Assaulting the Archive: The Cultural Damage of The Black Biopic and “Historical” Film

The eighties were a turbulent period. The crack era personified a violent wrath that intentionally tore apart black families. The multi-talented Jackie Wilson, a trailblazer in black entertainment, lay robbed, abused, and neglected in a nursing home. Tawana Brawley, a fifteen-year-old black teen from Upstate New York, was raped and systemically lynched, and five young men were falsely accused of rape simply because they were young, black, and male. Yet despite these milestone moments, much of the eighties archive remains shunned to silence. These moments compose the portion of black life that does not warrant popular reference; rather, the eighties encompassed aspects of black life that an anti-black world needs black people to forget, and what, in this selective amnesia, we are destined to repeat.

It appeared an act of remembrance when Ava Duvernay debuted her Netflix series When They See Us in the Spring of 2019. Many rejoiced that the unsung stories of the Central Park 5 were finally being told. Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise, who were previously all marked by four words: The Central Park Five, composed the core of Duvernay’s series which presented a telling and realistic portrait of the American (in) justice system. Though many credited the talented Duvernay with vindicating those those who remained guilty in the court of public opinion, the series proved hard to watch.

I cringed and crawled through the series. My attempts to Netflix and chill proved challenging, because I felt as though I should have been doing something. I felt as though I should be creating a solution rather than consuming a fictionalized version of a very real struggle—and this truth is, this sentiment does not reflect sanctimony, but what should be a reality. The Central Park 5, a testament to the low regard America holds black people, illustrates the low of a so called “elevated” or “civilized” society. The story of these young men delineate a shared experience of what it means to be black America. Specifically, the story of the Central Park five illustrates that black is synonymous with criminal. Yet, what appears most criminal about the docu-series is its destiny. Specifically, the series is destined to become the means of reference to this critical period in the black narrative. 

This illustrates a persistent problem with regards to the black collective and the black archive, because contrary to popular belief, films about the black experience, or notable black figures, do not constitute the black archive. Those of the black collective should only attend the movies to learn as a means of survival, and by learn, I mean learn the ways of white folk, not to meet an oppressor-approved version of our ancestors and elders.

Unfortunately, for many, Malcolm X remains confined to a Spike Lee caricature, and the Africans abducted centuries ago, reduced to images suitable for White America. The new Harriet Tubman film promises to fulfill a similar function. The controversial, yet highly anticipated, film resurrects the slave film that functions to appease white guilt and satiate white leisure. While 12 Years a Slave (2013) garnered rave reviews for its “accurate” portrayal of America’s forgotten past, it was its white savior figure, played by Hollywod-hearthrob Brad Pitt, that warranted its positive reception. Aside from transitioning pain into entertainment, the slave narrative remains the sole means many will come to know the ancestors and elders that enable present possibility. These films, however, encompass a neutered story where truth remains optional. The slave-film genre, therefore, assumes misplacement as the black archive.  

It is worth mentioning the subjects and topics that remain too contentious for exclusion into the visual archive. Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation, for example, debuted amidst personal scandal to deflect from the film’s potential power. This delineates that slave films are fine as long as black people are portrayed comically, homely, or helpless, but not hopeful or rebellious. Similarly, I have yet to see any films about the Tawana Brawley story, an omission that illustrates that the white world wants to make sure the black woman says #metoo to a westernized femininity and not to black female systemic asphyxiation.

These omissions underscore just how important archives remain to the collective African experience. The archives do not encompass entertainment, but exist as an integral component to emerging from the margins of our own mind into the center. 

I recently heard of filmmaker Ava Duverney’s plans to make a film for activist and self-proclaimed contemporary runaway slave, Assata Shakur. The news, much like the news of of the upcoming Harriet Tubman film, incited a generally positive response, marking those who feel vindicated in the visibility aligned with a big-screen feature. This desire to be seen, marks those irretrievably wounded by a world whose narcissism engenders the marginalized to search for their reflection in their oppressor’s eyes. The word narcissism, of course, derives from Narcissus, who in the ancient myth, drowns after attempting to kiss his own reflection. This is the exact future that awaits black people who view their reflection in the visual medium presented as the archive. 

Just like the river that became Narcissus’s acquatic grave, the visual archive enables vanity not value. To drown pursuing excellence is a worthwhile cause, but to drown in disenfranchisement, which is the fate of the visual black archive, marks yet another win for whiteness at the expense of the black collective. 

Everything should not be a movie. Movies only exist to create an idle consumerism in a collective the United States works tirelessly to convince of their cultural deficit. This truth substantiates that it is not art to compartmentalize vital components of the black narrative to a film, but cultural assasination. The “historical” film or black biopic constitutes “his” story not our story. Therefore, these genres do not encompass black culture; the historical films or black biopics are what colonizers want the black collective to see so that we do not see ourselves.

Productive consumerism remains consummated by reading books and in the oral archives that transcribes what time or racism cannot take away. Books, letters, notes, and word-of-mouth represent the stories that will not become films because they teach black people a potency American culture incites them to unlearn.

The visual medium is another way to stall the black collective. Now, instead of saying “wait,” our oppressors tell us to watch, watch as our truth becomes mutilated in who and what this country needs us to be–misinformed, dazed, and distorted.

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The Black Mother and The Plight For Humanity

In a climate where women’s issues maintain central placement, it is imperative that black women take note of their treatment in American society. Particularly, the illusion of progress, seduces many to believe that black women are part of the #metoo era that, summoned by another feminist wave, started with a chain of sexual assault victims and transitioned into abortion and reproductive rights. This #metoo era exposes white women and the non-black woman of color as saying #metoo to white male supremacy rather than to one another. For clarity, what I mean is that the hashtag, despite seeming to delineate the white woman and non-black woman of color as victims of white supremacy, the reveals the African adjacent’s desire to mimic their white male oppressors. 

This praxis proves pedagogical to the black woman. Specifically, the masked intentions and functionality of white supremacy often manifest through gender politics. For this reason, the black woman must say #mefirst before she says #metoo. 

We live in a world that values white women and the non black woman of color in a way that it refuses to value the black woman. Reproductive laws exist to ensure that the white population remains the majority. This reproductive hierarchy is perhaps best illustrated by egg donor industries. Egg donor industries offer thousands of dollars to African adjacent women to ensure their presence among the growing population remains lucrative despite black fertility. I say this to emphasize that the black woman who says #metoo signs on to a gradual genocide guised as girl power. 

The case for black women as #mefirst practitioners is perhaps best delineated in how America treats black mothers, who lie on the mutated margins of female reproductive politics.  

*****

On the last Saturday in June, The New York Times published an article entitled: “A bullet, a miscarriage and an unthinkable question: Who’s the victim, and who is to blame?” The article addressed twenty-seven year old Marshae Jones’s indictment in the murder of her fetus. Jones, who was allegedly involved in a quarrel with her co-worker, suffered a shot to the abdomen that resulted in her fetus’s death. Though Jones’s adversary cast the fatal bullet into Jones’s abdomen, the fetus’s death is apparently her fault. The charges against Jones were eventually dropped, but the question remains: why was Jones even placed in this predicament to begin with? Thus, while the case, article title, and article content place victimhood at it core, its subject engenders something far more deviant. 

The case’s media perpetuation proves parallel to Margaret Garner who in the 19th century gained notoriety for her infant child’s death. Though inciting many contemporary discussions surrounding black femininity and victimhood, the case pondered whether Garner, an enslaved woman, could even commit murder. Garner of course would be charged with destroying property, but to many, Garner remains remembered as a murderer. In this case, Garner is not a mother, or a woman cognitively wounded by enslavement, but a menace to an anti-black society. Similar to Garner, Jones is not a mother, but a criminal. Both women illustrate how the white media twists the black narrative to depict the black woman as unfit for motherhood. To villanize the black mother is no small feat; it is a conspiracy to attack a culture at its roots. 

The #metoo movement functions to ensure that the African adjacent maternal figure remains chaste and sacred, a move the African adjacent pursue through victimhood. This road to chastity, paved in victimhood, occurs at the expense of the black woman who remains demonized. Thus, in order for the black collective to actualize #mefirst, we must collectively uphold the black woman as queen. 

Unlike white and non-black collectives, the black plight is not about claiming victimhood. Rather, our plight is to claim our humanity. The African adjacent claim victimhood as a testament to their humanity. Yet for the black collective, to claim our humanity is to acknowledge that our mothers have been victimized by a poisonous system, but that our ability to survive and thrive in the face of adversity, bears a testament to our pre-humane status. By pre-humane status, I assert that black humanity births general humanity. In short, there would be no “humanity” without black people.

In this anti-black society, black people remain criminalized for “human” behavior.  Garner was a human being seeking to counter inhuman conditions, yet punished like an animal for seeking to inact personification. Humans are contentious creatures, but the conflicts of those born black remain portrayed as idiosyncratic of innate criminality. In the instances of Margaret Garner and Marshae Jones, their lack of humanity proves contentious to their roles as mothers. Mothers are human, and an anti-black society thrives on its ability to counter black maternity by insistently infringing on black rights consistent with their status as human. 

This post is not to make an “All lives matter” comparison between human rights and the rights of black people, nor are my claims to encourage black women say #metoo to humanity. I do, however, wish to assert that we as collective seize our humanity by acknowledging our exclusion. I contend that our response be not to demand inclusion but to prioritize ourselves amongst ourselves. 

Black mothers matter because black people matter. Black women are the roots of black culture and identity; as a collective, we must protect the mother of humanity by honing her deserved but deprived centrality. 


The Third Killing of Sam Cooke: Thoughts on Netflix Documentary Remastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke

There are some things in life that are simply once in a lifetime experiences. Sam Cooke the singer is a once in a lifetime experience for anyone who loves music. Sam Cooke the activist and black nationalist is a black treasure lost in the media mutilation of his body and legacy. The Netflix Documentary Remastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke seeks to place singer, songwriter Sam Cooke in a contemporary context of “Black Lives Matter” by highlighting Cooke as a political activist. While clearly the efforts of white producers who seek to steer contemporary fervor stealthily in their favor, the documentary scores in implementing black celebrities and black scholars to tell the untold story of a man who was not just a singer or songwriter but a legend.

Realistically, aside from the stamp of time that has claimed many close to Cooke, like his family who have since transitioned, the documentary deviates little from previous documentaries on the singer. Though the documentary references the death of Cooke’s son Vincent, the film remains largely focused on Cooke the businessman and activist rather than the personal elements of his life. This focus makes the comment about Cooke’s “womanizing” from a white female former colleague appear deservingly crass.. Her comment also reeks of an upset that sounds reminiscent of a woman scorned, but I digress.

The documentary tackles black conspiracy in a manner that appeases the white gaze. The featured black scholars and celebrities bring integrity to the project and the black archive with their commentary on the following.

Black Brotherhood

The brotherhood with Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X and Jim Brown, a colloboration Jim Brown (featured in the documentary), called “defying second class citizenship.” Brown also delivered the most resonating line in the film, stating that “hit records didn’t do it for him like touchdowns didn’t do it for us.” Brown’s line renders a poignant denouncing of the symbolism too often used tp attain black satisfaction.

II. Posthumous Releases
Sam Cooke’s live concert at the Harlem Square (1963), not released until 1985 because it was deemed “too black” and “too soulful” for universal circulation

“A Change Gonna Come” was also not released until after Cooke’s death.
This reminds the masses that in addition to what we wear, what we hear is systemically influenced to impair our ability to fight back. To release Cooke’s mergence of soul and activism after his tragic and bizarre death is to change its functionality. After Cooke’s death, the music serves as a warning of what consequences blackness imbues, yet to those who know and love Cooke’s craft, the song and album capture the immortal status of the black archive.

III. Sam, The Black Nationalist Businessman

Sam the Businessman:


The documentary also makes a significant comparison between sharecropping and the music industry. Money, fame and material continues to obscure the oppression that remains aligned with the music industry.
Sam didn’t wish to be a sharecropping singer, he wished to own the crop.

Sam desired economic and creative ownership over his talent. Thus, he was not only affiliated with black nationalism but espoused to its praxis.

IV. The power of black influence


The film notes that Sam Cooke, unlike most of the singers of that time, refused to conk his hair. Rather, Cooke donned a natural look that inspired many to go natural. He would go on to inspire feelings of black empowerment in others throughout his career, something that would eventually lead to his untimely death at 33.

V: Just Another N*gga

One of the most significant aspects of the documentary was the revelation that Cooke’s death was initially not investigated because he was thought to be “just another n*gga killed in Watts.” As delineated by history, Cooke’s murder would never receive an extensive investigation because the details that surrounded his murder painted him in America’s image of the black man.

VI. Once in a Lifetime Voice
The most touching component of the documentary was watching those who loved and admired Cooke listen to Cooke’s once in a lifetime voice, that though physically silenced, continues to sing the notes of the black experience from the grave.

The Critique

The beauty the black scholars and black celebrities bring to this documentary, however, does not negate the reality that no documentary can do this for us. By “this” I speak to a black quest for truth. Yes, in placing Cooke in a contemporary context, the documentary reveals information previously stated but not attached to the singer’s legacy. However, there is still a lot that remains unsaid. To laud this documentary as presenting the whole truth is to issue Cooke a third death.

This documentary puts forth information surrounding Cooke’s murder like a good suspense film. Remastered leaves audiences intrigued and with good talking points for superficial engagement with a serious topic. Simply put, Remastered barely scratches the surface of what lies beneath this tragedy.

Sam Cooke’s battered and bruised body tells a vastly different narrative than the tabloids– a narrative not even a seemingly radical documentary will tackle. The documentary, while it does feature footage from Cooke’s funeral, does not give readers a close view of Sam’s beaten face. The parallel between Cooke and Emmett Till is made early in the documentary but retires to the back of viewer memory by the time the film revisits Cooke’s murder. The murder of black people does not just happen to the individual, it continues to happen to all of us. These mutilated bodies, as heartbreaking as it is to see, remains necessary in affording a portrait of oppression. These images showcase what racism looks like upon the canvas of the black body. This omission is a means to ensure that the white audience remains comfortable with the conflict of race, which is inherently racist.

The black community has never believed Sam Cooke died how the media said he died. This documentary appears to be for those who did. Cooke’s death delineates the normalized mistruths that sew together the displaced African’s experience in America. If the Sam Cooke story does not inspire one to adopt the praxis of black nationalism fearlessly, or to question every component of “truth,” then his legacy remains tragically reduced.

Cooke is an archive of what celebrity should mean and the fear that enables it to function as it does. He remains a testimony to the high price paid for not only desiring to stand upright as a black man, but seeking to create and own a platform to empower the black creative .

Mr. Cooke, may you rest in the peace you strove to give your people in life.

You’re still the best Cooke in town.

Black Power ❤

Who’s in it for B?: B. Smith, Black Women, and America’s Normalized Contempt

The most profound of black male leaders were advocates for black women. Men like Malcolm X and Thomas Sankara come to mind, their praxis and words providing enlightenment and inspiration to the black collective thoroughly vested in admiration and reverie for a lineage and legacy birthed from and anchored in the black female body. Though it has been decades since Malcolm X spoke the poignant words “the black woman is the most disrespected person in the United States” his words remain a truth lost in an environment of performative reformation. Perhaps the most imperative component of Malcolm X’s statement is that he describes the black woman as a “person,” an assertion contested repeatedly by a media and world infested by a white hegemonic ideology. 

This notion of black dehumanization is best illustrates in the news— a consistent source of anti-black propaganda. The Washington Post recently featured a story on B. Smith, a former model and lifestyle brand, who in 2013, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The story, though employing B. Smith’s body and celebrity for traction, was not about her. No, the story revealed that Smith’s husband Dan Gasby, referenced as “struggling” with her illness, had not only taken a girlfriend but that this girlfriend had moved into B. Smith’s estate. His girlfriend? A middle-aged white woman. 

“News” or Racist Propaganda? 

bsmithandsidechick

The story sparked a lukewarm outrage, some were mad because of Gatsby’s decision to go public, others disappointed that an “esteemed” publication such as the Washington Post would even run this story.

No news, aside from the few black publications that remain, maintain reputable status as accurately and impartially presenting black news. Thus, the post is doing what all forms of media do—reduce the black body to a spectacle ensuring the black body proves lucrative. The story is both enraging and heartbreaking, depicting a black woman buried alive in a racial paradigm that thrives in her disrespect. Additionally,  this story exposes B. Smith as a casualty in a much larger war against black women. Specifically, this story depicts the disrespected black woman as a spectacle rendered entertainment in a normalized evil.

Truthfully, Gasby, his child, and his girlfriend should be imprisoned for abusing a disabled woman and charged with robbery for allocating her money to fund said abuse. But because their actions are in accordance with the pervasive anti-blackness of white hegemony, B.Smith is not an abused woman, but an entertainer worthy of gossip not serious or legal contemplation. 

bsmithandfilfthymaleIt is imperative to note that one need not be a good person to employ ethics in this situation. Gasby took a vow that read “in sickness and his health.” Thus, if not rooted in love, he was contractually bound to Smith “til death.” Contrary to the information Gasby provided in several interviews surrounding his decision,  B. Smith is not dead, “gone” or dead. His wife, in her illness, created a stage for Gasby to make good on a promise he made years ago. Her illness presented an opportunity for him to take care of her, as her talent, beauty, and charisma took care of him for decades. 

Married while Black

Marriage is different for black people. This partnership must ensure that the parties who enter into it not only mean what they say but that they realize the necessity of exchanging these vows. For the African adjacent, if their spouse fails them the legal system and the racist paradigm of white supremacy ensures that they can not only survive but thrive. For the African in America, this vow must represent shared values and an unconditional communal love equipped with responsibility, not the fleeting praxis and often pseudo-sentiments of western romance. 

bsmithwedding.pngGasby never married Smith, he married her money. Money is also the reason why he is currently still legally married, though in a romantic relationship with another woman. It is likely like Smith’s sudden illness made it impossible to amend their “contract.” Before she was ill, there was most likely a marital clause that makes it so that if he walks away from their marriage, he walks away from a good portion of her fortune. Gasby, who has seemingly employed his wife’s fortune as bridge into negropean status, wishes to have his cake and eat it too. He wants to keep his stake in his wife’s fortune, though he clearly no longer wants his wife.

This is more than just a case of infidelity, which, if I may add, is no light matter. As Christina Sharpe notes in monumental text In the Wake: On Being and Blackness, “care” is an essential remedy in uniting the severed pieces of the black diaspora. The core she speaks of is not conditional because it cannot be. Thus, vows of partnership are especially important to those of the diaspora as it provides a gateway to community.

The abuse factor is guised by the infidelity that is associated with black men in a violent caricature and ingrained belief that suffering is simply a way of life for the black woman who opts to be in a relationship with a black man.  This behavior is not regarded as abuse simply because B. Smith is a black woman. As a black woman, B. Smith’s abuse is not only  normalized but necessary.

Gasby’s logic, speaks to the plantation politics that continue to shape how black people are viewed globally. Just as the value of a slave depreciated with age and their growing inability to function to the economic or sexual benefit of their masters, the black body imbues a similar perception when they can no longer fulfill the selfish needs of those around them. White hegemony teaches the colonized mind that their own bodies are disposable. Gasby substantiates this contention, as B. Smith was not only replaceable in his eyes, but replaced at her own expense.    bsmithbook

A Gentrified Love 

There is an additional layer to this ordeal. The scenario proves emblematic of how the invasion of black space imbues black erasure. Gasby’s girlfriend’s invasion of B.Smith’s home represents white invasion of black communities— an act both welcomed and celebrated by blacks, like Gasby, seeking validation from their oppressors.

bsmithgazeWhat I find particularly disturbing about this feature and even its caption, is the emphasis on what B.Smith’s illness is “doing to” Gasby. The reporter and Gasby’s daughter note Gasby’s frustration, but no verbal articulation is afforded to what B. Smith must be going through in her illness. Her voice is silenced by those who do not love nor care for her.

This situation begs the question: who stands up for B. Smith? Who stands up for black women everywhere?

The truth is black men and black women do. This story functions to deflect from the reality that there are black men and black women who have dedicated their lives to their collective. These people though, seldom make headlines and rarely spark the deserving conversation. Thus, this post is not to police a black man, because Gasby is not a black man. He is an imposter that we as a community must be sure not to claim in our strive to for pro-blackness in an anti-black world.

B. Smith, we love you and you’re a Queen always.  👑

Black Power ❤ 

“Slave Play” An Appropriate Title for an​ Oh so Wrong Production…

There are only two things the black collective needs to know about Jeremy O. Harris’s Slave Play. The first is that all of its show dates are sold out. The second is that it has a number of rave reviews from white publications and white platforms. Both illustrate that this play cannot possibly be good for the black collective.

Though praised for its nuanced approach to the slave narrative, this play is what the black collective has seen many times before. 

When interviewed about his project, Jeremey O. Harris uses the word “American” slaveplayjeremyseveral times. Though he performatively acknowledges his blackness, it is clear that Harris seeks to occupy an American space. He acknowledges a childhood inundated with white spaces where he came into his identity via binary opposition. Slave Play, where Harris fails to centralize black characters, mirrors this identity crisis. Instead, Harris focuses on interracial relationships where the black character emerges as the binary opposite to their non-black mate. This focus exposes a detached and derogatory portrayal consistent with the playwright’s many, and conflicting selves.slaveplaytwerk

Slave Play illustrates linearity between the slavery of the antebellum south and the present. The premise, however, is not where the play goes wrong. Rather, the execution marks its tragic downfall. It is impossible to separate interracial unions from the mental enslavement birthed from physical bondage; though somehow its contemporary manifestations depict this praxis as a sign of the revolution that has yet to arrive. Slave Play depicts a similar feat; it functions as a sign of revolutionary fervor but is a figment of assimilatory art. Specifically, Harris’s display of interracial unions beg the issue of consent and appear to assert a colonized desire “othered” bodies have for their master. 

This contention takes form in the contemporary depiction of a white man with a black woman, where the black woman asks to be called a “nasty negress” during intercourse. The request implies that blacks look upon their past with lust; their contemporary placement allowing them to consent to what their ancestors merely had to endure to get through the day. 

Consent remains a fickle topic of discussion. To this, I wish to assert that Harris oversimplifies the relationship between consent and agency.

Issues of agency remain largely unresolved by those of the black collective that have yet to emancipate their minds from the teachings of white supremacy. Thus, what I contest here is not the portrayal of black agency, but Harris’s underdeveloped and violent portrayal of said agency.

The issue with this Harris’s play is that it obscures the line of demarcation between the two with regard to the black body. Harris depicts the black woman as looking upon her own body andslaveplay personhood with the gaze of a southern slavemaster and not the very descendant of this slavemaster as sharing the gaze of his forefather. This depiction is problematic because racism made it impossible for any black person to consent to relations with a white person during physical slavery. Arguably, contemporary manifestations reflect a similar duress. However,  Harris represents said duress as consent. This portrayal assigns accountability to black agency an accountability that Harris does not extend to his white characters. This portrayal affords comfort to his white audience.

This violent revisionist history is to the benefit of the ever-present oppressor seeking to gain symbolic profit for a perpetuating the myth that slavery was “not so bad after all”. 

For this reason, Harris’s alignment with an enslaved woman twerking to Rihanna is not anachronistic as delineated by several reviews. Black women in culture maintain identical placement to their ancestors displaced on plantations. The issue here is that Harris encourages his viewers to laugh at the lie of progress. 

What is also ignored here is that the entire play is a twerk for the white gaze. Harris, checking all the boxes of twenty-first-century diversity, is a tool of his master seduced to think that this play is a masterpiece and not a public lynching. Harris’s mutilated psyche is what the play essentially displays- a display that allows a predominately white audience to bask in a gruesome depiction of their abducted power.  So while many viewers note that white discomfort lies at the core of the play’s production music does not compose the soundtrack of the play, but the sound of a fading heartbeat. 

slaveplayjhHarris’s play functions in a new wave of art by black people that appears to confront issues it distastefully circumvents. These projects, which terrorize the black narrative with distorted truths, hold hands with one another in their commitment to caricaturing the black narrative for white entertainment. Our experience is not entertainment, yet as long as our skin folk continues to act like Jeremy O. Harris, our bodies will continue to be for sale. 

Nevertheless, the art is not in the play or even the actors. The art is the “artful” depiction of empathy in Slave Play’s production and reception. So while I do not discourage anyone from signing the petition to end this play, I moreso underscore the query as to why we expect anything different from our oppressors? 

So rather than encouraging the “anti” attitude, I encourage those of the black communityslaveplayviolin to seek black productions for and by us. Most importantly, I encourage those of the black collective to write and produce the next pages of our narrative. 

Harris’s attempt to portray the black narrative delineates potential as merely unwielded power. Harris is a beautiful black man, whose potential is thwarted in an abducted identity projected as a nuanced blackness. Harris is a man traumatized by white supremacy, the very  forces that convince him that his work is genius. If anything, this play falsely portrays white supremacy as genius as this play conveys a portrait of white power painted from four hundred years of trauma labeled art.

Black Power ❤

The Black Man is The Devil Part II: The “R” is Rapist is for Racism, not R. Kelly

The western world’s attack on the black man remains ever-present in a society that preaches of change. The change, of course, speaks to a change in approach as the players in the global game of white hegemony remain stagnant. 

From Kevin Hart, to Dwight Howard to R.Kelly, the black male remains a persistent target of a piercing white gaze that perpetuates racism in the (not so)  silent declaration of the black man as the devil. R. Kelly’s public lynching has a unique prominence as it highlights the systemic disregard for the black man and the black women. simultaneously  rkellyvictims

In a conversation about the R.Kelly documentary that recently aired on Lifetime, a colleague mentioned that “there is too much smoke for there not to be a fire.” This comment instantly reminded me of Ida B. Wells’s Southern Horrors where she exposes the whiteness of “smoke” as indicative of its correspondence to white supremacy. The book documents acts of white terror to which the destruction of the black body precedes a butchering of black identity. Wells delineates a number of black bodies accused and persecuted for crimes they never committed depicting the true horror that is his story.  Contemporary culture reveals a similar landscape to which black men of varying placement in western society remain persecuted to perpetuate black bodies as the face of crimes continually cast against them. 

I want to say here that my intention for writing this piece is not to defend R. Kelly the individual. My efforts are to expose that for any member of the black collective to cheer for R. Kelly’s demise or incarceration is to cheer to your own consequence. 

The jails are filled with those plagued by white supremacy and run by those who should have inherited their ancestor’s life sentences. 

rkellyblackjacketR.Kelly’s case mirrors what the world witnessed with the late, great Michael Jackson. In Kelly’s instance, the players are all black. Michael Jackson’s public persecution exposed his rise to global superstardom as a hoisting onto the branch where he would eventually hang for the world to see. Jackson’s persecution targeted his white fanbase by employing the one tool that would rob him of his fair-weather fans—white children. 

Jackson, like so many of the black men delineated in Wells’s book, endured consequence for his caricature as a black man. Specifically, the accusations cast against him functioned with a belief that preceded the formal charges. Even when the world screamed and shouted as Jackson danced across the stage, the belief that he was a hyper-sexual black man capable of the sins their ancestors continues to cast upon black bodies without consequence lay dormant. With R. Kelly, white supremacists employ black bodies to execute a white agenda. These black faces that speak out about what functions as black male terrorism, function to implement black faces to manifest what the white world continues to perpetuate about black male sexual degeneracy. This agenda is guised under the pervasive falsity that the black man, not the white media, is the devil that must be extinguished. 

Blacks, in siding with the white media attack against R. Kelly are made to believe that they are on the right side of justice. This belief omits the query as to why Bill Cosby is in jail, why Lifetime aired “Surviving R. Kelly” and Harvey Weinstein and others like him remain unscathed, and relegated to the forgotten sins of yesterday.  

These efforts are not anti-R.Kelly, but anti-black. Media attacks as seen in Jackson and R. Kelly, amongst others, ensure that blacks remain the face of crime, notably, sexual assault—crimes that white men and women continue to perform without acknowledgement or penalty. Jails are full of black “rapists” while those who have and continue to rape our grandmothers, mothers, sisters, daughters, sons, teachers, among others maintain the freedom and power to cage us. 

Black women, contemporary racism resumes the technique of separating us from our rkellyfiltermen. Please allow me to remind you that while the black man remains the face of “rapist,” the white woman, remains the race of “race victim” while we remain abducted, bought and sold by those who gloat in freeing blacks from the hypersexual black male beast. To believe or perpetuate the black man as “beast” is to believe and perpetuate the white woman as “beauty”—to condemn our husbands, brothers, fathers, and sons of the very hypersexuality that birthed us as a people.

The white world does not care about black women and our sexual integrity. Accusations that surrounded R. Kelly in the late 1990s and the early 2000s went virtually under-discussed because his alleged victims were black women. This is, of course, problematic, but reflective of the systemic forces that enable our demise regardless of the assailant.

It is of great significance to note that black disenfranchisement is not a desire. As the late Dr. Amos Wilson noted, black disenfranchisement is a necessity. It is necessary that blacks live in a world without care, and it is necessary that we as a collective never forget that our division and espousal to the poisonous ways of white supremacy remains necessary for the control exuded over our collective. 

The white world, specifically, the white media has never cared about black people. We as a collective are never fed information that stimulates our mind or challenges us to assume our full potential. Thus, it is crucial to note that the media exposure of R. Kelly is to the benefit of white supremacy not to uplift the black collective. The white world only cares about white people and maintaining white supremacy.

In closing, while the white world does not care about the sheer falsity of projecting the black man as the devil, the white world does not care about casting the black collective as soldiers in their own genocide so that they may label our demise suicide. 

Black Power ❤

The Black Man is The Devil Part I: The Heart of the Kevin Hart Dilemma

The media is a persistent foe to the black community and has been since its conception. Media portrayal of black people was never to benefit black people. Media was not developed or intended to improve black self-esteem or raise black awareness; rather, the media exists to spread white propaganda. This propaganda merely diversifies its violent portrayal in time—a portrayal masterfully implemented in the twenty-first century.  Here, I speak specifically to the twenty-first century’s fixation on presenting the black collective as racist.   kevinhartblaxer

For decades, many desired mainstream engagement with social issues like race, gender, and sexuality. Specifically, many desired to see more conversations about racism, notably systemic racism and invisible acts and attitudes that enable racism to remain pervasive. The time has finally arrived. However, though there are a lot of words being spoken so much remains unsaid.  

Presently, the white world uses terms like “racism,” “patriarchy,” and even “systemic racism” but these words work functioned against the black collective. So while the current climate enables many to identify blatant acts of white supremacy, the same ideology casts blacks as villains amidst a system that continues to find more nuanced ways to oppress black people. racismlicenseplate

Most importantly, the most truthful and empowering perspectives remain the least popular. As black people, we are supposed to view our oppression as an equal playing field where we kevinhartshirtstruggle alongside those who have acquired the very rights and platforms we worked lifetimes to obtain. Now, though we have always been encouraged to forget, we are now not only encouraged to forgive but to ask for forgiveness. 

An example of this is the recent Kevin Hart “scandal.”  Before rendering my analysis, I want to clarify that this issue is far bigger than one black man. The road to justice is paved in black bodies rendered casualties in an ongoing war against black people. This examination is an effort to expose this war as it manifests through the black “celebrity.”

In this instance, as we as a society have seen countless times before, a black person faces present consequences for past actions. Spaces saturated and enabled by racism—the news and The Academy—accuse Hart of making a series of homophobic comments in a standup routine. The Academy demanded an apology or threatened to find another host. Many responded in “outrage.” Suddenly when black people are not the butt of the joke, jokes stop being funny and comedians are no longer jokesters but taken with a glaring seriousness. This act is significant for two reasons:

The Academy never intended for Kevin Hart to host. They simply wanted to appear as if they extended a black man an opportunity that he “messed up.’  The appearance of liberalism has made actual liberal activities and thought superfluous in a world that employs poison to veil the superficiality and emptiness of its gestures.

This is also merely another act of the LBGT community targeting black men. Now, allow to clarify my contention. When I (in this instance) reference the LGBT community, I speak specifically to a white faction that claims minority status. Though this community would have the masses believe otherwise, blacks remain marginalized and violently omitted from their feats. Specifically, blacks benefit only in coincidence, as “intersectional” factions like sexuality and gender fail to centralize black issues by default.  Intersectional identities, form the LBGT community to gender, namely women, are merely whites diversifying their oppression by burning both ends of the candle. By this I mean that “intersectional” white people occupy placement as both victim and victor in a society made for their franchisement. These factions often use black bodies against another black body, as a means to veil their racism. Their goal is not to dismantle white supremacy, but to abduct alterity from black people while promoting alterity for kevinhartellenthe black collective. 

Even Hart’s recent interview with talk show host Ellen DeGeneres perpetuates the problem at hand. In his interview, Kevin Hart references his experience with who he calls “trolls” as marking a “Success based on damage.” His monologue, engulfed in an emotion not commonly seen in the comedian, reeks of individualism, and of a black man who though wounded by racism refuses to acknowledge its wrath. Notably, the “success based on racism” that Hart references is racism. Race however, does not come up in his discussion with Degeneres simply because it cannot. 

Instead, DeGeneres underscored Hart’s apology and ignores his blackness. Degeneres’ emphasis asserts Hart’s apology as a fulfilled prerequisite and proclaims that Hart deserves a shot at assimilatory symbolism because of said apology. This emphasis illuminates the ever-present image of the white savior simultaneously depicting that black bodies always have allies in their attempts to assimilate. Hart’s visit to DeGeneres allows DeGeneres to appear to forgive her “attacker.” This casts Degeneres the individual, and the LGBT collective, as victims of black men, a status only enabled by a hegemonic society where whites, despite projecting and benefiting from hate, can appropiate love.

 Both DeGeneres and Hart ignore race and sexuality in their discussion– a discussion more symbolic than anything.  Degeneres and Hart also ignore the Hart of the matter by focusing on Hart as an individual. Individualism not only thwarts black advancement but makes blacks susceptible to “allies” who recruit the black assimilationist to promote anti-blackness.

This act also functions to suggest that sexuality is a core contention that the black community must resolve. They key issue that the black community must resolve is white hegemony.  Thus, Kevin Hart’s persecution is merely another attempt to distract the black collective from what is most important. White supremacy functions to delineate conflict that steers blacks away from the true issue and into the flames of falsehood.  kevinhartsuit

The most important issue here is that these instances, like many issues in the past and many issues to come, perpetuates black people as oppressors. This is exactly what the world witnessed last month when Dwight Howard was outed by an alleged Trans lover who said the basketball player threatened her life. Dwight Howard, Kevin Hart, or any black man, do not occupy positions in this society that determine the quality of life for any faction. In fact, they are affected by those who do. Neither Hart nor Howard occupy the face to the systemic forces that threaten the safety, education, upward mobility, relevance, and legacy of others. To believe this is to misunderstand racism and to misunderstand racism is to endure a life of confusion. A confusion that makes many people believe that the black man needs to apologize where the black collective is in need of a physical apology accompanied by a myriad of gestures and statutes. 

If you listen to the white media, the black man is the devil manifested in the mask of a sexual predator. Immersed in this confusion, you don’t question why Bill Cosby is in prison while white men who have raped continue to rape without consequence. The media will have you forget that the white men who raped Recy Taylor went free and the white man who raped Betsy Owens not only got out of prison but killed a woman he believed exposed his savagery years prior. The media will also have us forgetting that Tawana Brawley’s life was ruined for speaking out about her rape and that she’s still paying her attacker. The media will have you in complete oblivion about the repeated systemic offenses of white men in favor of constructing the black man as a false villain. 

The media is merely a virtual his-story book, where whiteness is the “pure” saving grace, and black bodies mark the downfall of a society erected in black blood, sweat, and tears. Yet in the western fixation on presenting the black man as the devil, it is imperative to note that what the media engenders is a mask and the “devil” isn’t a mask, but a face…

Black Power ❤

 

The Black Writer and Overcoming the Demand to “Write White”

A Common “Curse”

Toni Morrison is a phenomenal writer. Her writing grabs the reader by the ears and makes them hear the heart beat of the characters she creates in their minds. What she provokes is not reading, but a way to see with. words.  ToniMorrison_WestPointLecture_2013

All the great writers, from Gertrude Dorsey Brown, to Wallace Thurman  to James Baldwin—perform a similar function with their writing. Yet, a common complaint about the black writer is one of grammar. A quick look on Goodreads, Amazon, or any other hegemonic platform, features countless comments that condemn black authors for their imperfect writing. An anti black agent conventionally referenced as a college professor, boasted of correcting the flawed grammar of Wallace Thurman. This feckless comment capitalizes on Thurman’s general obscurity, and begs an ignorance to the fact that the late Wallace Thurman, though a novelist, was also an editor.  From consistent criticism on black speech that ignores the imposition English marks on the black tongue, to the formalized ridicule of the black college student for writing deemed inferior to the institution of “higher” learning,  it is no secret that “higher” translates to “whiter.”

Inferiority by Ink

Langston_Hughes_by_Carl_Van_Vechten_1936The general labeling of the black body as linguistically inferior is an anticipated complaint of our oppressors. The consequences are variant, as even the black body has internalized this poisonous perspective of their collective and upon occupying positions of pseudo authority, perform the policing that hindered their youthful dreams of writing.

Being a student nearly all my life, I am quite familiar with the white suprematist wrath on black writing. Youth coerces the black body to afford teachers a trust that many did not, and will never earn. Many blacks trust that our teachers wish to make us better, not cast us in the image of institutionalized defeat. I was rather shocked to see that many of the ambiguously hostile commentary of my academic past and present was reflected in the commentary one of my articles posted on platform Lipstick Alley. In hindsight, I know that I probably should not have clicked the link, however, considering that LSA is supposedly a platform of black voices, my vestment in black perspective led me off a cliff. 

These comments, in chorus, articulate an expectation for me to write white. 

The Ink Can Be Black, but You Can’t: Writing as Weaponry

By write white I speak specifically to the not so silent demand that I, a black woman, WallaceThurmanabide by the very grammar and mechanical rules that has articulated my collective inferiority for centuries. My writing is to demonstrate mastery of the very technicalities that legalized the niggerization of my people. 

Though actualized as issues with grammar and mechanics, these formalities functions to veil an anxiety. Now here is where the conventional arguments of this sort speak to an anxiety of black intellect. Intellect however is a problem, but it is not the problem. The black collective is not at a shortage of intellect—whether developed or underdeveloped. We are at a shortage of confidence. Accusations of grammar and mechanic deficiency functions to attack black confidence–to seduce the exercising of black talent to become what Langston Hughs labeled “ a dream deferred.”

To write white means to be a parrot of white supremacy. Instead, I prefer to write with soul.

Now, most black writers who function at the mainstream level to demonstrate mastery of oppressive grammar rules. This mastery though makes writing conventionally good-but it is not enough to make any writing great. Great writing is done from the soul. Great writing is an espousal of past and present, of body and mind, of feeling and sight. 

The superficial criticism of black writers for failing to adhere to the oppressive standards of grammar and mechanics, ironically marks outstanding writing. The writing made these scorned feel an emotion that they perceive as incongruent to the climate of white supremacy. Yet instead of investigating these feelings, they clutch the ways of white supremacy and cast the same denigration they experience daily onto their kinfolk. 

In “Da State of Pidgin Address”, Lee A. Tonouchi, makes a bold declaration of pride in his regional and ethnic tonouchidialect, pidgin. His essay articulates  a non-negotiable espousal to pidgin, as pidgin represents everything the academy wants to pull out of him. Most resonantly, is perhaps his proclamation of writing letters of recommendations in this language. Now Tonouchi is not a black man, and his arguments are hardly unique. Plenty of black men and women have also refused to code-switch, but have not been granted the prestige and agility Tonouchi, as a non-black person of color, receives by default. As a non-black person of color, the choice to speak in a language other than English is in fact a privilege. The decision to speak in this language is seen as a choice, not an ability to acquire or perfect the language. Ethnic whites and non-black persons of color are never as ridiculed or undermined for their use of English language as black people. In America, no black person’s use of the English language is ever enough. Even those demonstrating an unprecedented mastery of a coerced language with a severed tongue, are demeaned and treated as language degenerates.

In Closing…

I have no interest in mastering my oppressors language, and have no interest in inspiring others to do so. For too long, my use of the English language has functioned as a weapon against my personhood. This of course is two fold. On one hand, this language symbolized a an tongue cut and draped like a flag over African identity. On the other hand, this language has consistently functioned to personify my alignment with beasts, and general ineptitude. Moreso, playing into these beliefs allows the English language to foment my individual and collective dehumanization.

I am posting this piece because it is something I wish I would have read a decade ago, when the dreams of an undergraduate girl were uprooted by the university. So for the black boy, girl, man or woman who has felt the sting of superficial criticism—keep writing. 

Black Power ❤

Black Families Matter: #keepfamiliestogether, A Violent and Forgetful Initiative

Context: Allow me to Set the Scene. 

I imagine they left hours before sunset, seeking to be on a linear path by the time sun retired to its hiding place. There is a deafening silence, aside from the occasional moan and groan. The scent of bodies and bodily functions overwhelm the space. One on top of another, bodies are placed on top of one another. Christened in bodily fluids, the physically bonded share the experience of mental dehumanization. A woman that was once a mother, is now a faceless, and genderless body on a ship whose name no longer matters. She longs for her children, just as her mother continent longs for her stolen offspring. Her children are lost and afraid. Their parents can’t find them in the discordance of their displacement amongst the hard floors of a ship. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and children listen to the sound of their loved one’s limp bodies hit the water. Others watch as their loved ones jumped from the ship to avoid bondage—their bodies transitioning from abductee to atoms that are still present in the water today. Black bodies fought internally as the pale people deemed them stock— their value stripped and replaced by western commerce.  IMG_4175

My ancestors were one of those bodies thrown carelessly onto a ship–  their journey a manifestation of a nightmare.  They are as familiar to me as they were to their own children and parents. Their memory is phantasmal, both there and not there, both seen and not seen. I know they existed because I am the fruit of their tree. The traces of this tree, however, are long gone. Not often enough do we search our mind for their memory and scan our bodies for their touch.  

Their lives and displaced memory are a testament to the very cruelty that continues to plague their descendants. Their lives are lost and utterly forgotten in a contemporary climate that campaigns to “keep families together” as the black collective continues to suffer from the aftermath of families separated centuries prior. 

IMG_4180In his Autobiography, Frederick Douglass speaks of the nighttime visits from his mother
who walked miles to see him. He never saw her face, but felt the impact of a severed family long before a hashtag. Douglass mirrors what many black children experienced during bondage, and even what many black children face in a contemporary climate that continues to subject the black body to forces that separate families often indefinitely.

IMG_4176These severed familial ties are the reason why  I am writing this prose in english. Why my last name speaks of a slavemaster, a rapist who is overlooked in the contemporary #metoo movement. Therefore, I cannot retweet that hashtag in good faith, or even consider supporting this deflective initiative, because I am still mourning the lost families of the African Holocaust. 

The “I” I speak of is the descendant of black bodies stolen and enslaved by those who continue to dictate the conversation. A conversation that continues to omit the struggles of the first migrants, the first families severed deliberately to butcher ties to a continent whose children were stolen and her natural resources stripped from her loins. The current conversations around immigration turn my black body red with anger, as they exclude those who literally and figuratively reproduce a colonialism “his” story violently references as in the past. 

Migrants come here by choice. A choice my ancestors never had. Therefore, I can not and will not sympathize with migrant stories that function to erase the slave narratives that foreshadow a  contemporary misfortune that does not graze the lasting impact of past tragedies. 

If this seems harsh, consider how you’d feel if your ancestors were stolen, stripped, tortured, raped, branded with their master’s name, robbed of their legacy and their earnings by a country who offers humanity to those who choose what was a chosen for us? 

A Violent Terminology

Let me say that America is absolutely indebted to migrants from the illusive “third img_4184.jpgworld.” This country’s wealth remains enabled by exploiting countries labeled third world. These third word countries enable first world privileges, privileges the black body does not bask in, and did not steal. It is not the abducted African that exploited the resources of our diasporic brothers and sisters and those of the African adjacent. Yet, although America exploits other countries, it is important for the black collective to not forget that the first location depleted of its resources was not a country but a continent. Our continent. 

The word “migrant” functions similarly to “person of color,” a violent terminology used to erase the black struggle in suggesting a cruel and non-existent commonality. These statements allow phrases like “we are all immigrants” to function, to place the kidnapped black body as a migrant and ignore centuries of legalized cruelty. “Migrant/immigrant” and “person of color” also silently address a hierarchy that places the black body at the bottom, when and if they address the black body at all. 

Nevertheless, this country was not build by migrants. This country was built by the enslaved bodies of Africans, the same bodies that continue to hold this country together in a non-negotiable degeneracy.  A degeneracy needed to ensure the fabricated superiority of whites, black migrants, and non-persons of color. Our bodies compose the nation in which all stand. Our blood birthed the very hierarchy system manipulated to consistently place those descended from the African architects of today and yesterday at the bottom. 

The “other” oppressors

Immigrants are cast as contemporary slaves, not an effort to highlight the struggle of past slaves, but IMG_4182to deflect from a past enslavement. A deflection that persistently encourages blacks to empathize with migrants in the same breath blacks are encouraged to collectively chastise Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Sandra Bland amongst other slain blacks who fail to personify the perfect victim. We as a collective are encouraged to feel everything but pride. We are pumped with knowledge about everything and everyone but ourselves. 

We as a collective are seduced into empathizing with those who invade our communities in a quest for capital. Who take our dollars and place it into their own communities where a non-migrant body is not welcome to shop let alone work or live. We are to cry for those who wish to reproduce the disenfranchisement the white man has cast onto the black collective. 

Our migrant brothers and sisters have largely joined the sides of our oppressors. These factions have taken the soil soaked in the blood of black bodies and set up shop to sell it back to us for a profit. They have become pawns in deflecting from black issues onto those who came here for a slice of a pie made with stolen resources. Migrant bodies in America seeking capital, mirror a bacon-eating pig calling for a cease in slaughtering. This behavior may be helpful in their own quest for whiteness, but has no place in the strides towards black nationalism.

To ask the black collective to sympathize and empathize with those who vehemently deny the black collective these very sentiments is both bizarre and cruel. To ask that blacks support migrant desire to demand the very rights we have we fought to have for centuries, and to allow migrants to dominate a conversation that has yet to acknowledge the sins cast against us as a collective, is counterproductive to curating a pro black nation.

#blackfamiliesmatter

Last summer I read Gabourey Sidibe’s memoir This is Just My Face: Try not To Stare. In IMG_4178the book, Sidibe reveals that her parents descended from the same family in Senegal. Her mother’s ancestors were abducted and displaced in the American South, her father’s left to life on the other side of the world. Sidibie’s anecdote illustrates the contemporary effect of families separated centuries ago. There is no hashtag for our loss, there is visibility, and their is certainly no justice.  This information resonated deeply with me, in depicting the impact of the severed black family. A depth that is too often deemed not important enough to talk about.

Had our collective families been kept together, the black family would cease to remain marked by the last names of men who raped their way into our nomenclature. Had our families not been severely severed, we too would be fighting to maintain the very community migrants wish to keep stagnant. Instead, our issues are those of restoration. We must restore what we never had, not feel for those who had the opportunity to feel what a white supremacist world continues to deprive from the black body. 

The hashtag #keepfamiliestogether, places the abduction and pervasive systemic asphyxiation of the black body as in the past, as we as as collective continue to grapple for air. We were separated not only in enslavement, but when drugs were placed in our communities, when the AIDS epidemic seized so many of our loved ones, and through natural disasters to which black bodies succumbed to the lethal combination of our origins in America—water and white supremacy. This hashtag functions similarly to the img_4181.jpgconversations on human trafficking, which focus on every body but the black body. 

Remembering What Matters 

Here is where I am supposed to insert some phrase that mollifies my earlier statements. Just as all outspoken pro-black figures are often required to apologize with a statement that says they do not “hate” whites, I am expected to implement a statement that states that I do not “hate” migrants. A statement that articulates my wish to stand beside white, black, and non-black migrants of color as they seek to obtain what I have. 

Well, what I have is scars on my back and lacerations on my soul. I have a hole in heart for the names of those I will never know. I should say I would not wish this on anyone, but I can not help but wonder if migrants truly had to develop the survival strength of the abducted African whether they would understand America for what it is, not what it needs everyone to believe. To understand however, is beyond a wish. To understand is to become, and migrants (even those with black or dark skin), do not come here to become black, they come here to become white–or at the very least a pastel shade.  Irregardless, I also do not wish to stand beside those who wish to stand on my back. Instead, I will conclude in saying that this persistent bullying of pro-black perspectives exposes who and what is truly hated. 

This hate is the precise reason that we as a collective must love ourselves, unapologetically. A love rooted in remembering our ancestors. 

For the families separated any time in displacement and/or the economical and emotional disenfranchisement of black people, #blackfamiliesmatter. 

Black Power ❤ 

A Fly on the Wall isn’t a Fly at All: Re-evaluating Success in Silence

They laugh and smile with one another as the melanated faces mistake anti-black attitudes as kindness. I can’t laugh though, my face frozen in seeing what others do not, or simply will not acknowledge.

They are telling me the benefits of teaching my narrative. They teach me the socially acceptable way to intertwine blackness in the canonical genre of my discipline. This is the violence they don’t talk about. How the systemic asphyxiation of the so-called elite grabs you by the hair and holds your head underwater. They let you up for air only in hopes that you suffocate a little more intensely the next time, your gargling a soft chortle beneath the laughs and confident speech of the oppressive faction.  43546_hcfbya1x9mmwimqnjlmag6v2p

The corpses flatten the bubbles of my distress. These corpses regarded as ideal by colonizers who call themselves a mirage of creative names that veil their socially accepted cruelty. These names veil their evils like cologne veils an unpleasant odor.   This stench does not stop them from patting themselves on the back for how well they taught The Other Wes Moore, Between the World and Me, and other texts that speak of what they can never understand.

There is a loneliness in being the only one not smiling—in being the only one not sandra-bland-be-my-voiceshucking and jiving for those who drink black blood like smoothies. I am constantly frozen in the conscious stupor of wanting to use my positionality to educate, but also realizing what I say and suggest can and will be used against my collective.

By this I mean that if I suggest a novel, poem or short story by an under-represented black author, I risk making it so that another black body has to feel how I feel. That they have to be taught how to feel about their narrative by  he or she who’ll win accolades and earn a comfortable salary for including colored folks. By those lauded for bringing in the bodies they stepped on and down right butchered, to stand where they stand. I can’t do that to the illusive black freshman unfortunate enough to get these people as an instructor, paid to turn their naivety and thirst for life into a functional inferiority. I won’t do it to myself either. I won’t receive tips from those who exploit my collective story. From those who use black artists like decoration on a tree where black bodies hang off branches.

a01154d0abbb910f6d86c948e66cb3fd--black-white-photos-black-and-whiteInstead I will sit in a ring of fire. I’ll sit perched with pursed lips amidst flames cast by what the world calls black girl rage. They’ll forget that I’m there but whisper later about my indignant “attitude.” Though few will have the nerve to say it, I’ll be regarded as a bitch, everyone overlooking the vast ways in which every institution on the globe treats black bodies like bitches, like female dogs tied to a post and forcibly penetrated to ensure she literally the bears the burden of bondange. The insincere queries that are sure to follow will wonder what’s “wrong” with me, refusing to even consider that there was something wrong with the environment as a whole. None of the other darkies complained, so let’s cast this one overboard before she convinces the others that this is a slave ship and not a cruise, that this is a plank not a position.

While they do this, I’ll count the seconds until we are relieved. I will see visions of a black past and seek council from those killed yesterday for my tomorrow. I will fantasize about walking out until I cross the threshold when the time comes. 

“Where to?” I ask myself as I walk as fast as I can in heels.

“Up” I say as I realize that what I idealized for years never was. That my entire climb upward was actually a slide downward into a pit of anti-blackness called success.