On being left for white men

By Myles E. Johnson

“What man wants to lay down and watch the world burn in his bedroom?” – Warsan Shire

Often I gaze at myself in the mirror to ensure that I am present, that I recognize the face looking back at me, that I haven’t acquired any new scars, and my face hasn’t gotten any wider. I feel at risk of being a ghost, working and yelling while believing I am resisting, when I am just haunting.

HBO green lights series about a world where the Confederacy won

HBO has reportedly given a green light to the creators of Game of Thrones to produce a series about a fictional world where the Confederacy won the Civil War and slavery is still legal south of the Mason-Dixie line. The reactions to this idea have been strong, yet polarizing.

The series, currently entitled Confederate, “takes place in an alternate timeline, where the southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation where slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution,” reads a press release. “The story follows a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixie Demilitarized Zone – freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists and the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall.”

What in the name of a high-fever dream from hell is going on?

In the real world, politicians are finally working to remind people that the American Civil War was fought over slavery and that Confederate leaders were racists who don’t deserve to be celebrated. This is only making their sympathizers push back even harder, however. Yet there’s a chance that HBO is going to pour millions into a show that’s surely going to show black people – and who knows who else… – being subjugated to horrible lives and torture by white people.

Many fans who heard this news, especially people of color, are strongly against David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, two white men, being given the license to create a world that would make any white nationalist or “alt-right” supporter faint in a euphoric bliss.

Would it be original to see this kind of speculative fiction? Absolutely. But would it be tasteful, appropriate and worthwhile despite the horror it would surely depict? Probably not so much.

Take a look at some of Twitter’s reactions below:

 

 

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Reflections on my thirty-four years as a Black man with mental illness

By Kelvin Easiley, Jr

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. This is the time when a laser focus is trained on the various complexities people of color encounter while facing mental health stigma and a shoddy healthcare system.The same healthcare system many people of color approach with grave skepticism.

There are many people who suffer from depression, anxiety, or both but are high-functioning individuals. These folks get dressed, go to work, attend social gatherings and have mental health concerns that are untreated, undiagnosed, and unaddressed. In some cases the pressure of keeping up a veneer of wellness eventually drives these high-functioning people to seek care.Others fall into a cycle of being asymptomatic, which means that an individual is  “presenting no symptoms of disease (depending on the absence of triggers and stressors), to experiencing a deluge of symptoms that run the gamut of mental health disorders.

I turn thirty-four in a few days. I am excited about it.

I realized this morning how hard I fight for my fucking life. I am a Black man with schizoaffective disorder. Nine years have passed since my twenty-fifth birthday and I’m still alive. I don’t take this lightly, because growing up, it was common knowledge that many young Black men did not make it to their twenty-fifth birthday.

I woke this morning unable to get out of bed. Thus, I couldn’t make it to work on time, again. I had to alert my supervisor to my belated arrival. It wasn’t the usual, “not feeling like going to work today, so I’m staying in bed”, it was “my medication has me so drowsy, that the six hours of sleep I got last night hasn’t sufficed to have had the half life of the side effects wear off.” kind of staying in bed.  

On ‘4:44’, maleness, and the performance of the public apology

This article was originally posted at WaterCoolerConvos and has been republished with permission

Recently, rapper Jay-Z released his thirteenth solo album 4:44. The album details his infidelity to his wife, mother of his three children, and perhaps the biggest superstar in the world, Beyoncé. He also covers his struggle with American capitalism and his reluctant growth beyond a young hustler to a mannish mogul.

Most people have fixated and heaped copious amounts of praise on Jay for his acknowledgement of his past wrongdoings. So grateful that he apologizes for being at various states of trash during parts of his marriage, many have been cheering on his “maturity” and vulnerability.

I’m not one of those people.

We need to talk about anti-vaxxing in Black communities

By Zoé Samudzi

Chances are, our engagement with “vaccine skeptics” has been limited to white anti-vaxxers. They often cite scientific empirics claiming causal relationships between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) sequences and autism diagnosis, even using the now retracted study published by British physician Andrew Wakefield in 1998 as a basis for their argument. Wakefield’s results weren’t just found to be fabricated, but he also failed to disclose that his research was funded by lawyers representing parents who had sued vaccine companies. He was subsequently barred from practicing medicine in the United Kingdom.

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We need to pay attention to the Indigenous activism that is happening in Canada right now

Young activists and organizers in the United States are often criticized by opponents who suggest that these young people are only focused on their own liberation. But, the truth is: many young Black and Brown activists and organizers have a lens to the ways that our colonial history and the anti-Blackness we experience in the US each day is inherently tied to the mass genocides of Indigenous populations in the Americas. Canada is not immune from this history.

A recent press conference in Ottowa, Canada’s capital, between Indigenous activists and the Canadian press highlighted the ways that our concepts of historical oppression, accountability, and liberation must begin with the ongoing fight for freedom across Indigenous communities.

From Black Brazil to the Black America: The Importance of Transnational Solidarity

By Kristian Davis Bailey

 

Last December, I visited Brazil for the first time to attend the Transregional Summit: The Arab Spring Meets Black Lives Matter conference at the Federal Fluminense University  (UFF) outside Rio de Janeiro. It was designed to put Black Lives Matter in conversation with Arab activists from Egypt and Palestine, and social movements in Rio de Janeiro.

During the conference, I met Black students who were in the middle of a three-month occupation of a university building that they wanted to establish as a Black community center.

We were all in awe of each other: to meet people who had been stolen from the same land and forced through similar experiences of slavery and modern-day discrimination was like having a reunion with long-lost family. Even without speaking the same language, we immediately knew and understood each other.

At first, we sat together for an hour talking in English and Portuguese about the state of Black people in Brazil and the US. I wound up spending almost a week living with the students inside their occupation, called Quilombo. (Quilombos were historically a refuge for runaway slaves in Brazil.)

During that time, the students recorded short greetings to their Black family in the US.  They were stories of solidarity, struggle, and diasporic connection. They were stories much like those we tell here in the United States.

 

 

“We came from the same place, our ancestors went through many of the same things in every place where the African diaspora exists,” said Luiza, one of the students.  “Unfortunately what unites us is racism, that’s what happens, and our struggles connect us in some way.”

She then spoke of the need for places like the Quilombo. “Being together in a place where Black people can speak openly and discuss our issues is very important for us to stay strong in this fight.”

Matheus, another student, said that it’s important for Black people to organize and connect locally and across borders.

“We need to unite, fight nationally in each place, and try to build something together for our ancestry and for us.”

The students said they know a lot about what happens to Black people in the US, but feel that we don’t know much about what’s happening to them — or that they even exist.

Contrary to the image Brazil puts out about itself, the majority of Brazilians are lighter-skinned Black or Afro-descendant (there are issues of internalized anti-Blackness with many Brazilians claiming to be ‘mixed’ rather than Black or denying Afro-heritage at all).

Yet, history shows that Brazil imported the highest number of Africans during the transatlantic slave trade and today has the largest Afro-descendant population outside of Africa.

The students also said they’re disconnected from what’s happening to Black and Afro-descendant people in the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean.

We are trying to get rid of the hegemonic belief that we can only have conversations with American people or Europeans—we want to talk with other people who are around us,” the students said. “We know so many things about the US and we don’t know anything about the situation in Africa or the Global South in general.”

Black people and nations are among the poorest across the Americas.  And our demands look very similar across borders, whether in Brazil, Colombia or the US. They include struggling against police murder and violence, fighting for better living conditions and health environments, and petitioning governments and community leaders for resources for our collective education and empowerment.

These transnational similarities  are the direct result of centuries of enslavement, discrimination, exploitation, and colonialism.

Therefore, as we organize towards our liberation at home, it’s always important to know that our struggle is not just a domestic one or one about “civil rights.” The nature of our oppression already unites us globally, but it’s time for our movements to return to the internationalism and Pan-Africanism of the 60s and intentionally connect.

 

Kristian Davis Bailey is a freelance writer and organizer based in Detroit, where he is a member of BYP100 and Black4Palestine. His work focuses on building internationalist consciousness and connections between social movements.

Sofia Coppola erased Black women from ‘The Beguiled’ because white women always have to be victims

By Sherronda Brown

*This essay includes spoilers and discussion of sexual violence.

At some point in the midst of filming The Beguiled on the same plantation where Beyoncé’s Lemonade was filmed, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning attempted to pay homage to the singer through a gesture they no doubt assumed would garner celebration and envy from onlookers rather than ire.

Politics and Promposals—how isms and phobias influence who gets asked to the dance

In May, 17-year-old Priscilla Samey’s interesting high school story made rounds throughout social media. This happened not because of her impressive achievement of gaining admission into seven out of eight Ivy League institutions, but rather for escorting one of her admission letters––Harvard’s––to her senior prom. While many lauded her for such a “bold” move, others in comment feeds described her as “lame,” and even suggested that the very act of substituting her acceptance letter for a prom date revealed enough about her personality to understand why no one asked her to begin with.

The small Minnesota town where Ms. Samey went to high school is home to only a handful of other folks who look like her; only .04 percent of the population in Champlin Park, Minnesota is Black. Although there may have been numerous reasons why Ms. Samey was not asked or did not feel comfortable asking a peer to the dance, like most things, race cannot ruled out so easily.

Though the topic of race, dating, and attraction is a messy one, it is not hard to see how misogynoir may have been at work in the fact that no one––no one––asked this highly intelligent Black girl to prom. One can only hope that her chocolate skin, wide nose, and full lips were looked upon with admiration, but in a society that is yet to expand its conventional understandings of beauty to include Black women, particularly those of a darker hue, that may just be wishful thinking.

Did anyone look at her achievements and think, “I’d like to spend more time with her?” Hard to believe, as that same society that hesitates to recognize the beauty of women who look like her simultaneously perpetuates the misogynoiristic tropes that deem such accomplished and self-assured Back women “hysterical” and “intimidating.”

But rather than launch a commission into who was or was not infatuated with Priscilla Samey and why, my aim in discussing her story seeks instead to focus on the event itself: high school prom. Though seemingly trivial, the complexities surrounding prom, race, and gender are anything but—they matter for a variety of reasons.

To put it frankly, prom is a big deal for most young people. With its elaborate gowns, rented tuxedos, fancy cars and ritzy venues, this one night is the closest many people—especially those on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder— will get to a red carpet event. A quick search on Pinterest will reveal just how much thought and planning an average teen puts into an event that lasts roughly four hours.

As innocent as it may seem, prom culture has absorbed almost all of the politics and prejudices that exist within society-at-large.

Along with anti-blackness, colorism, and misogynoir, beneath the veneer of high school fanfare lies the issue of the lack of acceptance of queer individuals within these spaces. Like clockwork, each year the months between February and June bring numerous stories of gay and lesbian teens either being forbade from attending prom with same-gender dates, or banned outright.

Therefore, who gets asked to the prom (or rather, who doesn’t) is a reflection of all of those ‘isms’ that perpetuate various forms of discrimination and social inequity.

In fact, the ACLU has devoted an entire section of their website to advising LGBTQIA youth on how to legally respond to such incidents of discrimination.

Aside from the rules that are (or aren’t) set in stone, there remain many unspoken boundaries and anxieties: can they kiss or dance on the dancefloor without fear of violence from homophobic classmates? Will there be drama over which bathroom they use? At the very least, can they enjoy the evening free from hostile stares and reactions? Why does their youthfulness and joy become something to fear and contain when they decide to embrace their full selves?

Then, of course, comes the fatphobia. Whether it manifests itself in the fitting rooms of the dress boutiques, or through internet reactions to the ever-scrutinized “prom photos,” larger bodies aren’t quite welcomed at prom with open arms, if at all.

And speaking of “open,” the issue of accessibility—both financial and physical—is often excluded from the conversation altogether. The most recent estimate of the average cost of prom hovers around $600.

That figure may even be on the lower end, as more and more teens are opting for hand-made gowns and pricey, luxury hair extensions. This is partly because, for some, prom truly might be the happiest, most elaborate night of their lives. And in the parts of the country where funerals have become more common than weddings or baby showers, one can better understand the urge to go over-the-top.

But where do poor teens fit into the equation?

Particularly the kids whose parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins don’t have the money to spare on a single evening of dress up? Do they attend anyway, bearing the mental weight of knowing that, due to circumstances outside of their control, they did not have the resources to #slay like the others around them did? Or do they just not attend at all?

Those who have physical disabilities have to go even further to ensure that they can even enter prom venues and transportation, as they are often relegated to forgotten-thought status by many of those responsible for organizing the festivities.

Even further, the trend known as “promposals”—defined by the Oxford Dictionary as an “elaborately staged request to be someone’s date to a prom”—has been criticized by some disabled individuals as being insulting and exploitative to members of their community. While the many views garnered by videos that show able-bodied teens pulling out all of the stops to ask their developmentally disabled or wheelchair bound classmates to prom can be considered heartwarming, they tiptoe along the lines of “pity porn”—just another way for those who do not have disabilities to pat themselves on the back for ‘being nice’ to someone who does.

So where does that leave us? How do we respond? Do we #shutpromdown until we can figure out what’s going on? Do we attempt to decolonize it? Do we pursue the separate but equal approach and do prom our way, making sure to center the Black, the queer, the poor, and the disabled?

I won’t attempt to prescribe an answer. After all, at its core, prom is young folks’ business, and far be it for me to tell the next generation how to live their lives and shape their world. But we fail those same young folks when those of us who know better fail to do better, or, at the very least, speak up on their behalf.

One seemingly harmless, de-politicized night is a crude reminder of centuries-long systemic harm directed towards our society’s most vulnerable. And that has consequences.

It’s time to rethink what we allow young marginalized folks to be exposed to completely. And if prom is an entry point into those reconsiderations, let us use it for something productive.

Why can’t we defend Blackness when a Black person does something wrong?

“Nothing exists in a vacuum” is a trite old aphorism used to explain how all actions have consequences. It is founded on a basic principle in physics that states that space without matter, by definition, contains nothing. The saying highlights the reality that any actions occurring outside of vacuums create ripple effects because matter connects everything together.

This reality is sometimes used to explain the concept of collateral damage, and how the imprecise targeting of an individual is bound to impact more than just that one person.