Tag: Angela Davis

Betye Saar, 92, Artist Who Helped Spark Black Women’s Movement Has “Betye Saar: Keepin’ It Clean” Exhibit Opening in NY on November 2

Betye Saar – “Supreme Quality” (Photograph: Kris Walters/Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, CA)

by Nadja Sayej via theguardian.com

In 1972, a black cultural center in Berkeley, California, put out a call for artists to help create an exhibit themed around black heroes. One African American contemporary artist, Betye Saar, answered. She created an artwork from a “mammy” doll and armed it with a rifle.

Betye Saar (photo via dailybruin.com)

According to Angela Davis, a Black Panther activist, the piece by Saar, titled “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima,” sparked the black women’s movement. Now, the artist’s legacy is going on view in New York with “Betye Saar: Keepin’ It Clean,” an exhibit opening on November 2nd at the New York Historical Society, featuring 24 artworks made between 1997 and 2017 from her continuing series incorporating washboards. The exhibit runs until May 27, 2019.

“Saar says that it’s about keeping everything clean, keeping politics clean, keeping your life clean, your actions clean,” said Wendy Ikemoto, the society’s associate curator of American art. “She wants America to clean up its act and a lot of her art has to do with this idea that we haven’t cleaned up our act.”

Saar, 92, was born in Los Angeles and turned to making political art after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. “After his assassination in 1968, her work became explicitly political,” said Ikemoto. “That’s when she started collecting these racist, Jim Crow figurines and incorporated them in her assemblages.”

Betye Saar – “Dark Times” (Photograph: Robert Wedemeyer/Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles)

Saar was part of the black arts movement, the cultural – often literary – arm of the black power movement of the 1960s and 1970s; she was also among so-called second wave feminists. But she still found herself at a crossroads. “The black arts movement was male-dominated and the feminist movement was white-dominated,” Ikemoto said. “Being at the intersection of both movements, she became one of the most prominent black female artists for presenting strong, recognized women who are fighting off the legacy of slavery. I think it did open doors for other artists to follow.”

This traveling exhibit, from the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, shows Saar’s consistent message through her washboard series. “Many of her works tackle the broad issue of revisioning derogatory stereotypes to agents of change, historical change and power,” said Ikemoto. “Many artworks feature descendants of Aunt Jemima and mammy figures armed to face the racist histories of our nation.”

The exhibit includes “Extreme Times Call for Extreme Heroines,” a washboard piece Saar made in 2017 that features a mammy doll holding a pair of guns. The washboards are used in lieu of canvases and are loaded with symbolism.

“The washboard becomes her frame for the art, it’s the star,” said Ikemoto. “It’s the structure of black labor and she is moving it from a space of invisibility to highlight it. She is also using this humble object of hard labor to subvert notions of fine art.”

Each washboard is like a puzzle to be decoded, filled with small details that reference American history. There are Black Panther fists, references to police brutality and phrases from the Harlem renaissance poet Langston Hughes.

There are also references to Memphis, the city where King was assassinated, and to the Congolese slaves who were killed under the Congo Free State. Some washboards include phrases such as “national racism”.

“It’s as if Saar is suggesting how racism is so entrenched in our nation that it has become a national brand,” said Ikemoto. “She takes something that is a sign of oppression and violence, something pejorative and derogatory, and transforms it into something revolutionary.”

Not all of the artworks are on washboards, however. One piece from 1997, “We Was Mostly ’Bout Survival,” is on an ironing board, emblazoned with an image of a British slave ship.

“I think this exhibition is essential right now,” said Ikemoto. “I hope it encourages dialogue about history and our nation today, the racial relations and problems we still need to confront in the 21st century.”

More: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/oct/30/betye-saar-art-exhibit-racism-new-york-historical-society

R.I.P. Artistic Genius and Musical Legend Aretha Franklin, 76, Forever the Queen of Soul

(photo via arethafranklin.net)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to nytimes.com, American singer, pianist, and composer Aretha Franklin died at her home in Detroit surrounded by family and loved ones at the age of 76. The cause was advanced pancreatic cancer. She is survived by her four sons, Ted White Jr., Kecalf Cunningham, Clarence Franklin, and Edward Franklin.

Franklin, who began her unparalleled music career singing at her father Rev. C.L. Franklin‘s New Bethel Baptist Church, became an international superstar and chart-topper in the 1960s with such classic songs as “Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You,” “Chain of Fools,” “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “Respect,” and again in the 1980 and 1990s with “Jump To It,” “Freeway of Love,” “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me,” “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” and “A Rose Is Still A Rose.” Franklin was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, won 18 competitive Grammys across multiple decades, was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1994, recipient of the National Medal of Arts in 1999, and was bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

Aretha was also involved in civil rights activism and philanthropy during her lifetime. Franklin, who Elle Magazine noted had it written into her contract in the 1960s that she would never perform for a segregated audience, was glad that the song “Respect” became linked to feminist and civil-rights movements. She added that the line “you know I’ve got it” has a direct feminist theme. “As women, we do have it,” Franklin said. “We have the power. We are very resourceful. Women absolutely deserve respect. I think women and children and older people are the three least-respected groups in our society.”

According to Vanity Fair, though Franklin didn’t participate in civil disobedience herself, she lent very public support to at least one person who did. In 1970, famous feminist activist, scholar, and a then-avowed member of the Communist Party Angela Davis was arrested at the Howard Johnson Motor Lodge in Midtown Manhattan and incarcerated for 16 months for what were found to be wrongful kidnapping and murder charges. Jet magazine reported that Franklin was ready to cover Davis’s bond, “whether it was $100,000 or $250,000.” Davis was released on bail and cleared of her charges in 1972.

Locally, Aretha donated meals and hotel rooms to Flint residents at the onset of the city’s water crisis, last year she was honored with the dedication of Aretha Franklin Way in Detroit, and worked to renew and revitalize her hometown with projects and concerts.

To read more about Franklin’s life and music, coverage from the Detroit Free Press, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. To witness a touch of her genius, click below:

Activist and Educator Angela Davis’ Papers Acquired by Harvard University’s Schlesinger Library (VIDEO)

Detail photos show materials from the papers of Angela Davis that are now housed at the Schlesinger Library. (Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer)

by Colleen Walsh via news.harvard.edu

For almost 60 years Angela Davis has been for many an iconic face of feminism and counterculture activism in America. Now her life in letters and images will be housed at Harvard University.

Radcliffe College‘s Schlesinger Library has acquired Davis’ archive, a trove of documents, letters, papers, photos, and more that trace her evolution as an activist, author, educator, and scholar. The papers were secured with support from Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research.

The FBI wanted poster for Davis (Courtesy Schlesinger Library)

“My papers reflect 50 years of involvement in activist and scholarly collaborations seeking to expand the reach of justice in the world,” Davis said in a statement. “I am very happy that at the Schlesinger Library they will join those of June Jordan, Patricia Williams, Pat Parker, and so many other women who have been advocates of social transformation.”

Jane Kamensky, Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Director of the Schlesinger Library, sees the collection yielding “prize-winning books for decades as people reckon with this legacy and put [Davis] in conversation with other collections here and elsewhere.”

When looking for new material, Kamensky said the library seeks collections “that will change the way that fields know what they know,” adding that she expects the Davis archive to inspire and inform scholars across a range of disciplines.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. said that he’s followed Davis’ life and work ever since spotting a “Free Angela” poster on the wall at his Yale dorm. Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher Jr. University Professor, has worked to increase the archival presence of African-Americans who have made major contributions to U.S. society, politics, and culture. He called the Davis papers “a marvelous coup for Harvard.”

“She’s of enormous importance to the history of political thought and political activism of left-wing or progressive politics and the history of race and gender in the United States since the mid-’60s,” said Gates, who directs the Hutchins Center. “No one has a more important role, and now scholars will be able to study the arc of her thinking, the way it evolved and its depth, by having access to her papers.”

The acquisition is in keeping with the library’s efforts to ensure its collections represent a broad range of life experiences. In 2013 and 2014 an internal committee developed a diverse wish list, “and a foundational thinker and activist like Angela Davis was very naturally at the top,” said Kamensky.

Kenvi Phillips, hired as the library’s first curator for race and ethnicity in 2016, met with Davis in Oakland last year to collect the papers with help from two archivists. Together they packed 151 boxes of material gathered from a storage site, an office, and Davis’ home. Continue reading “Activist and Educator Angela Davis’ Papers Acquired by Harvard University’s Schlesinger Library (VIDEO)”

Meet 18 Candidates Leading the Historic Rise of Black Women Running for Office in Alabama

by Jamia Wilson (with reporting by Samantha Leach) via glamour.com

Before Black Panther celebrated the all-­female freedom fighters of Wakanda, real-life black women formed their own type of special-forces unit in Alabama. When a whopping 98 percent of African American women voters united behind Doug Jones, they were able to elect him as the first Democrat to represent Alabama in the U.S. Senate in more than 20 years. They didn’t just defeat Roy Moore; they rocked the political status quo.

They have no intention of stopping there.

An unprecedented groundswell of at least 70 black women have launched electoral campaigns across Alabama for local, state, and national offices in 2018, according to the nonprofit Emerge America, which trains women to run for office. While this echoes a national trend (the Black Women in Politics database lists 590 black female candidates across the country, 97 of them for federal seats), experts say the numbers in Alabama are particularly striking. From first-time hopefuls to seasoned veterans, twenty-somethings to sixty-somethings, women are lining up to disrupt the mostly white, mostly Republican old boys’ club in the state. (Only two black women are running as Republicans in Alabama this year, both for local seats, according to the state’s GOP office.) “African Americans are a quarter of the population here, yet they aren’t seeing their issues front and center,” says Rhonda Briggins, a co-founder of VoteRunLead and an Alabama native, “so they’ve decided to run themselves.”

Representative Terri Sewell, 53, who’s up for re-election this year, was the first black woman to represent Alabama in Congress when she was elected in 2011. “As a congressional intern during the late eighties, I remember walking the halls of the Capitol and not seeing many black women in any role, let alone as elected officials,” she says. “When I was first elected, making my voice heard as a black woman surrounded by older white men was a challenge. This year we’re proving the strength of our voice at the ballot box.”

Ironically, it was the election of a white guy—thanks to the record-breaking mobilization of black women—that motivated many of these candidates to jump into the race. “After so many black women carried Doug Jones over the threshold, I think more women across the state began to see our political power,” says Ashley Smith, 34, a Montgomery native running for district judge in Lowndes County.

Wendy Smooth, Ph.D., a political scientist at Ohio State University, agrees the high voter turnout in last December’s special election inspired black women candidates to tap into the political momentum. “There was this robust energy, and once energy like that has been released, it doesn’t go away,” she says. “And once women learn [how to] get a candidate elected into office, a lightbulb comes on and they say, ‘This isn’t that hard after all. I too can do this.’ ” But, she’s quick to point out, the uptick of black candidates in Alabama and beyond is not just reactionary. These candidates are building on a tradition of activism among black women that’s resulted in major social progress. They’ve done the work, using their coalition-based organizing methods, to fight voter suppression, help Barack Obama win the presidency, and change the game in the special elections. Running for political office is a key part of their strategy.

Briggins emphasizes that these women are making deliberate next steps in a larger blueprint for change, in both their communities and the country, noting how past seeds laid the groundwork for growth. “Women are primarily the workers behind the Alabama New South Coalition and Alabama Democratic Conference, organizations that, since the civil rights movement, have become the foundation of black political power in Alabama,” she says. Continue reading “Meet 18 Candidates Leading the Historic Rise of Black Women Running for Office in Alabama”

U.K.’s Positive.News Publishes Good Black News Feature – “Black News Matters: the Website Dedicated to Positive News about People of Color”

Good Black News Founder and Editor-in-Chief Lori Lakin Hutcherson (photo: Atsushi Nishijima)

interview by Lucy Purdy via positive.news

Lori Lakin Hutcherson was shocked when she was unable to find a website dedicated to positive news about black people. So she started one 

Why did you start the Facebook page that became the website, Good Black News?

I actually started Good Black News by accident. It was 2010 and, in my work as a film and television writer and producer, I was collaborating with author Terry McMillan on the film adaptation of her new book. Before our writing session started one morning, she was telling me about a story she’d barely come across in the news: at an all-black academy in Chicago, 100 per cent of the seniors were accepted to college. Terry was wondering why there was no major news media coverage of this great achievement, and lamenting that the mainstream media primarily focused on negative news about African Americans. I figured that there must be a site dedicated solely to positive African American news, so searched the internet. To my shock, I couldn’t find one. In that moment I decided I had to create it, even if just a page on Facebook. So I did. And it slowly grew from there.

How do you think the mainstream media is biased towards people of colour? What damage can stereotypes do?

The media bias reflects the bias intrinsic in US culture and society. People of colour are often seen as threats or exceptions, but not commonly enough as typical human beings. More often than not, you’ll see adjectives or nouns that refer to someone’s ethnicity or skin colour rather than their name or age, or you will see images that are dour or intense instead of happy or light. The damage these micro-dehumanisations can do is reinforce prejudices about people of colour, as well as teach and perpetuate them. So every time I put up a positive story, I am conscious that I am combatting all of that, as well as offering a bit of uplift for anyone who comes across it.

What steps do you take with your stories; for example with headlines and photos, to make them more representative and balanced?

First of all, I make sure that they are accurate and informative, and properly credited and sourced. Secondly, I like to find the best image possible to represent the person or the subject of the story; if all anyone sees is the photo or the headline, I want to make sure either or both offer a story, as well as positive impact. Lastly, I like to put names in headlines. A person’s name offers individuality and acknowledgement that I think impresses on readers a level of humanity that descriptors just don’t. It may seem subtle, but to me, it’s not. Imagine, for example, the differing impact of The Autobiography of a Black Muslim v The Autobiography of Malcolm X or The Diary of a Jewish Girl v The Diary of Anne Frank.

What reactions have you had to Good Black News? Have any surprised you?

The majority have been positive, which isn’t surprising as much as it is heartwarming. It’s humbling knowing that what myself, my fellow editor Lesa Lakin and our volunteer contributors do is helping so many people access information and stories they might not otherwise have heard of. What has surprised me – even though, thankfully, it’s not a large number – is that there are people who spend their time trying to troll and mock and denigrate a site dedicated to sharing positive stories about people of colour. Each time I come across a wayward comment, reply or tweet and block it, I think ‘Who has time for this kind of vitriol in their life?

People of colour are often seen as threats or exceptions, but not commonly enough as typical human beings

Which sorts of stories are most popular?

Education stories. Whether it’s a boy or girl genius graduating college at 14, or a formerly homeless teen going to the Ivy League, or senior citizens finally getting their high school or college diplomas, education stories are always popular. Education has been the most accessible and democratic way people of colour have been able to improve their lives in the US. To go from it being a crime to learn to read and write, to earning PhDs and running universities – yeah, those stories always resonate.

To read rest of article, go to: Black news matters: the website dedicated to positive news about people of colour

UCLA Faculty Approves Creation of African American Studies Department

pict_history

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.

Continue reading “UCLA Faculty Approves Creation of African American Studies Department”

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.”

Continue reading “The Afro Makes a Comeback as a Natural Expression of Self”

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.”

Continue reading “R.I.P. Leo Branton Jr., Civil Rights Lawyer Who Defended Angela Davis”

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.

Continue reading “Black Arts Movement Works Acquired by Brooklyn Museum”

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