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a history[ish] blog
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    Freedom is not only being released from something, but it is being captured by something higher.

    “On this notecard, Dr. King outlines his insights on the concept of freedom.” The King Center Digital Archive

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    We have come a long way in our understanding of human motivation and of the blind operation of our economic system. Now we realize that dislocations in the market operation of our economy and the prevalence of discrimination thrust people into idleness and bind them in constant or frequent unemployment against their will. The poor are less often dismissed from our conscience today by being branded as inferior and incompetent. We also know that no matter how dynamically the economy develops and expands it does not eliminate all poverty. 

    The contemporary tendency in our society is to base our distribution on scarcity, which has vanished, and to compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes until they gag with superfluity. If democracy is to have breadth of meaning, it is necessary to adjust this inequity. It is not only moral, but it is also intelligent. We are wasting and degrading human life by clinging to archaic thinking.

    The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them.

    - Martin Luther King, Jr., “Where We Are Going,”Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, 1967.

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    January 26, 1944: Happy birthday to a legend of radical political activism, Angela Y. Davis, longtime champion of social justice, racial justice, feminism, and socialism (among other causes) and one of the loudest and most incisive critics of the American prison-industrial complex of our time. 

    Alongside Dolores Huerta and Gloria Steinem among others, she recently served as honorary co-chair of the national Women’s March and spoke at the event in Washington, D.C. She was also featured in Ava Duvernay’s 2016 documentary 13th, which draws stark lines between the historical legacy of American slavery and the country’s present-day system of mass incarceration and prison labor.

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    Victor Manuel Navarrete
    Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America (OSPAAAL), c. 1980

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    Lázaro Abrue Padrón, 1968

    Ramon Gonzalez, 1975

    Victor Manuel Navarette, 1975

    Palestinian solidarity posters
    c. 1968-1975
    Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America (OSPAAAL)

    Palestine Poster Project Archive

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    Jean-Michel Basquiat

    Basquiat before Basquiat

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    Forbidden Planet (1956) was the first major film to feature a fully electronic musical score… here referred to in its opening credits as “electronic tonalities.”

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    “Women Drilling,” Free Huey Rally, Oakland, CA
    July 28, 1968


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    The Slave Who Outwitted George Washington:

    Randolph reminded the first lady that Pennsylvania law required the emancipation of all adult slaves who were brought into the commonwealth for more than a period of six months… Just as Randolph’s slaves came to understand and utilize the gradual abolition law, so, too, might the Washingtons’ slaves. It would be painfully embarrassing and financially damaging if the president’s own slaves turned the laws of the state against him. So the Washingtons devised a plan: the couple would shuffle their slaves to and from Mount Vernon every six months, avoiding the stopwatch of Pennsylvania black freedom. If an excursion to Virginia proved a hardship for the family, a quick trip to a neighboring state such as New Jersey would serve the same purpose. The hourglass of slavery would be turned over every six months, and the president knew there was no time to waste.

    If Ona Judge and her enslaved companions uncovered the truth about their slave status in Philadelphia, they would possess knowledge that could set them free. Power would shift from the president to his human property, making them less likely to serve their master faithfully, and eventually, they might run away. Washington wrote that if his slaves knew that they had a right to freedom, it would “make them insolent in the State of Slavery.”


    Once [Judge] learned that “upon the decease of her master and mistress, she would become the property of a grand-daughter of theirs by the name of Custis,” she knew that she had to flee… “She was determined never to be her slave.” Her decision was made. She would risk everything to avoid the clutches of the new Mrs. Law… 

    Judge could no longer stomach her enslavement, and it was the change in her ownership that pulled the trigger on Judge’s fury. She had given everything to the Washingtons. For twelve years she had served her mistress faithfully, and now she was to be discarded like the scraps of material that she cut from Martha Washington’s dresses. Any false illusions she had clung to had evaporated, and Judge knew that no matter how obedient or loyal she may have appeared to her owners, she would never be considered fully human. Her fidelity meant nothing to the Washingtons; she was their property, to be sold, mortgaged, or traded with whomever they wished.

    Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge

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    “Beginning in the late 1960s, Asian-Americans nationwide were building social service institutions and feminist collectives, marching against the war, critiquing and sometimes even trying to overthrow the U.S. government,” said Ryan Wong, one of the curators of the exhibition “Roots: Asian American Movements in Los Angeles 1968–80s.”

    According to Wong, it’s no coincidence that the term “model minority” was being coined around the same time the Asian-American movement was radicalizing a generation of young people. Groups of Asians protesting for their rights wasn’t the story most media outlets or social theorists wanted to acknowledge.

    “The ‘model minority’ idea was used as a weapon against the social movements of the civil rights era, suggesting that activism wasn’t necessary if a group could only ‘work harder,’” he said. The Asian-American movement chronicled in the exhibition shatters that myth, he added.

    Told through photographs, posters and oral histories, “Roots” shows how Asian-Americans formed civil rights organizations at colleges like UC Berkeley, fought against gentrification and ultimately banded together to form a new pan-Asian political identity.

    “Until about 1968, you either identified with your country of origin ― mostly China, Japan, and the Philippines at that point ― or were lumped under the term ‘Oriental,’” Wong said. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, Asian-Americans of different ancestral countries recognized their shared history of racial discrimination and realized they’d have a stronger voice together. 

    Roots: Asian American Movements in Los Angeles 1968–80s

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    RIP (October 18, 1926 – March 18, 2017)

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    Honey Lee Cottrell
    “Coastbound Train, Rachael and Elexis,” 1985

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    Happy 75th, Queen of Soul!
    (b. March 25, 1942)

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  • 04/04/17--14:09: Photo

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    Red Hot Rhythm & Blues, 1987
    Diana Ross

    LP Cover Art

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    While talking yesterday with a colleague about independent filmmakers who made their way into Hollywood in the late sixties and early seventies, such as Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma, I mentioned the many independent filmmakers of the period who are equally talented but didn’t find their way into Hollywood, whose careers never took hold, and whose work is largely forgotten. The era of so-called New Hollywood was a virtual graveyard of the work of great directors, and one landmark of the period, Haile Gerima’s rarely shown film “Bush Mama,” from 1975, screens at MOMA today.

    “Bush Mama,” remarkably, is [Haile] Gerima’s thesis film from U.C.L.A. It’s one of the best student films ever made, inasmuch as it’s worthy to be shown alongside any film made under any circumstances at all.

    Gerima is one of the filmmakers in the group called the L.A. Rebellion, which included Charles Burnett (one of the cinematographers of “Bush Mama,” whose movie “Killer of Sheep” is among the seminal films of the time), Julie Dash (the director of “Daughters of the Dust,” in which Cora Lee Day also played a major role), Billy Woodberry (whose film “Bless Their Little Hearts” will soon be revived, along with “Killer of Sheep,” in a new restoration from Milestone Films), and Monona Wali (whose film “Grey Area” was shown recently at bam Cinématek). The very existence of “Bush Mama,” along with its rarity, is a keen reminder that the history of cinema is still awaiting discovery—and that this history is also the history of its own exclusions, its foreclosed paths, its lost prospects, its secret influences, the shifting course of its future.

    - “Bush Mama”: A Landmark Film, and a Reminder of Cinema’s Exclusionary History

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    What Photographers Of The LA Riots Really Saw Behind The Lens

    On April 29, 1992, a Los Angeles court found four police officers not guilty in the brutal beating of black motorist Rodney King. Within hours, the city was on fire, and it burned for days, becoming a defining moment for black resistance and the long, dark history of race in America […]

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    Happy birthday, the legend Stevie Wonder.
    (b. May 13, 1950)

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    Happy Birthday, Stevie Wonder (b. May 13, 1950)

    Music is a world within itself
    With a language we all understand
    With an equal opportunity
    For all to sing, dance and clap their hands
    But just because a record has a groove
    Don’t make it in the groove
    But you can tell right away at letter A
    When the people start to move