By Asa Ackerly
Global Lives Project Intern
The Global Lives Project is unequivocal in its support for the Black Lives Matter movement. We stand alongside the millions of protesters across the globe who call attention to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah Mclain, and far too many others. We too demand the destruction of the systems of injustice that have enabled the continued murder and disenfrahcisement of BIPOC, Black communities in particular. As an organization with a global focus, we also have a responsibility to emphasize the impacts of globalization and the oppression of people of color worldwide. Discrimination against BIPOC not only extends beyond the borders of the United States, but is the basis unto which our international economic, social, and environmental systems are built.
Our mission to build global understanding through cross-cultural empathy is more important than ever at a time like this. The need for the Black Lives Matter movement, along with the recent outbreak of racist attacks against Asian communities in relation to COVID-19, demonstrates the dire lack of cultural empathy and understanding in our world.
Discussions of social change too often ignore questions pertaining to identity. The dismissal of the Black Lives Matter movement and calls that “All Lives Matter” are racist attempts to pretend that we can build cohesion by ignoring our differences and sweeping our identities under the rug. In our current world, it is deemed a radically “political” act to speak openly about our identities and experiences. By ignoring the massive importance that identity plays in our lives, both in the ways we understand ourselves and treat each other, we perpetuate a world in which “All Lives Matter” only includes white people in the Global North.
At the Global Lives Project, questions of identity, whether they be gender, race, national origin or socioeconomic status, are at the heart of everything we do. Our collection of videos highlights the different lived experiences of people from across the world. Our educational materials ask students to reflect on the importance that their identity plays in their lives, and to use that reflection to understand the ways that others with different identities have profoundly different experiences. Global empathy is at the core of combating anti-blackness, because empathetic storytelling allows people to not only combat their own biases but to understand a lived experience they will never have.
The Global Lives Project also strives to address the lack of representation and storytelling about Black lives. BIPOC across the world, Black individuals in particular, are overrepresented in our global systems of disadvantage and underestimated in its opportunities and forms of communication. Black voices have historically been kept on the sideline and denied the opportunity to describe their experience.
Our global story is incomplete if it is only narrated by a select few, and accurate representation is critical to our work. We seek to change the way that the global narrative is disproportionately controlled by a tiny majority of its population by showcasing lives that accurately represent the cultural and religious demographics of our world. Every film in our original collection tells the story of a person in the global majority.
We have been incredibly privileged to have the opportunity to share the lives of three incredible Black men and women. Telling these stories has been at the core of our work since the beginning, and we aim to continue showing these important stories.
Edith Kaphuka-Ngwala Village, Malawi: Edith Kaphuka was a 13-year-old student at Domasi Mission Primary School in Zomba District, Malawi during her Global Lives Project shoot in 2007. The oldest of four girls, Edith has many responsibilities at her home in Ngwale Village, such as fetching water, cleaning the dishes, and gardening. Her little sister, Memory, is her best friend; when the two are together, they are nearly inseparable. While Edith and her family are Yao, they more readily speak Chichewa, Malawi’s national language.
James Bullock-San Francisco, USA: James Bullock was born in North Carolina, but grew up in Virginia. Both his parents were factory workers. James moved to San Diego in 1968 to serve as a medic in the Marine Corps. He then shifted to San Francisco in 1971, where he married his wife Nina, a construction forewoman. James has worked in public transportation for more than 30 years, and for more than 25 years as a cable car gripman. Videotaped in 2004, he was the first Global Lives subject.
Rael Feliciano-São Paulo, Brazil: Israel, better known by his nickname “Rael” in Portuguese, was born and raised in the city of São Paulo. He is a musician and leads a hip hop group called “Pentagono” based in the southern periphery of the city. His father is also a musician and influenced Rael’s tastes strongly, although he continues to believe that hip hop is not actually music. He prefers traditional Brazilian “Forro” and “Sertaneja” music, two styles popular in the far off Brazilian northeast, where he was born. Since the beginning of 2006, Rael has been working as a City Permit Inspector, working to prevent illegal street commerce in public right-of-ways.
We would also like to use our platform to offer support to a number of organizations that are doing critical work connected to the Black Lives Matter movement. Donations from the public form a critical piece of the funding for these groups, and we encourage those who are in a position to donate to do so.
Black Art Futures Fund: The collective provides grants to nonprofit organizations that work to promote Black arts and culture.
Black and Brown Founders: Black and Brown Founders seeks to address the way that Black and Latinx entrepreneurs are largely cut off from venture capital funding by providing them with resources and information on how to start a tech company
Black Youth Project: Based in Chicago, the Black Youth Project provides a platform to young black voices and researches the lived experiences of black youth.
Firelight Media: The production company aims to tell stories that are rarely told by producing documentary films about communities of color and supporting emerging filmmakers of color.
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund: The legal wing of the NAACP litigates cases that push for racial equality. They are active in areas such as voter suppression, criminal justice reform, and housing discrimination, among many others.
The Innocence Project: Mass incarceration and wrongful conviction are some of the chief injustices facing the Black community in the United States. The Innocence Project works to reform the criminal justice system and to overturn wrongful convictions through the use of DNA evidence.
The Bail Project: The criminal justice system criminalizes poverty through the imposition of bail fees, a burden that disproportionately impacts Black Americans. The Bail Project pays the bail for those who are not financially able to do so.