Happy Women’s History Month! Black women from throughout the diaspora have made significant contributions to Black Studies. Audre Lorde (1934-1992) was a poet, essayist and activist who created a number of ground-breaking ideas about the relationship between race, class, gender and sexuality. Her most well-known quote comes from her classic collection of essays, Sister Outsider: “…the Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s house.” Lorde believed that activists of color needed to address all forms of oppression rather than seek inclusion into the elite for members of their particular group. She also advocated for radical political and cultural changes that would equalize power relations in our society.
According to the Pew Research Center, 83% of American adults own a cell phone and 42% of them identify their cell phone as a smartphone. These numbers say a lot about the trajectory of technology and social media usage. As a grassroots organizer working with diasporic communities, it is smart to pay attention to these trends since the Pew Research Center goes on to say smartphone use is highest among the affluent, well-educated, those under the age of 45 and people of color. Not only can smartphone Apps be a great tool to reach your desired audience, it can also be a wonderful way to raise funds and recruit volunteers. In this series, I explore useful Apps for community organizers, scholars, teachers, artists and students who have a particular interest in the African diaspora. If you have any suggestions for Apps I should feature, let me know in the comments!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On a recent, very brief trip to Ocho Rios, Jamaica, I was not surprised to experience the high quality of respect given to the memory of Bob Marley. Anything less would have been disappointing. However, as a lifetime follower of Marley, this trip highlighted a pattern much of the world is guilty of—pigeonholing Bob Marley as nothing more than a reggae artist and—thus losing sight of his revolutionary spirit.