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for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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art ’s digital technology credentials as a black pioneer on the internet forced everyone to seriously

consider his insights rather than merely tune him out as some sort of fringe activist. art went

on to talk a bit about the open source movement. the place was humming when he wrapped up.


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

(2 of 2)


saturday morning we're back at it, 9am in the morning. the first panel was "borderless communities 1.0". self-identified afro geek fenobia l. dallas, who started off with a commodore 64 computer spoke on the necessity of teaching computer literacy. sister dallas has a stiletto sharp wit and an extremely informed take on spreading techno competence in our communities.

walter hough gave an overview of mainstream commerce's embrace of hip hop within the context of e-commerce. and, for me, r. michelle green wrapped up with one of the most provocative presentations of the whole conference. she regaled us with a psychology-based explication "race in the chatroom: using cultural historical activity theory to understand the life experiences of digitally-fluent african-americans."

it's a mouthful, for sure, but her methodology and the fluidity with which she shared her insights lit up my mental synapses like a computer game gone wild. she was another one of those chicago folk, mississippi-earthy in her approach while absolutely cutting edge in her thought. could it be that the duboisian double consciousness has resolved itself by morphing from a contradictory conundrum to a consciousness expanding dialectic within the context of afro-geekdom?

the next panel was much more mundane but no less interesting for me, "building a better geek: mentors and teachers." and it was just what the titled indicated as brother billie e. walker talked about careers in library studies and information retrieval and sharing; while juan gilbert dissected the problems, potentials and promise of mentoring black phd.s in computer science; and, sheryl mebane with a sincerity that was endearing, offered a report on field research on the topic of "enhancing achievement in chemistry for african american students through innovations in pedagogy aligned with supporting assessment and curriculum and integrated under an alternative research paradigm."

believe it or not, sister sheryl had my full attention as she talked about an alternative pedagogy to develop black chemists, a pedagogy which is essentially the same as what we use to teach creative writing and digital video in our sac (students at the center) program. small classes working in groups with a student driven (rather than a test driven) curriculum is at the core of this approach. that was a tremendously important affirmation of the centrality of a libratory approach to education.

following a brief lunch break came the most overtly political of all the panels: "borderless communities 2.0" featuring paul adams, eric pierson and art mcgee.

paul adams, director of prairienet, shared the findings of an east st.louis techno-community development project. eric pierson raised questions about the nature, ownership and service profiles of cable access and the newly developing wireless technology. both brothers were articulate and on point (pierson used chicago as an example for much of his presentation--what are they putting in the water up there?).

but it was brother art mcgee, the godfather of black cyberspace who totally brought the noise. he started on fire and got hotter as he spoke. one quote to give you a taste of this brother's rave: capitalism is not capable of meeting the public good! Art’s digital technology credentials as a black pioneer on the internet forced everyone to seriously consider his insights rather than merely tune him out as some sort of fringe activist. art went on to talk a bit about the open source movement. the place was humming when he wrapped up.

the last panel was "sim(s)ulation of life: raceing video games." i am not into video gaming but nonetheless i found the discussion simulating as raiford guins from england, sister treaandrea russworm, and brother s. craig watkins discussed race and video games, they raised a lot of questions and made insightful observations that will have me reflecting for days to come on race and representation, and the effects thereof in a world in which computer-based gaming is increasingly replacing all other forms of entertainment not just for youth but for the adult population also.

on a side note, when i wrote "brother" referring to s. craig watkins, that brought to mind a mini-moment during art mcgee's presentation. while making a point, art noted when the brother said referring to one of the other panelists. the moderator interrupted to give the person's name. art responded, no, i said “brother” on purpose, don't get me started. we used to refer to each other as brother and sister..."

within the context of afro-geek presentations that used racial identify as one of the major tropes of conversation, art's retro moment of brother/sister self identification completely lifted the level of discourse beyond self-serving labeling and glib analysis into the psychological terra firma of group identity reflective of not just a serious self image, but also reflective of a serious social direction. in other words, blackness as more than a mere index of social existence; rather blackness as a definer of familyhood/community within which there is a mutuality of individual and group identification and a concomitant sine qua non of individual and group responsibility to each other, or to put it in the most vulgar (albeit understandable) of terms, it was a "nigger, please" moment.

the gaming panel made excellent use of the large screen projection and provided an upful closing of the panel sessions. after a brief refreshment break the conference ended with the third keynote, problematic 3.0 featuring james fugate of esowan books, writer/musician greg tate, cinematographer/critic/visual artist arthur jafa and conceptual artist renee green.

james fugate is a books man, he runs a bookstore, he loves books. his low-key style and retro focus on print may initially have seemed to be out of context—he had no multi-visual component and he didn't even talk much about selling books online, but what he did do was raise serious questions about the content of our work and the relationship of that content to the overall good of our community.

in a quiet and succinct, non-threatening manner, he served as a correctant to a lot of our hype for the new, our celebration of the sensually exciting and our uncritical acceptance of commercial success as the ultimate. brother fugate upped the ante by simply asking: but is it good for our people? each of us in our own way will have to answer that important question.

greg tate said he had a ten page paper but rather than refer to it, decided to do a show and tell demonstration of butch morris' condution technique, a methodology for combining orchestra conducting with improvisation. greg's demonstration required the conference attendees to make sounds on cue (you decided what sound you want to make, just follow the cues for starting, stopping, sustaining, altering, repeating and soloing). it was a fun moment that may have seemed not to be related to geekdom but which was aesthetically based in the digital world of mixing and sampling.

arthur jafa shared some unsequenced notes on aesthetics and followed with a short experimental video called "trees." as i watched jafa's work i kept thinking of the art ensemble of chicago who ran the gamut of musical expression delighting its audience with lyricism, swing, or funk one moment and challenging the audience moments later with experimental sounds that bore no resemblance whatsoever to what we generally knew as music. like some of the most out electronic music performances, jafa's video was intriguing more because of the possibilities and potentials toward which it pointed than for the actuality of its achievement. this was very much not merely a work in progress, but really a necessary exploration in preparation for some artistic breakthroughs in video.

renee green closed with a 20-minute nu-video documentary that combined meditation, traditional documentary and art cinema/sound reinforcement. I consider this kind of artwork a can opener. sister green gave me all kinds of ideas for hooking up video work.

overall this was an exciting panel foregrounding aesthetic experimentation and probing questions of meaning and social responsibility. in many, many important ways, none of these people were afro geeks in the traditional sense of primarily working with computers. on the other hand, they represent the artist and the entrepreneur who simply see technology as a tool or instrument.

the whole conference was video taped, and, hopefully, will be available to the general public, or at least available for educational purposes.

a couple-or-three years ago at m.i.t. on the east coast there was an afro geek conference for which anna everett was one of the organizers. i remember really liking that conference. although the m.i.t. conference was larger on the one hand and more tightly focused on the other, this afro-geek conference was nonetheless a significant upgrade. i particularly liked the breadth of afro-geek participants; the mix was invigorating and surprising, especially since a significant number of the people who were here would not normally be found in the same room together.

nor was it just a black thang (as in race is the only common denominator). at this gathering there was a clear and palpable yearning for a better world mixed with an unashamed embrace of digital technology. here was a public conclave where no one felt the need to apologize for or be embarrassed by their geekiness, nor felt any ostracism because they were black or because they were a techno-geek.  

like the conference subtitle (from technophobia to technophilia) stated, here was the proof, afro geeks do exist and geekdom is good. and female as well as male--17 of the 34 presenters (that’s 50%) were female.

a little surprising footnote to the conference was that microsoft provided complementary beta copies of a new note taking program, some promotional t-shirts and some hip looking (except for the company logo) heavy, multi-pocket vests. as folk cleared out and headed wherever they were heading, piles of the t-shirts and at least three of the five free vests remained behind on a table, and stacks of the software lay forgotten on the floor. most of the participants who had their laptops with them had mac powerbooks. so not only do we have black geeks, many of us don’t do windows.

even though i slept well that night, i was once again awakened in the middle of my sleep. this time it was the room rather than my foot that was twitching. turns out it was the tremors of a low-grade earthquake. because it happened while i was asleep i was not sure that it actually happened as opposed to me dreaming that it happened. later at the airport, i found out i wasn’t dreaming, the room did move. my first earthquake experience came as a result of being at the afro-geek conference.

one of my best conference moments was an after-conference dialogue. arthur jafa, karla keeling and i shared a 6:35am flight out of santa barbara to dallas (from there we each went our separate ways). on the way to and during the flight we had an opportunity to talk. ideas were bouncing around. arthur pulled out a big, black binder of a book in progress, chock full of images. plus, he shared some digital photographs which i checked on the lcd screen of his leica digital still camera.

i in turned used my powerbook to share a dvd with him of a 30-minute video documentary on a new orleans jazz funeral which i am completing. all I have left to do is drop in the voice-over narration, all the visual and musical editing is complete. arthur and i talked aesthetics and digital video/visual techniques. aperture and shutter speed discussions. methodology for crew composition and interaction.

the feedback loop questions: like aj said, imagine if you had to learn saxophone by blowing into it, a card comes out, you send the card away to get processed, and then a week or two later you get a tape back that plays the sound you made. it would take you quite a while to learn that instrument. well, that's what it used to be like learning cinematography, but digital has changed all of that... and then, me talking about the centrality of woodshedding to developing the art. discussions like that.

sooner or later our paths may have crossed, but thanks to the afro geek conference, rather than through happenstance it was the prescience of the conference organizers who understood that even amid the most narrowly defined categories (and surely within the context of black life the afro-geek is a numerical-minority, a mere sliver of our existence), even within the field of afro geeks, there is nevertheless a need for diversity, for heterogeneity, because only by providing the broadest possible platform will we ensure the uplift of each one of us. brothers and sisters, welcome to geekdom.

*   *   *   *   *'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
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#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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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 Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story

of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government

By Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer

American democracy is informed by the 18th century’s most cutting edge thinking on society, economics, and government. We’ve learned some things in the intervening 230 years about self interest, social behaviors, and how the world works. Now, authors Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer argue that some fundamental assumptions about citizenship, society, economics, and government need updating. For many years the dominant metaphor for understanding markets and government has been the machine. Liu and Hanauer view democracy not as a machine, but as a garden. A successful garden functions according to the inexorable tendencies of nature, but it also requires goals, regular tending, and an understanding of connected ecosystems. The latest ideas from science, social science, and economics—the cutting-edge ideas of today—generate these simple but revolutionary ideas: (The economy is not an efficient machine. It’s an effective garden that need tending. Freedom is responsibility. Government should be about the big what and the little how. True self interest is mutual interest.

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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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Negro Digest / Black World

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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