I've loved seeing Black people rollerskating everywhere

Via gal-dem:

Videos of carefree roller skaters began to dominate social media feeds over the last year. In the first lockdown, after dismissing it as something I was too old for, I caved to the social pressure and downloaded TikTok. Soon my feed was filled with bite-sized videos of skaters who looked like me effortlessly flowing, swaying and sashaying with little regard for the downward pull of gravity. Their joy was infectious – roller skating looked like fun I didn’t know I was allowed to have as an adult. 

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. 

12 alternative versions of famous monuments

These are incredible from oobject.

Included here among various alternatives for Tower Bridge, the Washington Monument, The Chrysler building and St. Paul’s Cathedral are proposed extensions to the White House, a 5 million tomb alternative to London’s famous Victorian cemeteries and a particularly uninspiring second place entry for the Sydney Opera House competition. My personal favorite, however is the Triumphal Elephant which could have capped off the Champs Elysees in Paris. If someone could only find the rejected competition entry for what became the Eiffel Tower, which consisted of a giant replica of a Guillotine.

Some I wish existed, some I’m glad didn’t become reality, and some I would like to see and then never see again.

More “12 things” posts: 12 objects unnecessarily covered in gold and 12 abandoned islands

Who wants a Darth Vader helmet house for $4.3m?

Known to many as “The Darth Vader House,” this contemporary masterpiece is one not to miss. Over 7,000 sq. ft. of living area, principal bedroom down, open rooms, massive windows, a museum home setting on a prestigious West University street. Custom throughout with ample closets, 4-car garage, versatile living spaces, large lot. Nothing else like it in the area. Come visit us Thursday, 12-2.

I find its lack of taste disturbing.

I’m sure this Loungefly Star Wars Boba Fett Cosplay Mini Backpack would look lovely in this house with a Star Wars TIE Advanced grill in the the back.

Spend a night in Monica and Rachel's apartment from Friends

So booking.com, in collaboration with Superfly X is offering The FRIENDS™ Experience and a chance to stay overnight in Monica and Rachel’s apartment visit the place where Ross said “PIVOT!”, and relax on Joey and Chandler’s Barcaloungers.

As much as I loved the show and reference it frequently, I’m so over these Friends fan experiences. The show ended 17 years ago; it’s been off-air longer than it was on-air. And, yes, I know they’re doing a reunion series, and this is good for business but I’m tired. But I did realise one thing: the apartment decor was awful. Purple and yellow with a random assortment of furniture? What were they thinking? I guess that passed for decor in the 90s but looking at it now, it’s bad.

Friends related: A semi-alphabetical listing of Black actors with speaking roles on Friends

Room Rodeo: a Chicago student’s film about Black cowboys

Bill Pickett

I watched Concrete Cowboy a few weeks ago and while I liked it and found it interesting, I felt like it was missing something. It’s by no means the first movie about Black cowboys (see: The Black Cowboy, Harlem Rides the Range, and Black Rodeo) it’s the most high-profile, mixing Hollywood actors with IRL cowboys.

But next week, there’ll be a new film putting its hat into the ring so to speak and it’s called Room Rodeo.

The film is about Jamil, a Chicago boy trying to prove he is a descendant of Bill Pickett, a Black cowboy, rodeo, actor, and ProRodeo Hall of Famer. It stars D’Andre Davis as Jamil, and mixes drama with documentary interviews and footage of Black cowboys and historians.

His dad stands him up. He acts out. Now Jamil is on punishment in his room. He’s also finally reached the fifth grade and has a history project due.

If only his dad would tell him about his great grandpa, rodeo star Billie P – like he promised. But just when Jamil’s dad calls and things begin to look up, the cool kid from class calls with a humiliating declaration: Black cowboys aren’t real. Now, Jamil must drum up the courage to embark on a quest to discover the truth on his own – all from the comfort of his room. With some help from a dubious heirloom, Jamil puts aside whispers of doubt to venture into a fantasy dreamscape where he claims authorship of his own story.

Room Rodeo will be screened online for 24 hours as part of the creator’s thesis requirements, starting on 12th May at 7 pm. A virtual Q&A session will follow on 13th May, also at 7pm.

A Tribute to Karl Hubenthal, One of the All-Time Great Sports Cartoonists #

Through pure coincidence, I’m posting this on what would have been Karl Hubenthal’s 104th birthday.

This from Bob Staake:

Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1960’s, there were two types of people — those who read the Los Angeles Times, and those who read the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner — and our family was of that latter persuasion — Dad not knowing that the “Herald” wasn’t the best of papers, Mom not really caring, and me delighted just to be able to see Hubenthal’s cartoons each day.

Hubenthal. I’d heard it said as “hoo-ben-thal” once or twice, yet Dad had always pronounced it (rightly) “hugh-ben-thal”, and while at the time I wasn’t sure which was correct, one thing was certain: this Hubenthal could draw.

The Brady-Nixon Connection #

The Brady-Nixon Connection

Before Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block of adult programming, there was Nickelodeon’s Nick at Nite, launched in 1985. The programming block, which is still on the air today, caters for older audiences isn’t as loose as Adult Swim in terms of risqué content but it’s far from puritanical.

Back in 1999, there was a short called The Brady-Nixon Connection which looked at certain similarities between The Brady Bunch and President Nixon. In truth, there was no connection but it served as a unique way of promoting the show which aired in 1995, 1998–2003, and 2012.

(h/t Boing Boing)

African Americans in Soviet Russia

George Tynes, flanked by Soviet army cadets

Zakkiyah Job wrote an interesting piece on the great African American escape to Soviet Russia.

Under Stalin’s de facto policy of ethnic cleansing, it’s hard to picture the USSR as any kind of paradise for persecuted minorities, but in stark contrast to the trauma and systemic oppression that people of colour had long-faced in the many parts of the western world, Mother Russia poised itself as a beacon of equality, ahead of the historical curve.

The likes of Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Dorothy West found themselves in the USSR, much to the chagrin of the American federal government. But the history of Black people in Russia goes further back to include people such as Abram Petrovich Gannibal, a Cameroonian aristocrat who started an Afro-Russian dynasty in the 18th century.

After Ottoman forces kidnapped him as a boy from Cameroon, he was sold to a Russian diplomat and “gifted” to Peter the Great, who publicly adopted and freed him. Abram became a military engineer, a high-ranking general and a nobleman. He is also a maternal great-grandfather to the famed Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.

For more on the subject, check out the following list of texts:

A brief history of DisneyQuest

Cancelled - Disney Quest

Bright Sun Films‘s Cancelled series looks at various projects that were cancelled for one reason or another. In S1E2, they looked at DisneyQuest, an ambitious Disney theme park that I had the luxury of visiting twice before it shut down (once in 2010, once in 2016).

Disney planned to build DisneyQuest theme parks across the US, starting with a park in Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs and my visits were before and after the name change) in 1998 and Chicago in 1999. However, low attendance at the Chicago site resulted in its closure 2 years later and the project was ultimately cancelled. But the main Downtown Disney site remained open until it finally closed in 2017.

It’s one of Disney’s many project failures but because Disney owns everything and earns billions from its successes, it’s not so bad! I liked DisneyQuest at least.

The history of US racism against Asian Americans

Up until the eve of the COVID-19 crisis, the prevailing narrative about Asian Americans was one of the model minority.

The model minority concept, developed during and after World War II, posits that Asian Americans were the ideal immigrants of color to the United States due to their economic success.

But in the United States, Asian Americans have long been considered as a threat to a nation that promoted a whites-only immigration policy. They were called a “yellow peril”: unclean and unfit for citizenship in America.

(via The Conversation)

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.

Renovating the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library viewed from the southeast corner. The library's facade features a promotion for Banned Books Week 2016, which had recently taken place.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. was designed by Mies van der Rohe and completed in 1972. It cost $18m to build and was a rare example of modernist architecture in the capital.

However, maintenance wasn’t kept up and it took 3.5 years to renovate. A documentary examined the modernisation, led by Dutch architects Mecanoo and DC-based OTJ Architects.

The documentary film follows architect Francine Houben as she investigates the past and present in order to design a world-class library. Francine delves into the archives, meets contemporaries of Mies and King, speaks to current visitors of the library, and participates in a Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Peace Walk. During her quest, both the building’s namesake and the original architect look over her shoulder critically.

Now I’m imagining one of those tawdry memes with Martin Luther King and Mies van der Rohe in a cloud looking down with their thumbs up.

Stream it below.

A Legacy of Mies and King - Renovating the Public Library of Washington D.C.

Mies related: Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion

(Image credit: Wikipedia, shared via CC BY-SA 4.0)