Like the great Kings, Queens, and Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, I too look to the animal kingdom for vision, clarity, and spiritual guidance.
The symbol of the Egyptian Cobra, or the Uraeus, is a symbol for the Goddess Wadjet. This figure can be found many places- most notably, adorning the mask of King Tutankhamun‘s mummy.
The unblinking eye of the Egyptian Cobra is symbol for omniscience- all knowing. For one to be all knowing, one must be all seeing.
… When I was initially told of the unblinking eye of the Egyptian Cobra I was in Senegal (West Africa), where I was documenting scientists working on rain fall levels and hurricane formation in the sub-sahara desert region. They had a lot to do. My one assignment: take pictures. Naturally, my eyes started tearing up; overwhelmingly so. To the point I couldn’t see where I was walking, let alone take pics. I purchased some glasses and a bigger hat. It took a day or two to adjust to the West Afriacn sun- but once I did… awwwww mannn I was taking pics everywhere!
I eventually went to an R&B show, where a well known singer (who I choose not to name) was performing. He saw that I was taking photos and video. He stopped his entire show. Took my camera. And continued to play. He eventually gave my camera back at the end of the show ( around 3 or 4 am), but during the time he had my camera… oh mannn… I mean mugged him for every single second. I wanted my camera back. My determination wouldn’t allow me to blink. All I remember thinking: the Egyptian Cobra doesn’t blink.
With that said, when it comes to vision- I often think how our African ancestors ( and personal past experiences), and how they have lead me to look toward the animal kingdom for vision.
Be it the lions in Washington DC’s zoo- and how they look toward the sun in the afternoon. Or the pelicans by Lake Merritt in Oakland, Ca- and how they scope their prey while yards away, only to swan-dive into the water in pursuit of a meal…
OH… another GREAT animal to mention in relation to vision/ spiritual guidance: the gecko.
The gecko can grow it’s tail back ( it covers it’s own ass)
The gecko has toes that can stick to most surfaces (it doesn’t slip)
The gecko cleans it’s eyes by licking them. ( Never be thirsty. Never be blinded. )
Naturally, I clicked the playlist. It jams-solid lil fusion of new tunes & old skool. Cool.
During one of those random ole skool songs, one of the homies came by- we cracked jokes about the timing of the miscellaneous song- (then changed the song), talked about the Raiders losing, educational aspirations… and women…blah… blah..blah…
The homie left about twenty minutes later, I looked back to twitter and noticed a number of people had responded to a question I asked earlier… something like: “do men still holla at women on the street… and does that shit work?” (That wasn’t the tweet I originally set out for… nonetheless, it caught my attention.)
I got yes and no answers. A number of people saying that it was in the approach and some even gave me the actual approach “make eye contact” … “Use your inside voice”. Nothing like getting tips on your G online…
After checking a couple of news articles and cute women’s tweets/ blog’s … about 45 minutes later I found the tweet I set-out for:
“The memory is cloudy, but the foresight is clear…”
I blasted it out this past weekend. I couldn’t remember if it was a line from a song, movie, or what.. I know I can’t be the 1st person to say it.
I can’t remember where it came from.
Yeah, this shows: the mind works in wonderful ways. Clarity is scarce in this day and age. I’d blame it on the technology. Funny, everything is quicker these days: Technology, information, food preparation, athletes, the list goes on…
But achieving goals takes the same amount of time, energy, and focus… clarity. Clear aspirations and intentional actions. That’s what it’s about.
It’s late night by now. Time to get to work on that dream.
…Oh, and TLC’s “What About Your Friends” is a cool song… Just not with the homies.
I first heard of August Wilson at Howard University. A rendition of one of his 10 “cycle of plays chronicles” plays entitled, “Fences” play was portrayed at a campus event. The subject matter of race relations, blue collar working, and sports was right up my alley.
August Wilson’s biography explains why his writing is authentic; he lived it. He wrote about his hometown. He wrote about his family & friends. He wrote about the life he lived.
The ideal approach to writing something is doing it from experience. Allowing it to be cathartic; an expression of a repressed emotion and or memory. Those are the best writings.
This August i’ve been challenged to write about a different word everyday… Today’s word is “August”. Last August I got the idea to do a photoessay on August Wilson’s play: “Other Side of The Fence.”
Oh… The Play “Fences” won an award for best Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play in 1987… Yeah, that was a good year.
First grade: I had the fade with the duck tail. I was a “sporty” kid… and I had never wanted any ball, toy, or article of clothing as bad as I wanted this… So I stole it.
I left out of the Sam Goody Record store with a genuine Crest Kid smile:
Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony’s “E. 1999” ontape was mine!!!
… at that moment- I became loyal to Hip-Hop.
That was my pledge. I committed a crime in the name of Hip-Hop. I would later admit this story to a college friend, and the homie replied: “It’s not gangster rap-unless you steal it, bro.”
I appreciate certain aspects of the industry, but I live for the culture.
The dancing at the bus stop while awaiting that late night bus cause you’re coming from that 1 chick’s house cross town…
Making beats on the wooden desk in the back of my algebra classroom with a pencil and a hair brush…
Freestyle sessions in the backseat of a smokey Buick in the middle of the hood- in the middle of the day- sweating bullets cause i’m the smallest and they made me sit in the middle seat. No one would open the door. No one wanted to break the flow…
We’re all loyal to Hip-Hop… to some extent.
Hip-Hop has a hold on America. It’s everywhere. I once wondered if the popularization of the art form would water it down… no…The popularization created a polarization: underground vs. mainstream.
like water and oil- it … Both flow… They just have a different feel/ texture.
Jeff Chang’s “Can’t Stop, Won’t stop”, put a lot Hip-Hop’s influence on modern America into perspective for me; a great read for any loyal Hip-Hop head.
I’m loyal to hip hop.
And Hip-Hop is loyal to me.
When I’m experiencing women troubles (or “I don’t have a woman-troubles” ) I listen to Devin The Dude.
When I want to change the world ( Or just accept that im just another nigga in this world) I listen to 2Pac.
When I want to feel like an intellectual urban-ite I listen to Nas.
When I awake, I listen to Big K.R.I.T. … When I go to sleep, I listen to Curren$y.
When I reminisce about growing up in Oakland- I play hyphy music…
When I want to get away from Oakland- I listen to mid-90’s east coast gangster rap.
When I think of loyalty, I think of what has been there for me…
Family, friends, and even my sense confidence sometimes escape me in my darkest hour.
But even when the batteries stop working on the Walkman or the faulty internet connection isn’t letting me download the newest mixtape… There’s always a Hip-Hop song playing in my head… My heart is a beat machine.
Green Day’s “I Walk Alone” plays as I sit on the windowsill next to the iron radiator in the corner of my studio apartment on an immaculate early August afternoon in Oakland, Ca .
Brainstorming … brainstorming… brainstorming: the word “Green”= Money… Oakland A’s… Ninja turtles … Oscar the grouch… Spinach … Apples… UNO cards… traffic lights…Green Lantern… The Green Monster in Boston … Cee-Lo Green… Famed NBA player AC Green (who was known for his work ethic on the court and his devotion to being a virgin off the court)… Green- new to something! A VIRGIN! BINGO!
… I’ve agreed to participate in the “August Writing Challenge” after seeing a friend tweet about it…
” #AugustWritingChallenge is spreading. Not sure how many participants, but going to try to include all of them in the recap.”- @NateIege
That was this morning, I’m 10 days behind- I’m green to this, but I dream of being seasoned vet when it comes to all forms of writing, so I’ve agreed to this…
Yeah, I’m sure I make like a green screen: create something never before seen…
What will come of it? I can only imagine. I saw the list of topics- and I know I work well within broad structures: give me the guidelines… and then give me freedom to color whatever color I choose in between those lines… Today’s color is OBVIOUSLY green.
Wait… Today is Friday… You really asked me to write about “green” ? On a Friday? … Knowing I’m from California… Where weed is everything but lega?… mannnnnnn… you already knew I was going to write about Green Day & AC Green…Oh and the fact that the grass is greener on the other side. (#WestSide) Glad to be on this side of the writer’s block. I’m ready to grind.
My August Writing Challenge virginity has been broken! Let’s go!
Inspired by Plato’s philosophy, a rap artist from Philly, and the miseducation of Pendarvis.
“Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eye are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind’s eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye.”- Plato’s Republic.
Plato’s philosophy on what bewilders the mind’s eye is the driving thought behind the classic novel, “Flowers for Algernon”, written by Daniel Keys. With an original date of publication in 1958, who could have foreseen that a little more than 50 years later, this same book would exemplify the bewilderment in my mind’s eye.
I first encountered the novel in 8th grade as an assigned book report. After grading my report, my 8th grade English teacher, Ms. Jones, gave me a good grade and an even better opportunity: a pamphlet for an organization called “A Better Chance“. The organization’s mission was to identify young students who are excelling in their inner-city schools, and give them an opportunity to seek a well-rounded education at schools with greater resources, such as private or preparatory schools. I took that opportunity; never could I have imagined how the book, the assignment, and the pamphlet would forever alter my educational path.
The story of “Flowers for Algernon” is the diary-style log of a character named Charlie, and his experiences as he goes through a roller-coaster ride of enlightenment and bewilderment. Charlie, a mentally challenged middle aged janitor is chosen to be the subject of an experimental operation. He is coupled with a mouse, Algernon, who has also recently gone through the same surgery. Both experiments are momentary successes, but Algernon’s mental capacity soon begins to dwindle. Upon noticing the change in the mouse, Charlie assumes that his newly acquired IQ will soon wane as well. In effort to counteract the mental decay, Charlie finds and fixes the error in the doctor’s formula; he calls it the “Algernon-Gordon Effect”. The alteration is too late for the mouse, who’s erratic behavior and diminishing metal heath eventually leads to death. After witnessing this, Charlie takes no action to stop his decline back to the slow side, and ultimately he fully regresses to the state of mental retardation he once was. The final entry to the journal which captures Charlie’s short experience with genius-hood, asks that the reader put fresh flowers on Algernon’s grave.
The story also intertwines a love story, but it was the story of the process of enlightenment and bewilderment in the mind’s eye that spoke to me….
A college schoolmate from Philly, a lyricist by the name of ” Dru Chris ” ( @DruChris) , made a song called “Flowers For Algernon”, Dru_Chris_The_Arsonist.m64153.html (Track number 8)
I had completely forgotten about the story of Charlie and the mouse since going through what I would call my “enlightenment” period.
After taking classes on Greek, African, and Western philosophy, I now understand….
The opening and closing of the mind’s eye is symbolic for the cycle of life. You see it flowers. You see it in the moon. You see it sexual organs. You see it in human beings… Infants and elderly people share many of the same characteristics!
“…which is true of the mind’s eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye.”- Plato.
The opening & closing of the mind’s eye. Another form of the cycle of life- represented through all of the aforementioned naturally occurring instances… As well as through a slow middle aged janitor and deceased lab rat… Inspired by Plato … And brought back to my mind by a rapper from Philly.
A Black man, with a red hoody on, wearing a beanie, rode past my little Asian coworker on bike and snatched her phone out of her hand.
This isn’t about the $400 dollar phone. This isn’t about my “little Asian” coworker. This is about Black men.
I fit the description of the Black man who snatched her phone…
She might have said he had dreads- so the style of the hair differs. And on that day I was wearing burgundy, not red; but close enough. I’m not heavy set- I’m skinny. But mannnnnn, if she filed a police report I’d be a suspect… I could just imagine myself walking out of the office, mounting my bike (which I ride everyday), and riding through the same area where the incident occurred … I’d be a suspect.
Heavyset or skinny. Dreads locs or fresh cuts. We all look the same to cops.
I left out of the office, rode my bike to the high school where I held an after school program, and asked my students a number of questions…
“Have you ever been robbed?” … “Have you ever robbed/ thought of robbing people?” … “Do you ever get looked at as a thief or criminal?” … “Do they ever fear Black men?”
The conversation that came out these questions showed that we suffer from the thought of Black men being malicious, criminals, animals… these were the opinions of Black male and female high schoolers… And myself.
On many accords I felt the same.
I’ve been in their position. As a Black man, I’ve been in fear and I’ve been feared. How do we correct this mindset within high schoolers? For my little Asian co-worker? Or, for that matter, white America?
… Especially if it is something that is pervasive within our own people/ community.
My co-worker is a loving-fighter. A poet born in the Philippines. A Pisces. And an experienced educator in Oakland, Ca. She took the incident in stride. I recall how she retold the account to me, “For real, bro!?!” she yelled at the man as he took the phone and continued down the block. “I even called him ‘BRO’!… ” She said to me with exclamation. She maintained her stance of love.
She didn’t let one person’s actions change her perspective on all people.
That was the answer.
But is it possible to maintain your outlook on life, after seeing what life presents? Fully?
Seriously… Don’t you have to change to the environment as a means of survival?
… Or can you change the environment enough so as to ensure survival?
One glimpse of the police motorcade, and I flashed back to my DC days …
As a student at Howard University, I spent five years in the Nation’s capital. A Presidential parade was nothing new to me. Although the eyes of the Nation were focused on my hometown, I was more concerned with simply going home.
I closed my books and came out of Oakland’s main library: Hungry. Frustrated. Feeling pissed. Plus I had to piss…
“If all these badge rockin’ overseers (officers) weren’t around- I’d water this shrub.” I remember thinking to myself as I copped a squat next to a bush. The police wouldn’t let me cross the street; they told me that the President would be passing in ten minutes… My thoughts began to race, so I held my bladder, and blasted off a couple of tweets:
“If i pass this class, I can save myself. If I save myself, I can save my people”
“… No matter what the President does… “
“(I’m sitting next to a bush, tweeting… surrounded by policemen.)”
If I pass this test I can graduate undergrad. If I graduate undergrad, I can start grad school. When I finish grad school, as a professional journalist with a teacher’s degree, I will be able to access and allocate resources that we all can use to better our community.
In the grand scheme of things the, Presidential election does matter. I know it does.
Do I have any voice in that matter- honestly, I don’t know. I know- 1 vote, 1 person. I know the electoral college. I know that large “Political Action Committees” are BIG sponsors of campaigns. I also understand that there is a lot that I don’t know.
I understand that there is a Black man in the most powerful office of all of the land… I understand that very clearly…
But I’ve only seen that via media. And I don’t always believe the media… especially media about the government.
In person, I’ve seen some things:
In September of 2008, I was in Denver for the Democratic National Convention.
In November of 2008 when the news was announced that Senator Obama had been elected as President of the United States of America, I was on Howard University’s campus in Washington DC.
I was even in Nation’s Capital on the frosty morning of January 20, 2009 during the inaugural celebration of America’s first African-American President.
I saw it. I didn’t understand it. But I saw it.
I didn’t vote in the 2008 election… I know, I know…
I support the image of a Black man in the Oval Office, it speaks volumes as to how far this country has come. But the politics behind it- I still question. I figure I fall into the fray, full of Black folks who feel the same way; untrusting of our government. Untrusting is an understatement…
Look man, I’m coming from Oakland, Ca. A place where people have seen the underhandedness of local governing bodies time and time again. In the past four years- we’ve seen blatant dirt on the hands of the State (CA budget) , the City (Police), and even the Transit cops (Oscar Grant). To think that the Federal Government- will do something to better the situation in our Oakland neighborhood is behooving, farfetched, and unrealistic to many of us out here.
Well, recently… the Federal Government has done SOMETHING to aid the city The NY Times ranked as “the World’s 5th best tourist attraction of 2012”…
On the same morning that the Federal forces made a move to close Oakland’s famed medical marijuana college… a mass shooting occurred at Oikos University, a small Christian school located in East Oakland. Unfortunately fittingly.
There are people in this city struggling to make ends meet, losing lives to gun violence (with both policemen and black/brown men behind the trigger), and people who have been scarred by the woes of the world. These are the people who don’t trust in the government. On any level.
The 99%er movement, which swept the Nation in October/ November of 2011, took to a different feel here in Oakland. Protesters of all backgrounds combined forces and claimed residency right under Oakland’s main tree- in the center of the city. The local governing officials didn’t take too kind it’s new neighbors, and eventually gave them an eviction notice… in the form of a sunrise police raid. The raid set off a domino effect of rebellious actions on the part of the people- and eventually ended with many reports condemning the City of Oakland’s approach to the Occupy situation.
President Obama’s late July appearance in Oakland was greeted by protesters… per usual. Many of the protesters were fighting global injustices, federal wrong-doings, and for the legalization of medical marijuana… And some protesters were just out there to protest, as many do in this city.
While protesters, fans, and police motorcades focused on President Obama being in town, three notable events occurred in Oakland:
3. The family of Alan Blueford, a teenager who was shot by OPD, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Oakland. Blueford was killed on May 6th. The officer who shot, also shot himself in the foot. The officer’s name has not been released, neither has Blueford’s autopsy records. Therefore, the family cannot move forward with this case.
These are the problems that haunt this town. Local issues. These are the issues I find myself concerned with. Local issues … not National issues.
The people of my city are children who have been hurt by miscellaneous happenings, sisters who have been scarred by society, and people… hurt people.
Just imagine: If cured, what wonders could these people do to change society?
How can we open our doors to the world, if our house isn’t clean?
What is the significance of President Obama leaving the white house, to come to a town where Black and Brown people die in the street- before and after he leaves?
I’ve done a little research; now, I’m sure I could stand to do some more, but this is what I’ve concluded:
I- a young man who watched the 2008 Presidential election process with a lazy eye, a young man who has watched the little (if any) “change” in my local neighborhood with a hawk’s eye, and a young man who is going to the University of California’s graduate school of journalism this fall… I have a responsibility.