On my YouTube channel, I set up a rasx() context playlist that only has five videos in it. In stereotypical fantasy, I literally rolled out of bed this morning fired up about taking direct action without elaborate preparation. I need to make some videos about my poetry—especially the work I did when I was in college.

Specifically, I was remembering the spoken-word/rhythm-rhyme piece I made called Ida B. Wells: Agitation against the Lynching Evil. I have not released this work on the Internet or in print because it is meant to be heard first. This choice is completely under the influence of one of my mentors/elders Sekou Sundiata—most of his work was released by record labels.

My problem is the huge, multi-decade-long delay between developing the material and releasing it as originally intended. I need to escape the all-or-nothing trap and at least do a solo Google Hangout and re-live the material. Now, I will show myself a bullet list of things I should hit whenever this happens:

  • The young people need to know that Ida B. Wells was the first investigative journalist—not the first Black investigative journalist—but the first investigative journalist. Period.

  • I need to reference the documentary about Ida B. Wells, featuring Toni Morrison the voice of Ida B. Wells.

  • Of course her autobiography, Crusade for Justice.

  • Two events from her life stand out to me: (i) her husband sold his newspaper to her instead of giving it to her and (ii) one of the most poignant moments in all of American history is when a young Ida B. Wells—born in freedom—was thrown off of a train as Jim Crow began to rise. It is exactly like being in a dystopian sci-fi horror movie.

  • Ida B. Wells crusaded primarily in response to black businessmen being murdered for living the American dream. This history flies in the face of the 20th-century, child-of-European-immigrants arrogance about their grandfather coming to America with a nickel in his pocket to build an empire—and why can’t these Black people do the same.

So getting this done is less tragic than not doing anything publicly at all. At this moment in my miserable life I assume that I will no longer fall into more private-life spider webs so I can continue to get the work done to get the work out there.

Update: in typical Bryan un-fashion, I see that I failed to actually hit upon my poetry. I went into the history (which I love). Let’s try to fix that:

  • I need to explain every single line of my work (which sounds artsy-egocentric until we start thinking about the children that use YouTube like a terrifying, never-ending episode of Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood). This suggests strongly that the Google Hangout should be (mostly) a screen share, instead of me showing my (artsy-egocentric) face.

  • I make a reference to the1997 movie Love Jones (which demonstrates just how old this work is).

  • The used vulgar language was not unconsciously habitual out of socialization. I was well aware of fluent, Shakespearean English as well as vernacular forms. The use of this language was for its percussive efficiency as well for an intended audience.

  • This first line of the piece was a direct quote from Ida B. Wells. It was the saying she intended to make famous. My poem about her is following her instructions an example of my respect for her. (However, I am more than certain that she would not approve of my use of vulgar language—but Ida B. Wells would not know how far from the grace of non-white God her people has fallen since her death.)

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The core cause of how it is ‘easy’ for me to teach children about Black history is because I have a homespun understanding of how children do baby stuff—because babies do baby stuff. I do not come at children—especially my children—with some “intellectual framework.” And even self-described Black people need to get the threat of emotional and physical violence out of their assumptions about my references and invocations. Once a parent truly learns that to be violent with children is wrong because it can teach a child the very, very European fantasy of solving problems quickly through overwhelming force, that parent is on the way to setting a traditional African example for their children. A parent who is sane (which is harder to be than one without children would think) would want to teach their children how to defend themselves against the long, slow siege of abstract symbolic psychological assaults before moving on to their rendition of Israeli Secret Service training.

The strategic reason why I have been so ‘sanely great’ with my children (especially when they were toddlers) is because I only saw them on the weekends and (this is very important) I have not taken on a “girlfriend” at the expense of my children. Here in the rasx() context, a girlfriend is an adult woman who has serious financial problems and she (in spite of herself) would psychologically compete for my attention in the manner of a toxic rival sibling. And, yes, ladies, you all have many, many boyfriends that do the same shit (with the optional rape kit sold separately).

So for my toddlers (a boy and girl) a Saturday was their day here in crappy Los Angeles. Driving in Los Angeles traffic easily has a 20-minute minimum, leaving plenty of time to play a truckload of songs for my children—not for me but for my children (and then me). The table below will list a few of the songs I played for my children through the AUX jack of my Prius from my crappy Windows Phones of the past:

Living For The City

My daughter, my youngest, started asking questions about this song when she was four or five. She was the one that taught me that Stevie Wonder supplies, in one seven-minute song, a complete Black history lesson, invoking the memory “great migration” of blacks from the rural South to urban centers. This song helps to teach my children how to compare country living with city living—that “once upon a time” your mama’s momma lived in the country and she would never call her children out their name—and she would never let you out the house with your fingernails so dirty.

Now that my daughter is older we go the library (instead of the park). She is learning how to check books out of a campus library (and get renewal and late notices forwarded to her). She might express interest in a 1989 book by Carol Marks, Farewell—We’re Good and Gone: The Great Black Migration. So far she has not—but I know she has the feeling of the memory of this history. It is not so completely alien to her.

All The Critics Love U In New York

My post-millennial son instantly fell in love with Prince when he heard this song, along with “Lady Cab Driver.” My son was being trained (in his mother’s house) to be a musician so it was no surprise to me that he would be moved by the music. My son was too young to even care about the sexual content in these songs—it was all about the music.

The “Critics” song led me to rap to my son about the history of so-called “Jazz” and the history of punk rock in general (because Prince jokingly yells “take a bath, hippie”) and the Talking Heads (David Byrne) in particular.


At the height of my daughter’s Disney princess phase, I made sure she heard the awesome, enchanting beauty of Deniece Williams singing “Free.” The intro alone immediately held my daughter’s attention because it sounded like a million magic wands cascading rainbows. She was so moved by the song for a few days that you could not tell her that Deniece Williams was not the first, Black Disney princess! I wanted my daughter to know that black women are not always so hard and seemingly invulnerable. I wanted her to experience the soft grace of a woman taking charge and radiating her magic spell… My daughter is born into a situation where the women in her life are very much un-free so this is meant to get her some memory/feeling of freedom…


It is quite a surprise in the post-gangsta-rap, self-hating racism of today that a song like “Bootzilla” by Boosty was deliberately designed for children (or at most tweens)—me when I was a child to be exact. In fact, I forgot about how this song can reach children. This voice from the 1970s came “short distance” to my 21st-century daughter, saying, “don’t let her cry… don’t let that li’l’ girl cry…” and then came this crazy man saying, “Yabba-dabba-doozy-baba! Bootzilla here!”

Of course, because I am a “nerd” (actually it’s because I hung with DJs as a kid), I do not play a song without the album cover on display. So my daughter looked at the display on my phone and sees Bootsy and asked the question, “Why his eyes like stars?” So the idea with this song is a promise to play—I grew up in world of innocent childhood play. This song brings my personal history to life for my children, the makers of funky thangs to play whiff! Twinkle, twinkle, baby! (By the way, when children hear the word “baby” in a song—the child will logically and often Blackly-correctly assume they are referring to actual babies. Multiple layers of meaning, kids.)

The Mooche

Yes, I have played the game with my children where I pretend, in slow motion that I am about to steal food from them. But before I get to the food they always seem to slap my hand away. Duke Ellington (along with Louis Armstrong sometimes) make an excellent soundtrack to this game. This seems like it’s not Black history lesson but my children know that this idea of music instruments anthropomorphizing characters/ideas is a Black thang (that came into Europe via Italy—conveniently located in the south, baby). It may help to squeal like grandpa, da mooch!, to the rhythm of the music.

Shimmy Shimmy KO KO Bop

How do I get my children to know something about my father when he is Georgia and we are in Los Angeles? The answer is Little Anthony & The Imperials, their classic hit “Shimmy Shimmy KO KO Bop.” One of the cutest things I have ever witnessed is my toddler daughter in her car seat trying to keep up with them. (We have to remember that I have no idea how my children are going to react to this music.) Now in terms of Black history, this is one of the first (or the first) American pop tune sung by black people referring to African imagery (the “native hut” and the “native girl” putting Anthony in a trance).

The Laughing Gnome

My children very, very quickly grew out of this early David Bowie song. Since I was a teenage Bowie fan, I just had to throw this one in. This is a children’s song and it worked quite well. Of course my youngest son would ask, why? And then for some poetic reason I tell my son about Little Richard and how much David Bowie “loved” him.

“Gypsy Boy”

Now I know I have told my son several times about Little Richard telling Jimi Hendrix off for hours about upstaging him. “I’m the pretty one!” Little Richard exclaimed. The “Gypsy Boy” recording by Jimi Hendrix in my collection is from his Midnight Lightning album. And—in terms of history—when my son is listening, it speaks to him directly:

Hey gypsy boy
where do you come from?

Hey gypsy boy
where do you plan to go to?

My African plan is to have my son carry that song (and those questions) with him so he can answer for himself as he gets older. There is some deeper stuff going here (around the meaning of gypsy) but that’s beyond the scope of the fun.

Future Love Paradise

I often fantasize the fantasies of a Black father—that the memory my children will have of me is their dad driving around in his crappy Prius singing along to “Future Love Paradise” by Seal. Even little kids understand that Dad is telling us how he feels about us—he is telling us how optimistic he is in spite of the obstacles—when he is singing that song about the “future power people.” But deeper still kids: I am also telling my children that, should every human being on Earth die all at once, then humanity will come back as an Africoid people as white-lab-coat science tells us how it happened before. And just like before that Africoid people will return to “biological altruism” which is a paradise compared to the apocalypse now. Dad is weird, right?

Pastime Paradise

So, yes, I am a poet and I often wanted my children to hear the words then the music. But with Stevie’s “Pastime Paradise” the message is so clearly in the music. My youngest son knew what “white” orchestral strings sound like from an early age—but for him to hear it mastered and syncopated unto an African rhythm was a different thang all together.

Pass It On

This Wailers song I sang directly to my two youngest children (especially my daughter) when they were infants. This is not a Saturday-fun-in-the-car song. With this one, I learned how powerful music is when it is used on children (to put them to sleep for mama):

It is the conscience
that is going to remind you
It is your heart
nobody else’s
that is going to judge

Song of rejoicing after returning from a hunt (rhythm djoboko)

Like many, many ancient African things they never age—this song from the Ba-Benzele People in my collection sounded completely modern to my children. —And I bragged to my children in a rare moment of a genuine outward expression of joy, ‘This is one of the oldest songs in the world—in the world, kids!’

I tried to get my kids to listen for the organization in the song: the generational sequential order of the communal singing.

I’ll Bet You

How do you promise to your baby girl that you will never leave her (the baby girl that is actually a baby)? All I know is when I held my daughter on a pillow (to put her to sleep for mama), I started singing this Funkadelic song which has meaning for both the child and the mama (at the time):

You ain’t go’ lose…
You’re a winner, baby
You right here in the pocket baby…
…with my love

Small Axe

What is sad is that every time I say this, I feel like I have to prove it: children form deep empathic bonds with people—especially their functional parents. So there is a difference between some adult stranger singing a song and their own parent singing. Sometimes a child cannot understand the lyrics of a song until they feel their parent singing:

Why boast of thyself
O evil man
Playing smart
but not being clever

You come working
in iniquity
to achieve vanity
but for the goodness of J’ah J’ah
I ’dure it
for I ’ver

I have yet to tell my children that they are listening to the voice of the slave talking back to his master. So I do admit that this history lesson takes a bit more work.


Even in a perfect black suburban world of 21st-century nuclear family bliss, my children would never experience the Baptist Church like I did when I was child. This song, “John” from the Gullah Sea Islands folk provides some idea of how Church was for Black folk before my grandparents’ time.

I played this song once in the car for my song when I started pontificating to him about the song “Johnny B. Goode” as I was reminding my son of the Black origins of Rock ‘n’ Roll. You can clearly hear the ‘Johnny-hook’ in this old church song:

Some say John
was a Baptist

Some say John
was a Jew

I say John
was a preacher

And the Bible
say so too

So preach on, Johnny!
Preach on Johnny!

I love this song. Should I ever end up a guest in the pews of a Baptist Church and I get to lead the congregation into song (as a creepy old man), I expect to pull this old one out for the congregation.

Boogie Chillun

This John Lee Hooker classic is a historical masterpiece, chronicling the big-band-and-bobby-socks era of Black dance music at “Henry Swing Club.” For my daughter, her memories of the song took us to YouTube again where I could show her how Black people danced in the 1940s. For my son, events in his personal life made him resonate with the message, “Let that boy boogie woogie! ’Cause it’s in him—and it got to come out!”

Try Again

As my youngest children (just two of them for a total of three) flew into their tweens I had to change tack. This Aaliyah song “Try Again” was a way to tell my daughter that girls can make boys try again. She had no idea what they were trying but the important point is that a girl should be able to make a boy wait. From my daughter’s point of view she liked the beats and the girl singing—and when I dug up the video on YouTube, she liked the dancing. It was quite a while before my daughter discovered that Aaliyah is a historical figure.

Things done changed

My youngest son’s mother is super-, super-motivated to deny this but I am 110% certain that my son learned his foul-mouthed, shitty four-letter words from the white kids in the private schools his mother put him in. As soon as it became clear that my son was dropping f-bombs left and right, instead of getting violent with him and blaming him for this shit (although I did tell him to stop), I introduced him to some Black history from Notorious B.I.G.

Of course I knew at the time, introducing my son to this rapper would be news for my son’s mother—and she had the choice of blaming me for putting f-bombs in my son’s mouth or blaming her sacred white folks (even though she is a self-described “black woman”). Who do you think she would choose to blame? (BTW: all three of my children have different mothers—and all of these mothers are older than me.)

Black Cop

One of the earliest hip hop songs I played for my youngest son is the KRS-ONE classic “Black Cop.” My son was too young to understand the content but liked the hook. His mother was not super-enthusiastic about exposing her son to hip hop so I figured that his running around her house repeating “black cop!” would throw her off for a while.

On the deeper level, the long-term message to my son is being concerned about the black cops first before you deal with the white ones.

Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos

Even though my youngest son’s mother was invited over for dinner by Chuck D and his wife, “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” would not be on her list of things to play for her child’s education. But, for me, my son’s history lesson is within the first 30 seconds:

Here is a land
that never gave a damn
about a brother
like me
like myself
because they never did.

Strange Fruit

Cassandra Wilson’s high-resolution, acoustic rendition of “Strange Fruit” was something I played in the car to no inquisitive reaction. Since my children know me to play horror movie soundtracks (like “Das Ding aus einer anderen Welt” by Ennio Morricone), repeating over and over again “that’s scary”—to make them answer “no it ain’t!”—this track went by like just another piece of ‘scary’ fiction. This was one of those cases where this history of lynching in North America did not turn into a teachable moment—but it was a musical moment for children at least.

Space: A Monologue

This Sekou Sundiata masterpiece got played once maybe twice in the car. It is a Black history of the 1960s, 70s and bit of the 80s. I have to admit that my children—especially my son—thought the man making all that noise is crazy. My youngest son is a teenager now and should still have the same opinion.

The White Man’s Got a God Complex

I admit I started playing this mega-classic from The Last Poets to playfully annoy my children. When we were driving “through the white neighborhood” my daughter would roll up the windows. My son would try to stop the phone from playing it and demand to hear hip hop—in spite of me saying, “Where you think hip hop comes from?”

Eventually my children grew out of the Daddy DJ. My daughter has her own music collection. My youngest son is definitely doing his own thing. I like to think that I have some kind of influence on my children’s choice in music (my daughter has this term to describe some her music: “dank beats”)—and any sincere, visceral respect for history…

Related links


  • ::: Akatu Ajonye: The President’s visit
  • ::: Sekou Sundiata: Come On And Bring On The Reparations
  • ::: Dick Gregory Speaks Truth (YouTube.com)

::: Akatu Ajonye: The President’s visit

::: ::: http://kintespace.com/p_akatu_ajonye0.html

Now, we indulge in our third selection from Dr. Jerry Agada’s labor of love, 500 Nigerian Poets. This Aboki Publishers volume, shipping from 43 New Bridge (Otukpo) Road in Makurdi, Benue State, sings with diversity. It is a rich tapestry of creative vision.

Akatu Ajonye, a graduate of drama of the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, preserves a compelling snapshot of the Bush-Administration Presidential tour of Africa. It rings in harmony with the report in “Njoki Njehu: What’s Missing in US/Africa Policy?” here in the kinté space.

::: Sekou Sundiata: Come On And Bring On The Reparations

::: ::: http://kintespace.com/p_sekou_sundiata0.html

With the assistance of my FaceBook friend, Bob Holman (Mouthalmighty Records), I have learned that Sekou Sundiata’s The Blue Oneness of Dreams is now owned by Mercury Records. Over the years, Bob had to tell me twice that this was the case—merely an indicator of my dense denial.

Sekou Sundiata is a foundational inspiration for the kinté space. He has been my personal teacher in absentia for years—and only now, at this writing, do I realize that he was a professional teacher—with none other than Ani DiFranco as one of his students at New York City’s New School. Her talent and public persona lead me to conclude that his other significant body of work Long Story Short, released by Ani’s Righteous Babe Records is in a better place.

Meanwhile, here in the kinté space, we only have YouTube.com. We collect five selections from YouTube.com that capture the awesome power of Sekou Sundiata. Importantly, Katea Stitt, the manager and friend of Sekou Sundiata, is featured here reading his work. I fear that without YouTube.com seeing this event would not be possible.

::: Dick Gregory Speaks Truth (YouTube.com)

::: ::: http://kintespace.com/p_dick_gregory0.html

Every self-described ‘Black family’ should have a character like Dick Gregory in it. A certain kind of ethnic cleansing makes it likely that such a character is no longer around—so this collection of YouTube.com videos make up for the mistake. It’s amazing how the color of the Web can change in less than five years…

Buy this Book at Amazon.com! The mother of my third child left me years ago with a birthday present called Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora. I have finally gotten around to opening it and dabbling. This collection is edited by Sheree R. Thomas—and, based on the, ahem, ‘love’ in the comments from a previous post, I am obligated to recognize the fact that DJ Spooky is in it—in the back part, next to a great essay by Samuel R. Delany, “Racism and Science Fiction,” sprinkled with a critique directed at Blacks like me that capitalize the B.

Remember, we do everything better—this includes reeking of liberal elitism, sadistic irony and white fascist conservatism—so, when an American person “of color” works hard to get something printed on white paper—for the slat-wall shelves in the “mainstream” as televised in the early 1990s, there is very little interest to publish online. This can come from time-management issues alone. Publishing online is seen a either a gutter thang for hick mud ducks or some “brave” experiment of “extreme” innovation of someone approved by the establishment. It is too easy for me to accuse professional colored folks that shun any serious online activity as the myopia of obsequious Negroes trying to second-guess their non-Black masters (real and imagined). What is most useful is to listen to “Noam Chomsky: Propaganda and Control of the Public Mind” here in the kinté space and get one big picture of the “universal audience.” The smart colored folks may have had it right all the time—once the big, multi-nationals take away the “open” Internet through net-neutrality attrition.

So, instead of assuming that a person with the bricks-and-mortar stature of Sheree R. Thomas would never publish anything regularly online without the encouragement of “white friends” and/or money, I dropped prejudice (for just a moment) and actually checked. I found Black Pot Mojo and am exceedingly pleased!

The only drawback is that she has stopped publishing as of June 2008. I can only hope the hope of the captive that she is just on vacation or something. Here are the highlights of her online style in Mojo:

  • She writes on a monthly scale, which is impressive to me because her work schedule, taking her away from the computer, surely has to be very demanding. I write during my self-defined five days weekly because I am sitting at computers every business day.
  • She is actually writing journal entries. I can tell that she is actually writing. I sense no condescension toward writing “for free” on the Internet. This indicates personal wealth—a surplus within her that literally means she is not totally sold out.
  • She is actually using the Blog to write about her personal feelings instead of holding the Byzantine pose desperate to communicate non-desperation—the false calm of Roman peace.
  • She writes in a ‘classic’ or ‘traditional’ style from the world of print instead of the Blackberry or twitter style. I prefer this way of writing because of this interesting juxtaposition of the old world and the new, cohering in continuity.

I read her entire Blog—every single entry. Compared to what professional editors read and write under the bricks and mortar, this is not an impressive task at all. But, compared to the usual myspace suspects here on the Internet, me taking the time to do this much reading must be horrifying. I’m not a speed reader but I am not that slow either—I write way, way faster than I read… These Sheree R. Thomas moments are of note:

From “Soul Suckas, a digression, Then some love for Sekou & Sotigui”:

Over the past two or so years, I’d made a tough decision about cutting loose what some folk might call toxic personalities, negative vibers, who like to keep up a lot of nonsense and foolishness. You may know what I mean, individuals who don’t mean nobody no kind of good, never have a positive thing to say, unless it’s about themselves, but insist on staying in touch, supposedly to ‘see how you doin’, but mostly just to drain you. Soul suckas. They don’t reach out, until they want something, usually said something for free, and then you don’t hear from them again until the next crisis.

From “Octavia E. Butler Crosses Over”:

The last time I saw Ms. Butler was a very joyous moment, when she received the Langston Hughes Medal at CUNY. Surrounded by so many of her fans and lifelong friends I met at Clarion when we all applied *because* Octavia was teaching that year, the evening was magical, with music and an insightful interview by Wesley Brown. I remember still feeling shy around her, because she is, after all, one of my favorite authors in the world, and she reminded me of elders in my own family, warm, funny, keenly observant, and gracious as ever.

From “Stars in Her Eyes”:

Jarita C. Holbrook sees the world through many different sets of eyes.

And that’s a good thing, too, considering the amount of time she spends staring at the sky, usually as part of her research on African astronomy and culture.

But that’s not all. As an assistant research scientist at the University of Arizona Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, Holbrook’s research interests also include indigenous knowledge systems—especially astronomy, technology transfer, and lay astronomy practices—African Americans and science, and African history of science, technology, and medicine.

Buy this Book at Amazon.com! Although her content is thinner than what most of the “Blog elite” would consider as serious contribution, what she does write about in a month is more diverse and more in depth—and involving more real people (especially humans in the so-called “arts” and sciences)—than what I can write in a whole year.

I feel like I let Sheree R. Thomas down by being ignorant of her Blog for so long. But this is often how being on the Internet goes—one may not get instant gratification but over the years people do get into contact with the work. Almost all web sites are like a patch on a coral reef just looking at the ocean pass by… one deciliter at a time.

Based on, ahem, comments from a previous Blog post, it would seem that the number of comments is an indicator of personal popularity. Having followed hundreds of Blog sites closely and thousands more loosely, I know any strict, scientific research into this will reveal that Blog comment participation when controlled by ethnic group, economic class and age is not an indicator of personal popularity. I just know that this lack of participation through this single function would have nothing to do with Sheree R. Thomas losing interest in writing online. It can’t hurt to mention that the Black Pot Mojo technorati.com rating is about 200,000 points higher than mine with an “authority” five points higher than me! That is very impressive for a single, relatively infrequent Blog writer without a multi-national record deal and a crappy myspace page!

Apart from my vacation guess, taking on certain kinds of media-related employment demands that writing online must cease. Maybe Ms. Thomas is working close to Malaika Adero? (Also it must be stated that Ms. Thomas grants herself the right to moderate comments.) I want to know!

Black Pot Mojo is a Blog for grown folks—folks old enough to know who Octavia Butler is… I look forward to the Mojo coming through 2009… Wow! What was that? I just dared to fantasize that Ms. Thomas would actually read my Blog posts (at least one month’s worth) and point out editorial errors and real opportunities for critique… I just cannot see her as being “too good” to do this because of me, personally… Some people actually do this for fun! Once they are actually located, sometimes the ideas overshadow the egos.

Note: Jarita C. Holbrook edited a book called African Cultural Astronomy: Current Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy research in Africa (Astrophysics and Space Science Proceedings). It sells for over $100 on Alibris and Amazon.com. This price has to be beaten—right? A hick like me just cannot afford to drop cash on a book like this on any given Sunday. This is the third time I have run into this high price issue when trying to get some real African material.