On the steps of the city courthouse, a monument to equality and the rule of law, Baltimore residents have learned how dreams can be brutally deferred. There, the property of the city’s poor and working families has been, by order of the court, auctioned to the highest bidder. When examining the tensions that erupted in Baltimore in the last two weeks, the consequences of losing homes should not be minimized as a factor in the sense of outrage and injustice. Foreclosures in the wake of the subprime mortgage scandal of 2008 have been the end game in predatory lending schemes that plundered the single modest asset held by many black Baltimoreans: their homes. Read more here.
esse quam videri
Glimpse a preview of dynamics that will shape the 2016 election cycle in the contest over Loretta Lynch’s nomination as Attorney General. As the first African American woman slated to occupy that office, Lynch signals a degree to which race and gender no longer
determine access to political power in the United States. Even more noteworthy, Lynch has not been alone. Organized black women activists have turned out to lend her their voices and their influence. It is this force in American political culture – that of African American women – that will be aimed at debates about race, gender, and politics in 2016. And they will make a difference. More here
Nearly 90 years old, Black History Month now attracts critics who say that the observance is either an inadequate gesture or a throwback to another time. In this piece, I suggest that Black History Month continues to have relevance, especially as new technologies such as Wikipedia demand the reassertion of black history’s place. Read more here.
I’m collaborating with the William L. Clements Library on The Arabella Chapman Project. Chapman was a young African American woman who, in the 1880s and 1890s, assembled two photographic albums that are now archived at the Clements. The images are stunning; arresting in fact. In Arabella‘s albums we find vernacular curatorship on display, far from fairs, conventions, and published sources. Our work has been to understand the story Arabella tells about race, politics, family, and community. Thanks to Clayton Lewis at the Clements who blogged about the project here. We go live March 10th, so stay tuned!
Most Thursday evenings you can find me in front of my television immersed in the worlds that Shonda Rhimes has conjured up: Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder. Until recently I considered this to be at best leisure and time away from my work life concerns. That is until Mark Anthony Neal, Laurent Dubois, and the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke asked me to join a stellar panel of scholars/cultural critics to talk about #ShondaLand. I learned that my guilty pleasure was deeply connected to analyses of my work as a lawyer and a law professor, and I can’t recall another conference that was so serious and still so fun. You can watch the panels here. It’s the first symposium I’ve been a part of that has warranted a mention in Entertainment Weekly!
My writing on mixed-race identity is deeply autobiographical, inspired by the style of my teacher Patricia Williams. In this talk for the Michigan Law MLK Day celebration, I used my own life stories to open up reflections on how law produces ideas about mixed-race people, often promoting new versions of the “tragic mulatto.” Watch here.
Impolite Conversations is a fascinating collection of essay that captures a set of exchanges between journalist Cora Daniels and cultural anthropologist John L. Jackson, Jr. I make an appearance in Jackson’s chapter titled “All my best friends are light skinned women.” You’ll have to read the book to see how I fare. But check out my brief exchange with John about how I think about the question of skin color today here. This episode is part of their Impolite Conversations Web Series.
For the past three years, I’ve been working with The Celia Project, a research and writing collaboration between scholars of history, law, and literature. Our broad subject is the history of slavery and sexual violence and the case of Missouri v. Celia, a Slave is at the center of our inquiry. When C-SPAN’s American History TV asked if I would present a classroom lecture for broadcast, I proposed that they visit my African American women’s history course to record my lecture on Celia’s case. It was a first for the Lectures in History series, and my students were terrific!
Aboard Delta Airlines Flight 5213 bound from Durham to St. Louis, the past and present collided. Anticipating my destination, I tweeted, “On my way to #FergusonOctober, with Michael Stewart on my mind. For me, this story begins with his NYC killing by police in 1983. RIP.” Within moments, Mike Gianella from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, replied, “An extremely f#@cked up story that almost no one under the age of 40 remembers now.”
Read more here.
And thanks to L.D. Burnett at U.S. Intellectual History Blog for noticing this piece for her readers here, and to my alma mater, CUNY School of Law, for noticing it in its magazine Public Square here!
My essay from the Winter 2014 issue of the Michigan Quarterly Review finally became available via open access. This is my first effort at creative non-fiction; I enjoyed writing from a place in which history, memory, and the present collide. And thanks to The New Inquiry for including it on their October 26th “Sunday Reading” list.