This is an email from Black on Both Sides, a newsletter by Established in 1865.

“All Those Warriors to Come”

Earlier this year, I was doing deadlifts in my garage when I felt a crack in my lower back. An electric tingling traveled down my left leg, and I was thusly plagued with sciatica every time I did any hip hinge moment — deadlifts, squats, certain types of rows. It got to the point where I had to abandon those big movements for months.

The best investment I’ve ever made. I’ve been training on this for four years and counting.

My sciatica never completely subsided. I went to a doctor, who gave me an MRI (cost me $10 on my health insurance; health care is a human right) that showed inflammation in my spine. After a week of steroids and stretching, and I was slowly making my way back into my gym.

I write about this not to communicate some deep philosophical point, but to brag. It’s taken me two months to rebuild my back strength. I recently deadlifted 405lbs for reps on my trap bar easy during a back day workout.

My two loves- the Legend of Zelda and powerlifting.

My squats are taking longer to recover, but I can now do reps with no pain. My goal is to end the year with a 315lbs single, about 40 pounds off my all-time personal record. I went in earlier this week, sleep-deprived and exhausted, and worked my way up to a pain-free 265lbs single. My quads felt like pistons, my lungs, like zeppelins filled with air and ego. It feels good to be alive.

What I’m Writing

It’s been a banner election cycle for rappers letting their fans down. Read my words on why and how they do so:

Trump, Ice Cube, and the Racist Roots of Black Capitalism. My latest piece of writing that I did for LEVEL regarding Ice Cube courting the Trump Administration for his Contract with Black America:

We celebrate money as any rational person does. The Black power within these successes is why our Black Wall Streets, our 125th Streets, our 9th Streets, and other areas of commerce live on in our legends. But the figures who shape our personhood — our Frederick Douglasses and Harriet Tubmans, MLKs and Malcolm Xs, to our most recent Trayvon Martins, Breonna Taylors, and Jacob Blakes — are not capitalists. Ownership was our way of pursuing lives we chose, rather than having caste roles assigned to us.

Reaching A Critical Mass of Blackness: On How Killer Mike Can Choose Better Stories. Before Ice Cube, there was Killer Mike:

Killer Mike is still trying to figure it out. But street clothes will not protect you within the belly of the beast. Mike needs to realize the shallow understanding of never treating with a man who stole the governorship away from a Black woman.

He Was My Hero: Dealing with the Wreckage of Nasir Jones. The very first piece I wrote concerning rappers not living up to their ideals. I still have not listened to a Nas track after news of his domestic abuse of Kelis surfaced:

Like any fan who has given to idolatry, I ignored the red flags — his collaboration with R. Kelly on the “Street Dreams” remix, the quiet misogyny of “Black Girl Lost” and most of his tracks from Life is Good. I even excused away the explicit stuff like “Oochie Wally” and “You Owe Me” by arguing those tracks were simply not good and that, hey, a dude’s gotta eat somehow. All that I wanted was for his erudition to shape my young and budding Black personhood.

What I’m Reading

I’m going to finish Martin Luther King Jr’s Strength to Love this week and am probably focus on it in the next edition of Black on Both Sides. Meanwhile, three things I read this week that I want to share with y’all:

The Tragedy of Stanley Crouch by Ishmael Reed. I grew up reading Crouch’s columns in the Daily News and hating the man for his rage toward hip-hop. Reed gives the final word on this talented Black man who submitted to the white gaze.

The Dark Fantastic by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas. Thomas argues that the “dark fantastic” present in the West’s literary canon is “the spectacle, the monstrous thing that is the root cause of hesitation, ambivalence, and the uncanny,” and that Black personhood represents this force. She wrote a line that froze my blood:

For many readers, viewers, and fans of color, I suspect that, at the level of consciousness, to participate in the fantastic is to watch yourself be slain — and justifiably so, as the story recounts.

I am mentally preparing myself to write fiction so I can explore the spiritual consequences of white supremacy. The writing I do for Established in 1865 helps to clarify my thoughts and views. Thomas’ book is also pushing me down the path toward truer stories for Black personhood.

Captain America #24 by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Come for Coates’ tale on the Red Skull returning from the dead. Stay for his tribute to Chadwick Boseman, which I posted below;

Our king is dead. Long live our king.

Until next week.



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Hal H. Harris

Hal H. Harris


Black on Both Sides. Medium Writers Challenge Winner. The founder of Established in 1865. I Tweet @Established1865. E-mail is