Below is a transcript from the podcast episode The Anti-Black Pinnings of Ableism in which I interview community organizer and writer Dustin Gibson on anti-Black ableism, abolition, and much more. This is one of my personal favorites among Groundings episodes, because Dustin truly has a gift for making connections that I fail to see and being able to educate in such effective terms. This transcript and the many more that are coming were made able by monthly donations on Patreon, so thank you tremendously to all my patrons and please sign up here if you’d like to support!

Image for post
Image for post

[Throughout this episode, you will hear descriptions of abuse and state violence that may be disturbing. I wanted to give this short content warning for anyone who may be triggered by these kinds of discussions. Thank you, and enjoy the episode.]


“Here at USP Beaumont, the Federal Prison where I am currently housed at, we had no electricity what-so-ever.”

(The Truth and Nothing Else!)
By Keith ‘Malik’ Washington, Fight Toxic Prisons Correspondent

Image for post
Image for post

Sept. 23, 2019:
As a Nationally known Prison Abolitionist and humyn rights activist, I am very passionate and dedicated to the causes and the people my comrades and I support.

However, as a journalist I am duty-bound to put aside my subjective feelings and report the objective facts about the things I personally experience and witness.

On September 19th, 2019 Tropical Storm Imelda bombarded the city of Beaumont, Texas and the surrounding areas with a deluge of torrential rain.

Here at USP Beaumont, the Federal Prison where I am currently housed at, we had no electricity what-so-ever. That meant — NO LIGHTS, NO AIR-CONDITIONING. Our toilets could not be flushed. …


Statuettes of Catholic idols like Mother Mary stand in many alters, however the orishas prayed to are as African as can be — a Black theology tale as old as time.

Image for post
Image for post
Details of a painting by artist Emilio O’Farrill

Upon arrival, once they had the chance, they searched for the wide, tanish-gray trunk and twisting limbs of the Baobab tree, whose leaves gave shadow as if they were chiding the sun. The tree they searched for was not only central to their religion, one which would be called animistic and attemptedly tortured out of them, it was also central to their lives; they were used to placing offerings of food, money, and clothes underneath them to receive blessings from the orishas, the leaves boiled to soup to cure sore throats, the occasional fruits a sign of good luck and, often, dried into a nutritional powder to be consumed. …


I made the mistake of calling myself a “creative” for several years into my career.

Image for post
Image for post
Augusta Savage, “The Harp” (1939)

“In our struggle for the liberation of the Chinese people there are various fronts, among which there are the fronts of the pen and of the gun, the cultural and the military fronts. To defeat the enemy we must rely primarily on the army with guns. But this army alone is not enough; we must also have a cultural army, which is absolutely indispensable for uniting our own ranks and defeating the enemy. “ — Mao Tse-Tsung

I made the mistake of calling myself a “creative” for several years into my career. More than this, I followed popular language and called the entire class of career artists and creators “creatives.” Referring to career artists as creatives always felt a little strange to me, it always slipped from my tongue with a strange taste, on that I’d grown used to but never questioned because of the popularity of such terminology. And, beyond just a handful of people, the move to list artists and artistic creators as creatives has only grown exponentially in the last two years, especially in 2018. Chance The Rapper, Kanye West, and Wale are among the celebrities I’ve seen use the term in this month alone, and all across social media the trend of using it in place of ‘artist’ has gone viral. …


In Memory of Monte Qarlo, the heartbeat of Atlanta’s queer art scene.

Image for post
Image for post

I spoke with you a week before I got the news. Rain poured in the background of my window, my life as we spoke. A short but electric phone call, you were running around the city like always. Your voice always so low, a smooth growl, a hum and hymn that stretches its arms skyward when it sings. You had an ongoing joke, that I should work in phone sex because of my own low voice, but truly the profession was made for you.

I miss Atlanta so much.

“We miss you too, baby,” you comforted me.

When are you coming to visit me?


“Cultural misappropriation distinguishes itself from the neutrality of cultural exchange, appreciation, and appropriation because of the instance of colonialism and capitalism”

Image for post
Image for post

First: Cultural appropriation, or “appropriation that occurs across the boundaries of cultures” (Young), is when “members of one culture (outsiders) take for their own, or for their own use, items produced by a member or members of another culture (insiders).” In this formulation, and most definitional observations, appropriation itself is not an inherently immoral or even unusual occurrence. In fact, most art involves appropriation of some form. However, it is the power dynamic which alters the moral standing of the act of appropriation. …


Image for post
Image for post
Great Mosque of Djenné, Mali, 1907 (photo: herr_hartmann)

I was asked to write about the ‘relationship between spirituality and justice.’ So here’s a brief historical anecdote on the subject, in the form of an incredibly brief re-telling of one of the most significant moments in African decolonial history.

When speaking of colonization, it is generally accepted that different colonizing nations treated the colonization process differently. While colonialism was (is) a universally brutal and morally repugnant process of events, the ways in which different empires went about this ugly process reveal magnitudes about their interests. The French, for example, were concerned with instilling French cultural values and beliefs into their colonial subjects. They wanted their colonies, as many French missionaries described in their journal writings, to feel as if they were, despite the brutal violences and slavery practices enacted on them by their French rulers, part of the heritage of French culture; that the subjects of French colonialism themselves, people from Martinique, or Algeria, or Morocco even, would feel an attachment and personal belonging to French culture and society — the same society responsible for their demise, and society and culture they’d never fully be allowed to integrate into due to French racism — and would, eventually, defend their own colonization. …


Image for post
Image for post

Below is a collection of quotes from some of my favorite artists and writers on art, representation, and self-representation. These are more than quotes for me, but actual guiding principles I use to cultivate my self as a cultural worker.

Whenever I have a speaking engagement, or I am featured in some magazine or online platforms — when images of my self must be used to cultivate some mood, narrative, or politic — I supply images of myself that I have taken by myself. …


“And to this day I wonder, is my God calloused or kind for forcing me to no longer believe in hell?”

Easter arrives. I am no longer Christian, but my mother tells me Jesus will live in my heart forever. I pray on prayer rugs now, with dhikr beads and incenses, in lowly lit rooms five times a day, but when my forehead touches Earth it feels like the same Earth I have always worshiped, simply with a different name. My great grandmother, Nanny, told me she didn’t care what religion I was or wasn’t claiming so long as I believed in God. Her God was either extremely calloused and cold, or more kind than we can fathom, because he eventually made her stop believing in the power of hell; she couldn’t bare to believe her son, who died before her coughing whiskey and blood out of his lungs, wouldn’t make it to heaven, and she didn’t dare believe her great grandson, her prized possession, would find fire and brimstone for simply believing in religion differently. She operated with the belief that hell was not real, and heaven was on Earth, only if we so choose to make it feel like that; she fed people, clothed the cold in times of need, raised children — me, my mother — ran errands for friends and strangers and offered smiles as tithe. …


A photo essay on self-actualization, self-elucidation, and political retrograde.

Image for post
Image for post
My self-portrait used as the cover for Scalawag Magazine’s winter 2017 issue.

Throughout my humble career as an artist, one intention, or desire rather, has remained evergreen: to create images of my self, for myself, how I want to be seen. At some point in my life, I became wildly fascinated with the art of the self-portrait. I found myself peering into the works of artists like Adrian Piper, Carrie Mae Weems, Frida Kahlo, Faith Ringgold, Vincent Van Gogh, and others who used the technique of self-portraits — through painting, photography, and in Piper’s case, performance — to make statements on their identities and their socio-economic realities. Quickly, I began finding my own style and aesthetic within this world of self-portraiture, and realized that through a camera lens I gained some small, but important, ability to re-craft my narrative; I was able to use a camera to push back the lines of racist, ableist, and capitalist modes of self-representation that existed for me. …

About

Devyn Springer

African/African Diaspora studies. Artist. Writer. Educator? Organizing outcasts who likes Outkast and fried chicken. https://devynspringer.journoportfolio.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store