Archive for July, 2014

invisiblesculpture

After hearing that DMX was going to fight George Zimmerman in a “celebrity match” like almost everyone else I know, I just shook my head in disgust. It’s not like I couldn’t see where the idea was coming from. Hell, who wouldn’t want to take a swing at the man who killed Trayvon Martin and basically got away with it? But even the most uncritical enthusiasts of popular culture have had to back away from this one.

It is what things are coming to now in America. Become famous for doing something heinous and wrong, and then use that celebrity to become a reality star or tabloid royalty. Think the “Octo-Mom” or even the Kardashians who are guilty by association. It was the OJ Trial, after all, which brought us the name Kardashian, one of OJ’s lawyers in the famous “dream team.” Who could have ever predicted that the OJ Trial would have such a cultural impact that even his lawyer’s offspring would become famous. And now his grandchild is Kanye West’s child. It’s enough to make your head swim.

But this was different. If anything, it was made even more scandalous by the entry of DMX into the fold–a man who clearly, for those paying attention, is in need of professional help. Originally, it was The Game who was supposed to be fighting Zimmermann, it was widely reported. I guess the right agent, and the willingness to be part of the right spectacles for quick money can do wonders. It’s the American way after all.

‘To paraphrase the great James Baldwin, when I heard that such a thing was being planned “my dungeon shook.” If I could, I would love to make DMX, The Game or anyone else so eager to jump into the ring with Zimmermann to read an important passage from Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” that although largely fictional, echoed reality in the shadowy, secret world of the Jim Crow South.

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Invisible Man is at once an attempt to preserve the culture and sacred identity of Afro-America and a searing critique of several prominent themes in black life culture. It is a story about generations of black Americans—one who has had to bow and scrape in the face of Jim Crow, giving birth to a younger more radical generation whose survival is dependent on the lessons taught by their ancestors. Blacks survived the calculated and pernicious efforts to exterminate, oppress and kill their bodies, while resiliently withstanding the attempt to extinguish the fire of the black spirit.

Invisible Man begins in the heart of that struggle, the South, where the protagonist is a student at the preeminent Negro school, most likely patterned after Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute. Here, he is given a first hand education in the philosophy of black accomodationism to white racism and reliance on white charity. His baptism by fire into this world of contradictions could not be more abrupt and jarring than in the scene where his grandfather passes away but admits a terrible secret. He says, “I never told you, but our life is a war and I have been a traitor all my born days.” These words haunt the invisible man throughout the novel as he searches like a man without a soul for an identity.

Invisible Man deals with the peculiar role that history plays in the lives and culture of Afro-Americans, not in an abstract intellectual sense, but as a tangible, ubiquitous construct that surrounds, binds and eludes the characters in the story. In a sense, history itself is a major character in Invisible Man in that it has implications for the protagonist and those who attempt to exploit, manipulate and understand it as a phenomenon.

Mercifully, the celebrity boxing match between rapper DMX and acquitted Florida killer George Zimmerman, who was found not guilty in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon, was cancelled by promoter Damon Feldman, who has organized several such bouts between celebrities, according to an article in “The Miami Herald”.

The article stated, “‘Damon Feldman, who has organized numerous bouts between celebrities, said on Twitter that the Zimmerman-DMX match was off after generating a public outcry this week.

“Done with George Zimmerman if you had a major payday sitting in front of you, I know no one else would walk away like I did ***Next!!,” he said in a Tweet.
Martin’s shooting and Zimmerman’s self-defense claim polarized the United States on issues of racial justice, stand your ground laws and gun control. Feldman came under a barrage of criticism after the fight between Zimmerman and Earl Simmons, better known as DMX, was announced on Wednesday [February 5th], Martin’s birthday.

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Civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton, who has backed Martin’s family, cautioned against glorifying Zimmerman. The “Cancel George Zimmerman’s ‘Celebrity’ Boxing Match” Facebook page generated 315,000 “likes.”

‘Sherry Schaefer, Feldman’s assistant, said that the promoter had been threatened and had to get a bodyguard.

“Feldman was approached about seeking a bout for Zimmerman, although the promoter did not consider him a celebrity, she said.

“Schaefer said billionaire Alki David had backed the proposed fight for his FilmOn.com online television service.

“The fight was first set for March 1 and then switched to March 15. In a statement, a spokesman for DMX said the rapper had never agreed to the fight and it would not affect his concert schedule.”

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The fight was cancelled in large part due to the quick response of activists on social media such as Kevin Powell, head BKNation, and ColorOfChange.org.

A post on the BK Nation website said: “@BKNationOrg encourages EVERYONE to support this new @ColorOfChange action. Tell DMX NOT to fight Zimmerman NOW: http://tinyurl.com/kmw96yz

At ColorOfChange, on their page entitled “Profiting from Trayvon’s Murder” users could generate their own personalized letter of protest:

“Here’s the letter we’ll send to DMX on your behalf. You can add a personal comment using the box in the form.

Dear DMX,

Your decision to participate in a “celebrity” boxing match against George Zimmerman — organized by fight promoter and con man Damon Feldman — is both disturbing and disappointing. We’re sure you were as outraged by Zimmerman’s acquittal as we were. But we will get no justice from more violence, and we do not honor Trayvon Martin by feeding into the stereotype of Black men as violent and belligerent.

This latest stunt by Feldman — a man notorious for organizing fixed, unlicensed celebrity boxing matches — will allow Zimmerman to further victimize a dead young Black man for personal gain. True justice for Trayvon was denied by “Shoot First” laws and a broken court system. Feldman seeks nothing more than to line his pockets from a potentially rigged fight designed to stoke and exploit racial strife. Don’t be a part of this game of media manipulation.

Instead of engaging in this disrespectful publicity stunt, join us in demanding a justice system that values and protects Black lives, help us to rid this nation of anti-Black policies like Shoot First and Stop and Frisk, and demand more from a media landscape that demonizes Black men and boys.

DMX, we urge you to do the right thing and cancel the fight.

Sincerely,

[Your name]”

It is a testament to real internet activism and leaders who know the history of these kinds of spectacles. It was known as the, “Battle Royale.” And if you believe the phrase: “Truth is stranger than fiction” then I can’t think of a stronger case to be made to re-examine this passage.Had it actually happened, it might have gone something like this. Ralph Ellison’s, “Invisble Man:”

“I was invited to give the speech at a gathering of the town’s leading white citizens. It was a triumph for our whole community. It was in the main ballroom of the leading hotel. When I got there I discovered that it was on the occasion of a smoker, and I was told that since I was to be there anyway I might as well take part in the battle royal to be fought by some of my schoolmates as part of the entertainment. The battle royal came first. All of the town’s big shots were there in their tuxedoes, wolfing down the buffet foods, drinking beer and whiskey and smoking black cigars. It was a large room with a high ceiling. Chairs were arranged in neat rows around three sides of a portable boxing ring. The fourth side was clear, revealing a gleaming space of polished floor.”

Ellison continues in his description of the surroundings including a “stark naked” white woman moving and writhing crazily to the music.

“And I started off the floor, heading for the anteroom with the rest of the boys. Some were still crying and in hysteria. But as we tried to leave we were stopped and ordered to get into the ring. There was nothing to do but what we were told. All ten of us climbed under the ropes and allowed ourselves to be blind-folded with broad bands of white cloth. One of the men seemed to feel a bit sympathetic and tried to cheer us up as we stood with our backs against the ropes. Some of us tried to grin. “See that boy over there?” one of the men said. “I want you to run across at the bell and give it to him right in the belly. If you don’t get him, I’m going to get you. I don’t like his looks.” Each of us was told the same. The blindfolds were put on. Yet even then I had been going over my speech. In my mind each word was as bright as flame. I felt the cloth pressed into place, and frowned so that it would be loosened when I relaxed.”

“But now I felt a sudden fit of blind terror. I was unused to darkness. It was as though I had suddenly found myself in a dark room filled with poisonous cottonmouths. I could hear the bleary voices yelling insistently for the battle royal to begin.

“Get going in there!”

“Let me at that big nigger!”