Profiles of notable people of color + their creations.
June 1st marked the debut of Elijah Blake’s new song, “Hanging Tree.” The track focuses on bringing to light a significant aspect of Black history: lynchings. With lyrics like, “Who’s the man I see underneath the hanging tree? He looks just like me, so tell me, am I really free?” the song calls attention to the racism, inequality, and oppression Black Americans have suffered, that was so prevalent decades ago and still continues to exist today. Produced by Harry Belafonte’s Sankofa Organization, the song is part of a larger initiative that focuses on raising awareness of social justice issues.
The music video portrays Blake shedding his tuxedo to reveal whipping wounds underneath. Blake’s goal for viewers and listeners is that they are able to better understand some of the causes of marginalization, especially in the aftermath of police brutality.
“I wrote ‘Hanging Tree’ as a way to use my voice for equal rights, especially black rights, in the aftermath of tragedies like Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, and so many others whose voices have been silenced...the Sankofa organization and I have combined efforts to spread this important message of equality,” Blake stated in an interview with The FADER.
Watch the video here.
valerie wu is a student at presentation high school in san jose, california. she is an asian-american activist who thrives at the intersection of ethnicity, migration, & human rights. her work has previously been recognized nationally by the scholastic art & writing awards, and has been featured on the huffington post, susan cain's quiet revolution, and we are three dimensional. she tweets @valerie_wu.
Ascend brings you biweekly reports on issues that affect women and nonbinary people of color from all over the world. All these stories have been buried by the breaking news.
1. California’s Gender Recognition Act. California senators voted May 31, 2017 to pass a bill that adds a third gender option for nonbinary individuals to official forms such as birth certificates and driver’s licenses. The Gender Recognition Act still needs to be inked by Gov. Jerry Brown, but if it gets signed into law, California will become the first state to provide a third gender option on IDs. source
2. Protections for trans individuals. In Wisconsin, Democratic lawmakers are pushing to protect trans people from being discriminated against when they apply for a job or search for a home. If passed, the bill would make Wisconsin the 20th state to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. source
1. Global Gag Rule. On May 23, the United States released a plan to expand the notorious “Global Gag Rule,” or the Mexico City Policy, which prevents foreign non-governmental organizations that receive funding from the US from providing safe abortions for family planning methods. Such restrictive policies increase the number of women resorting to unsafe abortions, which can result in more women dying, research shows. source
1. Women and Afro-Latinos face the most inequality in Latin America. A report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) has found that in Latin America, women continue to have the lowest-paying wage jobs while working longer hours compared to men, and that Afro-Latinos also face the highest rate of unemployment. source
2. Femicides must be stopped. June marks the start of the annual march against femicides –– or the killing of women by men due to gender –– in South American countries. The march arrives amid a troubling surge in cases of femicides reported in many countries within South America. In Colombia alone, more than 200 women have been killed during the first months of 2017, statistics show.
“Being a woman is living constantly in a time of war,” a spokesperson from the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America said. source
1. In Nigeria, women are far too busy to take care of themselves. A study by the George Kerry Life foundation has found that most women in Nigeria were lackadaisical towards their health and that they did not attend breast cancer screenings even though they were free. One reason for this was that women faced too much pressure being the breadwinners of their families, the report said. With that in mind, the foundation aims to empower women and teach them to be accountable for their health.
“We want them to tell us what is it they need or want so that they can take care of themselves,” the foundation said. source
1. Lebanon bans Wonder Woman over Gal Gadot. DC’s Wonder Woman was denied release in Lebanon over former-IDF soldier and known Zionist, Gal Gadot. The film, which is being called “the Israeli soldier film,” was promoted around the country and was scheduled to premiere hours before the ban went into effect. source
2. Tiny golden lotus feet. Chinese women maimed their feet because of work and not because of sex, a new report revealed. Research by Laurel Bossen and colleagues found that the custom of binding their feet served an economic purpose, especially in the countryside. The painful practice ensured that girls as young as 7 years old sat still and helped make goods like cloth, yarn, and mats, the authors of the study said.
“You have to link hands and feet. Foot-bound women did valuable handwork at home in cottage industries. The image of them as idle sexual trophies is a grave distortion of history,” Bossen said. source
alyssa navarro is a 19-year-old filipina writer and activist. she worked as a reporter for a new york-based site before returning to university to study psychology. she tweets @ysabarro.
Social media has become more and more important in pop culture in our increasingly digital age. Fandoms, especially, dominate the conversation surrounding certain artists and popular trends. In 2017, it just so happens that a large number of these artists and trends originate from black spaces. Taking into account the nature of fandom itself, where admiration and fixation are key, it is no surprise that fandoms centered around black artists are composed of non-black stans. The nature of this fixation on black art and bodies is pervasive. Through the non-black lens, these artists are distorted to be objects for consumption and their work is warped to fit a non-black perspective.
In the context of black artists and their online fan bases, it is often nonblack fans who are the most vocal and visible. Because of the pervasive and obsessive nature of stan culture, there is often an air of fetishization surrounding black artists. Black artists are fetishized and objectified more often than not. Seen as inherently sexual beings, black artists are rarely ever allowed to represent more than their sexuality and sensuality. This begs the question: do you support all black art or only black art that can then be warped and manipulated to fit a certain narrative? The voyeuristic nature of a nonblack fan's interactions with black idols is ultimately reflective of real-world interactions between black people and their nonblack counterparts.
Essentially, a fan's basis for stanning black artists isn't reflective of their admiration for black art but rather, it is reflective of their attraction to an artist's appearance. What it comes down to is palatability. Nonblack fans are drawn in by how similar to them a black artist is. Basically: the less black you seem or appear to be, the more similar you are to me, a nonblack person.
There is a certain level of ownership projected onto black artists by non-black fans. Nonblack fans often blur the lines between appreciation, fetishization, and idolization. From Frank Ocean to Kanye West, fans function as purveyors of blackness. A black artist’s narrative is only lauded if it can be distorted to fit a broader sense of identity. For example, non-black stans may adore Frank for his bisexuality, but they cannot relate to his experiences as a black man. Sexuality impacts black people differently; Ocean's existence as a queer black man is not identical to the experience of any other queer nonblack person. But, still, his experiences are used to represent the gay experience in America.
The same can be said for Kevin Abstract. While Abstract does in fact fit the suburban boy mold, his experiences cannot represent all suburban experiences. As a black man, his experiences are unique to him and only him. Non-black stans tend to gloss over this important distinction, yet another result of their attempts to relate to artists such as Frank Ocean and Kevin Abstract by erasing a significant part of their identities: their blackness.
The black masculinity exuded by artists such as Kanye West and Migos is ultimately what non-black and, particularly, white men strive for. They aspire to Kanye's level of confidence and gush over Migos' style, but there is one thing that cannot be emulated: black masculinity; the swagger in a black man’s walk, perhaps a particular drawl in his accent.
To nonblack stans, black idols exude a level of charisma, style, and confidence that might seem otherwise unattainable. Stan culture is a form of escapism and ultimately, it is black idols who present the most opportunities for nonblack people to escape from their own lifestyles. At the core of it, blackness is what drives popular culture in America. The clothes we wear, our hairstyles, the music we listen to — it can all be bought on shelves, but no amount of money can give nonblack people what they truly desire. Black cool is not for sale.
jasmine feaster is a non-binary artist from atlanta, georgia. their art consists of filmmaking, poetry, and think pieces. jasmine is 19 and tweets @pearldiver.
all photos by Jianne.
Kampong Khleang is the largest, farthest-situated, and least visited of the three floating villages in Siem Reap, Cambodia, making it the most remote. Compared to its counterparts, the village is home to about 6,000 to 10,000 people who live in stilted houses. I joined the tour through Bridge of Life Foundation, where proceeds go to a floating village school nearby, which I also got to visit. It takes about an hour and a half to get to the village and roads get rougher as the path progresses.
During the wet season, starting in late May and continuing until October, the water has the potential to rise very high. Most income is made through fishing, particularly during the wet season, when water levels are highest. Some fishermen stay on their boats for this entire 6-month period. The houses are built high for this reason and when the water levels are relatively low, you can see clearly just how tall they are.
Life is both simple and tough. Leisure activities like volleyball, karaoke, and tv serve as the main sources of entertainment for Kampong Khleang natives. Our tour guide Saro said that getting to high school is difficult –– he had to bike 22 kilometers (nearly 14 miles) every day to get to school in the city. That was 44 kilometers, or about 28 miles, total, each day.
The villagers get by by playing sports, singing, dancing, and fishing.
Visiting this school, where there are about 60 children, ages 5-8, has been a life-changing experience. We bought stationery for the kids, but they weren't there when we arrived. Education is scarce and getting into high school is difficult.
It made me realize we shouldn't take education for granted when some children must to go through these lengths just to get to a school.
The other village, Chong Kneas, is a Vietnamese village. It is home to about 600 people and can be reached by boat from Kampong Khleang. Chong Kneas is located near Tonle Sap, the largest body of water in Siem Reap and the livelihood for many Cambodians, which connects it to Vietnam. Compared to Kampong Khleang, the houses in this village are literally floating on water.
Those that live in floating homes tend to be poorer than those who live in stilted homes –– this is a major class divide.
Some never take to land unless they really need something important, like medical attention. Imagine life with nothing but water –– many villagers probably never setting foot on land.
jianne is a hong kong-born filipino currently studying international journalism and minoring in film. she is an anime, manga, east asian literature and cinema enthusiast. she’s also an advocate for ethnic minority rights in hong kong, being one herself, and has been serving as an ambassador for young people’s involvement in internet governance discussions. aspiring to be a photojournalist, she wants to capture new and undiscovered stories through her lens. also, always craving food.