Friday, July 30, 2010

Slavery and Christianity

i'm reading (all my posts seem to start this way) Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs. the entire book is gut wrenching and fascinating and humbling and eye-opening. i think we should have been reading books like these instead of....whatever diluted, white-washed sliver of knowledge about slavery we learned in my public school.

one chapter i wanted to do a post on- XIII The Church and Slavery. heres some interesting excerpts:
"After the alarm caused by Nat Turner's insurrection had subsided, the slaveholder's came to the conclusion that it would be well to give the slaves enough religious instruction to keep them from murdering their masters. the episcopal clergyman offered to hold a separate service on Sundays for their benefit. .....
his text was, 'servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ.' pious Mr. pike brushed up his hair till it stood upright, and, in deep, solemn tones, began: 'hearken, ye servants! give strict heed unto my words. you are rebellious sinners. your hearts are filled with all manner of evil, 'tis the devil who tempts you. god is angry with you, and will surely punish you, if you don't forsake your wicked ways. you that live in town are eye-servants behind your master's back. instead of serving your masters faithfully, which is pleasing in the sight of your heavenly master, you are idle, and shirk, your work. "

for some time now, i've been non-religious, and at one point while i was transitioning from being a god-fearing Christian, i was very very anti-religious. i still am, to some extent, but right now i think of this whole religion thing as more subjective than anything else that probably is beneficial in some cases (even if it wasn't for me, and for many people). so right now, i'm more interested in how religion has shaped culture and vice versa....and the philosophical side of religion.

when reading up on colonialism, it's difficult not to wonder whether religion played a part in the submission of those being colonized. in almost every colonized country, you can find either Islam or Christianity, neither of which are native to the country, that were usually forced upon the people. looking at Christianity and those enslaved in the Americas in particular, i think it's easy to see how Christianity harmed and helped the struggle.

on one hand, you can look at Jacob's excerpts and see how Christianity rewarded and revered the docile and the submissive. this helped slave owners because it made it a sin across the board to kill (even if it was someone who kept you in bondage and had the right to kill you when and if they wanted to), to steal (even if it was stealing against someone who STOLE your labor from you and any wages earned from that labor for their entire lives), to lie (even if it was done for survival), and even to disobey your masters (in Ephesians 6:5, but in a number of scriptures). and when all these transgressions could be the factor between eternal damnation and much more incentive does one need? what better tool would a slave owner need than the supposed backing of a god? is there not a parallel between worshiping a white god in a religion in which only the demons, are described as "black" and the inferiority complex used to brainwash people of color? the bible is filled with subliminal messages of the "white is right" mentality.

on the other hand, Christianity may have been the one thing holding blacks together at the time of slavery. Harriet talks about praying a number of times with her family and her children. she prayed at her parents' graves the day before she went into hiding, she prayed when she was moved from one place to another, she prayed when she was living in the free states, but still in fear for her life. she also blessed the people that helped her along the way, saying that she hoped they received blessings in heaven (or something along those lines), and i think that is really important. the idea that the wretched will one day be atoned, and the deserving will get their blessings ;the idea that their slave masters will eventually suffer for what they have done may have helped slaves suffer through one more day. the idea that slaves will one day inherit heaven may also (and probably more so) have been the only concept their survival was riding on. Harriet learned that even in the Free states, she wasn't free. and even when outside the south, she was still being treated like a lesser human being. one has to wonder how any person of color stayed sane or even had the will to live during this time...
the church was also one of the first places where blacks could meet without it being seen as a Turner rebellion in the making. whites didn't take black religion seriously, so many a times, there were no whites present in the black churches (which were sometimes separate shacks, although sometimes blacks just sat in a separate section from whites, under the same roof, listening to the same preacher). this helped with everything from Negro spirituals, with their subliminal messages, to helping slaves escape to the free states. in the book Hair Story (great great great read), the authors talk about how black women kept their hair in rags nearly everyday with the exception of Sunday, when many went to church and put the a little extra time into their appearance and hair. who knows how important those little hours on one day out of the week spent with all those who suffer in the way you suffer speaking of heaven? probably very important. the church also had much to do with the Civil Rights Movement in which the church was the meet-up place for community organizations, further recruiting for the struggle, and a place for education specifically suited to the black perspective.
Christianity also helped bridge gaps along racial lines. when blacks needed support within in the white community, it was usually white Christians who saw the need to respect all people somewhere in the bible (and lets not forget that some of the first abolitionists were Quakers).

although religion helped the struggle in many ways, what if there was no religion and all the slave owners and colonizers were staunch atheists and agnostics? telling those they brutalized that there was no life after death, no judgement day, no god, and no objective morality, what would have been the turn-out? its possible that the colonizers would have never been able to make slaves past one generation, for the ones who believed them may had the "liberty or death" mentality and would have easily chosen death to subjugation. without religion, its a wonder if slavery could have even survived past the Middle Passage. hmm...

"The church of this country is not only indifferent to the wrongs of the slave, it actually takes sides with the oppressors...For my part, i would say, welcome infidelity! welcome atheism! welcomes anything! in preference to the gospel, as preached by the Divines. they convert the very name of religion into an engine of tyranny and barbarous cruelty, and serve to confirm more infidels, in this age, than all the infidel writings of Thomas Paine, Voltaire, and Bolingbroke put together have done!" ~ Fredrick Douglass

comment. think. criticize.
also note that the lists of things i mentioned about atheists and agnostics are common to many atheists and agnostics, but not to ALL, nor are they factors in being atheists or agnostics.
it should also be noted that that anything in the bible should be studied within its given context(s). the slavery in the bible is most related to indentured servitude, and not the racial division and extreme conditions as it was in the Americas and other colonized parts of the world. also the bible doesn't necessarily encourage slavery, it mostly just accepts it as a part of the society. personally, this shows to me the fallibility in the concept of an omniscient god...but i guess thats up for discussion...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010


case study of reincarnation.
quite interesting.

i'm reading another book....well, i started reading it maybe 2 years ago, and just picked it up and finished the last 20 or so pages the other day.
it's entitled Life Before Life: Children's Memories of Previous Lives by Jim. B. Tucker. it basically says what this professor of Philosophy says in this video. both that link's commentary and the book are based on the research by Dr. Ian Stevenson.

the video above is the first of 5 videos in a series about reincarnation. but ignore the music. the type of music they chose make me angry almost. it's almost as if they're adding their opinion about reincarnation in a show that is supposed to be unbiased. putting in this ridiculous, scary, Dracula sounding shit makes the idea of reincarnation seem even more crazy, dark, weird, etc., when, in reality, it could be a very reasonable explanation for some events that could not be explained by any other means. note that the book and the second link show no connection between their idea of reincarnation and the typical religious (Hinduism, Buddhism, some sects of Islam and Sikhism, etc.) sense of reincarnation.

comment. think. criticize.

Friday, July 23, 2010

....thoughts? comments?

i didn't know they had a video for this song out. just watched it....

this video is equipped with Anthony Kiedis rocking a platinum grill and getting his hair braided, booty dancers, homeless men, neck-twisting angry black girlfriends, and an old woman trying to give Anthony what looks like watermelon....and an exclusive black and latin@ cast.....???

it's like they've stepped straight into our culture. Red Hot Chili Peppers Black Card APPROVED!

.....??? comments please.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

varying concepts in Theology

found this book in the clearance section at Barnes & Nobles-The Watkins Dictionary of Religions and Secular Faiths and its been as interesting as i thought it would be.

religion is the most interesting subject i think one can study. hands down. i plan on studying it formally...sometime in the near future.... and it may sound ironic, but i actually have no belief in any god, gods, goddesses, god-like deities or supernatural entities.reading a book like this confronts you with the varying ideas of theology. they all have such fascinating perspectives on life that can tell you so much about their cultures.
for example, Deism takes the stance that god existed at one point in time, but has since died, probably soon after creation (or so, this is how i learned it in my philosophy classes. the website i gave describes it as basically Pantheism).
early in Hinduism the idea that god appeared after creation was present prior to the concept of the Hindu Trinity.
another book i'm reading, African Religions & Philosophy, talks about the concept of god in a number of different traditional (pre-colonial) African tribes. apparently many traditional African societies had some level of ancestor veneration at one level, and then a concept of a higher, more powerful entity that wasn't involved in the everyday lives of humans. they prayed to their ancestors, acting as mediums, or lesser gods to help them in their lives. when something huge was impending (like a war or severe drought) that needed the intervention of this higher, distant god, then they prayed directly to it. also, a number of them associated the idea of this higher god with something valuable to them, such as water. in many cases, the word for god is the same as their word for water (or so it is roughly translated).
this is a quote describing the way Rene Descartes changed the concept of god, mainly in Christianity:
"Descartes thus settled for a concept of God that was relative rather than absolute; we can only understand God to the extent that we are capable and in that process everyone has different aptitudes. Hence the variety of religious expression and experience."
although many Christians still hold the idea that their god is omnipotent and exists regardless who believes in him, Descartes still had much influence in modern Christianity.

quite interesting, right? for me, these variations in theology reinforce my idea that humans created god(s), but if you hold a belief in a god, then maybe knowing different ideas on god will give you a new perspective... on your religion, on others' religions and on the overall concept of god.

comment. think. question.
also, keep in mind that these "definitions" of different ideas about god are highly (and probably overly) simplified. the Hindu concept of god (which is both polytheistic and monotheistic) is one i'm still working on understanding and something that may never make sense to me. similarly with various traditional African concepts of god.

Tupac is my 2nd cousin

i just finished watching an episode of 'Faces of America' with Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. on PBS.
i absolutely LOVE this show. i missed it last Thursday and was ready to fight...

if you haven't watched the show, it's a genealogical journey into the pasts of different celebrity guests (Meryl Streep, Dr. Gates, Yo Yo Ma, Eva Longoria, Stephen Colbert, etc.). Dr. Gates traces their histories as far back as he can, talks about genetics, family, American history, Immigration, and personal thoughts about ancestry and personal identity. he also does DNA sequencing in which he tests everyone's DNA for the level of the various "races" they have their past. according to the scientists that perform these tests, there are 4 different races in the world, and in diverse regions, like America, each person has a percentage of those races in their past. surprisingly, Dr. Gates is genetically more European than he is African and similarly, Eva Longoria is more European than she is Mexican (Native American). Yo Yo Ma is 100% Asian, Colbert is 100% European. but note that this is the genetic aspect to race. race is such a complex concept that it exists more so in the human mind than in our DNA. Dr. Gates is like 65% European, but he is black because he identifies himself as a black man and has been treated as such in America.

this show is so fascinating because it is almost like a survey on the concept of identity.
who are we? who are you?
are either of those answers dependent on any level on your parents? their parents? your "race"?
would you think differently about yourself if it was found that there are more ancestors in your past that of a completely different "race" than you currently consider yourself to be?

i watched a film sometime ago discussing the legitimacy or lack thereof in the concept of "race". they were sequencing people's DNA, and they did so for a man who identified himself as black. the DNA sequencing showed that he was around 80% Native American, and his surprise upon this knowledge changed how he saw himself. he said that if he'd known he wasn't black, his entire life would have been different; he wouldn't have married his first wife (who was black. his wife at the time of the sequencing was white) and his career path would have been different. interesting how the concept of race as well as personal history can completely change who you are or who you think you are.

Dr. Gates says in the show "know thy history-know thyself".
is that true?
it's certainly true when it comes to my identity as a black person; as a woman; as a black woman. learning about the history or women of color in this country, all women, and all people of color as changed my personal view very much so. but i'm not completely sure about that when it comes to my personal family history.
right now, i can't tell you much outside my nuclear family. theres my parents' siblings and their children...and thats about it. we don't have family reunions, and no written family trees that i've seen. but does this mean i don't know who i am? i'd say no, but 10 years from now, when i learn some crazy fact bout my 10th grade grandmother, i'll probably say otherwise.
i plan on researching my family tree and what if i find i have a 3rd cousin thats a rapist? or a great great grandfather that was a free person of color? it would change my entire concept, not only of my and my family, but of whatever point in time that is.

i think many Americans (myself included) tend to think of history in black and white....whites were rich and slave-holders, blacks were slaves...and no there were some Native Americans on some reservations...and no one else existed. but that wasn't how it was at all.
Malcolm Gladwell, a guest on the show, has a black Jamaican mother and a white Canadian father. he discovered that one of his great grandmothers was a free woman of color that owned around 13 slaves upon her death. he was floored. i mean, who thinks that a) there were any more than 5 or 6 free blacks ever in American history, b) that any of them had a substantial or even sustainable amount of wealth, and c) that they owned slaves??? and d) that you could be a direct descendant from them?? what?? there some level of reconciliation you have to make with your ancestry? you accept the ethically stained with the righteous?

comment. do your research. tell me about your family.
theres two other posts i did about the concept of race here and here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bandung Conference 1955

right now, i'm also reading Black Power: Three Books from Exile: Black Power; The Color Curtain; and White Man, Listen! by Richard Wright. really good compilation book. every piece of literature i read by Richard Wright further reiterates the fact that he is one of the greatest literary minds and social critics in history.
currently, i'm reading a chapter about theBandung Conference, which i had never heard about before reading this book.

apparently, in 1955, 29 representatives from various African and Asian countries (as well as some journalists, writers, and governmental officials from other countries, like Adam Clayton Powell) met together to discuss common issues and possible solutions. Wright talks about reading it, and then attending it, although the United States and all other Western nations were excluded from the....festivities.
and honestly, up until this point, i hadn't really grasped just how many nations and continents had been colonized (i recall at one point in Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book, Nomad, where she said she has yet to get comfortable with Americans admitting to being ignorant to something when all she's ever been taught is to hide or lie about her ignorance...just thought about that...). Indonesia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, Libya, and Sudan, Burma, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka were the primary countries meeting and organizing the event.

you can see some of the agreements that were made at the conference here. unfortunately, some were kept, but most were not.
and apparently, there was a second meeting in 2007, with most of the nations from the 1955 meeting, including some South and Central American nations this time around (why they weren't included in the first is something i'm not completely sure about.). and somehow, this morphed into the Non-Aligned Movement.

interesting concept. i would like to see something like this happen without the government intervention first; something started by grassroots organizations in these various countries. call it pessimism, but i think most presidents, prime ministers, Ayatollahs, etc. operate with monetary and material goods first, and ethics (the people), second. this is why i think the first conference's agreements soured. saying you're operating with your people's interests in mind is one thing, actually doing that is something completely different. when only governments (which aren't always proper representatives of the people) support alliances like these, i see situations in which nations only aid other nations with oil and valuable resources, and ignore the others; when there is some monetary gain. like what we saw during the 1990 Rwandan Genocide- Rwanda didn't have oil reservoirs or large amounts of resources....and 800,000 people were slaughtered (Clinton was out to lunch...trying to strip Haiti if its resources, i'm sure...)

i'd like to see something in which all these colonized peoples still working to reclaim their past and their dignities organize and work together to repair each other's countries....while establishing some common level of humanism with which to deal with other nations presently and in the future. and when these governments feel up to the part, they can aid in this endeavor, and understand that they are AIDING this alliance, and not dominating it.
that would be a beautiful thing.

i'd like to learn more about Indonesia (among a couple thousand other nations...). here's some photos i found here:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mary Sievert

i just discovered an absolutely amazing artist by the name of Mary Sievert. i like how her pieces look like anthropological field studies.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


i hate school. i hate school. i hate school.
i just needed to say that.
i just started an online class, and i even hate this. it's only one class. and i hate it.

i tend to look at things in the complete context of life. more so, i like to feel and know that something will benefit me or another or be vital to my list of life experiences in order for me to do it. when something's benefit is not completely clear or has some societal norm as its main reasoning, then it hate it even more.
this is my dilemma with school.

i love to learn. i love reading. i love libraries. i love travelling and knowing random, often ignored and sometimes unnecessary facts. i am a voracious reader, 99% of which is non-fiction. i love knowledge to the third power and i actively seek it on a daily basis.
the problem is that, while this is the main goal of school, for me, it often just gets in my way. i could be finishing "The Souls of Black Folk" by W.E.B. DuBois or "Colonize This!", but instead i'm reading some shit by Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost. don't get me wrong, they're good in their own right, but after 13 years of public schooling, and at this point in my life when i've learned enough to realize the high level of euro-centrism in our school system (colleges included), it's about to make me commit suicide i'm so bored and done with it. i'm done with english prose and european standards of literature and writing and formats and poetry.

i want to read some Indian author thats highly acclaimed even in Sri Lanka. i want to read some author from the Phillipines, from Japan, from Brazil (Freire??) and Columbia, from Mexico and Central America, and from Africa! i can't even name 3 works of Literature from Mexico, Japan, or the entire African Continent. WHAT THE FUCK?

i'm about to puke up some nastiness of Dickinson, Whitman and Frost in about 2 seconds. the only thing thats keeping me going is that one unit from the one i'm working on now is the always present black literature section, omnipresent like the token black or "ethnic" person that was probably a requirement of the state to include it in the class. not because the lit teachers of the admins actually read or enjoy or consider these works worthy, but because they know they'd get hell from the infamous Jackson and Sharpton tag team if they failed to include SOME piece of work by someone black. it's almost always from the Harlem Renaissance as if it was the only time in American history that black people wrote anything worth reading.

i also hate school because i personally see no value in a diploma. societally and financially, theres much weight in a diploma, but it personally means nothing to me. knowledge is what i seek, and more often than not that has come from outside the classroom. school is an attempt to put a fence around knowledge and claim it as its child. college, specifically, does that as well as tries to sell it like it's her slave.

i'm done with my rant for now. that is all...

Thursday, July 8, 2010


i'm starting a new blog-
i did that post about daybreak in Alabama and the photo i found 2 or 3 months ago, and i wanted to do it for all these different poems i've read of Langston Hughes'.
its interesting how you hear about the literature, music, art, etc. and you know their work is the shit, but you don't really grasp just how good.
i just grasped how good Langston Hughes is. specifically his poetry. and i don't even like poetry that much (outside music lyrics).
check it out.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Daybreak in Alabama

When I get to be a composer
I'm gonna write me some music about
Daybreak in Alabama
And I'm gonna put the purtiest songs in it
Rising out of the ground like a swamp mist
And falling out of heaven like soft dew.
I'm gonna put some tall tall trees in it
And the scent of pine needles
And the smell of red clay after rain
And long red necks
And poppy colored faces
And big brown arms
And the field daisy eyes
Of black and white black white black people
And I'm gonna put white hands
And black hands and brown and yellow hands
And red clay earth hands in it
Touching everybody with kind fingers
And touching each other natural as dew
In that dawn of music when I
Get to be a composer
And write about daybreak
In Alabama.

~Langston Hughes

that photo is what daybreak looks like in Alabama. one beautiful thing about Alabama-the sunrise and the sunset are sublime.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July

"What to the American slave is your Fourth of July I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy's thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour."
~Fredrick Douglass
the speech in its entirety here.