Radikal Readings: Assata: An Autobiography

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As President Obama announced a major change in U.S.-Cuba relations for the first time in 50 years, one of the first people that came to my mind was Assata Shakur. I finished her autobiography earlier this week and although I’ve already began reading something else (ironically about Cuba), it’s impact still hasn’t left me.

I don’t know why I still hadn’t read Assata: An Autobiography all these years after first reading about her. However, with the social and political protests happening all across the country, it was natural to finally pick this up, and I am so glad I did. Assata is is candid, intelligent, humorous, and the amount of strength she has is awe-inspiring.

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Song of the Day: The Charade

14 years later, it was worth the wait. D’Angelo shocked everyone when he dropped his long-awaited third studio album, Black Messiah on Sunday night. What can I say about the album. It is damn near perfect. Just what the music world needs, and what his fans have been waiting for. Recorded in the “old school” analog format, the album is so current, yet such a perfect mix of classic, old sounds.

I could have chosen any one of the 12 tracks as my Song of the Day, like Really Love, which I happened to play non-stop for a couple of hours. Instead, I chose The Charade. The track touches on racism and is so relevant to the movement behind the senseless murders of black men and women that have been happening much to often in the U.S. In fact, The New York Times says the album was rushed up after the events in Ferguson and New York. The album’s cover and liner notes attest to that.

Picture by: Brandale2221

Liner notes from Black Messiah. Picture by: Brandale2221

This song and album is just too much greatness for me to continue. Instead I leave you with a few lyrics and the song below.

All we wanted was a chance to talk
‘Stead we only got outlined in chalk
Feet have bled a million miles we’ve walked
Revealing at the end of the day, the charade

Radikal Readings: Are Prisons Obsolete?

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Out of every book activist, academic, and the all around amazing Angela Y. Davis has written, this is the most recommended. I have made up my mind to read every piece I can by Ms. Davis and I have to say, Are Prisons Obsolete? was the most intriguing.

The subject is one, like Davis says, not very many people who do not have to deal with the prison system actually think about. Yes, I knew about the racist, gender-biased American prison system, however, the detail in which Davis describes it is devastating. It is the most comprehensive look at the social, economic, and political theories behind the system.

The privatization and corporatization of the “prison industrial complex” was something that was a complete shock to me. She goes on to discuss the non-unionized labor, ties to slavery, criminal punishment and the racist and sexist targeting of the poor. Davis also states what many of us do not think twice about: it is nearly impossible for us to imagine anything other than prisons for punishment of crime.

Yet, one of the most intriguing aspects of this book is the very last chapter in which Davis outlines a world without prisons. She describes it such detail and uses such a brilliant example that you can picture it just over the horizon. That is one of the aspects that I love about Angela Davis the most. She not only makes you think about issues, but she challenges us to look at them differently and ask those questions that are so difficult.

Are Prisons Obsolete? is a life changing book. Please read this.

Song of the Day: Try Your Wings

I have a confession: I call myself a fan of Amel Larrieux, however, I really only listen to her first two albums. I really didn’t know that she released a jazz album, so when I did I was literally giddy to hear one of my favorite vocalists had an album in a genre that I love. Her version of jazz is quiet, mellow, smooth and beautiful.

I chose Try Your Wings because it’s a topic that is covered so much in music – love, however, not in this way. The way Amel sings and the lyrics that were chosen are in a way that you don’t hear very often. The song is soft, soothing, and just what I want to listen to on a rainy night. Absolutely beautiful.

Radikal Readings: Women, Race & Class

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What can I say about the brilliance of Angela Y. Davis that hasn’t already been said? Like the other book by her that I recently wrote about, this is an absolute must-read. It should be required reading in every school. Davis writes about a history of the Black, Women’s and workers’ movements in the US and documents a side of the women’s suffrage movement that you don’t read about in history books as a kid. Her words are inspiring and the things she brings to light in this book are infuriating. It is incredibly well researched, presented in a straightforward manner.

It’s important to note this isn’t just about women, race and class, but  study that examines the prevalent racism in the certain women’s movements. A few of the reviews I’ve read by white women state that this book blew apart their idea of white liberal feminism, and that is a great way to describe. It is also one of the biggest reasons why this should be required reading, especially for non women/people of color.

Because it Takes Me Home

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Sometimes I just have a desire to write. To see where my thoughts and pen take me. Often it’s to my deepest secrets – the ones I don’t share with anyone. The ones I am afraid to admit to myself, and there is a beauty there that is unmatched.

My cousin once asked incredulously, “wow, so you really love writing that much?” when I told her I write regularly for myself. I do. I love writing; but it’s also that I often feel a need to do so. I writer will often tell you that. I believe that writers are the most mis-understood bunch. She couldn’t fathom that I enjoyed it so much that I would take my unpaid time out to do this for fun. Yet, that’s just what it is for me.

At times it’s fun. Sometimes it’s cathartic. Others it’s for a purpose, and sometimes it’s just like this – just a need to put pen to paper and release the thoughts. Perhaps that is what it is the most – a release. A release of all that’s inside that doesn’t get uttered into the air and landed upon ears.

It’s where I feel most comfortable. As a child and pre-teen, I would write letters to my parents when I had a problem, because writing it down felt more natural than saying it out loud. Time and age has made me comfortable with the saying it out loud aspect, but my inner most thoughts are still reserved for this medium.

Writing about a love of writing may seems cliched, but everything I’ve said is quite true to me. No matter what other aspect in my life I feel inadequate in, I know I can always come home to where I feel the most comfortable. Home is my pen, paper, and thoughts.

Poem About My Rights

Even tonight and I need to take a walk and clear
my head about this poem about why I can’t
go out without changing my clothes my shoes
my body posture my gender identity my age
my status as a woman alone in the evening
alone on the streets
alone not being the point
the point being that I can’t do what I want
to do with my own body because I cam the wrong
sex the wrong age the wrong skin and
suppose it was not here in the city but down on the beach
or far into the woods and I wanted to go
there by myself thinking about God
or thinking about children or thinking about the world
all of it disclosed by the stars and the silence:
I could not go and I could not think and I could not stay there
alone
as I need to be
alone because I can’t do what I want to with my own
body and
who in the hell set things up
like this
and in France they say if a guy penetrates
but does not ejaculate then he did not rape me
and if after stabbing him if after screams if
after begging the bastard and if even after smashing
a hammer to his head if even after that if he
and his buddies fuck me after that
then I consented and there was
no rape because finally you understand finally
they fucked me over because I was wrong I was
wrong again to be me being me where I was
wrong to be who I am
which is exactly like South Africa
penetrating into Namibia penetrating into
Angola and does that mean I mean how do you know if
Pretoria ejaculates what will the evidence look like the
proof of the monster jackboot ejaculation on Blackland
and if
after Namibia and if after Angola and if after Zimbabwe
and if after all of my kinsmen and women resist even to
self-immolation of the villages and if after that
we lose nevertheless what will the big boys say will they lain my consent:
Do You Follow Me: We are the wrong people of
the wrong skin on the wrong continent and what
in the hell is everybody reasonable about…

- excerpt from Poem About My Rights, June Jordan

Radikal Readings: Drown

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After a journalist who’s word I trust recommended Junot Diaz’s writing, I knew I had to pick up his work. Diaz has a series of short stories that appear in the New Yorker, so I decided to go with his first book Drown, which is a collection of short stories.

The collection of 10 stories is based on the Dominican immigrant experience. Diaz’s words are powerful and do not hold anything back when describing the reality of life for his characters. Yet, he holds a measured voice at the same time – not going overboard when describing horrendous odds. They aren’t the most uplifting stories to read, yet they hold a certain amount of resilience in the face of difficulties.

I loved this book. Junot Diaz is a tremendous writer. He writes his characters with such emotion, and on such a personal level. I do not read as much literature as I would like, but Junot Diaz’s writing makes me want to read everything I can get my hands on my him. Amazing book by an amazing writer.