In the Afrosphere – A Culture Walk

Some sharing I did awhile ago:

I’ve written some pieces I’m willing to share here on this topic. Fundamentally, if Black folk are to ever have any peace of mind whatsoever, we have to prioritize and achieve world-class mastery in math, science and culture. Each of these pursuits is dynamic – and it’s not about the judgment, it’s about the journey.

Imperatives are clear – and the only thing that will really matter to subsequent generations is the work that we put in. If you do the math across the board – quantify highly-skilled black folk in various walks of life + fiscal independence + cultural fidelity (and that can look many, many ways) = rudiments of strong families, communities and a civilization identifiable by CONTIGUOUS activities and values.

I’m not moralizing here. I’m not suggesting a form of cultural elitism. I’m suggesting that we master ourselves for the sake of developing entities, organizations and collectives capable of viable inter-dependence with the rest of the world. This is not entirely about white folks – and I don’t center them in my frameworks. It is about the historical marker of this time and this space.

Black culture does not have to prove itself to anyone. It is attacked, but it does not have to respond…it exists as a dynamic, fungible panorama – and it will be here and it will morph and it will make money and create jobs and do all the things it has always done. Hip-hop is our SIXTH walk down the musical path of elders foregoing opportunities to invest in youth music. This is not new – but intergenerational alienation from viable fiscal opportunities creates new dilemmas and new fissures in our communities that are unsustainable.

There are many companies whose bottom lines are contingent on black culture…remember when FOX (under Rupert Murdoch) got back in the TV game…it was with black-oriented television shows. The same was true of the WB and UPN for a moment. It remains true of The Source Magazine and Phil Knight’s shoe company and AndOne and all the others. There can be no doubt that if .35 cents of every mega-church dollar was dedicated to building an infrastructure for OUR CULTURE, we would be MILES ahead of where we are today.

When it comes down to it, I will not defend our culture from ignant-ass white folks or black folks. If Al Goldstein and Larry Flynt and Hugh Hefner have not brought about the demise of American culture with their pimp game, it ain’t gonna happen.

Our culture provides the glue to memory and the gas for an inspired future – and it positions us in a dynamic present…one based on interdependence and relationships with other groups (be they spiritual, regional, national, financial, etc.) At the bottom of the culture, however, is excellence in the realms of math and science.

We can talk about racism until we’re blue in the face, but until a generation of us achieve a critical mass of excellence in these two areas, it’s a wrap. Our place on the global stage cannot be at the back of the bus. If it is to be at the head, we have to know more and perform better (on average) than others. We can’t negotiate that. We can’t legislate it. We can’t kill for it or die for it (not wholly). We can snatch up free things – like library cards and MIT’s curriculum and online dictionaries and science labs and access to museums and aquariums and planetariums. We have to master our material world while living our dynamic culture…and for me that means keeping Biggie as close as I keep Sam Cooke as close as I keep Anna Julia Cooper as close as I keep Paul Robeson as close as I keep Kwame Toure as close as I keep Thutmosis III.

I have no time nor the inclination to defend our greatness. Our legacy is a tool to educate our youth, honor our elders and inspire my peers. It is not something to be discussed with enemies. Enemies are merely identified as such and dealt with accordingly. From my vantage point, discussions with white folks about cultural depravity must begin within their cultural traditions. By the time we’re done, everyone is exhausted…if they want to talk about rock n’roll lyrics or rock-porn videos or Hollywood violence or Roman Catholic predations on children or the recent spate of blond teachers molesting young boys or any manner of sickness, I’m down – but the conversation will NEVER make its way around to my people. I don’t get down like that. Straight offense-defense.

This is the place for that level of conversation and it is most appropriate that we redefine our legacy in terms of questions we need to answer for ourselves – questions that are generated by OUR OWN spiritual and material condition.

4 comments

  1. Good Sir, why do you think A-A’s need world-class mastery in math/economics, science, culture (by culture meaning music,architecture, food & art) ?

    Are you wanting peoples of African decent to have more global influence,thereby possibly attaining world-wide respect/admiration?

    In my opinion, every nation/clan on this earth was gifted certain talents and affinities towards certain skills…and all else has to be worked for, because it doesn’t come naturally. Take the Mayans or Ancient Egyptians who built and had the proclivity towards large-scale and very intricate buildings/temples. Then the people of Asia who study natural medicine, herbal healing and other such wholistic lifestyle practices from martial arts, yoga, or chanting.
    You have the white Europeanmen who sailed seas, waged wars and loved high art/fashion, music…etc etc

    Clearly the very diverse African(s) traditions/culture has it’s additions to the world we live in today- Ghanian workmenship with gold, or Masaii of Kenya delicate/beautiful beading skills….

    Why should America’s brown sistas/brothas master those particular subject matters; and how do we go about achieving it finally – in your opinion?

  2. “Good Sir, why do you think A-A’s need world-class mastery in math/economics, science, culture (by culture meaning music,architecture, food & art) ?”

    – Mediocrity is perilous.
    “Are you wanting peoples of African decent to have more global influence,thereby possibly attaining world-wide respect/admiration?”

    – I don’t do the respect/admiration thing. I do the choice thing. I want Black folk to have more choices and control over their individual and collective destiny. If our stewardship of the world is just, then those other things will follow, but that is not the first consideration for me.

    “Why should America’s brown sistas/brothas master those particular subject matters; and how do we go about achieving it finally – in your opinion?”

    – The alternative is intergenerational penury and a marginalized existence as whiny adjuncts to people with mastery and a seat at the table.

    – The solution is to snatch up the fullness of all this free stuff, cultivate discipline in ourselves and out children and commit to a personal program of collaboration, work and progressive control of our local environs. That’s it. If you are better at your chosen profession (could be anything under the sun), then you have something of value to “trade” with others.

    You can trade for money or other skills or information or whatever. Your skill can be the basis for new friendships, new alliances, new business opportunities, or anything. Our capacity to heal the world by healing ourselves is infinite. It’s really not about anyone other than the person in the mirror – it just very often looks that way.

    We are a people with history and traditions and values and viewpoints that are worthy of replication and preservation. There is an excellent way to do that. There is a mediocre way to do that. There is a miserable way to do that. The choice is ours – and no one else’s.

  3. Agreed.

    But that is why we have to continuously, rentlessly, and critically evaluate our culture. We also have to fight to have ourselves derailed from this effort you outlined. Which derailment is usually done via the manipulation of our culture and self-image. That’s what this whole fighting Minstrel Hip Hop thing is about.

  4. Hip-hop (the creative production) is beleaguered and deservedly so. The industry is capitalized internally and externally. Snoop rakes in $150k to kick it at Cipriani’s. And you still have young talent which is routinely cannibalized for the sake of bigger sharks in the game. Like other art forms, hip-hop has made close alliances with organized crime at a number of levels. The push for something like modified language is not likely to be as significant as we’d like.

    I’m wrestling with a few things. The language issue is significant, but it is a trailing indicator (to me) and not a leading indicator. In other words, the terms follow from folks who do not have a BLACK AGENDA. They need an agenda before they need to be told what they can write rhymes about. Sure, the challenge should be put out there, but our young people (according to the most studies) are actually out front on this. They’ve cut their purchases and have reported being turned off by the music.

    That’s a starting point. The next step is to push an organized vehicle that consumes the time and energy of our youth – and provides them with viable cultural tools for navigating this society and understanding their place in the world. Dealing with words like the 3 on the hit list is a very small part of that. If you had finite resources and limited time, would you focus on those three words or would you focus on vertical economic integration of community-based groups with youth programs and mass media. If you did the latter and were creating REAL opportunities, you could ban those three words as a precondition for participation in your program…

    And if your program was providing aspiring artists with pro bono assistance on negotiating contracts, courses in business finance and purchases of real estate, you could set some serious terms – especially if you had an organic relationship with the young people.

    Summits are great for the media, but after the cameras stop and the reverends return to their main hustle, those disaffected kids without options will continue to use terminology that fits the script. I’m suggesting that we change the cast of characters, the plot and the ending of the story – and the niggahs, bitches and hoes will fade to white.

    We share a concern with the future economics of hip-hop as well as with the cultural ground which has been traveled thus far.

    More later…

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