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. 

Related to Black writers and comics: Charles Pulliam-Moore on DC Comics’ Black Supermen and Parenthood Activate! – comical short stories about life as a parent

(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.

Toni Morrison on Martin Luther King

As it’s Martin Luther King Day, people have taken to social media to share quotes and meta-opinions about those quotes (and who says them). I’m very wary of white allies who use MLK as a shield against criticism or some kind of threading on their quilt of equality.

And then I saw this quoted on Twitter today:

“Since the murder of Martin Luther King, new commitments had been sworn, laws introduced but most of it was decorative: statues, street names, speeches. It was as though something valuable had been pawned and the claim ticket lost.”

Toni Morrison, PARADISE

Ain’t that the truth? But then again, Toni Morrison always knew.

Bridget Minamore's "When Will Theatre Come Black?"

bridget minamore

Presented by Bridget Minamore (Lines of Resistance, Titanic), When Will Theatre Come Black? is a look at Black theatre in Britain and the people that make it great:

Setting out her vision, Bridget asks if the confluence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the devastating impact of the pandemic on the theatre industry might be an opportunity to build a more egalitarian theatre sector with greater opportunity for black makers, performers, backstage workers, and audiences – and, as a consequence, for other marginalised groups.

The radio production features thoughts from the likes of Tobi Kyeremateng, Kwame Kwei Armah, Paulette Randall MBE and Roy Alexander Weise MBE, amongst others.

Listen to it on the BBC Sounds website.

Angela Davis: Revolution today

angela davis

In a lecture for CCCB (Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona), Angela Davis discussed the meaning of revolution today.

She called on her audience to continue to fight for progress and criticised “the mainstream feminist movement”.

“The mainstream feminist movement has made serious, serious mistakes. You know, I often point out that when I wrote a book that was published in 1981 called Women, Race, & Class, everybody started referring to me as a feminist and my response was ‘I’m not a feminist, you know, I’m a black revolutionary’ because I didn’t see how the two had anything to do with each other. But I realized that I was talking about a certain kind of feminism, a bourgeois feminism, a feminism that is still unfortunately […] white bourgeois feminism which is unfortunately the most represented feminism today and most people think that as feminism.”

Stream the full lecture below with subtitles available in English, Spanish, and Catalan.

Angela Davis. Revolution Today

Proper Gnar: a skate brand for and by Black girls

3 femme models for Proper Gnar: 1 crouching, 1 standing with their skateboard, and one on their standing on their skateboard

I’ve been seeing a lot of stories and brands about women in skateboarding and Proper Gnar is another one to add to the list.

Proper Gnar is a woman-owned skateboarding and streetwear brand, created by Latosha Stone. She set out to draw her own designs not only for clothes and skateboards but as standalone art.

Talking to Skateism, she talked about sizing and the struggles she has faced when trying to get clothes in plus sizes:

The size thing is something that really bothers me as well. And it’s an issue with the apparel industry as a whole. I’d love to carry all sizes but it’s almost impossible to find suppliers that go past a 3X, sometimes 5X on tee’s, and on crop tops I haven’t found larger than an XL. I always feel so bad when someone asks if I carry their size and I can’t because my suppliers don’t.

And her views on a connection between skateboarding and “femme power”:

I don’t think there’s a direct connection, I’m just a feminist in general. And I just feel like there’s something badass and powerful about taking something and putting your own twist on it, making it your own.

Follow Proper Gnar on Instagram.

Jenn Nkiru on her work and Afro-surrealism

Jenn Nkiru

As part of the Jarman Award Touring Programme 2020, Black filmmaker Jenn Nkiru spoke with Sofia Lemos in conjunction with the Nottingham Contemporary.

They discussed her film Black to Techno (2019), Black musical histories and how the afro-surrealism in her work.

Jenn Nkiru is an artist and filmmaker. Pushed through an Afro-surrealist lens, her practice is grounded in the history of Black music and the aesthetics of experimental film and international art cinema. Her work draws on the Black arts movement and the rich and variegated tradition of cinemas of the Black diaspora and their distinct experimentation with the politics of form. Her work blends elements of history, identity, politics, music, documentary and dance.

Check out Jenn’s website for more of her work.

Toni Morrison on "Jazz" (1993)

Toni Morrison

When Toni Morrison spoke, you listened. When she wrote, you read. And we still do even after her death on 5th August 2019.

In her famous 1993 interview with Charlie Rose, she discussed her novel Jazz, how she won Pulitzer Prize, and her encounters with racism. But it’s with the latter that most people remember this interview and a particular section I listen to over and over.

White People Have a Very Very Serious Problem - Toni Morrison on Charlie Rose

If you can only be tall because somebody’s on their knees, then you have a serious problem, and my feeling is White people have a very, very serious problem and they should start thinking about what they can do about it. Take me out of it.

Between Toni Morrison and James Baldwin, I could listen to their speeches until I die.

Stream her interview below.

Toni Morrison interview on "Jazz" (1993)

The diasporan style of Grace Wales Bonner

A man in a brown jacket, sweater, and trousers.

The New Yorker profiled Grace Wales Bonner, a Black UK designer who draws inspiration from the African diaspora to create beautiful fashion rich in Black history.

The twenty-nine-year-old London-based designer—a slight woman with enormous intellectual and artistic ambitions—draws from the creative and thus political minds of the modern African diaspora, not only to inform her art but to reveal how style has grown out of the diaspora itself, linking together our fragmented worlds in ways that others may not have noticed, but that we have. Equally at home with Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor’s theories about Negritude as she is with the history of Christian Dior—last April, she worked with the fabled house to reinterpret its New Look—Wales Bonner has been sui generis from the start, in part because, unlike many other designers, she doesn’t reference the past to service trend; in her work, she aims to make the broken history of the Black artist and intellectual in African, European, and American culture whole.

For more about Grace Wales Bonner, check out this interview she did with The Gentlewoman.