#NowPlaying at the Progressive Pupil office

 solange a seat at the table

Enjoy this custom playlist by our outreach director Shannon Shird. Lemonade a Seat at the Table


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Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Between screening Black and Cuba and working on my new multi-platform project 9 GRAMS, I’ve spent some time this summer thinking about the Black woman’s image.  Of course in one way or another I’ve been thinking about it my entire life by looking in the mirror and beholding the relentless glamour of my mother and grandmother while I was growing up. In creating films that center Black women’s perspectives and – frankly- a lifetime of struggling to valorize my own, I’ve come to realize the most empowering and aesthetically beautiful representations of Black women are the ones we create ourselves.

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Last Chance

Today, the New York Times reported in an astonishing video on racist, islamophobic, homophobic and misogynist statements emboldened by the Orange one at his campaign rallies. One attendee remarks, “this is the last chance…to preserve the culture I grew up in.” Please share with a friend who is considering not voting this election year.


The Counted


Korryn Davies, 23, now among The Counted

In memory of Korryn Gaines, who was killed today in front of her 5 year old son by Baltimore police, please take a moment and look at The Counted. Published by The GuardianThe Counted is an online database of people killed by police in the U.S. It appears Korryn Gaines will be number 631 in 2016.

The police officers involved attempted to arrest Korryn for failing to appear in court to answer nonviolent traffic charges.

9 Grams Featured in The Huffington Post

Renowned scholar Dr. Kali Gross discusses how this Progressive Pupil production shows the international impact of mass incarceration and racial profiling. Read here

“Stop Killing Us” 3 Things to Do With Your Grief and Rage

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.”

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9 Grams

Produced by Progressive Pupil’s Executive Director Robin J. Hayes, the 9 Grams play follows a Hollywood screenwriter (Maisha Yearwood) who is placed in solitary confinenent in a Turkish prison because of where she’s from and how she loves. The play is part of a transmedia project that aims to illuminate Black women and the LGBTQ community are impacted by mass incarceration.  The next staged reading of the play is part of the ProudAF Theater Festival in New York City. July 16, 2016. Tickets available at thetanknyc.org. 

Limonade III: Healing the Haitian Diaspora

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.

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Limonade II: Of Zora and Zombies

Clockwise from left: author Zora Neale Hurston, Hurston and her partner Percival Punter, and Haitian “zombie” photographed by Hurston during her fieldwork 1936-1937.

On the tap-tap (Port-au-Prince take on the dollar cab/combi/collectivo) from Touissaint Louverture airport yesterday, I had the good fortune of running into Prof. Daphne LaMothe of Smith College. An expert in African American literature, Prof. LaMothe shared with me that Zora Neale Hurston wrote the essential novel Their Eyes Were Watching God here in Haiti in just seven weeks. 

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Off to Haiti! Black and Cuba will be screening at the annual Caribbean Studies Association conference. I’ll be answering questions and hearing feedback afterwards. It is my first trip to Haiti and I’ve already learned so much in preparation. 

Did you know:

  • Haiti has a lower homicide rate than the Dominican Republic and Jamaica?
  •  Vodun which we call “Voodoo” accepts followers of all genders and sexual orientations? 
  • The first place Columbus landed in Haiti in 1492 was renamed Limonade ?

Being a Black revolutionary often requires making lemons into Limonade. I’ll be sharing more of my journey during the next two weeks on The Progress and Instagram @robinjhayes.