Consuming Culture As An Internet Lightweight
Are.na user Njari Anderson breaks down the idea of "culture" on a micro level, followed by an exclusive Q&A.
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Njari Anderson is a writer and Are.na user, whose work looks to define everyday Black culture. Below, his piece “On Culture” presents a case for culture on a personal, micro-level while exploring morally-complex facets of Black, Caribbean life in digital and physical spaces. From church chairs, to inches, to gunshots, Anderson breaks down the pinnacle “blocks” you can find in his Are.na channel, Culture.
The channel “Culture” is a space I’ve cultivated over the past few years in an attempt to conceptualize a home for myself. Culture by definition is contingent on its belonging to more than one person. Yet for me, I was trying to localize what culture means on an individual level. I avoid the word intersection when diagnosing my cultural identities because I lie in the in-between. I sit at the in-betweens of Jamaican-immigrant and Black-American culture. I ebb and flow along the spectrum of these two vibrant and distinct identities and along this expansive spectrum is where I search for my version of culture. This channel consists of nostalgia, aesthetics, sweat, funk, sex, smut, scum, fucking, loving, dancing, dubbing, rubbing, bumping, grinding, shooting, dreaming, living, and dying — in effect — culture.
I remember the tenderness of a soft velveteen touch. The subtle brush of my arm against its softness turned to static. The kind of touch that would make your hair stand on end. The kind of hold that, after repeated use, would learn the intricacies of the curve of your arms, hips, and legs. The subtle relief of sinking into softness. The harshness of what came once the fluids dried up and turned the velvet into shards — scratching the places it once held so tenderly.
The average length of a handgun is 8.40 inches. Young black boys, at least the ones I know, grew up obsessed with the idea of inches. The length of locs and if you can get em to swang. How high can you jump, cus niggas are meant to fly. The length of your dick cus niggas walking around with firearms unregistered. You put your hands up and they still shooting for ya gun.
Mothers, other mothers, aunts, church aunties, grandmothers, great and grander, wise women, I think of your decorated hands. Worn fingers, scars, tears, and folds that cue the world into your age, but cannot communicate the sheer luster they’ve left on me. I cannot thank you enough.
I had a white boy tell me that the Pow-Pows I heard every night before I went to bed weren’t gunshots. This mother fucker lived in a nice neighborhood. The fuck he know about gunshots?
You a stupid mf, if you think I ain’t counting up this paper. Nails did. Teeth Clean. Fitted down to the toe creases. I’m not robbing you, I’m just taking what's rightfully mine — this money. “Pay a nigga damn!” I got a mom I need to do right by so think twice if you come between me and my money. I work too damn hard. You see this skin? You see it? I’m the Sun, the Moon, and the Earth. What’s mine is mine and what's yours, I left with the rest of your shit by the door.
Q&A with Njari Anderson
Summer and heat heighten senses, do you think summer has any effect on culture as well?
Y’know, I think the heat drives people a little crazy. And that’s saying something, because I’m from Jamaica, where it's summer year-round, so shit is always crazy there. I’m thinking of the last few summers: COVID, BLM protests, wildfires, water crises, and heat waves–things have been too hot. But that heat forces people to get up and do shit--Black people especially. I’m sure the melanin helps, but I think we’re especially aware of this constant heat. For us, every summer is a ‘Long Hot Summer,’ it feels like the only time people want to listen is when everything’s been torched: “Y’all ain't want to look at the fire till the house burned down.” That's where the summer sits for me, y’ know, in the heat Black people thrive–we’ve worked in it, marched in it, danced in it, held cookouts and block parties in it: lived in it. I bet if you trace back in time to the summers before the Earth started boiling, so many of the things that we come to deem important to Black culture, stem from the summer and its never-ending heat.
You present a case for culture on a micro level; where does that leave culture on a macro level?
I don’t know. I think that’s a question for a philosopher and I’m far from that. “Culture” is so vague now that when you look beyond the macro people start appropriating and gentrifying all the good shit, people now have to search for or invent culture instead of it just being there. My need for a microscopic look at culture came from feeling anxious because of the internet. It took me so long to define it for myself. Everyone, everywhere had an opinion on what culture looked like for me–the internet is fucked up in that way. People have access to everything now. Last week I watched a video with this white guy who tried to teach Jamaican Patois. It fucked me up a little bit because I was like: “Some things should be left unexplained–as is.” Maybe that’s cultural gatekeeping, I don’t know, but it's hard for me to process because the “culture” you’re asking about is this uncontrollable thing. On a grand scale, you can slap any word in front of culture and now you have “” culture. And now that word is a thing, and we have to pay attention to it because “culture” has weight, it legitimizes everything.
What does it mean to you when a publication, like Byline, has a “culture” section?
It’s nice to see. I like that Byline doesn’t overcomplicate it either. I think a lot of other publications get caught up in the idea of making a hard, defining stance and it feels so out of touch with reality. People don’t want to be intellectualized to death anymore, that’s why things like Twitter work–because everyone’s a culture critic–we’re escapists, and we like hot takes and nonsense. Shit like this should be simple, we just want to feel related to.
What is your favorite cultural niche, and why?
Dub culture for sure, and I don’t just mean the music. I mean, the burn the studio down and start over if the vibes aren’t right mindset. Bless the late Scratch Perry for etching that philosophy into my head. Dub is about constant change, adapting, and making do with what’s at hand. For me, it’s the fabric of my life. I grew up with very little and when you move to the U.S. from a place like Jamaica, everything’s new, so you kind of just have to figure everything out. Dub is pretty much the exact same process–it’s a constant search–remixing, cutting, scratching, looping, and stripping things down. I’m an artist, because that rhythm feels so natural to me, going in with no answers and trying to make magic–that’s dub to me.
Do you ever feel a sense of internet culture overload, and how do you deal with it?
All the time. I’m an internet lightweight, so I get overloaded quickly. Which sucks, because I’m obsessed with the internet–I’m always online–so I’m kind of always hungover from it. The way I manage is I don’t post too much of anything. It’s easier to take it all when you’re not responsible for contributing to the zeitgeist–now I just scroll and look at shit. I like that the internet allows a level of passive consumption–it’s a smoother drink that way. I can be on it for longer, which is good and bad, but for the time being, I’m appreciating it for what it is.