We Are Still The Vanguard

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 MarsWest 10 ldnBrothers 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.