archive fever

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The Schlesinger Library at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study has acquired more than 150 boxes of papers, photographs, pamphlets and other material that span Angela Davis’s life.

Professor Davis’s archive, reports the New York Times, “ranges from her childhood in segregated Birmingham, Ala., where she was born in 1944 to activist parents; to her studies with the Frankfurt School philosopher Herbert Marcuse (who recalled her as his most brilliant student); to her more recent activism with groups like Critical Resistance, the prison-abolition advocacy group she helped found in 1997.”

The archive also includes the typescript of Davis’ 1974 autobiography, complete with handwritten queries and comments from her editor, Toni Morrison.

“Its richest vein concerns the tumultuous period that began in 1969, when then Gov. Ronald Reagan ordered [Davis] fired from her teaching position at the University of California, Los Angeles, because of her Communist Party membership, before she had even taught her first class …

In 1970, she was charged with murder, kidnapping and criminal conspiracy charges after guns she had purchased were used in an attack on the Marin County Courthouse that was aimed at liberating the Soledad Brothers, but instead left four people, including the attacker, dead.  The trial that followed — in which Professor Davis participated in her own defense — sparked an international campaign, turning ‘Free Angela’ into a global rallying cry.”

And today, nearly half a century on, a white supremacist sits in the White House and the prisons are fuller than ever with black bodies.  Progress, y’all.


field notes from liberal America

Liberty Corner Presbyterian Church

“Long before Trump came along to capitalise on it, Islamophobia was building in the US, bubbling up like swamp gas from the depths. Often, racial conflict would manifest itself in small, seemingly isolated local planning fights over proposals to build mosques …

There is, literally, an anti-mosque playbook. Tactics were once unwritten, spread through websites and word of mouth, but more recently they were set down in a book titled Mosques in America: A Guide to Accountable Permit Hearings and Continuing Citizen Oversight. Written a Texas attorney, it was published by the Center for Security Policy, an organisation headed by Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan administration official who has long espoused the theory that Muslims are engaged in a secret plot to impose sharia law on the US. Gaffney writes in the book’s introduction that it is a ‘how-to manual for patriotic Americans who are ready to counter the leading edge of Islamic supremacism.'”

Well-researched, informative, and decidedly chilling long read from the Guardian.


field notes from Trump country

coal-oil-industries-see-brighter-future-after-trump-victory

“Epidemiologists at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health say they’ve identified the largest cluster of advanced black lung disease ever reported, a cluster that was first uncovered by NPR 14 months ago.

‘This is the largest cluster of progressive massive fibrosis ever reported in the scientific literature,’ says Scott Laney, a NIOSH epidemiologist involved in the study.

‘We’ve gone from having nearly eradicated PMF in the mid-1990s to the highest concentration of cases that anyone has ever seen,’ he said.

The clinics are operated by Stone Mountain Health Services and assess and treat coal miners mostly from Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia, a region that includes what have historically been some of the most productive coalfields in the country …

PMF, or complicated black lung, encompasses the worst stages of [pneumoconiosis], which is caused by inhalation of coal and silica dust at both underground and surface coal mines.

Miners gradually lose the ability to breathe, as they wheeze and gasp for air … Lung transplants are the only cure, and they’re possible only when miners are healthy enough to qualify.”

Beautiful, clean coal.


Polish. Death. Camps.

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BBC reports that “Poland’s Senate has approved a bill making it illegal to accuse the Polish nation or state of complicity in the Nazi Holocaust.  The bill provides that ‘whoever accuses, publicly and against the facts, the Polish nation, or the Polish state, of being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich … shall be subject to a fine or a penalty of imprisonment of up to three years.’

President Andrzej Duda says Poland has the right ‘to defend historical truth.'”

Alternative facts, anybody?


 

little local library

hrabal wall

Heartening to read that while President Erdogan fires academics and imprisons journalists, “Turkish garbage collectors in the country’s capital city of Ankara have opened a public library that is full of books that were originally destined to be put into landfill. The workers began collecting discarded books and opened the new library in the Çankaya district of Ankara. News of the library has spread and now people have begun donating books directly to the library, rather than throwing them away.

As CNN reports, the library was originally created for the use of the employees’ friends and family but, as it grew in size, the library was officially opened to the public in September of last year …  The library now has over 6,000 fiction and non-fiction books and includes a children’s section, an area dedicated to scientific research books, and a number of English and French language books for those who are bilingual.”

Eerily reminiscent of Bohumil Hrabal’s Too Loud a Solitude.


 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.  

These “snippets” are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.

 

white middle class

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Photo Eric Thayer for the New York Times

“Though class divisions are a frequent topic for [big-city newspaper columnists], little attention is paid to seemingly important factors like income, access to basic services and the intersections between class and race. Instead, pundits choose to focus entirely on superficial cultural differences and consumer choices. The result is a constant stream of patronizing paeans to a mythical rural America and bizarre, half-baked theories that replace sociology with observations about which restaurants people go to …

This kind of misguided prejudice is also apparent in liberal circles. A few months ago, Keith Olbermann, the unofficial head of the #Resistance, criticized Trump for hosting Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent, and Kid Rock at the White House, whom he called “trailer park trash.” Classism aside, Olbermann fell into the same trap … he saw white people with bad fashion sense and assumed they must dwell at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Obviously, all three of Trump’s guests are now multimillionaires, but even pre-fame they were far removed from poverty. Sarah Palin’s hometown of Wasilla, Alaska is a suburb of Anchorage; her father was a science teacher and she enrolled in a four-year college immediately after high school. Ted Nugent was raised in the Chicago suburbs; Kid Rock the Detroit suburbs, where he grew up in a home that was recently put on the market for $1.3 million. Palin, Nugent, and Rock are exactly who the statistics show propelled Trump to victory — the comfortable white middle class.”

Sharp essay by Alex Nichols from July 2017.


 

all my mirrors of belonging have cracked

han suyin

“With my first book, and as I worked, much harder, on the next, a slow unravelling of our tie began. As my own sense of a place in the world grew, I could no longer understand her passion for China with quite the sympathy I once had. She refused to see both sides of the story after the Tianamen disaster, and created a counter-narrative. For years I held her intransigence responsible for the unravelling tie, but I can see now how I wanted her be who she no longer wanted to be. I wanted her to return to writing introspective fiction. I wanted her to be the cosmopolitan New Asian she’d been in her prime, not an apologist for a duplicitous regime or an old-style Chinese conservative. I wanted her to admit to feelings of exile and loss, while I still followed the party line she handed me: We are not divided. We are multiple. There is no unbelonging. There are no borders.

And yet if she hadn’t had to work through the dilemmas of dispossession there would have been no public persona, no sweeping statements, no grande dame of the Chinese Revolution. But that was her public role. The Suyin I knew had left home long, long ago and could only inhabit temporary shelters. Even the language she wrote in was her third. Suyin admitted to crushing loss. Suyin survived it all. Suyin was a superlative.

Even in our wholeness there are fractures. I’d compose letters to her:

‘Suyin, there are divisions. There are – to use one of your favourite words – contradictions. Contested belongings. No composites, no continuous wholeness: only an illusion, a yearning, a longing.

I never wrote them or if I did I left them unsent.”

Aamer Hussain writes in Granta on his friendship with Han Suyin.


 

identity politics

no man's land

“When the ban happened, it was like I was stripped away from being able to call myself American. It was a wake up call, and I felt like all I had left was Sudan – but it felt out of reach, like grasping for something while every inch of your body tries to pull you back. In the wake of that, traveling back to Sudan was different. This time, I didn’t want to leave. Lately, I’ve been having thoughts about what life would look like for me, had my parents never immigrated. I’m a Muslim American straddling the fine line between being too black and not black enough, too Muslim and not Muslim enough, too Arab and not Arab enough. This fluid sense of mis-identity has become my identity.

I’ve never lived in a place where I felt like I was a part of the majority, where I didn’t have to worry about taking up space. I love Sudan, but deep down I know it will never be for me what it is for my parents. America won’t either. If you asked me today to choose between the two I don’t know what I would say. I guess I’m accepting that I will forever be in this space of falsified identity. In limbo. The Trump ban forced me to reexamine my role as a Sudanese American. It reminded me that freedom will forever be a fleeting notion.”

Nadra Widatalla writes in Dazed and Confused on what Trump’s “Muslim Ban” means to her.


 

Nikesh Shuckla takes the last train home

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It’s late and I’m on a train back to Bristol. I’ve just done a talk about a book I worked on, about race and immigration and I’m wearing the name of the book – The Good Immigrant – across my sweatshirt.

It’s late and I’ve spent the evening talking at people, so I’ve bought myself a burger and a beer to keep me company on the two-hour journey home.

The train is packed until Reading, as it always is, and then deathly quiet. Bored and with a need to stay awake, I put on a crap Jason Statham film, perfect company for the long journey. The action-packed thrills will keep me awake because if I fall asleep and miss my stop, I’m ending up in Swansea.

The further the train gets from London, the more it empties out. I don’t really notice it at first. I’m too engrossed in the film.

Around Swindon, three men get on the carriage shouting loudly. They sit around me and talk. I realise, looking at them, and around, and up from my Jason Statham film, that the carriage is empty, except for me and for them. They are carrying beer cans and talking in that high octave slur that carries most lads home from the pub after closing time. One of them looks at me and my sweatshirt then gets up and moves closer.

As he stands, he says: “There’s no such thing as a good immigrant” …


 

Friday night lights in the era of BLM

KIPP Gaston School

“I am so pissed this morning,” began a soon-to-be viral Facebook post. “KIPP Gaston College prep is trying to make my granddaughter kneel for the national anthem at the football game Friday night.”

It was the tail end of September 2017, past the midway point of the most politically charged year since the last one, and President Trump had just ignited a national controversy over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. In an act of Twitter jujitsu, Trump turned Colin Kaepernick’s protest against social injustice into a referendum on patriotism, the military and the flag, opening the latest front in his ongoing culture war.

Now the battle had come to a charter school in rural North Carolina. For a few hours on social media, the national debate over Kaepernick’s protest movement exploded inside one school in a small town, exposing how the polarized politics of the Trump era have trickled from Washington DC down into America’s communities …”

A long read and a salutary one.


 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.  

These “snippets” are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.

Signs of the times

signoftimes

 

DO WHAT YOU WILL

I am Muslim, register me.

I am Mexican, deport me.

I am African American, imprison me.

I am LGBT, refuse to serve me.

I am poor, blame me.

I am elderly, privatize me.

I am woman, defund me.

I am homeless, ignore me.

I am disabled, bully me.

I am sick, uninsure me.

I am indigenous, pollute me.

I am a veteran, voucher me.

I am an American, lie to me.

AUTHOR UNKNOWN


lorde

Rejoice! Our times are intolerable. Take coverage for the worst is a harbinger of the best. Only dire circumstance can precipitate the overthrow of oppressors. The old and corrupt must be laid to waste before the just can triumph. Contradiction will be heightened. The reckoning will be hastened by the staging of seed disturbances. The apocalypse will blossom.

AUTHOR: Jenny Holzer   WEARER OF THE DRESS: Lorde

“Lorde’s message comes amid reports that she declined to perform at this year’s Grammys because the show’s organizers refused to offer her a solo performance, as they did the other, male Album of the Year nominees. She also notably skipped the red carpet.”


 

beyonce-formation-lyricsImage from Randi Bryant, Beyonce’s Letter to You about “Formation,” at Beatnik24

Dozens of artists came to the Grammys wearing white roses in solidarity with Time’s Up and sexual misconduct victims. But that spirit of female empowerment wasn’t reflected in this year’s winners, nor in remarks made by Recording Academy president Neil Portnow, who suggested that if women wish to collect more golden gramophones moving forward, they need to double down on their efforts.

“I think it has to begin with women who have the creativity in their hearts and their souls — who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, who want to be producers, who want to be part of the industry on an executive level — to step up, because I think they would be welcome,” Portnow told journalists backstage after the show.

Step up, Neil? Creativity in their hearts and their souls, Neil?  Where were you in 2015 when Beck’s “Morning Phase” won Album of the Year ahead of Beyonce’s “Beyonce” and in 2017 when Adele’s “25” won Album of the Year ahead of Beyonce’s “Lemonade“?

Adele herself said on stage: “I can’t possibly accept this award. And I’m very humbled and I’m very grateful and gracious. But my artist of my life is Beyoncé. And this album to me, the “Lemonade” album, is just so monumental. Beyoncé, it’s so monumental. And so well thought out, and so beautiful and soul-baring and we all got to see another side to you that you don’t always let us see. And we appreciate that. And all us artists here adore you. You are our light.”

 


 

trump shithole projection

Trump International Hotel, Washington D.C.  The artist was Robin Bell, but the inspiration comes from Jenny Holzer.


 

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Jenny Holzer, projection, Washington, D.C., 2004


 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.  

These “snippets” are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.