How Much Internet Freedom Do You Have?

A NEW REPORT ON GLOBAL INTERNET FREEDOM names the most—and least—free countries for internet and new media freedom.

Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net 2011 measured each country’s level of internet freedom and characterized each nation by “free,” “partly free,” and “not free,” which you can see on this graph:

You can also get an at-a-glance global map of the results. Interestingly, there are many countries not characterized by Freedom House; most of South America and Africa, for example, are “not available.”

Despite some of the report’s shortcomings, you can still get a valuable look at which countries block political content and lack transparency. Download and read the entire report here.

The Border Crossed Us

THE FENCE THAT WENT UP ALONG THE U.S.-MEXICO BORDER IN 2007 touches on more than immigration and politics. It also divides the Tohono O’odham nation in southern Arizona, the second largest Native American reservation in the United States.

The Border Crossed Us is a temporary public art installation which transplants the US-Mexico border fence in southern Arizona to the campus of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

The Boston-based Institute for Infinitely Small Things, a group that stages public art and performance to investigate social justice issues, created the installation to highlight how this community is affected.

A blog about the project highlights performance video, images, and reflections by the student body on the meaning of the fence. The latest posting is a blessing sung by Ofelia Rivas of the Tohono O’odham over the sounds of helicopters and construction. It’s interesting to note the students’ reactions as they notice the singing on their way to-and-from class.

Find out more here.

The Link Between Art and Injustice

© Daniel Bolick

CAN WE ALWAYS RELY ON EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY AND MEMORY as part of our criminal justice system? The number of wrongfully convicted persons says otherwise.

The people who serve time for crimes they did not commit demonstrates how mistaken identification hinders justice and forever alters the lives of those convicted.

Two artists who document the exonerated form part of a new exhibition, Resurrected: The Innocence Portraits, opening at the The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. The exhibit coincides with the first international Innocence Network Conference on wrongful conviction.

Included in the exhibition are the portraits of exonerees by Daniel Bolick and the photographs of Taryn Simon.

The men in Bolick’s portraits served 203 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. Bolick’s paintings humanize what would otherwise be another statistic.

© Taryn Simon

Taryn Simon’s project from 2003, The Innocents examines the role of photography as a misused tool for meting out justice. Simon photographs subjects at the “scene of the crime” or the places where they were arrested.

See Daniel Bolick’s portraits at his official site. You can view Taryn Simon’s work here.

The Soul Music Inside The Civil Rights Movement

Down to Earth, dir. by David Moreu

THE SOUL MUSIC SCENE OF THE 1960s is intimately linked with the civil rights movement.

Today, on the 43rd anniverary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, we can look to the city where he died, Memphis, as a focal point for the link between the singers and musicians of the time and MLK’s movement.

“Music was such a tremendous part of the civil rights movement, even from the days of slavery“—Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles

“Down to Earth” is a short documentary by independent journalist David Moreu. His film revisits the musicians and activists who were part of the scene, including the Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles, Stax Records composers Deanie Parker and David Porter, and Zelma Redding (Otis Redding’s wife).

The film begins with recollections of the day of Dr. King’s assassination and is set along Beale St. and inside the barbershops and beauty salons of Memphis.

Watch the complete film below:

The Black Power Mixtape: Review

THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE 1967-1975 is a new documentary made from 16mm films taken by Swedish journalists, who covered the Black Power movement from the late 1960s to early 1970s.

This includes never-before seen interviews and footage of Stokely Carmichael, Martin Luther King, Eldridge Cleaver, and Angela Davis (the latter during her imprisonment and trial in 1972).

The footage sat in a basement for 30 years, and it’s a remarkable find. Director Göran Hugo Olsson shaped the footage to form a narrative in 9 chapters, one chapter for each year. The film adds contemporary voice-overs from poets Sonia Sanchez and Abiodun Oyewole, musicians Erykah Badu and John Forté, historian Robin Kelley, and others.

While the Black Power movement may be too big to squeeze into a short documentary (the run time is barely over 90 minutes), you come away with a significant understanding of the events and people who participated and shaped the time.

Olsson’s decision to create a strict chronological story, moving from year to year, is the film’s strength. You literally see, hear, and feel change happening on-screen. The archival footage includes public appearances and speeches that are profound and sharp, like Eldridge Cleaver calling out 1968’s presidential candidates as “three pigs: oink Nixon, oink Humphrey, and oink Wallace.”

But the film also reveals personal moments that are no less effective; for example, Stokely Carmichael interviews his mother about their early family life. Carmichael gently pokes and prods, but the questions get more pointed and we learn how his father was often the first one laid off from a job.

“Why was he the first one laid off?” he asks. “Because he was a colored man,” his mother answers, an exchange that is both poignant and incisive for its context and meaning.

The crisp and immediate images give the now-familiar touchstones of black history, such as MLK’s Nobel Prize, and his final speech on the night before he was assassinated, a new immediacy and import, as if we’re seeing them for the first time.

The year MLK was killed is of course also significant for Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination and the murder of . And footage of young black men and women shortly thereafter is a key point in the film. In this moment when so many leaders are being killed, everyone interviewed on-camera tell reporters they feel “there is no future,” and that they “have no hope left.”

As we enter the 1970s, the Southern roots of the movement fade, and we witness the beginnings of the Black Panther Party. The setting also shifts from public to private: large auditoriums and public spaces are replaced by houses and apartments, or a detention cell, the inside of a dealer’s car.

This is an urban mise-en-scene populated not just by the newsmakers and boldfaced names, but by everyday people.

The later chapters take place almost entirely in Harlem of the 1970s, where we glimpse a population struggling with poverty, disenfranchisement, and drug addiction. By the time Louis Farrakhan appears on-screen, and we’ve reached the middle of the decade, we’ve been on a journey that shows the evolution of a southern nonviolent movement into a more northern, urban-set base.

Although the people and events we’ve witnessed are an enormous part of who and what the United States is today, there is still the feeling of a parallel narrative—a story happening “somewhere else” to other people that the dominant, white, middle-class culture chose to marginalize and ignore. But as The Black Power Mixtape proves, the issues Americans faced then—war, income inequality, and racism—remain with us today.

Watch the trailer of The Black Power Mixtape: