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.
In some neighborhoods, public schools feel more like prisons than schools. In this episode, former social worker and attorney Helen Higginbotham discusses the policing of children in schools with BLACK AND CUBA director Robin J. Hayes.
“Like Muhammad Ali puts it, we are all—black and brown and poor—victims of the same system of oppression.” – Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Happy Birthday Muhammad Ali! Mainstream media continues to revere him for his extraordinary achievements as an athlete and his influential oratory style (How many of us have alleged to “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”?). However, Ali is beloved to the progressive community and the African diaspora for his candid criticism of racial discrimination and poverty as well as his refusal to be inducted in the US Army during the Vietnam War due to his religious beliefs. Ali could have exercised his class privilege, entered the army and fought entertaining exhibition bouts without ever being in any physical danger. Instead, he chose to take a principled stand which in the short run cost him millions of dollars and some of his peak years as a boxing champion. In the long run, Ali’s example made him a legend.
To learn more about Muhammad Ali, see the Academy Award-winning film When we Were Kings, or read this Dave Zirin article in The Nation.
When will race no longer be a barrier to educational success? In this episode of BREAKING DOWN RACISM, a former Deputy Director of Prep for Prep–a leadership development and educational access program for young people of color–discusses his take on the future of equality in private education. Could your school do a better job with diversity and inclusion? Tell us about it in the comment section below.
Writers: John Dumey, Layla Nunez, Noemi Morales
Director: Layla Ninez
Producer: John Dumey, Noemi Morales
Featured Guest: Peter Bordonaro
Host/Executive Producer/Series Creator: Robin J. Hayes, PhD
Production Assistant: Enrique Prieto Mancia
Today in Black History, George Washington Carver was born into slavery in Missouri in 1864 (or possibly 1861). A pioneering American scientist, Prof. Carver encouraged the diversification of crops in the South using alternatives such as peanuts and soybeans. He invented over 100 uses for the peanut including gasoline and nitroglycerin. Although Carver never legally married, he was survived by his longtime companion, fellow scientist and Tuskegee professor Austin W. Curtis, Jr.
Today Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook co-founded the Dance Theater of Harlem in 1969 to bring ballet and its allied arts to Mitchell’s beloved community. The Dance Theater of Harlem continues to educate young people and diversify the art form of dance.
January 1, 1804 the Haitian revolution succeeds. To learn more about Haitian history, Progressive Pupil suggests The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James and The Uses of Haiti by Paul Farmer. What are some of the biggest misconceptions we have about Haiti today?
On January 1, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation making slavery illegal in the US. Soon afterwards, newspapers such as the Southwestern Christian Advocate in New Orleans were flooded with letters and advertisements by freedmen searching for their mothers, children, and spouses who had been sold or disappeared, or who had fled the brutality of plantation owners. These letters reveal no one ever adjusted to slavery. And the trauma the experience caused endured long after Lincoln’s decree. How does slavery continue to impact African American families today?
Happy New Year!! In this episode from Season 1 of Breaking Down Racism, Sudanese rapper Oddisee, Afro-Dominican singer Fanesha Fabre, Ethiopian journalist Hanna Giorgies and others discuss the diversity of the Black community and the meaning of diaspora today.
Written by: Regine Nehy
Produced by: Regine Nehy and Ladin Awad
Executive Producer: Robin J. Hayes, PhD
Directed by: Tsige Tafesse and Sequana Williams
Edited by: Ladin Awad
Breaking Down Racism is brought to you by Progressive Pupil, which “makes Black studies for everybody.” The series was created by Robin J. Hayes, PhD.