Recognize

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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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#TBT Podcast Where is the African Diaspora?

Happy New Year!! In this episode from Season 1 of Breaking Down Racism, Sudanese rapper Oddisee, Afro-Dominican singer Fanesha Fabre, Ethiopian journalist Hanna Giorgies and others discuss the diversity of the Black community and the meaning of diaspora today.

 

Written by: Regine Nehy
Produced by: Regine Nehy and Ladin Awad
Executive Producer: Robin J. Hayes, PhD
Directed by: Tsige Tafesse and Sequana Williams
Edited by: Ladin Awad

Breaking Down Racism is brought to you by Progressive Pupil, which “makes Black studies for everybody.” The series was created by Robin J. Hayes, PhD.

It’s Gonna Be Alright Palante Siempre Palante

This time of year I tend to congratulate myself about what I have managed to accomplish during the summer and soothe myself with gelato about the things on my to-do list that will have to be pushed back into Fall.  All of us who are doing important work – either as educators, artists, activists, students or volunteers – have more passion than money — more good ideas than time to execute them.  What’s the best way to surrender to this reality dishonoring our spirit?

At the Progressive Pupil office this summer, we’ve been listening to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘It’s Gonna Be Alright” on repeat.  This song, which has become the unofficial theme of #BlacklLivesMatter, is an affirmation that has long been passed down from grandmother to grandchild in African American communities.  In spite of all the challenges we who believe in freedom face, and the dark truths that must be confronted in doing this work with integrity, it’s gonna be alright.

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“Black and Cuba” Now Streaming on Vimeo on Demand

The Harlem Chorus, narrators of Black and Cuba, following the Black studies tradition

                            The Harlem Chorus, narrators of Black and Cuba

The award-winning documentary Black and Cuba is now available for streaming.  The film follows street smart students who are outcast at their elite university, band together and adventure to Cuba, whose population is 60% Black.  Black and Cuba’s release comes on the heels of President Obama’s announcement that the US will thaw relations with Cuba and ease travel restrictions to the island.  See the film and see Cuba for yourself.  This weekend only, the filmmakers are offering a limited number of 10% discounts to subscribers in order to express their gratitude for your support.  Go to Vimeo on Demand and use the promo code SHAKUR15. 

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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Juan Almeida, a Cuban Revolutionary

fidel-almeida-580x4281

The stylized monochromatic features of Argentinian Ernesto “Che” Guevara have become the face of the Cuban revolution. It’s a face you will find on clothing, murals, lunch boxes, and never more than a mile from any college campus. As a mascot Guevara has become a fashionable and easy way for the world to simplify and often dismiss Cuba’s politics and much of her modern history. It is romantic to imagine Che and Fidel Castro storming down from the mountainside waging a two-man war on capitalism and oppression but it is not the truth. Countless Cubans died and fought for the nation that they have today and premier among them was Juan Almeida Bosque.

Bosque was born in Havana on February 17th, 1927, into a world of poverty and racism. His desire to succeed and improve economic and social plight lead him to study law at the University of Havana where he met fellow classmate Fidel Castro in 1952 and became an active member of what we would come to know as the Cuban Revolution.  A year later Almeida was arrested with Fidel and his brother Raúl  for participating in an assault on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba. They were all granted amnesty in 1955 and exiled to Mexico.

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The Raw Ones

Image of Krudas Cubensi courtesy of Hip-Hop Congress.

Image of Krudas Cubensi courtesy of Hip-Hop Congress.

Out of a woman-formed and led artists’ movement in Cuba comes Las Krudas–a rap trio, formed of 3 Cuban women.

Krudas is a derivation of the Spanish word “cruda” meaning crude, raw, unrefined, real; Cubensis is a Latin word for those of native Cuban descent. Cruda is precisely what these women are: they are raw, unrefined, and real. They celebrate and defend diversity, while actively engaging in being not the norm. Las Krudas practices what they preach.

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Haitian Revolution and Latinidad

Toussaint L’Ouverture, Leader of the Haitian Revolution

This is a picture of Toussaint L’Ouverture, he led the only successful slave rebellion during the Haitian Revolution. Though I learned about Toussaint L’Ouverture growing up, the entirety of his contributions to Latino culture, and Haiti’s relationship to Latinidad, was not emphasized until I was older.

Like many other people of color in this country, I was not specifically taught about my cultural history during my K-12 education. Once I reached college, everything I knew about Latino culture and history was gleaned from either social interaction, segments of history class, movies, and my parents. I had to purposefully seek out courses on Latino history to know even the little bit that I know today.

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Icons: The Rock Steady Crew

The Rock Steady Crew

The Rock Steady Crew

Breakdancing is just one element of hip hop culture that can trace its origins to the low-income areas of the Bronx. It was started by Black and Puerto Rican youth in the 1970s. I was born and raised in Queens, New York during the early 1980s. Though Queens was not an area where hip hop culture dominated, I still have faint memories of my first introduction to hip hop and breakdancing.

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Dominican Hair

Nedra Sandiford Dominican Hair Accompanying Photo (twitter,facebook)

We are constantly being confronted with images of how things are and how things should be. Worldwide, the prevailing image of beauty is no doubt becoming more inclusive. However, it continues to discreetly assert certain traits as more preferable, promoting pale skin and long, straight hair as the definition of beauty. Because of the dominance and prevalence of these images, some women go lengths just to achieve this look, even if it means disguising their roots.

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