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Category Archives: Histories

Rewind: Looking Back to Go Forward


For the last Rewind post for this month, here  is an episode from the Black History Month episode of Sister, Sister “I Have a Dream,” where Tamera is struggling with life changes and moving forward. She has a dream where she travels through the past meeting different well-known black figures who made a change in the world, and discovers that while change and the future can be scary, she is not alone because those who came before had to overcome the same fears to clear the path to a better future. The last scene we see that someone travels from the future to her to let her know that there are people who depend on her in the future, just as we did with our ancestors. Sankofa!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

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Posted by on February 28, 2014 in Afrofuturism/Afrosurrealism, Film, Histories, Rewind

 

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Black Girls/Black Women Are from the Future: Free Angela


Angela Davis is more than an afro and if you think wearing an afro is radical and revolutionary enough, then you do not know much about Angela Davis’ life. Having grown up in Birmingham and knowing the girls who were murdered in the Birmingham church bombing, Davis seemed destined to want to make a change in the world and she did. Here was a black women who received a Ph.D. in philosophy, spoke out against the Prison Industrial Complex long before it was a popular phrase and in the mainstream, was tracked by the FBI for her outspokenness and links to communism and the Black Panthers, and later came out as a lesbian. And she did this all as a black woman!

Living in a world where power and knowledge is equaled to mainly male, white and heterosexual, all of that was quite a feat. We need to know about her and others like her as a part of our history, and the many aspects of them that connect to us. As Erykah Badu said in The Black Power Mixtape, what we need to do is read, write and document our stories because if we do not, we allow people to twist those stories in their favor. Shola Lynch’s film Free Angela and All Political Prisoners is another chance for the hunted to take back their story from the hunter. Happy Women’s History Month to Angela Davis and the film will be in theaters April 5th.

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MLK Jr. in the Imagination….


Today is Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Here is a tribute to him with a few  artists who were inspired by him in their work. First, a brief look at the life of King in graphic form:

MLK Infographic

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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Histories, Holidays, Music

 

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Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth: Nathaniel Mackey’s “Sound and Sentience”


I wrote before about how limbo is a tangible dance recovery of the phantom limb or broken connection (a tangible made into an intangible) produced by the Atlantic between Africa and the Americas. Poet and writer Nathaniel Mackey also has written about it in his poems and essays, like “Sound and Sentiment, Sound and Symbol,” which I recently read in Postmodern American Poetry: The Norton Anthology.  In the essay, Mackey explains that sound and music are proof of the invisible worlds, outside of the physical, tangible world. Essentially, they are ghostly and godly, symbolizing something missing, something broken, or something desired to be expressed (“music encourages us to see that the symbolic is the Orphic, that the symbolic realm is the realm of the orphan” – 665). He relates it to the myth of the muni bird in the Kalui culture of Papa New Guinea. Reading it, I thought of Sionne R. Neely’s essay “Something’s Got a Hold on Me: ‘Lingering Whispers’ of the Atlantic Slave Trade in Ghana” and the notion that these “lingering whispers” are recorded in our bodies (maybe even our DNA) or that we feel them even if they are not physically there. These tie together music, dance, memory, spirit possession rituals and the effect of the transatlantic slave trade. Read Mackey’s poem below:

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The My-Stery: Black Women Who Are Philosophers


Kathryn Gines and Joyce Mitchell Cook Source: Feminist Philosophies

Online PhD sent me a link to this list about female philosophers and the post generated some thoughts about the lack of attention around women in philosophy, particularly black women, leading me to a few interesting finds. Philosophy, which means “love of knowledge or wisdom,” is one of the oldest studies in human history. Afrofuturism itself can be considered a philosophy or a philosophical field, since it is a way of thinking about, feeling and engaging with the world. But often philosophy is attributed to men, especially white European men. Philosophers like Aristotle, Sophocles, Kant, and Nietzsche are constantly mentioned and praised with little criticism outside of the usual boundaries. Sometimes other cultures are mentioned in philosophy, like Chinese philosophers, Indian philosophers or a brief mention of the Egyptian Ptahotep, but other than that not much else. So, what space is there for other kinds of philosophers, including female ones of the African Diaspora.

In 2007, the Collegium of Black Women Philosophers had their first meeting to gather together women who are in the field. Later in 2011, when The Philosopher’s Eye did a post on the future of philosophy to celebrate World Philosophy Day, all of the philosopher’s included were men, showing still an uphill battle in recognition of women philosophers and philosophers of color There is already a small percentage of black philosophers, and the amount of women who are is even smaller. Below is a list of some of them:

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Posted by on October 24, 2012 in Histories, Race/Gender/Sexuality, The My-Stery

 

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A Strange Look at Columbus Day….


I was looking for something different to post for this Columbus Day and while searching, I came across a number of “interesting” views of Columbus. For many, including myself, we look at Christopher Columbus as someone who exploited and dehumanized indigenous populations for his personal benefit and is credited with, although technically he did not, discovering America. However, not everyone has chosen to look at Columbus in as negative or serious manner.

Ink Spots – “Christopher Columbus” (written by Andy Razaf and Leon Brown “Chu” Berry)

According to this source, the song is suppose to be a joke. By the way, the robot picture in the video above is from Fallout 3; the Ink Spots was on the soundtrack for the game.

Listen to Fats Waller  (his version is the silliest) and Maxine Sullivan versions.

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Posted by on October 8, 2012 in Histories, Music, Poetry

 

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Rethinking the ‘Fantasy’ of Africa in Roots Reggae


Professor, author and cultural analyst Louis Chude-Sokei speaks in his lecture, “When Echoes Return: Roots, Diaspora and Possible Africas (A Eulogy).” The lecture centers on the death of South African reggae singer Lucky Dube and how the fantasy of a singular Africa in roots reggae music has been both a dangerous space and a space for possibility for people in Africa.

Also, Chude-Sokei said later in the lecture that “there’s nothing more important than fantasy. Without fantasy, you don’t have politics. Without fantasy, you don’t have reality.” Thoughts?

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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in Histories, Politics, Race/Gender/Sexuality

 

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A Speculative Tribute to Harriet Tubman


Yesterday, I wrote a post about historical revisionism, which included the whitewashing of Harriet Tubman in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Today, I want to showcase artists who have created speculative fiction with Harriet Tubman.

* Pierre Bennu of Exit the Apple‘s Black Moses Barbie mock commercials:

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These commercials “for a Black Moses Barbie toy celebrating the legacy of Harriet Tubman is part of Pierre Bennu’s larger series of paintings and films deconstructing and re-envisioning images of people of color in commercial and pop culture.”

*Balogun‘s steampunk novel Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman Book 1: Kings. Read Alicia McCalla’s interview with Balogun about the book. Both Book 1: Kings and the sequel Book 2: Judges are available in e-book and print.

He also will be premiering this month a film called Rite of Passage: Initiation, which based on a story by Milton Davis. Here is the description:

In this Steampunk short film, Freedom fighter, Dorothy, must overcome hardship – and survive a brutal battle with her iron-fisted mentor, Harriet Tubman – in order to become a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

For more information on Balogun’s work with Harriet Tubman, click here

 

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The My-Stery: Problematic Historical Revision


With the release of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and the upcoming Django Unchained, it is important that we discuss the practice of historical revision, given the political climate we live in today. First, nothing is inherently wrong with historical revision. As we learn more about the past, we revise history. Sometimes we do it as a form of creative expression like historical fiction. However, historical revision becomes a problem when, whether intentionally or not, helps in some form to continue an oppressive framework or system. Recently, within the political realm, this is seen with the constant mentioning of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his “I Have a Dream” speech by conservatives, who conveniently leave out that many of the views King held and fought for would go against their own. How about how conservative Christians and their revising of Jesus to fit their own hurtful beliefs? Or states like Texas, Tennessee and Arizona that want to revise textbooks and classes to reveal less about the country’s horrific past.

This plays out in subtle ways as well, which can be seen in the two slavery-era  films I mentioned before. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter may be fun to watch in its mash-up of horror film and history, but the movie plays off a mythology of Lincoln that has seeped into our country’s memory for almost 150 years. Many believe Lincoln freed the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation, but do not realize that he did so for political gain, economic inequality (for whites) and to unionize the country. He may not have been a big supporter of equal civil rights for all races as found in his speech from the Lincoln-Douglass debate in 1852:

I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races—that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this, that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.

He may have changed his mind later, he may have not, but this shows that he was not the uncomplicated, god-like hero that our country and this film promotes him as today. If the history embedded in the film is not problematic enough, the issue of colorism well hurts it more. The character of Harriet Tubman has a short part in the film, but she is memorable in that the actress, Jaqueline Fleming, looks nothing like the original Harriet Tubman. If the filmmakers could make Lincoln look the way he actually did, why not Tubman and her dark-skin. And barely anyone questioned yet another erasure of dark-skinned black women.

Now onto Django Unchained, which stars Jaime Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio and Christopher Waltz, may also be enjoyable in its own right and probably better than the Lincoln film. But when it is released later this year, I will still nervous about it because I do not trust it. I am afraid that it will rely on stereotypical tropes and make light of the topic of slavery. Positioning this film as a sort of comic revenge film takes away from the systemic reality of slavery. But should I expect any different from Quentin Tarantino, since his work has always been problematic, and does not that necessarily mean it will be bad film? I don’t know, but I know that within the climate we are living in of politicians, media pundits and ignorant citizens as well as educational and media systems that lack substance, these films may hurt more than entertain.

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2012 in Film, Histories, Race/Gender/Sexuality, The My-Stery

 

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“Naming Evil in the World: Hip-Hop’s Blues Footprints”


From the Blues and the Spirit symposium, Mark Anthony Neal discusses the secular and sacred aspects of hip-hop and Black music in general. He speaks about their visionary and prophetic tradition, their practice of naming evil in the world, the subtlety of the musical forms, the musical technology used, and concepts of escape, freedom, fugitivity, exile and criminality within the music. Neal examines these with musical examples like Lil Wayne and Pharoahe Monch.

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2012 in Histories, Music, Religion/Spirituality

 

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