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Free Them All – Background and History of the Black Panthers

Watched the film discussed here last night on PBS. It was by far the most level headed and fair treatment of the Black Panther Party I have ever seen. Here is an interview of the producer of the film…

At the end of the film, they discuss the mass incarceration of the Panther members in an attempt by the Government to destroy them…It didn’t. 50 years later some of those surviving Panthers are still incarcerated. BLM can learn a lot of lessons from the experiences of the BPP.

Had this poster hanging on the wall. It is a classic of Huey Newton.

Free Em All: 50 Years Later, Black Panthers Are Still Fighting for Freedom

It’s early on the Monday morning, post-snowmaggedon 2016, and I have an unexpected 10 minutes to spare. I know I should close my eyes, center myself for the day ahead, but instead I FaceTime Baba Sekou Odinga. I don’t really have anything to say. Mostly I just pick on him, tell bad jokes, make faces, sing off-key. “Why you do that to that man,” the homie Everton who has been navigating me through the storm all weekend, asks, laughing.

And as soon he asks, it’s like I slip through a wrinkle in time, back 14 months to November 25th, 2014 when, after near 34 years in prison, more than half of which was spent in solitary confinement, former Black Panther, Sekou Odinga, walked out of a New York State prison into the loving arms his children and his wife, Dequi. Nine hours later, he would be greeted in Harlem at the National Black Theater by over 200 people who had found out 48 hours before that a day we had worked for but did not know we would ever see, was here: Sekou, one of nearly 100 American political prisoners, activists from 1960s through the 1980s, was free.

Soffiyah Elijah, executive director of the Correctional Association, former deputy director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School (HLS), and one of the attorneys who has worked diligently for years on political prisoner cases, including the Herculean effort to secure parole for Sekou Odinga, wrote:

Political prisoners are men and women who have been incarcerated for their political views and actions. They have consciously fought against social injustice, colonialism and/or imperialism and have been incarcerated as a result of their political commitments. Even while in prison, these men and women continue to adhere to their principles.

This, Elijah writes, is the internationally accepted definition of political prisoners, and most of us rightly associate it with people like Nelson Mandela. What we don’t generally jump to, is that apartheid was the progeny of Jim Crow, and the struggle against apartheid was deeply informed by the struggle against Jim Crow and for human rights for Black people living in America. In short, what we believe is deserved for people living in other countries, we don’t always appreciate should apply to us. We should.

From the Black Panther Newspaper, the art of Emory Douglass is classic.

Indeed, as I write this, many of metrics that quantify what makes a life quality–fair employment, decent education, affordable housing and meaningful health care–are as disrupted today as they were for Black South Africans during apartheid and African Americans pre-Civil Rights Movement. In other words, the name-calling leveled against the Black Panthers, resurrected recently because of imagery in Queen Bey’s Formation, was ahistorical (read: a outright fucking lie). The Panthers were a human rights organization and as we know given the history of the slave patrols, the three branches of the US government, the KKK and today’s police forces from Ferguson to Baltimore, from LA to New York, any organization or person calling for the full human rights of Black people has been met with, um, resistance.

Which is why it’s infuriating to hear some people argue that the Rapture or some shit has come because the Obamas look mighty fine and Oprah has a network where you can experience Tyler Perry’s imagination to your heart’s content, no disrespect. I mean, rock on and whatnot but let’s understand at least this: elevating the exception to the rule to the level of the rule itself doesn’t make for sound reasoning–anymore than toxic water poured down the throats of Black people by a governor who probably washes his ass with bottles of Voss or Black people getting dead every 28 hours by police, is progress just because we can hashtag it.

Two generations ago, the man who was born under a Gemini sun in 1944 and raised up in Queens, New York in a world where poverty in Black communities left children hungry and hurting, and where killer cops regularly cut #BlackLivesShort with impunity, Sekou Odinga was inspired to revolution by Minister Malcolm X. He would hang around Malcolm’s organization, the OAAU (the Organization of African American Unity) but didn’t officially become a member until after Minister Malcolm was assassinated. Roughly 18 months later, on October 15, 1966, two young men who were also inspired by Minister Malcolm, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, would stand on the steps of the Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland, California and announce the birth of The Black Panther Party and its 10-point program that demanded human rights for all Black people. Two years after that, Seale traveled to New York to get things kicked off in the City that Stays Woke, and talked that good Let’s Get Free talk to group of young brothers and sisters who’d gathered in an apartment in the East Village where Sekou Odinga was in the mix.

When I tell Sekou I am writing this piece he says, “Tell them how we just wanted our people to be safe. Tell them how we fed our children. Tell them how we opened the first-ever free health clinic in America and that it was in the Bronx. Tell them we stood with mothers who were being harassed at welfare offices. And yes, tell them we fought police, but tell them we did it to defend ourselves because what we, a bunch of 20-year-old kids did, exposed what the government with billions of dollars refused to do. And they couldn’t take that. Ultimately, that’s what made us political prisoners. That’s why we were targeted. That’s why we were killed.”

In fact, in FBI documents on the Party, the government noted that far more dangerous than any gun brandished by a Panther, was the fact that they fed children.

But in the Black Panther Party, Sekou, like thousands of young people across the country, found a place where he could lean in–elbows, shoulders and back–on the question of how we were going to finally demand and realize our human rights. It was a seminal moment in the long Black history of Black people giving no more fucks because then, like now, our lives were at risk simply by walking outside and say, not having taken a dog to the vet in 1967 or buying a bag of skittles for our little brother in 2012. And despite all the variance in stories I’ve heard about the Panthers since I was an undergrad in the late 80s and early 90s majoring in political science and Black studies, in the more than quarter century I’ve known Sekou, it seems that to a person, everyone agreed that he was kind of stand-up, straight-backed soldier you’d want on your side.

Which is why, I suppose the decision was made that he be the one to walk into Clinton Prison in New Jersey on November 2nd, 1979. And six years and six months to the day that unarmed/hands up Assata Shakur, was shot and arrested on the New Jersey Turnpike, Sekou would enter that dungeon, take his friend and comrade by her hand, and walk her the fuck out that joint….Read the Rest Here

The catcall “Pig” as a slang description of the Police was initiated by the BPP and co-opted by virtually every protest group in the 60’s.

 

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2016 in Black History, BlackLivesMatter

 

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Hafu – Mixed Race Experience In Japan

This is a trailer for a movie on how mixed race people are treated in Japan…

This introduction by the authors –

The film is available on VIMEO

To highlight some of the discrimination against mixed race folks and foreigners, there is the case of the first mixed race Miss Japan –

First ever mixed race Miss Japan forced to defend herself after being abused for ‘not being Japanese enough’ because father is African-American

  • Ariana Miyamoto was born and raised in Nagasaki, and is fluent Japanese
  • Mixed race beauty queen born to American father and Japanese mother
  • She has been selected to represent Japan in the Miss Universe pageant
  • But her selection has prompted a storm of criticism in Japanese media
  • 20-year-old has been forced to insist that she is ‘Japanese on the inside’

The first ever mixed race Miss Japan has been forced to defend herself against accusations that she ‘isn’t Japanese enough’ because her father is African-American.

Ariana Miyamoto was born and raised in Nagasaki, speaks fluent Japanese, and has been chosen to represent Japan in the Miss Universe pageant.

But the 20-year-old beauty queen used her first television appearance after her selection to apologetically explain to reporters that while she doesn’t ‘look Japanese’ on the outside, on the inside, there are ‘many Japanese things about her’.

She has faced a storm of criticism that she is ‘not Japanese enough’ to represent the country because although her mother is Japanese, her father is American.

In Japan, Miyamoto is called a ‘hafu’, a Japanese term used to refer to someone who is biracial.

There is a feeling in the country, one of the least ethnically diverse in the world, that mixed-race people are not fully Japanese.

Website Byokan Sunday and Naver Matome report that Twitter users have posted comments such as: ‘Is it okay to select a hafu to represent Japan?’ and ‘Because this is Miss Universe Japan, don’t you think hafu are a no-no?’

Others commented that she didn’t ‘look Japanese’, her face was ‘too gaijin’, meaning literally ‘outside person’, or that the country deserved a ‘pure-blooded Japanese’ beauty.

Elsewhere online, one person commented, ‘It makes me uncomfortable to say she’s representing Japan.’

Miyamoto, grew up in Japan in Sasebo, Nagasaki, close to a major American naval base, but later moved to the United States for high school,

When she returned home to Japan, after a part-time bartending job, she decided to become a model and try her hand at pageantry – not expecting to get far due to her ‘foreigner look’.

Her selection as the first-ever biracial Miss Universe Japan comes at a time when Japanese attitudes about race are beginning to change, NBC reports.

The vast majority of Japan is made up of homogeneous people.

It is one of the least ethnically diverse countries on earth, proudly counting more than 98 percent of the population as Japanese nationals.

Megumi Nishikura, whose film, Hafu: The Mixed-Race Experience in Japan, looks at the lives of multiracial Japanese citizens, highlights the fact that 20,000 half-Japanese people, including both multiethnic and multiracial people, are born in Japan each year.

Nishikura told NBC that Miyamoto’s selection as Miss Universe Japan ‘is a huge step forward in expanding the definition of what it means to be Japanese. The controversy that has erupted over her selection is a great opportunity for us Japanese to examine how far we have come from our self-perpetuated myth of homogeneity while at the same time it shows us how much further we have to go’.

Miyamoto is aware of the struggles she faces as a ‘hafu’ beauty queen representing Japan.

In interviews she has called Mariah Carey a major inspiration because of ther multiracial background, according to RocketNews24.

‘She went through a lot of difficulties before becoming a popular singing sensation,’ Miyamoto said.

‘She faced some racial hurdles, similar to myself, but she overcame them and became a top star, so she’s been a big influence on me.’

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2015 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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You Can See Me Now – In The Movies

Back before digital photography, the Film used in professional level cameras had distinct qualities in terms of color rendition. Certain types of Kodak tended towards blue, others were “warm” – enriching the reds and yellows. This meant if you were shooting anything with blue, the sky for instance – the rendition was spectacular. Browns and greens tended to be “muddy” and tonal quality – the differentiation between something with multiple greens for instance – tended to wash out into a “middling” color instead of the full spectrum. Fuji Film tended towards yellow, and produced really vibrant greens and, to a lesser extent browns…

Ergo – getting film to “see” black folks, or even render the plethora of skin tones was difficult, if not impossible. Getting fine detail was virtually impossible for darker skin tones.

Since similar film formulations were used to make movies – black folks just all came out as the same color – if you could see an detail at all.

‘12 Years a Slave,’ ‘Mother of George,’ and the aesthetic politics of filming black skin

In one of the first scenes of early Oscar favorite “12 Years a Slave,” the film’s protagonist, Solomon Northup, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor , is seen at night, sleeping alongside a fellow enslaved servant. Their faces are barely illuminated against the velvety black background, but the subtle differences in their complexions — his a burnished mahogany, hers bearing a lighter, more yellow cast — are clearly defined.

Mother of George,” which like “12 Years a Slave” opens on Friday, takes place in modern-day Brooklyn, not the candlelit world of 19th-century Louisiana. But, like “12 Years a Slave,” its black stars and supporting players are exquisitely lit, their blue-black skin tones sharply contrasting with the African textiles they wear to create a vibrant tableau of textures and hues.

“Mother of George” and “12 Years a Slave” are just the most recent in a remarkable run of films this year by and about African Americans, films that range in genre from the urban realism of “Fruitvale Station” and light romantic comedy of “Baggage Claim” to the high-gloss historic drama of “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” and the evocatively gritty pot comedy “Newlyweeds.” The diversity of these films isn’t reflected just in their stories and characters, but in the wide range of skin tones they represent, from the deepest ebonies to the creamiest caramels.

The fact that audiences are seeing such a varied, nuanced spectrum of black faces isn’t just a matter of poetics, but politics — and the advent of digital filmmaking. For the first hundred years of cinema, when images were captured on celluloid and processed photochemically, disregard for black skin and its subtle shadings was inscribed in the technology itself, from how film-stock emulsions and light meters were calibrated, to the models used as standards for adjusting color and tone.

That embedded racism extended into the aesthetics of the medium itself, which from its very beginnings was predicated on the denigration and erasure of the black body. As far back as “The Birth of a Nation” — in which white actors wearing blackface depicted Reconstruction-era blacks as wild-eyed rapists and corrupt politicians — the technology and grammar of cinema and photography have been centered on the unspoken assumption that their rightful subjects would be white.

The result was that, if black people were visible at all, their images would often be painfully caricatured (see Hattie McDaniel in “Gone With the Wind”) or otherwise distorted, either ashy and washed-out or featureless points of contrast within the frame. As “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen said in Toronto after the film’s premiere there, “I remember growing up and seeing Sidney Poitier sweating next to Rod Steiger in ‘In the Heat of the Night,’ and obviously [that was because] it’s very hot in the South. But also he was sweating because he had tons of light thrown on him, because the film stock wasn’t sensitive enough for black skin.”

Montré Aza Missouri, an assistant professor in film at Howard University, recalls being told by one of her instructors in London that “if you found yourself in the ‘unfortunate situation’ of shooting on the ‘Dark Continent,’ and if you’re shooting dark-skinned people, then you should rub Vaseline on their skin in order to reflect light. It was never an issue of questioning the technology.” In her classes at Howard, Missouri says, “I talk to my students about the idea that the tools used to make film, the science of it, are not racially neutral.”

Missouri reminds her students that the sensors used in light meters have been calibrated for white skin; rather than resorting to the offensive Vaseline solution, they need to manage the built-in bias of their instruments, in this case opening their cameras’ apertures one or two stops to allow more light through the lens. Filmmakers working with celluloid also need to take into account that most American film stocks weren’t manufactured with a sensitive enough dynamic range to capture a variety of dark skin tones. Even the female models whose images are used as reference points for color balance and tonal density during film processing — commonly called “China Girls” — were, until the mid-1990s, historically white.

In the face of such technological chauvinism, filmmakers have been forced to come up with workarounds, including those lights thrown on Poitier and a variety of gels, scrims and filters. But today, such workarounds have been rendered virtually obsolete by the advent of digital cinematography, which allows filmmakers much more flexibility both in capturing images and manipulating them during post-production.

Cinematographer Anastas Michos recalls filming “Freedomland” with Julianne Moore and Samuel L. Jackson, whose dramatically different complexions presented a challenge when they were in the same shot. “You had Julianne Moore, who has minus pigment in her skin, and Sam, who’s a dark-skinned guy. It was a photographic challenge to bring out the undertones in both of them.”

Michos solved the problem during a phase of post-production called the digital intermediate, during which the film print is digitized, then manipulated and fine-tuned. “You’re now able to isolate specific skin tones in terms of both brightness and color,” says Michos, who also shot “Baggage Claim,” “Jumping the Broom” and “Black Nativity,” due out later this year. “It gives you a little bit more flexibility in terms of how you paint the frame.”

Daniel Patterson, who shot “Newlyweeds” on a digital Red One camera, agrees, noting that on a recent shoot for Spike Lee’s “Da Blood of Jesus,” he was able to photograph black actors of dramatically different skin tones in a nighttime interior scene using just everyday house lamps, thanks to a sophisticated digital camera. “I just changed the wattage of the bulb, used a dimmer, and I didn’t have to use any film lights. That kind of blew me away,” Patterson says. “The camera was able to hold both of them during the scene without any issues.”

The multicultural realities films increasingly reflect go hand in hand with the advent of technology that’s finally able to capture them with accuracy and sensitivity. And on the forefront of this new vanguard is cinematographer and Howard University graduate Bradford Young , the latest in a long line of Howard alums — including Ernest Dickerson, Arthur Jafa and Malik Sayeed — who throughout the 1990s deployed the means of production to bring new forms of lyricism, stylization and depth to filmed images of African Americans….

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2013 in Black History, The Post-Racial Life

 

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Dear White People…

Not sure what yet another film is going to do to salve or clarify race relations in the US. But – a young brother wants to get into the film business… Which is progress. And I think he’s got some talent.

This one by Justin Smith.

The Birth Of ‘Dear White People’

Perhaps it was being mistaken for the one other Black guy in my office by a colleague who had worked with him for years… Or perhaps it was being asked repeatedly by co-workers to teach them the Single Ladies Dance? Either way something provoked me to go on Twitter as @DearWhitePeople two years ago and start tweeting things like:

“Dear White People. The single ladies dance is dead. Please turn off your web cams and go on about your lives.”

Meant to articulate the sometimes funny, mostly harmless, but occasionally painful experience of being a Black face in a vastly white place (i.e. most Hollywood work environments) @DearWhitePeople also served an ulterior motive of mine.

I’d been working for some time on a satire about race identity. The feature script for Dear White People follows the events leading up to a race riot a prestigious predominately white university through the perspectives of four very different Black students. While the script was culled from my
own college experiences and those of others I knew, I wanted to test out the voice of my lead character, Sam White, whose radio show “Dear White People” gives the film its title.

Sam, a kind of amalgamation of Dap from School Daze and iconic activist Angela Davis had a lot to say and I wanted to know what resonated with people.

As I charged through several drafts of the script, feedback from the twitter account would make its way into the project. Tweets that asked how I would feel if there was a “Dear Black People” prompted responses such as:

“Dear White People, there’s no need for a Dear Black People. Reality
shows on VH1 and Bravo let us know exactly how you feel about us.” Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2012 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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Samuel L, Jackson Now Top Grossing Actor of All Time

Samuel L. Jackson has been in a lot of movies – over 100. Several of these have been mega-hits at the box office, including roles in Star Wars and Pulp Fiction.  Of course any black guy who would walk around in a Kilt with cornrows, as Jackson did in the Movie Formula 51 – is a badass… He gets moved to the “Giant Negroes” category for that one!

Top-Grossing Actor of All Time Is…

Samuel L. Jackson has made it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest-grossing actor of all time, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Jackson’s films—he’s made more than 100—have earned more than $7.4 billion, thanks in part to huge earners like the Star Wars prequels, which account for a whopping $2.4 billion. Perhaps Jackson isn’t the person you would have guessed held the spot—but who can deny the appeal of an actor who will do this?

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2011 in Giant Negros

 

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The Death of Kodachrome

Steve McCurry's "Afghan Girl," Peshawar, Pakistan, 1984

This image was shot by Steve McCurry in 1984 entitled "Afghan Girl", it has become one of the most recognized images.

Digital photography has pretty much pushed film the way of the Dodo bird.  Professional photographers shooting high quality magazine covers or art typically selected Kodachrome as the Gold Standard in days gone by. It was a relatively slow film, which had a color saturation unmatched by any of it’s contemporary rivals.

The other advantage to Kodachrome was it’s archival quality. If kept in a cool, dry place it wouldn’t lose any of it’s richness for 50 or more years.

Essentially, what high end camera manufacturers are tying to do with their 20 Megapixel plus cameras is match the image quality of Kodachrome though digital manipulation.

Yeah – it was that good.

The end of Kodachrome means the end of the old saying “The camera never lies”. There is very little relationship between what is actually in front of the camera and the digital image. And even the image content is not sacrosanct. Like a lot of things in this world, the passing of film and emergence of digital is a loss of honesty.

A lot of pros and serious amateurs would keep Kodachrome in the freezer, which would preserve the film long beyond it’s expiration date. There might still be a few rolls of the stuff sitting in the back of a freezer somewhere – just waiting for that rich saturated image…

Bad news… The last shops processing Kodachrome are shutting down Dec 30 of this year. Use it or loose it time, guys!

Exposed: The Last Roll Of Kodachrome

In 1984, photojournalist Steve McCurry was in an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan. He followed the sound of voices to a tent where he found a group of girls. “I noticed this one little girl off to the side that had his incredible set of eyes that seemed almost haunted — or very piercing,” he tells NPR’s Audie Cornish.

Photographer Steve McCurry, 2002

Photographer Steve McCurry, 2002

McCurry snapped a picture that ended up on the cover of National Geographic’s June 1985 issue. “The Afghan Girl” became one of the magazine’s most widely recognized photographs — and one of the century’s most iconic. To get that shot, McCurry used a type of film that has become iconic in its own right: Kodachrome.

The film, known for its rich saturation and archival durability of its slides, was discontinued last year to the dismay of photographers worldwide. But Kodak gave the last roll ever produced to McCurry. He has just processed that coveted roll at Dwayne’s Photo Service in Parsons, Kan. — the last remaining location that processes the once-popular slide film.

What’s on that landmark roll of film is still under wraps. It will be the subject of an upcoming documentary by National Geographic. What is known is that the first and last images are in New York City, McCurry’s home base. And between those frames are photographs from India, where McCurry established his career as a master of color photography.

Although he has almost a million images spanning 35 years in his Kodachrome library, he still felt the pressure of this assignment. Every one of the 36 frames on that final roll was precious. “Am I getting the right moment?” he wonders. “Is it in focus? Is the exposure right?”

So before he took one of those shots, he used a digital camera to hone in on the perfect exposure. “To have that reinforcement, to be able to see that on a two-dimensional screen … it was a big help,” he says.

And he’s got a piece of advice for amateur photographers with unused Kodachrome film lying around: Get it to Dwayne’s! The Kansas photo shop will stop processing Kodachrome rolls on Dec. 30. And while that will mark the end of an era of photography, the memories created with Kodachrome — like that Afghan girl’s green eyes — will live on.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2010 in News

 

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