Gratitude – December 2019

I can’t believe the year is almost over. What a whirlwind it has been! Before it come to a close, here is some stuff that has given me life in the last month or so….

Interview on Pleasure Activism with adrienne maree and autumn brown

I don’t even know where to start. adrienne maree brown is just a badass bruja, and this interview (conducted by her sister Autumn) had me alternately laughing and thinking deeply and tearing up and punching my fist in the air. Our struggle for liberation isn’t just about stopping injustice and pain, it is about making/taking more spaces for true pleasure.

art by Ashley Lukashevsky

Succession on HBO

The people on this show are so cringey and oh so petty but I cannot get enough. Also, Shiv’s wardrobe this season was inspirational.

Jerry Colonna and angel kyodo wiliams on On Being

Queerness gave me the language for everything I know about liberation and freedom.” –  angel kyodo williams on On Being

it’s an epidemic challenge in our society that we reward, collectively, we reward with approbation, with money, with fame, with success — behaviors that can be so destructive; destructive to the individual, destructive to our communities, destructive to our planet. ” – Jerry Colonna on On Being (https://onbeing.org/programs/jerry-colonna-can-you-really-bring-your-whole-self-to-work/)

I am a sucker for this radio show. Nearly every episode give me lots to think about. williams is an inspirational queer Buddhist leader whose work I’ve been aware of for a while, but this interview was enlightening and inspiring. I’ve been constantly spinning the episode with Colonna. He is a coach to many Silicon Valley leaders, but also actually seems to be a spiritual person with a conscious. A lot of what he brings up is stuff that I’ve long ruminated on.

Pan-African Social Ecology – Modibo Kadalie

While my allegiance to social ecology holds strong, I’ve continued to struggle with its lack of intersection with struggles for and scholarship on black liberation.  So it was with great enthusiasm that I celebrated the release of this fantastic book — a collection of speeches and interviews with Pan-Africanist and social ecologist activist Modibo Kadalie, a movement elder that I was not familiar with until a friend reviewed the book for(the also fantastic!) ROAR magazine. The book is full of gems like:

“It’s important to understand that we are all, each of us, scientists and the task of science should be to integrate technology into society in such a way that it provides for an ecologically sound world…”

and also

“…the civil rights and Black Power movements were based upon the inaccurate premise that we were struggling to force America to live up to the true meaning of its creed. America has always lived up to the true meaning of it creed. Its creed is genocide and slavery…no freedom loving person wanted to be a part of the creation of America. They were quite literally resisting or running away from America.”

I am so inspired!

 

Gratitude: August 2019

Before the month is out, I just want to share a few things that gave me life as of late.

The Last Black Man In San Francisco

This movie was stunningly beautiful. When I saw the trailer I thought it was going to be sort of the same thing as Barry Jenkins’ Medicine for Melancholy but it was more like Atlanta if Atlanta was replaced by San Francisco. It was eerie but exciting to see streets I walk so very often these days through the eyes of “natives”. Spoiler alert: It’s not just about San Francisco 😉

Tiny Desk Concerts: Lizzo and Jeremy Dutcher

Two of my faves recently had TDCs. So queer, so visually engaging, such music to my ears. What is it about that damn tiny desk that conjurs such sweet magic?

Me! on No Manifestos Podcast

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I had a really fantastic conversation with my old coworker Stuart Sierra about tech and activism and other things for his new podcast No Manifestos. I am super pleased with how it turned out! Please do listen.

Gratitude: September 2017

A few things I was grateful for this month:

1) Sydette Harry’s AffectConf Talk


Finally! A talk at a tech conference by a black woman about *us* and how *we* survive and what *we* need.

2) Orphan Black

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I realized I was a season behind so I raced through season 4 and am just rounding the corner on the final season. This show is amazing and its star Tatiana Maslany is the shit. No spoilers please!

3) The CoLET website

This summer I co-founded CoLET: The Collective for Liberation, Ecology, and Technology. It’s a much-needed space for politically radical technologists. We finally got our website to a good place. I am excited to make a radical intervention in tech spaces and a tech intervention in radical spaces. Our time is SO now. Check it out when you get a moment!

4) Bookchin on Streetfighting with Nazis back in the day

I’m still on a Bookchin kick and someone in the social ecology community sent along this timely clip. Know your history, people!

5) Jazmine Sullivan’s piece on The Outline about chat as a lifeline for black women.

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The piece is beautifully written and I love all the fancy animations and interactive Javascript they did.

6) In Flames radio show on NTS Live

These two women have gotten me through many a tough day and given me my whole life with their groovy, funky, punky selections on this monthly independent radio show brought to us live from the streets of London. I love you, Ruby and Josephine!!

The Beauty of the Unanswered Question OR the Death of the Black People Head Nod

“How you doing?”

“Sup?”

“What’s happening?”

“What’s good?”

As far back as I can remember, whenever I went out with my father —  be it to the supermarket or the post office, the hardware store or the flea market — whenever he encountered another black person he invariably greeted them with such a question. As we walked along the street he’d do so, adding a wave if it was someone he actually knew. The question was a question only in structure, it was and is rhetorical. It is there to go unanswered or answered with the same (or a similar) question. When in a rush or upon encountering someone who appeared unable or uninterested in speaking, my father would give the nod. It was and is a silent salute, a quick and quiet way to say “I’m black and you’re black and we’re both here.” I grew up with the nod and the greeting, and I knew that was part of the black social contract. From my teenage years onwards, it was something I did as often as I could do, and I especially strived to do in times where I should do it: those times when I encountered another black person in a largely non-black space.

As non-black spaces go, the tech world and open source worlds are right (white) up there. I rarely see people who look like me and when I do they are usually zipping pass in one direction or another with barely a moment to notice my presence. At times like this I try to make eye contact and offer some sort of greeting or at least a nod. The greeting and/or the salute seem to have been fairly well received until quite recently. As of late, I’ve noticed that there is a subset of young black men and women who seem to be quite taken aback when I walk by and quickly dash off a “How you doing?” Just yesterday I looked at a young black man in my co-working space and quickly said, “Hey, how you doing?” He looked at me with deer in head light eyes and responded “Fine and yourself?” Well, I never!  I immediately  felt it to be the equivalent of being shoved down into the dirt. The line was broken and I was cast out to sea!

After I recovered from the initial offense,  I returned to my desk and paused for a moment. Perhaps this young man was totally unaware?

In his BRILLIANT BOOK, How To Be Black, Baratunde Thurston speaks of a “black employee known as The Denier”:

This person simply does not acknowledge her race at all, perhaps hoping that by ignoring it, she’ll never have to deal with any negativity associated with her race. While not explicitly combative with you, she’s also unlikely to be a useful ally, especially if she ranks above you. It’s not that she feels threatened by you. It’s that she feels nothing. So she won’t act to improve the situation at the company,either. Your best bet here is to accrue as much power in the company as you can use your position for good and undo some of the damage cause by The Denier’s apathy.

photo credit

I’d encountered this before. We all know those lost souls who just can’t or won’t publicly connect to people of their own race for fear of being lumped in with them in bad times or due to some sordid past history. However, until now, it seemed those sorts were the outliers. Now I think their ranks (or ranks of eerily similar ilk) are sadly on the rise. I have actually heard from young black Millennials (who grew up on the storied internet where “nobody knows you’re a dog“) that in many cases, especially the middle and upper class cases, grew up either not really realizing they were black or not thinking about blackness or race or racism. I guess this is what some people talk about when they talk about post-racial. It’s not a change in material reality; it’s a loss of consciousness that is likely only further abstracted by heightened economic class as well as parents who are ethnic Black and want to distance themselves from “lowly” American blacks by waving high their Jamaican or Nigerian or Guinea Bissauian (whathaveyou) flag. These are the black kids that I think are having the most shocking time with this new consciousness around police killings. They grew up around mostly white/non-black kids and did everything right and now their eyes are being opened and it seems they can’t quite compute what they are seeing. Whenever I think of black Millenials, I often think of black Millenial media personality Franchesca Ramsey and her video “Shit White Girls Say” (see below). It’s of course funny on the surface but tragic once you really absorb it and realize that she had to take all that in for years in order to gather such absurd material.

In the face of such offense, such incessant pinpricks of hurt (what some people are calling “microagressions“) what sweet relief it is for me to turn a corner and see a black face and connect for a brief moment. In that head nod and in that unaswered question, I can breathe for a moment. On receiving that salute, I am answering a deeper call. If a sincere answer to “How you doing?” is a mark of racial progress then I am calling the whole effort into question.

Shouldn’t we be pulling more people into the ritual creating a global network of people saluting and asking but never answering?