i just read, or saw, or watched something that i need to remember

...this is how i'm doing it...

- interested in blackness as a concept
- interested in music, sound and sonic histories
- interested in mapping, networks and lines of force

to my folks living with HIV, to my folks thriving in unbearable conditions, to my folks showing what it means to make ways outta no way, thank you. we can remember a time when HIV diagnoses meant certain forms of disregard from communities, when it meant shunning and shaming but we learn daily from the tenacity of folks who live and thrive, who resist being shunned and shamed. we are not yet there … we are not yet at a place wherein we will not moralize and police behaviors, where we will not seek to shame people because of a medical syndrome. but we continue, we move forward, we learn from folks daily how to be a change in the world. 

so today, we reverence the ones we have lost to the battle with HIV/AIDS complications and honor them by speaking truth to power, by seeking a cure, by loving freely and radically. 

#WorldAIDSDay

black-culture:

Black twitter reacts to @usatoday headline -@zellieimani

(via moyazb)

fyi... your blog inspired me to make a tubmlr to keep track of my own research, stuff i've read, etc. thanks for that!

sorry i’m just getting this (no idea when you submitted, honestly) … but i’m glad my tumblr has been useful to you! 

thatbrainiacboy:

Story of my life.
E. All of the above

thatbrainiacboy:

Story of my life.

E. All of the above

newmanology:

Winold Reiss was an artist and graphic designer active in the early 1900s. Ironically, this German immigrant came to fame for his illustrations, portraits, and cover designs during the Harlem Renaissance. He taught and mentored artist Aaron Douglas, and his work appeared on Harlem Renaissance-era book and magazine covers. His portraits of writers, poets, and residents of Harlem for the book The New Negro, edited by Alain Locke in 1925, were very influential. Here’s a selection of illustrated portraits by Reiss from The New Negro. More information on Reiss here.

Portraits, top to bottom:

1) Paul Robeson

2) Zora Neale Hurston

3) Harlem Girl

4) Jean Toomer

5) The Brown Madonna

6) W.E.B. DuBois

7) Elise Johnson McDougald

8) Black Prophet

9) Two Public School Teachers

(via thiskindmind)

from: “the workings of something new”

stumbled on some old fiction tonight. figured i’d post it. 

hey – child? ugly, ugly child.
what are you playin’ over ‘round here for?
what did you come over down here for?

hey – child? ugly, ugly child.
do you really think we gonna share our toys?
do you really think we gonna be your friend?

My Dear,

The earliest thing I can recall about my mother is the way she held me when we rode to my grandmother’s funeral when I was three or four years old. She kept rubbing on my back as if I were the one that needed to get over it. Everything else, it seems, is a complete and utter blur. A haziness with which I remember the past until that moment. In that car. She holding me. Her mother died at the rather young age of 57, was a chain smoker and had a husky voice because of it. I remember that my mother was humming, maybe to me or to herself, as we rode in the car. My mother sat on the passenger’s seat of the car in the front and she held me, me straddling her with my head somewhere between her neck and hair, cheek to cheek. She had a semi-short afro with tight curls and I ran my fingers through it as she made noise. She was sad. The thing is, I don’t really remember what she hummed, one of her Baptist hymns or maybe an Aretha song. But I do remember how it felt, how her warm breath shuttled passed my ear while the air conditioning was on my neck, the sound of the air conditioner vibrating in my ears because it was so loud. My father was constantly switching between radio stations using those old knobs and I watched as the orange needle moved to indicate the new station. I turned around and reached out to it, realizing how dusty it was. They never cleaned them. When I reached out my hand, used my fingers to change the station, he took his right hand and smacked mine. I think they were frustrated. My grandmother’s death was taking its toll on the family: they loved her and she was very close to them, probably closer to my father than my mother – at least, that’s the way she tells it. I didn’t cry because it didn’t make sense. He turned off the radio and my mother’s humming filled the weirdly quiet car. They normally talked to each other and laughed with each other and fondled each other’s hands.

My mother’s humming made me feel less cold, thank God. The car was a champagne color and I only remember that because it was always dirty and I would always swipe my fingers all over the car – the roof, the trunk, the doors – to see how much grit I could lift off with my fingers. My mother later told me that I mostly drew circles with sad faces in them or child-like sermon titles but mostly, gibberish. The dirt would turn my orange-red-cream palms an ashy, pasty white color. I was a lot smaller then but somewhere between three and thirty-three, I got fat. But that’s not the point. The point is that I always liked to feel things with my fingers to see what they felt like.

Don’t ask me why I’m telling you this but God put that in my heart to share with you. And yes, I do believe in God even though your mother and her friends think I’m the only sinner and, most of the time, I agree with them. I really don’t know what else to do with myself. You know I haven’t written in a long time, not anything this lengthy at least, but I never explained why. I stopped writing because I was uncomfortable with how the characters in the short stories I wrote so closely resembled people I thought I long ago had forgotten. There is some holy-spiritual-ascetic quality about the pen and my black and white composition journals. Whenever I’d pick a journal up and run my fingers through the tattered pages and the once-white, now dirty light brown edges with pen marks and creases and folds – I like to keep all the old ones – I’d immediately have characters dance in my head and I’d write. Some sort of unconscious recalling of all the stuff I had forgotten.

You weren’t supposed to look in the book I had at the shop but you did. I’m not angry about that anymore. I guess I shouldn’t have had it there with me in the first place. The story I wrote was somewhat fictional but somewhat based on my life too. The song you read that you said you liked? I suppose one could only “like it” if they think it fictional, so I guess I should explain it to you. I know I told you I made it up and when I wrote it, I thought I did. You happened to read it the same day I wrote it. Heard some sorta noise, some sorta chatter in my head … lines about an ugly, ugly child so i wrote until i filled it out with what i thought to be something i’d created. But later that day after my morning ritual of writing, I fell asleep on my couch while fondling my pen with the journal under my stomach and I began to dream. I woke up with tears in my eyes because in the dream: I finally remembered. The chant was no fictional occurrence.

I was eight years old again and my fourth grade friends stood around me, badgering me. The dream reminded me of how they would gather around me, maybe ten of them when we were on the playground playing stickball or jump rope.  The boys wouldn’t let me play with them because I was a sissy and a girl, according to them, and the girls wouldn’t let me jump rope with them because I was a boy. One day, I began crying because nobody would play with me and they made up a patty-cake-like hand clappin’ and pattin’ song on the spot

hey – child? ugly, ugly child.
what are you playin’ over ‘round here for?
what did you come over down here for?

hey – child? ugly, ugly child.
do you really think we gonna share our toys?
do you really think we gonna be your friend?

Funny. Back then, I thought the last word was “kin” and it wasn’t until the dream that i “remembered” that they were saying “friend.” It made so much sense for the word to be kin because, it seemed from their chant, that they weren’t related to me and that was the reason I was ugly to them. I had very few friends that I loved and Jeffery was one of them, or at least the Jeffery I imagined him to be because I had known since preschool. Jeffery, my best friend at the time, was the ringleader and not only said that I was that ugly, ugly child but started saying that I was a nappy, nappy child too. We were only best friends by virtue of situation: we recognized each other from our preschool when we walked into our kindergarten classroom together. Ever since, it was recognition that tied us to each other; we surely didn’t share interests, had never been to each others’ houses and rarely talked about anything.

After the dream: I vaguely remembered the day, clearly. Or: I clearly remembered the day, vaguely. All my mind’s eye can recall is how close everything appeared to be to me, how it seemed as if I could reach out my hand and touch everyone, the sky, the ground; how the horizontal plane seemed to bend like when you have a camera lens that takes in too much spatial information. Everything seemed to be rounded or curved. Vertical seemed to bend – or bow – as well. I kept trying to walk away, defiant of their will for me to cry, feeling as if we were marching to Zion – upwards, sidewards. I felt dizzy from vertigo, from the flux of loud chants being screamed at me.

Their faces are a blur but what I felt then, I felt every time I preached, every time I smoked, every time I went to the club, every time I repented, every time I thought about men, every time I sang through my deliverance…and, more importantly, every time I touched heads to make them pretty, every time I licked heads to feel pretty…wanted. Every time.

I think I’m getting sick. I keep having this tentative cough never coming to fruition, never allowing relief. That feeling is right there, in my throat but won’t come out and damn, I wish it would. A tickling in my throat. No. It lingers - that feeling, tentative - in my body.

So, as a result of my ugly nappiness or my nappy ugliness, I went to Zion Temple on the corner of the street on which I grew up – the corner of Harrison and Central but not before I beat Jeffery’s ass. It happened one too many times and that last time would, indeed, be the last time. That would be the last time he’d call me a fag in front of all those people. Fag? Shit. A fag beat his muthafuckin ass that day. I smiled a bit. Whenever I’d walk away, they’d chant louder and create new verses, shit I never thought to say to someone when we played - and after dreaming, I remembered it was, in fact, we and not simply them - ugly child hand games. This song is about you Jeffery would say…often. He also talked about my complexion, at once too dark and too light at the same damn time. So I beat his ass and he cried a lot when it was over. His nose was bloody. I got suspended and my father whipped my ass. Reciprocity. I went right to church and have been there – more or less – ever since. I didn’t want to be ugly. And I certainly didn’t want to be nappy.

So it’s been a while, yes. But I had a dream last night, which is why I’m writing you in the first place. It was that annoying, recurring dream of me in grade school and my friends were gathered around me, singing…but different this time:

hey – child? ugly, ugly child.
hey – child? ugly, ugly child.
hey – child? ugly, ugly child.
hey – child? ugly, ugly child.

hey – child? ugly, ugly child.
hey – child? ugly, ugly child.
hey – child? ugly, ugly child.
hey – child? ugly, ugly child.

do you really think, did you really think?
do you really think, did you really think?
do you really think, did you really think?
do you really think, did you really think?

do you really think, did you really think?
do you really think, did you really think?
do you really think, did you really think?
do you really think, did you really think?

hey – child?
hey – child?
hey – child?
hey – child?

hey – child?
hey – child?
hey – child?
…ey – chi…

I apologize for the blurred words right there. I didn’t mean to cry but even writing, I feel like I’m there again now. I have always felt ugly, unwanted in a way. When I told my father what happened at school the first time, he laughed at me and said “don’t worry, they’re just being kids.” I wish he knew. It didn’t feel like that. It felt that I had nowhere to belong, no one whom would take me seriously. That’s why I love you. You made me feel natural again. “Again” may be a misstatement because I don’t think I ever felt that way before.

I wish I was different but I don’t know how to change. And it’s not that I haven’t tried. It’s just that I don’t even know what change would mean. Honestly. I know I’ve said it already, even in this letter, but I really want to change. I remember when I was a kid. I would ride my bike or walk down the street terrified whenever I would see a group of boys and would sigh in relief if there was at least one girl with them. See, my parents were poor and I didn’t have the best clothes most of the time. A lot of hand-me-downs from my sister, colors as neutral as possible. But my bike was my older sister’s bike. Bright, red, streamers and a long seat. Screamed of girls. Dingy white sneakers with purple or pink shoelaces. I remember those the most because I hated them. They got me the most attention. The boys would throw rocks or snowballs or whatever else they could find at me. Sometimes they’d beat me up. Jeffery was easy because he was scrawny. But the boys I’m talking about were older than me and scared the hell out of me. I wanted to be strong like them. I think that’s why I was drawn to boys so much sexually…maybe they could fuck some manliness into me. Or make me feel shitty, forreal.

All that to say, I cannot be held responsible to be your savior. I have some pretty fucked up views regarding the lifestyle, so don’t depend on me to tell you that it’s sinful or not, that you are going to heaven or hell. I just can’t have that type of responsibility. My friend Sheila always recommended that I go to therapy but I never thought it would be useful. I love God with everything in my heart and soul, I try to live life as a good person and try to respect everyone’s wishes. I know I’m going to hell for being in the lifestyle but I do wish God would have grace on me. I’ve prayed and fasted and spoken in tongues and cried and stopped jerking off and stopped going to clubs and stopped having sex at one point or another in my life. Then I met you and I don’t know if God sent you to me or the enemy. I just know that you’re too young and intelligent and amiable and too lovely to get caught up with someone like me, someone in the lifestyle that isn’t sure he wants to be in the lifestyle. I’m settled on the fact that I’m gay. But if I keep messing up…well, as I said, I already know I’m going to hell. But IT IS SUCH A LOVELY DAY outside. You know it’s been raining a lot lately, so I am surprised. Anyway.

Every day I wake up, the first thing I do is thank God for another chance to get things right. I never told you but the first time I saw you, I prayed harder and cried more tears and louder than I had ever prayed and cried and shed tears before. It wasn’t your face, it was your manner, the way you spoke to me. I felt something move in my stomach. So ran home as quickly as possible to pray to God that he would take these feelings away from me. Your voice changed how I looked at the lifestyle. It wasn’t something just to get through, a phase to endure, a test or trial from Satan. No. Your voice and charm and wit and kindness and humility made me think that those were the workings of something new. Something from God? Or the Devil.

I kept pleading the blood of Jesus:

the blood of Jesus
the blood of Jesus
the blood of Jesus
…blood…
the blood of Jesus
the blood of Jesus
the… …Jesus
the blood of Jesus
… … … ..sus.

Again, I apologize for the smears on the paper. I keep crying while writing to you. But my point is this: Anytime some sin becomes flesh to me, I call on Jesus to save me, to help me. I know He heard me so I’m waiting.

I’m not an emotional person. Not at all. But the emotions I felt for you…feel for you? They were real and scary and thrilling and satisfying and honest and satanic. Upon first feeling whatever it was I felt, I was touched, deeply, by you. And that’s why I know they couldn’t be from God. God doesn’t want us to feel anything that close to godliness unless it’s God himself. That’s what I believe. I would lay on my side and watch you sleep, listen to you snore and smile to myself and laugh at myself because of my silliness…the silliness you could make me feel. At least with the other men, it was never something that took my attention away from Him but you consumed me. I could no longer focus on God, just you and your happiness and the love you gave to me. But it was lust. And I can no longer live lusting after God’s creation, I can’t love the creation more than our Creator, and that’s what I do with you. You are not good for me. You confirmed the sinfulness of the lifestyle.

If the lifestyle is a test from God, then surely meeting you forced me to reconsider if I could actually have a relationship with a man. If the lifestyle is something from the Devil, meeting you made me think that God does send men to men sometimes. God does work in strange ways. God doesn’t have respect of persons, so who am I, a lowly creature, to seek a different course. Holiness or hell. Zion Temple made me realize that.

My Dear, I love you more than you could ever know. That is why we can never be together. Never again try to convince me that I could go to heaven and still be in the lifestyle. It breaks my heart to know that you’ve been lost.

God loves us so much and wants the best for us. That’s why he brought us together. We can be the very best of friends, I think. I think that’s what God wants of us. That’s why he brought us together. I think we can be the very best of friends, I think. God loves us so much and he wants the best for us. Sex isn’t what God wants from us. We don’t need to kiss or hug or sleep together or go on dates. No. God loves us so much and wants the best for us. That’s why he brought us together. We can be the very best of friends, I think. I think that’s what God wants of us. I think that’s why he brought us together. I think we can be the very best of friends. You think so too, right?

That’s why I love him so. If God never does anything else for me, even if these feelings don’t go away and I have to live and die with them, he’s done enough. You know how blessed I am? I know I’m blessed. You think I’m blessed, right?

I wish your mother knew how much I struggled with myself. It isn’t easy. I hope this makes sense, what I wrote to you. It doesn’t, I’m sure. It barely makes sense to me…

Sweet child,
Kevin

on blackness, atheism and the preference for #BlackDisbelief

so i went on a bit of a rant discussion about disbelief, atheism and blackness today. figure i’d throw it on tumblr too … 

imagination and a new world (presented at #ForgingJustice)

imagination and a new world

 

before i begin, i would like to thank you all for having me. feminism and queer theory gave me a way to rethink the world. it is because of these discourse that i am alive.


One

She arrived to New York, having absconded, having secreted herself away from danger. New soil she’d never tasted, new sounds she’d only envisioned, new sights she only imagined in her inward ear. There she was, away from danger. Perhaps, even, some might say free. But she was unsettled. Arriving to New York from Maryland – alone – is not what made her feel free. So she went back. Back to the same plantation she had escaped. Back to the same people who treated her as chattel. And it was in that decision – to go back – that she, I think, enacted radical freedom as a liberatory project. She performed the concept of Sankofa, an Akan word (Ghana) that means, “reach back and get it.”

 

 

 

She, Harriet Tubman, became known as the most successful conductor of the Underground Railroad, helping scores of enslaved folks escape for freedom. Tubman realized that liberation was not a linear project, not a forward moving progression grounded in propulsion away from an origin. Freedom was grounded in the reaching back, in the going to get that which was left behind that had equal value. Worlds were created through her performance of Sankofa, worlds of love and care, joy and even danger, against the strictures and structures of enslavement.

 

And she still teaches us today.

 

The enslaved imagined new worlds, not just as a necessity of the political economy but as a means to enact that which they had already, to enact the gift of radical imagination that the political economy could not eradicate.

 

Simply, freedom is a social project. The creation of new worlds can occur in the space of old ones through social, networked socials, through socialities that refuse enclosure. Liberation will require our flesh, put us in radical danger of enjoying pleasure unbounded, pleasure and joy and love uncapturable by the nation-state, unable to be surveilled. Liberation will require our flesh, put us – alongside the necessary and disruptive pleasures of an otherwise – in radical danger, make of us all targets of state violation and violence. Silence – a particularly willed posture of unsaying, unspeaking – we know, will not protect us, as Audre Lorde taught. So we must choose this fight for liberation because our past is our present is our future, there are no degrees of separation … it all happens each now.

 

Two

Ida B. Wells’s anti-lynching project addressed a certain form of violence that, because of a theological and philosophical whiteness, leaves black people – as critical theorist and black feminist Hortense Spillers says – outside of, before, excluded from gender. This existence outside of, before, and exclusion from gender will ultimately be a gift to the world, will be the instantiation of making worlds in the radical and violent absence of a certain kind of violence of identity. Hortense Spillers rightly points out in her essay, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book” that in the western world, gender could only belong to those who had the capacity to be proper but certainly not the poor, it was conferred to white men through the ability to own land, women through marriage and children through heredity.

 

Black folks were excluded from this possibility in the law itself, through legal strictures that stated the status of the child – legal freedom or forced servitude – would follow that of the mother. Thus, blacks had something otherwise than gender. Gender, in other words, is a legal category of identity. So though Judith Butler would eventually think the possibility of undoing gender because gendering itself – the binaristic boying or girling of peoples – is a rhetorically and, as many of us experience, materially violent set of processes, we should contend with just what was made in absence of the very possibility of having gender. It seems a sort of queerness and blackness are always co-constitutive.

The genius of Ida B. Wells’s anti-lynching campaign was in the way she took the very words of white, racist journalists and restaged them for her own purposes. Since the voices of black folks purportedly could not be trusted, she simply recast the voices of “trusted” journalists to demonstrate the destructiveness of whiteness. She re-imaged and compelled a reconsideration of the purported valuelessness of black folk, of blackness itself, by articulating the wealth of black social life – the love for black folks by considering the various extrajudicial murders as worth discussing in detail – through the limits of the given world of white journalism’s denigrating and demonizing narrativity.

 

Excluded from the theological and philosophical categories, Ida B. Wells’s campaign was grounded in illustrating the value of black folks as a function of being outside the concept and category of the human, showing that if white folks could gather around after church on Sunday to kill with impunity, perhaps becoming human is itself a problem. To operate from within the theological and philosophical categories of human, gender, property is to operate from within a violent matrix itself. She reached back, in other words, to the mysterious beyond of blackness, of and toward the horizon, to the zone of black social life that is constantly made, that constantly emerges and rises to the occasion of violence and violation. She reached back, again and in yet other words, to black life before western philosophical and theological time. This outside of, before and exclusion from western time, it seems, is a likewise gift.

 

Three

I want to, lastly, consider #FemFuture and the atemporality, the otherwise than Newtonian time, of blackness. The critiques of #FemFuture are well known at this critical juncture. The report centers US feminisms as the ones most available; week-long bootcamps are ableist; as Melissa McEwan rightfully argues, the focus on the future of feminisms in an online world discussed only in a face-to-face, New York City context is not a little bit ironic; and corporate backing of radical feminisms seem nothing if not a flagrant contradiction. These critiques all articulate, I believe, a peculiar way in which the very project itself is grounded in a problematic construction of time and space as continuum. This is, in other words, a problem of Sir Isaac Newton’s understanding of time and space as linear and forward moving. Michelle Wright says, “Most of the Social Sciences and Humanities derive their standard notion of time from physics – specifically Sir Isaac Newton’s notion of time as a fixed constant, linear in its movement – physics itself abandoned Newton’s belief a century ago…In short, [the Humanities] used Newtonian time to develop epistemologies…in which a metaorigin is determined, and all ensuing historical events are understood as a series of causes and effects that eventually relate back to this origin” (71).

 

It seems to me that #FemFuture utilizes this notion of time – past, present – to think through the possibility of an online and sustainable future as part of one, smooth, contained narrative arc of sorts. But there are other epistemologies that do not privilege Newton’s philosophy of time and space. Harriet Tubman’s instantiation of a Sankofa way of life, a way of thinking liberation as an irreducibly social project, is but one kind of disruption. Ida B. Wells’s reframing the limits of whiteness, of white supremacy, through repetition and improvisation on and against the standard of racist tropes of blackness are but another. And Lauren Chief Elk illustrated the ways matriarchal feminisms became the basis for the Seneca Falls Conference, offering not just another way to think the limits of rights and democratic process, but the limits of what it could mean to be woman-identified itself.

 

We need to be as nimble and pernicious as the force of injustice, of whiteness as white supremacy, is. Social media can allow for this nimbleness. Social media is generative for reconceiving the worlds of which we are a part, the worlds we wish to join. It can help us ask: what is the local in the digital age? I think one possible answer is that the local is now that which emerges at the moment for a specific end. Social media – through the digital domain – does not make new worlds of new locals possible; rather it gives us another way to enact that which we already have. As theorist Fred Moten contends, consent to the conditions in which we live we might not be able to give because of the exploitive nature of the political economy, that is, we all participate in its persistence and exploitation. Capitalism and its grounding in racialism makes detaching from it most difficult. Yet, Moten offers that we have within us the capacity to withhold consent to these conditions. Withholding, then, deforms normativity, it disrupts narrativity.

 

Withholding means that we already have what we need – not only to survive but to thrive – it is already there, in other words, with us, in us. Withholding consent to violence and violation means that each of us has within us something to give to the world, that we are, in fact, each a gift. Attention to the capacity to withhold is where we can begin to consider the possibilities of making something new, of perpetually reaching back and down and into the resources, the reserves, of our making, of our social world. Justice can be because it already is and always has been.

 

What if, instead of an additive approach of always forward-moving linear progression, we took different models of time and space, utilizing the gift of being outside and before and excluded, if we reach back to seize justice from all our moments of now? What if our sense of justice emerged from the urgency of openness against every enclosure? What if we, like Wells and Tubman before her, reached towards the horizon.

 

The horizon as the always available with each and every movement and step, line of flight and bridge of lost desire. The horizon as the always available there mysteriously unavoidable but always just beyond our grasp. The horizon is not past, present nor future. There horizon is there. The horizon is.

 

This was presented at the 2013 #ForgingJustice conference sponsored by HAVEN and NOMAS in Detroit, MI.

marriage equality, sin and the world (a brief ramble)

if your christian religious convictions lead you to think today’s decision about marriage equality is “worse” and “sinful” instead of, say, yesterday’s ruling on the Voters Rights Act or monday’s rulings on Affirmative Action and miranda rights, or - more generally - generally Mass (race and class based) Incarceration, ongoing joblessness and poverty, disparities is healthcare and education, you have misplaced priorities and need to figure out who the Jesus - the one to whom you’re now purportedly earnestly praying to “come back” because only now is the world “bad” - is.