Ya’ll are some fools! I’m yelling and gnashing my teeth and screeching at them in modified Common to pay attention. But these gentry don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about. You know that? Then they get robbed and laughed at and their goddamn feelings hurt cause they wanna talk to me and I tell them their Common ain’t shit — nobody can understand what the fuck they talking about! Don’t come to this end of the city like you know what this place is! But they come anyway.

Don’t you know? One time in ancient history someone came up with the idea that says, to fool and become an important human being you first must be white; secondly — totally understanding; third — never totally actually directly responsible (accept this); and fourth — that you will move through space outside of history (just like an astronaut!) and come to truly know yourself only by trying out other people’s cultures.

Except if you can’t fucking speak Common, how the fuck . . .

I don’t get it either, and they think I’m like them, and then they get Sensitive when I’m like that’s not how you use Jawn and that’s not what Salty means here, and that’s not how you act on the train, and you never heard of Belmont Plateau? You been living here for ten years five years three years you never heard of that place?

All these young white punks fresh from college and suburbia, responsible young moms as far as the eye can see, touring upper class parents here to survey the neighborhood — YOU KNOW SOMETHING? UPENN THROWS DOWN HALF ON A HOUSE IN WEST PHILLY IF YOU WORK FOR THEM? SO HOW CAN I GET A JOB? Gentry keeps coming in, crawling over Malcolm X Park and the block of Osage the city bombed to the ground, and nobody has any memory and everything is so charming, and they don’t even know we’re here and don’t even care! Cause they don’t know Common? BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER CAUSE THEY THINK THEY DO!!

You know, I never lived in a place that was gentry-fied before. I was living out by 48th and Baltimore down the street from my aunt. They call that area Middle Hill now and my aunt stays holed up with her cat in her Victorian rowhome with her Classic Olde Philly accent (the only one the realtors recognize, anyway) looking at her property taxes like she don’t know what she’s gonna have to do. And I moved back to Olney, out by the empty fields where the HK Mart used to be, and the abandoned middle school at Godfrey . . . Live by my parents finally — my stepdad’s got a grill, my mom’s got a little library going, and my little brother, he builds stuff that keeps things DRY. You know they say Levittown is a swamp now? That and the whole shit by Cobbs Creek — lotta places. It’s from the overflowed rivers and all the old backed up drainage systems in the city, and they only send out the truancy officers to those parts, rounding up all those badassed lazy kids and throwing them in detention schools, which YOU KNOW, are the only kinds of free schools this city GOT anymore, and my nana woulda been pissed to have her taxes go to those nasty kids! But what she doesn’t know is that we’re all living with the possums and raccoons now, and those loudass coquís. Her basement’s been flooded and her house is falling down empty.

And me, I go to work downtown for this young gay PhD couple taking car of their dogs. They work at the experimental charter school district — not the Penn one, the other one sponsored by PEW down by the Delaware. You know, the Delaware’s off limits, too. Might as well call it the Columbus River, if you hear what I’m saying, and let us merry men stick to our trashy creeks up the way . . .

And we’ll keep speaking in Common and remember the old blocks and these fools will stay making some other city on top of ours. Cause they don’t know that we’re here, and they don’t fucking care.

 

GENTRY was recently performed for LIVE at Kelly Writer’s House (available to listen here), and originally appeared in the space invaders edition of the Metropolarity Journal of Speculative Vision & Critical Liberation Technologies (available 4 free here). It was also assigned reading in a University of Pennsylvania undergraduate English department class, but Eighteen, who lives blocks away from campus, was not present to give any context to the piece whatsoever.

They said Yolanda was an arsonist. I don’t know — I guess they tried her as an adult. We never saw her again. But I remember seeing her face bent toward the sandy earth that day, and I don’t think she was sadistic. Just curious. And Connor was the only kid who had talked to her all week, probably. I heard her say she’d never used a magnifying glass before. Tons of ants were crawling over the pipe by the west side of the school, swarming together onto the dirt like an oil stain. She set them on fire, yeah, but I’m not even sure she wanted to. She probably would rather have used the magnifying glass to stare at a hunk of igneous rock or something, and she would have been able to tell how old each once-molten layer was.

Yolanda stuck out because she was the only black girl in our middle school. She was a high-performing student, and I guess her parents could pay. Most of the black kids in Philly can’t go to school anymore. Some people say black kids come from a culture of poverty, so they’re not ambitious and can’t get out of their neighborhoods anyway. People who say that kind of shit think good students like Yolanda are different from other black kids. I wouldn’t really know, but I remember when I said “Hi” to her on the first day she came in. It was January. I was like, “I know you’re new here, because I would’ve noticed you before.” And she winced just like my little brother does when my mom calls him “Fatso.”

Her family probably lives on a block of row-homes and eats at Petri Burger like we do—everyone in Philly craves their sterile in-vitro meat. And Yolanda’s dad might even get them all together to watch the drone strikes if they have a large-screen wall. My dad bets on drones. That’s how he pays for my school.

Since SEPTA banned teenagers, nobody at school can take the bus anymore. The bell rings, and a row of nannies in cars stalls the traffic outside. A few of us stick around for a while, in an in-between kind of world where rules still exist, but we can’t see them.

Convex lenses focus light to magnify solar energy. I knew this, but it’s different to see it in action. So when I saw Connor and Yolanda crouched down under the library window in the afternoon heat, I crept closer and craned my neck. There wasn’t even a spark or smoke, but the ants shriveled up under the fierce light, dead, one by one. Then Yolanda grabbed a piece of paper from her backpack and set that on the ground. Honestly, it looked a lot like when that laser took down a drone over a beach in Mexico last week. That was cool. You don’t see that kind of beam — it’s not like other lasers where you see a sharp purple line in the air. When Yolanda held the magnifying glass over it, a nickel-sized spot on the paper just suddenly caught fire.

And then, I can’t believe what happened next, but it was a real drone. The non-lethal kind that hovers overhead in case the metal detectors fail and some crazy kid tries a mass shooting. But Yolanda… The cops carried her away unconscious on a stretcher, barking at Connor to shut the hell up when he screamed, “Why’d you cuff her?”

Yolanda’s gone.

 


Suzy Subways is a writer/activist who loves Philly the way a three-eyed fish loves its lake. She edits Prison Health News, coordinates an oral history project about the Student Liberation Action Movement (SLAM), and temps as a copyeditor. Send a message to Mizsubways(@)gmail(.)com for her fiction zines.
Image on this post by the formidable @RecTheDirector.

Prologue: The Great Collapse:

Live from the 215 and kneedeep in the muck of the not so distant future, a cataclysmic rupture in the global capitalist system has created an economic, political and social shockwave that has reverberated around the planet with a fury previously unseen in the whole of human history. Maybe it was Wall Street gambling and high volume trading? Maybe it was global peak oil prices causing the whole fossil fuel industrial complex to grind to a screeching halt? Maybe a few of our Vodoun initiated sisters had really conjured up a devastating hex from the bowels of the nether world, that caused the entire system to just get sick and die? Nobody REALLY knows, and few people really give a fuck. All we knew/know is that the game has changed and we out here tryna live.

In the weeks immediately following the great collapse, the TV news and Social Media sites were flooded with “Experts” and “Economists” trying in vain to put together a story that made sense of it all. The TV talking heads gritted their teeth and furrowed their brows in an desperate, futile attempt to bottle a whole new world up into the impossibly tiny and inadequate snow globe of corporate Media Newspeak and “mainstream” economic theory.

The Politicians also tried to get control of the situation. At first they tried calm and soothe people, urging us to “stay home” and “remain calm” (as if we was calm before all this shit went down Smh). When that didn’t work, they passed new, repressive “laws”, increased domestic surveillance and unleashed police and military upon the massive waves of people that poured out into the streets, desperate to find food and security. For a little while, the police fought the people and the people fought the police. The cops and military were well trained and well indoctrinated, but all that training and indoctrination ran into direct conflict with a very definite, very concrete material reality. To put it simply, once the cops stopped getting paychecks, they stopped being cops. The dollar and all other global currencies collapsed under the weight of hyperinflation and deflation. Initially, the large multinational Banks, Manufacturers, Speculators and Tech Companies, for the most part did what we expected them to do; They took flight. The sick and dying American economy was further weakened by an unprecedented outsourcing of Production and Capital. The State administrative machine was bottlenecked and ultimately overwhelmed by the influx of bankruptcies, civil and criminal litigation. The world had changed rapidly and America as we all knew it was dead. The Empire, in its mad thirst to increase power and profits had spun itself into chaos, bankrupting the State and suffocating itself with the unruly weeds sprouted up from it’s own contradictions. The entire system and it’s interlocking, interdependent institutions was at once imploding and exploding all over, with multiple crises being set off simultaneously from multiple locus points. Nobody really knows how it all happened, but everybody knows WHAT happened. A new space had opened up and thankfully, many of us had been in our communities, working and preparing for it. How quickly the whole world changes.

Philadelphia is a fucked up city…

We know we ain’t telling you nothing new when we say that, we just felt it would set an appropriate tone for us as we discuss the urgency of the challenges we face and the dire necessity of a new approach to confronting those challenges. We live in a time following the great collapse of the system. For the past five centuries (or more ;) ,we have bore witness to the unfolding of a very specific, identifiable process in the dynamic movement of human history.

The world we live in today and our collective memories of the worlds that we have lived through in the past are a direct result of this process. From top to bottom, inside and out, our lives and our planet have been drastically reorganized by this historical process. Land, Labor, Culture, Sex, Love, Thought, Feelings, Dreams, everything we’ve ever known, even “Knowing” itself was seized up, divided, redefined and sublimated to the twin terrors of ownership, and domination. We watched in horror and fought valiantly as the machines born of this terrible process expanded out from their unholy centers of operation, rolling over every continent , violating fresh, virgin land, swallowing up Black, Brown, White and Yellow bodies and spewing out a pale grey deathsmoke everywhere.

For a long time it seemed like this chaotic process had stabilized. The owners and dominators had crystallized their aggressions into an over arching superstructure made up of various new institutions; NationStates, Parliaments, Banks, Judiciary Bodies, Plantations, Factories, Unions, Political Parities and Corporations. In addition to these new institutions, a whole new set of psychosocial norms, values and relations were designed to uphold and perpetuate the rule of the owners and dominators. For the most part these institutions, acting in coordination had subtly (and not so subtly) reshaped our ways of relating to one another, ourselves and our environment. Our communities and our lives were forcefully tied together in service of this perverse new empire of the State and Capital. The empire was strong and furious in it’s destructive and repressive capabilities. Despite these strengths, the system itself was vulnerable, prone to a long cycle of ever deepening and expanding internal crises. Many of us were aware of the weaknesses, contradictions and self inflicting vulnerabilities. We studied, worked and sacrificed, not only to understand the defects of the present system but with the hopes of surviving it’s inevitable collapse and laying the foundations for a new, more intimate, sane and humane system. We wanted to create a new way of life deeply rooted in the values of liberation, cooperation, shared responsibility and lateral decision making power. In the years leading up to the great collapse, the State attempted to reconcile the contradictions of a decaying world system and the empire it had produced. They attacked us with their economic austerity budgets, destroyed our public schools, relentlessly spied on us, threw many of us in jail and murdered many others. This process caused our people, all peoples, great pain and misery, but it also created the space and imperative for us to begin to plant the seeds of a new world within the dying shell of the old.

Our New Community


We live in Southwest Philly 52nd & Woodland. Years of intensive work and study has allowed us to identify, clarify and strengthen the core values around which our new world would be shaped. In the wake of the great collapse of the world system, we took care to make our community, the neighborhood where we live and work each day, the central focus of our efforts. The Community is our highest ideal To put it simply: We knew that the next phase in the great arch of human social evolution would bend towards the “localization” of human Social, Political and Economic organization and the free, open relationships forged between these small, community locales. The lateral, nonhierarchical distribution of decision making power over the affairs of our community was to be a central value in both our word and deed.

During the prior five centuries or so, the Empire of State and Capital had rolled across the face of the Earth, crushing communities and absorbing them into it’s body, constraining us within those boldface lies commonly known as “National Borders” and “Property Lines”. As a result of our close study of the system’s deep, irreconcilable contradictions, we had anticipated the great collapse. We viewed the collapse as an explosive event that would initially “dislodge” communities all around the world from the grips of the highly centralized, dominating State Capitalist system by rendering the empire’s institutions incapacitated. We knew that we would have to begin the long, tireless work of building a vital, community capable of producing the food, energy and social resources necessary for us and our people to not only survive this cataclysmic event, but to thrive and create a new autonomy and independence in the wake of the systemic collapse. There were only a handful of us here when we began the work of building new institutions and (more importantly) new relationships in this neighborhood. Some of us had grown up here, some of us had moved here from other places. The relationships we created with our neighbors was most important. We didn’t approach them as “activists” or some sort of political party jockeying for position within a foul system, nor did we walk with timidity or fake humility. We spoke with certainty, listened to our neighbors in earnest and did genuine work to help them take direct action to solve their own problems.

Early on we identified four key issues that were effecting the lives of people in our neighborhood, throughout the city and in Ghettos throughout the control. Those key issues were:

1. Lateral Power and Decision Making

2. Housing and Land

3. Food Production and Distribution

4. Education and Childcare

5. Energy and EcoSustainability

Our study and direct experience had informed us that these five key issues were most important and pressing because the effectiveness of a vital and productive community rested upon them, the same as a house rests on a stone foundation

1) Decision Making and Lateral Power


Looking closely at the society in which we lived, we came to the understanding that a fundamental root cause of many of the problems that plagued us were directly related to the fact that the vast majority of individuals lacked the power to make decisions and exercise real control over their lives. Even further, our Communities themselves lacked the power to administer their own internal affairs in any significant way. All decision making power had been centralized into the body of the Corporate State, jealously guarded by it’s detached class of politicians and bureaucrats. Social Hierarchy and the unjust concentrations of power that follow it had shaped virtually every aspect of our lives: The relations between Men and Women, Workers and Capital, Heterosexuals and Queers, White Folks and everybody else etc. We understood that the Corporate State was a key actor in the perpetuation of these imbalanced and ultimately unjust relationships. We knew that we wanted to be a free, self-determining Community. We knew that we not only wanted to do away with the “external” hierarchy imposed upon us by the State, we knew that we did not want hierarchy and unjust concentrations of power to exist within our community either. This understanding brought us face to face with the challenge of creating institutions (Businesses, Gardens, Cultural Spaces, Schools, Defense and Safety Collectives etc.) and ultimately a culture in which power was not distributed hierarchically from top to bottom, but laterally, side to side, person to person. This is easier said than done, in any organizational effort, it is almost second nature for people to replicate the very same hierarchical structures typically seen in private Corporations, Political Parties and the administrative institutions of the State. We wanted something new, a new way of thinking, creating and being; in short our new community needed to produce a new culture. In order to lay the groundwork for a new culture, we had to create new institutions to act as the carriers of that culture. In order for these institutions to be qualitatively different from those old institutions that were failing and crumbling all around us, we knew that they would require a radically different organizational structure, a structure in which power is distributed laterally, not hierarchically.

Early on, the few of us that initiated this work would get together and discuss the many many challenges of Lateral Power and nonhierarchical organizational structures. We identified 2 key principles that would go a long way toward distributing the decision making power within a given institution or organization to as many participants as possible:

 a. Collective Decision Making:


The process that we undergo in order to make important decisions is central to the make up of our Community and the institutions within it. We knew that we wanted decisions that affected us all to be discussed openly and publicly, until a general consensus was reached and every member of our community took a vote. In order to strengthen our own experience with collective decision making, we started off small, organizing weekly outdoor neighborhood assemblies in the evenings after our neighbors returned from work. During the assembly individuals, families and small groups would present the ideas they had for making our Community stronger. Strategic locales for Food Production, Cleaning and Beautification projects, etc. Many many issues were discussed at our assemblies and everyone was free to offer their opinion. These assemblies were not perfect, but they created a space for all of us to get together, discuss the challenges of the day and most importantly, see and hear each other. In addition to the serious discussions, consensus building and decision making, the neighborhood assemblies became naturally social affairs in which neighbors would congregate, laugh, talk, flirt, eat and dance to music, building deeper more intimate interpersonal ties amongst neighbors in the process of practicing radical democracy. These neighborhood assemblies (which still occur today) helped lay the foundation of mutual trust and experience that allowed for the new institutions we created in our Community to flourish under truly democratic control, virtually free of unnecessary hierarchy and concentrations of power.

 b. Accountable Representation:


Under the old system before the Great Collapse, our society was thoroughly controlled by bourgeois Politicians and shadowy Corporate Execs and Share Holders that owned them. These people would make stupid speeches using grand, flowery language, claiming to “represent the interests of the people” or whatever. The Politicians and the CEOs, hopelessly fused together in a sick, incestuous oligarchy of State and Corporate power, lied through their teeth, claiming that the true power lay in the hands of us as voters and consumers and that they were merely our humble (but well paid) “representatives”. By now, everyone knows that the power over the old system and the institutions within it, was in every significant way, wielded by a small, detached class of Political and Economic elites. In our new Community we do elect representatives to carry out specific tasks but these representative positions are truly accountable to the people.

Every representative is subject to immediate popular recall and these representative positions are revolving with a new representative elected once the specific task is completed. This revolving structure helps to “democratize” skills and experience while working to prevent the ossification of a new administrative/decision making class. Many of the new institutions we created early on were structured this way; Schools, Businesses, Gardens, Work Shops etc. Many more have been created and maintained today.

2) Housing and Land


Throughout history Housing and Land have been important focal points for people around the world struggling to achieve freedom, self-determination, autonomy and genuine community. In our time we understood that the people’s relationship to the Land was central. The Capitalist State, throughout it’s history as a Social entity has stolen Land that was once the shared providence of the many, selfishly proclaiming it as the private property of the few. We understood that the Land was a gift to all of us and In the early stages of our work we were presented with several strategic advantages. In the years leading up to the collapse, many of our neighborhoods were ravaged by gentrification. On a whim Market and local governmental forces would converge with the sole purpose of forcing us out of our neighborhoods. There was little legal recourse we could take against these decimations of our neighborhoods. Even in the face of rampant corruption, deception and outright theft on the local level, there was no “higher authority” that would hear our call of distress. We were for all intents and purposes, a landless, homeless people. As the economic crisis deepened, sucking more and more large private Real Estate companies into the abyss, we took quick notice of the abundance of vacant buildings in our neighborhood and throughout the city. We surveyed the people of our neighborhood and shared info with friends from other hoods and put together a database of individuals and families that were in need of housing. We’d organized work crews made up of able-bodied folks on the database as well as a few volunteers in the neighborhood and we’d open up the vacant, often boarded up buildings, renovate the units and move the homeless into them as quickly as possible. In the early days, jilted landlords would call the cops on us, forcing evictions. Many in our Community fought the cops viciously when they came to kick families back out in the street and even after all that, once they left, we’d just organize another work crew, rip the boarding off the buildings and move people right back in. Like most of the institutions in our Community now, the buildings were radically democratic and self-managed, with each resident having equal say in decision making. Soon, we saw multiple buildings that were once reserved solely for the benefit of private profit were slowly transforming into vibrant, dynamic centers of Communal activity.

3. Food Production and Distribution


The problem of Food Production and Distribution emerged early on in the process of institution building in this neighborhood. The vast majority of our people suffer through a dead man’s diet of greasy, high cholesterol, fatty, processed, pesticide ridden and genetically modified “foods”. Speaking with our neighbors early on, we understood this issue of Food Production and Distribution to be a central component of community building. Vacant lots and mid sized plots of land were seized and refigured for the purpose of growing food. Many people in neighborhoods throughout the city (and the world) were doing similar work, refiguring Urban spaces as local food production sites. In order to increase the diversity of food access, we reached out and established direct relationships with other neighborhoods, coordinating crop growth and sharing produce. Today, we enjoy a vast city wide food distribution chain in which everyone is fed according to his or her needs, crop growth is coordinated and yielded crops are traded shared based on a cooperative structure neighborhood by neighborhood.

4. Education and Childcare


In the days proceeding the Great Collapse, Women and Men were drawn out of our neighborhoods seeking to sell their labor to an employer for a wage. This process left the children of our neighborhoods in a position where the majority of their formative years are spent in the care of a nonblood relative. As the contradictions of Capital deepened, wages were suppressed and more and more workers have to take on 2, sometimes 3 additional jobs, families find it financially impossible to homeschool/rear their young children. In response to this reality created by Capitalism, the State has stepped in to “mediate” the need, by providing families with childcare vouchers, and facilitating a veritable explosion in the childcare/daycare industry in poor Black, White and Latino communities. Due to the fact that the majority of these Daycare facilities are heavily reliant on State subsidies, the entire industry as we know it rested upon a huge State supported bubble. Seeing this, we understood that this “bubble” could be burst by the next round of State austerity budget cuts, resulting in countless families being left unable to pay the (market driven) childcare costs. This potential Childcare “bubble burst” scenario is a double edged sword. A drastic cut in State funding for childcare subsidies would not only leave parents assed out with no way to pay for their children’s care during the day, this scenario would also cripple one of the largest employers in the hood, the Daycare Centers themselves. In the days following the Great Collapse, the “bubble burst” scenario that we had envisioned and planned for was nothing compared to the viciousness in which the State cut all social subsidies (Food, Housing, Education, Childcare and many many more) in a desperate attempt to save the Capitalist economy in the wake of the great collapse. Acting in service of our principles and out of sheer necessity, we created several new cooperative Educational and Childcare institutions. Our neighborhoods already possessed much of the necessary infrastructure for these new Childcare and Educational cooperatives: Schools closed and abandoned due to State budget cuts, formerly private Daycares, Childcare workers and Teachers displaced by the collapse of the system, Parents, Grandparents, Students, Neighbors and Mentors all willing to share in the work of caring for and teaching our young people. Our curriculums, standards and practices are shaped and upheld collectively by the community and we are working towards creating a new culture of care and learning suitable for our new Community.

5. Energy Production and EcoSustainability


Quite possibly the most challenging issue we have faced in the wake of the Great Collapse of the system, was the issue of Energy Production and EcoSustainability. Despite our great desire and dedication to freedom and autonomy, our neighborhoods were intimately tied to the same powers we opposed, due to our reliance on the State’s energy infrastructure. Our homes and vehicles were powered by energy sources we knew to be harmful to the planet. Our community wanted clean, renewable energy technologies that worked in harmony with our abundant planet. There have been many people working on methods in which we can harness the Earth’s power and use it to suit our needs. We continue to study and experiment with these methods. Early on, before the collapse, we began to counter act our neighborhood’s dependency on the State energy grid by collectively instituting our own alternative sustainable energy production strategy. We envisioned every building in our neighborhood as a potential minipower plant. We started off by outfitting a few large, strategically chosen buildings (mainly abandoned and repurposed schools and warehouses) with our own Solar Panels to collect sunlight from the roof. We have also built miniwind turbines on the sides of the buildings. We also envision a technology that will allow us to drill narrow pathways into the ground in order to extract geothermal heat from the Earth’s core. Each of our minipower plants have also been outfitted with a small a meter and processing unit that can collect the solar, wind and geothermal energy, use it to power the building and store any surplus energy in hydrogen tanks or ship it back into the new, decentralized, internet based energy grid, so that others who need it, may use it. The use of this technology has become widespread in the past few years and we have formed working relationships with neighboring Communities throughout the City and the world in order to collect and share clean energy freely.

Conclusion (For Now/For the Future)


We still here and we still tryna live, a flower growing up from the rich soil of a new world fertilized by the corpse of a dead social order. Everyday we take further steps toward a standard of freedom, autonomy, cooperation and social intimacy, our immediate ancestors couldn’t have imagined. This ain’t a game, this is a battle. We fight, make mistakes and hopefully learn and improve. Again, we state that we hold the Community up as our highest ideal. The free association and equally democratic relation between individuals and groups within our Community as well as the Communities around us and throughout the world, will continue to be central to our vision for a new society while acting as the means by which we hope to bring that society into being. For now, we here and we building.


 

Bibliography:

1. Jeremy Rifkin The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, The Economy and The World

2. K. Kia Bunseki FuKiau Mbongi: An African Traditional Political Institution

3. Graham Purchase Anarchist Organization

4. Huey P. Newton “On Intercommunalism”

5. Benjamin Barber Jihad Vs. McWorld: How Globalisation and Tribalism are Reshaping our World

6. Murray Bookchin The Philosophy of Social Ecology: Essays on Dialectical Naturalism

7. Russell “Maroon” Shoatz ” The Dragon and the Hydra”

8. Sam Mbah & I.E. Igariwey African Anarchism: The History of a Movement

9. Max Rameau Take Back the Land: Land, Gentrification and the Umoja Shanty Village

10. Michael Albert Moving Forward: Program for a Participatory Economy

11. Rudolph Rocker “Socialism and the State”

John Morrison is an MC, producer, writer, and DJ. Follow him @johntheliberator, The Culture Cypher, Soundcloud, Mixcloud, all the clouds. An excerpt of this work originally appeared in season one episode one (not our pilot episode, mind you) of Metropolarity: Journal for Speculative Vision & Critical Liberation Technologies.

Turns out, NASA’s master password is pretty easy to guess: AmericaInSpace1961. We’d been using it to hack the Hubble space telescope and run searches on all galaxies in the universe for the ultimate skate park.

We found a planet located in a metal rich segment of the Sculptor Dwarf galaxy with smooth, calcified, totally skateable surfaces and a crust shot through with thousands of deep canyons. It was also 290,000 light-years away from the cops and the new faces that had been progressively infiltrating our neighborhood. Our two main criteria satisfied (skating to be had + far away), all we needed was a way to get to Skate Park Planet.

When we were younger we’d learned that wormholes take the space-time continuum and bend it back against itself, connecting points that would ordinarily be separated by un-travelable distances. We decided to hack NASA again and see if they’d done any research into the matter that might be helpful. We found out pretty quickly that the Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project, a supposedly massive project that spanned several decades and used cutting edge theories and experiments to figure out how to travel at hyper-speed was a decoy, but it had a secret offshoot: the For Realzies Wormhole Project. The NASA dudes probably spoke of it in hushed tones as F.R.W.P. at their NASA cocktail parties.

After downloading a .pdf of the F.R.W.P.’s final report which included step-by-step blueprint instructions for a wormhole generator, we set to work collecting everything we needed, which turned out to be a couple cathode ray tubes hooked up to some modified circuit boards whose jumper wires and conductors had been soldered together and connected to a 9V battery, a switch crank connected to a circuit breaker, and five hula-hoops covered in a thin layer of peanut butter.

We still had to do a lot of calculations so the wormhole would take us to the exact point in space where Skate Park Planet awaited, taking into account that it had moved pretty far from its position where Hubble had picked up the light its star had given off 290,000 years ago. Taking breaks to skate around, we calculated, drew up graphs and mapped out schemata. Then something happened that forced us to put the voyage to Skate Park Planet on hold.

A couple suits strolling down the sidewalk had sparked urgency in our neighborhood. One of them was actually smoking a cigar. The five of us were out skating and talking about Skate Park Planet when it happened.

The suits walked right up to a home whose family had been there for thirty years. The family was struggling to finish paying the last bit of their mortgage to a bank that had bought up their loan from another bank. The suits looked back and forth between the family’s home and their space phones. Something had to be done about this shit.

People in our neighborhood talked amongst themselves and started holding community meetings. There were new faces at the meetings. The new faces used phrases like “neighborhood revitalization” and “inclusionary zoning”. A couple of us painted a hand holding an evil eye at the end of our street to ward off neighborhood revitalization and inclusionary zoning.

A few weeks later, a real estate developer opened what the new faces called a “gastro-pub” a few blocks away. The new faces talked about brunch and craft beers and how much they loved the way this part of town, our part of town, was “changing so much for the better.” Cop cars became even more of a regular occurrence, harassing people for being outside. Someone launched a brick through the large window of the gastro-pub. The owner responded with more cops. Pretty likely he was paying them off. Something had to be done about this shit.

Well, we did have a wormhole generator. We convened an emergency meeting and decided to make a wormhole and throw the infiltrators straight into it. Problem was, calculations for this type of thing take weeks and we didn’t have time to re-calculate a new place to aim it. The ultimate skate park would have to be sacrificed for the neighborhood.
We barely had time to make anti-wormhole pulse wave disseminators out of small but powerful magnets found in a dumpster outside Penn’s physics department. We soaked the magnets overnight in the sulfuric acid of a car battery and then carefully wrapped them in bubblegum-flavored dental floss, following to the letter the blueprint instructions found on Addendum 5B of the final report, entitled Necessary Equipment For Opening Up Wormhole.

Anti-wormhole pulse wave disseminators, or A.W.P.W.D.’s, are necessary cause you might not want to just jump straight into a wormhole when you create it. You might want to throw someone else into it first, either as a test subject or otherwise. The NASA dudes, being human supremacist a-holes, had of course tried throwing a monkey into the wormhole. In our case, we were going to throw cops into the wormhole. We superglued Velcro to the A.W.P.W.D.’s as well as to our shoes and boards so they could be easily attached and removed and would anchor us to this side of the Real.

We also made pro-wormhole pulse wave disseminators by turning the magnets around. P.W.P.W.D.’s push anything between them and a wormhole into the wormhole.

***

The wormhole generator is wheeled out and aimed above the street corner and we pull the switch crank. Our device hums for a few minutes, starts vibrating and then the entire street, the row homes on our block, our bodies, even the air feels like it’s bending ever so slightly. The peanut butter starts melting off the hula-hoops but that’s no big deal cause it’s only needed as a catalyst. Then a dark patch materializes, grows bigger ‘til it looks like a cloud that’s gathered above the street.

We’re tempted to test it out, do some skating, then come back for the neighborhood intruders, but just as we’re debating who should go through first, a cop car pulls up and shines a light at us. Most of the light disappears straight into the wormhole. The cop car rolls its window down and we hear a voice, “Whatcha kids up to so late?”

I skate up onto the wormhole with A.W.P.W.D.’s activated, let myself sink into the edge of the darkness and extend two middle fingers from up above.

“Come closer and find out, you cop fuck.”

Thing about giant abysses appearing above street corners is they scare the pants off of cops and normos. The cop car drives off. I jump back out and we skate around laughing and high-fiving.

Keeping the wormhole open, we wait for the backup that will inevitably arrive. An hour or so later, the cops have closed off the streets a few blocks away in every direction, and they approach cautiously in linear formations. We’re not afraid cause we have wormhole tactics. All they’ve got are badges and guns.

The cops are so busy gazing up at the wormhole they don’t notice us skating around the back of them and activating our P.W.P.W.D.’s.

“Y-y-y-you feel that?” One of them stutters to the next before feeling the weight of his body dissipate. Cop is lifted up, starts yelling, ‘W-w-w-what the fuuuuuck…?” and hovers for a moment in the air before making straight for the cloud above the street and disappears, headed for Skate Park Planet.

They look back and notice us, aim their guns and start shooting but thanks to the P.W.P.W.D.’s, the wormhole siphons away their bullets in mid-air. Cops start getting sucked into the wormhole like ants into a vacuum cleaner hose.

They arrive in droves, feeling confident in their usual safety in numbers, but it’s pretty easy to circle around them and push them into the abyss. Our streets are narrow and very few of them escape. After forty or so cops have been dispatched into the wormhole, the ones blocking off the streets jump in their cop cars and drive off.

We flip the crank switch and paint a message next to the evil eye: “Fuck with us and we open up the wormhole.”

***

So at this point we had about a precinct worth of cops at Skate Park Planet to deal with. We started doing more research about the planet and its solar system to figure out how to get rid of them. One idea was to locate the supermassive black hole located at the rotational center of the Sculptor Dwarf galaxy and use our P.W.P.W.D.’s to give the cops a wormhole ride into it so we could have the planet to ourselves.

In the interest of less time and energy spent on calculations, we decided to take a more practical course of action. If there were any regions of Skate Park Planet with extreme weather conditions, we could send the cops there. Our investigations soon revealed that temperatures on the entire planet range from 500 to 600 degrees Celsius. There are also Hydrogen Peroxide thunderstorms that hammer its surfaces day in and day out.

So we didn’t need to worry about what to do with the cops. No skating would be had in the canyons of Skate Park Planet though, which we were pretty bummed about.

The good news was that back in our neighborhood, the new faces were freaked the fuck out by everything they were hearing about dark clouds and disappearing cops and they moved back to wherever they came from.

The F.B.I. was brought in and they developed their own A.W.P.W.D.’s. We expected this though and were waiting for them with A.W.P.W.D. disruptors.

Fifty or so F.B.I. agents into the wormhole later, the neighborhood is still safe. We also located a new Skate Park Planet similar in terrain to the first one. There, temperatures are about what they are in a hot Philly July and it never rains. All that’s needed are a few more calculations and we’ll be ready to take our first trip.

T.B.C.


DK has a sense of humor we  appreciate. Photo by them as well. This story originally appeared in season one episode one (not our pilot episode, mind you) of Metropolarity: Journal for Speculative Vision & Critical Liberation Technologies

AS A CULTURAL NEONATE, THE METROPOLARITY CREW DISCUSSES ITS INTENTIONS, SCIENCE-FICTION, AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO ‘THE POLITICAL.’ NOTE THE POINTS OF OVERLAP AND POINTS OF DIVERGENCE. RELISH IN IT ALL! WE ENJOY URBAN PARADOX. IT’S IN OUR NAME, IN FACT.

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R.Phillips of the AfroFuturist Affair and founding Metropolarity member says:

The Institution that is Western Science was born of the politics of the 17th century, bifurcating itself as a practice and institution of empirical thought separate and distinct from philosophical thought. It is essential to note that the scientific institution’s development coincided with the emergence of the TransAtlantic enslavement system, used as a justification for subjugation. Its development was also impacted significantly by the Roman Inquisitions The Inquisition had condemned Galileo for teaching that the Earth moved; Descartes delayed publishing, and likely tweaked his philosophical theories on heliocentrism, due to the Inquisitions’s belief in the Earth as the center of the Universe. Newton conducted his experiments in an effort to prove Descartes wrong, and many of his theories have failed to stand the test of ‚time‛ (whose own scientific history is convoluted, in the realm of thermodynamics and relativity). Science is the ultimate political body, the mind-body split, the dualism that persists into present times, the reason why classical physics and quantum physics seemingly contradict.blinded by its own so-called enlightenment and thusly setting light and dark as opposites/eternally at odds inside of the cascading, chaotic universe. Science is really the resulting end of a negotiation; the laws and principles we hold to be commonly true about the universe and world were all shaped by the hands of a privileged few.

Traditional sci-fi, a more imaginative retelling of science history and an anticipation of its trajectory, is steeped in the dark age from which it emerged, reinforcing the narratives of white superiority. Because we know science-fiction to be social commentary on the (d-)evolution of society through the use of parable, it is easy to see where the lines split between the Science of the haves and the have nots, and thusly where the lines split between traditional and DIY sci-fi. People on the edges/intersections/margins of society can no longer continue to try to rectify their lack of representation and their lack of survival in traditional science fictional worlds; it no longer computes for our program of living. We are here and we are many and we are political. We are political because skin color is political, because body parts are political, because gender is political, because who you like to hump is political, because breathing clean air and drinking clean water is political. And in order to disavow the political, to challenge the political, to break-down the political, you must first understand how it already has you confined, then proceed to unravel it from the inside. Out of the dust of the crumbling institutions of science divorced from imagination (what they call the hyphenated science-fiction) comes science and speculative possibility in the form of Metropolarity. A nu science for a nu world of our own shaping. Here, with Science left in our care, the thermodynamic arrow shoots out into all possible directions. Here at Metropolarity, there is no difference between the Experimental and the Theoretical. Science-fiction is the dying remnant of the old ways of living. We are Science’s proposal to imagination for a happy, lifelong union, we are time = space. ∞

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M Eighteen Téllez of All That’s Left series and founding MP member says:

Politics is just a reference word to describe the obscene and greedy fight for power dominance and all its selfish machinations used to exploit one’s community and achieve ideological supremacy. I dislike words that compress and obfuscate the vastness of insidious control mechanisms like that, especially in this centuries-long era of white-supremacist colonialist patriarchal capitalism… But humans began utilizing the language tool to be able to communicate quickly. So for brevity’s sake in an informal setting I would chance suggesting that awareness of “politics” is important, that sci-fi is political, or that I am political in certain ways. But really I’m a cyborg (the Haraway kind), and I think the world has many more lenses than “politics” to be seen through.

Science fiction is a lens. It’s a conceptual tool in a paradigm still woefully clinging on to old technologies like Progress, Men, Money, and God. The word-phrase-concept “science fiction”, or sci-fi, is really a shorthand piece of reference language that has since morphed from its originally intended use, much like the word-concepts gender and mestizo. Like a cyborg, science fiction is not merely the joining of science and fiction (or human and machine), but something much more complex, fluid, and contradictory.

Is sci-fi political? I think “political” is another cloudy word, successfully wielded by mass media and its gatekeepers of dominant culture to devalue and mock those who express ideals that would disrupt the well-oiled exploitative power dynamics at play. Situated within dominant paradigms, sci-fi is inherently political because it provides vision outside of those very paradigms. Let’s not front though–the very phrase “being political” is a divisive control mechanism, particularly one that’s been polarized as aggressive/active and mired in Left/Right ethical ideologies. But sci-fi doesn’t operate on Left/Right being/not being aggressive/passive dominant/submissive binaries. It operates on desire, hope, despair. Ultimately, sci-fi is a tool, a feedback mechanism, just another piece of cyborg technology to get us beyond this oppressive existence and connected to the universe.

[Metropolarity] is a brand. We’re the ghost of 1990s Internet come back to remind you what it was like to live adventurously without the trappings of your pre-signified body. We’re a time travel start-up. We’re spirit ritual from a world without money. Connect with us. ∞

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Alex Smith, founder of Laser Life queer sci-fi reading series, the Afterverse, and MP OG says:

SCI-FI is psychotropic super-spiritual revelation, a futuristic dream and sigil ritual. It’s both surreality and reality. It has, like magic and religion, been used as a political tool, but it’s true manifestations are not political in the most overwrought sense of the word. I don’t believe sci-fi has any political aspirations outside of complete liberation. To me, liberation can not be found through the machinations of politics. From Proudhon to Ginsberg to Rammellzee, all of these visionaries brought liberation technology to the masses.

Quickly, I will say that psychotropics refers to sci-fi’s ability to induce dream like trance in the writer and the reader, the participant. It’s similar to psychotropic hallucinogens in that the quality of the fiction appears to be both real (possible) and wholly surreal (impossible). The affects of the best sci-fi is like the effects of the best drugs. While the participant “sees things” many of us still without sci-fi in our lives can’t see, the participant also engages in these “things” they see; they act and behave as if being chemically induced. This is a simplification of it, because all things that sci-fi are working in conjunction to produce the effects and spiritual continuity of sci-fi.

I see say super-spiritual in that sci-fi is the teachings, experiences and being of Thor, Buddha, Einstein, Jesus, Mohammed, Athena, orishas, lwa and shamans throughout the course of time, but turned into something grander in our own, post-modern world. They are all reimagined through a futurist lens but in the hands and hearts of those who are sci-fi, they are made EVEN MORE POWERFUL! because their true natures are ALL that is siphoned. We’ve abandoned all of the clutter, the dogma, the messiness and focused on the now. Like, Neo in the Matrix takes the red pill; this is the complete, purified form of spiritual thought made into a pill! He has absorbed ALL through the means of futuristic imaginings. It’s not that he has somehow bypassed all of the Mecca pilgrimages, all of the baptisms, the hail mary’s, the sitting under trees in a Himalayan forest meditating; he’s done more by simply imagining all of those things and super-focusing it into a vast technology of the will.

And so, you can see how these descriptions all collude to form the basis of real sci-fi; you can understand the futuristic dream and the sigil ritual working together to inform, build, and create the other. The dream is the machine, the ritual is the fuel; the sigil (a symbol in ritual magic) is the on/off switch. Since this is all powered by the individual where only the imagination limits them, the idea of the introduction of politics fails miserably. This is where Ayn Rand and her ilk have misstepped, as rightists often do; combining overwrought political metaphor in an attempt to simulate freedom is completely useless. The meaning is derived from our psycho-spiritual reaction to the dream, not the dream itself.

I hesitate to say that a polemic can be built for the left from strands of sci-fi, because sci-fi is an end in and of itself. sci-fi is diametrically opposed to systems- even when systems are implied in the telling of the tales; eventually, in most of these tales, the system fails anyway! From Dhalgren to the Fall of the Towers to the Deathstar to the Tyrell Corporation; they all fucking DIE in the end. As revolutionaries, radicals, shamans and visionaries, we are wise to understand this. Replacing one system with another results in that system falling. However, when I’m staring at another cop trying to fuck with me on the streets of Philadelphia, I see the image of Goggles from Cyber City Oedo 808 smashing through a robot that’s clearly representative of the machine, of man’s nature to make himself extinct, a robot that’s pure hyperbole for “the system”, and in my mind as the metal rains down from Goggles’ final strike, i meditate on that image and I’m strengthen. But that’s not political, that’s sigil. That’s liberation.

Listen, I’m not utopianist really. I sometimes cringe at the sloganeering and sort of simplistic banality that we’re all over here guilty of, even Metropolarity and Laser Life at times. But I mean, sometimes, yes, “There IS a fucking tree under this concrete” and nearly every time, “Silence DOES equal death”. I just prefer to use sci-fi to express the beauty of things long held sacred now rotting, decaying. This transformation is what powers me. ∞

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Ras Mashramani, glorious founding MP member and purveyor of the Nightspace says:

For me, Metropolarity is an expressly political endeavor. No I’m not concerned with politics–with rubbing elbows with old white men, or lobbying for marginal legal successes–fuck all that noise. Marginalized populations are politicized not because we want to be, but because it’s a political act to express the uneven distribution of power in our country. As blacks and queers and women and working poor, we carry generations and generations of fragmented stories, ones created out of anger, fear, disconnection, isolation.

But now we live in a newborn world of information, increasingly co-dependent with that resilient, inclusive, mostly free, anarchic machine: the Internet. And culture and change can be generated by the internet. Voices that are commonly disenfranchised can build their own spaces on the Internet. My own identity has been formed in large part by the internet | memories, stories, and identities I have created and interacted with through AOL chats, multi-user dungeons, forums, and personal web pages. Queer kids coming up now are experimenting with identities in places where they are protected from our country’s religions and popular kids.

I truly believe that we are living in a science-fiction reality, and if science-fiction has taught us anything, it’s that a mastery of technology is integral to survival in a plugged-in world. Today, the digital divide is real and tangible! And our identities hinge on our ability to create and manipulate data in the cybersphere to affect change in real life.

The free for all who can access it, open-source, information-sharing nature of the Internet is a model for our real life. Cities like Philadelphia are hurting for a space to discuss the future of our communities. Fragmented histories and fictions have exhausted their reactionary, grieving, angry stories. The advent of the information age can also mean the beginning of new stories for us freaks and outcasts, whose existences are politicized by overpowering mainstream media that tries it’s best to distract the masses with golums like Jennifer Aniston and google images of Kim Kardashian’s vampire face bath. Metropolarity is the real life answer to this void of critical, future oriented stories for the urban have-nots. I intend that we become a space where we can examine our world speculatively while sharing skills to control the media in the cybersphere, where ideas | solutions | hope can spread like a virus globally.

When we began forming and developing Metropolarity, I had in my head science-informed consciousness raising. I was thinking about the democratic power of the internet–of perfecting the art of coercion by digital means in the name of justice and education, art and expression. I was praying desperately for a space, as populations with difficult and fragmented inter-generational stories to tell, to explore, and critique our increasingly globalized and complex world, while learning to master the technologies that we have been blesses with in our science-fiction age.

Let’s create memes with more substance than feisty kitty cats and babies eating lemons. Let’s take hold of our representations and worm our way into the mainstream.

MEME BE A MEME!! ∞

The following was performed at the 3rd annual ROCKERS BBQ weekend. Consider it a part of our episode, the SPACE INVADERS :: Gentrification x Community issue of our Journal of Speculative Vision & Critical Liberation Technologies. Video by Kaos Blac. Feature image by House of Hayes.

So, I opened a customer’s check book, and inside, there was a pamphlet about god. My boyfriend had visited me at work, kissed me on the cheek and dashed off to an adventure on his own. It made my day. I think the three-top sitting at D4 saw this. After I dropped the food at their table, they asked me to pray with them. I declined. Fortunately, as the note they’d written on their check said, “God cares. Even for sinners such as you” . In a saner, more just universe (one with leprechauns in the Senate, one with were-dragon ballerinas as Septa train operators, one with talking lucky squirrels that spin acid jazz and jungle dub plates at barmitzphas), I would bring them back their change mixed in with shredded pieces of the Jesus pamphlet. I’d leave them a note as well. This is what it would say:

“The grid shapes us, molds us, makes us uniformly square. The binary assault on our senses has dulled us. We are trapped, thinking that our sexuality stems from some kind of intrinsic pre-determined genetic code, or that it can even be unlearned. We are all existing on levels of love, on a cosmic string that stretches across and over galaxies like electrical wires. When I lay down and kiss my boyfriend at night, I’m crossing the streams of countless eons of information, of pre-cybernetic memory, the ancient kind of memory that tells me that “I exist”. So, no matter what you write *now* on this little receipt, I’m giving you, in return, a sort of inter-dimensional banjee girl effect. I am kissing your son and husband passionately, deeply on the mouth, even now, just by writing this. I do appreciate your prayers, because I recognize that it is essential to humanity to create stories and dreams that explain the science of the world, that reassures us of our place, even as granular as it is, within the multiverse, but I also recognize that just as essential is our notion to be connected in grander ways to each other, that our holes are there for traversal and transmission and communication, and that we are portals, always and forever. So, yes, I am eternally in need of God, but only so much that god is creation and sex and fervor and life.“

(And yes, I could write all of this in-between serving customers and waiting on my other tables; sure, i’m *that* good. Plus, I keep a cache of “verbal beat down” tucked into my brain for just such occasions so it was all a matter of channeling, really)

Even in this reality, where ever “this reality” currently is, where we danced on top of DHL trucks at bonfires. Where we filled our baskets with the cosmic dawn, with the tools of the culling, marched over the horizon and struck a blow at the sun. Even here we are flying things, vast and unicorn, radiating in free effervescent thought chroma, bursts of the burgeoning universe lilting over radiant nebula, cloud and ash. We are baristas and shamans at the desks of the apparitions, the waitstaff in white gloves on the yachts of freedom ghosts with our time cards stamped until eternity.

My hands are gold and steel, wrapped up time machines. I push the button and black goo pours out in delicious crema. I stare at it as it coalesces into a filthy golden ring, a soul sapping halo of procured anti-vitamins, a sun-sucking ember extracted from a plant three thousand miles, one hundred leather straps on the back, an ocean of dead black bodies buried at sea, away. And then I pour it into the cup.

“Hello?” The pregnant white woman is holding her purse, her lips curled up in a half crescent of desire and thirst. She sees my black skin first, ignores the beading droplets of sweat coagulating on my brow. I think of the nights where we set fire to a rib shack, where we etched “death to gentrifiers” on the windows of the newest Wendy’s on Lancaster avenue, where we pricked our ankles on barbed wire and left bloody DNA tattoos on the walls of art museums. I think of the night sky opening up, afterglow sparking, ebullient rush of the wind, the party doors swinging wide and androgynous avatars announcing to the world, this is the land of the freaks and warriors and we’re taking things back, we’re busting out, we’re clearing this world, swollen on the fruit, still starved for the meat.

I wrote so many things down in those days, on the back of Spider-Man comic books, on napkins and napkin holders, on pieces of trash stuck and corroding on the side of the curb. I wrote of taking the artifacts out of the glass cases and putting them back into the ground- the sacred ground. I wrote of the ground.

“I’ll be with you in a moment,” I say, as I stir the pure brown down into the creamy liquid mass of the white white milk. Ah, an easy metaphor, I think, a clear and beautiful piece of hyperbole, consisting of the life blood of yuppiedom. I can set this thing on the counter, watch its pale beige swirl inundate the glass, cascade over the clear, nameless, not-there ice cubes, as it turns into the perfect mix of the people of the planet, of the people of Philadelphia, this great city of love, of understanding.

But this isn’t an 11th grade essay or a melting pot narrative. I’m standing behind a counter with a uniform on, the blackest beacon in a white universe, easily Google-able, so simple it is to Yelp my non- name: the star artist in this cappuccino and iced americano crazed continuum is ______. You can type my form into the entry for the café, it’s simple, and they will know who you are talking about. It’s not like we’re standing in a bodega in South Philadelphia or a five and dime in Kensington or a donut shop under the L at Girard. We’re here where the encroaching horizon of academia clashes with the shrinking border of hunger and death pangs. It’s real simple: I’m the black guy that works there.

“Are you ready for me?” she asks, as I stand staring her into her crisp blue eyes. She held her smart phone, tethered to her hand like a cyborg arm connected with nano machines. I could not tell where she ended and the iPhone began.

She is not ready to order. She is just there.

And so they all list into being, like a star-studded wikipage unraveling, falling into life and birthed in a line. They all want something from me, every inch of my black body, all that I can muster for them. They want everything except my story. A cop. A minister. A priest. A man in a Duke Lacrosse t shirt. An elderly woman with a tripod cane. A seeing eye dog. A boy in ripped jeans with a handlebar mustache. Another cop. A man with a souvenir paint brush from Milan. A woman wearing a dress made of kente cloth. A punk rocker.

I sat on the stoop outside of the café, watching children play in a puddle, the water rising and falling with their every excited splash. A police car came tearing through the intersection, slowed down when it passed the kids, rolled it’s window down. A white man in the back seat peered out plaintively, shook his head at the children then mouthed something to the cop driving and the squad car sped on.

When I’m emptying the trash, I am still a super-hero flying through the air, talking to dwarf stars and dreaming in quasars. When I’m picking up used napkins off of tables, I’m still a griot mystic, weaving light constructs from tiny threads of reality. When I’m making your coffee…

I saw the pregnant white woman on the 34 trolley. She got on at 36th street. I could feel the air sucked out of of the car from the vacuum created by the many men and women rising to give up their seat. I felt the searing heat of x-ray eyes, as the air got thinner, hotter, at 40th street station, where a black woman with three kids, weighed down with grocery bags got on. The look of disdain from the same passengers was hot enough to bake vampire flesh. I kept reading my comic book, stitched into my aisle seat.

When we reached 48th street, the sea of color had dispersed. The swirling yellow and porcelain white, the garish garments and cargo pants and Birkenstocks had disappeared. The announcer stopped announcing the street numbers. There was just us: monolithic, vast, black, and unicorn.