OPINION: Mad science or school-to-prison? Criminalizing black girls

High stakes test question: A female science student conducts an experiment with chemicals that explodes in a classroom, but it causes no damage and no injuries. Who gets to be the adventurous, teenage genius, mad scientist and who gets to be the criminal led away in handcuffs facing two felonies to juvenile hall?

If you’re a white girl check box A. If you’re an intellectually curious black girl with good grades check box B.

When 16 year-old Kiera Wilmot was arrested and expelled from Bartow High School in Florida for a science experiment gone awry, it exemplified a long American-as-apple-pie tradition of criminalizing black girls.

In many American classrooms, black children are treated like ticking time bomb savages, shoved into special education classes, disproportionately suspended and expelled, then warehoused in opportunity schools, juvenile jails and adult prisons.   [Read more…]

Pan African Film and Arts Festival kicks off in South L.A.

By Subrina Hudson
Associate Editor

The 21st Pan African Film and Arts Festival opened on Thursday at the Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Plaza giving residents and visitors in South LA a chance to view African art and watch films touching on the African and African-American community.

imageThe art festival inside the Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Plaza. (Photo by Subrina Hudson)

The film festival, hosted by Actress Salli Richardson-Whitfield, is the largest international Black film festival in the country and features a 10-day long art festival with over 100 established and emerging artists showcasing everything from fine art and fashion to home furnishings.

Viveca Mays has been an artist for over 30 years, and said it was her first time showcasing her work at the art festival. After joining Art 2000, a non-profit visual art association founded by Artist Charles Bibbs, Mays said she was invited by Bibbs to present her work along with several other artists in the association.

“It has been very good considering that this is a regular mall day and everybody is doing their regular shopping,” said Mays. “We’ve had a lot of traffic coming through, which is surprising because Mr. Bibbs said usually the first day is kind of the work day, setting up, but it’s been good.”

Artist Djibril N’Doye said he has participated in the art festival for ten years but did not present for the last three years. During that time, the film festival was shown at a theater in Culver City and the art festival remained inside the mall, leaving less visitors and potential customers.

imageArtist Viveca Mays’ artwork is open for the public to view and purchase. (Photo by Subrina Hudson)

“This festival is important for this community and beyond because most of the theme of the films have a connection with Africa, African history and African culture and all the artists who are displaying their artwork also harken on the same subject…this is like family,” said N’Doye.

N’Doye, who is self-taught, creates his artwork with a ballpoint pen. Growing up in Senegal, his father could not afford to send him to an art school. So, N’Doye decided that he would teach and train himself.

He said his medium helps hims show that it doesn’t matter what an individual’s income is because art “is an open door to everybody.”

“It’s in your heat. It has a very high dimension and culture and history. This is building bridges across cultures,” he said.

imageArtist Djibril N’Doye with his artwork. (Photo by Subrina Hudson)

The same goal was kept in mind for the Pan African Film Festival (PAFF), according to Wyllisa Bennett, publicist for the Pan African Film Festival.

“We want to stay in the community, and the films showcase the work around the country and puts it in the heart of the black community,” said Bennett.

Films like the documentary “Red, White, Black and Blue,” which recently won “Best Documentary at the Idyllwild CinemaFest, will be available for visitors to watch at the Rave Cinemas Baldwin Hills. “Red, White, Black and Blue” is just one of 154 films, representing 34 countries, that PAFF selected for this year’s film festival.

PAFF was founded in 1992 by award-wining Actor Danny Glover, Emmy-award winning Actress Ja’Net DuBois and Executive Director Ayuko Babu. The Pan African Film Festival is a non-profit corporation that looks to promote ethnic and racial respect through films and art.

For showtimes and tickets, click here.

Black History in LA webcast

The Los Angeles Urban League (LAUL) and Time Warner Cable (TWC) have teamed up to present on February 8, 2013 a free interactive webcast with civic leaders who will share insight on Black History in LA. The “There is Black History in LA” webcast will take place from 1:30pm – 2:30pm PT and will feature new LAUL CEO and President Nolan V. Rollins, Reverend Cecil “Chip” Murray and community activists “Sweet Alice” Harris and John W. Mack.
The webcast (which can be accessed at http://engage.vevent.com/rt/twc~90builtla) offers an opportunity for the LA community to interact with the aforementioned individuals and host Josefa Salinas of KTLK am 1150 and HOT 92.3, and learn more about the history of civil rights in LA. It builds on an exhibit – “The 90 That Built LA” – at the Museum of African American Art (MAAA http://www.maaala.org/) which opened on December 12, 2012 and celebrated LAUL’s 91 years of existence by honoring 90 individuals who have fought for civil rights and equality. In addition to the webcast and other Black History Month events (see Facebook post), LAUL will co-present a panel featuring USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism Dean Ernest J. Wilson III, Mack and USC Dornsife African Studies Director Francille Rusan Wilson, who will discuss the PBS special “The PowerBroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights” after it is screened at the USC Annenberg Auditorium on February 11. (http://annenberg.usc.edu/Events/2013/130211Powerbroker.aspx)

LAUL VP of Marketing & Communications Chris Strudwick-Turner said her team had the vision for the exhibit, which features the tagline “We Built LA” to assert the contributions of Blacks and other minorities to LA’s development, several years ago and was able to turn it into reality thanks to TWC. “Like us, they saw the vision of what this exhibit could be and they have been with us every step of the way as a presenting sponsor to put this exhibit together for the community,” said Strudwick-Turner in a December statement to the press.
Members of the TWC Diversity and Inclusion team recently visited the exhibit–located near Leimert Park at the MAAA’s space at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall’s Macy’s third floor–on February 1, 2013 to commemorate 15 months of partnership between LAUL and TWC and promote the aforementioned webcast. TWC Regional VP of Operations Debi Picciolo said in a press statement her company was “proud of our long term partnership with the Los Angeles Urban League, and delighted we could help bring this exhibit to the community.”

One of the most notable aspects of the webcast and exhibit is the rare opportunity for young people in LA to delve deep into Black history in the city thanks to the presence of individuals like Reverend Chip Murray. Murray, who grew up in the South during segregation and whose insight on civil rights movement like the 1992 LA uprising was featured in a 2012 Intersections South LA story (http://www.bit.ly/UDlnGw), will answer questions from webcast attendees and discuss the struggle that made equality possible. Murray and his fellow panelists plan to highlight trailblazers from the distant past such as Biddy Mason–a slave that walked several hundreds of miles to LA to gain her freedom–in addition to former LA Mayor Tom Bradley, who made history in LA as the first Black mayor of a major American city.
imageAngelenos can discover historic art and photos commemorating LA trailblazers in fields such as cinema, civil rights, music and media; Sir Sidney Poitier, Cesar Chavez, Ella Fitzgerald and Paula Madison, respectively, at “The 90 that Built LA” exhibit through March 7, 2013.

Elias Kamal Jabbe is the Founding Editor of MulticulturalMatters.org (http://MulticulturalMatters.org).