Ed Sheeran and The Roots did a flawless cover of Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen” and it’s been uploaded on the The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Youtube page for everyone to see.
This is the latest video from Chicago-based Highness (formerly known as SHE). The all female soul group is made up of Ora Nchi, RED, Midore, Loona Dae, and Gem Tree.
Chicago-based artist Hebru Brantley brings his Afro-Futuristic character “Flyboy” to life in this short animated video set to Yasiin Bey’s song, “Revelations”.
Photo: Hebru Brantley/Youtube
By L.G. Parker
Some poets scream, others approach the microphone with a fierce control that sits you down and reminds you of your magic and your wounds. Afro-Mexicana poet Ariana Brown is the latter. With five years of experience as a poetry mentor and workshop leader, Brown has a commitment not only to her own page, but to studying and teaching the written word. In 2014, she was a member of the University of Texas-Austin’s nationally competing poetry slam team, Spitshine Slam, which she co-founded in 2011. Spitshine ranked first overall at the College Unions Poetry Slam International (CUPSI) in 2014. This past March, Brown returned to the competition with Spitshine and was awarded Best Poem of the competition for her poem “Invocation.”
I was in the audience and deeply moved by the poem’s haunting poem. It stayed on my mind throughout and beyond the evening, and I was fortunate enough to be able to interview her about “Invocation” and her work at large.
L.G Parker: In “Invocation,” being biracial pops up again & again as you say “you were asked questions about your dead father and your hair,” “you greeted a new ancestor in the mirror today,” and “which negotiations did you lose today?” How does your biraciality factor into your work?
Ariana Brown: I’ve actually always claimed both my lineages openly. As someone who is visibly Black and grew up in a predominantly Mexican-American family and city, denying any part of myself is not something I’ve ever been comfortable doing. I grew up around bilingual Spanish-English speakers in San Antonio, Texas who were very proud of their Mexican ancestry. At the same time, anti-Blackness is extremely prevalent in the Mexican community, as Mexico (like the rest of Central America) has a very small Black population compared to countries like Puerto Rico or Brazil. There is a lack of understanding there. The first time I was called the ‘n’ word was in daycare. – I was five years old. The following year, the principal at my elementary school told my mother my hair was ‘outlandish’ and distracting to other students in class.
PARKER: You shared with me that you had Angel Nafis’ voice in the back of your head “encouraging [you] to be holy” as you wrote “Invocation”. Nafis has a particular cadence and liveliness both on the page and stage. What is the relationship between your writing and sound?
BROWN: Nafis has a poem, titled “Ode to Shea Butter”, I believe, that was an early jumping point for “Invocation”. She often speaks about Blackness in reverent, celebratory tones, something that has always filled me up with joy. I didn’t grow up speaking AAVE, and while I learned to codeswitch eventually, I still feel more comfortable in Spanglish. It was very important to me to include the word “chongo” in the poem, “Invocation” – the Spanish word for “hair tie”/”ponytail”. Nafis’ work encouraged me to go back for 6-year-old me who sat in her first grade class as my Latinx classmates threw pencils and erasers into my hair and laughed because I couldn’t feel it. I spent a lot of time in mirrors as a kid, wishing my hair straight. I always felt so visible and impossible – Nafis’ work is so unapologetically black, it makes me return for my girl self and release her from that trauma in a way that is gentle, forgiving, and holy. I think all black girls deserve that.
PARKER: “Invocation” deals a lot with ancestry in a sort of ghastly sense. The repetition of the word “of” seems to point towards a separation of self from some past thing or person, which also connects one to ancestry. This vibe matches well with the title of your upcoming six-week workshop, “Demons, Diaspora, & Magic.” Aside from six new poems, what can interests expect to get from this? What types of work and questions might writers be challenged to ask themselves?
BROWN: I’ve been dealing a lot with the history of Mexico’s conquest, a project that really led me to creating this course. “Demons, Diaspora, & Magic” really asks students to engage with at least one type of history – whether personal or cultural or both – and to tell that story from beginning to end. At the moment, I’m interested in the telling (and retelling) of legends and crafting origin stories. I took a class on Mexican American Indigenous Heritage last semester at UT, where my professor began the class with the Aztec migration myth – how they appeared first in the American Southwest and slowly moved south to Mexico. She told us that there are several different versions of the story, how different indigenous groups in Mexico claim Aztec lineage because of the stops the Aztecs made along the way. She then invited us to question which of the versions was the true one. I think, for anybody whose history involves colonization, coming to a place where one can say, what if there isn’t one true version of how it happened? What if there are many truths? And how can I begin to excavate or create these histories in a way that is useful for me, as a person who has survived the violence of colonization?
PARKER: So then does your excavation of whether or not there are many truths involve a sort of biomythography? Not necessarily imagining something better, but filling in what cannot be known? And what role does language, poetry more specifically, play for you as you excavate and create these histories?
BROWN: I hadn’t thought of it before, but I suppose I am working on a biomythography. The only difference, I think, is that I believe these things can be known. My faith/medicine is curanderismo, a type of folk healing that was produced in Mexico post-conquest, with indigenous, Spanish, and African roots. A lot of the healing reminds the body of its ancestral connections to the earth and its history. In that sense, I’m not making up stories about my ancestors. I’m going into the body to excavate what is already there. Poetry is the most useful tool I can think of for this project because for me, it rests entirely on emotional intelligence. Its capacity for surrealism makes it interesting, but its ability to hold emotion makes it important.
PARKER: As I think about your commentary about excavating and creating a history after colonization, without regard to its ongoing forces, I’m reminded of something James Baldwin said in an essay about language. He said, “It goes without saying, then, that language is also a political instrument, means, and proof of power. It is the most vivid and crucial key to identify: It reveals the private identity, and connects one with, or divorces one from, the larger, public, or communal identity.” In conversation with Baldwin’s sentiments, when you write and perform your work, who are you speaking to? What languages do you “create” or call upon to create a sort of re-storying of the past you are working through in your poetry?
BROWN: I grew up around English and Spanish, but I don’t speak any indigenous languages. (I am not sure what my indigenous Mexican ancestors spoke, though since my grandparents are from the border states, it’s probably an Uto-Aztecan language). After four and a half years of Spanish classes, I’m nearly fluent. My grandparents grew up in the 1950s in Texas, when it was against the law to speak Spanish in public school. As an act of survival, they began to assimilate by speaking English to my mother and tios. Though all the adults in my mother’s family are bilingual, they are most comfortable with English. Since I’m working with Aztec history at the moment, I’m learning some basic Náhuatl, which is full of discoveries for me.
Spanglish is where I am most myself. I regard Mexican Spanish and its methods, flexibilities, and slang highly – a language that transformed itself over after conquest, much like its people. Now that I have a circle of close black friends, we codeswitch into AAVE, of course – on any given day, I speak all the languages and their varieties. I give thanks especially to the coworkers and bus drivers who speak wholly in Spanish to me – those interactions are always the most meaningful. When I speak Spanglish, I feel very free; I am loud and outrageous, full of intent. In Spanish, I am more careful, second-guessing, and slow. In English I am comfortable; in AAVE, I am older, wiser.
When I enter my poems, the audience is always my ancestors and myself. I feel like I never saw myself represented; and we all know how much power there is in representation. I just wrote a poem about my love for avocados (from the Náhuatl word ahuacatl, and the Spanish aguacate) which incorporates English, Spanish, Náhuatl and AAVE and I’m so excited about the possibilities that offers.
This interview has been condensed for reading purposes.
For more information on Ariana Brown’s work, including purchasing her chapbooks, please visit http://www.arianabrown.com/.
By L.G. Parker
“I’m very inspired by fantasy,” Kendrick Daye, illustrator of Large Fears, shared with me in an interview.
“I never challenge a story that is very rooted in fantasy and filled with adventure, because it becomes a coping mechanism for kids growing up and struggling to be accepted.”
Jeremiah Nebula, a little black boy who likes pink, spent most of his days alone during recess and without friends, until Myles E. Johnson and Kendrick Daye decided to help him tell his story.
“We wanted to see a queer black boy represented in children’s books,” the team says on their Kickstarter campaign[LP1] , “and instead of waiting for it to come to be, we created it.”
Although the aesthetics of Jeremiah Nebula’s story are very fantastical, he has a lot in common with his creators. “Literature protected me,” Johnson says, “from a world that tried to reinforce that as a young queer black child, my story and experience wasn’t soaked in magic and opportunity for growth.”
“I think growing up and feeling like you’re misunderstood or marginalized,” Daye added, “you become a daydreamer naturally and create rich worlds where you’re always accepted, acknowledged and seen.”
Daye and Johnson have launched a thirty-day fundraiser through Kickstarter in order to print copies of the book and launch the Large Fears workshop series. “We wanted Large Fears to be more than a product that is sold,” Johnson explained, “but an experience.”
After launching the workshop in Atlanta in July 2015, the duo intends to travel to New York City and then San Francisco. Most funds raised will go towards workshops.
From the book to the workshops, Johnson says that he and Kendrick’s ultimate goal is “to see children with queer gender and sexuality stories participate in this, especially the ones of color, who will always be the focus of anything to do with Large Fears. We want queer children of color to know that their birthright is to take up space and live to their highest expression.”
Donate, today, to put Large Fears in the hands of black, queer youth and their parents.
L.G. Parker is a poet and writer living in Richmond, VA. She is a Callaloo fellow and regular contributor to Elixher Magazine, Blavity, and the Black Youth Project.
Crissle West from “The Read” took down an audience member for his glaring white privilege during a discussion about Sarah Silverman’s use of blackface. Watch the video here.
By Jay Dodd
Earlier this week, Arrogant Internet White Man #456 or Chuck C. Johnson used Twitter to fundraise a “taking out” of community organizer and movement curator Deray McKesson. The threat spread quick and many mobilized to hold Twitter accountable for allowing such threats. While Black Twitter was critical in the quick response, McKesson’s high profile status signaled a larger issue around threats and harassment on the platform.
In the days following, news broke that Twitter permanently suspended Johnson from the site and many rejoiced. Johnson, however, is allegedly trying to sue stating, “Twitter doesn’t seem to have a problem with people using their service to coordinate riots, but they do have a problem with the kind of journalism I do.”
This case study in Arrogant White Man self-victimization is commonplace from academia to entertainment and seems to have found a complex home online. While Black folk experience threat and harassment in a variety of forms online, social media, Twitter especially, has provided a critical space for folks to claim identity and combat erasure. These are seemingly new tactics in Black survival and socio-cultural resistance; keeping up with the modernization of White terror.
We are undoubtedly not living the world of our parents or grandparents’ racism. As technology, wealth, and power continued to shift, strategies of systemic or covert racism has become standard. Erasure and silencing now gag the throats of Black resistance and scholarship. Overt actions of racism, like lynching and fire bombing are easier to shame but those, too, are still happening. The false outcry of many (white) millennials is that we are living in a “post race” utopia with President Obama as a beacon of that cultural shift. However, consider his welcome to Twitter.
Red-blooded American spoke to the President of the United States with the most vitriolic racism. Whatever you want to say about patriotism, or the lack of surprise, consider how quickly American pride is proven as a fallacy. Any reverence that POTUS would be afforded is lost because of his Blackness. Not only is there the disrespect of alleged nationalism, but with the prevalence of threats and harassment on Twitter, are these trolls unbothered by potential repercussions. (by the way, threatening the president of the United States is a maximum penalty of five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.) Only racism’s arrogance can reveal such disparities in cultural codes or standards.
While technology and social media a multitude of ways to communicate and build, technology does not undo or minimize intergenerational racism. New media has unfortunately also meant a lack of ethics, accountability and safety for many Black folks online. There have been concerted efforts to defame, silence, and threaten Black/Indigenous (Trans) Women online. Government and news organizations vulture social media to co-opt/disable resistance movements.
While Black folk have truly begun mastering the digital landscape as a new world for us to connect through, we (unfortunately) are still vulnerable to White threat. It is on us to build our digital literacy and demand safety for our voices and narratives.
Photo: Jay Dodd/Twitter
Jay Dodd is a writer and performance artist based in Boston, originally from Los Angeles. After recently graduating Tufts University, Jay has organized vigils and protests locally for Black Lives Matter: Boston. When not in the streets, Jay has contributed to Huffington Post and is currently a contributing writer for VSNotebook.com, based in London. Jay Dodd is active on social media celebrating Blackness, interrogating masculinity, and complicating queerness. His poetic and performance work speaks to queer Black masculinity and afrofuturism.
Last week, Chimamanda Adichie was honored at the Girls Write Now Awards. Her message to the attendees was simple: Do you and don’t worry about what others say.
“Forget about likability. I think that what our society teaches young girls and I think that it’s something that’s quite difficult for even older women, self-confessed feminists, to shrug off is this idea that likability is an essential part of the space you occupy in the world. That you’re supposed to twist yourself into shapes to make yourself likable. That you’re supposed to kind of hold back sometimes, pull back. Don’t quite say, don’t be too pushy … because you have to be likable. And I say that is bullshit,” Adichie told the audience.
Words to live by:
Photo: Girls Write Now
By Samantha Master
During the era of legalized, extra-judicial lynchings of Black people, there are almost 150 documented cases of Black women being lynched. Their crimes ranged from registering to vote to being the daughter or partner of someone accused of murder.
While the United States is still processing the murders—and subsequent acts of resistance—following the deaths of young Black men like Michael Brown and Freddie Gray at the hands of law enforcement, Black women are left wondering why when the similar fates befalls us, there is all-but-silence.
In the face of continued state and law enforcement violence via death, physical and sexual assault, Black women—who have largely catalyzed and organized movement strategy and actions in the aftermath of these tragedies—are declaring that our lives are valuable and sacred and our names deserve to be spoken alongside our fallen brethren.
To date, 11 known cisgender women—assigned female at birth and identifying as women—and at least 1 transgender woman has been killed by law enforcement. Black women are most likely to be victims of police sexual assault. Almost 40% of Black transgender people who had encounters with police reported harassment. Black girls are suspended six times the rates of white girls in primary and secondary schools.
State and law enforcement violence have created a state of emergency for Black women and girls, and we cannot sit idly by while our sisters are being—to quote Kimberle Crenshaw—“pushed out, over policed and under protected.” All of the women are not white. All of the Blacks are not men. And some of us are still brave.
It is not enough to simply know and speak the names of our sisters, we must commit to ending the racist, hetero-cis-patriarchal policies and practices that endanger our lives and our communities. We must commit to centering Black women, girls and femmes in our analyses by ensuring that our anti-racism is not sexist, our feminisms are not cis-sexist, and our work is inclusive of the whole of Black experiences.
Black women birthed intersectionality, and we need their brilliance now, more than ever, if we are to ever be free.
Black women and girls have existed—invisibilized and ignored—at the margins of narratives and organizing against state and law enforcement violence for far too long. Today, we say, “No more.”
In honor of:
Mary Turner, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair, Assata Shakur, Tyisha Miller, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Miriam Carey, Rekia Boyd, Yvette Smith, Tyra Hunter, Anna Brown, Sheneque Proctor, Renisha McBride, Tanisha Anderson, Nuwnah Laroche, Mya Hall, Yuvette Henderson, Natasha McKenna, Janisha Fonville, Monique Deckard, Megan Hockaday, Alexia Christian, and so many more whose names may escape our tongue but whose stories live within our hearts, we #SpeakHerName.
Samantha Master is a writer based in Washington, D.C.
Photo: Rekia Boyd/Sandra Khalifa
By L.G. Parker
Pride ain’t for everybody. As writer Shaan Michael Wade puts it, Pride is “classy, white cissification at its finest.” For those of us who are black and queer, not to mention gender-non-conforming, disabled, women, broke as hell, or any combination of these things and more, pride is a very colorful reenactment of the erasure we face every day.
Which is why we come together and celebrate ourselves for ourselves. Check out this growing list of Black Pride events:
Columbia, South Carolina
June 19 – 20
Harlem, New York
Los Angeles, California
July 2- 5
Charlotte, North Carolina
July 20 – 31
Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina
New York City, New York
St. Louis, Missouri
August 31 – September 7
October 1 – 5
Nashville Black Pride
There’s a lot of dope black films to look forward to. The latest in the Kickstarter game is The Last Black Man in San Francisco. The film details the real life consequences of gentrification.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a feature-length narrative film currently in pre-production that is inspired by the real life of Jimmie Fails, a third-generation San Franciscan, who dreams of buying back his old family home in the Fillmore.
But this film isn’t just about tough economic times and changing political landscapes in San Francisco. It’s a story about two inseparable misfits who are searching for home in a city they can no longer call their own.
Photo: The Last Black Man in San Francisco/Kickstarter
None on Record, a multimedia project that records interviews with members of African LGTBQ communities and the Diaspora, created a video series to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.
None on Record is a digital media organization that works to document stories from LGBT communities on the Continent and throughout the Diaspora. Founded in 2006 by Selly Thiam, herself a Senegalese lesbian living in the U.S., the project began as a way of collecting oral histories of LGBT Africans. The organization previously produced a series focused on LGBT Africans seeking asylum in the UK, and in October 2015 they have plans to host a three-day cultural arts festival in Nairobi.
Check out the video’s below:
Photo: None on Record
Beyoncé and Nicki have broken the internet with their “Feeling Myself” video. You probably still don’t have a Tidal subscription but you’ve definitely seen the video and the million GIFs it’s produced. Beyoncé released some shots from “Feeling Myself” on her website and they’re just what you need to get through Humpday.