©Andrew Cullen, The New York Times
When I first started working on this post in January, the spin was a bit different. My jumping off points were the wild gossip mill stories that wrapped up 2020 and then launched 2021: the journalist who ruined her life for the much-despised (and imprisoned) pharma bro Martin Shkreli, the truly bizarre (and unfounded) rumours of Kanye West’s affair with makeup guru Jeffree Star, Hilaria Baldwin faking a Spanish accent for years, and the still-developing Armie Hammer cannibal stuff (please exercise caution when reading this story!). Throw in the political circus of an actual attempted coup on the US Capitol, and the headlines of 2021 seemed to be Mad Libs generated. The world is a glitching simulator, and we’re just living in it.
The truth about me is that I live for gossip and scandal—like Marie Kondo says, I love mess. But there is a threshold for scandalous entertainment. For example, the Caroline Calloway or Fyre Fest stories from 2019 were compelling in the way they revealed the blithe incompetence of wealthy influencers. Or the Tiger King circus from last year, which single-handedly saved our collective sanity at the beginning of quarantine. In these kinds of scandals, the people involved are dopes or straight up criminals; the stories are schadenfreude–inducing in the distribution of karma to terrible people. But scandals become not so fun when they affect innocent people (or animals, in the darker side of Tiger King). Once the Armie Hammer allegations started to veer beyond kink into potentially dangerous abuse, the story lost its giggly water-cooler gossip status. Instead, what emerged was a story of generational depravity hidden behind the veneer of Old Money, the case for which was made stronger by the publication of Surviving My Birthright by Casey Hammer, Armie’s aunt.
I officially decided to rewrite this post after watching the New York Times–produced Britney Spears documentary Framing Britney Spears, which, as its title suggests, adjusts the picture of the popstar’s mental health struggles as we’ve come to understand them. There’s been a lot of handwringing over who exactly is to blame for her descent in the mid-late 2000s, which famously culminated with a bald-headed Spears attacking a paparazzo’s car with an umbrella. Anyone who remembers 2007 will recall the Wild West days of paparazzi culture, which was demonized even then as harassment but which was allowed to continue because, well, money. While we may all have been somewhat complicit in this culture, just by virtue of living in it, I’d say some are more culpable than others. Paparazzi are the scum of society, no doubt, but tabloids like Us Weekly were the ones forking over millions of dollars for a single photo of Lindsay Lohan getting out of a car.
Angela, from Pierre Berton Resource Library, and her daughters Maya and Kara, created this beautiful wall chalk art outside their homes to express their gratitude and thoughts on COVID-19. #TogetherVaughan
I’ve been thinking a lot about what community means. How do we define community? What brings communities together during times of hardship?
I’ve seen a lot of people uniting for the greater good lately. From demonstrations of appreciation for frontline workers in the fight against COVID-19, to peaceful protests against systemic anti-black racism and police violence. Our communities refuse to back down. We are strong, resilient, and we won’t stop fighting for justice.
Community isn’t just a group of people inhabiting the same place. Community is about solidarity, empathy, and respect. It’s about acknowledging the often invisible ties that link us all. To be a member of a community is to be a member of a team — something greater than yourself. You can’t spell community without unity.
The police protests in America—and all around the world—have been greatly inspiring. Black Lives Matter has saliently captured the far-too-long cultural amnesia of peoples all throughout the empires of the world and their legacy of anti-Black supremacy. What happened to George Floyd was a public lynching, carried out by the state funded wing of the justice system, which is deeply rooted in the American empire’s long legacy of racism. Protesters’ response for defunding—or even abolition— of the police has become a legitimate countervailing force among those wrestling with our current era of New Jim Crow racism that sees profit from the prison industrial complex. In the streets, there continues to be a very clear delineation of the abuses of police power terrorizing Black people. These past couple of weeks, on an unprecedented scale, illuminates our understanding of what is being done in our name as citizens—via our taxes and political apparatuses—to Black bodies and to protestors of all colours, classes, and creeds. When the masses of the world are locked up, lose their job, and have time to think, irruptions occurs on the street. This post’s aim is to try to help delineate some voices for study to help you, in whatever capacity you are able, to continue to use education as the practice towards freedom.
The colonization process of the Americas was the first deadly sin of white supremacy. Indigenous cultures, however, continue to bravely endure and fight back against the attempted eradication project that continues to morph as capital’s profit ventures outward. African peoples were stolen and commodified in this process of colonization: Black bodies built North American industry all while the colonization process expanded as imperialism and today has metastasized as neoliberal policies. In the citizenry, too, there was a process of colonization of our minds in that this stealing of cultures, lands, and peoples (blunted lives and potential lives) became an accepted cultural narrative that few questioned inside the mainstream. However, there are documents throughout history that we can engage with to help break this spell. By reading Slave Narratives, Jim Crow rebuts, and Black freedom struggles, we aren’t in the habit of mass (re)producing the traumas and cultural narratives of the suffering African Diaspora; instead, we are engaging with the continuing process of decolonization by bearing witness and carrying on the Black Radical Tradition to greater discursive outreaches, each generation for the last, by listening to the ancestors who have been through the beautiful struggle for they can lend us their courage to fight another day. Here I’ll highlight some voices that the library has that speak to the legacy of the Black Lives Matter movement which will help us fortify ourselves for the long road ahead that has been marched on for over 400 years. This list inevitably fails at capturing the diverse and multimodal movements of the Black Radical Tradition, but I will be concise in order to engage with those who want to join in the practice of praxis.