Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Beauty and Strength of Our Mothers: Happy Mother's Day - Àdísà


“Sometimes the strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws.”
― Barbara Kingsolver


Next to God, we are indebted to women, first, for life itself, and then for making it worth living

—Mary McLeod Bethune


During the ancient African civilization of KMT (Egypt), one of the most power conceptions of motherhood was embodied in the Goddess Mut (Mut translates as mother). She was venerated and celebrated as the Great Mother, the one whom birthed the whole cosmos—the cosmic womb. She was associated with the waters from which all life emanated. One of her totems was the white vulture. Typically the first response to vultures is one of revulsion, a scavenger, a buzzard, a vile and dirty creature who eats what’s already dead. So it follows that one might rightly view any such association with the vulture and Black motherhood as offensive.

The imminent sakhu djaerist (African psychologist) Wade Nobles counsels us that: “The understanding between ancient Egyptian [African] thought and African (Black) psychology requires first and foremost the recognition that the ancient world is a world of symbolism and that much of what is meaningful in African psychology today has gone unrecognized and misunderstood because of our inability to understand the role of symbolism in the African mind—both ancient and modern.”

If we take Seba Nobles’ sagacious counsel, we find that symbolism is nutrient rich in the vitalities it offers us. When we think of vultures we think of a bird that eats what is already dead. But if we step back, so that we can see the forest and the trees, our view becomes more profound: The white vultures life is based on its ability to extract life from what is already dead—to avoid intentional harm and to make a way out of no way. White vultures are also known as highly maternal creatures, so much so that a mother white vulture, if she is unable to find food for her babies, will pierce herself and feed her offspring with her own blood—an act of supreme sacrifice for the greater good.

If we go deeper beneath the surfaces our educations have taught to swim in under the pretense that we are swimming in deep water, it becomes clear: The womb is cosmos personified and motherhood is about birthing and nurturing life in all of its varied manifestations, it is to extract life out of things that seem lifeless—to make a way out of no way—to be the living personification of the reciprocal elegance of sacrifice, ensuring that greatest highest good has a chance to grow and blossom in every circumstance. 

The West is an odd place, we celebrate mothers but hate women. The wisdom of our ancestors awaits us—offering us more than things, they offer us possibilities for creating a better, more just, more balanced and egalitarian world, where women and men work in fruitful harmony. All we have to do is find the courage to go back, fetch what was lost, and catch up to them.


Blessings to all our mothers, those here and in the community of the ancestors, those who birthed us-physically and spiritually, those who raised us, those who nurtured and continue to nurture us, making a away out of no way: Happy Mother’s Day.

— Àdísà

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What’s Going On? Finding the courage to ask the right questions about Police Terrorism — Adisa



Mother, mother

There's too many of you crying

Brother, brother, brother

There's far too many of you dying

You know we've got to find a way

To bring some lovin' here today...


Don't punish me with brutality

—Marvin Gaye, What's Going On?

A few of day ago, Toni Morrison, novelist, Nobel Laureate and one of the finest minds America and Africa has produced, when asked by Charlie Rose on the Charlie Rose Show what was surprising about the latest waves of police terrorism (not a term he used but one that is apt) said in essence that it was the "obvious cowardice of the police" and when asked for her solution, she offered, "better training."

That was an excellent and perceptive answer to the wrong question. The question is what empowers the police to feel as though they can murder Black people with impunity? When asked this way one can see the insufficiency of our esteemed elder Toni Morrison's answer. But it is precisely that question that takes us past the symptoms—police terrorism—to the disease: white misanthropy (we should stop using white supremacy, there is nothing supreme about a system rooted in the destruction of every living thing).

Just because you can shoot an unarmed person, posing no danger to you or others, running away from you, it still doesn’t answer the question: Why WOULD someone shoot an unarmed person running away from them? It is not a typical human response to fear someone running away from us, especially if we are armed. Toni Morrison also noted the example of the officer who refused to shoot an armed suspect asking to be shot as a sign of bravery. Her example also illuminates the point: officers have the option not to shoot, so the question gains motive force: What/Who empowers them to murder Black people with impunity?

Which brings me to the point that animates this essay and the one in which many, many Black folks are afraid to be honest about: Within the system of white misanthropy, Black people are not viewed as human. Within this context the police are empowered by the state to police us, and when we escape the cage of white expectation—to hunt us. In much the same way, someone hunts game, you try to capture it alive, if you cant then capture it dead.

On the rare occasion that a police officer is actually charged and prosecuted for the crime of shooting an UNARMED Black person, the murder is treated not as crime against humanity but rather more in the way one might be prosecuted for hunting a bear past sanctioned hunting season or hunting deer without a license. In other words, as an officer you’re not wrong for killing them; you’re wrong for not doing it the right way—that one must follow the are appropriate procedures for murdering unarmed Black people.

Many whites—if not most; I’m willing to except in a nation of well over 150 million whites that there might be three or four white folks who are the exception—share in this white misanthropic view. How else do you explain the lack of national outrage or even national empathy for the murder of the seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones as she slept or the twelve year old Tamir Rice, who was doing what young boys do every day in America, play with toy guns. If you’re white you don’t have be against the police to feel sickened that a little girl was killed in her sleep or young boy lost his life for playing with a toy gun. How do you watch the video of Walter Scott, a father, who had committed no violent crime— and was UNARMED—getting shot in the back eight times as he ran away from the officer, and not feel saddened for such an unnecessary loss of life.

Courage shows up in many forms, one of them is the ability to look the truth in the face and acknowledge it: In America, whites, by and large, do not view Black/African (americans) peoples as human. All one has to do is witness the spectacle of horror and sadness about abused or abandoned animals, the recoiling at commercials that focus on abused dogs, or the overwrought anger at Michael Vick for brutalizing dogs. Given the level white outrage and vitriol directed towards Michael Vick, I don't think it's unfair to assume that many whites would have been okay with capital punishment for his crimes--against animals. Contrast that to inhumane silence by many whites over the murder of two Black children by the police. Let that sit with you for a minute. The irony is embarrassing; the source of it is tragic and revealing in its display of white inhumanity.

The tragedy is compounded because too many Black folks don’t see Black folks as human eitherwith alacrity many of us accept the most base, backwards and erroneous assessments of our people as hard truth. What else is Black respectability politics but the tacit admission that Black folks must do something extra in order to be viewed as human by whites? What is that but an unconscious acceptance of the lie that we aren't human, yet? You see being human is like being pregnant, either you are or you aren’t. The moment you say women are less than men or that they have to dress a certain way to get respect or Black and Brown folks are less than whites and that they need to earn respect, you’ve already said they aren’t as human as you, which is to say: They aren’t human. And from that point on seemingly any kind of abuse or disrespect is permissible.

This accounts for why you can have Blacks firmly entrenched in the white misanthropic power structure and still get the same dehumanizing outcomes. Exhibit A: The black cop standing over Walter Scott's body, helping the white officer cover up the crime. Exhibit B: The Black Mayor of Baltimore and the other Black Folks firmly entrenched within the white misanthropic power structure, which Dayvon Love laid out eloquently on The Melissa Harris Perry Show. It is also illuminates and cast into a brighter light the disparities that exists between African (Black) people and whites in nearly all quality of life indicators which runs throughout American society like arteries throughout the body; one system for humans (whites), and another system for the almost humans.

This different equals deficient logic is crippling for everyone. Newsflash: This system of white misanthropy doesn’t like white people either—it likes property, profits and white misanthropy, and privileges those who advance that evil triumvirate. white people untutored in basic American history, but well educated in the propaganda of white misanthropy and thus blinded by the white light often cant see this point.

The main reason white folks are under the illusion that they are doing better than they actually are (there are more whites on welfare and food stamps than Blacks by raw numbers) is because Black folks are doing so poorly by contrast. Here the media serves a vital function in reminding its white citizenry: If you think you got it bad, just look at the negroes. The boy who gets physically abused by his father thinks his abuse is not so bad when he compares it to physical and sexual abuse his sister endures. The illusion of Black Pathology trumpeted by mainstream media exist to as means of mind control for whites, to divert their attention from the ways the system is sucking them dry like a vampire on an alabaster virgin.

Returning home: It is not enough to recognize that our own humanity is not being acknowledged, we must also be courageous enough to ask the harder questions about the humanity of anyone who fails to recognize our humanity. In the short term, we must deal with police terrorism. But in the long term, better questions will ultimately reveal that focusing on police terrorism without addressing the system that produces it is like blaming the rope for the lynching.

We can defeat white misanthropy and provide space and oxygen for a better way to live breathe, but it will only be won if we find the courage to ask better and better questions of ourselves, of others, of society and of this venal system, and then summon the bravery to model our lives in ways that follow the life affirming answers.

In life, love, and liberation


— Ádìsá

Monday, April 20, 2015

When Elephants Fight Only The Grass Gets Hurt: Reflections on Michael Eric Dyson's (diss)course on Cornel West — Ádìsá


There is an African proverb that states: When elephants fight only the grass gets hurt. It speaks to the notion that when important people battle over small stakes most often they are not the ones who feel the pain. I am neither hurt nor saddened by Michael Eric Dyson 10,000 word self absorbed screed, The Ghost of Cornel West[1] (link provided below), although it does contain truths that are both a window — into Dr. West's ego starvation—and an mirror—for the author own ego hunger.

And while it is disappointing, the personal beef played out publicly is not misplaced, historically speaking. There is a long history of these kinds of Battle Royales in our community (Dubois and Booker T, James Baldwin and Richard Wright, Langston and Zora) and in others communities as well. White intellectuals—here I’m thinking the "New York Intellectuals"[2] like Irving Howe, Mary McCarthy, Lionel Trilling, Dwight MacDonald, Daniel Bell etc.—have long history of intellectual disputation as blood sport and though the “public” always spoke for and too were white folks, white was and remains the synonym for human in the alabaster imagination.

What this falling out between Dyson and West underscores, what it reveals is what many of us already kinda know: That public intellectualism is mostly performance art that nods towards activism and is tangentially interested in people and social justice. Let me be clear here: For me, there is a difference between intellectual who is public-- a thinker whose work and idea gathers public attention through the sheer force of their intellect, which shows up in the form of them and their ideas at work, and a "public intellectual" —someone whose primary notoriety comes from the sheer force of their public persona.

Ida B. Wells, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Bayard Rustin, Stokely Carmichael, for example, were thinkers (intellectuals, if you will) who became public because of the power of their ideas in demonstrated practice.[3] They intellects represented a quality of thought in practice. What we seem to have increasingly is really smart, very well trained television personalities, who speak on issues of the time but very often follow the (spot)light rather than bringing illumination.

We should be clear that the conflation of academic with intellectual is relatively recent historical phenomenon. Historically, intellectuals existed largely outside of predatory sprawl of academia. For Black folks, most of our intellectuals had very little connection with academy, most of the 19th century nationalist[4], most of the intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance[5] (Although Alain Leroy Locke was certainly a motive force) as well as most of those affiliated with the Harlem History Club[6] were, in the words of Ellis Thorpe," scholars without portfolio."

What we are seeing here in the Dyson piece is a battle over new plantation real estate. The definitive piece on the Black Intellectual phenomenon, in my opinion, remains Adolph Reed Jr's 1995 Village Voice piece, "What Are The Drums Saying Booker?"[7]

What should have people who love Drs. Dyson and West and/or their ideas appalled, is not their lovers' quarrel, which is unfortunate. What should be offensive is that at a time in which Black life is increasingly placed in peril by the larger white society, a strong mind saw fit to expend ten thousand words on playing the dozens, and not on police terrorism, or the increase in white racial animus, or the chronic intra-community violence or mass incarceration. That tells you everything you need to know about elephants fighting and why the grass always gets hurt.


Notes




[1] http://www.newrepublic.com/article/121550/cornel-wests-rise-fall

[2] For a more detailed discourse, see Thomas Bender’s, New York Intellect: A History of Intellectual Life in New York City from 1750 to the Beginnings of Our Own Time. Johns Hopkins University Press (1988) and Russell Jacoby’s The Last Intellectuals: American Culture In The Age Of Academe. Basic Books (2000).
[3] See Barbara Ransby’s Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision. The University of North Carolina Press; New edition (2005) and Chana Kai Lee’s For Freedom's Sake: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer. University of Illinois Press (2000)
[4] Wilson Jeremiah Moses’ masterful The Golden Age of Black Nationalism, 1850-1925. Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (1988)
[5] David Levering Lewis, When Harlem Was in Vogue. Penguin Books; Reprint edition (1997)
[6] The venerable historian and ancestor John Henrike Clarke credits his early development to Arthur Schomberg, Willis N. Huggins and aggregation of thinkers who comprised Harlem History Club.
[7] Adolph Reeds original essay, “What Are the Drums Saying, Booker? The Current Crisis of the Black Intellectual,” Village Voice 40 (April 11, 1995), 31–6. It can also be found in his essay collection, Class Notes: Posing As Politics and Other Thoughts on the American Scene. The New Press (2001)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Mo Better Blues: Embracing the struggle to discover our better selves — Àdisà


The process of transformation is often ugly and uncomfortable in the beginning. The transition stage from where we are to where we want to be—whether its our hair, our bodies, our minds or our disposition—is uncomfortable. And it's meant to be. The beauty in the early stages comes from embracing the struggle in the transition; the comfort comes later in having achieved our goals.
A common mistake many of us make is that we are more invested in being comfortable in the transition phase before we achieve anything to be comfortable about. ("I'll eat this and then work it off tomorrow." "I'm going natural but this weave will help with my transition." "I'm not as much of womanizer as a I used to be."...) But all that really says is that we are more committed to who we used to be than we are to who we desire to be.

The transition process with all of its difficulties is the time to get to know who we are, to reexamine notions bequeathed to us about ugliness and beauty, our worth and our values, about our identity and our consciousness, etc. What good is a beautyful natural head of healthy hair, if it shrouds a dead mind? What good is new found body beauty, if it houses the same toxic mentality about body image? What good does it do to be culturally conscious, if our behavior is still rooted in the pimpism of the plantation?

If we don't embrace the struggle of transition we may end up thinking we are free, confusing a bigger cage for freedom, still held hostage by old insecurities. Transition is the place where you do battle with yourself for your best self; transformation is where you discover who emerged victorious.

— Àdisà