Breaking Down the Black Myth

The Harlem Renaissance emerged in the 1920s and became synonymous with “The New Negro Movement” and the new African -American middle class. Harlem was most recognized for its jazz culture and popular nightclubs such as the Apollo Theater, the Savoy, and the Cotton Club. Musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald embodied the evolving talent of the Jazz movement. The Harlem Renaissance paved the way and influenced generations of artists and political activists who strove to fight racism and socio-economic inequality.  Today the cultural landscape of the neighborhood has transformed significantly, with the increasing influx of African immigrants. The definition of Black culture is shifting, as more African immigrants make Harlem their home.  Are African Americans and recent African immigrants making social and cultural connections?  Or are the differences too wide to connect?

Check out this short film we’ve made on the topic:

*Special thanks to all the Harlem residents and New School students who participated! And a big thank you to our professor, Sean Jacobs.

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Winnie: Yep, another biopic


Here we go. Another biopic surrounding Nelson Mandela, but this time, Hollywood is tackling the story of his ex-counterpart, Winnie Mandela. While the real Winnie Mandela has expressed her dissatisfaction with the film for not portraying her story accurately, I’m mostly aghast at the choice of actors who play the Mandelas. While we can all get into a debate over Jennifer Hudson’s Oscar worthiness in Dreamgirls, I will say that such a powerful story needs to be played by a powerful actress and I’m not sure that Ms. Hudson is up for the challenge. Furthermore, it is laughable that Terrence Howard would be the first pick for Nelson Mandela. This is all compounded by the fact that his acting is subpar, and his attempt at a South African accent is cringe worthy.

Appearances aside, I find it alarming that filmmaker, Darrell Roodt, would take a story as moving and poignant as Winnie Mandela’s and treat it with such nonchalance. As a native South African man-and even as a simple human being who knows the complexities of undertaking the telling of this story- I hoped that he would have been meticulous bordering on maniacal with respect to getting this done right. While my rant may be premature, the trailer does little to rest my fears that this story will be served with a semblance of justice.

What are your thoughts?

mandela wedding

mandela wedding

winnie movie wedding

winnie movie

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Sister Fa

Sister Fa

Fatou Diatta, better known as Sister Fa is the one of the few female pioneers of Senegalese hip-hop. Breaking into the typically male-dominated industry of African rap, she has become the spokesperson for women, the poor and the oppressed in her native Dakar. Her rhymes often focus on human rights and social justice issues. Using both Wolof and French to write her poetry, the successful rapper has inspired many to embrace the insights of female artists in Africa. Check out Milyamba, a song that describes the difficulties of being a Senegalese woman living in the country side.

 

For more info about this Hip-hop Queen, watch “My Name is Sister Fa”:

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Freedom or Prosperity?

Media coverage in Rwanda has faced many challenges since the tragedy of the 1994 genocide.  Rwandan President Paul Kagame allows very little, if no freedom of the press. Such media outlets as The Economist, The BBC and other publications have expressed their plight to freely express their views of the country and its government. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has worked to expose this censorship.

In the August 2010 elections, Kagame won another 7-year term as President. However, journalists were unable to document this as the government systematically shut down all media outlets and drove correspondents out of the country by use of intimidation and scare tactics. 

Paul Kagame, illustration by: Kerry Waghorn

 

“Any critical news coverage had been squashed”, according to the CPJ.  What did eventually make it to the papers was the coverage of Kagame’s contenders, many of who were somehow tied to him politically and posed no real competition, as they did not truly challenge his agenda. Clearly, the Rwandan government has something to hide.

According to the CPJ, 17 journalists have been killed in Rwanda since 1992.  This past April, Rwandan independent publication Umuseso faced 6 months of suspension and the paper’s editors faced criminal charges. Charles Kobonero, one of the editors for Umuseso, was formally charged with “public insult” back in 2006 after writing a series of articles criticizing Kagame’s government. Though charges of “divisionism” were eventually dropped, Kobonero still faced a harsh sentence for bringing attention to the network of political influence within the Rwandan government.

Photo source: Committee to Protect Journalists

According to the CPJ, editors cannot publish if they have a criminal record under Rwandan law. As conditions grew to be more perilous, the editors were ultimately forced to publish from exile and created a new publication called Newsline. Attempts by the government were made to block the paper from getting into the hands of the Rwandan people. Despite the difficulties, copies managed to be downloaded from emails and circulated.

It would seem that despite Rwanda’s great progress, Kagame’s government continues to roadblock transparency. One could argue that this kind of governing is necessary to gain complete control over a rather chaotic and violent period of time in Rwandan history. But to what extent should the government continue to rule with such an iron fist?  Rwanda continues down a path of prosperity and has made great strides toward a future free from violence, crime and racism. Does this mean that freedom of press and freedom of expression must be sacrificed?

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Celebrity Africa

photo from Anansi Chronicles.

What does your favorite celeb do their spare time? Save Africa, of course.

Check out this blog on African business and culture trends.

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Dambisa Moyo: A Critical Commentary

Dambisa Moyo is an international economist and author of the best seller: Dead Aid. According to Moyo, aid has been disadvantageous for Africa. Though she feels that humanitarian or emergency aid may be helpful, these forms of aid do not prove to be useful as long-term solutions. Her book investigates the fostering of corruption via monetary assistance and the stifling of economic growth. Moyo has said aid does not encourage “an entrepreneurial spirit” in Africa and that it should eventually be phased out.

Many have criticized Moyo’s book, calling it “over-optimistic” and “reckless” and claim it underestimates the economic limitations of the continent. Moyo has been personally criticized as someone who cares more about her own political success than that of the very subject she addresses in her book.

You can find out more about Moyo on facebook, youtube, and dambisamoyo.com

Check out this Munk debate between Moyo and Paul Collier:

Click here for a critical audio commentary on Dambisa Moyo.

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Semba’s Shining Star

Yuri Da Cunha is a household name in Angola, and is on his way to becoming an international star. He has taken the older Angolan genre of semba music and modernized its appeal to urban youth. His lingering vocals combined with his fluid dance style have captured fans from Angola to Portugal. The combination of dance styles from the Congo, Brazil and the United states can only be described in one word: Fresh. He sings in Portuguese and mixes Angolan languages into his songs, making his music more accessible to fans. Yuri calls himself a “People Artist”, and credits his music’s inspiration to the daily lives of people in Angola. Growing up amongst poverty in Luanda, Yuri vows to remain close to the place of his upbringing. By pledging to live in his hometown, he hopes to bring attention to the needs of his community.

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