The Manning Marable Memorial Conference

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The Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University (IRAAS) and the Ford Foundation Presents “A New Vision of Black Freedom: the Manning Marable Memorial Conference,” an academic and community-focused event scheduled for April 26-29, 2012 at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Columbia University and Riverside Church in New York City.


Honor Mama Africa

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Last week, I got to do something I haven’t done in years: I went on a field trip. My professor Sean Jacobs managed to get our class, Contemporary Africa, into the welcome reception and opening night screening of the 19th Annual African Film Festival.

Miriam Makeba’s bassists, Sean Jacobs and Bill Salter discussing “Mama Africa” at the 19th Annual African Film Festival. Photo courtesy of Folashade Kornegay.

The festival highlights artistic and cinematic work on and from the African continent and this goal was achieved with Mama Africa. The film is a documentary on the life of Miriam Makeba, a South African singer and civil rights activist who has the nickname “Mama Africa”. The film was directed by Mika Kaurismäki, a Finnish native who fell in love with Makeba’s music in his youth and has expressed that love through amazing cinematography and an honest look at who Miriam Makeba was. It exposes her many different layers and leaves the audience feeling every emotion – sadness, joy, pain, and happiness. In the end, the film inspires us to celebrate her life, legacy, music and activism.


The Premature Death of Leadership Development

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Activists, Allies, Artists, Prisoners, Scholars, Students, Teachers

For one reason or another, I have been groomed to be a loyal follower of Tupac. I have always been a fan of his music, poetry, acting, rhetoric, and overall message. As an undergraduate at the University of Washington, I even took a class on Tupac titled, The Textual Appeal of Tupac Shakur led by an amazing and brave former professor of mine, Georgia Roberts. Now, as a graduate student in New  York City, I’m taking a class on leadership development. Recently, we were given the opportunity to either write about a leadership development topic that interested us or the leadership development journey of a real person. Naturally, I chose Tupac Amaru Shakur.


Black Thought 2.0: New Media and the Future of Black Studies

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More than a dozen prominent African American scholars will participate in a conference on the role of social media in cultural studies, April 6-7 at Duke University. The two-day conference, “Black Thought 2.0: New Media and the Future of Black Studies,” will be held at the John Hope Franklin Center and is free and open to the public.


Top Ten Reasons I Love My Natural Hair

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Showing off my dreadlocks! Photo courtesy of Carmen Medina.

Good hair means curls and waves
Bad hair means you look like a slave
At the turn of the century
Its time for us to redefine who we be
You can shave it off
Like a South African beauty
Or get in on lock
Like Bob Marley
You can rock it straight
Like Oprah Winfrey
If it’s not what’s on your head
Its what’s underneath

-India.Arie “I Am Not My Hair”

As a young woman of color, I have had a million different hairstyles: relaxed or permed, a Jheri curl, a short Afro and box braids.  Now I have dreadlocks and I love them. Having dreadlocks has given me a new sense of confidence and I feel very comfortable in my own skin. While some women chop off their relaxed hair, I decided to transition to natural.  The transition process was long because I let my natural hair grow out and slowly cut off the relaxed hair so I could maintain length. While making the decision to go natural is a big one, I am an advocate of natural hair.  These are the top ten reasons why I love being natural:


Digitizing our Heritage through the Black Vernacular

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My maternal great-grandparents, Martha Jane Hicks and Sim Hicks, of Virgina. Photo courtesy of Folashade Kornegay.

Paying homage to our ancestors is rooted in ancient traditions from Africa, where religions such as Yoruba and Lugbara called on those who came before us to help guide our path through our earthly existence. With the advent of the Internet and social media, people have been discovering ways to create digital time capsules and honoring our past. Dwayne Rodgers, a photographer and artist based in New York City has decided to draw on these traditions. This past Black History Month, he began The Black Vernaculara communal ancestral shrine for people of African descent.


The Audre Lorde Project

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Portrait of Audre Lorde by Robert Alexander, 1983.

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.


Apps for the Conscious Organizer

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Activists, Black Resistance Reading List, Scholars, Students, Teachers

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!


(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.