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When the past is present…

“…The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.” James Baldwin


#SaveUnderground: Aisha Hinds on Freedom Dreams and Revolutionary Art

Treva B. Lindsey, Ph.D.,

Aisha Hinds (Manny Carabel/Getty Images)

Last week, WGN America announced that it had canceled the critically acclaimed and riveting historical drama Underground. Allegedly moving in a more conservative, programming direction, the network is leaving behind a show that introduced millions of viewers to the relatively unknown network….

The push to find a new home for this show is largely due to its dynamism. The show is singular and remarkable in its approach to telling the stories about enslaved and freed black people in the 19th century. From its complex characters, stellar performances, breathtaking soundtrack and rich storytelling, each episode feels like a multitextured journey.

The liberties taken with historical accuracy do not compromise the integrity of truth telling and historical precision as it pertains to slavery and resistance. Pitting the notorious Patty Cannon against the Black Rose and one of the greatest heroines in American history, Harriet Tubman, was an incredible fictionalized remix of true stories of fugitive, formerly enslaved people and the inhumanity of slave catchers and owners. It’s hard to imagine Wednesday nights without the resistive spirit and depths of ancestral pain that Underground has provided….

“She’s come back to sort of give us the playbook on how to strategize, on how to pray, on how to be guided and how to prioritize what’s necessary, and how to eventually take those selfless acts and be willing to die for the causes that are important to moving us forward,” she continued.

Worth dying for, yes. Tubman believed that black lives, black bodies and black souls were worth fighting for—worth dying for and worth living for. “The General’s” actual practice was #BlackLivesMatter, generations before the radical black women at the core of this movement would proclaim the same.

Underground is clear in its purpose: to expose the reality that when it comes to white supremacy—and the ways in which black people have always resisted oppression—past is often prologue. In many ways, Underground reminds us that the past is not even past. It encourages us to fight unrelentingly for radical black futures….

#SaveUnderground matters because the show’s cast and crew were and are unapologetically committed to telling our stories. From an artistic standpoint, Underground is phenomenal. The show’s commitment to a radical, black, freedom-fighting imagination, though, is what makes it invaluable.

Underground is the show, the freedom-dreaming experience, the ancestral battle cry, that we didn’t know we needed.

Read the full article here.

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Nominate Your Picks for a List of the Most Influential African Americans

The Root Staff,

2016 honorees for The Root 100 (Derrick Davis/The Root)

Every year The Root pays tribute to black innovators, leaders and world changers with The Root 100, our annual list of the most influential African Americans, ages 25 to 45. And now it’s time for you, the public, to help shape this list by nominating the people you think represent the best and brightest in the fields of social justice, politics, entertainment, sports, media, the arts, science/technology and business who caught your attention this year….

The Root 100 has always had its share of celebrities, superstar athletes and well-known political figures….But we’re also looking for those figures who work tirelessly in the community to speak truth to power….

From now until June 20, please take a moment to tell [] about those extraordinary individuals who exemplify excellence while also elevating the causes of the black community. Over the next few months, The Root staff will collect your nominations and put them through a unique algorithm that will generate a score for substance and reach that will determine each person’s rankings. We will announce the complete list later this year.

Please take a moment to fill out the nomination form.

Read the full article here.

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Michael Bennett Has Earned Our Respect. It’s Time We Show It.

By Jordan Schultz, HuffPost Black Voices

Michael Bennett is one of the NFL’s good guys, explains columnist Jordan Schultz in his article for the Huffington Post.

Michael Zagaris via Getty Images

This is why it’s surprising to see how Bennett has drawn the ire of prominent sports journalists, including ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, as well as a local sports columnist. It’s unfair that his name was dragged through the mud. Bennett is a unique person and by all accounts a great person ― and he has done nothing wrong.

In an article published two weeks ago in The Seattle Times, Matt Calkins heavily criticized the Seattle Seahawks star defensive end for lashing out at a local TV reporter who was questioning him after a game. Calkins didn’t contact the TV reporter before publishing his column. If he had, he would have found out Bennett had privately apologized to him. Calkins penned an apology when he realized his mistake ― but the damage was done.

Bennett, who plays one of the league’s most violent positions, is one of its most gentle and caring people. The former undrafted free agent is a highly dedicated member of the community and one of the team’s most respected members.

In March, the 31-year-old Bennett announced that he would donate 100 percent of his endorsements to helping minority communities and empowering women of color. Additionally, he will also donate half of his jersey sales to inner-city garden projects.

Bennett’s honesty and conviction might scare people, but sports fans ― even those who disagree with his opinions ― should be promoting it. What matters is that Bennett doesn’t merely have an opinion, but he believes in it strongly enough to stand up for himself.

For more on Michael Bennett and his work within the community, read the full article here.

To learn about how race can negatively impact perception, and why its important for news media (including sports) to start supporting outspoken black influencers like Michael Bennett here.

Read about the crucial role that Black press has in our society here.

Read more Breaking News here.


College Student Who Missed His Graduation Because of NYC Train Delays Gets Impromptu Ceremony From Commuters

Breanna Edwards,

Jerich Alcantara (Fox 5 NY screenshot)

When the New York City subway system fails, New Yorkers come through. More specifically, commuters came through for a Hunter College student who missed his commencement Tuesday morning because of train delays: They gave him his own impromptu ceremony in the train car so he wouldn’t miss out.

According to Fox 5 NY, Jerich Alcantara was on the E train traveling from the borough of Queens to his graduation, which was scheduled for 10 a.m. at Hunter’s Brookdale campus in Manhattan, all decked out in his purple cap and gown. However, as luck would have it, at around 9 a.m. the train got stuck in the tunnel, where it would sit for more than three hours….

“I announced to the whole train—I said, ‘Hey, guy, thanks for coming out today to see me walk and graduate,’” he said….

“We got my buddy to hand me the diploma that he drew up on his phone, and he handed it to me, shook my hand like he was the dean; it was great,” Alcantara said….


By the time he and his family made it to the venue, the ceremony was long over, but a few of his close friends from the nursing program told him to meet them in the auditorium.

“And they played some music for me there as well,” he said. “They had me walk down the center aisle, walk across the stage just as if I was doing graduation with them.”

As for his diploma, the president of Hunter College told the news station that she was looking forward to handing it to Alcantara personally.

Read the full story here.

Read more breaking news here.


Gina Prince-Bythewood Will Be The First Black Woman To Direct A Super Hero Film

By Marquita Harris,


It’s only May, but 2017 has already been a major year for director Gina Prince-Bythewood. The Shots Fired creator is now confirmed to direct the Spider-Man spinoff, Silver & Black, according to Deadline. The feature film is based on the characters Silver Sable and Black Cat (a.k.a. Felicia Hardy).

Not many women have been granted the opportunity to be the front woman of a major superhero film, let alone a woman of color. Prince-Bythewood will be the first Black woman to do so, as noted by The Root….

According to Deadline, the first order for the 47-year-old will be to rewrite the Silver & Black script which was originally written by Christopher Yost, the man behind 2013’s Thor: The Dark World. As for what we can expect from Prince-Bythewood is anyone’s guess.

In addition to her recent series, Shots Fired (which just ended with a banger of a season finale last week), she also directed the pilot for Marvel’s forthcoming Cloak & Dagger series which will soon air on Freeform in 2018. Prince-Bythewood is the woman responsible for such heartstring-tugging features like Love & Basketball and Beyond the Lights. It’ll be interesting to see her approach to tackling romance in the testosterone-filled world of the superhero genre…

Not to mention, last year director Ava DuVernay also made headlines when it was announced that she was the first African-American woman to direct a film with a $100 million budget.

Read the full article here.

Read more breaking news here.


Afro-Feminist Festival Calls Out Mayor For Accusing Them Of Racism

By: Zahara Hill, HuffPost Black Voices

Zahara Hill reports backlash of a black feminist event— the Nyansapo Festival— scheduled to commence July 28 in Paris by the city’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo.

Organized by the Mwasi Collective, the festival was “to be a safe space for black feminists to curate sociopolitical strategies to overcome marginalization and oppression.” Unfortunately, the event caused controversy with “far right and anti-racism organizations calling foul after it came out that most of the event’s activities would occur in racially exclusive spaces.”

Hill quotes an interpretation of the mayor’s tweet:

“A translated tweet from Hidalgo on Sunday revealed she took issue with the festival being “forbidden to whites” and that she would even consider prosecuting the event organizers for discrimination.”

However, after a discussion with the Mwasi Collective the mayor came to a solution, as revealed in a later tweet:

“The festival organized in a public place will be open to all. Non-mixed workshops will be held elsewhere, in a strictly private setting…”

PC: Mwasi Collective

Controversy ensued when the Mwasi Collective claimed that the “set-up didn’t change as a result of a conversation with Hidalgo; they’d already intended for the “non-mixed” workshops to take place on private property…”

According to Hill, the Nyansapo festival will proceed, and so will the continuation of white fragility in the City of Lights.

Read the full article here
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Paris mayor says ‘solution’ found for black feminist event

By Thomas Adamson,

(Christophe Ena, File/Associated Press)

PARIS — The mayor of Paris said Monday that a “clear solution” has been found with organizers of a festival for black feminists, an event that had aroused her ire because four-fifths of the festival space was to be open exclusively to black women.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo had strongly criticized and threatened to cancel the upcoming Nyansapo Festival a day earlier because it was “forbidden to white people.”

In a new series of tweets on the topic, Hidalgo said her “firm” discussion with organizers had yielded a satisfactory clarification: the parts of the festival held on property would be open to everyone and “non-mixed workshops will be held elsewhere, in a strictly private setting.”…

Anti-racism associations and far-right politicians in France both had criticized the event over the weekend for scheduling workshops limited to a single gender and race….

On Sunday, Hidalgo had said she would call on authorities to prohibit the cultural festival and might call for the prosecution of its organizers on grounds of discrimination.

MWSAI via Twitter

“I firmly condemn the organization of this event in Paris (that’s) ‘forbidden to white people,’” Hidalgo had written….

Prominent French rights organization SOS Racism was among civil rights groups condemning the festival, calling it “a mistake, even an abomination, because it wallows in ethnic separation, whereas anti-racism is a movement which seeks to go beyond race.”

The International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA), meanwhile, called the festival a “regression” and said American civil rights icon “Rosa Parks must be turning in her grave.”

Read the full article here.

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Sometimes, Staying Woke Means Staying Away

Bassey Ikpi,

Waking up to tragedies of some measure has become the norm over the years. Lately it feels as if every day there’s another hashtag created to expose our worst fears or break what’s left of our hearts.

I wasn’t clear on what had happened; all I saw were the hashtags floating down the page. My head started to spin, and I suddenly couldn’t remember what Manchester was. A college? A town? Both. But where?

Photo illustration by Elena Scotti/The Root/GMG

Then I remembered the soccer club my son hates and the cousin who went to university there. My heart slowed and then quickened with the “RIPs to,” “prayers for” and “My [sister/cousin/best friend] was there … I can’t reach them … ” And the faces smiling into a future they won’t see; the tweets full of panic, turning Twitter into a virtual search party….

Back then, there were no hashtags to search, no accidental viewing of dead bodies between the latest celebrity happenings or presidential blunder. There were no pundits to politicize or finger-wag (yet); there was just a collective grieving. A community of people saddened and confused….

The pressure to take to the streets, to do something (RESIST! RESIST! RESIST!), is great. The thought is that it raises awareness; that we are part of the solution; that we must never forget these horrors or place one above the other in attention and amplification. But for some of us—the ones who hold life and death in the same shallow expanse of breath; the ones who find sleep an uneasy, uncomfortable space; the ones who are unable to keep our moods and our spirits at the same elevated level—exposure to these things does a damage….

The balance is not easy even for the most stable among us.

Times have changed.

Social media has become our community.

I could not afford to let the thing enter. I could already feel it tugging at my corners like an attention-starved child. I had to give myself permission to turn it off and turn away.

I hope you give yourself permission to turn it off and turn away. Find Netflix or Bruno Mars or a book that only asks that you believe two people can fall in love.

Sometimes, staying woke simply means staying alive.

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.


The history of American protest music, from “Yankee Doodle” to Kendrick Lamar

By Bridgett Henwood,

“We don’t believe you, ’cause we the people / Are still here in the rear, ayo, we don’t need you,” Q-Tip raps on A Tribe Called Quests’s 2016 track “We The People,” an opening verse aimed straight at a flawed America. As the song goes on, it calls out specific social problems in the US — discrimination, unequal pay, deportation. It’s a protest song through and through.

The tradition goes back to the country’s founding. “Free America” was one of the nascent US’s first protest songs, a Revolutionary War call to action song by minuteman Joseph Warren. “Yankee Doodle,” now popular as a children’s song, was actually written by British soldiers mocking their American counterparts during the Revolutionary War, but Americans took up the tune ironically to toss it back in the Brits’ faces….

Nowhere was this more apparent than in Billie Holiday’s 1939 song “Strange Fruit.” As music journalist Dorian Lynskey writes in his book 33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs, From Billie Holiday to Green Day, Holiday’s tune was the first of its kind, bringing protest songs into the popular music realm. “Up until this point, protest songs functioned as propaganda, but ‘Strange Fruit’ proved they could be art,” Lynskey writes. [Editor’s note: “Strange Fruit” is actually about a northern lynching.]

Unlike the protest songs of the Civil War era, “Strange Fruit” wasn’t a chant or a call to arms. It was a harrowing commentary on the state of the country, designed to make people sit up and pay attention….

Sam Cooke set a different tone with 1964’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” a track that expressed less anger and more melancholy hopefulness. “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye, an early 1970s protest song, could be applied to a number of different grievances. “It alluded to all of these changes in society and all of these struggles,” says Roberts, “but he keeps coming back to this statement, sometimes a question. It can be directed toward multiple people and institutions.”

Beyonce, one of the many celebrities who used her platform to protest American history and called her fans to get in ‘Formation’ to do the same. Credit

These songs quickly faded into the political past with the election of Barack Obama in 2008. With a Democrat in the White House for the first time in eight years, and the first black president at that, liberal musicians took up a different songwriting mantle: the empowerment song….

Take Beyoncé’s “Formation,” which she surprise-debuted by uploading the video to her YouTube page the day before she was set to perform at the 2016 Super Bowl. The video features shots of post–Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, cops in riot gear, and references to Black Lives Matter, and set the stage for her Black Panther–inspired halftime show. Within hours, the hashtag #Formation was trending, giving people a space to talk about the video, the artist who made it, and the issues it presented.

 Read the full article here.

More Breaking News here.

 Read more about Billie Holiday here.

Read more Breaking News here.


What It Costs to Give Black Mothers a Second Chance

By Katherine Krueger,

Illustration by Elena Scotti/Fusion/GMG, photos via Shutterstock

When Sheritha Scott found out about National Mama’s Bailout Day, she had reason not to trust it.

She heard that local organizers were paying bail for mothers and caretakers in time for Mother’s Day as part of a nationwide initiative, but she was worried that it was all a trap by the police. She feared she would turn herself in to make good on the warrants hanging over her head—all of them from traffic violations—only to be torn from her children.

“I’ve just been running for so long,” Scott, a 28-year-old single mother of five, told Fusion.

The last time she was hauled into the Houston County city jail in Dothan, AL, a local cop had pulled her over before she even left a store parking lot. (The officer had pulled Scott’s sister over just the day before in the same car.) Scott, who was charged with driving with a suspended license, had to call her mother to come pick up her young children, who were in the back seat.

Scott recounted being held in the city jail in Dothan, a town of around 70,000 not far from the Florida state line, for more than 10 days because she couldn’t afford bail. Finally, her then-husband, who Scott says regularly abused her during their relationship, scraped together $800 in bail money so she could take care of the kids.

The idea of going to jail also brought back bad memories of being incarcerated for 280 days in 2013 and 2014 over misdemeanor traffic violations in Florida. That’s when she lost custody of her kids, the oldest of whom is now seven. While she has since won back custody of two children, her mother maintains custody of the other three….

Pastor Kenneth Glasgow and Sheritha Scott (via Facebook)

“Even just one night in that place would have broken me down,” Scott said. “By getting this over with, this is me keeping my promise to my children that mommy will never go anywhere.”…

The Bailout Day initiative came out of a January meeting of 25 black-led organizations who wanted to take action around the issue of bail reform, where racial disparities are stark. Three out of five people who are held in jails—for an average stay of 23 days—remain behind bars simply because they’re too poor to post bail, a 2015 study from the Vera Institute of Justice found. Black people are jailed four times as often as white people, and black women alone make up 44% of the country’s jail population.

Scott was one of dozens of women freed across the country as part of the Bailout Day…. The groups raised a stunning $250,000 to buy the freedom of black women in Atlanta, Oakland, Montgomery, and beyond as they await trial.

Read the entire article here.

Read more Breaking News here.