Archive | March, 2010

Trying to Make a Dollar Out of Fifteen Cents: Women, the Wealth Gap, and Why Race Still Matters

30 Mar

Re-posted from  Race-Talk

In a recent Facebook post, one of my friends was incredulous that more than half of all single mothers live below the poverty line. He asked, “What can we do to solve this problem?” His question reminded me of the report released earlier this month by the Insight Center for Community and Economic Development. Among the shocking and disheartening statistics, the report found that Black women between the prime working ages of 36 and 49 had a median wealth of $5, [i.e., not even enough to remedy a stressful work day with a McDonalds or Starbucks binge]. White women, by comparison, had a median wealth of $42, 600.

Among all single working women ages 18-64, the report found that Black women had a median wealth of $100, Latina women had a median wealth of $120, and white women had a median wealth of $41,500.  To add insult to injury, nearly half of all single Black and Latina women have zero wealth or negative wealth, which is calculated by subtracting outstanding debt from current assets. Having just completed a very expensive graduate school education, I will be transparent enough to say that I am one of these women. Unlike some of my statistically represented sisters, however, my education and credentials grant me future earning power. But the current recession statistics tell us that communities of color are those hit hardest by recent economic setbacks; in fact, families of color have only 16 cents of wealth for every dollar of wealth in a white family. When it comes to single mothers, the numbers are abysmally worse. Trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents might be where it’s at in rap music, but that’s about the only place.

Back on Facebook, I responded to my friend with a few potential solutions: a.) provide tax credits to those businesses who offer child daycare services for employees for free or at substantially reduced costs. b.) offer additional tax credits to those employers who offer educational incentives for women  c.) provide paid hours of sick leave, even for hourly wage workers, so that taking time off to care for a sick child would not create insurmountable economic hardships.

These dismal statistics on women of color and the wage gap can provide us an opportunity to have some of the conversations that we aren’t currently having and  teach us a few important lessons along the way, namely that:

  • Attending explicitly to the impact of racism, classism, and sexism on women of color is essential to correcting social inequity.
  • We are no more post-feminism than we are post-race.
  • A redefinition of the term “hard work” is in order, because these women are working extremely hard, but they are working in the types of jobs under the types of conditions that were never meant to help create wealth.
  • Our nation remains in jeopardy of reproducing a permanent underclass if we do not seriously re-route our conversations on the distribution of wealth.
  • And finally, that desperate times call for courageous measures.

J. Simp Goes to Mumbai: The Price of Beauty is Pretty High

29 Mar

A proud owner of a DVR box and many cable TV channels for the first time in about 10 years, I have recently entered the world of docu-dramas, reality competition and most recently a show called, “Jessica Simpson’s ,The Price of Beauty.” J. Simp goes All! Over! The! World! to find out what different cultures consider beautiful. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Why on earth would you watch Jessica Simpson trek around the world pontificating on beauty?”  Thing is, I dig the notion, and Jessica is an interesting choice considering how much she has been through, in the spotlight, targeted for her weight loss and weight gain. Hollywood is clearly unforgiving and often cruel. Jessica Simpson knows this firsthand.

Airing on Vh1, the show is described as:

“The new VH1 docu-series, produced by RDF USA (Wife Swap, Secret Millionaire), takes Jessica all over the world to meet every day women. She may also discover some local pop culture icons on their own quests for beauty along the way. Jessica will study the local fashions, dietary fads and beauty regimes and even participate in some of the extreme practices she discovers.”

I’ve seen two of the existing three episodes one set in Mumbai, India and the other in Bangkok, Thailand. India (where I was born) and Thailand are places whose art, music, religious and spiritual practices are incessantly culturally appropriated by people all around the world.They are also places whose women are exoticized, fetishized and caricatured in the “West.” So, cautiously I proceeded.

Here’s how Jessica describes her project and aims:

“I have always believed that beauty comes from within and confidence will always make a woman beautiful, but I know how much pressure some women put on themselves to look perfect. I am really looking forward to discovering how beauty is perceived in different cultures and participating in some of the crazy things people do to feel beautiful. I know we will all learn a lot on this journey and I am so excited that VH1 is coming along on what I’m sure will be a wild ride.”

Now, I like where this is going, and the show’s promos and opening song are indeed rather touching. They mention self acceptance and cultural diversity in ideas about beauty. But eventually, we hit a wall.

As I watched the episode set in Mumbai, India, and Jessica arrived with her friends Ken (her hairdresser) and CaCee they could not believe how “overpopulated” the country was, and sprinkled in comments like, “it’s so beautiful” and “look at all the colors!” Their first stop is to meet up with Bollywood actress Neha Dhupia on a movie set, and the fearless three ooh and ahh over Dhupia’s outfit (a lovely churidaar kurta, I concur) and exotic beauty. Then they proceed to an Auyrvedic Spa, where they giggle and squirm at everything they don’t understand and use terms like “freaky” and “weird” while discussing the inevitable beauty benefits they will surely receive from their hair treatment and herbal juice. The juice drinking results in a barrage of belching from the three, who simply cannot believe their fate.  See a clip from this episode, here.

Jessica’s frequent outbursts of how strange things are in India, and later in Thailand (That full episode is now available online, in which Jessica goes to mediate at with a Buddhist monk and cracks up during the mediation. Watch at your own risk.) demonstrate and un-interrogated cultural relativism and deep “othering” that often happens in an effort to understand different cultures. This desire to understand other cultures can be a great experience if it leads to self-reflection and new tools to understand your OWN cultural experience, like perhaps through a feminist lens. What do feminists do and say about certain Indian beauty practices? What do they think about Hollywood’s influence on Bollywood and vice versa? Now THOSE would have been some interesting questions.

“The Price of Beauty” does not go this route. Instead, more often than not, it falls into the familiar trap of voyeurism and cultural imperialism. Another white woman travels to foreign land and appropriating the culture for self-exploration and profit (Eat, Pray, Love anyone?). There can be significant moments of recognition when we travel to witness and experience different cultures- there can be beautiful moments of solidarity. In order to actually bridge the existing divides and figure out the “price of beauty,” this approach is not enough. Jessica gushes over the clothes she wears for a bollywood party (for which she doesn’t seem to have washed the mehndi off her hands, which is what you do to reveal the tatoo) but she doesn’t mention the obvious poverty in the country. In a very interesting scene in the Thailand episode, Jessica is floored by the revelation that women in Thailand bleach their skin to look whiter. She notes how strange that is since people in the US “do just the opposite” by always trying to tan. Not only does that make women of color invisible in the US (as though all US women are trying to be tan) it’s also a very superficial assessment of the internalized and cultural racism in non-white cultures. The show doesn’t even approach that question, instead it’s simply a gloss of a culture and the beauty practices of some women within it. I daresay that the price of beauty is much higher than the show is willing and able to investigate.

Imperialism is not a language that communicates understanding and empathy. Even during a particularly moving moment, when Jessica, though Operation Smile, provides reconstructive surgery to a young Indian girl with a cleft palate, Jessica, Ken and CaCee are outsiders, come to save the day. They have helped one girl, and ignored the fact that there are such dramatic inequities, even within India itself. India, for Jessica and her friends is fascinating, strange and yes, even beautiful. But it is not a place they really understand, and not because it’s too complicated to understand, but because they haven’t really tried.

Next week, Jessica, Ken and CaCee go to Africa and visit a tribe that considers “fat is beautiful.” If I can steel my heart, I might watch it.

Necessary Fierceness

29 Mar

Its not my day to post but recent events caused me the catch the spirit and pick up the laptop.

If you haven’t heard, Erykah Badu released the video to her second song  off her 6th studio Album (Release party @ the crib tomorrow, feel free to roll through) New Amerykah Part II: Return of the Ankh.

*spoiler alert*

In the video, she gets naked. Actually, its not that simple.

A more accurate statement would be that she gets real vulnerable.

We know this not just because of what we see on screen but because of what she has been tweeting about for most of the month. Erykah lets us in to the must private pieces of herself. We witness her thought process, her checking in with friends, family, babies, and their daddies about what she is about to do. She’s not asking for permission but letting them know as people are bound to talk and not surprisingly, the web is already filled with people slinging hate her way.

Some folks say she copied Matt and Kim. She says that. She says that the video was inspired by what they did. And frankly what she did seems a lot more intentional and connected to what her relationship with the world is. Additionally, Erykah is reaching a completely different audience than Matt and Kim. One of her tweets led me to this response to the video by someone who is not a part of Matt and Kim’s demographic and was able to garner her own meaning from the video. I love that about Erykah. She reaches people where they are while simultaneusly creating  a horizontal loving line that pushes them a bit from where they are.

This album and the one before are incantations. She is using her magic to save her people and get folks to wake up and shake that load off that is groupthink and others expectations. She is being brave even when she’s petrified and creating the world she wants to see by daring her audience to push just as she has in her own town!

She’s f*cking fierce!

Read other praise by M dot and Summer M!

The Gifts Among Us

24 Mar

This past week I was talking with some friends about race and racism in academia, social circles, and beyond.  One of my friends, a white woman, asked my opinion on how  people in general, but particularly white people should address racism.  My answer was racism should be addressed in community regardless of the race of the individual.  While I agree with Audre Lorde’s insistance that people “do their own work,” I am also cognizant that she encourages us to work across differences because no matter how brilliant we may think we are, no one can read their way out of racist practices or beliefs.  

I am a straight black woman who was visiting a white lesbian couple for a week.  Spending this time with them got me thinking about my friend’s question in regards to heterosexism and homophobia.  This is an area where I feel like I can say that I am an ally, and that I try to “do my own work,” but oftentimes I feel like I fall short.   Now when I say addressing oppression “in community” I mean it in an Octavia Butler Parable of the Sower kind of way.  The your life and the life of your family depends on you learning to love across differences and really connect with people kind of way, not the I got a black friend or I got a gay friend way.   So the larger question for me is how do we do the work of addressing oppression “in community.”  

Here is one thing that comes to mind.  I think everyone can name a person that they admire.  Someone who provides a progressive or radical perspective on every front, who has complex identities relative to you, and who lives the politics that they write.  Oftentimes this person or these people make you feel nervous when they are around because you fear saying the wrong thing and being challenged.  I think these people are gifts.  I have to imagine that Audre Lorde may not have been the greatest girlfriend to have around.  But now we love her for her willingness to be vulnerable and to tell that damn truth no matter how it might make people feel. 

Who is the Audre Lorde among you?  If you can name someone be sure to cherish them as gifts.  I encourage you to say what you are thinking when this person is present.  Be uncomfortable.  Take the risk.  Struggle with the discomfort.  And grow.  I believe this is one part of what it means to address oppressions “in community.” 

“Change means growth, and growth can be painful.  But we sharpen self-definition by exposing the self in work and struggle together with those whom we define as different from ourselves, although sharing the same goals… this can mean new paths to our survival.”  Audre Lorde (Sister Outsider)

Babykillers, Baby Daddies, and Why Health Care Can’t Wait

22 Mar

It went down on the floor of the House of Representatives Sunday as our elected lawmakers, the progressive ones I mean, struggled to insure passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Perhaps the most heated moment came when Bart Stupak rejected last-minute GOP attempts to appropriate his anti-choice language for ultra-conservative ends. When Stupak sided for once with his own Party, someone from the GOP shouted out “baby killer.” Clearly the Republican Party and their Supreme Court minions have a contagious case of diarrhea of the mouth. But in this case, what bothers me is hypocritical posture of righteous indignation invoked by folks who insist upon throwing the proverbial “baby out with the bathwater,” and then acting as though the bathtub is the babykiller.

The infant mortality rate among African American infants is still more than double that of white infants, and nationally while Latino infant mortality rates are lower, in poorer states, Latino babies die across the board at a higher rate than their white counterparts.  It is not a huge intellectual leap to surmise that lack of access to good prenatal care, nutritious food, and ready healthcare access, plays a huge role in the rates of infant mortality, and given the disproportionate number of poor Black and Brown people, these rates are not shocking. It is conservatives who are notorious for their vicious and malicious opposition to social welfare programs, which they insist are “hand-outs.” But in my humble opinion, those who legislate into existence a permanent underclass are the real “babykillers.” If I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d almost think our well-meaning conservative brethren were invested in perpetuating generational cycles of poverty among Black and Brown folks. Who else can care for their children, clean their office buildings and homes, prepare their food, staff their factories [other than exploited overseas workers], or shine their shoes? Again, those are the musings of a conspiracy theorist.

I am, however, convinced that the state is the absentee baby daddy of every poor Black and Brown girl who ever finds herself undereducated, without work or options, in search of love in all the wrong places, and eventually pregnant, then a mother often willingly, but just as often not, then left at the mercy of someone who calls her names, maligns her character, and refuses to support her or the children on the grounds that she’s a golddigger. I might be talking about any trifling unready father, or I might be talking about your friendly governmental welfare program, that creates the conditions of under-education and lack of opportunity that make premature motherhood a real possibility and sometimes an attractive option in a life searching for purpose. Whatever the case, it is because of these circumstances that I rejoice in this monumental step forward in increased healthcare access. Yes, women’s wombs have unfairly been cast as the battleground.  Yes, our wombs are still in the vice grips of the state, but post -legislation, many more young Black and Brown moms will have access to the resources they need to give their children a fighting chance. And that is something to smile about.

For Educated Black Girls Who’re Just Tryin to Maintain when Degrees Ain’t Enuf

18 Mar

A Black woman academic steps into a bar. . . Okay, okay. It’s not a funny joke. So here’s what happened. I decided to venture out  to a bar for St. Patty’s Day in my small predominantly white college town.  The beats, which I could hear as soon as stepped out of my car, immediately put me in the mind of a different version of my life, a time in the not-too-distant past where I could meet with my girls, grab a drink, and shake something. But when I stepped in the door,  I immediately started thinking of one of those items on the checklist of white privileges that I teach to my students: “I can arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.” Must be nice.

I must admit though that the bass was bumping, and the crowd was jumping. And I was hoping that music would be the great unifier, since most of it was good ol’ all-American Hip Hop. After a few awkward attempts to network, I gave up, made my way to the middle of the floor, and started to move. A thick Black girl in the middle of a sea of smiling white folks is not exactly inconspicuous, however.  So a few moments later, my [happily married] colleague Brice rolled up: “So what’s your situation? Are you married or single or what?”

Situation. What a good word for it. I’m really glad this music is drowning out my sigh.

“Single,” I said.  Then he peered at me, concerned, shaking his head: “how do you maintain yourself here?” It wasn’t pity, for once. It wasn’t even the presumptive arrogance of those guys who then promise to introduce you to their boy or tell you what you need to do to get a man. None of that. He was right. Most of my colleagues can maintain here because they’re partnered.

Groping for a good feminist response, I said simply, “it’s a good thing I like myself.” Since I spend so much time with myself. And I do like myself. But what I was thinking was, I’m just trying to MAINTAIN my dignity right now. And it was certainly being tested, as I stood in the middle of that dance floor feeling the kind of lonely that you can only feel when you’re the only one in a room full of people, who are so color blind, that they literally can’t see you.

While I was busy “shaking it like a Polaroid Picture,” I was reminded that this moment was just a snapshot. It’s not the whole picture.

And that is all I have to offer in the way of pithy aphorisms. I will, however, share with you

A Top Ten List For Educated Black Girls Who’re Just Tryin’ to Maintain when Degrees Ain’t Enuf

10. In the words of Zora, Love yourself “when you are laughing, and then again when you are looking mean and impressive.”

9.Drown your sorrows in Haagen-Dazs or your grandmama’s mac-and-cheese while watching Love Jones on repeat.

8.Get a gym membership. Use it. [See #9]

7.Get a hobby. Cooking is mine. Btw, reading and writing might not work if that’s what you do for a living.

6.Embrace your sexy. Yes, feminists can be sexy.

5. Stop waiting to exhale. Go on and breathe.  Why? Because holding your breath until you get what you want has all the markings of a temper tantrum, and the end result is that you’re gonna faint and nobody will be there to catch you. And that really will be a situation.

4.Read feminist romance novels and erotica. Yes, feminists like sex, and since we read about it, theorize about it and teach about it, I’d venture to say, we’re probably pretty good at it. [Reading Recommendation: Gwyneth Bolton]

3.Refuse to dumb down. Why? Cause it’s dumb, and you’ll look dumb doing it.  Besides the fact that you can’t pull that shit off.  Hebetude, like attitude, is not the business. [See how those big words just come slipping out.]

2. Retain the services of a maintenance man or woman. [See #4]

And when you find yourself in a crowded room, and you feel invisible go on and

1.Dance like nobody’s watching. Because hell, for good or ill, they probably aren’t.

They aren’t talking about me…

14 Mar

As a queer woman in love, sometimes it’s hard to relate to what my straight sisters are going through. What used to make me want to hold rap stars accountable is now likely to pass my ears without so much as a raised eyebrow of concern from me. This is deeply disturbing and I don’t know what to make of this shift. Is it age? A creeping conservative that has me running from my radical roots?

I honestly feel like I’m just so sick and tired of being sick and tired, I’d rather overlook the rampant misogyny and sexism on the airwaves to focus on what’s compelling in the music. This is really troublesome because I wasn’t this girl. In fact, there was a time when I abhorred people who gave conditional passes or tried to see the possibilities in a genre I thought was causing so many problems.

I feel like my ambivalence is in some ways a decision to opt out of the foolishness because honestly it’s just too much to bear at times.  The seemingly innocuous radio hit “BedRock” by Young Money has a line penned by the now incarcerated Wayne that I hadn’t paid much attention to.

“I knock her lights out
but she still shine…”

Clever for sure, but violent as fuck. It really gave me pause because it’s the type of lyric that washes over you, sandwiched between lyrics that are more or less memorable. This slightly veiled violence is often dismissed because it’s said playfully and in the context of a medley that suggests a more amorous interpretation.

My reorientation to the misogynoir[1] ruling the radio took place when I tried to make the argument that “All the Way Turnt Up” was a great song because it didn’t objectify women. This was something I could get behind; a song simply extolling the youthful value of keeping the bass bumping in your vehicle. That was until I read the lyrics and found the choice lyric “three dike bitches, and they all wanna swallow.”

Only one line, one line out of 40 odd rather mundane lyrics (materialism, present controversy, and drug use notwithstanding). Is this a big deal? Should I be offended? I do feel disappointed. Even when things attempt to move away from the formula, MONEY+ CARS + HOES = hit record, they can’t move that far; money+ cars+ hoes = hit record. A song about playing your music loud still has to call on the transformative power of Roscoe Dash, Travis Porter, et. al’s masculinity to make lesbians want to suck a dick? Nice.

I wonder what it means that there are no songs on mainstream radio that challenge the status quo. And when artists do manage to break out, they look so out of place.  Did you see the trippiness that was Erykah “On and On” Badu on 106 and park last year? Painfully awkward. I think folks still don’t know what to do with her next to latest offering Jump Up in the Air, even with Wayne’s ubiquitous co-signing.

So rather than deal with the persistent and pervasive assault on women in the music, I’ve cultivated a world that supports the age old adage in hip hop apologist vernacular that used to make my blood boil; “He’s not talking about me.” In my mostly queer academic class privileged world, I am pretty much immune to the direct fallout of lyrics like the ones I’ve mentioned. They are frustrating and disappointing but their utterance and repetition seem to have less and less direct effect on my movements or relationships with cis gendered black men.

I see my work in this life as trying to address these issues in the music as oppose to retreat from them but I find a fatigued ambivalence the most accurate articulation of where I am right now.  I am trying to figure out what my evolving relationship to rap music will be and I welcome you along for the ride.

*update*

My feelings might be best expressed by this video (what’s up w/ the (non) relationship between the single black girl dancer and the white girl ensemble?). Thanks @Chaseology for the link.

LOOSEWORLD x Waverly Films: Reggie Watts in F_CK SH_T STACK from LOOSEWORLD on Vimeo.


[1] Word I made up to describe the particular brand of hatred directed at black women in American visual & popular culture.

 

Reflections on coming out and family

11 Mar

As a queer Latina I juggle intertwining, complex and often competing identities. One of my most defining identities is that of daughter. My mother is one of the most amazing women I know. Although she would never refer to herself as the “f” word, I firmly believe that I am the independent, strong, determined, educated and fierce feminist I am, thanks to her example. Growing up in a single-parent household meant that for most of my life, my mother was my best friend. That all changed, however, when I came out to her.

Although realizing that I was queer meant finally figuring out another important part of my identity (and one that made me incredibly happy), it was a part of me that my mother refused to accept and in most cases even acknowledge. In her eyes I couldn’t be both a good daughter and gay. Inevitably, I lost my best friend and in many ways a part of me.

The journey has been a painful one and one that I am still healing from. I have had to distance myself from friends and family that could not accept all of me. Throughout this journey, however, I am happy to say that I have been blessed. I found a community of crunk feminist sisters who not only accept and love all of me, but challenge me to learn, teach, grow and forgive everyday.

In an effort to find some humor in all of the sadness that oftentimes comes from coming out to family, I decided to compile a list of some of the most memorable conversations between my mother and myself. I shared this for the first time at a QWOC+ (Queer Women of Color and friends) event titled: “Queer Multiculturalism: A Discussion about Coming Out to Different Cultures and Communities of Color.” I share this again with this community because you showed me that although you can’t choose your family, you can always choose to have more than one.

Top Ten interactions with my mom: chronological order may have happened within minutes, days, weeks, months, years

Numbered items are my mother’s words, items in parenthesis, my responses


10. Why don’t you have a boyfriend?

(I’m the first to go away to college. Why don’t you ever ask me about what I’m learning in college and where the heck is my care package? My white friends get care packages every weekend!)

9. If you don’t find a boyfriend soon, how will you ever get married?

(Mom, seriously its after midnight – I have a paper to write.)

8. When are you going to have kids?

(I don’t know mom, I’m at an all women’s college, might be tough.)

7. What do you mean you don’t want to have kids! You’re already a graduate student! How much more do you need to study? What else is there to learn? Are there men in your classes?

(Mom, seriously stop oppressing me.)

6. Why is your friend’s hair so short and why is she always here?

(Yeah about that….mami, I’m gay.)

5. How could you do this to me?

(Mami, look at me…I’m glowing! I’m so happy! I’ve never felt this way about anyone else in my entire life! It took me 22 years to figure it out but everything in my life finally makes sense now.)

4. I’d rather see you pregnant with a drug addict’s baby than see you with a lesbian woman.

(I was not expecting that one. None of the ‘coming out to your parents’ books mentioned that as a possible reaction.)

3. Don’t tell your younger sister or she’ll think she is gay too.

[Rolling my eyes]-(Yeah mom, its contagious. You better watch out.)

2. Your sister is gay and it’s ALL your fault!

(That’s impossible, she’s gayer than I am.)

1. You are my daughter and I love you but why do you always have to bring up the fact that you’re gay.

(Because, you keep asking me about my boyfriend).

Mo’Nique at the Oscars: Politics vs. Performance

8 Mar

Happy International Women’s Day! Now let’s get to it . . .

Mo’Nique might have said last night that it was about “the performance and not the politics” but when she invoked the legacy of Hattie McDaniel, the first African American woman to win an Oscar, she proved that it is always about the politics. Back in 1939, McDaniel wanted simply to be “a credit to [her] race.” Beyond merely paying homage to McDaniel in words, Mo’Nique attempted to embody her, wearing a large white flower reminiscent of the one McDaniel wore when she received the award. By (rightly) situating herself within the tradition of Hattie McDaniel, Mo’Nique invited us through her own words –and through her superbly troubling portrayal of Mary Jones—to ask: What is our racial credit score? Do we have enough cultural capital to be able to afford yet another troubling representation of Black motherhood and womanhood?  For these two women and their Oscar winning roles book-end a catalogue of representations of Black mothering, that leave one staggering for perspective and grasping for any slice of reality.

To offer another metaphor, they create an arc, an umbrella that starts with Mammy and ends with the Welfare Queen, and ensconses every negative stereotype of Black womanhood in between. Memorialized by McDaniel in Gone with the Wind, the Mammy– that ever-nurturing, sometimes sassy, always-loving, self-sacrificing and asexual mother– continues to anchor White Americans pastoral remembrances of girlhood and boyhood. At the other end are the Mary Joneses of the world, the welfare queens, the lazy, cunning, ignorant, abusive tangles of pathology that remain a thorn in the side of Black America. And if McDaniel’s and Mo’Nique’s performances are the umbrella of representations of Black mothers, then Sandra Bullock’s Oscar-winning performance of the heroic white mother in The Blind Side is the curved handle, the lever at the center, which has the power to make the umbrella as narrow or as wide as we wish, as formidable or innocuous as we need. And it is a curved handle because such performances hook you and handle you, while making you believe you control the lever.  If our recent credit crisis has taught us anything, it is this: when White America gets a rain shower, Black America gets a hurricane.  And when you’re caught in the whirlwind of volatile representations, wielding your umbrella is surely an exercise in futility.

A Counterstory: Gabourey Sidibe Academy Award Acceptance Speech

7 Mar

CFC’er Sheri Davis imagines the kinds of cultural work a Gabby Sidibe Oscar Speech might do:

Presenter: And the Academy Award for performance by an actress in a leading role goes to Gabourey Sidibe.

Sidibe: Wow Oh My God Wow. I’m so um. Let me just read because I have so much to say and so many to thank.

I’d like to thank my mom for exposing me to the arts, teaching me to express myself and to love being a black girl and a black woman. I gotta thank my professors for encouraging me to pursue all my passions. I want to thank my dance instructor for teaching me to focus on what my body can do and Monique for being one of the few celebrities who has encouraged women to love their big beautiful bodies. Most importantly I want to thank Sapphire for being courageous enough to give voice to a young fat black female character and Lee Daniels for being courageous enough to push Precious Jones into the mainstream to tell her story.

I accept this award on behalf of Precious and her Each One Teach One crew who are African-American, Puerto Rican, Jamaican, lesbian, teen mothers, survivors, poets, cooks, supportive, loud, and fabulous young women. I accept this award on behalf of Celie, played by Whoopie Goldberg in The Color Purple, and all the black girls whose stories are often dismissed and ignored in the media and whose experiences are often marginalized or completely absent in scholarship, I was in college so I know from experience.

“I hope this film changes the industry a bit in my favor. I want to be funny. I want to be the romantic lead. I want to do something that nobody expects, because nobody expected anyone that looks like me to be the star of any movie. So I want to keep changing people’s minds.”

To all my big girls, I say throw your weight around and get active in the health at every size movement because loving ourselves means loving our bodies and knowing that we are worthy of being loved. To all my young sistahs, (I know I know I hear the music playing) but to my young sistahs I will continue to use my voice and my power to speak up for your right to be safe in your homes and communities, to be educated, to be nurtured, to be heard, to be loved, and to be free. Thank you. Thank you all so much for listening.

Audience: (on their feet clapping and cheering) Ga-bou-rey.

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