Blackness

It Takes A Villlage – VNV Tuesday: Why We Can’t Ignore the Legacy of Slavery 4/18/17

Slave Market, Atlanta, GA 1864

Today’s post is a response to two different, but converging, prompts. First, as I mentioned in a comment yesterday, is my reading of Eric Foner’s Reconstruction Updated Edition: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, a massive history (that I’m less than one-third of the way through) of an era that continues to reverberate today. The second is the continuing criticism by Sen. Sanders of the Democratic Party, and the inevitable response on Twitter by Bros who continue to argue for “economics uber Alles.” The inability to recognize and address white supremacy with any coherence is an issue for more than just white supremacists; it becomes a problem for those of us who understand that the base of the Democratic Party is women and persons of color. In general, the Base (and allies) understand the problems associated with patriarchy and white supremacy, because it is our lived experience. We further understand that systems of prejudice don’t go away with a wave of the economic wand, and our history demonstrates that. The thoroughly ahistorical arguments of BoBers are troubling, but I am convinced that for some, the absence of historically-grounded awareness is a matter of ignorance, rather than malice. Today’s post is a compilation of quotes from Foner’s book (whether his own words or drawn from commenters during Reconstruction) (with a few tweets to add “color.”)

“Saudade” — Black Brazil

“Saudade” — Black Brazil.

Brazilian Rafaela Silva smiles holding her Olympics gold medal in judo.

I’ve been thinking over the Brazil Olympics and feeling “saudade” (can be pronounced sow—dahd-Jee) which is often dubbed a Portuguese word that is untranslatable.

…a Portuguese and Galician term that is a common fixture in the literature and music of Brazil, Portugal, Cape Verde and beyond. The concept has many definitions, including a melancholy nostalgia for something that perhaps has not even happened. It often carries an assurance that this thing you feel nostalgic for will never happen again. My favorite definition of saudade is by Portuguese writer Manuel de Melo: “a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy.”

I will more than likely never return to Brazil. My dearest friend there has died, and I just don’t want to attempt to revisit what I shared there with her. However, what she did teach me about Brazil, I will never forget. I waited impatiently to watch the Olympics from Rio, hoping to recapture just a bit of the Brazil Maria introduced me to.

Collette

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“Excuse me, but do you have any more brochures on prison reform?”

Darren’s head was under the cloth that hung from the table in his booth at the town fair, so he stuck up a hand high enough so the visitor could see it. “Be right with you, okay?” Even to him, his voice sounded muffled.

Having extracted a pile of the brochures he wanted to replenish, he groped rightward to the box in which the prison reform brochures were kept and grabbed a few. Then he stood up and looked straight into the face of the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen.

In fact, she was probably the most beautiful woman in the world. Slim and graceful, she appeared to be just a few inches over five feet. Her dark brown afro hugged her beautifully shaped head. Bright brown eyes, filled with amusement; long, long black eyelashes; smooth café-au-lait skin, and red lips pressed together. She looked as if she would burst out laughing at any moment.

Aware that he looked like the nation’s prize idiot, Darren stammered, “H-how can I help you?”

“Prison reform brochures,” she repeated and could barely conceal a smile as he handed them to her.

“D-do you need anything else?” Wildly, he looked around the booth, hoping to find something that would tempt her to linger, to chat.

“No, thank you,” she said firmly, “I have what I need. Good day.”

She turned and began to walk off. She mustn’t get away! Hardly aware of what he was doing, Darren left the booth and called after her. “Wait!”

She turned. “Yes?” Her tone was cold.

“May I ask you a question?”

She looked bored. “If you must.”

He took a deep breath. “How would you rate my chances of taking you out to dinner next week?”

Her eyes widened. “That’s not at all what I expected!”

“What did you expect?”

“I thought you’d say something like, ‘Have you ever dated a white guy’ or a more vulgar variant thereof.”

Darren’s lips tightened. “I would never say anything vulgar to you or to any woman.”

“Glad to hear it,” she said, and turned to walk away.

“Wait,” he called out. “Is there anything I can do to convince you I’m a nice guy who just wants to know you better?”

She half-turned, appearing to consider this for a moment, then shook her head. “No, not really.”

Chastened, he watched her walk away. He’d never get to know her. She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever met and he’d never get to know what made her tick, what kind of music she liked, whether she enjoyed long walks in the woods.

Please, Goddess, don’t let her go out of my life!

She’d proceeded a few yards when she suddenly paused. Turned. Walked back until she stood just a few feet away.

“You know, I don’t have time for most white guys, but I’m getting a vibe from you that says—well, never mind what it says. So…yes. There is something you could do to prove you’re serious.”

“Anything!”

“Come to dinner at my grandmother’s house on Sunday.”

Despair turned to delight in seconds. “I accept with pleasure!”

She pulled a small notebook from her handbag, wrote something on it, and handed it to him. He scanned it rapidly, noting the address, the phone number, and the date and time he’d be expected. “My name’s Darren Peterson,” he said. “And here’s my number, in case you need it.”

She entered it in her mobile. “Thanks. See you Sunday.”

“Oh, by the way,” Darren called after her as she began to walk away again, “what’s your name?”

She looked back at him over her shoulder. “Collette.”


On Black American Muslims.

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The Greatest.

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. One of the most well-known, recognized and beloved Americans of all times—world-wide—is Muhammad Ali.

Ali may be the face many of us connect to when thinking of black Americans and Islam, but the roots of Islam in America go back to the founding, and have been a key part of black American culture.

I had written something else for today, and decided to scrap it. I’m beyond angry.

The dangerous witch-hunt spews from Trump and his rabid supporters, the anti-Muslim hysteria in the press and online strikes close to home for me. I am not Muslim, though I often wear a head-wrap. My husband’s name is Nadhiyr, and he is the Puerto Rican grandson of a South Asian immigrant. I have cousins who are Muslim and I spent my teenage years in a neighborhood in Queens NY where many of my neighbors were black American jazz musicians — who were Muslim.

Twenty women danced around the fire that night but only one would be…

 

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It was late summer again, time for the yearly gathering on Serafina’s property. This year the gathering would fall on Celine’s birthday, the first of August. As she packed her large beach bag she shivered in anticipatory delight—she looked forward to this occasion all year.

Into the bag went a flashlight, sunscreen, a beach towel, flip-flops, and a sun visor. No book would be necessary for the sunbathing part of the day, because the company would be so congenial she’d spend her time chatting. She added a pashmina—the evening was always chilly with the breeze coming off the water—and filled her water bottle. She was ready.

The large cooler filled with ice and soft drinks was already in the trunk of her car, as were the fruit and crackers she was bringing for snacks. Serafina, of course, would be cooking up a storm of both Puerto Rican and African-American specialties. Celine smiled as she thought of the arroz con gandules, rice with pigeon peas, that was her friend’s signature dish. She was planning to eat lightly all day so she could give the evening feast the attention it deserved.

The hour-long drive passed pleasantly as Celine, always analytical, contemplated why this yearly celebration meant so much to her. For one thing, no men would be present. There would be no need to appear deferential to male sensibilities, no need for the women present to refrain from speaking their truths around the fire circle: everyone could say whatever she damn well pleased. The best part of being with other women, Celine thought, was that one didn’t have to explain anything. Women already knew.

She smiled again as she drove on and the miles ticked away on the odometer.

Tashkent Auset was also looking forward to the gathering. Awakened as usual by cockrow, she had risen with the dawn, gone out to feed the roosters, hens, and goats, and prepared breakfast for herself and the children. Later she dropped off six-year-old Nico and three-year-old Yana at her mother’s house before setting out on her journey to Serafina’s beach property.

Jannah, previously her divorce lawyer and now her friend, had told her a great deal about the gatherings of previous years. “Only women of color attend,” Jannah said. “No white people, no men. We can be ourselves.”

It sounded wonderful to Tashkent Auset. Ordinarily shy in company because she lacked money, social position, and advanced degrees, she knew she’d feel comfortable even though most of the women present would be strangers to her. Among other women of color there would be no one to disparage her dark skin, her homemade clothes, her lack of cosmetics. There would be no need to be careful of what she said for fear of offending white people’s feelings or disturbing their comfortable stereotypes.

Driving the rattletrap car she’d acquired after the divorce,Tashkent Auset sang as she drove to the gathering place. She hoped the other women would like the brownies she was bringing to the feast.

An hour earlier Jannah, too, had set off in her sleek little Morris Minor to Serafina’s place. In the trunk of her car was a cooler full of fried chicken—a cliché, Jannah thought dispassionately, but nonetheless delicious for all that—and a blueberry cake she’d made because it traveled well and required no messy frosting that would melt in the heat. She was looking forward to seeing the people she knew would be there—Celine, Serafina, and Tashkent Auset, for instance—and women she didn’t even know yet. It had been a tiring year so far, with one difficult case after another, but this weekend would be her time to swim, eat, dance, and thoroughly enjoy herself.

____________________

Viola Davis: “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else … is opportunity”

I don’t watch television so I did not follow the Emmy Award Ceremony last night. But I do follow the news and when this video showed up in my newsfeed this morning, it begged to be shared.

Viola Davis plays a law professor in the TV show “How to Get Away With Murder”. On Sunday night, she won an Emmy, the first black woman to win an Emmy for best actress in a dramatic series.

Transcript:

‘In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.’

“That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something: The only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.

“So, here’s to all the writers, the awesome people that are Ben Sherwood, Paul Lee, Peter Nowalk, Shonda Rhimes. People who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black.

“And to the Taraji P Hensons and Kerry Washingtons, the Halle Berrys, the Nicole Beharies, the Meagan Goodes, to Gabrielle Union. Thank you for taking us over that line. Thank you for the Television Academy. Thank you.”

Some people were not happy about this … because racism is not a thing in America, and what about white women????

Trending on Twitter: Viola Davis’ Emmy Speech

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On oppressing people of color while appropriating our cultures.

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Blackface. An example of cultural appropriation from a 1900 William H. West minstrel show poster.

Over the years I have had the opportunity to study oppression, and to participate in movements that fight against it, in many forms. I am not speaking simply of oppression along white-black lines, since my own life has led me to supporting struggles of people of color in the broader sense—Native Americans and other indigenous peoples, Asian-Americans and Latinos along with issues around gender and sexual identity.

Not all these issues are focused on the direct violence of genocide, slavery, lynching, rape and police violence. We are no longer limited to simple discussions of racism, or sexism after several decades developing critical race and gender theory. We have moved into exploring “intersectionality” as a way to bring race, class, ethnicity and gender together. Our dialogues now include thoughts on “privilege”, but also on “microaggressions“, and examinations of “cultural appropriation.” The push-back, both academic and popular (as always) has been swift, and loud. We are labelled “PC” as an insult and to shut-down discussion, as if there is something wrong with pointing out inequity and exploitation.

RIP Brother Bond

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It was difficult reading this announcement from Morris Dees, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

We’ve lost a champion

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of legendary civil rights activist Julian Bond, SPLC’s first president. He was 75 years old and died last evening, August 15, in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

From his days as the co-founder and communications director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s to his chairmanship of the NAACP in the 21st century, Julian was a visionary and tireless champion for civil and human rights. He served as the SPLC’s president from our founding in 1971 to 1979, and later as a member of its board of directors.

With Julian’s passing, the country has lost one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice. He advocated not just for African Americans, but for every group, indeed every person subject to oppression and discrimination, because he recognized the common humanity in us all.

Julian is survived by his wife, Pamela Horowitz, a former SPLC staff attorney, and his five children.

Not only has the country lost a hero today, we’ve lost a great friend.

For those of us of a certain age, Julian Bond was always a part of our civil rights landscape of struggle. Tributes have poured in from many people around the globe who have been touched by his activism, including one from President Obama.

The Bernie Sanders campaign: Connecting with black voters is a work in progress.

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The Bernie Sanders campaign: Connecting with black voters is a work in progress.

After taking a look at the campaign staff and advisers for Hillary Clinton, looking specifically at people of color in major positions, I promised I would do the same for the Bernie Sanders campaign.

As it stands to date, there is not a lot to report, but there has been some progress since his initial announcement. Based on examining his campaign staffing page, and searching to identify the people currently listed there, he needs to step up the hires of people who can assist him with networking in the all important segment of the base that votes for Democrats, specifically women of color, and black women in particular.

“…Only Black ‘Deaths’ Matter.” Rev. William Barber

I received this from Rev. William Barber, and have permission to share it with you all:

Our Nation Is In Need of Prophetic Pastoral Counseling Because It Is Sending the Message —- Only Black Deaths Matter
By Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, Pastor, Greenleaf Christian Church, Goldsboro, N.C., Architect of the Forward Together Moral Monday Movement, and an Auburn Senior Fellow.

During my meditation on the messages being sent out from South Carolina this week, three scriptures came to me:
Jeremiah 31:15This is what the LORD says: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
John 8:32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
Isaiah 58:1-3Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins. For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. “Why have we fasted,” they say, “and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?”
Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.”

When the Confederate flag was removed from the South Carolina statehouse Friday morning, Gov. Nikki Haley spoke solemnly of the nine Black churchgoers who were shot to death less than a month ago at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. “We have all been struck by what was a tragedy we didn’t think we would ever encounter,” Haley said of the horrifying massacre. Before signing the bill with nine pens that will go to the families of the victims, she called those who were murdered during Bible Study at the historic church, “Nine amazing people that forever changed South Carolina’s history.” The Governor referenced the “grace” shown by the nine families, when they forgave the white gunman. She said their grace helped usher the state toward this long overdue decision.  

The assassinations at Emanuel A.M.E. Church, followed by the public forgiveness from the grieving families, were similarly cited by several South Carolina lawmakers as their reason for voting to remove the flag. What they are really saying is that Black Deaths Matter, not our lives. Black people in the US are only deemed worthy of action in their death, not in their life. In a year that has seen thousands in the streets, young and old, black white and brown, saying to the nation, “Black Lives Matter”, the painful and dangerous message coming from South Carolina this week is: Black Deaths Matter.  That’s the painful and dangerous narrative being developed out of South Carolina; it’s a narrative that the oppressed of this land have known for a long time: Only Black Deaths Matter.  Our nation is capable of doing the right thing – such as taking down the Confederate flag in the year 2015, a flag that represents the racist, immoral, unconstitutional defense of slavery and Jim Crow – but only when Black deaths happen and are met by a response deemed acceptable by those in power. Ever since this flag was raised in 1961, to send the message that South Carolina would not honor equal protection under the law, tens of thousands of small and large protests have not been enough to move the power brokers to take it down.