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

 

 

 

MLK Jr & Discussing Protest

“If one hundred thousand Negroes march in a major city to a strategic location, they will make municipal operations difficult to conduct; they will exceed the capacity of even the most reckless local government to use force against them; and they will repeat this action daily if necessary. Without harming persons or property they can draw as much attention to their grievances as the outbreak at Watts, and they will have asserted their unwavering determination while retaining dignity and discipline.”

Martin Luther King Jr.– Where Do We Go From Here?

In 2017 in America protesters are becoming increasing criminalized. Lawmakers in ten states across the country are introducing anti-protest bills.

Below I have a video of a small rally/protest in Arizona, I have linked footage to some disturbing videos of protesters being hit by cars, and pictures of protests in the 1960s along with Martin Luther King Jr’s guidance on protest and it’s purpose.

Fox News Phoenix reported this story locally and it was shared on my newsfeed by a friend of mine along with all of the comments her friend shared about the video (#thenatureofsocialmedia):

    Vid 1: Protestors blocking traffic in directly off of a highway in Arizona.

“If one hundred thousand Negroes march in a major city to a strategic location, they will make municipal operations difficult to conduct; they will exceed the capacity of even the most reckless local government to use force against them; and they will repeat this action daily if necessary. Without harming persons or property they can draw as much attention to their grievances as the outbreak at Watts, and they will have asserted their unwavering determination while retaining dignity and discipline.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Anti-Vietnam War Protest in Oakland in 1961
In reference to Vid 1. Comments written underneath a post about protesters blocking the road in Arizona.

A: All I know, is if I was in an emergency… I’d flatten the lot of them. Like little kittens under my tires.

C: I’d do it if I were going fishing or hunting or breathing.

J: Just wouldn’t stop. Seriously I don’t give a shit I’d idle if they continue to stand in front of me well I have a truck I might feel a little something lol

Construction workers clash with police during a pro-Vietnam War demonstration, New York, 1970.
In reference to Vid 1

There are some obvious differences in the way we are talking about protest now versus the way historical figures and populations dealt with protest. That’s cool. What we need is a more educated context to discuss these issues! The number of protesters in the Arizona video as a reason for an illegitimate protest was never brought up by Fox News nor any of the people on my timeline.

Why can’t we become more educated on the best way to conduct small scale rallies and protests?!

The fact that people ADVOCATE FOR HITTING OTHER PEOPLE IN THE ROAD when it inconveniences them… I try not to hit animals in the road if I can help it. These people took the time out of their days and their lives to protest some cause. Until they are moved, sit patiently and research what they are protesting.

If you have an emergency then pull up and TELL THEM.  I bet the line would open for you in a hurry if you are polite. If you cannot get to the front in your car then leave your car in idle and walk up there. I really don’t know what the solution is to us being individually inconvenienced as a result of a protest.

HOWEVER, I know that this country would not be the country it is without peaceful protest in some form. Maybe we should devote some time to teaching our children how to be politically active and responsible.

FOX NEWS could also include information about protesting as a civic responsibility. Donald Trump’s rallies were municipal nightmares too. The issue with Facebook being the most popular site for displaying media in a social forum is that most news sources and stories appear divisive and without critically analyzing the various perspectives, users come up with assertions like these:

Z: I bet these people are trump haters because they’re on welfare and they feel the bern and think they’re entitled to all things good. They probably got all their snacks and stuff from Walmart with a EBT card because their too lazy to work for it.

Scientists protesting in Boston, 2017
Veterans protesting Trump, 2016
Veterans protesting homelessness, 1930

Political Activity & Respecting Civic Action should be taught as young as elementary. The comments here are mild versions of threads that are common on these posts. It’s clear that we are not educating people to critically read these scenarios with duty, love and respect. And the media certainly does not seem bothered to try and decipher it for us.

Let’s think on that.

Mari X

“I found myself remembering the day in kindergarten when the teachers showed us Dumbo: a Disney movie about a puny, weird-looking elephant that everyone made fun of. As the story unfolded, I realized to my amazement that all the kids in the class, even the bullies, the ones who despised and tormented the weak and the ugly, were rooting against Dumbo’s tormentors. Over and over they laughed and cheered, both when Dumbo succeeded and when bad things happened to the bullies. But they’re you, I thought to myself. How did they not know? They didn’t know. It was astounding, an astounding truth. Everyone thought they were Dumbo.”

Elif Batuman, “The Idiot”

 

Blood in the Water: Attica & America

Before you read the post, go ahead and scroll to the end of the page and start the Nas video. I hope that the truth behind Attica makes him and a lot of other rap artists more relatable, relevant, and impactful.

If I Ruled the World

Trickin’ six digits on kicks and still holdin’
Trips to Paris, I civilized every savage
Gimme one shot I turn trife life to lavish
Political prisoner set free, stress free
No work release purple M3’s and jet skis
Feel the wind breeze in West Indies
I’d make Coretta Scott-King mayor o’the cities and reverse themes to Willies
It sounds foul but every girl I meet would go downtown
I’d open every cell in Attica send em to Africa

If I ruled the world, imagine that
I’d free all my sons, I love ’em love ’em baby
Black diamonds and pearls
Could it be, if you could be mine we’d both shine
If I ruled the world
Still livin’ for today, in these last days and times

–NAS– (June 1996)

(right to left: Rockefeller; Nixon; Hoover; and Mancusi, the prison warden)

I remixed an image from the Attica prison uprising which is featured in the book, Blood in the Water, by Heather Ann Thompson out of the University of Michigan. In the book she uncovers a large state department cover-up of a massacre that killed 39 men. Over 1,000 prisoners had taken part in a protest of opportunity to improve their basic living conditions and humanity. Most of the prisoners were from heavily policed inner cities like Harlem, or Brooklyn. Others were transfers from other overcrowded and unkempt prisons. After the prisoners issued a list of demands including steady parole board reviews, edible food, reliable healthcare, and more frequent showers; President Nixon communicated with then Governor of New York, Rockefeller, that he wanted the ‘black problem’ taken care of.

Rockefeller allowed state troopers, policemen, and prison guards from all surrounding counties enter a yard of 1300 unarmed multiracial prisoners and hostages with guns blazing. After the initial massacre, the state continued to participate in the routine intimidation and retaliation against prisoners. State and prison officials even go so far as to inform the public falsely that the prisoners are removing the genitals of white men and eating them. In reality, the prisoners are being subjected to the worst torture imaginable. My ReMix puts the people responsible for the continuance of that brutality in the place that history will cast them, as the real monsters.

Mass incarceration is the largest human rights problem in the 21st century. As a teenager, jamming to my Walkman, I never understood why Nas would free the people in Attica other than the fact that they had skin like me. I never fully appreciated his reference to french/white savages and the context he was gathering his knowledge. I just knew that he was cool and I wanted to fit in and be cool too.

As an adult I fully understand his masterful play on words and why he is one of the best rappers and social commentators of all-time. Nas puts words to the horror that is the daily life of incarcerated men and women while still giving them love and hope. He is continuing some of the oldest traditions of African oration.

Digital Media gives me an avenue to bring together these intersections of pop culture & history; books & rap. It is hard to truly appreciate the artistry behind black culture without fully appreciating black history and the black experience. Maybe digital media can serve as a bridge between academia and the people buying the music. Or maybe it will just serve as a bridge for me. All of the images come with the express consent of the author. I met her and she assured me that all images that she and her publicist have released are fully intended for re-use by the public because they are pictures taken by the State during the retaking of the prison and the negotiation.

Dedicated to: LD Barkley, 21, dead; in prison at Attica for driving without a license. And for being black and poor. I hope that you are living in a place where “you can smoke in the street without police harassment.” To the many more that I cannot name here and now, I pray for you always… “If I ruled the world….”

A Letter to Black Folks

Dear Black Americans, African-Americans, Haitian Americans, Jamaican Americans, Cape Verdean Americans, Black Puerto Rican Americans, Black Brazilian Americans, insert nationality + Black

Black folks are a people of immigration. A story that goes untold.

We are all vaguely familiar with the transatlantic slave trade. (If not then check it out in 2 minutes here.)

As Europeans ‘discovered’ more brown and black countries, people began pouring out of the blackest place on earth, Africa. (Learn more about forced migration here). Black people landed on different continents and created new phenotypes all connected to Mother Africa.

                     Jamaicans

                   Nigerians

               Dominicans

                        Haitians

                        Mexicans

Brazilians

Looking at these pictures should point out a very big commonality… Descendants of Africa universally have darker skin and different features than the descendants of European nations, Asian nations, and most Middle Eastern and Latin nations. Even as  we seek to separate ourselves, our skin, hair, eyes, noses, and mouths all hold varying evidence that we are all Africa’s children.

After discovering these ‘new’ countries, white Europeans set out to exploit and capitalize off of their discoveries. As a result the story of the black diaspora is EXTREMELY COMPLEX and experienced all over the world.

Enter my home: ‘Murica.

The white folks in America decided they wanted to leave the other white folks in Europe and do their own thing. (Learn about the American Revolution in 5 minutes here.) They are not alone. Native-born South African white people had the same idea.

But back to America: The Revolution created a unique White American identity that minimized their perspective heritages- Irish, Polish, Italian, etc. (This has come with historical challenges and discrimination that was overcome by identifying with a larger white social and political identity. See Irish Immigration and Italian Whiteness as examples.)

(Please note that we are not aware whether this man is Irish American, Spanish American, Italian, or whatever. He is just American.)

Black people were enslaved in this country during that time. The collective American identity for blacks was property. When you choose to enslave people primarily on the color of their skin, you have to find justification.

Black people became criminals, lazy, dumb, and any thing else to justify the need for slavery and oppression. Cheap labor is hard to come by. Black & brown people (more specifically poor people) fill this necessity in America today, as they always have.

The consequences of this thinking haunt White America creating interesting conversation around white rage, a topic for another time.

And black folks are collectively asked to believe that it is black people’s fault that natural disasters hit us harder (Hurricane Katrina and the Demographics of Death), recessions unemploy us first (Black Unemployment Rate History), prisons filled with us to the brim (Bureau of Prisons). (Note that the US does not discriminate by nationality).

The idea of race is SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED. (Read more about the Social Construction of Race here or here.)

What does this mean?

It matters less in America what you consider yourself and more what people around you consider your race to be (this is not true all over the world). This means that your beautiful Jamaican son, in America is a black man for whom the American world reserves little beauty. The cops do not give a damn where you were born. And no matter how much you seek to protect your child he will become exposed to what race means in America, especially if he is born and raised here entirely.

What can we do?

Within the black community we have to work harder to include black immigrants and cultures into our lives. I am going to write more about the contributions of black immigrants to black culture and America in this blog so stay tuned.

UPDATE: We need to work harder to recognize the contributions all Black experiences have made to the American experience. And acknowledge that while American Black Culture is the most widely viewed image of Blackness, Black Americans are the minority in the total Black Experience. Let’s talk about this more on my post next week about Blackness.  

Black immigrants that land on the shores of America should be included in our efforts at learning American Black history and culture. This understanding can create conversations that will lead to a clear agreement about issues that affect ALL OF US. And how to improve systems that claim to serve ALL OF US. (For example: crimmigration, police brutality, housing discrimination, disparities in education, and black unemployment to name a few.)

We are all connected so much more than we realize. Let’s all stop looking down at each other and start holding on to each other. THEY can’t tell us apart. So WE shouldn’t tear ourselves apart.

Let’s use social media to climb over the age old bullshit that has kept us separate. Do not fear what you don’t know and don’t understand. Let’s learn about each other.

What I am proposing is a radical love for each other. A love that will excuse our shortcomings and look past our miscommunications into something we could all deeply benefit from in this day and age: UNITY.

Do it for Mother.

We all we got.

Let’s build.

Love,

Mari

Update: Done with the input of the creative mind behind The Black Love Project and the stationery company Watersidemrkt —-
Monique Ameyo consulting from New Orleans. She heavily influenced next week’s post about Blackness and I hope that her voice continues to be a part of the future! Please click and support! (She has some of the CUTEST Africa-inspired love notes ❤️).


Who is Mari-X?

I am just the descendant of slaves.

And I just need a place to breathe. A place to exhale.

Those history books and classes you had….

I am looking for somewhere to bring together all of things that matter to me; that may seem to be contradictory to many. I am an avid reader, music enthusiast, sports fanatic,  and freelance historian.

I am an American. And while I do not believe in American exceptionalism; I believe that the conditions people of color have been able to transcend in this country are exceptional.

But the push cannot stop. We can’t become complacent and believe that the system now serves us because we have black faces in high faces. We must PERSIST.

For our children. For our futures. For our livelihoods. For our lives.

So this is the history of some of the strongest people in the world told through a lens that classrooms have yet to adapt.

Whether you’re reading this from a beautiful MacBook overlooking waves in Hawaii; a small apartment in a high rise in Chicago; your cell phone on the commute from the suburbs of Long Island; or at bar while you wait out Metro Atlanta traffic… Know that we are all connected in ways that very powerful people do not want us to realize.

Without the struggles that have brought our community together we would not be here. We have to keep fighting, keep loving, keep laughing, and keep learning.

We must live.

I am writing this so that we can be aware of ourselves as a community. So that we can all come to the agreement that there is nothing better in the world than to be of African blood, with an extraordinary American swag.

So these are just thoughts penned…

From the descendant of a slave.

Inhale.