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Dream Defenders Bring Us Blacked Out History Month

The Lomax RecordingsDuring the New Deal, Alan Lomax & his father, famed folklorist and collector John A. Lomax, recorded thousands of songs and interviews for the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress on aluminum and acetate discs, with a special emphasis on the musical contributions of African Americans. Just like today, a disproportionate percentage of African American males were held as prisoners in the 1930s and 1940s. The Lomaxes toured Texas prison farms recording work songs, reels, ballads, and blues from prisoners such as James “Iron Head” Baker, Mose “Clear Rock” Platt, and Lightnin’ Washington. In 1933, they acquired a state-of-the-art phonograph recorder. Installing it in the trunk of his Ford sedan, John Lomax used it to record, at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a twelve-string guitar player by the name of Huddie Ledbetter, better known as “Lead Belly”. “Lead Belly” is now known as a giant among blues & folk musicians, with influence on thousands of artists. The Archive of American Folk Song of the Library of Congress contains songs collected in thirty-three states of the Union and certain parts of the West Indies, the Bahamas, and Haiti. John & Alan Lomax’s work contains some of the first recordings of the greatest Black blues and folk gems in the world.For more info search: Archive of American Folk Song; John Lomax; Alan Lomax; “Lead Belly”;  Muddy Waters; American blues

Since their inception this past Summer, The Dream Defenders quickly emerged as a force to be reckoned with.

Formed in Florida, the group came to prominence during the Zimmerman trial with their fierce advocacy against Stand Your Ground Laws, captivating a mainstream audience with their boldness and refusal to back down. The group consists of young people advocating on their own behalf. They’re scrappy, insistent and they have a lot of heart– characteristics that they’re not shy about displaying. Thinking big and organizing with an emphasis on solidarity and our shared struggle it’s hard not to feel better about the state of the world simply knowing they exist.

The authenticity of the Dream Defenders is what sets the group apart. What you see produced by the group is a product of the heart, sweat and tears of its members. To that end, art and culture are often at the forefront of their overall organizing strategy.

Their recent Blacked Out History Month campaign is an example of how the group has done this to great effect.

The project is explained on their Facebook Page:

Blacked-Out History Month is an effort to highlight individuals, moments, and important facts throughout history that were left out of our history classes but made a tremendous impact on the world that we live in today. February 1st to the 28th is usually the one month out of the year dedicated to honoring and remembering Black history. As Dream Defenders, we revere this history and know that every day in our work we stand on the shoulders of giants.

But we are also aware that there is no such thing as an isolated “Black history”. Our struggle has been inspired by, linked to, and shaped by the struggles of many who also see their histories forgotten. For this reason, we are calling February of 2014 Blacked Out History Month. It is a time not just to honor the lifted and recycled legends of our past, but to highlight and honor many overlooked heroes who have made an impact in the world as we know it.

We are creating a digital art piece for every day of February highlighting a piece of lesser known history. Many thanks to awesome partners (Get Equal, 18MR, BYP100, United We Dream, Alayna Eagle) for helping us hopefully pick a wide array of history representing many cultures.

Since the beginning of February this collaboration has released a series of digital art pieces featuring the work of artists like Sandra Khalifa, Steve Peace, and Kevin Banatte. The project is intended to raise awareness about moments in history that have been “blacked out.”

I selected a handful of pieces to showcase here, but the entire project from start to finish is incredible. The diversity of the topics explored and the intricacy of each piece is impressive. I urge you to check out the whole digital exhibit and to spread the word. February might be nearly over, but Black History Month or not, these pieces represent moments of our history that don’t deserve to be blacked out.

Images after the jump


INFO:  The Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, & Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 (H.R. 4437) was a bill passed by the US House of Representatives on December 16, 2005. HR4437 aimed to raise outrageous penalties for undocumented immigration and classify undocumented immigrants or anyone who helped them enter/remain in the US as felons. Though the bill did not pass the Senate, it would’ve required construction of a wall of up to 700 miles along the US-Mexican border. Some of the bill’s advertising equated those crossing the border from Mexico with terrorists (alluding to the  9/11 terrorist attacks). It is widely considered one of the most draconian anti-immigration bills in nearly a century. HR4437 was the catalyst for the 2006 U.S. immigration reform protests, in which millions marched to stand against the bill. Bills similar to HR4437, which have advanced at the state-level in many conservative, ALEC-influenced legislatures, have contributed to the rise of private prisons, which have placed a huge proportion of the Black and undocumented community behind bars for profit. For more info search: 2006 U.S. immigration reform protests, Rep Jim Sensenbrenner (WI), e-verify, comprehensive immigration reform, ALEC


The Truth about the MLK AssassinationIn 1999, Martin Luther King’s family and attorney won civil trial “King Family vs Jowers,” which found US government agencies guilty in the wrongful death of Martin Luther King, Jr..  The jury decided it did not believe that James Earl Ray, who was convicted of the crime, killed Dr. King, and that King had been the victim of assassination by a conspiracy involving the Memphis police as well as federal agencies. The King family believes the government’s motivation to murder Dr. King was to prevent his plans of mobilizing a poor people’s campaign to occupy the national lawn in Washington D.C. until the economic system changed.  The evidence of government involvement includes: the attendance of US military intelligence groups and special forces sniper teams at the site of the assassination; police bodyguards and regular police protection being removed prior to the shooting; and King being relocated from a secure 1st floor room to an exposed balcony room. This historic trial was widely ignored by the media.  After the trial Coretta Scott King stated: “We have done what we can to reveal the truth, and we now urge you…to do what they can to share the revelation of this case to the widest possible audience.”  THINGS TO SEARCH: King Family vs Jowers, Loyd Jowers, Lt. Earl Clarke Memphis

 Photos published with permission.


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