Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Marveling at the Expressive Aspects of African Diasporic Culture

I am always amazed, and do marvel, at the brilliance and genius of the expressive aspects of African American culture. However, I really should extend it to include the African Diasporic culture because there are brothers and sisters on each continent that are writing, painting, speaking, singing, rapping, teaching, painting and just overall finding new and innovative ways to speak to the essence of soul—that one thing that resides in each of us, but particularly it is that feeling you get  when something created moves you to move, write, preach, or sing with such passion, such conviction that it can make you have goose bumps or equally make tears to fall from your eyes.

Soul in the African Diasporic context is not simply a James Brown scream or an Aretha Franklin moan, but it very much is the essence and identity of hope in hopeless situations, joy amidst pain, love in the presence of hate. In the African American context, it is the blues. It is gospel. It is jazz. It is rhythm and blues. But it is not just found in singing or music for that matter. This “soul” is found in everything from a Jacob Lawrence painting to a the traditional foods served at family gatherings that aren’t the best for us, but prepared with a certain care, love, and feeling that just like a jazz solo has a unique taste depending on who has prepared it. For instance your grandmother may make the best friend chicken, you have ever aunt make prepare the best ox tails and jerk chicken, and while others make make dishes that rival those meals, they are distinct in their taste, and dare I say feeling when you eat them. I know when I think of my grandmother's biscuits they take me back to early Saturday mornings in Kentucky, with each delectable bite.

Off the top of my head I can think of more examples than I can list on a page, but for the sake of this blog offering I thought to share a few with you that I think personify the essence of expressive and sometimes prophetic African Diasporic culture, that you may (or may not) be familiar with.

The first video is a song by the late Oscar Brown, Jr., poet, playwright, and activist. The tune is entitled “People of Soul” and it demonstrates how the struggle for black freedom is never ending, but for me, the greatest part about it is not that is a song of sorrow, but a true sense of pride and demonstrates the utter strength of a dispossessed people, who in the face of insurmountable odds transform themselves and the oppressive society in which they exist.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

He's a Man, not a Messiah: Barack Obama and the Dangers of Political & Cultural Messianism

This latest offering on my blog has been a long time coming. It was originally inspired by a Twitter conversation I had with Professor Blair L. M. Kelley of North Carolina State University earlier this summer. She urged me to write something then (as did others) and I’m just now getting around to it. It seems though, however, that this topic is still quite relevant.

For quite some time now, we have been hearing about the growing malaise with President Barack Obama, but not from the usual conservative critics, but from his so called “progressive” base. It started in small pockets at first, ironically just like the Tea Party Movement, only with the liberal criticism it was initially confined to a few academics articulating their disappointment with Obama as president. Now, like a virus, the “buyer’s remorse” attitude seems to be sweeping through the mainstream media outlets as well as in the liberal blogosphere.

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Negrointellectual by Vernon C. Mitchell, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at