beyonce stay making my anthems.
beyonce stay making my anthems.
— negrosunshine, (#shameless) “A Question of Beauty”
Stevie Wonder improvising Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”. I SAID Stevie on Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”. I SAID goddamn.
Anonymous said: Who is Negro Sunshine?
a Black queer writer. an activist with a southern california style. a Black intellectual. and a boy who dreams of Revolution. currently hiding out, or making way, in chicago.
oh, and i borrowed my name from glenn ligon’s work.
Intersections: Narratives of Queer Students of Color at Oberlin College
When the racism becomes so ordinary. And the response to the racism becomes mundane. The response to the response becomes expected, humorous, and enraging—a certain routine of course.
And we talk….And we cry…. Some laugh, while others reach for bricks, or sticks—certainly metaphorical here in this time and place. Oh, but what if just once it got all physical! A certain physicality to match the rhetorical, emotional, and always unrecognized (not to be mistaken with unrecognizable) violence found in the mundane (or to switch it up: routinized, to be interpreted as a routine, their routine, our routine, the routine). A video here…. Ignorance…. A cry there…. Protest…. A meeting then…. Strategy. Round about we go, where suffering is institutionalized, much like it is naturalized.
I remember sitting in a room at the University of California, Irvine with the Black Student Union executive board shortly after the chicken and waffle fiasco at Pippen commons. [Y’all remember that? The MLK Day special. UCI was always good to us Negroes.] I glanced around a silent room ailing from the pesky question, “what do we do?” A perplexing question on multiple fronts for the Black student activist: a forceful sincerity toward engaging the demand always met with constricting doubt. For how does one compete with the violence of the institution on an individual level? How does the Black student body (in all its definitions) enter a battle with a contract over its head [or tied around its neck as the campus of UCSD painfully reminded us in 2010], a contract of work in “exchange” for degreed success later in life? As a former Negro ‘occupying’ space on the campus I sit back and laugh (through tears, debt, and unfulfilled triumph) later in my life. Further, the frequency with which the question must be engaged is perplexing in and of itself. The routine of violence and response, aggression and reaction, day in and day out, or ‘sunup until sundown’ is enough to make any reasonably minded Black student walk away, or “shut down and turn off.”
But there we were, sitting in a room pondering which version of the routine we would carry out. I turned and looked at my closest comrades in the space, three Black queers actively working through an afro-pessimist framework (earnest theorist in the classroom, the four of us made for unruly and at times misguided student activists in community organizing spaces), and I put on the table, as a serious plan of action, a fleeting joke made between the four of us at an earlier time, “How ‘bout the Black student body start carrying around 2x4’s?” The majority of the board either laughed or looked on in fear while my comrades nodded their head in what was either sincere agreement or a courtesy nod for a faithful brother-in-battle.
I reasoned: in an environment where racist acts directed at Black bodies are as normal as racist acts directed at black bodies, and our forms of protest have a trajectory of solving nothing and repeating themselves, why not simply arm Black students and make the environment scared of Black bodies? Did I truly believe it would work? No. The Panthers were armed, the BLA went buck on the system, June Jordan waxed poetically about killing a cop for every Black boy killed, and Toni Morrison conjured a group/event called the Seven Days. And still, there we were plagued by the question. And did I actually plan on using a 2x4 on someone? Not really, I was still plagued by the desire of degreed success. But what if we were to enter the routine slightly altered: the visual stimuli of defense, perhaps a deterrent to open assaults steeped in a historical/utter fear of the Black body and a modern shallow fascination with Blackness? Is there a way to make people think twice (or at least once) before acting on/or against Blackness? Perhaps then the demand shifts from an awareness of Black suffering (which is a naturalized entity) toward an engagement with the daily violent/violently daily activities—the mundanely anti-Black repertoire of Human hobby.
That rage, worked out through a certain theoretical formulation searching for a proper course of praxis was quelled by “things just ain’t quite there yet.” My thoughts of shopping the wood section of Home Depot were dashed by reasoned practicality, were we as the Executive Board prepared to suffer the consequences of arming our constituents? Negroes warding off the racist front-lash of students and administrative policy sounds romantic, but the crushing blow of police and administrative backlash was perhaps a price too high to pay. A breach of contract for hopeful Negroes.
I recall sitting in that room, pondering the question, not as a clarion call for violence (at least not an outright one), but as I look from afar at the situation back at the University of California, Irvine, I can’t help but wonder, what would have been different if 2x4s were present on Ring Road from the first day of fall quarter. Or would my friend Kala, who I’ve watched step out of a quiet “first year bright-eye/skeptical” demeanor into the proud and (rightfully) raging Black activist, been the target of passing rhetorical violence had a 2x4 been sitting with her at the bus stop [or perhaps a brick for easier use against a car]? And I watch the protest, the rage, and the routine coming from UCI. And guilt consumes me as I realize the assault is painfully familiar and I wish I could have done something more, and further I wish my hands and rage extended from Chicago back to Orange County to help, console, and incite (further) the Black students at the University of California, Irvine. “But, further?” Many will ask. Where do we go from there/here? The language of the protest is skillfully sophisticated; the work at putting events and spectacles of racist violence into context of anti-Black institutions is nuanced and forceful. But the routine remains. So where does my meditation, this writing, go while anticipating that pesky question enfranchised in the reader and breathing through my last few sentences, “what do we do?” Are things there, yet?
I stand with the Black Student Union at the University of California, Irvine. I stand, sit, pace, shake my head, and write my words. I meditate on the Black Student Union at the University of California, Irvine. I fear for the Black “students.”
TO THOSE ASKING WHAT THEY CAN DO TO HELP:
1) WE NEED LETTERS IN OUR (BSU) SUPPORT SENT TO UCI! We need everyone to write letters to either/both the UCI Student Affairs office and/or UCI Chancellor Michael Drake’s office demanding that action be taken in response to…
an excellent (and novel) engagement with Audre Lorde, by James Bliss
White People are not really white, but colored people can sometimes be extremely colored. In Negro speech, the word “colored” has very special reverberations. One may hear, in sorrow, “Man, that cat is just too colored.” And this can mean, depending on the speaker, the situation, the subject,…
singing black folks. i still sometimes dream this will be my life in about 25 years. phylicia rashad & nancy wilson leaning into “moody’s mood for love.” bill cosby and moses gunn were there too.
*below i paste a letter i helped craft with a group of Black activist tired of the liberal multicultural community organizing so popular on college campuses. though we took a lot of heat (doubt, misunderstanding, and hostility) for our words, we stood strong in them and i can look back proudly on our mission and subsequent actions. tonight i was lucky enough to pass this on to someone who had no stake or interest in anything in the letter (written two years ago), but was in need of the spirit of the letter (perhaps the politics of the letter). i’ve said elsewhere, too often our activism gets lost to the hands of time—revisionist narratives and cultural(ized) memory. the work of “writing it down” and “passing on” the lessons of the experience are not the sexy part of community organizing and activist work. thanks to a quick facebook chat with @touchofpoetry and a search through gmail, this document remains! and it remains relevant, at least i think it so.
* Umbrella Council: the collection of the founding “student of color” groups on our campus. (Black Student Union, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, Alyansa ng mga Kababayan, American Indian Student Association, and Asian Pacific Student Association)
* SOAR: Student Outreach and Retention Center
Due to the hostility manifested in and by the Cross Cultural Center, the Black Student Union is forced to respond to the verbal assaults and threats leveled upon our organization. We, the Black Students of the University of California, Irvine, voice our aggravation at our political position being reduced to apathy as a result of our perceived lack of support to Umbrella Council. We will not tolerate:
· Slanderous rhetoric proffered by the Umbrella Council leadership;
· Forced commitment to political positions antithetical to our politics; and
· Intimidation by the Cross Cultural Center’s Administration.
The Black Student Union dedicates itself first and foremost to the social and political uplift of Black Students. Through the connections we foster with Black Faculty, Staff, and Alumni, Black Existence intervenes in and thereby shapes the UCI narrative. Presently, this position proves antithetical to that afforded to us by the Cross Cultural Center, which can be fundamentally reduced to a question of mere visibility of underrepresented students. The Black Student Union has been repeatedly presented with the SOAR and Mural agendas. It is the intention of this statement to present the BSU’s response.
SOAR is lightweight reform to a structural dilemma inherent to the university, the Advil to internal bleeding. Low Black representation on this campus remains the product of an intricate system of exclusion, and thus a center that only addresses the issue on a superficial level remains an incomplete solution to a perpetual problem; while we do and will actively support SOAR and its mission, we must clarify our political position. We do not claim to possess a definitive solution, but by critically approaching the complexity of the issue, while simultaneously exhausting our resources in our pursuit of a complete understanding of it, we persist to support and maintain a conscious Black community and defend ourselves against a pacified future.
Regarding the Mural, a question: Why, in a “coalition space,” does our lack of proximity to the project mean our erasure from its consciousness? That the Umbrella Council meets our absence from the Mural’s planning meetings with the threat of our community’s visual absence from the finished piece edifies that the “coalition space” is not a coalition space at all. It becomes a place in which we merely voice our existence, rather than engage in a critical dialogue with the shared and unique histories of the coalition members; superficial visibility supersedes mutual understanding.
Recent threats by the Cross Cultural Center’s Administration to take our office, thereby removing a fundamental space in organizing and communing with Black students fosters the hostility the BSU must endure. Even further, our freedom of expression as a political organization is being stifled by administrative requirements that almost compel Umbrella Council representatives to enroll in course credit; we are unable to exercise a political position of abstaining from the coalition and its objectives, simply out of obligation to a class.
Entrenched in the mire of these issues, the Black Student Union board has labored over the course of the quarter to make logistical compromises with both Umbrella Council and the Cross Cultural center to no avail. But we now find ourselves in a position where our political position is being attacked. We will not compromise our politics.
We will continue to dedicate ourselves to the political and social uplift of Black Students.
Black Student Union Executive Board
Anonymous said: what do you think about non-Black POC's using the "N" word?
i’ve discussed uses of the “N-word” and my position on it here in this post
my position at that time versus now has not changed, but my experiences with the issue have become more dynamic and complicated. to answer straightforward: i cringe when i hear it. i’d rather not hear it from any non-Black mouth, but from the post above you can see why i don’t have much energy or desire to correct it. or perhaps an audre lorde analysis of energy is more useful: perhaps its not that i don’t have the energy (because i could read muthafuckas on the issue, serve knowledge and all that jazz) BUT is it a proper use of my energy?
i cringe. and in that cringe histories of violence invade whatever space i’m in even though its said in the reclaimed loving manner “non-Black POC” claim it to be. and i’m called upon to analyze and recognize within seconds “non-Black POC’s” sincerity in the “harmony” of the moment. the violence that is the multicultural affair.
after the cringe i wonder have these folks ever REALLY been called a nigger. forced to recognize a certain truth of position and relationship to violence that is no relationship at all, but rather the dynamic of Black everyday “life.” to either be called a nigger, or be the cultural prop nigger signifies. and then i laugh. ha! to be the nigger in this situation where nigger is used, reclaimed. a claimed nigger. we circle back and history is our present.
negrosunshine: i glanced at the quotation above this morning and thought about my mental escape from the academy, a somber sojourn away from school to ground myself in something to write about if/when i decide to return. and then i thought about all my broke and exhausted friends struggling in their respective programs. AND THEN just a moment ago, i get an email from a panel organizer reminding me to register for the CSA conference coming up in May. then i realize register means “pay” and i stare at the bag i just bought and have to contemplate returning it and paying for this conference. or just paying for the conference and eating ramen like an undergrad for the next week and a half. or making that awkward phone call to my father and seeing if he is feeling generous. and i contemplate… bag, dad, or ramen.
did i leave academia to buy bags? they forgot to put my name in the program too.
illude said: Your Lorna Simpson essay helped (through inspiration, not ctrl+c) me a lot in my own. Thanks for posting it!
no problem! happy i could help :)
i hope you had a chance to read Huey Copeland’s “Bye, Bye Black Girl: Lorna Simpson’s Figurative Retreat” and Bridget Cooks’ “Lorna Simpson: The Portrait of Refusal”, both articles greatly shaped my own essay.
— Sylvia Wynter “PROUD FLESH INTER/VIEWS: SYLVIA WYNTER” (via abolitionista)