Friday, January 25, 2013

Internalized Racism IS PanAfrican!

One of the worst parts of Capitalist globalization in the 21st Century is that it carries deep white supremacist culture everywhere there are Human Beings. It is relentless and sophisticated to such an extent that, for example, Beyonce becomes a cultural ambassador for white supremacy and its consumer products of weaves, wigs, dyes and creams. For many, this article from Brazil is an eye opener into how deep racial inferiority has infected African People worldwide in the 21st Century. Yes, very damaging and negative things can be PanAfrican. Our struggle is to find organizing/educational/mobilizing ways to destroy those negative PanAfrican ideas and practices... wherever we BlackFolk are on Planet Earth!-- SEA

Black Women of Brazil is a photographic and informational blog featuring bios and interviews of a diverse array of Brazilian Women of African descent, as well as news and current events about Afro-Brazilians.
For contact, please e-mail us at: Follow us at

Negras brasileiras!!! Se você gostaria de apresentar-se em nosso blog, envie suas fotos, cidade de nascimento e qualquer informação que você gostaria de divulgar pra nosso endereço de e-mail.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Inspired by Beyoncé, actress Roberta Rodrigues straightens her hair and goes blonde; says guys are crazy about her new look

Afro Brazilian women
Actress Roberta Rodrigues who first became famous in her role as Berenice in the 2002 hit film Cidade de Deus (City of God) has decided to go against the grain in the Afro-Brazilian women's hair revolution. She straightened out her curly locks and added some blonde weave. As we have shown in a number of previous articles, the issue of hair and the infamous "good hair/bad hair" debate is huge amongst black Brazilian women, subjecting them to harassment on the job, disrespectful song lyrics and influencing low self-acceptance amongst children. But the open discussion is also leading many black women to embrace their natural hair in numbers that could be considered revolutionary in a country where straight hair is the standard of beauty. Due to these politics of hair, it seems that Roberta is getting some backlash over her new look.

Below are photos of her current look as well as over the years. With her new look, the Brazilian press was quick to slap the Beyonce label on her (as they've done with countless other black women in Brazil) calling her "A Beyoncé do Alemão" (The Beyoncé of Alemão, in reference to Complexo do Alemão, a group of 13 favelas (slums) in the north zone of Rio de Janeiro). Well, in reality, it was Roberta herself who said that the look was actually inspired by the American singer. Again the Beyonce thing. So what does this say about the world's top black entertainer if she's inspiring other black women to go blond, straight and weave? It's funny, around 40 years ago, black American women inspired a very successful black Brazilian actress to accept her natural hair. More on that later in this post...For now, here's the story on Roberta.

Roberta Rodrigues on her long, straight hair: "They're saying I abandoned my roots."

Despite some criticism, the actress is enjoying her new look: “I often say that there is a Roberta before and another after this hair.”

Roberta suffered criticism for straightening her hair

Straightening her hair for the first time, actress Roberta Rodrigues, who plays Maria Vanúbia on the novela Salve Jorge, is thrilled with the radical change in her visual, but confesses that she is hearing criticism about her new look. “There are people saying that I abandoned my roots. The origin has to do with one’s character and not the hair. I'm an actress, I have to change for the characters,” the actress said.

Despite some criticism, Roberta is finding everything wonderful. “I'm really enjoying it. It’s completely different from anything I've ever done. I often say that there is a Roberta before and another after this hair. I think people really notice blondes more. The hair really calls attention, it's very funny.”

Roberta doesn’t hide the fact that she loves kinky/curly hair, but says that it is easier to take care of it straight. “Having straight hair is much easier. I wake up, take a bath, run my hand through my hair and I'm ready. Kiny/curly hair requires more care. You have to wash it, put cream in it, dry it with a towel and then use a hair diffuser,” she says.

To achieve this long-haired look, the actress enlisted the help of a weave that requires some caution: “I have to moisturize it a lot and use a special brush. All of the blonde parts are weave. I didn’t dye my hair because it would break everything and I could end up going bald!”

Rodrigues says that the concept of beauty in Complexo do Alemão is inspired by Beyonce. “They like blonde, straight hair. It (Alemão) has Beyonce as reference and they create amazing looks,” she said. “I felt very different, I'm more successful. The guys go crazy, it's funny. I think that it's a fetish for men. I put two things together: black and blonde. Now I use red lipstick because it matches. I’m loving myself blond and straight (hair).”

In an interview from July, the actress revealed that she thought of herself as ugly as a child and was the only black girl in a school she went to. But with the support of her father she overcame this bout of low self-esteem. The radical change of hair styles is an about face for Roberta as in that same interview she said that using a diffuser was great for her natural hair saying, "I love it! It leaves my hair super beautiful." It seems that attention from the opposite sex and local beauty standards have a way of changing one's tune. 

On her latest character, Maria Vanúbia, Rodrigues says that she is abused and loves to appear and show off her body. “She always shows her body and speaks full of gesture. She's enough all by her self”, she says, noting that the approach of writer Gloria Perez to the favela (shantytown) is real. “We see in the text care, affection. They're scenes that don’t continue in the stereotype of the slum.”

Roberta as the "The Beyonce of the Alemão Complex"
So let's consider a few things here. Number one, just curious, what does it say when the world's top black female entertainer is inspiring women of African descent to go blond, straight and weave? The politics of black hair has also been debated in speaking of the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. Is this simply how it is or is it part of the sacrifice that women of African descent must make in order to reach the highest pinnacles of success? I won't get into that here because it's already been thoroughly debated. But I will say it's intriguing to say the least. The most visible persons of African descent in the world are African-Americans, but even they must deny (or would it be sacrifice?) a part of themselves that signals African ancestry in order to achieve mainstream acceptance. Consider this interesting and ironic story. 
Zezé Motta (left) is one of Brazil's most successful black actresses of the past four decades. In the 2005 book Muito Prazer by Rodrigo Murat (Fundação Padre Anchieta), Motta recounts travelling to the United States in 1969 with a theater group of director Augusto Boal. At the time she was accustomed to wearing a straight, Chanel wig. When she arrived in Harlem, she met a group of African-American militants who were shocked at the sight of her wearing this wig. It was at a time when Black Power and "Black is Beautiful" were the slogans of the day. Besides wearing the wig, Motta was also accustomed to using a hot comb to straighten her hair. It was after this encounter with black Americans who were fully committed in accepting and promoting the black aesthetic that Motta began to assume herself as a black woman. As Motta put it: "I went out in the streets of Harlem and I noticed that black Americans walked with their heads held high. I didn't have this subservient posture that I felt in Brazil and in myself. This trip had this importance (because) it made me see my country from the outside."

Thus, 43 years ago, African-Americans helped an Afro-Brazilian woman find her identity and pride in her African-oriented features. 43 years later, another African-American, Beyonce, is influencing some Afro-Brazilians to return to the era of the suppression of the African aesthetic. Is this the path to success? Should this even be considered true success when socially oppressed groups accept the aesthetics imposed upon them by the very system that they once fought against? Or is this, as Rodrigues and many other women will argue, simply a question of hair maintenance? Another deep question. Think about that one.

On another topic, Rodrigues says that scenes from the Salve Jorge novela don't continue with the stereotype of Brazil's primarily Afro-Brazilian favelas. In a long post from a few weeks ago about the highly anticipated Globo TV series, Subúrbia (which featured a 90% black cast), that ended up descending into well-known stereotypical depictions of Afro-Brazilians, one of the characters we discussed was Jéssica as portrayed by actress, Ana Pérola. Here is what we wrote in that post:

"Speaking of her character, Ana Pérola herself describes the Jéssica character as “vulgar”, “full of attitude”, a woman who “uses sensuality well” and a total “periguete”. In Brazilian slang, a “periguete” is defined as a “woman that goes to the dances to enjoy herself, dance, drink and get with various guys at the same time; she is vulgar in how she dresses, how she speaks, walks and acts." The type of woman known in African-American communities as a "hoochie". The character is also a throwback to the old Brazilian stereotype of the "crazy black woman", the "nega maluca." 

Rodrigues describes her character, Maria Vanúbia, as someone who "always shows her body and speaks full of gesture." In most of the reviews of the series, Maria is described as a "periguete" (see news clipping above). I don't know about you, but this sounds like a stereotype to me. And considering how black Brazilian women are portrayed in Brazil's most popular novelas, is another "periguete" (sexually promiscuous person) really a good look?

What's your take on Roberta's new look? Should women of African descent feel obligated to wear their hair in its natural state while other women have the freedom to experiment with various styles? How much does the standard of beauty of the opposite sex influence a woman's look? For black girls who continue to feel a certain self-rejection of their natural features, are people like singer Beyonce and actress Roberta Rodrigues sending a negative message about self-acceptance or are they good representatives of individual freedom of expression? Feel free to leave a comment. Below are a few more photos of Roberta, both from the current TV series and over the years. 

Roberta as the "periguete" Maria Vanúbia

In July interview with singer/actress Preta Gil

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Better Beware HipHop Video

Progressive HipHop from Circa95

Circa95 Folks Say:
Thank You to everyone that came thru to Pregones for our performance last week. We had artists like Chief 69, Luss, YC The Cynic and Rebel Diaz join us on stage. We even performed a new track that Rebel Diaz and Circa '95 recorded together. We also unveiled our latest music video. It was a wonderful evening.
A series of paintings by mixed media artist and hip-hop champion

JAN 9 - FEB 28, 2013

Line vs Color combines the simplicity of the line with expressive use of color to create order within chaos. The work strives to embody life's contradictions and humanity's relationship to those contradictions. It is also visually influenced by the indigenous Taino pictographs found throughout the Caribbean, traditional Japanese crest designs, New York City Graffiti art, revolutionary print making of the 1960's & 1970's, and the classic American children's book Harold and the Purple Crayon.
When painting Reph doesn’t usually like to plan many things in advance, he just lets it happen. His artistic process is as much about the act of painting as it is about the act of living while waiting for the right moment to arrive, with some works being created in a few hours and others over a series of months or years

For more info on REPH and his projects please visit:

Reph Opening
Born in the early 80's, on the island of Manhattan, REPH has been creating creative chaos wherever, whenever, and in whatever medium he chooses. From music production to painting, nothing is out of bounds and anything can happen when he is involved. His skills in the visual arts and music were developed through graff'n and cyphering on the block daily. That coupled with a passion for technology, history and social change is what led him to what he is doing today. He envisions this work as a reflection of the human experience through the eyes of the hip-hop generations. These days he can be found in the studio working with CIRCA95 and The Rhyme Factory.
Smart People Lie

EuroCentric Education Gets a Common Core Boost

Common Core Assessments: More Tests, But Not Much Better


Under No Child Left Behind, states set standards and developed assessments. NCLB’s failure to spur achievement or close achievement gaps led to unproven claims that national or “common” standards were the missing piece of the education puzzle. With millions in federal Race to the Top money and NCLB “waivers” as incentives, all but a few states have adopted the Common Core standards. Two multi-state consortia—the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)—won federal grants to develop tests to measure the new standards. These tests will be in full use in the 2014-15 school year. Since most states have joined a consortium, it is important to understand what the new exams will mean for our schoolchildren.

More grades will be tested, with more testing per grade. NCLB triggered an unprecedented testing explosion (Guisbond, et al., 2012). The Common Core will compound the problem. SBAC (2012) and PARCC (2012) will continue mandatory annual English/language arts (ELA) and math testing in grades 3-8. In high school, SBAC includes mandatory reading and math testing in 11th grade, while PARCC’s plan is for three years of testing in ELA and math. PARCC also requires high schoolers to take a speaking and listening test. For kindergarten through second grade, PARCC adds voluntary “formative” tests. Both consortia call for two required exams annually, and both encourage states to use consortium interim tests two to three times each year. Preschool testing will come from the U.S. Department of Education’s early childhood version of Race to the Top (U.S. DOE, 2012). As with NCLB, federal mandates create a market for interim tests to prep students for high-stakes exams.

Lured by federal funds, states agreed to buy “pigs in a poke.” The new tests do not yet exist except for a few carefully selected sample items, so it is not possible to judge their quality. Nevertheless, states are committing large sums of taxpayer money for the equivalent of “vaporware”—much hype, little substance. New drugs must be carefully tested before release lest they do more harm than good. Yet, these new measures are being pushed through with at most one year of trials. There’s no guarantee that they will function as advertised and many reasons to believe they will not.

The new exams are a mixed bag, only marginally better than current tests. The new tests will only assess a narrow slice of what students need to know and be able to do.  Mostly administered by computer, the proposed tests will remain largely multiple-choice. Some questions will require written responses, as many states already require, and there will be one performance task. The performance tasks may be well designed, and these items may better assess critical thinking, but many will be “beatable” through coaching. Most prototype items, however, look like current standardized tests (PARCC, 2012; SBAC, 2012). For example, some math questions are simple computation tasks buried in complex “word problems.” Measurement experts fear it will be extremely difficult to write thousands of higher quality items before 2014-15. Samples also suggest the exams may be more difficult than current state tests. But harder is not always better. It is also not clear what the “passing” scores will be or who will set them.

High-stakes misuses of test scores remain unchanged, extending the damaging effects of NCLB. Under Race to the Top and NCLB waiver rules, states must use exam results to evaluate both schools and teachers. As a result, the Common Core tests will still control, distort and corrupt the curriculum. Researchers and testing experts have shown the negative consequences of using student exam results to evaluate teachers (Baker, et al., 2009; FairTest, 2011). Under NCLB, control over teaching and learning largely passed from local districts to the federal government. Under the new tests, parents, communities and even states will lose even more power. In addition, many states and districts are likely to misuse the new tests as a high school graduation or grade promotion requirement. The negative consequences land most heavily on low-income students, those of color or with a disability, and English language learners (FairTest, 2012).

Companies with poor track records will design, administer and score Common Core exams. The same old firms, including Pearson, Educational Testing Service and CTB/McGraw-Hill, will produce the tests. These corporations have long histories of mistakes and incompetence. The multi-national conglomerate Pearson, for example, has been responsible for poor-quality items, scoring errors, computer system crashes and missed deadlines. Despite these failures, Pearson is sharing $23 million in contracts to design the first 18,000 items in the PARCC’s test bank (Gewertz, 2012).
You know, I'm really hatin' this Common Core Testin' stuff! I thought school was about learning- not filling in silly little squares all day!

Poor districts will have to cut instructional staff and other basic services to divert money to testing. The move to new standards and tests sets the stage for a huge transfer of resources from cash-strapped schools to testing companies (Samtani, 2012). Federal grants will cover initial test production, but funding for continued development and administration, including scoring, is uncertain. In addition, many schools lack the necessary computer infrastructure (Herbert, 2012). States and districts will have to invest in expensive new equipment, wiring and broadband. Costs will greatly exceed benefits. This money would be better spent on educational essentials such as teachers and books.

Enormous amounts of time will be wasted.  Too few computers are available in many schools. To accommodate all students, testing will have to go on for weeks. This will cause even more disruption as classes are put on hold to allow test-taking. Computer labs will be unavailable for teaching and learning. Test prep will remain a huge time-waster, likely eating up even more learning time than it now does.

America’s children, teachers, parents, communities and the nation deserve better. High-quality assessment can improve teaching and learning and provide useful information about schools. Examples of better assessments include well-designed formative assessments (FairTest, 2006), performance assessments that are part of the curriculum (New York Performance Standards Consortium), and portfolios or Learning Records (FairTest, 2007) of actual student work. Schools can be evaluated using multiple sources of evidence that includes limited, low-stakes testing, school quality reviews, and samples of ongoing student work (Neill, 2010).

Baker, E., et al. 2009. "Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers," Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper,
FairTest, 2006. “The Value of Formative Assessment.”
FairTest, 2007. “The Learning Record.”
FairTest. 2011. “Flawed Massachusetts Teacher Evaluation Proposal Risks Further Damage to Teaching and Learning.”
FairTest, 2012. “How Standardized Testing Damages Education.”
Gewertz, C. 2012. “Questions Dog Design of Tests,” Education Week.
Guisbond, L., Neill, M., and Schaeffer, R. 2012. NCLB’s Lost Decade for Educational Progress: What Can We Learn from this Policy Failure? (Boston: FairTest),
Herbert, M. July/August 2012. “Common Core Testing Online Without Constant Connectivity?” District Administration.
Neill, M. June 18, 2010. “A Better Way to Assess Students and Evaluate Schools,” Education Week.
New York Performance Standards Consortium.
Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Item and Task Prototypes. 2012.
Samtani, H. 2012. “Common Core Standards Boon to E-Learning Industry,” Schoolbook. The New York Times.
Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. A Summary of Core Components. 2012.
U.S. Department of Education. 2012. Race to the Top -- Early Learning Challenge.

Monday, January 21, 2013


Black Educational Excellence:  Cameron Clarke Receives Perfect SAT Score

With all the media coverage criticizing black men, it’s always great to hear of those making extraordinary accomplishments in their lives. One such achiever is Cameron Clarke, 18, of Fort Washington.

The senior at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, PA, received a perfect score on his SAT (2400). He is one of 360 students who received a perfect score this year out of 1.66 million test-takers, according to SAT officials.

The National Merit Scholarship semifinalist told this accomplishment is a result of hard work:

“I put in a lot of work. I took a prep class with some of my friends, and I did a lot of practice tests from a book. But that only prepares you so much. The difference between getting, like, a 2400 and a couple of points lower is just focus.”

Both focus and persistence can be credited for Clarke’s perfect score. He scored a 2190 the first time he took the SAT. Clarke then took the test a second time, believing he could score even higher. And that he did.

His next goal? Attending his dream college: Princeton. The academic superstar, who writes for his school paper, participates in a math club, tutors other students, and is a senator in his school’s student government, has a great shot.

Senior With Perfect SAT Score: 'I Try to Give Back'

Philadelphia teen Cameron Clarke, who achieved a perfect SAT score (Fox News)

Cameron Clarke, an African-American high school senior from Philadelphia, is being celebrated for getting a perfect score on the SAT exam, reports Fox News. His academic achievement is enormous, but we're equally impressed by what he said to local news station Fox 29 about his priorities, his real passion and the beyond-his-years value he places on the support of his community.
On when he found out:
"I woke up and checked my score on my cell phone and I didn't believe it at first, so I kept refreshing the page and after five to 10 times refreshing I woke my parents up. 'Mom, dad I got a perfect score!'"
On the worst moment during the exam:
"I realized with 5 minutes to spare that I made a mistake and I need to erase 35 bubbles and go back and write them in the right sections. So that was kind of the low point of the day for me." 
On why he doesn't spend all his time studying:
"Music is what takes up most of my time," Cameron says. He is the [principal] cellist of the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, and involved at school as the editor on the school newspaper, a writing advisor in the school's writing center, senator in the student government, is involved in the math club, and in multiple honor societies, Fox 29 reports.
Oh his college plans:
"My first choice is probably Princeton University, I applied early action."
On his time in high school: 

"I try to stay busy here as much as I can just because the community has given so much to me, and I try to give back in whatever ways I can."

Monday, January 07, 2013


Still Chained: Django, Tarantino and the Exploitation of Black History

by Ewuare X. Osayande-
I am not a fan of Quentin Tarantino or his movies. I find his treatment of race, gender and class issues trivial and demeaning, lacking any depth whatsoever.

He is a member of a generation of white men who were weaned on a version of Blackness that was served from the shelves of corporate America in the mid-70s. Let him tell it, it was in the theaters watching films like “Shaft” and “Superfly” that he discovered his desire to become a filmmaker.

Blaxploitation films were Hollywood’s answer to the Black Power and Black Arts movements of the late Sixties. In these films we witness the real aspirations of working class Black people at that time as evidenced by organizations such as The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense turned inside out, gutted of all political relevance. These films became the canvas for white men to project their guilt-ridden fantasies of racial retribution. They turned our self-defined expression into a fashion statement, a corporate-sponsored slogan propped up on the billboards that scoured the skylines of ghettos across the country. Tarantino’s fascination with Black culture is not based on actual experience or concern with Black people’s organized struggle for justice, self-determination and liberation. It is based on his coming-of-age white boy experience with commercialized Blackness as filtered through the lens of Hollywood’s B-rated white directors, producers and executives.

So when I walked into the theaters to watch “Django Unchained,” I wasn’t expecting much. What I was expecting was what I have come to expect from a Tarantino film – gratitutous violence intermingled with homoerotic overtones, the overt exploitation of women and a sadistic use of the n-word. The thing is that in doing a film that proposes to treat the issue of slavery in the United States, such images and usages would be required given the obscene and brutal reality that slavery was. So, again, I was expecting Tarantino to have a field day. The problem with Tarantino’s film lies not in that he made use of such images; the problem is in how he used them.

Tarantino’s film was not as violent as I thought it would be or could have been. In fact, he was restrained. Slavery in the United States was violence unmitigated and without restraint.  To define it otherwise, is to tell the most blatant of lies. Tarantino’s treatment of violence of slavery was timid in comparison to the daily reality faced by enslaved Africans. That said, the film failed to faithfully depict the Black men and women that lived under slavery. In “Django Unchained,” Black women are cast as mindless vixens and willing sexual liaisons to white men. Having a white master named “Big Daddy” (with all of its 70’s pimp nostalgia in tact) being called upon affectionately by enslaved women is a disservice to the memories of women like Harriet Jacobs, who resisted the sexual advances of her slave master for seven years by hiding away in the crawl space above a porch.

Although Tarantino does manage to portray Kerry Washington’s Broomhilda as having agency (she runs away twice in the film), she never manages to escape the typical patriarchal frame being cast as a mere object for the hero’s affection. Rather than escaping slavery on her own merit, she is made to be rescued by her prince on horseback … and Harriet Tubman rolls over in her grave.

In Tarantino’s homoerotic white patriarchal fantasy we witness what is rare in American cinema – a blockbuster film that portrays the Black man as “the hero that rescues the girl and kills everyone that dares to stand in his way.” The problem with this is that the depiction of Django is a parody of history. From the moment Django and Schultz step out of the saloon facing an entire town of angry white men with their guns aimed at their faces, I knew that what would come after this would render the rest of the film mere fantasy. And from that scene to the last, every interaction Django has with a white man is unrealistic and unfaithful to the history the story is set in.

No, this film is not history. Neither is it historical. Tarantino does what white men do. Rewrite history. The facts are irrelevant. For white filmmakers, truth is in the mind of the beholder. When it comes to the Black experience, they can do what they have done to Black people throughout American history – whatever they please.

For me, the greater crime in this regard goes to Spielberg and his film “Lincoln.” Spielberg promotes this film as being true to history, yet leaves out a critical player in that history. For him to make a film about Abraham Lincoln and the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and not include Frederick Douglass is be akin to someone making a film about Lyndon Johnson and the signing of the Voting Rights Act and leave out Dr. King. Incredible, right? Yet, that is exactly what Spielberg did.

I did find Tarantino’s treatment of white people interesting in this movie. He does a decent job of treating the dynamics of whiteness as played out in the plantation system – and in the process makes a statement on whiteness as it is played out today. He showcases white men who are enforcers of the plantation system. These white men do not own plantations, themselves. They merely work to enforce the plantation system. But that is not meant to diminish the power they wield over the lives of the enslaved.

Even mired in ignorance and illiteracy, they still command a clear authority above the very Africans who are more intelligent than they are – as evidenced by the character of Django. This dynamic is played out very well in the scene where one of Candie’s “Mandigoes” is captured after attempting escape. In it, we see a dialogue between Candie and one of his white overseers whose garbled words are not intelligible, whatsoever.

That scene was a telling indictment on the wage of whiteness that was paid out to buy the systemic complicity of impoverished whites who had more in common with enslaved Africans than the men and women who exploited them both. But that one scene and scenes like it were undermined by the comedic atmosphere that surrounded them throughout the film, enabling most viewers to just laugh it off and miss the message.

“Django Unchained” is a knock-off of Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 spaghetti western. According to Austin Fisher’s Radical Frontiers in the Spaghetti Western: Politics, Violence and Popular Italian Cinema, Sergio Corbucci’s films were revolutionary efforts to dramatize the brutality of the Italian state at a time when the working class were literally in the streets protesting policies they considered neo-fascist. Many of the directors of these films found inspiration from the writings of Che Guevera, Mao Tse-Tung, Leon Trotsky and Frantz Fanon! Imagine what kind of film Tarantino could have made had he injected “Django Unchained” with the philosophy of a Fanon. But that would have been too much work for Tarantino. He can’t seem to get past his juvenile obsession with gun-fire, bloodshed and gore to investigate the political messages that lie behind the bullets.

One of the most disturbing moments in the film was when Candie snorts “Why don’t they [the enslaved Africans] just rise up?” The rhetorical remark plays into the American white supremacist myth that Black people passively accepted slavery. No white slave owner conscious of the history of just his lifetime would make such an unchallenged statement in the late 1850′s.

He would surely know the story of Nat Turner. He would certainly have been told of the conspiracies of Denmark Vesey and Gabriel Prosser. And that is just the short-list. In placing such ahistoric commentary in the film, Tarantino does more than lie on the history of slavery, he trashes the legacies of true Black heroes.

In keeping with his desire to mash up Blaxploitation and Spaghetti Westerns, he messed over the memory of a people still chained by the legacy of slavery. In an interview on NPR he was asked what he thought about his film premiering soon after the Sandy Hook mass shooting. A more appropriate question in light of the film’s subject matter would be to consider how his film glorifies the gun violence that has too many young Black men  believing they can shoot their way out of the conflicts they encounter on the street. His film aggrandizes a violence that is not history but present day reality. A reality that has the Black community left grappling with the crippling effects of a startling statistic: there are as many Black people in the criminal justice system today as there were Black people enslaved in the late 1850′s.

Fact is, shooting one’s self out of slavery was a much riskier venture than the film proposes. The system knew and knows how to handle that. Black men and women had to be and were smarter than that. They came together and organized collectively. They had to outfox the fox. I am referring to men like Robert Smalls who stole a ship right under the noses of the Confederate army and liberated himself and a band of his fellows and their families. He would go on to become one of the first Black elected officials from the South to serve in the U.S. Congress.

Tarantino could have tried to make a film about any number of great Black men and women who beat slavery on their own terms. Thing is, making such a film would require having a real relationship with Black struggle. Tarantino is confused. He believes that dabbling in stereotypes is the equivalent to treating the Black experience. He doesn’t have a real relationship with Black people, our history, our culture, our reality. And he doesn’t want one. To paraphrase Frederick Douglass he wants Blackness without the struggle.

With “Django Unchained,” Tarantino is saying to Black people, “I know Hollywood won’t let y’all make a movie like this, so let me do it for you.” He is one of those whites who believe they can use their privilege for the benefit of the oppressed. But in the process, what real benefits are gained?

As the Black intelligentsia and artistic elite bemoan and debate the merits of this film, there is a greater concern here that is being missed – our  lack of control and influence in Hollywood. Yes, it is true – a Black person could not have gotten this film made in Hollywood. Even truer, a Black person cannot get any film green-lighted in Hollywood that attempts to tell the story of slavery in the Americas as it actually happened. Just ask famed actor Danny Glover who has been working for years to get a film made on the Haitian Revolution. In 2008 Glover, appearing at a press conference in Paris, stated that Hollywood financiers dismissed the film stating that it lacked white heroes. The racism of the industry remains as virulent as when the first Hollywood film “A Birth of a Nation” appeared in theaters across the country. The NAACP picketed that film in 1915.

This year, “Django Unchained” is up for four NAACP awards. Is this a sign of progress or of something else? Such valorization of Hollywood and films that Hollywood produces casts a long shadow over the incredible films that are being produced by independent Black filmmakers.

We lack a viable organization that would check Hollywood’s racism as well as highlight the considerable and valuable work being done by Black filmmakers not chained to the deep pockets of the likes of 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros. or Columbia. Sad fact is that Black actors in Hollywood, those that could bankroll such an organization or such an effort, are still chained to the executive offices of these corporations. Thus, we are left with great Black actors confined to roles that leave us engaged in a debate that does little to empower us, either economically or culturally.

Tarantino has stated that there are many great films that have yet to be made on the subject of slavery. I agree. “Django Unchained” is not one of them. Until we are able to pay our ten or twelve dollars to see Glover’s story of Toussaint L’Ouverture and the Haitian Revolution brought to the silver screen or any other film on slavery that has the gall to tell it like it was without apology and that captures the victorious spirit of our people’s struggle, I encourage you to search out Haile Gerima’s “Sankofa.” You will not be disappointed.

Ewuare X. Osayande ( is a poet, essayist and political activist. He is founder and director of POWER: People Organized Working to Eradicate Racism. Follow his work on Facebook: Ewuare Xola Osayande and Twitter: @EwuareXOsayande. His latest book is entitled Whose America?