Foreword By Robin D. Kelly
Angela Davis is one of my favorite writers because she is informed, clear, concise and breaks down abstract concepts so that just about anyone can understand them. I remember in the early seventies one of my older cousins, Gloria Jean, patterned her life and image after Dr. Davis’. My auntie Inez ( her mother ) swore that “Glo” believed that she was indeed the world-renowned freedom fighter. I looked up to all of my cousins and their friends for being vocal and “Fighting the Power” every chance they got.
Robin D. G. Kelly is the Gary B. Nash Professor of American History at U.C.L.A., the same institution from which he earned a PhD. Before reading the assigned work for this class, I hadn’t heard of him, but his fluid and to-the-point style of writing demonstrates a vast knowledge of economics, racism, and global politics. I’m quite sure that I’ll be revisiting him in the future.From the foreword, Kelly notes that Angela Davis believes that many people define freedom in terms of negative liberties, for example, the right to bear arms. The feminist scholar makes it clear that true freedom is collective freedom, where all benefit and prosper. She defines this as freedom of movement, sexual freedom and freedom to struggle.According to the aforementioned brother, Dr. Davis is important because she takes seriously Karl Marx’s belief that, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it” (pg.8). Change is indeed necessary as about 10% of the worlds population consume 90% of the natural resources. It should also be noted that even though America has a black president, the black community still has the highest rates for divorce and crime and the lowest rates for high school graduation college attendance. Rectifying these issues will benefit everyone.
Dr. Kelly goes on to give a detailed chronology of Davis’ career, noting that she experienced and observed racism and discrimination in settings as varied as Paris, France and Birmingham, Alabama. She studied with radical philosopher Herbert Marcuse at Brandeis University, which led her to the teachings of Jean-Paul Sartre and other French writers.She did not agree, however, with Sartre’s belief that there was freedom in death. I can relate to this because this is clearly not a Black/African viewpoint. The radical African-American Scholar traveled to Germany in order to pursue a doctorate of philosophy, but after two years she returned to the states seeking sites of scholarly engagement that were more relevant to her experiences.
As a practical academic on the American front she has functioned with the Black Panthers and has been incarcerated in Soledad Prison. Her confinement drew global attention to the struggle of Africans in the United States and that of all people oppressed, fighting for freedom and dignity. After her trial and acquittal, she continued her engaged scholarship, rose to the ranks of leader of the Communist Party USA, and wrote many thought-provoking books on feminism, women’s rights and the prison-industrial complex. I admire her fortitude and scholarship and wonder where her drive and determination come from. I am impressed with the fact that, “Davis has never promoted a political “line”, nor have her ideas stood still” (pg.10). When I examine my life and philosophies in a chronological manner, I can see how I have become a different person and have more tolerance for those with views that are not similar to mine. I am inspired by Kelly’s analysis of politics, noting it’s fluid and changing nature. He says that the former world has moved,”… from a post-Soviet, post-apartheid, post-Bush world to the mythical “post-racial” one” (pg.10). The only constant thing in the universe is change and if we want to liberate ourselves and build community, we need to remain in tune with the ebb and flow global politics. He notes that Dr. Davis warns us to be aware of creeping conservatism in black movements and yearning for the nostalgia of the good old days of the 1960’s. In my opinion much of this occurs because of “human” nature, not being ready to struggle unless our backs are against the wall. The way the author of the foreword describes Davis’ position on the prison system reminds me of the philosophy of the play Angola 3. She describes prisons as having a, “…demand for cheap labor under capitalism, and their unbroken lineage with the history and the institution of slavery in the United States” (pg.11). As does the film Slavery by Another Name, Dr. Davis is in touch with the workings of the American economy and how it is one of the most efficient on the planet.The election of president Obama is both historic and important, but I agree with this conscious lady when she asserts that, “…to criticize or challenge the president is often regarded by liberal democrats (especially black folk) as an act of disloyalty. It seems as if it’s blasphemy to note that president Obama is carrying out a vicious war in Afghanistan while ignoring the urban underclass. Dr. Kelly also notes that the president did not consider jobs a priority in his first term. It doesn’t seem as if employment is on his top of his “things to do” list this term either.
I am impressed with the author’s description of Angela Davis’ view that , ” any outbreaks of blatant, explicit racism are “now treated as individual and private irregularities, to be solved by punishing and reeducating the individual by teaching them colorblindness…” (pg.12). I have noticed too many times in conversations with mixed groups that people ask, “Why do you bring race into the issue?”, as if racism is some dead-and-gone phenomenon that only affected their parents or grandparents. If you look at today’s top media personages (actors, newscasters, models etc.) you will notice that almost none promote a Black/African image (much less a philosophy). The men wear European/American attire and the women straighten their hair. This is not our culture but a poor imitation of someone Else’s.Finally, Kelly gives us reason for hope noting that global uprisings and movements such as Occupy Wall street have come to the forefront. This promises a greater awareness of greed and global politics as they relate to the liberation of the masses. He focuses on Davis’ admonition in the light of this, “… we must not lose sight of the bigger objective: a new society” (pg.15). With all of the emphasis on capitalism and the “me, me, me” attitude of this decade, I suppose her views would seem to be socialist (even more so than the president’s), and she would have to be eschewed. Too bad American education isn’t as great as it’s military might. I still remain positive and remember the ancient Chinese philosophy that “Everything serves to further”. All in all, the foreword by Robin D.G. Kelly was informative, impassioned and more- than-adequate for introducing Angela Davis’ work.
Chapter one of The Meaning of Freedom is bears the title “Report from Harlem”. It is taken from a lecture given at Columbia University in September of 1994. Even though we were only given eight pages to read from it, the information that I gleaned was both cogent and thought-provoking. Harlem has long held a special place in my sphere of awareness because of it’s reputation as a mecca for the black intelligentsia and black culture. Jean Toomer, Countee Cullen and Zora Neale Hurston are but a few of the writers and culture bearers who lived and worked there.
Dr. Davis starts out by saying that the struggle for freedom has lost the drive and creativity that it had in the heyday of the civil rights movement and that too many of us yearn for those “Good Old Days”. To quote the activist/philosopher, “We allow the present to be held captive by the past” (pg. 18). I frequently find myself travelling back to the 1970’s, remembering the closeness of the black community in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and how much that has changed. But my memories are only memories as I do not spend enough time in mapping out a plan of action to recreate that closeness. The esteemed scholar admonishes that in order to keep the movement “fresh”, we need the input and labor of young people. She advises that if we do not our cherished vision will perish. I can relate to this as I have learned much from the younger members of the ACU class, especially in terms of computer literacy and the internet. The University of California- Santa Cruz professor is concerned that our historical struggle for freedom is being replaced by black leaders who do the bidding of the white supremacist system while turning the clock back. She describes our present crisis as being caused, “…in part by our failure to develop a meaningful and collective historical consciousness” and that, “Such a consciousness would entail a recognition that our victories attained by freedom movements are never etched in stone” (pg. 19). I often go back to ancient Egypt and other parts of Africa to find motivation and direction upon which to struggle, but I have to keep reminding myself ( or be reminded ) that we are in the “New World” and should act as such . The modern-day “New World” requires that we are constantly refocusing our vision and efforts while keeping our feet firmly grounded in the past. Dr. Davis keeps the global community in mind as she calls us to stand with our Cuban brothers and sisters who are under embargo.
In her continuing critique of the Peoples Liberation Movement, the lecturer notes that, “Some of us remain so staunchly anchored to the discourses and strategies of earlier eras that we cannot adequately understand contemporary challenges” (pg. 20). This is where the young people come in. To me the younger generation, especially rappers and poets, have their hand on the pulse of the freedom movement. Of course we have to be selective in choosing which ones we want to represent us but Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West and The Dark Room Collective are good for starters. The revolutionary scholar chooses the artists, “Nefertiti, Arrested, The Fugees and Michael Franti. I am familiar with all but the first and their work is impressive. She goes on to tell us to, “Beware of those leaders who call upon us to protect our young black men but will beat their wives and abuse their children and will not support a woman’s right to reproductive autonomy” (pg. 21). Psychically, we have been very damaged as a people, and we harbor and are receptive to the worst aspects of European culture. With the rise of holistic consciousness, things can only get better. Dr. Davis calls for us to support the liberation of all people world wide. She mentions those in the Caribbean, Central America, Asian immigrants, those in Chiapas and Northern Ireland and admonishes that their freedom is related to black freedom. This is in line with the ancient Egyptian concept of Ausar (Osiris) in that we are all one, and if one isn’t free, none of us are free.
Racism is much more sophisticated now than in the sixties and seventies and the author notes that, “We seem to have forgotten how to assume stances of opposition and resistance, how to identify submerged racial codes and markers, how to recognize racism even when the conventional markers are no longer there” (pg. 22). As my father used to say, “Black people understand ” head whuppin’ “. In other words if the problem is not in our face it is not a problem. This goes back to our being very right-brained as a people. We tend to focus on the whole without troubling over the details.
In terms of class differences in the black community, Dr. Davis observes that, “Some of us are far wealthier than we ever dreamt we would be. But far greater numbers of us are ensconced in a poverty that is far more dreadful than we could have ever imagined three decades ago” (pg. 23). I remember growing up in the sixties and seventies and it seemed as if there was not as much disparity in income in the black community as there is today. Not only that, people didn’t covet their neighbor’s possessions as much as they do today. It’s all a part of our assimilation and becoming less and less black. We don’t spend money with each other. The author derides president Bill Clinton for giving his crime bill and welfare reform greater priority than the creation of jobs. She also mentions the ideal when she asks, “In 1994 why is it so easy to forget full employment, health care, education, recreation?” (pg. 24). This is all caused by the the shrewd scheme to not discuss racism, capitalism or any form of oppression in the media. Finally Dr. Davis discusses the constructed image of the black man, a violent rapist who can only function as a criminal. This only serves to further the prison-industrial complex with it’s demand for free labor and promotion of white supremacy.
In the final analysis this assignment was both enlightening and inspiring. May we all continue to “Fight The Power”.
Olorun T. Funmi
Wow! This is a wake up call for me personally. This article is very detailed and is right on it with its analysis of the injustices that have existed and are presently still existing inside the prison injustice system in this country. These injustices existed first in an idea, oralternative experiment gone wrong. At the beginning of this nation; this country was grappling with who it will be and how and if it will live the principles of its Constitution with the issues of committing crimes and effective rehabilitation and repentance for those who have committed crimes, .Tthe early nineteenth century was plagued with corporal punishment and capital punishment as a response to crimes commited. With so much talk of democracy during this time the question was asked bu some about what kind of country will America be in applying its principles of democracy in all its practices including its response to those caught committing crimes. The proposal of prisons or peniteniaries came about as places where criminals could be sent to to rehab and repent. Of course this was during a time of slavery and like now black people were assumed always guilty and held feet to the fire in every case as they were not being considered at all in this application of democratic principles.
You see the experimental idea was that prisons and penitentaries were to be an alternative to the beating, maimingkilling, , etc in the thought that these places of incarceration would be more humane and less a imposition on th rights of criminals..
the application of this so called more humane alternative has been more than a democratic failure. Black people are so much more likely to be arrested for just breathing and living based on the fear that has been attached to black men and woman and extends to other people of color. We have all heard of the crime of driving while black which really means that just being black creates a fictional unsafety and the need to restrain. Racial profiling is a reality that we all live with.
The story of Manny Babbitt who killed for America in the military and was killed on death row and buried with full military honors is quite an intersting story.The issues of this story wreaks of the lack of mental health services and other supports for military members.
Being more subject to surveillance by law enforcement, means black people and people of color are arrested, and convicted more often because they are considered guilty by birth circumstance and in need of surveillanceby racism when we all know that among those people using illegal substances, all races use drugs. Angela Davis says that drugs should be decriminalized.America could save its money by studying who is bringing the drugs into American neighborhoods and also why people take drugs, Actually she refers to legal drugs that induce a certain state of being being advertised on tv and the fact that poor people don;t have access to those kind of doctors and drugs but that they are held up as a need and standard practice. Now the medications available to poor people are illegal. She further states that lack of housing and education and opportunity is taken care of for black, brown and white poor people by incarceration. The prison serves as a dumping ground. We forget about the people who have committed crimes. We say they are getting what they deserve but what about those who have not committed violent crimes?
In America learning about the death penalty most of the people on death row are black. This has been historically true, Frederick Douglas said in a Speech when he was leaving England that there was only one thing a white person could do to get the death penalty but there was 74 or more ways, a black person could do to get the death penalty. The US is behind all of the industrialized nations in that it is still using the death penalty, So Angela Davis and groups like Critical Resistance dream of a the closing of prisons. decarceration. At the very least, they dream a world where people are not pushed into the cradle to prison industrial complex.
The information from our assignment taken from chapter three of The Meaning of Freedom by Angela Davis was at once thought-provoking and reassuring. Her exposition of the prison-industrial complex and the criminalization of “illegal” aliens made me wonder just how much the civil rights struggle impacted the oppressive forces of capitalism. It seems as if the old saying, “When we take one step up, they take two steps back” is still true. I am, however, heartened to find that there are still people who are well-equipped to “fight the fight” and are doing so. I had always believed this, but in the present climate of a “post-racial America” it’s hard to see who’s “fighting the power” and why.She begins by discussing “supermaxes”, or large-scale maximum-security prisons and how big corporations have promoted their construction nationally and globally. These businesses have discovered that they can turn a substantial profit by locking people up and forcing them to manufacture their goods and perform their services for pennies on the dollar. The more people that are incarcerated the more money they make. The more money that they make the more prisons they build. It’s a vicious cycle that knows no limit and those who profit from it endeavor to orchestrate the conditions in society that will give them more prisoners (sic. slaves). Although the data is not current (It is dated from the Fall of 1999.), I still believe it to be relevant when she states that, “…almost two million people are behind bars, and almost five million are directly under the control of the criminal justice system.” When you look at some rap videos and television programs that are geared to the youth it is clear that an effort is being made to glorify materialism, denigration of women and a disrespect for people of color. These are all ingredients for producing “robots” that will not only promote capitalism but fill the criminal (in)justice system with their desensitized souls.In her effort to put an end to this atrocity, Dr. Davis became involved with the Critical Resistance movement. Their modus operandi is, “…to encourage people everywhere- on the campus, in the workplace, in the prison itself- to think critically about the emergence of an ever expanding, ever more repressive prison system…”. This prison system is ever-expanding but there are some progressive states that see the need for prison reform. The author notes that the following states have abolished the death penalty: Hawaii, Alaska, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia. I would, however, like to point out that all of these areas, save D.C., have a small black population. Why aren’t states like Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi on the list. It could be that they see the death penalty as a means of ”controlling the niggers” and other undesirables.The esteemed professor noted the case of James Byrd, a black man who was chained to the back of a pickup truck and dragged to death. She said that, “When the first defendant was found guilty and sentenced to death, Jet magazine published a photograph of a white policeman embracing a black policeman…”. She goes on to remark that it is dangerous when we believe that the execution of a white man for killing someone of color is a step towards equality. There are people that claim to be anti-racist but support such action not realizing that the criminal justice system is itself deeply racist.The scholar makes a poignant case about the inhumanity of the death penalty when she speaks of a man named Manny Babbit whose execution date was made to coincide with his fiftieth birthday. His family gathered to celebrate both his birthday and witness his death. Babbit is said to have killed a seventy-eight year old woman and even though his attorneys argued that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress episode caused by the Vietnam war, he was still sent to death row. Dr. Davis notes that, “Ironically, Babbit received a Purple Heart that the U.S. government delivered to him on death row…”. He was eventually executed, a classic case of blaming the victim.The author educates on a the history on the penitentiary in this country and notes that this institution was developed as a “humane” alternative to corporal punishment and killing. It was believed that if ones freedom of movement and civil liberties were taken from them it would give them reason to reflect on the crime they committed. This was only possible in a society where citizens had a presupposed freedom. She notes that, “The first penitentiaries were considered to be progressive…” but a great degree of mental and emotional suffering occurred (and still occurs) in them. From what “the brothers” tell me, no insignificant amount of physical suffering occurs there either. I’ve heard examples of prisoners having to break rocks all day in the blazing sun, having to sleep in “chicken coops” with no heat for the winter and no a.c. for the summer, and having to sustain themselves on a diet of cold soup. Strangely enough, corporal and capital punishment have made their way back into “methods of correction”. I would ask if this is a result of a backlash to the civil rights movement with brothers and sisters gaining more social and political freedom. I would not be surprised as Dr. Davis points out that, “ Many have been led to believe that…(prisoners)… should lose their human rights- like the right to get an education.The scholar did a very revealing expose’ on the way that women are treated in prison. In her study of the California penal system for women, she showed how women were viewed as second-class citizens in that they were expected to become, “good wives and mothers” as a result of their prison stays. She also went on to elaborate on an episode of Ted Koppel’s Nightline that gave instances of women in that system having to undergo pelvic exams for complaints of colds headaches. Many women dreaded going to see the prison doctor because of that. When asked about these exams the chief medical officer said, “This is the only male touch thatmost of these women get. Many of them enjoy it.” He was relived of his position but still remained employed by the California Department of Corrections, he should have been fired. Justice is often slow but it will be served nonetheless. Many institutions are equally repressive but the majority of prisoners there have not committed serious crimes, with offences such as welfare fraud and drug charges being most prevalent. In a society where it is difficult to earn a living wage and garner respect, should this fact seem so unusual? I relation to the death penalty, sister Angela summed it up best when she asked, “So what does it mean to assent to a system of punishment in which one’s economic status may very well determine whether one gets to live or die?”.The issue of immigration is well handled in this essay as the author notes that many, “…leave their home countries because U.S. corporations have economically undermined local economies through “free trade” agreements, structural adjustment and the influence of such international financial institutions as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.”. Many of those immigrants work in sweatshops for sub-minimum wages. The assault of people of color by whites is no less than global and no less than warfare.The issue of substance abuse is addressed when Dr. Davis speaks of legal and illicit drugs and their presence in oppressed communities. Given the cruel and de-humanizing nature of racism and sexism and poverty it is not to be unexpected that many victims are poor women of color who reach for something to ease the pain of everyday existence. Quite a few pain killers are on the legal market and are promoted to everyone, sisters (and brothers) who cannot afford the doctors to write prescriptions for these drugs opt to get them on the underground market and are jailed when they are caught. Yet another vicious aspect of the system in which we live.In terms of societal reform the author introduces a concept new to me, that of decarceration. In this progressive philosophy monies that are used to build and maintain prisons would be used to fund services that promote self knowledge, self love and a viable sense of community. At present the prisons (that are funded with our dollars) do little more than promote a criminal mindset that goes on to perpetuate the prison system. She goes on to speak of the movement to abolish the death penalty, citing that many countries including South Africa (Hmmm!) are abolitionists. “First in technology” does not translate into “first in humanity.”Sister Angela speakes on the “school to prison pipeline” when she says that, “As schoolchildren they are already treated like prisoners. When the message they receive in school is that they live in the world as objects of surveillance and discipline, and that security guards are more important than teachers, they are clearly learning to be prisoners.”. As remedies to the ills generated by this phenomenon she calls for increases in mental care and drug programs for the underprivileged. She believes (and so do I ) that old institutions must be dismantled and new ones built.Lastly, Dr. Davis notes that those states that have abolished affirmative action have the highest incarceration rates. Again, it is no surprise that when we have limited ways to negotiate a system that has historically denied us economic and racial equality that we seek ways that are “illegal” to secure a living and to secure respect. It is a law of nature that every action is complemented with and equal and opposite reaction so the system will ultimately destroy itself. All we need to do is to continue our work in a peaceful state of mind, no matter how hard the struggle.Hetep (Hotep),Funmi.
I remember you
Like a lover who leaves the scent of kindness behind
I remember you
a relationship arranged by my parents and the OLD ONES
Where I ran after you
All the time thinking
you were my discovery.
All through my childhood
we sang chants of your rhythms
We just spoke and you dripped from our lips.
And when we danced
our movements were born from our oneness.
I love you
and though I am a polygamist
loving the whole universe and its galaxies
It is in your arms where I am
most at home
and where I return
to feed my soul.
By Olayeela Daste 2013
All Rights Reserved.
By Damia Khanboubi
This excerpt of Freedom Dreams was a very captivating read with a very important message: It is a better strategy to dream of the world that you desire and actively work to realize that dream than it is to protest the things that you find wrong with the world.
This message is reiterated as we walk through a plethora of different movements – Black Nationalism, Marxism, surrealism, and radical feminism – as viewed through the eyes of and experienced by the author, Robin D.G. Kelley.
It is kind of funny to me that upon rereading the article, the paragraph I loved the most was the one I actually read in class. This was the paragraph pertaining to radical feminism. Though I don’t classify myself as a feminist per se, to say that “there is nothing natural or inevitable about gender roles, male dominance, the overrepresentation of men in positions of power, or the tendency of men to use violence as a means to resolve conflict,” not only strikes me as an absolute truth, but as a good way to frame a lot of things that I feel. There really is NOTHING NATURAL OR INEVITABLE about the inequality and oppression many of our fellow human beings suffer through and feel. Once that is realized and agreed upon, we can see it as something that is in the control of human beings and thus quite changeable. This is “interrogating what is normal.”
I also enjoyed the piece on surrealism that states that “surrealism is not an aesthetic doctrine but an international revolutionary movement concerned with the emancipation of thought.” It is important that we are able to think not only for ourselves and out of reach of the influence of others, but to think and imagine beyond our own personal limits as well. For example, instead of simply imagining a world that consists of all of the most pleasant things that we know to exist, why not imagine, out of thin air, wonderful things that do not yet exist, but that we would like to?
By Damia Khanboubi
The transcript of Marta Vega speaking at the 2012 Imagining America National Conference was basically a summation of what I am proud to say we are doing at Ashé College Unbound. In addition to the natural flow of learning that occurs in ACU through the addition of work and life experience to the classic classes, lectures, and workshops of academia, we also work through an on-the-ground cultural arts community center – Ashé Cultural Arts Center. Our work and our focus in Ashé College Unbound lie in the betterment of OUR community, Central City. Many of our readings, assignments, and subjects are tied into community issues.
It’s very interesting to be forced to think about the way people use the word, “community.” And as Marta Vega states, it is most often used to describe marginal communities, a “them.” In the case of Ashé College Unbound, most of the students either work or live or both in the Central City community. I, myself, have been working in Central City for 3 years, and living in Central City for 1. We don’t study the community through video lens or tours or textbooks, we are the community.
As College Unbound and Roger Williams University already know very well, on-the-ground experience is the core mode of expanding your knowledge (with researching and the like being important supplements), it is quite safe to say that higher educations institutions like ours are the types of institutions that really truly produce scholars well-equipped with the tools to effect social change. And I also believe that we will be able to effect social change not only in a confined circle that we call “our community,” but that we will be able to realize that community is a set of concentric circles that reaches outward from a neighborhood or special interest group to the entire world population, our global family.
Frederick “Wood” Delahoussaye
Reflection on “The Meaning of Freedom” Chapters. 1-2
Over time history has been kind enough to provide us with warriors. Freedom fighters that not only stand in front of audiences to address our ills or the evils of the world we live in, but fight to change them. These bold and courageous few have taken on the bullies of our society, those who have habitually profited off the misery of others for personal gain, power, pleasure and futility; while teaching us the power and beauty in our beings and our God given right to fairness, justice, equality, respect and freedom. Reading the forward and first few chapters of this work reminds me that champions do exist; not the ones we crown on the grid iron or the baseball diamonds, but true champions of the people, those who search their souls for compassion in the experiences of all mankind, especially in the face of a government and nation founded on suffrage. Angela Davis is one such warrior.
“Freedom is the right to live, the necessity to struggle.” Racism is alive and well in this country and throughout the world. It shows its face across the entire canvas of our existence and even those who don’t consider themselves to be racist are often products of a racist society that employs attitudes and mindsets of white privilege, racial profiling, employment discrimination and the prison industrial complex. The institution of slavery created a subculture where all the societal norms, expectations, and laws have disrupted the fabric of justice, forcibly severing several bonds between culture, community and family. The legacy of slavery is tragically relevant to the issue of Black fatherhood, for the conditions of slavery in the United States provided exactly the opposite of what is required in order to preserve the fragile bond between father and child. By law, the male slave could fulfill none of the duties of husband and father. For African American men, moreover, the effects of these global trends are exacerbated by a series of racially specific historical events that began with slavery and include the legacies of slavery, as well as the racism and economic discrimination that are an intrinsic part of American society and the African American experience.
I humbly agree with Davis, we “frequently replace historical consciousness with a desperate nostalgia… we allow the present to be held captive by the past.” Our ancestors in struggle did what needed to be done with what they had in moments when history called for it. We fight a new battle in desperate need of new knowledge and perception, one that demands the use of technology and a globalized approach. Just as our society evolves so do the means by which discrimination is moralized and practiced, but just as discrimination has evolved, our approach to its demise must also undergo a transformation. Our place in history is one of great possibility, to invoke change on many levels of understanding as it pertains to our social conditions in this society, but we can no longer afford to be satisfied with the election of the first black president as some sort of beacon that the rights have been wronged; nor can we navigate our lives with blank picket signs fighting and protesting any and every cause on every occasion. We must be deliberate in the tone of these times, knowing that before any fighter steps into the ring he trains and conditions himself for the battle. Our conditioning must be of sound mind, body and soul; in the way we carry and take care of ourselves, in the knowledge we seek and how we ingest the perceptions of the world, in the way we teach and entrust the legacies of those whom shoulders we stand to those whom we strengthen our shoulders for, in the way we worship and appreciate the opportunities that have been bestowed upon us and the love that affords us the fortitude to fight. Ultimately, it is the soldier with the greatest conditioning who is victorious in the end.
Reflection by Damia Khanboubi
I’m going to start by apologizing in advance for any unusual errors in this reflection as I’m writing it from my phone, and we all know how eager the autocorrect feature is to derail the intended meaning of even the simplest messages. I will do my best to proofread this teeny tiny document.
I have to admit that I don’t know much about Angela Davis. But I can promise that after reading the first 24 pages of this article, that will soon change. Not only do I plan to read everything she’s ever written over the course of my life, but I want to delve deeper into all the different subjects she brings up: the Cuban revolution, Clinton’s crime bill, the struggle against the apartheid in South Africa, etc. Because while she brings up the point that the younger generation is key to carrying on the fight for freedom in it’s truest possible manifestation, it is also clear that a deep knowledge of the various struggles, losses, and victories throughout history must be obtained to heighten the effectiveness of any attempt at reform.
During my time in the Public Leaders Fellowship, we learned the importance of following through when organizing to bring about change. I think it goes without saying that public protests, marches, and the like are quite glamorous when compared to constant letter-writing to various government officials and sitting through city council meetings for a chance to air your grievances for a whopping three minutes! But it’s that kind of tedious follow up and follow through that is essential to any movement.
My favorite part, so far, of the Report from Harlem is when she warns people of conservative ideologies in forward-looking strategy, stating, “Beware of those leaders and theorists who eloquently rage against white supremacy but identify black gay men and lesbians as evil incarnate. Beware of those leaders who call upon us to protect our young black men but will beat their wives and abuse their children and will not support a woman’s right to reproductive autonomy. Beware of those leaders. And beware of those who call for the salvation of black males but will not support the rights of Caribbean, Central American, and Asian immigrants, our who think that struggles in Chiapas or in Northern Ireland are unrelated. Beware if those leaders!” AMEN TO THAT!!!! It reminded me of a line from one of my favorite rappers (I may have already quoted this but I love it), “I don’t see the difference between the wrong and the wrong, soldiers emptying their clips at little kids and their moms are just like a desperate man strapped to a bomb.” You just simply cannot fight for freedom by only desiring freedom from your oppression while actively oppressing others because you don’t understand or don’t agree. Even worse, as we learned in the first Kellogg plenary session that we saw, some people are just unaware of the injustices others face.
This reading not only stated beautifully many of the things I so strongly believe in, but has been a great encouragement to my desire to learn more about and effectively fight for the realization of or collective dream of freedom
I must admit, I had to curb some of my less-advanced conditionings when reading Robin Kelly’s Freedom Dreams . His excursions into the history and philosophy of the Afrikan Consciousness movement had me thinking about my soapbox days of shouting “Black Power” and “Free The Land”. While I still believe that these issues are germinal to our liberation, I no longer have visions of AK-47’s and my veins don’t stand up on my neck. A more focused and God-directed approach is my modus operandi nowdays. The best warriors are the most calm (Check out Bruce Lee). When one is emotional and not focused, one’s fighting skills are greatly diminished (Notice Muhammad Ali’s successful technique of talking “smack” to his opponents to make them angry before knocking them out.). Keeping this viewpoint helped me to get the most out of this well-written essay.I agree with his statement from the preface, “Now more than ever we need the strength to love and dream.”. Our culture has been so co-opted and perverted than the closest some of us come to identifying with Afrika is to say, “Hell, I ain’t no Afrikan!”. Young girls, sometimes no more than six years old, run around with perms in their hair. Young boys of the same age spray the community with profane utterances that they get from rap videos. A black man is still safer in the military than on the streets. All of this seems to give credence to his belief that, “…freedom today is practically a synonym for free enterprise.”. Dr. Kelly holds that while the poor and “minorities” have done most of the work to promote democracy in America, some of the radical movements have been violent and unjust to the pursuit of equality. He notes that, “No one’s hands are completely clean.” I agree. I also agree with the distinguished professor when he says that we have to do what earlier generations have done, imagine and dream. I’m quite sure that the “slaves” (Enslaved Afrikans) didn’t know the future held for them when they left the plantations, but they dreamed of a better place under more tolerable conditions. Before any of ouractions take place they have to occur in our imagination. Notice this the next time that you go to the store in order to make a purchase. You have an image of what you want to buy and then you see yourself making that selection. The imagination acts as a mold for future reality. We therefore have to imagine the liberation of our people (and I dare say all people).Dr. Kelly speaks of, “regular morning meditation” and the “third eye” of his mother. Therein lies very important information that I wish he would have spent more time on. The truth and Divine Guidance are obtained when one meditates correctly and opens up their third eye. Too many of our efforts at liberation have been thwarted because we had the correct logistics on a situation but not the word of God. Refer to the book Metu Neter, Volume I by Ra Un Nefer Amen I for more information on this topic. I am impressed at Dr. Kelly’s description of his mother and her views on the world. His family lived in conditions that were far less than ideal, ” Yet she would not allow us to live as victims.”, he said. She taught them to be, ” caretakers who inherited this earth” and, “help any living creature in need…”. This is so far-removed from the “kill whitey” mentality that so many black nationalist (myself included) have been saddled with. It is a philosophy of peace but not passivity. It is a philosophy of optimism and a world of beauty that is yet to be. It is truly revolutionary.This describeshis outlook when he says, “Call me Utopian, but I inherited my mother’s belief that the map to a new world is in the imagination…”. I also agree with this astute man when he speaks of, “imagining a different future (rather) than being pissed off about the present.”.In his early days of black nationalist activism Dr. Kelly turned to Marxism and “small c” communism. He found these appealing because they spoke to a world where technology would be used to liberate people to, “invent, explore, love, relax and enjoy life…”. The professor also spoke of the energies of love and imagination as powerful social forces. This is in harmony with the ancient Egyptian (Afrikan) principal of Maat where all existence is interconnected in a web of interdependent relationships. The brother went on to study surrealism, but not so much the surrealist of europe but those of Afrikan descent. He mentioned Aime’ C’esaire as a black surrealist worthy of recognition, but I would also add Jean Toomer as one of my personal favorites. His collection of literary works entitledCane is a classic that takes southern Afrikan-American culture into a dream state that I cannot put into words. The main thing that Dr. Kelly took away from the surrealists was that, “any serious motion toward freedom must begin in the mind…” (There we have it again). Though I agree with most of his views I disagree with his promotion of the radical feminist belief that gender roles are unnatural. It is clearly proveable that on the average, women are more intuitive and nurturing than men (Yin: making them more suited for roles such as raising children and teaching) and that men, on the average are more muscular and have a higher metabolism than women ( Yang: making them more suited for roles such as soldiering and heavy construction.). Men who are too yin experience physical and psychological problems as do women who are too yang. Classmates who disagree with me feel free to “hit me up” on my e-mail, or better yet, bring it up in class (LOL).The professor argues that although, “renegade black intellectuals/activists/artists challenged and reshaped communism, surrealism and radical feminism….In most cases…the critical visions of black radicals were held at bay, if not completely marginalized. This doesn’t surprise me, look at how Jazz musicians took European/European-American “standards” and made them more appealing but none are given the same status as, say, Brahms. We have to do more at recognizing and promoting our own heroes. Dr. Kelly goes on to show how we as progressive thinkers, artist and activists have to be bold enough to dream of our peoples’ liberation in an environment where “getting paid” is the ultimate goal. I agree. I am also in agreement that we must not fall into the trap of, “raging against the status quo is… the hip thing to do” and not doing the intellectual work.The author touts poetry as being, ” the only way to achieve the kind of knowledge we need to move beyond the world’s crises.” This is due to that mediums ability to condense large amounts of information in just a few words. Finally Dr. Kelly states that, “freedom and love constitute the foundation for spirituality.”.(+1 Brother Man, +1)Funmi
I consider incarceration and education to be Louisiana’s most serious issues. I feel that the two issues go hand-in-hand. Supposedly, one out of three Louisiana prisoners reads below the fifth grade level. That bit of information serves as concrete evidence of a correlation between education and incarceration. According to a study done by the “Editorial Projects in Educational research center”, Louisiana ranked 47th and 48th in the “chance for success” and “K-12 Achievement” statistics. In terms our children’s achievements Louisiana ranks almost dead last in the nation, but as of 2012 our incarceration rate per 100,000 residents is twice the national average at 1,619. With the United States being the country with the highest incarceration rate, Louisiana’s rate of double the national average earns it the tile of the “Incarceration Capitol”… of the world. Per 100,000 people, Louisiana’s incarceration rate almost Quadruples the country of Rwanda.
In the study done by the Educational Research Center, Louisiana ranked 30th in the “school finance” category, but spends a whopping $663 million annually towards building facilities and housing and up keeping the incarcerated individuals. Each inmate at the Angola state Penitentiary is an expense of approximately $23,000 per year. Now just imagine if we could somehow take that money pumped into our prison industrial complex and instead divert those funds our children’s education instead. With $23,000 annual budget applied per Louisiana student, I am sure we would see some of the changes that we all wish for. Whoever had the bright idea of building in exuberant amount of prisons must not have realized that ignorance will always be more expensive than education.