In a Women’s History Month special, Democracy Now! speaks with author, activist and scholar Angela Davis, professor emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her latest book is titled “Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement,” a collection of essays, interviews and speeches that highlight the connections between struggles against state violence and oppression throughout history and around the world. “There are moments when things come together in such a way that new possibilities arrive,” Davis says. “When the Ferguson protesters refused to go home after protesting for two or three days, when they insisted on continuing that protest, and when Palestinian activists in Palestine were the first to actually tweet solidarity and support for them, that opened up a whole new realm.”
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.
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”
By Shayna Plaut, Contributing Editor, Human Rights
Praxis is the intersection of theory and practice and, as we commemorate international human rights day, it is only fitting that we examine the praxis of human rights. How can we have laws – international laws, ratified by the vast majority of countries – outlawing discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity, laws requiring states and communities to take proactive steps to ensure that all children are safe and laws that ban torture, at the same time that young black boys are being beaten and shot by police with impunity? Or at the same time that reports are being released, nine months late, detailing the systemic targeting and torture of Muslim men by US government officials? Does the failure of implementation mean the promise of human rights is false?
http://youtu.be/znRDSfcENlw #BlackLivesMatter In order of appearance: Voice of Georgie Booker @GeorgettaBook Patrisse Cullors @osope Justin Danzy @Danzy_ Sarah Bragg @Krimson_Kinks Kalkidan Amare @kweenkalki Rian Brown @FearlessNFree Missouri footage courtesy of Yohana Iyob @nuwayu
By Dara Cooper, Contributing Editor, Environment, Food, & Sustainability
This past November 2nd was the 35th anniversary of a day celebrated by many as Assata Shakur Liberation Day. It is the day former Black Panther Assata Shakur was liberated from a maximum-security prison, a day many acknowledge as a celebration of freedom fighters, political prisoners and exiles.
Although Shakur is widely lauded as an activist, freedom fighter, artist, and important public intellectual, the U.S. government persistently characterizes her as an enemy of the state, a terrorist. In May 2013, the FBI placed Shakur on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list and doubled the bounty for her capture to an outrageous $2 million, even though she has been granted political asylum in Cuba. But, as Mos Def eloquently declares with the title of his essay about Shakur: “The Government’s Terrorist is Our Community’s Heroine.”
“Viewed through the lens of U.S. law enforcement, Shakur is an escaped cop-killer,” Mos Def explains. “Viewed through the lens of many Black people, including me, she is a wrongly convicted woman and a hero of epic proportions.”
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.
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
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, and a voracious music industry have resulted in a trend that glorifies “booties,” “bling,” “beef,” and “Benjamins.”
From its roots in West Africa, art and music have always been an integral part of black life. Over time, wherever the Diaspora spread, the music remained functional, responding to the needs of the people to tell stories, recite histories, complement worship, aid work and labor, enhance celebration, and urge action against the evolving manifestations of oppression and racism.
African American artists like Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, Miles Davis, James Brown, and Marvin Gaye created compelling beautiful music that commented on the experience of blackness in a tense racialized environment. From the late 1970s and into the 1990s hip hop artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, Public Enemy, Eric B and Rakim, NWA, Black Star, and Dead Prez continued the tradition.