If you can actually believe it I only just watched Portrait of a Lady on Fire written and directed by Céline Sciamma. I have to admit the fast-paced, short-attention span needing culture of tik-tok has made it harder to watch movies. Although I was hesitant, scared of being interested but slightly bored, I was absolutely and comprehensively proven wrong.
My favorite kind of storytelling is that which has few to a single character(s), and a limited setting. Catcher in the Rye, is an excellent example of this. I love the power that puts on the integrity of the narrative and the story that the character is going through. For me, it creates a moment where no frills can distract from the goodness and incorruptibility of the mere story itself. In the past I might not have included love stories into this pure category, this film has proven me wrong.
The act of telling a bigger story in a visual one that is digestible and viewable to film observers (or just those who love any sort of story), is extremely challenging. The beautiful setting, compelling and dreamy soundtrack, and simple yet still-intricate costumes are shamefully good. The camera shots themselves tell a tale and a story separate of the dialogue, characters, and plotline. Every move, every word spoken, every action is so purposeful that it seems like the most ideal story one could ever witness. Like Marianne’s painting of Hélouise’s smile, something seemingly so simple can hold so much weight in the bigger story.
This film does not have a clear sex scene yet it is extraordinarily sensual. This film finally has a lesbian story that isn’t soley about being gay or coming out. This film is haunting.
I shouldn’t be surprised that I love this film so much, it is technically right up my alley. Yet I am still so satisfied with how well this film was executed. A story that so easily could have become mundane or sleazy remains at an extraordinarily high standard of film. A definite win for the girls.
So yeah, I read it. After two failed orders my copy finally came. Was it interesting? Definitely. Do I have more insight on class struggle, historical relevance in the proletariat fight, and vocabulary to express my own thoughts on systemic and oppressive structures? One hundred percent.
For me Marx and his manifesto is a dictionary, a road map, a study guide. It’s like when you quickly go to sparknotes and cram their bullet notes before a pop quiz on a whole book you didn’t read. It’s hard to actually understand the story if you haven’t taken that time, that process to dive deeply into those words, to interact with them, to understand them. Sure, you get the general gist, can point out some key symbols, and even some simple analysis. But nothing beats sitting down on a rocking chair on a cold, rainy day, book in hand, reading every single word on the page. Stories are what tell the whole picture.
Don’t get me wrong, you should read it. But maybe read it with your hard-cover, worn-down book at the fireplace. Use it as a study guide to quiz your friends who didn’t sit down like you did. Use it if there’s that one paragraph in the story that just doesn’t make sense. But read the story first.
Read about Audre in Harlem. Read about Malcolm in Mecca. Read about Sethe in that old haunted house in Cincinnati Ohio, 1873. You see those sparknotes have a purpose, they have a benefit, but they cannot replace a story.
But Ella? Didn’t that supposed cheatsheet come before these tales?
I argue that this is exactly the point. These tales of liberation, the fight against oppression and violence from the bourgeoisie, these stories are not only innate, but are anachronistically timeless. This is not the chicken and the egg per se. It is clear that life is full of stories that have been vividly experienced before they were so clearly defined by Marx.
So maybe what I’m trying to say is you should just keep it in your back-pocket with your keys and phone. Pull it out when you need it, but don’t miss out on the story happening right before your eyes.
This isn’t my story to tell. As much as I love to say that my great uncle was at Che Guevara’s trial, my favorite niche fact that I tell all of my historically-inclined friends, this story is for someone else to disclose. Thomas Sawyer Hopkins, otherwise known as “Hop”, “Hoppy”, “Grandpoppy”, or just “Poppy”, deserves an audience ready to listen.
As I walked into Sisi (my grandma) and Poppy’s house on this chilly day, with the door propped open and properly face-masked up and distanced, Poppy was dressed in an elaborate Argentine leather vest. The beret that topped his head was another trait he stole from his late brother Alfred. Poppy’s face was more rosey than usual, I’d like to think from the joy of dressing like his relation. Throughout this interview Poppy oftentimes referenced these tangible representations of his brother, the outfit, a small framed picture of Alfred in his later years that Poppy references every night, and some stored letters that survived many voyages across the oceans.
Let me be clear, this isn’t a podcast. This is an auditory interview, a story that took place with my Grandpa. There isn’t necessarily a lesson to learn from this tale, a rising plot and metaphor. But I do think there’s value in the simple notion of asking about more. More of a person’s story, more of a person’s past. More about the sisters and brothers and loved ones we have. More in this case, about Alfred Hopkins who was a great journalist in this world. His story as you listen, is quite complex and beautiful.
Raised on a lemon, orange, and avocado farm, he felt slightly isolated from society. And in a polarizing time he put himself through a higher education: to write about people. He was a journalist in this country who eventually headed south. Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile were a few of these places. As Poppy says many times through this interview, Alfred often confronted the notions of Marxism, US foreign intervention, and the embarrassing oppressive acts done by this country. In Cuba he wrote about Fidel Castro, up close and personal. In Bolivia he wrote about the great revolutionary- Che Guevara who was murdered. In multiple countries, but perhaps most well known in Argentina, Alfred was snatched off the streets: arrested and tortured.
These stories are sort of like when your English teacher asks you to find the symbolism in the same object you’ve been spending a week on already. Eventually, it becomes pretty hard to understand all of the worldly meaning in something as vague as a red room. To be honest, beyond the family Alfred later created and artful words he sent his family back home, we don’t know much about the true torture and trama he endured. We know he was one of the men we learn about who the regime (supported by the United States) decided to just “disappear”. Poppy told me that he thought the trauma he went through was too much to talk about. I reflected on my own traumas, I think about the march I was at just months ago. I imagine as I am taking a picture, a man grabs me and I disappear from the world.
Alfred has always inspired me. Everyone loves that cool relative they have in their lives. I’ve always been interested in writing and the idea that I had a great uncle living in a foreign country making his living as a drama teacher was just fascinating. At the time, I didn’t know he was forced out of his initial profession of journalism by a government with dictators in place because of our government. He still managed to tell stories though, and he still managed to stay in a place full of good food and flair, beautiful tango, and ideally away from the grossness of America’s systems.
As I grew older I began to educate myself on the same historical figures that my uncle so closely wrote about. I began to educate myself in Marxism: much like Alfred’s time in college, I began to do more thinking on the quality of life for people. I wanted to learn more about Alfred and his journey, I wanted to be like him. I reached out to his fiancé and life-long partner, Louise. She pointed me to some of his work in the libraries of Berkley. Ironically my college-friend lives less than five miles away from the building that stores his work, but Covid has made visiting prohibited. Back to the drawing board I went.
I think many times we’re scared of having these conversations. We go through hoops and jumps, we track down pieces of paper in libraries thousands of miles away. In reality a lot of times our answer lives just down the street. So we made the two and a half minute drive on down, we took off our shoes and kept the sliding door open. I did the obvious thing, I did the harder thing. I asked Poppy to tell me about his late brother Alfred.
Talking to a relative who battles with not only hearing-loss from his time as a navy-seal, but with old age and memory-loss can be difficult I will admit. My family teased me saying he was going to go off topic the whole time. But around halfway through I realized that was kind of the point. You see this story isn’t meant for you, this story isn’t meant for me. I realized this story was meant for Poppy. I decided to not edit or take anything out. Moments where his voice goes quieter and I encourage him to speak up. Moments where he gets lost in memories of the time he spent loving his brother. These moments I realized are what make a good story matter.
I also got the opportunity to dive into some of Poppy and Alfred’s letters to each other. It’s a great mix between brotherly roasting, and some serious reflections on real life situations. Being able to read primary source documents about the observation of things I’ve studied and researched: the United Fruit Company, US Involvement and militarism in Cuba and Guatemala– to be able to read these things not only first hand but from my relative is extraordinary. I find myself wondering if our children will scroll through old imessages between my friends and I to learn more about the time of Corona. That great year of ‘20.
The one thing I will leave this story with before you listen to the recording is something Poppy said about his brother that pulled at my heart. When I was probing Poppy more to tell me about Alfred’s specific opinions on Fidel Castro, he quickly and decisively shut me down. With a look in his eyes Poppy took a deep breath and in the clearest and loudest voice he’s used in years he said just this about his brother.
“No, he was a journalist.”
Alfred spent his life telling these stories, and that is the desire I realized I share with him. That is my Great-Uncle Alfred’s legacy. But more important than recognizing my shared desire with Alfred I realized the power this story had for my Grandpa, and for my own relationship with my Grandpa. How beautiful it is to hear stories about a man who was a storyteller, through stories told by his brother who loved him beyond words.
First link above is interview.
Second segment is slideshow of Alfred, Tom, and documents written between the two.
When I found out that Studio Ghibli (who produced one of my favorite films of all time: The Wind Rises) had another similar film, I knew I had to watch right away. The Red Turtle is a wonderful experience that viewers don’t often get to see. With no words or dialogue, we can only deduce a story surrounded in so much beautiful imagery, the many tragedies never seem impossible to conquer. But don’t be alarmed, the finesse and mastery of emotions in this movie make you think no more surrounding the lack of script. This story takes place in one of the most classic and simple stories: man alone on an island, forced to survive. But with the symbols and themes that the red turtle brings, and the glimmering images that besiege our screens, this story does in no way seem mundane or predictable. While I want to keep this review brief and not reveal any of the major plot points, I do want to take the time to appreciate the pure artistry in this film. It is impossible to watch the wind blowing through the man’s hair, the waves lapping the beach ever so softly, the green bamboo forest that rustles in-sync with the clouds; it is impossible to watch these scenes and not be utterly transfixed. And this beauty aids the objectively simple story into an emotional and heavy tale. A tale we can all appreciate and recognize in our own lives.
After reading The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein, I was so excited to dive deeper into her work. What I discovered was that her brilliance is unquestionable, revolutionary, and trailblazing. Klein understands exactly what our mainstream culture fails to convey: corporations and global neoliberalism / capitalism are responsible for our climate crises. Furthermore, trying to find capitalistic bandaids to a wound caused by this violent system is not only stupid but impossible. While many of us might view being “green” or better for the environment as something as simple as using reusable water bottles, no straws, and recycling, Klein’s narrative perfectly rejects this. The climate crisis was created by global neoliberalism through imperialization and can only be stopped when big corporations reject bribery and money to explore sustainable solutions and reject historical, and ignorant means of production. Much like the more easy to understand concept; that capitalism and healthcare are oxymorons and directly contrast, solutions to our climate crises likewise must reject capitalism.
I decided to read this book because I loved The Shock Doctrine so much. I related with the story Klein prefaced her book with, that it’s easy to shy away from the issues of the climate crises, especially if environmentalism isn’t your forte like me. Although I might not have grown to love this fight as much as Klein, while reading the book I not only gained immense knowledge, but developed a grander association with this movement for climate justice.
Two particular stories stuck out to me. First, Klein’s own intimate journey and reflection through the themes of motherhood, maternity in nature and in the human body, and maternal regeneration. She linked her own odyssey in her failures of pregnancy to the toll we are taking on our own mother earth. I would urge anyone to read her chapter “The Right to Regenerate” even if you don’t want to dive deep into this whole book.
The other thing I really related to in this book was her narratives and time spent on the ground documenting the right to reject things like fracking, pipelines, and dangerous industrialization. Importantly, most of these battles took plain rural, disenfranchised locations that were oftentimes occupied by indigneous peoples who have treaties with the government supposedly guaranteeing their stay. While my family has never had to endure the generational fights over land protection, my family did have to protect our old land against a pipeline. Kinder Morgan’s pipeline almost destroyed my family’s land in the small town of Richmond, New Hampshire that has been in my family for more than 120 years. This pipeline was planned to run feet away from the doorstep of our old- already crumbling home, to use the lake water that my family has bathed in for more than a century as a means to increase oil production. Never before had I seen so many libertarians- hermits of society in their closed off houses united with political signs that were anti pipeline. And while the project eventually combusted due to corruption (the irony), the threat was so terrifying that it was almost unimaginable. My privilege in this situation is the fact that this home is not my full-time residence- this only added to the preciosity this situation would cause me to realize was a battle for others. You take this exact situation but put it in the backyard of a group of people who not only rely more on the land, but for hundreds of years have had their land stolen, their livelihoods and cultures systematically disenfranchised and destroyed: that ability is unbelievable but completely representative of the US Government. It is shocking but not surprising, yet another way products of capitalism systemically gash and destroy indigenous communities already suffering from the diseases of other violent commodities and systems from capitalism.
I’m never going to be an expert on climate change. In a way, that’s not the point. The working class, we the people, have the power to impose pressure and demands on corporations and the ruling class in order to fight for the future of our world. We have the power to reject bandaids and the ability to demand for surgery. Time and history has proven that when we revolutionize, when we come together to fight against the bourgeoisie and rules we vehemently oppose, we can create change. All social changes in history have come from oftentimes brutal protests against unjust systems and peoples. And like other fights we have fought in the past, our fight to change the way we view the climate crises must begin in working-class unity. Only then, does our world stand a chance to survive our destruction, to survive for our grandchildren to come.
I can safely say that Beloved is the most dense book I have ever read. Not in its page numbers or the amount of words, but in the value each and every sentence carries. Reading just one line in this book was like bathing in a pool of thick molasses. Drink in hand, not knowing how to get out but not really wanting to. This book is like laying in the middle of a meadow full of dry, warm grass that confines just perfectly to your body. Sun slightly glowing, clouds slowly moving by, why would you ever want to leave? This book isn’t dark like some like to say, this book is real. The darkness doesn’t come from Sethe or what she did, the darkness comes from the system that forced her actions, that enabled her trauma.
This book is extraordinarily true. Who knew that ghosts, spirits, and a haunted house could feel so much more alive than a world without them? And while it is no surprise since I read The Bluest Eye that I would expect brilliance out of Morrison, this book has still managed to go beyond my expectations. Morrison’s story development, her use of every single sentence as being valuable, her character development, it made reading this book feel sacred or spiritual.
This book reaches far beyond its own plot. While I had predictions for the future of her character “Beloved” before it was necessarily revealed, her purpose in this story can only be understood as the reader runs along Morrison’s words, as the sentences go on. This shows that Morrison writes so much beyond just a simple-plot line. Her stories are written off the pages, they tell tales much larger than even the dense sentences she surrounds us in.
Read this book and you will be changed. Read about Denver, read about Sethe, read about Beloved, read about Paul D. Morrison writes of the legacy of slavery and systemic racism, she writes of the heroic survival of these structures. She writes about a woman so brutalized by violence, taking the lives of her own children seems humane in comparison. Read this book, and don’t ever forget it.
Yesterday on a day as monotonous and gray as we’ve seen over the past year, I finished reading the book Beloved by Toni Morrison. When the sun rose this morning and the gray clouds returned to their day-shift, I, like many other Americans, tuned into the inauguration of the 46th president of the United States, Joseph R. Biden Jr. I distinctly remember Barack Obama’s inauguration when I was a tiny second grader, who only knew my mom had an Obama party and that he was our first black leader. I remember the words hope, unity, equality; these were the words that united moderates and progressives to vote for a supposed common goal. I was so happy to see a black man be sworn into the highest office in the land, I was so excited to see what he would do for our country.
The myth of the American President is that he will work for us. All of our Presidents thus far have been war criminals, ranging from Obama to Reagan. I eventually decided to vote for Joe Biden in a swing state, although extremely reluctantly, knowing I was voting against many things I stand for. A neolib who does not want to enact policy to guarantee healthcare or the future of our environment. An accused rapist… say her name: Tara Reade.
Harris, who beyond her problematic political history, has compromised some of her good and progressive policy to partner with middle-of-the-road Joe.
I want to be moved by this election. I want to watch Harris with the same tears in my eyes as when I innocently saw Obama swearing in on that Bible. I’ve corrupted myself by learning about corruption. I’ve gained the power to hear what people say behind my back, and now I wish I didn’t have that power. I wish I didn’t eavesdrop and hear that Obama killed Syrian children, Biden attacked Anita Hill, Harris locked up trans-women in male prisons.
I’ve learned that our system of capitalism is our demise. How can a system built on the exploitation of marginalized people be reconstructed? How can we tape and glue back together a plate that is already shattered. How can we terrorize other elections and inquire about the invasion of ours.
Toni Morrison in Beloved wrote “Making them think the next sunrise would be worth it; that another stroke of time would do it at last.”
I ended up watching the inauguration. Finding myself trying not to fall victim to the quicksand of the myth of the American Dream. Finding myself trying to battle against the snake squeezing me with false promises. Finding myself knowing that our country’s system and enablers hates so many of its people.
Celebrate today. I’m serious. Watch Kamala Harris and take this time to realize the power in this moment. But don’t let neoliberalism and polite politics throw you back in the burning hole of apathy. Donald Trump might have been a great white shark with snarling teeth, but more people die from microscopic, invisible parasites like Ronald Regan, one of the most beloved American presidents.
Tomorrow we go back to work. Fighting against a system that hates us. Fighting for a future where people have the right just to survive.
I first heard “Dauber” about five years ago, sitting on the narrow benches across from the rocking tables that can only be found in the main saloon of a schooner. Shenandoah is her name. Captain would read us this poem most nights. I have to admit, most of us, including myself, zoned out or napped a little during his tales. In fact, in those junctures there were definitely a million things I’d rather do. Yet I find myself in moments of introspective reflection craving those words that were so melodically and boringly read to me. A table one cannot lean their head on, a head that smells like what one does in the head- right next to us, and the distant sounds of late night ferries. It took me a while but I tracked down a copy of what I think is the majority of the poem which Captain read to us at night. As I read over it again recently I found myself actually encapsulated and blindingly fascinated. Dauber’s story is one to me in which I actually really can understand. While Masefield’s old english and ever-present formal rhymes might have put me to sleep before, being able to engage with his words with my own eyes was a completely new experience. Now, when I think of the verbal utterance of this story, I can’t help but think it is perhaps the best lullaby that has ever been read to me.
Dauber, a young man born in a home of generational farmers has escaped to sea as a painter. We hear his reflection of the rejection against his fathers wishes in his expected parallel procedure. We read about the tricks the sailors pull on Dauber, cold nights battling the wind and the snow on the bottom of the tip of South America. Ultimately, Dauber dies, although after he has at least come to terms with his new-found belonging as a sailor. Perhaps a rejection of the laborious life his dad wanted for him, or maybe a connection bringing the two back together. A born farmer, turned painter, turned sailor who eventually rests at sea ultimately. A poem with words and rhymes that speak out to me. A poem that bores me. A poem that excites me. Masefield and Dauber’s adventure that I can join in the main saloon at night. The late night ferries blowing their horns in the distance, waves lapping onto the joints and planks that inundate these joyful words. All is right when we are on a sailboat floating in the middle of the world.
Over the past year our country has been forced to have conversations about the historical and systemic oppression against people of color in our society. The murder of black people in this country can now be filmed- which has sparked outrage and conversations like never before. Both the killing of George Floyd and my own college’s strike against embedded racism in predominantly white institutions have caused me to not only think and talk about race, but to educate myself on the complexities of the systems that have enabled it for all of time. My basketball team normally reads a book about themes like toughness, leadership, hard work, etc. This year we decided to read a book about race in basketball. This is my opinion on what I read.
I didn’t necessarily have high expectations when I went into this book. No offense to Barry Jacobs, but on the back cover he looks like a white guy and a couple days before reading this book I had just finished listening to the brilliant words of black revolutionaries and artists like Thomas Sankara and Michele Wallace. I was then surprised at the complexity and multi-faceted ways in which this book was approached, it pleasantly snuck up on me in the narrative that was created. Jacobs managed to tell the real tales of the first black men who broke the color barrier in college basketball; he didn’t spare the truth even when it was uncomfortable. I actually felt the most education in these uneasy passages, it forced me as a person of privilege to confront systems that were enabled by people who are still alive today. One example of this was when I was reading about Claiborn who was an athlete at Duke when my grandmother attended. While it is easy to simply demonize and remove oneself from the violence of the past, it is harder to reconcile with the idea that the past is still alive and benefiting from the system today. These stories are not that of history textbooks, but of middle-age diaries, and current every-day traumas. These experiences of racism and violence in the world and in the game of basketball are not only still a part of today, but still thriving in a system that unless confronted, will continue to oppress for the rest of time.
In “Forms of Hell” we learn about Perry Wallace’s experience at Vanderbilt University from 1966-1970. One theme throughout the book that we can see through Wallace is how these programs looked to recruit black men who were perceived as non threatening and perfect in the way he would interact with whites and white racist attitudes. Dillard though, did not fit into this tiny hole that the white world so wanted to peg him in. One quote that I felt embodied this really well was when Wallace remembered Dillard as exhibiting “‘the same sense of spunkiness and spirit as almost any white boy at Vanderbilt’” (30). Here proves the notion of this model he was forced to be that he inevitably and understandably rejected. He was forced to noy only confront the role that we as basketball players have to understand, but the role of his full identity at the school. Was he a political tool or just a basketball player? This question was something that all the athletes in this book eventually confronted. Dillard ended up suffering extreme trauma from being forced into a pioneer role in a system that for so long and still currently is violent towards POC. Not only was there blatant violence but no one actually cared to know who he was as a person. He was forced to reckon with the notion of hatred, the extreme violence against him was not only traumatic but would shape his ideals in the way he had interactions with the other.
In “Between Worlds” we learn about C.B. Claiborne’s experience at Duke University from 1965-1969. As I said before this story really stuck out to me because my grandma attended Duke for three years a little bit before Claiborne arrived. We’ve had conversations about segregation, and racism at her school, as she’s spoken of her ignorance to any sort of perspective outside of the white person. While she has always had fairly progressive views her lack of awareness to the other experience really sticks with me. Often I realize that the teammates and fellow students of these black pioneers are still alive today, dictating our laws, hiring us for jobs, and voting. One small little note that I found really ironic and relevant to today was the part about southerners’ opinion on Dr Martin Luther King as being a communist. That word is oftentimes thrown around today at those who stand for equality, even at such a moral figure like MLK we can see such extreme false demonization. This has not changed at all. Claiborne also really relates to me because of his relationship with activism and boycotting on campus, he was one of the first black athletes to visibly engage in campus protest. Jacobs wrote “as far as basketball as concerned, he felt he had little to lose” (71). Claiborne knew that fighting for his equal right to life was more important than basketball at the time, as it still is today. He said that the fact that he got through his time at Duke was remarkable, something that a lot of people of color today often say; showing the real lack of change in attitude we’ve had on campuses. Claiborne’s legacy would be taking that first step.
In “Fall From Grace” we learn about Henry Harris Jr.’s experience at Auburn University from 1968-1972. This chapter starts out by learning about his suicide, something that indefinitely relates to his time at Auburn. While Harris was a naturally confident leader he was too forced into the position of being a trailblazer where every one of his mistakes and flaws would be scrutinized by the masses in ways that were out of the realm of basketball criticism. Most of the coaches and players from his time there were ignorant not only to the hardships and violence he would face because of his race, but how it led to his suicide. Another crucial element we learn through Harris’s experience is the fact that since he was the first black man on his team, it was inherently isolation due to the sheer fact that he couldn’t even talk to anyone about it. One line that is repeated constantly throughout the book by either white teammates or white coaches we can see written here: “‘I guess I didn’t even realize the challenges that someone like that would have to go through’” (90). Ultimately, Auburn and those at Auburn failed him. Not only as a basketball player which would have been a problem in its own, but as a person and as a human who ultimately took his own life. Violence is not only punching, lynching, and blood, it is truama of being demonized and ioslated, it is what these black athletes had to endure.
In “The Loneliest Number” we learn about Charles Scott’s experience at the University of North Carolina from 1966-1970. I want to start out write away with a quote that really summarized the ethos of a lot of this book: “Scott proved the rule- if there was such a rule- that a pioneering black player would gain acceptance only if he was so good that no critics could reasonably dispute that the player deserved a scholarship” (97). Two things I would add to that was that critics would also only accept the individual if they socially fit into the mold expected of them. Likewise we cannot disregard the pressure that this notion then put on an individual, and that this pressure was violence in itself. Scott accounted that his presence as the first black athlete was not something he was really aware of, perhaps this would help him? Loneliness was another thing that Scott also inevitably experienced, how can one have positive experiences or deal with negative ones when there is no one there for you. Scott also accounted for the tough decisions he was forced to make, such as either boycotting or participating in the Mexico City Olympics. We are able to learn about the pressure and position that he was forced into, ultimately the decision of what he did was made for his own self-preservation and survival. Today, we have to remember that, especially in a time full of protests. Scott was an example of the multiple roles black athletes are forced and expertected to develop, more than just what their white counterparts have to experience.
In “Door Jamb” we learn about Wendell Hudson’s experience at the University of Alabama from 1969-1973. Hudson is yet another example of how he was expected to noy only be a great basketball player, but a great person in order to pave the way for future balck athletes. “All involved point to Hudson’s calm, steady, unassuming but uncompromising manner as a crucial element in winning acceptance for African American athletes” (129). Not only were black athletes forced to be the best at their game but they were forced to be the best social role models. Many southern schools thought it crucial that their first black athlete contain both of those skills right away. Another crucial element we can learn through Hudson’s story is how his own community viewed him in a problematic lens. They saw him as a sell-out and conforming too much to the white man’s world. While understandable, this only added to the pressure and difficulty in Hudson’s experience. We also see in Hudson’s time at Alabama how his presence on the team forced his teammates to confront and reckon with Civil Rights issues. While they might have been able to previously avoid them, now their own teammate and supposed brother was going through these issues. While Hudson might be more of a success story we can credit that to his personality that perfectly matched his role. Yet, we shouldn’t need a perfect person for this role, why can’t we just have basketball players who are good at basketball? Shouldn’t that be enough?
In “Pipe Dream” we learn about Norwood Todmann’s experience at Wake Forest University from 1966-1970. One line that really stuck out to me related to Wake Forest’s relation with its Christianity. One board member said “‘How could we be sending missionaries around the world to convert people to Christianity and then fail to open our doors to them’’” (151). If we look past the unethical nature of missionaries he does make a good point. But looking at Todmann we read about the narrative of basketball as an escape from something like the hood. We also read a lot about the continued ignorance of white teammates and coaches. Oftentimes we seem them claim colored-blindness, which I would argue is just as problematic as blatant racism itself. If we refuse to see color we refuse to see the historical and lasting implications of racism and oppression on an individual, and how even today, society sets them behind. We also read about the rise of black power in its rejection of traditional definitions of white success. This chapter provides a lot of narrative about how this new black pride clashed with the coach’s McCloskey’s traditional structures embedded in white supremacy. That is undoubtedly why Todmann clashed so much with them; the systems the coach was so obsessed with were rooted in white supremacy.
In “Prisoner of Choice” we learn about Tom Payne Jr.’s experience at University of Kentucky from 1969-1971. Payne Jr.’s story is definitely the most unique in the whole book, as he raped multiple women after his basketball at UK and served many years in jail for his crimes. Payne Jr’s claims that it was the racism he encountered at the UK that caused him to be violent towards white women which we know has severe historical implications. (many innocent black men were lynched for being accused of raping white women, although almsot all were innocent. We can see this plays at white, male fragility and their fear of the black man). One point Payne Jr. made which I thought was really important was when he said “You never hear any person apologize for racism… A lot of people were really trying to justify that there was no racism, that Kentucky wasn’t racist. And it’s a historical fact that Kentrucy was racist and there was racism” (171). While in all the other stories we hear about the white ignorance and lack of awareness, it is interesting to hear a black athlete point out the violence in that. The abuse that Payne endured undoubtedly had an effect in his violence crimes, we can see that legacy taking place in generations of black survivors starting from American slavery. The abuse stemmed from his racist coach, surroundings, and the individual racist acts that can send a person over. He was a role model as the first black athlete at UK, only to then commit these horrendous crimes. One can only imagine the negative effect aht would have for black athletes at UK or in the south for the future. While as a female athlete, it is easy to dismiss Payne’s victimhood, we cannot. It is obvious to me that the racist abuse he endured at UK had to at least have a small effect on his violent future.
In “Friendly Bounce” we learn about Al Heartley’s experience at North Carolina State University from 1967-1971. In Heartley’s story I really liked reading about the dichotomy of relationships between whites in black in an urban versus rural setting, and then how entering that urban setting would bring a new dynamic. Heartley accounts that while he grew up in the country where black people and white people had good relationships because they grew tobacco together, that same neighbor would ignore you if in the presence of other white people in a more populous setting. I think that speaks a lot to the issues of racism in white people. While some of his high school classmates transferred schools in efforts to participate in integration I thought it was good to hear the perspective of why a black student wouldn’t want to: “Heartley, like many athletes at Johnston Central, did not, content instead to stick with friends, teammates, and a setting with which he was familiar and in which he thrived. ‘We needed pioneers in those days, and I didn’t want to be a pioneer at that level… I played basketball; I played baseball. I was in the band. I was president of my class. So I wanted to stay’” (201). His parents thought doors would be opened if he got a degree from a predominantly white institution which is why he ended up where he did and eventually walked on the team. Heartley reflected a lot about his fear and the white silence, sort of an uneasiness that was always around him. Heartley though was an excellent model for what whites wanted, his coach trusted him and the local media respected him too, which was special considering the media’s normal tendencies of being racist.
In “Penn Pall” we learn about Ronnie Hogue’s experience at the University of Georgia from 1969-1973. Georgia was especially full of blatant racists and the KKK. However, there were a lot of balck people living in Athens so he felt like he could relate to those people. He was actually interested in the pioneer role, the leadership role, that would come with being the first black player at the University. Hogue though considered his playing and leadership style to be naturally more militant than pacifist: “‘I wasn’t like a Martin Luther King guy; I was more like Malcolm X. If you know how to fight back, people give you respect’” (225). Another reason Hogue chose to go down South despite its reputation is the fact that his southern-born mother wanted him to learn the ways in which he would later be forced to interact with white people, especially in the workforce. Something important that came up that I found really interesting was when Hogue discussed his views on dating black women rather than white women because he wanted little black boys to see him as a proper role model- not thinking gblack women weren’t worth their time. This also brings up the dynamic that I talked about with a different story of black-men and white-women relationships. Although he initially wanted to be a pioneer during college he didn’t think much about it, although many would say he had a big and positive impact.
In “Forbidden Territory” we learn about Craig Mobley’s experience at Clemson University from 1969-1971, and Casey Manning’s experience at the University of South Carolina from 1969-1973. At Clemson Mobley was oftentimes faced with the question of taking a stand with his black peers or sticking to just playing basketball which would appease his white supporters. Unlike other athletes who were just trying to survive, Mobley decided to stand with his contemporaries. He said “‘I’m walking down the street and it’s dark at night; nobody’s going to care if I’m a basketball player or not’” (242). He now wonders if his choice to join the walkout was one of the reasons his basketball career was cut shorter. In South Carolina a soldier once wrote “It seems to me that the average [white] South Carolininian is so afraid that the negro will get ahead that he is willing to sacrifice his own rights to make sure that the negro won’t have any” (243). Manning grew up in a town that was more tolerant than most and went to school in Columbia which was obviously less isolated and closer to home for him. This section also talks about the impracticality of segregation: how it actually costs more economically to keep people segregated. Manning was seen as the pioneer and he fulfilled the role that was needed, it helped that he was a local too. In fact, this locality actually helped him, it gave him something to focus on and other fans liked him because of it.
In “All in the Family” we learn about Collis Temple Jr.’s experience at Louisiana State University from 1970-1974. Temple Jr. was brought up in a purposeful way by his parents; one that protected him from the violence of white supremacy and segregation and expected black empowerment. One specific thing they did that really stuck out to me was how they would only seek medical help from black professionals. This relates to now because we can currently see a huge discrepancy in the way black people in this country receive medical care. Temple said “‘My mom and dad basically kept me from being exposed to heavy, heavy racism at an early age so I wouldn’t become indoctrinated by having to act and feel a certain way and be inhibited about dealing with people’” (272). On the court Temple continued his parent’s lessons, he was a natural hard worker. Another thing he described is the expeciation to be militant, he said that he needed to focus more on just protecting himself. LSU did little to make black students feel welcome, and a football based culture did not help. His sister was really hesitant of the violence and struggle he would face as a pioneer, although she now acknowledges that he was probably the only man good enough to do the job. He also talked about avoiding white women which I mentioned before. Another thing that made him more special is he stood up for himself when called racial slurs on the court, in the other stories the athletes would usually just ignore it; I found this interesting and telling of his upbringing… which strategy worked best, who knows.
In “Shooting the Hoop” we learn about Coolidge Ball’s experience at the University of Mississippi from 1970-1974. Ball was described as not only really good, but a really good player. Jacobs wrote, “One cannot truly appreciate Ball’s success and acceptance without understanding Mississippi’s devotion to castelike social and racial order than sentence African Ameriacns to enduring threat and limitation” (293). The state had a long history of sharecropping and lack of quality education that endures to this day, with the social order being preserved by whites who know how bad it is, but prefer it in order to uphold white supremacy. Emmit Till is also an important story to remember in this state. Going into college basketball, Ball just wanted to be an example of a black athlete. His manner was understated and his game was really good, something that helped his relationship with his team. He also became the intermediary between players and coach which broke down not only a racial barrier, but a status barrier. Also uniquely, Ball actually ended up settling down near his former University, something that definitely didn’t happen with most of the other stories we read about. His case was definenly more positive.
In “Rear Guard” we read “Later Gators” and learn about Malcolm Meeks who went to school between 1970-1972, and Steve Williams who went to school between 1970-1974 at the University of Florida. We then read “Far From Home” and learn about Al Drummond who played at the University of Virginia from 1970-1974. We then read “Actions Speak” and learn about Wilbert Cherry who went to school from 1970-1972, and Larry Robinson who went to school from 1971-1973 at the University of Tennessee. Finally, we read “Sneakers” and learn about Larry Fry who went to school from 1971-1975 and Jerry Jenkins who went to school from 1971-1975 at Mississippi State University. Contrary to popular belief Florida actually took a good amount of time to integrate, and was caught up with the other southern states. Players in Florida really struggled with these attitudes along with coaches who were blind and ignorant to the real life implications of racism. Williams said “‘It was probably just a Southern attitude with a lot of folks- that there’s a place for a black person, and at this university is not the place’” (315). For Drummond in Virginia the experience was similar. He started out going into the program daily ignorant to the color barrier he would be breaking, the coaches did not prepare him at all for what would follow. “Drummond says it was only on the court that he felt out of place in Virginia” (318). I think this speaks volumes to his experience of needing to be the black token that his coaches wanted, they don’t care about him as a player. In Tennessee Cherry was eventually cut from the team while Robinson focused more on just getting through the experience. For Robinson the book said “breaking barriers was not something [he] discusses readily even in middle age” (324). At Mississippi State University recruiting was also focused more in state and it was hard because “racially separate high school basketball tournaments remained the norm in Mississippi” (328). Generally teams that refused to integrate properly were the teams that also did bad on the basketball side.
I really enjoyed this book and would love to read more about white violence in basketball outside of this small group of Universities in the South. Reading about women’s integration too, would be something I am really interested in.
Ironically the first time I had something to do with Michele Wallace was when I read her mother’s famous children’s book, Tar Beach. I initially bought this book because it was on sale at my local bookstore and seemed like something I’d like. Finding out that Wallace was actually the daughter of Ringgold, who’s work I admire so much, was really awesome to experience. Wallace’s book is definitely a landmark in black feminist theory, providing many thoughts that are very personal and unique to her own life and growing up. She brings in the works and lives of many other black and/or female artists, providing interpretation into the validity or meaning of their art. I found that after reading works from people like Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Jamaica Kincaid, etc., her ideas were oftentimes new for me to consider. Reading about her life and the background of her childhood and young adult life helped to paint a better picture, especially of the black liberation work that took place in places like Harlem. Her interpretation of The Color Purple and the work done by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., especially stuck out to me and resonated with my previous thinking. I would recommended this book to anyone remotely interested in black feminist theory, it’s vital to dissect this great work of literature.