All Articles Tagged "activism"
If hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, then men and their egos know no bounds.
I say this because an essay, which begins with the most sexist of cliches used in a roundabout way to call another man a bitch, is nothing but petty, unadulterated pissing-in-the-snow, male ego.
And that is, in short, what I have to say about Michael Eric Dyson’s epic takedown of his former mentor, Dr. Cornel West. And when I say “epic,” I don’t mean in terms of content, but rather length. Seriously, the essay was longer than J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, including The Hobbit. As always, I advise readers to pause my essays and take a look at the source material, but I’m afraid that if you go away, you may not have the time nor the energy left to come back and read my thoughts. So I’ll do my best to summarize it into more digestible portions.
Dyson begins by telling the readers about a personal conversation he had with his former mentor about the right way to critique the first Black president without sounding like a bitter man with a crabs-in-a-barrel mentality:
During a private conversation, West asked how I escaped being dubbed an “Obama hater” when I was just as critical of the president as he was. I shared my three-part formula for discussing Obama before black audiences: Start with love for the man and pride in his epic achievement; focus on the unprecedented acrimony he faces as the nation’s first black executive; and target his missteps and failures. No matter how vehemently I disagree with Obama, I respect him as a man wrestling with an incredibly difficult opportunity to shape history. West looked into my eyes, sighed, and said: “Well, I guess that’s the difference between me and you. I don’t respect the brother at all.”
Setting the stage for what sets his criticism of President Obama apart from the no-holds-barred approach West has been known to take, he goes on to talk about West’s legacy among the Black intellectual elite:
If black American scholars are like prizefighters, then West is not the greatest ever; that title belongs to W.E.B. Du Bois. Not the most powerful ever; that’s Henry Louis Gates Jr. Not the most influential; that would include Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, Black History Week founder Carter G. Woodson, historian John Hope Franklin, feminist bell hooks, Afrocentricity pioneer Molefi Kete Asante—and undoubtedly William Julius Wilson, whose sociological research has profoundly shaped racial debate and the public policies of at least two presidents. West may be a heavyweight champ of controversy, but he has competition as the pound-for-pound greatest: sociologists Oliver Cox, E. Franklin Frazier, and Lawrence D. Bobo; historians Robin D.G. Kelley, Nell Irvin Painter, and David Levering Lewis; political scientists Cedric Robinson and Manning Marable; art historian Richard J. Powell; legal theorists Kimberlé Crenshaw and Randall Kennedy; cultural critic Tricia Rose; and the literary scholars Hortense Spillers and Farah Jasmine Griffin—all are worthy contenders.”
He eventually drops a line declaring West to be one of the country’s most exciting scholars, but after that sort of belittling of his legacy, it is hard to see the piece as anything other than a slight. If that is not bad enough, Dyson says that West basically peaked with his much-celebrated cultural critique Race Matters and that much of his work since then has been “paucity of serious and fresh intellectual work, a trend far longer in the making. West is still a Man of Ideas, but those ideas today are a vain and unimaginative repackaging of his earlier hits.” He also notes that West uses co-writers with many of his books and chides him for not taking his written works as serious as he used to.
According to Dyson, this lack of clarity in his writing is also reflected in West’s self-proclaimed title as a prophet, which he has mostly used to position himself against others who he feels dishonor the Black prophetic tradition. In particular, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, whom he calls head house Negros for seeking out camera time. Yet as Dyson points out, West has never missed an opportunity to be in front of the cameras or in the public eye, and that includes his involvement in The Matrix sequels as well as his choice to make some really bad rap/spoken word albums.
Dyson also calls out West’s connection to the Black prophetic tradition in the church, which he so admires and emulates. As he notes, West has done nothing to actually honor that tradition, one that includes ministers and pastors who have done righteous things to get themselves defrocked and excommunicated. Moreover, he adds:
West has a measure of responsibility as a professor, but he enjoys far greater freedom than most ministers or prophets. Professors have a lot of flexibility in teaching classes, advising students, writing books, and speaking their minds without worrying that a deacon board will censor them or trustees will boot them out. Prophets, as a rule, don’t have tenure. West gets the benefits of the association with prophecy while bearing none of its burdens. By refusing to take up the cross he urges prophetic Christians to carry, West is preaching courage while seeking to avoid reprisal or suffering. Playing it safe means that West doesn’t qualify for the prophetic role he espouses.
If that isn’t a tough enough pill to swallow, he continues on with his critique and eventually calls West “curmudgeonly”:
West remains an elite academic and can hardly be said to have ever been a true outsider, given his position in the academic elite and the upper reaches of the economy, but he hungers to be seen as rebellious. In truth, West is a scold, a curmudgeonly and bitter critic who has grown long in the tooth but sharp in the tongue when lashing one-time colleagues and allies.
And of course, there is the matter of that inauguration ticket, which has been beaten to death for the entirety of Obama’s presidency. In short, West didn’t get one, but the doorman at the hotel he and his mother were staying at in the nation’s capital received one. As Dyson notes of the incident:
Thus the left-wing critic found it unjust that the workingman and not the professor had a ticket to the inauguration. Only in a world where bankers and other fat cats greedily gobble rewards meant for everyday citizens would such a reversal appear unfair. J.P. Morgan might have been mad; Karl Marx would have been ecstatic.
He also accuses West of being enchanted by the same oligarchy and power that he claims to detest. West brags about his affiliation with celebrities more so than he does any affiliation with the very people he claims that he is a prophet for, the poor and the Black.
Dyson took West further to task for his often heavy-handed critique of the president, writing:
The odd thing is that Obama talks right—chiding personal irresponsibility in a way that presumes the pathology of many black families and neighborhoods—but veers left in his public policy. West, on the other hand, talks left but thinks right in his notion of nihilism and the factors that might reduce its peril. In Race Matters, West argued that the spiritual malady of “nihilism” is the greatest threat to black America—not racism, not class inequality, not material hardship or poverty or hyperincarceration. Steinberg rightly argues that it “takes hairsplitting distinctions, that do not bear close scrutiny, to maintain that West’s view of nihilism is different from the conservative view of ghetto culture as deeply pathological, and as the chief source of the problems that beset African Americans.” Steinberg says that despite “frequent caveats, West has succeeded in shifting the focus of blame onto the black community. The affliction is theirs—something we shall call ‘nihilism.’” West did as much to slam the poor with his stylish, postmodern update of ghetto pathology and blame-the-victim reasoning as any conservative thinker. He gave the notion ideological cover because it got a sexy upgrade from a prominent leftist. As much as West berates Obama’s neglect of the poor, his own writing brought them harsher visibility than they deserved.
Aside from the length and poor transitions between thoughts, I honestly can’t find much here that I disagree with. In fact, I’ve had some of these same thoughts about West for years and Dyson’s essay helped to provide clarity to other feelings, which I couldn’t fully articulate until now. In particular, West’s self-declaration that he’s a prophet, which always rubbed me the wrong way. It is no longer a rub, but rather a full-fledged feeling of disturbance. Also disturbing is the fact that one of the nation’s premier Black intellects was prank calling the first Black president of the got-damn free world from an anonymous number (as told by the president to Dyson and reprinted in his essay) over some inauguration tickets. It should be clear to all now that fighting the oligarchy on behalf of the poor is the furthest thing from West’s mind. I know it is a hard pill for Dr. West’s supporters to swallow, considering they too can be as fanatic in their support of him, as they often accuse those who are supporters of President Obama of being. But the truth is the truth.
Still, you have to wonder why Dyson chose to write this harsh critique of West. And there should be no doubt here that this essay was an “Ether.” As mentioned several times in his piece, West was a mentor, and not just in theory. Dr. West actually wrote a letter to help Dyson attend a graduate program at Princeton. Sure, West himself has taken several unnecessary shots at Dyson over the years for his close relationship with President Obama. And I too believe that those attacks against him “brought him great sorrow,” which Dyson admits in his piece. Yet when I read the way Dyson trashes West’s scholarly works and legacy, it makes me wonder how much respect for the professor he ever had to begin with. No, this doesn’t read like someone who was once dear friends with another. And if he felt that West had alienated himself and diminished his own legacy to the point where most do not take him serious, why the need to be the final nail in that coffin?
I would never in a million years speak like this in public about someone who helped give me a leg – even if they deserved it. This seems more personal, or maybe even opportunistic, but it’s definitely crafted for the white gaze (after all, why publish family business in a neo-liberal rag like The New Republic and not EBONY?). I don’t fully understand Dyson’s motivations, but the entire essay reads like a sleight of hand meant to refocus attention away from what at times is a disjointed but much needed criticism of the first Black president, and instead, put it on gossip meant to discredit his flawed critics, in this case, Dr. West and his character.
And if I could be more brazen, stuff like this is why I can’t stand what the activist community has become. As a former community organizer who actually worked in neighborhoods that many of these public academic activists speak so profoundly and for great pay about, my job was to take those ideas, which we read about in books including the scholarly ones, and put them into practice. As the truth is and always remains, there is no glory in community service work. Likewise, there are no platforms and very little ego. And there definitely are no prophets, brands, and no celebrity. Just long hours and lots of thankless work.
My point here is where would our communities be if we had more people willing to organize quietly instead of shouting to the heavens about their own genius and engaging in very public spats over who is more legitimate as an activist for the people?
Celebrities are more than just red carpets adornments and glitz and glamour. While we will admit that there are many A-listers who seem more concerned with themselves than they do with serving their communities, we’d be remiss to discount the countless celebrities who donate their time, money, energy and likeness to a variety of causes. From domestic violence awareness and prevention to campaigning against racial and social inequality, some celebs are true inspirations. In their honor, MadameNoire takes a look at the celebrities who speak out and refuse to stay silent when it comes to the issues they are most passionate about.
Back in 1995, South Bronx-born music promoter Maria Davis was on top of the world — young, beautiful, happy, and getting her first real taste of success. Her weekly “MAD Wednesdays” hip-hop showcase was a hot industry event, and as its host she even scored a guest spot on Jay-Z’s debut album “Reasonable Doubt.”
But then came the letter that sent her entire world crashing down. When she was forced to take a blood test for a life insurance policy, Davis learned she was HIV positive, and had contracted the virus from her fiance. Three years later, she was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS.
That was 14 years ago. Today, despite the odds, Davis is not only alive and well but also on a mission: She is a Making AIDS History Ambassador, and together with the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), she’s spent the last 18 years of her life fighting to stay alive and to help spread awareness within her community and raise money to support research for a cure.
We know all about her public battles, but when ESSENCE.com sat down with Davis we asked her how living with AIDS has affected her private life. She opened up about her desire to find a soul mate and the hurdles the disease has created along her path to true love.
ESSENCE: Have you dated a lot since your diagnosis? What’s dating been like for you?
DAVIS: It’s been very fearful. But I love love. Tyler Perry is a big inspiration. I’m always watching his movies and the relationship dynamics that he puts in them. They’re all about a woman being hurt and finding love, and I’m crying and thinking to myself, Man, I want to be in love too. I’m not having a relationship with anybody unless I know their status. You can be re-infected. Another part of it is the person I’m sleeping with could have a different strain of the virus than I do. So whereas your strain is manageable, you could get another strain and it could take you out of here. The only way you can know for sure is to go and get tested together. That’s for anyone, in any kind of relationship. Whether you’re jumping the broom, just dating, whatever – before you sleep with someone, you should know him or her in and out. You have husbands and wives who have given each other HIV.
ESSENCE: Is making your status known right away most important to you when you’re dating someone new?
DAVIS: Absolutely! I’m a spokesperson. The only way you really don’t know I have HIV is if you haven’t read or seen anything about me. But I make it clear that I am living with AIDS. Actually, when I’m in a relationship, I’m more afraid of an individual than they are of me, trust me. They know what I have coming into the relationship, but I don’t know what they have. Are you telling the truth? Are you being honest? Are you telling me one thing, but it could be another thing? If so, then my life is in jeopardy all over again.
ESSENCE: Do you feel it’s been harder to find love because of your diagnosis or your fears?
DAVIS: Let’s be for real: It’s because of my diagnosis. I’ve had guys tell me I’m fine, or they try to talk to me. Then when I tell them that I’m living with AIDS they kind of back off. I do have one friend I’ve been in and out of a relationship with. But his head isn’t ready yet.
You can read the rest of Maria Davis’ interview over on ESSENCE.com, including advice she has for younger women who are dealing with HIV or AIDS and yearn to have a successful relationship. This is yet another important facet of dealing with this terrible disease that often gets overlooked. It is great to see Maria Davis opening up even more about how it has affected her personal life.
Yesterday we told you that hip hop mogul Jay Z finally issued a response to growing concerns in the Black community regarding his business partnership with luxury department store chain, Barneys New York. The controversy began after the company made headlines for allegedly using racial profiling tactics in an attempt to cut down on fraud. The methods unfortunately led to the unjust arrest of 19-year-old Trayon Christian and the questioning of 21-year-old Kayla Phillips. Both young adults are now suing the luxury retailer. In response to a petition urging the 43-year-old Brooklynite to take a stand and end his business deal with Barneys, Jay issued an official statement.
Many of you predicted that he would continue to straddle the fence, never truly taking a stand either way. And according to some, that’s exactly what he did.
“Making a decision prematurely to pull out of this project, wouldn’t hurt Barneys or Shawn Carter, but all the people that stand a chance at higher education. I have been working with my team ever since the situation was brought to my attention to get to the bottom of these incidents and at the same time find a solution that doesn’t harm all those that stand to benefit from this collaboration,” an excerpt from his statement reads.
As with anything, there are mixed feelings regarding his response. Some feel that he’s totally justified in not jumping the gun and cutting ties with Barneys. Others found it to be a total cop out. One of those people happen to be MTV’s Girl Get Your Mind Right star, Tionna Smalls. The outspoken Brooklynite took to her Twitter page to blast the rapper for his lukewarm stance.
“That’s why we keep getting sh***ed on because the ones who are in the talented 10th don’t take a stand.
Dear Jay-Z, stop fronting! I doubt you’re making any deals with a multi million $ company that you’re not getting anything from. Pulease!
— Bossy Tionna Smalls (@TionnaSmalls) October 26, 2013
“The boy who bought the Ferragamo belt and the girl who bought the Celine bag wanted to be like stars when they bought those items. Not knowing that stars don’t give an F when Shyte hit the fan. I was that girl saving my $$$ to get nice ish. So I’m 100% against Barneys!Everybody admire Jay-Z for what? I really see what people were telling me years ago. That dude don’t stand for nothing in the hood!” she continued.
She went on to address the widespread credit scams, which is believed to be part of the reason that Barneys has gotten more aggressive with their loss prevention tactics.
“Yall credit card scammers get me phucking sick too cuz it’s a lot of yall fault why law biding, young, blacks are stopped!If your stomach don’t hurt after seeing this cover of the NY Daily News- I have to question your humanity! Geesh!”
“Jay-Z has more power in the black community than anyone and I swear to God, Allah, Buddah, &Jesus that he never uses it the right way!STAND FOR SOMETHING OR YOU WILL FALL FOR ANYTHING! Now everyone is going to act like Jay-Z dont have any power in the hood! Stop it! I am done. Jay-Z pissed me off and I’m over it.”
Do you agree with Tionna?
Why are childcare workers paid so little? That’s the question journalist E. Tammy Kim, who is set to join Al Jazeera America as a staff writer, set out to answer recently in an article for The Nation reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute with support from the Ms. Foundation for Women Fellowship.
In “Why Do the People Raising Our Children Earn Poverty Wages?,” Kim writes: “Childcare workers perform that most vital labor, rearing our young, But across the country, they are invisible and poorly paid, without healthcare, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation or other benefits.”
Low wages are common. Each state conducts an annual market-rate survey of childcare fees and then tries to pay providers around the recommended seventy-fifth percentile (few states do), reports Kim. The market, however, reflects what parents are willing to pay, not the actual costs.
“In theory, providers could raise their private-pay rates or impose strict late fees to make up the difference,” Kim points out. But the reality is that most parents just can’t afford to pay more as child care already takes a large chunk of their income.
Most child care workers are middle-aged women of color, earning very little in comparison to the responsibility they hold. According to Kim’s findings, most child care workers are low-income and a significant number do not speak English. “Legally, they are not considered employees. In New Jersey and 14 other states, in-home providers paid through public subsidies now belong to a union and can bargain collectively,” writes Kim.
In New Jersey, for example, “full-time” subsidy rate is based on only 30 hours per week (or “6 or more” hours per day) of childcare. “This hardly covers the average parent’s workday of eight or more hours plus the commute, but there’s no bonus or overtime pay for anything over 30 hours,” reports Kim. Due to this, the child care provider either charges a late fee or works the extra hours free. In 2011, the median income for a child care provider was $19,000 per year. Seventeen percent were living in poverty.
There is a push to organize child care providers to provide them better pay and working conditions. But the move has had many struggles. Read more at The Nation, but please chime in. What do you think is fair pay for a child care provider?
No, I’m not joking.
My initial response was, “No, who’s playing a cruel joke?” I mean, this has already been a tough week in news, entertainment and everything else. The last thing we needed was for Al Sharpton to lose his mind.
But according to HuffingtonPost.com, is definitely signed to Cash Money. Well, Cash Money Content, that is. Rev. Sharpton recently signed a deal with Cash Money Content, the record label’s publishing division, to release his new book, The Rejected Stone. The deal is a partnership between CMC and Simon & Schuster’s Atria imprint.
The book will be discuss how Sharpton went from a cunning street activist to a civil rights leader. It will be released on October 8th.
This is definitely an odd pairing and neither Sharpton reps nor Cash Money reps discussed how or why they decided to sign this deal. In fact, Sharpton and Lil Wayne, Cash Money Records’ biggest bread winner, got into a war of words just a few years ago.
In 2008, Sharpton harshly criticized Wayne’s excessive use of the “b word” and “n word” in his music. In response, Wayne came directly back at Sharpton in a song from his The Carter III album saying, “You are no Jesse Jackson. You are nobody to me. You’re just another Don King—with a perm.” That prompted Sharpton to make one last response: “Why dignify a response to one rap artist who doesn’t even say anything substantive?”
Sharpton says he will discuss Lil Wayne and other rappers in his book in hopes of starting an open dialogue:
“Just because we disagree doesn’t mean we have to be disagreeable.”
I guess that’s that! Something tells me Lil Wayne still won’t be jumping at the opportunity to have a discussion with Rev. Al.
Welcome to the “Work It!” column, where we take a look at business innovation of every kind.
Being an innovator in your field can be as easy as K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Sis. A singular vision focuses your efforts on becoming the best at what you do, and reduces your chances of being sidetracked or scattered. Ory Okolloh’s rise from blogger activist to policy manager for Africa for Google is a perfect example of the difference having a vision can make on your career.
Watch Vision Work
Okolloh realized early on that her true passion was using technology to ensure African voices were heard.
In 2006, Okolloh co-founded Mzalendo.com (“patriot” in Swahili) to track the Kenyan Parliament. The country’s TV and print media took weeks or months to sort through legal developments in the country. Meanwhile, Okolloh’s blog meticulously tracked the actions of political leaders and kept records of parliamentary bills in real time.
During Kenya’s controversial 2007 presidential election, which was marked by outbreaks of violence, she co-founded another site Ushahidi (“Testimony”). This time she focused on helping citizen journalists report incidents of violence and peace efforts. Before the experts dubbed the process “activist mapping, ” Okolloh’s site leveraged web, mobile, e-mail, SMS, Twitter, and Google Maps to visualize what was happening on the ground.
Ushahidi evolved from a website into a nonprofit tech company developing software platforms for citizen journalist initiatives. The organization was called on to launch humanitarian efforts in the aftermath of earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, a wildfire outbreak in Russia, and snowstorms in Washington DC.
The Perks of Being An Expert
Okolloh’s success in online activism allowed her to move on from blogging to become a spokesperson for citizen journalism, youth activism, and technology in Africa. In a world where non-experts are championed, Okolloh is an anomaly.
The trend of the moment is to know a little something about everything. It’s true; non-experts are able to pull from a variety of sources to come up with creative solutions. However, the old-fashioned approach of focusing on what you’re good at still has its benefits.
Thoroughly understanding the space where you work allows you to recognize needs others wouldn’t. Working where your passion and strengths intersects, ensures that you enjoy what you do, and won’t mind putting in the extra work required to be the best.
“One of the best pieces of advice I received while I was at the university was to get paid to do what you love to do, so that’s my philosophy, and much of the time you find it’s not mutually exclusive and your natural talents is what you end up loving to do. But passion – you spend so much time working, ideally you want to love it.”
– Ory Okolloh, “Africa’s Most Successful Women: Ory Okolloh,” Forbes
A clear vision for your career begins with looking inside. Start thinking about what you love, and how you can use your strengths to pursue it.
C. Cleveland covers professional development topics and entrepreneurial rebels who blaze their own career paths. She explores these stories and more on The Red Read, Twitter (@CleveInTheCity) and Facebook (/MyReadIsRed).
We’re highlighting Pioneers in the Game every day here on Madame Noire. Click here to meet all of our salutes.
Well, 2012 certainly turned into the “Year of Kerry” and 2013 started out recognizing Kerry Washington for all that hard work. The actress picked up three awards during Friday’s 44th NAACP Image Awards: outstanding actress in a drama for Scandal, supporting actress in a film for Django Unchained and the President’s Award which is a special recognition for public service. As many may know, Kerry was very instrumental during both terms of President Obama’s campaigning.
The show was hosted by Steve Harvey and was held at The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.
Washington noted during her first “thank you” speech for Django that the award did not belong to her, but rather to the ancestors whose shoulders they stood on while filming the movie.
Other winners during the live portion (many of the awards were given out prior to the NBC broadcast) included: Don Cheadle for outstanding actor in a comedic series for House of Lies, Loretta Devine for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series for Grey’s Anatomy and Lance Gross, looking a king size chocolate bar, for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy for Tyler Perry’s House of Payne.
The legendary entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte was honored with the Spingarn Award, which honors outstanding achievements by an African-American. Common and Wyclef immediately followed with their version of Belafonte’s “Day O.”
The surprise award of the night was handed to George Lucas for Red Tails, winning for outstanding motion picture. Lucas joked on staged by saying, “Look, I beat Tarantino” who was also nominated in the category for Django Unchained.
Gladys Knight also performed “The Way We Were” during the “In Memoriam” portion of the show.
Denzel Washington, Viola Davis and Omar Epps were televised winners but were not present to accept their awards. While they absolutely could have been busy working, it makes you wonder if some celebrities feel that these awards shows (read: the black awards shows) aren’t as important as the so-called “major” awards. Just a thought.
Did you catch it? What did you think? Fashion reviews?
It has quickly become one of the most respected awards shows highlighting the successes of African-American women in almost any field but particularly the media and finally, we get to see what is going to unfold during the 2012 Black Girls Rock! awards show.
Hosted by actresses Tracee Ellis-Ross and Regina King, the show will air tonight on BET at 7p/ET. This year’s honorees include: singers Dionne Warwick, Alicia Keys and Janelle Monae, magazine legend Susan L. Taylor, activist Dr. Hawa Abdi and actress Kerry Washington. There will also be performances by Ciara, Brandy, Keyshia Cole, India Arie and Alicia Keys. Men are allowed in on the act this year with performances from Luke James and Eric Benet.
The awards show is an extension of Black Girls Inc., founded by DJ Beverly Bond. The purpose of BGR is to foster the healthy development of young women and girls. They aim to build the self-esteem and self-worth of young women of color by changing their outlook on life, broadening their horizons and helping them to empower themselves. It has been quite amazing watching the organization grow over the last few years.
Will you be watching?
Famed Author Alice Walker is making headlines for her refusal to authorize an all-Hebrew version of the classic book The Color Purple, the 1982 novel about inhuman treatment of a poor black girl in the rural South.
The 68-year old acclaimed author and activist recently sent a letter to Yediot Books, an Israeli publishing house, politely requesting that her book not be republished “at this time” because of Israel’s inhumane treatment of its neighbors in Palestine. In the letter, which was also published on the website of the “Palestine Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel,” Walker writes:
“Thank you so much for wishing to publish my novel THE COLOR PURPLE. It isn’t possible for me to permit this at this time for the following reason: As you may know, last Fall in South Africa the Russell Tribunal on Palestine met and determined that Israel is guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and also in the Occupied Territories. The testimony we heard, both from Israelis and Palestinians (I was a jurist) was devastating. I grew up under American apartheid and this was far worse. Indeed, many South Africans who attended, including Desmond Tutu, felt the Israeli version of these crimes is worse even than what they suffered under the white supremacist regimes that dominated South Africa for so long.
It is my hope that the non-violent BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, of which I am part, will have enough of an impact on Israeli civilian society to change the situation.”
The letter also goes on to mention the personal significance of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning novel, “to rid humanity of its self-destructive habit of dehumanizing whole populations” including Walker’s insistence that the film version not be shown in apartheid South African. She writes, “I lobbied against this idea because, as with Israel today, there was a civil society movement of BDS aimed at changing South Africa’s apartheid policies and, in fact, transforming the government.”
Walker roots in the BDS movement against Israel can be traced back to her nuptials to a Jewish law student in 1967 when she started learning more about the sorted history of the country, this according to an interview with Foreign Policy magazine. Last year, she would join the flotilla of ships, which sought to break Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip in hopes of bringing supplies and raising awareness of the situation there. Already, pro-Israel groups are jumping on Walker, accusing her of being Anti-Semitic, including right-wing conservative blogger Debbie Schlussel, who called Walker’s act a far-left pronouncement from a “self-important Ms. Thang” and “excessively-hyped, lesbionic screedist.”
However, Walker is not the only artist willing to take a stand against the heavy-handed practices of Israel. Artists Against Apartheid, an international alliance committed to equal rights and justice, as well as the elimination of apartheid worldwide, has also called for cultural boycotts of Israel and is supported by hundreds of artists around the world, including former Pink Floyd front man Roger Waters, Carlos Santana and Elvis Costello.
The Israeli conflict/occupation is now in its fifth decade. Despite international pressure for Israel to stop the of expansion of its original stated 1948 boundaries, that country continues to increase the number of settlements into Palestinian territories – often times by military force and in violation of international law. This has resulted in not only the displacement of Palestinians from their homes but also a wave of violence from both sides including suicide bombings by Palestinians within Israel and the death of thousands of civilians along the Gaza Strip.