To Be Game September 18, 2007Posted by alexis in Uncategorized.
Hey again everyone,
Enjoying and looking forward to more of your feedback and energy as we adjust to the rhythm of these weekly posts. (By the way…feel free to check out my other blog www.thatlittleblackbook.blogspot.com to see what ELSE I’m reading and thinking about at any given time.)
We started with DuBois and Wynter because I see their work as foundational to the conversations that we’ll be having in this class. I think that their work and our inspiration by/disagreement with/contemplation of their work creates a theoretical framework for thinking about what it means to be a problem.
If last week was about the foundation, this week is about what is at stake in the work that we are doing together in this class. Last week we discovered that the “other” or the “problem can be a radical place to speak from. As problems we challenge the norms, change the game, etc. etc. And while all of that is very sexy (and true) I think it’s important to remember how the boundaries of normalcy are enforced. In fact, to paraphrase Sylvia’s post last week…while the position of the “other” may be a way to create power, domination is operating through FORCE. Being “a problem” can very literally mean expendability. It can, for example, put you in a position where state and individual violence against your person is legally acceptable (and yes…I am thinking of the examples of the Newark 4 and the Jena 6…and yes I am also thinking about the countless instances of sexual violence that are silenced in our communities everyday). In other words when i say “To Be Game” in the title of the post I mean simultaneously “to be hunted” and “to be ready.”
So this week we’ll be reading an Ida B. Wells pamphlet published in 1900 in response to racist mob violence in New Orleans (more than one hundred years before Kathleen Blanco’s post-Katrina “shoot on sight” national guard order). Please think about what the examples of police brutality and mob violence Ida B. Wells spoke out against offer us in our current moment of legalized racist violence. Pay close attention to Wells’s portrayal of the local meda in New Orleans. If you are going to watch the new series K-Ville that premiers sometime this week, do it with Wells in mind.
You may notice that Ida B. Wells (like Sylvia Wynter) makes much of the way that the access to guns changes interracial interpersonal encounters. Remember that Wells was famous for advocating that every black person should have a rifle on the mantle. She believed that racist violence would only stop through a militant practice of self-defense. As the cases of the Newark 4 and the Jena 6 remind us black people still do not have the legal right to self defense in the United States.
Most importantly, remember that Ida B. Wells’s first pamphlet “Southern Horrors” (which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND) was published as the result of an amazing effort. The event to fund the publication of Southern Horrors was the biggest convening of Negro Club Women in the whole era of such clubs. Ida B. Wells dedicates the book to the black women of Brooklyn who organized the funding event. Is there a contemporary version of this? How can we support each other in presenting alternative views that respond to racist violence?
People often forget that while Wells is memorialized as the international leader of the anti-lynching movement (which she certainly was), she was just as strongly vocal about the twin phenomenon of unpunished rape and sexual assault experienced by black women.
Three quarters of a century later the black lesbian feminists in and around the Boston-based Combahee River Collective (we’ll be reading their founding document later in the course) were responding to 12 murders of black women during 3 months in the blac neighborhoods of Roxbury and Dorchester in Boston. In (what I think of as a) Wellsian spirit, the collective published a pamphlet about the murders after the 6 victim was discovered. They had to keep changing the title as more and more black women were found dead. In fact, on April 28th, the morning of a march that they had planned to protest the killings of what were then 8 black women, a 9th victims body was found. I imagine that the easiest part was changing the signs at the last minute. I imagine that the hardest part was continuing the struggle in the face of a violence that seemed only to grow. (This is what is at stake in this class. Those of us in Durham-having experienced our own more recent April 28th march may have an easier time imagining what that felt like.)
In response to these murders Audre Lorde wrote “Need: A Chorale for Black Woman Voices” which is also available for you in the google-files. The only question that I leave you with after reading Need is the question that Lorde herself leaves us with: “How much of this truth can I see and still live unblinded? How much of this pain can I use?”
Along with Wells and Lorde we will be looking at the work of A Long Walk Home (alongwalkhome.org). Please take a look at their site their press packet and take a look at it. I was first introduced to the work of A Long Walk Home while I was working in the rape crisis center at my college (at the time I was also in denial about a sexual assault that I had experienced at school). The creative approach that A Long Walk Home took, in addition to the powerful fact that black survivors of sexual assault were speaking out about it together meant a lot for me then. It still does. What does this work, pioneered by Scherezade Tillet and taken on by a beautiful collective of survivors and co-survivors teach us? Is there something that the stories of survivors makes available that can be available no other way? How do we connect to this approach to healing from and ending sexual assault?
Finally, we’ll also be looking at Mendi Obadike’s web-installation entitled “My Hands/Wishful Thinking” (http://obadike.tripod.com/Adiallo2.html). I challenge you to respond to these readings in a form that is in conversation with the form that Mendi used here. Who would you create a list of wishes for? What would those wishes be?
Know that all week long, I am wishing for your brilliance:(which is) the answer to my need.