Archive for August, 2006

“Product” by Allia Matta

Posted: August 21, 2006 by trggradio in Uncategorized


Liberty Avenue. It’s a warm and sunny day in April, or maybe a cool day in June. It isn’t summer though because the Board of Education is closed in summer especially in 1972.

Woolworth’s on the Avenue—Jamaica—serves those cheap hot meals cooked by some big southern black woman dressed in light green working the kitchen. Fried chicken. Mash potatoes heaped with gravy. Corn on the cob. String Beans. Cornbread or biscuits. All for under $2.00. And don’t forget the fresh lemonade or a coke, before you could choose—cherry, diet, caffeine-free, or diet lemon cokes.

They walk down Liberty Avenue. Coming from Keyfood. She took Grandchild #1, Alani, to her job at the Board of Education and showed her off to her friends. She is so proud of Alani’s full head of hair even if she is a little on the dark side.

Grandmother is a product of her world. Southern geichee, rice and peas cooking, fast talking, sexy and smooth raising nine kids in NYC. She is a smooth talker—would slit your throat and self-esteem with her tongue—hard love you up with words. Buss your ass too, when necessary. She doesn’t take anyone’s shit.

Grandmother has seen too much shit for years— a southern black woman raising nine kids in NYC in the latter half of twentieth century. A century ripe with segregation. Jim crowing up the community vibe with bigotry and racism. Yes, there is racism in the north, too.

She made it. A husband and ten births later—did I mention that one child died after birth? Raising hard headed tough skinned little boys who don’t take no shit either. Even from her. Raising girls with the same bad intentions that all black women received. Then. Now. You ain’t gonna be nothing—you ain’t gonna have nothing but a sorry ass man from these projects if you lucky and stay beautiful. Don’t get fat. How could you think your chances gonna be better than mine? It just ain’t true.

I suspect that Grandmother is partially right. This is the world around her. True there is integrity if you looked right, spoke right, and had the right roots—that is white or light ones, but they didn’t. The only way to really lighten up the family is to marry white and that is just not part of the code.

You could lighten just not whiten.

So Grandmother has a smart dark skinned black grandchild with hair all over the place. Yes there are a few dark ones who have long hair too. Just not as many as the lightened ones. And little dark full haired Alani talks like a proper white child. Her no good dark father taught her to read by the age of 4. She is smart. Doesn’t take no shit either not even from Grandmother. Learned to slice with her tongue just like Grandmother. Sharper than the blade of a machete.

What you know about that?

They are so close to the house that Alani is shocked that Grandmother is peeing in the street. Yes. Peeing in the street. The little girl just looks at her. She is only 10. Can’t understand why a grown woman can’t hold her pee until she makes it home.

What is wrong with the tough old lady anyway? One minute she calls you a black bitch for not listening, and chases you around the table and the next minute—she is peeing in the street.

Alani is 13 or 14. No longer understood by the family cause she is different. Book smart. Different. Sharp. Like some of her aunts and uncles, but different. Smart like her dark no good father. A philosopher. Too logical to dream or dreaming all of the time about something they can’t understand. Different.

She is hanging with the lighter cousins by marriage. Grandmother always wanted lighter, no? But she is pissed cause her grandchild is ignoring her blood family. Grandmother doesn’t understand her difference. But Alani can’t understand why. Grandmother moved on. Left the integrated projects and moved to a residential area. She’s a homeowner with her sister. Why doesn’t she see that her grandchild is on the move too? Like she had been. Like her grandmomma.

Anyway the lighter family likes her grandchild too. In fact, she calls the elder woman Auntie.

“You know she ain’t no auntie of yours. Blood is thicker. Why you calling her auntie?”
“Does it matter? If I feel that way, then that’s how it is, Grandmother.”
“They ain’t your family.”
“They are if I say so, Grandmother. Why do you take things so literal anyway?”
“Don’t sass me you little bitch.”
“One day I ain’t gonna take your crap anymore, Grandmother.”
“Well that will be the day that I buss your ass missy.”
“Then it will be that day.”
“Watch your mouth child!”

Grandmother loves this little smart mouthed sassy-assed chocolate grandchild. She doesn’t feel disrespected by Alani’s sassiness. She knows this child is a lot like her. She never says it. But she knows it. One day she thought, one day you’ll realize that you got my spirit and it’s going to save your black ass in this harsh world that hates the darker ones. And you’ll love me in spite of yourself. You’ll know that I can’t coddle you. Your ass won’t survive out there if coddled like a baby. They will beat you down. Strip your beauty away. Fuck with you. Today and everyday. Till you angry and ready to kill. Kill yourself slowly to ease the pain. Smoking. Drinking. Cooking. Hard loving. Smiling on the inside when you run across a sassy chocolate girlchild.

“ I don’t want you to forget your own. Your blood.”
“ I will hangout with whom I like Grandmother”.
“Don’t get sassy with me.”
“Ok, Grandmother.”
And that’s when the granddaughter backed down. Alani thinks of her grandmother peeing on the sidewalk and feels that she can’t take it further. This strong black woman cussing all of the time. Making her feel like nothing and something. Conflicted. Respect and disrespect. Lightness and darkness. Love and anger. Conflicted, so Alani would take it no further.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

She walks into the hospital. Afraid. 17. On her way to college. Grandmother is there. In this place. The hospital where her mother and auntie both work. A vomit green corridor leading to a cold sick smelling room. Grandmother is there. Cancered. Dying. Skinny with long fingers and long white silver gray hair. Skin darker than she remembered. Skinny with long fingers. Grandmother.

Alani’s mother and aunties are in the corridor outside of grandmother’s room. Her uncles are there too. She feels proud. Accepted to a small private college upstate. Grandmother will be proud. Alani is the first to go to college and away from home. Smart. Sassy. Dark chocolate and beautiful.

She walks in the room. Grandmother looks at her funny like she doesn’t know her. “Grandmother it’s me”.
Grandmother looks at her hard, brown eyes to brown eyes. Piercing. Recognition. Alani.

“My child”, she said. Her brown eyes soften to love and become moist-like.
“My child”.
“Grandmother, I am going away to …”
Her eyes become different. She looks at her funny like she doesn’t know her. Grandmother. The skinny old woman looks away and asks for one of the aunties. The grandchild leaves the room. Her brown eyes are wet with tears. Fear. Disappointment. How could grandmother not know me?
Auntie says, “it’s the cancer. She doesn’t always know us either.

Alania remembered: Age 10: the old lady peeing in the street. Age 13: The old lady chasing her around the table calling her a black bitch. Age 15: The old lady advising her about the better beau while they shared cigarettes in secret. Age 17: The old lady’s piercing moist-like brown eyes. Cancer. Death. Sassing the old lady. Knowing that they are both different. Recognition. Knowing that they are both different and the same.

I ran in the house, stomach cramping, and bent over. Pulling off my coat, dropping my keys on the table, and running to the back of the house. My room. My bathroom. Wetness running out. Couldn’t get my pants down fast enough. My crotch sheltered by that feminine thing. Wetness running out. Peeing in the toilet, after wetting the shelter, my tights, and my navy blue wool pants. Damn it!

Why can’t I hold it until I get home? Sitting there. Embarrassed by my lack of self control. Smelling the effects of medicine in my piss. I thought of her. Half naked and on the toilet, and I thought of her. 23 years later, on a cold January evening. Half naked and on the toilet. I saw her on Liberty Avenue peeing in the street. So close to home and peeing in the street. So close to the toilet and peeing on myself, and I knew her again. Understood her fully. Laughed at myself, half naked and on the toilet. I heard her laugh too. 23 years later and she knew me. We are both different and the same.

"Product" by Allia Matta

Posted: August 21, 2006 by trggradio in Uncategorized


Liberty Avenue. It’s a warm and sunny day in April, or maybe a cool day in June. It isn’t summer though because the Board of Education is closed in summer especially in 1972.

Woolworth’s on the Avenue—Jamaica—serves those cheap hot meals cooked by some big southern black woman dressed in light green working the kitchen. Fried chicken. Mash potatoes heaped with gravy. Corn on the cob. String Beans. Cornbread or biscuits. All for under $2.00. And don’t forget the fresh lemonade or a coke, before you could choose—cherry, diet, caffeine-free, or diet lemon cokes.

They walk down Liberty Avenue. Coming from Keyfood. She took Grandchild #1, Alani, to her job at the Board of Education and showed her off to her friends. She is so proud of Alani’s full head of hair even if she is a little on the dark side.

Grandmother is a product of her world. Southern geichee, rice and peas cooking, fast talking, sexy and smooth raising nine kids in NYC. She is a smooth talker—would slit your throat and self-esteem with her tongue—hard love you up with words. Buss your ass too, when necessary. She doesn’t take anyone’s shit.

Grandmother has seen too much shit for years— a southern black woman raising nine kids in NYC in the latter half of twentieth century. A century ripe with segregation. Jim crowing up the community vibe with bigotry and racism. Yes, there is racism in the north, too.

She made it. A husband and ten births later—did I mention that one child died after birth? Raising hard headed tough skinned little boys who don’t take no shit either. Even from her. Raising girls with the same bad intentions that all black women received. Then. Now. You ain’t gonna be nothing—you ain’t gonna have nothing but a sorry ass man from these projects if you lucky and stay beautiful. Don’t get fat. How could you think your chances gonna be better than mine? It just ain’t true.

I suspect that Grandmother is partially right. This is the world around her. True there is integrity if you looked right, spoke right, and had the right roots—that is white or light ones, but they didn’t. The only way to really lighten up the family is to marry white and that is just not part of the code.

You could lighten just not whiten.

So Grandmother has a smart dark skinned black grandchild with hair all over the place. Yes there are a few dark ones who have long hair too. Just not as many as the lightened ones. And little dark full haired Alani talks like a proper white child. Her no good dark father taught her to read by the age of 4. She is smart. Doesn’t take no shit either not even from Grandmother. Learned to slice with her tongue just like Grandmother. Sharper than the blade of a machete.

What you know about that?

They are so close to the house that Alani is shocked that Grandmother is peeing in the street. Yes. Peeing in the street. The little girl just looks at her. She is only 10. Can’t understand why a grown woman can’t hold her pee until she makes it home.

What is wrong with the tough old lady anyway? One minute she calls you a black bitch for not listening, and chases you around the table and the next minute—she is peeing in the street.

Alani is 13 or 14. No longer understood by the family cause she is different. Book smart. Different. Sharp. Like some of her aunts and uncles, but different. Smart like her dark no good father. A philosopher. Too logical to dream or dreaming all of the time about something they can’t understand. Different.

She is hanging with the lighter cousins by marriage. Grandmother always wanted lighter, no? But she is pissed cause her grandchild is ignoring her blood family. Grandmother doesn’t understand her difference. But Alani can’t understand why. Grandmother moved on. Left the integrated projects and moved to a residential area. She’s a homeowner with her sister. Why doesn’t she see that her grandchild is on the move too? Like she had been. Like her grandmomma.

Anyway the lighter family likes her grandchild too. In fact, she calls the elder woman Auntie.

“You know she ain’t no auntie of yours. Blood is thicker. Why you calling her auntie?”
“Does it matter? If I feel that way, then that’s how it is, Grandmother.”
“They ain’t your family.”
“They are if I say so, Grandmother. Why do you take things so literal anyway?”
“Don’t sass me you little bitch.”
“One day I ain’t gonna take your crap anymore, Grandmother.”
“Well that will be the day that I buss your ass missy.”
“Then it will be that day.”
“Watch your mouth child!”

Grandmother loves this little smart mouthed sassy-assed chocolate grandchild. She doesn’t feel disrespected by Alani’s sassiness. She knows this child is a lot like her. She never says it. But she knows it. One day she thought, one day you’ll realize that you got my spirit and it’s going to save your black ass in this harsh world that hates the darker ones. And you’ll love me in spite of yourself. You’ll know that I can’t coddle you. Your ass won’t survive out there if coddled like a baby. They will beat you down. Strip your beauty away. Fuck with you. Today and everyday. Till you angry and ready to kill. Kill yourself slowly to ease the pain. Smoking. Drinking. Cooking. Hard loving. Smiling on the inside when you run across a sassy chocolate girlchild.

“ I don’t want you to forget your own. Your blood.”
“ I will hangout with whom I like Grandmother”.
“Don’t get sassy with me.”
“Ok, Grandmother.”
And that’s when the granddaughter backed down. Alani thinks of her grandmother peeing on the sidewalk and feels that she can’t take it further. This strong black woman cussing all of the time. Making her feel like nothing and something. Conflicted. Respect and disrespect. Lightness and darkness. Love and anger. Conflicted, so Alani would take it no further.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

She walks into the hospital. Afraid. 17. On her way to college. Grandmother is there. In this place. The hospital where her mother and auntie both work. A vomit green corridor leading to a cold sick smelling room. Grandmother is there. Cancered. Dying. Skinny with long fingers and long white silver gray hair. Skin darker than she remembered. Skinny with long fingers. Grandmother.

Alani’s mother and aunties are in the corridor outside of grandmother’s room. Her uncles are there too. She feels proud. Accepted to a small private college upstate. Grandmother will be proud. Alani is the first to go to college and away from home. Smart. Sassy. Dark chocolate and beautiful.

She walks in the room. Grandmother looks at her funny like she doesn’t know her. “Grandmother it’s me”.
Grandmother looks at her hard, brown eyes to brown eyes. Piercing. Recognition. Alani.

“My child”, she said. Her brown eyes soften to love and become moist-like.
“My child”.
“Grandmother, I am going away to …”
Her eyes become different. She looks at her funny like she doesn’t know her. Grandmother. The skinny old woman looks away and asks for one of the aunties. The grandchild leaves the room. Her brown eyes are wet with tears. Fear. Disappointment. How could grandmother not know me?
Auntie says, “it’s the cancer. She doesn’t always know us either.

Alania remembered: Age 10: the old lady peeing in the street. Age 13: The old lady chasing her around the table calling her a black bitch. Age 15: The old lady advising her about the better beau while they shared cigarettes in secret. Age 17: The old lady’s piercing moist-like brown eyes. Cancer. Death. Sassing the old lady. Knowing that they are both different. Recognition. Knowing that they are both different and the same.

I ran in the house, stomach cramping, and bent over. Pulling off my coat, dropping my keys on the table, and running to the back of the house. My room. My bathroom. Wetness running out. Couldn’t get my pants down fast enough. My crotch sheltered by that feminine thing. Wetness running out. Peeing in the toilet, after wetting the shelter, my tights, and my navy blue wool pants. Damn it!

Why can’t I hold it until I get home? Sitting there. Embarrassed by my lack of self control. Smelling the effects of medicine in my piss. I thought of her. Half naked and on the toilet, and I thought of her. 23 years later, on a cold January evening. Half naked and on the toilet. I saw her on Liberty Avenue peeing in the street. So close to home and peeing in the street. So close to the toilet and peeing on myself, and I knew her again. Understood her fully. Laughed at myself, half naked and on the toilet. I heard her laugh too. 23 years later and she knew me. We are both different and the same.


Washington, DC is one of the most popular tourist destinations not only within the United States, but internationally as well. Millions of people from across the globe come to our nation’s capital expecting to see its glowing history and remarkable educational treasures, its breathtaking artwork and gleaming architecture, and, of course, its varied and enticing culinary delights. Upon leaving the capital area and returning home, many visitors are somehow forever transformed.

From my first visit to Washington, DC when I was a high school student back in 1964, to taking up residency in “The District” from 1971 until 1973, to my infrequent return trips over the past thirty years, I am continually amazed by the emotional and, yes, transformational impact this relatively small parcel of land has upon my spirit. I attempt, whenever I am able, to return to the Capital Mall area to visit its lavish and poignant museums and galleries; its monuments to our past presidents; its legislative, executive, and judicial halls; its libraries and archives; its memorials to past wars, fallen heroes, and collections investigating domestic and international tyranny intended as a reminder that we need not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Each time I return, though, there remains within me a feeling of unease, tension, and inner conflict where my thirst remains unquenched and my hunger unsatisfied. I view the Washington, DC experience as representing an important and inspiring, yet limited, partial, and narrow vision of our complete national history and our collective consciousness.

First, while our monuments, statues, and memorials honor our country’s luminous heroes, an extraordinarily few pay tribute to our nation’s women and persons of color. And second, and here is where I would now like to focus, the gleaming and stirring monuments and memorials, though certainly moving, appropriate, and important in that they keep us forever connected to an aspect of our past while helping us progress into the future, primarily embody and give testament to our nation’s past wars, and honor primarily presidents who either served during wartime or achieved prominence in war. Therefore, the symbolic and literal narrative of our nation’s capital speaks only part of our collective story. The fulcrum on which the foundation of this narrative rests represents an important though incomplete story, primarily about white male leaders, with armed conflict as the organizing principle.

Take, for example, our most notable and visible monuments and memorials situated on the Capital Mall. Standing tall and visible for miles around in every direction, the Washington Monument honors our first president, one of our “founding fathers,” who organized and led what began as a rag tag, disorganized, and undisciplined array of resisters into an effective fighting force. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial, reflected in the Tidal Basin, gives tribute to the author of the Declaration of Independence, which signaled the colonies’ severing of ties with Great Britain and sparked the War of Independence. The Abraham Lincoln Memorial, which greets visitors as they cross the Key Bridge over the Potomac River from Virginia into the District, memorializes the man who served over a divided land, and who eventually kept the nation intact during trying times. And the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, one of the newest and most expansive in sheer acreage, gives homage to our longest serving chief executive who presided during a time of great peril as ruthless tyranny threatened both domestic and world democracy.

In addition, our new and eagerly awaited World War II Memorial, situated directly between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, stands in tribute to the “greatest generation” of patriots who defeated the forces of tyranny and oppression continents away. The Korean War Memorial, located in the shadows of the Lincoln Memorial, keeps fresh the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the “Cold War.” And the Vietnam Memorial, also in the shadows of the Lincoln Memorial, its black marble reflecting the faces of young and old as they come to witness the thousands of names inscribed on its surface, helps to heal some of the many wounds of a divided nation torn apart by war far from home.

As truly important and inspiring as these memorials and monuments are, except for a small, nameless, nondescript, and relatively unknown statue representing “Peace” located near the Capitol building, I must ask, where are our tributes, our monuments, our memorials to peace and to the peacemakers. Where are our memorials and monuments to the diplomats and the mediators; to those working in conflict resolution; to the activists dedicated to preventing wars and to bringing existing wars to diplomatic resolution once they have begun; to the individuals of conscience who refuse to give over their minds, their souls, and their bodies to armed conflict; to the practitioners of non-violent resistance in the face of tyranny and oppression; to the anti-war activists who strive to educate their peers, their citizenry, and, yes, their government about the perils of unjustified and unjust armed conflict and incursions into lands not their own in advance of appropriate attempts at diplomatic means of resolving conflict?

I contend that individuals and groups that stand up and put their lives on the line to defend the country from very real threats to our national security, as do those in our nation’s military, are true patriots. But true patriots are also those who speak out, stand up, and challenge our governmental leaders, those who put their lives on the line by actively advocating for justice, freedom, and liberty through peaceful means. Looking over the history of humanity, it is apparent that tyranny, at times, could only be countered through the raising of arms. On numerous occasions, however, diplomacy has been successful, and at other times, it should have been used more extensively before rushing to war. I, therefore, find it unacceptable when one’s patriotism and one’s love of country is called into question when one advocates for peaceful means of conflict resolution, for it is also an act of patriotism to work to keep our brave and courageous troops out of harm’s way, and to work to create conditions and understanding that ultimately make war less likely.

The United States embodies a beautiful and noble concept, a vibrant idea, a vital and enduring vision, a process and progression toward, but does not yet attain, does not yet reach that concept, that idea, that vision. The country is, rather, a work in process. As a next step in that process, I propose, first, that the United States Congress pass a bipartisan resolution to increase the number of statues and memorials to honor this country’s female heroes and heroes of color. Second, I call on the United States Congress to set aside a parcel of prime land on the Capital Mall in Washington, DC for the installation of a highly-visible and permanent United States Monument to Peace and Peacemakers, and I urge residents as well as business and corporate leaders throughout this country to donate financial, moral, and tactical support to coordinate the design and development, and to cover the costs of such a Monument. Third, I ask local communities to develop residents’ counsels to work toward the establishment of regional and local Monuments to Peace and Peacemakers throughout the United States to honor individuals and groups that have in the past and continue to work through peaceful channels. The national, regional, and local Monuments to Peace and Peacemakers could be connected to institutions of research and learning, which will serve as archives, libraries, and living teaching centers of continuing education for ourselves, our children, and for the generations yet to come.

We are once again a divided nation—politically, philosophically, economically, and spiritually. The theme of values has been dominant in recent public and political discourse. The promotion of peace should rank as one of the highest values deserving our immediate and sustained attention. The creation of Monuments to Peace and Peacemakers can help us heal the divisions, can help to bridge the gaps in our national consciousness, and help bring us together. It is time to let the healing begin.

Warren J. Blumenfeld is Assistant Professor, Multicultural and International Curriculum Studies in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. He is editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge), co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Butler Matters: Judith Butler’s Impact on Feminist and Queer Studies.


Washington, DC is one of the most popular tourist destinations not only within the United States, but internationally as well. Millions of people from across the globe come to our nation’s capital expecting to see its glowing history and remarkable educational treasures, its breathtaking artwork and gleaming architecture, and, of course, its varied and enticing culinary delights. Upon leaving the capital area and returning home, many visitors are somehow forever transformed.

From my first visit to Washington, DC when I was a high school student back in 1964, to taking up residency in “The District” from 1971 until 1973, to my infrequent return trips over the past thirty years, I am continually amazed by the emotional and, yes, transformational impact this relatively small parcel of land has upon my spirit. I attempt, whenever I am able, to return to the Capital Mall area to visit its lavish and poignant museums and galleries; its monuments to our past presidents; its legislative, executive, and judicial halls; its libraries and archives; its memorials to past wars, fallen heroes, and collections investigating domestic and international tyranny intended as a reminder that we need not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Each time I return, though, there remains within me a feeling of unease, tension, and inner conflict where my thirst remains unquenched and my hunger unsatisfied. I view the Washington, DC experience as representing an important and inspiring, yet limited, partial, and narrow vision of our complete national history and our collective consciousness.

First, while our monuments, statues, and memorials honor our country’s luminous heroes, an extraordinarily few pay tribute to our nation’s women and persons of color. And second, and here is where I would now like to focus, the gleaming and stirring monuments and memorials, though certainly moving, appropriate, and important in that they keep us forever connected to an aspect of our past while helping us progress into the future, primarily embody and give testament to our nation’s past wars, and honor primarily presidents who either served during wartime or achieved prominence in war. Therefore, the symbolic and literal narrative of our nation’s capital speaks only part of our collective story. The fulcrum on which the foundation of this narrative rests represents an important though incomplete story, primarily about white male leaders, with armed conflict as the organizing principle.

Take, for example, our most notable and visible monuments and memorials situated on the Capital Mall. Standing tall and visible for miles around in every direction, the Washington Monument honors our first president, one of our “founding fathers,” who organized and led what began as a rag tag, disorganized, and undisciplined array of resisters into an effective fighting force. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial, reflected in the Tidal Basin, gives tribute to the author of the Declaration of Independence, which signaled the colonies’ severing of ties with Great Britain and sparked the War of Independence. The Abraham Lincoln Memorial, which greets visitors as they cross the Key Bridge over the Potomac River from Virginia into the District, memorializes the man who served over a divided land, and who eventually kept the nation intact during trying times. And the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, one of the newest and most expansive in sheer acreage, gives homage to our longest serving chief executive who presided during a time of great peril as ruthless tyranny threatened both domestic and world democracy.

In addition, our new and eagerly awaited World War II Memorial, situated directly between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, stands in tribute to the “greatest generation” of patriots who defeated the forces of tyranny and oppression continents away. The Korean War Memorial, located in the shadows of the Lincoln Memorial, keeps fresh the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the “Cold War.” And the Vietnam Memorial, also in the shadows of the Lincoln Memorial, its black marble reflecting the faces of young and old as they come to witness the thousands of names inscribed on its surface, helps to heal some of the many wounds of a divided nation torn apart by war far from home.

As truly important and inspiring as these memorials and monuments are, except for a small, nameless, nondescript, and relatively unknown statue representing “Peace” located near the Capitol building, I must ask, where are our tributes, our monuments, our memorials to peace and to the peacemakers. Where are our memorials and monuments to the diplomats and the mediators; to those working in conflict resolution; to the activists dedicated to preventing wars and to bringing existing wars to diplomatic resolution once they have begun; to the individuals of conscience who refuse to give over their minds, their souls, and their bodies to armed conflict; to the practitioners of non-violent resistance in the face of tyranny and oppression; to the anti-war activists who strive to educate their peers, their citizenry, and, yes, their government about the perils of unjustified and unjust armed conflict and incursions into lands not their own in advance of appropriate attempts at diplomatic means of resolving conflict?

I contend that individuals and groups that stand up and put their lives on the line to defend the country from very real threats to our national security, as do those in our nation’s military, are true patriots. But true patriots are also those who speak out, stand up, and challenge our governmental leaders, those who put their lives on the line by actively advocating for justice, freedom, and liberty through peaceful means. Looking over the history of humanity, it is apparent that tyranny, at times, could only be countered through the raising of arms. On numerous occasions, however, diplomacy has been successful, and at other times, it should have been used more extensively before rushing to war. I, therefore, find it unacceptable when one’s patriotism and one’s love of country is called into question when one advocates for peaceful means of conflict resolution, for it is also an act of patriotism to work to keep our brave and courageous troops out of harm’s way, and to work to create conditions and understanding that ultimately make war less likely.

The United States embodies a beautiful and noble concept, a vibrant idea, a vital and enduring vision, a process and progression toward, but does not yet attain, does not yet reach that concept, that idea, that vision. The country is, rather, a work in process. As a next step in that process, I propose, first, that the United States Congress pass a bipartisan resolution to increase the number of statues and memorials to honor this country’s female heroes and heroes of color. Second, I call on the United States Congress to set aside a parcel of prime land on the Capital Mall in Washington, DC for the installation of a highly-visible and permanent United States Monument to Peace and Peacemakers, and I urge residents as well as business and corporate leaders throughout this country to donate financial, moral, and tactical support to coordinate the design and development, and to cover the costs of such a Monument. Third, I ask local communities to develop residents’ counsels to work toward the establishment of regional and local Monuments to Peace and Peacemakers throughout the United States to honor individuals and groups that have in the past and continue to work through peaceful channels. The national, regional, and local Monuments to Peace and Peacemakers could be connected to institutions of research and learning, which will serve as archives, libraries, and living teaching centers of continuing education for ourselves, our children, and for the generations yet to come.

We are once again a divided nation—politically, philosophically, economically, and spiritually. The theme of values has been dominant in recent public and political discourse. The promotion of peace should rank as one of the highest values deserving our immediate and sustained attention. The creation of Monuments to Peace and Peacemakers can help us heal the divisions, can help to bridge the gaps in our national consciousness, and help bring us together. It is time to let the healing begin.

Warren J. Blumenfeld is Assistant Professor, Multicultural and International Curriculum Studies in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. He is editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge), co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Butler Matters: Judith Butler’s Impact on Feminist and Queer Studies.

Mymerica by Allia Matta

Posted: August 21, 2006 by trggradio in Uncategorized

Mymerica

Sunshine in red, black, black, black
Revolution in red, black, & green
Revolution
Revolution
Revolution

If I hear one more poem about the revolution
I’m gonna make sure them darkies can’t read and write
no more

Send them back to multicolored loin cloths
outlined in feathers

Back to their $7.00 slave wardrobe of
2 roughass linen shirts
a pair of summer linen pants
a pair of roughass winter pants
a pair of stockings
a pair of shoes &
one jacket.
They can take their barely shoed
kracked black feet and work the fields.

They going back to nappy heads and head rags
ashy kracked skin working them goddamn fields
like darkies’ supposed to.

I’m a move my dick in some
tight-ass darkie pussy
while she cry, cry, cry
as I thump, thump, thump
a baby in her ass and she gonna suckle
that mother too.

If I hear one more rapper talk about
getting paid and slaying cops,
I’m gonna retire my hood from the closet
and string up a darkie rapper till his lips can’t move.

Problem is
too many darkies ain’t swinging
from strong-ass country oaks
and them sandniggers
done rode into Mymerica too.

Mymerica was NOT made for all these peoples peeping
into my shit trying to make it theirs
Mymerica is for pure breed white skin like snow.

My country tis of thee
didn’t include darkies and the like
and we didn’t thump, thump, thump enough
for all of these tan and brown skins to be here.

And I don’t care how many flags you post
And you can also sing God bless America
Till your ass is red, white, & blue
This here America is Mymerica!
And that’s the way it’s gonna stay too!

Sushine in red, black, black, black,
Revolution in red, black & green
Revolution
Revolution
Revolution.

Africa Full Circle by Pablo Yglesias

Posted: August 21, 2006 by trggradio in Uncategorized

Orchestra Baobab is a shining example of the positive outcome of negative historical circumstances. Out of the malignant carnivorous flowers of the slave trade, Middle Passage, and wholesale colonial appropriation and exploitation of Africa, have blossomed the many fruits of a new culture both in the so-called New World and back in the Motherland. The cross-pollination of Africa, Europe, and Indigenous America yields an incredible cornucopia of artistic and religious expression that travels both ways, and it is a testament to the strength and inner light of the human spirit that so much positive energy and healing strategies are the result of such an evil garden of suffering and destruction.

The members of the pan-African tribe of Baobab are like the band’s namesake tree: sacred and organic, slow growing and enduring, revealing vital complexities beneath a seemingly placid surface. Like the tree the band is a graceful temple of bundled sinew, solidly muscular but able to bend in the winds of history. The Baobab is imposing in its longevity, relying on a system of deep roots and natural wisdom to throw off seeming dormancy or death and the vicissitudes of the barren harsh environment that surrounds it.

The Orchestra’s recent award winning album “Specialist In All Styles” is proof that, like the ancient budding baobab tree in the monsoon rains, they are reborn and have brought forth fruit in their due season. Unless you burn away all the Baobab’s roots, you cannot kill the tree. It is said that in the old days the hereditary bardic musicians called griots were buried in the hollowed out centers of the sacred baobab trunk, no doubt infusing the tree with the spirit of music.

First formed in Dakar, Senegal, at the Baobab Club in 1970, out of the ashes of the rival Stars Band from the Miami Club, Orchestra Baobab disbanded in the early1980s and did not record together again until 2001. In a 2003 performance at Northampton’s [Massachusetts] Pearl Street Nightclub, the band ably demonstrated that both the ancient spirit of the West African griot was alive and well in the heart of the tree, but also that many other African and European derived elements were active in their eclectic but coherent mix.

The full spectrum of African Diaspora musical expression was there on stage, from rock to jazz, with the more naturally similar Cuban song forms of the son montuno and cha-cha-cha dominating, though less obvious Caribbean strains like zouk, merengue, and reggae were in abundance as well. With the affable and talented lead vocalist Rudy Gomis shouting “Thank You” between melismatic nasal strains of Islamic influenced singing, and incredible lead guitarist Barthelemy Attisso sounding like Wes Montgomery channeling both Afro-Cuban tres player Arsenio Rodriguez and Sudanese oud player Hamza el Din, all carried along by the bubbling cross-cultural currents of percussionists Balla Sidibe and Mountaga Koite, the audience was treated to the strains of African music come full circle.

The show ended with saxophonist Issa Sisokho blowing a saucy accapella bop coda, sounding like a jazz player of the 50s, with his tall thin frame topped by a jaunty fedora that brought to mind Dexter Gordon. A listen to their first recordings from 1970 reveals initially surprising nuances, from crazy acid fuzz guitar ala Jimi Hendrix, to dubbed out echoes reminding one of Lee “Scratch” Perry or King Tubby, as well as funky James Brown-isms galloping alongside the arabesque call of the muezzin and the griot twang of the kora.

African salsero extraordinaire Ricardo Lemvo has said that he grew up in the Congo listening to records of Arsenio Rodriguez, Orquesa Aragón, and Trio Matamoros, enjoying jazz by Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, New York salsa by Johnny Pacheco and Ray Barretto, and the soul and funk of Otis Redding and James Brown. Like Baobab, Africando, and so many others, Lemvo also brings his own native traditions to his sound, completing the experience with a full circumference of musical references.

Though many people might not realize that modern Afro Pop has at its base a firm foundation of Latin and other Diasporic music, musicians like Fela Kuti, Hugh Masekela, Youssou N’Dour and Manu Dibango have been the first to admit it to any one with ears to hear. As Ricardo Lemvo says, “When Cuban music traveled back to Africa it was instantly recognized and embraced.” And this is not a phenomenon of the 1960s or ‘70s, it goes back to the very first 78s of not only Cuban music but of Calypso, Ragtime, Jazz, Blues, and Minstrel “race” records that were first brought to the ports of West Africa by sailors in the ‘teens and 20s.

As a young singer, Youssou N’Dour had greatly admired Orchestra Baobab back in the day, and he jumped at the chance to work on their reunion CD with producer Nick Gold of Buena Vista Social Club fame. “They had such a clean sound, and they were pan-African. We’re ready for this to come back. We’ve put up barriers in our music,” he has said, referring to the dominance of the Wolof sound in Senegalese pop, “and we have to bring the barriers down. All the young kids, they understand now just how important the 70s were for their music, so they’re ready to listen.”

The band that helped close the circle and usher in a new era for African music has helped turn on a new generation to its holistic approach. Rudy Gomis commented to me, when I mentioned that my favorite song on the new album was their rollicking version of the old Cuban son standard “El Son Te Llama” (“the son is calling you”), that singing those verses was like coming home for him, a song to the ancestors and an anthem for the future.

After standing in line at Club Culture for what seemed like hours, on a cold California winter night in 1984, my B-boy crew – the Floor Jammers – and I finally made our way into the environs of the humid club. On an ordinary Saturday night, we wouldn’t have waited in line for so long; however, this wasn’t a typical Saturday. Because on this evening, the usually bangin’ club deejay, Bubba G. Scotch, was to be joined on the “wheels of steel” by none other than the “Godfather of Hiphop,” DJ Afrika Bambaataa. Breakers, deejays, emcees, and “graffiti” writers from miles around descended upon Club Culture – like the Hindu faithful who travel to the River Ganges for ritual purification – to witness Bam “bless” the two turntables and the mic. Although the members of my crew and I had been into Hiphop since 1982, this was the first time that we were able to experience a true cultural icon invoke the spirit of the Bronx circa 1973.

At that particular moment, I knew that Hiphop would remain an integral part of my life, however, I didn’t realize then how deeply it would influence my intellectual pursuits.

With the risk of sounding reductionist, it is important to articulate a clear definition of “Hiphop culture.” Even though hyper-capitalist expropriation and exploitation have succeeded in conflating the entire culture with so-called “rap music” in the popular imaginary, the true nature of Hiphop is much more complex and multifaceted. According to the “Refinitions,” which are the “cultural terms and codes designed [by KRS-One and the Temple of Hiphop] to protect, preserve, and establish Hiphop’s common spirit,” the culture is comprised of five core elements: Breakin, Emceein, Graffiti Art, Deejayin, and Beatboxin. In addition to these artistic expressions are the four equally important, albeit often overlooked, elements of street fashion, language, knowledge, and entrepreneurialism. At the same time, while these nine elements represent the foundation of Hiphop cultural performativity, KRS-One eloquently reminds us that “rap is something you do, Hiphop is something you live.”

Despite growing up on the West Coast, Hiphop circa 1984 had a transregionality that made it accessible to kids on my block and elsewhere. It is true that some people I knew argued that Hiphop was merely “East Coast bullshit” and decided to stick to pop-locking and funk music (two predominately West Coast cultural formations). However, I can state emphatically that the vast majority of the Black and Latina/o youths in my “hood” were performing and living some aspect of the culture. Today, that level of involvement in Hiphop seems like ancient history as most young people have become uninformed consumers of the culture rather than its producers/performers. Moreover, many mainstream “rappers” who are performing the music don’t pay homage (at least publicly) to the culture as a whole. This has resulted in the systematic erasure of Hiphop’s complexity, dynamism, and potentiality from the imaginaries of urban youths. In its place, a misogynistic and materialistic lust over clockin’ large amounts of “bling bling” and “money, hoes, and clothes” has become hegemonic.

I am not suggesting that “getting dough” hasn’t been a central trope in much of Hiphop culture, especially for emcees – whether we’re talking about Busy Bee’s exaltation of loot in the 1983 film Wild Style or Eric B and Rakim’s homage to cash on the album Paid in Full (1987), to cite two examples. However, with the nearly complete commodification of “rap music” by multinational record corporations (Sony/BMG and Universal Music Group), commercial television (Viacom) and radio conglomerates (Clear Channel and Radio One), the billions of dollars being made annually from Hiphop are primarily enriching forces outside and are even hostile to communities of color. While there may be a handful of Black and Latina/o artists and record executives “coppin’ mad chedda” in this corporate-driven industry, but for all the money that Jay-Z, Kanye West, and 50 Cent clocked last year, Universal Music Group, which owns their record labels (Roc-A-fella/Def Jam and Interscope) earned billions off them and other rap artists. As a result, with corporations, commercial radio stations, and formulaic “thug” rappers dominating the discourse of what constitutes Hiphop, those people who seek to express, define, and communicate the culture, in its entirety and complexity, are virtually marginalized and silenced. This is why, I argue, it is imperative that those of us, who appreciate and live Hiphop, must develop a Hiphop intelligentsia in order to articulate a counterhegemonic and progressive cultural politics of Hiphop that critiques and challenges the current state of corporate-sponsored rap which tends to promote violence, sexism, materialism, anti-intellectualism, and disrespect.

Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci wrote extensively on the importance of “intellectuals” in transforming the fragmented and disparate “thoughts” of those who exist at a particular class location – in this case urban youths – into a lucid and consistent oppositional world-view. Although the notion of a Hiphop intellectual may strike some as oxymoronic or counterintuitive, there are nevertheless numerous performers and activist-scholars who dedicate their lives to producing, articulating, and analyzing Hiphop culture. For the purposes of this essay, therefore, I will identify two groups of Hiphop intellectuals. First and foremost is the “organic-performer intellectual” who in addition to being a producer of the culture, she/he also articulates its historicity and cultural formation in order to educate and organize others. A clear illustration of this is Kris Parker, a.k.a. KRS-One, who in addition to being one of the dopest emcees in the “business,” he has also helped define, direct, and propagate Hiphop culture through the development of the Temple of Hiphop. Other examples of organic-performer intellectuals include Afrika Bambaataa and his Universal Zulu Nation and Chuck D from Public Enemy.
I find the second category of Hiphop intellectual a little more difficult to define, however. They are usually “activist-scholars” that came of age during the “Hiphop generation” (urban youths born from 1965-1984, to cite Bakari Kitwana), who analyze and elucidate the culture from an insider-participant perspective. Examples of this type of intellectual are Rosa Clemente, Bakari Kitwana, Raquel Rivera, Jeff Chang, Jeffrey Ogbar, Joan Morgan and numerous others at the grassroots level, including myself.

For example, in a course that I teach entitled “The Cultural History of Hiphop,” we spend the first half of the semester historicizing the various elements of the culture. Through this process, the students are able to ascertain the richness and nuances of Hiphop, thereby challenging the narrow way in which it’s portrayed by the commercial media. From there, we are able to begin analyzing and critiquing the literary, poetic, aesthetic, and performative elements of the culture, as well as investigate how notions of race, gender, and class inform and problematize Hiphop. Ironically, although all the students in the course proclaim that they liked Hiphop; very few have any prior knowledge of its history and complexity.

Here it is important to distinguish between Hiphop intellectuals and intellectuals who study Hiphop. Even though they both do a “service” in examining the culture, the latter group of scholars does so from an outsider-observer positionality, rather than having been insider-participants. What this often results in is the creation of highly theoretical postulations about Hiphop that aren’t based on experiential knowledge. Furthermore, I argue that Hiphop intellectuals must ground any theory, book, or course dealing with the culture in the thoughts and feelings of the people who produce it. An example of good intentions going somewhat awry is Mark Anthony Neal and Murray Freeman’s new text That’s the Joint!: the Hip-Hop Studies Reader (2005). Although these two scholars have edited a useful and significant study, of the forty-one entries that comprise the text, none are written by actual Hiphop cultural producers.

On the other hand, there are many people both inside the “rap game” and out who may question the existence or importance of Hiphop intellectuals. Besides the general anti-intellectualism that permeates much of mainstream commercial rap, there are older Black folks like Reverend Calvin Butts, C. Dolores Tucker, and Dr. Martin Kilson (Professor Emeritus of Harvard University) that see no intellectual or artistic value in Hiphop whatsoever. For instance, Dr. Kilson’s 2003 article, “The Pretense of Hip-Hop Black Leadership,” in The Black Commentator argues that “the ‘hip-hop worldview’ is nothing other than an updated face on the old-hat, crude anti-humanistic values of hedonism and materialism.” He then excoriates the notion of Hiphop intellectualism by suggesting that scholars such as Todd Boyd, Michael Eric Dyson, “and their hip-hop intellectual colleagues have become advocates of anti-human and Negro-minstrel skewed dynamics in contemporary African-American entertainment.” While I would consider Boyd and Dyson intellectuals who study Hiphop, rather than Hiphop intellectuals, Kilson’s complete negation of the culture and his suggestion that nothing intellectually worthy has or will come from those who produce it, is myopic. Then again, it illustrates the crisis that Hiphop intellectuals – especially the organic-performers – must confront in order to subvert the contemporary hegemony of corporate-driven rap music.

It is clear that most people today envision mainstream rappers and the corporate media as the primary purveyors of Hiphop culture. Thinking back to the self-defining moment I experienced witnessing Afrika Bambaataa, I would have never fathomed the level of appropriation and abuse that corporations and irresponsible recording artists and executives have wrought on Hiphop. At the same time, I realize that all forms of cultural production are fluid and subject to reinterpretation and transformation. Although the status quo may truly be hegemonic, the dynamism of cultural change that brought the “bling bling era” into prominence can also assist those of us who would like to see a progressive cultural politics of Hiphop empower communities of color. What’s needed for this to occur, however, is the coalescence of a grassroots campaign of Hiphop artists who respect the culture, independent writers that have some connection to the movement, and Hiphop intellectuals who’ve experienced the culture first-hand, whether as emcees, deejays, b-girls/boys, or graf writers. Until such time that this three pronged approach occurs to fully define, articulate, and propagate Hiphop cultural politics, those individuals who profit at the expense of the culture will continue misrepresenting corporate-driven and misogynistic rap music as the only “game” in town.