“At the beginning, when this was the seat of power between the election and the inauguration, it felt subversive to stand here and hold a book. (…) It still feels like contested space. But now, instead of protesters, it’s occupied by Secret Service and law enforcement.”
“If I shut my eyes, I can still feel the fire from those days. And if I open my eyes, I still see the fires all around me. I didn’t like the way the world was, and I believe that there need to be some changes about the way the world is.”
John Carlos won bronze in the 200m dash in the 1968 Olympics and, along with
with Tommie Smith,
protested against racism with a raised fist during the medal ceremony. That iconic protest moment happened this week 49 years ago. The quote is from his 2011 memoir.
Hardcore band United Nations released a ferocious protest song that is basically the sound ringing in my head as I watched Donald Trump’s Inauguration. The song is available on their bandcamp, and all proceeds will be donated to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.
A while ago, when rock’n’roll behemoths like Bruce Springsteen canceled their respective North Carolina shows in a sign of protest against that state’s anti-anti-discrimination bill HB2, Against Me! and particularly frontwoman Laura Jane Grace announced that they would play their show in Durham, but would turn it into a form of protest. And they weren’t kidding: Laura Jane Grace, who is a trans woman, burned her birth certificate on stage, smiling, saying goodbye to gender.
In an earlier interview she also pointed out that, in contrast to Springsteen’s mega stadium shows, her cancelling the gig wouldn’t hurt the city or state financially, and only affect the fans (and, let’s be real, the members of Against Me. The band is fairly successful, but losing touring income must still hurt them.)
As stereogum reports, she also made clear that HB2 is about more than just bathroom access:
“You know, there’s been a lot of focus on just the bathroom part of HB2, but one of the other huge parts is that it takes away a transgender person’s right to sue for discrimination on the state level and that is huge. I mean, if someone else has the right to sue for discrimination and I don’t, how that is constitutional?”
What a terrifying time to rise our voices / But see I’m not left with minimal choices / I gotta put it into action / Doing it A too Z / Until I set myself free
Mavis Staples is one of the greatest gospel, soul and R’n’B singers. With her family’s group. the Staple Singers, she moved from a Christian gospel group to politically active members of the civil rights movement. This perspective is still noticeable in her music today, like this call to Action, The song is written by
tUnE-yArDs’ Merrill Garbus. Marvis Staples’ voice is timeless, the message of her music is still so relevant. Her new album Livin On A High Note is out on Anti- records Febuary 19th.
(I was introduced to Marvis Staples and the history of the Staple Singers by this great interview with Jesse Thorn of NPR’s Bullseye)
Jamila Woods – blk girl soldier
This is so good and so timely. A day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the US, a day that this year was the stage for #BlackLivesMatter protest action, Jamila Woods, a vocalist and poet from Chicago, released this track. The song connects music to protests, both of the civil rights movement era in the 50s/60s and today, as Woods explains:
“I’m interested in figuring out what freedom songs would sound like in 2016. My hope is that ‘blk girl soldier’ is a freedom song for black women today who are fighting the macro and microagressions of daily life in our city/country/world.”
She also sings about #blackgirlmagic, another concept or movement – the positive highlighting of the great and beautiful things Black girls and women – that is controversial because it is so important and effective.
Plus, it’s a really great song with a fantastic beat.
Live from New York! A racist piece of shit!
What a stunning, important, moving, magnificent film. It might have not won the Oscar, but it will surely enter collective cultural memory and countless syllabi.
The entire ensemble of actors and actresses was great, lead by a brilliant David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. Great directing and cinematography, too. For me, the “4 little girls” bomb attack particularly stood out, but there were so many less showy, more mundane or domestic moments that were well done, too. Ava Duvernay did a really good job, I think, at showing Martin Luther King as a human – not a saint – and how important others were for the movement – John Lewis and SNCC, Coretta Scott King, the SCLC, but also local women and organizers in Selma. It’s hard to compare three so different movies as Boyhood, Birdman, and Selma, but Selma is the more important movie. If it’s better than Birdman (which I haven’t seen yet because I live in a cave) or Boyhood (which I also loved) I don’t know, but it’s certainly not worse.
Leading up to the Oscars, an anonymous Academy member claimed that Selma isn’t “art.” In a way, that is even true – if you think of “art” as “l’art pour l’art.” The skilled, artistic work in Selma was not its own end, but is used to create a profound impact and to tell the story of a struggle. A struggle that in many ways is still going on today. Watching the 1st Oval Office scene in which LBJ tells MLK that other issues are more important than the Black vote, I couldn’t help but think of the discussion going on on Twitter between certain White Feminists™ and people of color – particularly Black women – who criticized Patricia Arquette for her backstage remarks and the way Arquette’s framing erased Black women. After people (of color) pointed this issue out, they were immediately called divisive and told to focus on “bigger fish” like wage equality.
Many scenes of the march, particularly when the State Troopers put on their gas masks and clubbed men, women, clergy, and youngsters, immediately brought the last summer in Ferguson to mind. The story Selma tells isn’t over, yet, and the film makers know that. That makes the movie so important and so great.
If you’re protesting abortion, the Supreme Court says you can get right in women’s faces and scream at them on their way into the clinic. Because freedom of speech.
But if you try and protest the murder of a black man, you get tear gas fired at you.
Well, while I am here I’ll do the work –
and what’s the Work?
To ease the pain of living.
Everything else, drunken