Black skin, white ally

Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul at the 6th Anniversary of Founding of Communist China in Beijing.

“Few European intellectuals concerned themselves with the dissolution of the imperial projects across the Global South in the mid-20th century; even fewer advocated outright for the independence of European-held African and Asian colonies. Jean-Paul Sartre was perhaps the most influential member of this latter group and began writing on anticolonial resistance in the late 1940s. Several years after the outbreak of the Algerian War of Independence in 1954, he became a vocal proponent of the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), the Algerian nationalist group that waged armed struggle for liberation. Sartre famously condemned the French military’s widespread, systemic use of torture on FLN members and Algerian civilians, and backed unconditional independence for the colony. After Algeria’s victory in 1962, Sartre remained steadfast in his anticolonial activism: he would write on topics such as the Cuban Revolution, US intervention in Vietnam and unjust French immigration policies. I’ve long been fascinated by his relationship with psychiatrist and FLN revolutionary Frantz Fanon. Despite Sartre’s fervent support for the anticolonial cause, there are moments captured in interactions with Fanon that illuminate an amusing disconnect: to me, they’re reminiscent of the archetypal, all-too-enthusiastic white supporter who can never quite get it right. A short overview of their relationship is worth examining, both to humanize these intellectuals and demonstrate the ubiquity and timelessness of the ‘Misguided Ally.’ We begin in 1948: Sartre authors ‘Black Orpheus,’ an essay on the Négritude movement and its role in the global struggle for decolonization and freedom. Négritude was a Francophone cultural movement aimed at reconciling, redefining, and reclaiming black identity in a colonial world. It originated in Paris, and primarily featured writers and artists from West Africa and the Caribbean. … Yet the essay drew criticism from Fanon, who challenged Sartre’s analysis of Négritude in his first book, Black Skin, White Masks. The essentialist current of Négritude, and Sartre’s embrace of it, proved to be easy fodder for Fanon—in short, reinforced the dangerous colonial binaries that kept Africans subjugated and because it left these ideological structures intact, could not provide a path to liberation. …”
Africas in a Country
Open Culture: Edward Said Recalls His Depressing Meeting With Sartre, de Beauvoir & Foucault (1979)
Africas in a Country: Frantz Fanon
Guardian – Jean-Paul Sartre: more relevant now than ever

Frantz Fanon
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Willy and the Poor Boys – Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969)

Willy and the Poor Boys is the fourth studio album American rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival, released by Fantasy Records in November 1969, and was the last of three studio albums that the band released in that year. The album features the songs ‘Down on the Corner‘, from which the album got its name, and ‘Fortunate Son‘, which is a well known protest song.  … Bandleader and songwriter John Fogerty had assumed control of the band after several years of futility but, despite their growing success, the other members – bassist Stu Cook, drummer Doug Clifford and guitarist Tom Fogerty, John’s older brother – began to chafe under Fogerty’s demanding, autocratic leadership. The band’s output in 1969 alone – three full-length albums – was staggering considering that they were touring nonstop throughout.  … ‘Down on the Corner’ chronicles the tale of the fictional band Willy and the Poor Boys, and how they play on street corners to cheer people up and ask for nickels. The song makes reference to a Washboard, a Kazoo, a Kalamazoo Guitar, and a gut bass. In a 1969 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, the boys performed the song as Willy and the Poor Boys. Stu Cook played a gut bass, Doug Clifford the washboard, and Tom Fogerty the Kalamazoo, which mimicked the appearance of the band as they appear on the album cover. The single would peak at #3. … The song is a counterculture era anti-war anthem, criticizing militant patriotic behavior and those who support the use of military force without having to ‘pay the costs’ themselves (either financially or by serving in a wartime military). The song, released during the Vietnam War, is not explicit in its criticism of that war in particular, but features attacks on the elite classes (the families that give birth to eponymous ‘fortunate sons’) of the United States and their withdrawal from the costs of nationalistic imperialism are easy to contextualize to that conflict. The song was inspired by the wedding of David Eisenhower, the grandson of United States President Dwight David Eisenhower, to Julie Nixon, the daughter of President Richard Nixon, in 1968. …
Rolling Stone
Discogs (Video)
YouTube: Fortunate Son, Down on the Corner (Live0
YouTube: “Willy and the Poor Boys” – Full Album 10 videos

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Frank O’Hara Dies in Accident – Peter Schjeldahl – August 11, 1966

“It was 3 a.m. of a Saturday night on Fire Island, pitch black on the beach except for the head­lights of a disabled taxi and those of another jeep headed its way, sloughing through deep ruts at maybe 25 miles an hour. Frank O’Hara, one of nine tem­porarily stranded passengers, stood alone off in the darkness, his companion and friend J.J. Mitchell wasn’t sure just where. Within inches of the crippled taxi, the second jeep churned past. Evidently O’Hara was just turning to face a blaze of its lights when it ran him down. Panicked, Mitchell rushed to him. O’Hara stirred, then muttered something. He was in a rage. His delirious fury made it hard to hold him still during the efficient relay from jeep to police boat to ambulance to tiny Bayview Hospital in a place called Mastic Beach. There he subsided, however, and was examined, then laced with innumerable stitches. The doctor was encouraging: contusions, gashes, shock, and a badly smashed left leg, but nothing ostensibly lethal. Then around dawn O’Hara’s blood pressure fell. Pints of rare RH-negative blood began arriving at the hospital by police car every few minutes. The exploratory operation that afternoon, when enough blood was on hand, revealed a partly ruptured liver and some damage to the kidneys, among other things: The liver, now a good deal smaller, was sewn shut; the kidneys were left for later. Meanwhile, the New York art world was collectively thunder­struck. In 15 years as a poet, playwright, critic, curator, and universal energy source in the lives of the few hundred most creative people in America, Frank O’Hara had rendered that world wholly unprepared to tol­erate his passing. The next day, Monday, July 25, the day of his death, he seemed to be holding his own, even improving. A very few friends were let in to see him, a few seconds apiece. In his speech at the funeral two days later, Larry Rivers, incensed at fate, said O’Hara ‘lay in a bed that looked like a large crib’ and that he resembled ‘a shaped wound.’ He said he had always expected Frank to be the first of his friends to die, but ‘romantically,’ somehow, voided by his generosities and done in by his methodical excesses, not shattered by a jeep on a white sand beach. …”
The Day Frank Died: O’Hara’s NY Times Obituary
The Ongoing Influence of Frank O’Hara, the Art World’s Favorite Poet (Video)

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The Night the Ali-Liston Fight Came to Lewiston

The heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali stood over Sonny Liston in the first round of their title fight in Lewiston, Me., on May 25, 1965, and was heard to say, “Get up and fight, sucker!”

“LEWISTON, Me. — A couple of times each month, with the rate accelerating during summer, a car will pull into the parking lot of a small, quaint multipurpose arena on Birch Street in this once-thriving mill city along the banks of the Androscoggin River. Mike Cain, who manages the building for his father’s company, will notice the visitors from his office as they look up uncertainly at the property’s most modern feature, a two-tone gray brick facade built a decade ago, with their cameras or smartphones poised. If he is not too busy, Cain will go outside, say hello. ‘From all over the world, people come,’ he said. ‘They say, Is this where the fight really happened?’  Yes, he will tell them, this is where Muhammad Ali knocked out Sonny Liston in the first round of their championship rematch with his so-called phantom punch in 1965. And until the city of Lewiston gave the distressed building a face-lift and paved its dirt parking lot before selling it to private owners about seven years ago, time had virtually stood still. Hollywood once called with a request for an old photo of the arena while planning for a 2001 biopic on Ali, starring Will Smith. The film people were told that nothing much had changed from 1965. The old place — back then alternately called St. Dominic’s Arena or the Central Maine Youth Center — still looked like a cross between an airplane hangar and an oversize barn. Behind the facade, it still does. Inside what is now called the Androscoggin Bank Colisée, the original salmon-color seats have been repainted blue, but a timeless atmospheric quality remains. Walk through its shadowed center, where a boxing ring was once hastily installed in the middle of a hockey rink, and it could be 50 years ago May 25, when a heavyweight championship circus descended on unsuspecting Lewiston, when a brash 23-year-old champion — introduced for the first time as Muhammad Ali, rather than Cassius Clay — stood over a fallen Liston, shouting, ‘Get up and fight, sucker!’ In this no-frills arena, set in a modest residential neighborhood and originally built by a parish in 1958 for high school hockey games, the golden anniversary of what many would consider the most controversial, and craziest, title fight in history will be celebrated Monday night with a premiere showing of a 27-minute documentary, ‘Raising Ali’. …”
NY Times
W – Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston
Independent – Muhammad Ali: symbol of the civil rights movement
Swallowtail: Raising Ali 27:00
YouTube: Muhammad Ali PHANTOM PUNCH KOs Sonny Liston May 25, 1965 11:22, Muhammad Ali vs Sonny Liston, May 25, 1965 33:18

Muhammad Ali with Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X
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Gregory Rabassa

“Gregory Rabassa once received the ultimate accolade for a translator: his author admitted he thought Rabassa’s translation was better than the original. And since the author was Gabriel García Márquez, and the book One Hundred Years of Solitude, this was praise indeed. Rabassa’s translation of García Márquez’s 1967 novel was published in 1971; he went on to translate a further four books by the Colombian Nobel laureate, who also said of him: ‘I think that my work has been completely re-created in English. There are parts of the book which are very difficult to follow literally. The impression one gets is that the translator read the book and then rewrote it from his recollections.’ In the late 1960s and 1970s, Rabassa, who has died aged 94, produced fine versions of many of the leading Latin American authors in what came to be known as the ‘boom’: an upsurge of interest in the continent’s literary production in Spanish and Portuguese, when, for the first time, books from Latin America became international bestsellers. Notable among Rabassa’s translations at the time were the Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa’s Conversation in the Cathedral, Hopscotch by the Argentinian novelist Julio Cortázar, and the popular novels of the Brazilian Jorge Amado. Rabassa was born in Yonkers, New York, to a Cuban father, Miguel, a sugar broker, and a mother, Clara (nee MacFarland), of Scottish and Mancunian ancestry. He was brought up in the New Hampshire countryside, where, as his 2005 memoir If This Be Treason recounts, the combination of his father’s Hispanic heritage, his mother’s eccentric relatives and his own make-believe linguistic worlds as a child all contributed to an early fascination with language. He studied Romance languages at school and university, before a spell during the second world war as a codebreaker in the US army. This took him to Italy, where he soon added a knowledge of the country’s language and literature to his earlier achievements. After leaving the army, Rabassa went on to receive a master’s degree in Spanish, and after living and studying in Brazil for several months he completed a doctorate in Portuguese language and literature in 1954. It was while teaching at Columbia University, New York, that his appetite for translation was confirmed. …”
NY Times: Gregory Rabassa, a Premier Translator of Spanish and Portuguese Fiction, Dies at 94
The Translator’s Voice: An Interview with Gregory Rabassa
The Paris Review: Gregory Rabassa, 1922–2016
W – Gregory Rabassa
amazon: Gregory Rabassa

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Blood and Echoes: The Story of Come Out, Steve Reich’s Civil Rights Era Masterpiece

“On a spring day in 1964, police in Harlem’s 32nd precinct tried to beat a confession out of two black teenagers for a crime they did not commit. The young men, Wallace Baker and Daniel Hamm, were repeatedly bludgeoned with billy clubs while in custody, beaten with such force that they were taken to a nearby hospital for X-rays. In an interview at the nearby Friendship Baptist Church a few days after the incident, the 18-year-old Hamm recounted being brutalized in shifts by six to 12 officers over the course of the night, along with the fact that ‘they got so tired beating us they just came in and started spitting on us.’ But even after hours of abuse, the cops weren’t about to allow Hamm to be admitted for treatment, since he was not visibly bleeding. Thinking fast, Hamm reached down to one of the swollen knots on his legs where the blood had clotted beneath his skin: ‘I had to, like, open the bruise up, and let some of the bruise blood come out to show them.’ Those 20 words, spoken by a young man who would unjustly remain in prison for nine years, still land like a truncheon. And utilizing just that one sentence, composer Steve Reich made one of the most visceral pieces of music of the 20th century. This month marks the 50th anniversary of Come Out, which made its live debut on April 17, 1966. In a small way, the piece helped bring about justice for Hamm and other victims of police brutality. It also established the heretofore-unknown Reich as one of the most adventurous modern American composers and became a touchstone of avant-garde and electronic music of all calibers. And now, with the increased scrutiny being brought to bear on police brutality in minority communities, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the vast American carceral state, Hamm’s voice echoes through other names that have recently come into our consciousness: Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland. As looped by Reich, the phrase ‘come out to show them’ anticipates powerful hashtags like #ICantBreathe and #SayHerName. For better and worse, the story of Come Out—its unlikely genesis and its aftermath—still resonates. …”
Pitchfork (Video)
W – It’s Gonna Rain
W – Come Out

Steve Reich, with a phase-shifting pulse gate, photographed in New York in 1969.
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Stand in the Schoolhouse Door

Attempting to block integration at the University of Alabama, Governor of Alabama George Wallace stands at the door of Foster Auditorium while being confronted by US Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach.

“The Stand in the Schoolhouse Door took place at Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963. George Wallace, the Democratic Governor of Alabama, in a symbolic attempt to keep his inaugural promise of ‘segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever’ and stop the desegregation of schools, stood at the door of the auditorium to try to block the entry of two African American students, Vivian Malone and James Hood. In response, President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 11111, which federalized the Alabama National Guard, and Guard General Henry Graham then commanded Wallace to step aside, saying, ‘Sir, it is my sad duty to ask you to step aside under the orders of the President of the United States.’ Wallace then spoke further, but eventually moved, and Malone and Hood completed their registration. The incident brought Wallace into the national spotlight. … On June 11, Malone and Hood pre-registered in the morning at the Birmingham courthouse. They selected their courses and filled out all their forms there. They arrived at Foster Auditorium to have their course loads reviewed by advisors and pay their fees. They remained in their vehicle as Wallace, attempting to uphold his promise as well as for political show, blocked the entrance to Foster Auditorium with the media watching. Then, flanked by federal marshals, Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach told Wallace to step aside. However, Wallace interrupted Katzenbach and gave a speech on states’ rights. Katzenbach called President John F. Kennedy, who had previously issued a presidential proclamation demanding that Wallace step aside, and told him of Wallace’s actions in ignoring the proclamation as it had no legal force. In response, Kennedy issued Executive Order 11111, which had already been prepared, authorizing the federalization of the Alabama National Guard. Four hours later, Guard General Henry Graham commanded Wallace to step aside, saying, ‘Sir, it is my sad duty to ask you to step aside under the orders of the President of the United States.’ Wallace then spoke further, but eventually moved, and Malone and Hood completed their registration. …”
NY Times: Standing in the Schoolhouse Door (Nov. 5, 2011)
W – George Wallace
W – Vivian Malone Jones
YouTube: A Confrontation for Integration at the University of Alabama, 40th Anniversary:Vivian Malone Jones and the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door

Vivian Malone Jones arrives to register for classes at the University of Alabama’s Foster Auditorium.
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