Dave Chappelle's last special on Netflix. I'm going to keep this short because a lot of ink has already been spilt on this, and we are in 2022. Time for a fresh start. Still the conversation continues. But here's my take.
Dave Chappelle works on the absolute highest tight rope. No comedian has ever had the reach that he has. If he is sloppy with his punchlines, or inconsistent, or just wrong, the penalty is high. Even a goat can brick. Ask Michael Jordan. But again, that penalty does not get him "cancelled." No one is taking away anything from Dave. Again, Dave is not cancelled. As he wil remind you, he's still kinda rich, B$@!
His shows are on Netflix. He will have more shows and he will still sell out stadiums. But he fouled. He fouled and got a reaction. That is natural and those who called him on it need to be given space to do so, just the same as he gets a chance to say what he wants, within reason. The people who see the inaccuracies, morally questionable arguements, and logical loopty-loops, or are hurt by them also get to weigh in.
Let me go further. In 8:46, possibly Dave's most iconic (and accurate) special, Dave makes a mistake. He claimed that the same day Chris Donner was killing 9 police officers in a shoot out, Kobe was playing his last game. Dave says, if it wasn't for Kobe, the country would have gone up in the flames of reactionary violence right then. Kobe saved the country by doing what he did best on one of his best days. Except that is wrong.
Kobe's last game was in 2016. Donner's shoot out was in 2013. Dave made a powerful point with this story, but on the facts he was way off. Worse, Dave didn't need to connect Kobe to Chris to make his point. It would have been so much better if he hadn't. But Dave was telling a story and wanted to use these two stories to make a powerful point. Dave is one hell of a storyteller. There are few comedians who are better.
Why do I bring this up? If Dave can be demonstrably wrong or sloppy on the facts with something that he knows well enough to write mulitple books about, i.e. racism against Black Americans, then we have to accept that at the very least he needs a fact checker. We have to accept that he can also be very wrong about something which he admittedly knows very little about: gender issues. He has said on more than one occasion that he's still figuring this stuff out. So do we take the word of an expert or one who is still completing the assignment (news flash: You can't call yourself TERF and say you are pro-trans rights. Just...no). Or we listen to the people who are acutally living the life, and center their experience in the conversation: Specifically black trans people, but also trans of every variety.
There's a lot more to say here, but look: I like Dave. I think for most of my life, he has been on the whole, amazing. But amazing is clearly not perfect. With great power does come great responsibility. If he has one, we should expect that he exercise the other.
This post came as a response to a FB meme asking if Dave is a villain, hero, or anti-hero. In my opinion, it is an EXTREMELY counter productive, and quite frankly, BS click-baity question. Very not cool. It is obvious. Dave is a hero to Black people, but something else to the LGBTQ, which includes Black people. Heroes are not gods. Heroes are not unfallible. Heroes are not in any way perfect. If they f-up, they should be called on it and be heroic enough to learn from the mistakes and do so publically. to show people how it's done right.
12/10/2020 0 Comments
It's been a busy year. So busy, I forgot to post about my first non-speculative publication, and it happened to be in Foreign Policy Magazine.
In it, I make an historical case for the necessity and legitimacy of non-pacifist tactics for Black Americans to defend their interests. Organized defensive violence is necessary to counter the organized systemic violence of the state (which is rooted in white supremacy) and parallel centers of white supremacy that still hold power in the United States. It is never the first option, and the diverse Black Americans communites, as a whole, are as peaceful as any other. But we are the ones most directly threated. The dangers are real. The responses to them must be robust and mutli-faceted.
That's all for now. In other news, the fam and I are moving into an actual house, and I've got a new side hustle writing videogames! Life in my bubble is copacedic.
I was not looking for this, but found it anyway. Twitter is mysterous bird. Either way, It's a great read. It goes some way to restoring faith in about 99% of humanity. Well at least in those intial moments of crisis, before we get into each others politics.
The last ten months have been really productive despite the seeming acceleration of entropy world wide. I published three essays while simultaneously working on final edits for my novel. Then just today, my agent, Barry Goldblatt, told me we were ready to go on submission in August. I announced my intentions to the world and my friend Shan gave me the biggest virtual hug you ever saw. We've known each other for years. She's old school BSFW. I even got to produce one of her stories on the Keleidocast's first season, way back when.It was "Bilaadi," one of my favorite short stories of all time. Now she's bringing straight fire to the readers of epic fantasy with her Daevabad Trilogy, the final installment of which is coming out Tuesday, The Empire of Gold. (I already got my copy. Read it. Loved it. Will review it).
Needless to say, I'm super proud of her and grateful for her support. Also, happy that I can put down my novel and write something completely different for awhile. I've got a weird western alternate history with a Black conjure woman/ gunslinger burning a hole in my pocket. Well, it won't be completely different. There will be a dragon.
6/11/2020 0 Comments
A friend and ally, Louis Evans, read my Tor.com essays "In search of Afro-Solarpunk Part 1 & Part 2" and passed it on to Lydia Laureson, founder of the New Modality, a new publication that delves into experimental and speculative everything with gusto and expertise. Lydia loved it and reached out to me to do a photo essay on Afrofuturism. The concept was grand in scale: an inter-dimensional griot on a meta-fiction journey of our many Black futures through art. Unfortunately that was not to be. The story I wanted to tell and the pictures I wanted to use would have demanded a budget to rival that of a Marvel MCU tent poler. So we returned to the purity of the written word. That gave me an excuse to move this topic to the top of my to-do list.
For a while now, I've taken to seeing religion, at its core, as a kind of performative art. An expression of belief interpreted for endless audiences. It is lived in, sacrificed to, ingested, regurgitated, and coded in ways that escape casual description, easy moral pigeonholing, and demand critique. In other words, religion is pure human. It is an art that is as fundamental as gravity to so many communities. I thought solarpunk would be more beautiful and functional for integrating these perspectives into its many variable visions of the future. This essay was a direct appeal to creatives: consider the spiritual aspects of being in the near future.
I hope you enjoy it.
The essay can be found here: Promised Land: Religious Ideology and Solarpunk Science Fiction. Please, consider subscribing to the New Modality. There is SO much more where this came from.
Going to keep this short, because I have stories to write and a podcast to produce. I just wanted to put this picture in perspective. Blue Marvel was created by Kevin Grevioux (co-creator of and the Black werewolf in Underworld). Though flying brick power sets have a lot of overlap with Superman, Blue Marvel is not his copy. His story is completely different, closer to Reed Richards if one was to make any comparisons. And yet he is his own hero without the privileges that come along with being white and Marvel's first family. He is not based on a character of Black American or African myth. He is a man of science, a soldier, and his heroic pre and post powered life parallels Black American history. He is a symbol of what was lost and what there is to be discovered and re-imagined.
This drawing of Blue Marvel knocking the goddamn cake out of Ultimates Hulk, white rage personified. It took my breath away and not just because of the mind bending art of Kenneth Rocafort. This pic represents so much. The ludicrous aspect of Hulk's power is that he is a rage monster so out of control that the human Banner side of him, the one who knows better, checks out. He literally blackouts. And that's when he's at his most heroic. Somehow this unrestrained, unstoppable monster gets to be the protagonist of his own book. Somehow, the Earth 616 version has miraculously/magically never killed or maimed anybody who didn't deserve it. The collateral damage over the decades is barely an afterthought in the comics and is rationalized by Amadeus Cho (super genius, Hulk super-fan, and now a hulk himself) to be almost non-existent in the World War Hulk storyline. But then, there's the original Ultimates Hulk who actually ate people and is a much more accurate depiction (though still counted as a hero) of white rage on tap. So when I saw this panel in Ultimates 100, my jaw dropped. Here was the Mr. Black Man bending steel under his feet to put down half naked, murderous, White Rage. Seemingly without breaking a sweat or raising his voice. The New Ultimates (2015) team was wonderful for so many reasons (much respect to Al Ewing), and this single panel will stick with me until the dementia takes my marbles and goes home.
And the finale: Part 2 of my essay is live on Tor.com. I've more to say on this. The process of writing. The research. What was left out. Why Trump + the internet can ruin almost anything. And next steps. I am not a leader in either movement, but I know what I want to see written. I know what I want see growing in the imaginary worlds that dictate our real one.
I'll do what I can to help. Not just because I have a daughter. Not just because I'm called to make art. I'll help as much as I can, because to do less seems...inhumane. The planet will live on even if we don't make it to it's final swan song into the sun. The universe will not miss us when we're gone. But wouldn't it be the saddest thing to have left this place and not to have done our very best to find each other? https://www.tor.com/2019/10/30/in-search-of-afro-solarpunk-part-2-social-justice-is-survival-technology/
This is a good week.
Made up for last year's botched Halloween costume debacle for my daughter. Celebrated my wedding anniversary with my wife and good friends at Momofuku Ssama. Last but not least, the first part of my essay on solarpunk + Afrofuturism fusion went live at Tor.com. These will be my first professional sales of non-fiction. Won't be the last. Part 2 comes out tomorrow. Now, back to that damn novel.
I've been an avid Dungeons & Dragons player since the sixth grade. Even wrote my own grimoire in 9th that included age appropriate spells like Great Balls of Fire, which the caster could use to attack their opponent with twin fireballs that homed in on their opponent's...well, never mind. The point is I'm OG. One key world and character building component of D&D was the distinction between clerics who received their power from their deity, and wizards who achieved it through years of study in the mystical arts. In Burkina Faso however, like much of Africa, that's a line so smudged and smeared as to be functionally nonexistent. A whole lot of multi-classing going on. Also, and more to the point, magic on The Continent is not a game.
I've come to Burkina Faso during the rainy season. Torrential storms sucker punch you all summer. Though everybody has smart phones, the weather reports is similar in many respects to a bad joke, like Rush Limbaugh caught in a Florida hurricane flood; either they're laughed at, or ignored. Yet, here we are forty minutes outside the capital-Ade, her father, the Big Monster, and I- and somehow not sitting under a tarp while we wait for Chief Titinga to start the ceremony anointing a new village chieftain.
Burkina Faso politics are a tangle very much worth unraveling. We'll tease apart one such knot to put this ceremony into context. When West Africa was colonized, the Europeans-in this case the French-would often choose indirect rule over direct rule to cut down on the number of rebellions and the cost of occupation. To that end, they would choose (or more accurately, create) "strong men" within majority ethnic groups to determine the workaday fates of the African colony. Post independence, much of the indigenous, consolidated power structure remains intact, though changed by the inevitable post-occupation throne games.
So while there is a democratically elected president of the country, there is also a king of the Mossi people who make up at least 51% of the population. Modern day Burkina Faso doesn't function without dealing with King Mogho Naba Baongo II. The king in turn chooses chiefs, similar to bishops, responsible for administering large swaths of the country. They will often install village-level chiefs. We were there to witness the replacement of the deceased village chieftain of one of the most powerful villages in the area.
"What kind of power?" you might ask.
Theirs was the power to control the weather.
More next week.
Not my real name, but it does roll right off the tongue, doesn't it?