I love thinking about the girasol, that as a live uncut flower growing in the earth, it moves (se gira) its face in the direction of the sun as it crosses the earth’s sky (or really the earth rotates as it goes around it).
This past semester I took two great classes – Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s Race, Space and Place and Sujatha Fernandes’ Rethinking Neoliberalism. They were both very helpful in preparation for my work together with communities in Colombia to think about how communities create their own authocthonous/autoctonó spaces. I love that word authocthonous/autoctonó, that I first heard from Systema Solar’s song and video “Bienvenidos”:
Isn’t it great? Sorry about no subtitles, for you monolinguals, Colombia lags/resists that and I think it is partly about taking Colombia as a cultural and linguistic whole, because, really, lots of things are lost in translation. Though I also see the value of translation, on our own non-gringo terms. Maybe every one can learn Espanish (not the colonizer one but the ones hybridized to describe lived reality in the Americas and in the Caribbean to also resist linguistic oppression and erasure), since many people I agree think the U.S. has always – since before 1492, been a multi-lingual country.
One of my research and study obsessions in understanding communities, is how communities build autonomous systems, built by themselves to protect themselves, from their cultural places and strengths and not necessarily in reacting to oppression, but building some thing new, something life-giving, an expression of who th(w)ey are. So it is not an issue of purity for me because I value lots of things that are impure, and really, I think if you are stuck on purity you will be lonely and there won’t be much to think about, because the world is a big mixture of many things, we are all hybrids. Except for the pure breds and we have seen how well they have faired, right?
Any way, some lovely compas together mostly from a project facilitated and worked by the Escuela Popular Norteña, and Critical Resistance, INCITE, Youth Ministries for Peace & Justice, we created the notion of Harm Free Zones in listening to communities in the South Bronx (Soundview/Bronx River REPRESENT!) and through intense community discussion throughout NYC, about how we can do without cops, solving our own problems, transforming our some times brutal and fatal relationships and not reproducing the violence they do to us. Making them irrelevant, like it is now being proved with their work stoppage in NYC. Proving what we have always said is the point we can figure out how to love and treat each other well without those occupying armies that pit us against each other in the first (domestic violence), second (graffiti) and third place (loud music), and provide fascist disorder (fascism has never, ever been ordered!).
So I think alot about how post-colonialism or undoing the damage of the European invasions, it is really going back to when before it got on the scene not after it, not using it as the touchstone, taking off the shackles that we never asked for/accepted in the first place. But part of the problem is that the documentation and herstory of the times before those invasions of the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, the Islands all over is spotty, because said so-called civilizers erased what existed antes to prove themselves said so called civilizers, saviors and the repositories of all knowledge worth knowing, which turns out not to be thanks to so many decolonizing processes where we take back our connections to the land and before racial capitalism fuked every thing up. I am particularly jazzed to vibe with how our people have not always oppressed each other around gender and sexuality, but rather that it began through the imposition mostly of religion and an obsession with a particular kind of reproduction. And “our” includes the marjority, or as the Zapatistas tell us, “Un mundo donde caben muchos mundos.”
So having the privilege to study, read, think and conversate about lots of things, even as a poor student (financially, not in brains, okay) is something I wish we all had more of, instead of having mostly to be preoccupied in surviving as wage slaves. Though, to be clear, if I may, I do love working with other students in the classes I teach as a part-time adjunct. The interactions, certainly but not all, and def not the part-time adjunct part.
So, in thinking about space and place, feminism (through the example of Doreen Massey’s writing) has shown that they were partitioned to make it easier for the colonizing projects, driven by structures and people who didn’t think the spaces in the Global South were places in which people lived and celebrated. A brilliant break-down, don’t you think, of all these ridiculous binaries that are deeply challenged and just about to be overthrown legacy that all kinds of oppression left us.
And the fragility, but unrealness of concrete, brutal, fatal violence perpetrated that we can fight, fight, fight, throw off too, and not believe in, none of us, any more.
In thinking of blues epistemologies and decoupling power and difference (thanks Ruth Wilson Gilmore!) and creating places of liberation!
“Worked all the summer, worked all the fall,
Had to work Christmas in my overalls
But now she’s gone, and I don’t worry,
Because I’m sittin’ on top of the world.” Mississippi Sheiks, 1930
“When the Chatmon brothers and their band, the Mississippi Sheiks, recorded the blues class “Sittin’ on Top of the World” in 1930, the Mississippi Delta was already in the devastating grip of the Great Depression, well before this economic downturn undermined the United States as a whole. Although the systems of debt peonage and sharecropping would be soon transformed, hunger, evictions, and terror would haunt the region for another four decades. We must ask how could someone trapped in this web of social destruction assume the supernatural position, the superimposition, of “sittin’ on top of the world”? Was the author gripped by madness, or was he rooted in an intellectual tradition that inherently enabled destitute African Americans to traverse multiple scales of consciousness and space? Many present-day social theorists continue to bemoan the lack of humility among improverished African Americans; but these scholars have yet to understand the global epistemological stance of ‘self-made and Blues rich.'” Clyde Woods in Katherine Mckittrick and Clyde Woods. 2007. Black Geographies and the Politics of Place.
Written to the beat of Systema Solar’s Quien es el patron?”-
And “Malpatitando” too –
I wrote and submitted my first grant proposal to work with communities in Colombia, ay voy!