12 Years a Slave wasn’t about Rebellion. Would you have liked it any more if it was?

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I have been championing 12 Years since before it hit the theaters. I’d seen the trailer and read the back story. To me it showed some things that we don’t often see; depictions of freed Blacks in the North, slaves interacting with the Native Americans, and the raw insanity that the system of slavery produced in both the master and slave…

I know… there are folks out there that feel as if we have had slavery movies shoved down our throats since the seventies. Those movies, 50 by one person’s estimation, were in fact, one mini-series. Roots. Roots is the alpha and omega of our education on how we endured the holocaust of slavery. It was… impressive. I’ve read the book and seen the series. It doesn’t show the entirety of the story. No one movie could.

12 Years a Slave did an incredible job but, like Roots, it’s just one movie. It isn’t an omnibus of every experience during those 246 years. If you want to see depictions of rebellion, (I do!) you may have to wait until Danny Glover lands the funding for his long shelved Toussaint Louverture project. Or you can check out Sankofa. It was the labor of love of Haile Gerima, who wrote, produce, directed and then distributed it in 1993.

The fictional piece followed a narcissistic fashion model as she was transported back through time at during a Goree Island photo shoot. Like 12 Years a Slave, it was an exhausting movie to watch. Unlike 12 Years, there was no white savior in Sankofa. Victory was won with the machete.

Of course, some folks feel as if we need to jump over those centuries all together. We were Kings and Queens in Africa (and scholars and priests and even lowly subjects). They want to see more of that in our theaters.

Let’s. I would like nothing more than to bring my kids to a movie about Nzinga, scourge of the Portuguese in pre colonial Angola. But that doesn’t mean that I feel that our experience here has been exhausted. The force of slavery continues to influence who we’ve become as a people. Until we navigate that mental minefield, it’s going to be damned hard for us to advance. We can’t slip the snare if we refuse to look at it.

Besides, our heroes; Harriet Tubman, Denmark Vesey, Gaspar Yanga and countless others, were every bit as powerful and Queen Nzinga. Someone must sing their praises, but to do that we have to learn their struggle.

Anna-Nzinga.-Angola

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The Elegant Machete

Ghost Dog.
It came out in 99. Afterwards I bought a copy of the Hagakure.
It had a dope cover and some true pearls of wisdom about politics and the value of patience and perseverance. It also told me how to scrape off a person’s face, in order to help preserve his skull. That hasn’t come in handy yet.

In this scene, Forrest Whitaker, who plays Ghost Dog, runs through a handful of martial disciplines, many of them badly. The way he handled the machete, however, made my jaw drop. It was the first time I’d seen it deliberately used as a weapon, rather than an instrument of opportunity.

Make it Bun Dem. Skrillex and Damien Marley

I saw this creep across my facebook feed yesterday.
I was sitting in a coffee shop. I turned down the volume all the way, and watched it.
I shared it almost immediately. My comment, “Awesome.”
It wasn’t until I got home that I heard the music. My wife had seen it on my feed. We wathed it together in the kitchen. Still awesome.

If you know me, you know that I am into the martial arts. I’m not a martial artist. They follow a more direct route. They either pick the art, or the art picks them. Then they practice. Attend class. Be humble. Practice more.
Endure bruises. Stick with it through those embarassing moments in the beginning where everything feels awkward. Stick with it, even after you feel like you get it. Because you probably don’t. And then one day, you get it.
That is the ideal path. It wasn’t my path, though.
Here are the footnotes.
I had a karate childhood, an Aikido college life, a modern wushu young adulthood. Again with the karate dabbling. Again with the aikido attempts – different style this time. Then judo. (yuck).
After that? Southern Praying Mantis, where I let my roots grow for about three years, before real life got in the way.
Then yang tai chi at an expensive place in Center City. Then another yang tai chi class, this time in Roxborough.
A smattering of Atienza kali followed by a short, sharp dose of Genbukan Budo Taijutsu… Capoeira… I think that’s it. Now I’m practicing Hsing Yi, which I like and will stick with for as long as I can. But like I said before, sometimes life gets in the way.
I like the martial arts. I think I will always practice the martial arts. But I’m not a martial artist. I’m something different.
I’ve often wondered what I was looking for. Between those styles I practiced Bikram yoga for some time. Then life got in the way. I also practiced the congas… which isn’t martial at all, but still seemed to get a lot of the same synapses firing… then, you know, life got in the way.
What was I looking for? Fighting ability? Hmmm. I’m 42. I haven’t gotten into a fight since high school. Providing our world doesn’t turn into an apolyptic distopia tomorrow, I think I’m okay. And if I did, I’d lament all of that time and money spent in various training studios and dojos, which could have been spent on bullets, guns and target practice. Give me that 40 year old Remington Wingmaster 12 gauge, a handful of shells and 40 hours of range time and I’ll take down any black belt; especially the zombie ones.
I wasn’t in search of tactical superiority. I was looking for the ritual. Something deep down in my DNA thirsted for the rites of passage of my ancestors. If I couldn’t kill a lion like the massai, maybe I could earn a black belt.
I wanted to be that kid, practicing the rain dance on a sandy circle in my backyard. So I practiced anything and everything that I could get my hands on. And I’m not the only one. How many kids joined gangs because they wanted to belong to something; anything? How many compromised themselves. Put themselves at risk, even if it was just for a moment, or a night? When they were really looking for something much deeper.

Ritual is revolution, if you do it right. If you lose yourself in it, and allow it to take you beyond where anyone else can touch you, you’ve exercised a power that makes nations tremble. Seriously. You might not be able to summon wolves or spirit totems, but if you can find peace during those moments when the world is trying its best to shake you to your foundation, then you’re pretty formidable. Even if you don’t know it.

The Principle of Taijutsu: The First Line of Defense

In this video, Ali Abdul Karim Hanshi, speaks on the fundamentals of Taijutsu. Taijutsu is the hand to hand combat system of the ninja.
I don’t know anything about his lineage, or his affiliation. Frankly, I don’t care. If I were in Brooklyn I would seek him out; not because of the art but because of the man.
There are plenty of people who feel as if the art is a relic. A study in physical anthropology. I say, when an art is seen through the prism of modern street violence, it can’t help but evolve. It’s how I feel about ninjutsu, and it’s how I feel about Xing Yi, which I currently practice with Allen Carroll in Decatur. Traditional methods have merits, but it takes a worldly teacher fully express them.
I will be showing different clips from his school throughout August. I want to show that a Black man can be a warrior without being a thug. Too often those concepts are interchanged. They couldn’t be further apart.
Hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to interview him along the way.

Hydro-Overload! Learning To Grow Kale is Hard!

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I have been planning a modest hydroponic system. My goal was to feed a family of five using found objects about for $75 ; less than the average trip to the supermarket. Simple, right? That is, until you try to build the thing.

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These plans are from Ourwindowfarm.org

These are the plans for the window garden; something like the system you will find at the very bottom of the page.  They seemed very rational when I first saw them. I can put together Ikea furniture with no directions. I have a ratchet set with metric and standard sockets. How hard could it be to string some bottles together?

I can’t tell you. I can tell you that something strange happened when I sat down and tried to make a shopping list. I became dumb. After studying it for a few moments, taking little notes; x bottles… x copper pipes, I got confused. . Everything was there. I was sure of it. But, how would the water stay in each reservoir, or would it? How would the plants remain standing with no dirt to keep them in place?

When plants are grown using hydroponics, their roots extend directly into nutrient rich water instead of having to push through Georgia soil. The benefits are numerous.

  • Less space. The roots don’t have spread out in search for nutrients and water. It’s all right there. So it’s ideal for cramped quarters, such as a Philadelphia apartment.
  • You have dictatorial control over the nutrient intake of your garden. Create your own tribe of super-kale.
  • Higher yields, better tastes, greater nutrition. See above.
  • You don’t need a yard.
  • It’s all year round.
  • It actually uses 2/3rds less water than a traditional garden.
  • It’s cheap and easy. That’s what they say, anyway.

The only conceivable drawback is, after spending a lifetime watching plants grow out of soil, part of me just doesn’t quite get it.

Just so you know, this is not a thinly veiled attempt to grow marijuana. I know hydroponics have become synonymous with sticky icky, but it is actually used to grow other things, too. I KNOW!

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This one dude grew 20,000 pounds of fish and 70,000 of vegetables in a quarter acre, using aquaponics. (Think of hydroponics suspended above fishtanks. The plants provide the fish with nutrients, the fish do likewise. It’s definitely not hydroponics 101, but it is attainable.) I don’t have a quarter acre, but I always don’t need 70,000 pounds of vegetables. What I can do is make my trips to the supermarket produce department a thing of the past. Most of it is genetically modified, bizarro veggies, anyway.

Who cares? Well, look at it this way. As we march into an uncertain future, there are those who are becoming marksmen in order to fend off the zombie hoards. Others are learning exotic martial arts from the Far East, in hopes that katana skills will keep them alive. But in between gunning things down and cutting them up, you have to eat. Now, what if you could carry almost everything that you needed to grow all of your food, in one compartment of your backpack?

That’s what I’m talking about. What if one added seeds and a small pump to his or her bug out bag? Everything else could quickly be sourced. Once you get your water filtration out of the way, how much longer would it be before you had a sustainable food source? Not long.

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This is a hydroponic window garden.

I’m serious. This is a real thing, and once I figure it all out you are going to want to follow my lead. Kale is dope. And being able to feed your family no matter what happens is totally awesome.

Aztechnical: Uncut Truthiness!

I already posted this one. So what?
There is a message here and every time I listen to it, it digs deeper into my cranium.
Vet your belief system. Test it with scientific precision. Because while you are squinting and stumbling to try to make our reality fit you, there are people who are anxious to use those truths that you hold to be self evident, against you. Like Columbus did the Aztec.

Disaster Kit! The Breakdown, Pt 1

Rope

Wire

A small waterproof container, to hold your fire starting supplies

Work boots. Your flip flops won’t cut it

Work gloves

Meds. This includes, aspirin, multi-vitamins, fever reducers and allergy relievers, as well as back ups of whatever you and your family need to get through the day

A spray bottle with 10 percent bleach. It’s a simple but effective disinfectant

Water purification. Here he recommends eight drops of bleach for every gallon of water. You will need five gallons of water, per person, per day. (I’ve heard that two is sufficient. But do you have two gallons per person per day? Didn’t think so.) Water is one of those things that people overlook at their own peril. The body’s need for water is second only to its need for oxygen. There are, however, other methods to purify water that you can explore

Bleach. Of course. And an eye dropper

Cash

A Radio with batteries. Extra credit for getting a hand crank powered radio

Batteries! Duh

Gas

Flash light

Light sticks

A compass and map. (To where? IDK)

Dried food

Peroxide and a well stocked first aid kit

These are you in-home provisions. He suggests that you keep it someplace high, dark and out of the way, next to your firearm (the gas too? Probably not. Use common sense people.) There are some things that I would add, but this is his song, not mine. I’ll talk about them later

I will also discuss the Bug Out Bag; that thing that you carry with you when you are forced out of your home. You can keep it in your trunk. Then, there are those little things that you need on your person, if you even expect to make it to your trunk. It can get overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be

Anyway, this is a solid start to your worst case scenario swag. You are ever so welcome.