Crack Dens, Houses, Heads and Babies: Five Myths of the Crack Cocaine Epidemic

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The mythology of the crack cocaine epidemic misdirects the devastation of persistent social inequities to cautionary tales of crack houses, crack heads and crack babies. Yet the emergence of myth is a predictable response within a society that too often places the blame on those victimized by social marginalization. While there is no doubt that crack cocaine use has devastating effects on individuals, families and communities, the extent to which we attribute the conditions of poor and minority inner city communities to drug use is just too much.

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(In)Visible Children

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International Rescue Committee staff distributes medicine to children in Uganda.

Theory: (noun) a particular conception or view of something to be done or of the method of doing it; a system of rules or principles.

Action: (noun) the process or state of acting or being active; something being done or performed, and act or deed; an act that one consciously wills that may be characterized by physical or mental activity

Yesterday morning, I woke up to a phenomenon. My entire twitter timeline was flooded with #KONY2012, which I initially thought meant King of New York. When I finally reached a desktop computer, I got the chance to see what all the fuss was about. Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) – which was based in Uganda some years ago – is the subject of the latest documentary by Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children. Through genius viral social media marketing, the short video went from having 30 hits on Monday, to over 36 million views by Thursday afternoon. The point of the film, according to Russell, is to make Joseph Kony “famous” the same way celebrities are famous. He hopes that in doing this, he’ll garner the attention of the International Courts and bring Kony to justice. The video, which is roughly 30 minutes long and quite emotional, focuses on the story of Jacob. As a young Ugandan boy, Jacob was captured by the LRA and forced to fight for Joseph Kony’s vaguely Christian agenda to maintain control in Uganda. The Kony 2012 Campaign relies on our emotions to generate sympathy for these young children. It’s important to take a critical look at these tactics.

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From the Click in Xhosa, to the Pulse in House

Posted 6 CommentsPosted in Activists, Artists, Scholars

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IYM1j61pFA]

My dearest Chicago, you are the architect for the house that jack built, but did you have any idea that your music was fueling the rage and resistance against apartheid? Did you know that this electronic music created in your mama’s basement would become a part of the cultural fabric of one of the most historically complex places on earth? That house music is a part of the Mandelas’ (both Winnie and Nelson’s) cultural vocabulary?

Many a house head in the U.S. would like to believe we “discovered” house music in South Africa, when the truth is that house has had a home in South Africa long before we tuned in. Sort of like the pre-existing civilizations that Sertima suggested Came Before Columbus. But let’s be clear, it wasn’t that we didn’t care. We can use this moment in electronic music history to admit that not enough of us in the States received a reliable education about the contemporary cultural developments of Africa. And at the risk of sounding like an Intro to Afro-centric Studies course, we’ve learned a great deal about Africa through the lens of the white supremacists who sought the resources of Africa (both human and natural) to help institutionalize their superiority. But today, we need to know better.

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Digital Strategies for Grassroots Organizing

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As a grassroots organizer, there are many opportunities we can take advantage of in the digital world but sometimes it’s easy to get confused, lost or irritated. As someone who has navigated aspects of this world, I’ve found a few strategies for using media as a tool for community organizing. Here are my top 6 suggestions for cultivating awareness and engagement in the digital sphere.

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Respect is Due

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Stories live forever, storytellers don’t.

-Patricia Stephens Due

I was not familiar with Patricia Stephens Due until I recently stumbled across an old interview with her on NPR. Growing up, most of what I learned about the Civil Rights Movement was about the work of Dr. King and the March on Washington.  In school I didn’t learn a lot about the everyday women who helped the movement that changed our country and resonated among Africans around the world.

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The Story of a Morena Boriqueña

Posted 3 CommentsPosted in Activists, Scholars, Students, Teachers

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tT7_oQzDYMw]

I remember going to church as a child and understanding that I was different.  My abuela and I used to go to a Pentecostal church that was mostly white Latinos, but I had darker skin.  I would see the Pastor’s wife and I yearned to look like her.  In my eyes, she had milky white skin and silky hair to her ankles.  Though she never knew this, I would go home, look in the mirror and wonder why my skin was darker and my hair was significantly shorter than hers.  I did not understand what it was to be Latina and black.

Puerto Ricans are descendants of Africans, Europeans and the indigenous Tainos, so it shouldn’t be surprising that Puerto Ricans come in many colors.

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Inspiration and Mis-Education

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Field Notes, Scholars

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/37409374]

You can read the entire text of “The Mis-Education of the Negro” here.

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History, founded by Carter G. Woodson in 1915, will have its annual convention in Pittsburgh in September.  This year’s Black History theme is Black Women in American Culture and History. We encourage you to make black history all year long by supporting local institutions and grassroots organizations.

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Color me Igbo

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Half of a Yellow Sun, a novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, has been the recent focus of movie execs and members of the Igbo community in Southern Nigeria. A petition, developed by Ashley Akunna, is protesting the casting of Thandie Newton as the film adaptation’s lead character. Newton is an acclaimed actress who has gained greater recognition in recent years for her roles in films such as Mission: Impossible II, The Pursuit of Happyness and Crash. She is of Zimbabwean descent and is set to play an Igbo woman caught in the thralls of the Biafran War, which ravaged a newly independent Nigeria from 1967 to 1970. The book has been heralded as a stunning depiction of the relationship between the Hausa and Igbo tribes during this period and received the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007.

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Black History “The House Down”

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[vimeo http://vimeo.com/36793985]

Robin explains that yes, Black History Month is more than a month. But February is a great opportunity to support grassroots organizations and local institutions. She encourages you to enjoy yourself and Black History “The House Down”.  For more information on Carter G. Woodson and the legacy of Black History Month, check out the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

by Robin Hayes

Stop Shootin’

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Activists, Allies, Prisoners

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuU7bEqKcLk]

A few days ago, an old friend from London came to New York for a visit.  Cora’s trip was brief, but we managed to sneak in a dinner and catch up since our last lunch date 4 years ago.  After chatting about the usual things–school, family, love–I asked her to fill me in on her experiences with the London Riots that swept the country for 4 days last August.  She had much to say, but one thing stood out:

It was a really beautiful thing.  This guy was shot by the police, and I mean, I know here in the US that type of thing happens all the time, it’s common.  But in London, it started something.

I sat there quietly listening to the rest of her description of the riots, but I couldn’t move past her statement that state-sanctioned violence toward a person of color “is common” in the United States.  Unfortunately she was right, and the past year has done nothing to suggest that this is changing.

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