Flying The Red, The Black and
The Green Flag of Liberation
In the Spring of ’69 the revolution had smashed full force into Southern University New Orleans. We had taken over the school. Literally. We ran everything. Actually continued the classes and full day-to-day operations. But the nominal administration had no say so.
When we first took over we didn’t simply barricade a building and issue a list of ten demands. No, we were much more sophisticated. We marched into the administration building and one by one ran off the administrators, installed students in their place, and ordered that the school would keep on functioning but with a new and revolutionary leadership.
Two specifics will suffice to illustrate my point. When we went into Dean Bashful’s office, he was understandably outraged. He refused to move. So I motioned to a couple of the brothers who literally grabbed the dean and the chair he was in, lifted both from behind the desk and wheeled his ass on out into the corridor, slamming the door shut behind him. We then stationed two stalwarts on duty with orders not to let Bashful back in.
Second, we called the state government in Baton Rouge and told them we had taken over the school and would be in charge until new terms were negotiated and if they didn’t believe us, call back in five minutes and we would answer the phone. We had, of course, already commandeered the switchboard. When Baton Rouge called back, we answered with our same list of demands.
Some people thought they would just send in the police and force our hand but we knew differently. We had already had a major showdown with the police involving literally hundreds of students when we took down the American flag for a second time. A bunch of us were arrested but got out quickly and proceeded to organize a campus that was on fire because the police had gone crazy beating and maceing students who weren’t even initially involved in the demonstrations.
Our core leadership was not composed of teenagers but rather of veterans who were returning to school on the GI Bill. A number of us had served overseas, some in Viet Nam. By then, it was no secret, we were armed and dangerous but also extremely crafty. We didn’t flash our guns to the news media and we had made alliances with many of the faculty who were as opposed to the machinations of the administration as the students were.
Our all-male core leadership had been working together since the fall of 1968 and we kept the circle tight, did not recruit new members. We were wary of people who suddenly wanted to hang with us, in part because we were certain that undercover cops were trying to infiltrate. “The Bad Niggers For Regression” was more like a family than a political formation and we kept it that way. Our revolution only lasted two months so we never had to face major problems of losing leaders over time nor of bringing in new people. Questions, such as recruiting women into the inner circle never got raised as we careened through those two months at breakneck speed.
Everything was happening so fast and there was so much pressure on us, so many different forces at work both for and against us. We literally had to shape our revolution in the process of making revolution, there was no time off, no time to reflect, meditate and plan. Seems like it was one crisis after another that had to be addressed immediately with no room for error. Under such conditions, people tend to go with what they know, rely on what worked in the past, only trust tried and proven people.
One of the most profound contradictions of revolution is that during a revolution because events are moving fast and the opposition is fighting fiercely to unseat the revolution, what results is that the revolutionary leadership becomes both conservative and suspicious, unwilling to change itself in any major way and reluctant to admit new people into the core leadership. Of course, the average person lives their life without ever having to direct a revolution.
America was literally on fire and/or smoldering one year after the assassination of Martin Luther King. The winds of revolution were blowing everywhere. You either set sail or hunkered down until the storm passed over. Making a successful revolution is no joke. Indeed, as we quickly found out, overthrowing the old order was easy compared to running a new order. To me, taking over was not our major accomplishment. Our success was in running the school.
Initially we had focused on the lack of resources and the need for capital improvements. For example the library had empty bookshelves. We did not have enough professors to teach the classes we needed. There was no black studies department. We resisted the idea that college was simply supposed to train students to become workers in corporate America. We wanted community development.
Indeed, we did not have detailed demands. The second time we raised our flag of black liberation and the police attacked students and mercilessly beat us down we were prepared to defend ourselves in court but we did not fully realize that our next step was not simply to take over the school but to run the school.
Running the school demanded we create an administration. I don’t remember exactly how it happened but we chose students other than the core leadership to put in charge of day to day operations. Organizing resistance was one thing, maintaining social services a different discipline altogether. For the rest of my life I would be confronted with the contradiction of leading resistance to the status quo and the push for me to become an administrator of a new status quo. At the time I didn’t realize that one of the central contradictions all revolutions have to face is how to effect reconstruction after the overthrow of an existing order. We never got a chance to fully address that issue because we were only in charge for two months, April and May of 1969, but what a glorious two months that short time period was.
When the authorities visited the campus, everything seemed normal but the top administrators knew they were no longer in charge and many of them simply retreated in the face of our forces. One administrator I must mention was the treasurer, I believe his name was Mr. Burns. He took his job ultra-seriously and explained why he wouldn’t let us take over his office. He talked about sensitive financial information about each student and also all the financial instruments and what have you.
I remember looking into his eyes and saw something I had to respect. He knew we had the upper hand, knew that we had evicted Bashful, and also knew, I’m sure, that he didn’t have the force to stop us but he stood his ground and was ready to take whatever we might dish out to uphold his vow to do his job. We had to respect that. After all, he was not our enemy even though he was a functionary within a system against which we were waging war.
So we conferred amongst ourselves and came up with a solution. I don’t remember how thoroughly we discussed it or whether I thought if we did take over the bursar’s office we would have created a major headache for ourselves with the law enforcement officials, who would no doubt be called in if any significant amount of money came up missing. So after a few minutes we returned to Mr. Burns office and told him we were closing his whole operation down. He could lock up everything, put whatever he needed to put in the safe and after securing whatever sensitive materials, equipment and money he felt necessary, he should lock his inner office and take the keys with him. We weren’t going to let him continue running the office but we wouldn’t put anybody in there either. That was the only office on campus we didn’t inhabit. We let it go dark.
I think we shook hands on it, maybe not. But I do remember he was one of the few that looked us in the eye without looking away. I didn’t see hatred or fear in his eyes, and I hoped we looked the same way to him. I may have some of the details mixed up but I’m certain that we worked out an agreement. He was a man of honor ready to face whatever for his beliefs and we in turn were also men of honor even if we were taking over. Our goal was to transform the school, not destroy it.
In the weeks that followed the take over, the school continued to function. We had no argument with the workers at the school, nor with the clerical staff and a number of key people in management. In fact for most of the workers and the faculty, we introduced a measure of freedom to do their jobs as they deemed best. We unleashed the productive force of experienced workers able to make decisions without some chump administrator riding their back. I’m convinced our decisions to safeguard the jobs and positions of the working personnel was another reason things went smoothly.
On one level, if you visited the campus during the take over, things seemed to be ordinary—well, ordinary once you got over the shock of seeing the red, black and green flag of liberation flying high in front the school. Our takeover was an extraordinary achievement. Not only did we keep the baby, we changed the water and kept the bathtub clean. During the whole takeover, on a day to day basis SUNO was functioning as well as, if not better than, it ever had.
The fact that operations proceeded at an orderly pace allowed the authorities to claim that we hadn’t really taken over. Of course, it didn’t matter to us what they said in the newspapers and on television. As long as the flag was flying, it was clear who was really running the school.
Another issue I’m clear about is this: history will not document much about our takeover. The master never gives the full 411 on slave revolts. Indeed, as much as possible they erase the event in the official records. So, I am never surprised when years later scholars, activists and even some progressive historians don’t know anything about the SUNO uprising. They never talk about those days when the lion not only ate the hunter but dared other hunters to come up in the jungle.
And, by the way, “jungle” is a loaded term. If we said rain forest, nobody would bat an eye in disgust or immediately imagine wild animals and savages. So not only does the lion never win in the hunter’s history books, we also have to put up with the indignity of our environments being termed a “jungle.” But then what would you expect from those who imagine that the “woods” and “forests” are a locus of evil—check European nursery rhymes, check Hollywood movies, indeed, check your own imagination—who lives in the woods?
In many, many ways we were not only in a physical battle, we were more importantly engaged in a propaganda battle. I believe the limited success we actually had was partially due to the fact that for the first time in a long time, the “trains” at SUNO ran on time. We received mad respect from students, faculty and staff for the way we conducted the takeover. We were not into revolution for the hell of it. We were determined to improve our school and that’s what we did.
Others may remember these times differently than I do. They can write their own versions of our common history. Ultimately, what matters most to me is that among the people who were there, the students who participated in the take over, there is general agreement—the spring of 1969, those were the real “good old days.”
While everything was cool on the campus, the state had a problem. John McKeithen, who was the reigning governor, had stated often that he was going to return law and order to the campus and that anarchy would not be tolerated. His specific response to our SUNO takeover was that he was not going to negotiate under threats and certainly was not going to visit the campus while student demonstrations were still going on.
McKeithen’s grandstanding was irrelevant as far as we were concerned. We had control of the campus and that was that. Then McKeithen made a gross mistake. He scheduled a public appearance in New Orleans at a church located one block off Canal Street in the heart of the downtown business district. We found out about the time and place of McKeithen’s speech and trapped him.
Our movement was notorious for our instant demonstrations. We would organize convoys and could mobilize a couple hundred students anywhere in New Orleans literally within fifteen or twenty minutes. McKeithen was speaking in a church that had only two doors: a front door and a side door that fed into an alley which ran along side the church but only opened to the front street address. In other words, if you blocked the street in front the church where was no other way out.
SUNO was located at least six miles away from that church and there was no direct route from SUNO to the church. McKeithen was to make a brief speech and then be whisked away, or so they thought. By the time McKeithen had concluded his speech we had over three hundred, chanting students in the street blocking his exit from the church.
The authorities were stymied. They didn’t want a repeat of the mob scene and wild melee that happened when we were arrested for taking down the American flag. We stood around outside in our usual jovial mood—we had the upper hand and we knew it. We even joked with the undercover cops whom we knew on sight, a couple of them we knew by name.
In a weird way, some of the detectives had a measure of respect for us because we were smart, quick and also fearless. They knew we had guns and that we were smart enough not to make stupid or needlessly provocative moves that would have given the police a chance to wipe us out. So there we were approximately ten-thirty in the morning, the streets full of fired-up SUNO students and the governor of the state trapped inside a church.
One of the cops asked me, what yall gonna do? I told him that was not the relevant question. The relevant question is what’s the governor going to do.
At first there was no direct communication. But all kinds of behind the scenes pressure must have been mounted because shortly somebody from the governor’s office came out to “talk.” What did we want?
Our position was simple. We were here to see the governor and we weren’t going to talk to anyone else. Period.
After a lot of back and forth which entailed us rejecting one ridiculous proposal after another, they finally relented and said the governor would talk to us. Pick one or two representatives and we could meet inside the church. No way, Jose. That’s not our style. We have open meetings. Everybody had to be able to hear what was going on. The governor had to meet with all of us or none of us.
The church was not big enough, or whatever. OK. Well, the only solution is for the governor to come to SUNO where we had spaces big enough for a public meeting. Agreed. The governor will meet yall at SUNO. No way, Jose. We are going to go to SUNO together.
I remember the tense moments after we allowed the governor to approach the state limousine. McKeithen’s big, beefy body guards were dwarfed by the press of students—nothing was going to move unless we said so. When it came time to get into the car, one of the body guards tried to push me aside. I pushed back. And for a moment there was a stand-off. We would not back down. McKeithen nodded at one of the guards and the guard let two of us get in the back seat next to the governor. And then we crept off as the student body slowly parted to make way for McKeithen going to SUNO.
This was a dangerous moment. I was not worried about being arrested. We formed a caravan on the way back to SUNO. McKeithen to his credit decided it was better to go to SUNO than to have what they surely would have called a riot.
We had already informed the assembled students of what was going on. Our cars had already begun forming up. The governor was not going by himself. Oh, no. We were going to convoy to SUNO.
The ride to SUNO was both quiet and uneventful, and at the same time tense and anxious. None of us knew exactly what the next step was going to be other than the governor was going to speak directly to SUNO students — bringing McKeithen to the campus was a major victory for us. At moments such as those, you have to be able to think quickly in response to the pressures of time and circumstance. We sat side by side in the back seat, each of us silently trying to figure out our next move.
By the time we got to SUNO, the news media had cameras set up and it was the top of the hour item on all three local networks. McKeithen had vowed he would not negotiate with student protestors and now he was going to SUNO to speak to the students. The designated meeting spot was the school cafeteria. When we walked in a mighty cheer rang out.
McKeithen took one look at the stage and balked. He was not going to get on any stage with “that flag” on it. Everywhere we went, the red, black and green flag of black liberation was displayed. That is how our movement was known and now that McKeithen was at SUNO, the governor was threatening to leave without speaking because he was not going to share a stage with our flag.
As I remember it, there were three flags on the stage: the American flag, the state of Louisiana flag, and our flag of black liberation. McKeithen looked me in the eye and set his jaw in tense determination. If we wanted him to get on the stage, we would have to remove our flag. It was an obvious face-saving move on his part.
My solution to the conundrum was relatively simple. I said, OK, take all the flags off the stage. No flags. No problem. We outfoxed McKeithen. And that’s how Governor McKeithen went to SUNO and agreed to negotiate with the students.
That day he promised there would be negotiations about student demands and we in turn agreed that once the negotiations started in earnest we would cease demonstrations. All the way through the negotiation process, I kept expecting some sort of trickery but after close to a week of meetings an agreement was hammered out. Included in the agreement was the right to fly the black flag of liberation on the campus and that is why today, SUNO is probably the only college or university in the nation where the red, black and green can be raised and flown on its own flag pole in front the school.
There are two flag poles in front the administration building, facing the main avenue that runs in front the school. Alas, it has been years since the red, black and green has flown.
In June of 1969 SUNO closed for the summer and when it re-opened in the fall, over a thousand students were expelled and not allowed to enroll. Our leadership had court orders restraining us from setting foot on the campus. Nevertheless, none of that stopped the movement. Over the next two years there were more demonstrations, including another take over of the administration building.
The Spring of ’69 demonstrations and not been the first nor were they the last. Oretha Castle Haley and other students before us held demonstrations out at SUNO. After us, Earl Picard and another generation of students led major demonstrations. SUNO was full of older than average, working class students. Adults. People who had jobs and chidren to raise. People whom you could not treat like naïve teenagers. That is the background and the context within which my personal experiences were subsumed.
The SUNO struggle was who I was, everything else was secondary. Everything.
We modeled our movement on what we understood of the liberation struggles then coming to fruition in Africa. I was particularly impressed with Amilcar Cabral and the PAIGC in Cape Verde/Guinea Bissau. One of Cabral’s clear directives, which I took as a personal maxim, was: “mask no difficulties, tell no lies, claim no easy victories!
For two months April and May of 1969, SUNO was a liberated zone. We ran a newspaper giving our analysis of things. Held daily meetings with students in the science lecture hall. Allowed any and everyone to speak at the meetings. And in general out-organized our oppositions.
One thing we did that was important. We delegated leadership positions far and wide, and not simply to those in our inner circle.
Once someone was put in charge, they were in charge and made all decisions. One of the brothers who ran the school paper was gay. My position was as long as the paper was coming out on time and was well done nobody had anything to say about who should or should not be running the paper. Period.
Forty years later I still run into comrades and fellow students from the SUNO Spring of ’69. I don’t know most of them personally but they know who I am and I embrace them, literally, embrace them in celebration for who they are and for their participation when it counted. For many, many people SUNO was a highlight of their life experiences.
Today, when I have these chance encounters, I am always proud. I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of the SUNO struggle. The majority of the lives that were touched were not the uppity-ups, the petit-bourgeoisie in training to become functionaries in the state machinery. No. I’m talking about ordinary street people. We speak with pride and love when we briefly reminisce about the SUNO days.
In the Spring of ’69, I had just turned twenty-two. I and most of my comrades were physically fit, mentally quick, and on revolutionary fire. Being the grandson of two preachers, some would say I had inherited the gift of gab, but in that department I was no different that local leaders in black communities and among black students all across America. We all could rap.
Of course, my commitment to writing and theatre was a big plus. I had the ability to utter witty phrases that captured the essence of what we wanted and often mercilessly ridiculed our opponents.
I had a poem I frequently performed during that period. The poem was called “Knuckle-headed Niggers.” I would run down a list of deficiencies evidenced by knuckle-heads. People would be falling out laughing. I ended the poem with my fist shot high in the air in a black power salute and urged my audience to do the same. And then, while bouncing my fist against my own head, I would say, “now tap your fist against your head—how does your head sound to you!”
We were determined to be true revolutionaries and not simple-ass, knuckle-heads thinking that revolution was a party. No, people were putting their lives on the line, some of us, such as my grandfather and Jean Kelly’s mother had actually died during this time period. We weren’t just college students playing pranks.
We knew: to play at revolution was to be put down. We were serious, the times were serious. One way or another, change was going to happen. Our goal was to the best of our abilities to direct the changes in our society, and where we lacked the ability to direct, we certainly had the ability to influence.
Our flag was flying, our people were on the move, change was being made. At SUNO, in New Orleans, and all across America, these were difficult and dangerous times and simultaneously this was a beautiful era of revolutionary optimism and opportunity. Nineteen sixty-nine, a great time to be alive.
—kalamu ya salaam
A hidden store of remarkable personal testimonies, told by a selection of black children and teenagers given shelter by the Barnardo’s organisation up to 120 years ago, has been shared with the Observer this weekend, along with a series of original admission photographs.
These unseen stories, released by the charity to mark the start of Black History Month, stand out not just because of their moving content, but because of the valuable glimpses they offer of some forgotten corners of history.
One “Dr Barnado’s boy”, as they were called, recalls seeing the head of General Gordon carried aloft by Arab soldiers during his childhood in Sudan. The 16-year-old, Jaesell Macalonzie, had watched his family massacred by Mahdi troops at the siege of Khartoum. Although wounded, he survived to be sold as a slave, and then freed, before sailing on to England.
Other children talked of dramatic rescues at sea, or of desperate times in Britain, living on the edge of survival in brothels or street gangs.
These official “admission statements” were given to staff at Barnardo’s by young people as they were offered a home. Their words represent a wave of human suffering that brought many vulnerable youths to British ports, or later set orphans running from poverty back on track, after an early life in which they had been passed about like unwanted property.
“Barnardo’s started its work in 1866, 60 years after the end of the slave trade, and it was the first national children’s charity in England to take in vulnerable black and mixed-heritage children,” said Javed Khan, chief executive of Barnardo’s. “Our goal then was never to turn away a child that needed us, and that remains true today.”
The work of Thomas Barnardo began in London’s impoverished East End, where he founded a “ragged school” to provide basic education for neighbourhood children. One evening a boy called Jim Jarvis showed him destitute children sleeping on roofs and in gutters nearby. Barnardo then set out to offer a roof to as many of them as possible.
In 1870, the charity opened a home for boys in Stepney Causeway. Its door bore the sign “No Destitute Child Ever Refused Admission”, following the death of an 11-year-old boy called John Somers, just two days after he had been turned away because the shelter was full. A “Girls’ Village Home” was also founded in Barkingside.
Barnardo’s stopped running homes for orphans more than 30 years ago, but it still supports the lives of hundreds of thousands of young carers, care leavers, foster carers and adoptive parents across Britain with training and parenting classes.
Born in the West Indies and admitted to Barnardo’s in December 1887, aged 15.
Edward ran away from home and joined a ship which foundered near the Western Islands, now known as the Azores. The ship’s crew were saved by a passing steamer, which took them to São Miguel, the largest island in the archipelago.
The British Consul provided board and lodging there and, after four months, was able to get Edward on a ship to London, where he became destitute and was taken in by Barnardo’s.
He returned to the West Indies the following year.
Born in Somalia and admitted in November 1892.
Jaesell was taken to the Liverpool Barnardo’s home after he was found in the streets with a shoeshine box, but no idea what to do with it.
Once he was in the home, his story spilled out: “My father was a soldier under General Gordon. At the fall of Khartoum, the Mahdi’s troops killed my father, mother, sister and younger brother. I was stabbed in the neck and left for dead. A Sudanese soldier disguised me as an Arab and removed me to Dhurman. I remained there for seven months, when I was seized by Arabs and sold as a slave. After having been so disposed of two or three times, I eventually reached Alexandria, whereupon my owner gave me my liberty.”
Born in 1872 and admitted to Barnardo’s aged nine.
Elizabeth grew up in Liverpool, one of four sisters, and was employed for a short time as a child dancer.
The family moved to London, where their father abandoned them to take up a position as cook on a ship bound for Sydney. He left no money for his children and, soon after he left, the youngest sister died. Despite the mother having a job as a cleaner, the family ended up in a workhouse, although the children still went to school.
When Elizabeth and her sisters came to Barnardo’s, she was described as “remarkably intelligent”. The report added: “She reads fluently and seems eager to learn.”
She went into domestic service in 1887.
Born in 1895 in Stamford Hill, north-east London.
Her mother had a relationship with a lodger, who deserted her soon after the birth of Marie.
When Marie was 10, a Barnardo’s application was made by a relative to take her in, as her mother was in Tottenham hospital, where doctors described her as suffering from “sheer starvation”. When the Barnardo’s agreement was taken to the mother, she was too exhausted to sign it, and it had to be approved by her half-sister. Her mother died shortly after.
Marie went into domestic service in 1914.
Born in 1894 in Cardiff, she was admitted in March 1904, aged 10.
An application was made on Letitia’s behalf as she was found to be in “circumstances of extreme moral danger”.
Her mother was destitute so, aged three, Letitia was placed for adoption with a couple who were later convicted of keeping a disorderly house. Letitia was returned to her mother, who was “living an immoral life by consorting with other men”. More concerning was the discovery that a young black girl who had been living with Letitia was keeping a brothel. Letitia ran errands for her and sometimes visited the brothel.
Born in Portland, Jamaica, in 1871, he was admitted in January 1890.
Augustus lived with his mother who worked as a dressmaker following the death of his father in Kingston.
In August 1889 she too died of fever and Augustus made his way from St Lucia to London, arriving in December 1889. Barnardo’s sheltered the destitute youth.
In a reply to a letter from the charity, Horatio Vaz, clerk to Kingston’s circuit court with whom the boy had once lived, wrote: “I am glad to say he is well known to me. I found him to be a good and honest boy. I suppose, wishing to see a little of the world, he left his home.”
Augustus returned to sea in late 1891, but his fate is unknown.
It has been almost twenty-one years since Black German activist, educator, writer, and public intellectual May Ayim died on August 9, 1996 at the age of 36. After facing some personal setbacks and a recent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, Ayim committed suicide by jumping from her apartment building in Berlin-Kreuzberg. She also suffered from depression, which was often exacerbated by the psychological toil that everyday German racism had on her. Even though Ayim was born and raised by adoptive parents in Germany, some white Germans, including her adoptive parents, continued to harbor racist views that denied her humanity as a Black German citizen in a post-Holocaust society.
Her death shocked her colleagues and friends near and far. From South Africa to the United States, people sent their tributes, in which they recognized how much she inspired them through her writing and spoken word performances. Much like her mentor Caribbean-American poet Audre Lorde, Ayim, too, believed in the “subversive power of lyrical language.” 1 As a talented and well-known writer at home and abroad, her poetry and prose served as a form of intellectual activism and as a medium to incite socio-political change. In fact, Ayim derived a key source of political and emotional energy from her writing, which was a constitutive element of her activism.
May Ayim was not unlike other Black diasporic women such as Claudia Jones or the Nardal sisters, producing materials that shaped diasporic culture and politics and that promoted Black intellectualism and internationalism. She integrated diverse styles, such as the Blues, that reflected her wide-ranging interests in and ties to the transnational Black diaspora. Ayim even incorporated West African Adinkra symbols in her first poetry volume blues in schwarz weiss (Blues in Black White) – representing her Ghanaian roots. In the volume, poems such as “afro-deutsch I,” “afro-deutsch II,” “autumn in germany,” “community,” and “soul sister” tackled the themes of identity, difference, community, and marginalization, reflecting her (and other Black Germans’) experiences in Germany. 2 She also used her writing to negotiate her Black Germanness and to write herself into German society and the Black diaspora.
She was a powerful and inspiring figure who helped to pioneer and lay some of the groundwork for the field of Black German history. She excavated it, and in the process, learned that Black German history started long before the post-1945 period. This knowledge culminated in her Master’s thesis, which was then published and disseminated through the 1986 publication Farbe bekennen: Afro-deutsche Frauen auf den Spuren ihrer Geschichte and her other writings.
Moreover, Ayim left an indelible mark on the Black German movement – a movement that she helped to shape in the 1980s, especially with her co-founding of the West Berlin chapter of ISD or the Initiative of Black Germans (now called the Initiative of Black People in Germany). She organized national and regional events for ISD, including its annual Black History Month celebrations that took place in Berlin. Through these events, Black Germans refashioned their Black diasporic identities, nurtured their diasporic consciousness, and developed further connections to their Black diasporic roots. Black Germans used ISD and other organizations to create new cultural practices, obtain and retain recognition, and campaign for social justice in Germany. They also found kinship and community, uniting with and cultivating relationships with Black compatriots. After years of isolation in predominately white environments, this was a welcome and necessary change. More importantly, the movement enabled Black Germans to find a sense of empowerment and to carve out spaces for themselves within the nation on their terms. Indeed, Ayim played a significant role in this development.
Ayim’s legacy remains tied to the Black German movement and Black German literature, but it was a combination of the two that helped her achieve recognition internationally. At the time of Ayim’s death, her star was increasingly on the rise with invitations from all over the world. This international recognition afforded her opportunities to participate in a variety of conferences and symposia that focused on human rights, anti-racism, feminism, and the Black diaspora.
By attending these international events, she forged connections with individuals across the diaspora such as Jamaican-British Dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson, Caribbean-American writer June Jordan, and African-American sociologist Patricia Hill Collins. During her cross-cultural excursions, she performed her poetry and shared knowledge about Black Germans and the persistence of German anti-blackness, anti-Semitism, and racism. Her participation in these events served as a form of advocacy work, in which she demanded equality not just for Black Germans, but also for all individuals of color.
Embodying Black women’s internationalism, Ayim practiced intersectional politics with her international engagements. She attended the “Women in German”(WiG) conference in Portland, Oregon in 1987, where she gave a reading from Farbe bekennen. At the Third International Feminist Book Fair in Montreal, Canada in 1988, she also performed pieces from Farbe bekennenand presented on a panel with other Black German women, such as Marion Kraft and Helga Emde, that examined writing, discrimination, and the experiences of Black Germans. These experiences rendered Black Germans visible on the global scene.
Participating in the 1992 “African Women in Europe” conference in London, England, Ayim gave a speech entitled “My pen is my sword: Racism and Resistance in Germany.” In it, she stressed the importance of writing as a medium for coalition building and social transformation for herself and for Black Europeans more generally. She also explained the plight of minorities in Germany and their sustained efforts at mobilization. This conference also cemented her desire to improve dynamics in “Fortress Europe,” a space that continued to treat non-white Europeans with hostility and that increasingly made European borders impenetrable to refugees and migrants. At the Second Annual Panafest Symposium in Accra, Ghana in 1994, she continued to enlighten international audiences on Black German and Black European experiences.
Her impact is significant – as noted by the fact that in 2011 a street was renamed the May-Ayim-Uferin Berlin-Kreuzberg. Ayim built networks and alliances with Black Germans and other people of color in Germany and abroad. Ayim’s involvement with the Black German movement and her literature helped her attain international acclaim, which she used to promote her socio-political activism, fight for social recognition for Black Germans, and address issues of bigotry and exclusion in Germany and Europe. Ayim’s participation in international events not only informed her diasporic, anti-racist, and feminist activism, but also demonstrated how the local, national, and international were deeply intertwined in her life.
Ever since Donald Trump decided to reignite the issue that was originally started when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick choose not to stand during the national anthem in protest of police brutality, we’ve been told that millions of Americans are disgusted by his and others’ “disrespect” for the flag, our soldiers, and first responders.
These people are quite fond, like Trump himself and his current spokeshills, of stating that this has “nothing to do with race”—even though that’s exactly and precisely what it’s about: race and the lack of equal justice.
Just as a quick refresher, these are the day-by-day events from when Trump first spoke up about the anthem to the immediate reactions and responses over the next few days.
As I mention in the first item above, we need to recall that the anthem itself is far from having “nothing to do with race” because there was both slavery and racism built into it from the beginning, since lyricist Francis Scott Key strongly supported both.
To understand the full “Star-Spangled Banner” story, you have to understand the author. Key was an aristocrat and city prosecutor in Washington, D.C. He was, like most enlightened men at the time, not against slavery; he just thought that since blacks were mentally inferior, masters should treat them with more Christian kindness. He supported sending free blacks (not slaves) back to Africa and, with a few exceptions, was about as pro-slavery, anti-black and anti-abolitionist as you could get at the time.
Of particular note was Key’s opposition to the idea of the Colonial Marines. The Marines were a battalion of runaway slaves who joined with the British Royal Army in exchange for their freedom. The Marines were not only a terrifying example of what slaves would do if given the chance, but also a repudiation of the white superiority that men like Key were so invested in.
All of these ideas and concepts came together around Aug. 24, 1815, at the Battle of Bladensburg, where Key, who was serving as a lieutenant at the time, ran into a battalion of Colonial Marines. His troops were taken to the woodshed by the very black folks he disdained, and he fled back to his home in Georgetown to lick his wounds. The British troops, emboldened by their victory in Bladensburg, then marched into Washington, D.C., burning the Library of Congress, the Capitol Building and the White House. You can imagine that Key was very much in his feelings seeing black soldiers trampling on the city he so desperately loved.
Let me suggest that the real reason people are angry about the protests may actually be the same as Francis Scott Key’s reasons — former runaway slaves joined the British Army against the country of their former slave masters and were instrumental in the British taking over Washington and burning the White House to the ground. That right there is the deep rooted fear that some of these people hold, as did — rightfully — Key, and has frankly led to many of the past and current police and justice practices we’ve seen ever since.
“These angry black ex-slaves need to be kept under control.”
Key specifically expressed his feeling about these former slaves who were fighting on the side of Britain in the third verse of the anthem.
And where is that band who so vauntinglyswore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Additionally, when Colin Kaepernick was first asked about his not standing for the anthem, he explained that he wasn’t “disrespecting the flag” or “attacking the troops.” He was opposing police brutality and injustice. This is what he first said about it last August:
Kaepernick: There’s a lot of things that need to change. One specifically is police brutality. There’s people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable. Cops are getting paid leave for killing someone, that’s not right, that’s not right by anyones standards.
I have great respect for the men and women who have fought for this country, I have friends, I have family who have fought for this country and they fight for freedom, and for the people, they fight for liberty and justice for everyone. And that’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up as far as giving liberty and freedom to everybody.
It’s something that’s not happening.
I’ve seen videos, I’ve seen certain circumstances where men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they fought for, and have been murdered by the country they fought for, on our land. It’s not right.
There have been situations where I’ve been ill treated, yes. But this stand wasn’t for me, and wasn’t because I feel like I’m being put down. This is because I’m seeing things happen to people who don’t have a voice. That don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard and effect change.
It’s also relevant to note the thinking of Kaepernick’s teammate Eric Reid, who initially joined him when he was originally simply sitting through the anthem—without being noticed—for several weeks at first.
A few weeks later, during preseason, my teammate Colin Kaepernick chose to sit on the bench during the national anthem to protest police brutality. To be honest, I didn’t notice at the time, and neither did the news media. It wasn’t until after our third preseason game on Aug. 26, 2016, that his protest gained national attention, and the backlash against him began.
That’s when my faith moved me to take action. I looked to James 2:17, which states, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” I knew I needed to stand up for what is right.
I approached Colin the Saturday before our next game to discuss how I could get involved with the cause but also how we could make a more powerful and positive impact on the social justice movement. We spoke at length about many of the issues that face our community, including systemic oppression against people of color, police brutality and the criminal justice system. We also discussed how we could use our platform, provided to us by being professional athletes in the N.F.L., to speak for those who are voiceless.
After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former N.F.L. player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest. We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.
As Eric describes it, “taking a knee” in football is a sign of respect, discipline, honor, and humility, so quite clearly the “disrespecting the soldiers” argument is a completely bogus, vicious lie (especially since taking a knee was Nate Boyer’s idea, and he’s a former Green Beret). It’s a lie on par with the argument that the anthem and protests have “nothing to do with racism.”
Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid are talking not just about what police have done, but how many people find their actions—no matter how egregious—perfectly acceptable depending on who they do it to, even when they’re children.
There was no indictment for the killing of Tamir Rice, even though that officer had been deemed “unfit for duty” in his previous police job. The officer who killed Eric Garner wasn’t indicted even though the medical examiner ruled it a homicideand he had numerous previous complaints of abuse and disciplinary action. There was no indictment for the officers who opened fire on John Crawford, or the 911 caller who falsely claimed he was aiming a loaded gun at customers in a Walmart in Ohio—which is an open carry state— when he was really just playing with a toy pellet gun he picked up off the shelves. The officer who killed Michael Brown had previously been fired from a department that was completely disbanded due to blatant racism. There was no indictment for the officers who shot Darren Hunt in the back as he ran for his life because he was holding a decorative wooden sword they assumed was real. The trial for the officer who shot Walter Scott in the back, manipulated evidence on the scene to support his story, then lied on his police report was declared a mistrial. There have been two mistrials so far for the officer who shot Sam Dubose in the face and captured the grisly incident on his bodycam. The trial of two New Mexico officers who killed homeless camper James Boyd was also declared a mistrial. The first three cases against the officers who broke Freddie Grey’s neck collapsed and all subsequent cases were dropped.
Yet when a pretty, white Australian woman named Justine Damon was shot by a Minnesota police officer, the embarrassment and outrage was so great the police chief resigned in disgrace. See how that works when someone takes responsibility for something?
Sometimes the bigger problem isn’t the officer who fires: it’s the fellow officer who will cover up for him, like the three Chicago officers who were charged with conspiracy and obstruction after destroying evidence and ignoring witnesses in the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. More often fellow officers don’t report or stand up against misconduct, or else they risk being labeled a “rat” as former Baltimore Police Officer Joe Crystal was. It’s not just the occasional “bad apple.” It’s also the rest of the bowl, and how they fail to throw the bad apple out.
This nation seems unable or unwilling to either provide equal justice for black victims of crime, maintaining a failure to “clear” the homicides of black people by an additional 16 percent over others. This is particularly true when the homicides are perpetrated by police and no one seems able to bring sworn officers down from their pedestal to pay for their crimes. Other officers won’t make them. Prosecutors, grand juries, and judges won’t make them. So why exactly should they stop doing it? Why should they even question it? Why wouldn’t they attack athletes who try to bring it up with a peaceful protest, claiming they should “do that on their own time”? But when they do that and lock arms with Black Lives Matter, these same people call them “terrorists.”
I’ve talked personally with local police about cases such as these, and what they tell me is they are “isolated incidents” that have been hyped by the media. But are they?
What hasn’t truly been addressed is just how bad is the problem that Kaepernick is bringing up. Is it really just a few isolated incidents that the media has chosen to blow up, or is it something much worse?
Research on police killings in 2015 and 2016 done by the Guardian using open source news reports shows the chance of being killed by police per million citizens is 10.13 for Native Americans, 6.66 for African Americans, 3.23 for Latinos, 2.9 for Caucasians, and 1.17 for Asians. This means Native Americans are five times more likely to be killed by police, and African Americans more than twice as likely to be killed.
The Guardian further noted that the risk and danger specifically to young black men is significantly higher than their Caucasian counter parts.
Black males aged 15-34 were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by law enforcement officers last year, according to data collected for The Counted, an effort by the Guardian to record every such death. They were also killed at four times the rate of young white men.
Racial disparities persisted in 2016 even as the total number of deaths caused by police fell slightly. In all, 1,091 deaths were recorded for 2016, compared with 1,146 logged in 2015. Several 2015 deaths only came to light last year, suggesting the 2016 number may yet rise.
The total is again more than twice the FBI’s annual number of “justifiable homicides” by police, counted in recent years under a voluntary system allowing police to opt out of submitting details of fatal incidents. Plans to improve the government records have been thrown into doubt by the election of Trump, who campaigned as a “law and order” conservative.
And that still isn’t everything. More recent and thorough data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics under Loretta Lynch combined official data with news-based estimates like the Guardian’s, and found that the true figure isn’t 1,091 arrest-related deaths: it’s more like 1,900.
Between June 1, 2015, and March 31, 2016, media reviews identified 1,348 potential arrest-related deaths. During this period, the number of deaths consistently ranged from 87 to 156 arrest-related deaths per month, with an average of 135 deaths per month. To confirm and collect more information about the 379 deaths identified through open sources from June to August 2015, BJS conducted a survey of law enforcement agencies and ME/C offices.
The survey findings identified 425 arrest-related deaths during this 3-month period—12% more than the number of deaths identified through the open source review. Extrapolated to a full calendar year, an estimated 1,900 arrest-related deaths occurred in 2015. Nearly two-third (64%) of the deaths that occurred from June to August 2015 were homicides, about a fifth (18%) were suicides, and another tenth (11%) were accidents.
This is the most accurate current estimate to date, with 1,900 police-generated deaths per year. This brings to mind the “supporting the troops” argument, because how does that rate of deaths compare to the troops we’ve lost during our international fight against terrorism?
With an average of 1,900 people killed annually since 2001, that would be 32,200 Americans who’ve died at the hands of police during that period. That is more than five times the combined number of soldiers (6,687) we’ve lost both in the Iraq war (4,491) and the war in Afghanistan (2,396). Even if you take the FBI’s fairly low numbers of “justifiable homicides” by police, you still end up with 7,480 people killed by police since 2001, which is still more than all the soldiers we lost.
Let’s say just for the sake of discussion we only include the 1,216 “homicides” (64 percent of the 1,900 from the BJS estimate) by police per year, excluding the accidents and suicides (which for some reason both ex-sheriffs Arpaioand Clark seemed to pile up by the hundreds) and contrast that not only with battlefield losses, but also all the people we lost on 9/11 both in New York and Washington. Adding another 2,996 deaths, that brings fatalities from al-Qaida, the Taliban, and ISIS combined to 9,683, while those killed by police homicide remain at 20,624, which is still two times greater.
There is of course the argument that police aren’t just randomly killing Americans (although in certain quarters that is precisely the argument) and that they should have the right to defend themselves and the public against those would harm them or the public. This begs the question (not to denigrate their sacrifice but simply to put it in rational context compared to the level of risk faced by others): how much danger are they subjected to in the line of duty? Well, the job of being a police officer isn’t even among the top 10 most dangerous jobs in America, with an average of 19 fatalities per 100,000 officers. That rate lags behind logging workers (116 fatalities per 100,000), commercial fishermen (91 fatalities per 100,000), aircraft pilots and flight engineers (71 per 100,000), and farmers and ranchers (41 per 100,000). The total number of police fatalities averages around 130 deaths per year, placing them in third place in total numbers.
However, the majority of police fatalities are from accidents and other events, not felonious assaults or homicide by the public, which is closer to 40-50 deaths per year or a rate of 5.33 fatalities per 100,000. That’s slightly lower than the overall U.S cities homicide rate of 5.80 per 100,000, so the average cop really isn’t in any more danger of being murdered than the average citizen.
Contrast that with the above numbers of unarmed people killed by police, based on estimates generated by the Guardian (~20% of 20,624 estimated BJS police homicides) and most of them likely did not present any genuine danger to the officers or the public (like Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, John Crawford, Sam Dubose, or Michael Brown). That brings us to about 4,124 unarmed people killed by police since 2001, while police themselves suffered an average or 40-50 homicides per year (totaling about 764) during the same time frame. That means police killed five times as many unarmed citizens than the number of their own ranks who are murdered by the legitimate “bad guys” within the public.
Most of us can understand the imperative of officer safety and the need to err on the side of caution, but a 5 to1 ratio is far more than an unreasonable margin of error: it’s downright insane, which is exactly the point. And again, according to the Guardian, those unarmed people are more than twice as likely to be black.
An analysis of public records, local news reports and Guardian reporting found that 32% of black people killed by police in 2015 were unarmed, as were 25% of Hispanic and Latino people, compared with 15% of white people killed.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The BJS also reports that non-lethal uses of force, arrests, and stops and searches against African Americans are between two to three times greater, as well.
The most common reason for contact with police in 2008 was being a driver in a traffic stop (44.1%)
o Blacks drivers were stopped about the same percentage (8.8%) as White Drivers (8.4%) but are arrested during traffic stops twice (4.7%) as often as White Drivers (2.4%).
o Black drivers were searched (12.9%) about three times as often as white drivers (3.9%) and about two times as often as Hispanic drivers (5.8%) to be searched during a traffic stop.
o Black citizens encountering police received threats of force, or use of force (3.4%-4.3%) at least Three Times More Often than White citizens (1.1%-1.2%). Latinos citizens were threatened with force, or had force used on them about Twice as Often (1.6%-2.5%)
And most importantly, this increased scrutiny with searches and violence does not bring better results, as we’ve seen with minority-focused stop and frisk programs. Those illegal efforts found twice the guns and three times that drugs among white suspects than black ones, but 80 percent of the people they stopped and searched were minorities.
The likelihood a stop of an African American New Yorker yielded a weapon was half that of white New Yorkers stopped. The NYPD uncovered a weapon in one out every 49 stops of white New Yorkers. By contrast, it took the Department 71 stops of Latinos and 93 stops of African Americans to find a weapon.
The likelihood a stop of an African American New Yorker yielded contraband was one-third less than that of white New Yorkers stopped. The NYPD uncovered contraband in one out every 43 stops of white New Yorkers. By contrast, it took the Department 57 stops of Latinos and 61 stops of African Americans to find contraband.
And as studies have shown, this greater use of force isn’t justified by the crimes they are being accused of.
1) That racially disparate crime rate is an insufficient explanation of racially disparate use of force rates for this sample of police departments. Given that these departments range widely in size and represent urban cities, suburban counties, and transportation police in geographically diverse jurisdictions, the results are suggestive that these findings may generalize beyond the sample.
As the Guardian notes, there is some doubt that the updated preliminary arrest-related death report generated by the BJS will be fully incorporated into the BJS’s future analysis and updates. What we are already hearing is that the DOJ under Jeff Sessions will not be continue the consent decrees, which have been pretty much the one and only way to reform problematic police departments.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime critic of such actions, has ordered the department to review such agreements, throwing into question both the future of the pacts and how the federal government would approach oversight of local police departments.
“Local control and local accountability are necessary for effective local policing,” Sessions wrote in a memo, dated March 31 and made public Monday, ordering his top deputies to review the police reform agreements. “It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies.”
Sessions has been a longtime critic of the pacts. The attorney general — a former federal prosecutor and U.S. senator — once calledconsent decrees “one of the most dangerous, and rarely discussed exercises of raw power” and “an end run around the democratic process.”.
There is a direct concern that the consent decree that has been signed but not yet approved by a judge for the Baltimore Police Department in the wake of Freddie Grey’s death may be in jeopardy, and the Chicago Police Department may not even reach that stage.
Such agreements must be approved by a judge. And while the Baltimore pact was signed by both sides and entered into federal court, U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar has not signed off on it, and the Justice Department on Monday sought to postpone a public hearing as part of that consent decree process.
…Sessions had been noncommittal about the future of a potential agreement with Chicago. Speaking to reporters in February, he also criticized the Chicago and Ferguson reports the Justice Department produced, saying that he had not read them but had seen summariesand viewed them as “pretty anecdotal and not so scientifically based.”
Police reform is a legitimate and serious issue that deserves respect and some serious effort to address. The job of rebuilding broken, jobless, hopeless communities—black, brown and white—deserves more than a helpless shrug. That certainly can’t happen if our police services remain this broken and dysfunctional.
So far, the Trump administration seems more interested in manufacturing a fake issue about “patriotism” and the “the troops” than recognizing the pain that people are going through in these communities, let alone trying to address and correct it. Trump has admitted he deliberately hyped this issue for keep his base engaged, wrongly painting athletes and people of conscience as “unpatriotic and ungrateful,” while dismantling what few reforms there are then personally calling out for even more police brutality.
“When you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, I said, please don’t be too nice,” Trump said during a speech at Suffolk County Community College. “Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over, like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody — don’t hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, okay?”
He did that just to get a rise out of some people, to get a chuckle and cheer from his base, and to “trigger liberals” in outrage. All of that is working exactly as he hoped. Just like his “both sides” dance energized his base and sent the media into face plant on the fainting couch. This is a game to him. For him, this is about the ratings numbers, not about the welfare of the people or the nation.
America has a lot of work to do. We need to come to grips with the third verse of the anthem and what that means. We need to come to grips with the relationship between our modern police and the slave patrols that were in place even before the Revolution. And we need to come to grips with the fact that many of these issues may have continued because of the for-profit prison industry and the clause in the 13th Amendment which supposedly banned slavery and indentured servitude—except for the duly convicted.
Trump will be no help with that at all. He’s a willing and eager enemy combatant against equality and justice reform—and he likes it that way.
This is the first edition of Audre Lorde’s writing to be issued by a UK publisher, which isn’t to say it will be the first time British readers will have encountered her work. Even those who haven’t yet engaged with her incandescent prose and poetry might have come across individual lines, quoted in other writers’ books and essays, and on social media, such as the titular exhortation: “My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.” Other lines include: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”; “Black feminism is not white feminism in blackface”; and “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own. And I am not free as long as one person of colour remains chained.”
These and other excerpts have been posted, tweeted and pinned in part because of their ongoing relevance. Lorde seems prophetic, perhaps alive right now, writing in and about the US of 2017 in which a misogynist with white supremacist followers is president. But she was born in 1934, published her first book of poetry in 1968, and died in 1992. Black, lesbian and feminist; the child of immigrant parents; poet and essayist, writer and activist, Lorde knew about harbouring multitudes. Political antagonists tried, for instance, to discredit her among black students by announcing her sexuality, and she decided: “The only way you can head people off from using who you are against you is to be honest and open first, to talk about yourself before they talk about you.” Over and over again, in the essays, speeches and poems collected in Your Silence Will Not Protect You, Lorde emphasises how important it is to speak up. To give witness: “What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?”
These remain urgent questions – a battle cry, I might call it, except that part of the power of Lorde’s writing comes of her manifest vulnerability. In the remarkable essay “Man Child”, she writes about raising a son, Jonathan, who was bullied by his third-grade classmates. Hearing of the bullies’ cruelties, she says that “an interesting and very disturbing thing” happened:
My fury at my own long-ago impotence, and my present pain at his suffering, made me start to forget all that I knew about violence and fear, and blaming the victim, I started to hiss at the weeping child, “The next time you come in here crying … ” and I suddenly caught myself in horror.
Stopping herself, she avoids giving Jonathan “that first lesson in the corruption of power, that might makes right”. Instead, she tells him about the after-school fights she also fled when she was a child terrified of breaking her glasses. “Did I ever tell you about how I used to be afraid when I was your age?” she asks, and is met with the child’s combined “relief and total disbelief”. “I am thankful that one of my children is male, since that helps to keep me honest,” she notes. “Every line I write shrieks there are no easy solutions.”
With adults, too, she fought to maintain the generosity of openness. Lorde writes that at one point, she resolved “never again to speak to white women about racism”, that it was “wasted energy because of destructive guilt and defensiveness”. But she explains this more as part of a 1979 letter to Mary Daly, a white feminist author of a book exploring myths and legends of female power. Lorde tries to show in the letter why it’s painful that in the book Daly mentions women who aren’t white only as “victims and preyers-upon each other”, and reserves quoting Lorde and other black writers for the one chapter on genital mutilation in Africa. Although Daly had sent her the book in the first place, Lorde hesitated to reply because, she says:
The history of white women who are unable to hear Black women’s words, or to maintain dialogue with us, is long and discouraging. But for me to assume that you will not hear me represents not only history, perhaps, but an old pattern of relating, sometimes protective and sometimes dysfunctional, which we, as women shaping our future, are in the process of shattering and passing beyond, I hope.
Lorde’s hope, in this instance, wasn’t met; Daly never replied. One wonders if she would reply today. As recently as January, when one of the organisers of the Women’s March on Washington issued a statement asking white participants to “understand their privilege, and acknowledge the struggle that women of color face”, subsequent news articles quoted white protesters who called the statement divisive and unwelcoming. Out of context, the following words from a 1979 speech by Lorde could be mistaken for a speech given in 2017:
Women of today are still being called upon to stretch across the gap of male ignorance and to educate men as to our existence and our needs. This is an old and primary tool of all oppressors to keep the oppressed occupied with the master’s concerns. Now we hear that it is the task of women of colour to educate white women – in the face of tremendous resistance – as to our existence, our differences, our relative roles in our joint survival.
Still, Lorde kept speaking up by writing about difference and possibility, and the ongoing struggle “to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish” – intersectionality before the term existed.
While reading Your Silence Will Not Protect You, I was reminded of the musician Vijay Iyer’s comment: “It becomes necessary for an artist of colour in the west to defiantly announce to the world: I am a fact.” In this new, illuminating collection, Lorde is a fact, and the truth of her writing is as necessary today as it’s ever been.
• Your Silence Will Not Protect You is published by Silver. To order a copy for £11.04 (RRP £12.99) go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99.
Atticus Review is happy to announce our first annual Flash Fiction Contest judged by Carmen Maria Machado. You can submit up to three flash fiction pieces up to 1000 words each in length for consideration. The submission fee is $9.
First Prize: $250
Second Prize: $75
Third Prize: $25
Deadline: October 22nd, 2017
Winner Announced: November 27th, 2017
Carmen Maria Machado is the author of the story collection Her Body and Other Parties and the memoir House in Indiana (forthcoming in 2019), both from Graywolf Press. She is a fiction writer, critic, and essayist whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, Guernica, NPR, Gulf Coast, Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy, Best Horror of the Year, Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Best Women’s Erotica, and elsewhere. She is the Artist in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, and lives in Philadelphia with her wife.
Deadline: January 1, 2018
When submitting, please include:
**3-5 unpublished poems OR unpublished fiction/nonfiction up to 5,000 words OR 3-5 pieces of visual art OR one photo essay containing 5-10 photographs OR a comic/work of graphic fiction/graphic nonfiction
**Brief bio (3-4 sentences max; can be included in cover letter)
The editorial staff will not make final decisions about which pieces to accept until after the reading period closes, so response time can be several months. Our process is to look at all of the submissions as a whole and give each piece the full consideration it deserves. We thank you in advance for your patience.
Please submit only once per reading period. In addition, we are unlikely to publish a writer or artist in two consecutive issues because we want to provide our readers with as much variety as possible.
We do accept simultaneous submissions, but please let us know as soon as possible if your work has been accepted elsewhere. We have had some trouble in the past when authors had failed to withdraw their work and we had planned to include it in our upcoming issue. We know wait times can be long, and we don’t want to keep you from placing your work — we just need to know the status of your submission. If your work is accepted elsewhere, please use Submittable to withdraw it, or send an email to email@example.com.