Tuesday, December 29, 2015

No More Magical, Intellectual Sambos, Mammies, and Ambulance Chasing Activists: Why Black People Should Cease Dialogue With Bigots


     It’s been a while since I’ve written for my blog.  Hell, it’s been a while since I’ve written at all.  But the non-indictment of the Ohio cops who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice as well as the peculiar circumstances surrounding the shooting death of Memphis teen Darius Stewart, have pulled me out of my socio-political writing funk.  There is no longer a need for me, or any other academics, intellectuals, civil rights activists, preachers, or civic/community leaders within the Black community, to recite all of the names and incidents regarding Blue on Black crime;  It is in and off itself exhausting, horrific, and abominable to say the least.  Damned the statistics and what opponents of the Black Lives Matter movement are contending;  You know the old rhetorical combats they use:  “What about Black on Black crime?”  “Do what the police tell you to do and you won’t get killed.”  “Look at their criminal record or past.”  “The police have a hard job.  They’ve got families to go home to.”  “The media is trying to start a race war to keep our minds off of Isis.”  Figgety-fuck all of that. 

     Sure, we know that proportionally whites out number Blacks and the incidents of Black Americans being criminalized in the U.S. is more than twice the rate of non-colored Americans, but non-Black Americans don’t exist in a neighborhood vacuum of consistent police-patrol as if the Negro is more prone to violence, skulduggery, and societal mischief than their white counterparts.  So, with that stated, the aforementioned is the impetus and excuse for the haphazard killing of armed or unarmed Black Americans be they male, female, young, old, threat or not.  Again, I say figgety-fuck all of that.  Why is it that the uniform of chocolate skin is paraded across the local and national news in death too many times by law enforcement with an excuse and a debate as to why a Black life matters or doesn’t when that Black body is encountered by the very authoritative entity sworn to protect and serve all of America in all of our American cities?

     I grew up watching the first, and one of the most successful, reality shows in American television history, Cops, and never once did I witness a shooting of an alleged suspect.  At the worst, I was entertained by a good wrestling match between cops and sometimes robbers—the “robbers” being both Black and white, male and female, but never did anyone die even if they were armed.  But today, it’s always a killing of people of my hue, people of my ethnic heritage---sometimes “warranted”, but most times not.  And the narrative is always disgusting to digest because of both Black and non-Black people trying their best attempt to remain objective and playing Devil’s advocate.  We see white liberals trying to be fair, white conservatives are not being balanced, and, in the midst of it all, you have Black activists and social commentators and the cherry-picked PhD toting scholar either  acting and speaking as apologists for our wayward brothers and sisters who had the audacity to not cower or “obey” the commands of law enforcement, or as uber-angry ethnocentric microphones of hate and segregation—all the while gaining public notoriety, local or national fame, and getting a little pocket change for speaking engagements and blog hits.  I, for one, am disgusted with it all.  No longer will I, and hopefully others, become Black intellectual Sambos consoling white Americans and explaining to white America how the consistent and persistent murders of Blacks by Blue cops must be addressed, condemned and eradicated.

       The scary thing is that the Black Lives Movement has done an excellent job of keeping the attention on the abuse of authority by many rogue and racist policemen in this nation and even pressuring District Attorneys across the country to either bring up charges or convene grand juries as a means to acquiesce to the demands of the broader (Black) American community and taxpayers, but it seems as if this is often used as a band-aid meant to suffice the moans, groans, and cries of our community.  For some reason, and I may be being petty, glib, or paranoid, but I feel like these grand juries seem to only be convened as a pacifier to the Black community, a call to "chill out", but a pacifier is meant only to soothe in the immediate, to suffice for the moment, but it's not even doing that because this racial, if not ethno-specific, pacifier got a rank meat taste to it. And if the pacifier tastes bad, the baby gonna spit it out and keep crying. 

      So, for me, and for the righteous and awoke "we", are gonna keep hollering until the baby get changed.  And, please don't talk about the "race card" because Black Lives being massacred at the hands of law enforcement ain't a game, and even if it is or was we only are "playing the race card", yet America created the game and the card table. America, don't try and find the Negroes with a magical intellect or rhetorical gift to serve as a conduit between white racism and prejudice and the African-American community.  Stop trotting out these civil rights ambulance chasing lawyers and activist looking for a crowd, a payday, and airtime.  There is no magical Negro that can quiet the voices of our community.  There is no intellectual Mammies and Sambos who can console your offspring on college campuses, universities, and at a concert-like panel discussion of the dialogue of Race in America.  None of that works anymore.  Your "thugs" and  "good Negroes" are all alarmed, frustrated, and fed up with it all.  And the card game is fixin' to get robbed.  Kenny Rogers said it best, "You gotta know when to fold 'em, know when to hold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run."  It's time to leave your winnings at the table and concede.  These lost lives are an injustice, and like Dr. King said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."  And now, the masses want justice--both any and everywhere.   

                                                                                                       -Gee Joyner

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Lights Went Out in Paris



It ain't romantic no more
Because the lights went out in Paris
They won't say, "Bonjour"
Because the lights went out in Paris
The lovers may start a war
Because the lights went out in Paris
150 or more tried to flee to the door
When the lights went out in Paris
And Isis came in with a roar, still a media-whore just begging for more
But they shouldn't have shot out the lights in Paris

                                            - Gee Joyner



Monday, September 7, 2015

Black Lives Matter: When the Cameras Aren't On and There Aren't Faces, Names, and Spaces Getting Exposure, Does America Really Care?


"The sheep's entire life & dialogue is consumed with the wolf & its intentions. For if the sheep relaxes one iota, it very well may get gobbled up---literally”-Navar Ero

So, Sandra Bland was suffering from depression & posted a video about it on Facebook. Hmmm. Who isn't? I'm sure between the party, family, & food pics many of you are too but don't know it. Does that mean a $500 bail & an ass kicking from the cops will make you hang yourself with no sheet nor blanket in sight? ‪ 
Class, Occupational Status, Education, and Socioeconomics are all defining factors when analyzing culture & the similarities of one's culture & individual background, but once Race, particularly American Blackness, is thrown into the mix, not only is it an entirely different ballgame, but the parameters & rules & regulations of the proverbial ballgame cannot even be defined, let alone found, in the aforementioned rule book(s).  

Eric Garner was selling loose cigarettes in New York City, you know, that diverse melting pot where anyone who is no one can actualize the American Dream, was accosted by the police for his illegal endeavors and ended up dying en route to the hospital via ambulance after being subjected to a Southern-style lynching vis a vis a police choke hold.  Tamir Rice, only twelve-years-old, was haphazardly pointing a be-be gun at people, though it looked like a real firearm, in a Cincinnati park, was killed without warning by white policemen.  Numerous other humans of a darker hue than the prototypical Eurocentric shade have been beaten, unjustly accosted, and/or killed at the hands of both Black and white police officers solely, in my opinion, because of the criminalized and deviant stereotype that is so often connoted with people with “African” or “Black” heritage in the United States of America. 

Why is this?  Sure, whites are killed by cops, but men lie, women lie, and numbers don’t like the greatest rapper who ever lived Jay-Z/Shawn Carter once stated.  Black people are roughly 12.2% of the American population.  Latinos/Hispanics another 16.4%, Asians around 4%,  and the rest of the nation is or considers themselves to be “white” (63%).  

So, I, in my most humbly-hued opinion believe the comparison of Black bodies being snuffed -out by government-sanctioned law enforcement officials is disproportionately, and negatively, swinging in the favor of the Negro. So, what do we, as a nation? (particularly a 70.6% Christian nation, per the census and various nationals polls) Approach the injustice and violent encounters in which many Black/African Americans endure during police encounters—whether those encounters end up in incarceration, or, even worse--brutality, humiliation, and death?  Or do we become “the ones we have been waiting for” like June Jordan once wrote and said, whether publicly or in her mind’s psyche when she was constructing her rhetorical art?  

Do we, both Black and White Americans, mirror the Christian ideology in which our nation so dotes and touts itself among the international community, and practice what our Protestant nation preaches throughout the world?  The main tenant of Christianity—Love, has been proselytized and historicized throughout modern History as the tool good over evil and democracy over tyranny, which encapsulates a World History that has mythologicalized  Anglo-Christianity as the embodiment, ideologically speaking, of justice and equality, and the international media portrays it as mankind's saving grace, a ideological Christ-of-sorts, which must be witnessed or experienced by the every human, every community, every nation, and hamlet in the world.  So, if this message of democracy and Christianity is exhibited and defined by "acts" of kindness and love, then, there can be no American or Christian/Protestant dominance without Equality and Justice, right? (to be continued.  I apologize.  This text has been a two month stream of consciousness.

                                                                                               -Gee Joyner 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Black Lives Matter: The Movement Speaks (Memphis Grassroots Organizations' Coalition Statement)


Over the past few weeks, several citizens, civic organizations, ministers and other interested parties have rallied, protested, organized and strategized in order to resist forces of oppression that plague the black community from both outside and within.  In lieu of this, we want to affirm the work being done across the city and nation.  We also want to solicit every willing worker of goodwill to join in dismantling the various forms of oppression and injustice amongst us through every adequate and effective form and method of resistance.  This is indeed a peculiar moment in the life of our country as well as our beloved city.  It is a time by which we need all hands on deck to achieve the objectives of freedom and liberation to which we must forever remain devoted.  
One of the aims of our correspondence today is to stand as a grassroots coalition and collective in affirmation of each and every effort to bring truth, justice, peace and love to our city.  We need to produce a concerted effort in response to the State of Emergency whereby we find ourselves.  The catastrophic loss and continual devaluing of black lives has birthed the breath of fresh air and stoked the sacred fire of the #BlackLivesMatter movement nationwide.  This movement, nationally and locally, is a banner and philosophy under which many grassroots groups and sacred communities stand in solidarity.  It is in this vein of unity and hope for better tomorrows that we petition our people, our institutions, and our organizations of goodwill to continue to work towards the freedom and liberty of our people.  Furthermore, those who are familiar with the BLM movement know that the movement never seeks to merely switch the source of oppression from one group to the next.  The Spirit of the movement itself seeks to dismantle, disrupt and destroy every form of oppression and centers on the experiences of the most underprivileged.  To that end, we aim to denounce the shooting and death of Officer Sean Bolton.  We stand in full support of the MPD and other parties that seek to obtain justice for the slain officer and his family.  In that same vein, we cannot allow the tragedy that took place on August 1st to be the cause of us to ignore the tragedy that took place on July 17th. We must remain diligent in and sensitive to the work necessary to bring justice and peace, healing and wholeness to ALL those who are suffering.  
Therefore, we also seek to update the general public with respect to the developments and demands relative to the shooting of Brother Darrius Stewart by Officer Conner Schilling.  Within the past two weeks, with the support of the family, friends, social activist groups and ministerial leaders who have held several vigils, rallies, worship services and other events to raise the social consciousness of the city with respect to this particular incident as well as the issues of police brutality and violence in general. We all remain committed to resisting every form of oppression, exploitation and manipulation that continues to heighten the tensions between civilians, law enforcement and civic and political leadership.  This is not the time to politicize tragedies.  It is the time to respond to them with compassion and commitment to truth, love and justice.  
Therefore, in the name of trust, transparency and progress, we request that the TBI, MPD, and/or DA Amy Weirich provide the general public with relevant, uncompromising, and up to date information with respect to both the shooting of Officer Bolton and the shooting of Darrius Stewart, at least once per week via written statements and/or press conferences until an indictment is handed down or the investigation reaches its legal conclusion.  We have already begun to witness the intensity by which MPD and others are pursuing justice in the shooting of Officer Bolton.  Equal force should be applied in pursuing justice in the shooting of Darrius Stewart.  
To be clear, our aim is not personal but corporate.  Our focus in not merely on an instance or two, but, moreover, towards the broader and longstanding epidemics of police brutality, the culture of violence in our country and the wanton use of guns as weapons of mass destruction.  Therefore, with respect to law enforcement, we also request that the Citizens Law Enforcement Review Board be reestablished immediately and authorized by our city administration to review each use of lethal force since its disbanding (including the Darrius Stewart shooting).  We expect nothing less that equitable measure to be taken in the name of justice for all parties involved.  
We are not anti-police. We are anti-injustice. Again, let us reiterate that it is the collective work of all of our social, civic and ministerial organizations that obtain and sustain freedom, justice, and equal protections under the law. Therefore, we applaud the work of resistance that leads to liberation being carried out by all those who are fighting for freedom and ask them to continue to do so they work to which they are called and compelled.  In the words of Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon (in honor of Dr. Ella Baker), “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”  We have been and will continue to do the work of social justice in this city until freedom comes.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Two Sides of a Copper Coin: The Coloring of Rachel Dolezal and Sandra Bland in a Post-Racial America


     I have always found the term post-racial to not only be peculiar and oxymoronic, but flat out asinine. (didn’t want to say stupid)  How on God’s green Earth, and, more specifically God’s chosen land via the notion of the European settlers’ ideology of manifest destiny, which was an inkling of their impetus to settle in the New World, now known as the United States of America, a nation built and defined on the aesthetics of color and Race, possibly be beyond color and Race which the the word post connotes?  The idea of post delineates that there was an America that existed before race, and, now, in 2015, Race is an afterthought or an afterword in the narrative of U.S. History.  Basically, the nation is post-racial because color and Race no longer carry any rewards nor consequences in American culture (i.e. social, political, and economic).  Yet, let us look with a keen third eye at what Race and Blackness brought upon one Rachel Dolezal and Ms. Sandra Bland.

      Within the past month, the nation has seen two educated women castigated in the national media for their respective behaviors.  Both women were educated.  Both women spoke out with loud tongues concerning the atrocities and inequalities and injustices heaped upon African Americans in the United States.  Both women, whether through culture or biology, identified themselves as Black.  One was a professor of Africana Studies.  One was beginning a new career as a Student Ambassador at Texas A & M Prairie View, her alma mater and one of the country’s Historically Black Colleges/Universities (HBCU).  Dolezal lectured on the culture of Black America, both the triumphs and tragedies, while Bland publicly spoke and protested against unjust police brutality amongst Black Americans (particularly social media videos entitled “Sandra Speaks").  The dichotomy that exists between these two women is a parallel of Race that can be pontificated, analysed, and researched for years to come. 

      Rachel Dolezal’s decision to “pass” for Black in America was scrutinized and even demonized, mainly, by the Black community, particularly the Black Intelligentsia.  Whereas there were some that chanted the forgiving-mantra of Black America “Let that woman be”, most Black Americans that I came into contact with in the real world and via social media felt betrayed because while Rachel benefitted from her public identifying of Black (NAACP chapter president, adjunct professorship of Africana Studies) she, up until last month, lived a life null and void of the constant harassment and blatant and subtle discrimination and subordination that lurks around the corners of life for most of Black America.  Now though, Dolezal is out of work and complaining that her career and career opportunities have been ruined because of her clandestine racial fraud.  Some would say she has reaped what she has sown.  But, what about the literal demise of Sandra Bland? 

      Bland was accosted, man-handled, degraded, and, in my opinion, unlawfully arrested in Texas because of a failure to signal when changing lanes.  Three days after that arrest she was found dead in her cell from an alleged suicide.  See what Blackness can get you?  The difference is the costume that Rachel Dolezal paraded around in could’ve been removed at any time and only landed her in the unemployment line.  On the other hand, the Negroidian uniform of Blackness that Sandra Bland has donned from birth landed her in a dank cell and eventually a grave.  Rachel’s perceived Black womanhood and defiance in the form of celebrating Black culture landed her on CNN, low-key lobbying for a book deal.  Yet, she was alive—explaining to the media why she felt the need to “pass”.  Sandra’s skin tone and hue caused her to end up on CNN and the national media dead—only alive in a mugshot and a video of her arrest.  Her voice can be heard questioning the police officer about his egregious behavior and arrest on the aforementioned video.  That is all that is left of Sandra Bland and her blackness.  Rachel, for the most part, will probably cease visiting the tanning salon, take the weave and braids out of her head, lay off the collard greens and mac n’ cheese and reemerge somewhere as a white woman—alive and well.  Bet you she’s glad she wasn’t “Black” in that car down in Prairie View, Texas now.  She’s probably cuttin’ a jig because she was outed just in time.  I will bet a dollar to a dime that she’s not in a rush to claim her blackness these days.  Rachel, if you’re reading this, which I seriously doubt, see what Black gets you?

                                                                                                   -Gee Joyner

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Right Reverend President and the Concern of Cheap Grace

I love my President. I listened intently to his most recent and thoughtful eulogy. After listening, I texted several of my close ministry colleagues and contemplated my thoughts, weighed my emotions and considered how to respond (if at all). Through my (cyber) dialogue with them (which will continue in the days to come), I have come to applaud and appreciate how POTUS drew upon the best and most redemptive ideas,  tropes and themes of the African American Religious experience. The Black Churches attributes of faith, hope, love and justice came shining through.  President Obama was careful and thoughtful to highlight what the Black Church has persevered through and has come to mean to the faithful and to our communities writ large. Mr. President became “Mr. Preacher” (as we call those in the Black Church who become associated with the ability to inform and inspire from the pulpit platform).  Bishop Barack stood squarely in the African American preaching tradition as he called the names of the nine victims who were murder at “Mother Emanuel,” honored the family, and lifted up the life, love, and legacy of the late Rev. Clementa Pinckney.
I also understand the ubiquitous platform whereby the President stood. He is, after all, the leader of the American empire. To that end, there were also a few things that drew my concern and attention. POTUS did not speak directly about how the cultural production of white supremacy has created an environment whereby even those raised in a “post-racial society” can carry out racial terrorism. Furthermore, the President explicitly stated, "[THE KILLER] DIDN'T KNOW HE WAS BEING USED BY GOD." I cringed. 
As a public speaker who veers from my printed manuscript, I understand extemporaneous impulses and the dangers (and benefits) thereof. I'm not sure if POTUS prepared this statement or merely just, "went with it." Nevertheless, this statement coupled with a few others bordered on theological shortsightedness and misrepresentation.  The “Reverend President” and Theologian-In-Chief ought to have, like all of us who attempt to articulate divine insight through human instruments, room to err.  I grant him that.  POTUS also can, like all of us, be subject to loving critiques (like the one I’m attempting to offer here). 
The evoking of “grace” as a theme was present throughout the eulogy and rang true to the tenets of the Black Church historically. The grace we have extended and encountered is nothing short of “Amazing” (as was the movement led by POTUS to invite the congregation to celebrate in song as he led “in tune”).  We love it and live it.  And yes, the President called out very relevant topics of mass incarceration, poverty (a word many of his critics tried to condemn him for not saying), America’s “original sin” (racism), and the inadequacies of our current social structure.  Yet, the type of grace POTUS asked us to extend (which is indeed part of the Gospel mandate) has the potential to border on cheap. Bill Maher asked, “Should we forgive them so quickly?”  Maher went on to suggest that right wingers like Fox News may use the Charleston Massacre as a means of condemning any (black) victims who don’t forgive “like the good people of Charleston did.”  Is there space in the Presidential rhetoric of tragedy to affirm black rage?  Can black folks both sincerely forgive and be sincerely angry?  It is not a far reach to surmise that POTUS requested that Black victims employ grace to a violent white supremacist in ways POTUS himself is reluctant or unwilling to extend to Islamic Jihadists like ISIS.  Again, he is the leader of the American Empire.  I get it! 

I also get our conflicting and complex relationship with civil religion.  For instance, many of those who bought POTUS’s eulogy wholesale as the sermonic second coming, spent the same morning condemning the SCOTUS ruling on Marriage Equality that POTUS has been championing for a few years now.  I can understand (and to some degree appreciate) the support and critique from both sides of the congregational aisle.  What I hope we can all glean from this is the need for us to pay close attention to the ways in which rhetorical theology – the association with and appropriation of religious rhetoric as a means of theological, political and/or social affirmation and persuasion – and our political leader’s religious sensibilities can do us harm or good.  It is ultimately up to us to study and show ourselves approved.  

                                                                                                             -Rev. Earle J. Fisher

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Social Death By Misadventure: Rachel Dolezal and the Manipulation of Blackness (Part 1)


            C.Thomas Howell once portrayed a college student, Mark Watson, who used tanning pills to  appear Black in an effort to get admitted to Harvard Law School on a scholarship available to African Ameicans and vis a vis a minority quota.  In this comedy, which I consider dark and lacking humor, Howell’s character oft times finds himself in a conundrum because he doesn’t maintain the sterotypes of a Black male (i.e. physically endowned, great athlete—basketball player), and must wriggle his way out of these situations by positing that he is an “exception” to the aforementioned stereotypes, which is supposed to be funny.  Twenty-nine years later, Rachel Dolezal seems to be the living embodiment of the 1986 cinematic exploitation movie “Soul Man.”    
The thing about minstrelsy, or Blackface, is that it is a brand of antiquated humor, only funny to those of the lighter hue, that exaggerates the socially constructed stereotypes of the African-American that satirize human inferiorities, both intellectual and physical, that are definitely not solely attributed to those of African descent or the darker hue.  It has even been lampooned and inverted in popular culture, particularly entertainment, by positing the Black exception as odd or unnatural in that he or she who is of African descent to be the polar opposite of the infantile, ignorant, shiftless, and overtly foolish imbecile that has been the standard for African American stereotypes since we set foot on the land that is now the United States of America. 
The problem I have with Rachel Dolezal is her manipulative use of the agency of "passing" when it is profitable, convenient, and comfortable.  Identifying and experiencing American Blackness are fruits from a different bowl.  Her faux complaints of racial harrassment and discrimination aside, I would like for her to be Black when it's condemned not when it's cool. Yes, she attended Washington D.C.’s  Howard University (a prominent black college) and married and divorced a Black man, and had Black adopted siblings, and has served as the Alaska-Oregon chapter President of the NAACP, serves as an adjunct instructor in Africana Studies at one of Washington state’s colleges, and wore braids and curls and got an orange tan, yet all of the aforementioned things do not make her Black. 
 The Black American experience is much more nuanced than the music, soul food, civic organizations you have membership in, college courses you teach, or romantic relationships you choose. Braids or 'fros don't cut the mustard, folks.  The conundrum lies in the alleged allegations that she has been a victim of racial discrimination and harrassment because of her race or ethnicity which is a lie in and of itself.  She is a white woman who has chosen to become aesthetically, and for all intents and purposes, Black.  The media alleges that the threats she says she has endured and the letters she has received and the noose planted in her yard are all a hoax.  And this is what’s troubling.  The Black American experience isn’t a game.  The Black lives that have been lost solely due to the stereotypes perpetuated that suggest the Black American is a menace to society and a harbinger of skullduggery and criminality are no joking matter and definitely not something that should be taken with a grain of salt.  There is a huge difference between wearing a costume & wearing a hue or attire that cannot come off or be discarded in a closet or found at a beautyshop or tanning salon.