…Who Got the Flyest Chain

These cats drink champagne and toast death and pain like slaves on a ship talking about who go the flyest chain.

Talib Kweli &DJ Hi-Tek, African Dream from Reflection Eternal: Train of Thought.


One of the hauntingly breath-taking pieces from Polish artist Pawel Kuczynski.  Click here to see more of this amazing series.




275-5: Sister, Brother and Peter

maliWhen caught in the middle of a heated debate between two fervent Rastas, my suggestion is to commit to a continual nodding of the head.  This nod should not favour any particular argument, and should stay clear from showing signs of adoration  or disgust.  This was my strategy during a debate that occurred in a Rasta settlement outside of Bamako, Mali.

It was raining when I stepped into the taxi with Sister.  I remember the blur of busy street lights as the taxi meandered through muddy avenues. We stopped before exiting the city.  Sister steps out, and comes back in with a greasy paper bag full of grilled goat. “Eat” Sister says.  I oblige.

We reach the settlement and are greeted by three Rastamen.  Brother asks me to sit down with him as he prepares dinner; cassava mixed with canned vegetables.

“Are you hungry?” Brother asks.

“No, we ate.”

Brother looks at me and Sister, then smirks. “Grilled goat, eh?”


Sister retorts. “I know the man who raised, killed and prepared this goat.  I went to school with his daughters.  You know the man who put those beans in that can? Is he Koné? Coulibaly? Diallo?”  She kisses her teeth and looks the other way.

“Rasta don’t eat meat.” Brother mumbles, scooping up a portion of his I-tal stew before pressing the rewind button on the tape-recorder.  He presses play.  Peter Tosh sings. I am that I am.   The whole time, I have been nodding, not taking sides, just listening and pondering. Brother and Sister catch a glance of one another and smile.  The rain beats heavy against our tent as Peter speaks truth.


275-4: Black Gold, Black Power

Composting is the managed biological process that optimizes the conditions for microbes to break down organic waste in the presence of oxygen, transforming the organic waste into a versatile soil amendment primarily used to improve soil quality.

Composting, a stream of organics recycling, is location-specific, which physically ties the process to a limited circumference.  This differs from other recycling processes, where materials are shipped across oceans to be used or discarded.  The enforced circumference of organics recycling has people at its center and calls for greater stewardship and communal responsibility over the management of food waste.

The result of this process is compost also known as Black Gold. As communities of colour work towards self-determination, I believe that Compost can be a useful aid in reclaiming agency over oppressive living situations. The discipline of composting and the product that it yields can serve as a testament for communities to acknowledge their potential involvement in the food cycle.  Labelled as consumers, black communities if they so choose can identify themselves as producers, as agriculturalists  and in so doing, access more decision-making power  as to how their neighbourhoods flourish.

However, there is much work to be done to insure that organics recycling brings power to the people, and not get co-opted and green-washed by removed, capitalist interests.  This is hard.  Large-scale compost facilities tend to be built in struggling neighbourhoods often without consent from residents therein.  Traffic increases, pollution skyrockets all at the expense of the peoples’ health.

I do believe that organics recycling can be an integral step towards Afrikan Self-determination, symbiotically balancing black gold and black power all while resisting climate change and environmental degradation.

275-3: White Paint, Black Hands

The scenario happened as follows : 

In an effort to support the rooftop gardens of Radio Kayira of Mali, Canadians and Malians are working together to create what will hopefully become a model of urban agriculture and food sovereignty in the city of Bamako. Gardening techniques are shared, questions are asked; a Kodak moment of international cooperation. But behind the cheery smiles and sweaty brows, a more disturbing negative is developing. A young African animator decides to wash his hands of white paint in the water reservoir used to water the garden. A cloud of horror hovers over the Canadians.  They stand bewildered as the African casually washes his hands and contaminates the water with hazardous toxins. 

The foreigners (i.e.: the Canadians) look in dismay, some try to explain the situation, some shake their heads in disbelief. Our eyes point fingers at the sheepish culprit, his hands still submerged in the valuable liquid gold. Some of us even have the nerve to say what most of us are thinking. 

“What kind of ignorant person washes their hands and in the process contaminates their own water with toxins?” 

I pondered on the question for a while, trying to come up with a logical answer to the scenario. Miseducation is probably a good reason. Habit could be another. But then another less obvious but more prevalent question pops into my head: 

“What kind of shameless fucker makes toxic paint and puts peoples’ lives at risk just to make a profit?” 

Suddenly, the fingers are no longer pointing at the African. Suddenly, I can relate to the brother trying to clean his hands of the toxic white paint.

(edited from a Journal entry written in August 2009)

275-2: Black Green Consciousness

A greater enlightenment of the environmental consciousness of Black peoples living within capitalist nations is the necessary harbinger for solid actions towards true environmental sustainability.  White environmentalists cannot fully strategize for worldwide environmental stewardship without acknowledging the active role that white society continually plays in dehumanizing indigenous cultures by the fundamental reality of exploiting lands and waters. Once they have patted themselves on the back for humble declaration of their privilege, the white environmentalist should then take the extra step and stand the fuck down so that the victims of environmental racism can find solutions that work for them.  Afrikans of the diaspora, like the rare metals of the earth and the biodiversity of the waters, have lived through and continue to be the victims of the most violent environmental atrocities, atrocities backed up by ill-thought out policies that prioritize profit.  Many cultures across the world  have been manipulated, indoctrinated, accosted and bamboozled by academics, missionaries and governments all of whom want nothing else than to secure their own social position and economic superiority.  Displaced Blacks have suffered a particular offence by being ripped from their land and exploited through slavery. Today, it is the chains of waged labour, over-consumption and environmental indifference that keep us in bondage.

However, like Mother Nature, Blacks are resilient. We must resist following the allure of the thoughtless greed machine and understand how we are connected to land, air and water.  We must understand that we cannot afford (nor should we seek) the false luxury of over-consumption that media titillates our senses with.  It is bad for our health and our earth.  We must act and find a different way.

275-1: Polar Bears and Planes

“Fuck your polar bears.”

He placed the emphasis on the profanity; his central incisors catapult the stinging statement off of his bottom lip and it hits the target at the front of the room.  He looks back at his crew; their skinny bodies crouched over the gaming system.  They glance back and grin, then move their eyes to the facilitator at the table and smirk.  The smirks hurt more than the curse.

The facilitator shuffles through her cue-cards, gleaning for material she feels would be better suited for the group of teens.  She nervously flips through diagrams of dishevelled polar bears trapped on melting icebergs,  of colourful arrows depicting the imminent  crash of environmental cycles .  The thumping bass of the speakers increase her heart rate and she drops a few of the cards on the linoleum floor of the drop-in centre.

“Jay’s black ass don’t even know what a polar bear looks like!” Another retorts. This time the boys let out exaggerated wails.  Jay resolutely arches his back and fakes a yawn.  He doesn’t deny or confirm the remark.

The facilitator regains her composure and decides to end the workshop early.  She leaves a stack of evaluation forms for the youths to fill out, and encourages them to take the time needed to answer all the questions.  A sheepish smile decorates her rosy cheeks and she slides out of the room into the hallway order to respect confidentiality.  “Yo miss, I figured out how I can re-use!” The excited voice lured the facilitator back into the den.   The tip of a pointy paper airplane crashes into her stunned face.  The uproar is now uncontrollable.