RiseUPWoman

Agitate. Rinse. Repeat

Author: riseupwoman

We Can Stand With All Victims of Terrorism

We knew it was coming.

A surge of counter-activism, pedaling the lack of global sympathy for some tragedies as a right to denigrate people experiencing another.

Social media is peppered now with vitriolic posts and memes ranting about how horrible and undeserving France is of the sympathy it is receiving. Everyone has the right to their opinion and, conversely, should not feel obligated to express solidarity for anything. But proclaiming that some people don’t deserve an outpouring of condolence is never an honorable or effective way to drum up attention for another issue.

It is sadly, true that France has a long ugly history of brutal oppression in some areas of the world. This fact really does need to be aired more in the media. It is also true (and should be shouted from the rooftops) the media tends to ignore the suffering of peoples outside of the Western countries, particularly those poorer regions dominated by black and brown people. Mass killings in Africa, Asia, and the Central & South Americas often have death tolls much higher than U.S. and Europe usually experience for terror and other acts of random violence. No incident in the current decade in any of these areas has ever dominated the media cycle like the Charlie Hebdo and the November 13, 2015 terror attacks in Paris.

What if I told you:

You can show concern for people victimized by incidents in Paris and Syria, Beirut, Kenya, Missouri and anywhere else at the same time? And yes, without minimizing the importance of any one of these? Saying, you are NOT going to show concern for Paris simply because no one was showing support for other places is imbecilic and counterproductive. Were YOU posting about these other places before the Paris event? No? Well have a seat then.

Here’s a tip about the way social media works. Popular discussions, hashtags, keywords, get in front of more eyes. If you want to get more people talking about some of those other worthy causes, there is a super keen way to do so. Be a human and express your sympathy for Paris attacks and/or then say let’s not forget to talk about these other places also.

Beginning a post for justice with cruelty towards others is hypocritical.

France’s history of colonialism and racism is not a secret. In fact, only months ago has France bothered to apologize for extorting 97mn gold francs (€17 billion today) out of Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world, to compensate French slave owners for loss of income. But, France, somehow mourned the events of 9/11 in solidarity with the U.S. without feeling the need to rant about how horrible we have been towards Native Americans since, well, the birth of our country. Likewise, as much as our country likes to downplay the role of slavery in its history, we can hardly use France’s atrocities in Africa as justification to withhold human compassion.

Brutal truth time. ISIS, who has claimed responsibility for the most recent Paris attacks, is likely the United States’ fault. Political analysts on both sides of the Atlantic have asserted this claim. Remember, France and Germany thought the Iraq invasion, which has been blamed for sowing the seeds for ISIS, was a horrible idea. Americans mocked France for their perspective (remember Freedom Fries) and millions rushed to re-elect a President that created the 12 year war zone that became the cradle for ISIS. France and the rest of Western Europe are nonetheless feeling the most pain right now from this cancer. Furthermore, France, along with the rest of Europe, has been challenged with providing refuge or safe passage to nearly a million people fleeing from horrific ISIS violence.

Truthfully, it is especially disheartening to observe public support for #BlackLivesMatter has not reached the levels as that of the Paris attacks, both Charlie Hebdo and the November 13 incident. The media often uses derisive language to describe protestors and selects the most negative images when covering demonstrations. When a political issue is close to home, one can indeed lose their minds over these injustices, however, big or small. Like the fact that FaceBook has offered a profile color change option to show solidarity for causes like marriage equality and, and now France. But there never was one for #BlackLivesMatter.

Using lack of support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement is nevertheless an unacceptable reason to cast stones at the French trying to bury their dead and nurse their wounded. Some of the lives lost in the recent Paris attack were black lives, and all the blood spilled was red. Even if there had been no black victims, the Parisians affected by the tragedy deserve our sympathies, or respectful silence. We must not forget that thousands of French people, especially Parisians, demonstrated in solidarity with black Americans as part of the #BlackLivesMatter movement from day one, despite France’s own internal problems with race.

Showing universal support for all victims of terrorism helps to push forth a purer, stronger narrative: Terrorism is a global problem and all victims — not just those in certain wealthy and powerful countries — deserve allies who will come to their side. To accomplish this we must express sympathy for victims in one part of the world without throwing shade towards those in another part.

During the days after the Charlie Hebdo attack, I did not want to jump on the #JeSuisCharlie bandwagon because of the bigoted cartoons of the magazine. So, instead, I chose to condemn the violence as inexcusable under any circumstances and express my condolences to the people of France, the victims, and their families. Shortly afterwards, I moved to Paris. A few days I ago, I witnessed the splendid resiliency of the French first hand.

And, by the way, Mark Zuckerberg is not French. If you think there should be a profile change option to support #BlackLivesMatter, than campaign for that. (I will join you).

A Love Supreme: What Is It About Black Churches and White Supremacy Terrorists?

Photo Credit: democracynow.org

Photo Credit: democracynow.org

No community of faith has ever endured the unchecked threat and persistence of violence in the United States as much as black churches.

Prior to the Civil War, the formation of black churches were forbidden in many areas of the country and black congregations were frequently terrorized by white racist mobs who shot up and burned houses of worship to the ground. This hostility towards black Christians outlived slavery and continued well into the 20th century. Many African American worshipers can still remember the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, where four young girls were killed. And, many more can remember when around 70 black churches, many in the southern United States, were burned in the 1990s. 

Most of the perpetrators have somehow alluded justice.  But, at least one congregation in South Carolina was able to sue and bankrupt the local chapter of the KKK for organizing the arson of their church.  

Certainly, churches are not the only places where one can happen on groups of African Americans conveniently distracted by quotidian activities.  Approaching public crowds of your targeted victims takes courage. In black churches, however, where all souls are welcomed with open arms, even the most cowardly can muster audactiy.

The historical bond African Americans have with Christianity remains strong despite these persecutions and the horrific way this relationship began. In 1452, Pope Nicholas V signed the infamous Dum Diversas, a formal and systematic “sanction” of perpetual servitude targeting non-Christians. Turns out, the Dutch, Portuguese, and Spaniards capitalists all had their greedy eyes on Africa and the Americas, which were conveniently full of non-Christians.  

Papal decisions like Dum Diversas and, 50 years later, the Line of Demarcation functioned not only as international dispute resolutions but moral authorities for those who wanted to hide behind an excuse for human chattel slavery.  And so began the 500 year holocaust which eventually became known as the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.  Some contemporary racists groups still evoke Christianity in their ideology, claiming the divine ordination of white superiority.  

Despite the disastrous initial encounter with Christianity, African Americans have emerged over generations in the United States to be the ethnic group with the strongest reported affinity for the faith. According to a 2009 Pew survey, 85% of African American respondents strongly identify with some form of Christianity, with 68% claiming protestant. More than any other racial group, African Americans report engaging regularly faith based activities such as attending church and praying.  What prompts people who have suffered so greatly under the guise of Christianity to be so loyal?

Many of the earliest African American churches were founded by free blacks who protested against the enslavement of their brethren, like Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.  Black churches have produced some of the nations first black social leaders and politicians. After the end of slavery, African American churches operated schools and social outreach ministries. During the 20th century, scores of  congregations helped to form and nurture the ground-breaking Civil Rights Movement. Today, African American churches in communities across the U.S.A. still provide these types of services and much more for the advancement of social equality.

The real miracle to see here is that African Americans over the centuries have transformed Christianity, an instrument of our systematic oppression, into a weapon for our own social and political revolution.  This is the salt in the festering wound of white supremacy.   

 

The Nina Simone Movie You Should See

Terrorists are attacking black churches. Cities across the country are languishing under police brutality. College kids are organizing protests. The KKK is planning a march down the streets of a southern capital city. It seems like someone slipped and hit the playback button on United States history. This back-to-the future loop makes an unflinching examination of the life behind the seminal Civil Rights song, “Mississippi Goddam all the more timely.

Nina Simone, like several of the mightiest giants of American music, began her career in the belly of Jim Crow.

The dynamics of Civil Rights movement forced Simone and many of her African American contemporaries to decide whether to serve as voices for progress or pander to decision makers of the entertainment industry. Simone, despite (and perhaps because of) her own personal struggles, rode hard for activism. The Netflix documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone?,works hard to keep up.

What Happened Miss Simone? takes the full run of its 1 hour and 40 minutes to investigate a central question: How could a defiant survivor of a failed dream emerge as key artistic voice of a historical political movement only to then spiral down into squalor? The captivating documentary flits between several high quality sources, such as raw extracts of Nina Simone’s diaries, interviews with family and friends, and even clips of Simon giving us her take on a decades long struggle to keep up outward appearances. And of course, we get treated to several of her musical performances, too, which show her legendary skill and sometimes prickly nature with audiences, both of which became part of her trademark.

The film depicts a woman who “leaned in” and fought to “have it all” before these feminist movement clichés were articulated and certainly before the how-to books on these mantras were written. Nina Simone’s biggest obstacles to juggling a career and family, however, not only included the intersectionality of racism and sexism but also many of the inherent symptoms: domestic abuse, mental illness and even rape. Photographs and videos from the heydays of her fame present a stylish performer, striking regal poses for the press, despite being exhausted and often abused and overworked by her violent manager-husband.

Critics of the documentary might assert the film suggests Nina’s problems were caused by her mental illness, which went undiagnosed for years. But popular psychology theories say depression is rage turned inward, and certain mental illnesses, like the disorder with which Nina was finally diagnosed in her later years, can be set on by prolonged stress. What Happened Miss Simone? reveals an incredibly talented artist burdened by a great deal of justified rage and inordinate amount of stress without any support for most of her life. At one point, Simone suffered a breakdown backstage where she rubbed shoe polish into her hair before opening for Bill Cosby. But then we are told she was escorted on to stage to perform anyway.

Despite the heartbreaking moments, we are also left to marvel at the idea Nina Simone somehow managed to play a bad hand for the win. We need more like her. Like now.

Standout Moments:

  • Nina Simone’s triumph as a young girl against the venue manager of her recital who wanted to seat her parents in the back row of the white audience
  • Recollections of Simone’s camaraderie with other African American artists and activists, including Malcolm X, whose family who lived next door and often hosted Nina’s daughter
  • Footage of Stokely Carmichael proclaiming the hypocrisy of non-violent advocacy during the Vietnam War
  • Nina’s husband, who managed her career for several years, admitting to being non-supportive of her work in the Civil Rights Movement
  • All of the Nina’s performance clips–24k gold

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