Here’s Why Anger is the Ultimate Glow Up. Oh, and #StrikeForBlackLives

One of my favorite podcasts is Another Round, featuring a writer for Buzzfeed, Tracy Clayton and a writer for the Stephen Colbert Show, Heben Nigatu. The show features guests of color talking about a wide range of subjects, but with a keen eye on culture. One part drunken conversation and …

The Feminine Pronoun Series #22: How Does One #StrikeForBlackLives?

In order to create the societal pressure for real police reform, a movement must happen. Movements are built one step at a time. organizing, conversing, writing, and publicizing are all a part of movement building. Over the last week, I have made a commitment to talk with as many smart people as I can about the #StrikeForBlackLives and how we can use work strike out and economic boycott to pressure the president to create an executive order that will tie police federal funding to measurable reform. I learned so much in a short time, and just like I predicted the #StrikeForBlackLives has become a better, more targeted and more complete idea as a result. Check out this journey. And join with me at strikeforblacklives.com

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In the wake of the homophobic and racialized killings of the 49 patrons of the Pulse nightclub, and of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, we are realizing that the culture of policing must change. To that end, a nationwide work strike called #StrikeForBlackLives is being planned. Slated to begin the day after labor day, and last the remainder of the week, #StrikeForBlackLives asks US to have AT LEAST ONE day of absence (Tuesday, September 6) which is the #BlackFolksOffDay. The remainder of the week can be taken off if you can RISK or AFFORD it. The minimum sacrifice is ONE DAY of work strike and ONE WEEK of economic boycott. We Can Do This!

 

“Labor Pains” and the #StrikeForBlackLives

When Africans were enslaved, one popular narrative used to justify their enslavement, was that they were “lazy.” “If we don’t enslave them they won’t work” was one of the fears expressed pre-emancipation. In fact, black men found without a job could be remanded to forced labor post-slavery. In a strange …

How to Grieve and Dream at the Same Time

This week's vlog follows me through a day of workshop with the inimitable Bhanu Kapil.  Bhanu Kapil is a conceptual poet who recently worked for 15 years at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Sponsored by the Pulitzer Arts Center, this day long experience for metro area poets was named "How to Grieve While Dreaming."  Of course, both themes -- dreaming, and especially grieving -- are particularly resonant after the letter after last month's racialized gun violence. It seems the whole country is grieving.  In the midst of that grief the dream of a U.S. that denounces toxic white supremacy and violence must be nurtured, however.

 

Why Don’t We Crave to See the Families of the Murdered Policemen in Dallas Forgive Micah Johnson?

As the country continues to grapple with the racialized gun violence of the past weeks, several issues of comparison can be explored and discussed.   This is a thought experiment. I have taken an article titled, “Families of Charleston Shooting Victims: “We Forgive You” written by Inae Oh and published …

#StrikeForBlackLives: A Nationwide Job Walk-Off By Black Labor

  “Hamilton” isn’t the first play written by a writer of color that casts black and brown Americans in the roles of white Americans. 50 years earlier, Douglas Turner Ward wrote “A Day of Absence.” The play, with a role made famous by Ossie Davis, features a black cast playing …

From the South Bronx to Southeast Europe

Today was the final day of the international debate education association (IDEA) program in Macedonia. The two tracks-- visual art (graffiti)/comics and hip-hop/poetry – were responsible for presenting their final projects.
Prior to DJ Goce's arrival, I had taken the students through a series of lessons designed to help them write an activist mission statement, and then poetry and or rap about social justice issues they were working on in their communities.  Some of the themes that emerged  were: child abuse, LGBTQ2 discrimination, ethnic conflicts, and racism.  In general, the theme of FREEDOM could be characterized as the over arching idea that came forward over and over again.
The four groups that emerged were called The Balkanoid Party Breakers, The Illuminators, Freeling, and The Arrival.  The students wrote and conceptualized their performances collaboratively.  After I took them through lessons designed to help them write, DJ Goce and I took them crate digging in order to find sample-able tracks for their poems and raps.
Sampling is a term used to describe taking riffs, melodic lines, and beats from previously recorded records. DJ Goce was able to capture these “samples" on a machine and assign them to different tracks. He could then play the riff over and over in what is called a “loop," or place it in a strategically pleasing pattern on top of a beat.   It was so good to rejoin this version of the creative process. I began writing Hip Hop verse in junior high school, and this version of studio recording was very familiar to me, though I had not done it in years.  I co-produced sample choices choices and came up with baselines.
We spent most of the preview previous day listening to records ranging from Stevie wonder to Brazilian bossa nova. The four projects that emerged were fantastic!
If I want to compare these young people's concerns with young people's concerns in the US, I would have to say that ideas about access and individuality figure more largely in the Balkans than they do in the US. For instance, in the Balkans it would be much more difficult for a young person to say, "I think I will just backpack around the continent instead of heading straight to college." There is a convoluted be VISA process because of the communist history of the countries, and the fact that they are not wealthy countries. In order to go from one place to another, citizens of the Balkans must prove they have a job in a place like England, and even have the employer to sign so that they can travel.
I would say there is a sense that anything is possible among American youth , whereas that sense is more tempered in the Balkan youth.
On the other hand, I would say they are operating with in a culture of normalized dissent and revolution.  I get the impression that young people in the US perceive the recent spate of visible protests as a reemerging phenomena that had been dormant for a time.  In the Balkans because of the history of wars and the recent dissolution of the Yugoslavian republic, the students are very used to the presence of protest and the possibility of protest.  In fact, one of the Greeks students told me that the most popular website in the country is the one that tells you which public services will be on strike for the day.
The students performed their works enthusiastically, and I am excited about how they will use the ideas they worked on in their home communities.
Check out the video here:

Good Beats and Good Eats

Today we went "crate digging."  The students in me and Dj Goce's group all piled into taxis and went to the town center. There was an open air market where used books and used vinyl was being sold.

This process has been really pleasurable and improvisational. The students then went on pick samples and beats to go with the poems and raps they wrote.
Some dope projects emerged. They even sampled my voice.
Later DJ Goce took me under another student out to dinner as a way to redeem Macedonia's culinary reputation. The food at the hotel was bland and forgettable, and Goce described it as "prison food."  I must admit, that I was silently operating under the impression that Macedonian food was just "blah."  I was wrong. Very wrong.  The food has a Mediterranean flair, is diverse in ingredient choices, and highly flavored.  Some standouts were the fried goat cheese, The sautéed peppers salad, The whipped garlic sauce to be used as a condiment, and of course the minced meats wrapped in locally grown pork and filled with home made cheeses.
I was also introduced to rakia, which is Macedonia's version of moonshine. Although it was made with grapes, it was very strong!
Check out the video here: