On the wings of Atlanta: Notes jotted down during Jazz Night at Cafe Trieste

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Listening to this jazz band it’s hard to conceptualize that this music used to belong to us. Can you Imagine Charlie Parker being as big in the hood as Gucci Mane? Can you see Billy Holiday being as popular as Nicki Manaj? I honestly can’t, because we completely shifted. We gave that up and started anew. For the projects have been lionized while the ghettos are being sanitized—many of them have been completely liquidated.

 

Boy you better wash your hands before you touch that food.

 

There ain’t a clarinet to be found in a trap music beat, not an oboe neither, and there’s barely a trumpet either but it’s all good though. Just because you give a man lean to drink and pills to pop don’t mean you take away his soul. Ain’t no dope in this world that can chase Africa away. Africa is still gone be in your bloodstream. Ghana is still in the bone marrow. Nigeria is still in those hips, and you know Sierra Leone gave you those lips. So when you listen to Future you can hear my past. When you look at Two Chainz you can see Mansa Musa. The Migos could be members of the mighty Ashanti Empire. Up from poverty! Up from the bottom of the boat! Up from being down—you feel me?

We ain’t going back to Africa and we don’t have to because we brought Africa here. You may not be able to see it but you know you feel it. If you stand still for too long it will touch your spirit and make you move. All eyes cast downward—down to Atlanta. Since Outkast, since Goodie Mobb, since The Dungeon Family. Have you seen the show yet? Have you seen what Donald Glover has done? He never stops putting in work and I know that W.E.B Dubois would be proud of the beautiful wings that grew from his most beloved city. I know Dr. King would be proud. I’m not sure they ever seen this coming but the ATL is at the center of the black world, and has been for the past twenty years. The mecca ain’t Harlem, it ain’t D.C., and it ain’t Chicago neither. It is that city within a stone’s throw of master’s plantation and its glory was created by all those negroes that never left to work on the shipyards of California or in the factories of Detroit. All those faithful black folks that never gave up—that never left. And even a few that moved back down. The ones that got educated in the A.U.C. and saw that rich Georgia soil so they decided to plant seeds. This is what the ancestors down there in the black belt must have dreamed of. This is what W.E.B. wrote about when he asked “How does it feel to be a problem?” Now the brothers and sisters down there have created a solution for so many of us. Do you hear the music? Man that right there is slapping! Man turn that up. That’s the ATL.

-YB

 

 

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Notes on American Inner-City Education: The Worst Case of Black on Black Crime Ever Seen

January 30, 2012

Human avarice knows no bounds. People will get over any way they possibly can especially in these times of economic woe. For the most part I have come to take a natural attitude toward this reality but there is one realm of society in which greedy people always manage to piss me off.

The education of poor children is probably the biggest scam in America. So many agencies gain money from the continued failure of black and brown children that it’s disgusting. Thousands of grants are given to people who don’t care about children at all.They are unscrupulous individuals who couldn’t care less about the daily struggles of a teacher to inspire a child to read a book when that child has experienced more tragedy in 12 years than most people do in a lifetime.

Teaching is for broke people, they say. The real money is in educating teachers to teach toward standardized testing. In order to be successful one must look at children as if they are data, statistics, and ultimately dollar signs. Then and only then will you see the big bucks. Think outside of the classroom, think outside of love, and think outside of poverty.

The truth is that schools are a business that will always be profitable because people will always see education as a pathway toward success. And poor folks will almost always want better for their children. That’s why demagogues line up around the block to be the next superintendent for your nearest inner-city public school and that’s why today’s entrepreneurs are choosing education over real estate because business is booming.

Trust me when I say that non-profits are very profitable and there is much more money in making promises to raise test scores in ghetto schools than there is running a beauty salon or opening up a liquor store.

What makes the situation even more disturbing is there are a huge number of minorities who are getting rich off of poor kids of color.  A parent whose child was victimized in the recent Atlanta test scores scandal described that situation as “The worst case of black on black crime ever seen.” As a person who has worked in the field of education for my entire adult life I don’t know if I can disagree with that.

-YB