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16
Books / Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
« on: August 08, 2020, 04:21:13 am »
Saturday, 8th August 2o2o
Isabel Wilkerson’s World-Historical Theory of Race and Caste
by Sunil Khilnani








As the summer of 1958 was coming to an end, Martin Luther King, Jr., was newly famous and exhausted.

All of twenty-nine years old, he had been travelling across the country for weeks promoting his first book, “Stride Toward Freedom,” a memoir of the 1956 Montgomery bus boycott—a protest that, at three hundred and eighty-two days, was the most sustained mass action in American history.

It had led both to a Supreme Court decision that segregation on public buses was unconstitutional and to retaliatory bombings of Black churches.

The book tour was meant to mobilize support for the movement’s next phase, but days after his first event he’d been kicked, choked, and arrested by the Montgomery police.

And now, in Harlem on September 20th, he was being denounced as an Uncle Tom for not appearing at a Black-owned bookstore whose politics conflicted with the mainstream image he was trying to project.

So he sat at a table with a pile of books at the white-owned Blumstein’s department store on West 125th Street.

It was a store that didn’t even sell books—a store whose management refused to hire Black clerks until a boycott forced the issue.

The staff had put his signing table at the back, by the shoes.

“Is this Martin Luther King?” a woman in sequinned cat-eye glasses asked when she got to the table. He said yes, and she plunged a steel letter opener deep into his chest.

Later, King viewed his months of recovery as a period of productive recalibration.

It became clear to him how much stamina he would need to withstand the battles and backlashes ahead.

He marked the end of his convalescence by going to India, the birthplace of a man whose self-discipline he had admired since he was in theology school: the late Mohandas Gandhi, the leader of the mass movement that secured India’s independence from the British, in 1947.

King had most recently enacted Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence by publicly forgiving his would-be assassin, a woman who struggled with mental illness.

King liked to say afterward that he’d gone to India as a pilgrim.

Arriving home, though, spiritual lessons weren’t what he wanted to share.

He was more animated by the concrete political steps that leaders had taken to redress the wrongs of India’s age-old caste system.

Gandhi fought for the right of “untouchables”—known today as Dalits—to gain entry to Hindu temples that had long barred them as “impure.”

“To equal that, President Eisenhower would take a Negro child by the hand and lead her into Central High School in Little Rock,” King wrote.

The Indian Constitution of 1950 had officially abolished untouchability, declared caste discrimination a crime, and created affirmative-action quotas for Dalits and indigenous tribes—in part because a formidable Dalit thinker and leader, B. R. Ambedkar, had played a crucial role in writing it.
 
“Today no leader in India would dare to make a public endorsement of untouchability,” King told reporters.

“But in America, every day some leader endorses racial segregation.”

In “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” (Random House), Isabel Wilkerson contends that the brutal Indian system of hierarchy illuminates more about American racial divides than the idea of race alone can, and early in her book she relays a story that King told about his India trip.

He was visiting a school for Dalit children when the principal introduced him as “a fellow untouchable.”

The comparison made King flinch—but then its truth overwhelmed him.

“In that moment, he realized that the Land of the Free had imposed a caste system not unlike the caste system of India and that he had lived under that system all of his life,” Wilkerson writes.

“It was what lay beneath the forces he was fighting in America.”

This story is almost certainly apocryphal, borrowed from a sermon that one of King’s mentors gave more than two decades earlier.

In later years, King took little interest in how the idea of caste might apply in his own country.

But the anecdote at once lends a civil-rights hero’s weight to Wilkerson’s bold thesis and provides the model response to it: a lightning flash of insight about the mechanics of white supremacy.

In her view, racism is only the visible manifestation of something deeper.

Underlying and predating racism, and holding white supremacy in place, is a hidden system of social domination: a caste structure that uses neutral human differences, skin color among them, as the basis for ranking human value.

“Caste is insidious and therefore powerful because it is not hatred; it is not necessarily personal,” she writes.

“It is the worn grooves of comforting routines and unthinking expectations, patterns of a social order that have been in place for so long that it looks like the natural order of things.”

The caste model moves white behavior away from subjective feelings (what motivates these people to do what they do) and into the objective realm of power dynamics (what they do, and to whom).

The dynamic that concerns Wilkerson the most is how a dominant caste stops a low-ranking caste from gaining on it.

The most enduring caste system, India’s, turned a division of labor into a division of lineage.

In the Laws of Manu and other ancient Hindu texts, caste was inscribed with rigid precision, slotting occupations into four varnas, or ranks—priest, ruler-warrior, merchant, laborer—and a fifth category, outcastes (another old name for today’s Dalits).


Caste as a lived Indian reality, though, is crueller than any study of scriptural texts would indicate; it’s also more fluid.

Each varna comprises innumerable subcastes, or jatis, and, over generations, some jatis have climbed up the ranks as others have slipped down.

New occupational groups have been incorporated into the system as others have vanished.

In the nineteenth century, the hierarchy, vicious enough by its own design, was entrenched by taxonomies imposed by the British Raj—categories used as instruments of colonial control.


What fascinated King, during his sojourn in the subcontinent, was how the newly independent state intended to weaken the caste order by insuring entry for low-caste citizens into schools, universities, and government jobs.

What fascinates Wilkerson, like many progressives before her, is the ossified model—heritable hierarchy in its purest form.

Writing with calm and penetrating authority, Wilkerson discusses three caste hierarchies in world history—those of India, America, and Nazi Germany—and excavates the shared principles “burrowed deep within the culture and subconsciousness” of each.


She identifies several “pillars” of caste, including inherited rank, taboos related to notions of purity and pollution, the enforcement of hierarchies through terror and violence, and divine sanction of superiority.

(The American equivalent to the Laws of Manu is, of course, the Old Testament.)


In Wilkerson’s first book, “The Warmth of Other Suns,” which documented the Great Migration of American Blacks in the twentieth century, she wrote about past lives with finer precision and texture than most professional historians have done.

So she must have considered the risks involved in compressing into a single frame India’s roughly three-thousand-year-old caste structure, America’s four-hundred-year-old racial hierarchies, and the Third Reich’s twelve-year enforcement of Aryanism.


Even on her home terrain, where she focusses on what she calls the “poles of the American caste system,” Blacks and whites, her analysis sometimes seems more ahistorical than transhistorical, as temporal specificities collapse into an eternal present.

But this effect is consonant with the view of history she presents in her book—one involving more grim continuity than hopeful departures, more regression to the mean than moments of progress.

In the nineteen-thirties, Allison Davis, a pathbreaking African-American social anthropologist whom Wilkerson calls her spiritual father, risked his life to examine the interplay of caste and class in Natchez, Mississippi.



The work that he and his collaborators ultimately produced, “Deep South” (1941), was the first systematic, empirical study of post-Reconstruction life in the region.

Confirming the work of other social theorists of the time, they concluded that the structures that kept Blacks immiserated and imperilled were so entrenched that they constituted a caste system.


When Gunnar Myrdal incorporated their research into his own classic report, “An American Dilemma” (1944), the idea of caste fully entered the twentieth-century American conversation about race.

Twenty years after Myrdal published his report, and five years after King travelled to India, the dream of seeing aggressive anti-discrimination legislation in America was realized: President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act.


Wilkerson emphasizes the recoil that followed this victory.

No Democratic contender for President has won the majority of the white vote since.

In her analysis, the arc of the political universe bends toward caste, as progressive legislative or electoral victories activate the threatened dominant group.


Had observers better grasped white anxieties unleashed by the growth of America’s nonwhite population and the two-term Presidency of Barack Obama, Individual-1’s victory in 2016 would have come as no surprise.

In the voting booth, Wilkerson argues, whites across the board set aside considerations like gender affinity and such class concerns as access to health care in order to support a man who had signalled his commitment to the continued dominion of their caste.

Individual-1 didn’t need to tweet out “You will not replace us.”

Throughout American history, Wilkerson says, white-supremacist ideas deemed taboo have simply gone undercover.

When, in the early years of the twentieth century, the Postmaster General banned the grotesque postcards that certain whites liked to send, featuring the corpses of the lynched (“This is the Barbecue we had last night”), the cards kept on circulating in envelopes.


With Individual-1, a twenty-first-century version of these clandestine networks produced what Wilkerson sees as a “consolidation of rank among the historic ruling caste” following the disruption represented by a Black First Family.

The Obamas have been touted, in some circles, as proof of progress toward racial equality.

The experience of élite Black Americans is central to Wilkerson’s account, but for the opposite reason.

She sees in their attempts to transcend their assigned place in the hierarchy a natural caste experiment—and a failed one at that.


Regardless of their wealth or refinement, the system tries to shove them back down.

To illustrate this phenomenon, she ranges across disciplines from sociology to economics to medicine, interspersing her analysis with what she calls “scenes of caste,” among them wrenching personal ones.

One evening, violating caste’s pre-written script, she is flying first class.

As she stands in the aisle and waits to disembark, the lone African-American passenger in the cabin, a white man retrieving his bag from an overhead compartment thrusts his full weight onto her body, while other travellers watch, their faces determinedly blank.


“Over the course of American history, black men have died for doing far less to white women than what he did to me,” she writes.

The men and women in the cabin would have suffered no material consequence for defending her, she notes, yet every one of them chose “caste solidarity over principle, tribe over empathy.”

One of those impassive witnesses, the lead flight attendant, is a Black man, and she imagines his own caste calculations.

This low-caste man doesn’t know what power the upper-caste man might possess.

To defend a low-caste woman, even if it is his professional responsibility to do so, could bring negative consequences.

“In a caste system,” she concludes, “things work more smoothly when everyone stays in their place, and that is what he did.”

In Wilkerson’s book, one senses that each word choice has been carefully weighed, and her tone remains measured even when describing her own assault.

But she conveys a particular frustration with those members of her caste, from the flight attendant to the Black police officers involved in the deaths of Eric Garner and Freddie Gray, who try to rise by rejecting their own.

The caste system, she says, in an echo of Malcolm X, has always rewarded “snitches and sellouts.”

Mustering old and new historical scholarship, sometimes to shattering effect, “Caste” brings out how systematically, through the centuries, Black lives were destroyed “under the terror of people who had absolute power over their bodies and their very breath.”

In considering the present, though, she often focusses on questions of dignity.


Many scenes involve whites failing to recognize the status of successful Blacks—like the white man, having recently moved into a wealthy suburb, who mistakes his elegant Black neighbor for the woman who picks up his laundry.

As for how caste dynamics affect those Black Americans who really do pick up the laundry—or shell the shrimp, or clean the motel rooms—Wilkerson has little to say.


At one point, she implies that poor people of color are in some ways more fortunate than wealthier ones, because they have fewer stress-related health problems.

She surmises that this has to do with low-income people of color getting less white pushback.

But the claim isn’t supported by most recent research, and she doesn’t mention the significant diagnostic gap created by unequal access to health care.

Considerations of material resources, in her analysis, can disappear in the shadow of status.

Applying a single abstraction to multiple realities inevitably creates friction—sometimes productive, sometimes not.

In the book’s comparison of the Third Reich to India and America, for example, a rather jarring distinction is set aside: the final objective of Nazi ideology was to eliminate Jewish people, not just to subordinate them.


While American whites and Indian upper castes exploited Blacks and Dalits to do their menial labor, the Nazis came to see no functional role for Jews.

In Nazi propaganda, Jews weren’t backward, bestial, natural-born toilers; they were cunning arch-manipulators of historical events.

(When Goebbels and other Nazis reviled “extreme Jewish intellectualism” and claimed that Jews had helped orchestrate Germany’s defeat in the Great War, they were insisting on Jewish iniquity, not occupational incapacity.)

The violence exercised against Dalits in India and Black people in America provides an ill-fitting template for eliminationist anti-Semitism.

Even in this country, as Wilkerson prosecutes the case for her caste model, she occasionally skirts facts that resist alignment with her thesis.

To clinch her argument that Individual-1 was elected because whites were protecting their caste status, she says that he won them over at every education level.

According to the Pew Foundation’s 2018 validated-voter analysis, though, most whites with a college education or higher voted against him.


Wilkerson seems at times to have a sophisticated idea of how caste operates in the modern world, with all its internal diversities.

But at this and other points in her book she appears to be reaching back toward older understandings of the system, in which each group is a monolith, consistent in its interests and political allegiances, impervious to contingencies or context.

Indeed, reading Wilkerson’s chapter on Allison Davis, one could forget that “Deep South” pointedly billed itself as “a study of caste and class.”

She leaves out the fact that Davis and his co-authors were fascinated by the ways in which the two gradients could complicate each other—the ways in which solidarities of class sometimes trumped those of color.

Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, and James Foreman, who encountered “Deep South” in college, read its findings more instrumentally than Wilkerson does.


The structural and individual outrages committed by Mississippi whites would not have been news to them.

The news was that white élites often despised the white poor more than they did Black workers.

Black and white landlords coöperated to protect their interests and exploit poor tenant farmers.

And some white shopkeepers, however racist, knew that they had to be courteous to Black customers or lose their business.


Many civil-rights activists concluded that, if Blacks gained more wealth and political power, they could compel whites to modify their behavior.

Altering that key variable might start the process of eroding the caste system itself.

Today, Republican political strategists are no doubt at work trying to capitalize on similar class and caste variables in the hope of dividing the Black vote, and undermining Black-equality movements.


As it happens, a middle-caste Indian immigrant, the economist Raj Chetty, has given us an illuminating forensic picture of the complexity of the castes in question.

Gender matters: Black women now slightly outearn white women who were raised in financially similar family circumstances, while the incomes of Black men account for most of a still appalling Black-white income gap.

Location matters, too: Black people who moved to “better neighborhoods” as children have significantly different earning prospects as adults.


(Counties with the least social mobility today often had a great density of enslaved people in the antebellum era.)

Decades after King celebrated the laws Indian leaders had enacted to break down the caste system, that system has proved much tougher to dismantle than many observers had hoped.

One thing quotas have achieved, though, is increased economic diversity within lower castes—a change that shows how labile the corresponding political alliances can be.

After independence, Dalits, who constitute more than sixteen per cent of the population, were a reliable vote, first for the Congress Party and then, in some states, for their own caste-based regional parties.


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17
Writing / Winner of the 2020 Caine Prize - Irenosen Okojie
« on: July 28, 2020, 07:04:45 am »
Tuesday, 28th July 2o2o
Nigerian-British author Irenosen Okojie bags $13,000 as winner of the 2020 Caine Prize
by Theodora Aidoo






Nigerian-British author Irenosen Okojie has emerged as the 2020 AKO Caine prize winner for African Writing for her short story about a Grace Jones impersonator.

She won the £10,000 award on Monday.

There were 27 countries represented in this year’s entries and Okojie was shortlisted alongside Sugo Anyadike, Chikodili Emelumadu, Jowhor Ile, and Rémy Ngamije.

The shortlists were determined virtually by the judging panel who described Okojie’s story thus:

“It is intense and full of stunning prose; it’s also a story that reflects African consciousness in the way it so seamlessly shifts dimensions, and it’s a story that demonstrates extraordinary imagination. Most of all, it is world-class fiction from an African writer”.

The story, Grace Jones, follows Sidra, a young Martinican woman in London who is afflicted with guilt after her whole family dies in a fire that destroys their flat.

She would later find relief working as a celebrity impersonator.

According to the author, Sidra is “hiding under” this mask of Jamaican singer, model and actress Grace Jones.

“But under the character she herself is committing dreadful acts.”

“I’m really passionate about centring the stories of black women and people of colour. It’s important to show their lived experiences,” she said.

“But I like to do it couched within these darkly fantastical worlds, pushing the boundaries of form, ideas and language, so the reader has a different experience,” Okojie added.

Caine Prize chair of judges and director of The Africa Centre, Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp, said that the journey of Okojie’s main protagonist Sidra,

“moves exquisitely and seamlessly between the exploration of the universal experiences of unspeakable suffering, pleasure and escape, and the particular experience of being black and African in a global city such as London”.

“It is intense and full of stunning prose; it’s also a story that reflects African consciousness in the way it so seamlessly shifts dimensions, and it’s a story that demonstrates extraordinary imagination. Most of all, it is world-class fiction from an African writer,” said Tharp.


As the Black Lives Matter protests continue, Tharp noted Okojie’s story “offers a salient exploration of what it can mean to embody and perform blackness in the world”.

The London-based writer said her £10,000 ($13,000) prize money will buy her more time to travel, to write and maybe even a garden shed as “a little enclave” to work in.

“What I want people to take away from it is not just the pain of tragedy, it’s how we reconfigure ourselves past it,” she told the BBC.

Okojie told The Guardian that she had always found the actual Grace Jones “hugely inspiring”, and wanted to explore “this idea of trying to subvert the pain of the past by hiding under a different character”.

Published last year in Okojie’s book Nudibranch, Grace Jones is her second short story collection and her third book, following her debut novel Butterfly Fish and her first collection Speak Gigantular.

She is an accomplished writer whose books have won awards.

She came into the literary limelight in 2016 with her debut novel Butterly Fish, which won a Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for an Edinburgh International First Book Award.

Okojie, who is currently writing a second novel said she finds the process of short story writing “feverish” and filled with a “sense of urgency”.

She said she never wants her readers to be passive.

Hence, she challenges herself as a writer and hopes the reader will be challenged and intrigued as well.

“We’re all human and it’s about showing the breadth and scope of our humanity as well, forcing people to think empathetically about characters they may not necessarily have empathy for.”





















18
Saturday, 18th July 2o2o
John Lewis, Towering Figure of Civil Rights Era, Passes Away at 80
by Katharine Q. Seelye, Roy Reed & Sheryl Gay Stolberg








Representative John Lewis, a son of sharecroppers and an apostle of nonviolence who was bloodied at Selma and across the Jim Crow South in the historic struggle for racial equality, and who then carried a mantle of moral authority into Congress, died on Friday.

He was 80.

His death was confirmed in a statement by Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Mr. Lewis, of Georgia, announced on December 29th that he had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and vowed to fight it with the same passion with which he had battled racial injustice.


“I have been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life,” he said.

On the front lines of the bloody campaign to end Jim Crow laws, with blows to his body and a fractured skull to prove it, Mr. Lewis was a valiant stalwart of the civil rights movement and the last surviving speaker at the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.

More than a half-century later, after the killing in May of George Floyd, a Black man in police custody in Minneapolis, Mr. Lewis welcomed the resulting global demonstrations against police killings of Black people and, more broadly, against systemic racism in many corners of society.


He saw those protests as a continuation of his life’s work, though his illness had left him to watch from the sidelines.

“It was very moving, very moving to see hundreds of thousands of people from all over America and around the world take to the streets — to speak up, to speak out, to get into what I call ‘good trouble,’” Mr. Lewis told “CBS This Morning” in June.

“This feels and looks so different,” he said of the Black Lives Matter movement, which drove the anti-racism demonstrations.

“It is so much more massive and all inclusive.” He added,

“There will be no turning back.”

He died on the same day as did another stalwart of the civil rights movement, the Rev. C.T. Vivian, a close associate of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Mr. Lewis’s personal history paralleled that of the civil rights movement.

He was among the original 13 Freedom Riders, the Black and white activists who challenged segregated interstate travel in the South in 1961.


He was a founder and early leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which coordinated lunch-counter sit-ins.

He helped organize the March on Washington, where Dr. King was the main speaker, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Mr. Lewis led demonstrations against racially segregated restrooms, hotels, restaurants, public parks and swimming pools, and he rose up against other indignities of second-class citizenship.


At nearly every turn he was beaten, spat upon or burned with cigarettes.

He was tormented by white mobs and absorbed body blows from law enforcement.


On March 7, 1965, he led one of the most famous marches in American history.

In the vanguard of 600 people demanding the voting rights they had been denied, Mr. Lewis marched partway across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, into a waiting phalanx of state troopers in riot gear.


Ordered to disperse, the protesters silently stood their ground.

The troopers responded with tear gas and bullwhips and rubber tubing wrapped in barbed wire.


In the melee, known as Bloody Sunday, a trooper cracked Mr. Lewis’s skull with a billy club, knocking him to the ground, then hit him again when he tried to get up.

Televised images of the beatings of Mr. Lewis and scores of others outraged the nation and galvanized support for the Voting Rights Act, which President Lyndon B. Johnson presented to a joint session of Congress eight days later and signed into law on August 6th.


A milestone in the struggle for civil rights, the law struck down the literacy tests that Black people had been compelled to take before they could register to vote and replaced segregationist voting registrars with federal registrars to ensure that Black people were no longer denied the ballot.

Once registered, millions of African-Americans began transforming politics across the South.


They gave Jimmy Carter, a son of Georgia, his margin of victory in the 1976 presidential election.

(A popular poster proclaimed, “Hands that once picked cotton now can pick a President.”)


And their voting power opened the door for Black people, including Mr. Lewis, to run for public office.

Elected in 1986, he became the second African-American to be sent to Congress from Georgia since Reconstruction, representing a district that encompassed much of Atlanta.

While Mr. Lewis represented Atlanta, his natural constituency was disadvantaged people everywhere.

Known less for sponsoring major legislation than for his relentless pursuit of justice, his colleagues called him “the conscience of the Congress.”

When the House of Representatives voted in December 2019 to impeach Individual-1, Mr. Lewis’s words rose above the rest.

“When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something,” he said on the House floor.


“To do something. Our children and their children will ask us, ‘What did you do? What did you say?’ For some, this vote may be hard. But we have a mission and a mandate to be on the right side of history.”

His words resonated as well after he saw the video of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes as Mr. Floyd gasped for air.

“It was so painful, it made me cry,” Mr. Lewis told “CBS This Morning.”

“People now understand what the struggle was all about,” he said.

“It’s another step down a very, very long road toward freedom, justice for all humankind.”

As a younger man, his words could be more militant.

History remembers the March on Washington for Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, but Mr. Lewis startled and energized the crowd with his own passion.

“By the force of our demands, our determination and our numbers,” he told the cheering throng that August day,

“we shall splinter the segregated South into a thousand pieces and put them together in the image of God and democracy. We must say: ‘Wake up, America. Wake up!’ For we cannot stop, and we will not and cannot be patient.”

His original text was more blunt.

“We will march through the South, through the heart of Dixie, the way Sherman did,” he had written.

President John F. Kennedy’s civil rights bill was “too little, too late,” he had written, demanding,

“Which side is the federal government on?”


But Dr. King and other elders — Mr. Lewis was just 23 — worried that those first-draft passages would offend the Kennedy administration, which they felt they could not alienate in their drive for federal action on civil rights.

They told him to tone down the speech.

Still, the crowd, estimated at more than 200,000, roared with approval at his every utterance.

An earnest man who lacked the silver tongue of other civil rights orators, Mr. Lewis could be pugnacious, tenacious and single-minded, and he led with a force that commanded attention.

He gained a reputation for having an almost mystical faith in his own survivability.

One civil rights activist who knew him well told The New York Times in 1976:


“Some leaders, even the toughest, would occasionally finesse a situation where they knew they were going to get beaten or jailed. John never did that. He always went full force into the fray.”

Mr. Lewis was arrested 40 times from 1960 to 1966.

He was beaten senseless repeatedly by Southern policemen and freelance hoodlums.

During the Freedom Rides in 1961, he was left unconscious in a pool of his own blood outside the Greyhound Bus Terminal in Montgomery, Alabama, after he and others were attacked by hundreds of white people.

He spent countless days and nights in county jails and 31 days in Mississippi’s notoriously brutal Parchman Penitentiary.

Once he was in Congress, Mr. Lewis voted with the most liberal Democrats, though he also showed an independent streak.

In his quest to build what Dr. King called “the beloved community” — a world without poverty, racism or war (Mr. Lewis adopted the phrase) — he routinely voted against military spending.

He opposed the Persian Gulf war of 1991 and the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was signed in 1992.


He refused to take part in the 1995 “Million Man March” in Washington, saying that statements made by the organizer, Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, were “divisive and bigoted.”

In 2001, Mr. Lewis skipped the inauguration of George W. Bush, saying he thought that Mr. Bush, who had become president after the Supreme Court halted a vote recount in Florida, had not been truly elected.

In 2017 he boycotted Individual-1’s inauguration, questioning the legitimacy of his presidency because of evidence that Russia had meddled in the 2016 election on Individual-1’s behalf.

That earned him a derisive Twitter post from Individual-1:

“Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk — no action or results. Sad!”

Individual-1’s attack marked a sharp detour from the respect that had been accorded Mr. Lewis by previous presidents, including, most recently, Barack Obama.

Mr. Obama awarded Mr. Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 2011.

In bestowing the honor in a Executive Mansion ceremony, Mr. Obama said:

“Generations from now, when parents teach their children what is meant by courage, the story of John Lewis will come to mind — an American who knew that change could not wait for some other person or some other time; whose life is a lesson in the fierce urgency of now.”

John Robert Lewis grew up with all the humiliations imposed by segregated rural Alabama.

He was born on February 21, 1940, to Eddie and Willie Mae (Carter) Lewis near the town of Troy on a sharecropping farm owned by a white man.

After his parents bought their own farm — 110 acres for $300 — John, the third of 10 children, shared in the farm work, leaving school at harvest time to pick cotton, peanuts and corn.

Their house had no plumbing or electricity.

In the outhouse, they used the pages of an old Sears catalog as toilet paper.

John was responsible for taking care of the chickens.

He fed them and read to them from the Bible.

He baptized them when they were born and staged elaborate funerals when they died.

“I was truly intent on saving the little birds’ souls,” he wrote in his memoir,

“Walking With the Wind” (1998).

“I could imagine that they were my congregation. And me, I was a preacher.”

His family called him “Preacher,” and becoming one seemed to be his destiny.


He drew inspiration by listening to a young minister named Martin Luther King on the radio and reading about the 1955-56 Montgomery bus boycott.

He finally wrote a letter to Dr. King, who sent him a round-trip bus ticket to visit him in Montgomery, in 1958.

By then, Mr. Lewis had begun his studies at American Baptist Theological Seminary (now American Baptist College) in Nashville, where he worked as a dishwasher and janitor to pay for his education.

In Nashville, Mr. Lewis met many of the civil rights activists who would stage the lunch counter sit-ins, Freedom Rides and voter registration campaigns.


They included the Rev. James M. Lawson Jr., who was one of the nation’s most prominent scholars of civil disobedience and who led workshops on Gandhi and nonviolence.

He mentored a generation of civil rights organizers, including Mr. Lewis.

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19
Feel The Funk / Lady Antebellum are changing their name to Lady A
« on: June 11, 2020, 12:01:30 pm »
Thursday, 11th June 2o2o

Dear Fans,

As a band, we have strived for our music to be a refuge... inclusive of all.

We've watched and listened more than ever these last few weeks, and our hearts have been stirred with conviction, our eyes opened wide to the injustices, inequality and biases black women and men have always faced and continue to face everyday.

Now, blindspots we didn't even know existed have been revealed.

After much personal reflection, band discussion, prayer and many honest conversations with some of our closest black friends and colleagues, we have decided to drop the "Antebellum" from our name and move forward as Lady A, the nickname our fans gave us almost from the start.

Lady A



Lady Antebellum are changing their name to Lady A because of racist connotations
by Evelyn Lau



Grammy Award-winning country band Lady Antebellum have announced they will change their name, with the trio stating that they will now simply be known as Lady A.

The band explained that they had decided to remove the word "Antebellum" because it refers to a period of time in US history that includes slavery.

"After much personal reflection, band discussion, prayer and many honest conversations with some of our closest Black friends and colleagues, we have decided to drop the word 'antebellum' from our name and move forward as Lady A, the nickname our fans gave us almost from the start," the band said in an Instagram post.

The trio, consisting of Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood, have been together since 2006 and are best known for their hit song Need You Now.

The group has won seven Grammy Awards, as well as Country Music Awards and Billboard Awards, finding further success with nine number one hits, selling more than 18 million albums and boasting more than four billion digital streams of their music.

The band's members went on to explain the process behind naming the band, but also apologised for the hurtful historical connotations.

"When we set out together almost 14 years ago, we named our band after the southern 'antebellum' style home where we took our first photos. As musicians, it reminded us of all the music born in the south that influenced us... Southern Rock, Blues, R&B, Gospel and, of course, Country."

"But we are regretful and embarrassed to say that we did not take into account the associations that weigh down this word referring to the period of history before the Civil War, which includes slavery.

"We are deeply sorry for the hurt this has caused and for anyone who has felt unsafe, unseen or unvalued. Causing pain was never our hearts' intention, but it doesn't change the fact that indeed, it did just that. So today, we speak up and make a change. We hope you will dig in and join us."






















20
Books / My Vanishing Country by Bakari Sellers
« on: May 20, 2020, 04:16:32 am »
Wednesday, 20th May 2o2o
My Vanishing Country ~ Bakari Sellers

Review by Deborah Mason




Family trauma—even inherited trauma—can take a tremendous toll on children.

But as Bakari Sellers makes plain in 'My Vanishing Country', family trauma can also be a source of strength.

Sellers’ story is remarkable.

When he was 22, he unseated a 26-year incumbent to become the youngest legislator in South Carolina.

In that role, he championed policies addressing rural poverty, including access to health care and improved educational opportunities.

He became a CNN political analyst in the wake of the mass shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, and today he is a successful attorney.

These accomplishments required persistence and resilience.

In My Vanishing Country, Sellers beautifully evokes the South Carolina low country, the haunted landscape of his childhood, to explain how its backbreaking poverty and history of relentless racism molded him.

But the greatest influence on his life was an event that occurred years before he was born, when his father, Cleveland Sellers, was imprisoned on trumped-up charges for his role in the Orangeburg Massacre.

The fact that many people have not heard of the Orangeburg Massacre is in itself an excellent reason to read My Vanishing Country.

Sellers meticulously recounts how and why eight South Carolina highway patrol officers fired upon a crowd of black student protesters at South Carolina State University, killing three students and wounding 27 others.

The massacre affected every member of the Sellers family, including the yet-unborn Bakari.

Though they each still bear the painful effects of that event, their trauma has also become a source of power—the power to endure tragedy and achieve their goals.

My Vanishing Country is more than a memoir.

It’s a loving celebration of a father’s gift of fortitude and determination to his son.












Would You Like To Know More?
https://bookpage.com/reviews/25153-bakari-sellers-my-vanishing-country-biography-memoir#.XsUJh25FxqM

21
Feel The Funk / HAMILTON BOHANNON Disco, Motown legend passes at 78
« on: April 26, 2020, 11:12:34 pm »
Monday, 27th April 2o2o
Hamilton Bohannon, Disco and Motown Legend, passes away at 78

by Jordan Monreau





Hamilton Bohannon, one of the great musicians of the disco era, passed away on Friday.

He was 78.

The Newnan Times-Herald, a local newspaper in Newnan, Ga., where Bohannon was born, reported the news on Saturday after speaking with several members of his family.

Bohannon played the drums for Stevie Wonder in 1964, and that gig led him to getting hired as a bandleader by Motown Records.

His group Bohannon & The Motown Sound toured with several stars, including Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Temptations and the Four Tops.

Eventually, he began a solo career and released his debut album “Stop & Go” in 1973.

By the end of the 1980s, he made 18 more records.

His music was popular in the ’70s disco era, but only one of his songs, “Good Stompin Music,” reached the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975.

His funk music endured the years and has been sampled by artists like Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake, and Mary J. Blige.

In 2019, his song “Save Their Souls” appeared on the soundtrack for “Just Mercy,” the real-life legal drama starring Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx and Brie Larson.

His most recent single, “Bohannon Combination Gumbo Mix,” was released in February.


















Would You Like To Know More?
https://www.msn.com/en-us/music/news/hamilton-bohannon-disco-and-motown-legend-dies-at-78/ar-BB13cjmq?ocid=spartanntp

22
Feel The Funk / Chynna Passes at 25
« on: April 08, 2020, 10:52:46 pm »
Thursday, 9th April 2o2o
Rapper and Model Chynna Passes at 25
by Gabrielle Chung




Rapper and model Chynna has passed away.

She was 25.

Chynna — whose full name was Chynna Rogers — paased away at her home in Philadelphia on Wednesday, her manager John Miller confirmed to PEOPLE.

At this time, her cause of death is unknown, he said.

“Chynna was deeply loved and will be sorely missed,” the young rapper’s family said in a statement provided to PEOPLE.

The upcoming star’s death comes just four months after she released the EP 'If I Die First'.

Chynna began her career as a model when she was 14 after signing with Ford Models, Pitchfork reported.

During her rise to fame, Chynna was mentored by A$AP Yams — who died in 2015 — and her association with A$AP Mob helped her first gain traction in the hip hop scene.

Her music career took off in 2013 after she released her hit track “Selfie” and “Glen Coco” in 2014.

She then released the EPs 'I’m Not Here'.

This Isn’t Happening in 2015 and Music 2 Die 2 in 2016. On her 2016 album, she addressed her struggle with opioid addiction, according to Pitchfork.

During a 2018 interview with Pitchfork, Chynna explained that her music served as an escape for her and offered a way for fans to know they are not alone.

“[It’s] for angry people with too much pride to show how angry they are,” Chynna told Pitchfork.

“I was able to just focus on getting my feelings out and treat music more like a journal,” Chynna said.

Since news of her death, a number of celebrities and fellow artists have paid tribute on Twitter.

“Chynna you were f—— hilarious bro… today was our last exchange of jokes & those I will miss the most. I can’t believe it idk how to. I love you. So very much. My heart is officially iced,” Kehlani tweeted.

Rapper Kari Faux also tweeted writing, “I love u, Chynna. Forever, my rap game Laura Croft.”

“Chynna deserved way more love. We need to make sure to give folks their flowers while they are here to see them. This hurts so bad cause I know she was f—— next man. Her music and vision was raw as f—,” Dom McLennon tweeted.





















Would You Like To Know More?
https://www.msn.com/en-us/music/celebrity/rapper-and-model-chynna-dies-at-25-she-was-deeply-loved-and-will-be-sorely-missed/ar-BB12m4A2?li=BBnbfcL

23
Feel The Funk / Singer Bill Withers Passes Away At 81
« on: April 03, 2020, 12:13:40 pm »
Friday, 3rd April 2o2o
Singer Bill Withers Passes Away At 81
by Mark Kennedy




Bill Withers, who wrote and sang a string of soulful songs in the 1970s that have stood the test of time, including “ Lean On Me, ” “Lovely Day” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” has died from heart complications, his family said in a statement to The Associated Press.


He was 81.

The three-time Grammy Award winner, who withdrew from making music in the mid-1980s, died on Monday in Los Angeles, the statement said. His death comes as the public has drawn inspiration from his music during the coronavirus pandemic, with health care workers, choirs, artists and more posting their own renditions on “Lean on Me” to help get through the difficult times.

“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father. A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other,” the family statement read. “As private a life as he lived close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world. In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones.”

Withers’ songs during his brief career have become the soundtracks of countless engagements, weddings and backyard parties. They have powerful melodies and perfect grooves melded with a smooth voice that conveys honesty and complex emotions without vocal acrobatics.

“Lean On Me,” a paean to friendship, was performed at the inaugurations of both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lean on Me” are among Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

“He’s the last African-American Everyman,” musician and band leader Questlove told Rolling Stone in 2015. “Bill Withers is the closest thing black people have to a Bruce Springsteen.”

Withers, who overcame a childhood stutter, was born the last of six children in the coal mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia. After his parents divorced when he was 3, Withers was raised by his mother’s family in nearby Beckley.

He joined the Navy at 17 and spent nine years in the service as an aircraft mechanic installing toilets. After his discharge, he moved to Los Angeles, worked at an aircraft parts factory, bought a guitar at a pawn shop and recorded demos of his tunes in hopes of landing a recording contract.


In 1971, signed to Sussex Records, he put out his first album, “Just As I Am,” with the legendary Booker T. Jones at the helm. It had the hits “Grandma’s Hands” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” which was inspired by the Jack Lemmon film “Days of Wine and Roses.” He was photographed on the cover, smiling and holding his lunch pail.


“Ain’t No Sunshine” was originally released as the B-side of his debut single, “Harlem.” But radio DJs flipped the disc and the song climbed to No. 3 on the Billboard charts and spent a total of 16 weeks in the top 40.

Withers went on to generate more hits a year later with the inspirational “Lean On Me,” the menacing “Who Is He (and What Is He to You)” and the slinky “Use Me” on his second album, “Still Bill.”

Later would come the striking “ Lovely Day,” co-written with Skip Scarborough and featuring Withers holding the word “day” for almost 19 seconds, and “Just The Two Of Us,” co-written with Ralph MacDonald and William Salter. His “Live at Carnegie Hall” in 1973 made Rolling Stone’s 50 Greatest Live Albums of All Time.

“The hardest thing in songwriting is to be simple and yet profound. And Bill seemed to understand, intrinsically and instinctively, how to do that,” Sting said in “Still Bill,” a 2010 documentary of Withers.

But Withers’ career when Sussex Records went bankrupt and he was scooped up by Columbia Records. He no longer had complete control over his music and chaffed when it was suggested he do an Elvis cover. His new executives found Withers difficult.


None of his Columbia albums reached the Top 40 except for 1977’s “Menagerie,” which produced “Lovely Day.” (His hit duet with Grover Washington Jr. “Just the Two of Us” was on Washington’s label). Withers’ last album was 1985′s “Watching You Watching Me.”

Though his songs often dealt with relationships, Withers also wrote ones with social commentary, including “Better Off Dead” about an alcoholic’s suicide, and “I Can’t Write Left-Handed,” about an injured Vietnam War veteran.

He was awarded Grammys as a songwriter for “Ain’t No Sunshine” in 1971 and for “Just The Two Of Us” in 1981. In 1987, Bill received his ninth Grammy nomination and third Grammy as a songwriter for the re-recording of the 1972 hit “ Lean On Me” by Club Nouveau.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015 by Stevie Wonder.


Withers thanked his wife as well as the R&B pioneers who helped his career like Ray Jackson, Al Bell and Booker T. Jones. He also got in a few jabs at the record industry, saying A&R stood for “antagonistic and redundant.”

His music has been sampled and covered by such artists as BlackStreet’s “No Diggity,” Will Smith’s version of “ Just The Two Of Us, ” Black Eyed Peas’ “Bridging The Gap” and Twista’s “Sunshine.” The song “Lean on Me” was the title theme of a 1989 movie starring Morgan Freeman.

“I’m not a virtuoso, but I was able to write songs that people could identify with. I don’t think I’ve done bad for a guy from Slab Fork, West Virginia,” Withers told Rolling Stone in 2015.

He is survived by his wife, Marcia, and children, Todd and Kori.















24
Feel The Funk / Manu DiBango Passes Away At 86
« on: March 24, 2020, 10:05:02 am »
Tuesday, 24th March 2o2o
Afro-jazz legend Manu Dibango passes after contracting Covid-19
by Aljazeera




Renowned Afro-jazz star Manu Dibango has died after contracting Covid-19, his representatives and official Fakebook page have announced.


The 86-year-old Cameroonian, best known for the 1972 hit, Soul Makossa, is one of the first worldwide stars to die as a result of COVID-19.

"He died early this morning in a hospital in the Paris region," his music publisher Thierry Durepaire said.

A message on his official Fakebook page confirmed that his death had come after he contracted COVID-19.

"His funeral service will be held in strict privacy, and a tribute to his memory will be organized when possible," the message said.

Funerals in France have been limited to 20 people who are in the closest circle of the deceased because of a lockdown to try to slow the spread of Covid-19.

The saxophonist was one of the pioneers of Afro-jazz and also fused funk with traditional Cameroonian music.

His biggest hit was the B-side of a song to support the Cameroon football team in the African Cup of Nations but was picked up and popularised by New York DJs.




















25
Health / How Many Caught A Case Of Covid-19?
« on: March 06, 2020, 06:20:42 pm »
Elections have consequences. 

When poor, rich & greedy uninformed voters choose stupidity over experience in American politics... this is the result.
A topic of DEFCON level proportions!
I call it, How Many Caught A Case of Covid-19?

Can't have pandemonium without a pandemic, eh?  O.K.?   Here goes...

Friday, 6th March 2o2o
Death toll from Covid-19 rises to 14 in the United States
by MSNBC




New York, Washington and Maryland declare state of emergencies as death toll in the United States rises to 14.




















26
Other Comics / Heavy Metal Adds Joseph Illidge as Managing Editor
« on: March 06, 2020, 12:16:43 pm »
Friday, 6th March 2o2o
Comics Publisher Heavy Metal Adds Joseph Illidge as Managing Editor
by Graeme McMillan




The industry veteran will work as managing editor alongside longtime editor Ricardo Llarena, newly promoted.

Following the hire of David Erwin as publisher, Heavy Metal is continuing to staff up with the addition of comic book veteran Joseph Illidge as co-managing editor for the company.

Mr. Illidge has enjoyed a long career across a number of different publishers, including serving as executive editor for Valiant Entertainment, senior editor for Lion Forge Comics and editor for DC, Milestone Media and Archaia.

He will commence to work alongside Heavy Metal veteran Ricardo Llarena, previously senior editor and now co-managing editor.

"Working with the great team at Heavy Metal has been a bucket list experience! The company's name and brand symbolizes the innovation of genre storytelling and the collection of distinctive veteran and new talents,” Illidge said Thursday in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter about his new position.

“It's an honor to be part of a team dedicated to igniting the company, bringing top-notch creators from around the globe to the Heavy Metal landscape, and paving the way for a new era as the true leader in sequential storytelling for science fiction, fantasy, and horror."

Added Heavy Metal CEO Matt Medney:

"When David [Erwin] introduced me to Joseph, I was enamored by his attitude and spark. Most times you don't come across people like Joseph. His talents go far beyond editing and his spirit provides an infectious smile across the whole company. From Batman to Taarna, I am confident that Joseph will bring a quality of work to Heavy Metal that the brand deserves and needs."

Llarena also provided a statement on his promotion, saying,

“You know you’re living a dream when excitement for your job increases every day. It is a really exciting time at Heavy Metal under Matt's tutelage between bringing in David and really focusing our efforts on quality stories, it's a fun time to be here. To victory!”
















Would You Like To Know More?
https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/comics-publisher-heavy-metal-adds-joseph-illidge-as-managing-editor-1282767

27
Books / 'Welcome To The Party' by Gabrielle Union
« on: March 06, 2020, 10:05:27 am »
Friday, 6th March 2o2o
Gabrielle Union Authors First Children’s 'Book Welcome to the Party'
by Veronica Wells





Gabrielle Union, the New York Times best-selling author of her memoir We Need More Wine:

Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True, is turning her talent to the world of children’s books.

Her new book Welcome to the Party, illustrated by Ashley Evans, is inspired by the birth of her daughter Kaavia James and what her arrival meant to their family.

Union told PEOPLE,

“I’m so excited to be releasing my first children’s book,” Union says.

“Since the birth of my daughter … I’ve been even more inspired to create stories that are not only representative of the cultural melting pot we live in, but also celebrate life and the fun, teachable lessons that come at every age.”

As we’ve reported earlier, Union’s husband Dwyane Wade used a surrogate to birth Kaavia in November in 2018.

Luana Horry, editor of Harper Collins Children’s Books, shared her excitement about working with Union on this project.

“When I heard about the arrival of Kaavia James, I was touched by the beautiful and loving way her parents introduced her to the public. To work with Gabrielle Union on her unique celebration of parenthood was more than an honor — it was such an enjoyable experience.”

This is not the first creative project Kaavia’s birth has inspired.

Last year, Union launched a clothing line for infants from 0-24 months with New York & Company.

Union shared the announcement of the book on her Instagram page.















Would You Like To Know More?
https://madamenoire.com/1136776/gabrielle-union-authors-first-childrens-book-welcome-to-the-party/

28
Acting / Ja'net Dubois, 'Good Times' Star, passes at 74
« on: February 18, 2020, 04:44:42 pm »
Tuesday, February 18th 2o2o
Ja'net Dubois, 'Good Times' Star, passes at 74
by Reid Nakamura





"Good Times" star Ja'net Dubois has passed away at the age of 74.

Dubois was found dead at her home in Glendale on Tuesday morning, according to TMZ.

Her representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap.

The actress starred on the CBS sitcom "Good Times" for five years from 1974 to 1979 as Willona Woods, the gossipy divorcee and next-door neighbor of the Evans family.

She went on to appear in a number of film and TV projects, including voicing one of the main characters on the stop-motion animated series "The PJs."

Dubois's work on "The PJs" earned her two Emmys for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance in 1999 and 2001.

She also earned a NAACP Image Award nomination in 1998 for a guest appearance on "Touched by an Angel."

Her other credits include "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka," "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle," Moesha," "Sanford and Son," "The Facts of Life," "The Steve Harvey Show," "A Different World" and "Everybody Loves Raymond."

In addition to acting, Dubois also co-wrote and sang the "Jeffersons" theme song, "Movin' on Up."

















Would You Like To Know More?
https://www.msn.com/en-us/tv/celebrity/janet-dubois-good-times-star-dies-at-74-report/ar-BB108mkT?ocid=spartanntp

29
Acting / Nikita Pearl Waligwa Passes Away At 15
« on: February 16, 2020, 03:59:51 pm »
Sunday, 16th February 2o2o
Nikita Pearl Waligwa, Actor in Disney’s ‘Queen of Katwe,’ Passes away at 15
by Jordan Moreau


Nikita Pearl Waligwa, an actor who appeared in Disney’s biographical drama “Queen of Katwe,” has died, according to BBC and the Ugandan newspaper Daily Monitor.

She was 15.

Waligwa had been diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016 and seemed to recover a year later.

However, in 2019, another tumor was found.

“Queen of Katwe” director Mira Nair helped organize efforts to fund Waligwa’s treatment during filming, according to BBC.

The young actor played a girl named Gloria in “Queen of Katwe.”

She was a close friend of main character Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga), and taught her how to play chess.

The film told the real-life story of Mutesi who is one of Uganda’s most successful chess players.

She won three Ugandan Women’s Junior Championship and has represented the country at four international chess Olympiads.

Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo also starred in the film.

They played Mutesi’s mother and chess teacher.

Waligwa was in her senior year at Gayaza High School at the time of her death.



Nikita Pearl Waligwa

2005 - 2020

















30
Thursday, 30th January 2020
Comedy Central's ‘Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens’ Writers on the Power of a Mostly Female Writers’ Room
by Nicole Bitette



Day one in the writers’ room for the upcoming Comedy Central series 'Awkwafina is Nora From Queens' was an emotional experience.

For many of the women in the nearly all-female room, it was their first time being in the majority when writing for a series.

Executive producer Lucia Aniello, who previously served as an executive producer, writer, and director on Broad City, which featured a mostly-female staff, says she took her past experiences for granted, realizing on the first day that working with mostly women (there are eight women and one man on staff) was uncommon.

“There were a handful of women who were actually a bit emotional because they had never been in a room where they weren’t just one of two women in the room,” she said.

“It’s not the norm.”

Earlier this month, series creator Awkwafina (known to those in her personal life by her birth name, Nora Lum), became the first Asian-American woman to win a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical.

With her first Comedy Central series, which premiered on January 22nd, she wanted to create an opportunity for women and fellow Asian-Americans, to have a seat at the (writing) table.

After her breakout role in 'Crazy Rich Asians' in 2018, Awkwafina told Variety that representation starts “both in front of and behind the camera.”

“I think a big reason there aren’t a lot of our stories reflected is people don’t know how to write for us or think they can’t write for us,” she said.

“So I think for any minority group, you need to have writers who can reflect those stories and tell them honestly. It’s important to give people a chance. Take a chance on opening up roles, even leads, for actors of color.”

The ViacomCBS Newsroom spoke to a few of the women who worked on the comedy—which is now in the writing stage for season 2 — on what it’s like to write for Awkwafina, their fashion-adjacent Instagram account, Writer Fits, and how the room’s diversity contributes to the show’s humor and impact.

Here’s what they had to say:

[an excerpt]

Awkwafina’s role in the writing process:

Teresa Hsiao (executive producer) We talk all the time as to what we want for the show, and so we had an idea going into the writers’ room of what the show was going to be. Nora was in-and-out for the first few weeks, then she was off on Jumanji. I was always keeping her up-to-date with what was going on in the room and she would send in notes. She was very involved.

Lucia Aniello (executive producer): She was in the room a lot. A lot of the stories came from experiences in her life and stories about her. I love working with her. I find her so easy to work with, she’s so funny. She improvises things that you can never dream up in a million years. She’s an awesome mix of somebody who is very silly, but also hyper-intelligent. She can improvise stuff you could have never written and I think that people will probably feel that when you watch the show. You can never say this is someone you’ve seen on TV before. She’s so uniquely her, such a rare voice. I love her, I love Nora.

Karey Dornetto (executive producer):  This year, I don’t think we’ll have her [in the room] as much. We already started. We basically map out what this season’s going to be with Nora , and then we bring the other writers in and fill the rest out. She has a hand in all the scripts as well, making sure the voice is right so you know it’s her.



How they hope viewers will react:

Teresa Hsiao (executive producer): The show is really important. There are so few Asian-American shows, and even fewer Asian-American shows from Asian-American creators. We really want to emphasize the fact that we made this show to not bear the burden, not representing all of Asian-American culture, we made the show really to represent Nora’s authentic life, and the funny things that happen to her. The byproduct of it obviously is that it is an Asian-American cast. We’re really proud of it and we had so much fun doing it. We’re excited for people to see it.

Lucia Aniello (executive producer):  The show is funny first, that’s really important. I mean it’s really laugh-out-loud funny. Lori Tan Chinn is unbelievable on the show. I can’t wait for people to see it. I think that it’s the kind of thing where you’re like “Oh my God so funny” and then it also has some moments of real heart because it’s centered around family. You come away from it from laughing for 21 minutes and it felt good, too, outside of the laugh.

Karey Dornetto (executive producer): I definitely think the female perspective is a big deal, especially because we have so many female writers. The predominantly Asian cast is going to resonate with a lot of people who haven’t seen that before. We tried to make the room reflect what the show is.

















Would You Like to Know More?
https://www.3blmedia.com/News/Comedy-Centrals-Awkwafina-Nora-Queens-Writers-Power-Mostly-Female-Writers-Room

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