Archive for the race Category

Happy Birthday to Bayard Rustin, Jorge Ben, and… to Me!!! (Sunshine Superboy!)

Posted in art & music, celebrities, culture, politics, race, racism, video with tags , , , , , , on March 19, 2012 by Sunshine Superboy

rustin march on washington

Its Mid-March! There are a couple truly stupendous March babies* (not babies anymore!) whom we ought to pause for a moment and appreciate. Lets get to it..!

Bayard Rustin was born 100 years ago, on March 17th! He is one of the dopest organizers, not just of American History, but of the entire 20th century, the world-over (IMHO).

His most visible achievement was organizing- as deputy director of mobilization and logistics- the 1963 March on Washington (in which Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the hallowed “I have a Dream Speech”, and at which a multi-racial coalition of singers performed- from Bob Dylan, to Joan Baez, and Gospel legend Mahalia Jackson- cuz thats how he rolled!) bayard rustinIt was Bayard Rustin who visited Gandhi in India, and cross-pollinated the Sattyagraha and Nonviolent precepts, bringing them to the US south and working closely with King among others. Rustin was a quaker, a singer, a socialist, and…wait for it… unapologetically the gay! (Hooray!)

It was for this homophobia latter identity that King was counciled to throw Bayard Rustin under the bus (in the parlance of our times), which is why he has been largely written out of mainstream and much African American history.

As our culture starts to warm to the idea of gender justice and queer liberation (we’re getting there…) Rustin is slowly being woven back into narratives and history of Civil Rights organizing in the 20th century.

On the deeply regarded Bayard Rustin:

Another force of brilliance I’d like to celebrate this week is the very much alive and kicking-ass, Brazilian Samba-Rock Godfather, Jorge Ben who marks his 70th birthday on March 22nd! Jorge Ben Jorge Ben makes me smile, move, shuffle my feet, and sometimes sigh in melancholy (see “Gabriela” where he openly weeps on the recording!) with his genius fusion of samba, bossa nova, soul and rock n roll. The execution is something you just have to listen to in full to appreciate.

As with most artists who where on their A game in the 70s, there are some awkward albums and singles that followed the apogee of their songwriting, but most of his albums are slam dunks from start to finish. Perfect for cooking brunch (a favorite pastime of yours truly), doing dishes, playtime with toddlers, or drinking on your back porch in the evening. Impress your date with your refined musical taste!

His lyrics “blend humor and satire with often esoteric subject matter” including politics of Black Liberation, and post-colonial dreams for Africa (again think 60s and 70s composer here). He intersected with the Tropicalia movement of Brazil, and his song “Mas Que Nada” (song/ video below), which was his first big hit in Brazil, remains to this day ‘the most played song in the USA sung entirely in Portuguese’. I seriously heart this dude.

Enjoy the song and slide show with some rando pictures of the 1960s (??!)

oh, and I’m not that important, but I just celebrated my birthday on March 16th so I just wanted to dredge up some homies of mine who I happen to think about or listen to every day because they are badass.

You look like a Rock Star and you shred like one too!!!

(…and many more!)
Sunshine Superboy

*ps- we also welcomed some amazing babies to our spinning planet this month (and more to come!) and I wanna holler to them too (especially you baby Marlowe xoxoxo)

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Decolonize BART!

Posted in anthropology, feminism, humor, maps, maps & mapping, politics, race with tags , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2011 by Sunshine Superboy

Happy Fall Decolonization Fest part II!
What are you thankful for? Decentralized movements for social justice? The building up of a post-capitalist solidarity economy? Maybe just the sheer joy of public transit??

radical BART map

So many opportunities to reflect on the legacies of colonialism, slavery, genocide, and imperialism for those of us in the Western Hemisphere. Good tidings, and may this map of a reclaimed San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit system keep good company to you and your people.

Thanks to my buddy Kenji for this cartographic gem!

If you’ve missed other awesome/ imaginative BART maps, you can click here and have your mind ravaged by BARTOR- the Transitator!!!

June Jordan bound train arriving at platform ONE in seven minutes…
Angela Davis International Airport bound Train is now boarding…

Sunshine Superboy

Casting-off the Clampdown: a Summer of Insurrection

Posted in maps, maps & mapping, race, racism, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 10, 2011 by Sunshine Superboy

From Pelican Bay to fires in the UK (as in London above), it has been a long hot summer of people taking a lot of nonsense for too long, and folks are fighting back.

Lets start in London:

london deprivation riot map

In the map above, the colors represent “indices of deprivation” where deeper reds represent higher poverty, while blues represent more income. The little tabbies are of course correlated to “riot” locales.

I devised a multi-media, interactive, 3D map which you can use right in your own home!

Step One: Print out any of these maps

Step Two: strike a match (or the flame of a stove/ pilot light will do)

Step Three: allow the flame to lick the map print out such that the paper catches aflame.

Voila! You’ve got your very own multi-media London Riot in your hands. You’ll want to run this under some water lest your home or office burn down.

Darcus Howe, a West Indian Writer and Broadcaster with a voice about the riots. Speaking about the mistreatment of youths by police leading to an up-roar and the ignorance of both police and the government.

The mainstream media are at least reporting on some of that one (its kind of hard to black out a full scale insurrection where people are burning entire neighborhoods). Whats interesting is the disconnect (as seen in this BBC clip) between the action that angry folks of color are taking to the street and the source of that anger. The racialization of black people in England and elsewhere is such that we are subject to all kinds of daily violence and invasion of our bodies and our spaces by the state, including the police and various other apparatuses of the state.

Only by erasing the harassment of racialization (the processes of attributing a non-white “race” to people of color) can a new anchor or a white public surface with a question like “where is this coming from? why are people rioting?”

Sometimes, as with organized movements, the people taking action have very clear, articulated demands- as in Pelican Bay:

The Pelican Bay Hunger Strike started on July 1, 2011 it is

an organizing effort initiated and led by prisoners against torture and imprisonment. In the Spring of 2011, prisoners inside Pelican Bay State Prison contacted prisoner-rights and anti-prison activist organizations announcing 50-100 prisoners would take part in a hunger strike.

Their efforts quickly spread to 13 prisons, and at least 6,600 hunger strikers in California, and beyond the Golden State, countless prisoners elsewhere and supporters on “the outside” including nuns, congregations and religious leaders and community organizers the world over.

There are just five simple demands, which are:

1. End Group Punishment & Administrative Abuse
* especially “group punishment” as a means to address individual inmates rule violations.

2. Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria
* Perceived gang membership (often false) is one of the leading reasons for placement in solitary confinement.

3. Comply with the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 Recommendations Regarding an End to Long-Term Solitary Confinement

4. Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food

5. Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates.

Regular update (and more background information) on Pelican Bay can be found on the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity blog.

The funny thing about media blackouts is that you don’t know they’re happening, unless you happen to know about something crazy thats happening and can bear witness to the silencing that the Main Stream Media works so feverishly to create.

Phew. That was a mouthful. And we didn’t even talk about Damascus or Greece, or Palestine or so many other hotbeds of insurrection.

“Have Some Respect”- Darcus Howe

Now Panic and Freak Out!
Sunshine Superboy

New York City, a “Little” League of Nations

Posted in culture, maps, maps & mapping, race with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2011 by Sunshine Superboy

This crafty map portrays the home of the United Nations as a veritable “league of nations”, with pockets of diverse peoples splayed across New York’s five boroughs.

as always, click the map to zoom in. (this map has a double zoom, which is key to enjoying its awesomeness!)
"new york ethnic majorities"

As traditional ethnic neighborhoods like “Chinatown” and “Little Italy” divide and multiply, New York City in the 21st century has been a boon of a greater multi-ethnic populace- indeed, ethnic majority zipcodes, a hallmark of American Urbanism, give us a new sense of New York as a City of Nations.

This little ethno-graph maps these demographics, while poking fun at the iconographic architecture of many peoples’ countries of origin.

What would Woodrow Wilson think of this global mixing in everyday life?

Up Up and Away old boy,
Sunshine Superboy

I Wanna be David Blair Black! R.I.P. This Strong Voice from Detroit

Posted in art & music, culture, politics, race, racism, video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2011 by Sunshine Superboy

David Blair was a friend of mine, especially back when I was living in Michigan. Blair was a fierce soul, a talented crooner, a passionate poet, and a kindred black geek with deeply powerful politics.

This is a video from Blair’s performance at the 2009 Allied Media Conference. It took place mere days after Michael Jackson’s death.

What Kinda Black??!

“What interests me about [Jackson’s] life – and about writing about him – is that everything that he is calls to mind a discussion of race, gender, sexuality, poverty, stardom, rags-to-riches and age,” Blair told Between the Lines in 2009. “He’s a very American figure. I don’t think that all that Michael Jackson is could’ve been produced anywhere else in the world but right here.”

Over the weekend, renowned poet, singer and songwriter David Blair was found dead in his apartment. Blair, who was born in New Jersey but lived in Detroit since the 1990s, was a prolific artist. He earned a National Poetry Slam Champion title, performed with Urban Folk Collective and the Boyfriends, and taught poetry and songwriting in Detroit Public Schools. Performances took him throughout the U.S., Russia, Europe and South Africa.

Blair was also a 2010 Callaloo fellow, a 2009 Seattle Haiku Slam champion and the recipient of Seattle’s 2007 BENT Mentor Award for LGBT Writers. He was named best urban folk poet by Detroit’s Metro Times and best folk artist by Real Detroit Weekly.

His first book of poetry, Moonwalking, about the life of [Michael] Jackson, hit book shelves in April 2010. Although a cause of death has not been confirmed, Blair may have suffered heatstroke before he was found by a maid. No foul play is suspected. He was 41 years old.

He also made Emily Dickinson’s “Farewell” an African-American spiritual like Omigod. Here’s a link to the vimeo of it at Detroit’s Institute of Arts. And below is Blair’s performance at the TEDxDetroit fest last Fall.

Blair, buddy, we will miss you sorely…

Be at Peace,
Sunshine Superboy

Blair and the Boyfriends

Ain’t No Such Thing As a Superman: Gil Scott Heron, Action Comics, and Global Superpower

Posted in art & music, celebrities, comics, politics, race, racism with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2011 by Sunshine Superboy

This weekend, we lost the legendary badass Mr. Gil Scott-Heron at the age of 62.

Gil Scott-Heron was a Jamaican-American composer, musician, poet and author whose writings and recordings provided a vivid, and often stinging, commentary on social injustice and the black American experience; his declamatory singing style, allied to the overtly political content of his work, made him widely recognised as one of the inspirational figures of rap music.

Dude was only 18 when he wrote what is perhaps his best known piece The Revolution Will Not Be Televised– an attack on the mindless and anaesthetising effects of the mass media and a call to arms to the black community:

You will not be able to stay home, brother/
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out/
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip/
Skip out for beer during commercials/
Because the revolution will not be televised

Gil Scott-Heron’s Aint No Such Thing as a Superman

This reminds me of last month’s abdication by DC Comic’s Superman, of his American citizenship in Action Comics #900

The key scene takes place in “The Incident,” a short story in Action Comics #900 written by David S. Goyer with art by Miguel Sepulveda. In it, Superman consults with the President’s national security advisor, who is incensed that Superman appeared in Tehran to non-violently support the protesters demonstrating against the Iranian regime, no doubt an analogue for the recent real-life protests in the Middle East. However, since Superman is viewed as an American icon in the DC Universe as well as our own, the Iranian government has construed his actions as the will of the American President, and indeed, an act of war.

Superman replies that it was foolish to think that his actions would not reflect politically on the American government, and that he therefore plans to renounce his American citizenship at the United Nations the next day — and to continue working as a superhero from a more global than national perspective. From a “realistic” standpoint it makes sense; it would indeed be impossible for a nigh-omnipotent being ideologically aligned with America to intercede against injustice beyond American borders without creating enormous political fallout for the U.S. government.

… or within American borders for that matter. The truth is that rather than fighting for justice, Superman has always fought for the American Way, which encompasses a hegemonic cosmology of what exactly counts as ‘justice’ and ‘injustice’. Why did an inter-galactic super-being align himself with an imperialist Superpower in the first place? Oh yeah, he was raised in Kansas and indoctrinated (in the 40s and 50s of all moments!) into a fundamental belief in the supremacy of the American Way, and the perspective that US domestic and foreign policy was totally where its at.

Now while I understand that everyone (left and right) is getting excited (knickers in twist), about Superman’s renunciation of US citizenship, I want us all to think on the analysis of Gil Scott-Heron and keep a few things in mind:

1) The motivation for this move does not stem from a sudden realization that the US is a problematic imperialist power, and should therefore be counter-balanced in some way. Rather, Superman doesn’t want his independent actions to reflect poorly on US diplomacy. He is doing this to aid the State, not to critique it. J Edgar Hoover would have lobbied Superman to do the same thing, if he could, and if we imagine this as some parallel to our very real world, I’d bet Hillary Clinton had something to do with this abdication. Now Superman can show up in the streets of Tehran without his presence being tantamount to a declaration of war.

2) Clark Kent, our grand hero’s alias, remains a US Citizen, and therefore, all of this rhetorical posturing is empty. A super-being with the power to fly and the asylum of a Fortress of Solitude on a stateless continent of ice has little need for citizenship in any event, and certainly needs no assistance to navigate national borders. Beyond this, however, the very real powers of a US Passport, and all the rights associated with American citizenship are fully retained by Our Glorious Hero, so all of his “I’m a global citizen” bullshit is just that. I’d like to see Clark Kent go ex-pat and pursue citizenship in Palestine or Taiwan, or Tibet for that matter, and then Action Comics can claim some sort of political solidarity for what thats worth. What we should be asking ourselves is what is it that Kent’s US Citizenship allows Superman to do, that renouncing it entirely would not?

3) The power, legitimacy, and resource hoarding that once was unflappable behind the seal of American citizenship has dissolved somewhat in the 21st Century. Anyone, including Mulit-national corporation and the US State Department itself, wishing to maintain such command has made strategic shifts to re-brand from “American” to “Global”, “International” or “Worldly”. In the globalized, post-colonial world, power is hard-pressed to get away with much exertion of force or influence without waving some UN, World Bank, IMF, or “coalition” cred- and this is just Superman doing the same.

I won’t pretend for a minute that the editors at DC Comics are as savvy and strategic as all this. In DC’s attempts toward verisimilitude, however, they’ve come marvelously close to capturing the zeitgeist of global power, transforming Superman into just another heuristic for understanding the multi-lateral shifts of imperialist power.

In our own world, then, Scott-Heron remains correct that there ain’t nothing but a superman, afterall, what would an all powerful being need with a US Passport and a stable position in a major media firm in New York City?

Up Up and Awaaaaaaaaaay!
Sunshine Superboy

Pep-Talk Map: Be Strong, Things Get Better

Posted in anthropology, art & music, feminism, maps, race with tags , , , , , on December 1, 2010 by Sunshine Superboy

Imagine a Map as a Hug…

it gets better map

Its a rainy day in Philadelphia. I wanna dedicate this post to my friend kiran who is going through a rough patch right now. “It might be stormy now, but it can’t rain forever”.

I know it has a slight “its gets better” ring to it, and maybe it could be re-purposed for folks who need a glowing light saber in their quest for queer encouragement/ esteem, but the Be Strong map is coming from a much more generalizable place…

As for the ubiquitous & viral It Gets Better campaign, I think Jasbir Puar added the bit I’ve felt lacking in the national conversation giving voice to the silencing power of the tsunami of white, owning class, male homo-normative narratives in circulation. So rather than re-post, I’ll just link to it, and leave you with your cartographic hug of the day…

Be Strong Now,
Sunshine Superboy