Living While Black, in Japan

Living While Black, In Japan | All Things Considered | NPR

“Living While Black, in Japan” is a film by photojournalist and filmmaker team Keith Bedford and Shiho Fukada. They are both married and moved to Japan three years ago. Fukada was born in Japan and missed her family while living in New York where she met Bedford.

Bedford is African American. He says he likes living in Japan but there is a sense of being an outsider or a sense of being the other. He says this is a lot of what Fukada went through living in America.

They discussed moving back to America but then the George Floyd killing happened.

Fukada said she worried that something like this could happen to Bedford or her son. And she wanted to learn how others in the Black American community in Japan felt about it. This film touches on what it’s like living abroad for a group of Black Americans in Japan.

The film features interviews with men and women discussing how racism and encounters with police in the US, contributed to their decision to leave.

Blackness and Japan related: Yasuke, an African samurai in Japan and the Black polyglot who speaks Japanese, Mandarin, and Arabic

(via NPR)

The cultural taboos of pointing at rainbows

TIL: it’s a no-no to point at a rainbow in many cultures around the world.

Robert Blust has spent the last few years exploring these rainbow-pointing taboos and why they all exist. His first encounter with the belief came in 1980 in Jakarta, when he was a university professor:

[…] One of the teachers, seeing Blust’s gesture, politely informed him that, in Sumatra, pointing to rainbows was considered a no-no. Another chimed in to say the same was true where he came from, in a different part of the archipelago. Both had learned as children that if you broke the taboo, your finger would become bent like a rainbow.

He later found that the forbidden gesture wasn’t specific to south-eastern Asia:

Blust began to cast a wider net. He sent questionnaires to colleagues and missionary stations around the world, inquiring about rainbows and taboos related to them. He would soon amass evidence for the rainbow taboo—in some form or another—in 124 cultures. The prohibition turned up in North America, among the Atsugewi of northern California and the Lakota of the northern plains; in remote parts of Australia and isolated islands in Melanesia; among the Nyabwa of Ivory Coast and the Kaiwá of Brazil. At one time it was present in Europe, too: one of the Grimm brothers noted it in his book on German mythology. The belief was not found in every culture, according to Blust’s search, but it was present globally, across all inhabited regions.

Although the reasons differ, the general idea behind the rainbow-pointing taboo is bad luck. I wonder how many “successful” or otherwise happy people have done it and how it affected them, if at all. And does it count for rainbow drawings (of which there have been loads in the UK during the pandemic)? Cultural anthropology is fascinating.

(via Atlas Obscura)

Dopesick: a miniseries about America's opioid problem

DOPESICK Trailer 2 (2021) Michael Keaton

It’s great to see Michael Keaton in more things these days and that’s a major part of why I’m looking forward to watching Dopesick. Based on the book Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy, the 8-episode series focuses on “the epicenter of America’s struggle with Opioid addiction”.

Keaton stars as Dr. Samuel Finnix, a well-liked doctor in a Virginia mining town who becomes a pusher for a pharmaceutical salesman who sells him OxyContin. Finnix begins to prescribe the drug with devastating effects and finds himself fighting to reclaim his integrity and the lives of his patients.

7 episodes are available to stream on Hulu now (the seventh just came out yesterday) with the final episode scheduled for 17th November. It’ll also be available to stream on the Star content hub of Disney+, Disney+ Hotstar and Star+ from tomorrow.

'We Are History' examines the links between art, colonialism and climate change

We are History | Trailer

For gal-dem, Lauren Dei spoke to the artists behind a new exhibition called ‘We Are History. The show, curated by Ekow Eshun, displays art that tells the stories of colonialism and its pivotal role in global warming and the harsh realities of climate change.

Featured artists include Alberta Whittle, Otobong Nkanga, and Malala Andrialavidrazana.

“We have a saying in Barbados charting the timeline of hurricane season,” Alberta tells gal-dem via phone call.“‘June – too soon, July – stand by, August – come it must, September – remember, October – all over.’ In 2021, the hurricane season began in April. Climate colonialism means the hurricane seasons are growing longer and longer, leaving the country on tenterhooks for over half the calendar year.”

An early scene in the film shows the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in 2019. The camera pans above the wreckage of the decimated Bahama Islands. An estimated 13,000 homes were severely damaged or lost during the Category five storm that left the national airport underwater and saw over 6,000 evacuees rescued by air. 

Head over to Somerset House to see We Are History, which runs until 6th February 2022.

A UK Black History Month Post (2021)

I’m going to quote myself from last year because it’s still relevant:

It’s been a challenging year to navigate and, needless to say, Black people are tired.

I’ve not really written anything specific about Black History Month this year but I have thrown in some Black British content here and there. So I’m going to emulate last year’s BHM round up post for 2021. It’s been tough finding decent BHM content because so much of it is whitewashed or performative. People are retreading the same steps and the same “look at these famous slaves!” lists of influential Black people, often written by white people. Or pledges for more action that were made last year and the year before. I’m also not pleased about a few articles regarding more Black presence in the police force which is the most counterintuitive suggestion to make in any month, let alone Black History Month. But I digress.

Same format as last year—some stuff from the Web, some stuff from the Cultrface archives, and people you should follow.

From the Internet

From the Cultrface archives

People to follow

See 2020’s list for more people to follow

  1. Demi Colleen: Twitter | Instagram
  2. Kuchenga: Twitter | Instagram
  3. Emma Dabiri: Twitter | Instagram
  4. Sareta Fontaine: Twitter | Instagram | Website
  5. Lauren-Nicole: Twitter | Instagram | Linktree
  6. Nathaniel A. Cole: Twitter | Instagram | Linktree
  7. Matilda Egere-Cooper: Twitter | Instagram | Linktree
  8. Tanya Compas: Twitter | Instagram
  9. Nicole Crentsil: Twitter | Instagram | Linktree
  10. Ronke Lawal: Twitter | Instagram | Website

Kyndall Cunningham's interview with filmmaker Ashley O’Shay

Unapologetic Trailer

Kyndall Cunningham spoke to filmmaker Ashley O’Shay about her latest documentary, ‘Unapologetic. The film examines the way Black organisers in Chicago—primarily focusing on two young Black women, Janaé Bonsu and Bella BAHHS—came together in the wake of Rekia Boyd and Laquan McDonald’s murders by the police.

H: Given the history of infiltration in social movements, how were you able to build trust with this community?

AO: I think being a Black woman helped, as far as them being comfortable and feeling like they could open up to me. But I just tried to keep showing up as much as possible. Even when I wasn’t there with the camera or doing an interview, I would try to go to their different rallies to just show support and amplify the work they were doing. I think after a while, when someone keeps showing up like that, you can build that trust with them. And I think also that as I was building stronger relationships with my main subjects, Janaé and Bella, that helped make other organizers in the space feel more comfortable with me as well.

[…]

H: The film is also very nuanced in showing the importance of Black women leaders but also dispelling this myth that representational politics automatically lead to liberation for Black people, particularly with Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot.

AO: Yeah. We see people like Lightfoot in administrative positions, you know, running a campaign and uplifting herself as this Black gay woman, but everyone knowing, like, hey girl. We saw you at the Chicago police board hearings telling people to shut up after their time was up, and basically saying there’s nothing productive about the work that young Black people are doing. And she has a history as a prosecutor and all these other things that show you that all skinfolk ain’t kinfolk. I think depending on the space you’re in, it’s going to differ how your identity does or doesn’t show up. I think it’s really important to remember the communities that are actually doing the work for us.

Lightfoot is an enemy to progress and she knows it. I am grateful for the work of Black women who actually care such as Ashley O’Shay, Janaé Bonsu, Bella BAHHS, and countless others—past and present.

Gabriel Rosenberg on W. E. D. Stokes, Charles Davenport, and eugenics

I try to avoid critiques about eugenics as it boils my half-breed blood. But I gave this piece by Gabriel Rosenberg my time and it was really interesting. He discussed the partnership of “rich fool” W. E. D. Stokes and noted eugenicist Charles Davenport and described it as a “Great American Story of Money, Guns, Sex, Racism, Divorce, and Horse Breeding”:

Someone ought to write a book about the Rich Fool in American history, for they are ubiquitous: men—and they are almost always men—who by virtue of their reputation for financial success believe they have very little left to learn and no need to exercise the caution or restraint you or I might deem wise. They wander into circumstances they cannot navigate and debates they are ill-prepared to conduct. They tender specious opinions, and, by the power their wealth gives them, they sway people, policies, and institutions, often to catastrophic effect.

It’s not that Rich Fools are stupid, for stupidity is merely the other side of the coin the Rich Fool spends: innate genius. That is, they overrate the concept of “inborn intelligence” and underrate the degree to which intelligence, however you define it, is necessarily a social good—produced, maintained, and valued never in isolation and only among and between persons. I do not want this to devolve into a debate on IQ or the biology of intelligence, so I will just keep it to this: irrespective of their cognitive prowess, Rich Fools are produced by the social contexts they inhabit, not by how quickly their brains process information.

Davenport used Stokes for his money, which he needed to get into social circles to spread his bigoted views, while Stokes needed Davenport to push a false narrative that he was the genius Roseberg alluded to. What started out as a relationship of high convenience soon became a mess for both parties and a weird obsession with horse breeding.

Read it in full on Roseberg’s Substack.

Black British people from the Windrush era are the focus of a new photo exhibition at Wrest Park

Two black people greeting each other in a museum.
Gestural Greetings © Kemka Ajoku

London-based artist Kemka Ajoku put together a photo exhibition highlighting the lives of Black British people living in the UK following the Windrush era as part of a wider exhibition.

Called England’s New Lenses, it’s part of a major exhibition at four English Heritage sites across the country: Wrest Park in Silsoe, Tintagel Castle in Cornwall, Middleham Castle in Yorkshire and Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, where photographers challenge the definition of heritage.

The exhibition started on 5th August 5 and runs until 31st October (likely to coincide with Black History Month) so if you can, get down to Wrest Park.

Wrest Park location on Google Maps

(via Bedford Today)

Rikki Byrd on the anti-Black history of American department stores

I, like many other Black people, have been followed around stores for no reason other than my race. Add general anxiety to the mix and that makes me feel even more uncomfortable to just… browse. Rikki Byrd chronicled this anti-Black racism for Vox, via the depiction of Marshall Field’s in the hit series, Lovecraft Country:

Set in 1950s Chicago, Lovecraft Country’s deliberate insertion of Marshall Field’s exemplifies the show’s commitment to blending horror, magic, and science fiction with historical references to explore racial injustices faced by Black people in the US. Ruby’s determination to work at Marshall Field’s not only references racial discrimination in department stores writ large, but her persistent return to this store specifically is reflective of its impact on the city.

Now a Macy’s in downtown Chicago, Marshall Field’s was once a pillar in the Windy City, transforming the retail experience from merely an errand to an outing worth looking forward to. From its ceiling designed by Tiffany & Co. to its series of retail firsts, the building has a storied history complete with success, failure, and innovation. It also has a history of racism that long impacted Black Chicagoans eager, like Ruby, to work and shop there.

For more stories about anti-Blackness in stores, read this piece from Cassi Pittman Claytor, Traci Parker’s Black Christmas in American Department Stores, and Michael Liscky’s article on racism outliving the American department store.

Cory Etzkorn on that little green dot and being online

The term “always online” describes the idea that we’re online all the time and never log off. This could be literally (sleep is for chumps anyway!) or figuratively (i.e. never logging off). In my experience, I’m more figuratively “always online” but during periods last year, my sleep patterns were messed up thanks to the allure of the internet.

Cory Etzkorn examined a visual representation of that phenomenon: The Little Green Dot and its meaning in our online lives:

The Little Green Dot is a leash. It is a surrogate for trust and thrives in low-trust environments.

The Little Green Dot is anxiety. It is there to remind us that we’re not working as hard or as long or as consistently as others. Presence favors those who can effectively sit in a chair all day, not those brave enough to step away for a walk and take some time to think.

But the reality is that The Little Green Dot also has real utility. When something important breaks, we need to see who is online to fix it. When we have a pressing question, we need to know who is available to answer it.

And so The Little Green Dot persists, despised, but understood.

Etzkorn’s final line asks whether humans should be “always-online” or whether a semi online existence would be more beneficial. I like the latter even though I’m closer to the former. I work in digital marketing so onlineness is important but I also blog and that requires research and Wikipedia rabbit holes. There’s no let-up unless I make it so. We should all learn to log off once in a while.

(via HeyDesigner)

'Barbican Stories' details racism experienced by current and former employees at the Barbican

The Barbican holds a lot of sentimental value to me but after hearing of racial discrimination in the workplace, I don’t look quite as fondly at the Brutalist icon. Barbican Stories details accounts of racism by current and former employees and I first heard about it from their article for gal-dem:

As in many workplaces, 2020’s summer of protest – triggered by the murder of George Floyd – brought increased visibility to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement which meant conversations about “diversity and inclusion” could no longer be tabled.

The Barbican’s response was bureaucratic at best, and gaslighting at worst. For me, it felt like BLM was a “comms issue” for the institution, it was not about change but image. Barbican Stories was a way to cut through this delusion, and hold a mirror up to the institution. It breaks systemic racism down into everyday occurrences to show the Barbican that it is not in a position to simply comment on racism, it needs to recognise itself as an organisation that is currently racist. 

The stories are plentiful; enough to warrant a second print run of the book “for distribution to public records and archives”. The Barbican’s response was standard—”We fully recognise the pain and hurt caused by these experiences“, so if they’re recognisable, why wasn’t anything done?—and it remains to be seen if anything will actually be done about the past, now, and in the future to ensure working environments are safe.

Zinesters of colour discuss the forgotten origins of their work

Christine Fernando spoke to a group of zine-makers of colour for USA Today.

Zines have long been a way for marginalized communities to share stories, spread information, build community and organize movements, several archivists and zine-makers said. Often, they offer historical records of communities that have been ignored in other publications. But many zine-makers (“zinesters”) of color say their communities have only recently received credit and gained visibility for their contributions.

One of the interviewed zinesters described her feelings of isolation at zine events:

Marya Errin Jones said she’s often one of the only Black women at some zine festivals and events. White people often skip her table because “they assume my zines are only for Black and brown people or are about a topic they weren’t interested in or don’t want to talk about,” she said.

She added: “It’s always isolating. Sometimes you wonder, ‘What am I doing here?’”

The last time I went to Nottingham Contemporary, I spent a lot of time in their zine section, reading through the various DIY magazines and diaries that people left behind. They were unique and uncensored views into their lives and the groups they were part of. I loved them (I even emailed someone to compliment their work and took photos to read later.) It’s imperative that zinesters of colour get the love, space, and recognition they deserve and don’t get pushed out by the sanitised homogeny of the mainstream.

10 recurring economic falsehoods from 1774–2004

I found this on an old Kottke.org article. As the title suggests, it’s a list of economic fallacies that kept cropping up between 1774 and 2004 and, unfortunately, they’re still happening today. The fallacies include:

Myth #1: The Broken Window

One of the most persistent is that of the broken window—one breaks and this is celebrated as a boon to the economy: the window manufacturer gets an order; the hardware store sells a window; a carpenter is hired to install it; money circulates; jobs are created; the GDP goes up. In truth, of course, the economy is no better off at all.

True, there is a sudden burst of activity, and some persons have surely gained, but only at the expense of the proprietor whose window was broken, or his insurance company; and if the latter, the other policyholders who will pay higher premiums to pay for paid-out claims, especially if many have been broken.

Myth #2: The Beneficence of War

A second fallacy is the idea of war as an engine of prosperity. Students are taught that World War II ended the Depression; many Americans seem to believe that tax revenues spent on defense contractors (creating jobs) are no loss to the productive economy; and our political leaders continue to believe that expanded government spending is an effective way of bringing an end to a recession and reviving the economy.

The truth is that war, and the preparation for it, is economically wasteful and destructive. Apart from the spoils gained by winning (if it is won) war and defense spending squander labor, resources, and wealth, leaving the country poorer in the end than if these things had been devoted to peaceful endeavors.

Myth #1 is poignant because I remember during the Black Lives Matter protests last year, people were condemning the destruction of windows. I wonder if there’s another link with Myth #2.

Anyway, those are excerpts from the first two. Go read the rest.

Economy related: The impressive economics of Homer Simpson and Nina Banks on Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander and her ideas on economic justice

Every day is Kids Day!

Yesterday was Father’s Day. Upon reminding my son (he made me a lovely card on the Friday), he asked “why isn’t there a kids day?” to which I replied, “every day is Kids Day!” I’ll let you debate the validity of that statement but it rings true for me.

Then today, one of my Twitter mutuals told me that there was a Kids Day (Dia das Criancas) in Brazil on 12th October. This reminded me of Japan’s Children’s Day (こどもの日, Kodomo no Hi) from an old Pokémon episode. So, how many Kids Days are there? According to Wikipedia, there are ~51 Children’s Days observed by countries around the world. While that’s not every day, that’s still nearly 14% of the Gregorian calendar. Most of us only get one birthday!

The official International Children’s Day is on 20th November so kids could get at least two Kids Days a year. In Chile, Children’s Day is officially recognized as the first Wednesday of October but it is actually observed on the second Sunday of August where children are bought toys. Different countries have different traditions, ranging from remembrance (Paraguay) to honour and relaxation (New Zealand’s Children’s Day pays tribute to children as a taonga, the Māori word for treasure)

And that’s why every day is Kids Day for me because children should be honoured and loved every single day. The world can be a horrible place and it can be challenging to nurture children in that kind of environment and explain why bad things happen. It’s important to show love, patience, gratitude, and compassion so they can know what those feelings are and keep them in their hearts. Amongst all the hugs and presents!