It is so easy to focus on the negative right now. To endlessly repeat in our minds everything that is wrong, wrong, wrong about White supremacy, fascism and the deplorable people who hold those ideals dear. It has taken me a minute to quiet my own mind and gain some clarity.
The good news is- as Nobel laureate Toni Morrison pointed out-this outbreak of hate is the quaking desperation of people who are losing. Losing ground. Losing support. Losing power. Even with champions in The White House.
The most important thing we can do now is to raise the already swelling tide of opposition to this latest iteration of fascism. A simple way to help is to invigorate dialogues in our communities that promote equality. Events such as diversity trainings or timely programs for Latino Heritage Month are proven to build compassion and acceptance.
Between screening Black and Cuba andworking on my new multi-platform project 9 GRAMS, I’ve spent some time this summer thinking about the Black woman’s image.Of course in one way or another I’ve been thinking about it my entire life by looking in the mirror and beholding the relentless glamour of my mother and grandmother while I was growing up. In creating films that center Black women’s perspectives and – frankly- a lifetime of struggling to valorize my own, I’ve come to realize the most empowering and aesthetically beautiful representations of Black women are the ones we create ourselves.
Today, the New York Times reported in an astonishing video on racist, islamophobic, homophobic and misogynist statements emboldened by the Orange one at his campaign rallies. One attendee remarks, “this is the last chance…to preserve the culture I grew up in.” Please share with a friend who is considering not voting this election year.
Police dressed in riot gear accost peaceful protester in sundress. Baton Rouge. Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Reuters.
To be candid, this past week I’ve struggled to write Field Notes. As you know, at Progressive Pupil we strive to remain optimistic. A steadfast faith in the power of collective action and community-based leadership, rooted in the successes of social movements in the past, drives our work. Hearing the news of the killing of Philando Castile in Minneapolis, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, and Delrawn Small in New York, as well as witnessing the grief of their children, tested that faith.
I lost my mother and grandfather (who was a surrogate father to me) a few years ago and understand the pain of losing a parent as an adult. I can only begin to imagine the despair losing a parent causes a child. Seeing Alton Sterling’s 15 year-old burst into tears, nearly collapsing from grief, while his mother expressed outrage about his father’s death overwhelmed me with sadness and frustration. At a press conference, they stood in front of a sign that read “Stop Killing Us.”
Haitian American musician Wyclef Jean with Haiti’s flag
During the Caribbean Studies Association 2016 conference I met a number of brilliant young Haitian-Americans, including a 20-something Cornell PhD candidate whose project focuses on Black feminist political theory in contemporary novels by Caribbean authors. Her mother emigrated from Haiti before she was born and left the country permanently in the early aughts. I had to admit to her my ignorance of the precise details of Haitian history that motivated her mom to leave Haiti.
Clockwise from left: author Zora Neale Hurston, Hurston and her partner Percival Punter, and Haitian “zombie” photographed by Hurston during her fieldwork 1936-1937.
On the tap-tap (Port-au-Prince take on the dollar cab/combi/collectivo) from Touissaint Louverture airport yesterday, I had the good fortune of running into Prof. Daphne LaMothe of Smith College. An expert in African American literature, Prof. LaMothe shared with me that Zora Neale Hurston wrote the essential novel Their Eyes Were Watching God here in Haiti in just seven weeks.
I am, in the words of Black twitter, #ActualBlack. I say this not to endorse “identity policing” but to point out:
I have parents, grandparents and great grandparents who were forced to cope with the following forms of White supremacy (in chronological order): the TransAtlantic Slave Trade, lynching, segregation, mass incarceration, and microaggressions.
My body, skin, hair, voice, accent (or lack of accent), sashay, and personal aesthetics are to some degree disturbing in all public and private institutions (except for prisons and the morgue).
I did not sign up for this club, but I am proud to be a member.
In all seriousness, I have been thinking a lot about the question: Why has the outing of Rachel Dolezal and Andrea Smith as White – allegedly – caused such a sensation?
Dr. Robin J. Hayes, director of the award-winning documentary Black and Cuba will be on New York City’s WBAI today Tuesday April 14 at 2pm EST to discuss the film and “Feeling a Foreigner” on the Artsy Fartsy Show. Listen live or download here.