Zanele Muholi - LiTer I - IV, 2012 | MO(U)RNING Exhibit
Zanele Muholi – LiTer I – IV, 2012 | MO(U)RNING Exhibit

“Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love of a free man is never safe. There is no gift for the beloved. The lover alone possesses his gift of love. The loved one is shorn, neutralized, frozen in the glare of the lover’s inward eye.”

  •  Claudia, The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison

Saul Williams | , Said The Shotgun To The Head

Have you ever been kissed by God? Passionately (tongue, lips, etc.)? Or are you one who simply condemns God to the realm of the invisible? When do you feel most comfortable? When do you feel most loved? Perhaps it is in the warm embrace of your lover or in the assuring touch of your mother. Perhaps, like me, you have likened this person to God in your life and realized that God was loving you through them. Or maybe you don’t believe in God. Cool.

Here’s a simpler question: Have you ever lost yourself in a kiss? I mean pure psychedelic inebriation. Not just listful petting but transcendental metamorphosis when you became aware that the greatness of this being was breathing into you. Licking the sides and corners of your mouth, like sealing a thousand fleshy envelopes filled with the essence of your passionate being and then opened by the same mouth and delivered back to you, over and over agian—the first kiss of the rest of your life. A kiss that confirms that the universe is aligned, that the world’s greatest resource is love, and maybe even that God is a woman. Withor without a belief in God, all kisses are metaphors decipherable by allocations of time, circumstance, and understanding.

– Saul Williams (2003)

. . . A rather interesting take on God from Saul Williams. Within the given framework: God becomes something much more feasible and no longer bound to the abstract and unknown. In essence, God is a woman which is expressed wholly in a matter of chapters. Deconstructed patriarchy in an eloquent way. Below I’ve listed a quote from this each section of this poem/book. Though each is a fairly potent quote, I beg of you: please buy the book. This poem in it’s proper context is simply amazing.

” I am certain I speak a new language. As is always the first sign of a new age.”

“She kissed as if she, alone, could forge the signature of the sun.
I closed my eyes
I never knew
The difference
I stood before
A brighter light
At lesser

“She and I never spoke.
We were in relationships we shouldn’t have been in.
We were sorcerers who had stored their charms in unmarked boxes because they had made our partners uncomfortable. Every day, we reported to work early in order to rest our waking eyes on last nights dream.
I had resorted to sleeping with my back to my partner.
The ball I slept curled in became the question mark I now placed within all prior commitments.
This was no teenage crush.
It was an adulthood rite.
She was what love had grown up to be: unspoken, yet shared between us.”

“Your weapons. Are phallic. All of them

The dummy
That sits on your lap
Is no longer
A worthwhile spectacle
His shrunken pale face
Leaves little room
For imagination
We have spotted
Your moving lips
And have pinned the voice
To its proper source”

“Even lifeguards drown
When the undertow breaks bread with the under belly
Demons disguised as sharks
Have not put enough thought
Into their costumes.”

“We have been forced
To create a new currency

One that will truly allow us
To love our neighbors
For reasons beyond guilt and pity”

“You wage war
On minimum wage
And the people
Purchase their delicacies
From Target

Maybe you should aim

“The truth still stands

At the dance
Waiting for you
You take her hand.”

“Her charm
Is in her silence
She speaks
In extended parenthesis.”

“To be free
Of the restraints
Of a culture
That instills the will
Of material possession and domination
Into its citizens
One must learn to honor
The substance of their materials
And the etymologcal roots
Of their findings.”

Saul Williams

The Nexus Between Theory and Practice: The Role of The Intellegentsia

I felt that somehow being a revolutionary intellectual might be a goal to which one might aspire, for surely there was no real reason why one should remain in the academic world – that is, remain an intellectual – and at the same time not be revolutionary.

– Dr. Walter Rodney, “Walter Rodney Speaks” (Rodney, 1990)

Holistic community can exist among the subjugated beyond rhetoric and ideals. I find the possibility quite refreshing, even accounting for the paradoxical means in which it may be attained. The oppressed, the people with soul, forced to function within the confines of a troubled and artificial framework set on affirming itself as authentic find themselves in an ironically opportune position.

Everyday life amongst the trivialized serves to perpetuate the hindering of progress, further suppresses cultivation, and fetters whatever humanity is left. Yet still we find our predicament morally advantageous for the simple fact that despite numerous efforts, these artificial perceptions and ideals will never fit. We the subjugated find success in our failed attempts to apply fabricated and linear definitions to our very multidimensional realities. When the “self-other” dichotomy is brought about, we are the other, and in striving to be someone else’s definition of self we have always had ourselves, their other, to fall back on. Such is the nature of development by contradiction.

At the expense of the oppressed, the oppressor seeks comfort, coziness, profit, and riches. However, fragmentation, passivity, and denial disguised as the former are the only rewards of these efforts. It only helps this misperception of reality that the world created for you agrees with your rightful place at the top, which makes fragmentation, passivity, and denial look to be much more than empty goals, and rather attractive ones. Success is gauged by one’s transcendence into this holy trinity of ineffectiveness.

The chief motivating factor of this discourse is the daily interaction with my peers who have identified themselves as being in solidarity with the subjugated, but seek comfort through the same vacuous means as the colonizer, the oppressor. The academic elite, our Kennesaw State, Clark Atlanta, Temple, Georgia State and Emory Universities, our Morehouse, Spelman, and Smith Colleges. The group tasked with the cultivation and understanding of sound theoretical ideals finding comfort in denial and ineffectiveness is problematic. This group, within the framework of this discussion, I liken to a group highlighted by Frantz Fanon as the “Colonized Intellectuals” (Fanon, 1965)

Within the halls of the institution this group, of which I am a member, functions with “bourgeois swinishness” (Cesaire, 1972) as the fundamental rule, having mistaken upward mobility as the end all of progress, casting aside a more comprehensive means of pressing forward: cultivating the ability to apply sound theoretical frameworks in a practical/equitable way, in cooperation with the working class.

The colonized intellectual finds comfort in an education that is fundamentally hypocritical. Hypocritical in the sense that the general claim, or I would like to think so, is one of a focus on community yet everything in practice works to conserve an impractical system of relations among the two subgroups of oppressed. An education that takes refuge in hypocrisy is doomed to be ineffective, or rather effective in the sense that it perpetuates the status quo and hinders any sort of substantive and sustainable development within the individual and society.

On objectivity: At times, the safety that the heart seeks is in indifference. Choosing to function (whether poorly or not) from an objective standpoint is to choose indifference, and to choose indifference is to choose irresponsibility. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of a network of inescapable mutuality he was alluding to the interrelated network between you and I, whether one identifies as an intellectual, laymen, politician, factory worker, farmer, teacher, artist, etc.

The fact of the matter is that when our collective heart seeks comfort in indifference and yearns for a veil of deceit we have chosen to remove ourselves from the equation. We have chosen to remain ineffective; in essence we have taken a step away from the environment where “grounding”, the foundation of humanity and civilization, is possible. We, the individuals who function within the institution, must maintain a more inclusive and holistic model of development, because “it is not the head of a civilization that begins to rot, it is the heart.” (Cesaire, 1972) As we continue to advance in the abstract, our hearts go malnourished. This too, is development by contradiction. If we are to aspire to bring forth the questions we seek to be answered, we must be thorough and tempered with humility because being anything else will misguide the practice and in effect, hamper development.

When Dr. Walter Rodney was grounding in Jamaica he was devoting himself to theory derived from and tempered with practice, while providing useful insights from what he had learned and formulated having been immersed in the institution. Unfortunately, the practices of Dr. Rodney are the exception generally not the usual procedure.

In conclusion I re-pose the original question with an addition: What is the role of the intelligentsia in revolution? The definition of “Revolution” free of the confines of exoticism and empty eloquence, begins primarily with the individual.  I am simply a man, and no man is in the place to judge his brother, for that designation belongs to a higher power. I posit such an idea not as a condemnation of my brethren, but rather in the hopes that this idea evokes the insight necessary to begin revolution in the place that it must in order to be sustainable, the individual. When there is a claim of humanity within the foundation, a claim beyond flowery language, a claim that can be seen in both theory and practice, only then do we begin to move in a manner that can be described as progress.

– – – –

Khalfani Lawson
Kennesaw State University
Political Science | African and African Diaspora Studies

9th Annual Walter Rodney Symposium

The Marathon | One Year Anniversary

This time last year I was blessed: I was hired after a long bout with unemployment (1 year of homelessness). I remember specifically people very close to me were urging me to go out for spring break last year. Not so much.  The only thing that mattered at that time was get my feet set in the earth, pave my own way. Now it’s the same deal, just more of a surplus than just trying to survive. For that, Alhamdililah.

This spring break my finances were focused on making my life a bit easier and clearing a path for some serious progress. I’ll share what these things are once I get there, but for now a quick couple of reasons why I chose to stick around Kennesaw and Atlanta for the week:

I get to build my future while reading historic documents all day with this view, family.


Blessed, the soundrack:

Curren$y – Job

Mark Bradford: “Scorched Earth”

“In a large piece called “Scorched Earth” hundreds of tiny cut-up papers are carefully lined side by side to suggest the buildings or blocks of a city seen in aerial view. Much of the center of the city, however, is bare of such structures, and ash black as if smoldering. And, in an addition rare for this artist, the top third of the piece, representing the sky, is covered with paint, fiery red.” – Holland Cotter, 2010 (New York Times)

Hocus Pocus – “73 Touches” – Geometrie