Archive | October, 2012

Learning Community with Black Girls

17 Oct

Wish to Live and Hip Hop's Lil Sistas SpeakIn a two-part series called Meet the Authors, the CFC talks to Drs. Ruth Nicole BrownChamara Jewel Kwakye, and Bettina Love about their recently released books, Wish to Live: The Hip-Hop Feminist Pedagogy Reader and Hip hop’s Li’l Sistas Speak: Negotiating Identities and Politics in the New South. Both books describe Black girlhoodand hip hop feminist teaching in the university and community classroom.  Ruth Nicole and Chamara coordinate SOLHOT (Saving Our Lives Hear Our Truths), which is a multi-sited, community-based space developed to celebrate and affirm Black girl genius using art.  Bettina organizes, Real Talk: Hip Hop Education for Social Justice, an after-school program for elementary school-aged students aimed at promoting issues of social justice through hip hop education. Part I covers hip hop feminism as pedagogy or the art of teaching. Part II will explore the body and hip hop feminism as Black feminist thought.

Crunklife: How do you marry hip hop feminism with pedagogy in your new books?

Bettina Love

Bettina L. Love is an assistant professor in the Department of Elementary and Social Studies at the University of Georgia. Her work has appeared in numerous books and journals, including Gender Forum, Educational Studies, and Race, Gender and Class.

Bettina: Hip hop feminism is a way of life, the way I see the world. I’m an educator. Before I was ever a researcher, a scholar, a writer, I was an elementary school teacher, so hip hop feminism and pedagogy just works for me in the classroom. I also think working with young girls to create a space for them that they don’t get in schools.  I think young girls, especially young Black girls, feel so disconnected from school. Their culture isn’t there. Their stories aren’t there. Who they are is not there in formal education. To merge those worlds for me as an educator and as a hip hop feminist just feels so natural and so right because I know the potential of these girls. If we can work in spaces where there is shared knowledge and produce this shared knowledge, it’s just powerful.

Chamara: I think it is definitely a way of life and how we see the world. It is marrying the things that we see in our daily lives as Black women and bringing those elements into the classroom in different ways and shapes and forms. The classroom, not just being in these formal spaces but being in informal spaces in the community, is where we get together and talk about the ways in which our world is being shaped by—not just the music, but—the kind of things that are going on around (us) and in the everyday-ness in our lives. The book was taking the things that we had done in the community in Champaign-Urbana (IL) and then asking other people who had been a part of that or who had been a part of the Hip Hop Feminism class (at the University of Illinois) to share the things that they’re doing and the way that they brought hip hop into these spaces.

Crunklife: You talk about working inside and outside of the classroom. You all work with girls. Could you talk about that? What do the girls teach us as homegirls? What do they teach us about ourselves?

Bettina:  I have a chapter in my book that talks about starting my research with my limitations. I walked into this research project thinking that I knew everything about Atlanta and I knew everything about hip hop. I looked like these girls. I never thought that I had to address all of my messiness that I had in my life. These girls brought it out of me.

My queerness was on display for them. During the first interaction I had with these girls, they walked up to me and said, “You gay?” Being quick-witted and not wanting to put my guard down, I said, “You in my business.”

I could not research them, get to know them, understand them, and tell their stories until they put me on blast. They did something that was very interesting. They started talking about lesbians in their school an earshot away from me. I truly believe that they did this to let me know: Let your guard down. We’re cool. Talk to us. I couldn’t tell their stories until they put me on blast. It was an awesome, awesome experience because they wanted to tell their stories.

They are just so smart and they’re ready to critique, and they’re ready to be heard. I was there wanting to do that but I didn’t know how to do that. It helps as a researcher or someone doing this work in the community to address your stuff, your messiness when you walk into these spaces with these girls. I’ve had to address my notions of southern-ness. I’m from New York. I had to understand what my mother said about country folk, stereotypes, and all this internalized homophobia that I walked into this space with, the girls helped me to confront.

Ruth Nicole Brown

Ruth Nicole Brown (Ph.D. in political science, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) is an artist-scholar and an assistant professor in the Departments of Gender and Women’s Studies and Education Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of Black Girlhood Celebration: Toward a Hip-Hop Feminist Pedagogy (Peter Lang, 2009).

Ruth Nicole: I definitely echo the messiness. We see the same exact thing in SOLHOT where they call you out whatever it is when you least likely want to talk about it. They put it out there. In SOLHOT, we’ve had homegirls that have really stepped up and embraced it, and we’ve had others that once they got called out, they cried and left, you know. She said this about me. Or, this is too much. I got to go. Maybe some people are just not ready to deal with it.

Those who stay, there’s a lot to be said about the power and the presence of a woman who can address her complexities and articulate them and share them. I think that the formal classroom, the university classroom, is so into consumer education. I’m big on that lately because it’s like the students really don’t want to know what I know or what we can learn from each other. It’s, “Can I get your signature so I can leave?”

This is why outside of the university classroom is where education and learning happens in a very sincere way. We approach each other as people first without having to fight all of the isolation and the complicity that the university sets up. We can just really ask each other questions and have a real learning experience. The girls in SOLHOT drop knowledge all the time. We are there to learn from them. Like we always say [in SOLHOT], “what the work is.” We don’t presume to know what the work is before we get together with whatever group that is SOLHOT.  The girls taught me how to fix a CD when it’s scratched by dropping it in a toilet. We thought we knew what we were doing, but they taught us that. The girls constantly teach me that when one of them gets suspended, the question is not, “What did she do or what happened?” But we ask what happened to her because it’s always the person that responds that gets caught. So, we connect to her first. She reacted and subsequently got in trouble. So those are just a few that I’ve learned.

Bettina: I also think as Black feminists, it calls us to get outside of the ivory tower. It really does. To do this work and to live this work, you will not be able to do this work with integrity if you only stay in higher ed.

Crunklife: But do we want to make those divisions? What if there are first generation people like me who are now taking classes in school and see it as being part of their Black feminist construction as well?

Bettina: I think you’re right. I think we have to be in both, but we have to make sure this work hits the community.

Chamara Jewel Kwakye

Chamara Jewel Kwakye (Ph.D. in educational policy studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) is a scholar, storyteller, and performer. She is currently a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Kwakye is currently writing a book that documents the life histories of Black women in the Academy.

Chamara: I agree with most of the things that have been said. There’s no way that you can talk about somebody else’s life without being called out about the stuff in your life. There’s just no way that you can do that with any real connection to that person or with any integrity.

You’re trying to write about somebody else’s life and interrogate their life and you haven’t really looked at your own life. I don’t know anybody who’s done that successfully and it reads well. It will read like you’re five feet away as opposed to actually being in the moment and connecting with that person. So with the girls, really again, echoing what Bettina has said and what Ruth Nicole has said, there’s no way that you’re not going to get called out. And so, going into that space, you really have to be okay with being called out or really learn quickly on your feet because this is what’s going to happen. In order to do this work well and not be overwhelmed by it, you’re going to have to start interrogating your own self.

The girls are constantly, in SOLHOT, calling you out. For me, last year, it was my break-up. I may have said one thing about it, and they were like, “Did you bust the windows out his car?” They were going to call me out, but it was also taking care of me too in a way. By that time, I had spent a considerable amount of time with them and they were really checking in to make sure I was okay. If I had gone in there with my guard up, I would have never gotten to that space of care where they actually showed me that they wanted to make sure I’m okay. How are you surviving this moment? That’s what I learned from them. If you allow people to call you out on your stuff, they will also be there to take care of you too. It’s not just a one-way relationship where I am checking in on them. They want to know what’s going on outside of the spaces that we’re in. It becomes a reciprocal relationship where we’re checking in on them and they are checking in on us.

For more information about books, please visit Amazon.com:

Wish to Live Book CoverWish To Live: The Hip-hop Feminism Pedagogy Reader moves beyond the traditional understanding of the four elements of hip-hop culture—rapping, breakdancing, graffiti art, and deejaying—to articulate how hip-hop feminist scholarship can inform educational practices and spark, transform, encourage, and sustain local and global youth community activism efforts. This multi-genre and interdisciplinary reader engages performance, poetry, document analysis, playwriting, polemics, cultural critique, and autobiography to radically reimagine the political utility of hip-hop-informed social justice efforts that insist on an accountable analysis of identity and culture. Featuring scholarship from professors and graduate and undergraduate students actively involved in the work they profess, this book’s commitment to making the practice of hip-hop feminist activism practical in our everyday lives is both compelling and unapologetic. (Source: Amazon.com)

Hip Hop's Lil Sistas SpeakThrough ethnographically informed interviews and observations conducted with six Black middle and high school girls, Hip Hop’s Li’l Sistas Speak, explores how young women navigate the space of Hip Hop music and culture to form ideas concerning race, body, class, inequality, and privilege. The thriving atmosphere of Atlanta, Georgia serves as the background against which these youth consume Hip Hop, and the book examines how the city’s socially conservative politics, urban gentrification, race relations, Southern-flavored Hip Hop music and culture, and booming adult entertainment industry rest in their periphery. Intertwined within the girls’ exploration of Hip Hop and coming of age in Atlanta, the author shares her love for the culture, struggles of being a queer educator and a Black lesbian living and researching in the South, and reimagining Hip Hop pedagogy for urban learners. (Source: Amazon.com)

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Happy Coming Out (and Going In) Day!

11 Oct Donna Summer

Today is national coming out day so I called my girlfriend early this morning. “Hello? Are you okay?” she asked, sleep and worry mixed in her voice. “I’m gay,” I said. “Today is national coming out day and I thought you should know.” “Goodbye.” She hung up. She’s not a morning person. She also “came out” in her teens and I, a grown woman, am way behind. For me, coming out isn’t as scary as it probably was for her in the mid-nineties.

I’m grown. I already had a baby “out of wedlock“, so I’ve experienced the worst of the anger caused by middle class politics of respectability. I have good friends. I had queer community before I even knew what it was. I’m an academic at an institution that is at least queer friendly on paper so I’ve learned how to develop systems of belief that make room for my whole being. I have enough queer politics to believe that anyone who has a problem with the way that I identify is at least misinformed about the nature of “natural.” I believe most things are socially constructed. I believe gender isn’t a binary opposition. Nor is sex. I don’t believe gender and sex are the same things. I believe in sexual fluidity and openness. I believe that texts, even the ones we hold most dear, are signs and therefore open to infinite interpretations. So what does a person with a belief profile like mine do on a day like today?

I was going to use my rainbow umbrella but it didn’t rain.

I was going to hold hands with my girlfriend in public but I’m in a long distance relationship.

I was going to put an “Out and Proud” sticker on my car but I’m still paying for it.

I was going to write a post under my own name but I decided to create an alias especially for the family members who stalk me on this site even though they don’t understand half of what is posted here. Runtelldat.

So I’m thinking. In the Judith Butler since of the concept, coming out may really be “going in”– into a box constructed by those who are hyper-vigilant about protecting their heterosexuality, a category that is as unstable as its binary opposition. In this dialectic, gay is what straight isn’t. Gay is natural hair because straight is permed hair (no seriously. Many of you are reading this in big cities, but when I first brought my nappy head back to my hometown, I received knowing glances and women touched my thighs a lot in public. I thought they were cousins I’d forgotten until my brother told me I was being read as gay.). Gay is a pantsuit with brogans because straight is a skirt with heels. Gay is the avoidance of ridiculous shit like “strictly dickly” and other phrases that straight girls use to protect themselves from themselves. Straight is a system of binaries and gay is bending the line. So I don’t want to come out just to go into some other box that will also confine me.

No. This is gay in a box: “Help me. I’m in a box. Let me out of this box!”

In a non-Butlerian, family sense, coming out is also “going in”– to communities constructed for those who get thrown out. I know that I’m going to get thrown out. I may not get to kiss my nephews and nieces anymore, as siblings have previously told me they don’t want “that gay shit” around their kids. I may also be forced out of other communities, real and imagined. I know there are some “back-home” friendships that will sadly end. There is a person whose hand I held as her father took his last, rattling breaths. When my “coming out” reaches her, I wonder if she’ll think that while I witnessed death up close for the first time, I was actually pushing back feelings of lust for her. I wasn’t. There are places I haven’t even been that will throw me out, places far less liberal than this relatively utopian community in which I live. Especially if I stay in the South. Queer folks stay getting whipped by the Bible Belt.

Painting of queer women in rainbow colors.

This is a utopian queer community. No “isms” in this painting.

My friend also reminded me that in the black vernacular sense, coming out is also “going in.” I started this journey with a theory: sexuality is ultimately fluid (which reminds me, I need to rewrite this), and many of the behaviors that we think are natural are actually learned. I then practiced this theory by kissing a girl who smelled like fabric softener and that was the end of my heterosexuality. It was easy to give up. Why? Because it didn’t really exist in the first place. Because sexuality exists on a continuum. Because we hold onto constructs that we think will save us until our fingertips bleed, and only when we slip do we realize that the abyss (in this case, whatever exists in excess of compulsory heterosexuality) is only two feet away. And its fun down there. And that was a pun. And that, gentle reader, is going in. Which is one of the things that I get to do (in the spirit of the Lorde) when I come out.

Audre Lorde speaking.

This is Sister Audre GOIN IN!

So I return to the notion of coming out and what it means for a grown woman academic who usually feels buttressed by the discourse in which she has chosen to reside. I wonder if coming out is for teenagers in search of community and protection from a system that denies children the right to be and find themselves. Is coming out just for married men who want to scare the world via Oprah? Is coming out for those whose celebrity will help secure rights and privileges for queer common folk like myself?

I think I’d rather just skip that part and go in, like Wayne sans misogyny. What do you think?

Please Feel Free to Keep Your Bullshit Apology

11 Oct

So, I was on Facebook (granted, I know that was my very first mistake) and I came across a homophobic comment posted by my youngest brother.

Back story: my little brother and I have the same dad but different moms. I don’t use the word “half-brother” because to me if feels like it somehow delegitimatizes our bond. Even though we grew up in different homes, we have a very strong history and have created many loving memories. Needless to say, I love my little brother very much. I am often saddened by the fact that we didn’t grow up in the same home. I think that maybe if we had, he wouldn’t put such dumb shit on a public forum like Facebook. Maybe, just maybe, he would think twice.

I wasn’t born in this country. English is not my first language. I wear a size twelve. I’m also a queer woman of color.  Clearly, I have had to develop thick skin. I’m used to seeing manifestations of intolerance everywhere – in public policy, society, at work, in the media … you get the picture. I am also very private and because of that keep my Facebook circle really small. The folks on my friends list are progressive and agree with me on the importance of silly things like social justice and equal rights. This is why this post hurt so terribly. I was being attacked on Facebook, but, most surprisingly, by my own brother. He knows that his sister is gay. It is no secret. He knows this. He also knows that his sister is smart, strong, opinionated, giving, caring,  and, most of all, human.

So why, why, why would my little brother post a homophobic comment? Why would he of ALL people promote hate and intolerance? I don’t have the answers. None of the ones I came up with seem to make much sense or make the situation any less painful.

After pulling it together, I sent my little brother a private text message asking him why he said those things and whether or not he thought those things applied to me, his gay sister.

We went back and forth for a bit. His responses were even more disheartening and basically along the lines of ‘but you’re different.” My all-time favorite response was, “If I offended you, my bad,” followed by a Facebook post of the music video “Sorry I Can’t Be Perfect.”

Really, homie?

Due to the fact that I am an educator (and I love him), I‘ve decided to use this as a teachable moment. In the future, I want him to have the proper tools when he messes up and needs to offer an apology. Feel free to use this in your own circles.

  • I want to apologize for what I said/did. I didn’t think about the power of language or how my words/actions can truly affect and sometimes hurt others. I love you and would never want to (unknowingly or purposefully) hurt you. I understand that it may take some time for you to forgive me, but I hope that you can find it in your heart to do so, because I care about you and the future of this relationship. I’m sorry.

So, little bro, this is what an actual apology looks like. You are now in your 20s and, by all accounts, a grown man. It’s about time you started acting like one.

If this offends you, then, my bad.

To everyone else, Happy National Coming Out Day!

Unleash Your Inner Wench

9 Oct

One of the things I love about the Hip Hop Generation is our ingenuity, our willingness to reinvent ourselves, and to think anew about the traditions we’ve been handed.

When you mix that ingenuity with the kind of conscientious political critique that comes from Black and Brown feminisms, something remarkable happens.

With appropriate intention, mundane, everyday acts become hella political.

Oiling your legs can be political. In fact, as I think about the many summer days that my grandmother made me rub olive oil into my dark ashy knees, so I would look like I belonged to someone who loved me, I realize that skin care for Black women is never un-political.

Even my great grandmother was prone in her twilight years to insist that my mom and aunties buy her some cold cream! I think she fancied Ponds. Wrinkles be damned.

Perhaps because I come from a line of Mary-Kay wearing, knee oiling, wrinkle shunning women, I chose to keep it simple. Unlike many sisters I know, I am, in fact, not a product junkie. Ivory Soap and some lotion are usually good enough for me.

***

Over the summer, I got word that Joan Morgan had debuted Emily Jayne, a new line of body butters and fragance oils.

At her lovely sampling party, I was slightly skeptical, because in 30+ years of encounters with lots of body products, I’ve reverted over and over again to my simple Ivory Soap ways.

But go on ahead and call me a convert.

Perhaps it happened as I sat around the room and spooned small dollops of butters like Antilles Market, with its hints of dark chocolate, or Antilles Cimarron, that smells of cedar and frankincense.

Perhaps it was the fact, that after just a few minutes, my skin felt incredibly soft.

Perhaps it was the Wench.

#Wench

As the tiny bottle with the prototype moved around the room, sisters inhaled ylang ylang, and exhaled naughtiness, hitching up just a corner of their lips, and meeting other sisters with looks of deep knowing. Of… the ish that would pop off with the lovers in our lives, should they get even a whiff …Scandalous.

I brought home Antilles Cimarron and Vetiver Neroli. The Cimarron, with its shea butter base, smells spicy and almost citrusy on my skin. I wear it as my day time go-getter fragrance.

The Neroli is my night time (and sexy time) fragrance. It smells balsamic but is toned down and sweetened with just a hint of orange.

 The fragrances are unisex. One of my guy friends purchased some Driftwood 1838 fragrance oil. It is both light and strong, when you smell it on a man’s skin. My friend raves about it.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m telling you to cop you some Emily Jayne posthaste.

After a couple of months of using the products, I’ve already been back for more. And the thing is, you don’t need multiple products. I’ve used the butters on every part of my body from ‘fro to toe (sans face). My dry, cracked heels love this product. It doesn’t take much, and the scent lingers for hours. 

***

Joan started this business in part to encourage Black women to do something so basic. Touch ourselves. 

I’ve written here about the complicated facets of Black women’s relationship with touch.

Touching oneself is what Joan would call a pleasure principle, and it is a basic tenet of hip hop feminism’s move toward a new politics of pleasure. These pleasure principles are rooted in a reinvention of truths handed down to us long before we got here.

Emily Jayne is named after Joan’s two grandmothers. Perhaps our grandmothers knew about the power of touch, in ways that our virtual realities have allowed to escape us.

I’ve learned over these last few months that touching ourselves is essential. Essential for pleasure. Essential for health. To oil and massage one’s own skin is to affirm the beauty of the “skin we’re in” in a world that doesn’t love it. To touch one’s clitoris is to affirm that we are worthy agents and recipients of our own pleasure. To touch one’s breasts is to affirm that we are experts on our own bodies and advocates for the healthy life-saving information they often give us.

So oil yourself up, rub yourself down, and bring out your inner wench.

You deserve it.

 

 

For more info and to purchase products, check out the Emily Jayne Website.

Like Emily Jayne on Facebook

To see what others are saying about the products, follow @EmilyJayne1838 on twitter.

Beat to Quarters*: An argument to register

5 Oct

Guest Post by Pat Hussain

Download your own We All Count sticker to personalize!

The 2012 elections will culminate with President Obama being reelected or replaced as President.  Some people have decided to vote in this election; others not to vote.  Whatever your decision I urge everyone who is eligible to register to vote by the October 9th deadline.

Every citizenship right we have has come after a protracted struggle: Pressure created by direct action and mass movement organizing provided the momentum for a successful vote in the halls of Congress, state legislatures, or polling places across the country. Not registering to vote feels like speaking passionately on the issues at hand; but on Election Day, placing our hands over our mouths.

After the Civil War the struggle for equality moved from the battlefield to the ballot box, as centuries old violence and intimidation tactics against Black people continued.  During Reconstruction, in 1866, the Radical Republicans took control of Congress.  Before the War ended, Rev. George F. Noyes had expressed his support of them, and restraint of former Confederates, during a sermon to the Union Army in 1862:

“When a man puts a knife at my throat, and I succeed in conquering and hand-cuffing him, shall I be so foolish as at once to restore him to his former position, knife and all? Let every man’s own common sense answer this question. The idea with some even at the North is that the South is to be acknowledged as an equal nation if triumphant, while, if she is subdued after the great and fearful struggle, she is at once to be invited into a front seat, and at once admitted to all her old privileges.”

In 1867, Congress replaced Southern civilian government with military districts, and enforced the enfranchisement of Freedmen.  Of the 22 Black members of Congress, elected during Reconstruction, 13 were Freedmen; all were Republican.  Of the 1st 20 elected as Congressmen, five were denied their seats.  Others had their terms interrupted or delayed.

At the 1888 Republican Convention, a new faction emerged within their party. Norris Wright Cuney named this group, the Lily-White Movement: An anti-civil rights response to African-American political and economic gains.  Their goal was to eliminate Black progress and get white voters back from the Democrats.  As it grew to an organized nationwide effort, most Blacks were prevented from seeking office.  Democrats and Republicans erected legislative barriers for Black voters: In the form of poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses.  George White was the last African-American in Congress for 28 years when he delivered his final speech in the House on January 29, 1901:

“This is perhaps the Negroes’ temporary farewell to the American Congress, but let me say, Phoenix-like he will rise up some day and come again. These parting words are in behalf of an outraged, heart-broken, bruised and bleeding, but God-fearing people; faithful, industrious, loyal, rising people – full of potential force.”

That drought was ended with the election of Oscar De Priest: the first African-American of the modern era and the last Black Republican representative for 56 years.

The 20th Century civil rights movement built on work begun during Reconstruction. Direct action changed and engaged our national conscience as we the people gathered and shone a light on unjust laws, rogue municipalities, and flaws in our Union. Our votes sent those we elected to represent us into the rooms where laws are made and changed.

African-American voting strength blossomed across the South from 1960-1966: in Mississippi – from 22,000 registered Blacks to 175,000, in South Carolina – from 58,000 to 191,000; and in Alabama – from 66,000 to 250,000. The number of Blacks in Congress doubled from five to ten as the 1960s drew to a close. The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) emerged from that fertile ground in 1971, followed by the 1976 arrival of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. For the first time in this century, a presidential veto on foreign policy was overridden. When the CBC joined others in opposition to President Reagan, they helped bring about the extinction of South African Apartheid.

History reveals that laws enacted to create justice do not make justice happen. And that political party support, at best, is transient. Further struggle is required to make existing laws function – for example: penalties, criminal charges, and sanctions for noncompliance or violations. The thunder of feet marching and ballots dropping on Election Day; oars pulling together as our boat presses forward. Knowing that our need for justice is immediate, it is frustrating that our progress tends to be incremental. That is why I urge you to register to vote. We need you.

The nautical term is, “All hands on deck.” Something that you say when everyone’s help is needed, especially to do a lot of work in a short amount of time. If you have ever changed your mind, reconsidered a decision, or just like to keep your options open; consider registering. If you do register, you can still decide not to vote.  The decision of whether to vote or not just moves to 7:00 pm, November 6th when the polls close. But if you don’t register, that option, that oar, is left behind.

Rough waters and big waves have kept us from the shores of full equality and have tried to swamp our boat, relentlessly. It has required every tactic at our disposal, some created on the journey, to keep us afloat. Pack both oars: Direct action and the vote. Those who never had the right and those who lost it have needed us to pull that oar for them.

Election Day will mark our progress, lull, or decline; but not the end of our journey. Tsunamis of regressive, racist, mean-spirited political candidates and policies have raised the call for, “all hands on deck.” We need all who are able to give a two-fisted pull toward equality and our own visions of a just world. In the tradition of our struggle, join us.

*Prepare for battle (beat = beat the drum to signal the need for battle preparation).

Pat Hussain is a part of the We All Count campaign and participated in the Southern Movement Assembly two weeks ago in Lowndes County, Alabama. The Assembly brought together 25 delegations from over 40 organizations around the South. Pat is a beloved movement elder and one of six founders of SONG, Southerners On New Ground, an LGBTQ organization working for racial and economic justice. In 1996, Pat co-founded Olympics Out of Cobb County to bring attention to a resolution the city passed in 1993 condemning LGBTQ people. The successful organizing forced the Olympic Committee to remove all officially sanctioned events from the county.

Shade, Smirks, & Zingers

4 Oct

I’m too through. I should have watched some old episodes of Parks & Recreation rather than trying to watch this hot mess of a debate. To quote my fellow CF, watching this debate was like watching Jim Lehrer try to herd cats. Bless his heart; he needs to go have several seats and throw in the towel on being a moderator.

Also, maybe it was a mistake to watch the debate with my mama. She basically yelled at Gov. Mittens for 90 minutes.

In any event, what follows are my thoughts jotted down during and right after the debate.

My thoughts regarding Mittens:

-Why is your flag pin so big? Stop being so fucking obvious.

-You over talking everyone like you don’t have no damn sense. But some folks will actually think that you argued better. Style over substance, I guess.

-Why do you want to fire Big Bird? We all know that it’s Bert and Ernie who are the real threat. Damn Communists.

My thoughts regarding the president:

-Why do you talk so damn slow? You know our attention spans are short.

-I appreciate you being calm and collected, but damn homie, rhetoric and style matter. At the same time, I recognize that if you go ham on Romniferous you’ll be just be an angry negro. You can’t win. It’s a Sisyphean battle.

-Were you trying to take the high road by not talking about the 47% ? It didn’t work. Remind everyone that Romney gives very few %#$@ about most Americans.

On a more serious tip, I’m not sure how productive this debate ultimately was. Romney was smirking and generally being a condescending rich white man, and while President Obama was giving us some good professor shade, he was also getting filibustered severely. Plus, the fact that neither candidate discussed women’s health, LGBTQ issues, immigration, and other pressing matters, though unfortunately not surprising, was a major fail.

What are your thoughts on the first debate, fam?

On Anger…

1 Oct

This post does not contain images because I don’t want to animate the stereotype, but in Google image searches for “Sapphire” and “Angry Black Woman,” Michelle Obama was prominently featured.

In a brilliantly provocative paper at ASALH this year, Dr. Gwendolyn Pough invited us to rethink the black woman stereotype of Sapphire, the emasculating black bitch who’s always ready to fight. Pough notes that the “angry black woman” is the least investigated of the stereotypes of black women and the one people are most likely to assume is true. Pough’s paper was a jumping off point for a lively discussion about the political utility of black women’s anger and the questions it raised reverberate in my mind. Beverly Guy-Sheftall, also had the uses of anger on her mind and wrote a piece for Womenetics, imploring black women to get angry and use their intellectual gifts to create the world we want.

Anger has been a really tough emotion for me to grasp. When I was little, my anger wasn’t valid because I was a child. As I got older, the sapphire script was something I actively avoided. It seemed that as a dark skinned black girl, I was always already being told that I was angry. I smiled a lot. I learned to self silence to the point that I don’t even always tell friends when little things hurt my feelings. I didn’t express anger, opting for sadness with no tears, as opposed to righteous indignation.

On a recent flight from Ithaca to Atlanta, I was subjected to additional searching. This included the TSA officer taking my lunch, a burrito, out of the paper bag it was in and swiping the chemical detection cloth over the paper bag and foil covered burrito, putting the burrito into the small tray for wallets and pocket change and running it through the conveyered x-ray machine two times. Needless to say none of the other passengers I saw who had food were subjected to the same. I was livid. Ithaca has a small airport and all the other passengers on my flight witnessed this extra search of my things. I was so flustered, I dropped my hat and it was the other black passenger who pointed to where it was. I was hot with anger and embarrassment but I didn’t say anything. I called a friend and we discussed the incident briefly, coming up with non-confrontational things I could have said like, “Wow, so people are trying to hide things in food now?”  I couldn’t think of anything in the moment. I swallowed the incident down and boarded the plane.

I worry about this now default reaction of mine when confronted with moments like this. While the incident itself wasn’t physically violent, I felt it in my body. I got hot; my stomach churned. I had some kind of internal reaction the incident that left me feeling unwell. This doesn’t happen every time of course but microaggressions are sometimes so frequent, it’s hard to gauge their impact. There are black women and other women of color in my life who have had bouts with or sucumbs to cancer that I link to this swallowing down of the daily assaults on our personhood. It adds up and that ish is toxic.

Sheri Randolph, a panelist with Pough, also mentioned colorism as it related to anger as the people mentioned in the talk, Melissa Harris Perry, June Jordan, Audre Lorde were all lighter skinned Black women whose anger erupted in the public sphere. Was/is there more room for their anger than mine? I try to think of dark skinned black women’s anger in public and how it is read and what seems to be different is the assumption of anger initially. Michelle Obama has perhaps never lost her cool but is always already assumed to be angry. But as an audience member in the room said, “Anger darkens,” meaning any expression of anger moves you further to the dark side of the color line. Both Jordan and Lorde died of cancer though, so whatever room they had was not enough.

One audience member during the session reminded us that because even speaking directly or pointedly as a Black woman is read as anger, many of us hold back and suppress feelings in general. This silence won’t protect us but it seems like it is harming us as well. This blog is a safe space for my anger but I need more than this corner of the internet to unfurl my tongue and release my truths.

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