The ruling class has material power to structure society in its own selfish interests. Their material power over us comes in many forms, one being the cultural hegemony they have over our minds that they execute in our bourgeois public education system, where they teach us to celebrate the ‘brilliance’ of our slave-owning, bourgeois fore fathers who founded ‘democracy’. We are taught that this is the best and only system. There is no exploration of our ancestors and what other societies looked like before Europeans begin to colonize the world and give birth to the global capitalism that rules our world today. That knowledge is there, but it is knowledge that we must seek out and share, and we can! We must reclaim our minds and spirit to nurture visions and dreams of a different way of living. Different, but familiar; a way closer to our origins on this earth before capital and all its destruction and exploitation existed. We must carry these visions in practice challenging our material chains. We will no longer participate in this domination that alienates us from each other and ourselves. That alienates us from the earth and the abundance of nature. Understanding and valuing our own spirit and our collective spirit, and fighting for it in practice are what will change the world. Our spirit is material. It is our beating heart; our restless mind; it is our love frequencies interacting with each other and the environment. It is the inspiration to fight back against a foreign system birthed from spells of greed and hate. We can no longer live in a society structured along such values, and the only solution is to fundamentally restructure society so that we are living and working for the survival of each other, and the planet, and striving for love and balance with all things living. People’s labor would contribute to the reproduction of these values within our communities through the way society is organized. Everyone would have a position within the division of labor, but labor would not be grounded in an exploitative power dynamic, which is what exists under capital. People would not be paid in wages, but with an equal share of resources for their survival. Everyone would collectively contribute to the reproduction of society through their skills and talents. This vision will only manifest through a serious worldwide revolutionary overthrow of the global capitalist system, whose very structures are responsible for all suffering, harm, exploitation and oppression that has been happening in this world for centuries.
When looking for the solutions to a problem it is important to be scientific, and find the root of a problem so that you may get rid of it and the problem will cease. For an example, when you have a tree that is rotting from the root, but you only see the problem from the surface, because the bark looks off. You can continue to cut away the infected parts that show in the bark, but it only changes the appearance of the rotting tree; it doesn’t stop the rotting that is happening at the roots. In order to fix the problem you must go deep into the earth and pull out the roots and the tree in its totality, before it infects the soil and other plant life. You lose the one rotting tree so that you may continue to reproduce the soil and have more healthy trees and plants for the future. This is the approach that we must take with capitalism. There are no solutions to the crisis of capital except to go deep and take out the problem, which is capital itself. Capital is not only responsible for creating a harmful exploitative economic system, but its very structures also impact the social relations between people, and the unhealthy ways we interact with each other.
In chapter 23 on simple reproduction in Karl Marx’s Capital Volume I, in a very logical manner he reveals how the economic system is also a sociological system that influences the social relationships within society. Economics and people are clearly interwoven, which is why we must look at the politics of the economic system we live under. Our political system is a bourgeois government that has been put in place to protect the interests of capital and capitalists. This is why our government will continually support legislation that bails out and/or protects banks and corporations over the people and the earth. We must stop being surprised by this and pushing recall elections and other solutions that lie within the preservation of the current system, because the current system is opposed to us at its roots. We must develop our own revolutionary politics through our shared experience as proletarians (employed and unemployed) to fight back and build a new world. Marx inspired us through his dialectic to fight for these dreams in struggle. Through his very important analysis of capital he gave us clarity on the inner workings of the system, and how exploitative relationships are at the heart of it. He writes,
“In reality, the worker belongs to capital before he has sold himself to the capitalist. His economic bondage is at once mediated through and concealed by, the periodic renewal of the act by which he sells himself; his change of masters and the oscillations in the market price [wages] of his labor.
The capitalist process of production, therefore, seen as a total, connected process, i.e. a process of reproduction, produces not only commodities, not only surplus value [profit], but it also produces and reproduces the capital-relation itself; on the one hand the capitalist, on the other the wage-labourer.” (brackets added by me)
It is difficult to see capital as one connected system, because it divides us all from each other through a hierarchical division of labor that reproduces racial, gender, age, and countless other privileges and oppressions. We are spatially alienated from each other in different schools, workplaces, jails and detention centers. Marx examined every aspect of the system in order to reconnect it as a totality for the working-class to study and understand so that they may fight back stronger with knowledge of their position in the world, and their historic task to transform that position. This is the dialectic. The subject’s relationship to the object, aka a person’s interaction with their objective conditions. Understanding the development of the working-class and ruling class historically, and how capital has been able to enslave the vast majority of the people on this planet in order to reproduce itself is key to understanding how to destroy such a harmful system.
In order to be successful in this task we must come together as a fighting class demonstrating our shared experience through struggle. We must constantly strive to transcend the divisions that the system places on us materially and internally so that we may see ourselves as a collective against the system consciously and practically through revolutionary struggle. We come together once we begin to see our commonalities and shared human experiences. We reject the divisions placed on us by the system, and begin to live for each other. This can be a very spiritual thing, because it is a recognition of our common experience and shared spirituality; an understanding of the life energy that flows through us all. We can come together in order to use this energy in harmony with each other, and not in antagonisms. There are beautiful souls out there already committed to living differently through their spiritual practices, which they may share with others through group meditation, workshops, various retreats and countless other spiritual community resources. Often I find these communities to be more grounded in individual self-care work in community settings. This work is important, because we must heal and take care of ourselves, and self-care comes in many forms depending on the individual. However, this work can become counterproductive when it remains solely in the realm of your personal life; it fails to become revolutionary. We must heal and take care of ourselves so that we may be able to build and sustain a healthy revolutionary movement. Therefore, a real liberating spiritual movement is one connected to a holistic class struggle that inspires and develops people’s consciousness and spirit collectively.
Just as we must be intentional about connecting spiritual movements and communities to revolutionary struggles waged by the workers of the world, we also must be mindful of developing our spiritual practices within our practical work. That involves allowing space for that culture to develop within our movements so that we are simultaneously healing and fighting and healing. We must relate to each other differently and reject the selfish principles of bourgeois individualism. I am a communist and a revolutionary, and that means that I am against capitalism, but I don’t solely express my politics through negation of the current system. I also want to affirm what I am for, which is a communal system based on principles of love and collectivity.
Organizations that are dedicated to this revolutionary project of building a new world should demonstrate that vision within the structures of their organization. It is important to not neglect matters of the mind and heart, because that is what our oppressors do, and that is one way that they keep us mentally and spiritually weak. And when our spirit is weak it can be harder to become inspired to fight back. We want to wage militant powerful struggles that can tear down the walls of capital. We can have this militancy and discipline without reproducing hierarchical social relations within our organizations and movements. Unfortunately we all live under the same system that reproduces domination within our relationships that we internalize and project onto each other. We must relate to each other differently and love and support each other so that we can sustain ourselves through the ebbs and flows of struggle. To commit your life to building struggle takes serious work outside of the work you are already forced into as a proletarian to survive. This is why we must come together with our communist hearts to support each other. Finding the balance between collective spiritual healing and reproductive work and political organizing is key to building a healthy holistic communist revolutionary struggle and world.
I love Zora for her love of her people. I love her for her love for herself. And I love the way her skillful writing reflects her love for both. Especially in a world that devalues Black womyn; enslaves, rapes, exploits them. The Black womyn’s power has been stripped from her since she landed in this land of ‘freedom’. It takes actual courage and determination to trust your voice and reclaim that power through the act of creation and struggle. Zora not only has reclaimed that power, but she does so with such style and swag. This quote from the below featured essay will forever be imprinted upon my brain,
“Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”
The fierceness of the words always reminds me of a laugh my dear friend Crunch and I shared after reading the piece one night. He said, ‘this is how you know she was hangin’ with the gays.” It’s true. And the fierceness is important for what it gave me and countless other womyn of color, who struggle to process the reality they live under. Writing. A way to express myself; build revolution; change our realities. She helped me understand that my stories of my people and personal experiences do matter not only for me but to share; knowledge production is not solely done by White men or the Academy.
What always stands out in Zora’s writings and what makes her so important to my own development is the way she speaks to the harmful realities of the world, but refuses to victimize herself or her people. There is something so bold in the way she names her oppression, but then rejects such harmful institutionalized divisions. She describes the way she is otherized; defined in opposition to whiteness. This is a reality I share living under this white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. However, she is clear to not internalize it and victimize herself. At the end of the day she is still Zora, and Zora is fabulous.
Her sharp tongue and independence as a Black womyn writer was before her time, and still is. Black womyn are still not free. The people are not free. Our life only matters under this system if it is being exploited for the capitalist’s profit. Essays by strong Black womyn celebrating their humanity and their people’s humanity is not going to be picked up by the bourgeois press that unfortunately has hegemony over production and circulation. What is sad in the case of Zora is that she was an outcast within her own ‘community’ at times. Black, largely male writers, shunned her in a similar fashion. It wasn’t self-victimizing enough like the writing of Richard Wright, which often reflected the violence of the system that Black people had to endure; and it wasn’t self-hating like the ‘White’-obsessed novels of Jean Toomer. Her very important novel, one of my favorites, Their Eye’s Were Watching God, did not do well during its initial publication. Other writers rejected the dialect she uses claiming that it was a minstrel act for white audiences, and not serious fiction. I reject such harsh criticism, because it is not dealing with the quality of her work; rather it is a personalized attack. Hurston’s work is not a facade. It is a reflection of herself and her life experiences, which is what any artist’s true art should be. In the introduction to the Zora Neal Hurston Reader , Alice Walker describes the importance of the book quite well,
“There is enough self-love in that one book—love of community, culture, traditions—to restore a world. Or create a new one.”
Yes. The power of her writing is revolutionary; especially in the right hands. There are times when her nonchalance towards the system is not quite the way I would characterize it within my own writing. But I know that her writing is not coming from a bourgeois or passive place. It is coming from a place of love; from a place of witnessing the strength of her people; their abilities to survive on their own despite the horrific conditions that brought them over here and continue to effect their stay. This is why she will continue to hold a special place in my heart and continue to inspire me to write and follow my own visions. Here’s to you Zora!
How It Feels
To Be Colored Me
By Zora Neale Hurston, 1928
I AM COLORED but I offer nothing in the way of extenuating circumstances except the fact that I am the only Negro in the United States whose grandfather on the mother’s side was not an Indian Chief.
I remember the very day that I became colored. Up to my thirteenth year I lived in the little Negro town of Eatonville, Florida. It is exclusively a colored town. The only white people I knew passed through the town going to or coming from Orlando. The native whites rode dusty horses, the Northern tourists chugged down the sandy village road in automobiles. The town knew the Southerners and never stopped cane chewing when they passed. But the Northerners were something else again. They were peered at cautiously from behind curtains by the timid. The more venturesome would come out on the porch to watch them go past and got just as much pleasure out of the tourists as the tourists got out of the village.
The front porch might seem a daring place for the rest of the town, but it was a gallery seat for me. My favorite place was atop the gate-post. Proscenium box for a born first-nighter. Not only did I enjoy the show, but I didn’t mind the actors knowing that I liked it. I usually spoke to them in passing. I’d wave at them and when they returned my salute, I would say something like this: ‘Howdy-do-well-I-thank-you-where-you-goin’?” Usually automobile or the horse paused at this, and after a queer exchange of compliments, I would probably ‘go a piece of the way’ with them, as we say in farthest Florida. If one of my family happened to come to the front in time to see me, of course negotiations would be rudely broken off. But even so, it is clear that I was the first ‘welcome-to-our-state’ Floridian, and I hope the Miami Chamber of Commerce will please take notice.
During this period, white people differed from colored to me only in that they rode through town and never lived there. They liked to hear me ‘speak pieces’ and sing and wanted to see me dance the parse-me-la, and gave me generously of their small silver for doing these things, which seemed strange to me for I wanted to do them so much that I needed bribing to stop. Only they didn’t know it. The colored people gave no dimes. They deplored any joyful tendencies in me, but I was their Zora nevertheless. I belonged to them, to the nearby hotels, to the county—everybody’s Zora.
But changes came in the family when I was thirteen, and I was sent to school in Jacksonville. I left Eatonville, the town of the oleanders, as Zora. When I disembarked on from the river-boat at Jacksonville, she was no more. It seemed that I suffered a sea change. I was not Zora of Orange County any more, I was now a little colored girl. I found it out in certain ways. In my heart as well as in the mirror, I became a fast brown—warranted not to rub nor run.
BUT I AM NOT tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.
Someone is always at my elbow reminding me that I am the grand-daughter of slaves. It fails to register depression with me. Slavery is sixty years in the past. The operation was successful and the patient is doing well, thank you. The terrible struggle that made me an American out of a potential slave said ‘On the line!’ The Reconstuction said ‘Get set!’ and the generation before said ‘Go!’ I am off to a flying start and I must not halt in the stretch to look behind and weep. Slavery is the price I paid for civilization, and the choice was not with me. It is a bully adventure and worth all that I have paid through my ancestors for it. No one on earth ever had a greater chance for glory. The world to be won and nothing to be lost. It is thrilling to think—to know that for any act of mine, I shall get twice as much praise or twice as much blame. It is quite exciting to hold the center of the national stage, with spectators not knowing whether to laugh or to weep.
The position of my white neighbor is much more difficult. No brown specter pulls up a chair beside me when I sit down to eat. No dark ghost thrusts its leg against mine in bed. The game of keeping what one has is never so exciting as the game of getting.
I do not always feel colored. Even now I often achieve the unconscious Zora of Eatonville before the Hegira. I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background.
For instance at Barnard. ‘Besides the waters of Hudson’ I feel my race. Among the thousand white persons, I am a dark rock surged upon, and overswept, but through it all, I remain myself. When covered by the waters, I am; and the ebb but reveals me again.
SOMETIMES IT IS the other way around. A white person is set down in our midst, but the contrast is just as sharp for me. For instance, when I sit in the drafty basement that is The New World Cabaret with a white person, my color comes. We enter chatting about any little nothing that we have in common and are seated by the jazz waiters. In the abrupt way that jazz orchestras have, this one plunges into a number. It loses no time in circumlocutions, but it gets right down to business. It constricts the thorax and splits the heart with its tempo and narcotic harmonies. This orchestra grows rambunctious, rears on its hind legs and attacks the tonal veil with primitive fury, rending it, clawing it until it breaks through to the jungle beyond. I follow those heathen—follow them exultingly. I dance wildly inside myself; I yell within, I whoop; I shake my assegai above my head, I hurl it true to the mark yeeeeooww! I am in the jungle and living in the jungle way. My face is painted red and yellow and my body is painted blue. My pulse is throbbing like a war drum. I want to slaughter something—give pain, give death to what, I do not know. But the piece ends. The men of the orchestra wipe their lips and rest their fingers. I creep back slowly to the veneer we call civilization with the last tone and find the white friend sitting motionless in his seat, smoking calmly.
‘Good music they have here,’ he remarks, drumming the table with his fingertips.
Music. The great blobs of purple and red emotion have not touched him. He has only heard what I felt. He is far away and I see him but dimly across the ocean and the continent that have fallen between us. He is so pale with his whiteness then and I am so colored.
AT CERTAIN TIMES I have no race, I am me. When I set my hat at a certain angle and saunter down seventh Avenue, Harlem City, feeling as snooty as the lions in front of the Forty-Second Street Library, for instance. So far as my feelings are concerned, Peggy Hopkins Joyce on the Boule Mich with her gorgeous raiment, stately carriage, knees knocking together in a most aristocratic manner, has nothing on me. The cosmic Zora emerges. I belong to no race nor time. I am the eternal feminine with its string of beads.
I have no separate feeling about being an American citizen and colored. I am merely a fragment of the Great Soul that surges within the boundaries. My country, right or wrong.
Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.
But in the main, I feel like a brown bag of miscellany propped against a wall. Against a wall in company with other bags, white, red and yellow. Pour out the contents, and there is discovered a jumble of small things priceless and worthless. A first-water diamond, an empty spool, bits of broken glass, lengths of string, a key to a door long since crumbled away, a rusty knife blade, old shoes saved for a road that never was and never will be, a nail bent under the weight of things too heavy for any nail, a dried flower or two still a little fragrant. In your hand is the brown bag. On the ground before you is the jumble it held—so much like the jumble in the bags, could they be emptied, that all might be dumped in a single heap and the bags refilled without altering the content of any greatly. A bit of colored glass more or less would not matter. Perhaps that is how the Great Stuffer of Bags filled them in the first place—who knows?