News 08.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 08.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 08.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 08.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Last month, as Spain lifted its lockdown, a string quartet took the stage at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre de Liceu. They played Emilio Puccini’s I Crisantemi, or The Chrysanthemums to a packed audience of 2,292 plants: Not shadowy spies or shills or Bloomberg supporters, but the leafy kind made up of cellulose and sunshine. The hall is a study in gilded, rococo opulence whose elegance is only heightened by its verdant patrons. The music has a thickened kind of dissonance, like a furry tongue in the morning. Puccini composed the piece in response to the sudden death of a friend, and the resulting elegy — in Italy, the flower bespeaks death — fittingly invokes both mourning and anger.

The performance was conceived of by artist Eugenio Ampuda, who told the Guardian that “At a time when an important part of humankind has shut itself up in enclosed spaces and been obliged to relinquish movement, nature has crept forward to occupy the spaces we have ceded.” Although I love the mental image of three spider plants in a trenchcoat trying to sneak past a ticket taker, these potted plants did zero creeping, sidling or slinking. Rather, they were donated by local nurseries and were redistributed to healthcare workers after the performance. And while the performance, entitled Concert for the Biocene, made for stunning visuals, the base concept of playing music to plants has been around for a while.

Read the rest of this article at: Real Life

News 08.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 08.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Everything will change in six days, when George Floyd stops breathing under the knee of a white police officer. But for now, it is May 19, an ordinary day during a global pandemic, and Brianna Blackmon is just waking up in her bedroom in Columbia, South Carolina, where she lives with her boyfriend and their blue-nose pit bull, DJ.

Blackmon showers, carefully applies powder-blue eyeshadow in the bathroom mirror, and marbles her lips with a muted sparkle gloss. The shirt she picks out is a simple crop top, on which the phrase “More Self-Love” is printed. Blackmon is a 23-year-old musician who performs under the name BJ From the Burbs. After she finishes her morning routine, she walks into her home office to record a new freestyle. The space doubles as a makeshift studio, and today’s session will be extra special. Once there, comfortably situated on the couch, Blackmon opens the TikTok app on her phone and taps Record.

The night before, Blackmon got word about Blackout Day, a demonstration of solidarity among Black users on TikTok who claim the platform is unfairly censoring them. To show unity, all creators were asked to switch their avatars to an image of a Black Power fist. She wants this freestyle to be her contribution. By the sixth take, Blackmon lands on a version she’s happy with and uploads it to her 176,000 followers. Over a slow-building trap beat, she rides the bubbling momentum. “Black creators on this app have had enough,” she raps. “So we switched our pictures, put our fists up just to say what’s up.” Before long, the 53-second freestyle is doing numbers, making rounds on other users’ personal feeds—the algorithmically driven For You pages. The praise floods in.

“Go awf,” comments @vixxienewell.

“YESS!!!” says @taylorcassidyj, one of the app’s more visible Black creators.

“I have chills mama,” says @seiricean.

Adds @d_damodel: “Ayeeee ok ???????.”

Blackmon uploads three more videos throughout the day. In one, she urges followers to donate “to the collection plate in my bio” (aka her CashApp). None of them performs quite as well as the initial freestyle, but she’s satisfied and considers the day a win.

When Blackmon opens TikTok again the following morning—“to check my views,” she says—she realizes something has gone wrong. Her freestyle post is still there, but it’s now silent. The audio has been completely removed. In her three months on the app, it’s a first. “You know how you get an instinct where you’re like, ‘That’s not right’?” Blackmon tells me in June, when we talk by phone. “That one did not sit well with my spirit.”

TikTok often mutes posts for violating its community guidelines, but Blackmon isn’t told which guideline she violated. As is typical in these cases, she’s given no explanation or notice of any kind. She reflects back on the video—no cursing, no hate speech, nothing too controversial. When she looks for a way to appeal the decision, she can’t find one. She’s left only with a suspicion, a taste of something bitter. “It’s not just me,” Blackmon says. “They are picking on certain types of creators.”

The following day, sans makeup, Blackmon uploads another video, done in one off-the-cuff take. “Isn’t this funny—TikTok doesn’t silence Black creators?” she says in a mocking tone. “Then why did they take my sound down from my video, from my pro-Black rap that went viral yesterday? I wonder.” It was almost too absurd. Blackmon made a video protesting censorship—and was censored. Is this what it meant to be Black and unapologetic on TikTok?

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

When I’m out and about reporting, I think often of my mother.

I see traces of her by the garment district, in the seamstresses who wait at dusk for their bus home. I see her inside office buildings, in the janitors who quietly empty all the trash bins. I see her sometimes at the park, in the nannies who come down from the hills with babies in their arms.

Everywhere I go in Los Angeles, I see my mom and all these workers so clearly. It’s baffling to me that there are people who, day after day, might not see what I see at all.

For years, my mother, Lucy, an immigrant from El Salvador, worked cleaning houses. Once, she proudly took a copy of the Los Angeles Times to work with one of my first front-page stories. “My daughter,” she said pointing to my name. Her client, a retiree, couldn’t believe it.

“You should have seen the look on the señora’s face,” my mom said. “She asked me all about you and your work. She wanted to know how you got your job and if I was proud of you. I said yes, of course. Very proud.”

For years, my mom loved to tell people that story. She still does.

Reflecting on all this, some time ago, I went on Twitter and briefly shared her tale. Then I asked a simple question:

What jobs did your parents work to get you where you are today?

My mom cleaned houses for many years. Her clients were busy people who rarely paused to learn anything about her. Once, she took the @latimes to work & proudly showed off one of my front page stories. “My daughter,” she said pointing to my name. Her client couldn’t believe it.

— Esmeralda Bermudez (@BermudezWrites) December 10, 2019

Thousands of responses poured in from all over the country, from Canada and beyond. They formed a tapestry of pride, spontaneously woven by the grown children of working-class parents:

Read the rest of this article at: Los Angeles Times

News 08.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In May, just days after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, Lieutenant Bob Kroll, the bellicose leader of the city’s police union, described Floyd as a violent criminal, said that the protesters who had gathered to lament his death were terrorists, and complained that they weren’t being treated more roughly by police. Kroll, who has spoken unsentimentally about being involved in three shootings himself, said that he was fighting to get the accused officers reinstated. In the following days, the Kentucky police union rallied around officers who had fatally shot an E.M.T. worker named Breonna Taylor in her home. Atlanta police staged an organized sick-out after the officers who killed Rayshard Brooks were charged. Philadelphia police sold T-shirts celebrating a fellow-cop who was caught on video clubbing a student protester with a steel baton. The list goes on.

Along with everything else about American society that was thrown into appalling relief by Floyd’s killing, there has been the peculiar militancy of many police unions. Law enforcement kills more than a thousand Americans a year. Many are unarmed, and a disproportionate number are African-American. Very few of the officers involved face serious, if any, consequences, and much of that impunity is owed to the power of police unions.

In many cities, including New York, the unions are a political force, their endorsements and campaign donations coveted by both Republicans and Democrats. The legislation they support tends to get passed, their candidates elected. They insist on public displays of respect and may humiliate mayors who displease them. They defy reformers, including police chiefs, who struggle to fire even the worst-performing officers. In an era when other labor unions are steadily declining in membership and influence, police unions have kept their numbers up, their coffers full. In Wisconsin, the Republican governor, Scott Walker, led a successful campaign to eliminate union rights for most of the state’s public employees. The exceptions were firefighters and police.

Police unions enjoy a political paradox. Conservatives traditionally abhor labor unions but support the police. The left is critical of aggressive policing, yet has often muted its criticism of police unions—which are, after all, public-sector unions, an endangered and mostly progressive species.

In their interstitial safe zone, police unions can offer their members extraordinary protections. Officers accused of misconduct may be given legal representation paid for by the city, and ample time to review evidence before speaking to investigators. In many cases, suspended officers have their pay guaranteed, and disciplinary recommendations of oversight boards are ignored. Complaints submitted too late are disqualified. Records of misconduct may be kept secret, and permanently destroyed after as little as sixty days.

With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, criticism of the police has become less muted. Calls resound to defund police forces, and to abolish the unions. But the United States has eighteen thousand nonfederal police agencies in its hyperlocalized system, with more than seven hundred thousand officers represented by unions. They will not be easily dislodged.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 08.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Named for the town of Kormantse, in present-day Ghana, the Coromantee were at first prized by planters for their strength and work ethic. One colonial historian wrote that the Coromantee were “hardy, laborious, and manageable under mild and just treatment,” but warned that they were “fierce, violent, and revengeful under injury and provocation.” The name was more stereotype than anything: many of the people to whom it was applied had little in common except language, and not always that. It soon became the preferred pejorative for any rebellious slave, as if geographic origin were the only possible explanation for why someone would resist enslavement. Eventually, the Coromantee became so feared that colonists in Jamaica actually proposed banning their importation. They were said to have been the leaders of rebellions not only there but in Cartagena de Indias, Suriname, St. Croix, St. John, Antigua, and New York.

Perhaps no one fantasized about slave rebellions more than the whites who benefitted from the subjugation of slaves. Some of those fantasies were driven by fear, but some of them, strangely, stemmed from a romanticized notion of the figure of the rebellious slave. That notion achieved one of its most enduring forms in “Oroonoko,” a 1688 novel by Aphra Behn, about the enslavement of a Coromantee nobleman. Tricked into slavery by the villainous captain of a slave ship, the heroic prince Oroonoko is taken from his African homeland to a West Indian colony, where he stages an unsuccessful revolt, after which he is tortured and executed. “Oroonoko” was adapted into one of the most popular plays of the Restoration era, and its renown endured well into the eighteenth century. The grandson of a king, Oroonoko represented an archetype: the royal whose servitude is a mistake, and whose rebellion is justified because he was wrongly enslaved, not because slavery is wrong. It took decades for audiences to start seeing the play and its source text from an abolitionist perspective, but by the time Samuel Johnson wrote about “Oroonoko,” at the end of 1759, the version being staged featured two additional antislavery scenes.

Around the same time, a Coromantee named Tacky, from the Frontier plantation, in St. Mary Parish, was sneaking away to a coastal cave with a few other slaves to plan their own rebellion. Sometimes spelled Takyi, the name means “royalty”: Tacky was said to have been the chief of his village in West Africa, where he sold Gold Coast rivals into slavery and learned English from the traders who came to buy his prisoners of war. Eventually, he met the same fate, when a warring tribe defeated his; sent to Jamaica, Tacky brought his military knowledge with him. He and a hundred co-conspirators rallied on Easter Monday in 1760. Just after midnight, they attacked Fort Haldane, where a single sentinel guarded all of Port Maria Harbor. They murdered the watchman and made off with four barrels of gunpowder, a keg of musket balls, and forty guns, then used those supplies to make their way southward, raiding estates and burning whatever plantation land they could, disrupting the agricultural economy and, more crucially, recruiting comrades.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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