Dear Angel of Dust

Dear Angel of Dust,

I dreamt a balloon snuck up on me while I slept. It crept up in back of me and whispered, “Boo,” Part inflated ball, part friendly ghost, it tiptoed up in back of me (legless, footless, toeless though it was)–tiptoed up and crooned ever so seductively, “Boo.” Its insinuative “boo” bordered on cooing, caressing the back of my ear like a lover’s breath or a slowly blown kiss. “Boo” was long-sought liberation’s new disguise.

Nathaniel Mackey, Bass Cathedral (2008), 26.V.83

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put it in your Scrap-book

In 1854 Frederick Douglass urged the readers of his newspaper to clip out an article called “Black Heroes”: “Colored men! Save this extract. Cut it out and put it in your Scrap-book.” The item told of armed African American soldiers in the Revolutionary War and listed the names of eighteenth-century “black men who had fought and bled for their country” as proof of black people’s stake in the nation. In exhorting “colored men!” to cut out the extract, put it in their scrapbooks, “and use it at the proper time,” Douglass suggested that the clipping itself could be ammunition for a cause…He thus identified a crucial potential in nineteenth-century scrapbooks made of newspaper clippings: scrapbooks could be a weapon.

Ellen Gruber Garvey, Writing With Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance, Oxford UP, 2013.

 

creating the form of street theatre

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All over the world, including India, the political pamphlet, the poster, wall writing and the agitational speech have all gone into creating the form of street theatre. Street theatre became inevitable when the workers began organising themselves into unions in the mid-nineteenth century. Its arrival became imminent with the emergence of political demonstrations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. As such, it is a twentieth-century phenomenon, born out of the specific needs of the modern world.

– Safdar Hashmi, “The Tradition of Street Theatre” (April 6, 1986) in The Right to Perform: Selected Writings of Safdar Hashmi

we photographed the scene

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And so we put him up against a wall:
A mother’s son, a man like we had been
And shot him dead. And then to show you all
What came of him, we photographed the scene.

–a “photo-epigram” from Bertolt Brecht’s War Primer. Brecht’s text is juxtaposed with a photo captioned, “The Germans were ‘kind’ to this Frenchman. They blindfolded him before he was shot.”

the bicycle of the Lord

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When the bicycle of the Lord bearing His messenger with a telegram for Sister Mary Bradley saying “Come home” arrived at 113 West 134th Street, New York City, Sister Bradley said, “Boy take that wire right on back to St. Peter because I am not prepared to go. I might be a little sick, but as yet I ain’t no ways tired.” And she would not even sign for the message—since she had read it first, while claiming she could not find her glasses to sign the slip.
“For one thing,” said Sister Mary, “I want to stay here and see what this integration the Supreme Court has done decreed is going to be like.”
Since integration has been, ages without end, a permanently established custom in heaven, the messenger boy replied that her curiosity could be satisfied quite easily above. But Sister Mary said she wanted to find out how integration was going to work on earth first.

from Langston Hughes and Roy DeCarava’s phototext, The Sweet Flypaper of Life (1955).


 

Letter to Miami

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Miami, please forgive me for starting out my letter to you like this, and not with a well-deserved praise-song to your gorgeous tropical weather, your world-class hotels, your golden beaches. But one of the things I love about you, Miami, is that, in addition to your Housewives and Basketball Wives, your Vices and Burn Notices, you are so full of other stories. You are the beacon city in the dreams of refugees as they are becoming delirious after days and sometimes weeks at sea.

from Edwidge Dandicat’s Letter to Miami (2011)