Monday, July 27, 2015

Before Qilombo: A 2313 San Pablo Story

Before Qilombo: a 2313 San Pablo Story

I see people lining up for food
In front of the community garden
Next to the warehouse space
That I know is doing great work
In building a movement
Since I attended some of their
skyped discussion groups—
“From Ferguson to Oakland”
back before New York,
before Cleveland,
before Baltimore,
before Texas, Charleston, Texas
became corporate media spin sensations.

The space holds itself
To the heroic precedents
Of its name: Qilombo
and I should’ve gotten
in with them when it began
but I had left Oakland
to become homeless in LA
after the community center
for sustainable cultural revolution
I tried to start
(with loans I still haven’t
paid back to an ex girlfriend
and to David Berman)
fell apart because
I choose the wrong partners…

I chose great musicians
With whom I could create
The most healing, the most
Potentially socially healing
Music I’d ever been a part of—
A music there’s alas no record of,
A music that needs to come alive
That creates and is created by a scene
Who often will sacrifice many things
To have regular access
To this feeling of possibility
That some reduce to “freedom,”
The power the fuels responsibility
Although, I learned, not for others…
Sympathy for the junkie, empathy
With the junkie. The junkie
Can’t be blamed for not being able
To keep his word. I am to blame
For not making it clearer
That I’m a physically cripped guy
Who couldn’t construct the place himself
If the others were going
To take 8 months to do
What they said they’d do in 2
And by the 6th month a flood occurred
Due to illegal slumlord neglect
So we had a common enemy
That could unite us
But people turned against each other
(and not just coz one guy’s rabbit
ate another guy’s dog---names changed
to protect the innocent)

And, before the vision could
Begin to come to fruition,
We abandoned the sinking ship
With no bailouts but debt.
A few of the walls and
The unstained piano remained
And I saw it’s still there
The last time I visited Qilombo
In the corner.

Qilombos’s not really a musical spot,
But more of an activist spot,
A meeting place, not so beholden
To that youth grunge culture
As the kind of spots where I found
Convenient access to social healing
Deanceable, and/or loud body music
Except for Philly’s Killtime, back in ‘89
Where we could sleep and practice
And discover the best meaning of living room
As if a concept of home
That could even be for keeps
A place where activists
And musicians meet
As equals, as balance
Like at Amina and Amiri Baraka’s
Glorious basement events!

I do not know enough
About Qilombo yet
To know if it could be that,
Yet I believe in my heart of hearts
That musicians and activists,
As equals, as balance,
Is precisely the coalition needed….
The coalition prevented…
Still the burning need
To bring them together
So it’s not just white punks
Getting all defensively jealous
Of the raptivists when they see them
Stealing the show, or at least
Getting the white girls dancing

I wonder if my mistake
With the warehouse
Was to start with the musicians,
The Dionysian force of community
That sees activists as fuddy-duddies,
Rather than the activists
Who don’t see music as much
As a basic need as food
Or non-musical forms of conversation…
Just like I tried to
Bring the demands of my black
Students at Laney and the Black Panthers
To the Occupy Wall Street movement
And tried to bring the demands
Of the Save KUSF movement
To their 99% declaration…

Oh, failure! Failure!
That’s the sinking feeling I get
As I pass Qilombo
Giving out food in front
Of the community garden called Afrika Town,
But I should make it a point,
An August resolution,
Since I couldn’t kill this dream,
To get closer to them,
(& not to get my hands on the piano;
it’s theirs now! Glad it’s gone to a good cause!)
to silently listen to what their vision is
and to let them know I could follow
and that I’m available
if there’s anything I could do
when I get some time off
from the frontlines of the struggle
in my job teaching “college writing”
(speaking the oppressors’ language
the better to curse in it, to survive).

Qilombo has proven wiser than me
In bringing people together for a movement.
If music can’t do it, food can!
But, still, it’d be easier to get back in shape
If there was a little funk edutainment
Like the Panthers had the Lumpen
(and if they need a little funk trumpet
while plotting revolutionary demands, 

I’d be honored to be able to help).

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