A Tale of Two Abuses

This photo of a man being arrested was taken on March 13, 2013 during a protest against the shooting of Kimani Gray. The photo is courtesy of Press TV and accessed via their Facebook Page

This photo of a man being arrested was taken on March 13, 2013 during a protest against the shooting of Kimani Gray. The photo is courtesy of Press TV and accessed via their Facebook Page

After visiting the country for two months last year, I decided to move to Cape Town, South Africa after completing my Masters at The New School. One of the reasons I decided to make this international move was that  it was easy for me to see how the struggle for change within Black and Brown communities in the States and the struggle for true freedom here in South Africa are so connected. I marveled at the similarities of experience. While people of color may be in very different lanes economically, the likeness between the two countries comes from a close-knit beginning. The colonization of both Cape Town and New York began with the Dutch East India Company settlements only 25 years apart. Beyond this, the sharing of ideas regarding discrimination and subjugation between the South Africa and the United States – from business development to urban planning to laws – has been historically commonplace. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960 in the United States and the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa along with the historical impact of the Harlem Renaissance and Négritude Movement in Francophone Africa helped produce the work of notable change-makers like Steve BikoMamphela Ramphele and Barney Pityana. Even the marriage between Miriam Makeba and Stokely Carmichael was symbolic of the synergy between the two countries and the continuing feelings of discontent caused by racial injustice. Following the successes of the Civil Rights Movement and the liberation of South Africa from apartheid rule, people from both sides seem to forget that everything is not rainbows and sunshine and that there is still a need for further reform.

And yet in 2013, we have the case of Kimani Gray in Brooklyn and Mido Macia in Daveyton, South Africa.

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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.

Happy Everything!

The staff of Progressive Pupil from left to right: Principal Organizer, Robin J. Hayes; Interactive Design Intern, Xiaoye Lin; Program Coordinator, Vedan Anthony-North; Outreach and Engagement Assistant, Malikah Shabazz; Community Outreach

May all our futures be bright! Wishing you peace and joy this holiday season.

Yours in Solidarity,

Robin, Xiaoye, Vedan, Folashade and Malikah

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AfroPeruvian Youth Find Their Power

While Brazil was the largest recipient of slaves during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, African slaves were sent all over Latin America. In Peru, people of African descent currently account for roughly 10% of the population and face a number of economic, health and education issues that continue to keep them on the margins of Peruvian society.

slave trade

The transatlantic slave trade brought Africans to North and South America.

Founded in 2001, Centro de Estudios y Promocion Afro-Peruano (Center for the Study and Promotion of AfroPeruvians), also known as LUNDÚ, promotes and develops grassroots organizing among AfroPeruvian communities through artistic and cultural projects to create change. Leading these efforts is Monica Carrillo, a poet, activist and organizer who saw the need to undo racism, beginning with youth. LUNDÚ is the only feminist, youth founded and led organization in Peru, addressing issues ranging from sexual and reproductive health to education through the mediums of publications, documentary films and grassroots organizing.

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(In)Visible Children

International Rescue Committee staff distributes medicine to children in Uganda

A version of this post was originally published on March 9, 2012

Theory: (noun) a particular conception or view of something to be done or of the method of doing it; a system of rules or principles.

Action: (noun) the process or state of acting or being active; something being done or performed, and act or deed; an act that one consciously wills that may be characterized by physical or mental activity

Yesterday morning, I woke up to a phenomenon. My entire twitter timeline was flooded with #KONY2012, which I initially thought meant King of New York. When I finally reached a desktop computer, I got the chance to see what all the fuss was about. Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) – which was based in Uganda some years ago – is the subject of the latest documentary by Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children. Through genius viral social media marketing, the short video went from having 30 hits on Monday, to over 36 million views by Thursday afternoon. The point of the film, according to Russell, is to make Joseph Kony “famous” the same way celebrities are famous. He hopes that in doing this, he’ll garner the attention of the International Courts and bring Kony to justice. The video, which is roughly 30 minutes long and quite emotional, focuses on the story of Jacob. As a young Ugandan boy, Jacob was captured by the LRA and forced to fight for Joseph Kony’s vaguely Christian agenda to maintain control in Uganda. The Kony 2012 Campaign relies on our emotions to generate sympathy for these young children. It’s important to take a critical look at these tactics.

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Digitizing our Heritage through the Black Vernacular

My maternal great-grandparents, Martha Jane Hicks and Sim Hicks, of Virgina. Photo courtesy of Folashade Kornegay.

A version of this post was originally published on March 28, 2012

Paying homage to our ancestors is rooted in ancient traditions from Africa, where religions such as Yoruba and Lugbara called on those who came before us to help guide our path through our earthly existence. With the advent of the Internet and social media, people have been discovering ways to create digital time capsules and honoring our past. Dwayne Rodgers, a photographer and artist based in New York City has decided to draw on these traditions. This past Black History Month, he began The Black Vernaculara communal ancestral shrine for people of African descent. (more…)

Color me Igbo

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A version of this post was originally published on February 20, 2012

Half of a Yellow Sun, a novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, has been the recent focus of movie execs and members of the Igbo community in Southern Nigeria. A petition, developed by Ashley Akunna, is protesting the casting of Thandie Newton as the film adaptation’s lead character. Newton is an acclaimed actress who has gained greater recognition in recent years for her roles in films such as Mission: Impossible II, The Pursuit of Happyness and Crash. She is of Zimbabwean descent and is set to play an Igbo woman caught in the thralls of the Biafran War, which ravaged a newly independent Nigeria from 1967 to 1970. The book has been heralded as a stunning depiction of the relationship between the Hausa and Igbo tribes during this period and received the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007.

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It’s All in the Cards

I never thought I’d say this, but Twitter has opened my eyes to so much.

Shortly after I (reluctantly) joined the site, I discovered freedom that I didn’t have on Facebook. Things were kept short and sweet and I was able to be more selective about what types of information came into my timeline (you can follow me, but I don’t have to follow you). I began following Michele Norris, an award-winning journalist and host of NPR’s All Things Considered, after Twitter suggested I follow her. I also follow a number of scholars and I noticed her name was popping up more and more in some their tweets. Aside from her thoughtful, short and sweet commentary on the news and culture, it was her latest project that really inspired me.

During the book tour for her novel, The Grace of Silence, Norris began passing out postcards asking people to submit six-word essays that summarized their thoughts race. The cards were originally meant to be supplemental to her book and function as conversation starters, but the cards began overflowing her mailbox and The Race Card Project was born. The cards, like Twitter, convey feelings about deeply seeded beliefs, values, pain, and promise within the limited parameters of a 4×6 postcard. While most of the cards Michele Norris has received are about American racial disparities, the project has gone international and she has noted that she has received cards from places like Australia, London, Chile, and Abu Dhabi.  The Race Card Project honestly exposes the way people feel about something that affects their everyday lives in a way that reminds me of the Kinsey surveys on sexuality. In light of recent attempts to eliminate Ethnic Studies, The Race Card Project website includes suggestions for educators to adapt the project and include it in their own curriculums.

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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.

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Digitizing our Heritage through the Black Vernacular

My maternal great-grandparents, Martha Jane Hicks and Sim Hicks, of Virgina. Photo courtesy of Folashade Kornegay.

Paying homage to our ancestors is rooted in ancient traditions from Africa, where religions such as Yoruba and Lugbara called on those who came before us to help guide our path through our earthly existence. With the advent of the Internet and social media, people have been discovering ways to create digital time capsules and honoring our past. Dwayne Rodgers, a photographer and artist based in New York City has decided to draw on these traditions. This past Black History Month, he began The Black Vernaculara communal ancestral shrine for people of African descent.

(more…)