Slavery By Another Name

Slavery by Another Name is a 90 minute documentary that challenges one of America’s most cherished assumptions: the belief that slavery in this country ended with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.


Bill Moyers interviews Douglas A. Blackmon the author of the book that inspired the documentary.




Also see: Slavery By Another Name.


Queloides: Race and Racism in Cuban Contemporary Art

René Peña, Samurai, fotografía, 133 x 69.5 cm. 2009.

The  W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University is hosting an extraordinary art exhibition that focuses on issues of race and racism in Cuba. Queloides: Race and Racism in Cuban Contemporary Art is part of a long-term project that began with an exhibition curated by Alexis Esquivel and Omar Pascual Castillo in 1997, at Casa de Africa in Havana. Despite the poor coverage and lack of recognition of the first exhibit, a second and larger show was organized by the late Ariel Ribeaux Diago in Havana, in 1999. But it wasn’t until a 2010 exhibition at the Wifredo Lam Center of Contemporary Art, an exhibit space run by the Cuban government, that Queloides drew its largest audiences. The third show succeeded beyond expectations due to the strength of the curated works and as a result of a word-of-mouth campaign to promote it. The Cuban government, wary of the themes and the content of the exhibit, refused to allow it to be publicized.

Alejandro de la Fuente (a Professor of History and Latin American Studies at the University of Pittsburgh) and Elio Rodríguez Valdés (a Cuban-born artist who currently lives in Spain) organized and curated Queloides for its North American debut and tour in 2011. They serve as guest curators for the exhibit hosted by the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, which opened on January 25 and runs until May 30, 2012 in the Rudenstine Gallery at Harvard University.

The English translation for the word Queloides is “keloids,” which is a type of raised scar that many Cubans (and others) believe black skin is particularly susceptible. Aside from invoking the scars of racism in contemporary Cuba—a topic that remains taboo in the public discourse—it also is suggestive of the scars left on the backs of enslaved Africans who were beaten for their resistance and rebellion.

Featured artists in the exhibition, all of whom are Cuban-born, include Pedro Álvarez, Manuel Arenas, Belkis Ayón, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Roberto Diago, Alexis Esquivel, Armando Mariño, René Peña, Marta María Pérez Bravo, Douglas Pérez, Elio Rodriguez, and José Toirac/Meira Marrero. These talented women and men approach their subjects from a variety of perspectives, using diverse media to present their visions.

The artists of Queloides deal with issues of race and racism in different ways. All of their work, however, offers a revisionist and critical reading of the history of Cuba, a reading that highlights the contributions of the Africans and their descendants to the formation of the Americas in general, and the Cuban nation in particular. Their Cuba is not the harmonious and fraternal Cuba portrayed in official national narratives, but a nation built on violence, slavery, rape, and the unbearable stench of the slave ships. It is a Cuba where colonial legacies remain alive, feeding discrimination and exclusion.

Armando Mariño La Patera, instalación (carro, piernas) 2010.

Alexis Esquivel, Smile, you won!

Manuel Arenas, Cuidado hay negro, instalación , 2010

Manuel Arenas, Cuidado hay negro, instalación , 2010

Click the following link for more information on the exhibition: Spring 2012 – Queloides: Race and Racism in Cuban Contemporary Art | W.E.B. Du Bois Institute.

Click the following link to access the web site for the Queloides Project.

There also is a catalog of the exhibit available via Amazon.

Etta James: the immortal diva

Sadly, it often takes someone’s death before their genius and talent can be fully appreciated. A lot of this obviously has to do with all the retrospection that takes place on such occasions, and, in the case of famous musicians, the reflex action of pulling out their greatest hits for the inevitable bittersweet musical journey down memory lane. Looking back in the rear view mirror at the career of Etta James through the outpouring of tributes in the media has revealed in vivid detail the undeniable majesty of the woman and her signal contribution to American music. I have listed below a few of the remembrances I have seen since the announcement of her death yesterday. They each remind us how much joy and pleasure she gave us during her tumultuous career.

Richard Williams at The Guardian provides a list of ten of his personal favorites: Etta James: 10 classic performances | Music |

Ben Greenman over at the New Yorker offers a similar compilation of James’ hits and a brief recap of her life and struggles.

1997 Rolling Stone “Women of Rock” interview with Etta James by Katherine Dieckman.

See also Peter Keepnews on Etta James in the NYT.

The Amazon’s Lost World

The Nazca Lines in Peru currently are the most well know geoglyphs (large designs and motifs produced on the ground) in South America, but that is about to change. The deforestation of the Amazon is revealing hundreds of heretofore unknown geoglyphs. The images, which are mainly in the form of precisely constructed geometric shapes and lines, have been discovered in the Brazilian states of Acre, Amazonia and Rondônia, and in Bolivia. Scientists estimate they date from approximately 1000 to 2000 years ago. Their purpose remains a mystery. But their existence, along with other recent discoveries about the size and extent of human occupation of the Amazonian rainforest, is rewriting the history of the region and its indigenous peoples. It is unfortunate these amazing discoveries were made as a result of the massive destruction caused by agricultural and mining interests. But as more work is done to document the geoglyphs and to revise and increase our knowledge and understanding of South America’s human geography and history, perhaps new efforts will be made to preserve and protect the remaining rainforest for its indigenous peoples and the world.

Read the NYT article here: Land Carvings Attest to Amazon’s Lost World –

See also: Deforestation of the Amazon is uncovering Geoglyphs | Google Earth Blog.

Black & Latino

What does it mean to be black and Latino in the U.S.? This video features interviews with Latino actors Laz Alonso (Avatar, Jumping the Broom), Tatyana Ali (Fresh Prince of Bel Air), Gina Torres (Suits, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys) and Judy Reyes (Scrubs), musicians Christina Milian (“Dip it Low”) and Kat DeLuna (“Whine Up”), and journalist Soledad O’Brien (CNN), among many others.