Month: July 2020

Dear Hip Hop,

Did you know our sons and daughters, our children are dying out here in these streets?

Did you know our sons and daughters, our children are out here selling Niggah passes in these streets?

…like drugs and candy…trying to come up, they are dying in these streets, in these schools, on these blocks, at these parties…


They don’t know that not all words belong to them or us, we can’t reclaim what was never designed to honor us…ever. It was language designed, created, invented to keep us down…so, in 2020 the thought that we can “run the jewels” and kill our masters using his words…is just…


How will we ever be free?

How will we ever win?

How will we ever lead…wearing the emperor’s garments and carrying his weapons?

Wearing chains

To stay cool…like Isaac Hayes.

I get it.

I grew up with you. Vinyl records. Vinyl skirts. Bamboo earrings. Free concerts in the park…sitting at the bus stop sucking on a lollipop…who knew,

The innuendo

Of sexual pleasure,

Its ear hustle

Its audio flow

The optics of lips on gloss

Would stir so much pain?

Our sons and daughters spit…

Shit they know



Everything about

Because you

Do it

on the mic…

In the press

On the real

How are we supposed to feel

Where there’s…theirs…their heirs…ours

Threat to kill us in stead of protect.

I don’t get it.

I grew up with you.

We were young when they,

like Mama C and my own sorority

came at you

for expressing

what you knew.

It felt like betrayal

A portrayal

of olden days’


of Respectability

Not Respeck-ability

But I get it now, like then…

Continue the debate, da battle…later.

Cloaked literacies: Shifting perspectives on liberatory praxis

We wear the mask that grins and lies, it hides our cheeks and shades our eyes; this debt we pay to human guile; with torn and bleeding hearts we smile; and mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise, in counting all our tears and sighs? Nay, let them only see us, while we wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ our cries, to thee from tortured souls arise. We sing, but oh the clay is vile. Beneath our feet, and long the mile; but let the world dream otherwise, we wear the mask!

–Paul L. Dunbar, 1895/1896

Near to the sting of slavery’s institutional clutch, Paul Laurence Dunbar likely understood why his literacy–his ability to read and write using the conventions of standard English–were important. Born in 1872, he was less than one full generation away from emancipation. In 98 words, Dunbar reveals our resistance to the world’s gaze–the performative nature of our being…masked from view…as protection while we rise…moving Up from Slavery like that 1901 work…steadily improving…in the name of freedom.

Fast forward to 1922, monuments to the “lifting the veil” sentiment of the day celebrated reading as agency while also memorializing the shroud of secrecy that was still expected at that moment. With heavy pages resting on his lap, we get the sense that the younger man was being protected by the elder as he developed and learned. Anticipating that he could emerge strong in form and in fashion, the kneeling young body would rise stronger in stature through sharpened mind. Literacy was then and remains a threat to domination…which is perhaps why the elder statesmen took time to reveal the younger greatness of educated and liberated humanity. Revealing to the one standing before the cloaked body, the brilliance of the person beneath the veil. Revealing to the one crouching beneath the cloak, his own more enlightened self…allowing his own pupils to dilate gradually as this new status was being established.

Being cloaked…

is not erasure or a rendering of a man to be invisible,

it is not separation (segregation) for selfish purpose,

it is not the source of a supernatural strength or power,

it is its own protection from premature or over exposure

to the dangers of what lies beyond the veil…

though to the one beneath the curtain

it may feel like being cast into gripping blindness or suffocation…

by an out-of-touch generation.

Freedom’s Journal (1827 – 1829) tells this story…of cloaked literacy…the public and still closed societies that fought to be fully literate–telling stories beyond oral tradition but permanently making marks on paper that stand until this moment. Pre-legislated, freedom was about knowing what the master thought you didn’t know. Post-1865, literacy is the rhetoric of freedom made public in the 1863 presidential clauses that proclaim emancipation. There exists now, like then, a less obtuse reality that no one secures freedom if they cannot read and debate with reasonable acuity and political reference. Knowing reveals a landscape of change: the geology and geography of evolved spaces, the sociology of change and the culture of change provide a road (like a map) that leads to greater understanding of deeply embedded treasures that may be unlocked by literacy.

Literacy has always been its own activism, especially wherever freedom bells toll, like in Philadelphia (See Bacon & McClish, 2000). Many cite Frederick Douglass’ story of literary prowess and ingenue…I agree that his words and letters, speeches and narratives are inspired and inspirational. I however want to amplify Sojourner Truth whose 1851 “I am woman rights” speech at Akron was doctored, appropriated, published and rebranded as “Aint I a Woman” in a language not quite her own. Alas, “even when marginalized rhetors employ the forms of the dominant class, their rhetoric does not necessarily conform to prevailing societal norms. Acts of appropriation should not be seen merely as “borrowing” but as reinvention and transformation” (Bacon & McClish, 2000, p.21).

Dr. Gholdy Muhammed extends this explanation in her work Cultivating Genius by painting a picture of criticality that allows us to know a tertiary purpose in being literate: “to detect sophistry or falsehood or fallacies contained in the language of others…putting intellect into action” (p. 115).

Liberatory praxis–practices of freedom–embraces literacy. These literacies–language, racial, media, technical, scientific and numeric–require disciplinary criticality and reference as norms. Not like chains for compliance but models that shape paths. Whether you cite bell hooks or Bettina Love–the elder statesperson or the younger mentored mind–theory makes us free. In embracing theory, we acknowledge powerful histories, values, beliefs and practices that were designed to incubate greatness. Being free will always be better than becoming free.


Bacon, J., & McClish, G. (2000). Reinventing the master’s tools: Nineteenth‐century African‐American literary societies of Philadelphia and rhetorical education. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 30(4), 19-47.

Muhammad, G. (2020). Cultivating genius: An equity framework for culturally and historically responsive literacy. Scholastic Incorporated.

The Resistance of the Book Against the Gun: Reflections on Hamilton

Reading an English translation of an 1890s essay titled “Our America” by José Martí, one day after watching Hamilton for the first time

Is an interesting morning journey.

Many lines from the work have given me reasons to pause, today, perhaps more than they otherwise would have…because I just saw the play (on TV) during a quarantine during a time of unprecedented tyranny (or so I thought)…this is a time of evolution within revolution…

This line “the resistance of the book against the lance” speaks of the metaphors used to describe the normalcy of war and violence and cutting (away) and pain and liberation and conquest and conflict and colorism and classism and fighting (among other references) during the Spanish-American War.

All of the systems are there: the invention of race, politics, economics, aesthetics, education, crime and punishment, associations, intimate life…so normalized in their tie to domination that any illusion of progress is impossible to see.

From 1894 to 2020, the narrative is the same: the harrowing dysfunction of tyranny by incompetent leaders is resisted by the people. There is fire this time. No duel. No lance. Just shots…fired.

Fair Housing in a Pandemic In a Place of Non-Enforcement

Why is it important to know law?

We need to know because there are loop-holes that protect interests of those who know…for those who don’t know, well, they fall subject to “the extra”.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 made it illegal to discriminate in housing for everything imaginably relevant at the time, except, age. The rights of children are not included. The rights of the elderly are not included. Guarantors (cough, cough, parents) have no rights.

Owners are protected by this phrase:

“No exception can be made for financial hardship, academic changes, family matters, medical issues, roommate conflict or any other reason.”

Written before 2020, no date is indicated, this standard phrase keeps tenants locked into bad deals…

Amendments to the FHA of 1968, made law in 1988 by the 100th Congress are interesting though.

This clause–States that nothing in this Act requires that a dwelling shall be made available to an individual whose tenancy: (1) would constitute a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals; this clause…

Familial status is defined with numbers (<18) and a context. Living with a parent was not cause for discrimination but he sits in the shadows–older than 18, not technically living with parents and yet dependent…

Then there is the impotence of state-level legislation that includes statements like this:

“There is currently no state agency that enforces provisions in the Act, and because most landlord/tenant relations are private transactions, disputes that arise between landlord and tenants are generally considered private matters.”

What good is an Act or a law that cannot be enforced? This clause falls with the thud of a dropped phone on carpet. It is meaningless.

Laws are designed to protect capitalist interests of land owners, until they are written to protect the people.

With only a few months before November and days before my mail-in ballot is due, I review the work of progressive congressional representatives from my father’s home state of New York. Challenging Act 20 and 22 in Puerto Rico, Serrano, Velázquez, Grijalva, and Ocasio-Cortez demand transparency for Puerto Rico.

All of this brings me back to my two passions: my family sun-shine and my teaching/learning experiences.

The concept of fair housing in times of pandemic has brought me to an important understanding about a few things…still thinking…Hamilton comes on tomorrow. You say you want a revolution? Yes. In fact I do.