Dance is a language, and social dance is an expression that emerges from a community. A social dance isn't choreographed by any one person. It can't be traced to any one moment. They are as old as our remembered history. In African-American social dances, we see over 200 years of how African and African-American traditions influenced our history. The present always contains the past. And the past shapes who we are and who we will be.
A century in the making, and now completed by Britain’s David Adjaye, the Smithsonian’s gleeful, gleaming upturned pagoda more than holds its own against the sombre Goliaths of America’s monument heartland.Preparations are in full swing for a historic opening on 24th September 2016 when America's first president of African heritage will ring an equally historic bell. Related.
Violist and impresario Ashleigh Gordon talks to the Boston Globe about the problem she and her multimedia project Castle of our Skins had when they set out to perform works by black composers: “we could list on maybe one hand, between us, black composers that we knew of.” [more inside]
"Joanne the Scammer lives for drama. Branden Miller is just trying to live." Performer and comic Branden Miller is a quiet young man who collects fragrances. His comic persona Joanne The Scammer is a fur-wrapped con artist moving from one stolen credit card to another and a Twitter sensation. The Fader talked to Miller about racial indenity, growing up gay, sex work, the fragility of internet fame, and getting scammed.
"T’Challa emerged as the fictional representation of those countless dreams denied; the unbroken manhood that Ossie Davis famously invoked after the assassination of Malcolm X. Wakanda symbolized the dreams of black utopias like Ethiopia and South Africa that had grown as the Black Freedom Struggle grew over the twentieth century. In this moment when superheroes become a way to explore contemporary anxieties about activism and authority, the Black Panther provides an opportunity for global audiences to study the traditions of black nationalism, Pan-Africanism, and the variety of African indigenous cultures. Dr. Walter Greason (Monmouth University) took a few minutes to suggest a collaborative exploration of these influences" in the Wakanda Syllabus.
Last fall, Baltimore's Renaissance Academy High School was put on the school district's closure list for poor student performance, though the decision was later reversed. In November, 17 year old senior Ananias Jolley was stabbed in the middle of science class, and died a few days before Christmas. By the end of February, two more students from the school were killed. 65 students graduated this past Friday from Renaissance; among them Ananias' brother, 20-year-old Santonio Jolley, a dropout who enrolled in Renaissance five days after his brother died. This is Renaissance.
Remaking 'Roots' In this version, accuracy is at the forefront, Mr. Wolper said one day last fall, in his production office in New Orleans, where the walls were covered with images of slave ships, plantation houses and African beads. “I’m not being modest here,” he said. “We have to make it better than the first ‘Roots.’ Otherwise, why bother?”
...until now? "Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia used his executive power on Friday to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 convicted felons, circumventing his Republican-run Legislature. The action overturns a Civil War-era provision in the state’s Constitution aimed, he said, at disenfranchising African-Americans." SLNYT: Virginia Governor Restores Voting Rights to Felons
The State of Soul Food in America: Exploring the Past, Present, and Future by Adrian Miller [First We Feast] What does soul food mean in 2016? A roundtable of experts discusses the emerging movements and obstacles the cuisine faces. [more inside]
"The ONLY site with the longest list of Podcasts of Color, from all over the world covering news, racism, comedy, sports, relationships & friends chatting about a variety of subjects. Come find a new podcast to try, you need more in your life."
What It’s Really Like to Work in Hollywood* (*If you’re not a straight white man.) (SLNYTimes, Interactive)
Creed's star, Michael B. Jordan, and director, Ryan Coogler, talk about film and race. [more inside]
In 2007, the Pinellas County, Florida School Board abandoned integration, joining hundreds of US school districts in former Confederacy states that have resegregated since 2000. The Board justified the vote with bold promises: Schools in poor, black neighborhoods would get more money, more staff, more resources -- none of which happened. This past August, the Tampa Bay Times published an exposé, revealing how district leaders turned five once-average schools into Failure Factories. [more inside]
"There's an intimacy to live performance that's removed through the medium of television, and in-studio audiences help restore it. After soaring, cathartic numbers, we need applause breaks. The collective gasp of appreciation when an impressive set piece dazzles, or the murmur of amazement when a section of choreography transfixes are parts of the lived language of musical theater. If you want to make a movie, make a movie. If you want to put on a show, don't play to an empty house." [more inside]
The originator of "on fleek" was a 16-year-old girl from South Chicago. "Cool hunting" by advertisers has long captured and resold content from black youth in urban communities. But the rise of social media have made the process significantly faster, and the capitalization on trends far richer. Yet the youth who create dance styles and new language are rarely compensated for their cultural work. And the shape of copyright law is partly to blame. [more inside]
Playwright Katori Hall responds to a production of her play, The Mountaintop where the role of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been double-cast the role of King with a black actor and a white one.
Phoebe Robinson, author of the the Blaria blog, writes about the meaning of her blog's name and how Daria Shaped a Generation of Women.
"From 1936 to 1966, the “Green Book” was a travel guide that provided black motorists with peace of mind while they drove through a country where racial segregation was the norm and sundown towns — where African-Americans had to leave after dark — were not uncommon. ... The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary, this year digitized its Green Book collection." (Previously.) [more inside]
From W. Kamau Bell: "First of all, Doc McStuffins is about a seven-year-old black girl. That basically makes the title character the Diahann Carroll of children’s TV. How many other children’s TV shows have a black female lead character? Hint: The answer is “not nearly enough.” Second of all, Doc McStuffins is a doctor for her stuffed animals and toys. And that may sound merely adorable to you, but I’m raising a pair of black girls who will one day be powerful black women. And Doc McStuffins is the reason that my four year old could say the words “stethoscope,” “otoscope,” and “sphygmomanometer” when she was two years old."
In his latest essay for The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates (previously) examines "The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration." [more inside]
I knew that my sister was smarter than her husband; I also knew that she knew this. But I also knew that her husband thought little of women, and nothing of their intelligence. Yet, here he was losing a shouting match on his home court. He was embarrassed. After seeing how the French language had betrayed him, a bittersweet subtlety slipped from his lips like licorice. In plain-vanilla English he said, “This is exactly why I shouldn’t have married a black girl.”--Coming to America
"11 books, including memoir, history, detective fiction and juvenile novels; magazine articles published in everything from the socialist Jacobin to the resolutely Main Street Rotarian; a gig commenting on current events for TIME following a run as a pop culture columnist for The Huffington Post; two films about his life, including HBO’s forthcoming Kareem: A Minority of One; and appearances on shows such as Meet the Press, where he’ll pose questions such as, 'Why must peaceful Muslims like myself answer for violent perversions of that religion while their counterparts in other faiths get a pass?' After years of trying to break back into the NBA as a full-time assistant coach, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 68, has found both comfort and a calling as a man of letters and a public intellectual."
What does it mean to be black if you're a cop? Or Lupita Nyong’o? Or in the STEM fields? Or in the UK? Or China? Or simply black-ish?
"If you look at the history of rock and roll and punk, they came from a black style of music, and that’s the history of popular music in general. It was created by blacks, then re-recorded to play for a white audience. Some of the first punk bands to ever create the 1977 sound were all-black bands." - Monica Estrella Negra, in an interview about the Black & Brown Punk Collective [more inside]
"They don’t know — here he lowers his voice — that even if they get the money and they left, they could always come back. They don’t know that part. And it’s so scary sometimes because they could come up in the middle of construction and say, “It’s my property, I didn’t understand what I was signing, and I want to come back.” -- DW Gibson interviews a Brooklyn landlord about how they push poor black residents out in favor of affluent whites.
Unsung Heroines provides bite-sized biographies of Black women who changed the world, and is a great way to learn history you were deliberately not taught in school. Women profiled include Fannie Lou Hamer, the civil rights hero who first said "I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired;" Mary Church Terrell, an early advocate for civil rights and the suffrage movement; Melba Roy Mouton, a NASA mathmatician; as well as: [more inside]
Today, March 6, is Blackout Day, "a day where black people post, share, reblog, like, and distribute other photos of black people on social media. This includes Tumblr, Instagram, the petri dish known as Facebook, Vine, Twitter, and any other site that allows you to share photos." (FAQ, official master post)
The White Negro, Norman Mailer, 1957.
It is on this bleak scene that a phenomenon has appeared: the American existentialist—the hipster, the man who knows that if our collective condition is to live with instant death by atomic war, relatively quick death by the State as l’univers concentrationnaire, or with a slow death by conformity with every creative and rebellious instinct stifled (at what damage to the mind and the heart and the liver and the nerves no research foundation for cancer will discover in a hurry) , if the fate of twentieth century man is to live with death from adolescence to premature senescence, why then the only life-giving answer is to accept the terms of death, to live with death as immediate danger, to divorce oneself from society, to exist without roots, to set out on that uncharted journey into the rebellious imperatives of the self.[more inside]
Building the First Slavery Museum in America - David Amsden, The New York Times
"From their weathered cypress frames, a dusty path, lined with hulking iron kettles that were used by slaves to boil sugar cane, leads to a grassy clearing dominated by a slave jail — an approach designed so that a visitor’s most memorable glimpse of the white shutters and stately columns of the property’s 220-year-old 'Big House' will come through the rusted bars of the squat, rectangular cell. A number of memorials also dot the grounds, including a series of angled granite walls engraved with the names of the 107,000 slaves who spent their lives in Louisiana before 1820. Inspired by Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, the memorial lists the names nonalphabetically to mirror the confusion and chaos that defined a slave’s life."[more inside]
Meet the most important legal scholar you’ve likely never heard of: Ruth Bader Ginsburg is this Supreme Court's liberal hero, but her work sits on the shoulders of Dr. Pauli Murray [more inside]
The Secret History of South Asian & African American Solidarity. South Asians and African Americans have been standing up for each other for over a century -- and continue to do so. Race politics, shared heritage, and issues of caste and class are among the few examples of interconnected history that largely go untaught in the U.S. [via mefi projects]
The Equal Justice Initiative has released a report (pdf) on the history of lynchings in the United States, the result of five years of research. The authors compiled an inventory of 3,959 victims of “racial terror lynchings” in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950 -- documenting more than 700 additional victims, which places the number of murders more than 20 percent higher than previously reported. "The process is intended... to force people to reckon with the narrative through-line of the country’s vicious racial history, rather than thinking of that history in a short-range, piecemeal way." Map. [more inside]
Being a black man in Ukraine showed me everything that's wrong with race in the U.S.
My introduction to racism in Eastern Europe had come swiftly and severely. Over my next 18 months in Ukraine, race would remain a constant obstacle to normal life and interactions with Ukrainians. Certainly, black skin creates hurdles in the United States, as well. Here, racism systemically – but usually covertly – obstructs African-Americans from fully enjoying all the freedoms afforded to white people. But racism in Ukraine was much more blunt – always in my face, unabashed and in plain view. I never had to guess whether a person’s remarks carried racist undertones or if an officer’s stop was fueled by prejudice. Ukrainians always let me know where I stood with them, good or bad. And I appreciated it.[more inside]
Grass Roots: The Enduring Art of the Lowcountry Basket (video 27:21). Sweetgrass Baskets: "This basket-making tradition came to South Carolina in the 17th century by way of West African slaves who were brought to America to work on plantations." The Sweetgrass Basket Tradition: "Sweetgrass basketmaking has been part of the Charleston and Mt. Pleasant communities for more than 300 years." Sweetgrass Baskets: A History (pdf): "Coiled basketry, one of the oldest African crafts in America, appeared in South Carolina during the late 17th century." The South Carolina Lowcountry. Sweetgrass (Muhlenbergia filipes). [more inside]
Kiese Laymon, American writer and Associate Professor of English at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY, on the price of his Vassar College faculty ID. [more inside]
Jordan Davis's mother, Lucia McBath, reflects on the guilty verdict in his murderer's trial. by Ta-Nehisi Coates (SLAtlantic) [more inside]
Among other common myths and misconceptions regarding serial murder in America, one curious myth bears closer examination: the idea, propagated heavily in the media, that serial killers are almost always white men. This fascinating (though weirdly formatted) essay discusses this phenomenon, and suggests possible reasons for the anonymity of African-American serial killers, including historical racial bias, stereotypical media portrayals of African-Americans, and the FBI’s promotion of static ethnocentric criminal profiling. [more inside]
"What happens, exactly, when a white family that wants a white sperm donor gets a half-black child instead? In the case of a lesbian couple from Ohio, it means a "wrongful birth" lawsuit against the sperm bank — two years after the fact. " [more inside]
Tonight, 21 year-old actress Keke Palmer will make her Broadway debut in the title role inRodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella, the first African American actress to play the role in any stage production of the show, first mounted as a television production on CBS in 1957, with Julie Andrews. [more inside]
Jenée Desmond-Harris, associate editor of features for The Root, answers a reader who wrote in wondering if his compliment of a stranger's Afro was out of line. Though acknowledging that some women won't want to hear a compliment, regardless, Desmond-Harris elucidates three points on how to compliment a black woman's hair without being a jerk: 1) Hands to yourself. 2) Compliment, don't query. 3) Consider the context.
Wattstax [SLYT] is a 1973 documentary film about the 1972 Wattstax music festival, held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the Watts riots. Featuring performances by Isaac Hayes, Albert King, Rufus and Carla Thomas, The Staple Singers, The Emotions, The Bar-Kays, and other greats of soul, R&B, and gospel, Wattstax also incorporates relatively unknown comic Richard Pryor's musings on life for black Americans in 1972, "man-and-woman-on-the-street" interviews, and audience footage. [NSFW] [more inside]
Black Glamour Power - a Collectors Weekly interview with Nichelle Gainer of Vintage Black Glamour (previously): "A lot of people think of vintage black pictures as either civil-rights photos or black ladies at church, or maybe sharecroppers picking in the cotton fields and sweating from the hard work. That’s fine. Those are our pictures. But that shouldn’t be the only image of us. It’s nice to see a black woman who is not sweating in the field, but glistening from all this bling, like Josephine Baker, dripping in diamonds. Sometimes you want to see that. Why not? It’s easy to take glamour for granted. You can be a white woman, and you can care less about Bette Davis, Jean Harlow, Greta Garbo, and Marlene Dietrich, and that’s fine. But you know what? Black women haven’t had the same option." [more inside]
"One of the most vexing questions in African-American history is whether free African Americans themselves owned slaves. The short answer to this question, as you might suspect, is yes, of course … For me, the really fascinating questions about black slave-owning are how many black "masters" were involved, how many slaves did they own and why did they own slaves?" Henry Louis Gates Jr. on black slave owners.