It has been quite a July and we have not even made it to ADA Anniversary yet.

For me ADA Month usually means a packed schedule of events, recognitions and a regular parade of older officials claiming that they wrote the ADA. The past few weeks have proven even more intense than usual as discussions of racism and ableism have taken center stage for two of disability’s most visible organizations. Now, I am far from uninitiated to the terrible crossover of disability and racial discrimination that exist in our community. Usually this is just another Thursday, but the events of last week, have been a lot to handle.

Racism and ableism hit very close to home while I was at the Netroots Nation conference in Philadelphia. I was excited to be facilitating a panel on the unique intersection of Blackness and Disability. My panel – made up of Black and African individuals with disabilities sought to discuss the hurdles faced while attempting to manage both Black and Disability identities and find effective methods to be active in both communities which seemed to have difficulty accepting the whole parts of our identity. During our session, however we found ourselves interrupted and disrespected by Netroots Staff. Our panel started late due to a previous protest, was asked to wrap up early – not because of a scheduling conflict, but because they wished to take the lift that Neal Carter was using to access the stage. Netroots staff interrupted me as I was facilitating to give me the choice to speed up the session so that they could remove the lift, or to continue but leave our colleague without means of leaving the stage. After explaining that neither of these choices was acceptable, and that we would end our session at the planned time, conference staff verbally insinuated that we were keeping other people with disabilities from participating in the conference, (as if we had the only lift in the building), and resorted to heckling before I was able to regain control of the conversation.

Now this sort of ableism was not a surprise. This was not the first conference where I have seen individuals with disabilities being told they have to move on, or stop talking due to a lack of accessibility. What stung however was that Netroots Nation boasts itself as a progressive space where the voices of individuals who are looking to create a more inclusive America is a value. Their behavior toward my panel, and their attempt at misdirection when we did not immediately bend was not an illustration of the safe space of which they claimed to be providing. The staff’s attempt to move a group of individuals with disabilities and people of color because they did not adequately prepare for accessibility is not justice and the desire to silence them because they would not cower is not righteousness.

So that was last weekend. Next, we were met with exposure of Jennifer Lazlo Mizrahi’s deplorable comments about the mental health and blatant bullying of her own employees with disabilities, and her belief that her organization is what can save disabled people from a life of couches, porn addiction, and mental illness. Mizrahi’s comments while terrible are not a surprise to the number of advocates of color who have found themselves bullied or had their work appropriated by Mizrahi and her organization only to find themselves disbelieved and marked as troublemakers by the greater DisCo. It is important to take a moment to note the courage of the young queer disabled activists of color who shone a light on this deplorable behavior. We owe Allilsa Fernandez for her bravery.

This alone would be enough for a big week of disability news, but there also has been the video of Bruce Darling, a leader for ADAPT and the National Council for Independent Living. In a video taken while at a legislative strategy meeting, Bruce Darling is seen discussing tactics and issues that will be put forward at the upcoming NCIL Conference to promote the DIA. In the video he discussed his plan to motivate engagement on the DIA by promoting the idea that Congress cares more about immigrants at the border than citizens with disabilities inside of our country. Regardless of what you believe about his intentions, this plan to promote disability engagement at the cost of vilifying immigrants being placed in concentration camps at the border should be distasteful to anyone who calls themselves an advocate of inclusion and justice. There have been many instances that have proven that you cannot create peace with the implements of war, or as Dr. King said, “one cannot use hate to drive out hate – only love can do that.” Using the plight of an underrepresented people to further promote our own engagement and rights is not a tactic that any of us should be comfortable with. It is even more despicable as many of these folks are also people with disabilities — our people.

The National Council on Independent Living and ADAPT must take stock in their leadership and the tactics that have been used as of late to promote their specific agendas. I do not envy the work that lies ahead to promote leadership that fits in with true inclusion and justice for all individuals with disabilities.

So what should we be taking from all this?

Some of the folk in the community will say that the events of the past week are tantamount to infighting. They will say that rather than being overly sensitive, we should pull together to work on the DIA and handle this behind the scenes as “family business” while maintaining a united front on the outside.  Others will rightly note that these events – though shocking to some – are not new thought the attention shone on them is, and that this is indicative of a disability community that marginalizes the voices of people of color and a mainstream community that equally silences disability advocacy. We as a community must come to terms with the fact that while we face discrimination, we do not have the market cornered on righteousness. We have as much as a responsibility to provide the inclusion that we demand from the mainstream community.

Should we burn down all of these organizations wholesale? The answer is: maybe?

One cannot create an inclusive community while excluding people of color or using tactics that are specifically designed to be divisive. While the actions taken by leadership were indeed terrible, I do not believe that the total destruction of NCIL or ADAPT is for the benefit of the disability community. At the same time, one cannot give a pass to leaders who blatantly violate the trust of multiple parts of our community. In the three previous events one could take a look at all of the work that has been done by Netroots, Mizrahi or Darling in the purpose of promoting disability and even attempt to justify their actions. In this context, they would be noted as one time faux as or slip ups that are not indicative of the greater good and service that they have done or could continue to do for the community. If we do that, however we provide a justification to their actions and not only communicate the loathsome idea that the ends justify the means, but also that certain groups of individuals with disabilities are disposable in order to make justice for others.

We cannot allow ourselves to take the easy road on creating a better world for people with disabilities. We cannot allow ourselves to cheat or hustle the morals of inclusion, justice and access for all. If we cheat, we not only cheat ourselves of the opportunity to do the job right, we cheat a generation of Americans who need these inclusive spaces to be created and maintained for all. This will not be an easy road. Sometimes we will have to reevaluate our actions, question our motives and even ensure that we are promoting actions that will do best for all individuals with disabilities.  While not cheating seems an easy concept in theory, this is not always the case in action. When a lack of funding, support and engagement block your way even the most seasoned advocate may be tempted to compromise. This does not mean that they are the devil incarnate, or have allied with the forces of evil, but what it DOES mean is that they are no longer fit for leadership in our community. If we find ourselves in a space where leaders are using racism, exclusionary tactics and bullying, to promote the disability agenda, we must press for their removal and re-evaluate how they can continue to work for inclusion. If leaders in our community regularly deride certain disability groups and seek to create sexist smear pieces on women in leadership, they must be called out. If a leader in our community uses the tools of racism to maintain their platform they must be pressed to step down. If a leader finds themselves in this role, it is an excellent time to take a step back, re-evaluate, and regroup, and if need be – Resign.

This has to be a key part of the leadership in our community because if we cheat, good loses.

The Tea

Experience of Allilsa Fernandez – https://m.facebook.com/514508459/posts/10156602139398460?s=637129383&sfns=mo

My Dad used to buy everything Black. As a huge fan of sci-fi and a person with vested interest of positive Black portrayals in film and television he would often make a point to collect Black issues of stories, grab figures of Black characters in show and books and note art and literature that specifically included and highlighted Black heroes. Bonus points if the lead character was a Black person too. If you have never been a part of a marginalized culture – especially one that usually fills the role of a villain or even worse – henchman – you understand the import of seeing people who look like you defined as heroes, or sexy, or capable or badass. In the Black community this is an important distinction as we are often allowed to be brutish, or strong, or cool, but not at the same time as being sensitive, complex, intelligent and mysterious. Because of this any time a character that is worthy or pushes the envelope of Blackness – especially in Sci Fi is important. Because of this many of the shelves in my home are filled with figures representing the racial other – Rose Trans, Luke Cages, Finns, Misti Knights and Black Panthers are just the tip of the iceberg. The Angry Spouse and I even have a figure of Barack Obama from the Earth where he’s president and Superman.

My father and I would have talked long into the night about the importance of John Boyega as Finn In Star Wars, and I am sure I would have had to take him to the premier and several subsequent screenings of Black Panther. It would have been his Jam and a mandatory family outing. I remember as a kid watching Norman Beaton’s show Desmond’s because he wanted me to understand that there were many different types of Black people in the world even beyond the diversity of the United States. Because of his love for the genre, these lessons in identity, knowledge of self and Black Pride were often brought to me through times with my Father watching Trek, Who, Babylon 5, Andromeda, DS9 and a myriad of other well done and poor characterizations.

I am sure that like me he would have been enamored with Pearl Mackie’s portrayal of Bill Potts in Doctor Who and how her multiple identities including her Blackness added to the greater tapestry of the show as well as the characterization of the Doctor. It is because of him and his work to make me and my brother proto-Blerds that I feel like I am obligated to say something about Doctor Who.

Last week’s episode of Doctor Who simply entitled, “Rosa” was the third outing for Jodie Whitaker as the titular character and her Benetton trio of companions made up of Bradley Walks, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill. Even by the end of its screening the episode was being heralded as one of the best of the franchise and a memorable moment in television. There are some who will think this statement is overblown, however in Rosa ,” writer Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall took the Doctor to a place and time we have rarely ventured with the Doctor, and for this series – and perhaps all of television the experience changes the tone of how people of color are involved in sci-fi.

In Rosa, the Doctor and her companions find themselves in Montgomery, Alabama 1955 on the eve of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Though some investigation they find that someone is attempting to tamper with the course of history and our friends set themselves on the path to ensure that history stays its course and the Civil Rights Movement remains on track. Now to be fair to critics, there are a myriad of problems with the details in the episode. As a student of history, it is important to acknowledge that the Montgomery Bus boycott was not a spur of the moment event. There was a significant amount of planning and process put in place to ensure that the boycott was established and Rosa Parks was chosen specifically to participate. We also know now that Rosa Parks was no mere humble seamstress or even secretary but was in fact one of the most formidable field Secretaries of the NAACP and in essence a spy and operative for the movement. I concede that these omissions and the contention that the Bus Boycott was the keystone of the Black Civil Rights movement makes the story somewhat inaccurate, but do not believe that they were made to change the tone of the story. Taking further into account that Doctor Who is a British Show, and is speaking to an audience that may not know the details of the Civil Rights Movement in America makes these imperfections tolerable. Thankfully they are also overshadowed by some of the themes and ideas that in the episode.

Time Traveling While Black

Ryan and Yas are in no way the first companions of color to travel with the Doctor. The experiences of Freema Agyeman and Pearl Mackie as Dr. Martha Jones and Bill Potts (res.) as well as that of Noel Clarke as Mickey established people of color not only in the Doctor Who Universe, but both had moments of reminding the Doctor that their personal identities may have a negative effect on their time travel experiences. While this was normally mentioned in passing and soon brushed off by the Doctor in order to move the story forward, this is not the case in Rosa. Within the first 10 minutes of arrival in Montgomery 1955, Ryan is specifically reminded of the dangers of being a Black person in a space that devalues his existence and personhood. The casual ferocity of the man that strikes him is a reminder to all the viewers that there is a real and tangible danger here for Ryan and Yas especially that even the Doctor has no control over. This episode is not going to be a fanciful run through time without acknowledging the identity of all of our heroes – Graham (and Grace) included.

There are a few shows and media (e.g. Timeless, Riordan’s Kane Chronicles, or VIctor Lavelle’s Destroyer) that have delved into this area, but having this danger played out on Doctor Who reminds us that the companions – even the Doctor – will not be cookie cutter time travelers equally respected everywhere they go. We will watch all of our heroes manage authority, formal and informal leadership and identity as they travel. This will give us greater nuance to the characters and also greater conflict. In a show like Doctor Who, I believe that this will result in one of the best seasons ever.

Madame Doctor Who?

Ma’am Ima have to ask you and your friends to leave the store….

There is an interesting added dynamic tied to gender that plays out in 1955 Montgomery here as well. While all of the previous Doctors have been White men, we find ourselves with a new Doctor in a time and place where her gender and foreign appearance gives the Doctor significantly less authority and influence than usual. Jodi Whitaker’s Doctor is sorely out of place, not only in her ideas, but her appearance and accent. While the previous Doctors have had their oddity played as a mark of leadership and authority, because of the placement of women in this space, the tone is not the same for Jodi Whitaker’s Doctor. Our hero barely skates by on her White privilege and holds little stock as a woman from the villains of this era. In the scene in the motel room with Graham and the police officer the tension is deliciously split between fear form Yas and Ryan being discovered as well as deciding that Graham and the Doctor be branded as N-Word Lovers. I don’t think that any Doctor has been placed in a scenario this personally frightening (and that includes Dalek where the Doctor believes that he is about to be executed).

Real Talk

While Yas and Ryan are hiding from the Montgomery Police Officer, there is a wonderful conversation about racism in the past as well as the future. By having the conversation about history but also talking about their personal experiences, Ryan and Yas remind us that this isn’t a special episode e of their lives. People of color encounter racism so much that for many of us microaggressions are something that just happens on Tuesday. In articulating his rage Ryan also shows that he fully understands the stakes at play. Not hiding his feelings in this space that devalues his existence could end his life. The conversation reminds us as watchers that the attitudes of Montgomery in 1955 are not a fanciful escape, but very real dangers that are still manifesting today. The scene is further developed by Yasmin’s discussion of being a Pakistani police officer prone to discrimination from those that she serves as well as the dangers of the Blue Line that does not really want to support her. Even in a post Obama and Black Panther time, this sort of discourse is a rarity on television and with its global audience stands out for Doctor Who as well.

You Gon’ Learn Today

But….me wife is Black

Perhaps the best lesson in Rosa, however has to do with Graham. The only White male in the group Graham has more than proven that he is down for the cause, having married a Black woman, continuing to reach out to his Grandson (Ryan) and even voicing his feelings about how reprehensible being in the Jim Crow South is to him. Perhaps the most important part, however is that Graham is also forced to watch while Rosa is removed from the bus, and escorted off to be arrested and jailed, and not do anything about it. Often with time travel dramas or any period piece we like to fancy ourselves as being enlightened watchers from the future who would have not followed the group and behaved differently in the past. We like to all believe that we would have marched with Dr. King, decried slavery, supported Irish and Chicano Rights to work, or stood with indigenous people in Alcatraz. This is unfortunately a daydream that is even less believable than a madwoman in a Blue Box. While Jim Crow may have seem reprehensible to many, there were still many Americans who would not have done much about it. Like James Blake they would have simply followed the law, and not pushed for change. It was only after activists were blasted with fire hoses, carried away to prison, and beaten on TV piped no America’s living rooms that change really began to take hold. This is a function of change in our country that is no different now that it was in 1955. How many of us will say that we were at the 99% protests or supported Standing Rock? The numbers of those who claimed to be woke will be much larger than those who were actually there. In this scene, Graham is a reminder to us all that good people are still watching, but that if they do not help, being good is not enough. Or as Dr. King wrote in Letter from a Birmingham Jail,

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

The wrap up

Excuse me, Dr. King Rosa Parks is calling me.

Even with the mistakes in history and the lackluster antagonist, as a Blerd, Rosa is exactly the story I want from Doctor Who or any of the franchises my

father and I have watched over the years. It distinctly acknowledges people of color and the fact that we matter enough to be included in our own space as well as the Deck of the TARDIS, the Bridge of the Enterprise, or the last human alive on a mining ship with his cat and imaginary friend. There is a wonderful sort of fanciful whimsy when Ryan excuses himself from Dr. King’s presence to answer Rosa Parks and his reaction equals the moment. While we have seen many companions speak of times visiting Plato, Joplin, or Van Gogh, who among us would not be equally enthralled with Dr. King? I also appreciated the fact that the writers let the companion’s think and express their ideas through their characters identities and not had the Doctor tell them how to feel. This was key in maintaining the agency especially of the characters of color, and at times made it feel as if we were watching multiple Doctors not just one.

There will likely be many who feel hurt from this whole thing – just in case I have a receptacle that is bigger on the inside for their tears. They will make comments about the emasculation of the Doctor, the show pandering to minorities, or how now they have to choose from Doctors 1 – 12 because they can’t cosplay as a woman. I have no time for these folk mostly because if they think that Rosa is too heavy handed, or is an unreal or irrelevant place for the Doctor to be then I think that they may also be missing the greater message of the show. Visiting Montgomery in 1955 and working with Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. is the epitome of intellect, friendship and romance finding triumph over brute force, cruelty and cynicism. While I look forward to seeing more of the usual adventures from the Doctor, I am exhilarated by the theme and message that this Doctor has as a part of her arc. The conversations in this make the entirety of the universe a more robust and dynamic place, and this Doctor may indeed show us something that none of the other 12 has done before.

My Dad would have loved this episode.

The Angry Negro i a self proclaimed Blerd who is in the market for M.A.N.T.I.S. figures.

So I feel like I almost fell for it.

It’s the Fourth of July and many of us are using the day as a much needed respite from the work week, or a time to gather family and friends for the time honored American tradition that we all share: the barbecue. While we can say that all Americans are likely excited for the leisure of the day, for many marginalized communities it is likely that they are not feeling the festive nature and National pride which normally accompanies the mid summer recognition of the signing of the Decal ration of Independence. I have even heard many folks shy away from  referring to the Fourth as Independence Day, as there is a general feeling of a lack of Independence worth celebrating.

On a celebration day like today, descriptions of patriotism, freedoms, and equality ring hollow when compared to the events of the day. The containing contention over immigration, uproar over families being separated at our borders, as well as the privilege being taken over the needs of communities of color make it very difficult to stop everything we are doing and celebrate a Nation that seems to be constantly rejecting us.

So at the front of my house, I have installed  a flagpole, and in addition to regular days and observances, the Angry Wife and I use it to celebrate events or speak to our general mood. Most times the Pan-African Flag flies in front of my Angry Home, though we also have banner for Pride, one to celebrate the Angry Wife’s Irish forebears as well as other banners for the local sports team. Recently the Wakandan Flag has been a mainstay and of course I also have an American Flag. Normally  I fly the U.S. Flag for national holidays and observances and the Fourth of July is certainly a time where it would be out front. Today, however I found myself hesitating to put it out.

It is no secret that many Americans are not pleased with the direction of our country right now. The drastic changes in polices that we have seen at the hands of the current administration seem particularly aimed to hurt members of marginalized communities  or to remove protections that have been established for their welfare. These changes particularly sting as many of them are in direct contrast to the work and policies I helped support in the civil Service. Though I still retain a sense of honor and pride for my home, and my time serving the American people, I did not want to be seen as in support of the policies and directions that are currently being taken under the auspices of that symbol. So this morning when walking out to the flagpole, I wondered if I was going to put the Flag out at all. I though maybe I should hang it upside down as a sign that the country was in distress, or perhaps it would be best to leave the flagpole bare today.

In the end I decided to display the American flag, but not as an act of contrition, but an act of defiance.

Perhaps it helps that on the way to the flag pole, I have to walk past my wall of family pictures. Beginning with our grandparents images of more than three generations of our family stand in relief taking up a single wall of our home. More than two thirds of them have taken the same oath as our current President, agreeing to promote and protect the Constitution, to bear true faith and discharge their duties to the best of their ability. That oath has been taken by most of the adult members of our family, myself included.

In that moment I remembered two things: The first is that the individuals in our family who have taken the oath of civil or military service decided to do so because they believe in the basic principles and ideas of our nation. Yes doing so often came with opportunities and supports like a regular paycheck and benefits, but thee things can come from many places, from many jobs. The decision to make a living in service to our country is a part of our family’s dedication to service, and the belief that we can make the world a better place for everyone.

The second thing I realized (or shall I say remembered) is that no one American gets to define what the American experience is for anyone else. As a country that in many ways is still developing its idea of freedoms, the nature of what it is to be American s not a decision made by policy or legislation alone. If anything, the American identity is one developed by personal engagement, service and as we learned in civics and government class, it is made through compromise. The American ideal is not the sole property of those who wear red baseball caps, ride in black sedans or even sleep under the residential seal. Moreover, there is a definite benefit to those who would seek to exclude us that we continue to believe that we are not worthy of our citizenship. They would have us to believe that people of color, people in poverty, or people with disabilities represent the other and are not “real” Americans. Their rhetoric speaks to an idea that the bounty of our citizenship only belongs to them,and they they have the right to decide who really belongs in our country with is, and the tactics that they employ often seek to make us believe that these spaces — the spaces of our democracy like voting, participating in the process, protest and advocacy, or political engagement do not belong to us.

So as a reminder that those spaces are not solely theirs, I put the American flag out this morning. It is a statement and testament to the need for all people to take part in making our country a better place, and our collective respectability to adjust its path when it is headed in the wrong direction. I do not fly it in blind support but as a reminder to any that promote injustice  in its name that there will be a day of reckoning with that power base to which the country always bends – the American people.

 

 

 

 

Happy Fourth of July! I refrain from wishing you a Happy Independence Day as the questions of freedoms and all men and women being created equally is still a point of contention that we as a nation are yet to fully deal with. In celebration of this day of National Pride I am happy to bring you yet another Fourth of July playlist. Last year’s list, Woke Fourth of July seems almost innocent compared to the thoughts and artists that we have gathered for this year’s celebration. Who know that the breadth of change between 2017 and 2018 would seem so great or that the call to action would seem so necessary. Since we were “Woke” last year, I am pleased to bring you the “Woke AF(ourth of July Playlist)” SPOILER ALERT it is NSFW.
Check it out below and if you wish enjoy the Woke Fourth of July list from 2017 as well
Full list on YouTube
List on Spotify
  1. End Theme from Luke Cage – Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Miguel Atwood Ferguson

    It is hard to believe that I have to qualify this, but there are a lot of really good shows out that are as Black as Luke Cage. Prestige television in recent years has brought us complex characters with long form narratives tied around the Black experience, and though it is not the most complex, Luke Cage is probably one of the most universally watched and discussed. The End theme of the show is both referential and modern: using current hip hop production over what feels like 70s infused Detective show melodies. The duality speaks to Luke’s nature and the nature of Blackness currently itself. Though Luke we are asked whether we are hero, revolutionary, leader, or icon, juxtaposed with the labels that society gives us of thug, heretic, rabble-rouser, and criminal. The irregular staccato beats speak to the changes and assaults on Black existence that are at the same time out of the Blue and expected.

 

  1. Think – Aretha Franklin

    One of the seminal hits from the Queen of Soul. In the 90s Think is often used by corporate companies to sell items or cause us to consider the best yogurt choices. It was rare they ever let the loop make it to that Freedom part tho.

 

  1. Freedom – Beyonce & Kendrick Lamar

    Us. FREE!

 

  1. Bulletproof Love from Luke Cage – Method Man

    It is important to remember that Luke Cage is more thatn a show about an indestructible Blak Dude. Luke becomes a personification of the will to exists and the refusal to deny the valdidty of communities of color. As Jack O’Keefe wrote for Bustle, “In a year filled with the shootings of unarmed black men and women and racism spewing from the alt-right, a series centered around a bulletproof, hoodie-clad black man resonates in a major way and this is the focus of Method Man’s rap in Luke Cage Episode 12.”
    “Who do you call when no one obeys the law and ain’t no Iron man that can come and save us all?”

 

  1. Long Live the Chief – Jidenna

    “I turn the party out like a naughty toy/Then I go and hide in plain sight like a lobby boy”
    In the presence of some of the most open hostility tied toward Brown and Black bodies, many of us feel the return to the techniques and cultural mainstays that have kept out communities safe from lynch mobs, law enforcement, and even well intentioned neighbors who call 911. In all of his testimony about his legacy and being the executive, Jidenna also reminds of the historical need to “hide in plain sight – a mainstay of revolutionary thinking.

 

  1. This is America – Childish Gambino

    There is no doubt that Donald Glover is an artist who has shown mastery of his craft in insightful lyrics as well as videos with a rich visual tapestry that immediately pulls in any viewer. While this video has already been dissected, perhaps the most masterful stroke was premiering the track on SNL before the video was released, casing many people who would not have known about the track to pay attention.

 

  1. Mississippi Goddam – Nina Simone

    The “This is America” of her day except Nina gives even less fucks.

 

  1. Body Count – No Lives Matter

    Ice-T has been dropping knowledge about the inequalities affecting communities of color for a long time. (The O.G. Album is still a high mark in the discussion about inequality – tagged as Gangsta rap it remains a cry for justice from a community that had been long ignored in Los Angeles.) In case you have missed the point, Ice lays it out for you in clear relief.

 

  1. The Last Poets – When the Revolution Comes

    As a youngster listening to the Last Poets, I often wondered if they really thought the revolution was coming. Now as an adult, I appreciate the litmus test that The Last Poets gave me understanding that if someone missed the tongue in cheek discussion as the revolution as the “glory beyond” then they missed the point. Of course, revolution nis just another name for a turn around or flip flop and some of us feel that we have been revolving for a while now.

 

  1. Give me Novacaine – Green Day

    Written during the Bush era, Green Day’s Give Me Novacaine talked about the desire to unplug and allow someone else to make decision when the world seemed too scary intense, or risky. This desire for numbness led our country into the Bush Administration’s development of quagmires, the quest for WMDs and the creation of “vague, yet menacing, government agencies.” While in the Bush era this meant more government control, many of us spent 2017 in a haze of numbness seeking to not even interact with the new powers that be or acknowledge the changes in the world.

 

  1. I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free – Nina Simone

    Nina reminds us again that the desire for freedom is not for rule of one group over another or for the colonized to suddenly become the colonizers. Rather the quest for freedom is part of a call for equity for all or as she says,
    I wish I could share all the love that’s in my heart, Remove all the bars that keep us apart
    I wish you could know what it means to be me, Then you’d see and agree
    That every man should be free

 

  1. Keep Ya Head Up – Tupac

    Sometimes in the struggle e we need someone to remind us that we are worthwhile, we are valid and that things will get better. None do it better than Pac on this track that he wrote for the son that he would never have.

 

  1. I – Kendrick Lamar

    Maintaining our personal agency and worth will be the key to creating a society that is inclusive of everyone. We can all make it if we learn to love ourselves. (For more truth check the Negus speech on the album version.)

 

  1. Guns and Ships – Lin-Manuel Miranda

    On the Fourth of July we are often reminded that our Nation is one of revolutionaries. In Hamilton, however Lin-Manuel reminds is that those revolutionaries were made up of people seeking to change their world into something better. Let us also join with the immigrants and people of color that require that this world be turned upside down.

 

  1. If You’re Out There – John Legend

    Originally penned for the first Obama Administration, this song originally seemed like a self congratulatory anthem. Examined after our POTUS has retired, however it feels less nostalgic and more of a reminder that if we want those days to return, we are obligated to work for them. In this contest the track becomes a call to action to those who remember the values of the Obama Presidency and the deliberate and insightful action that was necessary to maintain a leadership model that was required to be as inclusive as possible.

 

  1. Well Travelled – Janet Jackson

    From Janet’s most grown album to date, Janet reminds us that home is where we desire it to be. As a Black person, that desire to find your home – conocer tu patria – should not be confused with the “discovery” of new lands, gentrification, or claiming territories on which people already live. It should be deciding where is the place that is best for you to fit – where home is defined by you and for you. For many of us, this journey will be an act of defiance and revolution in itself.

 

  1. Pa’lante – Hurray for the Riff Raff

    Pa’lante” borrows its title from a newspaper published by the Young Lords, the Puerto Rican socialist, civil and human rights group formed in New York in the late 1960s and active in large urban centres. In its lyrics all marginalized people can find the words that speak to our individuals desires to fit into our society, and yet also the lines of class, wealth race, and immigration status that are used to tell us that we do not belong. The title is not just a reference to the past but a promise that we all must make to future generations not just to survive, but to move ourselves forward. Mixing these words with those of Cheo Coker, on this Independence Day, in 2018 I say to you Pa’lante Siempre (Siempre Pa’lante)

Pa’lante Siempre (Siempre Pa’lante)

This year Black History Month is most epic as we not only have the premier of Black Panther but also well lead into March’s premier of A Wrinkle in Time chock full of DuVernay Black Girl Magic. Considering the amount of real estate that Black Panther is taking up in the minds of the Black Community, I though it would be fun to celebrate Black History Month by recognizing and examining some of the Black characters who have led s toward a more visible Blerd identity

Today in Blerd Moments in excellence, we elevate Mickey Smith as portrayed by Noel Clarke, Doctor Who

Nel Clarke as Mickey Smith

We don’t exactly start here, but eventually make it to Bedroom eyes Mickey

I am not sure why I wanted to start this list with Mickey. Perhaps it is because he has a fairly broad arc of development to trace. He is present on the first episode of the modern iteration of Doctor Who and like Christopher Eccelston’s Doctor and Billie Piper’s Rose, Noel Clarke as Mickey helps set to tone of some of the best of Doctor Who and possibly in the entirety of TV si fi. Perhaps the other reason I wanted to begin with Mickey, however was because of how rubbish he was at the beginning. I mean just some garbage – just some stereotypical classist borderline racist tomfoolery in a Blue Jumpsuit. In many ways at the beginning Mickey’s character is not only the worst case scenario for character of color, he is also the Worst Case Scenario for how we normally want black men to be portrayed and his initial characterization is far from Moments in Black Excellence.

When we first meet Mickey he is the personification of one who has little to offer. Like Rose he is working class, a mechanic who is content to go to work go out with his mates and occasionally bring lackluster presents to his shop working girlfriend who has not realized that she is too good for him. Unlike Rose, however he seems to lack self-awareness of his role in the universe as well as the possibilities around him. (I’ll come back to seems in a moment.) To make matters worse, even after initially earning some respect from the Doctor, for the viewers, Mickey is branded a coward as he is given a chance to go with Rose and the Doctor on the TARDIS but instead decides to stay behind. This act would not only end up relegating him to being forever Rose’s side chick but also further define Mickey’s impotence being tied to being a person who is unable to take advantage of situations around him for positive change. Even when faced with an opportunity as big as Universe encompassing time travel, Mickey still cannot be bothered to become a primary actor in the show about his own life.

Now this may seem a bit harsh, but before you light the pitchforks and torches, think back to those first three epodes of Doctor Who where we could still pretend that it was in contention if Rose was going to go with the Doctor or not. Were it not for Noel Clarke’s wonderful performances and the endearing qualities that he brings to Mickey – especially in his decision to not accompany Rose on the TARDIS, we might not even remember Mickey at all. Thanks to his performance (and hopefully what was planned by Russel T. Davies this is not the end of Mickey and by the end of his arc we see sharp contrast to his character.

So now that I have spent the last two paragraphs like Trisha Delaney and calming that Mickey ain’t shit, it is time to talk about why he is so important. When we begin our new adventures with the Doctor, we can only see Mickey in the context of Rose Tyler, and that context defines him as her shit boyfriend who has likely been holding her back from development. He is the only real hurdle she seems to have that keeps her from immediately running off with the Doctor and as Doctor Who is the name of the show, you are certainly screaming for her to drop his lame ass and for her to get in the goddam TARDIS already.

In our introduction to the 9th and 10th Doctors, however Mickey is the most self-aware character associated with the Doctor, and that self-awareness likely comes from losing Rose. We assume that Mickey is a terrible boyfriend who doesn’t appreciate the awesomeness that is Rose Tyler, however one could also consider that Mickey indeed knows what he has gotten and after being in Rose’s life he has fallen into complacency. Which ever way you look at tit though, the Doctor’s appearance begins the process of pulling Rose away and it is clear to Mickey pretty quickly that his and Rose’s relationship is pretty much over. This action however gives Mickey some self awareness that no one else in this series. Has. Literally everyone else is madly in love with the Doctor – especially by the time Tenant comes along. While he and Mickey do become friends, Mickey’s view of the Doctor is clearly of the alternate side of the Doctor’s nature. While Rose is enamored with the quirky intelligent explorer who saves species, Mickey rightly sees the maniacal hurricane who is also the destroyer of worlds. Both of their views are correct, but we like to fool ourselves about the reality of the Doctor. We like to believe that all of us would throw it all away to run off with the crazy man in the Blue Box, but in reality, most of us are cemented enough in our own realities that we’d probably think it safer at home. Though it is played out as cowardice, Mickey’s reluctance is likely common sense. Going with the Doctor is not only likely to get him killed, but also cause him to watch the only think that he seems to care about (Rose) constantly be put in danger with the added bonus of watching your (now ex) girl fall in love with another person whom you can’t help to compete with.

Though the process is indeed slow – taking him through alternate universes, and even his own stint in the TARDIS, Mickey seems to finally gain his own agency. For characters of color – especially on TV shows this is a huge deal. Mickey is not there to motivate Rose or to guilt the Doctor. He is also not the Miles O’Brien or Geordi LaForge of the series – everyone’s friend who never gets laid, but heaven help you if he gets hurt because then we all have something to say.

Over the course of his tenure, self-awareness continues to hit Mickey in the face as he is obviously unable to get over Rose in the year that he is missing but also has to deal with being accused of her murder. You almost see him having the conversation with himself in Aliens of London not to still be into Rose, but being caught up in her hurricane the same way she is caught up in the Doctor’s. By the time we get to School Reunion, Mickey has accepted the fact that he is a comedy sidekick (tin dog) in the ongoing drama what the Doctor and Rose.

While Rose and the Doctor will be forever attached, Mickey is able to not only remove himself from the TARDIS but also ultimately (finally) remove himself from Rose. His arc from meeting the Doctor is the same as many companions that follow him, but for the new Doctor Who Series he represents the companions who decide to leave for their best interest rather than be killed, maimed or injured by the Doctor’s shenanigans. Doing this –walking away even before Martha Jones (Doctor!) does it is important and further cements Mickey in the universe. Though the connection of Mickey to Martha seems a bit convenient, by the time we see him the last time he has become his own man. – though I bet Martha makes him call her “Doctor.”

The Angry Negro has been a Whovian since the 80s and owns a box that is bigger on the outside.

Well It is Black History month, and for many this means nothing more than a few additional quotes by Dr King in their timeline and perhaps the return of the McRib. For those of us actively engaged in the sci-fi/fantasy nerddom, as well as Africans AND American people of color, this February is even more special. Unless you have been purposefully avoiding modernity, you are likely aware that Black Panther will be released this month, and it just MIGHT be the crown jewel of the Marvel Universe.

They ain’t REALLY Ready for this

I am reluctant to discuss Black Panther for a few reasons that many of you may well chide me for, but hopefully will also understand. I will certainly devote some time to this issue soon, but the short version is that like many of you reading this, I have been hurt before. Not only have I seen characters that have been personally impactful for me be misrepresented or presented with little complexity or depth. For marquis characters like Batman or The X Men or even Sarek, this is not that big of a deal as these players will be represented many times over. Though the actors that play them may define the parameters of the performance, it is rare that these characters will be wholly defined by one performance. Even with stellar portrayals by Health Ledger, jack Nicholson, Christina Bale, Michael Keaton and the like, their characters still had the opportunity for reinvention. With characters of color, this can be a more difficult path to walk. It is still fair to say that even tough the world of nerdom has gotten somewhat more diverse, t is still difficult to get characters of color as the main draws to play marquis characters. Even with the success that has been seen in the past few years with characters such as Luke Cage, Misti Knight, and even Black Heimdahl and Hermione Granger, there are still many who not only disagree with the browning of fantasy, but in the case of Idris Elba will be quite vocal about it as well. For this reason I cannot take Black Panther for granted. I feel ultimately lucky that this movie even made it past pre production, much less looks to be one of the best films the MCU has ever made. There are fans that have sat through years of bad 90s tropes, half hearted animated specials as well as a whole slew of Reginald Hudland Bullshit who are about to reap the reward of keeping the faith. I do not wish to sully their reward for their righteousness and wish for them that they find all of the perfection, subtlety and character intrigue that they are hoping for from the upcoming film. I have promised myself that I will not be excited about Black Panther until the credits are rolling (I’ve been hurt before) but do have definitely plans to see the film.

All of the thought around Black Panther has gotten me thinking, how did we get here? How did characters of color finally evolve from non existence to stereotypes to archetypes to fully developed characters? In Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes Adilifu Nama attempts to trace the full lineage of Blackness in comics and does a god job of highlighting many of the main characters. Nama publishes his book in 2011 so it captures a fair amount of comic history. Though Super Black is indeed a well developed exploration of representation in the history and characters of comics, there are still some roles ideas and characters that deserve a deeper look (and some that were never examined at all). The book’s completion in 2011 could in no way predict the significant spike in characters of color, individuals who are LGBTQ or have disabilities that would be even more present as the 21st Century entered its teens. For this Black History Month I thought it would be fun to look at some of these characters and even think about their contribution to sci- fi/fantasy  and Black Culture. I hope that you join me in nerding out on this walk through Nerdy Blackness or as I will call it, Moments in Blerd Excellence.

For our first look let us examine a figure from one of the most important franchises of the 21st Century – Doctor Who. Join us as we examine Mickey Smith as portrayed by Noel Clarke in Mickey Smith is (NOT) Your Triflin’ Ex-Boyfriend

 

 

OK So obviously, I owe a bit of an explanation. There was all that big talk last year about Getting up and not backing down and remaining vigilant in the face of the foolishness that had ascended to Presidential Office. I told all of you to pull yourselves together and even quoted Edna Mode and Rodney Dangerfield (and Dylan Thomas) before doing the exact thing that many of us did for 2017 – which was bury myself in a hole with very little energy to write or acknowledge the happenings in our country. There are a lot of us whose Resistance for the first year of the Trump Presidency was simply doing our best to hold ourselves together. The strange mix of rage, and despair along with what seemed to be an interminable parade of funerals of favorite artists and musicians made 2017 a year that many of us were happy to see the end of.

In any case it is now 2018 and it is time to put the Rage Back in Its Place.

On Tuesday, January 30, 2018 Donald Trump will address the nation in the first State of the Union Address of his Presidency. Though the buzz is already out on what he will talk about there are many Americans who will likely be tuning in for the spectacle that will now play out as a part of the Nation’s Presidential record. While Trump’s particular brand of goat rodeo is not new to the office he holds or the speech he is about to give, his words are sure to be recorded, with plenty of commentary from social media including his beloved Twitter.

While I for one do not have high hopes for eloquent pose or a Mr. Smith Comes to Washington moment, I would remind everyone watching, that for all of the scandal, discussions of impeachment and terrorizing of the press, I doubt any of the members will yell, “You Lie!” or pelt the podium with discount hair pieces. Any protest form the members will likely be seen in the form of their absence or a ceremonial protest guest. Because in the face of an uneducated, over privileged wanna be despot with no sense of decorum, the way to really get at him is the awkward presence of an unwelcome guest.

Well played, Resistance. I am sure our Victorian era shaming will REALLY work this time.

Though I suspect that this is about to change fot this Presidential term the State of the Union Address used to be one o my favorite forms of Presidential pageantry. Yes there is a lot of back slapping and pandering to the Commander in Chief, but it was always nice to see those interactions played out on television. Watching the members grit their teeth and smile and cheer for the office while at times detesting the person who held it is a part of the American process, and it is seen the best during the SOTU. This was also juxtaposed with actually hearing plans and promises from the President, knowing at least if he chose to back pedal, renege or lie he had done so in a place where everyone could see it.

While many of us will still be watching the SOTU to gather these receipts, I suspect they will not be as important this time. Trump has already changed the game regarding Presidential speeches, and the compact that existed between the Office of the President and the American people when POTUS speaks in public. No longer holding to the traditions of decorum, compromise, or the importance of the record, what is the point of the SOTU? Additionally when the President can tweet you stream of consciousness from the Presidential Toilet in the residence, do we even need a regular update on the plan for the Union?

In any case I will be watching. For those of you wishing to join in on the fun, feel free to follow #CriptheVote for commentary from our friends at the Disability Visibility Project and the Lead on Update. For a little extra fun I am also including a SOTU Bingo game to play! Remember that he only REAL way to win is to get someone to suffer though the whole thing with you!

 

Bingo 1 Bingo 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Angry Negro will likely be watching the SOTU while choking down disgust and projecting rage. Join me at @Angry_Negro for all of the fun.