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for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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He will awake when told to, he will lie down when ordered, and he will eat

from the same trough as the pedophile, the street dealer, and the gang banger.



Waking Mike Vick

By Amin Sharif


There is old adage that goes something like this, “The younger generation knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Nowhere is this adage more in play than in the case of Mike Vick. Above the cries of crucifixion and betrayal, I find myself feeling neither rage at nor sympathy for Mike’s plight. For me, Mike’s plight is simply symptomatic of the times in which we live. He allowed himself to be seduced by the notion that money exempts sports heroes and celebrities from the rules by which more mortal beings have to contend with every hour of their lives. He made of himself someone who had no problems placing his own priceless black manhood, integrity and livelihood in jeopardy for the most spurious of reasonsdog fighting. In doing so, it could be argued that Vick has forfeited his right to be considered a “man” in the true sense of the word.

There will undoubtedly arise the plaintive cry that this author is being entirely too hard on Mike. It was, after all, the charge of fighting of dogs not humans to which he admitted guilt. It was a cruel affair but certainly not egregious enough to deprive a man of his liberty and livelihood. But, such cries are easily silenced when we consider that a few decades ago white men defended throwing black men into the pit under the same reasoning. Anyone who has read, “The Invisible Man” knows this.

Anyone who has been raised below the Mason-Dixon Line knows that black men were lynched and black women raped merely because they were considered sub-human. Just listen to the lyrics of Strange Fruit sung by Billie Holiday if you still have doubts about what I’m saying. And after all, one of the unique characteristics of our humanity is the ability to extend that humanity to not only other human beings but to non-human being as well. The gas ovens of the Nazis, the lynch rope of the South, the camps of Dafur are all the results of our abandoning this unique ability.

Again, there are those who will argue that abstract moral arguments such as those presented above are meaningless when confronted with the social environment that produced Mike Vick. Yes, there were serious problems in his family. But, Mike was not fighting dogs in the abandoned houses of the urban ghetto. Mike was above all that. He was rich and stood to become even richer if he had just done the sensible thing. Ghetto sports should have been the furthest thing from his mind at this point in his career. That he even considered fighting dogs says that abstract arguments about morality may have been precisely what Mike needed to engage in before he threw his career away.

Now Mike has the certain and concrete reality of a prison sentence looming before him.  His team number will be exchanged for the one printed on a plastic wrist band that he will wear until he is released. He will awake when told to, he will lie down when ordered, and he will eat from the same trough as the pedophile, the street dealer, and the gang banger. Then, one day the door of his prison will swing open and his real problems will begin. And, Mike will have to face the uncertainty of life as an ex-con. What will make things all the more difficult for Mike will be that he will always be aware of the heights from which he fell. He will come to know, as we all do, that the worst wound of all his self-inflicted.

Still there may be some hope for Mike if he is man enough to take his medicine. He can go into the joint and strip himself of all pretensions about who he is. He can trade the illusion of a superstar for his own humble humanity. If he does so, Mike will emerge a man. But, if he chooses to be seduced by joint prestige, then he will certainly fall into a hellhole from which he will never escape. Simply put, Mike can bury the past or bury himself. But that is up to him.

Just a tip, Mike. Save your jailhouse wristband. Carry it with you every day. Look at it often. Consider what it symbolizes. I say this as one who knows that the road ahead will be perilous for you. But the destination is certain when we act as men.

posted 6 September 2007

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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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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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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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 14 February 2012




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Related files: The Michael Vick Situation  Waking Mike Vick