Sixth great-grandson of Thomas Jefferson re-creates his presidential portrait

Shannon LaNier is a television reporter, actor, author, and a direct descendant of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States. He's also a Black man — the sixth great-grandson of Jefferson and Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman who had six children with the Founding Father. Read the rest

It's not ok to use the term "slave," and the "B" in Black should be capitalized

On this Juneteenth, I thought I'd share two things I've just learned:

1. It's not ok to use the word "slave." It's dehumanizing. We should use "enslaved" instead. Watch the video with Ta-Nehisi Coates and Oprah to understand why better.

2. It's time we start using a capital B for Black:

...Temple University journalism professor Lori L. Tharps had this to say: “When speaking of a culture, ethnicity or group of people, the name should be capitalized. Black with a capital B refers to people of the African diaspora. Lowercase black is simply a color.”

Tharps’s argument highlights the fact that Black people have a common cultural identity of history, art, community, and shared experiences. Most Black Americans lack a specific geographic identity, as they are unable to conclusively trace roots back to a specific country of origin due to enslavement. That lack of shared geography is actually part of what binds Black people together. And while “African American” is a fine terminology choice, it is sometimes considered inadequately representative by Black Americans with recent Caribbean or British lineage, for example, or those who have recently emigrated to the United States from Africa.

Thanks, A! Read the rest

Juneteenth: "Emancipation is a marker of progress for white Americans, not black ones."

Today is Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the long-delayed emancipation of enslaved Black people in Texas on June 19, 1865. In the New Yorker, historian and Columbia University journalism professor Jelani Cobb writes that, "Emancipation is a marker of progress for white Americans, not black ones." From the New Yorker:

[...] Juneteenth exists as a counterpoint to the Fourth of July; the latter heralds the arrival of American ideals, the former stresses just how hard it has been to live up to them. This failure was not exclusive to the South. Northern states generally abolished slavery in the decades after the American Revolution, but many slaveholders there, rather than free the people they held in bondage, sold them to traders in the South, or moved to states where the institution was still legal. The black men, women, and children who heard [Major General Gordon] Granger’s pronouncement [of emancipation] a hundred and fifty-five years ago in Galveston were not slaves; they were a barometer of American democracy.

There’s a paradox inherent in the fact that emancipation is celebrated primarily among African-Americans, and that the celebration is rooted in a perception of slavery as something that happened to black people, rather than something that the country committed. The paradox rests on the presumption that the arrival of freedom should be greeted with gratitude, instead of with self-reflection about what allowed it to be deprived in the first place.

Juneteenth and the Meaning of Freedom by Jelani Cobb (The New Yorker)

image: "An early celebration of Emancipation Day (Juneteenth) in 1900 Mrs. Read the rest

Elementary school apologizes after children of color were asked by peers to role-play as slaves for lesson

The principal of Lafayette Elementary School in Washington DC has apologized after a fifth grade lesson on the Civil War and Reconstruction had some children of color role-playing "a person of color drinking from a segregated water fountain and an enslaved person." From CNN:

During classroom circles and small group discussions, (principal Carrie) Broquard said, some students said they were uncomfortable with the roles their peers had asked them to play. Others, she said, had been unsure how to respond or stand up for their peers who were uncomfortable.

"We deeply regret that we did not foresee this as a potential challenge in role playing so we could set appropriate parameters to protect students," the fifth grade team said...

Broquard outlined a number of steps the school is taking in response to the lesson.

In her letter, she said students who were directly affected have been meeting with the school's social emotional learning team and members of the administration to "process and talk through" the incident. The social emotional learning team and a racial equity committee at the school will work to ensure all assignments are "culturally sensitive and appropriate," she wrote.

The staff will participate in a full day of training on equity and race in January, and the school plans to create a diversity and inclusion committee, the letter stated.

Read the rest

White woman interrupted a Broadway talkback to call the playwright "racist against white people."

Jeremy O. Harris's Slave Play is meant to be provocative—certainly moreso than most other Broadway productions that transfer from Off Broadway theatres. The play itself is about a group of interracial couples who go to a kind of psychosexual couples' therapy that involves BDSM, reflecting Antebellum master-slave dynamics. During previews, the show even hosted a "Black Out," or a dedicated performance for black audiences, so they can enjoy and discuss the play without worrying about the reactions of white people around them.

As such, it's not surprising that it might make some white people (and others) uncomfortable; that is, after all, the purpose of provocative art. But it reached a head after the Friday night performance on November 29 during a post-show talkback hosted by the playwright:

Apparently, the unnamed woman missed the whole part of the play about white people taking up space and centering things around themselves. She yelled at Harris for—in her words—"being told as a single woman I'm not good enough to fucking raise [my own children]," and asked, "How the fuck am I not a fucking marginalized member of this goddamn society?" Read the rest

In Kuwait, domestic laborers are bought and sold on Instagram

“You can wake her up at 5AM, she won't complain.”

The Folio Society is releasing a gorgeous edition of Octavia Butler's "Kindred"

Octavia Butler (previously), the brilliant Afrofuturist, McArthur Genius Grant-winning science fiction writer, died far, far too soon, leaving behind a corpus of incredible, voraciously readable novels, and a community of writers who were inspired by her example. Read the rest

The real meaning of plantation tours: American Downton Abbey vs American Horror Story

There's a viral review of a southern plantation tour making the rounds in which a white person complains that the tour was "extremely disappointing" because of the "lecture on how the white people treated slaves" from a tour guide who was "radical about slave treatment." Read the rest

Trailer for new Harriet Tubman biopic

Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman (1822-1913) escaped to be become one of the most heroic and effective activists and abolitionists leading up to the American Civil War and after. Her courageous efforts as a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad directly saved the lives of hundreds of people and inspired countless others. She is a true American hero whose courage and impact can't be overstated. And now she's the subject of a big Hollywood biopic. Harriet, directed by Kasi Lemmons and starring Cynthia Erivo, will be released November 1.

Read the rest

Frederick Douglass: What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?

1852: "This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the Fourth of July. It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. This, to you, is what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the signs, and to the wonders, associated with that act, and that day." Read the rest

Bill O'Reilly sums up American history perfectly in two tweets, doesn't realize it

Sometimes, even a malicious idiot like Bill O'Reilly says something pure and true and correct. Read the rest

Ta-Nehisi Coates makes the case for reparations to Congress

It's been five years since Ta-Nehisi Coates's groundbreaking The Case for Reparations ran in The Atlantic; yesterday, Coates appeared before Congress to celebrate Juneteenth with a barn-burning statement that starts as a response to Mitch McConnell's dismissal of racial injustice in America, but quickly becomes more than that -- a Coatesian masterclass in understanding race, America, history and the present moment. Read the rest

After 150 years, Runaway Negro Creek finally has a new name

The US Board on Geographic Names has officially renamed Runaway Negro Creek on Savannah, Georgia's Skidaway Island. It's now called Freedom Creek. Last year, State Sen. Lester Jackson sponsored the resolution to get rid of the offensive name. According to WJCL, the creek was originally "named after slaves that escaped after the Civil War."

Read the rest

Douglas Rushkoff's sobering view of Universal Basic Income

In a new essay, Douglas Rushkoff examines Universal Basic Income, writing that it's not a gift but a "scam" and a "tool for our further enslavement."

Here's a snippet:

To the rescue comes UBI. The policy was once thought of as a way of taking extreme poverty off the table. In this new incarnation, however, it merely serves as a way to keep the wealthiest people (and their loyal vassals, the software developers) entrenched at the very top of the economic operating system. Because of course, the cash doled out to citizens by the government will inevitably flow to them.

Think of it: The government prints more money or perhaps — god forbid — it taxes some corporate profits, then it showers the cash down on the people so they can continue to spend. As a result, more and more capital accumulates at the top. And with that capital comes more power to dictate the terms governing human existence.

...As appealing as it may sound, UBI is nothing more than a way for corporations to increase their power over us, all under the pretense of putting us on the payroll. It’s the candy that a creep offers a kid to get into the car or the raise a sleazy employer gives a staff member who they’ve sexually harassed. It’s hush money.

Read: Universal Basic Income Is Silicon Valley’s Latest Scam

photo by photosteve101 Read the rest

Report estimates over 400,000 slaves currently live in the US

Based on their 2018 Global Slavery Index, the Walk Free Foundation estimates there are about 403,000 humans living in the United States under conditions that meet the definition of slavery. Read the rest

"But slavery was so long ago"

Originally commissioned as a wrist tattoo, the simple and powerful chart showing how recent black freedom is in America is now also a t-shirt.

"...but slavery was sooo long ago."

We've heard this quote over and over throughout the course of modern American history. In an attempt to urge black people to "move on" and to recognize just how good they have it in America, this dismissive and tone deaf statement attempts to transform relatively recent history into ancient history or myth.

However, when looking at this graphic, it is very clear that American slavery and segregation was not so long ago. In fact, it is very possible to have conversations with many African Americans who have vivid memories of Jim Crow South and the racist and subversive practices in the North.

I like this black and white version:

Read the rest

How to investigate and report on modern slavery

Thalia Holmes summarizes the "Exposing Human Trafficking and Forced Labor" panel at the 10th Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Johannesburg, where veteran reporters who've broken major modern slavery stories discussed their methods and offered advice for others pursuing similar stories. Read the rest

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