Throwback to 2004: #NYU’s undergrad mag #ManhattanSouth & our “I’ve got Issues Issue”

  11:23 am, by jessicalanglois  Comments

A Woman’s Place is Painting a Mural

In the current LA Weekly, I talk to San Fernando Valley muralist Kristy Sandoval about the reactions she gets as a woman street artist, the value of public art (and who should decide what public art is), and starting a feminist muralist movement. Plus Assata Shakur, Toypurina, & Judy Baca.

01:38 pm, by jessicalanglois 6  |  Comments

Rebecca Solnit. Such a badass researcher, writer & revolutionary. #harpers #easychair

  07:41 pm, by jessicalanglois  Comments

Soundtrack Music

It’s summer, grades have been turned in, and I’m spending more time taking old school print magazines to parks, forests, and beaches to read instead of reading and insta-sharing everything on one of several mobile screens. Also jotting down more thoughts in notebooks, far from keyboards and ‘post’ buttons. I even busted out the old SLR to take photos of trips to the Bay, Yosemite, or even the Valley, and it doesn’t connect to the internet, like my phone cam.

All this sort of explains why the blog has been dead and empty (not unlike my FB, Twitter & Instagram accounts) for *gasp* a month!

But, I did write a thing for KCET’s Artbound recently that’s worth sharing — a quick profile of the L.A. orchestral soul band Kan Wakan. It’s part of a cool package Drew Tewksbury and the folks at KCET put together for the website each week to accompany their Studio A segment: a video of a live set, a video interview, interview transcript, and a written story. Lots of ways to engage and learn about up-and-coming bands.

Here’s what I wrote.

Plus, in a moment of true synchronicity of work and life, Kan Wakan’s song “Forever Found,” which I’d listened to about a dozen times the week their album came out, working out the best words to describe the sound and feel, came on KCRW as Aruna and I were driving south on the 5 with the ‘88 Rover packed with camping gear and topped with surf boards, headed for a long weekend at San Onofre State Beach. Both the band itself and a friend I ran their music by describe the sound as 1960s soundtrack music, and in that moment, it actually became the soundtrack to those blissful, fleeting moments of really, actually getting away from everything, disappearing into the sun, surf & sky.

03:44 pm, by jessicalanglois  Comments

Street photographer Larry Yust displays a censored mural at @1111accgallery (at Tarzana Village Walk)

  06:01 pm, by jessicalanglois  Comments

We Belong Together

Last weekend, Tía Chucha hosted its 9th annual Celebrating Words Festival in Richie Valens Park in Pacoima. It was the third of a cluster of springtime L.A. literary festivals, and well worth the drive from the 101 to the 170 to the 5 into the East Valley.

Here are the choicest bits from the mellow afternoon in the park, with hot-dry winds blowing across the stage and through the large square of puestos surrounding it.

1. Haikus with Yumi Sakugawa & Nicky Sa-Eun Schildkraut


At the Kaya Press & Writ Large lounge-style booth, we wrote about the heat, and then about love, on post-its, read them aloud, traded and then drew pictures of each other’s poems. Lots of people wrote about food — Popsicles, Twizzlers… Yumi wrote a poem about fences weakening & weakness being a good thing. Neela Banerjee drew my Haiku about the wind. I drew Yumi’s & she asked my to autograph the post-it picture. I think I blushed.

2. Group poery with Vickie Vértiz


She gave us prompts, lines from her own poems, and we’d write one line at a time on colored construction paper with scented markers (grape, lime), then fold the paper over and pass it around to the next person. At the end, we each had a poem. They were mostly about tater tots, some about school, comic books, and divorce.

3. Hint fiction with Daniel Olivas


By now, we had a pretty core group — Yumi, Nicky, Vickie, Daniel, Neela, plus Kenji Liu (who wrote about leaves vaporizing). We were getting better at coming up with things on the spot, less afraid of sharing with one another. Daniel read short fiction — 25 words or less — from an anthology he’s published in. The stories were pretty ghostly or eerie, almost always with a twist. Start with a good title, he told us. Vicki & I had to go through some drafts; it was hard to get the whole rise and fall of a plot into a couple of lines. The group read stories about lynchings, divided families, and missions to Mars.

4. The kid who loved to write

The was one kid, maybe 12 or 13 or so, who did almost every workshop. He made a broadside with the publish booth next door, and then came to the little literary lounge to write about longing for winter and the meaning of love. Eventually, his mom came and got him. I loved that he wasn’t shy at all, that he had things he really wanted to say.

6. Hood Sisters, RAC-LA, LA 4 Youth, Good Mexican Girl booths


I took a break from the Kaya/WritLarge booths to cruise through the square of puestos and see who else had come out amongst the community organizations, local merchants & artisans. I got vegan Mexican wedding cookies from Good Mexican Girl; talked to a young woman from LA 4 Youth about a rally coming up in front of City Hall calling for the reallocation of money from police/jails to community organizations; heard about Revolutionary Autonomous Communities Los Angeles' free distribution of fruit/veggie boxes every Sunday in MacArthur Park; got a look at the East Valley culture blog i am san fernando authored by April Aguirre of the feminist muralist collective Hood Sisters; and picked up an abalone bracelet for a dear friend’s birthday present.

5. Slow songs with Dez Hope


Back at the Kaya/WritLarge booth, a local singer-songwriter, Dez Hope, came to talk about songwriting. I was getting sopas at the taco truck for part of it & when I got back, he was playing songs on his acoustic guitar. It was hard to hear over the high winds and the band performing on the main stage, so the five or six of us listening (including the kid who wrote about winter & love, who’d found his way back to the booth) all leaned in close. Dez played a cover of “We Belong Together” because we were in Ritchie Valens park and because the movie La Bamba had inspired him to become a musician. The song was so sweet and tender, and we all swayed to the notes, and it filled up that tiny space lined with carpets and chairs and hanging bookshelves and haikus on post-its, then swept over the drying grass of the vast park, ferried on by the wind.

11:16 am, by jessicalanglois  Comments


The Ampersand blog asked me to answer a few questions and tell you about my typical day—which is what the above image is. (Bigger version here.) Fact check: Upon further reflection, I probably hit snooze repeatedly on like 90% of mornings, not 25%.

This is awfully validating. Though I would add Work pie slices for “Thinking about new story ideas/angles in the shower and feeling super pumped” and then “Panicking about ability to pull any of it off and playing online Sudoku for 15-20 minutes in the Dark Playground to get through it.”

  02:05 pm, reblogged  by jessicalanglois 69  |

Yet another reason why my mom is badass… signature from an email re: Vivian Maier and my enigmatic maternal great grandmother #lovemom #smashpatriarchy

  06:55 pm, by jessicalanglois  Comments

What if there is no problem, at all?

Rose Lichter-Marck on Vivian Maier for the New Yorker:

"Both the photographer and the nanny evoke fantasies of invisibility that rely on the erasure of real labor, but for opposite ends. “Women’s work” is diminished and ignored while the (historically male) artist’s pursuit is valorized as a creative gift. Perhaps the nanny could be the perfect person to photograph the world unnoticed. Maybe the very thing that made people hire her as a nanny—her watchfulness, her “alertness to human tragedies and those moments of generosity and sweetness,” as the photographer Joel Meyerowitz puts it in the film—made her the artist we know she was.


"So let’s consider ‘Finding Vivian Maier’ in reverse: Maier challenges our ideas of how a person, an artist, and, especially, a woman should be. She didn’t try to use her work to accumulate cultural or economic capital.

"She died before developing more than a thousand rolls of exposed film, and there is no proof that she ever made a concerted effort to show her work to any dealers or other artists. To suggest that her choices were the result of some as yet uncovered emotional trauma is to assume that her life was lived in reaction to pain. But this shoehorns her into the very conventions of capitalism and bourgeois values that she eschewed so aggressively."

10:58 am, by jessicalanglois  Comments

How is the media covering Chokwe Lumumba’s legacy?

Last week, Jackson, Mississippi, held the Jackson Rising: New Economies Conference, to explore cooperative & worker-owned economic models for the majority Black city that’s long struggled with poverty, blight & crime. The conference almost didn’t happen. In the months since it was planned, newly elected mayor Chokwe Lumumba, who won by a staggering 87% on a Black liberation platform last fall, died suddenly (on Feb 25), after which a new election was thrown together (Apr 22) which his son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, narrowly lost.

So — why isn’t Jackson being more heavily covered by the national press?


I hope to spend a lot more time pouring through current news & news archives, but until then, let’s look at what comes up relatively quickly on a Google & Google news search for “Chokwe Lumumba, Jackson, Mississippi” — to see what information is being most immediately delivered to the general public.

In the general Google search, the first news story that comes up, after Wikipedia & Facebook (on my computer, anyway) is this March 9 story on Lumumba’s funeral, from Herbert Buchsbaum of the New York Times:

Jackson Mourns Mayor With Militant Past Who Won Over Skeptics

Here’s the lead (oftentimes the only paragraph readers will look at):

JACKSON, Miss. — Many people here still do not entirely know what to make of the mayor with the unusual name and even more unexpected résumé, who proudly embraced the term “militant” and to many was still the same dashiki-wearing firebrand who first came to prominence advocating an independent black nation in the South in the early 1970s.

So, what’s the first thing we learn about Lumumba? That he has an “unusual” (read: not anglo-sounding) name. Is that really the most important fact for one of the nation’s biggest papers to share about a man with a 40 year career in politics, law & civil rights? He’s quickly written off as an outdated radical, and his name is not even mentioned until the second paragraph.

(The NYT did run a couple of obituaries on him right after this death. They were more balanced, but still, the March 9 piece is that most recent, substantial reporting they’ve done on Lumumba. No further coverage of his son’s mayoral race, the New Economies conference, or his dedication to cooperative employment.)

In contrast, here’s the first story that came up with the Google news search, an April 25 piece from Kristin West Savali at Ebony:

Chokwe Anta Lumumba Doesn’t Need City Hall To Lead Jackson, MS Into New Era

Written for a glossy magazine, the lead has a strong editorial tone & more space for expansive prose, but the piece itself is about what’s currently happening in Jackson, and why this has national relevance:


The barren landscape which our ancestors traversed as enslaved people in various reincarnations—-from the Antebellum era to Jim Crow—-is ground zero for beautiful Black radicalism and truth-telling. From Fannie Lou Hammer to Medgar Evers, the resilience, brilliance, passion and determination of Mississippi’s revolutionaries have served as a collective blueprint for freedom fighters following in their footsteps. And into their vast legacies steps Chokwe Antar Lumumba, son of late, legendary human rights attorney Chokwe Lumumba.

Closely following this hit in the Google news search is a May 2 piece from R.L. Nave at Jackson Free Press (almost everything current on Jackson in ensuing Google News pages comes from this press):

City Almost Grounds ‘Jackson Rising’ Conference

Its lead emphasizes the direct connection between this event and the national stories on Lumumba’s election & death (though, almost no one covered the conference nationally):

A keystone of late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba’s economic agenda, the Jackson Rising: New Economies Conference, which starts today, was almost derailed this week when the city of Jackson pulled its support for key elements of the event, said one of the conference’s organizers.

Back in the general Google search, here’s an April 5 Huffington Post op-ed from acclaimed author asha bandele:

Why We All Should Care About the Mayoral Race in Jackson, Mississippi

She leads with the national relevance of Chokwe Antar Lumumba’s mayoral bid:

For those of us living far from the south, discussions of Mississippi may make us recall the Civil Rights Movement, some period in time we now think more likely relevant in a history book. But believing that couldn’t be more wrong. On April 8 there will be a special mayoral election in Jackson, Mississippi and it has implications for all of us and here’s why.

Here’s Siddhartha Mitter with Al Jazeera America’s Feb 25 obit of Lumumba (below the NYT story & bandele’s op-ed in the general Google search):

Chokwe Lumumba, radical mayor of Jackson, Miss., dies at 66

The lead instantly paints a much more timely picture of Lumumba, again focusing on national and global relevance (the NYT obit focuses first on his call for an independent black nation back in the 70s):

The death of Chokwe Lumumba, the mayor of Jackson, Miss., interrupts one of America’s most promising civic experiments still in its fragile beginning.

The angle of each article is clear in the headline & lead, but it’s also worth skimming the content of the full articles for what facts they choose to place up front and the sources they use. Examine how each publisher frames the issues the city & nation are facing. Look at what credentials they prioritize for the main figures in the stories. Also, look at who they quote, and when.

In the March 9 NYT story, the first source quoted is the (older, white) chairman of a real estate investment firm, and then an unnamed resident from the white majority north side of the city (pulled from the local weekly). Only then is the late mayor directly quoted. All the quotes about his actual work and character come in the second half of the story, which many readers seldom get to, and even the first source quoted saying something positive about Lumumba is middle-aged white male college recruiter.

Of course each of these publications has a different readership & serves that readership, but, that doesn’t discount the fact that NYT is still one of the most prominent dailies in the country and adheres to a strong ethical code. So, why does one of the nation’s biggest papers still prioritize upper class white men as the best sources, even in a story about a black mayor of a majority black city?

And, half a century after the Kerner Commission, why are blacks still being so intentionally misrepresented in the major media? Instead of dashiki-wearing militants with unusual sounding names, why not civil rights lawyers, mayors of major cities, and individuals with character working in the footsteps of national heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr. among others?

Seems like that kind of rhetoric may still be to dangerous in this country.

09:26 am, by jessicalanglois 1  |  Comments