Daveed Diggs: "What to my people is the Fourth of July?"

In this sobering video made for the Movement For Black Lives, Hamilton actor Daveed Diggs asks that we look at what Independence Day really means for Black people right now. It was inspired by Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" and was written by Safia Elhillo, Danez Smith, Lauren Whitehead, W. Kamau Bell, Angel Nafis, Idris Goodwin, Pharoahe Monch, Camonghne Felix, and Nate Marshall.

What, to my people, is the Fourth of July? My people, who are failed every day by every country, sleepless in the long night, terrorized by fireworks, we who have cried salt baths for our kin.

Look at all we have borne for you: arms, armistice, the sweetest fruits, flesh of children hidden away from the ugly summer of their own blood — we are on the front lines. Help me, tell me, what do we tell the children of your Fourth of July? What is death to a daughter? What is river to a sea? Where is the country where my people are safe?

Ancestors set the table send dream mares in high supply. Too heavy, too spent, too hot to cook, no promise beyond the sparkly simple bombs. Keep your holiday, your hunger, the blood in your teeth. Police parade down streets, proud descendants of the slave patrol. Theater of denial, a propaganda pageant, and we are on the front lines all summer. My uncle can’t sleep and he was born free. And he ain’t never been.

Read the rest

Box of Bones -- "Tales from the Crypt Meets Black History"

Here's a Kickstarter for a cool graphic novel project by Ayize Jama-Everett, John Jennings, et. al. called Box of Bones, described as "Tales from the Crypt Meets Black History."

When my friend Mark Dery let me know about this project, he wrote, "Jordan Peele remixes Lovecraft? Zora Neale Hurston meets EC Comics? Pulp voodoo in the age of Trump, Black Lives Matter, and white supremacy’s death rattle? I’m guessing all of the above, conjured up by Jama-Everett’s evocative prose and Jennings’s dynamic, Kirbyesque illustrations."

When Black graduate student, Lyndsey, begins her dissertation work on a mysterious box that pops up during the most violent and troubled time in Africana history, she has no idea that her research will lead her on a phantasmagorical journey from West Philadelphia riots to Haitian slave uprisings. Wherever Lyndsey finds someone who has seen the Box, chaos ensues. Soon, even her own sanity falls into question. In the end, Lyndsey will have to decide if she really wants to see what’s inside the Box of Bones.

Described as “Tales from the Crypt Meets Black History,” Box of Bones is a supernatural nightmare tour through some of the most violent and horrific episodes in the African Diaspora.

Volume 1 contains art from John Jennings, Sole Rebel, Damian Duffy, Frances Olivia Liddell-Rodriguez, Tommy Nguyen, Jarmel and Jamal Williams, and Bryan Christopher Moss with covers by Stacey Robinson!!!

Read the rest

Boston Police Union throws a tantrum over Black Lives Matter at school week

Boston's got a bad reputation when it comes to race. And unfortunately, much of it's deserved. Of course, there are people who are trying to fight and make a positive difference despite the segregation that's left the predominantly black neighborhoods behind in schooling and socializing. Which is why the Boston Teacher's Union planned a week-long series of events in coordination with Black Lives Matter, to help educate students on inclusion and restorative justice. After all, February is Black History Month. So that all sounds good, right?

The Boston Police Patrolmen's Association disagreed, and sent a letter to BTU President Jessica Tang condoning the events. In the letter, BPPA President Michael Leary refers to Black Lives Matter an "anti-police organization" who has endangered the lives of Boston police officers. This is demonstrably untrue. But BPPA refuses to let the facts get in the way of their feelings. The letter continues on about the "irrational hatred" of BLM, accusing them of "inaccurately demonizing police as racists who kill innocent people" before passive-aggressively warning about the potential dangers of not cooperating with Boston Police, like some kind of mob protection racket.

BPPA is also upset about an education initiative to provide more funding for guidance counselors, instead of just shoving more police officers into schools to solve behavioral problems by threat of force. Read the rest

This simple timeline puts the long, long history of slavery in perspective

The Twitter account @gloed_up shared this historical meme:

Read the rest

Family records for slavery-era black Americans to be made available, free, online

The records will be online by late next year, to coincide with the opening of the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington.

Parliament Funkadelic Mothership soon to be on display at Smithsonian

The Mothership made famous in George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic golden years will soon be available for viewing at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. Read the rest

Black History Month, and the history of America spying on Black civil rights leaders

"February is Black History Month and that history is intimately linked with surveillance by the federal government in the name of 'national security," writes Nadya Kayyali at an Electronic Frontier Foundation blog post today. 

"Indeed, the history of surveillance in the African-American community plays an important role in the debate around spying today and in the calls for a congressional investigation into that surveillance. Days after the first NSA leaks emerged last June, EFF called for a new Church Committee. We mentioned that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of the targets of the very surveillance that eventually led to the formation of the first Church Committee."

"This Black History Month, we should remember the many African-American activists who were targeted by intelligence agencies. Their stories serve as cautionary tales for the expanding surveillance state.

Read: The History of Surveillance and the Black Community. [EFF.org] Read the rest