by those powerful frames,
and acts (poams) of rebellion
Limited Fork Theory Interaction Poam:
SAMBO TO OBAMA: from one icon to another
A very brief Limited Fork Theory time-based inquiry poam visualizing a transformation
(interaction set, system of collaboration) of African American iconography spanning
several centuries from the apparently
abysmally degenerative to the apparently sublime (when/if framed accordingly).
A form of time-lapse of distance
between Sambo and Obama without
distancing the present from the past in that
the metamorphosis (interaction) connects
these two icons.
What is configured as the present embodies
what is configured (in the present) as
the past; the past points to the present,
is embodied within the present.
With its racially charged title and succession of editions reset in Africa or the American South, the work
has been controversial since it first appeared in 1899.
Over the course of its 100-year history, discussion of
the work has stimulated a more enlightened development
and re-evaluation of children's books featuring
To the right is a cover of Agatha Christie's book
And Then There Were None as first published
with the title Ten Little Niggers as on this Fontana edition from 1976, as indicated in the Visualizing Otherness set on the University of Minnesota's Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies site.
have at it!)
from Sambo to Obama:
(that can include middle passage and underground railroad accommodations)
I have heard the word miraculous
to explain it, and though a miraculous tine would glow, probably in a way I'd like, I prefer not to have to resort to miracles to explain what seemed by some to be configured for impossibility, irrationality, and/or unsolvability without the miraculous intervention of a miracle
(though I prefer the word in Spanish
--milagro sounding to me like the name of a cereal grain in English, a staple
--this preference an example of both metaphork and kaleidoscopic extension)
click to view/download
an iPod/iPhone optimized version
The Sambo image is from a recent reproduction of an older mechanical bank that has been reproduced many times. The figure represented by the bank perhaps may be considered a mature form of the boy in The Story of Little Black Sambo although the boy in Bannerman's story is considered clever for outwitting the tigers, a boy whose jungle may have begun as an Indian jungle rather than an African jungle, but both the boy Sambo and the man on the mechanical bank reproduction (on which Sambo Bank is embossed on the back) in this short video wear red coats, and have become family, share entangled root systems that extend kaleidoscopically throughout ethnic and racial configurations and their mirror systems.
On the left is another version of Christie's novel with the more controversial title once found at Top Mystery.com (where now the title is listed without illustration), and still located at the University of Minnesota's online Visualizing Otherness sets, and at Wikipedia where configurations and iterations of the story in book form and film form, including the title
Ten Little Indians, may be explored.
As powerful as these images were, and as they still are/can be (depending on the framing system[s] activated) in part for having imprinted (marked) that with which they've interacted directly and indirectly; having marked what they've come in contact with in some way, on some scale, in some location, for some duration of time; marking easily configured as evidence (some as just ever-diminishing echoes of interaction taking many forms: weak, forceful, profound, ridiculous, inconsequential, insurmountable, etc.) of marking, evidence of encounter; as powerful as these were, and as they still are/can be, the images and their configurable meanings are social and cultural configurations as opposed to fundamental or foundational units of existence on which configurations are formed. Real social and cultural perceptions whose realities may be limited to those social and cultural systems, those human perceptual systems.
Reasons for emergence of such racial configurations are complex systems of thought and practice. Whether or not these objects have in their interaction sets the degrading and dehumanizing of perception of a population in order to frame social value to advantage some members and disadvantage others, these objects have become collectible objects with value as memorabilia. Authentic objects are seldom cheap unless found in circumstances outside insiders. Please go to the University of Minnesota's Visualizing Otherness sets for more images and other configurations of context. As degrading as such images can be, when configured so as to emphasize that perception, complex systems of affection and dependence are also associated with such figures that inspire a range of interactions such as in Ralph Ellison's
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Anna Leonowens, and The King and I, an essay by Marcus Wood, considers the iconic rise and kaleidoscopic (spreading in multiple directions, dimensions) extension of Uncle Tom's Cabin. There is also a link to an informative page chronicling Uncle Tom's Cabin in Hollywood: 1929-1956
Wood's article includes a link to a film clip of TupTim's production of Uncle Tom's Cabin (from which the above still is taken and which is embedded below) in which Stowe's words are configured by TupTim as essential considerations in configurations of complex human interactions of domination and denial of equal humanity despite differences in social, economic, and ideological configurations that in framing societal status, tend to also frame value and worth, with those actively collaborating as framers and framed, assigning significance to these configurations of information even though the information could be configured differently.
In the complex system of strangler and strangled interaction, there is also a configuration of analysis in which the strangled tree adopts conditions and terms of the strangler, becomes a subject of the strangler, becomes defined as strangled; the broad-leaved lilly pilly's identity is reconfigured to include its accommodation of the strangler fig. Once strangled, the strangled may be (perhaps also must be [on some scale in some location for some duration of time) considered in the context of the strangler that becomes the point of contact with the strangled, a controlling tine of the interaction. We know the strangler and the strangled better (have access to other configurations of information) through studying their interaction, their relationship, their intimacy.
It is interesting that in the tine system in which denigrating configurations of Black people become necessary, for a variety of configurable reasons, including (on some scale in some location for some duration of time) an attempt to visually mark and increase multiple forms of distance between races; in this tine system, the tine splits and twists in and out of itself, and back on itself (perhaps suggestive of twists of DNA or the aggressiveness of strangler fig trees) —it is interesting that contact and intimacy between despiser and despised increases though working at, though maintaining the despising. The strangler fig and the strangled tree are locked in an intimate relationship; they sleep together night and day. To produce such pieces as the Sambo bank, especially in circumstances of hand-crafting, is to be intimately involved with the other, is to forge a relationship with a fantasized version of the other, a desired exaggerated iteration of the other (possibly to desire for a purpose of despising the object of an emotional disgust that requires some attention on the object of disgust to maintain a disgust that might please the person experiencing the configuration of disgust; such emotions perhaps can be experienced in a more intense way than an individual might experience more conventional configurations of love). When such objects are mass produced (such as Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, Cream of Wheat's Rastus, and Sambo bank facsimiles), there is (an underlying configuration of a system of) assumption that these objects can help configure desirable profits, business success helping to endow (reconfigure) the objects with value and desirability; there remains a market for Sambo who is still being sold. (Ficus watkinsiana, strangler fig, image from wikipedia commons; Cream of Wheat ad featuring Rastus from Ferris State University's Jim Crow Museum )
While moral and ethical objections against owning human beings might prove difficult to defy, less ethical objection is placed on owning such representations of humans, some of which become endearing and enduring associations (interactions) with pleasant systems of memory and childhood, the reading of Bannerman's books to children associated with adult/child bonding in which case the images bring people together instead of distancing them. There is a scene in A Night to Remember, a 1958 film about the Titanic, in which though the ship is sinking, a small child of the aristocracy clings tightly to his Golliwog as he is about to be placed into his mother's arms in a lifeboat; this doll to which the boy has a strong attachment is too precious to leave behind, and is a source of comfort: the boy's father will be lost in the sinking, but not the Golliwog. Of note: his two sisters get into the lifeboat without any obvious personal keepsakes in hand; only the boy, who, though at times he falls asleep during the scene, does not let go of his doll. Because no other children on ship as first class, second class,or steerage passengers are shown with toys on which the camera lingers, it becomes easy to associate the Golliwog in this tine of interaction with a system of privilege. Indeed, this memento becomes part of the boy's last memory of being with his father and with his family in an intimate moment. The Golliwog is one of Titanic's survivors, and was placed in a lifeboat ahead of second and third class passengers.
stills from A Night to Remember, 1958
Of course, this configuration as a system of privilege perhaps also is an extension (tine) entangled with a larger system of human subjugation and inhumanity, which is tethered to a system of humanity which has not been escaped: the privilege of being able to designate hierarchies of human status based on a number of interacting factors, including race, class, culture, gender, level of academic achievement, religion. Reduction (also a perceptual configuration) of the other to a rag doll, beloved or not, can be considered dehumanizing, but no races are exempt from configurations as dolls intended for role-playing as care-givers and intended for reliable companionship and attachment. Products marketed to demarcate affluence and marketed to those interested in upward social mobility as articles of convenience that save time and enhance quality of living, indicating progress, include many products for the kitchen, including lines of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben food products where these icons still assure users of the product that the rice or pancakes would/will taste good, and be of a quality associated with southern tradition. The strong agricultural configuration is part of a long association of Blacks with agriculture, toiling in fields, sharecropping, slave labor, planting, harvesting, cooking, serving good-tasting food. Those faces on the box still indicate a trustworthy product whatever else those faces said and did not say directly —the system is complex and entangled; echoes and resonances of these interacting systems still occur in various intensities on various scales in various locations for various durations of time.
[Throw Betty Crocker, Mrs. Joy Butterworth's, the Gorton's Fisherman (Gorton's Gloucester MA now owned by a Japanese Company), and the Quaker Oats Quaker into the consideration, and it necessarily reconfigures to accommodate them, but since the achievement gap functions better without them, they will be disregarded; they will be pushed slip through the gap and land in another neighborhood.]
There is something that can be quite instructive and interesting (depending on the nature of interactions with, or perceptions, of the information system) in watching someone choose Aunt Jemima Brand products over others, including (in particular) White Lily (as opposed to lily white) Brand; how to frame (configure) such choice, such placement on the shelves? Side-by-side arrangement of these products is what I encountered in a supermarket where I observed customers reach more often, while I was there, for
Aunt Jemima (although the White Lily product has the label benefit of being self-rising, self-elevating, not self-deprecating). Then again, it's just corn meal, just grain, useful in making corn bread, in breading fish for frying, for tasting good (barring allergies, and other variables that can interact with and configure/reconfigure taste), for linking the cook, the diner with any associations held (or that form in an introduction) with any of the components of a system of corn meal, Aunt, Jemima, lily, white, scarecrows, buttermilk, and whatever misunderstandings or misreadings lead to still more possibilities for configuring realities within realities (which do not need to be shared to function as realities, though shared components may strengthen [or perhaps weaken by exposing locations to disturb them] those [aspects] of reality systems. Both are also linked to manufacturing processes cleaned up for the shelves, packaged for success. Transposing white and lily can be irresistible; and seeing the scarecrow makes me hear the Wizard of Oz scarecrow singing If I Only Had a Brain, and then I think, configuring these thoughts together, the song strangling the lily; then I think that if I do indeed have a brain and am in my right mind, I won't buy the lily white.
In some configurations of human racial and ethnic interactions, iconic poams (products of acts of making) such as Sambo, Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, Rastus, and Uncle Tom have emerged and function(ed) as parts of barrier systems to emergence of systems of Black Pride and bulwark systems in support of black inferiority although even within systems of slavery within the United States, the experience of individuals interacting with US slavery systems covers a range of possibilities; indeed all possibilities —some configuration of all that was possible happened (and happens as slavery systems continue to be investigated) on some scale in some location (including imagination, including erroneous fact as well as fiction) for some duration of time.
In configurations in which such icons have successfully functioned as collaborating barrier and bulwark systems, response systems emerge, some configured in rejection and rebellion, whose tines go on and bifurcate into a range of systems including militant movements and Afrocentric movements part of whose function is to be a parallel system that refutes claims of inferiority (that are collaborated with in tines or systems of refutation: a form of acknowledgment). Entangled response systems emerge in which configurations of apparent acceptance of inferiority also emerge. Some of these configurations of apparent inferiority can be framed so as to include dream and hope configurations, equality as a goal rather than an active present state, and such configurations can accommodate much poetry of Langston Hughes, especially A Dream Deferred.
Configurations of the postponed dream frequently imply interaction with variables, often in the form of vectors, or other viral, destructive forms that can strip dreams that are not quite realized of their ability to become realized. These destructive variables have more mass and more energy associated with that mass to push the dream further away; negative space between dreamer and dream widens (a gap between tines), and with that negative widening, the impact range of efforts to align dream and dreamer diminishes, so that what reaches dream from dreamer, and dreamer from dream is too weak to overcome, neutralize, reverse, or halt damaged reconfigurations of possibility that frame circumstances well.
A Dream Deferred
by Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Overcoming obstacles is a configuration of the human condition set that seems to do a good job holding most configurations of humanity on some aspect of some of its tines. At times, having to overcome obstacles is inspiring, at times discouraging especially when suffering is involved. But so long as mortality is part of the configuration, so long as there are interactions that interfere with ideal configurations of lives, it seems likely that accounts of confronting obstacles can and will inspire. Some inspiring (calls to action) configurations of the complex inspiration of A Dream Deferred (ascent mitigated by descent, descent mitigated by ascent) follow. These are video variations, kaleidoscopic extensions (that as they keep extending, can connect with anything/everything connectable, eventually forming an allness, that, of course, still has gaps, space between tines, space within tines, perhaps becoming infinitely smaller, but perhaps without disappearing altogether, depending on the increments of measure that try to keep pace with a system that is dynamic, and not the same system being measured moment to moment [and not the same instruments of measure moment to moment, being also part of the dynamic and complex system being assessed).
Langston Hughes — A Dream Deferred
by Harlem Chancemill and Marc Cary
(also features kaleidoscopic visual extension and idea unfolding; connected to the idea system of this tine (page) of an official Limited Fork Theory website and to other idea systems, each one forming a multidimensional form of rose attached to a range of configurations of realities and universes simultaneously).
And with this is a return to what, via interaction sets, was never left:
SAMBO TO OBAMA: from one icon to another:
a fusion of hope and dream into the palpable, the graspable; a reality with mass; the energy of dreaming become mass. As the video says, in one assessment (configuration) of it, it is not (necessarily or only) the abandonment of Sambo out of guilt, shame, anger, remorse, regret, indifference, or any other configuration; it is (also) a reconfiguration of Sambo, an evolution of Sambo, Sambo with time of generations to forge a complex, dynamic identity, one that changes, perhaps improved (variable perceptual configuration system), perhaps not (variable perceptual configuration system), but identity, like most things (according to [some of] what seems reasonable based on [some of] what is observable, [some of] what has not slipped through tines) is not fixed, is not permanent, is subject to reconfiguration, influence, collaboration (to fall as well as to rise).
(accessible only from here)