January 2, 2013
… of 2012, better known as the act brought to fruition in order to dodge the “Fiscal Cliff”. The best way to be informed about what the document entails is to read the actual document at some point, which can be located Here (source: Congressional Budget Office, H.R. 8 American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012). Also, The Economist has published an informative article in this regard as well: “Short-term relief, and little else“
The focus now is spending, lets see where this goes in the next several months.
April 26, 2012
One looks again at the word famine
“. . . . At this hour of the world’s history, famine must be considered a man made phenomenon as one looks at who is starving. There is nothing even faintly ridiculous, or unfair, in these apprehensions, which are produced by nothing less than western history.
Our former guides and masters are among the most ruthless creatures in mankind’s history, slaughtering and starving one another to death long before they discovered the blacks. If the British were willing to starve Ireland to death – which they did in order to protect profits of British merchants – why would the West be reluctant to starve Africa out of existence? Especially since the generation facing famine now is precisely that generation that will begin the real and final liberation of Africa from Europe.
It is, in any case, perfectly clear that the earth’s population can be fed if – or, rather when – we alter our priorities. We can irrigate deserts and feed the entire earth for the price we are paying to build bombs that we will be able to use, in any event, only once; after which whoever is left will have to begin what I am suggesting now. It would be nice if we could, for once, make it easy on ourselves”
- James Baldwin, The Price of the Ticket: Notes on the House of Bondage, p. 674
April 13, 2012
We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you’re rich and guilty, than if you’re poor and innocent. Wealth, not culpability shapes outcomes. And yet, we seem to be very comfortable.
- Bryan Stevenson
Equal Justice Initiative
April 10, 2012
To be of any sustained value to the feminist project, a discourse must provide illuminating and persuasive readings of gender as it is constituted for blacks in America and sophisticated, informed, contentious critiques of phallocentric practices in an effort to redefine our notions of black male and female textuality and subjectivity. And in its differences from black feminist texts that are produced by individual Afro-American women, a black male feminism must be both rigorous in engaging these texts and self-reflective enough to avoid, at all costs, the types of patronizing, marginalizing gestures that have traditionally characterized Afro-American male intellectuals’ response to black womanhood.
- A Black Man’s Place in Black Feminist Criticism, Michael Awkward, pg. 62
From, “Still Brave: The Evolution of Black Women’s Studies”
“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.
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Kennesaw State University
Political Science | African and African Diaspora Studies
9th Annual Walter Rodney Symposium
February 21, 2012
My first experience in an Ivy League Environment was not what I expected to say the least, experiences both good and bad. The topic of black sexuality I applaud because there is a lot of work that needs to be done in regards to discussion of sexuality of black women and men, a topic far too taboo in the black community given its influence. Where else should we have these discussions BUT the classrooms of the academic elite, in the minds of our aspiring great thinkers? These very halls have witnessed (arguably) the closest efforts to perfected theoretical discourse, so why not here? Why not now?
Well, what I’ve found is that a majority of our upcoming great thinkers (including myself) tend to lack in practice at times. Lost, having mistaken academic upward mobility for the end all of progress. In essence: There appears to be a disconnect in the analysis of black sexuality, and more broadly, black identity. Not to say that the analysis does not derive from experience, but there appears to be a dangerously uninformed and impractical method in which we go about examining topics on black identity. Irrespective of which University or College one attends, from an objective standpoint I couldn’t help but notice the completely paradoxical nature of what we were practicing and preaching throughout this conference.
Among other things, there was one incident in particular that stirred trouble among my colleagues, and was addressed in subsequent panels/discussions. This overt example is the crowds’ response to a call and response presented by Travis Porter at their concert at Toad’s Place Friday night. When Travis Porter member Ali eloquently inquired on the presence of “Bad Bitches”, the “Bad Bitches” with “Good Hair” made their presence known in the most energetic way possible. I’m from Atlanta so I’ll be honest and say; I enjoy music from Atlanta. Aesthetically it provides for some seriously dope entertainment. I take no issue with its existence, nor do I take issue with the question Ali posed. What I DO take issue with is the response, less than 10 hours from discussion on how women are trivialized and over sexualized in society.
Nothing is wrong with question. As a matter of fact, instead of vilifying the individual that posed the question why not seek to address and rectify the environment that created the reward for asking such a question? Because, the question “where my bad bitches at?” has received a positive response before. The frame of thought that says it’s ok to ask such a question can only be removed once it ceases to receive nourishment. The conclusion of my point is this: what would have happened if every woman who responded where to simply not respond and walk away? What would have happened if every male in the room where to do something wild like, you know, try and show these brothers how wrong that is? Rather extreme, but I can’t help but wonder. In a lot of ways I feel we had fun, but at the cost of the very thing we came together to reclaim.
That glaringly paradoxical issue aside, for the first time in my life I was provided with the opportunity to engage with the proclaimed academic elite of the African American community from the following institutions; Spelman College, Smith College, Yale, Brown, Morehouse College, Cornell, Dartmouth, Kennesaw State University (lol), Harvard, Princeton, Quinnipiac, and respectfully others. Bright minds, bright futures, and it made me proud to say that we could claim solidarity with each other. Beyond an academic setting we fraternized socially, where I’ve made some great friends and built my network. I appreciate every single woman and man I met at this conference, as well as Yale University for having JP Morgan Chase & Co., my colleagues, and myself.
The motive of this excerpt is not to speak badly of or demonize those who have worked to achieve a higher level of education, nor is it to attempt at applying a linear/ one dimensional model of what “being black” really is. The organizers of the Black Solidarity Conference worked very hard in order to get everyone together for these discussions, nothing can trivialize what they’ve accomplished. It is our job as participants to take the goal of that effort and make progress with it. In my opinion, we must work to address the disconnect between the intelligentsia and the proletariat, seek to re-connect that disconnection through honest and humble discourse, and continue to build from that foundation through theory and practice. If we are to make an effort towards defining black sexuality we must be honest, educated, motivated, and chiefly humble about how we go about addressing such an important part of the black identity. The primary means of rectifying society begins with self, when there is a sense of personal responsibility we can move forward on issues like these. The organizers of this conference have made an everlasting impression on me, for that I’m forever grateful.
February 14, 2012
“The Christian religion teaches men these two truths: the grandeur and the justice of man and his misery and corruption. It is equally important for me to know both these points; and it is equally dangerous for man to know his nobility without knowing his wretchedness, and to know his own wretchedness without knowing his grandeur. The Knowledge of only one of these points gives rise to either the pride of humanists who have known man’s goodness but not his sinfulness, or to the despair of atheists who know man’s misery but not his dignity. We can have an excellent knowledge of one of these things without the other But, we cannot know Jesus Christ without knowing at the same time man’s worth and his wretchedness”
– Blaise Pascal (Pensées, 1555)
Pensées (literally translated as ‘Thoughts’) is a collection of thoughts written by Blaise Pascal in the defense of the Christian religion during the 17th century. Though no religion is completely clean, there are truths involved in each. It’s simply a matter of how you choose to apply it. The above quote gets the thumbs up.
February 1, 2012
Have you forgotten how to ground with your brethren?
The initial thought that provoked me to critique the role of education in the United States comes from Frantz Fanon’s most popular text “Les Damnes De La Terre” (The Wretched of The Earth). The focus of his text was to delve into the psychology of the oppressor and the oppressed, and with those results come to a conclusion for how (substantive) revolution could be brought to fruition. In the first chapter titled “On Violence”, he briefly touches on what the role of the intelligentsia in revolution. A quote summing up his findings goes as follows:
“In it’s narcicisstic monologue the colonialist bourgeoisie, by way of it’s academics, had implanted in the minds of the colonized that the essential values-meaning Western values- remain eternal despite all errors attributable to man. The colonized intellectual accepted the cogency of these ideas and there in the back of his mind stood a sentinel on duty guarding the Greco-Roman pedestal.” (Fanon, 11)
further . . .
“But , during the struggle for liberation, when the colonized intellectual touches base again with his people, this artificial sentinel is smashed to smithereens”. (Fanon, 11)
In essence: having assimilated into a colonial (or imperialist) western epistemology, the bourgeoisie has in effect lost the ability to communicate and apply the learned theoretical frameworks with the very individuals they claim solidarity with. Fanon delves further into the social implications of this dichotomy, but having extracted the above quote lets go back and apply that framework to the original question:
What is the role of higher education in contemporary society?
The system of education i’m applying this to is that of the United States of America. Where will your degree get you? It’s important to point out firstly that much like religion and law, education is a tool that can be used for pacification or nurturing, regression or progression, it’s simply a matter of application. One can argue that it’s a cash cow, (which I agree with, wholeheartedly) because college is definitely not getting cheaper. Compounded with the economy being in the condition it’s in, one must go a bit further into the academy in order to compete in the job market. Given how tuition is paid for among students it’s no blind assumption that undergraduate and doctorate will translate into more loans.
If viewed from a the perspective of the ideal capitalist standpoint, the comparative advantage once present in taking the initial loss of going into debt to receive an education is no longer present. The advantage currently lies with what Karl Marx describes as the proletariat or the working class. The idea of bypassing a college education and going directly into the workforce or military is becoming a more feasible option, rather a reality for most families.
Such a reality creates a paradoxical situation for the individual who chances the promises of a college education. On one hand, we’ve developed the critical/theoretical skills that were once necessary. On the other hand, the need for those skills are dwindling at an alarmingly fast rate, which has created a schism similar to the framework Fanon conveyed earlier. There is a fundamental disconnect between the intelligentsia and the working class that places the working class in a much more valuable place than what was the norm. Further, the disconnect between the intelligentsia and the working class is created by the disconnect within the intelligentsia, having learned to think critically within a western epistemology we’ve seemingly taken a step away from the lesson that the working class has had no problem learning:
The Nexus between theory and practice
The economics are fairly simple. Having the basics covered the working class will always have the advantage when the promise of prosperity via higher education is an empty and shallow one.
In conclusion, a college degree could in fact serve to provide you with everything you desire. The factor that decides whether or not the education you’ve received will work to your advantage rests simply with the recipient/student. What did you do while you were in school? Sure, you made deans list several times, but have you learned to apply what you’ve thought of in a practical manner? The University could serve as the environment in which critical thought is nurtured, but while learning to think critically forgetting to nurture the application of the conclusions brought about by critical thought hinders your productivity, which consequently effects your ability for self sustenance. Having gained higher education at the expense of the ability to apply and build completely negates what education should be in essence, which must not simply teach work. Education must teach life.
- Khalfani Lawson
Political Science/ African – African Diaspora Studies
Kennesaw State University
January 30, 2012
(From top to bottom)
“Discurs Sur La Colonialisme” – Aime Cesaire (1955)
“The Wretched of The Earth” – Frantz Fanon (1961)
“Still Brave: The Evolution of Black Women’s Studies” – Frances Foster, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Stanlie M. James (2009)
A quick synopsis of the bulk of what materials I’ve been covering in preparation for my speech at Kennesaw State University’s (Alpha Phi Alpha Inc., Tau Zeta) “A Voice Of Color” Oratorical Contest February 23rd and presentation March 23rd at Clark Atlanta University’s 9th annual Walter Rodney Symposium. My speeches are on the existence of pseudo freedom, and the nexus between theory and practice in the role of revolution.
(From top to bottom)
“In The Matter of Color: Race & The American Legal Process”- A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. (1980)
“Days of Hope: Race and Democracy in the New Deal Era” - Patricia Sullivan (1996)
These two texts play a large role in my speech for “A Voice Of Color”. The theme is to focus on the retrospect aspect of the trio of time, with the central question being: “Are we a people headed towards greatness, or a people headed towards destruction?” Though I find the question rather problematic and loaded, no doubt the above works will provide the historical analysis necessary for understanding where we are, how we got here, and where we’re going.
The above text is a collection of writings/conversations of Walter Rodney’s.
”How Europe” is The definitive work in regards to the dependency view of development theory. To think it was casual reading at one point in the mid 70′s. A large portion of my studies of Walter Rodney are based in this text.
I have a very tough load ahead, but so far so good. I’m about 60% through each of these Pray I get my point across!
- Khalfani Lawson