By Lisa Brock, Academic Director, Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership and Senior Editor, Praxis Center
On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass, the prolific abolitionist, delivered his now famous 2000-word speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” His purpose was to illustrate the illogicality of US patriotism—that the values of freedom, liberty and the rights of citizenship for some Americans occurred alongside, and in dialectical relation to the obscene system of enslavement, exploitation, and torture of others. When Colin Kaepernick sat on the bench during the national anthem during the football preseason in August 2016, then took a knee during the anthem a few weeks later to protest police violence, he was making the same point; that there is a speciousness to a song meant to uplift some while being sinisterly imbued with a currency of inequality and state violence against others.
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 – exhibited at the Autonomous Zone, a storefront operated by a small group of socially conscious anarchists in Chicago. I met Zolo shortly thereafter when a friend of mine, Elizabeth (Betty) Benson, a longtime activist then in her 80’s, asked me if I’d like to accompany her on a visit to death row at the Indiana state prison in Michigan City. Betty had already been visiting Zolo for several years, taking the South Shore Line from Chicago to Michigan City and then completing the mile or so journey to the prison on foot. On that first visit, I was struck by Zolo’s extraordinary resilience. Sitting across from me was a man with a quick smile and undying optimism, unbroken after fifteen years on death row. How did he manage that?
By Patricia Valoy, Science and Social Justice, Contributing Editor
These days I spend a lot of time preparing. Most people call the time when parents-to-be spend hours on end cleaning and organizing for a new baby “nesting,” but I’m doing so much more than that. Between folding baby clothes, creating space for baby gear, and buying things I’ll need for after the birth, I wonder and worry about how I will manage to raise a Brown baby in the age of Trump.
By Jennifer Ash
On September 9, 1971, nearly 1300 prisoners took over the prison yard at Attica prison in upstate New York demanding changes to their ghastly living conditions. For five days, prisoners created a society for themselves as they elected leaders, held political discussions, listened to speeches, cooked, ate, invited observers in to the yard and negotiated with authorities. On the fifth day, state authorities defeated the rebellion with brutal force, which was later described by an investigatory commission as the “bloodiest encounter between Americans since the Civil War.” On the 46th anniversary of the rebellion, Jennifer Ash discusses Heather Ann Thompson’s Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy as an indictment against an entire system of oppression that continues today.
https://youtu.be/IGhlt5tt7AU Ta-Nehisi Coates dicusses how mass incarceration impacts the Black family and community.
https://youtu.be/MKLPkODHo64 “I think a journalist’s role is to contextualize, to report, to try and be factual, to use stories to illustrate the human condition. I also would add to that–though many people will stop there– it’s to be progressive. Progressive, meaning moving society forward… transparency should be more important than objectivity.”
https://youtu.be/xm519naGni4 It’s been 50 years since Freedom Summer galvanized the civil rights movement, registering voters in Mississippi and urging them to the polls. But the young volunteers focused on the children as well, creating “Freedom Schools” that still exist — in another form — today.
https://youtu.be/SbMksGnmauY A crowd of activists toppled a Confederate statue in Durham, North Carolina, on Monday, just two days after the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. As the crowd shouted “We are the revolution,” a college student named Takiyah Thompson climbed up a ladder, looped a rope around the top of the Confederate Soldiers Monument in front of the old Durham County Courthouse and then pulled the statue to the ground. She was arrested the following day on two charges of felony inciting a riot and three misdemeanor charges, including defacing a statue. Thompson was released last night on a $10,000 unsecured bond. We speak with Thompson about her actions before her scheduled court hearing this morning.
The Charlottesville Syllabus is a resource created by the Graduate Student Coalition for Liberation to be used to educate readers about the long history of white supremacy in Charlottesville, Virginia. With resources selected and summaries written by UVa graduate students, this abridged version of the Syllabus is organized into six sections that offer contemporary and archival primary and secondary sources (articles, books, responses, a documentary, databases) and a list of important terms for discussing white supremacy. Only “additional resources” are not available online (but can be found either through JSTOR, at the library, or for purchase). Read more here.