Wonderful Summer 2015

I am having a wonderful summer—one of the best. It seems to be getting better every year. I met my literature-reading, foreign language, and health goals. Sometime this week, I will return home, ready to map out new goals for the rest of the year. That includes paying more attention to my eating lifestyle, growing my confidence, passing the Orals Exam (one that requires I read around 100 books), continuing with language development, and researching career/s professionalization strategies.

I list my journey because I hope to remind many of you to take note of your success; and never take for granted that you are happy. You deserve to be happy and you have made a lot of sacrifices to earn your happiness. So go ahead and speak to yourself about the things you should celebrate!

And for those of you who feel that things are not happening for you because nobody is helping you. I would encourage you to begin to accept a reality: you have to help yourself! Don’t depend upon family, lover, or friends to carry your boat! That is the world we live in, baby! You have to do for yourself.

People will rush to help you only when they believe you are going somewhere. Time is precious and nobody wants to waste time pushing a boat that is going to sink a few kilometers down the river. What is in it for them? You better believe that is the question even your own papas and mamas ask themselves quietly.

Some of you might ask—but how do I begin and I have no money?

Can you read and write? Obviously! Because you have made it this far in this piece of writing. Additionally, if you have Internet access, get on the information highway, read-read, and research-research your way into success. Every bit of knowledge is on the Internet for free these days. And people are there ready, not to help you, but to work with you. Bring something to the table and people will work with you: bring knowledge! No, I don’t believe school is for every brilliant knowledgeable person.

In a nutshell, celebrate your small successes, map out new goals, embrace a self-reliant attitude towards life, take care of your physical and emotional self, and go hard (really hard) after your dreams.

Posted in Life Talk

When Black Affirmation Becomes Stifling

I hear a lot of black people using the increasing visibility of crimes against black people as reason to demonize white people. They think their ways of thinking are enlightened, progressive, consciously black, and self-affirmative. I would encourage you to rethink this strategy. What you need is not to dog all white people; what you really need is to become successful while maintaining your integrity. To believe that the only people who will support and celebrate your goals are black people is downright stupid or naive.

Ever since I arrived in the United States many years ago, the people who have been equally supportive of my goals in the most dedicated ways include white people. My emphasis is that you would benefit from realizing that help and love can come from anyone regardless of race. So stop caging yourself in a “black box.” That will only make you resentful of white people and you will not know how to conduct yourself in diverse spaces where success opportunities reside.

Now, there are some people who will disagree with this—but all you have to do is look at their life and ask yourself—do their lives model the kind of success I find distinguished? Of course you should continue to criticize white institutionalism, but to act as though the black community is all a lovey-dovey space where all affirm each other’s identities and goals is too stupid. That sort of action will get you nowhere but into spaces of frustration.

In fact, in the same way that you fluently decode and identify white institutionalism, you should be able to decode and identify black institutionalism. Some aspects of white solidarity reflect white institutionalism and racism. In the same way, some aspects of black solidarity pattern black institutionalism and racism. To say that whiteness is institutionalized but not blackness reflects a deep seethed ignorance and hypocrisy. What you need to resist, therefore, is the institutionalization of our own identities. You should resist lifestyles and ways of thinking that only make you comfortable with understanding and surviving in racially singular spaces.

To be successful in this world—and success here includes having peace with how you think about the world and its peoples—you must accept that the worst people in your life will also include black people, not just the people of other races. Equally, some of the greatest persons are among Blacks, Whites, Latinos, Asians, and others. Critique the racialized world but resist the urge to live it.

 

Posted in Politics Education, Race Matters

Black Lives Matter, Stop Bullying Bernie Sanders

It’s one thing to protest; it’s another thing to intimidate. The recent response of a couple members of Black Lives Matter is an outright intimidatory tactic. And I wonder why this is done to Bernie Sanders and not to other political candidates like Hilary Clinton. Is this sexism…? And why hasn’t Barack Obama being targeted in the same way? Obama has been president for close to 7 years–why haven’t his events been disrupted? Is this racism…? Attack the white man when it comes to race, but leave the do-nothing black president alone? the era of open season on white men only? still the era of leave the white women for now because they are busy dealing with white feminism?

Of course, many white men deserve it, but why is the banging stopping at their doors? Barack Obama has been one of the worst presidents in recent history when it comes to addressing civil rights for black people; yet he gets a free pass, and the intimidation is only unleashed on a white man who has a long shot at being president–a white man who has always spoken and voted in favor of black civil rights. Isn’t this just outrageous!? Intimidate the ally; stay far from the others!

Indeed, I understand the frustration about increasing bleeding black bodies, but now I am wondering whether these disrupters were paid to tarnish the movement’s reputation; how much were they paid? And do they—or should we–call this public performance activist work? Or could it be some bullies who are trying to get some media attention so they can increase their social media following?! Hello!—like y’all don’t know how it’s done dirty–actively nasty-activists filthy–these days!!!!

What is civil rights activism? is a question that we need to ponder; because more and more it seems that the marketed idea of what is activism is not moving beyond the activities of getting arrested, blocking traffic, holding placards, singing Christian songs, screaming, and praying in the streets to the media-god, and getting outrageous enough to get a space in godly news medium.

Of course all that is good, but it is time to identify and validate the many existing counter and complimentary forms of civil rights activist works? People who are doing things with their lives–accessing careers that are traditionally occupied by privilege white people–are they activists, or do they need to hold a placard and take it to the streets first?

A black woman who is studying Mandarin in order to understand Chinese culture and some day open opportunities that combine Afro and Chinese heritages–is that activism or does she need to get arrested first?

The media’s swiftness to broadcast and give media celebrity status to a very limited scope of activist work destroys the character of what is activist diversity. Too often civil rights activism is only presented as a site with bullies, loud talkers, rebellious bodies, placard holders, street marchers, and police confronters–a site that accommodates them in the name of radicalism that is often narrowly focussed: it’s radical, not because it is strategically smart; it’s radical because it breaks the rules!

Have mercy upon us, wisdom! O wisdom, where are you?! For in these spaces, activism is presented as only what is visible–absolutely ignoring the labors of the invisible. Thus, the public as a collective is never trained to imagine diverse ways to produce change and to recognize diverse activist allies and opponents. At the individual level, too, persons are starved of confidence, creativity, and education that could be used to empower themselves. –You see why I am sick and tired of the Left these days!

Posted in Politics Education, Race Matters

Dreams Can Still Occur

Apart from blood and bones, what makes most of us similar are the daily struggles we face, not just to stay alive, but to live in peace and with purpose by fulfilling dreams. Under the persistent scarring by struggles, many of us collapse by inner defeated thoughts, some rise to walk again, some are still paralyzed, others have gone too soon. And there are those who continue to wonder—should I still linger here? What’s the purpose of life, and of my life? Those who read these words and bear witness, and consequently feel a tingle of hope, know they must continue to survive with smiles because dreams can still occur.

Dreams can still occur! Dreams can still occur! Doesn’t it sound clichéd? What is so new about this statement that has been circulated in life and above the graves of millions? The answer I have is that dreams can still occur, and we must receive this thought daily: Creatively receive it in the same way we creatively produce art, talk, and business strategies.

It is the consistent production and re-production, the persistency of circulation and re-circulation, the presentation and re-presentation to ourselves of this old thought—Dreams can still occur–that will continue to give us the fuel to smile throughout our life as we tackle purposefulness and dreams.

Now we know or acknowledge that we have been the greatest artist, daily, creatively, molding our thoughts to live in peace with joyfulness. That we now know or remember, we will consciously tap into our creativity as we shape and liberate that old thought: dreams can still occur!

Posted in Life Talk

Beware of Those Friends and Colleagues Who Evaluate Your Work

When you ask someone to evaluate your artistic production (say a book) and you know they skimmed it and didn’t finish but yet they are evaluating it with universal rhetorical feedback that could apply to any text, how do you say to them that you know they didn’t spend quality time with the work and that their feedback is merely a sudden rush to complete what feel they had promised to read a while back?

I have experienced this situation with several colleagues and friends over the years, and it shocks me that they know I am a careful reader yet they read my own work and provide positive and negative universal criticism that isn’t supported with any textual evidence.

It also surprises me that people know I try to think outside the box and write outside narrative frameworks, yet they expect to speed-read my work as if my work follows a predictable template. Not seeing the template they image the work should have, their bury their feedback into universal language that points to no textual specifics. Indeed, many of the well-known writers of our time talked about encountering this very experience from loved ones and colleagues who they held in high regards.

That it has happened to me repeatedly, I think it important to share it here to encourage emerging artists like myself to stand your ground against careless evaluations of your work. Seriously, real friends should not do this to others! Too many artists have been destroyed by the feedback of colleagues and friends who they thought cared about their future.

Artists, know your work. And be opened to criticism, and encourage your evaluators to be frank, rough, and honest with you, but beware of criticism that only points out negatives but do not point to the positives! That is not a skilled and effective critic. And if critics cannot substantiate their critiques—both good and back—with textual evidence, don’t accept their feedback. Obviously, they are insulting your intelligence. Also, be very confident about your production especially if you have put very hard work into it, and others have already pointed out its strengths and value.

I know–I know–I still haven’t answered my own question: what do I say to these sorts of critics who evaluate the work without reading it? I usually say thank you to everyone who evaluates my work. I never ever challenge anyone on any points offered because nobody had signed up for an argument; they had merely volunteered to read a work. Furthermore, I, too, don’t like people fighting me when I am providing feedback to their work. So my answer is that, I don’t have an answer, I am still thinking about it.

But, friends and colleagues, do not hurt your friends by treating their work carelessly. If you can’t spend quality time with the work of an artist who you know has a reputation of producing thoughtful work, don’t spend anytime with it at all. Don’t rush the work and kill the author! Usually, such an author knows you didn’t read the work, but she won’t tell you, because she doesn’t want to hurt your feelings though you unintentionally hurt hers.

Posted in Life Talk, Reviews

Black Lives Matter NOT All Lives Matter

If any of the presidential candidates wants to be taken seriously, I need to hear them commit to instituting federal reforms that abolish the relationship between the prison system and private companies. If the more people getting arrested means that powerful private corporations make more profits, then powerful corporate lobbyists are going to remain committed to ensuring that more blacks continue to be imprisoned. They will continue to resist any presidential candidate, politician, prosecutor, or institution that goes after the prison system.

And on this issue, I am not going to say people of color, because it is black people who comprise the largest percentage of the prison population. Additionally, as Obama said recently, blacks get longer sentences than whites for the same crime. It’s wise to consider that there is a time and place to lump marginalized and racialized bodies as people of color. But the effectiveness of such a categorical lumping must be seriously evaluated before utilized and prioritized as the most inclusive and effective activist strategy.

More than any group on the American continent and across the world, darker-skinned bodies are the most racially oppressed. My experience here in Panama and recently in Brazil has made it clearer that there exists a nurtured global assault on bodies based upon hierarchical structures of pigmentation. This reason grounds my support for emerging viewpoints in the Black Lives Matter movement that resist calls to frame their slogan as “All Lives Matter.”

If any other group—Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, and Poor White people—wants to start its own anti-racist movement, I will support it. But each needs to tap into its own creativity and produce a slogan that differentiates existing specifics of its struggles while it still amplifies the reality that shared racism hurts multiple groups. That shouldn’t be so hard to creatively accomplish; should it?

Neither should it be impossible to understand that blacks deserve the right to cultivate and occupy singular activist names and spaces that speak as black people because they are marginalized as black people across continents that continue to globalize diverse modes of anti-blackness.

Certainly, I often (and still do) valorize a united, inclusive, front, especially since I know that “blackness” as a social construct is very problematic and is often hijacked by civil rights and academic careerists. In those careerist situations, the utility of “blackness” bothers me when persons really consider it as a wholesome representation of their ontological selves.

As I see it, identities are hybrid–ethnically and geographically intersectional–rather than singular. But when “blackness” is understood and utilized as a political constituency needed to shift governmental paradigms, my argument changes to positions such as here–where my main point is that racial singularity also has its usefulness in varied activists contexts such as the Black Lives Matter movement.

Posted in Politics Education, Race Matters

I Am An Atheist – Let Me Remind You

To those who don’t know, I am an atheist, and an activist one. Yes, I don’t post stuff about atheism every day because that is not my strategy. Atheists are diverse in how they live their lives and represent their beliefs. I can speak for myself, but not for all atheists, when I say that every facet of my thinking and inner peacefulness is shaped by my life as an atheist. Atheism saved me after years of being hunted, haunted, and crippled by Christianity’s illogism, proselytization, and violences.

While I don’t post with the word “atheism” every day, I still consider it my duty to resist, using my writing, the inscriptions of diverse forms of religion, especially religious subtleties. What I will however never do is confront anyone with my views. And I don’t debate close friends or colleagues about religion. I don’t even engage other atheists anymore. Because, who wants war? And why should I do to religious supporters what their genealogies did to people like me as a kindness for not assassinating us with their machines and legislations?

I however share my views in my writing. I have been doing this for years, and large numbers of persons who follow my work and voice and my blog understand that to be the case. In the same way that religion preaches that the church needs to be a space to celebrate God’s ministry, and that in church, testimonies should freely resist a sinful culture, I occasionally use my writing as a space of ministry–a testimony of the empowering professions of atheism.

My facebook page is a representation of who I am, that includes my need to resist religion. I do what Evangelicals do by knocking doors and issuing pamphlets. My knocking is done with my writing, however. I share by resisting what seems to be normal professions of living–living as religious converts–things like Christian singing, I therefore resist sometimes.

Often many Christian persons use language, while expecting that others will automatically accept the validity of their religious logic. “God Bless You,” is how they often show their love. And even when an atheist is grieving for a dead one, Christians don’t hesitate to say, “I am praying for you and your family.”

How insulting they speak that way! (People need to understand that Christianity (not christians) to some atheists is what the Ku Klux Klan doctrine is to many black people. And anyone who thinks this analogy is ridiculous, you might benefit from wondering about the extent of your knowledge on the Medievalist religious histories, as a starting point) Because that itself is Christian proselytization at a time when their atheist friend or atheist family member is most vulnerable, and at a time when a response as “Don’t fucking pray for me!” would sound impolite, though it would be a meaningful activist response.

To be blunt, I respect people’s right to their varied views about religion, but I don’t respect their religious views: the issue being, respect for rights to views versus respect for content of views. You can’t ask me to respect the very doctrine that has hunted, haunted, and crippled me. (I’m now healed however. Atheism healed me.) I will however be cordial when persons share their religious views as long as they don’t preach to me.

However, my writing is a space of activism. I will never call out a friend about their religious views in my writing. Neither do I discuss religion with my friends unless they violate my space with their religious ministry. But I will address public media issues and figures with language of resistance.

There is nothing called gods, I will now say. If anyone thinks there is a God, they might benefit from proving it to themselves first, not with moods or emotions, but with evidence that can be tested and replicated. Atheists need not prove anything about gods. Because atheists never made claims that Gods, Aphrodite, or cows have supernatural power. Have your religious beliefs make you feel connected to life and peacefulness? Of course it has. But it doesn’t mean its knowledge is true. What is true are your feelings: religion makes you happy!

Atheists were born human. They learn everything they know. They even learned to vet knowledge. But with one exception, religious doctrinaires and institutions told them, Vet us (religion) differently! Thus, for many atheists, until knowledge holders prove that gods exist, atheist cannot accept that logic. In the absence of this logic, atheists hold that god/s do not exist.

This fundamental principle–that of rejecting what parades as wisdom, which remains unproven–cannot always occupy a space of silence. Why the need to speak then with the word “atheist” occasionally? Not a need, I say, but activism to speak occasionally in that way! The answer is that more people need to know that atheists are here and we have a voice, and we are many. Such people, often, can only identify atheists, not by the diversities of atheists lives, but by the names we use to codify our life, a name like “atheist.”

We are a persecuted group. We are one of the most discriminated marginal groups in the world. That is fact! To survive therefore, we have our gatherings and non-gatherings that resist knowledges that seem illogical in the same way Christians and Muslims resist knowledges and actions of sinfulness. Many atheists survive too by surrender to the daily ministry, the consistent abusiveness by their religious friends, who lack the conscious to discern their own proselytizing fashions.

Civil rights, anarchists, and revolutionary movements have cultivated liberated spaces by resisting what had been traditionally and contemporarily oppressive. Hence the strategy of passiveness while Christian proselytization parades as subtlety yet devours sober minds aggressively, cannot hold all the time as a framework of atheist living, representation, and validation. In other words, I’m saying atheists have to go on offense sometimes.

Posted in Atheist, Life Talk, Politics Education, Uncategorized

Off Coffee and No more Emotional Eating

I have been off coffee for a week. The withdrawal consequences are over, except I can’t read as much academic material as I used to. Still I can manage to read lighter articles such as those most circulated on the Internet. I have had a back and forth relationship with coffee. I usually do one cup per day, or two cups at most. Nonetheless, I considered myself an addict because without that morning cup of coffee, I could never function throughout the day. I am hoping this time, there will be no return. I’m excited to see how my body will take time to heal from the years of coffee’s addictive violence.

People suggest green tea as a replacement. A ton of research supports the benefits of green tea as it does coffee. Still, I am not so sure green tea is for me. Perhaps it does miracles for others, yes. But my goal is to get rid of caffeine from my system. Green tea has caffeine, though in less amounts than coffee. It was useful as a substitute in getting me off coffee. I will drink a cup occasional, but not every day. This morning I began my day with a cup of hot water. I squeezed a whole lemon in it. I’m feeling fine.

Aside from the victory over coffee, today begins a new chapter in my life. No more emotional eating. Last night, through an article, I discovered that I have been an emotional eater all my life. It shocked me, because I thought I had my emotional life in order: usually stress free; constantly courting inner peace; not shot down my challenges; great at motivating myself; desiring intimate love but not thirsty for it; often desiring sex but will not stoop to the whorish or desperate level; and I constantly make jokes with myself and laugh with myself.

Yet last night I began to recall that when I am studying, I constantly go to the refrigerator and eat. Or if in a coffee house, I eat every hour. Yes, I usually snack on things like bananas, papayas, nuts, mangoes, chicken sandwiches, etc. Healthy stuff, but isn’t eating unnecessarily unhealthy? My goal is to now eat whenever I am hungry, but to still have at least three meals per day. I believe I can accomplish this. This will make my body more energetic, lighter, calmer, and more attractive. Isn’t that a goal worth striving for?

Posted in Life Talk

Talking Race in Panama, Bocas Del Toro

I was just on the street chatting with a few Panamanians about race and identity in Panama. I’ve been chatting with locals ever since I arrived here. Initially, I wanted to know why every black person I encountered sounded exactly like a Jamaican. Surprisingly, they weren’t Jamaican. And their linguistic register has to do with more than the story of the many Caribbean persons who visited Panama during the Panama Canal’s building process.

Growing more intrigued about race in Panama, on a daily basis, I entered restaurants, bought food, smiled, and started conversations about race and sexuality with sellers. I didn’t always have to go to people. Sometimes, hustlers came up to me on the street, telling me they have “the powder” and “the weed.“

When I told them I don’t do drugs, they seemed disappointed.

“Anything you want, I can get it for you,” is their favorite comeback.

“Ok,” I usually replied. You can help me out if you tell me about race in Panama.

Regarding race, I wanted to know why some Panamanians in Bocas Del Toro found it difficult (not uncomfortable) to identify with a specific race; and some even laughed when I asked what was their race. One woman told me that I am very bold with my questions. Indeed, the conversations were uncomfortable at points. But I never failed to assure the people I was talking with that I only wanted to match faces with history and geography because I found the differences in the physical features fascinating. That explanation always made everyone relax; and they usually smiled.

Btw folks, I am not here doing research. And I am not here on any scholarship that has anything to do with school. I am just fascinated by how people identify themselves, why, and how I can map history by looking at people’s faces, how they walk, dress, pose, and sigh.

Visiting Brazil recently, and now coming to Panama, has been really eye opening for me. Yes, I had always known about the Afro-diaspora in Latina America, but to witness it puts me in a position where I can no longer talk about “black people” and just imagine mostly peoples from the Caribbean, America, and Africa.

I also worry about the label “Black” because many of these dark-skinned people of African descent cannot understand why “Black” as a term applies to them. They see it as a very domineering American label. Henry Louis Gates did a documentary series about blackness in Latin America years ago. It remains a very useful documentary, but I think Gates misses the point that these people do not want American intellectuals to name them.

Years ago, I would have thought Afro-Latin Americans were trying to erase their blackness; but I now know that many of them aren’t trying to erase anything other than a set of assumptions embedded in the word “black.” They see it as America and Europe forcing them to place white knowledges at the center of their identities.

I seriously value their point—and I am wondering why do we identify them as even Afro-Latinos instead of Latinos/as-Afro. Why should “blackness” and its genealogy be imagined as their genesis, (prefix), of their identities?

Posted in Politics Education, Race Matters, Uncategorized

Shift to Gun Rights Over Racism. Charleston Terrorism

To address the Charleston terrorism, Obama and Clinton shifted the talk to gun rights instead of concentrating on terrorism and racism. At least Clinton performed the politics expected and mentioned racism. Yet Obama, though in the later part of his presidency, remains too timid to address race. Rather than mention racism, Obama’s passion lies in addressing gun rights. Blame it on the guns! Forget about racism!

That Clinton spoke about racism, I wonder–who will be a better president when it comes to fighting for racial equality? He who accepts that he cannot speak, or She who knows she must speak? Yet though Clinton mentioned race, she joined Obama and shifted the talk to gun rights. The media and politicians feel comfortable discussing gun rights because that chitchat will go nowhere. No one will have any mental or physical work to do. Additionally, supporters and opposers of gun rights can still assert having access to moral integrity. Thus, Obama and Clinton’s strategy of shifting the talk to gun rights fails to engage an analysis of white male terrorism and racism in the U.S.

Of course, I know they would never acknowledge white male terrorism, but I expected them to seize the moment and emphasize white male racism. Instead of fulfilling a morally reasonable expectation, Obama and Clinton performed the sadness that was politically expected in front of the cameras. But when we strip away their performance clothing and examine their words, we notice that these performers show no vision.

And they make no promise, which black and brown peoples need if they are to secure their bodies from increasing white male terrorism, white misogyny, white-male hypermasculinity, white privilege, and the nurtured white Southern conservative traditions of violence, and the activist media and corporate sponsored movements determined to haunt people of color.

American is an unsafe place for people of color! we are educated every day. White male terrorist crusades against people or color have become more daring. In their wake, so many bleeding bodies! So many snatched breaths by the claws of white terrorists! Who will be the victims tomorrow? remains the concern of victim populations. What more freedoms do they want from us? is the question of the victimizer population, a question that has been emerging boldly from the shadows under Obama’s leadership.

Posted in Politics Education, Race Matters, Uncategorized

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