BLM blog roll for 7/1

So much wisdom, so much prescience at this time of lynching, and this time of liberation:

James Cone, interviewed by Bill Moyers (11/23/2007)
http://billmoyers.com/content/james-cone-on-the-cross-and-the-lynching-tree/

The Condition of Black Life is One of Mourning, Claudia Rankine in NYT (6/22/2015)
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/22/magazine/the-condition-of-black-life-is-one-of-mourning.html

Bryan Stevenson, interviewed by Corey Johnson on Marshall Project (6/24/2105)
https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/06/24/bryan-stevenson-on-charleston-and-our-real-problem-with-race

The Long History of Southern Terror, by Heather Cox Richardson, in Jacobin Magazine (6/21/2015)
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/06/reconstruction-civil-war-ame-dylann-roof/

The Debt, by FiveFifths, on SevenScribes.com (6/10/2015)
http://sevenscribes.com/the-debt/

What This Cruel War was Over, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, on The Atlantic (6/22/2015)
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/06/what-this-cruel-war-was-over/396482/

We Were Never Meant to Survive: A Response to the Attack in Charleston (6/19/2015)
http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/31465-we-were-never-meant-to-survive-a-response-to-the-attack-in-charleston

Stop Trying to Be Good, Be Black, by Jamilah Lemeiux, on Mic.com (6/30/2015)
mic.com/articles/121508/stop-trying-to-be-good-be-black

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What qualifies as amazing

A friend asked me about “three things that you find amazing” and I replied with:

First thing that is amazing to me is the possibility that there is enough fresh water on this planet for all of us, just as there is enough sunlight and solar rays for all energy needs. We’ve been socialized to believe that there are finite resources and that they must be fought over, hoarded and controlled. I just said possibility, it may be more fitting to say notion or reality.
Second amazing thing is how I am allowing more and more of the illogical to pervade. I am in a new phase, the post-intellect, that is more aptly returning to how we as humans and nature fundamentally are. This is a condition that gives rise to the recent curiosity about freshwater.
Third amazing thing are the new experiences, new challenges and new learnings in my lived experiences. I have been baking one loaf of sourdough bread a week for much of this calendar year. I began taking a six-week, fiction writing class at the community college this week where I was exuberant as I walked the hallways towards room 571 and after the inaugural class. I learn, read and ruminate the animal totems that I encounter around me. This week alone, they have included magpie, praying mantis (a white, albino one), and deer.

Prompts can tremendously help me out. Amazing is enticing.

Word choice

“These are crimes of domination and violence.” A quote from Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) related to her efforts to pass a bipartisan bill removing sexual assault reporting from the military chain-of-command. This is after the bill failed in the Senate’s Armed Forces Committee.

Domination and violence. These are a few of my least favorite things. These are two products of centuries of masculinity festering in the New World. Subjugation and genocide.

These are actions that cut through the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual; or as Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote, the four dimensions of being human.

Somehow, in this society, we have created notions that real men don’t have emotions. If you cannot show nor share your feelings for fear of ridicule, reprimand or other denigration, then you might as well have little or no feelings at all.

Something has happened in the collective souls of men. Harry Potter referred to horcruxes, as objects that captured part of someone’s soul. In order for some fraction of a soul to be removed from a being, it had to fragment.

A new form of masculinity is urgently needed in the 21st Century. One where one man’s dignity does not depend on the oppression of some woman, child or other man. Where one man’s power does not correlate to his prowess or cunning, but on his gentleness, patience and trusting of others; particularly, in trusting other men.

The military brass do not trust some other entity to supervise. They don’t know how to trust some other entity. They have created such vast walls to isolate themselves, and the culture of rape and sexual assault that plagues the armed forces, that they fear what will happen by a law mandating that some external force be responsible for establishing protocols and consequences needed to create a new culture, new forms of safety in the day-to-day of being in the military.

By opposing such a change, the military commanders want to maintain an imbalance of power. They want to continue to have the discretion to grant immunity or a get-out-of-jail free card to a private or an officer who rapes, assaults or abuses a woman or another man.

Our political system is still fumbling with gender, masculinity, entitlement, male privilege and patriarchy. Last year, I realized how the term rape entered the public debate due to the shameful statements of two Republican candidates who are well on their way to being elected until they spoke about rape. Suddenly, rape was in the headlines and on tv. The R-word had become okay to say for the first time in my life whereas abortion has been in the public debate and a fixture in U.S. politics for most of my life. There were choices made back in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s to talk about the A-word, but refrain from mentioning the R-word. The men who led both parties in a two-party political system were complicit in the everyday use of the A-word and countless derivatives like “partial birth” and “abortion clinic.”

This is why it has fallen to a woman on the Senate Armed Forces Committee to rectify a culture of assault that has compounded a failed system for far too long. Fortunately, there is one tireless advocate who refuses to be cowed by custom and the way things have been. A new era is here for the military’s endemic patterns of coercion and rape.

Shocks to the system after systems failure

For months, an acute pain has arisen in the fleshy palm of my left hand. The swelling in a capillary bloats stands of tissue that reside beneath my epidermis. Skin over a swollen, small vein is sensitive to touch in a way that other skin is not.
Last month, the shooting, throbbing pain on less than a square inch had company. I noticed tightness in some strands of tissue on my inner bicep. A tightness that I could mistake for muscle tautness, except that there is no similar strand in the bicep of my dominant, right arm. This self-noticing, which was palpable to the touch of my external hand, led me to trace my right hand further over the adjacent muscles of my chest, shoulder, and back that form my physical body. As my fingertips investigated, I noted lines of tightness spewing from my armpit in two directions: across my chest, and a band of muscles down my back.
My intuitive sense revealed that these were interwoven symptoms of muscles beholden to a particular tension. What minutes earlier was only a throb in my palm was showing itself now that I was seeing with the fingers of my right hand and listening with my right hand. This is what sensing looks (feels, tastes and soothes) like in the body.
I sat with the discomfort, which now tasted slightly different thanks to my recent curiosity. I was unsure of what to make of it. I pulled my thumb to “pop” the joint (or pop the knuckle, although I see the uniqueness of the thumb give this joint a different name rather than be one of five knuckles) for momentary relief. “Popping my knuckles” has been a way to realign, reconfigure and redesign the spaces in between my skeleton I learned how to contort my fingers to make an audible adjustment. I pop knuckles considerably less as an adult than I did as a child, though I “pop” or open up space between vertebrae in my lower back, mid-back and neck daily. I open up spaces surrounding my sternum by spreading my shoulders back and apart in such a way on most mornings that I can hear the reconfiguration within my chest.
But this popping of my thumb has been different. The realignment of my joint provides some relief to the tissues that are two inches away. However, after the energy moves, the pain returns soon after.
Then last Monday, I placed my hands underneath my shoulders while laying on my back. Knees bent. Soles of my feet on the floor. A position called wheel pose, when I use my hands and feet to push my body up off of the floor and out. I could stay up briefly. And came crashing town to the ground once or twice.
The sensations of coaxing a throb began soon after. Previously, I had begun and ended multiple yoga classes by rubbing the flesh of my palm or yanking on my left thumb (frantically). This morning was the first time that I could feel the tightness dissipating as blood flowed through my palm, my thumb, my bicep, my armpit, my pectoral and my back.
____

One pose stretches my wrist and calls upon the needed force of select muscles to hold my body up in a new and different way. Holding me in a certain position for a matter of seconds, yet rippling throughout my day.
The vein in my left palm palpates now. Rarely it is visible to my eye. Yet, I am learning my own body. Learning how the sorenss of my left thumb cascades up into my chest and back. Similarly, I am learning how new poses and new stretches are like math problems, spelling contests and reading comprehension. New assignments and new challenges are needed in order for me to keep on learning. My body self-organizes the programming of my DNA and the coding of my musculature in this moment-by-moment school of learning.

Omnipresent Identity

omnipresent: present everywhere at the same time. 

I have walked much of my 34 years in this life seeing myself, and the world, through the lens of race. My particular racial identity being mixed, mulatto, a half-breed of Black, white. There is a sprinkling of Native American blood in there, too — but I don’t live in a culture where we bother with one-sixteenths. There was a elementary school phase where i was name-called an Oreo; by a handful of white classmates (in an overwhelmingly white school). 2005 was the first time that I began to put my identity in terms of class. In June of that year, I had an epiphany that my white mother came from a working-class, white family. That was the first time that I had uttered that phrase. Seven years later, I am confident that ‘working-class, white family’ is a phrase that my mother will not use for the rest of her life.

I have entered into identity’s abyss in recent years. On Super Bowl Sunday of 2008, one of my two surviving grandparents passed. Dick Uhlenhopp had been in hospice for a month or so. Prior to that he had lived independently and on his own since Grandma Shirley died in October of 1987. Aside from my paternal/maternal great-grandmother, Buddy Jackson, my branch of the Jones/Uhlenhopp family trees had been spared death for the 21 years spanning from 1987 until 2008. What was different, in 2008, was that I was nearly 30 when Grandpa Dick passed. And I had been poking around family history, and asking quesionst hat had never occurred to me before, or topics that I had quietly agreed to remain silent about, as my siblings and others had. But with Grandpa’s death, I began to see how deeply identity goes. How many layers of an infinte onion, identity is.

Identity has become a doorway into personality, opinions, values, vantage and feelings.

I remember an exercise in college, where we were asked to compose a list of 20 or so identities for ourselves. Then we narrowed the list down to 5 by eliminating 15. Then we were told to whittle five down to one. In a room full of students of color, most of us had been selected for our leadership in student of color groups. Most of us settled with a singular identity emanating from our racial origins of Blackness, Latino/a lineage, API, immigrant or Native ancestry. That is, all of us saw ourselves as people of color. Except Sherman.

There was one guy who picked ‘friend’ as his one identity. He chose it over all others. I remember sitting near him, perplexed. Unable to fathom how a guy borne of two Chinese immigrants in Canada could see himself first as a “friend.” See himself only as a friend, especially when I saw his black hair, eyeglasses, toothy and nerdy smile wrapped in the skin and features that I had learned was Asian. I had even known that he was majoring in Economics, was raised in Saskatchewan, finished high school in Hong Kong, and had siblings. But at the time, all that I could distill Sherman down to was race.

How things have changed over a decade. I sense identity, multiple identities, everywhere (I suppose that I did with Sherman, too. But I placed a value on one identity over all others). I like to taste identity in the air, as if it is nectar of a flower or the smoke of a fire or from industrial pollution. Identity is that readily available. Identity is omnipresent. I listen to stories similarly to how a serious fan logs a baseball scoreboard. Identity has become a multi-faceted, nth-dimension in each of our souls and characters. Race and class are simply veneer for deeper stories, lives and identities that are buried within. I have come to see identity as including:

  • siblings: number of siblings, and place in sibling order (or an only)?
  • gender:
  • place of birth:
  • hometown: (do you consider this the same as the previous answer? that is indicative of something else)
  • place of current home:
  • closeness to mother/father/grandma/grandpa: relationship, distaste, struggles
  • favorite subject in elementary school: math, spelling, recess, science, p.e.
  • you get a high school diploma, GED or college degree:
  • more street-smarts, more book-smarts, or some of both?
  • math or literature: or as i like to say now-a-days, do you speak more fluently in numbers or letters?
    … aka, MS Word or Excel?
  • major or subject studied:
  • type of work:
  • reader: of fiction, current events, (even that distinct subpopulation passionate about) sci fi
  • paying rent or a mortgage, or multiple mortgages?
  • favorite author:
  • favorite vegetable:
  • favorite meal: breakfast, lunch or dinner?

Embracing more of our identities is vital in order to weave together stories that encapsulate more of the lives each of us has lived. I am unsatisfied with race alone, because as my father has pointed out, he finished high school in an integrated high school in West Virginia rather than attend a segregated school in Tuskegee. It wasn’t even his choice, but his parents sent him to live with family in Charleston, WV.

Back in 2005, I began to sense the nuance of identity by exploring the distinctions between each of my parents. My white mother has certainly had race privilege her entire life. Yet, I have come to appreciate how she lacked many of the class privileges that my father was raised with. Since then, I have explained it simply as “my mother had the race privilege while my father grew up with the class privilege.” The vestiges of my mom being the first in her family to get a four-year degree are alive today. In ways that I choose not to ask my extended family about, but alive, nonetheless.

Taking class identity and blending it with race identity has been an awakening experience. Class, is such an avoided topic, that what that means needs explanation. Middle class for me has been a father who’s entire career was as a white collar employee with the federal government. A father who had union representation, was trained as a lawyer, and has had comprehensive health insurance for as long as I can remember since i got my first physical the summer after kindergarten. I got a physical as a six-year old because the family was headed to Kenya. A gaggle of dependents and a diplomat for the US Embassy in Nairobi.

So I add:

  • health insurance coverage: any or out-of-pocket?
    … PPO, HMO, Medicare or Medicaid?
    … that you have on your own, or are a dependent on someone else’s?

I have honed how i tell my 1984 story, too. After years of telling the chronological story of living in six countries, four states in the country, three continents over 15 years, I now say how I finished kindergarten in Denver and began the first grade in Nairobi.

****

Last year, I was asked: Who are your ancestors?

Such potency in four words. There is a fits-and-starts fascination with history in this culture. For the most part, a historical amnesia when it comes to the history of families. How many people can tell where all four of their grandparents were born, grew up, and lived? How many of us readily know the years that our four grandparents were born, and died?

 I have a much lengthier answer than I did seven years ago because I have slowed down to ask. To explore, and to inquire with family members over the phone, and email messages as well as in person. The stories are too vast and invaluable to not ask now. There is a great risk in waiting until I will see my last living grandparent.