Steven Willis @ Housingworks Bookstore for #TeachMeYouDid and Imagine Better

Steven Willis @ Housingworks Bookstore for #TeachMeYouDid and Imagine Better


I think I’m the only one who got the full bio today so thank you thank you thank you I appreciate that appreciate that. First thing, May the Fourth be with you I want to first dedicate my performance to a teacher Ms. Mudgren my 10th grade English teacher who was the first to teach me the intricacies of African-American Vernacular English or Ebonics. And what I thought at the time was just (it was) a very weak way to try to appeal to a group of all African-American students. I later realized that it was that first day of class and that teaching that would then transform the way that I viewed my art. One, understanding that the weapon of the African American is Culture and then number two, being able to redefine what that culture is. So this, This is Ebonics 101 Good evening class no I’m gonna need you to talk back to me I said good evening class good evening class Now perhaps I should start this poem by informing you that I am bilingual. That the Queen’s English that I speak so eloquently before you now it’s not my first language, no. My grandmother never used such diction when she spoke me up in the welfare line amongst the other dwellers. Or when she called down to me from the project window for dinner, no. We spoke almost Southern-fried English. This rhetorical recipe has been in my family for generations grandma say, ‘Big Mama hid it under her tongue when she headed for Northern cities during the Great Migration.’ See scholars call it African American Vernacular English but my guys they call it, ‘slang.’ The Man calls it, ‘Ebonics.’ I call it, ‘America’s Creole the last remaining squab birthed from a European and African pidgeon. Turned into the dialect of the doughboys, the bass it appears in a rappers rhythmic rhetoric spoken everywhere from the Traphouse to the liquor store, from the HIV testing clinic to the bus stop. Ebonics is the official language of the undefined black culture. The native tongue to the underrepresented Black American and long before I received liberal art degrees and stood on unopposing academic settings. I was born on the Southside of Chicago and managed to garner up enough street cred from the school of hard knocks to qualify me to teach you all a few of my language’s essentials so hipsters hope you have your notepads ready because this, well this is ‘Ebonics 101’ Chapter One Any English word that holds an, ‘I + N’ combination with an ‘I’ eye becomes an ‘A’ Like Billie Holiday couldn’t ‘sing’ that girl could ‘sang.’ If Martin did all that walking I wonder if him feet stank traveled all them miles just to hear freedom rang. I wonder what he was ‘thankin” Chapter Two Any English word that has an ‘O + R’ combination with an ‘R’ sound becomes silent. Like, Emmett screaming, ‘don’t beat me no mo.” Like Rodney screaming, ‘don’t beat me no mo’ Like Trayvon asking, ‘What is you following me fo?!” Chapter three Any English words that holds an ‘E + R’ combination where the ‘E + R’ becomes an ‘A’ like in the great quote from the linguistics scholar Ms. Lauryn Hill, ‘And even after all my logic in my theory I add a “motherfucker” so you ignant’ n***** hear me’ See, there’s culture in these words. The bended back of my speech comes from years of carrying the black experience, the verbal diaspora of Africa shapes our spine. We cross our T’s with the middle passage. Dot our ‘I’s’ with strange fruits. Curver our ‘S’s’ with Mid-Atlantic roots you cannot expect us to be slaves to your phonetics forever. And just like our history we will defy the structure of your Jim Crow grammar refuse to speak within the lines of your mason-dixon diction. You cannot correct this, context this connotate my accomplishments. See me Be Black Male Use double negative to make positive. He will write until the black story nor longest subsists. He will write until the clenched pen is synonymous with a clenched fist. He will write until the black male is able to Live Be Exist Class Dismissed

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