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  • Black W/HolesA history of brief time
  • M. NourbeSe Philip (bio)

event: A point in space-time, specified by its time and place

Immersed in a recently bought newspaper, I exit a variety store and almost collide with a man walking west along St. Clair Avenue West. I am immediately apologetic. His response is swift. And contemptuous. "You fucking people are all over the place!"

I suggest he do something to himself which is anatomically impossible. I am angry—very angry. I am also afraid. He is white. He is male. In a big city, interactions like these can easily become fatal. I quickly duck into another store. Some minutes later I emerge and am relieved to see his figure a block or so ahead of me.

quark: A (charged) elementary particle that feels the strong force

"You fucking people are all over the place!" The white man's words remain with me for a long time. They reverberate within—"all over the place…," "all over the place. … " If nothing else, it was clear that he felt I ought not to be on St. Clair Avenue West. The further implication of his statement was that my being on that street in Toronto was evidence that we—African people, I suppose—were "all over the place." The corollary being that we ought not to be. I could easily dismiss that man's statement, were it not for the fact that the notion of illegitimacy contained in his words is carefully nourished, cultivated, and brought to splendid fruition in the white-supremacist immigration practices of all the western, so-called democracies. The main job of these countries—formerly the Group of Seven, now the Club of Eight—appears to be figuring out how best to club the rest of the world into submission, while keeping darker-skinned peoples physically corralled. Meantime capital, which is in fact our capital, wielded by multinationals, runs rampant and rough-shod all over the world. Indeed, all over the place! [End Page 118]

big bang: The singularity at the beginning of the universe

for five hundred years the essence of being black is that you can be transported. anywhere. anytime. anyhow. for five hundred years a black skin is a passport. to a lifetime of slavery. a guarantee that the european can carry out terrorist acts against the african with impunity. for five hundred years the european moves the african "all over the place." at his behest and whim. and then one bright summer's morning, he looks me in the eye and tells me: "you fucking people are all over the place."

ever since the holds of the slave ship, the european attempts to curtail the every moving of the african:

the moving in time

the moving in space

the moving into their own spirituality

the european forbids the african language; forbids her her spirituality; forbids her her gods; forbids her her singing and drumming; forbids her the natural impulse to cling to mother, father, child, sister, and brother—forbids her family. leaves her no space. but that of the body. and the mind. which in any event they deny. cut off from their own histories and History, the african moves into a history that both deracinates and imprisons her. in the primitive. in the ever-living present absent a past or a future.

uncertainty principle: One can never be exactly sure of both the position and the velocity of a particle; the more accurately one knows the one, the less accurately one can know the other

I live in a starter home. On a starter street. For two decades I have lived in a starter home. The street remains a starter street for many who buy their first home there—a starter home—then move on. There are a few like me and my family, however, who defy the very meaning of start which intends always to lead to somewhere else. We remain. Stay put. In a starter home. Away from home. Defying the wanderer, the lost, the unbelonging in Black. The spore at the root of Africa.

today—the black skin is not so much a passport as an active signifier to those...


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pp. 118-136
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