Tips for Understanding Black History Month- 2017 RESIST Edition

gloria-richardson2It’s that time of year again, Black History Month. And in 2017, we may need it more than ever. Every February in the United States, the country sets aside 28 (or 29 in a leap year) days to celebrate, discuss and engage Black History. Innocuous enough. And yet Feb. 1st seems to signal the beginning of a 28-day long ritual of whining. How come they get their own month? What about White History Month? It’s a cornucopia of misconceptions and endless micro-aggressive racial faux-pas. And this isn’t just from the usual sky boxes of white obliviousness; there are black people (for instance, the formerly employed Stacey Dash) who wade into the stupid with reckless abandon. In a world where actual white nationalists and Nazi sympathizers have made their way into the higher echelons of the government, and punching Nazis is now up for debate, we should expect that the stupid is going to be extra thick, extra fragile and extra whiny. So here are a few tips to better understand the month: a bit of mental armor for those who have to battle the stupid and for those who might be enticed to engage in the stupid.

This is an updated list from an annual post I’ve done for the last three years. But guess what? It never gets old because the stupid, it yet stirs and redoubles its efforts.

Photo- Gloria Richardson, June 1963. Caption should read, “Nah.”

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Tips for Understanding Black History Month- 2016 Edition

black-history-month-1It’s that time of year again, Black History Month. Every February in the United States, the country sets aside 28 (or 29 in a leap year) days to celebrate, discuss and engage Black History. Innocuous enough. And yet Feb. 1st seems to signal the beginning of a 28-day long ritual of whining (how come they get their own month?), misconceptions and endless micro-aggressive racial faux-pas. And this isn’t just from the usual sky boxes of white privilege; there are black people (looking in your general direction Stacey Dash) who wade into…well…the stupid. So here are a few tips to better understand the month, both for those who have to endure the stupid and for those who might be enticed to engage in the stupid.

This is just an updated list from an annual post I’ve done for the last two years. But guess what? It never gets old because the stupid never changes.

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Appropriating The Self- Revisiting The Africa of Our Imaginations

200px-Imaro4In the wake of a controversy over who the culture of an entire continent belongs to within the context of its far-flung descendants (many quite involuntarily flung at that), I revisit a set of blog posts I wrote several years ago regarding speculative fiction, world building, “appropriation” and the Africa of our imaginations. Can one appropriate the self?

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Paradox and Patriotism: What to the Slave is The Fourth of July?

On July 5, 1852, runaway slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass gave a stinging speech on celebrations of American patriotism in the midst of slavery, declaring “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” He gave the speech in Rochester, NY at a holiday celebration that is now forgotten in much of popular American memory–July Fifth, the day free blacks in New York celebrated the abolition of slavery in the state, first set in motion in 1799. Disallowed from marching and participating on July 4th with fellow whites (singly because they were black), African-Americans in New York seized July 5th as the “Black Man’s Independence Day” (‘man’ here should have also included women of course, but… 19th century) and celebrated with speeches, processions and other rituals throughout the day. Douglass used his speech that July 5th in Rochester, some two years after the passage of the notorious Fugitive Slave Act that made the lives of free blacks precarious and dangerous, to lambast the United States for what he saw as its profound hypocrisy–a nation that declared itself a bastion of freedom while owning and heavily profiting (both North and South) from the institution of slavery. It was a paradox that had existed since the dawn of the nation’s founding and was enshrined in some of its most sacred documents–including the Declaration of Independence. The Fourth of July and slavery, as do black Americans and the United States, share a complex and entangled history.

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Early Black Writers, Speculative Fiction and Confronting Racial Terror

BlakeIn the bleakest of moments African-American writers have turned to literature to confront racial terror and the trauma it could induce–turning to poetry, personal narratives, plays and novels. Sometimes, they even dreamed of the fantastic.

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A Steampunk May Day: Black Radicals, Anarchists, Socialists and Reformers

black CPUSA“The bourgeoisie is fearful of the militancy of the Negro woman, and for good reason. The capitalists know, far better than many progressives seem to know, that once Negro women begin to take action, the militancy of the whole Negro people, and thus of the anti-imperialist coalition, is greatly enhanced.”–Claudia Jones, “An End to the Neglect of the Problems of the Negro Woman!” (1949)

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