Nina

Last year, black folks were  concerned when it was announced Zoe Saldana was cast as the iconic, Nina Simone. Folks worst fears were confirmed when the trailer for “Nina” was released this past weekend.

A lot of the criticism has focused on Saldana basically engaging in black face to portray the high priestess of soul. It’s considered offensive because Simone’s music was dedicated to speaking out against the marginalization of black folks, specifically darker skinned black folks. The (hideous) makeup job makes a mockery of her life’s work.

My other issue with the trailer is the story line of an “out of control” Simone. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging the mental health struggles of Simone. Honestly, I did not know this was something that affected her life, until recently. It’s not talked about when folks praise the legendary singer. I think mental health needs to be discussed more in the black community. Two groups I follow do an excellent job supporting black folks and mental health (No More Martyrs and Black Mental Health Alliance for Education & Consultation, Inc.)  Artist Erykah Badu recently highlighted bi-polar/depression at a fashion show. So, folks are working hard to bring more awareness to this important issue.

However, I find it interesting the writer-director decided to focus solely on this aspect of Simone’s life. It was not surprising to learn that the writer-director is a white woman (Cynthia Mort). It makes sense why she used black face to represent Simone. White women tend not to relate to the beauty struggles black women, particularly darker skinned black women, face under white supremacy. It makes sense why Mort zeroed in on the “breakdown” of Simone. She could not see the brilliance of Simone without framing it in a stereotypical “crazy” black woman caricature. Simone was regarded as a child progeny. She had to deal with harsh racism  while growing up. Imagine the pain navigating oppression when you are a gifted black child. I’m sure Simone’s mental health problems were exacerbated dealing with the daily abuse of white racism. But a film like that probably wouldn’t get the green light.

As far as Saldana, she should know better. Simone’s daughter has defended her in this role. I’m sure some of it is genuine support, but Simone’s daughter also has not found closure with her mother. She has talked about Simone being an abusive/neglectful parent.  It’s probably hard for her to look at the bigger picture of why Saldana was not a good fit for this role. Celebrities like Queen Latifah and Paula Patton have stood up for Salanda, but they are doing so in case they ever want to look ridiculous on film. You know celebrity egos.

The problem is Saldana tends to flip flop on the subject of racism (colorblind rhetoric). And yes, she’s tends to say she is a “black Latina,” but often celebrates her Latina side/declare she is more than “just black.”This is not someone who needed to represent Nina Simone, a consistently proud black woman.

 

Black and Missing Part. 2

One of my favorite websites to stay informed about missing black people is Black and Missing But Not Forgotten. I follow this organization on their Facebook page.  They do a really good job of posting quickly about the latest case of a missing black person/updates if that person has been found, etc.

It’s on their page I learned about the disappearance of Dr. Teleka Patrick and the death of  Avonte Oquendo. Both of these cases highlight that our community needs to take better care/support of those struggling with mental health issues or developmental disabilities.

I am also alarmed at the many cases of missing black teen girls. Many tend to be found as runaways, but many more are victims of kidnappings/assaults/murder. Black children/young adults are more likely to be exposed to violence:

“Compared with other segments of the population, victimization rates for African American children and youth are even higher. Evidence suggests that Black youth ages 12 to 19 are victims of violent crime at significantly higher rates than their white peers.4 Black youth are three times more likely to be victims of reported child abuse or neglect, three times more likely to be victims of robbery,5 and five times more likely to be victims of homicide.6 In fact, homicide is the leading cause of death among African American youth ages 15 to 24.7”  http://www.victimsofcrime.org/our-programs/other-projects/youth-initiative/interventions-for-black-children%27s-exposure-to-violence/black-children-exposed-to-violence

Teen dating violence also makes black teen girls more vulnerable to becoming a missing victim. As well as (and probably more so) older men in the community preying on/”dating” teen girls.

It’s important our community is educated on the issues of mental health, the violence many young people are subject to,  and kicking the R. Kellys of the community to the curb. It could help to prevent some of these missing cases…

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Dr. Teleka Patrick
avonte-oquendo
Avonte Oquendo
Shirdyn-Toe
The latest case from Black and Missing But Not Forgotten…missing teen Shirdyn Toe