Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Why I Hate Dave Logan & I've Only Just Read His Name

 - Dave Logan, of the USC Marshall School of Business, on Sony's Amy Pascal possibly losing her job over racist emails

1961 was the year I was born in South Central, Los Angeles. I met my father and mother, as strangers, when I was 13 and 40, respectively, having only intermittent contact with them after that, to which I blame respectability politics. I can’t remember how many foster homes (some nice, some not) I was “raised” in. I took hellish beatings in them all.

Except for visits to a foster home by the “insurance man,” who my Great Migration “parents” of the time treated like a God, my first interactions with whites came about because it was discovered I was “smart.” By testing well in the 9th grade, I had won the honor, on my first day, of being seated between two white troublemakers the teacher wanted separated. Once I was introduced to the class, and between them, their exchange went like this:

“Hey, Marty, you like niggers?”

“Yeah, I think everyone should own one.”

I immediately got a bad reputation for using my desk - the kind with the chair attached - to bash both of their heads in. I didn’t care. I cared even less when we were punished “equally,” with them being sent home while I was made to wait in detention, until the day was over, and the school bus I caught at 6:30 AM returned we blacks to neighborhoods defined by gun fire.

The first time I was invited to a white person’s house, unexpectedly, my friend’s mother took one look at me, clapped her hands together and exclaimed, “Excellent: we’re having fried chicken for dinner!” My friend, mortified, hustled me to his bedroom, where I sat alone, surrounded by posters of his white heroes, as the two of them apparently discussed proper comportment.

 - President Barack Obama, on what awaits the dark and successful

That friend, and two of his white friends I later met, went on to be cops. When we were kids, we’d sit in a soda shop (they bought mine) and, to my disgust, the three soon-to-be “officers” would make fun of the Mexicans working in the kitchen. They said they were only playing. Meanwhile, I couldn’t go to the same parties they did, couldn’t get the jobs they did, easily, and wandered the streets looking for shelter. One of the whites, the most sociopathic of the three - he beat up his girlfriend, and kept knives and “Japanese Throwing Stars” for the walls he occasionally punched holes into, when emphasizing a point - volunteered to work South Central, Los Angeles upon graduation. I think about him a lot when I consider, of my 20 black running buddies there, 16 are already dead. In 1979 I was encouraged by white parents to join the military as an out.

 - Attorney General Eric Holder, on police abuses

I didn’t join the Navy to escape the ghetto, really, but because they had a drafting program, and I was artistically inclined. They cancelled the program as soon as I graduated the racially-fraught ordeal of boot camp, and when they asked me what I wanted to do then, I told them to send me back to South Central. “Not going to happen,” I was told, “you signed the paper - we own you.” I told them to put me on the next ship leaving the States.

Out to sea, I served under a redneck who also liked to throw knives, and - since he signed my progress reports - made it one of my jobs to return them. He, and another white guy who never rose above E-1, knew more about the ship than the Captain. Together, they smuggled drugs onboard at every port, eventually resulting in an investigation into why so many sailors were jumping over-board (myself included) and hoping it wasn’t merely that we were one of the first crews forced to endure an extended deployment of 9 months at sea, during the Iranian Hostage Crisis.

I spent the last 8 months of my enlistment in the brig, having developed the nasty habit of clocking officers, in an unsuccessful bid to cancel my enlistment. I spent most of that time in solitary confinement, next to an extremely violent black guy named “Green,” who required six guards to escort him to the showers. I admired him, and he admired my singing voice, requesting I serenade him to sleep each night with songs I made up on the spot. It was a talent I hardly knew I had.

 - Bill Withers, interviewed in Rolling Stone, after his nomination for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

 I was released on June 6th, 1983 and not long afterwards, found myself back as one of the few black guys in San Francisco’s fabled "Mabuhay Gardens,” attending a Flipper show. Their drummer, noticing my alienation, graciously bought me a beer and, later, encouraged me to keep writing songs. I did, and - while never getting rich - would eventually go on to be in a few of San Francisco’s most iconic bands.

When I finally went solo in the early 90s, wholly rejecting respectability politics as “The Crack Emcee,” my work was first positively reviewed by the LA Weekly. Later, the writer said he’d gotten some push-back for covering me favorably, and was told if he ever did again, he’d be restricted from new releases by the record company. He apologized if he’d hurt my prospects, but, as a black man, he was also afraid for his own:

Last I’d heard, that writer - a "smart" and talented guy - was sleeping in his car.

BTW, it was Sony that was so turned off by the idea of helping me, or anyone who understood the implications of my work.

But, as I sit here in a homeless shelter, remembering and writing this - I finally am happy to say - that feeling is now so totally mutual,….

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