Friday, October 21, 2011

LA Screening of my new documentary this Friday...

Bad Friday: Rastafari after Coral Gardens (63 mins.)
A documentary film
Directed by Deborah A. Thomas and John L. Jackson, Jr.
Produced by John L. Jackson, Jr., Deborah A. Thomas, and Junior "Gabu" Wedderburn

When: Screening in Los Angeles at 2pm on October 28th, 2011

Where: Laemmle’s Sunset 5
8000 Sunset Boulevard
West Hollywood, California 90046
Theater #5: Seating capacity is 198

Online ticket sales begin October 7, 2011. For complete details visit our website at

Ticket Prices
$15 Screening Tickets*
$11 Children under 12/Seniors/Military/Students w/ID
$11 Matinees before 4:00 p.m.

Bad Friday chronicles the history of violence in Jamaica through the eyes of its most iconic community – Rastafari – and shows how people use their recollections of the Coral Gardens “incident” in 1963 to imagine new possibilities for the future.

For many around the world, Jamaica conjures up images of pristine beach vacations with a pulsating reggae soundtrack. The country, however, also has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world, and the population is actively grappling with legacies of Western imperialism, racial slavery, and political nationalism – the historical foundations of contemporary violence in Jamaica and throughout the Americas. Bad Friday focuses on a community of Rastafarians in western Jamaica who annually commemorate the 1963 Coral Gardens “incident,” a moment just after independence when the Jamaican government rounded up, jailed and tortured hundreds of Rastafarians. It chronicles the history of violence in Jamaica through the eyes of its most iconic community, and shows how people use their recollections of past traumas to imagine new possibilities for a collective future.

“Bad Friday is live evidence for reparations from the Government of Jamaica for the Coral Gardens atrocity of 11 April 1963. The Prime Minister Sir Alexander Bustamante’s order to “Bring in all Rastas, dead or alive!” is a crime against humanity that should not be forgotten.” - Ras Iyah V and Ras Flako, Rastafari Coral Gardens Committee

“Amidst the proliferation of films on Rasta, none have managed to fathom the Rastafari experience of their Jamaican Babylon like Bad Friday. Now that Rasta is an increasingly co-opted global culture, this is as close as the untutored will get to understanding the meanings of being ‘Dread’ during the pre- reggae period when adherents were viewed as a ‘cult of outcasts’ and routinely victimized. A powerful and timely historical document that speaks to the ways that remembering-and-forgetting continue to shape Jamaica’s post-colonial identity.“ - Jake Homiak, Curator of ‘Discovering Rastafari’, Smithsonian Institution

“By bringing to us the poignant testimony of the men and women who witnessed and whose lives were forever scarred by these events, Bad Friday obliges us to confront the shocking level of state violence that was unleashed against not only the individuals involved, but also against the entire Rastafarian community of Jamaica. Now, thanks to this evocative film, we are able to appreciate the full horror of the events from that distant time and what they portended. I salute and congratulate everyone involved in the making of this redemptive and truly valuable work of historical memory.” - Robert A. Hill, University of California, Los Angeles

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Is Herman Cain Racist?

cross-posted @ The Chronicle.

I’m not following the lead up to 2012′s presidential election the way I hung on every Democratic and Republican candidate’s words in 2006 and 2007. Even still, it is hard to miss the major headlines, no matter how much one might try: Obama’s plunging poll numbers, critiques of Romney’s religious persuasion, Rick Perry’s n-worded family home, and the conspicuously growing journalistic indifference to anything at all Bachmann-related.

Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan might have gotten panned by several of his fellow candidates during last night’s Republican debate (including Bachmann’s likening it to a version of the Biblical “mark of the beast”), but it is the continued public “controversy” around Cain’s take on racism in America that seems to have everyone up in arms right now.

This all started when Cain dismissed racism as a significant cause for African-American marginalization. “I don’t believe that racism today holds anybody back in a big way.” That was the way he put it last week on Fox News.

Add to this the fact that just yesterday Cain characterized his black detractors as “more racist than the white people that they’re claiming to be racist,” a rehashing of chicken-egg counter-accusations of racism:

“You’re a racist.”

“Oh yeah, well, then you’re a racist for calling me a racist.”

“See what I mean. Only a racist would believe that.”

Of course, Cain’s comments about racism are unintelligible if disconnected from his consistent slamming of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement as a form of seemingly anti-American class warfare, a conspiracy between “unions and Obama supporters to distract the American people from the real problem, which is the failed policies of the Obama administration.”

Just this Monday, Cain spoke with conservative commentator Sean Hannity about the Occupy Wall Street protesters. “They’re trying to legitimize themselves by comparing themselves to the Tea Party movement,” he claimed. “There is absolutely no comparison.” According to Cain, the Tea Party represents a legitimate form of political opposition and civic engagement, but the Occupy Wall Streeters are rabble-rousing thugs, a merely apolitical mob.

It is a position shared by the black conservative pundit (can’t remember his name) who was on MSNBC last night complaining about all the public sex acts, violence, and other illegalities taking place under the banner of the Wall Street crowd. These exact same characterizations were mobilized by many conservative pundits during the Civil Rights Era to dismiss that movement as insincere and degenerate, as full of little more than sex freaks and criminals.The response to such dismissals is often the same: How can an African-American such as Cain (or that aforementioned and unnamed MSNBC pundit) celebrate an "anti-Obama" Tea Party over and against other forms of social protestation about social inequality and corporate greed?

Do figures like Cain represent a form of internalized anti-black racism, which is the critique that Cain seems most keen on challenging? Or is it simply (as if any of this were simple) a case of class-interests trumping racial solidarity for a wealthy former-CEO of a national fast food chain? The party/candidate that wins this ongoing debate about the relative significance of race vs. class for contemporary American society might just end up with the next set of keys to the White House.