After reading The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein, I was so excited to dive deeper into her work. What I discovered was that her brilliance is unquestionable, revolutionary, and trailblazing. Klein understands exactly what our mainstream culture fails to convey: corporations and global neoliberalism / capitalism are responsible for our climate crises. Furthermore, trying to find capitalistic bandaids to a wound caused by this violent system is not only stupid but impossible. While many of us might view being “green” or better for the environment as something as simple as using reusable water bottles, no straws, and recycling, Klein’s narrative perfectly rejects this. The climate crisis was created by global neoliberalism through imperialization and can only be stopped when big corporations reject bribery and money to explore sustainable solutions and reject historical, and ignorant means of production. Much like the more easy to understand concept; that capitalism and healthcare are oxymorons and directly contrast, solutions to our climate crises likewise must reject capitalism.
I decided to read this book because I loved The Shock Doctrine so much. I related with the story Klein prefaced her book with, that it’s easy to shy away from the issues of the climate crises, especially if environmentalism isn’t your forte like me. Although I might not have grown to love this fight as much as Klein, while reading the book I not only gained immense knowledge, but developed a grander association with this movement for climate justice.
Two particular stories stuck out to me. First, Klein’s own intimate journey and reflection through the themes of motherhood, maternity in nature and in the human body, and maternal regeneration. She linked her own odyssey in her failures of pregnancy to the toll we are taking on our own mother earth. I would urge anyone to read her chapter “The Right to Regenerate” even if you don’t want to dive deep into this whole book.
The other thing I really related to in this book was her narratives and time spent on the ground documenting the right to reject things like fracking, pipelines, and dangerous industrialization. Importantly, most of these battles took plain rural, disenfranchised locations that were oftentimes occupied by indigneous peoples who have treaties with the government supposedly guaranteeing their stay. While my family has never had to endure the generational fights over land protection, my family did have to protect our old land against a pipeline. Kinder Morgan’s pipeline almost destroyed my family’s land in the small town of Richmond, New Hampshire that has been in my family for more than 120 years. This pipeline was planned to run feet away from the doorstep of our old- already crumbling home, to use the lake water that my family has bathed in for more than a century as a means to increase oil production. Never before had I seen so many libertarians- hermits of society in their closed off houses united with political signs that were anti pipeline. And while the project eventually combusted due to corruption (the irony), the threat was so terrifying that it was almost unimaginable. My privilege in this situation is the fact that this home is not my full-time residence- this only added to the preciosity this situation would cause me to realize was a battle for others. You take this exact situation but put it in the backyard of a group of people who not only rely more on the land, but for hundreds of years have had their land stolen, their livelihoods and cultures systematically disenfranchised and destroyed: that ability is unbelievable but completely representative of the US Government. It is shocking but not surprising, yet another way products of capitalism systemically gash and destroy indigenous communities already suffering from the diseases of other violent commodities and systems from capitalism.
I’m never going to be an expert on climate change. In a way, that’s not the point. The working class, we the people, have the power to impose pressure and demands on corporations and the ruling class in order to fight for the future of our world. We have the power to reject bandaids and the ability to demand for surgery. Time and history has proven that when we revolutionize, when we come together to fight against the bourgeoisie and rules we vehemently oppose, we can create change. All social changes in history have come from oftentimes brutal protests against unjust systems and peoples. And like other fights we have fought in the past, our fight to change the way we view the climate crises must begin in working-class unity. Only then, does our world stand a chance to survive our destruction, to survive for our grandchildren to come.
I can safely say that Beloved is the most dense book I have ever read. Not in its page numbers or the amount of words, but in the value each and every sentence carries. Reading just one line in this book was like bathing in a pool of thick molasses. Drink in hand, not knowing how to get out but not really wanting to. This book is like laying in the middle of a meadow full of dry, warm grass that confines just perfectly to your body. Sun slightly glowing, clouds slowly moving by, why would you ever want to leave? This book isn’t dark like some like to say, this book is real. The darkness doesn’t come from Sethe or what she did, the darkness comes from the system that forced her actions, that enabled her trauma.
This book is extraordinarily true. Who knew that ghosts, spirits, and a haunted house could feel so much more alive than a world without them? And while it is no surprise since I read The Bluest Eye that I would expect brilliance out of Morrison, this book has still managed to go beyond my expectations. Morrison’s story development, her use of every single sentence as being valuable, her character development, it made reading this book feel sacred or spiritual.
This book reaches far beyond its own plot. While I had predictions for the future of her character “Beloved” before it was necessarily revealed, her purpose in this story can only be understood as the reader runs along Morrison’s words, as the sentences go on. This shows that Morrison writes so much beyond just a simple-plot line. Her stories are written off the pages, they tell tales much larger than even the dense sentences she surrounds us in.
Read this book and you will be changed. Read about Denver, read about Sethe, read about Beloved, read about Paul D. Morrison writes of the legacy of slavery and systemic racism, she writes of the heroic survival of these structures. She writes about a woman so brutalized by violence, taking the lives of her own children seems humane in comparison. Read this book, and don’t ever forget it.
Yesterday on a day as monotonous and gray as we’ve seen over the past year, I finished reading the book Beloved by Toni Morrison. When the sun rose this morning and the gray clouds returned to their day-shift, I, like many other Americans, tuned into the inauguration of the 46th president of the United States, Joseph R. Biden Jr. I distinctly remember Barack Obama’s inauguration when I was a tiny second grader, who only knew my mom had an Obama party and that he was our first black leader. I remember the words hope, unity, equality; these were the words that united moderates and progressives to vote for a supposed common goal. I was so happy to see a black man be sworn into the highest office in the land, I was so excited to see what he would do for our country.
The myth of the American President is that he will work for us. All of our Presidents thus far have been war criminals, ranging from Obama to Reagan. I eventually decided to vote for Joe Biden in a swing state, although extremely reluctantly, knowing I was voting against many things I stand for. A neolib who does not want to enact policy to guarantee healthcare or the future of our environment. An accused rapist… say her name: Tara Reade.
Harris, who beyond her problematic political history, has compromised some of her good and progressive policy to partner with middle-of-the-road Joe.
I want to be moved by this election. I want to watch Harris with the same tears in my eyes as when I innocently saw Obama swearing in on that Bible. I’ve corrupted myself by learning about corruption. I’ve gained the power to hear what people say behind my back, and now I wish I didn’t have that power. I wish I didn’t eavesdrop and hear that Obama killed Syrian children, Biden attacked Anita Hill, Harris locked up trans-women in male prisons.
I’ve learned that our system of capitalism is our demise. How can a system built on the exploitation of marginalized people be reconstructed? How can we tape and glue back together a plate that is already shattered. How can we terrorize other elections and inquire about the invasion of ours.
Toni Morrison in Beloved wrote “Making them think the next sunrise would be worth it; that another stroke of time would do it at last.”
I ended up watching the inauguration. Finding myself trying not to fall victim to the quicksand of the myth of the American Dream. Finding myself trying to battle against the snake squeezing me with false promises. Finding myself knowing that our country’s system and enablers hates so many of its people.
Celebrate today. I’m serious. Watch Kamala Harris and take this time to realize the power in this moment. But don’t let neoliberalism and polite politics throw you back in the burning hole of apathy. Donald Trump might have been a great white shark with snarling teeth, but more people die from microscopic, invisible parasites like Ronald Regan, one of the most beloved American presidents.
Tomorrow we go back to work. Fighting against a system that hates us. Fighting for a future where people have the right just to survive.
I first heard “Dauber” about five years ago, sitting on the narrow benches across from the rocking tables that can only be found in the main saloon of a schooner. Shenandoah is her name. Captain would read us this poem most nights. I have to admit, most of us, including myself, zoned out or napped a little during his tales. In fact, in those junctures there were definitely a million things I’d rather do. Yet I find myself in moments of introspective reflection craving those words that were so melodically and boringly read to me. A table one cannot lean their head on, a head that smells like what one does in the head- right next to us, and the distant sounds of late night ferries. It took me a while but I tracked down a copy of what I think is the majority of the poem which Captain read to us at night. As I read over it again recently I found myself actually encapsulated and blindingly fascinated. Dauber’s story is one to me in which I actually really can understand. While Masefield’s old english and ever-present formal rhymes might have put me to sleep before, being able to engage with his words with my own eyes was a completely new experience. Now, when I think of the verbal utterance of this story, I can’t help but think it is perhaps the best lullaby that has ever been read to me.
Dauber, a young man born in a home of generational farmers has escaped to sea as a painter. We hear his reflection of the rejection against his fathers wishes in his expected parallel procedure. We read about the tricks the sailors pull on Dauber, cold nights battling the wind and the snow on the bottom of the tip of South America. Ultimately, Dauber dies, although after he has at least come to terms with his new-found belonging as a sailor. Perhaps a rejection of the laborious life his dad wanted for him, or maybe a connection bringing the two back together. A born farmer, turned painter, turned sailor who eventually rests at sea ultimately. A poem with words and rhymes that speak out to me. A poem that bores me. A poem that excites me. Masefield and Dauber’s adventure that I can join in the main saloon at night. The late night ferries blowing their horns in the distance, waves lapping onto the joints and planks that inundate these joyful words. All is right when we are on a sailboat floating in the middle of the world.
Over the past year our country has been forced to have conversations about the historical and systemic oppression against people of color in our society. The murder of black people in this country can now be filmed- which has sparked outrage and conversations like never before. Both the killing of George Floyd and my own college’s strike against embedded racism in predominantly white institutions have caused me to not only think and talk about race, but to educate myself on the complexities of the systems that have enabled it for all of time. My basketball team normally reads a book about themes like toughness, leadership, hard work, etc. This year we decided to read a book about race in basketball. This is my opinion on what I read.
I didn’t necessarily have high expectations when I went into this book. No offense to Barry Jacobs, but on the back cover he looks like a white guy and a couple days before reading this book I had just finished listening to the brilliant words of black revolutionaries and artists like Thomas Sankara and Michele Wallace. I was then surprised at the complexity and multi-faceted ways in which this book was approached, it pleasantly snuck up on me in the narrative that was created. Jacobs managed to tell the real tales of the first black men who broke the color barrier in college basketball; he didn’t spare the truth even when it was uncomfortable. I actually felt the most education in these uneasy passages, it forced me as a person of privilege to confront systems that were enabled by people who are still alive today. One example of this was when I was reading about Claiborn who was an athlete at Duke when my grandmother attended. While it is easy to simply demonize and remove oneself from the violence of the past, it is harder to reconcile with the idea that the past is still alive and benefiting from the system today. These stories are not that of history textbooks, but of middle-age diaries, and current every-day traumas. These experiences of racism and violence in the world and in the game of basketball are not only still a part of today, but still thriving in a system that unless confronted, will continue to oppress for the rest of time.
In “Forms of Hell” we learn about Perry Wallace’s experience at Vanderbilt University from 1966-1970. One theme throughout the book that we can see through Wallace is how these programs looked to recruit black men who were perceived as non threatening and perfect in the way he would interact with whites and white racist attitudes. Dillard though, did not fit into this tiny hole that the white world so wanted to peg him in. One quote that I felt embodied this really well was when Wallace remembered Dillard as exhibiting “‘the same sense of spunkiness and spirit as almost any white boy at Vanderbilt’” (30). Here proves the notion of this model he was forced to be that he inevitably and understandably rejected. He was forced to noy only confront the role that we as basketball players have to understand, but the role of his full identity at the school. Was he a political tool or just a basketball player? This question was something that all the athletes in this book eventually confronted. Dillard ended up suffering extreme trauma from being forced into a pioneer role in a system that for so long and still currently is violent towards POC. Not only was there blatant violence but no one actually cared to know who he was as a person. He was forced to reckon with the notion of hatred, the extreme violence against him was not only traumatic but would shape his ideals in the way he had interactions with the other.
In “Between Worlds” we learn about C.B. Claiborne’s experience at Duke University from 1965-1969. As I said before this story really stuck out to me because my grandma attended Duke for three years a little bit before Claiborne arrived. We’ve had conversations about segregation, and racism at her school, as she’s spoken of her ignorance to any sort of perspective outside of the white person. While she has always had fairly progressive views her lack of awareness to the other experience really sticks with me. Often I realize that the teammates and fellow students of these black pioneers are still alive today, dictating our laws, hiring us for jobs, and voting. One small little note that I found really ironic and relevant to today was the part about southerners’ opinion on Dr Martin Luther King as being a communist. That word is oftentimes thrown around today at those who stand for equality, even at such a moral figure like MLK we can see such extreme false demonization. This has not changed at all. Claiborne also really relates to me because of his relationship with activism and boycotting on campus, he was one of the first black athletes to visibly engage in campus protest. Jacobs wrote “as far as basketball as concerned, he felt he had little to lose” (71). Claiborne knew that fighting for his equal right to life was more important than basketball at the time, as it still is today. He said that the fact that he got through his time at Duke was remarkable, something that a lot of people of color today often say; showing the real lack of change in attitude we’ve had on campuses. Claiborne’s legacy would be taking that first step.
In “Fall From Grace” we learn about Henry Harris Jr.’s experience at Auburn University from 1968-1972. This chapter starts out by learning about his suicide, something that indefinitely relates to his time at Auburn. While Harris was a naturally confident leader he was too forced into the position of being a trailblazer where every one of his mistakes and flaws would be scrutinized by the masses in ways that were out of the realm of basketball criticism. Most of the coaches and players from his time there were ignorant not only to the hardships and violence he would face because of his race, but how it led to his suicide. Another crucial element we learn through Harris’s experience is the fact that since he was the first black man on his team, it was inherently isolation due to the sheer fact that he couldn’t even talk to anyone about it. One line that is repeated constantly throughout the book by either white teammates or white coaches we can see written here: “‘I guess I didn’t even realize the challenges that someone like that would have to go through’” (90). Ultimately, Auburn and those at Auburn failed him. Not only as a basketball player which would have been a problem in its own, but as a person and as a human who ultimately took his own life. Violence is not only punching, lynching, and blood, it is truama of being demonized and ioslated, it is what these black athletes had to endure.
In “The Loneliest Number” we learn about Charles Scott’s experience at the University of North Carolina from 1966-1970. I want to start out write away with a quote that really summarized the ethos of a lot of this book: “Scott proved the rule- if there was such a rule- that a pioneering black player would gain acceptance only if he was so good that no critics could reasonably dispute that the player deserved a scholarship” (97). Two things I would add to that was that critics would also only accept the individual if they socially fit into the mold expected of them. Likewise we cannot disregard the pressure that this notion then put on an individual, and that this pressure was violence in itself. Scott accounted that his presence as the first black athlete was not something he was really aware of, perhaps this would help him? Loneliness was another thing that Scott also inevitably experienced, how can one have positive experiences or deal with negative ones when there is no one there for you. Scott also accounted for the tough decisions he was forced to make, such as either boycotting or participating in the Mexico City Olympics. We are able to learn about the pressure and position that he was forced into, ultimately the decision of what he did was made for his own self-preservation and survival. Today, we have to remember that, especially in a time full of protests. Scott was an example of the multiple roles black athletes are forced and expertected to develop, more than just what their white counterparts have to experience.
In “Door Jamb” we learn about Wendell Hudson’s experience at the University of Alabama from 1969-1973. Hudson is yet another example of how he was expected to noy only be a great basketball player, but a great person in order to pave the way for future balck athletes. “All involved point to Hudson’s calm, steady, unassuming but uncompromising manner as a crucial element in winning acceptance for African American athletes” (129). Not only were black athletes forced to be the best at their game but they were forced to be the best social role models. Many southern schools thought it crucial that their first black athlete contain both of those skills right away. Another crucial element we can learn through Hudson’s story is how his own community viewed him in a problematic lens. They saw him as a sell-out and conforming too much to the white man’s world. While understandable, this only added to the pressure and difficulty in Hudson’s experience. We also see in Hudson’s time at Alabama how his presence on the team forced his teammates to confront and reckon with Civil Rights issues. While they might have been able to previously avoid them, now their own teammate and supposed brother was going through these issues. While Hudson might be more of a success story we can credit that to his personality that perfectly matched his role. Yet, we shouldn’t need a perfect person for this role, why can’t we just have basketball players who are good at basketball? Shouldn’t that be enough?
In “Pipe Dream” we learn about Norwood Todmann’s experience at Wake Forest University from 1966-1970. One line that really stuck out to me related to Wake Forest’s relation with its Christianity. One board member said “‘How could we be sending missionaries around the world to convert people to Christianity and then fail to open our doors to them’’” (151). If we look past the unethical nature of missionaries he does make a good point. But looking at Todmann we read about the narrative of basketball as an escape from something like the hood. We also read a lot about the continued ignorance of white teammates and coaches. Oftentimes we seem them claim colored-blindness, which I would argue is just as problematic as blatant racism itself. If we refuse to see color we refuse to see the historical and lasting implications of racism and oppression on an individual, and how even today, society sets them behind. We also read about the rise of black power in its rejection of traditional definitions of white success. This chapter provides a lot of narrative about how this new black pride clashed with the coach’s McCloskey’s traditional structures embedded in white supremacy. That is undoubtedly why Todmann clashed so much with them; the systems the coach was so obsessed with were rooted in white supremacy.
In “Prisoner of Choice” we learn about Tom Payne Jr.’s experience at University of Kentucky from 1969-1971. Payne Jr.’s story is definitely the most unique in the whole book, as he raped multiple women after his basketball at UK and served many years in jail for his crimes. Payne Jr’s claims that it was the racism he encountered at the UK that caused him to be violent towards white women which we know has severe historical implications. (many innocent black men were lynched for being accused of raping white women, although almsot all were innocent. We can see this plays at white, male fragility and their fear of the black man). One point Payne Jr. made which I thought was really important was when he said “You never hear any person apologize for racism… A lot of people were really trying to justify that there was no racism, that Kentucky wasn’t racist. And it’s a historical fact that Kentrucy was racist and there was racism” (171). While in all the other stories we hear about the white ignorance and lack of awareness, it is interesting to hear a black athlete point out the violence in that. The abuse that Payne endured undoubtedly had an effect in his violence crimes, we can see that legacy taking place in generations of black survivors starting from American slavery. The abuse stemmed from his racist coach, surroundings, and the individual racist acts that can send a person over. He was a role model as the first black athlete at UK, only to then commit these horrendous crimes. One can only imagine the negative effect aht would have for black athletes at UK or in the south for the future. While as a female athlete, it is easy to dismiss Payne’s victimhood, we cannot. It is obvious to me that the racist abuse he endured at UK had to at least have a small effect on his violent future.
In “Friendly Bounce” we learn about Al Heartley’s experience at North Carolina State University from 1967-1971. In Heartley’s story I really liked reading about the dichotomy of relationships between whites in black in an urban versus rural setting, and then how entering that urban setting would bring a new dynamic. Heartley accounts that while he grew up in the country where black people and white people had good relationships because they grew tobacco together, that same neighbor would ignore you if in the presence of other white people in a more populous setting. I think that speaks a lot to the issues of racism in white people. While some of his high school classmates transferred schools in efforts to participate in integration I thought it was good to hear the perspective of why a black student wouldn’t want to: “Heartley, like many athletes at Johnston Central, did not, content instead to stick with friends, teammates, and a setting with which he was familiar and in which he thrived. ‘We needed pioneers in those days, and I didn’t want to be a pioneer at that level… I played basketball; I played baseball. I was in the band. I was president of my class. So I wanted to stay’” (201). His parents thought doors would be opened if he got a degree from a predominantly white institution which is why he ended up where he did and eventually walked on the team. Heartley reflected a lot about his fear and the white silence, sort of an uneasiness that was always around him. Heartley though was an excellent model for what whites wanted, his coach trusted him and the local media respected him too, which was special considering the media’s normal tendencies of being racist.
In “Penn Pall” we learn about Ronnie Hogue’s experience at the University of Georgia from 1969-1973. Georgia was especially full of blatant racists and the KKK. However, there were a lot of balck people living in Athens so he felt like he could relate to those people. He was actually interested in the pioneer role, the leadership role, that would come with being the first black player at the University. Hogue though considered his playing and leadership style to be naturally more militant than pacifist: “‘I wasn’t like a Martin Luther King guy; I was more like Malcolm X. If you know how to fight back, people give you respect’” (225). Another reason Hogue chose to go down South despite its reputation is the fact that his southern-born mother wanted him to learn the ways in which he would later be forced to interact with white people, especially in the workforce. Something important that came up that I found really interesting was when Hogue discussed his views on dating black women rather than white women because he wanted little black boys to see him as a proper role model- not thinking gblack women weren’t worth their time. This also brings up the dynamic that I talked about with a different story of black-men and white-women relationships. Although he initially wanted to be a pioneer during college he didn’t think much about it, although many would say he had a big and positive impact.
In “Forbidden Territory” we learn about Craig Mobley’s experience at Clemson University from 1969-1971, and Casey Manning’s experience at the University of South Carolina from 1969-1973. At Clemson Mobley was oftentimes faced with the question of taking a stand with his black peers or sticking to just playing basketball which would appease his white supporters. Unlike other athletes who were just trying to survive, Mobley decided to stand with his contemporaries. He said “‘I’m walking down the street and it’s dark at night; nobody’s going to care if I’m a basketball player or not’” (242). He now wonders if his choice to join the walkout was one of the reasons his basketball career was cut shorter. In South Carolina a soldier once wrote “It seems to me that the average [white] South Carolininian is so afraid that the negro will get ahead that he is willing to sacrifice his own rights to make sure that the negro won’t have any” (243). Manning grew up in a town that was more tolerant than most and went to school in Columbia which was obviously less isolated and closer to home for him. This section also talks about the impracticality of segregation: how it actually costs more economically to keep people segregated. Manning was seen as the pioneer and he fulfilled the role that was needed, it helped that he was a local too. In fact, this locality actually helped him, it gave him something to focus on and other fans liked him because of it.
In “All in the Family” we learn about Collis Temple Jr.’s experience at Louisiana State University from 1970-1974. Temple Jr. was brought up in a purposeful way by his parents; one that protected him from the violence of white supremacy and segregation and expected black empowerment. One specific thing they did that really stuck out to me was how they would only seek medical help from black professionals. This relates to now because we can currently see a huge discrepancy in the way black people in this country receive medical care. Temple said “‘My mom and dad basically kept me from being exposed to heavy, heavy racism at an early age so I wouldn’t become indoctrinated by having to act and feel a certain way and be inhibited about dealing with people’” (272). On the court Temple continued his parent’s lessons, he was a natural hard worker. Another thing he described is the expeciation to be militant, he said that he needed to focus more on just protecting himself. LSU did little to make black students feel welcome, and a football based culture did not help. His sister was really hesitant of the violence and struggle he would face as a pioneer, although she now acknowledges that he was probably the only man good enough to do the job. He also talked about avoiding white women which I mentioned before. Another thing that made him more special is he stood up for himself when called racial slurs on the court, in the other stories the athletes would usually just ignore it; I found this interesting and telling of his upbringing… which strategy worked best, who knows.
In “Shooting the Hoop” we learn about Coolidge Ball’s experience at the University of Mississippi from 1970-1974. Ball was described as not only really good, but a really good player. Jacobs wrote, “One cannot truly appreciate Ball’s success and acceptance without understanding Mississippi’s devotion to castelike social and racial order than sentence African Ameriacns to enduring threat and limitation” (293). The state had a long history of sharecropping and lack of quality education that endures to this day, with the social order being preserved by whites who know how bad it is, but prefer it in order to uphold white supremacy. Emmit Till is also an important story to remember in this state. Going into college basketball, Ball just wanted to be an example of a black athlete. His manner was understated and his game was really good, something that helped his relationship with his team. He also became the intermediary between players and coach which broke down not only a racial barrier, but a status barrier. Also uniquely, Ball actually ended up settling down near his former University, something that definitely didn’t happen with most of the other stories we read about. His case was definenly more positive.
In “Rear Guard” we read “Later Gators” and learn about Malcolm Meeks who went to school between 1970-1972, and Steve Williams who went to school between 1970-1974 at the University of Florida. We then read “Far From Home” and learn about Al Drummond who played at the University of Virginia from 1970-1974. We then read “Actions Speak” and learn about Wilbert Cherry who went to school from 1970-1972, and Larry Robinson who went to school from 1971-1973 at the University of Tennessee. Finally, we read “Sneakers” and learn about Larry Fry who went to school from 1971-1975 and Jerry Jenkins who went to school from 1971-1975 at Mississippi State University. Contrary to popular belief Florida actually took a good amount of time to integrate, and was caught up with the other southern states. Players in Florida really struggled with these attitudes along with coaches who were blind and ignorant to the real life implications of racism. Williams said “‘It was probably just a Southern attitude with a lot of folks- that there’s a place for a black person, and at this university is not the place’” (315). For Drummond in Virginia the experience was similar. He started out going into the program daily ignorant to the color barrier he would be breaking, the coaches did not prepare him at all for what would follow. “Drummond says it was only on the court that he felt out of place in Virginia” (318). I think this speaks volumes to his experience of needing to be the black token that his coaches wanted, they don’t care about him as a player. In Tennessee Cherry was eventually cut from the team while Robinson focused more on just getting through the experience. For Robinson the book said “breaking barriers was not something [he] discusses readily even in middle age” (324). At Mississippi State University recruiting was also focused more in state and it was hard because “racially separate high school basketball tournaments remained the norm in Mississippi” (328). Generally teams that refused to integrate properly were the teams that also did bad on the basketball side.
I really enjoyed this book and would love to read more about white violence in basketball outside of this small group of Universities in the South. Reading about women’s integration too, would be something I am really interested in.
Ironically the first time I had something to do with Michele Wallace was when I read her mother’s famous children’s book, Tar Beach. I initially bought this book because it was on sale at my local bookstore and seemed like something I’d like. Finding out that Wallace was actually the daughter of Ringgold, who’s work I admire so much, was really awesome to experience. Wallace’s book is definitely a landmark in black feminist theory, providing many thoughts that are very personal and unique to her own life and growing up. She brings in the works and lives of many other black and/or female artists, providing interpretation into the validity or meaning of their art. I found that after reading works from people like Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Jamaica Kincaid, etc., her ideas were oftentimes new for me to consider. Reading about her life and the background of her childhood and young adult life helped to paint a better picture, especially of the black liberation work that took place in places like Harlem. Her interpretation of The Color Purple and the work done by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., especially stuck out to me and resonated with my previous thinking. I would recommended this book to anyone remotely interested in black feminist theory, it’s vital to dissect this great work of literature.
When I first heard about the late revolutionary Thomas Sankara from Burkina Faso I was instantly fascinated. Why had I heard about political figures like Margaret Thatcher (yuck) and never Sankara? Well besides eurocentrism and racism it is perhaps because his revolution was unfortunately cut short by his assassins. Like Mandela, Guevara, and many more I hope to further research, he led a united group of people towards goals of liberation, decolonization, and freedom through Marxist and anti-imperialist ideology. Today, if you have the awesome chance of meeting someone who actually knows Sankara, they will most likely know him for his extremely progressive views on Women’s Liberation, especially in his famous speech “The Emancipation of Women”. His views were not only progressive but revolutionary and completely trailblazing in the world of African and global politics.
This book provides a little introduction and chronology of Sankara and the events that surrounded his time in leadership, but mainly it just recounts some of his most famous and pivotal speeches and interviews. We get to hear about his basic theory surrounding the construct of his ideal military to what kinds of books he liked to read. His theory on not only how a revolution should take place, but the realities of life in an actual occupation revolution are invaluable and freeing. The way he was able to verbally articulate extremely complex topics was some of the most inspiring thinking I’ve ever been encouraged to do. His opinions on things like how neocolonialism can hide in a disguise as “foreign aid” were not only brilliant, but often the first of their kind. In a way he was like a militant Che Gueverra who got to govern his own land, his own people. And we can see now with the extreme poverty that has followed Burkina Faso since his assassination that if only his ideals were to be implemented in the long-run, would Burkina Faso be an example of a formerly terrorized colony turned into an example of a state with total class-equity.
Perhaps later I will dive deeper into the specifics of his speeches and interviews but for now I can list a couple of my favorite points. My first favorite point was surprisingly his approach towards the military. As someone who has only recently been radicalized and has grown up with primarily liberal views, the military is definitely a complex subject that I constantly aim to wrap my head around. The idea that the military is inherently apolitical is something we in current day American politics don’t talk enough about, it was refreshing to read about his theory regarding this and gave vocabulary to ideas I did not know how to articulate. His views on women’s liberation were also extremely valuable. The constructs he saw in society in which women’s oppression is so greatly tied to the same capitalistic and imperialistic connotations that hurt the whole country of Burkina Faso is revolutionary. He saw the oppression of women as a systemic failure of the systems he was already fighting against, something that even our most left-leaning politicians today fail to do. I truly could say his theory on women’s liberation matches that of the best.
So why is it important to learn about the leader of a revolution for a couple years in a country so small and far away? Because Thomas Sankara can teach anyone the basics of liberation against oppressive systems. He, like those who are famous in History, shows a true conscience against systems that have always and will always enable oppression and death in this world. His story cannot and should not be ignored. History will not remember him because he wasn’t like Mandela in the way he could appeal to even the imperialist themselves, but he shouldn’t have had to do that. Instead we should remember a man who called right and wrong as he saw it, who wasn’t scared of a system like communism that could free his people, when capitalism had kept them in shackles for so long.
I first saw a video of Ursula K. Le Guin talked about the failures of capitalism and I knew I had to read some of her work. I ordered this novel because sci-fi genres like this are definitely out of my comfort zone. I figured the 12 different stories would give me some brief tastes of the best of the best, and I was not disappointed at all. Since there are 12 different stories I will choose my 6 favorites and review those individually. I will also take more time on my absolute favorite story of them all. (warning: plot spoilers)
“April In Paris”: This was in my top three for favorite stories. I loved the narrative and the sense of identity, friendship and timelessness she played with. I loved the ending where the reader was forced to confront their communication of language, of livelihood, of culture. Loneliness, being alone, these are themes I have confronted especially in the past year. I find this story to be the kind in her genre which appeals to me; while it is fiction and mystical, in a way it feels extremely real to me. I loved this story.
“The Rule of Names”: This story was also a really great one. The concept of not knowing one’s true name, having others assign a name to you, identity, shapeshifting, etc are what occupy this narrative brightly and fluently. The character of Mr. Underhill is brilliant and the ending words and plot are exhilarating, revealing, and make you question all the clues you had read before without even realizing. Dragons aren’t really an interest that appeals to me, but if all dragon stories were like this I would read a lot more.
“The Good Trip”: This one was also in my top three. This story very much gave me Holden Caulfield vibes which is very appealing to me (I find him to be what I think my alter-ego would be). For those of us that don’t use substances to get high, myself particularly, I found this telling of the ways our mind can create these similar experiences. The motif of the lost wife and skiing were striking in the contrast of the narrative. It really set the perfect picture for this experience to take place, it was a beautiful image to imagine. That was another thing in this story that I absolutely loved: the complete and instantly complex imagery.
“Vaster Than Empires and More Slow”: This was a long and definitely difficult story for me to follow. But the themes she developed were so, so good. The concept of having a person who’s sole role is to feel empathy, have their demise be that hurt from something like a world, nature, the wind, that concept is liberating and completely unique: the symbol of human fear and human- caused fear. The concept of the fear being in everything, it all being one which then led to the feeling of being alone. I won’t even try to summarize the vast themes and events this story escorts, but man is it thought provoking.
“Direction of the Road”: In a way I viewed this story as a palate-cleanser to some of the other narratives in this novel and it was wonderful to read. To me, this shows the vastness and capability of her genre and style of writing. I loved how she adapted first person to tell the story of the tree, something she doesn’t do a lot of in her other stories. Accompanied by her ever present insane imagery this story is not only a beautiful break in the novel but a brilliant exploration of themes otherwise not confronted.
“The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”: This was my favorite story by far. In fact, I would say it was life changing. The only other short story that has hit this true to me in my life would be “How To Tell a True War Story” in The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. When I got to the child scene I literally started crying, I realized exactly the picture that was being painted. And technically speaking she writes this in a way that literally invites the reader in to confront these issues. She often proposes aspects of the book to the reader like through a setting, plot, or object, perhaps to make it even more personal to the reader’s own life. Capitalism, neoliberalism, exploitation, these are described so intensely but not named. I might take another time to just dive super deep into this story with quotes and deep analysis but this is just a short reaction to the impact this story has already had on me. The ending too, those that walk away, man that got to me. The idea she proposed that some people think the child would be too far gone, or that it is bad but still worth it… she forces us to confront these exact thoughts we have in our real life. The construct of the world too makes it so we can simplify all the other distractions and unethical practices and really just focus our one moral on this one conflict. It is insanely brilliant and life changing.
Have you ever thought about the two steps that lead down to the Sun?
The socks, and the shoe, the shirt and the coat,
chipped, dirty nail with black, smeared nailpolish.
When I was little I’d like to imagine what life would be like on Mercury and Venus. Other kids were interested in the big planets akin to Saturn and Uranus, or the small supposed ones such as Pluto. But for me, Mercury and Venus were always ample.
They say that twins like me and my sister are like yin
and yang. Black cookie
and white cookie, a hot boil
and a cold freeze, feminine pig tails,
and masculine loose-curls.
I think about how Mercury looks colder than Venus while in reality its skin impedes closest to the Sun. How
Venus looks like a dessert of desert but in reality it once had pouring water.
From the Earth I look towards the aubade-ing and serenading star through my two pupils of Mercury and Venus
I want to try to keep this blog as a place where I showcase my current writing, stuff that is shorter and more relevant in a blog setting. However, last year, I wrote a biomythography for my freshman year english class that I think is relevant to the topics in this space. We read Zami by Audre Lorde, one of the most impactful and freeing texts I’ve ever experienced. I wrote this for my class.
Recently one of my classmates reached out to me and gave me the most wonderful job of tutoring second grade writer to two girls. She said she thought of my name because of the biomythography I wrote from class. I am so grateful to her.
*(note: some text effect might be formatted weird for some viewers).
When I first started to write this I was going to initially cover gender and sexuality structures of power and difference. But after covering that in my final essay I realized I didn’t want to tell the same story. And the idea that I only really had that story to tell made me think about something else that we’ve talked about in this class: privilege. I wanted to write about privilege in a way that wasn’t analytical or merely just explaining what it is: I wanted to show what it is. I decided to pick a setting of my summer home in New Hampshire to tell this narrative because the amount of my life I’ve spent there is shorter and therefore it would naturally simplify my narrative of my realizations I have had with what my privilege is and what that means. I drew a lot of Inspiration from A Letter to My Sisters Who Showed Up For Islan Nettles & Ourselves at the Vigil because there it talked a lot about appropriation, and privilege in regards to not taking up space in a space that isn’t yours, that just because you belong to a community doesn’t mean you can speak up for everyone in your community, and it also started to explore saviorism complexes that specifically politicians have. I’ve recently been doing a lot of reading about white saviorism so that was another topic I wanted to include. I decided to break my work into six chapters that include a paragraph of a story of a literal event that happened at my house and then a poem about one of the topics in the paragraph. I wanted to make the poems into the shape of the topic of the chapter because I’ve always been fascinated by the structure of lines of sentences in poems so I wanted to include something more visual to stimulate the reader. I wanted all the chapters to advance as the next one came, for them to layer on top of each other. And I also wanted all the chapters to mean something to the other. I wanted to talk about privilege in a more nuanced and creative way, one where the main point isn’t necessarily stated, but shown through my words. I hope that by the end of the sixth chapter the reader understands the whole point I was trying to make.
In the rolling hills of South West New Hampshire sits a tiny town called Richmond. In 1810 a house on a hill was built, in 1910 it was purchased by my great great uncle. We’ve called it Hillside for as long as I could remember. We have a treehouse and a lake across the street that can sometimes feel like we’re the only ones in the world who know its there. In the afternoon the wind always comes in and the trees make a rustling sound that sounds like how I imagine the waves would be if there was a long beach for them to lap onto. We don’t have any nice furniture except for the stuff Aunt Helen nailed down because burglars come every autumn. When I was little I thought we called it Hillside because the side with the porch was about to fall into the hill. It was only used by my grandpa to do yoga in the morning with his pink underwear on but everyone always told him he was being crazy, that he would fall through at any moment. It tilted so much that by the time we gathered up all the savings from all the cousins to repair it, the porch was hanging on almost a thirty degree angle.
What does it mean
For something as sturdy
As a wooden floor with nails
Something whose only purpose
Is to be stood on
What does it mean when that thing
Needs support from you now?
I have lots of really great memories at our house in New Hampshire, swimming the whole distance of Sandy Pond, picking wild blackberries in our backyard, yelling into the woods to try to talk to Honey the Bear, hanging out with my cousins, some of which I would never meet again. Later my mom would tell me it was fetal alcohol syndrome which made Katelin and Shawn act like that. Every single married couple connected to that house except for my grandparents and parents are divorced now. They don’t usually come to Hillside anymore. I remember my mom used to take us to this blueberry festival every year until she found out that the church that is trying to buy every single property in Richmond ran it. Later I would learn that there were rumors in the nearby towns of Winchester and Swanzey that they were stealing little boys too. Winchester was also an important part of Hillside for me. Just four years ago did they start to sell veggies in their grocery store that we could buy instead of having to drive all the way to Keene. Most of the people who work there are addicted to opioids and meth, when I was little I was scared to look at them.
That are snatching the boys
You can’t call the Police when those in blue are those at service
Those in the church, ringing the bell, asking for donations
Telling you God will forgive your sins, your bad conscious
Buying the town
Buying the mayor
Buying the pipeline
Buying the media
Buying the newspaper
You can’t call
Are the ones
There is a camp across the street from us that is almost one hundred years old. Camp Wiyaka. We had to swim the Polar Bear every morning because it was our familial tradition of running into the ice cold lake at 7 am. Just last year did they take the Native American face off of their sign when you pull up onto the dirt road, and I’m sure they only did that because the sign was about to fall off just like our porch. Multiple generations of my family have gone to it so when I first entered middle school I knew it was my turn. I remember when I first showed up with my trunk I saw a lot of kids who looked like Katelin and Shawn and a lot of parents who acted like the cashiers in Koolicks grocery store in Winchester. The kids who went to the camp were from Athol and Orange Massachusetts, my cousin, my twin sister and I, were known as the Brokenshires (our family name), or “the kids who lived across the street in the big white house”. We were different and they knew it. About half of the kids didn’t believe my sister and I were related to my cousin because she’s half black, they did not understand how that could work at all. Besides a brown girl named Lexie who had a belly button piercing, my cousin Sofie was the only person of color there, and perhaps the only POC many of those kids had ever seen.
Flannel sheets and
Olive oil rings on the counter and
Solid wooden doors with cracked paint and
Blue tile bathroom with grout that really needs a clean and
That house smell that your friends tell you your house has
Toilet paper without the cardboard roll- save the trees!!!!!!!
Furniture we got from when my uncle sold his second house
Food that tastes like how my mom hugs, how my dad talks
Coins that someone left on the table, waiting to go upstairs
A piano with three trombones and two and a half clarinets
Hillside is my home in the summer and it is safe and familiar
A refuge for crickets and mice and dragonflies and ants and
Warm, metallic water to wash my hands and feet and face
I’d later learn that Athol Mass is an old town struck hard by the Great Depression and ruined by the closing of the mill. They have one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the country, murders are not rare, and that substances run through the blood of families. There were four “M’kayla’s” at this camp, three girls named “Haylee” a couple girls named “Mariah”, and five girls named “Marrisa”. I learned what falling down the stairs meant and what metal coat hangers are for. I learned what it meant to live next to the “graveyard”. I listened to Kayla tell me about how her brother was shot right in front of her and how Marrissa’s dad and mom both overdosed and died when she was at camp last year. While little Ella was forced to reckon with big ideas like systemic drug abuse, unsafe and underground abortions, the familial pattern of teen pregnancy, rape, murder, loss, I also had my own “problems” I was trying to figure out. I remember my aunt on my dad’s side sent me a package with candy and money and I felt so good giving Kayla the five dollar after crying about her sunglasses she dropped in the lake earlier that day because her dad had given them to her from the dollar store. A saviorism complex that I had inadvertently yet still developed from this exchange.
When we were little they
used to tell us “don’t waste water”
because kids in Africa don’t have any.
They used to tell us that kids in “third world
countries” would not complain in the ways
we do. We were supposed to admire White
Folk who came to talk to our class about the
amazing work they did in Africa. They’d show
us pictures of kids with swollen bellies. “This
little girl changed my life” They’d say. I remember
asking one of them what the little girl’s name was in
the picture“Oh it’s some complicated name I can’t
even pronounce”. I ask him what country she was
from “Oh all the countries we went to blur together”.
I ask him why we can’t all go on this trip “Oh it’s very
expensive for us to all get there you know” I ask him
why they were the ones building houses not contractors
“Oh we thought it would be more impactful for Us” I ask
him why there’s a picture of him with a stethoscope
even though he’s not a doctor “Oh they’re just grateful
that we gave them medical attention at all” I ask him why
they’re so poor in the first place “Oh they just are, but
don’t worry, we helped them by building a house!”
I used to run 10ks a lot so I would always run on the mountain behind my house. There’s a government facility building that has an electric wire around its boundaries and a lot of weird planes and jets that fly over our field to get to. When you run to the top you see the building and you know it’s time to turn around. When you run down the mountain your legs are tense but they start to relax. Your lungs are heaving but they start to find a rhythm. Your neck bobs with your head and with your steps and you actually start to feel like you might make it down the mountain alive. I was running with my uncle one time and there was an injured sparrow in the dirt road ahead. Sam the dog had no interest in it but we soon figured out to move it out of the middle of the road to the side with some leaves. We kept running until we get to the base of the mountain and then we jumped into the ice cold lake that felt like velvet and running in slow motion. As I swam to Bare Ass Beach I thought back to the bird that was injured. But it is not me and for right now I am flying with breastroke in the lake that cannot hold me back. I say a prayer to the god I do not believe in- hoping it will be okay, and then, I move on with my life. Right?
bird of love
my uncle said.
I think about
the jet flying above my head to the top of the mountain we were just at and I wish that this
little sparrow was flying high with it. I ask myself why a beautiful creature like this is shivering on the ground when a gas guzzling, brown child murdering, corrupt money funded machine gets to fly in the beautiful blue around. This bird is the bird of love and yet we do not love it. We love machines and big corporations and unruly aspirations
We love black
culture but not
black lives. We
Pray for “the
but not Palestinian children.
We love jets but not sparrows I realize.
There’s nothing like being out on the water right when the sun is going down. The bats start to come out and fly across the purple sky. The frogs start to sing in their choir that won’t stop throughout the whole night. Owls that sound like coyotes and coyotes that sound like owls. If you take the pink kayak out to the middle of the lake when the sun is about to set then you can be apart of it in a way. The purple sky becomes purple ripples of water. The trees rustle. The moon is in charge now. We can get a good campfire started and make smores and salmon. I love the popping and cracking noises that the fire makes when we really get it going. I love sitting next to the people in my family. Not worrying in this moment about how my dad has advanced cancer. Knowing the kids at Wiyaka are in their bunks by now. Mosquitoes bite my ankles but for right now it doesn’t matter. When the sun sets and the moon comes out to play, I can’t help but think a lot. I think about how the porch used to be falling, and boys are being stolen, and home is a word of comfort, and that I used to think I was better than all the kids at Wiyaka, and a sparrow was once on this dirt road. A sparrow that I do not know anything about now. I think about how privilege and saviorism have made my eyes think a certain way. Privilege that I was born with, a saviorism complex that I later developed. I sit there hoping that the sparrow replaced that jet. That the cross and the gravestone were merely a slanted porch that needed to be replaced. Home for me is a word of comfort and that is a privilege that I need to acknowledge. The government has never infested my communities with drugs, my ancestors weren’t stolen and taken here as hostages, the town I live in does not have a shut down mill, I have never used opioids, metal coat hangers in my closet are only used to hang coats, I think about what my eyes see, and I know that I just got really lucky.
Is the fact that when I came out
My parents still loved me. It is going skinny dipping in
Sandy Pond at night. It is when my grandma asks me what colleges I am applying
To, not if I am. It is being the family from the White House across the street. It is having sneakers
With laces. Privilege is writing stories for fun. Privilege is whiteness. Privilege is knowing people are
Being systematically murdered and still buying things from the culprit. Privilege is a jet hogging the skies when Sparrows should be able to fly too. It is looking through your eyes and ignoring what you see because it doesn’t affect you. Privilege is something that can be used for good things but rarely is. It is homemade packed lunches, new basketball sneakers every six months, another pair of sunglasses when they fall in the lake, not getting that call from the hospital. Privilege is the smoking gun used to shoot down hopes of resistance. It is
a pink pussy hat but no solidarity for trans victims. I think a lot about the person I used to be. I was creative and thoughtful, a real joy at least I think. But as I’ve grown older and especially at Hillside I’ve started to realize that privilege is me and I am privilege. Being queer and a woman sucks sometimes
But I have a home even if its porch slants occasionally. And it is my