currently listening to I can feel you creep into my life by tune-yards. as a kid i didn’t want to be black. i wanted to live in a picturesque liberal utopia without race. i dreamt i’d go to an ivy league, study physics, be a STEM advocate, work for UNESCO, run for a senate seat in a liberal east coast state, and become the president, all while sporting a pacifist analytic philosophy worldview (particularly inspired by bertrand russell and stephen hawking). i listened to tune-yards and lake street dive. my nickname in middle school was whitewash. then i discovered ‘pure jazz’.
i had been playing trumpet some 4 years before i truly discovered jazz. initially, i wanted to play clarinet because i heard the sounds of benny goodman at a young age playing in the back yard of a family friend’s home. in third grade, i came home with the permission slit to rent an instrument so i could start practicing with my schoolmates only to be told by my stepfather that the clarinet was a feminine instrument and that i would only be allowed to play a masculine instrument (particularly trumpet or saxophone). i didn’t quite know what the sounds of a trumpet were, but i knew that i couldn’t stand the noise of a saxaphone, so i chose the former. come the time i started at my third middle school, my band instructor asked me if i wanted to play jazz. he challenged me to go on youtube and listen to some jazz trumpeters for inspiration. i’ll never forget my first time listening to freddie hubbard’s red clay. just as guattari describes being transported to another Universe by a single note of debussy, i experienced a whole new domain. my musical index soon grew tenfold, with my particular interests in jazz centering around a select few musicians: mingus, hubbard, ellington, armstrong, gillespie, and dolphy.
it was around this time i had also discovered the works of marx and started to accept the reality of class relations and the centralization of the means of production into the hands of the bourgeoisie. i was still young, only in 8th grade, so many of the more complex concepts went right over my head, but i knew that my true views aligned best with some form of socialism. after reading plenty of marx late in my ninth grade year (and finding particular intrest in his contribution to the critique of political economy) i discovered two theorists that forever changed my life: zizek and butler. butler’s gender trouble was the first text to challenge, and change, my conception of gender, especially of my own gender.
i had always known that i had an attraction to males, and being assigned male at birth i assumed that meant i was gay (for i still was quite unaware of bisexuality), but i never quite felt comfortable with such a label, particularly because it meant i was a man. i always struggled with the social and familial pressures of masculinity, always knowing that i never aligned with all that i associated with men, only interpreted my turn towards femininity as more verification that i was in fact gay. however, reading buter, particularly her bodies that matter, gave me a newfound vocabulary and index of what identity was, what the body was, what my body was, and led me down a rabbit hole that hasn’t quite ended. it was through butler that i discovered deleuze. through her portion of the film examined life.
it was through the sublime object of ideology that i first encountered lacan. through mapping ideology, a text edited by zizek, i first encountered althusser. finally, i thought, i’ve found a movement i feel as though i’m aligned with. structural marxism is the name of my new game. i was referred by a former english teacher of mine to an instructor at my former highschool (i had transfered to online school after my first hospitalization). dr. ryan derosa is his name. i came to him asking about althusser and marx, and he was the first person i ever spoke to, and who first encouraged me to read deleuze.
it was only through mingus’ original faubus fables and kanye west’s new slaves that i honestly first encountered my own blackness, and through xenia rubinos and empress of that i encountered forms of being latina i could relate to. until then i had been fairly sheltered by my liberal dream, which was only crushed by my growing marxism. maybe i’ll expand on this later.