Leaders of Caribbean nations on Monday unanimously adopted a broad plan on seeking reparations from European nations for what they say are the lingering ill effects of the Atlantic slave trade on the region.
A British human rights law firm hired by the Caribbean Community grouping of nations announced that prime ministers had authorized a 10-point plan that would seek a formal apology and debt cancellation from former colonizers such as Britain, France and the Netherlands. The decision came at a closed-door meeting in St. Vincent & the Grenadines.
According to the Leigh Day law firm, the Caribbean Community also wants reparation payments to repair the persisting “psychological trauma” from the days of plantation slavery and calls for assistance to boost the region’s technological know-how since the Caribbean was denied participation in Europe’s industrialization and confined to producing and exporting raw materials such as sugar.
The plan further demands European aid in strengthening the region’s public health, educational and cultural institutions such as museums and research centers.
I’m excited about this because:
[a] reparations have for too long been dismissed as a ridiculous notion, a total impossibility that only the deluded among us would countenance. but really, what’s funny or irrational about it? slavery, an economic system that depended on unwaged labour generated wealth for European economies, to the detriment of the Caribbean. Now that it considers itself “enlightened”, Europe should be expected to redress the economic inequality it deliberately created
[b] the fact that this is coming as a lawsuit rather than as an academic argument or treatise is powerful because people are going to have to publicly engage the economic reality of slavery, and the deeply unequal relationship between Britain/Europe, the Caribbean and Africa. This happens almost never in Britain’s public sphere
[c] finally, guess who did get reparations when slavery was abolished in the British West Indies in 1833/34? British slaveholders. Thanks to UCL you can find an index of them here, as well as more information on how their compensation was calculated.
A man dressed in a sharp grey suit glides into view of the patrons at London’s Tate Modern Gallery. They turn and stare as he, accompanied by a woman dressed in pink Americana, walks towards the gallery’s Picasso Wing. He will sit there for an hour, balancing on his shoulders a head which entirely covers his own. The head is big and round, its blackness punctuated only by a pair of crimson lips.
This is Larry Achiampong, a British-Ghanaian artist who uses a range of media to reinterpret the visual and aural archives he has inherited. In the past Achiampong has delved into the sounds of his upbringing by Ghanaian parents to create mixtapes Meh Mogya (My Blood) and its follow up More Mogya. Some of his most arresting visual works are digitally manipulated family photographs. In these, he overlays the faces of loved ones with the black head and red lipped motif that he calls “cloudface.” His Tate performance piece brought cloudface to life for the purposes of the group show Project Visible.
In photo-form, Achiampong’s “Cloudface” is jarring. The intimacy of the family portrait, an index of black survival in a hostile 1980s Britain, is interrupted by the derogatory iconography of blackness that we associate with blackface performance, golliwog dolls and the pickaninny caricature. But this interruption serves an important purpose: to remind a forgetful British public about Empire, colonialism and its more domestic forms of racism, too. In Achiampong’s words “just because Golliwogs and Blackface are not paraded in the way they were in the past, it doesn’t mean the world has thrown that type of mentality to the dust. I think in the UK we are quite guilty of sweeping moments like these under the carpet in the hope that no one will unearth them.”
This is a crucial moment to unearth them. In recent months the UK Border Agency has unleashed officers on train stations to stop and question people about their immigration status based on race and accent. Dawn raids continue unabated and the official discourse around immigration throbs with xenophobia, despite the very real human costs of European border policy. With his performance, Achiampong aimed to realise ”the experience of being categorized and treated like an alien based on the colour of my skin and my origins.” Placing this overdetermined body in full view, Achiampong also calls our attention to the ongoing and relentless processes by which some people are marked as expendable, disposable and ungrievable “others”.
Larry Achiampong was generous enough to answer my questions by email back in October 2013. Read the rest of the Q&A here
In his book “Within the Context of No Context” (1981), George W.S. Trow writes of a young black man new to college, who felt the Dutch masters of the 17th century “belonged” to the white students in the room and he had no relation to them. After he said this to the class, many of the white students felt guilty and leapt to discuss their hegemony over the black student, but really, they were feeling for the first time ownership and euphoria. Trow wonders, “Had the young black man asked, ‘Who is this man to you?’ the pleasure they felt would have vanished in embarrassment.”
Rachel Kaadzi Ghanash, Rachel Jeantel, Rammellzee, Basquiat, and the Art of Being an Equation
who is William Shakespeare to you?
who is John Donne to you?
who is Michelangelo to you?
who is T.S. Eliot to you?
The Color Purple and “Makidada”
"In the book, the sisters Nettie and Celie play and sing a hand game called “Makidada,” which is a Swahili word meaning “Little Sister.” The words of the song celebrate a relationship in which the two girls vow to never part or be separated from one another. This heartbreakingly poignant moment is not only charged with emotion and symbolism, but also serves as a reminder of the many beautiful songs and hand games that have their roots in African culture." — excerpt from Memory Lane, Sunday Kinfolk.
Photography by Lawrence Agyei
it is equally important for us to recognize the ways life does and did go on, particularly for those who suffered but survived the institutions described in these works. There is a danger of neglecting the dailiness of the lives of the people who lived through slavery and the concentration camps, the danger that arguing for a historical break means either denying the small joys and recurring sorrows of those individuals who lived through it or forgetting what, to appropriate a phrase by Hannah Arendt, we can call the “banality of evil,” the terrifying normalcy of human suffering wrought of human desires for hierarchy, cruelty, supremacy.
Ashraf Rushdy, Remembering Generations, Race and Family in Contemporary African American Fiction (2001)
timecodereading said: They call Edwin Epp’s rapes of Patsey a “tortured sexual relationship”. Did I miss something?
You called the fuckery. This warped NYT perspective is also reflected in how much relative space Foner’s comments are given in the selective transcription of the discussion. Still, what Walker and McQueen say about Patsey and Epps on page 2 is vastly more nuanced and challenging, without compromising on the essential violence and brutality of Patsey’s experience… I maybe disagree with McQueen’s understanding of love in this context, or at least am torn on this question. It reminds me of that wry, parenthetical line in White Teeth “oh, he loves her; just as the English loved India and Africa and Ireland; it is the love that is the problem”:
There’s a uniquely American exuberance for violence or an exuberance for getting ahead in the world and making a name for themselves. I’m talking about the sort of plantation class that fought for the entrenchment of the slave system. That’s not something that can be overlooked when you think about the mythology of what it means to be an American, that one can become a self-made man if one is white and male and able.
I’m a sponge for historical images of black people and black history on film. It doesn’t happen often enough, and it doesn’t happen artfully enough most of the time when it does happen. I came away with this really kind of awful sense that I didn’t want to leave. The texture of the film made me want to stay in this space that would not be hospitable to me. Thinking also about who would see the film, I think about my parents, in Georgia. I think about the theater where they will see the film. People will go to the mall to see one of those Tyler Perry films and action films. Would this film make it there, and if it did, would it translate? My hope was that this film would reach that audience down there and have that sort of complicated space open up for them that wasn’t just an easy laugh or an easy cry.
- Kara Walker on 12 Years a Slave at a roundtable with Steve McQueen, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Eric Foner
I was wondering if anyone had thought to ask Kara Walker for her thoughts on this film, did a quick google, and this partial transcription of a roundtable conversation came up. I wish I’d been there in person though because it sounds like there was a lot more to this conversation which didn’t make it into the New York Times
While we’re on the subject of gatekeepers in the film industry, let’s talk about theaters, shall we?
Landmark Theatres is (according to Wikipedia; if someone can find me a better source, hit me up) “the largest art house movie theater chain in the United States”. They don’t control a lot of theaters, but their holdings are a key distributor of all those cool indie flicks folks dig.
I remember when Pariah came out, several people made the very good point that while they wanted to support the movie, they couldn’t afford the steep-ass art house theater ticket prices to go in (here in NYC, I think the ticket was like $15 at least).
That this film centering Black queer women got limited distribution is not a surprise. That this film got limited distribution through Landmark Theatres, who to my knowledge did not do any outreach to Black queer communities in advertising the film, let alone offer reduced-rate admission to groups like FIERCE (trans and queer youth, particularly trans and queer youth of color, need to see themselves on screen, period) is really important.
I want these men visible. I want these circumstances visible. I don’t want to shadowbox concepts; I want the structure of USian film, from distribution to casting, to fundamentally change, and it can’t do so unless we can call names.
“Sylvia Rivera kicking ass on stage after some radfems & transphobes tried to refuse her the right to speak at the 1973 Christopher Street Liberation Day rally. Said radfems then had their own march in part protesting trans participation in Pride. A precursor to today’s Dyke March.”
It is women like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson who started the Stonewall riots and queer liberation. 43 years later, trans women of color, the people who started the movement, are the people maligned and left behind by it.
In Sylvia’s words, “What the FUCK is wrong with you all?”
[[Trigger warning: suicide]]
Sylvia went home that night and attempted suicide.
Marsha Johnson came home and found her in time to save her life.
Sylvia left the movement after that day and didn’t come back for twenty years.
this is incredible, she is incredible, I highly recommend watching it
but I think the addendum re: the effect of this day on sylvia is really important
so often we valorise decontextualised moments of tough, articulate resistance and rage
and the suffering of the people who embodied them is not acknowledged, it’s uncomfortable, it’s not inspiring, we want them to stay tough and cool and stylish forever
which is particularly terrible when I think about how sylvia felt like that because of women like me — women who are now watching this video and feeling inspired and impressed and maybe a bit pleased with ourselves for finally having watched a speech by the famous and really cool to name-drop sylvia rivera
rebloggin for the true as fuck commentary (bolding mine)
n like, on one hand this moment is decontextualized as fuck, but on the other hand a lot of ppl try to hyper-contextualize it to make it “history” and a very specific historical moment, so we (cis women) can be like “oh so sad that’s how it was in the 1970s, radfems were so awful, but it was only the whole second-wave scene that was the problem, glad that’s over.”
Like have we forgotten the fact that Sylvia only died in 2002? And she died young, if she were still alive she wouldn’t even be 65 yet. I know hella older ppl in NYC who knew her personally, and hella “leaders” of the NYC queer scene pulled horrific shit on her constantly in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, like literally until the day she died (ppl from Empire State Pride agenda literally went to St. Vincents to beef with her on her death bed) Where are the video tapes/memorializing of that shit?
N now the Manhattan LGBT center on 13th st has a room dedicated to her memory, despite the fact that very center permanently banned her in 1995 for daring to suggest they should let homeless QTPOC sleep there in sub-zero weather.
N now there’s a whole homeless trans youth shelter on 36th st named after her, Sylvia’s Place, that kicked my TWOC friend out on the streets for testing positive for marijuana; failing to recognize how fucked up that is in a shelter named after a woman who struggled with addiction all her life, and was very vocal about the relationship between drug use and the stress of living under constant threats of violence.
N from the late 90s onward rich gays and lesbians openly fought against Sylvia to try to shut down 24/7 access to the piers that she n hella other QTPOC cruised and lived on bc they were bringing down the property values of their multi-million west village apartments.
N like 90% of the individual people who perpetuated fucked up violence against Sylvia are still alive and high-profile leaders in the NYC LGBT “community” today.
So like yes, good, remember the oppressive weight of our history of transmisogyny…but also remember that this shit specifically ain’t even history, it’s the current reality of the NYC queer/trans hierarchy today—like not even figuratively, literally the same people who pulled shit like this on Sylvia are still alive n well n all over NYC cutting the ribbons to the newest Sylvia Rivera memorial n eulogizing her like they never tried to fucking kill her themselves.
Incredible commentary all over this post
i know i reblogged this before, but check out all this on point commentary
important historical knowledge.
How does a film like this not get more attention? It has more cinematic artistry than half the crap that’s been nominated for Oscars this year….
I interviewed Andrew Dosunmu recently, and we spoke about Mother of George and the portrayal of immigrants in film among other things. He dropped some gems, which might elucidate as to why magnificent films like this do not get the attention they deserve. A lot of it has to do with cliches of immigrants in America, expectations of how Africans are supposed to be represented (usually without complexity) and the fact that people want familiar Hollywood names, and not the best person for the job who might be an unknown.
Read the interview here.
Stuart Hall | Interview on multiculturalism
Thinking Allowed, BBC Radio 4, March 2011
"I’m not surprised that identity has become a political question, but I’m in despair, and also ironic, about the actual forms that takes…I mean St George’s Day, can you imagine? I think those are pretty ridiculous. But, at the same time, globalisation has greatly overplayed the decline of the nation state and national culture. These two things work hand in hand, so the question of, well, ‘what are we attached to?’, especially for a society which has constructed its history to suggest that, you know, these are special people - they came out of the North Sea already tolerant, liberal, open-minded, addicted to freedom etcetera. It’s horrendous distortion of what the national history has been, as our story, which is going on right now. We’re about to teach a version of it that says the only thing is really that we did come out of the sea civilized. I think all of that is not amusing at all. A difficult and dangerous preoccupation, and its a preoccupation that Paul Gilroy called ‘[postcolonial] melancholia’ a kind of mourning for a lost object, and its an unrequitable mourning because it’s not going to come back in that form.”