Dark Women’s Revolution Pt.2

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 PatseySince 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.

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“Yes, I’m beautiful. Don’t stare too hard.”

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.

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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! 😉

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Black Panther

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.

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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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

The Tale of Four

A few days ago, actress Gabourey Sidibe released her short film “The Tale of Four.” The film is part of Refinery29’s Shatterbox Anthology film.

The purpose of this series is to highlight films by women directors. This is Sidibe’s directorial debut.

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from the film. “The Tale of Four” is a take on Nina Simone’s “Four Women.” Now, folks who know this song, know this is one of Simone’s most iconic gems. The song stays on rotation in Black women’s playlist for revolution. Folks still get chills from Kelly Price, Marsha Ambrosius, Jill Scott,  Ledisi rendition of this song at 2010 Black Girls Rock. Ledisi appears as “Aunt Sarah” in the film.

Well, the joke was on me. By the end of the 20-minute short, I was near tears. Sidibe managed to bring a contemporary spin on the characters of  Simone’s song. She portrayed the women as complex people. No one is all good or bad.

Aunt Sarah-is taking care of her sister’s children after her sister goes to prison for shooting Sarah’s abusive partner.  Despite this sacrifice,  Aunt Sarah struggles with keeping the children or placing them in foster care. She feels obligated, but overwhelmed. She loves them, but wants her life back.

Safronia-is a light-skinned biracial woman. She’s harassed by Black peers for her skin color, but she gives as good as she gets. She refers to one of her tormentors as a “burnt bitch.” Safronia demands her dark-skinned mother tell her who her father is. The mother breaks down and tells her daughter how she was conceived. She was raped by a white man. Safronia goes to her mother and hugs her. It was a powerful moment. Black women sexual assault survivors rarely get unspoken love/support.  Also, it wasn’t the cliché story of the “confused” biracial, rather acknowledging the pain of the mother.

Sweet Thing– is a sex worker. She’s not ashamed of what she does.  She enjoys it, but would like respect from her client.  She’s a talented woman. She sings with a husky voice, plays the piano. When she picks up the phone and apologizes for an argument. Of course, it’s the client. The man she really wants to be with. Or so you think.. When she opens the door to a Black woman holding flowers, and they bashfully hold hands. You realize Sweet Thing wants a different kind of love to fill her heart.

Peaches-is the Black mother grieving her child killed by police. She represents Black Lives Matter, the protest of the flag/anthem, the resistance of white supremacy. Peaches is Lesley McSpadden, Sybrina Fulton, Samaria Rice, Geneva Reed-Veal, and more (sadly). More importantly, Peaches is the symbolic revenge of Black mothers. I recently read an article how the narrative of Black people abused by the police/white oppression is that of forgiveness. We are expected to forgive the transgressions against us. Peaches rejects that notion. She knows she will suffer when takes her revenge, but it helps her heal.

“The Tale of Four” was wonderful. It makes the Nina Simone film with Zoe Saldana in blackface, even more insulting.  This brilliant songstress deserves more than that. Sidibe redeems Simone’s honor with her film.

The Fragility of White Women’s Allyship

About a month ago, there was controversy surrounding the release of “Beguiled.” Side eyes were given when director Sofia Coppola casually erased two Black women from her film. These characters were featured in the book and original 1971 film of the same name. Eyebrows were raised when Coppola tried to justify  why she left these women on the cutting room floor. To paraphrase Coppola she stated her film was “about gender dynamics, not race.”

In the article “The Beguiled’ Sanitizes Racism by Masking It with the Pretty Faces of Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning,” author Kendra James deconstructs the film and Coppola’s stance.

Of course, this left Black women to ask “but aren’t Black women, uh women?” Coppola’s dismissal of Black women, highlights the problem of so-called white feminists. These women keep reminding Black women/women of color, they aren’t really too worried about us.

A few weeks before Coppola showed us who she was, another white woman, Ann Thompson (editor at Indiewire), decided to kick Black women in the teeth. After another white woman, actress Elizabeth Banks bemoaned the lack of opportunities for women in Hollywood, particularly zeroing in on Steven Spielberg. While Black folks on social media agreed Spielberg could do better,they pointed out he did produce/direct one of the biggest female lead film in the ’80s…The Color Purple.

This is when Thompson decided to jump in and declare The Color Purple a flop. Well, Black folks got their laugh on that day.

This disparaging remark made by Thompson showed that white women know nothing about Black women’s lives, don’t care to know about Black women’s lives. Because if Thompson really cared about Black women as “women,” she would know The Color Purple is beloved by Black women. Black women know every line in the film. Black women know every song sang in the film. Black women know when they have been done wrong by someone, to stick a finger (or knife) in the offender’s face and say with confidence “until you do right by me, everything you think about is going to crumble!”

Sojourner Truth: “Ain’t I a Woman?”

Also, Thompson would be aware that The Color Purple earned over 11 Academy Award Nominations and ranked in over $100 million dollars. The film resulted in a popular play on Broadway and of course it all started with the best-selling book by Black feminist writer, Alice Walker. I mean really…

I wanted to revisit these “flops” of white women like Coppola, Banks, and Thompson because it speaks to the bigger issue of the fragility of white women’s allyship. Despite these women often calling on women to come together for “x,y, z…” they generally are not thinking of Black women/women of color. The truth is, majority of white women feel absolutely no connection to Black women. It’s why even motherhood, which one would think women could build community, makes no difference to white women.

Since becoming a mom, I’ve noticed white mothers tend to be indifferent to me if not worse. When I attend family events (library, park, etc.)  white mothers will chat it up with each other, while ignoring me.  Or they give me and my child exasperated looks. I remember once my sweet little guy, smiling and saying hi to a white woman at the store. The white woman gave him a dirty look. I made sure she saw my middle finger. White women can be hateful to Black children. They tend to teach their children not to play/engage with Black kids. I don’t know how many times I’ve witness white mothers whisk their kids away from the playground area when Black children/children of color show up.

I think this has to do with stereotypes around Black motherhood and that many white mothers think Black moms are incompetent. Never mind the fact we took care of their children for hundreds of years while they sat on their azz and ate bon bons.

These increasing incidents of white women crapping on the lives/voices of Black women, is why a lot of Black women feminists have given up. They have grown weary of white women’s “allyship.” It seems to create more headache than needed when you think about all the other nonsense Black women have to deal with in the world.

The Strange, Sad Case of Laci Green

Yes, yes there are some “decent” white women allies. But what’s the point of the “decent” ones if they are not calling out the obnoxious ones? Until this happens (on a consistent basis) feminists of color distrust of white women will continue to grow.

Southside with You

I kind of forgot about the film “Southside with You.” Maybe it’s because the movie had a limited theater release,  so it came and went rather quickly. The Obamas were still occupying the White House when it came out. Why go see a movie when you could witness their love in real life? Perhaps, the film would’ve done better if it were released now. Folks have already started to wax nostalgia for the Obamas after the ridiculousness of #45 and camp.

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I finally watched the film for the first time. It was interesting.  The film was directed by Richard Tanne, a white man. He did a decent job in capturing Black life, but it may explain why Mrs. Obama’s character was so harsh. Men directors (regardless of race) seem to rarely know what to do with Black female characters.  I know the story was trying to capture the precarious situation Mrs. Obama was in by starting a relationship with Obama. She was his boss. She was Black and a woman, fighting daily misogynoir in her office. She couldn’t afford to mess up. However, the film depicted her as overly cautious and rigid and even obnoxious.

When the Obamas ran for their first presidency, Michelle often displayed a humorous, tell it like it is persona. She was witty and smart and you rooted for her more than you did Obama (well, I did anyway 🙂 Then politics got a hold of her, and soon she was forced to play a subdued First Lady role.  We got to see the real Michelle again on January 19th, 2017. I would’ve liked to see more of a well-rounded image of her in the movie. Yet, Barack’s character was allowed to ooze charm. Interesting, as it’s Michelle who actually gives him his flavor (to me anyway 🙂 If you ever observed them on television, it was she who would get up and start grooving or singing or just having fun and he would follow along.

The movie wasn’t horrible, it opens the doors for other directors take on the loving relationship of the Obamas.  “Southside…” actually made me want to see a movie on Michelle’s life. The father she sweetly speaks about, her brother, the expectations placed upon her growing up…how she truly felt about it. The racism and sexism she had to endure during her college years.  The fact that she and Barack, actually planned to divorce at one time. I think it was due to her having to put her career on the back burner, so he could shine in politics.  I guess in the end, she made history. But most women never really forget their dreams.

Surviving Compton

I’m a huge Mary J Blige (MJB) fan. I will never forget when her video debuted on Video Soul (old heads will know what I’m talking about). She had me at “you remind me…” So it pains me to have to besmirch her name. Just a little. While Blige has been credited with being the iconic voice of the merging of hip hop/soul music, spanning a 20+ career of record sells and awards, technically the honor should go to Michel’le.  Michel’le’s self-titled album was released three year’s before Blige’s in 1992. She really is the first r&b singer whose sound was heavily infused with hip hop music. This can probably be attributed to her boyfriend at the time, rapper/producer Dr. Dre.

Over the years, Michel’le has talked about her tumultuous relationship with Dr. Dre, stating he was very abusive towards her. When the film “Straight Out of Compton” came out last year, the allegations resurfaced. Most folks told Michel’le (and Dee Barnes) to shut up about their violent encounter(s) with Dr. Dre. Many felt that they should “let the past be the past” and that Dre had right to have his life story told.

Thank goodness neither Michel’le or Barnes listened to that nonsense. Barnes had an opportunity to tell her story via an online interview and now Michel’le will tell her side of things in the upcoming Lifetime movie, Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Me.” The movie will premiere this upcoming Saturday, October 15th.

Fitting it comes out during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Finally, one of the first female contributors to hip hop/soul music, is getting her due.