Mad Madness: The Pandemic that has been with US

It’s 2020.  Black Death, Black pain, and Black anger stagnate the air. The toll of life under the unrelenting weight of whiteness has unearth the rancid and left bare the U.S. history, the rangled bodies of buried and un-buried Black people yearning to breathe free.  The metal shackles of enslavement morphed into the financial shackles of low-waged employment, unemployment, amidst economic booms performed out on privileged bodies – non-Black, careless, callous and reckless.   

It’s 2020. In the U.S. 100,000+ are dead in less than a trimester, the air quickly cleared of pollution as automotive and air travel halt.  The same air thickens with the pungent taste of racism – some the lips and tongues smacked sweet as the cellular tug of the ancestral call for rituals of dehumanizing acts onto the bodies of Black Others. Prove whiteness: affirm belonging and allegiance to segregation, Jim Crow,  the Action Block, the dislocation of millions of African peoples. Some lips smack with delight.  It’s feasting time. 

photographer Alex Love

It’s 2020. And, Coronavirus (COVID 19) eats its way through African American communities collecting breath like trinkets for souvenir. The current occupant of the house on the hill, chest puffed, laughs.  Life is Sweet. Lips smack with delight minute by minute, the delicious aching tug of racism’s ancestral calls.  The pandemic that has been with US for 400 years sears.

It’s 2020.  Fiber-optics in the ground. Satellites in the sky. Internet live stream Black Bodies fighting for a full breath of whatever air is possible.  ‘I can’t breathe’.   Yearning to breath free.  Tear gas, pepper spray, bullets, and Coronavirus (COVID 19).

It’s 2020.  The street are filled masked and unmasked.  Truth and clarity – the gift of Coronavirus (COVID 19). Everyone sees. Not everyone breaths.  Noxious, obnoxious, and obscene innocence – the lie of whiteness identity and allies.

It’s 2020. Black bodies piled high on street corners, in funeral homes, hospitals, jails, parking lots, and on lawns.

It’s 2020. Pandemic Racism meets Pandemic Coronavirus (COVID 19): Black Bodies.

It’s 2020.  Don’t stand close. Don’t even try to breathe.  Enough. 

Dr. Melissa Barber – (of Melissa’s Thanks) organizes Coronavirus (COVID 19) response in her community

One of the biggest ideas that came from the Cuban Revolution was that everyone, as a human right, should have access to healthcare and should have access to education. So Cuba has prided itself in making sure that these are very much pillars of its revolution, and that their people would always have access to that.

Dr. Melissa Barber, author of Melissa’s Thanks, continues her GREAT work! Read more here.

“In the South Bronx, Dr. Melissa Barber is putting into practice lessons she learned more than a decade ago from her training as a medical student in Cuba at the Latin American School of Medicine, or ELAM as it’s known by its Spanish initials. For Barber, healthcare doesn’t start with an ambulance ride to the hospital but with community organizing and a deep familiarity with the needs of one’s neighbors. Barber is also the coordinator for the U.S.-Cuba scholarship program that provides free medical school training in Cuba for aspiring doctors who commit to return and serve in their communities.”

April 1, 2020

This is the age of Coronavirus/COVID 19. The privilege of breathing is on the forefront of everyone’s mind. The air is cleaners because a force so small it is imperceptible to the human eye has literally put the world on pause, caught between breaths, waiting to exhale.

At this moment I find all language inadequate.  Its inadequacy is both irreverent and irrelevant, for use, however crude and imperfect, must be made of it.  At least this is where I have now landed.  

For weeks (more precisely months) I have fumbled and foiled in my attempts to convert thoughts, feelings, a way of being in this new world of ours into language.  Failure after failure, bumps after bumps, I have been wholly discouraged, disappointed, disheartened, and dispirited by language’s inability and impotency. I have been terrorized with brutal imaginings, fear that ultimately I could write nothing – at least nothing worthy of that which I seek to describe, reflect on, analyze, and deconstruct in order to find a way forward.  NO!!! ways forward/backwards/sideways/upside-down ways to transform this present moment through language (written, oral, and embodied) that speaks into healing, health, resistants, joy!!   I seek language that disentangles from rhetoric of disease, denial, destruction and breaths life into this and the next moment.   And yet…

Today I start here:  

Eric Garner’s “I can’t breathe”echoes through corridors and waiting rooms of hospitals, care centers and homes around the world:  And in a multitude of languages, across times zones, and age-range, the reverberation of  ‘I can’t breathe’ hangs in the air,  haunting the contemporary moment.  This is the age of Coronavirus/COVID 19.  The privilege of breathing is on the forefront of everyone’s mind.  The air is cleaners because a force so small it is imperceptible to the human eye has literally put the world on pause, caught between breaths,  waiting to exhale.  And Garner’s cosmic reckoning is upon us, bring the world’s economy to its knees as everyone fears that next inhalation will be an ill-fated journey to that final gasp “I can’t breathe.”   The weight of the virus is on our necks, we are in the preverbal chokehold, and even atheists are praying that the last time they saw their loved ones will not be the last time of having seen their loved ones;  and if loss must be had, if Garner must die as he did, let it be someone else’s breath that is aborted, let someone else be sacrificed to the ritual fight that ends in a whole bodied “I can’t breathe”. 

Who will we be after millions across the globe (including our own near and far) have succumbed,  when we are all madmen from grief, catastrophic loss,  and survival guilt?  How will we protect innocence (our own and others) when we have already perverted innocence and turned it on itself?  What type of global community will we build from this fear of breathing and from the enormous threat of unchecked hatred and biases embodied in the micro and macro?  What dances will be create to immunize us against external harm and from internal afflictions?  

Dancing in Blackness: Halifu Osumare

In compliance with current health and university guidelines, “Dancing in Blackness: An Academic’s Dance Journey” at Columbia University has been cancelled. Please check back for updates and reschedules.

Halifu Osumare. Ph.D. has been involved with dance and black popular culture internationally for over forty years as a dancer, choreographer, teacher, administrator and scholar. She is Professor Emerita of African American & African Studies at UC Davis and has written two books on global hip-hop: The Africanist Aesthetic in Global Hip-Hop: Power Moves (2007), in which she coined the phrase “connective marginalities” that gave a cogent reason for the youth culture’s internationalization.

 Her memoir, Dancing in Blackness, with a Foreword written by Brenda Dixon Gottschild, was published by University Press of Florida in 2018, and won the 2019 Selma Jeanne Cohen Prize for Dance Aesthetics, as well as a 2019 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. She has taught dance and lecture-based courses on dance and culture throughout U.S., Europe, Africa, Hawaii, and the Caribbean.


African Voices and Pen & Brush will celebrate National Poetry Month with a tribute to Ntozake Shange.

African Voices and Pen & Brush will celebrate National Poetry Month with a tribute to Ntozake Shange. The event will feature readings from her friend Dr. Halifu Osumare, author of Dancing In Blackness; writer Rashidah Ismaili, Vice President of the Pen And Brush Board; Chanel Dupree, a scriptwriter in development with “Salvage” and several contributors from African Voices special issue honoring Ntozake. The event is free and open to the public. Donations welcome

Black History Month – In celebration of ‘ordinary’ Women

In recognition of Black History Month in the United States, from February 13 – March 31, posts will be about ‘ordinary’ African Diaspora women, highlighting aspect of their lives. I start with Melissa Barber, the visionary behind the Melissa Thanks series. Please listen as she reads Day 22 and Day 23 of Melissa’s Thanks 2019

Dancing Life… 5

Ayodele Casel’s Diary of a Tap Dancer explores shared themes of hoofers past and present with stories illuminating the struggle and joy of expression, communication, the evolution of jazz music, gender inequality, and the personal and culturally devastating implications for women of color. 

Tuesday, Feb 11, 2020 4:15 pm

On Race and Health

Racial discrimination isn’t just harmful as it happens—its effects can linger for years. Tufts researchers recently found that people exposed to racial discrimination during early childhood were more likely to develop cardiovascular health issues compared to those who never experience discrimination, or who experienced discrimination later in life.

One of the most dynamic conversations taking place in and around fields of health and wellbeing is to what extent does racism contribute to the health and wellbeing of an individual across a lifetimes. For African living in the diaspora, and specifically in diaspora spaces largely constructed by colonial paradigms in place to protect and uphold white identity and whiteness through acts of physical and psychic assaults on black and brown bodies.

Researchers are gathering new evidence on the effects of experiences of racism and when along the life course these experiences are most detrimental. Read more below:

By Dominique Ameroso June 13, 2019 

“Racial discrimination isn’t just harmful as it happens—its effects can linger for years. Tufts researchers recently found that people exposed to racial discrimination during early childhood were more likely to develop cardiovascular health issues compared to those who never experience discrimination, or who experienced discrimination later in life.” Click to Read More!