SHARE: Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Something worth considering as thoughts swirl about race relations among so many other intersections of identity, and when physical demonstrations of all kinds are on the rise. It’s been a common fixation lately to trace the differences between “protest” and “riot.” Particularly in response to something like Black Lives Matter, a frequent response has been to invoke the idea that MLK would be disappointed. Here are some excerpts from his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”:

On the position of privileged nay-sayers:

“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

And on the importance of intent in protest, alongside an absence of insight in those who watch:

“You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.”

“I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”

The full text is essential literature. You can find it here.

SHARE: Civil Religion in America

“Civil Religion in America”

Robert N. Bellah’s provocative 1967 article on the peculiar religiosity of American society and politics.

“Behind the civil religion at every point lie biblical archetypes: Exodus, Chosen People, Promised Land, New Jersualem, and Sacrificial Death and Rebirth. But it is also genuinely American and genuinely new. It has its own prophets and its own martyrs, its own sacred events and sacred places, its own solemn rituals and symbols. It is concerned that America be a society as perfectly in accord with the will of God as men can make it, and a light to all the nations.”

As good a time as any to reflect on the rituals of American political life.

SHARE: Agents of Ishq – Jewels like Flowers

Agents of Ishq describes itself as a multimedia project about sex, love, and desire aimed at a generation of Indian youth for whom positive views of sex and sexuality remain taboo and/or absent in their culture.

“Jewels like Flowers: About Men’s Bodies and Women’s Desires”

This is an intimate essay that mixes art and vulnerable self-reflection to reconsider how the male genitalia is culturally framed. As the editor notes, the essay represents an “artist’s entranced paintings of male nudes and her tender essay on the penis’s strange invisibility in a phallocratic culture.”

The author reflects on the strained sexuality in her parents’ relationship, and concluded that it represented one thing: making love alone.

For those who grow up in sexually-repressed cultures and circumstances, perhaps this doesn’t seem too far off. But the author continues by rejecting that model and affirming her own sexuality and her passionate curiosity for others’.

“I dream of a society where women make choices and where men are spread naked across magazines …”

“The most difficult truth of the male sex is its visibility. Whatever its status, you can not retract it, it stands there, it hangs, it exceeds.”

“Men’s sex is their proudest and most fragile part, the lyrical paraphrase of their personality, the last sentence at the bottom of a poem which makes it come into existence.”

This essay makes me think of Georges Batailles and Michael Taussig. At a surface level, their essays on “The Language of Flowers” brings to mind how we encode these objects with certain narratives and meanings. And also their writings on jewels, adornments, and the body. Perhaps there’s something more here, a thread to follow somewhere down the line…

Agents of Ishq

SHARE: #StandingRockSyllabus

Photo Credit: NYC Stands for Standing Rock


Collecting lessons, readings, and content from across the internet, academia, cultures, and lifestyles. The Standing Rock Syllabus is a tremendous resource for educating ourselves on the many key issues surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline and many similar events. With readings and discussions on topics ranging from environmental racism to gender violence, the syllabus embodies a powerful collaborative effort to address systematic violence and oppression and to assert the rights and voices of indigenous peoples.

You can find a full YouTube playlist of syllabus content here.

Connect on Twitter @NYCnoDAPL

or Facebook NYC Stands with Standing Rock.

Full citation:

NYC Stands with Standing Rock Collective. 2016. “#StandingRockSyllabus.”

SHARE: Owning My Masters: The Rhetorics of Rhymes and Revolutions | A Dissertation for the Graduate School at Clemson University

A.D. Carson’s doctoral dissertation, which examines the rhetorical modes, codes, and histories of hip-hop, uses as its voice the very medium it studies. Presented as an album of individual, yet interwoven tracks, “Owning My Masters” is a project that explores issues of revolution, identity, music, and politics. As the author states,

This project—this tension—is black study, the work of fugitive planning. It is work for and against the university, for and against disciplines, for and against verification and validation. The object of “Owning My Masters” is the aim of “Owning My Masters.” This introduction is a bad document identifying the fugitive as a citizen.

A.D. Carson’s dissertation opens up a host of important discussions. “Owning My Masters” is exploring, reclaiming, and recontextualizing black identity through a history of hip-hop. Likewise, it is pushing at the boundaries of what an academic object can be.

SHARE: Citation Practices Challenge

A project dedicated to critically reevaluating academic citation practices. As the curator writes, Citation Practices Challenge calls on you to

[r]eflect on the way you approach referencing the work of others in your own writing, presenting and thinking. Whose work do you build on to make arguments, describe the field and the problems you engage in your work? Who are you citing, and why do you cite them (and not others)?

Consider what you might want to change about your academic citation practices. Who do you choose to link and re-circulate in your work? Who gets erased? Who should you stop citing?

This site collects a lot of useful resources and projects that support marginalized voices and subjects.

SHARE: Here There Be Dragons

Here There Be Dragons is a vulnerable and thoughtful exploration of fear, identity, and urban life. Conceived by Jessica Myers as a thesis project, it combines methodologies from sociology, urban studies, anthropology, linguistics, and other disciplines to explore the complex intersections between people and place. Season one is an exploration of New York City. Season two takes on Paris. I highly, highly recommend you check out the podcast on whichever platform you use. Likewise, head on over to the website for a bunch of multimedia goodies related to the project!



Twitter: @dragons_podcast