Tuesday, August 31, 2010

loud and proud: the audacity of quirk

"the question for you is
what have you ever traveled toward
more than your own safety?"

-Lucille Clifton "further note to clark"

Inspired by the whirlwind madness and inspiration of the Juneteenth Freedom Academy on Angry Letter and Protest Poem (this week is actually the third and final session before "action of our fate day"!) I wrote my first out angry poem to Barack Obama...failed superhero of the first degree. His stance in support of Israel and against the lives of the Palestinian people has been bothering me since early on in his campaign, but I have finally found the words to fill out the gut feelings I have (like "shame on you" and "how dare you" and "this is not because you are black").

It is amazing to put the weight of our repressed vocabularies behind our rage and see the love and insight waiting there. It has been astounding for me, in these past couple of weeks to allow the rhythm, structure and escalation of poetic form to take me to places of promise and outrage that I didn't know I had words to imagine. And trust. I was quite the angry black girl already.

I think this reminder, and my first foray into the crafting of poems that should be shouted through bullhorns on busy corners, a reasonable distance away from the secret service and the apathetic everyone else, is well timed. In September, Black Gay Pride in Atlanta and North Carolina Gay Pride here in Durham offer reminders of what happens when protest turns into parade and the brazenness of queers of color transforming the world with their love becomes just one more disco beat to fall in line with.

June Jordan asks "When will we seize around us with our freedom?" and I further ask, what good is my confrontational fashion sense and wide halo of electric hair if I am not shocking with world into remembering what life means, what love looks like, and how far we need to go to get there. Which brings me to this love letter to you...the bravest most beautiful people I know about. Will you raise up the angry spirit of June Jordan and her critical genius colleague Lucille Clifton this week? Will you shock someone, not just by the presence of your radiant being, but with an intentional challenge to the status quo/aka the way it is because we let it be? (note: this isn't just externally political. if you are like me there may be some circumstances in your personal life that need some waking up and transformation.

(and speaking of waking up....check out the new QBG Anthem..part of B Steady of the Lost Bois amazing song a day project. Every song in the series is DOPE...this one is just super special because it's dedicated to you!

Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdR5n-H4450

Yes...batten up the brilliance of being you and propel us towards the world we need to live in. What are you pushing this week? Let me know.

The MobileHomeComing Project heads down to Atlanta this weekend for the most beautifullest thing about ATL PRIDE...the THIRD ANNUAL QUEERKY COOKOUT this Sunday!!!!

RSVP and let us know what yummy dish you will be bringing here: http://www.evite.com/app/publicUrl/NXOMIFCVDCMTYIDRRRGW/QBG3

(p.s. you'll have a chance to donate to the MobileHomeComing..the quirkiest riskiest thing I've ever done in my life...what the MobileHomeComing and how can you support you ask? Check out some cute teddy bears explaining it here http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/6999787/)

Also...email us at quirkyblackgirls@gmail.com if you want to participate in a special June Jordan inspired high energy poetry creation session on Saturday at 4pm.

Also check out this QBG I ran across the other day on someone's face book page...honest hopeful love music is like a vitamin! http://www.myppk.com/PPKs/indexC.aspx?PPK=5443

And also for the artist in YOU check out this call for for submissions about what it takes to FUEL our lives: www.malisite.org

and finally...QBG Iresha in Philly is at it again...collecting dictionaries so that the youth of her city may have their lives transformed in their own words...hit her up on her page for more info on how you can support the Malcolm X Dictionary project!

Love you so much I want to shout it from the rooftops and reset the hearts of anyone who would hold you back.

afro-art-chick: (via staysuckafree)


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Monday, August 30, 2010

black girls don’t belong in closets: part 3. dad:


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via Freedom Fighter by aliciasanchezgill on 8/29/10

after i'd gotten over the immediate outrage, relief, shock and hurt of coming out to my mother, i decided to call my father. i wasn't sure what his response would be. but i knew i had survived the worst, and might as well get it over with. my dad, although we were not as close as we had been, was almost always a happy listener, a great advice giver, and generally loving and supportive. i told him about my history of child sexual abuse (incest) many years after it happened, and he believed me, and was loving and compassionate. plus, based on my sister's response to my coming out, i didn't think he'd be too surprised. but i was still a little nervous. and reeling from the 30 minutes of berating and two hours of crying that had come before.

me: daddy, do you know what today is?

dad: um…sunday?

me: yeah, its also national coming out day. so, i am going to do it. here i am. coming out to you.

dad: oh, well. can't say i'm surprised. but congratulations on coming out day! i'm glad you finally told me! will you call me more often now?

me: um, so that's it? and yes, i will call.

dad: yeah, what am i supposed to say? i mean, you know i love you. i'm proud of you. you're my daughter. my first daughter. i love you. period. what else needs to be said?

me: but i'm queer. don't you care?

dad: queer?

me: yeah, like i'm open to dating people of different genders. (blah, blah political rant).

dad: uh. *silence* …is it ok if I just call you regular gay? when I was growing up, queer was a bad word for gay people and meant odd. there's nothing odd about you as far as I'm concerned.

me: sure dad. you can call me a lesbian. but then what if bring home a boyfriend one day?

dad: *uproarous laughter* boyfriend? yeah right.

me: what??!?! i've dated men before.

dad: yeah, and they were gay too. *sorry, ex-boyfriends if you feel like your sexual identity has been compromised.

since coming out to my father, we've laughed more. been more honest. i tell him about my life. i let him in, we joke. i tell him about crushes. it's like high school. and i am so happy to still have one parent who loves me, accepts me, listens and supports me- unconditionally. (not to mention a sister, brother, fabulous step-mother, aunts and uncles, with whom i'm out, and completely honest, and completely loved, supported and held). my dad recently told me he got a mailing from p-flag. i teared up a little bit.

coming out was scary. period. but it was truth telling, and empowering. the loss was painful. from friends, my mother. and there are times, even though i am completely, unabashedly out now, that i wonder about safety of outing myself to strangers. one of the things that straight folks having the privilege of never worrying about. i came out because i couldn't live a life where i was not all of me. authentic. i know that, even though i lost my mom, (temporarily, i hope) i have a fabulous new family. community. i also recognize that some don't have the same privileges i do, with regards to a safe community in which to come out, work stability, being cis gender, living in a big city, or knowing thier rights around gender/sexual identity discrimination. since coming out, i have had many, many friends come out to me. it's so nice to be a safe space. the best thing i could have done, besides coming out to the world, is coming out to myself. i deserved it.

and as i continue to deal with the grief of loss, and rebuilding relationships, and creating new ones, i have learned when to fight, and when to let things and people go. especially toxic ones. because no matter how much i wished i had a mother at my hypothetical gay wedding (that we all know won't happen), ultimately, my most important relationship is the one i have with myself.


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Life is Not a Fairytale: Black Women and Depression


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I have a confession to make. Despite my outward appearance and demeanor, some days it is a physical struggle to get out of bed in the morning.  At least once a month I cry myself to sleep, to the point of waking up with puffy red eyes and hiccups.  Dating back as far as I can remember (early childhood) my mood has always been generally melancholy, an oceanic blue.  I experience bouts of depression that range from simple sadness to life re-considerations as predictably as season changes.  It has become more manageable the older I get.

This feels like a confession because while I am only admitting to having moments of humanity and vulnerability, I am a black woman, and for me these realities are oftentimes seen as weaknesses.  We (black women) are supposed to be strong.  We (black women) are not supposed to break down.

Fantasia Barrino's recent confession of her suicide attempt sparked a realization that black women are as susceptible to depression as anyone else.  When asked (see attached video) about her recent suicide attempt, she explains "I was overloaded with carrying six years of so much…dealing with my family, dealing with my father, dealing with men and their bullshit…"  I think we can all relate in one way or another.  While her "so much" and (y)our "so much" may not be identical, people feel overwhelmingly inclined to pass their issues off to black women—assuming we can handle it stoicly—because we have been doing it for generations.  Or have we?

I have followed Fantasia's career from her early aspirations to be an American Idol to the more recent scandals that have surrounded her life and career (not the least of which was an M.C. Hammer-like dissolution of funds for trying to "look out" for more people than who could "look out" for her, a foreclosure on her home, and her most recent love relationship, which ironically is the only mention of a romantic relationship, outside of references of her baby's father, I remember over the years—but I could be wrong, I have not followed her career or celebrity gossip, that closely).

In 2004 I tuned in to American Idol because somebody said that a black girl from High Point, North Carolina (I am from North Carolina) was competing.  And while I never participated in the voting process, I did watch this rural black girl from North Carolina, who not unlike me, had already experienced her fair share of heartache.  At the time she was a 19-year-old rape and domestic violence survivor, and a single mother.  She was not unlike many girls I knew.  I was happy for her, but like many people, after she seemingly "got over" all of the struggles she had endured, by beating the odds and winning the prize, I stopped paying attention.  I bought her first album, watched her Lifetime movie (a poorly acted mini-drama based on her autobiography of the same name), and even tolerated two or three episodes of her reality series, Fantasia For Real, on Vh1.  However, I never paid attention to what must have been happening behind the scenes.  I never considered what the impact of going from little known high school drop out to rags to riches heroine must have been.  I never thought about how vulnerable she was to being taken advantage of being so young, so naïve, so ignorant, so vulnerable… she was just supposed to be "so strong."

A few weeks ago when I heard about Fantasia's suicide attempt I wasn't particularly surprised.  Once again we seemed to share many things in common.  In her interview on Good Morning America she stated, "everybody feels like I'm so strong…and it just became heavy for me…to the point that I just wanted to be away from the noise."  It would take both hands for me to count the amount of times, in my life, I have pondered the same dilemma, come to a similar conclusion.  I did not, however, immediately admit that I could relate to Fantasia's hopelessness because there are precious few women friends who won't judge or chastise you (a black woman) for not being strong. Or, who won't attempt to encourage you (a black woman) by reminding you that as a black woman, YOU ARE STRONG.  And while I have my moments of fortitude, there are far more moments of pain.

There is a problem when we (little black girls) are taught to be strong from an early age and we have that expectation reinforced by everyone in our lives from other black women, to churchfolk, to white folks, to the (wo)men we love or want (to love).  It is further complicated when our (supposed innate) strength is celebrated and memorialized in ways that make us territorial of it.  We are encouraged to embrace it.  Black women's strength is the single stereotype that is disguised as a compliment, and we oftentimes don't want to relinquish it.   But what does it mean to be strong?  What happens when we don't feel it, when we are tired of it, when sadness, hopelessness and strength trade places?

Interestingly Fantasia, while trying to give up the superwoman façade that plagues black women, has in many ways reinforced it.  Without giving herself more than a week to recover from wanting to die, she re-emerged to face her demons, her critics, her family and her fans head on.  In what can only be interpreted as her demonstrating and proving her strength, her private and public drama was put on the back burner so that she could move forward.  Within two weeks of her suicide attempt, she was already "back to herself" (the name of her new album is "back to me").  The Behind the Music special premiered almost two weeks to the day of her suicide attempt.  I guess as a black woman with so many people to take care of (herself notwithstanding) she didn't have time to be depressed or to recover from her emotional breakdown.

Depression has always been problematic for me because it was something the women in my family and household could not relate to or readily admit. Depression was white women's shit and my uncontrollable tears and obsession with death was met with confusion and shaken heads. We (black women) didn't have time to cry over spilled milk or break down from a broken heart.  There will bills to pay, mouths to feed, ways to make (out of no way). And over the years of watching and witnessing women hurt (from unsuccessful relationships, struggling with finances, dealing with discrimination, and simply waiting for something better for themselves or their children), I saw them struggle, but I never saw them "feel."  So my feelings, of unspeakable, unexplainable sadness, didn't make sense.  And while the women I knew never demonstrated the reality of depression in their lives, the reality of my experience tells me that there had to have been tears in the dark, moments of surrender in prayer rooms, wishes of ending lives over seemingly mundane struggles. I have surely wished my life away for less.  Living is hard. Living with oppression is harder.   I think we all sometimes or at some point, like Fantasia, just want the noise to stop.

Superwoman syndrome has the capacity to take us out in myriad ways.  Fantasia's story, while tragic, is not all that unique.  And while not all of us will attempt to "silence the noise" by un-accidentally swallowing a bottle of pills, there are those of us who isolate ourselves, overwork or overcompensate, overeat or don't eat, trade sleep for worry, say yes when we need to say no.  Self-care is not a selfish negotiation.  I strongly believe that black women deserve a story that shows us how to negotiate multiple possibilities for how to be strong, even when the strongest thing to do is nothing!  We need narratives, beyond our own, to show us that we are not alone in these emotional quagmires.

There is a danger in being strong… because ultimately we are all human, and black women do not have superpowers of physical, emotional, or mental strength.  We have to let ourselves off the hook so that we don't feel like we are failing (others or ourselves) when we simply get tired.  While black women have the benefit of our experiences, the training to cope in particular ways (with racism and sexism), and the wherewithal to expand our capacity to deal with bullshit (racism, sexism, classism, etc.) we are not unbreakable.

I list here a few things I have relied on over the years to help me cope with the un-fairytale storyline/s of my life.

  • Sisterfriends. We need to have outlets, support systems, and a space to not be strong.  We also need people in our life who we don't expect us to be their savior or our own.  I tend to avoid people who try to talk me out of how I am feeling.
  • Narratives. Finding other black women's stories about what they have been through and how they got over is important. Meri Nana-Ama Danquah's book Willow Weep For Me: A Black Woman's Journey Through Depression was a powerful testimony for me.
  • A professional listener. We are oftentimes the person people come to with their problems, but we don't always have someone we can go to with ours.  I think we could all benefit from talking to a counselor who will offer an empathic ear and allow us to hear what we think/feel/need out loud and in our own words.  Our friends are wonderful allies, but having a professional counselor who will simply listen has tremendous benefits.
  • Crying. I read somewhere some time ago that crying is a kind of soul cleanse.  As a black woman I was conditioned to never cry unless something hurt (something I could substantiate or prove) so many times my unprovoked tears did not make sense.  However, reframing crying as a way to cleanse my soul has been helpful.  I now see the function of tears as an opportunity for me to rinse away the residue and hurt from the inside out.

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook


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Michael Forever


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via Black Youth Project by Summer M. on 8/30/10

Earlier this summer, I'd gone to my local Walgreens to satisfy a craving for peanut M&Ms.  As I stood in the candy aisle deciding just how big of a bag I should purchase, a woman and her two small children joined me in the aisle.  The mother stood there looking over the sale items as her two kids, a girl and a boy, argued over candy.  Then, the young one, the boy, suddenly walked towards the magazine rack, and pointed to a picture of Michael Jackson.  He screamed, "Michael Jackson!  Michael Jackson,"  then pursed his lips, started loudly breathing through his mouth, and began what must have been his version of dancing like Mike.

Now, this little boy couldn't have been more than three.  There's no way that he could remember Michael the way that you and I remember Michael. Yet he shared such a pure enthusiasm for the MJJ, such a love that I couldn't do anything but smile at him and think about the ways that Michael continues to live and touch lives.  Little boys rocking out at the sight of Michael Jackson on a magazine cover is exactly what legends are made of. 

I'm not sure why, but U.S. holidays don't particularly care for the month of August.  Maybe the holiday gods think back to school shopping and Labor Day sales will tide the American public over until it's time to buy afro wigs for Halloween costume parties.  I don't know about you, dear reader, but I ain't with it.  August needs a holiday, a three-day weekend we can all support.  Which is why I'm suggesting that we honor the life of Michael Joseph Jackson by making the last Monday in August a federal holiday.    He's done a lot for us, for the world.  The fact that "Billie Jean" still bangs, that his jheri curl mullet (still?)  looked really good make MJJ worthy of a holiday.  Those facts combined with his philanthropic endeavors should make him a shoo-in for federal acknowledgment.  Lesser men have been honored with parades.  (Seriously, America, Columbus Day?  That's just a incredibly arrogant way of dissing indigenous people and saying to the rest of the world, "Dude, we may not be a legitimate country, but we're going to throw a party, anyway.")
Yesterday was Michael Jackson's birthday.  Many of us moonwalked our way into insobriety as we honored the gloved one all night at the club.  Others changed their Facebook profile photos to dancing Michael or Michael in a tux and afro or Michael in a fedora.  Many of us tweeted at least one shout out to the GREATEST ENTERTAINER OF ALL TIME on his birthday in some internet version of pouring out libations.  Still, I think there's more we can do, more that Michael deserves.  Michael doesn't need another mixtape; he's needs a Monday off--which he can accomplish vicariously through us.

It's prime time for another black person to have a holiday.  Instead of waiting for Barack Obama Day or for his face to appear on some money, I urge anyone reading this to contact their local Congressperson or whomever it is that helps federal holidays become federal holidays in an effort to commence the MJJ Day movement.  I'm sure there's a wiki article about this floating around somewhere on the internet about how, exactly, to do this.  (Un)fortunately, my recently amplified nihilism precludes me from contacting the government about anything, otherwise it might appear as if I believe something other than nothing has meaning.  I've no idea how well my crusade to increase The Lovers and Friends Show following is going, but I hope this latest effort trumps that one.

In the meantime, I suggest the we continue informally celebrating Michael's life until the government gets its act together and responds to the letter writing campaign that will undoubtedly commence after enough people read this blog.  Be sure to mention a day of service; BHO loves days of service.  We've already got the party part down, here are some other suggestions:

  • Brush and gel down your baby hair.
  • Try to toss a coin into a jukebox from fifty feet away.
  • Put tape around a few of your fingertips.  I used to do this as a kid.  It's so much fun.
  • Everybody loves pink and red ribbons.  Screw that.  Honor Michael by pinning a little white glittery glove to your lapel.
  • Tar and feather Joe Jackson.
  • Add a "Shamone" to your statements.  For example, when asking your boss for a raise, say something like, "I've saved this company $2 million in the last two quarters alone.  I deserve a 4% raise.  Shamone!"
  • Jazz it up on casual Fridays: wear some white socks with black dress shoes, preferably penny loafers.
  • Two words: FLASH MOB!
  • After your workout, you know when you're all sweaty and gross looking, scream "Michael!" at the top of your lungs and pass out.
  • Petition the city to get the sidewalks to light up when people step on them.  If they can turn the Chicago River green for St. Patrick's Day, I know they can do some concrete magic once a year.  Can you imagine how awesome you'd feel about your self if the sidewalk glowed as you walked on it?  Mental health benefits!
  • Try to moonwalk.  Here's a hint: don't practice on carpet.
  • Pick an MJJ song at random.  Then, try to decipher ALL of the lyrics without the help of Google.
  • Watch this.  The greatest music video of all time:


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Sunday, August 29, 2010

grandma, we are poets: Lucille Clifton Rebirth Broadcast #10

grandma, we are poets: lucille clifton rebirth broadcast #10 from Alexis Gumbs on Vimeo.

Take home message: ableism denies and perpetuates trauma. In this poem Lucille Clifton breaks down traditional definitions of autism and reminds us that every way we experience the world is poetic, and necessary for the end of oppression...i.e. the transformation we deserve.

For more info about the Lucille Clifton Shape Shifter Survival School of End Cycles of Child Sexual Abuse see:

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sept 7th in ATL: The Real Reading Rainbow: Celebrating Queer Black Intergenerational Booklust

Because we know you LOVE to read...please join us on Tuesday Sept 7th at  7pm  at Charis Books and More  1189 Euclid Ave NE Atlanta, GA 30307 for a nerdy, exuberant and creative MobileHomeComing event!

As part of our queer Black intergenerational lovefest Charis Circle and the MobileHomeComing (an experiential archive project amplifying the brilliance of queer black womyn, gender non-conforming folks and transmen) have invited an age-diverse panel of Black feminist bookworms to gush about the books that got them through.

Come hear about the exuberant booklust of hot MobileHomeComing nerds... Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Julia Wallace, L'erin Asantewaa, Moya Bailey, Mary Anne Adams and MORE!!!!

Bring your favorite book along to share!

Attendees will have the opportunity to purchase the featured books for themselves, and or to donate them to the mobilehomecoming to be given as gifts to our beloved chosen MobileHomeComing interviewee family around the country!

See you there!


 Lex and Julia

"Look how you print yourself on my heart."
-Audre Lorde (journal)

5 bucks a month for sustainable Black Feminism LIVING FOREVER?!
Support love-filled community accountable transformative education!  Become a monthly sustainer of the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind Project and get the audio piece "My People" on Queer People of Color responding to Police Brutality:  http://blackfeministmind.wordpress.com/donation-station/

Friday, August 27, 2010

#ummhmm.tkoed:Oh shit…...


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via New Model Minority on 8/27/10



Oh shit… @mdotwrites



Claire Fontaine Capitalism Kills Love Red White Blue 2008


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via New Model Minority by Renina on 8/26/10

Recently Montana Fishburne, actor Laurence Fishburne's 19 year old daughter, has decided to release a sex tape.

As the daughter of one of the United States Black elite, I found it interesting that she has chosen to publicly choose a career as a pornography star as a way to earn a living.  Summer M. of the Black Youth Project talks about Montana's gall here.

In a society where Black women are treated as  silent and hyper sexualized, as all purpose ho's or "wifey's"  I am fascinated by Montana Fishburne's choice.

The assumption appears to be that if Kim Kardashian can do it, then so can I.

For her, it is irrelevant that Black girls are born all purpose ho's. #ummhmm.

As you can tell, I am ambivalent about this.

On one level it takes a lot of gall to openly say, as  Black girl, and the daughter of an affluent Black man, that this is how I choose to get money in 2010.

On another level what kind of society creates a Montana Fishburne?

Montana Fishburne's choice is interesting for a few reasons.

First of all this flies in the face of the meritocracy/American Dream that we are all suppose to believe in.

The United States exists largely because of both the property and value that White male plantation owners extracted from enslaved African women and their children. And the systemic decimation of Native American peoples as well. For more about the value and labor of enslaved Black women see Black Women Property Twice.

Second, black women and white women have different yet connected histories within the United States. The history of how Black women's and white womens bodies  are constructed are different and related as well.

Lorraine O'Grady writes in the essay Olympia's Maid,

"The female body in the West is not a unitary sign. Rather,
like a coin, it has an obverse and a reverse: on the one side, it is
white; on the other, non-white or, prototypically, black. The two
bodies cannot be separated, nor can one body be understood in
isolation from the other in the West's metaphoric construction of" woman." White is what woman is; not-white (and the
stereotypes not-white gathers in) is what she had better not be."

Again. "The two bodies cannot be separated, nor can one body be understood in isolation from the other."

Thirdly, the Kim Kardashian plan. Kim Kardashian does not read (looks like) as a Black woman. She certainly reads as an exotic White woman (she is Armenian, Dutch,) but certainly not as a Black woman. And then there is Montana Fishburn's "ho tape" issue.

Have you noticed that Laurence Fishburne has both criticized and allegedly distanced himself from her?

Do you know who Robert Kardashian is? He is the father of Kim Kardashian and a prominent attorney, a part of OJ Simpson's legal team. He passed in 2003 so whether or not he "approves" of Kim Kardashian's usage of leveraging a sex tape into a career is moot.

What is worth being noted is that Kris Jenner, Kim Kardashian's mother manages all three of the Kardashian sisters.

What I am trying to get at here is that different ways that the family dynamic is playing out in the lives of these two women.

This brings me to Hannah Montana. Other than Britney Spears is there another teeny bopper White singer, within the last decade,  who has managed to appeal to girls across race, be sexy, without being hypersexualized? While Brittney managed to do this for the first three years of her major label pop career from 1999-2001, she certainly developed a more overtly sexualized adult image, symbolized by her kissing Madonna at the 2003 VMA's.

In some ways I am seeing a connection between Hanna Montana's largely "wholesome" career and Montana Fishburnes decidedly "deviant"  one.

Classic Madonna/Whore eh?

For more read Andrea Plaid's piece "Understanding Montana Fishburne, Celebrities, Sex Tapes and Race."

What does it mean to me a Montana Fishburne in a Hanna Montana/Kim Kardashian  world?

What does it mean that in 2010 the Black daughter of  an affluent man chooses to use porn as a career stepping stone?

Why do Black people say shit like "something was wrong with her home life" (rhetorical question. trust.)

Related posts:

  1. Michael Baisden is a Misogynist Pig
  2. Quoted: Dorthy Roberts >Black Womens Reproductive Rights


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Black Women’s Complicity in Being Dominated


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via New Model Minority by Renina on 8/27/10

RHOA fight b/w Kim and Nene.

@tkoed and 'Toya. See, I wrote it!

After writing several posts in June about Black men, Love, and domination John challenged me to talk about the ways in which Black women are complicit in being dominated, to talk about the role that women play on the streets, in heterosexual relationships, in being dominated.

John said four profound things in the comment section.

The first was that:

I think that most black men have just built up walls that we don't get hurt by women but especially black women. therefore, I think alot of black men refer to black women as bitches and hoes because that display of emotion has gotten them actually more action than being kind, vulnerable and understanding. As a man why trade that if the other as harmful as it maybe still gets me the award that I seek!

I had never thought of the fact that men may call us crazy assed names in the street because it has gotten them more play than being polite. This is why, in Black feminist theory that experience matters. The fact that he shared this forced me to take it into consideration.

The second was that:

Now before anyone says that I am condoning the way black women are treated in music, in the media, or in our own societies I am not. What I am saying is most men are not going to change the way they are emotionally to accommodate one woman. They are going to go by what they perceive the standard to be. They could have something to do with what demographic their in.

The third was that:

But for the most part when it comes to a white women regardless of what the environment is he will approach her with some respect in fear of punishment if he steps incorrect. But that's not good either regardless of race women should be treated and approached with respect and dignity.

I appreciated the fact that John was honest about how the risks and consequences are different both currently and historically when it comes to how Black men step to white women and women of color.

The fourth was that:

To touch on something else I think you leave the woman out of fault on this. Like someone stated in one of the earlier post "women let men get away with certain things because they were men". That continues to happen not just in the HOOD but throughout society yet as a black woman you scream for change. While your counterparts around you stand silently by waiting for a man to take care of them. How do you expect to change this black male masculine trait if a majority of black women especially in the hood feed into in order to survive in some cases.

On leaving the women out of this.

This piece was hard to write in the same way in which my other pieces are hard for Black men to read. I told @tkoed that I needed to write this, that it was hard and I didn't want to. He responded saying that I needed to write it and say that, because IT IS HARD for Black men to read many of the things that I say about them. Touche.

The first time that I personally came to terms with being complicit in being dominated and I wrote about it was in December of 2008. I was at a party, the first party in a long time. I had just finished my grad school applications so I came up from under my rock. I wrote,

So I am there, rapping along to Black Moon, or Ghost or CL
and this dude grabs my wrist and I unfurl his fingers from around it. A little bit later, and he does it again and I almost flipped out on him.

I remember that historically, I would take my thumb finger and stick it into a dudes hand if he ain't get the picture. In many ways, it was a small act of resistance.

I go on to say,

I am thinking about how I am complicit in contributing to an environment that normalizes or is neutral on violence against women. My wrist was grabbed, yet thirty minutes later I still sang along with Snoop, "I got freaks in the living room getting it on and they ain't leaving to till six in the mo'ning." I am thinking about what it means to finally realize, after all these years
that I, and arguably we, have been trained to tolerate being touched, and how all hell breaks loose when we say stop.

So yes John, you are right. Black women DO play a role in the domination struggle, and three ways  immediately come to mind.

First, many of us don't want to give up the little privilege that we have. In the book Black Feminist Thought, Patricia Hill Collins talks about Black women are reluctant to give up patriarchal privileges, the privileges that come with along with sexism. She writes, quoting Barbara Smith,

Heterosexual privileges is usually the only privilege that Black women have. None of us have racial or sexual privilege, almost none of us have class privilege, maintaining straightness is a last resort.

While this quote is in response to how man Black women are silent around what it means to be both Black and queer, for me, the quote also speaks to how many Black women are unwilling to examine what it means to tolerate or even respond favorably to being got at in the street.

Second, both men and women, boys and girls watch how women treat OTHER WOMEN and proceed accordingly.

As a teenager who was heavily invested in Rap music and Hip hop, I privileged my relationships with boys and routinely said out loud, "I don't have any close girl friends, girls are childish and trifling." I know. I was sixteen. I ain't know no better.

Now that I am grown, I listen to Black women when they tell me things. Their relationships matter to me. I try to be a Love bear. But look what it took for me to get here.

What I am saying here is that how we treat each other, Love each other, talk to each other sets the tone for how OTHERS treat us. In the article "Black Women Behaving Badly" Kierna Mayo connects some of beef that we have with each other to the beef that takes place in pop culture at large. She writes,

One reason it's hard to ignore or simply overlook the insecure and combative nature in some sister-to-sister relationships is because in pop culture they show up everywhere. Venomous exchanges among Black women are more than acceptable-they're commodified and sold. The spectacle of 14 beautiful women piling into a house for weeks, verbally ripping one another apart for the affection of one man-à la VH1 shows like Flavor of Love and its successor, For the Love of Ray J-has become the guilty pleasure of millions of us. The Real Housewives of Atlanta, a gossip-filled hit Bravo reality series that follows the lives of five of that city's wealthier women, even decided not to invite one Black cast member back for season two because, as she told ESSENCE.com, she failed to provoke negative controversy.

In short, how we treat each other matters.

Third, we have to think about the connection between our actions, the behavior that we accept and the treatment that we receive. I want to be real clear here.

I am not saying that blaming the victim of violence is EVER acceptable.

It isn't. Full stop.

What I am saying is that when Black women do accept out of pocket street cat calls, when we do sing to Snoop and are reluctant to connect his singing "bitches ain't shit" to the bitches ain't shit we hear in our day to day lives, we are certainly playing some KIND of role in creating a climate of domination.

People have said to me, well Renina what about the women WHO do want to be dominated and got at on the street, the women who don't mind.

To me that sounds like a token Black employee saying that they enjoy being the only negro Woman at a job, and there doesn't need to be more diversity because everything is okey dokey. Negro please.

My response is that I am concerned about who we are collectively.  So if some women enjoy it, then so be it however there are many of us who don't. There are many of us who stay in the house in the summer rather than be dominated and harassed in the streets.

Furthermore, we need to find another way to relate to each other in the streets that isn't based on a predator-prey model. One that isn't based on men getting at women. As JJ Bear says, "Why do you get to shape my desire?"

If men can get our attention calling some us ho's in the street, how do we address such a cultural phenomena?

Have you thought about how they way that Black women treat each other impacts how others treat us?

What do you think of the idea of being complicit in being dominated?

Related posts:

  1. Beyonce and Black Women's Empowerment
  2. Black Women x The Streets x Harassment
  3. Black Women are Stupid, White Women are Stupider.


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Thursday, August 26, 2010

More Musings on Melanin (or lack there of)


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Artistic rendering of three black women's faces light and dark

"Depending on the context, an individual may be an oppressor, a member of an oppressed group, or simultaneously oppressor and oppressed." -Patricia Hill Collins

"The true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations which we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us." -Audre Lorde

*Mic check*  Is this thing on?  *Dodges balled up brown paper bags*

Hello, all.  First, we're really grateful for the lively discussion our little polemic has engendered.  We've been monitoring the discussion both in the comments section and in Twittropolis, but wanted to let things marinate before we posted again.  (Besides, Moya B. felt ill and Summer had a not so awesome Monday, so we're just now getting our act together.  Dissertations, after all, cannot write themselves.)  Now that a good few says or so have passed, we'd like to take some time to address some of the more salient points we've noticed in the comments section, and also perhaps clarify some things we said in the original post.  We hope this conversation is understood to be just that: a conversation. We are not shutting down light skinned folks for speaking on or about race as it relates to their color; we are asking, however, that these discussions become more nuanced, which, in our estimation, includes pot calling kettle a lighter shade of black.

1.  @Carolyn asked: Light Skin Privilege Checklist? Are you serious?  Yep.  We're serious.  Admitting privilege is hard but it's absolutely necessary for liberation. Part of what constitutes race is skin color and phenotype; racism cannot function if you cannot recognize this difference, and subjugate accordingly.  It's what racial hierarchy is based on.  So, let's be honest about the color spectrum that exists in between the stark polarities of black and white: one's proximity to one or the other can play an incredible role in how hard knock one's life is.  As many have noted in the comments section, we didn't invent colorism three days ago, and dark skinned black folks are not the only ones who acknowledge this reality.  To argue that light skinned privilege does not exist, that all black people are treated similarly regardless of hue, vehemently denies the validity (and the existence) of all that inspires this age-old skin tone conversation.  Denouncing the existence of light skinned privilege requires one to believe that skin color does not affect how one interprets the racialized world and vice versa.  And that's just not true.  It's not.  If you don't believe us, google it.  Or pay attention to Soledad O'Brien's entire career.

Plenty of (black) people don't want to acknowledge the ways that we are privileged above others, and we understand that.  Part of the difficulty of living in a society that constantly espouses punditry that articulates clearly demarcated dichotomous stances is that it leaves no room for gray area, and to occupy such a space is dangerous.  In such circumstances, admitting that one has a certain set of privileges causes others to question whether or not one is at all oppressed.  Admitting that one has privilege, then, often results in having to constantly prove that one is oppressed in other ways.

Furthermore, one of the most humbling experiences is learning to accept the piece of the oppressor within ourselves.  For instance, by virtue of having a non-disabled body in an ableist world, intentionally or not, we are granted certain privileges in our movement through it. We may not have actively done anything to to be granted that privilege, but it doesn't mean that it doesn't exist–or that we don't benefit from it through no real "merit" of our own.  Yet acknowledging and understanding our privilege is only part of the work.  Are we willing to leverage our privilege for the sake of each other? Huey answered yes.  So did Angela…and Audre. Will you?

2. In her initial comment to our post, wheelchairdancer wrote that her blog was an "attempt to speak to the whiteness of the disability rights world while maintaining [her] ground as a mixed race woman." Word. The non-disabled black woman feeling like she could step to wheelchairdancer and that she owed her an answer to  a question is a clear example of ableism at work. But part of what wheelchairdancer seems to be claiming is that disability whitens all the time which, if we may go down the troubled road of personal experience to prove this point, is not always true. Moya's great-grandmother was a chair user, but her disability did not whiten her because she was dark skinned.  In other words, the fact that wheelchairdancer's racial identity was questioned seems to have less to do with the wheel chair and more to do with her skin tone.  Disability can only "whiten" if one's skin allows one to be interpreted as such.  It should be noted, that in her comment, wheelchairdancer identifies as mixed-race.  This identity marker alone requires the benefit of light skin.  Mixed-race folks who don't look mixed-race don't necessarily benefit by calling themselves that.  What allows one to identify–or even be mistaken–as mixed-race (and therefore not black) is light skin tone.

3. Thanks to both excerpted authors for trying to engage a dialog rather than shut it down, but a brief word on context and why we chose these blogs.  Our quick and dirty understanding of taking something out of context is when the reader, in this case, infers something from the text that was not intended.  So, in a sense, we did take both redclayscholar's and wheelchairdancer's words out of context.  All sarcasm aside, neither one of us thought that either one of these personal ruminations on what it means to be light skinned was attempting to forward deliberately a kind of "Woe is light skinned me," rhetoric.  But that was never our real point.  Our purpose in deconstructing what was conveyed in these narratives was not to hate on a kind of light skinned melancholia.  Rather, we were interested in the kind of blowback, the implications of constructing these narratives in such a way that privilege is obscured.  What does it mean and what are the stakes of telling a story about the trouble one receives from blacks about being light skinned, without disclaimers or acknowledgment that in general being light skinned is a privilege?

As we said in the original piece, we don't deny the realities of oppression light skinned black people are experiencing. In other words, light skinned black people are oppressed.  But, as the two epigraphs suggest, oppression does not forgo privilege.  Axises of privilege are not independent of each other; they inflect each other–and, if we are all being honest, we know this. This is why we talk about race, class, and gender.  If class didn't affect blackness, for example, James Evans would have been the 70s version of Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable.  We are asking that we examine race more deeply to see the ways that white supremacy works through each other, intraracially. We must be willing to articulate those differences, that privilege.  If we, as black people, are unwilling to talk about and own the little bit of privilege some of us have amongst each other, how do we expect white heterosexual men to do it?

Besides, light skinned black people aren't the only black people who are tested about their allegiance to blackness.   Queer people, quirky black girls, black people who play rock music even though we invented it, etc. are perpetually having their blackness questioned.  Our work, if we are committed to blackness, is to proclaim that we, too, are black.  But we need not do that by being appalled by another black person with the audacity to question us.  We also needn't minimize the aforementioned inflections of blackness–class, gender, sexuality, skin tone–to stake our claims in the muck of monolithic blackness.  We should do the opposite; we should talk about those inflections and nuances of blackness not only as privileges, but rather as that which comprises a richer notion of blackness that has always existed.

4. Yolo made some really fantastic points in his comment, and no one responded to him.  Y'all should read it–again.  (Shout out to Effie and Tasha Fierce for hearing us and to Jah and Crunktastic for holdin' it down while we got ourselves together)

5.  As many others have said here and in the world (but it feels so good when you rinse and repeat), privilege and oppression are not mutually exclusive. Black people's reconstructionist visions of 40 acres and a mule silenced the rights of indigenous peoples in their land, just as the Cherokee refusal to recognize their slave descendants silenced another sector of the black community.  If we accept that white supremacy works differently among different racial ethnic groups of color, why do we then imagine that it does not work intraracially? To repeat, part of the way "race" plays out in our community is based on skin color.  SB1070 is about targeting people who look like illegal immigrants, usually of Latino (we know, totally an American construction) origins. As The Daily Show points out, no one is getting riled up about Canadian anchor babies. Irish, Italian and Jewish people have had access to whiteness in large part because of skin tone. Similarly, the hierarchies within other people of color communities speak to these realities as well. As black people who are in relationship with other people of color, we have witnessed the ways in which light is right operates in racial groups other than our own.  It is imperative that we examine this reality amongst ourselves.

6.  Finally, although we've spent all of our time here discussing the role oppression has in the construction of black identity, to be clear, we are not arguing that black subjectivity is solely comprised of being denied certain privileges.  That would be a really foolish thing to do, and they would kick us out of grad school if we believed such hogwash about Negroes.

*Drops the mic*

Two jigaboos (tryna find something to do)

P.S. We didn't invent the privilege checklist. Check out the OG White Privilege Checklist and another one that has engendered a similar amount of venom as folks dispute the co-constitutive nature of privilege and oppression, the Black Male Privilege Checklist. We'd also like to remind everyone that pretty privilege is a long documented phenomenon. For more on it and more great TV time enjoy The Bubble episode of 30 Rock (h/t to @superfree)


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SXSW Countdown: 2+ (Race, Sex and Blogging: Vote Here)


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via New Model Minority by Renina on 8/25/10

How Zora and Dilla Helped me to Claim My Crush

There are two more days of voting for my #SXSW panel, Race, Sex and Blogging, The Limits and The Possibilities. Vote Here.

Oh. And you can Like the Blog on Facebook here.

The Brilliant Ann, who did the site redesign, created these awesome buttons to promote the #SXSW jawn.

Asher Roth and Why Rappers Need Nappy Headed Ho's.

She also has me on Tumblr which is kinda the devil because it sucked away my ENTIRE Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

Well, Sunday, I lied because I was marinating with my boo (one of them #all city)  and my SNACK. Snack was good. Marinated pasta with Lemony Goodness + cherry tomatoes. #ummhmm.

I got like 4 post's coming.  Just been grinding and promoting.  I ain't forgot about ya'll. Plus…..The Tumblr be cracking too. Say Helooooo.

Related posts:

  1. #BlackGirlsarefromtheFuture @ SXSW Interactive!
  2. If You Hate PoPo. Vote. If You Love Popo. Vote. If You Are A Baby Momma Vote. If You Like Listening to Baby and Weezy. Vote.
  3. Digital White Flight: On Twitter and Race


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superhussyisms: Haiti’s AIDS Orphans


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Nicki’s World


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via The Crunk Feminist Collective by adurhamtamu on 8/26/10

As BET gets set to air its documentary about women and hip hop Monday, I am finding my 30-plus, old school feminist-self working hard to gear up to get down with the over-the-top, lyrically layered, brand savvy rapper that is Nicki Minaj.

The self-described Barbie is inescapable. She works every rap and R&B hook, and changes her looks to fashion what could be categorized as camp, cultural appropriation or classic sexual objectification.  Until Minaj, I've managed to safely maneuver around mainstream new millennium starlets because they offered no more than a cookie-cutter replica of the unique hip hop dynamism I remembered.  (See the links to artists below.) Likened to Lady Gaga for her eye-catching performances, this former theater student is adept at staging media spectacles, such as autographing breasts, adopting different voices, and orchestrating a coming-out tweet to squash rumors about her bisexuality for those who might have misread the Remy Ma viral video confession from her masculine persona, Roman, as Nicki Minaj. You can call the latter a cop-out or a capitulation to a commercial model that demands that all women perform hyperfemininity period. As I enter Nicki's world (slowly and with caution), I am not only considering the ways she uses her body, but I am thinking of three ways her performances of race, gender and sexuality instigate a feminist engagement with the popular.

1.  Beauty and Postfeminism

Postfeminism advertises the sexy, smart, economically successful self-absorbed it-girl from a post-patriarchal world where politics are defined by "style wars" rather than issues of gender inequity. Here, beauty and postfeminism seem to be disconnected from critiques of consumerism, gendered labor, or political citizenship.  On the one hand, the look-good-feel-fine empowerment that Minaj offers feels as lifeless as the dolls she suggests every girl wants to be—you know, the nonspeaking, decorative, plastic bodies to be handled and watched. Then again, I can imagine her Barbie thang as her way of injecting a sense of beauty and wonderment for homegirls, like herself, who've had to create other worlds to escape the ugly one they lived every day. In either case, Minaj has managed to capture the attention of young women—hook, line and stiletto.

2. The Lady and The Freak

In what could be described as a post-Tip Drill moment where folks are "manning" the line to distinguish the ladies from the freaks, Nicki Minaj is not the only one who is creating personas to perform otherness. As Roman Zolanski she can express desire for another woman, and as Harajuku Barbie she can perform a sexualized Asian girlhood without damaging the central "brand" or image. Beyoncé is another celebrity with a freak persona. In big hair and tall heels, Sasha Fierce does Beyoncé's "dirty work." Both entertainers talk about a sense of freedom—which is almost always connected to sexual freedom.  Celebrity aside, ordinary young women on and off screen are crafting "real" and alternate/virtual identities as a response to the increased policing of their bodies through this hip hop binary. Rather than marking public/private bodies, young women like Minaj are now describing their "real" good bodies and their fake freakish ones. In our sincere efforts to "free the girls," it is possible we might have caged our "real" sexual selves.

3. Camp, Celebration or Cultural Appropriation

From her Anime-inspired Vibe magazine cover, her Harajuku Barbie persona, to her recent music video, Your Love, where she plays a geisha girl (among others), Minaj reprises dated stereotypes about Asian women that suggest desirability comes in part from submissiveness or obedience.  Costuming conceals and reveals her body, and both frame her as the exotic; the hand gestures she does in separate scenes either to seduce her lover or to fight her foe are grafted from other forms of popular culture depicting Asianness. I can remember the debut of the Harajuku Girls shadowing Gwen Stefani at a music awards show. Then, folks flipped about a white woman co-opting Asian culture and parading other women (as objects of her imagination).  Yet, as Minaj mines the visual landscape to reinvent herself, her Afroasian encounters – whether camp, celebration, or cultural appropriation – remain unchallenged.


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