Archive for the racism 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)


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

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

Mapping the Clamour in Africa

Posted in maps, maps & mapping, politics, racism with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2011 by Sunshine Superboy

Everybody wants to rap about Africa this week. Nelson Mandela is out of hospital. Tunisia’s successful people-led ousting of their government has emboldened thousands among their Arab neighbors. The people of Egypt took bravely to the streets of Suez, Alexandria, and Cairo among other cities (see map below) and recently forced the police to go home! And oh yeah, didn’t the people of Southern Sudan just vote in record turnout to secede from the north a few weeks back?

Seems a fitting time to share some basic political geography of Africa. Of course, it doesn’t reflect the impending bifurcation of Sudan, but it gives places the names that are commonly used for them and all that, and it will save you from looking dafty (or worse, racist!*) while you’re discussing “the Africa” with all your pals. Maybe now Africa will seem less “mysterious” if indeed it previously had.

And while you’re at it, you can turn that geographic literacy into stunning smug commentary on the latest flashpoints of protest across the Map of Egypt.

…will never be defeated

Sunshine Superboy

*so actually not knowing the names and corresponding geographies of African countries does not make you racist. this was a joke just to have some fun with some of the folks who are jumpy about whether or not they are being racist- as if there were no way anyone could ever know for sure? LOL. buuuut, nor does not knowing shit about Africa make you “anti-racist”. Do us all a favor. Save yourself the embarrassment by brushing up a tad on this stuff. And for the love of god, please don’t refer to “Africa” out of wholesale uncertainty when you are really just talking about one specific city, ethnicity, culture or region within the vast, vast continent. Be brave and be specific. You’re smart, you’ll do great. (yes I do mean it).

“Real Life Superheroes”: Up with Costumes, Down with Crime on the Streets of Seattle

Posted in comics, humor, politics, racism, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2010 by Sunshine Superboy

the shins as superheroes

indie band, the Shins, spooning as super heroes

I just want to point out that in order to be a “super” hero, you need to have a “super power” (even if thats just being a frickin’ maniacal billionaire- see Bruce Wayne or Bill Gates). Otherwise, you’re just a “hero” which ain’t all that bad, so why try and front like you can cling to or walk through walls, or like you have bulletproof skin, clairvoyance, or the gift of flight.

From an actual story in the actual news:

SEATTLE, Cascadia
real life superhero
Green Reaper, Penelope, Thorn, Thunder 88, Buster Doe, No Name, Catastrophe, Gemini and Phoenix Jones the Guardian of Seattle. These are the names of the costumed superheros who are now patrolling our city, ensuring your safety… I know. We’re excited too.

The PI reports late on Thursday that a group of masked vigilantes calling themselves the Rain City Superhero Movement has been patrolling Seattle streets for a few weeks now. They wear costumes, they ride around in a Kia at night looking for trouble and occasionally, they get stabbed. Seattle Police think they’re silly at best, dangerous at worst. They cite cases where one darkly clad crusader was nearly shot when he came running out of a park in the middle of the night, or when a woman saw a bunch of costumed freaks pull up to a gas station and thought they were there to rob the place.

“Phoenix Jones the Guardian of Seattle” seems to be the one member that the cops and the media have the most info on–and still, it’s not much. We know he’s a 22-year-old man who met with police at the station last month in near full regalia: black cape, blue tights, black fedora, white belt and mask. He’d have brought the rest of his gear, he told them, but it was being repaired after he got stabbed trying to break up a drug buy. But don’t worry. Jones tells the PI that he and his squad are professionals.

“I don’t condone people walking around on the street with masks. Everyone on my team either has a military background or a mixed martial arts background, and we’re well aware of what its costs to do what we do.”

The crew appears to draw a lot of its marching orders from real life super heros dot org. That’s right, dot org. Also, another site noted by the police has an actual “manual” for becoming a super hero. It’s packed with info on picking out fly crime fighting “threads” and weapons, assembling a kick-ass utility belt, keeping your “hero health” in tip-top shape and finding pressure points on your enemies that will render them incapacitated.

Nowhere on the site are any tips for finding a girlfriend [or boyfriend?] or holding down a job.

It’s not clear how the Rain City Superhero Movement is alerted to crimes. They may have police scanners, they may have inside sources, or simply internet access to the Seattle Police Dpt blog. They don’t, at this point, have a skyward pointed spotlight of any kind or a direct line to Mayor McGinn.

But they do have our attention. And it’s likely that that’s all they wanted in the first place.


Okay, so at first glance… kinda bad-ass, if you can get past the LARP feeling of it (Life Action Role Play). But I have something to say here, and its a critique simultaneously of these Puget Sound vigilantes, and of Batman, the Justice League, and some of Marvel’s “crime fighters”. And thats this:

who the fuck decided that these things were “crimes”?

Minor drug possession? Vandalism? Petty drug deals? I’m sorry, but feeling some-kinda-way about the Prison Industrial Complex, I’m actually more invested in de-criminalizing this bullshit than reinforcing the cops, let alone beating people up, who 98% of the time are poor and brown and probably desperate.

If owning-class men with the means to buy utility belt gadgets felt like hunting down “criminals” outside of the system, why not pick up the slack of the police, and chase after white-collar criminals? Its pretty widely agreed (especially in the wake of ENRON, Bernie Madoff, toxic loans, and mortgage scams, though thats clearly the tip of a melty iceburg), that corporate crime is the most rampant and most severe crime and has the lowest rate of crime-busting! Go kick some ass, LARPers!

prison industrial complex

If you want to make me feel more safe, I’d love it if you could storm board meetings, planning commissions, law offices- hell the police department itself, and bring some real justice into the picture. In the mean time, how about everyday people take everyday steps to learn more about community accountability and transformative justice so we can more effectively end violent neighborhood drug circuits, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and workplace harassment. These are things that we are more than capable of handling in-house (thank you very much, but you can be on your way officer), and even be stronger as a result of it.

If there’s one take-home lesson from these bold (if politically uncritical) costumed warriors, its that we don’t need to sit around waiting for the state (in the form of courts, cops, jails, and inadequate public defenders), to make our communities safer. We can step up and do that ourselves by practicing restorative justice and even transformative justice. Indeed, community responses that sideline punitive/ retributive measures are quite possibly the only thing that will make our neighborhoods into better places.

Up up and Away,
Sunshine Superboy

oh, also (PS) the superhero manual has a page about women’s self defense including eye gouge techniques and stuff. Guess what? Anyone of any gender can read it (if they can read english)!

“Oops… I said it again”: Pop Stars and Their Window into Our Racism

Posted in celebrities, humor, politics, racism with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2010 by Sunshine Superboy

yo, I know this is old news, but I wanna post this during this lull of feet-in-our-mouths cuz Its not even about John Mayer and racist crap that Pop Stars spout…
The thing that really gets a lot of people of color and anti-racist organizers miffed is the useless circus of inane conversation ostensibly about “race” but actually about whichever celebrity blabbermouth in question. (oh right, sometimes I forget how broad the blackmaps audience is: We’re talking about this bloke to the right, who writes pop songs and won a Grammy a minute and a half ago (who hasn’t??!). He famous also infamous for his utterly brilliant tweets (!) and for being an ex of both Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Simpson, and no there’s no reason for you, or any of us to care, but he’s been on the cover of Rolling Stone recently, and apparently some people in the world give a damn about who he is. Great, we’re all caught up!)

The lightening-rod of so-and-so actor or such and such politician said some racist bullshit (surprise…) serves as a big distraction not to mention a misframing of what racism really is and how it operates. This isn’t the place/time to belabor the theoretical pillars of racism as a legacy of institutionalized inequality.

Nevertheless, I think its a quick and important intervention to just point out in those moments when the media zoo gets all fired up about our unspoken consensus on being non-racist (!), (as opposed to being anti-racist?!), that its not about individuals, or even the things they may do or say, but a historically entrenched system which carries global momentum in dispossessing groups of people through the clever metrics of colorism and ethnic scapegoating. And its gonna take people getting organized in a big way to overturn those patterns. No paparazzi-flanked apologies are going to liberate people of color and white people who are all bound up in these systems of oppression. Least of all, since capitalism has everything to do with it, and lets not forget, pop stars looooooooove capitalism.

We dont’ have to hate them for it. We can enjoy goofy 3-D flicks and guitar hooks even as we begin to piece together how capitalism is operationalized by racism (and vice versa). Lets just keep these things in mind as we co-opt GaGa Radio tunes as inspiration and fuel for our movements.

oh, and for the record, John Mayer is a douchebag.

Up up and Away,
Sunshine Superboy