Category: Black History

Happy Birthday Trayvon; This song is about you [Video]

Last year Darryl Duncan of Gamebeats Studios wrote and produced a beautiful song dedicated to Trayvon Martin and the children killed by violence. We celebrate Trayvon’s 19th year with the song “18”. What do you think of the song?

UPDATE! Behold the revised Italian 12 Years a Slave poster now featuring Chiwetel Ejiofor

12 Years a Slave poster controversy update: Behold the revised poster featuring Chiwetel Ejiofor

Turns out BIM Distribuzione developed the controversial 12 Years posters featuring Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender without authority from the studio. The company recently issued an apology along with a revised poster prominently featuring Chiwetel Ejiofor. The New York Times Artsbeat blog has the scoop: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/27/distributor-apologizes-for-movie-posters-ignoring-chiwetel-ejiofor/?_r=1#!

Has the world gone blackface? A quick study of global mockery of black people

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“How Japan View Black People (Part 2)” Click image to view video

 How do people of other cultures and countries perceive the black experience?   Is the art of blackface a global mockery of black people or an act of self expression? The likeness, lifestyle, language and mannerisms of cultures in the African diaspora are often distorted and used as props, backdrops, accessories, exclamation points, iterations and punchlines. Is black culture to be twisted, deformed and repurposed to fit the objectives of another culture’s agenda? Many think it is harmless fun and will defend the practice.

Recently, Dunkin Donuts Thailand franchise depicted a model in blackface with pink lips to advertise their new charcoal donut. The Human Rights Watch  and other groups were in an uproar. Though the Thailand agency felt that America was being overly sensitive. Dunkin Donuts issued an immediate apology and is in the process of yanking the ad. Was this racism or just ad art misunderstood?

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Dunkin Donuts Thailand Blackface ad

 Asia is notorious for mocking black people in their advertisements and products. Does the fact that blacks are different in skin color, hair texture and features give them the right to racially objectify blacks to sell products? To them, blacks are obviously fascinating and repulsive at the same time.

Racial insensitivity is evident in other countries. Last year, Sweden made world headlines when culture minister  Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, was photographed happily slicing into what is now infamously called the blackface or ni*ger cake at World Art Day in Stockholm. The edible installation was sculpted in the likeness of a grotesquely distorted African woman by black Swedish artist Makode Aj Linde.  it was  meant to provoke strong reaction, awareness and disgust for the brutal practice of female circumcision in Africa.  However it evoked outrage on a global scale. Regardless of who created the “art piece” or why, the installation was considered exploitation of African women and their bodies.  BlackCopy_racist_black_cake

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Model Ondria Hardin as “African Queen” for Numero magazine

France’s Numero fashion magazine caught global flack when  Caucasian model Ondria Hardin, posed as an “African Queen” in their controversial fashion expose’.  In an industry that often shuns models of African descent, Numero found the “look” of Africa intriguing on a white girl.

Mexico’s beloved dimwit, Mimen Pinguin is a longstanding comic strip character known for his street smarts, playful demeanor and ape-like features. Is this flattery or mockery?

Memin Penguin, Mexican comic book character

Memin Penguin, Mexican comic book character

Here in America we have accepted the kindly servants gracing the boxes of Uncle Ben’s rice,  Cream of Wheat and Aunt Jemima. Do we still consider these images culturally insensitive? Or have we accepted these images as harmless age old branding?

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The Mammy cookie jar, a popular souvenir in New Orleans, LA

 New Orleans gift shops are still selling blackfaced Mammy cookie jars with matching salt and pepper shakers and toothpick holders.  Should one be outraged?

If the tables were turned and we used yellow skin and slanted eyes to promote lemon donuts with slits instead of holes would Asians be offended? What about a whiteface with pink pimples selling crackers?

I don’t know. You tell me.

LinkedIn 19th century style: Frederick Douglass endorses Harriet Tubman

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If you’re asked to write a recommendation,  give a LinkedIn  endorsement, or you want someone to write one for you, take some composition tips from Frederick Douglass, one of history’s greatest abolitionists and orators. Frederick Douglass’s statue was recently unveiled June 19 at the state Capital in Washington D.C., an honor long overdue. Douglass was an impressive writer and an edifier of those he admired. In 1868, Douglass wrote an exemplary letter of endorsement for his fellow comrade freedom fighter Harriet Tubman, who was extraordinary in her own right. A biography had just been written about her daring exploits as the conductor of the Underground Railroad.  She was referred to as the “Moses of Her People”.

I bet Frederick and Harriet would have been tight LinkedIn buddies, don’t you agree?

Read and take notes.

Rochester, August 29, 1868 – “Dear Harriet: I am glad to know that the story of your eventful life has been written by a kind lady, and that the same is soon to be published. You ask for what you do not need when you call upon me for a word of commendation. I need such words from you far more than you can need them from me, especially where your superior labors and devotion to the cause of the lately enslaved of our land are known as I know them. The difference between us is very marked. Most that I have done and suffered in the service of our cause has been in public, and I have received much encouragement at every step of the way. You, on the other hand, have labored in a private way. I have wrought in the day – you in the night. I have had the applause of the crowd and the satisfaction that comes of being approved by the multitude, while the most that you have done has been witnessed by a few trembling, scarred, and foot-sore bondmen and women, whom you have led out of the house of bondage, and whose heartfelt, “God bless you,” has been your only reward. The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism. Excepting John Brown – of sacred memory – I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have. Much that you have done would seem improbable to those who do not know you as I know you. It is to me a great pleasure and a great privilege to bear testimony for your character and your works, and to say to those to whom you may come, that I regard you in every way truthful and trustworthy. Your friend, Frederick Douglass.”

— Excerpt, “Letters Of A Nation,” Ed. A. Carroll

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