What I Love About Black Men

A shared history

We may not have physically been there to witness the erection of the pyramids or the sphinx, but we hold hands across time to a shared greatness. This connection yields  a paramount and pivotal shared experience that runs deeper than the shallowness of present attraction.

The Lipsnnamdi-asomugha

With lips full like the moon, and the African legacy, black men give you kisses that remain on your lips long after they’re gone

Their body

A beacon of beauty and strength, the natural physique of a black man is a ethereal masterpiece. From the shoulders, to the legs, to the jawline—the black man is perfect even in his imperfections.

97bf4da9e208d896b23b25443fc77e9cThe aura

The energy of a black man is one of a kind. Sometimes this energy is curious, sometimes seductive, other times intellectually curious.

The Potential
He could be good with his hands, a philosopher, or a teacher. The black man’s potential is as endless as his legacy.

 

The confidence  160604012743-03-muhammad-ali-0604-full-169

This is an attribute not encompassed by all, but black men who truly possess confidence are perhaps the most beautiful sight to see. Confidence is not loud, but a pleasant subtly known to all they encounter but solely referenced in the world “greatness.”

The conviction

A black man who understands and appreciates his blackness bears a conviction stronger than any mortal creation. This conviction converts non-believers and challenges the weak to be just a little stronger. 

The genetics

From the strong noses and hair, to bodies built to weather adversity–the black man bears extraordinary genetics that breeds outer beauty and inner resilience.  t_coates_credit_gabriella_demzuk

The talent

Although talent is certainly present in ancestors like W.E.B. Dubois who received extensive training, talent is also present in 1970s leader George Jackson and contemporary writer Ta-nehisi Coates who lacked formal training and reflect the talent of self-education. 

screen-shot-2016-01-14-at-9-15-37-pm-616x4401The voice
Whether it’s raspy, deep, or mellow—the black man’s voice is strong and distinctive.

The strength
The black man is physically capable of mastering any task, but his strength lies in his ability to dodge the destruction implemented by our oppressors.

The envy
Black men are the portrait of masculinity unsuccessfully imitated by countless other factions.

The focus
Examples like Nat Turner, Dr. King, Malcom X, Medgar Evers, and Fred Hampton prove that the black man can do literally do anything. His abilities make it so that no task is out of reach, and nothing is impossible. hamptonfred

The walk
It may be a stride with large steps or a swagger with a slight bop. Or it may be a business like saunter or slow, small steps. Either way, the way black men move is magical.

The Charm

There are some black men that are overt charmers blessed with the gift of gab or a forthcoming energy. I would say for the most part however, that the charm possessed by most black men is unspoken. It could be in the smile, or his gentle way of speech. Or maybe in how he treats others. But nevertheless the charm is ever-present and more gjintoxicating than any cologne.

 

Black man. You complete me..

 

Carry on Brothers.

Black Power ❤

Image Source: Google

What do you love/appreciate about black men? 

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#TeacherBae and Sexuality as a Smokescreen to #BlackGirlMagic

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This week, Patrice Brown made headlines after pictures of her in a tailored, knee-length pastel pink dress went viral. The picture offset a series of conversations about professional attire, and the sexualized black female body. However, Brown’s popularity has little to do with her attire. Rather, Brown’s popularity betrays an anxiety surrounding black women in professional and non-stereotypical spaces.

I feel compelled to state that in conversations surrounding this subject, I was initially quite ambivalent. It wasn’t until I found myself rambling through my sentiments that I realized the smokescreen that enveloped my thought process.  With the few details that surfaced regarded her professional work, Brown exudes the same pride in her profession that she does in her appearance. This depiction, although commonly portrayed as disparate, conveys a resonate image that epitomizes a high sense of purpose and esteem. Yet, the intricacies surrounding her professionalism barely wash ashore in a society fixated on depicting the black female body as dichotomous to any identity that poses a question to what cultural critic bell hooks references as racist-sexist oppression.

It is racist-sexist oppression that prompts both blacks and whites to police black women for petty “offenses” to veil the true discomfort that lies in a black female striving to color outside the lines of welfare mother, sexualized performer, or wannabe white girl. Thus, it is immaterial whether or not Brown’s outfit is inappropriate, just like it is not relevant that First Lady Michelle Obama does not don a pageant smile at every moment or that Tennis giant Serena Williams is not a flat-chested, slim-hipped white woman. Rather these observations betray the contemporary world as uncomfortable with confident black females as experts in their fields.

By operating in the circumscribed identity prescribed for us by western society. black females perform in the fantasy outlined by western imagination. Thus stereotypes and stereotypical behavior prove that blacks are just as imagined in the minds of their oppressors. Nevertheless, blacks continually endure a caustic response in exuding stereotypical traits by those whose imagination crafted said image. Similarly, Brown’s popularity is partially due to her beauty, but mostly due to the subconscious belief that black female bodies are incongruous to professionalism, class and modesty.  A white teacher who wore a similar outfit would most likely yield two responses. In scenario A, the image does not prove viral, as a white woman incongruous to conventional standards is inconceivable to most, or at least not conceivable to the point of being more than a funny meme. In scenario B, the white teacher endures a celebrated image similar to Kim Kardashian, a curvy white woman who humanizes white femininity in possessing traditionally black traits.  Thus, Patrice Brown’s acquired visibility, proves that even in a society overly concerned with dissolving overt racism, black women remain excluded from the luxury of being human.

Oh, and Patrice if you’re reading this–You look beautiful. Thanks for giving the world a little #blackgirlmagic.

 

 

 

 

Why Fade did not “Fade” The Hyper-Sexualized Black Female Image

Teyana Taylor resurfaced as a cultural phenomenon in Kanye West’s latest creation “Fade.” Although the creator of 2009’s “Google Me,” many have not googled Taylor in years. Not exactly a forgotten presence, Taylor launched her own company, and graced the music world with the occasional feature, maintaining a private yet modestly popular Hollywood status. teyana-taylor-kanye-west-fade-video-01

Flash forward to late 2016 and over twelve million viewers gazed as an immensely oiled Taylor provocatively danced in a manner more sexual than enigmatic. It is this overt yet inundated sexuality that foster’s Taylor resurrection from obscurity to a contemporary sex symbol. This attention appears complimentary for Taylor and for black femininity. However, sexuality is anything but a new tool for black female representation and reinvention. Kerry Washington, Gabrielle Union and Viola Davis transitioned from supporting roles to leading ladies in exuding hyper-sexualized heroines on prime-time series.

saartje_baartman_portraitThis hyper-sexuality guises itself as a celebration for a central black female body. This centrality is an illusion as the contemporary black female body, like predecessor Saartje Baartman, obtain visibility in exhibiting marginalized attributes that render her primitivateliy sexual. This sexuality, in both traditional and contemporary forms, is often veiled as entertainment, to deflect from the seriousness and stagnancy of the overly sexual black female.

Taylor like prime-time protagonists Olivia Pope (Kerry
Washington), Mary Jane (Gabrielle Union) and Annalise Keating (Viola Davis), coveys a beastial sexuality 09ffe1a94beab299da6ad8124061afccdepicted in body and hair that appears damp with a combination of bodily oils. “Fade” illustrates the black female body as oozing sexuality both literally and figuratively. Manifested in the oils that drip from her body as she gyrates, the black female body externally encompasses the secretions that correspond with love-making.

Taylor also exists in a series of contradictory attributes. Her body is both muscular and curvy, her face symmetrical yet masculine in the stoic expressions that occupy her face as she thrusts to the baseline. Taylor’s distance from conventional beauty intensifies in the stoic expression worn as she dances. This statement is not to denounce Taylor’s beauty, but to highlight her objectification in a society that otherwise seems her features and body invisible— unless the object of hyper-sexualized imagery. Nevertheless, Taylor’s presence suggests femininity in her full bosom and protruding derriere, but there is a high degree of masculinity implied in her dominating dance moves that seem to rhythmically assault the beat with sharp pelvic thrusts that depict Taylor as literally “riding” the beat.

fade

The bestial sexuality emerges from its covertness when Taylor’s off screen love interest Iman Shumpert arrives for an erotic love scene. Seemingly celebrating black love, Taylor an Shumpert end the video alongside sheep, with their child Junie. Literally placed along the wild, Taylor and Shumpert illustrate black love as primal, subtly kanyefadeadvocating for the implied civility offered in interracial unions modeled by creator Kanye West. Perhaps the most moment component of the video’s conclusion is Taylor’s physical metamorphosis to a cat, or lioness. While this metamorphic may be attributed to Taylor’s familial bond, this transformation, in correspondance to the overly sexual images it follows, literally reduces a black woman to her genitals. Thus, to conclude the video as a cat, Taylor as a figure of black femininity literally becomes a kitty, a cat, a p*ssy or a vagina.

Many wonder why West declined to feature his wife, beauty and pop culture icon Kim Kardashian West whose body is a constant topic of discussion. One could argue that West’s acquisition of whiteness in terms of wealth, influence and visibility enables him to fantasize about black women in a manner that corresponds to western imagination. Thus, although married to a white woman, western ideology prevents him from sexualizing his wife as he sexualizes the black female body. The animalistic sexuafade-kanye-westl image that oozes sexuality is best received when the body is black, as this serves as a testament to black female inferiority. As a sexualized figure, black females appear worthy of rape and disenfranchisement—distant from modesty, piety, intellect and conventional womanhood. So while West and Taylor seem to win acclaim, popularity and envy, it is the white man (and woman) who win in the continued portrayal of bestially sexual black women. It is through this portrayal that white men and women maintain their superiority, in the subtle primitivism suggested in a female limited to her vagina exploited by her male counterpart, who is determined to obtain and maintain visibility in a white world at any expense.

In celebrating these images, or simply not contemplating them, the black female body remains a fantastical presence, ceaselessly burdened and held to the standards of western imagination. Perhaps Jessie Williams said it best “Just because we are magic does not mean we are not real.”

Peace.

Beyonce’s Lemonade-More Sour than Sweet

Perhaps it was obvious to some as a twenty-two year old Beyoncé Knowles, then the lead singer of girl group Destiny’s Child, sang her first solo song “Work it Out” with big blonde hair and shapely legs, that she’d be the larger-than-life star she is today. Twelve years later, Beyoncé remains one of the most influential figures of black femininity.    beyonce

I first realized the totality of Beyonce’s influence almost ten years ago, upon consulting with the man who would design my prom dress (a friend of my brother). I had the portrait of my dream dress in my mind, but my peers all brought in assorted photographs of one woman- Beyoncé. Still high off Dangerously in Love, a medley of R&B and Pop, anticipating the-then pending release of BDAY, Beyoncé was the goal of many if not most young black girls. With long silky hair, a svelte yet shapely figure, small yet prominent features and a meek persona intertwined with a dominating stage presence later named “Sasha Fierce,” Beyoncé herself bears an identity as contradictory as her latest project Lemonade.lemonade-beyonce-film-1108x0-c-default

A medley of pop, reggae and soulful ballads, Lemonade captures the bitter sweetness of being a black woman. From daddy issues to cultural and relationship struggles and triumphs, Lemonade encompasses black female intersectionality. The album’s visual component features the sensuality of romance contrasted with the temperate titling “Sandcastles,” an acrimonious lover drawn to violence in “Hold Up,” and a touching tribute to the mourning black mothers of slain black youths like Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin in “Forward.” trayvon

The album also features up-tempo tunes like “Sorry” which expresses the unbothered persona, that dominates contemporary emotional goals. “Sorry” contains the now viral lyric:

“He better call Becky With the good hair”

bearing perhaps the album’s biggest contradiction.  A contemporary version of Erykah Badu’s famous lyric

“He betta call Tyrone,”

“he betta call Becky with the good hair” begs a much more troublesome reference.  Hair remains a persistent line of demarcation between blacks and other races. Although the black power movement of the 1970s and the contemporary natural movement declare kinks and curls a crown of glory, these very attributes operate as a key depiction of black inferiority. The context of this now viral lyric projects these very ideals and when juxtaposed with the visual of black mothers and their slain sons— Beyonce’s initial strong and touching message contradicts itself. It is traits like hair, color and facial features that rendered victims like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice (amongst countless others) worthless. So to playfully generate what is sure to be as contagious as previous phrases “If you like it put a ring on it” and “I woke up like this,” “Becky with the good hair” shields an ignorant comment with the facade of entertainment–rendering blacks pawns in their own oppression. As pawns, fans overlook this problematic phrasing, and instead focus on unveiling Becky’s identity.  In prompting listeners to place a face to the phrase rather than question its relevance, the toxic phrase “good hair” endures celebration rather than the scrutiny it deserves.

o-BEYONCE-facebookIt is also worth mentioning that Beyonce’s carefully crafted image is made to resemble a “Becky with the good hair,” inspiring a group of followers who strive for a similar aesthetic. Thus, I’m unsure if this batch of lemonade is any more bittersweet than the songstress herself. Beyoncé as a central figure in black femininity, challenges black female identity in both form and content. While undoubtedly a beautiful black women, Beyoncé, with blonde hair and light eyes elevates a Eurocentric image to a following of mostly black women. Simultaneously, the image of a beautiful and talented black women who consistently dons a hair texture and color that are the antithesis to her natural aesthetics, projects the required flawed esteem to warrant commercial success. This image is countered by a body that is far more common among black women, composing an oxymoron presence eerily similar to that of a centaur. Interestingly,  Beyoncé references duality in Lemonade with the lyric “You are just like my father. A magician. Able to exist in two places at the same time.” While this line references an unfaithful lover, Beyoncé too exists in two worlds. While not biracial, Beyoncé bears an appearance that is a hybrid of traditionally white and black attributes. This duality  appeals to a sea of black women who admire and emulate this ambivalence in blonde weaves and wigs contrasting their often curvy physiques and darker skin. This ambivalence subjects any advancement attributed to Beyoncé as consistently enduring  two steps backwards.

beyonce-lemonade-hbo-compressedAs the physical embodiment of Lemonade, Beyonce’s attempt to narrate the black female experience through the sweetness of harmonized vocals and catchy melodies, quickly turns sour. A closer listen to Lemonade reveals surfacely deep content as shallow, reflecting both the listeners and industry that fawn its success. This success, while appearing to elevate black femininity, deters black female plight for identity and understanding. As a falsely labeled masterpiece, Lemonade massacres the consciousness needed to dethrone Beyonce as a heroine, and reveal her true purpose. To see Beyonce as a hero is to ignore her role in inducing the necessary confusion needed to maintain racism.

To conclude a previous world tour Beyonce once said “I am yours.” This phrase, while simple, culminates her role as a public figure. Beyonce is ours- our tragedy, triumphs, confidence,insecurities, beauty and ugliness. Thus, Beyonce is the physical embodiment of taking the lemons of black female existence and producing lemonade. However, this lemonade and Beyonce herself embodies the facet of black female identity handed to us by white supremacy. Thus to render Beyonce a hero, or to frivolously drink this cultural lemonade without contemplation or query, is to surrender to an oversimplification of blackness reduced to a western articulation of black beauty, excellence and entertainment.

 

Black Business Spotlight: Nude Barre

A medley of personal style and professional aspiration, stockings, tights, or hoisery- are a part of my daily life. However, despite its essential status to my lifestyle, the cost is often overwhelming to my meager earnings. This cost, while personal harmful, was also an expense outside black economics– marking its true detriment. This detriment finds its remedy in black-owned hosiery company  Nude Barre.  nude-barre-crystallized-fishnet-tights

Launched by dancer turned businessman Erin Carpenter, NudeBarre enables the darker-skinned woman to enter the “nude” conversation. Donned by celebrities from Wendy Williams to Tyra Banks, Carpenter cures the conflict faced by black women from all walks of life in finding their hosiery hue. Plagued with the decision to don a lighter shade at the exchange for an “ashy” look or the too-dark shade that borderlines blackface  Nude Barre specifically speaks to the brown girl’s experience. The brown woman bears a unique experience to colorism as her central placement on the color spectrum bears an often understated correspondence to colorism. Not bound to the extremes of “light” or “dark” the “brown” woman, in her shade diversity, is often omitted from the categories of color that commonly compartmentalize blackness.   nudebarreshades.png

Nude Barre, has 16 shades that brilliantly capture every shade. In capturing 16 shades, Nude Barre emerges as inclusive to every lifestyle previously abandoned in the exclusivity of a white-dominated society.  Nude Barre hosiery also has a spandex component that makes the tights both comfortable and non-restrictive. The hosiery also comes in a variety of styles for children and adults: opaque, crystallized and fishnet. My picks are the opaque and fishnet. The opaque issues a sheer look that is both sexy and sophisticated. The fishnet stockings are a classy take on the typically risqué fashion. The fishnet stockings, being couture to color, offer a sheer look that appears transparent to the casual onlooker. The sheer look makes the fishnets, in addition to the opaque, perfect for both work and play.

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While Nude Barre is certainly a great product, its greatness is largely a product of its creation. Made for black women by a black woman, Nude Barre offers fashion and culture. Nude Barre as a company epitomizes the beauty in blackness by demonstrating not a need for inclusion in history, but a means to write our own.

***I was not paid or asked to write this review. My efforts are sincerely a product of my belief in the product and wish to uphold black femininity.

“Nina” as a Contemporary Lynching of a Legend

The Whispers of Womanism initially commented on the casting choice for the upcoming Nina Simone biopic when the news first made headlines. While the weight of the tragedy seemed in full flight upon this announcement, seeing the trailer enhanced any and all ominous feelings provoked in the announcement.  zoe-saldana-nina-simone

In the “Nina” trailer viewers see a usually milky brown Zoe Saldana painted four to five shades darker. The makeup is egregious and seemingly more fit for a Saturday Night Live skit than a motion picture film. Saldana also dons a prosthetic nose to resemble the late Nina Simone. Her speech is slow and forced, and the trailer,while short, speaks volumes.ninazoe

Embedded in a series of scenes, each more offensive than the last, the trailer depicts how little Simone’s legacy means to a country that robbed her of her mental sanity.
To the white woman who wrote the script (which to my

knowledge is based off fiction and not fact), to the unconscious black man who is distributing the movie- this upcoming film is another means to make money at the expense of black integrity.  However to the countless black girls scattered around the globe who see themselves in Nina Simone’s full features, or those who simply found inspiration in a black female student of classical music who not only made a name for herself but used her platform to speak to the injustices of black people; this film is as tragic as watching her hang from tree. This analogy may seem harsh to some, so allow me to fully expand this comparison. Lynchings were a form of entertainment that simultaneously worked to terrorize the black community into a position of inferiority. The upcoming “Nina” film, also serves as entertainment. Yet, in draping its lead actress in blackface and featuring a white writer writing the black experience, “Nina” functions as terrorism to the black community making a parody out of our cultural pioneers.

Rather than empathize with the loss Saldana brings to the role, her casting results in claims of “reverse racism” or “colorism from the black community.” This proves that the labyrinth of racism casts so much confusion to  those who fail to understand its poisonous ways. While blackness is not a skin color, full features and darker skin, traditionally and in contemporary society yield a far different experience than those with lighter skin and “finer” features. So while Zoe Saldana does possess darker skin and a full nose, her beauty does not provoke the same reaction as Simone’s once did. Yes, both women are beautiful, but Zoe’s looks and body bear a diluted blackness that affords a profitable and pseudo diversity.  Zoe’s pseudo blackness landed her the black female lead in  “Drumline” (2002) and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”(2005). Saldana also played Cateleya in  “Columbiana”  an orphaned Latina who works to avenge her parent’s death. While “black” and “hispanic” are not mutually exclusive, the two identities afford a flexibility not afforded to black women who bear a Nina Simone-esque beauty.

zoe-saldana-16Saldana’s look, while not European, appeases a European aesthetic. No, her skin is not pale, but it is not a deep brown either. No, she does’t have a button nose but her nostrils and nose bridge are a few generations removed from her African ancestors, and her hair whether natural or not, is silky and long- appeasing one of the most consistent standards of beauty. Simone did not have the privilege of “passable” black features that watered down her heritage. Thus, part of Simone’s remark ability was that she made it against the racist and prejudice odds that tirelessly worked against her.

In response to her critics, Saldana responds with the late Simone’s words:

“ I’ll tell you what freedom is to me. No fear.”

In using this quote Saldana seems to speak to her fears surrounding the role. However, none of the discussion surrounding Nina Simone or her upcoming film is individualized, for the bigger picture is far more haunting. To cast a lead bearing Simone’s physical features would mean that Hollywood would have to confront its own fear of black women with Afrocentric features in starring and uplifting roles. To have a woman bearing Simone’s physical traits singing “Mississippi God Damn” amidst an America sullied in the same hate that existed decades ago- is fearful to an America that wishes for blacks to remain unaware of their own beauty and power. A talented singer and songwriter of songs like “I Put a Spell on You,” “My Baby Just Cares for Me” and “Blackbird,” Simone was also intertwined with some of the most pivotal moments and people in black history. Simone marched next to Dr. King in the famous Selma march and lived besides the late great Malcolm X in Mount Vernon, NY. Simone also wrote “Mississippi Goddamn” in response to Medgar Evans’ 1963 assassination. Therefore, Nina was not just alive during the civil rights era she lived a pivotal decade in Black history.

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Simone once said,

“There is no excuse for the young people not knowing who the heroes and heroines are or were.”

History has always been an important component of black culture, mainly because so much of it has been withheld from us as a community. Simone could not have known that one day she herself would be a part of history. And while a documentary in her honor debuted on Netflix in late 2015, the popular release of Saldana’s film will acquire much more attention and potentially garner more influence. Yes, this should be a lesson to place less emphasis on popular culture in preserving out greats. But if dismantling popular culture was so easy, we’d have much more black authors and scholars and far less black reality television stars. If we live in a world were Zoe Saldana plays Nina Simone, a white man plays Michael Jackson and white men portray the Gods of Egypt- one by one our heroes are distorted and blacks watch as our legacy is lynched by the lies of white supremacy.

Nina Simone understood white supremacy. She not only understood it, but she spoke out against it. Simone desired an equitable experience. She sought the ability to write, perform, love and exist in America beyond the chains of systemic oppression. Yet, her hopes only fostered an anger and disappointment mirrored in the masses of Black Americans who composed her fanbase. In speaking of the prejudice bred by white supremacy Simone said:

“The worst thing about that kind of prejudice… is that while you feel hurt and angry and all the rest of it, it feeds you self-doubt. You start thinking, perhaps I am not good enough.”

The true detriment of white supremacy and its diverse implementation is that is breeds self-hate in its victims. Rather than questioning the ways of whiteness, the initial reaction to cyclical disenfranchisement and prejudice is to question oneself. Thus, the true reason why a Nina Simone film authored by a white woman seemingly unversed in Ms. Simone’s life, and Zoe Saldana cast as the lead is problematic is because it too plants a seed of self- doubt. Both work to distort Simone’s legacy in hopes of implementing a white friendly version of a black woman’s life. nina-simone-getty-600

I’ll end this piece with a final quote from Ms. Simone:

“I came to expect despair every time I set foot in my own country, and I was never disappointed.”

me too Miss Nina. Me too.

Beyonce as Black Conscious?

My consistent criticism of popular culture is its often indifference to contemporary conflict. Admittedly Hollywood offers starlets, singers and others of the same sort a view from the top that all too frequently distanbeyonce-new-video-435c5cd2-fb7b-4d27-9e8c-f921b8d2cdeaces them from reality. Reality, well specifically speaking- black reality observes a prominent presence in Superstar Beyonce’s latest video Formation. While the majority of Beyonce’s career has been of feminist motive, empowering women in gold sequenced attire-Queen Bey takes on a seemingly activist stance–embodying a formation that counters her previous “safe” positioning.

The video- set in modern New Orleans, features Beyonce in a number of striking poses in  ensembles ranging from victorian to contemporary athletic. The lyrics are raunchy. Her attire-couture. Blue Ivy-precious. While Beyonce’s proclamation of “Creole” heritage may be attributed to an attempt to dilute her blackness, and her shameless rendering of the “f” word attributed to an attempt to appear more “urban” than uppity- Formation embodies the extreme and exists to shock.  However, the most shocking of what is obviously an attempt to launch a new initiative exists in the singers diverse attempt to encompass conflicts central to blackness– from lyrics to backdrop.

I. Central Issue: Hair

“I like my baby hair with baby hair and Afro.”

Blue-Ivy-Beyonce-Formation-Music-Video-PicturesSince her birth, Blue Ivy has been the source of extensive criticism for her hair. Up until this video, Beyonce maintained a relatively quiet stance. This statement, accompanied by a cute cameo by Blue Ivy, makes a strong statement about black hair in it’s natural state; suggesting that underneath the blonde hair society has come to associate with Beyonce, lies  love for her “nappy” roots. Since hair has always been a source of humiliation and exploitation for black women, featuring Blue in her natural state is empowering not only the innocence of childhood but the innocence of black childhood-free from western influence and standards of beauty. It is also worth mentioning that the video generally omits the straight-haired aesthetics, as Beyonce and all black dancers don inauthentic hair (and colors)  but of ethnic texture. This is of course not a feat, but overtly asserts a more cultured initiative that the typical long, straight weaves that have intertwined with contemporary black femininity.

II. Central Issue: Negro Nose

“I like my Negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils”

While the late great Michael Jackson endured a public struggle with his black aesthetics, this is a conflict all persons of the black diaspora face to various extents. Thus, to assert love for the source of the Sphinx’s shattered nose whose genetics and insecurity descended down to contemporary Africans in America and beyond– is nothing short of empowering.

III. Central Issue: Police Brutality

Formation also features a hooded black child breakdancing in front of a gang of shielded police officers. With the increasing number of contemporary lynchings carried out by the police, its acknowledgement by A-list stars has gone largely under discussed.  Bey breaks this silence as the dancing, hooded child- faceless in a sea of blue, seemingly signifies the unbreakable black spirit that no bullet or coward with a badge can sever.

IV. Eff the Police  beyonceformation

Perhaps the most resounding image of the video is the footage of Beyonce on a sinking police car. Immediately, I thought of 2005s act of racial genocide, known to most as Hurricane Katrina. It then occurred to me that much of the video appears to take place in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The French Quarter went largely unscathed during Katrina due to its high levees absent from communities containing the darker- hued and less wealthy. While Beyonce’s placement on the wrong side of the levees implies a placement on the wrong side of history, the drowning cop car counters this misalignment in silently proclaiming ” F*ck the police.” This assertion encompasses the shared 90s frustration and tenacity of NWA, rendering a deserving epithet to a force of white supremacy designed to distress, destroy and divide the black community.

beyonce-formation-ddotomenTransformation through Formation? 

Beyonce resurrects from her two year hiatus as a negro (or creole) with an attitude in her own right. While Formation isn’t exactly angry, it encompasses the anger of a generation fed up with consistent injustice. Now, I am in now way asserting Beyonce as  a contemporary Assata Shakur. However, I do commend Beyonce for using the power of her platform to voice the concerns of those who supported her in her rise to fame- black people.

Popular culture, from the Superbowl to the Oscars works to distract blacks (and society) from the sole month dedicated to the richness of black legacy. Thus,  I can’t think of a better way for a black pop star to commemorate black history month that to redirect societal attention back to black.

Cheers to Beyonce for assuming a “formation” that aligns her where she belongs- with her people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spotlight on Upcoming Showcase: Be Tina, A Tina Turner Tribute

Determined to become the woman she knew she was destined to be, performer Tempest Walker looked to superstar Tina Turner for inspiration. As talented as she is tenacious, Turner epitomizes the beauty, showmanship and strength of a black woman’s spirit. Using Turner’s attributes to galvanize her personal and professional pursuits, upcoming showcase Be Tina is a amalgam of Walker’s acquired confidence and creative vision.     

From  University student to administrative asset to the US National Guard, Be Tina is Walker’s first time in front of the camera. However, as a creator and producer of the upcoming production, Walker proves as multifaceted as her muse. Walker states that the premise of her project is not for young women to actually attempt to “be” Tina. Rather she wishes to encourage women to use Turner’s legacy as a gateway to their own.

“Be Tina” is a concept derived from the inspirational, incomparable icon herself. It simply means BE Tina. Not physically, of course! We don’t all have a Grammy award winning voice or legs of steel! But what we do have is the mentality to overcome, the tolerance to outlast and the fearlessness to achieve greatness.

The Whispers of Womanism recently made Ms. Walker’s acquaintance and discussed Be Tina, her influences and the cultural impact of her upcoming showcase. Enjoy!

Describe the showcase in 3 words.

image3* Three words I would use to describe Be Tina would be Celebratory/Inspiring/Funky!

Tell us a little more about the production and your role.
* Be Tina is a live tribute performance dedicated to Tina Turner and the incomparable gift of a legacy she has graced us with! With a 5 piece band, 3 dancers and myself as Tina, we are hoping to capture the true essence of a Tina Turner performance. My role extends from creator/producer to lead of show. I would mostly say I am the creative director though:)

What attracted you to the role?
* A series of purposeful events inspired me take on this role. All of these roles. I was gifted with a vision and I just followed it.

Tina Turner is commonly praised for her strength and tenacity. Ranked in order, who are the top three women you admire? In what ways did they influence you?
* I admire my grandmothers most. Betty, Carrie and Katherine. They each possess gifts that together instilled in me the inspiration to believe that I can achieve greatness. Betty is strong. She recently suffered the loss of her husband of 35 years. Her strength through this trying time is all inspiring. Carrie is wise. She is rooted and shows me through her everyday life that hard work is the road most traveled. She inspires me to never give up. Katherine is the beauty. It’s through her I maintain my confidence even if everything is not perfect. My grandmothers are truly gifts.

The Whispers of Womanism focuses a lot on troublesome representations of black women in the media. How do you think your performance works to elevate us above these negative images?
* Well I’ve never thought about my show in that light. My performance is a strong symbol that we, as black woman, can be strong and impactful without reducing our selfs to those negative images. Much like the natural hair waves that are proving more and more popular, maybe my performance can proof that if we just be our selfs we’ll be making more of a statement than we could have ever imagined.
What is something you have in common with Tina Turner?
* I like to think we have a lot in common! We both have really big, beautiful smiles. And I’ve been getting compliments on my legs since I was a kid 🙂
 With regard to this performance, of what are you most proud?
* I am most proud of how far I’ve come. If you can believe this, I’ve never sang or danced before lol I have no real experience. I started out with only a dream and now my dream has grown wings! I’m proud of that.

The feature takes place in Harlem, New York- a place rich with black history. What cultural impact do you think a tribute to a prominent black performer in a place rich with black legacy will have?
* I think our performance will have a great cultural impact because Tina impacted our culture so much. She made it ok to have struggled, ok to chase your dreams. I think the black community admires Tina for the path she created for black woman, and woman everywhere. They will be happy to see her sort of revived.

The Whispers of Womanism focuses on capturing the black female experience. What does Tina’s legacy adds to the narrative to the black female experience?
* Tina’s legacy adds a lot to the black female experience. Black women have been long ridiculed for their circumstances, for image1-2atheir rich features, and even their beautiful bodies. Tina’s legacy is a living testament that all of those things can make you  GREAT!

Amidst the abundance of negative images cast on the canvass of black femininity, Be Tina’s message  is a step in the right direction with Walker as its chief ambassador. Stay tuned for my upcoming review of Be Tine following its premiere performance.

Be Tina premieres, August 15th at 3pm at the Adam Clayton Powell Building in Harlem, NY. 

Amandla the Great: What Amandla Stenberg Teaches us About Loving Blackness

A Pattern of Appropriation

Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg (Rue) made waves this week after confronting Kardashian Klan member Kylie Jenner for her cultural appropriating ways. While Jenner has a history of cultural appropriation, her latest act- donning cornrows in an Instagram picture prompted yet another discussion of cultural appropriation.      amandla-stenberg-hunger-games

kylie-jenner-cornrowsCultural appropriation is of course no stranger to Miss Jenner. In fact, cultural appropriation is no problem for her, as it is the foundation for both her livelihood and relevancy. Jenner’s elder sister Kim Kardashian spiraled into superstardom following a highly publicized sex tape. In said sex tape, Kardashian starred alongside singer Brandy’s younger brother Ray J. A budding singer and actor at the time, Ray J was not afforded the career advancement Kardashian experienced following the release of the tape. Ray J, as a black male, actions attributed to the unwavering stereotype of black men as  hyper sexual and enamored with the creamy flesh of white women. Kardashian on the other hand, would experience the height of fame following the release of this tape. Her shapely derriere, an attribute possessed yet ridiculed on black women for centuries, was deemed attractive once detached from the black female body. kim-kardashian-and-ray-j

So, while I do not anticipate Jenner’s interest is engaging with the morality behind her millions, her initiation to appropriation by sis Kim Kardashian bears an unsettling pattern rightfully confronted by Stenberg.

Confronting the Cash Cropped Cornrows

Prior to confronting Jenner on Instagram, Stenberg uploaded an insightful Youtube video that sought to enlighten viewers on black culture. Entitled “ Don’t Cash Crop on My Corn-rows,” Stenberg, a beautiful and courageous youth of just sixteen, uses her amandla-stenbergcelebrity to foster cultural awareness. Rather than feature a superficial fascination (like clothes, hair or suggestive poses) common in today’ society, Stenberg takes a stand for her culture.

Despite the depth of analysis and explanation offered in the brief yet poignant video, Stenberg received a number of disturbing responses. Perhaps the most disturbing of the comments were accusations that Stenberg herself appropriates white culture with her straightened hair.  amandlagreybraids

Admittedly, I have never seen Stenberg with straightened hair before this video. Her roles in The Hunger Games and as a young Cateleya in Columbiana featured the beauty donning her natural curls. Even in a recent picture alongside actor/musician Jaden Smith, Stenberg wears braids. I bring this up to say, Stenberg dons a series of hairstyles. The ever changing looks of Amanda Stenberg are most likely a reflection of her youthful experimentation- a common practice of teenagers and young adults. Nevertheless, whether Stenberg dons straightened locks sometimes or all the time does not negate the reality that blacks do not appropriate white culture, simply because to do so is impossible.

Appropiation v. Assimilation  

To appropriate is to benefit from white privilege. Thus in order to appropriate one must benefit from systematic racism. Jenner, a white girl, benefits from the disenfranchisement of all those darker than her. Her acquired millions and popularity is gathered at the expense of millions of faceless blacks who can barely eat, yet alone maintain shelter. Thus, her taking from the disenfranchised to obtain likes, attention or money is in itself an act of racism and furthermore appropriation.

Blacks, on the other hand, do not systematically benefit from whites. However, blacks in America are largely consumed by white culture. Thus, from speaking english, wearing mainstream clothing and styles, to the practice of Christianity, blacks are immersed in Western customs and behavior. Straight hair is another aspect of Western culture imposed onto blacks, specifically black women. Collectively, these practices embody the assimilation, not appropriation of blacks.

Assimilation is the overt and covert behavior of an oppressed group performed with the common goal of melding into the dominant culture. Conversely, appropriation is almost always intentional, selfishly implemented to scratch the itch of envy without offering a tinge of appreciation or acknowledgement to the source of which they steal.

Loving Blackness

Stenberg resoundingly ends her video with the query:

“ what if America loved black people as much as it loves black culture?”    amandlatumblr

This query, as intended I’m sure, prompts limitless responses. My response is that America does love black culture. It is the awe of black culture that inspires the endless imitation of it. Whites created the construct of blackness to deflect their own feelings of inferiority. For in this myth of white superiority whites made it so that blacks would look at them in a way that they truly saw themselves. From our culture, to our strength to our insurmountable beauty, blacks are everything whites can never be- which inspires their jilted affection. But in their battle against their own inaquedacy,  whites complicate the ability of blacks to love themselves.

A contemporary example of this lack of love is Andy Cohen’s Bravo. This week, the show fostered a response to Stenberg’s accusations of culture appropriation. Seeking token blacks to validate Cohen’s discussion of race, he invites Orange is the New Black actress, and transgender activist Laverne Cox and former Vogue editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley. Their inability to love themselves in an environment that trades culture for coins, causes both Talley and Cox to distance themselves from Amandla’s perspectives. While they may have intended to remain neutral, their passivity and indifference to an attack on black culture  epitomizes the danger in blacks not willing to take a stand against injustice.

An Attack on Black Culture

The consequences of systematic racism vary in form and execution, and cultural appropriation is yet another a non-violent means to attack black culture. As yet another means to devalue blacks, cultural appropriation (not so) subtly states that everything is better when removed from our grasp.

laverneandreleonSo I commend Stenberg for her courage and willingness to combat the attack on black culture. Despite being sixteen, her knowledge and bravery counters the cowardice of Talley and Cox that sadly reflect a large portion of our diaspora.

However, Sternberg too is symbolic. She embodies the small but impactful minority that despite its limit in numbers will make the greater impact. We’ve never had 100% compliance, but we never needed it either.

From Instagram to the Supreme Court- no battle is too big or small.Victory also exists beyond quantitive measurement. Thus, no victory is too big or too small as victory isn’t measured in medal but in impact.

Amandla wins this battle simply because she chose to love herself, and inspires others to do the same. To unconditionally love blackness in a society that seduces us into hating ourselves, is a victory of no comparison.

Cheers to Amandla for embodying not only black beauty but our bravery…

Rachel Dolezal and the Beauty and Beast of Racial Envy

While many were outraged in the unveiling of NAACP president Rachel Dolezal as a white woman, her story was eerily familiar. Just two years ago as a graduate student, I had a roommate who played the very card that Ms. Dolezal played… the race card.

My former roommate, a white woman, selectively identified as black and tirelessly fawned for the approval of myself and my other black roommates. Every conversation was an effort to state her blackness, be it how “black her brothers looked” or how her “mulatto” heritage afforded her black aesthetics. A simple google search would reveal that my former roommate was a member of numerous organizations for black women, an affiliation that afforded her countless opportunities, despite her over ability to benefit from where privilege. race-card-EXPIRED

It was through my ex roommate,Ashley* that I saw the race card played for the first time. It was Ashley who taught me that the race card can only be played by those who assume a distance away from blackness, but assume a closer position for personal gain. Together, Ms, Dolezal, and Ashley work to demonstrate the desire of whites and other races to enjoy a degree of blackness (often  through exploiting the race card), without actually enduring the true plight of blackness.

I. A Proclamation of Insecurity 

I first heard about Ms. Dolezal during a trip to the hair salon. The details of her case were accompanied by a proclamation of insecurity enclosed in the words

“why would she want to be black?”

While this assertion was rendered by a black women, this idea is implanted in the minds of many, in the Americas and beyond. Racism as a system, tirelessly dispels myths of white superiority by presenting these myths as factual. These myths are perpetuated via media, education, general socio economics, implanting the myths of superiority into the subconscious of Western society.

Despite the structure of society that suggests otherwise, white superiority is perhaps the greatest lie ever told. Dolezal embodies the consequences of France’s Cress Wesling’s Color Confrontation Theory. According to Wesling’s theory whites stem from the albino offspring of African mothers. These albinos were outcasted due to their lack of color, and as a result suffered an inferiority complex that has lingered in the white race ever since. As a means to deflect their insecurity, whites created this system of racism that dispelled the superiority of blackness in favor of a myth of white superiority.

So while the acts of Ms. Dolezal and my former roommate may perplex some, in reality they embodies the fantasies of many non- black persons in AmeRachel-Dolezal-2rica. This fantasy being the desire to posses the beauty of blackness without truly enduring the black experience.

It is imperative to note that Dolezal’s decision was not desperate, as she did not assume the identity of any black person. Dolezal used the construction of her blackness to acquire a life that many blacks themselves struggle to achieve. She, like myself attended and graduated from Howard University. However, unlike myself, Dolezal was awarded a full scholarship. So unlike many blacks who are fortunate enough to acquire an education, Dolezal was able to accumulate an education unscathed by the burden of student loans. Dolezal, like myself is also a part-time college professor. However, Dolezal was appointed a professor of African American Studied without acquiring a degree in the field.

II. Exploiting Blackness

While the alterations Ms. Dolezal made to her appearance are borderline comical, her use of blackness to accelerate her life’s goals reveal her white privelege. While some may insist that Dolezal relinquished her white privelsge when she decided to go through life as a black women I disagree. First of all, Dolezal’s altered appearance does not match the appearance of a black woman. Her appearance is multiracial at best, but nonetheless she assumes a system of privilege in not being “too black.”dolezalwhite

Though her light eyes, light hair and light skin may have made her an average white woman,  it made her an above average black women in a system of racism that praises the presence of white features. So while the news attributes Dolezal’s affiliation with blackness to her black adopted siblings, I disagree. The juxtaposition of Ms. Dolezal to her adopted black siblings enlightened her to the advancements of her assets if she were to switch sides. She gained a heightened sense of self importance while in the presence of blacks, making her continued engagements with blacks an effort to maintain her high of self importance. Thus, Dolezals performance is within the bounds of systematic racism, as she selfishly advances at the disenfranchisement of blacks.
So all those who discount Ms. Dolezal’s fallacies because you believe she is working to uplift the black race, are sadly mistaken. Ms. Dolezal plays into the many white or lighter skinned individuals who feel they should lead their darker counterparts. While the rule of the NAACP leads many to believe that blacks are at the top, this organization was traditionally operated by whites until the acts of black pioneers such as Dubois and later Medgar Evers fatally endured the challenge of intervening and making black interest the focus of the NAACP.  As an NAACP official and professor of African American Studies, Dolezal did what many of her white ancestors have done before her- take it upon themselves to assume positions of leadership over black people determining their best interests and what they should learn about themselves.

III. The Element of Choice: Race v Gender

Perhaps most disturbing, discussions on Ms. Dolezal prompted an unworthy comparison between transracial and transgender. Olympian turned reality star Bruce Jenner recently unveiled his new transgender identity. This unveiling was generally well received and liberated many in terms choosing your gender.    caitlin-jenner-media-strategy

A week later this Dolezal case makes headlines and many feel that the ability of an individual to choose one’s gender should yield the ability of another to choose one’s race. The connection of gender to race is a contemporary practice that is not only personally offensive, but undermining to the dynamics of race. Yes, gender and race are social constructs invented to uphold the fabrication of white male superiority.  However, the establishment and acknowledgement of gender was crafted on the absence of color. Thus if you were black you were generally understood and accepted to be excluded from gender constructs. I would argue that the tradition could of gender still hold true. Thus the ability to transition between race and gender is yet another privilege of whiteness. Blacks who change gender are still black first, disabling them from escaping the burdens of racism.

Thus, to compare the ability of whites to choose gender and race to blacks is inappropriate and unrealistic. While passing did occur on the part of blacks in the past, this was not an option for most people of the black diaspora. The ability to negate skin, facial features and hair type is not feasible to most blacks. However with perms to alter the straight texture of most whites and tanning to present the allusion of an  African heritage, non blacks have a greater opportunity to assume a range of proximity to blackness. This blackness is assumed in a variety of ways, from those who alter their bodies to assume the curve of a black women, to those who emulate our curls, to those who attempt to steal our culture, blacks encompass both the color and culture to which all groups envy and in some degree emulate.

IV. Black Beauty as a Catalyst for White Envy    afrocute

In a twisted way,  the behavior of both Rachel Dolezal and my ex roommate Ashley issue a back-sided compliment to black femininity. Their actions say “ I want to be you, but I lack your strength and tenacity.” While it is tempting for many to categorize the actions of Dolezal and Ashely as a facet of insanity, their actions epitomize the beast of envy bore from the black woman’s beauty. So, while folk like Ms. Dolezal and Ashely are a temperamental challenge, may their actions be all the more reason to hold our heads just a little higher as black women.

In the face of acknowledging black beauty as a catalyst for white envy,  I wish to end by restructuring the initial query of “why would she want to be black?” to “why wouldn’t she?”

No one said being black would be easy, but we sure are beautiful…

* Name changed