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Summer is a time for drift, for lapping waters, sipped cocktails, and rambling walks. One day it’s lobster rolls and white wine. The next day could be Andalusian gazpacho and Dos Equis. The weekend might bring Mul Naengmyeon (cold noodle soup) and Soju. And as your choice of food and entertainment varies with the temperature and your ebbing and flowing lethargy, so may your taste in books.
The lengthening days and piercing sunshine of summertime is the perfect time to crack open that book you might not otherwise read, you may have forgotten about, or that is low on your decades-long list of “must-reads.” And in this spirit, below you will find ten quirky, fun, intriguing memoirs and novels to while away a few of those precious summer hours. Enjoy!
Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabar
Paperback: 336 pages
Fight off a sense of slacker-hood as you dive into this delightful mystery by screenwriter Anna Waterhouse and beloved former NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabar. Mycroft Holmes is the lesser known but equally brilliant older brother of the infamous Sherlock, and we are introduced to him at the beginning of his illustrious investigative career. Abdul-Jabar also introduces us to Cyrus Douglas, a black man of Trinidadian descent, an intrepid cigar shop owner, and Mycroft’s best friend. The two men head to Cyrus’ homeland to solve a mystery which includes strange disappearances and spirits that lure children to their deaths; their bodies found drained of blood.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
I approached this memoir with light expectations. Noah is charming and funny on his cable talk show the Daily Show, and although bright, I wasn’t expecting James McBride. But I was pleasantly surprised. “Born a Crime” is funny and poignant and feminist as AF. Noah loves his country and his mama, and he lovingly writes about both as he offers sharp tidbits of South African history along with wild stories of his childhood as a poor, mixed-race child under Apartheid.
Earth Day: Colonialism's role in the overexploitation of natural resources
We are currently experiencing the worst environmental crisis in human history, including a “biological annihilation” of wildlife and dire risks for the future of human civilization.
The scale of that environmental devastation has increased drastically in recent years. Mostly to blame are anthropogenic, or human-generated factors, including the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil.
Other industries like gem and mineral mining also destroy the world’s ecological sustainability, leading to deforestation and the destruction of natural habitats. Much of this traumatic exploitation of natural resources traces its origins to early colonialism.
Colonialists saw “new” territories as places with unlimited resources to exploit, with little consideration for the long-term impacts. They exploited what they considered to be an “unending frontier” at the service of early modern state-making and capitalist development.
To understand our current ecological catastrophe, described as “a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040,” we need to look at the role of colonialism at its roots.
This exploration is not a debate over whether colonialism was “good” or “bad”. Instead, it is about understanding how this global process helped create the world we currently inhabit.Read more
When it comes to how deeply embedded racism is in American society, blacks and whites have sharply different views.
For instance, 70 percent of whites believe that individual discrimination is a bigger problem than discrimination built into the nation’s laws and institutions. Only 48 percent of blacks believe that is true.
Many blacks and whites also fail to see eye to eye regarding the use of blackface, which dominated the news cycle during the early part of 2019 due to a series of scandals that involve the highest elected leaders in Virginia, where I teach.
The donning of blackface happens throughout the country, particularly on college campuses. Recent polls indicate that 42 percent of white American adults either think blackface is acceptable or are uncertain as to whether it is.
One of the most recent blackface scandals has involved Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, whose yearbook page from medical school features someone in blackface standing alongside another person dressed in a Ku Klux Klan robe. Northam has denied being either person. The more Northam has tried to defend his past actions, the clearer it has become to me how little he appears to know about fundamental aspects of American history, such as slavery. For instance, Northam referred to Virginia’s earliest slaves as “indentured servants”. His ignorance has led to greater scrutiny of how he managed to ascend to the highest leadership position in a racially diverse state with such a profound history of racism and white supremacy.Read more
It’s Black History Month, which means there’s really no better time to see a great film that captures the diverse narratives of black people. Currently, there are so many excellent films about the black experience/black history, it's hard to choose. We've curated a selection of films in many genres, there is something for most tastes. Choose from documentaries, biographical/historical dramas, fantasy/sci-fi/horror, LGBT themes, and sports figures.
Be sure to watch Southside with You. The film chronicles the summer 1989 afternoon when the future President of the United States, Barack Obama, wooed his future First Lady, Michelle Obama, on a first date across Chicago's South Side.
Consider hosting a watch party during Black History Month.
The films listed below are in no particular order and most are on streaming services.Read more
Every traveler knows that a book can be your best friend, your guide, and your sanity-saver. Living abroad, even more so than a pleasant jaunt away from home, can be as challenging and scary as it is exhilarating. And books often help the globetrotter step back, recharge, learn something new in order to plan the next adventure or simply appreciate the adventure they are already on. A good book, fiction or nonfiction, can also teach a traveler or expat the history or culture of the place they now call home.
In this spirit of adventure, this quarter’s Global Black Caucus booklist is comprised of old and new gems---fiction and nonfiction that take us from Hawaii to Mississippi and beyond. We hope these books will inspire, confound, and perhaps help you plan your next escapade. We invite you to turn the page!
Edward E. Baptist
Paperback: 560 pages
Publisher: Basic Books
An Associate Professor of History at Cornell University, Baptist uses all his persuasive research and writing skills to challenge the myth that the enslaved labor of Africans and the American Negro did not fundamentally create the United States of America as we know it today.
At times charming but mostly enraging, The Half Has Never Been Told takes on the myth, manufactured during and post-antebellum, that American slavery was somehow isolated from the social and economic formation of the United States. Baptist convincingly argues that enslaving an entire people and using their forced labor was essential to the economic prosperity of the fledgling country, the hinge which allowed it to become an economic and cultural powerhouse in a breathtakingly short amount of time and not, as slave owners, businessmen, politicians, historians, and everyday people proffered, simply a by-blow at best and incidental at worse.
MLK's vision matters today for the 43 million Americans living in poverty
On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, while fighting for a 10-cent wage increase for garbage workers. These efforts by King were part of a broader and more sustained initiative known as the Poor People’s Campaign.
King was working to broaden the scope of the civil rights movement to include poverty and the end of the war in Vietnam. King and his leadership team planned to bring thousands of poor people to Washington, D.C., where they would camp out on the National Mall until Congress passed legislation to eradicate poverty.
King was convinced that for the civil rights movement to achieve its goals, poverty needed to become a central focus of the movement. He believed the poor could lead a movement that would revolutionize society and end poverty. As King noted, “The only real revolutionary, people say, is a man who has nothing to lose. There are millions of poor people in this country who have little, or nothing to lose.”
With over 43 million people living in poverty in the United States today, King’s ideas still hold much power.
The Poor People’s Campaign
In the last three years of his life and ministry King had grown frustrated with the slow pace of reform and the lack of funding for anti-poverty programs. In 1966, for example, King moved to Chicago and lived in an urban slum to bring attention to the plight of the urban poor in northern cities. His experiences in the South had convinced him that elimination of poverty was important to winning the long-term battle for civil and social rights.
It was also at this time that King began to think about leading a march to Washington, D.C., to end poverty. King explained the campaign saying,:
“Then we poor people will move on Washington, determined to stay there until the legislative and executive branches of the government take serious and adequate action on jobs and income.”
King was assassinated before he could lead the campaign. And while the effort continued, the campaign could not meet King’s goals of poverty elimination, universal access to health care and education, and a guaranteed income that would keep people out of poverty.Read more
Slavery was never abolished – it affects millions, and you may be funding it
When we think of slavery, many of us think of historical or so-called “traditional forms” of slavery – and of the 12m people ripped from their West African homes and shipped across the Atlantic for a lifetime in the plantations of the Americas.
But slavery is not just something that happened in the past –- the modern day estimate for the number of men, women and children forced into labour worldwide exceeds 40m. Today’s global slave trade is so lucrative that it nets traffickers more than US$150 billion each year.
Slavery affects children as well as adults
Debt bondage often ensnares both children and adults. In Haiti, for example, many children are sent to work by their families as domestic servants under what’s known as the Restavek system – the term comes from the French language rester avec, “to stay with”. These children, numbering as many as 300,000, are often denied an education, forced to work up to 14 hours a day and are sometimes victims of sexual abuse.
Last Wednesday, the National Football League announced a new policy requiring that, when “The Star-Spangled Banner” is played before games during the upcoming season, “all team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.” Teams whose players kneel or otherwise fail to “show respect for the flag,” as the league’s statement puts it a second time, will be fined. It is counter-productive to demand respect for the flag while undermining the principles for which it stands.
The Democrats Abroad Global Black Caucus regrets the NFL’s decision to force players to stand during the national anthem. We see this as an infringement on basic rights of self-expression as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. More broadly, it may diminish freedom of expression by employees and limit workers’ rights. Protest is one of the highest forms of patriotism. For these reasons, we applaud the statement by the NFL players’ union.
We need to focus on why the NFL players are kneeling. The critical issues of police brutality, racial injustice, mass incarceration (2.2 million people), and more, which animate today’s civil rights movement, are eloquently summarized in Colin Kaepernick’s April 21st acceptance speech when he received Amnesty International's 2018 Ambassador of Conscience Award. It is necessary to call out and put the brakes on these accelerating anti-democratic actions before they further limit civil and workers’ rights.
As Kaepernick says, “Love is at the root of our resistance”.
Watch Colin Kaepernick's Speech Before Amnesty International to learn the compelling reasons for taking a knee during the National Anthem.
My name is Faith Herbold and I am chair of the Global Black Caucus in Austria. I am a native Californian, but I vote in the state of Missouri. It is an interesting and perilous time to be a person of color. We are bombarded daily with incidences of police brutality, discrimination, and intolerance towards African Americans and people of color.
My primary goal for this chapter is to have frank and honest discussions about race, its impact from a historical perspective and how it continues to influence and inform today’s global events. I want to tackle these complex issues through monthly coffee meet-ups and book clubs, where these discussions can happen in a relaxed and supportive environment. Of course, we will not focus only on the "heavy" because there is so much positivity and beauty in diversity. We will celebrate diversity by attending cultural events, comedy shows, dinners and art shows. Overall, I hope to make a positive impact in Austria and I hope you will join me in exploring, learning and growing.
If you would like to join the DA Austria Global Black caucus, just click the join button on our homepage. Everyone is welcomed and I look forward to meeting up, discussing important issues and having fun with you!