Nine Things a Woman Couldn’t Do in 1971

As we barrel toward the centennial celebration of women's suffrage in the United States, it’s not enough to bone up on the platforms of female primary candidates (though that’s an excellent start).

A Twitter user and self-described Old Crone named Robyn recently urged her fellow Americans to take a good long gander at a list of nine freedoms women in the United States were not universally granted in 1971, the year Helen Reddy released the soon-to-be anthem, "I Am Woman," above.




Even those of us who remember singing along as children may experience some shock that these facts check out on Snopes.

  1. CREDIT CARDS: Prior to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, married women couldn’t get credit cards without their husbands' signatures. Single women, divorcees, and widows were often required to have a man cosign. The double standard also meant female applicants were frequently issued card limits up to 50% lower than that of males who earned identical wages.
  2. PREGNANT WORKERS: The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 protected pregnant women from being fired because of their impending maternity. But it came with a major loophole that’s still in need of closing. The language of the 41-year-old law stipulates that the employers must accommodate pregnant workers only if concessions are being made for other employees who are “similar in their ability or inability to work.”
  3. JURY DUTY: In 1975, the Supreme Court declared it constitutionally unacceptable for states to deny women the opportunity to serve on juries. This is an arena where we've all come a long way, baby. It’s now completely normal for men to be excused from jury duty as the primary caregivers of their young children.
  4. MILITARY COMBAT: In 2013, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey announced that the Pentagon was rescinding the direct combat exclusion rule that barred women from serving in artillery, armor, infantry and other such battle roles. At the time of the announcement, the military had already seen more than 130 female soldiers killed, and 800 wounded on the frontlines in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  5. IVY LEAGUE ADMISSIONS: Those who conceive of elite colleges as breeding grounds for sexual assault protests and Title IX activism would do well to remember that Columbia College didn’t admit women until 1983, following in the marginally deeper footsteps of others in the Ivy League—Harvard (1977), Dartmouth (1972), Brown (1971), Yale (1969), and Princeton (1969). These days, single sex higher education options for women far outnumber those for men, but the networking power and increased earning potential an Ivy League degree confers remains the same.
  6. WORKPLACE HARASSMENT: In 1977, women who'd been sexually harassed in the workplace received confirmation in three separate trials that they could sue their employers under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In 1998, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex harassment was also unlawful. In between was the television event of 1991, Anita Hill’s shocking testimony against her former boss, U.S. Supreme Court justice (then nominee) Clarence Thomas.
  7. SPOUSAL CONSENT: In 1993, spousal rape was officially outlawed in all 50 states. Not tonight honey, or you'll have a headache in the form of your wife's legal back up.
  8. HEALTH INSURANCE: In 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act decreed that any health insurance plan established after March of that year could not charge women higher premiums than men for identical benefits. This was bad news for women who got their health insurance through their jobs, and whose employers were grandfathered into discriminatory plans established prior to 2010. Of course, that's all ancient history now.
  9. CONTRACEPTIVES: In 1972, the Supreme Court made it legal for all citizens to possess birth control, irrespective of marital status, stating "if the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child." (It’s worth noting, however, that in 1972, states could still constitutionally prohibit and punish sex outside of marriage.)

Feminism is NOT just for other women.

- Old Crone

Via Kottke

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inkyzine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, October 7 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domaincelebrates the art of Aubrey Beardsley. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Watch I Signed the Petition, a Philosophical Meditation on the Decision to Sign a Petition Asking Radiohead to Boycott Tel Aviv

From the point of view of political philosophy, both liberals and conservatives should see boycotts as a clear-cut issue. While in practice millions have had to fight for their economic rights, in theory individual citizens should be able to spend, or withhold, their money where they see fit. The politics of boycotts are far more heated on the supply side, however, perhaps signaling that individuals feel increasingly dependent on the wealthy to resolve conflicts.

We may want corporations, for example, to practice good citizenship and withhold business and endorsements from bad actors, while, at the same time, holding serious doubts about legally calling corporations citizens. When it comes to high-profile artists like J.K. Rowling, the Chemical Brothers, or Radiohead, things can get even more heated as the proprietary feelings of fandom collide with political tactics. Add to this the notorious BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement and you have instant inflammatory controversy.




In their own words, BDS “works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.” One of the means at its disposal is cultural boycott, pressuring artists not to perform in Israel. Hundreds have complied, protesting illegal settlements, human rights abuses, state repression, and treatment of artists like Dareen Tatour, a poet who was jailed for several days and given three years house arrest for social media posts.

The three big artists named above all refused to boycott Israel, even when petitions appeared with thousands of signatures. In response to criticism and a Change. Org petition, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke issued an angry response that hardly calmed things down. “The kind of dialogue that they want to engage in is one that’s black or white,” he said in 2017. “I have a problem with that. It’s deeply distressing that they choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw shit at us in public.”

Whatever your thoughts on the band’s stance, Yorke points to something that is necessary to keep in mind: politics are always personal. They are personal when we expect artists to stay out of political debates, as though they can’t be full human beings in public. They are personal when the expectations levied on artists don’t accord with their sense of the issue, even if they might agree in principle with those pressuring them.

The entanglement of the personal and political bothered Palestinian filmmaker Mahdi Fleifel, who signed the petition to Radiohead then regretted it. For him, however, the issue was not Thom Yorke’s feelings, but his own, as a Palestinian raised in refugee camps in Lebanon, for whom the issues addressed by BDS are not abstractions affecting other people. Fleifel, who now lives in Denmark, called his friend Faris to talk over his misgivings. Then he turned their conversation into the short, abstract documentary above, I Signed the Petition.

The film provides, as Aeon writes, a brief but “complex account of how individuals make their own politics,” and the role power plays in that making. Fleifel confesses that he’s afraid his name will appear on a “blacklist” after he signed the petition for Radiohead to boycott Tel Aviv. He expresses the perfectly legitimate fear that “they’re not gonna let me in next time I go to Palestine.” Faris validates his “concerns and fears,” then paints a decidedly bleak picture of what Fleifel would find on his return to occupied Palestine, and an image of Palestinians as powerless, resentment-fueled “losers” in the global system.

The filmmaker responds with a metaphor: “So why are all these dogs barking in the desert?”—referring to the Palestinian artists who circulated and signed the petition. If a boycott doesn't make sense in this situation, what does? As Naomi Shihab Nye writes of her experience as a diasporic Palestinian artist, "this tragedy with a terrible root / is too big for us. What flag can we wave?"

Fleifel keeps calling our attention to the ways that politics and art and our individual lives are all bound up together. Yorke may have wanted a personal approach, and who can blame him? Who can blame the Palestinian artists under threat of imprisonment or permanent exile for fearing to risk more than a signature, if even that, in exercising the only political power they may have? Fleisel and Faris’s perspectives give needed depth and weight to events, without providing any easy resolution.

I Signed the Petition will be added to our collection of Free Documentaries, a subset of our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

via Aeon

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Library of Congress Digitizes Over 16,000 Pages of Letters & Speeches from the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and You Can Help Transcribe Them

“Democracy may not exist,” Astra Taylor declares in the title of her new book, “but we’ll miss it when it’s gone.” This inherent paradox, she argues, is not fatal, but a tension with which each era’s democratic movements must wrestle, in messy struggles against inevitable opposition. “Perfect democracy… may not in fact exist and never will, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make progress toward it, or that what there is of it can’t disappear.”

Taylor is upfront about “democracy’s dark history, from slavery and colonialism to facilitating the emergence of fascism.” But she is equally celebratory of its successes—moments when those who were denied rights marshaled every means at their disposal, from lobbying campaigns to confrontational direct action, to win the vote and better the lives of millions. For all its imperfections, the women’s suffrage movement of the 19th and early 20th century did just that.




It did so—even before electronic mass communication systems—by building international activist networks and forming national associations that took highly-visible action for decades until the 19th Amendment passed in 1920. We can learn how this all came about from the sources themselves, through the “letters, speeches, newspaper articles, personal diaries, and other materials from famed suffragists like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.”

So reports Mental Floss, describing the Library of Congress’ digital collection of suffragist papers, which includes dozens of famous and less famous activist voices. In one example of both international cooperation and international tension, Carrie Chapman Catt, Anthony’s successor (see a published excerpt of one of her speeches below), describes her experience at the Congress of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance in Rome. “A more unpromising place for a Congress I never saw,” she wrote, dismayed. Maybe despite herself she reveals that the differences might have been cultural: “The Italian women could not comprehend our disapproval.”

The fractious, often disappointing, relationships between the larger international women’s suffrage movement, the African American women’s suffrage movement, and mostly male Civil Rights leaders in the U.S. are represented by the diaries. letters, notebooks, and speeches of Mary Church Terrell, “a founder of the National Association of Colored Women. These documents shed light on minorities’ laborious suffrage struggles and her own dealings with Civil Rights figures like W.E.B. Du Bois." (Terrell became an activist in 1892 and lived to fight against Jim Crow segregation in the early 1950s.)

The collection includes “some 16,000 historic papers related to the women’s rights movement alone.” All of them have been digitally scanned, and if you’re eager to dig into this formidable archive, you’re in luck. The Library of Congress is asking for help transcribing so that everyone can read these primary sources of democratic history. So far, reports Smithsonian, over 4200 documents have been transcribed, as part of a larger, crowdsourced project called By the People, which has previously transcribed papers from Abraham Lincoln, Clara Barton, Walt Whitman, and others.

Rather than focusing on an individual, this project is inclusive of what is arguably the main engine of democracy: large-scale social movements—paradoxically the most democratic means of claiming individual rights. Enter the impressive digital collection “Suffrage: Women Fight for the Vote” here, and, if you’re moved by civic duty or scholarly curiosity, sign up to transcribe.

via Mental Floss

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.

Mister Rogers Creates a Prime Time TV Special to Help Parents Talk to Their Children About the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (1968)

Nearly three minutes into a patient blow-by-blow demonstration of how breathing works, Fred Rogers’ timorous hand puppet Daniel Striped Tiger surprises his human pal, Lady Aberlin, with a whammy: What does assassination mean?

Her answer, while not exactly Webster-Merriam accurate, is both considered and age-appropriate. (Daniel's forever-age is somewhere in the neighborhood of four.)

The exchange is part of a special primetime episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, that aired just two days after Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination.




Rogers, alarmed that America’s children were being exposed to unfiltered descriptions and images of the shocking event, had stayed up late to write it, with the goal of helping parents understand some of the emotions their children might be experiencing in the aftermath:

I’ve been terribly concerned about the graphic display of violence which the mass media has been showing recently. And I plead for your protection and support of your young children. There is just so much that a very young child can take without it being overwhelming.

Rogers was careful to note that not all children process scary news in the same way.

To illustrate, he arranged for a variety of responses throughout the Land of Make Believe. One puppet, Lady Elaine, is eager to act out what she has seen: "That man got shot by that other man at least six times!”

Her neighbor, X the Owl, doesn't want any part of what is to him a frightening-sounding game.

And Daniel, who Rogers’ wife Joanne intimated was a reflection "the real Fred,” preferred to put the topic on ice for future discussions—a luxury that the grown up Rogers would not allow himself.

The episode has become notorious, in part because it aired but once on the small screen. (The 8-minute clip at the top of the page is the longest segment we were able to truffle up online.)

Writer and gameshow historian Adam Nedeff watched it in its entirety at the Paley Center for Media, and the detailed impressions he shared with the Neighborhood Archive website provides a sense of the piece as a whole.

Meanwhile, the Paley Center’s catalogue credits speak to the drama-in-real-life immediacy of the turnaround from conception to airdate:

Above is some of the footage Rogers feared unsuspecting children would be left to process solo. Readers, are there any among you who remember discussing this event with your parents... or children?

Ever vigilant, Rogers returned in the days immediately following the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, with a special message for parents who had grown up watching him.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inkyzine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, September 9 for another season of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Alexis de Tocqueville’s Prediction of How American Democracy Could Lapse Into Despotism, Read by Michel Houellebecq

Michel Houellebecq's third novel Platform, which involves a terrorist bombing in southeast Asia, came out the year before a similar real-life incident occurred in Thailand. His seventh novel Submission, about the conversion of France into a Muslim country, came out the same day as the massacre at the offices of Islam-provoking satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. His most recent novel Serotonin, in which farmers violently revolt against the French state, happened to come out in the early stages of the populist "yellow vest" movement. Houellebecq has thus, even by some of his many detractors, been credited with a certain prescience about the social and political dangers of the world in which we live today.

So too has a countryman of Houellebecq's who did his writing more than 150 years earlier: Alexis de Tocqueville, author of Democracy in America, the enduring study of that then-new country and its daringly experimental political system. And what does perhaps France's best-known living man of letters think of Tocqueville, one of his best-known predecessors? "I read him for the first time long ago and really found it a bit boring," Houellebecq says in the interview clip above, with a flatness reminiscent of his novels' disaffected narrators. "Then I tried again two years ago and I was thunderstruck."




As an example of Tocqueville's clear-eyed assessment of democracy, Houellebecq reads aloud this passage about its potential to turn into despotism:

I seek to trace the novel features under which despotism may appear in the world. The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men, all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is as a stranger to the fate of all the rest; his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind. As for the rest of his fellow citizens, he is close to them, but he does not see them; he touches them, but he does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country.

Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?

Being a writer, Houellebecq naturally points out the deftness of Tocqueville's style: "It's magnificently punctuated. The distribution of colons and semicolons in the sections is magnificent." But he also has comments on the passage's philosophy, pronouncing that it "contains Nietzsche, only better." The operative Nietzschean concept here is the "last man," described in Thus Spoke Zarathustra as the presumable end point of modern society. If conditions continue to progress in the way they have been, each and every human being will become this last man, a weak, comfortable, complacent individual with nothing left to fight for, who desires nothing more than his small pleasure for the day, his small pleasure for the night, and a good sleep.

Safe to say that neither Nietzsche nor Tocqueville looked forward, nor does Houellebecq look forward, to the world of enervated last men into which democracy could deliver us. Houellebecq also reads aloud another passage from Democracy in America, one that now appears on the Wikipedia page for soft despotism, describing how a democratic government might gain absolute power over its people without the people even noticing:

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

"A lot of what I've written could be situated within this scenario," Houellebecq says, adding that in his generation the "definitive transformation of society into individuals" has been more complete than Tocqueville or Nietzsche would have imagined.

In addition to lacking a family, Houellebecq (whose second novel was titled Atomized) also mentions having "the impression of being caught up in a network of complicated, minute, and stupid rules" as well as "of being herded toward a uniform kind of happiness, toward a happiness which doesn't really make me happy." In the end, adds Houellebecq, the aristocratic Tocqueville "is in favor of the development of democracy and equality, while being more aware than anyone else of its dangers." That the 19th-century America Tocqueville knew avoided them he credited to the "habits of the heart" of the American people. We citizens of democratic countries, whichever democratic country we live in, would do well to ask where the habits of our own hearts will lead us next.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Watch a Star-Studded Cast Read The Mueller Report: John Lithgow, Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Annette Bening & More

Laughter is good medicine, but I've found little genuine humor in satire of the 2016 election and subsequent events. Political reality defies parody. So, I guess I wasn’t particularly amused by the idea of a comic staging of the Mueller Report. But aside from whether or not the report has comic potential, the exercise raises a more serious question: Should ordinary citizens read the report?

Given the snowjob summary offered by the Attorney General—and certain press outfits who repeated claims that it exonerated the president—probably. Especially (good luck) if they can score an unredacted copy. Yet, this raises yet another question: Does anyone actually want to read it? The answer appears to be a resounding yes. Even though it's free, the [redacted] report is a bestseller.




And yet, “the published version is as dry as a [redacted] saltine,” writes James Poniewozik at The New York Times. “Robert Mueller himself has the stoic G-man bearing of someone who would laugh by writing ‘ha ha’ on a memo pad.” (Now that’s a funny image.) One wonders how many people dutifully downloading it have stayed up late by the light of their tablets compelled to read it all.

But of course, one does not approach any government document with the hopes of being entertained, though unintentional hilarity can leap from the page at any time. How should we approach The Investigation: A Search for the Truth in 10 Acts? Scripted by Pulitzer Prize-winning  playwright Robert Schenkkan from the Mueller Report’s transcripts, the production is “part old-time public recitation,” writes Poneiwozik, and “part Hollywood table read.”

The staging above at New York’s Riverside Church was hosted by Law Works and performed live by a cast including Annette Bening, Kevin Kline, John Lithgow (as “Individual 1” himself), Michael Shannon, Justin Long, Jason Alexander, Wilson Cruz, Joel Gray, Kyra Sedgwick, Alfre Woodard, Zachary Quinto, Mark Ruffalo, Bob Balaban, Alyssa Milano, Sigourney Weaver, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mark Hamill, and more. Bill Moyers serves as emcee.

Can this darkly comic production deliver some comic balm for having lived through the sordid reality of the events in question? It has its moments. Can it offer us something resembling truth? You be the judge. Or you be the producer, director, actor, etcetera. If you find value—civic, entertainment, or otherwise—in the exercise, Schenkkan encourages you to put on your own version of The Investigation. “Your production can be as modest or extravagant as you like,” he writes at Law Works, followed by a list of further instructions for a possible staging.

If, like maybe millions of other people, you’ve got an unread copy of the Mueller Report on your nightstand, maybe watching—or performing—The Investigation is the best way to get yourself to finally read it. Or the most grimly humorous, moronic, pathetic, and surreal parts of it, anyway.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

An Introduction to the Life & Music of Fela Kuti: Radical Nigerian Bandleader, Political Hero, and Creator of Afrobeat

I cannot write about Nigerian bandleader, saxophonist, and founder of the Afrobeat sound, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, with any degree of objectivity, whatever that might mean. Because hearing him counts as one of the greatest musical eye-openers of my life: a feeling of pure elation that still has not gone away. It was not an original discovery by any means. Millions of people could say the same, and far more of those people are African fans with a much better sense of Fela’s mission. In the U.S., the playfully-delivered but fervent urgency of his activist lyricism requires footnotes.

Afrobeat fandom in many countries does not have to personally reckon with the history from which Fela and his band emerged—a Nigeria wracked in the 60s by a military coup, civil war, and rule by a succession of military juntas. Fela (for whom the first name never seems too familiar, so enveloping was his presence on stage and record) created the conditions for a new style of African music to emerge, an earth-shattering fusion of jazz, funk, psych rock, high life from Ghana, salsa, and black power, anti-colonial, and anti-corruption politics.




He took up the cause of the common people by singing in a pan-African English that leapt across borders and cultural divides. In 1967, the year he went to Ghana to craft his new sound and direction, his cousin, Nobel-prize winning writer Wole Soyinka, was jailed for attempting to avert Nigeria’s collapse into civil war. Fela returned home swinging three year later, a burgeoning superstar with a new name (dropping the British “Ransome” and taking on the Yoruba "Anikulapo"), a new sound, and a new vision.

Fela built a commune called Kalakuta Republic, a home for his band, wives, children and entourage. The compound was raided by the military government, his nightclub shut down, he was beaten and jailed hundreds of times. He continued to publish columns and speak out in interviews and performances against colonial hegemony and post-colonial abuse. He championed traditional African religious practices and pan-African socialism. He harshly critiqued the West’s role in propping up corrupt African governments and conducting what he called “psychological warfare."

What would Fela have thought of Fela Kuti: the Father of Afrobeat, the documentary about him here in two parts? I don't know, though he might have had something to say about its source: CGTN Africa, a network funded by the Chinese government and operated by China Central Television. Debate amongst yourselves the possible propaganda aims for disseminating the film; none of them interfere with the vibrant portrait that emerges of Nigeria’s most charismatic musical artist, a man beloved by those closest to him and those farthest away.

Find out why he so enthralls, in interviews with his band and family, flamboyant performance footage, and passionate, filmed interviews. Part guru and radical populist hero, a bandleader and musician as tirelessly perfectionistic as Duke Ellington or James Brown—with the crack band to match—Fela was himself a great propagandist, in the way of the greatest self-made star performers and revolutionaries. With force of will, personality, endless rehearsal, and one of the greatest drummers to come out of the 20th century, Tony Allen, Fela made a national struggle universal, drawing on sources from around the global south and the U.S. and, since his death in 1997, inspiring a Broadway musical and wave upon wave of revival and rediscovery of his music and the jazz/rock/Latin/traditional African fusions happening all over the continent of Africa in the 60s and 70s.

No list of superlatives can convey the feeling of listening to Fela’s music, the unrelenting funkiness that pulses from his band’s complex, interlocking polyrhythms, the serpentine lines his saxophone traces around righteous vocal chants and wah guitars. Learn the history of his struggle, by all means, and cast a wary eye at those who may use it for other means. But let no extra-musical concerns stop you from journeying through Fela's catalog, whether as a curious tourist or as someone who understands firsthand the musical war he waged on the zombie relics of empire and a militarized anti-democratic government.

Fela Kuti: the Father of Afrobeat will be added to our collection Free Documentaries, a subset of our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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