From Infamous to Famous: (Re)Constructing Atlanta’s Public Housing Through Rap and Hip Hop


In a September 2010 review of the mixtape Bowen Homes Carlos for MTV’s Mixtape Daily, Shaheem Reid wrote: “Shawty Lo will continue to salute his projects until the day he goes to that upper room.” It is doubtful that Reid imagined that day would come almost exactly six years after writing those words. In the early morning hours of September 21, 2016, Carlos Walker, a.k.a. Shawty Lo or Bowen Homes Carlos, tragically died in a one-car accident on Atlanta’s I-285. Just as an image of Atlanta’s Bowen Homes public housing project lives on after its demolition in the cover art for Shawty Lo’s Bowen Homes Carlos and in the music video for “Dey Know,” the rapper will live on through his artistic … [Read more...]

Artisanal Despair and Farm-to-Table White Nationalism: Watching Trump in Austin


On Tuesday, after watching hip youngsters juggle dildos in protest of Texas’s new campus carry law (cocks not glocks!), I headed over to the Trump rally in east Austin. It’s a strange place for a Trump rally, and not just because it’s a blue island in a vast red sea. Austin's unemployment rate checks in at 3.6 percent, its population growth rate—around 20 percent—is one of the highest in the country, and it’s also the safest of Texas’s big cities. It’s not exactly the place where you’d expect a depiction of the country as a crime-ridden, impoverished hellscape to be well received. But it mostly was, though you can probably chalk this up to the basic nature of campaign rallies. I’ve been to … [Read more...]

Finding Family with the Wilderpeople

wilderpeople ricky and hec

Historian and legal expert Ariela J. Gross opens her 2008 work What Blood Won’t Tell with details from the life of Alexina Morrison, an enslaved person in Jefferson Parish Louisiana. In 1857, Morrison fled her master and found herself imprisoned in a local jail, where she convinced the authorities that she was actually white; she had been kidnapped and unfairly sold into slavery, she told them.  William Dennison, the local jailer, believed Morrison and took her into his own family, gradually integrating her into white society where she attended balls and other social functions. Eventually, her master James White sued to return her to her previous status.  The case, Morrison vs. White, went … [Read more...]

Settin’ the Woods on Fire in the Countercultural South


I recently contributed an essay to a volume that’s forthcoming from UNC Press called The Bohemian South.  You can count me as one who is skeptical of a tradition of bohemianism in the South, at least as it is now manifested and understood. Whatever bohemianism means, it is not skinny jeans and food trucks—a familiar scene one can find in the trendier lanes of Atlanta or Durham or Richmond these days.  Sure, there was North Carolina’s Black Mountain College, where Robert Creeley and John Cage cavorted in the 1950s, as well as a smattering of other avant-garde cultures in the history of the South. But the bohemianism of today’s urban creative class seems like just a hipper … [Read more...]

The Miranda-Obama Collaboration (From Hamilton to Puerto Rico)

Hamilton Burr musical

On March 14, President Barack Obama welcomed the company of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton to a special White House performance.  In his introductory remarks, Obama celebrated Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop rendering of Alexander Hamilton’s “quintessentially American story,” and quickly identified the reason why the show has become a “cultural phenomenon.”  “In each brilliantly crafted song,” said the president, “we hear the debates that shaped our nation, and we hear the debates that are still shaping our nation.” Shifting to the same playful tone that has characterized his other recent public appearances, Obama even staked a claim to his own role in getting the show off the ground.  He … [Read more...]

No, American Citizenship Is Not Necessarily Inclusive

american crucible

The rise of Donald Trump has induced a collective shudder through much of America.  For many, the GOP nominee is jeopardizing our most cherished ideals, a broad and capacious sense of who could be an American citizen, and norms that forbid open and outright expression of racist sentiment. The last Republican president at least had the decency to insist that Islam is a “religion of peace,” however destructive his policies might have been to actual Muslims, at home and abroad. Liberals and more than a few conservatives find themselves saying, This is not us.  This is not the America we know. Michael Gerson recently penned one of the more impassioned statements in this genre, looking aghast … [Read more...]

In Fits and Stops: Coming of Age in Anna Rose Holmer’s Extraordinary “The Fits”

The Fits girls

When I first saw the trailer for The Fits, we were going to see Yorgos Lanthimos’s brilliant and mordant The Lobster at Atlanta’s Midtown Arts Cinema. Half paying attention, I assumed the tale of a Cincinatti teen who joins a dance team would be a gag-inducing inspirational sports/dance flick—Rookie of the Year or Save the Last Dance by way of Akeelah and the Bee. It’s understandable that promoters of a dark, underdog indie film would want to frame it in misleadingly appealing terms for mainstream audiences—it happens all the time—but I can’t blame the team behind first-time director Anna Rose Holmer’s The Fits for playing an Entourage-style bait-and-switch with their trailer. On second … [Read more...]

Hmong Youth, American Football, and the Cultural Politics of Ethnic Sports Tournaments


For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, ToM is featuring two excerpts from the new anthology, Asian American Sporting Cultures from New York University Press. In the first, Constancio Arnoldo Jr. examines Filipino ideas about masculinity and identity through boxer Manny Pacquiao. (See also our recent post on the intersection between boxing, Los Angeles, and the Philippines: "From Villa to Pacquiao: Filipino Boxing in L.A. and the Power of the Transnational Punch") In our second excerpt, Chia Youyee Vang explores the intersection of Hmong American identity and sport in the United States. The December 12, 2011, edition of Sports Illustrated ran a story titled “How to Become an American.” … [Read more...]

Greenberg to Koufax to Valenzuela: Ethnicity, Identity, and Baseball in “Chasing Dreams”

Orange crate label by Ben Sakoguchi

The 1965 World Series would prove groundbreaking. It marked the first time that two professional baseball teams from west of the Mississippi – the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Minnesota Twins – competed for Major League Baseball’s title. More importantly, it was the stage upon which Sandy Koufax weaved the narrative of his greatness and by extension highlighted Jewish America’s connection to the national pastime. Having sat out Game 1 due to its falling on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur and then struggling through a less-than-stellar Game 2 outing, Koufax bounced back with magisterial performances in Game 5 and the now-famous Game 7 in which he pitched a complete game shutout, striking out … [Read more...]

From Villa to Pacquiao: Filipino Boxing in L.A. and the Power of a Transnational Punch


Nearly one year ago last may, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd "Money" Mayweather Jr. battled 12 rounds in what was billed as the "fight of the century." The two fighters carried a long history of antagonism into the ring, though perhaps much of this could be attributed to Mayweather, whose trolling of the Filipino boxer over the years sometimes veered into racism. Pacquiao's loss to Mayweather, a unanimous decision, seems unsurprising in retrospect, especially considering the latter's status as arguably the greatest defensive boxer of his generation. Don't cry for Manny though, the Las Vegas fight racked in $400 million. Granted, it's been a tough year for Pacquiao, his homophobic comments a couple … [Read more...]