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Making Use of IT for Black Liberation

By Rudolph Lewis

 

I am no tech buff, usually far behind in the knowledge and use of the latest hardware and software. To cover the bases well, a more specialized tech critic should write this report and review, rather than one who is not much above a casual observer, and at best a social critic. But I have also a personal interest in IT as an editor of a website, and a librarian.

From my perspective, ground up, on personal levels, acquisitiveness and fashion have led the way in the ubiquitous sale and uses of informational technologies (IT). The gadgets are amusing and fun, flashing cell telephones, with web access. The commercial uses (newspapers, tv stations, hip hop industry, corporate and other such organizations) of the new IT have trumped other small independent, non-institutional IT operations.

The problem is a radical lack of interest, staff, and fundingespecially when the primary objective is education and self-reliance. Some forms and strategies worthy of attention nevertheless have developed that are productive, consciousness-raising efforts.

Listservs have been found extremely useful, cutting through time and space in seconds and will be a mainstay as long as there is e-mail. Blogs are now everywhere. There, writing is not for art, but the translation of information and attitudes toward information and the happenings in the world. They even gain congressional attention. New websites operated by blacks are popping up with restricted agendas, everywhere. Most are limited to the promotion and sale of some product – books, cds, and dvds, tee-shirts, and other accessories. They don't give you much.

For me the granddaddy and the most useful, for my purposes, have been the efforts of Kalamu ya Salaam  with his daily-posted e-drum.

For me a key aspect of e-drum was that it was strictly non-commercial. It is a free service in which Kalamu receives no payment. Its commercial policy has only slightly changed over the years. One cannot but be impressed by Kalamu’s 365-day performance, which has continued over a period of at least six years. He’s my great hero of commitment and service. For me, his e-drum is a daily reassurance that the struggle continues, and that he  challenges our ethical commitment to serve the people. He keeps me informed of what is happening politically, culturally, and socially.

With e-drum, there are a few short opinion exchanges. These can be bitter, caustic so they are infrequent. E-drum primarily provides useful information, for writers and artists, without an inflexible ideological perspective, from Kalamu. His example inspired me to create ChickenBones: A Journal. I did not want a listserv, but a website in which I could use image and text. My sense was that people, especially black people needed to see each other and in a different and unique context. Subject to stereotype, the visual is important.

When I did an interview (Digital Technology & Telling Our Story ) with him a year ago, Kalamu tried to school me on IT.:  

Digital technology has the major advantage of enabling us to present images at the same time that we present sound, thus, we approach the holistic mode of African-rooted performance that traditionally included ritual specific content (i.e., meaning) presented through music, dance, song, storytelling and imagery (specifically personal adornment and masking). I maintain that although the African-rooted performance aesthetic was necessarily sublimated within the crucible of slavery, this performance aesthetic was not eliminated. Digital technology combined with political developments provide us the means to re-assert our traditional performance aesthetic.

I did not quite understand fully his vision of the practical and productive uses of IT. I understood that it was both affordable and accessible because ChickenBones was started with $300 and a computer built by a friend for $600.And I had total ignorance of web software (which we obtained for $35) and security measures. I was working part-time as a librarian and I had boxes and boxes of material I wanted to share with folks. It all fit in like hand in glove. I wanted to share with the public and the print industry was not a real option with the amount of material I had. And I knew others writers and artists felt the same, and were in similar situations..

The uses of the “holistic mode” to “reassert our traditional performance aesthetic” did not sink in during the interview, or afterward. For me text and image were everything. Within the last week I have been impressed by three efforts using sound on the internet, which has caused me to reassess the potential values and possibilities of IT (and its related digital technologies, in general). The technical knowledge of these may be beyond me.

But before I come to that I must point out the strategically, creative uses of IT by Arthur Flowers and Marvin X, especially their use of address books, listservs, and websites to create a literary and cultural and political audience so as to sit at an influential table with different, creative perspectives on the world which we endure. Cooperation and collaboration with them have been an educational joy, and positively challenging.

An academic, a hoodoo, and novelist Flowers introduced me to the blog with his Rootsblog, which partially developed as a means to promote his book and the special cultural magic of Southern blacks. Hoodoo was used successfully in his novel, Another Good Loving Blues. It rivals Zora Neale Hurston’s Our Eyes Were Watching God, as a love story. It is an excellent BAM novel.

Rootsblog is still alive after  a couple of years, though Flowers initially was not getting the kind of traffic he desired. He was in despair, I encouraged him to stick it out. Flower tries to exhibit the daily uses of hoodoo through his social, political, and cultural commentary. It’s a literary hoodooism. I am not sure what measure Flowers uses to judge his success, for he is not selling anything, really. And I’m not sure how responsive his blog is. The most important thing is that he has stuck with it. He has added some images to the blog to break up the white space. In creative IT uses that appeal, we are all in the dark and learn as we go. In some sense we are all pioneers, adapting to the wilderness.

I’ve learned much more from Marvin X. I have been his sympathetic observer the last four years. From the old school (BAM), Marvin is a performance artist par excellence like Kalamu, Flowers, and Baraka. In a fashion, Marvin is much more daring and provocative. His speech challenges respectability on topics like sex, drug addiction, violence, and religion. He uses the email dynamically to establish a reading community.

The most important thing I’ve learned from Marvin is that there is no inherent conflict between internet publishing and print publishing. One can serve the other. Kalamu ya Salaam has also pointed that out by providing extraordinary amounts of his writings to ChickenBones: A Journal, without any squeamishness about the fear or loss of sales.

Much of what has appeared recently in Marvin’s published books at one time or another appeared on the internet, either in mass e-mailings, on listservs, or on websites. He was looking for feedback. And he got it from numerous sources. Moreover, as a Muslim, he has an international audience interested in his American Muslim perspective, having been a member of the Nation of Islam, a follower of Malcolm. His perspective is influenced, it seems, also by the mystical Sufi.

Marvin provides a ground up perspective. Highly analytical he has captured the Negro barbershop rhetorical style to great effect. Humorous, he is also the prophet & preacher.

The only other figure that has used IT as dynamically as Marvin has been Kola Boof, probably as stunningly provocative and daring as Marvin himself. She, however, may be better at the game than Marvin. She probably has published as many books as Marvin in the last four years. Like Baraka with his poem “Somebody Blew Up America,” a number of commercial newspapers and cable stations, including the NYTimes and FOX have interviewed Ms. Boof. Her books have sold well on amazon.com.

White women tried to adopt her into feminism. They pissed Kola off; she used them and pushed them aside. Black women tried to include Ms. Boof into their male-bashing club. She insulted them by showing her breasts and pointed out that they were sexually repressed and that she felt no shame showing her body to men and making love to black men and raising the babies of black men. She pissed black liberals off by attacking Harry Belafonte and applauding Colin Powell.

Though part Arab, she has a great genuine hatred for Arabs and Arabs in the Sudan, (that parallels black hatred of southern whites) which provides her a peculiar and insightful perspective on color, sex, race, and religion in America. She has angered black men by charging them with attempts to “erase” the Black Mother, specifically pointing to Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan. Her charge is that there is a proclivity of well-off American black men to consort with mulatto (or “high yalla”) or white women.

With Kola Boof there is an odd mixture of the commercial, the political, and the personal. I do not trust her personal history, her social criticism, though I think they both have value. One is uncertain distinguishing which is which. Surely she is a social critic in which her whole body and life is placed in service of her art and the promotion of her art. She is an exceedingly attractive and moving woman. And one might say she created herself through the use of IT. My impression is that she has a group working with her handling publicity and other IT technical issues.

Her most recent creation is Kola's  free downloadable fifty-minute dramatic video, partially staged, as in its pseudo religious opening, which is provocatively erotic (bare breasts bouncing on the shaken water of a lake), the use of photographs and clips from TV programs (like a documentary), and long long monologues of just Kola talking and clarifying, somewhat, what has been said about her, her influences, and the writers and artists she loves.

The whole is titled an “interview.” To call it an interview stretches the definition. The purpose is to introduce or reintroduce Kola Boof, to sell her books. Seeing her in this format, I found her very informative, her words charming as well her body language, her poise divine, which has always impressed me in African women, and southern women of generations ago. She has a beautiful smile, almost like the girl next door, but with a difference. Personally, I do not care whether she lies or tells the truth, one should be allowed to tell one’s story as one chooses.

I like Kola Boof. The bottom line is she winds my clock.

Kalamu ya Salaam and his son have initiated a new adventure, a music blog, joining sound and text, and image (album covers), namely, Breath of Life: A Conversation about Black Music (BOL,  www.kalamu.com/bol).

I like BOL and I think that BOL will succeed as a form. There’s a need for music and music commentary outside of the regular established magazines. Personally, I know very little about black music history and criticism beyond Amiri Baraka. I do not keep up with Stanley Crouch, Wynton Marsalis, nor with Village Voice music critics. Kalamu is, however, great to lead the charge to fill this gap. He has been a DJ for decades on a local New Orleans radio station, and he headed the New Orleans Jazz Fest which gave him contact with many musicians, and he is a musician and performer himself. His long history and considerable experience has gained my trust in his musical judgment.

There are several features about this website that are to me still novel—archiving and the use of the jukebox.  The music jukebox impresses me, choosing music from a selection though the selections are chosen and limited to seven a week.  The weekly presentations will be archived. My interest in some of the selections is slight. But it’s nice to know where I can go to hear “Bandy, Bandy” or Marvin Gaye’s “Inner-City Blues.” I also discovered I could do my work on the computer (data input) while listening to BOL in the background. And that feels good and comfortable. The jukebox replays the selection.

Technically, I have no idea how archives or the jukebox operates. This archive will be much easier to access than the archive for e-drum. That adds up to over fifty programs, 350 music presentations, a year. That’s a lot of music. I have little or no knowledge how much space music files take up. I suspect this will determine how much archiving will be done over the years.

The father/son dynamic may or may not work. I have numerous questions for Kalamu on how he sees the future of this adventure. Will it be another free, out-of-personal-pocket service, for instance? I do not know Mtume whether Mtume can stick it out and whether a generational discussion is possible regarding black music in the three categories chosen: Classical, Contemporary, Cover. So far it has been pop music rather than jazz or reggae or African music. It’s all new and we learn as we go when we start out on an untrekked adventure. Its success will depend on their stamina, and I suspect costs.

My friend Sharif recently emphasized and boosted Internet Radio. I first heard of it through Junious R. Stanton, who had a live talk program, on which he invited me. I did not understand then (two years ago) its growing popularity. For me it was primarily talk radio, which I personally had little use. Somehow through e-drum my attention was brought to the existence of Memphis Internet Radio. It seems to be real community radio, directly specifically and intentionally at a local audience. There’s music (gospel, soul classics, a variety of black music), a poetry corner, sermons on Sunday, as well as community talk radio. Whoever these guys are they have established a broadcasting company that is very regional but reaches beyond the local, and they operate seven days a week, 24 hours a day. I’m impressed. Who these guys? How they do that?

Let me close with a brief statement on our efforts with ChickenBones: A Journal. Our work and thinking have been enhanced or altered, or both, by the work and efforts of and by Kalamu, Arthur Flowers, Marvin X, and Kola Boof, and now Memphis Internet Radio. I have been thinking for sometime how I might integrate sound and moving image into what we do at ChickenBones. For instance there’s a cd interview of Marvin, I’d like to play a snippet from. There’s a dvd by Mya B I’d like to show the rape scene on ChickenBones. Our emphasis, however, has been text and photographic image.

Our layout is rudimentary. I use probably only a hundred part of our internet software. Technically, many sites look better and do it better than ChickenBones. That’s me. I remain technology challenged. But simplicity has its attractions.

Numerically, our traffic is presently (over 5,000 visitors a day) ten-fold of that of two years ago (500 visitors a day). Last year we had almost a million visitors this year we will have two million. Our possible audiences have not yet peaked.

There are no barriers whatsoever to our files – no sign ins, no surveys, no pay, no ads, no pop ups. A free website that has been dynamic and engaging from the word go. Though on an irregular schedule, the opening page is refreshed once or twice a week. We make effective use of personal mailings, which others pass along, e-drum, submissions from writers, published writers, publishers, and others with websites. We have correspondents in England, Nigeria, India, and Eastern Europe, as well as in the United States.

Within the last year our provider has extended the amount that can be downloaded within a month. This reform has allowed us to be more visual, to extend again the length and amount of material (text and photos) on the opening page. We are a large site, over 1500 text files. We are unique: we post old articles (archived, out of print) material as if it were written yesterday. Everything is NOW, for us.

And everything is part of the purview of the Negro, even Turkish or East European folktales, as well as the more contemporary issues like American white feminism, black womanism, and Afro-Asian relations. In preparing a draft outline for THE BEST OF CHICKENBONES (a book in the planning), we made a recent self-discovery; oddly we do not have much prose by women on the site. Submissions from women have been mostly restricted to poetry. Much of this poetry was intended to sell or promote poetry books or spoken word tapes.

So we have a stark absence of female essayists, journalists, literary critics. They just have not submitted. The best female essayist on ChickenBones is represented in Kil Ja Kim. I like her a lot.  She is a social activist, and a social critic. Most of all she knows how to write.

All discussed here, briefly, are cutting new and fresh ground in liberating the consciousness of those at home and abroad on the topic of black liberation. It is work that has never been done before and needs to be done. Except for possibly Memphis Internet Radio, all these efforts are non-commercial and educational, though we too are involved daily in encouragements to purchase  books and music (cds & dvds).

Accessibility and the affordability may decrease rather than skyrocket, in the use of multiple technologies (moving image, sound, and text), at least, if quality production is desired. For these noncommercial sites staffing and commitment will become more important as they try to extend their lives toward institutionalization.

Creative funding outside of the corporate culture and government and foundation funding still have yet to be discovered and developed, if we want to be independent, an alternative to what is. Promotions and sales have to be turned over to the experts in which ethical parameters are set. There is a generation of young brothers and sisters of the big party industry who are excellent at promotions. These have to be brought in to play roles for these literary and artistic websites, to sustain themselves. . . .  I wish all these efforts, long lives.

posted 27 June 2008

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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The Benefit and The Burden: Tax Reform

Why We Need It and What It Will Take

By Bruce Bartlett

The United States Tax Code has undergone no serious reform since 1986. Since then, loopholes, exemptions, credits, and deductions have distorted its clarity, increased its inequity, and frustrated our ability to govern ourselves. At its core, any tax system is in place to raise the revenue needed to pay the government’s bills. But where that revenue should come from raises crucial questions: Should our tax code be progressive, with the wealthier paying more than the poor, and if so, to what extent? Should we tax income or consumption or both? Of the various ideas proposed by economists and politicians—from tax increases to tax cuts, from a VAT to a Fair Tax—what will work and won’t? By tracing the history of our own tax system and by assessing the way other countries have solved similar problems, Bartlett explores the surprising answers to all of these questions, giving a sense of the tax code’s many benefits—and its inevitable burdens.

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Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War

By Tony Horwitz

Plotted in secret, launched in the dark, John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was a pivotal moment in U.S. history. But few Americans know the true story of the men and women who launched a desperate strike at the slaveholding South. Now, Midnight Rising portrays Brown's uprising in vivid color, revealing a country on the brink of explosive conflict. Brown, the descendant of New England Puritans, saw slavery as a sin against America's founding principles. Unlike most abolitionists, he was willing to take up arms, and in 1859 he prepared for battle at a hideout in Maryland, joined by his teenage daughter, three of his sons, and a guerrilla band that included former slaves and a dashing spy. On October 17, the raiders seized Harpers Ferry, stunning the nation and prompting a counterattack led by Robert E. Lee. After Brown's capture, his defiant eloquence galvanized the North and appalled the South, which considered Brown a terrorist. The raid also helped elect Abraham Lincoln, who later began to fulfill Brown's dream with the Emancipation Proclamation, a measure he called "a John Brown raid, on a gigantic scale."

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 18 May 2012 

 

 

 

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