Tag Archives: culture

Dueling Memes on Black Murder

Conservatives, vested in racism, always want to start any discussion having to do with the black community on a standard set of racist crime, illegitimacy, poverty…

It is, after all, all The Great Society’s fault.

Such racial histrionics stymie any conversation, and derail any substantive effort to attack either the structural or micro-cultural issues at the base of the gun violence issue.

Quite frankly, I am hoping this election cycle ends up in a landslide for Democrats, destroying the Republican Party. Not that the timid-tabby Democrats, replete with their own Closet-Queen bigots, and Blue Mutts are any better. It is just that they are likely to GTF out of the way, instead of actively submarining and resisting community or local efforts.

What Black Americans Say About ‘Black-on-Black’ Gun Violence

We understand that police violence and gun crimes are two parts of the same systemic problem. If only news media saw that, too.

Over Memorial Day weekend, at least 69 people were shot in Chicago. If past trends continue, most of them are people of color. Mass shootings in places like Newtown, Aurora, and San Bernardino grab national attention, but gun violence is a regular part of life in many communities of color. Among boys and men ages 15-34, for example, African Americans are over 20 times more likely than whites to be victims of gun homicide.

While more attention to gun violence in communities of color is sorely needed, too often existing coverage focuses on “black-on-black” dysfunction rather than structural causes and potential solutions.

A recent New York Times story provides an example. “A Drumbeat of Multiple Shootings, but America is Not Listening” chronicled the victims of 358 shootings with four or more deaths or injuries. Many stemmed from arguments over a petty grievance, an insult, or another sign of disrespect. The story emphasized the “black-on-black” nature of gun violence, and suggested black activists expend too much energy protesting police violence against African Americans and too little energy focused on “routine gun violence.” While the story’s narrative describing the death of an innocent bystander put a compelling face on statistics, the story did not offer meaningful solutions.

The problem of gun violence stems not just from petty grievances among impulsive youth of color, however, but from larger structural issues such as credibility of law enforcement, easy access to guns, and a lack of job skills and opportunities. Communities of color care about both gun violence and police violence. Further, communities of color are not simply sources of problems—they also provide important solutions.

Last month, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the Urban Institute, and the Joyce Foundation released Engaging Communities in Reducing Gun Violence: A Road Map for Safer Communities. Our research debunked the notion that African Americans are less attentive to the problem of gun violence than police violence.

In compiling this report, we brought together and listened to residents of communities hard-hit by gun violence—faith leaders, formerly incarcerated individuals, law enforcement, elected officials, social service providers, community activists, and others. Most of the participants were black or Latino—people like Fathers & Families of San Joaquin Executive Director Sammy Nunez; Petersburg, Virginia, Police Chief John Dixon; and Wanda Montgomery of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Others were members of our steering committee and have devoted their careers to building safer communities—people like Gary, Indiana, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson; Rev. Michael McBride of PICO National Network; and Kayla Hicks of the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence. We then tested the ideas that emerged against a nationwide survey of 600 African Americans and 600 Latinos conducted by Benenson Strategy Group (BSG) and Ron Lester and Associates.

While about half of African Americans we surveyed nationally described police brutality (54 percent) and police misconduct (50 percent) in America as extremely serious problems, 80 percent of African Americans described gun violence in America as an extremely serious problem. Indeed, rather than discounting gun violence or seeing it in a silo isolated from police violence, many African Americans see the problems as interconnected. For example, 61 percent of African Americans agreed with the statement that “fewer guns on the streets would improve the relationship between the police and the communities they serve.”

Similarly, the communities with which we met thought improving police-community relationships was a key factor in reducing gun violence. Distrust that stems from arbitrary stops and discriminatory enforcement makes residents less willing to work with police, and makes communities less safe.

Solutions put forth by community members were supported by the survey research. Over 90 percent of African Americans and Latinos supported strengthening police accountability through civilian review boards, body-worn cameras, and racial bias assessment and training of police (including new recruits). Over 76 percent of both groups support prioritizing enforcement on higher-level gun violence offenders rather than lower-level “broken windows” offenders.

Community members also emphasized other solutions that address structural factors that underlie gun violence.

For example, community residents recommended limiting access to guns by the small group of people at high risk of engaging in violence—sometimes no more than 0.25 to 1 percent of a city’s population. Rather than looking to greater penalties for handgun possession that could increase mass incarceration, community members emphasized universal background checks, mandatory reporting for lost and stolen firearms, and increased oversight of licensed firearm dealers. Each proposal was supported by over 86 percent of African Americans and Latinos in the survey research. These restrictions are seen as reducing rather than fueling mass incarceration.  About three-quarters of both African Americans and Latinos agreed that “if we keep guns out of the wrong hands, we can also help decrease the number of people who are in prison.”

Community members also recognized that areas hardest hit by gun violence often have suffered disinvestment of resources by companies and the public sector, and that many of those at high risk to commit or to be victimized by gun violence face a lack of job skills and opportunities, addiction, and other challenges. Thus, our report recommends increased investment in social services targeted at high-risk populations and their families, such as drug treatment, mental health services, job training and placement, and conflict interrupters who mediate disputes and discourage retaliation. Over 92 percent of African Americans and over 88 percent of Latinos support solutions like job training, life skills support, and mental health counseling available to young people and people just released from jail or prison.

In addition to these solutions, we heard a deep desire for community members to engage with law enforcement, elected officials, and other community leaders in developing and implementing solutions to gun violence.

While we should be honest and give much-needed attention to gun violence in communities of color, we need to consider all the facts. Focusing largely on shallow black-on-black spats makes gun violence a “black and brown” problem, masks deeper structural causes of gun violence, and obscures the responsibility of all Americans to help solve the problem.

Leave a comment

Posted by on June 5, 2016 in BlackLivesMatter


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Smithsonian African-American Museum Opens

The National Museum of African American Culture and History has opened. Love the idea, but really am no fan of the building architecture, which is both decidedly visually unexciting, and unlike the Native American Museum seems to have no visual cultural clues as to it’s function.

National Museum of African American History and Culture; (NMAAHC) construction site - Conststution Avenue and 14 th Street image taken on Conststution site October 23, 2015.


Smithsonian’s National African-American Museum opens at last

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture was over a century in the making. In 1915, black Civil War veterans collected funds they later put toward creating a museum on the National Mall that would celebrate African-American achievement. In 1929, President Calvin Coolidge signed Public Resolution 107, establishing a commission to plan its construction, but the project went nowhere. It took a renewed effort by lawmakers and African-American leaders beginning in the 1960s, and then decades of planning and proposals, before President George W. Bush signed legislation in 2003 authorizing the museum, which is set to open September 24, steps from the Washington Monument.

“It’s one of those sites and projects that comes about only once in a generation,” says the lead designer of the building, David Adjaye. “It’s always magical to complete a project, but to complete this one on the National Mall, it’s very profound. It’s very humbling.”

Construction on the exterior of the building, a glass structure wrapped in a three-tiered bronze-colored scrim that’s meant to recall a motif in African sculpture (it looks like boxes stacked on a figure’s head), was completed in 2015. Curators are now filling the galleries with artifacts from a collection of some 34,000 items spanning centuries or longer. Museum Director Lonnie Bunch says the exhaustive preparation and organizing is “really almost like planning a military exercise.”

Larger artifacts already in place include a 1944 training plane used by the black military pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen; a once-segregated railway car and a guard tower from the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, both of which the museum lowered in place with cranes before constructing the roof; a 19th-century slave cabin from South Carolina; and Chuck Berry’s red Cadillac.

“When I walk through, I feel the weight of my ancestors,” Bunch says. “I feel an amazing sense of joy that we are close to giving to America, giving to the world, a gift. A gift of understanding who we are as a people in ways that we haven’t before.”

The museum’s nine floors contain three history galleries covering slavery through present day, including the #BlackLivesMatter movement; a theater named for donor Oprah Winfrey; culture galleries featuring African-American icons of music, theater, film and television; and a Contemplative Court, where visitors can reflect on what they’ve seen.

Adjaye has said “there’s triumph and there’s also incredible tragedy” in the history of the African-American experience. Bunch agrees: “You cannot tell stories of celebration and resistance without understanding the trials and travails.”

Leave a comment

Posted by on June 2, 2016 in Black History


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,



The Parliament-Funkadelic Mothership, now on permanent display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC


Tags: , , , ,

Outdoor Afro

Analysis of visitor data has shown that black folks are among the lest likely to enjoy our National Parks system, and to engage in outdoor activities. Getting out and doing activities is one of the most important things in terms of long term health. Doesn’t men you have to zipline Grand Canyon or scale El Capitan – but moderate hiking has great cardio benefits. Not to mention the psychic benefits of just seeing something wonderful.

One of my hobbies for years has been Landscape Photography. Backpacking gear into the wilderness to photograph the scenery, wildlife, and beauty in the mountains, desert, or coastlines. Walking through the 2000 year old Old Grove trees in the Pacific Northwest can be a religious experience, as can the silence of the Desert. Many of these places are located within a few hours drive of a city – some are so remote only a few people even get to them a year.


This Woman Wants To Encourage More Black People To Embrace The Outdoors

“There’s something so dynamic about a forest environment,” she said

One woman wants to inspire more black people to participate in outdoor activities, so she created a network where “black people and nature meet.”

Rue Mapp is the founder of Outdoor Afro, an organization that encourages black people to embrace the outdoors and all the activities it has to offer.

“I found that in the nature experiences I had, I was far too often the only one who looked like me,” Mapp said in a video by Facebook Stories. “So I decided to do something about it.”

The nationwide network was created in 2009 and started out as a Facebook group Mapp made to help connect black nature-lovers everywhere. The social media platform and its offerings has become a useful tool for many organizations. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced Wednesday that now one billion people are using Facebook Groups every month.

“Outdoor Afro is a perfect example of how people can use Facebook groups to build relationships around the things they care about,” Alex Deve, a product manager on Facebook Groups, said in a statement to HuffPost.

Since its launch, Outdoor Afro has grown significantly and now has over a dozen chapters across the country with more than 13,000 members. According to a 2015 report released by the Outdoor Foundation, 70 percent of people who participated in outdoor activities last year were white. Only 10 percent were black.

“National park visitorship, especially in more remote areas, can be as low as 1 percent African Americans,” Mapp said. “I just felt that there were these opportunities and lessons I was learning that more people could benefit from.”

Outdoor Afro has been able to reconnect black people with nature. It encourages black people to invest more in the planet by inviting them on outings such as nature trails and teaches them important lessons on conservation. Mapp said the work she is committed to has evolved beyond her wildest dreams.

“At the end of the day, this is about love and connecting [with] one another,” she said. “Connection is strength and the chance to be better, bigger, stronger and sustainable.”

The Bioblitz Dance – Outdoor Afro and the California Conservation Corps Dance. That is Rue Mapp on the lead in.

Leave a comment

Posted by on January 28, 2016 in The Post-Racial Life


Tags: , , , , , ,

Nina Simone Interview 1968 – On Black Pride

Blast for the past! The shadow of the events of 1968 still afflict America. The serial murders of both King and Kennedy, the rise of the right – and “The War”.

Nina Simone Talks Black Pride in This Rare, Beautifully Animated Interview From 1968

Through the ’60s and ’70s, Nina Simone essentially soundtracked the American civil rights movement, emerging as one of the era’s most brilliant, bluntly political artists, and one who was reluctant to speak to white interviewers for fear of misrepresentation. A rare exception to that rule came in 1968, when European jazz singer Lilian Terry talked with the legend at her home in Mt. Vernon.

That interview, which never aired in the United States, has been beautifully animated in the latest installment of Blank on Blank. In it, Simone and Terry start with some light, discursive chat before segueing into a sober discussion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s recent assassination. Simone concludes by noting that “it’s a lot of hell and a lot of violence, but I feel more alive now than I ever have in my life.”


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Charlie Hebdo – “We Have Champagne”

Translated … “They have the weapons. F$%k Them! We have the Champagne!”

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 17, 2015 in General, News


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Jay Leno Comments on Mizzou

The student protest at Mizzou has moved some folks, and changed some minds. Here, Jay Leno lays out the fact that the students indeed had cause for their actions…

Jay Leno tells Bill Maher: Mizzou protesters were right — school president was ‘clueless’

Real Time host Bill Maher battled panelists Jay Leno, Michael Steele and Dylan Ratigan on Friday when he complained about the recent anti-racism protests at Yale University and the University of Missouri.

Maher recounted the discussion at Yale that was touched off by a university email advising students not to use Halloween costumes based on cultural appropriation or stereotypes, which led to a faculty member, Erika Christakis, questioning whether the school was stifling students’ right to be “a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive.”

That, in turn, led to hundreds of students signing an open letter criticizing Christakis.

“Who raised these little monsters?” Maher said of the letter. Leno countered by saying that the pendulum in public discourse had swung in the other direction from the days when virtually any sort of slur would go unchecked.

“You could call a government operation ‘Wetback,’ and no one said anything about it,” the former Tonight Show host said. “Now the pendulum swung back, so now the other side gets a taste of what it’s like. Will it come back to the center? I believe it will.”

“That’s spreading — it’s not just Yale,” Maher insisted.

The host also expressed sympathy with protesters at Missouri, but questioned whether prompting the resignation of president Tim Wolfe was beneficial to their cause.

“Do we purge even clueless people from their job now?” he asked. “Is that where we are with the battle against racism?”

“I say yes,” Leno responded. “You know why? Because if you’re president of the university, you shouldn’t be clueless. When I saw the faces of those African-American young kids when they had won, they looked like Julian Bond in 1965. They looked like all the black students that protested when I was in college that did the sit-ins that didn’t think they would get whatever it was [that they wanted]. It’s just a different version of that. I applaud them. They looked like they won something. One of those people could be a senator.”

Ratigan concurred with Leno, saying that the protests were forcing conversations about racism “to permeate deeper into the system.”

“You have all this structural racism that we all know about and we talk about it, but it doesn’t get talked about as much as it should and it doesn’t get dealt with,” he said.

Maher then scoffed at the protesters’ efforts to set up a “media-free zone” at one point.

“They characterize themselves as the protesters in Tiananmen Square, but sometimes they look like the Chinese Army,” Maher protested. “Their right to never be offended does not supersede the First Amendment.”

“However irrational the response may be, the irrational response pales in comparison to the structural racism that still exists,” Ratigan shot back.

Steele also argued that the conditions that spurred the protests had not just developed over hours or days, but at least several months.

“This even goes back beyond a few months — it goes back over a period of time that these students have had to live in this environment where they’ve had to deal with this by themselves,” he said. “And after a while, enough’s enough. And cluelessness is no longer an excuse.”


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: