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Showing posts from 2019

Big Isms hiatus

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The Big Isms will be back at the end of summer. (We have some projects to wrap and complete.)

One to One

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An Artist’s Critique of Colonialism in Brazil
Commissioned by the MCA for the exhibition, de Andrade’s “Jogos dirigidos” (Directed games) (2019) plays with the conventions of educational films. The film documents a community with an unusually high prevalence of deafness in the isolated town of Várzea Queimada, in which people communicate through an unofficial form of sign language. De Andrade leaves many of these gestures untranslated, providing glosses of some afterwards, like so many video flashcards. Since only certain phrases are defined, it is difficult to follow the thread of the story, allowing the film’s subjects to hover between intelligibility and incomprehensibility in a way that underscores our shared humanity while acknowledging the very real barriers that divide us. Through “Jogos dirigidos” and its other works, One to One dramatizes exchanges between colonizer and colonized, between the global north and the global south, between the haves and the have-nots — exchanges …

When they See Us

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When They See Us is now streaming on Netflix. The Central Park Five is available to stream on various platforms.

MUST SEE: Ava DuVernay's When They See Us Is a Brutal Look at a 30-Year-Old Injustice

In the News

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How activists used photography to help end slavery
Matthew Fox-Amato, April 24, 2018, The Washington Post



It seems it’s not a protest in the age of social media without a photograph. From the women’s marches to Black Lives Matter protests to sit-ins for a Green New Deal on Capitol Hill, participants have flooded the digital landscape with photos of their activism: demonstrators brandishing signs and packing America’s streets, plazas and corridors of power.

But while social media makes this act of sharing protest imagery seem like a new innovation, it's actually an organizing tool with roots almost two centuries old. Antebellum abolitionists pioneered the use of photography as a tool for social movements, and in the process, they heightened their sense of solidarity and urgency, exacerbating the political crisis over slavery.

Abolitionists understood that building a movement meant making themselves visible. Early photography offered a bracing new tool for them to do so…

Judge Damon J. Keith, Judicial Giant And Civil Rights Icon, Dies At 96

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In his dissenting opinion, Keith included the photographs of 36 civil rights martyrs, and he wrote:"The utter brutality of white supremacy in its efforts to disenfranchise persons of color is the foundation for the tragedy that is the Majority's effort to roll back the progress of history. I will not forget. I cannot forget  — indeed America cannot forget — the pain, suffering, and sorrow of those who died for equal protection and for this precious right to vote." Source: Judge Damon Keith, Civil Rights Champion, Dies At 96 : NPR

Prison Abolitionist Movement

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I suggest everyone learn more about the prison abolitionist movement, and this profile of Ruth Wilson Gilmore is a good place to start: Prison abolition, as a movement, sounds provocative and absolute, but what it is as a practice requires subtler understanding. For Gilmore, who has been active in the movement for more than 30 years, it’s both a long-term goal and a practical policy program, calling for government investment in jobs, education, housing, health care — all the elements that are required for a productive and violence-free life. Abolition means not just the closing of prisons but the presence, instead, of vital systems of support that many communities lack. Instead of asking how, in a future without prisons, we will deal with so-called violent people, abolitionists ask how we resolve inequalities and get people the resources they need long before the hypothetical moment when, as Gilmore puts it, they “mess up.” “Every age has had its hopes,” William Morris wr…

Loot and how to return it

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Many German cultural institutions have long begun to address collections from colonial contexts and can build on the experience gained with completed or ongoing projects. We welcome the fact that the German museums have adopted guidelines and recommendations on the sensitive handling both of cultural objects and of human remains.
... Identifying cultural objects from colonial contexts which were appropriated in a way which is no longer legally and/or ethically justifiable and enabling their return is a moral and ethical obligation and an important political task for our age. Human remains from colonial contexts are to be returned.
8.) Requests for the return of artefacts from colonial contexts are to be processed promptly. At the same time, cultural heritage institutions are called upon to take an independent and proactive approach to identify artefacts in their collections which might be returned, even if there has been no request for return.
9.) In principle, returns shoul…

That’s right, slaveowners got reparations

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When Slaveowners Got Reparations
Tera W. Hunter, April 16, 2019, The New York Times




On April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill emancipating enslaved people in Washington, the end of a long struggle. But to easeslaveowners’ pain, the District of Columbia Emancipation Act paid those loyal to the Union up to $300 for every enslaved person freed.

That’s right, slaveowners got reparations. Enslaved African-Americans got nothing for their generations of stolen bodies, snatched children and expropriated labor other than their mere release from legal bondage.

The compensation clause is not likely to be celebrated today. But as the debate about reparations for slavery intensifies, it is important to remember that slaveowners, far more than enslaved people, were always the primary beneficiaries of public largess.

The act is notable because it was the first time that the federal government authorized abolition of slavery, which hastened its demise in Virginia and Mary…

Knock Down The House | Official Trailer | Netflix

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“Contemptible Collectibles”

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Contemptible Collectibles Posted: 22 Apr 2019 Content Note: This post discusses racist memorabilia in sociological context and provides an image of one collection critical of this memorabilia below the page break.

Why do some people collect racist memorabilia and artifacts? Objects depicting African Americans in derogatory and stereotypical ways are commonly referred to as “black memorabilia” or “black Americana,” although scholar Patricia Turner more aptly names them “contemptible collectibles.”
As documented by David Pilgrim, founder and curator of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, these artifacts include everyday objects like toys and games, household items such as cookie jars, and postcards. Although usually associated with the Jim Crow era, many of the items are still produced or reproduced today, and all draw on racial caricatures, such as the “mammy,” “Tom,” “picanniny,” and “brute,” among others.
Not without controversy, “contemptible collectibles” hav…

Real Viking History and the Imagined White Supremacist Past

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In the 19th century, Romantic German nationalism metastasized into the Völkish movement, which was interested in historical narratives that bolstered a white German nation state. The movement rewrote history, drawing on folklore such as that of Brothers Grimm, medieval epics and a dedication to racial white supremacy.

READ: Real Viking History and the Imagined White Supremacist Past | Time

In Favor of Reparations

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Georgetown students vote in favor of reparations for enslaved people
Susan Svrluga, April 12, 2019, The Washington Post



Georgetown University students voted overwhelmingly for a proposal to create a fund to help descendants of the enslaved people sold in the 19th century at a time when the school struggled to pay off debts, results released Friday show.

Two-thirds of undergraduate students who voted in the student government referendum supported the measure, one that is not binding but still sends a message to university administrators and beyond.

The vote comes at a time when reparations have been an issue nationally, promoted by some Democratic presidential candidates, and as a growing number of universities are exploring the role of slavery at their institutions.

Student activists who came up with the idea and campaigned for it gathered early Friday, waiting for vote results to be announced on social media by student government leaders. They were holding their phones, a…

Monumental Cloth: Its Insidious Presence in Popular Culture

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A Monumental Cloth That Tells a New Truth About the US Civil War
Jasmine Weber, April 9, 2019, Hyperallergic



PHILADELPHIA — Yoga mats, decorative throw pillows, beach towels, do-rags, and wedding rings: all objects you can purchase today emblazoned with the Confederate battle flag.

Though Confederate soldiers waved a number of flags, none have become as culturally emblematic and parasitic as the rebel flag we know today. But contemporary artist Sonya Clark is challenging its insidious presence in popular culture.

Hate and racial discrimination is an easy disease to catch in this nation,” Clark said during a tour of her recently opened exhibition Monumental Cloth, The Flag We Should Know. Even if we can take down statues heralding Confederate generals, she says, the symbol of the rebel flag is “far more pervasive and problematic.” And to this problem, Clark has presented a solution.

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How historians got Nike to pull an ad campaign — in under six hours

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How historians got Nike to pull an ad campaign — in under six hours
Megan Kate Nelson, April 12, 2019, The Washington Post



It was still early on March 30 when historian Amy Kohout began scrolling through her Instagram feed. An image caught her eye: an ad by Nike promoting its new line of Trail Running gear, which launched this month. It had a throwback feel: a vivid image of a lone runner on a dirt path, bolting along a green bluff above an ocean with inspirational text beneath, urging potential buyers to abandon all of their wayfinding technologies and become reacquainted with “the feeling of being lost.”

These were nice sentiments. But what gave Kohout pause was the slogan in large font underneath the photograph: “The Lost Cause.” And then there was the final sentence: “Because the lost cause will always be a cause worth supporting.”

For historians of the American South and the Civil War, these words are alarming. The Lost Cause was a story that white southerners told th…

40th anniversary Black 14 Protests

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'We were villains': how Wyoming's Black 14 blazed the trail for Missouri protests Forty-six years ago, a group of 14 black football players at the University of Wyoming banded together in the name of enacting social change – and were promptly kicked off the team. See discussion
Panel discussion regarding the Black 14 protests in Wyoming
NEWS

Deep Roots

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Actually, the Electoral College Was a Pro-Slavery Ploy
Akhil Reed Amar, April 6, 2019, The New York Times



Many Americans are critical of the Electoral College, an attitude that seems to have intensified since Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election despite losing the popular vote. These critics often make two arguments: first, that electing the president by direct popular vote would be preferable in a democracy; and second, that the Electoral College has disreputable origins, having been put into the Constitution to protect the institution of slavery.

Defenders of the Electoral College often counter that it was designed not to help maintain slavery but for other reasons, many of them still relevant, such as to balance the power of big states against that of small states. (Even some critics of the Electoral College have made this argument.)

Both sides are misguided. There are legitimate reasons to keep the Electoral College system, odd and c…

Enslaved People Never Caught Up

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What Southern dynasties’ post-Civil War resurgence tell us about how wealth is really handed down
Andrew Van Dam, April 4, 2019, The Washington Post



Emancipation should have laid waste to the Southern aristocracy. The economy was built on the forced labor of enslaved Africans, and almost half the Confederacy’s wealth was invested in owning humans. Once people could no longer be treated as chattel, that wealth evaporated.

But less than two decades after the Civil War, Southern slave-owning dynasties were back on top of the economic ladder, according to an ambitious new analysis from Leah Boustan of Princeton University, Katherine Eriksson of the University of California at Davis and Philipp Ager of the University of Southern Denmark.

Their research upends the conventional wisdom that slave owners struggled after they lost access to their wealth. Yes, some fell behind economically in the war’s aftermath. But by 1880, the sons of slave owners were better off than the sons of …

a woman named Redoshi

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She Survived a Slave Ship, the Civil War and the Depression. Her Name Was Redoshi.
Sandra E. Garcia, April 3, 2019, The New York Times

It has long been believed that a man named Cudjo Lewis was the last living survivor of the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the United States. Now a researcher at Newcastle University in Britain says she has discovered testimony from someone who may have lived even longer — a woman named Redoshi.

The new findings, published last week in the journal Slavery & Abolition, are likely to be subject to scholarly debate, because there are few records documenting the lives of the last Africans to be captured and brought to the United States on slave ships.

Regardless of Redoshi’s precise historical status, the researcher, Hannah Durkin, has pieced together accounts from different sources and census records to carve out the remarkable life of a woman who survived the treacherous Middle Passage voyage at age 12, was sold as a child bride, and lived …

A Race to Digitize

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Archivists race to digitize slavery records before the history is lost (audio)
Rupa Shenoy, April 04, 2019, Public Radio International



Abu Koroma is the archivist in training at the National Archives of Sierra Leone — and he’ll remain the archivist in training until one of the two senior archivists retire.

“That is how it is done,” he laughed.

When Koroma started at the archives in 2004, Sierra Leone was emerging from civil war. He was fresh out of high school and his parents had died, so he needed the small salary badly. And the archives fascinated Koroma. They date back to the first treaty regional leaders made with British colonists in 1788. After Britain outlawed participation in the slave trade in 1807, British administrators in colonial Sierra Leone filled books with descriptions of each liberated African.

“Most times when I’m in the archives alone, I think I want to be a professor, and I will start writing books,” Koroma said.

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Churches Burning

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3 Black Churches Have Burned in 10 Days in a Single Louisiana Parish
Richard Fausset, April 5, 2019, The New York Times



ATLANTA — Three historically black churches have burned in less than two weeks in one south Louisiana parish, where officials said they had found “suspicious elements” in each case. The officials have not ruled out the possibility of arson, or the possibility that the fires are related.

“There is clearly something happening in this community,” State Fire Marshal H. Browning said in a statement on Thursday. “That is why it is imperative that the citizens of this community be part of our effort to figure out what it is.”

The three fires occurred on March 26, Tuesday and Thursday in St. Landry Parish, north of Lafayette. A fourth fire, a small blaze that officials said was “intentionally set,” was reported on Sunday at a predominantly black church in Caddo Parish, about a three-hour drive north.

“But just as we haven’t connected the three in St. Landry, we h…

Deadly Deception

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The United States government committed an act of torture against U.S. citizens in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution and human rights.  For forty years between 1932 and 1972, the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) department, conducted an experiment on 399 black men infected with syphilis. These men, for the most part, were poor farmers from one of the poorest counties in Alabama. They were never told what disease they were suffering from or its seriousness. The doctors that were treating them had no intention of curing them of syphilis, they were ordered to lie to them in order to collect data. The government wanted information on how the disease progressed, what damage it would do to the human body, and any additional information once it killed them. They especially wanted information to be collected from the autopsies of the men, and they were thus deliberately left to degenerate under the ravages of tertiary syphilis. The men suffered and died with symptoms that …

Tre Maison Dason Premier Tonite

An estimated one in 14 American children is growing up with a parent in prison. #TreMaisonDasanPBS premieres tonight at 10/9c (via @Colorlines) https://t.co/4Is5QpRYdq — Independent Lens|PBS (@IndependentLens) April 1, 2019
New PBS Doc 'Tre Maison Dason' Explores Growing Up With An Incarcerated ParentOne in 14 American children has a parent who is currently, or was previously, in prison. “Tre Maison Dasan” follows three of these children.
Tiarra MukherjeeApr 1, 201912:17PM EDT "Tre Maison Dasan" is a moving portrait told through the eyes of three young boys growing up with a parent in jail. Denali Tiller’s new film, “Tre Maison Dasan,” is an eye-opening look at the way children are punished for their parents’ crimes, an underexposed social disruption we ignore at our peril.

According to a report by The Sentencing Project, an estimated one in 14 American children is growing up with a parent in prison. “Tre Maison Dasan” follows three of these children and thei…

What making America great again really means

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What White Supremacists Know What making America great again really means. by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, from Evil Empire | Spring 2019


More than 4,400 African-American men, women, and children were hanged, burned alive, shot, drowned, and beaten to death by white mobs between 1877 and 1950. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, in Montgomery, Alabama, is a sacred space for truth-telling and reflection about racial terror in America and its legacy. Photo and caption courtesy Soniakapdia via Creative Commons.
The United States has been at war every day since its founding, often covertly and often in several parts of the world at once. As ghastly as that sentence is, it still does not capture the full picture. Indeed, prior to its founding, what would become the United States was engaged—as it would continue to be for more than a century following—in internal warfare to piece together its continental territory. Even during the Civil War, both the Union …

The release of Modern Slavery Data Stories

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Governments Are Not Effectively Tackling Modern Slavery, New UN Data Tool ShowsHuman Wrongs Watch29 March 2019 — A new UN data tool created by the United Nations University’s Centre for Policy Research, has revealed that, worldwide, government aid and policy to end modern slavery is not being effectively directed towards the places where the practice is most prevalent.* ILO/A. Khemka | Forced labour often means unpaid wages, excessively long work hours without rest days, confiscation of ID documents, little freedom of movement, deception, intimidation and physical or sexual violence. ILO/A. Khemka The release of Modern Slavery Data Stories, a series of easily understandable animated graphics, gives detailed pictures of the ways that factors related to modern slavery have changed over time, and comes during a period when over 40 million people are living in slavery, more than ever before in human history. UN-led research shows that half of those enslaved are working as force…

The Case for Reparations

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The Whitening of a President

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Six artists each shared their version of the portrait and their perspective on the whitening of Nieto and the necessity in questioning whether or not should to be black in order to speak about Afro-Colombian identity.

READ: The Whitening Of A President | Contemporary And

Theory? Polygenism

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Harvard University sued over allegedly profiting from what are believed to be the earliest photos of American slaves
Joseph Garrison, March 20, 2019, USA Today



BOSTON — In 1850, a Swiss-born Harvard University professor commissioned what are believed to be the earliest photos of American slaves.

The images, known as daguerreotypes and taken in a South Carolina studio, are crude and dehumanizing — and they were used to promote racist beliefs.

Among the photographed: an African man named Renty and his daughter Delia. They were stripped naked and photographed from several angles. Former professor Louis Agassiz, a biologist, had the photos taken to support an erroneous theory called polygenism that he and others used to argue African-Americans were inferior to white people.

Now, a woman who claims to be a direct descendant of that father and child – Tamara Lanier, the great-great-great granddaughter of Renty – is suing Harvard over the photos.

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More evidence of Racial Bias

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Stanford researchers looked at 100 million police traffic stops and found a lot of racial bias.

READ: Inside 100 million police traffic stops: New evidence of racial bias

Racism meets sexism

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MMCA 2018 Sizzle Reel - Moving The Needle On Media Diversity

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On Resentment

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A young Black Frenchman aims a gun at le flic that gunned down his friend; a Filipino youth stabs his girlfriend’s pimp to death; an Argentine colonial official has both his hands axed off. These are just some of the dramatic scenes in the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s (BAM) new series, On Resentment, in dialogue with our time’s own resentful, violent zeitgeist, often in the context of marginalized communities and racism.  Emily Wang and Matthew Shen Goodman, the editors of Triple Canopy magazine, which co-presented the series with BAM curator Ashley Clark, ask in their online essay, “A Note on Resentment”:
What are the possibilities and limitations of resentment—as a basis for thinking, speaking, and writing, establishing intimacy and forging solidarity? How does resentment shape not only how we speak but what we say? How is resentment stoked, policed, circulated, and mobilized? How does resentment channel our attentions and efforts, and to what ends?read

Failures | Diets

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Ida B. Wells vs. Frances Willard: Getting to the truth of a failure to fight racial injustice
Leslie Harris and Lori Osborne, March 11, 2019, The Chicago Sun-Times

The failure of the early Women’s Movement to incorporate black voices was glaringly obvious in the clash between two Chicago-area titans of women’s history: Ida B. Wells and Frances Willard.

Under Willard’s leadership, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union increasingly became an advocate for broad social as well as political change. However, in 1894 and 1895, Willard and anti-lynching activist Wells fought a war of words in the international press that leaders of today’s movements for equality would do well to bear in mind.

Frustrated that white reformers such as Willard failed to stand with her against the terrible violence being perpetrated by lynch mobs against blacks in the South, Wells publicly called Willard to account. She convinced an English newspaper to reprint a previously published interview in whic…

Where we live makes a difference

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Over one in ten households in the U.S. spends more than half their income on housing costs – a financial burden that is associated with increased food insecurity, child poverty and a greater proportion of people in fair or poor health – according to new research conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
The annual collaboration, County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, analyzes the factors that influence health, such as structural factors, access to and quality of health care, and personal health behaviors, as well as health outcomes for almost every county in the nation. This year’s analysis, which examines both location and race, has a particular emphasis on housing. The research reveals that in the most segregated counties nearly one in four black households spends more than half their income on housing, compared with one in 10 white households.


Here are some of the key findings:
On average, rates of “seve…
Yesterday we obeyed kings and bent our necks before emperors. But today we kneel only to truth, follow only beauty, and obey only love.
~Kahlil Gibran (1883 –1931), Lebanese American artist, poet, and writer.

sexism is the primal, or first, form of oppression in humanity

Sexism is a form of oppression and domination. As author Octavia Butler put it, "Simple peck-order bullying is only the beginning of the kind of hierarchical behavior that can lead to racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, classism, and all the other 'isms' that cause so much suffering in the world."

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Little Man Little Man

White Fragility