Tag Archives: Harriet Tubman

M.G. Reviews: Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and The Traveling Theater of History


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Happy Black Speculative Fiction Month. This month I will post reviews and lists of black speculative works that I’ve read recently. By the way, please support my Go Fund Me as I raise money to get a new laptop and continue building my writing career. Here is my review of The Underground Railroad:

It is 2016 and although times have changed, sometimes it feels like deja vu when I see one after another incidents of state-sanctioned violence and injustice done towards black people. Sometimes I wonder if things are for certain changing or just changing costume and name, that time is just changing its face and the past and present are collapsing in on each other. Our concept of freedom shapeshifts as much as the injustice and violence; with every change in environment; it is another way we have to adapt and strategize on how to fight back.

Continue reading M.G. Reviews: Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and The Traveling Theater of History

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“Space:Queens”: Lacresha Berry


Lacresha Berry
Photo by Kim-Julie Hansen (@kimjuliehansen)

As I currently work on my fantasy novel based in Queens and inspired by the Underground Railroad (two of the characters are based on Harriet Tubman and William Still), I look forward to featuring others who are continuing to share the legacy of our ancestors and heroes who fought for freedom and for us to be here in this moment today.

 

One of those people is Lacresha Berry, a local Queens-based educator, singer-songwriter and playwright. Currently, she is writing a one-woman show about Harriet Tubman and t-shirt line for Air Tubman. Continue reading to find out more about her and her previous and upcoming work within the community.

 

“I just felt it was important to understand our histories in context to the larger global community and tell stories that haven’t been told. Instead of complaining about not being taught these things, I wanted to create a conversation that there are black Kentuckians. We exist and we helped to shape the state that it is today. We contributed to country music, blues and bluegrass.”

 

1)      Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Lacresha Berry and I’m an artist—educator, artivist, singer-songwriter, playwright, actress, and sometimes lyricist. I was raised in the great state of Kentucky. I came to NYC—actually this month, in 2003. So, I guess you can say I’m a New Yorker now. Well, at least I live the life of one. I graduated from the University of Kentucky with a BA in theatre. I came to NYC for grad school at NYU. At the time, I was really into costume design and got accepted at Tisch for Costume Design for Stage and Film. I ended going for about a year and began full time teaching in 2005 after stints of being a sub and after-school teacher.

Continue reading “Space:Queens”: Lacresha Berry

The My-Stery: Honoring Black Women’s Voices, Bodies and Supernaturalness


Robert Pruitt - "Dreaming Celestial" (Reminded me of Harriet Tubman)
Robert Pruitt – “Dreaming Celestial” (Reminded me of Harriet Tubman)

“The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling.” – Audre Lorde

Quite a number of people within the past couple of weeks have basically told black women (and other women of color in general) that our voices, our bodies and any power we have –present, past or future — is not to be respected or honored. On several fronts we are attacked, from our erasure from mainstream feminism (#solidarityisforwhitewomen) to our erasure from racial discourse (#blackpowerisforblackmen). Even women who expect to be revered are treated trivially. Last week, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons released a Harriet Tubman “sex tape” that he thought was suppose to be funny. Afrofuturists know Tubman as an icon in our spaces, just look at Chronicles of Harriet, Sanford Biggers, , and Cauleen Smith. Yes, he took the video down, after he was quickly called out on it, and his apology was basically all bull, implying that we were too sensitive, and not the critique of the racially misogynist (or misogynoir) aspects of the video. For example, having Tubman seduce a white master matches the jezebel stereotype and reinforces notions of black women’s incapability of being raped. Additionally, it was the inaccuracy of the video to Tubman’s story and the reduction of a woman to degrading, pornographic sex. Now he wants to do a movie about Tubman. C’mon, please! Rather than waiting for that half-assed sorry that will be that film, below are some works that show greater respect for us. For the past few weeks, I have read and viewed works that spoke to me as a Black woman about us reclaiming our power in different situations.

The three works — two from Caribbean writers, Nalo Hopinkson’s Midnight Robber and Marie-Elena John’s Unburnable, and the other, a Cameroonian film, Jean-Pierre Bekolo’s Les Saignantes (The Bloodettes) — all explore stories of women who fight to overcome sexual oppression, sometimes even at the hands of other women, through a re-imagining of themselves and a reclaiming of feminine ancestral wisdom and bodies. One of the most striking parts that is similar in all three is the reliance of ancestral feminine wisdom and ritual, and ancestral women by the main characters, much like what we should do with Harriet Tubman. (*warning: spoilers coming*)

Continue reading The My-Stery: Honoring Black Women’s Voices, Bodies and Supernaturalness

Otherworldly Videos: Kina Sky + Ain’t Nothing But a She Thing


Sorry everyone that I have been gone so long. I kind of was distracted for a bit. But I am back! In light of some of the recent internet controversies that happened last week, including one involving Harriet Tubman (shame on you Russell!), here is a some uplifting videos: 1) Kina Sky from Jamaican filmmaker Corretta Singer (found her film on caribBEING) 2) and an oldie but goodie — Salt n Pepa’s “Ain’t Nothing But a She Thing.” Enjoy!

“Kina Sky is a short sci-fi digitally animated fantasy film… The lead character, who the movie is named after, is a cyborg who takes to flight and must overcome obstacles along the way.”

Continue reading Otherworldly Videos: Kina Sky + Ain’t Nothing But a She Thing

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

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.