Ken Olende

Luke Cage, season 2

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Harlem super hero Luke Cage (Mike Colter) has cleared his name, but is broke and wondering whether to accept a sponsorship deal from Nike as the show’s second season opens.

The first season came out before the film Black Panther with its largely black cast and concerns. In fact it links much more into the radical traditions of black nationalism, Malcolm X and the Panthers. Unlike Black Panther, Luke Cage is not rich. Another character says “just because you’re woke, you don’t have to be broke!”, advising him to become a “hero for hire”.

Ambalavaner Sivanandan, 1923-2018

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Ambalavaner Sivanandan, who died on 3 January, was the director of the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) and one of the most important anti-racist activists and intellectuals in Britain.

Sivanandan talked and wrote on all aspects of racism in an anti-imperialist, Marxist framework. He spoke out strongly against the idea of celebrating fixed ethnic or racial communities as the basis for fighting racism. He said that the fight must come out of “communities of resistance” — people who came together and thus defined themselves as a community in the fight against racism.

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.

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