What I’m Listening to This Week
Title: The Highs & The Lows
By: Chance the Rapper and Joey Bada$$
Joey B and Lil Chano dropped a new single this month: The Highs & The Lows. I’m thrilled by it, and not just because they’re my two favorite rappers of the 2010s.
Chance — of Acid Rap (2013) fame — his intricate rhymes ever-present, pushing himself as an artist beyond just lyricism. And Joey B, trudging on for years despite the loss of his partner and co-conspirator Capital Steez. RIP Capital Steez. I hope you take the 4 and 1/2 minutes to listen alongside the music video. It resonates because I was just in Italy —
<<Osea, ¿No conoces Italia? ¿Y nunca has viajado a Firenze?>>
I humor myself, but still it’s inspiring to see two young artists center their art in Italy (Venice, to be exact) while I’m working on a piece set there as well. The video makes use of traditional art forms — architectural landmarks and baroque, gilded frames — in novel unconventional ways, using the frames to literally frame the shot. And what are they shooting? Friends, joy, intimacy, resilience.
Sitting with the content for a few seconds, the song reckons with the pendulum of life. As someone dealing with the flux (read: divorce), it’s another medium through which to digest powerful emotions. While Chance raps about conflict, uncertainty, and passion, Joey B comes in — almost like Ghostface Killah in Purple Hearts — relating lessons learned the hard way. After a hiatus, he explains, Joey has returned upon grappling with and rejecting his vices. Though he’s deliberately vague about which vices he’s left behind, I think about the five or six toxins that I’ve decided to abandon in concert with this New Moon.
Hard to look at yourself and consider this or that is holding you back. Thank you Chano. Thank you Joey B — for this Gift. The summer hit we didn’t know we needed; not a banger — instead, pensive, reflective, wise, and hopeful.
The song ends with an anti-fascist battle cry we should all feel more comfortable adopting as we hurdle toward fascism: FUCK MUSSOLINI WITH HIS DEAD ASS.
News & Current Events
Seems like the U.S Supreme Court undid 50 years in jurisprudence in just one week. Apart from these, I bring your attention to the recent New York Times report that the U.S. federal government was well aware of extrajudicial systematic killings by the Colombian military beginning in 1980. Despite this, the Times reports that the U.S. continued sustaining the Colombian military for nearly 4 decades. This isn’t news to me — but I asked that you familiarize yourself with this story as it further contextualizes my reflection on Disney’s Encanto.
Returning to the U.S. Supreme Court — Dobbs principally. But also cases regarding Miranda rights, due process for death row inmates, the crumbling wall between church and state, diminishing tribal sovereignty. We are hurtling toward the reckoning.
Also in the news — and patently celebrated across U.S. media outlets — the Nordic countries, including Finland which shares a land border with Russia, will join NATO. Under-reported is the fact that Turkey, a NATO member (despite having no outlet to the North Atlantic) relented on its prior objection in a quid pro quo for fighter jets from the United States. I wonder if they seek these jets to continue carrying out their own genocidal project against the Kurds?
As someone who steadfastly believes in abolishing NATO, I decry this news as further provocation for military escalation in Eastern Europe. I declare that it further jeopardizes the case of Brittney Griner–demonstrating the absolute contempt that this country has for queer Black women. And don’t retort with Karine Jean-Pierre as a counter-example.
Finally, have you been made aware of the 53 migrants who died from suffocation and heat exhaustion outside San Antonio, Texas? Trapped inside a tractor-trailer with no ventilation. I place the blame for these unnecessary deaths squarely upon the shoulders of the US federal government, which continues to refuse to recognize international human rights law in patently denying asylum claims at ports of entry (this while allowing Ukrainian–read: white — refugees skip the line at border crossings).
What I’m Watching this Week
What am I watching this week? Well, nothing since I gave up TV for a week. I recently finished The Office for the first time. It was good. I watch Doctor Strange 2 — it wasn’t good. Besides that, I’m happy to report I’m watching the sunrise and sunset every day in an effort toward regulating my sleep schedule.
What I’m Reading this Week
Finally: what am I reading? I’m so happy I finally picked up Derecka Purnell‘s Becoming Abolitionists. I didn’t expect it to be so autobiographical! But the most gifted crits know how to weave personal narrative with incisive analysis.
While I anticipated lessons on prison abolition, I am galvanized reading her outline compelling points for complete abolition of police and the police state. Here are some highlights I want to share from the introduction and first chapter. If these resonate, please consider purchasing a copy — preferably from a Black-owned bookstore.
Derecka dedicates a section to homophobia which is especially relevant as we wrap up Pride Month and echoes my journey through homophobia into Queer identity.
From the introduction on page 3, “ ‘calling [the police] felt like something,’ as a legal scholar Michelle Alexander explains, ‘and something feels like everything when your other option is nothing’“. I get how this quote ties into abolition. But, for me, it resonates because I’m intimately aware of the feeling of grasping toward something that feels like everything when options close around me. This is powerfully relates a complex emotional state between hopelessness, helplessness, and resilience.
I was blown away by the statistic that St. Louis has more police per capita than most cities in the US. It makes sense why the Law 4 Black Lives Lawerying for Liberation conference is being held there later this summer.
A recurring theme in the introduction and first chapter emphasizes: “reforms cannot fix a policing system that is not broken”; later on “however the problem was not that the system got it wrong sometimes; Davis‘s work emphasized that the system was wrong all the time“. This is a fundamental manner of framing our state of fascism. Particularly when Democrats and liberals maintain that reform will lead to liberation, and that is patently and observably not the case.
I am thrilled at the author leaning into criticism of President Obama, relating anecdotes of when Obama failed to intervene before the state execution of Troy Davis. Derecka frames the following, “I found it profoundly unfair that when cops kill Black people, nobody had to be punished, but when a Black civilian kills a white cop, any Black person can be punished”. “The same system responsible for our oppression cannot be the same the same system is responsible for our justice”.
Derecka dedicates a section to homophobia which is especially relevant as we wrap up Pride Month and echoes my journey through homophobia into Queer identity. She shares an anecdote of when Angela Davis visited her university. A university employee asked Derecka if she knew that Dr. Davis was in a relationship with a woman. Derecka explains, “I was heavily involved in the church, anti-abortion, and I had even cut off any friends who I suspected were queer or having premarital sex… [This] conversation did not feel like love. It felt like control and jealousy”. And I visualize the toxicity endemic to patriarchy that rests upon control. Further, “this is how homophobia can create spectacular and mundane forms of violence against queer people. Shouting slurs reveals a hatred and fear. Silence can conceal it. And akin to racism, homophobia and capitalism exploits, excludes, and extracts from people who are marginalized because of who they might be attracted to”.
Derecka sums this up artfully stating “I think I’m patient with people I organize with who have conflicting ideas about justice because my own ideas about oppression and freedom formed dynamically alongside my ideas about sex and sin. I’ve been active about racial and economic justice and simultaneously had unexamined commitments to harmful beliefs… To save others, we lost ourselves — because homophobia is bad for the people who carry it, too. Here, it foreclosed a relationship with another human being”.
Thank you, homie, for laying this out so artfully. It would be awesome if you came across this on the web-o-sphere. Regardless, I’m rooting for you. The moments I witnessed you speak truth to power motivate me in the struggle.