Friday, July 11, 2014

"Shit is Racial" --- The Archivist by Simon Abramowitsch

Simon Abramowitsch wrote this poem on the road and read it for the first time on the bus. We had just had lunch in a little town called Swellendam and were on our way to Cape Town. In the three hours that lay before us, some of the participants came up to the front of the bus to share their experience of the journey, seeing it was coming to an end. Most people reflected on our intellectual project of the non-racial. Other's gave thanks. Simon read this poem. --- Editor's Note

A JWTC participant standing on the Sliding Stone at Qunu, Nelson Mandela's hometown

The Archivist

down a bumpy road
in Swaziland, the end
of a beautiful evening,
the southern sky glistening above
the roof of her hospitality
Dolores Godeffroy told us:
is racial.”

From a bus in Southern Africa
and yet the archive is
in Oakland and Berkeley, CA
can never be removed but
can be turned inside
out from anywhere.

1. The Archive of Friendship

I was in the midst of kings:
junior high named for martin
and rodney on the tv: here
brown boys
yellow boys
black boys
white boys
together, clowning and frowning.
and we thought
it was hiphop
and we thought
it was as the sons of single mothers
and our mothers thought
it was the accident or genius of the school district.

listen: no politics here
no political families here,
or so we thought.
we learned politics from the police
they showed each one of us who we were.
we learned politics from houses bought, houses rented,
from evictions and foreclosures and property values
these showed each one of us who we were.
we learned politics from job interviews, bank accounts, and bills
these showed each one of us who we were:
brown boys, yellow boys, black boys, white boys.

in the wake of this knowledge, these politics
i tried to remember
that which I had never known.
listen now,
listen now,
i tried to remember
in Berkeley, CA
this possibility realized—so fragile
—and from where did it come?
and whose work was this?
whose politics suggested the promise of something else
whose politics worked like artists, magicians, sculptors
carving from within
carving a humanity already forever present
and listen now
listen now
I found the panther, so many
listened close.
I knew the first line
Black Power for Black People
knew that one, knew it well.
but listen again:
Black Power for Black People
Brown Power for Brown People
Red Power for Red People
Yellow Power for Yellow People
White Power for White People
All Power to the People!
in this archive
the ideal was the possible, no?

2. The Archive of Family

In the home of those friends
made amidst kings
that are now uncles and aunties
to my son: children play:
Iyari, Santana, Lucien
the laugh, the cry, the yell, even the whine.
To show you this scene
to make this scene language
or make this scene image
to utter the rainbow
would that destroy it?
—as if, somehow, this moment of freedom can exist.

but dolores told us
“shit is racial.”
here, in the home of friends
happiness, and nevertheless
we are under siege:
racism and the racial world
come through gaps under the door
cracks in the window
through the mail slot
through electric lines and tv cables
sneaks in with toys and children’s books
it knocks on the door and asks to come in
it kicks in the door in with the ferocity of the police.
and in this home of the uncles and aunties to our children,
how do we defend ourselves?
what armor shall we wear?
what arms shall we take up?
in the tradition of those who came before
what shall be our self-defense?


Image by Naadira Patel.

About the Author: 
Simon Abramowitsch works on multi-ethnic American literature and African American literature, literary ethnic nationalisms and the Black Power/Black Arts Movement--as well as the relationships between these various categories and movements.

Instagram: btownthinker

Twitter: @ambitionsaz

Blog: http://btownthinking.wordpress.com/

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