and yes, I know I’m late as hell. But, things get hectic sometimes. I’ve been busy with work and other projects. I also attended two amazing conferences. I shared before about getting a scholarship to go to the AWP Conference & Bookfair. The AWP is a literary event featuring well known and up and coming writers. As someone who deems herself a writer, it was nice being in a space with other nerdy folks. Hey, most writers tend to be quirky people, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The highlights of the conference: “Come Celebrate With Me” : Women of Color Writers and Literary Lineage, and Safe Writing Spaces: Building Community Through Literary Advocacy workshops. The Come Celebrate With Me… women of color authors offered great advice for new writers. In particular, to “be vulnerable, be honest, and take risks.” The Safe Writing Space…session featured Renee Watson. Watson is originally from my city, and has written a best selling young adult novel. She is also the founder of I, Too Arts Collective. The non-profit encourages people from marginalized communities to write/be creative.
Watson and other great writers, talked about the importance of not just creating a safe space, but a “brave space” for writers of color. The need to make sure participants feel seen/heard, providing community norms/agreements, and empowerment. I also attended the wonderful workshop “We Are Our Own Gods: Writing for Black Women’s Liberation.” The speakers consisted of writers from the Black Ladies Brunch Collective. I talk about their book in this video.
The members from the collective uplifted Black women writers. They stated that “vulnerability can be a path to liberation,” don’t be afraid of the early draft,” and “think about who is shaming us?” The last comment speaks to how mainstream society seeks to oppress Black women by making us feel bad about ourselves, while at the same time exploiting/commodifying our bodies/beauty/talents. The members also noted that Black women should be open to writing about a variety of things, exploring beyond the binary/whiteness. I learned a lot and really enjoyed the conversation.
“National Domestic Violence Awareness Month is an annual designation observed in October. For many, home is a place of love, warmth, and comfort. It’s somewhere that you know you will be surrounded by care and support, and a nice little break from the busyness of the real world. But for millions of others, home is anything but a sanctuary. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are victims of physical violence by a partner every year.” https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-domestic-violence-awareness-month-october/
It is especially important to honor Domestic Violence Awareness Month, as the current administration has made it clear its disdain of women. The absurdity that surrounded Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings is an example of this hatred. The whole situation was alarming, because if a white upper-class highly educated woman could be treated with such venom, what hope is there for women who aren’t as privileged. Particularly, Black/women of color.
I thought about this when I recently attended an event focusing on domestic violence in communities of color. Black/women of color often face unique challengeswhen trying to deal with the issue of violence in their lives (interpersonal, sexual assault, etc.) They are forced to rely on institutions that have historically oppressed, ignored, or exploited them (healthcare services, law enforcement, etc.) The workshop I participated in, the speaker discussed the need to create resources for Black/women of color outside these dominant systems. This can look like building underground networks for these women.
As the speaker noted, “Since the days of slavery, we as a people have been resourceful in creating safety amongst ourselves because safety historically has not existed for us within dominant culture. As enslaved peoples our ancestors created and learned to use codes and underground avenues to create safety and community amongst themselves. This same concept applies for DV survivors of color today; safety and support is sought in unconventional ways.”
We also watched a video featuring Bernadine Waller. Waller talked about the stereotypes and assumptions about Black women that make it hard for them to be taken seriously as victims of violence. She urged professionals to see Black women, to REALLY see us…to see our humanity. Waller’s speech was moving, and highlighted how much work needs to be done in ensuring that Black women are living whole and healthy lives.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw Franchesca Ramsey’s “Sh*t White Girls Say.” I watched it over and over again. I couldn’t stop cracking up. I thought it was an accurate portrayal of some of the ridiculous things white girls say to Black girls. I actually used the video as an example of the microagressions Black women experience, for a paper I was writing at the time. I was working on the paper to submit to an essay contest at my university. I won the $500 award (thanks, Franchesca).
It’s hard to believe that video debuted six years ago. It’s been amazing to see Ramsey go from a YouTube talent, to a well-known persona on shows like MTV’s Decoded. So, when she announced she was coming out with a book, I waited with anticipation. I was curious to learn more about the funny young woman with the lovely locs.
Because I’m a busy single mama, I cheated and got the audiobook. I’m actually glad I did. There were some parts in the book that made me burst out laughing. I startled a couple of folks, while out and about, with my hee hawing. Ramsey has a great speaking voice, and reading her own story with her voice inflections will tickle you.
The one thing I took away from her book, is that she is hopelessly optimistic. I don’t mean this in a snarky way at all. As a natural cynic, and a member of Generation-X…the original “side eye” folks, I found this to be interesting. Ramsey recaps her journey from an unknown content creator, to what she calls “an accidental activist.” She shares how she learned to deal with racism (and other isms), as she came into social justice work.
However, I wondered at times, if she’s too forgiving. In the book, she talks about call in/call out. Call in is basically talking to someone privately if they do something racist/sexist/etc. in public. It’s considered a better strategy than calling out or as the young folks say, “dragging” someone.
I have mixed emotions about this approach. I think it’s because the call in method requires you to educate/explain to the offender what they did wrong. I don’t know, I guess I’m sick of educating folks. Personally, I think most people know what they are doing when they engage in oppressive behavior. Not everyone is naive or ignorant. Some folks just don’t care. Sometimes a good clowning or calling out will do.
For example, Ramsey speaks about having dinner with Lena Dunham. After meeting Dunham, she felt guilty that she used to bash her show and speak negatively of her. She decided to give Dunham benefit of the doubt, and try to have an amiable relationship with her. Dunham has been hella problematic and is symbolic of white feminism/white hipster racism. Also, I’m still trying to figure out how she got away with practically bragging about sexuality exploiting her sister when they were children.
Someone likes Dunham deserves to be called out. I would never waste my time talking to her about anything. This is not to say Ramsey agreed with everything Dunham has done, but this is where that hopeless optimism comes into play. The idea that we need to leave space for racists/sexists to become “better people.” Yes, that works for some folks. But most people just aren’t going to change. No matter how many bell hooks books you recommend. I feel Dunham is one of those people.
I did enjoy listening to Ramsey speak about the power of social media, and the impact it’s having on people’s lives. The good and the bad. Especially, for folks her age. As someone in her 40’s, I’m still trying to get a handle on all these damn apps. It’s fascinating to know there’s this whole generation where things like Facebook, twitter, etc., have always been apart of their lives. Ramsey talked about making videos, blogging, and graphic designing as a teen. These are skills I’m just now learning.
A couple of months ago, I took a class on training materials. The instructor talked about the do’s/don’ts of PowerPoint. One student talked about the horrible ways his teacher in high school made PowerPoint presentations. I almost fell out. When I was growing up, we were lucky to have a chalkboard in the room. I still remember teachers writing on overhead projectors.
“Well, That Escalated Quickly” was a good read…uh, listen. Ramsey brought humor as she covered everything from activism to her interracial marriage to “trolls” online. She does not disappoint. My grade: A-
Have you read Ramsey’s book? What are your thoughts?
When you are a new mother, you are juggling numerous responsibilities such as waking up every 2-3 hours to feed your newborn, constantly changing diapers, obsessing about your little one reaching milestones, and so on. It’s easy not to think about childcare, until you have to think about childcare.
Most mothers are able to stay home with their babies for the first few months. Soon, the reality of returning to work/school looms over their heads. Even if a woman is able to stay at home for a longer period of time, she still needs “self-care” days, errands that need to be done child free, etc. At some point, she will need someone to watch her baby. She will need childcare.
Initially, when I first got to the shelter with my baby, it went well. The director was supportive. I was the first person they had in a long time with a “fresh” baby. She believed strongly in mothers being able to bond with their children and rest and recuperate. Childbirth can be emotionally and physically draining. Unfortunately, she left for another job, and the shelter got a new director.
The new director was a recent widow from California. She and her late husband had owned a vineyard and other business ventures. They had been married for years and never had children. She was a well-off white woman who couldn’t relate to the stress of childrearing. This made it difficult for her to empathize with the mothers at the shelter. She didn’t understand why they couldn’t “just go get jobs.” Despite the fact many of the women were trying to heal from trauma in their lives (domestic violence, drug addiction, etc.), they had children that made it difficult for them to “just go get a job.” It’s not like she offered any resources.
Eventually, she targeted me. I think it’s because she knew about my educational background. She figured because I was one of the rare women at the shelter with a degree, I should especially be working. She failed to take into account I had an infant, recovering from a c-section (c-sections are considered a major surgery), and dealing with slight depression. She became pushy about me finding employment. When I would respond with “who’s going to watch my baby?” She would shrug. Well, that was helpful. The harassment became so overbearing, it wasn’t long before I left the shelter.
Later, I wondered why there weren’t better childcare options for mothers. This society is so bizarre. It makes a mockery of women who don’t want to be mothers, but provides little support for those who decide to become mothers. If anything, poor mothers are seen as an annoyance. Black mothers, in particular, are treated with hostility.
It’s May, which means Mother’s Day celebrations. However, for incarcerated mothers, it’s a reminder they will not be with their children/loved ones. Particularly, Black mothers who are the most vulnerable of becoming victims of the criminal justice system. One of the most pressing concerns for advocates of prison abolition, has been the alarming rate of Black women being held in jail…due to not being able to make bail. This highlights the economic inequality of Black women.
“This country’s pay gap problem — the yawning gap between the wages of Black women and white men — can have especially onerous implications in the criminal justice system. Economically disadvantaged Black women have fewer resources to make bail, causing them to wind up behind bars for far too long, even for crimes they’ve only been charged with and often are not found guilty of. This extra time in jail can lead to a seemingly never-ending downward financial spiral. Defendants can lose their jobs, along with access to benefits and even their housing. In short, incarcerating a woman who is poor will only make her poorer.”https://www.aclu.org/blog/womens-rights/women-and-criminal-justice/heres-how-prison-and-jail-systems-brutalize-women
A couple of years ago, Black Lives Matters/other grassroots organizations, made it their mission to bail out Black women on Mother’s Day. Besides, getting them out of jail, these groups provided the women with resources/opportunities to help them get back on their feet/thrive in their communities. Please consider making a donation to this important cause, as well as sharing on social media.
For the month of May, I will be dedicating the blog to Black motherhood. The National Bail Out/Black Mama’s Bail Out is one of varied ways people can empower Black mothers.
Last year, TIME magazine dropped the ball with their Person of the Year cover. The issue was dedicated to women speaking out against sexual harassment/abuse…courtsey of the #MeToo movement. Instead of specifically featuring Tarana Burke (originator of #MeToo), white women celebrities cluttered the cover.
However, I was more excited when I saw Burke gracing the pages of HANNAH Magazine. HANNAH is a fairly new publication. The first issue was released in 2016.
“HANNAH is an unapologetic celebration of and safe space for Black women in the form of a growing community, a biannual custom publication, and an online presence. HANNAH is a place where we are not asked nor demanded to justify our existence, presence, or humanity. It is, rather, a space where we can simply BE.” http://hannahmag.com/
HANNAH Magazine wanted to pay homage to Burke after the TIME slight.
I eagerly ordered the issue, but thought it would be more fun to give this fabulous magazine to someone.
So, if you are a Black woman/Non Binary person…this particular giveaway is for you! I want the magazine to go to the population it’s intended for. This will be a first come, first served treat. There’s a catch (of course!) If you are the recipient of this gift, you have to tell me your thoughts about the magazine. It can be via video/short essay/poetry etc., however you like to express yourself. Your review will be posted on the blog.
Entries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put HANNAH Magazine Giveaway in the subject line.
As April comes to a close, it means the final days of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Of course, resisting sexual violence is a year-long concern for women’s organizations. However, it is important there is one month dedicated to examining the pervasiveness of rape culture in this country.
I’d been avoiding it because the subject matter was too much to bear. The Rape of Recy Taylor was released in fall of last year. The film details the horrific rape of Taylor, at the time, a 24-year-old married mother/sharecropper. Taylor was walking home from church one evening, when she was forced by gun point into a car with seven white men. She was brutally raped for over five hours.
The story of Ms. Taylor is unique, in that, she was willing to name her assailants. It was rare for Black women to do this in the Jim Crow South. The assault on Taylor, caught the attention of Rose Parks. Parks, was a sexual investigatorwith the NAACP, before she became known as ROSA PARKS.
In the film, Recy’s siblings shared when Parks came to the house to speak with Taylor. The news quickly spread around town about an “outside agitator.” The sheriff drove by the house to intimidate Parks. At one point, he barged into the family’s home and physically tossed Parks off the porch. Parks went away for a few weeks, then came back. She would not be dissuaded.
Eventually, Taylor’s rapists were arrested (it wasn’t too hard to find them, they lounged around town confident in their whiteness). Despite the determination of Taylor and Parks (co-founders of The Committee for Equal Justice), two grand juries failed to charge the men. Unfortunately, gang rapes of Black women were not uncommon in the south, so it wasn’t long before Parks moved on to other cases. This left Taylor and her family to deal with the aftermath of her speaking up.
Life was never the same for Taylor after her rape. I am haunted by the black and white photo that tends to pop up, when researching her case. She is standing stoic. Clothes slightly disheveled. The sadness spread across her face. There are other photos which include her husband and child. She seems distant from them, wrapped up in her own pain. The rape tore apart her family.
Taylor and her husband separated. Amazingly, Taylor stayed in her town, despite all that happened to her. She moved in with her father and went on to live a quiet life. Years later, her daughter was killed in a car accident. Taylor was never able to have more children. As her sister stated in the film, the rapists had “played up in her body.” I can only imagine the violence perpetuated against Taylor’s body for over five hours.
The most startling revelation that came out of the documentary, is when relatives of the rapists, were interviewed. All the men are deceased. I believe one of the men was already in the military, when the rape took place. Later, some of the other men also joined the military. I was alarmed as the camera panned the burial sites of the men. The words “hero,” “courageous,” and “brave” were etched on the headstones. The American flag was displayed proudly on the graves.
I was disturbed by the family members boasting about the rapists military accomplishments. I couldn’t help but think about the controversy of NFL players refusing to stand for the flag. A protest started by Colin Kaepernick in 2016. The argument made by those pro-flag, is that it’s honoring veterans/those in the military. The story of Taylor, made me realize that the uplifting of this flag, means we are praising white men who terrorized Black women. It has cemented for me why Black people should not stand for the flag. The American flag represents the history of sexual violence perpetuated against Black women. It was condoned and awarded with medals.
Taylor went on to live until age 97. Long past, her rapists. She never received justice for the suffering she endured from her sexual assault, so I’m sure those years lived were with some unease. In 2011, the Alabama Legislature issued her an apology. Of course, way too little and much too late, but at least Ms. Taylor was alive to receive it.
“My hometown has been in a water crisis since April, 24th 2014. Yes, for 4 years. Thousands of kids and adults were exposed to lead and other toxic chemicals in our water. When word of the crisis first broke we had media from all around the world shining a spotlight on Flint. But now, the cameras are gone and this crisis is far from being over with. To mark the 4 year mark of the Flint Water Crisis I am hoping to sell as many of these shirts for people to wear on April 24th to bring attention back onto Flint. Four Years Forgotten.” https://www.bonfire.com/4-years-forgotten/
When I think about the 2017 Women’s March, I don’t reflect on white women wearing pink pussy hats. I think about a picture I saw of three Black women standing by themselves. They were holding signs that read “DON’T FORGET FLINT.”
I was happy to support this fundraiser. It looks like Copeny and company have restarted it, so don’t miss your opportunity to get a shirt!
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.
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 greatstyling 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.