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.
I would sit on the corners, and people would walk up to me and ask me to play a gospel song, and they’d pat me on the head and say, that’s nice, son – but they didn’t tip at all. But people who ask me to play the blues would always tip me. I’d make $40-50. Even as off in the head as I am, I could see it made better sense to be a blues singer. — The Telegraph, 2009
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.
Nina Simone fans who are leery of the Zoe Saldana biopic Nina take heart: Netflix quietly posted the trailer for What Happened, Miss Simone?, a documentary that has the support of the singer’s estate and features her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly.
“People think that when she went out on stage, she became Nina Simone,” Kelly says. “My mother was Nina Simone 24-7. And that’s where it became a problem.”
Directed by Oscar nominee Liz Garbus, the film — which is coming off an appearance at this year’s Sundance Film Festival — promises to feature rare and never-before-seen footage and tapes as part of a comprehensive look at not only Simone’s professional life, but her activism.
“I choose to reflect the times and the situations in which I find myself,” Simone says, amid chillingly-timely footage of police brutality and Black activists marching. “How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?”
Civil disobedience is what America is created on. It’s the foundation of our country so the fact that someone is trying to persecute us for performing civil disobedience just shows that they don’t know their own history and they don’t know how history is going to remember them in the future. — Mica Grimm
When I first saw Mica Grimm, she was an unrepentant head of curly hair with a bull ringed nose and an alluring husky voice that forced you to lean in. Her slight slouch lead you to believe that she was both at ease and staggered by the agenda before her, as she and the other Black Lives Matter (BLM) Minneapolis organizers took to the floor. Over 100 people were gathered on a dusty floor in South Minneapolis to prep for an anti-police brutality demonstration by the group at the Mall of America (MOA). Weeks after the 1,500+ strong protest, I sat down for an interview with Mica. By then, her and 10 other members of Black Lives Matter were facing criminal charges for their role in organizing the protest.
The protest, but more so the law enforcement response to it, resulted in a partial shutdown of the largest North American mall on one of the busiest shopping days; the Saturday before Christmas. Though largely peaceful and carried out in the public eye, the criminal case brought against the organizers revealed an uncomfortable degree of collaboration between the Mall’s corporate owners, the Bloomington City Attorney (where the mall is located), and law enforcement in the lead up to the protest and after. Continue reading →
Enough time has probably passed that most of us can now consider Marvel’s new Daredevil adaptation in full — both the good and the bad. And make no mistake, the good has been very good at times.
In fact, I suggested on the Lawyers, Guns & Money podcast that this show, along with Orphan Black, The Flash and arguably Arrow, has introduced enough non-mainstream “prestige” shows that calls for a set of separate sci-fi/fantasy Emmys should be taken seriously.
But, like a hurdler tripping and landing chin-first near the finish line, Daredevil’s 12th episode closes on a note that is less “shocking” than it is disappointing. And par for the course with the comics industry in all the wrong ways.
In the midst of a show that was downright turgid at times, there were glimpses of social relevance during Sunday night’s Grammys. You had Sam Smith openly thank an old boyfriend on national television while celebrating winning four awards. And the award’s outright hypocrisy in honoring abusive cis-males was only exposed further with remarks on domestic violence from President Barack Obama and activist Brooke Axtell:
After a year of passionate romance with a handsome, charismatic man, I was stunned when he began to abuse me. I believed he was lashing out because he was in pain, and needed help. I believed my compassion could restore him and our relationship. My empathy was used against me. I was terrified of him and ashamed I was in this position. What bound me to him was my desire to heal him. My compassion was incomplete because it did not include me. When he threatened to kill me, I knew I had to escape. I revealed the truth to my mom and she encouraged me to seek help at a local domestic violence shelter. This conversation saved my life.
And then, of course, you had Prince. With one simple remark — “like books and Black lives, albums still matter” — His Purpleness made explicit a message that Beyoncé and Pharrell attempted to express visually. But while seeing Hands Up Don’t Shoot on the Grammy stage was worth noting, those two moments weren’t without their own problematic undertones.
I was on radio the other day, trying to explain to Shado Twala, well-known radio and television personality here in South Africa, how racism personally affects me. I had this great chance to finally tell a wider audience what it feels like to live in a city that denies you so much because you’re black. But I focused too much on how I’d been getting hostile looks from strangers, and being shoved and bumped into a couple of times while walking in my predominantly white neighbourhood.
I felt like I blew it.
Gone was the experience I had on my first date with the man who would later become my boyfriend. It was here in Cape Town, years ago, when another white man lunged at me and spat out some ugly racist words at me. I won’t say publicly what they are, not now anyway. Because he wasn’t aware of it at the time, I only told my man this had happened years later. It’s not something I want to remember, or talk about, but it’s been on my mind a lot lately. Possibly because there have been so many incidents of racism in the Cape in recent months. And it’s happened not only when the tourists flood in during the month we all lovingly call Dezemba. Even though, during my conversation with uMam’Shado, we were slightly glib about how the tourists from other provinces annually bring with them a spate of complaints about the ‘Mother City’ as it is known to some. My black South African friends have asked: “Mother to whom, this city? Who does it mother and who is the mother?”
So I felt that, during that conversation, gone were the experiences of friends trying to rent apartments, but being disappointed because of race-based selection or denial. Of friends leaving their jobs and packing up to go back to Joburg after a year or two. Gone were the stories of how even academia works to keep black people out. Gone were the myriad instances of microagression and hostility in a place that renders you both visible and invisible. You’re visible when you’ve clearly transgressed – how dare you walk around with a white man who clearly adores you? What are you doing with him? Or, as some women from a white-owned mainly white-staffed media house asked my friend about me – “How did she get a white guy?” Continue reading →
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World