Category Archives: history

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New Fundraising Campaign Seeks To Preserve Sacred Land Of Pe’ Sla

Just over two years after the first fight to save sacred Native land in South Dakota, a new fundraising drive seeks to complete the drive to keep Pe’Sla — “the Heart of everything” — in indigenous hands.

The campaign, organized by the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, seeks to raise $500,000 by Nov. 30 for the purposes of buying the last 438 acres of Pe’Sla land under outside ownership. The foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is working with the Oceti Sakowin Nations for the fundraiser, and this video is a quick introduction to its mission:

In 2012, the Oceti Sakowin Nations, working together with the foundation and Last Real Indians, successfully raised enough money to purchase more than 1,900 acres of Pe’Sla land after they were put up for auction.

From the current fundraiser’s Indiegogo page:

If this purchase falls through, the opportunity to save these sacred lands could be lost forever.

The Black Hills, including the sacred site of Pe’ Sla, were reserved for the exclusive use and occupation by the Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation) by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 with the U.S. government. But once gold was found in the Black Hills (by an illegal expedition into these sacred Native American lands) the U.S. illegally seized the lands despite the treaty agreement.

The U.S. government has yet to give these lands back to the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota nations. Even though the gold is gone, they still hold great natural, cultural and spiritual value to us. Now, we have no choice, but to buy our sacred lands at Pe’ Sla back from the current occupants. There’s no time for further contesting the illegal taking of these lands. We need to raise the money by November 30, 2014 or Pe’ Sla may be lost forever to Indian people.

Donations can be made at the link above, or the embed below.

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Live From Facing Race — Roots and Wings: Southern Histories, Legacies and Innovations for the Future

The second day of Facing Race kicks off at 10:15 a.m. EST with a plenary session describing current activist movements in the American South, a region many people still feel stopped being a hotbed of civic organizing during the Civil Rights Movement. The three speakers featured in this session have played active roles in forging a new legacy of activism for the region:

  • Bishop Tonyia Rawls, founder and executive director of the Freedom Center for Social Justice, as well as a member of the governing board for the North Carolina Council of Churches and the founding pastor of the Freedom Temple Ministries and Sacred Souls Community Church. The Freedom Center launched a legal center focusing on the LGBTQ communities and an employment program helping the southern trans community — both the first of their kind for the region.
  • Cristina Tzintzún is the executive director of Workers Defense Project/Proyecto Defensa Laboral. Besides being featured in national news outlets like USA Today and the New York Times, Tzintzún’s work has led to her winning the national Trabajadora Community Leader award from the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. Last year, Southern Living Magazine named her one of its Heroes of the New South.
  • Chokwe Antar Lumumba played a vital role in the development of the People’s Platform in Jackson, SC, where his father, longtime activist Chokwe Lumumba, was elected mayor in 2013 on a platform emphasizing community development and the elimination of the gender-based pay gap. Antar Lumumba’s drive to help his community was also instilled in him by his mother, Nubia Lumumba, and he went on to become the managing partner at Lumumba & Associates, a law firm following those principles, as well as a member of the leadership team for Free Christian Church Ministries.

From the program description:

For the many of us- people of color, immigrants communities, LGBTQ people – who populate and call this region home, we experience and understand “the South” as not only the place where race, power, and revolution is best understood but also where history and legacies give way to 21st century innovation for our movements. Our dynamic plenary speakers, spanning the Southern region, will offer their insight on some of the challenges and opportunities facing the region and our movements to achieve racial justice and equity. From the continuing legacy of youth organizing and direct action in Florida; the role of faith in building inclusive communities and organizing for social change in NC; the realities of shifting demographics and the opportunities for worker organizing in Texas; and implementing community centered methods to build real economic, political and community power in Jackson this plenary will highlight how the South continues to build on its history and towards freedom.

The plenary, as posted online, can be seen in the livestream below.

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Live From Facing Race: Keynote Address Featuring Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Toshi Reagon, and Tashawn Reagon

This year’s keynote session for Facing Race starts at 4:30 p.m. EST and will be a multi-generational affair featuring Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Toshi Reagon, and Tashawn Reagon.

From the program description:

Bernice Johnson Reagon, a scholar, singer/songleader, and activist for over half a century, has been a profound contributor to African American and American culture. Born in Southwest Georgia, her singing style and traditional repertoire are grounded in her experiences in church, school, and political activism. As a composer, she has created a narrative of her social and political activism through her songs and larger compositions. She performed as a member of the SNCC Freedom Singers during the sixties; founded an all women a capella ensemble, The Harambee Singers, during the Black Cultural Movement; and founded and led the internationally acclaimed Sweet Honey In The Rock for thirty years until retirement. Paralleling her work in music, Reagon is one of the leading authorities in African American Cultural History.

Her strongest musical collaborator is her daughter, Toshi Reagon. Described as “a one-woman celebration of all that’s dynamic, progressive and uplifting in American music,” Toshi is a composer, producer, founder, and leader of her own ensemble, Toshi Reagon and Big Lovely. Taking the stage at 17, singer, songwriter, guitarist Toshi Reagon moves audiences with her cross genre offerings of blues, rock, gospel, and incredible original songs. Collaboratively, these two socially conscious women artists have masterfully created two operas, “The Temptation of St Anthony” and “Zinnias: The Life of Clementine Hunter.”

Tashawn Nicole Reagon is a Sociology and Gender Studies major and an Intergroup Relations minor at Skidmore College. Tashawn has co-facilitated a two-credit, intergroup dialogue between students of color and white students on race, and interned in the Gender Rights and Equality Unit of the Ford Foundation, where she wrote a report entitled Student Activism for Gender Equity. Tashawn helped to establish the Justice Project at Saint Ann’s high school that examined issues of race and other identities.

The full session, as posted online, can be seen live below.

Jeff Chang/Who We Be. Image from

Who We Be Examines the War on Multiculuralism

“Color is not a human or a personal reality, it is a political reality.” – James Baldwin

This is not a book review, because Who We Be isn’t really a book. It’s more of a thoughtful examination of how the United States arrived at this point in racial history.

Long time friend of the blog Jeff Chang is the author of the American Book award winning Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation and editor of the anthology Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip Hop. To say we’ve been waiting for Who We Be is an understatement.

But in the introduction, Chang frames the core of the most recent case of racial backlash. Explaining the outsized reaction by some whites to President Obama, Chang notes:

In the 1830s white minstrels had put on blackface, creating space for the white working class to challenge the elite, while keeping Blacks locked into their racial place. Obama now appeared as a dual symbol of oppression. Because of his Blackness, he was even more of an outsider—and in that sense, even more American—than them. But he was also the president. His Blackness did not just confer moral and existential claims, it was backed by the power of the state.

And there went everything.

As much as we like to talk about the inevitability of America being majority-minority in 2042, the events playing out across the nation show that most places are outright hostile to the idea that people of color are equal Americans, with the same rights, privileges, representation, and agenda setting power bestowed to whites. Chang turns his critical eye to shifts in culture which becomes documentation of rise (and fall?) of multiculturalism. Continue reading

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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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Courageous Liaisons: The Racialicious Review of Belle

By Arturo R. García

Dido (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) begins to question her place, to the chagrin of Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson).

It’s only fitting that director Amma Assante’s Belle, a movie that culminates in a court, makes its own case crisply, and clearly. There’s a sense of some romanticizing, mind, but even that is based on hard evidence: the real Dido Elizabeth Belle did have a happy life.

So, admirably, Assante and writer Misan Sagay don’t try to inject pathos where it’s not necessary. Nor do they overplay their somewhat stacked cast, instead keeping Gugu Mbatha-Raw at the center, which she ably holds up. Because her story — at least, this story — positions her at the intersection of her own nascent questioning of her place in the world and her mentor’s role in shaping its future.
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The ‘N’ Word Through The Ages: The ‘Madness’ Of HP Lovecraft

By Guest Contributor Phenderson Djeli Clark, cross-posted from Media Diversified UK

When, long ago, the gods created Earth
In Jove’s fair image Man was shaped at birth.
The beasts for lesser parts were next designed;
Yet were they too remote from humankind.
To fill the gap, and join the rest to Man,
Th’Olympian host conceiv’d a clever plan.
A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure,
Filled it with vice, and called the thing a N*gger.

– H.P. Lovecraft, On the Creation of N*ggers (1912)

Author H.P. Lovecraft

I had come to believe that by now the racism of H.P. Lovecraft, the celebrated author of horror and fantasy, was a settled matter — like declaring Wrath of Khan the best film in the Star Trek franchise. Arguing against such a thing should be absurd. I certainly thought so after the matter was thrust into the spotlight in December 2011, when author Nnedi Okorafor won the esteemed World Fantasy Award — whose statuette is none other than H.P. Lovecraft’s disembodied head. Okorafor had been unaware of the depths of Lovecraft’s “issues,” until a friend sent her his 1912 poem,On the Creation of N*ggers, where blacks are fashioned by the gods as “a beast … in semi-human figure.”

This was no one-off, some “misspeak” by the author. Lovecraft’s racial biases ran deep and strong, as evidenced by his stories–from exotic locales with tropic natives lacerating themselves before mad gods in acts of “negro fetishism” (Call of Cthulhu), to descriptions of a black man as “gorilla-like” and one of the world’s “many ugly things” (Herbert West — Re-animator). This was no abstract part of Lovecraft’s creative process, where he was trying to imbue his work with some hint of realism. Rather, these were expressions of his foremost thoughts, a key part of his personal beliefs, most notably his virulent xenophobia towards an increasingly diverse American society emerging outside of his Anglo-Saxon New England.
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