". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Monday, February 8, 2016

Chris Jackson and Beyoncé

Chris Jackson, is the co-owner with his now ex-wife Sarah McNally, of Jackson McNally, the first successful NYC indie bookstore to open after amazilla killed all the stores.  He's featured in the New York Times Sunday magazine here.

Chris Jackson and Ta-Nehisi Coates, National Book Awards
At one point in this article, Chris Jackson says this, which is fully sensible:
‘‘The great tradition of black art, generally,’’ he started again, ‘‘is the ability — unlike American art in general — to tell the truth. Because it was formed around the great American poison, the thing that poisoned American consciousness and behavior: racism. And black culture, such as it is, was formed around a necessary resistance to this fundamental lie. That’s the obligation. And this is the power that black art has.’’
This amplifies what he stated above:
This power — the power of the unvarnished truth — is what is at stake when we talk about the problem of exclusion in the world of books. What believable version of American reality can be the product of an industry that, according to a recent survey, counts black people as just 4 percent of its employees? We can admit that race is not our only national reality without denying that it clarifies the workings of — and relations among — the others. A kind of American Rosetta Stone. 
This is the unique claim on the truth that black art can make: It draws its energy from its embrace of hybridity, from a rejection of the illusion of American purity. The joy of expression and the sorrow of experience, properly commingled, might result in something new — and true.
How can that be argued with?  As we all understand that this poison can never be drained from our national expression and attitude until the truth is told, told as matter-of-fact, and starting at the earliest years in our education system, among many other institutionally racist venues.

In many ways, Beyoncé's video for her single, "Formation," dropped for the Super Bowl is saying the same thing.

It can be viewed here on the Rolling Stone site.  Guarantee -- watching it only once won't do.

Beyond that, however, are the reactions particularly of African American women from different entry points, but are saying the same things, but in different ways.

The writing about "Formation" by African American women is filled with brilliant imagery.  Looking at just three different responses to "Formation" illustrates what A.O. Scott is describing when he asked, "What is criticism, what is reviewing?"

Here are three different African American women actively thinking about their experience of "Formation"

In fact, it's bloggers like these who have most impressed me, beyond the video itself.

Three different approaches, three different 'languages', all of them deeply expressive in their different manners of thinking hard, thinking actively, i.e. critically in response to an experience that was aesthetic, entertaining or political, depending on the approach.  And I'm responding to their language and imagery in response to her imagery (seeming more than to the lyrics, but hey, music video!)  in a very positive way.  I.e. they are persuasive.


For some of we white people who have been crowing that the lyrics' referencing of "slayer" and "slaying" is inspired by Buffy -- no, it's not.  This terminology comes from of the early days of hiphop and rap: slaying the competition, rivals, obstacles, whatever, was constant usage long before the Buff was a glimmer in Whedon's eye, and it still is.

Beyoncé proves once again she and Jay-Z are not only the most successful figures  globally in entertainment today, but  likely the smartest business people too.
Beyoncé slayed -- she even slayed football.  She's the winner of the Super Bowl. There's a whole more talking about "Formation" than there is about the game. She certainly substituted white space with space that is fully black matters.

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