Freedom Lab Event Report on “Art Equals Politics: Vignettes of Culture, Decolonization, and Black and Brown Liberation”

By Huang Bihui (Honey)

Class of 2022

On the 20th of July 2020, the Freedom Lab invited the famous Afro Yaqui Music Collective—an award-winning group of Jazz musicians based in Pittsburgh, for a live music performance and a conversation. There were five artists present for the occasion: Ben Barson, Charlotte Hill O’Neal (also known as “Mama C”), Gizelxanath Rodriguez, Nejma Nefertiti, and Peggy Myo-Young Choy. They are experts in different fields of art, and it was a pleasure seeing and hearing about their work on liberation and fights against global injustices. Professor Jesse Olsavsky and Professor Selina Lai-Henderson, co-directors of the Freedom Lab, hosted this event. We had a diverse group of approximately 65 attendees scattered around different parts of the world to share the love and knowledge that the Afro Yaqui artists gave.

Before the event started, Mama C lit up a bundle of sage to prepare for the event. This was done so to honor our ancestors and those who fought hard for the future that we now have. Even though we could not smell it from our Zoom screens, we could see it. Just as how it might be hard to live through our ancestors’ lives vicariously, we can see and live through what they have sacrificed for us. Continue reading “Freedom Lab Event Report on “Art Equals Politics: Vignettes of Culture, Decolonization, and Black and Brown Liberation””

The Unended Korean War: 70 Years Exhibition – Presented by Third World Newsreel

Duke’s Asian American & Diaspora Studies (AADS) and Duke Kunshan’s Freedom Lab Present Transpacific Connections Collaboratory. TCC is a vertically-integrated transnational collaboration among faculty, graduate and undergraduate students at Duke, DKU, and beyond. Our goal is to build a platform to innovate methodologies and technologies to explore together divided and forgotten transpacific histories and their transcontinental legacies between Asia and the Americas as well as other regions such as Europe and Africa across the Pacific.

 Upcoming Event:

The Unended Korean War: 70 Years Exhibition – Presented by Third World Newsreel

by Roselly Torres

I’m writing to announce The Unended Korean War: 70 Years, part of Third World Newsreel’s Organizing and Filmmaking: Then and Nowseries of free virtual screenings followed by Zoom conversations with filmmakers and activists.

From July 24-31, TWN will present four films about the Korean War and its legacies on the organization’s Vimeo Channel:

Grandmother’s Flower, Jeong-hyun Mun, 2008, 89 min

“Combining substantial interviews with archival photos, Grandmother’s Flower offers invaluable insights into contemporary Korea’s struggle to move beyond the dark periods of Japanese colonial rule, the Korean War, and subsequent division of the country. Highly recommended.”

-Video Librarian Magazine Continue reading “The Unended Korean War: 70 Years Exhibition – Presented by Third World Newsreel”

Research Report: Emancipation, “New Man”, and Citizenship in Republican China

Congratulations to Professor Qian Zhu as well as DKU students Qingyi Yin and Xueyi Liu! Their collaborative research project, sponsored by the Freedom Lab, was recently awarded the Summer Research Scholars Grant. Below you will see a report composed by them describing their work. We look forward to the conference papers and publications that will arise from this new research!

Report by Qian Zhu, Qingyi Yin, and Xueyi Liu

As a part of DKU Freedom Lab projects, I am working with Qingyi Yin and Xueyi Liu, two DKU rising juniors in Global China Studies major-Chinese History track in the spring and the summer of 2020 on the two historical projects: New Life Movement and New Village Movement in Republican China (1900-1949). Initially funded by the Freedom Lab, in the spring when the face-to-face faculty-student research collaboration and physical accession to archives were restricted under the impact of the Covid-19, we switched to online. Qingyi and Xueyi started to familiarize the online archival databases and academic scholarship search engines and learned to use bibliography compiling tools. While the two movements discursively overlapped with each other on the conceptualization of freedom/emancipation, new man and citizenship, the new life and the new village were two nationwide governmental and social movements carried out by both the central government and the local advocates in the first half of the 20th century. We have been excited to locate, yet overwhelmed by, the large amount of archives housed in major Chinese online databases. While building two research databases in Duke Box (see the reports below), Qingyi and Xueyi have equipped with historical research skills of data collecting, data processing, and textual analysis.

In April, our project has been generously awarded with the DKU Summer Research Scholars (SRS) grant offered by the DKU undergraduate program. This fund has been supporting Qingyi to advance the archival research on the new life movement and Xueyi on the new village movement. In the following research reports, they have detailed their progress in compiling primary materials and second literature on the subjects. More importantly, in the past two and half months, they have generated interests on specific topics, which will eventually develop into potential signature work toward their major. Furthermore, the SRS allows us to advance the research to the next step in the summer. We will start the independent study on the scholarship of the two research subjects, the goal of which is to produce research conference papers and publications. Qingyi and Xueyi will present their research in the Humanities Center’s Annual Scholarship Conference in the fall. The revised papers will be submitted to Asian studies conferences and later to an undergraduate academic journal in the spring of 2021. I will include an amount of archives in my book manuscript and in a new research article manuscript, seeking for publication in the fall of 2020 and the summer of 2021. Continue reading “Research Report: Emancipation, “New Man”, and Citizenship in Republican China”

Art Equals Politics: Vignettes of Culture, Decolonization, and Black and Brown Liberation

Time:  Monday July 20th, 2020. 9PM-11PM China Time, 9AM-11AM US Time

Zoom ID: 344-318-9585

DESCRIPTION

The recent nationwide protests against the police killing of African American man George Floyd has brought again to the fore the urgent political question of America’s long history of racism. Such racism effects African Americans in Particular, but also Indigenous Nations, Latinos, and Asians and hinders the path to a peaceful, egalitarian, and decolonized world.

Helping us to explore such issues and others on a global scale through a series of musical performances, discussions, and reflections, are the Afro Yaqui Music Collective, an award-winning group of artists, who are also scholars and participants in movements for social justice.

THE AFRO YAQUI MUSIC COLLECTIVE

is an award-winning group of Pittsburgh-based Jazz musicians. Their style is rooted in an expansive vision of Jazz, mixing musical styles, languages, and instrumentation from American Jazz and Hip-Hop, as well as Chinese, Indigenous, Caribbean, and African traditions. Their music explicitly communicates themes of decolonization, and band members, young and old, have been active participants in movements, from the Black Power Movement (1960s) to the contemporary Movement for Black Lives. The Afro Yaqui Music Collective has won multiple awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP). They have performed globally at social movement spaces, such as at the US-Mexican border and the Mesopotamian Water Forum in Iraq, and have also performed at significant US venues as the Kennedy Center, the Lincoln Center, as well as the venerable Red Rooster in Harlem. The Collective is committed to education and innovative pedagogies, mixing musical and visual art along with history.

Meet the artists

Nejma Nefertiti is a Hip Hop artist, sound designer, streetwear architect, and creator of natural perfumes. Her revolutionary matriarchal legacy is to create awareness, inspiration, and social change throughout the entire world, for all oppressed peoples, through Hip Hop culture and art. In addition to Afro Yaqui Music Collective, she collaborates with artists from La Bruja, to Napoleon Da Legend, to several international artists.
Gizelxanath Rodriguez is a singer, cellist, urban farmer and activist at the intersection of Indigenous rights, ecosocialism and migrant justice. An award-winning soprano, in the past six years Rodriguez has been integrating her Indigenous advocacy and Yaqui ancestry into her musical work. In October of 2018, she helped produce a new work, Mirror Buttefly: Migrant Liberation Movement Suite, which included text in Yoeme-Yaqui and narrated a sacred butterfly currently facing extinction amongst the Yaqui people.
Charlotte Hill O’Neal aka Mama C is an internationally known writer/poet/visual artist, musician, performance artist, filmmaker of nearly three decades of experience. As an artist she is a practitioner of the Nyatiti, Obokano, Kamalen Ngoni, and frequently collaborates with Hip-Hop artists in Tanzania and across the world. She is a longtime community activist, former member of the Kansas City Chapter of the Black Panther Party, and Director of the United African Alliance Community Center (UAACC) based in Tanzania, and is also a Cultural Warrior and Egungun Priest. She was born in Kansas City, KS in 1951 and has lived in Africa with her husband Pete O’Neal since 1970.
Ben Barson is an ASCAP award-winning composer and protégé of the late baritone saxophonist and composer, Fred Ho. He has been unrelenting is his commitment to making music to overthrow colonialism, capitalism, and prepares us for climate change. His work has been called “utterly compelling” (I Care if You Listen), “fully orchestrated and magnificently realized” (Vermont Standard) and “pushing boundaries in a well-conceived way.” (Midwest Review).
Peggy Myo-Young Choy is a dancer, choreographer, and founder of The Ki Project, Inc., supporting creative thinking and intercultural performance for future generations. A master of Korean and Javanese dance forms, certified in Chinese Dayan Qigong, and creator of Ki-Flow™ dance technique, Choy is Associate Professor of Dance & Asian American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she teaches Asian American Movement and Afro-Asian Improv: From Hip-Hop to Martial Arts Fusion.
Peggy Choy Dance forges a fresh Afro-Asian dance fusion that gives voice to women’s stories, and calls for environmental and social justice through revolutionary transformation. Choy’s New York premieres include “Seung Hwa: Rape/Race/Rage/Revolution”, “THE GREATEST! Hip Dance Homage to Muhammad Ali”, “THIRST” and “FLIGHT”.
Website: www.peggychoy.com
Facebook: Peggy Choy Dance
Photo by JP Yim

This event is co-sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Division, the Freedom Lab, and the Office of Undergraduate Studies.

Race and Racism in America: A Reading List

Compiled by Selina Lai Henderson, Denise Simpson, and Jesse Olsavsky

The current protests against police violence in the US have brought to the forefront questions about the history of race and racism in America.  But these protests are not new, nor are the questions they pose. From the days of slavery, to those of segregation, to the current era of highly racialized policing, militarization, and mass-incarceration, scholars, activists, and ordinary citizens, largely people of color, have long been protesting racism and writing about it. This “syllabus” is a list of essential works of literature and history, both classic and new, that will inform you of the long, dark histories of racism in America, the struggles to overturn it, and the causes of the current conflagrations over racism and policing shaking American society and politics. 

TOP RECOMMENDATIONS

Keanga-Yamahtta Taylor, From #Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation (2016).

The Black Lives Matter Movement did not begin in 2020, but in fact began 5 years earlier after police murdered Michael Brown in Ferguson, near St. Louis, Missouri. Nationwide protests erupted in 2015. The protests occurred, paradoxically, at a time when Americans had reelected an African American (Barack Obama) to the presidency and lauded themselves as a society that had moved beyond racial prejudice. This book is the most important piece on the history and significance of the Black Lives Matter Movement. It reflects on the politics of the moment and unmasks the hidden forms of racism that persisted in US history. The book critiques the idea that America is a “color blind” society that does not see race. It critiques the inequalities, violent policing, and forms of racial segregation prevailing in America and argues, hopefully, that the Black Lives Matter could inspire a wider movement against racial injustice and class inequality in America.

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010).

The USA contains 3% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s imprisoned. America has the largest imprisoned population on earth alongside the most heavily armed police forces. People of color, particularly African Americans, are incarcerated in disproportionately high numbers. Prison conditions can be rough and upon release many ex-prisoners will have extreme difficulty finding work. Thus, instead of deterring crime and reinforcing rehabilitation, whole communities in America are subject to conditions in which poverty, discrimination, and incarceration are nearly impossible to escape.  In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander unveils the history and mechanisms behind this horrifying situation. It had roots in efforts to re-enslave African Americans, by imprisoning them, after the Civil War (1861-1863); it had roots in CIA support for drug traders, in Asia and Latin America, in the fight against Communism, which brought drugs and thus crime to American cities; it had roots in the “war on crime” in the 1980s, and the structural and conscious racism that kept minorities both poor and continually suspected of criminal activities. Alexander argues that this process of incarceration and marginalization is self-perpetuating and can only end with the abolition policing and prisons in their current forms.

Edward Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (2016).

The history of racism in America begins with the mass transportation of 12 million Africans to work as slaves on the plantations of the Americas, producing sugar, tobacco, and by the 19th century, cotton. Few historians doubt this. However, there has been a longstanding debate on the significance of the enslavement of Africans to the development of capitalism in America and the West. Traditionally, most historians have seen slavery as a barrier to economic development. This book turns that view upside down. Capitalism matured with the “industrial revolution” in England, based largely upon the manufacturing of textiles made from cotton. Industrial capitalism was thus dependent upon the cheap production of cotton. The vast majority of that cotton was mass-produced by African slaves in America, who faced brutal conditions and were paid nothing. Besides underpinning England’s industrialization, slavery, the author argues, was the bedrock of the American economy. From 1820-1861, cotton was America’s largest export by far, and slavery accounted for more economically than all the factories, railroads, and other industries in America combined. Slavery had not been a barrier to American economic development; its barbarity and cruelty, according to the author, made America’s rise as the largest economy on earth possible.

 Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (Novel, 1970) is a powerful literary depiction of what it means be black and female growing up in a culture defined not only by systemic racism and sexism, but also by the pervasive engine of consumerism of whiteness. The novel tells the tragic tale of a young black girl, Pecola Breedlove, who is obsessed with blond hair and blue eyes; in fact, she wants to have the “bluest eye” so she could see the world anew which would in return see her as beautiful instead of black, and therefore, “ugly.” Set in 1941, Morrison’s work reminds us how the pressing issues of racial and gender oppression remain hauntingly familiar not only in 1970 (just after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death and during the Civil Rights Movement when the novel was published), but also at the present time with the cumulation of events tied to Black Lives Matter.

In The Big Sea (Autobiography, 1940), Langston Hughes weaves together fascinating episodes of his life at home and abroad as he explores the question of US race and racism in a global context. The heartbreaking tales that he tells of his father’s hate for his own people because of the color of their skin, his shock at being called a “white man” in the coast of West Africa, and the adventures he experienced as a cook and a waiter in Paris, are among the many touching stories he depicts that give voice to the longstanding African American struggles for civil rights. The fateful decision that he made to quit his undergraduate studies at Columbia University would ultimately open a world of discoveries on a racial consciousness that defies national, geographical, and political boundaries of the color line.

FURTHER READINGS

Edmund S. Morgan, “Slavery and Freedom: The American Paradox,” The Journal of American History, 59, No. 1, (1972), 5-29.

Manning Marable, “A Brief History of Structural Racism,” in Great Wells of Democracy: The Meaning of Race in American Life (2002).

W.E.B. Dubois, Black Reconstruction (1935).

Angela Davis, Are Prison’s Obsolete? (2003).

George Frederickson, White Supremacy: A Comparative Study of American and South African History (1981).

George Jackson, Soledad Brother (1970).

Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1964).

Nell Irvin Painter, The History of White People (2010).

 Beverly Daniel Tatum, Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria

Ibram Kendi, How to be an Antiracist

Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half

Robin Deangelo, White Fragility and Why it’s so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism

Andrea Richie, Invisible No More

Tanehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

Angie Thomas, The Hate You Give

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

Michael Eric Dyson. Tears We Cannot Stop

Michael Eric Dyson, The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America

Toni Morrison

  • Beloved (1987, novel)
  • The Bluest Eye (1970, novel)

Maya Angelou

  • And Still I Rise (1978, poetry)
  • All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986, autobiography essays)

Alice Walker

  • The Color Purple (1982, novel)
  • In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women(1973, short stories)

James Baldwin

  • Notes of a Native Son (1955, novel)
  • If Beale Street Could Talk (1974, novel)

Ralph Ellison

  • Invisible Man (1952, novel)

Richard Wright

  • Native Son (1940, novel)

Langston Hughes

  • The Weary Blues (1926, poetry)
  • The Big Sea (1940, autobiography)

Zora Neale Hurston

  • “Sweat” (1926, short story)
  • “How Does It Feel To Be Colored Me” (1928, short essay)

Freedom Lab Event Report on “The Utopianism called Decolonization: Thinking with Tagore”

By Yue Qiu

Class of 2022

On June 11, 2020, The Freedom Lab invited Professor Sandeep Banerjee from McGill University to lead a discussion on “The Utopianism called Decolonization: Thinking with Tagore“. The Freedom Lab co-directors, Professors Jesse Olsavsky and Selina Lai-Henderson hosted the lecture. Professor Titas Chakraborty and around 20 students attended the conference.

Professor Chakraborty introduced the guest speaker. Professor Banerjee is a literary theorist, cultural critic, and historian who studies the literatures and histories of decolonization, particularly in India. Besides writing on colonialism and liberation, he also writes on a wide range of topics such as travel narrative and photography. He published the book Utopia and Indian Decolonization: Literary Pre-figurations of the Postcolony last year. Continue reading “Freedom Lab Event Report on “The Utopianism called Decolonization: Thinking with Tagore””

Freedom in Quarantine

Message from Co-Directors of the Freedom Lab:

Would you like to learn more about the dramatic implications of the COVID-19 crisis for freedom? 

Incoming Arts and Humanities faculty member, Professor Zairong Xiang, has just published a short essay “Freedom in Quarantine” in the journal Critical Times, which explores this theme as well as many others, including xenophobia against Chinese nationals and people of Chinese origin, solidarity in our world, and environmental crisis. This illuminating essay can be read here:

The whole world is in lockdown. Or is it?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen some unprecedented measures imposed by governments across the world. These governments have closed down entire cities or even countries in order to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of the deadly virus, because, unlike us, the virus is free; it traverses social strata and national boundaries. We need to check its freedom by putting our own freedom to move and to gather in quarantine. This, historians have told us, is an ancient way of combating contagious diseases. We are also reminded, in different ways—some benevolent, some outright racist—that after all in liberal democracies “we are not like the Chinese,” who allegedly can only obey their government’s dictates. This Chinese exceptionalism obscures the fact that most of those who could afford to stay at home in China are not very different from those who are staying home in the “free world.” They are all in one way or another beneficiaries of an unequal distribution of freedom—the freedom to stay home. We do it because we care, we can, or we have to. But one thing is clear: this freedom to stay at home comes at a price. Continue reading “Freedom in Quarantine”

Arts and Humanities Division and Freedom Lab Presents | The Utopianism called Decolonization: Thinking with Tagore

Thursday June 11, 9am EST / 9pm China Time

Zoom Meeting ID: 2613304845

Speaker: Sandeep Banerjee, Associate Professor, Department of English, McGill University

Click [HERE] to watch the recording

Abstract:

In this talk I aim to situate decolonization as a kind of the utopianism. I contend that decolonization is not, as is typically understood, simply a set of political events from the twentieth century; not only a utopian desire that was actualized through the dismantling of European political regimes through the course of the twentieth century. Rather, the utopianism called decolonization is more processual in nature. It seeks to transcend the rule of capital that forms the condition of possibility of colonialism while also seeking to decolonize the minds of the colonized.

In this talk, I draw on the creative as well as critical corpus of colonial India’s pre-eminent literary figure and public intellectual, Rabindranath Tagore, to think about the imbrication of decolonization and utopianism. These works show not only the relentless attempt to imagine the lineaments of the postcolony freed from the depredations of capital and nationalism but also stress the cultural labor undergirding the process of decolonization. Tagore’s writings, then, gesture towards a materialist theorization of decolonization that aligns him with theorists of culture and colonialism such as Antonio Gramsci, Frantz Fanon, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o.

Bio-note:

Sandeep Banerjee

Sandeep Banerjee is a literary critic, theorist, and translator and Associate Professor of English at McGill University, Canada. He is the author of Space, Utopia and Indian Decolonization: Literary Pre-figurations of the Postcolony (Routledge, 2019). His articles have appeared (or will appear) in Modern Fiction Studies, Utopian Studies, Modern Asian Studies, Victorian Literature and Culture, and Mediations, in addition to several anthologies. A General Editor of the Routledge Series in the Cultures of the Global Cold War, he is currently working on his book project that examines the question of aesthetics in an uneven world.

*This talk is co-sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Division and the Freedom Lab

Freedom Lab Event Report on “Gandhi, Vegetarianism, and Culinary Cosmopolitanism”

By Ruihan Wan

Class of 2022

On April 13, 2020, The Freedom Lab invited Professor Nico Slate from Carnegie Mellon University to lead a discussion on the topic of “Gandhi, Vegetarianism, and Culinary Cosmopolitanism.” The Freedom Lab co-directors, Professors Jesse Olsavsky and Selina Lai-Henderson hosted the discussion. Humanities Research Center co-director Professor James Miller, Lab Manager Tim Smith, Professor Titas Chakraborty, and around 25 students attended the discussion. Continue reading “Freedom Lab Event Report on “Gandhi, Vegetarianism, and Culinary Cosmopolitanism””