Joy Cometh in the Morning, an Easter essay from Cynthia Lamanna

Joy Cometh in the Morning

In the bitter chill of that early spring, it appeared that all life form had ceased; from the heavens blue to the undergrounds black ice terrain, the natural and supernatural had come to a halted place; in those dark three days, the world was without the music of human laughter, devoid of divine manifestations such as the sighting of an angels wing or a lame man leaping with joy…the heavy drapery of sorrow and mourning hung over the souls of His beloved followers; even his skeptical neighbors, cynical relatives, and arch enemies could not enjoy their mockery and revenge against a God they both feared and rejected.

The people again sat in great darkness; even those whom he had touched and healed and broke bread with; for the bridegroom was gone, and there was no wedding without him. Once again they were in captivity as if the star had never appeared to the magi and the shepherd; as if Lazarus had not been raised from the dead after all. The real purpose for rebirth and the true meaning of scriptures eluded even the most enlightened in those three days of foreboding. Though the darkest parts of his intense and seemingly surreal crucifixion were unbeknown to all save the Christ and His Father, his disciples could not endure the grave images of his contorted features, crimson tears and mangled bruised body hanging on that crude tree, utterly weakened and defeated (so they thought) by death.

Here they were, the big strong fishermen and the disciple whom He loved, crying like babies in the night; their hearts sinking into them like their own boats slipping into the cold murky abyss. Why hadn’t he stood up to our leaders; those viperous snakes who plotted to kill him and entrap him with their clever words?

Peter in his flailing and anger over the injustice of it all, sickened by his own cowardliness, and vain boasting, sank to despair, as he nearly did when walking on the waters. Mary the mother of Jesus, though broken in heart opened her arms out to John, treasuring in her heart and revering the exhortations of her young man as he looked down at her from the cross, with eyes of compassion and gratitude. Woman, behold your son.”

There was always room at Mary’s inn, for a weary traveler, or a pregnant young girl full of wonder and fear.

Early on the first day of the week, the other Mary was the first to see the stone rolled away, and the tomb empty. After summoning Peter and John to come back and witness this heart thundering moment with her and after they left her there to go back to their lives, Mary waited, determined not to leave without knowing where they placed him. Even the angels in their brilliant white, did not detour or intimidate her; for such was her longing and thirst for her brother and such was her insistence that she see him again and be near him dead or alive. She had sat transfixed and enthralled at his feet, anointing him with perfume and her own tears, as she heard about God’s forgiveness; now as she turned from angels, her search for truth was rewarded as the risen Lord appeared to her. She knew him not at first sight, yet she again asked the question, that no one had been able to answer.

He called her by name, and she knew Him. She cried out with the strands of joy that knew no bounds. “Rabonni!” How she longed to feel his strong embrace, his sacred heart beating against her own. He told her that she must not hold onto him ; He, who was no longer human and forever divine. He must go now and return to His Father and he told her to tell the others.” Go to my brothers and tell them I am returning to my Father and to your Father!”


Cynthia Lamanna is a writer from California, and may be reached at


Joy Ding’s review of Lynn Gilbert’s oral history profiles, Particular Passions


Posted early in honor of March as National Women’s History Month

Particular Passions: Talks with Women Who Have Shaped Our Times is a treat and an essential read for any woman out to make history. Written by Lynn Gilbert with the help of Gaylen Moore, Particular Passions brings together forty-six profiles of accomplished women such as Betty Friedan, Julia Child, and Gloria Steinem. With every chapter, the reader gets the opportunity to meet and become intimately acquainted with the life, decisions, and experiences of a woman accomplished in her own right, in fields as disparate as science and dance. Gilbert’s black and white photographs show each woman with dignity and honesty, and her decision to use the oral history format is a stroke of genius, allowing each woman to speak for herself in first-person.

Gilbert’s chapter on Agnes de Mille is no exception. Rather than merely covering de Mille’s background—an American choreographer and dancer whose work elevated dance in musical theater from mere accessory between acts, to the story-telling function it serves today – Gilbert’s oral history brings out de Mille’s self-effacing humor, stubborn perseverance, and drive to make things better for artists.


Selected excerpts from the Agnes de Mille chapter:


“I think it is a miracle that I turned into anything of worth…I was the petted daughter in a fairly wealthy household, in which being a lady was the thing.”


“It was very rough going out into the world…my work wasn’t good enough, my technique wasn’t sound enough, my hair would fall down, my stockings were wrinkled. It just wasn’t professional…I didn’t have a classic body. I had a long torso and shortish legs. They are pretty legs, but very short. What I did have was a real acting ability and inventive, creative thought. I couldn’t fit into the mold so I made my own, that’s all.”


“I didn’t set out to change the world of dance. I had to do it because nobody cared a damn about dancing and I got fed up with people’s ignorance and indifference; particularly the American men scorned it. “


Even though the oral history format effectively removes Gilbert from the transcript, the expansiveness and gleam of each profile testifies to her ability to ask questions and to draw meaningful stories out of her subjects. Particular Passions is a rare gift to the women’s movement, providing forty-six unique role models to inspire the next generation of leaders.



Joy Ding is a writer living in San Francisco. You can reach her at

Synchronized Chaos March 2013: Coping with Our Fragility

Readers, contributors, ladies and gents, dancers and twirlers, seamstresses and ruffians, welcome to March 2013’s issue of Synchronized Chaos International Magazine. This month our theme deals with an issue all too familiar to many of us, something common to most life forms on this planet: facing and dealing with our fragility and limitations.

“A pontiff smile veils his disgrace, at never knowing more than second place. ‘Seven wonders’, crowed the man, knowing six are gone, is it any wonder, how the sad confusion lingers on.” — Bluegrass band Nickel Creek

“A todos los que han nacido en un mundo así no olviden su fragilidad (To everyone who’s been born in this world here, don’t forget your fragility” — Sting

Science writer Leena Prasad describes the physical limitation of aphasia in her monthly column, Whose Brain Is It?,  looking into how and why the condition occurs and how losing the capacity for intelligible speech would affect someone’s life.

Poets Sam Burks and Samantha Seto deal with everyday aspects of our fragility, death, loneliness, nostalgia, loss, and heartbreak, through their poetic collections, “Sister Meadow” and “Darkened Moon.” We see the direct lament for a relationship lost, and the emergency-room scene, but also the quiet melancholy of an elderly person touching her fraying quilt and staring out the window, and the bitter taste of unripe persimmons.

We can move from the specific to the general, from the individual to society and life itself, with Darren Edwards’ poetry, including “Sandcastles” and several other pieces. He uses humor, wry observations, and colorful images from childhood, mythology, and popular and literary culture to advocate authentic communication, compassion, empathy and balance. And he pokes fun in creative ways at the bombastic and powerful among us, thus highlighting our human and societal fragility.

The external and social world comes into even sharper focus when we read journalist Martin Rushmere’s review of the Marin Theater Company’s production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Often described as a tragicomedy, the play depicts ordinary people who sit and watch the world going by, all the people thinking and learning and hurting and oppressing each other, while waiting for some event they vaguely hope will change everything. Is this all we can hope for as human beings, with our limited understanding? Are we ennobled by the search for meaning itself, even when we never find it? Perhaps we could create meaning, rather than simply waiting.

Political essayist Randle Pink also tackles the force of social conformity in his interview with journalist and broadcaster Dacia Mitchell.  In her program, “This Week in Blackness,” and through private conversations with friends and roommates, Ms. Mitchell explores how racial stereotypes affect our choices. As Ms. Mitchell explains,  our social subgroup membership affects our experience of the world. Sleeping in a public park at night as part of a protest could be very different for a black woman than for a young athletic white man, for example. And if we wish to build a cohesive social movement, we need to address the different challenges and experiences of different groups and individuals within the coalition.

Sara Rodriguez mourns the loss of her friend, whom she refers to as “D,” who passed away at a young age because of some of the same societal oversights Dacia Mitchell critiques. Upon release from prison, D. faced severe barriers to rebuilding her life, and was unable to receive the individual, consistent support she needed to heal psychologically and physically and find stable work. Sadly, although she possessed a strong spirit, kindness, and creativity, she found herself sucked down back into addiction, incarceration, and suicide.

This young woman was clearly fragile, and broken as a result of her life experiences. And, as Sara explains, her death illustrates how we cannot apply a one-size-fits-all paradigm to social problems, any more than we can to race relations or to putting together social movements. We must look at the lives and struggles of those within the system and adapt our approach to fit what we see and learn.

 Yet, in our quest to build a more perfect, just and humane world, we have to remember to care for ourselves and work within our own limitations. We are fragile ourselves, even as we labor to rescue each other, as Lorene Miller rediscovers in her poem, “A Calling Out.”  Unfortunately, living souls, human, animal, or even plant, will suffer in this plane of existence. While we certainly can and should carry out works of compassion and justice, we cannot task ourselves personally with removing all the world’s adversity.

When faced with our inevitable weaknesses, whether physical, moral, intellectual, or psychological, we can attempt to transcend our limitations in various ways. Danish poet Kamila Boegedal draws upon nature and the cosmos to express the depths of her feelings, with the sun and moon as metaphors for the intensity of love and the desire to experience and participate in life. She aims to create her own drawings and not just take part in someone else’s cartoon, and finds she can reach beyond herself with creative writing.

Linda Allen’s short story “Shamrock” invokes the myth of the hero figure to symbolically overcome human fragility. A brave gentleman physically rescues Allen’s protagonist from her cruel, violent family and whisks her away to his native Ireland. Some criticize this kind of  ‘knight in shining armor’ tale for encouraging weakness, reinforcing that all we can do is wait for rescue. But perhaps we can take on the qualities of the hero, become Godot ourselves rather than simply waiting for him.

Synchronized Chaos Magazine’s editors invite you to bring your inner heroism to a reading and discussion of March’s issue and the work of each of our contributors. Thank you very much to those who have helped put this publication together, and please enjoy the issue!

Poetry from Lorene Miller

A Calling Out

I raise my palms calling out to all available open hearts.

I am on a path traveled by many others before me, but my steps are burdened with confusion and conflict.

I am certain the salvation of souls, either fur, feathered, scaled or skin is not performed without a cost.

Much is asked of me. There is always a bit more I could do. I am desperate for my boundaries to scream, “Haven’t I done enough?”

I am at a conscious unrest. I pulsate with anxious thought.

Suffering, sickness and death, I see it with my awakened eyes, I dream of it with my sleeping mind.

There is no turning back. Retreating into a chosen blindness is no longer an option.

I call out for peace of mind.

Caution awaits and whispers a warning, “Do not lose yourself in good intentions. It is an illusion to believe pre-determined events can be altered. You cannot change the reality that living souls suffer.”

Realizing there are no guarantees or deals to make, I now live with a new understanding. There is no changing the Course. Existing has its own set of rules.

A sick lost soul, captured and altered by salvation will live as we all do, within what life allows.

I close with thanks and gratitude for those who received my calling out, helping me understand, as hard as it can be; trust and believe what lies beyond what one can change.

— By a poet and cat rescuer in Hayward, California, who may be reached at

Randle Pink’s interview with radio host Dacia Mitchell, of This Week in Blackness

The Slinger Of Facts. Secretary Of State Of Blackness. Dacia Mitchell is the new co-host of This Week In Blackness Radio, a Brooklyn, New York-based podcast focusing on issues of race, class, politics, and culture. As a doctoral student participating in NYU’s American Studies program, Dacia is currently working on her dissertation, “Is A Laugh Treason?: Caricature, Slavery, and Citizenship in the Age of Revolution”, a study of 17th- and 18th-century political caricature and its impact on the formation of white identity during the early stages of post-colonial America and the French Revolution. Dacia currently resides in Oakland, CA with her husband and three-year-old daughter, and between managing the TWiB blog, preparing their daily docket, working exhaustively on her dissertation, and being a functional component of her family, she was able to devote some time to sit down with me and answer a few questions about her life and work.


In this first part of the interview, we talk about Dacia’s history with the TWiB network, the pros and cons of Occupy Wall Street, white privilege, defining “blackness”, and what makes This Week In Blackness different from other shows. A fascinating and dynamic individual, Dacia’s story is a powerful one, and I’m pleased to share it with you here.




RA: So I want to start with what brought me to you in the first place: the TwiB (This Week In Blackness) network. Tell me a little bit about your experience and your background with TWiB, and how you got involved.


DM: I got involved as a listener back in 2009, when the show first got started. It wasn’t always called TWiB, it wasn’t always This Week In Blackness. It actually started out as “Blacking It Up”; that was the original title of the show.


RA: The name change happened not very long ago, right?


DM: Not too long ago, yeah. A few months ago, I want to say?


RA: I know it’s been less than a year…


DM: Yeah, and the reason for the initial name of the show was a sense of irony. You had people who, according to a media established definition of what blackness is, were completely the opposite of and antithetical to that definition. So to have a show called “Blacking It Up” with three of the least “socially black” people was the humor of it. I first found Elon – Elon James White, the host and now the managing Master Of The Universe *laughs* – when someone linked me one of his original “This Week In Blackness” videos that he used to do. The name of the show comes from these first videos that he started right around Obama’s first election campaign, and they were amazing. They were exactly what we needed to hear at that particular moment. Everybody was fawning over Barack Obama, but there was this kind of bubbling racism that was happening everywhere, and it was hard to put your finger on it. Elon has a really good talent for pointing out the things that everyone’s sort of dancing around, and making it funny. Not just to critique people for it, but to make it funny. So I started watching those videos, and of course he’s on Twitter. I was just talking to him the other day and I told him we actually spoke on Twitter in like 2009; that was when we first met. When he started the show, I was still living in New York, and I was four years into my graduate program. “Blacking It Up” was perfect for listening to on the train, so that was my thing: I’d listen to it before I went to class, every single Monday through Thursday.


Then one day in 2010, he put out a call for help. “If there’s anyone out there who can contribute some time, if you don’t have any money, we’re looking for folks that can pick up the slack.” Y’know, dumb office things: kick some e-mails to me, nothing important, making a few phone calls if we need to get a guest, things like that. Very minor stuff, something that I could actually do from home. I had a nine-month old daughter at the time, and so it worked out well: I could help from home, and the show stays on the air, which is really my incentive. Here’s a show that really spoke to me, and if I can’t do everything that I can to keep it on the air, I feel like I will have failed. So we met, there was much mirth, and I started working for them. Then L. Joy (Williams, former co-host of This Week In Blackness and current host of AM TWiB, the network’s new morning show) couldn’t make a couple of shows, so I sat in for her a couple of times in New York, and we just all kind of became friends over time. What really sealed the deal for me being a full-fledged co-host of the show, despite moving to Oakland, was our trip to Puerto Rico for the American Studies Association conference.


RA: You guys have talked about this on the show several times, but never really given the full story, so I know something crazy went on down there. *chuckles*


DM: So it actually goes back a little bit before then. My program at NYU is American Studies, and while I was working for TWiB just sending e-mails, I got an e-mail from a woman at U.C. Davis that said “I’m proposing a panel called “Awkward Black Comedy” that I will present at the American Studies Association conference,” and I immediately knew exactly what that was. So I told Elon, “you have to do this”.


RA: That’s Elon in a nutshell.


DM: In a nutshell! They were going to ask Baratunde Thurston to come, and Issa Ray of “Awkward Black Girl”, and it was going to be this amazing panel, basically of performers who you wouldn’t expect to exist. So I told Elon about it, and he was like, “so what is this thing, and what am I doing?”, and I told him it was an academic conference. He asked, “is it like NetRoots?”, and I was like, “no, no, no, it’s an academic conference, and it’s not that exciting. But there will be a lot of people there, a lot of people that like your show; lots of nerds.” He said, “Well, I’ll think about it…”, and I said, “Elon. It’s in Puerto Rico.” He was like, “Done!”


RA: *laughs*


DM: So he agreed to go on this trip, and I was going on the trip because I had a paper accepted to conference. We all met up there on the first day, and he came to my panel. It was an interesting collision of worlds since I’m part of this highly academic program writing a dissertation, and he was there as someone who was being studied for the work that he did in an academic environment. The room where he presented was standing room only. It was packed with people; packed with people who I knew, and didn’t know listened to the show. We’ve never spoken about the show. Afterwards, in talking with people I realized that everyone has kept it close to their hearts. They kept it close and they didn’t really want to share it with anybody – at least not in that environment – because it was so personal, and didn’t feel like it demanded any sort of academic critique, which academics are really good at. But then you find out that we just all love it very much because he does perform these incredible critical interventions, which is our raison d’etre.


RA: Absolutely. Which brings me to my next question: what do you feel makes This Week In Blackness different from other shows? You’ve got an environment now, especially in liberal and progressive media, where the podcast movement has just exploded over the last several years. There are literally thousands of podcasts in progressive media, dealing with all manner of subjects. What do you feel makes you guys stand out?


DM: Honestly, it’s the blackness. It really is. I subscribe to numerous podcasts, and it has changed over time. There are now more and more podcasts that are about race, ones that are not about race but are posted by people of color, mainly progressives. But I think that we were one of the first – if not the first – to present a point of view that was on the one hand presented by people of color, but wasn’t, for lack of a better word, “colored” by our color. I think that that was made it refreshing, and that’s what makes it accessible for everybody. I mean, 30% of our listeners are white, and so we’re not alienating everybody. Our audience overwhelmingly consists of educated women – educated black women love the show – but I think that what really makes us stand apart is that we will focus on the larger topics, but we will also focus on the small, everyday weird topics. We also do throw in an element of self-critique and criticism; y’know, what we would describe as “ratchet”.


RA: *laughs*


DM: *laughs* Y’know, what would be considered something in the black community as entirely “ratchet”. Something that is produced and to a certain extent cosigned by the larger culture, that at the same time is completely ridiculous and clearly does not represent all of us. We’re able to do that, but not point fingers in blame and make it funny and make it light, while also having our moments of something that is actually very serious. I think to answer the question simply, at least in terms of progressive media, is that progressive media is overwhelmingly white.


RA: I would definitely agree.


DM: While that doesn’t mean that issues of gender, sexuality, and race are not talked about in those ways, there is a certain difference where it’s a lot easier for folks to step into privilege when you’re listening to a show like that, and it can immediately turn you off. I appreciate a progressive stance, and I consider myself to be a progressive. At the same time, this does not immune folks from stepping in racial prejudice, or even just sort of using privilege in a way that’s alienating. I think that we really endeavor to not do that, and to be highly aware of moments where we even are expressing privilege. Elon talks about how he’s had moments where he’s basically expressed a kind of masculine privilege, and when made aware of it he’s like, “Oh, shit! There, I just did it!” We can all do it, but I think that one of the big goals of the show is to always be aware that we are all negotiating privilege at all times, and just because you’re progressive does not make you immune to those things. You can constantly explore ways to negotiate privilege, and how to and not to be wielding it in a way that is effective to other people.


RA: Absolutely. I’ve been listening to the show for about a year now, and in the last several months of listening to your show, the privilege conversation is something that I’ve personally become much more aware of. I think it’s really important for everybody to be talking about, because privilege is something that affects everybody in different ways, and like you said, it’s something that everybody maneuvers around and positions through in human relationships. It doesn’t necessarily have to do specifically with race or gender or poverty or wealth, it’s often times combinations of things-


DM: Yes. It’s almost always a combination of things.


RA: Yeah, it’s almost always a combination of things, and having an awareness of this is one of those things that really can help you gain a better understanding of all issues. Having a greater awareness of how good you have it – whatever that “good” is for you – and being appreciative of it; that’s how you check your privilege.


DM: Exactly. By understanding the innumerable ways that you have to negotiate around your privilege, you’re also negotiating around the ways that power is pushing down on you. I think that one of the reasons behind checking your privilege is not to basically call somebody out on their shit, like “you were wrong, and you should be shamed”. Really, what it’s about is trying to teach people honestly about the one thing that we all need, which is empathy. In order to do that, it takes more than just saying “you stepped in it, and you’re wrong”, even though we will make fun of people with power because they’re easy to make fun of.


RA: *laughs*


DM: But I do think of understanding privilege more as a practice instead of as a thing you have or don’t have. So what are the ways that you are practicing your privilege? What are the ways that it is useful for you to practice your privilege, and what are the ways that it’s damaging to practice that privilege? What are the ways that you actually are feeling oppressed? Recognizing that the way you’re feeling may be different from someone else, but that it doesn’t create a hierarchy, that it doesn’t make your pain more valuable than someone else’s.


RA: I remember Aaron said on the show at one point that, when having conversations about things like privilege, it’s really important to not engage in the “Misery Olympics”. Saying things like, “I have it so much worse than you do,” or “you have it so much worse than I do”; that’s largely irrelevant. It’s important to acknowledge it, that yes: some people do have it a hell of a lot worse off than you, and there are people have it a hell of a lot better than you do. But that doesn’t necessarily need to have intrinsic value, as far as how as how you navigate through privilege on your own.


DM: To a certain extent, some of us have turned pain into a kind of capital, and I think that that’s when really run into trouble. I think that that was actually part of some of the implicit problems that were in Occupy (Wall Street). You would go to a general assembly meeting – Elon talked about this numerous times – where as soon as you bring up a moment where privilege is being expressed, that race is being ignored, that gender’s being ignored, that sexuality is being ignored, you’re considered to be divisive. You were basically creating a wedge within the movement. But no, the movement’s actually made up of fractures and measures, it’s not about it being a solid entity that you’re somehow poking a hole into. It should always be understood as a web, that we’re all trying to redistribute power in a way that’s actually going to support changing a system that we’re taught is a top-down hierarchy. Occupy really failed in that regard. You couldn’t say, “listen, it’s different for me as a black woman to sleep out in Zuccoti Park then it is for you as a white dude.”


RA: It’s just different. It’s not better, it’s not worse. Let’s not put those value judgments on it, it’s just different.


DM: It’s already different, so let’s explore how it’s different. Let’s talk about what it is that we can do to make sure that everybody’s equally protected, which would involve doing different things in order to keep people secure in that situation. People had invited me out to go go camp out at the park, and I was like “No! No, I’m not! I think what you guys are doin’ is awesome, but the moment that my black ass is out in the park, in Lower Manhattan…no.” I do not trust what will happen to my body if it were to be arrested and put into the NYPD penal system. I think it was issues like that that really undermined some of the moves that Occupy was trying to make. At the same time, y’know, when Zuccoti was raided, it was devastating. It was absolutely devastating. I felt safer having them there to a certain extent, a team of people who have made the stand and are not budging. To watch how it went down, the feeling in me was just awful. It was a moment of, like…”Damn it.”


RA: There were definitely some issues that I had with Occupy, as well. I feel like some of Occupy’s greatest strengths turned out to be some of their greatest weaknesses, when they refused to change and adapt as it became this national movement. I feel that one of the biggest failings was that the main organizers, the people chiefly responsible for Occupy, did not have a strategy on hand to commute their popular power into political power, and that ultimately caused the movement to crumble in upon itself. Let’s face it: getting a bunch of liberals to stand behind causes is like herding cats, it’s a nightmare.


DM: *laughs* Everybody’s got their own cause…


RA: Yeah, everyone’s got their own causes and their own opinions, and none of them are any more or less important than the other, but…you reach a point where you need to start playing by the rules to a certain extent if you want to go to that next level. Occupy never elected leaders, it never had a formal agenda. I know that “talking points” is such a loaded term, but Occupy did not have a concrete set of demands – a concrete set of talking points – to really get people to rally behind them. Instead, it was like, “Here’s the laundry list of the 150 million things we need to fix!”, but….can we prioritize that into a top five?


DM: Yeah, it was really difficult.


RA: I think people lost interest at that point because it seemed like, “Oh my God, it’s so huge…what do we do when there’s fifty million things wrong?” It’s a paradox of choice.


DM: It really was, but it’s hard, though. So Occupy was 2011, right?


RA: Yup.


DM: Two years before that, a number of students, including some of my own, took a building at NYU.


RA: Yeah, I wanted to talk to you about that actually, about the New York Times piece on the New School occupation.


DM: So, there was the New School occupation, but there was also the NYU occupation.


RA: Oh!


DM: NYU [students] took the Student Center, and holed up in there for two days, I wanna say. They suffered from a similar fate as Occupy did. They had this long list of demands, that included divesting from Israel, lowering our tuition, and all sorts of other things. On the one hand, that was the big critique: you guys have too many demands, and we can’t possibly do all of these things. Pick one.


RA: At least not at once.


DM: At least not at once, so just pick one. And I hear that, but I also saw the energy and the excitement of these students. I mean, these were kids who were putting their lives on the line, and there was no campus security at that. There were police, and they were cracking skulls. I was there. So the fact that you have a university that is much like LA, much like Oakland in a lot of ways, where the police force is given somewhat carte blanche in order to maintain the peace, regardless if you’re a student, or whoever. But I think that, for all of the multitude of causes, that is always the place to start. And while it seems so ridiculous, you do kind of need to have some PR skills. That was thing I felt that Occupy didn’t have.


RA: Occupy needed a PR department. It needed some spokespeople.


DM: Yeah, get someone out there.


RA: I went to several GA’s here in Oakland as well as a couple in San Jose, and every time I would bring this up, people would look at me like was sleeping with the enemy. I’d tell them, “you do understand that we live in a media-driven, publicity-driven society, right? You guys have generated this incredible amount of attention, so now we need to direct it and we need to channel it, and hit our audiences with target messengers and targeted messages in order to keep people interested and involved.” Every time I would ever bring anything like this up, they’d say it was the politics of the enemy, that we couldn’t do that otherwise we’ll be just like them. While that is a legitimate complaint, a legitimate gamble, if we don’t at least take a couple of faltering steps in that direction, this movement is going to fold. Then look what happened: we had the General Strike on May 1st, one of the largest organized protest movements in global history, but then flash forward a month later, and it was almost like it never happened. Things were still happening, but there once again was this huge PR push with no real follow through.


DM: Do you think though that you can measure the success of Occupy in the fact that it did shift the conversation? I mean that in the sense of things that we weren’t talking about before. There was the whole Wall Street and Main Street discussion that was happening, but we weren’t talking about people being kicked out of their homes. We weren’t talking about the fact that there was no security net for people. I wonder if it’s almost too much to expect there to be a sudden, instant change. At the same time, I wonder if it just, like any popular movement, bubbled up, but before it was able to be sort of co-opted, it had to kind of disseminate and reassemble everywhere else. I’m hopeful about that, even though I do have a sense of “you guys need to have some better spokespeople, you gotta get somebody up there that’s not gonna alienate my grandma,” y’know? But, grandmas get alienated, so I guess they were just like “That’s just what happens.” *laughs*


RA: Yeah, and it just makes me wonder, I was never really sure….I think the greatest thing Occupy did, like you said, it brought national attention to a bunch of issues that didn’t even seem to be on anybody’s radar before that, like you said about the housing crisis, there were various banking [issues]…


DM: Student debt –


RA: Yeah, student debt…


DM: Which is still happening, by the way. That’s the thing I find kind of interesting, is that as a result of occupying Zuccoti Park and occupying the sites here, is that now it isn’t about an occupation of a physical space. Now they’re doing something that is actually is a bit of a subversion, in terms of things like Strikedebt.


RA: Yeah, Strikedebt is awesome.


DM: Yeah, it’s not like, “oh, I’m gonna eliminate your debt”, it’s that we’re just going to start paying people’s debts off, because it’s so bad.


RA: It never felt to me at any point like Occupy ever had a real goal other than making a lot of noise. If that was the goal in and of itself, then congratulations: they did a fantastic job in that. At the same time I always felt like they wanted to something more, but I’m not sure if that was ever really the intent. If the intent was just to make a bunch of noise and spread awareness then they did a phenomenal job, and they have changed civil discourse about politics in America for decades to come. They brought so much more of a general, everyday awareness to societal ills that got people of looking around in their own neighborhoods, like, “Oh shit, there’s a lot of problems here in my own town that I need to address!” I think that in itself is really important, because we tend to think of political change in the sense that it has to start on high. This is what we’re always taught, and it’s completely not true. It starts in your own backyard –


DM: It starts in a living room, it starts in a church, it starts in a grassy space, it starts, y’know, in a cafe…because we’re not, our students aren’t taught the truth of civil discourse and civil disobedience, and what it looks like. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had students reach the university level with no idea how the civil rights movement actually happened. They know that there some black people involved, and people were walking in the streets –


RA: Some guy had a dream –


DM: Yeah, someone had a dream, and someone sat on a bus, and, I don’t know…somebody died. *laughs*


RA: *laughs*


DM: That’s the extent of it, and really, that is depressing as hell for me. Because if those students aren’t – and this is gonna sound really arrogant – but if those students aren’t lucky enough to be in my classroom, I don’t know what they’re learning in another classroom. It’s not always part of the curriculum, and if it’s not part of our universal public education curriculum, they may not get it at all. How are you supposed to know if you see injustice in your neighborhood, on your street, which is where it always starts? What is your recourse? What do you do if you’re not taught how to assemble with people? Some people are holing themselves up and arming themselves [instead].


RA: Which is way more terrifying.


DM: Right? And just to get back to your question about what Occupy hoped to accomplish, I see Occupy as accomplishing a reminder. A reminder that as much as we all have consented to authority, because that is nature of society. We have consented to authority, but we still have the ability to take it back if we’re pushed too far. Lower Manhattan is one of the most militarized places in the country. Within the contiguous United States, it’s arguably one of the most militarized areas, and they (Occupy) took a park, which was no small feat, to take it and hold it. To do it in the cold as well, that was [incredible].


RA: Yeah, to do it in the middle of the fall, into the winter –


DM: That was gnarly!


RA: I remember seeing it on the TV and feeling like, “Y’all are out of your minds!” I know I couldn’t do it. I’ll be the first to admit.


DM: The fact that people came from outside of the city to stand with the people that were in the city, and the fact that they created this micro-city where they were providing services for people, there was the library…


RA: It was an amazing feat.


DM: Yeah, I went down there a few times, and it felt like this small city within a city, surrounded by this long, huge wraparound of police officers, and to a certain extent they felt like it was sort of contained. But it really wasn’t, because the longer they stayed there, the more people were talking about it. There were actions that were like every weekend, and it was starting to get to the point where it was going to bleed out.


RA: Yeah, they were able to contain the people, but they weren’t able to contain the idea. As long as the people stayed contained –


DM: Yeah, it almost acted as this idea generating factory, and it wouldn’t die. That was what they managed to accomplish: to do something that seemed impossible, and to take the time and the space to produce a new potential for thinking against authority. A potential for being finally be able to push back and to know that you’re not alone in your feeling about that. But again, one of the failures was, for example, the didn’t include Occupy The Hood in a lot of their stuff. It was like, “Dude, we’ve got people who are actually hungry, why are you turning down places for people to stay?” And like what happened in Los Angeles, where the city offered up an office building that had been vacated along with some land, and they couldn’t come to a consensus, and ultimately turned it down. We were telling them, “just take it!”


RA: Just take it! The city is making a sizable concession to you to allow you to have your movement, so do it!


DM: *laughs* Yeah, get off of my street!


RA: So do it and set up camp, because if you’ve got this designated space, think of how much more you’d be able to do once you’ve got them off your back, at least enough for you to be able to keep moving forward.


DM: Yeah! But it’s hard, because once you’ve moved into a building, you’re no longer media interesting, and then it’s time to shift the discussion. Which they’ve done, but done it in a different way now. They didn’t take that, but they have certainly shifted their attentions towards things like Strikedebt, and I think they’re still so small that they can actually still help people with [things like] foreclosed homes. That was the great thing about Zuccoti: I felt like if I had owned a home in New York, and someone was trying to kick me out of house if it was foreclosed upon, I could just put out a tweet, and I would have twenty-five people just squat on my front lawn. Just like that.


RA: I think it was Occupy: Homelessness that was going around through a bunch of areas of the country, where you have people in places like Little Rock, Arkansas who were like, “Holy crap, my home’s getting foreclosed on!”, they’d put a post up on their Facebook wall, and then thirty protesters would show up with signs and just sit on their front lawn, like, “We’re not leaving!”


DM: And that’s amazing!


RA: That was an amazing thing.


DM: That was a moment where I was like –


RA: “This what social media is for.”


DM: Yeah, “this is what social media is for.” That was a magical time, it was. It’s not to say that it can’t happen again, and the thing that I think that we’re trying to do on the show is to maintain a mindfulness of change, that change isn’t always what you think it’s going to look like, and it’s not something that’s fixed in time. It’s something that changes itself, and that it’s something you practice on a daily basis instead of just being someone who is changed.


RA: Yeah, change is proactive.


DM: Exactly, it’s proactive. It’s also communal, and it doesn’t happen all at one, right? You just have to take it day by day, minute by minute, hour by hour. And that’s how we operate the show, too. *laughs*


RA: *laughs* Right? Given what’s been happening in the last couple of weeks, it’s certainly seemed like it.


DM: The docket assembly this week was madness, it was just madness. Elon completely moved the website, because we couldn’t handle the traffic. Which is awesome, but the site crashed.


RA: It’s fantastic. What a problem to have!


DM: What a problem to have, right? We’re too popular, there were too many people, and the site crashed. So he took this opportunity, and now that we’ve moved to the cloud, we can actually do way more things, so of course he’s like, “what are all the things we can do with the site?” But I think that that’s also part of what makes the show work, that it is constantly adapting to our listeners, and it’s adapting to what we think people want to hear and want from us.


RA: I was going to mention earlier that I think that the biggest thing that makes you guys stand out in terms of accessibility is, well…accessibility. Compared to a lot of other shows I’ve listened to, especially shows that are not just one person or two people, there’s a familial aspect with you guys that is undeniable, and that has an incredible amount of appeal. You guys feel like a family.


DM: Yeah, because we are a family!


RA: Exactly! The way you guys interact with each other, it very much feels to me like the conversations I have with my roommates in my living room when we’re hanging out, having a few beers, and talking about what’s going on in the world. I think that is one of the biggest things that makes you guys different from other shows that I listen to. On top of that, is the accessibility to you guys as individuals. I’ve reached out to guys on Twitter a bunch of times, and through Facebook and so on, and you guys actually respond.


DM: We try to, yeah.


RA: That’s how you and I are sitting here right now. I went out on a limb on Twitter and was like, “Hey, you’re really cool and I love the show. Can I interview you for my magazine?” and you were like, “Sure!” That’s beautiful to me. You guys also crowd source information for the docket, and there’s been things that I’ve sent you, like the thing about the grade fixing the other night, and next thing I know, you’re talking about it on the show. Every time that happens for me – and I listen to your show almost every day, at work, on the train, and I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels this – but when something I send you guys ends up being talked about on the show, I feel like I’m on the show, as well. I feel like I’m a part of it. That keeps me listening, keeps me sending more stuff, and keeps me wanting to be involved in this movement, in progressive media in general. That’s not something I really see with a lot of other shows.


DM: There is certainly a permeable wall that still exists, because once you’re on a podcast, once you’re in media, you do become, to a certain extent, an avatar for the folks that are listening to you. It’s just a product of media representation. So there is always a wall, in terms of no one actually knows me, per se. They hear me on the radio but they don’t know what I’m about to do right after the show, or what I had for breakfast unless I say so. I don’t want to deny that it isn’t permeable though, that it isn’t something that we thrive on, having a community of folks that feel like they are personally invested not just in the show, but what we’re trying to do.


The shows are amazing individually, but if you look at all of them together, they’re meant to, by their very existence, push back against the status quo of what black media looks like. So take “We Nerd Hard”, for example: black nerds, sitting in a room, talking about video games and raiding and all kinds of things. What’s funny is that to us, that’s not surprising. What’s surprising is that this is the first time that’s happened. If you talk Aaron, you talk to Elon, you talk to me, you talk to anyone that’s on the shows, you find out that we were always kind of the weird kid. But there are so many weird kids out there that you realize that all of us are weird kids, and I think that the fact that we embrace our strangeness is part of what makes us feel like siblings, like family. Also, while I hate using the term “safe space”, it kind of is. It’s a place where – and this is just a raw example – if you’re a listener, a black listener, and you have something that you’re interested that isn’t considered to be “black” – something that, if you’re a teenager, a kid could “black check” you for – this is the place where that is not going to happen, period. End of story. No one is going to, because the practice of doing it is what we’re actually critiquing. Black-checking is ridiculous, a form of social policing that we are definitely resistant to and are trying to support [removing] through the existence of the shows, from “We Nerd Hard” to “On Blackness”, where you’re talking with black academics. What’s so interesting about that show is that Elon always opens the show with, “What is your definition of blackness?” and the answers are all so different.


RA: Everybody has had a completely different explanation, and it’s fascinating.


DM: Totally different! These are the people who are the thinkers and the knowledge producers of our time, and no one can agree on what blackness is. So if you’ve got Melissa Harris-Perry and Jalani Cobb unable to agree on what blackness is, then who are we to judge what is and what is not blackness? I think we need to see blackness as something that is experiential and environmental, and whatever that cocktail ends up looking like for you is what that cocktail ends up looking like for you. Even if it’s not about blackness, even if it’s just about who you are as a body operating in the world. You can be whatever it is that you want to be, and no one’s going to check you for that, because there’s nothing to check. We’re not the police, we’re just three Negroes in a room, talking about [whatever]. What you’re hearing on the show a lot of times is what we would talk about when we were in Puerto Rico. We’d just be sitting around, having a cocktail, talking shit about, y’know, Chuck Hagel or whatever. *laughs*


RA: *laughs* It’s really inspiring. I have these conversations all the time with my friends, and we come up with all of these thought-provoking ideas, and I sit there and think to myself, “Man, I should have just had a tape recorder in the room!”


DM: Right? *laughs*


RA: So then the next question is, can I do that with intent, can I make a community happen out of it?


DM: Yeah, it’s a big commitment.


RA: It strikes me as being a lot of work, even just touching on to the edges of the issue. What it would take for to do this, even once a week…holy crap, that’s a lot of work. A lot of research, a lot of time, a lot of late nights.


DM: Elon is always talking about how there are some folks who are listening who think we can just pop on the show and like, there we are. But no, I’m up at five in the morning every day, because I’m also writing a dissertation, and I’m also a stay-at-home mom. As a result, I’m having to compartmentalize my day into these finite segments, so any time that I’m not wrangling a child, or hanging out with my husband in the scant few seconds that we get to be together, I’m putting together the docket. I’m researching for features, and now that I’m the managing editor of the blog, I’ve got to come up with a schedule of long-form essays that I want to do, and who’s going to be posting when…being a managing editor is a full-time job, in addition to co-host, in addition to graduate student, in addition to mom, in addition to, y’know, person. I wear a lot of britches.*laughs*


RA: *laughs* Absolutely.


You can listen to this This Week In Blackness – as well as all of the other TWiB network shows – on iTunes and Stitcher Radio, or by visiting To know more about the inner workings of Dacia’s mind, be sure and visit her blog at, or you can follow her on Twitter with the handle @daciatakesnote.

Whose Brain Is It? by Leena Prasad

Whose Brain Is It? by Leena Prasad

Presented within the flow of the lives of real people and fictional characters, this is a monthly exploration of how some parts of the brain work.

Throw the monkey, I mean the ball…

Give me that spoon,” Adam says and a moment later he is shocked at his own words. “Plate,” I mean plate,” he says.

His wife smiles. “It is just a small mistake. Don’t look so panicked.”

Adam has not told his wife about his grandfather. Would she believe him? After all, his grandfather was a world renowned writer. Nobody outside the family knew that he had aphasia when he died.

There is a reason that I panicked…” He tells her about his grandfather.

Wasn’t your grandfather writing until pretty late into his life?”

Well, yes. He wrote well into his 70s. But he had a stroke when he was 73 and had a lot of trouble with word comprehension afterwards. He stopped writing and died when he was 75.”

Adam opens up his laptop and looks up the official definition at the website of National Aphasia Association and shows it to her:

Aphasia is an acquired communication disorder that impairs a person’s ability to process language, but does not affect intelligence. Aphasia impairs the ability to speak and understand others, and most people with aphasia experience difficulty reading and writing.

They also learn from the website that aphasia onset often occurs after a stroke and that more than 100,000 Americans have this disease.

Is it there a genetic disposition?”

They don’t know if it’s genetic, for sure, but I have read that there are some genetic mutations found in aphasia patients so, yes, there could be a genetic predisposition.”

She starts to ask him about his parents and then remembers that they had died in a plane crash. Adam has no brothers and sisters. Adam is doing more research on the web. “Hmmm… it looks like people with other learning disabilities, like dyslexia, are also likely to get it.”

Well, I have dyslexia but you don’t… I wonder what that means for the genes we pass on to children that we might have…” His wife says.

He shows her some images on his laptop and explains that the two primary regions in the brain that are affected by aphasia are Broca’s area, in the temporal lobe, and Wernicke’s area in the frontal lobe. Damages to either one or both of these regions can result in aphasia. There are many different types of aphasia depending on the location and degree of damage. According to the American Speech Language Hearing Association:

Some people with aphasia have trouble using words and sentences (expressive aphasia). Some have problems understanding others (receptive aphasia). Others with aphasia struggle with both using words and understanding (global aphasia).


Aphasia can cause problems with spoken language (talking and understanding) and written language (reading and writing). Typically, reading and writing are more impaired than talking or understanding.

Aphasia may be mild or severe. The severity of communication difficulties depends on the amount and location of the damage to the brain.

Honey, I am sorry, maybe I should not have told you,” Adam says, when he sees the look of concern on her face.

Adam, don’t worry so much. We’ll deal with whatever happens.” A few days later, however, she starts to worry. As a television anchorman, words are Adam’s passion and his livelihood. How would he react if he developed aphasia? What about it they decide to have children? Will they be predisposed to this disease? Maybe he should not have told her, she thinks. No, it’s much better to know. At least she would not be shocked and would have some inkling as to what’s going on if it ever happened to him.


Topic: aphasia

Region: Broca’s area, Wernicke’s area



Leena Prasad has a writing portfolio at Links to earlier stories in her monthly column

 be found at



  1. Mayo Clinic, Primary Progressive Aphasia, January 16, 2013,

  2. American Speech Language Hearing Association, What are some signs or symptoms of aphasia?

  3. National Aphasia Association, What Is Aphasia,


‘Sister Meadow’ and other poetry from Sam Burks

Sister Meadow 

I found a place
in the dwindling meadow,
a sanctuary strong standing
boldly fixtured under a hazy sky
where future stretch reflects
what is in my eyes,
defying corruption
that creeps up along birthing rivers,
over footsteps of mountains
cradling streams
where my life began,
now I take refuge
in the tall wild grass,
open trusting, alive because
of the river,
my sister and I,
we hold on valiantly
against the push
of plaster and wire
that drinks our water,
occupies our meadow,
but it cannot have us,
me or my sister,
or what is ours,
it cannot have us
we play beyond
what will tries to poison
our mother

Ring around the moon,

your breath of ice

is the summation of a night

upon many nights,

where strangers pass

blurry-faced along

moonlit boulevards–

so many times

this happens,

and so many times

I feel Luna circles

around my eyes and

stray feet.

Guide me


mother Luna,

away from

straight lines hiding faces,

out of these rings

of isolation

and into

your own ring

of solidarity

reigning mighty

in the heavens




You took me to
a pomegranate tree
once, it had
only a few leaves
and one sad looking fruit,
it being the middle
of January and all

“In spring
this tree
could be rich,”

we were going to
your house, you were drunk
and I was intoxicated
too, but in a way
that would leave me
with a worse hangover
than yours

you showed me
this tree, you were
so excited,
it had only one fruit,
it was a small pomegranate,

it was a small detour
towards where
I would hold you
and love you

kind of like the way
I love a fresh pomegranate

but it happened
too soon,
you plucked the fruit
from the tree
before it was ripe

and we never
got to eat it

— Sam Burks is a regular contributor, editor, and sushi chef from Gilroy, CA. He may be reached at