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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

—-

[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.

Love Overflow: A Red Reflection (and a Trigger Warning… SMH)

14 Feb

It’s early on Valentine’s Day, an invented holiday by U.S. greeting card companies (for real, look it up!). I just learned about Too Short’s “Fatherly Advice” to young boys about how to “turn girls out” in a video for XXL. While this is not shocking for Too Short, it also speaks to the culture we live in, where encouraging boys to rape girls is not something that automatically trips the “do not post/publish” kill switch. This is not a question of individuals’ values, as the hastily drafted XXL apology suggests, but indicative of a culture so steeped in misogynoir (Black women hatred) that our humanity is not assumed. As satisfying as it might be to see the editor fired on whose watch this occurred, it’s so much bigger than her. In this country, girls are objects, things to be manipulated for boys’ pleasure. And boys are getting fatherly advice that sets them up to see girls as agentless tools for their own desires.

On a day, where love=consumerism, we wanted to offer a counter narrative, one of self- love, intimate love, intergenerational love between mothers and children, a recentering of the type of love that can be celebrated. This takes on a profound new significance in the harsh light of  yet another reminder from a culture that doesn’t value Black girls (or Black boys) enough to say that they deserve to be safe.

And so yet again, we will do it ourselves. We will create the world we want to see. A world where kids of all genders (there are more than two) don’t feel forced to fit into two boxes that are predestined to join in some heteronornative, f*ucked up abuser/victim celebration on this day (that is made up!). The CFC wants to support children of all genders dealing with the “late middle school, early high school” years in an awesomely sex and body positive way. We want young people (and Lorde, help these adults!) to come correct, to make decisions about their sexuality with all the information and agency they need.

We encourage readers to support this project and others that remind us that we can create new narratives that challenge the old. We can reclaim this day as a celebration for the greatest love of all.

with love overflowing,

Moya

Love Overflow: A Red Reflection

by Alexis Pauline Gumbs

“When you first realize your blood has come, smile; an honest smile, for you are about to have an intense union with your magic.”

“from Marvelous Menstruating Moments in Ntozake Shange’s book Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo (As told by Indigo to Her Dolls as She Made Each and Every One of Them a Personal Menstruation Pad of Velvet)”

From Awkward to Abundant: A Community Supported Miracle

Next month my mother and I are launching the newest groundbreaking workshop in ourThicker Than Whatever: Unstoppable Mother/Daughter Relationshipsseries:  LoveOverflow: Marvelous Menstruating Moments!  This process has caused my mother and I to look deeply at what a black feminist personal political economy of menstruation might look like in our ideal communities. This workshop is our inspired practice towards transforming intergenerational silence and shame into action and power.  We love each other too much to make the awkwardness of talking about bodies, sexuality, gender identity and blood a barrier to our fully expressed support and love!  In order to make sure this beautiful day is accessible for free to the amazing visionary black mamas and daughters in our organizing community we are reaching out to our whole worldwide community to support the costs of this program.  If you love this idea and find it healing that this type of space can exist we’d love your support!  You can chip in here:

http://alexispauline.chipin.com/love-overflow-marvelous-menstruating-moments-mamadaughter-workshop

Beyond Books: Tangible Practices for Embodied Love

So when mamas across my organizing community in North Carolina started talking about their complex and juicy emotions about their daughters beginning their periods, often earlier than they had began theres and  one of the Indigo Afterschoolers started her period afterschool at my house (how lucky we were to have Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo on hand to create a ritual right away!) what they spoke to was a need wider and deeper than a booklist.

Our Saturday program LoveOverflow comes from a core desire to create spaces to work through the questions, challenges and insecurities of all ages that the bright and deeply felt physical event of menstruation brings up in our communities.  We need rituals of ongoing affirmation.   So first Saturday in March my mom will be facilitating my mama comrades in working through the residual energy of their own early period experiences, their fears around their kids growing and changing and to create a mantra for everyday use that reminds them of their true love, passionate belief and inspired clarity about their daughters to refer to in hard times.   And I will be facilitating the younger folks, using art practices to draw through their questions, excitements and fears and helping them to individually create their own embodied and spiritual definitions of their menstruation experiences and rituals for how they want to honor themselves and create safe space monthly from here on out.   And THEN we will be bringing everyone back together for a ritual of affirmation, there will be circles and witnessing, lavender hand baths (our favorite), whispered poems and listening and love.   I know that this experience will be memorable for the participants and profoundly healing for my mother and I.

Not (Always) So Marvelous

My mama and I are so excited to bring our love and commitment (and the generative genius of Ntozake Shange’s words) to the community of black mothers and daughters here in Durham who have been bringing up the drama of the period…period of puberty and asking for support!  However when we started thinking about our own experiences blossoming into red, we realized that our first experiences and many subsequent experiences were not so marvelous, and for similar reasons.

I can’t quite remember my first period experience.  I know that I was about 14 and just starting high school.  Long ago in elementary school I had, along with my peers been giving a pretty illustrated book called “Period: A Girl’s Guide to Menstruation” and I remembered the affirming, reassuring and calming images from that book.   My first period experience was pretty painless, but after that I began to have intense-wake-you-up-out-your-sleep cramps.  I realize now that for years I ignored my own experiences of PMS, secretly wondering if I

a. needed a new life free from all of the people I knew

b. was experiencing the onset of one of the many mental illnesses in my mother’s psychology textbooks

Ultimately I assimilated my period as an intellectual experience without ceremony.  Like many other experiences since, my period was okay, and almost understandable because I had read about it somewhere.

It’s only this past weekend that I realized that my mother’s experience was similar to mine.  Growing up in Jamaica with an elderly grand-aunt who treated my mother’s period as something dirty to be ashamed of, my mother’s lifeline was a book that her mother sent.   My grandmother was a domestic worker in England paid to mother privileged white folks, and my mother remembers being upset and disappointed that all she had to help her through her transition and the complicated belts and napkins that accompanied it was this book.   She wanted her mother to be there herself to help her through.

And while I remember my mother being very sympathetic to the pain I endured (and continue to endure) on the first day of my period, we didn’t have many rituals or mechanisms to deal with the teenage angst and how impatient we could be with each other during period time at our house.   Luckily, we’ve learned a lot from our volatile journey through my teen years, and my mom now has stories full of advice to share with her therapy clients, all ending with something like..see and after all that my daughter still turned out great and we have a wonderful relationship today!

The bottom line is what our composite intergenerational period story shows is that ceremonyand presence are key elements of the growing time of menstruation that we both longed for and are excited to make more possible and accessible in the lives of young people and their parents today.

A Gender Diverse Approach

Even though the participants in our upcoming workshop identify as black mothers and daughters, in this workshop it is important for us to honor the fact that gender is in transformation and that while some people see their period as a symbolic opportunity to reflect on “becoming women,” becoming ourselves is a more complicated and gender diverse experience.   Gender is unpredictable and people of many different genders can experience menstruation.   We want the participants in this workshop, especially the youth, to have access to the knowledge that menstruating can be part of a process of becoming an intentionally creative person who releases negative energy and creates time and rituals for love of self, period.  It does not have to be a feminine or feminizing experience unless that is what they want it to be.    Towards this end we are in the midst of a wisdom drive collecting insights that people of many genders have learned from their experiences menstruating.   If you are interested in sharing an insight for our LoveOverflow depth of wisdom pool please email us at lexandpauline@gmail.com with the subject “LoveOverflow.”

Again…if you love this idea, spread the word to folks you know to donate their wisdom and/or dollars to the project!

http://alexispauline.chipin.com/love-overflow-marvelous-menstruating-moments-mamadaughter-workshop

Love,

Lex

Don Cornelius, Indelible Soul

2 Feb

Don Cornelius, creator of the television show Soul Train, changed the media entertainment landscape forever. Yesterday,  the Los Angeles County Coroner confirmed that Cornelius had died from a self-inflicted gun shot wound to the head. He was 75.

Soul Train is one of the longest-running syndicated shows in television history. Created by Cornelius after he returned from Marine service in Korea and studied broadcasting, the show aimed to serve as a national platform for Black artists. Through it, Cornelius brought us exposure to musicians like James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson and left a bright and brilliant mark on the 70s and ’80s.

Soul Train created an outlet for black artists that never would have been if it hadn’t been for Cornelius,” said Kenny Gamble, who with his partner, Leon Huff, created the Philly soul sound and wrote the theme song for the show. “It was a tremendous export from America to the world, that showed African-American life and the joy of music and dance, and it brought people together.”

Patterned on the show “American Bandstand” hosted by Dick Clark,  Soul Train centered on black music, fashion and dance, Cornelius explained in 2006, “There was not programming that targeted any particular ethnicity. I’m trying to use euphemisms here, trying to avoid saying there was no television for black folks, which they knew was for them.” And when Dick Clark tried to co-opt the show’s success with his own attempt called Soul Unlimited, Cornelius wouldn’t have it.

In this way, just  a few years after Dr. King’s assasination, Don Cornelius made a deep, intentional and indelible contribution to the civil rights movement. He unapologetically celebrated black culture and art. He even financed the show himself and was determined to hire black artists both on and off camera. For those who might want to make a pilgrimage, as of last year, the set and memorabilia of Soul Train is housed at the Smithsonian’s Museum of African-American History and Culture.

The latter years of his life were occasionally fraught with conflict, including a difficult divorce from his second wife, Viktoria. In 2009, during his divorce proceedings, he mentioned having “significant health problems” but did not explain further.

Now, as the tributes from civil rights leaders, musicians, academics, actors, and loving fans pour in, many of us are thinking about our childhood weekend mornings with Don Cornelius and how they shaped us. And while I do not understand the pain that brought him to his final moments, I do know that we owe him a great debt. In honor of this legacy of “love, peace and soul,” if you (or anyone you know) needs support dealing with depression, click here for resources.

Now, it’s time make our way down the Soul Train Line! Share your favorite memories and videos in the comments – the line, will always and forever, be mine.

Tonight! Join a conversation on the State of the Union!

24 Jan

CF Eesha here, y’all.

 Tonight is the President’s State of the Union address to Congress. If the election season so far is any indication, we know that amidst the politicians and the pundits there’s very little time for real talk.

This is one of the most important elections in recent history : there is a war on poor people; we need a deep investigation of the way corporations reign with impugnity; and  we need to call out the racism and sexism that permeate our society. So…

TONIGHT,  live at 7:30 p.m. ET,  Jan. 24th at www.baracktalk.com.

 

You can submit questions to panelists from twitter, for people who tweet @TheLeague99 or use the hashtag #BarackTalk. Join the conversation, we want to ensure some real crunk representation!

The esteemed panelists include (you’ll get to ask them questions during the live tweet!):

  • Goldie Taylor, MSNBC, CNN, The Grio
  • Rhymefest, hip-hop artist & former political candidate
  • Andreas Hale, founder of TheWellVersed
  • Shaheem Reid, MTV News, XXL Mag
  • Michael Skolnik, GlobalGrind
  • Chuck Creekmur, CEO, AllHipHop.com
  •  Sabrina Hunter, author of *Skeletons in the Closet*
  •  Jamira Burley, anti-violence activist from Philadelphia
  •  Davey D, influential blogger/ activist
  •  Dee-1, hip-hop artist
  •  Phil Ade, hip-hop artist
  •  Janee Bolden, Bossip.com writer
  •  Jasiri X, hip-hop artist, co-founder of 1HoodMedia
  •  Paradise Gray, hip-hop artist, co-founder of 1HoodMedia

Join the convo. Represent crunk feminism. Speak up. Speak out. We need your voices!

2011: A Year in Crunkness

31 Dec

It’s that time of year again. Another year has come to a close, so it must be time for our second annual Crunk List! CFs offer up the books, blogs, films, etc. that get us crunk and keep us crunk!

CF Crunkadelic

It’s hard to narrow it down, but these books were really significant for me this year.

Hanne Blanks’ Big Big Love. (Revised, updated, and re-released this year)

 “Big Big Love is the only one-stop-shopping handbook on relationships, sexuality, and big sexy confidence for people of all genders, sizes, and sexual orientations who know that a fantastic love life doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the number on the bathroom scale. Covering everything from dating to sex toys to getting on top, this guide also features tips on navigating tricky topics like making peace with your belly, coping with weight-related prejudice, and creating a happy, satisfying sex life in a culture where no body is ever perfect enough.”

This book is funny, affirming, and overall plain awesome. Check it out.

 Barbara Neely’s Blanche White series.

This book series is not new, but it was new to me this year. Mystery lovers, check this series out. Blanche is an African American domestic, amateur sleuth, and all around crunk feminist who solves crimes in four entertaining and captivating novels.  (She could kick everyone’s ass in The Help). Get into this, people!

 Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

 At first I was not sold on this book and it languished on my nightstand for many months. When I finally picked it up I was pleasantly surprised. Some of my favorite tidbits from the book are “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good” and “Be [insert your name here]” (i.e., be you, and no one else). Trite platitudes, perhaps, but stuff that’s good to be reminded of sometimes.

CF Crunkista

 1. I absolutely LOVED the film Miss Representation.

“The film explores how the media’s misrepresentations of women have led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence.”

I thought it was very educational and incredibly powerful. Great for full-fledged feminists, feminists in the making, and all those that still question the value of feminism. :o)

2. Sculpture – Paige Bradley’s Expansion. I just found this sculpture to be one of the most inspiring works of art I have ever seen. It’s an amazing reminder of a woman’s strength, inner peace, and balance with the universe.

3. “Miley on Marketing” – “Why does all the girls have to buy pink stuff and all the boys have to buy different color stuff?!”

This YouTube video couldn’t come at a better time and it gives me hope that there are tiny CFs everywhere and that we can teach our children to be critical about the toys they play with.

 4. NBC’s Parks and Recreation super unhidden pro-feminist agenda. In the “Smallest Park” episode of Parks and Recreation, Andy, April, and Ron visit an Intro to Women’s Studies class. They make Feminism seem like exactly what it is – AWESOME!

5. The film Pariah.

“A rousing success at its world premiere at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, this deeply felt human drama is the feature debut of writer/director Dee Rees. Adepero Oduye portrays Alike (pronounced “ah-lee-kay”), a 17-year-old African-American woman who lives with her parents (Kim Wayans and Charles Parnell) and younger sister (Sahra Mellesse) in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood. A gifted student, Alike is quietly but firmly embracing her identity as a lesbian. With the support of her best friend Laura (Pernell Walker), she is especially eager to find a girlfriend. Wondering how much she can confide in her family, Alike strives to get through adolescence with grace, humor, and tenacity.”

 AMAZING film! Beautifully written and beautifully shot!

6. I have read hundreds of articles on positive body image but there is something extra special about how this woman talks about loving and accepting our bodies.

7. The film Gun Hill Road.

This movie was one of the best films I have ever seen. It was so beautifully written and so authentic to urban transgender youth experience.

“Gun Hill Road is the story of a family in transition. It is the story of a young man exploring his sexuality in an intolerant and judgmental world and his exploration’s impact on his relationship with his parents and himself.”

8. B. Steady :o) Talented young singer songwriter…and oh sooooo cute!

9. More Princess Boy – “Five-year-old Dyson Kilodavis is a little boy who loves sparkly things: princess gowns, hot pink socks, glittery jewelry. Deal with it.”

Dyson inspired his mom to write a book about accepting difference and inspire all of us to think about what we teach our children.

CF Crunkonia

 Black women’s responses to The Help: Although the Oscar’s and The Golden Globes may not have taken heed, black women responded to this year’s white-woman-centered portrayal of southern race relations in a major way. Even though we were often speaking to ourselves, we spoke nonetheless.

Nikky Finney’s National Book Award Speech: John Lithgow called this speech “the best speech for anything [he’s] ever heard.” In it, Finney names the spirits of her ancestors who stand at the podium with her, ancestors for whom literacy was once illegal. Head Off and Split is Nikky Finney’s fourth book of poetry and her long career is evidence of her brave engagement with the key historical events that center on black women’s bodies.

CF Crunktastic

 Websites:

thefeministwire.com — Launched earlier this year, this online feminist magazine offers some of the most diverse and well-written rigorous, yet accessible, articles with perspectives on everything from politics, to pop culture, to academia.

Videos:

The new “I’m Feminist Enough…” series features women of color offering fresh perspectives on what feminism frees them up to do!

Check Vol.2 here:

Amy Poehler’s “Smart Girls Have More Fun” Series. 

The future of feminism is extremely bright if Poehler’s interview with 7 and 3/4 yr-old self-proclaimed feminist Ruby is any indication. See the video here—> Smart-Girls-At-The-Party-The-Feminist-88764816

Books:

Samhita Mukhopadhyay’s Outdated: Why Dating is Ruining Your Love Life

This fresh feminist perspective on dating and relationships, written by the executive editor of Feministing.com, is a breath of fresh air, amidst the shamtastic dating and mating manuals that continue to crop up like weeds. 

Demetria Lucas’ A Belle in Brooklyn  

This Black-girl-feminist dating memoir is laugh-out-loud funny, poignant, and reminds us that when it comes to love and romance for Black women, there is still hope

Gwyneth Bolton’s Ready for Love

If you still like romance novels but wonder how they comport with your feminist politics, check out the novels of Gwyneth Bolton, which always have feminist characters and/or themes. 

Songs

Marsha Ambrosius’ “Far Away” –This song and video offered a powerful message in the fight against homophobia, particularly in communities that listen to R&B and neo-soul.

Films:

The African American Film Festival Releasing Movement

Director Ava DuVernay began this groundbreaking indie film initiative to open more avenues of distribution for quality African American films. She released two films this year to critical acclaim: I Will Follow and Kinyarwanda. Check ’em out.

 CF Moya

Ditto on Pariah. Here’s a great post with deets!!

http://gingerfeminist.tumblr.com/post/15009672309/reblog-i-saw-pariah 

CF RaeOne

Last year an online article asked “Are Cameras the New Guns?” because Facebook and YouTube are continually flooded with citizen-shot videos of police abuse that rarely makes it to the news (and when it does, it is edited or re-presented in a way that many have argued, unjustly re-constructs the events). My vote for video of the year, answers this question with a big, crunk YES, and creates a rally cry for citizens to arm with iPhones to film the police!

“Film the Police,” a video from rapper/activist B. Dolan of Rhode Island, was released after much of the #occupy movement evictions, where reporters cried unfair media blackouts. This remake of NWA’s famous anthem “F*ck the Police” is a digital collaboration across the states: Minneapolis/Rhode Island-based rapper Sage Francis kicks off the track as NWA’s Dr. Dre. He passes the digital mic to rapper/activists Toki Wright of Minneapolis as MC Ren, and then to Jasiri X of Pittsburgh as Eazy E, over a re-made track produced Buddy Peace, also of Rhode Island. 

The video was posted on YouTube in early December, and in three days the video reached over 70,000 views. The video brings the crunk energy of rap and hip-hop activist rally cries, packaged in a remixed music video. Original content was filmed of the rappers in home cities, keyed on to television screens, and are intercut with user-activist generated content – YouTube footage of the occupy protests across the world. In my opinion, this represents the best, most crunk use of user-generated media and social media distribution of a message, packaged in a creative (see copyright criminals) hip-hop kind of way. Just watch yo’self when you aim at the police! The constitution protects your right to film for now but it won’t protect you or your gear from the pepper spray, pellets, or rubber bullets they shoot when you film!

Watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyT1buoyTnY

 CF ReninaJ

GEMS just published a book on sex trafficking of Brown girls in the US. Check it out: http://www.gems-girls.org/get-involved/girlslikeus 

CF SheriDF

I nominate the Grassroot Global Justice Alliance (GGJ) for the 2011 crunk list in the category of movements-climate justice.  It is an alliance of grassroots organizations building a global social movement to “cool the planet.”  The alliance helped organize and coordinate the international “peoples” presence at the Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in November 2011 in Durban, RSA.  This alliance brings together indigenous peoples, displaced peoples, people of color, and progressive climate justice organizations and networks from around the world to fight against greedy multinational corporate agendas–colonial projects–chopping up the world’s resources for profit.

***

Please share your own crunk list in the comments, on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter!

Thank you all for your support and love this year! Wishing you all the joy you can stand this new year and always!

Yours for the revolution,

The CFC

 

–Compiled by Crunkadelic

Atlanta Music Scene Coming Back: The Chronicle Reunion

26 Jul

Please understand that before there was crunk there was The Chronicle; before there was Bone Crusher there was Lyrical Giants; before there was India Arie there was Donnie and Joi, before Janelle Monae there was Edith’s Wish. Atlanta was bursting with musical creativity and at the center of the live music scene was a band called The Chronicle.

I have been privileged to grow up in Atlanta with the National Black Arts Festival for what seems like a lifetime. If you have not experienced it you need to make arrangements immediately for 2012 because the visual arts exhibits, the dance performances, the theater, the parties, the markets, the films, the people, and the concerts ohh the concerts are not to be missed in Hotlanta in July.

But this year was special. This year there were two events that transported me back to Atlanta, circa 1994, the summer leading to my sophomore year in college. For nearly a decade Jason Orr brought Black Atlanta together to vibe through every sensory outlet of our collective bodies through the Funk Jazz Cafe. People came from all over sprawled out “Atlanta” and stood in line for hours without knowing who was going to perform. It was electric. Orr, a creative genius, developed a phenomenal documentary about the state of black music over the last two decades called Diary of a Decade. He premiered his documentary at the NBAF film festival to sold out audiences who not only watched the two hour flic, but stayed for the post-film discussion. We left the film like we had been to a Funk Jazz Cafe event, drenched with nostalgia for an era we have been trying to explain since it ended.
The film chronicles amazing performances by Jill Scott, Dionne Farris, Omar, Me’shell N’degeocello, Goodie Mob, Bilal, Doug E Fresh, Janelle Monae, and sooo many more folk who in the early days jammed to the legendary house band, The Chronicle.

In the late 1990’s Yin Yang Cafe was the place to get your true caffeine every Thursday night via The Chronicle. It was an open mic night, there was no rehearsal…all improvisation…live music flow…dancer’s heaven. And we danced like we might fall out if the music stopped. Bone Crusher and, comedian, Zooman were the hosts and they didn’t let just anyone get on stage.

This year the NBAF featured The Chronicle Reunion after nearly a decade. The original members Billy Odum, L-roc Phillips, DJ Kemit, Phil Davis, Avery Johnson, and Lil’ John Roberts pumped out hits, like “The Rock Song” that only Yin Yang Cafe (now Apache Cafe) regulars would know. All I know is I couldn’t move my neck or talk for days but I felt like a burden had been lifted by the end of the night. It was the spiritual experience–the release–I have been looking for since 2005.

Both Funk Jazz Cafe and the Chronicle presented artists like they were already stars and you just didn’t know it yet, like singer/songwriter Donnie (The Colored Section) and Joi (Star Kitty’s Revenge). In true form The Chronicle presented artists like lyricist Kev Choice out of the Bay area and my favorite of all, a true “wildchild,” Phillipia, who was so bad ass that The Chronicle ended up handing their instruments over to her band to close out the night at Apache Cafe. You know you bad when one band brings you up to play with them and you bring it such that they relinquish the stage to you and yours.

Now youtube can never recreate the feeling of being there, but it can give you a taste. So here goes…

I’m just relishing in the fact that the Atlanta Music scene is coming back and on Wednesday night I will be rocking to Phillipia at Centennial Park for the Wednesday WindDown. If you’re here I urge you to be there. I’ll be the one with the big hair bobbing back-n-forth in the front. Give Thanks.

Happy and ‘Blackful’: A Mini Playlist

15 Jul
Maze at Wingate Field

Maze at Wingate Field (Photo Credit: Laylah Amatullah Barrayn)

I dusted up my Keds something terrible Monday night. Maze featuring Frankie Beverly opened the 2011 season of Brooklyn’s Martin Luther King Jr. concert series and I two stepped until my calves cramped. I arrived early enough to get beat down by the late afternoon sun and ate up by the bugs attracted by my all natural insect repellant. The concerts, in their 29th season, are free and the lines are accordingly stupendous. A young man with cornrows hawked ice-cold water to those of us waiting for the gates to open. A middle-aged woman with a blond crimped weave, maybe fourth in line, shooed away a photographer, pleading, “I got warrants.” I struck up a conversation with the three people more eager than her. They told me they had been posted up since morning. I’d like to think I have a bit of their enthusiasm. I passed on a ride from Harlem and took the subway to arrive early enough to secure enough spots in the limited seated section for all of my people.

The concerts are a ‘blackful’ experience to poach from the poet and professor Elizabeth Alexander. They feature artists that we love like Stephanie Mills and the Whispers, who I saw a few years back, or recently departed Teena Marie who performed just last summer after a downpour and The Mighty Sparrow, the Calypso King, who will perform this August. The shows begin with a prayer– we put God first–the national anthem and our anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which we do. It’s populated with a good deal of what Theodore Huxtable termed “regular people.”

Maze took the stage in signature all white– I’d like to say linen, but I wasn’t close enough to confirm–to a warm ovation. They were polished, present and attended the moments well. All of them. “We Are One” got me out of my seat early. I looked at the moon and raised my index finger up as I learned is customary for the number. During a brief interlude, Beverly spoke of the band’s Philadelphia origins, their original moniker (Raw Soul), their mentor Marvin Gaye and misadventures in brokeness and love. He also confessed to once holding some bitterness at their lack of critical recognition–not even a BET honor–that is now subsumed by this peace, “You can have the awards or the rewards.”

I left lifted. “Golden Time of the Day,” “Happy Feelings,” that sweet sepia anthem “Before I Let Go” amongst others gems from their catalogue had put me in a good space: my mind tuned to good thoughts, my ears tuned to good things. That you would do the same, I’d like to share a little of the happy blackful sounds that have been in my rotation.

“Love Me Instead” Melinda Camille [Download]

Connecticut native Melinda Camille is an American Idol veteran but don’t be dismayed. Her 2010 debut, Pure Imagination, is not middling R&B. She’s closer to Tiombe Lockhart than Tamyra Gray and her understated delivery recalls neither big-voiced beloveds JHud or ‘Tasia Mae. This record wins at hello. It’s opening line Camille sings with a side eye but no caricatured sass, “Why you tell me life is like a box of chocolates when really what it is is what you choose to make it?” And then she goes in on bougie black girl scripts. I work out of the same bag. I can understand it.

“Cupid” Lloyd [Download]

This effortfully self-styled thug is bubblegum at heart and his best. “Cupid” makes me want to pop my Trident Splash extra loud, maybe even click my Keds-clad heels. Sweetness has been my weakness since before The Good Girls (Where are THEY now?) and Cupid’s is punctuated with a booty shake-breakdown that makes me want to do squats, lunges, get my weight up and prove a low end theorem or two.  But mostly it makes me want to hold hands.

“Here We Go” Beldina [Download]

The dreamy Donald Glover, rape obsession aside, has worked with this black Swede. Thank the diaspora for ever stretching its tentacles, on this occasion from Kenya, because Beldina Malaika heartens the lithe dance music in which the Swedes specialize. My only complaint are the excessive weave tosses in her video. Maybe she was attempting an homage to Whitney’s “I Want to Dance With Somebody” video. At any rate, “Here We Go” is a great warm up for all manner of whimsy and tomfoolery.

“I Need It Just As Bad As You” Marcia Hines [Download]

I was digging for an episode of my radio show, There Ought To Be More Dancing when I encountered this Boston-bred woman of Jamaican descent (cousin to both Colin Powell AND Grace Jones). She migrated to Australia in the seventies where she is kind of like a big deal, I mean, Queen of Pop stature. After a spell in musical theatre–Hines starred in the Australian tour of “Hair”–she debuted as a recording artist with 1974’s Marcia Shines on which “I Need It Just As Bad As You” appears. It’s all the way funk and she’s all the way authentic about her sexual desires, her partner’s failure to meet them and her subsequent outside dalliances.  She’s unapologetic about her wants and, like Betty Davis stateside, opened up expressive possibilities for Black women’s sexuality that our brutal history and its continuing legacies too often harness. I find listening to her quite useful as I try an open up my armor of upstanding black womanhood.

Bonus Track: “Golden Time Of The Day” Maze [Download]

Hateration, Holleration

11 Jul

I’m not trying to be the grammar police, but I really think some words just need to be retired.  Take, for instance, “swagger,” or simply “swag.”

I mean, once a word becomes connected to a scent that your grandfather used back in the day, it might be best to let that go. (Sorry, PawPaw).

“Hater” is another word that I think should hang up its jersey in the slang hall of fame. True enough, it hasn’t become quite as corny as swag, bling, or jiggy (don’t act like y’all didn’t say that word back in the day!), but it has been used so much that it really doesn’t have much meaning.

I’ve been thinking about “haters” a lot recently. Helping to run a crunk feminist blog and being a crunk feminist teacher means that I’m frequently in the business of bringing up uncomfortable truths, considering difficult issues, and holding myself and others to pretty high standards that reject bullshit and shamtastery.

And I’m frequently called a hater.  

Now, there are lots of things that I do despise: willful ignorance, racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, intolerance, muggy days, frogs (they jump at you, not away from you!), that asinine song by Rocko… I mean, the list goes on. But when I, or any other thinking individual, respectfully disagrees with someone else, calls someone on their ish, or generally acts like they’ve been cultivating their good sense, that is not hating, hateration, or holleration. It’s none of those things in this dancery!

Seriously, we all it get it wrong sometimes. And sometimes it’s painful or even embarrassing to be disabused of our cherished notions. But this inclination to dismiss any kind of critique as hateration is more than side-eye worthy. (We see you, Tyler Perry). It’s an indication that not only is your shit not tight, one, but also that you know it, and you are trying to pull the okey doke on folks. No sir, no m’am!

Respectfully holding each other accountable should be recognized as a loving act, especially in progressive communities who claim to be working for social change. Falling back on some old tired, “Stop complaining, [insert: raggedy social movement, musical artist, filmmaker] is out there doing their thing. You are just hating” is just that–tired.

I am not suggesting that we just talk to one another any old kind of way.  But I am suggesting that we remain open to hearing each other out, learning from one another, and not being mired in comfortable ideologies that simply affirm what we already think is true. 

Let’s throw “hater” a retirement party. It definitely deserves it.

“And You Even Licked My Balls: A Black Feminist Note on Nate Dogg”

20 Jun

***Note: This piece is from the blog vault of CF ReninaJ, who maintains her own spot at newmodelminority.com. As the 24 hr news cycle goes, it’s easy to miss great commentary on popular culture. Occasionally, then, we’ll share with you pieces that we think you should read, which you might’ve missed. We hope you enjoy the reflection below on Nate Dogg’s life and music for those feminist, Hip Hop enthusiasts among us.***

So I have been thinking of Nate Dogg in general but rap music in particular and the difference between how I as a Black woman and how White men relate to rap music.

While I understand that sexism and patriarchy is systemic, that we LEARN and are taught how to be “men” and “women,” how to be racist, how to be sexist as well as  how to Love, how to forgive.

What I am getting at is, to be crude, we don’t pop out of our mommas knowing how to be men and women, we are taught from infancy on through blue and pink clothing,  girls being told to sit a certain way that is lady like, boys being told crying is weak, and not manly etc.

I also know that there are several structural things impacting the lives of Black men and women such as archaic drug laws, mandatory minimums, three strikes, the underdevelopment of public education, gentrification, police who shot and kill Black people with impunity, and the lack of good grocery stores in working class and low income neighborhoods. All this matters.

Culture matters as well. Culture meaning,  music, books, websites and films.

Culture is hegemony’s goon.

Which brings me to Nate Dogg. The recent coverage of his death clarified for me why some issues that I have thought of about rap music but didn’t have the language to articulate.

I am a little troubled over how White mens investment in Black mens misogyny in rap music isn’t interrogated. And how this impacts me and the women who look like me.

Society is organized by and for men.

And our lives in the US are hyper segregated racially.

By and large Black people don’t live around White folks, so most White men can experience the pleasure of singing “and you even licked my balls” in the comfort of their cars, homes and apartments, whereas a young Black man said to me nearly two years ago on 125th street that he wanted to “stick his dick in my butt.”

On the street, in broad daylight.

This was so absurd I thought HE was singing a rap song initially. No, he was talkingto me.

Consequently, largely, White men are  not subjected to the kinds of violence and sexism that is sung about in the songs that Nate sang the hook on. As a Black woman, I am.

As a woman, as a Black women who Walks like she has a right to be in the street, this means my behind is toast.

For example, there is an officer in my neighborhood that harasses me so fucking much that I am now on a first name basis, Peace to Officer Anderson. Typically he stops me because there is apparently a 11pm curfew in DC for children under 18 on week nights. He normally asks me from his car, “Hey, how old are you.”  Dead ass, the second time he did it, I responded saying I was grown. o.O

After the third time, I was like “Mr. Officer whats your name because this is either the second or third time you have asked me that, and seeing as we are going to keep running into each other, I thought we could just on speaking terms.” He smiled. Doesn’t MPD carry 9mm’s too? Sassing officers of the state who carry legal weapons?  Ummhmm. And, he told me his name.

My clarity on this issue came about after I read a excerpt of a post on NPR about Nate Dogg by Jozen Cummings. He writes,

“There’s also “Ain’t No Fun (If The Homies Can’t Get None),” a song that was never chosen as a single from Snoop Dogg’s debut album, Doggystyle but has become a favorite for many DJs trying to work a room. The song is a tour-de-force of misogynistic lyrics, but only Nate Dogg can make a verse about dismissing a one-night stand sound so sensitive and endearing.”

“Remembering Nate Dogg, Hip-Hop’s Hook Man”

by Jozen Cummings, NPR.org,  March 16th, 2011

(via beatsrhimesandlife)

Then I reblogged and responded on tumblr saying:

In some ways, Cummings comments re Nate Dogg remind me of why I think The Chronic and Doggy style are the Devil, in terms of rap music. Men in general and White men in particular have a different relationship to the kinds of violence that I am subjected to as a Black woman who WALKS like she has a right to be in the street. Shit…two weeks ago I told two dudes to kill me or leave me alone. Dead ass. This ain’t for play. This is our lives.

Have you ever thought about White men’s investment in rap lyrics by Black men that are hella outta pocket?

I went to look for Cummings racial identity and I learned that he is African American, Japanese and Puerto Rican, so I am not saying that he is White. What I am saying is that his writing about Nate Dogg’s misogyny reminds me of how when the misogyny bomb is dropped, people who look like me tend to get hit with hella sharpnel. Whereas White men get to live out their thug fantasies singing along with Nate “And you even licked my balls.”

The Chronic and Doggystyle are sonically genius, however, did they up the ante on allowing White men and even some Black ones live out their Black sex fantasies?

Do you see the connection between Black women and White men that I am trying to make, why or why not?

Originally posted at New Model Minority.com.

On Kreayshawn and the Utility of Black Women

6 Jun

Image of Kreayshawn in the passenger seat of a car next to a black man smoking weed.

“De nigger woman is de mule uh de world…”- Zora Neale Hurston

I grew up in a white suburban/rural community where I was one of a few black kids and the only one in my classes and social circle. In high school, we had this habit of waxing nostalgic for our not so distant youth in a way that made us feel older than we were so at a parties we’d often play songs from our childhood. Well once, Baby Got Back came on and I was rapping along as were a white boy and white girl. A crowd formed around them and folks were cheering them on for knowing most of the words while my flawless performance went unacknowledged. Looking back, I see clearly the messy contradictions of racism (and my own internalization of it) as white folks celebrated their proficiency in repeating a black man’s words of purported celebration of my curves that in general, made me invisible. My blackness rendered my rendition null and void as it was presumed I should be able to reproduce that lyrical dexterity on the spot. It was exceptional when they did it but par for the course for me.

And this is partly why Kreayshawn makes me mad. The White Girl Mob media darling blowing up the interwebs whose potential deal with Sony is making waves makes me angry in a way I haven’t been in a long time. Her appropriative swag is yet another reminder (not that we needed any more this month) of how little black women are valued in our society, even in genres we co-create. In a moment where cool is synonymous with swag, a particular manifestation of black masculinity, Kreayshawn’s dismissiveness and denigration of black women animate her success.

“It’s like tumblr made a video,” said one tumblrite, speaking of the white Cali hipster aesthetics of Kreyashawn’s Gucci Gucci. Replete with Indian medallion, black girl hair cut and color, black men flank her on all sides, lending their cool and legitimacy as she talks stealing bitches, smoking blunts, and realness. Catchy with no substance and ample “I’m so different from them other black girls,” Kreyashawn is the perfect accoutrement to the tortured misogyny of her friends and co-signers Odd Future. For her, calling women bitches and hoes is funny, a category she is somehow exempt from via her whiteness and sometimes queerness. She’s got swag because she fucks bitches too, though she’s quick to point out she’s “not a raging lesbian.”

I think “Hoes on My Dick” perhaps best captures my problems with Kreayshawn and those who dig her.  About a year ago, comedian Andy Milonakis (Who you might remember from his brief MTV fame) and Rapper Lil’ B decided to parody rap music and made the satirical “Hoes on My Dick” which features the choice language “Hoes on my dick cuz I look like Madonna” or “Hoes on my dick cuz I look like grandma.” Anyway, we were supposed to laugh. Ha ha! Isn’t funny/ironic when they say misogynist things when they know it’s wrong? Kreayshawn took their track and made it her own adding her own lyrics, “rapped” (if you could call it that) with all due seriousness and folks love it!

As Crunktastic has already pointed out on this blog, the derogatory slang words used for women imply race. “Hoes” are black and the proverbial punchline (pun intended) for the LA hispster/hip hop mash up sound that music critics are lauding. The supposed *wink wink nudge nudge* associated with their misogynoir is what makes them so edgy and so real. The objectification of black women as a lyrical trope is what makes Kreayshawn interesting. Look at this white girl who talks like a black man! Isn’t she awesome?

And not that black women haven’t tried to appropriate  a type of black masculine cool through a similar practice of denigrating other black women and expressing their allegiance to black men but they have not been as successful. Syd Tha Kid, DJ and beat maker for Odd Future is currently following this path and her queer black masculinity doesn’t seem all that queer when she speaks of women in the same derogatory fashion as her band mates.

Kreayshawn claims Nicole Wray, Missy and Aaliyah as women who inspired and influenced her sound but black women are rarely seen in her circle or videos. I’ve clocked two black women in Kreayshawn’s videos, one a silent love interest, and the other a silent hair stylist. In so far as black women are useful, they exist, though they never get to voice their own reality. It’s incredibly frustrating that the more things change the more things stay the same, that Zora Neal Hurston’s words still ring true today.

Special thanks to Alexsarah and CF’s Sheri & Whitney for talking through this with me!

Apparently Kreayshawn was on the brain today. Check out Clutch Magazine’s take.

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