Mmere Dane

Vedan & Brittany

Vedan Anthony-North and Brittany Duck

Progressive Pupil’s first Program Director, Vedan Anthony-North, is transitioning into a new full-time position at the Vera Institute of Justice as the Center Coordinator for their Center on Sentencing and Corrections.

Vedan made extraordinary contributions to the growth of Progressive Pupil during the past two years. She played a critical role in the founding and editing of our blog as well as the establishment of our Social Media Educational Outreach program. With her generosity, patience and sharp insights, she was an empowering mentor to our interns.


Rights Before Power

Now familiar images of young people taking to the street amid this age of global revolt illustrate the role students have played in advancing more just societies. In IstanbulCairo, Philadelphia and Santiago students are demanding their voices be heard. In the US, the history of student protest is storied. One of the nation’s most influential organizations was the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).


On Yeezus and Black Feminism

kanye west yeezus

Editor’s Note: While we like to keep profanity, violence and misogyny to a minimum on our blog, Kanye West’s Yeezus is explicit in nature. Please be aware that the lyrics re-printed here may be very offensive to some people. 

The self-proclaimed Michael Jordan of rap, Kanye West released his sixth solo album last week to much internet fanfare. Yeezus, Kanye’s newest album places the rapper at the height of his fame and has been heralded as many things: Pitchfork gave it a 9.5 rating, it was called “boundary cutting” by NPR and Rolling Stone says of it, “Yeezus  is the darkest, most extreme music Kanye has ever cooked up, an extravagantly abrasive album full of grinding electro, pummeling minimalist hip-hop, drone-y wooz and industrial gear grind.” Yes Kanye’s done it again! As a constantly tormented Black feminist AND hip-hop lover I went through several listens to his album and I did the same thing I usually do when I listen to most mainstream rap albums: I tried to disassociate myself from the offensive, woman-hating lyrics because I love a good beat, ’80s synths and Motown samples. This time though, Kanye made it impossible to do that. While I’ve never produced beats for the hottest rappers, sold out stadiums or kicked it with Beyoncé, I still think that I can offer suggestions to Kanye on how to be less of “d***” to women.

While I admit that Kanye’s never been the most feminist of artists, I do believe he’s a smart, clever guy who’s not afraid to question gender dynamics by openly wearing pink, showing his vulnerability on 808s & Heartbreak, or making astute cultural observations on awesome songs like Late Registration’s “Crack Music” or The College Dropout‘s “Spaceships.” I would like to enjoy his music again because his creativity and innovation as a producer and musician is admirable, but I’m tired of compromising my principles in favor of music that makes me want to slow twerk. So, Kanye, I think I speak for many women when I say I’d like to live in a world where North West doesn’t have to grow up with mixed messages about how to express her sexuality or feel alienated by her father. Unfortunately, Kanye’s not really making it easy when he makes an album in which women are only portrayed as money-grubbing hos, money-grubbing exes and sexual objects – with no regard to their own sexual desires. Here are some of his biggest lyrical offenses:


Our People, No Labels

u people

Photo courtesy of the U People Facebook Page

U People, released in 2009, is a documentary directed by Olive Demetrius and Hanifah Walidah. This riveting film features the testimony of everyday people expressing their unfiltered feelings about what it means to be Gay, straight or an ally within the African American community. These discussions were filmed unexpectedly on the set of Hanifah Walidah’s Make a Move music video. Shot in a Brooklyn brownstone over two days, the documentary involves over thirty people from all walks of life, including many members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community. U People was well-received in the community and has been featured several times on MTV’s Logo channel. In 2010, it was nominated for the Outstanding Documentary media award at the 21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York City.

The film is described as a “LGBT Rockumentary” and begins with a disclaimer: “When you view this film do not make assumptions about anyone’s sexuality.” This reflects the film’s mission to promote and encourage the development of a space for empowered self-identification. U People is a one-of-kind display of magical individuality and everyday uniqueness. The “U People” experience is about self-expression and sexuality on one’s own terms; social norms and conventions are abandoned in favor of self-love and personal conviction.


See Yourself Clearly

Faces and Phases Exhibition.  South African lesbian artist Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of

Faces and Phases Exhibition. South African lesbian artist Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of

Is your nonprofit organizing an empowering local event? Is a neighborhood gallery or community-based museum exhibiting your art? Are you an independent filmmaker, writer or musician creating work that inspires and excites? Share your creativity and political action with us so we can share it with the world. Email a photo or video clip with a few words about your event, art exhibition or current project so that you and other progressive pupils can see your work clearly on our blog, Facebook and Twitter.

It’s Getting Better

High school can be difficult and feeling comfortable in your own skin is something most adolescents struggle with. This Pride Month, let us remember that we’re each on a unique journey and that with love and acceptance we can make it better.


Progressive Pupil Swag

Tote bags along with other goods are on sale now!

Tote bags along with other goods are on sale now!

We have a new online store with lots of fashionable, affordable goodies. Our custom tote bag is perfect for taking your laptop or iPad to the coffee shop or bringing home fresh veggies from the CSA or farmer’s market. A fun baseball tee can take you from a July 4th barbeque to an outdoor Yasiin Bey concert. The baby onesie makes a great gift for the newest additions to conscious families. All proceeds benefit the work of Progressive Pupil and help make Black studies for everybody. Happy shopping!

From Lil’ Bobby Hutton to Lil’ Kimani Gray

Bobby Hutton, Black Panther member, outside the Oakland Police Department Jail.

Bobby Hutton, Black Panther member, outside the Oakland Police Department Jail.

On April 6, 1968 the Oakland Police Department shot 17 year-old Robert “Lil’ Bobby” Hutton 12 times while he was attempting to surrender following a confrontation between police and members of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Hutton’s murder took place just two days after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee and riots were consuming Black neighborhoods throughout the US. The story of Bobby Hutton’s murder has taken on nearly mythic proportions and different versions abound. But the image of Bobby Hutton–the brave first recruit of the Black Panthers, his meteoric rise as the Party’s treasurer and his tragic death– continues to resonate as an audacious style of Black resistance. The Black Panther Party took an openly hostile stance toward police and advanced alternate styles of community safety, including armed neighborhood patrols.


Mighty Real


Sylvester, the fiercest, disco diva this side of the Rainbow Flag!

Any study of disco music would not be complete without songs like You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) or the familiar cowbell sound of the 1070s that is used in Do You Wanna Funk. Sylvester James was a drag performer in San Francisco. Although he rejected the title of drag queen, he was a gender-bending performer that defined androgyny. For marketing reasons, his music label attempted to “butch him up,” to which he responded by attending meetings in full drag. And that’s who Sylvester was — an unapologetic Black man in drag that could set a stage on fire with his falsetto voice.


Uganda’s Gay Pride

Image courtesy of David Robinson.

Image courtesy of David Robinson.

In recent years, Uganda has been in the news a lot due to their highly controversial “Kill the Gays” Bill. Uganda is unfortunately not an outlier in the criminalization of homosexuality, but the recent attempt to make this lifestyle a capital offense has outraged people all over the world and sparked a highly publicized Gay liberation struggle. While these struggles currently exist throughout the continent, Uganda’s anti-Gay sentiments offer a unique insight into the lasting effects of British colonialism. Laws that forbade homosexuality were built into the Ugandan penal code dating back to around 19th and 20th century British occupation. Since independence, not much has changed regarding Gay rights and protections against homophobia. Similarly, attitudes towards homosexuality are almost exclusively negative and the Gay community is often ostracized for their efforts.