the thing about ‘blogging’ for me is that something has to present itself where there is an intense need to ‘blog’ about it. a lot has been on my mind lately, and it’s not always easy to envision it in words. but what i am getting ready to write to you now? it has been building for a number of weeks.
sure it’s ‘controversial’ in the realm of conversations regarding your work and teachings, but i feel it must be said.
i just saw someone speaking on the extinct nature of powerful black men. i must say that i concur with her about ONE BILLION PERCENT. i think about my dear friend barry, who raised two girls essentially on his own; and they grew up to be extremely smart and well-adjusted. i think about the three kids you raised, and how you worked to protect them from a world which had no love for you- firstly, as a black man, and secondly, as a SUCCESSFUL black man.
and (again) this is going to be controversial, but i have to say it… it’s been on my mind for a long time, and it culminated into an exchange i had… the rampant anti-intellectualism amongst your fan base disturbs me. does this mean i am speaking about everyone? of course not. however, i have run into too many people who critique me for asking questions related to you, and not falling for this limited protagonist/antagonist theory. i am tired for people calling for the deaths of people like martin bashir, the arvisos, boteach and whoever else, because you may have had some negativity between yourself and those folks. i am tired of people accusing me of being better than they are because i ask questions and call you out on some things. i’m no better than anyone else. i’m not perfect- no one is perfect, and no one is immune from critique… even an ‘object of fandom’.
here is ONE (out of many) examples addressed to me:
“HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!! Thank you so much you “student of Michael’s”. I TRULY needed that laugh! You sound so pedestrian while desperately trying to come across as an INTELLECTUAL! “student of Michael’s” indeed! You just keep on reading – OOPS! I mean “researching” through books by conmen like Schmuley and I’m certain you will eventually reach the level of “EXPERT” on all things Michael vs. “a student of Michael’s”! STILL LMAOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
in many ways it’s assumed that being a student requires the teacher and student to have a hierarchical relationship- that the student is not able to learn from the teacher, since CLEARLY the student knows less than the teacher. it’s also assumed that if you do not personally KNOW the ‘teacher’ then being a student would be impossible. when i tell people you are my teacher, people ask if i knew you, and if i learned DANCE from you. when i tell people why i consider you a teacher there are confused looks.
the key for a teaching to be effective though, is that you MUST QUESTION THE TEACHER. sometimes the teacher could learn from the student. true education is reciprocal.
do i try to come off as intellectual at the expense of others? no. if i seem intellectual to someone, great. the condescending remarks though, from people who are so one-sided in their views regarding how they see you (that is, immune from critique) make me want to study more. i say what i have to say to people, then i am moved to study more. i feel like some of these people look for an argument where there is none, so i hold no ill will towards them.
the people who claim to know who you are simply because of how you present yourself in public will be in for some major disappointments when there is a side of you presented which contradicts their views of you. this is one of the many reasons i am a student- the key is to hold no assumptions. for instance, the conversations you had with glenda- people swore up and down that it was not you because you cursed on tape- despite much evidence.
we should never assume anyone is a certain way, because people are always presenting themselves in ways they only want others to see them. for public people, there is a side which is imperative to keep private. it makes total sense. in the world we live in now, people are accustomed to ‘reality tv’ (which is VERY much scripted), so any tapes which come out, deviating from the presentation are OBVIOUSLY not the person the deviation says it is.
we as ‘fans’ of celebrities have willingly allowed a surveillance culture to dictate our lives. the people who run government also run hollywood. in many ways we can see how hollywood is a test run for a lot of the bills being created. the most recent example i can give is the ‘kony 2012’ campaign. the film promoting the campaign described the campaign as being an ‘experiment’. of course, those who watched it were test subjects. how many people would watch the film and get emotionally charged, without doing research on the organization producing and promoting the film? how many people would do research on the subject of the film- joseph kony, a man who, as the film mentions in passing, is not even in the country they intend to look for him in? how many people watching the film questioned the organization’s support of u.s. troops being used to look for the subject of the film, even though the u.s. was not invaded? how many people are aware that around the time of u.s. troops entering uganda, oil was found there? how many people questioned the organization’s support of the ugandan government- a government as corrupt as they emphasize joseph kony is? how many people watching and supporting the film are aware of the u.s. connection to AFRICOM? how many people would change their mind about the campaign if they were aware of the facts purposefully left out of the film?
the people whose voices have been prominent in relation to this campaign to stop joseph kony are people like angelina jolie- a member of the council on foreign relations (CFR), and the UN. we have to ask ourselves why this is. we have to ask ourselves why people like oprah winfrey have prominent voices, regarding policy and ‘voting trends’. we have to ask ourselves, for so many people to proclaim this to be such a ‘judeo-christian’ nation (and yes, hollywood espouses those values as well, despite what some congresspeople say); why is it that certain individuals (like madonna) are chosen to openly mock indigenous and afrikan spirituality by presenting these grand roman-greco pagan ceremonies? why is it that nikki minaj was chosen to model herself after a child rapist like roman polanski and have an exorcism on stage? how is it that whitney houston’s body was left in a hotel (as per clive davis’ request) as a party was going on?
how and why is it so easy to pass these things off as ‘entertainment’? again, people look at politics and ‘entertainment’ as mutually exclusive, but the same people run both industries.
and because we place so much value on ‘entertainment’ and not our own worth, we feel helpless when we hear of trayvon martin being shot. trayvon martin, a black teenager who was visiting his father’s girlfriend’s house, was shot by george zimmerman, a white-identified (aka white-supremacist identified) latino neighbourhood watch volunteer in his gated community. zimmerman has not been charged for the murder of martin. zimmerman phoned the police about what he felt was a suspicious character, however, he took action before the police showed up, claiming he was attacked by martin and was scared.
the thing is, people have been arrested for shooting their guns into the GROUND to scare off a burglar.
so a man who was protecting his community in new hampshire was charged with a FELONY- but zimmerman, who was TOLD to not follow trayvon martin by a dispatcher, went and followed him anyways- thus ending any use of the ‘self-defence’ or ‘stand your ground’ law held in florida.
“Several witnesses said they heard cries that sounded like a boy wailing — howling silenced by the crack of gunfire — and were shocked to hear police later portray the cries as Zimmerman’s. One witness said police ignored her repeated phone calls.”
zimmerman MURDERED a young man, and no charges or arrests have been made?
“The department will conduct a thorough and independent review of all of the evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “The department also is providing assistance to and cooperating with the state officials in their investigation into the incident. With all federal civil rights crimes, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted intentionally and with the specific intent to do something which the law forbids — the highest level of intent in criminal law.
“Negligence, recklessness, mistakes and accidents are not prosecutable under the federal criminal civil rights laws.”
When Trayvon Martin was killed, all he had were Skittles, iced tea…and a cellphone, authorities told the L.A. Times. The phone has been mentioned in multiple reports in recent days, and journalists and concerned citizens are starting to ask: Where is Trayvon’s phone? Why did the police on the scene of the shooting not use it to identify Martin, or contact his next of kin? “Trayvon’s body was bagged and taken to the morgue, where he was tagged as a John Doe,” writes African American affairs blogger Sandra Rose. “No one contacted Trayvon’s family even though police had Trayvon’s cell phone in their possession.”
it seems very clear (to me) that the police are tampering with evidence and defending zimmerman.
we place so much on our value as people finally able to co-exist in a world which did not value us; and yet we are surprised that we STILL are not valued. the laws which are said to protect our ‘civil rights’ as black people were not created by us, so why would we think they are naturally there for our benefit?
just as the ‘entertainment industry’ was not created by us, we should not think that because we are somehow ‘accepted’ into the fold that we are able to, without limit, present images which are particularly beneficial to us. most black people in prominent industries who have attained significant success more or less do so within a eurocentric framework. does this mean that said people ‘want to be white’? no. what it DOES mean though, is that if there is any measure or gesture, minute or large-scale, of black pride, or cultural economic autonomy you are deemed undesirable in one form or another. even so much as openly speaking about racism in the music industry (which you did) garnered a lot of criticism- from the opinion that you were trying to gain attention, to comments like, ‘white people have supported him, and now he’s turned his back on us with his racist views.’ frankly, discussing racism in the music industry isn’t even that controversial. according to some though, it is. especially when it’s coming from someone who’s supposed to never open his mouth, other than to entertain people.
we as black people collectively have neglected to tap into the resources of our ancestral power, and we have allowed outside influences to inform us of our value. this is the only way we could accept a nikki minaj to become a symbol of where we as black people in popular culture are today. it began a long time ago though… going into the ‘civil rights’ era, i AM going to pin a lot of the cultural blame on how berry gordy ran the ship called motown. any clear political views were relegated to a boutique record subsidiary; and artists were encouraged to present themselves as assimilated in white society. this was based on gordy’s motivation for capitalism; i’ve seen no evidence of him having a major socio-political stance on the ‘race’ issue . it did not matter how troubled the artists were, as long as they presented themselves in a certain way. all the other series of events could sweep themselves under the rug, as they say.
it’s interesting that we were not allowed to see a variety of black talent from motown (aka: any variation from the ‘conveyor belt of hits’) until the prominence of jimi hendrix or sly and the family stone. there were more pressing concerns around this time (such as war) and gordy had to reluctantly acknowledge that. this was the point motown, to me, got less stale and more interesting. i know, i know… people will get on me for this critique of the ‘sound of young america’. really though, i don’t think of the creation of that sound as being sincere, even if the talents who recorded those sounds were. i mean, ‘what’s going on’ is the GREATEST PIECE OF MUSIC put to record of all times; and if marvin gaye had not used his creative intuition to protest gordy’s capitalist stubbornness, we may have never heard it. the same thing with STEVIE’S works.
we have to be able to do the work of our ancestors… the tradition of ‘constantly keeping up with the times’ and forgetting about what happened last month is antithetical to our nature. we already know what to do, and we have to channel that. this transcends any trend. but we get influenced by these dark forces and have exorcisms on stage.
don’t get me started. we have to stop allowing ‘other people’ to save us. we have to stop allowing others to tell us what is trendy, especially when they are capitalizing off of our cultures. we have to be able to trust ourselves enough to question what is around us.
going back to the opinions of you not being able to have a voice to some (white) people because they have supported you in the past, i have to wonder if the largely european fan base you have would appreciate you in the same manner if you were to look the same way as you did in 1975- even if you produced the same music they love? is how you looked later on in life a factor in their identification with you? i ask this because i’ve had more than a few people tell me they preferred your look when your hair was straighter, your skin was lighter and your nose was thinner. people openly said they did not like your hair in its tightly coiled form.
yes, this largely european fan base acknowledges you as a ‘black american’. of course, they quote you all the time. however, do they acknowledge the implications of your AFRIKAN-NESS? there is a major difference, to me, between being proud to be a ‘black american’ (which requires taking on multiple personalities (which dubois spoke about succinctly)) and engaging in ‘afrikan-ness’. this goes WAAAAAY beyond one’s physical casing as well. do they praise you as a ‘black entertainer’ without acknowledging your intellectual sensibilities, because of course, with few exceptions, ‘black people don’t read’?
am i talking about all your fans? clearly not. however, i know there is that large probability of a few people reading this and saying to themselves that i am making blanket statements, even though i am speaking of experiences i’ve had. i admit there’s a bit of speculation involved; however, this is based on experience, plus the fact that a majority of your fans are european. it’s impossible to deny the effects of european colonialism on the world, and the damage it’s done to non-europeans. to NOT have those questions would make no sense to me, ESPECIALLY in light of the hatred espoused by many of the fans in my experiences- the rampant homophobia, the casual racism, the death wishes, the all-encompassing hatred for anyone who doesn’t hold the same views as they do… and it doesn’t stop there… the ‘romantic fantasies’ even after your transcendence are pretty violent. to openly state on a public forum that you want to rape someone is not funny. i don’t care if it’s said in jest or not.
again, i digress…
is it possible to cherish and engage in your ‘afrikan-ness’ and be loved worldwide? i do not think so, but perhaps someone can prove me wrong. people point to nelson mandela or barack obama as symbols of freedom for black people all around the world. the thing is, nelson mandela, after 27 years in prison for his active-ism, made concessions to the white minority in south africa. he was then released and made president. if you are going to be a large figure in african politics, you have to work for the CIA and become a dictator, or you have to make concessions to the people who’ve oppressed you, under the guise of ‘democracy’.
people also point to martin luther king; i have mentioned this before though- when MLK began making connections between economic imperialism in this country (and treatment of black people) and european/u.s. imperialism around the world regarding war, people began to hate him even more than they did. when he began to speak about black economic autonomy (and gave tips on how people could maintain that), he was murdered. people still want to make references connecting MLK and obama, despite the fact that obama is the darker face of eurocentric imperialism and institutional racism in this country, and has signed off on laws antithetical to MLK’s messages, such as the NDAA. obama didn’t even have to espouse a ‘pro-black’ sentiment… however, he’s never allowed a possibility of it to come into the picture, despite the hoards of white politicians openly protecting themselves and their ethnic culture.
again, some of the same people and organizations which propped up obama (and run the u.s. government, hollywood and banking industries) are some of the same people propping up the buffoonery of so-called ‘black (popular) music’. you know, people you mentioned in the song ‘money’:
and of course, a lot of these folks (the old-school ‘robber barons’) were strongly involved in the eugenics movement. i find it interesting that you considered henry ford to be an inspiration, considering he was heavily involved in the eugenics movement as well. and walt disney (another one of your inspirations) was not secretive about his racism. but that is a discussion for another day.
as an international figure, i have wondered if your fans around the world recognise the cultural references and colloquialisms in songs like ‘they don’t care about us’. it is, in many ways, specific to a black american experience. when they hear the lyrics, do they study the emancipation proclamation (in which the intent was not to free anybody, but to win a war)? would the lyrics hold an entirely different meaning for people if you were still of darker hue and had a ‘fro? if you did, would you be deemed a crazy black nationalist?
how many of your fans (in and out of the u.s.) are willing to support an environment where afrikan people around the world will be free from colonialism in all forms- where a true sovereignty would occur? how many people are willing to do that sort of work?
how many people will recognize the socio-political lessons given in your music, without you announcing that’s what it was? you’ve already mentioned that your goal was to make the art you created more powerful than the message of a politician, and i think you made that happen. but are people listening to the messages, or are they focused on the physical? with your wish of people reading more and educating themselves, do you think this is happening? IS this happening?
is anyone going to answer these questions?
okay… i got all of this off my chest. this release has ushered in the equinox. usually when i write here, i ask the universe if it’s okay to publicly release. with this writing i asked the same thing. after i re-read it though, i felt a sort of calmness, more than usual. i think it’s largely because the reasons i consider you my teacher transcend others’ views of me. i know that not everyone in this world is going to like me or be my friend. ultimately though, what IS important is the impact each of us makes in this world, be it minuscule or major. is it positive? is the goal towards freedom for ALL living beings, humans or otherwise?
these are also questions i would have loved to have asked you when you were physically here. whether or not you would have answered is another thing; still, it doesn’t hurt to ask. i also felt compelled to write because i’ve been feeling some very strong energy when it comes to you. i’m not sure where it’s coming from. is there some sort of message you are trying to send the world regarding social justice? are you trying to speak through your children? is this something regarding the ancestors? i’ve been feeling very sad regarding a lot of the things going on in the world- particularly how people don’t stop and ask questions about the images presented to them- and this photo returned to me:
i had seen this photo a number of years ago, and never saw it again until now. i’ve been thinking a lot about children’s voices and how they are incredible teachers in patience. i was also thinking about the songs you sang as a child, and how the material your brothers were given to sing were more about the typical subject of love or heartbreak… you sang about those things as well, but you also sang about world peace, friendships with rats and relationships with music. i imagine the songwriters wanted to capture some of your personalities in order to display some sort of authenticity. still, it’s admirable that the messages you displayed into adulthood were more or less consistent.
the photo was not difficult to decipher. the words wore very clear up top. ‘STOP. THE. WAR.’ the image was very involved, very detailed and far from innocuous. if only the messages we sent to each other were that clear.