10 Things Black People Should Conceal And Carry

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1. Our Joy

“Won’t you celebrate with me what I have shaped into a kind of life?
I had no model.” – Lucille Clifton

We must celebrate. We as black and indigenous/oppressed peoples within the vocabulary of our condition are often abbreviated into ghosts much too soon. Joy is a radical interrupter, to this abbreviation. We are abbreviated by death. We are abbreviated by an historic and intellectual erasure. We are abbreviated in our representation in media. We are abbreviated by so many disparities stacked against us. In order to build opposition to this let us make joy an additive to our struggle. With so many forces acting to abbreviate or completely erase our existence, we must participate in joy within all the specifics of our bones.

Joy needs to be among the default reasons in which we enter this work. By this work I don’t solely mean activism, as I mean the simple work of endurance.

To position joy in such a way that gives resistance its current. Because of joy I am, organizing this protest, writing this poem, going after this job, saying no to tolerating microaggressions, police terrorism and saying yes to considering other worlds where the default isn’t to assimilate into the status quo. The great prophetic voice of Alice Walker reminds us that:

“The love of your people, you see them in all their foibles, weird ways and sayings, funny haircuts and baggy pants and weird names… on and on… that’s us… and there is just so much beauty being authentic in what ever you are… I mean you’re not supposed to be joyful you’re out there being lynched. You’re supposed to be really just always picketing something and if you’re not picketing you’re sending out leaflets and fighting… but to actually have joy in your life is a great victory… True success is about being happy doing what you have to do to survive but you have your good times, you have your music, you have your dances and this is it, this is what is of value to a human life. – (Walker 2012 Self perception and Love)

In an age of Kendrick Lamar saying “We Gone Be Alright” and Beyonce saying “I like my negro nose and jackson fives nostrils” Within this we see an invitation to participate in the antibiotic that is the joy of blackness. We must invite ourselves to receive the invitation to show up as ourselves to a world that continuously fails to show up for us. But what joy it is to be apart of a tradition.

2. Our Militancy

“Wild tongues can’t be tamed, they can only be cut out.”
― Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza

Militancy is not a metaphor. What I mean by this is that we cannot lean towards a sentimentalizing of black militancy. The Black Panther Party captured the imagination of those abandoned in the ghettos of 1966 America but the bullets, 21 year old Fred Hampton (Chair of the Chicago chapter of the party) and so many others received, were not figurative bullets, they were real. I feel like it is imperative we have literacy development around militancy and a larger conversation around self defense. Militancy is often a far fetched naive conception, often faced with the “We can’t outgun them” conclusion. And yes this very well, is probably true. However, often when we approach militancy it is in a singular solution context, so we stifle and limit ourselves in having a larger conversation on how militant and non–militant thinking can support each other. Presenting ourselves with a dichotomy of militant and non-militant singular solution liberation is not only polarizing but narrow and isolating.

Black/Oppressed/indigenous peoples come from a heritage of cutting radically against the grain in all arenas of civilization. For example, I personally think it’s phenomenal how the 1960’s Deacons For Defense (Which is an organization that is now facing erasure, in terms of being cited in connection to Civil Rights Movement) Guarded and protected marchers participating in The 1966 March Against Fear. A solidarity walk to counter the continuing racism in the Mississippi Delta after passage of federal civil rights legislation. I do have critiques, of course in regards to the Decans being majority male dominated which presents limitations in concerns to sexist, gender role rhetoric around who is fit to fight who it meant to fight.

None the less erasure is a form of intellectual terrorism. The Decans knew that the government was inconsistent in the protection of its “citizens” so they took it upon themselves to do a service that wasn’t being provided by the government. I believe black/indigenous militancy in 2016 America is the second class citizen of conversation in terms of being taken seriously. When we get to the core of the principle of militancy it’s centered on the preparation of risk. Its principled on the best of Malcolm X, Ida B Wells, Harriet Tubman, Stokely Carmichael and Huey Newton. I think when we talk on the principles of what radically baptized them into their revolutionary genius is ultimately a love for humanity, a love for those often rendered invisible and a principal stance on not willing to be disposable no matter the cost.

3. Our Ability To Let Go Of Shame

“I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all.” – Zora Neale Hurston

If we are to survive, it will do us well to let go of shame. Across the board we definitely have work to do on ourselves. We must never go into retirement in terms of analyzing and interrogating ourselves on how we can be the best of who we are, this is not by virtue of us being black, but human. However we must not enter that interrogation predicated on shame.

Often when we arrive at intellectual conversations on the betterment of black people they pulse on a inner accusatory approach. Arising in the absentee father narratives unique to being black often portrayed in mass media, very heavy implicit escapist forms of liberation, if the negroes go to college they will be free. If the negroes escape from their homes or even their blackness they will be free. This positions blackness “as the not to be” of civilization, and that is the default rhetoric of white supremacy.

I also arrive at a very deep issue with this sort of belief that there is “an aesthetic to consciousness” If the negro wears a dashiki, an ankh and an afro the negro must be free. These features aren’t so much where my grievances lie as they do with the notion that they exempt an individual who embraces these features from perpetuating oppression i.e. homophobia, sexism, xenophobia. With this “Aesthetic to consciousness” approach we also carry deep undercurrents of shame.

If the negroes sag their pants, wears weave, goes out at night, parties, participants in a certain kind of music or advocates for their sexual liberation, those negroes must not be free. With this we are participating in a sort of purity of blackness that is counter productive, oppressive and violent. Let the metric of our freedom be our ability to be unafraid in the face of supremacy. Let the metric of our freedom be the ability to act and determine the destiny of our lives and our condition. I do echo Nina Simone in saying “Freedom is no fear”. Mind you she said no fear, not upward mobility, college degree or political position. Blackness must not be pollinated with purity and narrowness this is ultimately a blackness that wants privilege not liberation. Our ability to let go of shame, is a choice of inclusivity. To love all black folk. This is not to excuse black folk of our shortcomings, but to not push narratives of tragedy and judgement on those who the establishment deem “excellent.”

4. Our Creativity

“Art hurts. Art urges voyages – and it is easier to stay at home.”
– Gwendolyn Brooks

Through our many voyages as black folk, our creativity has allowed for historic tracers to keep track of our experience, our catastrophe and our resilience, from the negro spirituals to Hip Hop. We need to know there was a song called “Strange fruit” that archived the terrorism of the American South targeted at black folks. We need to know there was a song called “The Women Gather” by that haunting angelic group Sweet Honey In The Rock that archived the silence plaguing black and working class communities in the face of violence. My own creativity has invited a way for me to inquire about the world without destructing in it. Our creativity is a recruiting tool in which we are able to archive our suffrage. During The Black Arts Movement the work of Amiri Baraka recruited Harlem’s black and brown working class community to engage in the social ills of the time through theater, spoken word, murals, jazz and dance. The location of art and the social relationship of art has presented an opportunity for black folks to celebrate our dignity and culture. Creativity has been a passport to transport ourselves outside of our suffrage to an essential location that illuminates the best of who you are, and the best of our precious traditions. We currently live in an education system that is an extension of capitalism, corporate interest, big money and gentrification. An education system where some babies get tested while being policed while others get taught and mentored. Creativity In this system of education if used is a buzzword filled with hollow intentionality. The preservation of our creativity is in the interest of our therapy and survival and the continuing of our history.

5. Our History

“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if
faced with courage, need not be lived again.” – Maya Angelou

Our history– and by this I’ll add the agency to teach our history not from a defeatist position, but a resilient one, centering ourselves– is the only means to give an articulation of the scaffolding of our condition. When I say our history, it is an attempt to make a clarification between our history and the token history of black folk that is given to us vis-à-vis the month of February or the occasional nostalgia brought on by the tokenizing of the civil rights movement. We are not self made beings. We are here because our mothers had the wherewithal to stomach our weight and the weight of raising us. With this we can apply to history that Monday morning is not self made, it’s here because the sun fell on Sunday, as is White Supremacy. History is a weight we must bare, we give birth to it. White supremacy didn’t just appear in sudden place, it was birthed out of an intentional agenda to conquer and exploit the human being. If we are to undergo the assignment of shifting the course which oppression has outlined for us we must have an intimate conversation with the sunsets we come from. It is imperative to know from whence you came, because erasure is an ingredient of empire. America since its conception has been a colonial project from which required the extermination of an expendable people. Erasure on all fronts, from the indigenous, literature, birth certificates, anything that allowed tracers to be made. Do we arrive at the location of our reality by mere coincidence? Or by the authoring of intentions which we develop a vocabulary to describe our place in the world? Is our assignment– as the parents of the tomorrow’s we are pregnant with– to learn from the elder days, to raise a more responsible future? History is neutral, by this I am suggesting and echoing what Malcolm X when he says “History is not hatred”. This is not to say evil and hate haven’t been the motivator for great atrocities in history but is to say if we analyze history that act of analysis isn’t a hateful act. Our history is a constant curriculum from which we must investigate and utilized in the interest of our survival. We are the parents of tomorrow and we must not give birth to sleeping children.

 

 

6. Our Righteous Indignation

We needed Martin Luther King in 1967 to say America was the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. We needed pioneering black feminist (1803 – February 6, 1880) Maria H Stewart to say:

“Sue for your rights and privileges. Know the reason you cannot attain them… You can but die if you make the attempt; and we shall certainly die if you do not” – Maria H Stewart

We needed these statements because they were profoundly and unapologetically attached to the welfare of black folk and the morality of civilization. These statements adhere to a prophetic tradition of indignation that has indicted systematic powers that fails repeatedly to give justice to an expendable class of people. To become well adapted to the status quo is affirmation of it. To possess and hold on to our righteous indignation is to say who among you will risk unpopularity, indignation, and infliction to be a north star by which we guide our principles and the best of who we are. To hold on to our righteous indignation is to forever wrestle with the four questions W.E.B Dubois at age of eighty-nine raised in his towering novel The Ordeal of Mansart:

  1.  How does integrity face oppression?
  2. What does honesty do in the face of deception?
  3. What does decency do in the face of insult?
  4. What does virtue do in the face of brute force?

These are the questions of our tradition and the objectives of our lives.

7. Our Otherworldly Nature

“I am not going to die, I’m going home like a shooting star.” – Sojourner Truth

“There are other worlds.” This consideration is a protest thought to the capitalist, heteronormative, ableist imperialist, civilization we are surviving in daily. Repeatedly it is the oppressed, those within the best of our traditions who’ve had the prophetic dexterity to identify the worst of our oppressive governance and reflect equitable alternatives to participate in civilization. To be otherworldly must not be paralleled with being “exotified” or “othered” this approach is ultimately objectifying, dehumanizing and centers whiteness as the default from which we measure the human being. Being otherworldly is to radically cut against the grain across the board, to reject any parameters of which cause suffering. Often within this world we are seduced to trade in our critical lenses in consequence to the views of a political party, job, relative, position or ideology. To consider other worlds is to acquire the audacity to voice your skepticism where only silence is dominant. Considering other worlds is the process by which we brain storm voyages the human being must travel to arrive at the best of their possibility. Are Other worlds possible? Can we be visionaries who radically consider alternatives to police? To distribute goods and services far and beyond capitalism? Can we envision ways to run institutions absent of hierarchy and truly democratically? Our otherworldly nature pushes the bar higher where human beings have fallen short in its oppressive placement.

8. Our Erotic

“Touching is an act of making love, and if political touching is not made with love no connections, no linkings can happen.”- Gloria Anzaldua

It is imperative we participate in touching one another. I say touch with an expansive definition of it. Touching as active listening. Touching as even a form of seeing one another in our process of struggle, resilience and survival. When I think on the erotic, I think of a mutual offering of the sacred, the physical self or otherwise. I’m wondering on the ways in which we see skin beyond the literal physical manifestation of it.

I’m wondering what it would mean to conceptualize the idea of skin into the ways we see sacred information, memories, passions, activities. To say “this is my skin”. This is a precious or traumatic memory, this is a passion of mine, this is a secret, this is for you to hold. Imagining skin as a location for first hand evidence of truth telling and information. Active listening as a form of touching. Often systems say go to data, capitalism says go to the monetary gain, colonialism says go to the labor. The erotic says go to yourself, go to your skin which is to say go to your truth.

While surviving under supremacy it is imperative we consistently unapologetically return to our skin and the skin of others. To repeatedly return to our truth. To indulge in skin is to exist in the struggling, romantic, resilient processes by which we sustain, heal and educate ourselves.

Surviving in a black body, so many things touch your skin. The American empire won’t even admit your skin even exists if it’s not in obedience with it. The erotic is an inward location, it is a basin of emotive technology. Our warrior Audre Lorde says in introducing Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power “In order to know our enemy we have to expose ourselves to some pretty energy sapping things” When you are assigned to transform the world, to theorize on violence we must reach repeatedly into the basin of our erotic as a source of healing, reminding and affirmation.

9. Our Ancestors

“Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise I rise I rise.” – Maya Angelou Still I rise, And Still I Rise (1978)

Often when we think of ancestry I believe we have a tendency to submerge ourselves in nostalgia at the concept of ancestry. Which brings me to the consideration of what we would gain by doing the work to specify those we categorize as ancestors. Doing the research and unpacking the contributions of our ancestors and also the arguments of ancestors. To think on why it matters that W.E.B Dubois and Booker T Washington definitely had clashy viewpoints on what the advancement of black folks could/should look like. To wonder on what was the friction between Richard Wright and James Baldwin and why did Baldwin’s critique of Wright’s work Native Son eradicate their Friendship. To not let Ancestry or the concept of Ancestors become a buzzword. In analyzing ancestors we also provide an opportunity to disagree or find agreement in their work. I feel no insult in holding ancestors accountable for their shortcomings. Maybe we don’t agree with Malcolm X in his viewpoint on Black Nationalism, because nationalism tends to reinforce patriarchy and heteronormativity.

Whether we are endorsing or disagreeing with the contribution of our ancestors indulging in this process also provides time for us to digest our own politics which I feel is something that is at a scarcity these days. We tend to eat ideology and politics without proper digestion causes us to often miss the point or misdirect our critiques or perpetuates a dangerous quick fix approach to our plight as black and oppressed peoples. We do come from a great many hands often it is rigorous work to identify these hands, though we must do that imperative necessary work. To not only identify in terms of naming a person but also in interrogating the politics of that person. To not solely illustrate and conjure the body but also the brilliance.

10. Our Complexity

“Then you must tell ’em dat love ain’t somethin’ lak uh grindstone dat’s de same thing everywhere and do the same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.” – Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

I am wondering on the ways in which we see the waters of our blackness, as they arrive at the shores of our bodies. Contrary to what I was told in childhood, blackness has no singular autobiography. My story is much different from yours and yours is much different from my own.

Often we get policed as to how the current of our blackness must arrive to us. We hear frequently the particular ways the waters of our blackness must heed other prerequisites before being black. Prerequisites such as if one doesn’t have linage that ties to chattel slavery in the U.S, such as African immigrant families they aren’t really black. If folks come from a particular place of economic privilege they aren’t really black. Often adoptees from transracial adoptions are expedited from their blackness as not being raised in a black household. Even blackness needing to be a certain hue before being permitted of being black. Blackness not really being qualified if one doesn’t “perform” their blackness in a particular way.

Furthermore why do we categorize blackness as something to be “performed.” I’ve always felt my blackness to be more rooted than a costume to be performed, rather an inevitable reservoir of tradition, joy, and testament describing a lived experience.

I also divorce this idea of blackness existing as a reactionary phenomenon. Blackness only being able to manifest as a reaction to white supremacist, terrorism or racism. To say “I knew I was black when this particular trauma took place.” This is not to say these experiences shouldn’t be seen as valid or tended to but is to wonder on where we begin to identify our blackness. What does it mean when we start that defining within our own terms within a healthy joyful premises rather than a tragic one.

Complexity is inevitable and quite natural, which should be celebrated instead of policed. I also believe when we don’t consider complexity we often get into conversations of purity in terms of blackness. Notions of purity such as devaluing bi-racial blackness, judging interracial relationships, condemning one’s sexual orientation. Any determinants to blackness are counterproductive to our liberation. Who are we to determine and dictate the ways blackness permeates through the bodies of black folk. I may listen to a certain kind of music that very well could interrupt your notions of my blackness and vise versa and why is that? Why do we isolate blackness to a narrowness that creates a box to which lived experiences must enter and then adjust to? Isn’t that a thing of whiteness? Doesn’t oppression police how other people live their lives? And don’t we come from a tradition that challenged the imagination of the human being to say this oppressive practice isn’t the best we can do? Don’t we come from a tradition that challenged the confines of this world and dare themselves to be alternatives? Shouldn’t we rotate the best of this phenomenal heritage? Shouldn’t we continuously remind ourselves this phenomenon isn’t unique to our yesterdays but are instructions that will do us well to carry into the curriculum of our future and ultimately our freedom.
 





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About Author

Poet, essayist and activist Evol is a six year educator having taught at nineteen institutions across the state of Minnesota. He is the board chair of the Youth Advisory Board for TruArtSpeaks. A non profit in St Paul, dedicating to cultivating literacy, leadership and social justice through Hip Hop. He is a blogger for Revolution News, An international group of independent journalists, photographers, artists, translators and activists reporting on international news with a focus on human rights. Evol has received numerous grants and competed nationally as a spoken word artist. Evol has been published in Poetry Behind The Walls and on platforms such as Gazillion Voices Magazine , Black Girl In Om, Revolution News and TC Organizer. Evol has performed, taught workshops and led professional development in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, Washington DC, Arkansas, Minnesota and New York. He has gone on to teach Spoken Word poetry in high schools such as Washburn High, Brooklyn Center High, MNIC High, PYC, Paladin Academy, Creative Arts and John Glenn Middle School. He has appeared on TPT and Urban Perspectives. He navigates noting Patricia Hill Collins as she has stated “My work has always been bigger than my job”