When sh*t blows up

OLYMPICS BLACK POWER SALUTE

The last time Sh*t blew up. Olympic medalists John Carlos and Tommie Smith give the Black Power salute at the ’68 Olympics. Image from The Guardian.

Don’t be mislead by the title. I’m not talking about terror bombings or explosives conspiracies. I’m talking about emotion and metaphor. There are times when sh*t blows up metaphorically, when people can no longer escape images that reveal a profound disconnect between their perceived reality and the lives of people on the other side of the fence. The picture above was something I saw as a kid. Our gym teacher dragged us all into the auditorium to watch the Mexico Olympics on a huge (for the times) TV. I was in an integrated school in Cincinnati, Ohio, and our city had already seen urban riots that were the hallmark of urban life in the 1960’s. I’m sure our gym teacher didn’t want us to see this. But see it we did. I had no idea what was going on; my Black classmates did, though.

Sh*t was blowing up all over the place in ’68. I also watched the Smothers Brothers, and I remember watching in ’68 when Pete Seeger sang ‘Big Muddy’ and called out the war in Vietnam and predicted that Johnson was leading us into disaster. 

 

These aren’t the only times sh*t blew up on TV, of course. There was that time in 1991 in the run-up to the Persian Gulf war when Act Up activists interrupted CBS news to talk about the AIDS crisis. Fourteen protesters got arrested for getting in front of the cameras. 

But even though ACT UP broke into the media conversation for a few years, the rise of media consolidation has made it increasingly difficult for other activists with messages challenging the national narrative to get through. There are multiple events I’ve taken part in recently without seeing a single representative of the Mainstream Media. 

Anyway, that’s how things were until Superbowl Sunday 2016. Then a funny thing happened. And I’m not talking about Coldplay’s frontman Chris Martin yelling ‘Vote for Sanders’! Nope. Beyoncé decided to debut her song ‘Formation‘ (a shout-out to the Black Lives Matter movement) complete with backup dancers dressed in costumes reminiscent of the Black Panthers of the 1960’s. Lefty folks who figured out what she was saying were ecstatic. People like Rudy Giuliani, not so much

30fb8cd400000578-3432666-image-m-248_1454906064915-e1454916991939

a subtle tribute to Malcolm from Beyonce’s Superbowl performance. What could possibly upset RudY?

I’m hoping this all turns into something that is a conversation about Black Lives Matter and the inherent racism of swapping out Flint’s water and the economic war (which is what it must seem like to many people of color) that has been waged in this country since 2008. African American families have taken a bigger economic hit in the Bush Crash than their white counterparts, and the pro-Obama narrative of economic recovery doesn’t cover the continuing problems in employment for most people in urban areas. One other positive around Beyoncé’s activism–she and Jay-Z are donating big bucks to Flint as well as Jay-Z’s $1.5 M donation to Black Lives Matter. It’s time to change the narrative about victimization and challenge the economic forces that continue to deprive people of all races of the means of economic betterment. And Justice–don’t forget Justice

Sh*t’s blowing up. 

UPDATE: I hadn’t seen The Daily Show’s Jessica Williams’ take on Beyoncé. It’s worth a look. And I’m glad I didn’t see it before I wrote my blog, because I might have decided she’d covered it. Anyway, here ’tis.

 

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