Sign in

LEVEL
Higher Learning. A publication from Medium for the interested man.

History

In LEVEL. More on Medium.

The new Netflix series ‘High On The Hog’ gives soul food its proper praise and exploration

Photo: Nappy.co

Several years ago, my mother crafted handmade family cookbooks for each of her sons as Christmas presents. The base of the gift was a red Campbell’s recipe book built like a photo album. She gutted its stock recipes and replaced them with typed and clean pages of her own gastronomic roadmaps.

More importantly (at least to the son who writes more than he cooks), the book leads with a compendium of photos, family history notes, and recollections from family dinners of the past. The origins of key traditions that had been taken for granted for years were explained, and anecdotes…


By refusing to cop to ingrained oppression in the U.S., political leaders are living in denial

Photo: Bonnie Cash-Pool/Getty Images

Many Americans have been mulling over Republican of South Carolina, Senator Tim Scott’s wildly fantastic rebuttal to President Biden’s address to Congress earlier this week.

These remarks, delivered Wednesday night, found Scott offering jaw-dropping observations about the Republican party that the last four years of American life have proven patently false: that the GOP had a Covid-19 relief plan; that GOP changes to Georgia voting laws will somehow make it easier for more people to vote; that the GOP opposes Supreme Court-packing. It was a fun house mirror of appraisals.

Being a Black person in America, there was one line…


If you think the U.S. has never been so fractured, you haven’t paid attention to history

Photo: Tullio Saba (flickr)/Wikimedia Commons

“America has never been so divided.” If you’ve heard this stale cliché once, you’ve heard it a thousand times — usually courtesy of a Republican. They imply Democrats have torn the U.S. apart and should shoulder the responsibility of uniting the country. Conveniently, they forget four key facts:

  1. The onus to heal America isn’t solely on the political party in power.
  2. The GOP currently stands for whatever Democrats aren’t and nothing more, so division has become their specialty. If President Joe Biden were to call the sky blue, they’d likely say it’s azure.
  3. Their king of kings, Donald Trump, has…


It’s time for a musical litmus test for enlightenment

Photo: Gems/Getty Images

After the most recent Verzuz event this past Sunday, I’ve come to a social determination: There can be no further race conversations with people who are not familiar with Earth, Wind & Fire’s catalog.

The Verzuz format is so simple that it’s collectively embarrassing that no one thought to put it into motion prior to the pandemic: Put two legendary musical acts in the same room and make them have cookout debates over whose catalog is better. Almost none of the acts bring competitive energy to the challenge, with most artists appropriately deferring to each other’s greatness throughout. …


Just Rankin’ Sh!t

Happy 30th birthday to the best thinly veiled music biopic of all time. All tiiiiime!

A black and white photo collage of the members of The Five Heartbeats.
A black and white photo collage of the members of The Five Heartbeats.
Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Getty Images

6. Terrence “Dresser” Williams

Dresser had a decent voice, but getting washed in a dance contest by an old man — in front of your homies, no less — isn’t the most promising indicator of solo stardom.

5. Anthony “Choirboy” Stone

It’s hard to find a name less sexy than Choirboy. Yet somehow, even when the whole band was bombing, he was the only member who ever got shit thrown at him while onstage. Doesn’t exactly scream “we want more.”

4. J.T. Matthews

J.T. had crazy pipes, heartthrob appeal, and was a total womanizer. Sounds like a solo breakout to us.

3. Flash

Eddie Kane Jr. put it plainly in one of the…


We thought we could save people’s lives with the manna to be found in books — and they only got better over time

A black history book display at a library.
A black history book display at a library.
Photo: Newsday LLC/Getty Images

I began my journey into activism alone, a freshman at Ohio State University, still part of the city in which I was raised but a world away from everything I had known. I don’t think I was on campus a month before attending my first proper Black student event. As the African drumming and dance was winding down, I noticed a table full of books manned by a tall Black man in a suit and bowtie. I knew next to nothing about Black Muslims or the Nation of Islam and so struck up a conversation with the seller. …


Hampton’s story, even in the abbreviated form that ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ provides, is too important not to tell

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Inc

My Blackness came to me while I was a student at Ohio State University.

To be clear, I always knew I was Black. My mother, who grew up silt-poor in the mud hills of Nelsonville, Ohio, made sure all of her sons knew we were Black. Not knowing was akin to signing your name to a suicide note. But I did not know its properties, the alchemy of its historical bonds in reaction to my daily life. I only knew its consequences. I was aware of the American problems that pursued my Blackness but could not see the joy that…


Just Rankin’ Sh!t

We’ll take ‘Untold American History’ for $500, Alex

Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

6. Abraham Lincoln

Honest Abe’s connection to Black folks goes further than his role in ending slavery. In the 2001 book , historian Leroy Vaughn, MD, MBA, alleges that Lincoln’s father was African American and his mother had Ethiopian ethnicity, both of which may have explained his “very dark skin and coarse hair.” The political streets were talking, too — his rivals campaigned using propaganda that depicted Lincoln as “Abraham Africanus the First,” an African man. Wonder if his Lambo was blue.

5. Warren Harding

Like Lincoln, Warren Gamaliel Harding — yes, the original Warren G — was rumored to…


Black people have been telling America about itself for a long time. Someday it might listen.

James Baldwin at home in Saint Paul de Vence, France in September 1985. Photo: Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

Very little about America surprises Black people. We are only startled by things that happen, never by the potential for things to happen. When Trump supporters attacked the Capitol on January 6, Black people collectively checked our watches, muttering, “Oh, is today when that’s going down? Guess we’re not going south of Massachusetts Ave. today.” Shocked, but not surprised.

By contrast, White America’s reaction to the attack on Capitol Hill was marked with unadulterated surprise, as if it truly did not know itself, as if Sam Cooke did not mention it in the very first line of “Wonderful World” (which…

LEVEL

Higher Learning. A publication from Medium for the interested man.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store