Here’s a blog dedicated to people who are not racist, but… Well, you get the picture. Good grief.
Here’s a blog dedicated to people who are not racist, but… Well, you get the picture. Good grief.
Sharing the 1994 documentary Malcolm X: Make It Plain is a fine way to celebrate Malcolm’s birthday.
For a truly in-depth look at Malcolm X, I recommend he newly published “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention” by Manning Marable. The result of over two decades of tireless research, it clarifies many of the facts and fictions surrounding both Malcolm’s life and death. The fact that the book was an immediate bestseller indicates that Malcolm’s message is as timely today as it was when he was alive. Marable’s book not only helps set the record straight regarding many of the fictional and inaccurate elements in Alex Haley’s book “The Autobiography Of Malcolm X,” it brings Malcolm’s character and humanity into tighter focus. It is an engrossing and illuminating look at a life that has only grown in stature over the years. Malcolm, now more than ever.
Flawed prophet though he may have been, Malcolm X set the standard for young Black men like our President and helped kick down the door that Barack Obama walked through many years ago on his way to where he is now. While no one will mistake President Obama for Malcolm X, there is no doubt that Malcolm instilled in Obama a sense of Black pride and self-respect that, in his better moments, propels the President into doing the right thing despite negative political ramifications. I feel that in those all-too-rare moments when Obama stands up for the disenfranchised and marginalized people in our society, it is because of the long righteous shadows of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Obama can run but he can’t hide from his own people’s history.
Illustration by Gluekit.
Black Hollywood: Blaxploitation and Advancing an Independent Black Cinema is an inexplicably obscure documentary that deserves a wide audience. Directed by Howard Johnson (Deep Roots) in 1984, the film offers an in-depth perspective on race and racism in America’s dream factory: Hollywood.
This 1984 documentary traces the history of black filmmakers, actors, and audiences in America. From Oscar Micheaux to Eddie Murphy, Black Hollywood amasses interviews and clips to explore the role of black entertainers and entrepreneurs. Although progress has been undeniable, the exposure ushered in by blaxploitation movies did little to advance a black cinema independent from Hollywood. After all, the majority of blaxploitation films were financed by white producers who reaped great rewards. Featuring Diahnne Abbot, Rosalind Cash, Alfre Woodard, Jim Brown, Vonetta McGee, D’Urville Martin, Lorenzo Tucker, Joel Fluellen, Vincent Tubbs, and Sidney Poitier.
Enjoy Black Hollywood: Blaxploitation and Advancing an Independent Black Cinema courtesy of our friends at See Of Sound.
In the spring of 1963, San Francisco poet, documentarian, and media activist Richard Moore accompanied and filmed author James Baldwin and Youth For Service Executive Director Orville Luster on a tour through the black-majority Bayview/Hunter’s Point and Fillmore districts of San Francisco. They sought to portray the real experience of African-Americans in what was considered America’s most liberal city.
That outing would result in Take This Hammer, and the footage of it was shot at a crucial time in Baldwin’s life. After 15 years in exile in Paris, the Harlem-born writer was back in the States at the peak of his renown and with political fire in his eyes. His turbulent novels from the ‘50s—especially Go Tell It on the Mountain and Another Country—had stunned the literary world with their exposure of racism and deeply developed queer characters.
During the same spring in which Take This Hammer was shot, Baldwin published the rather incredible essay Down at the Cross, and ended up on the cover of Time. That summer, he’d end his tour of the American South at the March on Washington with a quarter-million of his fellow Americans, with many other celebrities.
Baldwin’s observations certainly set The City’s white lib establishment into fits: “There is no moral distance ... between the facts of life in San Francisco and the facts of life in Birmingham. Someone’s got to tell it like it is. And that’s where it’s at.” Unfortunately, as seen in documents like Kevin Epps’s 2001 doc Straight Outta Hunter’s Point, not much has changed in SF over the generations…
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Baldwin, Brando, Belafonte, Poitier, Mankiewicz and Heston talk Civil Rights, 1963
Thirty years ago today, the famous Brixton riot of spring 1981 brought the long-simmering issues of class, race and police repression to the front pages and TV screens of England.
Brixton was definitely not the first sign of racial unrest in the Thatcher era. A police raid on the Black & White Café in Bristol’s economically hard-hit St. Pauls district the year before had led to a day-long riot among Caribbean youth. And police apathy in investigating a fire at a party on New Cross Road in early ’81 fuelled the notion in South London’s black community that their lives were perceived by the cops as worthless.
In the days before things jumped off in Brixton’s Lambeth area on April 10, cops had launched the charmingly named Operation Swamp 81 in an attempt to curb local robbery and burglary. Over a week, officers stopped almost 1,000 mostly black people—including three members of the Lambeth Community Relations Council—and arrested 118.
Combined with the extremely high unemployment rate among Brixton’s sons and daughters of the Windrush generation of Caribbean immigrants, and the rise of organized white racist activism, the community’s temperature was at peak. As one of the youths put it in one of the films below: “Jobs, money, then National Front…something was bound to happen.” Confusion and bad-faith rumors around police involvement around a stabbing incident was all it took to set off two days of fighting.
The implications of the multiracial Brixton riot unfolded throughout the subsequent summer of that year in Handsworth, Chapletown and Toxteth. Despite the improvements and gentrification that Brixton has seen since ’81, the place hasn’t been free of unrest.
In 2001, director Rachel Currie produced The Battle for Brixton, one of the authoritative video chronicles of the revolt, for the First Edition program.
In a genius move that combines martial arts spoof with his country’s long tradition of satirical theatre, Jamaican video man Simon “Sno” Thompson (a.k.a. Yosef Imagination) has dropped a third episode of the hilarious Konfu Dread series of short videos.
This one goes after the sad and dangerous skin-lightening trend that’s affected developing cities worldwide, from Mumbai to Lagos to Havana. Rooted in a nefarious twining of racial politics, latent colonial mentality and economic disadvantage, skin-lightening’s gone especially harsh in Kingston JA, which has seen wide use of a range of pills and creams with ingredients like mercurous chloride and hydroquinone (see the second video after the jump). Some also use Blue Power brand laundry soap—known as “cake soap”—in the folkloric belief that it lightens the skin, as well as keeping it cool in the sun.
Last fall, dancehall reggae superstar Vybz Kartel, ironically nicknamed “Di Teacha,” propogated the myth by releasing his tune “Cake Soap.” Its chorus—in which Kartel claims his skin “cool like mi wash mi face wit di cake soap”—caused enough controversy to motivate Kartel to admit that he does indeed lighten his skin:
In classic dancehall fashion, fellow star Kiprich took the tune’s rhythm and recorded an anti-lightening answer tune, which features a Jamaican mum ridiculing the craze and a chorus that notes: “Ya can’t get brown, ya coulda buy every cake soap inna town…”
Enter Konfu Dread. As previously featured on Dangerous Minds, Thompson’s production polished the natty martial artist’s street-level vibes in episode two. But for this edition, he takes it back to Kingston’s roads, as the Cake Soap crew goes after the Dread for using their treasured product for its original purpose—washing clothes.
After the jump: a Current TV segment about the serious health problems of skin-bleaching on top of the cultural concerns…
On February 21, 1965 Malcolm X was assassinated by three members of the Newark chapter of the Nation of Islam led by Elijah Muhammed.
The New York Post published this eye witness account by reporter Thomas Skinner on February 22, 1965:
I Saw Malcolm X Die.
They came early to the Audubon Ballroom, perhaps drawn by the expectation that Malcolm X would name the men who firebombed his home last Sunday, streaming from the bright afternoon sunlight into the darkness of the hall. The crowd was larger than usual for Malcolm’s recent meetings, the 400 filling three-quarters of the wooden folding seats, feet scuffling the worn floor as they waited impatiently, docilely obeying the orders of Malcolm’s guards as they were directed to their seats.
I sat at the left in the 12th row and, as we waited, the man next to me spoke of Malcolm and his followers: “Malcolm is our only hope,” he said. “You can depend on him to tell it like it is and to give Whitey hell.” Then a man was on the stage, saying: “. . . I now give you Brother Malcolm. I hope you will listen, hear, and understand.”
There was a prolonged ovation as Malcolm walked to the rostrum past a piano and a set of drums waiting for an evening dance and stood in front of a mural of a landscape as dingy as the rest of the ballroom. When, after more than a minute the crowd quieted, Malcolm looked up and said, “A salaam aleikum (Peace be unto you)” and the audience replied “Wa aleikum salaam (And unto you, peace).”
Bespectacled and dapper in a dark suit, his sandy hair glinting in the light, Malcolm said: “Brothers and sisters . . .” He was interrupted by two men in the center of the ballroom, about four rows in front and to the right of me, who rose and, arguing with each other, moved forward. Then there was a scuffle in the back of the room and, as I turned my head to see what was happening, I heard Malcolm X say his last words: “Now, now brothers, break it up,” he said softly. “Be cool, be calm.” Then all hell broke loose. There was a muffled sound of shots and Malcolm, blood on his face and chest, fell limply back over the chairs behind him. The two men who had approached him ran to the exit on my side of the room shooting wildly behind them as they ran. I fell to the floor, got up, tried to find a way out of the bedlam. Malcolm’s wife, Betty, was near the stage, screaming in a frenzy. “They’re killing my husband,” she cried. “They’re killing my husband.” Groping my way through the first frightened, then enraged crowd, I heard people screaming, “Don’t let them kill him.” “Kill those bastards.” “Don’t let him get away.” “Get him.”
At an exit I saw some of Malcolm’s men beating with all their strength on two men. Police were trying to fight their way toward the two. The press of the crowd forced me back inside. I saw a half-dozen of Malcolm’s followers bending over his inert body on the stage, their clothes stained with their leader’s blood. Then they put him on a litter while guards kept everyone off the platform. A woman bending over him said: “He’s still alive. His heart’s beating.” Four policemen took the stretcher and carried Malcolm through the crowd and some of the women came out of their shock long enough to moan and one said: “I don’t think he’s going to make it. I hope he doesn’t die, but I don’t think he’s going to make it.”
I spotted a phone booth in the rear of the hall, fumbled for a dime, and called a photographer. Then I sat there, the surprise wearing off a bit, and tried desperately to remember what had happened. One of my first thoughts was that this was the first day of National Brotherhood Week.”
Gil Noble, producer and host of the public affairs program Like It Is, directs and narrates this heartfelt documentary on Malcolm X.
Eunice Kathleen Waymon was born 77 years ago today in the tiny town of Tryon, North Carolina. As Nina Simone, she’d go on to become the most powerful singer/songwriter of the Civil Rights era, blending the rawest aspects of jazz, blues, soul, and gospel into a unique style that buoyed her message of liberation.
After the jump: Simone repossesses the Beatles’ “Revolution” and Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” in the name of avant-garde freedom blues…
Somebody’s finally liberated Reggae Britannia, BBC4’s excellent—though by no means not exhaustive—documentary on the origins, growth and influence of British reggae from the ‘60s to the present. Reggae Britannia takes you from the scene’s ska beginnings in the hands of the children of the country’s first post-war wave of Carribean immigrants (known as the Windrush generation), through to the emergence of Bob Marley, the first Brixton riots, the UK sound system phenomenon, the Two-Tone era, reggae’s merging with punk and appropriation by pop, and more. Reggae Britannia is definitely worth a look.
Here’s the trailer…click on any of the title links or graphic above to check the full thing. And please, watch instead of embed so we can hold off our friends at the Beeb from bringing it down for at least a short while.
Innovative L.A.-based electronic music label Plug Research scored big-time when they signed Philly-raised soul singer Bilal Sayeed Oliver in the middle of 2009 to release his revelatory sophomore album Airtight’s Revenge. Bilal left his former label Interscope soon after they shelved his proposed second album, Love For Sale, based on their skepticism of its commercial potential and the fact that it was leaked before official release. Seems like an aphorism for the steady decline of the music industry to me.
Directed by stoned prodigal son Flying Lotus (damn, does that mean he did all that animation?), the recently released video for Bilal’s track “Levels” seems to evince how eagerly the singer has swallowed the red pill. This is some high high Afromythofuturistic material right here.