Thanks to everyone for support of the Free Black Space Blog. In the month of December we were able to reach the 8K mark in traffic for a thirty day period. The number is by far our best month yet. Thanks again.
Since our inception in May of 2009, we have taken on the idea of publishing essays, codes, and short takes that get at the heart of the African American experience. Our range of contributors is composed of poets, writers, critics, and literary enthusiasts. Many of them are academics who consistently study texts and the pathways of knowledge under the radar of the media spotlight.
A notable rising contribution in the past few months has been the essays of Joshua Miller. His posts "Obama's Legacy on Race, "The Perpetual Excuses for Racial Inequality, and "The Story of Bill Cosby: A Man Living in the Gray", represent a venture into the public world of ideas by a young man I met as an undergraduate in my composition course at Bowie State University. When you get a chance check some of his posts out. He gets at the turmoil in the public world of ideas that reflects a younger generation's struggle with conceptual realities outside of the walls of Academia.
Joshua's takes represent the Free Black Space way. The heart of Free Black Space addresses black intellectual production behind the veil. It is a plunge into our internal world with a quest to balance it with the external. No doubt, the public face of the veil is the endorsement, the prestige, and stamp of academic institutions and media on black thought. When one gets into the news feeds one imagines nothing else exist. No doubt, many of those who receive the accolades have contributed magnificently to the world of African American intellectual production; however, we should also understand the pitfalls of the obstacle course of proving to white readers ones material is authentic. More and more I have noticed how common the tropes of black success are. Just a few months ago, I read about ten books by African American poets. In at least five of them one could find the use of Latin or Italian without one word from an African language. Strange how the trope of an African mythic past rarely gets juxtaposed to a European mythic past. It hurts some of us, but we are not really European. What we have obtained from European culture is no more significant than the codes handed to us by our ancestors. Our hybrid approach to knowledge production and language cultivation works and is an example of our practicality; but in reality there are important ideas to consider that still remain trapped in our cognitive universe. Some of the things we brought here have not fully been articulated yet. Somethings black still need to be born. Others things are new and fresh and emerge from our cognitive experiences spawned by our internment here. In other words Free Black Space is the frontier for the African American intellectual. And by intellectual we do not simply mean those educated enough to get books in print. We are also including the illiterate, the workers, the church goers, and of course the hairstylist and the barbers who listen and engage us on intimate levels with our surviving and thriving in mind.
Much of our cultural production run through the larger society's apparatus must be duplicitous at best. If there are thousands of blacks killed and held in place based on the sign of their body as seen by whites, how could one began to estimate the shackles on the black mind? How odd we endorse the trope of the black body at this strange juncture in our history. How odd we consider underground black intellectuals without academic institution or award master's of rhetoric who border on charlatans. Indeed it is strange, that one can be catapulted to national status talking about how jacked up it is for our bodies-as though we somehow are body.
This is an update, and I confess most of what I read these days talks about mind. I've been on Buddhism, the I-Ching, and the Bhagavad Gita again, which always seem to center their engagement of the human predicament around the question of mind. In this regard, the idea of the body, seems to belong to the ghetto of ideas. To be black is to confront that your life is somehow connected to the conceptual realm of a ghetto that never really existed. Not simply the physical ghetto, but also the ghetto of ideas. Confession number two: I've been practicing Tai Chi, which simply won't let me rest with the body trope. The practice like yoga asserts through consciousness and cognitive experience, that the body is as mysterious and vast as the external world. Tai Chi alone makes the notion of confinement of the body almost ludicrous. In fact, ascetics and monks, often take on stances that seem like confinement of the body to train their minds. Rest assured in our extremely consumer driven society, one might imagine an inability to consume more is a symptom of confinement. No doubt many suffer under confinement and brutality; but within the realm of mind there are many illusions. We should not let our ideas about confinement dominate our ideas about freedom. It's a big wide world.
Even confinement and brutality must be explored as concept. Black death and murder are terrible and occur; but we confront black death and murder at the hands of other blacks rather frequently. The public popularity of such concepts simply doesn't fly over like what we imagine whites doing to us. The key after all is the audience. Implicit in much of our activism is a form of empowerment granted by those we seem to oppose. The notion that a black person did something to a white that laws, police, and the infrastructure of the country can't handle is far rarer than the proposition moving in the other direction on the binary line. Can you imagine whites protesting blacks for anything? Most times whites protest blacks, the gesture is laughable. If we are body without mind, then what does that really mean? Nevertheless, we are not. We are mind. The universe is mind.
Yet, I understand. Many of our public responses to oppression are duplicitous at best. One must make a living after all. As audience, we settle for less, or settle for the reality that little is really written for us while writing that addresses our particular consciousness struggles for valuation in the market place. Demographics rule the playing field. If most of what is written is done so for whites, the predicament is practical-not sinister. It is as though we are on a slave plantation. We get to pick through the leftovers-the parts that are designated for the black. If anything, we are usually sampled into the conversation as a symbol of authenticity-like the trope of the body. We must be seen as black to validate ourselves with seeing and blindness as binary poles. Those most blind to us are also most fascinated by seeing us. It is as though, we desire or attempt to manage our existence in those moments where the blind are cured of their illness. One can only imagine how much black intellectuals depend on these moments and are subsequently regulated towards a path that attempts to engineer them in the minds of white readers.
Black authenticity has the weird distinction in the world of academia and publishing as requiring authentication by folks outside of our community. It is the slave's reality-who else is going to hire you? If you perfect or craft knowledge that comes up out of the African American experience it must make itself recognizable based on general notions of craft and form promoted by the larger communities. Again, as it was with the slaves. We come up out of slavery into the right to be educated-to take European names, to wear suites, to learn the theories and codes of those who enslaved us. For many the distinction seems to be far too polemic; but our history also bears a strange repetitive pattern. We seem to reinvent our culture consistently. A Negro seems to be discoverable again and again. In truth, there is no real discovery; but rather the refusal to acknowledge the black factory of intellectual production.
Free Black Space is synced up with the black factory-not in protest, indictment, or opposition. As the founder, I have attempted to publish what it is important that I imagine others would not. As simple as that may sound, it is actually a novel and strange idea. Writers imagine themselves doing this, but the nature of awards and the demands of academic institutions make this virtually impossible. Yes, this is a blog; but the work here attempts to get at my two cent impression of what is important and missing from the larger conversation. No doubt, others, somewhere must do the same. The aspiration is a form of hope. We run this like a recording studio for writers who keep their chops up. Like my man Sammi Miranda, Washington, D.C. poet and performer, who invited me down to the studio and said, "Let's do something." We do the work-surely we can record. We do the work-surely we can publish. The black intellectual needs to consider production that comes from a set of chops or skills developed on an everyday basis. Again, it seems that the Academic world presses us towards tip-toeing of sorts. I encounter a strange humility among folks that could be easily mistaken for low self-esteem. To be a poet, to be a writer, indicates at least a conceptually longing for engagement with an audience. Enter the gatekeepers.
Nevertheless, Free Black Space is about to get it back up running. We have a few good post in the kitty and should easily be able to obtain our 100K goal before year's end.
Thanks for reading. As always.
Free Black Space