Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Diagramming Sentences or Dissecting and Alienating Souls?

This image was a part of a FB post and article: A Picture Of Language: The Fading Art Of Diagramming Sentences.  Here are some of the FB comments:
  • I remember diagramming sentences in school and really loved doing it on the blackboard and finding the placement of every word in the sentence. Oh! what a wonderfully thrilling challenge and I usually got them correct."
  • "Wish they still taught it in school."
  • I'm convinced this is at least part of the reason today so many people can't write or use proper grammar."
  • I certainly do remember doing this! Loved it!
Certainly, many enjoy misty-eyed memories of English instruction. If that's your lot, I'm glad that you had instructors, families, and/or situations that foster great memories.

I must mourn. While some saw us diagramming sentences, I felt that we were dissecting and alienating souls.

Part of my "not knowing, or "not caring" about "proper" grammar was in part a rebellion against the implied "improper" label directed at us - African people - via the door of "improper" usage of the oppressor's language.

Being taught to use the English language code to challenge oppression, and even to get to know and appreciate African and African-American language codes that we spoke would have helped me have fun with diagramming sentences.

I wasn't asked or allowed to analyze my Great Grandfather's "Gwine" as in "I'm gwine (going) tuh da sto." My mom called him “Papa.” I knew him as “Papa Down The Road.” I remember the mild shock of discovering that his name was really Oscar McClain. My mother's eyes lit up when she said his name. Dad always made sure we visited – with a gift - usually a cigar and a nip.

Papa Down The Road aka Oscar McClain  Photo by Wekesa
Madzimoyo - All Rights Reserved.
Papa’s language code was never invited into the school, and certainly not into the language class. Instead, I was taught to distance myself from it, and hence from him. Not one time did the instructor make sure that I could communicate "correctly" or "properly" with Papa. His code was so simple that it wasn't worth diagramming, I suppose.

My mother, grandfather, uncles were ministers - language was central in our family. Our language was like our dancing or Friday night or shoutin' on Sunday morning - hot, moving, sensual, rhythmic, philosophical and correct in ways that the English language and English people weren't and probably never will be. If I did bring it in the cold surgical table of English and other school instruction would cut it out. Where they saw only grades and red marks on a paper, I saw blood streaming...

I know. I was there. Learning to speak the oppressor's language better than "they" was a source of family pride, it was both a hope that I wouldn't suffer as much, a prayer that whites would accept me (us), and a rejoinder to the claim that we were inferior: "See, we can speak your own language better than you."

Sawdust. It was like chewing on sawdust. Over the long night of oppression, our retreat to survive had morphed into surrender. We didn't learn English to evade, invade, or gain a strategic advantage that would lead to liberation. We didn't nurture or develop our own language codes for our own purposes. Dunbar’s 1896 “We Wear the Mask” had become too faint of a reminder.

Now, by the 1950-60's, we sought to become the mask. The prevailing strategy was to show that we had mastered the words and the syntax of the language which severed our ancestor's tongues.

Fortunately, mixed in with my family pride at my English language acquisition were spikes. “You, talkin’ white” was also a challenge hurled at my increasing English language prowess. It was a sharp pointed admonition for me to remember to wear my proficiency as a mask, and a tool in invade and evade. I know now, it was also a crude yet legitimate request that I REASSURE them that I wouldn't take on the English views about them as my own.

Grand Ma Hettie’s insistence on speaking her language code with style and flair reminded me not to become the new slasher - cutting our people's tongues and spirits by seeing them as “improper” when they chose to speak a different language code than our oppressors.

Grandma - Hettie Tucker
Photographer - Unknown. Property of Tucker Family - all rights reserved.
Though a great cook, farmer, and shooter, she was also a prayin’ kind of woman.  Her constant prayer included. … a “ thank you, Lord, for waking me up this morning; keeping me clothed in my right mind...” I thank grandma Hettie for keepin’ me clothed in my right mind, helping me make sure that I didn’t unwittingly become the mask of terror.

I was in college by the time I heard Sterling Brown’s "Long Track Blues," "Battle of Joe Meek," and "Conjured." When I meet Zora’s Tea Cake and Janie, I was in heaven. I could trust them to navigate language codes without losing their souls or inducing me to lose mine.

My family was welcomed in their house of instruction - in their language classes. Where were they when I was in the 4th grade at PS 26 in Brooklyn. Where were they when I was at J. S. Spivey in Jr. High School in Fayetteville, NC?

Claude McKay's “If We Must Die” grabbed me  - instructed me on how I could use this language to express my disdain for the countless tongues, arms, legs, hands and hopes that had been severed or twisted by English instruction.

Then came David Walker’s “Appeals,” then Henry Highland Garnet, Francis Ellen Watkins Harper, Ida B. Wells and countless others helping to make sure my grandmother’s prayers were answered.

So you see, my English grammar memories are not so misty. While my Black teachers tried to make it fun and relevant. I think I even managed to win an award or two. In their sincere effort to make life better for me, they only saw that we were diagramming sentences, or just learning math formulas. A handful like Ms. Fannie Jenkins (Geometry teacher) saw it as a battle too. When she encouraged me to fight, I aced Geometry.

Education - be it grammar or computer programming - is still a battle for the souls of our people.

Stumbling and often giving mixed messages, my family, community, and the Black Power Movement made sure that in the tug-a-war for my soul, my psyche, my allegiance, and my power, that English instruction - as dissection and alienation - wouldn’t win.

Got to go now.

Gwine spend some time with Papa Down the Road. Did I tell you that he lived ‘till he was 103, and set a mark for me? Gwine sit on da porch, talk with him and have a drink of some of that corn liquor he liked so much. Wanna come?  C'mon. Get up off that surgical table and join us. There is plenty of room on Papa’s porch.

PS: This awareness has spawned AYA's Family Lore Project. Check it out:

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


A FB friend posted this question regarding “Looms:”

Peace, Baba Wekesa, Hope all is well! I wanted to ask your opinion on these online susus that are occurring rapidly?

My response:

They are not “Susus.”

Esusus, Tontines, Susu (various names) are based on community, relationships, and trust. These “Looms” are based on blind faith, not relationship-building faith. In esusus there is an agreed upon obligation and benefit. Everyone contributes a set amount per month, week, or other agreed upon interval. Each month the total pot is given to one member, then the pot rotates each week or month until everyone in the Esusu has received it. The Esusu is an agreement. The loom is a gamble.

In an Esusu, collective money is rotated - not multiplied. TRUST in each other is multiplied. In a loom, money is multiplied.” Maybe your personal trust “in “abundance” and “universal flow of the universe is multiplied. Still, where does the money multiplication come from? What seven people will lose their $100 for you to get $800? It doesn’t matter because we don’t know them, right? Hardly collective trust-building.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't risk it. I take risks. We all do. I am saying that it should not be called a “susu” or confused with one. The current presentation of looms as “gifting looms” or “Blessing looms” trade on our Afrikan spiritual value that if you help others - bless others - you will be blessed. I believe that's true, just not in a so predictable 8-fold way.

My mother – Maggie Wright – gave to the community and our people. Her giving still yields blessings for me and my sisters, even though she's passed to the other side. The blessings I’ve received are many more that 8-fold.

Can the “Blessing Loom," "Infinity Loom," "Susu Loom" – whatever the current name - work for you to turn your $100 into $800? Maybe, if you're getting in at the "right" time or in the "right" loom circle. Of course, you have no control and little influence over that - do you?

It's a gamble cloaked in the warm spiritual blanket of “karma” or community trust-building blanket of an esusu.

I come from a poker-playing family. If you want to risk it, hell, do it. Work it - win, lose or draw, and don't look back! I hope you win. I know some others who have. I also know some who have not.

My dad, Chisulu, said to me, "Son, scared money can't win." So, risk what you can - if you're so inclined.

Just please don't do it out of "love for Black people" or to pay some "spiritual debt," or trigger some "spiritual blessing." There are better ways to invoke that power - with or without cash money. You probably know many ways to do that already. There is need all around. Quiet as it's kept, there are blessings all around, too.

Esusu's biggest benefit that NO loom can bestow is the trust that grows in yourself and that grows between you and other Afrikan people who choose to support each other financially. Dr. Amos N. Wilson reminded us in Blueprint For Black Power that “money follows trust.”

Oppression induces us to distrust ourselves and each other. A properly run esusu counters this injected oppression by healing the distrust while imparting confidence and skill to use our ancient wealth- building strategy. On that expanded trust, we can build other economic, social and even military ventures.

That’s where I’m putting my $100.00

Some people have taken exception to my view. One directed me to read more these looms here: http://www.produce4yourself.com/blogs/news/the-gift-that-keeps-on-giving-the-real-behind-the-gifting-loom

Here's my response:

Q.J.L., I read this perspective. Thanks for sharing.

My take: it's still gambling wrapped in "Karma" and/or "the way and flow of nature, energy, spirit." If that is your way of tapping into your spiritual side, go for it.

Problem: while it may make me (or any participant) more "one with the universal, spiritual flow," it doesn't heal wounds born of oppression and instead fosters a kind of "individual spirituality" in the name of the natural and universal flow.

I prefer a spirituality that's shared with my chosen people - one that engenders trust in each other, not just trust in the universe, God, nature.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Wounds From Battles We Chose Not To Fight

My friend, Chike Akua, posted this video about skin bleaching in Jamaica.

Here's my response:
If we want to stop the bleaching we need to actively show our power by opposing the oppression. 

There's a reason AYA Educational Institute starts with "Warrior-Healer-Builder" instead of "Healer-Builder-Warrior." 

Power converts! 

Whoever shows power garners converts - be it religious, body type, temperament, or phenotype. When the Afro was a symbol of power and purpose, people wanted it. Blacker skin is not only perceived as "ugly," it's associated with powerlessness. 

This is just one more reason that being intelligent is not enough. Healing is not enough. Some healing will only come as we actively oppose oppression. It's not enough to build wealth. Wealth born of capitulation only lauds the power of the oppressor, and with that surrender intact, "Black is Beautiful" and "We were kings and Queens" will not stem the psychic and ancestral blood-letting that is represented by "bleaching." Only as we snatch our freedom from the tyrant's mouth - even if by the inches - will we stem the tide of surrender.

Let's allow the pain of this video to remind us to ask ourselves - "how and in what areas have I been trying to "bleach" the Afrika out? Then stop it, just as we wish they would stop it.

Let it remind us to actively oppose oppression - people, policies, and practices. Start where you are. Join others who are fighting.

You can choose your weapons. You can choose your comrades. Sometimes, you can choose your battles. You CAN NOT avoid the war. It is being visited upon us daily.

Bleaching only reveals the wounds of battles that we CHOSE NOT TO FIGHT.

Like Rev. Vernon Johns one said: "If you see a good fight, get in it."
I add: "If you don't see a good fight, start one."
I add: "Fighting is winning."

Worried that the healer and builder in you will get lost, or that you will become just like them?

On the contrary, the warrior will inform the builder who will know to build a house, a family, a business that will withstand the winds of oppression. The warrior will inform the healer so that the healing medicine and modalities will heal the psychic and cultural wounds born of this protracted battle to make us better warriors and builders.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Faraha Kuzeliwa

Thanks to all who wished me a Happy Birthday, Earthday, Solar Return on Nov. 19th, 2016 I'm humbled by your friendship and well wishes. I love the calls, the cards, the texts, the messages, and the videos.

I love the love. I receive it and take it in.

I'm inspired to celebrate all year long, then start again. In fact, every day is a celebration, for every day I do what I love to do - work to lift my family, my people, and the world - in that order. Your acknowledgment that I have touched you in some way gives me fuel to redouble my efforts and my creativity. Medase.

Special shout out to my son - Rising Sundjata - for that dedication that spawned the dancing, and to Nia Sadé Walker for the video capturing me and Afiya dancing that has gone viral.

Medase to all who were at the Kilombo 11th Annual Dinner Celebration who circled around us and cheered these 62-year-old joints into motion.

Medase to my immediate family - my granddaughter and grandsons who sang Faraha Kuzeliwa all the way from Miami. And to my ATL family - Afiya MadzimoyoSarafina MadzimoyoIfe MadzimoyoTafari Melisizwe, Sundjata - who took me to the Afrikan-owned Sweet Potato Cafe in Stone Mountain for a wonderful Sunday brunch.

First and last, medase to the ancestors on whose shoulders I stand.
Medase. Together, we will win! We will fight, heal, build, and dance!

Now, we're two days away from Afiya's time. Wed, Nov. 30th is the day she came to this world. Her walk before me and with me has been a blessing to me, her family and our people.

If she's touched your life in any way, help me send love to the love of my life - Afiya Madzimoyo. If I've touched you, then she's touched you, for there is no Baba Wekesa - as you know me - without the love, support, leadership, partnership, understanding, sweetness, hard work, and Alabama Afrikan-ness of Afiya Madzimoyo.

Send your effusions of favor and earth-day wishes to afiya@ayanetwork.com. who knows, we might dance again.

Sincerely, Wekesa

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Music Has Stopped!

Time to Evaluate

Ok, so now you know.

Get over the shock. You live in a racist, classist, sexist nation. Fact is, you've always lived in a racist, classist, sexist nation, state, city, and increasing - in a pro-racist "state of mind."
For now, the "illusion-delusion" dance is over. An Illusion = a FAKE IMAGE. A delusion = A DENIAL OF REALITY. Together, they can dance forever. Problem is that white people from Wall Street to Pennsylvania Ave to the Trailer Park are no longer casting the "post-racial" illusion. The music has stopped, so our matching delusion just doesn't match anymore.
Please get over the reality shock to our delusions. Please don't fashion another, stronger delusional bubble in spite of them shouting the reality in our face, or more accurately shooting the reality in our backs.
HarrietTubman 001-057
Our ancestors most responsible for our real progress didn't need to DENY the reality of white racism and the daily oppression of Afrikan people. Still, they organized. Still, they built. Still, they raised us. Still, they fought. Still, they laughed. Still, they created healing spaces. Still, they grieved the losses to the beast's various appetite.
Death was no match for them and is no match for our Spirit, worldview, and determined action. We have forgotten.
burn baby burn


A couple of years ago, a friend worried out loud about me being "cynical" as I criticized Obama's collusion with this system of racism. Though he had no retort to my points, he worried out loud about losing hope. He seemed to think that If he didn't believe in white people's projected illusion and our carefully crafted delusion, he wouldn't have anything else to believe in. He feared that hope would die.
I assured him that I was more hopeful than ever. I said that I placed my hope where Harriet Tubman, Delany, Garnett placed theirs - in our people, and in our vision for real freedom which we would take by the inches or by the mile.
Araminta Harriet Tubman had no illusions about white people's racism, still, she came back for us time after time. She believed in us. She fought for us. None of that was based on an illusion that white racism had or would abate. She was openly critical of Lincoln for just trying to "wound the snake" (her words) that was white captivity of African people.
Bless our souls - many of us are still trying to hold to an America that never existed. "Just America" like "discovering America" was/is white people's projected illusion designed to reduce our righteous resistance. Fighting resistance is costly.
Sure, there have been times of more or less overt repression of our people. Sure, I prefer the less overtly repressive times. Those times have come after our vigorous and militant struggle against white oppression. Can you say the Civil War - where armed Black soldiers and millions of striking Black people broke the manacles off of our wrists? Can you say Burn, Baby Burn of the late 60's and 70's?

We haven't burned anything lately.

morality hides obedience
We have an injected "moral" aversion to it. Talk about delusion? Not always, and still too often our avowed "moral superiority" over oppressors hides our obedience, surrender or submission to them. Somebody recently said: "When they go low, we go high." Sound like we're in control, right?
We don't have to hold to a delusion to have hope - for ourselves and for the world. The root of our delusion is fear born of brutal physical and psychic oppression. This is not a put-down. Owing to years of brutality and our need for relief, our motivating and self-directing fear has morphed into what Dr. Amos N. Wilson calls "pathological anxiety." It's an over-estimation of the threat and an alienation from or denial of our own POWER.
Together, we can turn the fear into confidence. Let's get stronger together. Let's heal the wounds that make us believe that we're not enough. Let's together build strong and trusting relationships, missions, families, and organizations to protect and nurture us in our harsh current reality. We did it before.

Fear Isn't an Organizer:

Don't get it twisted - fear is a motivator, not an organizer. We must do that - every one of us within our circles of influence. Together let us create a warrior mindset and skill set designed to "kill the snake." To do so we'll have to heal the hope planted in illusion and delusion and replant it in our culture, our story, our Spirituality, our world view.
If you find it hard to hope on us, then you've just discovered the presence of "injected oppression." Mark it, it's a place for healing. Right now, just reach through it. It's a Yurugu mind trick. (Yurugu = white people, ala Mama Marimba Ani.)
Faith is the substance of things unseen, right? The problem isn't our faith; it's faith in those who profit from our misery. It's a loss of faith in our way, our ancestors and those yet to be born.
Look to our culture and our people - past, present and future and grow your hope on them. Don't see them? Has your hurt or Yurugu blinded you? Look again. When you find even one, dust them off and place them in an honored place in your home, and in your heart. Build on them.
Sure, "we stumbled a ways..." This is a protracted war on many levels.
This will not be easy, Yurugu loves to maximize your "Black hurt" while minimizing their insatiable appetite for our blood and their barbaric actions to secure our social subjugation. Don't go for it. Together, we'll get through it.
Keep reaching for our people. Keep putting them in sacred places. They and your actions will lead you to others until your mantle is full. Your clarity will grow. Ultimately, you'll outgrow the use of crutches and face the challenge of being eternal.
You'll no longer need to create a delusion to accept their illusion. Instead, you'll become a living confrontation to it - an eternal walking, talking, breathing warrior-healer-builder.
ATL  Taste Dec
ATL super weekend dec 10th  Taste Dec

Monday, October 31, 2016

Storytellers Can't Afford "Free" Speech!

More than entertainment. Join the movement!

Harriet Tubman protected us. She came for us. Will you protect her? They are coming after her legacy. The "scholars" are picking her apart and putting her together as a wonderful woman of "faith and family." No longer will she be "the Moses" of her people." Hollywood is fast crafting her as a suffragette and American hero. No longer will she be the revolutionary.
Why protect and expand her legacy? In reality, they are coming for our children. You see, while history is about the past, it serves the present and future. Will her story serve us or those who profit from our misery? There are many ways we can't protect our children and our people - this is one way we can stand our ground.

She waded through swamps and crawled in the grass like a snake to get to us. She braved cold winters and the threat of death to get us to the next level of freedom. Will you inconvenience yourself? Come, we'll show how it's done.

This movement is not about protesting what others will do. It's about proactively thwarting what they are doing! It's about love and courage - not Araminta's - ours!
It's about controlling the narrative in our community's hearts. It's making sure her songs will lead us to freedom like her feet, pistol, shotgun and sword did in the past.

"Pay attention;" you can't afford "free" speech is a line from one of my favorite old-school "funk" groups - Parliament-Funkadelic.

There is a difference between the right to freely speak your mind, and speaking anything that comes to your mind. Our ancestors knew the power of story. They knew that the story precedes the revolution. Now, those who mean us no good have commandeered story making and story telling. Is it any wonder we can't get off the ground?

Most of what we talk freely about are the stories our oppressors have told or stories they paid us to tell for them - the game, the contest, the song, the holiday, the latest Marvel, HBO, FOX or PBS installment, blah, blah, blah.

If they pay us to speak, then our words will serve their interests first, if not exclusively.

"Pay attention; you can't afford free speech" means our words have power. Our stories have even more power. A power that we have been induced to give away. If you join this movement, the process will help you snatch that power back. You can use that power to snatch our children back, our men and women back.

There really is no such thing as "free speech." Our speech is valuable. It's our power. It's the one thing that we can control and it's the thing that we've been induced to give away.

It won't be easy. We're so accustomed to reacting - talkin' about their stories that it will feel strange and even scary at first. Yes, scary, for deep down, we too know the power of our speech, our stories. We know that to tell our own story is the internal healing and building that supports our action for real change.

The Araminta Warrior-Healer-Builder story shows one way to use our story-power. Come enjoy; then - in your own way - join this movement to control our narratives, our relationships, our lives.
Araminta Harriet Tubman was a revolutionary. Revolution means change - real change, not change orchestrated by those who oppress us. The story precedes the revolution.

See you 6PM tonight @ Auburn Ave. Research Library in Atlanta.

See you 5PM Thursday in Tallahassee, Florida.

See you 7:30 PM Thursday in Tallahassee, FL

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