Saturday, January 21, 2017

Cultural Capital in a Post Obama America

Tulsa Oklahoma: Black Wall Street

Culture is our way of life; the sum total of all of our people activities, including commerce, and how we produce, manage and grow capital [wealth]. This all starts with identity, how we relate to each other, knowing our worth and not selling ourselves short, or selling out, by how we live.

Sometimes poverty has little to do with not having any money. People can be poor, and remain poor, simply because they lack "Cultural Capital", regardless how much money they have. When a person doesn't know or embrace their heritage, they don't have access to a rich ancestral legacy. This wealth of experience and insight is like untouched cultural capital sitting in a genealogy bank.., accruing interest.., for hundreds maybe thousands of years. Without this access, a person now has limited capital, resources and relationships to build something of value their future generations can inherit. One of the greatest forms of financial literacy, and wealth building, is learning the value of one's culture. A culture's value is its worth and importance. Consider American culture for example. This hodgepodge of various cultural influences/ideas is the United States greatest export -even in embargoed countries. 

I've continually seen the slogan to support black/minority businesses which is great as an economic stimulus yet ineffective as a system in and of itself. Supporting black/minority businesses has minimal impact in shaping, controlling and protecting an economy when its members have a limited understanding of Cultural Capital. Cultural Capital is similar to Social Capital; the network of relationships and resources that form the basis of an economy. In this regard, Cultural Capital is a network of relationships and resources rooted in shared customs, principles and values that mark a people's way of life. It's defined by reciprocity, trust and the cooperation of group members who systematically share and maintain the same resources and cultural interests. Thus this system of shared resources and cultural interests existed before money and is ultimately rooted in our relationships.

It's not enough to simply support a local business because it's black owned. That business could be owned by black people who don't share the same cultural interests as us and who are just as parasitic as other ethnic groups who capitalize off of our patronage without supporting our community they're taking from. It's not about putting money in another black person's pocket. It's about investing in businesses, products and services, that mutually support the growth and development of our families and communities. I was recently listening to a podcast interview with Pusha T speaking about his clothing line/stores Play Cloths and Creme and how acquiring accounts from higher end designers is often challenging. Even though he has been lyrically/visually one of the biggest brand supporters of the Givenchy clothing brand, Givenchy denied him an account to carry its brand at his high end store Creme. Like Pusha T, I see some of our people acting like unofficial brand ambassadors promoting sport teams, clothing brands and other products and services on and offline everyday. More times than not, these same corporate entities are doing little to nothing to support the people, families and communities who are enriching them. To boot, many of these corporate entities are Fortune 500 cultural appropriation companies. In other words, some of these companies glean ideas or outright steal the intellectual property from people, create a product and/or service based upon those ideas and then sell it back to the same people they gleaned/stole it from -who are oftentimes running around promoting it like unofficial brand ambassadors. It's the epitome of a vicious cycle and shows how one's identity is intrinsically linked to economics. This is important to understand because those who have benefited the most from Cultural Capital will inform you that these non-financial social assets are for the purpose of promoting social mobility; code for "culturally assimilating and seeking social status in their society that makes itself rich from your labor while ignoring/marginalizing your minority interests." I'm talking about Cultural Capital as a means of self determination.  

Here in America with the inauguration of President Donald Trump, we are about to witness some national policy changes that will severely effect regional and local economies, including our access to public goods. With his motley crew of unqualified appointments to various positions in his Administration, we can expect to see how Cultural Capital functions much clearer, under the guise of Nationalism. White Nationalism to be more precise. The most appropriate response to this oligarchy is not assimilation, it's supporting each other. In order to do this our highest value must lie in our relationships; the basis of any economic system. Relationships are the only vehicle that enables us to build the trust and confidence necessary to support each other. This also requires us to be trustworthy; demonstrating the kind of ethics, integrity, consistency and moral code people can put confidence in. If there is no trust, dependability or confidence in one another, we will not support each other, our products and services, or be willing to cooperate. Without cooperation cooperative economics or collective work and responsibility won't exist. It brings to mind a recent University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth multicultural economy report that projected black buying power to reach $1.4 trillion by 2020. Leveraging this black buying power to control our economic narrative hinges upon how we choose to reciprocally relate to one another, culturally. 

Throughout our chronology, from hundreds of thousands of years ago as Hunter Gatherers to this Millennial Information Age, our ability to survive and thrive depended and still depends upon our willingness and ability to work together. The 'common' 'unity' that forged our communities was and is culture. Moving forward socioeconomically it is imperative that we seek common ground throughout our people activities. Our lives, and livelihood, literally depends upon each other.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Fences: A Generational Breakdown


The first time I heard of Fences was my exposure to the works of playwright August Wilson who poignantly depicted snapshots of black family life in 20th Century America. The first time I saw the play was through a local theater company where my physical brother played the role of Gabe [Gabriel]; the mentally challenged character that was brilliantly played by Mykelti Williamson in the film. Wilson once noted in the Paris Review that, "I think my plays offer (white Americans) a different way to look at black Americans" and this is precisely what Denzel Washington set out to do and accomplished by bringing Fences to the big screen as its Leading Actor/Director alongside the incomparable Viola Davis. 

What some do not know about Fences is it's a part of Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle [Century Cycle] which consists of nine additional plays, ten in total. The backdrop of most of these plays is where Wilson grew up; Pittsburgh's Hill District, with the exception of one set in Chicago, and each play focuses on a different decade. For example:

1900's -Gem of the Ocean
1910's -Joe Turner's Come and Gone
1920's -Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
1930's -The Piano Lesson
1940's -Seven Guitars
1950's -Fences
1960's -Two Trains Running
1970's -Jitney
1980's -King Hedley II
1990's -Radio Gulf

Something else to consider is even though Wilson's plays depict snapshots of black family life for ten decades, Generations are superimposed over these decades. For example:

1900-1910's The Interbellum Generation
1910's-1920's The G.I. [Greatest Generation]
1920's-1940's The Silent Generation
1940's-1960's The Baby Boomer Generation
1960's-1980 Generation X
1980's-1995 Generation Y [Millennials] 

As you can see, the backdrop of Fences is the 1950's during the middle of the Baby Boomer Generation. During a scene when Troy was talking about his childhood and becoming a man at 14 years old he said he walked 200 miles to Birmingham Alabama when he left home. When his son Lyons asked him why didn't he get a ride Troy responded that there were no cars at that time because it was 1918. That would mark Troy's birth in 1914, the year of the stock market crash. Although the Baby Boomer Generation is the socioeconomic backdrop of Fences, its main characters Troy and Rose were born in the G.I. Generation. This is very important to understand because it puts Fences, and Wilson's other plays, within the proper cultural, socioeconomic and generational context. Some of the reviews and opinions I've seen and heard about this film failed to take this into consideration. They were often cosmetic at best and empty of a real substantive analysis of what black family life was actually like for some of us from that generation, during that decade, particularly in the North. 

I've heard everything from how weak and stupid Rose was, how rotten and  chauvinistic Troy was to how Gabe stole the show being batsh*t crazy. Some of us simply ignored the fact that all of these characters in that community, in that decade and from that generation had limited options/opportunities to change their circumstances. Sure there were women such as Rose from that G.I. Generation who found themselves in a similar scenario and did something about it. It definitely wasn't easy but the easiest route out of a life like hers in the 1950's was the underworld and all of its accoutrements. Other than the underworld or a domestic worker, Rose could have been an Entertainer/Athlete like Billie Holiday, Big Momma Thornton, Odetta, Josephine Baker, Althea Gibson or Louise "Queen of the Kitchen" Beavers if she had the talent -yet it would have been long shot at her age. Sure there was welfare instead of asking Troy for money but welfare was shaky in the 1950's when Welfare Reform began. Some things were simply not an option, especially at Rose's age. Many of the modern women I've seen criticizing Rose about her decision to stay in a relationship with Troy after he had a baby on her are accepting stuff from modern day f*ckboys that would make Troy look like Philip Banks from a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Troy's flophouse options were no different if he wanted to walk out on Rose, at that age. Standing in the same place for eighteen years means that Troy and Rose developed very little skills or professional development training to adapt and progress in a changing world. Many of us have likewise been standing in the same place for years too.

Another thing that's important to understand is that their son Cory, who disapproved of his Father's behavior and Mother's acceptance, is a Baby Boomer. Many of the changes that Baby Boomers brought about within their generation [the 1960's], as with every generation, is oftentimes based upon dissatisfaction/disapproval. Some women during that decade who would have been Cory's Baby Boomer peers made decisions that echoed the same dissatisfaction/disapproval of a Troy and Rose family dynamic. Some women decided the institution of marriage was a prison sentence and vowed never to exchange vows. The Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) was born, America's first formal lesbian organization. Abortion was illegal and birth control pills were approved by the FDA. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was started, bras were burned and the Women's Rights and Feminist Movements were the direct response to a G.I. and Silent Generation. None of these changes we see in the American landscape, in each generation, happen in a vacuum. In many instances these changes are also the result of Socioeconomic Engineering.

Fences starring James Earl Jones, Broadway 1987

As I've mentioned, Fences is a snapshot of black family life for some of us in that generation, during that decade, in the North. As black people we are not one monolithic group and there are various perspectives that represent who and what we are as a people. Even though there are many common themes of institutional racism, white nationalism and sexism we as black people had to deal with  and still have to deal with in America, our entire world in the 1950's did not look like Pittsburgh's Hill District. Just like when we see footage of Dr. Martin Luther King's historic March on Washington, all black people in America weren't there or actually cared about participating in it. On August 28th, 1963 some black folks were sitting at home in a middle class neighborhood saying, "That nigga crazy causing trouble. We got it good right now, why he trying to mess stuff up?!" Although we are not monolithic, it's also important to understand that within this society we are a racially defined as a monolith; one minority group that's intractably indivisible and uniform in our sense of powerlessness. This is very problematic when the dominant society has primary control of our individual and collective narrative. A society where uniform caricatures, outright lies and other disinformation is institutionalized and broadcast to its citizenry to paint us as ignorant, inferior, ugly and impotent. Therein also exists our power of identity, when the highest value lies in our relationships and sense of self determination. Solid relationships where cultural continuity, collective work and responsibility and cooperative economics was and is the order of the day. An excellent example of this was Black Wall Street, a society forged by the Lost and Interbullum Generations of blacks who came of age during World War I and II. 

It was hard to find black people in America today from the G.I. Generation who didn't have any bitterness, disappointment or depression in them like Troy and Rose. Many black families moved to the North during the twenties and were stung with the stark reality that there was a lack of opportunities for blacks who were still segregated from American society. The pride on Troy's face and how his family and friends celebrated his promotion to be the first black man in Pittsburgh to drive a garbage truck gives you a sense of those lack of opportunities. Another name for the G.I. Generation is "The Greatest Generation"; those who came of age during the Great Depression, Prohibition and were veterans of World War II. To give you a sense of what the backdrop of this generation looked like, this was a time in America when girls wore dresses and boys wore suits and ties every day. People generally sought the American Dream, were loyal to its institutions and the KKK had a card carrying membership of approximately 3 million members. Seven Presidents, from the 35th to the 41st, were born in this generation as well as Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson and Jack Johnson became the first black heavyweight champion during the height of this Jim Crow EraThe G.I. Generation was a tumultuous time when race riots were common place throughout American cities and leaders such as Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey came along to give black people a sense of direction. This was also a significant time politically; black people who traditionally voted Republican switched in mass to the Democratic Party. At the same time, and in contrast to blacks in this country, white America began its Roaring Twenties; an exuberant, boisterous time of prosperity and freewheeling popular culture.

Fences was more than a poignant cinematic adaptation of an August Wilson play or a critical illustration of how dysfunctional black folks were. Fences is a bold reminder of Sankofa, expressed in the Akan language as "se wo were fi na wosan kofa a yenki" meaning "it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you [we] forgot." Many of us have forgotten these stories of our elder generation and are thus ill equipped to deal with similar circumstances and race-based challenges our families and communities still deal with today. Fences is a textbook social study of some of our G.I., Silent and Baby Boomer Generations during a decade when blacks continued to face white domestic terrorism on all fronts, be it political, economic, social, emotional and of course physical. The murder of Emmett Till, the fortitude of Rosa Parks and the protests of many others during this time were a part of the catalyst to spark our Civil/Human Rights Movement. Each of the characters in this film told a complex story of identity, autonomy and the struggle for upward mobility in a society fashioned to keep black people powerless. Our resolve wasn't always the best. Yet if we look, listen, learn and respect this narrative, we can better position ourselves to not only change it but gather the power to control it. 


Tuesday, January 03, 2017

9 Keys To Success In 2017

   Reflecting upon how positive and progressive 2016 has been for me and looking towards 2017, I just wanted to take a moment to share some of my thoughts with all of you. First and foremost, I want to THANK all of you who invested time in reading my articles, researching the links/information I share via my Facebook Page, checked out and subscribed to my Youtube Channel (A.S.I.A. TV) and Radio Show (Atlantis Build Talk Radio), purchased my literature/music (Quanaah Publishing) and connected with me in whatever capacity we were able to. It is very much appreciated!! The numerous dialogues, testimonials, letters, questions and constructive advice I receive on the daily lets me know that what I do is not in vain. It's serving my intended purpose; inspiring, empowering and educating people. There are some of you I’ve had the pleasure of meeting for the first time and others I’ve had the opportunity to build/rebuild relationships from all over the world. None of us are in each others lives by chance and I look forward to what these bonds continue to positively produce for the future. You are also all very much appreciated!! As far as Resolutions are concerned, I don’t have any. I am a work in progress so I’m always exploring ways to improve myself so that I can be a greater resource to others. Living a way of life that includes the phrase ‘striving for perfection’ as a part of its fundamental principles is the essence of any/all Resolutions. Therefore, I will continue being as resolute as I have been.

   For those of you who’ve made Resolutions for 2017, here are 9 Keys I revised that will help you achieve your goals in this upcoming year:

1. Although it is your personal Resolution, your Resolution should be something that improves (progresses) you with the intent/consideration of making you a better resource to others and this world we share. Life is interdependent, we all play a role in how the world turns, and there is a constant process of giving and receiving. This intent/consideration ensures that our Resolution is in tune with the universal order and is something that is sustainable -because we are actively providing a service (and/or products) that others, and the world, needs. If all we are thinking about is what we can get (keep), and not what we are able to consistently give, what we get (keep) will eventually run out. If you don't believe this, try it with your breath. Keep it to yourself and see how long it takes for your oxygen to run out...

2. Make sure our Resolution is real and obtainable. It’s less likely we’re going to change EVERYTHING at once so it's important to work on what we can change, one goal at a time. Also, take things one day at a time.... It took a while to create habits/routines and it’s going to take time to change them. The smaller goals we accomplish serve as stepping stones; helping us build confidence and gain the tools and experience that are necessary to forge our larger goals. And with any goal, one of the first and most important steps we need to take, and habits we need to create, is to "Get our day underway with a positive, productive attitude." That attitude sets the stage for our altitude.

3. Make your goals specific. Instead of saying something like, "I’m going to read more" say something more specific like, "I am going to read two novels every month." This is called Specificity. This not only helps you better focus on your goals, but it encourages you to be more responsible and committed to your goals. If you were to say, "I want to be healthier in 2017" there is no sense of ambition or plan of action to achieve that goal. Now if you said, "I am going to only eat baked chicken once a week and go to the gym three times a week for 1 ½ hours" that has a sense of ambition and provides part of a plan of action to achieve your goal of being healthier in 2017. If it's not clear, our path won't be cleared.

4. Set a projected time/date for your goals. Setting a time/date creates a sense of urgency, responsibility, and accountability to meet your goals. If you don’t meet your time/date then set another one. Without setting a time/date then we’re saying our goals aren’t really a priority (important) -because under these circumstances they can happen any time, and any day. That is not resolute, and if you don't have a time/date, there will probably never be a time/date.

5. Write down your Resolutions. I’ve known people who had challenges with organizing their day, appropriating their time, and focusing on achieving their goals. One of the solutions I shared with them was writing down their goals on index cards or signs and posting them in visible places around their home. This helped reinforce/remind them of their goals so they wouldn’t allow themselves to get lost in the hustle & bustle of the day.

6. Only share your Resolutions with those who have shown themselves to be supportive of you fulfilling them. If they’re not there to help you, they’re only going to hinder you. If they're not an asset, they're a liability. If they're not in your life to build, they will destroy.

7. Look into networking with people/organizations that will help you fulfill your physical and mental health goals. If you want to cut back on the substances you’ve been using like drugs/alcohol, or have some mental health issues going on, reach out to any local, regional, national organizations that specifically deal with drug/alcohol abuse and mental health. There are no Resolutions when you don't have your health.

8. Keep a Positive Outlook! Some days it will be easy to maintain a level of positivity and other days you need ‘social equality’ (fellowship) with others -who share the same goals and are just as resolute as you are about positivity. This means, whatever religious, cultural, or secular organization you are a member of or affiliated with, invest the time to be there and learn as much as you can about the positive principles/values they’re sharing with you. This is part of your foundational network and will help you maintain a Positive Outlook when you need the support, which we all do.

9. Your Resolution is not the end all be all. Some people live to have a Wedding while others strive to be Married, have a family, and etc.. While the former is a place, the later is a state. So although your Resolutions may help you arrive at a place, the ultimate goal should be to achieve a state of existence. And this state of existence should set the stage to help us achieve even higher/greater goals! It’s all about constant growth and elevation, not stagnation. Life is constantly changing & evolving, and so should the living.

   In closing, I want to will every one of you and our families a very safe, happy, healthy and productive 2017! I also will that while reflecting on this past year, we consider those negative things we've held fast to that has not only destroyed our ability to unify with others, but undermined our ability to accomplish anything significant on our own. Begin your new calendar year with the right mindset, on the right foot and making the right decision to move forward. We’ve all had challenges within ourselves, and with others, this past year, and I will that 2017 is much more positive and progressive for us all!