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Artist creates hyperrealistic sculptures of LA gang members as skin-rugs
08.14.2015
07:54 am

Topics:
Art
Crime
Race

Tags:
sculpture
gangs
Renato Garza Cervera


 
Check out artist Renato Garza Cervera‘s super-disturbing series “Of Genuine Contemporary Beast.” Cervera created sculptures depicting L.A. gang members as rugs, complete with the hokey feral faces a taxidermist would give a tiger or bearskin. If you’re revolted by such a racist and inhumane depiction of dead young men, congratulations—that’s the intended effect; Cervera’s work is supposed to produce discomfort with blatant dehumanization.

Societies always invent new beasts in order to make others responsible for their problems, to express their fears and to invent them a new cover. Mass media play a very important role on this world-wide scapegoating process, by presenting some minorities as uncapable of thinking or feeling, delayed and dispensable people.

The startling detail in the tattoos and skin of each sculpture—right down to their anuses—contrasts so intensely with the uniformity of their faces; the effect is the kind of uncanny creepiness that inspires nightmares.
 

 

 
More of these creepy and provocative artworks after the jump…...
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Take a look at the real ‘Warriors’ from the 1993 documentary film ‘Flyin’ Cut Sleeves’
08.07.2015
07:09 am

Topics:
Class War
Crime
Race

Tags:
gangs
Bronx
Flyin' Cut Sleeves

Savage Skulls gang, Bronx NY
Members of the Savage Skulls circa late 60’s, early 70’s
 
In the ‘60s and ‘70s, gangs not unlike the ones featured in Walter Hill’s The Warriors owned the streets of New York City. The 1993 documentary film Flyin’ Cut Sleeves takes a look back at the volatile years that eventually culminated in a truce and subsequent “peace meeting” held at the Hoe Avenue Boys Club in 1971 by the gangs themselves. The real-life events are strikingly similar to the storyline from Hill’s 1979 film.
 
Young members of the Savage Skulls gang
Young members of the Savage Skulls
 
According to the statements made in Flyin’ Cut Sleeves, in 1969 the NYPD put the number of organized gangs at 100, with membership as high as 11,000. Many gang members were just kids, barely in high school. Some of the most compelling footage in the film comes from interviews that were shot by Rita Fecher, a schoolteacher working at that time in the South Bronx. From her interviews with her students, Fecher was able to glean that the vast majority of her pupils were also active gang members. It is a gritty and dark exploration of a desperate time in New York City—Fecher notes at one point in the film that she received an absence note from a family that could not send their child to school because he had no shoes.

Flyin’ Cut Sleeves was released on DVD in 2010, and you can score a copy here. I’ve included a slew of vintage images of many of the gangs featured in the film as well as Flyin’ Cut Sleeves in its entirety. There’s also a brief NSFW video that was shot at the Hoe Avenue Peace Meeting for you to check out.
 
Gangs of the South Bronx in the 1970's
 
Sagave Skulls gang members
 
After the jump, more remarkable images of the Flyin’ Cut Sleeves gangs as well as the full movie (and a bonus video too).....
 

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
How a Confederate flag nearly stalled Otis Redding’s career


 
One could be forgiven, perhaps, for thinking that the recent and ongoing national conversation (or racist jagoff chest-thumping tantrum, if you prefer) about the appropriateness of Confederate flag display is a new thing. But that point of view is ahistorical; this isn’t new, just newly launched into noisier, more vigorous debate. That symbol has been considered divisive and offensive for quite a long time.

For example, as early as 1961, that flag kept an early Otis Redding single from receiving airplay! Redding’s second single, the acutely Little Richard-ish “Fat Gal/Shout Bamalama,” was released in 1961 on a label called “Confederate Records,” an imprint owned by a young white Georgia car salesman named Bobby Smith. The center label on Confederate’s releases, unsurprisingly, was a design based on the Confederate flag, which all by itself was a good enough reason for R&B DJs to utterly disregard the single. From an article in the December, 2007 issue of Atlanta magazine:

A rebel flag crisscrosses the first vinyl single of “Shout Bamalama,” released by the Confederate Records label in 1961. Consequently, African American disc jockeys chucked it into the trash without bothering to listen. Had they put the needle to the groove, they would’ve heard Otis Redding belting out his jump-blues tribute to Bamalama, a one-eyed busker who played a washboard with a thimble. It was another inauspicious break for the Macon vocalist, who was reportedly booed off the stage, in tears, the first time he performed outside of church.

 

 
Georgia had incorporated that flag into its own in 1956, as an explicit thumbs-up to white supremacy and segregation. Having been advised that adopting it as a logo for his wares was doing him no favors with his intended audience, the no longer so clueless Smith reissued the recording on Orbit Records, an ad hoc label he started for the sole purpose of getting the pariah Dixie flag off of Redding’s single. Per Smith himself:

Otis and I went on the road promoting “Shout Bamalama”. Stopping at Augusta radio station WTHB, we were told by the DJ it would be played if it were taken off the Confederate-flagged record label. I promised to do so. We went on to Columbia, SC and met with a program director, Big Saul at radio station WOIC, who also promised heavy play, but only if the label was changed. Otis and I hit it off very well with Big Saul. As we drove and listened to legendary DJ John R on Nashville ’s WLAC, Otis said, “Bobby, if that man played my record I would think I had made it”. When we returned to Macon, I wasted no time creating the Orbit label and putting “Shout Bamalama” on it. The following week I went to Nashville and talked to John R, and I explained the situation with Confederate and Orbit. John R was impressed with the record and promised me he would give it heavy duty air play.

 

 
No version of the record would get much attention, let alone “heavy duty air play,” but that would all be moot soon enough, as Smith would amicably part ways with Redding in 1962, when Redding leveled up to record for labels like Stax/Volt and Atlantic/Atco (neither of which sported the banners of states that committed treason in the name of preserving a human trafficking economy and surrendered unconditionally 100 years prior). And then, of course, rock history 101 happened, and Redding’s excellent Monterey International Pop Music Festival appearance brought him mass-audience attention, just six months before his tragic death in a plane crash at the age of 26 robbed the world of his potential.

Here’s that single, “Fat Gal” backed with “Shout Bamalama.”
 

 

 
Bonus! Check out the early Redding song which was the basis for “Shout Bamalama,” “Gamma Lama.”
 

 
Gratitude to Art Chantry for bringing this to our attention.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Brawl over the Confederate flag spills into the streets outside of South Carolina’s statehouse
06.30.2015
06:44 am

Topics:
Activism
Idiocracy
Race

Tags:
South Carolina
Confederate flag


Photo posted to Facebook of the scene outside the South Carolina statehouse during a brawl over the Confederate flag.
 
At approximately 7:15 PM on June 29th, a brawl broke out in front of the South Carolina statehouse between supporters of the Confederate flag and protesters seeking to have it removed from the statehouse grounds.

According to the Bureau of Protective Services, about 30 anti-flag protesters were on statehouse grounds when a group of fifteen vehicles carrying pro-flag supporters pulled up and stopped in the middle of Gervais Street, in front of the statehouse. Between eight and ten occupants exited their vehicles and began to engage in an altercation with the crowd.

One eyewitness claimed tensions escalated when a convoy of Confederate flag supporters began shouting “racist remarks” from their vehicles at anti-flag protesters.

According to another eyewitness, a Confederate flag was ripped from a passing car of hecklers. The car following behind stopped, and a passenger emerged, confronting the crowd, inciting the brawl.

Another eyewitness stated, “several people were fighting and it spilled into Gervais St, and some people started pulling over and getting out of their cars to join in. Police began separating the two groups and pushing them back onto the statehouse grounds, and then a small group charged the other group, a quick secondary scuffle broke out, and then the small group took off running with several dudes chasing them behind the capitol.”

One man was arrested at the scene and charged with disorderly conduct.

An anti-Confederate flag rally on June 20th attracted nearly 2000 protesters. A similar rally is scheduled for July 4th. The Ku Klux Klan has also scheduled a pro-Confederate flag rally for July 18. It looks like it’s going to be a long, hot summer.

Here is eyewitness footage of the fight:
 

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
‘God don’t like ugly’: Confederate flag parade in Georgia goes hilariously WRONG!


 
This had me on the floor laughing and crying, not the least because of the hilarious commentary coming from behind the camera which predicts what’s to come. But what happens at the end is just too, too perfect. Thank god for smartphones or else we wouldn’t be laughing about these dipsy doodles and their instant karma.

This is less than two minutes long, watch the entire thing and know that your time will be well-rewarded.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
On the wrong side of history: Scenes from a South Carolina pro-Confederate flag rally


 
Fulfilling my obligations as Dangerous Minds’ Senior Southern Affairs correspondent, I wrote last week about the deadly church shooting in Charleston which took the lives of Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Clementa C. Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson. That article examined the whirlwind of events that took place in the week following the murders, most notably Governor Nikki Haley and several flip-flopping Republican lawmakers calling for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the SC statehouse grounds.

In the few days since, there have been several newsworthy events related to the shooting, the white-supremacist ideology behind it, and the Confederate flag issue. Friday saw President Obama give a moving eulogy for slain South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney, which included a pitchy, but truly tear-jerking rendition of “Amazing Grace” sung by the POTUS himself. On Saturday, activist and fearless badass, Bree Newsome, in an inspiring display of civil disobedience, shimmied the 30 foot SC statehouse flagpole and removed the Confederate flag before being arrested by State Troopers. Also, in the past week a string of nighttime fires have hit at least six predominantly black churches in Southern states.

Saturday morning, June 27, just a few hours after Bree Newsome’s act of civil disobedience, a rally was held at the SC statehouse, organized by supporters of the Confederate flag, expressing their desire to keep the antiquated banner flying in front of the seat of South Carolina government. In contrast to a rally held last week calling for the removal of the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds which attracted nearly 2000 people, Saturday’s pro-flag rally attracted approximately 50 self-professed “history scholars.”
 

June 27th South Carolina statehouse flag rally. All photos by Bickel.
 
A Facebook post listed the rally as taking place between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. I snapped photos between 10:30 and 11:00 am. There was relatively little media covering the “event.” The flag supporters dispersed later in the day when both a rainstorm and about 50 members of the “Better Consciousness Foundation,” a group comprised of leaders from the Bloods, Folk Nation (G.D.N), and the Crips, organized for social justice, arrived on the scene.

Here are my photos from the “Save the Flag” rally. Click on the thumbnail to see a larger version. The turnout was so adorably pathetic, you almost feel sorry for them. As we say in South Carolina, “bless their hearts.”
 

Fittingly lonesome visual statement on the “keep the flag” camp. Click on image for larger version.
 

A man, identified by onlookers as “maybe Katt Williams’ cousin” displays his Southern pride.
 

The protesters went to great lengths to frame themselves as non-racists. This lady yelled to reporters at the scene, “I bet y’all won’t report this: I had dinner with a black man last night!” She then said, I shit you not, “some of my best friends are black people.” A man to her right chimed in that he was willing to bet it was a great dinner because “black people know how to cook.”
 

In all probability, you is.
 

“Freebird!”
 
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Charleston, the Confederate flag, Amazon, Skrewdriver, The Dukes of Hazzard, and moving forward


Pro-Confederate flag protester at a recent rally. Photo by Bickel.
 
As Dangerous Minds’ Senior Southern Affairs correspondent and a proud South Carolinian, I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer some commentary on the events that have transpired in my state since the tragic Emanuel A.M.E. Church shooting which took the lives of Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Clementa C. Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson.
 

 
This unfathomable event has shaken South Carolina to its core, but the fallout has been rather remarkable. A 21-year-old self-professed white supremacist brutally murdered nine innocent people in a church with the intention of starting—in his own words—a “race war.” The end result was far from what the young assassin intended. Black and white communities came together in mourning. A much-needed dialogue on racial relations came about, which had no choice but to FINALLY address the southern-fried elephant in the room: the continued flying of the Confederate battle flag on the South Carolina statehouse lawn.
 

 
The Confederate flag has been a bone of contention in South Carolina ever since it was put atop the statehouse flagpole in 1962 (as many believe, a reaction to and resistance of integration and the civil rights movement.) The debate over the flag has been ongoing with one side of professed “history buffs” declaring it part of their Southern heritage, and with another side of people who believe the flag is a symbol of white supremacy—a longing for sepia-toned antebellum days when blacks “knew their place” (as plantation slaves).

Undoubtedly for some, it does tie back to ancestors who lost their lives in a “state’s rights” battle against what they perceived to be an overreaching federal government, and for some others it simply represents collard greens and sweet tea, doing donuts in a mud-bog and the genteel Southern manner.

Still, there are many who recognize it as the flag of choice flown by the Ku Klux Klan and segregationists—a banner under which people of color have been systematically terrorized and lynched for decades. A reminder of a war fought for “state’s rights”—including the right to keep human beings as slaves.

The “stars and bars” has remained flying at the statehouse because the “it’s heritage, not hate” crowd have maintained a power dynamic in South Carolina politics, unwilling to concede that there are any racist connotations to the symbol and unwilling to accept that for a large segment of the the state’s population, that symbol makes them uncomfortable or downright fearful, because of an altogether different history and heritage (of hate).
 

Protester at a recent pro-Confederate flag event. Photo by Bickel.
 

Protesters at a recent pro-confederate flag event. Photo by Bickel.
 

Protester at a recent pro-Confederate flag event. Photo by Bickel.
 
The question has been asked for years,” If this flag isn’t racist, then why do racists LOVE this flag?” No one on the pro-flag side ever seems to have a great answer for that. A few years back I did a photo essay on a now-defunct landmark in Laurens, SC called “The Redneck Shop.”
 

The Redneck Shop. Laurens, SC. Photo by Bickel.
 
The Redneck Shop was run by John Howard, a Grand Dragon in the South Carolina KKK, and served as headquarters for the Aryan Nations World Congress, as well as campaign headquarters for John Bowles who ran for president as the neo-Nazi National Socialist Order of America party candidate. The back room was a meeting hall with a huge mural featuring the swastika next to a portrait of American Nazi, George Lincoln Rockwell. The front room was a shop carrying a full line of Nazi and Klan related paraphenalia and racist T shirts—but what was there more of than anything else? Confederate flags, EVERYWHERE. Anything you can imagine putting a Confederate flag on, they had it at The Redneck Shop. That visit left a lasting impression, and it became even more clear to me afterwords what that flag meant to white-supremacists. 
 

The Redneck Shop. Laurens, SC. Photo by Bickel.
 
Still, so many SC politicans seemed unconvinced—until that horrible, bloody event took place in Charleston last week. But, make no mistake—that tragedy in and of itself did not get the dialogue started on the meaning of the Confederate Flag as a symbol of white supremacy. It took the killer making the most specific statement possible in big bold capital letters, essentially saying “I AM A WHITE SUPREMACIST MURDERER AND BY THE WAY CHECK OUT THESE SELFIES:”
 

There’s no arguing the “brand” anymore.
 
Remarkably, it only took five days for major Republican players who previously were pro-flag, or unwilling to give an opinion one way or the other, to realize they had to distance themselves from that AND QUICK. On June 22nd, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley made the announcement that it was time for the flag to go and that she would be calling for a special legislative session to deal with the issue. For many of us who had attended decades of fruitless protests (and, uh, written bad punk songs about it) it was cause for long-awaited celebration. Finally the pro-flag people were willing to listen—and it only took nine people being murdered, and those murders being directly tied to the symbol of the Confederacy!  But still, maybe for the wrong reasons, the right thing was done. I remember thinking while watching Governor Haley’s press conference, “she just ended her career as a South Carolina politician, but began her career as a national politician.” Mark those words.
 

South Carolina Governor, Nikki Haley. Photo by Bickel.
 
What happened next was an interesting little “fuck you” to Dylann Roof and his masterplan: Walmart, Amazon, eBay and Sears all announced plans to remove the Confederate flag from their inventories. Roof brought the politicization of the flag right out into the spotlight and corporate America said “we don’t want our brands associated with THAT BRAND.” Now let’s be real, certainly these retailers are doing this because it’s a “trending” issue and they want free publicity and positive PR. One would imagine cost benefit analyses were in hand before making this call, but its a thought-provoking turn of events in response to the Charleston tragedy. As one of my friends remarked today, “If you are bending yourself into contortions trying to defend the Confederate flag as a symbol that has nothing to do with racism, congratulations- you are less progressive than Walmart.”

But all of this brought about another conversation. Many have called Walmart, Amazon, eBay, and Sears’ decision a form of “censorship.” While this is certainly in no way “censorship”—any business makes basic decisions over what they are going to stock or not stock, it’s the “market” at work—it may be worth examining the way in which corporations respond to changes in consumer values. This is all playing out very quickly. The main argument for bringing the flag down from the South Carolina statehouse was that it did not represent the entire constituency of the state, but corporations are not beholden to their customers in the same way—though there is an interest in protecting their brand. Going forward, how are decisions made as to what is OK and not OK to stock? Especially under the umbrella of companies like Amazon and eBay which act as aggregates for hundreds of thousands of third-party sellers. And as large as these companies are, do they even know what they are selling?
 

Amazon listing for white-power band, Skrewdriver.
 
Case in point, “rebel” flags are gone from Amazon’s listings, but are you in the market for some white-power skinhead rock? Look no further, Amazon has you covered! A simple search on the keyword “Skrewdriver” over at Amazon will pull up DOZENS of Nazi skinhead albums, both by Skrewdriver and by several other white-power Oi! groups. And let me save you a trip to the comments section by pointing out that, yes, you can buy Skrewdriver’s first album, the one they made “before they were racists.”

If Amazon is going to discontinue sales of the Confederate flag, should they also discontinue sale of Skrewdriver records? Or what about Nazi SS flags?  That would seem like a given, but HERE THEY ARE, GUYS:
 

 
Should you be able to buy Hail the New Dawn at the same place you buy your Huggies and ink cartridges? I don’t have this answer. Personally, yeah, I have issues with the Confederate flag and what it stands for. Certainly, I have issues with Skrewdriver’s lyrical content. Do I think these things should be “banned”? Certainly not, if by “banned” you mean the government passing laws against their existence. As John Oliver said on last Sunday’s edition of Last Week Tonight, “The Confederate flag is one of those symbols that should really only be seen on t-shirts, belt buckles and bumper stickers to help the rest of us identify the worst people in the world.” I don’t mind someone identifying with that symbol as it identifies them to the rest of us. I enjoy our First Amendment rights. They allow me to get away with a lot of shit here at Dangerous Minds. But what a company chooses to stock or not stock has nothing to do with Freedom of Speech—no one is saying you can’t obtain your flags or Skrewdriver albums, or copies of The Turner Diaries ($8.69 on Kindle, folks!) someplace else.

But the ever-present “slippery slope” questions get raised - who will make these decisions and where will lines be drawn? Should lines be drawn? Of course the answer is always going to be in the form of a question: “is this hurting our corporate image and therefore affecting our bottom line?” If it suddenly becomes a liability for Amazon to sell Skrewdriver records like it became a liability for them to sell Confederate flags, then they’ll stop.

But don’t worry, champions of liberty, this is not the end of free speech. There will always be an Interstate truck stop or flea market stall waiting to take up the sale of these items to increase their own bottom line—so long as the demand exists, which it, unfortunately, likely will.
 

Doge will rise again. Photo courtesy The J Train.
 
It’s fascinating how quickly these reactions to the Charleston shooting have played out, with the entire opposite of Dylann Roof’s intended effect. We’ve seen crucial and necessary conversations on racial disparity begin, we’ve seen action on the Confederate flag, and we’ve also seen some bizarre fallout. One change.org petition calls for SC to replace the Confederate flag with James Brown’s cape. Some of us will be giving up a little bit of our own “heritage” as ‘80s kid TV viewers with Warner Brothers announcing it will no longer license models of the Dukes of Hazzard muscle-car, The General Lee, due to the rooftop rebel flag. Shit, I can live with that. The main thing is, whether taking down the flag, or removing it from store shelves, or taking it off the Dukes of Hazzard car, or WHATEVER makes any difference or not in healing this country, at least we seem to be TRYING—at least we’re clumsily moving forward and not letting the Dylann Roofs of the world win.
 

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Video game update scrambles race and penis length for avatars with hilarious results (NSFW)
06.23.2015
12:59 pm

Topics:
Games
Race
Science/Tech
Sex

Tags:
penis length
Rust


 
Rust is a survival video game for PC/Mac/Linux in which players have to do their best to cobble together the most rudimentary kind of life after an extreme bug-out bag scenario. Quoting the promotional text for the game, “The only aim here is to survive. To do this you will need to overcome struggles such as hunger, thirst and cold. Build a fire. Build a shelter. Kill animals for meat. Protect yourself from other players. Create alliances with other players and together form a town. Whatever it takes to survive.”

In initial versions of the game, every character was white, but in March the game developers introduced a broader racial palette in an update—the tricky thing being that race is randomly assigned to avatars based on a randomized agorithm based on the player’s Steam ID—and can never be changed again. On a blog post, lead developer on the game Garry Newman explained, “Everyone now has a pseudo unique skin tone and face. Just like in real life, you are who you are – you can’t change your skin colour or your face. It’s actually tied to your steamid.”

It’s a risky strategy when you consider that if a white supremacist broheim ends up having to play the game with a black guy as his on-screen surrogate, he might well just stop playing altogether. Of course, the gamble is that people’s desire to enjoy the game trumps their seldom-examined racial biases.
 

 
As Kotaku commented, “Multiplayer survival game Rust ... randomly generates players’ physical characteristics for them, imitating the screaming chaos of biology rather than letting players choose. It then ties that selection to players’ Steam ID (as opposed to a single session or server) so they can’t game the system. You work with what you’ve got. Earlier this year, the development team added skin tone to the mix, prompting some controversy and even in-game racism.”

Now this week Rust developers have added a fascinating new quirk—randomized penis length. Just as with skin color, penis length is a randomly generated outcome based on the Steam ID. On reddit an mp4 file was posted demonstrating some of the variance in physical build, both for the avatars’ full bodies and for their penises. It’s one of the funnier things I’ve seen lately—here’s a taste:
 

 
Forcing players to deal with their god-given (new) race or penis size is the kind of immersive mindfuck only video games can deliver. It may have been noticed that all of the avatars mentioned so far in Rust are male. The developers recently let it be known that they are “investigating a female model.” To their credit they are pushing for the opposite side of the female body type spectrum as Tomb Raider: “We really don’t want to make the female model unrealistic in the sense of her being aesthetically idealised. In the same way that our male models aren’t perfect specimens of the male body, neither should the female be. No huge boobs nor four-inch waists here.”

Indeed, in our all-too-familiar world in which women are objectified by default, it’s refreshing to see women’s bodies depicted in a realistic way—and to see men get the exact same kind of treatment.

Here’s a depiction of the Rust female bodies in development:
 

 
via Kill Screen

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Portrait of Jason’: 1967 doc about a gay African-American hustler is hilarious and heartbreaking

Portrait of Jason
”The most extraordinary film I’ve seen in my life is certainly ‘Portrait of Jason.’ It is absolutely fascinating.”—Ingmar Bergman

During a winter night in 1966, director Shirley Clarke brought her friend, Jason Holliday, to her apartment atop the Chelsea Hotel in New York City and filmed him for twelve consecutive hours. Over the course of the evening, Jason drinks and gets high as he tell stories of his life as a gay, African-American man. Clarke took the footage and edited it down to 95 minutes, resulting in Portrait of Jason (1967). In the film, Jason is charming, entertaining, funny, contradictory, and boorish. His stories concerning class, race, sexuality, and identity alternate between humorous and tragic, all told by a man who appears larger than life.

Portrait of Jason is a landmark film. In this setting, an individual was allowed to simply tell his story over the course of a film’s standard running time. Its cinéma vérité style brings to mind Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests, as well as the films of John Cassavetes, but Clarke’s work is a truly unique movie experience. This mainly has to do with Jason Holliday (a/k/a Aaron Payne), the only person who appears on screen.
 
Jason Holliday
 
Jason talks about his life as a prostitute, houseboy, and drug user, as well as his dreams of becoming a nightclub performer, in a completely engaging, charming manner. His enthralling, yet heartbreaking tales of racism and homophobia—at a time when the ink on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had barely dried, and, due to anti-sodomy laws, sex between gay men was still illegal in most of the United States—are told with a laugh and a shrug. So be it, he says; through it all, he’s had a ball. It’s obvious he has a knack for storytelling, and though what he’s experienced may be true, it all feels like a performance.
 
Jason Holliday
 
Early on, Jason talks of being a hustler able to sweet talk anyone into anything, and you can clearly see why, because as a viewer you are taken in by this man from the get-go. Having said that, about half through the film I found myself exhausted by Jason’s stories and continuous, riotous laughter. When reading up on the film, I discovered that’s part of what Clarke was trying to get across; as the director later commented, her subject “is both a genius and a bore.”
 
Jason Holliday
 
At a certain point, after hours of storytelling and consumption of that truth serum known as alcohol, it appears his façade has cracked and the bona fide Jason/Aaron begins to emerge—or does it? Part of what makes Portrait of Jason so fascinating is the inability to know what is genuine and what is performance.
 
Jason Holliday
 
Nevertheless, I do believe it’s safe to say that Jason is struggling. Among other aspects of this life, he grapples with what kind of person he is; he admits to being both a deceiver and someone who “can be hurt in a second.” Though he has lived a unique life up to that point, a kind most will never know, it is through his contradictions, his inherent humanity, that we can see aspects of our own existence. Jason’s continually trying to make sense of who he is, all the while shifting between the walls of protection he has erected and allowing himself to be vulnerable, constantly moving forward as he smiles through a life filled with sadness and regret. Even if we rarely talk about those facets of being, it is through Shirley Clarke’s dazzling character study that we can relate, which is why Portrait of Jason endures.
 
Jason Holliday
 
In 2013, a restored version of Portrait of Jason arrived in theatres. It’s now available on DVD and Blu-ray via Milestone Films. If you have any interest in reading more about this incredible film, you’ll want to check out Milestone’s press kit.

Here’s a clip of Jason talking about his experience as a houseboy, in which he touches on issues of class and racism:
 

 
More ‘Jason’ after the jump…

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
Civil Rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer speaks about her childhood as a sharecropper
06.03.2015
05:46 am

Topics:
Activism
Feminism
History
Politics
Race

Tags:
Fannie Lou Hamer


 
I was at the Library of Congress last week, and while it was utterly grand to be there, I rolled my eyes so hard I nearly snapped a couple of cables when I spotted that pernicious Thomas Carlyle quotation high up on the wall: “THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD IS THE BIOGRAPHY OF GREAT MEN.” Look, I understand that it was put there over a century ago, and I wouldn’t expect simple values dissonance alone to be a sufficient reason to alter something so historical, but it was still a drag to see that in 2015 (the exhibit lionizing Columbus and Cortez’s New World explorations without mentioning the word “genocide” anywhere was also a disappointment—the USA still has a loooooong-ass way to go).

One of the deep faults of the “Great Man” theory of history is that it excludes the contributions of thousands, if not millions, of unheralded activists who, though they didn’t happen to be the marquee names who got to make speeches that were recorded for posterity, still committed much of their resources and lives to the causes and movements that shaped the world we live in. A more obvious flaw is the continually maddening omission of great women. For example, I hold it as a significant demerit (among many) of the public education system that I never knew the name of the amazing Shirley Chisholm, the first black congresswoman and the first major-party black candidate for President of the United States, until my late college years, when I was channel-surfing and I randomly caught a doc about her on PBS.

Another such figure I’m salty about never learning about in school, also from the US Civil Rights Movement, as it happens, is voting rights organizer Fannie Lou Hamer, a crucial activist and orator whose contributions to freedom in America are not, by my reckoning, sufficiently heralded—she not only endured being beaten and shot at, she underwent a non-consensual hysterectomy as part of a eugenics program. Justifiably furious at such shocking abuse at the hands of her doctor, she dove headlong into activism, helping found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and giving a powerful and pivotal speech to the 1964 Democratic National Convention Credentials Committee, challenging the legitimacy of Mississippi’s all-white delegation, and describing the horrors she endured for merely trying to register to vote. Presumptive nominee Lyndon Johnson, in a total asshole move, tried to keep the speech out of the news by calling a specious press conference. Hamer got crazy amounts of news coverage anyway.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
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