(This is something that I started writing but it is not finish. These are just my initial thoughts)
There is something strangely suspicious about love. When I say love, I am not talking about love in a concrete form but more around the notion of how it is used rhetorically. How, sophomorically, we offer it as a last resort or a fleeting salutation? This variety of cartoonish love makes for self-aggrandizement that is similar to masturbation— really only serving the one given the performance.
Love is an institution that has been transversely weaponized to simultaneously free the oppressor and the oppress. Therefore, love performed as mere rhetoric ceases to capture the cacophony of emotions that are mandatory for the detailed work of what we call love. It no wonder James Baldwin so eloquently wrote, “Love takes off mask we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.” ( Fire Next time, 95) This quote from Baldwin is the amalgamation, I suspect, of Paul Laurence Dunbar and 1 Peter 4:8. In Dunbar’s We Wear the Mask, we are introduced to the infamy—the mask.
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 Laurence Dunbar, We Wear The Mask
This is important because Dunbar isolates the issue as a singular event. From the title alone, it appears as if we all wear the same mask which undoubtedly leads to the same place— “dream(s) otherwise.” The mask is not simply serving as a covering but the mask is doubling as a farce and a con. The mask is preserving evil as a representation of nostalgia, this emblem of sacred duty. The mask has rendered itself as “[t]his debt we pay to human guile…” Dunbar envisions the mask as a vital part of the who we are yet he wrestles with how this mask will produce the “dream otherwise.”
There are moments when certain words or phrases strike me as urgent. Today as I was reading through, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America by Kiese Laymon, I was suspended in time by his words, “Hiding won’t protect us.” What does it mean to hide? Am I hiding in order to cower away from a threat or evil? Or, am I hiding to ambush a threat or evil? Nonetheless, hiding is only temporary solution; it is a liminal space.
One can never explore the freedom in vision while hiding. Creativity is stifled in hiding. Comparatively, hiding is a different space in than being alone. Baldwin surmises that the “primary distinction of the artist is that [they]must actively cultivate that state which most [people], necessarily, avoid: the state of being alone.” Creativity needs room which hiding doesn’t easily avail or lend itself towards. The creatives, artist, and those who understand freedom uses the banality of being alone as a space to exhume what humanity is afraid of being— simply an authentic, descent human. It the artist, as Baldwin declares, that affords us the opportunity to know “that there is nothing stable under heaven.”
Hiding forces one to compartmentalize to much of their beauty. It endorses the instability of chaos due to the lack of presence.
Hiding is a relentless appeal to avert dealing with reality.
“Hiding won’t protect us.” Were the words Laymon wrote to his mother.
I felt that…
I often find myself disheveled by the Black church, yet not surprised. An institution with such collective power but chooses to yield itself to antiquated ideologies that serve the oppressors. Yes, the Black church has become one the biggest purveyors of capitalism, but, attempts to shield itself with spiritual jargon. In the words of the Otis Moss III, “The church has become capitalism in drag.” It has lost its will and vision to produce a liberative theology for the captive, and, opted, for a seat at the table of capital gain. In the particular structure: truth, honesty, and integrity fails in comparison to popularity and maintenance of the status quo.
Salvation is a mere focus upon redemption of the soul with no concern for the freedom of the body. Therefore, preaching resembles messages that believe its God’s will to get your head beat in, by police, as long as you fervently pray for your enemies. But, there is nothing remotely sacred or Godly about protesting bodily harm. The church that we have inherited “is so damaged that at the moment it does not provide an effective rallying point.” Those parenthetical words are the words spoken Howard Thurman in 1965 but still speaks, vividly, today.
The threat of white evangelical theology is one of eminent danger. It introduces a god, a jesus that is pimping Black and brown people in these yet to be United States. (By pimping, I mean leading in a way that is unproductive for our systemic and structural growth.) It is not the Black Messiah, the revolutionary, Palestinian Jew who stood tall for his people. The one that stood for injustice in the face of death and held strong to his culture while disrupting the empire.
The Black Messiah is not what most Black churches represent today.
You can’t tell from this video but this song details a serious message about a mother catching hell raising 5 children on her own. She becomes a prostitute to make ends meet for her children and constantly wrestles with the decision. She is calling on the Lord on a daily basis but the devil consistently shows up asking her to dance the “cosmic slop.” The cosmic slop refers to how the mother is re-imagining prostitution as a means rather than a sin. George Clinton and Bernie Worrell combining of the cosmic and slop avails itself to unending ethics of speed, space and morality