Ken Olende

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”.

Boko Haram: Nigeria's Islamist Insurgency

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A number of people have written recently trying to explain the growth of the Islamist group known as Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. Many over-simplify the issues involved.

Virginia Comolli goes out of her way to avoid making wild generalisations, but that sometimes leads to equivocating about events.

Nonetheless, the book is rich in facts, background information and details of earlier writing on the crisis.

From Kinshasa

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Kinshasa is the capital of the long suffering Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and From Kinshasa is the latest remarkable music to emerge from it. It is a startling mix of innovation and tradition. The music is recognisable yet new. The album’s cover shows a spaceman in Kinshasa exploring new places and new soundscapes. His suit is a patchwork created from recycled materials.

Given how long DRC has suffered under colonialism — Cold War dictatorship and one of the world’s most brutal and least known wars — the quality and breadth of music it has produced is astounding.

African Titanics

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The people who risk their lives on the African Titanics, the barely seaworthy boats that set out to bring migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe, are rarely seen as individuals.

But some of their perspectives are brought to life in this novel, newly published in English. Author Abu Bakr Khaal is from Eritrea, the east African country that provides a disproportionate number of the people who risk death on the seas to get to Europe.

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