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Commentary by Black Kos Editor Denise Oliver-Velez

I was thinking this week about some of the things I am often told, in a purportedly complimentary mode, about my speech, and writing ability. Have heard these things since I was a child, and after a while it gets tedious. If I had a dollar for every time I've been told I'm "articulate", "well-spoken" or simply "you write so well" from teachers, acquaintances, employers and strangers I'd be rich. I get it tossed at me in two modes— folks who assume cause I'm black that my speaking and writing American Standard English is some major achievement—and for those who have mistakenly assumed I'm Puerto Rican that somehow I've managed to transcend Spanglish/broken English as my primary language. I used to snap back and say "what do you expect from the daughter of a PhD in English Literature and Drama?", adding, "I speak Middle English too" and then spout Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales Prologue..."Whan that aprill with his shoures soote, the droghte of march hath perced to the roote, and bathed every veyne in swich licour ". I don't bother any more. I just lift an eyebrow.

I was reminded of this when listening/watching Jamila Lyiscott's Ted Talk this week.

Jamila Lyiscott is a “tri-tongued orator;” in her powerful spoken-word essay “Broken English,” she celebrates — and challenges — the three distinct flavors of English she speaks with her friends, in the classroom and with her parents. As she explores the complicated history and present-day identity that each language represents, she unpacks what it means to be “articulate.”
Lyiscott describes herself as "an academic activist, spoken word artist, and educator and is currently a doctoral candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University where her work focuses on the education of the African Diaspora. She also serves as the Program Associate at Urban Word NYC, a community based after school organization that works to champion youth literacy, development, and voice through hip-hop, spoken word, literature, and social justice pedagogy."

Take a listen.


Today, a baffled lady observed the shell where my soul dwells
And announced that I'm "articulate"
Which means that when it comes to annunciation and diction
I don't even think of it
 ‘Cause I’m "articulate"
So when my professor asks a question
And my answer is tainted with a connotation of urbanized suggestion
There’s no misdirected intention
Pay attention
 ‘Cause I’m “articulate”
So when my father asks, “Wha’ kinda ting is dis?”
My “articulate” answer never goes amiss
I say “father, this is the impending problem at hand”
And when I’m on the block I switch it up just because I can
So when my boy says, “What’s good with you son?”
I just say, “I jus’ fall out wit dem people but I done!”
And sometimes in class
I might pause the intellectual sounding flow to ask
 “Yo! Why dese books neva be about my peoples”
Yes, I have decided to treat all three of my languages as equals
Because I’m “articulate”
But who controls articulation?
Because the English language is a multifaceted oration
Subject to indefinite transformation
Now you may think that it is ignorant to speak broken English
But I’m here to tell you that even “articulate” Americans sound foolish to the British
So when my Professor comes on the block and says, “Hello”
I stop him and say “Noooo …
You’re being inarticulate … the proper way is to say ‘what’s good’”
Now you may think that’s too hood, that’s not cool
But I’m here to tell you that even our language has rules
So when Mommy mocks me and says “ya’ll-be-madd-going-to-the-store”
I say “Mommy, no, that sentence is not following the law
Never does the word "madd" go before a present participle
That’s simply the principle of this English”
If I had the vocal capacity I would sing this from every mountaintop,
From every suburbia, and every hood
 ‘Cause the only God of language is the one recorded in the Genesis
Of this world saying “it is good"
So I may not always come before you with excellency of speech
But do not judge me by my language and assume
That I’m too ignorant to teach
 ‘Cause I speak three tongues
One for each:
Home, school and friends
I’m a tri-lingual orator
Sometimes I’m consistent with my language now
Then switch it up so I don’t bore later
Sometimes I fight back two tongues
While I use the other one in the classroom
And when I mistakenly mix them up
I feel crazy like … I’m cooking in the bathroom
I know that I had to borrow your language because mines was stolen
But you can’t expect me to speak your history wholly while mines is broken
These words are spoken
By someone who is simply fed up with the Eurocentric ideals of this season
And the reason I speak a composite version of your language
Is because mines was raped away along with my history
I speak broken English so the profusing gashes can remind us
That our current state is not a mystery
I’m so tired of the negative images that are driving my people mad
So unless you’ve seen it rob a bank stop calling my hair bad
I’m so sick of this nonsensical racial disparity
So don’t call it good unless your hair is known for donating to charity
As much as has been raped away from our people
How can you expect me to treat their imprint on your language
As anything less than equal
Let there be no confusion
Let there be no hesitation
This is not a promotion of ignorance
This is a linguistic celebration
That’s why I put "tri-lingual" on my last job application
I can help to diversify your consumer market is all I wanted them to know
And when they call me for the interview I’ll be more than happy to show that
I can say:
 “What’s good”
And of course …“Hello”
Because I’m “articulate”
Thank you.


                  News by dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor


An Ohio state Representative is pushing for a voter's rights bill in her crucial swing state. Ebony: Rep. Alicia Reece Fights for the (Continued) Right to Vote.
A year after a Right-leaning US Supreme Court invalidated crucial provisions of the Voting Rights Act, the fight against state-level legislative efforts to limit the franchise is in full swing. With 34 states having already approved some form of voter ID requirement and other GOP-led statehouses pushing other measures, Ohio State Rep. Alicia Reece dreams of marching a Voters’ Bill of Rights from her crucial swing district all the way to Washington. We spoke with her about the fight to keep the vote in Ohio, and beyond.

EBONY: Most people assume their right to vote is enshrined in the US Constitution. Why does Ohio need its own Voters Bill of Rights?

AR: Most people think that, but right now those rights actually are not there. Making voting a fundamental right for all citizens is not written into our Ohio constitution. We’re also addressing what qualifies a voter, sealing in early vote days, and ‘Souls to the Polls’, which is voting on Sundays and that’s important here. We have large turnouts on those days and we need to allow voting to be more accessible to the working family. We can’t just have one voting day when so many people are working two and three jobs.

EBONY: And you’ve got a pretty tight deadline to get this on the ballot?

AR: We have to turn in 385,254 good signatures from across the state by July 2, but since we know that some of the signatures will be thrown out, we really need twice that number. And before we could start collecting signatures, we already had to get the ballot initiative certified by a Republican attorney general and then by a bi-partisan ballot board headed by Republicans, and we did that.

                                Ohio State Rep. Alicia Reece


Ghanaian-American rapper Blitz Bazawule’s new album sonically maps the roots and routes of a new cosmopolitan Diaspora. The Root: Blitz the Ambassador Chronicles Hip-Hop’s ‘Mobile Diaspora’ in Afropolitan Dreams.
It’s telling that Samuel Bazawule—aka Blitz the Ambassador—was introduced to hip-hop as a child in Ghana via the music of Public Enemy.

While “N*ggas in Paris” like Kanye West and Jay Z are most often recalled in fantasies and nightmares of hip-hop’s global expansion, rappers have been in the vanguard of a black cosmopolitan identity for almost 40 years. That’s part of the joke that opens Bazawule’s new release, Afropolitan Dreams, recalling his arrival in the United States and the incredulous response of an immigration officer to his stated profession: “rapper.”

And the title of Bazawule’s new recording is drawn from a term coined by writer Taiye Selasi in her 2005 essay, “Bye-Bye Barbar,” where she thinks aloud about a generation of African immigrants who weren’t simply cosmopolitan—citizens of the world—but Afropolitan, or “Africans of the world.”

Though the idea of Afropolitanism has been debated in some circles, Bazawule strays from those concerns, asserting that he was inspired to create Afropolitan Dreams by meeting peers in different disciplines. “What we had in common,” he says, “was that we were all immigrants.” A theme that finds initial grounding in the audio references to the New York City subway system on the opening track, “The Arrival,” produces its own cosmopolitan logic within the context of the city. Here Bazawule is in sync with how late political scientist Richard Iton, in his book In Search of the Black Fantastic, theorized the Diaspora as distinguishing between “roots” and “routes.”

Cover of Blitz the Ambassador’s new album, Afropolitan Dreams

Nigeria can make a strong case for recognition as the most soccer-crazed country in the world. BusinessWeek: The World's Most Crazed Soccer Nation? Try Nigeria.
Nigeria can make a strong case for recognition as the most soccer-crazed country in the world. In recent surveys, the most populous nation in Africa, with the continent’s largest economy, shows an unparalleled interest and participation in the sport. And Nigeria’s World Cup TV ratings would count as dazzling by the standards of the U.S.

According to a 2013 poll by market researcher Repucom, 83 percent of Nigerians report interest in soccer and 65 percent play the sport. Both results put Nigeria atop the 33 nations polled. The U.S., by comparison, has 27 percent interest and 10 percent participation. Here are the top 15 nations by soccer interest:

Repucom surveyed a sample of 1,000 people in each market between the ages of 16 and 69. In Nigeria, surveys were conducted in person. To gauge soccer participation, Repucom spoke only with adults who play any kind of sport at least once a week. In Nigeria, that’s 37 percent of the larger population—meaning that the overall participation rate in soccer is 24 percent. Below are the top 15 nations by participation:


Five black and Latino men wrongly convicted as teens in the explosive 1989 rape case of a white Central Park jogger have agreed to a $40 million settlement. Color Lines: Central Park Five Settle With New York City For $40 Million.
The confidential deal, disclosed by an unidentified source who is not party to the lawsuit, still has to be approved by the city comptroller and then a federal judge, The New York Times reports. If the settlement goes through, it’ll end more than a decade of civil litigation for the Five and underscore a case that has come to symbolize the worst of New York City’s racist mob mentality at the time. Interviewed by Colorlines’ Akiba Solomon last December, one of the five, Yusef Salaam—15 at arrest, about 7 years served—said:

We’ve been in this loop for 20 years. … Since the film, I really think we the people are that much more driven in wanting to make sure not just that there’s justice for the Central Park Five but that there will never be another. Yes, we’ve gotten something out our lives back, but we’re still fighting for that final piece. It’s crazy. People ask me all the time, “How do you keep moving after all of this.” Sometimes I feel like I’m having an out-of-body experience.
The Five’s convictions were vacated in 2002 after a single man, convicted rapist and murderer Matias Reyes’ jailhouse confession to the brutal 1989 rape and assault of jogger, Trisha Meili. To the end, the Bloomberg administration vigorously fought the ensuing civil suit’s allegations of false arrest, malicious prosecution and racially motivated conspiracy, maintaining that authorities in 1989 had acted with good faith and were therefore not liable.


Voices and Soul


by Justice Putnam
Black Kos Poetry Contributor

Percy Shelley's sonnet, Ozymandias, was published in England in 1818. Earlier that year, Percy, with Mary Shelley and their children; and along with his sister-in-law Claire Clairmont, mother of Byron's child, expatriated to Bagni di Lucca, Italy. In the late summer, they moved to Este, near Venice to be closer to Byron's villa. At a time when the "Exceptionalism" of British colonial reach was unquestioned; in fact, exalted in verse, theatre and the academy, Shelly acknowledged the erosion Time has on all leaders and empires:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".

-- Percy Bysshe Shelley

Jamaican-born Claude McKay certainly channeled Shelley, when in 1922, he questioned the "Exceptionalism" of an America that held the "hand that mocked them and the heart that fed." McKay saw also, though few will admit the obvious erosion of Time, that even for America, there will be a future where the "lone and level sands stretch far away."

Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate.
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

-- Claude McKay


Welcome to the Black Kos Community Front Porch


Originally posted to Black Kos community on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 12:59 PM PDT.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges and White Privilege Working Group.

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