USA Editor's Picks Activism Race The World Inequality

The jury finds Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts of murdering George Floyd

A landmark verdict was reached today in the Derek Chauvin trial. The jury has found Chauvin guilty on all counts, including second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Following the verdict, bail was revoked and people across the United States watched as Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was escorted away in handcuffs.

Arriving almost a year after the murder of George Floyd, the verdict is being lauded by some as justice for Floyd and his loved ones. While we will have to wait eight weeks for Chauvin’s sentencing, the verdict is a small victory in the fight against police brutality.

Police officers are rarely prosecuted in the U.S. Convicting police officers of a crime like murder is even rarer. Since 2005, courts of law have convicted only 35 officers of a crime related to an on-duty fatality. Chauvin’s verdict could signal a turning of the tide. Officers let off the hook thanks to social and legal protections, such as the blue wall of silence and qualified immunity, will now face the consequences of their actions

Already, we’ve seen this accountability take shape in Chauvin’s trial. Specifically, 45 witnesses testified, including the Minneapolis police chief. Witnesses also included law enforcement officers who broke with precedent and denounced Chauvin’s use of force.

“It is not part of our training, and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values,” the police chief said of Chauvin’s actions during the trial.

Historically, police officers have actively protected each other, which has become known as the blue wall of silence. This has made it more difficult to investigate those who have broken the law. The testimonies given in Chauvin’s trial could dawn an era in which stricter accountability of police forces isn’t wishful thinking, but a requirement upheld by all who don the badge.

Following the verdict, many activists and advocates doubled down on ending qualified immunity. Qualified immunity protects police officers from lawsuits that allege the official violated a plaintiff’s rights. Typically, qualified immunity is what makes suing police officers nearly impossible. Colorado and New Mexico are a few states that recently banned qualified immunity as a way to implement police reform.

Chauvin faces up to 40 years of jail time. The trial of Chauvin’s peers—Thomas Lane, Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao—will start on August 23.

While this is a day of justice for many, the landmark ruling does not conclude a long history of systemic racism. Nor does it signal an end to police violence against Black and brown people. 

Since the testimony of Chauvin’s trial began on March 29, at least 64 people—half of which were Black or Latino people—have died at the hands of law enforcement nationwide, including Daunte Wright. And, as the country awaited the verdict on Tuesday afternoon, a 15-year-old girl was shot and killed by police in Columbus, Ohio. Ma’Khia Bryant joins Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, and more on a too-long list of police violence victims.

At a press conference following the trial, George Floyd’s family cited these recent victims as reasons why they will continue to protest.

“We have to protest because it seems like this is a never-ending cycle,” said Philonise Floyd, Floyd’s brother, according to The Wall Street Journal. “I’m going to put up a fight every day, because I’m not just fighting for George anymore, I’m fighting for everybody around this world.”

President Biden and Vice President Harris called the Floyd family after the verdict was announced, with POTUS stating, “Nothing is going to make it all better, but at least now there is some justice.”

While justice has been served, there is still much work to be done, especially by the white community. According to a tweet from Alex Moe of NBC News, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi turned Floyd into a martyr, stating, “Thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice.” Comments like Pelosi’s make it sound like George Floyd had a choice in being murdered when that couldn’t be further from the truth. This minimizes the systemic problems in the U.S., namely how white supremacy and racism have been upheld by law enforcement for hundreds of years, resulting in the deaths of countless Black and brown people.

How many more Black and brown people have to die at the hands of the police before real change occurs? This problem isn’t new. In fact, it’s almost 200 years old. What’s new is holding the police accountable for the violence they enact on communities of color. But will the same accountability occur for the latest 65 victims of police violence?

Maybe it’s time to seriously consider what abolishing our current policing system looks like, and build community care networks in its stead. Because again I ask, how many more Black and brown people have to die at the hands of the police?

Celebrities Activism Gender Politics Race The World

Naomi Osaka makes a case for athlete activism

What do Mean Girls, The Breakfast Club, and just about every other teen flick have in common? Jocks? And what do these jocks have in common? Nothing. Apparently that’s all they are; two-dimensional sportspeople with no substance to their characters beyond their athletic activity.

I remember thinking about this when I had to write an essay for a civic discourse class. Although the ‘dumb jock’ stereotype is a cinematic trope, the notions behind it aren’t all that far-fetched. Even in real life, many people think that athletes are nothing more than their muscle or athletic ability.

Take Naomi Osaka for example. Heard of her?

Naomi Osaka wearing a black and blue tank and blue hat during one of her matches
[Image description: Naomi Osaka wearing a black and blue tank and blue hat during one of her matches], via Danielle Parhizkaran—Reuters.
Apart from popping up on my news feed for her continuous wins at the US Open, she has also been the subject of many articles for speaking up and showing support to the Black Lives Matter movement. She has also been the subject of critics who think she should be doing the exact opposite. 

Last year in particular has seen a lot of activism in wake of the continued injustices police have committed against black people, as well as inaction in reference to the coronavirus pandemic. In light of that, many celebrities have taken to social media and other channels to make their voice heard and spread awareness. The sports world has also taken part with many athletes showing their support by staging walkouts and sitting out of games.

In August, Osaka announced that she would not be playing at one of her upcoming semifinal matches. In a social media post, she said “before I am an athlete, I am a black woman. And as a black woman, I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand than watching me play tennis…” 


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A post shared by 大坂なおみ 🇭🇹🇯🇵🇺🇸 (@naomiosaka) on

After this, the Women’s Tennis Association released a statement saying that all matches would be postponed. 

The statement, as well as Naomi’s actions, prompted a slew of mixed reactions, with some supporting the decisions to take a stance against racial injustice. Other comments expressed disappointment, saying that sports should not mix with politics.

Hmm…. Where have I heard that before?

For decades, even centuries, athletes have used their platform as public figures to protest injustice. From Tommi Smith and John Carlos to LeBron James and Colin Kaepernick, this phenomenon is nothing new. Especially considering that many of these athlete activists are people of color, whose victories as first-class athletes does not negate the fact that they or their families can be treated as second-class individuals. But despite that fact, critics still respond to athlete activism with some response pertaining to “stick to sports”. 

Sports have historically been marketed as a form of escapism, an island separate from reality. So I’m honestly not surprised when people criticize athletes for being outspoken. When an activity is viewed as an escape from the real world, its participants will undoubtedly be positioned as absent from tangible things. But – that needs to change.

Here’s the thing: athletes are humans too. And just like any other person, they have a right to speak up regarding issues, especially those that directly affect them. Just because someone plays sports for a living doesn’t mean that their entire life revolves around that. Sure, being an athlete and a public figure means that their profession is a larger part of their day-to-day existence. But that doesn’t, and shouldn’t discredit their opinion on things not sports-related.

The opinion taken by most critics about athletes like Osaka who have spoken out is part of a greater conversation about athletes and their participation in the discussion of political, social and moral issues, particularly those considered polarizing or deviate from conservative views.

However, the fact remains that there is absolutely nothing polarizing about human rights. The harmful and vicious effects of racism are real. Athletes’ support for an ongoing quest for racial justice is not a lecture. Instead, it is a consensus of support for players who are Black. Instances of police brutality and institutional racism hit close to home. If sports leagues do not stand up against bigotry during this moment of social upheaval, they never will.

When people claim that supposed social justice biased sports will no longer be a place for fans to escape polarization, they really mean sports will no longer be welcoming for racist viewers.

Athlete activism today is a powerful thing because unlike earlier times when they couldn’t speak freely to the public, social media has provided a means to communicate to millions of followers – which is no small thing. That kind of platform has the potential to raise awareness on things that truly matter.

Naomi Osaka expressed similar sentiments when an interviewer questioned her about wearing seven different BLM masks during the open. Her response: “What was the message you got? I feel like the point is to make people start talking.”

And people are talking.

I grew up playing sports; I ran track, and I loved every moment of it. But never for one minute did I think that the presence of my athletic ability meant an absence of my intellect or voice. Why should professional athletes be considered any different?

It is time that people regard athletes as more than robots, but rather humans with convictions and morals they feel obligated to uphold.


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Editor's Picks Activism Race The World Inequality

58 years later, Martin Luther King’s words ring true: “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”

In 1963, Martin Luther King wrote a letter from a Birmingham, Alabama jail cell after being imprisoned there for participating in a peaceful protest against segregationist laws. King’s letter of 7,000 words over 21 pages quickly became some of his most famous written work.

During his time in jail, King reflected on Black people’s continued fight for liberation, why the demonstrations of the fifties and sixties were vital for Black people’s survival, and the need for accountability and allyship from “liberal” white America. King decided to write this letter to address criticism from white religious leaders who felt the civil rights demonstrations King was leading were “unwise and untimely.” A very familiar sentiment white Americans, on both sides of the political spectrum, use to critique Black civil rights movements to this day.

King was released from jail shortly after writing the letter and immediately returned to his activism in Birmingham. Notably, two weeks after his release, on May 5, 1963, over 1,000 children participated in the Children’s Crusade, skipping school to demand integration and equal rights. In response to the protest, Birmingham’s Commissioner of Public Safety ordered dogs and fire hoses to be used against those who participated; as a result, 600 children were jailed and brutalized on that day. The excessive use of police force exerted against child protesters had been broadcasted on television, thus horrifying the rest of America in the process. 

Martin Luther King famously stated in his letter, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and at the moment, injustice in America lives all around us.

However, although America was seemingly disgusted by the horrific images they saw, their horror was short lasted, as there was very little tangible change surrounding racial power structures in America after the shock died down. People instead remained complicit in the ways in which white supremacy continued to viciously brutalize Black Americans.

Given the now-infamous storming of the capitol in the name of fascism enacted by white supremacists and Trump supporters from earlier this month as well as the global uprisings in support of Black Lives Matter from last summer, I found it necessary to reflect on King’s letter today. Like the white liberals King fired back at almost sixty years ago, many people on social media similarly criticized Black Lives Matter protestors and demonstrations; saying there are better ways or more appropriate times to get our demands for equality across. And, in a familiar fashion, critics of Black Lives Matter protests made these critiques without giving any alternatives to what they perceive would have been a better way for Black people to advocate for justice.

What is more eerily similar is how the capitol riots were broadcasted on television in real-time, and Americans again watched white people commit acts of violence in horror, only for calls to “just move on and let go” for the sake of unity to arrive from US senators hours after the “insurrection” occurred. Another stark contrast to how the BLM protests in the summer were treated.

Adding insult to injury, tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter protestors have been arrested since last summer. More specifically, approximately 14,000 BLM protestors have been arrested across 49 of the 50 United States so far according to a Forbes article. All of which further highlights how so little has fundamentally changed about the race and power dynamics in this country over the past six decades.

Black people fighting for equality are still criminalized harsher than white supremacists.

58 years after MLK’s letter from that Birmingham jail, and Black people fighting for equality are still criminalized harsher than white supremacists. In addition, when Black people lead civil rights protests, we’re still being held to higher standards of behavior, decency, and respectability compared to white people who enact domestic terrorism. 58 years and Black people are still putting our bodies on the line in the name of freedom and simply wanting to be a respected part of America’s democracy. So, what do we do about it?

In a couple of days, President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn into office; however, we cannot ignore the existence of Trump’s supporters and white supremacists simply because Trump is out of office. As Martin Luther King famously stated in his letter, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and at the moment, injustice in America lives all around us. Many of the people who committed criminal offenses at the capitol were seemingly “average” and “unsuspecting” racist white people who take up spaces in schools, as medical staff, in office-related work environments, in law enforcement, military, and more that negatively impact Black people’s lives.

For example, Black women are up to 3 times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes compared to white women due to medical racism. Black students are 4 times more likely to be suspended from school and almost 3 times as likely to be expelled compared to white students. Black people make up 13% of the US population but account for 42% of people on death row and 35% of those executed; similarly, in 2018 Black people accounted for 33% of the prison population in America, nearly triple our general population. Black trans women have high mortality rates, and therefore have a life expectancy of 35-years-old. In workplaces, Black women are paid 38% less than white men and 21% less than white women. Needless to say, Black people are constantly subjected to harmful and life-threatening racism, in every facet of our lives, at the disposition of white supremacy.

Martin Luther King said, “justice delayed is justice denied.”

All of us should now see clearer than ever the oppressive double standards for how Black people are treated in the US compared to whites. To achieve true equality, racism must be addressed and rooted out in both liberal and conservative spaces. Additionally, Americans must hold our elected officials accountable for their participation in white supremacy and force them to earnestly denounce racism as well as create laws that provide equity for Black people. We cannot just keep moving on when white nationalists display themselves because we’re consequently allowing the same racial injustices to be forgotten for the sake of white people’s comfort or for fear of making the country “more divisive.”

However, the focus needs to be less on white comfort and more on vehemently ensuring Black people’s survival. Martin Luther King said, “justice delayed is justice denied.” So, how much longer are we going to continue allowing racism to not only exist but prosper so blatantly before we’ve decided enough is enough?


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Race Inequality

How we have failed Black Lives Matter

There are three slogans that immediately come to mind when I think of 2020: whether from work emails, local business ads, or neighborhood storefronts: In these unprecedented times, We are alone–together, and Black Lives Matter. How did an organized political and social movement, which first came together in 2013, after the US justice system showed its favored hand in acquitting Trayvon Martin’s murderer, become the loudest cry of 2020?

The May 24th murder of George Floyd in broad daylight sparked a resurgence of activism across the United States and abroad. His, and many other Black lives have become casualties to systemic and ingrained prejudice, which has aggressively attacked the lives of innocent individuals—often going about their daily lives. The fact that this act of brutality by white police officers was caught on camera opened the door for a spate of brutal killings preceding May 24th to come to light. One of the earliest among them was the murder of twenty-six year old Breonna Taylor on March 13, 2020. Joining the cry of “I Can’t Breathe!” was a fierce reminder to, “Say Her Name!” 

This chant, first initiated by the African American Policy Forum, was meant to reinstate the urgency of recognizing not only Black death in its numbers, but in its intersectionality. In her TED talk regarding the importance of intersectionality, Kimberlé Crenshaw (one of AAPF’s founding members) highlights the disparity in acknowledging male and female deaths. She asks the audience to stand for a litany of names, sitting only once they’ve heard a name they don’t recognize. The familiar names of Black men are read to a mostly standing audience—once the names of women are read off, the number drops drastically. This, Crenshaw reminds her audience, is why we must “say her name”—the bodies of Black women do not receive the same urgency or mobilization. 

It seemed in the wake of Breonna Taylor’s death, that we had finally heeded Crenshaw’s advice: we said her name, we posted widely on social media to call for the arrest of her murderers. However, we were quickly, and rightfully condemned: unlike with George Floyd, merchandise and memes made Breonna Taylor’s body a marketing strategy for us to feast on. What day wasn’t a wonderful day to call the Louisville police and demand that they arrest the cops who murdered Breonna? 

On September 23, 2020, the verdict was clear: we hadn’t made Breonna Taylor a movement, but rather a media spectacle. We had failed Breonna Taylor. News first emerged that only the stray bullets discharged had been condemned, reminding us how little we valued the bodies of Black women. Then we learned that the officers who had fired their weapons at Breonna had never even been charged.

While it is an exercise of our democracy to protest and demonstrate against these injustices—what has been left of this summer of activism except a capitalist machine reawakening from the drowsy haze of March-May quarantine? What workplace, or institution, didn’t send an email condemning police brutality—or at best, a senseless murder? My own sphere as a graduate student of English, and writer, called it a reckoning: were we highlighting Black voices? Were we publishing enough BIPOC writing? We had been thus far focused on the optics of not being racist; now we had to learn how to be actively anti-racist. Ibram Kendi’s books flew off the shelves as book clubs formed, Zoom invitations flooded our inboxes as we put the pressure on our mourning Black colleagues to educate us—tell us how we could help them.

As a non-Black woman, there is a limitation on how much I can claim in a space that was carved out for a much more marginalized group than my own (Indian-American, and fairly well represented in academic institutions, if not my own department). However, watching this intersection of space occur within my own communities has been a reminder of the everyday microaggressions that I have seen culturally normalized. Kimberlé Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality has, quite literally, been a lifesaver for those who fell through the cracks of a system that didn’t recognize their varied experiences and identities. So if we know the importance of this in 2020, then we must be applying it widely, right? Well–these intersections only work when we actively choose to recognize them. 

For example, Islam is the third largest religion in the US, and while many of the mosques follow de-facto segregation based on immigrant community pockets, there is in fact a much larger community that often gets overlooked in the public narrative of American Muslims. Black Muslims make up one of the largest demographics in the US. Yet it took waves of BLM protests to remind immigrant communities of this. In my own twenty some years of experience I have witnessed first-hand acts of microaggressions against Black Muslims that even the most devout of our community would deny. 

Black mosques exist—this bears repeating—Black mosques exist, despite my (Desi) community’s apparent ignorance of the fact. Each Ramadan we hold fundraisers, inviting only for one night a local imam with a radical idea: raising money for a mosque just across town that we didn’t know existed. Why? It primarily served the Black Muslim community. We would, for one night, remind ourselves that there is no superiority among Muslims, raise a meagre sum, and then go back to campaigning for a (boys only, of course) basketball court in Stage Three of the mosque construction dream plan. No wonder then, that I would receive emails as a community point person during my undergraduate years requesting locations of nearby mosques in Baltimore, with the local lists shot down until I suggested a larger Desi mosque out of town.   

With such a framework in place, we were not prepared for the activism asked of us as Desi-Americans this past summer. A sign in itself is not enough. In the end, amidst a scramble of companies, organizations, and institutions attempting to attach themselves to the right side of history, it remains clear that the intention was to keep themselves on the right side of their consumer base, making BLM “just good business”. A storefront sign becomes just part of the window display, and we decide we’ve talked enough about race. 

I don’t know what the next few days will look like (hi, 2020) but in order for us to atone for commodifying this movement—one with literal lives on the line, I’m looking at each “intersection-ed” community. It’s time to step up and speak up for what unifies us, not lay complicit in what divides us.


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Book Reviews Book Club Books Pop Culture

In the aftermath of BLM Yaa Gyasi’s “Homegoing” shows us the history we are yet to overcome

A lot of 2020 seems like a bad dream, doesn’t it? It seems like the stuff of literary fiction, that has somehow materialized into real life and we’re being made to live through it since last December. However, some of us need to turn to fiction as a coping mechanism. Or in this case, fiction inspired by reality, such as Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing. 

Literary genius has been emerging from Africa for a few years now with writers such as Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; and now Yaa Gyasi, a Ghanaian American writer. Born in Ghana, she truly knows how to weave stories that transport the reader to the exact time and place of her choosing. Her novel Homegoing tells the tale of West Africa’s key role in perpetuating the slave trade over three centuries. It illustrates how the people, especially women, of that time navigated one of history’s greatest injustices.

The novel starts off in late 18th century in an Asante village, part of the Gold Coast which eventually became Ghana. A young girl, Effia is sold by her father to a British slave trader named James – as a bride, not as a slave – and taken to live with him in Cape Coast Castle. The irony is that right under her bridal chambers, are dungeons filled to the brim with slaves, from villages just like Effia’s, waiting to be sent off to the Americas and the Caribbean via the Middle Passage. Among them is Esi Asare, Effia’s 15-year-old half-sister. The story then takes us on a journey as these two women, unknown to each other, embark on their own paths, filled with treachery, heart-wrenching tribulations and secrets.

The book is almost impossible to put down, but most importantly it’s impossible to forget.

The element that makes it unique is the fact that Yaa Gyasi intertwines reality with spirituality, everyday life with the occult. She beautifully introduces common beliefs and fables told by the people in Effia’s village, and how they impact the lives of people as they accept the reality of losing their loved ones to slavery.

I especially took to this book, because I find African mysticism so unique and still an element we know so little about.

The sheer empathetic tone of this novel draws you into a point where you’re feeling the ache of the sisters and wishing that things, weren’t as they were, then or now. The subjugation told from the point of view of two women enduring entirely separate experiences is exceptionally interesting. It also highlights the fact that we, as humans, use stories to not only escape reality but also to understand it.

To me, what makes African writers so unique is that not only are the backdrops not mainstream, but their word crafting is so visceral. You’re drawn into each moment to a point where you’re feeling what the characters are feeling.

Some quotes from the book that particularly stood out were: “Tell a lie long enough and it will turn to truth” and “History is storytelling”. These two lines beautifully give the gist of what the novel is about: how 2 women and their trials shape the future of many, and how we must learn from our past. These quotes are also an on-point illustration of the events of today as we swing back and forth on major issues like racism, classism or sexism. These have existed for centuries and are still as unresolved and painful as ever.

The title of the book, Homegoing, originates from African-American traditions of a person’s death signifying a return ‘home’. This encapsulates the novel quite beautifully because it speaks of the millions of lives that have departed but left behind scars we are yet to heal from.

I believe this novel attracted so much attention because of its transcendence and relevance even today. As we navigate the pandemic crisis and the movements that are finally finding a voice, such as Black Lives Matter and women’s rights, it’s interesting to turn to history as told by a unique voice. Yes, it may be intertwined in a fictional story, but the baseline truth remains very vital and imminent. The fact that many antislavery laws have been passed doesn’t mean that subjugation has stopped being a reality.

To be able to hear unique voices and to peek into the minds of those who lived through hell, makes one realize that there are so many stories we are yet to hear, understand and correct. Homegoing is just one glimpse into the lessons we should have learnt but somehow still haven’t.

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If you are a true ally then you shouldn’t be policing Black people’s demands for justice

This year, unlike any other, people have been examining the best ways to achieve effective allyship. Due to the re-emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, many white people have decided that “listening and learning” about the Black plight was the best place to start in terms of becoming a necessary ally, seemingly vowing to begin the work towards combatting systemic racism.

With pledges to be better allies for the Black community, millions participated in the #BlackoutTuesday trend on Instagram over the summer. Similarly, Twitter timelines were flooded with GoFundMe’s and other donation links to support victims of police brutality as well as grassroot organizations dedicated to helping the Black community. Anti racism books were selling out in bookstores like never before. Many white celebrities were also acknowledging Black Lives Matter publicly for the first time. Black artists were being commissioned for their work at higher rates. And in an unprecedented fashion, Black owned businesses were made a priority by white consumers. 

This is all indicative of a support in which is now seeing a decline

Consequently, the emptiness of those promises from many who sought to become better allies are quickly being exposed. Here we are, about six months into the movement, and white America is largely back to being so engulfed in its privilege. Not only are they silent, but they are also blatantly unsupportive of racial matters.

In September, Pew Research Center conducted a study to gauge the public support for Black Lives Matter months after the murder of George Floyd. The study found, “A majority of U.S. adults (55%) now express at least some support for the movement, down from 67% in June amid nationwide demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd. The share who say they strongly support the movement stands at 29%, down from 38% three months ago.”

I suspect the decline in support for Black Lives Matter is because the movement is demanding police abolition, perpetuating current mainstream slogans such as “abolish/defund the police.” Only months after white people pledged to commit themselves to learning anti racist efforts, many are now complaining about the “jargon” most Black Lives Matter activists use. According to critics on social media, the calls to “abolish” and “defund” the police are too harsh and unsettling to ever succeed at convincing the public or politicians to implement critical systematic change. What is meant by “the public,” however, is white people. 

Black Lives Matter activists don’t need to change their rhetoric or marketing strategy to accommodate white people’s comfort levels. It’s not up to Black people to make liberation more palatable to white sensibilities. Rather, it’s up to white people to at least do some of the work towards dismantling racism on their own.

The interrelated work of police and prison abolition has been a field of Black activism for centuries. Civil rights activist, W.E.B. Dubois highlighted the injustice of oppressive policing and incarceration on Black people in an essay titled, “The Negro Criminal” published in 1899.

In describing the oppressive, systemic conditions that breed crime and the perceived inherent criminality of Black people Dubois states, “Crime is a phenomenon of organized social life, and is the open rebellion of an individual against his social environment… [It] is a phenomenon that stands not alone, but rather as a symptom of countless wrong social conditions.” With this in mind, the work towards abolition is not by any means a new or extraordinarily radical concept. Additionally, Angela Davis, a long-time prison abolitionist, has been writing about the failed policing and prison systems in America since the 1970’s.

Therefore, the problem at large is not the language Black Lives Matter uses. The problem lies with white people wanting to be spoon fed liberation efforts and coddled into revolution because white privilege makes it difficult for them to de-center themselves from the foreground.

For Black people, the fight against racism is an exhausting one; it always has been and always will be. Largely because we are constantly forced to deal with the consequences of racism while simultaneously bearing the sole responsibility of dismantling it. Allyship does not look like being hyper-critical of Black people’s civil rights movements. True allyship is a long-term fight which emphasizes self-reliant education and centers the oppressed, not the oppressor. Rather than continuously policing Black people’s demands for justice- simply listen to Black folks. 

Effective allyship means recognizing your privilege, taking accountability by learning the history of marginalized groups, practicing empathy and using what you’ve learned to ignite others into becoming allies.

So, as we end the year and begin anew, the work towards equality will continue. Activists in the Black communities have long shown their dedication to the fight. I guess everyone else, on the other hand, is still working on fulfilling their ineffectual promises. 


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USA 2020 Elections Politics Race The World

Black women deserve more from the Democratic party

Throughout the course of an excruciating election week, many Black activists, community organizers, journalists, and political commentators, on social media highlighted the vital contribution of Black voters in key states like Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Nevada. Notably, and more specifically, it was the all-too-often thankless work from Black women providing substantial amounts of support for the Democratic party that helped Biden pull out a win in this election.

In her debut for the Washington Post, Taylor Crumpton wrote of Black women’s saving grace for the Democratic party- once again. Regarding Black women’s continued overall contribution to liberation efforts Crumpton states, “Black women’s civic and political engagement extends beyond the polls — we’re organizing for a future where Black women don’t have to vote for the “lesser of two evils,” but none at all.”

The “lesser of two evils” narrative has been a reoccurring one amongst American elections; correspondingly, Joe Biden was dubbed the lesser evil compared to Donald Trump in this presidential race. Many democratic voters, especially Black women voters, supported Joe Biden despite his shortcomings as a candidate. Namely, Biden’s many sexual assault allegations, his treatment of Anita Hill during her testimony before congress in 1991, and his history with oppressive crime reform.

Nevertheless, regardless of whatever reservations we had about Joe Biden as a candidate, Black women didn’t just simply vote for him, but rallied behind him. In addition, Black organizers and activists across the United States strategized and mobilized to advocate for marginalized communities and fight against voter suppression, often with less resources and funding than establishment run organizations. 

Even more, it was the combined efforts of Black Lives Matter, the cosign Joe Biden received from highly respected social justice activists within the Black community like Angela Davis and John Lewis, and community organizers across the country – especially in the south – that provided Joe Biden the opportunity to claim victory in such a crucial presidential race. Not to mention the efforts of Stacey Abrams, who registered an estimated 800,000 Georgia citizens to vote since her governor loss in 2018, that changed the dynamic of Georgia’s voter turnout and party support.

It’s time the Democratic party rightfully acknowledges the persistent work Black people are doing for their party. A party which notably continues to center white, moderate political figures and centrist politics that simultaneously condescends progressive and grassroots movements.

Some of the largest and most influential movements have been created from the labor of Black women and Black queer individuals. Therefore, if we collectively decided to reserve our right to be selfish, advocating only for ourselves, civil rights progress would be nearly non-existent. Of the many societal short-comings highlighted this year, it’s been noted that despite our consistent efforts towards equality and equity, Black women and queer folks are still the most marginalized and at risk demographics in the world.

The recent cases of Megan thee stallion, Oluwatoyin Salau, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade (a Black trans man killed by police this year), and so many more, illustrate how much work still needs to be done to protect the most vulnerable within the Black community.

During Biden’s first address to the American people Saturday night after his win, he recognizes how “The African American community stood up for me. [They’ve] always had my back, and I’ll have [theirs].” It’s true, Joe Biden has a lot of work to do in advocating for the Black community earnestly. In fact, showing up for the countless and nameless Black organizers is imperative going forward. Most of the time, Black grassroots organizations are underfunded. So, here are some organizations that do direct groundwork in urban and rural parts of America for under-privileged communities to support, donate to, or amplify:

Additionally, the state of Georgia is having runoff races for essential senate seats. Democratic nominees Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock need to win their election races to tie the senate with republicans. This would mean a Republican majority senate couldn’t immediately dismiss Joe Biden’s policies towards environmental justice and repair, affordable healthcare, and more.

Click here to directly support organizers in Georgia. Similarly, click here to donate to Ossoff’s campaign and here to donate to Warnock’s campaign.

Going forward, there needs to be more of an emphasis on community care, progressivism, and protection for those who continue to show up for everyone else. Trump is out of office, and the democrats pulled off an impressive victory; however, the necessary fight for true equality persists.

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These are the trending, political debates ending relationships everywhere

 “We can disagree and still be friends – Yeah, about pizza toppings, not racism. Gtfo my face”. I’ve seen this meme circulating lately, taken from William Vercetti’s Twitter Status, and it’s just so apt. There are some things on which you can agree to disagree – but if your partner tries to debate and justify any form of oppression, how is that not the ultimate deal breaker for you?

Read on for the biggest political reasons ending relationships world-wide:

Debates over Donald Trump:

The domestic disputes over Donald Trump are so huge, that it even has its own term: “The Trump Effect” – Coming to a Marriage Near You. Okay so I made the tagline up, but you must agree – it fits. A year into Trump;s service, a 2017 poll showed that 11% of Americans ended a serious relationships due to political differences.  Because voting for Trump means voting for sexism, anti-abortion, racism, white supremacists, police brutality, xenophobia, the list goes on.


Ever heard of wokefishing? It’s a term writer Serena Smith coined to describe people (usually men) pretending they’re feminists, or into social justice, because it helps them score more with the ladies.

I’m not even American and Trump’s beliefs set me into a blind rage, so I can’t fathom waking up happily next to someone who’s marked a blasphemous, black X next to Donald Trump’s name.

Whilst catfishing may be a huge fear for men, womxn are more fearful of being wokefished and then waking up one day to realize their partner voted for Trump. I’m not even American and Trump’s beliefs set me into a blind rage, so I can’t fathom waking up happily next to someone who’s marked a blasphemous, black X next to Donald Trump’s name. “But honey, I did it for the economy!” he cries, as I set fire to all his belongings. Whilst non-Americans can’t end a relationship with someone for actually voting for Trump, it’s certainly a political debate rearing its ugly head and causing relationship unrest in many other countries, too. 

Debates over BLM:

It still blows my mind that people try and argue against this ongoing protest. There are the well-known “buts” and “all lives matter!” which was met with “um that’s what we’re saying, yo!?”

If you ever hear someone advocating for equality and your first word in response is “but..”, I hate to break it to you, but you’re the problem.

Another classic but awful “but” is “Black people kill Black people too!” That’s like saying – hey I’m dying of cancer and someone pipes in that pneumonia can kill you too. 

If you ever hear someone advocating for equality and your first word in response is “but..”, I hate to break it to you, but you’re the problem. If it’s your parent, colleague, or sister arguing with you, I get that maybe it’s tougher to end these bonds over what to them may be considered trivial (which it shouldn’t be). But if it’s who you thought you chose as your life partner; someone you’re about to make every life decision together with, it’s much more important to call it quits. 

Debates over #MeToo:

What is it about society that doesn’t want to believe sexual abuse victims? Is it perhaps too traumatic for us to deal with that our brain just shuts down and yells too. much. to compute. Heck, I don’t want to believe a president, or priest, or policeman is capable of rape and murder, either.

But let’s leave it up to the facts, shall we: Out of all the sexual violence offenses reported in Europe , UK and the US, only 2-6% are found or suspected to be false. Of course that doesn’t include the millions of cases left unreported, or reported too late because of the ridiculous stigma attached to the victim and the high cost of legal bills.

I’ve had to unlearn and relearn a million things about my gender that I was once brainwashed to believe.

It’s like, why would someone lie about an experience like that? If your partner doesn’t believe rape survivors, or adds anything to the discussion with a “why do women wear revealing outfits”, or if they spit with wild ferocity: “not all men!”, then please, do yourself a favor and dump their ass. 

Debates over Sexism:

Whilst I am a strong advocate for all the above, I’m gladly not under Trump’s reign. I am white, and I am thankfully not a victim of sexual violence. But as a woman, sexism is something I know everything about.

Because I promise you – that sexist “joke” is not funny, no matter how many times you are gaslit into believing it is.

I’ve had to unlearn and relearn a million things about my gender that I was once brainwashed to believe. Arguing with my father, my male friends, my colleagues, on issues I have formally studied as if they were just mere opinions of mine, makes my blood boil. While a lot of the time I bite my tongue and think, “choose your battles”, other times my beating heart tells me that I have chosen.

If you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to stand even a sexist meme circling your boyfriend’s group chats.  (And rightfully so!) So if your partner, friend, or family member is being sexist, you need to call them out and you need to have that discussion with them. And if you still don’t get through, it’s over boo. Because I promise you – that sexist “joke” is not funny, no matter how many times you are gaslit into believing it is.

You’re entitled to your opinion, of course. You and your partner can have debates on all sorts of things, from ice cream flavors to Netflix series; but basic human rights is not one of them. So watch out for those red flags everybody! Especially ones that read Make America Great Again”.  

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Shopping Books Poetry Books Pop Culture

21 Black female poets to add to your bookshelf

Ok, so you posted a black square on Instagram. You retweeted an Angela Davis quote. You ordered How to Be an Anti-Racist from a Black indie bookstore. You signed a petition. Now, what else are you doing to promote and spread Black art instead of just Black suffering and struggle? Black female poets have been dominating the literary scene for centuries. These are just 21 of the thousands of Black women who are writing about race and social justice.

1. Morgan Parker

Poet Morgan Parker poses for a photo.
[Image description: Poet Morgan Parker poses for a photo.] Via Eliza Griffiths
Morgan Parker (b. 1987) is the author of three poetry collections Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night (2015), There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce (2017), and Magical Negro (2019), the winner of the National Books Critics Circle. Her poems intertwine contemporary pop culture references, Black history, and her personal life. In an interview with The Paris Review, Parker articulated her commitment to capturing the Black experience in her writing: “I am hyperaware of patterns and repetition in society. The way that history repeats and rewrites. It’s a way of connecting with other people who are here, and also with people who are no longer here.” 

2. Jamila Woods

Image description: Musician and poet Jamila Woods stands for a photo.
[Image description: Musician and poet Jamila Woods stands for a photo.] Via Zoe Rain
Jamila Woods (b. 1989) is both a singer-songwriter and a poet. Once described as a “modern-day Renaissance woman, Woods has released two albums titled Heavn (2016) and Legacy! Legacy! (2019) where each song is named after and dedicated to prominent artists of color. Her poetry has been featured in Muzzle, Third World Press, and Poetry magazine. Woods serves as the Associate Artistic Director of the non-profit youth organization called Young Chicago Authors and helps design curriculum for Chicago Public Schools.

3. Aja Monet

[Imgae description: Slam poet Aja Monet smiles softly for a photograph.] Via
Aja Monet (b. 1987) is a surrealist blues poet and community activist from Brooklyn, NY. She is the youngest poet to ever have won the Nuyorican Poets Café Grand Slam Champion, winning the competition at only 19. Monet was awarded the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Award for Poetry in 2019. Her first poetry collection, titled My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter, dives into the traumas and passions of Black women during their battles for liberation. Monet founded “Voices: Poetry for the People” and “facilitate workshops in collaboration with Dream Defenders and Community Justice Project in South Florida.”

4. Maya Angelou

A photograph of Maya Angelou wearing gold hoop earrings.
[Image description: A photograph of Maya Angelou wearing gold hoop earrings.] Via Dwight Carter
Born in St. Louis, Maya Angelou (1928-2014) was a prominent civil rights activist, poet, essayist, movie director, actress, composer, and more. Angelou joined the Harlem Writers Guild in the 1950s. She worked for both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X during the Civil Rights Movement. Her poetry collection Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie, which was published (1971) was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1972. Angelou was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2000, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010.

5. Wanda Coleman

Wanda Coleman pictured with her hand on her face.]
[Image description: Wanda Coleman pictured with her hand on her face.] Via The Los Angeles Times
Known as the unofficial poet laureate of Los Angeles, Wanda Coleman (1946-2013) is the author of more than 20 books of poetry, including Mercurochrome, a finalist for the National Book Award in 2001. Coleman’s poetry touches upon Black poverty, womanhood, and racial inequalities in Los Angeles. She received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the California Arts Council, and won an Emmy for her scriptwriting.

6. Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks in front of her typewriter and bookshelf.
[Image description: Gwendolyn Brooks in front of her typewriter and bookshelf.] Via Getty Images
Arguably the most renowned Black poet in American history, Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) was born grew up in the South Side of Chicago. Brooks won a Pulitzer Prize in 1950 for her poetry collection Annie Allen, which details the life of a young Black girl growing up in Chicago, making her the first Black author to win a Pulitzer Prize. Brooks was chosen as the first Black Poet Laureate of the United States for the 1985-1986 term and was the first Black woman inducted into the American Academy of Arts in 1976.

7. Lucille Clifton

Poet Lucille Clifton looks off to the side while being photographed.
[Image description: Poet Lucille Clifton looks off to the side while being photographed.] Via Afro American Newspapers
Lucille Clifton’s poetic talent (1936-2019) was first featured in Langston Hughes’s renowned anthology The Poetry of the Negro (1970). Clifton was the first poet to have two poetry books chosen for finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir, 1969-1980 (1987), and Next: New Poems (1987). Her poetry celebrates and discusses the Black female body, motherhood, and family life.

8. Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith smiles for a picture.
[Image description: Tracy K. Smith smiles for a picture.] Via Rachel Eliza and Blue Flower Arts.
Tracy K. Smith served as the 22nd Poet Laureate of the United States from 2017-2019 and has published four poetry collections, including Life On Mars, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2011. Her poetry has been lauded for its incorporation of magical realism, space, and science to articulate her grief, mundane experiences, desire, and dystopian fears.

9. Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde stands in front of a blackboard that reads "women are powerful and dangerous."
[Image description: Audre Lorde stands in front of a blackboard that reads “women are powerful and dangerous.”] Via Robert Alexander for Getty Images
A self-labeled “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” Audre Lorde (1934–1992) was a poet, essayist, and feminist theorist. Her poetry reflects her work as an activist during the Civil Rights Movement, Black Lesbianism, and her rage towards the injustices against Black people. An advocate for intersectionality, Lorde published several essays and theories on the Black female experiences, the power of sexuality, and differences between men and women. 

10. Claudia Rankine

Poet Claudia Rankine and dog Sammy at her home.
[Image description: Poet Claudia Rankine and dog Sammy at her home.] Via Ricardo DeAratanha for the Los Angeles Times
Claudia Rankine (b. 1963) is the author of five collections of poetry, two plays, and an array of essays. Her book Citizen: An American Lyric is a genre-defying collection of poetry and reflection that incorporates images and videos to reflect the violence and microaggressions faced by Black Americans. Citizen won the NAACP Image Award in poetry and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2015.

11. Rita Dove

Poet Rita Dove rests her hands on her face in front of a bookshelf.
[Image description: Poet Rita Dove rests her hands on her face in front of a bookshelf.] Via Literary Arts
Rita Dove (b. 1952) was the second Black woman after Gwendolyn Brooks to win the Pulitzer Prize for her collection Thomas and Beulah, a semi-fictionalized poetical account of her maternal grandparents. Dove’s poetry is both minuscule and omnipresent. Her writing traverses through the banal aspects of her daily life while also providing a reflection on racial and social injustices. 

12. Natasha Tretheway

Poet Natasha Tretheway.
[Image description: Poet Natasha Tretheway.] Via Nancy Crampton
The Poet Laureate of the United States in both 2012 and 2013, Natasha Tretheway (b. 1966) is a contemporary poet and professor. Tretheway is of mixed race and her parents were married illegally in the 1960s due to anti-miscegenation laws. Tretheway turned to poetry when her mother was murdered in 1986. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for her poetry collection Native Guard, an elegiac reflection of her mother’s life, the racial history of slavery in the South, the Civil War, and her childhood. 

13. Anne Spencer

Anne Spencer in her wedding dress.
[Image description: Anne Spencer in her wedding dress.] Via the Anne Spencer House & Garden Museum
Anne Spencer (1882-1975) was the daughter of former slaves and Harlem Renaissance poet and activist. She was the first Black person and Virginian to have her poetry included in the Norton Anthology of American Poetry. She was friends and worked with authors such as Langston Hughes and W.E.B. DuBois, and founded the Lynchburg chapter of the NAACP with James Weldon Johnson. Her poetry consists of themes of religion, race, the South, and her relationship with the natural world.

14. Nikki Giovanni

A photo of poet Nikki Giovanni in a red scarf.
[Image description: A photo of poet Nikki Giovanni in a red scarf.] Via Nikki Giovanni
Nikki Giovanni (b. 1943) has been awarded for both her poetry and her activism. As one of the most critical and influential poets of the Black Arts Movement, she was awarded the Langston Hughes Medal and the NAACP Image Award. Her writing has been described as “epitomizing the defiant, unapologetically political, unabashedly Afrocentric, BAM ethos.”

15. Sonia Sanchez

Poet Sonia Sanchez poses with a book in hand.
[Image description: Poet Sonia Sanchez poses with a book in hand.] Via Richmond Free Press
Sonia Sanchez (b. 1934) was another prominent figure of the Black Arts Movement. She was awarded the Robert Frost Medel in 2001 for her distinguished service to American Poetry. She is the author of more than a dozen poetry books, including Does your house have lions? (1995), which was nominated for the NAACP Image and National Book Critics Circle Award.

16. Elizabeth Alexander

Poet and professor Elizabeth Alexander while being awarded the W.E.B DuBois medal at Harvard University.
[Image description: Poet and professor Elizabeth Alexander while being awarded the W.E.B DuBois medal at Harvard University.] Via The Boston Globe
Elizabeth Alexander (b. 1962), as a contemporary poet, essayist, and playwright. She serves as the President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and a Professor of Poetry at both Yale and Columbia University. Her poetry collection The Sublime (2005) was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize, and the themes in work include motherhood, political history, and race. Alexander wrote and read a poem for President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

17. Yona Harvey

Poet Yona Harvey looks down while being photographed.]
[Image description: Poet Yona Harvey looks down while being photographed.] Via the University of Arizona Poetry Center
A poet, professor, and comic writer, Yona Harvey (b. 1974) became one of the first Black women to write for Marvel comics. Harvey describes her artistic interest in “the diverse lives and experiences of Black American women through literature…the visibility and invisibility of Black women, our mental health and self-care, and the evidence of our imaginations in society.” She is the author of Hemming the Water (2013), a finalist for the 2014 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in poetry.

18. Margaret Walker

Poet Margaret Walker laughs and looks to the side.
[Image description: Poet Margaret Walker laughs and looks to the side.] Via Poetry Foundation
Margaret Walker (1915-1998) was part of the Chicago Black Renaissance. Her poetry collection For My People (1942) won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition, making her the first black woman to win a National Writing Prize. She is also the author of Jubilee (1966), a novel that details the life of a slave family during the Civil War.

19. Porsha Olayiwola

Slam poet Porsha Olayiwola.
[Image description: Slam poet Porsha Olayiwola.] Via the Boston Globe
Porsha Olayiwola is the current Poet Laureate of Boston, Massachusetts. She is the 2014 individual World Poetry Slam champion and the 2015 National Poetry Slam champion. Olayiowla’s poetry uses “afro-futurism and surrealism to examine historical and current issues in the Black, woman, and queer diasporas.”  She is the artistic director at MassLEAP, a literary youth organization, and published her first poetry collection i shimmer sometimes, too in 2019.

20. June Jordan

A photo of poet and Civil Rights activist June Jordan.
[Image description: A photo of poet and Civil Rights activist June Jordan.] Via the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.
June Jordan (1936-2002) was a bisexual, Jamaican-American poet and activist. She was committed to using Black English and vernacular in her poetry. Her writing encompasses themes of family, sexuality, divorce, and oppression. Jordan was also a feminist theorist and wrote children’s books that touched upon race and social justice.

21. Eve L. Ewing

[Image description: Poet and sociologist Eve Ewing clasps her hands together for a photo.] Via Daniel Barlow/The Poetry Foundation
Eve L. Ewing (b. 1968) is a poet, visual artist, and a sociologist of education. Ewing has been a Pushcart Prize nominee and a finalist for the Pamet River Prize. She has published two poetry collections, Electric Arches (2017) and 1919 (2019), based on the Chicago Race Riots of 1919. She is a writer for the Marvel comic Ironheart and is the author of Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side, a sociological study of public school closures in Chicago.

From sonnets on Black freedom to free verse about womanhood and sexuality, these poets possess a robust and passionate lexicon of emotions and subjects. The range of their artistic capability is incredible, and their grandeur has often been left out of history books. We should forever be celebrating these Black female poets for their impact on Black liberation, and for the sheer beauty of their lyrics.

Real World Word Celebrities Race Pop Culture

Check out these 17 artists who are highlighting injustice in America

Throughout history, art has been used to challenge hierarchies and protest the status quo. This is still true today. Following the murder of George Floyd, there has been an uprising in support of Black lives led by the Black Lives Matter movement in America and around the world. As millions use their voices to protest injustice, artists are following suit, using their brushes and other tools to create powerful art exposing police violence and systemic racism in America.

Using murals, portraits, and sculptures, artists are delivering political messages through powerful imagery within their art. Below are 17 of these artists.

1.Errin Donahue

Based in New York, Errin Donahue is an artist and photographer. In her work, she recreates famous works of art with Black women. Inspired by “Janelle Monae and her racially imaginative Afrofuturism”, the portrait above is titled ‘The Monae Lisa’.

2.Nikkolas Smith

Freelance artist Nikkolas Smith has recently been working on pieces that relate to police brutality. He began sketching as a hobby but his artwork soon went viral and he quit his job as a Disney Imagineer to focus on art. During the Black Lives Matter protests, Smith posted a sketch of Ahmaud Abery on his Instagram, with the caption “…Today I sketch injustice. Today I paint a prayer… “If I shall die before my run, I pray the Lord my case is won.”

3.Ariel Sinha

Based in Chicago, Ariel Sinha is an artist, designer, and improviser. After hearing about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, Sinha decided to challenge the anger and sadness she felt into her artwork. Using her iPad, she drew portraits of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. In the image above, Sinha drew Riah Milton and Rem’mie Fell, Black trans women who were murdered with the caption, “…Yesterday, in the middle of pride month, on the fourth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub attack, the President took away protections for trans people. It’s not enough to say their names. We must keep standing up and fighting for trans lives and rights.”


4.Molly Crabapple

Award-winning journalist illustrator and author of Drawing Blood and Brothers of the Gun, Molly Crabapple’s work has been published in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, and The New Yorker. She began her journalistic career by sketching illustrations of Occupy Wall Street, and then eventually covered Guantanamo Bay, the US border, refugee camps, Lebanese snipers, and more. Molly’s coverage of police brutality and the ongoing protests is available on the NY Review of Books (the images above). She has also helped to launch the “Drawing as Resistance” program as “a way for volunteers to not only observe [what is going on], but to participate–by drawing as an act of resistance.”


An anonymous England-based street artist, Banksy has used his art for political activism since the ‘90s. He produces pieces of art that pop up in public places, such as the walls of buildings. Banksy has shown support for the Black Lives Matter movement on Instagram, posting his work along with a message, saying “people of color are being failed by the system…This is a white problem. And if white people don’t fix it, someone will have to come upstairs and kick the door in.”

6.Simi Stone

A musical and visual artist and a founding member of the Afro-punk movement, Simi Stone, created a portrait of George Floyd, using her artistry to protest on the canvas. Stone chose bright tints that make Floyd look luminous. Haunted by what had happened to him, Stone wanted to draw him in bright colors.

7.AJ Alper

AJ Alper, a portrait painter, started the social media movement titled #GeorgeFloydPortraitProject to use his voice and Instagram audience to spread awareness about racism. In his project, he did a call out on Instagram, looking for as many portraits as possible to make a video in memory of George Floyd. In the finished piece, attached above, Alper created a compilation video including the nearly 700 artists worldwide who participated and submitted portraits of the project.

8.Adrian Brandon

Adrian Brandon is a Brooklyn based artist. On his Instagram, he has started a ‘stolen series’, which is dedicated to “the many black people that were robbed of their lives in the hands of the police.” Brandon uses graphite and ink to draw each portrait but also uses time as a medium to determine how long each portrait is colored in: 1 year of life = 1 minute of color. Brandon says, “I played with the harsh relationship between time and death. I want the viewer to see how much empty space is left in these lives, stories that will never be told, space that can never be filled.”

9.Shane Grammer

Shane Grammer is a muralist located in Los Angeles. In June, Grammer created a mural of George Floyd. His mural is “dedicated to all of my precious brothers and sisters who have found themselves the victims of racism. You are precious, loved, needed, and vital for our future. We see your pain. We hear your voice.”

10.Lola Lovenotes

[Image Description: colorful mural depicting Breonna Taylor that reads "Justice for Breonna".] Via @lovenotes
[Image Description: colorful mural depicting Breonna Taylor that reads “Justice for Breonna”.] Via @lovenotes
Lola Lovenotes (@lovenotes) is a mural artist and creator in New York City. On Juneteenth, Lovenotes shared a mural she created commemorating Breonna Taylor on Instagram, saying she’s “going to keep to keep painting until she and countless others get the justice they deserve”, following a previous message on Instagram saying, “there have been countless racial injustices against Black women, girls, [transwomen + girls], and yet their names are forgotten. Their murders don’t seem to get the same attention as Black men and boys. When we say Black Lives Matter, we need to make sure Black women are included in our demands for justice too!”.

11.Otha “Vakseen” Davis III

Based in Los Angeles, Otha “Vakseen” Davis III is a visual artist, curator, and musician. He has done a group of portraits in commemoration of Black lives who have been killed by police brutality, titled “Remember Me:” In the portrait above, titled “Remember Me: Elijah McClain”, celebrates the life of Elijah McClain, an innocent young man who was murdered by police in Colorado. Vakseen writes, “A YEAR later and we’re just hearing about this, while the family has been demanding an investigation all this time…A painting isn’t going to end racism. Racism won’t end until we’re ready to have REAL conversations, self-reflection, and make REAL change.”

12.Sarah Dahir

Sarah Dahir is an artist based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her Black Lives Matter art, which features faceless women to represent everyone, has been inspired by photographs from the civil rights movement. Below the illustrations, she writes, “the power of the people is stronger than the people in power.”


13.Rosanna Morris

Co-founder of Cato Press print studio, Rosanna Morris is located in Bristol U.K. She has created downloadable PDF’s of her Black Lives Matter prints that the public can use, “Put them in your window, take them to your local protest, post them through letterboxes. Do as you like, just please do something more than posting on here. Reach out to your community, your MP, your Granny, and help to do the hard work of change.”

14.Boyd Samuels

Boyd Samuels is a New York-based artist with a focus on oil painting. He “brings the beauty of the African American form onto his canvas and hopes that his art will inspire his viewers to see it as well.”

15.Niamah Thomas

Niamah Thomas is an artist and art therapist located in Chicago. Thomas, when creating her portrait of Breonna Taylor (pictured above) wanted Taylor to be illustrated as soft but strong, using softer colors and floral imagery. Thomas writes, “Breonna was shot 8 times by police issuing a ‘no-knock’ warrant on her home. Then they called it a ‘clerical error’. NO. WE DEMAND JUSTICE”.

16.Teddy Phillips

Teddy Phillips is an artist based in Seattle. He has started a “Justice Series”, which are portraits featured Black men and women who were murdered. One of these portraits, titled “Manny is the Culture/Justice in his name” portrays Manuel Ellis who died while in the custody of four Tacoma police officers.

17.Ryan Adams

Ryan Adam is an artist located in Maine. His mural of George Floyd in Portland, Maine, is shown in the picture above. He writes, “However you choose to act, whether it be self-care, education, marching in the streets or expressing yourself through your work, please, please do something.”

Similarly to these artists, there are many ways to protest and challenge the structures that allow racism and police brutality to continue. Your responsibility isn’t absolved by reposts on Instagram. Educate yourself and actively challenge these injustices in whatever way you can.

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Race Inequality

It’s time that we unpack the racist history behind Greek life at American universities

In light of the recent Black Lives Matter movement, American college students have been voicing their experiences with racism at their universities, specifically with campus Greek life organizations. Such students are exposing sorority and fraternity members at their institutions for racist acts through Instagram accounts of the likes of @dearpwi.

Recently, a video was posted of a white Vanderbilt sorority member wearing a durag, laughing while a white fraternity member exclaimed racial slurs. Members of Vanderbilt ADPI mocked a Black member and stated that she didn’t belong in the sorority and it “wasn’t her place.” At Washington University in St. Louis, a white member of Chi Omega was accused of using racial slurs frequently and fetishizing Black men. Despite reports, the sorority did nothing to reprimand her. Additionally, sorority members at American University in Washington, D.C. outwardly tokenize their POC members. Alpha Sig, a fraternity at American University, has also been exposed for throwing civil war themed parties while chanting racial slurs. Fraternity members at California Polytechnical School were photographed wearing Blackface. 

These racist incidents are only snippets of the hundreds reported. Meanwhile, Greek life members are advocating for reform and for more discussions on diversity, claiming that these are isolated events unrelated to the structures of fraternities and sororities.

Students across different campuses are calling for the abolition of Greek Life. In 2019, student activists at Swarthmore College led a four-day sit-in in protest of Greek life after racist, homophobic, and sexist documents were leaked. Swarthmore then proceeded to formally ban all sororities and fraternities. This past month, students at American University created a petition asking for Greek life to be abolished on campus. On Instagram, students from Washington University in St. Louis, American University, and the University of Southern California, among other prominent schools are documenting their horrific experiences with sororities and fraternities on campus.

However, this is not new. Greek life has a long history of being racist and exclusive. Phi Beta Kappa, the first U.S. Greek-letter fraternity was founded at William & Mary University in 1776. As sororities and fraternities grew more popular and gained traction in the 1800s, they were then organized and further separated by sex, religion, and race. Soon these organizations began to largely reflect the demographics of their predominantly white campuses: wealthy white, Angolo-Saxon, and protestant men (WASPs). There was very little, if any, diversity among the organizations. Even as more Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) were admitted into educational institutions, historically white fraternities and sororities continued to exclude them. In fact, Greek letter organizations included racial bans in their constitutions well into the 1960s. 

Continued segregation in Greek life throughout the early 20th century inevitably became a social and professional detriment to students of color. College campuses provided special housing and buildings for Greek affiliated organizations, yet none for cultural organizations or multicultural fraternities and sororities. White sororities and fraternities led, and continue to lead to powerful alumni networks and career opportunities. Spots are even held in student government positions for certain all-white Greek life members at schools such as the University of Alabama — an institution that accepted it’s first Black sorority member in 2003.

In response to the segregation they faced, Black students began to create their own Greek organizations, against university pushback. Alpha Phi Alpha, the first historically Black fraternity, was founded in 1906 at Cornell University. Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first historically Black sorority, was founded in 1908 at Howard University, an HBCU dominated by men. Black fraternities and sororities served as a social and intellectual relief and safe haven for Black students – however, they still were not fully accepted by their universities. Black Greek organizations were still not granted campus buildings for meetings or housing. Not to mention that Black students, in general, were not permitted to run for certain student government positions, or play for athletics teams until the 1940s. 

Despite integration today, Black students remain hardly represented in Greek life. A research study shows that 95% of historically white fraternity and sorority members are white. Greek life members are more inclined to accept members who resemble their own experiences despite calls for action or progressive initiatives. They do not value diversity and seek to create an environment in which everyone is similar. If potential new members don’t “fit in,” or “aren’t cool,” they are denied membership, which further perpetuates whiteness and classism within Greek organizations. 

It’s time for Greek life to be dismantled at all universities. A system built upon racism can not possibly be reformed — it should be abolished. Historically white fraternities and sororities are fundamentally rooted in the segregationist values of white supremacy. Plus, the recently revealed racist actions of members demonstrate that not much within the Greek system has actually changed. Their racist behavior is encouraged by and stems directly from Greek life’s lack of diversity and long history of elitist exclusion.

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Unilever drops the Fair from “Fair and Lovely” but colorism doesn’t end there

Following the murder of George Floyd in late May, the world joined hands to stand against colorism under one banner – Black Lives Matter.

The movement not only opened doors for conversations surrounding the privilege that comes with an individual’s skin color in America, but it also sparked a worldwide debate as many people took this as an opportunity to speak up against the issues within their own countries regarding the discrimination they face due to their color.

This also garnered a global response from noteworthy people, including a fleet of South Asian celebrities. However, their endorsement was faced with much backlash from the public as many reminded some of the actors that since they had been ambassadors for skin whitening campaigns at some point in time, it makes their support for the BLM movement hypocritical.

Many defended themselves for their selective disapproval but the real culprits here were the brands who have been promoting skin whitening for years. This is why, in light of recent events, Unilever decided that it was time to drop the word “fair” from their infamous brand, Fair and Lovely, claiming that the company was “anti-racist”.

Unilever’s statement entailed that they celebrate the diversity of all skin types. Although the multinational company is now declaring its inclusivity of all skin tones in their portfolio, their current announcement still does not deviate from the fact that Fair and Lovely has been encouraging systemic racism for a long time by perpetuating the concept of all people being beautiful, but only if their color is white.

Most of Fair and Lovely’s advertisements follow the same idea of a young girl afraid to face society because of her dark skin. Just as she thinks that all hope is lost, a prettier fair-skinned woman comes to her rescue as she hands her a life-changing cream that will make the girl more socially acceptable.

As a community, South Asians have always been obsessed with the idea of being fair. But that ingrained fear that comes down from the colonial mindset of white trumping black is what brands that promote skin lightening feed off of.

Knowing that somewhere out there, a South Asian girl with olive skin is desperately trying every remedy to make herself fair is the very thing that brands with skin lightening products need to make money.

Although many people applauded Unilever’s statement, it received a lot of criticism as well. Poorna Bell, a writer and activist, saw the news as “hugely disappointing”. She went on to say that removing a word from a brand’s name does not compensate for the “untold mental and emotional damage done by colorism.”

However, many netizens also believed that Unilever’s decision was one small step in the right direction. But that does not mean that the mentality of color preference that has become inherent to the South Asian  culture is completely erased.

Even if one, or a few, brands label their products differently, it still won’t bring a remarkable change within communities when it comes to colorism unless every individual accepts that their dark skin is just as beautiful as any other color.

It will take a significant amount of time to eradicate this issue as a whole but skincare companies attempting to make some level of change is still noteworthy.