Category Archives: arts & culture

Visiting Academia: Roger Williams University Lecture, “Re-Racing Steampunk: Race, Memory, And Retrofuturism’

Flier for the author’s appearance at Roger Williams University.

By Guest Contributor Ay-leen The Peacemaker, cross-posted from Beyond Victoriana

Visiting Roger Williams University last Tuesday was an amazing opportunity and a great pleasure to present there. Dr. Jeffrey Meriwether, along with professors Laura D’Amore, Charlotte Carrington, Sargon Donabed, and Debra Mulligan were all immensely welcoming and kind.

That morning, Dr. D’Amore picked me up from the Inn, and she explained that the university has started a new social-justice initiative to embrace the historical impact of its founder. That fall, they had their Social Justice Week to initiate conversations across campus. The History department in particular wanted to contribute to this new venture in innovative ways; hence, the invitation to speak at their campus.

During my visit, I gave presentations to Dr. Carrington’s American History (where they just started a unit on African-Americans during the American War for Independence) and Dr. Donabed’s History of Religion courses (where they are currently studying Western perceptions of indigenous practices versus indigenous perspectives themselves).  Afterward, I held “office hours” in the department lounge for students to come and talk about steampunk and ended up having a long, involved discussions about cosplay, Legend of Korra, and Fullmetal Alchemist. Then came my public lecture at 5PM — and look, I have evidence that it happened!

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Oscars Aftermath: Watch Best Documentary Short Winner Inocente And Read Our Live-Snark

By Arturo R. García

“Just because I’m homeless doesn’t mean I don’t have a life,” Inocente Izucar tells the viewer at the beginning of the short documentary bearing her name. The film, which won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short on Feb. 24, follows the young undocumented immigrant’s journey toward becoming an artist despite hiding her homelessness from her classmates.

“If people would find out, they’d probably make fun of me,” she says. “Especially at the school I’m going to right now. Most of the kids here are like, really rich.”

Directors Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine met the young San Diegan while researching a documentary about homelessness in the area, but quickly opted to focus their project around her.

“We want to thank this young lady who was homeless just a year ago and now she’s standing in front of all of you,” Sean Fine told the audience as the trio accepted their Academy Award. “She’s an artist and all of you are artists and we feel like we need to start supporting the arts. They’re dying in our communities. And all of us artists, we need to stand up and help girls like her be seen and heard. It’s so important.”

With a tip of the hat to Lalo Alcaraz, you can watch the documentary and follow Inocente’s story above. And below the cut, for those of you who follow us on Twitter, the collected live-snarking of the rest of the ceremony.

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Class Notes: The Black Feminist Politics Of Pleasure

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 3.03.42 PMHey Racializens!

I am still at Stanford (and will be until June.) But I am bringing back an old tradition of doing class notes on some of these ideas.

Background

Joan Morgan, hip-hop feminism pioneer, has been moving her work into conversations around pleasure and sexual politics. Jeff Chang, hip-hopper-about-town and the head of Stanford’s Institue for Diversity in the Arts, asked Joan if she’d like the be the artist in residence for WinterQuarter. Joan agreed and then developed a class called “The Pleasure Principle: A Post-Hip Hop Search for a Black Feminist Politics of Pleasure.”

The Course

“The Pleasure Principle: A Post-Hip Hop Search for a Black Feminist Politics of Power” (CSRE127B) will explore the various articulations of a politics of pleasure in black feminist thought. We will examine classic black feminist texts on respectability politics, the erotic, hip-hop feminism, and dancehall culture, geared toward helping students develop a critical lens for interrogating depictions of black female sexuality and articulations of pleasure in popular culture. Examples include “The Cosby Show,” “Sex in the City,” “Girlfriends,” “Basketball Wives,” “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” “Pariah,” as well as the works of Beyonce, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Tanya Stephens, and Lady Saw. Continue reading

Listening To Kanye [The Mental Health Files]

808′s and Heartbreak Album Cover.

 

Went through, deep depression when my momma passed/
Suicide, what kinda talk is that?/
But I been talking to God for so long/
And if you look at my life I guess he’s talking back- Kanye West, “Clique,” Cruel Summer

As often as Kanye West talks about the state of his mental health, one would think that we’d be having a national conversation on mental health–kind of like the way we had a wave of conversations about domestic violence in the wake of the Chris Brown-Rihanna incident. Yet, in the four years since Kanye began talking openly about the depression related to the death of his mother and the dissolution of his romantic relationship with longtime paramour Alexis Phifer, the conversations have continued to be one-sided.

A search for “Kanye West and Depression” brings up surprisingly few articles and discussions. There’s a sterile AP article describing his initial comments, Cord Jefferson advising Kanye to go to a therapist on The Root, an MTV news article on his path to recovery, and Tom Breihan in the Village Voice distilling 808′s and Heartbreak down to “emo bellyaching” and a “album-length tantrum at his ex.” While Bassey Ikpi later argued to have some compassion for Kanye, it was one small plea in a sea of indifference and condemnation.

After four years of being open about pain and vulnerability, I’m starting to wonder if society will ever really hear him. Continue reading

Cloud Atlas Review: Yellowface And Orientalism

By Guest Contributor Jennifer; originally published at Mixed Race America

This post is the second installment in a three-part review. See parts one and three.

There are many people who have written about the phenomenon of “yellowface,” which is the Asian version of “blackface”–having white (although at times there have been black) actors and actresses portraying Asian and Asian American people in Hollywood films.  Racebending.com has a particularly astute and thorough accounting by contributor Michelle I.  I recommend reading her piece, “Yellowface: A Story in Pictures,” to familiarize yourself with the looooong history of yellowface in Hollywood cinema.  But I think this photo of Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany‘s probably says it all:

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Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Junot Diaz

By Andrea Plaid

If we had to pick a Racialicious poster boy–that aphrodisiac of sapiosexuality–Junot Diaz would be it.

Junot Diaz. Photo: Carolyn Cole. Via Los Angeles Times.

The R’s Owner/Editor Latoya Peterson says this about his book, The Brief Wonderous Life Of Oscar Wao:

My eyes drank in every word of “Wildwood,” the second chapter in Junot Díaz’s novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. On the plane from Baltimore to Austin, the narrative gripped me solidly by the throat, turning a casual curiosity about Oscar into a desperate longing to hear more from his sister Lola.

When the plane touched down, my sweatshirt was crunchy with the salt from shed tears and I had run through six napkins while the story unfolded. I grabbed my bags, and called my boyfriend who had been badgering me about reading the novel for some months now.

“Why didn’t you mention Lola?” I asked.

“Who? Oscar’s sister? Why is that…oh.” His voice suddenly bloomed with recognition and we sat in silence for a few seconds.

In all the reviews I have read about the novel since I finished the final page, the character of Lola is generally a footnote. Described as a beautiful girl, or a troubled girl, or Oscar’s sister, the strength of her narrative and her story seem overshadowed by the book’s focus – obviously, Oscar – or by the story of her mother, Belicia, the beautiful prieta who seemed forged partially from the steel intended to break her into submission. And yet, to me, Lola’s story was the most compelling, reflecting back in stark focus so many emotions, trials and ideas that were intimately familiar to me and the other girls I knew growing up.

….

Because in the book I read – as in life – the men in each of these women’s lives were not central figures. There are men, yes, and Oscar is the unifying force in the narrative, but the people Belicia and Lola were involved with were not the point unto themselves. The men stood for the method of escape. With the exception of The Gangster and Yunior, all the men in the book that Lola and Belicia were involved with were ways to get the hell out.

Lola’s boyfriend Aldo is the method to escape her mother. Sure, she loved him. Kind of. But reading through the lines, the catalyst for her leaving with Aldo was that he asked to her to come live with him. Sex was part of the travel cost. As I have written before, a guy is the easiest way to escape a fucked up family life.

But this easily overlooked difference belies the true genius in Oscar Wao. It isn’t just a documenting a fictionalized account of the things that happen in our real life communities. The book shines in how Diaz fills in what would normally be an outline, and shows us the after. Or more appropriately, how Diaz demonstrates how there ain’t no happily ever after. There are just choices and consequences.

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Quoted: Riding In Cars With Black People And Other Newly Dangerous Acts

“What I remember most about that first stop was that he asked “Where are you headed.” Not “license, registration and proof of insurance, please” ─ but “Where are you headed.” ──

Eighteen years ─ nine months ─ sixteen days and one-thousand seconds of riding in cars with nothing but white people ─ and not once had an officer expressed interest in where we were heading.

While I did not know it at the time, growing up one of the benefits of my honorary white and suburban privilege was the ability to gather, congregate and move aimlessly through public spaces without attention or purpose… Perhaps that’s why for years after leaving home I carried an old family picture, tucked directly behind my driver’s license, where the latter went the former followed, sometimes whispering, and sometimes shouting “I am not the Black Man you think I am. Now please let me pass without delay or further hindrance.”

From Chad Goller-Sojourner’s sophomore solo performance: Riding in Cars with Black People & Other Newly Dangerous Acts: A Memoir in Vanishing Whiteness. ‘Riding in Cars with Black People’ is the groundbreaking and crushingly honest story of what happens when a black boy, raised by white parents, “ages out” of honorary white and suburban privilege and into a world where folklore, statistics, and conjecture deem him dangerous until proven otherwise. ‘Riding in Cars’ will debut in April 2013. Support the project on Indiegogo.