Note: A live version of Tyrone's blog, TyroneTakesAmerica.com, is no longer viewable. However, here's a backup of it.
Lee Bob Black: Where did the first impulses for your blog [TyroneTakesAmerica.com] come from?
Tyrone Rock: I started it when I had a lot of time to think about things in society that need to change. I feel like the biggest reason for a lot of society's imbalances is that we’re misinformed, so the idea was to create somewhere where I could not only drop info and commentary to those who respected my opinion, but provide info to my peers from whom information is purposely directed away from.
LBB: Imbalances? Misinformed? What about the idea that we are informed, but we just make poor decisions? What do you think about the idea that more information is not necessarily the solution?
TR: I agree with that to a certain point. I
think that more essential information is necessary for people to thrive
in a society, i.e. understanding their history, understanding the
social design of the world. Not only that, but also how to use
information and education to create better lives.
LBB: So we need more info so we can be more informed?
TR: More informed is always better, and by being more informed, I don't necessarily mean possessing more information, because we obviously have plenty of that. But what we have in America are terrible droughts of essential information across certain sectors of the population.
The less informed we are about the workings of our
country, or economics or simple social sciences for example, the more
helpless we are against corruption, poverty, etc. If the average person
had a better understanding of economics, for example, we might not have
such raging levels of poverty.
LBB: What are your blog's themes?
TR: Not only social commentary (and everything that that encompasses) but commentary from an alternative viewpoint . . . from a person not afraid to disagree with the masses. Also, one of the main topics is race relations.
LBB: What do "social commentary" and "race relations" mean to you?
TR: I believe that race is the driving factor for most of society's beliefs, and that it’s not this way by accident. This was built into America's fabric in its infancy and today determines a lot more in our society than Americans would like to believe, or admit.
LBB: I count myself among one of those Americans. What advice would you have for me and others who aren’t overly aware of how race is built into America's fabric and how race determines beliefs?
TR: Well, here is where information comes in. Sometimes, when I like to make sense of something, I go back to the origins of that thing. How, when, and why did this begin? What elements of it have allowed it to transcend to what we know it to be today? I find this way of analyzing very helpful. As far as race is concerned, this country is built on the backs of slaves. (Primarily African slaves, but slaves of many races and nationalities). If the average American understood more that these were not racial crimes but crimes of economics, it would be easier to visualize how unreal racism really is. Of course, aside from the information, to understand the world around you, you must also possess the willingness to "put yourself in another man's shoes."
LBB: Please elaborate on the "not racial crimes but crimes of economics" theme.
TR: My philosophy is that slavery was not a racial crime, but a crime driven by one thing--money.
The problem is that once the founders of this country had their free labor, they needed to create something to justify his horrific murderous act to their sons and daughters, so to speak. [Hence] the idea that the black man was inferior and, due to his animal nature, was not deserving of human rights. Of course this was supported by the founding fathers’ interpretation of slavery in the Bible. So what basically happened is that the descendants of these men took this "philosophy" and ran with it. They believed it wholeheartedly--and built a society based on it with laws to keep it in place. The motivation for it, aside from human ego, was the tremendous economic favor they enjoyed because of it. If people understood this theory, they’d also understand how badly our society has been brainwashed to believe that race is important.
LBB: How is your blog emotional and/or psychological?
TR: It’s somewhat emotional in that sense that my posts reflect my mood. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve no longer been able to remain emotionally uninvested in certain events. Not that I’m a bleeding heart, but I believe that many of us have forgotten that we are alive. We’ve become numbers. Maybe the first step to reclaiming our humanity starts with elevating our levels of social consciousness and accepting that problems of others as human problems.
That’s also where the psychological part comes into play. Everything is defined by individual perception. Therefore it does us a great service to analyze things from a number of different viewpoints. So although I have a tendency to allow the emotional to creep in, it’s important that myself and my blogosphere peers, yourself included, are analyzing our society through psychological angles primarily. It's a work in progress.
LBB: Why title your blog Tyrone Rocks America ?
TR: Tyrone Takes America. [TyroneTakesAmerica.com]
LBB: Oops, sorry.
TR: It really doesn't have as much meaning as people think. It actually comes from the same idea as Muppets Take Manhattan, for example. I thought about it during the first post I ever made when I was using the blogger.com platform and had to give it a title before I could do anything else. From there the title just stuck. Most people think the blog’s about bashing America, and I kind of like that they think that. Yet it’s not about that. It’s just an ordinary guy's "take" on our country.
LBB: I was--still am--a huge Muppets fan. You?
TR: I was also a pretty big Muppets fan. Especially “Muppet Babies” the cartoon.
LBB: How many drafts did you generally go through with a blog entry?
TR: I have "flash" posts; “Check out what I’m looking at right now." In those, I say whatever's on my mind and throw it up there. That’s my favorite kind of entry. On the other hand, when I’m creating an essay-like entry, I normally just go over it once to make sure that it’s what I wanted to say. I haven’t spent a lot of time going over drafts, and that’s something I plan to change.
The most important thing is that any entry I post actually sounds like me. That may seem like a foregone conclusion, but authenticity is everything, and I know how easy it is to misrepresent yourself in print.
LBB: How would you describe your writing style? Polemical? Minimalist? Instructive? Something else?
TR: Definitely polemical. Every post is intended to challenge a widely accepted belief, or to introduce an alternative point of view which most of society has not been willing to analyze objectively.
LBB: What will you blog about in the future?
TR: Oh man. I could go on answering that
question until next Halloween. In the near term, it's important to blog
primarily about issues affecting us adversely today. Not just politics,
because the average person does not get to participate, per se, in
politics--but things like nutrition, economics, education.
Photo: Tyrone Rock.
LBB: So your answer is "everything" if it's currently "hot"? Would you like to be more specific?
TR: Well actually, every blogger or writer
has somewhat of a desire to chime on a hot topic, and there’s nothing
wrong with that. At the same time, we need to focus on issues of
equal--or greater--importance, [issues] that aren’t "hot." We owe it to
our readers to provide content that you don't find everywhere.
LBB: Do you daydream about writing your autobiography or a memoir? What would the first chapter be about?
TR: I’ve thought about it, but I’m more compelled to write a book about other topics first. The story of my early years isn’t really very complicated, so the first chapter would most likely be about the changes that drove me to increase my social awareness.
LBB: What music do you listen to while writing?
TR: I don't really listen to music while writing. But when I’m working on site maintenance, I’m just about always listening to music. Good question, I never once thought about that.
LBB: Who and what do you spin?
TR: I listen to mostly hip-hop when I’m working on TyroneTakesAmerica.com. My favorites artists nowadays are Common, Talib Kweli, Little Brother, and other "underground" artists. I’m also into some rock; Korn, Nickelback, Rage Against The Machine. I'm a huge fan of Bob Marley.
LBB: Who do you think reads your blog?
TR: My readership consists primarily of other bloggers and people who share similar viewpoints to mine. That’s good in that I’m able to maybe motivate my peers on the blogosphere in the same way they’ve motivated me. What I don't like is that it’s like preaching to the choir. My biggest goal is to attract those who aren’t always on the side of issues as I am, or those who are new to the blogosphere. We have the most to gain by getting those people involved.
LBB: They could maybe be called "swing" readers. Do you have a muse who fires your creativity?
TR: My creativity doesn’t come from a "muse" per se. It mostly comes from my visions of what is possible in our future, and from other bloggers who have set good examples of creativity and consistency. I am, however, hoping that I can reach the female audience. It’s very important that we don’t forget the women.
LBB: Can you name people or events that were important for the development of your blog?
TR: Well, Tyrone Takes America was born during a very weird time in my life. Although there was no particular event that triggered it, it was more like a change in my overall worldview. I was questioning and challenging everything. I still find it hard to explain, but somehow I just got a notion to open my eyes to the world. Something alerted me to the fact that I really wasn’t as smart as I thought I was. When I’d discuss this with peers, I noticed that they also were seeking the same type of knowledge, but didn't know where to start or who to talk to about it. After hearing that, my question was, "Why then don't we start talking to each other?”
These are not only the people and events that triggered the development of my blog, but they’re my main reason for hanging in there when I’ve wanted to quit.
My favorite individual blogs right now are the Field Negro, Brother Peacemaker, Rachel's Taverns, and many others. These are blogs run by regular people like myself who have managed to keep blogging frequently, and more importantly, they’ve been able to provide quality content consistently. I also enjoy some collective blogs out there such as AlterNet, The Liberator Magazine, and the Independent Bloggers Alliance. Some of the aforementioned bloggers created a collective for bloggers of African-American descent called the AfroSpear.
The reality is that the prominent issues in the black community are often different that the issues facing other ethnic groups. Thus we see everything done in society by black people inherently dubbed "black." For example, black quarterback, black film, black blogger. The Afro-sphere, as [the black blogosphere is] called, is no different. One thing I really like about it is that we’ve seen intelligent individuals come forward and address issues within the black community that [normally] only those chosen by big media have been able to address.
There are a number of black bloggers with a wide range of views on any given topic. But it seems that the purpose is the same across the board: progress. There is progress in the simple act of exchanging ideas with each other. This is great. I get really excited about the possibilities.
LBB: What are your all-time favorite books?
TR: I’ve recently re-discovered the Autobiography of Malcolm X, and it’s a completely different experience for me now. I haven’t ever read a book that’s grabbed me and shocked me the way it has.
Off top, my favorite books are probably Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club, Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, Eyes To My Soul by Tyrone Powers, and a book by a little known author in the 1800s, James Allen, called As a Man Thinketh.
I was given As a Man Thinketh by the president of a brokerage company I worked for, kind of as meaningless marketing gesture. I never thought twice about it. One night I started reading it, and it turned out to be one of the most profound writings I’ve ever read. I’ve read a few "motivational" or "self-help" books, and most of them are pretty vague and repetitive. This was different not only because of the content, but more importantly because I was in the perfect frame of mind to receive it. It was almost as if it had been written just for me.
LBB: What book have you read more than any other?
TR: Not really sure. I’d guess Fight Club. It’s the story of a person who I always kind of envisioned myself as but never had the courage to become. "Joe" [the novel’s narrator; played by Edward Norton in the movie version] was a person who created another image of himself in his own mind that became a radical proponent for change, when "Joe" was spending time obsessing with material things and such. That self image [Tyler Durden; played by Brad Pitt in the movie] taught "Joe" what he needed to learn to do the same. This is the same thing that people do all the time. I, like others, have somewhat radical views about society and many ideas to bring about change. The problem is that there may come a time when a really radical step may need to be taken (symbolized in the book by Tyler Durden and "Joe" blowing shit up) and we have too many ties to our society or too much to lose to take that step.
LBB: I’m with you on that. By the way, I've read Fight Club three or four times. Next question: What kind of blogger do you expect to be branded as?
TR: One who is not at all afraid to say exactly what is on his mind. Even if that means being branded by some as an asshole.
LBB: What are you reading at the moment?
TR: Orwell's 1984. I’ve recently made a conscious effort to read some of the classics. I picked 1984 because I’ve a keen interest in literature that explores the structure and thinking of society. A friend has also decided to read it, and we’ll convene at the end to review it.
LBB: My girlfriend and I have often simultaneously read the same book. We've found it infinitely rewarding.
TR: I’ve tried that with one or two women I’ve dated; it hasn't worked out very well.
LBB: What are your fears about writing?
TR: I really can't say that I have any--which nullifies any excuses for not writing.
LBB: Do you support the US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan?
TR: I do not support the US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. I will never support the foot soldiers of the US money machine going to foreign lands to secure profits. Even if they’re not aware of this does not change the fact that they’re part of it. It’s easy to get everyone all worked up about their "sacrifice," and I believe they are making a sacrifice, not for American citizens but for the rich suits who profit from it. Americans also need to understand that our young soldiers are killing sons and fathers and husbands of other people.
LBB: What’s the most untrue thing said about you?
TR: I’ve been told that I seem
unapproachable. I guess my general demeanor implies such--it's rare
that I’m smiling when there’s nothing amusing. I’m one of the most
approachable people alive though.
LBB: What recurring dreams do you have?
TR: I don’t have any--which is funny because I’m a professional dreamer. I believe I’ve dreamt every single time that I’ve fallen asleep in my life. Yet oddly enough, I’ve never had the same dream twice.
LBB: What’s your first childhood memory?
TR: I’m about four or five . . . my mother is helping me with my addition homework and getting really ticked off because it’s a question I’ve solve endless times. She’s saying that I’m just not focusing. I remember it distinctly because my dad was in town for a few days.
LBB: Can I presume from your answer that you had an "absent" father?
TR: Yes. My father and mother both moved here [NYC] from Barbados and were living here when they met through a mutual friend. They married when I was about a year and a half, had my sister when I was three. I think my sister was about five months old when my dad moved back to Barbados to purchase farming land, which he did, and my mother was supposed to follow later with the kids, but that never happened. So here I am, taking America!
LBB: Who will you vote for in the 2008 US presidential election?
TR: I still haven’t made up my mind. I really like Barack Obama, but I’m still on the fence about Obama for President. On top of that, he may not even get the nod.
LBB: What do you look for in a president?
TR: I really don't look for anything in the
US President. I believe that the way our government is set up, it
really doesn’t matter that much who the President is. The President
will never serve the needs of the common man, as he is a figurehead to
serve the wants of the elite in America and abroad. Voting for a
President has been a mere formality for me. I think, if anything, we
should focus more on local politics.
The average person does not get to participate in politics, anyway. We only get to watch and analyze politics. Participation in politics is for the rich only.
LBB: What’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever done?
TR: Hmm . . . Hard to say. Romance as far as I’m concerned is not in the event-related stuff that we force ourselves to do. It’s in the small everyday things that we do with force or coercion. So sometimes the most romantic gesture you can make to a woman is remembering the things that she told you she likes or dislikes so she doesn’t need to tell you twice. That confirms to her that her feelings are important to her. So I guess I could say that the most romantic thing I’ve ever done is listen.
LBB: What’s the most hateful thing you’ve ever done?
TR: To be honest, I really can't remember anything I did that was hateful. Not to say that I’ve never hated, although I try not to hate now, but I just don’t think that I’ve ever acted based on hate.
LBB: Other than blogging, how do you express yourself?
TR: I’ve also been engaging in small talk forums with friends, talking about issues that concern us. I’m [also] seriously considering taking it to the next level: book-writing, publishing.
LBB: Are you a nostalgic or sentimental person?
TR: I’m a very nostalgic, very sentimental person. The common denominator in sentiment and nostalgia are memory. I hold on very dearly to memories--they’re kind of the compensation for your past. They’re one of the only things that a human being truly possesses in their lifetime. Nostalgia, put simply, is just the linking of certain variables to a time. It's what the human mind uses to create a map of your life. That map is what helps take me back to a certain place or time when I hear a certain song or see a film or read an old book. It’s hard to explain, but the memories of the past help drive me into the future. What we must be weary of, is to not hold on too hard to memories, or let nostalgia control us to the point where we’re actually trying to live in the past. It serves us to remember the past, but live in the present. The mind will also create memories of this moment for us to cherish.
LBB: Do you consider yourself part of Generation X?
TR: I was born in 1975 and I definitely consider myself part of Generation X. My generation hasn’t left any mark on history. We’ve been put to sleep by things like fashion and pop culture. There were many things accomplished in our society before, and my generation has kind of let it go for naught--despite having so many more resources at our disposal.
Can you imagine if Malcolm X had the World Wide Web? It's not too late for us. There are still a great many things we can do to [ensure] that the generation behind us doesn’t get sucked into the same pitfalls that we did. But if we’re not careful, future generations will not even know we existed.
LBB: How is your approach to fame?
TR: Fame is a funny thing. There’s really no harm in it inherently, but it all depends on how it’s attained and what comes with it. People have lost sight of the responsibility that fame comes with. I’ve been very critical of people who have the stage but haven’t used it to help influence people positively. Many became famous for frivolous reasons and you can't blame them for that because our society craves insignificant things to worship. However, there are people who are using their fame to trigger positive change and I commend them for that. There are also many who despise their fame because of the things they traded for it, i.e. privacy, silence. When you think about it, it’s odd how much stock we put in people just because everyone knows their name.
LBB: What song have you listened to more than any other?
TR: It would possibly be “Holding Back the Years” by Simply Red. Anytime or anywhere that song is playing, I have to stop and listen to it. I guess it goes back to nostalgia.
LBB: What movie have you seen more than any other?
TR: Definitely Fight Club.
LBB: Sex and women are very time consuming. Your thoughts?
TR: They are absolutely time consuming. Not the sex part by itself, but everything that comes with it. I haven’t been in relationships with women who just allowed me to get by on the physical and nothing else. Even relationships based strictly on lust are time consuming. I think that is the real explanation for prostitution being the world's oldest profession
LBB: What did you learn from this interview?
TR: That I should always be prepared to answer a question I didn’t expect.
Interviewer: Lee Bob Black, www.LeeBobBlack.com
Interviewee: Tyrone Rock.
Interview dates: Oct and Nov 2007.
Interview location: NYC.
Update: Lee Bob Black and Tyrone Rock in NYC, September 2010: