Bayard Rustin, Nok and Sokoto.

Collecting African Tribal Art, through the inherent nature of its complexity was always going to lead me to a rabbit hole or two. On the Richter scale my rabbit holes are ranked from a sojourn through wikipedia to a midnight conference with my pals Malibu and Piney… and this one turned into a real doozy.

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Bayard Rustin – LIFE magazine cover.

Connecting the dots was simple enough,

  • The main character, Bayard Rustin put together what is clearly a special collection of African Terracotta, primarily Nok, and Sokoto. Rustin received a posthumous award of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 for his work in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.[1]
  • The collection ultimately found a home at Yale University  via sale to Joel and SusAnna Grae of New Haven, CT.

Bayard Rustin is buried in the Civil Rights movement lore. The first I heard of him was when I viewed the Yale University video (link above). While he led a very interesting political life his commitment to nonviolence, and the civil rights cause is an amazing testament to the strength of human resilience.

One of my favorite parts of the video showed SusAnna Grae commenting –“the very judgmental Sokoto would look at you and say ‘well, what did you do today’…”.

Sokoto-01w

Sokoto Bust – (Source: The Birth of Art in Black Africa, pg. 105)

Invariably these collections end up in private hands. The fact that this collection is now available to the public for free viewing, and research is a good thing. My preference would have been to view the collection at a Historically Black College or University (insert Howard University plug here), but most of these institutions have neither the depth of networks nor finances to put this effort together.

 

 

 

[1] http://www.nhregister.com/general-news/20131122/civil-rights-activist-rustins-african-art-collection-makes-its-way-to-yale-gallery

Civil Rights Leaders of the 21st Century

During the past two weeks, members of the African American community observed the passing of Steve Biko[1] (died 10/12/77),

and the 50th anniversary of the Birmingham Four[2] (10/15/63).                                                   Image

The Pan African, Black Diaspora, or African American communities don’t need another pantheon of demi-gods, a new religious order, or a hierarchy of saints. What is needed however is a shared cultural understanding, a social construct or vehicle which conveys the values of our ancestors in a manner which is convenient, flexible, effective, and neither farcical, comical, nor inclusive.

 

When and where does the Black community celebrate the lives of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, Fred Hampton, Steve Biko, Frederick Douglass, et al, in a manner that is collectively, and uniquely appreciative?

 

How can our communities gravitate to celebrating the lives of those who sacrificed, and made tremendous commitments to the cause of freedom, and equality for black peoples when we are simultaneously engaged in supporting and propagating cultural norms which are part and parcel of the social infrastructure and status quo that keep us mired in the classification of “second class citizenship”?

 

Why should there be a centralized association to determine that MLK Jr. falls short of sainthood, or that Ghandi qualifies. Why should this arrangement preclude a family honoring the life of individuals who have set examples and who have lived lives which exemplify the best values which we can emulate as a society; a society in which the character and mettle of a man is not judged by the color of his skin, he is not hated because of the color of his skin, nor is he despised simply because of his social status.

 

Why can’t Black families in the Caribbean celebrate the lives of Dr. Eric Williams, Kwame Ture, and Bob Marley, in conjunction with those of MLK Jr., and Nelson Mandela? Have we become so conditioned to the social biscuits of acceptance that norms without established dogma are viewed as wrong, and unnecessary? At the end of the day we are responsible for the value systems we develop within our families, and the ‘truth’ in action that reinforces those systems.

 

The Civil Rights Leaders of the 21st century are the Parents who still understand the meaning of Segregation/Apartheid, and have bridged the gap to the euphemisms of  Diversity, and Minority representation. The time has come for the centralization of the ideals of the movement to be decentralized, and fully represented within the family structure.  Before we can grasp the benefits of the dream, it seems necessary that we like MLK Jr., are required to be vigilant, and engaged in a similar effort to ‘share’ the dream.

Legacy of American Slavery, and Deleveraging

The second sentence of the Declaration of Independence provides the backbone for the social fabric that is the enduring American dream.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”[1]

I would argue that the Legacy of American Slavery provides its working conscience, (a twist would be that in “the age of reason”, technically Americans enslaved Americans).

The enablers of slavery leveraged all manner of physical, religious, legal, monetary, and scientific means to justify, differentiate, promote, and build a slave machine that prospered on the blood, terror, and human fear of Africans, and African Americans.

The institution of slavery has cast a long shadow, and the dream of Americans is to be a part of the larger dream,

Martin Luther King Jr. (E1)

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”[2]

To voice such a hope in the Mecca of capitalism is akin to finding a planet called earth in the vastness of the universe. …. but that’s the whole point.  It is that seed of hope, on an unambiguous path that sustains us better than bread, and carries us through the machinations and gerrymandering of profit-mongers.

In the 2007-2008 recession, brought about by the leveraging of “easy credit” throughout the financial markets (the housing industry in particular), one can more easily understand what a deleveraging process looks like. The legal, monetary, and restrictive results have been felt worldwide. This is the easy fix.

Khalil, Donald, Kate, and the Irony of American Racism

Khalil Gibran said “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars[1].  To some degree every racial segment can lay claim to a coveted mantle of suffering, and sacrifice endured in contributing to the American dream. Blacks, Hispanics, Whites, Asians, and Native American Indians have all played a role. The problem for future generations however, lies in looking beyond the misplaced sacrificial enthusiasm inherent in bearing the self appointed titular crucifixes of  “the moral compass”, “perpetual victim”, “defenders of the constitution”, and “all things American”.

Discrimination simply refers to the recognition of differences among people and making choices based upon those qualities, be they perceived or real.[2]

Modeling Components of Racism and Racial Bias Intensity

Does the Black community really have a clue about what the panacea of racism entails? Is there an economic, or political impact?  On 4/29/11 Kate Middleton was referred to as a commoner countless times in the media. Definitely a high level of discrimination there, but within the span of the five minutes it took to recite her wedding vows she was transformed into the Duchess of Cambridge.  This clearly removes the aura of prejudice consistent with a racial bias.

Prejudice (pre-judgment) —e.g. deciding on a person’s qualities, characteristics and value on the basis of an arbitrary descriptor such as race, before knowing the facts. In general, prejudice refers to “any unreasonable attitude that is unusually resistant to rational influence.”[3]

 On the other hand, a commentator expressed incredulity that the Duchess of York, Sarah Fergurson had not been invited to the wedding while the Crown Prince of Swaziland had received an invitation. This arguably could be construed as prejudice consistent with a racial bias. The level of bias therefore provides the intensity and depth behind the components of a model depicting racism.

A bias is a prejudice or preference for one particular point of view or ideological perspective.[4]

 Cue Donald Trump and the Birthers. The embarrassing racist devotion to the crusade to prove that President Obama was not born in America adds the interesting element of Xenophobia. The dripping racial context is supplied by the fact that the President has already gone through the vetting, and legal process, and he has been elected via the traditional forum of the popular vote, also enjoyed by former Presidents. The key point being that the vote “trumps” the Trump, (intended), but since the elected President is Black, there is an undertone of rejection, and non-acceptance. This is important because it ties into the “prejudice” caveat of an “unreasonable attitude that is unusually resistant to rational influence”.

An expanded view of Xenophobia  cites the “hatred, or fear of foreigners, or strangers, or of their politics, or culture”[5].

‘Racism involves the belief in racial differences, which acts as a justification for non-equal treatment (which some regard as “discrimination”) of members of that race.’[6] 

Modeling the tones of racism is pretty difficult, but identifying racism…. not so much. The irony of course is that the directors of “the moral compass”, have fallen woefully short (slavery??), the economic analysis and societal assistance rendered to the “perpetual victims” has been used to polarize the races, and the  “defenders of the constitution” have for the most part been self serving and devoted to their own interests.

The three most pathetic judicial missteps …

Timeline

01/1959

Loving Case, Virginia – Trial Judge, Leon M. Bazile

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay, and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

Henry B. Brown - Portrait

05/18/1896

Plessy v Ferguson – Opinion Mr. Justice Brown (US Supreme Court)

“It is true that the question of the proportion of colored blood necessary to constitute a colored person, as distinguished from a white person, is one upon which there is a difference of opinion in the different States, some holding that any visible admixture of black blood stamps the person as belonging to the colored race, others that it depends upon the preponderance of blood, and still others that the predominance of white blood must only be in the proportion of three fourths. But these are questions to be determined under the laws of each State and are not properly put in issue in this case. Under the allegations of his petition it may undoubtedly become a question of importance whether, under the laws of Louisiana, the petitioner belongs to the white or colored race.”[1]

Roger Taney - Portrait

03/1857

Dred Scott v. Sandford – Chief Justice Roger B. Taney (US Supreme Court)

“all blacks — slaves as well as free — were not and could never become citizens of the United States.”[2]

“They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery. . . . He was bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever a profit could be made by it. This opinion was at that time fixed and universal in the civilized portion of the white race.”[3]

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