So Low You Can’t Get Over It or Gagging for Air While Breathing the Whole Funk

Note to reader:  I am inventing a new form of writing style/communication that I call “blog-lyrication”.

You should first go to here and listen to One Nation Under the Groove.  And then as you read this posting, I will place the lyrics from the song in italic at choice spots within the blog posting.  When you get to these places in my writing, you are to either sing these words out loud or hear them in your head.  In this way, my blog writing becomes a form jazzification, blog-lyrication.  enjoy and please let me know if or how you liked this new approach to my writing.

You ready…ok, here we go.

The music and lyrics of Funkadelic (in addition to my much beloved Chaka Khan) helped me to survive a rough stretch of my late adolescence.  I remember jamming (e.g., dancing) to One Nation under the Groove at house parties in the 1970s and beyond (Lyrics from One Nation Under the Groove are sprinkled throughout the text and made italic, when you, the reader come to them, hear the lyrics and music of the song in your head, or sing them out loud to get the full effect of my blog-lyrication).  The unique blend of crazy out fits, crashing stereotypes about the role of funk within R&B, and theatrics presented by Funkadelic gave me a political and musical way to relate to my changing world. Nothing can stop us now.

What I didn’t or couldn’t learn in my high school classroom I learned how to connect my mind/body, political and racial consciousness through dancing.  Feet Don’t Fail Me Now.  Dancing became a ritual, a healing act, a rite of passage, and an unexpected and odd form of psychotherapy.  Through moving to the music within a dancing group, I felt like I belonged to one community that included all of the young black dancers around me.  I found a strong sociopolitical connection as our bodies represented a new Black revolution. Through dancing in these small basements, rickety legion hall wooden floors, and wearing down the wall to wall carpet in my home with friends, I found solidarity, connection, and peace. We shall all be moved.

Black, middle class, and moving from an all white prep school Ready or not here we come to an urban public ethnically diverse high school was not an easy transition.  

Migrating these intersecting identities while staying alive physically and psychologically was and is no easy task. Today, I don’t carry the persistent fear that I might be shot and killed, like I used to growing up, but the trauma of harboring these fears from an early age well into adulthood have left emotional scars.

How could holding on to fears not leave an emotional scar?

To know, on some level, that one’s body is despised is a really big head trip.

To believe or sense that one’s untimely death can come from the aftermath of a silly misunderstanding or because of racial hatred is a difficult social/psychological positioning to hold.

To be marginalized, rendered invisible, until I, a Black teenage boy or man, supposedly crosses someone’s line, means that a persistent global form of anxiety had to become integrated into my social consciousness.  Can I say for a fact that all Black men struggle with these forms of existential questions, I can not.

Yes, you are right, “this is a chance to dance my way out of my constrictions”

I grew up when questions of identity were polarized and placed into a binary; Black versus White, rich versus poor, man versus woman.  But these constructions of identity quickly became archaic and limiting in a world that has grown increasingly multilayered, textured, and interlocking.

Slowly over time I began to realize that my identities we interlocked, and so I learned a form of psychological integration that is not referenced a lot in psychological literature.  My identity status morphed, bucking proscribed roles and stigma, being young, gifted, and black meant that I was a threat to the social order.  Black was not white, strike one, and although I was male and afforded privileges because of my maleness these privileges became watered down.  The combination of being black and male often equated to being considered a social outlaw/outkast/misfit/problem. Good God.

My blackness and maleness is viewed as a double threat.  Gonna be freakin’, Up and down, Hang-up alley way
With the groove our only guide…

I know that my sisters of color do not have it any easier but here I am talking about my own responses to gasping for air under the weight of the particular funk experienced by black men.

It is the movement through all of these emotional transitions that became markers on my painful journey of acceptance and self love. The questions of belonging and connection that I wrestled with is similar to what my trans brothers and sisters of color go through, but I imagine their journeys have a lot more curves, pitfalls, and blind alleys then mine.

One Nation Under a Groove means that I want to build a bridge of understanding, using my feminism, masculinity, aloneness, and find solidarity with folks who experience the multiplicity of identities.  I join with others who know the joy of celebration and can feel the power of transformation that is found after battling and surviving a sexist, racist, heterocentric, society. One nation and we’re on the move…Nothin’ can stop us now

As I managed and continue to manage my transitions, the movements over blackness, whiteness, class, battling racism and white supremacy, and rebuking the stigma associated with being a an African American man, I promise to “funk the whole funk and nothing but the funk!.

So wide you can’t get around it
So low you can’t get under it
So low you can’t get under it
So high you can’t get over it
So high you can’t get over it

This is a chance
This is a chance
To dance your way
Out of your constrictions
Tell suckah!

Here’s a chance to dance our way
Out of our constrictions
Gonna be freakin’
Up and down
Hang-up alley way
With the groove our only guide
We shall all be moved
Ready or not here we come
Gettin’ down on
The one which we believe in
One nation under a groove
Gettin’ down just for the funk
Can I get it on the good foot
Gettin’ down just for the funk of it
Good God
’bout time I got down one time
One nation and we’re on the move
Nothin’ can stop us now
Ah ah aye ay ay

Feet don’t fail me now
Givin’ you more of what you’re funkin’ for
Feet don’t fail me now
Do you promise the funk
The whole funk, nothin’ but the funk

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