Exposed and Ode to a Shot Glass: Commemorating Billy Watkins

[On July 27, 2014, The Revolutionary Poets Brigade – Chicago held a “bonfire” reading as part of the World Poetry Movement’s readings for peace.  We built a bonfire at promontory point, jutting out into Lake Michigan, the Chicago skyline dramatically draped against the northern horizon.  As the sun went down over the trees to the west, poets and activists read from their work and described the social struggles in which they were engaged.  We asked Billy Watkins to speak about his work with the newspaper The People’s Tribune, and to read some poetry. What follows is the complete transcript of his reading, his last public presentation. As he left promontory point, he was pleased to hear that his, his first public sharing of his own poetry, was an extraordinary success. Now, nearly a year later, we follow this transcript with a new poem about Billy Watkins.– Lew Rosenbaum]

Adam Gottlieb: Next up is going to be Billy Watkins talking about the People’s Tribune. Watkins is a writer for the People’s Tribune and an all around revolutionary. Everyone please give it up for Billy!

[applause]

20140727_190620Billy Watkins: Thank you, I want to be a part of the circle here, that’s good. I am yeah I am both happy and humbled to be here this afternoon. I’m not a poet. I wanted to get my little piece out of the way so we can get ready for some serious poetry. My day job is, I’m a professor at UIC I’ve been there for 20 years, I’m tired of them, they’re probably tired of me, probably I should re-tire. But at any rate, until that happens, I’m a part of the movement. And right today I’m representing the People’s Tribune. I’m going to pass around [here he hands a stack of People’s Tribune’s to be passed around the listeners], several of us here write for the People’s Tribune and distribute it. I’ve been working for the People’s Tribune for a long time. It’s a newspaper, a community newspaper that is addressing the issues of tyranny, oppression, capitalism, war, we’re trying to respond to every act of tyranny and oppression, and provide a newspaper where the people can inform one another and organize themselves. We’re beyond the time of, we’re at a time in history that you all already know is a very dangerous and menacing time of — the people, the powers that be are marshalling their forces. They’re putting their house in order to do whatever their master plan is. We on the other hand are not as organized, don’t have as many resources, perhaps don’t even understand how serious the threat is. But we’re beginning to understand it.

Last week, with the invasion of Gaza, we understood it even more.

So I want to, I was asked to, I was lured here, because — I’m not a poet — but I love words and I understand the power of words. Was it Shakespeare who said the pen is mightier than the sword? Somebody said it. Whoever said it had a lot of truth to it. And so words are the key to action. Words are inspiring. Words do things to us. We’re moved by words, whether it be in song, in poetry, in prose, whatever. So, I have never, this is the first time I’ve ever shared anything I’ve written in public like this.

[applause]

I mean I’ve written a couple books, but I’ve not shared – I don’t know if this is poetry or drunken reminiscences – and is there a difference [someone says same thing] – same thing, I’m glad to know that, because at the end of every day I have a little glass of gin and I do a little writing. So this represents the end of every day.

This is a piece that I wrote – I’m probably one of the oldest ones out here, and we’re called together today to talk about war, condemn war, well, I was brought up in the “Cold War.” And I wrote this poem actually last year, and I was thinking about some of the old cold warriors, who helped shape our world, or I should say misshaped our world. So these guys we got today in the Pentagon and launching these adventures, they are poop-butts compared to the people we had in the 1960s. I mean you had some real pros who were assembled by the Kennedy administration to in fact reconfigure the world. So let me just read some of my thoughts, and I call this

Exposed  by Bill Watkins

Divine one, king, emperor, sovereign, his highness, sire, your majesty, landlord, hereditarian bloodline, elected by no one, speak to God

You go by many names,

we know who you are,

we got your number,

we’re on your ass

Democrat, reformer, liberal, progressive, humanitarian, neoliberal, Kennedyite, new dealer, new wheeler,

You go by many names,

we know who you are,

we got your number,

we’re on your ass

Usurper, hater, exploiter, robber baron, expansionist, smooth criminal, imperialist, pig, evil doer, vermin, trickster, wicked one.

You are known by many names,

we know who you are,

we got your number,

we’re on your ass

Liar, cheater, misleader, fool, hurter, killer, wannabe thriller

we know who you are,

we got your number,

we’re on your ass.

Reagan, Clinton, Eisenhower, Truman, Wilson, Obama, and yes Jimmy Carter, the peanut man.

You are known by many names,

we know who you are,

we got your number,

we’re on your ass

Stockman, Plockman, Foreman, Hockman, Gates, Vrydolyak, Cheney, Kennedy Fukuyama , Rumsfeld, McGeorge

“What mother would name her child McGeorge” Bundy

Bundy — what mother would name her child McGeorge?

You go by many names,

we know who you are,

we got your number,

we’re on your ass

Wallace, Bilbo, Maddox, Stennis, Connor,

You go by many names,

we know who you are,

we got your number,

we’re on your ass

Mortgage man, rent man, landlord man, police man, collector man, bag man, dope man,repo man, hit man, alder man

You go by many names,

we know who you are,

we got your number,

we’re on your ass

Faker, false prophet, apostate, revisionist, snake man, god man, obeah man, con man, trick man, lowdown man

You go by many names,

we know who you are.

Just a quickie now, I want to read something from one of my favorite people, V.I.Lenin, and its a passage from one of my th-2favorite books, entitled What Is To Be Done.

It’s just one paragraph. It’s a paragraph that I love because it speaks to me. Speaks to those of us in the movement, and we are trying to grow the movement, and we want to do the right thing. We are faced with all kinds of tricksters and hypocrites and we are surrounded by all kinds of buffoons and people who would have us misstep.

“We are marching in a compact group along a precipitous and difficult path, firmly holding each other by the hand. We are surrounded on all sides by enemies, and we have to advance almost constantly under their fire. We have combined, by a freely adopted decision, for the purpose of fighting the enemy, and not of retreating into the neighbouring marsh, the inhabitants of which, from the very outset, have reproached us with having separated ourselves into an exclusive group and with having chosen the path of struggle instead of the path of conciliation. And now some among us begin to cry out: Let us go into the marsh! And when we begin to shame them, they retort: What backward people you are! Are you not ashamed to deny us the liberty to invite you to take a better road! Oh, yes, gentlemen! You are free not only to invite us, but to go yourselves wherever you will, even into the marsh. In fact, we think that the marsh is your proper place, and we are prepared to render you every assistance to get there. Only let go of our hands, don’t clutch at us and don’t besmirch the grand word freedom, for we too are “free” to go where we please, free to fight not only against the marsh, but also against those who are turning towards the marsh!”

   * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Ode to a Shot Glass by Lew Rosenbaum

The five inch high shot glass has a map of Arkansas

Printed on the side. Arkansas emblazoned in red letters

Along its northern border, while a yellow scroll at the southernshot glass (1)

Proclaims in red letters “The Natural State.” An hour ago

It was filled with vodka, smooth tasting Stolichnaya. I bought the Stoli

For ideological reasons: I thought it would best

Help me think of my comrade, Billy Watkins, writing what he called

His musings, his drunken reverie before going to bed,

Writing what he said he didn’t know if it was poetry or

Just drunken reminiscences, or is there any difference he said,

In that last public appearance, that night when we read poetry

Around the bonfire;

When we assured him there was no difference;

At promontory point, when he told us he had never read his poetry –

But is it poetry, he wondered, when he told us

He’d been writing for forty years, thrown most of it away,

I don’t know whether it’s any good, he said.

I’m a professor in my day job, I’m tired of them, some of them would be happy

If I RE-tired, his resonant voice breaking, his breathing labored,

He read his litany of scurrilous scourges of the working class,

And without being asked, we joined him in his chorus

“You go by many names, we know who you are,

We got your number, we’re on your ass.”

.

A week later, he would never write another line.

.

This is Billy’s glass. He collected it on one of his many journeys.

I chose this among the offerings at the service that

Celebrated his life, a generous selection his widow Mary

And his son Will prepared – I cringe at using the word “widow” –

I took this, not some exotic instrument from West Africa,

Some multicolored Asian textile, some Olmec sculpture:

No, this proletarian relic from the North American South,

Slavery’s home, and the key to American liberation,

And pouring a libation to fill this vessel, I think of Billy, late at night,

Chasing down his rage at the white architects of Black education,

Sharpening his view of Black protest thought,

Vilifying the corporate transformation of education.

If he were writing tonight, it would be a line straight from

Little Rock, the home of Orval Faubus and Bill Clinton,

To Charleston, where the first shots of the civil war were fired

And where nine were murdered in

Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

And, tossing off the last of the clear, fiery liquid in this glass,

He’d scribble another line to assure the enemies of his class,

We’re on your fascist ass.

.

Rest well, beloved comrade. We’re on their ass too

Pedagogy, The Digital Age and The Precariat — Jandric and Giroux in Counterpunch

Critical Pedagogy in and for the Age of the Digital Media
Pedagogy of the Precariat (published in the June 12-14 2015 Counterpunch)
by PETAR JANDRIC and HENRY A. GIROUX
Haunted digital borders and alternative public spheresth

Petar Jandrić: Thank you a lot for agreeing to this conversation, Henry! One of the central concepts in your work is border crossing, which “prompts teachers and students to raise new questions and develop models of analysis outside the officially sanctioned boundaries of knowledge and the established disciplines that control them” (Giroux and Searls Giroux, 2004: 102). This concept gains additional relevance with the advent of another border – the so-called electronic frontier (Rheingold, 1995). Could you please apply your concept of border crossing to learning in the age of information technologies?

Henry Giroux: When I first started thinking about the concept, one of the things that I was concerned with was the way in which various borders operate in various formations and ideological and political locations to basically shut people down from asking dangerous questions or pursuing questions outside of established paradigms. At the heart of that concern was the question of the political. How do you theorise the americas-ed-deficit-300x449political in a world where borders are rapidly increasing? How do you theorise the political in a world where borders are really pushing people back into all kinds of silos – from those organised around prejudice and racism, to those organised around the instrumentalization of knowledge itself? And how are those borders organised in the ways that so limit what intellectuals and academics can do? At the university, academics often end up speaking in languages that are utterly abstract, languages that speak to five or six people. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that they have no sense what it means to speak to broader publics. At the same time, I was not arguing that difficult language is not sometimes necessary or that theory does not matter. On the contrary, I was arguing that theory needed to become worldly, unfettered by jargon, and be both accessible while addressing broader publics. Border crossing was a critique of theoreticism, theory for its own sake, unfettered by any interest in the larger world.

So the notion of border really took on several registers. One of the registers was political. How do you want to understand the notion of crossing borders in ways that expand the possibilities of people to be able to narrate themselves and understand the context in which they find themselves in order to, in some ways, both resist and overcome those kinds of barriers that shut down their capacity to be individual and social agents? The second issue is around the notion of social responsibility. What kinds of borders are put in play in ways that separate, for instance, instrumental knowledge from questions of social cost and larger social problems?

And I think, with regards to your question about how this applies to technology, that technologies are haunted by a ghostly presence to public memories rooted in a . . . read the whole article here.

Eduardo Galeano: Because of You, We Will Remember

galeanodouble-webEduardo Galeano sat at my dining room table in my Chicago apartment on Lill Street one block away from Guild Books, pen poised and a stack of books to be signed at his side. Breakfast consumed, he had reluctantly agreed to sign some books in advance of his appearance at the bookstore later that Saturday, 1988.   He was anxious, it seemed, and we had been warned that his health was mending after some heart issues. We didn’t press him to sign books, but were delighted when he agreed with our suggestion that some folks might just want to purchase a signed copy without talking with him. After a walk in the neighborhood he arrived at the bookstore. He began to read.

The crowd hung on his words, as he read in English but also in Spanish, and then answered questions, altogether about an hour and a half, and then began signing books, as the line snaked throughout the store. He talked with each person as much as the person wanted; he took pictures with the customers and their children. I stood at his side doing the task that all booksellers do in this situation: open the books to the pages preferred for the signature. And about 45 minutes into the signing ritual Eduardo turned to me with a broad but incredulous smile: “They like me. They really like me!”

Before he left, Eduardo toured the 3,000 square feet of the book store and spent some time looking at the political and labor posters we had for sale, on display in a rack. He fingered the display, took some notes, and left. The next morning friends of ours recorded an interview with him on video and took him in search of Haymarket Square, a search that proved unsuccessful.

Some years later he returned for a reading of the Book of Embraces. In a section entitled “Forgetting,” about Haymarket and about Guild, he wrote:

Bk of EmbracesAfter my fruitless exploration of the Haymarket, my friends take me to the largest bookstore in the city. And there, poking around, just by accident, I discover an old poster that seems to be waiting for me, stuck among many movie and rock posters. The poster displays an African proverb: Until lions have their own historians, histories of the hunt will glorify the hunter.

 

In 1995 Guild Books had been closed for two years, but the Guild Complex hosted Eduardo for his newest book, Walking Words. Diana and I drove him to the reading location, a settlement house in the Wicker Park area, and on the way crossed the Chicago River. Walking Words is a book of myths, some modern, some older, many of water spirits and animals, in a collaborative with Jose Francisco Borges, whose woodcuts illustrate the stories. Diana told Eduardo stories about the Chicago River, whose history included years of being set on fire from the materials polluting the waters, years of being unsafe to drink for the animals that populated the river, years of being attacked by the manufacturers who degraded the water supply and the people who lived on its banks. Eduardo listened, intent, with evident pain in his face. “But wait,” Diana said, “the river had its revenge. Last year the river refused to be contained by the man made barricades, burst through into the tunnel through which the subways run and up into the streets of the city, causing millions and millions of dollars of damage.”

“The earth has memory,” Eduardo said. “That is important. Memory is important. I want to know more about memory.”

A decade had passed between the time I first tried to get Eduardo Galeano to come to my bookstore and the publication party for Walking Words. By the time Book of Embraces was published, Susan Bergholz (Eduardo’s agent) had negotiated a contract with a different publisher, W.W. Norton, whose list more adequately represented the independent ideas expressed by Galeano. How could Eduardo possibly remain with Random House, the publisher who had fired Pantheon’s manager, Andres Schiffrin? Which had been taken over by European conglomerate Bertelsmann? Whose corporate leadership reveled in the literary (meaning sales) qualities of Danielle Steele?

Not knowing at all. Forgetting. And recovering memory.

We know now where the Haymarket was, where the rally was for which the Haymarket martyrs were arrested and imprisoned and executed. In 2006 Henry Holt published Eduardo’s Voices of Time, continuing the epigrammatic form he has worked with, this time “stories that I lived or heard.”   At the Guild Complex we convinced Susan Bergholz to take Eduardo’s strenuous tour through Chicago once more. He read for us at the Museum of Contemporary Art to a packed audience. For many, this was the culmination of what Guild Books had been about. For us, it was an opportunity of bringing memory, forgetting, and not knowing at all together, these themes that strike at the heart of Galeano’s work and of the revolutionary process.

May Day, 2006, just weeks earlier, I walked among almost a million Chicagoans along a route from Union Park to Randolph into the Loop and Grant Park. The steel, concrete and glass canyons resounded with the chants of marchers, many of them recent immigrants from Mexico and Latin America. “El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido” reverberated from the walls of those buildings, the marchers swelling into the streets in a mass farther than anyone could see.

But before coming to the loop, just a few blocks out of Union Park, we came to Randolph and Des Plaines. I stepped to the sidewalk, stood in the shadow of the corner building and looked north as the throng walked by me. The contingent from one union, also looking north, paused briefly and saluted the sculpture across the way – a recreation of the platform from which the speakers addressed their audience that May, 1886.

To bring this reality of American consciousness to the reading that Eduardo was going to do, we made sure that some of those union leaders representing the marchers introduce Eduardo. And so they did, and we had the chance to talk about the sculpture, the march, and that although many marchers did not know where Haymarket square was, and we noted the fact that their march reclaimed not only the memory of the martyrs but the reality of the struggle which continues.

My life after Guild Books led me to become an assistant manager in Barnes & Noble. This essay closes with a morning meeting, the kind of meeting that corporations think is necessary to get everyone on board for the day’s sales. This day was May Day. So I took the opportunity to dig out The Book Of Embraces to read to the opening staff the words about this historic day. Most listened in respectful silence, Open Veinsone or two said they knew about this, I noticed a sneer and some uncomfortable whispering. But when the meeting was over, one of the receivers (the department responsible for unpacking books and getting them ready for shelving) came over to me. He was a Scottish immigrant going to school while working. His expression was intent, excited. “You mean the workers holiday,” he said, “international workers day started here, in Chicago? I did na’ know that. That’s amazing!”

I want to be clear about this: while this piece is about Eduardo Galeano; and while it is about what kind of bookstore Guild Books was; and of course about my relationship to both; fundamentally it is about literature and revolution. It is about history and lions and how, by recovering memory, of making known what is unknown, the lions begin to write their own history.

On this day, April 13, 2015 we learned that Don Eduardo Galeano has died. Eduardo, we will remember. Because of you, we will remember.

 

 

Education: Not a Yellow Brick Road — Jack Metzgar for Working Class Studies

Our Overeducated Workforce: Who Benefits?

There are two “college jobs” (jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree) for every three “college graduates” (people 25 or older with a bachelor’s degree). What’s more, according to projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this will not change much in the future as low-wage jobs grow somewhat faster than “college jobs,” while “college jobs” grow more slowly than the number of “college graduates.”

This blog has been an outlier in reporting this set of facts – see here, here and here. So while our readers should not be surprised by the recent report of the Federal Reserve of New York that “one in three college-educated workers typically holds a job that does not require a degree,” the mainstream media should be shocked.

Given these facts from official sources, it is a mystery how our leaders can go on and on about our growing “knowledge economy” and the necessity for everybody to go to college so they can get a good job.  One out of three college graduates now is not going to get one of those good college jobs; if everybody gets a bachelor’s degree, then about four out of five will not get a “college job.” It’s just arithmetic. How can President Obama very mistakenly say “the best anti-poverty program around is a first-class education” as two-thirds of jobs now and in 2022 will require only a high school diploma or less and most of these jobs pay low or very low wages? How is it that major newspapers, like the Chicago Tribune, still have headlines warning of a “shortage of educated employees”?

I don’t usually assume that there’s a conspiracy involved when our elite opinion-shapers purvey a widespread conception that is so out of whack with the facts.  I expect a certain level of class blindness among middle-class professionals (especially at the upper levels) on a wide range of subjects, and my expectations are only rarely disappointed. I think many of my lefty friends are too quick to attribute such mismatches to a kind of all-seeing executive committee of the ruling class that is purposely and systematically purveying propaganda that serves their interests.

But this past year I was interviewed by a documentary filmmaker, Jennifer Schuberth, who convinced me that I was looking in the wrong place for a conspiracy. Since the practical effect of having too many college graduates for the number of “college jobs” is to put downward pressure on the wages of those jobs, I figured any intentional design would require some kind of unwieldy conspiracy among employers. Schuberth, who is a Ph.D. anthropologist, has done some tracking of money flows, however, and she makes a pretty good case that the propaganda that blinds us may be orchestrated by the largest purveyor of college-student loans, Sallie Mae. You can watch her 12-minute doc Poorer by Degrees here. (I am one of the talking heads, but Schuberth’s editing and graphics have made me more lucid than usual.)

Sallie Mae, officially the SLM Corp., donated nearly $1 billion to found the non-profit Lumina Foundation, whose mission is “To increase the proportion of Americans with high-quality college degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60% by 2025.” Lumina gives money to various media outlets, think tanks, higher education associations, and universities to advance this mission. Lumina President and CEO Jamie Merisotis and Chief of Staff Holiday McKiernan are popular keynoters at gatherings of higher education administrators. Merisotis, for example, told the Oregon Higher Education Symposium that “[e]conomists and labor experts are quite clear” that the existing higher education system is not producing enough college graduates. Likewise, McKiernan emphasized to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education that “[e]xperts agree” that “by 2020 65% of jobs in America will require some form of postsecondary education.”

In these speeches when Lumina executives cite “experts” who “agree” and are “quite clear,” they actually refer to only one expert, Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, which is a major recipient of Lumina funds. Carnevale is also the source for the headline cited above warning of a “shortage of educated employees,” and he was the go-to guy for The Wall Street Journal to attack the NY Federal Reserve study as “wildly inaccurate.”

Carnevale authored a 2013 study, Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements through 2020, that purports to refute the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ occupational projections. BLS is not just an expert on this subject, it’s the premier expert. That does not mean BLS is right and Carnevale is wrong, but it does make it hard to see how Lumina executives can say “experts agree.”

Here’s the disagreement: BLS says the total number of jobs requiring “postsecondary education” of any sort is 33% now and will grow to 35% by 2022 (jobs requiring bachelor’s degrees will grow from 22% to 23%; those requiring associates degrees and other postsecondary credentials from 11% to 12%). Carnevale says the total is now 59% and will grow to be 65% by 2020, but he has an unusual definition of “college jobs.”

Carnevale dispenses with the BLS’s tedious job descriptions based on surveys of more than a million employers. Instead, he uses well-respected public opinion surveys and finds that many college graduates with jobs that BLS says do not require bachelor’s degrees tell surveyors that they are paid more than non-college-graduates doing the same or similar jobs. Carnevale thinks that when this happens, that person’s job should count as a “college job”: “Employers are still willing to pay more for the college degree – a symbol of a worker’s attainment of the knowledge, skills, and abilities that improve productivity.” Thus, if a barista at Starbucks with a college degree makes more than a barista at Starbucks who does not have a college degree, then that should count as a “college job” because the first barista has benefitted economically from his/her college education.

Well, that is one way to look at it, and a very creative one! But I’m glad the BLS doesn’t count that way. The NY Fed didn’t use Carnevale’s approach either, and as a result, found that though college graduates as a whole average substantially higher incomes than those without college, in 2013 one of four college graduates earned $27,000 or less.

You can probably guess how Sallie Mae, the giant of the college-loan industry, benefits from Carnevale’s reading of the need for more and more “postsecondary education” and from the Lumina Foundation’s mission to double the proportion of higher-educated workers. But watch Poorer by Degrees anyway. It paints a disturbing portrait of how some folks make money by exaggerating the American Dream.

Jack Metzgar
Chicago Working-Class Studies

People’s Tribune: Nov-Dec 2013 Education Must Serve The People

The new People’s Tribune (Nov-Dec, 2013) is now in print.  Here is a pdf of this edition, featuring a center spread on education:PT-NovDec-2013_draft3

XtFhkI

The Pedagogy of Hip Hop: Media Consolidation, Black Manhood, and Art in America

A message from the Secretary of Culture in the Green Shadow Cabinet. 

September 12, 2013

Structurally, technologically and culturally speaking, there is no “music industry” any more. There is also no “movie industry” any more. Those two things have been consolidated into a more generic and all encompassing, “entertainment industry.” But that’s not even the kicker. The kicker is that technically, the entertainment industry is now a sub-division of a much larger and more insidious industry known as the “telecommunications industry.” This is the delivery system under which all media and cultural distribution is being consolidated. Some entities to look out for in this telecommunications act generated morass: Google, Apple, and Access One. This shift presents both new challenges and new opportunities. Those engaged in cultural struggle as well as those engaged in labor struggle are currently smack dap up against that. Chuy Gomez has been replaced by a robot, and the VMA’s? well…

I don’t have any beef with 95-99 percent of the artists who are making an effort to generate a living for themselves and their families. Most of them are just like me in a slightly different position, making slightly different choices.

When I talk about the industry, I’m not talking about the hardworking artist or the record producer who really believes in what he or she is doing. Artists need and deserve administrative and structural support. And folks who have made it to a certain position have earned their way there. It’s not fair or intellectually honest to throw the baby out with the bath water.

I am talking about the corporations and colonial structure that has been looting and pillaging cultural production since art, music and culture could be commodified. I am not talking about DMX, T.I. or Kendrick. I am talking about the CEO’s and large stockholders of Warner Bros, Comcast, Disney and the other rapidly consolidating future monopolies of media and global cultural distribution. I am talking about the larger imaginary structures that are spying on us through our Youtube surfing as we speak. The same ones that are complicit in not sharing the easily accessible truths about current issues like Syria and chemical weapons.

Hip Hop’s dream deferred

Artists are not the problem. In fact, as much as the world fails to really engage this truth, artists are the victims. And so are the people who benefit from healthy culture. Which might be most of us.

The reason it is economically important for our current corporate structure to ensure that you do not see yourself in the cultural production and exchange process, is because by separating us from the process, someone can determine and direct who and what is considered legitimate and valuable in the realm of culture. This way, not only can the creative thought of a society can be controlled, but then the rewards of culture can be organized and harvested by those who may or may not have even planted the crops. The reason it is ideologically important to separate people from the process of cultural production and exchange is because art is human. Culture, itself is how we socialize, interact with and collectivize our understanding of humanity.

Those who control culture, control definition. Those who control definition, control determination.

One of the primary challenges that American cultural movement in general, and the Hip Hop social and political movement specifically, still struggles to resolve is the question of the artist’s role in movement, industry and society as a whole. In general, our society is isolated from art and artists, even though our clothes, logos, commercial jingles and pop hooks tell a different story. In the industry, artists, in general are considered incapable of managing their own affairs. This is often chalked up to their inability to think in structured terms. While generally accepted as a truth, this is both historically inaccurate and extremely dangerous.

Look at it this way. In movement work, it is not considered ethical for an outside group to come in and lead the way, or to define the terms of the struggle. It would not be considered ethical for non-blacks to lead a black struggle, for men to lead a women’s struggle, for management to lead a workers struggle.

Why then, was the center of the Hip Hop social and political movement, not the artist? And when I say the artist, I do not simply mean the ones who are signed to record labels. I mean the ones playing local bars, tagging your block, designing your flyers, opening up for T.I. and Hiero all over the world?

If we were to look through the lens of the artist, we would see that what is at stake now is what was always at stake. It is what every graph writer, dj, emcee and b-girl have in common. It was what record labels, radio stations, police and other institutions have struggled to rob of for centuries.

The struggle of the artist of America, is the struggle around the means of ownership and distribution of cultural production. The contradiction between the origin of Hip Hop and the current state of on coming fascism is the question of who will wield the power of cultural democracy and self-determination. Hip Hop, in it’s instinctive rejection of corporate domination, both in the industry and movement work was a natural target of the fascist state. A culture that, when healthy, challenges the institutions of capitalism and colonialism by virtue of it’s very existence, can’t just be allowed to exist untampered with.

When keeping it real goes wrong

At the heart of the conversation around cultural self-determination and Hip Hop is the Black male: young and old. Many, today, refuse to accept this reality. In fact, the well documented process of cultural neo-colonialism, affectionately referred to as “cultural appropriation,” contributes directly to the erasing of the story of the relationship between cultural movement in America and the Black male.

Here is the question that real “kings of comedy” have had to resolve since transitioning slaves into modes of racist and emasculatory modes of cultural production known as “minstrel shows.” How do we capitalize on and profit off of the cultural potency of Black manhood, while simultaneously undermining that potency?

For many years, they have answered that question. And for many years, artists and leaders have re-invented themselves. And for many years, they have adjusted to that re-invention.

Hip Hop, being a manifestation of many years of “a dream deferred,” literally being born out of fire, water, blood and love, spoke the truth in a way that neither US, nor global culture had ever experienced so directly. Hip Hop said, “Fuck the Police” but it also said “Be a Father to a Child.” It was able to take on the topic of “OPP,” but it also asked, “Who you calling a bitch?!?!” It simultaneously told us to “Slow Down” and to “Stop the Violence” while telling us to “Fight the Power” and to “Protect your Neck.” Before the industry was fully able to sink its’ dirty paws into every nook and cranny of Hip Hop, Hip Hop told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God. It was one of the rules.

And so the natural Black male inclination to reject the shackles of the music industry wasn’t simply a matter of the artist wanting all of their royalties. It was outright rejection of the values which had guided the hand of black entertainment of culture for years. And this is not the first time it had happened in history, for sure. Paul Robeson is one of the Godfathers of the alienation of the Black male artist with a brain and a backbone. And, of course, it came on the tail end of the Black Arts movement.

But Hip Hop was comprehensive. It could hit you from a million angles. And it was responsible for the creation of artists like Dave Chappell. Artists who reflect that struggle of the Black male artist in America. The struggle that writer, artists and educator, Jeff Campbell, refers to his upcoming play, “Who Killed Jigaboo Jones.”

Recently, Dave Chappelle stopped during the middle of show. Some say that the audience was just cheering Dave on, and he over reacted. Others say that the audience was not respectful, and did exactly what Dave asked them not to do. One thing is for certain. Dave Chappelle has made a choice. Whether you agree or not, he has proven again and again that he will not be a jiggaboo. That he will not be the butt of a centuries old joke about the purpose, pressure and power of Black cultural producers in a colonial entertainment factory.

Dave Chappelle is Hip Hop. And it would make sense that he would walk away, because really, that is some Hip Hop shit to do.

And as he pointed out, in this environment, keeping it real can go horribly wrong.

But that’s the thing. This isn’t over. Quite the contrary. The landscape is both global and infinite. And humans are genetically wired to fight or flight. And what will happen when there is nowhere left to run to? When the truth is too overwhelming to ignore, because it’s right on your doorstep, in your living room, sitting on the edge of your bed?

~ Shamako Noble serves as Secretary of Culture in the General Welfare Branch of the Green Shadow Cabinet of the United States.

Glenwood Ave. Arts Fest, Occupy, and MORE! Events

This weekend, August 16, 17 and 18: Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest:GAAF2008_1sm

Lew Rosenbaum will be exhibiting (as usual) at the Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest with a wide variety of books. Features this year include remaindered copies of the acclaimed autobiographical Black Radical by Nelson Peery; Heartfire, he recently issued dynamite second volume of poetry by the Revolutionary Poets Brigade; and selected works of fiction by Barbara Kingsolver, Jose Saramago, Jorge Amado and many others.  We’ll of course have copies of the Chicago Labor Trail Map that offers a self guided tour to places of interest in working class history. And we have limited numbers of copies of the important books on education in a time of austerity, written by Bill Watkins, Willie Baptist and Todd Price.

Diana Berek will also be displaying her art work in the adjoining booth, along with colleagues from the Greater Northside Artists Revolutionary collective (GNAR).  The tents will be located just south of Morse on Glenwood.

The Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest (GAAF) is a free, weekend-long arts festival that features 100+ artists, open studios, and live entertainment on three outdoor stages.  Experience art of all disciplines, music, theater, food and drink on the cobblestone streets of the Glenwood Avenue Arts District in Chicago’s historic Rogers Park neighborhood.

The 12th annual Fest will take place the weekend of August 16-18, 2013. Mark your calendars! Join us at the fest launch party, the Friday Night Cobblestone Jam, on Friday from 6pm to 10pm and the artists’ market on Saturday and Sunday afternoons from Noon to 9:00pm.

Wednesday, August 21:  Unfurling #8 with Dan Tucker at Spontaneous Interventions

Daniel Tucker will share some gems from the Never The Same archives, which document social, public and political art in Chicago. Unfurlings are show-n-tell events that Never The Same uses to highlight portions of their collections. In this instance, Tucker will share materials, selected specifically for Spontaneous Interventions, that show ways artists in Chicago have dealt with the politics of public space over the last 15 years.

Chicago Cultural Center  78 E Washington 5:30 to 7

For more information, visit

never-the-same.org and

miscprojects.com

http://www.spontaneousinterventions.org/

Saturday August 24: Occupy Rogers Park Presents a Teach In: Understanding the History and Role of The State:

And no, we aren’t talking Illinois here.
Not really sure what people mean when they are talking about fascism? Curious about the historical emergence of governments? Not sure what governments are like outside of the United States? Join us for some opportunities to learn from one another! This is the first in a five part series.  We’ll be meeting August 24th, September 7th, September 21st, October 5th, and October 19th at the Rogers Park Public Library (in the conference room on the second floor) from 2:30-4:30pm. (The conference room is accessible)

ClickHandlerWith failures in our justice system, like the Zimmerman trial; with violations of our privacy, like the NSA and CIA collecting information from our emails and phone calls; and with abuse of police authority, like stop-and-frisk and targeting of activists, one has to step back and consider the true motivations of our government. This series is designed as a discussion forum to facilitate understanding of political ‘isms’ like socialsim, communism, fascism, and anarchism; to explore the history and origins of the state; to compare the nature of state power in the US to that of state power abroad; and to examine how our government impacts our daily lives.

Monday August 26: Political Repression, Here and Now

Michael Deutsch and Flint Taylor from the People’s Law Office and Dennis Cunningham, special guest and a founder of the People’s Law Office, will talk on surveillance, unjust imprisonment, criminalizing of environmental activists, indefinite detention, Guantanamo, voting rights, internet spying, drone killings and important human rights violations taking place, not yesterday, but here and now, in our own time, in the era of Obama.
What will be next?
And…
What are you going to do about it?

Monday, August 26, 7 PM   Heartland Cafe  7000 N Glenwood

August 28:  Education Under Attack!! School Boycott

No more school closings, budget cuts and sabotage of our neighborhood schools! Join together with 25 other cities on August 28th! We want an elected school board! We want Arne Duncan to resign! We want real school improvement! Meet at 125 S. Clark at 10am on August 28. If you need to ride a bus, call (773) 548-7500. Public Education is Under Attack!
WHAT DO WE DO? STAND UP FIGHT BACK!