My primary source of television is via Hulu and Netflix these days but I am finding more and more hidden gems on Youtube as well. I have been watching alot of black web series. There are so many independent films chopped into webisodes about black life in the UK that are giving me what I always hoped I get from BET back in the day. Many of the series are about love, relationships, and finding your place as a 20-30 something in the world. It’s such a relief to see black people making media about black people that’s not a documentary or sob story about extreme violence and poverty. Our lives are complex and we bleed and love like everyone else. Yes racism plays a role in our lives but its not all consuming and its important to reflect whom we are despite of it as well as because of it. At the end of the day television and movies are about entertainment. As a lover of drama and humor myself I have been quite pleased with the mixture of both in many of the shows. Venus vs Mars, West 10 ldn, Brothers With No Game, and Spin are the top of watch list these days. My main criticism is the rancid herteronormativty and absence of the lGBT experience in general. (I will blog about my favorite LGBT web series another time)
Watching the stories of my brothers and sisters across the pond with British accents walking, dressing, and expressing like Africans here in America always does something to me. Seeing those beautiful brown faces streaming through my computer stirs up pride in my culture, reminding me that I am not alone and capable of so much more. It reminds me how much the world looks to Americans especially African Americans for definitions of cool. It also reminds me that I am apart of a vibrant and diverse global community of Africans. It makes me proud to be counted amongst today’s hip hop loving 20 and 30 something Africans stumbling around trying to find companionship and financial stability.
Seeing others performing their version of our definitions of cool reminded me of a phrase the Black Panther party used a lot. “ We are the Vanguard “. Mind you the Black Panthers used this phrase in the context of political protest. To paraphrase in their view as Africans suffering at the hands of the world’s super power it was our role to be on the edge of resistance. I believe this to still be true today. When the world is looking to hip-hop, athletics, and media for the cues of cool, we have an opportunity to push the political envelope as well. They are watching us and we have to set the agenda, frame the conversation and tell our stories in ways the mainstream can’t. We don’t have to be post black to find ourselves. We just have to be ourselves and remember the world is watching.
We Are Still The Vanguard
We the black survivors
Those who the world looks to for language, fashion, music, athletics, and the politics of protest
just a few hundred years ago
we were locked in chains
now we race to buy and brag over stones and chains
soaked in the blood of our distant relatives
the bulk of our chains, our invisible birth right, internally hidden…
Embedded in the opaque systems that impact our lives
Self hate….The meaning in the unspoken messages driving our lives
Lies perpetuated by mass media, for mass appeal, so others can amass wealth
If I were just smarter, lighter, skinnier, or richer
The myths about who we are and what we can’t do
used to justify 100,000s in prisons, crumbling schools, and neglected neighborhoods
yet we are the vanguard
Not the talented tenth or credits to our race
Not the willingly ignorant tokens chosen for scholarships, political office or corporate diversity credit
Us the masses of black survivors
The awake ones who haven’t given into the lies
Who hustle every day
working 80hrs for 20hrs of pay
In uniforms, dresses, suits, and sagging jeans
In offices, stores, restaurants, schools and on street corners
Code switching and copy and paste smiling for crappy pay at crappy jobs
With eyes wide open we engage this world
We are the vanguard
Those who the world looks to
For inspiration and exploitation
Someone else may rewrap market and profit
But we birth it
No matter how thick the chains
we never stop creating
Every generation breathing new hope
We are the vanguard
Those who the world is always watching
where did you learn to rap like that
to rock like that, cock your hat, and tap your feet like that
shit before 1960 who gave high fives to you
before we blasted through your television on sports fields and music videos
who were you giving daps to?
They rapping and singing the blues from Tokyo to Palestine
From Mumbai to Port to Prince
Those with the darkest skin still treated the worse
Yet we are the vanguard
Always questioned and accused
You constantly assume the worse of me
Yet I am your muse?
Your extreme love and hate for me
A web of bi polar schizophrenic chaos
Where’s my medal for still being black conscious and in my right mind ?
Where’s my brothers’ medal for surviving the tortuous dungeons of the PIC
Where’s my sisters’ medal for surviving the pressures to starve, cut, fry, dye and buy her way away from her natural beauty?
Where’s’ my fathers’ award for creating such a loving being,
In a place filled with such violence towards him,
For loving me in spite of his own self hate?
Where’s my mothers’ award for
Shielding me from this world’s attacks
Long enough for me to incubate my own path?
Where’s her award for loving me when I was ignorant of self and asleep to this world’s lies?
Where’s my family’s props for simply surviving ?
How much is the prize for adapting and surviving
in every corner of this planet and continuously birthing the babies of the global vanguard?
While you figure it out I’m a be over here surviving
and beating a new path for the next generation to thrive and profit through.