The Rape of Recy Taylor

*Trigger warning-sexual violence/rape*

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.

My group, PDX Black Feminism, hosted a meetup to discuss the issue of Black women and sexual violence. To prepare for the gathering, I read a little more on Tarana Burke and her #metoo movement. I also watched a great panel discussion on sexual harassment featuring brilliant Black women activists: Beth RichieScheherazade Tillet, and Natalie Bennett. I also finally watched the documentary “The Rape of Recy Taylor.”

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Ms. Taylor in 2011

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 investigator with 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.

“The Rape of Recy Taylor” is a hard film to watch, but necessary. The foundation of rape culture comes out of this country’s sanctioned abuse of Black women’s bodies.

 

 

 

 

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Happy Fall!!

How was everyone’s summer? With the arrival of fall last Thursday, I thought it was a good time to mosey on back to the blog. My summer was okay. I made it through the smoldering southern heat. I found a survival job. And my baby turned one years old. So all in all it wasn’t too horrible.

Usually, I love the summer months. But this year the heat was so bad, I’m actually looking forward to the happenings of the fall season (cool weather, holidays, etc.)

While I’m normally not a big TV watcher, this fall has brought some great black shows. There has been big praise for “Atlanta” and “Queen Sugar.” I am also looking forward to “Pitch” about a young black woman trying to make it in white male-dominated/”All American” sport, baseball. The story most likely inspired by the life of  Mo’ne Davis.

I’ m glad to be back and ready to get my black feminist cultural critic on!! 🙂

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On the FOX Network, but what can ya do…

Housing Discrimination

Meh…

I know I should care about the drama surrounding Donald Sterling, but I don’t.

Yes, it’s terrible he’s a racist, but his views have been known for a while now. Folks been calling out Sterling for years.

 I don’t care about any of the NBA folks in all this hoopla, they will be alright. They have their millions to keep them warm.  I also wasn’t impressed with the Clippers just turning their shirts inside out as a protest. I know they didn’t have much time to react, but come on. How about refuse to play the game, that would have made more of an impact.  Double meh.

The only thing that peaked my interest in all the media coverage, is Sterling’s recorded (heh) treatment of black tenants in apartment buildings he owned:

“As sports columnist Bomani Jones wrote, “Though Sterling has no problem paying black people millions of dollars to play basketball, the feds allege that he refused to rent apartments in Beverly Hills and Koreatown to black people and people with children. Talk about strange. A man notoriously concerned with profit maximization refuses to take money from those willing to shell it out to live in the most overrated, overpriced neighborhood in Southern California? That same man, who gives black men tens of millions of dollars every year, refuses to take a few thousand a month from folks who would like to crash in one of his buildings for a while? You gotta love racism, the only force in the world powerful enough to interfere with money-making. Sterling may have been a joke, but nothing about this is funny. In fact, it’s frightening and disturbing that classic racism like this might still be in play.”–http://www.thenation.com/blog/179551/donald-sterling-slumlord-billionaire#

Currently, in my city the issue of gentrification/housing discrimination is huge. As it is all across the country.  Poor (and working class) black people/folks of color are being pushed further and further out of the city.  Soon, we will be living in the ocean.

Last year, I read Anita Hill’s “Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race and Finding Home.” Hill looks at the ongoing housing crisis in America. It’s a good read. The book details the history of black people trying to find home in a country that has made it hell for them to do so:

I hope this situation with Sterling brings more attention to how poor folks/folks of color are affected by discriminatory housing practices.

African/Nollywood Films (5)

Happy Valentine’s Day!! Be safe and have fun 😉

Let’s finish out this week on African/Nollywood films with the romantic comedy/interracial love story “Fanie Fourie’s Lobola.” At first, I  planned on skipping this movie, as I’m not into romantic comedies. (1) They all end the same  (2) interracial love stories tend to be especially cliché. It annoys me how they always make the black family the biggest racists (roll eyes). So, I really didn’t have high hopes for an interracial love story set in South Africa(!) But, I decided to give it a shot.

It turns out, “Fanie Fourie’s Lobola” is a charming little movie. The story follows the complicated courtship of Fanie Fourie, a young Afrikaner and Dinky Magubane, a young Zulu business woman.

The movie has cliché romantic comedy elements (wacky relatives). And yes, the movie only touches on some of the major racial issues in South Africa. But, the film gets ya (or me and that’s saying a lot 🙂 You will cry. Trust and believe.

The second half of the film focuses on Fanie trying to get Dinky’s lobola, to ask for her hand in marriage. The lobola is the traditional dowry:

“Lobolo or Lobola in, ZuluXhosa and Ndebele (Mahadi in Sesotho, Roora in Shona, and Magadi in Northern Sotho), sometimes translate as bride price, is a customary Southern African ritual whereby the man pays the family of his fiancée for her hand in marriage. (Compare with the European dowry custom where the woman brings assets.) The tradition is designed for bringing the two families together, nurturing shared admiration, and signifying that the man is proficient of supporting his wife money-wise.” http://www.news24.com/MyNews24/Is-LobolaLobolo-Still-relevant-20130801

However, Dinky is her own woman. Will she accept Fanie’s lobola offer or will she kick him to the curb? Well, if you watch romantic comedies, you know how it’s going to end.  But, it’s still a fun ride 🙂

 

PBS Black History Month

It’s almost that time again…In our so-called “post-racial” society folks have challenged the purpose of still having a Black History Month. Personally, I think it’s still an important and needed month. Especially, for our black youth (and hell even some adults).  Yeah, yeah black history should just be considered American history. Yeah, yeah most black folks have made significant strides since the Civil Rights Movement. Yeah, yeah we have a black President, Oprah, Beyoncé etc. Black wealth/power is at a level it has never been before (too bad most of our black celebrities do absolutely nothing with it, but I digress  😦

YET,  there are  just as many black folks struggling. Many black folks live below the poverty line, highest rates of unemployment, targeted for the Prison Industrial Complex, shot in the back while walking from the store, etc. We still have a long way to go. It’s important we know our history, so we can’t be bamboozled into thinking we deserve our mistreatment. We don’t ever want racism/oppression to be normalized or thought of as “that’s just the way it is.” There’s a rhyme and reason for everything in our imperialist white supremacist patriarchal society (thank you, bell hooks).

Any who, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has an amazing line up of shows to celebrate Black History Month. Check ’em out, if ya can:

“ARLINGTON, VA – January 16, 2014 – In commemoration of Black History Month and as part of its year-round commitment to provide diverse programming and resources for all Americans, PBS today announced new shows and online content celebrating the African American experience past, present and future. From an AMERICAN MASTERS profile of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker, to an INDEPENDENT LENS documentary about the secret spy agency created to maintain segregation in 1950’s Mississippi, Black History Month on PBS will provide programs that educate, inform and inspire viewers to learn more about the rich culture of our nation. The lineup begins on February 3 at 10:00 p.m. with “American Promise,” a powerful coming-of-age documentary from POV that follows the journey of two young African-American males from kindergarten through high school graduation as they attend a prestigious Manhattan private school. Confronting challenges from typical childhood growing pains to cultural identification within a predominantly white environment, the young men and their parents push toward success and discover their own individuality in the process.”–http://www.pbs.org/about/news/archive/2014/black-history-month/

Black Girls Rock 2013 Recap

I always feel empowered after watching “Black Girls Rock.” Hell, the rest of the time society is obsessed with degrading/mocking black women/womanhood. So, it’s nice to watch a program where black women are valued. This is a very important message for black girls and young black women. Young folks are the most vulnerable to internalizing the racist/sexist propaganda used against black women.  It’s up to grown black women to provide safe spaces for black girls and show them positive alternatives. That’s why I have much respect for Beverly Bond and her creation of “Black Girls Rock.” She saw a need and did something about it.

The show was solid from beginning to end. Of course, I got a bit teary-eyed. The honorees were all fabulous and deserved their hard-earned awards. I like that Black Girls Rock not only focuses on celebrities, but the everyday black girl/woman. The grassroots work of black girls/women is not honored enough. There are so many DIY black women out there sacrificing their time, money, homes, etc., to make their communities a better place.  All the performances were on point, because black girls rock 😉  My favorite performances:

Kelly Rowland, Sevyn Streeter, and Eve

Alice Smith

Patti Labelle

 Support Black Girls Rock and their mission of positivity for black girls and young black women.

Black Girls Rock Awards Show

The only time to watch Black Entertainment Television (BET)...TONIGHT!! Sunday, November 3, 2013. 7P/6C

“BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Inc. is 501(c)3 non-profit youth empowerment and mentoring organization established to promote the arts for young women of color, as well as to encourage dialog and analysis of the ways women of color are portrayed in the media.”

http://www.blackgirlsrockinc.com/
http://www.blackgirlsrockinc.com/

October: Domestic Violence Awareness Month

The other night, I attended a lecture featuring Tony Porter. Porter is an educator and social justice activist who challenges the social constructions of masculinity. He also argues that the so-called “good men” have a responsibility to speak out against their peers casual violence against women.  This was an important point to make, as violence against women, has skyrocketed.

It was a good lecture. It was nice to see so many men there. The event was held at a local college. The school’s football team was there.  I’m sure they were probably made to go, but it was still wonderful to see the young men absorbing Porter’s powerful message. Porter is specifically trying to reach out to younger men (“A Call To Men: The Next Generation of Manhood”).

Highlights from the lecture…

  • The Man Box is the rigid roles men are forced/cling on to (e.g. have to always be strong) in our patriarchal society. Porter noted, “homophobia/heterosexism is the glue that keeps the box together.”
  • Porter made the point that women’s survival in a male dominated society makes them know more about men, than men know about themselves. It’s similar to how  black folks must learn how to  safely navigate our white supremacist culture.
  • Our society encourages men to stay disconnected from women and their experiences.  While men are allowed to express anger, they aren’t allowed to show other emotions (sadness, pain, fear, etc.). This creates men who lack empathy.
  • The media contributes to the limited images of manhood. He noted how The Rock has been criticized for playing a toothy fairy/in children movies.
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Tony Porter

 

 

 

Serena’s Controversial Statements

Sometimes, it’s easy to believe that an extremely talented person,  is probably also brilliant in other areas of their lives. But, this is not necessarily true. It’s the cliché of the book smart person who lacks common sense.  This tends to be a running theme for many celebrities today.  They might be able to sing, rap,  toss a ball, etc., but take them out of their bubbles , they usually pop.   It’s amazing how out of touch many of them are.  It can be dangerous, as they are often given a larger platform to spew their (uninformed) views.

Yesterday, Serena Williams, made some disturbing comments about the Steubenville Rape Case, in a Rolling Stones interview:

“Do you think it was fair, what they got? They did something stupid, but I don’t know. I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you: don’t take drinks from other people. She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky. Obviously I don’t know, maybe she wasn’t a virgin, but she shouldn’t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that’s different.”

I guess she noticed (or her PR) the growing backlash to her comments, because she posted this  response on her website:

“What happened in Steubenville was a real shock for me. I was deeply saddened. For someone to be raped, and at only sixteen, is such a horrible tragedy! For both families involved – that of the rape victim and of the accused. I am currently reaching out to the girl’s family to let her know that I am deeply sorry for what was written in the Rolling Stone article. What was written – what I supposedly said – is insensitive and hurtful, and I by no means would say or insinuate that she was at all to blame. I have fought all of my career for women’s equality, women’s equal rights, respect in their fields – anything I could do to support women I have done. My prayers and support always goes out to the rape victim. In this case, most especially, to an innocent sixteen year old child.”

I always like to scroll the Internet to see what other folks are saying when celebrities commit a faux pas. On one blog, a poster made a good point about Serena. At 16-years-old, Serena was on her way to becoming a top tennis player.  She had to work hard and devote her life to achieving her dream. Serena’s family made sure she had high standards/structure, so she wouldn’t become distracted by negative peers. Serena has lived a sheltered life. It was needed for her to accomplish all that she has. So, for the now 31-year-old,it probably doesn’t make sense that teenagers would be in situation like the Steubenville case. In her mind, 16-year-old’s should know better, because at that age she was winning championships. She  was never an average teen girl. This is not to say all teen girls party, drink, etc., but sometimes they do. It doesn’t mean they deserve to be assaulted.  It’s interesting that she doesn’t criticize the boys for their underage drinking.

I won’t event touch the virgin comment…

I guess with her response,  she is insinuating she was misquoted in her interview. Perhaps, but I fear there was a bit truth to what was reported. Of course, she wants to clean it up. As mentioned in her statement, she has always championed for women’s rights, makes her look bad to blame a rape victim.

I like Serena, so hoping she was horribly misquoted, otherwise another one bites the dust. 

Say it ain't so, Serena!
Say it ain’t so, Serena!