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Hugo, in the article accompanying his images, contends that forgiveness, in this context, is not merely a matter of the victims being supremely enlightened: it is a practical necessity. “These people can’t go anywhere else,” he observes.

“They have to make peace…Forgiveness is not born out of some airy-fairy sense of benevolence. It’s more out of a survival instinct.” The article then proceeds to feature the moving accounts of how these Rwandans managed to find hope amid horror.

Towards its close, there is a quote from Laurent Nsabimana, a perpetrator, who says of his victim – Beatrice Mukarwambari, whose house he raided and destroyed – that “her forgiveness proved to me that she is a person with a pure heart”. For her part, Mukarwambari is the model of grace. “If I am not stubborn,” she says, “life moves forward. When someone comes close to you without hatred, although horrible things happened, you welcome him and grant what he is looking for from you. Forgiveness equals mercy.” (My italics.)

Twenty years after the genocide, Rwandans are finding ways to reconciliation. But it’s too soon for the nations and institutions that failed to help to forgive themselves.

Giving thanks to Alek Wek: The importance of a supermodel.

I never tire of reading Alek Wek interviews. Her presence in the modelling world did wonders for my often down-trodden self-esteem whilst growing up. It still does.

Wek, often the sole black face amidst a sea of the many white visages I’d see in the pages of the fashion magazines I became obsessed with was always greatly outnumbered. Few other black faces accompanied her on the runway and in print. Similarly, I constantly found myself in social settings comprised of the same demographics.

Before high school, most of the schools I attended were majority white. At one particular school, I was the only black student in my year for an entire semester, and the only black girl between grades 4 and 8 for that same period of time. You can imagine what this sort of alienation did for myself esteem being in my highly impressionable and formative pre-teen and teenage years. To my non-white friends with flowing hair and skin that was either much paler than mine or at least a ‘nice kind of brown’, I represented all that was undesired in the world of beauty. I was not white, I was not mixed or exotic by any means. I was black, another synonym for plain. My skin? Too dark. My hair? Too stiff when natural. Relaxed? Not even close to what they had. And so the list went on.

Oddly enough, you’d think I’d be somewhat relieved to see someone like Alek Wek receive the kind of seemingly positive attention she did from the fashion world. Au contraire, mon frere - at least at first. At the time, I couldn’t understand why they’d chosen her. She seemed to represent all the things that seemed wrong with blackness in the eyes of my non-black peers. Her skin? Much too dark. Her hair? Much too stiff (if she weren’t bald). And so the list went on. How, in any way, could I look to this woman as a source of inspiration when nothing about her seemed to comfortably fit the standards of beauty defined, and often confined by, whiteness? After all, these standards plagued not just my personal life, but that of the world I lived in. Why had fashion chosen her, or at least someone that looked the way she did? Was Wek chosen because she represented an anomaly in the world of beauty? Or because despite all the notions of beauty that seemed to stand against her, she defiantly refused to accept them and in doing so, redefined how we see and construct beauty and what we consider beautiful?

Being of Dinka descent, Wek stood out physically not only from the white models that overpopulated the fashion industry, but also from the small number of black models the West had heralded both before her and during her time. Her looks seemed to make a statement, whether she liked it or not, in a world that, rather oddly, both embraced and rejected her at the same time. Where she was hired by top Haute Couture designers and graced the covers of numerous high fashion magazines, she was often a token in the fashion world and seen as exotic by the very people that claimed to celebrate her beauty.

In all of this, I found it extremely difficult to interpret, at the time, that Alek Wek’s presence was important primarily because she was there. Not that there hadn’t been black models before her, but her particular beauty had never been celebrated in such a manner before. Whether or not the world approved of her beauty was something that didn’t matter to Alek Wek. She was visible - highly so, and she was not going anywhere. Whether I was aware of it or not, Alek Wek’s visibility was important for the reasons that made me reject not only her but myself during that time. Alek Wek was important because her presence assured people like myself that we deserved all the things we were made to believe we were not worthy of, and needed no one’s permission as proof.

This recent Guardian interview of Alek Wek highlights so much of why Alek Wek is truly one of the most important women in the world of fashion - ever. Here’s an except that demonstrates why she’s so incredibly important and inspirational.

Wek was born in South Sudan, arriving in London when she was 14, and was acutely aware of how different she was from the other big models of the day, women such as Kate Moss, Claudia Schiffer and Eva Herzigova; while growing up, she had no knowledge of trailblazers such as Iman and Grace Jones.

“There was no concept of fashion and catwalk shows where I came from,” Wek says. “There were no magazines. I never saw women in makeup, or with different hairstyles. Absolutely not.” Now, she says, there are so many South Sudanese girls working as models it is not a big deal; in the late 1990s, she was one of very few successful African models. “There were black models, but no one as dark-skinned, and none with Dinka features, that’s for sure.” Even so, she was regularly mistaken for Naomi Campbell, an entirely different-looking model from Streatham with a Jamaican-born mother. She laughs at the ridiculousness: “A black woman is not ‘a type’. I never had any interest in those jobs that asked for only black girls. What the hell is that? Would you be comfortable saying you wanted only white girls, or Latin? Are you kidding me? It’s baffling.”

At a time when black models were considered commercially more viable if their hair was relaxed, their complexions light, Wek (very dark skin, cropped natural hair) was confident of her value. I have interviewed many models and, without fail, when asked if they always knew they were beautiful, each of them has given me a look of mock horror before going on to list their unsightly features as a child: big feet, too tall, gawky features. But when I ask Wek, she immediately replies, “Oh yes, of course.”

(Read more of the original article ‘Alek Wek: ‘You don’t have to go with the Crowd’)

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All Africa, All the time.

What a way to begin an acceptance speech. Lupita has made sure that we never forget the sufferings of Patsey and Solomon, and thus the millions of enslaved Africans who were dehumanized in one of the greatest crimes against humanity in the history of the world.

Unspeakable crimes that have gone largely unpunished. How can people scream ‘post-racialism’, ‘non-racialism’ and other ignorant statements when justice, if true justice can ever be attained for such acts, is yet to be achieved?

Didn’t mean to derail from Lupita’s acceptance speech but as important as her win is, so to is the vessel that brought her there - the story of Solomon Northup.

EBONY interviews Dencia as she speaks candidly about ‘Whitenicious’ and the culture of skin bleaching and lightening.

Meant to post this ages ago, perhaps some of you have seen it already. A few weeks back, during the height of the Dencia ‘Whitenicious’ online controversy, EBONY decided to get her side of the story and Dr Yaba Blay conducted a one-on-one interview with the Cameroonian artist. 

In it, Dencia talks about how her biggest market so far are African-Americans, followed by Euorpeans (and not Africans as most don’t have the resources to purchase her products), that celebrities like Beyonce, Rihanna and Nicki Minaj all lighten their skin but won’t openly admit it, that she’s never really been very dark skinned, the reasons why she got into this business, how she’s using the money she’s making (and she’s making a lot of it) from Whitenicious to build an orphanage in Cameroon, and that the real reason she decided to become lighter was simply due to her daring personality. She also believes that there are no negative effects to skin bleaching (at least on the level of skin cancer), or as far as Whitenicious is concerned. Man, that product name is just awful. Oh, yeah, she explains how that came about too (major eyeroll).

In short: she’s in it for the money.

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All Africa, All the time.

Would Nyong’o be on Hollywood’s radar at all if not for her discovery by Steve McQueen, an Afro-British director of Trinidadian and Grenadian descent? To be more blunt: Would an American director have felt comfortable casting a woman of Nyong’o’s hue as the leading lady of a major Hollywood film? A quick look back at film history and a discussion with an expert on skin color in American culture indicates that this is unlikely.

For starters, there has never been a black actress of Nyong’o’s ebony skin tone to ascend to Hollywood A-list status. And among those black actresses who have succeeded in Hollywood with deeper skin tones, like Grace Jones, they have not been positioned as leading ladies or, more specifically, objects of affection. Those roles have been concentrated among fairer actresses and those with more traditionally Eurocentric features, including Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll, Pam Grier, Shari Belafonte, Rae Dawn Chong, Cynda Williams, Halle Berry, Rosario Dawson, Thandie Newton, Zoe Saldana, Rashida Jones and Paula Patton—a number of whom also identify as biracial or multiracial. On the small screen, at least, Gabrielle Union and Kerry Washington have enjoyed recent breakthroughs, but while neither woman is fair-skinned, they might not always be described as dark, either.


Had an American been at the helm of 12 Years a Slave, it seems unlikely that Nyong’o or someone who looks like her would have been cast.

Writer Keli Goff at The Root states, “If Afro-Brit Steve McQueen hadn’t made the Oscar-nominated film, a lighter-skinned actress might have been cast in the role of Patsey.”

Read more from her op-ed titeld “Why an African-American Director Wouldn’t Have Cast Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave.

Weighing In: Racism, Balmain  and the case of Ajak Deng.

For the time being, we’re (or at least I am) not exactly sure what went down yesterday but South Sudanese top model AJAK DENG went off on twitter a few hours ago, accusing fashion label Balmain of being racist for them allegedly deeming her “too black” for their runway in one way or another.

Though she’s deleted her twitter account, it looks like her tweets were fed to her facebook page which is still up. Additionally, a few people were quick enough in screengrabbing her heated tweets for those of us who weren’t awake to see her full twitter tirade.

Whatever the case, whether you want to believe Ajak or not, one thing anyone cannot deny is the fashion’s industry’s racism and their often slick way of dealing with the casting of black models. One or three tokens, black models that look a particular way, or better yet, making all the models black because it’s so ‘fashion forward’ (pun intended). Citing the fact that Balmain opened up with Jourdan Dunn is also step in that direction. It completely negates Deng’s experience. Perhaps I’m naive but, aside from the fact that the fashion industry is racist, I highly doubt a top model like Deng would ‘risk’ her career by going out against a huge label like Balmain. Whether I’m wrong about this doesn’t matter to me. As a black woman who’s is also dark skinned and African, I’d rather give her the benefit of the doubt in this situation - especially knowing that even when not much is said and done, through our very existence as black people we are incredibly well fine tuned to understand when we are victims of racism, even when we can’t exactly ‘prove’ it. When racism is so embedded in a system, when it’s part of a culture, those who have the upper-hand are often blind to, or do not question, their participation in these structures. For starters, just google ‘Balmain’ and let me know when you see a dark-skinned model with a bald head and features that resemble Ajak Deng’s walking their runway.

Now I’m not trying to say that women like Jourdan Dunn, Joan Smalls, Senait Gidey or Riley Montana (they all walked for Balmain’s Fall 2014 RTW collection, Dunn opened) aren’t black, but rather that there’s often a certain kind of acceptable blackness that matter in situations such as these where everything from skin tone, to hair and even one’s facial features are all evaluated on a scale of beauty in accordance to white standards.  

I’ve always maintained that the Alek Wek looks might often be more of a case of exotification than a sincere approach , as their kind of blackness stands in such stark contrast to white supremacist standards of beauty that they don’t pose a threat to these racist values. Something promoted through German photographer Leni Riefenstahl’s ‘The Last of the Nuba’ book.

Regardless of the true intentions of the fashion industry, I’m incredibly happy that models like Ajak Deng, Ataui Deng, Nykhor Paul and Grace Bol get as much as work as they do. Their presence goes a heck of a long way in the case for why representation matters, and in scenarios like this, thanks to social media, we’re able to understand that the age old rhetoric of ‘at least there’s a black person in x’ doesn’t mean that racism is no longer present. 

I only wonder what black models of previous decades would’ve tweeted had they had twitter at their disposal.

(tweet sources: 1; 2; 3)

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All Africa, All the time.

I was born in the United Kingdom and lived there with my family until we moved to Nigeria, where I was raised through high school. Just after I graduated, we moved to the United States, and I’ve since lived in Kentucky and Washington, D.C., and become a U.S. citizen. I would like to claim semicitizenship in each of these places—Nigeria, the U.K. and the U.S.—because I feel as if I’m a sum of each of those experiences. But I can’t say I don’t find myself worrying, does it mean that I’m confused or, worse, trying to “pass,” or rejecting a part of myself?

- Omonigho Ufomata

In this highly globalized world where we are exposed to more cultures than ever before, the freedom to self-identify is both more liberating and more complex that perhaps it was in the past. Whilst to many, this may present itself as a liberating path of self-discovery, those of us who are uprooted and thrust from one environment to another often find ourselves in a no man’s land between two or several cultures we feel an allegiance towards, battling with questions of authenticity and belonging. 

Personally, I have and continue to struggle with what British-Nigerian-American writer Omonigho Ufomata calls “multicultural-identity conflicts”. Due constant travel and moving from one country to another, I’ve found myself both consciously and subconsciously picking up bits and pieces of several cultures, all of which I identify with on various levels. So whilst I am not Kenyan, French, English, South African or American by blood or by birth, with my life being scattered in these countries and a few others, simply stating that I’m Nigerian doesn’t quite cover it. Then again, to say that I am anything but Nigerian sounds like a betrayal, even when many tell me that the dilution that cultural exposure has had on my ‘Nigerianness’ doesn’t quite make me truly Nigerian (something I will readily argue to the death of me). 

What is truly a shame is when people (as seen in the comments below her op-ed) dismiss or derail the conversation to say that such complexities are simply ‘made up’ or that someone who has an ethnicity should be glad that they can single out all the pieces of their identity to the most minute detail and denominator. Aside from hijacking the greater issue at hand and making it about something of which it is not, such remarks make the individual at hand guilty for an oppressive hand in history they (and quite possibly their ancestors) had no part or agency in determining. 

Perhaps some people may not be able to see the complexity in this form of self-identification, especially as it’s something that monoracial black people (Africans especially) don’t seem to be afforded (complex identities - we can be multi-ethnic/cultural too) but as a globetrotting young African, I can’t help but relate to the struggles and frustrations highlighted by Ufomata.

Read her full piece on The Root.

In secondary school, some boys in his class tried to throw Sochukwuma off a second floor balcony. They were strapping teenagers who had learned to notice, and fear, difference. They had a name for him. Homo. They mocked him because his hips swayed when he walked and his hands fluttered when he spoke. He brushed away their taunts, silently, sometimes grinning an uncomfortable grin. He must have wished that he could be what they wanted him to be. I imagine now how helplessly lonely he must have felt. The boys often asked, “Why can’t he just be like everyone else?”

Possible answers to that question include ‘because he is abnormal,’ ‘because he is a sinner, ‘because he chose the lifestyle.’ But the truest answer is ‘We don’t know.’ There is humility and humanity in accepting that there are things we simply don’t know. At the age of 8, Sochukwuma was obviously different. It was not about sex, because it could not possibly have been – his hormones were of course not yet fully formed – but it was an awareness of himself, and other children’s awareness of him, as different. He could not have ‘chosen the lifestyle’ because he was too young to do so. And why would he – or anybody – choose to be homosexual in a world that makes life so difficult for homosexuals?

The new law that criminalizes homosexuality is popular among Nigerians. But it shows a failure of our democracy, because the mark of a true democracy is not in the rule of its majority but in the protection of its minority – otherwise mob justice would be considered democratic. The law is also unconstitutional, ambiguous, and a strange priority in a country with so many real problems. Above all else, however, it is unjust. Even if this was not a country of abysmal electricity supply where university graduates are barely literate and people die of easily-treatable causes and Boko Haram commits casual mass murders, this law would still be unjust. We cannot be a just society unless we are able to accommodate benign difference, accept benign difference, live and let live. We may not understand homosexuality, we may find it personally abhorrent but our response cannot be to criminalize it.

Nigerian musician Seun Kuti speaks out on Nigeria’s anti-gay law.

I’m writing to condemn the recent anti-gay bill signed into law by our President Jonathan Goodluck. This law – which contains penalties of up to 14 years in prison for anyone in a same-sex marriage or civil union, 10 years for anyone who attends a same-sex wedding, 10 years for anyone involved with an LGBT organization, and even 10 years for anyone who shows affection for someone of the same sex – should be cast out. Since the law was passed, police across Nigeria have begun arresting and torturing dozens of our fellow citizens suspected of being gay. Don’t forget that in some of our states, if you are found guilty of being gay, you could be stoned to death.

First of all, this law was unnecessary. There is not space in the existing constitution for gay marriage. Our constitution is very definitive of marriage as a union between man and woman. I see the signing in of this law for what it was: a cheap shot by an under-achieving government to discriminate against people because they are different.

The president of Nigeria has a PhD, so he should understand better than most the implications of the law. Even if he couldn’t stop the senate from passing the bill, he had the power to delay signing it as a way of protecting the gay community. The President has had the Petroleum Industry Bill in front of him for years, and he and our senators have stalled on the bill calling for harsher punishment for corruption. Meanwhile, Nigeria’s senate has just sanctioned pedophilia in our constitution (girls that are as young as 9 years old can continue to be married in if they are “physically developed enough” according to their parents or prospective husbands) – so this the ban on homosexuality can hardly be a so-called “moral” issue. This is simply a move for cheap political points. Meanwhile, people’s lives hang in the balance.

Today I am writing this not as a fight for “gay rights”, I am fighting for all rights. People should be allowed to express themselves freely and this includes their sexuality. I believe all gay people should come out and organize openly. I expect that society should allow them live their lives as they please.

It’s not a cultural thing – it’s a sexual thing. I have even heard people say it’s Western culture imposed on us and if the West doesn’t recognize polygamy we should not accept homosexuality. This is the kind of scary ignorance that this kind of law will foster. (I can say for a fact that the constitution of Nigeria does not recognize polygamy. We have customary laws that are non-binding, but our secular courts and national constitution does not allow polygamy even though it’s “our culture.”)

I believe in education as the answer to any problem and I know this law does not educate positively. It just criminalizes and institutionalizes hate towards the gay community.

Here’s a call to action: I believe the gay community should come out! They need to put love above fear. I also believe that gay people in Africa not just Nigeria who are being targeted like this should put pressure on the West by claiming asylum in their countries. I think we are about to see a new wave of sexual refugees!

Love over fear should be the way forward.

-Seun Kuti

(via okayafrica)

If you want to know what’s going on concerning the latest news headlines of the racism against Africans happening in India, this op-ed from the NYTimes will put a lot of it into perspective.

NEW DELHI — The Africans — Nigerians, Ghanaians, Ugandans — began leaving my neighborhood in New Delhi around December. Each week, more and more families exited. Some went to parts of Delhi considered more accepting of Africans; others to areas where the residents were thought to be less interfering in general. I have heard that some of the Ghanaian families had gone back to Africa, but I don’t know that for sure.

For years, they had been a part of the swirl of cultures, languages and races that makes up this part of the capital. The Nigerian women in their bright dresses out for evening strolls and the Cameroonian family with the curious-eyed baby at the ice-cream van had made a life for themselves alongside the Afghans, Tamils and Iranians.

On Oct. 31, about a month before the departures started, a Nigerian national, rumored to have been in the drug trade, was found dead in Goa. Nigerians in the coastal state protested his murder as an act of racism, while posters read: “We want peace in Goa. Say no to Nigerians. Say no to drugs.” One state minister threatened to throw out Nigerians living illegally. Another equated them with a cancer. He later apologized, adding that he hadn’t imagined there would be a “problem” with his statement.

The controversy has reverberated across the country, including in Delhi, 1,200 miles away, where the tolerance of African neighbors has turned into suspicion and even hostility.

One night, a police constable rang my doorbell. “Have you seen any man from the Congo entering and leaving the building?” he asked. “African man,” he clarified. He said he had received a report that a local resident was friendly with Africans, and he wanted to know, was this true? The question surprised me; neighborhood battles here are waged over water and parking spaces, not over ethnicity. Now neighbors had become nervous of neighbors.

Once the African communities had been singled out, complaints against them bubbled up like filthy water, in Jangpura, in Khirki Extension, in the alleyways off Paharganj, anywhere in Delhi they lived.

The fragile hospitality gave way to a familiar litany of intolerance: They were too loud, exuberant and dirty; the women were loose, the men looked you directly in the eye, they were drug takers and traffickers, and worse.

Residents of Khirki Extension, whose rambling lanes had seen an influx of artists, journalists and migrants, conducted their own investigation of their African neighbors, which they called the “black beauty” sting.

Coinciding with the city’s darkening mood, the newly elected Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi started a wave of cleanups as part of its mission to control “lawlessness.” The city’s law minister, Somnath Bharti, led a raid into Khirki Extension, claiming to be acting on residents’ complaints that Nigerians and Ugandans were involved in prostitution and drug trafficking. Media reports suggest that on the night of Jan. 15, he entered Africans’ homes with a group of vigilantes, without a warrant. In the fracas, a Ugandan woman was allegedly forced to give a urine sample, on the street, in the middle of the crowd. After she filed a complaint, Delhi’s court ordered the Police Department to pursue her case against Mr. Bharti.

These recent events have awakened dormant prejudices against Africans in India, aggravated by our tendency to prize fair skin over dark. “Habshi,” derived from the word “Abyssinian,” has become a common epithet for people of African descent.

So, on one hand, the racist turn in Delhi and Goa is unsurprising. On the other hand, we have a long, and neglected, history of cross-migration with Africa. While Indians have been settling on that continent since at least the 15th century, African roots in India run even deeper. Africans were brought over in numbers around the 13th century as slaves, but also as generals, guards, merchants, bodyguards and craftsmen. Many never went back. Now tens of thousands are here to study, and others work as chefs and in the garment and textile businesses, among other industries.

Despite our close ties and the shared history of colonialism, Africa doesn’t figure on the Indian map of curiosity and desire. Our admiration of China’s economic prowess is commonplace and unabashed; we are obsessed with the West, in terms of education, ideals of beauty and economic might. But Africa is invisible. Racist views can be spouted without consequence. Africa simply doesn’t matter.

There will be few repercussions for the Aam Aadmi Party if it continues with blanket policies against Africans. The party won on the promise of change, yet here it is, proving that it shares the same blindness as other, older parties.

These days, the Afghans and Indians stroll in my neighborhood park, enjoying the winter breeze. The Ghanaian and Cameroonian families moved away when their landlords doubled the rent only for them; the young Nigerian women left after one police visit too many.

Delhi’s residents say that the city belongs to everybody, because it belongs to nobody. As Bangalore and Mumbai became insular possessions, with political parties often driving out anyone who was from elsewhere, the capital claimed that it had room for all kinds of migrants, expats and outsiders. If the Aam Aadmi Party continues the divisiveness that older parties have excelled at, we’ll soon find reasons to go after all the people who live differently from “us,” who don’t belong here, who should go back to the places they came from.

Nilanjana S. Roy is an essayist and critic, and author of the novel “The Wildings.”

After the death of a Nigerian national in the Indian state of Goa, new light is being shed on the discriminatory treatment of Africans throughout various parts of India. Whether disenchanted students, long-time residents or businesspeople, black Africans from mostly sub-Saharan countries like Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast say they are usually not welcome in certain parts of India where they are often treated as pariahs.

Read more at Al Jazeera.

Are you an African living, or have lived, in India? Do you know any Africans living in Goa or other parts of the country? If so, please share your first-hand experiences with Dynamic Africa!

UPDATE: Would still love to hear from anyone who fits the italicized description!

(via thisisnotindia)

While the editor of ELLE France has been making headlines this week for all the wrong reasons, or rather just one (hint: it’s racism!), it’s both interesting and refreshing to see France’s Minister of Justice, Christiane Taubira, on the cover of their November issue as the “Woman of the Year”.

Under that heading, Taubira, who’s been serving as a minister and as part of President Hollande’s cabinet since 2012, is quoted as saying, “I do not fear racism, sexism, or ignorance”. Rightly so as, like her Italian colleague Cecile Kyenge, Taubira has been the victim of on-going public racial taunts and attacks by mostly far right-wing French party Front National (FN). It seems European racism lacks much creativity as the FN went down that road of comparing Taubira to an ape (which similarly happened to Kyenge as well, and has happened to so many of us black people throughout history). Furthermore, due to Taubira’s support of gay marriage in France, she once again received racially-charged insults from gay marriage opponents.

But that doesn’t take the sting out of the insults, nor does it make it easier to deal with and confront. In fact, the Guyanese born politician has admitted to being hurt by these insults, in an interview with French paper Le Parisien.

Concerning the juxtaposition of the actions of ELLE France’s editor Jeanne Deroo and this here cover feature, guess it all really comes down to ‘good publicity’ and the seriously odd way in which people defend their bigotry by doing things which they believe to be evidence of anti- or non-racism..

Oh, France the ‘liberal’, you rarely disappoint.

The bottom line is R&B has always been pretty big and popular, especially among black folks. So what has to have changed is that white people either let go of something or embraced something.

And so the question for me is more like “What happened in business or the corporate world with white people?” I’m trying to figure out, what are the big things that made a difference? The fact that R&B is having this moment, that just means that there are a lot more white people at R&B shows now; a lot more people buying tickets and looking for that music to give them something.

And if we’re talking about what is it about R&B, I think that it is pretty visceral. It’s music that is situated in the club but is rooted in gospel. Gospel plus club music? That’s like a death stare. You can’t really fuck with that. If you hear a gospel run, something is wrong with you if you don’t have a reaction to that. If you don’t go “ooh” on some level. So I think that’s what some people have gotten real about. It’s like “OK, this is actually really, really amazing. I’m letting go.”

Before I think R&B was seen as basic or not advanced, not deep, you know? As someone who’s been singing this music since I was a kid in my bedroom, it was never about a trend for me. So I know who was embracing it at different times. And I can see what’s changed now. If you go to a Solange show, it’s one of the most diverse audiences. If you go to a Little Dragon show, it’s like this is actually really cool, wide-ranging audience. I’m trying not to think too much about it. I’ve been thinking about this just because I’m a nerd and an academic, but I don’t encourage other people to think too much about it because it doesn’t necessarily make sense [laughs]. I’m just like “Oh, now it’s here! OK, great! Awesome.”

Some pretty powerful commentary from Ethiopian-American singer Kelela answering a question posed by Billboard magazine correspondent Matt Fry on why she believes that the past few years has seen a rise in R&B musicians experimenting with electronic sounds - especially on the internet. 

Her commentary on the racial aspect to music - both from a historical and cultural perspective, as well as behind-the-scenes and on the commercial side of the industry, is incredibly important in understanding the intricate dynamics of popular music and how racial politics often plays a pivotal role in the transformation, appropriation and commercialization of cultural commodities.

(Side note: did you know Kelela went to American University in D.C. where she majored in international studies with a focus on development in Africa?)

Absolutely relevant to this month’s theme of travel on Dynamic Africa. Recommended to me by Voluptee.


I’m tired of seeing white people treating poor countries as if they were their very special emotional playground.

Racists travel to under developed countries under the guise of ‘appreciating their culture’ or ‘searching for themselves’ (whatever that means) or any other seemingly thoughtful premise.. They enjoy the ‘exotic’ foods, marvel at the ‘exotic’ landscapes, snap photos (without asking first) of those very ‘exotic’ natives.

They have profound revelations about how in the western world we have much more commodities than necessary, and how these poor rural simpletons are so happy with the little they own, cause they’re blissful savages, much less complex than the average white US citizen. 

Some of them even manage to say utterly disrespectful stuff (e.g.’oh look at these people living in the middle of nowhere’ (cameron diaz) or that ‘they defecate in the woods ‘hunched like animals’ (drew barrymore) and the worst part is, they don’t even seem to realize.

… Then they go back to their countries, with a serious white savior complex, and show all their relatives photos those wonderful, smiling exotic natives, just before complaining about illegal immigrants taking all their jobs.

(via dadgenes)