Late May is not always the best of times for African Americans.
May 25 is the one-year Anniversary of the murder of African American George Floyd by a white policeman in Minnesota, a heinous act which spawned one of the longest protest movements for social justice in American history. Americans and the rest of the world, confined to their homes by COVID19 quarantine orders looked at the video shot by a teenager on TV of the Floyd murder (see P.3). We watched in horror as a white police officer pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds while three fellow officers did not intervene. The rogue cop was indicted, convicted and, now, awaiting sentencing.
In New York on that same day, Amy Cooper called the NYPD saying that an African American man, Christian Cooper, threatened her life in Central Park, which was a lie. Fortunately, neither was at the designated area when police arrived. The Cooper/Cooper encounter also was videotaped. Once the facts were reviewed Amy suffered unexpected consequences like loss of job. She also faced criminal charges, unusual in Black/white settings and local police.
This year is the centennial of the Tulsa, Oklahoma Race Massacre which spanned two days, May 31 to June 1, 1921. Whites leveled a prosperous self-contained Black neighborhood in Tulsa, killing about 200 Blacks and destroying more than 1000 homes. There is no reference to the massacre in American history books. There is a tidal wave of interest in the massacre among historians, filmmakers and many Black Americans, including LeBron James who has financed a film about the massacre. Also, see information from the History Channel documentary below.
The good news this last week of May 2021 is the US Senate confirmation of Attorney Kristen Clarke as the first Black woman to head the US Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. The bipartisan Senate confirmation vote was 51 to 48.
DANCEAFRICA 2021, the long-running annual festival produced by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, returns! The nation’s largest celebration of African Diaspora dance, music and culture, has been reimagined for the digital space this year in its homage to the ancestral energy of Haiti, a metonym for Black liberation from May 29-31. Registration is necessary for DanceAfrica’s mostly gratis events. Visit BAM.org.
FILM/TV: The World Channel presents THE CONVERSATION REMIX, a documentary exploring the present catharsis we are experiencing following the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. The REMIX includes three short character driven films, FOR OUR GIRLS; LEARNING TO BREATHE: Conversations With Young Black Men; and GOOD WHITE PEOPLE. The documentary will stream on worldchannel.org.
BOOKS/FILM: Audrey Edwards’ new book, “American Runaway: Black and Free In Paris in The Trump Years,” is eminently readable memoir about America through the lens of two Baby Boomers, one deeply affected by the social changes that defined the nation during and after the Sixties, the other totally impervious to those changes, who was elected President. Edwards discusses her book on June 23, 2-3 pm, at a free online forum hosted by the NYU Institute of African American Affairs. A prolific journalist/author, Edwards co-authored the runaway bestseller, “The Man from Essence: Creating A Magazine for Black Women” about Edward Lewis, which has been optioned by HBO Max and filmed as a miniseries.
MUSEUM: Last week, RAP legends LL Cool J, Nas, Fat Joe and Grandmaster Flash joined the Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. for the groundbreaking ceremony of the long overdue Universal HIPHOP Museum which will be part of a $349 million South Bronx development on the Hudson River.
TELEVISION: The History Channel produced the documentary TULSA BURNING, the 1921 RACE MASSACRE to commemorate the centennial of one of American history’s ugliest chapters, the Black Wall Street Massacre which occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 31 to June 1, 1921, when white supremacists plundered a prosperous Black enclave, killing about 200 people, and destroying more than 1,000 homes. The documentary premieres this Sunday, May 30 at 8pm Eastern/7pm Central.
MAGAZINES: Black girls are rocking and donning the June covers of two major American women’s magazines. Vocalist/actress Andra Day who appears in the title role of the highly acclaimed biopix “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”, is the IN STYLE cover girl. Actress/director Jo-Issa Rae Diop a/k/a Issa Rae, of the HBO megahit series “Insecure” (who just signed a $40 million production deal with WarnerMedia), is gracing Vanity Fair’s cover.
GUYANA, located on the northern tip of South America, celebrates its 55th Independence Anniversary from the United Kingdom on May 25. Guyanese diaspora is celebrating the milestone. The country has joined the oil rich nations club and its attendant prosperity. A multicultural nation, the Guyanese population today is composed of equal numbers of people of either African or Indian origin.
MALI: On May 24, the military detained members of Mali’s interim government leaders, President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane and Defense Minister Souleymane Doucoure, who were taken to a military base on May 24. Action was taken against the leaders after an August military coup which ousted the previous president. Mali is a Francophone government on Africa’s west coast.
RIP: A man for all seasons, Paul Mooney, 79, joined the ancestors, at his home in Oakland, California last week. The cause was a heart attack. He worked with great American comics and satirists of the generations from the late Richard Pryor to GenXerStri Dave Chappelle and a few dozen in between. Mooney’s writer credits include the “In Living Color” TV series; and the feature film “JoJo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling”. His acting credits include “Bamboozled,” “The Buddy Holly Story,” and The Dave Chappelle Show. As a member of The Black Pack — a group of edgy comedians like Eddie Murphy, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Arsenio Hall and Robert Townsend – he had plans for a movie/concert franchise.
Malcolm X Awards
Photo and Video journalist Lem Peterkin, CEO, Peterkin Photos; husband/wife Brooklyn-based culture warriors and community advocates Monifa & Lumumba Bandele; and Bernice Elizabeth Green, co-founder and executive editor, Our Time Press, received the Malcolm X Black Unity Awards on the 52nd annual occasion of the presentation from the New York Chapter of the National Association of Kawaida Organizations (NAKO) in conjunction with the International African Arts Festival (IAAF). Awards were presented virtually during a celebratory program on May 19, the 96th anniversary of the birth of human rights activist Malcolm X. Hosted by Segun Shabaka, the event featured a keynote address on the Pan-Africanist leader (also known as El Hajj Malik Shabazz) by activist-scholar Dr. Maulana Karenga, Cal State’s Africana Studies chair of national-international recognition, and founder of Kwanzaa.
June is African American Music Appreciation Month; Caribbean American Heritage Month; LGBTQIA Pride Month and National PTSD Awareness Month. Juneteenth is June 19; Father’s Day is June 20; Summer Solstice arrives June 21; and the Democratic Primary is June 22.
A Harlem-based branding curator, Victoria is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org