Black Archives: a multimedia showcase of the Black experience

Archiving is so important in an information era that favours the new and quickly discards the old when it’s deemed surplus to requirements (read: it’s not making profit). This is especially true for Black cultures and Black Archives works to change that.

[…] Through an evolving visual exploration, Black Archives provides a dynamic accessibility to a Black past, present, and future.

Going beyond the norm, its lens examines the nuance of Black life: alive and ever-vibrant to both the everyday and iconic — providing insight and inspiration to those seeking to understand the legacies that preceded their own.

Besides archiving, Black Archives also offers:

  • Content creation and visual curation
  • Archival research and licensing
  • Social strategy and creative direction

For more, check out the Black Archives website.

The celebratory art of Aurélia Durand

Aurélia Durand is a French illustrator with a penchant for vibrant designs depicting Black people in joyful, proud, and empowered poses.

Her client list is a who’s who of major brands, including:

With so much bleakness in the world at the moment and heightened Black trauma, vivid celebratory images like Aurélia’s are a welcome relief and a reminder that Blackness is multifaceted and joyous.

Vintage pulp comics as lesbian love stories

Jenifer has always been intrigued by portraying lesbian stories in this style, especially when she discovered the effects of storytelling in comic books. The form goes beyond simply having fun, and resonates with her in a more decisively profound way. “I always wished to see lesbian stories and art when I was growing up, and the lack of that was what ultimately motivated me to illustrate my own,” she explains. “So, I always recall that old desire as a source of inspiration.”

(via It’s Nice That)

Happy birthday, Octavia Butler! Here's an exclusive excerpt from her forthcoming biography

Octavia Butler was a visionary science fiction writer who predicted the rise of an American politician who would rise to power with the slogan “Make America Great Again” in her 1998 novel Parable of the Talents. She would have turned 73 today, June 22, had she not died suddenly in 2006 of a stroke. But the Nebula and Hugo Award-winning author who explored themes of gender fluidity, climate change, authoritarianism, and the rise of Big Pharma is perhaps more widely read now than ever, and that phenomenon is destined to grow with the publication Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler by Ibi Zoboi, due out in January of 2022.

(via Yahoo! News)

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)

Zakiya Dalila Harris on her debut novel, 'The Other Black Girl'

Novelist Zakiya Dalila Harris spoke to Orange County Register about her new book ‘The Other Black Girl‘, racial diversity within fiction, and influences on her work such as James Baldwin and Jordan Peele:

Code-switching maybe matters less now than it would have two years ago because of George Floyd. On positive days, I think these conversations are allowing Black people to speak up more. On negative days, I think that’s only because it’s in vogue for now and you can only speak up so much. 

We know why diversity is important in a lot of ways, but I wanted my book to look at how it influences each person on an individual level.

Q. Were you worried about pulling the rug out from under readers or was that the goal?

It’s my first book, so I’m not saying it’s perfect. But I love twist endings and “The Twilight Zone,” and “Get Out” was definitely an inspiration. I definitely knew where it was going when I started writing. I love the end of “Night of the Living Dead,” which is so realistic about Black experience. It’s still America, so stuff is going to happen to you if you’re Black. 

People asked, “Are you sure about this ending?” Yeah, I think it’s pretty necessary. Any other ending wouldn’t be as impactful. I really want people to talk about what happens to Nella and what could her [White] co-workers have done if they’d really been listening. 

When I was a kid, I used to love the Goosebumps series, and they had a choose your own adventure and I loved that there were multiple possible endings; I left some things open with this book so readers can think about it. I didn’t want to tie the ending in a neat bow. 

Solange turns Saint Heron into a multidisciplinary creative agency

Exciting news for Black and Brown creativity:

Originally launched in 2013 as a digital hub for cultural conversations, Saint Heron’s mission has been to preserve, collect, and uplift stories, works, and archives that amplify Black and brown voices. Now, in its next phase, it will release a dossier of literary and visual retrospectives of Black family and artist lineages through a series of temporary digital exhibitions, viewable on the Saint Heron website. Available for seven to 10 days, they will offer an in-depth look at emerging talent across art, sculpture, photography, design, and artisanship. 

Stephanie Williams on Granny Goodness's Blaxploitation villain traits

Granny Goodness, created by Jack Kirby, made her first appearance in Mister Miracle Vol. 1 #2. Most know her as the ruthless older woman who runs the orphanage on Apokolips like a daycare lady from Hell. Granny uses torture techniques and brainwashing to create some of Apokolips’ most fearsome warriors — most notably among them, her Female Furies. Her appearance could be considered to be devoid of sex appeal — almost always scowling, a bulky athletic build, forever covered from neck to toe. Ultimately, this depiction serves to make her less sympathetic, because “pretty privilege” even exists in comics. Also, her name is Granny, and, as we all know, women of a certain generation are not supposed to be desirable and function best as bitter older women. 

(via syfy)

Julie Adenuga on Catfish UK and the new rules of romance

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures but Catfish was a rare exception. Even though I know it’s predominately fake and mostly for clout-chasing, it was still wild, messy, dramatic and fun. Now we’re getting a UK version, co-hosted by Julie Adenuga, and she spoke to gal-dem’s Adwoa Darko about the show and romance.

The presenter wants viewers to watch the show through an empathetic lens. “Anyone I said ‘I’m hosting catfish, UK’ to, their first reaction was ‘oh my gosh, it’s gonna be so funny’. That’s their first reaction. And I look at them,” she says before pausing. “These are real emotions.” She also understands how the road to dating someone is often paved with half-truths as she’s had a few people lie to her about knowing her two brothers without knowing she’s related to them (“now you look like the biggest clown of all time”).

We all learnt the rules of the game from Nev: reverse Google image search people if you’re unsure, video call them, ignore people with only one picture because it’s 2021 and everyone has a camera phone. However, through working on the show Julie reveals she’s learnt a new one: “Tagged photos really became our friends. We’ve had profiles sometimes when we see they’ve got 2,000 followers and only one person has tagged you. What’s going on there?”

Bad times for Adwoa, though, who opened the interview with an admission: she had been catfished.

gal-dem: Lets start with the fact that I was catfished

Julie Adenuga: When did this happen?

I met this guy from Ghana right. I was thinking ‘rah we’re gonna do up Kente get ready’. He said he’s single and later he drops that he has kids and an ex-wife that has gone off and married somebody else, and the kids are in Ghana. We go on the date and this man is doing the most, he’s like toasting to us and I’m thinking ‘rah is this me yeah?’

No one has ever toasted to us. This is live.

Read the rest of the interview to find out what happened and stream the Catfish UK promo below.

Meet Catfish UK Hosts Julie Adenuga And Oobah Butler | Catfish UK

Sophia Tassew's Khula jewellery brand is dope

Sophia Tassew with 4 models wearing Khula earrings

Last year, I said I wanted to showcase more Black content, particularly creative endeavours and projects that deserve all the spotlights and this is the perfect example of that.

Khula is a jewellery brand by Sophia Tassew, a plus-size content creator from South East London. You may recognise her name from an earlier blog post I wrote about A Quick Ting On—she’ll be releasing a book about her experiences in 2022. In an interview with Bricks Magazine, she called Khula “a sort of homage to my parents who come from Ethiopia and South Africa.”

I’ve always wanted to have my own earring collection or design something. I always thought it would come in the form of a brand collaboration but it didn’t and still hasn’t so I decided to start it myself and learn how to make earrings. Also, as a plus sized girl, growing up, my fashion and style journey was tedious. You were forced to shop for clothes that were meant for people three times your age or the mens section. The only thing I could always rely on were earrings. They’ve been my savouir (sic) many times as well as a small representation of who I am and where I come from. So much growth has happened between then and now and that’s exactly what Khula means in Zulu, grow. 

Sophia runs Khula completely on her own, working very long nights and making her vast collection of earrings by hand, as well as packing and posting the products herself. It’s the epitome of a one-woman team.

I especially love the late 60s/70s vibe from the designs, which she said inspired her alongside her roots from East Africa and South Africa:

Taking inspiration from my heritage and putting that into my brand makes me feel so much closer to my roots in a way that I know how, and a language that I understand which is jewellery. I’m very interested in Black people from different eras and celebrating them and their looks.

If you can, please support Khula and buy something from the store when the next batch drops. And follow both the Khula brand and Sophia on Instagram.

(featured image taken by Chad McLean from Instagram [his website])

Renowned's John Dean on Zoom calls with Angela Davis

Angela Davis wearing a Renowned t-shirt featuring herself

Renowned is a streetwear brand created by John Dean III and in his interview with In The Know, he discussed how it all began and his Zoom calls with Angela Davis.

I had the opportunity to have a Zoom meeting with Angela Davis. It was amazing. Talking to her is like talking to fairy godmother; this icon—she’s a feminist, philanthropist, scholar, the total representation of culture. For her to wear my t-shirt and send me a picture just shows how powerful the t-shirt was but just also how the messaging is effective.

Angela Davis appears in her own exclusive Renowned line alongside the likes of Huey Newton and Kathleen Cleaver.

Stream the interview below.

John Dean's streetwear brand, Renowned, is a celebration of Black heroes and Black culture

The Black Caribbeans of the Harlem Renaissance

claude mckay

As the son of a Black Jamaican woman and Black Bajan man and an admirer of the Harlem Renaissance, I was intrigued by this JSTOR article by Matthew Wills.

Black Caribbeans in the Harlem Renaissance examined some of the Black Caribbeans that had an influence on the 1920s movement including:

  • Claude McKay (Jamaica)
  • Eric Waldron (British Guiana; raised in Barbados)
  • Arturo Schomburg (Puerto Rico)
  • Wilfred A. Domingo (Jamaica)
  • Marcus Garvey (Jamaica)

Domingo himself argued, “West Indians were better prepared to challenge racial barriers in the United States” because they came from countries in which “Blacks had experienced no legalized segregation and limitations upon opportunity.” The brutality of American racism, so very different from that of imperial Britain and France, shocked them into action. In the 1920s, of course, “the great colonial empires were alive and well, but the intellectual seeds were already being sown for their eventual dismantling.”

Almost a quarter of Harlem’s Black population was foreign-born in the 1920s. They included, most famously, Marcus and Amy Jacques Garvey. Garveyism, with its “ideological mixture of Black pride, diaspora consciousness, and defiance of white racism” was foundational to the growth of Black nationalism in the United States, the Caribbean, and the world.

Of course, this only covers the Black Caribbean men. There were plenty of influential Black Caribbean women in the Harlem Renaissance such as:

  • Hermina Huiswoud (Guyana)
  • Amy Jacques Garvey (Jamaica)
  • Maymie de Mena (Martinican and French Guianan grandparents)

“This freedom from spiritual inertia characterizes the women no less than the men, for it is largely through them that the occupational field has been broadened for colored women in New York. By their determination, sometimes reinforced by a dexterous use of their hatpins, these women have made it possible for members of their race to enter the needle trades freely.”

Wilfred A. Domingo, Gift of the Black Tropics

Recommended reading

Calafia: the Black warrior queen

calafia

Did you know California was named after a Black warrior queen named Calafia? I didn’t!

Rebecca Johnson of Atlas Obscura wrote about Calafia’s story last November and touched “the surprising complexity of medieval attitudes about race”:

Meanwhile, the novel of chivalry that spawned it [California’s name], Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo’s Las Sergas de Esplandían, has been all but forgotten (despite being memorably cited by Cervantes as one of the books that turned poor Don Quixote’s brains to mush). Yet its portrait of California’s queen, the dark-skinned warrior Calafia, is worth revisiting—not just for its marvelous details, but for the light it sheds on medieval European attitudes about race.

I like the part where Calafia is described as “beautiful, strong, and courageous” and portrayed in an “unfailingly positive light”.

Other entities named after Calafia include:

  • Calafia Airlines, a Mexican airline
  • Calafia, a hard bop album by Gerald Wilson’s Orchestra of the 80’s
  • The Cooperative Latin American Collection Development Group, better known as Calafia, a consortium of libraries in California, Oregon, and Washington
  • Calafia, a hypertext novel by Marjorie Luesebrink
  • Calafia Valley, a wine-growing region in Baja California, Mexico
  • Califia, a genera of Orbiniidae worms

To all those fools who refuse to accept the existence of Black people in their fantasy universes, eat it.

See also: The origin and the meaning of the name California, Calafia: Re-appropriating the Amazon Queen and a list of Black superheroes.

5 brilliant and possibly obscure Black authors

Tina Charisma compiled a list of 5 brilliant Black authors you need to know about but might not for Harper’s Bazaar.

The contributions of Black authors cannot be underestimated, from their creation of spaces, to their critical take on socio-political issues, culture and science. Black writers have helped carve out trails of the Black experience historically, while also changing mindsets and perceptions.

Naturally, the list didn’t feature the usual suspects—James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou—but there was one name I recognised: Octavia Butler. She was best known for her work in science fiction, putting Black characters and the forefront of a genre known for its racism towards humans of colour and aliens (acting as avatars for people of colour).

Here are 5 links* for some the books referenced in the list:

  1. Corregidora (1975)
  2. So Long A Letter (1979)
  3. Kindred (1979)
  4. Death and the King’s Horseman (1973)
  5. The Joys of Motherhood (1979)

* – These are Bookshop affiliate links where a small portion (10%) of the sale goes to me and the rest go to independent bookstores.