Tag Archives: Speech

2016 Edward E. Carlson Student Leadership Award Speech

Power to the People

We are on stolen Coastal Salish tribal lands and that needs to be acknowledged prior to proceeding.

Receiving the Edward E. Carlson Student Leadership Award reveals to me more than meets the eye. It is not merely the case that I as an individual am being recognized here today. Rather, the values that I hold dear and the issues I have been working on with some of the most amazing and brilliant people are also being recognized as valid and recognition worthy. It tells me that not only students, who are also people of color or other people with marginalized identities believe it is time for the University of Washington to live up to and to honor its mission and values; it reveals that we have the broad support and backing of the community who also want to see equitable changes to the institution. This is precisely what I believe is necessary to achieve not only positive change, but beneficial change for us all.
As a historian and as a radical educator, as well as, a Black Lives Matter activist, it is my firm belief that we should not always accept the history as it is handed to us by the public or academia. First of all, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not merely some docile pacifist who touted nonviolence in the 50s and 60s. Second of all, the period between 1955 and 1975, when the United States experienced the second reconstruction is titled incorrectly as being the Civil Rights Era. Two other major and vital wings of the Black Liberation Era, Black Nationalism and Black Power, without which the beneficial gains that were made would have potentially been impossible, are nearly completely omitted. Third, and most important, the history that is normally conveyed to most Americans is that there were only two predominant leaders during this period, Malcom X and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  However, the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott was neither planned nor organized by King, rather Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, a teacher at Alabama State College, who was also the president of the Women’s Political Council had been working on segregation issues for two years prior to that and it was she who organized the boycott. Ela Baker, who was influential with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and also the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), was responsible for helping to organize the students of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee to form the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). SNCC was instrumental in the Freedom Rides, Freedom Summer, and the Voter Registration campaign in Selma, Alabama. And Bayard Rustin, a name almost unheard of in traditional education because he was an openly homosexual man. However, he had been working with the Fellowship of Reconciliation since the early 1940s, instructed King in 1955, that nonviolence was more than a strategy but also a way of life, and was instrumental in the strategizing and organization of nearly every major Civil Rights demonstration during that period including the March on Washington in 1963. This brief overview is not meant to invisibilize the efforts of people like Bob Moses, John Lewis, Assata Shakur, Fred Hampton, Fannie Lou Hamer, Kathleen and Eldridge Cleaver, Medgar Evers, Anne Moody, or the countless teachers, lawyers, sharecroppers, carpenters, and civilians who contributed and protected each other, but I simply do not have the time to convey to you the importance of their stories and contributions.

The point is that it was not merely the efforts of a very limited few, but rather, the collective efforts of people from across the spectrum who employed and deployed a multiplicity of tactics, which was required to achieve the positive and beneficial results they did. Today is no different and neither are the struggles we are having, nor the issues we are contesting. One of our very own, Emile Pitre, in 1968, had a vital role in compelling the university to increase both its students and its faculty of color. He is still here to this day encouraging and mentoring students, and seeking to improve the demographic distribution of this very campus. And yet, not two weeks ago we were compelled to stage yet another demonstration because of the lack of faculty and students of color and in particular, people of African descent, among a host of other unjust and disparaging conditions. Not least of which is this institution’s complicity in the school-to-prison pipeline, and benefitting from the prison industrial complex.

Institutional discrimination and racism are deeply entrenched within our structures and practices and will require all of us to make sacrifices as we change the system and the manner in which it functions. For some of us that will mean merely that we are to support those who actively, and who are well within their rights to challenge systems of oppression and discrimination. For others, that may mean exerting some of your influence in situations where your influence can be felt, but otherwise, under other circumstances, you may have elected to refrain from doing so. For others, like many of the people recognized today for their work in the community, Dr. Marisa Herrera the director of the James E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center, or Stephanie Gardner the director of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), which assists many minoritized students to achieve success in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematic disciplines otherwise known as STEM, should continue doing the work they are doing. The point is that it is going to require all or most of us to accomplish our goals and to help shape our world into one that is comfortable for us all to live with and in.

There are risks, of course there are risks. And while I live with the constant reminder that people of my complexion, with my ethnic composition have been assassinated by our own government for doing precisely what I am doing right now; none of that will stop me. I will not be intimidated into non-action. I will not be silenced. I will not submit to coercion. I will not be bought off. I will stand on the side of justice, equity, equality, and liberation with my fist held high! And I will trudge into the trenches with my sisters and brothers routing out evil and injustice whence it sprouts! I never thought an award like this would be presented to a person like me, from an institution such as the University of Washington because although the world seems to love the positive and beneficial changes that have resulted from people like myself and those I work with; it also seems to shun and disavow the very necessary actions we sometimes must take.

However, not all of us have merely social constraints to worry about as risks, some of us are subject to institutional power. This is true regardless of whether it is a university or a government that is the focus of protests of injustice. However, it is these threats that most concern me because it questions our ability to provide security for ourselves and our families, and that kind of power can be utilized to coercively silence people into abject conformity and adaptive preferences. This is why it is vital that we stand together applying our skills and positions multilaterally with a multiplicity of tactics to achieve both positive and beneficial change for all of our people.

So, I encourage, and I implore you all to not sit idly by while injustice occurs to anyone, anywhere. Because as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Receiving this award and what was required for that to come about shows me that a and reveals that a broad cross-section of people from across the spectrum want to both see and feel positive change and are making a declaration in support of the work we are doing.

Lastly, and I will leave you with this because it is what guides my actions and comes from a person I hold in the highest regard as a warrior and advocate for the cause of justice and equity; Assata Shakur:

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

Advertisements

Bridging Community

As it stands now there are approximately 7.3 billion people on the planet who identify with many different religions, nationalities, countries, cultures, economic systems, family structures, political ideologies, and tastes.  The United Nations predicts that by the year 2050 there will be over 9.7 billion people on the earth. To put that figure into perspective because just hearing the difference between seven and nine makes it seem miniscule; that is over eight times the current United States population. People in Seattle, Washington can barely afford their rents as it is now and if we are still following the same supply and demand, ‘invisible hand’ economics that are in effect today, I dread being alive to see the horrendous conditions that are in store for us. It is already being reported that wage gaps this large between the rich and the poor have not been witnessed since the fall of the Roman Empire and it is increasing at an exponential rate.

As if matters were not bad enough with only the population explosion, in addition to that is also the vast environmental degradation and destruction, which is increasingly causing our planet to become uninhabitable. The cumulative impacts of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere from our collective consumption of fossil fuels in our combustion vehicles, coal fire power plants, fracking plants, and oil burning are occurring simultaneously with the eradication of our forests that are the natural carbon sinks that could have restored the planetary ecosystem to equilibrium. Thus, instead of there being a fluid and efficient carbon cycle, the carbon our practices are releasing is getting stuck in the atmosphere, our public good, which traps in the heat from our Sun and leads to global warming. Global warming and climate change are natural occurrences, scientists and archeologists have confirmed this unequivocally. However, historically speaking, since the Industrial Revolution began in the 19th Century, human ingenuity has dramatically shifted the rate at which the natural process of climate change is occurring.

The net results stretch from rising sea levels to desertification of once arable land, of which the former is leading to the submersion of many inhabited regions and the latter is leading to famines and wars over limited resources. Furthermore, both are factors in mass migrations and the global apartheid unfolding before our very eyes. Take the migration crisis in Europe for instance, those people are fleeing from war and famine torn regions in the Middle East and Africa, fleeing over both land and water risking dehydration, starvation, death of both themselves and their families, or eternal isolation because those risks are more acceptable in comparison to the conditions they would otherwise suffer. The only difference between them and us is quite honestly, where we were all born and when. Yet, the massive influx of people has caused a panic among the peoples and the governments of the receiving nations who are ‘protecting’ their interests with sanctions, gates, walls, and brute military force to keep the migrators out. Ann Coulter, opening for presidential candidate Donald Trump at a convention said: “I love the idea of the Great Wall of Trump. I want to have a two drink minimum. Make it a big worldwide tourist attraction and every day, live drone shows whenever anyone tries to cross the border.” She was talking about making a spectacle of killing people—in this case from Mexico—looking to improve their life-conditions and life-chances, and these are Americans that we are talking about, and people who want to be at the head of the United States, no less. So, it is not the case that the issue is only something that happens abroad. Notwithstanding where it occurs, this is what is called, Feudal Privilege, because there is nothing that any of us did prior to any of our being born that justifies any of us possessing access to the necessities for life while others do not, and yet, we do possess those necessities, nonetheless. Our borders are symbolic extensions of the castle walls that once separated the affluent from the peasant, what was once called a birth right.

Making the situation even more complicated is the fact that the environmental degradation and destruction that is leading to these mass migrations from the less affluent nations and states, is a direct result of the practices of the more affluent nations. In the United States, based on our consumption rates cumulatively, it would take four and a half entire earth’s worth of resources to fulfill the demand if everyone on the planet today in all the states consumed as US citizens do. That is, US citizens have a carbon footprint of four and a half earths, while those in less affluent regions, like much of the African continent has a carbon footprint of less than one earth. Thereby resting the responsibility for the increased rate of global warming and climate change causing the rising tides and famines squarely in the hands of those from the more affluent nations; primarily, Western Civilization, where many of the migrators are seeking refuge and are being barred access to. Furthermore, at the moment we are only talking about millions of people migrating, and the people and governments from the more affluent nations are in a panic. However, this is nothing compared to the over two billion increase in population projected for 2050 while the environmental ecosystem collapse is exacerbated at the same time.

This is a huge problem, I know. A problem so large that it does not seem like there is a solution to it. But I think the heart of the issue resides within our definition of community: “A social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.”  More important than this characteristic of the definition of community, is that implicit in the definition and the common understanding of the concept is the multiplicity of communities as being distinct from one another, or in other words, different or separate from each other. And therein is the crux of the problem. This notion of distinctness is what maintains the separation between the sexes, and genders, between the social-construction of races, ethnicities, nationalities—which is different from the arbitrary political boundaries—of people, between states, social classes, and so forth.  The notion of distinctness is what was at the foundation of slavery, the Jim Crow segregation that led to the Civil Rights Era of the mid-20th Century and to the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement in response to the New Jim Crow and state sanctioned violence in the form of police brutality. Inherent in racism is the notion of distinctness and scientific racism gave it fangs. Social Darwinism and the concept of “survival of the fittest” are both laden with the notion of distinctness and provide a quasi, but fallacious justification for acting on that distinctness.

We are inundated with this notion of distinctness each and every time we are told that we are individuals and that we have to achieve on our own.  Our society and our complete set of ideologies are designed to isolate people from one another, to put us into competition, and to set us at odds with each other. Take the grading system for example, instead of the entire class being graded collectively on the achievements of the group, individuals are rewarded or punished for their own merits. This is the case even though they all participate in the class collectively and it provides the incentive for students not to have as heightened of an interest in assisting their fellow classmates. It’s as if we were to somehow conceive of ourselves as something other than individuals that our personal identities would somehow dissolve into nothingness, but I believe this to be an unjustifiable fear. Nonetheless, as a result of this distinctness and individuality, we humans love to categorize ourselves; black, white, rich, poor, tall, short, German, Peruvian, smart, ignorant, man, woman, felon, law abiding citizen, alien, but therein between the categories is where most of the strife among and “between” us emerges.   Because with the distinctions comes an arbitrary system of hierarchical valuations and judgments that result in hyperbole and humiliations that provide reasons for segregation and delineation.

This individualistic conception destroys our relationships with our selves, other people and with the earth, of which we are not truly separate.  If there was not an earth, then humans as we understand our selves could not exist. The earth on the other hand, existed long before the human species and will most likely exist long after our species has vanished. Relationships are the key to community and to healing the ills of our civilization. Relation is the characteristic that is missing from the definition of community and culture, which emerges within and through a community, as a strategy for survival and as such, it is utterly dependent upon relationships. The reality is that we can do nothing alone and that there is no such thing as individuality. The words “alone” and “individual” are components of a language, that by its very definition necessitates a relationship because for communication to exist at least two parties must agree that a particular symbol will have a particular meaning that is transmittable. That is a relationship and without it there could be no culture to transmit to subsequent generations; there would be no commerce, no morality, no religion if there no people who formed instructional relationships with us. By corollary, there would be no societies, no cities, no schools, no families, and no identities. Relationships are at the core of everything it means to be human as we currently understand ourselves to be.

Our first relationship is with ourselves, but that relationship can only be understood and fully appreciated in the context of every other human that exists and that has ever existed, and on the context of the earth upon which we exist and rely with all the millions of other species. The individual does not exist in isolation, the individual is not a microcosm, but exists in relation to everything else that exists.  John Donne said it best and most simply; “No man is an island, Entire of itself, Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.” Until this is understood there can be no relationship with ourselves because we do not fully grasp who we truly are. And if we do not know who we are, then we cannot transmit ourselves to another because we cannot convey a concept we do not fully comprehend. Thus, until we know ourselves, we cannot have relationships with other human beings, who in essence are of us and we are also of them. And lastly, without that comprehension and feeling, then there can be no relationship with the earth, which connects and sustains us all. This is how the ideology of individualism corrupts and destroys our relationships.

We have to expand our sense of community to recognize, appreciate, and incorporate the entire planet and all the things that exist upon it and in relation to it. Only then, will something like the atmosphere, a public good, something that we all own, have claim to, and are part of, become something that we cherish and love enough not to destroy. Only when we understand that the rainforest are not distinct from us, will we acknowledge that destroying them is in reality, destroying ourselves. Only when we comprehend that all the people on the planet are part of us and that the arbitrary valuations and judgments we currently attribute to them is wrong, will we begin to acknowledge the injustice of segregation and apartheid, murder and isolation. Much like the contemporary interpretation of the identity of a person can exist within the colloquial sense of a community, so too, can identity groups exist within this expanded conception of community. In fact, these identity groups are vital to the evolution of our culture and must exist, because the supposition that there is but one community does not presuppose the presence of a negative peace, which is the absence of conflict, but a positive peace in which the necessary tension required for growth and stimulation flourishes. That is the essence of relationships: gravitational and repulsive forces that continuously interact to maintain balance and harmony in relation to everything else that exists.

If we want to bridge communities and to foster a peace full of symbiotic mutually beneficial relations, then it is necessary to recognize that there is only one community and category that is of any import, the Human Identity Group within the Community of the Earth.

They Want Us Alone. They Want Us Divided. But We Stand United!

Alone; is how they want us;

“They” being the corporate interests, the big bankers, the financial stake holders and politicians who are profiting from our suffering and struggles

“They” being the ones who continuously make false promises to get us to leave the premises when we are advocating for our rights, hiding behind proto and para military units, and yet they claim to be on our side, but won’t even take the time to shake our hands and look us in our eyes when we have grievances

“They” being the ones who attempt to turn us against one another, dangling cheap carrots in front of us because they believe we are so hungry that we will bite the hands that actually feed us, and not the ones that feed us just enough to keep us alive enough to slave away while they are living like fats-cats, getting rich off our demise

“They” being the ones who mandate unrealistic quotas and punish us for not being able to complete them on their time-tables, on their schedules, constricting our work forces, doubling our work-loads, skimping our benefits, depleting our retirement funds, exhausting our world

“They” being the ones who only know as much about us as the number they reference on their accounting sheets, before submitting profit & loss statements to their corporate headquarters in some other state or country, so far away that I bet most of us have never even met “they”

And it begs the question; how could they ever know much more, or even care for, any of us if they do not know how we live, where we return home to at night, how hard we actually work for them, or even something as simple as our names?

Yeah, “they” are the ones who want us; ALONE

They want us alone because they believe we are easier targets, easier to manipulate, easier to pressure and to coerce into questionable and fragile positions from which we have no alternative but to consent to inequitable conditions and treatments

They want us alone because it is easier to deny promises made, harms done and stratified wage rates that often run the lines of gender and race;

Women are earning 75 cents to every man’s Dollar in this grand country of ours, the glass ceiling is a carrot revealing future that is impossible to reach, tantalizing leeches, exasperating and crushing the dreams of even the best of our sisters and brothers, believe this

Because when they have us alone, backed into a corner with all their college educated professional coercers, “they” will have us believing it is our fault that we did not get that raise or that promotion we had worked so long and so hard for

And when one of our brothers and sisters ingests this type of rhetoric, there is no medicine that will offset the grief and dissatisfaction with our selves that is set in, it latches itself to our bones and erodes our hopes, crumbling our dreams before us like castles built in the sand before the rain comes to wash them away

Migrants and Minorities get stuck on the sticky floors that deny almost all upward social mobility; start as a janitor, die as a janitor… And there is nothing inferior about being a custodial worker, it is a very estimable position and vitally necessary to the function of any and every institution; so, it is not a humbling decision for a person to choose to be a career custodian, so long as it is their choice to make.

However, that is not how the Sticky Floor works.

People are barred access to occupations other than entry level positions because of some numerical calculations the bean pushers reckon to be a safe and acceptable risk factor of investment; taking into account a person’s historical record and often times criminal or documented status as a citizen; which supersedes that  person’s choice for meritous recognition

That means they are not being judged by the contents of their characters, but rather by the covers of their books and this is why they want us alone, because only when we stand alone can they act with the impunity requisite to humiliate our people in this manner

They want us alone because when the whim comes to downsize and layoff hard-working and devoted employees who have invested our entire lives into a company comes about, there is no collective bargaining, there is no unity among the people to stand against the usurpations, humiliations and destructiveness of the decisions of the few over the many; and there is no one to hold them accountable to their word

But it is our sweat, our blood, our tears that went into those foundations, into those products being sold on the shelves, flying in those air planes, that kept those patients safe and comfortable while they were in our hospitals, and kept our buildings clean and healthy; We have invested far more collectively, even when they want us alone, than they ever could have because these are our communities and we have more claim and right to them than anyone does

Which brings us to both the beauty and the reality; we are not alone! We stand together! We Work Together! We Sustain our Communities Together! And what affects one of us, affects us all!

And we all know what happens when a people united stand against an oppressive regime, that regime resorts to political and character assassinations, reduced wages, pink slips, and threats of eliminations.

An when that does not work, they resort to cages and State Sanctioned Violence against the people they have had locked in enslavement because they believe they are the ones who own our communities, as if to say they are the ones who have invest blood, sweat and tears to raising and protecting our children

They are not riots, but rebellions! May Day and the Hay Market Bombing during the formative years of the Unions was an uprising in response to a continuous cycle of usurpations and degradations; But they are so quick to label Baltimore and Ferguson as riotous behavior as an attempt to discredit the very real concerns that reach back generations through out-sourcing, red-lining, Jim Crow, and slavery;

The rise of the prison industrial complex, and the militarization of the police institution designed to keep the people in so-called ‘order’ which is just another code word for enslavement; behave and don’t make waves or your and all your people will either be dead or locked in cages

And yet, even though they control the military and have for centuries, each generation and throughout the planet the people have continued to rise up and to stand together against their oppressors, it’s amazing!

What that tells me, is that even with all of their tactics, all their power and money and propaganda they cannot stop us so long as we do not stand alone, but stand together and that is why they breed dissention, create stratification and promote the relegation of particular groups of people; because “they” want us to be and to feel alone.

United We Stand! United We Win!

Tips and Tricks to Writing Great

Page of Lyrics

Every great performance or recording begins with a base, and for a Hip Hop song, an R&B song, a piece of Poetry, or a Speech that base is the lyrical or written content of which it is composed.

Voice

Every author has a writing voice, and this voice is what distinguishes them from everyone else on the planet. The trick is to find your voice and to set it free. Jay Z and DMX have completely different styles from Tupac. Just imagine the way in which they would all say the line; “haters from the hood to the street,” and you will begin to see the importance of voice. None of them would even write the line the same way and depending on the placement of the punctuation and the inflection, the line will have completely different meanings.

Punctuation:

Punctuation is the system of symbols and markings, which separate the components of a line and inform the audience how those components should be interpreted together. The simplest and perhaps the most well known in the English language is the period signifying the end of one complete idea. Without the use of periods, the significance of an idea will most likely to be missed because the concepts of the line will blend together and become convoluted. The next most important punctuation mark is the comma because it is used to distinguish the components of a line and depending on its usage can strengthen or destroy the intended interpretation.

Examples:

A) Haters, from the hood to the street

B) Haters from the hood, to the street

C) Haters from, the hood to the street

Misplace the comma and the message that was intended to be conveyed will not be understood by the audience, thus it is supremely important to place these marks well.

Inflection:

Inflection is the augmentation of your voice to provide emphasis to different words within a line. Play with each of the three lines, emphasizing different words in each of them. Do you notice how that further changes the meaning of the line?

Word Selection:

Another component of voice is the selection of words. Each individual word is vitally important because each is a concept and an idea within and of itself. A string of concepts together becomes a schema and all of this attaches itself to an emotional response within your audience. Thus, depending which emotions an author wants to evoke, the words they chose to employ become vitally important.

Take for example line (A) from above:

1. Haters, from the hood to the street

2. Punks, from the hood to the street

3. G’s, from the hood to the street

By changing the noun in the lines we have thus, changed the entire noun clause and ultimately the meaning of the line and how people will feel about it. So, word selection is immensely important when crafting a line.

Cadence

Cadence is the rhythmic flow of the sounds within a line, and each sound is a distinct syllable, which gives a line its character. But, more important than each sound, is each silence that comes between the sounds because it is the silence, which distinguishes a sound and establishes the swing of the line. Much of this swing will be established during the word selection, formation of punctuating your lines, and determining the inflection that you will use. However, this swing will also be measured by the music that you select, if you are creating Hip Hop or R&B.

In regard to Hip Hop, your voice is a percussive instrument and in regard to R&B, you voice is a melodic instrument and as such, given the instrumental selection, there are specific placements for the sounds of your voice to be. Execute this wrong and the song will become convoluted yet, execute this correctly and your audience will love your music.

Being Explicit and to the Point

Great writing actually talks about something it does not just talk about, “talking about something.” It is also precise and to the point, it does not dawdle around its point as if it were searching for the words to make the point it is attempting to make, or worse yet, not know what point it is seeking to make. The worst type of writing does not have a point and it is just aimless words on the page.

Great writing begins in one place and carries the audience through a process to some new understanding or feeling. The audience should have a feeling of satisfaction for having completed reading or listening to the authorship. And each line or sentence should be crafted with the care necessary to accomplish this for their audience.

Being an emcee is much like being a boxer in the ring when every punch counts. Imagine that one of the boxers in a match is dancing around his opponent—not unlike Muhammed Ali—but, this boxer is throwing a barrage of scatted punches that never land on target. Do you think this boxer will win? Of course not, because a boxer must hit their opponent to knock them down.

Writing is no different. An author must select an objective, target it and hit the subject square in the face, over and over again with a few good body shots here and there. Dance around your subject matter and hopefully you may only bore your audience and at worst, you will lose their attention completely.

The content of a piece of writing, which consist not only of the subject matter, but also the quality of each line or sentence and the organization of the minor subjects that comprise the line, verse, song and album. The lines and the way in which they are executed is what will grab the attention of your audience, but it is the content that will hold it. It must be novel enough that it will consume their interest, but familiar enough for your audience to relate to it. This takes skill and a thoughtful mind, but you can master this with a little guidance, dedication and practice.

As you can see, there are several components to voice: the content and the subject, the selection of words, the punctuation of the lines, and the emphasis that is placed on different words as they are spoken. Your voice is the first thing that must be developed if your intention is to disseminate your work into the world because that is what is going to distinguish you as both an author and as an artist.

I have shared quite a bit with you and you should be able to make a good start from these tips and tricks. But if you have the desire to make your writing truly phenomenal, then MusicaDiction can help you to learn how to never waste a word and to make each of your lines count. We can also help you learn how to make your lines stand out, catchy and memorable; how to direct your cadence and accentuate your words with the appropriate inflection to elicit the emotional response that will connect your audience with your authorship.

www.musicadiction.com