More Poems for Michael Brown: June Jordan’s “Poem About Police Violence”

The world needs our poets. I think of what Jordan, Cortez, and Maya Angelou would be saying if they were alive. However in looking at “Poem About About Police Violence” written by Jordan in 1974, perhaps they already said it all.

Poem about Police Violence

Tell me something
what you think would happen if
everytime they kill a black boy
then we kill a cop
everytime they kill a black man
then we kill a cop
you think the accident rate would lower subsequently?

. . . I lose consciousness of ugly bestial rapid
and repetitive affront as when they tell me
18 cops in order to subdue one man
18 strangled him to death in the ensuing scuffle
(don’t you idolize the diction of the powerful: subdue
and scuffle my oh my) and that the murder
that the killing of Arthur Miller on a Brooklyn
street was just a “justifiable accident” again
(Again)

People been having accidents all over the globe
so long like that I reckon that the only
suitable insurance is a gun
I’m saying war is not to understand or rerun
war is to be fought and won

sometimes the feeling like amaze me baby
blots it out/the bestial but
not too often

tell me something
what you think would happen if
everytime they kill a black boy
then we kill a cop
everytime they kill a black man
then we kill a cop
you think the accident rate would lower subsequently

– June Jordan –

Jayne Cortez and the Response to Violence

There It Is

And if we don’t fight
if we don’t resist
if we don’t organize and unify and
get the power to control our own lives
Then we will wear
the exaggerated look of captivity
the stylized look of submission
the bizarre look of suicide
the dehumanized look of fear
and the decomposed look of repression
forever and ever and ever
And there it is

-Jayne Cortez, from Firespitters


With apologies to the great poet Jayne Cortez (who died late last year). I edited her poem “Give me the Red on the Black of the Bullet” with the name of Trayvon Martin (and details of his case) in the place of Claude Reece Jr. Cortez’ poem, written in the 1970s, was dedicated to Reece Jr., a 14 year-old victim of police violence. Had Cortez lived, being the political fire spitter that she was, I am sure that she would have written a poem honoring Trayvon.


GIVE ME THE RED ON THE BLACK OF THE BULLET

(For Trayvon Martin)


Bring back the life 

Of Trayvon Martin


I want the bullet from his chest

To make a Benin bronze

To make an explosion of thunder

To make a cyclone


I want the 17 years of Trayvon Martin

Shot on the 26th day of February

Shot in his chest

Shot by a “wanna be” police officer

Shot for being black


Give me the black on the red of the bullet

I want to make a tornado

To make an earthquake

To make a fleet of stilts

For the blackness of Trayvon Martin

The blackness called dangerous weapon

Called resisting arrest

Called nigger threat


I want the life of the blackness of Trayvon Martin

I want the bullet from his chest

To make a protective staff for startled children

To make hooks and studs

For warrior masks


Give me the bullet with the odor

And the smoke and the skin and

The hair of Trayvon Martin

I want to make power

To make power

For the blackness of Trayvon Martin

The blackness called pent-up frustration

Called unidentified negro

Called nigger revolutionary


I want the life of the blackness of Trayvon Martin

I want the bullet from his chest

To make a protective staff for startled children

To make a Benin bronze

To make an explosion of thunder

To make a cyclone

I want the bullet to bring back the blood

Of Trayvon Martin

I want to make justice


I want to make justice for

The blackness of Trayvon Martin

Bring back the bullet with the blood of the blackness

Of Trayvon Martin

I want to make justice

I want to make justice for the blackness

Of Trayvon Martin.


2014 UNCF Mellon Teaching and Learning Institute: Mapping the Future in Digital Humanities at HBCUs

20140728-140238-50558092.jpg

In 2010 when the current Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at Morehouse College, Clarissa Myrick-Harris, was the Director of The UNCF Institute for Capacity Building Curriculum and Faculty Enhancement Programs, she created a one day symposium called “To Be Young, Digital, and Black,” which sought to begin a conversation about the way HBCUs were addressing our students who were “digital natives.” Indeed, this was the first of a series of public forums dedicated to “UNCF Digital Media and Learning in Multicultural Contexts.” In the intervening years, not only are we still grappling with the pedagogical questions of how to teach students in a digital age, but also how to fashion ourselves as scholars in a time where the academic disciplines, themselves, have changed fundamentally. For example, no longer is English simply the study of literature, but it is also textual studies where academics can reconstruct and examine lost texts and/or visualize texts through the use of technology. Moreover, with things like data mining and mapping, no longer are words one dimensional, but they are in 3-D and kinetic. Changing the scope of words has in effect changed the scope of academy. As many of our small private liberal arts colleges do not have access to digital scholars labs and other teaching and learning centers devoted to helping humanities faculty with technical aspects of digital scholarship, the question becomes exactly when and where do faculty at the small HBCUs enter into the larger national and international conversations about the digital humanities.

Moreover, the ostensible truth is that we should be center of these conversations because of the myriad opportunities for archiving, constructing, and engaging with material in African American religion, philosophy, literature, music, history and the visual arts that our schools provide. Indeed, many of our historically black colleges are rich repositories of history in African American life and culture. While the questions about digital scholarship and learning seem to always come back to resources, the focus at UNCF institutions should be on the way in which these colleges can start where they are to build community and pool information and best practices in order to allow our faculty and their work to emerge in this new academy. This UNCF/Mellon Teaching and Learning Institute: “Mapping a New Future by Mining the Past: HBCUS and the Digital Humanities” was a workshop where 16 faculty members from Paine, Claflin, Spelman, Clark, Morehouse, and Dillard convened on Morehouse’s campus and at The Robert W. Woodruff Library July 24-27, 2014 to look at the intersections of African American Studies and digital scholarship. Each invited scholar will brought an individual research or class project and constructed a strategy for completing that digital humanities project given the resources that they have on their campuses and an iPad mini, which was provided provided by the seminar. By offering faculty the space and time to engage with technology, this workshop sought to fulfill the mission set forth by UNCF in 2010, which was to “investigate current and future opportunities for research, careers and civic engagement that are informed by innovative uses of digital media.”

One of the excellent facilitators Howard Rambsy wrote more about the importance of this institute on his blog Cultural Front here

The Humanities: The Renaissance, Again

Stories like this one decrying the death of the Humanities have been appearing more and more frequently in popular and academic press. This, along with the rallying cry to make college education more applicable to what people will do in their jobs (whatever that means–like we supposed to teach them novels about using the telephone) has meant that college educators, like myself, are suffering somewhat of an identity crisis. Do we teach the way we were taught or do we try to adapt our syllabi to be more market friendly? I think MacDonald in the article linked above is somewhat over stating the case for traditionalism as the central part of humanistic inquiry. The change in English Department curricula is not due to some sort of political correctness brought at the expense of the classics but because of something that I found to be true about literature: no department can insist that only a few set books represent the humanistic tradition. It is not true for example that the Iliad is more valuable than Invisible Man. I think that you can have the same level of inquiry and level of humanistic thought without requiring students to trip through the same old canon of western literature.

I think that with every age, we will constantly be redefining what is classic. Working in the digital humanities shows me that.  What would the study of humanities be if we stopped with Aristotle, Milton, Chaucer, and Shakespeare? The Liberal Arts then really wouldn’t be relevant and if you think there are no humanities majors now (which by the way is a frustrating false statistic that I see bandied about–English and all of the liberal arts remain top disciplines of study alongside and oftentimes outpacing business and psychology) there really won’t be any in the future. Can you imagine if any study of astronomy decided that it would stop with Copernicus or genetics stopped with the study of physiognomy? As long as there are researchers who are actively researching, professors will have to tackle new discoveries and texts in their classes and scholarship. Natalia Cecire’s insightful blog talks a little bit more about this here. So lets stop talking about the death of the Humanities and instead start talking about how it is being reborn.

20140105-110709.jpg

Books About Gullah Culture

I think that the more I delve into researching black culture in the South and the ways that what we do today are linked with our past, the more clear that it becomes that there must be more scholarship on Gullah Culture. Goodwine’s The Legacy of Ibo Landing: The Gullah Roots of African American Culture is a great start in looking at these issues, but there should be updated scholarship.

I hate that I am missing the High Heritage Days at The Penn Center but I am hopeful that they will begin recording some of their programs. The possibility of digital scholarship is endless.

20131108-104317.jpg

Image by Dawolu Jabari Anderson. Part of his “Gullah Sci-Fi Mystery Series” from his Exhibit Tales Of New Dimension In Time And Black Space.

Excerpt of My Latest “Work”

I have so many writing projects going at once that at times it is difficult to feel productive. Since this is a summer that I am devoting to writing, and not just writing but finishing projects, I decided to publish some essays in journals and publish my creative writing in other places. These are things that I think that I need to release into the universe in order to feel like I can work on a book of essays entitled What I Learned From White Girls that I got a grant for nearly 4 years ago to complete. (Hello, can you say that I am not good at deadlines?) The following is an excerpt of a novella entitled Work that I plan to publish as an ebook on iTunes and Amazon by the end of the year.

Work is about the modern black woman’s dilemma of how to be yourself and still exist in the white corporate world. More than that, it is about the broken promise that the North offered many blacks coming out of the rural South at the turn of the Century. It sounds heavy, but I hope it is funny. Here is piece from the first chapter:

20130613-150720.jpg

Brooklyn, The Planet Earth, The Year of Our Lord, 2006

I was fired. Me. Fired. I don’t know how it happened. Well that is not really true. I knew how it happened, but I didn’t really see it coming. I hated my job, but I loved the life that it afforded me. I loved living in Brooklyn. I loved that so many of the friends that I had met in college seemed to have gravitated to the Big Apple and reconstituted themselves into an exclusive clique of black urban professionals. I loved shopping in Manhattan. I lived for the parties and relished the feeling of having “made it” that New York gives you.

It seems that my life was determined by the objects and fringe benefits that I was able to acquire because of my job—the expense account, the book parties, the fashion shows—but not by the job itself. The activity that consumed most of my waking hours was purely incidental. The exhilaration I felt every morning after the train ride into the city and first tasting my daily café mocha faded as soon as I stepped into the lobby of Laura Rubenstein Advertising and Public Relations. As soon as I hit the revolving glass door and spied the elevator that would whisk me up to the 15th floor (I used to pray for an elevator malfunction, anything to avoid work) and my cramped and disorganized desk, I felt a cloud of despair descend all around me.

I looked good. This again is one of the nice things about living in New York, access to some of the world’s best spas and ample opportunity to indulge my addiction to French cosmetics and skin care products. Usually I couldn’t be happy about how good I looked in whatever black ensemble that I happened to have on, because I knew that no one who really mattered would see me. Unless I was meeting one of my girlfriends for lunch—then I would take special care with my appearance—the way I looked was only for my benefit. What made my days bearable was the fact that I often arranged to lunch with my friends. Everyday, if duties didn’t demand otherwise. I was the only black woman, black person that is, at my firm. I needed to see my girlfriends during the day to keep me grounded, to keep me sane. Being the only is enough to drive you crazy. I don’t know how Jackie Robinson did it. Maybe he met his homeboys after his baseball games and chuckled with them about “the ways of white folk.”

Continue reading

Blog at WordPress.com.

Gullah Gone

A Documentary Film

Critical Dispatches

Reports from my somewhat unusual life

In Reverie Blog

Inspiring Thoughtfulness and Celebrating the Practice of Teaching and Learning.

Jubilo! The Emancipation Century

African Americans in the 19th Century: Slavery, Resistance, Abolition, the Civil War, Emancipation, Reconstruction, and the Nadir

Maroon Reflections

Dr. Samuel T. Livingston's Record on life, culture and politics in the African Diaspora and world.

Blackboard Learn 9.0 @Morehouse College

Video and Text Tutorials for Morehouse Faculty Members

Book Hub, Inc.

The Total Book Experience

annalisefonza

Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender. ~ Alice Walker

Damyanti Biswas

For lovers of reading, crime writing, crime fiction

Davey D-Hip Hop Culture-Hip Hop Politics

The World from a Hip Hop Perspective

fat vegan baby

a lifestyle blog, inspired by my life.