Friday, November 18, 2011

On the Cutting Edge of Humanities Scholarship

CSU Professor and internationally know author, Sandra Jackson-Opoku, and Dr. Evelyne Delgado-Norris, French scholar and professor at CSU, along with others in the Department of English and Foreign Languages and Literatures, and the College of Arts and Sciences presented a powerful program on Tuesday, November 15 which was appreciated by at least 70 students, faculty and administrators. Webster, a Canadian of multi-racial African descent, described the racial conditions in Canada which mirror our own in Chicago. This activist described life as a young boy and man in a working-class neighborhood in Quebec City. His personal stories of racial profiling and harassment at the hands of police resonate with many in our beloved city.

Webster detailed the nature of racist indoctrination at the hands of Canadian educators who never allowed for the study of African-descended and Native Canadian people. As an educated French- and English-speaking African Canadian man, Webster feels compelled to write and speak about such things. He described how he and his friends speak in Frenglish (hybrid French and English language). Like most colonized and resistant peoples, this generation of multiracial Canadians have had to create a language that allowed them to speak of their circumstances. Or as the late, great thinker/writer James Baldwin wrote “People evolve a language in order to describe and thus control their circumstances or in order not to be submerged by a reality that they cannot articulate.” Frenglish, like ebonics and Spanglish, allow colonized people to describe their reality, critique it and mold it. Frenglish, ebonics, Spanglish and other denigrated languages allow the marginalized and the resistant to express their unique subjectivity vis-à-vis an oppressive, dominant society. From this location they can assume agency, identity and a right to speak. Perhaps the words of Frantz Fanon from his important, Wretched of the Earth, help us understand the importance of language to our people: “every dialect, every language, is a way of thinking. To speak means to assume a culture.”

Hip hop throughout the world is created by colonized people in their language. Whether in Spanglish, Frenglish or ebonics, hip hop is a beautiful expression of THEIR knowledge in THEIR language. It’s a shame that the Black and Brown managerial class can’t see that beauty. Perhaps if they were to look to Robeson or Morrison for their examples of ebonics instead of corporate rap ‘stars’ or the latest anti-Black rant disguised as a legitimate prejudice against ebonics, they would be able to appreciate the beauty of our languages and assume their power.

Again, many thanks to Sandra and Evelyne for developing this program on the internationalization of hip hop, highlighting the importance of youth culture to our globalized world and furthering our understanding of the African diaspora. Thanks for bringing Webster’s beautiful hip hop (wisdom) to the CSU community.

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