Five Fundamental Favorites for Your Rainy Day Blues

With April showers gracing our New York City streets, we’ve certainly needed an afternoon pick-me-up on most days. Here are five fun films that put a smile on our face no matter what horrendous weather is happening outside our window.


The Manning Marable Memorial Conference

The Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University (IRAAS) and the Ford Foundation Presents “A New Vision of Black Freedom: the Manning Marable Memorial Conference,” an academic and community-focused event scheduled for April 26-29, 2012 at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Columbia University and Riverside Church in New York City.


Spring Awakening 2012

Black and Cuba features photographs taken at Zucotti Park during the Sankofa Day march last fall organized by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. Last weekend, we dropped in on the Spring Awakening NYC General Assembly in Central Park to share information about the May 17th screening of Black and Cuba at Cinema Village.  There was an interesting medley of activists working on HIV prevention in the African American community, transforming US policy towards Latin America and a group conducting a teach-in about “The Roots of Racial Prejudice”.  The teach-in was based on a public class offered Mondays at Freedom Hall (113 W. 128th Street between Malcolm X Blvd and 7th Avenue) in Harlem called “Overcoming Racism: A Radical Approach”.  Texts include “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander and one of my personal favorites “Black Reconstruction in America” by W.E.B. DuBois.

by Robin Hayes

Honor Mama Africa

Last week, I got to do something I haven’t done in years: I went on a field trip. My professor Sean Jacobs managed to get our class, Contemporary Africa, into the welcome reception and opening night screening of the 19th Annual African Film Festival.

Miriam Makeba’s bassists, Sean Jacobs and Bill Salter discussing “Mama Africa” at the 19th Annual African Film Festival. Photo courtesy of Folashade Kornegay.

The festival highlights artistic and cinematic work on and from the African continent and this goal was achieved with Mama Africa. The film is a documentary on the life of Miriam Makeba, a South African singer and civil rights activist who has the nickname “Mama Africa”. The film was directed by Mika Kaurismäki, a Finnish native who fell in love with Makeba’s music in his youth and has expressed that love through amazing cinematography and an honest look at who Miriam Makeba was. It exposes her many different layers and leaves the audience feeling every emotion – sadness, joy, pain, and happiness. In the end, the film inspires us to celebrate her life, legacy, music and activism.


Why Did You Make “Black and Cuba”?

Director Robin Hayes describes her inspiration to make “Black and Cuba,” our feature-length documentary that helps us answer the question: How will we overcome race and class?

We are excited to announce a New York City work-in-progress screening on May 17th from 7-9 PM at Cinema Village (22 East 12th St) followed by  a Q & A session with the director and a reception from 9-10:30.

To help us complete this film, purchase your tickets and find other perks on our Indiegogo page.

by Robin Hayes

The Premature Death of Leadership Development

For one reason or another, I have been groomed to be a loyal follower of Tupac. I have always been a fan of his music, poetry, acting, rhetoric, and overall message. As an undergraduate at the University of Washington, I even took a class on Tupac titled, The Textual Appeal of Tupac Shakur led by an amazing and brave former professor of mine, Georgia Roberts. Now, as a graduate student in New  York City, I’m taking a class on leadership development. Recently, we were given the opportunity to either write about a leadership development topic that interested us or the leadership development journey of a real person. Naturally, I chose Tupac Amaru Shakur.


Black Thought 2.0: New Media and the Future of Black Studies

More than a dozen prominent African American scholars will participate in a conference on the role of social media in cultural studies, April 6-7 at Duke University. The two-day conference, “Black Thought 2.0: New Media and the Future of Black Studies,” will be held at the John Hope Franklin Center and is free and open to the public.


Top Ten Reasons I Love My Natural Hair

Showing off my dreadlocks! Photo courtesy of Carmen Medina.

Good hair means curls and waves
Bad hair means you look like a slave
At the turn of the century
Its time for us to redefine who we be
You can shave it off
Like a South African beauty
Or get in on lock
Like Bob Marley
You can rock it straight
Like Oprah Winfrey
If it’s not what’s on your head
Its what’s underneath

-India.Arie “I Am Not My Hair”

As a young woman of color, I have had a million different hairstyles: relaxed or permed, a Jheri curl, a short Afro and box braids.  Now I have dreadlocks and I love them. Having dreadlocks has given me a new sense of confidence and I feel very comfortable in my own skin. While some women chop off their relaxed hair, I decided to transition to natural.  The transition process was long because I let my natural hair grow out and slowly cut off the relaxed hair so I could maintain length. While making the decision to go natural is a big one, I am an advocate of natural hair.  These are the top ten reasons why I love being natural:


Apps for the Conscious Organizer

According to the Pew Research Center, 83% of American adults own a cell phone and 42% of them identify their cell phone as a smartphone. These numbers say a lot about the trajectory of technology and social media usage. As a grassroots organizer working with diasporic communities, it is smart to pay attention to these trends since the Pew Research Center goes on to say smartphone use is highest among the affluent, well-educated, those under the age of 45 and people of color. Not only can smartphone Apps be a great tool to reach your desired audience, it can also be a wonderful way to raise funds and recruit volunteers. In this series, I explore useful Apps for community organizers, scholars, teachers, artists and students who have a particular interest in the African diaspora. If you have any suggestions for Apps I should feature, let me know in the comments!


The Black Lavender Experience