Black History in Scotland ep 1

This was a “you’re kidding me moment”. I knew that Black people lived in Scotland in Roman times but I knew nothing else. Fascinating stuff! I will post the other episodes in future.

Episode 1, The Invisible Man
Episode 1 of 7 Billy Kay explores Scotland’s contact with Africa and people of African origin from Roman times to the modern day. Revised repeat of the ground-breaking 6 part series from 2003. BBC Radio Scotland.

Thinking ahead

The only thing I am really craving while in self-isolation is a chocolate chip cookie.

But after two days of goofing off online (there was hard work before that, honestly!) , it is time to think ahead.

I have had friends offering me ideas of what I could do to increase my income. In truth, I have many things on the go but I could use help with the following:

Contact information for Parents Groups and Heads of History/Social Studies in Toronto schools. I mean to start pitching The Many Black Histories program (including my new Black Inventors program for STEAM) the minute schools reopen.

A publisher for my upcoming memoir – Spare me: as if being a Black woman wasn’t enough. The publisher needs to be race and queer centered but big enough to provide tour support (in conjunction with arts funding… hey, I can hope)

Spaces and clients for my “Come dancing” classes. I have body positive classes as well as corporate appropriate classes for leadership and management. I’m good for weddings, festivals and conferences as of the fall or whenever the veil clears.

Coronavirus-19 is not stopping me

The pandemic, and the state of emergency in Ontario,   has shut every venue I work for down – from schools to clubs to conferences. At the moment I am living on my savings and can hold until August.

But there is much to do.

I am creating a history presentation for schools on Black Scientists and Inventors. I am working on an heritage grant to present Black history in Toronto. And, performer that I am, I am looking to do singing and storytelling gigs in the fall/winter.

So while I am staying home, I am hard at work!

Mystery? How so?

So the AGO got a new painting. .

“This painting of a mystery woman challenges what we think we know about european art”.

Spare me.

This not rocket science. You would think AGO had never seen a picture of a Black woman before 1900. It has two already – I wrote an essay on one of them back in the 90s.

At any rate, any historical re-enactor can look at this painting and tell you when and where and why. Which is why I have turned to my costuming friends and said, “What gives?”

For the article, in question, see:

Aside – is it me would this young woman remind Doctor Who fans of someone?

From The girl in the fireplace

French Film History and Black actors

This was a random find but I felt the need to post it here (hopefully you will be able to open the NYT webpage:

I am not totally keen on the tone of the article, many because it ignores (or is ignorant of) the number of Black slaves in Europe pre British emancipation.


Zou Zou, 1934. with Josephine Baker in starring role.

New York Times Archives, August 5, 1992, Section C, Page 13

Mr. Trump, America was their home

Mr. Trump, my grandparents and aunt made the decision to leave Guyana and make the United States home.

Carmen, my grandmother,

My grandfather served as Senior Geological Land Surveyor for the New York and New Jersey Port Authority. My grandmother was an Registered Nurse in obstetrics, who delivered a myriad of American babies.

My aunt, an RN, was a first responder at 9/11 and died as a result of her service.

Like your grandparents, my aunt and grandparents came to the US to have a better life.

And now you have the nerve to tell me that because they weren’t white they weren’t American? That they should have gone home? Because that’s what you told those four Congresswomen.

My grandmother served in WW2 – can you say the same?

Unlike your grandfather (German born), my grandparents did not see the need to lie about their ethnicity, a lie you yourself have maintained. I suspect he was afraid of being interned in the same cages you seem so fond of using.

Luckily for me, my mother took a different route. She let her green card lapse. Instead of following the rest of her family to the United States, she opted to come to Canada,

This Canadian, born and raised, will be forever grateful for her mother’s decision.

Ariel: the same ol’ story

Ariel (The Little Mermaid), Halle Bailey (TLM revisioned?), Naomie Harris (Calypso from Pirates of the Caribbean)

Let me take a crack at this, shall we?

Forgive the expletive but this sh*t is not new. I watched the same racist furor with James Bond and Doctor Who.

What gets me, though, is how short everybody’s memory is. Halle Bailey (not Berry – though she has her own “she’s playing a white woman’s part” water association a la Ursula Andress) is NOT the first black woman to play a female sea creature.

Have we forgotten Naomie Harris’ role as Calypso in Pirates of the Caribbean? When you think about it the two characters have similarities, if you compare PotC with the original Hans Christian Anderson story. Both fall in love with a white (hu)man, both get screwed over by a white guy.

Which leads me to this question – do we really want to continue this Strange Days legacy? WHICH fantasy/scifi roles will Black women get going forward and how problematic are those roles going to be? Or can we follow the Black Panther banner, problems and all, and move on.

Meanwhile, unlike the fantasy genre both of these characters inhabit, trolls are very much a reality today. My take?

The trolls can stick it.

And the bottom line is the bottom line – there is no way in heck Disney would take a risk like this if they did not think a black mermaid  would sell. 

In the end, it is all about buying and selling, isn’t it? The irony is not lost on me.

What’s next for the AGO?

New guy as Chef Curator for the AGO.  Handsome, yes.  But what caught my ear was his interest in the Civil Rights Movement (King, Jr., Baldwin).  How will that translate in exhibitions?  And do we want it to?  Don’t get me wrong – I want to see more work of artists of colour (all colour).  But as much as I would like to see the works of artists of African decent  like Thelma Johnson Streat, I don’t want it to be from only an American lens,

The ROM is still playing up from the Out of Africa fiasco.  I am looking forward to seeing the work of artist Michèle Pearson Clarke on display until April. Michèle  asks questions  about what narrative Black artists are supposed to cover.

I have a question too: is the AGO supposed to throw Basquiat at the visitors and say, “There, now we are covered”? Ultimately we can to better than this.

Credit to ourselves

Someone on The View asked the question, “What next?”  This was in regard to the action by many women at the Golden Globes last Sunday. This includes refusing to give into the “what are you wearing” talk (which, to be fair, was initiated by Joan Rivers years ago).

More importantly this included introducing us the public to the activists in women’s movements in other areas, such as Tarana Burke, Saru Jayaraman, Ai-Jen Poo and Marai Larasi and others. (come on, US Weekly, did you have to follow that story with click bait on 10 Best Beauty Looks on the Golden Globes? Really?)

So what next?  I think I already answered that question in my post about Lisa Nishimura.  We need to acknowledge the work of these women.  This is a slow trend but it is happening.

Clearly we as women know how to make the money to make films (Lisa Nishimura) and we know how to market films (that’s what Ava DuVernay was doing before Selma). And we know how to write books that get optioned, as Hidden Figures proved.  A book written by a Black woman made into a film starring Black women.  And guess what?  White men went to see it, too.

It can be done.

The next step?  We KNOW we have been oppressed but we have to stand by our work.  I don’t care about the designer dress you borrowed.  I want to know about your upcoming television and Netflix projects (Hollywood? Feh).

Because only you can best promote you.