Monday, September 28, 2009

The Name Game or Name Calling

With all the seriousness in his voice he could muster Alvin John Waples (not sure of his spelling) the other day intoned a question about the name of the professional football team based in the Washington area: "Is it offensive to you?" on 102.3 FM.

I did not hear anyone claiming to be a Native American answer...But I did hear some locals call in and so no, it wasn't.

He (AJW) also implied it was a tradition, long held, that the team be called what it was. I wonder if he knows the history of the naming of the team, which was originally based in Boston, Massachusetts. George Preston Marshall named the team for marketing purposes. The prominent teams in Boston at the time were the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Braves. Marshall sought to draw upon the success of these teams through imagery and a similar sounding name.

Also, professional football was nowhere near the draw it is today. High school and college games regularly drew larger crowds and professional baseball was considered America's game (while it still claims that today, it is clear that football has eclipsed baseball!). Marshall, while a vile racist, was a savvy businessman and sought to find a way to better market the team. (You proud Washington fans probably already know that the he had the first marching band at games, right? You probably also know the league essentially held a gun to his head to force him to hire black players, the great Bobby Mitchell being his first, right? And that he passed on his number one draft choice when the first Heisman Trophy Award winner that year was the first black player to be so named, Ernie Davis, right?)

You might know that the team name was used by white folks as a term of derision as they swept across this continent stealing land from sovereign Native Nations (next time you get the chance research how many tribes were forced to break treaties with the United States because of the actions of white folks or the government, Wounded Knee comes to mind. Probably the most heroic Native resistance to white and government treachery was by Chief Joseph of the Nez Pierce in the Pacific Northwest who, on signing a peace treaty said, "I will fight no more, forever!" When white men broke the treaty and Washington sent the army, led by General Howard (Howard University's namesake) after the Nez Pierce, it took them three years to chase the Nez Pierce down...they would NOT FIGHT, they just ran, keeping their word!). Yeah...some tradition this country has with the Native Peoples!

Some tradition, right?

So, just in the interest of self disclosure I am a Philadelphia Eagles fan and have been since the Eagles played at Franklin Field (yeah, serious old school...saddest day in my life was when I heard Washington got Sonny Jurgensen for Norm Snead!)

But this isn't about football, so stop your snide remarks. If you moved to Philly wouldn't you still root for your home town team, the one in your heart? Wouldn't you still wear burgundy and gold to the Linc for your team's games up in the City of Brotherly Love? Oh, yeah, right. You got better sense. Why do you think I live down here?

Anyway, like I said, this isn't about football, it's about respect. The question isn't about political correctness either. It's about the simple question of history and about the fact that the name of the Washington team is covered in as much degradation as other names that, if carried by the team, would have been long gone (sambos, coons, the infamous n-words! come to mind).

If you truly studied the issue and heard one Native American, even just one, say how he or she felt offended by that name would you support the 'tradition' started by someone who only cared to separate money from attendees at his games? The tradition is made up, y'all.

I dunno how I would feel. You fans here, in the time I've lived here, have had some incredible teams. I've not been so blinded by my team loyalty to ever deny that. I have rooted for Washington in the Super Bowl, especially after the '87 season when Doug Williams had one of the greatest championship games ever for any quarterback, let alone a black one. I still remember Riggo's run against Miami as one of the most exciting moments ever!

But I cringe when I hear the name of the team. It's just me, I get that. It's just a non-Washingtonian spitting into the wind wishing that somebody would get that the name offends me and several other people I know and several that have been fighting it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Tradition once held that we black folks could be called all sorts of names except a child of God. Traditions once held as sacred in this country held that we could be denied basic human and civil rights, that we could be lynched with impunity for glancing incorrectly at women of a different color.

The name of the Washington team isn't as hurtful as any of these horrendous offenses, but if a Native child ever feels as hurt in his soul as I was on a regular basis by white children, and their parents, calling me nigger back in Philadelphia when he or she hears the name of the Washington football team shouldn't people re-think their attitude about how offensive the name could be to someone other than themselves?

It's just a sport after all. The Danny could make more on merchandising the new name than he'd loose on having to rename the team. And all you Washington fans could have as much fun as Baltimore fans did in renaming the Cleveland Browns when they moved to Charm City!

What's in a name if that name hurts?

Yeah, I have read some commentators saying that there are Native Peoples in this country that are not offended, that they carry Washington banners around and root for the team because, it has been written, they are honored by it. I get that.

For me though it's about those that carry the burden of recognizing their people's history. Let's get the language right to honor their history just as we continue to get the language right and the history right for ours in this country.

I get it Alvin John. I get where you're coming from. Do you get that you aren't the appropriate person asking the question?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Note from the other side

Bitches, I'm dead. Dead as a mutha, dead as a doornail, fucking stomped grape dead. Why the hell are you still looking for me?

There's so much more important shit happening than a dead junkie-ass motherfucker that has fallen through your idiot system's ass-crack.

They're beating women in Iran like it was an Olympic sport.

Children are starving for food and decent school books in DC, my old home town, our nation's capital.

There are still innocent people in jail all over the fuckin' globe. Me, I was guilty as shit cause I stole, killed, and lied to the children in my family to ride that horse. But there are people that ain't done shit rotting to waste cause they got the wrong brother, they Muslim, or somebody ain't like the way they look.

Worry yo ass 'bout them, stop looking for my dead ass.

My shit's being taken care of by Spirit and I can tell you that the only good or bad done on earth is by your choice, no one else has a say in it.

What you supposed alive bitches don't seem to get is that havin' alla faith in the world don't mean shit unless you get up offa yo asses and do some damn GOOD.

God and the Devil just sittin back with a huge bet on their table watchin the dumb ass shit play out and sometime Scratch picks up the pile and sometime Spirit does.

But they just watch, ain't no big ass hands coming outta the sky or up from Hades moving shit around.

It's just us.

Or, now, it's just you.

Stop callin my folks. I'm dead. I done learned my lesson. Now it be time to learn yours!

(The preceding was written as a reaction to seeing an article in the Washington Post about the authorities pursuing a dead man for a parole violation a full year after he died, calling his siblings and keeping his file open in spite of the presence of a death certificate. Go figure!)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Resistence and what to do about it!

I've been allowing myself entirely too much leeway and giving myself too many reasons NOT to write. To wit:

Shit's too painful.

Nobody wants to read my bitching and moaning. (Shit, I know I don't wanna read it!)

I don't have the damn time to indulge my fantasy about being a writer!

There just isn't enough time.

If I cut open a vein and bleed on the page, or screen, I'll just fuckin' die!

I'm tired of even thinking about it...

That's it. I'm just tired, the brain is overloaded and the scribblings in my journal have turned to shit. They're meaningless even to me now. Why attempt to coalesce any of it to make sense to anyone else?

Maybe that's why...maybe that someone else will possible understand, maybe that someone else can make sense of it, maybe that someone else would be another me, a reflection of this crazed person mindlessly typing here now.

Or maybe not!

It's just another form of resistance, me thinking/feeling that I'm not a writer. I don't suffer these feeling lightly. Hell, I'm not a decent mate, a good father, a lover, a friend, nor family member either.

And yet, and yet, some of the 'crap' in my handwritten journal appeals to me, some of what I've posted on facebook gets positive reactions, some of what I've spit at a local open mike is well received.

My children still love me, my friends still ask to hang out and, well, the mate and lover definitely could use some work but I am still loved.

Shit, I will get over this malaise by doing a very simple thing: I will write.

Here and there
words will

wrung out of me
if need be

Pressured like jeweled
adorning the page
the screen
floating over the darkened room
boomed from the mike

finding furtive rest
from my heart to

in the hope
flickering in me

poem to a flame