The Birth of A Nation

 

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As the first 12-reel film in US, the 1915 production, The Birth of a Nation is a silent epic set in the South Carolina during the Civil War.Despite the absence of dialogue in the film, D.W. Griffith is remembered for innovating the practice of story telling into a full-length motion picture for wide audiences. Specific characteristics like the sped up motion, soundtrack and subtitle screens between scenes, allowed Griffith and other directors of this time were able to convey the setting, plot, tone, and mood of the story without any audial dialogue. Birth of a Nation shows the originality of cinemas for that period of time.

The content was full of racism; it is evident that Griffith objectified blacks and portrayed them as violent, dangerous beings. Contrary to current historic retellings of the time frame, and reality, the film victimized the whites of the society. Members of the KKK weren’t understood and represented as leaders of violent racists acts, but more as heroes and protectors of the South. They were framed as the Good Samaritans who were fulfilling their duty to reprimand and “fix” the criminal Negros and protect the social order.

In addition, the movie had white actors who performed in black face, which sheds light on racism not just in the content of the movie, but also in the film industry at the time. Few black actors were actually in the movie, casted as slaves in the background or as a scary villain. While there were few scenes with black characters, the three-hour film was filled with details upon details of the white characters of the South, showing their families, relationships, social statuses, hobbies, opinions—presenting viewers ample opportunities to humanize and relate with the white characters, a luxury not afforded to their black counterparts. We questioned the extent black actors at that time wanted to play these roles, as they were dehumanizing and played up racist imagery of blackness.

The Birth of A Nation is remembered in history as one of the most influential and artistic movies of its time, it was even screened at the White House when President Woodrow Wilson was in office.  However, morally, we believe this film should have been banned because of appalling and false narratives of the Civil War and the Reconstruction Era. With film as such an important/influential medium in of dictating and preserving societal values, we can hold this Griffith responsible for creating and perpetuating dangerously racist and violent stereotypes and hierarchies in society that have been reproduced over time. Although it is movie propaganda at its finest, this film raises serious questions regarding freedom of (political) expression and the cultural influence of art and media. We would argue that this film’s political expression is unjustified and illegitimate because in order to demonstrate the perspectives of the South, Griffith inaccurately glorified lynch mobs and convinced the audience of false rationales- that the blacks were oppressing white communities, when in fact it was always in reverse. This film demonstrates how art can be political by means of informing public opinion.

 

Authors:

 Oluwasegun Abatan- Segunabatan156@gmail.com

Oluwasegun Abatan- Segunabatan156@gmail.com

 

Darius Thompson - Djt3f@virginia.edu

Darius Thompson – Djt3f@virginia.edu

Marta Woldu- mtw5da@virginia.edu

Marta Woldu- mtw5da@virginia.edu

 

 

 

 

 

Expanding My Network

The concept of spreading a message or idea to incite change isn’t new. To achieve the social and political change that I would want to see, old school strategies like word-of-mouth or Technology and social media offers us nothing more than new platforms and interfaces to diversify and access people across space and time. Connections through social media is largely how Ferguson and the #BlackLivesMatter movement is persevering and resonating with people across the world, despite the inaccurate and lack of media coverage. Though we have these new opportunities, we also have more distractions and have to work harder to secure the attention of communities, both physical and virtual. More specifically, I think this is done through raising consciousness, so I could use X platforms, to discuss issues that mattered to me. I could reach out to other folks on the Internet with similar interests and build relationships across the globe to talk about current events, the things I’m experience and probe for thoughts from generate discussion from a variety of perspectives. I think blogging is one of the more opportune ways to really centralize my voice the virtual world. Tumblr is a fun pseudo blog were I have seen members, predominately women, from across the African diaspora (historic and contemporary) form intimate communities discuss and share events, ideas on identity politics, pop culture, history, literature, politics, food and nutrition, health and wellness, and social justice- with a sense of cultural sensitivity and relativism that is attentive to forces that marginalize people. The ability to insert and remove ourselves from different virtual spaces grants us more agency in finding our place of influence and an increased capacity to build bridges around the world. With the knowledge and connections I make through the virtual world, I would have a bigger support network when trying to incite the change we want to see,

Music for the SOUL- Movement of Music through Time

 

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James Brown

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Janelle Monae

 

James Brown’s 1967 hit “This Is A Man’s Man’s World” and Janelle Monae’s 2013 single “Q.U.E.E.N” in coupling create an opportunity for a really awesome analysis of how music, particularly soul music and societal views of womanhood moves, changes, and is retained through time. As the Godfather of Soul, Brown holds the credit of innovating music and incorporating the powerful soul that was rooted in Black peoples’ history, culture, and beings, and generating the funky sound that transcends across musical genres, including Hip Hop, R&B, Pop, Rock, Jazz, etc. His musicality and style is survived in Janelle Monae’s sound, dance, dress, and performance. Yet like incredible artists do, she doesn’t just replicate but innovates and fashions her own sound and voice. The soul and funk instrumental compliments her vocals whether she’s singing or rapping. Yes, she does both.

~“Categorize Me I Defy Every Label”-Janelle Monae~

However, unlike Brown, who makes it clear in “This is A Man’s Man’s World” that women are docile, fetishized, loved and needed by and for men in this world, Janelle stands and uses her artistry and exploration of afrofuturism to counter patriarchal notions of women create new and imaginative images of black people. With the Soul queen of our generation, Erykah Badu in her song, the two women present powerful imagery and create spaces for Black women to be respected and glorified for their influence, as womYn, and not only in their relationship to men. Brown’s song portrayed the exact misrepresentation of women in society, glorifying man’s creativity, ingenuity, inventions that still exist today. Monae challenges these false notions of docile and subordinate women even in her dress. Often dressed in professional uniform, suit-type outfits, resembling James Brown, and tradition/hetero-normative male clothing styles to both blend further blend the stereotypical gender roles in fashion and in reminding herself and the world that women too work and should get recognition for their hard work. In an acceptance speech at Black Girls Rock 2012, Monae commented on the symbolism of her dress:

“When I started my musical career I was a maid, I used to clean houses. My parents—my mother was a proud janitor, my step-father who raised me like his very own worked at the post office and my father was a trash man. They all wore uniforms. And that’s why I stand here today in my black and white and I wear my uniform to honor them,” Monáe said, fighting back tears. This is a reminder that I have work to do, I have people to uplift, I have people to inspire. And today I wear my uniform proudly as a Covergirl.”

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~The Gift of Soul~

Despite his personal societal views and lyrics, James Brown’s music was soul music because he creates, molded, and performed sings it from his soul. His lifework with funk and soul was a gift for future generations, to adopt, use and express the personal, social, and political experiences of our time.

Lyrics:

This is A Man’s Man’s World – James Brown

This is a man’s world
This is a man’s world
But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing
Without a woman or a girl

You see man made the cars
To take us over the road
Man made the train
To carry the heavy load

Man made the electric light
To take us out of the dark
Man made the boat for the water
Like Noah made the ark

This is a man’s, man’s, man’s world
But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing
Without a woman or a girl

Man thinks about a little bit of baby girls
And a baby boys
Man makes them happy
‘Cause man makes them toys

And after man’s made everything
Everything he can
You know that man makes money
To buy from other man

This is a man’s world
But it wouldn’t be nothing
Not one little thing
Without a woman or a girl

He’s lost in the wilderness
He’s lost in bitterness
He’s lost

Lyrics- Q.U.E.E.N – Janelle Monae feat. Erykah Badu

I can’t believe all of the things they say about me
Walk in the room they throwing shade left to right
They be like “Ooh, she’s serving face!”
And I just tell em, “Cut me up, and get down!”

They call us dirty ‘cuz we break all your rules down
And we just came to act a fool, is that all right? (Girl, that’s alright)
They be like “Ooh, let them eat cake!”
But we eat wings and throw them bones on the ground!

Am I a freak for dancing ’round? (queen)
Am I a freak for getting down? (queen)
I’m cutting up, don’t cut me down
Yeah I wanna be, wanna be Q.U.E.E.N.

Is it peculiar that she twerk in the mirror?
And am I weird to dance alone late at night? (Naw!)
And is it true we’re all insane? (Yeah)
And I just tell ’em “No, we ain’t” and get down

I heard this life is just a play with no rehearsal
I wonder will this be my final act tonight
And tell me what’s the price of fame?
Am I a sinner with my skirt on the ground?

Am I a freak for dancing ’round?
Am I a freak for getting down?
I’m cutting up, don’t cut me down
Yeah I wanna be, wanna be Q.U.E.E.N.

Hey, brother, can you save my soul from the devil?
Say is it weird to like the way she wear her tights?
And is it rude to wear my shades?
Am I a freak because I love watching Mary? (Maybe)

Hey, sister, am I good enough for your heaven?
Say will your God accept me in my black and white?
Will he approve the way I’m made?
Or should I reprogram, reprogram and get down?

Am I a freak for dancing ’round?
Am I a freak for getting down?
I’m cutting up, don’t cut me down
Yeah I wanna be, wanna be Q.U.E.E.N

Even if it makes others uncomfortable
I will love who I am
Even if it makes other uncomfortable
I will love who I am

Don’t shake ’til the break of dawn
Don’t mean a thing, so duh
I can’t take it no more
Baby, we in tuxedo groove
Pharaohs and E. Badu
Crazy in the black and white

We got the drums so tight

Baby, here comes the freedom song
Too strong we moving on
Baby, this melody
Will show you another way
Been tryin’ for far too long
Come home and sing your song
But you gotta testify
Because the booty don’t lie

No, no, the booty don’t lie
Oh no, the booty don’t lie

Yeah
Yeah, Let’s flip it
I don’t think they understand what I’m trying to say

I asked a question like this
“Are we a lost generation of our people?
Add us to equations but they’ll never make us equal.
She who writes the movie owns the script and the sequel.
So why ain’t the stealing of my rights made illegal?
They keep us underground working hard for the greedy,
But when it’s time pay they turn around and call us needy.
My crown too heavy like the Queen Nefertiti
Gimme back my pyramid, I’m trying to free Kansas City.

Mixing masterminds like your name Bernie Grundman.
Well I’m gonna keep leading like a young Harriet Tubman
You can take my wings but I’m still goin’ fly
And even when you edit me the booty don’t lie
Yeah, keep singing and I’mma keep writing songs
I’m tired of Marvin asking me, “What’s Going On?
March to the streets ‘cuz I’m willing and I’m able

Categorize me, I defy every label
And while you’re selling dope, we’re gonna keep selling hope
We rising up now, you gotta deal you gotta cope
Will you be electric sheep?
Electric ladies, will you sleep?
Or will you preach?

 

Creativity for Social Change

The folks at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (moCADA) say that this place is “more than a museum” and centralize their values and projects in “empowering, educating and connecting people of the African Diaspora.” Located in Brooklyn, NY, MoCADA serves as a community center for the youth and families in the area to learn about their histories and people through artistic mediums and engage their imagination into something positive for their community. How will you use your creativity to incite change in the world?

#SOTU

In President Obama’s State of the Union Address, I think he talked about progress in liberal terms and appealed to the left-wing American audience. A lot of his issues that were hot topics for discussion were the social issues, such as the acknowledgement and condemnation of the gender wage-gap, the recognition and support of lesbian and transgender people and they’re rights. I thought he didn’t nearly touch on the Ferguson/police brutality/Black Lives Matter issue enough, but then again I also don’t really expect him given the controversy Americans have made about it- it wouldn’t be “safe” for him to advocate for the movement. On social media I noticed there was a lot of conflicting posts from Conservatives and Liberals about deciphering the truth about America’s economic standing (of course); Conservatives say he’s lying about the trillions of dollars in debt we’re in (left under the legacy of the Bush admin) and that the debt is still growing, while liberals are more positive of his progressive middle-class economics and confrontation to Congress to raise the minimum wage.

Other topics that were hilarious and really popular during the SOTU are comedic commentary on verbal and body language. Obama’s fist pump comment, “I don’t have any more campaigns to run…I know because I’ve already won them both” generated a lot of attention and commentary, including in the form of memes. In addition, there were a lot of comments on Biden and Boehner’s facial expression throughout the speech, and also which audience/Congress members applauded/stood up for certain points addressed. I think this was popular because it is something that breaks the rhythm of a long speech and provides entertainment.

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Social media functions very differently from traditional media outlets which are more formal and exclusive. Social media creates spaces for informal commentary, jokes, and is more open to different languages and vernaculars. Social media is also good at capturing the attention of people who are not particularly interested in politics or who wouldn’t normally watch the SOTU Address, where as traditional media is usually communicated to a particular viewership/readership.

Late to Class

Praying as I write this that I’m never late to this class, but if I were late I would sing either “7/11” by Beyonce, “i” by Kendrick Lamar, or a “A Whole New World” from Aladdin. I would pick 7/11 because it’s a fun song, I have no idea what Beyonce is talking about, but every time I hear it I always have to dance. There’s also a rumor that she made this video on her iPhone (I doubt it but it’s still a cool thought). I like “I..Love Myself” because Kendrick is important and the song has a very important message about how to juggle the weight of the world’s evils and still find peace and motivation. Although Disney is fundamentally flawed and racist and misogynistic, I have great childhood memories with this song, so I’m calling it one of my #ProblematicFaves. But no one will ever hear my sing, because I’m just not going to be late.

7/11 –> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4YRWT_Aldo

i (love myself) —-> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aShfolR6w8A Whole New World —> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kl4hJ4j48s