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.

Nina Banks on Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander and her ideas on economic justice

For The Washington Post, Nina Banks (associate professor of economics at Bucknell University) paid tribute to Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, the first African American to gain a doctoral degree in economics. She suggested that Alexander’s ideology could be the key to solving various problems in the US, particularly for African-Americans:

As a proponent of economic justice, Alexander believed that all people had a right to jobs that paid livable wages, and she viewed this as an essential foundation for enjoying democratic rights. As such, she called on the government to provide an equitable distribution of national income and to create public works programs that addressed urgent social needs tied to poverty and deprivation.

In the 1960s, Black anger over mistreatment in urban slums, where decades of White racial hostility and public policy had confined them, and a lack of economic access erupted in a string of uprisings in cities of all shapes and sizes.

Alexander saw the moral dimension of the civil rights cause, but uniquely, she also understood the economic dynamic, thanks to her training. She knew that despite White claims to the contrary, economic uncertainty among Whites was not the cause of racial violence plaguing Black lives. Rather, it merely acted as an accelerant that intensified their scapegoating and racial animus toward Black Americans.

Yet, Alexander’s work and advice got largely ignored.

Katori Hall wins Pulitzer Prize for Drama

Congratulations to Katori Hall for winning the award for her comedy “The Hot Wing King”.

Darnella Frazier also received Special Citation for her filming of George Floyd’s murder which feels weird to comprehend and Mikki Kendall hit the nail on the head in this piece for CNN:

This year, the Pulitzer Board’s announcement that Darnella Frazier — the teenager who filmed the killing of George Floyd — had won a special citation feels like a big moment, but not necessarily a celebratory one.

Floyd’s death is not something to celebrate, obviously, and despite the narrative of martyrdom and so-called sacrifice assigned to him posthumously, the horrifying truth is that he was murdered in front of a community. He did not choose to give up his life to change anything, and sadly in many ways, his death at the hands of police was just one part of the story.

(via Variety)

The gentrification of Black Lives Matter

White people laying down on their fronts at a Black Lives Matter protest. Who knows why as I don't see handcuffs

In 2016, there was a Black Lives Matter protest in Nottingham and a Black protester laid on the tram tracks. Hell ensued with comments from White people such as “Black Lives Matter is an American thing—it’s not as bad in the UK.”

Fast forward 4 years and it’s absolutely not an “American thing”, not that it ever was. And a shift in perspective has meant White people from the US, UK, and around the world who shrugged it off before are now taking notice but for the wrong reasons.

LA Times staff writer Erin B. Logan wrote an article entitled “White people have gentrified Black Lives Matter. It’s a problem” which addressed this shift and the gentrification of the movement. While it won’t have surprised many Black people who’ve seen first hand how White people have co-opted the protests for their own gains (remember those influencers who took pictures outside buildings pretending to help?), some of the quotes in the article struck a chord.

Historically, when Black people protest, they are responding to intolerable and immediate injustice — say, the water crisis in Flint. In contrast, Jeffries said, white Americans tend to protest over more abstract goals — like the Occupy Wall Street protests against economic inequality or the melting of Arctic glaciers — and are driven by the “fierce urgency of the future.”

“What you’re willing to sacrifice, demand and compromise is going to be different,” Jeffries said. “There is a shared sense of the problem but your immediate objective is fundamentally different.”

This is happening as we speak; Extinction Rebellion protesters have blocked newspaper printing presses, accusing the paper of “failing to report on climate change”. Well, shit, what’s new?

AJ Lovelace, an activist and filmmaker remarked on the motives behind some of the White female protestors:

“It was obvious to me that people were out there to say they were out there. White girls would agitate the police and then cry when they responded. This isn’t how a protest works.”

They should have cans of Pepsi with them.

One of the latest quotes from the piece summaries the involvement of White people for me:

Jeffries told me that if history shows one thing to be true, it’s that white attention and sympathy for Black social justice is fleeting. It wanes when cameras disappear.

Did you notice how attention was high in June but now the cameras are gone, White people have gone back to their regular chitchat? I guess that really was enough activism for one day.

(Thanks to Shakeia Taylor for putting me onto this article.)

The Free Black University

The Free Black University

What if Black Lives Mattered enough that education was free for them rather than Black people providing free education for others?

The Free Black University believes education can transform society for the better and understands the flawed system that leaves many Black students behind.

We are Afro-futurists, Black Feminists, Black Queer folk, Black Thinkers, Black Spiritualists, Black Academics, Black Artists, Black Activists, Black Healers, Black Philosophers, Black Writers, Black Creatives, and Black Visionaries.

We believe that education is at the heart of transforming society as we know it. We are all taught a curriculum, and institutionalised in to a knowledge system, that tacitly holds – Black Lives do not matter. We exist to transform this and to hold a space for the creation of radical knowledge that pertains to our collective freedom and healing. We envision a world in which we no longer have to fight and we aim to help produce the conditions for that world to remain.

Melz Owusu is the project’s founder and director, a Black queer transgender activist and academic (they’re set to take up a PhD position at the University of Cambridge) working to decolonise education. Alongside them is a powerful team of other Black activists striving to do the same.

On 1st September, The Free Black University opened its free e-library, offering a variety of books by the likes of James Baldwin, Kehinde Andrews, Angela Davis, and Octavia Butler.

https://twitter.com/freeblackuni/status/1300779695693332483

If you want to support, get involved today by donating your time or money and spreading the word.

24 Anti-Racist Books You Should Read

black woman reading book

There have been a lot of anti-racist book lists shared on the internet. In fact, here are 3 of them:

But for this list from Open Culture, the titles were recommended by readers.

If this is overwhelming but you feel you must start to engage with the history and theory of anti-racism, don’t despair or buy a pile of books you know you can’t read right now. All of the most prominent anti-racist authors have been in high demand for interviews.

Quote from Open Culture

Some of these books you’ll know, some you won’t. Some you may own, some may be on your wishlist already. The best time to be anti-racist is always now. If you can buy a book or have access to read one, I strongly recommend you do and put the learning into action.

Alongside the Open Culture list, I have chosen 5 books of my own.

Open Culture’s reading list

My book recommendations

Semiotics: myths, #BlackLivesMatter & #AllLivesMatter

Intro to Semiotics Part 2: Sign, Myth and #AllLivesMatter

I’m still on my semiotics tip and discovered this interesting video about myths, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter and the loathsome #AllLivesMatter. I was wary of how both hashtags would be described but they went how I’d hoped in such a short video. I’ve not heard or read about either one described from a semiotic perspective and it’s good to know the arbitrariness carries such weight in #AllLivesMatter.

As Electric Didact says when quoting semiotician Roland Barthes, “myth freezes or immobilises intention.” This considers the notion that while Black Lives Matter is a movement, All Lives Matter isn’t.

Watch the video below and leave a comment with your thoughts on the semiotics angle.