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Archive for the ‘Black radicalism’ Category

Comparto con mis lectores  las  reseñas de dos películas  y un documental publicadas en el seminario puertorriqueño Claridad, que recogen, como bien señala su autora, el papel que han jugado las instituciones policiacas del gobierno estadounidense en la persecución de las minorías raciales en los Estados Unidos. El primero de los largos metraje, Judas and the Black Messiah, enfoca el asesinato por la policia de Chicago -en contubernio con el FBI- del joven líder de las Panteras Negras Fred Hampton. La segunda película, titulada The United States vs. Billie Holiday, es una producción  del servicio de suscripción  de vídeo Hulu. Dirigida por Lee Daniels, este largo metraje recoje la historia de la gran cantante afroamericana Billie Holiday y de los problemas que enfrentó con el Buró Antinarcóticos. El documental reseñado (MLK/FBI) retrata la persución   del FBI  contra el Dr. Martín Luther King. Para quienes gustamos del cine, y en particular del cine histórico, estas reseñas no podrán menos que despertar nuestra curiosidad por estas películas que parecen estar destinadas a convertirse en clásicos y documentos de una era muy difícil en la historia de Estados Unidos.

Norberto Barreto Velázquez

Lima, 16 de abril de 2021


Captura de Pantalla 2021-04-16 a la(s) 19.36.27.png

 

La persecución continua del F.B.I.: Judas and the Black Messiah, MLK/FBI, The United States vs. Billie Holiday

María Cristina

Claridad    16 de abril de 2021

A pesar de que creo que Mississippi Burning (Alan Parker 1988) es un excelente filme que catalogo como político por centrarse en la irracional segregación sureña de los Estados Unidos, entiendo que la manera de presentar el FBI es lo más alejado de la verdad en ese tiempo y antes y después. Aunque Judas and the Black MessiahMLK/FBI  The United States vs. Billie Holiday enfocan en la persecución de la población afroamericana, el historial de esta agencia se extiende a cualquier grupo que ellos consideren ser una amenaza contra el gobierno de los Estados Unidos y a cualquier persona que exprese ideas “comunistas” según definido por ellos. A pesar del secreteo que siempre ha caracterizado al FBI, poco a poco han circulado documentos oficiales que revelan la intensidad de su carpeteo y acciones para poner fin, de una manera (desprestigiando) u otra (asesinato). Estos tres filmes son ejemplos de ello.

Judas and the Black Messiah 

Director: Shaka King; guionistas: Will Berson y Shaka King; cinematógrafo: Sean Bobbitt

Uno de los muchos aciertos de este filme—aparte de su temática—es que la recreación de época se presenta dentro de una realidad que capta la efervescencia de la década de los 1960 con toda su normalidad que puede ser agrupaciones de jóvenes entusiasmados por cambiar sus circunstancias, pero especialmente el mundo heredado y la sociedad que los reprime. Señalo esto porque a pesar de ser un proyecto muy prometedor, los cinco filmes del británico-caribeño Steve McQueen agrupados bajo el título Small Axe, intentan, pero no logran, ese sentido de urgencia de la época de turbulencia de la generación Windrushen el Reino Unido. Judas and the Black Messiahnos permite ser parte del momento, ver las maquinaciones del FBI, la utilización de un infiltrado (Bill O’Neal) para desprestigiar y, cuando esto no funciona, asesinar al joven Fred Hampton (1948-1969), líder de los Black Panthers en Chicago.

Daniel Kaluuya, obtiene el Bafta a mejor actor de reparto, por su  interpretación en 'Judas and the Black Messiah' - AlbertoNews - Periodismo  sin censura

Shaka King, director, coguionista y coproductor, muy astutamente enfoca en una sola etapa de la muy corta vida de Hampton (excelentemente interpretado por el británico Daniel Kaluuya): su ascenso a presidir la seccional de los Black Panthers en Illinois, la intensidad de su persecución de parte del FBI y su asesinato. Se dan tres episodios simultáneamente: el reclutamiento e infiltración de O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) y sus constantes dudas de si el dinero y la protección que recibe de la agencia valida su traición; el centralismo de Hampton en la lucha por una unidad de grupos y una línea de acción conjunta; el montaje del FBI para poner fin a lo que ellos mismos han fabricado como amenaza al gobierno establecido. Aunque conocemos lo sucedido (además de lo que recientemente se ha descubierto de las acciones del FBI), la historia personal y colectiva nos ofrece una esperanza de que la posibilidad del cambio existe. Por eso lo que queda en nuestra memoria son los esfuerzos de Hampton por crear el Rainbow Coalition y unir organizaciones políticas multiculturales como Black Panthers, Young Patriots y los Young Lords junto al apoyo de gangas rivales de Chicago para trabajar por cambios sociales dentro de las comunidades pobres y marginadas.

MLK/FBI

Director: Sam Pollard 2020

Edgar Hoover ha sido a través de los años una figura casi mítica por su malicia, astucia y persistencia en perseguir a cualquier persona o grupo que concibiera como enemigo de los Estados Unidos. Esa lista incluye a cualquier disidente de su propia definición de la ley y el orden. Además, parece obsesivo con sostener su versión de los que es la fibra moral—una versión fundamentalista de la sexualidad que no aplica a él—de los Estados Unidos que hace a este país mejor que cualquiera. Es su acumulación de poder lo que le permite violar precisamente los derechos humanos en los que se basa la Constitución de este país. Para él los derechos y la justicia sólo aplican a los “true Americans” lo que excluye a todos los que no provengan de la Europa blanca. Y si dentro de comunidades de descendencia italiana, irlandesa, judía y otros grupos étnicos favorecidos se desarrollan grupos activistas cuyo fin sea cambiar/alterar el gobierno actual, serán perseguidos de igual manera. Los estudiantes universitarios en contra de la Guerra de Vietnam, los grupos urbanos de jóvenes que abogaban por igual trato y derechos, los grupos religiosos y laicos que marchaban por la igualdad de derechos fueron fichados y perseguidos por unidades creadas específicamente para sabotear todas sus acciones. Martin Luther King se convirtió en un obsesivo objetivo para Hoover como demuestra este documental.

MLK/FBI, el documental que rastrea el ataque del FBI a Martin Luther King Jr.  – Luis Guillermo Digital

La historia que se presenta cubre de 1955 a 1968 y traza el inicio y el ascenso de Martin Luther King como activista de los derechos civiles y uno de los líderes más carismáticos, conocedores y determinados de conseguir la igualdad para toda la población de los Estados Unidos. Lo que Hoover consideraba sublevación, MLK y los integrantes de estos movimientos lo entendían como libertad y justicia para todxs. Nadie estaba exento de ser vigilado, acusado y encarcelado tanto por la policía local como por los agentes federales. Todxs tenían conocimiento de esto, aunque no supieran la extensión de esa persecución. Con excelente pietaje que cubre estos años, con archivos que ahora son públicos, con entrevistas con allegados a MLK y ex agentes del FBI, el documental cuestiona la veracidad de los documentos expuestos y, especialmente, los todavía protegidos bajo “Archivos privados de J. Edgar Hoover” y la gran pregunta de ¿cómo fue posible que con la vigilancia extrema que le tenían a MLK, no supieran de antemano que esa persona lo iba a asesinar en el balcón de la habitación del motel Lorraine en Memphis, Tennessee el 4 de abril de 1968? Con su muerte, el FBI cierra su archivo y toda la supuesta evidencia que tenían, para en algún momento utilizar en su contra, queda en ese infame archivo privado de Hoover.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Director: Lee Daniels; guionista: Suzan-Lori Parks; autora: Johann Hari; cinematógrafo: Andrew Dunn.

La recreación de época y la maravillosa voz de Andra Day interpretando las canciones que Billie Holiday hizo famosas son los puntos excepcionales de este filme. Es una pena que la historia sobre esta etapa de la vida de Holiday, especialmente desde finales de la década de 1940 hasta su muerte por cirrosis entre otros desgastes de salud, no tenga una narrativa coherente y compleja como debe ser la presentación de personajes en literatura o cine. Holiday aparece como una mujer con una voz única en el mundo musical del momento, pero lo que se enfatiza es cómo su alcoholismo, adicción a drogas y su impotencia de alejarse de relaciones destructivas y abusivas la convierten en una víctima. Su grupo de amigos la cuidan, complacen, aconsejan cuando ella se los permite, pero a fin de cuenta Holiday los echa a un lado para seguir a los hombres que se enriquecerán de su talento sin importarle el daño que le puedan hacer.

Watch The United States vs. Billie Holiday Streaming Online | Hulu (Free  Trial)

Desarrollar la historia a través de un romance al principio imaginario y luego dañino entre Holiday y el agente del FBI (encubierto y descubierto), Jimmy Fletcher (Trevante Rhodes), es bastante dudoso porque requiere entrampar a la mujer que supuestamente admira tanto. Además, Fletcher se presenta como un tipo que quiere hacer bien su trabajo, que cree que ser parte del FBI es una forma de ser parte del centro de poder, pero que supuestamente deplora a tipos como Harry Anslinger (Garrett Hedlund), el encargado de entrampar y arruinar la vida de Holiday. Por su parte, se presenta a Holiday con poca información de su pasado y de cómo llega a ser tan admirada y a tener tantos seguidores que logra llenar la sala de espectáculos más importante de Nueva York, Carnegie Hall. Lo que lxs espectadores vemos es una mujer talentosa, pero determinada a acabar con su vida con relaciones tan dañinas que no hay marcha atrás. A pesar de las fallas del filme Lady Sings the Blues (Sidney Furie 1972) por enfocar primordialmente en su adicción a drogas, protagonizado por Diana Ross, aquí sí hay un desarrollo de personaje que capta todas sus contradicciones.

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El panafricanismo y el nacionalismo negro no son temas ajenos a esta bitácora. En varias ocasiones hemos abordado ambos, especialmente al enfocar la figura de Marcus Garvey. Lo que no hemos atendido en la visión internacional y geopolítica de éstos. En este interesante ensayo publicado en JStor Daily, Mohammed Elnaiem, estudiante graduado de Sociología en la Universidad de Cambridge, analiza la compleja relación entre la intelectualidad negra estadounidense y el ascenso del Imperio Japonés.

September 1905. Japan had just become the first Asian power to defeat a European Empire with the conclusion of the Russo-Japanese War. For more than a year, the Japanese Empire and Tsarist Russia had been vying for control over Korea and Manchuria. On September 5th, Japan forced a Russian retreat, sending shockwaves across the intellectual sphere of black America and the colonial world. As Bill V. Mullen of Purdue University eloquently notes in his 2016 book, W.E.B. Du Bois: Revolutionary Across the Color Line, Du Bois was so moved that he declared: “The magic of the word ‘white’ is already broken.” Du Bois was convinced that “the awakening of the yellow races is certain… the awakening of the brown and black races will follow in time.”

For anti-colonial intellectuals and black activists in the U.S., the Japanese victory presented a moment of realization: If, with the right strategy, European colonialists could be forced to retreat from far east Asia, why couldn’t they be forced to leave the Caribbean and Africa?

By the time World War I began, Du Bois would write a seminal essay, “The African Roots of War,” wherein he would ask why African workers and laborers would participate in a war they couldn’t understand. Why, he wondered, would “Africans, Indians and other colonial subjects” fight for the sole aim of “the exploitation of the wealth of the world mainly outside the European circle of nations?” He demanded that they take inspiration from “the awakened Japanese.” By the end of World War I, African American and Japanese intellectuals would develop a transpacific camaraderie.

For Du Bois and his contemporaries, the Japanese victory proved that the empire could be a fulcrum for the colored peoples of the world, a means by which European expansion could be dislodged. But what a paradox this was: The Japanese empire, which sought nothing but the occupation of Korea, Manchuria, and if possible, the whole Far East, was being cheered on by self-identified anti-colonial intellectuals.

Regardless, Japan cast its spell on black consciousness, and by the end of World War I, African American and Japanese intellectuals would develop a transpacific camaraderie. African Americans would praise Japanese diplomacy, and Japanese intellectuals—left-wing or right-wing—would condemn Jim Crow. To understand this relationship, one must look to Paris.

The Paris Peace Conference & the End of WWI

To conclude the first World War, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson laid out a structure that would inspire the UN decades later. In Paris, he announced his fourteen points for a new world order built on peace and self-determination of oppressed peoples. He called it the League of Nations.

 William Monroe Trotter
William Monroe Trotter

Meanwhile, in the States, the lynching of blacks went unanswered and segregation continued unabated. A liberal abroad, and a so-called pragmatist at home, Wilson was seen as hypocritical by many of the black-left intelligentsia. In fact, William Monroe Trotter—an eminent voice against segregation in the early twentieth century, and a man who once campaigned for Wilson’s presidency—became one of his greatest foes.

Trotter gained nationwide infamy after being kicked out of the White House for challenging Wilson. He had been invited to speak on civil rights issues, but challenged the president on racial segregation among federal employees. Trotter called this segregation humiliating. Wilson responded firmly, exclaiming, “Your tone, sir, offends me.” Trotter was subsequently expelled from the premises.

From then on, Trotter made it his mission to embarrass Wilson on the global stage. When Wilson declared his plan to espouse his “fourteen points” for a global, post-war order at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, Trotter not only proposed a fifteenth point for racial equality, but travelled to Paris to protest and ensure its inclusion in the negotiations.

A. Phillip Randolph, a pioneer of the civil rights movement, sought to highlight the symbolism of Trotter’s actions. As Yuichiro Onishi, an African Americanist at the University of Minnesota notes, in a March 1919 issue of The Messenger, Randolph remarked that:

Trotter wanted to use his presence as a weapon to demonstrate Washington’s failure to reconcile Jim Crow laws with the liberal principles that Wilson espoused abroad. It was an ingenious, albeit unprepared, plan: Trotter arrived too late.

At the time, Japanese politicians seemed to be watching U.S. race relations closely. It could have been coincidental or it could it have been intentional, but Baron Nobuaki Makino, a senior diplomat in the Japanese government and the principal delegate for the Empire, proposed Japan’s “racial equality bill” at the meeting to found the League of Nations. Japan only said that all nations were equal, but this seemingly offended Wilson (and the leaders of Australia and the UK). The proposal was immediately struck down.Was it love? Solidarity? Or a pragmatic way to highlight the hypocrisy of the United States?

The symbolic value of these actions nonetheless reignited African American intellectual admiration for Japan. Fumiko Sakashita, a professor at Ritsumeikan University in Japan, shows how Japanese intellectuals were humbled by this. One Pan-Asian, and self-described “right-wing literary,” Kametaro Mitsukawa, hyperbolically asked why “black people exhibit the portrait of our baron Nobuaki Makino alongside that of the liberator Abraham Lincoln on the walls of their houses?” A correspondent in Chicago, Sei Kawashima, told his readers that “Japan’s proposal of abolishing racial discrimination at the peace conference… gave black people a great psychological impact at that time.”

That it did. Marcus Garvey, a leading nationalist and Pan-Africanist who advocated for African Americans to return to Africa, was so impassioned that he believed that after the Great War, “the next war will be between the Negroes and the whites unless our demands for justice are recognized… With Japan to fight with us, we can win such a war.”

Marcus Garvey

Japan’s newfound interest in African American affairs only blossomed. As Sakashita notes, Fumimaro Konoe, a delegate at the Paris Peace Conference and future prime minister of Japan, wrote in his book that “black rage against white persecutions and insults” were at an all-time high. Fusae Ichikawa, a Japanese woman suffragist, wrote an article about the struggle of black women, which she saw first hand after touring the country with the NAACP. She called it a “disgrace to civilization.” It’s not entirely clear why Japanese thinkers glanced across the Pacific with such concern for the U.S.’s blacks. Was it love? Solidarity? Or a pragmatic way to highlight the hypocrisy of the United States?

Even in Paris, Onishi argues, Japan won German concessions in Shantung China, and demanded control in the Marshalls, the Marianas, and the Carolines. “Reference to lynching,” Onishi writes “served as one of the best rhetorical defences of Japan’s imperialist policy.” Whatever the intentions of Japanese intellectuals may have been, in other words, the Japanese government found this preoccupation useful and even promoted it.

Some black intellectuals caught on to this, and suspicion arose. “A word of warning, however, to the unsuspecting,” wrote A. Phillip Randolph and Chandler Owen in 1919. “The smug and oily Japanese diplomats are no different from Woodrow Wilson, Lloyd George or Orlando. They care nothing for even the Japanese people and at this very same moment are suppressing and oppressing mercilessly the people of Korea and forcing hard bargains upon unfortunate China.”

Garvey’s followers disagreed, seeing Japan as a source of messianic salvation.

Decades later, during World War II, when Japan began to steer towards the direction of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, an African American ambivalence would develop towards Tokyo. As described by Kenneth C. Barnes, a professor of history at the University of Central Arkansas, there were on the one hand the Neo-Garveyites, those who infused his belief of an apocalyptic race war with religious, redemptive overtones. You could find them in the unlikeliest of places; as black sharecroppers in rural Mississippi County, Arkansas, for instance. On the other hand, there were the liberals, socialists, and mainstream black intellectuals who compared Jim Crow at home to Japanese repression abroad, reminding Washington that, at least in their view, the U.S. was the very monster it was fighting.

Japan in the Axis & a Divided Black Diaspora

In 1921, in the small community of Nodena in Misissippi County, Arkansas, a man was lynched. Henry Lowry was a forty-year-old black sharecropper. A mob of six hundred people poured gasoline over his body and set it ablaze atop a bonfire. Perhaps it was the only way to die with dignity, or maybe he wanted to end the misery, but Lowry grabbed the first pieces of hot coal he could find and swallowed them.

The event was traumatic for the blacks of Mississippi County. One in five residents of the county was black. Many of them were enraged, and many became susceptible to the oratory of Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican immigrant who called for black self-reliance, economic independence, and a military alliance among blacks and Japanese against white power. Not long after Lowry was lynched, eight chapters of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), Garvey’s organization, were formed in Mississippi County.

By 1934, the influence of the UNIA had already made its mark on the sharecroppers, and many were devout followers. In that year, a Filipino man who was honourably discharged from the Navy showed up in Mississippi County, Arkansas, one day. He was a former member of the Pacific Movement of the Eastern World, an organisation linked to the UNIA that tried to organize blacks to commit treason and support Japan in the war effort.

His real name was Policarpio Manansala, but he went by the name Ashima Takis. He was Filipino but faked a Japanese accent. Manansala had thousands of followers in the rural south. In his study on Mississipi county, Barnes recounts the story of how Takis attracted a Filipino-Mexican couple and a black man. They were arrested after giving a speech contending that “this country could be taken over entirely by the colored races” if they united with Japan. They did their time, but managed to evade the prosecutor’s recommendation that they be arrested for anarchy and an alleged plot to overthrow the government. They got off easier than most.

In fact, during the second world war, hundreds of African Americans were arrested on charges of sedition, including Elijah Muhammed, the mentor of Malcolm X and the spiritual leader of the Nation of Islam. One article in the Times Daily, dated August 19, 1942, talked about Robert Jordan, a “West Indian negro,” and four others who were arrested on a sedition conspiracy indictment due to their role in an Ethiopian Pacific movement which envisioned “a coalition of Africa and Japan in an Axis-dominated world.” The four leaders in charge were arrested amid a lecture they gave to hundreds of African Americans in a Harlem hall.

But this approach was not the only one. Others sought to resist black oppression through another discourse. Particularly after the Pearl Harbor attack, Japan became a rhetorical target for the African American elite, Sakashita notes. Insofar as Japan was an ally of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, it needed to be critiqued in the “war against Hitlerism at home, and Hitlerism abroad.” Just as liberals and socialists criticized the internment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps set up by the United States government—asking, as one George Schuyler did, if “this may be a prelude to our own fate”—they took the opportunity to remind the U.S. that its condemnations of Japan were warranted, although hypocritical.

One cartoon featured in the Baltimore Afro-American put this prevailing sentiment the best. As Sakashita reconstructs it, it shows “a grinning Hitler and smiling slant-eyes Japanese soldiers witness hanging and burning… [a] lynching.” The cartoon didn’t stop short of marshalling the very American patriotism that the U.S. used in its war effort to say that the U.S. was complicit in fascism at home. For some blacks, even in the latter half of the twentieth century, Japan remained as “leader of the darker races.” For others, it was a wartime enemy. What is for certain is that Imperial Japan was a preoccupation of the black radical imagination.

 

 

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