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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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The Counted


Korryn Davies, 23, now among The Counted

In memory of Korryn Gaines, who was killed today in front of her 5 year old son by Baltimore police, please take a moment and look at The Counted. Published by The GuardianThe Counted is an online database of people killed by police in the U.S. It appears Korryn Gaines will be number 631 in 2016.

The police officers involved attempted to arrest Korryn for failing to appear in court to answer nonviolent traffic charges.

The Greatest


                           Muhammad Ali (l.) and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (r.) in Louisville                                 (AP Photo via The Nation)

“Like Muhammad Ali puts it, we are all—black and brown and poor—victims of the same system of oppression.” – Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Happy Birthday Muhammad Ali! Mainstream media continues to revere him for his extraordinary achievements as an athlete and his influential oratory style (How many of us have alleged to “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”?).  However, Ali is beloved to the progressive community and the African diaspora for his candid criticism of racial discrimination and poverty as well as his refusal to be inducted in the US Army during the Vietnam War due to his religious beliefs.  Ali could have exercised his class privilege, entered the army and fought entertaining exhibition bouts without ever being in any physical danger.  Instead, he chose to take a principled stand which in the short run cost him millions of dollars and some of his peak years as a boxing champion.  In the long run, Ali’s example made him a legend.

To learn more about Muhammad Ali, see the Academy Award-winning film When we Were Kings, or read this Dave Zirin article in The Nation.

Dance Theater of Harlem


Dancers from the Dance Theater of Harlem’s 2015-2016 Season

Today Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook co-founded the Dance Theater of Harlem in 1969 to bring ballet and its allied arts to Mitchell’s beloved community.  The Dance Theater of Harlem continues to educate young people and diversify the art form of dance.

Glossary: Environmental Racism

Image Courtesy of The Cross Roads Fund

Image Courtesy of The Cross Roads Fund

The trip through ER can be a scary, threatening and life changing experience for people of color.

I am not talking about a trip to the emergency room, but a trip through life for the people who have to deal with environmental racism. If you are unfamiliar, environmental racism is the oppression of people of color through environmental degradation. According to Do Something, African Americans are 79 percent more likely to live in areas with industrial waste facilities, compared to Whites. The effects of living within close proximity to toxic dumping sites can have long-term effects on community well-being, specifically affecting the neighborhood water, air, and food quality.


St. Edmonds Tenants of Chicago Protesting for Better Housing Conditions. Image Courtesy of STOP.

St. Edmonds Tenants of Chicago Protesting for Better Housing Conditions. Image Courtesy of STOP.

STOP and FLY are two grassroots organizations bringing together residents from the Southside of Chicago to fight back against injustice. In an area that is known for its lower-income residents and higher crime rates, it is important for the community to empower themselves and demonstrate for their needs.

Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP) brings the community together and has two focuses: mental health and housing. STOP tries to erase the stigma of mental illness and mental health services. While doing so, the organization rallies for the right to healthcare. One example of the Southside residents’ effort was the continuous petitioning for a trauma center in their area so people could receive needed the medical care. Through cooperation with different tenant associations, STOP advocates to improve housing in the neighborhood. The Housing Justice Program also works with subsidized housing councils in order to liaise for their stakeholders’ rights.

Be Part of the Solution

Former Social Media Designer Claudie Mabry, Principal Organizer Robin Hayes, Policy Associate Justyn Richardson and former Blog Editor Justin Jones

Many of you have asked Progressive Pupil, where is “the movement” going next?  Honestly, that depends on all of us.  This cycle of collective action is eschewing the charismatic leadership models of the past and encouraging all of us to work together and participate how we see fit. Don’t think of this movement as a giant in the hillside who is separate from you and able to sustain itself without your support. In fact, it is simply the collective work of your neighbors, colleagues, students, friends and families who are working together to be part of the solution.  


What does Activism do?


Happy Black August!

AFROPUNK and Progressive Pupil are co-curating Activism Row: an interactive, inspirational and informative experience to be featured at AFROPUNK Fest 2014 (August 23 and 24 at Commodore Barry Park, Brooklyn). Activism Row’s goals are to facilitate voter registration, inform youth about civic participation opportunities and to encourage the festival’s multicultural audience to envision themselves making a difference. Highlighting social justice as a work of art, Activism Row shows activism lives today in communities of color.

Today, Activism Row launched an Indigegogo campaign to raise funds for the costs associated with producing the festival, which include staff, signage and programs.  You can support this effort by making a tax-deductible contribution and sharing the link ( with your friends, family and colleagues. Rock star perks are available for your generosity including VIP passes to the festival, which features D’Angelo and Meshell Ndegeocello, a chance to get on stage and more.

Activism Row features local non-profits that advance racial equality by solving urgent community problems such as violence, mass incarceration and HIV/AIDS. In addition, voter registration will be available. On-line and in person, Activism Row will provide AFROPUNK’s audience—who are predominately youth—the empowering opportunity to see themselves as agents of social change. By showing #ActivismLives, this exciting exhibition reveals that the best time for social change is NOW!

I hope to see you later this month at AFROPUNK FEST.  If you have suggestions for organizations that should participate in Activism Row, please share at

In solidarity,







Robin J. Hayes, PhD

Principal Organizer

Instagram @robinjhayes

For Patsey and Her Descendants

(L.) Patsey from 12 Years a Slave Francois Duhamel/Fox Searchlight (R.) Lupita Nyong’o Kevin Winter/Getty Images

(L.) Patsey from 12 Years a Slave Francois Duhamel/Fox Searchlight
(R.) Lupita Nyong’o Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Happy Women’s Empowerment Month!
In Lupita Nyong’o’s inspiring speech accepting the 2013 Best Supporting Actress “Oscar” for her impressive performance in 12 Years a Slave, she acknowledged the presence of the true life Patsey (whom she portrayed in the film) and asserted powerfully “no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”  Her Academy Award show statements culminated an overwhelmingly successful international run on red carpets and award show stages in which she wowed the world with her graceful beauty, impeccable style and stunning intelligence.  Joyful, cosmopolitan, and Ivy League educated, Ms. Nyong’o fulfills a durable wish we have as the descendants of Patsey and the vicious dehumanization by the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade that her character embodies.


The Problems Are So Big. What Can I Do?

A young girl at a demonstration for the release of Nelson Mandela circa the 1960s. Photo courtesy of the ANC archives.

A young girl at a demonstration for the release of Nelson Mandela circa the 1960s. Photo courtesy of the ANC archives.

I am optimistic that we can create change because I meet so many people from different walks of life who ask me the same question: “What can I do?” Because they know I’m a Black studies professor and documentary filmmaker, many airplane seatmates, taxi drivers, the owner of the bodega around the corner, my friends who work in advertising and corporate law and other everyday people I encounter share their profound concerns about racial inequality with me. I don’t need to convince them that violence is causing a crisis in Black communities around the world, that there is not enough educational opportunity and health care access or that our prison system is unjust. They are well aware that the world needs to change, yet these same intelligent and capable folks are rarely involved in any organization that is trying to make a difference. They often ask me, “Robin, the problems are so big. What can I do?”