Folks who know me, know I love Lupita Nyong’o. The actress made her debut in the 2013 film 12 Years a Slave. Nyong’o won an Oscar for her performance as Patsey. Since that time, she has appeared in several films, including this year’s Black Panther. In Panther, Nyong’o sizzled. Her dark skin shimmered on-screen and her kinky locs bounced with determination. When she strutted around in that green dress, I almost stood up and applauded.
While I admire Nyong’o’s acting, I must admit, I’m obsessed with her fashion/beauty. It’s rare to see a dark Black woman praised in mainstream media. Usually dark Black women’s skin is used to play into stereotypes/negative connotations. I will never forget when the casting call for ‘Straight Outta Compton’ was made public. The “D” girl roles were geared towards dark-skinned Black women. The characteristics that they were looking for included being “poor, out of shape.” It was a limited way of thinking about poor/working class dark Black women.
Besides Nyong’o, I’m a fan of model Nyakim Gatwech.
Gatwech is so fly to me. I love when she wears splashy eyeshadow (I’m the eyeshadow queen), and neon colored lipstick. As dark-skinned women know, we are often told not to wear bright anything. However, we have kicked that colorist nonsense to the curb. I’m going to wear orange, yellow, green, torquise…and I dare you to say anything to me.
As I’ve shared, I’m a reader of Divine Dark Skin. I’ve been learning about upcoming dark-skinned women, and gaining some great styling tips. It’s empowering to have a space that centers the voice/experiences of dark Black women. It’s a shift that’s been a long time in the making.
The revolution has begun! 😉
“Yo mama’s so black, when she wears orange lipstick, it looks like she’s been eating Cheetos.”–The Dozens
Recently, I shared I’ve been watching reruns of A Different World. The late 80’s/early 90’s show, centered on the lives of Black college students. It covered issues such as police brutality, homelessness, etc. I posted about a good episode that addressed the issue of sexual violence. The other day, another excellent episode aired.
Whitley (Jasmine Guy) decides to host an art collection, featuring images/collectable items of Mammy. Her friend, Kim (Charnele Brown), finds the display offensive. Kim has a bad memory of a childhood incident, when she is referred to as Mammy by a teacher. It was during a costume contest at school. She’d been dressed as an African princess.
Things come to a head when Kim’s boyfriend, Ron (Darryl M. Bell) makes “Yo mama’s so black…” jokes in her presence. Kim is dark-skinned and full-figured. The jokes triggered old feelings of ugliness and self-doubt. As she tells a friend, “Women like me aren’t deemed worthy.” Kim also feels that Whitley (a lighter skinned/slender Black woman), doesn’t understand her pain. She sees the Mammy exhibit as an affront to her.
In typical sitcom fashion, Kim resolves all her issues, makes up with everybody by the end of the 30 minutes. However, I thought the episode was very moving and I found myself crying. The show made me reflect on my childhood experiences as a dark-skinned Black girl.
*My new series “The Future is…” highlights innovative Black women/Non Binary folks.*
A few weeks ago, I was reading my new favorite online magazine Divine Dark Skin, when I saw an ad featuring singer Coreena. I love learning about upcoming Black women artists, so I double-clicked. I liked what I heard, and decided to follow her website. Not long after, I was pleasantly surprised to find out Coreena was a member of an internet forum that I’m part of. I enjoyed her vibe in the group, and decided to reach out to her. I almost fainted when she agreed to an interview. I’m glad I asked. What I found was an adventurous young woman, carving her own path/identity/career.
Hi! So, tell us about yourself…
Hello and thank you for having me. Just want to say your blog is the bomb!!! Okay, enough of me gushing! My name is Coreena, I’m a musician currently based in Seattle Wa., but in two weeks moving to Berlin, Germany! I was born and raised in Seattle, went to college in Boston, MA at Berklee College of Music. I got married in Southern California and was in that relationship for 8-9 years. I divorced and moved back to Seattle. I currently teach voice/piano and perform /record music.
After my divorce, I started stepping into the person I wanted to be. My favorite quote is…“your beliefs don’t make you a better person, your actions do.” So, I became an ethical vegan. I’m more spiritual than religious. I followed my true path of becoming a full-time musician, no more side giggin. I wanted to use all of my talents to make a living.
I started getting into activism for animals and made the connection of oppression, abuse and subjugation in all forms. I was always aware of social justice issues in the Black community, but I was a bit of an elitist. I used to think the Black Panthers were too “extreme” and thought that upward mobility and respectability politics was the path to success for Black folks. Thinking about it now I’m like…who was that woman? She had all the best intentions, but allowed fear to guide her.
Currently, my “politics” and/or belief systems may be viewed as radical or extreme. Although, I think its ridiculous that some would view equality for all as radical! I proudly identify as a Black feminist/womanist. Let me be clear this identity for me includes trans women and gender-nonconforming femmes. Black feminism has really taken heat and so many folks don’t have a clue of what this identity embodies.
When I interview Portlanders of color, I often ask “What do you like/dislike about Portland?” I know Seattle is a bit more diverse than Portland, but is also known for being a white city. What are your unique experiences as a Black woman in Seattle?
Seattle is my home so I’m sentimental and nostalgic about my physical surroundings, seeing familiar family and faces. I like that some of the younger Black folks and POC are already clued into radicalism. Maybe these younger folks can make the changes I’d like to see. What I don’t like is how Seattle prides itself on being very liberal, yet drinks diet racism. Many fail to ask the question, “How can I use my privilege to help and contribute to equality?”
Has music always been a passion of yours or did you have other interests? You are also a songwriter/producer. Do you think it’s important singers be “multi-talented?”
I started singing when I was a wee little girl 5-6 years old, but professionally my career started when I went to Berklee at 19. It has ALWAYS been a passion. I can’t imagine doing anything else, maybe little things on the side like acting as I did in high school. My other interest was history, it’s so fascinating and important to know. You don’t know where you’re going, if you don’t know where you came from.
YES! I think its very important, but not necessary. It’s not public knowledge that a lot of “singers” are actually multi talented. Aretha Franklin played piano, wrote her own music and was her own music director at times. Chaka Khan played drums and did many of her own back up vocals in the studio. Bjork writes and produces. And the list goes on and on…
Your music has an electronic/Afrofuturism flavor, that reminds me of Kelela and FKA Twigs. What are your thoughts on the current state of Black women singers/artists? How do you define your music?
I’ve been making music in this genre and have had this sound for the last 13 years. It was not popular to see Black faces let alone a Black woman doing this back then. One of the main reasons I’m going to Berlin is because electronic music and its sub-genres are thriving there. As a Black woman who is an indie artist I get questions like…do you have anything that sounds like Beyoncé? Don’t get me wrong I really DIG Beyoncé, but I’m not her. I can get down singing some R&B/soul music tho! Don’t sleep! LOL!
I think the U.S. has a long way to go still in its acceptance of Black women “alternative” artists. I define my music as Electronic/Ambient/Trip Hop/Alternative/Beat Driven/Downtempo…with hints of jazz.
Your YouTube channel “CoCo Reena Goes International: A musician’s guide to travel, food, and discovery” chronicles your move to Germany. What do you hope to accomplish in Germany?
I decided to go to a place where the genre of music I do is celebrated and not tolerated. I’ve always want to spend quality time abroad and I do not want to get to a place in my life and look back with that big regret. After the election of #45 that was my push…escaping the U.S. in the era of Trump. I’m so disgusted by him and how bold his supporters are. The current climate in the U.S. is not healthy. I told myself I need to go be a citizen of the world for a while.
I’m girl crushing for real! I think your beautiful smile, exemplifies the positivity that radiates from you. What keeps you joyful/optimistic? Do you engage in self-care? Do you have any tips for Black women maintaining a healthy sense of self? In our “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” society (to quote bell hooks).
Oh, Thank YOU!!! What keeps my mind in a productive place really is music. Thru music I have the opportunity to do my passion while expressing all my feelings, thoughts and activism! Music is my self-care. I also get those books out, take those baths and veg out!
I think for Black women to obtain a sense of self and foster healthiness is such an effort that it has to be done EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Specifically, for those that are dark-skinned Black women such as myself. We are perceived with so much bias. The images, social media, and person to person contact…just about everything in the outside world will remind you to “stay in your place.” What I do to fight this is surround myself with media, books, and people who reinforce what I believe to be the truth. Black is beautiful. Black is diverse. Black does not mean wrong or bad. Black is me and I love me.
Thank you for your time
Thanks for having me!
HOW TO SUPPORT COREENA
Patreon – https://www.patreon.com/coreena
Youtube (Coco Reena) –https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC432n57Sb0mnmcNnr2zzlyA
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/coreenamusic/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/reena0519/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/coreenamusic
March is Women’s History Month. It’s a great opportunity to support women’s organizations/businesses. Here are some of my favorite Black women led groups:
As wacky as it sounds, I haven’t had a chance to see Black Panther yet. Unfortunately, I came down with a terrible cold, this past week. Then, my city became engulfed in snow. It seems like a conspiracy to keep me from seeing the movie! I’ll get there someday 🙂 However, it’s been wonderful reading all the critiques of the film (I don’t mind spoilers, I’m the type to read the end of a mystery novel…first).
A few of my favorite takes on the film: In Defense of Erik Killmonger and the Forgotten Children of Wakanda, Black Panther film fuels calls for release of jailed political prisoners, and ‘5 ways ‘Black Panther’ celebrates and elevates Black women.
What’s been amusing about the release of the film…is folks response to it. There’s been white folks hostility towards “Black Panther,” since it was announced last year. The fake outrage of “reverse racism” due to an all Black cast. Nevermind the fact, Black folks have no qualms watching the ton of white superhero films that flood the theaters every summer (all those damn Spiderman and Batman roboots). There’s even been Black criticism. Some Black folks thinks it undermines Black empowerment, think Black superheros are silly, etc.
I don’t think Black folks think a movie is going to save us. Black folks, just like other communities, have subcultures. There are Black nerds/Black cosplay folks, who love comics. There are Black parents (like myself) who see it as fun event for their children. There are some Black folks using this as an opportunity to broaden the issues of Black activism/politics. As with anything, it’s what you make of it.
There’s actually been some great things to come from this film…whether if it’s flawed or not. The call for a syllabus resource submissions (due this Friday!), as well as a Wakanda Curriculum created for secondary students. If nothing else, “Black Panther” definitely made an impact in 2018.
Are you ready?
Happy almost Valentine’s Day! 🙂