The Condemnation of Blackness

Condemnation(Excerpt from the book’s introduction)

At the dawn of the twentieth century, in a rapidly industrializing, urbanizing, and demographically shifting America. blackness was refashioned through crime statistics. It became a more stable social category in opposition to whiteness through racial criminalization. Consequently, white criminality gradually lost its fearsomeness. This book asks, how did European immigrants—the Irish and the Italians and the Polish, for example—gradually shed their criminal identities, while blacks did not? In other words, how did criminality go from plural to singular?

Khalil Muhammad’s answers to these questions—questions that are essential to understanding the dire statistics that confront us everyday about black arrests and incarceration rates—reveal the philosophy, policies, and practices of a society that has focused its attention on policing blackness after making blackness a crime. How does blackness become a crime? How is it black people are killed by the police for driving while black, walking while black, reaching for a wallet while black, or simply breathing while black? How did black communities become police states and breeding grounds to supply an increasingly privatized prison industrial complex?

The answer should not surprise any of us who have been paying attention. The idea of a free black person refutes and undermines the very existence of white supremacy. Consequently, black freedom is an anathema to those who seek to preserve the status quo of white superiority/black inferiority that has formed and informed this nation’s ethos since its colonial era. As a result, since the end of the Civil War all so-called free blacks, regardless of their social status or outward physical appearance, have been perceived as threats to whiteness, and as runaways and fugitives from white authority, control, and domination.

Since the passage of the 13th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution—which freed enslaved Africans in name only—the various states, with the complicity of the courts and the police, invented and institutionalized the legal apparatus needed to maintain and enforce the ideology and system of white dominance that began with America’s slaveocracy. American Apartheid, the system of legal segregation and discrimination known as Jim Crow, thus became a means to perpetuate slavery by another name. Concomitantly, crime statistics, as Muhammad points out, supplied a major component of the rhetoric and propaganda used to rationalize and justify the institutionalization of antiblack racism. They continue in that role today.

Racial violence in the form of lynchings and riots organized and conducted by white mobs and terrorist groups in the late 19th and early 20th centuries functioned as primary instruments in the preservation and maintenance of white supremacy. More recently, voter disenfranchisement, voter suppression, and the so-called war on drugs initiated by federal and state legislators have been deployed for the same purposes of intimidation and terror. That violence or the threat thereof operates as the central mechanism of this system cannot be denied. The history of racial violence, both as overt and covert assaults on black people and black humanity, can be seen in Muhammad’s book and in other works by Kidada Williams, Leon Litwak, James Allen, Paul Ortiz, Cameron McWhirter, Douglass Blackmon, and Michelle Alexander, to name a few. Muhammad’s research, however, grounds those studies in the key moments when the systematic condemnation of blackness through the use and manipulation of crime statistics occur. It also adds to our understanding of the deep social consequences for the black community by showing how crime data have been used to dehumanize black people and obscure the structural roots of antiblack racism that perpetuate poverty, injustice, and inequality.

In the first video presented below, Muhammad provides a brief summary of his book. The second video provides a highlight from an interview he gave to journalist Bill Moyers on June 29, 2012 (a link to the full video also is provided below).

 

Bill Moyers and Khalil Muhammad on Facing Our Racial Past

Bill Moyers and Khalil Gibran Muhammad, head of the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and author of The Condemnation of Blackness, discuss the importance of confronting the contradictions of America’s past to better understand the present.

Muhammad describes the New York City Police Department’s “Stop and Frisk” program as “an old and enduring form of surveillance and racial control”:

“If we think about the moment immediately following the Civil War, there was the invention of something called ‘the Black Codes’ in every Southern state. And those codes were intended to use the criminal justice system to restrict the freedom and mobility of black people. And if you crossed any line that they prescribed, you could be sold back to your former slave owner, not as a slave, but as a prisoner to work off your fine after an auction where you were resold to the highest bidder. It tells you something about the invention of the criminal justice system as a repressive tool to keep black people in their place,” Muhammad tells Moyers. “And it’s still with us. It’s still with us, because ultimately, as a social problem, crime has become like it was in the Jim Crow South, a mechanism to control black people’s movement in cities.”

Click the following link for the full episode of Bill Moyers’ interview with Dr. Muhammad.

Lura – Terre De Blues 2012

 

 

The country’s name is Cape Verde and the young woman is Lura. She sings of this former Portuguese territory, a string of ten islands, ten volcanic pebbles scattered in the ocean off Senegal. Connoisseurs of diva Cesaria Evora are familiar with the little archipelago, insignificant in terms of global strategy, but possessed of a native wisdom that could teach more powerful nations a great deal. Invented by European colonists, tilled by transported Africans and seared by drought, Cape Verde has managed to heal the wounds inflicted by a history of famine and become a hospitable, peaceful, proud country. Lura sings of this land, where she was not born…

Lura is as young as the country of her roots. Cape Verde split away from Portugal in 1975, the year she was born in Lisbon. Portugal’s capital is home to most of the Cape Verdean diaspora, although large communities are also to be found in Senegal, the north-east United States, Holland, France and Italy. Two-thirds of Cape Verdeans live outside their country and the same is true of their artists. In Lisbon, the Cape Verdean population is mainly concentrated in the suburb of Benfica, in a makeshift district of narrow streets and jerry-built houses. However, the Portuguese-African “centre” of Lisbon is Rua Poço de Negros (Well of the Blacks Street), a long thoroughfare that runs from the historical quarter of Bairro Alto to the Parliament district, and holds many African restaurants, shops and nightclubs.

Lura’s father was from Santiago, the largest, greenest, most African island of Cape Verde, and her mother from São Nicolau, the island that produces the best grog (Cape Verdean rum). “There was nothing artistic about my family, my parents mainly listened to morna,” muses Lura, recalling her early youth with an allusion to the velvet, slightly mocking saudade that, lethargically intoned by Cesaria Evora, has made Cape Verde famous all over the world. “She has opened the way. Now we can present other Cape Verdean styles,” explains Lura.

Lura was a dancer when a singing star of African music in Lisbon, Juka, originally from São Tome and Principe, asked her to appear on his new album. “I was seventeen.
I was supposed to sing backing vocals, but soon Juka asked me to perform a duet with him. I’d never thought about singing, but he insisted,” she says. So Lura discovered the potential of her voice, its deep timbre and sensual inflections. Juka’s zouk was a hit and other Portuguese speaking African celebrities asked Lura to work with them, among them Bonga from Angola and her fellow countrymen Tito Paris, Paulo Florès and Paulinho Vieira.
Meanwhile, she was working with a theatre company as she made her first album with a Portuguese producer: a dance record for her generation featuring syrupy love zouk and sugary r’n’b, Cape Verdean creole-style. “It was mainly aimed at discotheques,” she explains. But despite the album’s commercial recipes and tricks of the trade, the song Nha Vida (My Life) attracted wider interest and was featured on Red Hot + Lisbon, a compilation for the campaign against AIDS, including songs by Brazilian stars Caetano Veloso, Marisa Monte and Djavan, Bonga and Teresa Salgueiro, the singer of Portuguese group Madredeus. At the time, Lura was 21.

Having discovered the young prodigy when she sang a duet with Bonga — Mulemba Xangola — Lusafrica produced her second album in 2002. “The record was chiefly aimed at the community’s young people,” the singer says. In other words, it was a cocktail of r’n’b and zouk, the latest craze among Cape Verdean youth. But practised ears picked out two tracks of special worth: Ma’n ba dès bès kumida dâ and Tabanka Assigo, a pair of songs written by the young Tcheka that offer a lingering essence of Cape Verdean music, delicious rhythms sung by a mature, voluptuous voice.

It was not until 2004 that Lura made a truly Cape Verdean record: Di Korpu Ku Alma (Of Body and Soul), whose reputation was boosted in the country and among the diaspora by the success of Vazulina, a story of petroleum-jelly abuse among Africans bent on straightening their hair. The song’s subject is very much a declaration of Cape Verdean identity. It was penned by Orlando Pantera (as were Na Ri Na, Es Bida, Batuku and Raboita di Rubon Manel), a young writer who revolutionised one of Cape Verde’s great traditional genres before his death, establishing a style that inspired an entire generation of new artists.

LuraLura’s official website.

Understanding Afro-Puerto Rican and Other Afro-Latin@ Cultures

Afro_Latino

If you haven’t read or heard about this book and you are interested in ourstory, you’ve got a hole in your bucket. The Afro-Latin@ Reader is edited by Miriam Jiménez Román, Executive Director of afrolatin@ forum, a research and resource center focusing on Black Latin@s in the United States. And Juan Flores, Professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. His most recent works include The Diaspora Strikes Back: Caribeño Tales of Learning and Turning, and From Bomba To Hip-Hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino IdentityThe Afro-Latin@ Reader is essential reading for anyone studying the history and culture of Afrodescendants in the U.S. Below is a description of the book taken from its page at Amazon.com.

The Afro-Latin@ Reader focuses attention on a large, vibrant, yet oddly invisible community in the United States: people of African descent from Latin America and the Caribbean. The presence of Afro-Latin@s in the United States (and throughout the Americas) belies the notion that Blacks and Latin@s are two distinct categories or cultures. Afro-Latin@s are uniquely situated to bridge the widening social divide between Latin@s and African Americans; at the same time, their experiences reveal pervasive racism among Latin@s and ethnocentrism among African Americans. Offering insight into Afro-Latin@ life and new ways to understand culture, ethnicity, nation, identity, and antiracist politics, The Afro-Latin@ Reader presents a kaleidoscopic view of Black Latin@s in the United States. It addresses history, music, gender, class, and media representations in more than sixty selections, including scholarly essays, memoirs, newspaper and magazine articles, poetry, short stories, and interviews.

While the selections cover centuries of Afro-Latin@ history, since the arrival of Spanish-speaking Africans in North America in the mid-sixteenth-century, most of them focus on the past fifty years. The central question of how Afro-Latin@s relate to and experience U.S. and Latin American racial ideologies is engaged throughout, in first-person accounts of growing up Afro-Latin@, a classic essay by a leader of the Young Lords, and analyses of U.S. census data on race and ethnicity, as well as in pieces on gender and sexuality, major-league baseball, and religion. The contributions that Afro-Latin@s have made to U.S. culture are highlighted in essays on the illustrious Afro-Puerto Rican bibliophile Arturo Alfonso Schomburg and music and dance genres from salsa to mambo, and from boogaloo to hip hop. Taken together, these and many more selections help to bring Afro-Latin@s in the United States into critical view.

Contributors: Afro–Puerto Rican Testimonies Project, Josefina Baéz, Ejima Baker, Luis Barrios, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Adrian Burgos Jr., Ginetta E. B. Candelario, Adrián Castro, Jesús Colón, Marta I. Cruz-Janzen, William A. Darity Jr., Milca Esdaille, Sandra María Esteves, María Teresa Fernández (Mariposa), Carlos Flores, Juan Flores, Jack D. Forbes, David F. Garcia, Ruth Glasser, Virginia Meecham Gould, Susan D. Greenbaum, Evelio Grillo, Pablo “Yoruba” Guzmán, Gabriel Haslip-Viera, Tanya K. Hernández, Victor Hernández Cruz, Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof, Lisa Hoppenjans, Vielka Cecilia Hoy, Alan J. Hughes, María Rosario Jackson, James Jennings, Miriam Jiménez Román, Angela Jorge, David Lamb, Aida Lambert, Ana M. Lara, Evelyne Laurent-Perrault, Tato Laviera, John Logan, Antonio López, Felipe Luciano, Louis Pancho McFarland, Ryan Mann-Hamilton, Wayne Marshall, Marianela Medrano, Nancy Raquel Mirabal, Yvette Modestin, Ed Morales, Jairo Moreno, Marta Moreno Vega, Willie Perdomo, Graciela Pérez Gutiérrez, Sofia Quintero, Ted Richardson, Louis Reyes Rivera, Pedro R. Rivera , Raquel Z. Rivera, Yeidy Rivero, Mark Q. Sawyer, Piri Thomas, Silvio Torres-Saillant, Nilaja Sun, Sherezada “Chiqui” Vicioso, Peter H. Wood.

Iyeoka – Video Selections

Say Yes is the first single released by Nigerian America poet/singer/activist Iyeoka from her new album of the same name. The video, directed by Simon Hunter, was shot in Underground Sun studio and at locations around Venice Beach and Santa Monica, California. And check out the other selections from this multi-talented artist included below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iyeoka

Official website: http://www.iyeoka.com.

‘Smaddification’, Affirmation and Caribbeanity: Norman Girvan

Norman GirvanNorman Girvan is Professor Emeritus of the University of the West Indies. Until recently he was Professorial Research Fellow at the UWI Graduate Institute of International Relations. The link below connects to a transcript of an interview conducted with Girvan during the Havana Book Fair in February 2012. The full transcript is downloadable from his website as a PDF in English or Spanish.

Girvan’s interview reminds us of the centrality of Caribbean history to North and South America. Part of my mission with this blog is to remind my sisters and brothers in North America that our history constitutes a small part of the experiences of Afro-descendants in the Western Hemisphere. Many of us have grown up within an African American-centric view of the “black” experience that is false in its sense of totality and significance. For example, how many us of know that more enslaved Africans were shipped to Cuba and Jamaica than to the United States during the transatlantic slave trade? How many of us recognize the Caribbean also served as a half-way point for many enslaved Africans who eventually wound up in North America? How many of us realize many of the greatest “black” leaders in U.S. history have Caribbean roots?

A key point addressed by Girvan in the interview is the outsized influence of the Caribbean in world history. The impacts of both the Haitian and Cuban Revolutions furnish salient examples, but such influences are ongoing globally in literature, music, and sports. He also discusses the emergence of Caribbean identity in all its complexities as a process of struggle and resistance against slavery, colonialism, and neocolonialism. His remarks illuminate the work we must do to excavate and explicate this history and build bridges that reconnect us through our common experiences in the African Diaspora.

(Extract) What unites us is a common frame of reference of our historical experience. But what also unites us, in a context of diversity, has been the affirmation of what my old friend and colleague Rex Nettleford called “smaddification”…All the labor that was brought here was brought here in a condition of exploitation of one way or another and the process of creating a Caribbean identity out of those conditions is a process of resistance, of struggle and of affirmation of self, of the dignity of the human person and of the right to autonomy of our societies…

‘Smaddification’, Affirmation and Caribbeanity: The Caribbean That Unites Us, Norman Girvan: Norman Girvan.

Girvan’s writings and analysis of Caribbean political economy can be found on his website: normangirvan.info.

Gerald Horne, PhD. speaks at Howard Univ. 09/2013

Howard University’s Ubiquity hosted Gerald Horne, Ph.D., the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair and Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. The theme for the evening was “The Hidden History of Black Internationalism in the U.S.” with the sub-theme of ‘Averting Disaster in Syria and Iran’. Dr. Gregg Carr, Chair of H.U.’s Afro-American Studies Department lead the discussion, followed by the Horne’s book signing of ‘Negro Comrades of the Crown: African Americans and the British Empire Fight the U.S. Before Emancipation’ (NYU Press).