Monthly Archives: October 2006

Oaxaca

As a bearer of the name Zero I must at least mention events in Oaxaca this week, although time constraints prevent me from discussing these in any detail. Fortunately, the Unapologetic Mexican posted on these matters both yesterday and today. So did Written Rebellion and the Woman of Color Blog.

In these last two posts and their discussion threads, we can find the addresses of relevant officials to write, lists of talking points in Spanish and English, and links to additional posts and other sources of news on the situation. Solidarity demonstrations were held today in Providence and New York as well as Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and San Diego.

There is further coverage at Narco News, and we can watch the entire story unfold in La Jornada. The BBC offers some amazing pictures. The riot police with their shields, seemingly covered in metal and standing in a long, straight line, look like beings from el espacio sideral, or conquistadors. Oaxaca also has a beautiful celebration of the Day of the Dead.

Axé.

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T-Frère

My youngest brother was born after my aunt, who paid for the rest of us to go to college, died. And we do not have the savings she had, and he worked his way through college, here. First, he waited on tables. Then he moved up to installing DirecTV. At that time circumstances dictated that he take certain classes from me. And he is intelligent, and articulate, but he was working long hours, and I never found an honest way to give him a grade higher than B.

He would rush into class at the last minute, still in his cap and overalls, embroidered over the left pocket with his name. And I would see him and do a double take, here he was that delicate child, who used to cut school in hopes of hearing Laotians speak, himself fluent in Portuguese, and Creole, and French, and very academic, and paying high interest on his truck note because he was under 25 and Black, and in his cap and overalls, and sitting as he did although after hours he is very elegant, he was so clearly a working man.

Axé.

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All Hallows, All Saints, Day of the Dead

All academics know that October, not April, is the cruellest month. Every grant, promotion, tenure, and job application deadline seems to press in October. It is one of my favorite months, for the weather, and the deadlines can be energizing and exhilarating. We polish up our plans, we look at past accomplishments, and we review exciting projects designed by others.

What one discovers about other administrative units and institutions when reviewing grants or evaluating tenure and promotion packets, can be illuminating. It can also be shocking. Given that I live in the United States Minor Outlying Island of Louisiana, I am always surprised to be shocked. I tend to think I have already seen the worst. And yet, I find I am still shocked. This may actually be a good sign.

Happy Hallowe’en! It’s a fall holiday with pumpkins and costumes, and the parties are creative, and you do not have to buy presents. It is the best holiday! And we are well into Scorpio, the sign of regeneration. And my student’s dissertation says that identity is not a unitary thing. Rise, owls! Rise autumn ducks and geese, flying in formation across the sky!

Axé.

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White Casket

The radio just played a mountain song, accompanied by a banjo, sung in a minor key. It was first heard during the Civil War, but white caskets are also coming home now.  Activities continue abroad, at black sites.

Axé.

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Huddy Ledbetter

I was born and raised in the country,
Mama but I’m stayin’ in town.

That is a fragment of Pig Meat. Now playing, however, is the Bourgeois Blues, composed around 1935, when Leadbelly also played the MLA Convention in New York.

Two of the Leadbelly songs I have had running in the back of my head for the past few days are “We Shall Walk Through the Valley” and “In the Pines,” which is also known as “Black Girl” and “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” I have not yet unearthed complete lyrics or background for either, but here are audio samples of both, with very clear sound, from his 1943-44 recording sessions.

Leadbelly lyrics are marvelous, and chilling. Try this, from the famous “Irene, Goodnight”:

I love Irene, God knows I do
I’ll love her all my life.
If Irene should ever leave me
I’ll take morphine and die.

Axé.

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Lupe Fiasco

Now singing is Lupe Fiasco, who is Black, Muslim, from Chicago, and named Lupe. (Which is short for Guadalupe, which is Mexican.)

My student said I would like his music, and I do. But I am also very impressed with his website. Click on the street signs, and see how they flicker.

Axé.

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Take This Hammer

It is time to thank the Unapologetic Mexican and his marvelously creative site for permission to use the images of Emiliano Zapata and of the UFW flag which now appear in my sidebar. If you click on these, you will go right down the rabbit hole, and end up somewhere very interesting. In honor of the UFW we will observe this early picture of César Chávez, from the magnificent Berkeley Sunsite. There is a great deal of wonderful multimedia material on Chávez. I would love to throw away our intermediate Spanish language textbooks, and just use that. Here, for instance, is one corrido de Cesar Chávez. Here is one by Lalo Guerrero. Here is a third one, with some other songs as well. My favorite Corrido de César Chávez is sung by Los Pingüinos del Norte, and we can listen to a fragment of it.

Topics deserving of discussion here today are an interesting memo from a whiteman, a perceptive comment from a Cajun, the example of a cat, workplaces which are psychic echo boxes or halls of mirrors, and the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. The weekend is coming, however, and we must sing. Here is Leadbelly’s “Take This Hammer,” some of which we can listen to in the classic recording.

Take this hammer, and carry it to the captain
Take this hammer, and carry it to the captain
Take this hammer, and carry it to the captain
And tell him I’m a-gone, and tell him I’m a-gone.

If he ask you, was I runnin
If he ask you, was I runnin
If he ask you, was I runnin
Tell him I’s a-flyin, tell him I’s a-flyin.

If he ask you, was I laughin
If he ask you, was I laughin
If he ask you, was I laughin
Tell him I’s a-cryin, tell him I’s a-cryin.

I don’t want no bread and lasses,
I don’t want no bread and lasses,
I don’t want no bread and lasses,
It hurts my pride, it hurts my pride.

Take this hammer, and carry it to the captain
Take this hammer, and carry it to the captain
Take this hammer, and carry it to the captain
And tell him I’m a-gone, and tell him I’m a-gone.

One of the prisoners I work with at Angola is from Leadbelly’s area. He has his same accent, a similar voice, and even some of the same locutions. I never expected to hear such speech from a living person, but there it is.

Axé.

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