Saturday, January 14, 2006

A Color Barrier? - African-American Poetry

Do African-Americans write poetry? Why are there no blogs out there by African-American poets? Why is there no "African-American Poetry" equivalent to this blog? (And by "African-Americans," I mean "black," of course. Just using the term "African-American" because it sounds and looks similar to "Asian-American.")

Obviously, I'm mistaken that there are no blogs by African-American poets. At least I think that I am. Prove that I am mistaken. As the very sane Tom Cruise might say, "Show me the blog!"

I hesitate to make a socioloeconomic, historical, and/or cultural arguments that there are fewer African-Americans, on average, that have easy access to computers and e-mail and blogs, and therefore, that accounts for the lack of African-American bloggers. After all, there are plenty of African-Americans with easy access to computers and blogs.....But that still leaves us with a puzzle.


Blogger Viperteq said...

The question shouldn't are there any African-American blogs on poetry (or other topics), but why aren't there any blogs by African-Americans? The problem is that even though we're living in a time when seemingly everyone has money and access to the latest things, most African-Americans men and women (myself included) are living below the poverty level.

If the recent events of Hurricane's Katrina and Rita have shown us anything, it's that America isn't the rose land of opportunity that Bush and other politicians make it out to be. We have some real issues going on here that most Americans are afraid to face. Instead of facing reality we would rather walk around as if nothing is wrong, as if the previous 400+ years in which minorities were treated as property and not people never happened. When you are a product of that mentality it's hard to rise above the negativity.

Now a lot of African-American men and women aren't exposed to the latest wonders of techonolgy. They don't attend schools with million dollar computer labs, like maybe you are I attended. Most don't own a computer and if they do, they computer is often times 7+ years old...a computer that old isn't powerful enough to keep up with todays applications. Because so many are living below thier means, buying a new computer is often not an option when the nain bills have to be paid and you have a family to take care of. The next level above that is that even if you are priviledged enough to own a computer, paying for internet access can be highly costly. Dial-up is slow as hell and Broadband, if you're lucky enough to have it offered where you live, can run and extra $50 to $60 a month. Sure, there are areas of the country where a person could go to use wireless for free or next to free, but a lot African-Americans don't own laptops. It's hard.

I'm a Black man who loves techonology and everything about computers. I'm an aspiring web and software programmer and I feel so isolated because so many of my people are not into the things that I'm into. They aren't exposed to latest and greatest in techonology. The average African-American may have heard of a blog, but they don't know what one is or how to create one. I thinks thats why I have been so adament about programming and making a impact in the world of techonology. I really want my people to understand that we can be a part of this great technology too. Basically, there are some African-American men and women out here in the blogosphere writing, but you just have to search for it. We're a small minority in this internet world, but someday we're going to grow. If you ever want to read my blog you can check me out here.


9:01 PM  
Blogger Reb said...

9:34 PM  
Blogger Lee Herrick said...

This exchange itself demonstrates why African-Americans might benefit from blogs---access to information and discourse. People can make their own decisions, but we need information (or at least the breadth of experience and patience to make rational decisions). But when legislative, economic and sociopolitical realities precede the "fun" (if we can call it that) of learning online, it's a tough road ahead. But I sure hope we get to it.

I wonder what the folks at Cave Canem would have to say about this discussion. I would love a Komunyakaa guest blog visit sometime. He is, I believe, still at Princeton.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Thin Black Duke said...

As far as African-American poet bloggers, no, there aren't too many of us. A lot of what Viperteq says is right on the money, but at least as far as poet bloggers are concerned, I suspect that there are other cultural factors at work as well. For instance, go to any major city in America and you can find 100s of African-American slam poets. I may be wrong here, but most poet bloggers out there (myself included, I must admit), aren't going to give much credence to slam poetry. It's more complicated than that, I know. A thought to ponder, however.

Now, if you move outside of poetry and into political (and other) blogging, the number of American-Americans start to rise. Off the top of my head:

Steve Gilliard
Pam's House Blend
Professor Kim
Oliver Wilis
Robert George
LaShawn Barber
Intelligence Squad
Ascent Blog

to name a few. And there are many more out there. We're still mightily under-represented in blogland, but we are starting to grow.

7:27 AM  
Blogger Reb said...

Oh and I'm not sure how I forgot to mention E. Ethelbert Miller's:

5:35 PM  
Blogger Lyle Daggett said...

Roger, there are a number of bloggers listed in in the Links page of the Cave Canem website, here. You'll need to scroll down in the page a ways to come to the links that are specifically blogs (as distinguished from plain websites, etc.).

I can't say for certain that all of the poets who are linked there are African-American, but it seems likely that all or more are, inasmuch as Cave Canem is a website concentrating on poetry by African-American poets.

9:15 PM  
Blogger Roger Pao said...

Well, I've been waiting to think of something profound to add, but nothing has come to me yet.

In the meantime, everyone, thanks a lot for your comments and blog recommendations! It seems that there are a lot of African-American poets blogging, even if this fact appears to fly under the radar sometimes.

1:14 AM  
Blogger Thin Black Duke said...

You've inspired me, Roger. I just started a new blog equivalent to your blog called Folk Say.

Check it out.

4:45 PM  
Blogger Roger Pao said...

Hey Kevin, wow, that's cool. I've never inspired anyone to set up their own blog before. I'm honored.

5:07 AM  

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