Required Reading

The same day, the Chinese state-owned Ta Kung Pao newspaper accused Hong Kong’s main public arts funding body, the Hong Kong Arts Development Council (HKADC), of providing HKD 15 million (USD 1.9 million) to projects that the newspaper alleges violate the National Security Law. The inflammatory rhetoric of the text condemned the HKADC’s funding of so-called “yellow” filmmakers such as the Ying E Chi Cinema collective, which distributed the anonymously produced film Inside the Red Brick Wall (2020), about the 2019 protests at Polytechnic University, which the paper said glorified “black violence.” In a statement in response to these criticisms, the HKADC stated that all organizations and individuals who receive funding must agree to “compliance with the laws of Hong Kong during the grant period.”

The weekend before my appearance, a Black woman who was working on the show called and said they wanted to talk about The Color Purple — the film. I agreed as long as my book was to be discussed, which my publisher at the time, St. Martin’s, said was the purpose for my appearance, and why I was flown in from California. I was accompanied by the St. Martin’s publicity director to NBC’s studio, where I was ambushed with a debating partner — the Chicago newspaper columnist Clarence Page, who told me that he had been flying around the country defending the movie. The host asked me about the film, which was up for an Oscar that very day, nominated by a board of governors that itself completely lacked diversity. I said it was an example of Hollywood’s war on ethnic America and cited how Italian Americans are depicted in the movies. I said that it was the kind of movie that the Nazis made about Jews. I had in mind the Jewish rapist and pimp in the Nazi film Jud Suess, cited in Reckless Eyeballing, and Nazi cartoons that show Jews and Blacks as sexual predators. I learned that Jewish men in Nazi Germany were regarded in the same manner as Black men in the United States when attending a showing of Jud Suess, sponsored by the San Francisco Holocaust museum. However, I haven’t run across a Nazi film that shows Jewish males or Black males committing incest.

Ishmael Reed: So tell me about your meeting [LeRoi Jones aka Amiri Baraka] for the first time.

Amina Baraka: You know the painter, Ben Caldwell. I was married before to Walter Wilson and I had two daughters. I was always interested in the music and dancing and Art Williams and all of us would get together. We always went to each other’s homes to listen to the music and hang out, but I was on my way to work downtown and I passed this place at 22 Shipman Street and I called Art Williams and I told him I saw this place. I talked to the people, and they were moving out and I said, “Now you need to talk to them because we need a loft.” Arthur went down there, he did all the negotiations, so we took the third floor and that’s what became “the loft.” We were all musicians and artists and Ben Caldwell came to Newark from Harlem. He’s the one who introduced me to LeRoi Jones. He said, “LeRoi Jones is in town,” and I said, “Who?” He said, “LeRoi Jones.” I said, “I don’t know him.” So he said, “Oh, you never saw ‘Dutchman?’” I said, “No. What about him?” He said, “Well, anyway, he needs a place to rehearse. He wants to do this piece called ‘A Black Mass.’” I said, “Okay. Let me talk to Art.” Arthur Williams was really the founder of this group. He was a truck driver and a bass player. I asked him, “LeRoi Jones is in town and needs a place to rehearse.” He said, “LeRoi Jones? Are you serious?” I said, “I’m serious.” He said, “You don’t know him?” I said, “No, I don’t.” He said, “Okay. It’s alright. You got the keys. If you can open it up and close it down because I have a job.” I said, “Okay.” So that’s how I met him through Ben Caldwell.

RDGK: For certain people, America has been fascist all along, and it just depends on what side you’re on. The vast majority of people can’t see fascism in a democracy where they can vote, and where they can walk freely. But for some of us, for undocumented people, for Black people, brown people, for Indigenous peoples especially, who’ve been put in concentration camps — all these fascist practices have existed in the United States from the get-go, from the beginning. What we see is fascism ebbing and flowing.

The abolitionist movements that erupted in 2020 are the movements that are dead set on ending fascism once and for all. “Fascism” is a word that we can’t be afraid of. I can’t say everything is fascist, but we can’t be afraid of recognizing the fascist elements that have been foundational to this country. Then we also can’t make the mistake of thinking of fascism as a particular, peculiar European thing, because part of Cedric’s point was that African American activist intellectuals were premature anti-fascists. They recognized fascism before a lot of white America did because they knew it. They knew it in the colonies, they knew it in the South, they knew it in their lives, they’ve seen it.

  • Canadian curator Cheyanne Turions has written a post about discovering that she doesn’t appear to have the Indigenous heritage she thought she did. The issue is being called out because of the extensive funding (Can$103,000) she received from various Canadian funding bodies, which is highlighted in a tweet from @nomoreredface. Turions writes on her blog:

Through my work, I have tried to understand the structural forces that have come to make the settler colonial nation state called Canada, which is my home, and how those same forces have come to shape my family too. This is ever more important for me given the new knowledges I have about what historical records suggests about my family. In the work that I have done that has been explicitly aligned with my indigeneity, such as residencies supported by the Canada Council for Aboriginal curators or with the Wood Land School, I have been committed to working with artists to challenge structures of supremacist power and to critically interrogate the systems that allow settler colonialism to continue to unfold. However, I apologize for pursuing these professional opportunities without the attendant care that they deserved; I should have had a more fulsome understanding of who I am before participating in programs that were identity related. I recognize that this is a symptom of those same systems I am wanting to dismantle and I am invested in figuring out what kinds of repair are possible from here.

  • An incredible short story by writer Brandon Taylor, of Real Life fame, titled “Prophets” at Joyland, which includes an interesting look at a “famous black writer” — I’m sure it’s not autobiographical at all. He writes this incredible paragraph about social media relationships:

Coleman had already read the book and had posted a supportive note on social media, to which some of his mutual friends had responded and had tagged the famous black writer so that he would see the note. And the famous black writer had responded and said something kind. And then Coleman had said congratulations, it’s really great and the famous black writer had first followed him on Twitter and then unfollowed him two weeks later when Coleman published a small essay on his own childhood on the internet. His essay had been about the preacher, who had recently been released from prison on compassionate release. He had liver cancer and was dying a gruesome death that had at once seemed horrible and also like justice. Coleman’s essay was about the preacher and about God and about believing but not believing. The essay went viral in very particular internet niches, and the famous black writer had shared it himself, and Coleman went to thank him privately in a message but found that he could not message him privately because the famous black writer had unfollowed him. It was a strange thing, this retraction of intimacy, and Coleman didn’t know what to make of it. Particularly because he had not asked for it in the first place. It was all petty and small, and it hurt him in a way that he did not know he could be hurt, and this new knowledge about himself made him sad because in some way it said that he was as petty and small as the famous black writer. But perhaps that was the way it always was, that when someone did something to you, you became a little more like them and a little less like yourself.

Allen’s wealth and fame explain a lot about how his career has continued despite allegations of child molestation and claims that he has long pursued teenaged girls. (Allen has steadfastly denied any molestation allegations.) But his showbiz talents helped, too. Consider, as a teen, he was already skilled at performing magic tricks— working audiences so they would see what he wanted them to. Later, he finessed a style of conceal-by-revealing semi-autobiographical storytelling in his films and his carefully constructed public persona.

A magician can turn darkness into light. He can transform a cunning misanthrope into a lovable nebbish and, as “Allen v. Farrow” suggests, female victims into hysterical liars. He can make people believe that his allegedly inappropriate relationship with his girlfriend’s daughter Soon-Yi Previn (then a teenager, according to the docuseries) was just a happy adult love story. With the wave of a wand (and a gullible press), he can turn his partner of more than a decade into a Medea willing to sacrifice her children for revenge. In the process, he made his daughter-accuser appear the unreliable witness to her own life.

Most impressive, the filmmakers assert, Allen convinced multitudes that he has never been the aggressor, but always the innocent victim. Presto!

During the last 2-3 decades, many Armenian and Turkish journalists, activists, and academics met frequently to discuss the issues between both nations and countries, starting from the denial of the Armenian genocide in Turkey, to border issues, and other historic and political problems. They also cooperated on various civil society, filming, reporting and academic projects as well. They tried to build bridges between both societies. Most of those bridges are now bombed just like Armenian schools, churches and homes in Artsakh. 

However, the Turkish government is not to blame for the deafening silence of these supposed Turkish allies, and even worse, their bothsidesism in some instances. It is a well-known fact that Turkey is an authoritarian country with abysmal human rights record and almost no freedom of speech. Thus, fears of persecution for expressing solidarity with Armenian friends or even a message of peace could be detrimental. However, in the age of advanced encrypted private communication apps, only a handful of such Turkish allies and friends voiced non-committal messages of non-violence. A couple of my Turkish friends even expressed full solidarity and support with the fundamental rights of Armenians in Artsakh. However, the vast majority of these Turkish colleagues were either silent or posting about the beautiful sunsets on Marmara, or even worse, some were repeating the fascist Turkish government line. 

  • A story about race in the US and the things passed down from one generation to the next. Daina Ramey Berry writes:

Three years ago, during a lecture in my introduction to African-American history course, I talked about my own research into Turner’s skull. I had been tracing its post-mortem journey while finishing a book about the value of enslaved people in life and after death. One student, who always sat up front but rarely spoke, raised his hand and said he could confirm my research from personal experience.

He came from a family of medical doctors four generations deep, and his father had a purse made of human flesh. This purse, he explained, was unique in that it was divided into sections of different colored skin, one of which came from a black person. The class was silent.

Required Reading is published every Saturday, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

This week, Hong Kong’s culture scene is facing major challenges, an NFT “house” sells big, Ishmael Reed on Alice Walker, Woody Allen’s manipulation, and more.Read MoreArt, Required Reading, WeekendHyperallergicRead More

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