"Blackness is so vast"

That Vernon Reid quote pretty much summed up March 14th here at Café Los Negroes when a panel of leading afrosomething thinkers held court for Colorizing Cyberspace -- an on-line panel discussion on where and why black/latino content can be found on the World Wack Web. In case you missed it, this page features the raw unedited transcript (celebrity typos included!) of the digital ideas presented by author/columnist Lisa Jones, Rutgers University professor Michel Gelobter, Living Colour/composer Vernon Reid and poet/playwright Ntozake Shange - moderated by Café barfly McLean Greaves. Each person, with assistance from a Café staffer connected via IRC from their respective homes; Jones joined in from Brooklyn, Reid from his Manhattan digs, Shange from her home in Philly whiile Gelobter connected via Cyber Café in SoHo.

Other friends dropped by the online chat including Angel Williams of Kokobar in Brooklyn (America's first afrocentric cybercafé) and Boston's NetDiva from the trés important Isis site while Sony Music/VMI new media heartthrob Tyrone Thomas manned the controls.

All said, here's a text account of what happened that night....


mgreaves  stands up on a virtual table.  
AtlPoet  looks at mgreaves and listens.  
ntozake: i want to talk about sugar can or cotton or indigo and how wwe come from that or do we know that does anyone in our families yes presente
CarlaR  is all ears and fingers  Vern: Watermelon, Dixie Peach...
mgreaves: Okay...i'd like to introduce the panel....
On the left to me is Vern - aka Vernon Reid, founder of Living Color & the black rock coalition.
Vern: You can Go Home but you cain't Stay Home...
AtlPoet: *claps*
mgreaves: to my right is author/columnist/bulletproof diva Lisa Jones...
Vern: your Right?
ntozake: hey there you withhte the ritmo in yr eyes
AtlPoet: *keeps clapping*
mgreaves: Beside her is Michel Galobter, an asst professor at Rutgers U...
AtlPoet: *guess the action*
Michel: Gelobter, but I blush anyway
soei: good evening y'all 
mgreaves: And on my lap is poet/playwright Ntozake Shange.
ntozake: you'renot kiddin' hand carried
Vern: Hey, now!
AtlPoet: *ye'en know?*
ntozake: are we lall here ?
CarlaR: Jep
Vern: Uh Huh...
AtlPoet: yup
boohab: in da virtual hawse
mgreaves: Okay, my first question is to Vernon...what do you think, as a rock star, it will take to sell cyberspace to the black masses.
Vern: Make it Cheaper...
Vern: first of all
mgreaves: Is that the only issue....
Vern: of course not...
mgreaves: White journalists frequently ask me if blacks are afraid of computers? Is this true Lisa?
CarlaR: HUH?
Vern: There is I beleive a certain amount of distrust in technology in the community
Vern: believe
ntozake: no the first oe is literacy and reducing fears of 'complicated' white stuff that "has nothin' to do with us " and the crazy idea that white flks will find out some x abt us they don't all ready know 
LisaJones:  black folks bought more comuputers than tvs according to a major study of black purchasing power released last year
mgreaves: Why then is there a perception that blacks are afraid of computers?
ntozake: to kill cartoons and omesop
CarlaR: I think it is more an age barrier than a race one...older folks are intimidated by technology...young black children are expose to technology far more
Angel: isn't the problem top down?
ntozake: how so
LisaJones: who has that impression? why are we bothering to talk about them
Angel: the places where people get their info
Vern: Which Them?
Angel: namely magazine, etc.
Angel: don't embrace technology
mgreaves: Can everyon refrain frm answering except the panelists. Thanks.
Angel: i.e., how many "online" columns exist in black magazines
ntozake: well my lttle girl is really computer literate and she doesn't want to just leisurely explore cuz it's not interesting she says
Michel:  The key word, to me, in Mgreaves' question is "sell".  The future of Cyberspace is to be like TVs xcept on the "information highway" you can pour the product down the viewers throat while her credit cards and any kind of check cashing machines make loud sucking sounds.  In this world, we need to ask "sell cyberspace to black folks _for what_?"
mgreaves: I get a lot of reporters who seem surprised us negroidal types are builing web sites? Michel, expound on their suprise.
Vern: We also can't just think of blacks in the industrial west...
mgreaves: But how do you 'sell cyberspace' to people who, for the most part, struggle to affrd the basics.
ntozake: but there are special places like music abd politic and feminist sites that people of color congregate and make serious friendships
Angel: why does ACCESS need to be sold?
Vern: If you want a good cry, pick up an Almanac and check literacy rates in Afrika
mgreaves  nods at Vernon.  Vern: Because it's a commodity...
mgreaves: The real issue is the new economy of computer haves and have nots. Ntozake, what sort of content do you think will draw a black audience other than hip hop web sites?
Michel: Lemme tell you a story of how I was rejected last year, along with 10 grassroots organizations in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico, from a 300,000 environmental justice grant because (and I know a sister wrote this line) "High-tech interventions such as [providing the groups with Pentiums able to dial into the Web] are not appropriate for low-income and minority communities." (end verbatim quote)  It ain't just white folks...
ntozake: that's one of the reasns outside the states that people like us are real serious abt cyber space possibilities. the info they want to sahe is essential not provocative
Vern: Yo when cyberspace costs the same as a WaWa pedal ...Watch Out!!!!!!!!!
CarlaR: he he
Angel: but haven't we been struggling to gain the very commodity of access
mgreaves: Angel: what do you mean? Internet access?
LisaJones: michel--how did you respond to that rejection. did you publicize it
Angel: Yes, and now when we have the opportunity to be at the bottom floor of a world-changing technology, we just bag?
Angel: use it for hip-hop photos?
mgreaves  hands the mic to Michel  Michel: We resubmitted the grant this year with a sharply-worded response from each of the groups, and we'll sue this time.
Angel: huh?
ntozake: no no the deal is the grit or depthof info is hidden in the mess of nonsensical enetrtainment we have to fight thru to fid each other
Michel: Sorry, responding to Jones, but I am, despite previous to the contrary, convinced of our ability to subvert, and to "wah-wah" the net to our needs.
Angel: tru, tru
Vern: Sisters & brothers have to realize that just as we wodities, so now is information...
boohab: and self-presentation isn't marketed...
LisaJones: strategies, mr. gelopter?
Vern: commodities
mgreaves: But isn't the advantage of cyberspace is that it's colorless and provides an unprecedented level playing field. Lisa?
mod1: what about who has access
Michel: Strategy 1: metaphors that become realities -- the Web as the Beeper
ntozake: or personal essays that can be responded to over time. thought is truly a process not a response
Michel: Strategy 2: People like the raw intellectual/artistic elite I am privileged to be talking with now make other, better stuff to pour down their throats than microsoft and GM
LisaJones: are you talking about money or culture, brutha? being colorless, doing some kind of walter white, doesn't strike me as all that interesting.
Vern: Children born last week will reap the harvest...if we don't fail them...
mgreaves: In cyberspace, as one cartoon noted, no one knows you're a dog.
ntozake: i asked about sugar cane and books and have hear nothing yet? no sweet tooths out there no lbibliophiles?
Michel: The Beeper is a cultural comment  -- what self-respecting Harlem Hi student doesn't have one now?  Can we make the Web like that?
Angel: why would we want to?
ntozake: sho nuf
LisaJones: why would you wanna be anything other than a dog? 
Vern: You didn't ar me mention Watermelonin????
mgreaves  chuckles at Ntozake.  Michel: Because it's headed to far worse uses unless we get up and literate in it real quick.
ntozake: so we could be in constant touch like the french resistance
AtlPoet: it's a lot like that now among college students ntozake
Vern: The french Resistance???
poco: but what about the children who will be the work force of our tomorrow, how do you make it attractive to the adolesents of today?
AtlPoet: whenever a racist incident goes down, forwards jump across the country and distributed, personalized action happens
boohab: i've seen it. i've spread the words..
ntozake: yes the marseillaise and sans culottes you know guillotines chop chop
Vern: A true underground...
mgreaves: poco has a point. 
LisaJones:  ginger candy and jamaica kincaid's the autobiography of my mother. is it true that we have only one story to tell in this life?
CarlaR: Ok, I work in the school system with all ages of kids and they ALL find it attractive...it's just that there are only TWO computer at the neighborhood library and they make hell for you to use it
aards: how do you make it accesible, back to Angel's point, to adolescents today?
Vern: The last one on your lips
ntozake: it's got to fill the voids that are their social & intellectual lives wich are very isolated that's why they shop so much & become blk mall rats
mgreaves: Question for the panelists: will computers democratize society or create fragmented "networks" like the ones being waged by online racists? 
Angel: ugh
CarlaR: hmm
LisaJones: lotta shopping going on. big voids. blame who? tv?
Vern: Computers can also make us More isolated.
ntozake: we are not in the mesh of the 'fragment ' per se anyway
mgreaves: Ntozake: aren't we all black in this forum?
Angel: maybe not mgreave
Michel: Do you know that Greaves?
Angel: does it matter?
Michel: Resistance.
Vern: I made love once to a turning Fractal...
mgreaves: Micheal: I don't see any flat booties. *smirk*
Angel: can't this discussion be had outside the closet?
LisaJones: does our blackness exist as <>? or...
Vern: Now that was Flavour...
ntozake: i never  thought we weren't but then where does maginalizationbecoe an issue, then 
boohab: i've got essays on my web site re: blackness in cyberspace
ntozake: do you think abt them and share them with others 
mgreaves: Ntozake: good point. What's wrong with marginalization?
Vern: We've been on the margins, are on the margins...that's where The Funk lives
Vern: It's not center stage...
ntozake: nothin' unless one's ego is lusting for more. i've always been cofortable in those ares. makes it easier to spot and connect with others like me
LisaJones: beyond money, access, and literacy, what are the issues for us here in this spaceplace? i
CarlaR: Information
boohab: cultural production!
Angel: =ACCESS
mgreaves: Lisa: maybe that *is* the issue - lack of content.
Vern: It's in the "Field Holler" an' All That
Angel: ditto mgreaves
mgreaves  daps netdiva.  Vern: Nothing but the Blues Baby...
ntozake: who we ar what are dreams are and why we have them ? why is it so good to meet up with a fellow traveller in the desert and the mirage was a mirage !
LisaJones: lack of content is an issue for us? more on this...
boohab: absolutely.
Vern: R Kelly vs. Al Green...you do the math...
mgreaves: lack of content as in how do we freak the net like we did with turntables and samplers?
Vern: Ideed
mgreaves: Vernon is beautiful - as usual.
Angel: content limited to hip-hop, history and record sales
Michel: I wanna talk about cane and indigo, but in my life that's politics.  We have to see ourselves here as on another stage ripe for picking. We have to get so good at this that lives here can be as black, as proud, as strong, and, at times, as invisible as lives outside.
ntozake: how can you say lack of issue when our needs are obviously so great we cannot limit ourselves to anyone topic
LisaJones: ah baby, you find no information in  kelly's bump and grind?
soei: This is content.  What we are doing now is content.  What we must continue to do it this...simple.
boohab: fzample. lookup toni morrison on the web. all you find are essays *about* her by undergrads. nice but where is the author herself?
CarlaR: I concur Soei
Angel: right boohab.
AtlPoet: in 185 Nassau *points down the street*
Vern: You remind me of My Jeep...Come On!
AtlPoet  chuckles  Angel: there is a change to that coming
CarlaR: That's were FTP and Gophers come in Boohab
mgreaves: But boohab underscored a point - the noise to signal ratio isn't that good.
AtlPoet: I hear you boohab
Vern: vs. Luv N'Happiness
ntozake: not so fast the 'artists' has a right to private thoughts that aren't honed yet for public perusal
Vern: of course
Angel: it may not be the artist's choice ntozake
boohab: but speak somewhere, somehow.
LisaJones: i'm tired of folks saying there's information at all in modern black funk
Michel: Vern, do you know on Spring and Lafayett, n the all-white and asian cybercafe, Al is singing to us?
mgreaves: ntozake: maybe the role of the artist needs to change.
CarlaR: You CAN find her works..hell, I downloaded the Kama Sutra
Vern: but the issue is not just content but intention as well...
Angel: there's more buddhists than black folks on the net for sure
netdiva: To what extent to Black artists really have control over the dissemination of content?
ntozake: what if we were to write collective books wirth individual voices
Angel: to what control does anyone?
Vern: I got no problem with R. Kelly until you start to talk about information...
CarlaR: It's out there..it's as simple as me feeding on the net.
ntozake: put it's such a chore to get thru the net to 'us'
CarlaR: Not really Ntozake
Angel: why ntozake?
Vern: Which Al green had more of before hot grits masde him implode...
CarlaR: All the time it takes is for me to put it there
ntozake: well it's hard for me 
LisaJones: ever hear al green do "light my fire"? no sheeet
boohab: (so 'belle' was fake?)
CarlaR: Not with the knowledge to do so Ntozake
Vern: This is also all very new...
ntozake: where is all tis cynicism comin' from ?
Angel: ntozake and other artists, there is someone willing to do it for you
boohab: let me hook you up sista ntozake, please let me hook you up.
CarlaR: All I would have to do is make a file..upload it and make it public and tell you where to find it.
Vern: remember; the saxaphone was around for a centruy before Bird...
aards: but i thought we were talking about hooking up the black massses?
AtlPoet  looks at Vern. . . hmm. . . interesting analogy  ntozake: i' all hooked up. i guess i just like the feel of my journals and turnin' musty paginas
Michel: But what makes a thing "watched", "logged-into", "heard"?  We know there's more to our music than DJ airtime.
CarlaR: Is it ok to ask a question of the forum Mgreaves?
mgreaves: Sure...the forum is wide open. Go negroidal yall.
ntozake: how about that i ask abt news on albert ayler and get a note back that 'he's dead, sistah' lke i don't know that 
Angel: aards--content is about hooking up the mases
Angel: oops masses
Vern: Basketball was around a long time before Jordon...
boohab: musty paginas translate well, words are immortal. it's just a translation...
Angel: vern but how many more people engaged basketball because of Jordan
Vern: The sister that will lead the evolution may not be born yet...
aards: what good is content if there is no access, like you said before?
Angel: he WAS content in basketball
boohab: if you build it, they will come
ntozake: yeah yeah yeah but where is the comfort this is too adversarial for a meditative aunt  thru the intellectual woods
CarlaR: Sorry..the super was at the door
Vern: The point is thatr this medium is new...
CarlaR: It is new to US
Vern: it will get cheaper...
boohab: if brothas will go to the ford dealer, they will go to cyberspace. it's definitely cheaper than that.
AtlPoet: as far as access, like everything else around here, if we want it, we've got to provide for us
CarlaR: It's been around for 25years
AtlPoet: we've got to make sure that our kids are getting exposure and training early
CarlaR: It's as simple as me buying a server and letting ya'll get free access
Angel: what about economics peep?
boohab: you can control your space, or you can wait until somebody makes it safe *for* you.
Angel: no good on that boohab
CarlaR: AOHELL is the worst place to learn
ntozake: but i don't want a map of texas or mtv in blkface
Angel: word up and ditto tow times on that CarlaR
Angel: online ghetto AOL is
CarlaR: It is censored (I have a BIG problem with that) and it is TOO EXPENSIVE
AtlPoet: yeah AOL is gouging mugs
Angel: economics? any words there?
boohab: so youv'e got to build your own village, and defend your own space. i fight nazi every day on the net. i'm not afraid.
CarlaR: I had to learn Unix just to speak my mind
ntozake: i don't want to conversate with deadly enemies.
CarlaR: I find fighting white supremacists on the net FUN and relaxing!!
netdiva: We may not like AOL very much, but what netnoir is doing is being *very* carefully watched as an exampleof "blacks in cyberspace"
Angel: or shall i say priorities when it comes to the coins in the kitty
Vern: Don't knock AoL...that's how I first logued on...even if it does suck...
tgriffin: Has anyone ever heard of Netas?
AtlPoet: What do yall think the implications are of the big companies, AT&T, Regional Bells, etc, are on us?
Michel: let's remember: effective white supremacists eat wheaties, and their shit is not public.  It's called encryption.
CarlaR: But there is nothing in Net noir that is beyond commercialism
boohab: wll, that's marketing... they want the high profile.
mgreaves: still here. mgreaves a nd i are now hermaphrodite I
AtlPoet: once the big boys get in, it's going to be hard for small ISP's with better pricing and uncontrolled interest
Vern: Like Michael sayus...they don 't care aobut us...
ntozake: netnoir was a real disappointment
CarlaR: Michel, there is ALWAYS a way to crack the code
boohab: heh he vern
Michel: Not before you blow up Oklahoma
AtlPoet: CarlaR, don't be so sure. . . 
boohab: but everybody *knew* about netnoir.
CarlaR: I am a hacker in training...there's ALWAYS a way
Angel: the problem is that folks aren't getting it that the 'net won't be a luxury for long
ntozake:  hey here's a real young person. ask her what the deal is with her posse! c'mon savannah welcoe to cybernegroidal space compliments o

link to fresh kill http://www.itvs.org/programs/AmInd/1.html.