Black Rage

In light of the recent events in Ferguson, Lauryn Hill released her powerful song “Black Rage” on SoundCloud last week. She has been performing the song live for years now but it is only recently that she has released a recording of the song. Lauren Hill describes the emotional song as an old sketch that was recorded in her living room (you can hear the voices of children in the background).

Modeled after “My Favorite Things” with with lyrics that cut deep, the piece bring to the forefront not just of the depth of Ferguson’s injustice, but its context. The lyrics can be found below.

BLACK RAGE is founded on two-thirds a person
Rapings and beatings and suffering that worsens,
Black human packages tied up in strings,
BLACK RAGE can come from all these kinds of things.
BLACK RAGE is founded on blatant denial
Squeezed economics, subsistence survival,
Deafening silence and social control.
BLACK RAGE is founded on wounds in the soul!

When the dogs bite
when the beatings
When I‘m feeling sad,
I simply remember all these kinds of things and then I don’t fear so bad!

BLACK RAGE is founded: who fed us self hatred,
Lies and abuse while we waited and waited?
Spiritual treason, this grid and its cages,
BLACK RAGE is founded on these kinds of things.
BLACK RAGE is founded on draining and draining,
Threatening your freedom to stop your complaining.
Poisoning your water while they say it’s raining,
Then call you mad for complaining, complaining.
Old time bureaucracy drugging the youth.
BLACK RAGE is founded on blocking the truth!
Murder and crime, compromise and distortion,
Sacrifice, sacrifice who makes this fortune?
Greed, falsely called progress.
Such Human contortion.
BLACK RAGE is founded on these kinds of things.

So when the dogs bite
And when the ceilings
And when I’m feeling mad.
I simply remember all these kinds of things and then I don’t fear so bad!

Free enterprise, is it myth or illusion?
Forcing you back into purposed confusion.
Black human trafficking or blood transfusion?
BLACK RAGE is founded on these kinds of things.
Victims of violence both psyche and body
Life out of context IS living unGodly.
Politics. politics
Greed falsely called wealth
BLACK RAGE is founded on denial of self!
Black human packages tied in subsistence
Having to justify very existence
Try if you must but you can’t have my soul
BLACK RAGE is made by unGodly control!

So when the dogs bite
When the beatings
And when I‘m feeling sad,
I simply remember all these kinds of things and then I don’t fear so bad!


My friends over at the Copper Nickel (a literary journal published by the students and faculty at the University of Colorado Denver) have recently launched Coin. Coin is an off-shoot site where you will find samples of work that have been published in Copper Nickel. These samples are accompanied by interviews, conversations, book-reviews, and audio and video presentations and documents that don’t fit well into the format developed for Copper Nickel.

The first issue includes poems from Dan Albergotti, Sandy Florian, Ed Pavlic, and Ginny Hoyle, Snezana Zabic’s essay “Meet Satan,” and a portfolio of work by and about Michael Copperman, specifically interesting are his comments in “Race, Authenticity, Culpability” accompanying his unconventional “It“.

Native Son

It has been said that Richard Wright’s writing is like a sledgehammer. If Native Son is a fair representation of the rest of his work, then I’d have to agree. It’s precise, simple, and sends a clear message that is solid, heavy, and hits hard, all with a lack of sentimentality. This is not only true of Richard Wright’s style but of his message. Granted his theory is a little abstract, but his general conception of the truth behind urban American class, race, and social relations is grounded in clear logic – white American society has responsibility for the oppression, racism, and segregation towards blacks, and if nothing is done about it, violent outrage is a definitive result. A result that has proven itself among exceedingly subjugated people the world throughout. It took Wright 391 pages to literally spell it out, but ultimately the story of Bigger Thomas is a story of oppression. The story and nearly all its main characters are aggressive, brutal and destructive each in their own way. The biblical quote at the beginning of Native Son, “Even today is my complaint rebellious, My stroke is heavier than my groaning.” from the book of Job, set the tone for the violence contained there in.

The plot involves itself with the actions of Bigger Thomas. Bigger is a young black man raised and living in Chicago’s black belt during the 1930’s. Bigger lives a life that is weighed down by poverty, racism, and fear. Bigger is a product of the injustices of society. After accepting a job as a driver for an affluent white family, Bigger finds himself in a situation where he feels no other choice but to murder the daughter of his employer. Bigger digs himself larger and larger holes by producing a falsely signed ransom note, and accusing the victims boyfriend, killing his girlfriend so she won’t rat him out (a scene that literally made my stomach drop). Bigger eventually gets found out, captured, brought to jail, and put on trial. Max, a leader in the communist party (and it is not surprising that Max is one of the only characters with any racial clarity considering Richard Wright was an active communist himself), acts as Bigger’s lawyer. It is only after trying to explain his feeling to Max that bigger realizes that his crimes are the only thing that have given meaning and energy to his previously aimless life, and he thus he goes to his trial unrepentant. Bigger believes that if a man were reduced to such a level that his only choice was to kill another, the taking of the life must have been for a valid reason, even if that reason isn’t well understood. Thus he deals with his fate stoically. While Bigger is on trial Max explains to the courtroom that Bigger’s actions were a byproduct of his oppression and ultimate fear. It is understood that despite the horrible oppression that consumed Bigger’s life, we know that he was ultimately the one responsible for his choices. As a result the reader feels little pity for Bigger. Wright’s genius was that, in preventing us from feeling pity for Bigger, he forced us to confront the hopelessness and misery of the society that gave birth to him. It is this part of the book that gets a little caught up with rhetoric. Somewhat like the “radio speech” in Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”, Richard Wright felt the need to pound the podium in order to drive home his point. Despite having slowed the pace of the novel a bit, it was entirely bearable (unlike Atlas Shrugged) and an important part in the understanding of Wright’s ideas.

An important book and an enjoyable read.

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