Unheardwords of Writers of Colour

Legacy, Progress, Today and Yesterday

Featured: Legacy, Progress, Today and Yesterday

Voice of Legacy

"How could we shed the legacy?

People walking around sporting cars, jewels and attitude, trying to over compensate, maybe. For 400 plus years of race-based oppression. The children, trading school for 'cool-to-be-dumb', maybe - cash rich and dumb. Teenagers hooking up with music and production apprenticeships, giving up the right-to-education gains so hard won by veteran campaigners.

I think some bizarre form of reversal's taking place. Maybe from, cold old brothers - the scene on porches - s-i-n-g-i-n-g the blues, to new soul brothers rapping drugs, money and guns, oh! Not to mention the ‘b’ word used as shorthand to describe our women. From sounds of the victim-hood to 'might is right' anthems, with nothing in between. Not so much an ideology as a charter for dictatorship; for race oppression, trade class oppression. Like 'power and prejudice', those who had, oppressing those who have not - so this black resurgence proposes the switch, those who take the power asserting their freedom to oppress those lower down the line. Like, the blaxploitation that was inflicted, becomes the blaxploitation that some of us will inflict. And, I wonder whose been bamboozled? The actor playing the stereo-typed token or the audience laughing at themselves as stereo-typed token!

I think and shudder. What does all of this mean? What does this mean for say, raising black boys? Where ARE our fathers? You can't tell me that all those years of trading black males, of subordinating black manhood, of ring fencing us from education, of depriving adults of the responsibilities that naturally go alongside rights, haven't had an impact on self esteem. I'm seeing it as the history of the people, passing into the psyche of the people.

And, I shudder. What does it mean for raising black girls. And here I must say that personally I don't know much about this, but I do wonder, for instance, to whom they might aspire. Single mothers. strong and independent but solitary women. Slim sexy 'shorties' wining up their backsides in pursuit of dancehall celebrity - the glitz and glamour. Is this a modern choice, that's what I wonder. A choice maybe, somewhere between 'the whore, the bitch or the classical Madonna' - substitute this for Cleopatra maybe. Certainly, 'the sistas' are outperforming their male counterparts in the educational stakes. But even this isn't necessarily a great news story. Black women come, what, fourth in the queue, behind white males and females, and behind black males - race and gender bias - fourth class citizens. And, can they escape the legacy to be taken seriously? Tags like, 'hotta than July', male devourers of myth and legend. The standing joke in the male dominated office, 'did someone say boardroom. Sorry, I misheard bedroom!' Ha ha.

No. I've no doubt fathers aren't exclusively needed by boys. The nuclear family's quite likely in need of OUR fathers too.

But, our past is surely of separation and disconnection. Rebuilding naturally keeps focusing on unity of blacks per say, but it's a long journey that doesn't start with the accepted premise of the healed and whole individual. The 'family' unit - unite.

I'm wondering, how could we shed the legacy? The legacy lives in all our yesterdays. It means all progress is offset by a past of oppression due to race. It's about discontinuity of the person - not knowing yourself because your image of self has been substantially deconstructed over time. And, the aggregated impact of a myriad of displaced selves, trying to find ways of interacting with each other in an unsympathetic environment."

Voice of Progress

People just getting on with it. Finding their capitalist feet - the new popular black. Exercising their ‘right-to-buy’ you could say.

You’re being too hard on ordinary people. Life can be pretty tough, you know that. So, you find a way, a talent, an edge, and you want to use it. Old black IS the new black. And this season the new black, that certain shade of 'cool' black. That, THAT IS in fashion.

You make some money and perhaps you wanna wear it, drive it, shove it in people's faces, say 'I have made it'. Brash. 'New money with no pedigree', ok. But, people respect money, you know that. And, what's wrong with buying a little respect?

Here in these countries, this country that I, WE, now call home. This place, places are built on exploitation and mass market manipulation. You can't blame the movers and traders in our community for that. Let me give you an example. Isn't it good that the Warner Boys 1970s blaxploitation flick, 'Big Black Leather with Attitude', once made by white producers and a directors, is now the same Warner Boys pic; only this time, made by black producers and directors. Ok, these aren’t 'art house', but they do make money, you know that. And, it's better to be a part of that, in control of that, isn't it?

And hold on. Listen to yourself! Black people, poor education, bad parenting. You sound like your doing a good job putting us down. Like, you certainly don't need any assistance from any oppressor. 'Children need fathers'. Your sounding like a right wing, faith touting, republican conservationist. There are a lot of single mums out there, but they aren't all black.

Let's face it, men like to 'get around' and no race is unique in that. It's the schools - the racist institutional system - that fails our youngsters. Daddy may not be there, but he's likely to be in the neighbourhood, isn't that right?

Think about it, perhaps it's black schools we need. Perhaps once a black economic revival's been achieved, some of that money will flow into our own private education system.

And women. Isn't this the great sexual exploitation verses 'I've got it and I like it - so I'll flaunt it' debate. Sex does sell. And, some people feel controlled by it, but some see it as an opportunity to exert control. Women have that choice.

In all, I'm not so sure we need to shed the legacy. That past gives us something tangible for our todays. Think of it as a lasting 'black' brand, that we can trade up on - that's progress. That's how we can move ahead what ever the environment we face.”

Voice of Today

"We need to move forward.

The only day that matters is THIS day - not the 36 thousand odd days of 100 years or the 100 thousand days of 400 years, but TODAY!

I can imagine, some people want to hark back further than that. I can't argue about the greatness of the Egyptians four plus thousand years ago, but what, I want to know, has that got to do with the 21st century? Or, what have the Egyptians got to do with me - are they our ancestors? Not my ancestors.

My dad rose boy to man and became the local craftsman of his village, a very small businessman if you like, doing the odd bit of carpentry for his fellows. My mother didn't even see herself as African - must have thought that black West Indians were native to the islands. Certainly thought that her island was superior to the like of smaller others. Truthfully, she probably didn't think much about these things at all.

And tell me. Do you want to know about the time when black people couldn’t ride the bus with whites - well I guess that may depend on where you find yourself right now in relation to THAT time. No doubt some people are still suffering this kind of oppression. But, personally. I'm not bother if the incident took place in 1955 or 1975, the fact is it ain't happening, nor would it be permissible here now, so let's wake up and get on or rather off that segregated bus. I mean get it out of our minds. We need to head-on along.

And, truthfully, do you think I'm gonna wake up on a hectic 'clinch-the-deal' day, and say to myself, 'what makes you think you can clinch this deal? Are you forgetting those civil rights activists, and hundreds of others besides, that were Klan-murdered in Mississippi back in sixty-four.' I don't think I need tell you, that just isn't going to happen - these thoughts can not be allowed to sway me from my sole purpose. I've got to get out there, just like I do every day, and wear my colour up-front where everyone can see it. And, in spite or because or irrespective of any of this or that - I'm going to clinch that deal. I'm going to smile whilst I shake that man's hand (irrespective of his colour and his attitude to my broad faced smile) - shake his (or her) hand and say, 'it's been a pleasure dealing with you Bob (or whatever the name happens to be)'.

We've got to go out there and get on with it because at the end of the day it's the force of personality and persistence that gets through. My history is MY business, like my personal life - no one I deal with need be particularly interested unless I choose to tell them - why should they be - why is it relevant?

It is only TODAY that matters. Yesterday's 'too late', yesterday's a missed opportunity.”

Voice of Yesterday

"I agree with that, we all need to move on. Where the Egyptians come in, I guess, is where Africa comes in. They were - are - Africans.

And ancestry, IS where you come from; the struggle.

How your mother and father struggled. How they worked to earn your right to live, to be here. Fair enough, they weren't intellectuals - didn't need to be - but they were workers. Knew the value of work.

I don't even know where my pap is, but that kind of proves how today speaks of yesterday, doesn't it?

I know that man was lost in drink, not in bouts of wrestling with human rights issues, but HIS troubles weren't his alone. They were the troubles of a whole people. Question is, what people?

And as for those 'no-blacking' laws and riding buses. Granted, we may not want to know about the hurdles people faced in 1955, and personally, I would rather my children didn't have to know about these 'backward shameful' days. But, they do have to know, don't they?

True, at this time I can get on any bus going in any direction but that doesn't mean 'institutional' racism doesn't exist. Surely, the worst kind of race oppression is the out-of-your-face kind. Equal opportunities policies disguising the inherent thoughts and feelings of people.

The point is, that thousands of acts of violence against the coloured person, have already happened. Those Mississippi souls and millions besides have left this earth due to what is at heart quite a fundamental - and let's face it - pretty universal human trait. The fatal basis is misunderstanding:

'You’re not one of us. I don't understand your difference. You’re probably a threat to me. Besides which, I don't have to take you seriously because I have economic power over the likes of you. So I'll feel a lot safer and you'll probably feel more comfortable if we keep to our own paths. Or, put another way, that you don't cross the line into my territory. And ultimately, if you're not prepared to obey my rules I may be forced to react with force against your transgression.'

Of course, this is an overly analytical take on it. Most people just feel - they don't think it through at all. They feel and they react. Their gut feel is, 'I don't like it', and the IT is YOU.

Your colour is definitely something they are interested in. And, need I tell you, you will not need to tell anyone about your hue - if they can see you for themselves. Fear not my brother your skin is your own placard, rest assured, it's already speaking to them on your behalf.

And, of course, what they see in you today is what they've gleaned about you from the experience of all our yesterdays. So we're here talking today - fine. But, yesterday’s reverberating, echoing like a long dark tunnel fastened in the past. All our today’s, shaped by all our yesterdays.”

© Khome, May 2004 (all rights reserved)