Category Archives: african-american

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“Nothing is more punk rock than surviving in a hungry sea of white noise:” Reflections on Afropunk

It’s hard not to feel something for Afropunk, even if your punk days were long behind you (if they ever existed at all.)

For me, a DC girl raised on hip-hop with a twist of go-go (but with enough friends drawing Xs on their hands to dabble a bit into other people’s rebellions), Afropunk is like gazing into the looking glass. I’ve never been, though I love that it exists. For me, Afropunk came a little too late – my black friends who were into skating and punk rock were memories long before James Spooner pulled the original film out of his mind and on to celluloid. I would have loved Afropunk when I was young, but grew up fine without it. At some point, we sort out who we are supposed to be – Afropunk wasn’t an identity then the way it is now. And after my friend Tiff sent three essays around the Afropunk festival, which happened last weekend in Brooklyn, NYC, I’m not sure what the Afropunk identity means anymore – and I’m honestly wondering if it was supposed to be an identity at all.

Over at Pitchfork, Hanif Abdurraqib bared his soul in a beautiful, moving essay on being black in punk space. You don’t need to identify with the music to feel what he’s saying. It opens with the kind of moment most of us have experienced:

I don’t remember the first time I heard a racist joke at a punk rock show. Rather, I don’t remember the first time I was grabbed into a sweaty half-hug by one of the laughing white members of my Midwest punk scene and told don’t worry about it. We don’t think of you that way. I don’t remember the first time I saw a teenage girl shoved out of the way so that a teenage boy her size, or greater, could have a better view of a stage. I don’t remember the first time that I made an excuse for being a silent witness.

And passages like this one hit home, cutting almost to the bone:

It is a luxury to romanticize blood, especially your own. It is a luxury to be able to fetishize violence, especially the violence that you inflict upon others. To use it as a bond, or to call it church, or to build an identity around it while knowing that everyone you can send home bloody will not come back for revenge. To walk home bloody. To walk home at night. At the time of writing this, a video is circulating of a black man being killed by police, on camera. Before this, there was another black man. And a black boy. And black women vanishing in jail. And black trans women vanishing into the night. I do not blame punk rock for this. I instead ask to consider the impact of continuing to glorify a very specific type of white violence and invisibility of all others in an era where there is a very real and very violent erasure of the bodies most frequently excluded from the language, culture, and visuals of punk rock. I ask myself who it serves when I see countless images showing examples of why “punk rock is a family”, images with only white men. It does no good to point at a neighborhood of burning houses while also standing in a house on fire. It is true, in 2015, the flames in the house of punk may climb up the walls more slowly than, say, the flames in the Fox News building. But the house is still on fire. Too often, the choice in punk rock and D.I.Y. spaces for non-white men is a choice between being tokenized, or being invisible.

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Revenge Of The Blerd: The Racialicious Review of Dope

By Arturo R. García

What’s supposed to be a romantic moment in Rick Famuyiwa’s Dope ends up being one of its more problematic: we see the protagonist, Malcolm, tell his love interest Nakia, “Don’t sell yourself short” when she explains that, should she get her GED, she plans to attend a community college before, hopefully, moving on to Cal State Fullerton or a school in that system.

Malcolm’s remark is meant to be encouraging, to spur her on to defying expectations. But there’s also a touch of unwitting condescension, of classism in play in that response. And the vexing thing about Dope is that it’s a coming-of-age tale that won’t let him see that other side even as it insists he’s maturing before our eyes.

SPOILERS under the cut
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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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Henry Zbyszynski, via Flickr

The Hollow Promise of “Inclusivity”: Saida Grundy and Boston University

By Tope Fadiran

It’s hard out there for white men on college campuses. At least, that’s what American media would have us believe, given its coverage of the current controversy swirling around Dr. Saida Grundy, a Black scholar recently hired (effective July 1, 2015) by Boston University as an assistant professor of Sociology and African American Studies.

In reality, the way in which Dr. Grundy has been unceremoniously shoved into the spotlight proves the exact opposite: Black women on our campuses, even those who have reached the highest levels of educational achievement, are political and cultural targets simply for existing. There is no other explanation for the fact that this all began with a white man whose response to Grundy’s hiring was to go in search of something he could use to undermine her intellectual and professional standing.

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Quoted: Chris Rock on Race and “Progress”

What would you do in Ferguson that a standard reporter wouldn’t?

I’d do a special on race, but I’d have no black people.

Well, that would be much more revealing.

Yes, that would be an event. Here’s the thing. When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.

Right. It’s ridiculous.

So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, “Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.” It’s not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner. Nothing. It just doesn’t. The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.

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Live From San Diego Comic Fest: The Afrofuturism Panel

By Arturo R. García

The final day of the Comic Fest opened with one of the most far-ranging topics in speculative fiction in Afrofuturism. And true to form, the speakers reached into the past and toward the future in discussing not only their interpretation of the concept, but how it has influenced their fandom and their work.
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Straight Razors and Social Justice: The Empowering Evolution of Black Barbershops

By Guest Contributor Hunter Oatman-Stanford

This post is an edited version of an interview that ran at Collector’s Weekly on May 30, 2014.

In a country where institutionalized racism has been the norm for centuries, black barbershops remain an anomaly. Though initially blocked from serving black patrons, these businesses evolved into spaces where African Americans could freely socialize and discuss contemporary issues. While catering to certain hair types may have helped these businesses succeed, the real secret to their longevity is their continued social import. For many African Americans, getting a haircut is more than a commodity—it’s an experience that builds community and shapes political action. As both a proud symbol of African American entrepreneurship and a relic of an era when black labor exclusively benefited whites, black barbershops provide a window into our nation’s complicated racial dynamics.

Quincy Mills, a professor of history at Vassar College, started looking closely at black barbershops when assisting Melissa Harris-Perry with research for her first book, Barbershops, Bibles, BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought. Harris-Perry was investigating the ways African Americans developed their worldviews through collective conversation, specifically looking at three sectors: black churches, entertainment, and barbershops.

Harris-Perry wanted to do a close study of barbershops, but was worried that as a woman, her presence would alter the nature of the space and its conversation. In her place, Mills observed the interactions of a barbershop on the South Side of Chicago four to five days a week during the summer of 2000. “As I sat there day in and day out, I couldn’t help but wonder how these spaces have been situated historically,” says Mills. “I had seen passing mentions of black barbershops in the literature on black urban history, but there weren’t any books on the topic. I wondered, ‘Were these shops the same in 1940? And what about 1840?’”

Mills spent the next decade researching the barbershop trade for his book, Cutting Along the Color Line: Black Barbers and Barber Shops in America, drawing fascinating connections between race, capitalism, and culture. We recently spoke with Mills about the roots of black barbershops and their relevance today.
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