Tag Archives: Black feminism

Tu(r)ning to Black Love

20 Feb

Whitney Houston with her mother Cissy

This past week, I found myself swept in an emotional whirlwind witnessing Whitney’s homegoing while remembering that she was not even in the ground before the Fox-affiliated shock jocks called her a babbling idiot, bag lady, and a crack ho that should have died years ago. From AM talk radio to morning cable television, a Fox News anchor “jokingly” told Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) to “step away from the crack pipe” to squash her criticism of a racist conservative right.  And right as I prepared myself for the first Valentine’s Day unhitched in years, I heard more misogynoir (i.e., hatred of Black women) news from the pimp-like-rapper Too Short who “advised” middle school boys to “turn girls out” in a video posted to the XXL hip hop website.

Where is the love?

This past week, I would have been a Black woman undone if I did not turn to other women of color to savor the soul-stirring, love-filled acts of solidarity in a month that has been so soured by hate.[1]

While folks are giving kudos to a masterful, out-of-character performance by actor Tyler “Madea” Perry, I want to remember Kim Burrell’s loving act to her sistah-friend. The Texas-born gospel singer transformed a song that could serve as the title track for the civil rights movement; she changed Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come to one that not only spoke about Whitney as a daughter, friend, and mother, but it spoke to the lived reality of countless Blackgirls who watched her metallic casket and mourned for the Black girl we know (inside) and for the Black woman she/we dared to be. I believe Burrell’s spirit-driven interpretation will stand as a counter-narrative against the lusty, flesh-bound and career-centric monologues offered by some menfolk. (Side eye to you Clive.)  Kim Burrell might have singlehandedly replaced my Denzel dreamscape and my cinematic memory of Malcolm X’s assassination with her lifting tribute to a fallen (but not forgotten) star.

This past week ended with the debut of a self-proclaimed Black feminist in her cable show simply called, Melissa Harris-Perry.  Let’s just say if Oprah is America’s honorary mother, then Prof. Harris-Perry is slated to be our teacher because she was schooling a national audience about intersections of race and gender, and she provided a much-needed Black feminist perspective, which is often offered by Black men (if included at all). When I tuned in to her show, she warned her audience that we’d enter “nerdland” or the place where political commentary is spliced by definitions, old videos, and graphs to add context to oversimplified, hot-button topics. After an emotional whirlwind, it feels lovely to say I will be (at) home on the weekends where folks can hate (yes, I’m looking at you Cornel West), but I can turn on and turn to Black women-centered love.

Melissa Harris-Perry and Sister Citizen book cover

Melissa Harris-Perry and Sister Citizen book cover copied from blacktieandflipflops

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[1] This past week I was able to trade trash talk and blackgirl giggles, remember-when stories, love-strong hugs, eye-to-eye recognition, and women of color wisdom with Stephanie Troutman, Bettina Love, Elaine Richardson, Elizabeth Mendez Berry, and Joan Morgan. I am enriched by your generosity and your creative, intellectual and politically-grounded work.

Feminism 101 for Girls: A Report Back

17 Nov


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Dear CFC Community,

Sunday November 14th was a day I had dreamed about for sixteen years.  I took my first Women’s Studies courses second semester senior year at Spelman College with the formidable feminist scholars and teachers Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Dr. Johnetta B. Cole, and Dr. Kim Wallace-Sanders. The entire semester I thought why am I learning about this “feminism” now when I needed it in high school.  Well, this past Sunday we were able to introduce “feminism” to ten black teenage girls from Atlanta and it was more amazing than I could have ever dreamed. Image

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Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall was there to see a generation of scholars, some of whom she trained in black feminism, share the way we view the world with the next generation of girls.  Even more important, these young ladies shared their ideas and perspectives with us on a range of issues and then thanked us for letting them speak their minds.  How great is that!

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Thank you, all the supporters who contributed financially, reposted the blog, and sent kind words and well wishes.  I want to thank the facilitators: Mashadi Matabane, Chanel Craft, and Asha French for your fantastic patient thoughtful facilitation.  Thank you Nicole Franklin and Lorraine McCall for making arrangements for the participants to come and for the continuous work that you do with young black girls in your work and spare time.  Shout out to Dr. Ruth Nicole Brown and SolHot for modeling good pedagogy and your ongoing commitment to girls.

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I want to thank NWSA for allowing us to bring young girls into this powerful space.  I am not certain, but I think this may have been the first time there were girls included in the schedule of the National Women’s Studies Association conference. Thank you CFs and allies for participating and providing much needed support prior to, during, and after the workshop. Everything was fabulous, especially the dance circle close-out.

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I feel so blessed and I can’t wait to do it again.  Next up–Feminist Saturday School for Girls!

Sheri Davis-Faulkner

A Daughter Named Beautiful

by Asha French

It doesn’t take long to return to your mother-tongue. I learned that when, after a long journey through academia (read: lessons of the white fathers), Professor Beverly Guy Sheftall opened the door to black feminism for me.

ImageFrom this ideological stance, I was able to more clearly articulate the way that my mother had taught me to survive as a grown up black woman and the ways that the academy had tried to make me forget. I believe that when we teach feminism to young girls and women, we affirm and encourage the very best of the mother-wit they already own.
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On Saturday, we tried to open the doors. In a small period of time, girls went from spouting Moynihanisms to writing messages of encouragement to Amber Cole as members of her “crew.” Many of the girls sounded like our mothers. They said things like, “We are all fully human, no matter our skin color” and “It’s okay to have a voice” and “You think I ain’t smart because of the way I talk, but I AM” and “I only have a mother and I am VERY loved.” One girl had a daughter named Beautiful, and I believe that says it all.

Ten Crunk Commandments for Re-Invigorating Hip Hop Feminist Studies

9 Mar

This past weekend, the CFC attended the important Black and Brown Feminisms in Hip Hop Media Conference at UT San Antonio. We had a great time and  were reminded of all the wonderful possibilities in the field of Hip Hop (and) Feminist Studies, and we thought we would share a summary of our presentation and our thoughts on what can move the field forward. Thanks to  CFs Aisha, Susana, and Rachel for their contributions to this post.

  1. Know your history. – If you are going to engage in scholarship on Hip Hop and/or Feminism, know and cite the authors who have helped to shape the field—Joan Morgan, Gwendolyn Pough, Mark Anthony Neal, Tricia Rose, and others are a few good folks to start with. In the rush to incorporate the sexy theorists of the moment, don’t throw away important theorists like bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, Gloria Anzaldua, Chela Sandoval and others in projects on Black and Brown feminisms. See a non-exhaustive, beginning bibliography here.
  2. Don’t Romanticize the Past. – There is no Hip Hop Eden. Resist the urge to act as though there has been a pure moment in Hip Hop where issues of misogyny, commercialism, opportunism have not been an issue.
  3. Positions—Know Yours/Take One. – Make sure as you are doing this work that you position yourself in relationship to the community. Recognize the need to acknowledge your race, gender, generational, and political positionalities. Be willing to take intellectual and creative risks, to question accepted orthodoxy.
  4. Contextualize and Situate. – Name the cultural, political, historical and scholarly contexts of your work and your arguments.  Make sure to articulate the key political and social issues that frame this moment. Other scholars pointed to the 70s and 80s as the era of deindustrialization, the defunding of arts programs in public schools, the war on drugs, etc. But this moment is very different. It is characterized by unparalleled conservative backlash, near total deregulation of media and corporations, outsourcing, the economic and political dominance of transnational corporations, battles over the meaning of American citizenship, the War on Terror,  the concretization of the prison industrial complex and massive economic downturn. These are the issues that have framed the creation of Hip Hop music and culture in the 21st century, and new analyses must be attuned to these issues specifically.
  5. Avoid the pitfalls of presentism.— You cannot have this moment for life. Do work that will last. Do not merely discuss those artists whose work is hot in the moment but will have no lasting value. Make sure that your line of inquiry ascertains the broader relevance of the subject matters you choose, so that the formulations you offer will remain relevant even if the example you choose does not.
  6. Embrace ambivalence. – Reject false binaries. For instance, the line between mainstream Hip Hop and underground Hip Hop is at best blurry.  Also reject formulations like the Madonna/Whore split when evaluating the contributions of women in rap music.
  7. Envision the possibilities. – Rather than merely deconstructing, Hip Hop scholars and feminists scholars alike, must ask “what kind of world are we creating or do we aim to create?” We must also ask new questions. Questions about misogyny in Hip Hop are fairly uncreative at this point. Projects should begin to address Hip Hop films, Hip Hop literature, Hip Hop fashion, Hip Hop and the arts, and Hip Hop’s epistemological relationships to other knowledge systems.
  8. Wield Technology.—Technological literacy is critical for scholarship, creativity and social movements. Open yourself to this world, and begin to ask questions about how the technological universe affects Hip Hop culture and feminist studies.
  9. Lived Realities Still Matter.—Scholarship must be accountable to the people. Hip Hop and Feminist scholarship must still be connected to movements for social change. Also, theory does not flow in one direction (i.e. from the top down.) In fact, scholarship needs to catch up to the culture, not the other way around.
  10. Recognize the Power of the Collective.Collective organizing draws on the best creative, political and          scholarly traditions of both Hip Hop and Feminism, and folks who actively move in these communities,       must both remember and recenter the power of the collective in doing scholarly, political, and creative work.

Praise the Lorde!

18 Feb

Color picture of Audre Lorde laughing

On this day, in 1934, Audre Lorde was born. She named herself “black, lesbian, feminist, mother, poet warrior” and gave us the words to do the same. Although many quotes will be in circulation today, I’d like to offer this one up, as a particularly good example of Lorde’s crunkness.

All too often the message comes loud and clear to Black women from Black men: “I am the only prize worth having and there are not too many of me, and remember, I can always go elsewhere. So if you want me, you’d better stay in your place which is away from one another, or i will call you ‘lesbian’ and wipe you out.” black women are programmed to define ourselves within this male attention and to compete with each other for it rather than to recognize and move upon our common interests.

-Audre Lorde

Scratching the Surface: Some Notes on Barriers to Women and Loving

Publised in The Black Scholar, vol. 9 no. 7 1978

 

Can you believe she said this in 78?! That it is still all too relavant today?

h/t to Yolo Akili for the quote.

On #ForColoredGirls *Spoiler Alert*

8 Nov

Production Still of Female Leads in For Colored Girls

I got to see an advanced screening of Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls promoted as a fundraiser for Sistersong and Sisterlove, two of my favorite social justice organizations and collaborators in a campaign called Trust Black Women. Before the film, Loretta Ross, black feminist warrior activist, described their work to get billboards taken down in Atlanta that compared black women’s decisions to terminate their pregnancies with genocide. They represent some of the fiercest women of color reproductive justice organizers in the South and beyond, and like the fierceness of Shange’s original choreopoem, their brilliance was smothered and silenced by a black man who feels like he can tell our stories better than we can. 

If you haven’t seen the movie, I can say the critics got it right. It’s a whole lotta mess: anachronistic, unbelievable, over the top, basically like any other Tyler Perry production. But there are moments, moments where seasoned actors stretch beyond the limitations of the director and a disjointed script to make magic. Can there be an Oscar for colored girls who do the damn thing in a Tyler Perry film when the writing is not enuf? Kimberly Elise FTW and Macy Gray was fire too. And I love me some Anika Noni Rose, even though I always feel like she’s doing the big drama of stage when she’s on the screen (worked nicely though for the choreopoem). In spite of some fabulous performances, For Colored Girls completely misses the original’s tone and message. From Shange’s work we get themes of self-love, pleasure, hurt and healing, decentering men in our lives, etc. Tyler’s framing leaves us with the exact opposite understandings; sex leads to pain, pay more attention to the men in your lives, know your role, and don’t forget you are some how responsible for whatever misery life brings you.

*spoiler alert*

What I really want to talk about is Tyler’s obsession with men who have sex with men. I mean in every film there is always some plot point or dialog that includes a man who looks like he just walked off the set of Noah’s Arc talking about how gay he isn’t. In this film, Janet Jackson, channeling Meryl Streep a la Devil Wears Prada, has a cough (people with HIV cough faintly, didn’t you know?) and a husband who in one of the first scenes is literally caught with his pants down receiving oral sex from a man. Carl is a stock broker who is so emasculated by his wife that he needs to get his submission elsewhere. “Walking down the street holding hands with a man, that’s gay!” he says in total disgust before he goes on to admit to having sex with men.

Though this plot point was apparently penned by Shange herself in her new edition of the text, this scene felt like a window into Tyler Perry’s and a lot of ostensibly straight men’s hearts. Showing genuine affection for another man is a sin but having sex with a man to reclaim your masculinity after being emasculated by women who don’t know their role is another story. There’s no discussion of Carl’s desire here. Bitchy black women are not only responsible for rape (how couldn’t she see the signs that we so clearly see as the audience?), their children being thrown out of windows (if she’d just left him earlier it couldn’t have happened) they are also the reason that black men must “bend” turn to each other for sex. In other words, black men have sex with men because black women won’t play their position, which is one of submission.

The film leaves you with a sense that  there’s something these women should have done, could have done differently to prevent these things from happening to them. What was a choreopoem of colored girls self-redemption becomes a PSA on how black women need to make different choices to forestall the violence that befalls them. The men however are simply reacting to the poor choices made by these women and as such are never truly held accountable for their actions, a posthumous slap to the face and forlorn gaze from a prison cell notwithstanding.

Perry was able to squelch condemnation from the very organizations most able to raise constructive criticism regarding his simplistic narrative by providing an opportunity to screen the film in advance for their benefit. What could have been a powerful moment to add the complexity that Perry missed, instead became an opportunity for Tyler Perry Studios to ask us to spread the For Colored Girls gospel for them as we were implored to tell our friends to go see it opening weekend. A brief talk back that included not one criticism of the film left me feeling confused and disappointed. If these women warriors could (would) not bring much-needed nuance how would other audiences (with less contact with the realities the film attempts to portray) react?

Black people have some healing to do. Tyler in particular needs more than his plays, movies, and TV show to work through his boyhood traumas. Like Lauryn Hill’s Unplugged album and subsequent performances, trying to work your sh*t out publicly in your art doesn’t always provide the most liberatory frame through which to process. Self medicating through art may seem better than other more obvious self-destructive drugs of choice but when your own wounds keep you from acknowledging that you are capable of and culpable in inflicting others trauma begets more trauma and a vicious cycle is created (an important point we could have learned through the film itself).

Tyler’s rage at the black women who didn’t protect him comes through in every production he’s been associated with and perhaps his desire to understand their neglect might be better directed in the service of telling his own story, a story of a brown boy who wasn’t man enough for his father but man enough for the mother of a friend who molested him and the THREE men who did the same.  What might it mean for Tyler to tell his own story such that Maurice Robinson, Anthony Flagg, Jamal Parris and Spencer LeGrande might have had a more receptive public to hear their truths? Tyler’s hurt haunts For Colored Girls, muddling the intricate and multi-layered tapestry that Shange constructed, and leaving this colored girl with little recourse but to reach back for the rainbows of the original.

A Crunk Feminist Collective Roundtable

13 Oct

Check out a brief clip from a recent CFC Roundtable on October 7, 2010 at the University of Alabama. Featured in this clip are CFs Susana, Robin, Brittney, Sheri, and Rachel speaking in that order. Full video forthcoming soon.

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!

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