Sunday, December 30, 2012

Chicago The Black Murder Capital of America

Anonymous Nathaniel Jackson ( above) was shot yesterday, by an anonymous man, on an anonymous westside corner, in front of an anonymous ghetto store, named Noah's Foods. 

So why all the anonymous's, when there is so much information about what is being described as a Chicago milestone?  Because, the corner, the store,  Nathaniel Jackson, will not be remembered outside their 15 minutes of fame at the top of Chicago's murder chain. 

Tomorrow as sure as the sun will rise, there will be another murder, more probably, murders ticking the body count up to 501 an above. 

Tomorrow, there will be no TV Cameras from Japan. The British Broad Casting Company (BBC)  will not intone with serious British accidents about conditions in Black America and President Obama, will not tearfully address the nation about the need for us to come together as Americans to end the carnage in Chicago and Detroit.  

 Tomorrow President Obama will not use the tragic fact that America's Black population is 13% yet  80% of those killed in Chicago, and over half those murdered in America, to launch The White House Office of Urban Policy. A promise he made to Black people when he launched his first campaign for President and thought he might actually have to campaign for Black votes.

 More Black people have been killed this year than troops killed in Afghanistan, yet there will be no resources or resolve to end this carnage except those brought to the Black community by the prison industrial complex who continues to thrive of Black on Black violence.

My fellow Americans, in our silence, we acquiesce that not only is Black life highly expendable but violent Black death is a profitable segment of the New American Economy, like the production of American steel until the 1980's.

I just wish we could be honest about it, to at least give Black children proper notice. In fact every day at the beginning of school, instead of a pledge of allegiance, all Black children should have to stand for a 
Pledge of Acknowledgement that their life has no value in America accept what ever value they or their families have for it, just  so they can't say they were not warned.   

Black Poets on Death's Corner 
-By Tyehimba Jess

Black boy bears diamond studded
black cap bearing legend of
black life spray painted
on brick corner wall: 


There is something that throbs there
where L.C.'s blood ran
on Flournoy and Spaulding
with the boys selling stones,
with the poets making poems,
with the wide eyed crack kids,
with the sky about to break,
heaved city at our feet,
broken world in our eyes.

Bruh, I never met you,
but I see you everyday still.
A streetcorner Eshu splitting
life and death in each deal.

Maybe you got capped for this one moment:
a circle of poets and mothers and bangers
and druglords holding hands
like a prayer would ease you into the concrete
a little more graceful than bullets.

So we could pause and understand
for a moment, and then say:
I don't understand.

Hold each other
a little tighter as the rain comes,
washes us away.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

On Being Haunted by Carson McCullers/ The Black Experience as the Origin of Southern Gothic

"Lou'siana, Lou'siana
Mama's got the low down blues
Lou'siana, Lou'siana
Moma's going on a cruise"

-Bessie Smith
Lou'siana Low Down Blues

I keep trying to figure out, some clever way to explain how I stumbled upon Carson McCullers, a mostly obscure southern female blues writer born into the world with a rapidly deteriorating body and a May Fly's life span, but with a fire raging inside her.

But there is no literary flourish to make a wanna be writer sound profound. The simple fact is, it's been less than three months since I've learned of her work and I can't recall how.

The only straw I can grasps at, is that she came through the doorway created long ago when an ex lover dragged me to New Orleans, kicking and screaming.  I returned permanently altered. Yet I isolated New Orleans/Louisiana completely outside the south because I was uncomfortable feeling so at home in the south.

Of course this was immature. New Orleans/Louisiana exist in dual worlds, one physical, out of which the name "The Big Easy" arises. The other, is darker more ethereal with porous boarders between past, present, and future, sensed only by those with developed "antennae".  The American South is are far more in New Orleans/ Louisiana's gravitational pull than the midwest, especially for Black people. 

Creole Gumbo on my kitchen table                                                                                                                                              Note the authentic Cajun  Gumbo Spoon  made  from  an
Oyster shell

I cook and eat gumbo, chitlins, and greens, not just because of my connections to Nola, but because of my connections to the whole south including Mississippi. I can no longer ignore, the south's history, because like an insane mad scientist, it made me.  For most of America's history, It kidnapped, in-slaved beat, chiseled, carved, raped, murdered, hung, burned, garroted, drowned, etc., the flesh of the African  painfully reconstructing it into the Black race. And here I am. 

Mr. Rubin Stacy

Ms. Laura Nelson. wife and mother of two 

There is also no place in the south where the soil was not completely drench by the juice of the Strange Fruit who are my ancestors, which is the foundation of Southern Gothic. 

The doorway that now connects me with Nola also connects me- as my ancestors did- with all parts and spirits of the south, good and bad.  This is a haunting

I'm working my way through four of Carson McCuller's novels and just finished her biographical novel "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter".  

Below is my from Goodreads review, which is the FaceBook for readers.

In this southern town, a deep and toxic main of desperation, regret, and terror, runs through it.  
Most have succumbed under it’s putrid influence.  But brief glimmers of innocents, hope, and, dreams, still exists, and though often mislaid, there is love. 

A small band of social and cultural outcasts sense the darkness, but know not enough to identify it.  

They're only three who can.

 Jake Blount, a wandering itinerant worker, angry drunk, and communist sympathizer, trying to figure out the secret to getting the masses to rise up against oppression.  

Antonapoulos, an obese mute, thought dimwitted, for years lived placidly and seemingly content, with his best friend John Singer. One day he rebels, going from kind and gentle, to brazen acts of petty thievery and minor public violence, that get him committed -by his uncle- to an insane asylum, in a far away town.   

Dr. Benedict Mady Copeland, a Black doctor who allows  (to borrow the term from Samuel Beckett) “the mess”, to pull his family apart.  Years later he rebels by simple acts of personal dignity and humanity as a Black man, and professionalism as a doctor, to educate the Black community.

At the center of “the mess” connecting and fortifying these renegades, which includes, Mick Kelly, (who a character Carson McCullers based off herself), is John Singers.  Singer is a gentle and deeply empathetic mute who keeps the door of his boarding house rental room, always open even when he leaves (in which case he leaves a note on the table) to visit Antonapoulos, who’s well being is connected with Singer’s ability to sustain the outcasts and himself. 

McCullers, does what many white writers attempt, to give real and original voice to Black characters. While most fail miserably, she connects.  In fact, her use of Black southern vernacular actually give their words more power, as opposed to sacrificing their dignity, which is the problem with Zorna Neal Hurston’s work, including “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and “Mules and Men”. 
Zora Neal Hurston

Charlotte Osgood Mason
 Hurston, unlike the rest of the Harlem Renaissance writers, wrote primarily for her white patron, Charlotte Osgood Mason, who called those she assisted financially, her "God Children", and demanded that they at all times call her “Godmother”.  Their God Mother also shackled their artistic freedom, demanding they fixate their artistic work in the primitive speak and child like behavior that represented one of the common Black stereotypes of the time. 
Mason also demanded to approve all work before it was published and made "corrections".
This caused Langston Hughes to leave the financial comfort Osgood provided and strike out on his own during, The Great Depression.

Chole Ardelia Wofford aka "Toni Morrison"

McCullers doesn’t stop there, treading further into the darkness, she takes the reader into Chole Ardelia Wofford aka Toni Morrison territory where few writers cross. I sensed the coming onslaught of literary cataclysmic violence that Wofford uses to painfully baptize the reader into her faith such as her
brilliant and classic tragi-comic novel, "The Bluest Eye" when Soaphead Church drives the sad and already traumatized, fragile child, Pecola Breedlove, insane 

At twenty-three-years of age, McCullers, was far more clumsily than Wofford, which induces a far more painfully and raw shock in the novel, such that my first visceral response was anger at this dead white southern women.  How dare she mutilate him that way!? Why did she do this!? What right did she have!?  Indignantly I thought , she only got away with this racist bullshit because she wrote this novel in 1940. 

And she's wasn't even finished with her trespass. 

McCullers brings "him" home from the hospital to haunt us with his unchanged simplicity and the simplicity of his yearnings.  His family and friends gather in the southern winter darkness, around the fire to welcome him home, passing around jars of fruit flavored moonshine that sympathetic neighbors leave at the front door in sympathy.  He, "feels the stumps of his legs with his strong dark hands" and says "I just wish I knowed where my f-f-feets be. That the main thing worries me. The doctor never give em back to me after what them men done did. I sure do wish I knowed where they at. I certainly will be glade to taste some of that boogie –woogie. To have something good to drink on, is the only thing m-make forget this misery. If I just wish I knowed where my f-feets are”

 When I got over the shock of the brutality, I knew why,  Carson McCullers “went there”. The same reason why "the caged bird sings" cause it has to.  The problem is more people can’t and don’t want too. And the fact that she did so in the 1940's in North Carolina is simply amazing. 

Gospel singer Ethel Waters and Carson McCullers

My favorite Bokowski poems is his ode to Carson McCullers below. Due note along with alcoholism she had numerous illnesses including various strokes starting in her early twenties. If any one deserved a good drink it was her.

she died of alcoholism

wrapped in a blanket 
on a deck chair

on an ocean 
all her books of
 terrified loneliness
all her books about

the cruelty 
of loveless love
were all that was left 
of her
as the strolling vacationer

discovered her body
notified the captain
and she was quickly dispatched

to somewhere else
 on the ship
as everything


she had written it"

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Latest American Massacre examined through Facebook and Black Talk Radio A While Liberal and Black Nationalist Perspective

I blocked out the full scope of America’s latest massacre.

Wrought by a twenty-year old white male. Armed, locked, and loaded, with his Momma’s multiple guns.  She trained him, you see, and became his first victim. I think is was a blessing for her not to be left alive.

I pride myself on staying well informed. Yet, this time, I only absorbed bits and pieces. I knew a white male of relative privilege did it, like always.  But I  thought it was in Ohio, just because I think one happened there awhile ago.

Yes, I"dismissed” it, cause lets be honest. Why should I pay attention to them any more? No one really cares about another's community. These are the days of western miracles, achievements, and comforts. And we've all acquiesced to the cataclysmic and unprecedented suffering of others, including periodic mall and school shooting followed by increasingly shorter periods of “national mourning". A couple pounds of flesh, in exchange for our new social contract,  so we can go back to thousands of channels of patriotic programing, keeping us comfortably entertained and consuming.

As always I read the New York Times cover to cover ( excluding the sports section ) yet avoided The Massacre.  I switched to autopilot. I didn't even realize until days later, that before bed, I stopped turning on the soft drone of  WBEZ that when I’m alone, lolls me to sleep at night, least the news of this nightmare leak into my dreams. 

 It was through Facebook, that the extent of the carnage slowly permeated my defenses. And from Facebook, I experienced the horror through the lense of angry Black Nationalist and
white liberals in their safely gated communities. 

In Chicago, America’s most segregated city, I use Facebook primarily to stay current and engage in dialogue about the Politics of the Hood  where I'm from.  They're difficult to follow unless you live in the hood because they're largely ignored by mainstream media and the economic implosion has substantially strangled the Black press further. Secondarily, I also use Facebook for progressive and radical political information and commentary as well.
News Boy sells the Chicago Defender which was one of the largest and most influential Back News Papers,
Established in 1905, which went from publishing every day to being mostly online.  

 I m also able to trace racial trends, because I have white liberals, white progressives, Black bourgeoise
 and Black Nationalist "facebook friends".

 Liberal whites use Facebook more narcissistically, showcasing their achievements and their children, and to impress others with their wit and humor.  Black's use it more genuinely. Personal problems are posted for communal cyber prayers and anniversaries of departed loved ones are marked.  Jokes of the common every day "things that make you go humm",  small daily triumphs, ( yesterday some one posted they found three dollars on a crowded bus) and that which keeps us "keep'n on" gets posted. 

Most people I "know" have hundreds of Facebook friends collected seemingly out of a latent adolescent need to be social and popular.  I have 140 "friends" and at every chance, I'm looking to "thin the heard" to protect my privacy and fine tune this method of communications that I find most helpful for my very different needs.  It's a balance not to alienate some of my liberal white acquaintances who "found me" on Facebook.  For my own peace of mind, I've learned to be particularly selective in whom I accept as Facebook friends. As I mature intellectually and spiritually, I don't want to get sucked into conversations from which I cannot learn.

When I joined Facebook three years ago, out of political expedience, I'd accepted a friend request, wait a bit, then delete the person. This bounced back on me, when I deleted the director of a local arts organization for his obsessive sports rants.  He's actually Black yet sounded like a sports addicted "white frat bro". He grow up in an all white suburb, married white, and had little to say beyond sports. He also posted lots of pictures of his children. I saw him recently at an event.  I've been an original and long time supporter of his organization, so generally he was overly gregarious to me. This time he was purposely rude.  I've since learned how to block updates with out deleting "friends". 
On Facebook there are so many people who post dumb shit from their cell phones or office computers, all day. This means I have to scroll through the most ridiculous and banal posts to find what I want to read.  And you have to look carefully least you miss something, all because some one thinks it cute to post ten pictures of their baby or a "cute" cat with with a stupid comment written above it, as if it were speaking. 

I generally end up blocking my white Facebook "friends", because of their twee and redundant comments arising from their white liberal privileged and their insular world.

But this isn't just about race as noted above and I also I blocked a Black women. She also lives in Logan Square and is trapped in a stereo type of the sassy, prickly, and shrill female minstrel character.  She constantly launched vitriolic attacks at any one or organization who dared criticize President Obama. She called Cornel West a poverty pimp and was hyper ecstatic when President Obama in front of America told the Congressional Black Caucus to “stop complaining,  crying, wining” when they finally raised rebuked his inaction in addressing the deep needs of the Black community. Then there were her continuous posts of those annoying patriotic glamour shots of President Obama, especially the John Wayne-esque ones of him wearing shades after he killed bin Laden.

Ironically she should be far more critical of the President.  She like numerous Black folks, posted her
journey down the economic slide, careening from one financial disaster to another, including losing her home, that she seemed to be exceptionally proud of, to foreclosure. Yet Besides for Obama, she seems to dislike Black people, especially the poor. Evident when ever someone brought up Obama's disregard for the Black community, she'd flare up about how lazy they are, especially Black men.

Finally last Friday evening, I learned via Facebook from Facebook Friend One, ( A Black male)
who works for the only real major progressive political organization in Chicago, that this time it was twenty young children killed.  Shocked, from my keyboard, all I could do was scrawl under his comment  "Jesus Fuck! Twenty fucking kids! Are you fucking kidding me!!!"  
So much for my professionalism.  
Later, I emailed that I wound't be offended, if he removed my post for civility sake.  He thanked me and said it was the realist response he's gotten and accurately reflected his mood. He's got young kids and told me he was keeping them home for the weekend. 

The Facebook Racial Divide on America's Massacre 

My Facebook friends of the white privileged liberal bent, immediate fell back on their "superior" Democratic Blue Team default narrative, with great verbosity. Like they’d been personally dispatched from a late night meeting at The White House with President Obama and Senator Dick Durban to spin political PR from their lofty Facebook perch on half of the "good guys in blue"

 Facebook Friend II,who's far more progressive than most and actually recognizes his white privilege, still grandiosely began with "If the gun lobby had any decency at all, they would step forward right now with initiatives that would keep guns out the hand of people with mental illness or domestic violence histories..."

He then listed a litany of standard gun control reforms that continuously fails to get traction. But caught up in the Blue Team Democratic narrative, it was all about the "Evil Republican Red Team". Not the Evil System that turned both parties into little more than sports teams, and now pulls the strings of both, which is the real reason why these horrors continue to happen. .
I replied with the following. 

 "Im gonna step out onto a limb on this, ( I wrote). The gun lobby is gonna be, what the gun lobby’s gonna be. Choosing a time like this to call one side indecent over the other, falls a little flat.  As a person who's voting patterns can be described as "democratic", I'm far more concerned with the "decency" of the elected officials ( democrats) who say they're "representing" me. What are they doing to courageously represent our feelings about gun violence? It seems they're doing the same thing they're doing to address systemic poverty in America, little or nothing.  Yes it's a legislative battle, but as most things, I don't see from them the courage to wage a strong progressive fight, which includes grass roots mobilization that should start with them in these precarious times. What I do see is a willingness to vacuum up corporate checks while talking a good game to us ( which we allow) but not get into the daily muck of a pitched battle. The problem I think boils down to this, the bold voices of courage and conviction in American politics are long gone, replaced by political merchant princes and princesses who are slick negotiators of equivocation, with a wet finger always in the win, which we allow. So maybe we should also start with our own decency as well"

 Facebook friend II "Facebook liked" my comment.  One of the reasons we get along is we both know   it's easy, especially in today’s world to get caught up and buy into bullshit.  But when you learn to recognize you're full of it, most times, it immediately transforms into potent fertilizer for intellectual and spiritual growth.
Victoria Soto, Teacher and American Hero

Later I posted the above a picture at the request ( Facebook Activism) of Facebook Friend One.
Victoria Soto was the teacher who heard gun fire and responded by hiding her students in closets and cabinets in her classroom. When the gunman arrived she told him her students were in the gym, so he killed her and moved on. Generally I criticizes people for trading real activism with Facebook Activism. But as Facebook Friend One is an actually activist, I consider Facebook Activism and important tool in concert with other actions.

One of my Black Nationalist FaceBook friends, ( he has no picture posted so I' can only assume he's Black) who befriended me after seeing my posts this summer, posted the below statements in all caps.

Another Black Nationalist Facebook friend( also a Chicago Cop and female) posted a picture of President Obama crying while addressing the shooting Massacre and commented; 

Where are the tears for the children in Pakistan, Africa and everywhere else US executed, financed and orchestrated murders by drones are taking place? Some of us are crying everyday. How come he’s not cried for all the Black children still being killed on the streets of Chicago? It’s been far more than 26

Then one of my white liberal acquaintances, sent me a long rambling email that began with  

"( my name) you may not remember me but we meet years ago at a human rights conference in Atlanta when you worked for Amnesty International. As a human rights  advocate committed to The Universal Declaration for Human Rights I cannot fathom how you would  allow racist and hateful comments to go on challenged. I originally intended to respond directly to them, but thought that it would be more far productive for YOU to address what  is clearly bordering on hate speech to reaffirm your commitment....."

I have yet to respond and probably won't, since he didn't have the courage to share it with the people he had beef with, again typical of white liberals, their ideals never translate to courage.

These reactions played out showing the wide split between Blacks and whites and of course it extends the boundaries of my Facebook page.

That next night I listened to the Salim Muwakkil Show on WVON Radio.  Salim is a Chicago rarity. A journalist who intellectual cross trains and reports from various social and political camps; from the 

Black Muslim Fruit of Islam and the Middle Eastern Muslims, to the Black Nationalist and Pan Africanists, to the Internationalist and Progressives, all the way to the Humanists.  Across the airwaves comes across he  as one of those rare Black men who's seems to have been through the ringer and has emerged to a level of a separate peace. His show is a Black Cyber Barbershop and when he swings the door open twice weekly on Wednesday and Saturday nights, all are welcome and are respected no matter their view points. And indeed, calls come forth from all over the country and one fellow calls in from India.  On his Facebook page the conversation moves from radio to the written word. When Salim posts an articles, through out the Black community synapse fire opinions back and forth and things are agreed upon and not, but Black people become connected and come to know each other, which is sadly too rare in these days. Especially in this age of fragility, uncertainty, despair, and fear throughout America, but more amplified in the Black community. I've also noticed the Salim in the only Chicago journalist that engages in this much robust debate with the public, which says something about Chicago journalist.

That night I was on edge, so while I listened to the show, I opened a bottle of Springbank Scotch and began cooking up some shrimp & grits as comfort food.

Every thing cooks better in caste iron

That night all the callers seemed on edge as well.  It started with Brotha Jay checking in from Harlem.  On Salim's show every body is "Sista or Brotha".  Brotha Jay, with a rye NewYork City inflection with such precession and power behind his words that they seem to jump a bit while always moving his thoughts forward. He's one of the show's most prolific truth tellers.  That night he set the tone using the famous and infamous quip made by Malcolm X when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, that "The chicken's have come home to roost" meaning any society that relies on violence as an international policy tool and as a domestic tool- any public policy that causes undo harm to a great number of citizens-  the same violence will strike that country at it's core. A lot of Black progressive folks believe "9/11" is a text book example of this boomerang effect. 

A teen cries in anguish after witnessing his friend gunned down

A number of calls were not particularly sympathetic to the plight of the victims. No one celebrated their deaths or felt any sympathy for the shooter, but complained bitterly about the same politics of race that the Nationalist posted on my Facebook page. Centering on a nation that becomes transfixed when white children are murdered, but lackadaisical and dismissive about the constant murder of Black children, who are judged less as helpless victims and more as feral animals in some distant urban jungle running wild.

Global warming has seen continuous a wave of killings of Black children that began last spring

My favorite caller is always Sista Sarah who also resides in New York. She's an older women with a thick Caribbean accent and is fearless in her progressive critiques of President Obama and America.

She chimed in about how Blacks have been suffering ecmonomiclly for the last four years and President Obama has done nothing for us. And that Black children continue to be killed, yet as soon as something happens to white children "Obama jumps on the plan to go mourn with them, yet will not do the same for Black children"

Salim repeatedly countered with the subject of my last blog post, the deep tradition of humanity in Black people that we have relied upon to cope during slavery and Jim Crow. He added that Black people need to use this tradition now no matter the injustice we face. He said "We cannot become like them" He also said that twenty children being killed at one time is a lot more traumatic and symbolic. He seemed to grow somewhat emotional at his inability to get real traction on his argument, which is uncharacteristic of him, but the show was uncharacteristic in itself.  

It was kind unsettling because while Jay and Sarah are Black Nationalist, I've never seen such a disagreement between them and Salim. And it continued on through out the show, which was again unusual. It's Salim's show, but together the three of them are the intellectual Trinity of Black talk radio. And though I love The Cornel West & Tavis Smiley Show, this is my favorite because it's far more communal.

I stated in my last post, that the deep well of humanity embedded in Black people as a collective has always been the positive magnetic poll of America.  But venerable traditions are vulnerable if they're not replenished and it's even worse when they're repeatedly harmed.  I think the reaction of Black people  on WVON that night and on my FaceBook page, is harbinger of things to come. 

Black people have lost vast amounts of economic ground over the last eight years and there has never been any attempt to make the Black community whole after slavery, from which we continue to suffer major damages. Salim talks about Black people needing our own Marshal Plan, just like America provided Europe after WWII. He says nothing less will do because our afflictions are so deep and embedded in our culture. 

But I cannot see America ever doing this for citizens which over all have little intrinsic value to white America, no matter how much we have suffered,done and still do, for this country.

 I think what we are seeing is a harding in the Black community as institutions ( including the Black Church) and elected officials ( including Black ones) continue to fail us. I think President Obama's failure to address our plight and his cynical manipulation of the Black community has gotten him elected and reelected, but I don't see nearly the amount of support for him now. And frankly as sympathetic as I am to the plight of those children, tragically killed last weak in a school, so young,  

vulnerable and innocent, there is a part of me that is relieved that Black people are getting angry (besides for the brothas killing each other) yet it's also scary.  

Victim Ana Marquez-Greene, 6


I cannot help, but post this last picture. Ana was buried yesterday. And needless say she's erased from the insanity of racial hatred that divides and further eats away at this country. I can point fingers and will continue to. But for her it's meaningless. Except that she just arrived to America from Canada two months ago, were it is far safer than America. I know a lot of dark skinned people in Canada are decedents of escape slaves or Blacks who fled America after white terrorism destroyed Reconstruction and reinstituted another form of slavery that was terror and economic based. I keep wondering of her story. Yet I don't want to know, as it's too painful especially when I look at her family picture. That was the only picture I was gonna post.

I just like looking at her picture because for what ever reason it gives me hope. Maybe it's the African in me, they way I believe somethings are far greater than us and unknowable, yet still close and warm.
And I feel something when I look at her picture something that's good and is still here, because of her. 

What ever the fuck that means.