Category Archives: melanin

Furtive Movements

The Precision Afrikan, very dark and furtive, doing furtive movements like squatting in an empty room and chewing, indeed chomping, into the innocent white flesh of an apple. Filthy delinquent.

I have wondered about the criteria for NYC’s (and other cities’) stop and frisk policies for some time now, namely that of “furtive movements.” I have been a black man in NJ and NYC for 28 years now. I have been stopped and questioned in NJ once, stopped and frisked there once, and stopped, frisked and arrested in NYC once, that one for riding a bike in the street, all charges dropped of course. All of this happened in the period from my mid-teens to my very early twenties, the early 2000s, and none recently. All of it happened while just walking or standing around somewhere, or in the Manhattan case, bike riding, not on the sidewalk or anything, nor in the opposite direction of traffic. 100% law-abiding casual activities. But I know very few young or older black men in my circle who haven’t had such an experience, as law-abiding, peaceful citizens doing ordinary things in their everyday travels. Neither I nor any of these men have ever been engaged in Uncle Sam’s work of poisoning our community with narcotics, have never engaged in highway robbery nor attempted knocking over a bank, have never abused women nor anyone else sexually, nor perpetrated any other proper statutory crime. Yet we all walk around as suspects automatically as a result of our existential condition as black men inhabiting North America.

The wiktionary defines “furtive” as stealthy or exhibiting guilty or evasive secrecy. The NYPD will initiate a stop and frisk on the basis of, among other justifications, “furtive movements,” which is my favorite. The NYPD has stopped and frisked 4 million New Yorkers since 2004, and about 690,000 in 2011 alone, 85 percent of those stopped and frisked black or latino, the vast majority young men. Only 9 percent of these stops yield arrests, those often for past warrants for minor crimes, along with a very modest number of discoveries of narcotics and even less weapons (read a good Village Voice article on the matter here). So stop and frisk evidently has nothing to do with crime, and everything to do with intimidation of an entire population which the city, the Bloomberg administration anyway, does not want around – young black and brown men like myself.

We can also safely draw the conclusion from the evidence presented that all movements by black men are furtive. Notice the picture above, wherein the Precision Afrikan chews an apple. How furtive! How dare he! What is he hiding? Why is he being so sneaky, squatting in the corner, darkly and rudely, slinking around with mysterious and ominous intentions? He must be about to sell crack cocaine while raping a baby. The image says it all.

If you’re young, black and male and you’re brushing your teeth, you’re guilty. If you’re young, black and male and you’re scratching your nose while reading a newspaper on a bench in Prospect Park, you obviously just flooded the hood with heroin laced with gun powder. If you’re black, young and male and you’re taking a walk, we all know you just molested a toddler before mugging a tourist. And if you’re black, young and male and you’re taking a jog around the neighborhood, you definitely just killed five white people.

Everything we do, by the mysterious, snaky gesticulations of our lanky black limbs, by the odious shifting of our dark eyes, is obviously suggestive of evil intent. Yes, this must be why this happens to us. Existentially, black youth is elementally married to the characteristic of furtiveness. Even the most mundane thing we could possibly do has the flavor of villainy. At least to cops.

That’s why they’re also very quick to kill young black men, even in their own homes, like the teenager Ramarley Graham earlier this month in the Bronx, who was unarmed and assassinated by the cops in his own bathroom in front of his little brother and grandmother. This sort of police terrorism happens ever so frequently and consistently. With us, any commitment to apply constitutional considerations or restraint of force flies out of the window. The “war on drugs” and “tough on crime” policies are primarily about containing and terrorizing youth of color and ruining our lives, not crime prevention or improving our quality of life, not in the least. The police truly work us and our communities like an occupying army.

I go to school at Columbia University Medical Center in Washington Heights; most afternoons during lunch break I take a walk around the hood, around the Heights and Harlem. And whenever I see the cops, I admit, I hate them. I often feel like wearing this black skin and being a young man is something akin to wearing a yellow star of david in Hitler’s Europe – not precisely like that, but not too far either. The prison-industrial complex, a beneficiary of society’s willful failure to provide a future for youth of color, a beneficiary of the insane war on drugs, and a beneficiary of the criminalization of people who look like me, is literally eating black men alive by the hundreds of thousands in this country. This is how a vile colonial relationship with imperial power works, with mass incarceration of subject populations. This is how a caste system works, where it is assumed that a young black or brown man is a lesser being and a morally depraved being, a convenient conclusion to those who profit from our oppression and destruction.

So is it so far fetched to assume, based on how society shallowly and dishonestly draws its racist conclusions, that when they see me eating that apple, they see rage and dark intentions, solely because I’m a black man?

Naked villainy.

How many other brothers out there, particularly up here in NYC, or in Newark, Philly, DC or wherever, feel me on this? That we are almost made to internalize our own supposed guilt about something, so that we learn somehow to move in “less threatening” ways? I just move however I want, personally, and stare down the cops, cursing under my breath, and watching them close, the same way they do me.

Discuss. More importantly, organize and resist. As Dead Prez said, it’s war.

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Doubts about Being in the North

I am increasingly of the thought for some reason that I ought to head south, urgently. Obviously I expect down the line to be living in Afrika, and possibly Latin America too, for at least a few years, probably when I’m in my thirties. For now I am a student in NYC, where I’ve mostly been all my life except for half a year in West Afrika, including a semester at U of Ghana and time in my ancestral, embattled, yet beautiful homeland, the Niger Delta. My line of thought of late has been one of general concern that winters truly aren’t for me. And if I could I wouldn’t deal with one more of them in this life.

Interestingly, I don’t do bad in cold weather per se. I actually do much better than most people of any skin color. And I’m a very lean and very very dark skinned Afrikan brotha. Dark like any of the most deeply West Afrikan indigenes which is what I am, 100% Kalabari-Ijaw, supremely black and natively equatorial. I like humid weather which I get here in the region of NY Harbor, a characteristic which is climatically very similar to southern and especially southeast (AKA “south-south”) Nigeria. If not for massive urbanization these climes support a historic dense woodland, a tiny fragment of which is preserved in a little forest down my Jersey street. Even Manhattan (Manahatta) was once all woods, not just parts of Central or Inwood Hill Parks. So I am happy with regular precipitation throughout the year.

But I wonder if I’m built for this latitude. Obviously I can withstand it, 40 degrees and change North of the equator, that wonderful band near where all dark skinned peoples evolved to deflect excess UV radiation and enjoy proper sunlight levels to stimulate vitamin D production and stay functional and beautiful. But as I move into an even more intense and dedicated level of raw veganism/ fruitarianism (I’ve been 100% vegan since summer 1999, 80% raw since Oct. ’07, and 100% raw for a year now, and at this point I’m ditching nuts, strictly eating fresh organic fruits and green vegetables only, and I take no supplements whatsoever for anything) I worry of not getting enough sun in these NYC winters.

When I went to Ghana in ’07, I completely skipped winter for that year. I came back to NYC in the summer and went almost a year with mild to hot weather and plenty of sunshine. I now realize that I REALLY LIKED THAT. My body liked that move supremely. I was outdoors all the time in Ghana, even more than some Ghanaians who thought I was a little strange for insistently walking everywhere, even under equatorial noon sun. That equatorial hot 90 degree F noon sun, I increasingly am accepting truly, must be correct for me.

Last winter I didn’t think about this issue that much, but now it’s really on my mind. Almost half of Afrikans living in North America are Vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D is responsible for proper bone growth, immune function, metabolism, mineral utilization, and so much more. A recent resurgence in rickets in the US struck Afrikan children almost exclusively. The colon cancer epidemic among Afrikan males in the US is at least partly related to vitamin D deficiency. And I know that, although I do not and never have suffered from seasonal affective disorder, my direct experience of almost a year of summer was awesome – on a physiological level and possibly even on a psychological one.

Our melanin across indigenous human populations has adapted over tens of millennia to the amount of UV radiation exposure based on distance from the equator, where all the most deeply pigmented populations are indigenous. I am beginning to intuit in my innermost consciousness that the truth is, I am up to 40 degrees from home. I am really thinking about moving to the tropics ASAP – Florida? – at least until I’m ready, after completing certain studies and preparing myself economically, to dwell south of the border long-term. In the meantime, I am also putting myself on the lookout for serious UV sunlamps/ full spectrum vitamin D-stimulating lamps which, at their expense, will be costly for this young student of modest means.

Ideally though, I ought to be spending mad time outdoors in the tropics in the sun exercising and sunbathing and doing other activities on a daily basis, as nature intended, away from the trappings of these computers and other pulls of indoor life, including winters and cold springs and autumns which I am not physiologically indigenous to. I am way too black for winters. And NYC’s winters are admittedly rather mild compared to the icy lunacy Afrikans go through in Chicago or Detroit.

But I still would prefer at least to be on the tropical edge of North America, if not right up in an equator-straddling country. I hear really ridiculous things about Florida though. For intellectual and sensitive people in North America, it seems the Northeast, from Washington to Boston, is king. And NYC is right in the heart of that. And the history of amazing Afrikan struggles and accomplishments in this part of the continent is astounding. And Afrikan communities here are of immense potential to be organized in a revolutionary fashion (my MA thesis was on New York as a Pan-Afrikan City, after all).

Yet I think I will easily leave this behind once I am ready. I know I almost surely never want to visit Europe again – even summers are barely mild in some spots there. Same goes increasingly for the northern latitudes of the United Snakes. I want that hot sun! Humid, sticky, boiling, searing! It’s good for my jet-black skin and my brown eyes. And to get out of the urban jungle would be a much appreciated bonus, as important perhaps for psychological well-being as going where it’s sunnier.

To think that, where I currently live, amidst a large South Asian/ desi population, all these folks are now in this northern latitude – it’s no wonder that diabetes and cancer are exploding among Asian populations in NYC – it’s not just the adoption of sad American diets and sedentary lifestyles – perhaps it’s distance from the climes of tropical India too!

Meanwhile, let me find an expensive full-spectrum UVB sunlamp to prop up in my corner. But one day soon, I will be ready to settle down in the tropics for good and live seriously naturally – access to big tropical fruits all the time, touching the land and planting trees, outdoors ALL THE TIME, getting hot and staying black.

Don’t get me wrong – one may leave the NJ/NYC, but the NJ/NYC never leaves the person. If/ when I do leave there will be many places and faces missed, like my Kung Fu temple and family, my elders from Newark to  Brooklyn, my young comrades across the urban jungle. Gotham forever!

These have been some thoughts about the Sun. To the mighty mighty Sun I bow.

Raw Veganism in Afrika – Could be Ideal (?)

master13_1.jpgI think that the ecological and economic reasons for raw veganism, or even conventional veganism, make it one of the best diets for Afrikans on the continent. Most Afrikans have other ideas, and Afrika might be the continent with the least vegetarians, or at least the fewest conscious vegetarians. A lot of Afrikans see meat as a prestige. It was isolating being vegan in Afrika, and it made me think a lot about how I could spread vegetarianism there, even though I usually never operated as a vegan evangelist before. The sorts of classes I took in Ghana, on sustainable agriculture, women and development, and traditional medicine, all helped confirm for me that we need a vegan movement in Sub-Saharan Afrika. I feel we need to grow all sorts of great tropical fruits and vegetables for ourselves, and eat them. We must move away from cash-crop economies which leave us dependent on the West, and make us import their rotten meat, their subsidized rice, and so on.

 

It is winter in New York, my first winter in two years since last winter I was in Ghana. I have the profound sense of not only missing Afrika, but feeling like I really belong there. I find myself sunbathing almost religiously in this wintertime, since as a very very dark-skinned Afrikan I am supposed to be getting the amount of sunlight I would be getting in the tropics to generate the right amount of Vitamin D. I think I am doing well here because I just sit in the sun whenever it is sunny; I’m sitting in the sun right now. I LOVE THE SUN. I like hot weather. I like keeping my skin melanin-stimulated, dark, black, no matter what time of year or what weather. Raw veganism, fitness, and health all require maad sunlight and fresh air, especially for Afrikans.

 

If I was in Afrika right now, I would be eating maad mangos, Afrikan avocados (whose taste I didn’t allow myself to get used to as I am so accustomed to Mexican/ Californian avocados), maad greens, tomatoes, papayas, guavas, bananas, all the great tropical fruits. Maybe a few raw cashews or raw groundnuts. It would be so easy, as it’s all in the market and is maad affordable, at least to someone who has Western currency.

 

As Afrika moves towards holistic and self-contained economic and health development, perhaps we could begin to grow more of the superfoods of Asia and elsewhere in our vast, rich soils. We could start cultivating durians, certain types of berries, herbs, nuts and seeds. It would be sweet.

 

The practice of pastoralism, the grazing of cattle, sheep, etc., is scientifically proven to be an unsustainable way of life compared to settled agriculture, as the browsers eat away the grasses and help expand the Sahara and other deserts. The consumption of meat is scientifically proven to be able to feed far, far fewer humans than mass vegetarianism would. It consumes far, far more water resources, land, food even, to produce meat than to produce veggies. Our starvation could be stemmed with a lot more veganism, and a lot more macrobiotic, self-sufficient, self-feeding agriculture.

 

And tropical fruits are some of the most heavily relied on ones by raw vegans and fruitarians. Being actually in the tropics would mean easy access to, and ability to grow, our favorite foods.

 

If I return to Afrika, or move there (or to the Caribbean), I would get land and grow maad tropical fruits and veggies, keep the soil well nourished, make babies with a raw-vegan Afrikan beauty queen, practice and teach fitness and martial arts, eat raw vegan stuff, and live a long life as a revolutionary Afrikan renaissance man. I’d learn an Afrikan language, I’d be maad healthy, build an all-Afrikan bicycle factory powered by wind and solar, spread African Internationalism and socialism, etc. But that’s just crazy dreaming. Afrika is grossly underdeveloped and neo-colonized, though we must stand and fight.

 

I visited an organic farm in Aburi, Ghana (north of Accra) where the old Afrikan genius there practices sustainable agroforestry. He plants trees. He plants all sorts of fruits, greens, yams, etc. all around them. He was maad inspiring. The photo above is from his land, the photo below of his contact info. I could do that. I could live like that. We all could. “Make the world a garden…”

 

How I wonder. 

 

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