“First Person Singular” an occasional column by JP Marat that provides Columbus artists the opportunity to speak . . . in their own voice. Thank you Free Press.

JP Marat writes:

  I’m fortunate. My radio show on WCRS 98.3 / 102.1 on Thursday Nights at 11pm (Big Barking Dog Alternative Radio Hour) gives me the opportunity to interview local musicians, artists and poets. In preparation for a radio show that aired on Feb 26, (“Columbus Musicians & Poets v2”) I spoke to an extraordinary young woman named Calla. If you attend any of the poetry slams around town, you’ve definitely seen her. Five feet nothing. Piercing brown eyes. Quick to smile. Strong & agile. Mischievous. Most likely a ninja in a previous life. We met at Kafe Kerouac on High Street. I let my audio recorder roll. We talked about gender, love, Skyline Chili and Tupac Shakur. The conversation that evening intrigued me. As the night ended, I needed to know more about her concept of “Body Politics.” Calla obliged. About a week later I got an email from her . . . Girl can write . . . Just Say’in.

Calla writes:

  “Frankincense burst over hot coals-red, smoke fills the living room of our apartment and it smells like bliss, the phone rings, my mom grabs it, while I watch its long cord snake all the way into the kitchen. As my mom turns down the music she takes a deep breath then answers the phone – “Hello?” “This, is Angela.” When I hear her, I say, “Mommy that’s not your real voice why you talking like white people?” My mom shoots me “the look” and a swat on the butt that signals “Get yo lil' black ass out of here.” Later on I asked my mother why’d she change her voice and she said, “Jobs like it when you sound white because it’s professional.” It seemed insignificant at the time - My mother changing voices, but over the years, I would come to understand - this was skill my mother had learned to navigate an oppressive system. White-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy (the system) seeks to make Black people conform to normative ways of being (whiteness).

  Feminism teaches that the personal is political – that means that what we choose to do to our bodies, what we say at home, what we do in private, what we believe, how we identify, how we act – is all political – it’s all connected to a system of domination and control that seeks to crush anything that is not white. Blacks are told that if they want to find a job then they better learn how to speak “proper” english – “can’t be sounding all ghetto or else they won’t call you back,” If you don’t want to get harassed by the police then don’t dress like a “‘thug’”– the point I’m trying to make is that a lot of what is Black is deemed unprofessional and what is considered white is professional. Normative standards are rooted in whiteness and when Black people have to act “professional” (in other words, white) – a feeling of shame and negativity of one’s own race is brought on. And it urges Black people to ignore who they are in order to partake in the benefits of the system for example; a job. This often forces Blacks into a false binary; conform or die.

  But we can overcome the system. There is power in being Black and choosing to not conform. Tupac says, “If I don’t change the world I’ma be changed by the world.” If we are to be free then we have to reject and disrupt whiteness on all forms. For example, when I go to the statehouse or to a “nice” restaurant I wear jeans and if I have gold teeth at the time I wear them. I don’t speak proper English and, yes, this is a choice. I was raised in Lincoln Heights (the hood) and most of my people spoke with Ebonics or African American English Vernacular but my mom taught me “how to speak.” I sag my pants, and I blast trap music out my headphones. This may seem like I’m doing nothing but embodying a stereotype but when Black people reject whiteness it forces white people to immediately deal with their racism. It also makes white people deal with difference. The act of rejecting whiteness creates a libratory experience for Black people, because we enable ourselves to take over and transform spaces by making them different or by bringing the difference to a “white/public/professional space.” By rejecting whiteness we become free because we are no longer asking for equality. We become humans that don’t need whiteness as a validation and that is freedom.

Note from JP Marat

A podcast of interviews with Columbus Ohio Poets, Calla, Verbz Vegas and Tim Williams is available for download free of charge on the WCRS website. Interviews are intercut with music from local Columbus Alternative / Independent musicians. URL is: http://www.wcrsfm.org/audio/user/1851

Want to hook up with the local poetry scene?

  There are several excellent poetry slams around town. Kafe Kerouac (2250 North High St.) hosts “Writers Block” on Wednesday night. Cover is $5. Come to listen, recite or just drink coffee at one of Columbus Ohio’s most venerable campus coffee houses.



Introduction by JP Marat

In 1712 on the banks of the James River, Willie Lynch purportedly delivered a speech to Virginia slave owners. His lecture outlined strategies to break the will of enslaved Africans. In addition to whippings and public torture also recommended were: a) destruction of the African family b) forced dependance of the enslaved on their oppressors c) encouragement of hatred and mistrust between the enslaved by exploiting differences in gender, age and place of origin.
  Many historians contend the incident is apocryphal. However there is no denying the content of the Willie Lynch Speech accurately reflects methods used by Slave oligarchs to maintain hegemony. In the poem below Willie Lynch addresses premier NFL running back, Marshawn Lynch. Best known for his self-titled "Beast Mode" rushing style, Marshawn has suffered criticism from both the press and NFL owners for not being the right (white?) kind of player off-the-field. Willie Lynch taunts Marshawn with abusive language. His broken field runs are compared to an enslaved African's attempt at escape. Implied threats of violence and a highly entitled sense of ownership pervade the verses.

from Willie lynch to Marshawn lynch

by Calla

i greet you from the bank

of the James River

in the year of our Lord

to say

run nigga

like you know

that this here field

was once made of cotton

dash like every yard line

you step on is stride

you take for freedom

like each marker is a barrier

you think you can break

like you think

you can break things


like you think

you can out run me


like i ain't rite here wit ya


dont think



i see you trying

to cross them lines


i see you trying to crash

into colossus’ into achilles’

and break the marble of their bones


did you think you would get away


i paid your weight


that's my flesh


those are my bones

you are mine


and when i say beast

you will beast

face it you’re no Helios