Tag: featured

Black Panther: The Album review

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The soundtrack for Black Panther, the film that broke box office records when it was released, is and diverse mixture of trap, R&B, and experimental rap that expresses the immense influence of Black culture on music in America.

Kendrick Lamar’s intro, “Black Panther” proclaims his place in the music industry as “King.” This into to the album launches the overall theme of the soundtrack, the idea of Black culture as powerful, a moving force on the entire soundtrack. Lamar ends the track by claiming his throne as T’Challa, and also as Erik Killmonger, encompassing two significant powerful figures in the film. Lamar’s voice echoes through every track, a constant reminder of his place and a proclamation of his dominion.

“All The Stars,” the lead single for the record, where SZA sings the hook, “This may be the night my dreams might let me know, All the stars are closer.” SZA and Lamar collaborate on the track perfectly. The significance in this song being the title track is the need for guidance from stars or even ancestry, especially in a society that is so quick to limit opportunity for people of color.

Trap influences on the album are also prominent on tracks like “King’s Dead” and ‘Paramedic!” and “X” which all have heavy trap beats.

“Opps” is one of the most experimental tracks on the album, with heavy electronic influences, where Vince Staples’ influence shines through. “I am” by Jorja Smith and “The Ways” Khalid bring through the R&B influences on the album and “Seasons” brings out Jazz influence – all genres encompassing and influencing modern day music within one solid, eclectic album while also encompassing strong African influence.

Statements on the record hold the overall meaning of the project as a work through the perspective of people of color.  “They ain’t wanna see me win ‘cause I’m Black, so I pulled up in an all Black Benz in the back,” exclaims Young T.O. on “Paramedic!” On The Ways, Khalid sings, “Power girl, I really wanna know your ways” which references the character Nakia, a spy and skilled fighter for Wakanda. On Seasons, Sjava raps in Zulu, “Bebathi ng’yophelel emoyeni, beba right, manje ngiy’nknayezi,” which roughly translates to, “They thought I’ll disappear into air, they are right, now I’m a star,” a proclamation of rising from oppression to stardom through African language. A verse from Mozzy on the same track proclaims, “Trapped in the system, traffickin’ drugs. Modern-day slavery, African thugs,” referencing modern day neo-slavery through the prison system.

Listening to this album is an experience that can only be had by a person of color, especially when paired with watching the film. Since many of the songs are a symbol of power, the scenes are more pronounced and resonate with you long after you leave the theater. As a woman of color, the sight of seeing powerful women fight against evil to music made for people of color, by people of color gives off so much emotion. It makes you feel as though you could conquer the world to the soundtrack.

“Opps” blaring through the theater while T’Challa and his group chase after their enemies is a triumphant scene in the movie, and could not have been well portrayed without the music that accompanied it. Hearing “All The Stars” after the movie ended, just before the final cutscenes, giave of a hopeful feeling for the future of representation of people of color in marvel movies, and film in general. SZA, an icon for women of color such as myself, has a voice of strength that could be parallel to the character Nakia, a powerful fighter, while Kendrick parallels to T’Challa as the king of Hip-Hop.

The overall theme is of this project is power and an indefinite reclamation of Black culture through music. In the age of hip-hop music being used as a tool for industry, commercial, and monetary gain by white record company owners, “Black Panther” is a humanization of the art that originates from Black people through early jazz music, the building blocks of most modern-day music genres. It is also a call for people of color in the film and in the music industry.   

In times like this, an era of revolutionizing the way we view race and people of color, Black Panther is an extremely important staple to our generation. The film shows what people of color are made of, and the soundtrack just adds to the energy of the movie. Finally, a franchise, a movement, that encompasses the image of blackness as heroic, royal and breathtaking.


From Chiapas to El Barrio, Connecting Global Women’s Struggles

MJB Feature Pic

See this article as it appeared originally published on March 20th 2018 by the Indypendent

by Ramona East

Led primarily by immigrant women, Movement for Justice in El Barrio (MJB) is a grassroots community organization based in East Harlem. Since 2004, the organization has been leading the fight against gentrification affecting low-income and immigrant communities. And they have succeeded, using door-to-door relationship building between neighbors, listening to the community and protests.

“Our greatest accomplishment has been the fact that we remain here,” said Josefina Salazar of MJB — or as Movement members often chant: “Aqui estamos, y no nos vamos!”

On March 11, MJB hosted an International Women’s Day Celebration, honoring women’s global efforts for justice and equality at the Maysles Cinema on Malcolm X Boulevard in Harlem. Upon arrival, women were greeted with long stem roses, a symbol of the Movement’s appreciation for women’s efforts for change, as well as an icon of female strength — sensitive and delicate, yet strong and firm.

‘The struggles of women are the same everywhere.’

The event showcased films of women activists globally — from the Gulabi Gang of Northern India to women graffiti artists of New York City, female migrants from Central America to the women of Abajhalhi baseMjondolo, a shack-dwellers movement in South Africa.

The event highlighted common themes of women’s struggles globally: poverty, sexism, as well as physical and sexual violence. Representatives from Domestic Workers United, the Rural Women’s Assembly based in Southern Africa, Grassroots Global JusticeAlliance, spoke. They raised concerns and questions about how to proceed in the fight for gender justice across many fronts.

“The struggles of women are the same everywhere,” said Christine Lewis of Domestic Workers United. “We’re fighting and we must fight in community.”

MJB members ended the event by lighting a candle and reading from a recent communique issued by the International Zapatista Women’s Encuentro in Chiapas, Mexico held in March. The message honored the struggles of women throughout the world, including those who had come before and those who are yet to come and all women who continue to face violence, marginalization and oppression:

Sisters and compañeras:

On that March 8… each of us lit a small flame.

We lit this flame with a candle so it would last, because a match goes out too quickly and a lighter could easily break.

That small light is for you

Take it with you, sister and companera.

And do not keep it, companera and sister.

When you feel alone.

When you are scared.

When you feel like the struggle is too difficult, in other words life.

Light this again in your heart, in your thoughts and in your gut.

And do not keep it, companera and sister.

Take it to the disappeared.

Take it to the assassinated women.

Take it to the imprisoned women.

Take it to those that have been raped.

Take it to those that have been harassed.

Take it those who have experienced violence in all of its forms.

Take it to the immigrant women.

Take it to the exploited women.

Take it to the women that have died.

Take it and tell all of them and each one of them that they are not alone. That you are going to fight for them.

That you are going to fight for the truth and justice that their pain deserves.

That you are going to fight so that the pain she has is not repeated in another woman in any world.

Take it and convert it into rage, into anger, into commitment.

Take it and join it with other lights.

Attendees took time to remember women who had passed and who had contributed so much to the fight for women’s rights, including Jess Davies, a long-time compañera of MJB.

Organizers and community members later came together for a reception, sharing homemade tamales and conversation.

The success of grassroots movements working to end displacement, exploitation and community violence is due in great part to the tireless efforts of women, who have so often experienced violence and disrespect in their homes and communities. MJB members celebrated and honored the leadership roles women play in the fight for change and created space for diverse women around the city and the world to see themselves as a part of a global movement.

The UMass Alliance for Community Transformation contributed to this article.


Photo credit: Wafi Habib Mohamad.

Humans of UMass Amherst: PWIs

By Lucia, Ariya, Sandra

The Class EDUC 392B: Racism Global Context is a class discussion about racial issues and how to confront them on predominantly white institutions (PWIs). Led by facilitators from CMASS (Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success), students came together to discuss their own encounters with racial issues on campus and how to address them in a productive way. We asked them about their experience over the weekend, what they learned and what they would like to share.


Sociology major

“Silence is violence, and it’s important to break the silence. Because there’s` so much institutional silence around issues of race and racism and the intersectionality of race and racism. And when we engage in discussion we’re like starting the work of deconstructing the institutional silence and violence that’s imposed on people of color but also that affects other people as well at predominantly white institutions.”


Accounting major

“Coming to this class and having an open discussion about people’s experiences with racism at umass was so eye opening. Because I know a lot of my friends think that racism doesn’t really occur on this campus, and it was astounding to see so many first perspectives about racism on campus and their own actual experiences.”


Computer Science major

“Something I learned over the weekend is that everyone feels the same as I did about racial issues — they had their own issues with race too. And so I’m not the only one who feels this kind of pressure about race.”


Psychology major

“I had the intention to learn more about different people’s perspectives because I am a leader on this campus fighting very hard for diversity and I felt that this course would, in a way teach me more about others people’s perspectives so that i can incorporate it in my work and improve.

“It’s important to have these kinds of group discussions because we can all just in a way share our pain so that we can learn to better empathize with each one another and have a greater understanding as to what’s happening in not only our lives but other people’s lives.”

Lomo Saltado Peruano

Recipe by Lucia Solorzano


Lomo Saltado is a stir-fry style Peruvian dish. It originated from Chifa (Chinese-Peruvian food) and has made it’s way across households in Peru. This is one of my favorite dishes because it hits the spot of a warm, comfortable, and hearty meal, not to mention it smells amazing when it’s being cooked.


  • 1 (16 ounces) pack of french fries
  • 3-4 large tomatoes, sliced into wedges
  • 1 large onion, sliced into strips
  • 1 pound of beef sirloin (or any kind good for stir fry), sliced to 1/8 -¼ inches thick
  • 1 yellow chili pepper (preferably Peruvian aji amarillo, although I use cayenne pepper and cumin if I have none)
  • ¼ cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Dash of soy sauce
  • White rice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Vegetable or olive oil as needed


  1. Prepare french fries according to package
  2. Season the sliced meat with salt and pepper while oil heats up in a pan. Fry the meat just until the juices start to be released.
  3. Take the meat out and cook the onions until they are transparent. Then, add in the tomatoes and aji amarillo until the tomatoes are soft.
  4. Add in the vinegar, soy sauce, french fries, and add back the beef. Cover and cook until the beef is done, around 3-5 minutes.
  5. Add salt and pepper as needed, sprinkle parsley over, and serve over white rice.

“American Honey”’s View of Vagabond Youth

Review by Ariya Sonethavy

Andrea Arnold’s fourth feature film isn’t your typical “teen” movie — it’s not even a particular type of drama. Very few films of the genre follow the story of a woman of color, especially one whose thoughts the audience are hardly aware of. The storytelling in American Honey is atmospheric, and even the scenes of great intensity of a peculiar quietness to them.

We follow an 18-year old texan, Star (newcomer Sasha Lane), whose socioeconomic status deviates from the quirky white teen protagonists we see in movies about heartbreak and high school. The opening scene starts with star dumpster diving with two children — both of whom don’t seem to bear any blood relation to her — and their life ensues in typical fashion in their small Southern suburban home. There is a subtle nature in all of this. Arnold never gives away Star’s background in any kind of tangible story, but instead we see the young protagonist’s desire to escape when she cries softly as a man the children call “Daddy” forces her to slow dance with him to a country song.

The film itself isn’t about being poor, or even about life in the American South. Rather, it’s a portrait of youth that is never exposed in artistic mediums. Star eventually moves away from whatever life she had when she meets Jake (Shia Labeouf), who invites star to join his crew of traveling magazine sellers, run by a young but authoritarian Krystal (Riley Keough). The crew consists of young people from all different backgrounds, and together they seem like temporary family of hedonistic lost boys. Going door-to-door selling stories in exchange for magazine subscriptions, the group makes enough money to keep travelling across the country and enjoying their youth, deviating as far from 9-to-5 working class culture as possible. The near three hours of the film isn’t an epic in terms of thick plot, but instead encapsulates this visual poetry to create something strangely intimate. The magazine crew’s journey is turbulent, and there is an unspoken knowing that the group is temporary as different people come and go. Star breaks the Krystal’s order by finding an interest in Jake, and throughout the film their relationship see-saws from infatuation to jealous passive-aggressiveness. Star’s tumultuous personality is representative of the young women who are against the establishment, and even in a business where professionalism may lack, Star continually pushes Krystal’s buttons through her behavior.

There’s something political in Star’s disposition to difficult situations, and the cinematic frame that Arnold creates within this narrative is an artistic statement that extrapolates on the themes of youth — it’s a different play on the hazy teenager days that we see in movies like The Virgin Suicides, while the indulgence in being young and free deviates from films like Spring Breakers. The film takes a medium between placidity and action, and there’s a barrier between the audience and the characters from the fact that the film itself is merely a depiction — we never actually know what Star or Jake or any of the characters are thinking. The dreamy Instagram ratio visuals adds to the film’s character and atmosphere of motion, one that goes along with the nomadic nature of these wandering teenagers and the vastness of midwestern and southern America. There’s a richness in the energy of the actors on screen, most of which are unprofessional actors (Sasha Lane herself was found by Arnold on a beach with no prior acting experience), and communal empathy in the act of the entire crew singing along to popular rap and pop songs.

Arnold ultimately creates a masterpiece that isn’t driven by sex or edgy youth or love, or even the adventure of party culture. All these factors are instead taken in doses through the abstract, and becomes a messy anthology of raw exuberance, authenticity, and escape. American Honey is enigmatic, with the film being a window for observing rather than judging through a cohesive plot. The luminous cinematography and dizzying portrayal of youth make for Arnold’s statement that takes a Almost Famous-esque road film and transforms it into a work that has no boundaries or sense of time. Instead, we become the observers of an unorthodox romanticism of escape, reflecting all of our teenage desires to run away from home.