(written in 2008 right after Obama’s “race” speech aired)
The Wire, Obama’s race speech and house – poetic “both/and” complicated renderings of the other America…That part of our society which many are members of (but who are often forced to silence publicly)…It is DuBois’ double consciousness, it is code-switching, it is living multiple realities, strategies and tactics, living one narrative in the light, but abiding by another in the closed inner circle of another set of folkways. I am wading through muddy thoughts.
As I watch and read Obama’s speech on the state of US racial politics, I am having a certain sense of deja vu. Not just because most of what he says is what a certain community of citizens say/think/dialogue about already (and, I must say it is refreshing to have this reality spoken aloud in mainstream circles). But because so much of what he performs/conveys is also so very present and tangible in the politics/ideology/embodied philosophy of the house community…. The trope of epic memory that wears itself on and embedded within bodies of color most obviously, but as well touches those outside of the black community – as a refusal, an amnesia, a desire not to talk about/acknowledge the continued effects of colonial/imperial history…Of the residual effects of institutionalized discrimination…And, in response, how the house experience becomes an act of memorialization, commemorative performance, an enactment of homage to ancestors, and a visceral acknowledgment of a continued struggle that is as-yet-unresolved.
The site of the dancefloor, the DJ and the dancers are activated players/agents using performance as a weapon of the weak, a strategy of “getting through” and as a vehicle to both create and convey the power of hope, vision, imagination, and empowerment through action…performance…the act of living.