This year has been packed with a lot of ups and downs, but it has also open a few unexpected doors for me that I cannot wait to see come into form next year. So here is a list of my favorite posts I did this year, so you can look back too before we head into the New Year. Thanks for joining me on this ride.
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:
Jay Smooth‘s “Ten Other Things Martin Luther King Said”
When most people think of Martin Luther King, Jr., they tend to think of only his “I Have a Dream Speech” and they usually only think of a small fraction of it. Often they will use the speech to make King seem less radical than he was or to dismiss the real work it takes and is still needed to be anti-racist.
So, these are some links to articles about the appropriation and sanitizing of King’s image:
Controversy over the MLK monument (because he was not smiling)
Racialicious’ post, “Dr. King Said More Than ‘I Have A Dream'”
King’s “The Other America” Speech
Yesterday was the last day of Kwanzaa, so I wanted my first post of the new year to be a video from the Mobile HomeComing Project and Charis Books & More, called “Queer Black Intergenerational BookLUST!” Each book is connected to a principle and a day of Kwanzaa. These poetry books look interesting; I really want to read them.
Also, yesterday was Haiti’s Independence Day and here are some videos in honor of the Haitian Revolution in 1804. Some ways in which you can contribute to the rebuilding of Haiti and the uplifting of Haitian people are available at I Am Haiti Scarves, Doctors Without Borders and Carmen Mojica’s therapy work, These Waters Run Deep.
Charles MiHaitingus- “Haitian Fight Song”
Lecture on the Haitian Revolution Part 1
… who’s naughty or nice.” Although “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” may seem like an innocent Christmas song, could there have been subtle motives to its creation. Last year, I read Mark Anthony Neal‘s post about the song that I found interesting. Here is a sample of it and you can read the rest here.
“Santa Claus is Coming to Town”:
Some Notes on Christmas and State Surveillance
by Mark Anthony Neal
It was one of those Hallmark Mahogany moments; we were all in the living room in front of the fireplace, the Christmas tree was lit, Christmas carols on the stereo as my youngest daughter played Mancala and my oldest finished up her homework. As The Temptations’ stellar version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” played in the background my oldest gave a curious look and blurted out, “Santa sounds like a stalker.” She was referring specifically to the lyric “he knows when you are sleeping/ he knows when you’re awake,/he knows when you’ve been bad or good/So be good for goodness sake. ” My daughter was on to something. Every holiday season millions of American embrace a seemingly innocuous symbol, that is in truth a powerful reminder of the reality of State surveillance in everyday life.
As citizens, we are practically trained to never fully interrogate the dominant symbols that circulate within American culture, including Santa Claus. I remember, as a child, wondering how Santa traveled down a chimney that my family—or anybody else in the South Bronx for that matter—did not possess. In my youthful nationalist days, it was easy to reject the idea that some “fat white man” would be honored for providing gifts that hardworking black women and men, like my parents sacrificed to provide for their families. These critiques largely spoke to the obvious cultural ramifications of Black Americans embracing symbols that did not reflect our heritage. The relative explosion of Ebony Santas and heritage consumables like Hallmark’s Mahogany greeting card line (even Kwanzaa essentials can be purchased at Pier 1) were blatant attempts to respond our need to see our heritage celebrated during the holiday season. But even this heightened sense of multicultural reflection get us further away from the more troubling aspects of Santa Claus.
The obvious critiques of capitalism and crass materialism aside, Santa Claus is but a user friendly symbol of the State’s capacity not only to engage in blatant forms of surveillance, but to essentially police behavior in the absence of actual surveillance. Indeed how many parents have exploited their children’s knowledge that Santa “knows when you are bad or good” as a means of reigning in bad behavior. When you consider the proliferation of Santa Claus imagery in popular media in the post World War II period, much of which targeted children, one gets an inkling of the ways that Americans are socialized at very ages to accept and expect certain forms of State surveillance.
On this Thanksgiving day, while we spend time together with family and friends, eat and be thankful for everything, I still want everyone to be knowledgeable of the myth of the origin of the holiday:
Enjoy the day!
Burning Spear– Christopher Columbus Is a Damned Blasted Liar…
My dad, who is from Dominica, has always sung that song to me when we discuss Christopher Columbus. It is amazing to him how someone can discover somewhere that was already inhabited by people. This man had a huge effect on history, but not as the way we celebrate it today. He was involved not only the dehumanization of Native American populations, but also in the start of the African slave trade. Many people think of him in disgust and yet we are forced to recite how he “discovered America” in 1492 as if it was a great, positive accomplishment for all of us. All of it speaks to the erasure of history and people, from treating people who live in a space as invisible or non-important to ignoring the destruction that came from it.
This website Transform Columbus Day speaks more about the atrocities committed by Columbus.
Reconsider Columbus Day