September 1994

Tired, Sad & Tired of Being Sad

Please allow me to ramble for just a moment.

Last night at 3 o'clock a friend of mine called me and told me that he was in jail. I asked him why, and he said he had been talking shit to the police. Fair enough. Could I come bail him out, he asked, knowing before he asked that I would say yes because I am just that type of person and that type of friend. So, of course, I hop in my car just as fast as I can and speed over into some random-ass area of Chicago, which probably wasn't very smart or safe, but oh well... got to the police station in record time, and walked in.

The woman at the desk looked me up and down and said, "Can I help you?" like I had a disease. At this moment I turned on my "Cant we be civil voice" and told her that I was here to bail out my friend, and gave my friend's name. She told me in her "No we cant be civil voice," that he wouldn't be ready until 4:30. It was about 3:15. What struck me was that she said it as if she couldn't believe that I didn't know the rules--how things go in police stations in the middle of the night--like I run around bailing people out daily (or nightly as the case may be). Anyway, she told me that there was a waiting room around the corner (read, about 5 chairs in a cold-ass room), and I said no thanks, I would wait in the car.

So I waited, and waited, and got angry and sad, and tired, as I contemplated the fact that I was not sleeping, and had to get to my 8 to 6 corporate job in the morning. And at that moment I realized that not my Stanford degree, not my principled upbringing and way of life, not my masters-in-waiting, not my parents money, not even my coming to the table as one human being wanting to be treated as another human being counted. All that these people saw was a Black woman coming to get a Black man out of jail in the middle of the night, and that was enough for them to treat me however they felt like it.

Sad, and tired.

Anyway, I then went to buy a magazine, came back to the station, went to the waiting room, and started to read. This older white man came by and I nodded and said hello just like I do to every human being that I come across in life, and the look on his face was of sheer surprise that I acknowledged him.

The first thing he said to me was, "You must not be like the others."

"Excuse me?" I said. He then went on to tell me what a hell Chicago is, how he hates the city, and how the solution to our problem was to kill these people that he referred to as "the others" the ones that I apparently was not like. He went on to tell me how he fought in the war, and that the only way he survived was to kill those who were out to get him, and that he thought the solution to our city's problem was to kill all of those who he felt were the problem.


Then when I asked him who would be in charge of this extermination, he said, he would do it.


I listened to a whole bunch of bullshit about my race and Chicago, and how if everyone was armed then the good people would be left. I don't know why I talked to this man, but it was 4:00 and I had nothing but time on my hands. Anyway, time passed and soon it was time for me to get my friend. So I went about the business of the paperwork and was surprised time and time again by the attitude of the police--the "don't you know how this goes" as if I spend most of my time bailing people out of jail.

As I was waiting for the paperwork to be finished, a man, who obviously didn't speak much English approached the desk and asked how he could get a taxi. The police (you know the ones who are supposed to protect and serve) told the man to call taxi-cab and sent him to the pay phone.

Hello? How hard is it to pick up a phone and get a cab for this man? Then of course, the man had no change. All of the police looked at him like, "Don't look at me, I dont have 30 cents." Hello? Then when I offered to give the man change, they all looked at me like I was from another planet for trying to help someone who was in need.

Sad, and tired. Has it gotten so bad that no one helps anyone anymore?

Anyway, the woman filling out the paperwork asked me if I was related to my friend, and I said no, and she then proceeded to go on and on about how she couldn't believe that I was not family and I was still helping my friend out. (Of course, at about that time, I was thinking similar things,) but to listen to her one would think that the world was just a place where it didn't make sense to help other people, but only to look out for yourself. Yeah, I probably want to live in that world.

So then, it was over, and I was told that I could pick up my friend out by the gas pumps. Hello? I don't live here, where is that, I was thinking. Damn. Is it that hard to fathom that a 21 year old Black woman has never been to the damn police station?

Anyway, I see my friend, and he is not looking very concerned. When we drive away, the first thing he said (after thank you) was "You should be glad that I am out of jail--They could have jacked me up, or kicked my ass, or killed me."

At that point, I was through. Has it come to that? When did the standards get so low? Its not, stay out of jail, out of trouble, but merely stay alive? I don't have a right to be mad that you called me in the middle of the night to get you out of fucking jail--instead I should be happy that the police didn't kick your ass.

He then told me, when I got a little irate, that I just didn't understand. You see, I just got back from a vacation with my parents in Aruba, and apparently that negated my ability to understand what he went through at the hands of the police that evening.

Perhaps he is right, maybe, as hard as I try, I don't understand.

What is happening in this world? Can someone tell me, because I am really tired of trying to figure it out. I have the privilege of having lived a comfortable life, for the most part, and getting a good education, etc. My friend, after thanking me for getting him, assured me that he would have done the same for me. Hello? That wouldn't happen, because I have no plans to be in jail in the middle of the night, and for all the "Things just happen" in the world, cannot imagine that happening to me. That is not my reality.

I don't know why I wrote this, or why I decided to post this, but I guess if you got this far, I should ask that if anyone can tell me why we're damned if we do and damned if we don't, I would appreciate it. Why some people think that they can treat people any old damn way because of how they look or where they are, or whatever? Why we are getting used to stupid shit in this world, and thanking God that at least the next horrible thing didn't happen, instead of thinking about the situation that we are in right now.

Anyway, this rambling is due also to the fact that I got about 3 hours of sleep. So if this post speaks to anyone or anything, let me know.


Pamay Bassey

Free Mr. T!

Some time ago, I'm not exactly sure when, the letter "T' dropped out of the black english progressive accent. Where it happened was in the middle of words. Ya know what I'm sayin? It's difficult for me to keep up because it used to be cool to use a T. I used to dress to a T. Mr. T was cool (for a while). Nobody said, back in the day, 'what's happening'? It was 'whas hatnin'; we put a T where it di'n belong. Then what? It moved to 'whut up', still wit a T. Now it's 'whazzup'. Whazzup wi' dat? And to be precise the T on 'dat' only touches lightly with the back of the tongue. So it's more like 'dak' without percussion on the K. I'm just warning you all. And in case you di'n (two syllables) know, it's happening to "D" as well.

This is crucial information, especially if you live in Manha'an. So gik wid da program, ya know what I'm sayin? By the way, droppin' science has been dropped. Now ha'nin brothers represent. Oops, represen' to da fulles', dog. With as Hot 97 says, 'the trueness from the street'.


Undercover Citizen.

I did it again. Put myself between black man and danger. This is the third time in recent memory. What do I know? I only know that I am not afraid of black men, not like I'm supposed to be. But what has me upset is that I didn't get a chance to say all that I was thinking in that situation. What I wanted to say was: "All these people on this train hate you, don't give them the reason to take away your freedom. I don't hate you. Just let go of this rinky dink ass bicycle and run away and be a free man."

The Asian man sat holding his bicycle, reading his foreign language newspaper. The three young black men stood on the door opposite me. I was hot and so I took off my jacket. The other black man sat next to the Asian man. (this is a story of race, action and editorial) At 116th Street, the kid in the green Gap sweatshirt steps out of the train and grabs the back wheel. His partner holds open the door. The bike is held by the Asian, the pole by the door and the bike's own awkwardness. I stand for a moment. The crime does not happen in an instant although the intent is clear. It can go either way. This kid is not an accomplished thief. I move forward and grab the bicycle by its beat up seat. The kid does not look up at me. He struggles. The subway car crowd yells 'Get a job!' 'Work for what you want!' and other such venom. The black man sitting next to the Asian stands and shouts 'Leave it alone!'. I cannot recall the precise words. The kid tells him to mind his own business. My hand remains on the seat. I am closest of them all to the action, my shin is barked by the pedals. The subway doors open and stutter closed, almost. People are shouting 'Police! - I'm going to call the police!'. The kid relents. He and his two would-be accomplices step out at 116th Street and Broadway.

The black man who was sitting next to the Asian apologized. 'I'm sorry about that, man'. 'How are you doing?' he asks. The Asian man shakes his head and says nothing. The expression on his face said 'How the fuck do you think I'm doing?' I can practically hear his heart racing. The black woman in the middle of the car whom I earlier heard yelling but did not see was wearing a white hat with the pink flower in the brim. I turn to look as she speaks out again. 'They makes us all look bad. I knew they were going to try something'. I say the only thing that I said for the whole trip. 'So you are a mind reader?' Somebody laughs. I am angry in the same way I am always angry whenever this happens. 'This' without the opportunity to speak. 'This' without the performance. 'This' being the hatred the trainful reserves for the black kid in the green Gap sweatshirt and beat up shoes.

What more is there to say? Americans are cowards.

What would Americans do without niggaz to despise? At whom would they shout? From where would they draw examples? Not many folk talk about Satan any longer. Flip Wilson used to say, "The Devil made me do it", but since we have niggaz, we don't need the Devil. And of course now since there is no Devil for us to blame for our own weaknesses, we can be cowards and point our fingers. A coward lets a teenager accomplish crime. A coward lets his children die in the streets and then cries pitifully all over the newspaper. She waits on her front porch for the reporters to show up. I wonder why it is children that are always in the news as victims of horrible crimes. And then I realize that these victims are those who have not yet learned to become accomplished cowards. The adults, who have learned very well, are not present when danger is. And so we learn all about it, after the fact. Accomplished cowards live 1000 times to tell the horror stories that the coward network is dying to hear. The best cowards know everywhere that is dangerous. It takes a lot of work to become a good coward. Just as it takes a lot of work to become a good thief. American children have a lot to learn.

I did it again. Put myself between black man and danger. This is the third time in recent memory. What do I know? I only know that I am not afraid of black men, not like I'm supposed to be. But what has me upset is that I didn't get a chance to say all that I was thinking in that situation. What I wanted to say was: "All these people on this train hate you, don't give them the reason to take away your freedom. I don't hate you. Just let go of this rinky dink ass bicycle and run away and be a free man."


An Unsent Letter to Cornel West (#1 - Winter, 1991)

(reflections on my inability to get into the black popular culture forum two years ago even though i now have the book...)

Provocation can unmask evil as it subverts the complacency of a personal status quo. I suppose revealed evil is most insidious when the agent of the provocation is unwitting. Yet conflict is so clearly illuminating of that evil and it's opposing good when the challenge is posed in the presence of personal courage. Too bad that we agents of America's Professionalism are so decorous when facing challenge that we often play stooges to our respect of 'what we are really trying to do here' without often realizing that our daily decisions provoke without reference to principle. Draped in the respectability of institutional ethics, we seldom are able to transgress in any meaningful ways, and thus we remain as oppressed as any others. Having wandered about in the cold streets of Harlem for some time after patiently waiting to be admitted to a symposium on Black Popular Culture, I felt most provoked the other day by what I suspect is a Fire Marshall's intent, completely inundated with sincere apologies and refund offers from the operators of the Studio Museum.

The occasion has been the second in my recently revitalized intellectual being of having been forced through subtle and disingenuous powers to miss the opportunity to hear Cornel West speak. He is, by my account, one of the most important and truly evolutionary voices that America has to offer the world. I take some pride in having, if only for a ridiculously brief moment, met the man face to face in the filled to capacity foyer of the Studio Museum. More importantly however is that through Bill Moyers' Cousteau-esque expeditions through the exoticized islands of American intellect, I have been introduced to the author of writings whose precise tracking of political ideology, and philosophical discourse have offered me the opportunity which I believe will avail me to rise to the challenge issued to me (in spirit and in Sivananadian text) as a American which is to fight in the spirit of New Combat and revise what evil provocation is America's imperial soul. Even as I attempt this in concert, I hope, with others of like mind, I am thwarted by the liberal semi-accommodating attitudes of the disemboweled of courage.

On the one hand, in Los Angeles earlier this year when the Reverend Doctor visited Cal Arts, it was the prostrate protests of corporate citizenship and professional demeanor that wheedled me into returning form the lunch I would have gladly extended three or four lengths. I, as many of the untutored talents of our generation, have boldly gone where few if any, it has been purported, have gone before, thus by our presence on the margins (er frontiers) of the American professional class have uplified the race as is befitting our Christian names, have been suckered into what is evidently a morally bereft (or at the least irresponsible) set of responsibilities. So I remain, while lacking the good mental discipline of rigorous critical intelligence set against the critical intelligence that set us on this para-capitalistic corporate liberal trail, tied to the puritan ethos (double consciously, no thanks to DuBois) provoked to scrupulously scrimp time, money and strength for another chance, while fuming and stressing at my high paying job.

Comes the second chance now to redeem this fete manqué in the New York of my capricious yet dutiful selection as it the prerogative of professional class members and lo, in steps the second stricturing ethic in the face of a black establishment. Yet what kills and annoys me most is that, to my face and in my face in the guise of a cultural forum (perhaps it is not redundant to include the word 'public') I must be subject to yet another exclusion from that which my mind needs and spirit desires - communion with my intellectual peers and guides, by those who by their efforts most realize how crucial this exchange is to those of us so crudely parodied as the 'X- Generation', the 'culturally illiterate' at best and brutally corralled as so much net surplus and endemically indigent and criminal population at random. Yet if the Studio Museum, from behind its wide glass portal onto Martin Luther King Jr., Blvd. has offered quite enough tickets to quite enough of the population and stretched its wise and magnanimous hands to their absolute limit (within the mandate of the Fire Marshall's omnipresent oversight) then who am I to question the appropriateness of my own presence and what weight should I give to my own hope's abrogation? If my physical presence strains the delicate balance of principle of Black Cultural Gospel versus too damn many people in one place at one time and the decorum established by the august patrons of this shrine (and their presently admitted relatives) then I should accept that, right? Especially when the whole story is that I didn't make reservations ahead of time.

Well, my reservations are certainly made now, somebody hep me, I can't seem to accept either ethic. How one leads me to the other is a dualism bound to break my sanity. I wish I could say that it's quite enough to read the books and the articles and essays, but it is not. If it were enough, I daresay none of the panelist would venture beyond their respective garrets to meet the Studio Museum's version of the public. But such is our existential hunger to be fulfilled in person. Yet I feel oddly confirmed in my frustration and anger at my being cut off -- as might Public Enemy in their search for fostering and finding none from black radio or commercial radio -- that I should not let either ethic, institution or their appropriately polite and manacled representatives long remain the brokers of American strivings. I might be hesitant to kidnap Cornel West from Princeton or even try to recapture his attention at the scene of the symposium. Perhaps I am too saturated with middle-class anti-radical sclerosis myself to make a loud enough complaint. Yet perhaps some liberation awaits us all. Who knows what might become of us if we could all stop making whining excuses for not being our own agents -- if we were to truly grapple with the assumptions below our eminently acceptable and simpering cowardly decorum.

The unseated that supports our mutual respect and causes us to avoid the salient question of our disconnection from and lack of communion with those who might shed light and add vigor is a respect for those institutions and ethics which purports to serve the collective intelligence of our people. This counts both ways, from me as captive audience, and for those captive intellectuals. Yet when symposia sell out and such selling out becomes a measure of their 'success', when the demands of professional class membership preempt the participation of individuals in their communities of interest, it is time we reconsider the ways and means of melioration. For my small radical part that means (as well as can be transcribed) the finger to whining supplicants who offer to arrange for videotape recordings or additional 'sick' time.

I waked the night streets of Harlem tonight, in the cold, with the anonymous. Outside. It was too dark to read the book Cornel West signed for me but the inscription lived more in the handshake and the smile I received from him. I will stay strong and hope to be in small and courageous ways, prophetic. I have been provoked by the best...

Racial Awareness 101:

Ascribe the following statements between black and white Americans to either the White speaker or the Black speaker.

The college boards don't supply the correct answers and you live with the results for the rest of your life, so why should I?

New Alliance

NRA supporters want gun control provisions out of the Crime Bill and Senate Republicans threaten to fillibuster if the assault weapons ban is not removed from the legislation. The popular justification given is that it is precisely these militia quality weapons whose right to bear, ordianry citizens have guaranteed by the Constitution. Americans have the right, so the argument goes, to protect themselves from a tyrannical government.

Today in New York another black undercover police officer has been shot by a white police officer in an incident of mistaken identity. Chief Bratton has revealed that the problem is so prevalent that all officers are now instructed by video tape that all blacks and dark skinned latinos who are armed are not criminals.

Snoop Doggy Dogg got his first big hit off the soundtrack of 'Deep Cover' with the song 187 on an undercover cop. 187a is the statute of the criminal code under which first degree murder is outlawed. Ice Cube first became a public enemy over his song, 'Fuck the Police'. Gangsta rap's violent verbiage has the reputation for buckin' down the 5.0.

Police are government. Blacks have assault weapons.

<p>Brown Eyes by Balogun Lukata Omari Lasana it is of brown eyes i sing a soulful serenade where melodies cascade like light rain dancing to jazz on a summer heated roof nat king cole croons &quot;mona lisa, mona lisa...&quot; out somebody's window while full lipped women wait longing for mocha colored kisses, dark smiles from men who learn to forget their sweetness let the fools chase rainbows blue skies and fair maidens it is of brown eyes i sing dark spirit rhythms music dancers bend and sway like dandelions against soft breezes ready to be made into cool wine drank on chocolate sunday in the shade of grandma's back porch brown eyes acapella voices &quot;showtime&quot; on the corner doo woppin' for a black woman's love &quot;forever my darling...&quot; brown eyes eyes that feel and know and love eyes that lift and cry and forgive let others bellow stange tunes distant and foriegn to the soul for me it is of brown eyes I sing. copyright, 1994. Louis Anderson </PLAINTEXT> </p> <hr> <PLAINTEXT> <p>not ready for prime time (rebirth of the cool, track 6) pitchfork in a haystack of blackness picking out the needles that stick like a cactus moynihan pricks, moynihan pricks and connie chung blurts out the dirt that sticks general public puts faith in ya but what's the death rate in west virginia media coal rake behind a fake handshake when's a brother get a break still slaves of the airwaves bitty babies sleep in open graves 24-7 mind grind not only prime time not ready, dead freddy's all i see but not a sister that's steady ellis cose knows that's how it goes black middle class rages, white arrogance grows and when a crook gets caned in a foriegn place president clinton screws up his face little bitch fay in the hands of king kong 1999 don't be in hong kong north korea says how you like me now but that don't play in peoria somehow it wasn't in the plans spray cans in white hands gotta be black gotta be black media demands for the sake of fans in the stands asians portrayed as barbarians. unless of course for the sake of the right on campus; else out of sight - grab a mike and incite a cultural war suckers delight in devisive fights between non-whites the beat plays on and the media drones phoney consensus piped thru headphones repeaters report, reporters cavort kervorkian sport; black faces in hoodies coming out of court liberals fib about me in my crib killin my black brothers' reputation, while so glib on a sunday morning diss fest, disgrace this mess journalism, just another ism in my face for schism with a bent prism equal time for the whitewash white lie white gism in a chalkline (do we have a story on local black crime?) liberation of the mind not ready for prime time the media's bent stays permanent and black people can't seem to represent knowledge of self, stays locked on the shelf but everybody knows about the keebler cookie elf tony brown, les brown, without reknown im still not sure if oprah's down for the pushing of the concept who knows the cool quiet as its kept. im groovin the troops; cali to massachutes label my fruits entartete kunst i don't give a hoot not in cahoots with the jackboots or the sellout motherfuckers in their 3 piece suits im comin' at ya with the pure flavor for you to savor; not your saviour but i'll save your time and won't insult your mind with all that lather and bullshit blather that you get from dan rather liberation of the mind you wont find it in prime time but maybe in rap rhyme... m.d.c.bowen, 1994 all rights reserved </PLAINTEXT></p> </blockquote> </body> </html>