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Author: Toluwani Ogungbesan
How to Practice Electric Guitar without an Electric GuitarReflections
It’s been a minute since I’ve posted on here.
My creativity has been slightly stunted due to life’s difficulties — COVID-19, familial issues, schoolwork, financial strain, and the list goes on — but a break from school and some time spent with close friends have provided some respite.
I’m feeling more optimistic and finding joy in the little things: cooking, playing with my kitten, smiling at the sun, and journaling daily.
I’m also developing a new passion, funded by the Gould Center again: to learn the electric guitar.
My six-stringed baby arrives on January 14, which means a lot of my current learning and practice has been spurred by my imagination.
I air play along to some sexy Classic Rock riffs.
I’ve been reading and watching videos about music roots, intervals, scales, steps, octaves, and semitones.
And I admire Jimi Hendrix’s guitar play closely, along with other rock gods’.
My anticipation is building.
And I am very excited to share some covers and at least one original song with y’all by the end of this month.
Stay tuned (pun intended).
Additional Resources (I’ll add them as the come):
This YouTube Playlist with guitar lessons and inspiration
A poem on positionalitypoetry
Another World is Possible: Anti-capitalist ImaginationsReflections
A few weeks ago, a classmate of mine shared the question, “What will you miss most once capitalism is destroyed?” from the podcast How to Survive the end of the world. It was an exciting prompt, because I had only thought of a non-capitalist world in theory and large vocab words, not in the mundane. As a developing scholar activist, I had to really ask myself
How can I/we strive towards a transformed future, without ever taking time to really visualize, and therefore manifest, what it can be?
We know what an anti-capitalist world does not look like—look around—but to try and see what it is, is just as important.
So, let’s have a little fun.
An anti-capitalist world is a world without:
- Celebrity Culture
Say goodbye to multi-millionaire and billionaire artists who make money off your time and attention. I personally would not miss celebrity culture, now or in the future, although there are some celebrities I would miss laughing at and/or with. The Met Gala is probably the most beautiful—and only—celebrity orgy I’ve ever cared to engage with; the dresses, the suits, the shoes, the looks are very—😌—pleasing to the eye. I imagine that in an anti-capitalist world, however, airtime would be shared more equally and purposefully, on more Earth-friendly, radical, non-elitist forms of expression. Many more musical and visual artists, activists, and civilian representatives are readily provided with the resources to develop their voice and work, to continue making positive impact on their communities. Of course, some will be more “popular” than others, but the barrier to entry will be completely eradicated… No artist should have to be famous to get it good.
- Long, hot showers
For some of us, Water is easy to waste because it is so accessible. While we watch the steaming, hot droplets run down our bodies in the name of self-care and admire the gushing fountain in the center of Washington Square Park during the summer, Earth’s precious resource dwindles.
In anti-capitalist world, there is no such thing as “resource”; the word itself implies that we have unlimited access to Earth and normalizes extraction. Perhaps we can do some good to personify Water as a sacred being, who we use as intentionally as we can, and bless and thank when we do.
- Meat, Exotic Fruits, etc.
And I mean the mass-produced meat you probably pick up weekly from your local grocery store. Chicken, farm bred salmon, beef, pork… and the list goes on. I love cooking, especially when I’m cooking something new or have eaten in an ethnic restaurant, but I try to ask myself, where do some of these ingredients come from? They are all products of a capitalist system of overproduction. How often do you think of all the “hands, plants, mushrooms, animals, and minerals that gave of themselves to create your meal(s)”? Community-based farming can take it’s place, as demonstrated by Cooperation Jackson in Mississippi and La Finca del Sur in the Bronx, which would limit what we can eat but will most definitely improve the quality of it.
- Amazon Prime
An obvious one, but I had to throw it in there because it is so obvious, and because even I war with myself at least once every two months on the site—when I am desperately searching for something that I don’t really need and have had trouble finding in stores or other online shops. It is convenient, which makes it so popular, and convenience is valuable in a society that trains us to “maximize” and “be productive” with our time, always on, always working. And Amazon is another great example of labor and “resource” exploitation. In an anti-capitalist world, monopolies do not exist and our material desires are mostly filled with emotional, spiritual, and community wealth and health.
- The Megachurch
I grew up in a megachurch, and I will admit that besides the long sermons, I loved the waterfalls that manned the entrance, the faux gold ceilings, and the songs sang by the talented choir and band—making it hard to keep still, despite my unbelief. But the Christian church, a place of worship, community, and giving, has many times been turned into a big business. How often do megachurch pastors connect personally with their congregation? How many dollars from tithes and offerings actually go back into the community? How many people can genuinely say they’ve found spiritual family—people they can reach out to in times of crisis—through the megachurch? In an anti-capitalist world, I imagine the church and any other spiritual and religious center as an intimate accessible space, welcome to people of all faiths, directly serving the needs of their surrounding community as fit.
And the list goes on…
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this piece is what you are willing to do and give up now, in the present, in hopes of a more equitable future. This is not to dismiss the heavy responsibility of the State and private sector to clean up their mess—because realistically only they can—but to encourage us to take charge and care for Earth in the little ways we can. Capitalism is not just external, but internal; it regulates everything, including our time, actions, desires, imaginations, and dreams. So imagining an anti-capitalist future is a form of unlearning and learning and unlearning again. through conversations, or by reading essays like Nishnaabeg Anticapitalism or this blog post! and in the act of remembering and honoring sacrifice. Before each meal, I pray a prayer from United We Dream’s Undocumented Cookbook:
Capitalism is not inescapable. In fact, anti-capitalist practices exist in everyday life already.
A present example that I must include, before closing this piece, is that of restorative justice, as detailed by Sonya Shah in an interview with former Black Panther leader, Ericka Huggins (peep the last 20 minutes). Every day, she says, she causes harm, so every day, she engages in talking circles with the person or people she has harmed. Together, sometimes with a trusted third party, both groups share their perspectives and over time—a few minutes, hours or days—arrive at a place of healing and understanding.
How is this anti-capitalist?
Capitalism favors the individual over community; punishment over forgiveness; constant productivity over intentional, patient progress. Talking circles challenge this. An anti-capitalist world is a world with healing circles, and without prisons. Harm is reduced. All people are valued.
Very optimistic, yes, but necessary. Hope is a discipline; myelinate that shit. When we start imagining and practicing anti-capitalism now, in the microcosm of our lives, we are prepared for a renewed and transformative future.
journal entry #1 (13 oct. 2020)
i miss saying nigga. niggas. my nigga.
i haven’t talked to Black people… my Black New Yorkers… in a hot minute.
these days, i be sounding more like a white-ified Black girl.
i code switch like channels, but all my voices feel like mine.
my baby voice, though, is quite new for me.
i got me a little kitten who needs to feel loved.
i was thinking of naming him jerry, cuz he’s so small.
he a lil mouse, lol.
i wish he understood how lowkey disrespectful that is…
but tom ain’t shit, anyways.
i remixed vaporiza by jidenna and sing Zuzu baby to my kitten to relax him.
his name is Lázuli, after the crystal and his own blue eyes flecked with gold.
Lazu/Zazu/Zuzu for short.
with a beauty mark on his left cheek
just like me.
Zuzu is vocal, too.
he has his own codes.
we are learning to communicate with each other.
through high pitch tones. hide and seek. kisses. slow blinks.
he is cuddly and calm at times.
playful and aggressive
just like me.
he teaches me to give love and compassion freely.
to be patient and kind at all times.
this is all new.
to love another species.
“Final” Reflections on Home"home", Reflections
This brief project on home has now come to a close, or better said, a pause. In March of this year, I was accepted into my college’s Creative Works Fellowship program, funded and organized by the Gould Center. Who, what, when, how, and where is home are questions that I have been exploring through this blog, and will continue to think about throughout my life. The pause in this project, however, has come at the right time. Home has become more confusing and painful for me to think about, much less write about on a public platform; but I will still do so, one more time, for myself more than anything.
I’m living independently for the first time away from my mother-as-home. The move has come at a cost, no doubt — she is sad and lonely again, in our big quiet house in Queens that only ever feels big when she is the only one in it. When my mother surprised me with a visit all the way from NYC the very day after I moved in, she pleaded to stay with me, her face shadowed with confusion and loss: “I don’t have a home.”
I am her home (and her only child, too, if you were wondering). Which leaves as at an impasse, with many conflicts of interest. I am here to ground myself in my self as home, which leaves little space within me for her or anyone else to occupy. There is a poem in this, I’m sure, or some philosophical musings about the shared physicality of my and my mother’s bodies. Because I literally lived within her body for nine months, and in her mind for much longer, presently, and forever, she feels that she can, should, and must live within (and perhaps, through) me. She may feel she has a right to, unlimited access to, my own body, being that I am of her. My flesh is her possession.
These access and conflicts of interests take place through all six senses. Of the sixth sense, our spiritual beliefs and even our intuitions collide – Christianity does not make room for anything but its own. Of touch and of sight, my mother saw (and still sees) flaws in my face, laying her hands on it, sometimes with oils, as I slept, reaching to feel it when I was awake, demanding perfect beauty from my physical self the way society did of her (and so often does of women, especially young women — a society obsessed with youth(fulness)). It’s how she chooses to love me, so it won’t change. And even now, 2000 miles apart, she demands my auditory and visual attention. Technology has provided her a gateway to me, both easing and exacerbating the creeping guilt I sometimes feel for leaving her, and in declining her calls, when attempting to be present where I am.
Perhaps more poems will arise on this new journey. You’ll probably read some reflections on my academic studies, too. I am in love with everything I am learning, from the root of Yoruba oral traditions to the history of Design around the world to Queer and Feminist Theories and the impacts of Black/Africana/African-American/Pan-African Studies in academia and the Black community. And while I had some qualms about my creative works production this summer, I am ultimately proud of what I’ve written and shared with Internet users, considering the stressful and confusing circumstances I and we were (and still are) under. I wrote poems on Africa and our ancestors as home, reflections on my body and this country as home, and shared interviews with friends on their feelings of home. I am grateful to now have an archive and platform for my writing to live upon, breathable and changeable, on my own terms. More than anything, this project demonstrated for me my ability to produce creative content of my own initiative, outside of academia. I hope more people engage with my work and benefit from it as much as I do. I invite you to learn with me.
the color of homepoetry
For the past month, I have been interviewing friends on their understandings and experiences of home. This is a question we all struggle with at some point in our lives, and is more relevant now amidst a global pandemic. Where are you stuck or where did you (choose to) find refuge when stay-at-home orders were issued? Do you feel at home now, wherever you are?
I asked each person a series of nine questions, exploring childhood, movement, ancestral origins, and dreams & imaginations. While I have a lot more content to review and write about, I’ve chosen to share a little sneak peek of what I’ve been working on. Below are clippings from the interviewees, responding to the broadest question in the bunch: “How would you define home?”
Atlanta. 21 yo.
“my definition of home is more immaterial. home is wherever i am.”
later in the interview, Blake shared with me “i am my home.”
NYC. 21 yo.
“I think home is just a place where I feel safe, somewhere I come back to… it just shifts… I make a home out of whatever situation that I’m in.”
later in the interview, Lena shared with me “my body is my home.”
Chicago. 20 yo.
“now i see it as a group; as people.”
Portland. 21 yo.
“i think particular places where people had a sense of familiarity with me, i associated with home.”
Chicago. 23 yo.
“home is wherever i am, it’s just a matter of being present.”
NYC. 22 yo.
“i define home to be where me and my mom can be a functioning family.”
NYC. 21 yo.
“i just think home is wherever you feel comfortable.”
Note: I’ve chosen to share my interviewees current locations, or “homes,” and their ages to show the points of connection between all of them. They are all from large cities in the U.S. and in their early 20s. We are at a stage in life where we are more grounded in and understanding of ourselves. “Home” is constantly evolving, but what they’ve shared with me so far is quite transformative. If you choose to follow me on this journey home, I invite you to pay attention to these threads of commonalities (and differences, too); how would you respond to the questions I posed to my interviewees? For the purposes of this post, how do you currently define home?
tap to view.
seconds pass arising
a desire to be part of your story;
the ones only your close friends know
and our own little secrets ; )