I’ve been really into James Scott (see: Seeing Like A State and Three Cheers For Anarchism) and Anna Tsing (see: The Mushroom At The End of The World and On NonScalability) for some time, and I recently got hip to this amazing artist Kenya Robinson (https://www.teamhuman.fm/episodes/kenya-robinson). The thing she said on that podcast was so great.
“You will never catch me at a protest…I wonder if we are missing out on other options such as deceit, secrecy, spycraft, glamour….”
I used to watch Dolemite movies in college as a late night goof with friends. I never knew much about the backstory of the star Rudy Ray Moore and I figured there wasn’t much to what he’d pulled together. So when Eddie Murphy came out with Dolemite Is Ny Name on Netflix, I didn’t figure it was worth watching. Fortunately, a very trusted friend pushed me to watch it and I am glad I did. It was a celebration of black culture and ingenuity. I hadn’t realized 1) Rudy Ray Moore intended to make a silly character/movie (I’d assumed he was more of an Ed Wood character) and 2)he was essentially an amateur folklorist, capturing a rich aspect of black culture that many others might have preferred to stuff into the dustbin of history.
Murphy was really great in it, but the other two standout performances were Wesley Snipes as D’Urville Martin (Dolemite’s reluctant director), and Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Lady Reed (Moore’s protegee, trusted confidante, and muse).
Another recommendation from my amazing friend was Small Axe by Steve McQueen. It is a series of 5 full-length films about the Afro-Caribbean struggle in UK in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. This was exceedingly moving and I am sure I will watch again. It is one of those things I will get in box set if I am able to. Truly all classic.
This interview with Steve McQueen rocked my world. Loving this man FOREVER.
Dr. Lonnie Smith
Another friend hipped me to this new album Breathe by Dr. Lonnie Smith. The track below is my favorite on it
I feel like everywhere I turn people are talking about time. Here are a few recent references
This documentary was so gorgeous. It opened with the saying,
“Eshu threw a stone today that hit a bird yesterday.”
Emma Dabiri – Don’t Touch My Hair
The weaving that occurs in the braided hairstyles, the aspects of their temporality, their consistency as well as their adaptibility, share many similarities with the oriki (Yoruba oral tradition) genre. What is this something else that oriki performances aim at? Simply posing this question highlights a profound difference between a Eurocentric concept of history and Afrocentric engagements with time.
I found my way to the land closest to nowhere after Google Maps said there was no road to follow. My eyes told me different and I kept going. To get there that first night, especially alone after dark, I was far more reliant on strangers’ knowledges of well travelled roads than any formal map or its timings. Nowhere is an invention. Real or not, it enables navigation, not on land but at sea:
Latitude 0° Longitude 0° Altitude 0°
Nowhere is the centre of the surface of the world. It is on the longitude line that links Britain and Ghana. Nowhere sets its clocks to Greenwich Mean Time. This nowhere is the nowhere because the British were best at sea. The land closest to nowhere is a cape jutting out into the Atlantic, not to one point, but three: nowhere is never somewhere you get to one way.
In “A Non-Euclidean View,” Le Guin cited a writer and folklorist who described a saying among some members of the Cree people:
Usà puyew usu wapiw! (“He goes backward, looks forward.”)
The phrase is used to describe “the thinking of a porcupine as he backs into a rock crevice.” The author in question, Howard A. Norman, wrote that “the porcupine consciously goes backward in order to speculate safely on the future, allowing him to look out at his enemy or the new day. To the Cree, it’s an instructive act of self-preservation.”
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.
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…”
“…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.”
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
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.
Just sharing one of the things that lifted my spirits this month….
Jeremy Dutcher is a classically-trained queer Canadian Indigenous tenor, composer, musicologist, performer and activist. He is a member of the Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) band of the Tobique First Nation in North-West New Brunswick, and after doing a research project exploring old wax cylinder recordings of Maliseet songs that were no longer known to the young people (due to being banned by the government by way of the Indian Act), he decided to revive them in post-classical arrangements for a contemporary audience. The result of this 5-year project is his album Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa. I seriously can’t stop listening to this. I love him, his gorgeous voice, the whole project. More of this. YES.
The last few months have been tricky for me. In some ways they’ve been super fulfilling and in others they have been exceedingly frustrating. But through it all I’ve been grateful for my family, friends, comrades, and even strangers who’ve been eager to grab coffee or lunch and talk, offer help, or just join me in little adventures. I’m also exceedingly grateful for literature, music, culture, the pulse of humanity. Here are are few things in that vein that have keep my spirits up.
Panic At The Disco – Pray for The Wicked
I rediscovered this band (Well, it’s only one guy and a bunch of hired guns these days really, right? But whatever..) this year and this album is kinda corny but fantastic. Brendon Urie’s voice is gorgeous and the whole album never fails to lift my spirits.
Direct Action by L.A. Kauffman
This book was invigorating in a way I did not expect. As a person that has participated in direct action in the past, it was great to see myself and my peers reflected in this story as part of a legacy of global resistance.
Palestine Underground is a short documentary by Boiler Room about the lengths the young folks in the Palestinian hip hop and techno underground will go to get together and party. I was moved and inspired by their spirit and love of life despite the hardships of life in disputed territory.
Cindy Milstein on The Final Straw Radio
This is a long but crucial interview with a preeminent anarchist thinker on the topics of death, grief, mourning, care, and institution building. A lot of the things she has to say about building circles of care are close to my heart and the work we are doing in my collective CoLET.
I was exceedingly proud to receive this video of Angelique Kidjo singing this song in Ewe (my family’s language!!) to world heads of states as part of the Armistice Day Celebration. May the spirits of the ancestors do their best on this lot. Ay yi yi.
Here are the lyrics in English and then below in the original Ewe.
Blewu (by Bella Below) (lyrics translated into English)
Slowly slowly, Gently, we will make it safely home, Gently, we will make it safely home, Slowly ; Slowly, the leopard does not press his steps; Softly, gently, the leopard does not press his steps; The animal with tail does not jump over the fire; Slowly. God in whom we confide is the only one who knows our problems; The Rich man we trust is the only one who knows our problems. Stay awake, pray; Stay awake, pray; Even with a long life, one can not escape the Hereafter; Even with a long life, you can not escape the Hereafter. Gently, we will make it safely home, Gently, we will make it safely home, Slowly.
Blewue, blewue Blewue mia d’aƒe lo Blewue mia d’aƒe lo Blewu Đɔɖɔɖɔ Kpɔ̃ me yɔna azɔli o Blewu, blewu Kpɔ̃ me yɔna azɔli o Lã to asike me da ata dzo o Blewu Mawu si me mieleeya koe nya mia agbemenyãwo Tsuito si me miele, eya koe nya mia agbemenyãwo Minɔ ŋudzɔ, mido gbe ɖa Minɔ ŋudzɔ, mido gbe ɖa Agbe nɔ kaka megbea Tseƒe mayi o Agbe nɔ kaka megbea Tseƒe mayi o Blewue mia d’aƒe lo Blewue mia d’aƒe lo Blewu
You know the drill. Before the month is out, I just want to take a moment to give thanks for a few things that have been giving me (sorely-needed) life this month.
1) Drake’s “Nice for What?”
I’ve been having a tough month and this song and video came right on time. As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history, folks.
2) BBCAmerica’s Killing Eve
I have had a big crush on Sandra Oh ever since I saw her in the 1995 short film Preywith (the also swoon-worthy) Adam Beach. I unfortunately didn’t really dig Grey’s Anatomy so I was waiting for her next thing and am excited to be able to watch her as the lead every week in BBC America’s fantastic new crime thriller Killing Eve. Creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge (who is also the star and writer of the excellent Fleabag on Amazon Prime) is genius and the villain played by Jodie Comer is creepy and brilliant. Three cheers for a thoroughly female-driven thriller!
3) Autonomy Institute’s “Keynes, Foucault and the ‘Disciplinary Complex’: a Contribution to the Analysis of Work”
The Autonomy Institute is devoted to rigorous study of work. I am a big fan of everything they are doing to question the meaning of work and beginning to envision a post-work world. This article delves deep into work’s role as a means of creating and enforcing social order. I encourage you to read it and then peruse the rest of their site as they are putting out a lot of great scholarship and commentary.
A few things I have been grateful for as I get into this month.
For some reason, I missed it when Beck dropped his latest album Colors in October of last year. I am glad I stumbled upon it recently. It is JAMMIN!
#Rojava playlist. In northern Syria, women are leading (and literally fighting for!) an all-encompassing revolution. This playlist is a beautiful tribute to them and the continuing struggle.
I was on a flight the other day and with time to kill, I finally sat down and watched Big Little Lies. I seriously thought I would hate it, but it gripped me from the first episode. The formation of this sisterhood of mothers was really moving to me. I love my mamafriends!