The Amerykhan Promise vs. 42 Laws of Maat

Amerykahn Promise is, quite possibly, the track I underrated most on "Nu Amerykah." That's probably due in part because I wanted to groove when I first got the album, I wasn't really listening. It is also due in part because Track One kinda freaked me out even though I really didn't understand it at first. Nearly 9 months later, and with yet more perspective behind me, I have a better grasp.

But I am still vaguely surprised that I haven't heard much more about hearty amount of critique Ms. Badu levies of contemporary notions black, racial and political identities with this album, with this track even. It initially reads as a commercial, and then sashays into a freestyle riff over funkadelic background, "Promise Promise, Amerykahn Promise." The song lays out all of the things that we uphold as part of the Amerykahn Promise. She speaks authoritatively to a presumably largely black listenership about our over-consumerism, our addictions, our intra-racial color consciousness, to name a few things. But yet and still, she cultivates a kind of maternal sensibility with the audience, via her always compassionate reflections- "And I salute you Farrakhan, 'cuz you are me"(Just Me, Track 3). It's one of the things that makes her a great artist to me - that she give the air of a decent human being.

"Hold On-- MY PEO-PLE!"

The relationship I have with music is like that of me and past loves. There is a kind of intimacy I feel listening to it - the getting to know you. And I admittedly will play a song or album to death because I thrive off of the energy that enjoying the music brings - sorta like the honeymoon phase. But at some point you burn out, and you just need to take some time to flush your system of the overload - the break up.

I take space from Erykah's music like I do breakups - each time knowing there will forever be that lingering familiarity. It reminds me that I miss her presence, her depth and eventually I come back around to remembering why I appreciated even her quirks in the first place.
I've started playing "Green Eyes" more lately, sort of as an act of mourning [from an actual break-up] and at the same time an act of discipline and humility. That song invokes a level of emotional vulnerability and honesty I'm sure many of us find difficult to muster. But after being humbled by all of the things that it reveals to me about myself, I felt like I needed to tap into a different spirit of Erykah.

Green Eyes - Erykah Badu

And so, I reached for "Nu Amerykah" once again.
It is my album for 2008, partly because it raises so many questions pertinent to this era and about just showing basic decency to one another. If folks listened a little more closely that I think would obviate the stupidity of some of our greatest struggles, even today, between one another (be it race, gender, sex, sexuality). With the election at our backs, a Black President in place, gay rights on the fritz - and the race debates emerging as a result, I was in need of perspective. I've been needing to write.

Early into my the listening session this afternoon. I took it upon myself to look up the quote from the end of "Amerykhan Promise" when the little girl, who I learned is called when Ma'at, asks "Has anyone seen my 42 laws?" I came upon the following.

The 42 Laws of Maat
  • 1. I honor virtue
  • 2. I benefit without conflict
  • 3. I am non-violent
  • 4. I respect the property of others
  • 5. I affirm that all life is sacred
  • 6. I give offerings that are genuine and generous
  • 7. I live in truth
  • 8. I regard all altars as sacred
  • 9. I speak the truth
  • 10. I consume only my fair share
  • 11. I speak words of good intent
  • 12. I relate with understanding
  • 13. I honor animals as sacred
  • 14. I can be trusted
  • 15. I care for the earth
  • 16. I keep my own council
  • 17. I speak positively of others
  • 18. I remain in balance with my emotions
  • 19. I am trustful in my relationships
  • 20. I hold purity in high esteem
  • 21. I spread joy
  • 22. I do the best I can
  • 23. I communicate with compassion
  • 24. I listen to opposing opinions
  • 25. I create harmony
  • 26. I invoke laughter
  • 27. I am open to love in various forms
  • 28. I am forgiving
  • 29. I am kind
  • 30. I act respectfully of others
  • 31. I am non-judgmental
  • 32. I follow my inner guidance
  • 33. I speak without disturbing others
  • 34. I do good
  • 35. I give blessings
  • 36. I keep the waters pure
  • 37. I speak with optimism
  • 38. I praise divinity
  • 39. I am humble
  • 40. I achieve with integrity
  • 41. I advance through my own abilities
  • 42. I embrace the all
* These laws were rewritten and updated from the ancient texts by 9 Priestesses of the Temple of Isis (California) travelling in Egypt from Nov. 22 to Dec. 22, 1995

If this isn't a dignified code to live by, I don't know what is. I could go off on a riff about how under the laws of Maat, a gay marriage ban probably would not have existed. But I have other thoughts to spit on the aftermath of the election. And while my first thought was "Why do we carry on traditions of bigotry and hatred, but forget or deny benign and peace driven principles like those above?" I followed it with another of Erykah's lyrics:

"They be tryna hide the history/ but they know who we are." (Soldier, Track)

How many of ya'll know about the 42 Laws of Ma'at?
Check out T'arr.a's Take
Loc Loc: Who's there?: Mmm, oOh


On Nader's Whiteness: Uncle Tom Obama

Whether or not his deeper meaning has an iota of truth in it is becomes irrelevant if he is incapable of addressing his inappropriate use of a racially charged and derogatory trope to offer a message. This isn't a KRAMER situation because it isn't the N-word, but it is in a similar vein. I'm appalled that this fool has the NERVE to be INDIGNANT! Shame on you Ralph Nader. You just set the third party movement back so far, on the eve of the end of your career.

My Homegirl Speaks on the Nader Vid:
While that was political suicide .. saying the words Uncle Tom .. what Nader is suggesting ahs been a discussion amongst African Americans throughout this whole race... YES he is Black ... and that is AMAZING but his actions as a Black man and just that are to be compromised, thats politics, he didnt run as a "Black " man per say and although i do not agree with how Nader presented this discussion its one that is a viable one, and an interesting one and oen that we will see unfold during his time as president. Nader is right about Obama never mentioning the lower class, and I hope Obama proves to be the unifer I hope he is. But wow Nader WOW !

My Response:
I feel you. Honestly, my feeling is, Nader did the shit strategically but it was stupid.

He got his message across, which is what he is supposed to to as a member of the 3rd party movement, but he also set that movement further back by doing so in such a poorly planned way. Uncle Sam nor Uncle Tom are tropes he should be using in relation to Obama. PERIOD.

It was quick, on the fly, he thought it was "witty" and it was in absolute POOR taste.

Whether or not black people feel similarly, what he used was insider language that frankly is inappropriate on a national scale. That's like a straight dude saying, after we get our first gay president Ok so we're happy for our first gay president but is he gonna be TRADE or be a FAG." Not something you say from the outside... PERIOD.

Furthermore, a lot of black people that are skeptical don't know shit about Obama, politics or anything outside of their own personal interest. Its the same way white people decided they wouldn't vote for him because "he's an Arab and a terrorist" FUCK THAT. The man started out working for the poor, he's been talking about the poor with re: to tax cuts, health care, the economy, and the fact that he is called a socialist/Re distributor-in-Chief by McCain (because he said that wealth is poorly distributed in this nation) are examples of that commitment.

I read the speech again. He missed a lot of people in it. But it wasn't intended as a "stroke everybody's ego" speech, it was an acceptance speech. He touched some of the key groups that people think of when they think "diversity" but sure he left some people out rhetorically, he was speaking to everyone though.

He left transgender people out, but I'm sure most people over looked that. Just as people overlooked his use of Hispanic rather than Latino. If you don't know to be bothered, you won't be. But the most important gem of his words was his call to action. To remind people that when he is in office it is NOT about him, its about US. Every last person. And I can't even try to be mad at him for that.


Cautious Optimism on Election Day 2008

I'd been disappointed in myself for not contributing more to Barack Obama's campaign - and then last night, on the last leg of my commute home, I stopped to spend two hours phone banking for his campaign in Downtown Oakland.

And not because it was in any way glamorous, there were people at tables making phone calls from their cell phones in a last effort to make sure to get everyone out that we could to vote for Senator Obama. But I was amazed because people were organized, they were giving their time, their energy and their love to a man few of us have ever met in real life. I went home with happiness in my heart and an optimistic spirit. I resolved to make 2008 great when the year started. And despite the turmoil and the struggles I believe that it has been, partly because of Obama's potential to be President.

Trying to go to sleep last night reminded me of what Christmas Eve was like as a child. I was tired, but restless - and even thought I knocked out, I know I didn't get restful sleep. I set my alarm for 6:45a so that I could calmly make my way to my polling place, VOTE and still get to work on time. I didn't leave quite that early. I used that time to tidy my room a bit, get all of my notes on the various propositions (NO on 8!), have a bowl of cereal, and then put on some red, white and NY Yankees blue.

Being at the polling place was bittersweet. When I got to the polls I was ofcourse disappointed to see a car covered with "Yes on 8," in the YELLOW no less, and parked in the lot. The discrimination propaganda was to be expected. On my walk down Seminary Ave. every telephone poll was adorned with shameful "Yes on 8" sign. My neighbors have them on their front gates, and as decals on their car. It is doubly unfortunate to consider since there are so many other Propositions more applicable to their lives that it would be more appropriate for them to be supporting that they may not known much if at all about.

I was glad, however, to see even a small line formed as folks waited to get their ballots and then for a space to make their selections. And EVERYONE was there for OBAMA, so even if only for that, we are headed in the right direction. Today is HISTORIC. My grandmother is working at the polls in my old neighborhood in Flushing. My Fairy God Mom is workin' for Obama in Los Angeles. We are all enthusiastic about Obama. I can't say that I felt the same way four years ago. It wasn't until the last second that I decided to put my bid in for Kerry. Hell I donated to the Nader campaign. But I'm all about Obama.

I sent a mass text to as many people I love as I could muster (sending texts to 50 plus ppl takes dedication!) offering the positive energy I was feeling for having voted. It was a good excuse to be in touch with those whom I'd lost contact with over the past few months, and a good way to spread a little cheer to folks who I know migth be feeling the same way that I am.

I'm anxious. Happy but I don't want to get too happy and then again I don't want to be a pessimist. As I sit upon the precipice of what might be one of the greatest days in my young adult life YET, I can't help but be overcome with emotion. I went to the same High School as our current President, and went to the same college as the man who might become our next President. Can't say that I haven't been in priveleged space. As I wait I hope for, as Pamela from phone banking last night described as the moment when the results make it look like "someone knocked a blue inkwell over on our map." Maybe that's expecting a lot, but Barack has sold me on the possibility of change.

When Obama wins, my next effort will be figuring out how to hold him accountable.
(If McCain wins, I might seriously consider planning my return to Denmark!)


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