History

In ZORA. More on Medium.

True to its origins, this year’s Juneteenth combines incremental victory and continued struggle.

A woman wipes away tears after the names of Black people killed by police were read while marching to mark the Juneteenth holiday June 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Juneteenth is now an official federal holiday, with legislation creating “Juneteenth National Independence Day” having passed in the House and Senate and signed into law by President Joe Biden. This victory is hard-won, the fruit of decades of activism from people like 94-year-old Opal Lee, who once walked from Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington, D.C., (at 89!) to push for federal recognition.

So finally, the U.S. is getting a national holiday dedicated to the emancipation of our enslaved ancestors. But it’s happening amid a concerted right-wing effort…


Was the summer of 2020 a wake-up call, a reckoning or a revolution?

The summer of 2020 brought with it protest after protest after protest. But to what end? Photo: Getty Images

With six months under our belts in 2021, many have begun to refer to 2020 as the “lost year.” Twenty-twenty was the year that brought us so much — trauma, a reset, inner peace, anxiety. Essentially, it was a basket case of a year. If you are Black, however, it brought with it the persistent reminder that even in the midst of a global pandemic, where a trip to the grocery store could land you in the hospital or worse, being Black in America was still just as deadly as contracting Covid-19. …


It’s disrespectful that three survivors are still living in poverty with no reparations in sight

Give her all the flowers. Viola Fletcher accepts roses and lilies during a commemoration event for the 1921 Tulsa Massacre. Photo: Getty Images

All eyes are on Tulsa, Oklahoma, this week as the nation remembers the tragic events of May 31 to June 1, 1921, when a White mob killed some 300 Black residents and looted the community known as “Black Wall Street” before burning it to the ground.

The official agenda put forth by the city’s Centennial Commission offered a slew of redeeming events, including a candlelight vigil, an economic empowerment day featuring actor and author Hill Harper, and a day of learning with scholar Cornel West.

But all is not as it seems on this centennial anniversary. In the midst of…


‘I think the reason her story is still relevant is because it’s never truly been told’

The United States vs. Billie Holiday” Photo: Hulu

If you’ve seen Lady Sings the Blues and think you have The United States vs. Billie Holiday figured out, you are in for a surprise. A shock even. For decades, the picture most of us have had of Billie Holiday is one of a hopeless drug addict with awful taste in men, save for the one man, played by Billy Dee Williams, who loved Holiday fiercely but still couldn’t pull her from the clenches of drugs.

Many people also think of her solely as the woman who sang the antilynching song, “Strange Fruit,” back in 1939. And, if we are…


Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Photo courtesy of Kenneth Thompson/Methodist Church Global Ministries

“When I liberate myself, I liberate others. If you don’t speak out ain’t nobody going to speak out for you.” –– Fannie Lou Hamer

Fannie Lou Hamer (October 6, 1917 — March 14, 1977) was a women’s rights and voting rights activist. Born in rural Mississippi, she was known for her impassioned speeches and testimonials wherein she used scripture, hymnals, and straightforward real talk to lead the civil rights movement for Black women in the state, eventually co-founding the National Women’s Political Caucus. During her lifetime, Hamer was extorted, shot at, harassed, arrested, and brutally attacked for trying to register…


Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy, director Stanley Nelson’s latest documentary, is both a reminder and an eye-opening account of the horrors of crack and the country’s push to criminalize Black people struggling with drug addiction. Streaming on Netflix, it covers a lot of ground. Drawing from anecdotes from the Black and Brown people impacted by the “war on drugs” and archival footage from the 1980s and ’90s, the doc illustrates the ties between Reagan’s White House to Nicaragua and how a party drug for the elite was weaponized by police and the medical field to separate Black mothers from their…


Her talent as a novelist is evident, but her nurturing of Black authors cannot be overlooked

Black and white photo of Toni Morrison smiling.
Black and white photo of Toni Morrison smiling.
Toni Morrison. Photo: Reg Innell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

A few years ago at a Radcliffe Institute exhibit, I came across photos of a draft of what would become Angela Davis’ autobiography. A foundational Black literary text, bare-boned and vulnerable, is not something you often get to see. The manuscript bloomed with the strokes of a blue pen, notes from the editor on what needed to be changed. In the caption of the photo, the editor’s name was noted: Toni Morrison.

There is so much power in that photo. It tells us a lot about Davis, but it tells us even more about Morrison. Morrison, one of the most…


Family portraits hanging on the wall with dim lighting.
Family portraits hanging on the wall with dim lighting.
Photo courtesy of the author.

Hands. Years ago, when my nearly 30-year-old daughter was closer to single-digit ages, I wanted to capture photographs of hands making and doing tasks. So I did. I created a sepia-toned set of photographs to display in my basement’s “play area.” My recently deceased grandmother’s hands lifting the lid on a pot of greens, my hands crafting a scrapbook, my daughter’s hands practicing for piano class—these photographs now reside on the wall of my condo along with one of those staged photographs that includes my even-longer-deceased mother. Four generations together.

These hands represent creativity. The ability to create, to “make…


I was sold a fake history about Black women

Photo: Delmaine Donson/Getty Images

As a little girl from the South, I always remembered Black History Month was a way for some people to feel better about themselves because they had a token Black friend. These same people still believe that, since they watched the movie Black Panther, they have done their part to help the Black community.

Even now during Black History Month, I have seen a steady increase of Black people on TV and in commercials. …


Imagine if you learned that photographs of your enslaved ancestors had been rediscovered in a museum at Harvard. Then imagine how you would feel if someone told you that you have no right to those photographs.

Such is the plight of Tamara Lanier, who has taken on the Ivy League behemoth to secure the rights to the photos, which languished in a drawer out of sight and away from the public eye for years. The daguerreotypes depict women and men, breasts and genitalia exposed, their haunting stares a riveting testament to the degradation our ancestors endured during slavery’s shameful reign.

ZORA

Bold, yet refined. A publication from Medium for Black women.

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