in adoration of black Olympus.

Originally posted on tracing passages:

oh, the giants are dying.
all, the giants are falling.
crumbling and tumbling down
we’re losing our heroes and heroines
left fearful,
we look around

gathered, assembled
the faithful feel hopeless
as the skies turn ways of grey
rolling tears,
streams of fear, intrepid
where do we go from here

then in a moment of despair
there,
from the mass of mourners
rings out a cry
that in falling down before us
our fore-bearers forever rise
our life-givers never die

giants dont fall, or tumble or crumble
in our hopes and dreams they rise
they go on paving ways
casting cloaks of comfort
sparking lights in us
we haven’t known
we do not walk in darkness,
and we never walk alone,
we never walk alone

gathered, assembled
the faithful are hopeful
the sky hosts the light of day
for the giants have risen
when we dry our eyes
we will…

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Dr. Maya Angelou: A Vote of Thanks

I remember reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in the main branch of the Detroit Public Library on one Saturday during ninth grade, and finding a witness in Dr. Angelou on that afternoon. I hadn’t suffered the abuses she’d suffered, but I knew what it was like to feel ugly, misshapen, lost and misunderstood. I knew what it was like to be a young girl, a young black girl, a young black girl in the United States–at once, marked, and yet invisible, always too loud, and somehow always unheard. When I read of her losing her voice, I began to find mine at that very moment. I began to understand why my dad always counseled me to listen as I listened to her speak to me about not being able to speak on those dusty library book pages. On that afternoon, I began to hear and understand. And I decided that I, too, an awkward and shy and largely friendless 13 year-old with odd clothes and nappy hair in the ninth grade, would write fearlessly, and truthfully, with utmost care for the hearts and the souls of anyone who would ever read.

For healing, hope, and inspiration–for living large, and making too many mistakes, and beating up on yourself, and then finding redemption and purpose and joy, for allowing us to watch and cheer you along on your journey, and for allowing us to sit at your feet–I thank you, Dr. Angelou. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are powerful. You are victorious. You are God’s.

And you are beloved.

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Do We Stan(d) for Nothing?

I just read Brittney Cooper’s post, “On bell, Beyoncé, and Bullshit”.  I generally love and appreciate Dr. Cooper’s work, but I am unconvinced by this latest post.  Like me, and many others, I’m sure, she is frustrated with the “Is Beyoncé a good enough feminist?” conversation. No matter what your opinion on the matter, who isn’t frustrated? The discussion has been obnoxious, on all sides of the table.

Frustration is necessary among intellectuals, but frustration can also be dangerous if wielded inappropriately, and in my very humble opinion, Dr. Cooper is exacerbating, rather than ameliorating, the problem that led her to write her latest post.

Dr. Cooper is fed up (fed up, I say!) with judgmental oldheads and others (possibly folks like myself) who are very critical of Beyoncé, and folks who “think defending bell hooks and Cornel West makes them radical.” 

She then defends Beyoncé, concluding categorically that Beyoncé is not, as bell hooks accused, a “terrorist”, and that Beyoncé is anti-violent. The last clause leads me to believe that Dr. Cooper may not have watched the Bey and Jay “RUN” trailer, which is filled with guns and gratuitous violence, and causes me to wonder if the folks who swear on all things holy that Beyoncé should and must be allowed to identify as a feminist just because she wants to (an idea that befuddles me…shall we also allow Sarah Palin to call herself a feminist if she so chooses, just because she so chooses? Should we allow Palin to refer to herself as a Democrat, assuming none of her political ideologies change?), would also now have us turn a blind eye to Beyoncé’s very clear participation in gun violence and declare her anti-violent. 

Specifically, I find myself extremely frustrated by prominent intellectuals of superior intelligence (and I’m not referring to Dr. Cooper personally or singularly here) who want to basically bully folks, by threatening them with labels such as “judgmental” and “bullshit”, into believing and proclaiming that Beyoncé and other celebrities and dignitaries are progressive political activists (who should be immune from critique because of all the good they’re supposedly doing in the world) and apolitical entertainment figures (not responsible, of course, for social ills that their images perpetuate) at the same time.

It’s intellectually dishonest, and the arguments are, at times, so untenable that they can only be successfully delivered with conversation-ending rage.

What I yearn for, as we discuss Beyoncé’s feminist/radical activist credentials, and other topics, is a retreat from self-righteous screaming, and a return to civil, reasoned discourse. I yearn for honesty, some compassion, and some principle, too.

I’ll put my cards out on the table here: I’m not a Beyoncé fan. I would attend a Beyoncé concert, but then again, I never have and have no plans to do so in the near future. I do have plans to attend a number of other artists’ concerts, and most of these artists are much less well-known than Beyoncé. I do keep a Destiny’s Child cd (yes, I said “cd”. Move along.) in my car, and when I play it, I turn up the bass. But the Sasha Fierce thing? Weird to me. The dissolution of Destiny’s Child? A turn off.

(Wait, hold on a minute. Oh gosh, the Beygency is calling me. If I don’t survive, tell my mother I loved her.)

Stealing other artists’ music? Nah. Jay-Z? Nah. Solange? Love her! Beyoncé’s extremely cultivated image? Creepy. Her participation in and endorsement of the power of the male gaze? I’m adamantly against it. Her nods to patriarchy? A problem, and one that is not solved by her simultaneous calls for girlpower.

And the demands by her fans (intellectual and otherwise) that I never critique her work, even though she is so firmly, intentionally, and aggressively in the hyper-public sphere? Intolerable.

But this is not, at core, about Beyoncé. Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is not thinking much about us, and if we are honest, we’re not actually worried about her, the human. We’re fighting over Beyoncé, the pop star. And Beyoncé, the superstar, is simply a site at which many culture wars are being fought–wars over the future and focus of feminism, colorism, gender dynamics in intimate relationships, who is and who is not a political figure, the intersections between celebrity and politics, classism, respectability politics, gender roles, and so on and so forth. And the same is true about bell hooks, and President Obama, and even good old Cornel West. We get emotional about these prominent figures, so much so that some of us find us defending or denigrating everything they say or do because of our own personal and political complexes. We become stans. Think of (mostly older) African-Americans who simply cannot bear to hear any criticism of President Obama whatsoever because OMGHESBLACKYOUUNCLETOM. Frustrating. Conservative. Dangerous. We cannot afford it. It, too, is violent.

Maybe if we can be honest about this, we won’t all get so personally offended when someone has one opinion or another regarding something Beyoncé said or did last week, or something that someone else says about Beyoncé. Perhaps, we can  realize that even the most well-read, most respected among us will not get it right (Who determines what is right?) on every issue, all of the time, and so dismissing decades of work by bell hooks because she called Beyoncé a terrorist (ahem, “RUN” trailer…guns…Chicago…Trayvon…what are you doing, Yonce?), and beatifying the President, or labeling him a capitalistrightwingmurderer, or attempting to strip folks of their intellectual credentials because they do/don’t listen to Beyoncé or because they want to #BringBacktheGirls or because they haven’t tried to #BringBacktheGirls is not only useless, but harmful to the progressive community.

And maybe when we can get beyond hurt feelings over whether someone says mean things about Beyoncé, or bell hooks, or President Obama, we can actually get down to the business of hashing out these issues. Screaming “bullshit!” at each other when someone criticizes the first black President, or a prominent black feminist, or a major pop star when we are really simply frustrated about the fact that so many discussions are being held on-site at one singular human body that those discussions become unwieldy and tough to direct is, frankly, not helpful. And we need help, all the help we can get, from each other, all the time, because we are diverse and discrete, and unity is our great strength over here in the VeryLeftofCenter. If we are not careful, we will miss our opportunity to get real work done with each other, and our feverish rage will undermine our moral standing relative to the angry, frenzied, rabid mobs on the other side, who have at least remained focused and united as they preserve their oppressive dominance over the communities we would liberate.

 

 

 

 

 

A good day.

Today was my first Mother’s Day as someone’s official mom. I’m still not totally comfortable with the title of “Mom”, and it was strange having to really respond to “Happy Mother’s Day!” with “Oh, thank you!” But I am so grateful for this child who has become one of my life’s joys. 

Today was also just a marvelous day, from the start. It didn’t hurt that yesterday was fabulous, and the good times just kept on rolling. Baby B and I woke up and went for a walk/jog with Mommy before church, and then after church, we went for brunch, where we ran into one of my dearest friends and her son and the waiter pulled our tables together. Good, delicious times. 

My cousin got an amazingly beautiful puppy, with whom we visited. I visited my grandpa twice, chatted it up with my aunt/godmother, chatted it up some more regarding mulch and tulips with my uncle, saw another beloved aunt/uncle/cousin set, made small talk with my favorite next-door neighbor and his wonderful old-man dog, went for another walk with the dog, and taught Baby B to make a really delicious strawberry shortcake. And then we all watched a pretty crappy movie together. 

It was almost perfect, and wonderfully awesome. Thank you, God.