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CfP: Language in the Media conference,
18-20 October 2017, Cape Town

deadline: 31 December 2016


Language in the Media 2017

Mediat(is)ing (Trans)Nationalism

18-20 October 2017

University of the Western Cape, South Africa

Call for Papers

The University of the Western Cape and the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg are pleased to announce the 7th Language in the Media conference which will be held at the University of the Western Cape, 18-20 October 2017.

Keynote Speakers:

Pumla Gqola

Pumla Gqola

  • Branca Falabella Fabricio (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro)
  • Pumla Gqola (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg)
  • Erez Levon (Queen Mary University of London)
  • Crispin Thurlow (University of Bern)

Mediat(is)ing (Trans)Nationalism

Historically, mass media (print, television and radio) has been the primarily loci for advertising, news broadcasts and entertainment shows. These days, however, media outlets have morphed from mass (top-down) communication to socially oriented (horizontal) computer-mediated communication. Engaging with the various histories, powers and representation of the very many media forms is far from exhausted with this year’s focus on transnationalism in its diverse mediated forms.

Initiated in 2005 and previously hosted in UK, USA, Ireland, and Germany, the Language in the Media (LiM) conference will be held for the first time in South Africa. The conference theme, namely “language and the media(tisa)tion of (trans)nationalism” is particularly relevant for South Africa as it resonates with an emerging Southern critique of reduced, misrepresented and/or essentialised Southern everyday representations in the media. Notably, the theme not only seeks to foreground investigations of how different forms of (trans)nationalism are produced and circulated linguistically/discursively in a variety of media sites; it also highlights analyses of the role played by the media in commodifying language(s) and other semiotic resources (such as the body) and disseminate them through global, transnational networks. Finally, we are also interested in papers that draw upon empirical data in order to question a geopolitics of knowledge that has historically privileged “Northern” theorising in media sociolinguistics.

Alongside this focus, the 2017 conference, as it has done from its inception, will continue to prioritise papers which address the range of sociolinguistic topics in relation to the media broadly defined:

  • language standardization and style;
  • language policy and practice;
  • language acquisition;
  • multilingualism and cross-/inter-cultural communication;
  • communication in professional contexts;
  • representations of speech, thought, and writing;
  • language and class, dis/ability, race/ethnicity, gender/sexuality and age;
  • political discourse, commerce and global capitalism;
  • language and education.

Deadline for Abstracts: 31 December 2016
Notification of Acceptance: 1 February 2017

For more Information and to submit your abstract, please take a look at the conference website:
and join the Facebook group: Language in the Media 7

With thanks,

Tommaso Milani, Amiena Peck, Mooniq Shaikjee and Quentin E. Quentin Emmanuel Williams






Short Story Competition 2016


Autumn is here, which means The London Magazine‘s Short Story Competition 2016 is upon us.

The London Magazine has published short stories by some of the most well-respected literary figures over the course of long history. Our annual Short Story Competition seeks out new voices to join them. Established to encourage emerging literary talent, the award provides an opportunity for publication and recognition, as well as rewarding imagination, originality and creativity. The London Magazine is looking for unpublished short stories under 4,000 words from writers across the world. The story that wins first-place will be published in a future issue of The London Magazine. The second and third place stories will be published on our website. Prize winners will also be invited to a reception in early 2017.

Entry fee: £10 per short story (there is no limit to the number of entries you can submit)

Opening date: 1st September 2016
Closing Date: 31st October 2016
Deadline Extended To: 7th November

First Prize: £500
Second Prize: £300
Third Prize: £200


Portrait of Erica Wagner
Erica Wagner
 is an author and editor. For 17 years literary editor of The Times, and twice a judge of the Man Booker prize, she is now Lecturer in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London, a contributing writer for the New Statesman and consulting literary editor for Harper’s Bazaar. She is the author of Gravity: Stories; Ariel’s Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and the Story of Birthday Letters and Seizure, a novel. Pas de Deux/A Concert of Stories, co-written with storyteller Abbi Patrix and musician and composer Linda Edsjö, tours around the world. First Light: A Celebration of Alan Garner, has just been published by Unbound, and her biography of Washington Roebling, chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, will be published by Bloomsbury in 2017.



Max Porter is an editorial director of Granta and Portobello Books. His authors include Han Kang, Eleanor Catton, Ben Marcus, Sarah Moss and Caroline Lucas. His debut novel Grief is the Thing With Feathers was published in 2015. It won the International Dylan Thomas Prize and will be translated into 23 languages. He lives in South London with his family.



Angus Cargill 
is Editorial Director at Faber & Faber, where he was worked since 2000. He edits and publishes writers such as Kazuo Ishiguro, Sebastian Barry, Jane Harris, David Peace, Nadeem Aslam and Lucy Caldwell, as well as non-fiction authors Peter Pomerantsev, Nick Kent and Barney Hoskyns. He also runs Faber’s crime list – which includes Peter Swanson, Chris Pavone, Laura Lippman, Stav Sherez and Alafair Burke, among others – and has published a number of graphic novels, by Emily Carroll, Craig Thompson and Adrian Tomine.

Read The London Magazine’s interviews with the judges here:


As of 1st September, you’ll be able to apply via Submittable here:

Alternatively, you can download the Short Story Competition 2016 Entry Form to fill in and post with your entry. (N.B. There is no need to complete an entry form if entering via Submittable)

Please read our competition rules carefully before entering.
If you have any questions, please contact Abi at
To receive competition updates and all the latest news and offers, sign up for The London Magazine‘s Official Newsletter.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates!













I Sing Because…


         Amid the weariness of work day’s end, Sarah-Bell savored the quiet of oncoming twilight. At last, she could momentarily take it easy, unhurried. And she was grateful for small blessings.

         Lilting into the breezeless amber of the October evening, a mesmerizing wordless song flowed from Sarah-Bell’s full, plum-colored lips as she plodded down the dusty lane. Her ankle-length, thorn-tattered, sweat-soiled skirt swished with each step.

         Six-foot-four-and-a-half-inch, one hundred-eighty-seven pound Jim One-Toe, deftly dragging his maimed left foot, hobbled beside Sarah-Bell. He had a pretty fair voice himself.

         One-Toe smiled in admiration of the way Sarah-Bell made each phrase of her improvised reel end on a little upward swoop that just naturally made a man feel good.

         “Sarah-Bell, you sing so pretty. Can I be your man?”

         Sarah-Bell furtively peeked over at One-Toe, smiled and immediately refocused her gaze on the last visible tip of the orange sun swiftly falling behind the nearly clean-picked field of cotton plants.

         “One-Toe, you know I got a man.”

         “But he don’t come to you all the time,” One-Toe retorted. A quick grin of near perfect white teeth flashed across the dimpled midnight of his handsome blue-black face.

         Almost two good moons had passed since anybody had seen Mule-Boy visiting Sarah-Bell. Gathering was most over, Mule coulda been sold off by now—everybody knowed Master Gilmore over to the nearby plantation was good for sending you down the river at the drop of a hat.

         Sarah-Bell scrutinized the squinting sincerity of One-Toe’s slender eyes. “It ain’t that he don’t. He can’t co…”

         Suddenly interrupting herself, Sarah-Bell deftly hiked-up her skirt as she stepped around a fresh pile of smelly horse droppings. Then, while shooing away a fat, green and black, fly with a quick fan of her much-pricked, field-toughened hand, Sarah-Bell continued her conversation, “…and you couldn’t be with me every night neither, that is, if’n I was to even let you come by at all.”

         One-Toe was encouraged that Sarah-Bell was at least considering the merits of being with him. He spyed a brief glimmer of interest smoldering in her eyes as she announced her decision, “Naw. I don’t think so, One-Toe. I thinks I can wait.”

         “Yes, m’am.” One-Toe was disappointed, but not discouraged. He had plenty mo’ days to blow gently on the spark he glimpsed in Sarah-Bell’s pecan-shaped eyes. He reckoned harvesting the love of a woman like this was worth a long season of planting and weeding.

         “But if you was to get tired a waiting. I would come. You know I would. Like a bird to the nest. I would come to you every night I could.”

         “Which make you no different from my far-away man who come to me every night he can.”

         “Well, don’t forget I’m closer to the nest. I can get to you quicker than him, even if’n I ain’t got but one good foots,” One-Toe joked. Sarah-Bell grinned as One-Toe made fun of his own infirmity.

         She liked his gentle humor but she didn’t feel a need for another man climbing on her just now, even a fine man like One-Toe.

         For a few seconds they exchanged knowing glances and allowed their eyes to speak for them. Then, while holding her hand palm side out, Sarah-Bell gracefully waved to One-Toe and spoke in a husky half-whisper as she strolled on, “Good night, brotha One-Toe.”

         One-Toe peered longingly at the broadness of Sarah-Bell’s back and the ampleness of her hips. He looked til his imagination was as full as it could stand to be. One-Toe wanted that pretty-singing woman. He had seen a bunch of women who was face-prettier, but he had never heard no one or nothing, neither woman, man, child or bird, what sang prettier than Sarah-Bell.

         One-Toe had been thinking so hard about holding Sarah-Bell in his huge arms he missed catching sight of Chester Browne squatting nearby Sarah-Bell’s door. When her singing faltered and then abruptly fell silent, One-Toe quickly surveyed the area to see what disturbance had stilled Sarah-Bell’s song. One-Toe glared at Chester. Everybody knowed what a driverman in the lane after hours waiting by a woman’s door meant.

         One-Toe spit into the dust, turned and drug himself into the bitter barreness of his resting room. Shortly thereafter One-Toe heard the thudding shuffle of Chester’s horse moseying past the open doorway as Chester and Sarah-Bell rode out the lane. A high-pitched whinny from the horse taunted One-Toe, but One-Toe refused to look at the too-familiar abduction.

         Chester wasn’t talking, and Sarah-Bell wasn’t singing.

         The chomp chomp chomp chomp of the sorrel’s hooves echoed against the mud-caked wall of One-Toe’s sleep space and reverberated inside One-Toe’s skull.

         One-Toe forcefully buried his face into the gritty dirt floor and stifled an urge to say something, to say anything; a word, a sound, call her name, something.

         Sarah-Bell’s silence tormented One-Toe. He would gladly let them ax-chop his good right foot if-in he could visit Sarah-Bell; Chester or no Chester. Naw, if-in he had a cooing dove like Sarah-Bell to share nights with, he wouldn’t even dream of running again. He would stay and comfort her.

         It was nearly an hour later before Chester had finished his business. Chester never kept any washing-water in his cabin, and Sarah-Bell had not even dared think about going down to the master’s well, so all she could do was wipe herself with her skirt tail before she set off to walking back.

         Despite her general habit of immediately forgetting the weight of an overseer hovering over her and thrashing into her, Sarah-Bell found herself mulling over her plight. Her thoughts were accompanied by the stark crunch of her footfalls on the loamy trail.

         Maybe, if-in it proved necessary and she didn’t wait too long, maybe Sarah-Bell could brave a trek over to Gilmore’s and plead with Mama Zulie for some womb-cleaning chawing roots. Sarah-Bell paused and fleetingly hugged herself. I sure hope nothing that drastic is needed. Probably not. Her regular bleeding had just stopped a day or so ago.

         As Sarah-Bell pushed determinedly on a trivial worriation nagged at her. Even though she was aware that Chester’s drool could do her no harm, it sure was a mighty aggravation the way the taste of Chester’s nasty kiss sometimes seemed to stay in her mouth for days. Luckily, on this particular night, he had mostly wanted to suck at her nipples rather than her lips.

         Plus, he had come quickly enough. It hadn’t been too long fore a spent and drowsy Chester dozed off and Sarah-Bell had been able to scoot from under him, slip off his pallet and proceed to walking the three-quarters a mile back to the lane.

         By the time she was most halfway there Sarah-Bell had managed to bury Chester’s assault and summon up a plaintive song to soften the knot of jumbled sorrow resting heavy in the bottom of her stomach.

         Shortly, for the second time, the soles of Sarah-Bell’s thickly-callused feet felt the well-worn familiarity of the lane’s path. Sarah-Bell was welcomed back by the sleeping-sounds of her people. Snores. Whistles. Sobs. Groans. A few moans from someone sick, or was it from someone really tired, or maybe both.

         Sarah-Bell was too exhausted to stumble fifty more yards down to the creek for to wash herself. She would do that in the morning. And though she was hungry, she was also too fatigued to gnaw on the piece of hardtack secreted deep in the pocket of her skirt. Right now she needed to lay down by herself and seek the solace of sleep so she could disremember the dog-odor of Chester’s hair she had endured when he had been slobbering on her breasts. It was funny how that foul smell lingered in her consciousness. Seems like smell and taste had mo staying power than the abuse of touch.

         Sarah-Bell’s sharp ears caught the faint sound of some animal moving in the woods. Judging from the swift lightness of the rustling coming from the bushes, she guessed it must be a rabbit. An owl hooted. Sarah-Bell wordlessly empathized with the prey–run brother rabbit, less you be somebody supper.

         Times like this Sarah-Bell wished she was brave enough to hightail it like One-Toe had done. Maybe she would make it to Mexico, which is where One-Toe said he had been headed. Sarah-Bell thought of what One-Toe had declared when they brought him back: Some gets away, some don’t. Getting free was worth the risk, worth losing some of a foot.

         She flinched at the thought of so permanent a loss. Even though she had survived more than her share of suffering, Sarah-Bell still didn’t know if she could stand one of her limbs being mutilated or cut away.

         Sarah-Bell was too tuckered out and emotionally drained to do anything more than collaspe into her doorway. She didn’t even crawl over to check on her children balled together in slumber beneath a patchwork spread of sackcloth and shirt pieces. No sooner her dark-haired head nestled onto the curved comfort of her pillow-stone, a weary Sarah-Bell was dead asleep.

         The next day in the pale dim of half-dawn morning light only one child sat where two usually fidgeted. Sarah-Bell’s heart dropped. “Where Suzee-Bell?”

         “Them took her,” Johnny-Bell replied.

         Was no need to say who “them” was. Was no need to ask “where” they took her.

         We ain’t got nothing but each other, and they won’t let us hold on to that, Sarah-Bell’s insides roiled with anger. Both man and God was unfair. Man for what he was doing. And God for allowing men to act the low down way they did. Sarah-Bell knew Johnny-Bell would be next. She knew it just as sure as she knew a snake would eat an unprotected egg.

         Johnny-Bell was her fifth child.

         “What’s yo name, boy?”

         “Johnny…” the child stuttered frightened by the hissed intensity of his mother’s question.

         “Naw. Yo name Johnny-Bell. BELL. You Johnny-Bell. Yo brothers is Robert-Bell and Joe-Bell. Your sisters is Urzie-Bell and Suzee-Bell. No matter where they cart you off to, no matter what they call you by, you remember the name yo mama give you. And if you ever hear tell of yo brothers or yo sisters, you go find ’em if you can. But you remember ’em even if you can’t find ’em. You remember yo people. You hear me?”

         “Yes, mam.”

         “Say, yes, Sarah-Bell. Don’t mam me. Call me by my name. Sarah-Bell.”

         The confused four year old wet himself. He had never heard his mother speak so harshly to him; but he didn’t cry.

         When she realized how hard she was shaking him, Sarah-Bell softened her grip on Johnny-Bell’s shoulder. He was just a scared little boy, and her rage wasn’t making this crisis any easier for him. She could feel currents of fear in the heavy trembling racking his little body, which was twitching like a throat-cut calf at slaughtering time.

         Within seconds Sarah-Bell reigned in her emotions, mustered up her fortitude, and tenderly enfolded Johnny-Bell into the comforting shelter of her bosom. They swayed in mutual anguish as she sought to rock away both his fear and her grief.

         Instinctively she handled her perdicament as best she knew how. Within seconds of hugging Johnny-Bell, Sarah-Bell was breathing out a long-toned lullaby and anointing the reddish-brown hair of her son’s head with song-embellished kisses.

         And she didn’t loosen her embrace until she heard the rooster crow for day. After emerging into the muted shine of daybreak, hand-in-hand, mother and child marched down to the water to bathe themselves.

         The word about Suzee-Bell buzzed through the small community. Just before departing for the fields, glassy-eyed and scowling, Sarah-Bell stood in the middle of the lane sullenly declaiming her determination.

         “Yalls, hear me. Every time I have one, they take and sell ’em away. Sarah-Bell is through birthing babies. No matter who lay down with me, ain’t no mo babies coming out of me. I’m done. Done, you hear me. Done.”

         And with the finality of her words resounding in everyone’s ears, Sarah-Bell whirled and commenced to trudging off to the field. One-Toe scrambled to catch up to Sarah-Bell.

         Without breaking stride, Sarah-Bell closely examined One-Toe’s unblinking gaze. Satisfied with what she saw, Sarah-Bell gave a quick nod and gratefully accepted the respectful silence of One-Toe’s company.

         She started singing, quietly at first but more forcefully as they sauntered on. The irresible refrain of Sarah-Bell’s song syncopated their gait. Together, they would face another day.


—kalamu ya salaam










Black Kos, Tuesday’s Chile
Tuesday Oct 25, 2016


Thomas Morris Chester (1834-1892), the first African-American war correspondent of a major daily newspaper, The Philadelphia Press

Thomas Morris Chester (1834-1892), the first African-American war correspondent of a major daily newspaper, The Philadelphia Press


In American history, there is an unmistakable correlation between times of war, on one hand, and protests for and the eventual advancement of black civil rights, on the other. It is, after all, morally obscene for a nation to ask an individual or a group of people to “fight for the nation” while, at the same time, denying those very same people the rights and dignity that other citizens of that nation enjoy.

The dual and, at times, maddening reportage of black journalists on the nation’s wars while others, at home and abroad, were fighting for civil equality and dignity is, possibly, the great theme of African-American journalism. That social tension, palpable in much of the war reporting that I have read in the black press, produced some of the greatest reportage that I have ever read.

I am still in the process of researching for a future post here on African-American journalism during the nation’s wars. But the journalism of Thomas Morris Chester, the first African American war correspondent of a major daily newspaper deserves special mention.

As a part of the riveting New York Times series on the Civil War, Disunion, publisher jean Auets wrote of the fascinating story of Thomas Morris Chester, titled A Black Correspondent at the Front

Chester was born in Harrisburg, Penn., in 1834, the son of two black abolition activists. His mother, Jane, had escaped slavery in 1825; his father, George, was probably born a free man. They sold the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator at their restaurant, and may have hosted a stop on the Underground Railroad. Their community was tough, close-knit and prosperous. The citizens resisted, sometimes violently, slave-catchers who ventured there. When Frederick Douglass was pelted and beaten at a local public meeting, they enlisted friendly whites to help set up an-other meeting.

Edifying and reforming institutions, like churches, schools, fraternal lodges, benevolent societies and temperance and literary associations, permeated Chester’s early life and instilled in him a life-long belief in education. When he was 16 years old he attended Akron College, an African-American academy in Pittsburgh – a “fountain of learning,” he said. Later he attended school in New England and Liberia, and, after the Civil War, he graduated from the Inns at Court in London and was admitted to the bar. 

This wealth of personal opportunities did not blind Chester to the realities of black life, North and South. In 1838, Pennsylvania changed its constitution to restrict the vote to “white freemen,” removing the franchise from “every freeman.” (Women did not enjoy voting rights, regardless of race or economic status.) The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 scarred black communities nationwide as thousands of men, women and children fled to Canada to avoid capture.

Chester’s Civil War correspondence for the Philadelphia Press was collected in a 1991 volume edited by Indiana University professor R.J.M. Blackett, titled Thomas Morris Chester, Black Civil War Correspondent: His Dispatches from the Virginia Front


A generous preview of the book is available at Google Books.

Chester’s prose reads as very typical of the 19th century. As Chester had been a Union soldier prior to his work with the Philadelphia Press, his personal moral outrage at the treatment of black Union soldiers is to be expected; that it was published in the “MSM” of its time, even given the moral certitude of the Union cause in the North, is extraordinary. In the excerpt I have chosen here, Chester maintains that even some in the Union did not have the right to climb on a moral high horse.

“It seems that the disposition to treat colored persons as if they were human is hard for even some loyal men to acquire. The wrongs which they have suffered in this department would, if ventilated, exhibit a disgraceful depth of depravity, practiced by dishonest men, in the name of Government. These poor people are not only plundered and robbed, but are kicked and cuffed by those who have robbed them of their hard earnings and sent them to other parts of their department, confident that their ignorance would be a guard against discovery…Among the colored troops are many laborers who are employed by the Government, and because they cannot continue their work like their soldier brethren, when shells are falling and exploding among them, this gallant Kentucky major amuses himself by tying up these redeemed freemen. It is generally believed that his success in this great canal enterprise will be a brigadier general’s commission of colored troops. This, to be as mild as possible, would be exceedingly unfortunate, and unjust to those who are making so many sacrifices for the perpetuation of The Union. Gen. Butler by no means allows any man, black or white, to be treated in such an unwarrantable manner.”

Thomas Morris Chester, Black Civil War Correspondent: His Dispatches from the Virginia Front    pp. 137-38

You can read at the Auets NY Times piece that Chester was so much more than a war correspondent (in fact, he was the first African American man admitted to the bar in England).

It is notable, though, that even (and especially!) in a major daily (and mainstream) newspaper of the Civil War era, a black journalist were making the moral case for the dignity and autonomy of African Americans.; words which continue to be applicable to the present day.







September 8, 2016

September 8, 2016





Ethiopian Bloggers:

Forced into Exile


By Ismail Einashe  

“I wanted to break down the fear. I wanted independent media in Ethiopia.” This, said Endalkachew Chala, is why he co-founded Ethiopia’s Zone 9, a bloggers’ collective that saw six of its members jailed in April 2014, along with three other journalists. 

Chala spoke to me from his new home in Eugene, Oregon, where he is now studying for a PhD. He says memories of his old life in Ethiopia, living under a police state, still haunt him. “It felt like a psychological prison living in Addis Ababa.” He was already in the United States when his colleagues were arrested. After being held for months without charge, the writers were eventually charged with terrorism, prompting an international outcry. Five were released in July 2015, just prior to a visit to the country by US President Barack Obama. The remaining four were acquitted of terror charges in October 2015. 

Chala said the bloggers’ acquittal, though long awaited, was faster than he expected. He believes the Ethiopian government was attempting to “give an impression [that the] Ethiopian judiciary is impartial and independent”. 

Founded in May 2012, the Zone 9 group took its name from Ethiopia’s prisons, which are organised into eight zones. Zone 8 is usually reserved for journalists and dissidents. “Ethiopia is Zone 9,” Chala said. “Ethiopia is a big prison.” The blog, written in Amharic, covered political and social issues, including the stories of jailed journalists, which are rarely heard in a country that has no free press. The collective existed only in a digital space; in Ethiopia, discussing such things offline comes with high risks.

Ethiopia has Africa’s fastest-growing economy. However, it is also one of the most closed-off countries on the continent. In a magazine interview in March, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, said, “Ethiopia is an island of stability within the Horn of Africa.” But this ‘stability’ has come at a price. In the past year alone, Ethiopia has been rocked by huge unrest in Oromia state. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 400 people have been left dead in clashes with security forces, though the government disputes this. The Oromo are Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group, and constitute about a third of Ethiopia’s 95 million people. This unrest was sparked by an urban development plan to develop Addis Ababa, the capital city that is surrounded by Oromia. Historically the Oromos have complained about economic and political marginislation in Ethiopia. 

Increasingly, the Oromo protests have put a spotlight on Ethiopia’s delicate multi-ethnic federalism, which is fracturing under the weight of protests – there are over 80 ethnic groups in the country and 9 ethnic-based regions. During the recent Rio Olympics, Feyisa Lilesa, an Ethiopian marathon runner, made international headlines when he raised his hands in an X-shaped gesture over his head to show his solidarity with the Oromo people after crossing the finish line in second place.

Chala said that the international interest piled pressure on the Ethiopian government. “When the Guardian covers you, and when the BBC covers [you], then local news does not cover you, it’s weird,” he said. Though Ethiopia has released the bloggers, it still remains one of the worst abusers of press freedom, often using “security threats” as a means to silence dissent and stifle political opposition. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), between 2013 and 2014, more than 40 journalists fled into exile from Ethiopia. 

On the Reporters Sans Frontières World Press Freedom Index 2015, Ethiopia ranks 142 out of 180 countries. According to CPJ, Ethiopia is the third worst jailer of journalists in Africa, with a reported 10 journalists behind bars (as of December 2015). The Ethiopian government has also used legislation to silence and arrest critical journalists.


One of those is Soleyana Gebremichale, another Zone 9 blogger, who, like Chala, has now moved to the US. She was charged in absentia, and acquitted in October. Now based in Washington DC, she runs The Ethiopia Human Rights Project, which she says is about giving a “Ethiopian voice” to the human rights struggle and to counter government propaganda of human rights organisations as having a “Western agenda.” 

Of her involvement with Zone 9, she said: “Most of us as youths were frustrated, we had nothing to read. Newspapers like the Addis Neger, a critical paper of the government, were shut down.” 

Gebremichale said that after the Arab Spring started in 2010, government officials became fearful of internal dissent. “That’s when the authorities understood the power of the internet. They realized the internet can connect like-minded people,” she said. Ethiopia’s notorious anti-civil society law passed into parliament in 2011 and, in effect, shut down any opposition. “There are no civil society organisations in Ethiopia,” said Gebremichale. “All spaces were closed, the internet was the only way out.” 

Yet internet access is only available to a few. Ethiopia has one of the lowest mobile phone and internet penetration rates in Africa. “Less than 2% have access online despite huge population growth, and there’s only one internet provider,” Chala said. Just a paltry 25% of Ethiopians have access to mobile phones—compare this to Kenya, where at least 40% have internet access and 88% have mobile phones. The Ethiopian state has total monopoly on communications and Ethio-Telecom is the sole provider. 

“The internet has democratised story telling,” said Chala, a welcome antidote from what he says is a “culture of hiding information in Ethiopia”. But the state has retaliated. Chala said that Zone 9 members had their phones tapped and were followed. Access to the Zone 9 blog was blocked.

It had been hoped that 2012 would have been a different turning point. After the death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi that year, many hoped Ethiopia might open up but his successor Hailemariam Desalegn continues to rule with an iron fist. In the May 2015 elections, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front party and its allies won 100% of seats. There is not one oppositional MP. 

Chala and Gebremichale continue to work from afar. “I have become stateless. My price is exile. I just want to go home,” said Chala. Both will continue to work to prise open Ethiopia’s press. “The key is us,” Gebremichale said, holding onto hope. “The change is in our hands.” 

First published in Index on Censorship:


Ismail Einashe is a contributing editor at Warscapes 






NewBlackMan (in Exile)
Nov. 1, 2016




Queering the Cool:

Moonlight Review


by Stephane Dunn | @DrStephaneDunn 


I knew Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight, the follow-up to his 2008 film Medicine for Melancholy would provoke some discomfort. When it screened on Morehouse’s campus a few weeks before its official release, some students were thrilled it was going to be screened, but a number of others were downright reluctant to take advantage of the advanced screening. They viewed the trailer and to paraphrase one of the whispered responses that I got, decided, ‘No, no, that’s not really a film for me.” Translation: even a trailer that hinted at an interrogation of heterosexuality as a fundamental marker of street cred and ‘real’ black masculinity was unsettling. 

Moonlight’s exploration of the relationship between violence, normative scripts of heterosexual masculinities and homophobia with a young black boy at its center make Moonlight a rare coming of age motion picture and rarer still in the coming of age in the hood dramas we’ve seen since the early 1990’s. Further, the queer gaze that informs the narrative offers something else entirely too rare though precious in contemporary film, a thoughtful representation of black male intimacy and vulnerability with each other. 

Set primarily in Miami  – a nod to the autobiographical nuances of the story – Jenkins translates the traumatic realities of his childhood into a haunting narrative aided by the moving cinematography of James Laxton and the poetic sensibility Jenkins infused into a screenplay that emerged out of a story by playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney. “Moonlight” is an apt symbolic signifier on the deceptive social posturing that accompanies the performance of accepted young black male identities in the inner city. The small cast rounds out with the three actors playing the main character in three different life stages from young Little to the adolescent Chiron and finally the grown up Black played respectively by newcomer Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes. 

House of Cards and Luke Cage veteran, the brilliant Mahershala Ali, continues his string of strong roles as Juan, a drug dealer, surrogate father to Little while Naomie Harris appears in a role we’ve never seen her in as Little’s/Chron/Black’s crackhead, abusive mother, Paula. Janelle Monae plays her polar opposite, a ideal maternal-surrogate mother to Little/Chiron, and his one complicated childhood friend and elusive love Kevin is played by Jharrel Jerome and Andre Holland. Ali, who abruptly departs from the story through his death off screen and presumably due to his violent career, helps the narrative complicate a bit a role we’ve seen many times through his efforts to literally and figuratively feed Little both in body and affirmation of self-worth and self-identity despite the violent, contrary demands of the street that Little emulate dominant scripts of black masculinity. There is a big BUT though that undercuts it; Juan’s drugs feed Paula’s addiction.

Moonlight intends to dramatize the psychic brutality imposed on black boys and young black men who don’t, can’t, and shouldn’t try to model traditional constructions and social notions of who young black men growing up in the inner city are; Little/Chiron is mercilessly harassed and beaten by the cool ‘thugs’ [the bullies] at school and in the street for not being “tough” and for  being a sissy, or more harshly in his own mother’s words, a “faggot.”

The crack head black mother is by now a pretty common representation of black motherhood in the inner city whether in ghettocentric black patriarchal dramas or films like the Blind Side and Losing Isaiah. Indeed, in the first, black mothers are either hardly present, peripheral figures (ex. Straight Outta Compton), self-sacrificing Big Mama saints or dominating, unsupportive or harsh figures who threaten to emasculate sons. It’s a reality that caused Harris to reject the role initially until Jenkins convinced her; the character was drawn from his actual family circumstances. 

Still, the mother Jenkins creates in Moonlight is disappointingly typical since we primarily get one dimensional portrayals of black mothers or black women with addiction issues, especially poor and working class black women; at first sight Paula appears to be a working healthcare professional and single mother but she quickly morphs into a raging ‘loose’ or hypersexual woman, who disses her son for the men she brings home, and rags on her son for not being a ‘real’ and ‘normal’ brother. We do not get a glimpse of her story and worse because we don’t, and she mostly traumatizes her son for his perceived lack of correct manliness, she personifies the imagery of dysfunctional black mothering in the hood. 

The other woman in the film, Juan’s nurturing girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monae) functions as Paula’s opposite.  When Ali brings the boy into their quiet home outside the projects, she immediately becomes the perfect surrogate mother, feeding him and gently prodding him to open up and then orienting herself to his silence. We never see her outside of this domestic space or learn a single thing about her.

Moonlight still admirably posits an interrogation of cultural investments in homophobia in order to cling to the false sense that heterosexuality defines an unquestioned authentic and ‘normal” black manliness, though that too, while hugely important and compelling, is limited. A bright film student of mine who viewed the film was left longing for a film for him, one that appeared to have a non-heterosexual gaze in mind. Jenkins’s treatment of sexual and emotional desire between the two friends in adolescence and adulthood is restrained; Little becomes Black, an adult man whose sexual life and self-expression are set on mute. 

Does this treatment serve to ease the unusual narrative portrayal of black male to black male vulnerability and sexual desire for a heterosexual spectatorship that is resistant to it? I dare say it does. Maybe that framing can only be read as problematic if that was intended, since the film is not just attempting to dramatize a personal past experience of traumatic bullying due to being perceived as Other – gay and not modeling the street approved posturing of an authentic cool black masculinity – but to talkback to the bullies, and moreover to the heterosexist patriarchal cultural mores that breed psychic and physical violence. Moonlight may not fully realize its potential in this, but it certainly flashes brilliance and beauty in the effort.


S​tephane Dunn is a writer and professor and the director of the  Morehouse College Cinema, Television, & Emerging Media Studies Program​ (CTEMS). Her ​publications include the 2008 book Baad Bitches & Sassy Supermamas: Black Power Action Films (U of Illinois) and a number of articles in mediums such as, The Atlantic, The, Bright Lights Film journal, and others.  Follow her on Twitter at twitter @DrStephaneDunn and








Short film following the life journey of Ingrid Silva from the slums of Rio to the professional Ballet stage of New York City.

Directed by Ben Briand. 
Production : Moonwalk Films
DOP : Eigil Bryld
Editor : Yann Malcor
Production Designer : Joseph Sciacca
Agency : Wunderman / Ray Y&R France

Content film sponsored by Activia.










dance-01  dance-06 dance-05 dance-04 dance-03 dance-02 dance-07


“I come from a favela in Brazil. I am black. I have a poor family. Yet, despite all those odds, I became a ballerina. I had to get by on my own [upon arriving in New York at the age of 19 on a full scholarship to the Dance Theatre of Harlem]. That’s when I grew up and learned to appreciate what my parents taught me. I’m not here [at Dance Theatre of Harlem] because I’m poor. I’m here because of my dancing.”
—Ingrid Silva