About the #BlackPantherSyllabus

Best known for his research into television content and cultivation theory, George Gerbner (1972) said that “representation in the fictional world signifies social existence; absence means symbolic annihilation” (p. 44). Historically, the Black experience has been absent, underrepresented, or misrepresented. Intersections within the identity have suffered with additional pressures, promoting a continued sense of invisibility. Within the last few years, visual representation has been on a rise, with our stories of the Black experience being told on a multitude of platforms. Narratives filled with stereotypes and misrepresentations are being overridden by success, wholeness, and imagination. This is particularly present in popular culture. Marvel’s Black Panther film serves as the highest profile example of a fundamental shift in our experience.

The Marvel character, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966, is inspiration personified: he is a servant leader, he is a protector, he is an intellectual, and he is a power house. Inspired by the record shattering blockbuster film filled with incredible performances and sociopolitical commentary, the #BlackPantherSyllabus is designed to continue the dialogue around the importance of diverse representation of the Black identity and its intersections in visible forms of media in popular culture and the arts, including television, film, comics, music, science/speculative fiction, fantasy literature, manga, anime, gaming, and more. The hope is that this celebration of Blackness in the form of a syllabus creates an educational tool and a movement that promotes a deeper sense of self-authorship.

Curators: Dr. Brandon W. Jones bjonesproject.com, Shawn J. Moore shawnjmoore.com

Source: #BlackPantherSyllabus | Feminism | Ethnicity, Race & Gender

Feb 29, 1960

[To Time Magazine]

There was a slight error, which I do not think you will mind my calling attention to. It concerns my African name. I would like to spell it correctly for you:

Zenzile Makeba Qgwashu Nguvama Yiketheli Nxgowa Bantana Balomzi Xa Ufun Ubajabulisa Ubaphekeli, Mbiza Yotshwala Sithi Xa Saku Qgiba Ukutja Sithathe Izitsha Sizi Khabe Singama Lawu Singama Qgwashu Singama Nqamla Nqgithi.

The reason for its length is that every child takes the first name of all his male ancestors. Often following the first name is a descriptive word or two, telling about the character of the person, making a true African name somewhat like a story.

Miriam Makeba

Excerpted from Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture)

 

I was once a member of an union.  The union I was in didn’t follow the lead of labor activist Sidney Hillman. It was a “typical” style union in that it collected dues that it did who-knew-what with the dues it received. Therefore reading the article linked below was educational. I didn’t know there were unions that operated on the premise of social unionism. It’s an idea aligned with my world view and is more than appropriate to share on Labor Day. Enjoy. Relate. Reciprocate.

Do You Build a Union for the 21st Century? (Step 1: Learn From History) – Sara Horowitz – The Atlantic.

Reading Round-up

February 15, 2012

 

The Help:

I know I’m a day late and a dollar short in discussing The Help but I recently saw an interview/discussion between Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Tavis Smiley that made me order the book. I read it relatively quickly over a weekend. During my reading of it, a quote from Alice Walker flashed into my mind:

“I used to wonder if any white child in the South who received the love of the great souls forced to tend them would ever develop enough soul of his or her own to rise in their defense.  Or even to an understanding, however limited or imperfect, of their silenced, hidden sacrifice.  Kathryn Stockett has done so.”

I think that, ultimately, is the value of this book.

 

Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons:


This is a book of narratives of women both formerly, and currently, imprisoned. Every single one of the “stories” highlights the anti-human nature of prison. I’ve heard the phrase “if you do the crime then you do the time”. However the condemnation inherent in that phrase pertains more to black and/or poor  women than any other group. The women tell tales of being eight months pregnant and being shackled across their belly during visits during the prison hospital. One pregnant woman, Olivia, who was sentenced to a year in prison, nine years of probation and a $100/month post-incarceration repayment schedule for stealing $700 reports the following:

My due date was May 24, 2008, just before the Memorial Day weekend. A female doctor from the Atlanta Medical Center came to visit me on the 22nd. At that time, I wasn’t showing any signs of labor. We did an ultrasound, and the baby hadn’t moved one bit. I wasn’t dilated at all, wasn’t even close, and I wasn’t having any pains. She said I should be fine through the weekend, and that everything was normal about my pregnancy.

Then, on the evening on the 23rd-this was a Friday evening-the guards called me, and they told me to pack my stuff. But I hadn’t even had one contraction, so I asked a guard, “Where am I going?” And the guard said, “I don’t know. They just called  and said for you to pack your stuff.” I thought, Okay, maybe I’m going home!

I got over to the infirmary, and the captain said, “Well, the doctor from the prison says he’s going to send you to be induced.” When I asked why, she said, “Because your due date is May 24th, and this is a holiday weekend.” I said, “But I’m not even in pain or anything! I don’t want to be induced, I’m not even late. Nothing’s wrong with me!” And she said, “Well, these are orders.”

They put me in a room and shackled me. I was more upset than anything that the baby just wasn’t ready, and I didn’t want to be forced. They gave me Pitocin, but it wasn’t working. Later, in the middle of the night, the doctor came in to check on me. He came in and he started poking inside me with an instrument-I’m not sure exactly what it was, it looked like a little stick. He put it inside me and started poking the bag of water, where the amniotic fluid was, so he could bust it. It was a lot of pain, and I said, “You’re hurting me.” He stopped, but by then he had swollen up  my insides, and the baby couldn’t move any more than six centimeters.”

Then he said, “Well, if you don’t move any more by tomorrow, we’re going to have to do a c-section.” I said, “So you come in here, and you poke me to death, and now I”m swollen! I have never had a c-section in my life. My oldest son was nine pounds-no cuts, no slits, no nothing. And you’re going to make me have a c-section?”

The next day, the doctor came back and took me in to have the c-section done. A sergeant came in and said, “She needs to be shackled. She’s no different from anybody else.” I was hurting and I was tired. I said to the sergeant, “Ma’am, there is no way I need those shackles. I’m not going anywhere; I’m in pain. You’ve got a guard in my room. And I don’t know if you have kids but this ain’t something fun to have your hands shackled for.” But she made them keep the shackles on me when I went in for the c-section.

The doctor gave me an epidural. I went through with the c-section and finally, the baby came on out. It was a boy. The guard held him up to show him to me. Even then, they never took the shackles off me.

This c-section I was force to have-I doubt that it’s legal. I don’t remember signing any paperwork but I never looked into finding a lawyer. I was hoping there was something I could do but I was told that I had no rights. The guard said to me, ” You lost your rights the day you walked in here.”

I named the baby Joshua.

Now that was a long excerpt for what was supposed to be a round-up but it disturbed me enough to want to share what happens behind the wall to the fastest-growing population of prisoners: women.

Zong! – M. Nourbese Phillips

I had such high hopes for this book when I read the description: “[an] extended poetry cycle is based on a legal decision, at the end of the eighteenth century, related to the murder of Africans on board a slave ship. It was intended to be part of my research for my next book. However, the arrangement of the words on the page make the book, honestly speaking,  unreadable!  Here is a link to a sample so that what I’m saying can be understood from a reader’s point of view. Flipping through page after page, I found nothing else but the same.

Now I had watched a video of Ms. Phillips read-performing her work and I got it. In fact, it was the video that predisposed me to order the book. However, I simply think print isn’t the best format for that type of poetry.

The other day doing some Googling on anti-colonial poetics, I came across this fantastic article by Aimé Césaire. It is very long so I’m only going to quote the beginning. Click the link below to read the whole thing.

Discourse on Colonialism

A civilization that proves incapable of solving the problems it creates is a decadent civilization.

A civilization that chooses to close its eyes to its most crucial problems is a stricken civilization.

A civilization that uses its principles for trickery and deceit is a dying civilization.

The fact is that the so-called European civilization – "Western" civilization – as it has been shaped by two centuries of bourgeois rule, is incapable of solving the two major problems to which its existence has given rise: the problem of the proletariat and the colonial problem; that Europe is unable to justify itself either before the bar of "reason" or before the bar of "conscience"; and that, increasingly, it takes refuge in a hypocrisy which is all the more odious because it is less and less likely to deceive.

Europe is indefensible.

Apparently that is what the American strategists are whispering to each other.

That in itself is not serious.

What is serious is that "Europe" is morally, spiritually indefensible.

And today the indictment is brought against it not by the European masses alone, but on a world scale, by tens and tens of millions of men who, from the depths of slavery, set themselves up as judges.

The colonialists may kill in Indochina, torture in Madagascar, imprison in Black Africa, crackdown in the West Indies. Henceforth, the colonized know that they have an advantage over them. They know that their temporary, "masters" are lying.

Therefore, that their masters are weak.

And since I have been asked to speak about colonization and civilization, let us go straight to the principal lie which is the source of all the others.

Colonization and civilization?

In dealing with this subject, the commonest curse is to be the dupe in good faith of a collective hypocrisy that cleverly misrepresents problems, the better to legitimize the hateful solutions provided for them.

In other words, the essential thing here is to see clearly, to think clearly – that is, dangerously – and to answer clearly the innocent first question: what, fundamentally, is colonization? To agree on what it is not: neither evangelization, nor a philanthropic enterprise, nor a desire to push back the frontiers of ignorance, disease, and tyranny, nor a project undertaken for the greater glory of God, nor an attempt to extend the rule of law. To admit once for all, without flinching at the consequences, that the decisive actors here are the adventurer and the pirate, the wholesale grocer and the ship owner, the gold digger and the merchant, appetite and force, and behind them, the baleful projected shadow of a form of civilization which, at a certain point in its history, finds itself obliged, for internal reasons, to extend to a world scale the competition of its antagonistic economies.

Pursuing my analysis, I find that hypocrisy is of recent date; that neither Cortez discovering Mexico from the top of the great teocalli, nor Pizzaro before Cuzco (much less Marco Polo before Cambaluc), claims that he is the harbinger of a superior order; that they kill; that they plunder; that they have helmets, lances, cupidities; that the slavering apologists came later; that the chief culprit in this domain is Christian pedantry, which laid down the dishonest equations Christianity=civilization, paganism=savagery, from which there could not but ensue abominable colonialist and racist consequences, whose victims were to be the Indians, the yellow peoples, and the Negroes.

That being settled, I admit that it is a good thing to place different civilizations in contact with each other that it is an excellent thing to blend different worlds; that whatever its own particular genius may be, a civilization that withdraws into itself atrophies; that for civilizations, exchange is oxygen; that the great good fortune of Europe is to have been a crossroads, and that because it was the locus of all ideas, the receptacle of all philosophies, the meeting place of all sentiments, it was the best center for the redistribution of energy.

But then I ask the following question: has colonization really placed civilizations in contact? Or, if you prefer, of all the ways of establishing contact, was it the best?

I answer no.

And I say that between colonization and civilization there is an infinite distance; that out of all the colonial expeditions that have been undertaken, out of all the colonial statutes that have been drawn up, out of all the memoranda that have been dispatched by all the ministries, there could not come a single human value.

First we must study how colonization works to decivilize the colonizer, to brutalize him in the true sense of the word, to degrade him, to awaken him to buried instincts, to covetousness, violence, race hatred, and moral relativism; and we must show that each time a head is cut off or an eye put out in Vietnam and in France they accept the fact, each time a little girl is raped and in France they accept the fact, each time a Madagascan is tortured and in France they accept the fact, civilization acquires another dead weight, a universal regression takes place, a gangrene sets in, a center of infection begins to spread; and that at the end of all these treaties that have been violated, all these lies that have been propagated, all these punitive expeditions that have been tolerated, all these prisoners who have been tied up and "interrogated, all these patriots who have been – 2 – tortured, at the end of all the racial pride that has been encouraged, all the boastfulness that has been displayed, a poison has been instilled into the veins of Europe and, slowly but surely, the continent proceeds toward savagery.

And then one fine day the bourgeoisie is awakened by a terrific reverse shock: the gestapos are busy, the prisons fill up, the torturers around the racks invent, refine, discuss.

People are surprised, they become indignant. They say: "How strange! But never mind-it’s Nazism, it will. pass!" And they wait, and they hope; and they hide the truth from themselves, that it is barbarism, but the supreme barbarism, the crowning barbarism that sums up all the daily barbarisms; that it is Nazism, yes, but that before they were its victims, they were its accomplices; that they tolerated that Nazism before it was inflicted on them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimized it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples; that they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are responsible for it, and that before engulfing the whole of Western, Christian civilization in its reddened waters, it oozes, seeps, and trickles from every crack.

Yes, it would be worthwhile to study clinically, in detail, the steps taken by Hitler and Hitlerism and to reveal to the very distinguished, very humanistic, very Christian bourgeois of the twentieth century that without his being aware of it, he has a Hitler inside him, that Hitler inhabits him, that Hitler is his demon, that if he rails against him, he is being inconsistent and that, at bottom, what he cannot forgive Hitler for is not crime in itself, the crime against man, it is not the humiliation of man as such, it is the crime against the white man, the humiliation of the white man, and the fact that he applied to Europe colonialist procedures which until then had been reserved exclusively for the Arabs of Algeria, the coolies of India, and the blacks of Africa.

And that is the great thing I hold against pseudo-humanism: that for too long it has diminished the rights of man, that its concept of those rights has been – and still is – narrow and fragmentary, incomplete and biased and, all things considered, sordidly racist.

I have talked a good deal about Hitler. Because he deserves it: he makes it possible to see things on a large scale and to grasp the fact that capitalist society, at its present stage, is incapable of establishing a concept of the rights of all men, just as it has proved incapable of establishing a system of individual ethics. Whether one likes it or not, at the end of the blind alley that is Europe, I mean the Europe of Adenauer, Schuman, Bidault, and a few others, there is Hitler. At the end of capitalism, which is eager to outlive its day, there is Hitler. At the end of formal humanism and philosophic renunciation, there is Hitler.

Reading Matters

April 30, 2011

The public library has become my new bookstore. Yesterday, I went book shopping there and got the following books:

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter

If you know me, then you know I am in no way, shape or form, a supporter of mainstream politics, let along presidents of the united states, former or current. However watching “history” the day Obama was installed as the “new face” of america, I was struck by the difference in physicality between George, Sr and the “peanut farmer” from Georgia. George, Sr looked like he could barely walk (and old Barbara didn’t seem to want to help him at all – if how far ahead she was walking is any indication). However, the peanut farmer defined sprightly. The image stuck with me and lead me to watch a documentary about said peanut farmer. In that documentary, I learned about this book…and the reaction to it. So even the back cover blurb includes quotes from the bible (something that interests me even less than mainstream politics), I decided to get it and yes, read it.

A Change of Skin by Carlos Fuentes

On the header over at Whirlwind Publishing, I have a quote from Fuentes: writing is a struggle against silence. When I saw this book, my mind flashed to that quote and also the realization that I had never actually read anything by Fuentes. So the book got added to the small pile. Because I have no experience with him or his writing (aside from the quote), I have no expectations. If A Change of Skins resonates with me enough, I will review it in the future.

The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan

The cover of this book seems like it was designed to capture the eye of readers who get titillated by the “exoticness” of Indian cultural attire. But what decided me on it was the back blurb which said the following:

In the celebrated tradition of The Joy Luck Club and Like Water for Chocolate comes a lyrical and deeply moving debut that explores the intricate bond between mothers and daughters – and the universal quest to live a life of love, beauty and truth.

This book and the one I’m going to discuss next will be read as part of the 2011 South Asian reading challenge.

Brick Lane by Monica Ali

Honestly, I bought this book because I’ve seen the movie and want to read the original, as is my wont.

Both books will be reviewed.

Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful – Alice Walker

When I first started reading Black lit as a teenager, this was one of the books I got. Back then my favorite poem in it was First They Said. I think it might actually be the original hardcover book because the picture on the back cover shows a young Alice Walker wearing what looks like braid extensions.