In New York the summer will end somewhere on Thursday or maybe next week. I start school on Friday and others go past Labor Day but it’s coming. The summer of 2014 in our northern hemisphere has been merciless and cruel. Two men were shot four blocks my front stoop less than 10 days ago. I can feel the broken ribs in every breath the midwest takes. The live oaks still weep down south even as these last few months were relatively cool. I got my haircut. I’ve pressed a shirt. But. The start of schools feels different this go. So much of what I do is built around ritual and a scholastic calendar. I need new signs, based on final exams or classroom discussion. Make my chart based on listening to students, my numbers are attendance. It’ll all be retrogrades. Whatever. It doesn’t take psychic to know we need a lift this time.
I’m traveling to Los Angeles by train first week of November. Chicago the next. Putting in for early promotion by January. I’ve got a good case, they say. Who knows. Been through three graduations at my AFC house in the last six months. Tomorrow the woman who trained me is leaving and we’re throwing her a BBQ. Everything feels like a lost episode of the X-Files where the planets are all lined up or gravity’s out of whack and everyone can see it all coming but in the end they just sit around and stare at one another in bewilderment and then it’s on to the next. Do you remember the end of the 20th century? Is this that again? No white men killing office workers or bombing Olympics, just black and brown boys getting aced by cops and women of color going to jail. If you listen closely you can hear even the most nihilistic folks sort of catching their breath, not really believing how fucked up it all is, not knowing if it’s still ok to go full scale I told you so. (It isn’t).
If the future’s female she’s black or brown and teaching us to forgive the impossible. If we’re exhausted now imagine how the future feels. Let’s make this fall the future of each student alive, week after week.
Daedelus - Onward (The Light Brigade, 2014)
"You don’t have to say it,
I’m on my way.
I’m not going alone.”
I’m finishing up my Summer II online course and although teaching public speaking only over the internet sounds a bit counter-intuitive, I designed this course to expand the notion of “public” to digital contexts. So all the assignments emerge out of the context of digital publics, digital orature, and digital communication rather than simply have the students record themselves speaking and post it on Youtube, although I suppose that’s fine too but not really what I’m interested in. But they do need to record themselves in some way and engage speaking publicly, digital or not. I’ve been having them use WeVideo to create their presentations, which isn’t really ideal but gives them some pretty useful tools to create, edit, organize their videos.
This video is from a mini-speech assignment where the students were writing about a practice or activity from their daily lives that they could turn into a tutorial video, a sort of rough draft presentation for a larger informative speech which they’ll complete later in the semester. It’s only the second assignment so I’m mostly interested in them getting comfortable with the technology and balancing the competing communication contexts in the editing and organization of their video. So much of digital communication is visual and watching the students learn about oral and visual forms and how digital publics interweave those two forms has been really fascinating.
However the best part of of most of the assignments from the class has been the transmission of daily practices from the lives of the students, the ways that vast amounts of cultural, personal, and complex information are being communicated through these assignments. This video is not slick, it isn’t about the gloss of digital publics. It’s shot on a phone, the sound is hot, it’s a “poor” aesthetic. Which is the point. Digital performance of everyday life is not high value production. Digital performance of everyday life is small, delicate, astounding, mundane, dimly lit, illuminating, contradicting, joy. The slice of the plantain cradled in his hand. The beaded wall piece hanging in the back hall. The drift of his accent. The joy of cooking a side dish for a larger meal.
Wondering aloud what we learn from these types of moments, how to frame their value for the students as we’re making them together. I love this video. Sometimes at the end of the day desire is digital, all scrolling the dash, pressing replay, following the likes.
How to Suffer Politely (And Other Etiquette for the Lumpenproletariat), (Deep Matte Polio Digital C-Print, 2014) A series of aphoristic posters that explore the intersections of the (performance of) suffering with respectability politics. How are poor people policed to suffer in ways that do not disturb/make uncomfortable oppressive institutions or communities? How have poor people been asked to engage in impossible feats of optimism and perseverance in the face of monotonous cycles of poverty and a free market that leaves very few free? How is this suffering declawed of its indictment of oppressive legacies, systems and institutions through narrative framing both in mainstream journalism and other forms of popular media? What is the hidden labor associated with being a poor person who performs tenacity and superhero feats by either smiling through the pain of living paycheck to paycheck or working harder? This ongoing series of aphoristic texts explores capitalist messaging as well as the pedagogy of capitalism.
© Kameelah Janan Rasheed, 2014
World Restart - Kindness (Otherness, 2014)
Restart it all, whole fucking thing.