DuBois, 2 Chainz, & the ATL

W.E.B. DuBois is one of my FAVORITE people to read. He can be tricky but once you understand his meaning it is so poignant.

DuBois worked as a professor at Atlanta University and wrote an essay called Of the Wings of Atalanta about the ATL and the industrial age after the Civil War (Learn more about his years in Georgia here):

“.. they of Atlanta turned resolutely toward the future; and that future held aloft vistas of purple and gold: — Atlanta, Queen of the cotton kingdom; Atlanta, Gateway to the Land of the Sun; Atlanta, the new Lachesis, spinner of web and woof for the world. So the city crowned her hundred hills with factories, and stored her shops with cunning handiwork, and stretched long iron ways to greet the busy Mercury in his coming. And the Nation talked of her striving.”

Translation: In the early 1900s Atlanta is looking to catch up with the cities in the North. The future held visions of purple & gold: Fame & money. So Atlanta began to shift from it’s roll as a train depot for the cotton industry and to spin its own new destiny by building factories, encouraging entrepreneurship, and building highways. The Nation took note but DuBois recognized that this industrial progress might be at the expensive of the deeper values of education. (To read the essay click here).

The Story of Free-Spirited Atalanta:

Throughout the essay DuBois relates Atlanta, Georgia to the stories of Atalanta in Greek mythology.

Atalanta was a badass that was raised by bears & hunters until she was old enough to travel and participate in the King’s hunt. She was a spectacle and one of the strongest hunters and soon became famous. Legend has it that all the men in Greece wanted to marry her, including the King, but she refused. When the men would not leave her alone she decided to hold an athletic event for her hand in marriage.

Major Key: If Atalanta beat all of her suitors, they would all be put to death, leaving her in eternal peace.

Me sipping tea at the Major Key.

Of course there had to be a man that just COULD NOT take his butt whooping and consequent death without cheating.

Enter Meilanion. Of course, he is a super average dude, doing average dude things but he feels that he should be entitled to Atalanta’s hand in marriage. So he devises a scheme.

Meilanion brings three golden apples to the race. These apples were flashy and spectacular, nothing like what Atalanta had ever seen in her life growing up as a huntress. When Atalanta starts to pull ahead in the race, Meilanion throws out the apples to distract her.

He ends up beating her and she becomes his wife. They move far away and live happily together for years and years.

DuBois is relating Atlanta to Atalanta partially because of her name (DuBois is a poet) but also because of her potential. She had to compromise herself and her goals in pursuit of these golden apples.

In this reflection, regardless of whether Atalanta is happy, she has sacrificed her goal (to win the race) in exchange for flashy distractions and a trickster.

DuBois is warning the city of Atlanta and its people not to get to caught up in the flashy improvements that buildings and factories were bringing. He is drawing attention to the materialism that is overtaking the New South as it rapidly left behind its humble agricultural origins.

The equivalent of golden apples today can best be described by Atlanta artist 2 Chainz (yes, two gold chains ironically):

“They ask me what I do and who I do it for
And how I come up with this shit up in the studio
All I want for my birthday is a big booty ho
All I want for my birthday is a big booty ho
When I die, bury me inside that Gucci store
When I die, bury me inside that Louis store
All I want for my birthday is a big booty ho
All I want for my birthday is a big booty ho”**

2 Chainz was born Tauheed Epps in College Park, GA (he has a very well referenced Wikipedia page and personal website). He dropped his debut album featuring “Birthday Song” in August 2012.

I love the song when I’m in the right mood. It is a pertinent parallel between  reality and materialism in America today. The strive for economic freedom in defiance of systemic challenges is simply articulated: Bury me in the Gucci store because I can afford it.

When DuBois penned his essay Of the Wings of Atalanta the majority of the black population in and around Atlanta was still living or trying to escape abject poverty brought on by agricultural dependence.

DuBois reflecting on the impending birth of 2 Chainz.

114 years later, a young black man from College Park (less than 10 miles from DuBois’ former Atlanta University office) is asserting his individual economic freedom to a catchy baseline that many of us can bounce our heads to.

2 Chainz glorifying the golden apple.

But DuBois’ guidance is ever more pertinent as we collect our individual golden apples (or chains, whichever you prefer).

What if the Negro people be wooed from a strife of righteousness, from a love of knowing, to regard dollars as the be-all and end-all of life?

Photos around Vine City in Atlanta. Click for details.

 

“Atlanta must not lead the South to dream of material prosperity as the touchstone of all success; already the fatal might of this idea is beginning to spread;  it is replacing the finer type of Southerner with vulgar money-getters; it is burying the sweeter beauties of Southern life beneath pretence and ostentation.”

The new Falcons stadium could be what DuBois meant by ostentation. I’m not sure… But maybe. Click for details. #GoFalcons

“For every social ill the panacea of Wealth has been urged, — wealth to overthrow the remains of the slave feudalism [sharecropping]; wealth to raise the [poor white people]; wealth to employ the black [poor], and the prospect of wealth to keep them working; wealth as the end and aim of politics, and as the legal tender for law and order; and finally, instead of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, wealth as the ideal of the Public School.

Not only is this true in the world Atlanta typifies, but it is threatening to be true in the world beneath and beyond that world,– the Black World beyond the Veil. Today it makes little difference to Atlanta, to the South, what the Negro thinks or dreams or wills… yet when he does come to think and will and do for himself,– and let no man dream that day will never come,– then the part he plays will not be one of sudden learning, but words and thoughts he has been taught to lisp in his race-childhood.”

 


Get to the money, money make the world go round.

Get to the money, turn your world upside down.

Now that we are getting to the money, maybe we have time to pause and think about DuBois’ legacy & insight. We can all bounce and enjoy the rhythm and the beat. But do not get too distracted by shining gold chains. (Although if you did you wouldn’t be in bad company. Lol. #Atalanta)

We have goals to achieve.

For our children and for each other. Peace Up.

Lil Jon

—Mari X—

**Please read more about the misogyny and objectification of women in the lyrics of 2 Chainz “Birthday Song” written within a year of the song’s release and about the activists involved with this critique.

References:

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois

Based on a T.R.U Story by 2Chainz

Some pictures are linked to sources and information.

Black Proportion of Poverty, 2016. Click for details.

Update: This song was suggested to me by a reader named Jess Colossal representing Philly! Joey

Sometimes I speak and I feel like it ain’t my words
Like I’m just a vessel channeling inside this universe
I feel my ancestors unrested inside of me
It’s like they want me to shoot my chance in changing society
But how do I go about it? Tell me where I start?
My destiny rerouted when I chose to follow heart
You told to follow suit, but tell me what it do for you?
Except weigh you down, now you trapped inside the cubicle they built for us
The first step into change is to take notice
Realize the real games that they tried to show us
300 plus years of them cold shoulders
Yet 300 million of us still got no focus
Sorry America, but I will not be your soldier
Obama just wasn’t enough, I just need some more closure
And Donald Trump is not equipped to take this country over
Let’s face facts ’cause we know what’s the real motives
Joey Bada$$– Land of the Freee