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Findings from around the Internet.


“Black creativity has always managed to deploy itself in confined spaces. I am talking about Vines, web series and music videos.”

September 30, 2015


To me, for actors of colors working in Hollywood, auteurship is necessary. I think about Oscar Isaac, who had to radically change the script of Drive when he saw how racist the plot was against the character he was meant to embody. This is an example of a vital intervention in the creative process by an actor imposing his vision. In a way, they fill the gaps, “repair” an imagination that has been injured by centuries of racism. This is why criticizing actors’ choices of portraying stereotypes can be presumptuous and dismissive. Actors know best the system in which they must work. Black actors can have agency and margin to resist, and the way they do it is by doing what they know best — acting. We should pay attention as it is also our job as critical, engaged spectators to assess the strategies Black actors employ to escape Hollywood’s deadly, stifling racist & anti-Black imaginary. We should look at their performances not just as the product of Hollywood’s deadly imagination but also as the product of their own resistance, imagination and creativity…

If I were to write a book on Viola Davis’s auteurship now maybe it would be just a few pages long. I would focus on one scene which to me announced emergence of an actress: the wig scene in How To Get Away With Murder.The documentary aspect of that scene is what makes it significant. The camera, usually so intolerant and fearful, had suddenly no other choice but to document what it has avoided documenting for a long time. Here is Viola Davis’ face in all its truth, raw and vulnerable. Viola Davis is acutely aware of what her body represents in the collective imaginary so there is something audacious, bold and menacing about her exposing/showing herself like that. The scene exemplifies what Viola Davis has been doing ever since she walked the red carpet with her natural hair at the 84th Academy Awards. She’s been imposing herself, unveiling what is her main instrument as an actress: her body. When she removed that wig, her eyelashes and the rest of her makeup, unveiling her face and her natural hair, she wasn’t just humanizing the character of Annalise Keating or trying to root this character in the real, she was also forcing us to look at her, her deep dark skin, her nose, her mouth and her hair.

Viola Davis is not going anywhere. As spectators, our responsibility is to start training our gaze to look at her in a way that enables her to explore her creativity and express herself uncensored. In a way that is, if not loving, liberating.

Read more | “Anatomy of a Black Actress: Viola Davis” | Fanta Sylla | The Toast




“For blackness the human/animal binary is not only collapsed”

September 11, 2015


As a process of “becoming with,” abolition is the unfinished project of ending anti-Black racism, racial capitalism, anti-trans, anti-queer, patriarchal policing, colonialism, animal killing and caging. Animal liberationists must confront the devaluation of black life and racialization as animalization and the prison industrial complex as part of a movement for abolition.

In contrast to the vision of abolition offered by Douglass, for many in animal liberation and animal studies, abolition is imagined as teleological; first slavery was abolished and now forms of animal captivity must be, too. It is as though animal is the new black even though blackness has already been racialized through animalization. Critiques of “human exceptionalism” and anthropocentrism in critical animal studies often presume that the human in the human/animal divide is a universally inhabited and privileged category, rather than a contested and fractured one. Blackness and its relation to animality and abolition is often left in what Saidiya Hartman and Frank Wilderson call “the position of the unthought.”

Read more | “Blackness, Animality, and the Unsovereign” | Che Gossett | Verso Books blog


“will never be inconvenient or angry or vocal”

September 8, 2015


(An aside: how many of us Asian women writers have been mistaken for each other at literary events? Raise your hand if you didn’t point out the mistake just to save the dignity of the other person/thrust yourself into denial over this event occuring at all! Raise your other hand if you made a beeline for the wine right after!)

I suppose it could be that easy to wear one of us like a mask, as long as all the tedious aspects of our identities and politics were stripped away. Cut out the background, the body, the pain, and the pleasure that all come with being human and you have the perfect cipher. Yi-Fen’s captor has achieved the ultimate in separating the political from the personal, which happens to be the poetic endgame that he professed in a letter to Poetry in 2010. In reducing a racialized identity to a mere alias, he seems to be making a subtextual argument for racial colorblindness: we are all humans under our cultural baggage, right? But if that were true, why would he even think to use Yi-Fen to bolster his career? How cynical can you get?

Read more | “Yi-Fen Chou and the Man Who Wore Her” | Soleil Ho | Weird Sister


“rebellions in the last years have jumped leaps and bounds past the established ideas”

August 31, 2015

The self-organization within various POC-led rebellions in the last years have jumped leaps and bounds past the established ideas about what it means to resist race and victimization. People have found each other in unusual ways that are not the product of some kind of organizer meeting. They have resisted any idea, whether from the police or the liberal-left that they are complacent, passive. This self-organization not only scares police (who are quickly gearing up to prepare for future insurrections), but also many of those who talk of themselves as leaders, activists or grassroots political organizers in the realm of race politics.

The dynamic has challenged the common view that people are merely downtrodden and need a leader to galvanize them, that they are afraid to resist unless they feel safe. People have taken to attacking the institutions that seek to make them into just another “black body” to be protested and hash-tagged for when found dead by activists. They’ve confronted white power which makes them socially dead even when physically alive and attacked the concrete manifestations of capitalism and the police, refusing pleas to go home by both police and political managers.

Read More | “8.19.15: The police kill again in St. Louis. Some accounts and thoughts on what happened in response” | Anti-State STL


“I refuse to believe that the system that we’re in is the only option that we have.”

August 13, 2015

I don’t have faith in politicians. I don’t have faith in the electoral process. It’s well documented that that doesn’t work for us. No matter who you are. So my gaze is not toward politicians and getting them to do something in particular. I think they will change what they do based off of what I do, but that’s not my center. My center is using electoral politics as a platform but also agitating so much that people continue to question the system they’re in as they’re doing it, and that we start to dismantle it. Because I refuse to believe that the system that we’re in is the only option that we have. And so we hear people saying — Bernie supporters — “Well, he’s your best option.” It’s like, If he’s our best option then I’m burning this down. I think it’s literally blowing up — this is why the respectability thing is so important — is that you blow it up so big, and so un-respectably, that you can show people the possibilities outside of the system that they’re stuck in. And so that’s why I do agitation work.

So I’m not for any politician. But I’m definitely for anything that pulls people further left, anything that gets people asking more questions, and gets us closer to actually dismantling the system that has never, ever, ever, ever done anything for black people and never will. So I’m really trying to see my people get free by any means possible.

Listen | “Marissa Janae Johnson Speaks: #BLM, Sanders & White Progressives™” | Marissa Janae Johnson interviewed by Elon James White and Imani Gandy | This Week in Blackness