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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The Afro-Asiatic Mashup

I attended an event at the Smithsonian this weekend called Asia After Dark: Afro-Asiatic Mash-Up. Held in the meditative Moongate garden, the evening featured a “mash-up” of Japanese vogue dance, theater, storytelling, hip-hop music and Afro-funk (Fela!) choreographed by visual artist iona rozeal brown. Among inventive cocktails, Japanese beer and floating origami lotus blossom lanterns, guests were invited to create masks using Asian botanical and Ashanti adinkra symbols from West Africa, while the highlight was a performance of soloist dancer Monstah Black–whose outfit was a dizzying array of Japanese Geisha meets Soulsonic Force topped off by a Gabon-Punu/Lumbo mask. Was pretty dope. And the only thing conspicuously missing in this Afro-Asian fusion was any mention of Wu-Tang Clan. Yet as novel and cutting-edge as all of this meeting of two seemingly un-related cultures and peoples may seem, it’s not really all that new. Asia and Africa have been melding and fusing for quite a long time.

*photo: (L) “…hold on…”–Erykah Badu, 2009 by artist iona rozeal brown- Courtesy of Robert Goff Gallery (R) Muhammad Khan, The Noble Ikhlas Khan With a Petition by Muhammad Khan (17th century), India. c. 1650. in San Diego Museum of Art

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