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anita's basically talks about what she has done in setting up cyber communities

and interfacing with a techno world that is overwhelming white and male. damn, this

conference is off to a great start. rather than technical jargon, we get life stories


Books by Kalamu ya Salaam


The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts Movement  /   360: A Revolution of Black Poets

Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology  /  From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets

Our Music Is No Accident   /  What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self

My Story My Song (CD)


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mama whats an afro geek?

Kalamu Reports on Afro-Geek Conference

(1 of 2)


i woke up in pain. a severe cramp in my right foot. muscle spasms in my lower extremities have been a life-long sign that i need some rest. it's ironic, the indication that i need to get about 12 or so hours of sleep is that i can't sleep undisturbed. i get up and try to hobble it off, and then, after trying a multitude of positions, head back to the workplace of dreamsville—i don't know about yall, but i have a very, very active subconscious; i be working out a ton of shit in my sleep.

it's thursday night, may 5th (actually about 3am friday morning) i'm in santa barbara, university of california-santa barbara for the afro geeks conference organized by anna everett and the staff of the center for black studies.

back home in new orleans, our students at the center folk have headed up to jackson, mississippi to participate in bob moses day and hook up with students from lanier high school who are working on the "my mississippi eyes" project, which investigates the story of the black out-migration from mississippi to chicago and beyond and the effect of that out-migration on contemporary mississippi. if i weren't here i would have been there, wasn't going to be home . . .

friday morning early, 9am, the program kicks off on time with greetings from ucsb chancellor henry t. yang. you can tell you're in cali, the sun is shining, the weather is warm, an asian american is the head of the school and a bunch of black folk are meeting about computers. there are seven panels and three keynote sessions. sometimes it gets hairy: graduate students throwing around multi-multi-syllabic words (you hear a lot of epistemology and ontology, and references in languages my louisiana tongue has a little trouble twisting up on), and plus, of course, the obligatory computerese.

the opening keynote is "what is an afrogeek anyway? engaging the afro-geek identity problematic 1.0" what does "identity problematic" mean, and why the label "1.0"?

three folk speak: my man floyd webb, whom i've known for a number years, dating back to when he ran the chicago black light film festival well over a decade ago; anita brown, the maven of blackgeeks online; and charles harper, of sierra monolithics, a minority owned, hi-tech company. the three of them perfectly sum up the thrust of black geekdom.

floyd is funny, engaging, a cool, street-smart, sophisticated geek who has worked all over the planet including stints in london and east africa. while his international experiences have not blunted his chicago brashness one iota, his southside swagger does not menace the beautiful folksiness of his mississippi roots: he probably enjoys blueberry cobbler while downloading/uploading with his bluetooth apparatus (like he would do later in the day when he shared a media piece with me via wireless: his handheld to my powerbook laptop).

before sharing clips of some of his innovative recent work, floyd deconstructs the term "geek" talking about the circus performer who bites the heads off chickens, then moving on to the more contemporary connotations for those of us who are techno savvy denizens of the virtual world. it's sort of like alicia in wonderland, the white rabbit is brer rabbit and alice is a techno-savvy, smartass sister, which leads me to the next presentation: anita brown.

washington dc-based sister brown . . . talks in a whiskey whisper but it's no come-hither sexy suggestiveness, rather it's a deadly, "mama, don't take no mess" flow. anita is over fifty, been hooking up folk hi-tech stylee for over two decades and likes nothing better than confounding stereotypes with her commanding presence. like she says, she knows what the press is looking for: "trends or personality" and with her computer-literate, fearless self, she's got both in spades. she's a poster child for senior citizens talking over, and of course, i who recently celebrated 57, am a soldier in general anita's army: if she gives the command, i'll unhesitantly storm the citadel of big blue or confidently accept a mission impossible to bring back the head of bill gates.

anita's basically talks about what she has done in setting up cyber communities and interfacing with a techno world that is overwhelming white and male. damn, this conference is off to a great start. rather than technical jargon, we get life stories, rather than images of joining the mainstream, we are challenged and inspired by the example of black mavericks.

well, actually, I mean not everybody, because charles e. harper is the third speaker and as executive chairman and co-founder of sierra monolithics he waves the global capitalism flag. his company produces hi-tech equipment coveted and contracted for by the military industrial complex. data retrieval switches for predator spy plans, rear radar detection equipment for the luxury and industrial automotive industry.

imagine a technology colin powell, head of a multi-million dollar enterprise which is poised for exponential income growth as a result of hefty defense contracts and the promise of an integral participation in the wi-fi future wave. in most circles this man is a major success, i expect he will soon be on the cover of black enterprise, if he has not already been.

after that eye-opening first session, we are next given a panel of case studies, infostructures: connectivity and diaspora". after the four panelists abdul alkalimat, jorge coelho, tony moore and elisa joy white each talk about specific programs, i ask a multipart question and delight as abdul heats up the space with an exhortation for a communist techno revolution (i kid you not), he wins applause in calling for community based struggle for a better world through technology.

during his presentation abdul had been talking about connecting churches via the internet, but i had suspected there was much, much more to what he was doing and his response to my question laid bare his brer rabbit in the briar patch strategy. i know abdul from the sixties--he was a marxist, i was a nationalist, contending ideologies in the people's struggle for black revolution. he was of the stalwarts who has been able to transform and adapt without giving up the struggle. i admire his commitment and his ability to continue organizing at the root community level.

jorge, who speaks about sao tome and the effort to build a people-oriented, democratic, technology-based modern community on the multi-ethnic, west africa island responds that global capitalism is going to be there, the question is what are we going to do for ourselves.

abdul counters that capitalism is not eternal. jorge parries, yes, but meanwhile we have to deal with it. damn, i'm delighted that the discussion gets this politically deep at a computer geek confab.

the seventy-five or so attendees break for lunch and reconvene shortly for the "imaging the black body in cyberspace" panel. because we are in a hi-tech conference room, the podium has a mac powerbook with internet and audio/visual hookups, and because most of the panelists have either powerpoint presentations or av clips, what could have been dullsville is a journey in the opposite direction.  

despite the provocativeness of the panel title, we could easily have been overwhelmed with the jargon of commodification, reification and semiotic analysis, fortunately, we are offered some deep space probes that push us to think about all kinds of connections, intersections, influences and after-effects.

nadine wanono, a french woman offers concrete design translations of dogon sentences. and, on the other hand, mireille miller-young gives us an interpretation of the independence of black female porn stars creating their own space on the internet. lisa marie rollins and michele white both address the presence and absence of black visibility in the virtual world. there's a lot to think about.

the third panel "vectors of race and digital arts" was excellent in combining observation with critique. anna beatrice scott intercut dance performance into her formal presentation: miming one-zero-zero-zero-one-zero-one-one-zero . . . and chicana guisela latorre showcased slides of the work of gullermo gomez-pena and keith piper, while kimberly steger shared research on black usage of technology and kara keeling presented portions of her insightful critical appreciation of spike lee's movie bamboozled, which was shot in digital. this was life a cliff notes graduate course in media criticism.

there was then a short refreshment break before the closing keynote "problematic 2.0" featuring filmmaker carroll parrott blue and yours truly, neo-griot kalamu ya salaam. i've known caroll since the seventies, have always liked her work. she's one of the pillars of the black independent film movement. she briefly gave an overview of her latest project and then shared about twenty minutes of what is about a nine-hour dvd/hardback book project called "the dawn at my back: memoir of a black texas upbringing."

here's how the project is described: "based on a memoir written by carroll parrott blue, the labyrinth project has produced a dvd-rom that expands on the book by encouraging users to explore unique visual fields of interwoven narratives and create their own pathway in response to their journey.

using an interface inspired by her great grandmother’s quilt, users can interweave stories that are embedded within several animated 'panscapes' created from original photographs, video and archival materials. while exploring accounts of blue’s family, they encounter oral histories by members of houston’s black community and become immersed within a rich cultural landscape.

with veteran actors debbie allen, ruby dee and ossie davis performing the voice-over narrations that accompany this exploration, blue and the labyrinth team have created a provocative and engaging audio-visual experience."

to say that carroll's presentation was awesome is to under-rate the experience. i encourage everyone interested in understanding black america, get a copy of this dvd/book. . . .

i was awarded the unenviable task of following sister carroll. i did a song and dance routine that concluded with two short videos after opening with a reference to the paradigm shift from earth/female gods to sky/male god(s) as spearheaded by the three wise men (jew, christian, muslim), while suggesting that the transitional period we are in suggests a re-rise of the feminine; and then briefly dropping the needle to sample a short bit of afro-german soul music via joy denalane; while cutting and scratching some aesthetic concerns, along with snippants of political (i footnoted the importance of the open source issue) and economic critique (particularly concluding with an anti military/industrial complex salvo).

that conclusion-critique was neither gratuitous, mean-spirited, nor self-righteous, but a question i have been grappling with for decades. how do we live here, pay taxes here, join the military, work in corporations here and not be responsible for what is done worldwide in the name of "freedom and democracy"?

increasingly Americanism means global capitalism enforced by either the economic blackmail of the imf and the world bank, or enforced by the u.s. military when economic incentives (sanctions) fail to produce the desired effect.

i intimately know the contradictions, the colin-powell-like impulse to bring civility to the bottom-line, cold-bloodedness of capitalism. indeed, from deep in the early seventies, i recall a moment when abdul confronted me about a cia ad in the black collegian magazine, of which i was at that time the editor. i agreed with his critique and encouraged him to send us a scathing letter, i was looking for ammunition to fight our publisher who ignored the political implications in favor of accepting the full page advertising rate. or as charles harper noted, with nary a twinge of sarcasm, the government pays.

we all have contradictions at one level or another, the real question is the sum total of what we do with our lives and whether the overall direction and momentum of what we do escapes the drag and detours of our personal shortcomings and contradictions. or like i told brother harper when he came up to me after my presentation to say that they had no control over what the military did with the technology his company developed: yeah, i understand that, but i encourage you to do what some of our folk did during slavery when enslaved servants who worked in the kitchen would throw food out the window.

it was not a matter of hand picking those with whom you would share your largess, rather you put it out there for anyone and everyone to get a shot at. they didn't ask who threw it out the window and you didn't tell who did it—you just put it out there. we hear that mantra about giving back to the community all the time, but most of the best give backs are done anonymously and consistently, are secret sharings of resources.

anyway, i ended with two short videos. the first, "the hustle," is a 7-minute dramatic feature about young women getting caught up in the criminal justice system as a result of their relationships with drug-dealing lovers. this is a piece that was scripted, acted and shot by high school students in dallas, texas. i have been going to dallas once a month since november to do neo-griot workshops at the south dallas cultural center (we are also producing a spoken word with music cd out of sdcc's recording studio). i have worked with high school students on the last two visits. received enthusiastically positive feedback for the high school production. working with youth consumes most of my time these days.

the second video was "a luta continua," a ten-minute meditation on caopeira as a means of dealing with sexual trauma, written by paulette richards, the associate director of our neo-griot workshop where we have a triad-focus on writing with text (books and internet), sound (recordings) and light (video). "a luta" never fails to invoke a positive response because of the content and the artistic way in which the images complement the narration.

after one of the fastest half-hour presentation i've ever done, we broke for dinner at the faculty club which overlooks a lagoon. the food was good, not great. and the band was california neo-soul (think d'angelo with one of the lead singers in the lenny williams mold). i didn't stay for the dance and partying aspect, e-drum was calling. i generally spend about two to three hours a day online, checking email and editing e-drum. i had not been online all day, in addition to having withdrawal symptoms, i knew if i put it off much longer, i would be overwhelmed when i did get to it. like i said in my presentation, doing this work is an everyday thang: everyday. every day. every day!

posted 14 May 2004 

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
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#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Allah, Liberty, and Love

The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom

By Irshad Manji

In Allah, Liberty and Love, Irshad Manji paves a path for Muslims and non-Muslims to transcend the fears that stop so many of us from living with honest-to-God integrity: the fear of offending others in a multicultural world as well as the fear of questioning our own communities. Since publishing her international bestseller, The Trouble with Islam Today, Manji has moved from anger to aspiration. She shows how any of us can reconcile faith with freedom and thus discover the Allah of liberty and love—the universal God that loves us enough to give us choices and the capacity to make them. Among the most visible Muslim reformers of our era, Manji draws on her experience in the trenches to share stories that are deeply poignant, frequently funny and always revealing about these morally confused times. What prevents young Muslims, even in the West, from expressing their need for religious reinterpretation? What scares non-Muslims about openly supporting liberal voices within Islam?

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What Orwell Didn't Know

Propaganda and the New Face of American Politics

By Andras Szanto

Propaganda. Manipulation. Spin. Control. It has ever been thus—or has it? On the eve of the 60th anniversary of George Orwell's classic essay on propaganda (Politics and the English Language), writers have been invited to explore what Orwell didn't—or couldn't—know. Their responses, framed in pithy, focused essays, range far and wide: from the effect of television and computing, to the vast expansion of knowledge about how our brains respond to symbolic messages, to the merger of journalism and entertainment, to lessons learned during and after a half-century of totalitarianism. Together, they paint a portrait of a political culture in which propaganda and mind control are alive and well (albeit in forms and places that would have surprised Orwell). The pieces in this anthology sound alarm bells about the manipulation and misinformation in today's politics, and offer guideposts for a journalism attuned to Orwellian tendencies in the 21st century.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 14 May 2012




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Related files:  afro geek 1  afro geek 2