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The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 8/2

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So much happened in the past two weeks, but I tried to ease my way back into the internet. Nicki Minaj is pregnant and the Emmy nominations got a few things right and a lot of things wrong. Highlights: John Lewis in his own words, Black public discourse, Noname’s book club, we need to do better for Black women and femmes, Keyshia Cole 15 years later, Beyoncé’s Black is King, #challengeaccepted, Baltimore Police Department corruption, the universe of the NBA, and Hong Kong’s delayed election. 

1. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: John Lewis’ Last Words

Before Congressman John Lewis died on July 17th, he wrote this essay. “He wanted it to be published on the day of his funeral. His staff provided a copy of the essay to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the morning of July 30, four hours before his 11 a.m. funeral was to start.” In his own words, Lewis reflects on his legacy and how “democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”

 

2. The Believer: Black Talk, Black Feeling: Media Round Table

There have been a lot of conversations this summer about Blackness, self-care, imagination, joy, and more. This conversation between Niela Orr, Ismail Muhammad, Danielle A. Jackson, Cassie Owens, and Hanif Abdurraqib is incredibly generous and candid in a way that I have not felt for a while. The introduction uses Nikki Giovanni’s famed discussion with James Baldwin as “a model of how to publicly discuss issues of critical importance, and a way to productively disagree.” At the time Giovanni was “twenty-eight, and [Baldwin] was forty-seven. There was lots of accord in that conversation, but there were also fractures, especially across gender and generational lines.” That model of accord and fracture is clearly at play in this conversation, and the topics move seamlessly from politics, to writing, to joy and gardening. 

 

3. New York Times: The Black Book Club Takes It to the Next Level

I am not a member of the rapper Noname’s book club, but I follow her on Twitter and have a lot of friends that adore her and her club. Founded in August 2019, the bookclub “is one of many Black- and women-led book clubs people are turning to in the midst of a virus that has alienated people from their communities and a continuing global conversation about anti-Black racism.” It has grown to 10,000 members in a year. Noname’s book club builds upon a lineage of Black literary circles, from those of the 19th century to Oprah’s founded in 1996, to more recent ones such as Smart Brown Girl and OKHA. While the popularity of books about antiracism has skyrocketed over the summer, mostly due to white people wanting to learn about systemic racism in America, for Noname and Black women who lead book clubs, “what is essential to each of these groups — and why members find them appealing — has a lot to do with leaders creating a space free of the white gaze.”

 

4. Vulture: We’re Witnessing the Total Breakdown of Discourse

The internet has overwhelmed me in so many ways this summer. In June there was a “wave of protest songs and statements of solidarity with Black Lives Matter among artists, activists, journalists, celebrities, and brands in and around hip-hop and beyond [that] spoke to the ability of the community at large to mobilize around important issues,” but there have also been “avoidable squabbles in the hip-hop community.” There have been many instances where artists such as J. Cole, Tory Lanez, Cam’ron, and others have used misogynist, homophobic, and transphobic rhetoric to make a gag out of the violence done to Black women and trans people, and specifically Noname and Megan Thee Stallion recently.

Of this, Craig Jenkins writes: “Volatile speech carries with it the potential of inspiring volatile action — they’re branches of the same tree… The net effect of speech that closes ranks; that reinforces misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia; that draws wedges between groups that ought to be allies in the struggle for justice is the disintegration of communication. Activism that ignores the concerns of the most vulnerable people in the community only reinforces the lines that divide us. If this generation is to overcome the flaws of the last one, the selfishness and fearfulness cleaving the country in half, it’ll be as a functioning unit, not as a network of bickering interest groups. The price of failure this time is the future.”

 

5. SIXTYEIGHT2OHFIVE: 2005: Keyshia Cole, The Way It Is

Fifteen years ago, Keyshia Cole released her debut album, The Way It Is. The cover featured the singer, and “if the year is 2005 then the hair color is red, saucing Keyshia Cole’s right shoulder” on the front of the CD. In this personal essay/album review, poet Nabila Lovelace reflects on “the textured heartache & love-lift [Cole] crafted into song,” and how her “voice reminded me of choir. At my church were voices with rind & honey singing about the Lord like a man who could change the weather of their bones. & though the choir soloists had their own microphones, it was often hearing my neighbors or my mother next to me join voice with our church legends, that amplified the spirit. Singing every word these were their salvation songs, & they taught me that a choir is not just enrobed singers, but anyone willing to join their voice.” Now, when Lovelace listens to the album, “I believe in the type of love Cole touts. Love where a person becomes the single orbit of a life. I return to red-haired Keyshia for the court & chorus of my girls. To hear us again, even as years spread our voices further from one another.” 

 

6. YouTube: Beyoncé, Shatta Wale, Major Lazer – ALREADY (Official Video)

Beyoncé released the visual album Black Is King, on Friday. Currently, the album is only streaming on Disney+, but Beyoncé did share the video for “ALREADY,” which includes Shatta Wale and Major Lazer, to her YouTube channel. I am positive that the internet will be abuzz about this for a while, and that I will post a review of it in the coming weeks. 

 

7. Vox: The complicated origin of Instagram’s #ChallengeAccepted

Over the past week black-and-white images, mostly of women, have flooded Instagram feeds using the hashtag #challengeaccepted and others that “broadly expressed support for ‘female empowerment’ or ‘women supporting women,’ with users tagging their friends in a chainmail-like style.” Many celebrities in the US helped the campaign go viral, “however, overlapping narratives about its origin and intent began to emerge. The original challenge in 2016, which also featured an influx of black-and-white selfies, was intended to raise awareness for cancer, although critics of the cause (notably cancer survivors) found it to be infantilizing and silly. According to the New York Times, the latest iteration of the 2020 challenge stemmed from a post made by a Brazilian journalist on July 17.” 

Over the last couple of days, “Turkish feminists and activists have claimed that the influx of black-and-white photos was intended to highlight Turkey’s concerning femicide rate and the violence Turkish women face in their daily lives; the decolorized filter is a reference to how the media features black-and-white photos of women who have been found dead.” All of this also comes after a student, Pınar Gültekin, “was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, [triggering] a fresh surge of activism in the country as women rallied for greater governmental protections and enforcement of the Istanbul Convention.” And it is all a part of the ongoing discourse about the performative activism of some of these social media challenges. 

 

7. Crime Reads: A Heist on Time and a Half: Inside the Most Corrupt Police Squad in the Nation 

Anyone with a conscience who has ever lived in Baltimore, or America for that matter, is aware of how corrupt police are. This deep dive by Baynard Woods and Brandon Soderberg—an excerpt from their recently released book I Got A Monster—on the Baltimore Police Department’s Special Enforcement Section and Gun Trace Task Force goes into excruciating detail about how fucked up the BPD is. These cops were devious and vile, knowing that “smart cops created and controlled video. Always be aware of how you tell the story, on paper and later in court, and always make sure you’re the one with the footage, and don’t fuck up and forget about a security camera up on a pole or let bystanders take their own video that might contradict you.”

CW: Police brutality and violence. 

 

8. The Ringer: The NBA’s Carefully Constructed Alternate Universe

I loved this incredibly funny read composed of equal parts political, social, and sports commentary. This week the NBA reopened its season after creating a bubble at Disney World, and thus far no cases have been reported from players inside the bubble. It might seem “natural, then, to see the NBA’s return as a metaphor for national progress, an opportunity to assess the return of society as a whole. That was then; this is now, you’d like to say.”

However, COVID numbers are still on the rise, and “the depravity and indifference of our national leadership has emboldened the most catered-to group of oppressed people in history—the subset of white Republicans who believe themselves to be suffering under the tyranny of a government they nevertheless control—to extend their scorched-earth culture war to the issue of mask-wearing, putting tens of thousands of lives at risk in the name of a [squints at notes] principle of [turns paper over] some kind or other.” This thinking ignores the fact that for most of the country we are still live in the “then”: “The recorded death toll passed 150,000 this week, the same span of days during which the United States president retweeted an anti-mask video from a Houston preacher-doctor who also believes that common gynecological problems are the result of women having sex with demons in their sleep.”

While other sports have tried to reopen with little success, it is improbable and impressive that the NBA has had such success with a restart, but the league has maintained its “NBA-typical mix of social responsibility and silliness” and “all it took was the construction of a fabulously intricate, hyper-choreographed alternate universe within America’s most popular amusement park—a kind of basketball Tron in which the outdated computer world is replaced by, uh, Epcot.”

 

10. Washington Post: Hong Kong leader postpones elections, further eroding political freedoms

Hong Kong government officials announced that their elections would be postponed a year due to the current coronavirus pandemic. Now, “the makeup of the 70-seat council will be decided by Beijing until new elections are held.”

The election was one of the last democratic processes and “forums for Hong Kong voters to express their voice. The legislative council races loomed as a potential slap against China and its stunning moves to curb Hong Kong’s political freedoms after waves of pro-democracy protests last year.” 

Across the world, this is understood as an infringement of the human rights of people in Hong Kong as Beijing increases its control. This announcement also comes only one day after Trump “proposed a delay to the November presidential election, claiming without evidence that widespread mail balloting would be a ‘catastrophic disaster.’”

 

Images taken from referenced articles. Have a suggestion for next week? Email afoehmke@bmoreart.com with the subject line “The Internet is Exploding.”

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