Beleaguered, Black America wanted him captured alive so he could talk to the world, for he had a lot to say. And by the time that he would have been executed by the state of California in San Quentin Prison, he would have been transformed into Nat Turner Rising in the Black Community.
|Christopher Dorner, memorialized in tattoo|
Years ago, like most works of Black fiction, I read Richard Wright's Native Son, outside the classroom. It was far different than Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, which I loved.
Native Son left me cold, substituting literary value, for brutal shock. Unlike protest novels, painstakingly lists the sins of the oppressor, Native Son simply tells a bleak story of the "trigger"
of every white man, the rape and murder of an attractive white women by a big Black male, unknown. I am equally sure, most Black men, to varying degrees intrinsically feel this connecting if they have frequent interactions with any white women.
I call it "Emmett Till moments", when you're laughing with a white female neighbor while walking your dogs, or spiritedly debating an issue left unresolved from the classroom outside the doors of the library, and all of a sudden, it comes over you, wow I could have been brutally murdered for this, not that long ago.
James Baldwin's essay Notes of A Native Son, taught me the importance of Richard Wright's novel Native Son.
Native Son answered the question of what really happens to Langston Hughe's "Dream Deferred", that's deeply rooted in our emancipation from 400 years of slavery, when the Federal Government:
implemented Reconstruction policies that began to inject full Black representation and participation at all levels of government,
promised forty acres of land and mule to every Black family.
After slavery, Black people wanted to be left alone, so we could begin to heal, while doing for our selves with our land what we did for white America for over four hundred years as objects of labor and toil. Because these "objects" instead of being wood and steal, were made of flesh, blood, and bone, we had to be "managed", by whip, bible, rape, castration, mutilation, torture, etc, to make round pegs fit into the triangular pyramid of American Chattel Slavery. Then, smashed back in, when we popped back out, due to this highly unnatural fit.
|Forms of "management"|
The process of being"managed", has created an organic and highly toxic cancer inside us today, which is what Langston Hughes meant when he said "sags like a heavily load" It is also the question of "does it explode"
Bigger Thomas answered the question, by doing both
Once my 145 pound French Mastiff, Truth, and I watched over my neighbors house cat while she went home for the Christmas holidays. Twice a day, Truth and I would trek through the snow to her house. I would take care of the cat's needs, while Truth explored the house, followed by the cat at a safe distance, every day coming closer, once it discovered that the only interest Truth had in it, was as a source of smells.
I was surprised that not only does James's mother, Emma Berdis Jones Baldwin's mortal coil rest beside his- and that she'd outlived him-, but also, there are no other words marking the grave stone of this Black man of infinite literary ability, who was also a radical Black activist, that bore the burden of both Blackness and homosexuality, with so much amazing grace, humor, and courage, that it deepened the roots of his love for Black people.
It's therefore not surprising when James Arthur Baldwin wrote about Bigger Thomas, he combined his socratic literary gift with deep love, which in this rare case weakened an otherwise brilliant analysis. James's love, liberated Bigger out of the dark dungeon, that Richard Wright created him in, as America's Frankenstein Monster.
Its' an idea which is the frame work of the novel, presenting Bigger as the herald of disaster, the danger signal of a more bitter time to come when not Bigger alone but all his kindred will rise, in the name of the many thousands who perished in the fire and the flood and by rope and torture, to demand their rightful vengeance." But it is not quite fair, it seems to me to exploit the national innocence in this way. The idea of Bigger as a warning boomerangs not only because it is quite beyond the limit of probability that Negroes in America will ever achieve the means by wreaking vengeance upon the state but also because it cannot be said that they have any desire to do so"
Then Baldwin goes on to write;
Native Son does not convey the altogether savage paradox of the American Negro situation of which the social reality which we prefer with such hopeful superficiality to study is but, as it were, the shadow. It is not simply the relationship of oppressed to oppressor, of master to slave, not is it motivated merely by hatred; it is also, literally and morally, a blood relationship, perhaps the most profound reality of the American experience, we cannot begin to unlock it until we accept how very much it contains of the force and anguish and terror of love. Negroes are Americans and their destiny is the countries destiny.
James Baldwin, writing is all too current today, yet he was writing at a more optimistic time
for Black America. Martin Luther King's Civil Rights Movement was gathering strength in an era of legendary Race men and women. Malcolm X was just released from prison where he converted to Islam, Angela Davis was talking back in high school, and Congressman Adam Clayton Powel was using his office (the only politician to ever do so) to mobilize and organize the whole American Black Community. DuBois and Robinson were still around, along with numerous other progressive, great Black Artists, and activists . James Baldwin was angry enough to "get all up" in Attorney General Robert Kennedy's Face, but he was also part of a wave of radical change sweeping the land, and yes it would bring lot's of death, lots of blood and loss, especially in the Black south, but white violence could not stop it.
Today, like that Biggie Smalls song "Things Done Changed"
|"Back in the days, our parents took care of us |
Look at em now, they even fuckin scared of us
call'in for help cause they caint maintain
damn shit don changed! "
Richard Wright was a lot less optimistic than James Baldwin even though James was more vocal and confrontational. Maybe it was because, unlike James who group up in the north, Richard was born on a plantation in Roxie Mississippi.
Richard's construction of Bigger Thomas as a warning, wasn't 100% accurate.
James was right that we've not risen up against white America, nor shown any inkling to do so as a group. But unfortunately, America being a purposefully optimistic nation, mostly chose James's side, over Richard's gut feeling, which now bleeds out all over urban Black America today.
|Moments before Milton Wardlaw kills Kiyanna Salter|
On a CTA Bus by "mistake"
|Black youth mob in Detroit|
|Black youth morns killing of a friend in Chicago|
|Black youth mob of looters in Philadelphia|
Two generations of Black youth have "risen-up" with a least two more in preparation to follow. They are being trained by US.Corporations, including the entertainment industry, who funded Urban Generals like Chief Keef.
And like Biggie Smalls said even their parents are "fucking scared of them" and so are we.
|Chief Keef "loyal" to a fault representing|
the O'Block Black Disciples
|And it's a generational family affair |
Chief Keeps mother represents O'Block
|Don't forget, unlike Bigger Thomas, Keef isn't one dimensional, |
besides for guns, he also loves "S.O.S. A."
More alarming is that James was wrong when he said "Negroes are Americans and their destiny is the countries destiny" Like a rubber band, contraction and expansion are natural to our economy. The various levels are debatable, but clearly our economy was not designed to be systematically looted
by plutocratic corporations simply for profit. What they are not telling us is that the robber band has broken given rise to alternative and new cynical economies supported by government that feed off Black bodies.
Bigger Thomas was the Black Shadow that Brother Richard set loose upon America as a clarion angry baleful warning of things to come if we did not heed to what white America was building. We failed numerous times to listen and the dark shadows have been released from the vast urban dungeons, Ironically merging into a perfect storm during the during the Presidency of Barack Obama and global warning.
Shadows in real like are more damaged than those of fiction. These shadows "say fuck it", and gleefully roll the dice of life and death every day on the block. They are American child terrorist, who unlike child soldiers in Africa did not have to be kidnapped into it.
They are now the shadows you feel following close behind (be you white or Black)
and you can feel their scorn because they know the truth. White America created them, but Black America allowed them to be created and also profited off their misery and suffering.
|purveyors of post race|
|A mainstream Black church at worship of material idiols|
We will not face these Black shadows let alone admit our culpability. When we see them we cross the street or pass them quickly head down between hope and prayer. Richard warned us. Now they don't give a fuck cause you never really did. And I know he could not have predicted they would first devastate their own communities.
I wish Richard Wright and James Baldwin were still around though. There was a socratic and proud earthy boldness in Black artists and activists back then. Black music was a sound track for struggle and revolution. And as Cornel West said, Black children could turn on the TV and see that somebody loved and was willing to die for them.
|Gil Scott Heron|
Today art and activism are controlled and commodified by corporations, universities, and white liberal non profits.
The late great Manny Marable in his ground breaking biography "Malcolm X A Life Reinvention" wrote about a meeting between Chole Ardelia Wofford aka Toni Morrison and Malcolm X
at a coffee shop in Harlem. He had just returned from Africa and she needed his help and influence with a struggle she was engaged in with the Pan African Community in New York. Today Wofford is at Oberlin College and this is a good thing. But Oberlin is far removed from the diminishing organic Black radical left in America partially because ending segregation did opened doors of opportunities in academia and the philanthropic world. Yet a price was to be paid. To be there a silence was demanded when you first walk into the door. The problem then comes when you get big enough to challenge the silence, you have forget what it was that you originally came to do.