The MAC Aaliyah line, A Black Female Perspective

Admittedly, my heart dropped in happiness when I saw the late and great Aaliyah’s face in an email a few weekends ago. The email was from MAC, announcing their Aaliyah inspired makeup line. To many black female millenials like myself, Aaliyah was the epitome of natural black beauty. Her hair was long, black, thick, and gorgeous. Her skin was brown, her face youthful, her soul seasoned with the wisdom of an age she would never attain in number. Aaliyah was a beautiful girl inside and out, who seemed did not seem tainted or motivated by money or fame, Aaliyah seemed to genuinely love what she was doing. She was a young black woman who exuded  the essence of black female allure–a natural sex appeal, talent, and liyahgrace  not duplicated in or after her time on earth. She was one in a million, yet MAC attempted to counter this fact in resurrecting her memory for profit. 

Now, I anticipate that many will counter my response in pointing to Rashad Haughton, Aaliyah’s brother, cosigning the project. This, however, does not negate MAC’s motives. MAC’s motives are not to honor Aaliyah’s legacy or heal the wounds of her family. MAC’s goals are to make money off her memory, a memory enhanced with an authenticity only Rashad (or her parents) could bring to the project.

Thus,  the Aaliyah line by MAC is one of deprivation. Let us not forget that black women remain an afterthought to a beauty industry that sells, not lauds black beauty.   Black beauty brands like Mented, and Gold Label Cosmetics have come to claim the black consumer, an act MAC  retaliates in aiming to usurp the black producer. Specifically, MAC feels the heat and resurrects one of our angels to lure the black female body back into the lion’s den of consuming white products.

For those of us hurt, and acquainted with the harsh reality of mortality in hearing of Aaliyah-08Aaliyah’s death as preteens and teenagers, a chance to reacquaint herself with her essence seems tempting. However, her essence never left us. Buying a MAC lipstick won’t bring her back, and is not a means to pay homage to a starlet gone too soon. The videos and postings of beauty vloggers featuring the products support a veiled truth— Aaliyah was never the muse for MAC’s latest business venture. No, the muse remains the white female buyer that the company was designed to make beautiful. However, this pseudo homage to the 90s unveils that all the beauty industry creates is ugliness, an ugliness that continues to engender violence onto the black collective. aaliyahbandana.jpg

Simply put, this Aaliyah Mac line is a violent attempt to exploit another black body. It is yet another attempt to cast the dark body into a dollar sign. Simply put, the black female body will never be more than money to an industry that seeks to ensure that the white female body remains the standard of beauty. So when we say “one in a million,” all our oppressors heard was “million,” fomenting their effort to rock a boat heading towards a peace not granted in life, and as illustrated by this recent gesture, death. 

May this performative act of homage, function as a harbinger of the fear induced by black production.  

Black Power ❤

 

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Black Families Matter: #keepfamiliestogether, A Violent and Forgetful Initiative

Context: Allow me to Set the Scene. 

I imagine they left hours before sunset, seeking to be on a linear path by the time sun retired to its hiding place. There is a deafening silence, aside from the occasional moan and groan. The scent of bodies and bodily functions overwhelm the space. One on top of another, bodies are placed on top of one another. Christened in bodily fluids, the physically bonded share the experience of mental dehumanization. A woman that was once a mother, is now a faceless, and genderless body on a ship whose name no longer matters. She longs for her children, just as her mother continent longs for her stolen offspring. Her children are lost and afraid. Their parents can’t find them in the discordance of their displacement amongst the hard floors of a ship. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and children listen to the sound of their loved one’s limp bodies hit the water. Others watch as their loved ones jumped from the ship to avoid bondage—their bodies transitioning from abductee to atoms that are still present in the water today. Black bodies fought internally as the pale people deemed them stock— their value stripped and replaced by western commerce.  IMG_4175

My ancestors were one of those bodies thrown carelessly onto a ship–  their journey a manifestation of a nightmare.  They are as familiar to me as they were to their own children and parents. Their memory is phantasmal, both there and not there, both seen and not seen. I know they existed because I am the fruit of their tree. The traces of this tree, however, are long gone. Not often enough do we search our mind for their memory and scan our bodies for their touch.  

Their lives and displaced memory are a testament to the very cruelty that continues to plague their descendants. Their lives are lost and utterly forgotten in a contemporary climate that campaigns to “keep families together” as the black collective continues to suffer from the aftermath of families separated centuries prior. 

IMG_4180In his Autobiography, Frederick Douglass speaks of the nighttime visits from his mother
who walked miles to see him. He never saw her face, but felt the impact of a severed family long before a hashtag. Douglass mirrors what many black children experienced during bondage, and even what many black children face in a contemporary climate that continues to subject the black body to forces that separate families often indefinitely.

IMG_4176These severed familial ties are the reason why  I am writing this prose in english. Why my last name speaks of a slavemaster, a rapist who is overlooked in the contemporary #metoo movement. Therefore, I cannot retweet that hashtag in good faith, or even consider supporting this deflective initiative, because I am still mourning the lost families of the African Holocaust. 

The “I” I speak of is the descendant of black bodies stolen and enslaved by those who continue to dictate the conversation. A conversation that continues to omit the struggles of the first migrants, the first families severed deliberately to butcher ties to a continent whose children were stolen and her natural resources stripped from her loins. The current conversations around immigration turn my black body red with anger, as they exclude those who literally and figuratively reproduce a colonialism “his” story violently references as in the past. 

Migrants come here by choice. A choice my ancestors never had. Therefore, I can not and will not sympathize with migrant stories that function to erase the slave narratives that foreshadow a  contemporary misfortune that does not graze the lasting impact of past tragedies. 

If this seems harsh, consider how you’d feel if your ancestors were stolen, stripped, tortured, raped, branded with their master’s name, robbed of their legacy and their earnings by a country who offers humanity to those who choose what was a chosen for us? 

A Violent Terminology

Let me say that America is absolutely indebted to migrants from the illusive “third img_4184.jpgworld.” This country’s wealth remains enabled by exploiting countries labeled third world. These third word countries enable first world privileges, privileges the black body does not bask in, and did not steal. It is not the abducted African that exploited the resources of our diasporic brothers and sisters and those of the African adjacent. Yet, although America exploits other countries, it is important for the black collective to not forget that the first location depleted of its resources was not a country but a continent. Our continent. 

The word “migrant” functions similarly to “person of color,” a violent terminology used to erase the black struggle in suggesting a cruel and non-existent commonality. These statements allow phrases like “we are all immigrants” to function, to place the kidnapped black body as a migrant and ignore centuries of legalized cruelty. “Migrant/immigrant” and “person of color” also silently address a hierarchy that places the black body at the bottom, when and if they address the black body at all. 

Nevertheless, this country was not build by migrants. This country was built by the enslaved bodies of Africans, the same bodies that continue to hold this country together in a non-negotiable degeneracy.  A degeneracy needed to ensure the fabricated superiority of whites, black migrants, and non-persons of color. Our bodies compose the nation in which all stand. Our blood birthed the very hierarchy system manipulated to consistently place those descended from the African architects of today and yesterday at the bottom. 

The “other” oppressors

Immigrants are cast as contemporary slaves, not an effort to highlight the struggle of past slaves, but IMG_4182to deflect from a past enslavement. A deflection that persistently encourages blacks to empathize with migrants in the same breath blacks are encouraged to collectively chastise Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Sandra Bland amongst other slain blacks who fail to personify the perfect victim. We as a collective are encouraged to feel everything but pride. We are pumped with knowledge about everything and everyone but ourselves. 

We as a collective are seduced into empathizing with those who invade our communities in a quest for capital. Who take our dollars and place it into their own communities where a non-migrant body is not welcome to shop let alone work or live. We are to cry for those who wish to reproduce the disenfranchisement the white man has cast onto the black collective. 

Our migrant brothers and sisters have largely joined the sides of our oppressors. These factions have taken the soil soaked in the blood of black bodies and set up shop to sell it back to us for a profit. They have become pawns in deflecting from black issues onto those who came here for a slice of a pie made with stolen resources. Migrant bodies in America seeking capital, mirror a bacon-eating pig calling for a cease in slaughtering. This behavior may be helpful in their own quest for whiteness, but has no place in the strides towards black nationalism.

To ask the black collective to sympathize and empathize with those who vehemently deny the black collective these very sentiments is both bizarre and cruel. To ask that blacks support migrant desire to demand the very rights we have we fought to have for centuries, and to allow migrants to dominate a conversation that has yet to acknowledge the sins cast against us as a collective, is counterproductive to curating a pro black nation.

#blackfamiliesmatter

Last summer I read Gabourey Sidibe’s memoir This is Just My Face: Try not To Stare. In IMG_4178the book, Sidibe reveals that her parents descended from the same family in Senegal. Her mother’s ancestors were abducted and displaced in the American South, her father’s left to life on the other side of the world. Sidibie’s anecdote illustrates the contemporary effect of families separated centuries ago. There is no hashtag for our loss, there is visibility, and their is certainly no justice.  This information resonated deeply with me, in depicting the impact of the severed black family. A depth that is too often deemed not important enough to talk about.

Had our collective families been kept together, the black family would cease to remain marked by the last names of men who raped their way into our nomenclature. Had our families not been severely severed, we too would be fighting to maintain the very community migrants wish to keep stagnant. Instead, our issues are those of restoration. We must restore what we never had, not feel for those who had the opportunity to feel what a white supremacist world continues to deprive from the black body. 

The hashtag #keepfamiliestogether, places the abduction and pervasive systemic asphyxiation of the black body as in the past, as we as as collective continue to grapple for air. We were separated not only in enslavement, but when drugs were placed in our communities, when the AIDS epidemic seized so many of our loved ones, and through natural disasters to which black bodies succumbed to the lethal combination of our origins in America—water and white supremacy. This hashtag functions similarly to the img_4181.jpgconversations on human trafficking, which focus on every body but the black body. 

Remembering What Matters 

Here is where I am supposed to insert some phrase that mollifies my earlier statements. Just as all outspoken pro-black figures are often required to apologize with a statement that says they do not “hate” whites, I am expected to implement a statement that states that I do not “hate” migrants. A statement that articulates my wish to stand beside white, black, and non-black migrants of color as they seek to obtain what I have. 

Well, what I have is scars on my back and lacerations on my soul. I have a hole in heart for the names of those I will never know. I should say I would not wish this on anyone, but I can not help but wonder if migrants truly had to develop the survival strength of the abducted African whether they would understand America for what it is, not what it needs everyone to believe. To understand however, is beyond a wish. To understand is to become, and migrants (even those with black or dark skin), do not come here to become black, they come here to become white–or at the very least a pastel shade.  Irregardless, I also do not wish to stand beside those who wish to stand on my back. Instead, I will conclude in saying that this persistent bullying of pro-black perspectives exposes who and what is truly hated. 

This hate is the precise reason that we as a collective must love ourselves, unapologetically. A love rooted in remembering our ancestors. 

For the families separated any time in displacement and/or the economical and emotional disenfranchisement of black people, #blackfamiliesmatter. 

Black Power ❤ 

Kindred, A Key to Kinship: Remembering The Late Octavia Butler on Her Birthday

Science fiction was probably the only genre I did not read growing up. I read A Brave New World as a senior in high school, proud of the mastery I demonstrated of my master’s tools.  I had a ninety-five grade average, which documented my lauded hypnosis delineated in my memory of the white Man’s text, history, and theory. Kindred illuminated the dearth that surrounded by education up to that point. True, my time out of school was inundated with blackness, but my time in school was unapologetically African adjacent. It was wrong, even violent, what they did. But like slavery and lynching,  it was legal. octaviabutler

I first discovered Octavia Butler at Howard University. Kindred was the book selected the year I entered college which was also the year Butler transitioned into what I always envisioned as one the worlds of her prose. The entire Freshman class of 2006 would read the echoes of her influence, as she returned back to her innate form of suspension between life and death—reunited with her ancestors—elevated to a power life only let her grace as she wrote. Kindred proved haunting and inspiring, changing the way my eighteen-year-old self would see the world forever.

Like Octavia Butler’s protagonist Dana, I too am a black Women that is both in the past and the present. My struggles and oblivion to the training I’d been subjected to, is, like the black experience as a whole, something passed down from the struggle of my ancestors.

Kindred follows the story of Dana, a  a twenty-six year old black female writer who IMG_4173physically visits a foremother and witnesses firsthand the blood spilled during the horrors of physical bondage. Her time travel places her in the years preceding the union that would eventually engender her existence. Her great grandmother Alice is owned by Rufus’ family. Rufus will eventually father Alice’s two children. Though Alice doesn’t like or love Rufus, but he “loved” her the same way a farmer loves his chicken, or cow. His privilege severs her loving union with a black man, and through a coercion that translates into consent, eventually goes on to become a great great grandfather to protagonist Dana. 

The text illustrates the shared experience of what it means to be a black woman or man. Being black is not an individualistic experience. To be black is to be part of a whole, to be a page in a book alongside faces you’ve only seen in sullied photographs, or in some cases, faces that you have never seen at all. Dana’s individualism burdens the text, as it is her deed of saving a dying Rufus that enables the rape of her grandmother. Yes, it illustrates that blacks are empaths and innately human. This depiction also illustrates that black humanity, enables white dehumanizing. 

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The text also calls into question the idea of freedom.

Though supposedly far removed from the institution of enslavement, Dana’s foremother Alice illustrates more insight and understanding towards blackness and black female integrity than Dana. This illustrates a non-distorted reality as a benefit to overt racism. Alternatively, the distance many descendants of the enslaved placed between themselves and a past of coercion and cruelty creates a dissonance that is ultimately, if not immediately, dangerous.

For example,  Dana is a  black Woman, married to a white man. Despite the ugliness she experiences, her union with her white spouse remains in tact. Though Rufus speaks of Alice “coming to him without being called,” Alice’s actions are one of survival. She is disgusted with herself when she declines to feel hate towards her rapist, a shame Dana never feels.  I was moved and devastated when Alice ends her own life after Rufus stages her children’s sale to manipulate her emotions. Alice’s life was one of sacrifice, her person was one of power. In death, Alice shows that she was not living for herself, but for others. Namely, at this point—she lived for her kids so devoutedly, she’d die in their absence.  And she did.

 Additionally, her deed does something else.  This action, while a blow to the reader who learned to love the strength of this beautiful woman, illustrates an agency absent from Dana, but tragically executed by Alice in bondage.   ob

For years after reading Kindred I found myself bewildered, and to be frank, angry. How could Dana possibly stay with her white husband after witnessing first hand, the horror of her great-grandmother?  Her cognitive dissonance hits close to home, as the contemporary climate remains inundated by black women who have forgotten the face of their foremothers. The scars on our foremother’s body may have dissipated as their bodies became one with the earth, but these lashes made a mark on our legacy—on our collective soul. This book opens this systemic wound and bleeds into the reader’s mind. Dana’s journey back to her great grandmother was never about her, it was about the readers.

Kindred holds hands with novels that precede it’s brilliance, showing us that these protagonists are “kindred” to the black reader. What makes Butler such a wondrous talent is that she places the reader as the protagonist. The reader goes back in time with Dana, and resents her behavior at times because the penetrating prose places the reader in the position to right a wrong. Dana, in her predisposed imperfection, does not right any wrongs. Instead she plays along, like so many of us have done and still do.

She is imperfect, but her imperfections, prove a means to steer the imperfect reader into the right direction. Particularly, Dana illustrates that the contemporary black body has more power than we are lead to believe. We cannot change the past, but the past can change us.  With Kindred, Butler plants a seed of intellectual curiosity. Kindred suggests that this feat lies at our collective footsteps by literally placing it right before the reader’s eyes.

Thank you, Octavia Butler for authoring the prose that foments your people to do better. We are a better people because of your contribution.

 Just as Dana held the hands of her foremother in Kindred, I hold yours through time and space. Through distance and date. Through life and death.

 I hold your hand as we continue to plow our way through the flames, into a blaze of glory that awaits us at the mountaintop.

Rest in Power Queen Octavia. 

Love. Light. And Black Power ❤

Apesh!t or Slave Ship? The Carters, The Poverty of Wealth, and Contemporary Slavery 

The Carter’s latest video “ApeSh*t” makes waves for its feature of hip-hop’s most revered couple Beyonce Knowles and Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter. Though not their first collaboration, this project marks their first joint album. Their newly released joint album marks the first project after overcoming Jay-z’s very public infidelity. While Lemonade intertwines personal and collective anger, this joint project is anchored in love. Or what the Carters giphy12and their team would have the black collective believe, black love. Evidenced in their lyrics and visual accompanying, the love the album speaks of is a love of whiteness and all its tokens.  The contents of their song and video “Apesh!t”  expose the Carter’s anti-black agenda amidst ancient European art that foreshadows contemporary motives.

Haunted

There is an eerie vibe to the video. The evilness of capitalism and the materialism births, makes the video as haunting as the look in Beyonce’s eyes. The video also encompasses the repetition of the infamous number six, in a video that is exactly six minutes and six seconds long.  

giphy7The European art featured in the video functions as a means to connect contemporary pop culture to the enlightenment period, seeking to rewrite or insert the black family into “his” story. The Carter’s positionality to the paintings counters both the attempt to connect and insert their bodies into an excluding his story. Particularly, the Carters are beneath all the pictures of European art. This depicts them as what they are, subjugates. The Carters are the color in a hegemonic painting that features their hue but denies their personhood. This point is perhaps most resonant in Jay-z’s position below the painting of a slave ship. Particularly, in acknowledging the video’s attempt to bridge the past with the present, Mr. Carter’s position beneath the picture would place him in the water. Given the physical and lyrical performance in the song, it is easy to align both with manifestations of drowning. 

Monalisa, The Centerpiece 

Perhaps one of the most disturbing recurrences of this video was the recurring image of the Monalisa. The whitegiphy5 woman as the backdrop to hip-hop’s first couple is not accidental. Beyonce, easily regarded as one of the most beautiful women in the world, attains this accolade in her adoption and promotion of European aesthetics. Despite her prodigious talent, she is successful because she functions to steer black women to be more like the Monalisa than their African foremothers. Jay-Z, a caricature of the black male body, also functions to arouse the fantasies of the white woman, who do not wish to marry black (unless he’s wealthy), but who admires the black male persona from afar.  So just as their lyrics of materialism, objectification, and capitalism lead directly to the white bodies featured in this video, both Jay-Z and Beyonce are roads that lead to the white woman. This portrayal allows the white woman
to silently scream “#metoo” in the midst of what is supposed to be a portrait of black love. 

giphy13

We Ain’t in the Booth, we in the Back Seat

Essentially, what the Carters demonstrate is a move beyond music into message. Ofgiphy3 course music is always a message, but at the “height” of their success Beyonce and Jay Z no longer create music. What they create is specially programmed messages to control the masses. “Apesh*t” in song and video are a practice of hypnosis. The lyrics are fast, retrievable only in small doses, doses that speak of spending, vanity, and other tokens of superficiality. Viewers are invited to praise The Carters who “made it,” and make the crowd go “apesh*t” in their success. I admit that I found myself remixing the hook “watch the crowd going ape shit” with “Slave ship” as the Carters, despite their boasting, exhibit a contemporary form of bondage. 

The image that begins the video, where a number of black bodies lay like corpses in a giphy6coffin, evoke the conditions of a slave ship. The bodies are still, then move in congruence to that of a wave. Their faces are obscured and otherwise insignificant. It is their function that matters. These bodies later line up as if on an auction block. There faces are in plain view but their bodies are what captures the attention of viewers who are given no context, time, or encouragement to value the faces of the bodies. Faces, that to the black viewer, are very much like their own.  Instead we are coerced into anticipating what these bodies can do with or to the beat. This objectification is of course not new, but takes on a new form of evil given that those who engender said objectification are  of the melanated faction.

This act exposes the Carters as the house n*ggers of a plantation called Hollywood, where they are lauded for their social reproduction of the slave master. Thus, their mimetic function depicts the performance in the video, and their function in Hollywood as literally ape sh*t, epitomizing “monkey see, monkey do.”

Monkey Business

It also worth mentioning the recurring primate imagery that has proved consistent in giphy1hip hop. Rapper Nicki Minaj’s recently released song “Chun Li,” includes a lyric in which the songstress references herself as “king kong,” no wait, “Miss King King.” The line quickly proved catchy, inspiring many retweets, Twitter names, and picture captions, despite being an articulation of self-deprivation. The Carters exhibit a similar popularized deprivation with “apesh*t.” There are a mirage of other comparisons the Carters could have used. To use this one, is intentional. An intention that was most evident when viewers watch Beyonce move like an ape in the final seconds of the video. She’s beautiful, shapely, slender and a master of rhythm, so her movements inspire a mimesis which popularized this kneeling gesture of degeneracy.

Side note about Beyonce: I do not know whether to be disappointed by this watered down version of Beyonce’s tremendous talent, or impressed that she can be both full of talent and deliver such a masterful showcase of talentlessness.

All About that Money Honey

There is also something to be said about artists who flaunt their wealth to a fanbase whogiphy has either stolen and misappropriated the earnings of oppressed factions for centuries, or has had their wealth stolen and misappropriated by their oppressors for centuries. The entire song boasts of money and “things,” depicting JayZ and Beyonce as bragging about how much they went for on the auction block.  

Essentially, the song and video are as without substance, as the Carters are without riches. All the Carters have is what has been given to them. They have what can be taken away in an instant, making them more impoverished that their ignorant, capitalistic display wants anyone to realize. The Carters have been bought and sold, their integrity turned to gold and placed on the ears of those most likely to steal this song and album in observance of a privilege the Carters only pretend to have. .     

In the song “Boss” on the Everything Is Love album, Beyonce sings/raps that her “great great chirren already rich” overlooking that Whitney Houston once stood on the mountaintop she believes to be upon. They built Houston up to break her down in the worst way, and she now has no great great grand children—her money pulled from her palm, the palm of her offspring, and placed right back into the hand that poisoned her. This is not to cast a cloud of doom onto the Carters, but to suggest that we as a people realize that haughtiness  too often heralds a cycle so many have been bamboozled to perceive as linear.

All Lives Matter?

The Carter’s feature of historic paintings alongside images of black men kneeling and the giphy4one photo of a newly freed slave (toward the end of the video), suggesting a message congruent to the one articulated in their carefully curated lyrics. A message that paints the Carters as a bridging factor, as a means to connect the past with the present, the rich with the poor, the powerless to the powerful, and the black with the white. In short, though supposedly representative of the black matriarch and patriarch, the underlying message of the video is that all lives matter. This image then, is not progressive, but representative of the role of black female and male bodies as dictated by their oppressors. Blacks are consistently handed the burden of bridging factions they did not divide—which is precisely what we see in the visual representation of Apesh*t.

The bridging seen in this video is solely for the benefit of the white overseers to Bey and Jay’s career. Despite their claims of independence, and the portrait they attempt to paint of their “lavish” lifestyle, The Carters are the property of white hegemony. If not, then why, I ask you, use their title as the first couple of hip hop to concern themselves with his tory and not our story?     giphy2

The District of Columbia recently debuted their highly anticipated African American History museum. This seems a proper setting for a black family supposedly invested in blackness. There is also the Black Wax museum in Baltimore, that would have provided depth to an otherwise shallow song. These options were not selected because lyrics that speak of capitalistic dreams basked in materialism, appear far more dissonant to the thoughts and memory a black backdrop might provoke. These images would foment thoughts past diamond rings and large homes. The images could suggest how far we’ve come to the mentally enslaved, but to the intellectually curious, placing the Carters in the settings of their foremothers would illustrate that we haven’t come far at all. That despite a change in date, the last name “Carter” traces back to what neither spouse has been able to escape in their imaginary giphy10consummation of western whiteness.

It would have been a formidable backdrop to focus on the name Carter. To expose the white supremacist wrath that physically produced the lineage Jay-z shares with wife Beyonce, and passes on to his three children. This feature though would not incite the masses to purchase this album. To feature a past contemporary culture desperately tries to make sure the black collective forget, would not have received approval from the record label. What the white gaze seeks from Jay-z and Beyonce, is what they seek from all subjugates— that they will act in the best interest of the republic in their fabricated form of freedom.

That, they did.

Black Power ❤

A Fly on the Wall isn’t a Fly at All: Re-evaluating Success in Silence

They laugh and smile with one another as the melanated faces mistake anti-black attitudes as kindness. I can’t laugh though, my face frozen in seeing what others do not, or simply will not acknowledge.

They are telling me the benefits of teaching my narrative. They teach me the socially acceptable way to intertwine blackness in the canonical genre of my discipline. This is the violence they don’t talk about. How the systemic asphyxiation of the so-called elite grabs you by the hair and holds your head underwater. They let you up for air only in hopes that you suffocate a little more intensely the next time, your gargling a soft chortle beneath the laughs and confident speech of the oppressive faction.  43546_hcfbya1x9mmwimqnjlmag6v2p

The corpses flatten the bubbles of my distress. These corpses regarded as ideal by colonizers who call themselves a mirage of creative names that veil their socially accepted cruelty. These names veil their evils like cologne veils an unpleasant odor.   This stench does not stop them from patting themselves on the back for how well they taught The Other Wes Moore, Between the World and Me, and other texts that speak of what they can never understand.

There is a loneliness in being the only one not smiling—in being the only one not sandra-bland-be-my-voiceshucking and jiving for those who drink black blood like smoothies. I am constantly frozen in the conscious stupor of wanting to use my positionality to educate, but also realizing what I say and suggest can and will be used against my collective.

By this I mean that if I suggest a novel, poem or short story by an under-represented black author, I risk making it so that another black body has to feel how I feel. That they have to be taught how to feel about their narrative by  he or she who’ll win accolades and earn a comfortable salary for including colored folks. By those lauded for bringing in the bodies they stepped on and down right butchered, to stand where they stand. I can’t do that to the illusive black freshman unfortunate enough to get these people as an instructor, paid to turn their naivety and thirst for life into a functional inferiority. I won’t do it to myself either. I won’t receive tips from those who exploit my collective story. From those who use black artists like decoration on a tree where black bodies hang off branches.

a01154d0abbb910f6d86c948e66cb3fd--black-white-photos-black-and-whiteInstead I will sit in a ring of fire. I’ll sit perched with pursed lips amidst flames cast by what the world calls black girl rage. They’ll forget that I’m there but whisper later about my indignant “attitude.” Though few will have the nerve to say it, I’ll be regarded as a bitch, everyone overlooking the vast ways in which every institution on the globe treats black bodies like bitches, like female dogs tied to a post and forcibly penetrated to ensure she literally the bears the burden of bondange. The insincere queries that are sure to follow will wonder what’s “wrong” with me, refusing to even consider that there was something wrong with the environment as a whole. None of the other darkies complained, so let’s cast this one overboard before she convinces the others that this is a slave ship and not a cruise, that this is a plank not a position.

While they do this, I’ll count the seconds until we are relieved. I will see visions of a black past and seek council from those killed yesterday for my tomorrow. I will fantasize about walking out until I cross the threshold when the time comes. 

“Where to?” I ask myself as I walk as fast as I can in heels.

“Up” I say as I realize that what I idealized for years never was. That my entire climb upward was actually a slide downward into a pit of anti-blackness called success. 

Contemplating Freedom on Juneteenth

I used to think freedom was education. That the other side of the degree was a the place to be. That somehow when I crossed the stage, things would be different.

After spending nearly my entire life in school, I see that school is a business. I am presently taking a summer course. A handful of students in my course were dropped after failing to pay a mystery charge on our accounts. To be reinstated  we would have to be pay an additional hundred dollar fee. It is moments like these that expose the revered institution of education as rooted in a love of money.

Investing in Continued Black Inferiority 

Although I do not pay tuition for my current endeavors, the institution’s vestment is in juneteenth.jpg
training another body to fit into a capitalistic word.  Acceptance into these institutions is not about intellect, though that is what they’d have us believe. It remains vested in training the black body to occupy a position to oppress their people, to accept a check from a white man. The goal is to create a white collar worker revered for an intellect verified by an institution anchored in anti-black ideologies. The goal is not for education or intellect, but to make us a robot where race is incidental. To cast race as a mistake corrected in curating an inner whiteness. 

I say this all to say that contemplating freedom as a black person remains an integral part of black life. This contemplation engenders a distinction between black and melanated, as melanated folks define freedom in acquisition of materialism and increased proximity to white people. The melanated seek to “make it” within the limitations of their oppressors. Conversely, blacks seek to make a way beyond these limitations. Blacks realize that acquisitions of material and increased proximity to white people simply means an acquisition of the soul. That it marks an exchange of a legacy for a bucket of lies. 

The E.P. Did not Emancipate Us

The emancipation proclamation means nothing with regard to dissolving slavery. Enslavement is has always been mental, and the emancipation does nothing to lessen the mental strain resulting from four hundred years of violence. The document merely marks white realization that formal slavery was no longer necessary. This document marks the realization that the damage had already been done, that the physical chains were just decoration, a physical manifestation of the mental deterioration that had already taken place. The emancipation proclamation is just a mark of white cruelty, a celebration of empty symbolism that makes the black collective cry tears of happiness in lieu of an an Obama or even a pre-Trump Ben Carson. Tears that ultimately drown the collective in the fabrication of a consummation thwarted by symbols we are encouraged to celebrate. 

beyonces-even-more-beautiful-in-leaked-unphotoshopped-pictures
The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards Featuring: Beyonce Where: Los Angeles, California, United States When: 09 Feb 2015 Credit: FayesVision/WENN.com

Figures like former President Obama, Ben Carson, Beyonce, or any other celebrated case of black “exceptionalism,” socially reproduce the Emancipation Proclamation. These symbols function as documentation or proof that we are free. That the chains have turned to chances and produced such “brilliance”, such “talent,” such “excellence.” These attributes, like the proclamation, where  supposedly the product of black discovery, in one way or another.  But physical freedom will never be stumbled upon. Freedom is not found, it’s taken.     

Freedom  will never make the his story books. Freedom will never be a trending topic on Twitter.

Freedom has never and will never be what we as a collective have been given, as we have only been given what benefits others. Freedom is what we take. 

Education is never what we have been given. We must take our knowledge, but first we must create it. 

Love is never what we have been given or shown. We must take our love, but first we must create and acknowledge it. 

To be free is to be mentally liberated. To understand that freedom is conventionally anti-climatic. There is no gown, no tassle, no bells, no whistle, no piece of paper that can commemorate this feat. Just that mental state of peace, a mental richness consummated in accruing  what money can never buy.

Freedom is the black farmer who grows and eats his own food.

The black seamstress who makes his or her own clothes. He or she who defines their own style, rather than finding their feelings on the rack in some white franchisement.

Freedom is the black educator who uses their training to untrain others. He or she who incites a strategy of unlearning to cognitively cleanse the black mind from the poison of white supremacy.

Freedom is the black doctor who uses white science to engender prevention in his or her community.

Freedom is the black lawyer who uses a system used to legalize anti-blackness to ensure that black realize these laws are the nooses around their necks. Freedom is he or she who uses their law degree to free blacks and ensure the real criminals are locked up by the very system designed to enable white freedom.  ht

Freedom is Nat Turner. Denmark Vesey. Harriet Tubman. Sojourner Truth. Ida B. Wells. WEB Dubois.  Malcolm X. Dr. King. Fred Hampton. Fanny Lou Hamer. George Jackson. Assata Shakur. Derrick Bell.

Freedom is the black man or woman who jumped from the ships with heavy chains that sunk them to the bottom of the sea, but the height of mental freedom. Freedom is the enslaved body who fought back either mentally or physically–he or she who maybe was not even given a name, but made a name for themselves. Freedom is the black man or woman who refused to be trained and started their own. 

So I suppose what I am saying is that it not about “living your best life” as the contemporary phrasing will have the oppressed  believing, but living your freest life. 

How will you live your freest life?

Black Power ❤

Oceans 8, Drowning the Black Female Body

Jumping on the bandwagon of the #metoo movement is the latest installment of Oceans 8. The film features an all female cast starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, and Sarah Paulson. The film symbolically represents a so called diverse wave of feminism that includes the black woman and woman of color, a quota filled by Mindy Kaling, and Awkwafina as non-black women of color, and Rihanna as the token black female. What the women have in common is a so-called criminality, an attribute that each character supposedly exudes in vastly different scales. Sandra-Bullock-Oceans-8-trailer-screenshot

The film opens with Bullock’s rehearsed parole speech that precedes a shoplifting spee, gifting her with the luxuries afforded by the lie of white female honorability.  The audience found this display of white female privilege hilarious. It is her white female privilege that allows her to steal without suspicion, and allows her to manipulate a system designed specifically for her success. The film, much like the society that encase it, implies that people like Debbie Oceans (Sandra Bullock), don’t steal. They are stolen from.

The catalyst for the heist that anchors the film, is white female retaliation against the white man. Or as depicted in this film, a single white man. Oceans is incarcerated after the man she is seeing exchanges her freedom for his own. So she brings in an all girl team to take him down. Yes, each participant will walk away from the heist with millions of dollars, but Oceans will have the biggest victory of all. This victory is overtly revenge, but covertly the centrality imbued in this “feat”. 

sandycate.jpgThe motifs of this film correspond directly to Caitlin Flanagan’s article The Humiliation of Aziz Ansari. In this article, Flanagan speaks directly to the “danger” of white female retaliation. Ansari, Bill Cosby, Russell Simmons, amongst others, are the casualties of white female retaliation. Reeled in by white female ambition, the white woman wins at all angles. Either you fulfill her immediate desire, or become her prey. Debbie Oceans sought a benefit from her initial relationship with the man who framed her, and was able to capitalize on her setback. She, the white female is dangerous because as a master deceiver she occupies multiple positions. She is a villain who can claim victory as a victim. She is the two-headed dragon created in the fluidity of white male supremacy. 

In the film, this fluidity is largely symbolized by the jewels. Jewels, particularly diamonds, are the material focus of the heist. These jewels symbolize testicles or “balls,” depicting the white female body as abducting tokens of masculinity to appoint her own supremacy. This is an important depiction for black women, as while white women are depicting as acquiring these balls, the black female role is purely pleasure…if you get my drift. The white female body accrues this token of masculinity to screw others. Whereas the black female body is ultimately screwed.

This is most evident in the use of black bodies as props. Over the ninety minutes of the rihannaoceans8.jpgfilm, there are a number of black bodies occupying the background in a film dominated by white bodies. Rihanna’s role is supplementary, as she is merely the “eyes.” Rihanna plays “Leslie” or “Nine ball” a talented hacker. Nine ball coerces entry into spaces that fail to see her. As a hacker she sees, but is not seen—reserving a power similar to her oppressors. This positioning could very well be revolutionary,  but Nine Ball uses her positionality to aid rather than overcome these oppressive forces. 

This depiction poses a significant query to the black viewer. What if we used our talents specifically for our people? What if the high paid field-hands of the NBA trained and used their power to protect the black collective? What if their skill was used against our collective enemy and not for their continued benefit and entertainment? What if geniuses, be it creative or scholarly, used their work ethic and intellectual agility not to decorate the halls of the ivory tower with their tokenized presence, but to create hallways and entry points strictly for the elevation of their people? 

In contemplating these queries, it imperative for me to assert that I have zero interest in this film. This post is an effort to meet my black female counterpart where they are, as unfortunately too many black women are alongside white and non-black women who could not care less about them. The dynamics in Oceans 8, while fictionalized are hardly fiction. These dynamics mirror our past and predict a post #metoo future, should the black female body remain in the stupor of side-kick, and not rise to her intended level.  oceans8cast.jpg

In closing, Ocean’s Eight provides new insight to “oceans.” Oceans for Debbie Oceans and the white family symbolizes a lineage of deception and chicanery. Oceans for them are simply a means to the other side. Oceans for the black body are reminiscent of the middle passage. We cannot sail beside white women without steering over the mutilated bodies of our mothers, fathers, and children.Oceans either drowned the black body in a consummated plight to escape, or forced the black body to look up at a sky that matched the shade of our oppressor’s eyes. For if we look down, we see all that should have been up, the blood shed and bodies broken to ensure, as this film shows us, that the white woman wins in the end. 

Black Power ❤

Oh So Presidential: Why Sally Hemmings’ Inclusion is the Same Ole Supremacy

I woke up to an article this morning that spoke to recent development of the late Thomas Jefferson’s estate. The article relished in the plantation acknowledging Sally Hemmings’ role in his-story. Though often portrayed as Jefferson’s “great love,” Sally Hemmings was  Jefferson’s concubine. Despite overtly confronting what historical writings of Jefferson normally deny, the article continues to romanticize the horror of enslavement in imbuing a crippling ignorance depicted in the following.

I. Use of the word “Monticello”

To be completely transparent, I had to consult the dictionary upon encountering this word. Monticello, it turns out, simply means plantation. The use of this word functions to distance Jefferson from what he was, a slave owner who inflicted his cruelty on the most celebrated plantation in the United States.

II. Referencing Hemmings as “the mother of Jefferson’s children”

Though not able to consent to Jefferson due to her enslavement and the pervasive environment of white supremacy, Hemmings is commonly referenced as “the mother of Jefferson’s children” or his lover. His story often projects their relations as that of star-crossed lovers, not occupants of two vastly different positions in the very power system that continues to haunt blacks globally.

The issue of consent is one that remains contentious. Consent is central in discussing the white female body and #metoo, but hovers over black and white relations that appear to be consensual in our current setting. Hemmings was not able to consent to sexually activity  with Jefferson, let alone love him in the cruel climate that claimed her humanity and hung it on their systemic estate as decor. Hemmings’ portrayal as a consenting concubine or legitimized mother, functions to paint Jefferson as a man in love, not a rapist in power.

Hemmings does prove a formidable canvass for understanding contemporary manifestations of their violent engagement. The same system that enslaved the minds and bodies of our ancestors is still very much in place, yet consent remains an under-discussed topic. What I mean here is that given the systemic asphyxiation of black minds under white supremacy, melanated people remain unable to consent to relationships with white people. Black people, who have elevated their melanated status in a journey to consciousness however, do posses the mental freedom to consent, but would not given their astute perception of race and its global functionality.

My argument is essentially similar to what Gayatri Spivak makes in “Can the Subaltern Speak.” Spivak argues that due to the mental mutilation of the subalterns mind, their “choices” mirror the choices made for them by their oppressors. “Choice” is chosen when your mind is mentally consumed. Blacks are persistently force-fed images that paint whites as the height of society, sexually desirable, and great nurturers. Despite these attributes being antithetical to the truth, the white supremacist environment that encases us  in alterity chooses a “white” and “non-black” body for the mentally enslaved—depicting consent as both not non-existent and socially acceptable.

III. Celebrating her inclusion in “his” story

The articles from Jefferson’s estate bask in the feature of what was believed to be Hemmings’ room in a new exhibit. The write-ups are all the same, a performance of self-congratulatory debauchery. An act that praises white supremacists for acknowledging the human resources that enable their pseudo superiority. This functions similarly to the show the white media has created around Trump and his pardons. These actions, are deliberate. They exist and are exhibited only to foment the myth that “things are so much better now” as we stand in the same spot of our ancestors, blinded in the obscurity white media, white education, and white history continues to grant our truth.

Conclusion

The truth is Jefferson as a romanticized rapist, and Hemmings as a silent sufferer, embody what it means to be “presidential.” In the contemporary climate, it has become custom for the masses to detach themselves from Trump the individual by denying him the title “President.” The issue here is that denouncing Trump from the title awards “president” an undeserving revere. The term president does not speak to prestige or responsibility. The word “president” is just another word for white supremacist, as everyone “sworn” into this role takes an oath to protect and serve a republic born from the blood of blacks.

“President” references George Washington, who although the first “president” was not the first white supremacist. Washington is Willie Lynch. He encompasses the males who castrated and killed Claude Neal, and the males that tortured and murdered a fourteen year old Emmitt till. It was extremely hard to write the previous sentences without using the word “animal” in place of “male.” I reasoned with the following “Males are not men, but humans are animals.” Similarly, presidents are not people, they are not capital, they are an embodiment of an ideology. An ideology that is inherently anti-black.

The black collective, despite their financial status, education level, aesthetics or any other attribute that may convince one to believe they are special, remain identical to Hemmings.  Whether at a school, bank, or private sector position, most of us remain espoused to contemporary plantations. Though unlike our ancestors, many of us believe that words like “consent” and “choice”  mark a freedom chained hands, veiled by these very words, can’t quite reach.

Black Power ❤

Rape is NOT Inclusive: The Black Female Body, the forgotten victim of Sexual Violence

Aziz_Ansari_2012_Shankbone.JPGFor a current summer course, were were assigned an article from The Atlantic entitled “The Humiliation of Aziz Ansari.” The article, authored by Caitlin Flanagan, speaks to the danger of white female supremacy. Flanagan’s piece is in response to  an article by Katie Way titled, “I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night of my life.” In the original article, a woman renamed Grace speaks to a date she had with Ansari which she describes as a degrading instance of sexual assault. The details are plentiful and depict Ansari as overzealous and sexually aggressive. Flanagan notes that “ The clinical detail in which this story is told is intended not to alienate her account as much as it is to hurt and humiliate Ansari.”  She concludes, “They’re angry and temporarily powerful, and last night they destroyed a man who didn’t deserve it.” 

I could not agree more. As illustrated in what quickly became a war on black men, the white woman is a dangerous figure. This danger is at very least, partially vested in white women simultaneously occupying victim and villain spaces. In reading the article that prompted Flanagan’s response, the details seemed unnecessary yet essential in painting the subject as a “victim,” and not a privileged white woman embittered because she did not get what she wanted out of the deal. This is similar to how I feel about the Harvey Weinstein “scandal.” The women who now claim victim status, used sexual acts to obtain high-profile roles and accolades—exposing their actions as realizing that their current feats are only a small fraction of what could be.

Rape: A violation of Woman?

The claims contingent with Weinstein and Bill Cosby are not those of rape. As the products of collective and continental rape, issues of consent are as personal as they are political to the black collective. The #metoo movement upholds traditional connotations of the word “woman.” This point substantiated in the reality that most of the victims are white woman. If this were not true, neither man would be under fire. These “victims” were also put in a position were they could consent. A situation very different from the circumstances that birthed the black collective. For these reasons, I say that there is a word for what happened to these white women. This word may be “Sexual assault” or “forced ravishing,” but this word is not rape.    sandra-bland-be-my-voice

Racism is a system to which no black person benefits. Despite the tax bracket, education level, or country of residence, every black person is still subject to the consequence of their race in the paradigm of white supremacy. Because racism is a system of oppression, not hurt feelings or name-calling, no black can be racist. 

Because white women do benefit from both their race and gender in a way that black women do not, it is unfair to align black and white bodies with the all-encompassing label of rape. So, just as a black person cannot be racist, a white woman cannot be raped by a system she has ability to rape with the power vested in her hue and gender.

The “victims” of Harvey Weinstein were not victims at all. They were merely co-conspirators in a rape of the system. They used their bodies as a conduit to a piece of a supremacy they now pursue in totality through the #metoo movement. They had a choice. They made a choice. True victims do not  have choices. The choices are made for them—the consequences to be faced with a cruel accountability.

 In making this statement, I acknowledge that black women are seldom acknowledged as rape victims at all. So “rape” like “woman” is almost always referent of the white female body or in “diverse” incidents, non-black bodies in third-world countries, by default, Even in the case of Joan Little—assaulted by a white jailer decades her senior found with his pants around his ankle and semen on his leg—is seldom aligned brawleywith the word “rape,” like so many black women before and after her.

Trisha Meili, also known as the central park jogger, like Recy Taylor, Betsy Owens, and Tawana Brawley amongst countless others, was the victim of a gruesome sexual crime. While not discounting the trauma that follows such an experience, Meili, a white woman, was and still very much is regarded as a victim. She received national attention and even wrote a book—a validated victimhood that no black woman has ever been granted.  Conversely, the black female body experiences multiple rapes and robberies at once. Namely, the physical rape of her African remains  consistently socially reproduced on the canvasses of her children,  the being of black female form consistently robbed of the space and place to assume her rightful status as survivor.

What the black female body has experienced in the centuries since her initial captivity is a variant of rape, and physical and mental robbery. This is antithetical to the white female experience. Thus, to compartmentalize antithetical experiences by a common term is an oversimplification— an assault on a sexuality distorted, exploited, and mangled by necessity. 

The Black Rapist: The Legend and the Lie

This is true also to the black male victim of sexual assault, who is held in a chokehold of Rkellytrappedinthecloset2007trying to be the man society desperately tries to ensure he never becomes, and eschewing the effeminization that often follows publicly articulating stories of assault

For this reason, I will also say that the black man can not be a rapist. As argued by scholars like Hortense Spillers, blackness is largely genderless. Thus,  masculinity is not given the chance to develop in the black community. This is not to say that there is no masculinity in the black community, but that instances of masculinity unadulterated by western influence are roses that grow from concrete. 

To deflect from their systemic mistreatment, black men are consistently regarded and treated as sexual deviants that are prone to sexually attack at any moment. In “The Myth of The Black Rapist,” Angela Davis speaks to the fictive functionality of the black male rapist. Davis asserts: “The myth of the black rapist continues to carry out the insidious work of racist ideology” (Davis 199). The black male rapist is essential in depicting white female chastity and white male redemption. In considering the dichotomy of white femininity and rape culture, Davis deems the black rapist a myth.

Davis expands her argument in articulating a congruence between sexual violence and capitalism:

The crisis dimensions of sexual violence constitute one of the facets of a deep or ongoing crisis of capitalism. As the violent face of sexism, the treat of rape will continue to exist as long as the overall oppression of women remans an essential crutch for capitalism (Davis 201). 

The black female body functions as capital, whereas the white female body functions as commerce. This is why Kim Kardashian was able to climb to the heights of popular culture, despite entering the popular gaze on her back. Her body was transactional, proving a bridge to a new way of life. This transition would have never happened if Kardashian was black, simply because the black woman is this bridge. 

The purpose of my claims are not to romanticize the actions of black men, or to idolize the relations between black men and black women. The assertions present in this post, function to distinguish between those who deposited their evil into the wombs of our foremothers as a violent mark of conquest and branding, from those whose actions are  imitative of the horror that birthed them. It is an injustice to the black collective to perceive the oppressed in the same light as oppressors. This distorted perception ultimately obscures the ability of the black collective to see themselves and the totality of their systemic asphyxiation and legal bludgeoning. 

Concluding Thoughts

As the bridge and the water that flows beneath it, the black body remains a means to the other side. Cultivating a thorough understanding  to engender a proper  compartmentalizing of the black experience remains of the highest significance in producing our mental freedom. To understanding the violence of our displacement is to  resist a deflective alignment with our oppressors. An alignment that affords our oppressors a stagnancy at the expense of a black consciousness needed to overcome their normalized malvolence.

I will close with a reiteration of this article’s most resonant point. Rape, though in its contemporary use speaks to sexual assault, its ancient origins speak to a robbery.  No woman, be it a white woman or “person of color,” has been robbed more violently and with such cavalier disregard as a black woman.  

As a being of black female form, birthed from womb robbed both literally and figuratively, “rape” is a theme of my collective narrative.  Therefore,  I have no problems looking my oppressors in the face and saying that “rape” is not what happens to you, it’s what you do to others. 

***To Recy Talor, Betsy Owens, Joan Little, Tawana Brawley, Sherrice Iverson, and all the mothers, sisters, and daughters of the diaspora. 

Black Power ❤

There Ain’t No “I” in “We,” Our Story is Not About You: On Alice Johnson and White Intervention

Reality stars Donald Trump and Kim Kardashian engaged in a highly publicized hearing in which black woman Alice Marie Johnson’s fate was determined. The outcome was Johnson’s physical freedom, affording the white savior image to anti-black agents Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump. The coverage of Johnson’s release mirrors the reality of her foremothers and forefathers, whose validity was also determined by the consignment of white people. Though supposedly a story of triumph, Johnson’s narrative is not her own, seized by a media who is for whites, by whites— all of the time. Johnson’s “freedom” marks another victory for whites and exposes the continued enslavement of blacks via white media. While there are a number of details that make this case as disturbing as it is, I will focus on four points:

  1. Johnson has already served a life sentence

Johnson was arrested twenty-one years ago for involvement in drug-trafficking. She’s served over two decades, which equate to a lifetime. She served two decades in a formal prison for seeking to sever limbs caught between white supremacy and black disenfranchisement. She was not given choices, rather choices were made for her. Choices in which she was made to pay.  Her life, laced with tragedy and hardship from losing a job to losing her youngest child, is reflective of the high-levels of stress that accompany the black experience. With the previous statement, I am not suggesting that tragedy (in the conventional sense) does not extend itself to non-blacks. I am however asserting that blacks are not given the space to recover from said tragedy, as our tragedy is what the late Dr. Amos Wilson labeled a social necessity.

Johnson’s sentencing reflects a formalizing of the informal experiences that have shaped her collective life. Her sentencing reflects the societal desire to place the black body in a cage, this cage appearing in multiple manifestations through the global evil of white supremacy.

  1. This Pardon does not address the issue at hand

Perhaps the largest issue with the representation of the Alice Johnson case, is that the conversation it engenders does not address the true subject, or the issue at hand. Particularly, the media shaping of this case ignores the most central query:

Why was Johnson given a life-sentence in the first place?

So yes, it is “nice” that Johnson the individual was released, but this does virtually nothing for those symbolically represented by Johnson. Her release illustrates a societal willingness to grant low-stake victories, to deflect from what is necessary to issue real progress. As long as the general public elates in these empty performative gestures, the pervasive anti-black climate that suffocates the black collective, will continue to erode our emotional and physical well-being.  

  1. Her transition 

Johnson’s release, while to an extent a personal feat, precedes a difficult “transition” into a world, that like the prison that held her for over two decades, feeds off Johnson’s collective denigration. Realistically, opportunities are generally few and far between for those not born with the heuristic hue of whiteness. Once incarcerated, slim pickings become gaunt. Again, until discussions of change become actualized and freed from the imaginary, blacks will continue to harbor base  treatment, as this treatment is necessary for the stagnancy of anti-blackness. 

  1. The underscoring of “non-violence” 

One of the most problematic terms used in supporting Ms. Johnson’s freedom is the term “non-violent.” The media emphasizes that Ms. Johnson should be free because her crimes were non-violent. Ms. Johnson, presented as the good “criminal,”  implies that she is an anomaly. This deflects from the fact that her very existence actualizes the violence of a country who gloated in the blood spilled in their chicanery in symbolizing this smearing blood in their flag. Ms. Johnson, and every other black person yanked from the womb of their mother continent are the eternal victims of criminals who conveniently define what they call the social justice system. Violence is what imprisoned and will continue to imprison Ms. Johnson, the violence of white supremacy. If the “justice” system were just, the 1% would be in prison for stolen wealth. Instead they exist on a pedestal held up by the bodies buried in their climb to the fictive top. 

Closing Thoughts

In discussing Alice Johnson, it is imperative to note that what she was granted was not freedom. Johnson was granted the same thing black ancestors were granted in their discovery of the Emancipation Proclamation– the image of freedom. The preoccupation with the image of freedom, makes actual freedom obsolete. To actually free Ms. Johnson, Trump and Kardashian would have to relinquish their privileges, surrender wealth accumulated in the incarceration of people like Ms. Johnson, the death of black youth like Trayvon Martin, and systemic asphyxiation of Tawana Brawley and Sandra Bland.

Neither Kim Kardashian or Donald Trump did a good thing for Ms. Johnson. What they did was a good thing for themselves and their brands. What they did was “free” a black woman from one prison and sent her into another one where a white woman is praised for a purchased version of the African heirlooms in which black women are shamed. What they did yet again is make “our” story about them. 

In freeing ourselves from the enslavement of white supremacy, it essential to acknowledge that freedom is something that will never make the news, and something that will never garner the public praise of white supremacists. Freedom is something that starts internally, and until we turn a blind our to external representations of a freedom that is merely another manifestation of white supremacy, our collective remains in chains.

Black Power ❤