Tag Archives: antiracism

How the Library Changed My Life: Reading the Black Radical Tradition

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.

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What Did You Learn/Unlearn? On Allyship & Anti-Racism

Book Cover of How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. KendiIt’s been a few days since #BlackOutTuesday (and the conversations around that movement itself, an Instagram video by Brittany Packnett Cunningham discusses this, which Alyssia linked in her post Ode to Joy – check out the post & the video! There are a number of recommended reads that are, as the title of the post suggests, expressions of joy in the lives of Black characters in novels. Because to only publish & read about Black trauma is also an issue, which Alyssia discusses more in her post much more eloquently than I could cover here), and seeing as basically everyone on my Instagram feed posted black squares of solidarity, I’d like to start this post off with a prompt so we can all share & learn from one another: What did you learn or unlearn on #BlackOutTuesday?

 

 

 

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It’s now Wednesday and there are a couple questions that we need to answers to: You blacked out your screen and said that it was time to listen, but what did you learn or unlearn? Who caught your attention? Who or what did you donate to? Who did you follow? Who did you email, contract, or hire? Have you identified people to share your skills, resources, and clients with? How are you including and centering more black voices? And for those brands and even public figures that have never mentioned anything before, more questions are why now? What changed? What will you talk about tomorrow? Or the next week? Or the week after? Was this a trend for you? Or perhaps, an inconvenience? (*Tag the brands, or public figures that you want to see answer these questions.) A huge shoutout to brands that were ‘doing the work’ – centering black voices, diversifying their boards, leadership, and offices, before it became a trend. And who will continue to do so. And remember, sharing a black square during times of upheaval is not your “PR window of opportunity to jump on the bandwagon.” (- @munroebergdorf ) It’s reeks of being performative. Act now. And when this is all ‘over’ and the smoke has cleared, act better.

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For my part, #BlackOutTuesday brought performative/optical allyship to the fore. I saw a number of posts and videos about how this movement was perhaps not the best of ways to support Black Lives Matter, especially as people were using the hashtag #blacklivesmatter and flooding out all the useful information that has been being shared & posted throughout the week on the hashtag with… literally empty blocks devoid of information. I saw a lot of good intentions, of people muting themselves so that we could hear Black voices, but I think many of us saw the reality of what actually ended up happening: we saw a sea of black squares with no useful information in sight. It ended up silencing every community and drowning out the very voices people were trying to let be heard more. Vox covers what happened pretty well and talks about how low-effort performative acts such as this that let people signal their solidarity without actually contributing to anything can be harmful to the very movements they are trying to signal their support for. If you’re confused, it might be helpful to check out this short post for 10 Steps to Non-Optical Allyship (for some reason WordPress does not want to embed this post, so I’ve linked it instead).

If you posted a black square, I’m not telling you to take it down (though if you used the hashtag #blacklivesmatter on it, you may want to consider deleting the post so it doesn’t clog up searches for actual information and updates), or saying that you’re a bad person. You’re not going to be going on this anti-racism journey and making it out without committing a single blunder (least of all because there’s no single “right” way to go about it – there are so many different ways to participate). None of us are. And you know what’s great about anti-racism? You don’t have to have completed purging yourself of internalized racism before you start doing the work! No one’s asking you to be perfect: you’re being asked to show up and do the work, and continue doing the work.

Just a note that this is going to be a very image-heavy post, with many links to Instagram posts & videos alongside links to other resources from the web (articles & compilations), because you have the time to swipe through a few slides on an Instagram post. WordPress is being a bit glitchy so if the instagram post doesn’t show embedded, please click on the link. Do the work and show up in ways that make a difference, because you’ve probably all seen this quote by Desmond Tutu being shared far and wide, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”. Similarly, Elie Wiesel: “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented”. Patrice C. Washington’s video on Instagram is one that I think really illustrates the point and drives it home.

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. (Desmond Tutu)

Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. (Elie Wiesel)

So posting a black square and performing the act of solidarity by silencing yourself (do you see the irony here) is NOT ENOUGH.*

Below the cut, you will find:

  1. Titles on Anti-racism that VPL owns, whether that’s a physical book (see our Curbside Pickup service), an e-book or e-audiobook, or a movie. Our staff have created Bibliocommons lists that I will link to below for all age groups: children, teens, and adults.
    • Alyssia has also posted a great discussion on how we need to focus not just on Black people’s trauma, but also pay attention to Black life and all that the joys and pains it comes with, so as not to define Black people by their personal/individual and intergenerational trauma.
  2. Anti-racism 101s. Most of these come from Instagram, which means that they are snappy and to the point, so if you don’t have enough time to go through an entire list of resources and full books, these can give you a good place to start. (I guess the irony is that the compilation that is this post is also a long list to filter through.)
    • I’ll also be linking to guides & resources aimed at non-black POCs, because so much out there is aimed at white (and white-adjacent) people that it can feel like you’re not being seen or spoken to (YOU ARE.).
  3. Canadian Resources/Info/Links because it’s not just a States problem
  4. Reading and Watching Recommendations out in the world that may or may not be owned by VPL. These are going to be lists from outside sources, and I’m including them in part because we don’t have everything on the lists, but also because there are Netflix films on them that VPL doesn’t offer access to, that you might be able to watch on your own dime.

It’s going to be a long post because of all the embedded Instagram posts, but I’ll be labeling each category/heading clearly in larger text so you can scroll to what you want to find more easily. (Or just use ctrl+F.) Let’s get to it.

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Ode to Joy

if it makes you happy coverJust before I sat down to write this post, I watched an Instagram video by Brittany Packnett Cunningham regarding yesterday’s #BlackOutTuesday social media trend, which saw Instagram users post images of a black square in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. In this video, Cunningham says to her fellow Black people, “Your happiness, or your joy or your frustration … people need to see all of these messages coming from Black people, because us being full human beings is in and of itself an act of resistance—our existence is resistant.” And this sentiment is really the core of what I want to share today. If you’re a white person, or even a non-Black POC, you may be wondering how to support the fight for racial equality specifically for Black communities around the world. Anti-blackness is a global problem; it might be the loudest in America, what with their endless spate of cop-instigated murders, but the fact is that worldwide, people of African descent are uniformly treated the worst. According to an article in The Guardian from 2019, “In today’s Brazil, black people are still treated as second-class citizens; while in India, students of African origin are persecuted. In South Africa, a majority black country, 72% of the country’s private farmland is owned by white people, who make up 9% of the population.” 

It’s clear we all have a lot of work to do to eradicate anti-blackness and work towards an antiracist society. But like any problem, you can’t fix it until you acknowledge it. And one of the greatest tools we have at our disposal is an abundance of resources to encourage thoughtful allyship. From these resources, we can not only learn about the grand, systemic forms of racism, but the smaller, everyday instances that we unconsciously play a part in. And we can learn, and listen, and grow together, for the better. In this post, the resources I want to highlight speak to another, quieter facet of racism that isn’t always acknowledged. I want to highlight the expression of joy 

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