The problem with famousity is, of course, that you cannot get unfamous. Neal Stephenson notes that you can become remarkably inconsistent with your Wikipedia page. And so I recall being Boohab.
I ended up writing 'Today's Blackification' instead of this post in the context of that age-old problem of reconciling blackness of the sort I acknowledge with that marginal subset portrayed in the media. But that's all external. What I actually did as Boohab sitll echoes from time to time and I haven't bothered to comment in some time.
Boohab was the identity I took on many years ago - circa 1995 to be more precise - as what I called a 'persistent black object'. The purpose of Boohab was to be a character that always and everywhere on the net reflected and signified on a particular flavor of black cultural nationalism. Boohab was in your face to remind you of race.
I always wrote as Boohab in lower case to remind myself and everyone that this was an alter-ego, a character of my creation. It was the black part of me that needed to fulfill what I considered the public imperative of my generation of black Americans. The following was my full word, mostly written in retrospect on the headstone of the grave that is now Boohab's Factotum.
i'm michael bowen, creater of boohab and his website, boohab's factotum. i've been discussing social issues of all sorts online since about 1985 and began concentrating on black cultural production around '93.
my day job is business intelligence. i am a data architect involved with orchestrating information systems designed to help corporate folks make better decisions. i'm a proponent of weak ai, a devotee of the parc school of augmentation and the deming school of continuous quality improvement. i am fascinated by the ways people use computing systems to help them think (or not think).
i began to get involved with black cultural production back in '89 when somebody asked provocatively why black people get all upset when white people say rap 'is not real music'. my response took about 1700 words and a poem. i was an early participant in the open mike circuit in los angeles, and have also performed in nyc at nuyorican, st. marks and various other venues including the infamous march down 7th avenue headed by william kunstler and others following the los angeles uprising. my form of activism has a highly literary bias, but i am formally unpublished.
i took my writing and activism online having considering several venues of 'guerilla media' including spoken word, multimedia and cable access. so i began showing up in all the 'black' spaces online including some old forgotten bbs sites like idette vaughn's bbs, alex hartley's place. i ended up on 'the well' expecting a warm welcome and discovered that a LOT of people needed schooling on the basics. so following in the footsteps of my intellectual mentors, i dedicated myself to the practice of defining and teaching 'anti-racist praxis'. and so i have been a provocative figure in usenet, and various web-oriented discussion spaces for years.
i'm 36, married with 3 kids and recently moved 'back' to los angeles, having lived in atlanta, brooklyn, harlem, and boston. i'm an obsessive news junkie and compulsive reader. i'm the product of a new haven family and a new orleans family ("would you kindly pass me somadem mudbugs, sir?") i consider myself old-school socially, i'm an episcopalean with a jesuit education and i expect my kids to go to jack & jill. intellectually, i wish i were edward said - i very much dig on the model of insurgency outlined by cornel west. i know when to clap in jazz clubs and would consider any evening perfectly spent which includes at various points: whiskey, cigars, jazz and embarrassingly arcane debate. (oysters are optional)
it is my duty and pleasure to serve the public good through our joint creation. i am singularly committed to anti-racist activism; in concert we can move mountains.
It becomes clear that much of this was about being, and that is perhaps the prerogative of young middle age. How can I get people to accept that thing I want to be and almost am? At least that was the question for me. But I understood that Boohab was not all that I wanted to be, just the particular flavor of a particular time that needed expression.
In that expression I see the consistency of academic friends in my generation. It is with confidence that they must convey the spirit of Boohab, to beat the last bugs from the screens - the bugs of racism and the unsure identity. It is a project for modernism against tribalism and I think it may be doomed. But that depends upon how much faith one feels one must have in modernism. I like Baldwin's take on idenity - let it be like the loose robes of the desert, so that one's nakedness can be lived and perceived. Humans are tribal and hierarchical down to our DNA, and Dunbar's number ain't no joke. There's only so much xenophobia we can train out of our systems, and I despair that my academic bug beaters don't despair of their own project's Canute-like futility.
I have the fortunate position of not having reduced Cobb to a racial battle royale and not necessarily being known as a race man. But I'm not necessarily in control of those perceptions. But the Boohabian history remains influential in having been done. I don't do it now because I did it then. And just as I predicted with some confidence, America has not fallen off the cliff. I was hella pessimistic after the LA Riots and the rise of Gangsta Rap in those days, but from my perspective the country has never been so bad as in the bad old days. Despite the fact that pop culture has become debased beyond what I thought possible, the important things have held together, and yes Denzel did get his Oscar. So I laid down my racial sword and sheild, down by the riverside.
It wasn't difficult for me to find the transcendant values. Community is a necessary but insufficient condition, so is middle class stability, lethargy and status quo. Steaks and bourbon help, mostly singly, sometimes in triumphant combination. The future of Boohab? Respect for the dead.