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Author/social scientist Walcott on the status of being black: Black like who?

Black like who?

Walcott: Navigating blackness

Black culture and identity in Canada will be centre stage at McGill University this week with a lecture from renowned author and social scientist Rinaldo Walcott. As hip-hop music and culture continues to rest at the centre of contemporary cultural expression in North America, often side-stepped are the historical roots of hip-hop in social struggles for justice, which first launched the music onto the international stage.

A contemporary cultural bind exists today in this context, resulting from the fact that, as Walcott explains, black people "occupy this almost idol-like status because we’re the purveyors and the originators of most of North America’s popular culture," while at the same time the identity of the black male remains highly criminalized in mainstream media or cinema, resulting in ongoing targeted police violence and rampant institutional racism.

"Black men find themselves in a very interesting position," explains Walcott. "So [often] black men are the purveyors of hip and cool in North America… but the reverse of that position is the revile and the constant threat that black men must also live with in North American culture, a culture that refuses to relinquish its stereotypes of black men."

With issues of race and religion in the spotlight in Quebec, Walcott’s upcoming lecture in Montreal provides an opportunity to hear a nuanced view on contemporary black culture in Canada from one of the most respected commentators on the subject in the country. Walcott will speak on Saturday, Jan. 19, 7:30 p.m., in the Lev Bukhman room at 3600 McTavish, McGill University.

"Black men have to constantly negotiate the difference between being a threat, being seen as cool and hip and thus desired and copied, and being seen as a danger to be rid of," comments Walcott. "Most of us successfully negotiate that terrain every day, but a significant number of us fail at it with dire consequences."

For more info, go to www.cuqsc.org.

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