The Woman’s March, A Cinderella Tale

I woke up to the news that Fredo Santana, a rapper of the Chicago Drill scene, passed. News of his untimely death broke in the hours preceding the Woman’s March. Though trending in the early hours of Saturday morning by the time the clock struck twelve noon, news of the deceased black man had folded into oblivion replaced by the hashtags of the Women’s March taking place in various cities across the United States. The scenario,  blacks becoming invisible to ensure the centrality of whiteness, remains a recurring fate blacks experience globally. fredo-santana-hospitalized-liver-kidney-failure-01

Despite the pervasive feminist agenda that haunts the contemporary climate, Santana, a black man, is far more important to me than any Women’s March can ever be—simply because his experience is directly linked to mine and our ancestors. As a being of black female form, on any given day or moment, I have far more in common with a black man than any white or non-black “woman of color.” Though yielding their differences, the black man and black woman endure daily testimonies of displacement and systemic abuse–both subject to  a persistent undervaluing of black people in life and death.

The events of this morning prove an unintentional illustration as to why I, a black “woman,” refused to attend today’s Women’s March. To attend today’s march is to choose gender over race, and because my hue is sun-kissed— this choice is a fatal one. To march for women is similar to a march to the gallows where my collective self is fatally raised like a curtain to the headlining act of white supremacy.

Like most children during their youth, I enjoyed fairly tales. I especially enjoyed Cinderella. In the age-old tale, a poor girl becomes subject to the misfortune of an evil stepmother and wicked step-daughters after her father’s untimely death. She goes from rags to riches when she meets a wealthy prince and lives “happily ever after.” The film is overtly a “feel good” moment for the naive gaze, preparing the innocent for a lifetime of enchantment, ie material and upward mobility—attributes that do nothing to negate the affects of blackness in an anti-black climate. Therefore, Cinderella is foreshadow to those who would grow-up and be women—illustrating the various paths that affect you regardless of money, education, beauty, moral compass, or skill.

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To the black female body, the white woman is the evil stepmother, the evil step-sisters easily embodied by other non-black persons of color, that seek to convince the black female form of her inferiority to engender a pseudo superiority. These dynamic, although illustrated in a later version of the fairy tale starring singer Brandy as Cinderella and superstar Whitney Houston as her fairy godmother, fail to resonant with viewers seeking to escape reality with fictive feel good moments that mirror the very detriment of daily life.

The version of Cinderella starring Brandy and the late Whitney Houston, mirrors the current wave of feminism which appears to retell a tale of white female privilege with black faces.

The result is predictably violent—displacing black bodies in the white female work to97-cinderella-3 supremacy does virtually nothing to negate the moral of the tale. My conscious gaze views this Cinderella differently—as this attempt of assimilation—subliminally illustrates ambush. Particularly, Cinderella’s (Brandy) relationship with an Asian prince, symbolizes those “of color” as mirroring the motives of whites, namely their collaborative ambush of black communities throughout the United States, Africa and the West Indies.

The Woman’s March illustrates a similar ambush, in which the black female body— a force reduced to a bridge to which the white woman crosses to the other side of privilege—black female entry obliterated by a white-only sign perhaps even more present in its physical absence. Yes, I am asserting that in 2018 a white only sign hovers over womanhood and each and every “wave” of feminism.

8203b8aebceafde1a4311cb864bfd29d-natural-makeup-for-black-women-dark-skin-black-women-makeup.jpgAlthough ‘wave” preceded “feminism” to mark its reinvention, the only “wave” I have ever seen is the wave of a fair-weather friend.

The black woman is the fair-weather friend of feminism, called on when they a need a chair to rest on, or a cheerleader to stand in the rain and cheer while they dance in victory.

To March for woman is forget that the “women’s college” did not have the black female body in mind in their conception. To march for woman is to forget that all those that march today are not marching for Saartje Baartman, Henrietta Lacks, Ruby McCollum, Recy Taylor, Betty Jean Owens, Fanny Lou Hamer, Tawana Brawley, or any of the black female bodies across the diaspora—they are marching for the Hilary Clinton’s and Melania Trump’s, women that in their worst moment are called or perhaps even treated like b*tches, but will never endure the systemic suffocation of blackness.

To march for “woman” is to render Fredo Santana “another black rapper who died by the same thing he rapped about,” not a black man, someone’s father, son, brother, friend,  nurtured for self-destruction not self-determination. To march for women is to render “Oh, you’re mighty smart for a woman,” in the same light as “Nigger-bitch,” to deem the  Central Park jogger a victim of rape and Tawana Brawley a liar, to remember Elizabeth Smart but forget the abducted black girls in Nigeria, DC, and throughout the diaspora.

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I refuse to attend the Woman’s March because I, a being of black female form, am not Cinderella. There is no glass slipper, and no prince coming to whisk me away from evil–only the contemporary white man who wishes to whisk me into a legal slavery and contractual concubine. Cinderella, like feminism, is for little white girls or even non-black women of color who recruit the black female body as a sort of fairy godmother who makes their wishes come true. Cinderella_Brandy

I want to specify that I have no desire to be recognized as “woman,” or be “Cinderella”—as both present a reduction to the prodigious existence of the black female form. The black female form precedes the concept of woman, and thus is only erased in her fictive inclusion.

Furthermore, feminism does not fit me because my skin is black. My troubles are not because I am a woman, but because in the world’s eyes, I am not one.

But to those who gloat in my so-called exclusion I ask:

Why fight to be a “woman” when I am a Queen?

Rest in peace to Fredo Santana, and the countless other black bodies who transitioned in the first weeks of this new year. May you find comfort and inspiration in the arms of our ancestors.

Black Power ❤

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Remembering Mari Evans

Poet. Essayist. Black Arts Figure. Black Woman. Soldier. Voice. Mari Evans.

These words fractionally represent late writer Mari Evans.

Mari Evans, an Indianapolis-based writer of the Black Arts Movement, made her transition Friday, March 10th at the age of ninety-three. Evans’ long life demonstrates that even nearly a century proves too short to indulge non-earthly African talent.

To say that Evans’ transition is a loss would be an understatement. On a personal note, the personal tragedy of Evans’ life is that I was unaware of her treasure until her passing.

Upon reading the news—I consulted my literary anthology from undergrad and found her work amongst the works of her predecessors and peers. “Liberation Blues” proved especially resonant in depicting the black female ambivalence that often results from loving and losing Mr. Wrong. Although Evan’s poem “I Am a Black Woman” is easily an anthem to the black female experience, I personally find myself drawn to “ Where you’d go” as it illustrates Evans’ ability to create beauty from artful behavior. Evans words compose a unique way to acknowledge and amend heartache in a similar manner to an Aretha Franklin ballad.

Evans eternally holds a place in the black female narrative, demonstrating the depth of our brilliance and range of our creativity. Evans also illustrates the black female collective as a bottomless ocean of indigenous talent and story telling.

I may not have paid Evans her due homage in life, but I aim to join others within the black diaspora to ensure that her legacy is not lost, unknown or forgotten.

I leave you with a portion of Evans’ well-known poem “I Am a Black Woman”

I am a black woman
tall as a cypress
Strong
Beyond all definition still
defying place
and time
and circumstances
Assailed
impervious
Indestructable
Look
on me and be
renewed.

Thank you, Mari Evans, for gracing your constituency with a creative renewal only a black woman could grant another black woman. We are because you were.

Rest in Power.

Does BET Series “The Quad” hit the four corners needed to advance contemporary black portrayal?

Tonight BET debuts new series “The Quad.” The series airs on the first day of black history month—a fact that corresponds well to the premise of placing value on our own institutions. The series, authored by Soul Food creators and writers Felicia D. Henderson and Charles Holland, engages the HBCU dynamic from multiple angles.

I attended a pre-screening event for the series on Monday evening in lower Manhattan.  For me, the series proved nostalgic. As an HBCU grad,  and former resident of freshman dorm “The Quad”– my  HBCU experience was bittersweet. Yet, it is the experiences encountered on Howard’s hilltop that taught me much of what I carry today.

While watching the series, I wondered if The Quad would prove would prove as resonant as 2002’s Drumline (Nick Cannon, Orlando Jones). Namely, could this series be the necessary push to redirect blacks back into schools that render their collective interests central?

I. Where the show succeeds…

1. Variety

One of the pinnacles of my HBCU experience was encountering individuals from various walks of black life. The series does a great job incorporating the diversity within blackness. This is especially important, given how hard the media works to suggest that we are all the same. From the privileged black girl who identifies more with whites than blacks, to the Diddy/J.Cole medley–a black male college student who is also an aspiring rapper, to the cute quirky girl who is an instrumentalist, to the jock who tries to excel in sports, academics and love—the series depicts a mirage of experiences that accompany the HBCU experience.

2. Drama that does does demonize black culture

The characters incur a degree of drama that while entertaining accompanies the necessary layers to avoid demonizing black culture. For example, though working steadfastly towards a music career, the series depicts its aspiring artist as having a loving Auntie and Mom-deflecting from the stereotypes that black men are unloved “thugs” who take but do not give. The series also layers the “wannabe” white girl, who also happens to be the president’s daughter. In a conversation with her white counterpart, the wannabe states that her mom “knows everything.” The tone that accompanies said statement suggests intimidation. Namely,  the admission suggests that the “wannabe” actually wants to be like her mom, but deems doing so impossible. Thus, she chooses the easy way out and opts to oppose blackness in its entirety, becoming a girl who just happens to be black.  This layered depictions functions well, as it prompts the reader to think, not judge.
3. The struggle of the Black female professional
Perhaps the biggest win of the series is depicting a black female as the fictive HBCU’s presiding president, Dr. Eva Fletcher (Anika None Rose). The series does a great job depicting the conflict afforded to black female bodies who evoke change in presence and practice.  The series reveals the plan two black male collegues construct to compromise both the reputation and position of their black female president. While unfortunate, this is a battle many black women endure in their role to challenge a system that while harmful, proves fruitful for some.

The Quad issues a brilliant protrayal of a black female professional who is both educated and enlightened and who mains an elevated position without looking down on others. These truths are undoubtedly guised by her Ivy League education and mansion residence—but the conveyed dichotomy is both accurate and refreshing. The conveyed dynamic also substantiates why womanism, not feminism should encapsulate the words (and whispers) of black females.

4. Everything’s a Haze

Perhaps one of the most accurate depictions of the series is illustrating the numerous factions that populate HBCU campuses. These faction foment a “journey to belong” that often lasts long after college.  At HBCU’s everything comes with a price. This price is hazing.

Whether you join the choir, fraternity or society— every faction corresponds to a hazing process. During freshman year, a roommate joined the church choir. As part of her initiation she was blindfolded, led to an unknown location, and left to find her way home. Another friend sought to join a society within his dorm. During an event, candidates were led into a dark room where members threw cups of urine onto prospects. The series depicts band members reveling in their accomplishments, to the upset of upperclassmen. The upperclassmen deemed said behavior haughty and landed one member in the hospital due to extreme reprimanding measures.

While HBCU’s exist to foster black advancement, many facets of these institutions implement the “break you down to build you back up” process which acquiesce the very systems these institutions supposedly challenge. Furthermore, I commend the series for bringing these issues from the corners of black universities in to the avant-garde of contemporary contemplation.

II. Causes for Question…

  1. I honestly would love to oppose the white cast members, but as a HBCU grad I can attest to this depiction as valid. Interestingly, the white football player cast on the series reminds me of a white male on the football team during my time as an HBCU student. I would have liked to see these roles also be afforded to up and coming black actors (like the rest of the cast), but think that white presence at HBCU’s is a worthy topic of discussion. Furthermore, I commend the series for its bravery in depicting the truths of the HBCU.

2. My next area for criticism is a persistent problem in black portrayal, hyper sexuality and the black female body. Although successful and enlightened, Dr. Eva Fletcher lost her previous job due to a sexual relationship she had with a graduate student. This student, objectively called “Six-Pack,” follows to her new position. His presence in her new location provides viewers with a steamy, “black lust,” love scene, but raises a question that accompanies all contemporary portrayals of black females.

Why is the downfall of the beautiful, educated, and conventionally successful black female always sex?

All in all I applaud the series for unveiling prevalent topics within the black collective. I also applaud the series for perpetuating drama, but doing so in a way that promotes analysis not ignorance. So to the title’s query: Does  BET Series “The Quad” hit the four corners needed to advance contemporary black portrayal? My answer is Yes.

Whether seeking some HBCU nostalgia, curious about the experience, or just looking to wind down from black life, I encourage everyone to give the show a chance. Personally, The Quad— a black authored portrayal of black people, makes me both happy and proud to tune in.