Tuesday, June 30, 2020

BLASST 118: VOTE IN YOUR LOCAL ELECTIONS

TRACKLIST
1. Ghösh - "Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em"
2. KOKOROKO - "Carry Me Home"
3. Dominique Fils-Aimé - "Storm Hour (demo take)"
4. Dua Saleh - "umbrellar"
5. Sneaks - "Mars in Virgo"
6. BAMBII - "NITEVISION (ft. Pamputtae)"
7. Parisalexa - "Troubled Waters (ft. Dawty Music)"
8. NNAMDÏ - "Stressed Out"
9. Lafawndah - "You, at the End"
10. No Home - "Catholic School Never Taught Me How To Talk To Men"
11. Speaker Music - "Techno is a Liberation Technology (ft. AceMo)"
12. Backxwash - "Black Magic (ft. Ada Rook)"
13. Angel Bat Dawid - "What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black (Dr. Margaret Burroughs)"
14. Angel Bat Dawid - "Impepho"
15. Makaya McCraven & Gil Scott Heron - "Where Did The Night Go?"
16. Moses Boyd - "What Now"

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NOTES
Today's show was really fun to put together, I spent as much time wiggling around to these jams as I did recording my talking bits - which often takes up to 10 or so...takes. We've got everything from Philly nu-jungle from Ghösh to some 'galaxy-brain' avant-garde arrangements from Chicago's Angel Bat Dawid and London's post-structural No Home - an artist who does more with infinitely less, some up-close-and-personal r&b and lo-fi jammers from Parisalexa, Sneaks, and Dua Saleh (her EP, ROSETTA, is pretty incredible, and "Umbrellar" is the least-amazing track on it), among other incredible works. In case you haven't noticed, we've been focusing on Black artists this month for the most part, seeing as along with being Pride month, June is also Black Music Month. Every single artist we've played is worth your time and listening energy, and offers a world of sound unique to themselves, so we highly encourage you to click any of the above name links to find more of their music and dive in on your own. 

Today's ramble focuses on early voting, and how it's really, really important to cast your vote early, before all the lines, and before you're restricted to polling places that are associated with your particular address. As of this moment, you can vote anywhere in the county, and the process in itself is swift and painless (assuming you ignore the pain of having to make awkward small-talk with folks who are trying just as hard to avoid you back with a smile - spare some sympathy for polling place workers, they have a lot of pressure on any given election, and I can't imagine the pandemic makes that any easier). 


That being said, above is a video detailing my voting experience from yesterday morning. Watch and share, listen to the show, and enjoy.

Please wear a mask, and please do what you can to encourage your family and loved ones to wear theirs too. Wash your hands, keep yourselves safe, and so on. 

You can look up your local ballot here

See y'all next week.

AS

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

BLASST 117: JUSTICE FOR BREONNA TAYLOR

TRACKLIST:
1. The Cocker Spaniels - "Cops Don't Care About The Drip"
2. Martyn Bootyspoon - "No. 1 Crush"
3. NNAMDÏ - "My Life"
4. Nídia - "Popo"
5. Les Amazones d'Afrique - "Love feat. Mamani Keïta"
6. Shabazz Palaces - "MEGA CHURCH feat. Stas THEE Boss"
7. Mama Duke - "Mad"
8. The 6th Dimension - "O Sin Oshun"
9. Zebra Kats - "Ish"
10. Witch Prophet - "MUSA feat. Stas THEE Boss"
11. Ric Wilson - "Fight Like Ida B & Marsha P"
12. No Bra - "Who Is The God feat. Abdu Ali"
13. ONO - "Sycamore Trees"
14. Special Interest - "Street Pulse Beat"
15. Chouk Bwa & the Ångstromers - "Vodou Ale"

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NOTES 

All three of the officers who murdered Breonna Taylor in March (103 days ago now) remain at large. None of them have been arrested, charged with a single thing, or held accountable in any way for their killing of an innocent woman - and subsequent lying about the incident in their reports. Abolition in mind, justice must still be served. These officers' names are Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove. Hankison has been fired, while the other two are on "administrative reassignment", presumably so they can kill more innocent people in a different part of town. The fact that the state has moved to pass "Breonna's Law" without actually bringing Breonna's killers to justice is an insult. The law bans no-knock search warrants and requires all officers who serve warrants to wear body cameras and have them turned on from at least five minutes before the warrant is served to at least five minutes after it is served.

On another note, the music on the show today is especially fantastic, and international! We've got tracks off of new releases by ONO, Special Interest, The 6th Dimension, NNAMDÏ, Shabazz Palaces, and more. A lot of these tracks, especially the more recently released ones, contain a lot of energy inspired by the recent anti-racist uprising throughout the country. The show's funky opener, for example, is a song called "Cops Don't Care About The Drip" by The Cocker Spaniels from Charlotte, North Carolina. The song is a critique on the fallacious respectability politic claiming that the way Black people dress determines much of their fate at the hands of racist police and racists in general. "Medgar - died in a suit! Malcolm - died in a suit! Martin - died in a suit!" sings the pre-chorus on the track. You can hear more from the Cocker Spaniels on Sean Padilla's Patreon, which I highly recommend you subscribe to

Check all the artist names in the tracklist above for links to listen further or download/buy their music.

Thanks for listening, will see y'all next week.

AS

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

BLASST 116: How Much Does A Police Department Cost?

TRACKLIST
1. Shamir - "On My Own"
2. Kilamanzego - "Maze of Twists"
3. Noname - "Don't Forget About"
4. Zara McFarlane - "Future Echoes"
5. Space Afrika - "Self"
6. Achene - "Like Distant Moons"
7. Black Quantum Futurism Collective - "Constellation 8: Parable"
8.  Lojii & Swarvy - "Due Rent"
9. Armand Hammer - "War Stories"
10. OutKast - "True Dat (interlude)"
11. Pink Siifu - "On Fire, Pray"
12. Nubya Garcia - "Contemplation"
13. Deantoni Parks - "Prog on the Prairie"
14. Xxochitl - "Madre de las Estrellas"

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NOTES

Today's episode gets into some more experimental territory, after all, when the present is no longer satisfactory, what else is left but to create something new?

We open with a recording of Oluwatoyin "Toyin" Salau, a 19-year-old activist in the Black Lives Matter movement, speaking at a rally calling for justice in the murder of Tony McDade in Tallahassee. She was recently found dead along with Victoria Sims, 75, after having gone missing for a week. Prior to her disapperance, Toyin had posted a series of tweets about a man who had sexually assaulted her after offering her a place to stay while she was without housing. The account provides details to the man's home and a description, which has led to his arrest. Some tweets following Toyin's death stated that law enforcement had not chosen to investigate her disappearance until pressure mounted online from concerned friends and fellow activists. This is shameful if true, and yet, I don't feel any value in thinking otherwise. Police departments in most cities have the damning reputation of not properly investigating sexual assault cases, if they're being investigated at all. This is on top of the racial discrimination that is practically built-in to the institution of police. As we’ve seen throughout the last three weeks, the problem of racist policing - or simply policing - is alive and well in our country, despite repeated “reforms” that have been put in place by various decision-makers over the years. Reformed police still commit racist hate crimes. Reformed police continue to allow for racism to thrive in our communities. The kind of racism that is older than you and me, the kind of racism that DARES frame the lynching or black men (5 by my count as of today) across the country as “apparent suicide”. The police are flat-out ignoring that Black men are being lynched. In 2020! At the height of the country’s racism debate! How does anyone in their right mind look at a lynching with today’s eyes on and see suicide? There is no logical answer other than institutional racism. You don’t simply misunderstand things like this. Police are considered to be the on the same level of service and skill as the military right? How pathetic is it then for them to reduce their precious, revered, investigative skills to that of ignorance? 


I call foul play.


In the latter half of today’s episode, I tried - best as I can with an exhausted mind, which isn't very well - to go through the pages of my city’s budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year to show how much money they give to their police department. I make a few speculative claims that I haven’t been able to substantiate regarding the use of the police budget for equipment purchases. To make up for my false claims on the program, I've included screenshots below of the city's General Fund Budget Summary and the sections on the Police department. To have a look at the city of McAllen’s budget yourself, visit the document here

This first graphic details the city's spending. Public Safety is 51%.








































The above three pages detail the city's Budget Summary by department. The total operations budget is $116,889,942. Public Safety alone takes up $60,191,907, which is 51.5% of the ENTIRE OPERATIONS BUDGET. Half of the city's money goes to public safety. And out of that 51.5%, 30.2% of it goes to police, which is still a larger budget than the Total General Government section receives, larger than Culture & Recreation, and absolutely towers over the Health & Welfare department, whose budget doesn't even break $3 million.

According to the above document, there are 440 law enforcement employees in the city of McAllen. Out of these 440 employees, 294 of them are active officers in the field, 67%, and 1.9 per for every 100 residents. Their salaries and benefits make up most of the police budget, at $31,608,024. The supplies budget sits at $411,091, 1.3% of the department's budget. 



If we want to bring the defunding the police discussion to McAllen, understanding the need for all of these officers will become very important. It seems a majority of the police budget simply goes to keeping all of them paid and insured. Do we need that many officers? Are there other ways to address the "32 crimes per 1000 population" outlined in the graphic above? This will require more research, of course, but I suppose this can be food for thought for now.

If you made it to the end, you'll have heard the latest single from a project I worked on with some good friends, the trans-media RGV-futurist experience, Futuro Conjunto. I didn't play any music, but I did some voice work for a character in the story. FC is part podcast, part time-capsule, part live album, and part RGV musician compilation, as curated, written, and composed by Charlie Vela and Jonathan Leal, who also brought you the Wild Tongue compilation. If you want to learn more, visit the website, and stay tuned for more updates!

Thanks again for listening, reading, and apologies for my blabbering on the show. Will do better next week.

Also, I wrote an article for Texas Monthly this week. You can check that out here.

AS

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

BLASST 115: ABOLISH THE POLICE

TRACKLIST
1. Paul Robeson - "Ballad for Americans"
2. Watkins/Peacock - "Zero Dub I"
3. Anti-Heroes - "Unknown"
4. Special Interest - "The State, the Industry, the Community & Her Lover"
5. The Ire - "Torch Song"
6. Lover Boy - "Charisma"
7. Black Noi$e - "Natural Technology"
8. Madison McFerrin - "Stay TF Inside"
9. LaAerial - "Back To Life"
10. ELUCID - "Osage"
11. Fehler Kuti - "Schland Is The Place For Me"

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NOTES
Today's episode begins with an excerpt from a song called "Ballad for Americans". It was performed by Paul Robeson with a choir that was trained to sing in his deep bass baritone range. 

Robeson was a black singer, actor, writer, and activist whose work in the entertainment industry was known all over the country throughout the 20s, 30s, and 40s; his voice was instantly recognizable and sang on over 200 songs throughout his career. 

Some of his best known recordings were reinterpretations of old folk standards, as well as more patriotic fare such as the aforementioned track. The song is a somewhat long narrative about American exceptionalism, praising things like the American Revolution and the freeing of American slaves - moments which bring the listener to the all-too-pleasant American present, where everyone is created equal and treated as such. The song basically makes the state of things at the time sound straight idyllic. Even for black men. Except they weren't. 

For all of the support Robeson received as a high-profile entertainer, the second he began engaging in radical politics (particularly anti-imperialism and anti-fascism), he lost all of his support from Hollywood, as well as his country. He was blacklisted for his support of things like Communism and the loyalist movement during Spain's second civil war, as well as for speaking out about the injustices that were still very much present in the lives of Black people. Had he continued to be a harmless Black entertainer for the majority-white audiences writing his checks, things may have been different. But he didn't, and they weren't, and I played a selection from "Ballad for Americans" because we're currently at the peak of a new revelation in this country: contrary to popular belief (which is widely supported by generations of propaganda), the institution of police is not a benevolent organization whose mission serves the best interests of the American people. Many people in this country would like to think otherwise, and perhaps its easier for them to live with this assumption, but it would not be accurate. On top of that, it would be an exercise of privilege to remain deluded about the role of police in our society. 

For decades, police have terrorized communities of color - poor ones especially - as the feeding arm of the prison industrial complex. For readers who don't know what the prison industrial complex is, here's a quick breakdown: governments take away everything that makes communities thrive: economic opportunities, education, healthcare, mental health services, they keep wages down and raise costs of living, and so this forces communities to survive by other means - often turning to things like crime to put food on the table. The police then round up "criminals" and put them through the criminal justice system, which does its best to make sure these people go to prison, and that they stay there. While in prison, convicts are utilized as the state's unpaid labor force, essentially modern-day slavery. 

So you see, police are a key part of that system. Despite how they've been perceived and however many "good cops" you've met in your life, the very institution they represent is designed to oppress people and protect the interests of the wealthy white elite. It's not a matter of " bad apples", the whole orchard is rotten. 

Now people have never been so gullible as to blindly assume this way of things, they've been coerced over decades with propaganda, manipulated into depending on this falsehood as a reality, like a drug addict. They've become so dependent on the idea that police are "protectors" and "public servants" that they've come to believe it. Little do they know that the second they start to question that reality, police will be ready to beat the shit out of them for falling out of line. 

I think the government has seen this coming for years. After all, they've made no bones about hiding the way they destabilize other countries, why would they let their guard down with their own people? This is why police departments across the country have been given swollen budgets to buy military-grade equipment over the last couple decades - they've been preparing for uprisings like we've seen throughout the country in the last two weeks.

Several cities have begun listening to the demands of protesters who are calling for the abolition of the police, some even going as far as to vocalize an openness to defunding police departments, and reappropriating funds to community-based programs and resources. So far it's all talk, but the fact that the conversation is even happening is absolutely HUGE.

It’s utterly unheard of, but it’s happening. Slowly, but surely. There will absolutely be pushback from people who still don’t understand the situation, but that’s to be expected. When you live your entire life under the assumption that the police exist to protect you (even though overwhelming amounts of evidence exists to the contrary), you’re naturally going to feel defensive about the idea of losing them. This perspective is less about the actual work police do and more about the false sense of 'security' people have been fed throughout the course of their lives. 

Above I’ve included a simple graphic that lists 8 strategies to abolish the police from 8toabolition.com, a quick online resource for people looking to learn more about prison abolition. As opposed to "police reforms", which are really just new rules that police will never be trusted to follow, these strategies apply actual changes to the way society would function that would eliminate the need for police. I encourage you to check out their website for more information.

For further discussion on the topic of police abolition, I encourage you to watch this panel too. The people on the panel have all either written about police abolition or currently work in grassroots abolitionist organizing efforts in their communities. They provide compelling discussion on the topic that is accessible to anyone who may not have a fundamental understanding of why people want to abolish the police.

Ask around for organizations in your area that are doing prison/police abolition work, and consider volunteering or donating money to help their efforts! At the very least, read. Here's a link to a google drive library of radical texts someone shared on Instagram. Take your pick. I'm working my way through Audre Lorde right now.

Now, as for the music on today's show. I picked a playlist of a bunch of stuff I picked up on Bandcamp day. I aimed for a diverse genre palate to keep things interesting. Especially jazzed with Madison McFerrin's "Stay TF Home" loop. I resonate with that so much. Even though it's important to be on the streets right now, the pandemic continues to claim people at every chance it gets. So if you're out there, consider getting tested and quarantining for a couple weeks.

As always, stay healthy, stay safe, and stay home.

See y'all next week.

AS

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

BLASST 114: BLACK LIVES MATTER. NOW AND FOREVER.

TRACKLIST
1. Big Floyd - "Tired of Ballin' Freestyle" (full tape on YouTube)
2. Big Floyd - "Tre World Tape Freestyle" (full tape on YouTube)
3. Shamir - "I Can't Breathe"
4. Dedekind Cut - "Equity"
5. Knxwledge - "makeitliveforever"
6. Moor Mother - "After Images"
7. Klein - "Claim It"
8. Liv.e - "SirLadyMakemFall"
9. MIKE - "GOD'S WITH ME"
10. Medhane - "Off Tha Strength (ft. KeiyaA)"
11. Fannie Lou Hamer - Interview from The Heritage of Slavery documentary (on YouTube)
12. serpentwithfeet - "A Comma"
13. Obnox - "You"
14. Dreamcrusher - "Fever"
15. Moses Sumney - "Virile"
16. Desire Marea - "Studies In Black Trauma"


NOTES

*Edited at 5:34pm 6/3/20 to include the distinctions of Afro-Latinx and Asian-Latinx people within the scope of who is Latinx, as well as to denote the difference between Afro-Latinxs and non-black Latinxs. See? Even I need to do better.*

So much to say today, and yet - if you've already listened to today's episode, you'll notice I have done none of it on the show. 

Allow me to explain. A lot has happened this week and while I've been accustomed to focusing my lens on the outside world, I've felt the need to turn the lens inward for a moment.

Last Monday, a man named George Perry Floyd was murdered by four Minneapolis police officers in the middle of the day as bystanders looked on, helpless to do anything lest they also find themselves at the receiving end of a sweaty, blue fist (or in this case, knee). 

Floyd was accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill at a market in a part of town known as Powderhorn, and had the police called on him. He did not resist arrest. As he was restrained on the ground, three officers placed their bodies on top of his: one on his legs, one on his back, and the principal officer in the case, Derek Chauvin, placed his knee on George Floyd's neck, and stayed there for 9 minutes (Floyd was unresponsive for the final three). The video of the incident is horrifying to watch, even today in 2020, where visual records of the world's atrocities are available at our fingertips 24/7. Over the course of 9 minutes, you watch a man struggle to breathe, call out for his mother, and lose his life. The viewing experience is enough to hollow out your soul. 

I saw this video, like millions of others around the world did, and asked myself: what if that was me? How would it feel to have three grown men kneeling the entirety of their weight on my body while my hands remain cuffed behind my back? What would I feel when I realize that even the slightest movement - to allow air to pass into my lungs, perhaps - would risk drawing a police officer's knee deeper onto my neck? Would I have the strength to call out for help? Imagining myself in this position shoots fear through my bones. Imagining any of my loved ones in the same position - an inevitable next step - makes me sick to my stomach. I think of my mother, my grandmother, my father (who has both diabetes and arthritis), and my brothers (especially my youngest brother who might not understand the situation at all and become uncooperative). I shudder to think of what happens to them next, and feel this ugly sensation build in my stomach. The abdominal disturbance: anger. In my imagination, I can visualize bringing unthinkable wrath upon Derek Chauvin and his fellow officers, whose names are Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas K. Lane. The most violent things in my mind befall each of them at once, replacing the entirety of their existences with infinite pain and suffering. I would stop at nothing to save my family from being murdered.

But there's a difference between what you can imagine and what you see. As the video of Floyd's murder plays out, I feel the same defensive impulses: blood rushing through my body, tension building in my head, breathing intensifying with every breath he's denied. But unlike in my imagination, I'm unable to do anything about it. I can't stop Floyd's murder from happening. The frustration that one feels when they want to do something, but can't because they lack control of the situation, must be some form of psychological trauma. To feel absolutely powerless in that moment is a horror in itself; the kind of thing that shatters people's self-image, and buries their self-worth somewhere well out of reach. 

Now imagine being present for George Floyd's murder. Perhaps being one of the people whose voices we hear in the video attempting to plead with Derek Chauvin to remove his knee from George Floyd's neck. They had to feel this psychological pain firsthand. The girl who filmed the incident is 17-years-old, and I can't begin to imagine what she's feeling right now. She's now one of a countless group of people throughout history who have both witnessed and documented a murder at the hands of law enforcement, and was powerless to stop it no matter how much she wanted to.

These instances of police brutality, every single one of them, create a cycle of pain when they occur. In the viral video age, the cycle usually goes like this: someone dies or is severely and unjustly hurt by police, the people who witness this are traumatized and in pain, and the people who see the video of the incident are traumatized and feel pain. Protests calling for justice in these cases are then organized, executed, and dispersed with more police violence, resulting in more possible deaths and a host of injuries, reinforcing the pain and trauma from the initial incident. It's a cycle that plays itself out on repeat, and has done so for years; decades if you've lived in communities of color - unless you live in the Rio Grande Valley, of course. I'll expand on this in a few paragraphs.

The murder of George Floyd came after the US had been thrust back into this cycle of pain with the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. It had been some time since the murder of a Black person at the hands of police had made the national news, so naturally people's minds (and social media accounts) had been occupied with other things at the time of the two latter-mentioned murders: the Coronavirus, the economic reopening, Tiger King, etc. and did not already have an anger present in their lives. People did protest and march and organize around their deaths, and in the case of Ahmaud Arbery, even found justice, but they had not stoked the fires of the nation just enough to inspire people to take to the streets the way the have this past week. It feels as if the murder of George Floyd was the straw that broke the country's back.

Immediately following Floyd's murder, outrage spread across the country and led to protests in multiple major cities, most with cases of their own to demand justice for. The murder by police of Tony McDade, a Black trans man in Tallahassee, FL, also drew further attention to the rates at which trans people are killed, shining light on cases like Nina Pop's, a trans woman who was stabbed in Sikeston, MO and the 10th trans person to be killed this year.

Protesters have since turned social media into a tool for distributing information and updates about the way protests were unfolding. The average social media feed of someone even remotely connected to an affected or mobilized community would be filled with countless reposts of bail funds, mutual aid funds, and legal resources alongside how-to's and best practices for dealing with common riot police tactics, such as the use of tear gas, stun grenades, and so on. 

While some organizers have utilized their social media for the purpose of gathering supplies and support for protests, others have taken to sharing literary resources for people who may not completely understand the reason why others have been taking to the streets with such passion and consistency over the last week. Texts covering subjects like prison abolition, defunding the police, and dismantling the structures of capitalism have been shared widely in pdf form, and for free, on various Instagram accounts. Some activists have created micro-guides in 10-square image form for Instagram distribution that explain everything from the racist history of police to the various forms of racism, and how they exist in our communities under our very noses.

One particular form of racism in these guides, that is very prevalent in the Rio Grande Valley, is anti-blackness. It refers to racial prejudice toward Black people coming from non-black communities of color, because the use of the term 'racism' has become very complex over the years, and other terms are necessary to describe various forms of prejudice for which the term 'racism' does not easily apply. Over the last decade, the word "racism" has been appropriated by white people to describe the prejudice they experience from people of other ethnicities (especially in communities like the RGV where white people are a minority), and has been used to be a catch-all term for prejudice against any one people by another for decades. However, the core elements that make up racism as a construct involve recognition of power; who holds power, who has power over others, how that power has been wielded over time, etc. So, when 'racism' is applied to the prejudice isolated white people experience from communities of color, the power dynamic present in that scenario reveals that, while white people may be the minority, they still hold power over said communities of color in historical, cultural, and overall institutional contexts. Therefore, said prejudice is not racism.

For example, when most of the RGV's elders were growing up, the Valley was already overwhelmingly Latinx/Mexican-American/Chicanx/etc, but the language they were required to speak in schools was English. Many of our elders can vividly describe instances in which they were punished for speaking Spanish in school, despite that being the most spoken language in the region. Furthermore, while a majority of the people in the region are not white, the leadership of the region (local government, law enforcement, school teachers, authority figures in general) were white; the control of this community of color was largely in white hands. This was the case for every community in the country, and in the case of the Valley, remains that way to this day. Sure, we have Latinos on school boards, as City Commissioners, Judges - even our famed resident shadowy millionaire, Alonzo Cantu, is Latino - but they've all been playing ball with the white people in power, sustaining that same power structure all these years.

Given the fact that this power structure has been the norm for so long, it's easy for people in the Valley to feel as if the problem of racism has ceased to exist. We see faces that look like ours in positions of power, amassing wealth and influence, and that's all it takes to make us forget about racism and the impact it's undoubtedly had on our cultural framework. The very fact that people in the RGV refer to the place as an area that is "predominantly Latino, with a little bit of White in it" proves that we have erased other communities of color, as well as our own ethnic and racial diversity from our self-image as a largely Latinx region. Our very definition of ourselves essentializes a proximity to whiteness, debatably as a cultural aspiration, and erases the distinction of Afro-Latinx and Asian-Latinx people with Latinx identity.

According to data gathered by the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey in 2018, the Valley's racial demographics were divided up as such: 

Hispanic/Latino: 92.15%
White: 6.55%
Black: 0.58%
Asian & Pacific Islander: 0.53%
Native American/Indian: 0.18%

This data does not include the distinctions of people who identified with more than one race, and could not possibly speak to the number of people who may be mixed race, but have chosen to identify with only one of them.

So this brings me to my main point about the Valley. Non-black Latinxs/Chicanx/Mexican-Americans, whatever we want to be called (because it differs from person to person), have a learned racist bias against other communities of color. How many times have you heard someone in your family refer to an Asian or Pacific Islander as a "chino"? How many times have you heard someone in our community refer to a Black person (including afro-latinxs!) as a "mayate"? You don't have to dig very deep to find examples of racial prejudice in people you see and talk to every day. What do you think 'colorism' is? What do you think your tía means when she tells you that you should straighten your curly hair? Or when your family celebrates the birth of a baby with a light complexion, blonde hair, and blue eyes? Where is the space for Afro-Latinx people in the traditional Latinx umbrella? As of yet, the further our appearance is from blackness, the more value non-black Latinx in the Valley place on themselves. These are some of many examples of deeply-rooted anti-blackness that are prevalent in the Rio Grande Valley.

Let's look at another example for a moment. Even though non-black Latinos appropriate Black culture, they only seem to do so at the surface-level. If they truly wanted to embody Black culture, they would also try to understand the racial prejudice that has for better or worse, shaped Black culture. Yes, I'm talking about the infamous use of the "N" word by non-black Latinos. The idea that you can appropriate all of what it is to be Black, including the reclamation of a racial epithet, is absolutely ignorant, and rooted in anti-blackness. 

Now you must be asking yourself: how can the appropriation of Black culture also be done while being anti-black? I'll tell you! It's one thing to appropriate stuff like clothing styles and music, especially when coming from similarly oppressed communities in a racist country. Even the appropriation of language is considered normal by now; historically, most of the slang in our country has been developed through the appropriation of culturally Black language (look at TikTok for 30 seconds and you'll see what I mean). But it is an entirely different thing to appropriate a reclaimed slur, something that did not occur naturally in Black culture, something that was forced upon Black people by White people, defined by literal centuries of pain and suffering, pure violence, and oppression in the air they breathed...that is not something a non-black Latino can ever understand, because they have never been Black. We have our own history of oppression with its own set of slurs and obstacles, but it's not the same thing, and does not grant us any privilege to use a word that - by its very function when used by someone who is not black - means existential violence to Black people. To ignore that obvious detail is to deny Black people the full agency over their lives and history. It is disrespect of a fundamental nature, and an assumption of power over Black people; an assumption that Black people don't deserve to own something that they alone reclaimed. That. Is. Anti. Black.

The denial of agency that non-black Latinos in the Valley demonstrate toward fellow communities of color is more than clear. We are not only anti-black, we are also anti-asian and anti-Native American (regionally, our native people are the Carrizo-Comecrudo tribe). This has led to a culture that puts all of the forces that have oppressed communities of color and protected whiteness throughout history - the police, border patrol, and prisons - on a pedestal. We have a huge population of Blue Lives Matter supporters down here, many of which made their presence known in 2016 when a trio of Black organizers, siblings Aimaloghi, Ohiozele, and Ohireime Eromosele hosted a Black Lives Matter march in McAllen. Guess what: not all of the Blue Lives Matter folks were white.

So, when a solidarity protest was organized this past Saturday in Edinburg to call for justice in the case of George Floyd's murder and to support the value of Black lives, word spread quickly, drawing in thousands of people to the protest's event page on Facebook who said they would be "going". Almost as if on cue, the Valley's anti-blackness reared it's ugly head, leaving comments stoking fears of it turning into a riot, condemning the destruction of property as a form of protest (I won't get into that here, look it up) in Minneapolis, and claiming that - because racism "doesn't exist in the Valley" - there is no need to hold a protest calling for justice in the extrajudicial execution of an unarmed Black man by police. Some even said that supporters "just wanted to be a part of something happening outside the Valley", as if that was a bad thing. Perhaps most damning of all were the handful of threats made by young non-black Latino men to shoot up the protest; posts of these men driving around in their cars while carrying firearms and paintball guns were uploaded to social media and subsequently distributed among supporters of the protest. 

I wish this could come as a surprise, but even the Valley's own history of protests against police brutality have been wiped from the public consciousness. The Pharr Riot of 1971, for example, has only lived on in the memories of those who were there and their children. There was a TV special produced about the riot, but short of this brilliant article put together by the Valley's own barrio historian, Eduardo Martinez, there hasn't been much work done by local governments to make the event part of the public consciousness. As such, we as a region have forgotten what it's like to be oppressed, having spent so much time as an oppressor without even knowing it.

In response to the violent reaction from opponents, the organizers of the protest decided to reschedule for this coming Saturday, June 6th. This decision was met with further aggression, except this time coming from people who were enraged about George Floyd's murder and the issue of police brutality, and were enthusiastically looking to demonstrate their support for the cause. When one of the protest's organizers took to Facebook Live to explain their decision, the comments ranged from claims of cowardice to outright homophobia and the all-too-common theme of "the Valley sucks". In the end, supporters of the protest decided it would be best to attend and show solidarity with the other protests happening around the world, and from what I saw, it went well and nobody got hurt.

That being said, in response to the Rio Grande Valley's anti-blackness at a time when we should be supporting Black people and uplifting their voices, I have decided to not speak on this episode of the show. Instead, I've put together a playlist of Black artists I admire, and whose music I am inspired by, and letting them have the entirety of today's (and this week's) runtime. I've included two freestyles performed by George Floyd himself back when he was a part of DJ Screw's infamous Screwed Up Click up in Houston. At the time, he was known as "Big" Floyd, and appeared on several of Screw's releases, which you can find on YouTube in their entirety. Closing the episode, we have a message from George Floyd from sometime earlier this year. It's a clip I found on YouTube - presumably grabbed from a social media account - where George talks about the plight of young Black men falling into the trap of gun violence, and offering support as a community elder. The media has been using it as a prop to critique the violence from protesters across the country, because the media is disgusting.

It ends with George addressing fellow Black men who disagree with his message, saying "fuck you, my heart hurts".

My heart hurts for you too, George. I wish you hadn't gone the way you did, and I hope your killers are brought to justice, by any means. You deserve that. Your family deserves that. Your community deserves that. Your daughter and her mother deserve that. Rest in power.

AS

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

BLASST 113: ARE WE GUCCI?

TRACKLIST
1. David Bowie - "I'm Afraid of Americans"
2. KeiyaA - "A Mile, a Way"
3. Recovery Girl - "Let's Go Bitch"
4. NNAMDÏ - "Everyone I Loved"
5. P22 - "Endling Chorus For The Terminarch"
6. L@s Skagaler@s - "PXPX"
7. Las Nubes - "Demonize"
8. Moody Garland - "Supposed To Be"
9. TV Flesh - "Turning, Turning, Turning"
10. Dead Finks - "Box Office Poison"
11. Jordan Reyes - "Beaten Path"
12. Kali Malone - "Meantone Canon"
13. Shanti Celeste - "Aqua Block"
14. Little Richard - "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On"


NOTES
Contrary to what was said by a now-infamous partier at South Padre Island, the coronavirus does - in fact - exist, and it continues to wreak havoc on the United States, though not entirely in the way you might assume. First, we had the pandemic to worry about, and now we have its agents of destruction - ignorant, entitled Americans desperate to cling to their pre-COVID sense of the world - coughing and spitting on people out of spite, many of which work for the businesses said Americans fought so desperately to reopen, and further spreading the virus to those around them. This is happening all over the country. Yes, even in the Rio Grande Valley, and it's a growing problem that doesn't show any signs of stopping while the pandemic persists. 
For someone like myself, who takes no solace in any of the articles being released about potential risk factors of various daily activities, this situation just makes me want to stay home even more than before. Some people would prefer to lean into the slim chance that things will be just fine, and while I can empathize with that, I still think it's ultimately irresponsible for people to try taking their chances while countless others don't have the privilege to do so. 

As for the content of today's episode, I'm returning to focusing on music programming. COVID CALLS will continue as new conversations appear, and new episodes will be released accordingly. Today, I dive through the sea of music I purchased on Bandcamp's recent Revenue Share Day - a lot - and also share some jams I've had swirling through my mind from various corners of the internet. It's incredible how much music flies under our radar, only making it to our ears when a chance encounter or perhaps chance swipe? brings it into our life. 
KeiyaA's album Forever, ya Girl is one such record. I was watching one of Moses Sumney's homebound IG Livestreams one night, and when someone asked him what he'd been listening to lately, he brought up KeiyaA's album. Speaking very highly of it, he said it had r&b and lo-fi elements, and coming from someone whose music I already adored, I was sold. Listening to it is unlike any r&b album experience I've had (granted, not that many) in that it felt very modern and jazzy in its structure, not so much its music, more like a sound poem. 
Las Nubes were one of my many bandcamp finds that truly blew my mind upon first listen. A rockin trio from Miami, I can't even remember how I came across their page on bandcamp, but the first release I heard was their split with Palomino Blond, another Miami group. Admittedly, PB's side of the 12" LP was not as compelling, but Las Nubes' two tracks were good enough for me to order the album anyway. I think you may agree, if hazy rock music is your thing.

Some excellent selections from local (and once local) artist are on the show today as well! 

Moody Garland is the new solo project of one Justin Marin, who many older Valley heads such as myself may remember for his ripping guitar work in Brownsville's own explosive rock quartet, White Zebra. Justin's been living in Dallas for a good while now, and has been working with a few bands, but at present only seems to be releasing music under this new pseudonym. His new EP, Emotional Labor, is a heart-on-sleeve tome of dreamy bedroom-pop/rock goodness.
TV Flesh's latest self-titled EP, recorded just a few weeks ago just after shelter-in-place ordinances were lifted, is another step forward for the hungry group of noise-makers into searing, emotionally-charged rock with a bit of a shoegaze-y undertone to it. Like if the band's music were a wine, this undertone would only be palatable if you do the whole sniff-swish-spit business. Not all that excited about the fact that the band met up to put this together, considering the risks it poses to their health, but I suppose they can rightfully say their efforts were not in vain. Hope to see some of these tracks re-recorded in the future.
L@s Skagaler@s, an RGV music scene mainstay carrying the ska-punk torch, contributed a track to this year's Skank for Choice benefit compilation (S4C is a yearly benefit show thrown by South Texans 4 Reproductive Justice, a local org that provides abortion support services) and chose a setlist staple, "PXPX" from the band's self-titled 2016 EP. A band that's always ready to put their politics where their mouth-pieces are, the Skags are no stranger to the program, and always ready to rock out or blow some conservative's head off with the sheer volume of their horn section. For my interview with the band, check out BLASST 92.

At the end of the program, I played a clip from a show Little Richard did in the UK in '64. He blew minds that night, and just might continue to for the uninitiated upon initial viewing of this show. I promised I'd link it below, so here it is.

RIP to the Architect.

More music next week. As always, stay safe, stay healthy, and please, to the best of your ability, stay home. I know it's not realistic to abstain from leaving the house to do stuff, but just keep the risks in mind and do your best to curb them. This is a helpful article a friend shared on social media that helped ease a bit of my concerns since recording this episode. It doesn't change my feelings toward the people in the opening montage, but it does ease my alarm when it comes to seeing people out and about. Read it here.

Also, I'm working on t-shirt designs, so soon you'll be able to take the BLASST / Universal Punk name with you wherever you go (grumblegrumblegrumble) and parade yourself around the world in style!

EDIT: We have a Discord now. It's like a chatroom, but cooler. We'll post updates and build a community form there. To visit it, click this sentence.

AS

BLASST 118: VOTE IN YOUR LOCAL ELECTIONS

TRACKLIST 1. Ghösh - "Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em" 2. KOKOROKO - "Carry Me Home" 3.  Dominique Fils-Aimé - &qu...