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E.M. Monroe

"I knew, not from memory, but from hope, that there were other models by which to live." Weems

Month

November 2014

A New Look at the Work of “Demons”

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Well, if you thought brutality looked like the welts on the back of an enslaved man named Peter, William Brown’s charred body, or Emmett Till’s battered face, then here’s a new set of images to add to your collection: Officer Darren Wilson’s Evidence Photos. Wilson’s face shows the marks of what a young man that he would describe as having the look of a demon does with his evil powers.

The testimony that Darren Wilson offers of his brush with death just drips with the racial grammar, including all its parts of speech, comprising the narrative of white American freedom and black American death:

Like I said, I was just so focused on getting the gun out of me. When I did get it up to this point, he is still holding onto it and I pulled the trigger and nothing happens, it just clicked. I pull it again, it just clicked again.

At this point I’m like why isn’t this working, this guy is going to kill me if he gets ahold of this gun. I pulled it a third time, it goes off. When it went off, it shot through my door panel and my window was down and glass flew out of my door panel. I think that kind of startled him and me at the same time.

According to The New York Times,[t]he gunshot startled Mr. Brown, Officer Wilson said. Officer Wilson said Mr. Brown stepped back. And then came forward. He had his hands up, but Officer Wilson did not see this as a sign of surrender – quite the opposite.” Here’s what Officer Wilson saw:

The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked. He comes back towards me again with his hands up.

Despite being in a police truck, a Tahoe, presumably with gas and keys in the ignition, Officer Wilson becomes so entranced by the “demon” who comes toward him in a posture of surrender, with his hands up, Brown manages to punch Wilson–though he’s uncertain about that part–so he fires again. And again. After Michael “demon” Brown is shot several times at this point, Wilson claims Brown tried to flee and the Officer gets out of his truck and chased him. After telling Brown to get on the ground Officer Wilson states:

He turns, and when he looked at me, he made like a grunting, like aggravated sound and he starts, he turns and he’s coming back towards me. His first step is coming towards me, he kind of does like a stutter step to start running. When he does that, his left hand goes in a fist and goes to his side, his right one goes under his shirt in his waistband and he starts running at me.

Obviously, Wilson thinks Brown’s got a gun–which doesn’t explain why Brown would have gone for the officer’s–so Wilson, horrified by this scene, states:

At this point it looked like he was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I’m shooting at him. And the face that he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn’t even there, I wasn’t even anything in his way.

Having been ignored (which is actually the crime Brown commits: in the U.S. black people must always acknowledge their awareness of white authority and white supremacy), Wilson describes what happens next:

And when he gets about that 8 to 10 feet away, I look down, I remember looking at my sites and firing, all I see is his head and that’s what I shot. I don’t know how many, I know at least once because I saw the last one go into him. And then when it went into him, the demeanor on his face went blank, the aggression was gone, it was gone, I mean I knew he stopped, the threat was stopped.

Of course his final statement makes complete sense: killing someone does stop them from threatening you… I hope the folk over at Marvel are paying attention ’cause Wilson just invented the next villain for whatever summer blockbuster they’re planning.

Lord have mercy…

No Indictment, No Surprise

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By Kadir Nelson

 

Dear Black Children,

As cute and adorable as you are, cuddly in a way that Kadir Nelson expertly captures in nearly every image he draws, your beauty and our love for you will not save you. You may not understand this now, but you should know the truth. This truth comes from writer James Baldwin as he expressed it to the nephew he so dearly loved. So here it is: “You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that you were a worthless human being.” The Fire Next Time, 1963 to November 24, 2014.

As Baldwin tells his nephew, the biggest mistake you can make in this life is to believe what a white supremacist society says about you…love yourself despite everything and everyone telling you not to. With Love, EMM

Back to Normal

In the United States, black people are the only ones who commit evil acts of violence. Killing workers at an abortion clinic, shooting children at an elementary school, a movie theater, or a parking lot, and dropping “precision” guided drones that rip apart unarmed children in the Middle East is apparently much better violence. Rejecting policies that would help feed the nation’s children, rejecting children seeking escape from certain death, the ambition to deny universal healthcare also counts as better violence.

Everyone with a microphone is telling black people not to commit violence as if black people are being indicted for shooting unarmed black boys. As M. E. Dyson made clear, “black people who kill black people go to jail.” Apparently, those bound to “protect and serve” can kill black people with impunity…oh yeah, we’ve made great progress since the days of “Bull” Connor…it’s mourning, as usual, in America.

Models Monday: Concrete, Definite, and Specific Language

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The “Eyes on Ferguson” discussion below exemplifies concrete, definite, and specific language:

Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough reveal what occurs when concrete, definite, and specific language is totally misunderstood:

Michael E. Dyson elevated the conversation when he used the language of “white supremacy” and not “race.” He certainly didn’t “lower the level” of the discourse regarding systems of domination as Brzezinski suggests…it’s too bad how anti-intellectual U.S. society has become.

Toni Morrison: Brilliant as Always

Walter Lee Younger’s Vision Realized

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I’ve never seen Kenny Leon’s version of A Raisin in the Sun featuring Sean “Diddy” Combs as Walter Lee Younger. I was aware that many trained actors were disappointed in the casting given the rap mogul’s unproven talent for the stage. I don’t know if Diddy can act, but the casting was spot on!

In the play, Walter Lee wants to use the money from his father’s life insurance policy to open a liquor store. In spelling out his plan to his wife Ruth, Walter tries to make it clear that he’s got it all figured out:

Walter: “You see, this little liquor store we got in mind cost seventy-five thousand and we figured the initial investment on the place be ’bout thirty thousand, see.  That be ten thousand each. Course, there’s a couple of hundred you pay so’s you don’t spend your life just waiting for them clowns to let your license get approved–“

Ultimately, Mama Younger makes a $3500 down payment on a house in Clybourne Park, an all-white neighborhood. Mama asked Walter to put $3000 in college savings for his sister Beneatha, and the rest was to be Walter’s. Instead of honoring his mother’s request, Walter  gives the entire sum to one of his “business partners” who then takes the money and hits the bricks. Everyone is upset, but not broken. They decide to take their chances with their down payment on the house in Clybourne Park despite having no money to sustain their occupancy.

As I’ve been seeing images of Diddy promoting vodka and tequila, I can’t help but think of Walter Lee. I don’t know what it means yet, but Diddy has definitely realized Walter Lee’s dream.

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Models Monday: On Free Land

 

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South-View Cemetery. November 15, 2014

This past weekend, I visited South-View Cemetery with a few friends. South-View was granted its charter on April 21, 1886 and so became the first for-profit cemetery for African Americans in the United States. Beneath the names of the six men who established this charter reads its statement of purpose: “To provide a respectable place for Christian burials.” In chartering South-View as an African American burial ground, black people could now enter through the front gates, follow the processional on dry land without swampy obstacles before them, and thus reject the many forms of degradation undermining attempts to dignify black American life and death.

I was originally drawn to South-View because it was the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s original burial. I had been interested in the route his body took from Memphis, to Sisters Chapel on the campus of Spelman College, to Ebenezer Baptist Church, to Morehouse College, and finally to South-View. King’s body resided in South-View until early January of 1970 when Mrs. King had his body reinterred in a crypt on Auburn Avenue (this would eventually become the site for the Martin Luther King Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change).

 

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D.L. Henderson, South-View Cemetery’s historian, correctly notes that King’s story isn’t the only one there. There are as many stories as there are bodies. Some of the more interesting ones for me were those of the victims of the 1906 Atlanta Riots, the space where the unmarked graves where seven of the victims of the Atlanta child murders lie, and the Vietnam veteran whose grave was once directly across from Martin Luther King, Jr. :

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This visit reminded me of a very interesting article that I read in the Washington Post a few years back about an aging caretaker of a rural African-American cemetery in Loudoun County, Virginia. For more than fifty years, Vernon Peterson, 80, has taken care of Rock Hill cemetery where African Americans have buried their kin since 1889. Upon ending his service to the United States Army, Peterson returned home and found the cemetery in disrepair. He immediately began weeding around the graves and for $50 a year to meet expenses, he continues to maintain the cemetery.

I was struck by one of the photographs accompanying the article where Peterson is shown plotting the graves of every single person buried in the cemetery in a book to be given to his successor:

Tracy A. Woodward. The Washington Post.

The photographer has captured the eloquence of Mr. Peterson’s quiet work, the care he shows in making a record of lives. His hand unhurried, Peterson enters the names of many people he never knew, and some he did, between neatly drawn lines that strive for the order he endeavors to give the places where their bodies rest.

I am intrigued by Mr. Peterson’s use of time. I admire the discipline it takes to honor self-given tasks. School and work often impose deadlines that force action, without such pressures, some tasks may never be completed. Peterson, on the other hand, is his own master since he directs his own tasks. He’s a wonderful example of how to be free.

Models Monday: A Message for Republicans

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Dear G.O.P.,

As you work towards your goal of “taking back our country,” I ask that you consider reading Robert Pogue Harrison’s book Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition. Throughout the work, Harrison stresses the significance of care-taking as an essential aspect of being human and living a meaningful life. I’m sure you’re far too busy to read an entire book so if you can read one chapter, I suggest the one titled “Boccaccio’s Garden Stories” where Harrison reflects on The Decameron. Harrison’s explication offers a vision of a world that many of us would like to live in:

To be human means to be vulnerable to misfortune and disaster. It means periodically to find oneself in need of help, comfort, distraction, or edification. Our condition is for the most part an affair of the everyday, not of the heroic, and our minimal ethical responsibility to our neighbor, according to Boccaccio’s humanism, consists not in showing him or her the way to redemption but in helping him or her get through the day.

Please consider Harrison’s view of our responsibility to one another as you go about “taking back our country” and so setting out to repeal the Affordable Care Act, returning Central American children to a culture seemingly crueler than our own, preventing women from having control over their bodies and denying those same women equal pay as well as affordable and high quality child-care. Helping our neighbors get through the day could also be advanced if police officers and self-deputized citizens stopped killing black children because they “don’t belong here//don’t be long there, to cite Nina Simone. In general, our country might be best served if instead of emphasizing to us citizens taxpayers that we need to lower taxes and keep more of the money we earn, that you tell bankers on Wall Street and greedy politicians that “good is knowing when to stop.”

From a Concerned Taxpayer Citizen, EMM

Models Monday: Learning from the ID Network

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When I do watch television, I only watch sports and the shows on Investigation Discovery (ID). The ID network hosts true crime shows. Sometimes they highlight the same stories only repackaged in a different show format.  I’ve learned a few things about securing your life from these shows that I’d like to share with you:

1. Be clear about who your friends are and distinguish them from your partner’s friends. Even though we like to imagine that our partnerships require an entanglement of our entire lives, it’s not true. You partner’s friends know things about that person in a way that you don’t. They share secrets and loyalties that your presence does not change. Accepting this view means that when your partner is away and a friend of theirs rings your doorbell, DO NOT answer it. I’ve learned that some friendships are possessive ones and it may not be obvious to you at first. Thus, in dating you, moving you in, or marrying you the friend who was once perceived as your partner’s number one resents you for their lower ranking. This one woman found this out when she opened her door for her husband’s lifelong friend and best man at their wedding. That man raped and then killed her. I’ve taken the lesson I learned from this woman’s story and extended it to include goods my husband tells me his friends are coming over to collect in his absence. I tell him that those items should be placed in the mailbox or outside our front door. If that doesn’t work for them, they will need to make different arrangements.

2. If a room exists in the house you share with your partner and your children that you cannot enter, go in and look around for what you’re not supposed to see when your partner is away. Once you get the evidence you need, DO NOT TELL YOUR PARTNER what you know! Sharing the information with the person you just learned is committing a crime or that you know things that could shame someone for whom appearance is everything is like turning over your team’s playbook to the team you’re competing against. The woman at the center of the story I watched recently told the man all the secrets she knew about him and he had her killed in front of their children.

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3. If you are so afraid of your partner that you need to tell friends and family members that you think your spouse is trying to kill you, don’t go back to your house. In the show I watched last night, the woman told her mother that she was afraid of her husband. Her mother told her to plan her escape and not let him know. The woman’s husband killed her. So, if anyone tells to get out, stay right where you are because going home is far too risky. If you have the means, hire a private investigator. I’ve seen PI’s save lives!

4. If your partner admits to an extramarital affair and you decide to forgive that person because of your faith and your children, fine. However, if the mistress starts stalking you, confronts you, and attacks you then you need to divorce your partner. You can still forgive your partner but his choices have put you in danger and knowing this information should impact your decisions. LEAVE! The woman I recently saw on this show had a forgiving heart, but her husband’s mistress wasn’t done with her anger and hatred for the woman she saw as the obstacle to her getting her man. After church one evening, a man the mistress paid walked up behind the family and shot the wife in the head.

5. Every story I’ve seen on the ID Network about people who find love on the internet end up dead. I know a few people who have found mates on the internet and they’re still alive. One woman I know who found her mate this way has a wonderful relationship. I just think it’s really important that you realize that there are people in the world who are mean, deranged, and hateful people. Getting to know a person’s avatar is not like knowing them in the flesh. So you need to take special precautions when seeking out a partner online. The video above gives some useful tips.

6. If you have been in perfectly good health and as soon as your partner starts making your meals you fall ill, more likely than not, your partner is poisoning you; don’t eat another bite. Call a very good friend who can take you to the hospital. Once you arrive at the hospital, tell them you’ve been poisoned.

7. STAY AWAY from anyone who conveys an interest in you and two weeks after marrying you wants you to purchase a life insurance policy. People who ask their new spouses to purchase life insurance or to increase their existing policies are trying to KILL YOU! Really.

8. Just because a house always looks beautiful on the outside and the family inside seems wonderful and happy, you should keep in mind that YOU DON’T KNOW WTF IS GOING ON INSIDE that house. From what I’ve seen on these true crime shows, going inside could mean your life.

 

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