Saturday, August 27, 2011

Leaving Fellows

"And now each night, I count the stars.
And each night I get the same number.
And when the stars won't come to be counted,
I count the holes they leave."
— Leroi Jones (Amiri Imamu Baraka)

Elizabeth Potter from MyFellowAmerican asked me to give little space to a video which is an answer on recent controversies about Muslims in the United States. It is followed by a quote from the book "New Thing" (a novel inspired by the '60s and the free jazz movement) in which there is a little game about language and identity problems. The book isn't still tranlsated in English, while the Italian, French and Spanish versions are still available.

I changed my name many times. I was "African" and "nigger," which in Spanish means "black". Then I was "colored." In the '20s I turned back to "nigger" but it took me a capital letter. "Negro". But whiteys do not pronounced "nee-grow" but "nigraha," so it was too much like "nigger" and the second syllable had to wait to see if I were to be insulted. However, "nigger" was a mispronunciation of "negro". How do you translate "nigger"in Italian? "Negro". And "nigger", how would they translate it? You see, it's a big mess. In the mid-sixties I became "black": "Say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud!" I was always that way in Spanish, but English was the difference. Accept the black skin and hair, to overcome the inferiority complex: "Black is beautiful". Sometimes, though, I was called "African-American" or "African American". The whiteys did not know how they had to call me. Apart from "nigger", clearly. Neither the brothers, not even they knew well how to call: the old men "of color", those middle-aged and middle class were "Negroes," the younger militants were "blacks" or "African Americans". In the meantime, though, between us we have continued to call ourselves "nigger", even "nigga", but it's different from a white person saying it. Or rather, sometimes it is, and sometimes don't. It's a mess, man, I told you.
Today there are some who call me "African from the Diaspora", or "African" and that's it. After four hundred years, the circle is closed.

(from the book "New Thing", by WuMing 1)

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