Lisa Spiro Protects “Postmodern Blackness”

My first (and currently the last) cease and desist threat came not from some Hollywood agency but from a University of Virginia magazine, Postmodern Culture. Back in 2002, I attempted to re-publish a bell hooks essay, “Postmodern Blackness,” on kintespace.com. An email came soon after…

Dear Mr. Wilhite:

Thank you for notifying us that you have posted a copy of bell hooks’ “Postmodern Blackness” to your website. Unfortunately, by doing so you have violated copyright law. According to PMC’s contract with its publisher, the author retains copyright of any work published in PMC, although PMC and Johns Hopkins University Press must be credited whenever an article is re-published. A third party can’t reprint or repost, without permissions from both author and, at this point, JHUP.

There is a relatively simple solution to this problem: rather than re-posting the article, you can include a link to the article as it originally appeared in Postmodern Culture. The link should be to PMC’s text only archive, which is accessible for free:

For an example of how such a link would work, please see .

If you choose to retain the currrent format for the re-posted article, you must secure permissions from both Professor hooks and Johns Hopkins University Press. I believe that you can contact Professor hooks via Oberlin College; the phone number for the English Department is (440)775-8570.

Please keep PMC updated on what course of action you choose to pursue.

Sincerely,

Lisa Spiro
Managing Editor
Postmodern Culture
(804)924-4527
fax (804) 982-2363
PMC@Jefferson.village.virginia.edu

PMC/IATH
Alderman Library, 3rd Floor
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22903

Buy this book at Amazon.com!First, let me congratulate University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center for successfully (evidently) not violating copyright law. What stands out from this adventure is that bell hooks herself told me to publish her work anyway—but I did not. I decided to learn from this experience instead. I learned that when young, Black academics set out on a religious quest to be recognized by the ‘proper authorities’ they will know why the caged bird sings.

Successful, established authors often lose control over their own work. It is this deal with ‘the devil’ at the crossroads that can seem so ironic for African-descended people preaching about freedom, dignity and independence. As long as the ignorant sycophants don’t see the silken slave shackles it’s all good—right? I’m not saying that bell hooks is in any way associated with this game. I am saying that this experience with bell hooks reminds me of people who definitely are…

Fortunately bell hooks came out from the gilded academic cage from time to time. We have one of those times in the form of streaming audio, “bell hooks: Connecting Self and Community,” here at kintespace.com.

Why no permalinks?

Two or three working days were spent on eliminating ampersands from the query strings for SonghaySystem.com. This is real basic, simple stuff for any college kid hanging with her Linux gang but for me, my graduation from college was back in 1991.

These days were invested when it became clear that & expanded into & was not going to work for the new Live Bookmark features now in the latest release of Firefox and in a future version of Microsoft Internet explorer.

Reading the WordPress source code shows me that they economize quite a bit with query strings—and I have yet to see them use ampersands. Speaking of WordPress may lead to the question, “Why no permalinks?” SonghaySystem.com and kintespace.com does not have their own permalink structure because Bryan Wilhite is not that competent with the use of regular expressions in .htaccess files. There may be some ‘weirdness’ with .htaccess and my hosting environment (DreamHost.com) but let’s blame me first…

Selected Related Resources

htaccesstools.com The Hotlink protection generator is interesting.
webmaster-toolkit.com Has an .htaccess generator among other useful tools—like the Cron Generator Utility.
Behind the Scenes with Apache’s .htaccess Great summary. Still reading…

F. Leon Wilson on Ras the Destroyer

Since before May of 2002, I have been saving an email message from F. Leon Wilson in my offline Funky Knowledgebase. He expressed concern about referring to myself as rasx(). I quickly identified my source of inspiration, the giant classic by Ralph Ellison, and he sent me the following:

Now I understand… But check this out…

RAS THE DESTROYER. In Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952) Ras the Exhorter (turned Ras the Destroyer) represents the nationalistic view of the African American. He is a foil to the narrator in that, where the narrator seeks an integrated universe, Ras’ major concern is nation-building for the Black American. As a result of his experiences the narrator has come to suspect any organization or group that is exclusive.

He believes that the Blacks who do not become a part of the mainstream are “outside of history,” and he therefore rejects Ras’ nationalist rhetoric as nonsense. Ras has been linked to Marcus Garvey. Certainly both the fictional character and the historical figure share a compelling view of Black nationalism, and they both demanded social justice for Blacks.

Also, like Garvey, Ras has strong ties with Africa. “Ras, patrolling the streets of a riot-torn Harlem in his ancestral attire, astride a great black horse, is Dressed in the costume of an Abyssinian Chieftan.” Ras is also the short term for Rastafarian, originally a Jamaican religious group whose members trace their roots back to Ethiopia and to Haile Selassie. When Ras urges Blacks to unite, he, like Garvey, is not limiting his national movement to Harlem; he is pleading for nationalism throughout the Black diaspora. While Edison (through the narrator) might reject Black nationalism as disruptive, Ras stands as a symbol of the malignant force that comes as a result of America’s blindness (a blindness represented in the organization of the brotherhood and in the philanthropy of Mr. Norton) to the needs of oppressed minorities.

While Ras is a powerful character in the novel, Ellison, through his use of the comic, undercuts Ras’ dignity and makes him appear clownish at times. Even in the scene where he appears majestic, Ellison uses the comic to downplay his regality. Despite Ras’ proud bearing on this occasion, Ellison says he had “a hauty, vulgar dignity.” Instead of being robed in the skin of a lion or a leopard that is customary for African royalty, Ras is clad in a cape “made from the skin of some wild animal” that makes Ras himself look wild. And while Ras’ appearance is “real, alive, [and] alarming,” the narrator insists that it was “more out of a dream than out of Harlem.” Ellison’s depiction of Ras prefigures the negative images of the West Indian male that later appears in works by writers such as Toni Morrison and Chester Himes. One must add, however, that elements of the surreal and the comic pervade the novel, and Ras suffers no more from Ellison’s pen than do other characters.

Buy this book at Amazon.com! The first priority in response to this message is to note the high quality of F. Leon Wilson’s interaction with me (kintespace.com). The expectation was that Bryan Wilhite, “editor and chief” of kintespace.com, would have messages like this one on a daily basis from people all over the world. This is not the case—not because of the specific nature of me (kintespace.com) but it is rather a general state of affairs for almost all “community” Web sites. The opinion here is that most people are inspired to respond with their best when they know “the right people” are watching—so, from jump, there is a disingenuous motive to make a move. This is not appealing to me. F. Leon Wilson is not of this fakeness.

Now, secondly, I am honored to use a name that is associated with Marcus Garvey. When we examine the life of Ellison—especially that life he had after he became known among the American literary elite—we can see that Ellison’s aesthetic may veer toward W.E.B. Dubois referring to Marcus Garvey as a “black ape.”

It is quite easy for most young persons all over the world to laugh at “white music”—like the music of Lawrence Welk. There is no way these kids would solemnly and matter-of-factly incorporate the greatest hits of Lawrence Welk into their iPod mix—as the equivalent—nay the superior—to music of and influenced by Africa. The future will show that there is more than just “white music” to laugh at… there will be something to say about “white thought” (the domination of the analytical mind)… I see no accident that it has taken this long for western scientists to “prove” that the universe is dominated by blackness. This is funny to me—in the same manner that black apes are funny to too many of them.

‘In the blackness of the atoms is The Witness,’ so speaks rasx(), the builder.

WordPress Upgrade Notes

I spent way too much time trying to get the right glyphs to show up in phpMyAdmin. For some reason now unknown to me, the Windows offline WordPress site shows the glyphs correctly—but, in phpMyAdmin, garbage. This is the current view of the data trail:

  • A MySQL dump to a text file produces UTF8 (?) and is downloaded in a binary FTP format to a Windows machine.
  • In Notepad++, Format > Convert to Windows Format and Format > UTF-8 without BOM are selected. There are so many ways to go wrong here.
  • In phpMyAdmin, the SQL tab is selected and the encoded text file is loaded and run with utf8 encoding.
  • Common sense dictates that the same database users on the live server should be added to the offline, “backup” server. This took me awhile…

It also took way too long to discover that, under the ./rasxlog/wp-admin/ Options tab, both WordPress address (URI): and Blog address (URI): had to be set. I was trying to set these values in phpMyAdmin using the guidance of “Installing WordPress on your own Windows computer.”

Selected Related Resources

Upgrading WordPress Direct from the org codex.
Installing WordPress on your own Windows computer A WAMP-centric and excellent summary.
WordPress on Windows and IIS A Blog post that leads to other WordPress posts.
Installation Issues on Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) WordPress.org hosts this advice so it has an official tone.