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Should Walt Whitman Be #Cancelled? | JSTOR Daily
"Black America talks back to “The Good Gray Poet” at 200."



"In 2013, Timothy McNair, a black, gay graduate student in music at Northwestern University, refused to perform Howard Hanson’s “Song of Democracy,” a musical piece with lyrics derived from Walt Whitman’s legendary poetry collection Leaves of Grass. In his writing beyond Leaves of Grass, McNair discovered racist comments in which Whitman refers to black people as “baboons” and “wild brutes” and questions their inclusion in the American body politic. As McNair said then, “I’m so tired of being forced to promote the myth of white supremacy by performing works by old white men like Whitman who said blacks were stupid, shouldn’t be allowed to vote, and didn’t have a place in the future of America.” The performance of “Song of Democracy” was part of a course requirement and McNair’s professor gave him a failing grade, jeopardizing his graduation. (He did eventually graduate after the controversy blew over.)

The charge of racism was particularly fraught because it was levied against Walt Whitman, the poet who in Leaves of Grass sang of American democracy as a project of radical inclusion, the poet who wrote about tending to the runaway slave, the poet who looked upon the enslaved person on the auction block and saw in them their generations of descendants, the poet who declared that the enslaved were the equal of those who enslaved them.

Shortly after the McNair controversy, poet CAConrad wrote “From Whitman to Walmart,” an essay dedicated to McNair that explains how much Whitman meant to them as a white working-class queer poet, and how Whitman’s racist comments forced them to reconsider, and reject, that admiration.

As for the substance of Whitman’s racism, George Hutchinson and David Drews, in an essay on Whitman’s “Racial Attitudes” reprinted at The Walt Whitman Archive, provide a helpful examination of Whitman’s thoughts on race later in his life. Like many white intellectuals, Whitman seems to have been seduced by the proliferation of racist pseudo-science in the post-Civil War era, a body of thought largely produced in reaction to black emancipation and the prospects of black citizenship rights as voters and office-holders. Whitman’s racism was not limited to black people, but also extended to Native Americans, Hispanics, and Asians. These comments force us to reconsider all those lovely passages in Leaves of Grass where Whitman the poet celebrates the “aboriginal” heritage of America. Whitman, the man, actually hoped that white Americans would absorb the naturalistic traits of Native Americans, but discard the actual people, much in the same way that contemporary sports fans now cling to their Native American mascots while dismissing living Native Americans who have repeatedly told them how these degrading, offensive caricatures contribute to ongoing Native oppression and disenfranchisement."



"So, what do we do with old Uncle Walt now? May 31, 2019, marks the 200th anniversary of his birth and there will be numerous conferences, exhibits, readings, and celebrations of the poet and his work. I submit that this is not a moment for uncritical celebration of the Poet of Democracy. But there is no better place to look for nuanced critical engagement with Whitman’s complicated legacy than in the work of black intellectuals who have talked back to Whitman. As Whitman scholar Ed Folsom writes, “the temptation to talk back to Walt Whitman has always been great, and poets over the years have made something of a tradition of it. There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in English or American poetry—a sustained tradition, a century old, of directly invoking or addressing another poet.” And in that tradition of talking back to Whitman one finds names like Langston Hughes, June Jordan, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Natasha Trethewey."



"She provocatively uses genealogy as a concept throughout the essay, as reference to the brutal history of rape under enslavement, an allusion to the taboo intimacies of interracial desire despite the nation’s claims of segregation, and as a metaphor for literary influence. Jordan insists that Whitman, because of his queer outsider status, is “the one white father who shares the systematic disadvantages of his heterogenous offspring trapped inside a closet that is, in reality, as huge as the continental spread of North and South America.” By drawing out this distinction between Whitman and the other white fathers of American literature, Jordan clears a space for her own pleasure in Whitman’s work, and also refuses to allow an easy co-optation of Whitman by white Western canon-makers who rejected him in the first place.

June Jordan’s comments also bring to mind James Baldwin’s idea of bastardy as emblematic of the black American condition, that the black intellectual must find a way to use whatever material that she has been given, even the work of imperfect and problematic white fathers. In Notes of a Native Son Baldwin writes, “I know, in any case, that the most crucial time in my own development came when I was forced to recognize that I was a kind of bastard of the West… I would have to appropriate these white centuries. I would have to make them mine—I would have to accept my special attitude, my special place in this scheme—otherwise I would have no place in any scheme.”"



"Like June Jordan, I was also drawn to the queer outsider Whitman. As a New York City tour guide I fell for Whitman the flâneur, the man of the street, the one who saw value in this strange ballet of urban life, and who in poems like “To a Stranger” relished the sparks of intimacy that can happen on the crowded streets. (“Passing stranger! You do not know how longingly I look upon you.”) As a professor, I’ve taught Whitman in American Literature classes. I’ve taken my students on walks from our dingy building on Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn over to Brooklyn Bridge Park, where the old Fulton Ferry terminal once stood, where we read “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” with the East River flowing beside us and the present day ferries docking and departing. I’ve always felt that Whitman predicted the explosion of hip-hop out of the streets of NYC when in the preface to Leaves of Grass he wrote about “the gangs of kosmos and prophets,” a new order of poets that “shall arise in America and be responded to from the remainder of the earth.” Who better fulfills that prophecy than American bards like Biggie, Jay-Z, and Nas? When I see lines from Whitman like, “I know perfectly well my own egotism/And know my omniverous words, and cannot say any less,” I hear the swagger and braggadocio of Kanye West who once said that “If you’re a Kanye West fan, you’re not a fan of me, you’re a fan of yourself.” (Speaking of problematic artists who needed to be “cancelled.”)

Look, “cancel culture” is not really a thing. The idea of “cancelling” someone is mostly a Twitter joke about checking certain problematic and powerful men who we know damn well aren’t going anywhere. That said, these conversations can be valuable if they lead us toward honest reckoning with the past, and honest reckoning with our culpability in the atrocities of the present. Reading the works of black intellectuals on Whitman shows that confronting Whitman’s racism is not about erasing Whitman. In fact, by talking back to Whitman, Timothy McNair was engaging in the very practice of communication across time and space that the poet himself encouraged in “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” though maybe he didn’t imagine the conversation would get so testy.

Black artists like June Jordan talk back to Whitman and talk back to America because they believe that America can choose a better self. As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Whitman, I hope that we can celebrate him while also telling the truth about his flaws—and America’s flaws. As June Jordan says, “I too am a descendant of Walt Whitman. And I am not by myself struggling to tell the truth about this history of so much land and so much blood, of so much that should be sacred and so much that has been desecrated and annihilated boastfully.”"
waltwhitman  poetry  race  racism  2019  junejordan  lavelleporter  outsiders  queer  cancelculture  timothymcnair  jamesbaldwin  langstonhughes  yusefkomunyakaa  natashatrethewey  charlesglicksberg  christopherfreeburg  georgehutchison  daviddrews 
april 2019 by robertogreco
A Place of Rage - Wikipedia
"A Place of Rage is a 1991 film by Pratibha Parmar. The film includes interviews of Angela Davis, June Jordan, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and Alice Walker.[1] It discusses and asks for political action regarding racism and homophobia, linking the two issues together.[2] It was created to be aired on British television and it is 52 minutes long.[3]

The main interviews of Davis, Jordan, and Walker were filmed in the present day. Davis and Jordan discuss the effects of Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, and other activists; as well as women's roles in black churches during the Civil Rights Movement and the outcome of the 1960s Black Power movement.[3] Parmar took a 1970 prison interview of Davis and intercuts scenes of poetry of June Jordan.[1] The documentary also uses music from the Staple Singers, Neville Brothers, and Janet Jackson as well as documentary scenes of the 1960s.[3]

The film title originates from how the interview subjects say there was a "place of rage" within black people in the 1960s where they collected anger from being oppressed and released it against the persons oppressing them. The interview subjects stated that by the 1990s this shifted to a sense of defeatism and internal repression characterized by drug use and resignation.[3]"

[on demand: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/aplaceofrage

"A PLACE OF RAGE, an exuberant award-winning documentary a film by Pratibha Parmar made its debut in 1991 yet it's content is still one of the richest and most cherished with interviews from Angela Davis, June Jordan and Alice walker. A celebration of the contributions and achievements of prominent African American women, the film features Angela Davis, June Jordan and Alice Walker. Within the context of civil rights, black power, lesbian and gay rights and the feminist movement, the trio reassesses how women like Rosa Parks and Fannie Lou Hamer revolutionized American society and the world generally.

‘A Place of Rage documents the lives and politics of three African-American women. Weaving a narrative of spiritual awakenings, political consciousness and poetry through powerful imagery of Angela Davis speaking, Alice Walker reading and June Jordan teaching, A Place of Rage works like a narrative poem. It takes is title from a statement from June Jordan where she tries to articulate how her poetry and her pedagogy emerges from a ‘place of rage” and builds into some other kind of articulation. The film is moving in its quiet intensity and fascinating in its portrait of three powerful Black artists.’
Judith Halberstam, Professor of English,Gender Studies and American Studies and Ethnicity USC.

Pick of the Week. L.A. Weekly July 1992
Winner of The Best Historical Documentary from the National Black Programming Consortium, 1992.

"This lyrical film begins the much needed exploration of the African-American women who sustained and inspired the Civil Rights Movement of the 60's. By shining an intimate light on some of our best known artists / activists Parmar eloquently reveals the power and poetry of the hidden faces. Her film is a visual embrace of who black women really are. " Jewelle Gomez

"A complex image is created of the times, its ideas, emotions, victories and losses...the kind of analysis historical documentaries on African American life sorely need." - Collis Davis, Afterimage"]

[via: https://finalbossform.com/post/184255759875/trinh-t-minh-ha-in-a-place-of-rage-1991-dir ]
pratibhaparmar  angeladavis  junejordan  trinhminh-ha  alicewalker  1991  racism  race  homophobia  rosapark  fannielouhamer  activism  civilrightsmovement  oppression  blackpower  civilrights  feminism  intersectionality  pedagogy  aplaceofrage  documentary  politics  poetry  blackpantherparty  blackpanthers 
april 2019 by robertogreco
marwahelal on Twitter: "𝙰𝚗𝚍, 𝚘𝚏 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜𝚎, 𝚊 𝚕𝚊𝚗𝚐𝚞𝚊𝚐𝚎 𝚒𝚜 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚖𝚎𝚛𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚊 𝚋𝚘𝚍𝚢 𝚘𝚏 𝚟𝚘𝚌𝚊𝚋𝚞𝚕𝚊𝚛𝚢 𝚘𝚛 𝚊 𝚜𝚎
"𝙰𝚗𝚍, 𝚘𝚏 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜𝚎, 𝚊 𝚕𝚊𝚗𝚐𝚞𝚊𝚐𝚎 𝚒𝚜 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚖𝚎𝚛𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚊 𝚋𝚘𝚍𝚢 𝚘𝚏 𝚟𝚘𝚌𝚊𝚋𝚞𝚕𝚊𝚛𝚢 𝚘𝚛 𝚊 𝚜𝚎𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚐𝚛𝚊𝚖𝚖𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚌𝚊𝚕 𝚛𝚞𝚕𝚎𝚜. 𝙸𝚝 𝚒𝚜 𝚊 𝚏𝚕𝚊𝚜𝚑 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚑𝚞𝚖𝚊𝚗 𝚜𝚙𝚒𝚛𝚒𝚝, 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚎𝚊𝚗𝚜 𝚋𝚢 𝚠𝚑𝚒𝚌𝚑 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚘𝚞𝚕

𝚘𝚏 𝚎𝚊𝚌𝚑 𝚙𝚊𝚛𝚝𝚒𝚌𝚞𝚕𝚊𝚛 𝚌𝚞𝚕𝚝𝚞𝚛𝚎 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚌𝚑𝚎𝚜 𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚒𝚊𝚕 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚕𝚍. 𝙴𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚢 𝚕𝚊𝚗𝚐𝚞𝚊𝚐𝚎 𝚒𝚜 𝚊𝚗 𝚘𝚕𝚍 𝚐𝚛𝚘𝚠𝚝𝚑 𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚍, 𝚊 𝚠𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚑𝚎𝚍 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝, 𝚊𝚗 𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚛𝚎

𝚎𝚌𝚘𝚜𝚢𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚖 𝚘𝚏 𝚜𝚙𝚒𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚞𝚊𝚕 𝚙𝚘𝚜𝚜𝚒𝚋𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚒𝚎𝚜." - 𝚆𝚊𝚍𝚎 𝙳𝚊𝚟𝚒𝚜

Welcome to the VERNACULAR HOME, a @nomadreadings #crafttalk. Before we begin, I ask that if you are following along, that you engage these ideas by sharing them, faving, RTing, and chiming in with your own comments.

This talk is dedicated to all displaced peoples and all people who engage in creating a home of language on the page.

1. We’ve witnessed in recent years how advertisers have co-opted vernacular made popular by Black communities on this very platform and profited from it.

2. What these advertisers know is what any good poet knows: vernacular is the pathway to transformation. It is your first language — that language before you were aware of language. It is “like a howl, or a shout or a machine-gun or the wind or a wave,” K. Braithwaite writes.

3. Sidenote: Transformation has a cost but cannot be bought.

4. And as this scene from Spike Lee’s Malcolm X reminds https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfRDUsvu5fE , English is an inherently oppressive and racist language. As Malcolm X feels through this new insight into our language — a “con” as we’re told — he transforms and viewers are transformed with him.

5. Perfect segue to the next point…

6. If the poem does not transform (itself or the reader) it is not a poem. I repeat: If the work does not transform, what you have are words on a page — not a poem.

7. Let's now establish what vernacular [poetry] is.

8. Vernacular is a term used to express the idea that all languages are equal. It eliminates hierarchies of dialects vs. language.

As Baldwin writes in an essay I will share more of later, “...language functions as ‘a political instrument, means, and proof of power,’ and only politics separates a language from dialect.” (from the introduction by ed. Dohra Ahmed, Rotten English) https://bit.ly/2pXfk3h

9. Now that we’ve established what vernacular is, please don’t tell me you speak only one language...

10. Your dreams are a vernacular. Nature is a vernacular. Your sneaker collection is a vernacular! Signage: a vernacular. Your unique way of looking at the world: a vernacular. Your heartbeat: a vernacular. Breath: same, a vernacular.

Whenever I teach this material, I end up yelling “EVERYTHING IS VERNACULAR” by the end of every class. So get ready.

11. Building on that (pun intended), vernacular is also the synthesis between the language (words and symbols in any language) we choose, and how we construct it with grammar, punctuation, syntax and form.

12. It is inaccurate to say we are "decolonizing" a language. What we are doing is reclaiming it by colonizing it with our own vernaculars and inventing what it has failed to imagine. It is a language that has failed to imagine 𝘜𝘚. And so this craft talk is also a call

A call to pay attention to where this language has become dull, stale, and boring. A call to pay attention to intentional and unintentional connotations. And to undo those connotations. In undoing them, I ask that we create radical solutions for this language that troubles us.

13. “It was during the anti colonial struggles of the twentieth century that the latent political potential of vernacular literature fully emerged.

14. Our resistance is in the refusal to assimilate, the preservation of our native vernaculars, the creativity in that preservation.

It is in understanding that there is a particular language [they] want [us] to know -- that particular language that is taught in schools, and the rules or codes implied in that agreed upon language and resisting those implications or overturning those agreements.

15. June Jordan said, “Good poetry & successful revolution change our lives, & you cannot compose a good poem or wage a revolution without changing consciousness—unless you attack the language that you share with your enemies & invent a language that you share with your allies.”

Now, with these ideas in mind, let’s go into the texts…

Harryette Mullen, "We Are Not Responsible," "Elliptical" and "Denigration" from Sleeping with the Dictionary [3 images of text]

Note the attention to language, the transformation or awareness brought to the everyday humdrum of signage and those aforementioned 𝓬𝓸𝓷𝓷𝓸𝓽𝓪𝓽𝓲𝓸𝓷𝓼.

Note the attention to punctuation. Each poem uses exactly one form of punctuation in a very distinct way.

I will leave the joy of those discoveries to you! We have more to read...

Here, this breathtaking excerpt by @yosuheirhammad from “break (clear)”, breaking poems [image of text]

The Arabic words "ana" and "khalas" are doing overtime.

"ana" = I am and becomes "I am my" in the last two instances. "Khalas" stands on its own line in the first instance -- open to many translations: "enough," "stop," or "no more" and establishes its commitment to finality in that last line, "khalas all this breaking."

MORE! Solmaz Sharif’s “Persian Letters” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/57580/persian-letters

Here the vernacular “bar bar bar” not only shows us the creation of a word: “barbarians” -- it holds a mirror up to the ones who made it.

“We make them reveal
the brutes they are, Aleph, by the things
we make them name.” - @nsabugsme

NOW Baldwin: “People evolve a language in order to describe and thus control their circumstances, or in order not to be submerged by a reality that they cannot articulate. (And, if they cannot articulate it, they are submerged.)”

"Black English is the creation of the black diaspora. Blacks came to the United States chained to each other, but from different tribes: Neither could speak the other's language. If two black people, at that bitter hour of the world's history, had been able to speak to each...

other, the institution of chattel slavery could never have lasted as long as it did. Subsequently, the slave was given, under the eye, and the gun, of his master, Congo Square, and the Bible--or in other words, and under these conditions, the slave began the formation of the

black church, and it is within this unprecedented tabernacle that black English began to be formed. This was not, merely, as in the European example, the adoption of a foreign tongue, but an alchemy that transformed ancient elements into a new language:

A language comes into existence by means of brutal necessity, and the rules of the language are dictated by what the language must convey.

Link to the full essay: “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” James Baldwin https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/98/03/29/specials/baldwin-english.html

Further reading: “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan
Link: http://theessayexperiencefall2013.qwriting.qc.cuny.edu/files/2013/09/Mother-Tongue-by-Amy-Tan.pdf

I leave you with this poem by @kyle_decoy “American Vernacular” via @LambdaLiterary
https://www.lambdaliterary.org/features/poetry-spotlight/09/19/a-poem-by-kyle-dacuyan/ ]
marwahelal  language  poetry  writing  words  vernacular  culture  resistance  2018  jamesbaldwin  displacement  transformation  appropriation  malcolmx  english  poems  dohraahmed  grammar  punctuation  syntax  decolonization  colonization  assimilation  creativity  preservation  junejordan  harryettemullen  connotation  suheirhammad  solmazsharif  arabic  amytan  kyledacuyan 
april 2018 by robertogreco
nicoleslaw: Reading List
"Working through a stack of wonderful books from women of color and I just want to say thank you. (Finished several of these already and I bought Ms. Angelou’s entire collection for Kindle before getting my library card, but I want to wait before reading the next one.)

• Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay
• Redefining Realness, Janet Mock
• I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
• Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde
• The Marvelous Arithmetics of Distance, Audre Lorde
• Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks
• All About Love, bell hooks
• Trauma Queen, Lovemme Corazón
• The Last Report on the Miracle at Little No Horse, Louise Erdrich
• Women Reading Women Writing, Paula Gunn Allen, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Audre Lorde
• Lost in Language & Sound, Or, How I Found My Way to the Arts, Ntozake Shange
• Some of Us Did Not Die, June Jordan

Relatedly, Roxane posted a long list of writers of color on the Rumpus in 2012. Just found this, but it’s quite a gift. [http://therumpus.net/2012/08/we-are-many-we-are-everywhere/ ]"
nicolefenton  booklists  2015  roxanegay  janetmock  mayaangelou  audrelorde  bellhooks  lovemmecorazón  louiseerdrich  paulagunnallen  gloriaanzaldúa  ntozakeshange  junejordan 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Poem about My Rights by June Jordan : The Poetry Foundation
"I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name
My name is my own my own my own   
and I can’t tell you who the hell set things up like this
but I can tell you that from now on my resistance   
my simple and daily and nightly self-determination   
may very well cost you your life"

[via Sha Hwang:
http://blog.postarchitectural.com/15-Eyeo-Talk-Notes-and-References
https://vimeo.com/80501891 ]
junejordan  resistance  poems  poetry 
december 2013 by robertogreco

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