Tag Archives: change

Gentrification of Identity

displacement

You don’t tear a person down and rebuild them with intent on something better. That’s what they do to black and brown neighborhoods. Why would you do it to a person?

Talk this way, walk this way, wear these clothes…

Why is there never recognition of the special in each person?

Why do we toss away self determination for impression?

Sanitization has been a thorn in our side for too long. Do we not recognize it’s effects?

Why not add to what is there. Teach value in authentic self and the importance of widening scope. Foster adaptability not assimilation.

The Art of Mis-Interaction

an-old-design-02_grande

“Rhythm is the basis of life, not steady forward progress. The forces of creation, destruction, and preservation have a whirling, dynamic interaction.” – Kabbalah

I don’t interact the easiest. Whew! There, I said it. Ahhhhh. That really is a weight off my shoulders. Not like Atlas weight, but still larger than a whiffle ball.

Look, I really don’t. I do help, support, foster, nurture, mentor, teach, listen to, pep up, stand behind, but I don’t interact the easiest (now this is the point where I have repeated myself, realized it is a refrain and that there will be a poem from this also). It’s like my heart, mind, and spirit are mob bosses arguing over turf as they rally their “families.” I will save you from the extended metaphor of detailing the families based on the boss and the various things associated. Just know I could do it if I wanna. I don’t. Point is that they tend to not make things smooth. I don’t do things smooth. Except how I pulled you in with that cool quote. That was smooth. Admit it. The picture was just icing on the cake. No there is not cake.

I hate making mistakes. My greatest fear is coming up short (anybody even thinking of tall person jokes I will telepathically kick you in the shins. Felt it twinge? That was a warning). I’ve always despised that feeling. Fail has a way of making you ok with trying again. Screwing up makes you want to run arms flailing into the shadows, go home and pack your underwear, then try jump through your moms full length mirror hoping to get to Narnia. It never works by the way. It takes a lot of regrouping to recover from mistakes. But nobody is perfect right? And avoiding mistakes is more tiring than recovering from making one.

See, the thing is, I believe in people. I just don’t always trust everyone. Yes, that means I am watching many of you very very closely. It also means that a conversation with me is like a tennis match. You keep volleying hopping to gain an advantage but that return is mean. So is the serve.

Another important aspect is that if you give me an impression, I operate off that impression. You might not recognize it because I still operate with respect, compassion and appreciation. I just don’t see you the same. There are stringent limitations that come with that. The energy I expend changes dramatically. Doesn’t matter if you don’t see what you did. Your the one blind to the fact, not me. Your vision is blurry not Flava’s. If you don’t understand the significance of the last two sentences, then I might need to rethink our relationship anyway.

I don’t buy wolf tickets. Talk all you want. I’ve been the “good listener” since 6th grade. Doesn’t mean I’m convinced. Probe all you want. It’s G14 classified over here. You aint got clearance then there is a nice brochure we have prepared that will give you all the pertinent information. Throw out a hook and a line…*I’m laughing* (nice fisherman hat and vest). Unless you lowering yourself in these waters in a cage like them hunting for the biggest shark people, then I ain’t got much for you. Take a risk babee!

If you have G14 classification and If I trust you, then I believe it’s ok to make mistakes around you. Because I trust you’ll talk to me about (or slap me in the back of the head, cuss me out, slap my hand). I hold you close enough to be off, to do too much, to say too much, to be way off, to be dumb. Only thing is…it also hurts way way more when you walk away, back away, don’t respond, won’t communicate, attack, or dismiss. It all looks like falling short to me.

I am a hapless romantic southern gentleman. Maaaan, I aint got time to unpack all the things that brings me. But the book is coming. I promise! No, seriously…I PROMISE!

I’m also very flirtatious. Probably way too flirtatious to not follow up on the flirtation or recognize when the interaction has shifted. Ha! But I’m good at it tho. At least I think so. I did have someone who kept going, “That was what you were doing?” That was traumatizing. I had to spend weeks at flirt camp regaining my mojo. Thank goodness for smores.

I don’t have time to entertain foolishness (I got it from my momma).

I retreat. Sometimes I disappear. It goes with the very private nature. If you don’t have security clearance, then I probably won’t be able to break down why I feel the need to retreat or disappear. So I apologize for not warning you or explaining it. It’s a sucky quandary. I’m complicated.

This post is long as hell. You’ve been subjected to my need to get this out of my head. The poem will be better I promise.

I don’t interact the easiest. For lots of reasons. But I love the interactions I have had. I try to learn from my mistakes. I’m grateful for the people who put up with me. I am sorry for the ones I have shut out. I will change and trust more. Then I won’t. Then I will again. Then I will write more posts and blogs. At least until I become ridiculously stupendously happy. Then I’ll draw daffodils and sing folks songs.

One other thing…

To those that don’t know if they have abused their privileges. I bet I got you thinking now don’t I? Is it me? He did sorta look at me funny 3 weeks ago. His last text message was missing a comma, was it a sign. Hmmm, I wonder. Well, here is some advice. Don’t inbox me, email me or text me. Cuz, you know…limited clearance. I’ll cleverly distract you. Look a new reality show staring Monique and Boris Kudjo. See?

Orangoutang. Cool word… Orangoutang.

Ok, I think that is all. I have made a new post for my blog. Next I’ll publish it. It will go out to my social media pages. Most of friends won’t read it. They all kick babies and pluck the wings off of butterflies in their spare time.

Orangoutang

Say it with me…

Orangoutang

The Tipping Point…

change-4-1imepyc

I was sitting around a table with scholars, thinkers, and culturalists from all over (the country and the world) as we got introduced to the administrative logistics of our fellowships with the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University. I have the honor of being a 2015-2016 Nasir Jones Fellow with the Hip Hop Archive & Research Institute at the Hutchins Center. As we introduced ourselves and our work, I was struck with a feeling. I listened to everyone mention the institutions they taught at. One scholar had just gotten tenure and was very excited (rightfully so). Each of them on sabbatical or leave from their home institution to participate in scholarly activity. I felt a little awkward.

I’m sure they are evaluated on their scholarly activity much like we are at Saint Augustine’s University. There is actually a category on our evaluations that is “Professional Activity.” The definition is below.

Professional Activities – Participating in discipline related conferences, workshops, and artistic presentations, evidence of publication, professional presentations, discipline related research, submission of grant proposals, and obtaining grant funding.

Now this category is new, but the premise isn’t. Before this it was listed as “Research and Scholarly Activity.” I of course would think that being a research fellow at Harvard would qualify. Wouldn’t you?

I was so excited when I got word that I had received the fellowship. I made sure to let my department chair know about the appointment. I slowly started to tell my colleagues. I was encouraged to share with our Office of Marketing and Communications. I did. The piece they put out on it was picked up by HBCU Digest. Our new president was aware and offered congratulations in passing. As the spring semester ended I prepared for what I knew was going to be a great journey and a wonderful opportunity to glean some insight that I could use myself and pass on to my students.

I saw if as a continuation of work I had been doing with colleagues on campus. I had been a part of a grant funded project that allowed myself and other colleagues to develop a writing course based on popular culture. This was in addition to other programming that fostered critical think and writing skills while pushing the exposure of the students to various modes of analysis. As an artist, I enjoyed being able to take this approach. I had already worked with secondary school teachers on the same thing through a relationship with Communities in Schools NC and the NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching. This included helping educators integrate pop culture into their classrooms, especially Hip Hop. Through this grant funded project I was able to bring that experience to my institution. I saw this fellowship as a chance to have even more to offer and to expand the impact of the things our project had been able to accomplish.

Before the semester reached its end I notified HR that I wouldn’t be teaching upcoming year (because of the fellowship). This was presented to me as a necessary step to get my class load covered, especially if an adjunct would need to be hired. Makes sense. That hole in coverage would need to be addressed. Justification would be required for additional hiring. Can’t get more justification than the loss of a instructor for a full academic year.

That was it. Our contracts are annual and I am not tenured so a sabbatical wouldn’t apply to me.

I finished my end of semester tasks and prepared for graduation. When graduation ended, I said my goodbyes and gave out a lot of hugs.

In June I got a call from HR. I was told I needed to come to campus to pick up checks. It was explained that I had checks that included my remaining salary (my pay was spread out over 12 months) and a benefits refund. My benefits had been stopped at the end of May. They decided to cash out the remaining salary rather. With the checks was a letter from the president saying that he accepted my resignation. Just like that I was no longer an employee at Saint Augustine’s University. My 9 years of service to the institution were completed.

For me, what hit me when I sat around that table listening to the other scholars was that I didn’t have a “home” institution to return to. I wasn’t on loan to Harvard for the year. I was in a unique space that I don’t quite know how to explain. So many people in congratulating me on this opportunity have asked about me returning to Saint Augustine’s University. Initially I danced around the subject. I didn’t want to get into the details. I didn’t want it to sound bad or malicious and I wasn’t sure it was. I just knew how it felt opening that letter from the president.

Now that I have had a few months to think about. Now that I am here at Harvard amongst this cohort of scholars. Now that I have talked more about what happened with some of my close friend and mentors. I can say that for a moment, I felt that this wonderful thing I was about to accomplish didn’t mean that much to the place I had called “home” for 9 years. A place that was my alma mater. I felt cast away. That it wasn’t important for me to be going to do this on behalf of myself, the arts and Hip Hop community, and my “home” institution. That I will get over.

The reality is that my alma mater is going through changes. We have a new president who is dedicated to restoring the prestige and pride of the institution. That includes restructuring, cuts, shifts, etc. Maybe the challenges of the present outweighed the promise of the future. I don’t know.

For now, I am dedicated to getting the most from this opportunity and I will prepare to think about where to share my experiences and work next later. I will never be too far from my alma mater. I will always keep my ears open for ways to share with my alma mater. I just won’t be returning “home.”

We will see how it all turns out. I hope that tomorrow brings the best for both of us.

Damn this sounds like a post breakup reflection.

It definitely is a tipping point.

Signs – A new poem

WarningSigns

Signs

She said she enjoyed suspense
Looked me in my eye
Smiled
It took every thing in me not to run
Because hesitation
Is often a respectful and compassionate billboard
Letting you know that what you need
Might be waiting at the next exit
But I don’t heed warnings well
I’m not too good with signs

Like the one
Neon lit between her lips
Juke joint juxtaposed
With the temptation on the tip of his tongue
He made her want to discover the poet inside her
But the time between inspiration and insatiable
Can come and go so quick

That by the time she realized
The truth of the poet inside her
They’d both lied
Her still laying
With tears in her eyes
Him with new conquests in his eyes
I wished I had known before I booked him
For the show

I understand though
Optimism can become desert deceit
When you’ve become parched
Since the last wet taste
Dehydrated
Facing decisions like segregated designations
Marriage like bright light over horizon
Indulgence like dark degradation
Seems like white only and colored only
Water fountains

Hallucinations can happen
When Road Closed
Look like Rest Stop Ahead
Have you crash test dummy desperately
Diving into accidental embraces

I’m no better
Show me a danger zone

And I see an area under construction
An optimistic land developer
Who’s been an indecisive bulldozer for too long
Never knowing whether to dig or bury
I’ve got a hard hat and a lunch box
Because it’s a long days work being this beautifully broken
Fenced into construction sites
With lovers wearing orange vests and steel toe boots
Then wondering why all I have are stories
of things falling apart

Ask me if I can memory a blueprint of love working
I’ll answer
What examples do I have of building to completion,
Joyous occupancy, effective and efficient maintenance
Death and divorce has robbed me of a semblance
Of certainty that it’s possible
So I’m making it up as I go along
Plans are just pages of passionate principles
But no context
It’s all imagination
Ingenuity
Dammit I’m drawing this shit in crayon

Life is just a School Zone
Full of lessons
A roadway full of decisions
and speed limits
A lot with instructions
to Park in Designated Spaces Only
I’ve paid a lot of fines
Learned a lot from my experiences

But I’m gone be ok
God granted the peace
that likes to dress up as patience
and play trick or treat with elitists and enigmas
It’s just a matter of reading the signs
Closed
Out for lunch
Private
They’re just all defense mechanisms
Just steps along the path to being comfortable
Open 24hrs A Day

That’s why I’m good at doing this work
Service entrance above my apartment door
Where the exit sign should be
Means I signed up when I step out
To face the day
Even though my choice got me asking questions
Like why me
When them others got diamond encrusted
Out of Order pieces
Wood carved Out for Repairs medallions
We Reserve the Right to Refuse tshirts
And Try Back Later four finger rings

But I tried to turn my back on my calling
God taped a kick me sense of responsibility
to my back
Now I bear the weight of the world
Between my shoulder blades
And spend my days
With life’s foot in my ass
Trust me, I got the message

See there’s no turning back
Once the door has closed behind you
Your vision, beliefs, and sense of purpose
Waiting on the other side
Every day in the world is a meeting
With the primary stockholders of all that you are
They knew the best course of action was going public
Too late to say you aint ready
When it plainly said
Authorized personnel only

I just answer the call
I’ve tried to manipulate my destiny
Ignorant
That a gated community
Can quickly become a prison yard
That when the hands of the clock
Begin to believe they dictate the time
It will be too late
When they realize they are outnumbered

She said she enjoyed suspense
I’m looking for what’s suspended in her eyes
Then let the moment pass by
With no reply
Because hesitation
Is often a respectful and compassionate billboard
Letting you know that what you need
Might be waiting at the next exit
But I don’t heed warnings well
And I’m not too good with signs

Miracle Whip (a conversation on power)

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Miracle Whip: A Villainous Villanelle

Miracle Whip is polarizing
Undeterred by contrasting perceptions
The aim is to rally its base

Moderates vary in their condiments
Revolutionaries make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
See Miracle Whip is polarizing

They say po’ folks beg for cheese in blocs
Instead of working for white bread
The aim is to rally its base

Ketchup goes best with chalk outlines
Mayonnaise is all liberalism and no fight
But Miracle Whip is polarizing

Bipartisan delis seek extravagant expansion
Say menus should be geopolitical
The aim is to rally its base

Privilege packaged all red, white, and blue
Butter knives legislated, privatized, or militarized
Miracle Whip is polarizing
Its aim is to rally its base

Music on the world stage…Hip Hop!

Global-Music

I was asked to talk to some college freshmen about music on the world stage. I thought about what I wanted to cover with them. I wanted to make sure that I made some connections that made sense. I wanted to offer them some new information. I also wanted to use the opportunity to address Hip Hop and how far-reaching it is as both a culture and a genre of music.

When you talk about music on the world stage it is with the understanding that music has always been global. Almost every culture has music as a part of it. Music is used to tell stories, it is a part of rituals and celebrations, it is a part of important ceremonies, and it is used as praise and worship. Classical music, opera, and other forms of music have inspired people for centuries. Just take a look at cultural traditions in Africa, Japan, and across the Caribbean. Look at the impact of music in America (Spirituals, Blues, Jazz, Soul, Hip Hop). So when you talk about music on the world stage you are talking about popular music in these modern times. Because culture is a major commodity in the world market.

When we talk about pop music we are talking about music mediated for the masses. That means that there is an entity (TV station, radio, record label, corporation of some kind) that is presenting the music to the people.

One good case study of the global impact of popular music is Hip Hop. Mainly because it’s only 40 years old and has grown to be an important form of music to communities across the world.

What we see when we look at Hip Hop globally is that it plays a role as protest music and social commentary.

Before we get too deep into looking at Hip Hop let’s look at some foreign pop stars…

http://www.policymic.com/articles/83305/15-foreign-pop-stars-who-are-about-to- become-household-names-in-the-u-s

Aryana Sayeed (Afghanistan) is considered the first Afghani artist whose music was spread internationally. The sound of the music is much like American club music, but if you look at the images in the video you see some of Afghani culture blended with what we know of pop here in America.

Fernando and Sorocaba (Brazil) are country singers. They are the number 1 artists on Brazil’s top 40 chart above Lorde who sings the hit “Royals.” It can be unusual to think that a Brazilian group would sing country, but remember music is global.

Li Yuchun (China) is a pop singer that beat out Justin Beiber to win the MTV Europe Awards honor for best act. In the video you see a blend of Chinese and American pop culture.

Music as a unifying force, a bridge. It can help bring together cultures. It is a way of understanding that is often universal. The musical backdrop can help people find common ground regardless of the difference in the language of the lyrics. If we clap a simple measure (musical term) out together and count them (similar to counting bars, a songwriting term), you’ll see how quickly everyone finds the same pace and stays together. There may eventually be some improvisation, but not at the expense of the group unity.This is an activity I use in workshops. The results are almost always the same. People begin to communicate together in a new language that feels familiar, rhythm. If you start to add other sounds you’ll eventually get a reverie that is on beat and in pace. This is even in a room with no musicians.

It is this language of rhythm that is part of the foundation of Hip Hop.

Hip Hop started in the South Bronx of NY. Changes in immigration laws and urban renewal put caribbean immigrants, Puerto Ricans, and Blacks in the same community. Social conditions, political climate, and cultural traditions fused to spark a new movement.

There are three main DJs credited with building the culture that all have island roots (DJ Kool Herc, DJ Flash, Afrika Bambaataa). Bambaataa was the leader of the Black Spades, one of NY’s most notorious gangs. He turned gang members into artists and ambassadors through Hip Hop. He then took them around the world on tour with him spreading the culture. He gave them the name the Zulu Nation (a reference to an African Tribe) and later The Universal Zulu Nation.

Because of this there are UZN chapters thriving today all across the world.This is the universality of music. With music as a bridge, various cultures across the world can find common ground and common struggle and join together in solidarity. Members of UZN consider themselves as family no matter the difference in geography.

There are a number of artists using Hip Hop to speak to the conditions they face in their countries. This includes social conditions as well as political perspectives.

The Palestinian Rap Group DAM

http://www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/music/palestinian-rap-group-dam-reach-for-the-moon

DAM – I Fell In Love With A Jew http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3-v09TQOQE

There is also a recognition of Hip Hop as a tool for reaching out to other countries. The US State Department uses American artists at ambassadors to other countries.

Toni Blackman

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/13/toni-blackman-who-should-be- famous_n_1582590.html

Toni Blackman – Invisible Woman http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coIkYlzQlNY

Hip Hop is a valuable tool for sharing the emotions, frustrations, and ideas that people have. This can also tie people together.

In this Washington Post article the possibilities of Hip Hop (which is still present in independent Hip Hop in American, but not in mainstream/commercial rap) as a tool for change is highlighted. The appeal of music worldwide is evident in this article as well.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/therootdc/post/why-is-global-hip-hop-better-than-made-in-america-rap-music/2013/06/11/f8328054-d2f3-11e2-9f1a-1a7cdee20287_blog.html

Music is global. It always has been and always will be. Whatever type of music you listen to or like, you can find something like it in another country. Music is a universal language.