Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The True Culture War

This summer I’ve been working at a community center in the hood. The woman who runs the place is a hard working beautiful individual. She is an activist in every sense of the word. She’s put her life on the line to be there for these kids. It is a beautiful selfless thing she does. I hate when poets call themselves activist, when all they do is poetry. I think it’s worthy to be a poet, that it is a form of activism, but nothing in comparison to true activist that put it on the line, everyday. There are a few poets I can think of that fall into both categories, like my sisters Wahlida Imishara, Turiya Autrey, and Malikha Hameen. They do the real work. But it’s too easy for a poet who goes around getting paid to say some verses about an issue return to their relatively comfortable life, and claim that they are revolutionary. I’m not judging other poets. This is my measuring stick. I won’t call myself an activist. If someone else thinks they fall into that category that’s their thing. I just know the principals that guide me. I have it easy.

Back to the community center. This is the type of work an activist does. I go throughout the country performing, teaching, lecturing to kids of all ages, and for the most part I really dig it. It’s all the benefits of teaching without the drawbacks. This community center is a much harder thing. The children there range from the age of 5 to 17 and many of them come from broken homes. Broken sounds pedestrian. A typical broken home means divorce. Some of these children come from homes that have exploded. Deceased parents, drug addicted parents, no parents, poverty. Despite all of this, these children everyone of them are beautiful. But with pasts so filled with pain and uncertainty, which acts out in their behavior. I thought when I got this job, that I would walk in and boom, they’d love me, because, despite what my son would say, I’m a pretty cool adult.

It doesn’t work like that with these kids.

Everyday is a struggle to reestablish yourself as a person worth respecting. Some of the kids there, I will never break through to. I try but they don’t want anything to do with me. Teaching them writing is near impossible. I could give them paper and say “Write a poem.” But that’s not teaching. That’s more of the same what they get at school. I want them to walk away from this experience with something they will carry with them the rest of their lives. Maybe those goals are too lofty, but they deserve to have lofty aspirations.

This is ground zero for what should be defined as the culture wars. Not what politicians mean when they say “culture wars”. That is classified as a struggle between the right and left over moral issues. Which is fine from a philosophical level, but here where the pavement is hot, and hope is in limited supply, the tug of right and left hold no value. The true culture war is between what our true culture is and what powerful corporations have decided it will be.

All you hear on the radio is songs about Sex. (on black radio) “bend over to the front…”, R. Kelly, and a bunch of other idiots and that’s it. Now that isn’t my type of music, never has been, but there is a noticeable shift in the last 10 years. I don’t like that music, but I can tolerate it, if there is a balance. If there where songs of substance on the radio, then it wouldn’t be so bad. These songs are popular because that’s the only option these kids have. That’s it. Because one corporation owns most of the radio stations across America, they decided what’s going to be hot, and what isn’t. So the perception that the market is making the decisions when it comes to radio is off base because the market never gets a chance to try a new product. All of this ties into the kids at the community center. All these kids hear on the radio, and in the videos are songs about sex. They see young women not much older then themselves, running around half naked, young men chasing after them, and everyone chasing after the mighty dollar, or diamonds, or gold. That’s all they see and without a guiding force in their lives, what they see and hear becomes their reality.

I don’t know how to combat that. But some fights, you just fight. Period. You don’t ask questions, you don’t make excuses, you just roll up your sleeves and dive in because the cause is worthy. These children are worthy. This is not an act of activism. This is an act of the heart. I am no better then anyone else out there. So if anyone is reading my ramblings, and you feel the same as I do, please, please, join the fight.

4 comments:

Timmy said...

"Broken sounds pedestrian. A typical broken home means divorce. Some of these children come from homes that have exploded."

That is incredible. You know, some say, a struggle is a struggle. But, it's not.

M. Ayodele Heath said...

Al,

Your blog is vulnerable, passionate, and honest - a pleasure to read. Keep up the good work, and don't worry about the pressure to post. It's quality - not quantity - that counts.

Again, you're doing a fantastic job. Congratulations on your latest accomplishments, which are definitely doorways to many more.

Aima said...

Al,

today was the day I decided to look at close to a hundred websites of poets...
urs is the only 1 I bookmarked and came back to.

"The true culture war is between what our true culture is and what powerful corporations have decided it will be."

Amen.

Also read ur defpoetry insert...and i couldn't agree more that some of the poets that make it to screen have some really nasty things to say, atimes I cringe. But i guess its tv...the worse the material, the more the viewers and the more the sales.

Keep holding it down like it needs to be held down. I'm ur newest frequent visitor...do i get rewards for that? :)

1Love. A'zeal.

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