- A new study just revealed that the Benin Bronzes, whose repatriation to West Africa is an ongoing fight, may have been created from the same metal used in manillas, a form of currency during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. For Smithsonian Magazine, Sean Kinglsey reports:
According to the documents, the brass rings used to craft the bronzes were purchased by one country: Portugal. In 1548, the Portuguese king commissioned the Fuggers, a German merchant family, to supply 432 tons of manillas (almost 1.4 million individual bracelets) over a three-year period. From the Rhineland, the brass manillas were sent to the markets of Antwerp in Belgium, then exported to Lisbon before finally being traded in West Africa.
Portugal’s connections to the Kingdom of Benin are well documented. Portuguese merchants first arrived in the region in the 15th century. Using manillas as currency, they quickly established a trading partnership with the Edo people. As Portuguese sea captain and explorer Duarte Pacheco Pereira wrote in the early 16th century, Edo traders came “from a hundred leagues or more up this river, bringing yams, … many slaves, cows, goats and sheep. … Our ships buy these things for copper bracelets, which are here greatly prized—more than those of brass; for eight or ten bracelets, you can obtain one slave.”
- At Pew Research Center, Emily Tomasik and Jeffrey Gottfried conducted an analysis of American journalism beats along lines of gender, race, and employment status, yielding some telling findings, including that 84% of journalists covering the environment are White:
Men account for 83% of the surveyed journalists who indicated that they cover sports, far higher than the 15% who are women. Men also account for majorities of those who cover political news (60%) and news about science and technology (58%).
By comparison, women are more likely than men to cover three of the 11 news beats studied: health, education and families, and social issues and policy. For instance, women account for nearly two-thirds (64%) of surveyed journalists who cover news about health, while only about a third (34%) are men.
- Hollywood writers are voting on a strike this week, citing the streaming age’s dismal impact on fair wages and pay. Stacy Perman and Anousha Sakoui share some of their stories for the LA Times:
Pasha recalled being invited by a major cable network, which he declined to identify, to participate in a writers room in 2017 as a producer with six other writers for a series about terrorism. The show featured Pakistani or Middle Eastern Muslim characters. Pasha, a Pakistani Muslim, was brought in specifically to help provide an authentic voice to one of those characters.
“It was something new for me that I had never experienced,” he said. “It was an experience that made me realize why people were critical of mini-rooms.”
In Pasha’s case, the group of seven writers was tasked with laying out the foundation of the proposed show.
Pasha had budgeted that about three months’ work would include weekly pay as well as the script fee for writing one episode.
He was paid $7,373 per week for 16 weeks. A script fee would have added another roughly $30,000, he said. According to Pasha’s calculations, he would need at least two such gigs a year to exceed his budgeted $200,000 annual salary.
However, Pasha later discovered the network had commissioned six episodes and that all the writers would get a script fee — except for him.
- Kenya Hunter interviewed Black doulas working in Atlanta, Georgia, about challenges they face in combating deep-seated racism in healthcare and rising mortality rates for Black mothers for Capital B Atlanta:
Doulas who spoke with Capital B Atlanta also said that doctors and nurses ignoring the wishes and concerns of pregnant Black people often contributes to our higher death rates. Also, delayed prenatal care, lack of Medicaid access, and medical racism can contribute to negative health outcomes as well.
Though their service is becoming more visible, technically doulas are not medical professionals, so they often are disregarded in some hospitals.
“I feel like people think if they get a doula, it’s kind of like a savior who’s going to save us from this death rate,” Lowery said. “But when we get in those spaces, we are made to comply as well, or we’ll get kicked out or reprimanded.”
- Roughly 300,000 people make the pilgrimage to the Roman Catholic shrine known as the Santuario de Chimayo in New Mexico, and writing for the LA Times, David Kelly has the story:
“Pilgrimage is praying with your feet,” said Pat Trujillo-Oviedo, a local historian whose family has lived in the area for 12 generations. “It’s an active prayer. There is a reason you are making a pilgrimage and mostly it’s to purify yourself.”
In the days leading up to Easter, up to 40,000 pilgrims come through the Santuario, a small church that forms the centerpiece of the shrine. They pray, visit various chapels and enter a small room where crutches hang from the wall alongside written testimonials of healings.
A few steps away is a tiny chamber known as “el pocito,” or little well, where the pilgrims shovel “holy dirt” from a small hole into baggies, baby food jars and assorted vials.
- For the New Yorker, Alexis Okeowo investigates who killed two élite female marathon runners who were found dead in a small town in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. She writes:
Kenya won its first Olympic medal in track in 1964, the year after it gained independence from Britain. At that time, there was no official running league in Kenya; the telecommunications agency, the post office, the rail and port authorities, and the national airline operated leagues for their employees. Early talents came out of the military. (The Kenya Defense Forces still allows soldiers to take leave in order to race.) In the seventies, American universities began recruiting Kenyan runners, expanding access to formal training. Kenya won four Olympic gold medals in Seoul in 1988; three of the medallists were attending college in the United States. Shoe companies and talent agencies began offering sponsorships and contracts, making the sport more lucrative. Running was soon seen as the best way out of poverty in Kenya.
- Rebecca Fishbein pens an interesting essay in Bustle asking if “therapy-speak” makes it easier to misuse valid concepts like setting healthy boundaries in our relationships and interactions. It’s already spurred debates online about whether this question is a helpful one, too:
It’s important to be able to set boundaries and advocate for yourself. Occasionally, though, the emphasis on protecting one’s individual needs can overlook the fact that someone else is on the other side of that boundary-setting. In 2019, for instance, a relationship coach’s Twitter thread offering a template for telling friends in need of support that you’re “at capacity” at the moment drew criticism for equating friendship to emotional labor. Earlier this year, a clinical psychologist’s TikTok video outlining how to break up with a friend went viral after viewers pointed out that it sounded like a missive from HR. Critics have noted that personal relationships require a touch more compassion than some of these therapeutic blueprints offer.
- In one of the most unhinged editorials I’ve read in a while, the WSJ board appears to think that some works are unfair when writing about people with wealth (all this is in response to the reporting on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s questionable ethical behavior). They write (and you can’t make this up):
The piece is loaded with words and phrases intended to convey that this is all somehow disreputable: “superyacht”; “luxury trips”; “exclusive California all-male retreat”; “sprawling ranch”; “private chefs”; “elegant accommodation”; “opulent lodge”; “lavishing the justice with gifts.” And more.
Adjectival overkill is the method of bad polemicists who don’t have much to report. The ProPublica writers suggest that Justice Thomas may have violated ethics rules, and they quote a couple of cherry-picked ethicists to express their dismay.
- Anti-Britsh Museum TikTok is still going strong:
- Even during a war people have a sense of humor:
- Who among you hasn’t had this exact same urge?!
- As always, Pedro Pascal > the Renaissance:
- Wait, can we all just be this dumb? This will forever change microwave popcorn for me:
Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.