The Truth About “Indian” Hair

Diana Fletcher, Kiowa Tribe courtesy University of Oklahoma library

Diana Fletcher, Kiowa Tribe courtesy University of Oklahoma library

Happy November! In honor of Native American Heritage Month, the blog celebrates collaborations and shared struggles between Black and indigenous communities throughout the world. We illuminate the continuing opportunities to build anti-racist coalitions without over-romanticizing this complicated and storied relationship. Before we get to it, I’d like to clear up three persistent points of confusion about this issue.


What We Did on Summer Vacation

Principal Organizer Robin Hayes and Community Outreach Intern Shannon Shird at BedStuy Pride. Image Courtesy of

Principal Organizer Robin Hayes and Community Outreach Intern Shannon Shird at Bed-Stuy Pride. Image Courtesy of Laurabeth Lima

Thanks to your support and participation we had a great summer here at Progressive Pupil! If you were in New York, you may have seen us at the Brooklyn Artistry and Company Bazaar, Audre Lorde Project’s Bed-Stuy Pride or AfroPunk 2013. We always enjoy partnering with community-based organizations that celebrate artists of color and the diversity of the Black community. Although we recognize the significance and necessity of our social media work, nothing beats having the opportunity to meet you and chat about our work face to face. At these kinds of events, we also learn so much about inspiring grassroots organizations working to address racism.

To everyone who signed up for our mailing list, picked up a Progressive Pupil tote, t-shirt or tank top and generously gave us a donation, thank you!   We will be expanding our face-to-face outreach and look forward to meeting you outside of New York. If you know of an event in your area we don’t want to miss, let us know in the comments of this post, Facebook or See you before next September.

Negr@ y Orugullos@, Black and Proud

Model Joan Smalls Rodriguez in Black Power for V Magazine. Image Courtesy of

Joan Smalls Rodriguez Models Black Power for V Magazine. Image Courtesy of Alasdair McLellan

Happy Autumn! On our blog this month we highlight AfroLatino culture and history in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month. There are vibrant and distinct Black communities throughout Mexico, Central and South America as well as the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. The term AfroLatino refers to people with Latin American heritage who also identify as descendants of the millions of Africans who were forced to work as slaves on sugar, tobacco and rice plantations in the Americas between the 16th and 19th centuries. AfroLatinidad is the tradition of struggle, rebellion and overcoming obstacles, which this community continues today.


Season of Change

Elementary school students in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Photo courtesy of

Elementary school students in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Photo courtesy of

As much as I enjoy the long daylight hours, bare email in-boxes and the balmy breezes of summer, each August I delight in the refreshing prospect of a new school year. The specific mix of excitement and anxiety, which comes from daring expectations and memories of last year’s disappointments, reveals how much we continue to treasure the opportunity to learn and to teach. For those of us who are lucky, school is a sanctuary where we can discover the best of who we are and who we can be.

In the next few weeks, a multitude of teachers, children and parents will scramble to provide the essentials, like chalk, construction paper and pencils, necessary to make their schools work. Vibrant hopes–that they will be as fun in the classroom as the favorite teacher that inspired them to become educators, that they have grown from last year’s lessons, that their children will reach new educational heights–invigorate these contributions. Despite being given meager resources, their dedicated participation as builders rather than consumers, advocates rather than bureaucrats, is what helps so many public schools continue to survive. However, parents, teachers and children cannot transform neighborhood schools into havens of self-discovery without our support.


The FBI vs. People of the United States

Richard Aoki gives Black Power salute at Black Panther Party rally.

Beloved Japanese-American Black Panther Party member Richard Aoki was recently accused of being a FBI informant by investigative journalist Seth Rosenfeld in his new book, Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power.  Aoki passed away in 2009 and is therefore unable to defend himself against these accusations.  However, a number of activists and scholars, including Professor Diane Fujino, Aoki’s biographer, question whether Rosenfeld presents conclusive or even sufficient evidence to support his claims.

The Audre Lorde Project

Portrait of Audre Lorde by Robert Alexander, 1983.

A version of this post was originally published on March 19, 2012

Black women from throughout the diaspora have made significant contributions to Black Studies. Audre Lorde (1934-1992) was a poet, essayist and activist who created a number of ground-breaking ideas about the relationship between race, class, gender and sexuality. Her most well-known quote comes from her classic collection of essays, Sister Outsider: “…the Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s house.” Lorde believed that activists of color needed to address all forms of oppression rather than seek inclusion into the elite for members of their particular group. She also advocated for radical political and cultural changes that would equalize power relations in our society.


Impressive Turn-out and Enthusiastic Support for “Black and Cuba”

Progressive Pupil would like to extend our gratitude to everyone who came out to our work in progress screening of Black and Cuba on May 17th! After many months years of work on the project, Director Robin J. Hayes and editor Michele Chang were excited to share their work with Artists, Activists, Scholars, Students, Teachers and Allies who believe that racism and class can be overcome.


Black Ivy Alums Join Artists and Advocates for Sneak Peak of “Black and Cuba”

The Yale Black Alumni Association (NYC), Venceremos Brigade, WETPAINT, and Progressive Pupil co-host a work-in-progress screening of the riveting documentary Black and Cuba. There will be a talkback with writer/director Robin J. Hayes and Yale Professor Jafari Allen, author of ¡Venceremos? The Erotics of Black Self-making in Cuba. A reception with wine and hors d’oeuvres – provided by the restaurant Cuba – will follow.

Black and Cuba is an inspiring documentary that follows awkward but street-smart students at Yale who band together and adventure to Cuba to see how revolution lives. In the process, they discover an alternative history of struggle and triumph against all odds. In rarely seen archival film, the documentary features Angela Davis, Fidel Castro, Fred Hampton, Ché Guevara and Assata Shakur, among others.

The screening and reception will be held on May 17th from 7-10:30 PM at New York City’s Cinema Village. Space is limited and advanced reservations are required. RSVP here.

Spring Awakening 2012

Black and Cuba features photographs taken at Zucotti Park during the Sankofa Day march last fall organized by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. Last weekend, we dropped in on the Spring Awakening NYC General Assembly in Central Park to share information about the May 17th screening of Black and Cuba at Cinema Village.  There was an interesting medley of activists working on HIV prevention in the African American community, transforming US policy towards Latin America and a group conducting a teach-in about “The Roots of Racial Prejudice”.  The teach-in was based on a public class offered Mondays at Freedom Hall (113 W. 128th Street between Malcolm X Blvd and 7th Avenue) in Harlem called “Overcoming Racism: A Radical Approach”.  Texts include “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander and one of my personal favorites “Black Reconstruction in America” by W.E.B. DuBois.

by Robin Hayes

Why Did You Make “Black and Cuba”?

Director Robin Hayes describes her inspiration to make “Black and Cuba,” our feature-length documentary that helps us answer the question: How will we overcome race and class?

We are excited to announce a New York City work-in-progress screening on May 17th from 7-9 PM at Cinema Village (22 East 12th St) followed by  a Q & A session with the director and a reception from 9-10:30.

To help us complete this film, purchase your tickets and find other perks on our Indiegogo page.

by Robin Hayes