Dr. Gerald Horne at Eso Won Books, February 11, 2014 7:00 pm

BLACK REVOLUTIONARY WILLIAM PATTERSON: And the Globalization of the African American Freedom Struggle
DR. GERALD HORNE BOOKSIGNING (BLACK REVOLUTIONARY WILLIAM PATTERSON: And the Globalization of the African American Freedom Struggle)

Start: 02/11/2014 7:00 pm

A leading African American Communist, lawyer William L. Patterson (1891–1980) was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the defeat of Jim Crow by virtue of his leadership of the Scottsboro campaign in the 1930s. In this watershed biography, historian Gerald Horne shows how Patterson helped to advance African American equality by fostering and leveraging international support for the movement. Horne highlights key moments in Patterson’s global activism: his early education in the Soviet Union, his involvement with the Scottsboro trials and other high-profile civil rights cases of the 1930s to 1950s, his 1951 “We Charge Genocide” petition to the United Nations, and his later work with prisons and the Black Panther Party.

Through Patterson’s story, Horne examines how the Cold War affected the freedom movement, with civil rights leadership sometimes disavowing African American leftists in exchange for concessions from the U.S. government. He also probes the complex and often contradictory relationship between the Communist Party and the African American community, including the impact of the FBI’s infiltration of the Communist Party. Drawing from government and FBI documents, newspapers, periodicals, archival and manuscript collections, and personal papers, Horne documents Patterson’s effectiveness at carrying the freedom struggle into the global arena and provides a fresh perspective on twentieth-century struggles for racial justice. Come early and enjoy the discussion.

ESO WON BOOKS, 4331 Degnan Blvd, Los Angeles, CA (323) 290-1048, February 11, 2014 7:00 pm

Hope to see you there,

Renita Lorden

Before “Think Different” there was “Think Black”…

Nka, issue 29

Here in the rasx() context it looked like my friend, Dr. Margo Natalie Crawford, pulled a Sister Wendy and vanished (from my life) for years to meditate in solitude about the Black Arts Movement. So it turns out I am wrong about this on many levels (especially about the solitude)—nevertheless she has ‘returned’ from the peak of a sacred mountain of research with veritable tablets of stone (okay—silicon packed with silica: she does have an iPad) and is blowing me away. —And folks she needs our terrible help, with a little ditty called, In Our Terribleness—more on this later…

Before you can help her she has to help you. You have to get into the intellectual and historical framework that was the Black Arts Movement. From jump that means most of you 21st-century readers have to remember a time before digital devices—a time before personal computers. Simultaneously, you have to imagine an intellectual/creative space that was clearly preparing itself for the digital interactively we now take for granted. You see, kids, when you have a Black Arts Movement you have a political context filled with civil-rights-era self-determination. So there was no expectation that the audience would sit back passively like posh lords and ladies. The audience was meant to interact to activate with the artist and the artifact(s). In the mega-official-legally-racist zeitgeist of the time, to think like this was to “think Black”—to have these expectations about such interactive art in the mean streets of North America was considered a Black thang.

Nka, issue 30

It can be hard to accept this because, for example, North Americans now commonly say the word “cool”—even in highly professional and technical situations (I first noticed this in the late 1990s with Microsoft people). But, kids, “we” tend to forget that, just before the Black Arts Movement was jumping off, to say the word “cool” meant you were a jazz hipster. It was an “animalistic,” “nigger thing” to say the word cool you dig? Now “everybody” says the word cool. So when Margo Natalie Crawford showed me that Black Arts Movement slogan “think Black” I immediately thought of the Apple advertising slogan meant for “everybody”: think different.

Crawford, her research, makes it clear that the word Black for many black-light luminaries of the Black Arts Movement meant more than just describing the cartoon-physical outcome of African descent in North American colonialism. Black for Black Arts folks meant turning the energy-inefficient lights out on oppressive conventions, stiff-square bullshit. Blackness was meant to be that void of newness—that “clean slate” that is so clean that a white sheet of paper is too much of an assumption. Now that white-lab-coat science tells us that human-eye visible matter only makes up four (or less) percent of the entire motherfucking universe we can (not) see how the word Black can mean starting from scratch—from the Dark Matter of all that is…

So dig: the artifact of primacy that introduces us to these Black Arts moves is the original edition of In Our Terribleness by Amiri Baraka with photography by Fundi Abernathy. In issue 29 (fall 2011) of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, in her essay, “BlaCk aesthetiCs UnboUnd,” Crawford writes:

One of the movement’s most dramatic examples of the hailing of ideal black readers was the textual production In Our Terribleness (1970), by Amiri Baraka and the Chicago photographer Fundi Abernathy. The book begins with a full- page mirror image that demands that readers see their face as they enter this “long image story in motion”; the title, In Our Terribleness, is inscribed on this face.

Here in the rasx() context, the purpose of this book with a “counter-mirror” is to introduce interactivity between the user/reader and the makers of the book. Crawford writes:

The title page includes a silver mirror surface (apparently pasted in an intentionally homemade manner) with the words In Our Terribleness engraved in the center. The Black Arts movement shaped the reading of the black book into ideal black readers’ process of imagining that they were looking into a countermirror, a mirror that countered a dominant, hegemonic lens—the white gaze.

This vector of activism travels through the pages of the book. This object is meant to be a component of a larger “black body”—Crawford explains:

The black book incorporates the black body. We see this same emphasis on the intertwining of book and body when Baraka writes gesture on the right-hand margin of one page. The word appears at the very edge of the page, where readers would turn it. The black book not only hails black readers but also incorporates their bodily gestures.

Just in case the irresistible urge to simplify non-mainstream intellectualism with crudities kicks in, it must be mentioned that this “black body” is not the Black-1970s equivalent of Oral Robert’s 900-foot white Jesus (from 1977). We must remember this ‘larger’ meaning of blackness:

The editors, Larry Neal and Amiri Baraka, through their foreword and Neal’s afterword, move from the call for black nation building and liberated minds to Neal’s celebration of the space created by the destruction of double consciousness. Neal labels the undoing of binaries “Black.” There is a fundamental difference, in this anthology, between the setting of boundaries between black and white and Neal’s final move to a celebration of an aesthetic that blackens the boundaries between self and other, black and white. The blackening of this boundary crossing is easy to miss in quick and easy interpretations of the movement. Through the lens of Neal’s afterword, to “think black” is to deconstruct fixed identity and normative categories. In other parts of this anthology, to “think black” is to be most fixed and categorized. The unpackaged aspects of the Black Arts movement emerge when we zoom in on the contradictions in these most literal packages, the anthologies.

Yes, I know the following exercise renders hackneyed but: had Amiri, Larry and Fundi dropped In Our Terribleness today it would be an iPhone app—or an iTunes album. (No one would like such an app because it has blackness all over it—which is “so not cool” but… anyway…) In Our Terribleness was yearning for interactivity—“yearning” in the bell hooks sense of the word. Our most interactive, mass media at the moment is the digital.

So dig: Dr. Crawford would like you to revisit In Our Terribleness through the digital image. Do you remember reading In Our Terribleness? Are you one of the OGs that experienced the first edition back in the day? Then please, please send in a photo—a self-mirror-portrait of your Black-lit view into In Our Terribleness. Margo Natalie Crawford (who is quite an excellent poet, by the way) is working on a collaborative, interactive project that will showcase our “terrible” work. Send a Tweet to @KinteSpace.

Today’s Food: My imaginary ex-girlfriend fictionally conspires to get me fat and insulin-sticky with gluten-free carbs!

Michelle of Michelle’s Naturally

I look at a photograph of Michelle of Michelle’s Naturally and I immediately think ‘yup: imaginary ex-girlfriend…’ In my two-inch fantasy, we ‘used to’ go out but she got bored and went on to bigger and better things, like making the best cookies in my world. I sincerely and deeply expect my ex-women-friends imagined and real to continue to excel and grow after dumping me. And my imaginary Michelle makes me grow (fat) in a good/bad way: her cookies are so tasty that I eat them in the car while driving away from the grocery store.

Michelle's Naturally Gluten Free and Vegan Chokolada Chip™ Cookies

I enjoy eating her “Chokolada,” vegan, gluten-free cookies with a bottle of Sambazon Organic Açaí Berry & Chocolate Smoothie. It is my adult replacement of (chocolate) milk and chocolate chip cookies. This could be yet more of my bias but I think that her gluten-free version of her chocolate-chip cookies tastes better than her “regular” vegan cookies.

I cannot overstate how difficult it is to make gluten-free, vegan versions of cookies taste better than super-sweetened, high-glycemic sand—and Michelle comes out on top by evoking primal, taste-bud memories of my non-health-food childhood. Apart from the challenges all gluten-free food makers have with glycemic index, my only complaint for Michelle’s Naturally is that their cookies are packaged such that they stick together in the bag—and I can’t eat them easily while driving! One of my short-term goals (okay long-term goals) is to teach myself to eat Michelle’s cookies properly and with blood-sugar-levelling moderation. I need to calm the f’ down and learn how to enjoy pleasures in a meditative manner!

Amazon.com product

Here in Southern California over the years I’ve seen Michelle’s Naturally cookies in Whole Foods (occasionally), Erewhon (a relatively recent surprise) and Rainbow Acres (all the time!)… By the way, in case you are unable to find Michelle’s gluten-free, vegan cookies these are the alternatives in decreasing order of preference:

  • Grindstone Bakery Dark Chocolate Gluten Free Cookies (these are made primarily from quinoa; I get them from Erewhon and do not see them on the Grindstone Bakery web site). This brand has serious packaging problems: the heat (?) seal often comes apart and an entire shelf of cookies can be exposed to the open air.
  • Andean Dream Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cookies (these are very expensive, surely in large part because they are individually wrapped in space-age, silver jumpsuits!).
  • Vegan Java Chip from Breakaway Bakery (not in grocery stores as of this writing so a special trip to the bakery must be made).

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Democracy Now! [democracynow] TODAY: @garyruskin on the new report, “Spooky Business: Corporate Espionage Against Nonprofit Organizations.” http://t.co/fITGicJC3M

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Bryan D. Wilhite [BryanWilhite] The married Kama Sutra http://t.co/7LINHvnlhT via @feedly

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Bryan D. Wilhite [BryanWilhite] Could These Little Tubes Be The Secret To Capturing The Ocean’s Energy? http://t.co/Rns7GVDBfv)

Shadow And Act [shadowandact] Kevin Grevioux Has A Theory On The Lack Of Black Sci-Fi Filmmakers… http://t.co/25n8DD94oX

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Bryan D. Wilhite [BryanWilhite] Google Autocompletes The World’s Opinion Of Women––And It’s Not Pretty http://t.co/VRhaDu6w8k)

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Terence Nance: An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

Terence Nance and Namik Minter

Terence Nance and Namik Minter have agreed to let Terence Nance develop what appears to be his first student film into a feature in wide release, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty. This is film strikes me as the “Black Bohemian” film artists of my small social circle were looking for in the early 1990s. What I mean by Black Bohemian is “the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people [of African Descent], with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic, or literary pursuits…” In this narrow context, Terence expands upon say, Mobolaji Olambiwonnu, his short film, Candlelight Dinner, and produces a moment in time that I personally value. It is like one of my sons went to art school and came back with a charming document, a fleeting moment in time of African urbanite youth.

The reason why I opened the first paragraph in that way with Namik Minter is because I know what another, more asshole-like (or less secure) sister might have done to prevent Terence Nance from speaking (assuming this whole gig is more-than-semi-autobiographical). Terence might have been stopped cold by a post-pubescent feminist assault about why this presumptuous male is manipulating “the identity” of this woman. How dare he make any declarative statements in her general direction! In the monologue, Terence explicitly tells us what strikes me as the truth: he waited for her to make her film—to answer his film and she never did. I was very glad to see this as part of the story. What she could have done (old-bitter-man spoiler alert!) is not make her film and then stop Terence from making his—and Terence would have to stop or risk accusations of abstract rape. So when “we” wonder why more of these films don’t get made “we” tend forget the crab-like shit like that I am dragging you down with here in this paragraph.

The use of monologue in this film is, to me, a creative survival tactic that Terence used to get his film made. Without the use of the god-like voice Terence might have had the need for more expensive sound equipment and rehearsals with actors that might not be as available for the limited resources at his disposal. I also dare to assume that the animation is there also for the same, courageous, desperate reasons. Some young filmmakers from my generation turned to live action away from animation to prevent themselves from working in complete isolation (like a horrid novelist or something), I think young Terence has something to teach us about how to straddle both worlds and just get the blasted thing done!