The author may not be an activist but she is definitely a thinker!

Phillis Remastered

I’m a radical Black feminist and proud of it, but I don’t call myself an activist. I write and once in a while I get paid for it, but that’s about it. You’re not going to see me marching in the streets or getting arrested, mainly because I was a victim of abuse in my childhood and young adulthood, and I’m not going to willingly put myself in harm’s way again. Call me a coward. Call me a Weak Negro Intellectual Punk.

Guilty.

The other reason I don’t call myself an activist is because I don’t like to be around people with no home training, trying (and failing) to get them to see things my way. I don’t have a winning personality that gets people to take my side. I figure, I’m right—and if they don’t want to get with this right here, then they can get with that over…

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Dear Martin,

Great God, what a morning, Martin!

The sun is rolling in from faraway places. I watch it reaching out, circling these bare trees like some reverent lover. I have been standing still listening to the morning, and I hear your voice crouched near hills, rising from the mountain tops, breaking the circle of dawn.

You would have been 54 today.

As I point my face toward a new decade, Martin, I want you to know that the country still crowds the spirit. I want you to know that we still hear your footsteps setting out on a road cemented with black bones. I want you to know that the stuttering of guns could not stop your light from crashing against cathedrals chanting piety while hustling the world.

Great God, what a country, Martin!

The decade after your death docked like a spaceship on a new planet. Voyagers all we were. We were the aliens walking up the ’70s, a holocaust people on the move looking out from dark eyes. A thirsty generation, circling the peaks of our country for more than a Pepsi taste. We were youngbloods, spinning hip syllables while saluting a country neutral with pain.

And our children saw the mirage of plenty spilling from capitalistic sands.

And they ran toward the desert.

And the gods of sand made them immune to words that strengthen the breast.

And they became scavengers walking on the earth.

And you can see them playing. Hide-and-go-seek robbers. Native sons. Running on their knees. Reinventing slavery on asphalt. Peeling their umbilical cords for a gold chain.

And you can see them on Times Square, N.Y.C., Martin, selling their 11-, 12-year-old, 13-, 14-year-old bodies to suburban forefathers.

And you can see them on Market Street in Philadelphia bobbing up bellywise, young fishes for old sharks.

And no cocks are crowing on those mean streets.

Great God, what morning, it’ll be someday, Martin!

That decade fell like a stone on our eyes. Our movements. Rhythms. Loves. Books. Delivered us from the night, drove out the fears keeping some of us hoarse. New births knocking at the womb kept us walking.

We crossed the cities while a backlash of judges tried to turn us into moles with blackrobed words of reverse racism. But we knew. And our knowing was like a sister’s embrace. We crossed the land where famine was fed in public. Where black stomachs exploded on the world’s dais while men embalmed their eyes and tongues in gold. But we knew. And our knowing squatted from memory.

Sitting on our past, we watch the new decade dawning. These are strange days, Martin, when the color of freedom becomes disco fever; when soap operas populate our Zulu braids; as the world turns to the conservative right and general hospitals are closing in Black neighborhoods and the  young and the restless are drugged by early morning refer butts. And houses tremble.

These are dangerous days, Martin, when cowboy-riding presidents corral Blacks (and others) in a common crown of thorns; when nuclear-toting generals recite an alphabet of blood; when multinational corporations  assassinate ancient cultures while inaugurating new civilizations. Come out come out, wherever you are. Black country. Waiting to be born…

But, Martin, on this day, your 54th birthday–with all the reversals–we have learned that black is the beginning of everything.
it was black in the universe before the sun;
it was black in the mind before we opened our eyes;
it was black In the womb of our mother;
black is the beginning.
and if we are the beginning we will be forever.

Martin. I have learned too that fear is not a black man or woman. Fear cannot disturb the length of those who struggle against material gains for self-aggrandizement. Fear cannot disturb the good of people who have moved to a meeting place where the pulse pounds out freedom and justice for the universe.

Now is the changing of the tides, Martin. You forecast it where leaves dance on the wings of man. Martin. Listen. On this your 54th birthday, listen and you will hear the earth delivering up curfews to the missionaries and the assassins. Listen. And you will hear the tribal songs:

Ayeee Ayooooo Ayeee
Ayeee Ayooooo Ayeee

Malcolm…                                                          Ke wa rona*
Robeson…                                                          Ke wa rona
Lumumba…                                                       Ke wa rona
Fannie Lou…                                                     Ke wa rona
Garvey…                                                             Ke wa rona
Johnbrown…                                                    Ke wa rona
Tubman…                                                           Ke wa rona
Mandela…                                                          Ke wa rona
(free Mandela,
free Mandela)
Assata…                                                              Ke wa rona

As we go with you to the sun,
as we walk in the dawn, turn our eyes
Eastward and let the prophecy come true
and let the prophecy come true.
Great God, Martin, what a morning, it will be!

*he is ours

Poem excerpted from Homegirls and Handgrenades

Sonia Sanchez website

Song by Sweet Honey in the Rock

Sweet Honey in the Rock website

the winged thang built her dream palace
amid the fine green eyes of a sheltering bough
she did not know it was urban turf
disguised as serenely delusional rural
nor did she know the neighborhood was rife
with slant-mawed felines and those long-taloned
swoopers of prey, she was ignorant of the acidity & oil
that slowly polluted the earth, and was never
to detect the serpent coiled one strong limb below

following her nature she flitted and dove
for whatever blades twigs and mud
could be found under the humming blue
and created a hatchery for her spawn
not knowing all were doomed

 

Excerpted from Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry

 

Poetically speaking, growing up is mediocrity
– Ned Rorem

Neither rosy nor prim
not cousin to the cowslip
nor the extravagant fuchsia-
I doubt anyone has ever
picked one for show,
though the woods must be fringed
with their lemony effusions.

Sun blathers its baronial
endorsement, but they refuse
to join the ranks. Summer
brings them in armfuls,
yet, when the day is large,
you won’t see them fluttering
the length of the road.

They’ll wait until the world’s
tucked in and the sky’s
one ceaseless shimmer-then
lift their saturated eyelids
and blaze, blaze
all night long
for  no one.

 

Excerpted from Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry

 

Then after Eden,
was there one surprise?
O yes, the awe of Adam
at the first bead of sweat.

Thenceforth, all flesh
had to be sown with salt,
to feel the edge of seasons,
fear and harvest
joy that was difficult,
but was, at least, his own.

The snake? It would not trust
on its forked tree.
The snake admired Labour,
it would not leave him alone.

And both would watch the leaves
silver the alder,
oaks yellowing October,
everything turning money.

So when Adam was exiled
to our new Eden, in the ark’s gut,
the coined snake coiled there for good
fellowship also; that was willed.

Adam had an idea.
He and the snake would share
the loss of Eden for a profit.
So both made the New World. And it looked good.

Excerpted from Derek Walcott: Collected Poems 1948-1984

Related articles

 

You’re on the porch with the broom sweeping the same spot, getting the same sound-dry straw against dry leaf caught in the loose-dirt crevice of the cement tiles. No phone, no footfalls, no welcome variation. It’s 3:15. Your ears strain, stretching down the block, searching through schoolchild chatter for that one voice that will give you ease. Your eyes sting with the effort to see over bushes, look through buildings, cut through everything that separates you from your child’s starting point-the junior high school.

The little kids you keep telling not to cut through your yard are cutting through your yard. Not boisterous-bold and loose-limbed as they used to be in the first and second grades. But not huddled and spooked as they were last year. You had to saw off the dogwood limbs. They’d creak and sway, throwing shadows of alarm on the walkway, sending the children shrieking down the driveway. You couldn’t store mulch in lawnleaf bags then, either. They’d look, even to you, coming upon those humps in your flowerbed, like bagged bodies.

A few months ago, everyone went about wary,  tense, their shoulders hiked to their ears in order to fend off grisly news of slaughter. But now, adults walk as loose-limbed and carefree as the children who are scudding down the driveway, scuffing their shoes, then huddling on the sidewalk below.

The terror is over, the authorities say. The horror is past, they repeat every day. There’ve been no new cases of kidnap and murder since the arrest back in June. You’ve good reason to know the official line is a lie. But you sweep the walk briskly all the way to the hedge, as though in clearing the leaves you can clear from you mind all that you know. You’d truly like to know less.You want to believe. It’s 3:23 on your Mother’s Day watch. And your child is nowhere in sight.

Every artist, every scientist must decide now where he stands. He has no alternative. There is no standing above the conflict on Olympian heights. There are no impartial observers. Through the destruction, in  certain countries, of the greatest of man’s literary heritage, through the propagation of false ideas of racial and national superiority, the artist, the scientist, the writer is challenged. The struggle invades the formerly cloistered halls of our universities and other seats of learning. The battlefront is everywhere. There is no sheltered rear.

Paul Robeson

Here I Stand

Paul Robeson,American actor, athlete, bass-bar...

Reasoned…and reasonable!

Natasha Thomas-Jackson

So, hiphop artist, Lupe Fiasco was thrown off the stage at a pre-inauguration event following an  anti-Obama rant… and the Twitterverse exploded.

As to be expected, there were were a slew of staunch supporters, a bevy of vehement detractors and very few who fell in between the heated debated that ensued. My timeline alternated between those who viewed Lupe as the heroic, revolutionary, protagonist and those who dismissed him as an attention-seeking, “stunt-queen” only interested in advancing his own cult of personality.

Lupe-Fiasco-Ft.-MDMA-I-Dont-Wanna-Care-Right-Now-Lyrics (1)

I have been, and continue to be, a fan of Lupe Fiasco – for a number of reasons. Following the inauguration debacle, I tweeted in support of his actions. In the barren and arid landscape known as modern, mainstream, hiphop – Lupe is the ONLY artist of his kind right now. And while it’s true that there are a number of extremely talented underground artists who make progressive…

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Guilt and Shame

January 22, 2013

I now think that those two accomplices–guilt and shame–are probably together the most corrosively painful scourges the human spirit can experience. Precisely because they always and only stem from one’s own failure to keep faith with one’s truest self. With one’s private conscience, one’s most cherished and basic principles, with one’s sense of honor. For me it was an important lesson too painful to ever forget. I may not have known the word integrity, but that is what that was about. That simple incident first taught me that no matter how private or hidden the betrayal, one cannot live without integrity. The pain is too great. My late father had a much used saying that, because it seemed so unforgiving, puzzled me greatly as a young boy. It occurs to me that this is what it was about: integrity. “You can tell the truth every day of your life,” my father would say, “and if, on the day of your death, you tell a lie…that is what will matter.

That very day I began seriously to separate myself from the antisocial behaviors of the street.

Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggle of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture)

Sometime in the late 1930’s, the government in another of its persistent and futile attempts to suppress African cultural survivals, decided that the colony would more easily be governable if drums and other traditional musical instruments were outlawed. The colonials must have sensed, and correctly, the importance of music in the cultural independence and political resistance of the African masses. I would, of course, encounter this phenomenon again in the American South. But at least the George Wallaces and Ross Barnetts of that world never tried to outlaw our spirituals and freedom songs. Though I’m sure they must  have often wished they could have.

So in Trinidad by legislative fiat an African could be jailed for possession of drums and other musical instruments? Not a gun, not a grenade, or some dynamite, but a drum? I have often tried, and failed, to visualize the campaign to enforce that law. In implementation of this policy, did armed police and soldiers–the governor’s minions–surround African communities and conduct house-to-house searches? And for what, those threats to public order, drums, tambourines, maracas, and marimbas? Did they kick  down the doors to shacks with guns drawn: “Freeze. You’re under arrest. Seize that drum!”

So, suddenly deprived of their traditional instruments of musical expression, Africans resorted to their creativity and whatever materials lay to hand. In this case, the fifty-five-gallon steel drums used to store oil at the refinery.

These they took and cut to varying depths. Say nine inches down for an alto pan, two feet deep for a tenor pan, and twice that for a bass. Then on the top they would heat and pound out a number of raised areas, each of which when struck would produce a precise musical note of a certain pitch. Over the years the brothers experimented with ways to refine the basic instruments and to create others. The result is what is today known the world over as the Trinidad steel band: an ensemble of musical instruments of great range and flexibility, capable of playing not only calypso and other forms of local popular music, but the most complex and demanding of jazz compositions or any form from the European classical tradition you care to name. A sound immediately recognizable in the distinctive, liquid purity of tones and the fluency of its musical lines.

Hey, as you may have noticed, I can’t pretend to be an ethnomusicologist. I’m a revolutionary. But that description should give you a fairly accurate sense of the accomplishment represented by the creation of the steel bands.  And remember, this unique innovation and the musical tradition it evolved into came directly out of the determined and indomitable will of Trinidad’s African’s to resist colonization and to maintain their culture.

Excerpted from Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggle of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture)