Art, Music, & Pop Culture

The role of artists in society has always been important. Artists raise awareness about social issues and are often the register of the times. They can reinforce the status quo or they can serve as a catalyst for change. Popular Culture often illuminates where we are all are as a people and a species. We invite critical essays and thinking on art of all types today in the US and abroad.

Black on Black Pride: In Celebration of Olivia, Annalise, and Cookie

By Stephanie Shonekan, Art, Music and Pop Culture Contributing Editor

I never watch the Emmy Awards. Never! But last night I settled down in front of the television because several incredible black actresses were nominated. To be perfectly honest, I subjected myself to what felt like ten hours of bad jokes and annoying ads because of these gifted black actresses, and it was completely worth it.  As a black woman, I was excited and proud to see them all gain recognition from the mainstream media machine, and when Regina King, Uzo Aduba, and Viola Davis were announced as winners, I was ecstatic.  That moment when presenter Taraji P. Henson gave Regina King an extra-long sistah-hug on stage, in front of millions of viewers, captured the essence of black pride I felt last night.

Viola Davis - image by Hollywood Take

There has never been a time when there have been this many primetime mainstream lead roles for black women, among them, Viola Davis as Annalise Keating on How to Get Away with Murder (HTGAWM), Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon on Empire, and Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope on Scandal. It is significant that these shows are not on BET or TVOne (or the defunct UPN network) where major black audiences have easy access to them. Instead, these shows have inserted themselves and their stories into the consciousness of mainstream America. As I tell my students every year, you cannot underestimate the power of pop culture.  When friends and acquaintances of varying ethnicities talk excitedly about these characters, I feel myself nodding as if these women are my sisters. And, I will freely admit, there is something that happens deep in my spirit when I watch my daughters and son watch these shows. I feel a sense of pride that they are able to see these beautiful complex characters played by strong black women who lead their respective shows with such talent and brilliance. (more…)

Sarah: Caretaker of the People’s Camera

By Mariame Kaba Editor’s note: Praxis Center is thrilled to feature the photographs of Sarah Jane Rhee on our home page for the month of February. If you are at a protest or action in Chicago, you can’t miss her. … Continue reading

Why Selma Matters: A Mother’s Perspective

By Stephanie Shonekan, Art, Music, and Pop Culture On MLK day, I took our three teenage children to watch Selma. I worried about the film’s effect on them because I knew it would provide another heavy layer of heart-wrenching historical … Continue reading

Bodies for Bullets

By Denise Miller Author’s note: I wrote this poem to highlight the continued and deadly disregard for female bodies and brown bodies. The italicized sections however have been taken directly from the Declaration of Independence. Please feel free to add … Continue reading

Hip-hop and Ferguson: Black Rage, Don’t Shoot, Be Free

By Stephanie Shonekan In recent years, there has been a growing fear among some black music scholars, critics, practitioners, and partakers that its power as a significant expressive outlet for the community has been eroded. Commercialization, globalization, capitalism, media mania, … Continue reading

Lupita: One Small Step for Dark Girls?

By Stephanie Shonekan, Contributing Editor, Art, Music & Pop Culture In the week of April 21, 2014 People Magazine announced their long anticipated choice of “Most Beautiful Woman” Lupita Nyongo. It was not unexpected because the Kenyan actress had become … Continue reading

Pratibha Parmar Brings Alice Walker’s Art to Life

Repost from Women in the World. Samina Ali interviews Pratibha Parmar, who most recently directed Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth, celebrating the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Parmar speaks about retelling Walker’s words. Read more at … Continue reading