This looks amazing, happening in NYC on February 1st at the Museum of the Moving Image:
Do media depictions of African Americans influence the way they are treated by the police, the criminal justice system, and by society at large? In the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in Staten Island, protests have once again raised questions about the criminalization of the black image on screen. This program will bring together a group of leading African-American cultural commentators to look at the history of how African Americans are represented in film and television, beginning with D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation.
William Jelani Cobb, author of The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress, is the director of the Africana Studies Institute, University of Connecticut, and a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and commentator for National Public Radio.
Mia Mask, film professor at Vassar College, is the co-editor of the recent books Poitier Revisited: Reconsidering a Black Icon in the Obama Age, and Black American Cinema Reconsidered. She is the author of Divas on Screen: Black Women in American Film.
Greg Tate is a writer, musician, and producer whose writing has focused on African-American music and culture. He was a long-time staff writer for The Village Voice and his books include Flyboy in the Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America and Everything but the Burden.
Tickets: $12 ($9 for senior citizens and students / free for members at the Film Lover level and above). Order tickets online.
More information here.
The holiday season began on a distressing note late Tuesday night, when a police officer in Berkeley, Missouri — two miles from Ferguson — shot and killed 18-year-old Antonio Martin at a local gas station.
Authorities have released security camera footage they say justifies the shooting. They say the footage shows Martin pointing a gun at the officer. But the footage is grainy and only barely shows Martin, and was immediately questioned by residents and critics. Not only was there a demonstration within hours of Martin’s death, but protesters took to the city’s streets and a nearby interstate the following evening.
Martin’s death came not long after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged demonstrators in his city to postpone further actions in the wake of the fatal shootings of two NYPD officers, Wenjian Liu, Rafael Ramos. Their attacker, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, ambushed the two officers in their patrol car after coming to the city from Baltimore, where he shot his ex-girlfriend, Shaneka Thompson.
As Jay Smooth explains in this episode of The Illipsis for Fusion, while there are police doing good work in their communities, the choice by people representing them to adopt “wartime” rhetoric has only exacerbated tensions between them and the people they are supposed to protect and serve.
“People are not angry at police because of these protests,” he says. “People have been angry at the police for decades because the system is broken, and these protests represent people trying, once and for all, to change that system so they don’t have to be so angry all the time.”
Following in the footsteps of trailblazer Melissa Harris Perry, two more braincrushes just launched shows on MSNBC’s Shift streaming media brand.
Maria Teresa Kumar, co-founder of Voto Latino with Rosario Dawson, is now anchoring “Changing America.”
And Janet Mock, the queen of Redefining Realness, is set to launch her progressive pop culture show this week. We will update here when the clip is available.
Something else happened that day. I realized that I really liked being an anonymous kid on a street corner in L.A. I realized that I really liked not giving a solitary fuck about what anyone was doing, not even myself. I realized that in some way it was my natural state.
Two days later, I started dressing differently.
I cut my own hair into a weird nappy mushroom top. I took this goofy trench coat I had and sliced it at the waist with a pair of scissors. On the chest I sewed the patch that I earned in a middle school spelling bee. I wrote graffiti on the sleeve in Sharpie. I took to wearing pajama bottoms and black chucks.
In short, the combination of Parliament and Hollywood had instantly funked me out.
And it worked, because the first time I left the house in this new uniform, I experienced something that I never had before. You might call it freedom. Abandon. Cultural immunity. I had a self. It was adolescent and awkward and trying too hard. But it was my very own self. It was a me that was all mine. It didn’t matter what anyone thought about it. For a brief moment in time, I simply didn’t give a fuck.
And that’s an important thing. When you have come to regard your very skin color as an insufferable disease, when you have to punch other people in the mouth just so you can be ok with who you are, not giving a fuck is the single most divine experience you can ever have.
- Carvell Wallace, “How to Raise Hell in Three Steps: on RUN-D.M.C, Parliament, Blackness and Revolution,” Pitchfork
Eddie Bautista, the longtime environmental justice advocate and director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, was quoted in the article saying about Garner’s death, “There are [a] number of ways that racism plays out … The asthma is just one more example.”
I thought the article used a poor occasion to illuminate racial asthma disparities. Bautista explained the larger context to me, though, saying, “The [article] doesn’t take the cops off the hook; on the contrary, it further indicts institutionalized racism in the U.S. for permeating the very air we breathe.”
I initially resisted this notion, refusing to see the connection. In my mind, there was the cop killing Garner in one hand, and Garner’s asthma in another — unrelated. And despite the millions of words I’ve spent over the years showing natural linkage between environmental problems, health problems, and racial justice, my anger with the Garner tragedy only allowed me to realize the police racism and violence. Just because I couldn’t see, or refused to see, the asthma link, though, did not mean it didn’t matter.
“Limiting the conversation about racism to just about how we’re policed is a lost opportunity,” Bautista wrote to me. “Folks should care not only about how racism kills quickly (via the police), but how racism also kills slowly and insidiously. ”
- Brentin Mock, “Why environmentalists should support the Black Lives Matter protests“
A day after a grand jury decided not to indict a New York City police officer in connection with the death of Eric Garner, protests calling for justice in his name — alongside that of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Tanisha Anderson and others — have been scheduled in cities around this country beginning on Thursday.
We’ve listed some of them below, per information from the Ferguson National Response Network. While the #ICantBreathe tag was used extensively for Wednesday night’s protests in New York City, organizers are using the tags #ThisStopsToday and #JusticeForEricGarner for this weekend’s actions. If you know of any in your area, you are encouraged to list it in the comments.
All Times Local
- Detroit: Campus Maritius Park, 800 Woodward Ave., 12:03 p.m.
- Durham: Duke University Chapel Lawn, 401 Chapel Dr., 1:45 p.m.
- Washington, D.C.: Justice Department building, 950 Pennsylvania, Ave. NW, 4 p.m.
- Houston: Houston Police Department, 1200 Travis St., 4:30 p.m.
- Note: A separate action in Houston is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Sarah D. Roosevelt Park, on Houston between Forsyth and Christie.
- Baltimore: McKeldin Square, intersection of Light St. and Pratt, 5 p.m.
- Atlanta: Downtown Underground, 50 Upper Alabama St., 5:30 p.m.
- Indianapolis: 1 Monument Circle, 5:30 p.m.
- New York City: Foley Square, 111 Worth St., 5:30 p.m.
- Boston: Boston Common, Park St. entrance, across from the Lowes movie theatre, 7 p.m.
- Dallas: Dallas Police Department, 1400 S. Lamar St., 7:30 p.m.
The full listing can be found at the Ferguson National Response Network website.
There will be those who will reduce Monday night to the sights of burning buildings and tear gas around Ferguson, Missouri, and use that to excuse and explain the police violence that both incited and accompanied them.
But the reality is, demonstrators marched — peacefully — both in Ferguson and around the country not long after a local grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for shooting and killing 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9. These activists were not alone, and they will not be the last. This space is to recognize their presence, despite the insistence of certain narratives that they were not.