by Greg Tate

The members of the Coolidge High 5 had gathered once again for their biannual  discussion of  race matters,coon bidness and sulfated/melanated yo-yodelic kulcha klashery. 

       Remarkably the gang was all still here and marvelously  standing strong, only faintly hobbled by girth, gait reduction, and age: Ironman, Bay-Ray, Kidd Funkadelic, Brother Space and Tetragrammaton. This time they were gathering  in the courtyard of the former Manhattan lair of their fallen Prince of Darkness Miles Dewey Davis. Dewey’s fabled West 77th St digs had been purchased recently by Tetragrammaton. His new found fortune  was all due to the market killing he’d made off shares of a recent  invention–the ethno-botanical afro-hallucinogenic designer drug known as  Race Memory.  For little more than  a dimebag one could have a controlled  and hyper-melinated ancestral possessn flashback experience that included jumping between loas and speaking in polyphonic Khmetan tongues. The incantatory veve-schematic formula for the drug had been  extracted from the verse structure of  Bob Kaufman’s poem “African Dream:

In black core of night it explodes/ silver thunder rolling back my brain/bursting copper screens/memory worlds/deep in star-fed beds of time/seducing my soul to diamond fires of night.’

”Inamorata and Narration By Conrad Roberts” from Miles 1972 album Live Evil was playing as the brothers entered the deceased maestros’ desecrated homage to Mecca and Medina. Tetragrammaton greeted them all with bear hugs and commented on the marvel of the enduring friendship. He then passed the mic to his ace boon sounding board, Ironman. For his part Ironman had come to inform the group about a paper he was slated to soon deliver before an august assemblage of Black Surrealists and Afro Futurists. This announcement  in turn kicked off the expected cracking and jonesing session initiated as always by Bay-Ray and Brother Space.

   “Man whut the flying who the bazooka was why?” blurted Bay-Ray in his best Tone-Loc growl. “I say Black Maybe or maybe you just talking trash like Stevie Wonder told ya back in 1972. ”

”You heard the moon Bay Ray. The moon say him gwaan talk to the people deem bout Black So Real-Izm and Afro Fugitive-Izm”.

”Umm hmmm. Like we don’t already know everything there is to know about how drylongso  these runaway afros be.”

Kidd Funkadelic interjected, reprising, in his typical clipped manner, his recurring role as the only one attempting to restore some  adult gravitas back into the conversation. 

”So. Yo. Yo. Yo. Ion. mane. How  are you. Defining.  Black So Real Ism. And Afro Fugitivism. My brother?”

The garrulous Ironman was happy to oblige him and wrest control f the conversation back from the groups resident clowns 

        “‘Glad you axed that Kidd. With respect to Black So Real Ism what I first do is invoke a piece of verse by say Jayne Cortez, Ted Joans, LeRoi Baraka or Bob Kaufman. Like sumpn by bruh Kaufman like so:

Quietly pursuing catastrophic histories buried in my eyes./And yes, the world is not some unplayed Cosmic Game/And the sun is still ninety-three million miles from me/ And in the imaginary forest, the shingles hippo becomes the gay unicorn.

”This structure is then cross referenced with something by Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson, Slim Gaillard or Bessie Smith like when Bessie sang about Black Mountain:, In Black Mountain all a child will smack your face/The babies cry for liquor and all the birds sing bass.

       ” A lyrical  integer like that is them rammed through a sequence of data from the Jet magazine online archives circa 1950-1975. Like for example this marvelous  bit of reportorial splendor about 1951 Zanesville, Ohio:  emphasis on the Zanees.

”A racial melting pot for more than a century, Zanesville, Ohio is a city of lost boundaries. Entire families have been crossing and recrossing the color line for so many generations that today it is virtually impossible to tell which families are white and which are colored without visiting city cemeteries which are still segregated.

As well known for its light skinned negroes (some jibe there are no dark negroes in town) as for its Y shaped bridge (only such structure in the world) the small pottery making city of 40,000 probably has the highest percentage of Negroes who pass in the US. Many break family ties to leave the city and cross the color line but there are hundreds who stay and pass as white.  In 1845 school authorities rushed into a classroom to evict fairskinned negro children attempting to attend school with whites. Confused as to the children’s whereabouts in a sea of white faces one official pointed out one child as Negro.

”Hold on, thats my gal!’, his colleague protested.

Another child was singled out and questioned ”Are you one of them”   ‘

‘One of what?” the child asked

”One of them Africans”, the official answered.

”No sir ,I am as white as you are”, the child, who really was Negro, replied.

Their teacher, who refused to identify them, was fired.

Irate whites burned down the school .

It was not until 1887 that barriers against Negro children fell.

Zanesville traces its racial inter-mixing back to more than a century ago when the city was a popular stopping off point for slaves fleeing to freedom along the underground railroad. Many of the Fugitives remained there, later marrying among the whites and Indians to begin the many generations of fair skinned negroes. Yet although the city readily welcomed them there were repeated attempts to Jim Crow them and their mulatto children.”  

             “‘That my brothers is how we  begin to engineer indexical coordinates for Black So Real Ism in our cultural historical midst. And re-mix them as well.”

“Why that was simply marvelous Ironman. Yes I Tetragrammaton totally feel you on the oblique cross-referencing of those disparate literary  categories of race mixology.”

”Yeah yeah yeah”  grumbled  Bay-Ray with an eyeroll, “’cause it can’t get nommo black nor mo’  so so real than  that.”

”A man concurs”, Brother Space . 

”Ya na see it bumble raises Bay-Ray? A town fulla whiteskin-did negro chillun under suspicion of closet Africanism get verbally assaulted in school by an invading hoard of redneck aliens. Shades of body snatchers. You damn right it don’t get nommo so really truly Black than that! Ya goddamn betcha.”

Kidd Funkadelic pipes up again too.

        “”Okay but  Yo.Yo.Yo–what’s the freaking deal with Afro Fugitivism, Ironman? Do the math on that, Sun’ inquired Kidd Funkadelic.

”Sure nuff now dig this Kidd. We all know that the first insurrectionary sci-fi novel serialized in America was written by our man in Pitts burg Martin Delany. This goes down between 1859 and 1862. Bruh Delany also named his simply marvelous abolitionist paper The Mystery a full century and some change before the invention of Black Mystery Month, We further know bruh Delany to have also been a barber who   learned the medicinal arts of fire-cupping and leeching and thus saved the city from a cholera epidemic when all other doctors fled in horror. Our brother MD then goes on to negotiate land  from chiefs in Sierra Leone to push along that later repatriation and thereby  invents true Pan Afrikanism in one fell swoop. MD was also, we should add, not only the first black man to be admitted into Harvard medical school but the first booted out at the insistence of his candylandass white supremacist classmates. Delany, Toussaint L’Overture,  Nat Turner, Moses Jefferson and The Masonic Knights of Liberty (who as you may recall amassed an army of 50,000 free men in the 1850s to march on Atlanta) and of course our beloved Harriet Tubman,that superspy general of the techno-military Combahee Plantation liberation–it’sthrough them all I came to devise my ironclad notions of who constitutes a bona fide Afro Fugitivist. One who not only practices the  hoodoo art of envisioning Afro Fugitivist Slave Actions and Black Liberation but who embodies them spectacularly. From there it just a short leap to Zora Neale Hurston’s Mules and Men and Tell My Horse, Sun Ra’s Intergalactic Jet Set Arkestra, Jimi Hendrix South Saturn Delta blues and all things George Clinton, Grace Jones and Michael Jackson.  From there we can easily access the understanding that Black So Real Ism and Afro Fugitivism are but two large eternally flowering  branches of the same deeply rooted baobab tree. You with me so fire Funky Kidd”‘ ?

”Yo.Yo. Yo. Indeed i do. Mister Ironman. ”

Tetragrammaton goes on record seconding the Ironman’s emotions.

“‘Dig we do, and dig  all must. Especially long as we’re in my house my Ferrically Oxidized bredren. And now that that we’ve gotten that business out of the way shall we bust out the single malt liquors and the chalices  of Grappa? Can we now  formally toast those dearly beloved, dearly departed  and forever marvelous avatars of Black So Realism and Afro Fugitivism Mr David S Ware, Ms Jayne Cortez and Mr Lawrence Douglas Butch Morris?”

Oh hell to the monkey yeah” proclaimed Bay Ray. Its about to be on with the chalices up in this here Prince of Darkness palace.

   And so like Shine and The Titanic, The Coolidge High Five swam on, destined for the fabled gates of nowhere ever after. 

Author: Enter My Cipher

Author/musician/cultural provocateur who thrives in Harlem, Howard U Bison Nation rep-at-large, co-founder of the Black Rock Coalition, leader of the Conducted Improv big band Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber since 1999, Rivers On Mars collaborator, That Dude whose books include Flyboy In The Buttermilk, Flyboy 2 The Greg Tate Reader, Midnight Lightning:Jimi Hendrix and The Black Experience, Everything But The Burden--What White People Are Taking From Black Culture and the forthcoming Beast Mode:Iconic Gods and Monsters of the Black Atlantic (FS&G,2020)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: