The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

The word mixtape, is one of those that has a loose translation, but essentially stands for a collection of songs or clips that reflect the tastes of the compiler and, most often than not, have a common theme. Occasionally, mixtapes are made not of just music, but of film as well. While mixtapes are becoming more and more popular since they first started appearing in the 80's, there are still some mixtapes that have yet to surface. Last year, Swedish filmmaker Goran Hugo Olsson produced one of the most compelling mixtapes using footage that had been long forgotten for more than 30 years. Most importantly he revealed the untold story of one of the most misconstrued movements that took place in American history- the Black Power Movement.

Olsson's film, The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, is an award-winning compilation documentary, displaying facets of the Black Power Movement and the African-American community during those critical years of 1967-1975. The motion picture  told with rare footage, which had been lost in Swedish archives for over 30 years, features some of the Civil Rights Movement's most influential leaders (that we don't often hear about) like Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Eldridge Cleaver, and Stokely Carmichael.

Olsson also adds current sentiments in the community to the curated clips and footage in The Black Power Mixtape by featuring the voices and insight of current African-American influentials like Harry Belafonte, Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli, and Ahmir Questlove Thompson. It's a historical and current view into the struggle that African Americans endured in their fight for freedom and knowledge.

Check out The Black Power Mixtape trailer below. While there are no NYC screenings anytime soon, the DVD is available for purchase. And if you happen to be in Sweden this week, Stocktown will be hosting their third Show & Tell this Thursday, April 19th in Stockholm with director Goran Hugo Olsson as their special guest.

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Educating America on Race Relations: An Interview with Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

By: Justin Chan

A distinguished professor at Harvard University and a celebrated scholar on African American studies, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has received a number of awards for his study on Black culture.  He currently directs the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African-American Research at the university and has been credited for transforming the school's African American studies program. In 1981, he received the prestigious MacArthur Foundation grant to fund his research for Black Periodical Literary Project, a venture that collects and annotates Black newspapers and magazines.

A literary critic, Dr. Gates also served as an editor on several anthologies of African American literature and wrote several works in relation to literary theory, including Black Literature and Literary Theory and The Signifying Monkey: Towards a Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism. Aside from earning more than 50 honorary degrees, he was named as one of Time magazine's 25 Most Influential Americans in 2007. Check out our interview below with Dr. Gates to learn more about his thoughts on race relations.

In honor of Black History Month, we've been doing a feature on prominent African Americans who defied the odds in order to achieve success. Who do you think deserves recognition but hasn't received it yet?

Phillis Wheatley. Against the greatest odds, she was the first poet of African descent to publish a book in the English language. In 1773, many people thought persons of African descent were more related to monkeys and apes than Italians and Englishmen. Against tremendous odds, [Wheatley] was a true pioneer, and she should be celebrated by every Black person.

What do you think has been your greatest achievement thus far?

Me? Trying to be a good father to two beautiful and brilliant young women, Maggie Gates and Liza Gates.

Which current African American author do you find most appealing? Why?

Oh, it's definitely tough to say. There are many African American writers that I admire, but I find Toni Morrison endlessly fascinating, complex and rich.

Some believe that there should be a certain level of political correctness when referring to African Americans. For instance, several people have an issue when this particular demographic is referred to as "Black" while others are completely fine with it. Do you believe there is any sort of connotation behind this label that warrants a degree of political correctness?

No, I think people should be comfortable with identifying themselves with whatever label they want. I don't think that we should judge people. I prefer the term "African American" without the hyphen. For me, at this point, I've written about Africa and made documentaries about Africa, so I'm very aware about the connections and the disconnections between Africa and the United States. We're definitely an African people, but we are a New-World African people. I'd like to, very much, keep our identification with our African heritage.

In a 2010 editorial for the New York Times, you attempted to convince your readers to stop completely blaming the Europeans for the slave trade while acknowledging that they were partially responsible for what had happened. Your piece received a strong response from the African American community. Why do you think there's been difficulty in reaching a compromise on this issue?

The slave trade was evil, but it's very important not to give a pass to the African elites that engaged in wars and sold other Africans to Europeans. Many African Americans have romanticized the African past. As Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Laureate, points out, there's a connection between the corruption of African [governments] today and the roles of the African elites in the slave trade. I think he's absolutely right. Until we're honest about that and until we deal with it, we won't be able to make certain forms of social progress in the African continent.

It was easier for us, as African Americans, to think that there was only one set of bad guys in the slave trade. As a matter of fact, there were two: African elites and Europeans. And as it turns out, why should we be surprised?  Why should Africans be any pure or any more noble than other human beings? Both sides were motivated for commercial reasons, and both sides are guilty.

Now, there was an uproar when I wrote this article because the politically correct interpretation is to give Africans a pass and to demonize the Europeans. Other people [said], "Well, persons of European descent in America made much more money and more profit over longer periods." That's true, but that's not what I was talking about. I was talking about the origins of the slave trade. The origins of the slave trade can be traced to evil deeds done by both Europeans and African elites. No serious scholar would even question my assertion. Any serious scholar of the slave trade knows that what I was saying was true. We're just uncomfortable with my making that statement in public, but I don't respect that kind of politically correct censorship.

Every scholar of the slave trade knows about the African role in the slave trade. People wrote to me and said, "Well, what you wrote was true, but you shouldn't have said it in public." I think there should be some kind of symbolic reparations from Africa, and by "symbolic," I mean apologies and honesty. I think African Americans should be offered symbolic citizenship in African countries and the right to own property. I think there are a lot of symbolic gestures that can be made to heal the breach between Africans and African Americans, but amnesia is not one of them.

We should not try to change the past. We have to learn from the past. Evil comes in all colors, including Black. The sale of Africans by Africans to Europeans, to me, represents one of the worst points in the history of the great African continent.

You've often been against creating a separatist black canon and have, instead, advocated an inclusive one that acknowledges the cultural connections between White and Black texts. Do you think there's any way a black canon can exist in the future without having to refer to White cultural influences or racial themes?

There would be no America without African America, but there would be no African America without America. It's a reciprocal relationship. We are an African people in the New World, and our texts, in the literary tradition, have two sets of mothers and fathers. Every Black author I know is very cognizant of his or her position in the African American literary canon but also in the broader American literary canon. So, you can teach a text in relationship to other Black texts or teach it in the larger context of American literature, among many other ways.

Starting with Zora Neale Hurston, there were people who wrote about self-contained Black worlds. A novel in the African American tradition doesn't necessarily have to [talk] about White America, but it's not surprising if [it does]. It's possible to write about the Black culture by referring to White influences, and it's possible to write them without having to, as Zora Neale Hurston proved.

There's been some tension between Caribbean American communities and African American communities over the idea that they share a common Black experience in this country. What do you think are some notable differences and similarities between the two?

I think that the tensions between Caribbean immigrants and African Americans, which manifested as early as the 1920s, are primarily economic. People who are immigrants are motivated to leave home and seek a new life in a new world, that means that they tend to do very well. They have high motivation, and they have enough gumption to get up and leave and be willing to work hard and survive.

The fact that more Africans came to the United States between 1990 and 2000 and during the entire history of the  slave trade is an astonishing fact to most people, but it's a fact. Many of these Africans are doing very, very well because they tend to be higher-educated. The same is true for the Caribbeans and in terms of the outcome. They tend to be better educated and more motivated. They also come from predominately Black societies, which means that they have a different understanding of themselves, a different amount of self-esteem and self-regard than someone who is structurally unemployed in America and a descendant of slaves.

Any immigrant in the New World is a descendant of slaves at some point, but it is how you see yourself in the mirror and how you conceive of yourself. That's where the difference manifests itself. The tension between Black immigrants from Africa and the West Indies and Black Americans can be traced to economic causes.

What do you think is the most important issue that needs to be addressed within the African American community?

I think the three most important things that should be addressed in the African American community are education, education and education. I think that far too many of our people have lost the belief in the future and that we can achieve anything we set our minds to achieve in society. Our slave ancestors even believed that, against enormous odds, education would set them free. And guess what? They were right. Education still sets you free.

We need a civilized movement within the African American community that's aimed at exorcising our people of the demons of slavery and Jim Crow segregation. With 50% of Black children in some schools now graduating and with such a high percentage of Black births out of wedlock, we realize that the class divide within the African American community will be permanent unless we take radical action.

We have to address the larger structural problems, such as the economic opportunities [available] and massive school reform. At the same time, we have to change the attitudes of the individuals. They have to learn to read and write, do their homework, stay in school, further their education and go to college. Otherwise, they'll have no hope. Nobody can do that for you. You have to do it yourself. It's a delicate balance. Both of these things have to happen simultaneously - structural change and behavioral change. If that doesn't happen, the class divide within the race is only going to get worse.

Photo: The Humanihilsocialist 

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A Piece of Black History at the Harlem Children's Zone

On Monday, I experienced one of the most moving moments of my life. I was invited over to the Harlem Children's Zone Promise Academy, for a special honoring on their behalf for my accomplishments in the community during Black History Month. What was to be an honor in itself to be able to talk to the kids and spread my message a little more, turned into an event which truly humbled me and even left me inspired.

When I arrived at the Promise Academy II, I was welcomed by the Program Coordinator, Titus Mitchell and another very special guest that was also being honored that day- none other than Lt. Col. John Mulzac, an original Tuskegee Airman. Daddy John, as he's affectionately called, was one of the original recruits to train and fly under what was known as the "Tuskegee Experiment," the first all African-American pursuit squadron during World War II.

It was an honor just to get to meet Daddy John, but the chance to get to speak to him was life-changing! He shared with me a few stories of when he started in the Air Force and flying all over the world. But what was most admirable about John's history was all that he persevered. Daddy John shared with me a story that was truly inspiring. His story detailed the prejudice and discrimination he had to endure upon first entering the Air Force (Click his name below to hear the sound clip) and how he still persevered beyond that to not only fly in WWII, but also in the Korean War, Vietnam, and all around the world.

What is even more encouraging about Lt. Col. Mulzac is his continued message to always keep on through adversity and be successful is everything you do, with the help of education. He made sure to let the kids at the Promise Academy II know to keep in their studies in order to be successful adults. Some of his best advice pointed to the fact that not everyone might make it through college but that doesn't mean they can't be successful, as long as you do what you love to do in life. As he so lovingly stated, "You may not be able to climb the ladder, but you can always take the steps."

That day I was presented with an award from the Harlem Children's Zone for my dedication and achievements in my field as a Black professional, but the greatest reward was also being able to see the past and the future of the community together in one room celebrating education and admiration for one another. The whole event was truly a humbling experience and I want to thank the Harlem Children's Zone for their acknowledgement as well as Tuskegee Airman John Mulzac for his continued service to our country.

Check out my photos below and click on Lt. Col. John Mulzac's name to hear a sound clip of his incredible story.

Lt. Col. John Mulzac

Photos: Cyndi Amaya

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Empowering Blacks Through African Pride: Remembering Marcus Garvey

By: Justin Chan

One aspect is quite evident when strolling the streets of Harlem, it's the respect and admiration the neighborhood has for Marcus Garvey. With a park named after him and his face on various murals, to the day-long celebrations throughout Harlem on his birthday, Marcus Garvey and his accomplishments in empowering Blacks are not long forgotten.

Born in Jamaica, Garvey worked as a printer's apprentice before becoming heavily involved in unions. He took part in a failed printer's strike, but it encouraged him to engage in political activism. He traveled across Central America and documented the struggles of migration workers as a newspaper editor before enrolling at Birkbeck College in London. During his stay abroad, he also wrote for the African Times and Orient Review, where he promoted Pan-African nationalism.

Garvey soon returned to Jamaica with a determination to unite the African diaspora. In 1912, he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association with the hope that the diaspora would create a government of its own. In 1916, he formed a chapter in Harlem, New York, where he often promoted Black separatism. Two years later, he published Negro World, a newspaper that reached the masses. After securing funds for his initiative, Garvey established the Black Star Line shipping company, which was primarily responsible for facilitating trade between Africans in the Americas, Africa and the Caribbean.

By 1920, the UNIA had approximately 4 million members. The organization had its first convention at Madison Square Garden, where Garvey spoke about African history and the pride he had in his culture. Though his views were welcomed by many, several of his notable critics included W.E.B. Du Bois, who alleged that Garvey was "the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America."

Things took a turn for the worst when authorities discovered that Garvey's Black Star Line was involved in mail fraud. Garvey, along with three others, were indicted. Garvey himself was sentenced to five years in prison after the company's books revealed several irregularities. After his release in 1927, he was deported to Jamaica, where he continued to promote his agenda. He even went so far as to collaborate with white supremacist Mississippian Senator Theodore Bilbo to work on getting reparations. Though he began to lose support among the Black community, Garvey left an everlasting impression. Since his passing, he has been honored by the Organization of American States and the Ghanaian government, which named its shipping line after his.

Photo: ecarmen2020

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The Ultimate Fight Against Discrimination: Remembering William Edward Burghardt Du Bois

By: Justin Chan

Martin Luther King Jr. may have rewritten history as a civil rights activist, but William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was one of several African American pioneers who helped pave the way for the advancement of Black rights. Though Du Bois witnessed very few incidents of explicit racism while growing up, he took a special interest in the oppression of Blacks across the country. His doctoral dissertation for Harvard, The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870, was published in 1896 and helped earn him a Ph.D. Du Bois was also a dedicated sociologist and produced the first case study of the Black community in the United States.

Initially a believer in the power of social science in solving race disputes, Du Bois realized later that the best method to tackle racial tensions was through protests. He was often at odds with Booker T. Washington, who often encouraged Blacks to patiently endure discrimination temporarily and work their way up the social ladder through hard work. The idea did not sit well with Du Bois, who accused Washington of perpetuating more discrimination against Blacks. Du Bois later went on to found the Niagara Movement, which was a direct response to Washington's campaign. Though it gained some momentum, the organization disbanded due to internal conflicts.

Still, the efforts of the Niagara Movement were not entirely in vain. In fact, they helped lead to the creation of one of the most prominent minority organizations today: the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Founded in 1909, the NAACP soon became a leading voice in the civil rights movement. Du Bois served as its director of research and editor of its magazine, The Crisis.

As a civil rights activist, Du Bois supported the idea of social integration, or an atmosphere in which Whites and Blacks could co-exist equally. He also advocated Black nationalism and Pan-Africanism. He believed that people of African descent shared a common heritage and, therefore, should work together to fight for equal rights. Du Bois encouraged Blacks to develop their own cultural identity by creating Black literature and a group economy that would help combat poverty. He strongly championed Black businesses and ultimately resigned as the editor upon learning that the NAACP seemed focus on serving the interests of the bourgeoisie rather than the common man.

Though his life had its fair share of ups and downs, Du Bois will be forever remembered for his impact on major civil rights figures and his drive to ease racial tensions. Despite renouncing his U.S. citizenship during his latter years, he is still widely regarded as a notable African American figure who deserves as much recognition as his peers.

Photo: Cliffords Photography

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