Monday, November 25, 2013

PILLOW TALK: Twelve Year Ache

You act like you were just born tonight
Face down in a memory but feeling all right
So who does your past belong to today?
Baby, you don't say nothing when you're feeling this way.           
--Rosalind Cash


Karen E. Fields

Each time I have attempted to the read Karen E. Fields's, "Individuality and the Intellectuals: An Imaginary Conversation Between Emile Durkeim and W.E.B DuBois," I get this God-awful headache. The first time it happened, it was back in 2001, when the essay first appeared. Back then, I remember putting the essay down and by the time I picked it again, it was published in Theory and Society, so pick it up again only to have the headache to return, but I was able to get a little further along the second time around before it became unbearable. 


Emile Durkeim

Having only known Durkeim through secondary literature and secondary knowledge, meaning: I never actually read anything by the man, so I decided that I would tackle his Elementary Forms first, which didn't give me a headache at all and was a joy to read, (despite the efforts of that damned kangaroo). 


cover of Field's translation of Durkeim's Elementary Forms 

Now, armed with firsthand knowledge, I was confident that that knowledge would be just what I would need to plow through Fields, but my head still ached, despite that knowledge or perhaps in spite of it; so, I put the essay down again, and I have been picking it up and putting it down for about twelve years now. It was around this time last year that I picked it up to read again; it was on the occasion of its publication for what would be now the third time, and I got a headache, it seemed, just by picking it, so I put it down and left it there until today. Today, I have one of those long and dreadful days ahead of me, filled to the brim with all of the mundane and banal experiences that we have to come to associate with the waiting rooms across my America, and I am taking Fields's essay along for ride, with the hope that the numbness of the day's experience might just be the cure-all to that annoying symptom whose lack of specificity haunts me.

Karen E. Fields, Individuality and the Intellectuals: An Imaginary Conversation Between Emile Durkeim and W.E.B. DuBois



Sunday, November 10, 2013

PROSE: Why I Write Like That

for Anita Walsh, "an old friend"* 


Anita Walsh

Yeah, Anita, I know. I know that I am rather careless on the Internet (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, emails, etc.) but much more careful elsewhere. I am not sure why that is the case. Well, I do know why that's the case: It's the Internet, darn it! Who gives a rat's ass? 

Besides my having little regard for Internet content, I am terribly impatient. My mind moves at a very rapid pace, sometimes so fast that my poor fingers just can't keep up with my thoughts, and my desire to get the message out, usually but not always, supersedes the need for me to proofread my message; so, I just hit the damn button and leave the proofreading and copyediting for the readers to do. And there's a reason for that: By the time the proofreading is complete, the desire to share anything with anyone has disappeared. Sorry.

On some level, it's psychological; though, I suspect that others might conclude that it's intellectual, which apparently does not concern me. I know my carelessness creates contradictions that challenge my credibility, since I present myself as someone who cares about usage, grammar, punctuation, and syntax and will take others to task but won't practice what I preach, at least not on the Internet. Just keep rapping away at my knuckles, Anita, I'll eventually straighten up and act right, maybe. 



Man reading Fowler's A Dictionary of Modern English Usage

I am actually starting a new blog, "Our Daily Fowler," mostly for my students to use each day at the beginning of class. Since it's Fowler and my students, I will be not only hard pressed to proofread what I share, but I will also agonize over every word and its placement. Maybe that experience will then translate onto other Internet content that I share with you and others, maybe.

You've been on my ass about this behavior from the onset of our FB friendship, and your concerns don't go unrecognized by me. I think, on some level, I am giving the middle finger to the education establishment, which I stood in awe for decades from afar, until I was invited on stage and then years later backstage and encountered more mediocrity than I could have ever imagined from both sides of my the desk.


Now, lemme me go and proofread this note, despite that I actually dread having to do it and admittedly see no real substantive purpose in having to do it, except for my respect for you as a friend.



Sherry and Roy DeCarava with the photo critic, A. D. Coleman

*The phrase "an old friend" does not mean what it implies. The art historian, Sherry Turner, and wife of the American artist, Roy DeCarava, once described me as "an old friend," on about the first or second day we had actually met. It was in one of her art history courses that she chose to make this distinction between me and my other colleagues sitting around the seminar table. Of course having a stranger call me, "an old friend," caught me off guard but got my critical juices flowin, just as she had intended it to do; besides, my aunt Sis had drilled into me the line, "For you, there's always a stranger, always." I never bothered to ask Sherry what she meant, by referring to someone one she did not know as "an old friend;" instead, I assumed the position. Of course, with her being a specialist in African art, I eventually came to realize that she was telling me that me, that we, she and I, her and me, shared a deeper intimate historical connection from the other people in the room, not at all based on racist identification but rather that of the mind. Despite what my intellect was telling me, she was calling on me to use my intuition in order to see and feel beyond the limits of my intellect. I feel the same way about Anita. When I first met her on Facebook, and I cannot remember how, here was someone who needed no introduction. She wasn't just someone who I happened upon on Facebook, but, instead, was someone who I had the blessing and good fortune of being reunited with, after years and years, generations upon generations, even centuries of being apart. And I don't need Angela Davis to remind me about the "how many more." 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

PILLOW TALK: A COMMENT ON MY STUDENTS' REACTION TO RACISM IN ALEXANDER PERCY'S LANTERNS OF THE LEVEE





Based on my students' journal entries submitted last night, they are busy sharpening the blades on the axes and machetes they are planning to use to behead, the author, William Alexander Percy for what they perceive as racism in his beloved memoir Lanterns of the Levee. Little do they know, I will be granting Percy a stay of execution, at least until the end of today's class, and I am prepared to receive a litany of complaints from my students for temporarily suspending Percy's execution, while not allowing them to grant, the author, Jean Toomer a stay of last execution for his moonlit, liver-lipped multiracism we discussed in week in his evocative poetic work, Cane. Being black and all, they will not be able to wrap their minds around my ability to accept Percy's racism, while refusing to accept Toomer's multiracism. Next week, when they come to class to find me in bed with all twelve of the Twelve Southerners from the manifesto, I'll Take My Stand, it will be me who will need a stay of execution. #FugitiveSoutherner  




Tuesday, February 26, 2013

PROSE: To Do And Not To Do (That Is Not A Dilemma)




I carry around a lot guilt in that I do a good deal of writing and picture-making--and much too much thinking--but rarely, if ever, "do anything with it," as is often told me. I know I don't "do anything with it," because, for me, the self-promotion that is required to "do anything with it", I tell myself, is beneath me. I see myself coming from a long line of creative people, who did things but "never did anything with it;" they did what they did out of a necessity to do it, and doing something with it only distracted them from the doing. For me, it's easier for a heavy duty stapler and a fine grade of construction paper to perform the same task that Knopf performs for others. While walking home today from the Schomburg, I realized that I will never be like everyone else. Never. No matter how hard I try, so I had best try to figure out who I am; what I do, and act on that knowledge, to figure out, once and for all, the value of possessing the will to do and the will not to do anything with it.

PILLOW TALK: Adventures In My Facebook Inbox, Or: What Kind of Black Person Are You?

On February 26, 2013, I received the following message, in the form of a question, in my Facebook inbox: "What kind of black person are you?" 

Two things before I share my reply: 

1) I was thrilled to see "black" not being used as a noun, though I suspect that had there been more than one of us "blacks" would have ended up being abused as a noun; 

3) I was even more thrilled that black wasn't written as Black;

2) Since I was not Facebook friends with the person who sent me the message, I could not help but wonder whether they paid a dollar to hurl an insult; I have to admit that I would feel a certain about of gratification, if they did.

My reply in four parts:


1) I am the kind of black person that tries his darndest to see my racist identification as only one of my many identifications.

2) I am the kind of black person understands that my racist identification as black is not something I chose for myself; rather, it is something externally and arbitrarily imposed and not a product of nature.

3) I am the kind of black person who understands that I am only able to kick that racist identification to the curb in the safety of  
my home or social media sites or the around the seminar table or lecture hall, although the latter two sites are not anywhere as safe as they once were, and you're a good example of what can happen on Facebook.

4) I am the kind of black person one who recognizes that if I am careless enough to walk out of my door, not accepting, not recognizing that my only identification is black in the minds of almost everyone around me, I could end up with some forty-odd bullets hurled at me to remind me that there are people out there who still believe in witches.

I hope this helps.


Gregory Christopher Baggett

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

PROSE: A PERSONAL STATEMENT ON THE PERSONAL STATEMENT

I have this remark that I write in the margins of my students personal statements when I think they are giving away way to much of themselves in their essays. I usually will write, "You don't have to be Josephine Baker." I have an idea how it turned out that way, but I want to do all I can to break students out of the habit of accepting and promoting identification as a victim, especially those students from the working class. Somehow they are all convinced that the up-from-slavery or I-was-born-by-the-river or the from log cabin to the white house theses and narratives are the way to go. I want them use these essays as a way to demonstrate the depth and scope of their critical intellect. It should be enough to say that I am the first person in my family to graduate from college, without having to then share with reader all of the nooks and crannies of poverty and even throw mom and pop and brother and sister under the bus to boot, and without their permission. Poverty and the challenges associated with poverty are only one of countless identifications that these student experience, and it's high time we encourage them to embrace those still untapped aspects of themselves that make up not only who they are but what they do as well.

Monday, December 31, 2012

PROSE: During the Night Watch: A Tirade on the Emancipation Proclamation (HuffPost Comment)

One hundred and fifty years ago today, enslaved and free Afro-Americans participated in the first Night Watch, where they gathered together and waited for President Abraham Lincoln to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation did not free a single solitary slave who was not already entitled to freedom by: 1) various and sundry additional articles of war; 2) by appeals to the Unionist slave states; 3) by the First Confiscation Act; 4) by the Second Confiscation Act; 5) the abolition of slavery in both the District of Columbia and the Federal Territories; 6) by the Militia Act; and 7) and by their FEET, I dare say.

Night Watch Service 


But they waited anyway for a document to come into effect that would affirm the legal enslavement of over 900,000 slaves in the loyal border slaves states of Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, and Missouri, as well as those in areas under occupied of the Union army, if you can believe the latter. At best, the Emancipation Proclamation was nothing less than an instrument of foreign policy that had no legal consequence for the more than three million slaves living in the Confederacy, and at worst, it was a pro-slavery document that affirmed slavery within its own sovereign borders, while calling for the overthrow of slavery in a foreign country.

Reading of Emancipation Proclamation

At the time, the Confederate States of America was a nation with its own Constitution, though through the forces of civil war, it did fail to become a modern nation-state. The Emancipation Proclamation is quite simply another ragged and sully piece of evidence of this nation's gradualism; it's sorry, protracted, thorny, and knotty history of emancipation that did not begin in 1861 but began with the shotgun marriage of slavery and freedom during the era of the American Revolution.


Friday, December 28, 2012

POETRY: American Lynching Phrase Book (excerpt 2)




How would you like to be as much courage as anyone could have possessed on such an occasion?


How would you like to be the only murmur that was issued?

How would you like to be the life’s blood that sizzled in the fire?

How would you like to be the strangest feature.

How would you like it before one’s very own eyes?

How would you like to be, whose name that would not be divulged?

How would like to meet me in St. Louis?

How would you like to be calmly saturated?

How would you like to have your clothes soaked in kerosene oil?

How would like to be ill and was thought to shock?

How would you like identified, to be satisfied with the identification, to enable the judiciary to sentence the guilty equitably.

How would you like to be did not however thereupon?

How would you like to be no part of the?

How would you like to see who lighted the fire?

How would you like to be who cut off the ear?

How would you like to be who took the head?

How would you like to be the trunk of the tree?

How would you like to be crushed?

How would you like to small bits?

How would you like to be cut into pieces?

How would you like to have stood the ordeal of fire?

How would you like to be the surprising fortitude that stood the ordeal of fire?

How would you like to be the lips when angry knives plunged into flesh?

How would you like to be knives that were quickly produced?

How would you like to lift the can of kerosene to the head?

How would you like to be the burning that was to take place?

How would you like to be a whole civilized nation?

POETRY: American Lynching Phrase Book (excerpt 1)



How would you like to the first; the person knifed; the first person whose ears were then slit?

How would you like to the first bedded, gagged, gowned, bagged, and severely beaten person, claming that you did it to yourself?

How would you like to be the news has been received here of?

How would you like to be the little white anybody, or the wrong gotten hold of by the?

How you like to be mobbed…the guilty one?

How would like to be thereupon...the escapee?

How would you like to be the sheriff and a number of fully armed brave young men?

How would you like to be the cabin at night?

How would you like to handed down…demanded by that boy?

How would you like to be handed over?

How would you like to be a probable fate?

How would you like to be labor?

How would you like to be accounted for, tortured, and then captured?

How would you like to be discharged of their help?

How would like though to have been murdered?

How would you like to be a mutilated body?

How would you like to be the knives by the body’s mutilation?

How would you like to witness the contortions of the body?

How would you like to be extreme agony?

How would you like to be the consensus of an entire state?

How you like to pay the penalty?

How would you like to be a fiendish deed?

How would like to be flamed, and a-flamed, and set a-fire, and burned at the stake?

How would you like to be burned by a pot of boiling water?

How would you like to be burned by the state?

PERFORMANCE: Thick Uncut Piece #50 (Sound Recording App Soundcloud)



Thick Uncut Piece #50


This poem This poem is part of the unpublished book-length project 69 Uncut Pieces: Mutual Meditation on the Mythology of AIDS and HIV and is dedicated to The Children who don't seem to to have the wherewithal, as we once did, to fight for themselves, to fight for their survival. 

PERFORMANCE: Thick Uncut Piece #49 (Sound Recording App Soundcloud)



Thick Uncut Piece #49

This poem This poem is part of the unpublished book-length project 69 Uncut Pieces: Mutual Meditation on the Mythology of AIDS and HIV and is dedicated to The Children who don't seem to to have the wherewithal, as we once did, to fight for themselves, to fight for their survival

PERFORMANCE: Office Hours with Rosalind Krauss (SOUND RECORDING APP: SOUNDCLOUD)





Office Hours With Rosalind Krauss (poem read by the author, with love)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

POETRY: Thick Uncut Piece #69

just like the rest of you
'm gonna die, but 
it, but you
won't be 
the cause of it. 

This work is part of the unpublished book-length project 69 Thick Uncut Pieces: Mutual Mediation on the Mythology of AIDS and HIV and is dedicated to the children who don't have the wherewith all, as we did, to fight for themselves, to fight for their survival. 


Saturday, December 22, 2012

PRESS: Quotation in News Article "Academia Uptown Reflect on Occupy Wall Street."


"Professor Gregory Baggett, who has previously taught at the New School and Columbia University, and is now a Black Studies professor at City College, also recognized the advantage in the movement’s amorphous nature.
Baggett, who admitted to being quite a shopper, recounted bumping into an OWS protest while leaving the Prada store in SoHo and joining the marchers as they walked to Washington Square Park with his shopping bags from high-end retail shops.

Baggett spoke of the difference of OWS to other social justice movements that may not have accepted protestors that don['t] not fit a certain model, notably people who can afford to shop at Prada. He said he didn’t anticipate marching that day, but felt comfortable in joining the group.
"There is an open enough space that you can accidently fall in,” he said of OWS.
Baggett also compared OWS to Bacon’s Rebellion, which attracted all classes of people, including slaves, indentured servants and the gentry, and sparked the American Revolution." 
OWS Teach-In, City College, CUNY, November 2011

COMMENT: I doubt with all sincerity if I presumed to argue that Bacon's Rebellion sparked the American Revolution, though I am willing to assert that it gave rise to American racist ideology. 
NOTE: I am currently rewriting the original OWS conference paper to examine the movements evolution or devolution since its first appearance in September 2011. The working title for that paper is "Adventures in Negative Space: Some Thoughts on OWS, Then and Now."



Saturday, December 15, 2012

POETRY: THICK UNCUT PIECE #49

featuring: 
Frank Baggett & Shirley Jones;
James Baldwin & Toni Morrison; 
Gaytri Spivak & Andy Warhol; 
Mad Murray, the first & Madeline D. Murray; 
Mr. Frenchy & Felicia Higginbotham; 
Garry Owens & Jim Pardo; 
Sam Schnapp & Linda Goodman
plus the nightshift at Charity Hospital's Ward #11.

Now
one might think to oneself
who am I to speak
since
I ain't been gone yet
to see the sick darlings
(a very fortunate predicament, in my limited and biased opinion)
who Andy warned us about
15 minutes ago
who wear white
and cut
heart
and health
hope
and help.

Whose 
practiced remedy
their 
balm, so to speak
could land on your back
cut 
from the groin to the ankle.

And while in their midst 
or under their care, as they like to put it, 
don't be alarmed
if you wake up
groggy, one morning
in pain
frightened
disoriented
terrified actually
w/o your teeth
wondering out loud, 
"where's my wig?"

And the small of your back
(that most private piece of human anatomy)
exposed
and their cold cold hand
wants to cut you open again
--just to make sure.

This time
a couple of beauties
brought to you by shiny fetishious industrial steel #10:

the first gash
a real marvel of modern medicine
from armpit to thigh;

the latest decision
even more graphic incision
from the scrotum to the jaw.

No...dem people ain't gon tell me my sign.

I already kno...'m an aries when the moon's in virgo and the sun's rising in pieces.

Sound Recording: Thick Uncut Piece #49



This work is part of the unpublished book-length project 69 Thick Uncut Pieces: Mutual Mediation on the Mythology of AIDS and HIV. This project is dedicated to The Children who don't have the wherewith all, as we did, to fight for themselves, to fight for their lives. 

POETRY: THICK UNCUT PIECE #50


featuring: 
hattie gosset, sister no blues; 
W.E.B DuBois; James Baldwin;
Mignon Moore, Diana Ross
Mammy, Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara
W.E.B. DuBois; Eric Foner; and William Archibald Dunning; 
HBO; Sears; the Butcher of la Creme; 
Martin Luther King, Jr.; Julia Roberts; 
and the Racist Integrity Act of 1924

Now
one might think to oneself
who am I to talk
with an 
undiagnosed dick

more like
dirty and diseased
than pure
and free of misery

that 
part of myself 
designed 
for the procreation of human life--wow!

that swinging pendulum of doom
endangering 
the safety of others
not to mention 
the general well being of the prevailing mythology at large. 

And yet and
and gladly and
and in spite of 
(dirty dick and all)
I do 
give a dear
my damned 
quite frankly 

and I
(unlike Miz. Scarlett)
cannot
not 
think about it
not whilst
knowing
its-been-done-already
unto one
speck of dust….a flower
its-been-done-already
unto me

and there ain't nothin 
none of us can do about it 
not one of us 
not anything
there ain't one of us
not one amongst us
who will
gon get
to see
The End
anyway. 

So, tell me.

Who's gonna go 
way down
beneath 
the chaos? 

NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!

There will be no hand holding this time.

Now…

Now's the time for bright ideas.


Now
one might think to oneself
who I am to talk
since, I say I don't believe
yet, I don't take for granted
either
any of the
available 
information

not
single
tainted
drop
of 
it

(puck) 

not the good
or the no good
no yuern
or yours
not anybody elses
not none of the restes
not nobody's 
not even
my very own.

And just why should I?

There has been no real reconstruction here
on this morning's day
in these backward
and troubled
times...

has there been? 


This work is part of the unpublished book-length project 69 Thick Uncut Pieces: Mutual Mediation on the Mythology of AIDS and HIV. This project is dedicated to The Children who don't have the wherewith all, as we did, to fight for themselves, to fight for their lives.