LETTER FROM THE EDITOR – GET IN FORMATION
In summer 2016 there’s a critical resonance to the saying that, “if you’re not outraged, you’re not looking hard enough” at the world around you. While perhaps not the most light-hearted way to start a summertime edit, it’s undeniably time to get in formation.
One of the outrageous situations making our blood boil (at least as much as it makes our minds tick) is the senseless killing of black men and women in America. Rather than being simple cases of police brutality, this onslaught of stories points towards absurd abuses of power and the structural violence rooted deep in the history of a country that still has a difficult time talking about race. A painful subject since the country’s very founding, the dysfunctional surveillance and yet willful disregard for African American citizens has taken on new resonances. Lived out on the streets, in schools and in history books, this dysfunction is perplexing given that, as we write this letter, the first black President sits in the Oval Office. Despite progressive changes, the fact remains that inhabiting a black body in the US remains dangerous.
Yet amidst it all, the Black Lives Matter movement has gained serious momentum – permeating pop culture with a vigour that can only inspire hope. From across the pond we stand in awe of their perseverance and power. Through this important Culture Edit we join activists and allies around the world to demand change out loud.
We kick things off with an introduction to how the American dream became dreamless. Deciding to start right at the beginning, we invited writers Maria Zalewska and Chaédria LaBouvier to have a considered conversation about history, racism and personal activism in the USA. Be sure to read this first. Of course, when in that article the work of painter Jean-Michel Basquiat came up, we knew our dream (imaginary) curator for this Culture x Get in Formation edit had to be his iconic Crowns. Both sketches and symbols in their own right, they’re pregnant with meaning and majesty. And let’s face it, who doesn’t love a politically radical piece of regalia?
Speaking of regalia, we also profile Kehinde Wiley, one of the most important young artists working in America today. Wiley’s work is all about claiming a space of power and vibrant self-representation for African American youth through portraiture befitting of a King in his Brooklyn-based atelier.
Further south and with the zing of a sour-sweet Lemonade, Chris Lloyd explores the ways in which Beyoncé’s new visual album claims her identity as a black woman like never before. Powerful and poignant, it’s one piece not to be missed. From pop idols to hip-hop legends, Nayantara Premakumar interrogates how a Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dog shaped her teenage years and her own path into activism – one genre-defining set of lyrics at a time.
Finally we discover the magic of #Melanin, a 2 million strong social media hashtag celebrating the beauty of black identity and dark skin. Last but not least, we’ve surveyed our 10 favourite books on Black Lives Matter to take your understanding of the movement to the next level. Added bonus? There’s a few videos there to break up a dull work day.
Ready? Then go get in formation.