Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Long Overdue Toast: Glen Ford & BAR

This is too long overdue, but brotha Glen Ford and his Black Agenda Report hold it down on the real.

If you don't know then don't ask somebody, just check it out.

Coming up in East Los, we were subject to the usual stigma of intellectual thought as anathema. You were either a thug, an athlete, a dopehead, whatever. But an intellectual? No way. Chris Rock talks about the anti-intellectual stance in the ghetto in his famous "books are Kryptonite to Niggas" riff.

I was lucky. Moms had a big library and I could pick and choose. Whenever I wanted to go to the bookstore, she'd drop every thing and we'd go, usually to the Alhambra Bookstore. Like me, she'd be content to just browse for hours.

My survival in the jungle is marked by what I can only conclude was a decent ability at athletics, I had a mouth on me, and wasn't a complete jerkoff.

This is what makes the four great stories of the American urban landscape - Piri Thomas' Down These Mean Streets, Claude Brown's Manchild in the Promised Land, Malcolm's Autobiography..., and Luis Rodriguez's Always Running - so fascinating; each were street urchins, and each found the keys to their freedom when they discovered the wonders of intellectual thought through reading, and just as importantly if not more, writing. I still remember Malcolm saying, so poetically: "Never was I so free as in prison [while reading]." (To these I would also add Dr. Huey P. Newton, Jimmy Santiago Baca, David Hilliard, Elaine Brown, and much underrated and little known, Anne Moody, her story not strictly urban and in fact rural in the early stages. But what a story, what a great writer.)

Their stories are more than an escape from poverty, crime, etc. They are great stories of human triumph against tremendous odds, of spirits meeting their time. Transcendence.

And as such they are truly inspiring, in the best sense of that word.

My world has been tremendously influenced by them all, and I owe them a debt of gratitude.

Glen Ford (and BAR) are carrying the torch today, but in a different mode than autobiography. His gig is journalism, and this brotha is fiercely independent. This is the kind of journalism that is sorely needed, and how I long for an Asian-American counterpart.

BAR brings the fire, people. As the late great Tony Williams said back in the day; "Believe it."