This essay looks at the recent lesbian feminist leadership institute held in February 2008 in Mozambique, aimed at developing African lesbian feminist thinkers and leaders. More than sixty participants from many African countries attended the weeklong institute. Many of the attendees identified as lesbian, others as not lesbian in same-sex relationships; there were a few transgender men as well as heterosexual women. The diversity of the participants allowed for a platform to interrogate African feminism and at the same time highlight issues around sexuality, particularly same-sex sexuality as well as the contentious issues on gender. A reading of such an institute allows for an analysis of feminist models applicable to the diversity of African and Black activists, scholars, and researchers. Reflecting on this institute foregrounds many of the contentions around a model of African feminism used to negotiate sexual orientation, race, class, and gender. Furthermore, this reflection aims to generate increasing sensitivity to the diversities of lesbian, feminist, and transgender experiences.
Some aspects of the intersection of Islam with a legendary Chicago street, gang, the Blackstones, provides a counter-intuitive instance in which postindustrial ghetto space produces alternative forms of cosmopolitanism. This is referred to as "ghetto cosmopolitanism" and is introduced as part of a larger history through which contending notions of Black subjectivity have emerged to challenge the dehumanization of poorer and more marginal African American communities. The story of the Blackstone legacy and Islam explores this unique indigenous engagement with Muslim identity towards that end, while it also expands the way in which we understand contemporary ghetto space relates to transnational processes and globalization.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many scholars and media professionals optimistically claimed that the hurricane "exposed" the racial inequality in our midst, implying that such exposure would increase understanding of structural and historical inequalities, change Americans' (especially whites') racial attitudes, and increase public support for redistributive policies aimed at eliminating racial inequality. However, surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center and political scientists at the University of Chicago in the months following the Katrina disaster indicate otherwise. To date, the reasons this "exposure hypothesis" fell flat have remained unexplored. This project aims to build a bridge between studies of public opinion and public discourse in order to answer the following: How did Americans publicly communicate about race in Katrina's aftermath? More broadly, how does contemporary race discourse influence continuing racial inequality in the U.S.? Through a content analysis of letters to the editor about Hurricane Katrina that were printed in America's largest national newspaper, USA Today, I assess the ways in which ordinary citizens discussed the role that race may or may not have played in the disaster. My results confirm those of survey researchers and suggest that Americans' discussions of race in Katrina's aftermath helped to keep racial inequality hidden from public view. Finally, I explore the possible ways in which racial dialogues could be structured in the future in order to expand Americans' thinking about race and thereby their support for race-based redistributive policies.
This article explores the mystical activism of nineteenth-century African American female religious leaders Jarena Lee and Rebecca Cox Jackson. It uses a composite notion of Anansi the spider as a metaphor to reveal the intricate interconnections of their sacred-social worlds. In particular, it analyzes how interpretations of Aunt Nancy the spider woman, the North American version of Anansi, relate to these women's mystical experiences and religious activism. The author contends that it is the Aunt Nancy figure that more specifically points to the ways in which these nineteenth-century women mediated sacred power and created emancipatory spaces they could call “home.”
This article explores the history and contemporary significance of African American religious internationalism in New Orleans through the popular religious traditions, identities, and performance forms celebrated in the second lines of the city's jazz street parades. The second line is the group of dancers who follow the first procession church and club members, brass bands and Black Indians. The second line theme allows me to investigate how African diasporic religious and musical identities from Haiti and West and Central Africa are re-imagined and circulated globally in New Orleans jazz and popular religious performances.
From February of 2013 to January of 2014, the exhibit Ashe to Amen: African Americans and Biblical Imagery presented a vast array of artistic works that reflect the intercontinental and chronological rhythms and interventions that have influenced the ways in which African American people have engaged biblical texts. The exhibit included artifacts, textiles, paintings, mixed media projects, photography, sculpture, and film created by artists from West Africa, the Caribbean, and North America that speak to the ways in which people of African descent have appropriated the Bible to imagine new worlds that counter oppressive structures and ideologies.
Scholar Charles Long offers a paradigm for exploring the meaning of African American religion. This article explores the applicability of Long's methodology to other Afro-Atlantic religious traditions, such as Brazilian Candomblé and Haitian Vodou, by means of an examination of two artistic/interpretive concepts—the lithic imagination and the tertia. Succinctly, the lithic imagination is that aspect of human consciousness that bears similarities to the natural form of the stone—which is to say, the creative will to resistance, especially as manifested in religious expression. The tertia, a more ephemeral and less easily defined idea, is the surplus of the encounter of the colonized and the colonizer. It is the “third thing,” the unacknowledged history of modernity, the distressed ancestral presences which are dynamic (if often occluded) forces necessary to a full reckoning of the religious history of the Blacks in the diaspora.
Islam, according to Lincoln and Mamiya, represents an important challenge to 20th century African American Christianity (the Black Church). However, Islam may have also played a role in facilitating the formation of African-American Christianity during slavery. Therefore, it is important to explore speculatively the historical impact of the 10–18% of Africans who were Muslims and who landed alive and as slaves in North America/the United States. More specifically I will examine their role in the negotiation of religious diversity that occurred among African slaves in the construction of culture, community, and, by extension, religious tradition. This paper will explore (1) the cultural toolkit of African Muslims and its possible expression in areas of African-American Christian tradition, (2) assess those areas where Muslim influence is known and evident—for instance in the Sea Islands, and (3) point to the areas where oral tradition, practice, and political activism underscore the potential for identifying Muslim contributions. This paper will also acknowledge the difficulty in making assertions about Muslim influence while at the same time suggesting areas of further research in the African American Christian tradition.
This response paper considers the gender realities of the subjects in Isoke's Women, Hip Hop, and Cultural Resistance in Dubai in relation to U.S. based hip hop artists who have recently begun to situate their work and image in larger international contexts. Neal argues that the while recent and publicized acts have begun to mark US hip hop artists as “citizens of the world,” in fact hip hop artist have always been cosmopolitian.
As Brazil prepares for hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games—both of which will feature Rio de Janeiro prominently—what do patterns of social representation and state repression of predominantly Afrodescended communities say about the symbolic, political, and material dimensions of current black experiences in Brazil? This article focuses on the November 2010 massive police–military operations that targeted Vila Cruzeiro and the Complexo do Alemão in Rio. These operations are emblematic of a new public security paradigm inaugurated in 2008 that aimed at retaking urban areas from the control of drug dealers. How, if at all, does this new security paradigm represent a rupture with relation to historical patterns of anti-black violence perpetrated by state and non-state actors and institutions?
This article compares the neoliberal state sponsored programs such as mass privatization of public goods and divestment in black and brown communities between the two Rio de Janeiro neighborhoods highlighted in Costa Vargas’ work and similar programs in Chicago, USA. The author offers some strategies that move beyond surviving these attacks and poses critical questions to Costa Vargas’ continued work in this area.
This article traces the origins of shifts in policing practices and racialized imaginaries in Brazil, since 2013, in the wake of large-scale social protests that rocked the country in June of that year, and following the roll-out of a new set of public works, security and morality megaprojects. It begins by highlighting the contributions of João Vargas' scholarship to the understanding of the imminently racial character of lethal state violence in Brazil, around practices of police killings of black youth justified as “acts of resistance,” the media's visualization of danger in favelas as a militarized “state of emergency,” and housing practices that continue to segregate race and concentrate poverty. Generating new analyses that trace extensions or dis-locations, since 2013, of some of the practices described by Vargas, this article examines (1) the shift from bandido (drug gang member) to vándalo (racialized rioter/looter) as “enemy number one” of the police, (2) the rise of the Black Bloc as target of state security discourse haunted by imaginaries of African diasporic radicalism as well as youth anarchy, and (3) new public mobilizations around and against the “public morality” and “shock of order” campaigns launched against black delinquency and prostitution in consumer spaces.
Discusses political realities that have research, scholarship, and action consequences for the field of black studies. This includes political economy, ideology, and black studies for a new century and its interconnectedness to the other issue, centering gender and interrogating the theory and practice of black women's studies in black studies. (SM)
Since the 1970s, a number of African American writers, including Toni Morrison, Gayl Jones, Danzy Senna, and Elizabeth Alexander, have developed literary works around Brazilian spiritual, cultural, and social formations. Advancing within a hemispheric context Houston Baker's concept of an “oceanic critical consciousness,” this article examines how narrative representations of Candomblé in Toni Morrison's Paradise (1997) prompt acts of self-reconstruction that penetrate the national borders framing certain notions of African American identity in the post-Civil Rights era. The author argues for greater recognition of the abiding yet often ambivalent transnationality of African American identity and its employment, particularly by women writers, in contemporary African American literature. The article suggests that African American literature and U.S. blackness in general must be resituated in global terms and that one way of doing so is through the figure of the woman spiritually reconstituted through transnationally rooted practice.
Following Hurricane Katrina, thousands of schoolchildren have been scattered across the country and required to work through a wide range of trauma as they simultaneously adjust to new schools, communities, and cultures. Their reception in new schools has been varied, ranging from pity, to support and inclusion, to vilification. It has included the work of wonderfully dynamic teachers who have adapted to challenging new classroom circumstances, the shortsightedness of schools that did not adequately account for the presence and needs of new students, and even some teachers and administrators who have openly expressed dislike for their newest students.This article uses examples from the challenging year of teaching, learning, and healing that has occurred in Austin, Texas to discuss the complex and varied impacts of forced dispersal upon African-American schoolchildren who are now attending schools across the country. This article provides a picture of children, teachers, and community in adjustment, including examples of effective practices in working with children dispersed from New Orleans and examples of ineffective or racist responses to new students that have been present and that we must counter.This article is grounded in the perspective and methods of a school and community engaged educational anthropologist. It reflects over 100 hours of work in a shelter immediately following Hurricane Katrina, and a subsequent school year of work in Austin public schools working on issues of black student achievement—including the achievement of close to 1,000 students and 10,000 families from New Orleans. It builds upon Katrina related work published in Transforming Anthropology and forthcoming in Perspectives on Urban Education.
This article examines the relationship of Barack Obama and an emerging generation of evangelical leaders. It argues that his 2008 presidential campaign courted centrist evangelicals by rendering the Religious Right as extreme and “out of touch” with the American mainstream while framing his longtime pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, as a coinciding extreme voice on the left. To be sure, evangelical centrists typify a longstanding religious tradition of response known as intermediation that has often had access to presidential power. Unfortunately, this strategy of religious triangulation that isolates the “extreme” Right and Left deprives the administration of the moral resources from the Left that could catalyze a robust progressive agenda.
This article uses an ethnographic methodology grounded in a transversal understanding of both black feminism and hip hop politics. Using ethnographic fieldwork, including interviews with eight black identified “third culture” women in Dubai, UAE, and featuring three of those interviews, I argue that hip hop provides an important point of encounter to negotiate local to local connections in ways that undermine the national boundaries erected by states and reinforced through racializing practices that are often expressed through the cultural logics of capitalist heteropatriarchy. These reciprocal interviews offer insights into commonalities and differences among black women in very different parts of the world, whose identities are shaped, in part, by their involvement in hip hop culture.
While Zenzele Isoke's work raises thoughtful questions and presents an engaging direction for rethinking black identity formation as it is informed by place, gender and the translocal politics of hip-hop culture, the following essay seeks to challenge and engage the author's analysis of blackness as a singular identity and hip-hop within the unique context of Dubai.
In this article I will reflect on the book: The Words of Batswana 1883–1896. I will argue that the missionaries used epistemic racism as an exercise of power, thus subverted the Tswana language, customs, spirituality, and social structure to construct a new identity of Batswana people. This process asserted colonialism on the basis of language, religiosity, race, region, and knowledge. I will further maintain that one cannot divorce these issues from the process of the standardization of the Tswana language. The article will use decoloniality and Intersectionality theories as bedrock to engage the power structure, an epochal condition, and epistemological design used by the missionaries in the translation of the Bible into Setswana language. The strategies used by Batswana intellectuals as a form of resistance point to one of the methods that indicate signs of decoloniality. The article will suggest that decoloniality and Intersectionality as theories are vital in reclaiming the distorted traditions of Batswana people.
This article is interested in teasing out the process by which certain elements of hip hop are selected and others rejected. Here, new terms are surfaced to help broaden the current toolbox in order to resist gender oppression.
Black political culture in the United States during the 19th century was divided between integrationist and black nationalist ideology. Following Reconstruction, however, a third political tradition emerged, Black Radicalism. This intellectual tradition was characterized by sharp opposition to institutional racism, class inequality, and women's oppression. The chief architect of early Black Radicalism was W.E.B. Du Bois. In subsequent generations of Black Radicals, key figures included C.L.R. James, Hubert H. Harrison, A. Philip Randolph, and Oliver Cromwell-Cox. Most of these intellectuals had a relationship to socialist or Marxism political organizations parties. The article traces three generations of Black Radicals who emerged following World War II. The first of these generations emerged during the Civil Rights and Black Power periods, and included Amiri Baraka, Walter Rodney, and James Baldwin. The second generation, women and men born between 1946 and 1964, prominently include Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, Lani Guinier, Patricia Williams, and Charles Ogletree. Finally, the hip-hop culture of the late 20th century produced a new school of activist intellectuals, such as Robin D.G. Kelley and Melissa Harris-Lacewell. These generations of Black Radicals are connected by the memory of resistance to racism and to the integration of gender race and class in their analysis. What is unsolved is whether this radical tradition will continue in the age of globalized capitalism.
The article has three movements. First, it draws out some of the contours of historical trauma suffered by Black and Brown people in South Africa since the 17th century as “bodily and psychic wounds.” Second, the article argues that 1994 did not signal the end of racial domination in South Africa but rather, marked the advancement of racial domination in new and nuanced techniques hidden in place sight. Third, the article attempts to imagine what freedom, as a way of living beyond of a liberal democracy framework, might look like in South Africa from the psychological perspective of Black and Brown people.
The North Carolina Industrial School for Negro Girls was established in 1925 by the local branch of the National Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs. Also known as Efland Home, this institution, like others across the South, was designed to rehabilitate young black women “destined for pregnancy, prostitution, or prison.” The quasi-private reformatory negotiated its relationship with the state, receiving inconsistent and nominal funding for roughly a decade. By the mid-to-late 1930s, Efland Home functioned as a penal institution as the ideals of its clubwomen founders crumbled under financial and logistical pressures. State-sanctioned investigations and inquiries wrought mixed messages concerning the utility of the reformatory. During the last five years of its existence, Efland Home became a contested site of policing as matrons, superintendents, and others replaced rehabilitative ideologies with violence and (corporeal) punishment. To express their discontent, young women sentenced to the institution ran away in larger numbers and with greater frequency during these years, encountering local authorities in the process. The young women’s experiences thus reveal complex negotiations regarding the power of black clubwomen and the state to regulate black female adolescents’ behaviors.
Jazz provided the soundtrack for Chinese modernity. To be modern in the Republican era (1919–1949) China, specifically in treaty port cities such as Shanghai, meant listening and dancing to American jazz music. It also engendered and embodied an alternative, nontraditional social space for the interaction of multiracial groups centered-around improvisational music. Mediated through African American jazz music, musicians from around the world collaborated, learned, listened, and played jazz in China. Whether the music heard originated directly from Black musicians themselves or entered the Shanghai soundscape through movies, radio, or the play of white or Asian musicians, the imprint of music created by Black creatives was ever-present. This paper addresses the understudied topic of Black musicians and entertainers in Shanghai during the Republican era. African American jazz musicians and their Black musical aesthetics and traditions engendered and became constitutive of Chinese modernity. This paper argues that the Black cultural production of jazz musicians not only helped fuel the cultural industry of Jazz Age Shanghai, it created alternative social spaces for the practice of a global internationalism and cosmopolitanism, and extended the Black Radical Tradition to Asia. The ubiquity of African Americans in Shanghai also exposed a manifestation of Chinese anti-Blackness from both Chinese Nationalists and Communists elements that would reveal racial fissures that would negatively impact the latter’s relationship with Blackness at the inception of the Sino-Black solidarity movement from the 1930s onward to its collapse in the 1970s.
This article examines Leonard P. Howell’s understanding of repatriation as a form of black resistance aimed at decolonizing Jamaica. Howell, who is considered a Rastafari founder, engaged in political activities that indicated an investment in psychological repatriation as opposed to physical repatriation to facilitate a Rastafari black nationalist agenda for Jamaica. The Rastafari movement was inspired by the conception of Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie I as the promised return of the Messiah, prophesied by the Bible. Howell’s use of repatriation to Ethiopia for black people has been equated to the back-to-Africa campaign of Marcus Garvey, the great pan-Africanist and black nationalist. However, Howell’s efforts to use repatriation to decolonize the Jamaican people suggests an alternative view. His back-to-Africa rhetoric was inflated by the British colonial government of Jamaica, and later creole nationalists, to undermine his political successes. The colonial strategy applied to Howell has left distorted knowledge about his radical anti-colonialism and political agency. While it is indisputable that he paid homage to Ethiopia, this article demonstrates that Howell intended to remain in Jamaica, where he would work to make the island a part of a global diaspora of the kingdom of God in Ethiopia.
During the mid-twentieth century, historian Earlie Thorpe (1924–1989) devoted his life to the study and dissemination of African American history. In doing so, he joined other Black historians who surmounted obstacles that circumscribed their opportunities to research and publish, and who ensured that white scholars would not solely define the history of African Americans. Through the publication of seminal works on Black historians, Black intellectual history, and psychohistory, his teaching of Black history at Black and white universities, and his leadership of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, Thorpe helped propel African American history into the mainstream of academia.
The article examines black activists' use of sports and protest in the 1960s to elaborate on the meaning of black advancement in the period, especially Black Power. Mainstream opponents labeled scholar-activist Harry Edwards a "black militant" for initiating the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR), a black boycott campaign of the 1968 Olympics. As part of a plan to counter that repression and attract supporters and provide the OPHR a media platform, Edwards launched a boycott of the New York Athletic Club (NYAC) track meet in February 1968. While opponents and scholars concluded that Edwards's threats of violence were the primary reason the NYAC boycott succeeded, the article demonstrates that it succeeded because of the Black Power agenda of raising awareness of the need to combat "institutionalized racism." Consequently, the NYAC garnered the OPHR significant credibility and more allies and allowed Edwards to continue campaigning for an Olympic boycott. Worried opponents, however, continued to label Edwards and blacks' use of protests in sports militant. Consequently, because of the media and other opponents’ dominance, the meaning of the protest against the NYAC, blacks use of protest in sports, and Black Power continue to be demonized and distorted.
This article explores the lives of black women involved in a 113-day strike of Charleston area hospitals in 1969. Mary Moultrie, the local union president, and Naomi White, an outspoken and assertive participant, became involved in labor organizing out of necessity and used a variety of methods to secure change. The article uses their lives as lenses into the complexities of labor and civil rights–Black Power activism in the late 1960s as well as into the experiences of black women activists during the period.
This article highlights the work of Coretta Scott King in the struggle for governmental guarantees to employment in the 1970s. In the two decades after her husband’s death, Scott King devoted herself to achieving governmental guarantees to employment and disentangling militarism and violence from the economy. For her, this was the continuation of the civil rights movement. Considering the efforts of Scott King highlights the class content of the long civil rights struggle after the 1960s and the contested evolution of neoliberalism. Further, focusing on the unsuccessful efforts of Scott King also reveals the difficulty of achieving legislation to ameliorate the crisis of unemployment, and how racism and patriarchy structured labor markets during this period.
This article examines African American businesswoman Saint Charles Lockett, a self-proclaimed feminist and Ethnic Enterprizes, her company. Established in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1970 at the height of deindustrialization and Black Power, as well as the dawn of neoliberalism, Ethnic Enterprizes hired mothers who received welfare benefits. Its goal was to be a “gateway to gainful employment.” After receiving numerous accolades, Lockett and Ethnic Enterprizes became mired in controversy because of its inability to pay its mother workforce more than the minimum wage. This led to its demise. Lockett and her firm deserve serious analysis because they provide an opportunity to examine a myriad of issues related to black working women, economic development, and the challenges of black capitalism in the urban industrial Midwest. Ethnic Enterprizes was Lockett’s response to black women’s exclusion from the industrial labor force, a route to black economic community development, and a vision for what could be possible for black working women. While examining the story of Saint Charles Lockett and Ethnic Enterprizes highlights the difficulties of excavating the voices of black working women who have been marginalized in the urban, industrial landscape, it also provides opportunities for theorizing about ways to magnify their voices in the historical record.
Mary Fitzpatrick's historical life sheds light on the role of liberal discourse and racialized and gendered affective politics in entrenching black captivity. Her imprisonment and coerced domestic servitude reveal the role of black women's carceral exploitation in a pivotal 1970s moment in which the future of the U.S. carceral state was contested and contingent.