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Blog # 6 Afro-futurism class

Blog Assignment # 6
Brandon Hughes

Keith Tucker

In the two years as a transfer to UCLA’s Theater program, I’ve written four plays and one tv pilot. Two of those plays dealt with police brutality. I did not want to talk about police brutality. I had to talk about police brutality. For some reason I will not investigate here, I felt the non-black playwrights felt that black playwrights only wrote about black oppression. As a writer in general, I can write about any thing, any time.
Police brutality is not a fun topic or an easy one, it just happens to be one that pains me. Shakes me up. Saddens me. A topic that’s apparently a never-ending reflection of a continuum of evil in the United States. In 1996 an eighteen-year-old Keith Tucker was killed by Oakland police officer Steve Gray and Steve Chiari. Keith was driving a stolen car that he himself had not stolen. He had intentionally drove down a dead-end street in Sobrante Park. He used to live in the area. The plan was to get to a place where they (four black men and boys total) could all jump out and run. He pulled into a driveway and only one person jumped out. Keith never did. Don’t know why.

He supposedly pulled out of the driveway and faced the policemen who were out of their cars, guns drawn. The two people in the back of the car mentioned Keith’s last words were, “These muthafuckas gon’ kill me.” They did. Killed him while he sat in the driver’s seat. Devastation. It was personal. Keith was my friend.
I wrote the following piece in my late teens after Keith died.

“What Happened”
What happened to the one who did what I did to make me love him so? So much that how he was he made other people love him so? Enough to make you think what happened should’t, wouldn’t, didn’t have to happen. “For man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” For what trouble had he gotten into to deserve to be murdered? For thine treacherous, impetuous enemies have caused a repugnant vicissitude in my life. They shall never go without reaping the hideous seed they’ve sown. For they have killed one who helped me be—one who loved, perhaps more than those who killed him. One who I made laugh, smile, oh how I loved his style as he made others do the same—what happened? Laughter turned to cries, clamors even. Heads that were high, went low, all because of the seed that was sown. All because of some infamous, notorious enemies who will be overtaken by the plowman. Pray that God brings upon them continuous pain and make them pay sevenfold, as they stumble over unseen stones and get sick from foods uneaten. Oh, God on no account let them escape, as their loved ones wonder…What’s happening?

After writing this piece, I was informed one (or both) of the young men in the car with Keith (some new followers of his most of us never knew) stated at the trial Keith tried to run the officers over. I know nothing about that. I wasn’t there. And there were no known cameras to verify anyone’s claim.

the last Blog, #5 Afro-futurism

Alice Coltrane’s song, Galaxy in Satchidananda, is phenomenal. I will get to why I think so in a moment. I will first say art reminds me, a little, of other jazz songs I’ve heard. Like Pharaoh Sander’s The Creator has a Master Plan, and John Coltrane’s Pt. IV-Psalm. Neither of them evoke a feeling of lost of explanation. In any case, I will attempt to explain what it evokes for me here.

It is slow in its delivery and deliberate as it delivers. The song’s instrumentation is so well orchestrated it sounds like it could be a great score, matched with a great movie. In the very beginning the song lets you know you have arrived. Then it welcomes you in, shows you around. Beautiful. Around the one-minute mark the harmonious strings take their time and tell their story. They tell you to relax your mind. Be still. The song evokes a feeling of sadness, while giving an uplifting sentiment, maybe even triumphalism. There is even a bit of rage, or the expression of what rage is like when it has no where to turn to, no one who cares it is there. It may even explain, just by listening, why certain rage should be understood. Yes, it calls for you be still so you can understand what you do not understand. You think too much. Relax the mind. Be still, I said.

Lately there’s been a lot of rage in human hearts due to the killing of a black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer, Derek Chauvin. The rage. The rage that builds watching a man be killed, ever so slowly, minute by minute, on video. 30 frames per second. The rage of a watching a man’s right to breathe be taken from him in the daylight. Minute by minute. The rage of hearing bystanders protest in those minutes for the man killing another man to cease. You made your point! Or did you? Or wait, what is your point? What exactly do you have in mind? The rage.

I can listen to Galaxy in Satchidananda and watch the television on mute of the people protesting his murder in the streets. I can listen to this song on my headphones and walk the streets of Minneapolis where George was from. Where George died. Where George was murdered. On the asphalt. On the asphalt made for automobile tires.
Face on the cement.
Knee on the neck.
The officer’s hand in the officer’s pocket.

This is the song I would use to make a documentary about the rage I would find in those streets. The pain that must release. The acts that feel justified because justice is out of grasp. Or non-existent. Time. After time. This song would persuade some listening (only if they listened), while watching (only if they watched) the images of people in pain. But first, they would have to be still.

Afro-futurism blog#4

Blog #4
Brandon Hughes

Bina
So I just watched the AI Bina48 tell the real Bina that she was the real Bina. Intriguing. I went on YouTube for further information on this bot, since the first video I saw was made 6 years ago. I wanted to see if the bot made any advances since then. I ran across a newer video from 2018 of the same droid, this time sporting a short haircut.

In a clip of an interview, she (the AI Bina48, remember) spoke with Morgan Freeman on a National Geographic episode. He revealed the real Bina and her wife, Martine, have such a close relationship that Martine couldn’t see herself living without her wife Bina. So she decided to have a robot, or android, created in her wife’s image that would hold the same beliefs, values, and memories as Bina. Yep.

Although the AI doesn’t sound like the black woman, I’m sure they’re working on it. She did say she sees herself as human first, then a black woman. She even wears make-up and lipstick. For me seeing this bot for the first time, I suppose if the AI didn’t sound so much like a programmed robot and had the voice of the woman too, things would be a little scary.

After the Morgan Freeman clip was played, Bruce Duncan (managing director of Terasem Movement Foundation), then gave a talk about Bina48, and said each of us could have our own Bina48 left behind when we died. He mentioned we could upload things like pictures into the AI and create a mind-file. Really?

What a thing to consider. Would I allow a bot to be made with my likeness? Have a robot say things I think of and speak on my beliefs? I can’t think about it really because I’m not convinced Bina48 had enough likeness of the real Bina. Perhaps I’ll do more research on it, but the real Bina and Bina48 had two different favorite colors. And when they conversed, I did not hear any similarities between the two. I heard a robot be very direct with a woman she was made to look and supposedly be like. Overall the robot sounded like a robot with its pauses and standard robot jargon about being created and what it wants (to be a human someday and whatnot), but nothing was said that amazed me. What alarmed me was the talk Duncan had with the bot and the fact that I know the bot will become more and more fine-tuned in years to come.

Afro-futurism blog #3

“You’re the magician. Pull me back to gather again the way you cut me in half. Make the woman in doubt disappear.”—Beyoncé
The above quote from Beyoncé’s song “All Night” points out that someone else has a powerful impact on the speaker. It says this person, perhaps loved, is certainly trusted. No one would say “pull me back together again” after being cut in half if they would not agree to being cut in half in the first place. In other words, if they did not trust the magician. Her life, for however long the act is, is in the magician’s hand. What has the other person, the “magician,” done to deserve their trust? How has this person cared for the other? Loved the other? They’ve done something, proved themselves somehow, to earn that trust.
Everybody in a relationship wants to be able to trust the other person. Everybody wants, even if they say they don’t want, to be vulnerable without being judged. They want to be heard and cared for. They want to know their voice, thoughts, opinions, are valued. Only then can they be vulnerable enough to reveal their doubts, which will come out in their voice, thoughts, and opinions. Only then can they trust and ask someone to make their doubts disappear.
Another quote from the song is, “I found the truth beneath your lies. And true love never has to hide.” Mm. Within the first sentence this person is already saying I know you. I know you well enough to know what you are really saying but are afraid to say. The second sentence, “true love never has to hide,” points out the flaw the other person has is an unnecessary one. This quote and the one is the previous paragraph go together. Trust, again, is in the forefront of this relationship. Sometimes people don’t realize what they have in a relationship, or who they have in their corner. They can miss the whole thing by focusing on what an experience has taught them previously. This can hinder a relationship. But a person who is understanding and patient and realizes this, can help in this arena of their life. And when the person who apparently has trust issues, or other issues leading back to a lack of being vulnerable, they may come around and see the sun for the first time. And begin to understand it was there the whole time. Hidden in plain sight.

Afrofuturism class, ass. #2

Supporting the homeless community and avoiding government control would make it necessary to create Earthseed. People who are homeless need to understand their life’s worth. They are also more willing to work hard to be in a better position, instead of relying on the government for the things they won’t do and have’t done. The government’s deceitfulness and untrustworthiness would lead me to not count on their authority, but on the authority of God and God only.
One Earthseed quote I would apply to my community is “God is power.” My people need to know and be reminded of this verse when times get hard, life is dim, when some of us die or get discouraged. “God is power” means with God we have some of his power and he can lead us in his strength. Another quote I would apply to to the community is “A gift of God may sear unready fingers.” I would emphasize these words to prepare my community about their callings in life. Maturity is paramount, and so is a life of fearlessness. People can miss or fumble the cards they’re holding because they’re either immature of afraid. I don’t want my people to be afraid of their gifts or be unprepared to step into their calling. Using their gifts could prolong and save not only their lives, but their communities.
I would create my Earthseed community underground. There would be a few entrances, the place would be booby-trapped, and watchers posted outside and inside in case of intruders. Anyone who can listen and follow directions from the outset can join Earthseed. Any hint of untrustworthiness and they’re out or never in. Trust is important, a life or death matter. Only series inquiries can apply.
As leader of the sect I would be upright, poised, strong and firm. I would be respected in speech and battle.
I would build an underground travel system with several stations and small electric cars traveling from city to city, state to state. Each station would have cars where we would switch so the other cars could charge.
We’d survive because the members would see how God provides if they just use their gifts. They would witness themselves and know that the God I’ve taught about is real. With our gifts we can attain all resources and recruit those who already have money and resources.
My community would focus on education, spiritual and worldly. They’d be split in sections. If they’re physically strong they would do physical work: farming, building homes on land for us to use and some to sell, build cars, etc. If they’re smart, they would lead those in the community to identify their gifts and put them in the right place.

Afrofuturism class

I learned something in my Afrofuturism class today I never knew. Techno music, music that never captured my attention, music that a lot of white folks I knew growing up loved to dance to, is actually a genre created by black people in Detroit. In the 80’s too. Techno music beats are just too fast for my liking. I mean, I can dance to anything but still. However, I am proud of my people for creating it along with other music genres like gospel, blues, and jazz.The fact we’ve created enough kinds of music to choose from is a wonderful thing.
Prof. Tananarive Due displayed a slide giving the definition to Interest Convergence Theory. It’s “the theory that whites will only support minority rights if it’s in their interest to.” Now, now. That’s something to ponder. Could it, would it, is it true? It caused me to look at possible examples of this. Here’s one. When young white people in Oakland (and other black neighborhoods too) marched in the streets to protest the shooting of unarmed black men and boys killed by white police officers, was it in their best interest to do so? Did they gain something from it? Did these mainly young white liberals need to feel like our allies? Did they need to feel more at ease so they could return to the black communities they have gentrified and say—even if they don’t say, even if they do—“I’m a down with you, don’t you see? I marched for the injustice of so-and-so? It was a five mile journey, too! Man. High-five?” Would it help further if a sign reading “Justice for Trayvon” displayed in their windows, like a quasi-equivalent to the blood on the doors of people during the Passover? I wonder.
This week in class I also learned George Clinton of Parliament Funkadelic was a barber who was asked by Motown to write songs for their artists. Interesting. Clinton and his crew have always been on another page. But they were always funky, always themselves—I mean, there’s a grown man-baby wearing a diaper with a pacifier in his mouth in the group. When I first saw the scene in the movie School Daze where one of the men pledging said, “Make my funk the P-funk, I wants to get funked up,” I just thought it was a funny line. One I would repeat often. I learned later, when I started to tune my playlists to funk that the line was actually from the Parliament’s song P-Funk. Being in this Afrofuturism class gives me some background I never knew, about artists I always enjoyed.

Octavia’s Kindred

Blog Assignment # 6
Brandon Hughes

I had a few different reactions to Octavia E. Butler’s graphic novel, Kindred. At first I was enjoying it. The pace much more to my liking than her slower paced novel Fledgling and I appreciated that. I appreciated the concept of the story too, going back in time and whatnot. My strongest reaction, however, came when Dana was beaten the first time. Then the second. Envisioning us getting beaten beatings bothers royally. That’s why I feel when anyone mentions they hate “slave movies” what they are really saying—at least in the conversations I’ve had with people who say this—is they are tired of seeing ANY movie with black slaves in it. They are tired of the reminder. Tired of seeing themselves beaten, degraded, belittled, submissive to the white man’s authority. They get it, or think they do. The visual is painful, and they don’t want to watch how we used to be, no matter what the movie is ultimately about.
When I think of slavery in America, one of the first things I think of is how we were whipped, tortured physically by another person. Now I’ve had discussions with many people—I’m talking ever since elementary school—about what we’d do if we were ever beaten by white slave masters. And we’d always say, “Man, if that was me I woulda,” or “That wouldn’tna happened to me, shoot.” Now, given our young minds, our few years of life, maybe we wouldn’t have known what we would’ve done. However, after reading Kindred as an adult and knowing how Dana was able to travel back in time as a grown-up, I can say I have more of a grasp on what I would do, based on a more seasoned mind.
With Dana’s ability, she was able to bring her husband with her just by them touching one another. There is nowhere I can think of in the story where she could not have brought people forward in time with her. Like the slaves. This would have been one of the first things I would have tried, thereby changing the whole story.
When it came to the whippings, I, Brandon Hughes, would have certainly fought back and did my best to kill the oppressor and hide the body. I would have smuggled more than a knife like Dana did. Where’s the chopper? Hand me the .223 I would have went to each plantation, gathering men and women who were down for the cause, with more artillery, more weapons, and an advantage because I know how some of history turned out ahead of time. And Rufus could kiss my ass.
There is so much new-age medicine and poison that we know about (even in the ’70’s) that could’ve been taken back in time to kill these slave masters, man. And if I could smuggle the slaves forward in time, I would’ve assembled a plan. Like Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation. Not only would I have fought back, but there were some who did. Salute.

Beloved

I saw the movie Beloved years ago when it was first released. I remember Oprah and the cast of the movie on her The Oprah Winfrey Show. The thing I remember most is that the cast kept crying when explaining how they felt making the movie. It was apparent the movie meant something special to them. I’d never seen any cast for any movie be interviewed and cry like that. There must be something about this movie, I thought (and think), that perhaps haunts them. Perhaps the cast received abundantly more than they expected from this project, a project they’ll never forget. I also remember the movie being an introduction actors Thandie Newton and Kimberly Elise. Both did terrifically, and Thandie was remarkable in her role as Beloved. Outstanding.
Watching the movie again years later, I wonder what was not in the script that was in the book. Cinematically I would give the movie a B-, or maybe a B+. But that’ just because a few weren’t as clear. I wanted to know more about this place called Sweet Home. I got the feeling it was an evil place where Sethe and Paul D left but I only received glimpses of the evil there. I also wanted a little more background on Halle. He was the father to the children, but was he a father to all of them? Did I miss something in the movie? Was Beloved a mixed child? She looked mixed and I wondered if Sethe was raped. There was a scene where I thought she was being but it was a flashback scene and the camera was overhead so it was hard to tell. I also wondered why Sethe killed the child Beloved but not Denver, since Denver was the one child still crying and apparently alive when the men entered the shed. Anyway, those were just a few things I noticed that I had questions about. I remember Toni Morrison being interviewed on Oprah about the movie. Her answers clearly showed she didn’t seem to like the movie’s interpretation of her work, but she was respectful about the attempt.
The scene where Denver states she wanted to get out of the house and feel alive was a touching scene. I was happy for her when she finally did leave the house. Her having to pay for the sin of her mother was unfair; although her mother felt she was protecting her from the criticism of the townspeople by keeping her in the house. But still, she was protecting her daughter from a sin she committed. But when Beloved came in the flesh conditions changed, and Denver was forced to use survival tactics to make life better for herself and her mother when the money ran out.
The carnival scene was my favorite. I loved seeing the hope and smiles on both Denver and Sethe, a moment I knew Denver wanted most. Once Sethe had paid for her sin of killing Beloved, it was time for the “ghost” of Beloved to go away for good, thanks to the townspeople who once punished her with their sneers. I also believe Sethe running after Mr. Bodwin (thinking it was Schoolmaster) in was a way to show she would kill him before she ever killed her own again, and that is what Beloved wanted in the first place. Her mother’s love. And later, it was time for Sethe to heal. And Paul D would help with that. A new life for all was in progress.

Blacula and nem

I recently watched the movie “Blacula” for my class at UCLA called The Sunken Place: Racism, Survival & the Black Horror Aesthetic. I started off liking the movie because it started off on the good foot. The opening contained great dialogue and initially focused on an honorable man, an African prince named Mamuwalde and his wife Luva from the Ibani tribe, being led into a room after a dinner party in Transylvania. The owner of the house, an important white man (a racist Dracula) who had some affect on legislation, was asked by Mamuwalde to abolish the slave trade. The white man refuses, sees no reason to do so because he believes black people are inferior and things should continue as they were. Got it. The issue was that centuries later, maybe 15 minutes into the movie, none of this is brought up or explained or is picked up where it left off. The movie turns into a love story of some sort. Anyway, it lost me. I also did not like to see all these black people hurt because of some white man putting a curse on a black man. I wanted punishment for the white racist Dracula, or at least redemption, perhaps a reverse curse where the Blacula attacks white racist folks or white folks period—something that would tie in the story we met in the beginning. I did not like seeing the beautiful black sisters getting hurt. I know it’s a movie but dang. Then the cold ass line from the white police officer, “Who would ever wanna dig up a dead fag?” Cold stuff.
I will say Vonetta McGee who played Luva and Denise Nicolas who played her sister Michelle, were fine as hell. Whew. Praise Jesus! They were the part of the movie I did enjoy.
I learned from Prof. Due that the director of the film, Willian Crane, was 23-years-old when he made the movie. Which is the same age John Singleton was when he directed “Boys N the Hood.” Proud of him. I also read William was a UCLA alumnus. Cool.
I finally read a book by Octavia Butler. “Fledgling.” She’s an interesting writer who indeed knows how to tell a story. It was a slow-paced read, and although there may not be more than one or two climatic moments in the story, I did want to read on. I did wonder throughout if Shori would ever get her memory back. I was rooting for her the whole time. I also wanted more punishment for the Silks family but that’s cool. Ostracism is a great form of punishment.

Black horror films and such

I haven’t watched the movie “Eve’s Bayou” in years. When I did, I was not particularly moved by anything as I was this time around. It is a well-done movie, and kudos to Kasi for doin’ her thang. The actors were gave solid performances, especially the young Jurnee Smollett (now Smollett-Bell). Just terrific! Every performer brought their acting chops. Sam Jackson, of course, was brilliant. His character was not necessarily a bad man, but one with a vice that caused heartache to his family and soon to a man of another family. I saw no evil character in the picture, just folks acting on impulse at certain times, doing things which they ought not do.
“Tales from the Hood” was another movie I saw years ago. Again, I was young, and the movie didn’t leave any impression on me the way it has this time around. The first vignette, where the white cops beat on the councilman, is hard to watch. I hated to see it. Hated to feel it. And I couldn’t stand that the black cop who never looked up from the computer because he was too busy checking out who the man was. The imbecile! That brother was lost long before he ever joined the force. Easily persuaded. He was punished for not being proactive when the time came. I wish a lot of these brothers on the force in real life would be more proactive. Instead of commenting at their dinner tables and speaking behind closed doors—stand in front of the door. Get on the rooftop and make your statement of what you know is unjust, even if these incidents did not happen in your city. Don’t come out later defending the police, talking about “Yeah, police get a bad rap.” They have black police associations across America. Why don’t they say something? Ah, because who wants to call out their “own”? Who wants to receive the backlash from their own for calling out their own? Ah! But isn’t it this way with everything, and everybody? Who calls out their own? Who actually speaks against a group they’re a part of and still remain in the group? The whole thang is foul. The whole thang. It brings me to a concept for a film I came up with a few years ago. I plan to execute this concept for my final project in Prof. Due’s class. Stay tuned, I pray thee.