All City Real Talk for @JessSolomon, @Mqueez, @Afrolicious

I have been reflecting on why I have been scared of taking these next steps.

The thing about it is, is that it is fear.

Fear that I won’t have the people in my life now that I have had because I am not only working way more, but moving in new and other circles.

Fear that being of service will take me away from the people that I Love.

I have my shine now, and the space is comfortable. But having ran into my homie two weeks ago who runs a prep school for boys in Bed-Stuy I was reminded that I have work to do. That I was put here to do work for others on another scale. That is some scary shit.

 

To do more means getting used to being liked or not being liked on a whole other level, and I don’t often know whether I am up to it. Because as a doctoral student and someone who is being trained to be a professor and as a Black woman, I know about the toll that emotional work takes on Black girls. I also know that if I don’t have a strict self care regime and a sort of emotional work plan I am going to be fucked off in the game. One of my projects entails engaging women of color nationally in local electoral politics. #gamechanger.

Latoya has told me that the way to deal with this is to select two or three people whose opinions I respect, and check in with them when I am tripping or there appears to be a rupture or disturbance in the force. What I interpret her to say is don’t let just any raggedy negro online affect how your moral compass about your work shifts. She has a point. I do that now in some ways, but I think she is recommending something a bit different in terms of being a bit more deliberate.

I mean, to spend hella time and writing working and researching something only to have someone tell you “nah B, you are hating” is a huge slap in the face. That’s the kind of shit that will have me telling someone that they are politically under developed and that they need to sit down and read a book before they come at me. #ego.

I also fear that I have said something in the past that has alienated people. But, as a writer I was more underdeveloped then, and I did not see, at the time, how the things that I said would be read. I also know, that challenging peoples thinking isn’t a popularity contest. People can get rich affirming what folks already know, but they rarely become popular or rich challenging them. And that my dear is the rub.

So now that I have said it outloud, it no longer has as much of a hold on me.

When Blog Readers Respond: Ms. Whitney M.

Image from UK Daily Mail

This weekend I wrote a lot.

One of the posts was “Can African Americans Find Their Voice in Cyberspace?”

And Whitney Muse responded writing a comment so long that it crashed the comments box. I am honored!

One of the material differences between newspapers and blogs is the interaction between writers and readers. The explicitly ways in which readers speak back.

Below is a summary of Whitney’s response to my post.

I have reorganized her comment so that a comment or question (from me or Ms. Cunningham comes first, then Whitney’s response follows.)

What does it mean that some of the biggest Black blogs online are press release mills that lightweight resemble Jet + Ebony lite?

Whitney: That the biggest Black blogs resemble Jet and Ebony is a way of limiting the use of technology and blogs as a political organizing tool. There?s no coverage of the blogs that are politically engaged & produce critical analysis in the style of Emerge magazine from the 1990s or the black press, ie-Chicago Defender, Philadelphia Tribune, etc. This allows black blogs to not be a part of? ?focus[ing] on freedom discourse as a means of exploring strategies for collective political action and accountability to black interests.? The biggest black blogs are yet another institution that?s not taking part in the rebuilding of the ?black civic infrastructure.?

I qouted Dayna Cunningham saying that she “would argue that today, black politics has largely been reduced to the electoral and legislative spheres?

Whitney: I?d argue that black politics have been reduced to the electoral sphere only, at least in federal politics. Black Politics are brought up legislatively when corporate policies need a black face to get sympathy/support. Recent examples include the ban on flavored cigarettes that was written to exclude menthols, which are very popular among blacks; Cathy Hughes as the face of opposition to the Radio/Performance Tax; little black children as the face of No Child Left Behind when GWB signed it into laws in 2001; and the voucher & charter school movements as escapes from failing urban schools & as tools to help black children but are actually fronts for hedge fund/Wall Street/foundation money.

I asked in the post “What are the consequences of doing nothing?”

Whitney: The black blogosphere can still be used to rebuild the ?black civic infrastructure? but it will be done at the margins, without the full force of the power of the blogosphere.

Dayna Cunningham stated “The majority of whites did not support Obama.”

Whitney: There was a period between election day 11/4/08 and inauguration day 1/20/09 in which there was less white hostility and an increase in his approval ratings, up to 65% from his electoral percentage of 53% (I don?t have a racial breakdown for the Jan 09 number). The majority of whites did not vote for Obama but there was an increase of white support before the inauguration. During this time, there was a rise in the incessant post-racial talk and hope for working together to improve the country. All of which disappeared shortly after inauguration and we got the rise of the corporate funded, ?grassroots? Tea Party.

I comment on how Dayna Cunningham is “asking how marginalized folks can use the internet to speak back to the majority.”

Whitney: I?d argue that marginalized individuals weren?t a large part of the Obama for America online network and that within the limiting framework of Obama for America there isn?t space to push for an agenda that is different from the president?s, be it an agenda that is more progressive on issues that are being addressed or an agenda that addresses issues that are missing from the national discourse.

Response/Additions to what can you do?

Whitney: 1+2. Go to a city council meeting and/or a school board meeting. They usually post the agendas online before the meeting so you’ll know what will be discussed. If there’s an open comment section, sign up so you can add your thoughts/opinions.

The Coming Jobless Society

Children protest the closure of a jail in Lansing, Michigan.

It is only right that I am drawn to learning about the ascension
and decline of civilizations, as a I saw my community
Oakland, California, and my family, in many ways,
destroyed
by the crack epidemic and the war on
drugs in the 1980’s.

What as happened to post industrial to Detroit,
Oakland, Philly,
Newark, Los Angeles and Baltimore, is
the closest thing to the
decline of civilization I have seen,
in my short lifetime.

Last week I spent much of my time writing about pop culture,
Drake, Black women, which is what I do. I write critically
about
race, class and power. Imus, The Duke rape case,
Nelly, Oscar
Grant, Rihanna, Slavery, Capitalism and what
the life of being a writer looks and feels like. Then, after
reading
one book it felt like what I was writing about was
pointless.

As you can guess this isn’t a good moment for a writer, in
fact, it felt quite awful.

Artist make art, regardless of whether they are being paid for it. ~Rafi Kam.

I am an impressionable reader. So last month, when I noticed
that Ta-Nehisi
was reading about The Civil War, I wanted to
start reading about
the civil war. It seemed as if, given the
fact that Obama is president,
and that we are in the midst
of a huge change, that it would be helpful
to read and learn
more about our countries origins.

I came across a book, The Founding Brothers, which
was fascinating because it talked about the conversations

that the founding fathers, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin,
had about slavery, emancipation the American
Revolution.
(I will talk more about this book in a later post, as it deserves it.
)

I needed to mention The Founding Brothers because,
a couple weeks later, I was in Birkhold’s car, I saw, a book
on the seat and began to read it.
You know the seven stages
of grief?

I think I experienced a remixed version of it after reading this book. I was
excited, then angry, then sad, then cynical, then I accepted it.

A few more days passed and I was ready to make moves. It also
helped that I read Gramsci’s wiki entry. Fortunately, Gramsci
makes it clear that culture is important, just as important as politics,
because it is through culture that we decide and reaffirm what is
normal. Gramsci also believes that we need organic intellectuals.
After I read that, I did the robot.

The book that, forced me to question it all is American Revolution:
Notes from a Negro Workers Note Book. It’s central argument is
that automation will make our society a jobless society, and
as a
result we will have to organize our society into one which
is based
our needs instead of our wants.
A year ago, I would have thought
this book was far fetched and or outdated, just based on the title.

I would have thought this book was far fetched if
I haven’t been
a
waitress for the last month, the only waitress in a white restaurant
largely managed by, ran by and servicing working class white folks.
Most of my exposure to white folks has been middle class, affluent, and
the elite. So working with the working class has forced me to rethink
work, race, assimilation and American social progress.

I would have thought this book was far fetched if
I didn’t have
two
Black men, to good family men in my family, who have felonies.

This means that every time they apply for a job that they are
qualified for,
more than likely they will not get it because the legal
system requires for them to be branded
as felons, felon’s for life,
even IF they have paid their debt to society, even if they have reformed,
even if they infraction occurred almost twenty years ago.

I would have thought this book was far fetched, if I hadn’t been laid off
from an awesome job last year. The job was with an organization
that
served high achieving low income kids. I still remember the irony
washing over me when I realized that as a young person I was a
high achievin
g low income kid. Given that, I asked myself, why couldn’t
they figure out a way for me to remain
and make a contribution?

I would have thought this book was far fetched if I hadn’t been denied
my unemployment extension last year. I had a hearing and everything.

The judge, bless his heart, told me that if it were up to him, that he
would
grant it to me, based on my argument. But according to
California legislation,
an employee has to earn 40 times her weekly
base salary in order to qualify
for an extension, which meant that I
would had to have earned 80K to get an extension. Right? right.
I would have thought this book was far fetched if my father, a resident of
California moved to Las Vegas last month, after coming to California
in 1970 after the Air Force, because it became clear to him that that state
is only for the affluent and the people, mainly hardworking immigrants,
who serve them.
Earlier this year, it became clear to him that as a semi retired
man, there was no way for him to survive in that
2009 California economy.

I would have thought this was far fetched if I didn’t personally know
6 under or un employed Black people, who have recently been laid
off. All have advanced degrees or five to ten years experience in their fields.

The above evidence is anecdotal, at best. However it underscores
the large system in which we live, which is why I wrote about them.

Black unemployment is at 14.7%.
Schwarzeneggger is gutting public assistance.
AIG is begging for more bonus money, again.
2.6 Million jobs were lost in 2008.
GM is now by and large a government ran company.

The American Revolution is important because it provides
a theoretical framework for understanding what the above
statistics mean.

The book was written in 1964, so we have the pleasure,
or perhaps, the horror of seeing the phenomena he has
written about come alive today in 2009. His writing is so
straight forward, that I have decided to include
excerpts below, preceded by a contextualizing sentence.

James Boggs on our automated society:

America today is headed towards an automated society, and it cannot
be stopped by feather bedding, by refusing to work overtime, by sabotage,
or by shortening the work week by a few hours. America today is rapidly
reaching a point where, in order to defend the warfare state and the
capitalist system, there will be automation on top of automation. The
dilemma before the workers and the American people is: How can
we have
automation and still earn our livings? It is not simply a
question of retraining or changing from one form of work to another.
For automation definitely eliminates the need for vast numbers of
workers, including semi skilled unskilled, and middle class clerical
workers.

On organizations and change:

All organizations that spring up in a capitalist society and do not take absolute
power, but rather fight only on one tangential or essential aspect of the society
are eventually incorporated into the society.

On the unions and pensions:

They cannot get it in their heads the these old workers, who use
to be so militant are now a vanishing herd who know that they
are a vanishing herd, who know that because of automation,
the days of workers like themselves in manufacturing are numbered,
and who have therefore decided that all they can do now
is to fight to protect their pensions and seniority and hope the company
will need them to work until they are old enough to retire or die, which
ever comes first.

On automation in the past vs. new automation:

Automation replaces men. This of course is nothing new. What is
new is that now, unlike most earlier periods, these displaced men

have no where to go. The farmers displaced by mechanization
of
the farms of the20’s could go to the cities, and man the assembly
lines….But automation displaces people even when they have
been
made expendable by the system.

On coming discord between the tax payers and the dependents:

Growing in numbers all the time, these displaced persons have to
be maintained, becoming tremendous drain on the whole
working
population, and creating growing antagonism between
those who
have jobs and those who do not. This antagonism in
the population
between those who have to be supported and
those have to
support them is one of the inevitable antagonisms
of capitalism.

On the end of the demand for labor:

It is easy to accept that a man should move from one form of
labor to another, but it is hard to accept that there will no
longer
be a mass demand for any labor
.

…They still assume that the majority of the population of such
goods will still remain the heart of society. They have not been able
to face the fact that even if the workers took over the plants they
would be faced with the problem of what do with themselves now that
work is becoming socially unnecessarily.

Lastly, on American citizens and politics:

…In the United States…everyman is a policeman over himself,
a prisoner of his own fears. He is afraid to think because he is
afraid of what his neighbors might think if they found out what
he was thinking, or what his boss might think, or what the police
might think, or the FBI or the CIA. All because he thinks
he has a lot ot lose. He thinks he has to choose between material
goods and political freedom. And when the two are counterposed,
Americans will choose material goods. Believing that they have
much to lose, Americans find excuses where there are no
excuses, evade issues before issues arise, shun situations and
conversations which could lead to conflict, leave politics and
political decisions to politicians. They will not regain membership
in the human race until they recognize that the greatest need
is to no longer to make material goods but to make politics
.

I hope, after reading these excerpts you can see why my
dungeon shook a little bit.
In thinking about the above
quotes, and experience of
reading this book I am thinking,
honestly about sustainable
local, artistic, communities that
are organized to serve our needs vs.
our wants.

A community garden here and there ain’t gonna cut it.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

What do you think of the idea of a jobless society?

What does a society look like that places our needs
above our wants?

What is the greatest obstacle to achieving such a society?

When you eat out do you tip 18%?(personal question, lols)