My Perception of Culture

James Snead’s Repetition as a Figure of Black Culture (1984) changed my perception of culture and its development through time. Prior to reading this piece, I believed that culture was static in its improvements – that culture did not necessarily change but people did instead. When Snead claims that cultural repetition is not repetition at all but transformation instead (59), I (of course) made the connection to Black Panther (2018). One of the first images we examined in class was a still of the marketplace with futuristic buildings in the background (33:20) and it struck me as I had never noticed the cultural fusion they had built. I remember thinking of survivance, a term used in Native American studies and refers to the importance of survival and resistance during the Native American genocide. Wakanda survived due to the initiative that past leaders took after observing the grief in surrounding countries, closing their borders, and hiding their most precious resources. These actions also curbed outside cultural influence, thus further sealing the already established traditions and rituals in a nice, vibranium-filled package. Overall, this class has piqued my interest because it is making me reevaluate my stance on cultural discussions and has invigorated a passion for asking more questions about why things are the way they are.
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The appropriation of black repetition

General understandings of time tend generally, but wrongly, to conflate change with progress. In Snead’s writing, however, he parses out the implications of repetition and change, particularly along the black/white racial distinction, in such a way that challenges an oversimplified, direct relationship between change and progress. Most effectively, Snead advocates that changes does not necessarily indicate progress, and, instead links black repetition with historical value, as opposed to white change/cultural cycles with capitalist values: “Black culture highlights the observance of such repetition, often in homage to an original generative instance or act … In European culture, financial and production cycles have largely supplanted the conscious sort of natural return in black culture,” (65-66). With these statements, Snead, whether intentionally or not, sheds light on the problem of white folks appropriating and coopting black culture, without understanding its resonance or implications. For the purposes of Snead’s argument, black and white cultures essentially function in a condition of opposites: black culture preserves the past, and white culture generates revenue for the future. When broken down this way, Snead’s thesis makes it obvious why the appropriation of repetitious black culture by people who don’t understand the “homage to an original .. act” essentially robs cultural elements of anything but their pure aesthetic value (65).

I believe that it was really powerful when W.E.B DuBois wrote, “he wouldn’t bleach his negro blood in a flood of white Americanism… He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both.” Although he understands the history and the struggle being black in America comes with, he embraces where he comes from and who he is. While at the same time, it is important for him to acknowledge and still embrace his American culture. However being both black and American is hard not to separate because of all the challenges African Americans have to face. This quote reminds me of the movie Black Panther because one can see the contrast between the Wakandans ( who were her colonized ) and Erik Killmonger ( who grew up being black in America facing racism, ect.) I feel like that quote connects to the black panther movie because of how Killmonger embraces both his ” negro blood ” and being American. We see this in the way he takes the throne and how different he is from the black panther, who is much more traditional.

response week 3

Reflecting on the course as a whole thus far, I would say my favorite reading was Tolson. I think this is because and not despite it was so difficult. Reading it was very different than reading anything I’ve ever read before. Phrases like “O peoples of the Brinks, come with the hawk’s reserve, the skeptics’ optic nerve, the prophet’s tele verve…” fill this libretto, language none of us are accustomed to understanding, and the libretto also contains a lot of foreign languages and references to African tribes and traditions that I have never heard of. Because of this, I had to do a lot of research: reading footnotes, using google translate, reading reviews and analyses online. I feel like I learned a lot about African history just from reading this poetry, as well as learning a lot about the form of an epic poem ( or Libretto ) and how it conveys stories and weaves them into a complicated, descriptive, whole tale.

My question about this piece that I might propose would be:

  1. Why would Tolson chose this form, a libretto, of writing to convey the African history it contains? It was a deliberate choice, and a difficult form, so what is the significance of it?

Keep to the Rhythm-Kazon Robinson

In the depth of my past and the repetition of everyone within my sphere, music is core to our character.  For my mother, she sings passionately in her room to Whitney Houston. My younger brother is dreaming of Chance the Rapper and the rapper’s next big single. My grandmother, in her frustration to call me, sings out her familiar negro spirituals; a reminder of the bad times but the good times to come. All of that juxtaposes with not only what Snead discusses but our general discussion in class: the perception of wrong and right.

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Fake News

If you’re from Dr. McCoy’s ENGL 101/431 class, go back to the time you didn’t know stone paper existed. Now imagine if someone on the street runs up to you Billy Eichner style and asks you to choose which one actually exists: stone paper or volcanic lightning. Which would you choose? Sike, it’s a trick question. Both are real and amazing! While the class easily accepted the existence of stone paper (probably because we had physical evidence), others may not be so receptive.

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The Earth is Living

During our class this past Friday, while Dr. Giorgis was providing a response to a question, he made mention that there exists a powerlessness in admitting the influence that the earth has on society.  I began to question why this was. Why was it difficult to acknowledge that the earth is a living thing separate from us as human beings?

When I say the earth is living, I mean that (as morbid as this may sound) without the influence of human beings, the planet Earth would still exist. Continue reading “The Earth is Living”

Week 2 Response

Melvin Tolson’s poem Libretto for the Republic of Liberia was very difficult to read and comprehend. From what I understood, the poem was about a history of African peoples and their story that is untold. Almost like Tolson is filling in the blanks left by the white man in the official story. I thought it was very interesting that Tolson chose to use the solfège scale to separate the verse paragraphs. At first, I did not realize what it was until I continued to the rest of the poem. Continue reading “Week 2 Response”

“You Are Here”- What Does This Mean?

During Monday’s class discussion we questioned N. K. Jemisin’s use of alternating second person with third person when changing point of view. She starts The Fifth Season with the sentence “you are here,” simultaneously placing us in her world and creating the character of Essun. When She created two more points of view, Damaya and Syenite, that were seemingly unknowing of each other, the class grew more confused.

Why does Jemisin start here? How do these three characters piece together? The timelines are jumbled. Why?

As I think about this, I’m drawn toward the conclusion that these characters are more closely related than immediately thought. All of them are orogenes, rock moving people who control this ability with their emotions. Damaya is being sent to the same place as where Syenite lives, the Fulcrum. When Syenite is talking to Alabaster, an advanced orogene, he tells her that he is jealous of the fact that she didn’t have to have the same name all her life. Could Syenite be the same girl as Damaya? Could the use of the second person point of view point towards Essun being the same girl in present tense? The only way to find out is to keep reading.