Recent writings

Recent writings

s brent plate

  • Images Change Our Views on Race

    Images are not static. They grab our attention, incite desire, alter our relations to others, and tweak our beliefs, as they usher us into new worlds.

    When “Black Panther” was released, Baye McNeil, a former Brooklynite now living in Japan, was thrilled. As he told The Japan Times, he joined“a group of palpably positive brothers and sisters” at a Tokyo theater. Collectively they were transported to the land of Wakanda. As an exile in Japan and a black man in a country with very few people of African descent, he and his friends entered, as he described, “a bountiful realm of invigorating messages and restorative images” that provided him with a sense of connection and belonging.

    [Read the rest at Newsweek]

  • Battling Our Demons, On Screen and Off

    In the midst of one shooting after another of unarmed black men by police officers, one comment keeps sticking in my mind: officer Darren Wilson’s expressed fear of Michael Brown before he shot him six times and killed him. Wilson claimed of Brown, “he looked up at me and had the most intense aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon.”

    What does it mean to look “like a demon”? How would Wilson know what a demon looks like? Was he implicitly claiming he’s actually seen a demon? Or was Wilson, most likely, projecting an image of a demon from popular media onto the face of a real person? A monstrous, unreal other overlaid on the face of another, real person? And has media so influenced us that we don’t know the real from the fake and we’re ready to pull the trigger regardless?

    [Read the rest at The Revealer]

     

  • Did the Erie Canal help put an end to slavery? 

    Austin Steward was born into slavery in 1793 in Virginia, where he worked as an errand boy on the plantation of a cruel master. Whippings were common, and meager food and clothing were all he was given for his excruciating labor. Yet he was a person of remarkable energy and spirit. He managed to teach himself to read in secret, an act for which he was beaten.

    Steward eventually escaped after his master sold the plantation and moved his household and slaves to New York state. Steward gained his final freedom with legal help from the New York Manumission Society, an abolitionist group, and made his way to Rochester. In short order he opened a butcher shop and then a general store on Main Street, creating a thriving business. He was just 24. He saw his success as a reason to help others and found time to teach Sunday School, host black reform meetings and distribute abolitionist newspapers. Freedom was not simply the release from a former state of being. For Steward it was a call to action and responsibility.

    [Read the rest at America]