About that Mississippi flag…


I have an idea. And it’s about a heritage that’s unique to Mississippi and Mississippi only.USflag

I’ve only been to the state once, but it was to go to a blues festival in Bentonia, Mississippi. You want heritage? There’s nothing more awesome that Mississippi’s role in creating one of the truly original American music forms — the blues. But this is a heritage that not only sets aside the Confederate battle flag that currently adorns the upper left quadrant of Mississippi’s state flag.


Most of all, it commemorates the role that African-Americans hold in the creation of the blues, in a state with the highest proportion of African-American residents (37.3%). B.B. King. Robert Johnson. Charlie Patton. Howlin’ Wolf. Muddy Waters. Mississippi John Hurt. These are the brilliant sons of Mississippi just as much as its robust literary tradition.

In the wake of South Carolina governor Nikki Haley’s call for the state capitol to lower the Confederate battle flag Monday, attention is turning to Mississippi’s state flag.

Mississippi’s governor, Republican Phil Bryant, remains reluctant to change it, partly because of a 2001 referendum whereby voters chose to retain the current flag, which had unofficially been Mississippi’s flag since the 1890s. But the state house’s speaker, Republican Philip Gunn, said it’s time to revisit the issue — and it’s also time to retire the homage to the Confederacy.

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RELATED: The lessons of failed Confederate foreign policy

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Let’s be real. The Mississippi Delta, now a depopulated shell of what it once was (which wasn’t much — a land of sharecroppers and cotton and poverty), is like no other place in the United States. The blues? It’s special, it’s mythical, and it’s the heart of Mississippi’s tourism trade, in a state that’s tortured by its past racial violence, a fact that hits you immediately when you land in Jackson’s Medgar Evers International Airport.

I can’t think of a better way to retire one more controversial flag.


Interview: Talking to Cuban artist Tania Bruguera


HAVANA — On the first weekend of the Havana Biennial, artist Tania Bruguera was detained after organizing a 100-hour reading of Hannah Arendt’s writings on totalitarianism in her modest home in Havana Vieja.cuba

I write more about that in The Washington Post today:

When I visited Bruguera for the first time, on the final day of the reading, plainclothes policemen from MININT, Cuba’s feared interior ministry, swarmed just outside the doorway, and state workers were jackhammering away, digging forlorn trenches into the dusty road. Bruguera, who once taught art at the University of Chicago, where she also knocked on doors for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, has been under a kind of “city arrest” since late December, her passport confiscated and every step under state surveillance, following another public demonstration. We made plans to meet, perhaps later that day. Instead, MININT officials detained and questioned her.

I finally met up with Bruguera on the Tuesday morning after her detention (sadly, she was detained more recently earlier this month), and she spoke to me about several topics.

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RELATED: Photo essay — Cuba on the cusp, but for what kind of future?

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Bruguera, an artist and a daughter of the Cuban revolution, who styles herself at once a revolutionary, a socialist, an anti-capitalist and a “pain in the ass” for the current Cuban government, argues that the Biennial and its much-feted stars are part of a cynical cultural policy that co-opts Cuban artists as little more than pawns of the regime.

The full transcript of the conversation follows.

KL: First off, tell me what’s happened over the past 36 hours. The authorities did not care very much for your reading.

TB: No they didn’t.  

KL: Why did they wait until after you’d finished to detain you? Continue reading Interview: Talking to Cuban artist Tania Bruguera