Ken Olende

Historical blindness hurts

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Three recent arguments over cultural representations of anti-racist struggle expose a willingness to distort or ignore real historical events in order to fit with current ideas, writes Ken Olende.

The Metropolitan Police brutally attack a peaceful anti-racist demonstration in a key early scene from the new TV drama Guerrilla. It is 1971 and the police violence recalls two real incidents — the demonstration against police harassment that led to the arrest of the Mangrove Nine, and the later death of anti-racist activist Blair Peach.

How Russia inspired the world

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The Cook Islands in the South Pacific were annexed by the British Empire. On 11 March 1919 the colonial authorities on the main island of Rarotonga sent a telegram to New Zealand: “Serious disturbances by returned soldiers who are taking charge of settlement. Require armed assistance. Can you send warship or other assistance? Fifty armed men at least required.”

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation

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Black Lives Matter has had a profound affect on US politics. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor describes how its emergence is partly down to the inadequate response to racist police killings by existing black leaders from Barack Obama to Al Sharpton.

The book is particularly useful for readers who want to know about the subtleties of developments in US politics and racism through recent decades.

Who decides if culture is authentic?

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Recent controversies over food, hairstyles and music have highlighted the complexities of race and representation. Ken Olende unpacks some of the issues surrounding the notion of "cultural appropriation" and argues that culture is constantly evolving.

Beyoncé managed to both delight and offend with her US Superbowl tribute to the Black Panther Party. Fox News got a police sergeant to say it was the equivalent to a white act coming out in “hoods and white sheets”. She was attacked both by the right for politicising a sports event and by some on the left for trivialising a political movement, by turning a revolutionary struggle into a sexualised dance routine.

Makhan Singh: A revolutionary Kenyan trade unionist

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Many vital leaders through 200 years of struggle against racism, imperialism and capitalism are forgotten, or appear simply as footnotes. So it’s always a pleasure to be reminded of their activities.

Makhan Singh was a communist, born in India in 1913, who was central to the development of trade unions in Kenya, an east African state that was part of the British Empire.

Artist and Empire

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At first the idea of an exhibition of art relating to the British Empire sounds deeply off-putting. Is it a collection of images celebrating imperial conquest? While it does contain such paintings, Artist and Empire is doing something more complex and more interesting.

Its opening room concentrates on the justification for empire. It contains many maps, while the second has studies of plants, people and landscapes.

Steve Jobs

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By the time of his death in 2011 a set of fans saw Steve Jobs as a prophet of the future and the most important person on the planet. Jobs was head of Apple — which created the Macintosh computer, the iPod and the iPhone — and he appears to have shared this opinion.

Much of the rest of the planet thought he was an arrogant egotist who sold overpriced designer goods to the gullible. Such people should not turn up their noses at this biopic. Here he is presented as a visionary, but also as a complete “asshole”.

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