Sunday, September 22
Palestine occupies a curious part of our imaginations. Whether as a beacon of anti-colonial struggle or a stubborn people to be urgently brought to heel, the place and its people are often rendered as an abstraction: a blank could-be nation space upon which outsider values and interests can be projected for better and for worse. But Palestine, the motherland and her diaspora (one comprised tragically of refugees barred from return), yields life from the rubble of oft bombed Gaza to the apartheid-barriered occupied West Bank to Jesus’ birthplace in Bethlehem to the rolling olive groves of Battir to the capital in Jerusalem. “We Palestinians wake up every morning to teach the rest of the world life,” writes Rafeef Ziadah. The martyrs and fedayeen, the poets, the chefs, the filmmakers, the farmers, the scholars, the musicians, the children, they all teach us life.
Dinner w/ Reem Assil
Naima Shalhoub ft Tarik Kazaleh
The Third World Ecology Trilogy
Monday, September 23
In 1858, historian Thomas Carlyle wrote that “leaders did not know then...that an Army, like a serpent, goes upon its belly.” We’re largely familiar with the colloquialized version -- the adage that an army marches on its stomach -- which describes a well-fed militia’s victory in battle just as it could be analogized to describe the centrality of food, hospitality, and familiality on the African continent and wherever Afro-descendants live across the globe. If food is a lifeblood, then dance is an affirmation of life, a somatic expression like advancement across a battleground: a Zulu ibutho protecting the lands at Isandlwana, guerrillas defending their liberation demands under cover of brush. “Everything in the phenomenal universe is straight line and circle,” said Alonzo King. “The horizon, our heads, arms, electrons, the oceans, planets, and stars. The task of the human being, also, is to radiate.” And radiate we will, in all our militarized grammars and modes of/for liberation and expression. Nourished and full, we radiate towards freedom.
Dinner w/ Bryant Terry
The Call of Dance: Senegal
Adji Cissoko & Shuaib Elhassan of LINES BAllet
Thursday, September 26
The 1961 death of Patrice Émery Lumumba was continental and diasporic catastrophe. His murder, actually, not his death. And whenever I encounter some taunt that Africans have neither the will nor capacity for socialism or even so-called “democracy,” I think of Lumumba, le prophète, and the murders of socialists that followed—Amílcar Cabral and Omar Blondin Diop in 1973, Thomas Sankara in 1987, and countless other Cold War assassinations and underminings and subversions. Because during the time of these proxy battles in Africa, there was a larger bipolar struggle for geopolitical domination, and anti-communism was a proxy for anti-blackness. The west saw these arrogant, childishly naïve natives believing they could rule themselves, even fighting often protracted bloody wars for their independence. It is from this milieu that Lumumba—born Élias Okit’Asombo, whose surname means “heir of the cursed” (“okitá/ó” means “heir” or “successor,” “asombó” means “bewitched people who will die quickly”) in his native Tetela—emerged. His assassination was, arguably, the most important of the 20th century.
Before it was the Republic of Congo upon declaring independence on 30 June 1960, it was the Belgian Congo. Before it was the Belgian Congo, it was the Congo Free State, its governance overseen by King Leopold III. That, too, was continental catastrophe. The ironically named Free State functioned as the monarch’s personal plantation for rubber, ivory, and minerals; Leopold had acquired this land in Africa’s so-called “dark heart” under the auspices of abolishing the Arab slave trade. There, a native hand was worth less than a bullet, and disputed figures place the death toll from 1885 to 1908 anywhere between five and twenty million. Lumumba inherited the afterlife of Leopold’s selfish brutality, and just four months into his attempted alleviation of a Congo crisis so many decades in the making, would-be president Mobutu staged a coup d’état: Lumumba would be deposed and subsequently assassinated at age 35, the fate prophesied by his given name coming to fruition.
In a letter to the head of the United Nations Operation in the Congo, Rajeshwar Dayal, he wrote: “...we are living amid absolutely impossible conditions; moreover they are against the law.” While he wrote of his ousting, he also, perhaps, foresaw the neocolonialism that would follow: three decades of a Mobutu dictatorship, bloody regional wars, weaponized rape, further western enclosure of precious/conflict mineral resources (including the tantalum, tungsten, and tin essential to our beloved consumer goods—“coltan as cotton,” as Saul Williams says). When we mourn Patrice Lumumba, we mourn the necropolitical deluge that came in the wake of his death by firing squad. What could the Democratic Republic of Congo have been?
Friday, September 27
The fear of color is called “chromophobia,” it is a fear and revulsion that demands immediate containment and intervention. Its resolution has included an application (or imposition) of the bleaching and voiding qualities of whiteness, which, allegedly, is neutralizing in its purging of colored chaos. But David Batchelor describes this inability to see, this refusal to acknowledge or contend with existent colored environments and cultural practices, as a “negative hallucination.” Colonialism is one such hallucination. The aesthetic essence of much of south and southeast Asia, for fear of parroting the same pedestrian travelogue generalizations and commentaries, is a baroque vibrancy: an unyielding production of elaborate and resplendent sensory elicitations. They excite (and agitate) and inspire, and they calm and satisfy in equal measure. The white void is not comfort, but rather the life it persistently seeks to but can and will never mute.
Dinner w/ Nite Yun
Bryan THAO WORRa: LaoMagination
Kaysone Syonesa: LaoMagination
Tropitaal: Desi Latino Soundclash!
Saturday, September 28
Years after Antonio Gramsci offered the role of the organic intellectual, Walter Rodney gave us the guerrilla intellectual. Like Gramsci, Rodney emphasized a popular responsibility of this figure, namely a generous turn in obligation away from the hostile, accumulationist academy and towards the people. Rodney’s intellectual refuses the oppositional positioning of the soldier and the thinker, the former condemned as a destroyer and the latter praised as a creator. But Shiva as the ecstatic, energetic Nataraja necessarily destroys in his yielding of life—his Tandava destroys the stale, the anachronistic, the harmful, and the lethargic in order to produce righteous, ignorance-defeating, joyous newness over and over again. Creation and destruction, then, are co-constitutive, the latter required by the former for rhythm and clarity. There needn’t be competition over whether the AK-47 has primacy over the pen. The latter is the former, each line and lyric a bullet; the weapon-wielding guerrilla herself is like a steppin razor, quick and unpredictable and sure in its [counter]attack. We owe so much to these guerrilla intellectuals, for orienting us towards freedom and away from false consciousnesses, for instilling within us with the most dangerous hunger and lust for a kind of freedom that they will provide us with vocabularies to begin to understand.