Thursday, September 25, 2014

When Grunge Hit I Was A Dirty White Boy

Kofi Fosu Forson

It smelled like teen spirit blond white boys with guitars grunge cool smoking Camels
Drinking coffee in cafes doing shots in bars chasing art girls wearing platform shoes
Danced to Dead Can Dance black rooms academic malaria reading American Psycho
Sat in circles listening songs by Freakwater Bill Faukner named after William Faulkner
Poet pajama prince walked around the roundabout Jesus freak Calvin Klein Botticelli
Met a girl he carried inside B C Rich leather case face porcelain delicate china white
Called it Red color that fell slid from atop down the neck over her shoulder's length

I choose my women like I choose my wine I choose my women like I choose my wine
I choose my women like I choose my wine I choose my women like I choose my wine

Cafe Heaven UNICE girls shared cigarettes cappuccino then came along Vickers Gringo
Sitting among dead beats old men Europeans from hell who crept from nearby hostel
Birds hung over high on caffeine sprawled on used sofas clouds of smoke everywhere
Graffiti art on walls bathroom stall cocaine fix pot heads urban hippies youth culture
Preppy high school girls elegant slipped under cover discussing politics sex and drugs
Medication nation Prozac Balzacs rock and roll geniuses looking for Black Rimbaud
African Charlie Chaplin whacked out Willy Wonka playing muse white girls white noise

Everything changed left neighborhood where stick up Spanglish corner bad boys
Ghetto gurus sold cigarettes by pack nurses and doctors went down hill to Bellevue
Run of the mill middle aged white families shopped for groceries Russian barber shops
Where black hoods gossiped bout murder it was here I grew up educated by Sisters
Catholic nuns who cussed into us we stood on stairwells compared knives made nookie
Slept for what seemed thousand years that Easter season outside my window two men
Fighting drawing blood pummeling each other greatest lesson I learned then of mankind

Escaped to The Heights streets lay wide hills bumped upward buildings stood isolated
Dominican men and women walked slowly like camera in a Jim Jarmusch film panning
Young girls hip luscious styling drug dealer boy toys hustling the drive byes gang bangs
Peculiar smell of haze filled walls winter's cold dragged pick pocket thieves seeking shelter
At home I escaped a scissor threat life threat physical threat cultural threat drug threat
Life unlike any I had ever felt hell it was struggle as days passed willed a hammer for survival
In my heart I built fist thick skin grew from the white washing of my soul into a new world

Standing in front of apartment building waiting for super white boy cross the street staring
Staring like hey you nigger boy what you doing out here yeah here this aint your alphabet city
Them uzis and heroin have been flushed down the toilet we live here now we can afford the rent
Was a hot summer's day when a man came up told me I needed a beat down this couldn't be
Chased punk girls on Saint Marks remember well when we used to see Keith Richards at the bars
Walked by a cafe south of Houston could not believe sea of white faces same places I used to sit
We were it passing through the streets now there's a gentler sound no rock and roll to be found
Kingdom of Whores

Kofi Fosu Forson

Kingdom of whores with tattoos cracked teeth chipped fingers fading nail polish
Bedford Avenue girls crash as if fuck finale end of nookie bootie call the quickie
Tumbling between crowds cockroaches Vice fanatics bearded leather boots proud
Sophomores inside pastel bars light beers in hand effeminate intimidated sexless
Bartenders masculine alpha males channel spirits sex gods potions concoctions

Night an I Pod vinyl record tormenting our soul an edge we choose to love or kill
Running away from ourselves into company others lovers friends worst enemies
Fear cavity pulled at root imagining world outside where we drink with wolves
Sit among murderers nightmarish room music dark corners where people kiss
Draw themselves into conversations one act plays hoping for moments of bliss

Half lives damaged new generations plaster walls with shit Howard Street corner
Headlights flashing onto excrement caked four feet above ground wooden door
Piss Christ Karen Finley they were the first Kathy Acker said "Fuck Me" in public
Pubescent girls barely legal posters inside jail cells middle aged men wanking off
God platinum blond pop star with bikini wax giving blow jobs back of limousines

Post feminism pussy was king butches on wheels death dying arms of heroin chic
Model amour design porn fetish stiletto magazines Richard Kern photographs
Women politicizing the word "Bitch" carving a niche within this dog domain
Men emasculated porno pathetic penetrated by well paid strippers strapped on
Fantasy I always had would have wanted to tie up Brandy read her Baudelaire

But was she muse fallen desire on blanket as I crept drunken kissing her feet
Leaving this crowded dorm room returning accompanied by another familiar
Pummel me leather boots belt fists chaos drunken students watch scattering
Slave in a hierarchy displacement black intellectuals diagnosed white disease
Love neurosis falling for Euro American women those who prefer Black English

Post Neo Expressionist Gangstas chaperone white dolls through ghetto scums
Crack addicts prostitutes middle aged divorces art whores share in empathy
While educated black women disown their very own black male syndrome
Gang or crew leveled threat onto these streets left their mark paint tags blood
Dangerous minds attracting desperate junkies feasting on the crime of art

Voyeur women wandering the city alone Central Park to Sundays in Tribeca
In eyes of men walking fantasies for some chance to dream or perhaps undress
Inspiration for artists who fought for light in these girls they saw potential
Muses loving wearing their worth on these men like coat oil seeping through skin
Making art posing for painting traveling for miles just be face in a photograph

Women begged to have philosophy whispered in their ear wilting in fear
From men who turned them into sex muses new era of porno kings smut sadists
Fucked girls on videotape posted them for all the world to see this our new kingdom
Whoredom seeking fame history reminds us of frontier women Hollywood glamour
How girls go by not a thing we would change they grow wild seeds spread wild flowers

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Generations/ born and let loose into a world...
Youth culture is the new disease

We come from generations, born and let loose into a world of people we don't have control over. Subjectively we need to belong. We need protection. Family is the given, providing us with any and all of this. But on the exterior are people we find in the outside world, from schools to neighborhoods to church. We are bound by all of this which forms us as people in our psyche, strong and vulnerable.

The first generation of Ghanaians who migrated to America, my father included had the advantage of being highly educated. They were gloating on the success of Ghana as the first African country to gain its independence from colonialism. In a sense they were Kwame Nkrumah's children. They brought with them the scholarships and ingenuity to the United States. My father was studying as a young man somewhere in the Midwest. He stayed with a family, a daughter from this had never seen a black man before. Decades later they met again sharing in their friendship after all these years. But such is the rhythm with which generations find comfort with each other. Off and on, my parents and their friends politic about the times growing up in Ghana. The friends they had in common. As the years have passed, some of these friends have died. There's a bond between them as people of a nation, an element which borders religion and gender.

As septuagenarians, they all seem young. There's a vivacity in their voices which stem from the strength in their hearts. As they are in good health with the occasional complaints and scares, their conversations circle around friendships and world politics. Being close to the partnership between my parents I am aware of certain people who play important roles in their lives. These are people they make peace, have long standing friendships which trail back to their childhood in Ghana.

This circle is the most important. It's a bond which keeps them initiated with the going-ons in Ghana. Initially making them Ghanaian and not African American. The first generation of Ghanaians are Ghanaian by all means. Their minds are not swayed by standard American values. Their mind and hearts are in tune with the land and place of Ghana. Whereas they may or not value moving back to live, their friendships with other Ghanaians, which they have cultivated over the years gives them a place of longing and home.

I belong to the second generation of Ghanaians who came to America in the late seventies. Ours was merely to afford a better education and healthier livelihood. Upon my father's suggestion my mother and I along with my younger brothers joined him in New York where he worked as journalist. At this point and time I was about the age of ten. I had formed a notion, however small of who I was as a boy living in Ghana. I had gained memories of Ghana, from schooling at the Royal Preparatory, our living situation at the Airports Residential Flats, an apartment building in the neighborhood of ambassadors near the national airport and even previously as a child living in the Nyaniba Estates and the life that centered around my grandmother's compound. I had friends. I had a sense of sexuality, an idea of which I felt was disease which stem from other diseases within the family as depression and incest.

Living on my grandmother's compound I shared duties and living arrangements with my cousins. We were chastised by my uncles for misbehaving. Most of this behavior centered around my female cousins exposing themselves to me. There was always the act of girls in the neighborhood exposing themselves to me while we played house as children. At that stage I was not mature enough to engage in the act of fornicating. Although these girls were welcoming and willing.

Sexuality and philosophy had always been notable diseases in my upbringing which were the underlying themes of my life as artist. Much of this was on my mother's side, the heightened sense of art and creativity and bouts with depression. So I am not surprised in retrospect looking back on my relationship with my mother and how we engaged in emotional incest, the act of seeking illicit emotional comfort and trust in each other. This has served as the themes in my art over the past two decades, most of which dealt with painting muses and working with actresses in the theater.

As for my generation, this group of Ghanaians, pre-teens, who had a sense of themselves as Ghanaians, there was a sense of culture shock. They weren't old enough to consider themselves mature but they had pride. This instability caused friction. There was a constant strife between accepting the influence from Black Americans and white Americans. We lived independent of each other as we dealt with themes in pop culture, music, everything from rock and roll to rap music. I suppose I was more sensitive as an artist. I was rejected by some black Americans for being peculiar. I was more so accepted by whites. This influenced my everyday life from the shows I watched on television to my thoughts on beauty. Could be said I was suffering from a "white disease." It was something that endured hospitalizations, medication and therapy.

It's more than the cultural disassociation. This is a disorder of diagnosis. It can be said this was a result of my father forcing me to use my right hand instead of my left as a child (see the book by Alice Miller, Drama of the Gifted Child), the conclusion of genetics on both my mother's and father's side and finally the circumstances of being the only black boy among a culture of whites.

I wonder about this generation. Who were we? What has become of us? As an artist I survived the Neo Expressionism of the East Village, New York, the art and music culture, the post punk movement in New York, the revived new literary movement in New York, Kathy Acker, Tama Janowitz, Jay McInerny, Brett Easton Ellis. I got a sense of art openings, clubs. Four years at an all boys parochial school, Xavier High school prepared me for the world. But in-between my turn at college I suffered a mental breakdown. After several attempts at a variety of colleges I entered Hunter College where I got a degree in English, Creative Writing after seven years of trying, stopping and pursuing it further.

The 80's was a knowing period. The 90's was about experience. The 2000's was about commitment and professionalism.

After reading Ekow Eshun's Black Gold of the Sun, a gift from my father's friend to him, I changed dramatically. It took me back to my very own experience with Ghana. In Ekow Eshun, I saw somebody I can relate to. His experience in England was mine in New York, a life of multiculturalism and confusion between what is black and what is white and what comes in the middle. I started writing black poems. And after years of a tense relationship with my youngest brother, a twin brother of his who committed suicide, we rekindled our friendship. He serves as a black soul mate among the continuous white influence virtually and within a community of poets, most of them I'm committed to as associates.

I also am having a life changing ongoing virtual experience with Toronto artist Jessica Karuhanga on the themes of African identity, roles of gender and a self awareness living in a big city. It's a commitment which words cannot do justice. It says a lot how the future and technology has paved way for better communication.

And last night I saw Linton Kweisi Johnson read at NYU. It fueled this blog on generations as he spoke about the very subject matter. I have gone far back in time to relocate my identity, who I was as a boy and claimed a right as artist. The pain and suffering along the way.

I move forward with an awareness of being a black man with a Euro/American influence. The complication that comes from being an African living among African Americans. Accepting the difference and embracing the similarities. The world of white Americans has seen a turn from the hipsters in the East Village to poets I partake in readings.

The youth culture is the new disease, the fourth generation. The second and third generations have sought success in business, marriage and the arts. Here they hopefully find mutual acceptance as Africans who moved to America for a better life.

I for one am fortunate I came around full circle. I am aware as a black man living in Harlem, a place where I am committed within a community of treachery and business. This is where I live now. It makes me the man I am.