Archive | December, 2010

Crunk List 2010

31 Dec


We can hardly believe the year is over! We’ve been thinking about the blogs, books, films, and so on that have sustained us throughout 2010. So, what we’ve come up with is the inaugural “Crunk List”!

CF Crunktastic

Sesame Street, “I Love My Hair”:– This song is a celebration of the beauty of Black girls’ hair.

Night Catches Us* : This film is a powerful retrospective on the aftermath of the Black Power Movement. The story is complex, layered, and written by Black director Tanya Hamilton. We need more Black women behind the camera!

My Mic Sounds Nice! — *This BET documentary highlighted the contributions of women in Hip Hop, featured their voices, and challenged us to address the absence of female emcees in the mainstream. And as BET programming goes,
this was one of the best programs of the year.

Black Girls Rock Awards and Black Girls Rock, Inc* are two projects celebrating the beauty and power of Black women and girls. We need as much of this as we can get.

And though For Colored Girls, the film, left much to be desired, the original choreopoem is now on the NYT bestsellers list, which we should celebrate.

I’m also a big fan of the feminist romance novels of Gwyneth Bolton. Check her booklist at



CF Moya’s List

Blogs- Basically the radical/queer/women of color tumblr nexus!!!!

I love love the echo chamber of tumblr! These radical, mostly women, mostly
queer, and all of color folk link and spread the most amazing gems on the
internet! If you are looking for a nuanced read on the net neutrality stuff
or need the #mooreandme business to have an analysis of race or privilege or
you want to see some beautiful POC’s with fresh style, these are the folks
to read!…

Crunk projects Mia and Stacey’s journey of creating queer crip radical korean women of color community in the Bay area! Online Winter edition of Barnard’s Scholar and Feminist Journal that is just so fierce! My favorite conference! designed to amply to work and profile of amazing queer people of color in the world! “The Definition,” a social network catering to the transmasculine community (i.e., studs, doms, AGs, FTMs, butches and other persons whose birth sex is female, but whose gender identity doesn’t
fit societal norms). An Experiential Archive Project– Amplifying Black Queer Intergenerational Brilliance you know those tiny racist, transphobic, sexist, homophobic, classist, ableist, xenophobic things people say and do? There’s a blog for that. genius of black youth and former youths on all things popular and cultural.

twitter fam:

Some current Projects from members of the CFC:

There ought to be more dancing –

Quirky Black Girls – A place for strange and different black girls!

New Model Minority-


Films/Videos I love
Eve’s Bayou <> (always and forever classic!)
For My Teachers by Yolo Akili<>
Pariah <>
Whip My Hair <>
Medicine for Melancholy <>
Tight Rope <>

CF RaeOne

I would say Detroit rapper Invincible for (everything she does!) but specifically for her video “Ropes” about battling depression and mental health issues. Video was accepted by MTV2 in 2009 then taken banned the video because its topic is “too controversial.” But, she petitioned and Sept 2010 got it on the air!

See here:

Also for crunkness in the new year look for her on tour with CRUNK women – rapper Jean Grae and Afro Punk chick Tamar Kali on tour:

Also in 2010 Minneapolis b-girls got crunk at B-Girl Be: A Celebration of Women in Hip Hop

CF SusieMaye

Three mainstays in my “Favorites” are the blogs Afrobella, a fab beauty blog with a feminist sensibility, LoveBScot, an entertainment blog that is chatty and not catty, run by the genderqueer diva, B. Scott, and Rod 2.0,  which covers news with an emphasis on LGBT  issues, and holds the distinction, in my mind anyway, as the first blog SusieMaye ever followed.


Thank you so much for your support of the CFC this year. We’ll be on the road at different conferences (we’ll keep you posted) and look forward to getting it crunk with y’all in 2011.

Happy New Year! Get Crunk!


P.S. What are your favorites from 2010?

A World Where We are Free

27 Dec


Someday at Christmas men won’t be boys
Playing with bombs like kids play with toys
One warm December our hearts will see
A world where men are free

Someday at Christmas there’ll be no wars
When we have learned what Christmas is for
When we have found what life’s really worth
There’ll be peace on earth

Stevie Wonder, “Someday at Christmas” (1967)

One of my favorite Christmas songs is Stevie Wonder’s classic, “Someday at Christmas.” I’ve listened to this song dozens of times during the holiday season and I’ve often thought about how crunk it is (despite its old school gendered language) and how, unfortunately, it is still very relevant. In fact, the day “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed I was in my car listening to this and I thought of the ruling. And while I’m certainly glad LGBT folks in the armed services, including a close family member of mine, won’t have this Draconian ruling hanging over their heads, I cannot, with good conscience, be excited about a law that promotes a military industrial complex that funds imperialism and contributes to all other sorts of mayhem. This trouble in my spirit got me to thinking about some of the other perverse ironies of the holiday season.

Let me start off by saying that I’m not one of those Grinch-type folk around the holidays. I’m a December baby, a Sagittarius to be exact, and I generally revel in merry making during the month of my birth. For me, Hanukah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanza, and New Years Eve means a time for folks to eat a little, drink a little, (okay, a lot) and be with the folk they love.  Shoot, I usually feel pretty merry until about Three Kings’ Day!  Considering all the hatefulness that struts around calling itself “keeping it real,” “not being politically correct,” and so on, I’m generally cool with merry-making and people feeling good.

But I do find something about the holidays particularly interesting and, I’ll just say it, troubling: charity.

Hold up. Before you call me Scrooge or something or upbraid me for looking down at folks for helping the less fortunate, especially during a season so marked by grotesquely conspicuous consumption, let me make it plain. I think it’s more than wonderful to clothe the sick, feed the hungry, and shelter those with no where to go. In fact, I have, more than once, been on the receiving end of such treatment and I am very thankful for the many donated holiday turkeys and soup kitchen meals that I have eaten as a child. I’ve also had opportunities to pay it forward and that has been more than gratifying.

So, what’s my problem with charity, then? It’s not about being proud and it’s certainly not about thinking folks are not in need. Holiday turkeys are helpful and so is soup on a cold day. But what about when that day is done?  I think that those of us who are interested in ameliorating conditions at large have got to think beyond a conservative charity model and think about a more radical social justice model of change. By that I don’t mean doing away with the soup kitchen, but we have to be honest with ourselves about the limitations of charity.  We need more than acts of charity that will garner special interest spots on the news, but methods that will incite structural change that can positively impact people’s daily lives in general and not just during the holidays.

I will not claim to have all the answers, but I do know this: we must support organizations that are in the trenches in our communities. They need money. They need time. They need space. They need our support; not just when it’s cute to be giving stuff out so we can feel nice about how progressive we are, but all the time.

Do we need a body count to count?: Notes on the serial murders of Black women

23 Dec

“Number 47 looks like my second-grade teacher. Number 83 resembles one of my daughters. Number 66 calls to mind my children’s grandmother. And although some faces were cropped from near-naked bodies, others were shot outdoors, wearing boots and jackets,” said LA Times Reporter, Sandy Banks, commenting on photos of unidentified Black females.

Debra Jackson. Click. Henrietta Wright. Click. Barbara Ware. Click. These are some names of Black women who were sexually assaulted, drugged, murdered, and dumped in LA alleys and the backstreets by a former city trash collector.  As news broke about a serial killer dubbed the Grim Sleeper, I found myself at the computer clicking on the still images of 180 nameless, numbered Black women and girls published by the LA Times.  I sat with each photo picturing each life—and remembering the life of my aunt who was murdered years ago.

For women who are poor, who are Black, who are substance abusers, who are single/mothers, who are sex workers, and for women who possess no Olan Mills yearbook portrait like that of Natalee Holloway, how do we make sense of their lives?  Do we see them?

The national news coverage of the 1985-2007 LA murders has been sensational.  It has created a weeklong media event where images of rape survivors, recovering addicts, missing persons, family friends and kinfolk serve as a collective spectacle to construct a gritty drama about Lonnie Franklin Jr., the accused killer cast as the Grim Sleeper.  The first LA Times web photo of an unidentified Black woman, for example, included a star rating.  (The star rating, 3 out of 5, has been removed from the photo and women who’ve confirmed their identity with the LAPD have had their photos removed from the site.) Also, the CNN website mirrors entertainment pages for television crime series, such as CSI.  The opening page resembles a movie trailer.

Buried beneath the news headlines and hidden between police press releases is the actual story: The Black male serial killer. I am unsure if the media public is appalled by the dead Black women as we are fascinated by Franklin because he represents the methodicalness assigned to white male serial killers.

The Franklin case prompted me to think about other news stories reporting updates or new cases in 2010 about serial murderers, Walter Ellis and  Jason Thomas Scott, who targeted Black women and girls in Wisconsin and Maryland.

You would think the separate news stories about the systematic killing of Black women and girls in different regions would launch a national conversation about gender violence in Black communities.  In the same week that a major network news station reported the LA murders, it also celebrated the No. 1 YouTube video called “Bed Intruder.” The video has been watched more than 54 million times.  It uses actual news footage of Antonio Dodson, a concerned brother who reports on the attempted rape of his sister Kelly.  I remain dumbfounded by the complete thematic disconnect and the utter disregard for the actual loss of Black girls and women.  It is as if media makers and the consuming public are unable to see Black women unless we are repackaged as entertainment.

I began thinking about this piece yesterday.  I imagined there were other stories to tell that would not sour our holiday eggnog.  Then, I listened to the interview by Stephanie Jones, who created MOMS (Missing Or Murdered Sisters) to raise money and national awareness about the serial murders of poor Black women in Rocky Mount (NC).  She had to rent a billboard to attract local media attention. But after watching the morning news about another serial murderer yesterday, I could not look away.  At a press conference Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced a $37,000 reward (from the city and police fraternal organizations) for the arrest of a Black man accused of killing three non-Black female sex workers.  The news coverage about Philadelphia’s “Kensington Strangler” brought it all home.  My aunt, Mildred Darlene Durham, lay dead from gunshot wounds in the Kensington area of Norfolk (VA) in 1998.

At end of group sessions, Black feminist Ruth Nicole Brown used to invite me and other members from an Illinois collective called SOLHOT (Saving Our Lives, Hearing Our Truths) to light an incense to recall another person or to remember ourselves.  We stood face to face so that we might see each other.  One by one, we would say the names of a loved one so she/we would not be forgotten.

This is my virtual incense to Darlene and every other Black woman whose face has been etched in my memory.

I do see you. You have not been forgotten.

You are loved. You are missed.


Keeping It Real: Black Women & Reality TV

16 Dec

My addiction started with good intentions.

I am a scholar who studies representations of black women so it made sense to look for black women on reality television shows.  This was not a practice I was unfamiliar with.  Watching Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune was always more “appealing” growing up when there was a black person on the show.  I remember, even as a child, hoping/wishing/praying that the contestant would not embarrass us.  Us being me and them.  Us being all black people.  It is funny how even as a child I was aware that “their” (other black people’s) representation was my representation and vice versa.  It was clear to me that white people did not always know how to tell us apart.

This was no different from my mama’s insistence that I behave well around company and in public.  She raised me to believe that my actions were always a direct reflection of her and her mothering skills.  I knew that being the daughter that most favored her, I owed it to her to “represent” well.  Over the years, studying race and oftentimes being the only black person in the room, I realize that the same premise applies to race in general.  Black folk (and people of color generally) are expected to be the individual representatives of all black folk.  My mama was right (she always is).

So, this new knowledge that I carried in my pocket made me consistently aware that I was always being watched and judged as a child.  I still am as an adult.

Reality television took me by surprise.  I had no way of knowing that it would have such a hold on me.  All it took was one innocent episode or one night of insomnia and I was hooked.  The lure of supposed “reality” appeals to my academic curiosity, my ethnographic voyeurism, and my small town nosiness all at the same time.  And while I know that reality television shows are scripted, edited, and manipulated—it is still the promised reality that gets me.  I feel invested in characters.  I feel like I know them (and their business).  And I always, always want to know more!

As both a fan and critic of reality television I find myself fascinated with my addiction—and curious about it.  I imagine that it is something more than the undeniable lie of reality that has captured the attention of so many people (for so many reasons).

A few years ago I wrote an article challenging race and gender representations on reality television.  At the time it was Flavor of Love that had me whipped.  I knew the storyline/s, the characters, their real names, their “new” names, and why they had the names.  I was happily duped by the bad acting of a cast who pretended to be infatuated with Flavor Flav.  Conversations with friends and colleagues usually began with, “Girl, did you see Flavor of Love last night?”  Damn.  And just like that I was addicted.  Popular culture trapped me in a corner and swallowed me whole.  I watched every season…and the follow up shows, and the reunion shows, and the spin offs.  Turning the channel did not divert my obsession because on the next channel I found other shows that promised me “regular, everyday” characters who were just like me and looking for something (love, money, fame, purpose), just like me.

My DVR is set to record a reality television show at least every other day of the week and let’s not forget the court shows, the cooking shows, the competitive dating shows and series, the singing and talent shows.  There does not seem to be an escape.  So what is a solution?

Reality television has been a claim to fame for many black women over the last decade—but not in a good way.  Many black women remain nameless and objectified, framed as ignorant, promiscuous golddiggers (think of most of the contestants on Flavor of Love).  Other representations suggest that black women are conniving, bitter, bourgeoisie or shallow (Atlanta housewives).  Even Omarosa, the intelligent black woman from the original season of The Apprentice was cast as an emasculating bitch (a title she has since embraced and utilized as a way of becoming a household name).  Essentially, reality television has found a way to reiterate stereotypes to name and frame black women as mammies, matriarchs, jezebels, sapphires and tragic mulattos.

Black women on reality television becomes problematic when there are clear conflicts between reality and imagination–and when the audience doesn’t know what is real and what is fake.  As consumers, we must challenge what we see—compare it to who we are, how we live, who we know, and resist stereotypes.  Then, we must insist on more nuanced images of ourselves.  We have to refuse to accept that we are what and who other people tell us we are.  We also must acknowledge and accept the pieces of ourselves we sometimes recognize in the “real” characters—and interrogate the pieces of ourselves that we want to challenge.  Perhaps if we can learn to be critical consumers, watching reality television won’t seem so much like an act of backsliding and I can stop feeling guilty about it.

At any given time, on any given channel, I am lured back to reality shows.  One sleepless night and I am hooked again.  Shows I refuse, on principle, to watch during their designated times come on at unreasonable hours when I am too vulnerable to resist (Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch–yes, I am embarrassed to say that I watched it, Fantasia For Real, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, The T.O. Show, and recently a show on E called Bridalplasty—yes, it is as bad as it sounds!).  When I have to choose between reality television and infomercials, reality television wins.

My best friend turned me on to The Real Housewives of Atlanta a few years ago during a visit home for the holidays.  She had every episode recorded and we spent an entire Sunday afternoon watching each episode, laughing and talking in between, but never questioning what the show was offering us.  Reality television feels harmless because most people view it for entertainment purposes, but the impact of reality television is far-reaching (i.e., there has been some speculation that the docu-reality series 16 & Pregnant and Teen Mom on MTV has prompted some young women to get pregnant on purpose in hopes of being on the show).  Entertainment is not harmless, especially for underrepresented populations.  It is no coincidence that representations of marginalized groups (including the poor and disenfranchised, people of color, people with disabilities, non-heterosexuals, etc.) are continually scripted as stereotypes.  Unfortunately we are oftentimes passive consumers who are unconscious of the underlying meanings of representations.  Or we mistake any representation as “good” or “good enough.”

Reality television is problematic and black women, in particular, must be critical of images reflected back to them on television (and movie) screens.  If we don’t trouble the representations that are offered to us then we may find ourselves believing that the only options for black womanhood are available in exaggerated extremes (a la Tyler Perry) or sanitized stereotypes (pretty much everybody else).  I have been waiting for a real(ity) representation that can rescue me from the need to defend myself or save face.  I am still searching.

The Dirty South: GA Prisoners on Lockdown for Liberty

15 Dec
13th Amendment: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
On December 9th, courageous inmates at 10 Georgia state prisons staged a peaceful protest in which they locked themselves down voluntarily and refused to work. Their demands are simple:

· A living wage for work

· Educational Opportunities

· Decent Healthcare

· An end to cruel and unusual punishments

· Decent Living Conditions

· Nutritional meals

· Vocational and self-improvement opportunties

· Access to families

· Just parole decisions

Since initiating their protest, prisoners have been subjected to violence, been deprived of food, heat and hot water.

We stand in solidarity with these prisoners, because we understand the prison industrial complex to be a modern day iteration of slavery. Why?

If you revisit the text of the 13th amendment, the famed Civil War amendment that supposedly granted us our freedom, you will find that slavery was not abolished. The amendment clearly states that slavery and involuntary servitude can be used as forms of punishment for convicted criminals.

However, we cannot understand the connection between criminality and slavery outside of the context of race. After the 13th amendment was passed and slaves were freed, many of those same formerly enslaved folks were rendered vagabonds, wanderers without a home. Although many of them chose to wander in order to find their families or simply to be free of their masters, they also became easy targets for town vagrancy laws. Many former slaves were locked up for exercising the freedom of movement just conferred upon them. To add insult to injury, towns then engaged in the dubious practice of convict leasing in order to earn revenue. Under the convict leasing system, a plantation owner would go to a prison, pay the prison official to “lease” the services of a convict and then use that prisoner to do work, often on the very same plantations from which they had just been freed.

The prison system in our country has therefore had a long-standing financial incentive to increase incarceration. In the 19th century, prisons could raise revenues and simultaneously punish folks who had the audacity to exercise constitutional freedoms and view themselves as full human beings.

Our modern-day prison system works very similarly. Over 50% of inmates are African American males. This is not coincidental but comes from a long history of using black male bodies to perform menial labor for minimal (or no) pay. Yes, there are many criminals who have done dangerous things, but the reality is that prison is often the end result of poor education and lack of access to unskilled job opportunities. Couple that with over-policing and a racially biased justice system and you have a recipe for disaster.

In today’s prisons, prisoners do all kinds of labor from making license plates, to telemarketing, to building the desks used in our college classrooms. The irony. In many cases they are paid a mere $.12 on the hour, and in Georgia prisoners are paid nothing. In some states where they are paid more ($.25/hr), they are taxed at 50%, because they are forced to use their own wages to contribute to their cost-of-living. Add to that the inflated costs of commissary items and the fact that basics like soap and toilet paper are often not provided, and the internal space of the prison functions very much according to the logic of 19th century systems of debt peonage, whereby families worked on plantations, made wages, but were subjected to exorbitant costs for basic necessities, leaving them always in debt to their plantation masters.

There is much more to say about the prison industrial complex and the way Black and Brown bodies are positioned within it. I’ll leave that work to CF Chanel, our  resident scholar in Critical Prison Studies, who will have more to say after her finals are over.

We simply want our readers to know that we understand the prison industrial complex as a social problem that occurs at the intersections of race, gender, and class, sexuality and ability. It is therefore a feminist issue.

We are heartened by the multi-racial coalitions of prisoners who have come together to do this important work; the strategic use of nonviolence in this instance exposes the utter fallacy of the social construction of prisoners as inherently violent and unreasonable human beings. In the most radical tradition of Dr. King, they demonstrate the guiding logics of the tactical aspects of nonviolence as a political strategy, namely that when you choose non-violence against folks who routinely use violence to subjugate you, you dramatize the disparity in the narratives being told, and demonstrate from which direction the violence actually flows. It’s utterly brilliant.

Ashe. Let’s move mountains.

Below is a list of prisons where prisoners are still on lockdown and where you can call to express concern.

Hays State Prison—706-857-0400

Macon State Prison—978-472-3900

Telfair State Prison—229-868-7721

Smith State Prison – 912-654-5000

The Georgia Department of Corrections is at and their phone number is 478-992-5246

Men and Feminism: A Primer

10 Dec
Balance is required in all things. And since we at the CFC are perfectly willing to check somebody when they get it wrong, we are also willing to give you some resources and pointers on how to get it right. But when it comes to combatting privilege, often folks are unwilling to acknowledge the privilege they have, until someone who also has privilege does the same.
With regard to male privilege, the discussions on choking during sex that we’ve been having have made this fact abundantly clear. So below is a list of readings, most of them short and accessible, and a couple of clips that men can watch if they want to know what it means to be a feminist ally.
In response to choking, men, and rape culture, I’ll quote this short piece from Nathan McCall:
“I’ve heard all the Macho Men’s room talk, and I’d say the number of boys and men who harbor blurry notions about the liberties they can rightfully take with a female is nothing less than mind-boggling. If truth be told, on some level of awareness or another, most men don’t get it.”
You can read the rest of this short essay, “Men: We Just Don’t Get It” inTraps: African American Men on Gender and Sexuality edited by Rudolph Byrd and Beverly Guy-Sheftall.
Also check out
Shira Tarrant.  Men Speak Out: Views on Gender, Sex, and Power. Routledge 2008.
Aaronette White. Ain’t I a Feminist: African American Men Speak Out on Fatherhood, Friendship, Forgiveness, and Freedom. SUNY Press, 2008.
Mark Anthony Neal. New Black Man. Routledge 2005.
Nathalie Hopkinson and Natalie Y. Moore. Deconstructing Tyrone: A New Look At Black Masculinity in the Hip-Hop Generation. Cleis Press, 2006.
Gary Lemons. Black Male Outsider: Teaching as a Pro-Feminist Man. SUNY Press, 2008.
Black Male Privilege Checklist
Male Privilege Checklist
Byron Hurt. Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes. [Documentary]Here’s where you can purchase a copy.
I hope this short list will help you get started.
I’m also very sure that I missed some useful resources, so feel free to share them in the comments section.

Why Jay Electronica Can Go Choke On His Own Words

7 Dec
At a recent Hip Hop performance, Jay Electronica asked his audiences “Do women like to be choked during sex?” Apparently, he asks this question at every show, and is conducting an informal survey so that him, his DJ, and Nas, can decide a $20,000 bet on the issue on December 25th.
Nas says all women like to be choked.
TJ the DJ says only some do.
And Jay says, we all do, but in varying degrees.
I say, “they are all a bunch of assholes.”
They aren’t assholes because they like erotic asphyxiation. A whole lot of folks are into that, and I’m not hating. If this was a conversation about the range of practices that are pleasurable for women, then as a feminist, I would be down for that conversation.
But there’s a bet on it, so I wouldn’t bet on it.
Jay, Nas, and the DJ are not at all interested in female pleasure. This is a battle over whose dick is bigger. Plain and simple.
Anytime money exchanges male hands in a contest over what women like in the bedroom, the potential for sex positivity and female empowerment becomes nil.
Yes, we should be able to talk freely about lots of different kinds of sexual expression, BDSM (bondage/sado-masochism) included. But Jay Electronica’s quip at a different performance that Redman says that some women like to be punched in the ribs, is troubling.
Recently, there have been a few feminist-identified Black men who are publishing work which claims that feminists of color, particularly Black women, are parochial on sexual issues, and that we see all forms of risque sexual practices as problematic. Undoubtedly, many of these brothers will watch this clip and conclude this same thing.
But this isn’t about sex positivity. Look at the terms of the bet. How can any three men ever determine what “all women” like? At the moment that this becomes about generalizing female sexual practices under one banner, it no longer becomes about women, but about men’s idea and projection of who they would like us to be. Moreover, clearly Jay, Nas, and TJ the DJ  are having a Lil Wayne moment, RE: they just “wanna fuck every girl in the world.” Because that’s the only way they could reasonably determine the truth of their statements.
Jay also engages in a troubling fetishization of foreign women. “Women in the states” don’t like choking. But women “overseas”  love it. Really?
Back in Seattle, Jay polls the crowd. Only a few women admit to liking the practice. But almost all the men in the crowd do, a disparity to which Jay responds, “it’s a whole lot of women getting choked against their will.” And then…raucous laughter.
A courageous sister yells back, “that’s not funny.” (3:25) Jay and the crowd immediately silence her. He says, “it’s not supposed to be funny,” as he’s catching his breath from having a good laugh on stage.  Then he quickly organizes a crowd chant, “we know it’s not funny. Relax.”
How many women have been gently coerced into sex they didn’t want to have under an insistent chorus of “just relax”?
The dismissive, mocking reaction to that sister’s disruption of the space, tells us all we need to know about what our reaction should be. She proved the point. Some sisters don’t like it…and Jay’s inability or lack of desire to hear her point of view after he had just invited audience feedback, suggests that he and his boys are interested in a very particular narrative of female sexuality.
Jay also admitted that there were underaged folks in the crowd, and then he recklessly proceeded to promote irresponsible sexual messages like
a.) women don’t really know what they want in the bedroom
b.) it’s up to men to help us “figure it out” [and a little financial incentive wouldn’t hurt]
c.) and many of us are lying anyway, given the disparity in crowd response
Sounds like a recipe for rape.
Or at least some misguided, tragic, unfulfilling teenaged sex. If the sexual plot line in the Black male coming of age tale, The Wood is any indication, betting is a critical part of male sexual socialization. And it seems harmless.
But there are a whole lot of young women and grown women, who are the literal conquered booty in these conquests, who beg to differ. I am one of them.
The bottom line is that Jay needs to do better. He should apologize. And since it is the season of giving,  he and his two stooges should put their money where their mouths are, and donate that twenty thou to some initiative that empowers women and girls who are sexual violence survivors. Bet.

Sisterfriendz in the Kitchen: Dialoguing with Our Foremothers

5 Dec

It is the end of the Fall semester and I have been reminded of the power of Black Feminist pedagogy after experiencing my graduate and undergraduate students archival project presentations.  Quick background, the course was an Africana Women’s Studies Intro to Women’s Studies class with a total of six black female students.  For their final projects they were asked to develop creative presentations/performances that would bring items from Audre Lorde’s or Alice Walker’s archives to life.

We started off the course reading Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf aloud to get ourselves settled in our own voices and various historical narratives of Black women and girls in the U.S.  I believe this class was a spiritually chosen collective in that this semester four of the six students had first hand experiences with bell hooks, Gloria Steinam, Sapphire, Barbara Smith (they had lunch with her), a Bessie Smith play, AND Alice Walker’s and Audre Lorde’s archives.

This class took big risks and had hard conversations and in the end they created poetry-in-motion through a short film highlighting a collective started in 1977 by literary greats including Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and June Jordan called The Sisterhood.  They performed an imagined re-enactment of Alice Walker asking the orishas for guidance finding her spiritual foremother, Zora Neal Hurston.  They taught an alternative “sex-esteem” sex education workshop that centers self-love using Lorde’s definition of “the erotic.”  They performed an interpretive dance performance/motivational workshop called, “The House of You,” that was created to help the audience “get out of their heads and into their bodies” so that they might feel their deep connection with themselves and the people around them.

It was powerful because when the course started more than half the class had never heard of black feminism or womanism and by the end of the course they were the teachers, performers, and artists that we started off reading.  I never pretended to have all the answers and that really frustrated my students, but I trusted that the lesson was in the journey and in the end they confirmed that Black feminist dialogic pedagogy is where it’s at.

Below are two definitions of sisterfriendz created by two of my students:

1.  Sisterfriends-(a person or people)  “For me, “Sisterfriendz” is the epitome of sisterhood. There is a unique sisterhood within womanhood. Any woman can and does experience womanhood, but very few understand the joy of sisterhood while simultaneously exploring womanhood. At a very young age, my mother taught me that womanhood is accepting the physical, mental, and emotional/spiritual changes that I will experience as an individual. It is a personal journey that leads you to a very personal outcome. For many people, it is considered “their chi” –their center, source of strength. Sisterhood is what we allow other women to experience with us. It is the invitation to other women to connect them to “our chi” that we can feed or be fed power, courage, strength, and wisdom! It is the power to not face things alone.”

2.  Sisterfriendz-(a description of a relationship)- a relationship between women where the boundaries–companion, sensual, sexual, partner etc.–are determined solely by the women in the relationship.

Another student filmed the Crunk Feminist Panel Discussion, from the Black Women as Public Intellectuals Symposium, and she used the clip of CF’s discussing why they are black feminists in her short film on The Sisterhood connecting the Crunk Feminists to The Sisterhood through the concept of “sisterfriendz.”

Finally, a fourth student posted her final blogpost to our class blog and included the all time favorite “Miss Celie’s Blues” sung by the character Shug Avery in the movie The Color Purple.  I leave you with this phenomenal last piece of our class quilt.


Happy birthday crunktastic and happy holidays to the CFs and friends of the CFC.


Lil’ Kim vs. Nicki Minaj

1 Dec

Last  Friday, Lil’ Kim released Black Friday, a diss track to counter the release of Nicki Minaj’s debut album Pink Friday.

When I heard the track, I had mixed emotions. Truthfully, my first thought was “Why is Kim hating on Nicki?” Surely, we don’t need that. And given that Kim seems to be washed up and almost entirely out of the game, it most assuredly sounds like some hateration.

But I listened again to the track, and listened as Kim chided Nicki for being a “Lil Kim Clone Clown.” As Kim put it, “I mothered you hoes.” And I thought of all my conversations with young folks who think Nicki Minaj is the next coming. It make sense since most of them were maybe 5 or 6 when Kim debuted, and just a little older when she reached her zenith. It’s a classic case of generational amnesia and of the propensity of young folks to think all the hotness begins with them.

So what I realized is that if nothing else, Kim provided a much-needed history lesson. “You lames tryin’ to clone my style and run wit it. That’s cool, I was the first one wit it.” And in many ways, she was.

Considering all this, I was forced, in the midst of myriad reactions, from Hip Hop heads and feminists to rethink my position. So I began by posting the clip on the CFC FB page. Many of you did not receive that move well, and felt that I was glorifying in-fighting  among women in a way that undercuts sisterhood.

But I beg to differ. As a feminist who loves (some) Hip Hop, I have watched sadly as women have literally been silenced in the mainstream in the last decade. Yes, I know that women have a vibrant presence in the underground, but I also know that the masses of folks aren’t tuned in to the underground. Moreover, the mainstream—the overground—is the primary battleground upon which images of Black women are commodified, reified, and re-entrenched.

So while I believe the critiques of Kim in this instance are to some extent legitimate, particularly when folks talk about the ways in which her timing seems opportunistic, on the whole I think they are somewhat shortsighted.

For instance, I disagree greatly when folks suggest that the diss-pute between these women is unproductive. One of the pillars of Hip Hop artistry is the rivalry between emcees. In fact, one of the Hip Hop sisters whom we all celebrate is Roxanne Shante’ who launched her career on a diss track. Yes, she was critiquing the sexism of UTFO’s Roxanne, Roxanne. But she was also showcasing her ability as a rapper and a lyricist.

So we could knock Lil’ Kim for being opportunistic, but given the Black male take-over of Hip Hop in the last decade, opportunities for women to get it in in the mainstream are few and far between.

Moreover, this notion that women in Hip Hop should either play nice or or take a (10-year) timeout is a kind of paternalistic infantilization that seems especially un-feminist to me. As Joan Morgan said in a recent facebook post, “Hip Hop doesn’t have to be positive to be good.”

And therein lies my point. This is a moment of creativity and generativity. It is a moment where one woman has challenged another woman to defend the validity of her art and her talent. Perhaps, we think that such competitive activities are masculinist by their very nature, and therefore inherently lacking in utility for women. And perhaps the models for women should be different. But every woman that has made her way in  Hip Hop has done so by usurping spaces and practices that are presumed to be male and reimagining them as a space to rearticulate female possibility.

I think what is particularly infuriating is also what is perhaps most radical. Kim claims to have mothered Nicki, but she isn’t a doting mother by far. And because of our narrative of mothering, we expect that Kim should play nice and be excited to have a daughter. But when Lil Wayne styled himself as Tha Carter (emphasis on the definite article there), Sean Carter wasn’t overly enthused. Jay-Z has since embraced Wayne, but it took a moment. And no one cried about how Jay-Z was being rude. Now this was because in many ways Wayne was considered an illegitimate upstart who had no business comparing himself to someone with Jay-Z’s talent.


That’s really the issue here.

Most of the men with whom I’ve debated this issue,  and it has been primarily men who’ve made this argument, keep suggesting that both Kim and Nicki have ghostwriters, and that Kim has no talent. In other words, both of these women should just go sit down with their cutesie catfight. Can we say sexism?

So you have women suggesting that women shouldn’t fight each other, even though it is a time honored part of the art form, and men suggesting that the battle is whack off top because neither of these women is a legitimate lyricist to begin with.

And this is precisely why I think this battle is good for women in Hip Hop. It suggests that we don’t have to play nice to participate.  It challenges narratives that attempt to turn Black women of a certain age into mothers against their will. It represents another instance where Kim has done what she always did best for Hip Hop—challenge the narrative scripts of Black womanhood.

Last week, Nicki was declared the Queen of Hip Hop.

I balked. Just like I balked after Ashanti was declared the Princess of R&B.  Even  Halle Berry knew when she won her Oscar, that there were a many, many women who should’ve graced the stage before her, and she acknowledged this in her acceptance speech. In this day and age, where our collective memory tends to be short, it’s a title Nicki should relinquish. Making appearances on umpteen remixes and dropping one album does not a queen make. The Queen Bee challenged her progeny’s right to the title. And I, for one, am glad she did.


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