The written word can’t really express how sad I get when I think that there are students in need at Northwestern who’ve never experienced this place, and the mood darkens when I walk through the quad on the way to the gym and see that there’s no possibility they ever will. I can’t speak for the homies I lived and laughed there with, but I can say that FoHo meant something to those fortunate enough to live there - literally or vicariously. I can say what exactly it meant to me though, so here goes.
I can easily say that FoHo was the only thing of Northwestern that I will ever have any genuine love for; in hindsight, it was the only university entity that brought me something besides guilt, anger, frustration, and alienation. I did something tricky with language back there, because there were and are other entities related to NU that I care deeply for: For Members Only and my chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi. Given my understanding of history though, I cannot count these as of Northwestern. They are at/in Northwestern, but they are not constituted of the same oppression and elitism ingrained in the University’s DNA. As essentially self-defense organizations, both FMO and Terrible Theta by definition are not “of Northwestern” - they were founded in spite of the University, and because the University spited (and continues to spite) them.
FoHo was different somehow though. (Look at that hat above. At least 7 of my Foster House brethren wore those with Fitz-level pride around campus.) The building was named for Randolph Sinks Foster - who I can guarantee didn’t plan on 15-20 young men of color taking literal refuge inside his namesake - and built sometime during the late-19th century. That’s what you call “of Northwestern”.
A society or organization founded for a religious, educational, social, or similar purpose.
An organization providing residential care for people with special needs.
The love I have for FoHo is real like cold steel. When we talk about institutions on this campus, those hospitable for people of color are few….mostly because they’re all named for the racial/ethnic categories we’re herded into. Foster House, I argue, was an institution at Northwestern, albeit underground. From what old heads tell me, at some point in the early-90s, Foster House died. Out of that, FoHo was born; “founded”, if you will. If you ever spent time there, you can attest that it was in fact “a society” indeed “founded for social purposes”. Those purposes were without question providing “residential care” to people on NU’s campus who had, to put it lightly, “special needs”. Again, I can’t speak for all classes of FoHo alumni, but I know what special needs I had at Northwestern. I suspect we may have had several in common.
From the jump, I often questioned my sanity at Northwestern. For every joy I had inside Bobb-McCulloch Hall, there were a handful of tolerated abuses and traumas. Within weeks I found myself posted on the legendary Foster House front porch, talking shit and enjoying extracurriculars with Class of 2011ers that will be in my life until the day I die. I had found the lunch table at NU. There would come the all-night Kick Its in the FoHo Lounge, the shoeless nighttime workout sessions in the basement when SPAC was closed, mooching off Munchies that somebody else’s dorm fees had paid for. All those experiences - this was before I’d ever had the pleasure of living in FoHo - reminded me that I wasn’t insane for feeling marginalized, ignored by the very place that my parents and their parents spent decades working to get our family to. I just happened to be Black, and that was cool. I had Foster House.
Granted that it was in a very gendered way, Foster House was a safe space for me. The safe space in the 60201, to be honest, at that point in my life. About 12 of “us” moved in there for the 2009-10 year, and I’d rid myself of something that I’d probably invited during my time in Bobb: the gaze of White women.
I can count on fingers and toes the number of white women that ventured into Foster House without an Aramark badge and a broom. It just didn’t happen. I’d had a formative experience with a girl early that academic year, and it’d forced me to really reassess how I interacted with White women. In Bobb, I realized, I’d ascribed to the open-door, “privacy doesn’t exist here” dorm culture. Included in that was the promise that, every time I went to shower, every time I came back from the gym, every time there was a pregame in Room 212, every time I decided to chill in the lounge in an undershirt, there would be women looking. This sounds like an incredible thing, and many times it felt so, but note that the vast majority of Bobb-McCulloch girls were/are White. While living there, I couldn’t see the forest from the Beckys. FoHo life, which included the natural scarcity of White women, made me think about decisions I’d made the year prior were less Lexington Steele and more Michael Steele.
Foster House was a fort, an enclave for “others”. I’m not conceiving of it by taking everything within those brick walls, but in a way I am. The “everything” was all the feeling, the laughing, the fights, the “nigga this”, the “nigga that”, the wave caps, and the subwoofers. FoHo wasn’t perfect at all: the womanizing, the soft undercurrent of homophobia, the Bigger Thomas channeling. FoHo was perfect for me, however, in a period of my life that I desperately needed it. Outsiders could be themselves in Foster House, and out of that grows something more powerful than Marches to the Arch. There were no security guards or CAs to whiten up for in order to get back to your room. You could be yourself in FoHo, or at least what you thought you were. I see why they tore it down.
"Imperialism leaves behind germs of rot which we must clinically detect and remove from our land and from our minds as well." - Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
The older I’ve gotten, the more interesting an experience watching sports has become. Not just appreciating beauty of the game - anticipating plays, predicting defenses, yelling like a coach when a pass is missed - but also laying bare the absolute intrusion of Western colonial formations and subtleties that, over time, has started to seem less subtle. Those formations being the abuse of mostly Black and Brown bodies, for profit, as well as the reinforcement, consciously and subconsciously, of racial performance as somehow natural.
There are always two conversations going on in my head while I’m watching sports, a humbling debate between the colonized region of my mind (we’ll call him “Cole”) and the other, constantly self-liberating lobe (we’ll call him “Free”). Today, I’d like to share that inner dialogue. What better event to drive that than the peak of sports decadence: the Super Bowl.
Cole: “Left the damn Black House a lot later than I wanted to, all for a slice of Papa John’s cheese pizza…now I’m about to miss the coin toss, maybe even the first possession.”
Free: “Why is this corporate sporting event controlling my entire day? I’ve only lived today through the lens of the NFL, CBS, ESPN, and all these other companies. Most everybody has; everywhere I go, things are revolving around this game. That’s power.”
Cole: “Bet, got here just in time to see my girl Jennifer Hudson sing. Would’ve preferred the Black National Anthem, but it’s cool. She’s looking and sounding as good as ever. Who are all these little white children, though?”
Cole: “Is that ol’ girl from the Swimsuit Issue? Bar something, yup that’s her. She could g-Daaaaaaaaaamn! She kissed dude, and they’re still kissing! She’s probably cool as hell, a freak too.”
Free: “Go Daddy has really claimed the woman-as-sex-object lane, and now they’ve thrown the geek archetype in there too. Middle-school role playing and stereotyping still works for adults, I see. Interesting also that they were allowed to run this, but PornHub got their spot denied. Sex sells, but only certain sex.”
Q1, 6:40 left
Cole: “Hell of a catch by Crabtree. Crazy extension, and he was going across the middle on the Ravens. Here comes the pushing and shoving. That’s why I fuck with the Ravens and always have, they intimidate teams.”
Q1, 4:08 left…SF pass tipped in the end zone, falling incomplete Cole: “Randy Moss from five years ago would’ve definitely caught that. His knees just said ‘fuck it’.”
Free: “How can I be so detached from players’ humanity? Just as with 40-yard dash times and bench press reps, the only context in which I’m dealing with them is that surrounding their physical attributes. I sound like a slave owner: disregarding the exhaustion and destruction, for profit, of Black bodies to gripe about an incomplete pass.”
End of 1st Quarter
Cole: “I know I should be tolerant of this Calvin Klein commercial, but this is pretty wild.”
Free: “That Cars.com spot is hilarious. I want to meet the team that scripted and cast it. The wolf stuff seems so random, but it’s not. It’s a metaphor for how predatory capitalists engage with the oppressed. They put them in disastrous financial situations, with intent as clear as placing a cub in their hands as a mother wolf enters the room.”
Q2, 11:03 left
Cole: “Aldon Smith, Navorro Bowman, and Patrick Willis are beasts. The speed and strength is unreal. They’re at least neutralizing the Ravens’ run game, making Flacco throw.”
Defensive ends and linebackers (maybe safeties too) are further examples. Since the game’s structure places them in constant, direct conflict with the QB, these positions are usually cast in the Brute/Buck mold; giant, wantonly violent menaces hellbent on using their physicality to dominate. The QB’s whiteness, as the focal point of this manufactured black rage, is thus amplified.”
2 Minute Warning
Cole: “Shoulda given me a warning for this racist-ass Volkswagen commercial. I’m not even Jamaican, but this is some bull.”
Free: “I feel you, man. Not only have they made some coonish ‘island’ accent the representative of fun and carefree living, they’ve further commodified it by extracting it from the Black body. Even worse, it’s used in a binary with the corporate setting, further hammering home in our subconscious that accents like these are aberrations in the business setting, unnatural in the world of civilized production.”
Cole: “Glad we can agree on something, with your uppity, fun-ruining ass.”
(Photo by Mark J. Rebilas, USA Today Sports)
Cole: “YESSIR! Beyonce time. Man, I been waiting for this since Janet’s titty popped out. Let us pray for another wardrobe malfunction.”
Cole: “Do you see what Bey has on!? Everything I’d hoped (and prayed) for. She’s doing her thing too. I still don’t know how Jay-Z did that. Seeded her up too, so she knew it was real. Respect.”
Free: “This is the hardest part. Beyonce is definitely a fine, fine woman…but this is fucked up. They’d never have Kelly Clarkson or Taylor Swift out here writhing around in sex positions, and Bey has more talent in her weave than they do in their whole bodies. Again, only certain sex sells. Hologram Beyonces…this is crazy. Ever since she was 18, she’s been paraded around like this for the sake of building a media empire. From her father to Hov, it feels like men in her life have only used her as a stepping stool.”
Free: “I could be wrong, though. I’m just a guy seeing things as guys are taught to see them…but people are throwing up the Roc right now. Jay-Z isn’t even here, his music isn’t even playing. That’s pimping right there. We think about it in a lurid, street corner sense, but Jay-Z is a stone cold corporate pimp. He’s so powerful that people throw the Rocafella sign up during something loosely associated with him. ‘Yo, even if my woman is onstage, y’all gotta throw my shit up.’ Y’all saw the Inauguration performance too. Pimpin’.”
Free: “Hell of a runback. It’s weird how normalized it’s become for Black players to dance on the football field. If a Black player doesn’t have a great TD routine, I catch myself and others actually being disappointed. Racial performance is crazy. All white players need to do is smack a teammate’s helmet, maybe a Lambeau Leap if they feel adventurous.”
Free: “This is bullshit. I kind of wish Stevie could see, so he could know fully what has been done to him. This man has produced some of the greatest Black music of all time, and yet we have to watch him play a voodoo caricature in a Bud Light commercial.”
(photo by Mark J. Rebilas, USA Today Sports)
Cole: “This is one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen happen in a sporting event. Somebody is about to lose a job over this. Kinda ironic too, it being in the Superdome and all…”
Free: “…kinda ironic? Israel is “kinda” an apartheid state too, I guess. This is so perfect. All the colonizer’s decadence is put on hold, so what is there now to think about? How about the fact that, not even eight years ago, this very same building - now sponsored by Mercedes Benz - was a shelter for hundreds of hometown ‘refugees’. People died in the Red Zone here, and nobody really gave a damn. Seems like we still don’t. It’s almost as if the spirits of those we lost to Hurricane White Supremacy Katrina decided to put the game on hold: ‘Remember us?’
Cole: “I need to twist one after that, damn.”
Cole: “I still don’t know what the hell Gangnam Style is or who this Asian Will-I-Am dude is. I don’t get it.”
Free: “I wonder how Asian brothers and sisters feel about the PSY phenomenon. Billions of YouTube views…that’s mind-blowing.”
Q4, 6:28 left
(photo by Richard Mackson, USA Today Sports)
Cole: “Can’t believe San Fran is back in this game, or that Joe Flacco has four TD passes. All I wanted to see was a good game - and Beyonce - and that’s what I’ve gotten. Can’t complain.”
Cole: “This is like a short film. I can’t even imagine how much this airtime cost, $10 million maybe. Nothing to do with me, though. Ain’t an ounce of farmer in me, unless you count slave ancestry….so I guess that’s a lot of farmer in me.”
Cole: “Flacco is definitely about to win MVP. Four touchdowns and he’s a white quarterback. It’s almost like they planned it like this.”
Free: “Thing is, this was all planned. Glad I got to watch an incredible game, but I had to suffer through shameless nationalist propaganda, offensive appeals to deep-rooted stereotypes, latent calls for White solidarity and ‘recovery’, and the institutionalization of racial performance into the very mechanisms of the game itself in order to enjoy it. Can’t say I had all that much enjoyment, now that I think about it. Let’s see what ESPN is talking about. Probably Joe Flacco and the Harbaugh brothers…..yep…”
“This is not only about Iranian nuclear ambitions, but about Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions.”
Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Will we just sit back and watch as our military economy hits another non-Western nation to quench its thirst for civilian blood and capitalistic domination? Operation Iranian Freedom coming soon to a news outlet near you.
The issue is complex yet simple at the same damn time: either you believe the murders stem from some innate barbarity, or from extraordinarily desperate living conditions. It’s either nature or nurture.
Amazingly, politicians of all races and from all parties have managed not to commit to either side. Instead, they’ve chosen to do nothing. Except maybe hire more police - hey, at least those murders don’t get counted.See these numbers should make you furious. It should be difficult to focus on much else. Yet again, miraculously, our “representatives” find a way to not care.
Black life, in agreement with the entire history of the Western world, continues to be considered worthless. Black death, however, has value. Elections are won with it, news corporations remain rich off of it, and the prison industrial system booms because of it.
Especially when it comes to sex crimes, a lot of people are quick to say something along the lines of “This has NOTHING to do with race.” That’s a lie. Penn State’s child rape camps may not have had everything to do with race, but this insanity definitely has something to do with race.
Combine this with the relatively tame punishment handed down to those involved, and you can begin to see that, hey, wait a minute, maybe this does have something to do with race. Administrators, coaches, trustees, and other higher-ups at Penn State hid this shit for 14 years in the name of institutional reputation and athletic department profits. Most, if not all, will keep their positions despite being outed as certified criminals. Jerry Sandusky should’ve snitched.