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Vedan & Brittany

Vedan Anthony-North and Brittany Duck

Progressive Pupil’s first Program Director, Vedan Anthony-North, is transitioning into a new full-time position at the Vera Institute of Justice as the Center Coordinator for their Center on Sentencing and Corrections.

Vedan made extraordinary contributions to the growth of Progressive Pupil during the past two years. She played a critical role in the founding and editing of our blog as well as the establishment of our Social Media Educational Outreach program. With her generosity, patience and sharp insights, she was an empowering mentor to our interns.

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The Spanish Resistance to Africans

boat people

Immigration from Africa to Europe is not a new phenomenon. In fact, people of African descent have been living in Europe for centuries, pre-dating the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Yet, as economies worsen throughout the world and the livelihoods of impoverished individuals continue to deteriorate, waves of Africans have migrated to Europe in search of better lives and opportunities. Of all European Union member states, Spain, arguably, has the most liberal immigration policies, allowing thousands of African immigrants into the country each year. That being said, the migration management system Spain has adopted for the many people who make the treacherous journey between Africa and Europe by boat casts doubt on its seemingly lenient immigration policies. These people often find themselves detained or deported after reaching the shores of Spain rather than having repatriation options.

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Life After “The Wire”

Sohn speaks with community members in Baltimore. Photo courtesy of Hector Emanuel and The Washington Post.

Sonja Sohn speaks with community members in Baltimore. Photo courtesy of Hector Emanuel and The Washington Post.

Most of us are familiar with Detective Shakima Greggs and her work in Baltimore from the hit HBO series The Wire. Few of us are as familiar with Sonja Sohn, the actress who played Kima Greggs, and her continued work in youth development and community empowerment.

After The Wire ended in 2008, Sonja Sohn couldn’t leave Baltimore behind. Having spent years of her life in a city where the leading cause of death for African American males ages 15 to 35 was homicide, Sohn was anxious to use her experience on the show to help. She was especially inspired by the impact the cast of the show had on a voter empowerment tour of Virginia and North Carolina with the National Urban League. She used this experience to launch ReWired for Change, an organization that empowers at risk youth, families and communities living in under-served areas through educational programming, community building support and media and social advocacy.

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The Chinese-African Connection

Funded by the China National Mechanical and Equipment Corporation, the Imboulou Dam in the Republic of Congo is a 120-megawatt power plant that will double the DRC's national production of electricity and bring light to a large part of the country. Photo courtesy of Time Magazine/Paolo Woods.

Funded by the China National Mechanical and Equipment Corporation, the Imboulou Dam in the Republic of Congo is a 120-megawatt power plant that will double the DRC’s national production of electricity and bring light to a large part of the country. Photo courtesy of Time Magazine/Paolo Woods.

On the anniversary of Ghana’s independence, we wrote a blog piece about Former Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah‘s Pan-African ideology and how important it is to be aware of neocolonialism — the use of economic, political, and cultural pressures to influence other countries. While the definition of neocolonialism generally refers to the exploitation of former colonies, China’s recent economic boom has led to an increased investment in the many resources that makes Africa a literal and figurative goldmine.

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Peace, Racial Equality and the US Embargo of Cuba

Bob Brown and Robin J. Hayes facilitated a Convergence Assembly at the 2013 World Social Forum in Tunis, Tunisia

Bob Brown and Robin J. Hayes facilitated a Convergence Assembly at the 2013 World Social Forum in Tunis, Tunisia

On our last day at the World Social Forum, we co-hosted a Convergence Assembly with PanAfrican Roots, the Cuban Institute for Friendship Among the Peoples (ICAP), the African Awareness Association and InterOccupy. The goal of the Convergence Assemblies is to create specific calls to action and find ways for communities from all over the world to build solidarity around issues that affect us as a group. Essentially, they allow for World Social Forum participants to digest the conversations, information and excitement of the last three days into concrete plans they can take home with them and implement.

We were excited to be a part of this aspect of the Forum because it gave us the opportunity to share the activism that is currently happening in the United States against the US embargo of Cuba as well as to promote an international conversation about the impact of US foreign policy on Black people around the world. The assembly offered us a unique opportunity to share parts of the film Black and Cuba with an international audience and gain their input. Bob Brown, formerly of the Black Panther Party and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, gave an informative, engaging presentation about PanAfrican activism.  We were thrilled to have a full house with representatives from Belgium, Cuba, Egypt, Canada, Kenya, the United States, Palestine, Tunisia, Germany, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Algeria and France.

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Are Reparations the Path out of Colonization?

Members of the "From Colonization to Reparations" panel. From left to right: Jean-Jacob Bicep, the interpreter and Mireille Fanon-Mendès

Members of the “From Colonization to Reparations” panel. From left to right: Jean-Jacob Bicep, the interpreter and Mireille Fanon-Mendès

Day three of the World Social Forum gave us the opportunity to participate in a meaningful discussion about colonization and reparations hosted by the Conseil Représentatif des Associations Noires de France (Representative Council of Black French Associations, or CRAN) and the Fondation Frantz Fanon (Frantz Fanon Foundation). While many of the panel and audience members were native French speakers – from France, Tunisia, Algeria, Martinique, Guadeloupe and Quebec, Canada – the Forum had a translator who helped break down the language barrier and enabled us to participate fully. Engaging with people throughout the diaspora about colonialism is helpful to our grassroots organizing in the United States because it showed us that there are international successes and obstacles that we can learn from.

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Secrets of PanAfrican Unity

Black and Cuba at the World Social Forum

On day two of the World Social Forum, we were excited to attend a discussion called “Building PanAfrican Unity in the 21st Century” hosted by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. This event was of particular interest to us because even though the forum is being held in Africa, there are only a few programs that directly discuss race, PanAfricanism and the African diaspora – including a program on the ideas of Thomas Sankara and a workshop for Black Tunisians.

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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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Lessons from Trayvon

Trayvon Martin (1995-2012) and Emmett Till (1941-1955).

A version of this post was originally published on March 21, 2012

The February 26th killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman has rightfully sparked outrage in communities around the country. The heartbreaking situation Trayvon found himself in is one many black men can relate to, and the details surrounding the events have shed light on ongoing racial injustice in the United States. In a powerful and moving piece in the New York Times, columnist Charles M. Blow says:

As the father of two black teenage boys, this case hits close to home. This is the fear that seizes me whenever my boys are out in the world: that a man with a gun and an itchy finger will find them “suspicious.” That passions may run hot and blood run cold. That it might all end with a hole in their chest and hole in my heart. That the law might prove insufficient to salve my loss.

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Five Fundamental Favorites for Your Rainy Day Blues

With April showers gracing our New York City streets, we’ve certainly needed an afternoon pick-me-up on most days. Here are five fun films that put a smile on our face no matter what horrendous weather is happening outside our window.

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