Kalamu ya Salaam's information blog



July 6, 2015




The Music Video


Could Have Made…

By Kiratiana Freelon | Shadow and Act



Still from Emicida's "Boa Esperança"

Still from Emicida’s “Boa Esperança”

Given the current political climate in the USA, should Rihanna have instead released something similar to this video? 

When Rihanna released her “Bitch Better Have My Money” video last week, it left most of us with our mouths open. She has built such a bold reputation that nothing really surprises us. But this video’s bacchanal of nudity and “implied” violence surpassed any wild expectations we have of Rihanna.

It even spawned a few blog posts about black women and feminism. Mia McKenzie of Black Girl Dangerous wrote, “I see a black woman putting her own well-being above the well-being of a white woman.”

Ain’t that the truth. 

But there’s another video that communicates a similar message, and instead we see black women uniting to put their well-being above white women

Emicida, or Leandro Roque de Oliveira, is a Brazilian MC whose “Boa Esperança” song examines centuries of oppression of black and poor people in Brazil. His video chooses to tell this story through empregados domésticos – domestic help that is a half step up from slavery. After slavery ended in 1888, black women became empregados domésticos. To this day, Brazil has the highest number of full-time maids in the world, certainly a legacy of slavery.

The “Boa Esperança” music video has enough similarities with “Bitch Better Have My Money” to make a direct comparison. 

– Both videos take on the theme of revenge, one focusing on a maid staff that revolts against an oppressive rich family, while the other focuses on an accountant who owes Rihanna money.  

– Both aren’t just videos, but rather short film masterpieces, produced and directed by some prestigious video/filmmakers. Kátia Lund (of “City of God”) co-directed “Boa Esperança,” and the french directors group, Megaforce, directed “BBHMM.”

– Both videos involve a lot violence against white women (and white men).

– Both music videos were released at just about the same time – June 30 versus July 1. 

I was tagged in a Facebook post in which an American professor, Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette, and his black Brazilian wife, Ana Paula Silva, argued that Rihanna’s video is just entertainment, but “Boa Esperança” is a powerful look at class and feminism.

Check out what Thaddeus (with the input of his wife) wrote on Facebook: “To the degree that I have any sympathy for either of the two, it is for the marginally less economically successful black woman member of the boojwahzee. But frankly? Seeing one fat cat use violence to get back at another (and let’s face it, Ri’s character is in no ways poor or even oppressed in this video, given the resources she can mobilize), for me is, at best, a popcorn chompin’ moment. Something along the lines of ‘Wow! Cool seeing them kill each other for a change!’ As is normally the case with these things, Brazilian musicians have already come up with a far more radical and visceral video: Emicida’s “Boa Esperança.” When I watch this video and compare it to Rihanna’s in the context of the current round of the Great Debate between black and white North American feminists, I have to chuckle (in the sense of laughing to keep from crying). So this is what passes for “radical” these days in U.S. feminist discussions of race, sex and violence? Sisters and cousins, time to wake up and think about class for a bit, ‘tá?”








“Circum-Caribbean Poetics”

circum caribbean

Professor Jana Braziel ( and Nicasio Urbina ( are issuing a “Call for Papers” for a special issue of Cincinnati Romance Review (slated for publication in spring 2016) devoted to the theme of Circum-Caribbean Poetics.

Submissions Due September 10, 2015.

Professor Jana Braziel and Nicasio Urbina are writing to propose a special issue ofCincinnati Romance Review (slated for publication in spring 2016) devoted to the theme of Circum-Caribbean Poetics. The special issue will foreground poetry and literary prose written by Afro-Caribbean writers from the anglophone, francophone, and hispanophone countries in the Caribbean archipelago, and by Afro-Central American writers from Nicaragua, Belize, Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Panamá.  The special issue will include scholarly and critical essays as well as poems, short stories, and literary nonfiction. The purpose of the special issue is to contextualize Circum-Caribbean and Central American poetics through the historical lenses of slavery, migration, independence, ethnicity and racial difference, polylinguistic play, and contemporary transcultural exchanges in the archipelago and circum-sea region. The special issue will open new spaces—literary, diasporic, and circum-regional—for cross-fertilization in the Americas: it will uniquely examine the multifarious literatures of the Caribbean islands and the Central American countries in comparative relationship (an exercise that is novel); and it will comparatively examine the literatures and poetics of African diasporic writers from across the Caribbean sea, from archipelagic and continental countries in the region.

Image: Earl Etienne’s Belé Dancing











Thirty Years Ago, Today…

– July Short Story Call Out

The July Short Story Challenge: This time we are thinking of a blast from the past. A mystery… maybe it was solved, maybe it has never been solved.

It could be in any genre; romance, crime, sci-fi etc. And its relationship to the present of the protagonist.

Line: “Thirty years ago, today…”.

Send in your work in a word document attachment to

Subject Title of your Submission Email Should Be: 30 Years Ago

Deadline: July 24, 2015

Selected Stories will be published on 3rd August 2015. The story selected for Editor’s Choice wins KES 1000/- Airtime and a ticket to The Storymoja Festival: Nairobi [September 16-20]

Read Blog Submission Guidelines.










cfp upenn

CFP: “Moved by the Spirit,

Authorized by God:

Black Women Activists

and Religion”

NEMLA Mar 17-20, 2016, Hartford. CT, 

full name / name of organization: 

Jami Carlacio, Borough of Manhattan CC/CUNY
contact email:

Since the era of slavery and continuing through the present, Black women have articulated a vision of freedom, equality, anti-racism, and racial uplift, drawing from Scripture to sustain their work of promoting equal rights for African Americans. From the early female abolitionists such as Maria Stewart, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman, to the anti-lynching activists Ida B. Wells and Mary Talbert, to the twentieth-century civil rights activists Ella Josephine Baker and Septima Clark, and countless others, these “churchwomen” actively challenged the status quo that relegated Black women to the least empowered positions in the social order. In their effort to address slavery, segregation, violence, disenfranchisement, and civil rights, these women moved audiences toward social reform with stirring speeches; cultivated activism by establishing clubs and councils; and held key leadership positions in political organizations including the the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). 

We seek papers from any theoretical or critical perspective that analyzes the ways in which these or other Black women activists employed their religious or spiritual authority to effect radical social change in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries.

*Submission Guidelines*

This panel will be a part of the 47th Annual NeMLA Convention, March 17 to 20, 2016, in Hartford, CT.

Interested authors should submit abstracts of no more than 250 words through the CFP list on NeMLA’s website

Submissions must also include the author’s full name, email address and institutional affiliation.

Submissions must be received by September 30, 2015.
Accepted panelists must be members of NeMLA by December 1, 2015, and register for the conference by the same date in order to present. Participants may only deliver one paper at the conference.

Inquiries (but not proposals) should be sent to Jami Carlacio (










photo by Alex Lear

photo by Alex Lear



Another Duke Ellington Story


The dance had ended forty-some minutes ago but no one seemed to be in any rush to go anywhere. Though they usually clamored to be on the road, quickly gone from these hick towns after they played, tonight the musicians were casually strewn backstage; some even cradled their still warm horns, occasionally sounding a very soft note or two. Duke grinned inwardly. Collectively, these men were his instrument and it made Ellington feel good when they felt good.


As always there was a coterie of jazz aficionados, aspirant entertainers, and non-music-related hopefuls who lingered in the hallway that led to the rear parking lot in which a bus waited to take the band back to the train depot where Duke’s private pullman car was parked, well-stocked with appropriate food and other road comforts almost unknown to most musicians who crisscrossed America.


One gentleman stood at the end of the slow moving queue crawling along the wall outside Duke’s dressing room. This small farmer recently turned salesman patiently awaited his turn to thrust the evening’s printed program into Duke’s hands so that Mr. Ellington might grace him with the gift of an autograph and, hopefully, also a flash of that fabulous love-you-madly signature smile. A stone-faced woman stood stiffly at his side. She had had a long day, was tired, and was the only audience member not displaying a beatific expression.


Unfurling the seduction of his whiskey-tinged baritone, Duke graciously received this last couple. “I am Duke Ellington. With whom do I have the pleasure of making an acquaintance?”


“Ah, Squire, Joe Squire. You can just put: To Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Squire. Please, I mean if you don’t mine.”


“Mister. And madam. Joseph. Squire. Thank you so very much for gracing us with your appearance tonight. You, your lovely wife, and all the other audience members made each of us feel at home.” Duke shook hands cordially and paused to sign the program that Joseph Squire had tentatively proffered. As Duke finished his inscription with a flourish, he turned to the woman who remained starkly still looking as though it would have pained her to move. “Mrs. Squire, I’m sure you have a lovely first name. Might I inquire what it is?” Duke held his gracefully manicured right hand waist high in front of Mrs. Squire.


Mrs. Squire was slightly taken aback by the man’s forwardness. She had not touched many negroes before and though she appreciated his musicianship she was not interested in any personal contact with this mister Duke Ellington. But he spoke with such manners and deference in his tone, and he bent at the waist slightly in sort of a half bow, and his smile seemed so sincere; her hand floated forward more drawn by Duke’s personal magnetism than guided by her own will.


“Her, her name is Rosemary,” Joseph Squire spoke up on behalf of his silent wife. Joe knew that Rose was past ready to go home and she had begrudgedly accompanied him backstage in his quest for Ellington’s autograph. Now that Joseph’s search had been successful, they should go.


But, she hesitated: Ellington’s handshake was so smooth, so warm, so tender as he courteously held Rosemary’s farm-roughened palm. “Mrs. Rosemary Squire would you please allow me to show you something stunningly beautiful which I have just recently discovered? Please indulge me. It won’t take but a small moment of your time.”


Duke gently released Rosemary’s hand after slowly guiding it back down to her side. He turned to the small group of people surrounding him. “Excuse us one moment please.” Without hesitation Duke cleared a path with a regal sweep of his left arm. He touched no one, instead everyone instinctively melted back like room-temperature butter retreating from the radiance of a heated knife. With his right forearm Duke smoothly pushed open the dressing room door.


The first object Rosemary admiringly focused on was Duke’s stage shoes: a pair of gleaming patent leather pumps which sat languidly atop the dresser table next to a half drunk demitasse of tea–between two slivers of lemon a chamomile tea bag lay beside the china. Had Rosemary glanced at Duke’s feet she would have spied black lambskin loafers, but at that moment Rosemary’s nostrils flared as she inhaled the fragrance emanating from a spray of cut flowers which freshened the atmosphere as the bouquet lay beneath the over-sized dressing room mirror.


Duke sensibly had left the door wide open. At a discreet distance Joseph Squire and a few other people peeped into the room hoping to also see whatever was the beautiful something Ellington had promised to show the tight lipped woman.


“Rosemary Squire,” Duke guided her forward with the faintest touch to her waist, “regard. Behold something beautiful.” She turned to look at Duke. What was he saying? Duke nodded toward the mirror. She turned again. Duke stepped sideways so that he was out of the reflected line of sight. “Notice the elegance of the eyes. The determined jaw line which undoubtedly reflects a willful and passionate personality. But above all, the clean symmetry of the facial plane and the…aghhhhh,” Duke intoned wordlessly, “but oh, you can see as well as I.” Then Ellington stopped speaking.


Someone nearby gasped almost inaudibly. Rosemary virtually transformed before their sight. What had once been a cold mask of tolerance warmed into a tender visage of contentment. And as she started a smile, Duke picked up his pair of shoes from the dresser and backed out of the room. In the hallway Duke paused and touched Joseph lightly on the shoulder, ” Never forget , your wife is beautiful. Though youth may leave us, beauty can always find a home within. Sometimes beauty slumbers but even then requires merely an appropriately gentle nudge to reawaken.”


Then, on padded feet, Duke glided noiselessly down the carpeted corridor just behind Johnny Hodges who was already blasély ambling toward the back exit. Clark Terry had been patiently leaning against the wall opposite Duke’s door; he grinned as he too shoved off to take his leave. Terry had seen the master do this many, many times before. Duke was casually adept at reading people and adroitly drawing out their best qualities regardless of how they felt at any given moment.


Exhibiting a rainbow of diverse complexions, a small knot of people stood outside the auditorium’s rear egress. Sporting their best coats and warmest hats, the locals huddled in the chilly Indian summer night exchanging murmured conversations with Ellington’s worldly array of well traveled musicians.


“Excuse me, the time of our departure draws neigh and I’m afraid we must bid you good night.” Disappointed but understanding sighs drifted through the frosty air as Duke strove to extricate himself from the thinning throng. A lady who would not be denied sought Ellington’s attention—an attractively tall woman, slightly darker than cinnamon. Duke signed her program “love you madly” and then climbed into the vehicle, the beginnings of a melody capering in and out of his consciousness.


Suddenly realizing where she was, Rosemary Squire pirouetted in slow motion searching the dressing room for Ellington. Ellington however, by then, was reclining aboard the bus. Rosemary’s gaze fell directly onto her husband. Joe was a bit blurry as Rose squinted at him through partially damp but very happy eyes. He smiled at her. She beamed back. And they walked off hand in hand.


—kalamu ya salaam










nytimes logo379x64

JULY 6, 2015



John A. Williams, who wrote the novel “The Man Who Cried I Am,” published in a variety of genres. Credit University of Rochester

John A. Williams, who wrote the novel “The Man Who Cried I Am,” published in a variety of genres. Credit University of Rochester

John A. Williams, a writer whose exploration of black identity, notably in the 1967 novel “The Man Who Cried I Am,”established him as one of the bright lights in what he liked to call “the second Harlem Renaissance,” and who caused a furor with an unflattering biography of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., died on Friday in a veterans’ home in Paramus, N.J. He was 89.

The cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease, his son Dennis said.

Mr. Williams, whom the critic James L. de Jongh called “arguably the finest Afro-American novelist of his generation,” excelled in describing the inner lives of characters struggling to make sense of their experiences, their personal relationships and their place in a hostile society. His manifest gifts, however, earned him at best a twilight kind of fame — a reputation for being chronically underrated.

“Night Song,” his second novel, published in 1961, caught the attention of critics with its compelling picture of the jazz world of Greenwich Village and the retrospective ruminations of its hero, a dying saxophonist. “He gets close enough to the good novel about jazz that has never yet been written to make one hope he may write a good novel about something,” the British magazine The Spectator said in its review.

That novel was “The Man Who Cried I Am,” a look at 30 years of American history through the eyes of a dying black American writer living in Europe who reflects on his life and on his troubled marriage to a Dutch woman. Eliot Fremont-Smith, in his review for The New York Times, called it “a compelling novel, gracefully written, angry but acute, committed but controlled, obviously timely, but deserving of attention for far more than that.”

In “The King God Didn’t Save: Reflections on the Life and Death of Martin Luther King Jr.” (1970), Mr. Williams argued that Dr. King, suffering from hubris, was essentially a dupe, bought off with small concessions by the white power structure and blocked from effecting meaningful change.

“He did not understand that it had armed him with feather dusters,” Mr. Williams wrote. “He was a black man and therefore always was and always would be naked of power, for he was slow, indeed unable, to perceive the manipulation of white power, and in the end white power killed him.”

The negative portrayal, so soon after his assassination, dismayed many of Dr. King’s supporters.

By the late 1960s, Mr. Williams had earned a dual reputation, as a scathing critic of endemic racism in the United States and as a writer who, despite the constant comparisons to Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin, had been denied the credit due his talent.

“The Man Who Cried I Am” (1967) was a look at 30 years of American history through the eyes of a dying black American writer living in Europe.

“The Man Who Cried I Am” (1967) was a look at 30 years of American history through the eyes of a dying black American writer living in Europe.

“John Williams has so far been luckless,” John Leonard wrote in The Times in 1967. “That peculiar mechanism which transforms writers into celebrities, and their books into preferred stock, just hasn’t worked for him.”

Over time, some of the fire abated — “I’m still angry, but you can’t just be angry all the time,” Mr. Williams told Publishers Weekly in 1976 — but his reputation as a supremely talented but undervalued writer remained unchanged.

John Alfred Williams was born on Dec. 5, 1925, in Jackson, Miss., and grew up in Syracuse. He left high school to find work, and in 1943 joined the Navy, serving as a medical corpsman in the Pacific.

After the war, he completed high school and enrolled at Syracuse University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 1950. Unable to break into journalism, he spent time as a foundry worker, a supermarket vegetable clerk and a case worker for the Onondaga County welfare department. He moved to New York City in 1955, working sporadically as publicity director for a vanity press and as director of information for the American Committee on Africa, an organization founded to support African liberation movements.

In 1958, he became the European correspondent for both Ebony and Jet magazines. In the mid-1960s, he reported for Newsweek from Africa and the Middle East and from Europe for Holiday magazine.

“Night Song” plunged Mr. Williams into a literary tempest when the American Academy of Arts and Letters, impressed by the book, unanimously recommended him for a fellowship at the American Academy in Rome. In an unprecedented decision, the Rome academy rejected the selection, offering no explanation. Mr. Williams said he believed himself to be the victim of a false rumor that he was about to marry a white woman. He was offered a $2,000 grant instead, which he rejected.

A prolific writer, Mr. Williams published in a variety of genres. He wrote a travel book, “This Is My Country Too” (1965); a biography of Richard Wright and a picture history of Africa, both for young-adult readers; and, with his son Dennis, the biography “If I Stop I’ll Die: The Comedy and Tragedy of Richard Pryor” (1991).

In the early 1970s, he was an editor of the periodic anthology Amistad, devoted to critical writing on black history and culture.

His novels include “Sissie” (1963), which narrates the life of a Southern domestic worker as seen through the eyes of her two estranged children, and “Sons of Darkness, Sons of Light” (1969), a thriller about a civil rights activist who turns to murder after losing faith in nonviolence.

Mr. Williams confounded critics with “The Junior Bachelor Society” (1976), an unexpectedly heartwarming story about a group of middle-aged black men who return to their hometown to honor their football coach and mentor. It was made into a mini-series, “The Sophisticated Gents,” which was broadcast on NBC in 1981. His own favorite was “!Click Song” (1982), a screed against the publishing industry and the travails that await black writers.

Mr. Williams taught at several colleges and universities, most recently Rutgers in Newark from 1979 until his retirement in 1994. He lived in Teaneck, N.J.

In addition to his son Dennis, Mr. Williams, whose first marriage ended in divorce, is survived by his wife, Lorrain; two other sons, Adam and Gregory; a sister, Helen Musick; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Mr. Williams never much cared for the comparisons to Ellison and Baldwin. The tendency to group black writers together, he theorized in an essay for Saturday Review in 1963, was a way to ensure that only one at a time could become successful. He regarded his peers as E. L. Doctorow, John Updike and Norman Mailer.

“I do have faith in myself and my abilities to write,” he told The Washington Post in 1976. “I believe very much in what I have to say. I’m too old to start wavering now.”







Diaspora Hypertext, the Blog

black history, black futures, radical media, feminism




Reflections and 



By Jessica Marie Johnson


maafa 02

Attended Maafa yesterday (July 4, 2015), an event sponsored by the Ashé Cultural Arts Center of New Orleans:

“MAAFA is a Kiswahili word that means “great tragedy” or “horrific tragedy,” referring to the period called the Middle Passage or Transatlantic Slave Trade. During that time, millions of captives from Africa were brought to the Americas where they were used as a labor force, persecuted, beaten, and many, separated from their families forever. The Maafa commemoration offers an opportunity for the whole community to pause and reflect on this great transgression against humanity and to personally, as a community, agree to distance ourselves institutionally in word and deed from that transgression, its legacy and the evolved practice of racism in our civic, social, spiritual and personal lives.”

The community, Essence Festival goers, and visitors from around the world are invited to participate in this sacred ceremony where we honor our ancestors.

Hundreds of people attired in white clothing will be welcomed to Congo Square by the melodious sounds of the kora played by Senegal’s Morikeba Kouyate. They will gather, primarily, to pay tribute to African ancestors who died during the Middle Passage.

The ceremony includes multi-denominational words of healing, ancestral songs, a tribute to indigenous people of Louisiana, and the releasing of white peace doves.”

The Ashé Cultural Arts Center describes the New Orleans Maafa celebration as a branch of related celebrations “influenced by the work of St. Paul Baptist Church in Brooklyn, which was then led by New Orleans-born Rev. Johnnie Ray Youngblood.”

Diaspora at work. Black cultural production and political consciousness at work.

maafa 01

The Maafa celebration began at Congo Square with drumming, dancing, and speeches from interfaith leaders representing various traditions: Catholic, Muslim (via Nation of Islam), Buddhist, Jewish, Protestant, Rastafarianism, and Yoruba all made their presence known. Chief Warhorse and the Fi-Yi-Yi tribe represented the Mardi Gras Indians and black-Native traditions of New Orleans. Sage was burning and children raced around playing games. It had the feel of a black New Orleans family reunion. It had the feel of church. And it was HOT. The Caribbean sun was shining down on New Orleans that day.

After doves were released, drummers, dancers, and participants headed down Rampart, around the police station, then back up Basin and into the Treme. I downloaded Periscope and began taking live video as we walked. This was unlike any parade or secondline I’d ever participated in. Instead of a sense of release and joyful ecstasy, there was something calming in what we were doing. Marching together as a black New Orleans community and in solidarity with antiracist whites and allies of color, doing it as a ritual on the fourth of July made sense.

I realized I’m normally anxious on the Fourth, on edge all day because it is a holiday reminder that this nation owes its freedom to enslaving black people and doing its best to extinguish Native inhabitants. And over the course of just this year, in the continued aftermath of Ferguson, the murder of nine people at Mother Emanuel, the triggering assault on a fourteen year old girl at a pool in McKinney, TX, the acquittal of Rekia Boyd’s murderer

This 4th of July, there would be no ignoring how little #blacklivesmatter to institutions with arms in the U.S. Or the fact that black people are still being killed in the name of freedom.

And yet, I also felt that with every step I took I was reclaiming space in the city for my tribe. In our mass memorial, we were honoring ancestors knitting together a different kind of memory of this place.

Some people danced as they walked. Some people drummed. Many people chatted and sang. There was troupe of African dancers, seven or eight women, who led the way behind the Maafa banner. Mostly, we walked. I saw Nola Wildseeds, and BYP 100 Nola squad members, Casa Samba dancers and members of various Afro-Atlantic spiritual communities, along with prison abolitionists, musicians, and academics in the crowd.

This year, the procession’s first stop was St. Augustine Catholic Church at the Tomb of the Unknown Slave:

From there, we headed into the Quarter, down Royal Street on its busiest day of the week (disrupt, disrupt) and stopped at the Louisiana Supreme Court Building. There a statue greets visitors–the Honorable Edward Douglass White, Jr., one of the judges who sided with segregation in the Plessy v. Ferguson case. As a young man, White was also a member of both the Pickwick Club and the Crescent City White League. The Crescent City White League, formed in 1874, was a paramilitary organization of Democrats and other pro-Confederate white men that terrorized black men, women, and children, and white Republican or moderate allies during Reconstruction.

The year it was formed, the Crescent City White League led an armed uprising against the Republican Reconstruction government. Known as the Battle of Liberty Place, white Democrats faced off against a smaller multiracial city police force and state militia. They took over government buildings in the city and held them for three days. Estimates vary, but at least 30 officers and militiamen were killed, a number which does not include civilian casualties and property damage as a result of the altercation. It also doesn’t include the violence and threat of violence imposed on and felt by residents of black New Orleans–freed, long free, ancien French, Spanish, Caribbean, African, and Anglo-American families–attempting to build new lives in the aftermath of slavery.

From historian Lawrence Powell:


In 1876, white Democrats “redeemed” New Orleans and Louisiana from Republican rule.

The Liberty Place monument, which I posted about hereherehere, and hereover at Diaspora Hypertext; and which Jordan Flaherty recently wrote about on the Louisiana Justice Institute Blog, has these words carved into the base:

“United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.”

So when we stopped at the Louisiana Supreme Court building, this was no small matter:

The procession continued around the corner to the site of the offices of the La Tribune de la Nouvelle-Orleans, a French-English newspaper founded by Charles Roudanez, a free man of color, and edited by Paul Trevigne, another free man of color and white abolitionist Jean Charles Houzeau. At the end of the block, the procession stopped again, this time in front of Pierre Maspero’s Cafe, which bears a plaque memorializing its history as a slave exchange:

Pierre Maspero Slave Exchange, Est. 1788
Pierre Maspero Slave Exchange, Est. 1788 | May 2015 | Snapped by me


…and around the corner from the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel, once known as the St. Louis Hotel, and considered the wealthiest and largest hotel in town. The St Louis Hotel is the site of the rotunda made famous in this image:

Sale of Estates, Pictures and Slaves in the Rotunda, New Orleans; by William Henry Brooke, engraver; engraving with watercolor from The Slave States of America, vol. 1; London: Fisher and Son, 1842; The Historic New Orleans Collection, 1974.25.23.4
Sale of Estates, Pictures and Slaves in the Rotunda, New Orleans; by William Henry Brooke, engraver; engraving with watercolor from The Slave States of America, vol. 1; London: Fisher and Son, 1842; The Historic New Orleans Collection, 1974.25.23.4


The New Orleans slave market, the busiest slave market in the United States and the most important hub of the entire U.S. domestic slave trade, was profiled most recently in the Purchased Lives exhibit at the Historic New Orleans Collection, curated by Erin Greenwald (more here). The St. Louis Hotel (and its auction block) stood until 1916, long after emancipation, a symbol and a threat.

maafa 03

From these two historic New Orleans slave auction sites we moved through the Quarter and down Decatur to Bienville Place where a mammoth statue of Bienville rests. According to Sally Asher, the monument features Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville standing upright next to Father Anastase Douay and an anonymous Native man. It was designed by Angela Gregory, a local sculptor.

2015 Maafa confronts Bienville. #nola | 2015 July 4 | Snapped by me
2015 Maafa confronts Bienville. #nola | 2015 July 4 | Snapped by me


Maafa participants draped the Pan-African flag on the shoulders of the anonymous Native man as Leon Waters gave a history of the founding of the city and the beginning of the slave trade. Waters did not mince words. He called for all monuments to white supremacy to be torn down.

The march continued to the river to Woldenburg Riverfront Park where we marked the Mississippi river for all of its meanings–a place where slaves met their fate and became unfree laborers working for slaveowners on both sides of the river, where so many died during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but also as a constant source of renewal and resurgence and return. A river I adore and keep coming back to.

The final ceremony of the Maafa celebration was simple and sweet. We threw white carnations into the river in honor of someone we loved who had passed, recently or long ago.

My great-grandmother
My grandfather
Clyde Woods #AlwaysClydeWoods
Jim Mcleod
Stephanie Camp
The enslaved and the free before me

The fallen and the righteous dead and the ones who paved the way….












July 7, 2015





In Newly Unsealed

Testimony, Bill Cosby

Admits to Having Sex

With Drugged Women,

Payoffs, and Cover-ups




Bill Cosby. Photo: Andrew Toth/Getty Images

Bill Cosby. Photo: Andrew Toth/Getty Images

On Monday night, a federal court unsealed documents from Andrea Constand’s 2005 lawsuit against Bill Cosby following a request from the Associated Press. Constand accused Cosby of drugging and raping her, and found numerous Jane Doe witnesses who said the same. (The suit was settled out of court in 2006.) Cosby and his lawyer had tried to block the release of the records by claiming the comedian was not a public figure; judge Eduardo C. Robreno disagreed, ruling that Cosby had “donned the mantle of public moralist” and thus “voluntarily narrowed the zone of privacy that he is entitled to claim.”

Before the official release, the AP reported that Cosby had admitted to obtaining quaaludes to give to women he intended to have sex with. The full records reveal that Cosby had seven prescriptions for quaaludes, which he used for this purpose. In his testimony, the comedian said he did give the drugs to other people, and confirmed a Jane Doe witness’s account that they had sex after he gave her the pills: “She meets me back stage. I give her Quaaludes. We then have sex.” Cosby did not answer the question of whether he gave women drugs without their consent.

Elsewhere in the testimony, Cosby remembered calling Tom Illus at the William Morris Agency and telling him to send money to one of the accusers. On another occasion, Cosby admitted to offering Constand money for her “education” (she had asked only for an apology) and testified that he had set up a similar “educational trust” for one of the Jane Does. When pressed, Cosby said only that he had made similar donations “for a variety of people, for a variety of reasons.”

Other documents reveal additional details of the comedian’s damage-control strategy. When he learned that The National Enquirer was going to interview Jane Doe witness Beth Ferrier, Cosby testified, he got famed attorney Marty Singer to negotiate a compromise with the tabloid. In the words of Constand’s lawyerCosby “decided to give the paper an ‘exclusive interview’ in exchange for their not printing the Beth Ferrier story, which he had been given the opportunity to review.”

The full 400 pages of court documents are online at Deadspin’s Scribd page. In response to the records, prominent Cosby defender Jill Scott walked back her earlier support of the comedian on Twitter:

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07 JULY 2015




How Is Your Bill Cosby

Defense Holding Up


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Jamilah Lemieux


Despite the efforts of lawyers, former co-stars and misguided pseudo-Black Nationalists who have fought desperately over the past year to protect the legacy of Bill Cosby, it has finally been revealed that in a 2005 deposition, he admitted to giving women drugs “for sex.”

For those who may be unclear, using drugs (or alcohol!) deliberately to loosen women’s inhibitions in hopes that they will either consent to sex or be unable to decline sex is rape. There’s no gray area, no “I really thought she wanted to do it too” when you provide drugs to ensure someone doesn’t, or can’t, say no.

Being mindful of the fact that Cosby has never been convicted of a crime, we can look at this deposition and the veritable clown car of alleged victims that provided very similar stories to what he offered in a sealed deposition 10 years ago and make the reasonable assumption that most, if not all, of these women are likely telling the truth. And if for no other reason but the sheer number of women who came forward, there are many, many reasonable human beings who came to this conclusion long ago. (That Beverly Johnson wasn’t enough for folks blows my mind, but my mind is often blown by patriarchy’s poisons.)

Alas, there were holdouts—Jill Scott, one of the most famous and most painfully tone-deaf among them, has now admitted that she was wrong—who refused to abandon the idea that this wasn’t an intricate plot to take down a pillar of Black manhood. Why someone would wait until he was in the twilight of his life to do so wasn’t made clear in most cases, but half-cocked fables developed to protect patriarchy aren’t as much grounded in logic as they are in the idea that certain men are infallible or above reproach. (Though there was no public information out there that suggests Cosby was attempting to purchase NBC, the YouTube University, Department of Hotep Studies theory on the matter relied upon this being true.)

Cosby has spent the past 15 years telling Black people that we’re our own worst enemy (ironically, his status as “moralist” is part of the reason the court documents were unsealed in the first place), shifting blame for our challenges away from White supremacy and promoting some of the most shortsighted respectability narratives around. You’d be more likely to sell me on the idea that there was a grand conspiracy to hide the rape allegations so that he could continue to do so. The nuanced examination of Black life we got via A Different World (and the genius of Debbie Allen) and the loving, though somewhat narrow, look at Black family life provided by The Cosby Show are not what we got from this man in recent years.

No TV executive was in fear of what Cosby may be capable of shifting in Hollywood in the 21st century, trust me.

As far as past false accusations from White women against Black men, let our need to defend innocent brothers not cloud our common sense. When the number of accusers outnumbered the Huxtable children… and the Hillman College crew… combined? Pretty safe to assume something in the Jello wasn’t clean. And that it was put there to turn a “no” into an “I can’t say no, I’m drugged.”

One of the most heartbreaking parts of this decades-long mess is that there are folks who believe Cosby to be guilty, but think that he deserves a pass because of his contributions to Black culture and Black colleges. We know how one can buy oneself out of jail, but the idea that you can “achieve” your way out of the idea of rape simply being wrong? That Black women are among those attempting to either rationalize past defense of Cosby, or continue to make excuses, is absolutely devastating.

We are tasked with defending the indefensible and protecting men who would never do the same for us, even when they don’t deserve it. And that a man who couldn’t stand up for Trayvon Martin (and who made a Notre Dame graduate cry because he finished with average grades) still has loud and proud Black male defenders speaks a terrible volume, to say the least.

For the record: if you need more proof here, but you side with male victims of police violence who have been abused or killed by officers who were legally exonerated, this is an excellent time to do some soul searching on which Black lives matter to you.

But while certain Black folks’ protection of Cosby is certainly central to this story (I’m choosing not to deal with the words of his co-stars here, because I don’t want to dismiss the possibility of certain traumas preventing them from acknowledging what this man has allegedly done over the years), it should be noted and noted again that the fact that it is rape culture that allows a man to allegedly assault many women and be protected by his industry, his family and his fans for decades.

Black people are not to blame with Cosby getting away with this; people don’t care that much what we think, and this man was beloved by millions of others. There were agents, TV execs, police officers, lawyers… a lot of hands allegedly worked to keep this man free from accountability and that is rape culture.

The circumstances here may be extraordinary (innocent Black men have been beaten, incarcerated and killed for accusations of disrespecting White women; Cosby allegedly raped a bunch of them and continued to live his best life), the victim blaming is par for the course even when non-famous men are involved:“Why did she go to his house?” “Why was she drinking?” “Why was she hanging out with him in the first place?” “What did she think was going to happen?

I hope that this week’s reveal brings peace to women who may have been harmed by Bill Cosby. I also hope that people come to understand that any payouts that have been or will be paid don’t mean that a woman was just “looking to get rich.” Honestly, I wish that all rape victims could be paid for their suffering, especially so long as we live in a society that makes it nearly impossible to incarcerate rapists. The trauma stays with you forever. If you can pay off some bills and hit the pocket of a vile individual in one fell swoop, this should anger no reasonable human being.

As much as I hate the idea of change being borne only from the suffering of many, I do hope this new information helps us to broaden our collective understanding of rape culture and why it’s not just a thing that happens in an alley with a weapon and a cartoonish character of a “bad guy.” Rape is all around. It’s in our entertainment (and still, UEONO) and in our dorms. In our Big Mama’s houses and in our workplaces. Rape is more protected in this country than Black women, and is often given more leeway than innocent Black men get from cops. Though men are not the only ones who rape, and women are not the only victims, it must be acknowledged that we are still blaming women for getting raped and we are still acting like men (especially powerful ones) are entitled to enjoy women’s bodies as they see fit.

How long? How many more women? And what will it take for you, once and/or current Cosby defender—R. Kelly defender, Roman Polanski defender, Tyga defender—to realize that money, power, charisma and manhood do not entitle you to bodies that are unable or unwilling to consent?


Jamilah Lemieux is’s Senior Editor. Views here are her own.