Living Genealogies of Africana Studies with Dr. Greg Carr (1/2)
Dr. Greg Carr, chair of African American Studies at Howard University and First Vice-President of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations (ASCAC), joined us for this rousing, extended conversation about Black Lives Matter, voting, cultural warfare and “the missing pages of world history.”
JARED BALL, TRNN: All right, what’s up world? Welcome to another edition of iMixWhatiLike for the Real News Network. I’m Jared Ball here in Washington, DC at the legendary Howard University sitting here with Dr. Greg Carr who is the chair of African American studies and also the first vice president of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations, also known as ASCAC. Dr. Carr, welcome.
GREG CARR: My dear brother.
BALL: My man.
CARR: I watch you all the time, man–
CARR: –And have for years, man. I’m glad to be here.
BALL: Well, as I’ve said elsewhere for a long time, I’ve learned so much from you over the years, even before we met, you know, and continue to do so. One of the reasons why I wanted to talk with you is that I know a lot of what I’ve learned from you are about the different strands and traditions and lineages within Africana studies, the Africana world, really. And from my perspective, at least, I feel like a lot of those traditions get lost, particularly in this moment we’re in now where various iterations of Black movement, the movement for Black lives, or Black Lives Matter, are taking hold, those public actions and the discussion around that. Also the 2016 presidential elections in this country and all the debate around that.
And I sometimes feel like a lot of these, again, these traditions just get lost, so I was thinking the other day about Listervelt Middleton.
CARR: Oh, wow.
BALL: And I know that my comrade here, Bashi, and I have talked about trying to emulate some of that in our work, and Listervelt Middleton being someone who used his platform as a television host to bring on a wide array of Africana scholars and activists to talk about their work and keep some of these traditions alive. So in this moment I just wanted to ask you this very broad and vague question. How do you interpret the moment we’re in, and where do these traditions, that have informed you and continue to inform you, fit in to your interpretation or analysis of the world today, or this moment?
CARR: Well, first of all, I’m glad to be with you again, brother. We, people watching this think, man, it’s a mutual admiration society, well it is. You’re just going to have to deal with it.
CARR: But, I mean, you and that small group of people who you’ve pulled together and who are around you, y’all’s formation is really part of that genealogy, a living part. You mentioned our dear brother and now ancestor Listervelt Middleton, who somehow repurposed his space in South Carolina public television with his incredible, incredible space, man, to bring Asa Hilliard and to bring Frances Cress Welsing and all those others literally, as he titled his show, for the people.
BALL: That’s right.
CARR: For the people, man. And like you say, Gil Noble, who, “Like It Is,” brother, on a major network–ABC, man, for years in New York. Preceded Ellis Haizlip, you know with “SOUL!”
BALL: That’s right. That’s right.
CARR: You are in that genealogy. Now every age, of course, as you know better than I do, having really immersed yourself in the study of how media forms and media formations reflect technology and how those things create different kind of public spheres. You know, you know better than I do and have written about this, in fact, in a book that we use here in Howard, “I Mix What I Like,” and not just in that but engaging your students at Morgan, mine here at Howard, all of our students, the people you travel and talk to, you know better than I do how technology has expanded that platform and at the same time shattered it.
So everybody knew when to tune in to see Listervelt. Everybody knew that if you wanted to see Gil Noble, even when they moved him to Sunday morning, that’s what you did. Whether you went to church or not, that was your church. You’d see [NAME 3:50], [NAME], John Clarke, [NAME], but now, sitting up in your drawers at 4 a.m., you press click to the Real News, iMixWhatiLike and you can see you anytime. Now that’s great, but what it also does is create a different type of public sphere, a different type of discourse community.
So those cats that would watch Gil or watch Listervelt would then go to the barbershop or go to school, and they had this common, not only viewing experience, but a common time of formation, and then that allows to empty into other things. Well, study group Thursday night, we’re going to, you know, watch “Like It Is,” then talk.
Now you might still set a formation when you come together physically or you may not. You may never talk to anybody, so you don’t know how many people are watching, you know, you, listening to your radio show whenever they want to. Press on your website, Soundcloud. I mean, where do they collect and convene? And I think that’s where we’re still trying to figure out how to build formations, movements out of what is now very individualized experience.
BALL: You know, one of the reasons for that question, also, is that it happens, you know, every four years in this country any way, and I do like Chomsky’s phrase, calling it the quadrennial extravaganza–
CARR: –Yes [audible laughter]–
BALL: –the elections, right? But–
BALL: –But the other day, you know, I saw Melina Abdullah on “Democracy Now” and it was one of the few moments on any kind of media space in this moment where I heard somebody raise a question for a Black audience. I think she was, in my mind she was speaking to “Democracy Now’s” Black audience in particular saying, we focus almost exclusively on voting and elections as a mechanism for our change, and I know that that’s encouraged, but a lot of the people that have informed us that wasn’t their focus.
BALL: So when we talk about some of the names you’ve mentioned, you know, Clark and Diop and so many, you know, whoever we might, voting, to my memory, almost never came up as part of the conversation around how we, collectively, change our condition. So I’m wondering what, you know, so how does, what do we do with that? Or what about their lessons can we bring into a conversation today to maybe supplement so much of the focus on elections or what I see as maybe more people organizing for action than the sake of organizing for permanent change, if that makes sense?
CARR: That’s a great question. I think voting is an action, but it’s only one, and maybe not even the most important action, honestly. So as you were talking I’m thinking about what that would look like if we tried to represent it visually. So if we look at Diop, Ben-Jochannan, that whole intellectual formation which is in itself, I think, a strata in any community, the thinking category, as the great John Henrik Clarke, who influenced both of us very deeply, might think about it.
What is the role of the thinker in a community? So if we look at the thinking strata as kind of like the core, if we’re looking at this visually, then out of that core, in terms of thinking about how to move in social formation, each action becomes a kind of spoke emanating out of that. Voting is one of them. So I think what we have now is such a rigid kind of separation of thinking about what these actions are and what they imply that people think, well if I vote I can’t be a good Black man.
No, no because let’s go back to the people who we say we’re reading and thinking about. John Clarke, who is a nationalist, a pan-Africanist, a self-described socialist, he’s not leaving any of those identities aside, and he’s going to go to the voting booth too. And so the idea, well, voting is an act of betrayal of radical tradition, no. Dubois wrote, I won’t vote. At the same time he runs for the senate in New York state.
So these, it’s just an option. So I guess what I will say finally is that a lot of what we’re saying now, and you’re right, I mean Chomsky, again, I never like to compare us to racial formations, but I think about, are there Black Chomskys? I know Chomsky is on all these platforms and he doesn’t even really deal with computers, you know what I’m saying? But he shows up somewhere and 500 people show up to hear him speak. Now, we’re getting–what’d you say?
BALL: At least.
CARR: At least, absolutely. But, I mean, in our intellectual formations, when I ask myself, who in our communities are getting that type of status? It’s them cats on 125th street, man, who people get, you get 200 thousand views, or it’s Umar Johnson, who we both know, have engaged, [inaud.]. It’s that strata, and that’s not a critique of them, it’s just trying to think about, anyway, what I was going to say is that, yeah, Chomsky, I think, he gets it right. It’s this carnival, it’s this spectacle, it’s this quadrennial kind of riotous kind of–And where you do you see the Black people who we look to for analysis of what’s going on? They’re not looking at what we’re talking about, and you’ve certainly delved into this and engaged this with a number of other people. Bill Fletcher. I mean, I look at Real News, I mean, I see these people really dealing with…
They’re looking on MSNBC, on CNN. They’re looking for that Black face, and more often than not they’re not addressing black issues. One exception I’ll say, in the last few weeks that I saw, that I was encouraged by, is a brother who’s kind of exiled from CNN, who’s been in TV One, and, man, when I saw Roland Martin take on Hillary Clinton on the issue of Black colleges, take on, I said, you know what? I think that’s somebody whose audience is Black, in part because of exile and part because of the design of being a Black space, who’s attempting to connect.
But that’s not uncritically, now, because you know me and Roland Martin have had our dust-ups. At the same time I’ve been on TV One talking, in part because at least I think what Roland is saying is, this is going to be a Black space, and I’m going to put some bougie negroes with some Black nationalists, and I’m thinking, now, who’s doing that? Jared Ball is doing that. Well, no, I mean, because you’re not going to exclude anybody who’s having the discourse, and you’re going to make them address the conversation, except you don’t have the cable platform that Roland has.
Now, the question to me becomes, how do you string all these things together so that Jared Ball shows up on TV One, Roland Martin, his people show up on iMixWhatiLike, and then, ultimately, but once you shift that, back to the metaphor, once you shift that pole and connect it to the Diop’s and the Ben-Jochannan’s and the political theorists, Jacob Carruthers and others, Charshee McIntyre, Marimba Ani, if you connect that, now you’ve got a problem. Why? Because CNN, MSNBC and [that’s] why the conversation is on the periphery. And that one thing about the periphery, this is classic Gramsci, hegemony is not going to give up its place. It’s going to absorb enough of resistance so that resistance will diminish, and incorporate that into their model, which is why people think Melissa Harris-Perry was radical when in fact she was just window dressing and had to admit it herself.
CARR: Well, she should’ve said one more word.
BALL: That’s right.
CARR: She should have added one more word to her missive against MSNBC. She said, I will not be your brown bobblehead. I agree. She just should have added one more word: anymore.
BALL: I mean she said, just real quick, on that, when she was on that stage a year or two ago with bell hooks–
BALL: She, there’s a brief moment where she acknowledges that her, you know, her freedom, so to speak, is limited, as she said, by the white man in charge.
BALL: So she was clear then.
CARR: She did.
BALL: I mean, so that’s why I was a little bit, you know, I had a sense of disingenuousness as I was, I took a sense of disingenuousness from her missive, as you talked about, because she knew all along what she was there for.
CARR: Sure, and [crosstalk] Joy Reid knows. But she slipped comfortably into the Sunday morning slot.
BALL: [interposing] Yeah, right. Right, so don’t act now like, you know, that’s why I like Yvette Carnell’s line about the negro whisperers.
CARR: The negro whisperers. And, of course, you had her in this space. Again, you’re going to have everybody had a conversation.
BALL: Yeah, we’re trying, we’re trying. You know, because part of what, well one of the roles I had hoped to want to play in working in any media is this extension of the work, as we talked about, of Listervelt Middleton and others, but extending the range of the debate or conversation within the African world, because these, being somewhat familiar with these different lineages and traditions it’s frustrating to see how limited the conversation can be, as if these traditions don’t exist, as if we have only this very narrow range of, you know, I guess mostly just safe, liberal kind of, you know, conversations, but the radical traditions, the broad range of the Africana world seems to be often left out, is really what I’m getting at.
So I did want to, you know, we had initially said we were going to talk a while ago we were going to do a tribute to Clarke and Diop, their birthdays being very close to one another. Scheduling, I think, rather, whatever, got involved–
CARR: –Yeah, that snow hit. Because we was on it, [crosstalk] but then–
BALL: [Interposing] But, at the same time, it’s always appropriate to talk about them, in part because of what they represent in terms of this range of ideas. So, if we could just take a moment, you know, we’ve mentioned them, and I know, as you do, when you talk about these folks you bring up a lot of others that have influenced them or worked with them. But, could we say a couple of words about John Henrik Clarke and Cheikh Anta Diop? Who were they and how does their work still fit within the work that you’re doing, or inform the work that you’re doing, or what would you want to say if we were introducing them to a few people in our audience?
CARR: Wow. That’s a, man, that’s a great question.
BALL: And I will, while he’s thinking of that, check out iMixWhatiLike.org, we’ll make it available, his Requiem for a Timekeeper presentation so many years ago on Dr. John Henrik Clarke, which I still think is one of the best presentations I’ve seen. But yeah, particularly if you’re talking to folks who are engaging in Black Lives Matter or activism for maybe the first time, or thinking about their Africanness, maybe, in a new way or for the first time. What do these two men, in particular, maybe signify or represent as part of that journey or that process?
CARR: That’s a great question, Jared, and you know, every time we’ve had a variation of this conversation I always encourage you and, for the record, to publish that, what began as a master’s thesis that you wrote on John Clarke, and I guess we’ve been threatening for years to try to put something together on Clarke to contribute to that, and we should, man, because you know, that piece, including all the documentary work that you did in retracing those genealogies, is one of if not the most useful piece. I know there’s some other pieces, I know [inaud.] wrote a book and some other folks wrote books, but what you do is allow him to speak for himself and you build those communities around him.
And that’s what it’s about, brother. What you did is what it’s about. I mean, so, if someone is listening or watching now and saying, who are these guys, man? Who is John Henrik Clarke? Who is Cheikh Anta Diop? That’s a different category. I would encourage folks to read. So a young person is, like, I don’t know. Okay, so then you should be writing down D-I-O-P and first name C-H-E-I-K-H and just go look him up. Y’all have the internet now, so it’s not like when we were coming up [audible laughter]–
BALL: –Right, right–
CARR: –We’re talking like old fogeys. You realize Youtube is only about a decade old, right? So it ain’t like this is a long time ago, man, when we coveted those audio, as you talk about and write about, you coveted those audio tapes–
BALL: –Yeah, man–
CARR: –And those video tapes. This is before CD and DVD–
BALL: –That’s right.–
CARR: [inaud.] tapes, now. That’s a global panic, right? [audible laughter]
BALL: Get the tape together–
CARR: –Oh my god! [audible laughter]–
BALL: –Pencil in the date–
CARR: –Yo! Damn!–
CARR: [inaud.] about to lose generations of knowledge–
CARR: –So y’all can do that. Y’all can read, and John Clarke, you know, C-L-A-R-K-E, Clarke, you can read, and that’s important. You Google him, you’ll see. But, and I almost say equally important, but it can be equally important, Hampâté Ba, I talk about this with my students a lot, man. You know, we’ve talked about it many times, and UNESCO, the UNESCO General History of Africa, the volume on methodology has a chapter called “The Living Tradition.” These cats are in a living tradition. We’re part of that tradition. We’re part of that tradition because, you know, while neither of us met Cheikh Anta Diop, you know, I spent almost a decade in John Henrik Clarke’s circle interacting with him, you know, a brother who is deep in our intellectual formation, who I look at as an intellectual father figure, who you look at as an intellectual father figure, but who I never had the opportunity to sit with an extended range.
I encountered him, you know, consistently in other spaces, but you sat with this brother, man, as a son of John Clarke, James Turner. And, you know, James Turner is like a father to you in a different way than he is to me. You know what I’m saying? A close connect–That’s what Hampâté Ba is talking about, and before we think that this is a conversation that’s heavily gendered, you know, we have Vivian Gordon, we have Charshee McIntyre, we have Marimba Ani. You know, these are women who, again, we’ve interacted with, who sew and tighten our fabric.
Hampâté Ba says, in other words, this genealogy we’re talking about is a living genealogy, and if some folks haven’t heard those names, particularly the names of the sisters, then they’ve got to go out there and read, because now many of them are ancestors. Marimba isn’t, she’s alive and well and swinging both fists, right? Frances Cress has become one, somebody we knew and interacted with, so you’ve got to read her or watch her, now that you can.
But I guess what I’m saying is that, you know, for an introduction, the two that you mentioned, both men born in the winter months, December right into early January, Dr. Clarke’s birthday, Cheikh Anta Diop in Senegal, Diourbel, Senegal, 1926 I guess it was, which is 11 years after John Clarke is born in Alabama, soon to migrate to Columbus, George. These two men were historians. In both cases they come out of a culture and a tradition that valued the text. In Cheikh Anta Diop’s case, of course, he comes out of the Mouride tradition, the scholarly tradition of West Africa.
You know, the Muslims would call them the Sufi Muslims. These are the people who, yes, they pray to the East, but they’ve got some Africans that they value. So, yes, I’m going to make my Hajj, but I’m never going to forget the man that fought the French in the 19th century, Cheikh Amadou Bamba, so, you know, these are people of the book, you know, and Cheikh is expected to be a scholar in that tradition. So he grows up in that deeply African, Muslim culture, so by the time it’s time for him to go to school he understands, I’ve got to be a scholar. I’ve got to be part of the thinking class, so when he eventually makes his way to Paris he’s coming with this nationalist sensibility.
So he’s a young man, his early twenties, when he’s looking around at the formation of the African world in the wake of World War II, and he’s seeing African people begin to think about themselves in terms of nations, and he’s looking at what’s going on in Europe and he says, well, when can we speak of an African Renaissance, you know? So he writes this as a student.
You see John Clarke, his people down in Alabama don’t have that Mouride tradition, but they still value the book, education. And so, while they, his family doesn’t have that capacity to help saturate him in that, they release him from the hard labor of debt peonage in the South and make sure that his education continues in those little segregated schools in Columbus, Georgia, as he comes through. And he latches onto teachers like Elevina Taylor, his grammar school teacher, who’s like, I want you to believe in yourself. be your best self.
And so they start implanting him early, while we may not know exactly what it looks like, we know that you, we call you Fess. What is that? Little ‘fessor, professor. You’re the professor. So we’re going to give you the clock and keep time while everybody else is out there laboring under the day. THey’re going to hate you for, but just stay with me, we’re going somewhere with this. So by the time he hops a train to get the hell out of Alabama because he has read in a volume called “The New Negro” by Alain Locke an oracle by a Black Puerto Rican with a German name, Arthur Schomburg, it says the negro has a past–He says, I’ve got to go find this guy because they’ve been lying to me down here, man.
He said, I’m going to the World’s Fair in Chicago, the trains get switched up, he ends up in New York, he goes to see Schomburg, and for the rest of his life he spends his life looking for the missing pages in world history. And in that search he infected us, because when we first encountered him we didn’t know him physically. We read what he wrote. We read what he wrote after he got out of the army in the 1950s and ’60s and he went to Africa and he saw his friend Kwame Nkrumah, who had been in New York wait-keeping among the Ga people, the great chiefs of Africa, and he’s publishing for the Pittsburgh Courier. By the 1960s he’s been working in after school programs and teaching and stuff. This is a guy without a formal degree as of yet.
He infects James Turner. as James Turner said, I’m out here running these streets in New York, man, this negro put books in my hand and changed my entire life.
BALL: That’s right.
CARR: Now Turner, of course, is being heroic because that’s what heroic figures do in the living tradition. That’s why Ba writes about. There’s the history that happened, and then there’s the history you tell yourself to inspire yourself. James Turner is being very modest, as you know. [audible laughter]
BALL: That’s right.
CARR: You know what I’m saying? John Clarke may have changed your life, but you had an incredible life before John Clarke, but it’s heroic. That’s the genealogy. So Turner then goes on, acquires all those degrees John Clarke didn’t have the opportunity to acquire, and when he ends up at Cornell University he brings John Clarke up there, man, to lecture. I mean, you’ve got a library named for John Clarke at Cornell. You know, the only thing important to Negroes that happened in Cornell before James Turner gets up there is basically a handful of negroes was tired of white people messing with them so they started Alpha Phi Alpha.
CARR: Which is important, you know what I’m saying? No hate, now, [crosstalk, inaud.]
BALL: Right, right.
CARR: Yeah. I don’t know no Black Greeks. I know some Blacks who were in Greek letter organizations, now, I’m one of them, but Alpha Phi Alpha was the only one. But I joined Alpha because they had a Sphinx on the cover of the history book, brother, and when I opened it it had Martin Luther King and Paul Robeson and I said, oh, mean, Duke Ellington, I wanted to be in that one. It’s funny where we find genealogy. So anyway, I’m kind of going around the point to make the point–
BALL: –Which is what Clarke used to say–
CARR: It’s Clarke, man. That’s Clarke.
BALL: [crosstalk] I’m going to talk around the subject to talk about the subject.
CARR: [crosstalk] Going around the subject to talk about the subject.
CARR: So when you see John Clarke coming out of Alabama entranced and enthralled by those scholars who he never had a chance to follow, in terms of their paths, like Dubois, an Alpha but only an Alpha because the Alphas went back and got him, because genealogy is important. There wasn’t no Alpha Phi Alpha chapter at Fisk when he was there. Clarke is respected by those guys, but he’s not part of that kind of bourgeois academic formation, not completely. He can walk in those circles. He’s kind of on the periphery. He’s closer to those who he was also friends and sometimes combatants with, like Harold Cruse, who he came through.
I mean, Clarke, as I said, he’s a self-professed socialist. He’s with Jack O’Dell, he’s with Esther Cooper Jackson and James Jackson, who he falls out with. All those intellectual formations inform him, so by the time he gets to the late 1960s Clarke is approaching now past middle age, really. I mean, he lives a lot longer, until 1998–
CARR: –But that last 30 years he becomes elevated and venerated by those who have come after him, like James Turner. Like Leonard Jeffires, like Tony Martin, like Anderson Thompson, all those people, like Marimba Ani, like Charshee McIntyre, who connect him, like Rosalind Jeffries, and they become almost his lieutenants. THey’re the ones who call him professor. Eventually he gets that PhD and he’s Dr. Clarke. But he was Dr. Clarke like Dr. Ben, another person born in that quarter.
He then becomes a professor at Hunter College, and for the rest of his life he’s seen as this academic who is also connected to the community, I mean, we could talk about all his work with, you know, the Pan-African congresses, his formation of the African Heritage Studies Association. He’s a founding director of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations, his African Bookshelf work. I mean, he did so much work, Freedom Ways, I mean all those kind of things. Black World, he’s writing–
BALL: –And wrote poetry, too.
CARR: –Oh, man, “Rebellion in Rhyme,” right! You know what? I’m so glad you said that, Jared, because as you know, and as your readers will learn now, listening as they read, Clarke said, you know, I wanted to be a writer.
BALL: That’s right. He was trying to be down with the Harlem Renaissance.
CARR: That’s what he was doing, yeah.
BALL: That’s right.
CARR: And so he–I’ve got to be in New York, right. Gets to New York, man, when Clarke gets to New York in 1933, long enough to spend some time with Schomburg before he passes away a few years later, he becomes friends with all those people we know: Langston Hughes, Zora Hurston, all the funny stories he used to tell about how his buddy John Jackson from South Carolina, one of the great unqualified geniuses of the 20th century–
CARR: You know, how John Jackson used to try to evade Zora Neala Hurston and tell him stories about how, man, every time I see Zora she’s asking me for money.
CARR: This is the living tradition. Clarke grew up in that tradition and then, of course, comes to the 1950s, the persecution of Dubois and a man who was a hero to him, Paul Robeson. You know, I mean, Paul and Eslanda Robeson being persecuted. John Clarke lived that whole piece, and then he just empties all that stuff into James Turner, into Marimba Ani. And so, by the time they emptied their souls into our work, because we know them and knew them, we’re carrying on their work, which means we’re grandchildren of John Clarke.
And so for the people, finally, who are writing now, who are now finding it interesting to sniff around the periphery of that discourse, and I’m, because many of them are our friends. You read the recent Boston review you see our friend Robert Kelley writing about Black study and study groups and Cedric Robinson, all that’s very important, brother, and we’re out with you. You’re a New Yorker, I mean, you know all about that.
You mention John Clarke, although in Transition Magazine you write about, you know, the funeral and the self-made, angry man in the New York Times, it’s hard to straddle the fences all the time. As Gil Scott-Heron said about Gerald Ford, it’s hard to be in the middle all the time. So, I mean, I think sometime as people get to old age or older age they decide to be radical because they figure they got fewer breaths left, so they can just say, you know, fuck y’all, and leave.
CARR: What happens then? [inaud.] the very end, you know, even Jesse Owens, man, they sent Jesse in to critique them negroes in ’68 and he [balls], and then at the end of his life he writes a book, “I Have Changed.” Okay, brother, I ain’t mad at you. You know, they’re going to wait 40 years and make the movie, “Race.” You know, hell no.
CARR: See, that’s the thing about the movies. Man, James McBride has a new book that just came out. Oh, my god. It’s called “Kill ‘Em and Leave.” I just bought it. It’s about James Brown. He spent the last 10 years tracing James Brown. He went to Georgia, South Carolina, he said I’m just sitting in the old Black cafes, man, listening to people talk about James Brown. It’s the best book on James Brown I’ve read, man. He destroys the movie. He says it’s 40 percent myth and it was Mick Jagger. He said Mick Jagger’s been trying to kneecap James Brown since James Brown showed him up on that stage, that [inaud.] stage–
BALL: –When he uses, by the way, when Jagger uses that moment in the documentary to make the point that that showing up never happened.
BALL: So to make the point, even if Jagger is correct, it has at least been in his consciousness that people have been making that claim all those years.
CARR: McBride writes that, compared to what James Brown did that night, the Rolling Stones sounded like a garage band. To me they always been a garage band, even in their obsession of Black women, with “Brown Sugar” and all that other stuff, man.
BALL: Just, real quick, even as a fan of some rock ‘n’ roll–
CARR: –Me too–
BALL: –They are not nearly [crosstalk] the talk of the list.
CARR: [interposing]–Oh, I’m a fan. I’m a fan.
BALL: I’m not a big Rolling Stones fan. [Crosstalk] I think they’re overrated.
CARR: The Stones is not, they’re completely overrated.
BALL: Them and the Beatles are the most overrated–
CARR: –Come on, man. Twang, twang, twang.
BALL: Yeah, I said it.
CARR: If y’all don’t think we beefing, go listen to some damn Robert Plant, [crosstalk] go to Queen–
BALL: [crosstalk]–Oh, no question–
CARR: –Come on, it ain’t like we’re saying that just because we’re listening to the Black stuff, although Hendrix and them might say–
BALL: Oh, well, I mean, that’s another–
CARR: That’s it, though, right?
BALL: Jimi and then, yeah.
CARR: Which actually is, what y’all watching, this is John Clarke. These are John Clarke’s grandchildren having a John Clarke conversation, because if you think we’re going off topic, let’s bring it back to genealogy, you had Jimi Hendrix playing with Sun Ra and them guys, man, meaning what? Now Sun Ra’s from Alabama, Birmingham, right? Same kind of general place, if you a little bit farther south, where John Henrik Clarke is from, which ultimately means, all these are iconic figures that are drawn onto our culture. What Clarke would have you understand is that Black people are connected, and that what we’re talking about looks like it’s a long, wide-ranging conversation, but it’s got one central thesis.
We are a family, and we have to weaponize our familyhood and our culture, which is Clarke’s point, to ensure our liberation. As he would always say, the question is, how will our people stay on this earth? And our people won’t stay on this earth by worshipping at the fountain of Mick Jagger or white publications or white intellectuals or Black intellectuals trying to please white intellectuals, which is why some people for the first time may be, I didn’t know about John Henrik Clarke. Right.
GREG CARR: Finally, Cheikh Anta Diop, which we were saying, moving in parallel development, comes along, and so by the 1950s he has achieved the highest form of academic licensure he can get writing about ancient Egypt and the Black identity of ancient Egypt, because he has now said, this is going to be my life’s work.
JARED BALL, TRNN: So, just to give him credit, Bashi just had a great question that he wanted us to deal with. This parallel and connection between the Negritude movement and the Harlem Renaissance that both Clarke and Diop were, in various ways, associated with. [crosstalk] Talk a little bit about that.
GREG CARR: [interceding]–Yes, yes.
Very interesting. So we see the Negritude movement is, in some ways, a Francophone, African world, or Africans who speak French, because I hate putting Francophone in front of it.
BALL: Right, right.
CARR: But the African French world’s attempt to begin to generate this African identity based on understanding that there are connections and parallels, similar to the Harlem Renaissance, or what the Africans in it would have called the New Negro Movement. They said, this is the new negro. The new negro knows no fear, the Garvey people, Alain Locke, who is let go from Howard University by the last white president of Howard, and in that period that he’s not here he finally has time, and you know we appreciate this, as Black college professors, say, why don’t they write more?
BALL: Yes sir.
CARR: Because we’re actually teaching the students that y’all write about teaching. So, at any rate. You know, oh, we need to have radical pedagogy. [crosstalk] Yeah, why don’t you–
CARR: Come on, brother.
CARR: Four-four was really kind of like a eight-eight in the places where these negroes are writing about radical pedagogy, or twelve-twelve, brother. Twelve trading twelves, y’all know what that’s about? Y’all talk about that Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray, let’s trade some twelves, brother. The twelve bar blues, not even the six, or come on now. Let’s be clear. So while we’re doing that, it’s hard to write when you’re actually engaging the students that y’all write about we need to teach.
BALL: Right, right. That’s very real.
CARR: You know, man, they got rid of him, and he spent that close to two years putting together that anthology that became “The New Negro.” Mordecai Johnson hires him back, and the rest is history. I’m not saying you can’t do them both, I’m just saying.
So, but that’s the New Negro Movement that becomes the HarlemRenaissance. New ways of expression, new ways of connecting. Intergenerational beef. So the Black Lives Matter folks are saying, oh, you old people don’t have–Okay, why don’t you go back and read “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain?” Read Langston Hughes and read Zora Neale Hurston and read how they’re chafing against some of the stuff of their elders and saying, I just want to be free to write about everything. Free to be colored and everything else, right?
Or even the radical folks who considered themselves more radical than the old people. Can you imagine E. Franklin Frazier and Ralph Bunche beefing with Du Bois because they said the old man’s not radical enough? I mean, this is the, you know, and now we go back, oh Black Lives–Look, look. It’s one thing to speak, I think, out of ignorance but want to know more. It’s another thing to embrace ignorance like a warm blanket and go out there shouting slogans because you don’t want to know. Listen, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, first of all, they’re not the same person.
CARR: Second of all, have made some heroic contributions to the forward movement of our people. Third of all, are as deeply flawed as the people who are pointing out their flaws–
CARR: –And, finally, are completely unknown to generations of people who stand very proudly and critique and know very little, and if you put a gun in their head and said, I’m sorry, but i’m going to have to blow your brains out if you can’t name who Eleanor Bumpurs is, who Yusef Hawkins is, if you can’t tell me about Michael Stewart and graffiti, if you can’t tell me, oh my god, [inaud.] that’s the Trayvon Martin of 30 years ago.
BALL: I’m guilty of that too.
BALL: Because I’m extremely critical of Sharpton and Jesse, [crosstalk] but I do know of that history.
CARR: [interposing]–We all are!
BALL: And Sharpton–
CARR: –But see, you can do that.
BALL: And to be fair, but I think you make a good point. To be fair, at least to history, if not to the man, Sharpton did play a large role in exposing people of my generation and around our age group to these crises–
CARR: –That’s right.–
BALL: –To reminding us of these crises, so, you know, [crosstalk] but I hear your point.
CARR: [interceding]–But I ask them–
No, but I’m glad you said that, though, Jared, because this is what I’m saying. Those who are listening now, whose interest is piqued, who are in this moment, will listen to what you said and say, okay, I need to do that. Listen to what I’m saying and do that. Those who are in the movement but completely unconcerned with this conversation will just say, yeah, I’m with Jared Ball. He’s critical of them. No, no, did you hear what he said?
Because if you don’t understand that Al Sharpton, Al Sharpton is that dude that everybody hates until you need him. [audible laughter]
BALL: Right. Clarke, I think called him, I think Clarke said the importance of people like Sharpton is that they sound the alarm.
CARR: THat’s right, he’s the fireman. He’s not the fireman, he sounds the alarm, [crosstalk, inaud.]
BALL: [interceding]–They don’t have the solution, they don’t have the analysis, but they at least ringing the bell, like–
CARR: –It’s a fire!–
BALL: And when I finished laughing at fat Al with the long hair and the [inaud.]–But after the laughter was at least, okay, but he was marching for Eleanor or for whoever [crosstalk], you know, so–
CARR: [interceding]–That’s right.
You know what’s funny, man? I’m glad you said that, because I became aware of Al Sharpton in the late ’80s when I was in law school. We were in law school thinking we’re going to be Civil Rights lawyers, and I spent a summer in New York, 1989, and I was reading, still in my mind one of the great publications of that era, the newspaper edited by Utrice Leid called the City Sun, the Brooklyn City Sun. And that’s when I went, this Al Sharpton dude, man. But he was with C. Vernon Mason and Alton Maddox, who were lawyers. And so we were like, and then when the Tawana Brawley case broke, now, you know, people out there, who is Tawana Brawley? Well Tawana Brawley claimed that these white dudes had [crosstalk] brutalized her sexually–
BALL: [interceding]–police officers.–
CARR: –Police officers, right? Now it came out later that it may have been fabricated? But to Sharpton, Maddox and Mason that wasn’t the issue.
CARR: The issue was Black women getting brutalized all the time. And if you think we’re going to trust the police to do an [investigation] you’re crazy, right! So they wouldn’t let Tawana Brawley talk to the police, which infuriated the entire city of New York and ultimately the country, but Black people are standing on one side like, that’s right! That was in the late ’80s, and as law students we’re looking at, well who the hell is Al Sharpton and Vernon Maddox and this guy C. Vernon Mason?
So we invited Vernon Mason to speak at the Black law students’ banquet. Ohio State went crazy. The law school’s, oh, this guy is anti-semitic. Well, hold on, where is this semitic stuff coming in, man? Because in Brooklyn there had been a case where a motorcade from some very orthodox jews, ultra orthodox jews, had gone through Brooklyn, one of the cars had hit this little boy and his cousin and the little boy died and the police, the ambulance that came, that was a private ambulance that came–
BALL: –It was a private, Jewish ambulance that came [crosstalk] just for the Jewish victim, left the brother there.
CARR: [interceding]–That’s right, just for the victim, that’s right, yeah!
And so Al, here’s Al Sharpton on the scene like, what the hell? So now they’re going to say he’s anti-semitic. well, ultimately Alton Maddox is the one who came to speak, no, no, Vernon Mason is the one who came to speak to us, and he laid it out. Here we are, law students. at the time, he said, and y’all got to read this book. It wasn’t evidence, wasn’t constitutional law. It was a little, thin book by Tony Martin called, I mean Tony Browder, called “From the Browder Files.”
We’re like, we’re reading the Browder files, now. Oh my god! Anyway, I said all this because the question was about Negritude, right? How does all this connect to Negritude? Well, it’s very basic. The Harlem Renaissance had these intergenerational tensions, kind of like these critiques of Sharpton and Jackson and them, but together, when we look at a distance, that moment infused the idea that Black people must come together and that culture must occupy the center of that.
African culture, African-Caribbean culture, ancient Africa, contemporary Africa and all this new stuff you’re doing. This new music that we don’t really quite understand, in some ways maybe the hip-hop of that period, jazz. And not just any kind of jazz. We like dancing, but here come these cats with these funny hats and stuff, that’s Monk, you know what I’m saying, that’s Gillespie.
The Negritude movement forming in West Africa and the caribbean, even in Paris itself, it is being infected by this similar tension. Why, you’ve got continental Africans who’ve been taught that Africans have no history. So now they’re trying to recover their own history, these sisters, two sisters in Paris are editing this journal. They’re trying to come out, then you see Leopold Senghor, Aimé Césaire, they’re putting the Antilles and the so-called periphery of the colonies into Paris, and they’re meeting up from west Africa, and then, you know, Senghor is like we’ve got to recover Africa, man. Africa is emotional and Europe is reasoned, he said, man, you’re crazy. [inaud.]
Cheikh Anta Diop is taking all this in, even as he’s learning the Egyptian language. So he’s like, oh, no, we’re going to talk about the African Renaissance, and I agree with you all on this, but we need to connect our histories.
BALL: So when I had a class with the late Ali Mazrui at the Africana Center–So what I tell people is like, I didn’t go to Cornell, I went to the Africana Studies and Research–
CARR: –Right. Like Ta-Nehisi said, he didn’t go to Howard, he went to the Mecca.
BALL: Exactly, you know.
CARR: In fact, what did he call it, y’all called it like a Black college, really?
BALL: Yeah, well, like it’s been described, physically, geographically set apart, intellectually set apart from the campus. It was, you know, felt almost like a disengagement, and I thought appropriately, disengagement with the university proper. But anyway, in this class, Mazrui [inaud.], and I used to love how he would come in. And at the time, you know, I was a little younger, a little more aggressive, and I’d be like, ah, this old man, I mean, he’s so smart, and he’s nice, nice as hell, but he’s not radical enough. But he used to come in, just all quiet and reserved, you know, with a big smile on his face, and he’d come in with the old yellow pad notepaper, just pages and it looked like he’d been using them for years.
He broke down, as he summarized it for us, he said Senghor’s Negritude versus Diop’s approach to Africanity was, he said the difference, he described it as, Senghor was saying, we don’t have what European civilization has, and we don’t need it. And Diop said, we may not need it, but we also had it.
BALL: Everything that Europe claims it has, we had it. Now, we don’t need it, but we had it. And Senghor was like, well, we didn’t have it, but we also didn’t need it, so.
CARR: Yeah, yeah. That’s critical. You know what, Jared, I’m glad you said it, and I’m glad you connected it to Mazrui, and I’m glad you connected it in the way you did. For folks watching this, what you just heard was the living tradition. You could read Ali Mazrui, and you must read Ali Mazrui, but to have sat with Ali Mazrui and to [have] experienced him, because it’s interesting how you prefaced that. See, it was interesting listening to the great Yoruba scholar, particularly of Wándé Abímbọ́lá. Abímbọ́lá said in some ways that writing killed literacy, because he said, when you write and focus on the text, he said, it become s very difficult to think about things and memorize them.
He said he’s had american students who want to study Odu Ifá, and he says they come to him, and after several weeks they express a real frustration because it’s difficult for them to memorize the Odu, in part because they’re so used to orienting what they know to the word on the page that leaving that word aside and just deep listening makes it very difficult to retain. But you’ve read Mazrui ’til your eyes bleed. You have qualifiers you’ve written. At the same time, when you told that story you began with who he was.
BALL: Yeah, yeah.
CARR: He’d come in the room, big smile on his face in other words you took us all back to, now we’re all sitting there imagining this pad and imagining this guy, and I’m saying, and then you said, and this is what he said, meaning what? All these years laters it’s fixed in your mind. You didn’t have to look in a book, you know what I’m saying? THat’s the living tradition, and that’s why I think it’s so important for our young people to spend time with each other, absolutely, I think that’s what these intellectual formations allow, these Black Lives Matter. People are getting to spend time with each other. That physical time cannot be displaced.
It’s also important to spend time with your elders. The elders must listen, but please don’t mistake the fact that the elders must speak. Because what you’re listening to is what the ancient Egyptians would have called my heart at different ages. Because they were the age you were and they had the beef you had, and now they’ve learned something else, and so what you’re supposed to do is sit there and engage them, certainly, critique and engage, but you’ve got to listen more than you talk, not just because it’s polite, you do that in formations, no. Because those old people got something to tell you, because they’re going to be out of here in a minute.
CARR: And if you think that that’s not true, you wait ’til you get old a young person is saying, you’re a sellout, and they’re not listening to you, you know what I’m saying? Let me tell you what your enemy does. They have learned that lesson. They have learned that lesson. So that you have an absolute enemy of African people, and enemy of the poor, a rank, populist, racist nationalist named Ronald Wilson Reagan who you can never say anything bad about, who behind closed doors they will critique and say, yes, his supply side economics was ridiculous, and yes, he bankrupted the country and [inaud.]. But when you come out front, Ronald Reagan is God and you negroes better bow.
But they understand the value of genealogy.
BALL: I just got to say again, my favorite part, every time somebody brings up Reagan, he died on my wedding day, and we raised a glass [audible laughter]–
CARR: –That’s the greatest present, brother, that’s right! Toast a glass, and if y’all don’t like it y’all better be smarter than us if you want to argue about it. But, damn it, if you want to defend Ronald Reagan you’d better read to the gills coming up, because we’re [crosstalk] going to cut your whole head off.
BALL: [interceding]–No, there’s a deep reservoir of experience behind that raised glass–
CARR: –Cheers, on your wedding day–
BALL: –Yeah, on my wedding day.
CARR: I remember where I was, man, I wasn’t doing anything nearly as holy or sacrosanct, brother. I was in Knoxville, Tennessee for the Children’s Defense Fund with their Freedom Schools program doing some training and, you know, Freedom Schools at this time was over 1000 young people, college students from all over the country, and a lot of elders, because a lot of Freedom Schools at that time were in churches, so a lot of the elders who helped the Freedom Schools by giving money to the church folk, so they were too. I was doing a workshop, and I went back to my presentation, I was doing a powerpoint, and I put in a slide on Reagan to eviscerate him before we started.
After it was over we had this long couple of hours in there. The elders in the room came to me and said, thank you. Thank you, because that man was so–While you were raising the glass it was a lot of old Black people in this country. So y’all think Ronald Reagan is a hero? The only reason you think he’s a hero and Black people, is because Black people ain’t saying nothing [audible laughter].
BALL: If ESPN sports announcers can just this past week reiterate the claim that Fidel Castro is Cuba’s Hitler–
BALL: –Then what is Ronald Reagan–
CARR: –Come on.–
BALL: –Not just to Black America, but to the world. What is George Washington? What is Thomas Jefferson? If that can be said, so, you know.
CARR: That’s right, [inaud.] that’s right.
BALL: But I wanted to let you complete that circle, if you haven’t already, on Negritude and the Harlem Renaissance, because as we’ve used, or are using Diop and Clarke as sort of anchor points for this discussion, they send us in so many–
CARR: –Well let’s see, can we tie all that together? In fact, now this will be the challenge, right? Clarke would be sitting here saying, now how am I going to weave Ronald Reagan into this conversation? Well, now it’s easy, right? Reagan, who comes to American notoriety in the 1940s with the monkey movies, “Bonzo” and them, B-movies, as Gil Scott-Heron called him, in addition to the gladiator invader of Grenada. He called him, you know, he’s a B-Movie actor, right?
CARR: I mean, man, Gil Scott-Heron is a genius of the age, man. I love y’all [inaud.] and you love Hov and them, but y’all listen to Gil, you put that other stuff down, and that ain’t just generational. A hundred years from now, history will be the judge. We ain’t got to beef about it. History will be the judge so, you know, H-to-the-izzo, that’s nice. And if you think that’s because he was older than Jay-Z, he did “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” was he 19?
CARR: 20 years old? So let’s be clear, this ain’t just about, you know, oh he was older. No, he wasn’t older, he was younger, in fact, than that old man doing hip-hop. But anyway, Reagan, man, who comes out of that period, is transformed by the Cold War into a heroic, anti-communist champion. The Negritude movement, in some ways the political dimension of the Negritude movement represented [inaud.] by Senghor, who winds up taking over in Senegal, is also politicized by this emergent Cold War tension, because then you see the African nations taking their independence in the late ’50s and early ’60s who are now allegedly having to choose between the Soviet Union and the United States, and so you have the non-aligned movement emerge, the Bandung, so-called Bandung Consensus and this kind of thing.
Senghor, buffeted by these tensions, is trying to balance, and Cheikh Anta Diop, meanwhile, who writes a book called “Black Africa: The Basis of a Federated State,” is thinking about this question of, how do we not pick sides but use Africa at the center? The politics get so thick in Senegal that Diop says, I’m going to run for office. I’m going to have my own political party, or at least I’m going to have my own political party, Senghor puts him in jail, because Senghor is not just a politician thinking about the future of Africa. He’s now a political figure who’s got to deal with these phone calls from Moscow and DC and Beijing, so he’s looking at Cheikh Anta Diop as kind of a radical kind of departure.
Why is that important to Negritude? Because what started as a cultural conversation infuses the politics, and culture has never been allowed to be a the politics of African state formation, which is what Cheikh Anta Diop was beginning to say, but he ends up putting him in jail for a while. Meanwhile, John Clarke, coming out of the Harlem Renaissance, the New Negro movement, is also thinking of, to use Fela Kuti’s words, culture as a weapon. Well, what does Fela have to do with this? If you look at even the documentaries on Fela, much less read Carlos Moore’s work or read Fela’s own words, he had his whole band, all the formations, Africa formation, the Egypt formation, they’re reading “Black Man of the Nile.” They’re reading John Henrik Clarke. They’re reading Cheikh Anta Diop. Y’all love Fela, then look at what Fela Said. Fela Said, I’ll make everybody in my band read this. And you see the table of books, man–
CARR: Like what Fela would say, using culture as a weapon, Clarke understood that, so even his analysis of the emerging African State formation, after having thought about it since the ’20s, well since before that, really, but in New York from the ’30s, having come through the formation with all the period that our buddy Lawrence Jackson refers to as the indignant generation, the people that fall out of the history, too, you know, all those writers. Everybody from Chester Himes, man, to, you know, it’s a lot of people writing in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, man. Richard Wright, who we could talk about, you know.
Thinking about that in the ’30s and ’40s, goes to the army, comes back, in the ’50s finally gets to Africa, 1958 or so. And so by the time these states are forming in the ’60s and then the 1970s, Clarke is like, the problem with African states is, they’re not African. They’re imitation European states, and they need to integrate the culture. In fact, as Clarke also said, right, until an African leader stands up and praises an African god in public we know that culture is not at the center of this conversation, right? So even those early cats like Obasanjo in his earlier iteration and them. These guys, Yoruba, y’all going go to the shrine and ask Ifá for guidance on this, but you’re never going say it in public, you know what I’m saying?
And so I guess what I’m saying is the parallel that develops between Negritude and what becomes the New Negro Movement and other cultural iterations is, the expiration of acculturation, the undiscovered country is yet to use culture to inform our politics, and that’s something we, Cheikh Anta Diop wrote about. That’s something John Clarke talked about, but it’s something ultimately we haven’t achieved, and here we are in this moment, Black Lives Matter, all these formations that are very important, that are not new in the sense of youth movement. I mean, that’s what SNCC was, you know what I’m saying? But, and that are drawing on the culture of the times. I mean, if the soundtrack to Black Lives Matter is hip-hop and all multiple platforms of culture production, we know the soundtrack of SNCC was the Black church, the Black college marching bands, and a hundred years from now I think that we will still hear the echo of those anthems, in part because culture keepers like Bernice Johnson Reagon made sure of that.
Now I don’t know what will come out of this formation, pun intended, but I think that, you know, [inaud]. to a hundred years from now I don’t know if we’re gonna talk about I got hot sauce in my bag, swag, but I know we will still remember with a smile when somebody breaks out “In the Mississippi River” of Governor Wallace. Protest music means something different now, because protest music came out of the struggle. It was not accessorized in the wake of the struggle. So I’m not saying that we won’t be necessarily having, that we won’t not have that wry smile on our face when we hear John Legend’s “When the Glory Comes,” but there’s something fairly soft about accessory music to movies. And when you’re talking about a culture that formed its culture out of social movement that’s a different kind of thing.
And you know, I’m not beefing with any of that crew. I’m just saying that the music in that culture is fairly, in my mind, inconsequential. so the Negritude movement, I think, came out of struggle. The New Negro Movement came out of struggle. There are labels, like Howard Thurman would say, you use a label to affix to something that you have no words for that allows you to move it around from place to place to place.
So the similar thing happens, then, with the Black arts movement. You know, what does the Black art [inaud.]? Well, this our Harlem Renaissance. Okay, fine, so what happens after that? Umm, I don’t know what the label is, now. Because when I think of hip-hop I don’t think of this moment. No shade on Kendrick. Love Kendrick, good brother. No shade on–It’s amazing how amnesia works. Amnesia now isn’t [inaud.]. You know, it isn’t about a decade. It isn’t generational in the sense of 20 to 25 years. Amnesia now is in two or three-year spurts.
BALL: Oh, yeah.
CARR: Because I’m like, well what happened to, what’s that boy that Cornel loves so much? Not Kendrick, Kendrick’s Kendrick from five years ago. What’s the boy’s name?
CARR: Lupe Fiasco.
BALL: –Lupe Fiasco–
CARR: –Exactly, you see? Generational amnesia, like, oh, look at Kendrick. What happened to Lupe? These things now, like, y’all forgot that quickly. Forget Gil, you know? Y’all ain’t never even heard of the Watts Prophets.
BALL: Yeah, but one of the things I think is important about, just raising that point about Lupe is one of the things that happens is, that he, you know, people do things like he goes on TV and says Obama is a terrorist–
CARR: –Right. You got to go.–
BALL: –And they hold up his album to the point where he’s considering suicide–
CARR: –Brother. Wow.–
BALL: –That’s what happens.
CARR: And not the first one.
BALL: [crosstalk] Absolutely not the first one.
CARR: [interceding] I’m gonna tell y’all, James McBride writes about this in the James Brown book. James makes the political turn and you see the whole state come for him. That’s when the IRS descends on him, man. In fact, it’s very interesting. He starts the book by saying, what he asks some of James Brown’s oldest running buddies, cats that’ve been knowing him 40 years, man, 50 years. He comes to them and says, look: What motivated James Brown” And he said it boiled down to one concept: fear.
James Brown was a southern, Black man. He understood that his success had to come by eliding white supremacy. So the stronger he got politically the more they came for him. Well James Brown would have suitcases with tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars stashed in places well, because they’re going to come for me. You know, he said that chase that they talk about in the movie never happened. No, he said it never happened or he said it was a little low speed kind of thing, but he said he never discharged a shotgun in his building for somebody using his bathroom. He said the shotgun didn’t even have a firepin in it. He came in [inaud.] He said James Brown was, by that time, operating in a sense of fear that he had always had with him because he said this [could] all be taken away.
So even when you mention Lupe, that happened to James Brown, no question. It happened to Paul Robeson. I mean, this is what happens when you stand.
BALL: My daughters were just looking at a video of Hazel Scott and I said, look how beautiful she is. They were like, oh, she’s beautiful. I said, look how talented she is on the piano. They’re, oh, she–Look how beautiful she is, and then they said, they were like, why isn’t she more famous? What happened to her? I said, because she took the wrong political [crosstalk] stance.
BALL: She stood up for her people.
CARR: Jared. First of all you’re raising them too revolutionary.
CARR: Y’all listening, y’all better raise some [inaud.] children, because these two going to be revolutionaries. They’re going to need some people. Number one, see y’all talking about Black Lives Matter! You know what, I know Black Lives Matter, I ain’t going to get into that. Can we [get race revolutionaries for] what happens after you realize that you matter to your damn self? I know you’re talking to other people but you’re really talking to yourself. That’s what Fanon would say. So that’s number one. Number two, we just showed the kids, you know every Friday we show a film around here and let them talk about it. The one we showed last week was the Nina Simone documentary where talks about what happened to [crosstalk, inaud.]–
BALL: [interceding]–Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
CARR: Oh, man. When Nina’s saying she wants to be the first great Black classical pianist and during the conversation we brought up Hazel Scott. Hazel Scott has disappeared from history. And what happens to Nina Simone? The same thing Happens to Hazel Scott. She takes that political turn, man, we love her. And her husband, who was a thug in many ways toward her, is mad at her because he says, and he talks about this in the film, right? He says, you know, she was mad because she wasn’t getting the money and the awards Aretha Franklin and them were getting, and I told her you singing them political songs.
BALL: Yeah, that’s right.
CARR: I don’t want y’all with them revolutionaries and, he called him terrorists, all them people right? So, I guess, this is such a rich conversation, so I guess what I’m saying is, you know, obviously coming from us spending some time together, always it’s good, man. In this conversation, as people are watching this I hope what you understand is what you’re watching is a living tradition.
We’re talking about stuff we read. We’re also talking about a living tradition because I’ll promise you, when we’re both dead and back to the dirt, this man’s children, grandchildren are going to be talking about how my great grandmother told me about the first time she saw Hazel Scott. That’s a living tradition, you know what I’m saying? And those of you who think you can’t get it, go find some old people and sit and ask them a question. you can get this.
BALL: So, look, I’m glad you mentioned James Brown because, look, the last question I wanted to raise involves Nixon.
CARR: Oh, yeah.
BALL: And we know the controversy where Brown, James Brown supports Nixon, but just revealed for some this past week, this admission from the Nixon administration that had been, what was it, [inaud.] published, actually said it in 1999 or something but it just came out in a story last week, that they knew that the war on drugs was a phony–
BALL: –Propaganda scheme to destroy and disrupt the Black movement. Black people were seen as an enemy, along with anti-war protesters. But they targeted Black people generally. It was anti-war protesters specifically because of their actions, but it was just Black people, period.
CARR: Yes sir.
BALL: You know, so I wanted to sort of use that as a way to wrap up this conversation, that this was an admission from the state. Not that we all needed it, but I think it’s still important.
CARR: Many of us need it.
BALL: Well, that’s true.
BALL: That there is, has been, this overt, understood, conscious, well maybe not overt but consciously understood attempt to destroy Black people in this country and around the world. So as we talk about some of these figures and some of the names, you know, for me at least the broader point is to remind of this struggle, remind of the overt nature, again, maybe not the overt nature but the clear design of the state itself and its desire to use culture propaganda, media, the misuse of history, education, et cetera, to disrupt the development of African descended people or African people around the world.
You know, we mentioned Reagan. for the generation before that Nixon was the Reagan, and now we see that leadership take new formentations, new pigmentation, new gender, perhaps. I don’t really, you know, what does that admission from the Nixon administration say to you, or how do you think we should maybe distill or interpret that right in this moment?
CARR: That’s very important.
BALL: And also, maybe as a reminder to the newer generation of activists, if they’re not clear, you know, if you’re wearing the Assata Taught Me shirt you need to–
CARR: –Yeah, what did she teach you?
BALL: Well, yeah.
CARR: –What is