videos

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Martin and I have been friends since I first CouchSurfed at his place in Stockholm during my whirlwind round-the-world tour in 2009. Recently, I hung out at his place and he finally decided to teach me a little Swedish before dinner. 🙂

 

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8 Hrs at LAX. Image composed by Mike Kelley.

By now, it should be no secret that Fly Brother is an aviation geek, particularly when it comes to airports and airlines. Even as a kid, I collected Wooster snap-fit model airplanes, memorized airport codes, read the OAG, designed my own mega-airport in the mold of Hartsfield-Jackson (only with more runways, more concourses, and serviced by every major airline on the planet), and created my own version of Monopoly in which players snapped up hub airports in lieu of streets.

Now that I actually work out on the ramp, stacking bags and voguing with glowsticks and whatnot, I can’t help but watch these videos and pay attention to the littlest details, like the baggage carts whirling around the planes and the tiny but powerful tractors that push the planes back from the gates. Here are a few of my favorite time lapse airport operations videos (and a stunning computer-generated map of air traffic flow over northwestern Europe). The music on the Paris vid is particularly fly. Enjoy!




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“No free negro shall come, reside in, or be within this state… [T]he legislature shall provide by penal law for the removal of all such negroes and their exclusion from the State.” -Oregon State Constitution, 1857-1926

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In 1956, New York college student Patricia Banks counted herself among the first cadre of young black women to finish flight attendant training school. Sadly, like those other young women, she found it possible to gain employment with any of the major airlines, unlike her white classmates.

“…one of the chief hostesses from Capital [Airlines]…she saw me…she said, ‘Pat, I can’t see you go through this anymore.’ She said, ‘The airline does not hire Negroes.'” “It really never came to me that New York was just as racist as the South. I grew up when the South was having such terrible problems, but I had a thing inside of me…this just can’t be, not in New York!” “It was emotionally upsetting.” “But then I vowed, ok…you’re not gonna do this to us. I’m not gonna let you do this. And I decided that I was going to go with it all the way. I don’t care how long it took. And whether it was me that got hired, or somebody else, somebody was going to get hired.”

Ms. Banks sued, and in 1960, the New York State Commission against Discrimination ordered Capital Airlines (which merged with United a year later) to hire her, two years after Mohawk Airlines hired Ruth Carol Taylor as the first black flight attendant. But she knew that while the legal fight may have been over, the internal struggle was just beginning.

“I was very, very excited, very happy about it, but I also knew that it was going to be a challenge. … Because here I was, this black woman on this magnificent airline traveling all through the South, so I had to be … perfect. … I knew if I made any mistakes, they would be magnified and I would ruin the chance for other black people.”

See Ms. Banks’ entire interview below, then discover other black aviation pioneers at American Airlines‘ excellent Black History in Aviation website.

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In Brazil, “the delineation between black and white is blurred, with the overwhelming majority somewhere in the middle. But white remains the color of aspiration, and black the color of a history that some would prefer to forget.”

In continued recognition of Black Consciousness Month in Brazil, I’d like you to take a quick 45 minutes of your time to watch this eye-opening and well-produced BBC documentary released in 2000 called Brazil: An Inconvenient History. In it, the narrator and featured scholars discuss in painful detail the destruction of the indigenous population, the unmitigated brutality of Portuguese slave owners, the forced concubinage of indigenous and African women, the complicity of the Catholic church, and the reasons why African culture is much more palpable in Brazil than in other New World slave-based societies like the United States.

It’s well-known that Brazil was the last major slave-holding country to officially abolish the institution, granting its remaining slaves freedom in 1888 without any further assistance to become a productive part of society such as the Freedmen’s Bureau in the US. Keep in mind that my mother’s grandmother would have been born a slave in Brazil, and we’re talking a decade after Karl Benz (yes, that Benz) invented the damn modern automobile engine!

What does slavery have to do with modern Brazil, if it ended “so long ago?”

“The legacy of slavery to modern Brazil is huge: the racial inequality, the fact that the majority of blacks are poor, that they are not as well-educated as whites. But you also have positive results as well. Not of slavery itself but of the slaves, in terms of the music, in terms of the religion, made Brazilian culture much richer than it would have been without the presence of Africans in Brazil.”

…and more…

“The heady mix of music, religion, dance, and sport can sometimes blur the less-appealing legacy of slavery: homelessness, street children, unemployment. A country built on sugar has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many…Brazil still looks like a colonial society…[it’s] the world leader in inequality.”

Watch and learn, good people:

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Shot in and around the vast, gritty warrens of downtown SĂŁo Paulo—also known as Sampa—the short but thrilling Samparkour takes viewers through the heart of one of the world’s largest cities by way of parkour, an extreme sport that is at turns skillful acrobatics and dumb luck. Much of the action takes place in my old neck of the woods, reminding me of how much I actually love this grimy, exhilarating concrete jungle. Make sure your shoes are laced up tight before trying this at home:

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Should all the stars align and everything go according to plan, I will be touching down in my very first sub-Saharan African country at the end of June: Ghana. For ten days, I’ll be soaking up the culture and history of Accra, capital city of a country whose inhabitants, whether they accept it or not, are my cousins, my family. Pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah was born there. Pan-Africanist WEB Du Bois died there. I expect to discover something of myself there.

Any suggestions on activities to be done, experiences to be had, and people to know while in Accra will be greatly appreciated. Meanwhile, take a gander at these videos about Ghana’s new generation of leaders, its reception of Diasporic blacks, and its colors and flavors via Anthony Bourdain:



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This weekend, I popped over to San Francisco on business and caught a bit of the city’s kinda underwhelming Cinco de Mayo celebration at Dolores Park (I think there was a ban on alcohol at the event. While I’m no drinker, I do concede the libation’s role as social lubricant and crowd loosener-upper). The standout presentation was the traditional Mexican dance company Ensambles Ballet FolklĂłrico de San Francisco, which gave an impressive performance of the various regional dances of Mexico.

Here’s a brief clip:

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Carnival Miami

Every March, the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana throws the biggest pan-Latin/Caribbean bash in the country on Southwest 8th Street, the main street of Miami’s Cuban community, called “Calle Ocho” in Spanish because of the missing ordinal abbreviation (i.e. “th”) on the street signs. With a few million party people packing the street for almost 20 blocks, the festival features music, dancing, food, and foolishness from Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Haiti, Jamaica, Brazil, and Miami itself.

This year’s event was on March 11, and if you weren’t here, you gotta wait ’til next year. Meanwhile, here’s some footage to tide you over:


Learn more about the festivities at the official Carnaval Miami website.

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OUR lady. Art by Ilona.

In Brazil, February 2nd is dedicated in the Catholic tradition to Our Lady of Seafaring, a manifestation of the Virgin Mary who watches over sailors and fishermen. But the larger celebration isn’t of the Catholic saint, but of the Afro-Latin deity Iemanjá, goddess of the two greatest tidal forces on the planet—motherhood and the sea.

Originally part of the Yoruba pantheon of gods—called orishas—Iemanjá (in Portuguese), or Yemayá (in Spanish), was brought over to the Americas by her African devotees during the slave trade and maintains a prominent place among the syncretic religions like CandomblĂ© and Umbanda in Brazil, SanterĂ­a in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, and Vodou in Haiti. These syncretic religions fuse cultural elements and faith systems from African, indigenous American, and European traditions, and while still ignorantly characterized as witchcraft by some sections of the general population, the fact that homages to the goddess are sometimes held as government-sanctioned events shows just how important non-Christian spiritual traditions remain in Latin American societies. And anyone in the States familiar with that fly, old school salsa from the ’70s ought to have heard Yemayá’s name come up on more than one occasion.

Singing, drumming, dancing, and offerings of food and flowers are made to the goddess year-round (especially in Rio on New Years Eve), but in the Brazilian state of Bahia, where Afro-Brazilian culture is most palpable, February 2nd is Iemanjá’s day.

Observe: