The Combahee River Collective Statement, 1977
The Combahee River Collective were a group of black, lesbian, feminist activists from multiple organisations in Boston during the 70s. In this statement they highlight the social space occupied by black women – pointing out that the intersections of sex (which we would now recognise as gender), sexuality, race and class based oppressions cause societal blind spots – and that for the feminist and black liberation movements to be successful they must actively work for the liberation of black women by first acknowledging the unique oppression they experience.
This statement has been influential across many fields but most notably to Kimberlé Crenshaw who furthered the mapping of intersectional oppression in the 90s. Almost 50 years after it was written the collective’s statement is still a crucial starting point in dismantling white feminism and showing the power of pro-LGBTQ+, feminist, anti-capitalist, anti-racist community organising. Jessica Vernon.
Reconstruction: America after the Civil War (PBS America)
Out of the current anti-racism protests, the question of how American society got to a point of such racial inequality has come to the fore. This four-part documentary suggests some answers. Presented by the Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. with insights from academic experts, the programme delivers a vivid and fascinating journey through the Reconstruction period, from 1863 to 1877, and the legacy of its collapse into the 20th Century.
This harrowing yet hopeful series highlights the optimistic Reconstruction era, where a Congress that included eight former slaves passed constitutional amendments and legislation to uphold voting rights and outlaw discrimination in public accommodations, nearly a century before they would be re-gained in the 1960s. This promise unravelled with Southern Democrats using violence to intimidate black officials and manufacturing myths of African-American inferiority to justify white supremacy and destroy class-based political alliances, a fallacy that still impacts today. The documentary confirms this era as a key juncture in remaking America’s racial divide, showing how rather than the conservative story of natural inequality, this is a tale of concerted action to institutionalise discrimination. Alex Riggs
Reply All Podcast Episode 127 and 128: The Crime Machine
Content warning: Towards the end of part 1 sexual violence is described in vivid detail. Presented as a story with the host (PJ Vogt) acting as a narrator and using rare interviews sometimes recorded many years ago, the podcast covers the life and back story behind how one NYPD transit cop, Jack Maple wrote a computer program “CompStat”. This measures every single cop and tells them in excruciating detail how to do their job. By modelling cities as large webs and recording each incident and then predicting when the next incident will happen a statistically significant drop in crime seemingly occurred.
Former NYPD Sergeant Edwin Raymond then explains how the use of quota-based policing combined with CompStat has led to a self-perpetuating system. He explains how otherwise good police officers are forced to make summonses and then arrests of large numbers of black people in poorer parts of the city for minor misdemeanors as opposed to actually pursuing violet crimes he and others saw. He then tells the story of how he and 11 other police officers tried to sue the New York Police department over this practise. Joe Baker
Stereotypes (2015) by Black Violin
Stereotypes by Black Violin, for me, was incredibly beautiful and equally eye opening. Wil Baptiste and Kev Marcus are classically trained and combine this background with elements of jazz, hip-hop and funk to create a unique genre known as “classical boom”.
Baptiste and Marcus connect genres that have typically been seen as worlds apart. Questioning what is typical is central to this album. A criminal identity has been pressed onto black men as shown in the case of George Floyd. Black Violin address this volatile discourse whilst upholding a sense of optimism. The tone of the album shifts between being upbeat and chilling; these feelings are often juxtaposed or even enthused together in tracks such as ‘Another Chance’ and ‘Walk On By’. Truly futuristic and energising. Ellie Stainforth-Mallison
Essays from The Minister of Defence (1968) by Huey Newton
This collection of essays is an incredibly powerful, insightful work about the political philosophy of the Black Panther Party. Refreshingly, for a political pamphlet, it is accessible, discarding any language that would complicate what is a very important message. Black people, have a right, as enshrined in the constitution, to protect themselves from the violence imposed on them everyday by the state through the cops. Completely uncompromising, Huey writes how the suffering being metered out to the black community cannot and will not continue. It was black people who ‘were forced to build America, and if forced to, we will tear it down.’ George Sullivan