Alma Sheppard-Matsuo artwork
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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.

Nancy Drew and the Syndication of White Savior Feminism

By Kirsten Ginzky

Relatable-yet-superhuman, Nancy Drew has been an enduring cultural icon, debuting in 1930 and starring in hundreds of books along with films, television series, and video games. When I was introduced to Nancy in 1998, I devoured every volume of the yellow-spined mystery series that I could get my hands on. The heroine is a spunky, prodigious girl detective who solves hundreds of cases, succeeding when lawmen cannot. Nancy is sarcastic, confident, and an ace at evading the many criminals who tail her powder blue Mustang convertible during high-speed chases. In the early 20th century, the Nancy Drew series was lauded as presenting “an amazing alternative to the career choice of secretary and milliner that other children’s books provided” (Paretsky, 1991, p. 9). The syndication of the ‘Nancy Drew’ archetype created a significant blueprint for modern American girl and womanhood – one that helped inspire a model of empowered womanhood that dominates 20th and 21st century American life with a Who’s Who of public figures including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonya Sotomayor, Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, Diane Sawyer, Laura Bush, Barbara Walters, Nancy Pelosi, and Sandra Day O’Connor (Murphy, 2009; Shipman & Rucci, 2009) citing her as an inspiration. Viewing Nancy with an intersectional lens complicates this narrative: aspirational, independent, but never rebellious, Nancy Drew is a thoroughly modern product, created through a fine-tuned capitalist production and distribution model. Her actions and beliefs reflect both traditional middle-class values and the expanding role of American youth and women in the wake of the Progressive Era. The books affirm WASP superiority and the original editions, revised in the 60s, are rife with racial stereotypes. A contemporary reader could easily dismiss Nancy Drew as an upper-middle-class ‘white savior.’ (more…)

A Hip Hop Head’s Response to Wynton Marsalis

By Langston Collin Wilkins Jazz musician, critic, and educator Wynton Marsalis recently sent shockwaves around the music world by making some inflammatory comments about hip hop music. In a conversation with Washington Post columnist Johnathan Capehart for the Cape Up podcast, … Continue reading

Black Panther and Unforgivable Radicalism

By Christian Rozier “Without an image of tomorrow, one is trapped by blind history, economics, and politics beyond our control…Only by having clear and vital images of the many alternatives, good and bad, of where one can go, will we … Continue reading

Afrofuturism

Course Description: Afrofuturism is a black aesthetic practice that combines elements of African mythology, science fiction, African Diaspora history, magic realism and political fantasy in black expressive texts across multiple media and artistic forms. Rooted in the generalized practice of … Continue reading

The Funke Wisdom of Chocolate Cities

By Mary F. Corey  A Review of Chocolate Cities: the Black Map of American Life by Marcus A. Hunter & Zandria F. Robinson, University of California Press Mathematically it all adds up All people are equal, but equal to what? Once … Continue reading

Songs for Survival: A 2018 Playlist

By William C. Anderson A little over a year ago when I made the first Songs For Survival playlist I was trying to help people feel a little better. I thought music would help people through the times ahead, which … Continue reading

Yoga and the Roots of Cultural Appropriation

By Shreena Gandhi and Lillie Wolff To the so many white people who practice yoga, please don’t stop, but please do take a moment to look outside of yourself and understand how the history of yoga practice in the United States is … Continue reading

Rethink Shinola

By Rebekah Modrak RETHINK SHINOLA is a multi-part, Internet-based artwork analyzing and critiquing the branding messages publicized by the company Shinola, founded in 2011. Shinola’s name is “a nod” to the former Shinola, a shoe polish company that promoted its … Continue reading

Free All the Political Prisoners

By Zolo Agono Azania I was introduced to Zolo Azania some twenty years ago through his artwork – striking portraits of Harriet Tubman, Malcom X and Emmet Till, artwork that reflected Zolo’s deep commitment to the Black freedom struggle – … Continue reading

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