John Akomfrah in conversation with Coco Fusco, from Young, British & Black
Octavia Butler, “Positive Obsession" (1996), p. 132
Isn’t Butler’s vulnerability here wonderful? And the way she combines a critique of the imperative to whistle-while-you-(do-awful)-work with this confession of self-doubt borne of growing up a black woman in America.
In the next few sentences, she describes, obliquely, how certain archetypes for being a black woman prohibit us from speaking about or excavating ugly feelings. Lately I’m appreciating the writers who loose their tongues to speak that “certain truth”, to speak about racism as abjection and real world pain. That space has limits, but they turn our faces for a minute to the shadow side of that hard-won script of strong black womanhood. Read on & on ….
stills from Jean Pierre Bekolo’s film Le Président
This moment when the President in Jean Pierre Bekolo’s latest film tells a young artist that “it is not the President’s job to know” why there is rampant youth unemployment in Cameroon is just…. I’m laughing raucously while dying inside.
What is this species of political indifference that is everywhere? This week, the UK’s employment minister Esther McVey told the UK’s 920,000 unemployed youth to get a foot on the career ladder by getting “a job at Costa (coffee)”, implying that people weren’t working because they simply didn’t like the flavour of job on offer. Erica Buist’s piece for The Guardian lacked analysis of how widespread unemployment exacerbates already discriminatory hiring practices, but she did make the good and simple point “Unemployment is soaring because demand for jobs exceeds availability.” Or, as dude in the screenshot above puts it, the system has failed.
Prepare for the elite, like never before, to use climate change to transform neighbourhoods, cities, even entire nations into heavily fortified islands. Already, around the world, from Afghanistan to Arizona, China to Cairo, and in mushrooming mega-cities much like Lagos, those able are moving to areas where they can live better and often more greenly – with better transport and renewable technologies, green buildings and ecological services. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, the super-rich – ferried above the congested city by a fleet of hundreds of helicopters – have disembedded themselves from urban life, attempting to escape from a common fate.
In places like Eko Atlantic the escape, a moral and social secession of the rich from those in their country, will be complete. This essentially utopian drive – to consume rapaciously and endlessly and to reject any semblance of collective impulse and concern – is simply incompatible with human survival. But at the moment when we must confront an economy and ideology pushing the planet’s life-support systems to breaking point, this is what the neoliberal imagination offers us: a grotesque monument to the ultra-rich flight from responsibility.”
“New, privatized African city heralds climate apartheid" | by Martin Lukacs
The piece that really needed to be written about Eko Atlantic
The young Steve McQueen in my kitchen ,
about 1989 .
Interview with Jamaica Kincaid by Ru Freeman
Was there ever anyone so unabashed and articulate in her account of herself as Jamaica Kincaid in interview? This is the candour of a woman unafraid of facing up to her own contradictions and shortcomings, despite her fame and reputation. At some point I want to write about what this all means (something to do with confidence, commitment to inquiry and concomitant vulnerability), but for now I content myself with avidly archiving all her video and written interviews. Here she is in conversation with Ru Freeman, talking about her latest book See Now Then and much more.
on writing and/as thinking & failing to think
"For me writing a novel is to think, to turn it over, to see how it feels, how it is, trying to understand the essence of something. And then I get up from the desk and I’ve totally failed. But I’m not afraid to go back the next day and sit in the same chair and try again."
on Britain as the “Mother Country”
"The figure of the mother playing such a big role in my imagination must come from my interest in power and how it gets arranged. And that the central powerful image in my history is of course Mother Country […] We talk about the Mother Country, and it’s not just a phrase, it’s a powerful influence in our imagination. And it’s not a coincidence that for instance a book like Annie John which talks so much about the relationship between the child and the mother, is really talking about the relationship between the colony and the mother country which is this imbalance of power, this sort of violation of the Mother Country against the colonies and the colonies perhaps  having little protestations. But the figure of the mother that plays such a powerful part in my fiction is really trying to understand that image, and that existence … this horrible power that we have modified and made acceptable in the form of mother.”
on land and its legacies
"One of the things that we never do in the landscape I’m from, is relax on it. No one I know growing up, ever goes to the beach for a holiday. It’s a landscape that horrible memories for us."
on A Small Place
"it was the first thing I wrote in which I began to understand that there was a certain truth, and however upsetting it would be to other people, I needed to say it. In fact, when Antiguan people read that book - and it was banned in Antigua for a while - they would say to me, ‘everything you said is true, but did you have to say it?’
on literary style
"For me I don’t really have any style or any literary thing, all I have is the words to say it - to quote a wonderful book - that’s all I want, are the words to say it, and I will hunt down, spend a long time, looking for the words to say it and will use the word again and again."
on telling the truth
"I think the notions regarding fiction, non-fiction, essay and so on, are lost on me. I just want to say something, and I want the thing I’m saying to be true. The form can be fiction, the form can be non-fiction, but it has to have a truth. A lie in my mind is a singular thing, it’s like a lump of coal. On the other hand, the truth is conflicted, it is opposition, it opposes itself, it destroys itself even thought it rises to live again. It’s eternal because it’s true. That’s all I want, is to say something true."
on punning on Outkast lyrics in See Now Then
"I felt really so delighted with myself"
on being called angry
"Had I anticipated all this I would have called myself Norman Mailer, and worn a Norman Mailer outfit. I mean, Norman Mailer stabbed his wife, and no one calls him angry."
The “safety net” for police officers in such circumstances is that the killing is lawful if the officer has an “honestly held belief” that he or others are in imminent danger. But in this case the jury themselves stated it was their belief that Duggan had thrown the gun before being fatally shot, so where was the immediate, clear and present danger?
At the inquest, V53 – the officer who fired the fatal shots – said that he definitely saw the sock-covered gun and was even able to describe seeing the barrel of the gun sticking out of the hole in the sock. He also gave this sworn testimony in the two trials of the alleged gun supplier, Kevin Hutchinson Foster. On each of these occasions he stated he was positive that Mark had the gun in his hand when he shot him the first and second time. Each time he described it as a “freeze frame” moment, adding: “This is something that you do not forget.” He further justified the need for shooting Duggan twice by describing how the first shot spun Duggan around so that the gun was pointing directly at him when he shot him the second time.
The jury appears to have put this evidence to one side, along with the fact that two other officers also testified on the same three occasions that they had seen the gun drawn and in Duggan’s hand. It seems that the jury has delivered a verdict that neither fits the known facts nor chimes with the testimony of the independent witnesses.
Further, in coming to the conclusion that Duggan had thrown the gun before or on exiting the mini-cab the jury disregarded the scientific evidence as no traces of his DNA was found on the sock or the gun although his fingerprints were found on the lid of the box that the gun was allegedly being transported in. They also appear to have disregarded the evidence of the taxi driver, who said that he had not seen Duggan open the box during the journey or once the police had forced his vehicle to stop.
In fact there were no witnesses who saw the gun being thrown. A few police officers inferred that it was possible, but none of the 11 highly trained officers claimed to see Duggan making any movement that could have resembled him throwing away the firearm. Most surprisingly for the family was the jury’s apparent ability to totally disregard the evidence of Witness B, the only independent witness to see the shooting. He was an extremely reluctant witness, who had to be tracked down by the coroner’s team. He had filmed the aftermath of the shooting; the footage was later sold to the BBC. He has no historical links to Tottenham and no links to Duggan or his family. He was adamant that Duggan had a BlackBerry in one hand, and that both of his hands were held above head height in a gesture of surrender as he was gunned down.
Stafford Scott | on the verdict that designated the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan by police a “lawful killing” via The Guardian CIF
Have you read it? What did you think?
It was amazing, recommended to me by Derica over tea in Brooklyn this summer. I literally devoured it in one day.
!!!Attention CeCe McDonald lovers!!!
CeCe gets out of prison in just a little over 2 weeks. We are looking for a few donations. If you have any of these things laying around the house please feel free to drop them off for CeCe at The Exchange, 3405 Chicago Ave, Mpls.
*Twin sized bed frame: Headboard/footboard/ralls/all that!
I listened to a lot of Cold Specks (aka Al Spx) for a list I made last year of 10 British Artists to Watch in 2013 (Kwes, Sampha, Lulu James, Josephine Oniyama, Kwabs…). Although Al Spx isn’t strictly British (she’s Canadian via Somalia) I included her because she’s based in England and makes most of her music (t)here.
Her album, I Predict a Perfect Expulsion is full of half-told tales of uprootedness: nameless characters ‘pick up in the middle of the night’ and attempt to manoeuvre confused terrain only to find that ‘every map is blank’. Her voice belongs to someone who lives in the inbetween, who ‘hates to move’ but whose ‘words head for the cracks’ and she tells us about that contradiction. I don’t for one minute believe that she is ‘a goddamned believer’, but recognise the desire for narrative order in her furious assertion, the twinned longing and loathing that accompanies the pull to stay put.
They wanted to give me all this money up front but I’m like, keep the money. Let me be involved as a partner. And niggas couldn’t do that. And it’s not because the people at the label didn’t want to help me. It’s because the corporate structure of their companies would not allow ownership. And I’m offended by that. I called an audible and I withstood social pressure. I believed in my heart that I would be less of a man to not stand up for what I believed in. I felt like it was racist. Like, I don’t deserve some shit I just built by myself? You want to give me some money? Oh, because you don’t think I know what the asset is? You think I don’t understand where the real value is?
- Nipsey on a racist, capitalist music industry in Complex
it’s because the corporate structure of their companies would not allow ownership….i felt like it was racist… you think I don’t know what the asset is? you think I don’t understand where the real value is?
This has been in my drafts for months, but as I institute some welcome changes in my life, and listen to Beyonce’s “Ghost” thinking how comes? I’m remembering what a relief this interview with Nipsey was this year.
Nipsey talks about white owners of entertainment companies who are the gatekeepers and arbiters of mainstream culture, and who trade off the cultural and financial capital that being associated with blackness affords. He then draws a deft parallel between how major labels use black rappers as frontmen for their white-owned companies, and how hip hop/black culture publications might have precariously employed black/latin@ writers/freelancers/interns but not black/latin@ editors/partners: “They’re using you like these labels use these rappers. Listen to me real quick.”
Within and against this economy in which black people are native informants but not consultants; freelancers but not editors; fixers for foreign correspondents but not journalists, Nipsey rearranges value systems. Artists and producers get paid for their creative work. He’s also alive to what it means to be poor and black in America, and resists a prison industrial complex that would shit on the lives of formerly incarcerated people: “I got employees that have felonies and they can’t get jobs. They work for me”. Why equate all of this with manliness (“I would be less of a man…”) I don’t know, but small signs and wonders…
At the end of the year, as at the beginning, Carrie Mae Weems in my head like “I knew, not from memory but from hope, that there were other models by which to live”