Use of IT for Black Liberation
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.
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.
problem is a radical lack of interest, staff, and funding—especially when the primary objective is education and
self-reliance. Some forms and strategies worthy of attention
nevertheless have developed that are productive, consciousness-raising
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.
me the granddaddy and the most useful, for my purposes, have
been the efforts of Kalamu ya Salaam
with his daily-posted e-drum.
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.
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.
I did an interview (Digital
Technology & Telling Our Story ) with
him a year ago, Kalamu tried to school me on IT.:
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
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..
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.
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
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
Our Eyes Were Watching God, as a love story. It is an
excellent BAM novel.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
only other figure that has used IT as dynamically as Marvin has
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.
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.
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.
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
most recent creation is
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.
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
like Kola Boof. The bottom line is she winds my clock.
ya Salaam and his son have initiated a new adventure, a music
blog, joining sound and text, and image (album covers), namely,
of Life: A Conversation about Black Music (BOL, www.kalamu.com/bol).
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
all these efforts are non-commercial and educational, though we
too are involved daily in encouragements to purchase
books and music (cds & dvds).
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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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
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update 18 May 2012