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In Her Own Words: Dr. Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

Author, poet and educator Dr. Maya Angelou, January 1993. Photo by Getty Images via achievement.org

I thought I would be a poet and playwright. Those were the two forms I really enjoyed. I made my living as a journalist, of course, but I thought that I would just stick with those and I would become better and better and better. But in ’68 … I was at a dinner — now this is name-dropping, but these were the people — James Baldwin had taken me over to see Jules Feiffer and Jules’ then-wife, Judy Feiffer, and we talked all night, and I really had to work very hard to get a word in because they’re all great raconteurs.

The next day, Judy Feiffer called a man who is still my editor at Random House and said, “If you can get her to write an autobiography, I think you’d have something.” He phoned me a number of times, Robert Loomis, and I said, “No, I’m not interested,” until he said to me, “Well, Ms. Angelou, I guess it’s just as well that you don’t attempt this book because to write autobiography as literature is almost impossible.” So I thought, “Oh, well, in that case, I better try.” Well, I found that’s the form I love. I love autobiography. … It challenges me to try and speak through the first-person singular and mean the third-person plural.

NPR, 1986

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The ‘N’ Word Through The Ages: The ‘Madness’ Of HP Lovecraft

By Guest Contributor Phenderson Djeli Clark, cross-posted from Media Diversified UK

When, long ago, the gods created Earth
In Jove’s fair image Man was shaped at birth.
The beasts for lesser parts were next designed;
Yet were they too remote from humankind.
To fill the gap, and join the rest to Man,
Th’Olympian host conceiv’d a clever plan.
A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure,
Filled it with vice, and called the thing a N*gger.

– H.P. Lovecraft, On the Creation of N*ggers (1912)

Author H.P. Lovecraft

I had come to believe that by now the racism of H.P. Lovecraft, the celebrated author of horror and fantasy, was a settled matter — like declaring Wrath of Khan the best film in the Star Trek franchise. Arguing against such a thing should be absurd. I certainly thought so after the matter was thrust into the spotlight in December 2011, when author Nnedi Okorafor won the esteemed World Fantasy Award — whose statuette is none other than H.P. Lovecraft’s disembodied head. Okorafor had been unaware of the depths of Lovecraft’s “issues,” until a friend sent her his 1912 poem,On the Creation of N*ggers, where blacks are fashioned by the gods as “a beast … in semi-human figure.”

This was no one-off, some “misspeak” by the author. Lovecraft’s racial biases ran deep and strong, as evidenced by his stories–from exotic locales with tropic natives lacerating themselves before mad gods in acts of “negro fetishism” (Call of Cthulhu), to descriptions of a black man as “gorilla-like” and one of the world’s “many ugly things” (Herbert West — Re-animator). This was no abstract part of Lovecraft’s creative process, where he was trying to imbue his work with some hint of realism. Rather, these were expressions of his foremost thoughts, a key part of his personal beliefs, most notably his virulent xenophobia towards an increasingly diverse American society emerging outside of his Anglo-Saxon New England.
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Quoted: Reappropriate On Fighting Misogyny in Asian-American communities

I have been routinely accused – often by these very same Asian American misogynists – of having a problem with Asian American men. Let me be clear: I don’t have a problem with Asian American men. I firmly believe in the political uplift of Asian American men, and the dismantling of institutionalized Asian American emasculation.

I just think that our definition of masculinity – specifically, our uncritical embrace of mainstream misogylinity – is flawed.

Misogylinity – masculinity defined by sexual conquest, or what the seduction community calls the “game” – is fundamentally misogynist; it is also heterosexist and racist. It fails to critically challenge racist stereotypes, including those that posit Black men as hypersexual and Asian American men as asexual. Individual, straight men of colour might achieve a modicum of masculine success by playing this “game” and repositioning themselves towards the center (defined by normative Whiteness),  but this doesn’t challenge the fundamental stereotypes upon which the entire misogylinist “game” is built. Even if some Asian American win, all Asian American men still lose because the “game” is fundamentally rigged against us.

The solution that brings actual uplift of Asian American men – and all men of colour – is to stop playing. It is to change the rules.

— From “Masculinity vs. “Misogylinity”: what Asian Americans can learn from #UCSB shooting”

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Voices: Racism and Misogyny Fuel A California Tragedy

Candlelight vigil for the victims of the shooting and stabbing attacks in Isla Vista, California. Image via The Associated Press.

Today, UC Santa Barbara will cancel classes to mourn George Chen, Katie Cooper, Cheng Yuan Hong, Chris Martinez, Weihan Wang, and Veronika Weiss, the six people whose deaths at the hands of a young biracial man — we will not print his full name in this space if we can help it — over the weekend brought sudden, needed attention to several particularly toxic strains of performative cis-masculinity.

But, while debates continue over the causes of the fatal attacks and the killer’s motivations, what cannot be argued anymore is that this is an outlier.

Driving that conversation were tags like #YesAllWomen and #YesAllWhiteWomen, and When Women Refuse, a tumblr created by activist Deanna Zandt to highlight other stories of men who felt so entitled to womens’ bodies and spaces that they responded with violence to their privilege being rebuffed.

Under the cut, we’ve compiled portions of some of the most informative analyses of the situation.

Editor’s Note: Trigger Warning for the subject matter.
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Memorial Day: Remembering Soldiers of Color [The Throwback]

In honor of the U.S. celebrating Memorial Day today, we are reprinting this 2012 piece featuring veterans from many of our communities

We’ll begin with a video that was shown here in San Diego earlier this year, at a celebration of the Congressional Gold Medal awarded two years ago to the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and and U.S. Military Intelligence Service (MIS). The unit, composed mostly of Japanese-Americans, would see heavy action during World War II in Europe, and would go on to produce 21 Medal of Honor recipients. This unit’s exploits were chronicled in fictional form in the film Only The Brave, the trailer of which can be seen here.

[Note: One video under the cut auto-plays, but is SFW.]
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[Friday Throwback]: Preparing My Kids To Be Able To Run Through Walls

Originally published on 9-7-2010, by Guest Contributor Paula, originally published at Heart, Mind, and Seoul

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You simply cannot train for a marathon without hearing about hitting the dreaded “wall”. The marathon wall is a commonly used term to describe the ultimate running fatigue that typically happens around the 20th mile of an endurance run such as the marathon (26.2 miles). Muscles grow heavy with fatigue and one’s pace slows down considerably. The body literally hits the wall and it can feel almost impossible to keep moving forward.

The first marathon I ever ran was in New York City. I was lucky enough to connect with the New York Road Runners Club and I had some amazing coaches, not to mention a host of running partners to keep me motivated. I remember attending a running clinic that was geared specifically towards first time marathoners and the panel talked about the wall. I left that auditorium determined that I would not be another one of its victims.

I gave myself a full year to train for the marathon. Single and ready to conquer the world, I had nothing but time and excess energy to invest into my overall training. Marathon wall be damned! Maybe I was too young or inexperienced to believe that I could train enough to avoid any pitfalls during the race, but it was the fear of that cursed wall that pushed me to train above and beyond what my already rigorous training program required.

I hope this doesn’t across as too arrogant, but I honestly found the marathon to be one long, fun and dare I say, easy run. Mile 20 came and went. Same with mile 21. Mile 22 came around and I felt stronger than ever with random bursts of extra energy. The last four miles of the race ended up being my fastest mile splits ever. I was high on the intensity and enthusiasm of the crowd as well as buoyed by the many, many hours of training I had put in over the past year (oh and I’m sure that little thing called adrenaline didn’t hurt, either). Granted, my time of 4 hours and 20 minutes was nothing to write home about, but I had accomplished a personal goal and had a blast doing it in the best city in the world (my .02!) – all while avoiding that cursed wall.

There are no shortages of examples written by those who believe that the marathon is a metaphor for life. Certainly I can reflect back on the 3 different marathons that I’ve completed and draw parallels to how my own life has played out. My last marathon was run with minimal training, an attitude that bordered on sheer apathy and a lack of respect that a marathon calls for and rightfully deserves. Not only did I hit the wall, but I incurred a rather serious injury that forced me to walk almost the last 5 miles of the race. I contend that the biggest difference between my first marathon (enjoyable and fun) and my third marathon (miserable at best) was all in the training and preparation.

As a person of color, I think of how many times I have hit the wall in my life as I navigate through this racially charged world in which we live. Continue reading

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Walk Like Some Egyptians: Breaking down Fox’s Hieroglyph

By Guest Contributor Monique Jones

The cast of Fox’s “Hieroglyph.” All images courtesy of Fox.

Fox’s latest high-concept sci-fi drama, Hieroglyph, is as fascinating as it is potentially problematic.

The show begins airing early 2015 with a doozy of a storyline: Master thief Ambrose is taken from prison by Pharaoh Shai Kanakht to find the dangerous and magical Book of Thresholds. The story also incorporates sexual and political scandals thanks to the machinations of Pharaoh Shai’s half-sister Nefertari Kanakht; his advisor, Magister Bek; Ambrose’s lost love and second-rate priestess, Peshet; Vocifer, a peddler and old friend of Ambrose’s; the Pharaoh’s captain of the guard, Rawser and Lotus Tenry, a palace concubine and spy for the enemy kingdom.

Oh, and there are also vampires, for some reason.

Everything (except for the vampires) sounds great, but there are some pros and cons with this show. Let’s go down the list.
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Quoted: Ta-Nehisi Coates on The History of Segregation in Chicago

Protest against discriminatory housing practices in Cicero, Illinois, 1966. Image via The Atlantic

In 1948, when the Supreme Court ruled that restrictive covenants, while permissible, were not enforceable by judicial action, Chicago had other weapons at the ready. The Illinois state legislature had already given Chicago’s city council the right to approve—and thus to veto—any public housing in the city’s wards. This came in handy in 1949, when a new federal housing act sent millions of tax dollars into Chicago and other cities around the country. Beginning in 1950, site selection for public housing proceeded entirely on the grounds of segregation. By the 1960s, the city had created with its vast housing projects what the historian Arnold R. Hirsch calls a “second ghetto,” one larger than the old Black Belt but just as impermeable. More than 98 percent of all the family public-housing units built in Chicago between 1950 and the mid‑1960s were built in all-black neighborhoods.

Governmental embrace of segregation was driven by the virulent racism of Chicago’s white citizens. White neighborhoods vulnerable to black encroachment formed block associations for the sole purpose of enforcing segregation. They lobbied fellow whites not to sell. They lobbied those blacks who did manage to buy to sell back. In 1949, a group of Englewood Catholics formed block associations intended to “keep up the neighborhood.” Translation: keep black people out. And when civic engagement was not enough, when government failed, when private banks could no longer hold the line, Chicago turned to an old tool in the American repertoire—racial violence. “The pattern of terrorism is easily discernible,” concluded a Chicago civic group in the 1940s. “It is at the seams of the black ghetto in all directions.” On July 1 and 2 of 1946, a mob of thousands assembled in Chicago’s Park Manor neighborhood, hoping to eject a black doctor who’d recently moved in. The mob pelted the house with rocks and set the garage on fire. The doctor moved away.

In 1947, after a few black veterans moved into the Fernwood section of Chicago, three nights of rioting broke out; gangs of whites yanked blacks off streetcars and beat them. Two years later, when a union meeting attended by blacks in Englewood triggered rumors that a home was being “sold to n*ggers,” blacks (and whites thought to be sympathetic to them) were beaten in the streets. In 1951, thousands of whites in Cicero, 20 minutes or so west of downtown Chicago, attacked an apartment building that housed a single black family, throwing bricks and firebombs through the windows and setting the apartment on fire. A Cook County grand jury declined to charge the rioters—and instead indicted the family’s NAACP attorney, the apartment’s white owner, and the owner’s attorney and rental agent, charging them with conspiring to lower property values. Two years after that, whites picketed and planted explosives in South Deering, about 30 minutes from downtown Chicago, to force blacks out.

— From “The Case For Reparations,” in The Atlantic