Black History/Future Month

“All that you touch, You Change. All that you Change, Changes You. The only lasting truth is Change.”–Octavia Butler

It’s Black History/Future Month. A time to reflect on the past contributions of Black Americans, as well as the visions/creativity/activism of the next generation.

The purpose of my group (PDX Black Feminism) is to honor the barriers broken by Black women/Non-Binary people. We provide a space to talk about issues affecting us in/outside of our city.  It’s also an opportunity to explore the Afrofuturism tools of resisting oppression.

Please support our work this month. The funding helps rent space for meetings, provide refreshments, and self-care needs. In celebration of Black History/Future Month, we will be hosting a showing of “Unbought and Unbossed.” The film explores Shirley Chisholm’s run for presidency, a Black politician trailblazer.

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Contemporary Black Genius Coloring Book

This blog initially started out as a zine. A zine is a take on the word maga(zine) and is a form of self publishing/Do It Yourself (DIY) culture. In Portland, the zine community is popular. Unfortunately, it tends to be symbolic of the city (white folks), so it can be difficult for zinestors of color to find space, at times. A few years ago, I started workshops for women of color (WOC) who made zines, or wanted to learn more about zines. It turned out to be a pretty successful group. We hosted workshops for five years, becoming well-known in the city. During that time, I connected to brilliant WOC artists/writers. I have also built up a fabulous zine collection.

I’m always looking to add to my stash. So, I was tickled to receive the Contemporary Black Genius Coloring Book, from artist Tazha Williams.  This book features beautifully drawn images of folks like Ms. Badu, Kap, and more!

I’d planned to take photos to share, but decided to make it more interesting. So, I created a short video. Then I thought it would be fun to add music. So, I dropped in a tune. Then I thought, some ambience. It started getting a little out of control. Luckily for y’all, I clicked off the editing tool 😉

If you are interested in starting your own collection of art/writings by DIY folks of color, Williams’s book is a great place to start!

 

 

 

Girls Trip

Yes, I’m hella late. I normally avoid films like Girls TripI’m not really into comedies (or romantic films),  so I didn’t get swept up in the hype of the film. However, I was bored the other day, and decided to give it a shot.

It was pretty much what I expected…in the current wave of grown folks comedy (Hangover, Bad Moms).  But I’ll admit I did give a chuckle or two. It was unique to see this type of film from the perspective of Black women. I thought it was clever to set the storyline at the Essence Music Festival. Attending the Essence Music Festival, is on most Black women’s bucket list.

It was also nice to see a film for Black women Gen-Xers. In general, Gen-Xers tend to get lost in the shuffle of Baby Boomers and Millennials. I mean, we remember when New Edition really was a boy band. I’ll never forget a friend’s daughter watching The New Edition Story with wide eyes. She couldn’t believe they’ve been around since the early 80’s 🙂

A lot of attention has been given to Tiffany Haddish’s breakout role in Girls Trip. I thought her character was okay (“wild friend” trope). There has been much made about her rising comedic career. Actually, I think Haddish would make a great dramatic actress. There was something touching during her scene in the coffee shop, when she is talking to her friend. She says quietly,  “I know y’all just keep me around for laughs.” There was an honesty to her words. Especially, after learning more about Haddish’s traumatic childhood. As Haddish has shared, people who come from painful experiences often use comedy/attention as a way to cope.  I feel she has a lot of layers/complexity she could bring to a more serious film.

Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett-Smith, are Hollywood now.  It was bound to happen, but they will forever be in my heart as Cleo and StonyRegina Hall was Regina Hall. She plays the same character to me in every film she is in.

Several Black women who reviewed the film, talked about crying during Hall’s speech. It was cliché (the unhappily married woman finally has an epiphany), but it was still a nice message.

Basically, that we should be our authentic selves. Hall’s character was trying to hold onto an image for the public, but also to deny some truths to herself. Especially, in this age of social media/instant stardom, where we are often pressured to present a level of superficiality.  As well as to consume it. 

That’s how we got stuck with Trump for president. Folks were going off branding/sound bites/illusions of wealth. So we ended up with a guy running the country like a reality television show, but I digress.

I give Girls Trip a B-

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Girls Tripping

N.K. Jemisin and Nisi Shaw

If you’ve been a long time follower of this blog, you know I love to read. Especially, books written by Black women. I’m currently on a science fiction/fantasy novel kick (I’ve even been dabbling in writing my own quirky stories). So, I was super excited to get two new books as Christmas gifts.

I cheesed with delight when I unwrapped N.K. Jemisin’s “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.” I read Jemisin’s “The Fifth Season,” about a year ago. I cheated and listened to the following novels in the series, “The Obelisk Gate” and “The Stone Sky,” audiobooks (I felt sooo guilty about that!) I need to relisten to the last few chapters of “The Stone Sky.”  I tried to wait until my toddler was asleep, to have peace and quiet, only to keep dozing off myself.

I’m just a few pages in “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” (the novel tops out at 395 pages!), but it seems like an intriguing read so far.

I’m less familiar with Nishi Shaw’s work, so I’m really looking forward to reading her book. As noted on the back cover, “Everfair” “explores the question of what might have come of Belgium’s disastrous colonization of the Congo if the native populations had access to advanced technology.”  Sounds like I’m going to need a drink with this one!

I can’t wait to get deep into these books. The goddess Octavia Butler, kicked down the door for Black science fiction writers. It’s wonderful to see the growing literature of Black women in this genre.

If you are looking for some new reading material, put these books on your list!

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I heart books 

It’s 2018…

and like most folks I’m feeling apprehensive, but re-energized. 2017 was a bizarre year. I attribute a lot of the year’s strangeness to the Trump administration. First, it was surprising he won the presidency to begin with. Second, it soon became apparent anyone not part of the status quo would be targeted. That meant poor folks/people of color/ those with disabilities etc., were shit out of luck. Then the revolving door of staff members, insensitive comments,  and constant bragging.  Oh my!

That’s why I find amusing that folks have been questioning the authenticity of Michael Wolff’s new book on Trump. Trump pretty much showed who he was during his campaign, and generally tends to engage in tacky public behavior. So, it’s not hard to believe he’s even more callous behind the scenes. I chuckled when I read an article, that summed up how Wolff’s book came about. The author stated “sometimes you need a rat to catch a rat.” Or in the words of rappers “don’t hate the player, hate the game.” Wolff might be a bit shady, but you need someone like that to deal with someone shady like Trump.

So, what does this all mean?

Despite the book, low poll numbers, Russia investigation….Trump still has a pretty supportive fanbase. While they might not necessarily care for him, he is helping to usher in their dream of a more ultra-conservative/oppressive America. Trump could very well make it all 4 years. I mean he made it through one, and I’m shocked as hell about that!

Support Portland Black Women’s Activism: PDX Black Feminism

The best folks can do is continue to resist their agenda. Stay informed. I stopped doing the resolutions thing, a long time ago. I just could never stick to my list.  This year, my goals are to grow professionally, and to keep creating space for Black women’s issues/feminism. It was Black women who tried to stop Trump on election night. It was Black women who did stop Roy Moore.

The future is us. And our time is now.

Happy New Year 😉

Holiday Gifts: Black Girl Stuff

The holiday season is fast approaching…12 days until Christmas! It’s been hard getting into the festivities this year. It feels like so much has been going on. It’s been a long year. But this is a great time to support Black women’s businesses. Especially, after Black women saved the world again. *cough Alabama* 

If you are looking for last-minute gifts, here are some crafty Black women making fabulous things 🙂

The brilliant writer Alexis Pauline Gumbs is now selling these cozy looking hoodies! I’ve been a fan of Gumbs since I came across her website, years ago. She’s one of the editors of Revolutionary Mothering: Love on Front Lines and has a great piece in Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Movements. These hoodies are a wonderful way to show your support for Black feminist literature.

 

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I Am: A Black Feminist Bookmobile

 

I can’t remember where I saw this delicious organizer, but I’m glad I bookmarked it! The 2018 womanist agenda yearlong monthly planner is a cute accessory for those who will have a busy 2018. The organizer is filled with beautiful images of Black women/Trans/Non-Binary folks and empowering quotes.

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2018 womanist agenda yearlong monthly planner 

 

In 2013, I got the opportunity to interview Kayin Talton Davis for the Women of Color: How to Live in the City of Roses and Avoid the Pricks zine. She talked about her shop, Soapbox Theory, and the challenges of being a Black woman entrepreneur. It’s been amazing watching her business grow. I know it’s been difficult for her to hold onto her shop, in a Black neighborhood that’s been hit hard with gentrification. Check out these new products from Davis!

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Soapbox Theory

#metoo

The last few weeks the public has been inundated with shocking revelations of predatory behavior in Hollywood. So much so, I needed time to process before writing about it. Some folks have been skeptical of the allegations, as many of the women have waited 5-10 years (if not more) to share their stories. While I’m sure most folks figured there were shenanigans going on in Hollywood, I think it’s been hard for people to grasp that it’s on such a wide scale. Especially, with celebrities they admired. I think it speaks to the fact, that this country has not really addressed the pervasiveness of sexual violence against women.

Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics

Recently, I came across a post that pointed out that we need to make a distinction between sexual assault, sexual harassment, and just asshole behavior. I thought this was important, and probably what’s contributing to most of us feeling overwhelmed. The mixing of incidents, is creating confusion. Ellen Page shared that Brett Ratner “outted” her on set. While offensive, and the way he did it was vulgar, it’s not rape. Lupita Nyong’o wrote an article about her interactions with Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein lured Lupita into several uncomfortable situations, one that resulted in her having to give him a massage, for her own safety. She experienced harassment, but it wasn’t rape. Other women (and men) talked about incidents they’ve endured, while disturbing, many were asshole antics…but it wasn’t rape.

This is not about oppression olympics, all of these scenarios feed into the larger issue of rape culture.  However, it’s making me a little anxious folks are lumping a outting story (as Kevin Spacey also tried to do), or someone giving a perverted sneer, with rape.

Black Women and Sexual Violence

Continue reading “#metoo”

Rachel Howzell Hall

I love a good mystery novel. However, I have a habit of reading the end of the book before reading the first page. A friend asked me once doesn’t that ruin the story for me, but I tend to lack patience. I want to know who the killer is… now! 🙂

It’s hard to find mystery novels written about black folks, by black folks. Especially, black women authors.  The only mystery series that comes to mind about/by a black woman is the Tamara Hayle adventures by Valerie Wilson WesleyI think she stopped writing the series a few years ago, though.

So, I was pleasantly surprised to read that a black mystery writer had fallen under my radar.  In the article, “Rachel Howzell Crafts a New Type of Hero in Her Detective Mystery,” I learned about newcomer Howzell. Well, actually she’s been around for a minute. Her debut novel “Land of Shadows,” featuring Detective Norton, came out in 2014.

It was exciting reading about the work of Howzell Hall. We need more black women writers across all genres of literature. With summer fast approaching, Howell’s latest novel Trail of Echoes should definitely be on folk’s reading list…

“On a rainy spring day in Los Angeles, homicide detective Elouise “Lou” Norton is called away from a rare lunch date to Bonner Park, where the body of thirteen-year-old Chanita Lords has been discovered. When Lou and her partner, Colin Taggert, take on the sad task of informing Chanita’s mother, Lou is surprised to find herself in the apartment building she grew up in. Chanita was interested in photography and, much like Lou, a black girl destined to leave the housing projects behind. Her death fits a chilling pattern of exceptional African-American girls–dancers, artists, honors scholars-gone recently missing in the same school district, the one Lou attended not so long ago.” http://rachelhowzell.com/

Faints. Sounds so good 🙂

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Hidden Figures

March is Women’s History Month. It’s a great opportunity to promote the upcoming film “Hidden Figures.”

“Set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow South and the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program—and whose contributions have been unheralded, until now…Segregated from their white counterparts by Jim Crow laws, these “colored computers,” as they were known, used slide rules, adding machines, and pencil and paper to support America’s fledgling aeronautics industry, and helped write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.” http://io9.gizmodo.com/janelle-monae-will-co-star-in-a-movie-about-the-women-b-1763634154

The movie will star Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and singer Janelle Monáe.  I’m happy that Henson will get a chance to play a different black woman character. While I usually enjoy her work, she tends to be typecast. I was pleasantly surprised to hear about the addition of Monáe. She has a song on her album “Electric Lady” dedicated to Sally Ride, the first American woman to go into space. Obviously, she was made for this role.

Kevin Costner will portray the head of the space program, so there will probably be some white savior element to the film, but overall it appears the story will focus on these three amazing women. I hope the film is as promising as it sounds. “Hidden Figures” will be released in January 2017.

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Photo from: http://margotleeshetterly.com/hidden-figures-nasas-african-american-computers/

 

 

 

Black Women and the PIC

While I was banished to the land of sickness,  I was still able to see Kendrick Lamar’s interesting Grammy Performance. The 28-year-old rapper made a heartfelt statement about black men and the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC).

It was a bold stand at an event that has become too pop/boring/white washed.  I know I personally haven’t paid attention to the Grammy Awards show in years.

I read an article critiquing the lack of space given to black women prisoners in his performance. I’m willing to give Lamar a slight pass for this. As a young man, he’s probably had more experience with his male friends/relatives/young folks he mentors having contact with police/the prison system.

With that said, despite black women being incarcerated at an alarming rate as much/if not more so than black men, the focus still tends to be on black men in prison.

Years ago, I took a class on women and the PIC. Our class read “Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women,” by Victoria Law. Law, an anarchist writer and prison abolitionist, detailed her experiences working with women prisoners. A zinester/DIY artist, she helped the women create a zine showcasing their words/art on prison life. The majority of women she came into contact with had children.This brings me to why it’s urgent we also focus on black women in prison.

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The truth is, women tend to be the primary caretakers of their families. It doesn’t matter if there is a male partner in the home or not. This is particularly true in black communities, were we rely heavily on our extended female relatives.

A disturbing trend I noticed in our class readings, is that whole black communities are being wiped out due to the PIC. It’s leaving significant amounts of black children without parents or guardians. Because not only are the mothers being overly incarcerated for minor/non violent offenses, but so are grandmothers/aunties/cousins etc. I remember reading about a grandmother and her daughter and the daughter’s daughter all locked up   in the same prison (drug addictions). The young daughter’s children were in foster care. There was no one to take care of them.

These mothers are losing custody of their children left and right. Obviously, they are in prison. They can’t just walk down to the local courthouse to attend court dates etc .

The PIC is destroying black motherhood/families. This issue really needs to be addressed in folks anti-PIC activism. Good job to Lamar for highlighting the problem of black men in prison, but we need to expand the conversation.