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Fire-casting an eternal de-fascination with death: writing about the South, and the responsible necessity of reading and knowing black South writing in the quest for Afrikan world salvation and restitution.

The Disdain of Duality

This discussion cannot be advanced without an initial and immediate declaration of both affirmation and disdain. My sole reason for contributing to this journal at this time is because my Brother, Jerry W. Ward, Jr., asked me to write a manifesto on a subject of underrated but, nonetheless, profound importance. I believe Jerry Ward to be a person of integrity and intellectual rigor who is committed to the Pan Afrikan World and its people and their Collective Culture. In truth, were it not for that set of factors, I would not be contributing to a journal named "Black-" or "African American" anything.

Like my Brother and fellow writer Ayi Kwei Armah, I am not interested in Tanzanian this, Ghanaian that, Jamaican this, Guyanan that, Nigerian this, African American that, ad infinitum. Today, as has been true for the better part of my life, I am concerned with the Afrikan experience and condition and exigency, wherever our Mother's children are in the world, and the unification and restitution of those children in what my friend has called The Way, Our Way. More than twenty years ago I wrote, "To americanize the Blackman is to dualize, invade, and render dependent upon the metropole and, as such, to strip him to impotence and nil-will ...."

That statement was articulated in response to my known reality that most Black people in "America," in general and in the South, more specifically, never used American as a name for themselves. Instinctually and experientially, they had sense enough to know that name had nothing to do with them. (Furthermore, some elements of the Collective Sub-Conscious Memory were no doubt at work: Some old Black institutions still retain African as part of their original names, because it was only at the turn of this century that Afrikans began to accept an entrenching misnaming of themselves. To be sure, as great as the two mulatto leaders Frederick Douglass and W. E. B. Du Bois had occasion to be, that very racial split-personality they both manifested caused them not only to mislead the Race from time to time but also to misname it: colored [Douglass] and negro [Du Bois]. In point of fact, Du Bois's "double-consciousness" had little to do with non-bourgeois, roots-living and poor Black people who knew who they were - even after they'd forgotten our name - and whose continued existence depended on their never being unclear about that.)

For certain, and even today, only the most foolish Afrikan in "U.S." society believes that this society is his or acts in her best interest. They may not realize, or allow themselves to admit, that the "U.S." exists on the backs of their near destruction, is maintained on the backs of their creeping destruction, and exists with their total destruction in mind, but they damn sure know they are in constant jeopardy in this society. They know also that they represent a separate and distinct culture which is the result of specifically distinct history and cosmology. And they know that that culture, like themselves, is constantly exploited, is constantly under attack, is constantly in serious trouble. As such, only legally - or maybe clinically - dead negroes needed the Kerner Commission to tell them that Black people in the "U.S." represent a society unto themselves. We knew that - and that that society was/is an oppressed society second to none.

Hence, the second reason my statement of more than twenty years ago was articulated was in response to Paulo Freire's clear sighting:

If we consider society as a being, it is obvious that only a society which is a "being for itself" can develop. Societies which are dual, "reflex," invaded and dependent on the metropolitan society cannot develop because they are alienated; their political, economic, and cultural decision-making power is located outside themselves, in the invader society. In the last analysis, the latter determines the destiny of the former: mere transformations; for it is their transformation - not their development - that is to the interest of the metropolitan society. (Pedagogy 160)

Thus, while negro misleadership (cf. The RACE) has gleefully and gladly chosen disdainful duality, it is at the same time necessary to address the inevitable duality from which most of the rest of us suffer as a consequence of being oppressed. Indeed, both in terms of utility and symbolically, it seems that nowhere do disdainful duality and inevitable duality merge quite as they do in the "African American" thing.

When the term African American was given some definitive utilitarian credence around '70-71, it was to advance the political nomenclature from Black all the way back to Afrikan. Black had suffered its own injuries at the hands of negro misleadership and its sponsors, and was often degenerated into Black American. An adjective/ noun had seen an advance to proper noun, only to be degenerated into a base adjective. The next move was to make a leap and bold cut: Transpose the original noun in place of the debased thing, while retaining the illegal surname just long enough for people to see the contradiction, after which they'd make the final purge and be left only with the original as they marched toward their original selves.

African American didn't stick, but the coming regression of 1972 forward did ... until the quantum-leap surge of Blackness that began to show itself around '86-87. The search for the proper name - or, more precisely, its use - was on again, and Afrikan seemed to be coming through the ethers fairly easily. In stepped negro misleadership's anti-reading (cf. The RACE), ultra-opportunist, publicity-gluttonous charlatan with African American, and its use has spread like a cancer, producing a tourism of the soul.

So, despite the efforts of Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, Sekou Toure, and others, as well as the formidable presentations of Freire after them, to dissect and destroy this pathology, negro misleadership has made double-consciousness, duality in general attractive - at the same time legitimizing negro appropriation of the oppressor's surname, which itself is designed to hide the oppressor's true identity, his true deeds, and, in sum, his crimes against humanity - no greater one of which resulted in the negro. Beyond the robotic impetus of the breedstud, the house nigger, the quisling, the bantustan mayor, and plain willful sell-out, there is the generalized pathology of duality which, rather than being romanticized and accepted in all the ways negroes in "America" and "South Africa" find ways to, must be attacked and destroyed before Afrikan people can return to their human destiny. Understanding a version of this, Freire has written:

The oppressed suffer from the duality which has established itself in their innermost being. They discover that without freedom they cannot exist authentically. Yet, although they desire authentic existence, they fear it. They are at one and the same time themselves and the oppressor whose consciousness they have internalized. The conflict lies in the choice between being wholly themselves or being divided; between ejecting the oppressor within or not ejecting him; between human solidarity or alienation; between following prescriptions or having choices; between being spectators or actors; between acting or having the illusion of acting through the action of the oppressors; between speaking out or being silent, castrated in their power to create and re-create, in their power to transform the world. (Pedagogy 32-33)

Since I trust Jerry Ward, I trust that he knows that, for me, not to renounce the name of this journal would be tantamount to my being an accomplice in the duality that name aids in spreading. Black South Writing, at its best, has often been, and should be, a finely played weapon launched, by essence or act, against duality. Like all Afrikan writing, it must, whether by inspiration or instigation, lead the Afrikan reader to an affection for self-responsibility and a pursuit of nothing short of The Way, Our Way (cf. Two Thousand Seasons).

Studying, Reading, and Reflecting:

Some Personal and Preliminary

Notes

The works of Paulo Freire, the enthusiasm of youth and the critical heat of maturity. Obviously, I respect the clear articulations of Paulo Freire; but, more importantly, these articulations are most often accurate and incontrovertible. Of no small value is the fact that they are a result of struggle, engaged intelligence, and a genuine pursuit of honesty. As a youthful adult committed forever to Pan Afrikan World Struggle and Restitution and the restoration of Black Excellence, Freire, by way of his masterwork Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which is also a stylistic triumph, struck me.

Few works, regardless of genre, have achieved the lucidity or artistry of Pedagogy, so for this piece I decided to review it, with a special focus on the preface, and first and last chapters. I also decided to look at five other books by Freire, including Education for Critical Consciousness and The Politics of Education. My reason for doing this was based on my knowledge that trying to deal with history properly and to provide a healthy grasp of literature and philosophy in the formulation of a liberatory pedagogy are central to Freire's methodology, to his avowed praxis. Conversely, my formulation and avowed praxis of literature are based on their being at the eye of a liberatory pedagogy.

And so I proceeded with those works made available in this country largely subsequent to Pedagogy and its great success here. Invariably, these latter works did not sing the way Pedagogy did. Not just wasn't the writing as good, but the books were more apparently Eurocentric than I remembered the masterwork being. In fact, The Politics of Education went beyond being landlocked in a too-frequent Eurocentricism into a pain-in-the-ass intellectualism. As a person, Freire, in that latter book, comes off as pompous and elitist. On my return to Pedagogy, I found problems, yet also found that the book is still a great one.

Nevertheless, even in the midst of coming off as a Eurocentrist or as a pompous ass, Paulo Freire has things to say that are too lucid, too sharp-edged to ignore. For example, after insisting, as he has long done, that existence involves more than "living," a fact for which he purports to present proof which is actually lacking on close etymological scrutiny; or seeming to think his way of using the term fantasy is the only way - or, more precisely, the best way - as if the term might not have other cultural cosmological and empirical realities; or his becoming so apparently self-absorbed, in an onanistic intellectualist way, that he contradicts himself; or having made what, for some of us at least, is an utterly incomprehensible statement - "Popular music fascinates me also, but classical music is classic, I suppose, because it is people-based" (Politics 197) - he makes the following invaluable statement:

Without a sense of identity, there is no need for struggle. I will only fight you if I am very sure of myself. I am definitely not you. The reasoning process is similar for groups, even at a subconscious level. In this subconscious process, which the very nature of conflict involves, we do not even recognize the significance of our elaborating a particular language while we are consciously defending ourselves in the struggle for liberation. This is why colonized people need to preserve their language. And the more sophisticated they make their language, the better it will be that the colonizer not understand it, and in this way they can use their language to defend themselves against the colonizer.(Politics 186)

Even for badly mindstripped African people in "America," this process has been carried forward, through African genius and the quest for our humanity- by taking the tatters of the oppressor's language and making adequate and often beautiful quilts to keep us and our young warm and alive in this snowy captivity. (Had some of us understood any little tidbit of this, we might've avoided the whole "Black English" debate. After all we are either the direly oppressed or fools with leisure time on our hands and nothing better to do than debate the obvious.)

Six pages later, in this, Freire's least palatable work - a testament, ironically, to his brillance - the Brazilian extends the above and its value:

At a specific point in time, in this relationship of dominator and dominated, something snaps... Sometimes the dominators are more violent, intimidating the dominated people, making them suffer more. Yet, there comes a breaking point, and these breaking points add up, increasing in frequency, intensity, and quality. All of those breaking points are also moments of culture, by necessity. Dominated people could never learn how to fight if this were not a cultural experience. In the same sense, Amilcar Cabral clearly perceived that movements of liberation are, on the one hand, a cultural fact, and on the other hand, a factor of culture. The experiences of uniting of sparking a different and forbidden speech, of discovering that this speech is valid (though forbidden), of seeing that this speech is beautiful (even though some say it is ugly); these experiences are cultural and belong to the culture of the dominated people. The more dominated people mobilize within their culture, the more they unite, grow .... (192)

On the other hand, what often eclipses Freire's brilliance - as well ironically, as what makes it stand out - is his oftentimes encapsulation within Eurocenttic categories, including the fossilized language of the so-called Left. Right away, with this Left-versus-Right dichotomy (one of many splits characteristic of the European worldview and approach to Life), we recognize a language steeped in European political fuckery and one which has been known to confuse Afrikan people. How, Afrikans have asked, be wrong or bad or reactionary and Left right or good or revolutionary?

Equally nonsensical (at least for us) is Freire's notion that the oppressed, in the process of saving and freeing themselves, should seek to save and free their oppressors. For Afrikan people, the crimes committed against us, if minimally understood, cannot justify such a foolish notion. Paulo Freire's concept can posit such a notion because it comes by way of Europe; we, on the other hand, with even a minimal understanding, know our oppressors know only one thing: the destruction of Life. Freire's concept here of saving and freeing the oppressor is not altogether unlike his overly romanticized notion of "love," which smells like something from reefer-cloudy communes. Also, his "human" chauvinism with regard to animals is not only questionable in its diminishing of animal being and capability versus what he considers a vastly superior human being and capability, it is further, for us, inconsistent with the nonsuperiority view long held by Afrikan people. And as for his concept of "transcendence," our goal isn't to rise above anything, but rather to return harmony and balance into Life within all its dimensions.

After coming out of an intellectualist, Leftist spiel, Freire says, in The Politics of Education, that, because he is "extremely concerned with and see[s] a vital role for subjectivity and consciousness in the making of history, [he] feel[s] that in transforming society, the important task is not to take power but to reinvent power" (179). I submit that we must revise Freire's Euro-landlocked articulation: The important task before Afrikan people is not merely to take power but to take it and reinvent it. One cannot reinvent what one does not possess.

Both the tasks of purging and gathering, of disease eradication and health restitution, cannot occur if every root of the Afrikan tree isn't known and used to brew a healing and people-building tea. One of these roots is the Black South, and one of its greatest conduits of fomentation is the literature, the writing.

The concurrences of Blackness. For a very long time, it has been obvious to me that the most dominant writing in the world, over at least the last thirty years, has been coming from the Pan Latin American world (Neruda, Cardenal Garcia Marquez, Fuentes, Vargas Llosa, Valenzuela ... ) and the Pan Afrikan world (Hughes, Cesaire, Achebe, Ngugi, Armah, Bambara, Dumas, Aidoo ... ). That is another reason I read Paulo Freire and a particular piece by Julio Cortazar, which I will share later, as I reflected on and studied for this essay. It is also the reason that I read three singularly brilliant works (or, in the case of the second, parts thereof) by five Afrikan authors: Clyde Taylor's spectacular "Henry Dumas: Legacy of a Long-Breath Singer"; excerpts from Chinweizu, Jemie, and Madubuike's searing Toward the Decolonization of African Literature, including the last seventy or so pages; and Jerry W. Ward, Jr.'s highly crucial "Black South Medication." There is no way any remotely sane Black person - or nonbigot, for that matter - could read those three works concurrently (that is, study them in the same time frame) and come away with any notions of inherent Afrikan mental, intellectual or spiritual deficiency.

While reading from Toward the Decolonization, it occurred to me that what is really stunning and valuable about the work is that its authors chose to produce it for a Black (university) press and readership primarily. It now strikes me that this characteristic is common to the other two works and their sources as well. As such, the level of brilliance achieved in each work is directly related to a fearless pursuit and excavation of the Truth; and that combined activity is made possible by Black independence and a beholdenness to Afrikan people only. And not by pseudo-mystical happenstance, each one of these works focuses not on the urban or metropolitan distillation but rather on the unattenuated roots-areas of the Afrikan world - Ward, on the South; Taylor, on a profoundly South-based writer capable of world comprehension; Chinweizu, et al., on Afrika primarily and the Black World in general.

What we must recognize is that, despite a megatonnaged assault against Afrikan people and our culture(s), there has been a basic normative and procedural framework that has represented and guided Black craft and its responsibilities. Listen to the three Afrikans from Nigeria:

Community and Craft. The artist in the traditional African milieu spoke for and to his community. His imagery, themes, symbolisms and forms were drawn from a communally accessible pool. He was heard. He had sense. But our "moderns?" When you cannot speak to your people there is a burning temptation either to speak to yourself (privatist mysticism), or to speak for them to outside ears (orphic messengers); to pose as ambassadors to foreigners, to pretend to be bearers of self-composed messages from your people to the rest of the world. The outsiders hear and understand you (perhaps), but your own people wonder what's going on, what the jabbering is all about. (Chinweizu 241; my emphasis)

Now lend an ear to the Afrikan who was then based in Berkeley:

As T. S. Eliot admitted, "These are but fragments to shore up our ruins." For such disillusioned artists of the self-destroying West, the possibility of speaking to a whole, unalienated, undehumanized reader becomes a lost memory. The loss is just as great when the Black poet speaks to an intermediated, isolated "Black consciousness" instead of to Black people. (Taylor 7)

In an intellectually felt attempt to deshackle an essential area of our reality, the Afrikan from Mississippi asserts: "I want to go a step further to say that one of the institutions within which we work is culture itself, a matrix wherein the political, the economic, the moral and the literary are distinguishable but not essentially distinct" (Ward 228). Indeed, Ward admits to holding an "unfashionable belief in the moral responsibility of literary study" (226), and that belief is bound organically to the powerful and pertinent ideas he shares with us from the work of Donald Gibson. "|I would hope,'" Ward quotes Gibson as saying," |that we would carry forward the tradition of black writing that has seen it as functional, as having more to do with our social and political well-being than with our need for enjoyment or entertainment'" (228-29).

I do not find that Ward is re-routing an old, tired misleadership notion of morality. He, like Gibson, seems to know that there is an intimate relationship between the moral, properly and sincerely understood, and the political. Without political-economic control and capability (power), a people, any people, will eventually, steadily lose possession of themselves, lose possession of their very souls. Therefore when Ward quotes Gibson as saying that" |creative literature, in its expression of social value, is a political instrument,'" both are expressing not just correctness but sanity.

The rocks along Afrika's ocean:/ What needs the Mama's children? My Brother - the brilliant one known as Armah - my Brother and I moved through the beautiful sands, speaking in voices turned into a whispering as the ocean drummed the rocks and sprayed our feet with its cymbal fire, wet and sweet. We moved through sands that are nothing - for all intents and purposes - to the black government, but which DuPont and other white scourges have their scouts scouring daily in order to determine how much zircon, lutetium, and other precious elements essential to Western "hi-technology" there are to be refined from these sands. We moved into a cove formed by rocks that looked like coal cinders inflatted by god. And as we climbed over these rocks, he asked me what I thought Afrikan people needed and needed to do. It was not a trick question; it was not meant to be cute. Still I was almost embarrassed at the simple answer that came into my head. In a place where fatalism is confused with religious faith, where poverty rides roughshod, where birth defects are apparent all over, where people are good, where the women have no superiors anywhere on the planet for sheer physical beauty, and where the women's faces are shades lighter than their feet - and recognizing that, worldwide, Afrikan people are not really different from those in this place of the beautiful sands - I said," A cultural revolution."

From Apollo to Imhotep: Black

Southern Necessity

From showtime to amateur night: the Black South and the issues of authenticity and excellence. And when I said," A cultural revolution," my Brother nodded in affirmation .... Yet, there must be a clear understanding that there can be no cultural revolution that derives from metropole intellectuals and others sporting a superior "knowledge." The only places, therefore, from which we can base that vital act, that essential continuity, are those areas where Afrikan people still live - inostentatiously and unselfconsciously - and re-create their culture daily. Cultural workers, even those whose frontal thrust is political, must understand this before they can have any hope of doing whatever necessary job must be done. (This last observation is rooted in two basic points that must not be lost. First, before one is any kind of worker or "activist," one must be fundamentallly a cultural worker. Indeed, anyone who tries to organize Afrikan people politically or economically or military or otherwise without a base in Black cultural work ethics and a profound love and respect for Afrikan culture(s) is going to find him- or herself alienating the people and alienated from them - unsuccessful bitter, and laying blame at all the wrong doorsteps. Second, as a cultural worker, one is as much a student as one might on occasion be an instructor.)

Despite today's raging problem of denial (cf. The RACE) and the scourge of electronic erosion of Native (Bandung) cultures here and accross the planet, where Afrikan culture still, by and large, remains authentic, vital consciously untapped, and relatively untainted is Afrika (especially those non-death-seeking areas), South America, the Caribbean, and the South. And there is a direct and, when thought about, rather obvious correlation between Black Authenticity in those areas and Excellence.

Left to our own devices, our own way of life, and left in living ecosystems, we tend to be more sane, less prone to foolishness. Arrogantly/ignorantly encapsulated in concrete jungles, prone to unabashed oppressor influence and assault, we clearly lie down within a process of creeping-death or oreoization.

All of this coalesces when we carefully watch and study television's most real (in general non-cable terms) Black program," Showtime at the Apollo." Noting "Amateur Night" first, one does not need to look at the show an indefinite number of weeks to realize that rarely do Southern performers, especially singers, get booed off the stage. In the South, as in other authentic zones, an absence of talent in a given art or skill is not encouraged or affirmed. If one can't carry a tune and has a voice like chalk or fingernails on a chalkboard, then older people and peers make that clear with humanity and/or humor and/or biting fire - but always with an internal sternness. It is like allowing someone to leave the family house dressed like Bozo the Clown or Harlot the Whore - you can't leave outta here lookin like that - and you can't go out in public to perform without any talent to save your life. Consequently, using singing as the metaphor, you can't come to the front of the choir if you can't sing, and you can't come to the front of the choir if you can but are not ready. The community and their representatives (whether choirmaster or council of elders or fundi of the arts or crafts) determine one's fitness and one's readiness.

Often, of course, people show up on "Amateur Night" who should not have and, most often, are booed into lusty oblivion. This is a manifestation of the Black way of canceling mediocrity before it can take hold - even in the urban enclave. The problem is that very often the rejection lacks Afrikan humanity; and maybe some bold badness is undeserving of any slack, except that sometimes the Apollo audience becomes so caught up in its power to reject that it rejects talent that needs a hearing. That's neither all nor perhaps the worst of it: Not only is very often the amateur talent, individually and collectively, far superior to the featured professional talent, but that same caught up audience will boo a deserving amateur and allow talentless professionals whose only credentials are that they hold a record deal from an oppressor-controlled record company.

Where the most legendary (though not, in reality, the most definitive) audience can be bamboozled into not rejecting crap, because it has been shellacked with a coating of light brown sugar by our oppressors and their mind-twisting media and soul-numbing technology, then we realize how, when Black authenticity is under attack, Excellence is also under siege.

Still, where the hardercored word is at issue, as in the authentic zones, at the Apollo your shit had better be together - which is why comedians or humorists (and to a lesser extent, because of the music connection, rappers) are dogged whether they are professional or amateurs. In other words, the story must be good and/or the observations must be sharp, and the telling must be down; otherwise, you will be run out of town.

As in the South, etc., it does not matter what the cracker says or, for the initial moment, what his manufactured image of the vessel is. You better be true to the word, sound, and power - or else. Being light-skinned, process-headed, slutty, or faggoty will not do when it comes to what is in fact a level of the orature. Black people outside the authentic zones may allow themselves to be bamboozled in terms of music; but insofar as humor and how something is said goes, you still have to bring.

Plainly, if you represent a branch of the original and ancientmost tree, and if your entire people are the victims of the longest, worst, and least-understood oppression in the history of humanity, then it should require no genius to see that it would require more to move you verbally or to make you laugh than would be required to do the same for some others. So while he may have had his own television show(s) and been popular on the "Tonight Show," when Black people from the Delta and the Westside of Chicago find no humor in his comedy, the fault is not with them but with a comedian who can amuse his oppressors but leave unmoved the concentrated core of his own people. When whites and urban negroes celebrate a singer who, rather than sing straight-up, wallows in hairdos, histrionics, and jive emotionalism, those of us from the concentrated core remember how that same singer rushed to snatch - quite literally - the microphone out of the hands of a soloist from the choir that was her back-up group - a choir from, or based in, the authentic core. Our culture, in its depth of authenticity, is not a culture of fluff and ornate outline, but one of substance and needed sharp edges.

And, in momentary sum, that substance and those needed sharp edges are the result of living not in concrete upon steel upon glass upon greed upon crushed humanity but are, rather, the result of knowing - through one's daily existence, birds, crickets, stars, sweet air, greens, corn, yams, peaches, apples, pears, unblighted trees, untrashed waters, fish, mountain lions, necks proud to be red, and other natural, and sometimes not so "natural," factors that give life its roundness. Southern Black writers know the complexeties of oppressor-oppressed relations, the baseness as well as the heights of humanity, the depths of oppressor greed and plunder, the horrors of oppressor inhumanity, the secrets of the oppressed, the truths of canine-caucasian relations, and what the oppressed must ultimately do ... and they know it at a level no Up-South writer has ever demonstrated; they've known it as long as their people have known it, and their knowledge has no superior anywhere on the planet.

From conquest to critics: chattel slavery, colonialism, and the encapsulation of creativity. As the South is the stepchild of this illegal nation and, thus, an endless victim of poor press, Black South Writing is underknown and, thus, underrecognized in favor of Up-South or Northern Black literature. This is very, and dangerously, unfortunate. The issue here isn't so much either/or, or a reverse-argument of Black South Writing's being superior. What is at issue is how few major-named Black North writers have a deep understanding of the South and, with it, an optimal understanding of the oppressor (and his/her system) and of a rich core of necessary Afrikanity.

All bullshit - intellectualist and otherwise - aside, without that deep understanding, what we are then fed is denatured food - resulting in empty, fat-producing calories, as it were, for our minds and souls. On reading one celebrated novelist, playwright, and essayist and talking with an equally celebrated poet and children's book author, one from New York, the other from Chicago, I realized that neither knew a damned thing about the South. They were not aberrations, they were the rule. And whatever they know about the North is tainted by that other lack of knowledge.

As for those who have run from the South, astute observation reveals that the pathology of flight produces in such writers a distortion of sight and a vision of hideous ugliness.

The only thing worse than those things is what may be worse than our failure to understand chattel slavery, colonialism, and genocide: the mindless absorption at this point in history of European categories and approaches to life and its re-creation. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in our debate over the issue and concept of the critic and criticism. The fact that critics and criticism are the results of a bourgeois and rotting Europe and its settler colonies should be well-known by now. That critics have, historically, been frustrated "artists" who become the kept whores of a putrefying status quo should be equally known. That artists, according to the best traditions of Afrikan people, were beholden to the Race and Its Council of Elders, so to speak, and that there was no need for repressed, would-be artists to pose as watchdogs of what was "good" or "cultured," ought to be the basis for our recovery from conquest. Yet, with bruised genitals in hand, we continue to beat the wrong issue.

We, then, are left with our creativity entrapped, and smothered in a pale veil. And as long as that happens, we never reach what Jerry Ward calls "a more active mode of thinking in history", and failing that, we are subsequently lodged in the impacted bowel of "orthodox [read: white] histories" (233), where we choke to death.

But contrary to the imperial propaganda of our oppressors and their deranged stooges from "amongst" us, there is nothing noble or dignified about masturbation: It does not produce life, it is wasteful and it represents a succumbing to an out-of-control baseness. On the other hand, if the issue is free creativity and the people for whom it exists solely, then perhaps literary celebrants and historians may be useful. But critics and what they do should be thrown on the polluted scrapheap of Europe and left to rot there. We need to understand the necessity of putting Black South Writing in the best position to help free us of chattel slavery, colonialism, and genocide - to help save us.

From popular mediocrity to canonization: recognizing the solution of higher consciousness and radical revolution. The central problem faced by the negro and his/her nigger counterpart is that they don't want anything - except to be shadows of the oppressor. That's why Howard is "the negro Harvard" rather than the new University of Sankore.

In terms of literature and other human, specifically artistic and intellectual pursuits, that is why niggers and negroes slurp after critics and canonization (cf. Ward) rather than something that has to do with us. They want to prove to the master that they can match him in blackface or that they are worthy of sleeping in his bed or peeing in his slopjar. (We lie flatout to ourselves ff we deny a connection between several of the biggest canonists and the fact of to whom they're committed in bed, in head, and for daily bread.) How many ways must it be said before it sinks in? We cannot free ourselves by appropriating the methodologies of the imperialist, chattel slavemaster, colonialist, cultural invasionist enemies of the Race - methodologies designed, we repeat one more time, to destroy us.

And what utter nonsense, what utter fuckery it is for would-be scholars from any group, but most especially the direly oppressed group, to be talking about engaging in a process over which they have no real control At this point in history for Afrikan people, not even marginal control will do. In truth, as logic would have it, the fact that negro scholars have little control over the canonization process is the best indication of its cultural-imperialist origins. Then, again to be involved in canonization, an admittedly alien and non-Black- (or even non-negro-) controlled process, is absolutely no different from "being involved in" chattel slavery or colonialism - and any effort to reform canonization is in reality no different than comparably absurd efforts would be to reform chattel slavery or colonialism.

It is perhaps difficult to say which takes precedence in time or space - canonization, with its foreign elitist objective to anoint certain works "worthy" of being read to the basic exclusion of others not so anointed, or the current pustule of mediocrity, with its self-serving, self-generating metastasis - but it is interesting to note that both canonization and mediocrity tend to ignore the South, and Black South Writing particularly. And mediocrity (cf. The RACE) for its part is a result of urban chauvinism and competition (notably Chicago and, later, L.A. vs. New York); hustlerism and outright theft of fine works and ideas; the color (or lack thereof) and "good-hair" thing; ignorance and denial of the charlatans, thieves, and hustlers among us, and the high standards of excellence they violate hourly, and the failure to call the traitors downfront and punish them severely

When we remember that, in our Afrikan olden days, there was a time when the literature was sacred because its creators carried the trust of the Race's memory, Its deeds, and Its continuity, and that to violate that trust was punishable by death - when we remember that, then we will both see to it that we read Black South Writing and see that it is read. And as we do these things with Black South Writings along with its blood relatives from Home, the Caribbean, and South America - I'm not going to lie to you - we will find that we who have not been bathing in this literature have been sorely cheated by canonization and mediocrity. Big time! Ward is right when, before listing certain Black South texts, he says, "There has been too much scraping and sifting of top-soil and too little digging into the earth for other voices that should engage in conversation with our world" (233). He is right also when, after listing some of these texts, he asserts:

In the presence of these texts, to read is to be read! To listen to them is to immerse oneself in the pleasure/displacement of speech. These books talk in, around, through, about, and on top of realities (or treasured illusions thereof). Read carefully, they attune us to crucial differences and qualitative diversity. They make canon-formation increasingly problematic, for they expose us to the great risk of uncertainty about closure and about choosing what is representative of, by, and for whom. Under the aspect of collective dialogue, Black South mediation has the possibility of forcing us to feel once again the pressures ... of the 1960s replayed in the rhythms of the 1990s. (234)

We must know, therefore, that without these pressures, and the weight of excellent Black South Writing to aid in producing them, there will be no diamond of Afrikan freedom.

The Will to Quiet, The Will to

Truth-Reflection, The Will to

Unbroken Freedom-Act

In Love: Afrikan readers and writers. The singular truth all sincere cultural workers must adhere to as if it were an aphorism or sacred psalm is this: If we are misguided, then we will mislead. Beyond that, we become capable of deceit and betrayal, become interested in awards and rewards (rather than community support and acknowledgment), then graduate to enemy lust, and, from there, become a bane to Afrikan people and our best interests. However, if Afrikan writers put Afrikan readers first in their minds and spirits, then they immunize themselves (as primary cultural workers) against Race-betrayal Hence the fiery correctness of Chinweizu and the Brothers' (following statement:

These African writer... must confront this issue of what community he is writing for. Is he content to scribble marginalia to the literatures of Europe? Is he content to write for an audience whose interest in his work is mostly exotic? Or is he more interested in writing for a community whose members, in reading his works, can confront their own life experiences and find them illumuinated? Who will quote him to their children in order to make their lives more intelligible to them? Let us point out that the immortality of a work - something most writers desire - depends on writing for a community for whose situation the work is resonant with meaning, a community which finds itself expressed in the work. Writing for an alien community which takes only exotic delight in your life is probably the surest route to unremembrance. (24142)

Periodically I return to the March/April 1979 number of the American Poetry Review, one of its best issues, to meditate over a piece by the late Argentine novelist Julio Cortazar that appeared there and whose original title was "The Reader and the Writer under Dictatorships in Latin America." It is, first of all, no accident that the reader comes first in his title, as it does in my heading above. Our readers, Cortazar's and ours, seek a literature that does five basic things: shows them themselves and their world; helps them to understand that world in a living, non-static context; reveals to them how people respond and/or react to their world; shows them how they might formulate and enact fully human responses to their world; and buoys them up with real hope and inspiration.

Our fix on this matter is that Cortazar is morally correct when, as a writer for an oppressed people - a fact for which neither he nor we make any apologies - he states clearly that readers matter to him "not as literary themes, that's certain, but as the deep purpose wich still can lead me to write, to be related, to believe myself not totally useless" (19). Indeed, on the previous page of that same piece, we find Cortazar making a statement that mirrors the same sanity expressed in our last long assertion from Chinweizu and the Brothers. Or, as Ayi Kwei and I have put it privately: Creative literature moves the reader beyond mere exposition, beyond, to use his articulation, "how-to" into what I might call "sightedness." I, therefore, (1) submit that our objectives should be to so stir our readers (the people) that they want to dialogue with us at the highest levels we all are capable of, and (2) contend that Black South Writing, for all of the foregoing reasons, is one of the three logical commencement points for such a dialogue and its subsequent liberatory action.

The handmade model. Will we ever understand the consequences of human craft and creative excellence being encroached upon, and replaced by, push-button, homogenized, fastfooded, overdeveloped bestial techological onanism?

We'd better. Meanwhile...

It is no accident that since the rise of the white world, in general, and "the West," in particular, when tyrants have come to power, the first to be exiled or murdered are the literary artists: Note Franco, Pinochet, or McCarthy as just three quick examples. Conversely, it is no mere caprice that, when Black people in the "United States" have been most active and most advanced socially and politically, it has been at those times when their literary arts were on fire. Neither Marcus nor the Sixties would have been as sweet as we celebrate their radical best parts as being today without a serious proliferation of the literary arts - including orature.

Clyde Taylor in his piece - one which, like all great writing, makes more sense with the passage of time - asserts:

By the end of de century, Afro-American literature will be recognized as the first line of defense of Afro culture. It will hold that post mainly because of its strategic situation in the balance between the social sciences and the vibrant interior forms of Black expression - music, dance, art, speech, etc. - forms of our oral and non-verbal traditions.(4)

What I discovered in early 1990, as I moved about promoting Seeds, is that, in places like D.C. and the enclaves of New York, Chicago, and such, people were reading, but what they were reading was expository and linear rather than re-created reality made vibrant with insight and imagination. Unless the creative re-takes prominence, the current hustlerist stagnation we face will prevail. In other words, we need to be, as readers, engaged actively in the swirl of life only creative literature can provide - not just locked on a left-brain line-trap.

In the articulation of an idea so painful and clear as to almost scream for the best Black South Writing can birth, Taylor writes: "Wherever Black religious culture" has gone it has carried its society of secret believers that Black people's suffering has been so unique in its purity that it must be seen as a work, an accomplishment, whose only adequate response must be a deliverer who will be born or sent to them by God" (11). Using the moral and literary prescriptions of Ward, Cortazar, and the ever-living example of Henry Dumas and the rest of us here, the rooted Afrikan writer understands both the almost crushing beauty of such a belief and the need to keep it from being a poisonous dart lodged in the optic nerve of the Race. Consequently, in accordance with Jerry Ward, I too, "would claim for moral responsibility [that] resuscitation would be a habit of mind or the practice of memory to be encouraged from one generation to another" (231). And with the practice of memory can come human creativity and self-responsible Collective living, completely invulnerable to bestial definitions and influences.

Works Cited

Cheatwood, Kiarri T.-H., ed. The RACE. Matters Concerning Pan-Afrikan History, Culture, and Genocide. Richmond: Native Sun, 1991. Chinweizu, Onwuchekwa Jemie, and Ihechukwu Madubuike. Toward the Decolonization of African Literature. Enugu: Fourth Dimension, 1980. Cortazar, Julio. "The Reader and the Writer under Dictatorships in Latin America." American Poetry Review Mar.-Apr. 1979: 18-20. Freire, Paulo. Education for Critical Consciousness. New York: Continuum, 1973. -- . Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder, 1972. -- . The Politics of Education: Culture, Power, and Liberation. South Hadley: Bergin & Garvey, 1985. Semaj, L Tufani. "The Black Self, Identity, and Models for a Psychology of Black Liberation." Western Journal of Black Studies 5.3 (1981): 158-71. Taylor, Clyde. "Henry Dumas: Legacy of A Long-Breath Singer." Black World 24.11 (1974): 4-16. Ward, Jerry W., Jr. "Black South Mediation." Cheatwood 223-36.
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Title Annotation:Black South Fiction, Art, Culture
Author:Cheatwood, Kiarri T.-H.
Publication:African American Review
Date:Jun 22, 1993
Words:7525
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