Dreaming of Harriet Tubman

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Harriet Tubman is finally set to grace the front cover of the $20 bill. For many it’s a dream come true, especially since folk been “dreaming of Harriet” for a minute.

Image: from a source I won’t name that seemed to be parodying black history with an allusion to “Harriet Tubman in space.” I am both jacking and subverting that sh*t.

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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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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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How to Spite A Racist Troll: Support Black Dreams

FH2TIMBUKTUThis March, African-American indie author Milton Davis released his long-awaited Steamfunk adventure From Here to Timbuktu. Filled with heroes, heroines and (of course) all things steam, the story is set an alternate 19th century world where the United States shares North America with a nation of liberated slaves called Freedonia, Mali is still a powerful kingdom in West Africa and an ambitious Prussian officer has nefarious motives. It’s a fascinating, imaginative bit of world building that should be welcomed by everyone in the genre. Not so however for racist trolls, who live to crush black dreams.

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People Are Alike All Over: The Human Zoo

humanzoogermanyIn the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as race science blended with the new colonial imperialism, “human zoos” became all the rage in the west. Placed into “natural habitats,” adorned in “traditional dress” and sometimes behind bars, people from “exotic” lands were put on display for a gawking public. All of this to prove the racial theories of the day–that people after all were not alike all over.

Art- Poster of the “Peoples Show” (Völkerschau) in Stuttgart (Germany), 1928

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