An Insistence on Not Being Discouraged

Modern, and contemporary criticism of African and African diasporic art is an area of inquiry that Professor Chika Okeke-Agulu insisted must exist. Professor Okeke-Agulu, along with others like Salah Hassan and Okwui Enwezor wrote into life a genre, and a lineage of artists who diagnose and critique African nation states and related projects. Okeke-Agulu is author of the recent Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria, which takes a broad view of the subject. His new work, Obiora Udechukwu: Line, Image, Text, takes a more narrow view, focusing on a former teacher who he names as the most influential Nigerian artist of the 20th century. Okeke-Agulu is currently at work on a book called Contemporary African Art in the Age of the Big Man, which tells the story of contemporary art after dictatorships, civil wars, IMS, and the devastation of African economies in the 1980s.

The Traveling Metaphor and Politics of Black Lives Matter

From: Rinaldo Walcott
To: Focus
Date: September 30, 2015, 8:21am

Photo from

Does BLM travel? Of course it does. However let me risk a move here that might help us to think about the difference between a particular and specific politics of BLM traveling, as opposed to BLM traveling as a metaphor. The power of metaphor is both in its elasticity and its contraction — that is, what it allows in and what it cannot. As my colleagues, have pointed out here, in particular Joy James and Che Gossett, BLM has practiced a politics of transnational political identification that is both within the black radical tradition (in relation to Palestine) and simultaneously hampered by empire in black face, as the Obama administration, for example, drones East Africa and the Middle East, and uses Kenya and Ethiopia as proxies for its resource wars in Africa, among other imperial projects globally.

The present and urgent fate of Haitians demands that we see and witness the complicities of empire in our time. My concern here is that Haitians must attempt to make a life in the context of a global order that wishes them to disappear — from everywhere. As Haitians move within the Caribbean region we witness the limits of modernist ideals, the most obvious being that of nation and citizenship. Haitian movement calls our attention to the reigning logics of white supremacist organization of all of our lives. Indeed what travels from BLM is the emphasis on a life, on what a life might be, on how we might achieve our lives. And it is in this endeavour, the one of achieving a life, that Haiti re-joins African most spectacularly.

So let me briefly turn our attention to the African refugee crisis and the crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar as a stretching of the metaphor and the politics of BLM. The late Stuart Hall has taught us that migration is the “joker in the globalisation pack,” that planned and unplanned migrations threaten to undo and upend neoliberal regimes of capital movement, while labour is supposed to stand still and often people are discarded when no longer needed.

Indeed, while BLM might have been politically activated by state violence, most spectacularly police violence in the USA, the movement in both its rhetoric and its links and indebtedness to an international black radical tradition, demands that we engage the African refugee crisis as central to all of its concerns.


Africans crossing the Mediterranean Sea in search of a life, a life denied them, both in terms of resources and in terms of the logics of white supremacist world orders, contract and stretch BLM. The insistence on life by Africans moving forces us to consider what exactly is a modern life. What exactly does it mean to claim one’s self for a life? It is in fact the insistence on a life that black movement/travel has continually upturned the fictions of modernist ideals. African migration, both planned and unplanned, continually returns us to the demand that we imagine a different world, that we risk putting flesh to ways of being in which a life becomes possible. African migration alerts us to the political demand that we remake the world anew in the aftermath of that other great migratory moment of the post-1492 world. Indeed, BLM travels because the very idea of black and blackness in the modern world cannot be divorced from movement. And it is in recognizing how fundamental movement and or migration is to late modern capital that we might begin to risk intellectually navigating a different present and thus future. African’s crossing that strait remind us that movement actual and otherwise demands notice what actually matters — our lives.

How does Black Lives Matter cross borders?

From: Joshua Guild
To: Focus
Date: September 24, 2015, 11:12am

Thanks to all of you for these thoughtful and challenging opening provocations. There are many directions the conversation could go from here, and a host of themes/topics I hope we can delve into more deeply as we continue. But one of the things that strikes me the most in reading back over the contributions thus far are the multiple invocations of the international, the global, and the imperial.

Toni L. Sandys / The Washington Post

Charlene characterized BLM as being at once “hyper-local and internationalist,” which I think is a useful framing and one that demands our further attention. Rinaldo and Joy both asked us to think about how BLM has been shaped by Obama’s role as the black face of the American Empire. Though I think she was making a slightly different point, Imani invoked Hall to ask, “What is this ‘Black’ in Black Lives Matter?”

One entry point into trying to answer that question, it seems to me, is to think more expansively about BLM in relation to non-U.S. blacks, both inside and outside the nation. Jessica argues that, “#BlackLivesMatter demands a radical seeing of each other — intra-black, infrared, diasporic, futuristic, historic, archived and unimaginable.” If this is so, how might we reflect on the ongoing violent expulsions of Dominicans of Haitian descent from the D.R. in this context? Or consider the human rights crisis of migrant deaths, detention, and marginalization occasioned by “Fortress Europe?” Or the global response to epidemics in West Africa and Haiti and what Peter James Hudson and Jemima Pierre refer to as “the epidemiology of anti-blackness?”

This is the challenge of black studies, as Christina Sharpe puts it, “in the wake.”

So, as the movement enters into what Keeanga refers to as its “second phase,” how might it balance local, national, and transnational concerns simultaneously? What manifestations of BLM are best suited for this work? Are there risks to the movement — and whatever successes it has achieved thus far — in broadening its primary focus beyond systemic anti-black state violence in the U.S.? What are the consequences of notdoing so? What does history offer in this regard, either in terms of cautionary tales or models of organizing?