Hoping for more on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard

Photograph courtesy of KQED.org.

Photograph courtesy of KQED.org.

Most American cities have a Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, a boulevard that is almost always located in a struggling low-income Black neighborhood. Growing up in west Baltimore, MLK Jr. Blvd was known for a few things: its projects, the homeless people who lived under the bridge and as the dividing line for several extremely impoverished, mostly Black neighborhoods from the extremely White and wealthy downtown Baltimore.  Intersecting with MLK Jr. Blvd as you drive south is Baltimore’s famed “Highway to Nowhere” or an almost 1.5 mile expressway to West Baltimore that was constructed in the 70s, but required the displacement of thousands of Black Baltimoreans in the 60s and remains a source of generational mistrust for developers and politicians. Many Black families, my father’s included, were uprooted and though the “slum conditions” were considered cleaned up for many families who dispersed throughout the city, the conditions haven’t changed much and the doctor’s dream remains deferred.

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The Dawn of Freedom

Yale professor Jonathan Holloway – who is featured in Black and Cuba – is teaching an open online course called African American History: From Emancipation to the Present. In lecture one, The Dawn of Freedom, he explains how the African American experience is a prism to understand what it means to be American. You can access additional lectures, the course syllabus and other materials on the course website. Enjoy African American History 101!

Time for Less Prison

Photo courtesy of Sophie Elbaz/Sygma/Corbis.

Photo courtesy of Sophie Elbaz/Sygma/Corbis.

To this day, I have a distinct memory of my mother locking the car doors when we pulled up to a specific corner in the downtown section of Michigan’s second largest city. It’s an intersection I’ve gone through many times in life – one of two necessary to get downtown. Also to this day, it has not been an intersection I’ve ever experienced any problems at. The only other noticeable attribute of this intersection and its surrounding neighborhood was that the people present walking in and out of nearby stores are almost exclusively Black. Not once did anyone ever try to open the car door or knock on the windows, so there wasn’t any plausible reason to think that someone might actually attempt something. Nonetheless, the unspoken corollary was, “There are lots of Black people downtown, and therefore when you are downtown, the doors must be locked.”

This kind of social stigma has only ever been reinforced by clues from popular culture that regularly place people of color in roles of thieves, violent criminals, and drug dealers. This pattern of racial criminalization and its consequences were summarized in a New York Times op-ed by Khalil Gibran Muhammad – Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture – as,

…stigmatizing black people as dangerous, legitimizing or excusing white-on-black violence, conflating crime and poverty with blackness, and perpetuating punitive notions of “justice” — vigilante violence, stop-and-frisk racial profiling and mass incarceration — as the only legitimate responses.

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How can I see “Black and Cuba?”

Black and Cuba QuotesThank you for all of your encouragement and enthusiasm about Black and Cuba. At work-in-progress screenings in San Juan, East Harlem and Greenwich Village, for audiences from all walks of life, we’ve heard tremendous support for the project and a strong desire to learn more about the AfroCuban experience and how we can overcome racism and class.

We are hard at work incorporating your input into our next draft of the film so that Black and Cuba can be a long-lasting tool for educators, students, activists and allies working to address the consequences of racial and economic injustice. In addition to conducting research and editing, we are raising money for the project so we can provide you with a film that is beautiful, inspiring and informative.

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Empowering Family Values

Photo courtesy of the Socialist Party, Brixton, United Kingdom, 1981.

Photo courtesy of the Socialist Party, Brixton, United Kingdom, 1981.

Providing people with the resources and information needed to understand barriers to success is a key step in working toward positive social change so that strategies can be developed to remove or diminish those barriers. The Race Equality Foundation (REF), based out of the United Kingdom, is one organization that has done outstanding work in understanding the root causes of disadvantage and discrimination. The foundation produces a wealth of evidence-based research on a number a different topics affecting marginalized communities and makes these resources readily available to volunteers, practitioners and policy makers. Their research gives everyday people a set of skills and best practices that can help us overcome the obstacles of racism. Specifically, they concentrate on disseminating knowledge through educational workshops on the issues of health care, housing, social care and parenting support.

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Freedom “Now!”

Now! is a short film directed in 1965 by Cuban filmmaker Santiago Alvarez and produced by Cuba’s state-run filmmaking agency ICAIC (El Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinematográficos) that empathetically portrays the African American struggle for civil rights in the United States.

Progressive Pupil learned of this film from the H-Net email list on African American Studies an outlet for informational exchange between professionals, faculty and advanced students in the field of African American Studies.

Cultivate the Next Generation

On location for the Progressive Pupil production Black and Cuba at the Amnesty International offices in Washington, DC.

Our internship program in action and on location for a Black and Cuba production shoot at the Amnesty International offices in Washington, DC. From left to right: Principal Organizer, Robin J. Hayes; Cinematographer, Marisa Wong; Community Outreach Intern, Folashade Kornegay.

Progressive Pupil’s interns are taking their first steps toward careers in non-profit leadership, documentary filmmaking and digital media design. These dedicated young people want to use their talent and intelligence to transform their communities.

Our internship program, which is in its second year, is one of the ways we make Black studies for everybody. Your support will help us continue to mentor and affirm dedicated youth who are making a difference. Donate now to encourage young people to be the change you want to see.  All donations are tax-deductible.

Shimmy Shimmy Pow

Handclapping games, Double Dutch and other forms of jump rope and cheers have been passed down between generations of African American girls. According to Fisk University scholar Jessie Carney Smith, cheers help Black girls assert themselves and maintain positive self-esteem. It remains a significant part of community building among young African American women. What was your favorite cheer growing up?

Guess Who’s Coming to School

Guess Whos Coming to School

I grew up in Arizona. I love my home state, but I will be the first to admit that it does not have a great track record in terms of race relations. Over the last couple of years, Arizona’s race related issues usually centered around immigration, though there have also been movements to ban Ethnic Studies in public schools. Seemingly contradictory, Arizona manages to be both the birthplace of Cesar Chavez and SB 1070. The state is no stranger to controversy; this is the same state that did not recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day until 1992 after Governor Evan Mecham rescinded the national holiday on his first day in office in 1987 (Governor Mecham also made news on his last day in office when he became the first U.S. governor impeached and removed from office in 59 years).

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Use Hope and Imagination as Weapons

[Photo courtesy Cleveland Magazine] Jesse Jackson works as campaign aide to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Cleveland to help elect Carl Stokes, first Black mayor of large American city.

[Photo courtesy Cleveland Magazine] Jesse Jackson works as campaign aide to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Cleveland to help elect Carl Stokes, first Black mayor of large American city.

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