A Brief History of How “Black History” is Seen

What is called “Black History” in the United States of America is American history.  In categorizing and cataloging “Black History” as such, and relegating it not only to one month of the year, February, but also the shortest month of the year, it in effect diminishes its importance, as if it is a sub-branch of American history.  In fact, there is no America as we know it without Black people.  Black people in the USA, that is, descendants of Africans, were in the U.S. at its very founding, and before, of course (when you hear second generation Europeans telling Black Americans to “go back to Africa,” you get a sense of white Americans’ disconnect from what American history is, and this is so because of how American history has been taught).  Black Americans fought in every major war America has waged, including the Revolutionary War.

Black History in America doesn’t begin with the Revolutionary War.  Black history begins way before that; and Black history is not simply the history of slavery, from 1619 to 1865, as some people would have it.  Black history is a history of resistance, resilience, and triumph (making a way out of no way).  It is a history that continues to force America to at least attempt to live up to her ideals.  In fact, the treatment of Black people in America should be the moral yardstick by which America is judged.  Perhaps this is why historians have narrated American history from the subjective lens of white people, for to do otherwise puts everything white Americans hold dear about American history into question.

White Americans – in fact, all Americans – should celebrate Black history, in all its glory, because it is American history, a story America, a story of overcoming.  It is also a history of creativity and invention – inventions created by Black Americans were often trademarked by White Americans.  W.E.B. DuBois pretty much summed up Black Americans’ contributions to America, and the world.  He mentioned three broad categories of contributions, as gifts: the gift of sweat and brawn (the very foundation of America’s economic system was built on the backs of Black people); the gift of music and song (from Ragtime to Rock and Roll to Rap); and the gift of the Spirit (the moral and religious Black leaders forcing America to look at herself in the mirror, not simply as what she was, but what she could become, and looking to show America the Way).

Black people have actually shown America the Way.  Almost every immigrant has had a better experience in America because not only did Black people bear the whips and scorns of various oppressive American systems, but they also paved the way to make it easier for immigrants to believe in and pursue the American Dream.  While the American dream has often been delayed for Black people, often turning into the American Nightmare, it is still an American ideal, an ideal we export to the world.

The ideal of America exists in large part because of Black people and their spirit.

The spirit of Black people in America has been indomitable.  Through slavery and segregation and hyperincarceration, Black people have weathered various storms and not only survived, but also triumphed.

Black history has lived in the shadows of American history because – this is where American historians are not objective – it shows the other side of America, her ugliness, personified in institutional and systemic racism, and her recalcitrance in the face of the country’s current racial reckoning.  In short, American history has been narrated as a tale of white male heroes, leaving out not only the various villains, but also the other heroes, white women, and people of color.  How else can we understand the celebration of the treasonous Confederacy and Confederate iconography more than 150 years after the Civil War and the Confederacy’s defeat?

America, take a good look in the mirror, not the fun house mirror that has become the distorted lens out of which white Americans see America.  Try looking at America through the lens of the indigenous people.  Try looking at America through the lens of Black Americans.  Try looking at America through the lens of recent immigrants, especially from South of the U.S. border.  If you don’t like what you see – well, it was made in America.

Posted in Black patriotism, Black Shadows and Through the White Looking Glass, Education, Lest We Forget, Patriotism, race, Revolution, Slavery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chadwick Boseman: In Memoriam – Black Panther!

Two years ago, in preparing to deliver a high school graduation commencement address at the Fedcap School in Orange, New Jersey, I researched a number of commencement addresses by pop culture characters and personalities. During my research, I came across Chadwick Boseman’s 2018 Howard University Commencement Speech, at which he was awarded an honorary doctorate. His Speech was relevant on so many levels, but topically, he had just starred as the iconic Black Panther, a superhero for our times, especially in this #BlackLivesMatter Era. Additionally, Black Lightning had come on the set at the beginning of 2018, electrifying the small screen. With these two Black Superheroes in mind, I had my theme.

The story of the hero and the superhero has fascinated me since watching Superman, in black-and-white, as a kid. Superman being a white alien in the Metropolis, which could be any Big City, didn’t bother me, a born and bred Brooklynite. This racial stuff really doesn’t bother kids. There are kids of all races with Black athletes and entertainers on posters on their bedroom walls. (As a teenager, I had a poster of Bruce Lee on my bedroom wall.) It wasn’t until much later I became disturbed by the fact that all the superheroes I encountered in my youth were uber White! Later, as a poet, inspired, I wrote a series of poems on heroes, even comparing Superman and Superfly – which wasn’t a comparison at all. They both dressed outlandishly, but Superman beat Superfly by a long shot!

In my address I wanted to uplift this idea of the Black Superhero, that the graduates were living in a Wakanda of sorts, especially as it related to technology and how they are literally growing up with smart phones in their hands, and that technology advances at warp speed, making gadgets of yesterday obsolete today. I wanted the graduates to know that they were inheriting a world with endless possibilities. They were the students many had given up on. When I posed the question to the graduates, that many thought they wouldn’t make it to this graduation day, there was a resounding yes!

As I write this today, I think of Chadwick Boseman’s seemingly “brief” life. But in portraying iconic characters, from Jackie Robinson to James Brown, and of course the Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman lived many meaningful lives, using his gifts and talents to show the world “Blackness,” often emulated, in its glory. As such, he changed the world, and maybe a few minds.

The world, I told the graduating class, is waiting for them to change it. It was no coincidence that the school’s basketball team is the Panthers!

I am sad that I will not see Chadwick Boseman in another film. But I am inspired by his body of work. Despite the white superheroes I grew up on, when I started playing sports, especially baseball, I had other heroes to look up to, specifically Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron. They both lived remarkable stories of overcoming, despite the white lash they faced that comes from insidious white racism.

Baseball remembers Jackie Robinson to this day, the man who broke the color barrier in “major league” baseball. Let us forever remember the Black Panther, the role that broke box offices and uplifted the narrative that #BlackSuperHeroesMatter. #WakandaForever!

EricatBlackPanther

 

Posted in being a teenager, Black Shadows and Through the White Looking Glass, ezwwaters, Lest We Forget, raising black boys, Urban Impact | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Final” Touches on The Black Blood of Poetry

Early this morning I put the “final” touches on my title poem, “The Black Blood of Poetry.” I wasn’t going to post it, but it is timely, and I’d rather not wait until the collection is published to put this topical piece out there today and not tomorrow, because tomorrow isn’t promised. As I stated in an earlier post, “The Black Blood of Poetry” utilizes the Pantoum. For those not familiar with this form, especially poets, it is a beautiful form for an elegy. Using 1619 as a starting point, Black blood continues to be senselessly shed in the United States of America. In writing about the “gifts” Black folk gave to America, W.E.B. DuBois writes about “the gift of sweat and brawn.” I would add “blood.” As I write in the poem below, this Racial Reckoning could be America’s Racial Awakening.

The Black Blood of Poetry


His beaten and bloated corpse for the world to see.
Look what white folk did to this little Black Boy!
“No way I could describe what was in that box!”
Mamie Till Bradley said of what had been her son.

Look what white folk did to that little Black Boy,
This “’Chicago boy,’ stirring up trouble” in Ole Miss.
Mamie Till Bradley said of what had been her son,
Beaten beyond recognition, pistol-whipped with a gun.

This “’Chicago boy,’ stirring up trouble” in Ole Miss,
White Citizens’ Council of America members declare.
Beaten beyond recognition, pistol-whipped with a gun –
Lynched as an example for which white folks do stand.

White Citizens’ Council of America members declare,
Violence as a tool to keep Black folk in their place – 
Lynching as an example for which white folks do stand.
His beaten and bloated corpse for the world to see.



In the Blood Cotton Fields of Ole Miss,
Perhaps a clue to Till’s kidnapping unearthed.
The Association’s Field Secretary, disguised as a cotton picker,
Makes his way through red soil fecund with Black blood.

A clue to Till’s kidnapping unearthed in the Blood Cotton fields of Ole Miss?
The River, his penultimate resting place, his beaten and bloated body buoyed,
Floating, not wading in the water – not found in the soil fecund with Black blood.
Look what white folk did to that little Black Boy!

The River, his penultimate resting place, his beaten and bloated body buoyed,
Revealed, a Testament of white Southern violence writ large on Black bodies.
Look what white folk did to that little Black Boy!
An Apocalyptic American Nightmare, foreshadowing the fire next time.

A Testament of white Southern violence writ large on Black Bodies –
Burn, baby, burn, white folk sing as beaten Black bodies burn on bonfires of hate,
An Apocalyptic American Nightmare, foreshadowing the fire next time,
War in the Blood Cotton fields of Ole Miss.


“All of a sudden, we heard a shot. We knew what it was.”
Sergeant Medgar Wiley Evers survived World War II,
Only to die in battle on the Blood Cotton fields of Ole Miss,
Where America’s bloody Civil War waged on.

Sergeant Medgar Wiley Evers survived World War II,
Only to return to the Old Confederacy in Ole Miss,
Where America’s bloody Civil War waged on,
Where Old Confederate soldiers never die, never die, never die.

Redeployed in the Old Confederate States of America, in Ole Miss,
Field Secretary Evers makes his way through soil fecund with Black blood,
Where Old Confederate soldiers never die, never die, never die.
Old Confederate soldiers never die – they live forever, memorialized.

Field Secretary Evers makes his way through soil fecund with Black blood.
The beaches of Normandy pale in comparison to the Blood Cotton fields of Ole Miss,
Where Old Confederate soldiers never die, never die, never die.
“All of a sudden, we heard a shot. We knew what it was.”



The shot from the Enfield 1917 rifle reverberated in the Civil Rights Universe.
“All of a sudden, we heard a shot. We knew what it was.”
From the rifle of former USMC machine gunner, Byron De La Beckwith Jr,
The bullet lodged in the back of his intended Black target.

“All of a sudden, we heard a shot. We knew what it was.”
Espousing white supremacy and wearing the white sheet of Klansmen,
Beckwith fired the shot that lodged in the back of his intended Black target,
World War II vet and NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Wiley Evers.

Espousing white supremacy and wearing the white sheet of Klansmen,
The not-so-friendly-fire from the Enfield 1917 rifle found its mark,
And lodged in the back of Sergeant Evers, who survived the Invasion of Normandy – 
Fighting against fascism in the segregated U.S. Army on the Western Front.

The not-so-friendly-fire from the Enfield 1917 rifle found its mark:
The back of a World War II vet, not in Normandy, but in the Blood Cotton fields of Ole Miss.
From fighting in the segregated U.S. Army, to fighting Jim Crow in the Southern Theater.
The battle wages on, against segregation, white supremacy, and racism.



What is the price of Black Freedom? Do Black men buy it for a song?
No, it is bought with a terrible price, which takes a terrible toll:
Chain-whipped and castrated, freedom extracted from your body and soul,
While your bullet-riddled body’s unceremoniously buried in Southern soil.

Freedom is bought with a terrible price, a terrible price that takes its toll.
A cruel Southern past-time, destroying and desecrating Black bodies;
Beaten and bullet-riddled bodies unceremoniously buried in an earthen dam.
Freedom Summer: Freedom Rides; Freedom Votes; Freedom Schools; Freedom Houses.

A cruel Southern past-time: destroying and desecrating Black bodies,
Gathering around poplar trees, watching Strange Fruit swinging in the Summer breeze.
The price of Freedom Rides; Freedom Votes; Freedom Schools; Freedom Houses.
White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan terrorizing Blacks during Black Summer Nights.

Gathering around poplar trees, watching Strange Fruit swinging in the Summer breeze,
A legacy of the Southern Lost Cause, an unwillingness to concede its defeat;
So White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan terrorize Blacks during Black Summer Nights.
What is the price of Black Freedom? It is bought with a terrible price.



Malcolm X Speaks, about white devils, blond-haired, blue-eyed devils –
Their deeds are devilish, diabolical, destroying and desecrating Black bodies.
Black Nationalism on the rise; Separation, not Segregation – no equality in that!
All of this white hate is producing Black self-love, a different Black response.

The white Man’s deeds are devilish, destroying and desecrating Black bodies.
Black nonviolence’s met with unchecked white violence – water hoses and batons.
All of this white hate is producing Black self-love, a different Black response,
To being pistol-whipped, chain-whipped, and castrated, before the lynchings.

Black nonviolence’s met with unchecked white violence – water hoses and batons,
From White Citizens’ Council of America members, and terroristic Night Riders.
Pistol-whipping, chain-whipping, and castrating Black men, before the lynchings,
To keep Black folk in their “rightful” place, subordinate to these white devils!

White Citizens’ Council of America members, and terroristic white Night Riders –
Black ballots produce bullets and batons bashing Black heads from white hatemongers,
To keep Black folk in their “rightful” place, subordinate to these white devils!
Malcolm X Speaks about white devils, blond-haired, blue-eyed devils!



“You did it! It is because of you [devils!] – the men that created this white supremacy –
That this man is dead.” “The Hate that Hate Produced,” you say. “You did it!”
He was “our shining black prince…who didn’t hesitate to die because he loved us so.”
The Bullets Over Broadway, in the Audubon Ballroom – he died “because he loved us so.”

“The Hate that Hate Produced,” you say, but it is Black bodies, destroyed and desecrated,
By your hate, that burn in your bonfires of hate, that swing from Southern poplar trees.
White hands guided those Bullets Over Broadway in the Audubon Ballroom.
Thus we reject your twisted words; we will not revile him. We will honor him.

By your hands, Black bodies burn in your bonfires of hate; Black bodies swing from poplar trees.
His bullet-riddled Black body -- 21 gunshot wounds, including ten buckshot wounds.
We will not revile him. We will honor him. “In honoring him, we honor the best in ourselves.”
“Even his sharpest critics recognized his brilliance…possessing a promise…now…unrealized.”

His bullet-riddled Black body – 21 gunshot wounds, including ten buckshot wounds.
He was “our shining black prince…who didn’t hesitate to die because he loved us so.”
“Even his sharpest critics recognized his brilliance…possessing a promise…now…unrealized.”
“It is because of you – the men that created this white supremacy – that this man is dead.”



The King is dead, his Black blood spilt on a Southern Motel Balcony!
This Black Prince of Peace, dead from white violence at thirty-nine;
His autopsy reveals a heart of 60 years, from the stress of fighting Ole Jim Crow.
“Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” for “I’ve seen the Mountaintop.”

This Black Prince of Peace, a victim of white violence at thirty-nine.
Nonviolence begat violence: Southern hate, water hoses and police batons.
“Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” for “I’ve seen the Mountaintop.”
He still dreams in Technicolor, in a deeply demarcated black-and-white world.

Nonviolence begat violence: Southern hate, water hoses and police batons.
But he still had dreams, dreams of that Oneness that’s part of Christians’ creed.
He still dreams in Technicolor, in a deeply demarcated black-and-white-world.
This Native Southern Son waged a peaceful campaign across the South.

His dreams are of that Oneness that’s part of Christians’ creed –
May his Lord safekeep his soul till the Second Coming, or the fire next time.
This Native Southern Son waged a peaceful campaign across the South,
But a misguided white brother spilt the Prince of Peace’s Black Blood on a Balcony.



The Apocalyptic American Nightmare, the fire next time, is now –
Burn, baby burn! – incendiary devices are ignited throughout the country.
Dr. King is dead! Long live Dr. King! Dr. King is dead!
King’s words of nonviolence are dead, too, killed by white folks.

Burn, baby, burn – incendiary devices are ignited throughout the country.
This is what happens to the American Dream Deferred!
King’s words of nonviolence are dead, too, killed by white folks.
Ungawa! Black Power! Destroy, white folks! – the Revolution is being televised!

This is what happens to the American Dream Deferred!
From those Black Summers to the Destruction of the Black Wall Street.
Ungawa! Black Power! Destroy, white folks! – the Revolution is being televised!
“If we must die, O let us nobly die, so that our precious blood’s not shed in vain.”

From those Black Summers to the Destruction of the Black Wall Street,
America’s Racial Reckoning, the violence comes home to roost.
“If we must die, O let us nobly die, so that our precious blood’s not shed in vain.”
The Apocalyptic American Nightmare, the fire next time, is now!



White Officer Number One: “Is he still alive?”
White Officer Number Two: “He’s good and dead now.”
Black Panther, Chairman Frederick Allen Hampton, shot dead,
Dragged to the doorway, left in a pool of his own Black blood.

“He’s good and dead now,” in this law enforcement no-knock pre-dawn raid.
Two shots to the head! – “No Quarter for Wild Beasts,” the Chicago Tribune opined.
Dragged to the doorway, left in a pool of his own Black blood.
The “war on gangs,” really a “war on Black youth.”

Two shots to the head! – “No Quarter for Wild Beasts,” the Chicago Tribune opined,
Obviously referring to Big Bad Black Panthers in the urban jungle.
The “war on gangs,” really, a “war on Black youth.”
A Counter Intelligence Program to counter that Truth.

Black Panthers on the streets, a Black Revolutionary Guard;
Political education, showing up at the Polls, and free lunch for the People!
A Counter Intelligence Program to counter this Platform.
Power to the People! Black Panther, Chairman Fred Hampton.



Soledad Brother, with Blood in His Eyes, a Black Coming of Age Story, in Prison.
Racism deconstructed from behind prison walls, crucibles of social control,
The Legacy of the peculiar institution, of Slave Codes, Black Codes, and The New Jim Crow.
Hyperincarceration of Black youth, of the Black Guerrilla Family.

Racism deconstructed from behind prison walls, crucibles of social control.
The War on Crime, a War on Black Youth – greater than 1 in 4 chance going to prison.
Hyperincarceration of Black youth, of the Black Guerrilla Family.
Black bodies confined, constricted, restricted; Black bodies destroyed and desecrated.

The War on Crime, a War on Black Youth – greater than 1 in 4 chance going to prison.
In small prison cells reminiscent of the holds of slave ships,
Black bodies confined, constricted, restricted; Black bodies destroyed and desecrated.
The fight to not be counted among the countless broken Black bodies.

In small prison cells reminiscent of the holds of slave ships,
Political education politicizes common criminals to resist The New Jim Crow,
And fight to not be counted among the countless broken Black bodies.
A Black Coming of Age Story, of Solidarity and Resistance.



The first thing we do, is kill all the Black Resisters!
Comrade George is targeted. He’s part of a long line of Resisters.
He refuses to be counted among the broken men, so he resists.
He resists in the same manner of all the freedom fighters of yore.

Comrade George is targeted, because he’s part of a long line of Resisters.
He fights the Powers that be, because they can only Be if he doesn’t.
He resists in the same manner of all the freedom fighters of yore.
There’s his Manifesto, and developing the Marxist-Leninist Black Guerrilla Family.

He fights the Powers that be, because they can only Be if he doesn’t.
History manifests the white man’s machinations, the long line of Black deaths.
Thus his Manifesto, and developing the Marxist-Leninist Black Guerrilla Family.
Comrade George, shot dead in an attempted escape, one of The Martyrs paid tribute.

History manifests the white man’s machinations, the long line of Black deaths.
The first thing we do, is kill all the Black Resisters!
Comrade George, shot dead in an attempted escape, one of The Martyrs paid tribute.
The first thing we do, is kill all the Black Resisters.



Resisting arrest, a superfluous charge with almost every crime,
Is how the scales of Justice are tilted against Blacks, every time.
In inner cities, blue knights arrive on the scene armed to the teeth,
An occupying force; so much for “to serve and protect: -- no friendly cop on the beat.

The scales of Justice are tilted against Blacks, every time,
Especially in police-involved killings, rarely deemed a crime.
Blue knights are an occupying army in the ‘hoods they should serve.
Little wonder there’s excessive force, they have a license to kill.

Police-involved killings are rarely deemed a crime.
There’s a long list of “Stolen Lives,” yet it happens again, time after time.
Excessive force, a manifestation of this license to kill.
Imagine that list of Stolen lives, their names etched on a monument wall.

There’s a long list of Stolen Lives, yet it happens again, time after time.
“We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteous like a mighty stream.”
Imagine that list of Stolen Lives, their names etched on a monument wall.
The Apocalyptic writing’s on the wall, the fire next time, the next time a Black man falls.



He is silenced, by death, but his voice, his dying words –
“I can’t breathe” – take on life, and reverberate across the globe.
Eight minutes and 15 seconds of televised indifference to a Black life,
Casually but cruelly snuffed out by a blue knight.

“I can’t breathe!” – his dying words – echo across the globe.
Yet some say that All Lives Matter, but not his Black life?
His casually but cruelly snuffed out by a blue knight.
And so, the fire next time, this Racial Reckoning.

Some say that All Lives Matter, but not his Black life.
His Black life really didn’t matter, not by a long shot.
And so, the fire next time, is upon us, this Racial Reckoning.
Thus old Confederate soldiers must die, their statues laid to rest.

George Floyd’s life must matter, and not have been taken in vain.
The one hundred and fifty-nine-year Civil War must end,
And old Confederate soldiers must die, their statues laid to rest.
This is America’s test, if this Racial Reckoning will be an Awakening.



In Memoriam

Emmett Louis Till
(07/25//1941 – 08/28/1955 – 14 years of age)

Medgar Evers
(07/02/1925 – 06/12/1963 – 37 of age)

James Earl Chaney
(05/30/1943 – 06/21/1964 – 21 years of age)

Malcolm X aka el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz
(05/19/1925 – 02/21/1965 – 39 years of age)

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
(01/15/1929 – 04/04/1968 – 39 years of age)

Fredrick Allen Hampton
(08/30/1948 – 12/04/1969 – 20 years of age)

George Lester Jackson
(09/23/1941 – 08/21/1971 – 29 years of age)

George Floyd
(10/14/1973 – 05/25/2020 – 46 years of age)

 

Posted in Black Shadows and Through the White Looking Glass, crime, James Baldwin, Lest We Forget, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Murder, Nation of Islam, Poetry, Politics, race, raising black boys, Revolution, Sometimes Blue Knights Wear Black Hats, Sonny's Blues, Streets of Rage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Black Blood of Poetry

Over the weekend I got some good work done on my title poem, “The Black Blood of Poetry.”

A little more than twenty years ago, a poet-friend, Rachel Wetzsteon, who committed suicide in December 2009, perhaps because she felt too much and too deeply, as poets are wont – they are also incurable Romantics – told me that I should flirt with various poetic forms. With her advice in hand, I flirted with Ms. Sonnet – and my absolutely most favorite sonnet is, “If We Must Die,” by Claude McKay, about the Black Summer of 1919 – and Monsieur Villanelle, and various other forms. In playing the poetic field, I fell in love with the Pantoum, a Malay verse form. The Pantoum lends itself very well to elegies. Thus I thought it would be the most appropriate form for the title poem of “The Black Blood of Poetry,” which begins with a stanza on Emmett Till, followed by stanzas on Medgar Evers, one of which I decided to include here, and ends with a stanza on George Floyd. In between these bookends, there is so much Black death, mostly at the hands of white folk. In this poem I focused on Black men. In my third collection of poetry, The Black Feminine Mystique, which is dedicated to my four sisters, I pay tribute to women of color across the ages. So cut me some slack here!

The Black Feminine Mystique

The Black Blood of Poetry
His beaten and bloated corpse for the world to see.
Look what white folk did to this little Black Boy!
“No way I could describe what was in that box!”
Mamie Till Bradley said of what had been her son.

Look what white folk did to that little Black Boy,
This “’Chicago boy,’ stirring up trouble” in Ole Miss.
Mamie Till Bradley said of what had been her son,
Beaten beyond recognition, pistol-whipped with a gun.

This “’Chicago boy,’ stirring up trouble” in Ole Miss,
White Citizens’ Council of America members declare.
Beaten beyond recognition, pistol-whipped with a gun –
Lynched as an example for which white folks do stand.

White Citizens’ Council of America members declare,
Violence as a tool to keep Black folk in their place – 
Lynching as an example for which white folks do stand.
His beaten and bloated corpse for the world to see.



In the Blood Cotton Fields of Ole Miss,
Perhaps a clue to Till’s kidnapping unearthed.
The Association’s Field Secretary, disguised as a cotton picker,
Makes his way through red soil fecund with Black blood.

A clue to Till’s kidnapping unearthed in the Blood Cotton fields of Ole Miss?
The River, his penultimate resting place, his beaten and bloated body buoyed,
Floating, not wading in the water – not found in the soil fecund with Black blood.
Look what white folk did to that little Black Boy!

The River, his penultimate resting place, his beaten and bloated body buoyed,
Revealed, a Testament of white Southern violence writ large on Black bodies.
Look what they did to that little Black Boy!
An Apocalyptic American Nightmare, foreshadowing the fire next time.

A Testament of white Southern violence writ large on Black Bodies –
Burn, baby, burn, white folk sing as beaten Black bodies burn on bonfires of hate,
An Apocalyptic American Nightmare, foreshadowing the fire next time,
War in the Blood Cotton fields of Ole Miss.
Posted in being a teenager, Black Shadows and Through the White Looking Glass, crime, ezwwaters, Lest We Forget, Poetry, race, raising black boys, Relationships, Streets of Rage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Man Who Cried I Am!”: Celebrating Fifty Years of Life

It seems like only yesterday when I wrote this piece as I approached a milestone birthday, but it’s been nearly ten years. As I approach another milestone birthday, I am looking to complete my fourth collection of poetry, entitled, The Black Blood of Poetry.

This piece, which will be in The Black Blood of Poetry, was inspired by Allen Ginsberg’s Howl:

I saw the best minds of my generation
drop out of school
and get their education on the streets,
in the schools of hard knocks:
in group homes, reform schools, jails,
reformatories and prisons.
They dropped out of schools
that didn’t teach
The Pedagogy of the Oppressed;
schools that didn’t understand
the psyche of
The Wretched of the Earth;
schools that didn’t challenge;
schools that placed a premium
on memorization and rote
at the expense of
thoughtfulness and learning;
schools incapable
of tapping into
the creative energy of minds
that were once trained
in the greatest institutions of learning
on Mother Earth,
in Songhai, Ghana, Mali, and Timbuktu;
schools that taught
history that excluded them
and their contributions;
schools that alienated them;
schools that taught cruelty;
schools with low ceilings
and finite possibilities.

I saw the brightest boys of my generation
descend into insanity.
They were in the best high schools
the City had to offer,
but their minds
were light-years ahead of the curriculum.
We knew they were different,
their heads shaped like eggs,
but brilliant,
not of the world they were relegated.
They tutored others
in math and science,
and instead of graffiti
wrote formulas on the walls.
They were bored in lab
so conducted their own experiments,
on stray cats and dogs –
we saw their remains throughout the projects.
They flew homing pigeons
from coops on the projects’ rooftops,
sent esoteric messages
to other egg heads
throughout the City’s housing developments.
They experimented
with mind-altering drugs –
Acid, LSD, and angel dust.
They were our dark angels,
not of the world they were relegated.
They leapt off of tall buildings,
believing they could fly
like their pigeons,
and they did,
for a brief moment in time,
only to crash land on planet concrete,
their wings crushed
and their bodies broken.

I saw the best physical specimens of my generation,
the fastest, the strongest,
play three sports with effortless grace,
not become all American.
I saw them earn full scholarships
to play basketball
but drop out of school
in their freshmen year
because they refused to ride the bench
behind any of the starting five
whom they ran faster than
and jumped higher than
and shot hoops
with the accuracy of marksmen.
So, they returned to the streets,
their dreams of playing
pro basketball
dashed on the hardwood floors of colleges
eager to exploit their talent;
instead, they played in the summer leagues,
more dazzling than Earl “the Pearl” Monroe.
And when the sun set,
not only did the freaks come out –

The freaks come out at night,
The freaks come out at night

— but the gamblers
collecting their winnings
from the games,
the pimps, hustlers, con men and gang members,
the whole wide underworld.
Then their physical prowess
was put to other tests.
I saw them outrun cop cars
and motorcycles
and police dogs.
I saw them hurdle
five-foot fences
in a single bound,
leap from building to building,
with cops in hot pursuit,
and they seemed to always get away.
Before extreme sports were invented,
they were pushing their bodies
to the outer limits,
redefining the use of space.
I saw them subway surfing
and elevator surfing,
engaged in thrills that could kill.

I saw the boldest boys of my generation,
those that didn’t die young,
graduate from petty to major crimes.
It started innocently enough,
playing hooky from school,
stealing lunch from the bodega,
but gradually escalated
to shoplifting,
burglary, armed robbery,
and even murder.
From juvenile delinquents
to juvenile offenders
to youthful offenders
to adult criminals.
In the projects
they hunted the rats for sport,
with BB guns
and bow and arrows;
and it turned out
that some of the animals’ remains
I saw throughout the projects
was not the result
of the brilliant egg heads,
but evidence of their torture.
They were not only the boldest,
but also, the most alienated
of my generation.
They hated a world that hated them –
“The Hate that Hate Produced.”
They hated this world
of low ceilings
and finite possibilities.
They hated this world
that would deny them
their dreams.
Thus, they ended up
in group homes, reform schools, jails,
reformatories and prisons.
A lawyer would later tell me
that all of this was “inevitable,”
which made me think
of the Watchers,
the Watchers from behind Venetian blinds,
the projects’ old ones in the know,
septuagenarian seers,
who predicted
that many of my generation
wouldn’t amount to anything,
that we’d end up
in group homes, reform schools, jails,
reformatories and prisons,
that many of us
would not live long,
that many of us,
certainly,
would not live to see fifty years.

I saw the bravest boys of my generation
find their way out of the projects
and into Basic Training.
They knew
there was no way they could be
all they wanted to be
in projects
with low ceilings
and finite possibilities.
They went
from leaping from building to building,
from subway surfing
and elevator surfing,
to jumping out of airplanes
to fight in Granada and Panama.
They were honor guards in championship games,
those games
the best physical specimens of our generation
should’ve been playing in.
They were in the Marines,
in the Army, and Navy.
They swaggered down the streets of Spain,
ran with the bulls,
found cheap thrills in Manila
with “our little brown cousins,”
redefined what it meant
to be a Samurai in Japan,
fished in Korea
and drank beer in Germany
and convinced the frauleins
that Hitler got it wrong,
that these physical specimens
were the Master Race –
you could
take them out of the ghetto –
none of them came back to the projects.
Later, I saw them,
military erect,
at the funerals
of their parents
and their younger and older siblings,
and so many others
we grew up with
who died
in the summer of their lives
– casualties of
the wars on poverty and crime.
We looked at each other,
nodding,
acknowledging that
we are still here,
Black boys
transmuted into Black men
despite the strange alchemy
of white America,
the low ceilings
and finite possibilities
that would have been our lot
if we weren’t
the brightest,
the boldest,
the bravest
of our generation,
building on the Black philosophy,
of making a way out of no way.

In those moments we looked at each other
shared that nod of Black Brotherhood,
acknowledging that we were still here,
unbroken –
celebrating life.

October 1, 2010

Posted in being a teenager, Black patriotism, Black Shadows and Through the White Looking Glass, crime, ezwwaters, Growing Up, juveniles, Patriotism, race, raising black boys, Relationships, Sometimes Blue Knights Wear Black Hats, Streets of Rage, Urban Impact | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Brief History of the Hayes-Tilden Compromise

In order to understand the pathology of memorializing treasonous Confederates, look to the Hayes-Tilden Compromise (1876-77), which in effect ended the Reconstruction years (1865-1877), when Black people made tremendous strides, politically, economically, and socially, a mere 12 years after 246 years of indentured servitude and slavery, since Africans landed in Jamestown Virginia in 1619, or as Malcolm X quipped, the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock; Plymouth Rock landed on Black people.

The Hayes-Tilden Compromise was just one more obstacle, or rock, placed in front of Black people and Black progress. It was just one more of many compromises of Black rights in American history. And when we look at the zealous defense of these Confederate memorials, monuments and statues, even by the person currently occupying the White House because of a skewed electoral system, we get a clear picture into America’s heart of whiteness. In part, this rapprochement with the treasonous former Confederate States of America was a nod to white harmony and hegemony. What other explanation is there? Never in the history of warfare, specifically a Civil War, did the losers get to erect memorials, monuments and statues, thus reestablishing an unchecked reign of terror against the very subjects at the center of the war.

“War is hell,” Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman said. He added, “War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it. Those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.” He was referring to the Confederacy. Instead, more than 150 years after the end of the American Civil War, we are still fighting this War against Confederate memorials, monuments and statues because of the Hayes-Tilden Compromise, instead of the “total war” advocated by General Sherman.

Posted in Black Shadows and Through the White Looking Glass, Lest We Forget, Malcolm X, Patriotism, race, Slavery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Old Confederate Soldiers Never Die

Old Confederate soldiers never die,
Never die, never die,
Old Confederate soldiers never die,
They simply become memorialized.

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The “Cancel-culture” Conundrum

If I hear one more white person say “Cancel-culture…”

“Cancel-culture” is the latest buzz term being used by Trumpeteers, including Ivanka Trump, and as with almost everything that comes out of the Oval Office in these times, it’s a false narrative.

Cancel-culture is practically wiping out the indigenous peoples in what we call the Americas. Cancel-culture is destroying the culture of Africans in the Diaspora, specifically those treated as human cargo during the hundreds of years of the transatlantic slave trade. Cancel-culture is destroying the Black Wall Street and killing hundreds of Black people. Cancel-culture is the Southern pastime of lynching Black people. Cancel-culture is monolingual gringos telling native Spanish-speaking peoples to “speak English!” Cancel-culture is second and third generation Europeans telling Africans from the Diaspora with roots buried deeply in American soil for at least 400 years to “Go back to Africa!”

“Cancel-culture” is certainly not what some white people are complaining about, including the current conversation about removing Confederate monuments, memorials and statues, which never should have been when the treasonous Confederacy lost the American Civil War more than 150 years ago. At its core, the screaming of “Cancel-culture” is the pathetic cry of some white people who long for the “good ol’ days” when they could say and do anything, including killing Black people, with impunity.

What has been canceled is white immunity and white impunity, and white impunity is one of the bulwarks of white privilege, rooted in pseudo-theories of white supremacy. And nothing bothers white supremacists and white nationalists more than not being able to say anything without being fact-checked or challenged, or do anything without being held accountable. One of the most recent examples in the news is the confrontation between U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio -Cortez and U.S. Rep Ted Yoho attempting to “cancel” an outspoken woman of color with his “language of violence.”

When Ivanka Trump was “canceled” as the keynote commencement speaker at WSU Tech in Kansas, she was actually included on a menu of speakers, more like a side dish of Goya beans instead of the main dish, students would have the option to listen to. The cancel-culturalists though only want their narrative to be heard, above all others.

But here’s some non-“fake news” for Ivanka. Being the daughter of the Donald, who is currently occupying the White House, is not a credential to be a keynote speaker at any college, perhaps with the exception being the now defunct Trump University. In fact, her appointment by her father as a White House Advisor is not only the grossest form of nepotism, but it’s also the very definition of “white privilege.”

White privilege is not a credential. It is not earned. It is bestowed upon a person by virtue of his or her race (read white in America), and social and financial standing, often born in to. But even the “lowest” white American, socially and economically, can look to white privilege, even if it simply manifests itself in acting out based on theories of white supremacy, what we are seeing with all the actions of these “Karens.”

“Cancel-culture” is a conundrum because it is just one more thing packaged by and promoted by some white people, tightly wrapped in a “little white lie.”

If I hear one more white person say “Cancel-culture…”

Posted in Black Shadows and Through the White Looking Glass, ezwwaters, Lest We Forget, Politics, race, Slavery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Comparison of New York State Laws and Regulations and Slave Codes

In the mid-1980s, while doing research on an essay, which I would entitle, “From the Plantation to the Penitentiary,” I came across something startling.  I had already seen the connection between slavery and imprisonment, from the very beginning of the end of slavery, right in the 1865 Thirteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, to wit, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

This “loophole” in the Thirteenth Amendment that declared “slavery or involuntary servitude” illegal “except as a punishment for crime” was used to re-enslave Black people.

“Theories” of Black criminality did not truly develop until after Reconstruction (1877), to justify the new penal slavery, when all the gains Blacks had achieved through the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments became null and void with the Hayes-Tilden Compromise (1876-77), which marks the end of Reconstruction and the “rise of the South.”  (To understand Confederate monuments, memorials and statues, look at the aftermath of Reconstruction.)  Additionally, new laws were passed and/or stringently enforced to ensnare Black people.

Today, what we term “mass incarceration,” better described as “hyper incarceration,” since Black people are grossly disproportionately imprisoned, not the masses, has its origins in that loophole in the Thirteenth Amendment.  From the plantation to the penitentiary, from peonage to convict leasing to chain gangs to private prisons, to the various wars on crime….

The re-enslavement of Black people through the prison system was not only insidious, but it was also by design.

While researching the re-enslavement of Black people, I took a look at the Slave Codes.  I then looked at New York’s Corrections Law, and New York’s Prison Rules and Regulations.  It was as if I had discovered the Rosetta Stone!  Laws that were operative in the New York prison system in the mid-1980s had the exact same language as the Slave Codes!  See below chart, A Comparison of New York State Laws and Regulations and Slave Codes.

New York State Laws and Regulations Slave Codes*
Correction Law ⸹170(1). Contracts prohibited. The commissioner of correction shall not, nor shall any other authority whatsoever, make any contract by which the labor or time of any prisoner in any state prison, reformatory, penitentiary of jail in this state, or the product or profit of his work, shall be contracted, let, farmed out, given or sold to any person, firm, association or corporation; except that the convicts in said penal institutions may work for, and the products of their labor may be disposed of to, the state or any political division thereof or for or to any public institution owned or managed and controlled by the state or an political division thereof. Art. 174. The slave is incapable of making any kind of contract, except those which relate to his own emancipation. (LA)

 

Art. I, ⸹1005. No master, overseer, or other person having the charge of a slave, must permit such slave to hire himself to another person, or to hire his own time, or to go at large, unless in a corporate town, by consent of the authorities thereof, evidenced by an ordinance of the corporation. (AL)

 

XXXIII. [N]o owner, master or mistress of any slave…shall permit or suffer any of his, her or their slaves to go and work out of their respective houses or families, without a ticket in writing under pain of forfeiting the sum of current money, for every such offence. (SC)

Civil Rights Law ⸹79(1). Forfeiture of office and suspension of civil rights.   Except as provided in subdivision two a sentence of imprisonment in a state correctional institution for any term less than for life or a sentence of imprisonment in a state correctional institution for an indeterminate term, having a minimum of one day and a maximum of natural life, forfeits all the public offices, and suspends, during the term of the sentence, all the civil rights, and all private trusts, authority, or powers of, or held by, the person sentenced. Art. 177. The slave is in capable of exercising any public office or private trust. (LA)
Department of Correctional Services Directive #4201.   The inmate shall write to the Superintendent expressing an intent to marry. Art. 182. Slaves cannot marry without the consent of their masters, and their marriages do not produce any of the civil effects which result from such contract.   (LA)
Standards of Inmate Behavior, 104.10. Inmates shall not conspire or take any action which is intended to or results in the takeover of any area of the facility, or, acting in a group, engage in any violent conduct involving threat of violence.

 

Standards of Inmate Behavior, 104.11. Inmates shall not engage in any violent conduct or conduct involving the threat of violence.

 

Standards of Inmate Behavior, 104.12. Inmates shall not lead, organize, participate, or urge other inmates to participate in work-stoppages, sit-ins, lock-ins, or other action which may be detrimental to the order of the facility.

 

Standards of Inmate Behavior, 104.13. Inmates shall not engage in conduct which disturbs the order of the facility.

Art. I, ⸹1015. Riots, routs, unlawful assemblies, trespasses, and seditious speeches by a slave, are punished, by the direction of any justice before whom he may be carried. (AL)
Standards of Inmate Behavior, 105.10.   Unauthorized Assembly or Activity.   The unauthorized assembly of inmates in groups is prohibited. The size of the group is determined by local policy (generally five people). Art. I, ⸹1020. Not more than five male slaves shall assemble together at any place off the plantation, or place to which they belong, with or without passes or permits to be there, unless attended by the master or overseer of such slave, or unless such slaves are attending the public worship of God, held by white persons. (AL)
Standards of Inmate Behavior, 105.11. Religious services, speeches or addresses by inmates other than those approved by the Superintendent or designee are prohibited. Art. I, ⸹1022. Any slave who preaches, exhorts, or harangues any assembly of slaves, or of slaves and free persons of color, without a license to preach or exhort from some religious society of the neighborhood, and in the presence of five slave-holders, must – be punished. (AL)
Standards of Inmate Behavior, 109.13. Inmates who are on outside work assignments such as community service projects, or outside ground details shall not leave their assigned area. Art. I, ⸹1008. No slave must go beyond the limits of the plantation on which he resides, without a pass, or some letter or token from his master or overseer, giving him authority to go and return from a certain place. (AL)
Standards of Inmate Behavior, 113.10. Inmates shall not make, possess, sell or exchange any item or contraband that may be classified as a weapon by description, use or appearance.

 

Standards of Inmate Behavior, 113.18. Inmates shall not be in possession of tools without authorization.

Art. I, ⸹1012. No slave can keep or carry a gun, powder, shot, club or other weapon, except the tools given him to work with, unless ordered by his master or overseer to carry such weapon from one place to another. (AL)

When we look at the above chart, it is patently clear that the same methods of social control of Black people who were enslaved in America were and are used in America’s prison system today.

Later, Andrew Hacker’s 1992 book, Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal, confirmed my suspicions.  Hacker posits that America’s criminal legal system is used as a system of social control of Black people that really doesn’t have anything to do with crime and punishment.  In fact, after being duly punished for being duly convicted of a crime, the collateral consequences of a conviction, including the loss of the right to vote, often a lifetime ban in Southern states, further hinders people with the burden of a criminal conviction to fully realize liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Indeed, since 1877, reactionary Southern Whites and complicit Northern whites, have attacked and thwarted the post-Civil War amendments, that is, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, from being fully realized.

When we see Trump playing the law and order “race card” in his bid for reelection, it is just a continuation of all the reactionary law and order legislation that started in 1877 to thwart the rights of Black people.  And note that Democrats, most infamously Bill Clinton, also played this law and order race card.

Clearly, the cards have been stacked against Black people in the criminal “justice” game.  Thus, when we talk about the current criminal legal system, it’s not simply a matter of reforming it — reforms only tweak the existing system and its structures.  When we see and admit that the basis of today’s criminal legal system is built on the Slave Codes, then we need to abolish it, not reform it, and work towards something that moves us as a nation beyond the “perfect Union” some of the slave owning forefathers envisioned.

 

_________________________

*The Slave Codes are followed by their states’ abbreviation. The Louisiana Slave Code of 1824; the Alabama Slave Code of 1852; and the South Carolina Slave Code of 1740.

 

Posted in crime, Lest We Forget, race, Slavery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dear Daddy: A Love Letter to Your Beloved South

July 15, 2020

Dear Daddy,

Last night I dreamt of you for the first time since your death. I woke up with tears in my eyes. Although you have been dead for a little more than 38 years, in the middle of the night it came to me with such clarity – you live on in me. Even if it is just one drop of your blood….

I don’t know if you came to me last night because of what is happening in our country, what is happening in your beloved South, what is being called a “racial reckoning.” This so-called racial reckoning is actually the weight of history, the combined weight of all the Confederate monuments, memorials and statues in this country, coming down on America.

You should know that I resented you for not taking me on your trips down South in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. I resented you until I learned the history of this country, including your beloved South and its obsession with subjugating and destroying Black males and raping Black women. I came to understand that you were protecting me in the only way you could, by not taking me on your trips down South, to what I now think of as forever the Confederacy, despite its defeat, and subjecting me to the evil ways of white folk. Of course, we had/have issues in New York, but Northerners have been a little more sophisticated in their discrimination and segregation of Black folk.

Whenever I think of you, I think of a proud native Southern son. You always stood military erect, and one could argue that that comes from serving in the segregated U.S. Army during World War II as a teenager, but I think it’s in the blood. I stand as you did, and people always ask me if I was in the military. I say no, though I have fought other battles. DNA analysis has advanced to such an extent that I can tell you that at this moment in time we trace our blood, our roots, to Nigeria, Benin and Togo, Cameroon, Congo and Southern Bantu peoples, and Ghana. Most of our DNA is found in Nigeria, and Nigeria as a country is a concept and product of colonialism that brought together more than 250 ethnic groups within arbitrary borders – thus our genetic connection to all those other West Coast African nations — but that’s another story.

This so-called racial reckoning in America is perhaps a moment in time unlike any other in American history. Those Confederate monuments, memorials and statues that overshadowed your youth are coming down all these years later after the Civil War, more than 150 years. Some people think it’s amazing, but it’s long overdue. They never should have been.

I began this letter stating that I woke up with tears in my eyes. They were your tears. Through your tears you showed me the South you were born in, Yeatesville, NC, and grew up in, throughout Virginia. As I wrote above, I later learned why you never took me South, but seeing the South through your eyes, having tapped into what Jung called the collective unconscious, I understand.

I understand that 14-year-old Emmett Till’s brutal murder at the hands of white men in 1955, five years before my birth, was in the forefront of your consciousness every time you traveled South and perhaps thought about traveling with your first-born son to meet your family, my family. I understand that as a proud Southerner whose roots I’ve traced to 1805 in the Township of Bath, NC, serving in the segregated U.S. Army as a teenager, must’ve stung and brought tears to your eyes. I understand that my Bajan maternal grandparents, having been colonized by the British – many descendants of Africans in the Caribbean have inherited that British arrogance and dislike of Yankees – probably disapproved of you, a native Southern son, because of how white folk have drove a wedge between Africans in the diaspora, telling one, Caribbean born, that they are better than the other, American born. Note that my maternal grandparents came to America on a ship in 1919 and 1923, respectively, not a slave ship, and by way of Ellis Island. On the ship’s manifest their race is listed as “African.” I know this was white folk’s doing, to differentiate them from us, native born “Negroes.” I need to repeat that you served during World War II, and that one of your uncles served during World War I, and I would bet someone in our ancestral line even fought during the Civil War! So for all descendants of Africans in the Diaspora, as well as indigenous Africans, who come to America to experience her liberty and bounty should know that both exist in large part because Black people in America, concentrated in the South at certain points in American history, fought for this country, “to make the world safe for democracy,” and to “end all wars,” and to fight the evil of white supremacy personified in Hitler’s Third Reich, bore the whips and scorns so you could travel on a ship that was not a slave ship and enjoy the “blessings of liberty” and freedom.

Daddy, please feel free to visit me again! An older cousin told me you were writing or working on writing a book. If true, I want to learn that story. Note that I have four books published.

Love,

Your Son

Posted in being a teenager, Education, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers, Growing Up, Lest We Forget | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment