The Black Mother and The Plight For Humanity

In a climate where women’s issues maintain central placement, it is imperative that black women take note of their treatment in American society. Particularly, the illusion of progress, seduces many to believe that black women are part of the #metoo era that, summoned by another feminist wave, started with a chain of sexual assault victims and transitioned into abortion and reproductive rights. This #metoo era exposes white women and the non-black woman of color as saying #metoo to white male supremacy rather than to one another. For clarity, what I mean is that the hashtag, despite seeming to delineate the white woman and non-black woman of color as victims of white supremacy, the reveals the African adjacent’s desire to mimic their white male oppressors. 

This praxis proves pedagogical to the black woman. Specifically, the masked intentions and functionality of white supremacy often manifest through gender politics. For this reason, the black woman must say #mefirst before she says #metoo. 

We live in a world that values white women and the non black woman of color in a way that it refuses to value the black woman. Reproductive laws exist to ensure that the white population remains the majority. This reproductive hierarchy is perhaps best illustrated by egg donor industries. Egg donor industries offer thousands of dollars to African adjacent women to ensure their presence among the growing population remains lucrative despite black fertility. I say this to emphasize that the black woman who says #metoo signs on to a gradual genocide guised as girl power. 

The case for black women as #mefirst practitioners is perhaps best delineated in how America treats black mothers, who lie on the mutated margins of female reproductive politics.  

*****

On the last Saturday in June, The New York Times published an article entitled: “A bullet, a miscarriage and an unthinkable question: Who’s the victim, and who is to blame?” The article addressed twenty-seven year old Marshae Jones’s indictment in the murder of her fetus. Jones, who was allegedly involved in a quarrel with her co-worker, suffered a shot to the abdomen that resulted in her fetus’s death. Though Jones’s adversary cast the fatal bullet into Jones’s abdomen, the fetus’s death is apparently her fault. The charges against Jones were eventually dropped, but the question remains: why was Jones even placed in this predicament to begin with? Thus, while the case, article title, and article content place victimhood at it core, its subject engenders something far more deviant. 

The case’s media perpetuation proves parallel to Margaret Garner who in the 19th century gained notoriety for her infant child’s death. Though inciting many contemporary discussions surrounding black femininity and victimhood, the case pondered whether Garner, an enslaved woman, could even commit murder. Garner of course would be charged with destroying property, but to many, Garner remains remembered as a murderer. In this case, Garner is not a mother, or a woman cognitively wounded by enslavement, but a menace to an anti-black society. Similar to Garner, Jones is not a mother, but a criminal. Both women illustrate how the white media twists the black narrative to depict the black woman as unfit for motherhood. To villanize the black mother is no small feat; it is a conspiracy to attack a culture at its roots. 

The #metoo movement functions to ensure that the African adjacent maternal figure remains chaste and sacred, a move the African adjacent pursue through victimhood. This road to chastity, paved in victimhood, occurs at the expense of the black woman who remains demonized. Thus, in order for the black collective to actualize #mefirst, we must collectively uphold the black woman as queen. 

Unlike white and non-black collectives, the black plight is not about claiming victimhood. Rather, our plight is to claim our humanity. The African adjacent claim victimhood as a testament to their humanity. Yet for the black collective, to claim our humanity is to acknowledge that our mothers have been victimized by a poisonous system, but that our ability to survive and thrive in the face of adversity, bears a testament to our pre-humane status. By pre-humane status, I assert that black humanity births general humanity. In short, there would be no “humanity” without black people.

In this anti-black society, black people remain criminalized for “human” behavior.  Garner was a human being seeking to counter inhuman conditions, yet punished like an animal for seeking to inact personification. Humans are contentious creatures, but the conflicts of those born black remain portrayed as idiosyncratic of innate criminality. In the instances of Margaret Garner and Marshae Jones, their lack of humanity proves contentious to their roles as mothers. Mothers are human, and an anti-black society thrives on its ability to counter black maternity by insistently infringing on black rights consistent with their status as human. 

This post is not to make an “All lives matter” comparison between human rights and the rights of black people, nor are my claims to encourage black women say #metoo to humanity. I do, however, wish to assert that we as collective seize our humanity by acknowledging our exclusion. I contend that our response be not to demand inclusion but to prioritize ourselves amongst ourselves. 

Black mothers matter because black people matter. Black women are the roots of black culture and identity; as a collective, we must protect the mother of humanity by honing her deserved but deprived centrality. 


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She’s Gotta Have it, but She Can’t Have it All

On the surface, Spike Lee appears to deliver a revolutionary protagonist in his Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It. Nola Darling (DeWanda Wise) is not only outspoken, intelligent, and artistically provocative, she’s brown-skinned. She isn’t even an Ashley Banks or Dionne Davenport type that intrigues the European gaze with a blackness that simultaneously appeases a European and African aesthetic. Though her eyes are hazel, Nola functions to symbolizes a purposeful blackness illuminated by enlightened artwork. Nola intentionally subscribes to a presumedly African aesthetic with her cocoa brown skin, braid extensions, and a struggle she makes beautiful with her art. 

Despite her very intentional casting and characterization, Nola Darling failed to resonate with me. Simply put, I didn’t believe her. This incredulity speaks to the series’s conception, not the acting. Nola, a character resulting from a systemized gaze, deeply contemplates every aspect of life but her sexuality. Notably, in season 2, a seemingly resonant racial conversation with a black man about art and identity leads to casual sexual encounter that lacks the critical engagement of the conversation that preceded it. Though I do not mean to prescribe sexual chastity as an end goal for black women, I do I find it odd that Nola is so unique intellectually but exudes the same sexual behavior consistent with how the media consistently depicts black people. To be blunt, how is such an artistically and intellectually curious person so sexually basic? 

I’ll return to these points later in this post.

……………

I wrote a review of Spike Lee’s Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It almost two years ago. In the review, I mentioned Laura Nelson, a black woman hung over a bridge alongside her son in a public death largely erased by his story. Her murder, a spectacle and portrait of American horror, serves as a summation for black femininity.  Interestingly, the second season of She’s Gotta Have It concludes with a provocative portrait painted by Nola Darling that channels Laura Nelson. Both woman inevitably hold hands in a shared narrative; however, their overt connection ends the series where it should have began. 

Moreover, the final episode of the Netflix series revisits the query: Who owns black pain? Famed novelist Zadie Smith tackles this query in essay “Getting In and Out: Who Owns Black Pain” where she examines Jordan Peele’s film Get Out and Dana Shultz’s Open Casket portrait which recreates Emmett Till as he lay mutilated in his casket. In examining these examples, Zadie Smith inquires who, if anyone, has a right to black pain? Her argument meditates heavily on an identity she labels “biracial” and even intertwines her children who she references as historically “quadroons.” Her prose, though eloquent and resounding, like the final episode of Spike Lee’s Netflix series, illustrates the peristent query-conflicts surrounding representation, authority, and black pain. 

Smith’s essay, addressing the peculiar pain that follows deriving from rape, evokes a common contemplation regarding what is means to be biracial. But, who is to articulate the pain of the woman forced to look into the face of a child who resembled her oppressor? I pose these questions to preface the following: It is hard if not impossible to take the contemplation of black pain seriously from someone who has made the oppressor her husband.  Smith does not own black pain because she does not hone black pain; rather, Smith re-creates a specific black female pain in her conjugal choice. I say this not to reprimand Smith or castigate her choices, but to underscore that re-presentation remains a central yet under-discussed discourse with regards to black identity, the black experience, and black pain. Smith re-presents black pain in a contractual sexuality, as does She Gotta Have It through protagonist Nola Darling.

While Lee is not married to the man in a conventional sense, his “art” delineates an espousal to western ideals. Lee is unable to divorce western ideals due to an overt inability to acknoweldge their influence on him as director/creator. Specifically, Lee creates black characters whose sexuality and sexual behavior reflects a systemic trauma. Sexualized physically and mentally, black sexuality is not to be taken lightly. Black sexuality constitutes a performance that though seemingly rooted in pleasure, remains anchored in black pain. 

She’s Gotta Have It, illustrates multiple black woman attempting to hone a sexualized pain: Nola as an artist, Clorinda as a young professional, and Mekka as a budding businesswoman. All the black women featured on the series have a dissonant relationship to sexuality. Clorinda, who sleeps with an older man who is also a leading force in gentrifying Brooklyn, realizes her sexual commerce actualizes professional and personal bankruptcy. Clorinda’s sexual performance delineates a black woman attempting to see herself on the other side of oppression. What happens, of course, is that she engenders a cold reminder that she is perhaps worse off then those in her collective. Clorida’s false belief that her position beside white men under the covers detaches her from societal oppression, deals a hard blow when she realizes her systemized subjugation is not only outside of her window but in her bed.

In season one, viewers witness Mekka opt for butt injections to enhance her occupational performance. The result proves catastrophic as Mekka’s injections fester her physical and psychological disfigurement. This depiction re-presents the black female mutilation that follows systemically induced pursuits to acquire what the black woman naturally possesses.

Nola depicts this shared pursuit in her portrait, where she paints herself as hanging by her braid extensions. These braids re-present the black female body and black female personhood as lynched by the beauty industry and on a larger scale, American culture. The hair industry, an industry built on black female emulation, strips the black woman of her beauty and creates black pain. She’s Gotta Have It re-creates said pain and re-presents she who is systemically raped. Re-presentation though, is not freedom; rather, representation functions as a re-manifestation of white hegemony.

Nola’s re-manifestation ruffles feathers in illustrating a pain Mekka views as private. Nola’s portrait resonates with Mekka because their pain is a shared pain; both women, however, individualize a collective pain. This indiviualized scope becomes obvious in Nola’s use of the word “my.” Individualized pain or trauma is a privelege, a shared pain mainfested seperately marks a systemic and cyclical disenfranchisement. Similarly, Mekka’s trauma marks a detachment from other black women who don’t share her physical scars. Mekka’s words illustrate that she fails to see her physical condition as reflecting a scarred mental state. Black people actualize the wounds of a colonized past physicality personified by our last names and our English proficiency. So when Mekka asks Nola why why she chose to sexualize black female pain, this query, while valid, separates the part from the whole. Black pain is inherently sexualized just as sexuality inherently connects to trauma. Re-presentation, as depicted through Nola and Mekka’s discussion, fails the black collective time and time again, because it dismembers a collective pain into a digestible form fit for entertainment. 

To own black pain is to “present” black pain. To present is to endure decoloniation and seek to solve, not to re-present what the oppressed already know to be true. Re-presentation dominates She’s Gotta Have It. Nola represents Laura Nelson and all the other faceless black women subject to the horror their blackness imbues; she does not, however, progress this narrative. If anything, Nola’s characterization proves that though Nelson’s body was eventually cut down, she still phantasmocially sways in the wind; the disdain to black feminity a public sight consummated by re-presentation.

Nola, re-presentats a particular kind of black female pain that follows a cognitively free protagonist who performs a traumatized sexuality that functions as libratory. This trauma is perhaps best illustrated through Nola as a home wrecker to a black family; here, Lee re-presents a pervasive image that follows the black woman in her contemporary casting. The black woman of course is not a homewrecker but she who derives from a home wrecked by the very systemic issues to which her continual re-presentation places her on the wrong side.  

What is perhaps most interesting about re-presentation as it appears in the series, is that it underscores Lee’s selective imagination. Particularly, Lee re-presents an idealized relationship between blacks and Puerto Ricans. This is an obvious play to insure the series appears “inclusive;” however, as a black woman born and raised in New York City,  I have never felt a kinship with the Latinx community that did not attempt to exist on denigrating the black collective at large. This though, is not the point. The point is that Lee presents an idealized diasporic relationship between black people throughout the diaspora, but fails to imagine, or “present” a black woman as detached from systemized forces he overwrights to unite the displaced Africans in New York City and Puerto Rico. Or, and admittedly this is likely the truth, does Nola Darling embody this attempt to “present” the rebellious being of black female form in a contemporary frame?

Now, I return to Smith’s query: who owns black pain? Though the answers remain numerous, re-presentation surrenders ownership to he or she who gazes. Nevertheless, as Laura Nelson showed us 1911, black pain is not a pubic matter to interpret; black pain interprets a global demon strengthened in the re-presentations of its power. 

Re-presentation casts the being of black female form as she who “gotta have it,” whether “it” is sex, power, or color-induced consequences. Futhermore, as long as these re-manifestations of the chains that shackle us remain the voice of a shared struggle, “she” will never have anything it all. 

Spotlight Series: Blogger Kelley

So this post marks the first of my “The Soulz of Black Folk: Re-defining Celebrity” series. This summer, I will feature a few carefully selected members of the black collective that demonstrate an espousal to uplifting the black collective. Everyday, countless bodies across the diaspora contribute to black upliftment in big ways deemed small by a world that denies our personhood by focusing on the negatives and not the positive.  The Whispers of Womanist is proud to feature Kelley, a beautiful black woman who uses poetry as a means to inspire, uplift, and educate. She is brave, creative, and trailblazing. She is a black woman. 

So I’ll ask you this question, like my Pan—Africanist professor Dr. Wright asked me: When did you know you were black? Was there a moment/experience/year that brought you into your black identity?

I think I realized I was Black early in elementary. My family moved from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and I, being Black, went from the norm/majority (amongst Black and brown kids with a mixed race teacher), to the minority with mostly white classmates and teachers. The white children I interacted with were just different in appearance, especially with clothing, hygiene, and hairstyles. They had a lot of questions. The white kids were a bit freer. Pretty fearless. Anytime I took that behavior home, I was reminded that I was different and certain things would never be allowed.

What inspired your blog name black/Burgundy? dangelo.jpg

I got black|burgundy from the lyrics of D’Angelo’s “Brown Sugar.” I really wanted a title that represented our spectrum but also made people use their imagination.

What inspired you to begin blogging?

An ex-lover said I had a lot to say and he thought people would listen (read). He bought me a laptop and the blog was on and crackin’.

What is your favorite poem that you wrote?

I think Fear of Drownin might be my favorite. It’s very real/relatable to me. It defines how amazingly life-changing love can be if your heart is open.

What is your favorite poem by another poet? 

I really can’t say. There is SO MUCH good stuff out there.

What are three poems or poets that you think every black person should be acquainted with?

Maya_Angelou_visits_YCP_Feb_2013Maya Angelou, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Warsan Shire 

What does poetry do for you as an author? What do you hope your work does for other people?

Poetry is a release. You don’t have to make complete sentences or use correct punctuation or structure to get your point across. It’s freeing. 

I hope my poetry helps people heal-lift their spirit a bit. Even if it’s just with a laugh.

You post very uplifting videos, and art that depict strong images of black love. This is certainly hopeful to women like myself who value black love on an individual and collective level.  I was quite impressed with the comments you made on a post about marriage, black love, and monogamy. What factors do you think hinder black love, and how can we overcome? Also, what are your thoughts on monogamy? Should we arrange marriages, allow for multiple marriages to strengthen our community? 

Thank you. That means a lot coming from you, sis. I think we’re just transferring  W6pain-pain to our lovers, pain to our children, pain to our friends and other relatives. We are not recognizing toxic relationships (even with self) because they are sometimes all we see and we think it’s normal. We need to know that love feels good! Love is freeing! We need to know that and be more loving to ourselves and loving toward one another – show each other how to view ourselves as loving and lovable vessels. We need to see that Black love in all its forms is powerful and natural and necessary. Again, it starts from within.

I personally love monogamy. It’s what works for me. I understand why polyamory works for others. Marriage is cool, but I don’t think it’s necessary. I think that if we are all honest with what we need from our partner(s), we would be in a better place. People want to practice monogamy and polygamy for the wrong reasons. Again, we have to be honest with ourselves, look within and really take account of what works, what kind of relationships make us feel free and which feel like chokeholds. But it is hard to be honest with others when you don’t know who you are or what a healthy relationship looks like. 

What are your thoughts on black feminism and the #metoo movement?

Black Feminism is like an oxymoron. And we’ve been shouting #metoo since forever, right. I believe these trends are just increasing the wedge between Black men and Black women. I hate that we are stiiiiiiiiill trying to force ourselves into these white spaces at our own expense. 

183197_pii5jUoXThere is a negative stigma that hovers over black women and our relationships with one another. You had a really great post about this topic. I’d love to hear you talk about why these relationships are important. What can we do as black women to foster loving, positive relationships between one another?

Thank you! I think that unless we’re on a field or court, we need to stop competing with each other. We need to actively listen. We need to walk away from toxic friendships if we can’t pull a sister up. We need to stop gossiping and pointing fingers. We need to be so busy loving ourselves and each other that that negative behavior becomes obsolete. Strong bonds with women who love, challenge and reflect you creates a beautiful image for our littles and other sisters to mirror. It creates a village that constantly pours into you. It is a great feeling when someone gets you because they are you. 

You mentioned in a comment a while back that you shaved your head!! What inspired this decision? What significance do you see hair bearing on black female identity and.or personhood? I’m really excited for your thoughts on this!

I did shave my head last summer! Partly because it was growing unevenly but mostly because I’d never rocked my hair that way. The timing was perfect because I needed to close a chapter with someone as well. It was therapeutic for me.

Hair holds so much weight for Black women; you can tell a lot about her by the way she chooses to wear hers. 

You quote the late and great Malcolm X in your “about me” as you reference the black malcom-xwoman as “the most disrespected person in America.” Can you shed light on a subtle way that black women are disrespected? What can we do as a community to combat this disrespect? 

We are viewed and treated as superhuman and subhuman at the same damn time; take all this pain, abuse, disrespect, racism, rejection, lies, hate and invisibility with a smile while still tending to everyone else. Again, we have to get our self-love levels up up up and show people how to treat us. Of course if our men or kids or outsiders see us calling ourselves and our sisters bitches, thots and hoes, they’re not going to think any better of us. We need to know when to say no, when to take a break, when to ask for help and when to walk away without looking back. We need to learn that softness and vulnerability is stronger than any I-got-this facade. And, of course, we need to be there for our sisters and allow them to be human.

Given the contemporary climate, which mirrors a past of identical evil, what are your hopes for our people in the Afro-future? 

I hope to see more Black love in the Afro-future! It is my absolute favorite thing to see a Black man and Black woman together in a loving union. It’s a great sight to see a Black man in the park running after his grandkids. I love seeing a group of young Black creatives meeting at a coffee shop. We are so necessary in the existence of each other and I hope more of us will wake up to that truth. 

Lastly, what does it mean to be a black woman, according to you?!

Being a Black woman is being soft and strong, loving and tough. Being a Black woman is being the most resilient being on this planet. Being a Black woman means being so very worthy of love, admiration, respect, patience and peace. 

Check out Kelley’s blog here! 

Cheers to you Kelley, thank you so much for blessing this blog with your words!   

Black Power ❤

Nice For What? Drake, #metoo, and Black Female Erasure

Degrassi Alum turned Rap superstar Aubrey “Drake” Graham recently joined the contemporary feminist performance with a new video for “Nice For What.” The song, a mash up of Lauryn Hill’s hit “The Ex factor” is a page in the New Orleans bounce sound, but the video is making waves for its atypical visuals— well, partially. The video is inundated with women dancing and dressed in conventional glamor, but these female props are deliberately placed.       

The video stars Issa Rae (Awkward black Girl/ Insecure), Zoe Saldana, her husband and three sons (Drumline/Avatar), Yara Shahidi and Tracee Ellis Ross from Blackish, model Jourdan Dunn, actress Rashida Jones, ballerina Misty Copeland, comedian Tiffany Haddish, Swedish models Victoria and Elizabeth Lejonhjärta, and actress Letitia Wright from Black Panther. The video intertwines these images of black women with white and non-black women, whose names I will purposely exclude from this post to structurally illustrate a message antithetical to the one conveyed in Drake’s video for recently released track “Nice for What.”

Directed by twenty-two year old Canadian director Karena Evans (Drake, God’s Plan), the video is overtly a portrait of “girl” power, an obvious placement of Drake alongside the contemporary woman in the #metoo movement. But while appearing to do “God’s work” or enacting “god’s plan” Drake actualizes a white female supremacy guised as a pushback against white male supremacy.   

Please allow me to state for all those quick to render my assertions  the ramblings of an angry black woman, that my argument is not that these “women” do not deserve to shine. This is not my assertion nor my concern. White and non-black women of color inevitably shine in juxtaposition to black female invisibility. My criticism is that this exclusion is veiled in an appropriative unity that is violently displayed in and as vanity.

This video like all representations of black or “othered” people is inundated by biracial and lighter skinned people—in front of and behind the scenes. This white female supremacy that anchors this display of seemingly progressive work is perhaps best illustrated in the exclusion of the sampled artist Lauryn Hill— an absence that is both appropriate and disturbing.

Hill’s absence is disturbing in that there is virtually no acknowledgement of Lauren Hill, though her voice and the images of the few featured black women is what stands out about the video—as they visually illustrate the antithesis to a presence that continues to be reduced to stereotypes and demeaned for money and laughs. Even if Ms. Hill declined a cameo, a close up of her picture, a snippet from the video for the sampled song, or a close up of the classic album that featured the sampled song, would have sufficed to pay a necessary homage to Lauryn Hill representative of the black female form that illustrates the pre-woman literacy.

Lauryn Hill embodies what black Canadian scholar Katherine McKitterick calls “an absented presence” in her recent text Demonic Grounds. McKitterick defines absented presence as that “place between memory and forgetfulness,” a suspension common for black bodies.Absented presence is perhaps the most relevant phrasing to encompass the black female relation to the woman concept.

Namely, Hill’s exclusion personifies black female omission from the “woman” labeling—an exclusion endured since black female arrival in America—an exclusion that as depicted in the video, paved the way for women like Misty Copeland and Rashida Jones to represent the black female form simultaneously eschewing and exposing continued black female exclusion. Issa Rae physically embodies many of the same traits as Lauryn Hill, and while bearing a processed mind, it is respectable that Rae attained visibility donning a natural hairdo that is strides away from the “socially acceptable” curls of the racially ambiguous. So to see Rae in this video donning longer and straighter locks, appears a deliberate intention to make her look more “woman,”—less Lauryn Hill and more Lauren London. This physical depiction is an embodiment of the drastic whitening and aesthetical dilution demanded of black female bodies that will still be eliminated and overlooked as women regardless. The mix up that dilutes Hill’s soulful vocals, performs a similar function,her rhythm and blues sound mutilated to sound like a chipmunk or pop-esque version of the original performance.

The title of featured song “Nice for what” is also an interesting commentary on the age old perception of women. As girls the female body is playfully conceptualized as “sugar and spice and everything nice—” and as women the givers of live and a token of pleasantry, silent strength and exhibitors of domestic mastery. However, when has a black women ever been considered “nice?” Though the African spirit is seemingly innately forgiving, black women are seldom acknowledged as kind or nice—instead we are deemed “difficult,” “evil,” and “moody.” This also stems back to colorism as the darkness attributed to the “black” label, is not just about hue but temperament. Black women are seen as masterful complainers, bearing a scowl where women bear a smile. This is of course untrue but also an oversimplified perception regarding the reality of the black female experience.

In the limited photographs of Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, neither wear a smile. I am sure that if Marie Angelique, a black woman buried in the oblivion induced by Canadian denial of her existence and execution, were photographed she would also bear a facial expression reflective of her life experience, which was not one of ease. Thus, in the event that a black woman is not smiling, this is not because black women are evil, but because the black female body is thrust into an impossible reality yet castigated if she does not plaster a smile on a face that masks 400 years of mistreatment and abuse.    

The smile and conventional “niceness” demanded of black woman is of course not for the black woman, but to ensure the comfort of those who wish to look at but not truly see the black woman. This white supremacist society likes to see the black female smiling, for the same reason that they approve of videos like “Nice for what” where the black female body is alongside those whose privilege she will never mirror—not because black female happiness is even partially considered, but because looking at the smile, just like looking at the black female in glimpses between white and non-black counterparts allows the black female form to remain invisible.

So Drake’s invitation to women in “Nice for What” is to engender an exchange from “nice” to “spice,” also speaking to a privilege that non-black woman have in negotiating identity- a privilege he also enjoys as a man who is silently black, who yo yo’s between mama’s boy, champagne papi, philander, and as seen in the video for God’s Plan, philanthropist. I say this not knock Drake the man, but to confront the reality of how a man of his circumstances functions and why it makes sense that Drake is the platform where this erasure and violence against the black woman and the black collective takes place.

This is not to ignore the reality that even the racially ambiguous and “mixed” blacks are mistreated with regards to the woman label, but to state that in the contemporary climate the biracial black often stands in for the black body, for example, Yara Shahidi who is featured in the referenced video, on Blackish and Grownish. The function of the biracial black is to offer pseudo relief to the black body from obscurity while festering said obscurity with pseudo representation of blackness deliberately selected by whites– master deceivers who employ biracial blacks not because of their beauty, talent or exceptionalism, but to centralize whiteness packaged as progress.

Depictions like the pseudo black/white woman alliance and the images that compose the visual text  seen in the Drake video are reminiscent of a cup of black coffee, lighted and eventually adulterated with milk, cream or a little bit of both. For the black women who consider themselves fans of Drake, or of pop culture in general that is making an aggressive effort to erase the black female body it is imperative to note that though stars illuminate on our dark sky—the sky does not need stars to be a sky, but a star has no place without a sky. I say this to say that we as a collective have power over our narrative our sky and what “stars” illuminate this sky, and this video, although seemingly innocuous, is an exhibition of seized power showcased and misappropriated as entertainment.

Black Power ❤

The Politics of Aesthetical Plagiarism: Examining “Is That All Your Hair?” And What Happens When Self-Hate Becomes Colloquial

The photo, a black and white image, was hardly a masterpiece. It a mere medley of full lips, expressive eyes, and freshly styled head of hair that was blown out and possessing a wave that fell beneath her shoulders. Noticing not the youth, the silly expression, or amateur photography skills, the gaze fixated on something more trivial with a disturbing seriousness.

“Your hair is gorgeous. btw…All yours??”

Although gracefully put, and casually inserted into a conversation of the contrary, the comment seared for reasons unknown at the time. In the decade upon hearing this comment—this query: is that all your hair? would take on multiple forms—even evolving from words to action. These action would include running their hands through a mane they were so sure was store bought, or generating deliberate but seemingly random conversations about hair as if to foment a confession.

The issue here is not hair, because in reality the black community has far more pressing topics to concern themselves with. The issue here is what this query represents. See, the query “is that all your hair? asserts an accusation of aesthetical plagiarism.

Just as the literate black who thinks, writes, and behaves at a level superior to their oppressors is often questioned with regard to the authenticity of their work—the black female who conveys a regal literacy atop her head, incurs similar accusations of plagiarism.

Is that All Your Hair?

Is that all your hair? Is a query purposely extended to some black women and withheld from others. The question signals a discordance, a seemingly cognitively dissonant presence. This query means that the aesthetics of a single black woman or female are presumed “too good to be true.” The presence of hair presumed to be “good” or  or at least seemingly deviant from the tight coils associated with unadulterated blackness, is acceptable on those with presumably adulterated blood or those who have other features associated with non-blacks. So when a black women is asked “is that all your hair,” what she is really being asked is a query of access. Weaves and wigs present inauthenticity, or forged access to a “beauty” seen as unattainable naturally, or with authentic styling, to the black female. Thus, the query, “is that all your hair” inquires about the presence or privilege, or possessing an attribute that can or cannot be bought.

Hair is not simply celebration, but an effort of a buried body to resurrect from invisibility—to survive the “ugly” labeling applied to a female body nurtured to conceptualize beauty as her economy. For the black woman, who is told her blackness is ugly, the world has convinced her that she has no aesthetic economy. Thus, the query, is that all your hair? overtly inquires as to whether a black female body possesses a certain aesthetical commerce. Covertly, the query speaks to an veiled expectation of black female ugliness deeming the query a colloquial proclamation of self-hatred.
It is remiss to ignore that while a symbol of beauty, hair is also an indicator of other traits deemed desirable in our oppressive culture.

In Sapphire’s Push, the narrator, Precious Jones, in recalling her childhood, comments that “nobody do my hair.” In this context, This confession imbues a sentimental capital. Namely, it symbolizes that Precious is not “loved”–at least in the way she should. Black hair styling is commonly associated with the love and care received at home. To revert back to elementary school days, how and if a child’s hair was styled often proved an indicator as to how well a child was cared for. During college and in the working world, black hair that was “done” and “done well” often indicated a socio-economical bracket that allowed or prevented access to quality styling and products. Thus, to accuse a being of black female form of aesthetical plagiarism is not only to doubt the proximity of the black woman to conventional beauty, but also to accuse her of plagiarizing her socio-economic status and status as a loved person.
A popularized symbol, supposedly depicting self-love, “black girl magic” remains a frequently solicited hashtag and colloquialism. Yet, while black girl magic rolls off countless tongues daily, many remain subconsciously unable to acknowledge black hair as magic. As I write this, I hear the late great Malcolm X ask “Who taught you to hate yourself?” Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? To hate your self from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet?” We, as a collective have been nurtured to internalize the negative perceptions of blackness– to hate ourselves as victims of white supremacy, and perhaps this narrative is most visible in hair. We have been taught as black people to view magic as an illusion– as a performance we must don a costume to attend, to overlook that we ourselves are the magic. Furthermore, Is that all your hair”, though not mislabeled by the colloquial term “hating” is a symbol of something worse—“self-hate.”

Moreover, this query “Is that all your hair?”  exposes that the “ugly black woman” is not
just a caricatured image seen on television and in novels, but a necessity in the white supremacist culture that engulfs us as a collective. Hair is equated to beauty, thus it is not an accident that black women are lead to believe that their hair is a burden, ugly, or specifically never long or thick enough to constitute beauty—as belief in the myth of the untamable mane is essential to ensuring that the black collective does not inquire a literacy of esteem. Thus, this query, whether from a non-black person of color, melanated black person, or white person, reflects an internalized belief that the mythical ugly black woman is indeed factual.

So in acquiring a pro-black literacy, it is essential that one acknowledges  black beauty as all encompassing and without exception. Black hair is a crown made of the gold that flows through our veins, so if it seems too beautiful, glorious, and majestic, that’s because it is, but that does not make it too “good” to be true.

Black Power ❤

 

 

 

 

Beheading Ms. Badu: The Vulture Article and Undeserved Backlash

Revered Neo-soul singer Erykah Badu made headlines on the fourth Wednesday in 2018 for comments made during an interview with a white Jewish interviewer for Vulture magazine. As per usual, her remarks were taken out of context, Badu placed on a scaffold and be-headed in a social media paradigm that seeks to cast blacks as villains and not victims in the contemporary dialogue about race. 10-erykah-badu.w710.h473.2x

During the interview, David Marchese asks Badu a series of queries that illustrates him as unfamiliar with her catalogue as he is with the context that births her music. Badu, an obviously intelligent person and elevated creative thinker, paints herself as a seasoned optimist which allows her to “see the good in people.” Being the risqué individual that she is, Badu states that she can see the good in Hitler. The interviewer becomes overtly defensive and the following exchange took place:

I saw something good in Hitler.
Come again?


Yeah, I did. Hitler was a wonderful painter.
No, he wasn’t! And even if he was, what would his skill as a painter have to do with any “good” in him?
Okay, he was a terrible painter. Poor thing. He had a terrible childhood. That means that when I’m looking at my daughter, Mars
Badu’s daughter with enigmatic rapper Jay Electronica. She also has another daughter, Puma, with the West Coast rapper the D.O.C.
, I could imagine her being in someone else’s home and being treated so poorly, and what that could spawn. I see things like that. I guess it’s just the Pisces in me.
I’m perfectly willing to accept that you might be operating on a higher moral plane than I am, but I think going down the route of “Hitler was a child once too” is maybe turning the idea of empathy into an empty abstraction. 
Maybe so. It doesn’t test my limits — I can see this clearly. I don’t care if the whole group says something, I’m going to be honest. I know I don’t have the most popular opinion sometimes.
But don’t you think that someone as evil as Hitler, who did what he did, has forfeited the right to other people’s empathy?
Why can’t I say what I’m saying? Because he did such terrible things?
Well, yes. But it’s also disheartening to hear you say that at a time, like now, when racism and anti-Semitism are so much in the air. Why would you want to risk putting fuel on that fire?
You asked me a question. I could’ve chosen not to answer. I don’t walk around thinking about Hitler or Louis Farrakhan. But I understand what you’re saying: “Why would you want to risk fueling hateful thinking?” I have a platform, and I would never want to hurt people. I would never do that. I would never even imagine doing that. I would never even want a group of white men who believe that the Confederate flag is worth saving to feel bad. That’s not how I operate.
I appreciate that. But I really struggle with the idea of how much we’re supposed to make an effort to understand or have empathy for people who have dangerously backwards or hateful thinking. You want to take the moral high ground, but sometimes that also feels the same as ceding territory. 


Hitler, The Great Painter? 

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The most conflicting component of Badu’s interview stems from her optimistic perspective of the late dictator. Specifically, Badu states that Hitler was a great painter, a direct reference to the Hitler paintings that sold for a high price. I agree that Hitler was a great painter–although in a vastly different context. His acts of evil, functioned to paint whites as victims— to paint a portrait of remembrance whereas victims of the African Holocaust are painted in a collective amnesia that depicts them as potential Hitlers in seeking to possess the pride withheld from them for centuries.  Hitler illustrates white evil as ubiquitous and universal, some evils being ethereal–its most sadistic cruelty–cast onto the peoples of African descent–occurring for what seems like an eternity.

It is interesting though that, Marchese is not so much denouncing Hitler and his deeds as he is berating Badu for a praise she never articulated. Though violent, this exchange exposes Marchese as having an obvious chip on his shoulder in his interaction with Badu.

Those of the black collective can certainly relate to encountering a person who believes themselves to be white, who bears negative feelings towards them for no obvious reason. As a woman whose attire is always an homage to the past, and an obvious student of observation and contemplation, Badu possesses a form that threatens the veiled white supremacist. Whites are most comfortable with blacks who are happily ignorant and fearful and/or in awe of white people and white acceptance. Marchese’s exchange with Badu illustrates a white person’s desperate attempt to denounce black intelligence with a fictive bigotry. To mask his own feelings of inaquedacy by trying to paint Badu as he is, small minded, prejudice, and unworthy of his position .

How does it feel to be a problem? 

My main issue with this exchange is the white male privilege that violently belies the black 98a95e52female form as problematic and not the individualism, ethnocentricity and unprofessionalism of the white male interviewer. As beings of black form subjected to centuries of systemic abuse, physical mutilation, and scientific experimentation, many blacks have adopted a form of optimism as a means to cope. If it were not for this optimism, Badu would probably not have been able to stay afloat in the industy, or have a discussion with someone who benefits from the disenfranchisement of her past and present collective. It is also rather ironic that the interviewer berates Badu for her “empathy,” but offers none to a victim of the same system that afforded him his job. The two moments that prove most violent in the delineated exchange are:

A: But don’t you think that someone as evil as Hitler, who did what he did, has forfeited the right to other people’s empathy?

This is an issue because it’s a leading question. As a woman nearing fifty, Badu needs no help organizing her ideas and as a black woman, Badu has no obligation to mollify the emotions of a white man. Especially a white man, who instead of empathizing with what America did (and continues to do) to abducted Africans, maintains veiled role in their contemporary crucification for allegations of doing what continues to be done to those of the black collective.

B. Well, yes. But it’s also disheartening to hear you say that at a time, like now, when racism and anti-Semitism are so much in the air. Why would you want to risk putting fuel on that fire?

“At a time like now?” When has racism not been pervasive?

This statement illustrates Marchese as  bearing a privileged oblivion to which racism is erykah-badu-e1448850177478-1merely an attribute of the contemporary climate, not a lifetime component in the lives of truly abdicated people.

This is not to say that the Jewish Holocaust was not horrible. It was horrible, and as a being of black form–I know all too well the evils of whites.  But  the African Holocaust never ended and that descendants of those stripped of their name and culture continues to cripple present strides of black advancement. So yes Marchese has historically suffered, but Jewish people, like countless other “ethnic” white factions that have suffered at the hands of white supremacy, are also given an opportunity to practice this very supremacy (which most have actively participated in) onto those issued an inescapable “othering.” Thus, while some may offer sympathy for the once “othered”  despite their rise to oppressor, I decline.  And to the skeptic suggesting that I am making a comparison, I want to clarify that I am not. I am saying that there is no comparison.

I am also stating that despite the implication, and backlash that suggests the opposite, Erykah cannot be racist–as this feat is an impossible one for anyone of African descent. Prejudice is a common attribute nurtured globallyl, but racism is far beyond name calling and hurt feelings–but a label solely extended to those who possess the power to persecute.

Additionally, Marchese’s actions illustrate the following violent passive-aggressive Joe-Budden-Warrant-895x1024.jpgbehaviors:

Separating the black woman from the black man.

In the following, the interviewer references an interview Badu had with a black man and cites sexism in what he considered an insulting caricature the black male allegedly casted of the singer:

I was listening to the interview you did recently with Joe Budden, and he brought up the recurring cartoonish image of you as this sort of quasi-mystical sorceress who’s always playing mind games with rappers.
The Erykah Badu legend
.
Is it frustrating to have that kind of legend follow you around? It seems pretty clearly rooted in a kind of sexism. 
I take advantage of it. It’s a good thing if people think I’m supposed to be some mystical creature that controls people’s minds.

Here, Marcheese attempts to paint himself as some kind of ally, identifying issues plaguing “minorities,” which in his  defensiveness over what he perceived as anti-Semitism he sees himself a part of too. In this instance, he referenced Joe Budden, who, as a member of the black collective shares the same struggle as Badu, as sexist. This performance is one of racism, where the master imbues the Willie Lynch Letter’s directions to separate blacks. To experience sexism is a privilege. Beings of black female form do not get the privilege of experiences sexism, what we experience is a form of racist-sexist oppression where we are masculinized, yet expected to support whites in their persistent persecution of black men.

The efforts of division have also birthed the wrath that engulfs the backlash 141208121102-bill-cosby-super-169.jpgfollowing Badu’s comments regarding actor, comedian, humanitarian,  Bill Cosby. Particularly, when asked about Bill Cosby, Badu does not give the expected polarized response. She was expected to berate Bill Cosby and contribute to the white media’s attempt to sully the legacy of someone who has done so much for black people. Badu says,

“I love Bill Cosby, and I love what he’s done for the world.”

Badu delivers these sentiments in a humanist context, even going as far to say that bearing the same skin as a victim does not dictate her loyalty, a sentiment overlooked by the white media seeking to sacrifice a black woman in a desperate attempt to simultaneously attract more gazes to the article and sympathy for a global oppressor.

B. One black person is expected to speak for other black people.

Your situation is different, but what you were saying a minute ago about how you can’t create new music unless you feel an honest compulsion to do it is making me think about how some of the most important musicians of your generation — people like Lauryn Hill, André 3000, D’Angelo — had long periods where they went silent. Do you think they felt the same way you do?

Badu issues this inappropriate and leading question a masterful responses that portrayals them all as individuals:

I don’t want to speak for those people. I know all of them, and there are individual circumstances for why each of them were quiet in different moments.

This is something most members of the black collective can admit to experiencing. Black people are commonly regarded as a single entity, detached from the thought that black people have a whole range of emotions and perspectives. Thus, the interviewer, although interviewing Erykah Badu, approaches the endeavor as if he is interviewing the every black Neo-soul artist — male and female- suggesting an insulting interchangeability between Badu, Lauryn Hill,  D’Angelo, amongst others. This is anti-black and inevitably racist, an act that exposes the interviewer as bearing the same problematic ideology he attempts to cast onto the black female bodily canvass. Erykah Badu_Photo by Samir Hussein-Samir Hussein-WireImage_Getty 886966038

Needless to stay, although I do not adopt a philosophy of conventional optimism, I support Erykah Badu. . I admire Badu as a student of life, and for being unapologetic in her revelation of self.  I admire that she spoke lovingly of a black man who the white world tried to adorn in a disgust the black collective should reserve for the white male rapist.

This vulture interview and twitter backlash depicts even seemingly progressive movements as rooted in anti blackness—seeking not to call out injustice, but to call blacks words that should be solely cached for those who believe themselves to be white.

Thus,  Badu is most remarkable in presenting in her interview responses to a racist to “call” blacks everything but majestic, with an articulate remix of perhaps her most famous lyric: you can’t use my phone.

Badu’s approach  exposes the lesson of this interview–whites can very well  maintain their negative perception of blacks as the glue to their “esteem,” but not with black bodies as a vehicle or vessel.

Furthermore, while Badu opts to see the good in everyone, I strive to see the best in black People. And black people are incomparably the best–despite the various attempts of those believed to be white, as seen in this interview, to suggest otherwise.

Black Power<3

 

 

Proud Mary, A Review: The Strong Black Woman as Superhero/ Assassin Medley

Proud Mary (2018) is a tale of emancipation well carried by Taraji P. Henson (Mary), Billy Brown (Tom), and Danny Glover (Benny), but poorly written and developed by the non-black males behind the scenes. Mary (Taraji P. Henson) a long time affiliate of Benny (Danny Glover), works to free herself from the chains of a life she no longer desires— at least on the surface. Named for the famed Ike and Turner song, Proud Mary reflects a fetishizing of the black female form reminiscent of pm-featurethe blaxploitation era.

Released in 1969, Tina Turner’s performance of Proud Mary resurrected the animalistic prototype of the black female form displaced onto Saartje Bartmaan during the 1700s. In performance, the song proud Mary depicts what viewers see in blaxploitation films like Coffy and Foxy Brown (Pam Grier), where f22722652adddadd20058a0346adf28a--tina-turner-beautiful-black-womenthe black female form displays a heightened sexuality intertwined with an underscored masculinity mirroring the perception of the enslaved black Woman.

Though not revealing her body, Henson’s resurrection of the proud Mary form resumes the paradoxical displacement of a masculine hyper-sexuality onto the black female form.

A Fetishized Form

Before I go on any further in my review, please allow me to state that my qualms are not
with any of the black actors, at least in terms of their performance. My issue is with the seemingly complimentary image that purports very damaging behavior.

My comparison between Proud Mary and the black female superhero of the 1970s is easily disputed by claims that Mary is not hyper-sexualized— and overtly she is not. There is no sex scene, no shower scene or even a kiss. In fact, the biggest romance in the film is the maternal bond between Mary and Danny. Though refreshing, I can not help but wonder if this omitted  love scene stems from an anxiety in depicting black love in a contemporary climate inundated with interracial love, or a desire to somehow a-sexualize a black female who spends most the movie with a phallus in hand.Foxy-Brown-film-images-c022e211-a537-47ff-bad2-f6b6fcf6a94

Nevertheless, Mary’s espousal to a big black gun, simultaneously masculinizes and sexualizes the black female form.
Particularly, the immaculate gun-slinging displayed by Mary in this film proves eerily similar to Idris Elba’s performance in The Dark Tower, where his coital relationship with his gun bring about change. Mary’s gun-slinging overtly sexualizes Henson simultaneously masculinizing her. Particularly, the precise phallic handling that dominates the film paints the black female form as not a lady with a gun but a female with a supplemental phallus. Thus, the film’s depiction of the strong black woman, seemingly occurs at the expense of blurring the gender line between the black male and female form, prompting viewers to question whether the black female form is less than a man but more than a woman–or vice versa.

 Emasculation +Elimination= Strength

The strong black woman image is a pervasive image throughout both the film and proudmarythroughout the global perception of the black female form. Proud Mary, the strong black woman that anchors the film, is literally a super woman. Yet, true to the treatment of the black female form, she is underestimated.  Proud Mary as an underestimated entity is depicted in Benny’s inability to conceive Mary as going against his commands. Her loyalty is also taken for granted—illustrated in Benny and Tom’s assumption that there is nothing Mary would rather do with her life than fulfill their personal and professionals needs. The black female form as an underestimated being whose loyalty is taken for granted, gives way for a central component of Proud Mary’s embodiment of the strong black woman caricature–the elimination and/or emasculation of the black man.

In accordance with the strong black woman caricature, the film depicts Mary as not needing a man, but being needed by men. 62022762.cms

This film illustrates the necessity of the black female to the black familial unit, and to the mission of the black man. This essentiality of the black female form to the black family and the black mission is not false or negative. The depiction however is quite negative.The portrayal in a film directed and produced by non-black males, illustrates the black man—Benny (Danny Glover) and Tom (Billy Brown)— as desiring to possess the black female form— a sentiment that mirrors the oppositional perception and use of of black bodies against one another.

Viewers see Mary emasculate Tom in refusing his desire to make their romantic past present— a refusal that ultimately results in Tom’s elimination. In the film’s final scene, Mary has murdered her surrogate father Benny, and their entire team. Tom has taken Danny hostage, and Mary has come to collect her surrogate son. She attempts to do so without harming Tom. But once Mary walks away without looking back, a distressed Tom shoots at Mary. She of course shoots back, but wounding Tom is not enough. She walks a few feet over to an ailing Tom and shoots Tom at point blank range. In a movie full of murder, I found this image to be the most hurtful. The hurt lies in the implication that liberation for the strong black woman comes solely in murdering the black man.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that although I use the term “black” to describe the characters—their is no mention of race. There is also a noticeable dearth of white

Taraji P Henson
Mary (Taraji P. Henson) stalks her prey in the kitchen of the Kozlov mansion in Screen Gems’ PROUD MARY.

women— aside from a single white female sales clerk in a high-end department store.

Both occurrences are hardly coincidental and work together to depict a central component of the film. Despite Taraji’s starring role in the film and embodiment of the strong black woman caricature—her function is to embody “woman—“ the black actors employed to capitalize on the black consumer. Just as Pequita Burgess–a black woman– was the face of Bill O’Reilly’s “downfall” Taraji is the face of the oppositional gaze’s attempt of modernity in depicting a black “feminist” figure as a step away from the overt racism that pollutes our contemporary climate. The conscious gaze knows that it is racism that purports strong images of black women either in close proximity to whiteness, or at the expense of the emasculated (via absence or action) black male. Moreover, it appears that Mary exists as a “woman” figure that must break away from blackness, blackness as embodied through black males Benny and Tom, in order to consummate her journey to woman. Mary- a woman who ran away from the bad, only to be found by the worse, seeks to free herself from “blackness” via her supplementary phallus to emerge as woman.

Mother Mary or Virgin Mary

The love affair that carries the film is the love between Mary and Danny. After tailing486829_m1513852624 Danny and taking him in after he collapses on a Boston street, the two organically fall into a mother and son role. It is this maternal role that seemingly is the cherry on Mary’s attempt to emerge as woman, simultaneously evoking the central maternal image in the Christian Bible. Specifically, the name Mary evokes the biblical mother of Christ who conceives the savior of humanity immaculately. Mary, (Henson) performs a similar function in emerging as mother to a child she did not conventionally conceive. The placement of “proud” in front of “mary” functions to depict the black mother Mary as possessing one of the seven sins–pride. This evokes a similar image to eve and the apple, the black woman depicted as possessing the pride that sullies humanity with her sin and thwarts her journey to “woman.”

Stop. Don’t Shoot.

Screen-Shot-2017-07-20-at-11.20.37-AMBefore I conclude this piece, I wish to share that this film had me at the edge of my seat for an unlikely reason. I spent the bulk of the film hoping that Danny (Jahi Di’allo Winston) did not get shot. Danny is easily comparable to Trayvon Martin, or even a Tamir Rice who were murdered at or around Danny’s age in the film—their transitions induced by gunshot wounds. Though “saved” by black mother Mary, Danny’s spared life almost suckers viewers into enjoying a mediocre movie more because although inundated with death–the movie spares the child.  The spared black male child is especially resonant given the inhumane amount of young black bodies the black collective has had to bury over the last four hundred years. This bothered me as it seems a ploy of the non-black writer and directors to exploit the contemporary gaze fixated on the fiction that racism is an isolated ideology–whereas if there was no racism this movie and the caricatures that cloud it, would not exist.  Furthermore, the spared black child makes viewers more inclined to develop an underserving predilection for the non-black movie producers and writers for not disrupting a route to escapism with reality–unveiling the film as a means of escapism, not a means to exhale. Proud-Mary-8

 

Honorable Mentions

  • The film depicts Danny as submissive and respectful with whites, but more comfortable and even disrespectful to blacks. Given that the film is written and produced by non-blacks, this portrayal illustrates that what may seem like a casual means to interact between kinfolk are very much studied behaviors by groups wishing to oppress us.
  • Also, the film depicts whites as callous and emotionless regarding their wrongdoing, but depict blacks as possessing more feeling. Though some may argue that Benny becomes indignant towards Mary’s pending departure because he is hurt, his actions mirror what becomes of blacks who seek to encompass whiteness—they essentially become the white man. Tom, in the emotion he wears on his face for Mary, has not consummated the level of white mimicry as his father—he is still able to love and feel. This display is in accordance with Dr. Bobby Wright’s “The Racial Psychopath Essays” where he delineates whites as innate racial psychopaths.

Concluding Thoughtsmaxresdefault

Conclusively, Proud Mary starring Hollywood veteran Taraji P. Henson, does for film what Scandal’s Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) did for television—place the black female body in a role typically reserved for white men.

Though surfacely filling a void in Black female representation on the big screen, Proud Mary reinforces negative controlling images that continue to surround and drown the black female body in perspectives that function to substantiate black female disenfranchisement.

So while seemingly an ode to black female physical and mental strength, Proud Mary subversively sexualizes the black female form, proving that objectivity from the oppositional gaze is simply not feasible in a world to which her subjugation remains a necessity.

Black Power ❤

 

When the Bough Is Black: A“When The Bough Breaks” Review

Black Hollywood Veterans Regina Hall and Morris Chestnut appeal to the black audience  lost in the abundant white faces that continue to dominate the big screen. Thus, despite the familiar plot, reminiscent of Fatal Attraction or Obsessed, the film becomes attractive in the still aberrant presence embodied by black actors. Unfortunately, the presumed “black” actors, betray a melanated presence that conveniently presents physical diversity despite portraying a privilege and hue antithetical to their own. The whiteness of the physically black cast surfaces in assigning Hall and Chestnut Anglo names. Regina Hall and Morris Chestnut become John and Laura Taylor, and their surrogate Jaz Sinclair becomes Anna Walsh. Thus, while it is certainly pleasing to see a black couple love one another, this love exists in the face of acquired whiteness that makes their hue a suggestion rather than a defining attribute. Through illustrating whiteness through black bodies, When the Bough Breaks embodies racial subtleties that strategically shifts culture and cultural accountability.

Laura Taylor, the skilled and conventionally successful culinary professional presumably has everything. She has beauty, style, an equally alluring residence, and an admiring husband. However, despite their love for one another, John and Laura cannot conceive a child. It is though her implemented barren state, that Laura Taylor, the black woman, swaps places with her European counterpart. This is not to suggest that black women do not struggle with fertility, but it is to state that it is not a moment issue plaguing our personhood. In fact, this portrayal counters the consistent portrayal of black women as hyper-fertile, an image that perpetuates black women as bearing multiple children even launching the 2011 Soho billboard that asserted the black female womb as the most dangerous place for a black child. More significantly, this perpetuation, when viewed allegorically, depicts Africa as barren and childless, a truth inconsistent with a history that conceals the repeated rape and seizure of people and natural resources from the fruitful land on earth–Affica. Thus, the black woman gains central placement at the expense of sacrificing her frutitful history to one that mirrors one of her oppressor. As a barren woman whose last chance for motherhood lies in a crazed woman, Taylor sacrifices her conjugal sanctity for her child. By the end of the film, it is Laura who shoots the fatal bullet into the body that birthed her legacy. In casting the fatal shot, Laura literally chops the tree that bears her fruit. Here, the black body does what Scandal viewers subconsciously absorb on Thursdays, a black body that exudes behavior historically aligned with whites. Scandal’s Rowan Pope (Joe Morton), is easily the most fascinating character on the series who simultaneously elicit hate and awe . Pope, as “Command” epitomizes power, as no system or individual seems capable to deplete his dominance. Pope breaks men down only to build them up in his image, or discards those unable to live up to his standards. By depicting a black man as powerful, but evil and perniciously dominating, racism takes on an equality as real as the characters themselves.

Similarly, When the Bough Breaks portrays blackness both physically and allegorically to illustrate  a similar reversal. Westerns raped Africa of her natural resources and children to birth the productivity of a stolen land. After providing the blood, sweat and tears necessary to nurture what we now consider America, blacks were emotionally and socially tossed aside to fend for themselves in a sea of disenfranchisement. Anna Walsh allegorically represents this marginalized presence, seemingly driven mad by the demands of a society that seems rooted in her exploitation. Conversely, John and Laura Taylor embody a systemic favorability that permits them to use and discard those lacking resources. In allegorically representing blackness, When the Bough Breaks employs black bodies as tools to discount racism in suggesting that blacks are as equally susceptible to racist positioning as whites. This suggestion implores viewers to conceptualize as individual not systemic. Ironically, in nurturing this belief, films like When the Bough Breaks and shows like Scandal cultivate the necessary unconsciousness for systemic racism to operate. Thus, what seems like another great time at the movies, permits black audiences to participate and foster their continued oppression in a country that thwarts enlightenment with entertainment.

#TeacherBae and Sexuality as a Smokescreen to #BlackGirlMagic

teacherbaepb

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.