To hear the voices of the voiceless.” Turner, a former Robert Taylor Homes resident, has been one of the most vocal critics of the Chicago Housing Authority’s $1.6 billion “Plan for Transformation,” which since the late 1990s has demolished 50 of the 53 public housing high-rises and replaced them with mixed-income housing.

Officials paint a different picture
City officials have heralded the plan. But Turner believes the city that once left residents to be victimized by violent drug-dealing gangs is now pushing those same people from their homes without giving them all a place to go.

“I have people becoming homeless behind this plan, people that’s living on top of each other with relatives,” said Turner, who has given informal tours for years before the community newspaper she works for began renting the bus in January. “For some it has improved their conditions, but for the multitude of many it has not.”

Chicago Housing Authority officials say Turner glosses over the failures of public housing. They say the 25,000 units being built or rehabbed are enough for the number of people whose buildings were demolished. “She is running out of bad things to show people,” housing authority spokesman Bryan Zises said. “She is taking a circuitous route so she doesn’t have to drive by the new stuff,” including, he adds, Turner’s own home in one of the new mixed-income communities. On the tours, Turner highlights strong, black women like herself who raised their children in the projects.

Distrust runs deep
Turner takes the group by the home of one such woman, 63-year-old Carol Wallace. When the group makes its way into the dreary looking low-slung building that has not been rehabbed, Wallace tells of her suspicions that she and a lot of people like her are going to be left out of the “Plan for Transformation.”

“Overall, I think it’s just a way of getting us out of here,” said Wallace, standing in front of the door and iron security door she lives behind. “Because they’re not letting everyone back in.” allace’s home stands in stark contrast with the nostalgic picture Turner paints of the old projects. She recalls when parents like her kept an eye on the neighbor’s kids, a time when the projects shined every bit as much as the buildings now going up in their place and lawns were kept as neat as putting greens.

Glossing over the violence?
She downplays the years of violence, saying that all those news reports distorted what day-to-day life was like. All the horror stories that you heard about in the newspapers, it was not like that at all,” she said.

But the stories loom over the tour. They are impossible to forget. By the time the city started pulling down or rehabilitating the projects in the late 1990s, each one had its own headlines that spoke to the failure of public housing in Chicago.

At Cabrini-Green a boy was struck by a bullet and killed as he walked hand-in-hand with his mother. At the Ida B. Wells project, a 5-year-old boy was dangled and then deliberately dropped to his death from a 14-story window by two other children.

And at Robert Taylor, where the illegal drug trade thrived, a rookie police officer was shot to death on a stakeout outside a gang drug base. Turner could even add her own story. She saw a teenage boy shot on the very day she arrived at the Robert Taylor Homes in 1986.

Message confounds many
Her approach had some on the tour shaking their heads. Are they romanticizing these communities?” asked Mark Weinberg, a 44-year-old Chicago lawyer. “These were drug-ridden, violent neighborhoods where people wanted to live a good life but couldn’t.”

D. Bradford Hunt, a Roosevelt University professor writing a book about Chicago’s public housing, said he appreciated that Turner told the story from the perspective of tenants but wasn’t quite sure what to make of the commentary. People got killed,” he said. “You don’t make that story up.”

Still, Turner says the city has a duty to keep the community that law-abiding citizens of public housing built up over the decades, despite their challenges. That is what she fears is being lost, and why she’ll keep giving the bus tour.

“People that come in don’t want to look across the street and see seven little black churches in a three-block radius,” she said. “What they want to see is a Dominick’s and sushi joints and a Starbucks.”

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Neither tanning nor a mud bath will make a kid black.

This one is almost funny. UNICEF has a campaign in Germany urging people to donate to "Africa"--you know, that continent/country where all the people look the same, speak the same black language, and are equally in desperate need of our white money. Accepting the white man’s burden is so much easier, though, when you’re being pleaded with by an adorable, mud-covered blonde munchkin.

Imagine a grinning Shirley Temple in self-applied blackface telling you how much it “sucks” that none of the kids in Africa have schools, then asking you to donate money so African lives don’t “suck” so much. That’s right, according to this campaign Africa, as a cohesive whole, has neither functional schools nor its own ability to speak up about its problems. Luckily, rather than consulting real Africans, UNICEF can just speak through these smiling white kids, whose blonde pigtails and pouting faces tug at your heartstrings way stronger than any African could.


I won't say any more on this; just look at the pictures. Oh wait, UNICEF took them down in embarrassment. Such is the magic of caching: see them all here.


Translations via Black Women in Europe:
The first kid says:

"I'm waiting for my last day in school, the children in africa still for their first one."

second kid:

"in africa, many kids would be glad to worry about school"

third kid:

"in africa, kids don't come to school late, but not at all" (!)

fourth kid:

"some teachers suck. no teachers sucks even more."

And the latest in Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don't logic is this response to a criticism of the campaign on the Women of Color blog.

Finally, a little history to put it in context.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Plight of Afro-Latinos

A great 5-part series by the Miami Herald on the struggles of Afro-Latinos.

Here's a dope article by the well-known Puerto Rapper Tego Calderon: BLACK PRIDE - Latin America Needs Its Own Civil Right Movement Says The World-Famous Rapper.
*Note the subject headings of the NYP article at the top of the window... "Spanish Culture | Hispanic Culture | Latino Culture." Way to help the man out with his movement, New York Post. Can we get an African-diasporic culture? Maybe Afro-Latino Culture? What do we have to do to get some black up in there? And also, Spanish refers to either the language or the people of Spain. Since Tego Calderon is not discussing the culture of either of these, you must be using it as an ignorant term for Latino. Please refrain from this in the future, while also recognizing the global dimensions of the African diaspora. Thank You

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Satire, Tricksters and the Yale Record

This morning I was awakened to a text: "Alert! Alert! OCI is up!"

For all who do not know, OCI is the Yale's online listing of classes. This may seem like a mundane moment, but OCI's emergence into my summer consciousness is not unlike that beautiful day in May when your local stores start putting up their back- to- school displays.

As unenthused as I am at the prospect of summer's end, I ran to my laptop and searched for cool classes. To best explain OCI's impact on a well-worn senior: "oci this year is like looking at what used to be the candy shop and seeing it rot." Thanks for that one, Josh.

However, after being excited and disappointed by Yale's offerings, my mind began to travel to September, recounting all of the things that mark the beginning of a school year. Camp Yale, bazaar, A Cappella rush, shopping period, the first issue of most major publications.


The Yale Record will likely publish another faux- blue book, with its own course offerings delivered to us Yalies in only the wittiest of ways.

Let us not forget last year's Record, which included black power and genocide jokes. A flurry of protest catapulted the Record to great notoriety within black circles at Yale. In a defense akin to that of the Rumpus, the staff of the Yale Record justified their work as satire, which as a form is likely to offend.

And I agree! Successful satire will offend. But it is not successful satire BECAUSE it offends. I think we have to look at the history of satire in this country and the figures who have marked its short history before we go around giving everyone a pat on the back for offending my social and political sensibilities.

Now here is a plug for a book I had to read for a class which explores the "hip" in American culture, the rise of the white hipster and the black trickster figure as the model for American satire and popular culture: John Leland's "Hip: The History" get it read it love it email me about it.

Leland asserts that the American satire from Twain to Bruce to Pryor is tricksterism, not at all divorced from the legacy of Brer Rabbit stories. Filled with polarities, a trickster's work posits white against black, rich against poor, man against woman, extracting from these binaries the sheer comical value of disrupting these artificial dichotomies in favor of the chaos that they hope to suppress. Leland says it best:
"Nontrickster heroes help societies distinguish between right and wrong;tricksters violate the boundary between the two. In a nation artificially divided into black and white, inside and outside, tricksters open channels of exchange."

Above is an example I thoroughly enjoy. In “Black Bush,” Chappelle uses black vernacular culture, most specifically “the trickster,” to lay bare the absurdities of President Bush’s public statements. Inserting Bush into a black aesthetic and providing him with a “street” entourage fully equipped with an imposing bodyguard and a hype man in a sweat suit, Chappelle presents the Bush administration as nothing more than sly thugs. In a press conference regarding the war in Iraq, Chappelle takes an actual Bush quote and highlights its meaning, much of it which was lost in the real- life incident:

President Black Bush: He tried to kill my father, man. I don't play that shit.
Black Vice President: Say word he tried to kill your father, son.

Chappelle takes the “what if” joke, but this time, turns it on its head, as if to say: “it is.” Chappelle removes the veneer of the White House staff and replaces it with assumedly trifling gangsters illuminating the very double-speak that our President and his cohorts employ in order to deceive us. Who better to “out” a trickster than one of his kind? Chappelle asserts that perhaps our government is no more than street hustlers with a lot more terrain on its plate and a lingo that is harder to deconstruct and identify.

But the joke isn’t over. This joke, as Chappelle is so brilliantly aware, is dependent on the audience’s willingness to charge black characters with deceit and shiftiness. Would the joke have worked well with an Italian mafia boss posited as Bush?? Maybe. A group of suburban Mean Girls? Unlikely. A white, white-collar criminal? Nope. Chappelle knows what he’s doing. He picks the lowest of the low: black, male hustlers in hip hop gear—a site of much notoriety and disgust for most Americans. Here, Chappelle tells a joke so drenched in satire and commentary that he fools some people into thinking they understand why they are laughing. So most people can laugh at Chappelle’s Black Bush, but do they know he’s laughing at them?
Chappelle’s genius is predicated on his ability to unearth tensions that we would rather go unseen or unprobed. Tricksters of this nature operate on a level of genius sustained by a knowledge unimaginable to most. Sitting outside of society and peeking in at moments at a time, its unforeseeable what they can reveal to us. Their satire is inventive and informative BECAUSE of this very straddling of lines of inside/ outside. They show us that it is not merely enough to RE- present what society looks like, but you have to reveal it for what it is: a tenuously ordered ruckus.

Yale Record: Please don’t re-present your lack of understanding of racial sature. Try again, if you will. I'll be waiting.

Myth of the Klan

A few weeks ago, I was helping my aunt organize her audaciously robust
library when I came across a children's book on African- Americans. Yes,
that took me a moment. It was a part of a series on hyphenated American
cultures, including Dutch- American culture...Yup, another moment.

But I digress. In this book on African- American people, there was special
attention granted to Reconstruction and the rise of white power groups with
the Klu Klux Klan posited as THE perpetrators of racist crimes, including
lynchings around the nation. I reread this section over and over again,
struck by its adherence to the Klan- centric school on racism. This school,
which I believe to be dominant in American culture, places all blame and
guilt in the myth of the omnipotent and all- accountable Klan. Did the Klan
commit all acts of racial violence in the south? No. Does this
representation discount the horror of local lynchings unrelated to any
larger "cause"? Yes. Does it absolve the multitudes of Americans complicit
in these crimes? Yes. But, duh. Klan= bad. Everyone else is safe!

Unfortunately, this false order provides a security blanket for many Americans who refuse
to approach the complexities of race in the American landscape with the
appropriate sensitivity and logic.

I bring this up today, because I am tiring of a trend in current racial discourse. The last year has been chock full of public displays of racism and the
consequent "I'm not racist" movements. An exhibition of such plays out like so: 1) Someone famous says something blatantly racist. 2) It gets leaked to youtube. 3) People act shocked and point at said famous person as though he is some cultural artifact or time capsule from a racist epoch, i.e. not now.

Response to Michael Richards: "That crazy Michael Richards! He's so racist,
but I don't say nigger in a crowded room, so I'm cool!"

Response to Don Imus: "Oh my God! We've got to withdraw our sponsorship, because he's racist and believe me, our company is NOT"

Response to Isaiah Washington (i know its not racial, but...): "Gay- basher!
Fire his ass! Because we at Disney- owned ABC really have a higher moral
ground here!"

What does it mean to dismiss these men as crazy anomalies? I submit that doing so posits these outbursts in an apolitical, post- racial space. These men and their words did not emerge out of a vacuum, so I ask that people stop patting themselves on the back for not slipping up or speaking their true prejudices aloud and DEFINITELY stop treating these outed racists as creatures from a pre-historic past.

The Don Imus debacle created an environment in which CBS Radio and NBC had a real chance to do something positive. This positive thing was not to fire Imus who had, in my opinion, apologized appropriately. I think that these networks could have taken this one step further and made some changes in their programming, which is much larger issue for the black community. But alas, we should remain in our comfortable post- civil rights state where "racism" "is" "a" "rarity" and point fingers at those who disrupt our lived daydream. As for me? I'd like to thank Imus and Washington and whoever else has been forced to face the realities of this age of political correctness and moral laziness.

And the myth of the Klan lives on.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Another Katrina? Oh, just an NAACP debate. Plans were the same anyway.

Looks like Republicans aren't showing up for anything these days.

On Thursday, all but one candidate failed to attend the NAACP's Republican debate. Still, organizers were sure to put podiums up for the "missing" candidates. The lone attendee? Tom Tancredo, a Congressman from Ohio. Before you give him a standing O for showing up like the crowd reportedly did (our crowds? not so sure), it's best to read the nonsense he was trying to perpetuate.

Check out this report from MSNBC:

"Tancredo said proponents of immigration reform have 'the audacity to call 'amnesty' the modern day civil rights movement.' He earned big applause for saying 'There is no comparison' between the two movements. Is he banking on black Americans' concern over jobs lost to illegals trumping the elements of common experience between the Hispanic and black communities? And is he trying to play on the tensions between some blacks and Hispanics highlighted in cities like Los Angeles and Houston?

He then closed with a two-minute statement, including an anecdote highlighting what he said whites and blacks have in common -- a language.

He recalled the story of a white woman looking for crew socks in a store and could not find anyone who spoke english. She finally found a black woman who helped her. The black woman said, 'I always knew something was going to bring us together. Who would have thought it was going to be a language?'" [MSNBC]

That closing anecdote is particularly insidious given the larger context. More neocon nonsense trying to tear black and brown communities apart. I'm really disappointed people fell for this, but the rhetoric is locked tight and seductive. Expect more of this at the Republican All-American Presidential debate where (I've heard) most candidates will appear. As for part two of the Dems debate, I'm working on it.

Back to black and brown tensions regarding immigration. Has anyone seen any good posts on this lately? It seems as if we've dangerously coalesced moral and legal standards with short term economic realities in our politics (oh yeah, and racism). What can we do to sort it out, especially since a number of our potential allies might be tempted to respond to these conservative class-based fear tactics around the immigration issue?

Not rhetorical, btw.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Debate Where They Showed My Scars And People Clapped

A week or so ago, the Democratic presidential candidates attended a debate called the All-American Presidential Forum, a night focused on issues of race (read: black people). Now, I watched the event and blogged it live then realized NO ONE was saying anything interesting. Well, let me qualify interesting. Few were saying anything that I had not heard before and almost no one was saying it sincerely. I’ll still share the topics that were selected and present highlights from their comments.

First, a few things. I really respect the title ‘All-American Presidential Forum.’ We all know what they’re doing. Ellison, did it decades before them…but better. They’re trying to make black America something that’s American. Well, I think it’s best done understated and naturalized (since…it already is) instead of drawing out the “Alllllll” and still mentioning black America and the “greater” or the “whole” in ways that show us that the title is simply rhetoric. Just live it. They should stick with what they said about America getting sick and black America getting sicker. And be consistent with that metaphor; futures that are intertwined with disproportionate realities. When we create and use a metaphor of division, we shouldn’t be surprised when there are actually many different Americans that we now have to weave back together.

Also, I really need for race to stop meaning solely black and white issues. As awesome as it was to be the only group of color highlighted by the media years ago (was it?), I think it’s disingenuous and destructive to keep acting like America is black and white (note how I DON’T qualify that with 'in the 21st century.' It’s always been multiracial!). Obviously, I think it’s still read that way, but we cannot deny the presence of others any longer. It only hurts the black community along with each and every community that exists in our same world. This is why black and Hispanic neighborhoods and black and Asian neighborhoods are being torn apart with violence. There is no model or room for a dialogue. I think we might find this strange in the college realm since (at least, in my experience) there have been many multiracial coalitions. I simply disliked hearing questions answered with only black answers (sometimes bringing in Latinos) because it shows how limited the candidates are in their thinking, pathologizes black people as problems even more, and creates silence that will only be oppressive, especially related to Asian American communities in the realm of education and business.

PBS and Tavis Smiley hosted the event at Howard University. CNN political ticker, of course, noted that the event started ten to fifteen minutes late because of introductions by Howard Prez, Tom Joyner, Tavis Smily, and Deval Patrick. (Anyone else notice how CNN’s snarkier comments are the ones you can’t link to? Keep your eyes on ‘em.) The first question was “from the people.” The question: Is race still the main problem of the 21st century (she had quoted DuBois’ “problem of the 20th century is that of the color line)? She quickly mentioned the Supreme Court decision that struck down race as a factor in K-12 just in case anyone had lost their mind and decided to answer in the negative.

Clinton: “Race sill presents defining challenges in the U.S. and the world.” After talking about progress by, you guessed it, pointing out Obama, Richardson, and herself as signs of change. We’ll debate that last point later, Clinton (no disrespect to feminism, it's just that a vote for her is a vote for a monarchy just like w/ lil’ Bush). Then, Clinton picked up on the cue from the question and said anyone who doesn’t think race is a factor is not looking in front of their face. Shrewd since we’ve got seven answers to go. After that, she did what will be the worst and most central aspect of the debate. She panders to our community by showing off our scars. Our own bruises! And we clap! Is this really what it means to be a liberal in our society? To admit that blacks are injured? Lord, help us all. When Clinton calls on me to be a “foot soldier in that revolution” because “the march is not finished.” Well, that’s when I know she spent the day youtubing what she thought was rhetoric she could imitate; instead, it’s the only access to truth we have: hope. Unfortunately for Clinton, even hope still needs to be authentic. However, the audience loves her.

In this debate, I became very appreciative of sincerity. Unfortunately, Biden is a sincere jerk. He does not understand how to talk about our community without pathologizing. Please watch some of the sections, if only for the audiences’ facial expressions when he speaks. Classic. He gave a great answer here, though, about how Democratic senators did not do enough to stop Alito and Roberts from becoming justices leading to the Seattle decision that ruled against race as a factor in K-12. He’s one of the few who address specifics throughout.

Richardson’s answer was true to his performance. Previously, Richardson had shown his spunk and authenticity by saying his choice not to condemn Gonzalez as fast as his Democratic counterparts was solely because Gonzales was Latino. That could knock a tier one candidate back to the drawing board! Pretty sad state of things, huh? Racial solidarity gets you canned and ol’ boys network gets you a job (and apparently, a get out of jail free pass? Scoot your way pass go and DO collect 200 bucks). Anyway, his answer dealt with race being a reality for him instead of a talking point. Addressing my central concern in the first answer? Maybe, I need to check out his campaign site.

Edwards: “This is one of the great HBCUs that we ALL should be proud of” *SMILE*. Edwards goes off on his two Americas rant that I’m so wary of. This is his trend the whole night: talking about being excited for this debate since he’s, you know, perfect for it…during the debate.

WOAH! Reality check moment: “By the way, also making sure that every single American, including people of color, are allowed to vote and that their vote is counted in the election and we know their voice is heard in the election.” – Edwards

How sad it it that in 2007 this is still so relevant? After becoming a whole person (instead of 3/5) in 1865, obtaining voting “rights” in 1870, passing a federal law to finally make them meaningful in 1965, that in 2007 our voting rights are still imaginary and another false promise. Not that I’m showing off my scars! I just needed to write that down, acknowledge it, strategize about how we can dismantle it, and live. Sadly, stalling after step two…

Obama mentions that if it hadn’t been for the Brown V. Board team that used Howard as their base and resource pool, he would not be standing on the stage. He says you have to have political will to take these issues on.

A look at what’s going around: people are GRILLING Obama. Sharpton looks like he’s about to send lasers out of his eyes. It’s intense. These young black men that car washed their way to the debate (and were acknowledged earlier) are furiously writing things down as Obama speaks. Great call, cameraman. Great call. Looking back, Obama actually started off solidly. Clinton and Obama share the biggest applause so far.

After every debate I really might be thinking, ‘if only Kucinich was a little taller.’ This guy’s got it together. He credits Obama for a great answer, shows his homespun character by saying “the executive and judicial branch say to pull yourselves up by your bootstraps when they stole the boots.” FYI, he does not use Clinton’s “homegirl” act. Yes, it’s true. But is it any better than Bill’s “I’ve got a dirty secret. I know about you folk. I play saxophone” tone and look? Alright alright, I digress. Kucinich immediately mentions a bill by Jesse Jackson, Jr. that would make equal education a constitutional right. Then, champions universal pre-kindergarten. Then, says to eliminate No Child Left Behind. Then, points to the success of arts education that’s getting cut left and right. To the skeptic who asks where the funding will come from, Kucinich still has enough time to mention cutting the war funding and supporting equal opportunity for our children instead. He joins Clinton and Obama in the loudest applause category. This group won’t change for the rest of the night.

Last and…maybe least, Gravel. He attacks the “war on drugs” right out of the gate. He gets pretty fiery making prohibition references and saying it’s a public health issue not a criminal one. Awesome. Then…"if there’s one group of people in this country that needs to face up to that problem and…we need to face up to it, it’s the African-American community." Huh?!

RED ALERT! So Gravel continues to be this awkward later. Never make a “we” without including “me.” Just don’t do it. I don’t care if you could argue that his grammar meant America collectively. I don’t think his thoughts did. And he’s never getting my vote. Ever. Sorry.

On the issue of language, Edwards is also VERY awkward. He says “slavely” for slavery and pulls the "replacing African-American with black" stutter a lot along with saying “Bafrican-Americans” once. I know. I know. But if you give me a debate (that ended up being) about my people, I will critique your performance.

Oh...Chris Dodd. Missed you there, didn’t I? Don’t I always... *awkward pause* Anyways...Oh, wow. This dude is serious. He really wants to be President. Voice raised, eyebrow cocked, and he has the arm rocking. He even slaps his microphone. Wait, on review...karate chops. Not only did Chris Dodd point at my scar, he RIPPED off the band-aid, yelled something I couldn’t understand about Neosporin, and then didn’t even give me directions to Walgreens as he ZOOMED off in his limo.

That was the introduction and the first question. I definitely cannot do the rest in one entry so expect to see further installments in the coming week.

In the meantime, actually watch the debate so you can see the ridiculousness of it all. In many ways, these are the best answers from all of them. Yea, I know. Tell me about it.

So America, about that third party?
Not you, Nader.
Not you, Bloomberg or Lieberman.

So America, about that progressive party?

wait for it
wait for it

and *sigh*

Friday, July 6, 2007

What Brings You Here?

In the last post, Naima eloquently wrapped up why the members of TNS write. As the fireworks fizzle out and the confetti gets swept away, we’d like to know why you’re here.

Here are more than enough responses for, well, inspiration from the google side of things.

At first, I just expected everything to some variation of TNS or BJB like this one.

black justice blog

Then, I found that google can link to our posts as well and saw the topical come up every now and then.

taking it to the streets obama
obama imus
obama imus fired

Some a bit more revealing than others…

michelle obama emasculate white
michelle obama is liability

The ever popular Kelly Ripa still continues to dominate with her “performance of blackness”

kelly ripa chicken noodle soup

But some even gave me some cool ideas for potential posts.

timeline on the use of the word nigger

Then, of course, our interracial explosion. I wonder whose hands these searches belong to? Anyway, this is our most popular search item. Since we bust myths and crack standards at least they are coming to the right place. Unless it’s out of love…

ivy league educated black man interracial white women angry
bm/wf dating blogs
bm/wf dating
black-men white-women
black men dating white women interracial
black men women relationships race
interracial black women and white men
interracial-relationships whit
white female for black man
black female marriage rate 2007

A few on Naima’s favorite artists. (joke)

shakira looks white
beyonce white skin
women of colour bellydancing

And some really interesting ones on whiteness. I really feel this white consciousness movement happening. I just hope people like us provide a model for how to deal with historical and present trauma (by exposing it and examining it with a lens of truth and a plan for reconciliation with proper representation) instead of creating more soldiers for that other type of white consciousness (“white Christian male power structure”).

white people have no inhibitions
why I feel guilty being white
white people in business
can’t rely on white people
do white people feel guilty for being white?
White heteronormativity
White savior movies

Some searches made contradictory partners.

Hip hop does not desecrate black women
you cant turn a ho into a housewife hos don't act right the poet
standard of beauty african america tan butt lip

Others intrigued…

white girl rappers northern star
north african women photos


dave chappelle killing them softly if everyone was openly racist

and offended.

why chicken cross the road get away from black person

Others were truly out there.

mc solaar prose combat blogspot

Some asked questions where the answer is still out there.

what is true blackness
why are white people racist

It showed me that we were never alone in our concerns.

african poverty misery photos
photos of children portraying poverty in africa.
signifying power in africa.

black vernacular english global
Jamaican slang chu

freedom writers monologues
marcus garvey poetry in akeelah and the bee

And even in our language.

what does white supremacist capitalist patriarchy
American cultural hegemon

Inspired me for the coming weeks…

the servant problem and representations of black domestic workers
songs for our heroes

and asked questions both obvious

do rappers and basketball players value status symbols as success?

And puzzling.

Meaning of bring em out by ti

I hope each one found something in our pages. I certainly found something in their leap to the unknown. It might not have been what they were looking for, but I hope it was enough to stall just a moment and give a quick read to something before hitting that back button.

And you?

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

what to the slave is the fourth of july?

the north star blog name has many origins: the desire of tns bloggers to authentically embody the principles of light and truth, our shared conviction that writing and dialogue are essential to resistance and freedom, and the creative brilliance of BJB blogger, brittani, who suggested the name.

our blog name also exists in tribute to the legacy of Frederick Douglass and the abolitionist newspaper he founded, The North Star.

in rochester, new york in 1841, Frederick Douglass delivered an Independence Day address best known as "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" 166 years later, we share the text from his speech, as people of color living in a nation at war globally and internally, and on a day that is intended to celebrate the destruction of oppression and the restoration of the dignity and autonomy of free peoples.

in the spirit of Douglass, we offer this speech as a call to action that remains not only relevant but absolutely imperative.

"...Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, 'may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!' To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave's point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery the great sin and shame of America..."

you can read more of Frederick Douglass' speech here. this excerpt is from:

The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, Volume II
Pre-Civil War Decade 1850-1860
Philip S. Foner
International Publishers Co., Inc., New York, 1950

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Just Do Something

So, I've never liked Jordan.
He blew smoke in my face when I met him around 1992. And 6 year old Josh wasn't that happy with it. And, as you might be able to guess, I still haven't let it go.
But it's not like he's given me reasons to like him after our encounter.

While wanting to be "like Mike" certainly means something on the court, what does it mean when he goes out of bounds into real life? Gambling, golf, baseball, promoting shoes? Will Jordan ever speak out about something meaningful?

I could have missed something, but it doesn't seem likely.

Here's a great article from ESPN about his inactivity with anything that doesn't deal with shoes.

Excerpt below:

His Airness has always held a precarious place in my heart. My admiration for his passionate play is constantly at battle with my frustration for his apparent lack of passion for anything that doesn't benefit him.

When I think of the large cultural space he occupies -- even in retirement -- and the fact "Republicans buy sneakers too" remains his most memorable contribution to the political landscape, I am truly baffled that he can rest peacefully at night. I don't care if he's a Republican, Democrat or Libertarian. But while his iconic Nike labelmate, Lance Armstrong, has become synonymous with yellow wristbands and the cancer fight, MJ, who is far more influential, continues to steadfastly sidestep using his image for social change, even as it relates to issues of the global black community.

Silence about AIDS in Africa.

Silence during the Hurricane Katrina aftermath.

Silence in the fight against, well, just about anything.

Except slumping shoe sales.

Now some of you are thinking, "Haven't I read this criticism of Jordan before?" to which I say, "Yes, you probably have." Others are wondering, "Why does he have to do anything?" Let me answer that one too: He doesn't.

Nevertheless I bring this challenge up today because, one, the NBA is welcoming a new collection of young men with the potential to do great things, and two, I feel the black community needs a powerful voice such as Michael Jordan's now more than ever.