This is the category page for Black cultures. I’ve pluralised the term “Black culture” as Blackness is not a monolithic construct; it encompasses centuries of different histories, communities, and cultures. Here, you will read about everything from Ancient Egypt to Black millennials.
Prince was quite a secretive person but you won’t be short of photographs of him. Picturing Prince: An Intimate Portrait will piece together never-before-seen photos of the late musician, taken by Steve Parke.
A new book from Cassell, Picturing Prince: An Intimate Portrait, out September 5, aims to add depth to Prince’s public persona; it features never-before-seen photographs by Steve Parke, the musician’s former art director at Paisley Park, including 16 pages of lost photographs from his extensive archive.
Along with those images are some hilarious anecdotes from Parke, revealing more about Prince than most fans would know. Stories include The Purple One renting out whole movie theatres at 4am, requests for exotic animals, and his love of basketball. Away from taking photos of Prince, Steve Parke also designed his album covers and merch before becoming the official Paisley Park art director. That’s a high accolade given Prince’s attention to detail and perfectionism when it came to his image.
This is a must-read for Prince fans and music lovers alike.
A very insightful 20-minute documentary on Branden Miller, the man behind Joanne the Scammer, and his journey to Britain for the first time. Getting to see both sides of the Joanne coin makes for interesting viewing and you become more appreciative of the performer as well as the performance. There were wonderful dresses and lots of sightseeing in that classic Joanne style.
UPDATE: It appears the video was cancelled so enjoy this Caucasian tweet and the preview for the documentary that never happened. Iconic!
Such was the strength of racism and homophobia during the Civil Rights Movement. You can still feel that potency today, if not in different ways. But this quote from Literary Hub is harrowing:
My memorandum date 7-17-64, which concerned the captioned individual’s plans for a future book about the FBI, has been returned by the Director with this question: “Isn’t Baldwin a well-known pervert?” It is not a matter of official record that he is a pervert…
James Baldwin, a well-known pervert? M.A. Jones of Crime Records elaborated further:
While it is not possible to state that [Baldwin] is a pervert, he has expressed a sympathetic viewpoint about homosexuality on several occasions, and a very definite hostility toward the revulsion of the American public regarding it.
M.A. Jones of Crime Records
It is no wonder Baldwin moved across the Atlantic.
Apart from the advent of hip hop, not much gets a look in over white counterparts. Barkley L. Hendricks’ portraits were striking in recognising the beauty of post-Civil Rights blackness and every decade after. The contrast of minimalism and abundant strength in his paintings were unfortunately overlooked by those in the museums.
For my 10th birthday, I got a Gameboy Color. I cried when I unwrapped it because a few months prior, my original Gameboy DMG was stolen along with 10 games. I also got a gold cover for it but I’ve yet to find another since.
Get Out is probably one of the most unique and intriguing horror films I’ve seen since It Follows. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past month or two, Get Out is a huge box-office success and a critically acclaimed horror/thriller/comedy mash-up from the mind of Jordan Peele. A lot has been written about how Get Out derives its horror from racial overtones. This is certainly true and as a young black man myself, what resonated with me most was how Chris attempted to initially combat the awkwardness of the situation – particularly through his language.
In Get Out, Chris Washington, an African-American, accompanies his white girlfriend Rose to meet her parents in a predominately white community but he soon discovers something sinister is afoot. Most black people in predominately white countries are aware of the concept of microaggressions. Get Out successfully highlights how those day-to-day microaggressions contribute to fetishizing an individual by reducing them to stereotypical components. Instead of greeting Chris normally, white characters in the film adopt forced African-American slang and proclaim their love of Obama. To them, Chris isn’t ‘Chris the Individual’, instead, he’s reduced to ‘Chris The Black Guy’ – a thoroughly isolating experience.
Chris’ attempts to remedy this isolation strongly resonated with me. Whilst staying with Rose’s parents, Chris only encounters three other black people. His first solution to avoiding that segregation is to appeal to them for solidarity. But there’s something ‘off’ about the black servants who serve Rose’s family, and similarly something unsettling about the only other black man who Chris meets at the parents’ party. When he tries to engage with them on their assumed level, i.e. through African-American idioms, slang and gestures (the fist bump for example), they don’t reciprocate.
On my initial viewing of Get Out, it got me thinking about the ‘black guy nod’. Personally, I don’t even know when I learned or when I started doing the ‘black guy nod’, otherwise called just ‘the nod’ or the ‘Negro nod’. This refers to a knowing look and small nod of the head shared between black people whenever they see each other in an area without many other black people.
Last year, when walking down the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I did it when I noticed a black guy walking past me and he kindly returned the gesture. We didn’t even say anything to each other, we just nodded knowingly, kept it moving and I never saw him again. I don’t know his name, where he was from, but it just seemed like something I ought to do.
It’s not the only tool for establishing solidarity; code-switching is an effective tool for connecting with someone from the same culture. Code-switching refers to when a speaker alternates between two or more languages or dialects. It’s often context and audience dependent. For minorities, this can be especially important. Referencing shared cultural experiences can be a form of emotional survival. And considering that survival is at the core of Get Out, it’s probably the best exploration of code-switching I’ve seen on cinema. (Dave Chappelle has a hilarious stand-up routine where he mentions Black people looking out for each other in dangerous situations.)
Some academics propose that this type of intra-communal code-switching can be divided into “we” and “they” codes. “We codes” are geared towards the home, family and immediate community, while “they codes” are associated with wider public discourse. A “we code” might consist of something as overt as a shared language or regional dialect that people of a shared heritage might use versus the standardised language they use when corresponding in formal settings. “We codes” establish solidarity for people who might be marginalised and minorities in a specific context.
A good example of Chris attempting a “we code”, is when he tries to establish a rapport with Walter, a black groundskeeper who serves Rose’s family. It’s a short scene; whilst Walter is outside doing manual labour, Chris says to Walter, “they working you good out here, huh?” in a friendly manner. Potentially, this is Chris’ attempt to highlight a distinction between the wealthy whites who own the property and the African-American outsiders, namely Chris, Georgina and Walter. Walter responds by reaffirming his link with Rose’s family, leaving the audience to feel that Chris is alone and Walter is not an ally.
It’s an awkward moment when Chris tries to segue into a “we code” with fellow African-Americans in the town, only for it not to be reciprocated. For Chris and the audience, this confirms that there’s something ominous brewing in the community with regards to the way it views black people. This shifts the tone of the film from merely being a clumsy navigation of meeting the girlfriend’s parents (a la Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner) to a disturbing and unsafe atmosphere. There’s no one there who can relate to Chris, which poses a threat to him as the true horror of the story unfolds.
There are many things we can take away from Get Out. There are so many thematic points to unpick which makes me look forward to re-watching it. The importance of reciprocating code-switching is demonstrated by the fact that the only person looking out for Chris, is the person who is most relatable to him culturally and linguistically. It’s a film with a lot of substance, but my favourite aspect of the film is its encouragement for ethnic minorities, particularly African-Americans, to look out for each other.
Get Out was released in UK Cinemas on the 17th March 2017.
The original project was a 12-15 minute short promoting the new Addams Family Values movie but due to Michael’s molestation allegations, the project was shelved. This didn’t stop his motivation towards and the short became “Michael Jackson’s Ghosts” three years later.
Very little changed from the 1993 version compared to the final 1996 version apart from the role of Mayor. Ken Jenkins, better known as Dr Bob Kelso in US comedy Scrubs, played the Mayor in 1993. In Ghosts, Michael played both the Mayor and the Maestro. Yup, that’s Michael dressed as an overweight white man with a chip on his shoulder. Spot the irony if you will.
Read an extract about the making of Ghosts from the book, Making Michael.