After maroonage... On that process of disengaging

As an unexpected treat, Nikki just so happened to have posted an article from ProudFlesh Journal in which the author speaks of disengagement and how so called "lower income" and "less educated" black folks ("disconnected" black people, as the New York Times calls it) are more and more realizing that we cannot live out our proper way of life -- not even in the shadows of maroonage -- in this modern "slave society" that I call euro-judeo-Christian capitalist civilization, which I say knowing that there is an african judeo-Christian tradition (not saying you need to call it that though, just helps me be clear).

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Here's an excellent excerpt from the piece Nikki posted that reminds those of us striving to be "in tune" that we're heading in the right direction. According to a New York Times article cited in the essay below, so called "lower income" or so called "less educated" black people, who I consider some of the strongest in the tradition of urban African resistance in America, are beginning to "disengage" from this modern slave society. Or, as the article says specifically, they are "leaving New York City, the epicenter of global capital exploitation, for more space and family roots," citing the recent historic decline of New York City's black population growth as evidence.

That sentence hit me like a rainbow, especially since I've been feeling this intense itch -- starting with this post (link) -- to discuss how family and community is built in the intentional experience, as oppose to the reactionary (but necessary) maroon experience.

Now, the way I see it, if my knowledge of history and our people's struggles shows us that the strategy of trying to transform these epicenters of global capital exploitation through engagement has pretty much failed, in 2009, I'm going to take my ancestors' experiences and learn a lesson from them. I think I'm increasingly see that the lesson to be learned here is that true freedom cannot be found here in these epicenters of global capital exploitation.

That my inclination is in sync with black migration trends makes me extremely happy and gives me an enormous amount of hope that we as a people are moving in the right direction, despite our losing many over to the pitfalls of modern slave society and its "global capital exploitation" way of life. Those of us in tune with this trend should be happy because this reminds us that we haven't lost what it means to be in that proud African/indigenous tradition in our American existence and separation from home. Ultimately, that's where I want to be -- in tune with THAT spirit of resistance. I think there will always be those of us who choose to salvage a maroon existence whose time has come. But the nature of maroonage is also that it is always changing. Like the nomad, unlike the agriculturist, the maroon does not build stable, sustainable community.

I don't care to knock the nomadic maroon existence. I'm just realizing it's not for me. I'm increasingly seeing the urban capitalist existence for our people as an idea whose time has passed.

What I love about the piece Nikki shared is that it articulates that the transition from maroon back to the indigenous must be a process rather than an instantaneous phenomenon. That is important to understand. That articulation also leaves room for us to be at different points in our transition, or for us to remain at different points, and form different identities, as well. Some may choose to follow the path of return to the indigenous fully. Some of us may choose to follow it half way. Some of us may choose to not follow it at all and to continue on the path of trying to transform and salvage a society of "global capital exploitation".

The most important thing, I think, is that we all make a conscious choice for ourselves and live, unregretful, with our choice:

"[...] The phenomenon that is incorrectly called “disconnectedness” is, upon closer analysis, in fact disengagement, the active self-removal from a society as a means of self-defense and collective survival. Understanding that the dominant power structure is antithetical to collective Black community, Black people in the United States are disengaging. This Black disengagement, motivated by a desire for a more complete and collective existence, is rooted in a radical legacy that dates back to, and even pre-dates, New World chattel slavery. Cedric Robinson, in Black Marxism: the Making of the Black Radical Tradition, writes:

"[...] the more fundamental impulse of Black resistance was the preservation of a particular social and historical consciousness rather than the revolutionary transformation of feudal or merchant capitalist Europe . . . This perhaps is part of the explanation of why, so often, black slave resistance naturally evolved to marronage as the manifestation of the African’s determination to disengage, to retreat from contact. To reconstitute the community, Black radicals took to the bush, to the mountains, to the interior. Where we cannot retreat to such far off locations, we find means of disengagement."

But disengagement is not a clear and definitive break. It is a process by which one first recognizes the contradictions of the system under which s/he finds her or himself, and then proceeds to transform her or his reality to one more in accordance with her or his moral standards. It includes the self-distancing from said society in the quest for an alternate one. It must be underscored, once again, that disengagement is a process.

When the teenagers with whom I work at Rikers Island, New York City’s largest penal colony, expound upon the inadequacies of this power structure, cite countless injustices found in the criminal justice system, demonstrate a deep awareness and understanding of the racist underpinnings of their detainment, and then proceed to glorify the merciless attainment of material goods by any means, thereby validating the system they just rebuked, it should come as no surprise. The current racial capitalist/imperialist power structure is one that imposes limits upon the imagination as a means of preserving hegemony. In many instances, we cannot imagine ourselves outside of the current system, for we have not yet gained the vocabulary to articulate nor the tools to construct that which we seek. As the process of disengagement matures, however, the vocabulary to purport a vision is developed, which the collective then becomes ready to enact.

[...] Unfortunately, what we do not always see in Black youth culture are articulated and productive alternatives.

Further evidence of this disengagement can be found in another recent New York Times article reporting a significant shift in the Black population of New York City. The article states that “an accelerating exodus of American-born blacks, coupled with slight declines in birthrates and a slowing influx of Caribbean and African immigrants, have produced a decline in New York City's black population for the first time since the draft riots during the Civil War...”9 In search of more space, lower cost of living, and family roots, a large share of migrants leaving not only the city, but the region, and heading for the South are ‘lower income’ and ‘less educated,’ the same population cited in the earlier article as being “disconnected.” Black people are leaving New York City, the epicenter of global capital exploitation, for more space and family roots. We are disengaging from urban centers and then moving to environments that facilitate an improved quality of life and connect us to our family traditions. What plight are these studies referring to?

Above all else, disengagement is a source of hope, as it demonstrates that, even in the height of State repression, Black people are still resisting white hegemony, that we have still not yet been conquered by a society that has nothing more to offer us than urban death chambers, rural peonage, imprisonment, and enslavement. It is not hopelessness. It is intelligence, the comprehension that this society has nothing for us. Of course the New York Times, as a tool of white supremacy, would publish these academic findings. Who knows? Perhaps it will generate funds for NGO’s who will implement programs which only serve to disillusion, deceive, and misguide Black people by teaching them the errors of their ways and upholding mainstream (read: white supremacist) cultural values. Disengagement is one means through which the space is created to enable us to discuss the terms of our realities, plot and plan. It is a collective understanding that the current order is not working. We are slowly coming to realize that what we need can only be found in our own traditions and experiences.

With this, we disengage.