Commodification and Gentrification

After class a few weeks ago and the many discussions that were had about power and commodification, I began to think about how these concepts could be related back to texts that were involved in the course thus far. I thought about the poems that were read and the song that we listened to, and the discussion that happened in my small group. The definition that Dr. McCoy provided us is that commodification is, “the transformation of relationships, believed to be untainted by commerce, into commercial relationships, relationships of buying and selling”. In my small group, this was related back to the idea of gentrification, defined by Merriam Webster as, “the process of repairing and rebuilding homes and businesses in a deteriorating area (such as an urban neighborhood) accompanied by an influx of middle-class or affluent people and that often results in the displacement of earlier, usually poorer residents” and how in major cities such as New York City this is becoming more prevalent. Different communities, such as the lower class black and the upper-class white that have been known to not get along are now having even more strains put on their relationship due the upper-class coming into the neighborhoods and possibly removing the residents or making it impossible for the residents to afford living here by doing things such as raising the rent. Sarah brought up a great example of how the upper-class is coming in and buying property and opening coffee shops, yoga studios, etc. that does not take into account the needs or wants of the neighborhood.

When pondering on the example that was given during class, I went back and took a look at the poem by Jayne Cortez, ‘How Long Has Trane Been Gone’ from 1969. I found that the lines, “You takin- they givin/ You livin- they/ creatin starving dying/ trying to make a better tomorrow” truly related to the idea of gentrification. With the “you” being the white upper-class and the “they” being the black lower class. There could be much discussion as to whether or not gentrification is beneficial to the revival of suffering communities. I think it is safe to say (although I hate to make assumptions on her part) that Cortez would not be a fan of the idea. She would most likely say that the upper-class is not worrying about the needs of the lower class and that they are simply doing it for self-benefit, going back to the line “You takin- they givin”.

Respect the Difference

The other day my friend told me she had to evaluate an album for one of her classes and she had no idea which album to choose. The first album that popped into my mind was Aretha Franklin’s album “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You.” I suggested she write about what Aretha Franklin represented as a black woman singing soul music in the 60s in the height of the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements. Specifically, the song “Respect” (1967) which empowered many people during this time to fight for their personal and political liberation.

I showed her the page in Call and Response that includes this song and said “see it’s in my book, so it must be important” and then I saw it. “Respect by Otis Redding as interpreted by Aretha Franklin”. You can imagine my reaction given my last post about the ownership of songs by repeating them. I do not know a single person who would tell you that this song is Otis Redding’s and yet every time it is played he is the one getting paid. While listening to his version on YouTube, the comments are filled with people who did not even know it was his song, they thought it was Aretha Franklin’s. This sparked my interest in the difference between the two versions of the song and the impact that these differences have on the meaning of the song.

Continue reading “Respect the Difference”

W.B. Yeats and Carl Phillips in Conversation

I was thumbing through Angles of Ascent over the weekend and noticed a single dogeared page.  Page 379, I had annotated a poem by Carl Phillips “Leda, After the Swan.”  In the small group discussion a few weeks ago we were asked to discuss our favorite poems, this wasn’t mine, but we discussed it in length and after our conversation I found myself interested in the origins and the poem is it based off of.

“Leda and the Swan” was published in the mid 20s, by W.B. Yeats about the myth of the rape of Leda by Zeus who took the form of a Swan.  In our group we discussed the controversy surrounding the poem. Yeats focuses on the act itself and alludes to the Trojan War as well.  In the rape, Leda becomes impregnated with who will become Helen of Troy. Yeats posits that the rape of Leda leads to the Trojan War and thus the end of Greek civilization. When “Leda and the Swan” was published it stirred up controversy due to its explicit nature.  More recently however, it has upset feminist activists because of the way in which Yeats chooses to show the rape of Leda by Zeus, or the swan. The poem remains Yeats’ most commonly anthologized poems. Continue reading “W.B. Yeats and Carl Phillips in Conversation”

Light and Shadows, Dope and Paint, Sociology and Art

When we speak of a “diamond in the rough,” are we being ironic? For when we say this do we not ignore the dark and organic geologic history of the shiny diamond’s formation? A diamond comes from the rough; it is of the rough. The relationship of the diamond to the darkness from which it emerges is necessarily symbiotic as there would be no diamond without the immense pressure placed on carbon deep beneath the earth’s surface. My coach likes to use this analogy a lot when talking about training, but it is also useful when thinking about the negation of binaries. I believe, after all, that the development of the both/and is, in fact, not so much a destruction of the either/or but the reconstruction of it. It is important not to do away with the tension entirely, but to play with the tension to see how both elements might be more similar, more “in each other,” than previously thought. Continue reading “Light and Shadows, Dope and Paint, Sociology and Art”

How D’Aguiar Breathes Life into His Protagonists

When I went to the D’Aguiar reading, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  At previous poetry readings I’ve been the audience to mainly women, who were mainly white, who were reading poems about love and heartbreak and growing up in small towns.  This isn’t to talk down on these poets, because by many of them I’ve been brought to tears, but rather it shows that my own background has informed the readings that I’ve been able to attend.  I grew up in a small town in upstate New York and my, mostly white, high school would have Java Jive, a poetry and live music event, yearly. Most of my experiences listening to poetry read aloud have occurred in that unilateral arena.  

I’d like to approach D’Aguiar’s reading of Bullet, an excerpt from a piece he’s working on now about the Virginia Tech Massacre which he has a close connection too, using a course epigraph: “Word-work is sublime, she thinks, because it is generative; it makes meaning that secures our difference, our human difference – the way in which we are like no other life.”   Continue reading “How D’Aguiar Breathes Life into His Protagonists”

Anthologies, Trail Mix, and Group Work, Oh, My!

When I first saw the assignment to write down everything that we ate over spring break, I’ll admit that I was a bit stunned. Why in the world would I have to keep a food journal for a class titled African American Literature? I talked to some of my classmates, friends and family about the assignment, and they all had similar thoughts.

Continue reading “Anthologies, Trail Mix, and Group Work, Oh, My!”

[Tough] Love and Its Doubts

The poem “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden stuck out to me when reading it in class. Everything from the title to the theme to the word austere was striking. As characterization between the parental figure and the son/daughter slowly starts to reveal itself, the poem solidifies how hardworking the father is and how sacrifice played a role in order for him to raise his child.

Continue reading “[Tough] Love and Its Doubts”

DAMN, That’s Important.

“Hail Mary, Jesus and Joseph/ The great American flag is wrapped and dragged with explosives/ Compulsive disorder, sons and daughters/ Barricaded blocks and borders/ Look what you taught us.”- Kendrick Lamar, DAMN, XXX

         Last Friday, April 19th, our class was organized into different groups, all consisting from about four to five students each. We were asked to begin brainstorming a key, interdisciplinary term that would remain the focal pointor at least be the basisfor our self reflective essay. As we began THINKing and bouncing ideas off of each other, words quickly began soaring across the room from verbs “change” and “explore,” to terms like “nonlinearity,” “folk,” “organization” and my very own: self-autonomy. The idea behind my choice of word at first glance appeared simple: reclaiming something that might be seen as inherently negative by reconstructing the detrimental and harmful connotations attached to an idea, word or event by regenerating it into something dynamic, positive, powerful, and empowering. I automatically began thinking about the Baby Dolls in our required course text, Walking Raddy: The Baby Dolls of New Orleans, and how courageous and tenacious the women were in creating a space of their own to share in their community during the Jim Crow era. A space that would not only be their own, but an area in which they could unite through art, creativity, motion, self-individuality and self-expression. Building and embedding the word into my self-reflective essay however, was another story but at least the idea and thought was there, and that for me, was enough for now.

Continue reading “DAMN, That’s Important.”

Empowerment in “How Could Anyone”

I have been going to a Lutheran leadership ministry for four summers. It is only a week long, but each time I go it feels like a year. One of ways in which I remember the ministry is by creating a playlist of some of the songs that we sing. Some of these songs include “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers, “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, and “How Could Anyone” by Libby Roderick.

Continue reading “Empowerment in “How Could Anyone””