UCLA Faculty Approves Creation of African American Studies Department

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Members of the UCLA Academic Senate unanimously voted Thursday to establish an African-American studies department and dismantle the current interdepartmental program, despite financial concerns about the transition.  The Legislative Assembly, a committee of the Academic Senate, approved the creation of a department after it was officially proposed more than a year ago, said Jan Reiff, the chair of the Academic Senate. The university hopes to have the department fully established by the fall, Reiff added.

The Department of African American Studies will be able to offer more classes, recruit more faculty members, and provide more academic resources than the current interdepartmental program, according to a 434 page proposal that called for departmentalization.

“The goal is to hire faculty that have their academic homes in African American studies and have faculty fully committed to the development of the programs offered,” said Tyrone Howard, a professor in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA and the founder and director of the Black Male Institute.

He added that he thought the department was needed because a number of students felt that other ethnic studies programs that have their own department at UCLA were considered more important than the Afro-American studies program.  The César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies was established in 2005 and the department of Asian American Studies was established in 2004.

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The Afro Makes a Comeback as a Natural Expression of Self

From left: Dante de Blasio and his family on primary election night in September; Eldridge Cleaver at the trial of Huey Newton in 1968; Magazine covers featuring Oprah Winfrey, right, and Prince; Angela Davis at a news conference in 1972. (Mario Tama/Getty Images; Jeffrey Scales, 1968; Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

Dante de Blasio’s towering Afro, a supporting player in his father’s mayoral campaign, riveted attention once more last week when it caught the eye of President Obama. Introducing Bill de Blasio at a Democratic fund-raiser in Midtown, Mr. Obama digressed to point out, “Dante has the same hairdo as I had in 1978. Although I have to confess my Afro was never that good.”

Nor was it as voluminous, or as apparently devoid of a political charge. As 16-year-old Dante implied in an interview with DNAInfo.com, an online local news source, hair is just hair. “Some people want to take photos and I’m really just happy,” he said. Others want to reach out and touch it, and some did at last week’s fund-raiser, their enthusiastic petting prompting the elder de Blasio to joke that he might have to call security.

The mayoral candidate was doubtless aware that Dante’s outsize hair placed him in a league with a current generation that has adopted what once was a badge of revolt as an emblem of style’s cutting edge. Resurgent in films and television and the streets, inspired by a galaxy of pop culture idols, the Afro today seems friendly enough, even downright disarming — a kinder, gentler “natural” pretty much shorn of its militancy.

Images like those of Halle Berry’s tightly coiled halo or Nicki Minaj’s poodly pink Glamfro on the cover of Allure last year have played a part in resurrecting the hallmark style. Hoping to stand apart from her more famous sister, Solange Knowles last year chopped her chemically processed hair to reveal the wedge-shaped Afro that has since become her signature. And the actress Viola Davis showed off her natural curls at the Oscar ceremonies a year ago after walking most of the red carpet season in a wig; Prince poses regally in his Afro on the August issue of V magazine.

Even the customarily conventional Oprah Winfrey stepped out to front the September issue of O, the Oprah magazine, in a 3.5-pound wig that spanned its cover nearly edge to edge above the cover line: “Let’s talk about HAIR!”

The style’s current iteration bears little kinship to the anti-gravity hair flaunted in the late 1960s by Angela Davis, Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver and other icons of the Black Power movement. “In the ’60s the Afro was looked upon as ‘Wow, you’re stepping out there, you’re really going against the grain,’ ” said Andre Walker, the man who fluffed Ms. Winfrey’s wig into its umbrella-size proportions. In contrast, “When I talk to a lot of the kids from this generation,” he said, “the whole civil rights movement, it’s very vague to them.

“I don’t think they really know the meaning of how radical an Afro was in the day,” Mr. Walker added. “It’s a different time now.”

Though his father wore an Afro in the 1970s and ’80s, 16-year-old Noah Negron, a high school senior in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, was not bowing to family tradition or the politics of a bygone era when he decided to grow out his hair. “I’m an environmentalist,” he said. “That’s where the locks come in. It’s like all natural.”

Reluctant to treat her hair with potentially damaging lye, another Brooklyn resident who identified herself only as Tamar A., declared: “This is just how my hair grows out of my head. I’m not trying to make a statement. I’m just more comfortable being who I am.”

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R.I.P. Leo Branton Jr., Civil Rights Lawyer Who Defended Angela Davis

April 6, 1972: Defense attorney Leo Branton listens to Angela Davis as the two walk from court at San Jose. For obit of Branton.

April 6, 1972: Defense attorney Leo Branton listens to Angela Davis as the two walk from court at San Jose.

Leo Branton Jr., a civil rights and entertainment lawyer whose stirring defense of ’60s radical Angela Davis brought him his most celebrated victory in a six-decade career often spent championing unpopular cases, died of natural causes Friday in Los Angeles. He was 91.  His death was confirmed by his son Tony Nicholas.

Branton, the only African-American graduate of Northwestern University’s law school in 1948, helped singer Nat King Cole integrate an exclusive Los Angeles neighborhood, defended Communists in McCarthy-era Los Angeles and won misconduct cases against the Los Angeles Police Department decades before Rodney King became a household name.

“He was a hero of mine,” said Connie Rice, a prominent Los Angeles civil rights attorney who helped lead efforts to reform the LAPD after the King beating.  “All the things I’ve done, Leo Branton did 50 years before I even thought about going to law school. He saw himself not as a private practitioner out to make money for himself but as a lawyer with the skills to be a champion for black liberation.”

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Black Arts Movement Works Acquired by Brooklyn Museum

UrbanWallSuitJae Jarrell’s “Urban Wall Suit,” from 1969, recently bought by the Brooklyn Museum.

As the curator of American art at the Brooklyn Museum began work on an exhibition to coincide with next year’s anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, she happened on a trove of works from the Black Arts Movement, the cultural arm of the black power movement of the 1960s and ’70s, the New York Times reported.

Noticing that the collection bridged two generations of works already among the museum’s holdings — by earlier African-American artists like John Biggers, Sargent Johnson and Lois Mailou Jones, and by their contemporary successors — the curator, Teresa A. Carbone, persuaded the museum to acquire it.

“Even at a time when people are more aware of the established canon of black artists,” Ms. Carbone said, “these artists are only now gaining the recognition they deserve.”

The collection — 44 works by 26 artists — was assembled by David Lusenhop, a former Chicago dealer now living in Detroit, and his colleague Melissa Azzi. About a dozen years ago the two began buying pieces they felt were prime examples of the Black Arts Movement.

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University of Michigan Launches the “Understanding Race” Project

University-Michigan-logoThe University of Michigan has announced a four-month initiative called the Understanding Race Project. From January through April, the university will feature public exhibits, lectures, performances, symposia, and other events examining the role of race in American society. Among the lecturers who will be visiting campus to participate in the project are Angela Davis, Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker. During the spring semester, 130 courses dealing with racial issues will be offered students in a wide variety of disciplines.

“The Understanding Race Project is as broad and varied as the cultural and ethnic groups that constitute and sometimes divide the human family here and around the globe,” explains Amy Harris, co-chair of the project and director of the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History. She states that the goal of the project is “to learn more about how social constructs like race have defined substantial portions of our history and continue to impact our lives today.”

article via jbhe.com

Angela Davis Documentary Brings Life Of Revolutionary To Big Screen

 

Willow Smith, Jaden Smith, producer Sidra Smith, director Shola Lynch, actors Will Smith, Angela Davis and Jada Pinkett Smith attend the 'Free Angela & All Political Prisoners' premiere during the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival at Roy Thomson Hall on September 9, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

From Ebony.com: Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, a new film by Shola Lynch, in which Angela Davis, 68, speaks openly for the first time in forty years about the tumultuous events of her twenties, debuted at this week’s Toronto International Film Festival. Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith, who introduced the doc at the festival, just announced that their Overbrook Entertainment have partnered with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation as executive producers of the documentary about the scholar who came to embody Black power and Black radical feminism. Continue reading