Strong Hearts, Weak Perceptions: The Idea of Identity in Djebar’s Women of Algiers in their Apartment

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Confronting a particular idea within the African Diaspora can be problematic in many ways. While certain concepts and themes are communicated across the wide and diverse scope of writers, which have enriched the continent with intuitive and poignant works, there always runs a risk of coming across as reductive and assimilative. In mingling several identities into one collective, which parts of the West continue to do, some may fail to recognize Africa as a continent composed of several unique societies rather than one country. While several artists across the diaspora have embraced a strong sense of African unity and solidarity in revolt against colonialism and forged an identity, ideas of self-image on a micro scale continue to be problematic, not only within international boundaries, but regional ones as well. Particularly for women, ideals of feminism and liberation are suddenly divided by preconceived notions of race and class, an issue which is extremely present today in the Western hemisphere. This is particularly crucial in Assia Djebar’s renowned work, Women of Algiers in their Apartment, as notions of gender, nationalism, and othering become focal points of contemplation for the female protagonists.

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Capturing Puerto Rico: a “Nation on the Move”

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Those who study Puerto Rico are familiar with the phrase La nación en vaivén (Nation on the move). This phrase described the Puerto Rican diaspora, how Puerto Ricans would move “back and forth” between the Caribbean island, the United States and elsewhere.
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Icon: Bola De Nieve

The song in this video is an AfroCuban lullaby called “Drume Negrita.” In the song, an AfroCuban mother is trying to sing her baby daughter to sleep. She tells her baby that if she goes to sleep, she’ll buy her a new crib with a cap on it and a bell. I heard this song a lot growing up; when my father was feeling especially nostalgic for home he would sing “Drume Negrita” to himself. In an effort to connect his kids to their culture, he would share little bits of information about the song with us from time to time to help us understand its cultural significance. Like the fact that pronunciation in the song was bit different from standard Spanish because it was sung in an AfroCuban dialect—so “Duermes” turned into “Drume.”

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Icon: Amiri Baraka

Photo Courtesy of The Poetry Foundation

Photo Courtesy of The Poetry Foundation

Are artists obligated to be activists? For Amiri Baraka, the answer was yes. Baraka, born Everett LeRoi Jones in 1934, first became known for establishing the Black arts movement in the mid 1960s. He imagined the movement as an attempt to be Black in form, accessible to Black people, and so effective it could be used as a weapon against racism. In further support of this movement he set up the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School (BARTS) in Harlem with an aim at advancing the Cultural Revolution.

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#PrettyPeriod

Photo Courtesy of Pretty.Period.

Photo Courtesy of Pretty.Period.

Pretty. Period.” is a trans-media project created as a visual tribute to brown skin. The blog features portraits submitted by women who see themselves as part of the movement, it also includes contributions from photographers all over the world. Doctor Yaba Blay‘s project is a response to the current colorism dialogue, celebrating beauty in every shade. Dr. Blay’s states, “While there is so much to say when it comes to dark-skinned beauty, I really want to focus on the PERIOD in ‘Pretty. Period.’ No explanations. No defense. Just pretty.”

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The Sound and the FUREE

Image Courtesy of FUREE.

Image Courtesy of FUREE.

In Brooklyn, New York, there is a force fighting structural racism, classism and sexism. Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE) organizes low-income Black and Latino working families and youth, so that together they can build power to change the system. FUREE is Brooklyn-based, multiracial, and made up of women, youth, and their families in low-income communities.

FUREE’s member-led campaigns focus on supporting community-led economic development, small business, protecting low-income housing, as well as fighting against policies and zoning that create gentrification. The organization holds to the truth that “all people’s work is valued and all of us have the right and economic means to decide and live out our own destinies.”

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A Tale of Two Revolutions: Ferguson & Hong Kong

Hands Up Ferguson October

Simultaneously, on opposite ends of the world, protests in Ferguson, Missouri and Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, signify the ground zero of polarized political movement—the demand for democracy upheld by civil and human rights. The movements in Ferguson and Hong Kong are primarily youth-led and organized, a focal point not lost in media and supporters of radical struggle. Their objectives dictate a call to accountability and action. Sparked by the killing of unarmed African American 18-year-old Michael Brown in August, activists in Ferguson have engaged in ongoing protests to counter police bias and violence against Blacks and Latinos. In the wake of a succession of unjust murders at the hands of law enforcement officers, organizations are leading the way to reform in Ferguson including The Organization for Black Struggle, Hands Up United, and Millennial Activists United, among a host of social, political and religious supporting allies.

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Looking for Langston

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The man on the right is Ben Ellison, Langston Hughes, and the man on the right is his boyfriend Mathew Baidoo. From the movie “Looking for Langston,” 1989.

Is freedom merely enough? That was a question for most Black people in the United States in 19th and 20th centuries. Harlem had become the destination for most African Americans in the early 1900s. They were looking to find a way to achieve equality and civil rights. With a stronger community in Harlem, Black residents started a movement in 1910 to fight for their American rights. Uniquely, this movement was inspired by various works by Black artists: Three Plays for a Negro Theater, Claude McKay’s If We Must Die, poems by Langston Hughes, and others.

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Glossary: AfroFuturism

1974 poster for "Space is the Place" starring the Legendary Sun Ra. Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

1974 poster for “Space is the Place” starring the Legendary Sun Ra. Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

What is Afrofuturism?

In 1909 Filipo Tommaso Marinetti launched the Italian Futurist movement in his Futurist Manifesto. Among its many principles, FT Marinetti and his fellow futurists sought to make people producers of their society rather than just consumers. They were obsessed with the idea of stretching the imagination, robots, technology and war. They wanted to destroy libraries, schools, museums, and all history in hopes that society would cleanse itself.

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Call for Submissions: Indigenous Peoples Month

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Progressive Pupil is looking forward to celebrating the autonomy of Indigenous Peoples in November and we need your help! Artists, teachers, activists, local business leaders, we want to hear your stories about working for racial justice in your community and share your struggles and triumphs with our readership. Essays, photo journals, film reviews and creative fiction are all welcome. Please limit submissions to 750 words or less and include at least one photo or video. Send submissions to: theprogress@progressivepupil.org

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