Nationwide activism on reparations swells as faith communities across the country prepare for the second reparations Sunday #Reparation Sunday, December 22nd, 2019

Faith leaders and activists have been organizing for the last few years to create two national days of reparations for spiritual and faith communities, #ReparationSundays. The first #ReparationSunday was August 11th, 2019 and the second today December 22nd, which also falls on Jubilee Freedom Day. Jubilee Freedom Day remembers the 1864 liberation of more than 25,000 people from bondage when Civil War Union forces reached the coast of Georgia.

from the 2018 Savannah GA – Jubiliee Freedom Day event

The Campaign FOR Truth and Reparations describes reparations as a spiritual practice that if adopted could mean a spiritual, political and social intervention to address the disastrous path of our nation and our planet. The possibility of an intervention is more clear when we consider the approach to reparations rooted in the UN definition of reparations involving the five separate dimensions: Restitution, Compensation, Satisfaction or Education, Healing (physical spiritual and mental), and Guarantees of Non-repeat.  The Campaign FOR Truth & Reparations  believes reparations in this sense require real change so that we do not continue the practices that allow us to continue racism in any form, whether it is explicit or hidden, direct violence, or the structural racism that financial systems in which everyday people are made complicit. This is why reparations must be a  spiritual practice, not just a transaction. Once the check is cut, the acts of voter disenfranchisement  or denial of mortgages cannot continue.  Reparations must be understood as a moral and materal debt for slavery and the world it created.

Reparations are a relational practice of healing spiritual, moral, and material harm.  Now more than ever we need healing, religious, spiritual, and faith communities to help lead and support this work. The second National Day of Reparations for Spiritual and Faith Communities began with a 20-day period of reflection and preparation from December 2, UN International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, and culminates today with Reparations Sunday on December 22, Jubilee Freedom Day.  Similar to Juneteenth where we celebrate the end of slavery,  the FOR Reparations campaign supports communities in their efforts by providing resources and education and by facilitating actual reparative relationships with Black-led organizations. Hundreds of people nationwide have registered to take part in Reparation Sunday. One such event will be the Multifaith Freedom celebration and a spiritually grounded call for reparations at the Stony Point Center, Stony Point NY. The celebration includes:

Rev. Weldon McWilliams IV, Senior Pastor, Christ Temple Baptist Church,  Owl – Ramapough Lenape Nation, Click here to see more on the program

FOR Truth & Reparations Campaign is a national effort led by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Truth Telling Project of Ferguson, Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth, the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, Community of Living Traditions at the Stony Point Center, Psychoanalysts for Social Responsibility, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, and others.On this day, we encourage you to offer prayers for true repair in our world, where healing the wounds of the past is the only way toward a more just future.   Click here for faith based resources on reparations. 

For further information, contact: the Campaign FOR Truth & Reparations at 314-301-9935

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The United Methodist Church Support Reparations for African Americans

WHEREAS, the General Conference acknowledges and profoundly regrets the massive human suffering and the tragic plight of millions of men, women, and children caused by slavery and the transatlantic slave trade; and

WHEREAS, at the conclusion of the Civil War, the plan for the economic redistribution of land and resources on behalf of the former slaves of the Confederacy was never enacted; and

WHEREAS, the failure to distribute land prevented newly freed Blacks from achieving true autonomy and made their civil and political rights all but meaningless; and

WHEREAS, conditions comparable to “economic depression” continue for millions of African Americans in communities where unemployment often exceeds 50 percent; and

WHEREAS, justice requires that African American descendants of the transatlantic slave trade be assured of having access to effective and appropriate protection and remedies, including the right to seek just and adequate reparation or satisfaction for the legacy of damages, consequent structures of racism and racial discrimination suffered as a result of the slave trade; and

WHEREAS, Isaiah 61:1-3 provides a model for reparations: “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, . . . to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,&ellipsis; and provide for those who grieve in Zion-to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”; and,

WHEREAS, January 5, 1993, Congressman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) introduced H.R. 40 to the House of Representatives, calling for the establishment of the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans, “acknowledging the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery in the United States from 1619 to the present day,” for the purpose of submitting a report to Congress for further action and consideration with respect to slavery’s effects on African American lives, economics, and politics;

Therefore, be it resolved:

  1. that we support the discussion and study of reparation for African Americans;
  2. that we petition the President, the Vice President, and the United States House of Representatives to support the passage and signing of H.R. 40;
  3. that a written copy of this petition be delivered to the President and Vice President of the United States, the United States Senate Majority Leader, the House Speaker, and House Member John Conyers Jr.
  4. that the General Commission on Religion and Race and the General Board of Church and Society develop a strategy for interpretation and support of passage of H.R. 40;
  5. That the appropriate general boards and agencies of The United Methodist Church develop and make available to its members data on the history of slavery and the role of theology in validating and supporting both the institution and the abolition of the slave trade; and
  6. That we call upon The United Methodist Church to acknowledge the memory of the victims of past tragedies and affirm that, wherever and whenever these tragedies occur, they must be condemned and their recurrence prevented

adopted 1996
amended and Adopted 2004
resolution #62, 2004 book of resolutions
resolution #56, 2000 book of resolutions

See Social Principles, ¶ 162A.

From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church – 2008. Copyright © 2008 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.


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Southern Baptist Convention’s flagship seminary details its racist, slave-owning past in stark report

The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, on Oct. 5, 2015. (Bruce Schreiner/AP)

December 12, 2018

More than two decades after the Southern Baptist Convention — the country’s second-largest faith group — apologized to African Americans for its active defense of slavery in the 1800s, its flagship seminary on Wednesday released a stark report further delineating its ties to institutionalized racism.

The year-long study by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary found that all four founding faculty members owned slaves and “were deeply complicit in the defense of slavery,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the seminary, wrote in his introduction to the 72-page report he commissioned.

The report also noted that the seminary’s most important donor and chairman of its Board of Trustees in the late 1800s, Joseph E. Brown, “earned much of his fortune by the exploitation of mostly black convict lease laborers,” employing in his coal mines and iron furnaces “the same brutal punishments and tortures formerly employed by slave drivers.”

The report provided largely harsh assessments of the seminary’s past actions, even as it at times lauded the institution for racial strides.

Many of the founding faculty members’ “throughout the period of Reconstruction and well into the twentieth century, advocated segregation, the inferiority of African-Americans, and openly embraced the ideology of the Lost Cause of southern slavery,” that recast the South as an idyllic place for both slaves and masters and the Civil War as a battle fought over Southern honor, not slavery, Mohler wrote in his introduction.

The faculty opposed racial equality after Emancipation and advocated for the maintenance of white political control and against extending suffrage to African Americans, the report said. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the seminary faculty relied on pseudoscience to justify its white-supremacist positions, concluding that “supposed black moral inferiority was connected to biological inferiority,” according to the report. And decades later, the seminary was slow to offer full support for the civil rights movement, advocating a “moderate approach.”

The seminary’s public reckoning comes as universities grapple with the darker corners of their pasts amid passionate challenges from students and faculty. At colleges across the country, protesters have toppled some Confederate monuments, while other statues remain the subjects of fierce debate.

“It is past time that The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary — the first and oldest institution of the Southern Baptist Convention, must face a reckoning of our own,” Mohler wrote.

Colby Adams, a spokesman for Mohler, said the theologian launched the historical investigation because people asked him specific questions “he didn’t know the answer to. We knew there was involvement. We didn’t know the full history.”

The report has elicited a lukewarm reaction from experts who said while the seminary should be commended for admitting its racist history in writing, the revelations don’t come as a surprise, especially given the fact that the Southern Baptist Convention was formed in 1845 after a split with northern Baptists over slavery. The SBC is now the largest Protestant denomination in the country, with over 15 million members.

What does matter, the experts said, are the actions the seminary takes from here and whether it makes reparations.

Jemar Tisby, a historian who writes about race and Christianity, said he expects many white Evangelicals will push back on the report by saying the seminary is being divisive and re-litigating its past. The school’s leadership needs to sit down with racial and ethnic minorities and “let themselves be led” to racial reconciliation, Tisby said. “They are at the very beginning of the journey,” he said. “What this document does is open up a new phase of the seminary on racial justice.”

Critics and other observers said the Southern Baptist Convention for too long has been hesitant to take full ownership of its past, for decades framing its split with northern Baptists as one over theological differences, not slavery.

By commissioning the seminary’s report, Mohler may have been trying to change that., said Lawrence Ware, a professor at Oklahoma State University who studies race and religion. “I think that what he’s trying to do is he’s trying to force the Convention to have a conversation on race and racism that the Convention has really not wanted to have,” Ware told The Washington Post.

Ware said that while the report is “a step in the right direction,” some sections seem to soften the severity of the seminary’s racist actions. He called the report’s description of faculty’s mixed record on the civil rights movement “double-handed” and said the document fails to account for the seminary’s lack of diversity among top leadership.

The seminary’s progress in the area of civil rights was slow. The Louisville school began admitting black students to degree programs in 1940 and fully integrated 11 years later. The report said that the seminary was skeptical of the civil rights movement’s direct-action tactics, but noted that faculty in the 1960s urged support for civil rights in general and invited the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to speak at the seminary in 1961.

In 1995, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution stating its explicit connection to slavery:

“Our relationship to African-Americans has been hindered from the beginning by the role that slavery played in the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention; many of our Southern Baptist forbears defended the right to own slaves, and either participated in, supported, or acquiesced in the particularly inhumane nature of American slavery; and in later years Southern Baptists failed, in many cases, to support, and in some cases opposed, legitimate initiatives to secure the civil rights of African-Americans.”

Many Southern Baptists hoped the resolution would be the last time they would have to confront the denomination’s racist past, Mohler wrote in the report.

“At that time, I think it is safe to say that most Southern Baptists, having made this painful acknowledgment and lamenting this history, hoped to dwell no longer on the painful aspects of our legacy. That is not possible, nor is it right,” he wrote. “We have been guilty of a sinful absence of historical curiosity. We knew, and we could not fail to know, that slavery and deep racism were in the story.”

“[T]he moral burden of history requires a more direct and far more candid acknowledgment of the legacy of this school in the horrifying realities of American slavery, Jim Crow segregation, racism and even the avowal of white racial supremacy,” Mohler wrote in the report. “The fact that these horrors of history are shared with the region, the nation, and with so many prominent institutions does not excuse our failure to expose our own history, our own story, our own cherished heroes, to an honest accounting — to ourselves and to the watching world.”

The denomination has focused in recent years on efforts toward racial reconciliation and progress. In 2012, it elected its first African American president, Fred Luter. And in April, on the 50th anniversary of King’s death, the SBC’s public policy arm — the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission — organized what it thought would be a small conference in Memphis about efforts to end racism. About 3,500 pastors and lay leaders showed up.

“Father, Lord, would you have mercy on us sinners?” ERLC Commission President Russell Moore prayed at the Memphis event.

There have also been notable stumbles.

The group voted at its annual meeting in 2017 to condemn the known as the alt-right — which seeks a whites-only state — but only after it faced backlash to an earlier decision not to vote on the issue.

The same year, a professor at a different Southern Baptist seminary posted to Twitter a photo appearing to show five white professors posing in hoodies and gold chains, with some pointing their fingers like guns. Barry McCarty, a professor of preaching and rhetoric at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas, later posted that the photo was meant to be a send-off for a professor who occasionally raps.

Originally posted via The Washington Post

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In Some Churches, Talk of Reparations Draws a Hearing

Drake University ethicist Jennifer Harvey, signs her book "Dear White Christians," during the Race & Faith Dialogue series at Duke University. Photo courtesy of Duke UniversityDURHAM, N.C. (RNS) A white scholar touring churches across the nation is trying to convince Christians that racial reconciliation is not enough — it’s time to start talking about reparations for descendants of slaves.

And among mostly white, mainline Protestants this controversial — some would say unrealistic — notion is getting a hearing.

What divides the races in America, says Drake University ethicist Jennifer Harvey, is not the failure to embrace differences but the failure of white Americans to repent and repair the sins of the past.

“Our differences are not only skin deep,” the 44-year-old scholar told a lecture hall packed with Duke Divinity School students recently. “Our differences are the deepest and most complex manifestations of genealogies of harm done to some and perpetrated by others.”

“All over the Hebrew Bible, this is what it says to do when you steal — you give it back sevenfold,” she said.

Harvey’s 2014 book, “Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation,” has led to speaking engagements at United Church of Christ gatherings, Presbyterian assemblies and college campuses such as Duke and Colgate University in New York.

Over the next year, she’ll address UCC statewide meetings in the Midwest, a Lutheran congregation in Arkansas, social justice conferences in Georgia and New Mexico, college students Michigan and in Pennsylvania, United Methodist and Disciples of Christ seminarians in New Jersey and Oklahoma.

The book, said the Rev. Cameron Trimble, executive director of the Center for Progressive Renewal, “touched a nerve with a lot of religious leaders who care about this particular issue and who want to be prophetic in this moment.

Trimble’s  center has published a video interview and a book-study guide to promote Harvey’s book to its 13,000 affiliated congregations in nine different denominations. 

“Jennifer is inviting a conversation that needs to be had among white people. In all of our mainline traditions, we have deeply institutionalized racism. We have to willingly give up power in order to equal the playing field.”

"Dear White Christians," by Jennifer Harvey. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Harvey

“Dear White Christians,” by Jennifer Harvey. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Harvey

On Saturday (Nov. 7), Harvey discussed the topic of reparations with members of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.

More than 20 churches in the diocese have investigated their connections to slavery and produced an online historical tour, “Trail of Souls,” as an act of truth-telling and confession.

“If we’re not reconciled with our history, then we can’t understand what the repair is that’s needed,” said the Rev. Angela Shepherd, the diocesan canon for mission.

Shepherd said it’s too late for the U.S. to consider any kind of direct reimbursement but welcomed Harvey’s stoking the reparations movement in churches. She hopes Harvey’s visit, along with the Baltimore protests in the spring, will help to motivate people in her diocese to support a bill first introduced by Michigan Congressman John Conyers’ in 1989 to create a federal commission to study reparations.

“It would not look like writing checks to individuals,” Shepherd said. “To me, it’s about figuring out a way in our country to bring up the playing field so that it is level.”

Harvey’s push for reparations comes on the heels of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ story in The Atlantic magazine, “The Case for Reparations.”

“White households are worth roughly 20 times as much as black households,” wrote Coates. “Effectively, the black family in America is working without a safety net.”

Coates traced some of the systemic injustices to “redlining,” the denial of home mortgages to black Americans, driving them toward predatory lenders outside the banking system.

Harvey said this history, beginning in slavery and Jim Crow and continuing with poor, underfunded pubic schools for minority children, has stalled well-intentioned efforts at reconciliation since the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. This history also explains the energy around the “Black Lives Matter” response to recent acts of police brutality.

“I find myself surrounded by white Americans in a state of shock,” Harvey said. “We should not be shocked or surprised. We have no right to surprise.”

Harvey said she grew up attending mostly black schools in Denver, but it wasn’t until she met black students at Union Theological Seminary that she began to understand how being white gave her societal power that they didn’t have.

“Women and men of color said to me, ‘You need to figure out your whiteness,’” she said.

Harvey said demands for reparations drove white Christians out of the civil rights movement. They held onto King’s vision of the “beloved community” and kept talking about reconciliation but have never made the sort of recompense that’s needed.

With a Ph.D. in Christian social ethics from Union, Harvey has spent her career writing on white supremacy and the contemporary reparations movement.

Harvey was ordained in the liberal American Baptist Churches USA. She supports Conyers’ congressional bill and is trying to kindle the conversation in religious communities.

Harvey resists specifying what form reparations might take, saying that should come from the wounded parties. She points to the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, which calls for cash, land, economic development, scholarships and policy changes ensuring equitable treatment in criminal justice, health care and financial systems.

Harvey also suggests environmental reparations for Native American land taken and exploited; citizenship for underpaid immigrant workers; and political remedies for mass incarceration of black Americans.

“People who’ve been there, who lived through the civil rights movement, can look back and say, ‘Yes, our churches are just as segregated as they were before,’” said Michael DePue, director of Christian education at Chapel in the Pines, a white Presbyterian congregation in Chapel Hill, N.C., where Harvey’s book is being studied. “It’s been 40 or 50 years, and the things that the civil rights movement set out to do, they haven’t come to pass.”

Trimble agreed.

“There’s an awareness among progressive Christians that if you do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always gotten,” she said. “The challenge that remains before us is, will it move beyond talk? What we do very well in church is talk a thing to death.”


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Reparations Begin In The Body

A look at why the first and most crucial poetic gesture for a black poet in the West is a knowledge and mastery of her body






















Look for me in the whirlwind

She teaches us that voodoo was used as a means, during slavery, for slaves to break free from the slave master. When the slave wanted to break free from the master, the only way to get out a lot of times was to die. That’s right, to die. And they had an antidote in voodoo that would cause the body to stop, the heart to stop, and all that, the consciousness to leave the body and move to the nervous system, and the slave master would just come to check to see that the slave was dead, check the pulse or whatever, and let the slaves bury them, but the family would be in and knowing that nah, he’s not dead, or she’s not dead. We’re just faking out master, so we can get him or her off the land, so that they can go get us some help so we can break free from the plantation. (Excerpt from Hollywood Forever)

This is not life! This is death disguised as life. I know what life is. Life is s p l e n d i d!    Sun Ra riffs in a gorgeous, generous poem /\ song somewhere between inheritance and transcendence. And what if he’s right. Would we worry, or zombie a little less, or invent more verbs, or honor the restlessness lurking in our performed domesticity; if we knew we were involuntary participants in a grand and oh-so-fatalistic suicide culture that began with black bodies as capital/ real estate, and fantasizes about ending there or in a carefully disguised eternal return we name entertainment, sports, mass incarceration—would we opt out or go harder?

It seems the evidence is everywhere. We earn our continued oppression day by day, labor for it. What a genius mystic like Sun Ra accomplishes with his urgent call, is naming it, creating a double entendre for so what, and etching a map toward the exodus that devalues ‘progress’ as we know it, an understanding of the casual merits of an ancient future, a scoffing in the face of exclusivity, an overturning of the toxic myth that we have somehow ‘made it,’ or been civilized, when it’s clear that we’ve deteriorated as spirit beings, and physically: been degraded, degraded and diluted ourselves, become puppets for our own subjugation. And then one day we kneel for the national anthem before a football game and this is protest?, and then the next the new Drake anthem is out, started from the bottom… now we’re …  at rock bottom.

But to have been seduced into acting as agents of our own devolution as a people, we had to be given words, phrases, an entire syntax and meaning factory and way of moving through space and time, in the service of that steady diminishing. Where do those words hide or how are they glorified or embedded in common action so deeply that we miss them? How did we manage to become so disembodied that we lost track of what life is? How do you expect to write effective poetry from outside of yourself, always gazing on your own spirit as ‘other’ and looking for ways to contain it with art as opposed to using this cryptic and encrypted English language to liberate the spirit?

Henrietta Lacks’s Cells

Henrietta Lacks was a cervical cancer patient at Johns Hopkins hospital when she unwittingly became the queen mother of stem cell research. Without any informed consent, her cancer cells were cloned and survived the arduous cloning process. For years researches had been trying to clone the cells of white men and women, and failing. It was discovered that the cells of black people are so resilient that, even when cancerous, they can survive the cloning process and replicate interminably. After her cell line, deemed the Immortal Cell Line, was successfully cloned in 1955, its traces became staples in cosmetics, household products, and all areas of medical research. In order to patent a semi biological substance, it must derive from cloned not original cells, so yet another form of free labor was born in this transaction. Decades later the adulteration of Lacks’s body was acknowledged first by Morehouse College and then by additional institutions. Her family has not been paid for the secret harvesting of her cells that continues today as an open secret. Henrietta Lacks’s cells know what life is. It never bows…

Okra and Hog Calling

After having been abducted and transported across the Atlantic at manifold angles and velocities, and upon arrival on the auction block and then at the miserable slave quarters on their respective plantations, African men and women refused to eat the food they were given by their cannibal captors. Scraps of dead animal flesh, meals of blood and starch, were bitterly, indifferently, refused. Hunger strikes are among the most natural responses humans have to trauma; they reflect the integrity of our impulse to heal. When you are sick, or made sick by circumstance, food only deepens the illness, and codes itself with the suffering one is enduring while eating, becomes about emotions more than nourishment, and negative, desperate emotions at that, the opposite of its purpose in nature. When lost, the prophets fasted, when ecstatic, the prophets fasted, when suffering, the prophets fasted; feasting was the symbolic exception.

But Africans had been stolen and tortured at sea only so they could provide the free labor that would build and sustain the parasitic economies of the Americas, so starving themselves was not an option for their captors. The mentally ill plantation owners had discovered the boundaries of their persuasion, and had to return to Africa for Okra and fonio, wild rice, greens, whole indigenous uncultivated foods and herbs, to keep their human capital from starving. It was only after distorting the contents of scripture, which instructs to only eat the flesh of animals, and only the animals who are herbivores themselves “the clean animals” in times of flood, famine, or dire need, it was only after converting slaves to Christianity and linking the religion with the West’s putrid dietary habits, that slave masters managed to create a race of primarily flesh and starch eating slaves whose thinking would often reflect those misguided tastes. Who would relate to one another using those tastes as their foundation.  Around this same time degenerative diseases sprung up in the African slaves, who were slowly becoming American in culture and psychology. And doctors purchased some slave solely to test new surgeries and medicines on them with no thought of anesthesia or side effects. Now with the new science of Epigenitics we are learning that these kinds of traumas are handed down in the genes, memories are genetic, déjà vu is no myth.

Even the quality of sunlight in North America contributes to the undermining of black bodies. It is unlike the light in West Africa, or near the equator. The UVB rays needed to melinate bodies and to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D only hit North America (with the exception of Florida, Georgia, and Southern California) between April to September, from 11:00 to 3:00 in the afternoon, and are only absorbed if you are 60 percent naked in those places at those times, and not overly calcified with dairy and other toxins. And yet with all of this working against most of us, the immortal cell line comes from a black woman who had cancer. Life  is     splendid.

Dr. Sebi

A self-taught black man and master herbalist from Honduras cured dozens of AIDS patients in the 1980s, removing all traces of the disease in them, and most all other diseases he was asked to help heal, by first declaring them non-existent, figments of our covetous western thinking, and then weaning his patients off of all that slave food and the slave mentality that came with it. He even made it onto Worldstar, echo W O R L D S T A R! head start for half stepping, his teachings almost went mainstream. He was mysteriously arrested and killed for his work, along with more than 50 additional holistic practitioners just this year.


We know that blackness is just condensed light and that every nigga is a star © Kendrick Lamar by way of Boris Gardner. Light and sound are our first nutrients and all true food and water is just different densities and frequencies of light and sound translated into electromagnetic energy and given form and lifeforce by its own unique dynamic between electricity and magnetism. We know that this planet is not our home, nor this country, that we are diaspora here, and that on every level we are the custodians nonetheless. Do we know that we come from star matter, that our role here is to translate the light into information like plants do, do we know that niggas don’t need electricity because we are electric, and so too our food must be. Normativity will not save us. Justice is not the right to consume what the oppressor does, that is injustice at it’s most advanced and clandestine. Why are we destiny? Because we know what life is. We know what light is.

Curfew in Charlotte

The history of the West is the history of everyone but black people, realizing that we are its most valuable resource, that our bodies are superhuman conductors, our hearts, brilliant minds, and our language visceral and poetic even when used absentmindedly. Melanin is a technology that renders the black body masterful but can also turn on it if not acknowledged. Without adequate light and proper sounds you can turn a nation of demi-gods into demons against their own selves. The soil in the west also lacks the minerals needed to compensate for the poor quality of light and the dismal acoustics here. In that weakened condition it’s easier for a fascist police state to feed off of our anguish and even criminalize it until we all but give up on retaliation. It’s easy for police to kill black children and harvest their organs the way Henrietta Lacks’ cells have been harvested.  It’s easy to turn Griots into madmen.

We are the only ones, because we don’t know our value, who remain blind to the what’s behind our genocide. If we wanted to, we could run the world, the world runs on our vibrations, just look at the dominant images and listen to the universal music. At the early antebellum picnics we were lynched cooked, and eaten. Which is why the mummies were missing. They ate them all. Now we love bbq too. But what does any of this have to do with poetry?

A land where the sun kills questions

Just as we cannot allow ourselves to forget, or be naive enough to think that anything offered us by this society is benevolent, from the 13th amendment, with its hideous exception, to the so-called ‘good job’ that has us inside all day degrading our light-processing engines, we also cannot ignore what ails or controls our bodies, from the new curfew renewed every time we mobilize to protest state violence, to the comfort food addiction renewed with every collective trauma, to trap beats we twerk to over Henny under dimmed fluorescent lights and Future’s intoxicating timbre, to the church pews we kneel on to worship white Jesus.  The grammar of blackness in the West must be ruthlessly examined from within, on a cellular, molecular level, and reconfigured, if we are to move from signifying the tragic and soulful beauty of an oppressed group of electric spirits, to signifying the triumph of organic power and talent over the weaker but much more evil force that has been out to contain and exploit it for centuries. The very desire to contain and oppress is a sign of internal weakness.

Our poetry must become ruthless as we ruthlessly deploy our bodies to rectify our situation/ship with the Western gaze. Perhaps if we stop trying to seduce white America and its sad satellites, we will gain the courage to act worthy of ourselves and of our superconductor immortal cells and the healers who give their lives to remind us of our greatness from musicians to herbalists to poets to mothers. I don’t think any such maneuvers are possible unless we first understand our anatomy and physiology. Know thyself. Know how what you do with your body affects it, how what you put into your body instructs it to behave. And how those instructions become in our poems. Fetishized melancholy, willful forgetting, shadows of the show lights of the new curfew, shoals of our lost knowledge returning. Reparations begin in the body, and that is where our poems must begin; our poems must teach us new ways to use our bodies, must watch with us and walk with us and burst through us as new light, even if it hurts, even if it means we have to relearn self-love through the eyes of a truer more unified self.

Korrine Gaines , Mary J. Blige

Korrine Gaines is huddled in a pool of her own blood after having been shot by a Baltimore cop, and instructs her five-year-old son to keep filming, while Mary J. Blige limply holds Hillary Clinton’s hand to chant a hymn about how to be polite in the face of your own murder. On 59th and Columbus, Judith Jamison is instructing an Ailey principal dancer how to cry without tears, in your torso, from the womb, in the place where mourning shifts from vengeful to detoxifying and even becomes a kind of forgiveness of self. Regenerative sorrow.

We have reached a time where accidental cooning or lack of intimacy and disembodied thinking could kill us and sabotage our art, as a dancer first I’ve always known this but as our bodies fall deeper and deeper under siege in this age of casual fascism, the only relevant poems will be those which force both ourselves and the state to contend with the full power of our forms. Throughout this month I’ll discuss poems and poetic acts that reinstall spirit language and re-embody the act of writing and of thinking in that fashion, accessing the brave vulnerability that is the key to self-mastery here.

Stellar Entropy

Until now we have survived by denying our physical otherness or asserting it so aggressively it becomes parody, we have tried to fit into a context whose first intention is to extort us in every way possible, we have praised invisibility as a skill and perhaps felt guilty for being great on our own terms, gone deaf to those terms and yearnings.  In the process of all of this pandering, we have often used language as a tool to access the few token spaces for us to supposedly ‘prosper’ in the western world, rather than training the language to obey us, we have proven that we can be tamed and undermined by it. Our bodies, and how we use them, are testaments to how we use language both on and off the page. Today’s poems need to break up rigged thought patterns rather than look for new ways to restate and validate them, and today’s black poets and all who love us, must master our bodies and their histories the way soldiers do, for our words must be directed toward saving the souls these vessels carry from suffering the fate of monopoly capitalism into fascism and back into barbarism; that’s the trajectory we are on if we remain mere witnesses, if we remain abstract to ourselves.

Poetry is the space wherein the facts we learn through true study and understanding of self can perform as archetypes and symbols and syncopation, so that these hard facts are easier to bear, but it is not a space we should use to escape the facts of our essence or our condition. If you ignore what happens to your body, what is happening to black bodies everywhere, your poems will ignore you back and lack the resonance we need from them to free ourselves or become our true selves again. But how do we remain that present without putting our bodies in danger or under scrutiny in order to reclaim their richest language?

Originally Posted by Poetry Foundation




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