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.
Who really controls Hollywood? Now it can be told! (SLFOD)
The Racism Beat - Cord Jefferson writes about the repetitive mental strain of being a writer on racism.
For a while, the first African American graduate of the University of Vermont was George Washington Henderson, who would become the first black inductee to Phi Beta Kappa. Except he wasn't the first black graduate... [more inside]
The Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections ended on March 6 And the news coming out of it was astounding. 33 years after the first cases were described, researchers are genuinely excited about where we are and where we are going. [more inside]
I, Too, Am Harvard. A photo campaign highlighting the faces and voices of black students at Harvard College. 63 students participated, sharing their experiences with ignorance and racism. "Our voices often go unheard on this campus, our experiences are devalued, our presence is questioned-- this project is our way of speaking back, of claiming this campus, of standing up to say: We are here. This place is ours. We, TOO, are Harvard." [more inside]
American Promise is a PBS documentary (live streaming through March 6) that follows two middle class African-American boys, Idris and Seun, who enter The Dalton School as young children, and follows them for 13 years. [more inside]
"33" is a video made by the students of color at UCLA Law School. There are 33 black law students at the UCLA law school out of 994 J.D. students, not including those pursuing an LL.M. degree, a one-year law degree program for international students. [more inside]
This will be a very short diary. It will not contain any links or any scholarly references. It is about a very narrow topic, from a very personal, subjective perspective. The topic at hand is what Martin Luther King actually did, what it was that he actually accomplished. The reason I'm posting this is because there were dueling diaries over the weekend about Dr. King's legacy, and there is a diary up now ... entitled, "Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Dream Not Yet Realized." I'm sure the diarist means well as did the others. But what most people who reference Dr. King seem not to know is how Dr. King actually changed the subjective experience of life in the United States for African Americans. And yeah, I said for African Americans, not for Americans, because his main impact was his effect on the lives of African Americans, not on Americans in general. His main impact was not to make white people nicer or fairer. That's why some of us who are African Americans get a bit possessive about his legacy. Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy, despite what our civil religion tells us, is not color blind. [more inside]
In this short documentary, filmmaker Darrin Johnson explores the status of atheism within African-American families and communities, and meets some non-believers from California about their experiences with breaking from religion.
December 4th, 1928, in a New Orleans park: two boys dance while another plays a homemade drum kit.
Life Times Six: How Travion Blount got 118 years and six life sentences for a robbery. In 2006, 15 year old Travion Blount, along with two 18 year olds, robbed a group of teenagers at a party at gunpoint. No shots were fired. The two older boys accepted sentences of 10 and 13 years in exchange for a guilty plea. Blount plead guilty but refused to accept a sentence of 18 years. He went to trial, was found guilty, and received a mandatory 118 years in prison, without parole. On top of that, he received six life sentences. His only chance to exit prison alive is through geriatric release at age 60. He will most likely die behind bars. [more inside]
"After all I had gone through, I couldn’t believe I was finally wearing the uniform. I had made it. I was going to fly. It was such an accomplishment." International Politics and the First African American Flight Attendants [more inside]
Many African-American and mixed race babies offered for adoption are finding new homes in Europe and outside of the US. (SLCNN)
From The Atlantic, a series of photography that documents America in the 1970s: the Pacific Northwest | New York City | the Southwest | Chicago's African-American community | Texas [more inside]
From Protest to Politics by Bayard Rustin, the civil rights leader almost erased from history. "From Protest to Politics" talks about the difficulty of moving beyond symbolic victories into lasting justice for the Civil Rights Movement.
Kiese Laymon, is writing some of the most innovative pieces about race and life in America right now. Previously discussed here when his essay How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: A Remembrance was published on Gawker and took the world by storm. He has two books out this summer, his debut novel Long Division and an essay collection also entitled How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, which includes a correspondence between Laymon and four other authors, including Mychal Denzel Smith of The Nation. Long Division has received some very positive press although the establishment literary outlets have not (yet) weighed in, unsurprisingly. [more inside]
"It's a lesson that many of us got from out folks at some point, often before we got that other uncomfortable parent-child conversation about the birds and the bees. Don't move suddenly. Answer questions clearly, and with yes, sir and no, sir. Don't raise your voice. If you're handcuffed, don't say anything until we [your parents] get there. The details differed depending on where you lived and your parents' particular concerns, but the point was for us to get through any encounter with the police without incident." [more inside]