Saturday, May 06, 2017

Get Out: A "Woke" Analysis

When they [horror films] resonate, when they hit their stride, it is because there is some social.., there’s something in the zeitgeist, some real fear that the movie is playing to. You know that’s like how the torture porn genre became big in the Post 9/11 Era. You know, that was us exorcising this demon within us. We were out for blood.., in this weird way. So this one [Get Out] is less allegory and more strait up about what it is.–Jordan Peele

The opening quote is from a BUILD Series Interview in February 2017 with Get Out Writer/Director Jordan Peele and best summarizes the layers of insight I drew-up from this film. His deliberate use of the German term “zeitgeist”, meaning “spirit of the age” (zeit ‘time’ geist ‘spirit/ghost’), speaks volumes in and of itself. Get Out, dubbed a Social Thriller by Peele, was released in 2,781 theaters on Oscar Weekend, February 24th, with a production budget of 4.5 million dollars. Earning a coveted 99% Rotten Tomatoes ranking, Get Out has grossed over $170 million domestically as of today. As a Blumhouse Production, a company that’s generally known for low-budget horror films, this was highly successful for a film with a 4.5 million dollar budget. In fact, Get Out is the first film debut by a black Writer/Director to gross over $100 million dollars.

What interested me the most about Peele’s quote was the ambiguous “what it is.” While it’s obvious to the naked eye that “it” in this film can be race, there are many other layers undetected by the naked eye. When I first saw this film there were five films that specifically came to mind where I could see Peele drawing his inspiration. In viewing some of his interviews about Get Out he mentioned four of these films specifically by name or included them in the film’s dialogue. These films are as follows and should be critically examined to gain further insight into various themes Peele is strait up about in Get Out: Rosemary’s Baby, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, Eyes Wide Shut and The Stepford Wives (1975). The fifth film that I haven’t heard him speak about or imply is called Inception. While Peele is credited with writing this film, it’s clear to me that it’s much more at play behind the scenes. In music production there’s a function used called quantization that eliminates imprecision. For example, if a snare or kick drum you’re playing is a little off beat, the quantizing function will sync the snare or kick exactly on beat. Although it’s precise, sometimes it sounds too perfect, digital, mechanical and loses some of its human touch. The timing of this film, and his constant admittance that he didn’t think this film would ever be made, could not have been any more perfect. In the same interview Peele states, “Since Strait Outta Compton came out and really broke a lot of monetary boundaries that were thought, um, existed, I feel like we’re in the beginning of a Renaissance of many untapped voices to do, to get platforms to do really elevated work.” While some people believe in perfect storms, it’s also possible for perfect storms to be made. Our most recent presidential election is an obvious example of that.
Franz Friedrich Anton Mesmer

In addition to race and microaggressions, one of the other themes in Get Out was the use of mind control, hypnosis and the audit-like techniques employed by Scientologists. The fact that I haven’t seen much commentary on that I thought was very strange. As someone who has studied these sciences in great detail over the years, I can say that they’re very real and being used on the masses of people every day; often under the guises of advertisement, marketing & promotion, media and image branding. The main character Chris [Daniel Kaluuya] was hypnotized during a time known as the witching hour in occult circles; the same time certain “programming” is on the television and the point during our sleep where we’ve reached the REM stage. So I've learned not go to sleep with the television on. If you must, leave the television on something specific, or even play specific music, that you want to download into your subconscious. Keep in mind that this is also the time where certain orders, covens and etc. perform certain rituals; there is less conscious resistance to any determined idea when people are sleep. During the dinner scene where Chris laughed it off that his girlfriend Rose’s mother, a Psychiatrist/Hypnotherapist, used a watch-like pendulum to hypnotize people, it was eventually shown that this is something we shouldn’t laugh off. Hypnotism, as we seen by Missy Armitage’s use of a simple tea cup, can successfully work using various objects in place of a pendant/pendulum. To be crude about it, if nakedness, music or a treading topic can focus our attention long enough to put us to sleep then that’s just as good or better than a pocket watch. This concept is what "Law of Attraction" self-hypnosis mechanics are based upon. While many viewed the tea cup as the object Missy Armitage used to hypnotize Chris, I would argue that it was actually her silver spoon. Historically, that hypnotic symbol of wealth, and the false sense of white acceptance and promise of miscegenation, has been the death of many black people in North America.

Another theme expressed in Get Out, which echoes Peele's above comment on America's "torture porn genre", is the culture of sexual ambiguity that’s often said to exist in affluent white communities, especially Hollywood, dating all the way back to its cultural codification in ancient Greece, Rome and in many contemporary European societies. Popular examples of this are the history of Sappho in Greece, Caligula in Rome and the grotesque Sheela Na Gig carvings of naked women stretching their vulva found on churches, castles and other buildings throughout Europe, particularly in Ireland and BritainDuring a scene when Chris talked to his friend Rod [Lil Rel Howery] on the phone about his experience at Rose's parents house Rod jokingly remarked that her mother Missy Armitage is probably hypnotizing black people to be sex slaves on some serious "Eyes Wide Shut sh*t!" This theory of Rod's was a constant reference throughout the film and speaks to the general notion and conservative attitude black folks have concerning these ideals [how white folks get down], especially in a society that has historically restricted our liberty. It must be noted here that although we've seen elements of this sexual ambiguity expressed in some black and brown societies that pre-date Greece and Rome, those societies did not accept nor entertain these elements as a part of its cultural norms. For example, the word homosexual [and lesbianism] is derived from Greek and Latin [Roman]; many classical and indigenous languages didn't have a word to functionally define or support this sexual ambiguity. Even when you're looking at the Erotic Art temples of India; they are the direct result of Hindu influence whose lineage goes back to the Aryans or Indo-Europeans who invaded India. At one point Chris starts to learn something isn't right when he discovered a hidden Pandora-like box in Rose's room of her posing intimately with over a dozen young black men, including the black gardener, and one female house maid. It was the Nation of Islam co-founder, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, who often described the white woman as “the devil's last trick for the black man, and the modern day Delilah” used by the white man to thwart our progress and create enmity within the black family. In a Theology of Time lecture on July 4th 1972 Muhammad warned, “My young brothers, do not grab these blue-eyed gals of his. They are doing this today to get you away from the God of your salvation. The girl has been taught a long time, so when this day comes that she will sweet-heart with you and she will blind you to the knowledge of the time so that you won't recognize what she is doing.” 
As in any film I watch, my approach is as a social scientist and Get Out is an excellent study of America’s past, present and potential future attitude about race, relations and cultural appropriation. In an age where “Stay Woke” has become a popular generic hashtag among Millennials, our next step is to literally “Get Out.” Get Out of the mindset that coded films such as this are enough to effectively combat over a century of Hollywood propaganda that has systematically demonized, caricatured, dehumanized and co-opted the culture and identity of black people. We must all play our part in using our voice to create and control our narrative. A voice to tell our stories through all spheres of people activity, that no one else is qualified to do.


Monday, May 01, 2017

Annette Larkins: The Fountain of Youth Interview

  In episode 45 of Atlantis Build Talk Radio I share an insightful interview with world reknown 75-year-old raw foodist Annette Larkins about her journey. She is the creator of the Annette’s Raw Kitchen DVD, the books Journey To Health and Journey To Health 2 and host of the 12-part public television series Health Alternatives With Living Foods and appeared on various radio/television shows including The Steve Harvey Show. You can listen to and download Episode 45 of Atlantis Build Talk Radio at the link below:

Friday, April 14, 2017

Semantic Enigma: How To Speak Five Percenter Language 101

"Semantic Enigma" is one of the ways to describe how Five Percenters communicate. I say this because the meaning of certain words, phrases and text we use are sometimes puzzling, paradoxical or difficult to understand by an outside observer. Sometimes these words are not commonly found in a dictionary, like devilishment, tricknology or interorientation. We speak a language of mathematics and it's a multilayered form of communication that's filled with double and triple entendres. This is not a language based solely on words constructed with letters and numbers. This is a language based upon the meanings behind the letters and numbers, that construct our words/concepts, that are often outside of a English-speaking worldview. 

Some of you may be somewhat familiar with our language because of the common words/phrases we use like "build", "born day", "do the knowledge", "justice cipher born", "eighty fivers" and etc. What most don't realize is our language does not follow all of the rules you learn in English. Therefore, trying to understand what we mean using those rules will only confuse you. For example, the word "wisdom" can be a noun (name: Wisdom, people: Woman, thing: Water or ideas: Wise-dome, wise the dumb) or verb (action or state of being: wisdomed, "in his wisdom ciphers"), depending upon how and what we're communicating. So if I were to tell another Five Percenter, "Indeed that's the wisdom soil Wisdom from Pelon; Divine's physical. She's wisdom equality and just knowledged the wisdom degree in the knowledge to knowledge culture power days ago. She already has the knowledge to understanding equality" they would know exactly what I'm talking about. Another Five Percenter also understands what I mean if I said, "The true I master equality is now."

Sometimes we break down words and communicate in their noun and/or verb correspondences. Some corresponding examples for wisdom are: knowledge knowledge, be, born, king and kingdom. To make it even more sophisticated we also use phrases, sentences and entire paragraphs that correspond to wisdom as a noun and/or verb. Examples of this are, "civilize means to teach knowledge and wisdom...", "word is bond and bond is life", "I came to North America by myself", "we received nothing but hard times, hunger, nakedness, out of doors, also beaten and killed by the ones who advocated that..." and etc.

This form of communication is not something a person could just learn by reading a book because there are no books to teach this. In fact, outside of this article it's rare to even find something directly explaining this. Our language also cannot be learned just by being among Five Percenters because we don't speak our pure language to those who don't know it. Yes a person will pick up bits and pieces yet they won't learn it fluently; there will always be some lacking in understanding cultural context and its various correspondences. All of this is one of the reasons Five Percenters often take great offense to people who try to speak our language; it comes off as a disingenuous botch job. Seeing a person clumsily trying to communicate using our language without knowing the various meanings, contexts or correspondences of the letters, numbers, words, phrases and sentences runs the spectrum from irritating to outright disrespectful. I've seen everything from people getting lightly corrected to getting hands put on 'em for doing it. Sometimes it's hilarious: like the time I proudly pointed to the panini on the menu in a fancy Italian restaurant and asked the waiter for "punany." In more recent years, and with the exponential growth of social media, it's gotta out of hand at times with everybody from Muslims, Moors, Nuwaabians, Black Nationalists, Neo-Christians, Hebrews, Khemetians and others trying to culturally appropriate Five Percenter language. While some feel it's a harmless gesture of paying homage, it's also very misleading -especially when people mix our language with religious, political and/or nationalistic ideologies that we don't advocate. 

Mathematics: The Operating System of the Universe

I'm sure some of you are wondering why our language is so damn sophisticated. It's mathematics; the operating system of the universe. We strive to use [critical] thinking and communicate using a universal language that operates in alignment with that system. This is why we don't strive to use the word 'believe' or advocate 'belief systems' because suppositions, presumptions or opinions are not a stable/secure foundation to build upon. We believe, what we know. When it comes to basic English, most people simply define build as "constructing something." To us it means much more: construct, add-on, infinity [lemniscate], to communicate positively, elevate, knowledge of God, wisdom equality, understanding our power, the importance of social equality, he or her, what makes rain, hail, snow and earthquakes, the devil planting fear in preadolescence, the meaning of civilization, queen, zig-zag-zig and countless other phrases, sentences and entire paragraphs that gives context and correspond to build. Knowing interrelationships like this makes us cognizant of our place in the universe and the universe's place within us. Our language is also a nomenclature of self-actualization, righteousness, personal/collective development and empowerment. Using consistent words/phrases with various meanings such as wisdom, divine, queen, power, Peace, "word is bond", "not a savage in the pursuit of happiness" and etc.  promotes positive cognitive, social, emotional, language and literacy development. Make no mistake about it, a child [or any person] with access to a language that reinforces an identity of power and infinite potentiality has a profound effect on brain architecture and psychological orientation. In terms of vocabulary, being immersed in a language that expands our body of words increases our ability to conceptualize and communicate ideas. Additionally, there's tons of research out there explaining how the chronic scarcity of resources [SES: socioeconomic status] effects language proficiency and broadens achievement gaps between children without access and children with access. For example, I recently attended an Early Childhood Development Conference at an Independent [Private] School where preschoolers are learning public speaking, they have a greenhouse and use a smart board to choose their lunch prepared by a Chef. This kind of learning environment is often a reflection of the ideas and aspirations being communicated at home. This is also the reason Five Percenters traditionally operated and still operate youth centers, academies and schools; we understand the importance of supplementing the education of youth who don't have access to growth & development resources at home and/or in their learning environments.

Almost every day someone from around the world reaches out to me because they're interested in learning more about the Five Percent. I appreciate that and one consistent message I continually share with them is to get in contact with me in person (if I'm in their area) or personally get in contact with someone  in their area. There is only so much that can be learned via an online medium, even with all of the written, audio and visual content I've been putting out for over a decade now. I've said it before and I will say it again: this is a routing device to reality. Watching a video of me talking about the link between communication and literacy is different than watching me engaged in real-time activities with my preschoolers that demonstrate this. Hearing a radio show of me building about the Queen's Code for 30 minutes is different than being at a civilization class where I'm actually teaching on that for 2 hours. Talking to me on the phone is different than walking with me in the flesh. Learning culture requires an anthropological approach. A person must immerse themselves in it in order to understand and ultimately appreciate that culture. This also goes for language. In order to understand and ultimately appreciate the principles, values, perspectives and experiences  a people communicate within and about their culture, a person must be immersed in it. Although the internet does enable a person to become semi-informed about how people live, it does not provide an all-encompassing means for cultural immersion, yet. 


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The History Behind "Uncle Tom"

   Where did the original idea of "Uncle Tom" come from and why are people taught that this person is a clownish, coonish, bootlicking, foot shuffling monkey for the white man -not the real community organizer, institution builder and black militia leader he actually was?

  On August 6th, 1986 an article appeared in the Niagara Gazette about my family chronicling the ancestral link between Josiah Henson and then Niagara Falls Native, Inez Dorsey Frank; late mother of current Black Pioneers of Niagara Falls President Philip B. Frank, my Father. Before there was a Harriet Tubman, Josiah Henson was a forerunner of the Underground Railroad, a community activist, institution builder and great-grand uncle of the famous explorer Matthew Henson who traveled to the North Pole. It has also been said that Harriet Beecher Stowe interviewed Josiah Henson and used elements of his life used to write the famous novel 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'.

My Grandmother, Inez Dorsey Frank

   Born into slavery in Charles County Maryland on June 15th, 1789, Henson became a Reverend in his late teens and married in his early twenties. He spent most of his life enslaved until being literally sold down the river to his master's brother in the Deep South. Henson eventually took his wife and four sons to freedom in Canada; a trip that generally took a couple months on foot. Henson had this to say about his escape, "I determined to make my escape to Canada, about which I had heard something, as beyond the limits of the United States; for, notwithstanding there were free States in the Union, I felt that I should be safer under an entirely foreign jurisdiction. The slave States had their emissaries in the others, and I feared that I might fall into their hands, and need a stronger protection than might be afforded me by public opinion in the northern States at that time."

   Around 1834, Henson with 12 associates, established a settlement of fugitive slaves on government land. One of the observations Henson made about fugitive slaves arriving to this settlement was, "the mere delight the slave took in his freedom, rendered him, at first, contented with a lot far inferior to that which he might have attained. Then his ignorance led him to make unprofitable bargains. I saw the effect of these things so clearly that I could not help trying to make my friends and neighbors see it too; and I set seriously about the business of lecturing upon the subject of crops, wages, and profits, as if I had been brought up to it. I insisted on the necessity of their raising their own crops, saving their own wages, and securing the profits of their own labor, with such plain arguments as occurred to me, and were as clear to their comprehension as to mine."

   In 1836, Henson convinced members of this settlement to invest their earnings into land in order to be self-sufficient and he brokered a deal to purchase 200 acres of land, thus founding a Community. This land was in a place called the Dawn Township, and this Community was called the Dawn Settlement. Henson had this to say about Immigration and assisting others to become a part of this Community, "The immigration from the United States was incessant, and some, I am not unwilling to admit, were brought hither with my knowledge and connivance. I was glad to help such of my old friends as had the spirit to make the attempt to free themselves; and I made more than one trip, about this time, to Maryland and Kentucky, with the expectation, in which I was not disappointed, that some might be enabled to follow in my footsteps. I knew the route pretty well, and had much greater facilities for travelling than when I came out of that Egypt for the first time." In 1837, Henson, as a prominent leader of the Dawn Community led a Black Militia Unit during the Rebellion of 1837 and advocated in support of literacy and education.

   In 1842 Henson founded The British-American Institute; a Vocational School for all ages that trained teachers, provided a general education and taught mechanic/domestic art. The goal, as Henson wrote, was "to cultivate the entire being, and elicit the fairest and fullest possible development of the physical, intellectual and moral powers. Such an establishment would train up those who would afterwards instruct others; and we should thus gradually become independent of the white man for our intellectual progress, as we might be also for our physical prosperity."

  In regards to these great endeavors of helping build an Institution and establish a Community, Henson concluded, "We look to the school, and the possession of landed property by individuals, as two great means of the elevation of our oppressed and degraded race to a participation in the blessings, as they have hitherto been permitted to share only the miseries and vices, of civilization. My efforts to aid them, in every way in my power, and to procure the aid of others for them, have been constant."

   So the next time you hear someone call someone an Uncle Tom, let them know what's real. Not knowing the actual character, contributions and courage of the man behind the fictitious name 'Tom' of Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, is a tragedy.  


*The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself

*The Niagara Gazette Special Supplement ('Freedom road to Niagara' August 6th, 1986)

Monday, February 27, 2017

Are 120 Lessons Still Relevant?


   Within recent years and with the present day political climate I've been seeing more and more people who consider(ed) themselves Five Percenters publicly denouncing the value and our custom of learning, reciting and teaching 120 lessons. It begs the question, “Is 120 still relevant?”

   Those of you who've been checking out my videos, articles, books, music, radio shows, youth advocacy and community outreach over the years know that the value of 120 is something I've consistently shared throughout these mediums. There are two reasons I've consistently done this: 1.) To show those of us who have 120, or who are learning 120, practical ways to apply it to life and 2.) To encourage those who don't have 120 to consider its practical value. Over twenty years ago when I began studying the lessons through my Educator/Enlightener Raheem, I invested a considerable amount of time striving to show and prove them. I was a sophomore in college and I damn near lived in the library; I studied there for hours and was employed there for work study. As I evolved I also began to seek out people to debate, like a swordsman striving to test the sharpness of his blade and technique of his teachings. Through these philosophical battles and intellectual jousting matches I eventually realized that I was really trying to show and prove this to myself. Internally I really wasn’t sure how full proof these lessons were and I needed to test them.

   When I hear someone who consider(ed) themselves Five Percenters minimize, diminish or disassociate themselves from the lessons I always wonder what they no longer identify with, specifically. Is it the meaning of civilization and/or the duty of a civilized person? What is a real devil? Not believing in the teachings of the 10%? Giving all they have and doing all within their power? If given the opportunity, I think it would be a very insightful discussion to go through each degree with a person like this to see what they actually disagree with and their reasoning behind that disagreement. What I think would be revealed in most cases is this person wasn’t studious and never really researched these lessons and/or the principles and values they did learn in these lessons they simply aren’t committed to. In my journey in this nation I have yet to meet someone who shared a legitimate reason why they personally don’t deal with the lessons. What I have met are people who are often uncomfortable with the peer group pressure that comes along with being expected to know, recite and understand these lessons. Some don’t like being questioned or being expected to respond to people. Although they may not feel this way about their school teachers or employers, they do feel this way about their peers; oftentimes because they think they’re better than them. Whatever their reasoning is, they often strive to find this comfortable niche where they get the acknowledgement, respect and benefits of Five Percenter status without being questioned and held accountable to the group [collective] of Five Percenters. Sometimes instead of moving on to use what they’ve learned from us to be a cyclops in the land of blind, they’ll hang around to be a pop shot critic. Everything someone does they’ll have something negative to say about it and when a Five Percenter responds by questioning them they’ll simply say, “I’m not a Five Percenter.” So now you have a person who can use your system to check/neutralize you but you're unable to hold them to the same standard. I elaborate on games like this, and the way we need to respond to them, in my book GAMES.  

NYC Map with Landmarks
   120 lessons are like 120 landmarks on a map of human geography. Some of these landmarks represent actual people, places, things and events. Some of these landmarks are also symbols of people, places, things or events. Whether these landmarks are actual or symbolic, our exposure to them plays a critical role in how we begin to see, define and navigate this map of human geography. The first lesson or landmark we learn is who the original man [and woman] is. Because I know and have studied this extensively, my view of the world, and how I attend it, is very different than someone who does not know this. If we were both looking at a city landscape, this is one landmark of importance to me that is either unseen or not of equal importance to someone else. This would be no different than a person driving by a gated enclosure they rarely noticed until someone proudly brought it to their attention that several of their family members are buried there going back six generations. What one person drives past, another person makes it a point to stop and visit. Neither is right or wrong, I am simply pointing out how we navigate life and that our GPS [Global Positioning Device] is determined by what’s in our head. So when someone who had or has lessons no longer uses them on this map of human geography, we must ask ourselves what device are they using to globally position themselves? I’ve heard some Five Percenters say Supreme Mathematics. Well mathematics don’t tell us anything about ethics, morality or people, places, things and events. Supreme Mathematics tell us who God is yet there is no mention of the Devil. Without the lessons they also don’t know about specific people, places, things and events that expound upon the power dynamics between God and the Devil. For a person to minimize, diminish or disassociate themselves from that information is dangerous, especially in today’s political climate. This doesn’t mean that a person like this can’t show you anything or take you anywhere. I am questioning the starting location their GPS is now set at. If they no longer claim to be a Five Percenter, then what’s their location now? If it’s a just “God”, what kind of God? If it’s a Muslim-God, Goddess, Spiritual Being or etc, what kind? If it is unclear…, then it may not be in your best interest to travel with them because none of you have any idea what the destination is. Yes, just because someone has 120 or because a pilot has flying experience it doesn’t mean they won’t crash the plane. Yet at least you know what this pilot’s credentials are on paper, you have some sense of expectancy of their flight experience and there’s pressure on them in regards to reaching their said destination because they’re a part of company [collective]. Who would you rather take a chance traveling with, them or someone who says they aren’t a pilot anymore, they don’t deal with the flight instructions they learned and they’re not with a company? 

   There are times I get frustrated with the state of our nation. Particularly the lack of studiousness, youth advocacy and community outreach I see in different areas. Sometimes it’s the "Conscious Catfishing"; people using social media to make fake persona's as builders when they’re virtually unknown and/or inactive in their own neighborhoods and cities. Just because I don’t dwell on it, comment on it or post about it on social media it doesn’t mean that I don’t see it. My answer to this stagecraft has been what you consistently see me showing and proving in real life.    


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Hidden Hand Behind Governor Cuomo's Goat Island Lodge

A year after the Jacobs family’s Delaware North Corporation lost its 22-year multibillionaire contract to operate restaurants, hotels, stores and other services in Yosemite National Park, and former Erie County Clerk Christopher Jacobs was elected to the NYS Senate,  Governor Cuomo called for a lodge to build on Goat Island at the Niagara Reservation State Park.

Director, Producer and Actor Ken Cosentino

   The Jacobs family owns the Boston Bruins, other multinational businesses and exclusive rights to concessions at the Niagara Reservation State Park until their contract is renegotiated in 2121. In regards to campaign donors, the Jacobs, as a family, under the guise of their Corporations and as individual donors have been more than supportive to Governor Cuomo. It’s also publicly known that Gov. Cuomo was the Jacobs guest of honor at their East Aurora estate fundraiser that cost $25,000 per plate; the assessed value of many single family homes in the City of Niagara Falls. The Jacobs losing up to $2 billion over 15 years to manage Yosemite, being Gov. Cuomo’s biggest financial donors and Gov. Cuomo announcing the construction of a lodge on Goat Island as a part of his Buffalo Billion development program is not a coincidence.

Niagara Reservation State Park

   What can we do about Albany’s “pay to play” geopolitical games that has virtually sucked the blood out of Niagara Falls’ local economy? Should citizens lobby as constituents and voters to leverage those State Representatives who are willing to take the fight to Albany and do what’s in the best interest of Western New York, more specifically Niagara Falls? What are local and regional public official’s stance on this and can we get their public commitment to aide our citizenry in redirecting these promised funds to our city? Addressing this problem is multifaceted and as Niagarians we must stand united in our voice to say “NO” to a lodge being constructed on Goat Island. We need to contact our local and regional representatives to let them know this is not in the best interest of our city. A Buffalo Billion development program is best served within the Niagara Falls city limits where it’s needed, not within the State Park and the Jacobs family’s coffers that continues to siphon away revenue from our local economy. On Tuesday February 21st at 5:30pm we are calling all Western New York residents and other supporters to attend our Niagara Falls City Council Meeting [745 Main Street, Niagara Falls, NY 14301] to let our voice be heard against this initiative. You can also support our efforts by signing and sharing this PETITION by my brother Director, Producer and Actor Ken Cosentino to redirect the state funds to the City of Niagara Falls.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Cultural Capital in a Post Obama America

Tulsa Oklahoma: Black Wall Street

Culture is our way of life; the sum total of all of our people activities, including commerce, and how we produce, manage and grow capital [wealth]. This all starts with identity, how we relate to each other, knowing our worth and not selling ourselves short, or selling out, by how we live.

Sometimes poverty has little to do with not having any money. People can be poor, and remain poor, simply because they lack "Cultural Capital", regardless how much money they have. When a person doesn't know or embrace their heritage, they don't have access to a rich ancestral legacy. This wealth of experience and insight is like untouched cultural capital sitting in a genealogy bank.., accruing interest.., for hundreds maybe thousands of years. Without this access, a person now has limited capital, resources and relationships to build something of value their future generations can inherit. One of the greatest forms of financial literacy, and wealth building, is learning the value of one's culture. A culture's value is its worth and importance. Consider American culture for example. This hodgepodge of various cultural influences/ideas is the United States greatest export -even in embargoed countries. 

I've continually seen the slogan to support black/minority businesses which is great as an economic stimulus yet ineffective as a system in and of itself. Supporting black/minority businesses has minimal impact in shaping, controlling and protecting an economy when its members have a limited understanding of Cultural Capital. Cultural Capital is similar to Social Capital; the network of relationships and resources that form the basis of an economy. In this regard, Cultural Capital is a network of relationships and resources rooted in shared customs, principles and values that mark a people's way of life. It's defined by reciprocity, trust and the cooperation of group members who systematically share and maintain the same resources and cultural interests. Thus this system of shared resources and cultural interests existed before money and is ultimately rooted in our relationships.

It's not enough to simply support a local business because it's black owned. That business could be owned by black people who don't share the same cultural interests as us and who are just as parasitic as other ethnic groups who capitalize off of our patronage without supporting our community they're taking from. It's not about putting money in another black person's pocket. It's about investing in businesses, products and services, that mutually support the growth and development of our families and communities. I was recently listening to a podcast interview with Pusha T speaking about his clothing line/stores Play Cloths and Creme and how acquiring accounts from higher end designers is often challenging. Even though he has been lyrically/visually one of the biggest brand supporters of the Givenchy clothing brand, Givenchy denied him an account to carry its brand at his high end store Creme. Like Pusha T, I see some of our people acting like unofficial brand ambassadors promoting sport teams, clothing brands and other products and services on and offline everyday. More times than not, these same corporate entities are doing little to nothing to support the people, families and communities who are enriching them. To boot, many of these corporate entities are Fortune 500 cultural appropriation companies. In other words, some of these companies glean ideas or outright steal the intellectual property from people, create a product and/or service based upon those ideas and then sell it back to the same people they gleaned/stole it from -who are oftentimes running around promoting it like unofficial brand ambassadors. It's the epitome of a vicious cycle and shows how one's identity is intrinsically linked to economics. This is important to understand because those who have benefited the most from Cultural Capital will inform you that these non-financial social assets are for the purpose of promoting social mobility; code for "culturally assimilating and seeking social status in their society that makes itself rich from your labor while ignoring/marginalizing your minority interests." I'm talking about Cultural Capital as a means of self determination.  

Here in America with the inauguration of President Donald Trump, we are about to witness some national policy changes that will severely effect regional and local economies, including our access to public goods. With his motley crew of unqualified appointments to various positions in his Administration, we can expect to see how Cultural Capital functions much clearer, under the guise of Nationalism. White Nationalism to be more precise. The most appropriate response to this oligarchy is not assimilation, it's supporting each other. In order to do this our highest value must lie in our relationships; the basis of any economic system. Relationships are the only vehicle that enables us to build the trust and confidence necessary to support each other. This also requires us to be trustworthy; demonstrating the kind of ethics, integrity, consistency and moral code people can put confidence in. If there is no trust, dependability or confidence in one another, we will not support each other, our products and services, or be willing to cooperate. Without cooperation cooperative economics or collective work and responsibility won't exist. It brings to mind a recent University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth multicultural economy report that projected black buying power to reach $1.4 trillion by 2020. Leveraging this black buying power to control our economic narrative hinges upon how we choose to reciprocally relate to one another, culturally. 

Throughout our chronology, from hundreds of thousands of years ago as Hunter Gatherers to this Millennial Information Age, our ability to survive and thrive depended and still depends upon our willingness and ability to work together. The 'common' 'unity' that forged our communities was and is culture. Moving forward socioeconomically it is imperative that we seek common ground throughout our people activities. Our lives, and livelihood, literally depends upon each other.