Category Archives: black

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Teaching Trayvon

By Guest Contributor Shadee Malaklou, cross-posted from JFCBlog

[Editor's Note: Graphic images at the end of this post, under the cut]

The Trayvon Martin syllabus: These reading and viewing assignments are designed to prompt politically vigilant conversations about historical and institutional constructs of black male criminality in the United States.

Specifically, they unpack Trayvon Martin’s gratuitous murder in February 2012 and the response his tragic death elicited from media and legal institutions–especially relevant in the wake of Michael Brown’s August 2014 lynching in Ferguson, Missouri. Written texts consist of insightful and timely essays published on blogs like Colorlines, The Feminist Wire and Black Girl Dangerous.

These essays teach tertiary students how to extrapolate anti-black racism from non-black experiences of ethnic difference without overwhelming them with jargon-heavy texts written for a well-versed academic audience.
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The SDCC Files: MD Marie

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MD Marie

We first noticed science-fiction author MD Marie and her steampunk style when she discussed “The Saints of Winter Valley,” her multi-cultural steampunk story featuring four women of color, during Friday’s Black Panel. Naturally, we hopped over to her booth and got more details.

Where You Can Find Her: Booth 1623
Where You Can Find Her Online: Saints Of Winter Valley Twitter feed and Facebook page.
What’s The Story?: “It is steampunk, even though it’s futuristic,” Marie says about Saints, which is set in the year 2118. “The story is post-global warming, so people have reverted back to a simpler, but extravagant time, because resources are scant. Most of the planet is underwater because of global warming. The United States is actually divided into two separate countries.”
On the future of multicultural steampunk: “I see it going very far. It’s kind of touch-and-go with the general audience, but in the steampunk genre, it’s very popular. My characters, my story, are very popular. I see it getting stronger, and going very far. I just need everybody to catch up with us.”

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Flapping In The Breeze: The New Captain America Faces Challenges From Within

By Arturo R. García

The Falcon is going to be the new Captain America! Great! But then what?

Oh, you expected this to stick? History says otherwise. But there’s a potential problem ahead.

SPOILERS under the cut

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Black Glamour Power: The Stars Who Blazed a Trail for Beyoncé and Lupita Nyong’o

A 1960s promo shot of The Supremes, featuring Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, and Mary Wilson.

By Guest Contributor Lisa Hix, adapted from Collectors Weekly

Nichelle Gainer knows a thing or two about glamour: She spent most of her career working for magazines like Woman’s Day, GQ, Us Weekly, and InStyle, with a focus on celebrity, fashion, and grooming. But her true passion is fiction, so she decided to write a novel about black beauty pageants in the 1950s, partially inspired by one of her two glamorous aunts, who was a model in the 1950s—the other was an opera singer who rubbed shoulders with the biggest celebrities of her day.

Looking for newspaper articles on her aunt, she discovered a whole world of history that hardly ever bubbles to the surface: stunning, well-dressed African American stars celebrated in the black community, and sometimes even in the mainstream. Gainer put her fiction work aside to focus on these real-life stories.

Eventually, Gainer started a Tumblr and Facebook fan page, both called Vintage Black Glamour, full of gorgeous images that rarely make it into the public consciousness. While her novel went onto the back burner, her web sites drew the attention of a London publisher, Rocket 88. Gainer’s first book, a nonfiction coffee-table tome about women celebrities, Vintage Black Glamour, which will come out this September, can be preordered now.

We spoke with Gainer over the phone, and she explained to us the stories behind the photos she’s found, why glamour is important, and why Vintage Black Glamour will be more than just a collection of pretty pictures.

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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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Harlem Residents: We Asked City for Help, We Got a Raid Instead

By Guest Contributor Daryl Khan, cross-posted from Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

Members of the NYPD raid the Manhattanville Houses and the Grant Houses in West Harlem early on the morning of June 4, 2014. A total of 40 suspects were arrested as part of a massive 145-count indictment of 103 people in a range of crimes, including murder, 19 shootings, gang assaults, beatings and conspiracy. Police apprehend a suspect outside the Grant Houses. All images by Robert Stolarik.

NEW YORK — Whenever LaQuint Singleton found himself about to get into a fight out in the courtyards or in the small playground in front of his building at the General Ulysses S. Grant Houses, he would run and find his mom, Venus. He’d scamper up the stairs and go up to her looking for protection. Back then, Singleton was a good student who regularly attended school and attended church service every Sunday. One day, in an attempt to impress the older teenagers and men, he carried a gun to give to another resident. He was arrested, and spent six months in Rikers Island waiting for his case to wend its way through the criminal justice system — and then another year after he was sentenced.

“They sent him to the Island, and he came back a monster,” Venus Singleton said, sobbing on the steps of an apartment building on Old Broadway, referred to as the DMZ by people on both sides of the blood feud between the Grant and Manhattanville Houses. “That boy they sent back is not the same boy I sent them. The department of corrections turned my son into a monster. I love my monster, but that’s what he is. That’s what the Island did for me.”

Now, Singleton said, more monsters are about to be made.
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