Serve it Up Serena: How the Body Heckling of Serena takes us back to Saartjie

As of yesterday, tennis superstar Serena Williams earned her 6th Wimbledon title. In addition to this victory, Serena is a return recipient of the “Serena Slam.” Amidst what is yet another triumph for blacks, black women in particular- the white media once again again attempts to diminish the accomplishments a black woman by making it about themselves.

I am referencing the J.K. Rowling (author of the Harry Potter series)  tweet that defends Williams from a cyber insult regarding her appearance. See, what is merely a witty comeback for Rowling, is salt in a timeless wound of under appreciated black aesthetics.

tweet

Seen by many as a skinny, white woman’s sport, Serena’s presence and prominence in the tennis world has undoubtedly left many unsettled. Nevertheless, Williams continues to dominate the sport even after entering her 30s. In addition to her success as a tennis player, Williams is a household name who also dabbles in fashion and acting.

Serena Williams of the US celebrates after victory against Russia's Maria Sharapova during the women's singles final on day thirteen of the 2015 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 31, 2015. AFP PHOTO / PAUL CROCK -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USEPAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images
Serena Williams of the US celebrates after victory against Russia’s Maria Sharapova during the women’s singles final on day thirteen of the 2015 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 31, 2015. AFP PHOTO / PAUL CROCK — IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE – STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USEPAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images

Despite the diversity of her success, William’s appearance remains a common deflection. Now while the black community generally regards William’s curvy figure as the epitome of desirable, it often generates an opposite reaction from non-blacks. Williams is often describes as “manly,” an insult that draws back to the traditional perception of the black female body.

Not traditionally seen as women, black women were perceived as the physical and social antithesis of white women. While white women were perceived as beautiful, dainty, delicate, pious, and feminine black women were seen as animalistic and often masculinized. These perceptions of course reflected the vastly different lifestyles afforded to women based on race. White women were allotted purity and piety, as their body’s were cherished. Black women were robbed of their sexual purity by the slave masters who viewed them as proper. White supremacy robbed black women of their femininity, their value often rooted in strength, an attribute typically attributed to masculinity.

Ideas of black female inferiority were manifested onto the body of a Khoikhoi woman who came to be known as Saartje Baartman. Up until her untimely death of twenty-five, Baartman’s body was the canvass of which ideas of white superiority were falsely substantiated. She was placed in a traveling exhibition in which her nude body was featured to onlookers. Her protruding derriere was not only a main attraction for European onlookers, but a means for establishing black woman as physically mutated in juxtaposition to the slight “beauty” of white women. Rather than allowing death to grant her the peace her life didn’t, Baartman’s brain and genitals were jarred and explored scientifically as evidence of white superiority long after her death.Sawtche_(dite_Sarah_Saartjie_Baartman),_étudiée_comme_Femme_de_race_Bôchismann,_Histoire_Naturelle_des_Mammifères,_tome_II,_Cuvier,_Werner,_de_Lasteyrie

Much like Baartman, Williams is often exploited and rendered “exotic*” through her appearance. Her presence and ridicule amidst a sport that almost entirely made up of thin, blonde white women- mirrors the mistreatment endured by Baartman. Williams and Baartman shine a flashlight onto issues faced by women of the black diaspora daily. This blog is no exception as many visitors stumble onto my blog after typing in “ black booty” or “big black ass,” undoubtedly attempting to cast their eyes on the same assets of which both Baartmen and Williams were and are mocked. This mockery of course shields the insecurity that both Baartmen and Williams women and men who grudgingly admire and envy their overtly criticized physical attributes. For these attributes do not signify black inferiority, but superiority.

Thus, Williams assets are a distraction from the true conflict- her presence. Williams, as a black woman dares to shine in a world that works tirelessly to thwart her twinkle. So like Baartman and countless other black women scattered across the world, Williams mere existence works to deflate the balloon of white superiority. A balloon filled with the hot air of countless fallacies accumulated, but seldomly contested, over centuries.

So while J.K. is correct in her celebration of Williams for the great she is, I refuse to praise her for saying the truth and what does not need to be said . As descendants of Africa, our stories existed without a pen and paper, aserenawilliamsserves much of our legacy and greatness continues to exist with acknowledgement. Our achievements as a people don’t fail to exist because white media doesn’t feature us as it should, they just simply “are.” Thus, we don’t need anyone to say Serena is one of the greatest, she merely is…
To Wimbledon and beyond, continue to serve it up Serena!

*Although the term “exotic” is frequently regarded as a colloquial compliment, its origins are of a vastly different (insulting) context.

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Ten Ways to Protest Without a Picket Sign

Amidst a world where fatalities in our community are a daily occurrence and cultural appropriation is at an all time high, black culture is under attack. While the number of protests that have taken place over the past year raised awareness for the conflicts that consistently surround us, this post will show that there is more than one way to protest. In fact, this list will outline 10 ways to combat racial conflict.

I. Take control of the conversation: Disallow whites to take ownership over our stories 

It’s our history, so we can’t depend on white schools to teach it to us. It’s our worth, so we can’t expect those who robbed us of this to gift it back unscathed.

Thus any rendering of black history-contemporary or traditional should be issued by a black person (preferably a conscious black person). Contemporary history comes in the form of the news, an area where blackness is continually exploited to maintain stereotypes and obtain ratings.

White journalists in particular, often capitalize on the glamorizing of black stories when told by white people. This done in whites taking credit for bringing countless black injustices to the forefront. Two examples that hold hands across time are Henrietta Lacks and the contemporary tragedy of Kalief Browder.

Both stories proved commercially fruitful, in bringing both tragedy and injustice to the forefront. However, bringing this issue to the forefront failed to negate the seemingly inevitable unhappily ever after. Thus, it suggests that the white savior is only truly capable of saving him or her self, and we must tell out own stories so that the stories are not only told but heard.

II. Support our own businesses 

Most of us work extremely hard for our money. However, much of this hard-earned money circles right back into white establishments. What if this money stayed in the black community?

If you take a look at any black community, you will notice that the majority of area businesses are not operated by black people. These vendors never dwell where they make their dollar. In fact, they take their black dollars back to their own communities to spend.

Now, if we as a people solely supported those who look like us, those who merely exploit the black community for profit would go bankrupt. We must acknowledge the power in our purse and begin to act in our  best interest.

While I run the risk of coming off judgmental, I want to address the weave epidemic that plagues the black community. While the look works to qualify the natural beauty of black women, it is yet another business that exploits the black community.

You wouldn’t cover a golden crown with a bed sheet- so we as a group should refrain from covering our crowns of glory with hair from other ethnicities.

The hair you were born with was gifted to you for a reason. Please think twice about overtly praising the aesthetics of other ethnicities over your own at the expense of making non blacks rich in the process.
III. Think like a producer not a consumer 

While minimizing supporting businesses operated by non-blacks is an accessible revolutionary act, we as a people must take this a step further. Specifically, we must begin thinking more like producers and less like consumers. So, it should never be where can I get a (insert item or product here), it should be one of 2 things:

How can I create/produce my desired item?
What black owned producer can I support?

While freedom starts in the mind, a large portion of freedom is in the ability to produce all that we consume. Thus, if we as black people use it, we must make it!

IV. Do not glamorize interracial relationship or biracial children

Despite casual romantic encounters becoming the contemporary face of relationships, who you marry and reproduce  with is a huge decision. Contemporary culture glorifies interracial relationships, making them the face of a post- racial society. The off spring of interracial couples are becoming the contemporary face of blackness as believed to be the more beautiful, more intelligent medley of the formerly oppositional races.

I am here to say that black love is revolutionary. To choose a black partner and produce black children is to truly place black at the center. Choosing a non black partner while we as a race are under attack, weakens our stance. The gesture of going outside the race to marry and reproduce places the most central parts of your life as detached from blackness. Simply, black love is powerful in that it silently screams to the world that we are enough- that blackness is the beginning, middle and end for us as black people.

V. Use all acquired skills to uplift the black community 

Education, although a hefty investment of both time and money, is made worthwhile if used for communal rather than personal gain. What our most cherished pioneers have in common (Harriet Tubman, Paul Robeson, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., George Jackson and Angela Davis) is that they used their acquired skill set for the greater good of their people. I mean, what good is any knowledge bottled all in one head?

VI. Don’t concern ourselves with white comfort

Too many times I encounter blacks overly concerned with maintaining the comfort of whites around them. For example, some blacks will tip toe around issues central to the black experience or merely bite their tongue to avoid revealing too much passion towards cultural issues.

The comfort of blacks, on the other hand, is a seldomly considered component of both traditional and contemporary society. Thus, blacks should never be less black to ensure the complacency of non others. Be black. Be unapologetic. Be unapologetically black.*

VII. Make a daily commitment to uplift the race 

It can be as simple as complimenting a black woman on her appearance, or commending any black male or female for doing something well.  We as a community are amazing, so why be shy in informing someone that we know how excellent they are?

VIII. Stop using the n word but don’t lose patience with those who haven’t caught on 

The n-word is a term that traditionally dehumanized our ancestors. It was a term implemented to label the basest form of existence- an existence believed to be more in line with an animal than a human.

For these reasons, it is not revolutionary to be able to hear this word and not flinch, nor is colloquially tossing this word around lessening to its effect. The sole way to evolve from the term is to stop using it entirely.

Blacks largely underestimate their power in making things possible. Nothing is cool until a black person gets their hands on it. If we don’t use this term, it suddenly has an expiration date- if we do, the expiration date never comes.
IX. Patronize and popularize blacks who positively represent the culture

Bottom line: if black celebrities are not working to advance the race, they should not be supported. We as a culture cannot afford to be selfish, so if a member of our community is afforded the platform of celebrity and does not use this to positively uplift his or her people, they should not be regarded as allies solely on the basis of skin color.

For example, rapper Jay Z conveniently uses his blackness whenever he feels he is done wrong. These instances are not suggest that Jay Z aligns himself with the black experience, but to evoke passion from his fan base. This is an example of a black celebrity who exploits his own culture for personal gain. As a result, he should be categorized with most non-blacks and should not be trusted under any circumstances.
X. Place black at the center of all things

You may be a woman/man, a student, a parent, sibling, fortune 500 employee, etc but you must be black first. As faces of the revolution we must carry our blackness with pride. Despite the construct of blackness being initially cast upon us as something negative, blackness as a color and culture is something that we as black people must place at out communal center as our most cherished attribute.

Whether you decide to implement one of these suggestions, or all ten remember that black is beautiful. Also, be mindful that the revolution starts inward and works its way out. Thus, merely by  reading this post you have taken a step down revolutionary road…

One love.

* The phrase “unapologetically black” is taken from a colleague at work and thus is not a SB original phrase.

Fox Five and the Fabricated “Diversity Initiative”

Fox, is no exception to the fad of race- blackness in particular, as profitable. Between their new smash Empire, The Real-Daytime talk show and actress Stacy Dash as Fox news correspondent, Fox appears a strong supporter of contemporary culture’s unstated “diversity initiative.”

Contemporary media deceives its overt inclusion of formerly limited on excluded demographics. However, in their presence these demographics do little to stray from their troubled origins.

Stacy Dash as News Correspondentsd

Like many who watched sitcoms Clueless or Single Ladies, I too was enamored by actress Stacy Dash’s ageless beauty and impeccable sense of style. However, in her political pursuits, Ms. Dash proved at her best when reading off a sitcom script.

Let me just say that I believe Ms. Dash’s comments against President Obama are put forth to substantiate the belief that stacy-dash-3blacks are not to be taken seriously.Now, I do not aim to castigate blacks that do not support President Obama. I am however suggesting that blacks like Miss Dash who do so publicly without reason substantiate the stereotype that blacks act out of emotion and not intelligence.

Perhaps the moment where Ms. Dash proved most simple, was when asked if Romney or his campaign reached out to her. To this query, Dash of course responds “no.” This (not so) casual query revealed the indifference of white platforms to black support.

So while it was Dash’s green eyes that initially captivated America, it was her green disposition that permitted her reinvention to a world that compensates black simplicity.

The Real: Daytime Talk Show     

therealUpon first glance, The Real surfaces as a daytime talk show dedicated to representing the minority woman’s perspective.  However, within one episode it is obvious that these hosts are there to perpetuate not challenge stereotypes.

While the show offers some heartwarming moments like working through past baggage, the hosts perform within white constructs of identity.To reference a specific moment, comedian Loni Love revealed the the under wirings of her weave to the entire world.

Perhaps it was at that moment that I realized that The Real was not created with people of color’s viewership in mind. In reality this show was created as a looking glass, allowing those outside the minority demographic insight into how minorities perform within  identities formed by white supremacy.

Now, while all the panelists embody stereotypes, I will solely discuss the black female panelists to maintain the central perspective of the blog.

    Tamar Braxton    tamar

Although her advice is occassionally seasoned with wisdom beyond her years, Tamar’s lip smacking, eye rolling and ever-changing weaves embody the most common stereotype of black women-the sapphire.

Braxton’s dependency on someone else’s hair and an unnatural hair color to compose her now trademark look, silently praises a white aesthetic of beauty. Perhaps most troublesome of all, is t Mrs. Braxton’s overt competition with husband Vince’s white ex-girlfriend, who was incidentally her physical opposite: petite and blonde.

Loni Love loni-love-480x360
As the panel’s oldest member,  Loni should be a source of wisdom. However, her conversation is seemingly limited to food and sex, her ideal mate being someone who ” owns a restaurant.”

As a plus size woman, Lonnie physically resembles the mammies of our past, but in her endless efforts to showcase her love for sex she trades asexuality for hyper sexuality.

In her placement on The Real panel, Loni demonstrates the evolution from the scarf- wearing Hattie McDaniels of our past, to the wig and weave wearing Loni Love who anchors the show to the same ideas of white supremacy as her predecessors.

Tamara Mowry-Housely   tamara

As the host of mixed heritage, Tamara Mowry-Housely offers an “elevated” portrait of blackness in her distance from Tamar Braxton and Loni Love’s perspectives on almost all topics. Interestingly, she upholds a traditional or conservative ideology that in practice reprimands her marriage, offspring and entire existence. This meaning that many who are inclined to her conservative way of  thinking oppose interracial marriages and multiracial children

.This contradiction covertly depicts anxieties in bearing two conflicting identities.

Perhaps what is most disheartening about the panelists of The Real is the misuse of a platform. The strength in blacks on television is that presence grants visibility. Hence, what could be a space to positively inspire young black women is regarded as every other reality labeled show that works to subliminally convince viewers of their own inferiority.

 

Empire Empire_Cast_-_Official_Soundtrack_from_Season_One,_Album_Cover

Empire emerged as fox’s midseason drama starring Terrance Howard and Taraji P. Henson.

While the all black cast is initially reassuring, the cast swims in stereotypes that leaves black culture drowning in regression.      cookielyon

While the role of black masculinity is central to Empire, the true detriment of the show is perhaps most evident in the popularity of its leading lady Cookie Lyon, played by Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). While Henson is certainly beautiful and talented, this role reduces her to the sapphire caricature that plagues the contemporary black woman. From her loud, often crass speech, to her dangling weave, Cookie perpetuates an accepted but troublesome reoccurring image of black femininity.

Murder as Suicide     

Despite their troublesome images, the door is held open for sitcoms like Empire, daytime talk show “The Real” and Stacy Dash as news correspondent, as they provide a means for American culture to continually exploit blacks. Through disguising poison as progress, Fox aims to hypnotize blacks further into psychological slavery and internalized inferiority.

So I contest contemporary society’s silent suggestion that blacks may “find themselves” in the increasing number of black faces on today’s television. Collectively Empire, The Real and Stacy Dash (as news correspondent) epitomize the painting shackles gold and calling them a bracelets, or encouraging us to drink poison by telling us its Koolaid.

Yet many will contest this analysis and suggest that “it is only television” and that such an analysis is “looking to much into things.”  However it is the attack on the black subconscious that leads to the seemingly apparent suicide of culture through consciousness at the hand of the oppressed. However in actuality this seemingly apparent is a homicide at the hand of the the oppressed, who murders himself as the final demonstrative act of systematic racism.

Be critical-don’t kick away your own chair.

……….

There is NO problem with Black Women: Huffington Post Rebuttal

The Huffington Post recently published an article entitled “The Problem with Black Women” authored by journalist Kim Lute. Admittedly I was reluctant to read this article, as the title seems positioned to provoke unhealed racial tension, amongst the black female diaspora.

The title “The Problem with Black Women” disturbingly asserts that there is a universal problem with females of the black diaspora. Now, there is in fact a problem, but this problem is not with black women. This is not to suggest that there are not issues within the black female diaspora-there are. However, the black woman is both a traditional and contemporary shell for white anxiety. Thus, black women do not have any problems that were not conveniently cast upon them by westerners.

The problematically titled piece addresses friendship, or lack their of, between black women. Latte writes, “I often wonder if high-quality black friendships, formed in adulthood, are as easily attainable as our conferred 40 acres and a mule?”

The query is a relative one that rightfully parallels the conflict of reparations with relationships between black women. This analogy marks the intangible and tangible loss endured by Africans in America.

This assertion however, fails to intertwine with Lutte’s argument. Entirely saturated with internalized oppression, Lutte attempts to speak out on an issue, but ends up speaking against herself with a distorted conceptualizing of racial identity.

This deficit in understanding, lures Lutte to conjure an argument that reads like a script written by her oppressors themselves. Nevertheless, I have narrowed down my concerns to four parts of Ms. Lutte’s article.

kimlutte
1. Lutte paints her chocolate counterparts as burdened by color but is color struck herself

The article begins with a detailed description of the author’s aesthetic. While the victim credits her looks as the catalyst to her pain, the compartmentalizing of her looks as French Creole and not one of the many varieties of blackness speaks volumes of the exceptionality Lutte sees in her appearance:

“My French Creole features speak to a long history of miscegenation:green eyes, skin the color of a white peach and a sharp Puritan nose to match my thinly drawn Vermillion lips.”

It seems almost right that Lutte paint a picture of herself, as a means to paint a picture of the face that has complicated her platonic attempts. But perhaps more importantly, this statement allows readers to see how Ms. Lutte sees herself. While Lutte does go on to align herself with her blackness later in the essay, her assertions reveal that she sees her look as outside the normality of black women aesthetics.

The article is also flooded with color comparisons such as the following:

“My older sister, who is darker than me…”
“In fact, every time I see a gaggle of darker black girlfriends…”
As a journalist, author and the designated “light girl” in my coterie..”

Lutte’s juxtaposition between herself and browner black women demonstrates the issue to be beyond the dynamic of friendship. Rather, the issue lies in the perpetuation of color as the line of demarcation between females of the black diaspora. Thus, it is this perpetuation that is culpable for the lack of black female camaraderie .

Thus, the implied issue that Lutte suggests browner women have with her are seemingly a reflection of her own color conflicts. Thus, Ms. Lutte’s article acts as testimony to how the color complex manifests on contemporary black women.

2. This article conveniently paints blacks as the perpetuators of racism, ignoring the origin of diasporic conflict.

As a result, Lutte separates herself from black women and aligns herself with white women

Lute writes:

It’s not politically correct to question the behavior and negative tendencies of those in your own race, but sometimes it’s necessary for collective forward evolution.

When you juxtapose two diametrically opposite things you normally wouldn’t see coupled together, it should force you to reevaluate each and hopefully create a new appreciation of both, separately and as a whole. This has been the case with my white girlfriends and I hope one day it will be the case with my darker sisters.

In referencing her friendships with white women resulting from the adversity from her chocolate sisters, Lutte depicts a white savior as necessary to save blacks from themselves.
Now I acknowledge that there are issues within the black female dynamic. These issues however, are not cured in pursuing platonic relationships with those outside of our experience. Because of our struggle to navigate through America with the hue of our motherland, blacks have been issued a fractured consciousness which has mentally distanced us from our worth. Thus, Lutte suffers from the same severed consciousness in her pursuit of white friendships as the sun kissed women who reject her.

Lutte makes valid points, but presents her experience as singular-negating the reality of a shared experience amongst black women.

3.  The article is most damning because it is written by a black woman about black women

While it is disheartening that this article was written by a black women, my sentiments are not geared towards Ms. Lutte as she is merely performing the white man’s work. The concept of “lightness” and “darkness” is undoubtedly the influence of white supremacy. It is white supremacy that created this fabricated division to divide us so that we remain mentally enslaved. Lutte’s article fails in its attempt to cast her as the victim of her chocolate counterparts as it paints a vivid victim hood of the light skin struggle with the white man’s labeling.

I was advised to begin my rebuttal to Ms. Lutte with a proclamation of love. If you’ve read this far, you see that I failed to implement this suggestion. However, while I declined to begin with a testament of love I opted to end on such sentiment. While Ms. Lutte and I have skin colors as different as our perspectives, we have the same red blood rich in African ancestry running through our veins. For this reason, I hold hands with Ms. Lutte as we are both casualties of oppression.

Forging past the Fickle Bounds of Friendship

This oppression undoubtedly plagues issues of friendship between black women, to the point of extinction. Residing at the intersectionality of both gender and race, black women endure an identity fractured by western dominance.

With that said, Ms. Lutte and I share a bond deeper than the temperate bounds of friendship. So while we may not be friends, Ms. Lutte and I are sisters of the black diaspora. While racism complicates the bonds of friendship between black women in the fabrication of our inferiority, it cannot sever the bonds of sisterhood.

So I write to encourage females of the black diaspora to look beyond the fickle nature of friendship. Rather, I suggest we of the female black diaspora focus on maintaining our irreversible sister status. Liking one another comes secondary to loving one another unconditionally. For if the bounds of sisterhood were firmly placed between Ms. Lutte and myself as sisters of the black diaspora,  this article would have possible never been sent to print. I am less concerned with having lunch with my sisters as I am with having their loyalty. 

Thus,  friendship between black women may be ideal, sisterhood is essential.

As black women, we need to move beyond the fickle bonds of friendship and focus on being sisters. Failed communication can sever friendship, but not even death can shatter the depths of sisterhood. Discussions of friendship are trivial and a distraction to the equity of the black experience.

Thus, the “problem” with black women is that we exist in an identity that was drawn for us.  Our image, constructed as a means to imbed an inferiority that never existed.

Articles such as these, perform in this idea of inferiority. Articles such as these take the spotlight off the true faces of racial terrorism. This article demonstrates that freedom of speech is only as free as the individual who speaks. Yes, Ms. Lutte enjoys a degree of freedom depicted in her literacy and her platform. However, the freedom of her body negates the contents of her mind that is the pure product of colonialism. 

Ms. Lutte is not alone in the subtle shaping of her subconscious. Racism as an institution, binds us all to its wrath in as many variants as there are minutes in a day. Let Lutte’s article serve as testimony to the miles we must tred for a linear, not circular existence.

The Black Female Faces of My Childhood…

In honor of Women’s History Month I compiled a list to commemorating the brown faces that that shaped my childhood as a budding black woman. 

How many of these do you remember? 

 
Tia and Tamara Mowry from Sister Sister  ss

Who didn’t want to be the Mowry twins growing up? From their beautiful hair to their cute twin rhetoric, down to “Go home roger” they were sweet, classy and entertaining.

Brandy as Moesha  

bn

Brandy, as the first black Cinderella and the queen of the silver screen, Brandy was the queen of the 90s. Growing up I would hear Brandy on the radio, turn on the television and she would be there too! She showed the versatility of black femininity while only a child herself! 

 
Angela from Boy Meets World  Boy-Meets-World---Trina-McGree-then-jpg

This show was intoxicating, and it was pretty cool that Angela tamed bad boy Shawn Hunter. 

 
Kellie Shanygne Williams, as Laura Winslow on Family Matters  

Laura-3333-family-matters-6847274-378-512

Laura stole simultaneously stole the hearts of Steve Urkel and America  as the girl next door. 

 
Lark Voorhies, as Lisa Turtle on Saved By the Bell  

lv 

Stylish, assertive and cute: Lisa paved the way for many of the young black actress that would arise in the 90s. 

 
Stacy Dash as Dionne from Clueless  

sd

 Even though Cher was pegged the beauty,Dionne’s brown skin and thick locks stole every scene. It was also admirable that although Dionne looked like a model, she wanted to be a doctor.  

 
Patti Mayonaise from Doug

 Even though it was later revealed that Patty was just tan, as a child I admired Patti for her brown skin and raspy voice.  Patti 

 
Tatyana Ali as Ashley from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air

With her sepia skin, lush dark locks and the pipes to tackle Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” Tatyana was the girl we all wanted to be!   tatyana-ali-getty-2 

 
Reagan Gomez Preston as Zaria from the Parenthood
Zaria had the silkiest press in the nineties! Reagan-Gomez-Preston1

Meagan Good as Nina from Cousin Skeeter  

megangoodcousinskeeter
Although a supporting character, this was the beginning go several roles Good would launch in the early and mid 2000s 

 
Andrea Lewis as Hazel on Degrassi 

 
Lewis brought my shade to the forefront of my favorite series!  hazel2

Sarah Barrable Tishauer as Liberty from Degrassi  boring-liberty
As the cliche overachiever, I admired Liberty’s ambition, curly locks and assertive confidence!

Gabrielle Union as Keesha Hamilton from 7th Heaven 

gush
I was only eight years old when I watched the first episode of 7th Heaven. Seeing a young Gabrielle Union on my favorite show contributed to my confidence as a budding black woman. 

 
Susie from The Rugrats

Susie_Carmichael

Donning a hair style close to the hearts of many black women all the way down to the berets at the end -Susie literally mirrored black female childhood.  As a natural leader, Susie depicts black girls as beginning their reign as queens in their sandbox days. 

 Collaboratively these images capture the beauty, resilience, and intelligence of black womanhood. As an adult I can conceptualize just how meaningful these images were in crafting my confidence as a black woman. Cheers to these actresses for showcasing the many sides of black femininity.

Happy Women’s History Month!

Black Actress: A Positive Reflection of the Twenty-Something Black Woman

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Web series Black Actress emerges as the answers to the twenty something’s silent request for representation. Executive Produced by esteemed black actresses Essence Atkins (Smart Guy, Are We There Yet?) and Tatyana Ali (The Fresh Prince of Bel Air), Black Actress addresses Hollywood’s overt yet unstated issue with color.

As the creator and star of the show, Degrassi Alum Andrea Lewis captures the complexities of being black, female and aiming for the stars on Hollywood Walk of Fame and beyond.

Meet the Cast

Black Actress follows protagonist Kori Bailey’s journey through her acting career, friendships and romance. Each episode begins with a short but profound testimony from familiar faces such as (but not limited to) Tatyani Ali (Ashley from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air), Garcelle Beauvais (Fancy from The Jaime Foxx Show), Naturi Naughton (Notorious), and Jenifer Lewis (Think Like a Man). Offering testimony to the trials and triumphs of being black and female in Hollywood, these actresses shine light into Kori’s journey of self discovery. blackactressta

Set in New York City Black Actress captures the intimate ambiance of the big city and after a single episode the characters become people you care about. From the best friend who’s s comic and a confidant (Izzy, Allison Edwards-Crewe), to the boy you like but can’t let in (Romeo Stein played by Rob Vincent), to the comedic friend who shares your ambitions (Alica played by Suzannah Gugsa) Black Actress discards old tropes and creates a new images that reflects young black reality as opposed to westernized black fantasy.    p.txt

Andrea Lewis as Kori Bailey: With a crown full of curls, a gentle spirit and worldly ambition- Kori is the leading lady of Black Actress. Unlike the portrayals that come before her, Kori is not a heroine for the masses. Rather, Kori represents the cause and cure for her problems and with good company beside her, she shows that while the road to success is lonely, she is never alone.

Izzy: Kori’s best friend and confident, Izzy is as outgoing as she is wise. Izzy is there in Kori’s hour of need with an open heart and sound advice. In season 1 episode 4, Izzy proves wise beyond her years addressing Kori’s issues with the line “You make up your mind about how things are supposed to be and when it isn’t you lose all hope.” These words transcend the series and speak to any and every black woman who has inaudibly questioned her own worth.

Izzy also resoundingly asserts Kori as “complacent with the struggle.” For a black actress the seduction of struggle lures in every slammed door, and those that never opened to begin with. In the same breath, this seduction mirrors the plight of the black woman. To often our daily perils seem to roll off our shoulders only to eventually become how we feel about ourselves.

Alicia: Also an aspiring actress, Alicia identifies with Kori’s journey in landing that dream role. With her doe eyes and good intentions,Alicia represents the beauty in the socially awkward friend who adds to your character.

Romeo Stein: From rolling stone to a potential Mr. Right, Romeo Stein is Kori’s love interest. with his slim physique, chiseled features and baritromeosteinone voice, Romeo is surely eye candy, but his status as a math tutor adds depth to his good looks. Like Kori, Romeo is an aspiring actor and his presence adds a sweetness to her journey.

I personally find it very sweet that the series features black love as its romantic center. I commend the courage in Black Actress in showing black love as blossoming beyond the walls of doubt. There is something revolutionary about seeing butterflies between the kings and queens of the black diaspora.

Manicurist, Jean: Jean represents the confidant often found in those who render our routine services. Jean also represents those in our life who are solely able to see things simply. It is this simplicity that leads Jean to deter Kori from her dreams, a reality that all face in the pursuit of success. However, Jean and those like her embody the obstacles we see and hear when we take our eyes off our goals.

A New Trope is Born

What I find most beneficial about protagonist Kori is that she fails to fit into any of the stereotypes that have come to define black femininity. While there are many stereotypes that attached themselves to black women over the years, hyper sexuality, in addition to portrayals of black women as neck and eye rolling are perhaps the most unwavering.  blackactressal

Even protagonists that stray away from this cliche attitude, are depicted as sexually careless. Kori brings a refreshing new edge to this portrayal. While there are no implications that the protagonist is a virgin, her sexual integrity is maintained throughout the series. Bailey also deters from the “weave” that has come to be expected of black women. With a beautiful crown of curls and a pleasant disposition, Kori issues a portrayal of a black female who is not only natural and classy but likable and nice.

To be Black and Beautiful

It is also worth mentioning that the show features actresses from throughout the black female color spectrum. It is especially empowering that the three leads are variants of brown. While the beige and butternut women are certainly present, they align the background. With that said, I also like that the black starlets all exude different variants of natural hair. All actresses don an assortment of styles from silk presses and braids, to a casual blowout. This depiction not only makes the characters approachable in their aesthetics, but demonstrates that there are many ways of beauty within blackness.

A Victory for All

Although it was rather hard to watch, Black Actress‘ portrayal of the internal conflict between black women in the strive for success, the portrayal was a painful yet accurate.

franchesca-tv-one-black-series-blallywood

Season 1 Episode 3, guest starring Reagan Gomez Preston (Zaria from The Parenthood), and Franchesca Ramsey (Sh*t white girls say to black girls) as Daniela, features Bailey pursuing yet another audition but with a familiar face on the panel. Prior to the audition, actress turned casting director Daniela makes a point to converse with Kori when they casually cross paths. Flash forward to the day of the audition, Kori wows despite being issued a deterring suggestion from Daniela. After completing the audition, Kori’s performance earns three nods from the panel but a solid and smug “no” from Daniela. Daniela insultingly refers to Kori’s performance as “community center” level and Kori is eliminated  a candidate for the role.

While this is certainly not always the case, black women are largely conditioned by society to believe that there is a sole spot for success. This belief causes many black women to sabotage one another to increase personal opportunity. This episode issues the necessary visibility as an initial step in the healing process. For in a world where the support of other factions is uncertain, we as black women need to support one another.

Black Actress features insight from black actress Aisha Hinds who brilliantly remarks: “ If one of us makes it, we all make it.” While it is often hard to accept personal loss, one black female foot across the finish line, is a victory for all.

An Inspiration for All

In so many ways, being a black actress is synonymous with being any variant of a black female professional. So while I am not a black actress, I am a black woman, an aspiring academic and a black female writer. My attributes of self  align me with most, if not all the dynamics presented on the series. From tension with other black women in the field, to grudgingly donning the stench of my insecurities under my perfume, Kori Bailey is very much myself and many other twenty- something black girls on a challenging yet beautiful journey to womanhood.

Despite whether viewers of Black Actress are in fact pursuing a career in Hollywood, in a way we are all awaiting our big break. In featuring Miss Lewis and her project on Whispers of Womanism, I hope to inspire others to consider their journeys as a black women and artists.  Inspired by her experiences, Lewis manifested her own destiny, thus she created her own “big break.” Rather than compartmentalizing them as hobbies, Lewis incorporates her love for acting, writing and singing into Black Actress.

May her courage inspire our generation to see beyond settling into the endless feat of creating.

Please help fund Black Actress by donating to the Kickstarter Campaign. Your donation will go to funding the remainder of Black Actress Season 2, in addition to future JungleWild Productions.

Thank you in advance for your contribution to positive portrayals of black women in media/popular culture!

Why I Love Being a Black Woman

Dealt an impossible hand of gender and race intersectionality, black women, both traditionally and currently walk an unpaved path on bare feet. All the while, she emerges as the epitome of the rose that grew from concrete. Words fall short in defining my pride of being born both  black and female

So while I do not rejoice in the circumstances of which I am predisposed too, I enjoy being a bearer of an incomparable legacy.

Here are some reasons why:

Our ability to make something out of nothing

Stolen from our native land, we have built ourselves up from the nothing cast upon us by western conquerers. While we all may not be born into monetary wealth, as kings and queens of the motherland we are born into the royalty of our history.

Our Timeless Beauty

We age like fine wine, Call it karma’s form of reparations…

The Face, The Body and The Hairstock-footage-sexy-female-dancer-with-afro-white-v-ntsc

From our strong nose and our full lips and to our strong thighs, our beauty is as rich as the past that beholds us in its memory…

I also appreciate that as black women we come in a variety of skin tones, body types, hair textures and facial features. We are truly “every woman” just like Chaka Khan said.

The combination of these features enable black women to encompass and master the duality of beauty and sensuality- a hauntingly fascinating feat.

Our Style

Silhouette With Clipping Path of Business Woman with BriefcaseMaybe it is the confidence, may it is the walk. Nevertheless, no one works an outfit or a room quite like a black woman.

The Versatility of our Talent

From:

Madam CJ Walker to Lisa Price

Dorothy Dandridge to Kerry Washington

Dorothy West to Toni Morrison

Audre Lorde to bell hooks

 Beyonce to First Lady Michelle Obama

Black women have demonstrated the ability to  be beautiful, talented, intelligent, and classy leaders of our society.

From being millionaires to being great mothers. From being nationally acclaimed scholars to entertaining in arenas around the globe, we as black epitomize what it means to be multifaceted. We have never and will never be just one thing.

So as we celebrate Women’s History Month, I would like to take this moment to toast black femininity as our struggles represent the true dynamics of “woman,” a term that initially excluded us as females of African descent.

Cheers!

What do you love most about black women?

How the ‘Ayo’ Video epitomizes the Pollution of Popular Culture

As heartthrobs, the male celebrity has an unstated ability to shape the self esteem of the females who adore him. This is an elevated ability silently extended to the black male celebrity and an opportunity that is often taken to uplift the “light skinned,” “mixed” or non black “exotic” woman.  With this being said, Chris Brown, as the heartthrob he’s been for over ten years, has much more influence than rapper Tyga who is also featured on the song. For that reason, Brown will be the primary focus of this piece. Screen-Shot-2015-02-03-at-10.43.45-AM

Lost Love for a Lyric 

At the risk of ridicule, I will admit to being a fan of Chris Brown. Ever since seeing him perform/speak at Pace University as a seventeen year old high school student, I’ve been a fan of his talent. Unlike most of the world, Chris’ shenanigans and behavior haven’t blinded me from his musical abilities.  My reaction stems from the belief that stars get too much attention, and over the last few years the politics of popular culture have seemed more strategic than spontaneous, and have prompted my indifference.

With this being said, Brown’s recent video for his song “Ayo” raises an eyebrow. Despite the misogyny encouraged over an intoxicating beat, I found myself in the lyric about “real hair,” appreciating that women who refrain from store bought strands were celebrated over their weaved or wigged out counterparts. I thought if Chris Brown was praising women for authentic strands, maybe young women would be inspired to embrace theirs.

However, these sentiments were cut short upon seeing the video for the song.  To say that this video, which  features numerous racially ambiguous women to embody the women with “real” hair, fell short of my expectations would be an understatement.  This fact is emphasized in their juxtaposition to the sole “brown” or black woman in the video. With a cameo by comedian and actor Mike Epps, Brown and collaborator Tyga make an attempt at comedy, at the expense of the black woman.

In this video Epps plays a police officer. Viewers see him  parked on a bridge watching Brown and Tyga drag race expensive cars.  It is not until he gets a call on the radio that we see a black woman emerge from his lap, clearly interrupted in performing fellatio. In a later scene,  we see this woman’s short wig pulled from her scalp by Epps, revealing a white wig or stocking cap. The gesture is an attempt at the crude humor that made Epps a household name, however the desired chuckles are stifled as my black femininity is the butt of the joke.

“Overseeing” the Black Male Celebrity

While I do not excuse Brown and Tyga for the images, the implementation of such images is undoubtedly under the execution of the white executives that conveniently oversee the video. The behind the scenes footage revealed Andrew Listerman (of Riveting Entertainment) as the executive producer and Colin Tilly as the director, both white men. This revelation continues in the pattern of white males narrating, and profiting from the black experience.

In this particular instance we have white men narrating the experience of the young black male celebrity. This experience is of course as cliche as expected, consisting of expensive cars, recklessness embodied in the dumping of cash in a pool, a large mansion full of scantily clad women with creamy skin and big hair and the sole black woman ridiculed and degraded while her lighter counterparts are praised.

The fair skinned, racially ambiguous women adorn the lavish mansion like a pretty, expensive ornament, whereas the darker woman performs a cheap thrill. These images represent pawns in a similar game, each with vastly different purposes. Under the surveillance and creative direction of white males, these women perform in a manner similar to the plantation. The women, despite their hue are all objectified, but it is solely the black woman who is hyper sexualized. This continued perpetuation of the less beautiful, but sexually exploited black woman anchors black female portrayal to the western perception that has hovered over her since her arrival in the late 17th century.

The issue with this perpetuation surfacing in a Chris Brown music video is that despite the diversity of Brown’s fan base, it remains largely composed of black women. Thus, it’s placement serves as a subliminal reminder to black women of their place not only with the rich and famous, but in society. In the same breath, we see that western constructs of blackness surface in the black male celebrity, casually returning its female counterpart to her past portrayals for a good laugh. i-met-chris-brown

Who exactly isn’t loyal?

Ironically, Brown made waves last spring with the release of his hit single “Loyal.” This single persuasively croons his audience to understand that loyalty is non existent for the male celebrity. Interestingly, I feel this loyalty is just as fickle for the black female. Our participation is solicited for television show ratings, concert and album sales yet our portrayal is a common source of ridicule at the expense of allowing our lighter or racially ambiguous counterparts to shine.

I’m also personally tired of the light skin/long hair assumption. It seems many assume light skin is synonymous with long hair, when long hair, like light skin is synonymous with an individual’s gene pool. Women of darker complexions are unfairly  eliminated from the long hair aesthetic, and this Chris Brown video is no exception.  While admittedly I find the video personally problematic, this portrayal is of larger offense. The ‘Ayo’ video perpetuates the constructs of blackness created to uphold white supremacy.

What is frightening about this portrayal is that is operates subliminally. So while it may just seem like a coincidence that the lighter woman are cast as eye candy, this image is carefully implemented to target the sub conscious of its viewers.

The Stain of Subversive Statements 

Due to contemporary society’s infatuation with the indirect approach, many feel because it is not shouted from the mountaintop that “black women are ugly” or “black women are bald headed” that we as a country have come along way. I would actually say that the subconscious approach is much worse.

Now the millions of girls who consider Brown as their dream man will see racial ambiguity as the way to center stage in his videos. His young fans of darker complexion will internalize their reduction to performing fellatio in order to gain airtime. They will also internalize that it is only the white and light skin girls who have the “real hair” celebrated in the song.

Many will counter my observations, and render Brown and his team clueless to such observations. And while that assessment may be an excuse for some, this oblivion is the very point of this discussion.

To live on your knees or die on your feet?

The cavalier disregard for clearly racist intentions is the catalyst for an enlightened individuaskellykneesl’s daily frustration. We live in a world where That So Raven, excuses commentary that correlated the First Lady’s looks to an ape. We live in a world were Pharrell Williams preaches of a “new black” but steals some of the “old black” to breed success for a blue- eyed soul singer.

Together, Raven, Williams and others like them urge the black diaspora to forget in order to “live.” However, to forget is to exist on your knees, but to remember is to live on your feet. Those who came before us died on their feet for us to have the opportunity to live on ours. Thus,  anyone who denies the perils of the past is doomed to a lifetime of mental enslavement.

Now while I am not suggesting that popular culture is without silver lining, I am suggesting that its faults not be overlooked. It is imperative that we as a community acknowledge that popular culture is often a source of psychological slavery, branded as entertainment.

“Ayo” joins numerous other pop culture performances created for viewers to dance their way back to slavery. “Ayo,” like many others before it, casts a beat and an image to steer viewers back into the same shackles that bound us to the dreams of our western conquerors- dreams of our royalty recreated in the image of their superiority. It is through the simplicity of a music video or catchy tune that blacks continue to manifest the destiny of their oppressors.

Now, I don’t write this article to bash Chris Brown as a person or as an entertainer. I also do not wish to dispel his presence as one of the greatest talents of our generation. I do however wish to expose the power of his platform to exploit the masses.  I can only hope that my analysis provides insight into the power of the black male celebrity. But perhaps most importantly, I hope my assertions shed light on how both the “entertainer” and the “entertained” play roles in perpetuating pollution via popular culture.

 

I am NOT Mary Jane

Being-Mary-Jane-Season-2-pic-7

In recent conversation with a coworker, I faced an unsettling reality of black female influence on the silver screen. Due to our inability to talk about much else, our conversation lingered to the recent episode of Being Mary Jane. Specifically, we discussed Mary Jane’s intentional attempt to become impregnated by an ex boyfriend who currently has a pregnant girlfriend.

Yes, you heard me correctly…

WE do that

This act, performed by one of the most celebrated and admired black protagonists of contemporary culture, festered disappointment in Mary Jane the character and Being Mary Jane the series. However, this conversation with my coworker, who incidentally is also in her thirties like protagonist Mary Jane, revealed art to parallel the black experience in the eyes of many. While we were both perturbed by Mary Jane’s action, my coworker issued the response: “we do that,” which was just as unsettling as Mary Jane’s actions:

This response is troubling as it issues the instant acceptance of Mary Jane’s actions as reflective of truth. Perhaps even more unsettling is the knowledge that my coworker’s comment mirrors the perspective of many Being Mary Jane viewers. My query following this conversation, and this particular episode is as follows: how does this advance the portrayal of black femininity beyond stereotypes?

The answer is that it doesn’t.

Nothing about Mary Jane’s intentional act to become pregnant with a man already expecting a child, advances the image of black women in the face of stereotypes that have come to define her. While this dynamic does not advance the image of the black women, it does paint the black woman as competitive with the white women who breed with black men** Mary Jane’s request for a baby from a soon to be new father, paints an unsettling desperation in the black woman who desperately seeks the black familial unit. Although I acknowledge the struggle professional black women face in the pursuit of a worthy mate, this depiction paints the successful woman as obsessed with drama as their less educated and less prestigious counterparts that have made a home on reality television. The inability of the series to separate the successful and educated black woman from such pettiness, suggests that the black female’s addiction to drama is ingrained and irreversible despite her education, prestige or success.

** Mary Jane’s ex, refused her advances because he impreganted his (white) girlfriend.

The Telling of Two Suitors

Interestingly,  Mary Jane’s pursuit for her ex lover’s baby, comes after the series reveals that Mary Jane has two, very qualified suitors. One suitor is Shelton (Gary Dourdan), an esteemed lawyer who matches Mary Jane’s education and success. He expresses an interest in her, and despite having no other visible options is sidelined for her pursuit of ex lover David. Mary Jane is also seen having casual sex with a man who is reduced to the saved phone entry of “ Cutty Buddy.” When the mystery man offers to spoon with Mary Jane, she declines and leaves abruptly after their horizontal engagements. Tdavidbmjhis depiction cheapens Mary Jane’s depiction as “looking” for love, as she settles for casual sex while refusing offers for “something more.”  Gary-Dourdan-pf1

While the previous characters and scenarios adds to the anticipated drama of the weekly series, ratings are sought at the expense of black female integrity. Mary Jane has willing suitors that all have multiple attributes to offer her, yet she continually reaches to her ex lover who is both physically and emotionally unavailable. While some may attribute Mary Jane’s actions to reflect love, they more so represent a black women who is addicted to drama. Mary Jane’s disinterest in her available suitors reflect the reality that they can’t offer her the drama promised in the pursuit of her ex lover.

The Negro Woman has No Hair

Mary Jane’s behavior works correlates to the dynamics of her aesthetics as presented on the show. In the episode Drink, Pray, Let Go, Being Mary Jane followed in the footsteps of Abc’s How To Get Away With Murder. Drink,  Pray, Let Go features Mary Jane’s real hair. While HTGAWM features Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) having her natural hair combed by her mother (Cisely Tyson), Being Mary Jane features Mary Jane as having her weave sewn in by her niece.

Now, I will acknowledge that the fake hair epidemic has dramatically infected the black female community. I will also acknowledge that the black female contribution to the million dollar industry of hair is a direct result of western encouragement for black women to hate the hair they were born with. The portrayals on both series do little to dispel the contemporary assumption that black women are without hair and dependent on purchased white hair to appear beautiful.

So, while many may say “we do that” to the image of Mary Jane having her hair sewn in for the world to see, I say it is another step backwards into the pit of harmful controlling images of black women.  maxresdefault

As she has her tracks sewn in, Mary Jane confesses that it is out of fear that she called on her estranged niece to do her hair. Mary Jane’s fear stems from potentially appearing “au natural” and potentially compartmentalized  as “average” in contrast to the glamorous, intelligent woman they have come to expect.

While the silent struggle of black women to find their beauty in a white world is true, this reality should not be implemented in a scene about weave. Due to the writer’s decision to present this battle as they did, what will stand out in the scene is that Mary Jane’s hair isn’t real, and that she had her hair sewn up, like a hole in a blouse. Thus, the purpose of the scene is sidelined in the stereotypical performance of a black woman having to “put on” her beauty.

This was the identical issue that I had with Viola Davis removing her wig. Yes, it demonstrates the complexities of assimilation thrust into the black woman, but moreso it simplifies her battle in performing how she is believed to behave under such pressures.

There is no “I” in “We do that”

But I will be honest and say that my main resentment in these portrayals is that despite being fiction, Being Mary Jane is believed to reflect the black female reality. Mary Jane, as a character on a black network played by a black actress is seen to be the contemporary black women.   being-mary-jane

But, I can honestly and confidently say that I am not Mary Jane, and neither are countless other black women scattered across the black diaspora. This portrayal of black femininity is potentially seen as more valid as it appoints veteran actress Gabrielle Union to the role, and finds it home on a black network. In addition to these facts, Mary Jane is also seen as the product of writer, producer and fellow black woman, Mara Brock Akil.

However, Mary Jane is not Akil’s creation, she is a manifestation of the black female construct crafted of western influence. Mary Jane mimics the black women of reality television, images crafted to force black women subliminally seducing into mental enslavement.

If we are mentally enslaved we can continue to be controlled, and the western world can continue to stand on our backs and use them as their pedestals. Howard University professor Dr. Greg Carr once said “ nothing has been done for the black community that hasn’t benefited western society.” This statement ran through my head for years after he said it, and it bears so much truth in the recent influx of black female faces on television.

While the influx of black female faces sparked initial celebration in the black community, these images have only been used to imbed our complexities, not solve them. In three short years we went from the promise of Olivia Pope, to the sapphire- esque Cookie of Empire. Three years created a mirage of black faces carefully picked to remind black viewers of themselves, Appearing to paint black portrayal as linear, each black face that appears on the silver screen is carefully selected to remind the targeted black viewer of themselves. However these our move from Olivia Pope’s natural wet hair in the shower to Keating’s wig removal to Mary Jane’s sewing session, reveal the state of black female portrayal as circular and consistent in returning to the stereotypes that have followed us for centuries.

Annalise as lead Assimilationist: How to Get Away with Murder’s Embodiment of Black Female Pressure to “look” the Part

Admittedly, when I first heard of How to Get Away With Murder I expected entertainment. While it certainly it keeps me on the edge of my seat, the newest #tgit (Thank God It’s Thursday-ABC) addition does something more.  With its lead Annalise Keating played by Viola Davis and supporting actress Aja Naomi King as Michaela Pratt, How to Get Away with Murder depicts the black female’s battle to fit in. The spring season of How To Get Away With Murder exposed both Annalise and her protege as women who stop at nothing to bear the image of success.    vdavis

Keating, as stoic as she is successful, exudes a masculinized sexuality. She is sexy because she is educated, successful and powerful, challenging the casual onlooker to see past traditional attributes of attractiveness. However, the show features Keating’s masculinized sexuality in addition to her strides to cultivate the image that she wears for the world.

Wigs, and Name change as The Ways of a Wilted Woman

Keating’s relationship with her wigs depict Keating’s battle to “look the part.” Now, contemporary culture has enlightened the public to the reality that most public figures use artificial hair to achieve the image of perfection. However How To Get Away With Murder’s decision to expose this as Annalise’s reality is more informative than entertaining.      vdavisnowig

When interviewed about the first time Annalise’s character removed her wig, Davis speaks to wanting to show the layers of her character. But, Davis’ performance does something more. In the casualness of her deed, Davis shows that black women do not in fact “wake up like this” (as proclaimed by songstress Beyoncé).

While I personally feel as if Annalise’s revelation does more harm than good to the already challenged aesthetics of black women, her actions do showcase an important reality of what assimilation means for the black female.

Assimilation is personal modification of physical or mental attributes to blend into the dominant culture. As members of a race and gender believed to be inferior, black women have a unique relationship to assimilation. This battle is particularly daunting for black women who are placed at the bottom of the aesthetic and socioeconomic wavelength. Thus, society beacons a silent request for the black women’s participation in acts of assimilation.

The show also works to showcase a name as a means of assimilation. Annalise’s name revelation by her mother (Ciseley Tyson) Tyson exposes Annalise as bearing the facade of success at the expense of remembering where she comes from. So not only does Annalise don a wig to mask the reality of her appearance, she dons a fake name to mask the reality of her origins.

As a womhtgawmnowigan who lacks racial ambiguity in appearance, Annalise strives to cultivate other signifiers that mirror the dominant race. Her hair, coarse and short is veiled through a wig that is silky and moveable. Her name, reminiscent of the hospitality of the south is replaced by a more elite- sounding choice. The result is a name that sounds more city than country. Annalise is representative of the black girl often central in traditional novels narrating the black experience, authored by celebrated writers like Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. These characters are born beautiful, but are ugly in the eyes of a white dominated society.

Nevertheless, my assertions are not to suggest that Annalise is without self-esteem, but does mean to suggest that she faces a conflict unique to black women. True, all women face pressure in the pursuit of beauty, however not all woman feel this pressure in the impossibility of standards that exclude them.

Michaela and the Mask of Matrimony and Club Monaco          

Michaela, Annalise’s tighajagiftly wound protege, paints herself in Annalise’s image by working towards possessing the skill and presence Annalise delivers in her career. In the first installment of the series, we are introduced to Michaela Pratt: the proper, poised, ivy- league educated and soon-to-be wife of what seems to be the next Barack Obama. Placed at the top of her class, Michaela is a shoe in for law school, but the road is not as smooth as anticipated.

Towards the end of the season we learn that Pratt too is presenting a facade. We learn that her proper speech and posh clothing veil the reality of a southern, working class background. Ironically, we gather this information in Pratt’s prenuptial discussion with her future mother in law. When the conversation becomes heated, Pratt raises her hmichaela-voulait-desesperement-la-statueand to meet the face of her future mother in law. In the simple raise of a palm, Pratt unveiled her “poor” upbringing, as the impoverished are traditionally attributed to violence, to the contrary of their wealthier counterparts. Michaela’s efforts in assimilation are to appear in possession of the life she is working towards. Thus, she is dressing for the life she wants, not the life she has.

Michaela’s marital strides represent the traditional bounds of womanhood, where women would marry into the lives that would elevate or mainmichaelaaidentain a particular place in society. Michaela’s efforts further in her desire to form a black power couple with prospective husband Aidan Walker. These efforts dwindle in the unwillingness of her partner to love her when she needs him most, and his compartmentalized preference for men.  While Michaela develops more confidence as the series advances, she was originally more than willing to overlook the flaws and sexual preference of her prince in exchange for his role in transforming her image.

Efforts in cultivating image make the relationship between blacks and material is a fickle one. While it is commonly stated that blacks covet white wealth in their acquisition of material, I beg to differ. One, the previous assertion suggests that all whites are wealthy, which is simply untrue. However, blacks read differently than the dominant race. Thus their often subconscious desire for visibility, often boils down to image or attire. Thus, it is not Michaela’s wardrobe acting a means to embody the life she wants that is problematic, but rather her desire to veil her origins. In the efforts to distance themselves from their origins both Michaela and Annalise depict the shame that culture teaches blacks to feel for their humble beginnings.

In closing, Thursday’s latest edition instructs viewers on “how to get away with” much more than murder. This message in assimilation reflects a society that still fails to fully accept black women. This suggests that there is still no place at the top for the black woman who fails to meet the aesthetic or socioeconomic image of those deemed worthy of such a lifestyle. While there is little room for the black woman who fails to meet western beauty and socio-economic status, it seems there is plenty of room for her conformity.