Slow Thinking | Flower Bringing
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When Michael Sam kissed his man on national television and Derrick Gordon and Jason Collins both revealed white boyfriends hundreds, if not thousands, of black gay men turned to their copies of, ‘Brother to Brother’ longing to call Joseph Beam, himself, down from the ancestral realm. “If only black men didn’t internalize white supremacy they would find beauty in their faces and reflection,” remained the similar sentiment. This summer several black men have been stolen from us by the hands of white men, and the outcry is nowhere as loud. Where is all the poetry about black men loving black men is a revolutionary act? Are (publicly established) straight men not our brothers because they won’t provide a future Facebook relationship update? If we will not mourn the men, because we are taught to love parts of the whole: will we at least mourn the loss of dick? The beautiful black dick we no longer can hold and protect from white men? How many inches have been shot flaccid this summer? Where will we drink when the national drought on black semen is officially announced? How many pounds of cake have been left out in the rain? Tell me, will we ever have these sweet recipes again? Will we be able to take it?
Samuel R. Delany, “The Tale of Plagues and Carnivals,” in Flight from Nevèrÿon (via smallbutviciousblog)
I am black and I have seen black hands, millions and millions of them-
Reaching hesitantly out of days of slow death for the goods they had made, but the bosses warned that the goods were private and did not belong to them,
And the black hands struck desperately out in defence of life and there was blood, but the enraged bosses decreed that this too was wrong,
And the black hands felt the cold steel bars of the prison they had made, in despair tested their strength and found that they could neither bend nor break them,
And the black hands lifted palms in mute and futile supplication to the sodden faces of mobs wild in the revelries of sadism,
And the black hands strained and clawed and struggled in vain at the noose that tightened about the black throat,
And the black hands waved and beat fearfully at the tall flames that cooked and charred the black flesh…
Richard Wright, ‘I Have Seen Black Hands pt. III’
Ati-atihan festival, Borocay Island, Philippines
Alone, no preambles
Unveiled, even with bodies draped.
“Pole,”when speaking of our art, like basketball, or soccer, a sport we practiceweekly. “I love pole.” “Sunday I came over and we practiced pole together”. 18, 19, 20 my last leg lift makes me aware of my hip abductors, normally underused sitting in an office chair on Tuesdays Focused on my deep breaths, I feel present in my body in a way I haven’t consciously known in quite some time. I am proud of myself for showing up for myself in new ways, always imagining new forms of healing. Last we stretch our wrists and shoulders against the wall. These are the most important muscles in pole dancing, besides a strong core and your inner thighs.
My first memories of my mother and I are dancing in the kitchen to Deniece Williams’ Special Love cassette as she cooked. Spinning around in circles, dimples searing deep into my face, I knew a connection with my movement disconnected from ego and perfection. This is well before the world taught me my body as a site of shame. First grade was when I first enjoyed the idea of taking a dance class. Asking my parents about this impending opportunity brought the lessons: I am poor. My body was a tax credit annually filed with the invested hope my rigorous studies would bring a crash through the glass ceiling of economic disenfranchisement into a higher class. Until I became a millionaire, all the rage before hyper-capitalism made being a billionaire the new chic; I was a liability to my family’s stability asking for unnecessary funds. Number two: Boys don’t dance. My parents did not overtly say dancing was only for girls. Frankly, dancing was for no one, it edified the body in a lascivious manner. I do remember, however, heavy associations with dance being understood as a ‘feminine’ act. Even though black male dancers such as Alvin Ailey, Bill T. Jones, and Gregory Hines have flourished in the art, this information remained outside the sphere of our territorial neighborhood. Few dared crossed the lines. Hip hop dance would have been physically acceptable of my male body if it didn’t provide the soundtrack to the gang violence erupting in the streets.
“Stop rolling your eyes. “ I am stopped. “Boy, why do you have you hand on your hips?” I am frisked. “Only girls suck their teeth. What are you a girl?” The gender police restraints my body from violating culturally understood male gender performances through speech, disapproving reaction, and discipline. Masculinity and maleness are, unfortunately, conflated in my village, thus my body must announce itself at all times. Maleness, I am taught, actively works enacting itself, must always exert its existence unless someone dare question its validity. “What if I don’t want to be a real man?,” often I would directly question the projected truth of my body feeling crushed under the oppressive caricature of a person I was expected to grow up to be. “I’m washing dishes,” I answer into the phone receiver cradled between my ear and shoulder as I’ve seen my mother do a million times multitasking “Boy, why are you doing women’s work?” “Grandpa!” I laugh, finding him silly. “Washing dishes isn’t women’s work, its PEOPLE work,” hipping him patriarchy is seeing a new day in a 90’s kinda world.
The fluidity of my movement as a growing boy constantly hit tall rocks, crashing hard, beating the mist out of me. My young male body, like a prayer I am taught to recite daily, will one day be a man, needs to be a real man. There aren’t enough real men anymore, making me wonder if there ever was a real man for my life to be patterned after? Constantly I am reinforced to the supposed limits of allowable behavior for a (black) male. I can hold my hand in a fist thrusting into another’s jaw, but not on my hip? Performing a socially acceptable idea of (black) masculinity, I am ensured, willforcefully glide me through the world. Age six and I am denied the right of, and to, my own body, restricted from the curious exploration of childhood. My inner child has been murdered without being broadcasted on the evening news.vI am left empty inside, expected to fill the shoes of a man. This is not a new phenomena I learned sitting atop my stoop watching young brown boys, some even toddler age, tripping over in sneakers too large for their growing feet.
Ferguson, MO 8/17/14
I have lived in Saint Louis for 10 years.
I don’t have the words.
My response is to create and to document.
That’s what I know how to do.
A silent protest in Love Park, downtown Philadelphia orchestrated by performance artists protesting the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson. The onslaught of passerby’s wanting to take photos with the statue exemplifies the disconnect in American society. Simply frame out the dead body, and it doesn’t exist.
Here are some observations by one of the artists involved in the event:
I don’t know who any of these folks are.
They were tourists I presume.
But I heard most of what everything they said. A few lines in particular stood out. There’s one guy not featured in the photos. His friends were trying to get him to join the picture but he couldn’t take his eyes off the body.
"Something about this doesn’t feel right. I’m going to sit this one out, guys." "Com’on man… he’s already dead."
There were a billion little quips I heard today. Some broke my heart. Some restored my faith in humanity. There was an older white couple who wanted to take a picture under the statue.
The older gentleman: “Why do they have to always have to shove their politics down our throats.” Older woman: “They’re black kids, honey. They don’t have anything better to do.”
One woman even stepped over the body to get her picture. But as luck would have it the wind blew the caution tape and it got tangle around her foot. She had to stop and take the tape off. She still took her photo.
There was a guy who yelled at us… “We need more dead like them. Yay for the white man!”
"One young guy just cried and then gave me a hug and said ‘thank you. It’s nice to know SOMEBODY sees me.’
It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent and intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last twelve to fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segment of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.
Rev. Dr. MLK Jr., 3 weeks before his assassination