ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Most of the fascinations for graffiti came from the white kids, from all different class backgrounds, while the Asian
and black kids didnt care for the takeover of Philadelphia. The Asians in Upper Darby, predominately
Vietnamese and other Southeast Asians, were occupied with their own scene. Some blacks, however,
gave me a different perspective as to why they had little interest with graffiti in Philadelphia.
Graffiti Takeover, Bombing, & Racism
By Charles Chea
In the mainstream, and even in the underground, graffiti is praised as the urban visual art form. On MTV, Urban Outfitters t-shirts, and other mainstream media outlets, graffiti has become a heavy commodity. In the underground, people see graffiti as an important element of Hip Hop and plaster it all over their parties and album covers.
Graffiti has also caused a lot of controversy, predominately being attacked by city government and right wing opponents, arguing that it is destructive and costly. As a former writer, the proper reference for a graffiti artist as opposed to tagger, Ive thought a lot about graffiti as both an urban art form and an outlet of destruction. In many ways, through the revelations made in my own life, both perspectives are very true.
It was either in the 6th or 7th grade when I was first introduced to the graffiti scene. This white kid named Tim from the Overbrook section of Philadelphia moved into my hometown, Upper Darby, which happens to neighbor West Philadelphia. I immediately became friends with him when he moved to my town and I would end up becoming his protégé.
He taught me the trademark Philly graffiti styles, how to distinguish crews and squads, and introduced me to other writers. We would meet other writers while roaming Philadelphia and while in school, some who happened to be the most infamous writers and part of the most notorious crews in Philadelphia. Most of the time, I was the only Asian kid. Everyone else was black with a few token white boys from Philly. 99.9% of time, we were all males.
It would only be a matter of time until the graffiti bug affected the rest of the town. Within a short period of time since he moved to Upper Darby, he had built quite a report with a lot of the white kids in town, and everyone was carrying Sharpie markers now. Beginners and toys (an offensive slang referring to corny writers) wrote all over the town, but the more experienced and reputable writers were bombing Philadelphia.
Going into the city and writing in different sections of the city was considered a takeover. It was a means of building credibility and it was an ecstatic way to introduce suburban kids to the city ghettos. (Note: To briefly describe Upper Darby, it is a town thats predominately lower to middle class, but the segregated dynamic has kept people of color and lower-income whites on one side of town, while a section called Drexel Hill is largely occupied by middle-upper class whites)
Most of the fascinations for graffiti came from the white kids, from all different class backgrounds, while the Asian and black kids didnt care for the takeover of Philadelphia. The Asians in Upper Darby, predominately Vietnamese and other Southeast Asians, were occupied with their own scene. Some blacks, however, gave me a different perspective as to why they had little interest with graffiti in Philadelphia.
One night in high school, a white friend of mine named Liam and I decided to go routing, a slang referring to walking around solely to write graffiti. This was our first time doing so in West Philadelphia. We walked down to 63rd St and Market St, which happens to be a few blocks from my neighborhood, looking for walls to write on.
When we reached 61st St, a black teenager a bit older than us immediately approached, and asked us if we had any change. I gave him what little I had on me, and for some dubious reason, I asked him if he was a writer. He told me he wasnt. Liam and I started walking back to Upper Darby because I started feeling uncomfortable. While we walked back, from a distance, he yelled out words I will never forget: Dont fuck up my neighborhood, ya hear?
Graffiti is often glamorized by the media, by whites and people of color (more often whites though), by females and males, by suburban and urban people. For even the most conscious of activists, graffiti is really an unfamiliar subject that gets idealized as what they hope it to be, rather than seeing what it really is at times. Likewise, conservatives usually dont know anything about it either and constitute it as a grimy, pathological black product.
Everyone needs to understand what the graffiti scene really is and who the writers are. Everyone needs to listen to the voice of discontent from the black youth I met, in a city rampant with institutional racism and poverty. Let us question concepts like takeover in this case where race, class, and gender issues intersect. Let us not make it so easy for destructive forces to be ignored, and lets continually question what graffiti really means for impoverished neighborhoods and all the people who live there.
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#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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By Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock market. True wealth has more to do with what’s in your heart than what’s in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America’s shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, “Happy can make you money, but money can’t make you happy.”
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By Robert Hass
The Apple Trees at Olema includes work from Robert Hass’s first five booksField Guide, Praise, Human Wishes, Sun Under Wood, and Time and Materialsas well as a substantial gathering of new poems, including a suite of elegies, a series of poems in the form of notebook musings on the nature of storytelling, a suite of summer lyrics, and two experiments in pure narrative that meditate on personal relations in a violent world and read like small, luminous novellas. From the beginning, his poems have seemed entirely his own: a complex hybrid of the lyric line, with an unwavering fidelity to human and nonhuman nature, and formal variety and surprise, and a syntax capable of thinking through difficult things in ways that are both perfectly ordinary and really unusual. Over the years, he has added to these qualities a range and a formal restlessness that seem to come from a skeptical turn of mind, an acute sense of the artifice of the poem and of the complexity of the world of lived experience that a poem tries to apprehend. Hass’s work is grounded in the beauty of the physical world. His familiar landscapesSan Francisco, the northern California coast, the Sierra high countryare vividly alive in his work. His themes include art, the natural world, desire, family life, the life between lovers, the violence of history, and the power and inherent limitations of language. He is a poet who is trying to say, as fully as he can, what it is like to be alive in his place and time.
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 14 December 2011