Buddha Park, also known as Spirit City (Xieng Khuan), is a sculpture park located 25 km southeast of Vientiane, a small city that sits along the Mekong River in Laos. The park was started in 1958 by Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat who was a priest-shaman. The park displays over 200 Buddhist and Hindu statues of deities, along with other beautifully carved strange figures. The main attraction is the giant reclining Buddha resting on the grass (first photo).
I’ve seen people mention cultural appropriation and about how this is all about what sells$$$. But what I think is missing from the conversation is the history of Compton.
During the Great Migration, hundreds of thousands Black people migrated out of the South into the cities of the North and West in hopes of WWI & WWII jobs and to get away from crazy white people in the South. They were sad to find out that America was racist from sea to shining sea and there was just as much discrimination in their new homes as there had been in the South. In L.A., Blacks (as well as Asians, Mexicans and Native Americans) faced harassment and couldn’t go or move into certain neighborhoods/areas. One of the areas they couldn’t move into was Compton.
Back then, Compton was a suburb of L.A. and it was the white “suburban American dream”. It was completely white. However, as Black citizens and lawyers (particularly Thurgood Marshall) beat formalized racism in the courts (i.e. Shelly v Kraemer and Brown v Board of Education), new Black migrants set there sights on Compton.
- In 1955, Blacks made up 17% of Compton’s citizenry
- In 1960, Blacks made up 40% of Compton’s citizenry
However, that didn’t mean it was integrated. Informal policies upheld by the majority White population (realtors, businesses, school officials, politicians, everyday citizens, etc.) maintained segregation. One of these informal policies was violence. Black people were harassed and abused by the LAPD and white gangs like the “Spook Hunters”. There was literally two Comptons… one Black, one white.
People like to romanticize the Civil Rights Movement, but they forget there were a lot of scary race riots across the U.S. in the 60s as well. The government decided to enact programs to fix income inequality. White people got angry and the racial tension that
wasis always there began to bubble to the surface. There was lots of violence. One of the most violent riots was Watts Riots.
Watts Riots (August 11-15, 1965)
The backdrop: Race relations were strained all over in the 1960s, and Los Angeles was no exception. Growing tension between blacks and whites and between police and civilians added fuel to the fire.
The final straw: A white California Highway Patrol officer pulled over and arrested a black man for driving drunk, but the growing crowd of witnesses soon turned antagonistic. The mob grew angry, and when the CHP officer wound up arresting the man’s brother (also in the car) and mother, full-flegded riots broke out in the Watts section of town. Fires, violence, and looting were rampant for days, and the riots would be the biggest in L.A. history until those in 1992. The National Guard eventually came in to help. At the end of the spree, 34 people were dead, more than 2,000 injured, and almost 4,000 arrested.
Rather than doing the right thing and ridding the city of its racism, white Compton residents decided to just abandon the city. This phenomenon is called “white flight”.
The development of the freeway system made it easy for whites to travel farther away to the suburbs, further instigating segregation. Blacks soon overcrowded the South Central area of Los Angeles, eventually boxed into an area confined within the largely uncrossable borders of the 110 and 10 freeways and Pico Boulevard.
As America’s economy shifted from a manufacturing base to the service sector in the 1970s, many jobs left Compton. This is really when Compton enters into a decline.
By the 1970s, the area’s density and shortage of manufacturing jobs increased crime and branded the black communities - even including more affluent and middle-class nearby neighborhoods like Baldwin Hills - as one large, notoriously violent enclave.
By the 1990s, the mere mention of the name Compton had become so toxic that the nearby southern California suburbs had the city of 100,000 erased from their maps. Its schools were crumbling. Drugs were rampant, and street-gang tensions had escalated into what historian Josh Sides describes as “a brutal guerilla war.” The city became the U.S. murder capital, per capita, surpassing Washington with one homicide for every 1,000 residents—and the details were numbing. In 1989, a 2-year-old was gunned down in a drive-by as he wandered his front yard; a 16-year-old was shot with a semiautomatic weapon as he rode his bike.
And this is the climate under which Niggaz Wit Attitude emerged. Their violent, aggressive storytelling reflected and brought attention to the deterioration of Compton. NWA spoke out against the notorious L.A. Police Department. They went multi-platinum and ushered in a new form of music, gangsta rap. All this was in spite of the fact that radio wouldn’t play their music and MTV wouldn’t play their videos. The FBI even sent them a letter trying to censor them (apparently they didn’t like “Fuck tha Police”). It was the emergence of NWA that crystallized “the image of Compton as a defiantly violent ghetto,” an image the city is decades later still trying to change.
Two decades later, Compton has a new lease on life. The community is still poor, and unemployment is more than twice the national average. But the number of homicides is at a 25-year low, slashed in half from 2005. There are fewer gunshots and more places for kids to go after school. Alongside the liquor stores and check-cashing stands are signs of middle-class aspiration: a T.G.I. Fridays, an outbreak of Starbucks and a natural-food store. Along the way, blacks became a minority in Compton, which is 60 percent Latino today.
And they just got a fierce new mayor. But the point is, people still live in Compton and thus their lives are impacted by all the history of their environment. The LAPD is still corrupt and racist. Regardless of whether or not Forever 21 has truly pulled the shirts, you can easily find these same shirts on etsy or on other places online. But, why would you want to wear that? Compton exists. If you’re not from there then???? It’s just very tacky.
Zoot Suits, 22 June 1948. Three Jamaican Immigrants (left to right) John Hazel, a 21-year-old boxer, Harold Wilmot, 32, and John Roberts, a 22-year-old carpenter, arriving at Tilbury onboard the ex-troopship Empire Windrush, smartly dressed in zoot suits and trilby hats.
Wearing fedoras, top hats and waistcoats and staring fixedly back at the camera, these men could have been posing for a magazine. But these amazing images from the 1910s to the 1930s are actually police mugshots taken of convicted criminals arrested in Australia. The collection of pictures are a series of around 2,500 ‘special photographs’ taken by the New South Wales Police Department photographers.
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Hair Legacy
Jean-Michel Basquiat had a professional career that lasted just nine years. Yet during that time he managed to make himself one of the most significant painters of the 20th century and an ever-enduring cultural icon. In many ways Basquiat was the ultimate enigma. The first black artist to ever be internationally acclaimed. Completely unschooled and non-traditional in his approach to art.
Yet he was the epitome of cool. A confident and nonchalant aura. An eccentric wardrobe. And of course, his hair. Basquiat’s hair went through many different stages throughout his professional career. But aside from the time he spent as Samo (immediately upon moving to New York), all of his hairstyles follow more or less the same silhouette: the faux dreadlock that somehow suspends itself straight up in the air.
basquiat as samo in 1980
It’s amazing to me that 23 years after his death, Basquiat is as culturally salient as he is now. Both his art and his fashion sense. He is undoubtedly a cultural icon, but in many ways Basquiat is also a style icon. After all, he is the guy that painted in Armani suits. The one area where Basquiat’s aesthetic seems to be shaping the contemporary fashion scene the most is in the grooming choices of the country’s most artsy urban African American males.
Take a look around you. Peer at the domes of some of the most recognizable young men in today’s street style scene. Joshua Kissi of Street Etiquette. Jean Lebrun and Eaddy from the Jersey Street Klan. Kadeem Johnson of KJohnlaSoul. That steezy model from Très Bien whose name always escapes me. And those are just the dudes we all know about. It’s no coincidence that some of today’s most artsy black males are referencing a haircut very similar to the one Jean-Michel Basquiat sported for so many years.
jean lebrun and kadeem johnson (from the aveder outfit)
It makes so much sense. Basquiat was thoroughly urban (from New York, as many of the folks I mentioned are). In no way was he part of the art establishment. He invaded it. Grassroots everything. The first black artist to ever be accepted by the fine art community. And he didn’t have to sell his soul to do it. He remained completely himself. The same grafitti-driven, break-dancing, and hip hop fiend he’d always been. The fashion of the aughts (the 2000’s) has been very 1980’s reference heavy. It’s understandable that many of today’s art focused African-American men would be influenced by the one figure from the 1980’s art world that was most relatable.
joshua kissi of street etiquette
Do you see the patterns I’m referring to here? All the names I’ve mentioned are afrocentric individuals. Jean-Michel Basquiat, with his influence on urban culture, afrocentric thought, and hip hop/grafitti, set the culture that the Native Tongues would inherit. He conveniently died in 1988 right as the Native Tongues’ most prominent group, A Tribe Called Quest, debuted in hip hop. Q-Tip says in his Post-Tribe solo work, “Don’t you ever forget who put the pep in your step. We made it cool to wear medallions and say hotep.” In other words, A Tribe Called Quest and the rest of the Native Tongues (De la Soul, Jungle Brothers, Common, Mos Def, etc) brought afrocentric thought into the urban mainstream. But of course none of that would have been possible without Basquiat’s prior influence.
très bien’s proprietor of steeze
Of course, whether or not any of these individuals are aware that they’re referencing Basquiat in their aesthetic choices isn’t quite as important. The most important point is that they are influenced by the sartorial and grooming values of the society they currently live in. A society that was indelibly shaped by Basquiat. I’m sure probably all of them know who Basquiat is and probably many of them were consciously alluding to him in their grooming aesthetic. But as I just said, that fact isn’t quite as important.
michael dos santos of an educated guess
In reality, this post isn’t really about Jean-Michel Basquiat hair. It’s rather a testament to how large of an influence he’s had on both the art and urban world. His signature permeates so many things now. The domes of some of our culture’s most notable men is merely a testament to how big Basquiat still is.
Thee Satisfaction headline an incredible line up of music and workshops at the Gender Amplified Festival coming up soon in NYC.
Experience and take a walk through
Photography : Rog Walker
Creative Direction / Concept : Street Etiquette
Suits : Suit Supply
Questlove posted the address where we can send Lauryn Hill letters, flowers, cards, gifts of support while shes in (OMGWTF) jail.
Come on tumblr. I have seen you rally in amazing ways for some amazing things. If you are a fan of Lauryn, Hip Hop, or if you just want to send support… this is your time to shine. A card, letter, postcard… anything.
Spread the word.
On it! Anything for my wife. #freelauryn
You know how people buy drinks for girls in bars? Why can’t people do that in book stores? Like if I’m looking at a novel in Barnes and Noble and some person walks up to me and strikes up a conversation and offers to buy the book for me there is a lot better chance of that working out in their favor
I’m going to reblog this until it’s a cultural norm.
Please reblog if you’re attending AFROPUNK.
I’d like to message and potentially meet up with you.
I is I is.
Kailangan na tayoy gumising, ating damdamin isipin
at itong hangin linisin, puede na natin baguhin
bakit ba ganyan? naka posa ang ating kamay
mga preso ng secreto at mali sa saysay
so not myself as i should be - less a self, more selfishly
the press say i should sell myself to shelves but theres discrepancy:
identity thats meant to be and colonized mind in me
lying in our eyes till we find ourself as enemy
taught to use papaya soap like whiteness is the antidote
caught in colonized approach cant fight this, like im at the throat
question it? you start to choke, unless you lessen half your soul
pressin close this flattened nose, its told its best if I’m ‘Cano
best if i erase the brown, color of the country’s ground
color of the roots found beneath the lands of Mindanao
people power sequel cuz this be the peoples hour
so we need to see it now or we cant seek whats really ours
colonized mind, blind folded, so im hynotized
compromised pride, bind hands, never reach the skies
modified eyes, cry truth, fail to recognize
the disguised lies write views planted in our minds
callin me a dogeater prayin on some chicken bones
nation known for sex tours, order brides mailed to homes
all of that is nonsense, they’ve never felt the misery
theyve never seen my province or know my country’s history
the blistered feet, pollution, greed, Spain and U.S. Colony
planted all this fallacy, corruption in mentality
Marcos with regime and so no privacy for families
people power used to heed the goverment monopoly
the poverty that never sees improvement from economy
kayumangi, no equality, cuz white is what you oughta be
the native tongue i try to speak is silenced by the mastery
of English that I’m forced keep to take the FOB outside of me
like Bulosan said, Americas in the heart
but my blood is Philippines that keeps it pumpin in the dark
So people wake up so we can learn about the issues
Those we never learned in school, and missed in news
Those we never find in books, so its a missed tool
Never learned to hold up a fist, our minds the pistol
defined by a line in my mind called the hyphen
So over time, I’m, tryna find the right height when
tryna reach the sky but I fight from being boxed in
Wanna bridge the gap but my color is the toxin
cultures counteract, keep me back as a caution
of history and facts from my path so I’m tossed in
stuck between America and Philippines, though
so i know that Im both, so I struggle with this rope
If I’m Filipino now with a flat nose
makes me Filipino then, but with my eyes closed