When the National Museum of African and African American History and Culture opens in September it will house more than 35,000 artifacts, many of which were donated from the public or found in attics, basements and closets.
One morning in 2009, Lonnie G Bunch III took a phone call from Philadelphia historian Charles Leroy Blockson. Blockson is a well-known collector of African American literature, his Afro-American collection at Temple University, set up in the 1980s, houses 500,000 books, texts and other artifacts items the 82-year-old has accumulated over decades. He had called Bunch to let him know he had rare items that belonged to Harriet Tubman that he wanted to donate to the new Smithsonian museum, the last to be built on the National Mall.
I was convinced that that just wasnt true, recalls Bunch, founding director of the Smithsonians National Museum of African and African American History and Culture. I had been to her house in Mount Auburn, New York, and there were two artifacts.
Bunch headed north thinking hed get only a Philly cheesesteak out of the trip. But when the two met at Temple University, Blockson reached into a small box, and pulled out photographs of Tubmans funeral that Bunch had never seen. That got his attention. Then came a homemade knife and fork Tubman used to eat her meals. Finally, Blockson removed two items that caused a lump to form in Bunchs throat and left tears in his eyes. First was the silk shawl that Queen Victoria gave to Tubman 1897 as an invitation to the Diamond Jubilee.The second was Tubmans hymnal, a powerful reminder that even though she couldnt read, she kept close to her heart the songs that not only moved her spirit, but also helped guide slaves toward the northern US and Canada toward freedom.
Sheldon Adelson-funded posters named students and professors at a college campus, saying they have allied themselves with Palestinian terrorists.
Sheldon Adelson, the Nevada casino mogul and conservative mega-donor, is leading a campaign against pro-Palestine groups on US college campuses and has funded posters that accuse individual students of supporting terrorism and promoting Jew Hatred.
The multimillion-dollar effort, which has launched at six campuses in California, is targeting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement that has become increasingly popular among American university students protesting the Israeli government.
At the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), recent Adelson-funded posters named 16 students and professors, saying they have allied themselves with Palestinian terrorists to perpetuate BDS and Jew Hatred on this campus. It further claimed BDS was a Hamas-inspired genocidal campaign to destroy Israel.
Robert Gardner, a 25-year-old UCLA senior, saw his name on one of the posters outside a grocery market. I was really shocked and felt really disturbed, he said.
They are trying to cast us as antisemitic, that we are somehow a discriminatory group, said the political science student, who is a member of the colleges Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) organization. That is a completely spurious accusation. One of our core principles is anti-oppression and anti-racism.
Tensions surrounding Israel-Palestine campus activism have escalated in recent years, but SJP leaders said the posters identifying specific students were particularly aggressive and had led some of them to face online harassment and death threats.
When Brazil won the Olympics in 2009, its future looked bright. Seven years on, as the Games come to a close, Rio’s residents are counting the costs.
The Olympic Games arecoming to a close, having demonstrated once again that Rio de Janeiro knows how to organise and promote big events. But after theparty, and the billions spent to show the world that we deserve a place among the great democracies, comes the hangover; thebills begin to arrive, and we have noway to pay. As the festive air and thetourism subside, and with the Paralympics due to start in a matter ofweeks, the old problems remain.
It is now that the residents of Rio deJaneiro begin to wonder: what will the legacy be? As we present ourselves to the world, have we revealed our faults? Or has the power of our cultural creativity come to the fore? Therein lies the contradiction of Rio: the combination of beauty and poverty, hedonism and inequality, a carnival atmosphere and bloody violence.
Hosting the Olympics in Rio was the latest effort an extreme, titanic one to impose the ideal version of Rio over the complexities and contradictions of real Rio. In real Rio, the state government does not have enough money to keep police vehicles on the roads. Police stations are running out of paper. Hospitals are in a precarious situation. State universities are on strike: so far they have not received a penny towards the costs of the current academic year. Thestates 500,000 public servants havereceived their salaries late. Building work has been interrupted. Unemployment is increasing. Social andeconomic inequalities have become more pronounced. Just before the Olympics, Rio state declared a state ofemergency, shifting all these problems on to the shoulders of the federal government which handed it almost abillion dollars to prevent chaos duringthe Olympics. But Rios anxious population is already wondering not so much how the Gameshave gone as what will happen afterwards?
Eduardo Paes, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, has done everything to try to stop a parliamentary inquiry commission being opened in the municipal chamber to investigate spending on theOlympics. Of the original promises made by Paes for the Games legacy, mainly involving investment in urban mobility and the reduction of pollution, barely half have been met on time. The Games proposed budget of $13bn was exceeded along time ago but a lack oftransparency over the real costs has fuelled suspicions of corruption. And there is more: in the weeks leading up tothe Games, the mayor was still racing to complete the building programme. Other pledged projects will be left in the in-tray of his successor, to be elected in municipal elections in October. The newly laid asphalt on main roads has already started to fail; on 21 April, a section of cycle path on Avenida Niemyer, along Rios waterfront, collapsed weeks after it was opened, killing two people. Public confidence in City Hall, already low, plummeted further. Today, 57% of Rios population do not trust the mayor.
From Michael Jacksons nose to the righteousness of Jan-Michel Basquiat, Tate has been analysing culture for over 30 mind-expanding years. He talks philosophy, Afrofuturism, and how black artists defy boundaries.
In his 1987 Village Voice essay I’m White! What’s Wrong with Michael Jackson, Greg Tate wrote there was proof that God dont like ugly since the title of Michaels new LP, Bad accurately describes the contents in standard English. The searing critique was not just about the music, but about Jacksons new appearance, unveiled on the albums cover and in the Martin Scorsese-directed video. There was Jackson with a narrow pointy nose and pale skin, a look Tate unforgettably described as decolorized flesh a buppy version of Dorian Gray, a blaxploitation nightmare that offers this moral: stop, the face you save may be your own.
Still, as much as he disliked Bad for being as songless as Thriller is songful, Tates essay is also a backhanded love letter to what is still the bestselling album of all time. No amount of disgust for Jacksons even newer face (cleft in the chin) takes anything away from Thriller, Tate wrote. Thriller is a record that doesnt even know how to stop giving pleasure.
Tate and Jackson were the same age, and in 1987 the critic as adept at exploring the black experience in America in an essay as Jackson was at exploring it in a song had recently been hired as a staff writer for the Voice by legendary rock critic Robert Christgau after contributing for a few years. Digging into our black nationalist bag, as he put it, Tate wrote angrily about Jackson, but not without the sympathy of context: Jackson emerges a casualty of Americas ongoing race war another Negro gone mad because his mirror reports that his face does not conform to the Nordic ideal.
Critics of No Man’s Sky tend to see games as entertainment products, while fans of this eccentric space exploration sim view it as an experience.
When I was 13 I took the game Elite very seriously. The seminal space exploration and trading simulation, which presented the player with a ship and a vast galaxy and then left everything else up to them, was an utterly crucial piece of escapism for me. I had a cardboard overlay that I put on my Commodore 64 keyboard, which showed all the functions of the various buttons in the game; I saved up and bought a Quickshot II joystick because it looked a bit like something you might see on a flight deck in Star Wars. I cleared my desk of action figures, toys and comics so that it felt like a serious space ship. I turned the lights off in the little dining area where we kept our computer, so that I wasnt distracted by all the domestic detritus of the kitchen. I pretended the hum of the fridge freezer was my life support system.
Then I played.
I grew up in Cheadle Hulme, near Stockport in Greater Manchester. This was 1984, and it was proper grim. I lived in a very respectable middle-class area, but the national news was all Cold War nuclear paranoia, while the local media agenda was dominated by the mass closures of local heavy industries. There was unemployment and unrest; the world was unfathomable. So I spent great chunks of my time in space, in Elites second galaxy (the game had eight), trading between three planet systems. In the games financial mechanic, there were multiple items to buy and sell when you landed on space stations, and prices would differ depending on the economic conditions of the neighbouring planet. Agricultural goods sold strongly on densely populated industrialised planets, while you could get excellent returns on luxury goods in systems where there was cash but little urbanisation.
I took lengthy notes about planets and their economies. I plotted my own maps when I took forays into unclassified areas. In Elite, you could be attacked by pirates at any time, or you might be drawn out of hyperspace by a Thargoid invasion fleet which would trap you until you defeated them in space battle. I lived in fear of this random encroachment on my habits and routines.