A.S.I.A. [Atlantis Build] is a global institution founded in Niagara Falls, NY. Atlantis School promotes educational programs, creative arts, cultural initiatives, audiovisual projects and commerce that supports the positive growth and development of youth and families. This website features a bi-monthly blog that highlights the social commentary, current events and creative insights of author, youth advocate and creative artist Saladin Quanaah Allah. #AtlantisBuild #FivePercenter
"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. Peace, Saladin
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
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."
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."
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.
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."
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.
Sources: *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,
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?”
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 as 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
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.
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
Director, Producer and Actor Ken Cosentino
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
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.
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.
The first time I heard of Fences was my exposure to the works of playwright August Wilson who poignantly depicted snapshots of black family life in 20th Century America. The first time I saw the play was through a local theater company where my physical brother played the role of Gabe [Gabriel]; the mentally challenged character that was brilliantly played by Mykelti Williamson in the film. Wilson once noted in the Paris Review that, "I think my plays offer (white Americans) a different way to look at black Americans" and this is precisely what Denzel Washington set out to do and accomplished by bringing Fences to the big screen as its Leading Actor/Director alongside the incomparable Viola Davis.
What some do not know about Fences is it's a part of Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle [Century Cycle] which consists of nine additional plays, ten in total. The backdrop of most of these plays is where Wilson grew up; Pittsburgh's Hill District, with the exception of one set in Chicago, and each play focuses on a different decade. For example:
1900's -Gem of the Ocean
1910's -Joe Turner's Come and Gone
1920's -Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
1930's -The Piano Lesson
1940's -Seven Guitars
1960's -Two Trains Running
1980's -King Hedley II
1990's -Radio Gulf
Something else to consider is even though Wilson's plays depict snapshots of black family life for ten decades, Generations are superimposed over these decades. For example:
1900-1910's The Interbellum Generation
1910's-1920's The G.I. [Greatest Generation]
1920's-1940's The Silent Generation
1940's-1960's The Baby Boomer Generation
1960's-1980 Generation X
1980's-1995 Generation Y [Millennials]
As you can see, the backdrop of Fences is the 1950's during the middle of the Baby Boomer Generation. During a scene when Troy was talking about his childhood and becoming a man at 14 years old he said he walked 200 miles to Birmingham Alabama when he left home. When his son Lyons asked him why didn't he get a ride Troy responded that there were no cars at that time because it was 1918. That would mark Troy's birth in 1914, the year of the stock market crash. Although the Baby Boomer Generation is the socioeconomic backdrop of Fences, its main characters Troy and Rose were born in the G.I. Generation. This is very important to understand because it puts Fences, and Wilson's other plays, within the proper cultural, socioeconomic and generational context. Some of the reviews and opinions I've seen and heard about this film failed to take this into consideration. They were often cosmetic at best and empty of a real substantive analysis of what black family life was actually like for some of us from that generation, during that decade, particularly in the North.
I've heard everything from how weak and stupid Rose was, how rotten and chauvinistic Troy was to how Gabe stole the show being batsh*t crazy. Some of us simply ignored the fact that all of these characters in that community, in that decade and from that generation had limited options/opportunities to change their circumstances. Sure there were women such as Rose from that G.I. Generation who found themselves in a similar scenario and did something about it. It definitely wasn't easy but the easiest route out of a life like hers in the 1950's was the underworld and all of its accoutrements. Other than the underworld or a domestic worker, Rose could have been an Entertainer/Athlete like Billie Holiday, Big Momma Thornton, Odetta, Josephine Baker, Althea Gibson or Louise "Queen of the Kitchen" Beavers if she had the talent -yet it would have been long shot at her age. Sure there was welfare instead of asking Troy for money but welfare was shaky in the 1950's when Welfare Reform began. Some things were simply not an option, especially at Rose's age. Many of the modern women I've seen criticizing Rose about her decision to stay in a relationship with Troy after he had a baby on her are accepting stuff from modern day f*ckboys that would make Troy look like Philip Banks from a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.Troy's flophouse options were no different if he wanted to walk out on Rose, at that age. Standing in the same place for eighteen years means that Troy and Rose developed very little skills or professional development training to adapt and progress in a changing world. Many of us have likewise been standing in the same place for years too.
Another thing that's important to understand is that their son Cory, who disapproved of his Father's behavior and Mother's acceptance, is a Baby Boomer. Many of the changes that Baby Boomers brought about within their generation [the 1960's], as with every generation, is oftentimes based upon dissatisfaction/disapproval. Some women during that decade who would have been Cory's Baby Boomerpeers made decisions that echoed the same dissatisfaction/disapproval of a Troy and Rose family dynamic. Some women decided the institution of marriage was a prison sentence and vowed never to exchange vows. The Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) was born, America's first formal lesbian organization. Abortion was illegal and birth control pills were approved by the FDA. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was started, bras were burned and the Women's Rights and Feminist Movements were the direct response to a G.I. and Silent Generation. None of these changes we see in the American landscape, in each generation, happen in a vacuum. In many instances these changes are also the result of Socioeconomic Engineering.
Fences starring James Earl Jones, Broadway 1987
As I've mentioned, Fences is a snapshot of black family life for some of us in that generation, during that decade, in the North. As black people we are not one monolithic group and there are various perspectives that represent who and what we are as a people. Even though there are many common themes of institutional racism, white nationalism and sexism we as black people had to deal with and still have to deal with in America, our entire world in the 1950's did not look like Pittsburgh's Hill District. Just like when we see footage of Dr. Martin Luther King's historic March on Washington, all black people in America weren't there or actually cared about participating in it. On August 28th, 1963 some black folks were sitting at home in a middle class neighborhood saying, "That nigga crazy causing trouble. We got it good right now, why he trying to mess stuff up?!" Although we are not monolithic, it's also important to understand that within this society we are a racially defined as a monolith; one minority group that's intractably indivisible and uniform in our sense of powerlessness. This is very problematic when the dominant society has primary control of our individual and collective narrative. A society where uniform caricatures, outright lies and other disinformation is institutionalized and broadcast to its citizenry to paint us as ignorant, inferior, ugly and impotent. Therein also exists our power of identity, when the highest value lies in our relationships and sense of self determination. Solid relationships where cultural continuity, collective work and responsibility and cooperative economics was and is the order of the day. An excellent example of this was Black Wall Street, a society forged by the Lost and Interbullum Generations of blacks who came of age during World War I and II.
It was hard to find black people in America today from the G.I. Generation who didn't have any bitterness, disappointment or depression in them like Troy and Rose. Many black families moved to the North during the twenties and were stung with the stark reality that there was a lack of opportunities for blacks who were still segregated from American society. The pride on Troy's face and how his family and friends celebrated his promotion to be the first black man in Pittsburgh to drive a garbage truck gives you a sense of those lack of opportunities. Another name for the G.I. Generation is "The Greatest Generation"; those who came of age during the Great Depression, Prohibition and were veterans of World War II. To give you a sense of what the backdrop of this generation looked like, this was a time in America when girls wore dresses and boys wore suits and ties every day. People generally sought the American Dream, were loyal to its institutions and the KKK had a card carrying membership of approximately 3 million members. Seven Presidents, from the 35th to the 41st, were born in this generation as well as Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson and Jack Johnson became the first black heavyweight champion during the height of this Jim Crow Era. The G.I. Generation was a tumultuous time when race riots were common place throughout American cities and leaders such as Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey came along to give black people a sense of direction. This was also a significant time politically; black people who traditionally voted Republican switched in mass to the Democratic Party. At the same time, and in contrast to blacks in this country, white America began its Roaring Twenties; an exuberant, boisterous time of prosperity and freewheeling popular culture.
Fences was more than a poignant cinematic adaptation of an August Wilson play or a critical illustration of how dysfunctional black folks were. Fences is a bold reminder of Sankofa, expressed in the Akan language as "se wo were fi na wosan kofa a yenki" meaning "it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you [we] forgot." Many of us have forgotten these stories of our elder generation and are thus ill equipped to deal with similar circumstances and race-based challenges our families and communities still deal with today. Fences is a textbook social study of some of our G.I., Silent and Baby Boomer Generations during a decade when blacks continued to face white domestic terrorism on all fronts, be it political, economic, social, emotional and of course physical. The murder of Emmett Till, the fortitude of Rosa Parks and the protests of many others during this time were a part of the catalyst to spark our Civil/Human Rights Movement. Each of the characters in this film told a complex story of identity, autonomy and the struggle for upward mobility in a society fashioned to keep black people powerless. Our resolve wasn't always the best. Yet if we look, listen, learn and respect this narrative, we can better position ourselves to not only change it but gather the power to control it.
Reflecting upon how positive and progressive 2016 has been for me and looking towards 2017, I just wanted to take a moment to share some of my thoughts with all of you. First and foremost, I want to THANK all of you who invested time in reading my articles, researching the links/information I share via my Facebook Page, checked out and subscribed to my Youtube Channel (A.S.I.A. TV) and Radio Show (Atlantis Build Talk Radio), purchased my literature/music (Quanaah Publishing) and connected with me in whatever capacity we were able to. It is very much appreciated!! The numerous dialogues, testimonials, letters, questions and constructive advice I receive on the daily lets me know that what I do is not in vain. It's serving my intended purpose; inspiring, empowering and educating people. There are some of you I’ve had the pleasure of meeting for the first time and others I’ve had the opportunity to build/rebuild relationships from all over the world. None of us are in each others lives by chance and I look forward to what these bonds continue to positively produce for the future. You are also all very much appreciated!! As far as Resolutions are concerned, I don’t have any. I am a work in progress so I’m always exploring ways to improve myself so that I can be a greater resource to others. Living a way of life that includes the phrase ‘striving for perfection’ as a part of its fundamental principles is the essence of any/all Resolutions. Therefore, I will continue being as resolute as I have been.
For those of you who’ve made Resolutions for 2017, here are 9 Keys I revised that will help you achieve your goals in this upcoming year:
1. Although it is your personal Resolution, your Resolution should be something that improves (progresses) you with the intent/consideration of making you a better resource to others and this world we share. Life is interdependent, we all play a role in how the world turns, and there is a constant process of giving and receiving. This intent/consideration ensures that our Resolution is in tune with the universal order and is something that is sustainable -because we are actively providing a service (and/or products) that others, and the world, needs. If all we are thinking about is what we can get (keep), and not what we are able to consistently give, what we get (keep) will eventually run out. If you don't believe this, try it with your breath. Keep it to yourself and see how long it takes for your oxygen to run out... 2. Make sure our Resolution is real and obtainable. It’s less likely we’re going to change EVERYTHING at once so it's important to work on what we can change, one goal at a time. Also, take things one day at a time.... It took a while to create habits/routines and it’s going to take time to change them. The smaller goals we accomplish serve as stepping stones; helping us build confidence and gain the tools and experience that are necessary to forge our larger goals. And with any goal, one of the first and most important steps we need to take, and habits we need to create, is to "Get our day underway with a positive, productive attitude." That attitude sets the stage for our altitude. 3. Make your goals specific. Instead of saying something like, "I’m going to read more" say something more specific like, "I am going to read two novels every month." This is called Specificity. This not only helps you better focus on your goals, but it encourages you to be more responsible and committed to your goals. If you were to say, "I want to be healthier in 2017" there is no sense of ambition or plan of action to achieve that goal. Now if you said, "I am going to only eat baked chicken once a week and go to the gym three times a week for 1 ½ hours" that has a sense of ambition and provides part of a plan of action to achieve your goal of being healthier in 2017. If it's not clear, our path won't be cleared. 4. Set a projected time/date for your goals. Setting a time/date creates a sense of urgency, responsibility, and accountability to meet your goals. If you don’t meet your time/date then set another one. Without setting a time/date then we’re saying our goals aren’t really a priority (important) -because under these circumstances they can happen any time, and any day. That is not resolute, and if you don't have a time/date, there will probably never be a time/date. 5. Write down your Resolutions. I’ve known people who had challenges with organizing their day, appropriating their time, and focusing on achieving their goals. One of the solutions I shared with them was writing down their goals on index cards or signs and posting them in visible places around their home. This helped reinforce/remind them of their goals so they wouldn’t allow themselves to get lost in the hustle & bustle of the day. 6. Only share your Resolutions with those who have shown themselves to be supportive of you fulfilling them. If they’re not there to help you, they’re only going to hinder you. If they're not an asset, they're a liability. If they're not in your life to build, they will destroy. 7. Look into networking with people/organizations that will help you fulfill your physical and mental health goals. If you want to cut back on the substances you’ve been using like drugs/alcohol, or have some mental health issues going on, reach out to any local, regional, national organizations that specifically deal with drug/alcohol abuse and mental health. There are no Resolutions when you don't have your health. 8. Keep a Positive Outlook! Some days it will be easy to maintain a level of positivity and other days you need ‘social equality’ (fellowship) with others -who share the same goals and are just as resolute as you are about positivity. This means, whatever religious, cultural, or secular organization you are a member of or affiliated with, invest the time to be there and learn as much as you can about the positive principles/values they’re sharing with you. This is part of your foundational network and will help you maintain a Positive Outlook when you need the support, which we all do. 9. Your Resolution is not the end all be all. Some people live to have a Wedding while others strive to be Married, have a family, and etc.. While the former is a place, the later is a state. So although your Resolutions may help you arrive at a place, the ultimate goal should be to achieve a state of existence. And this state of existence should set the stage to help us achieve even higher/greater goals! It’s all about constant growth and elevation, not stagnation. Life is constantly changing & evolving, and so should the living. In closing, I want to will every one of you and our families a very safe, happy, healthy and productive 2017! I also will that while reflecting on this past year, we consider those negative things we've held fast to that has not only destroyed our ability to unify with others, but undermined our ability to accomplish anything significant on our own. Begin your new calendar year with the right mindset, on the right foot and making the right decision to move forward. We’ve all had challenges within ourselves, and with others, this past year, and I will that 2017 is much more positive and progressive for us all! Peace, Saladin