The Long Hello

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From http://www.impactlab.net/2012/07/14/top-10-photos-of-the-week-237/

Hello dear readers, it has been a long time.

I could say life got in the way, which is well within our right to say, but truth be told we sorta lost our way here at LBP. What started as a question, turned into major thesis project, and blossomed into the beginnings of a social experiment. It over whelmed us, as did life, and instead of planting our feet in the sand and fighting the current, we fell into the abyss we drifted out to sea.

Now, over a year later, we’ve fought our way back to shore. Our voice has become strong and wants to be heard over the noise. A lot has happen in the past fifteen months, and we are ready to talk about it.

So, are you ready to continue the conversation?

Butt Naked for Justice

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James C. Lewis has taken photographs in the past that make a statement but none  quite like his new collection. The motivation behind Lewis’ Naked Black Justice isn’t hard to find if you are aware of the recent injustices against African-Americans, most notably the killing of Trayvon Martin.  Feeling powerless about injustice isn’t new to the black community but doing something to make people pay attention to these actions and that something not involving an outlandish news story is. No doubt, Lewis wanted to voice his feelings about the stereotypes blacks face in American daily but wanted to do so with his voice, his camera.

Taken from the Noire3000studios website, Lewis’ blog,

This photography campaign was designed to bring attention to the issues of racism, prejudice and overall ignorance that has been impressed upon Black Americans. This is no longer just a statement…it has become a MOVEMENT to get others to understand that the world would be such a better place if we could just ERASE THE HATE!! Nudity was implemented to demonstrate the RAW REALITY of these issues…so if it causes you to become uncomfortable while viewing this…GOOD…maybe it will challenge you and others to take a stand against these injustices.

Lewis has encouraged people to participate and list his Facebook page as the point of contact. He plans to later showcase the photographs in galleries across the nation but has yet to set a date. The photographs are striking, beautiful and make you want to look at them. Does looking at them really change the viewer’s mind about the subjects or the image that the everyday American has toward a black person? As beautiful and engaging as this campaign is, its power to make people think about how they view an entire culture may have fallen on already convinced ears. The people most likely to agree with Lewis or view the images in a gallery have already ask themselves the hard questions. My hope is his shock and awe approach does more to open people’s minds and their ears than it does to open their mouths and close their  minds.

Final Reflections

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How we came to this idea

The LoveBlack Project was formed by a group of graduate students as a direct response to the alarming amount of statistics pointing to the decline of the family structure within the African American community. This project focused on taking a look at how African Americans are portrayed in the media and how that portrayal impacts the relationships formed within the African American community. Viewed as a multiple phase investigation, our initial research has sought to examine specific perceptions concerning African American portrayals on television.

For years, the media has been scrutinized  for their representations of African Americans on television. Even though, the number of African American images on television has increased, the quality or content of these images has not. Throughout our research, it has constantly been  suggested that the mass media is an important source of information about African Americans and media portrayals that contribute to public perceptions of African Americans. LoveBlack Project researched numerous television programs ranging from Roots to Reed Between the Lines, and it can be argued that Black images on television may cause viewers to conceive, alter or even reinforce their beliefs and opinions about Black people. Historically,we have been depicted as comedic fools, lackluster servants, cold-blooded criminals and morally bankrupt individuals. When firsthand knowledge is not available, television images have a huge effect on viewers perceptions.

The groups of people we worked with

To gain a sense of how audiences felt about African Americans in media, LBP sought to talk with a group of people. There was not much time to waste, so we sat and brainstormed through multiple ideas. Video interviews could be conducted, we could build our own case study, or we could host several round tables with varying topics. It was important that we kept the integrity of LBP and did a thorough job hosting discussions, instead of just trying to put something out there. The overall topic of African Americans and how we can help ourselves, as well as others, is a very important social issue to the group. After sitting down and brainstorming with a group of our peers, we came to the conclusion to start with one round table that would be primarily recorded with audio, and include small components of video and pictures. This option would be the most effective and the quality of the discussion would enhance the overall project. The team of LBP has great and intensive goals for the project, but it is important to take things one step at a time and not rush or put too much pressure on one self to get things completed.

It finally came down to picking individuals and the topic for the first audio round table. There were, and still are, a great number of individuals who wanted to take part in this project from day one. Five individuals were chosen, two females and three males and plus the moderator. It was a good mix of individuals from various backgrounds and beliefs. To pick a topic, the African Americans in media subject was broken down into four parts, and we went from there. The topic was “The History of African Americans in Media and how that relates to You.” The discussion went very well. Everybody gathered around the table, and after a round of people introducing themselves, things went very deep. The moderator asked a varying degree of questions ranging from, what television shows did you watch when you were younger to how has a negative character portrayal on television affected you. Some of the participants could relate to and understand the characters and television shows brought up in our capstone. While others remarked how they were not allowed to watch certain shows and how they could not relate to certain people in the media. Reality television was a constant theme throughout the round table due to the fact that it has oversaturated the air waves. A feeling of honesty and realness was left on the table that evening. I believe the participants gave all they had to that discussion. At times it was hard to keep the conversation on track, due to recent developments in the media, so we knew that we would have to host another round table while there was still time.

Media project 2

The killing of Trayvon Martin, the racist tweets in regards to the Hunger Games, and the racist fan reactions to Issa Rae winning an award were the topics of our second audio round table. This time it consisted of the members of LBP. It was a great relief, for me, to talk out frustrations I had regarding the Martin case. I constantly wonder if this case would have gotten so much attention if it had not been brought to the light by social media. People on Facebook and Twitter and message boards played a huge role in this. When the media caught a hold of the story, headlines read how a white man shot a black boy. When you look over the whole situation now, it is obvious that the media did not know how to handle the story. Several contradicting and confusing reports came out day after day. The round table discussion revealed how, as a group of people, African Americans are tired of being profiled, made into villains, and killed without so much as a second thought.

Another prime example are the racial tweets regarding African Americans being cast in the Hunger Games and Issa Rae gaining national support for her online series, Awkward Black Girl. To some the racial tweets were a shock, but to others not so much. People who have problems with other individual’s skin color have always thought ignorantly, it is just now social media platforms give them an open outlet to say these things. During this discussion, we came to the conclusion that people may have the ability to say whatever they want to say, but they will have to face the consequences of those actions.

Future…who we want to work with and collaborate with

This semester we had the wonderful opportunity to meet a fellow EMAC student Lan, who created Project Redefine. She centered her work around recording the reactions of individuals and the various stereotypes ethnic groups face. LBP plans to partner with Lan on a future project. This could bring even more awareness to both subjects, and create a space in where issues and problems could be talked about without fear of judgement.

Since the day LBP was created, several groups and people have reached out to us stating how they would like to take part in what we are doing. LBP is not exclusively for African Americans, we want to reach out to all ethnic groups as well as cover issues that affect you.  Some of our future projects include looking into how African Americans are excelling, or not, in education areas; such as reading and STEM. If we do not take care to make sure our future generations can be successful and exceed in life, then what will happen? LBP plans to continue moving forward and turning over every rock to start conversations and solutions.

What I have taken away

As I look back over the whole project, I have learned that the African American representation in the media has not changed that much. When Good Times, The Jeffersons, and Roots first came out, it was a major accomplishment and success for that generation. These television shows may have been used to counter the shows Caucasians had, but African Americans were finally on the scene. Characters did start out as maids, cooks and garbageman due to the fact that this was common then, but African Americans have since evolved. The Cosby Show helped to predict and showcase future lawyers, doctors and children going to college. Good Times helped to show the struggle of two parents in the household, working to barely get by while raising three kids. These things and situations spoke to African Americans who were looking for their place in the world, and just wanted to know if anybody else could relate. And today, the struggle and stories are different but still the same. African Americans in the media are still shown as maids, cooks, blue collar workers, but also as criminals, crack heads, and constantly in jail. The point of this project was to research where we had been, where we are at now, and where we are going. Racial tension is constantly swirling around ethnic matters in the media. African Americans are not only looking for people who look like them and who they can relate to in a program, but also want deeper content. Once we stop calling and considering programs “black or white,” then progress will truly have been made.

New LBP Round Table – Race & Media

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After completing the first LBP Round Table discussion, we were so excited, we told everybody we knew to listen to the recording. It was only after taking a step back from the recording that we realized that for all the topics we covered, there were many more that we left out.  You see, almost immediately following the recording of the first round table, news of the Trayvon Martin case began to make national headlines. It was also during this time that a widespread racial backlash took place online when fans learned that not only did the Hunger Games film have black actors as key characters but also that the online series Awkward Black Girl won a Shorty award over more traditional shows. Thinking about how these topics each deserved their own round table, we set in motion what we hope will be one day be a weekly podcast.

Today, I’m posting the recording for the second LBP Round Table – Race & Media in which the members of the Love Black Project team talk about the slow media coverage of the killing of Trayvon Martin, those angry tweets about black people being in the Hunger Games and how dare Issa Rae (creator of Awkward Black Girlwin a Shorty award.

Download the audio: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

LBP Round Table: Black Image in the Media

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I would like to thank everyone who was a part of the very first Love Black Project round table discussion. The views and insights expressed in this recording are very interesting. I hope it gets people talking.

Also, this recording is around an hour so put it on and clean the house, re-organize your book shelve or enjoy a glass of your favorite beverage.

Download the audio: Part 1 | Part 2

A dystopian future free of racism

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I will freely admit to my love of The Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen is one of my favorite literary characters. One of my favorite parts of the book is that Susanna Collins had characters in the book who weren’t white. I know this sounds like a small thing but when someone white write a book, rarely do they include persons of color unless those people need to be of a different culture for a reason. I feel that Collins included people of color in her stories because they exist in the world, why wouldn’t they in this future she created?

When I heard about the books being made into movies I was ecstatic because I love movies just as much as I love books. I was excited to see the characters in the book come to life. Granted, I wouldn’t have cast Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, partially because I didn’t know who she was, now that I have seen the movie, she is, without a doubt,  Katniss Everdeen. After I saw the movie last week, I felt relief and a bit of pride. Most the movie looked the way I pictured it in my head. It felt good to be a Hunger Games fan. At least until this week.

When I heard about the fandom reaction to the persons of color who were cast in the movie, I was, lets say, a jumble of emotions. I was confused how these readers could have missed the explicit descriptions of the characters in the book. I was hurt that young people have these views in this century. I was irate that people dare be angry they cared about someone with skin a different color than theirs. I wanted to talk to each of those people, ask them why those characters had to be white and why did they think it was okay to think this way.

I say think because a lot of people voice the negativity they feel about other races to  their friends or people of their same race. Rarely will someone of the same race call out someone of the same race for making negative remarks about another culture or race. as uncomfortable as it would be, I feel this is a key action in unseating racism in someone’s mind and heart. Unless someone who is white holds accountable a white person when they say racist things, that white person will never think they are wrong. The same goes for every other culture on the planet.

Until we take a stand to change the way we think, racism will always be apart of our culture. I’m afraid that too often, we either agree with those negative remarks or feel it is not our place to say something which is completely untrue. We don’t stand up for racial inequality in private, why wouldn’t we in public?

Also, here is an interesting blog post on negative fandom reactions to black women. Be sure to get into some of the comments as the people who are replying are making some serious points.

Continuing Love Black Project

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LBP has been hard at work for you. We have had an abundant response to the trailer of the LBP and we thank you.

From previous blog post, we have done extensive research into past and present television programs and a couple of films. The ones that were chosen demonstrated several of the qualities we were looking for: they dealt with family issues, there was a constant sense of discovery individually and in a group and most importantly, many African-Americans could relate to what was on the screen.

For our most recent project, the members of LBP hosted a round table discussion. We took a look at how African-American’s are portrayed in the media and how that reflects onto relationships. A group of five people, three males and two females, where asked a variety of questions dealing with their history of television, how it impacted them and many more. As we like to say in LBP, we asked real questions and got honest answers.

Round-table discussion will be posted soon, stay on the look out!

Shameless Progress

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Do you know who Shanola Hampton is? I think you should because Shanola is an actress who isn’t beautiful. Not in the traditional sense of African-American beauty portrayed in the media. Hampton started acting ten years ago and decided that wearing her hair in dreadlocks instead of permed and straighten was who she really is and that shouldn’t have to change for her to be a great actress.

Traditional in mainstream television, the image of black women is not usually a positive one. Common tv tropes give black women one dimension, that of a sassy loud mouth who is over weight and has a hard time finding man. Here are more than a few examples. I know what your thinking, this is the twenty-first century, that doesn’t happen anymore. I wish that was true. More often than not, black women are ignored when it comes to character creation or development in television. This is why what Shanola Hampton has done is so important.

When she auditioned for the role she plays in SHAMELESS, it wasn’t written with a black woman in mind. Rarely does a person of color, let alone a woman, get cast in a role that doesn’t specifically call for a person of color. To have her not only get the role but be a dark-skinned women with natural hair is a pretty big deal. I don’t know if we are witnessing the beginning of a shift in the image of black women in the media but as least we can highlight the bright spots when they shine.

Action not more blame

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Darryl James wrote a blog post on Black Men in America in which he debunked ten myths believed about the African American community. For example, the myths that  there are more young black men in prison than in college and that black people abuse welfare. What is most sad about these myths is they are perpetuated among the African American community just as much as they are among other cultures in America.

I don’t like to assume a person holds a certain belief before I’ve met them but I am inclined to believe that most people I meet up hold these myths because they are not  interested in tearing down the walls of hate and fear that separate us.  When was the last time you researched stereotypes about another culture group in America to see if the way you think lines up with honest representation of that group? For example, have you researched to see how many Asian American have high grade point averages? Do you know for sure Asian Americans have a higher acuity for math and science? When was the last time you met or talked to someone of another culture group and didn’t try to bend their thinking to match yours?

It’s a lot easier to reenforce the walls that separate us than to tear them down. Tearing down means taking responsibility for the past and doing something about it. Taking responsibility isn’t the same thing as taking blame or admitting guilt. Blame and guilt only serve to make someone feel badly for theirs or another persons actions but this doesn’t mean these feelings will result in action. We need more people to take responsibility and be active in making a change, not more finger pointers and blame assigners.

Roots (1977 TV miniseries)

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The miniseries is based off a historical novel, Roots: The Saga of an American Family.  Kunta Kinte was born in Gambia, West Africa to Muslim parents. When Kunta is 15, he and a group of other teenager males take part in a ceremony where they “come into their manhood.” It is at this time they become official Mandinka warriors. Kunta is later captured outside of his village by another tribe and sold to slave traders and taken to America. He continuously tries to escape from his master until the last time when he gets his foot cut off. Kunta settles into his place and marries the cook and they bore a child, Kizzy. She is sold to another master and while there, she has a child by the plantation owner. Her son, Chicken George, grows up and leads his family to freedom. Over the six episodes the family lives through the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, slave uprisings and emancipation.

The entire saga spans across six generations and 100 years.  To start from the beginning, certain African tribes have a custom of taking those who they have conquered and turning them into slaves. Their form of slavery was not the same as when the white man came along and turned the Africans into cotton picking slaves.  Roots introduced the underlying issue of black people selling other black people. It was not officially talked about in the episodes but if attention is closely paid, this can be implied. When Kunta is chained and waiting to be transported, you will notice both black and white people walking around with whips. The series could have acknowledged this aspect more just so that it could be further understood.

The representation of slavery is a highly emotive experience. Historical contexts in movies and on TV have often shown to be important in the creation of public memory.  The program Roots was and still is one of the main sources of people’s perceptions and memories of the past and it introduced the brutality of enslavement. The show has since been recognized for its realism and candor. The miniseries struck a chord with national audiences that were connected to the African Diaspora and beyond.  Certain scenes and sequences and themes have been reused by films and other television shows, such as Amistad which was released in 1997. It is evident that Amistad drew heavily from the Roots television series; the scenes of rebellion on the slave ship are closely similar to Roots. This connection is used to draw the viewers into a similar area that they have seen and possibly now understands. Also, it helps those that were captive and put on the slave ship to win favor with the audience.

 One reason viewers are so accepting and in favor of the Africans can be related to the presumption of the realistic nature of history being portrayed as it was in Roots. The way that scenes from Roots have been recycled throughout TV and films shows the needs and desires of society at that moment in time.  Roots had a large impact on American society that not one person can deny, it was the story of how a man was taken from his original home, transported, had his name changed, beaten and maimed, started his own family and eventually gained freedom. This is a story not often told and even looked over by the Caucasians and African-Americans. If Alex Haley had not written about this, would we as African-Americans know how we made it to this American soil?

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