Code, Chuck Berry & The Next Sh*t

Remixing, Re-imagining

I returned, jubilant!, from a small-but-perfectly-formed conference in The Smoke to a sadness. While we listened, dialogued and wondered whether science could be decolonised – an expression of similar movements on-campus around the world – Chuck Berry died. Damn. Seriously, why man? I’ve tired of asking.

The need to innovate and make that next sh*t is a primary drive in Black cultural production.

We invent new forms, and re-imagine the old:

The same is true of all forms to which African-descent people have access. The question is one of access. The unseen forces, the Dark Matter of Black cultural production bends all to its will, re-making a thing in its own image.

Why would it be different with code?

If #BlackTwitter Wrote A Black Twitter

The same forces are at work in technological space.

Black Twitter is a force. It’s also not particularly well understood by those who aren’t a part of it. The term is used to describe a large network of black Twitter users and their loosely coordinated interactions, many of which accumulate into trending topics due to the network’s size, interconnectedness, and unique activity.

Rock’n’roll was once so characteristically “Negro” it was called “race music” and ignored. Race music. Here is your daily reminder that Black people did rock first.

There’s an opportunity here. I think that Black hackers twist things and invent and bend ones-and-zeroes to their will, the way everything else must obey our cultural vodun.

Uhuru on decks

The point is rhetorical: not to recreate the old, but invent what comes next. We are a force – under-served and under-valued, as per. To assume that coders focused on Black audiences are bound to be ignored, and the things we imagine must be derivative, marginal efforts, doomed for the digital knacker’s yard is off. I say: let’s form all-Black hacker collectives and throw down. I say: what we make blows the fuck up, like always.

Maintaining Control

The problems I see down the road are different: how do maintain control of the fruits of our labour? The issue is so persistent, it bears thinking about now.

The premise of Jack Hamilton’s deep new study Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination seems like something that’s been on rock history’s tongue for a long time without ever quite leaving it. Chuck Berry, a black man with a guitar, had been a rock and roll archetype in 1960, but by the end of the decade Jimi Hendrix would be seen as rock’s odd man out for being… a black man with a guitar. How did that occur? “Tracing the Rock and Roll Race Problem” an interview in Pitchfork.

Link.

The relationship between Europe and Africa, white culture to Black, is that of vampire and victim.

Colonialism is the parasitical asset-stripping of our resources – material, creative, cultural.

Serving the computing needs of Black audiences – domestically and in the Diaspora – is also a hedge against the under-employment faced by computer science graduates who can’t get jobs in Silicon Valley, or face hostile working environments once they do. Given all of that, I’m optimistic. I think we can do this.