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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 information for them to carry, which makes their walk more labored than their non-black counterparts in the USA. I hoped that the experience would be beneficial, if for no other reason, to flesh out their historical knowledge, and to show them the rare occurrence of a major feature film directed by a black woman. But most of all, I hoped it would raise their awareness and enhance their sense of identity. This was a risky endeavor because most of their friends spent the holiday watching popular action and horror films. But it was important to me that my children spend the time on this particular film at this particular time.

The tragic murders of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice set the stage for my three children to experience Selma. Within the last year, our family discussions about race in America have been more urgent because of the tangible visual evidence, thanks to smart phone cameras and footage, that racial history continues to evolve and that it impacts us in a real way right now. Our frequent conversations about race are complicated because our children’s understandings of blackness are shaped by the different constructions of blackness within their family.

Rage Against the Narrative: The Whole Damn System

By Lisa Brock, Academic Director Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership

Hello Praxis readers. Welcome to 2015. We launch the second year of Praxis Center with the first of a three-part series, Rage Against the Narrative, by Senior Editor Dr. Lisa Brock. Brock is a historian who is attentive to the way current issues have deep historical roots but are often overlooked or negated in popular renderings.  She is also interested in disrupting and disturbing subliminal power conventions that become so normalized that they are often invisible to some yet cause ongoing psychic harm to others. The series is written in response to the uprising sparked by the killings of unarmed black people throughout the US. The three epigraphs below are gestures to each part.

“The Whole Damn System is Guilty as Hell.” Ferguson Protest Chant
“I don’t do diversity, I do triage.” Donte Hilliard, Former Asst. Dean & Director, Multicultural Student Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Part I: “The Whole Damn System”

Cities in Revolt: Chicago

By David Stovall

Educator and activist David Stovall shares his remarks from a plenary session at the With/Out ¿Borders? conference this past September. This is the second piece in a three-part series on “Cities in Revolt.”

To every person in Detroit who has ever had their water services terminated, to every person in New Orleans who weathered the storm called Katrina, to every family in Chicago that had a child in one of the 49 schools closed last spring, to every family that lives under constant fear of immigration raids in California, Texas, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado, to the families that have lived in Ferguson, Missouri under an apartheid state before Mike Brown’s death: we must understand this political moment as one that is not coincidental, unfortunate or a general instance of happenstance. Instead, it should be understood as a moment where the lives of First Nations (the only Indigenous), Black, Latin@, Arab, and Southeast Asian are deemed disposable in their respective locales.

Police Violence and Youth Resistance: “Mike Brown Means We Got to Fight Back!”

By Dara Cooper, Contributing Editor, Environment, Food, & Sustainability

As a food and environmental justice activist, like many of my comrades, I embrace a global, macro analysis and vision for why we’re fighting. Rooted in the realities of injustice, particularly among communities of color, we understand the quality of our food, air, schools, water, and our overall lives intersect. We understand that white supremacy and capitalism feed on the destruction of our lives and much of our work is centered on creating an alternative future where our children’s children can thrive. We envision collectives, earth justice, sustainable agriculture, sustainable homes, honoring of indigenous values, healthy bodies, healthy relationships, self-determination, pride, educated minds, and so much more. Yet, in the here and now, we see police brutality. We see destruction. We see exploitation. So we work hard, dream, build for a better future, and in the meantime, we fight back.


It is our duty to fight for freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.
– Assata Shakur


Rhetorical Bow Ties Won’t Protect Them

By Mark Anthony Neal | NewBlackMan (in Exile)

Following the election of the first Black President, I recall there was the sudden push—largely among young Black college educated types—for Black youth to wear the part of the constituency that had helped elect Barack Obama. The impulse didn’t strike me as odd—a desire for respectability that is as old as the plantations that raised us—but the investment in a pathology about Blackness did.

These were bright and ambitious young Black folk who believed that their intellect and talents were suspect if their pants sagged, they had gold in their mouth, or wore skirts didn’t cover enough thigh—as if such things have ever mattered to White peers, who regularly show up to classes at elite institutions wearing pajama bottoms, flip-flops and baseball caps.

The sentiments of these young folks seemed to align with those of Academy Award winning screen writer John Ridley (12 Years A Slave), who in a 2006 essay for Esquire Magazine, wrote “In the forty years since the Deal was brokered, since the Voting Rights Act was signed, there have been successes for blacks. But there are still too many blacks in prison, too many kids aggrandizing the thug life, and way too many African-Americans doing far too little with the opportunities others earned for them.”