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Chris “Christylez” Bacon

March 25, 2010

On Tuesday, March 23, 2010, musician Chris “Christylez” Bacon visited our class to share his art, thoughts and politics. He captivated and energized our students with interactive musical performances. The video below includes “Mambo Sauce,” “Roaches” and an impromptu beatbox and spoon demonstration.

After Chris’ performance and a question and answer period, the class discussed our reading, “A Nation of Millions: Hip Hop Culture and the Legacy of Black Nationalism,” by S. Craig Watkins. Topics included black capitalism, economic nationalism, commodification and the political relevance of hip hop to a modern black freedom agenda. Chris helped us work through these ideas offering his artistic perspective.

The implications of commodification was an important theme. We addressed this idea when discussing different frames for hip hop artists labeled mainstream or conscious. Our students seemed to agree that there could be no “pure” space in which one could be free from the threat of inauthenticity or co-optation.

Learn more about Chris at www.christylez.com

On Resistance

March 5, 2010

Culture has been an important theme throughout this course. In our class on Tuesday, March 2nd, we explored the ways in which art did not simply provide the backdrop for resistance, but was resistance unto itself and energized social movement politics. In light of this discussion, we had a creative exercise in the art of resistance.

A potluck poem is a poem in which, each member of a group of people contribute a line to collectively create a piece. Given the theme of resistance, students each contributed a line to create a group poem.

Here one of our students, Chris Roberts, and Dr. Collins lead the work. The class was able to participate as a whole as we all repeated the chorus: “Resistance”.

If we were to do it over again, I would definitely adjust the placement of my computer’s built in camera to keep our lead performers in view. Nevertheless, we had a great time.

On Resistance

I refuse to let you fool me, you won’t win

This isn’t a game—this is survival

Taking a risk,

Through words,

Thoughts and emotions.

Resistance

Lost in a sea of the nameless

Full of treasures a riches yet, untapped.

Pushing gently, but continually I am held up by the masses

In my eyes, I see

Resistance

What have I heard today?

Thought of contemporary consciousness cross my mind

The neglect of certain female activists,

Their silences.

Their messages lost in an abyss of ignorance

By these ropes I’m bound?

Aint no one gonna hold me down!

Resistance

Broke free of the physical chains,

Now my mind is in danger of captivity.

Black against black fists show cowards

All coming together to fight for a common goal.

Coalition building call all work

As a source of identity.

Resistance

The actions that I take in my daily life

I have to think about resistance or acceptance.

I stay positive

I stay proud and I stay free.

Resistance,

My resistance is evident through my persistence,

increasingly new ways of living and enacting them.

Resistance

Resistance never fails to create havoc.

Day to day the wind shall blow the wall and the

Water will smooth the sand

The man will punch the building

And we will all be free

For the wall will one day be smooth

The beach a seabed

The building rubble

And we will all be free

Day to day…

Ibn Khaldun–Father of Sociology?

March 4, 2010

This weeks reading by Stockley Carmichael “First of All and Finnally African”  referred to the Sociologist Ibn Khaldun and his contributions  to Sociology. This made me think of my first day in SOCY101 class, when we were introduced to the first three Sociologists: Karl Marx 1818~1883), Emile Durkheim (1858~1917), Max Weber (1864~1920). As a student, this struck me as very odd; they lived around the same period of time, all of European descent, and all western thinkers. As a child of immigrant parents and having lived and studied abroad, I wasn’t sure if this information before me was true or if what I had previously been taught to be true.

Having lived in North Africa, I was taught that Ibn Khaldun was the founding father of Sociology as a discipline. Ibn Khaldun (1332AD~1406AD) was born North Africa in present-day Algeria. He is considered a forerunner of several social scientific disciplines: demography, cultural history histography,the philosophy of history, and Sociology. He is best known for his Muqaddimah (known as Prolegomenon in the West), the first volume of his book on universal history. His works not only touch on the dialectic but, also he was first to introduce the concept of  surplus value, communitarianism, and social contract.  His work has been disputed as being copied and even plagiarized by Karl Marx without any reference.

When researched in Wikipedia he is first and foremost seen as a ‘Muslim’ scholar and second, as having ‘Similar’ works to that of Marx, Hegel, Durkheim. Yet,  how could his work be ‘Similar’ if he proceeds all three scholars by five centuries?  Secondly, if he’s work is so ‘similar’ why is it that it is taught in one part of the world and not in another? Third, are their other Sociologists who have made ‘Similar’ contributions?

Being frustrated and confused by this information, I decided to ask a professor who might shed light on the topic. To my surprise, not only did I receive negative feedback, but, most importantly, Ibn Khaldun’s  work was labeled as being debatable and imprecise to be taught. It was at this point in my academic career that I realized that history is unequal. The knowledge we receive is as biased, prejudiced and, subjective as the historian wills it be. And, so it is up to us as students to take the little we know and dig deep to unearth real truths and facts.

–Nasreen Cecile Djouini

Stokely Carmichael–The Evolution of Black Power

March 4, 2010

“We demonstrated from a position of weakness. We cannot be expected any longer to march and have our heads broken in order to say to whites: come on, you’re nice guys. For you are not nice guys. We have found you out.”–Stokely Carmichael Black Power, 1966

Stokely Carmichael (June 29, 1941 – November 15, 1998) was an activist, public speaker, author, and organizer. He was Trinidadian-American. Throughout his life he ascended to great heights of leadership within the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and The Black Panther Party for Self Defense (BPP). Stokely, also known as Kwame Ture, went from being an integrationist to becoming aligned with the concept of Black Nationalism. Carmichael is well known for popularizing the term “Black Power.”

His father was a carpenter and taxi driver. His mother was a stewardess for a steamship line, His mother immigrated to the U.S. when he was a child and he was raised by his grandmother. He started at Howard University in 1960. Stokely was introduced to the organization SNCC while at Howard University and graduated from the institution with a Bachelors degree in Philosophy.

Carmichael began his career with SNCC registering black voters in the “deep south”, Alabama to be specific. Stokely became chairman of SNCC in 1966. Not too long after this, one of his colleagues, James Meredith, was shot during a march. Following this event Carmichael was arrested multiple times, and upon his second release he gave a speech that would exemplify the transition he was having in his political ideology. This speech was entitled Black Power.

Read more…

Creating our own educational tools…

March 4, 2010

In Tuesday’s class (February 16), Dr. Collins said that intellectual activism is important because it “creates the conditions that make the work possible.”

This statement points to the role of education in shaping our thoughts and, consequently, our actions. Education does not merely provide us with a set of facts to memorize. In fact, I would argue that facts (names of people, places, theories, etc.) are what we remember least. Many of us cram before exams and as the information pours onto paper, it leaves us. How else could we make room for next semester?

What resonates, however, is far more meaningful and often intangible. Our education structures the way we view ourselves and our world. While this educational residue is powerful, it can also be suffocating. As Dr. Collins mentioned this semester, students are often forced into false adversarial debates. We’re taught to think in binaries. And, when we leave the classroom, we take these divisive, reductionist formulas with us—as exemplified in many debates about integration and separatism.

In an article I read by Audre Lourde my freshman year, she said that “The master’s tools can never dismantle the master’s house.” Binaries are one of these tools.

We need to develop theories and ways of structuring arguments that aren’t so falsely dichotomous, that don’t distort our analyses and tear coalitions apart.

–Amanda Shirazi

Imagining a New World for Us

March 1, 2010

There were a lot of interesting points brought up this week regarding Black Power and how blacks could not only get power, but maintain it. Some points which were mentioned in class concerning this movement were how some authors believed power (during the 1960’s) was to be obtained for blacks. Stokely Carmichael says that the base of power could be to own land and that individuals get power by knowing where they came from because knowing this allowed them to know where they were going. Carmichael says, since we come from the land, it is therefore necessary that we should be able to own it (allegory of the cave). This idea of owning the land that you come from transitions into Pan-Africanism which is a global community engaged in a collective struggle. Its aim is to empower black people all over the world since they are somehow connected.

A social structure being changed from bottom up soon became the mindset of many during the black power movement. Walter Rodney says in his article that white power makes whites stronger and richer and blacks weaker and poorer. Therefore, black power should be looked at as a way for “Negroes to take a warning to white people that they will no longer tolerate brutality and violence” according to Bayard Rustin. Frantz Fanon said your power is manifested in violence and everything about our culture that the colonist brought in needs to be destroyed. Doing so will liberate those who continued to struggle for independence.

Michael Hanson’s article, “Suppose James Brown Read Fanon,” took up a chunk of class time because it discusses the struggle between music and the movement. Black music audibly captures a feeling and many people are able to turn on a song and relive what the people of that time period were going through. During the Black Arts Movement (BAM), black popular music was used as a vehicle to speak to mass black desires (Hanson, 342). There was some tension among black art during that time period. Some wondered, can artists create art to be just that, art? They asked if all black art should be about promoting the movement and/or being political.

I agree with Hanson with his claim that music expands our minds about freedom and much more. There are artists now which may not be exactly as upfront in terms of political art as in the past, but they have a message for young adults concerning advocacy and ultimately it’s up to those individuals to make a change in the way they see the world.

–Amina M. Daniels

Frantz Fanon

February 24, 2010

Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) was a writer, psychiatrist, revolutionary, and pioneer of anti- and post- colonial thought. He was born on the Caribbean island of Martinique, which was then, as it still is today, an overseas department of France. He received a middle class education and while on the island studied under and befriended Aimé Césaire (pioneer of Négritude Movement). His experiences with the racism of Vichy France soldiers sent to occupy the island during World War II compelled him to leave Martinique and fight with Free France forces. During the war he served in North Africa and in France before returning home to the Caribbean. He would soon leave for France, and eventually North Africa, where his life as a revolutionary doctor and scholar began in earnest.

His first published work titled Black Skin, White Masks explored the psychology of dehumanization, dependency, and de-masculinization of colonial subjects. Much like Dubois’ earlier analysis of black men’s double consciousness and the effect of internalized dehumanization, Fanon analyzed the impact of a cultural inferiority complex on colonized individuals. He studied the relationship between colonized and colonizer and explored aspects of psychological denial, self-loathing, rejection of “homeland culture” and the embraceme of the colonizer’s culture, which both reflected his personal experience as a student and soldier professional in Martinique and France, and in his clinical and scholastic studies. He came to the conclusion that in order to function normally in a hypocritical, racist society black men essentially don white masks and mentally alienate themselves from their dark skin.

A later work by Fanon, and perhaps his most well known, is entitled Wretched of the Earth and is truly one of the most revolutionary works written. His final work and composed as he died from leukemia, it is a comprehensive explanation for the need for violence in dismantling colonial regimes, an explanation of the inevitable and necessary steps towards politicization of the peasantry. Wretched of the Earth also emphasizes the importance nationhood and nationalization in the former colonies for the peasantry and identifies other dynamics in the struggle for freedom and liberation. Fanon argues that violence and peasant participation in the violent destruction of the colonial regime is the only way to rid the colonized of the mental disease of colonization; that intertribal tensions that were exploited during the colonial period fall away during the war for liberation; that nationalism and not abstract nationhood is desirable for the period of reconstruction; and in a way both summarizes the methodology and progression of international struggles for liberation and forecasts what is to come (both in terms of their successes and failures).

What is perhaps most important to note is that physically, Fanon was very active in the struggle for liberation and did not resign himself exclusively to intellectual and scholastic work. In many ways (as a black man) he could not. He was originally appointed Head of the Psychiatry Department at the Blida-Joinville Hospital in Algeria but as violence in the Algerian Civil War escalated and he heard first hand reports of torture, he resigned on principle.  He published his work in revolutionary journals and newspapers and was even active in establishing a supply route southern Algeria for liberation forces.

He died in Bethesda, Maryland (small world huh?) but his body was flown to Algeria where he was eventually buried in Ain Kerma.

-Ayobami Laniyonu