Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010, 11:59 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

            First thing first I want to thank everybody who voted for Daily Lyrical Product in the RedEye Track-Off.  We won! We'll be in the RedEye on Thursday so if you're in Chicago definitely cop that. I was really touched that my friends and supporters were able to rally back and get the victory. So thanks.

            Today in my history tutorial we discussed the Natives' Land Act of 1913 that took a lot of land from Black Africans. We talked about if there should be reparations given to the people. Oh, you gotta love a good reparations talk. The tutor brought up the similarities between the South African and American questions of reparations but I was quick to point out a few key differences (time elapsed, size of population, miscegenation, etc.). It was an interesting topic and conversation.

            In my African Literature class we talked about the question of language in African literature. We discussed Franz Fanon and his chapter  "the Negro and Language." The whole question of whether an African could legitimately write in a colonial language (English, French, etc.) was an interesting one to me. I think it's because as a Black American poet I am preoccupied with language and its ramifications and I know that at some points I do feel that English, or at least standard English, is inadequate to express some things in my writing. Additionally, I've had the conversation with some other Black writers and I've found that iambic pentameter is very hard for me to grasp. As a kid I always did really well on vocabulary quizzes EXCEPT the part where we had to pick the syllable with the stress. Black English in America has a tendency to be more fluid than that rigid system so it never occurred to me that the stress HAD to rest at a particular place. That's one of the things you notice in rap, is that words change emphasis to fit a scheme or even an accent. Our language is dexterous to a fault. Iambic pentameter is supposed to mimic the pacing of actual speech but I think for Black folks it does the exact opposite. Not to say that I haven't done good work in it and there haven't been plenty Blacks who have been great traditionalists in the European sense (Brooks, Wheatley, and others). I just think that naturally our language has different patterns.

            My mama also called me today. It was a good call. I talked to her about my plans for the rest of undergrad and afterwards. She seems cool with it all. She asked me about where I was thinking of going to school for my Ph.D. I told her Northwestern was high on my list. Then she started talking to me about how her and my father are a lot more comfortable when I'm not in Chicago. She says the city is so dangerous and random now that it's better we're not around. On one level I feel her but I really feel like part of my calling in life is to reverse that trend. I talk so much mess about how Chicago is the greatest city in the world and it would be a terrible thing for me to gain so much from the city without reinvesting in it. I'm not saying that I alone can or will save the city, but it will take people with the will to do so to really affect change for our people back home.

"every interview i'm representing you, making you proud"

-kanye west




Aimee said...

Hey Nate,
Weird coincidence b.c. I just had the same exact discussion in class today (re: writers of African descent & colonial language) about Maryse Conde's book I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem. I have conflicted feelings about it. Esp. actually having the option to have a more-or-less "native" language (vietnamese) but then not really taking that option as a kid and trying to deny it for a long time. Never really put in the work to learn to read/write in a language that I suppose I "claim" in some sense. And it's clear that there are different patterns of thought encouraged by various languages--yet at the same time, it's possible to twist and reconfigure various languages, which is I think where English is going today...I've reached no conclusions so far.
Re: iambic, I just don't think people talk like that anymore. And I certainly suspect black culture plays a hand, both in individual cases and in the overall trajectory of American language/speech. (Also, side note did you know "ax" is actually the original, 18th-century pronounciation of the word "ask?" So it's not all remixing...) I think iambs imitate a certain cadence that used to exist and still does to a point, but now sounds a little strange. Which to some extent I think actually makes it more interesting--I'd rather listen to something that sounds a little weird than something totally "normal," if you know what I mean.
Anyway. Enjoying your thoughts.

Lonny Doddy She Likes to Pardy said...

1. I HATE coming back to this city and as much as I used to say I loved it, I no longer can say those same words if I leave it unchanged. That's a big reason why a part of me wants to go to U of C for grad school. So although I definitely agree with your mom, there's absolutely no way we can just run from it and turn our backs on it. To whom much is given, much is required.
2. Did Kuku tell you what our favorite Kappa Provost McCarty said about you?
3. I want to say a lot more about language but maybe we can just talk about it in person sometime when I'm in Cape Town between Oct 3-8??? Say no and I'ma smack yo butt in Nashville AND in Chicago. (Notice my usage of A.A.V.E. for more emphasis. )