“I am not my hair….

I’m not this skin, I am the soul that lives within”–India.aire

I’ve been natural for almost 5 years. I sometimes alternate between sporting a short fro, braids, wigs, etc., but I’m mostly a natural girl. It’s hard being a natural-haired black woman.  Despite a growing movement, natural hair is still seen as an anomaly. Especially, when one lives in  white dominated cities. Unlike other hairstyles, natural hair is not respected/affirmed in mainstream OR black media. Heck ( if anything), visibly looking black women have been slowly removed from the media. If you are not ambiguous looking (being a light skin black woman is even becoming passé), you get no shine. So, for the natural haired black woman, you are especially invisible.

BUT…you are also more visible at the same time. By this I mean folks become extra zeroed in on your hair. Folks tend to think they have a right to black women’s bodies, because of  our society’s racist/sexist history.  They think they have a right to get into our personal space and ask us a thousand questions about our hair. Some even feel they have a right to touch it!

I personally have a no explaining about hair rule to non-black people. It’s tiring, and folks really don’t care. It’s just another way to gawk at black women, since many think we are some different species.  So, I can’t understand why a black woman would willingly let a non-black person paw  at their hair. It’s unimaginable to me, but some folks are doing it.

FROM THE “UNRULY” website:

an interactive public art exhibit, dubbed You Can Touch My Hair, where strangers from all walks of life will have the welcomed opportunity to touch various textures of black

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Ec4eBHVMVPo

Say what! They so crazy! You couldn’t pay me a million dollars to do some mess like that. It just seems wrong to me. Black folks can’t spend our lives educating non-black folks, this is another form of oppression. How many years have folks been living side by side us, and they still don’t know 101 things about our culture. It ain’t our responsibility. This event should be cancelled. But some folks gotta learn the hard way :/

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11 Black Women Whose Lives Deserve Feature Films

Funny, the other day I was watching a movie with Pam Grier (it was actually an early 2000’s film and she was still da bomb!) and wondered why there hasn’t been a film made about HER.  Heck, Mark Zuckerberg has had a movie made about him. Ms. Grier is just as much (if not more so) an American icon.

Pam Grier 2013
Pam Grier 2013

There are so many black women that deserve to get some shine…Read the article at the For Harriet website: http://www.forharriet.com/2013/06/11-black-women-whose-lives-deserve.html

Chime for Change

There was mild controversy over folks attire/performances at the Chime for Change concert, this past weekend:

Bum note: Iggy Azalea made sure she showed off plenty of flesh as she also took the stage in nude coloured fishnet tights

Some folks were upset, as the event  was supposed to be about bringing light to women’s issues/empowerment. I have to admit I raised an eyebrow,  once I saw the photos from the event. Obviously, as a feminist I think women should be allowed to wear what they want, but the photos did make me uncomfortable. Why? How could I speak on my discomfort of the outfits, without sounding judgmental?

As I scrolled the Internet (to gauge what other folks thought about the concert), I found two comments that articulated my concerns.  The posts were in response to folks that had stated those who were critical of the clothes, were participating in patriarchy/oppressive behavior:

“Not that I agree with a single person up in that post, but there is something frustrating about…ugh, let me try to phrase this right.

It’s not that sexuality isn’t empowering. It’s just that empowerment always seems to be shown as sexually charged. Like every popular media representation of a strong woman is one who is clad in body-baring spandex and being overtly sexual as a sign of her strength. Yes, it’s a sign of empowerment, but why is it the only example of a strong woman that we really see?”–commenter #1

and

“I wouldn’t criticize these specific performers. I’d rather focus on how our society is only interested in hearing about women’s issues when the person delivering the message adheres to existing beauty standards.

Think about how readily men dismiss feminists as ugly, frigid bitches that are only feminists because no one wants to fuck them. So to be taken seriously, we still have to jump through hoops. That’s the bullshit, not Beyoncé’s costume.”–commenter #2

Yeah, what they said. I think commenter #1 summed up my mixed feelings about the clothing choices of the performers. The images of women celebrities today, tends to be oversexualized. It’s not that there is anything wrong with these women being sexy. But, is it they are being sexy because they truly want to be, or  is it just another marketing ploy by the male-dominated entertainment industry? It becomes even more complex, when looking at black women celebrities. I  believe there has been  an effort to wipe out the black female soul singer. Adele can stay covered up and sing  “soul” music, while our singers are being promoted as “naughty” pop stars.

Black female singers, like Janelle Monáe, India.Aire, etc., are usually not given the same platform, at events like Chime for Change. Is it because they don’t fit into the current standard of an “empowered” woman (sexy). Monáe usually stays in buttoned-up shirts/slacks (folks were “relieved” when she wore a dress in her latest video, why?) and Aire is a dark-skinned black woman with an Afrocentric style. Would (mainstream) folks be less willing to watch/hear them speak about women’s empowerment?

I  have scrolled the Chime for Change website, and I am still not sure what it’s about. First of all, the whole thing was founded by Gucci. Gucci is a high-end store, where the average woman can’t afford to shop. There has also been concerns of sweatshop practices, of the business. All of the performers outfits were made by Gucci.  What’s in it for Gucci? Is it an opportunity to peddle their overpriced wares to the masses?

Secondly, there are glamour shots of the three main supporters of  the organization: Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Frida Giannini(creative director of Gucci), and Salma Hayek Pinalut.  Other celebrities faces fill the first page of the website.  The women offer generic platitudes about girls/women needing equal access to education, healthcare, and wages. Okay, yes but how is this organization going to go about this? Which brings me to my last concern, how is the money being used?

Supposedly, this organization has already raised $4 million dollars. It will be interesting to see how it’s actually used to empower women. I mean for all we know, it could be going into Gucci’s pockets.  Chime’s advisory board is filled with celebrities/established non-profits. Where are the grassroots, radical, local women activists? You know, the women doing the everyday work.

I know there are some folks thinking, stop being so cynical! But the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, is a real problem. It becomes even more troubling when celebrities jump on the bandwagon.  Is it really about empowering  disenfranchised women or is it just another opportunity to promote their music, clothes, brand, etc.

Hmm…

The Conundrum of Beyonce

The singer is currently featured on the cover of Ms. Magazine:

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I tend to have mixed emotions about Beyoncé.  I will admit I am not a fan. I am a 70’s/80’s child. I grew up with singers like Stephanie Mills, Angela Winbush, Miki Howard, Phyllis Hyman, Regina Belle, Vesta, etc. When compared to these amazing (underrated/respected) women,  Beyoncé’s singing style/music catalog, tends to be “okay” to me. However, she is an electrifying stage performer/entertainer.

I also respect that she has worked hard for her career. Recently, a blog asked should young people look to Beyoncé, as a role model. In some ways, I would say yes. She has shown that having goals/aspirations are important. She has shown that you must work hard and be dedicated,  to get what you want. She has shown that you must demand respect (but I ain’t bowing down, cuz I ain’t a bitch 🙂 and be professional.

However,  I would be hesitant to embrace her as a feminist. I find it interesting that so many other feminists (black/white), do.  Yet, these same folks have had no qualms ripping women like Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, Khia, etc., to shreds. Is it because folks tend to view them as “ghetto girls,” without redeeming qualities? Is it because Beyoncé comes across as sweet/humble, even though she sings about the same things they do (money, status symbols, being “freaky” in bed, etc.). They have also shown that if you work hard and go for yours, you can achieve. Yet, no one praises their accomplishments.  Lil Kim (especially) tends to be mocked and deconstructed about her plastic surgeries. But, Beyoncé has also altered her appearance for mainstream acceptance/male gaze (long blonde hair, breast implants, colored contacts, skin lightening, etc.)

It’s not surprising that Ms. Magazine would pick Beyoncé, as their rare black woman cover. She is non-threatening and reinforces white women’s superiority complex (e.g. white beauty standards). Don’t we all remember them making Michele Wallace, take out her braids for her cover shot? I think it  would’ve been more powerful, if this new issue had Assata Shakur on the cover. Shakur was recently listed as one of the FBI’s most wanted terrorist. 

Ironically, I believe Beyoncé and her husband’s trip to Cuba, helped to realign the target on Shakur’s back. In their  quest to show off/sense of entitlement, I believe it forced President Obama’s hand. As the husband, rapped about getting clearance from the president. Of course, he was just bragging, but it made President Obama look bad. I think the president wanted to show republicans, that he’s tough on “crime.” We all know the president, tends to worry  what these racists think about him (that’s a whole ‘nother post).

Speaking of the husband,  he is another reason I don’t  readily accept Beyoncé as a feminist. She married an unrepentant misogynistic, colorstruck  man. If you don’t believe me, all you need to do is look at the man’s music catalog.  I find it disturbing, he recently joined Beyoncé on stage, at the Chime for Change event. When has he stood  for anything representing empowerment of women?  I guess because he’s nice towards Beyoncé (his ideal of beauty)/has a new daughter, we are supposed to forget he has gotten rich off the degradation of black women/community?

I think Beyoncé peddles “soft feminism.” In other words, sure she will talk about women needing to be paid equally to men, how important it is to be independent, etc., but she doesn’t really challenge/reject the status quo. If anything, she accepts/feeds into it…

I don’t dislike Beyonce, I really don’t. I just don’t see all the supposed feminist stands she takes, as others do.

New Series: When people show you who they are…

The activist/poet Maya Angelou is known for her famous quote, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” 

It means, when someone shows you their true colors, believe it. Don’t make excuses for them (or accept their excuses/apologies).  Take it as a warning, that you now  know who you are dealing with.

Self-preservation is always important in the face of oppression.

I have decided to start a new series, named after Ms. Angelou’s poignant quote. There are so many folks out there that are being abusive in their actions/language. Then they turn around and act like we didn’t see them do, what they just did!

I think black women (especially) tend to find ourselves on the receiving end of degrading situations. We are often forced to grin and bear it. When it’s a black celebrity doing it, we are told we are supposed to support them (cuz, ya know you don’t want to be seen as a crab in the barrel), even when they are throwing us under the bus. Oh, hell naw! Life is too short for that.

That’s why, I have decided to dedicate this first post to Mike Epps. Recently Epps, ranted about his daughter/ex-girlfriend,  at one of his stand-up shows (personally, ole boy has never been funny to me). He stated that his visibly black looking daughter/ex-girlfriend,  were jealous of his new “light-skinned/good-haired” children. HA, HA, HA! Hilarious, eh?

I guess it hasn’t dawned on him (that his daughter/ex-girlfriend probably hate his guts) because he cusses them out and refers to them as “bitches” that look like James Brown. A common assault on visibly looking black women, that we are “manly” evil bitches.  What a jerk…

#FAIL

 

 

 

 

End of Watch

As I have shared, I am a film buff…

The other day I watched the movie,
“End of Watch.”
I remember when it was first released in theaters, last summer. I didn’t go to the theaters to see it, as I  tend to be weary about films about police officers. The Hollywood Industrial Complex usually has an agenda with these type of movies. The films usually try to portray  police officers in a redeeming light.  This is not to say all police officers are evil, but when you are a person of color, the police are usually more of a threat than heroes.

But… the other evening I was bored, so I decided to give the film a try (it’s streaming on Netflix).  The film is basically an updated version of the 1988 movie, “Colors.”  The film has been tweaked with contemporary characters.  Instead of an older white male  cop trying to impart wisdom to a younger white male cop, both of the lead characters in “End of Watch,” are young men. One is a young Latino male, and the other is a young white male.

The second tweak, is that instead of  animal-like black gangbangers,  the violent gangbangers this time around are Latino/a.  The story takes place in Los Angeles, so right off the back you shouldn’t have love for these police officers. We all know (or should know) about the racist history/racial profiling that goes on with the LAPD.

SPOILERS!! SPOILERS!! SPOILERS!!

The movie is filmed in the documentary style that is popular these days with directors (the lead white character has film project for his class). While this tends to be an overused way to tell a story, it does allow for viewers to get more intimate with key characters. As the two young officers ride throughout the city, it’s hard not to connect with them on some level (even when you try to be cynical, like I did).

The young officers battle a black “hoodlum”, accidentally stumble upon a human trafficking racket, and anger a hard-core Latino/a gang. The last incident will turn out to be the undoing of the two police officers. The young two officers do all this with humor, fraternity male bonding, and a little loving from their ladies.

Of course, I always watch  films with a critical eye of black women characters. The black female representations are very brief in the movie. The first time we see a black female character, she is a crackhead. She is so doped up on drugs, she thinks she has lost her children. It turns out, she just left her baby and toddler in a closet. The baby is duct tapped to her car seat.

The next image of a black female character, is fleeting.  Her house is on fire. The two young police officers come to her rescue,  by saving her children, she left behind.  These black mothers are so  irresponsible!

As Latino/a gang members are the focus in this film, the Latina character is given a more prominent role.  She is shown as being just as violent (if not more cold-blooded), than her male counterparts. Heck, I almost expected her to say Keshia’s  famous lines from New Jack City, after she shoots a police officer in the back. Instead she says, “Rest in piss… bitch.”

The film also has some disturbing scenes of  violence. As mentioned, there is a scene of human trafficking. The victims are shown almost naked and locked in a cage. Also, dead bodies and dismembered limbs are shown, graphically.  The last half of the film almost plays out like a video game.  All you see are bullets flying and bodies dropping. The ending has the required twist, but the  person that survives is kinda not surprising (hint: who has a bigger image on the poster). 

It’s hard to recommend this film, because damn they’re cops! The film has an agenda. But I guess if you can put politics aside, it’s an interesting action flick.