Sean Bell: 18th May 1983 – 25th November 2006

May 18th would have been Sean Bell’s 25th birthday…

As a fitting tribute – and a reminder to us all to continue to act against police brutality – documentary filmmaker Byron Hurt has put together this short, yet very powerful, film.

Let’s all make sure that Sean Bell’s death – and the deaths of other innocent young men and women of colour – was not in vain.

 

The Audacity of Hope in Hip Hop

I’m going to write some more on this topic in due course, and I have a Guardian piece coming out soon talking about Obama and the hip hop generation, but for now let me post this video of Senator Obama himself talking about his love of hip hop and how he thinks it needs to look forward and inspire as well as stay rooted in the realness of today…

Monkeys & Black People

A couple of weeks ago a (white) friend of mine asked me if, as a black woman, I’d be offended if he used ‘gorilla’ as a term of endearment towards me. I said I most probably would be. He was surprised. He said that he had, intending to be friendly, called one of his black friends “gorilla” and she was (unsuprisingly in my opinion) pretty upset, to say the least.

I explained to him that since he was a redhead, if I referred to him as a ‘carrot top’ or ‘ginger nut’ it’s likely he would believe that my term of endearment for him was based on his hair colour or his red freckles. Similarly, if he called me or his black friend a gorilla it would not be unreasonable to presume that, for some reason, our being black reminded him of a primate.

Now, there is a guy somewhere in Georgia who is peddling the t-shirts of Obama pictured above. Apparently, to him, Obama looks like ‘Curious George’, the cartoon monkey who is featured in the t shirt. This guy says that he can’t see what’s wrong with the comparison. When asked by news reporter Manuel Bojorquez why he chose a monkey image, the man said “I thought, man, look at those ears and his hair line and that’s what I saw. I didn’t see anything offensive.”

Now, do we really need to explain that the comparison of a black person to a monkey is offensive? It has always been used as a racist, derogatory and offensive stereotype against black people. I don’t think it takes a genius to work that out.

Is the Curious George comparison really the only one that this man felt Obama was worth of?! Honestly? …. That’s very, very sad.

Civil Disobedience For Sean Bell Justice

I felt very proud to see people of all colours out on the streets of New York last week taking part in well-coordinated civil disobedience protests in support of the Sean Bell movement. Or should I say in protest at the acquittal of the 3 police officers who killed Sean Bell.

I have to admit I wasn’t there although I really wanted to be but hey, I’m not an American citizen and I don’t want any reason to be deported. lol. I’m serious! I can just imagine some police man saying “who is this journalist chick out on the streets of New York causing disobedience!? Send her home!!”. Reverend Al Sharpton was very good in issuing guidelines for those who were involved in the civil disobedience acts to ensure that nobody ended up in the slammer for real.

Rev Al Sharpton, Nicole Paultre Bell, Sean Bell’s friends, family and thousands of other outraged New Yorkers peacefully brought New York traffic to a standstill. Targetting rush hour traffic by protesting on the main bridges that lead into and out of the city, Rev Sharpton brought home the point that any of those motorists, sitting peacefully in their cars, could have been Sean Bell.

I was also glad to see the impact that people can have when they decide to protest peacefully. When people are oppressed and feel that their voices won’t be, or aren’t, heard, violence is often considered to be the only viable course of action. Sure it makes people listen, but for the wrong reasons. New York definitely sat up and took notice last week.

I can’t wait to find out what else is planned. Hopefully this time I’ll be able to join in.  

 

Obama vs the media

 

 

I had a piece published today regarding Obama, Jeremiah Wright and how the media has shaped the whole story… Here is the link to it: http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/lola_adesioye/2008/05/obama_versus_the_media.html

I’m not necessarily pro-Obama and I’m not necessarily pro-Wright. I just find it rather interesting to see how powerful the media vehicle is when it comes to influencing – and dare I say manipulating – the public in a particular direction.

This story – which to me is actually pretty irrelevant – just will not go away, and it has been fanned by the replaying of small snippets and soundbites over and over again.

Having listened to Wright’s sermons in full, I feel sorry for the man. He appears to have been the victim of some kind of character assassination. People will say ‘oh well, his speech on Monday was egotistical’… well maybe it was, but he is probably frustrated and probably a little angry. I would be too. To be honest, I have listened to the entirety of his speeches and once again I believe he made some very good points. I didn’t agree with everything he said, but he is not a crazy black man on a mission to destroy America – that much is for sure.

It’s unfortunate for Obama that he came out to speak at this time. But the whole episode is also very unfortunate for Reverend Wright. He did not choose for the media to pick up on him and his (7 year old sermons) in the way they have done.

ANYWAY my general point is that once upon a time, the role of the media was to be a purveyor of truth and fact. Now, the role of the media appears to be to titillate and sensationalize – and that has destructive consequences for individuals and for society…

Many of the people who are waxing lyrical about Reverend Wright no more than the soundbites they have read in the media, yet this is what they are using to base judgements on Barack Obama.