Black History Month Extravaganza #2: Social Justice Express

Black History Month is still filling my Facebook feed with extraordinary people and events. Today, we’ll focus on some social justice aspects, including many people who fought and are fighting for justice.

Image shows a grayscale photo of Frantz Fanon, looking toward the right with an intense and serious gaze. Caption says, "We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe." Frantz Fanon (July 20, 1925 - Dec. 6, 1961)
Frantz Fanon, via Sincere Kirabo

There are so many incredible black folks who did and are doing amazing social justice work, large things and small things and all things in between, that we could fill libraries with them. Here are just a few who have crossed my feed this month:

Black #Disability History: Christopher Bell, Disability Studies Scholar who Focused on Intersections

After a class with a Disabilities Studies scholar, where none of the readings included works about or by people of color, Christopher Bell was inspired to write “Introducing White Disability Studies: A Modest Proposal.” The essay was published in the second edition of the Disability Studies Reader. In the essay, Bell emphasizes that Disability Studies had not engaged on “issues of race and ethnicity in a substantive capacity, thereby entrenching whiteness as its constitutive underpinning.” It was a powerful indictment and a call to action, one that in many ways, the field continues to struggle with.

Amandla Stenberg

“As someone who identifies as a black, bisexual woman, I’ve been through it, and it hurts, and it’s awkward, and it’s uncomfortable…We need our voices to be louder in the media. And not just women of color — bisexual women, gay women, transgender women, mentally ill women.”

Frantz Fanon

Fanon was so much more than the eloquent quote about cognitive dissonance many atheists enjoy quoting. Speaking of quotes, something I especially like citing from him is “O my body, make of me always a man who questions!”

Josephine Baker

If you’re the type of person who believes that Black women who twerk or dress provocatively “don’t respect themselves” or have little or no morals (what a sad existence you must lead..), you obviously haven’t heard of Josephine Baker.

Baker was, for all intents and purposes, the proto-Beyoncé who respected herself enough to not perform in segregated venues or stay in segregated hotels and moral enough to act as a spy for the Allies and the French Resistance during World War Two, something she accomplished wearing little more than what you see in this photo.

Image is a sepia-tone photo of Josephine Baker, a young black woman. She's wearing several necklaces that appear to be strings of huge pearls, a sort of tutu made from spotted bananas, and huge fan-shaped earrings. She's standing in profile pointing to the right with her index fingers.
Josephine Baker in a photo by Lucien Waléry.

Malcolm X was bisexual. Get over it

It is also worth celebrating that many leading black icons have been lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), most notably the US black liberation hero Malcolm X. Other prominent black LGBTs include jazz singer Billie Holiday, author and civil rights activist James Baldwin, soul singer-songwriter Luther Vandross, blues singer Bessie Smith, poet and short story writer Langston Hughes, singer Johnny Mathis, novelist Alice Walker, civil rights activist and organiser of the 1963 March on Washington Bayard Rustin, blues singer Ma Rainey, dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey, actress, singer and dancer Josephine Baker, Olympic diving gold medallist Greg Louganis, singer and songwriter Little Richard, political activist and philosopher Angela Davis, singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman and drag performer and singer RuPaul.

16 Extraordinary Black Trans Leaders You Need To Know

When we talk about trans people, two names that almost always come up are Janet Mock and Laverne Cox, who have become standard-bearers for the trans community.

But black trans excellence doesn’t begin and end with these two amazing women. There are many more black leaders who have revolutionized the movement for trans rights.

It’s not just individuals, but movements we need to recognize. Calls for justice mean facing unsavory bits of our history, demanding accountability from institutions that are currently literally getting away with murder, and charting a way forward that leaves no one behind.

When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in your stomach as when you read about Mussolini or Hitler or see one of their pictures. You see, he killed over 10 million people in the Congo.

His name is King Leopold II of Belgium.

The Week in Review panel covered many issues on this week’s show: what this presidential race says about us, Whitman College’s mascot debate and 405 tolls.

But one segment got particularly heated when KUOW’s Bill Radke, Seattle Channel’s Joni Balter, Washington Policy Center economist Paul Guppy and writer Ijeoma Oluo discussed whether Washington state should make it easier to charge a police officer in the use of deadly force.

Guppy argued that there was concern that officers would be less likely to engage in situations if they were always afraid of prosecution.

“I want the cops to be scared,” Oluo countered. “I don’t know if anyone in this room knows what it’s like to watch over and over again, dozens of times in these last two years, to  see my people murdered in the street, gunned down in the street in the blink of an eye, without an ounce of hesitation from the officers. I want that hesitation. I want them to think, ‘If I screw this up I may go to jail.’ Because right now they know they won’t.”

Black Feminism and Womanism Have Always Been Crucial to Anti-Racist Work

I was sitting at a happy hour last summer. In the midst of good drinks and good food, someone asked a bad question, followed by an equally bad statement: “Don’t you think feminists are destroying the Black family? We need to go back to the days when women weren’t bitter and worked for Black empowerment.”

How do you explain to a Brother that your politics have room for both him and you? How do you explain that self-advocacy doesn’t mean you’ve left him behind? How do we convince vocal anti-feminists to recognize that our liberation is tied up together?

Black Feminism and Womanism are the bases of my activism. When we work, we channel the spirit of Angela, Assata, Sojourner, and Ida. I channel the work of my mother, my grandmothers, the women of my church, and the teachers who loved and nurtured me. Activism, however we’ve defined it, is a womanist imperative. Our foremothers have imbued us with the spirit of resistance. We honor their legacy by continuing the work they started. And this work is hard!

Thankfully, we’re beginning to get credit. Several articles and news reports laud the leadership of Black women in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Pictures of Black women holding megaphones at rallies get hundreds of likes and shares on Facebook. This is important. Never in history has there ever been such a mindfulness to lift up the work of Black women. Our foremothers did not enjoy such a luxury. I suppose I should be grateful for progress.

Last week, Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), an organization formed in the wake of the not-guilty verdict in murder trial of George Zimmerman, released the most important document to come out of the Movement for Black Lives. The Agenda to Build Black Futures sets forth a thoroughly researched, comprehensive, and transformative set of proposals for not only reducing the presence and impact of police and prisons in black communities, but for strengthening those communities through public investment. Not only that, it provides blueprints for campaigns that could be successful in achieving these goals.
 Don’t forget: the Day of Solidarity for Black Non-Believers is this Sunday.
Black History Month Extravaganza #2: Social Justice Express

2 thoughts on “Black History Month Extravaganza #2: Social Justice Express

  1. rq

    This is excellent material. Again, it will take me a while to get through it, but thanks for putting it together! I look forward to learning large amounts of new information about some very interesting and inspiring people.

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