Tag Archives: Erykah Badu

Irene, Erykah and the Stuff after Storms

2 Sep

When Irene whistled, I listened to Erykah. Curled on a daybed in the dark, I rummaged for ways to salvage stuff in the midst of a hurricane when Badu pleaded to the self-proclaimed bag lady on a drained battery to let it go.

This summer, I returned to my Virginia hometown to weather a different kind of storm. Separated from my partner and seeking a homeplace to complete research for my “tenure” book, I found myself searching in a cardboard box—a time capsule, which housed old academic awards, articles, and origami-folded, water-stained yes-no-will-you-go-with-me love letters that date back to the 6th grade. I sifted through old things to seek some form of validation or affirmation after being told by faculty unfamiliar with women of color knowledge production that my work was too little, and being told by my partner familiar with yes-man women that our relationship was too much. Retreating home to recover and write felt right until I had no electricity and I began bumping into that box and all of the baggage that I brought back with me.

And then, the hurricane came. The hurricane came when I realized the amount the stuff I carried. There was the physical stuff dispersed in offices, storage facilities, my car, my “hobo” purse, and other folks’ houses; the virtual stuff that needed constant attention lest I risked losing data or (meaningful) connections; and, the psychic stuff of growing up poor, black and female and feeling the pressure to do more and be more so that others would see me as equal.  The weight of stuff seemed to be all-consuming.

Our stuff is a product of living in a consumer capitalist culture, which encourages us to accumulate things to feed the economy, and to feed our feelings of alienation and dissatisfaction. Shows, such as Hoarders, Storage Wars and Pawn Stars represent a new genre of reality television that captures how we deal with it in our lives. After experiencing one day without electricity, my father fueled a generator for a few hours to power deep freezers, a George Foreman grill, and a portable television because we didn’t want to lose the already thawed food or the chatter that cut the silence when we ate dinner. We sat together, yet we experienced emptiness.  It was as if the room had to be filled with something other than ourselves.

Before Irene, it would have been difficult for me to imagine voluntarily moving to a new space with a single suitcase. Today, I am abandoning the bag lady for the kinda (self) love that Badu, Bambara and Crunkadelic said would make life better. It might not be the easiest thing to do, but shedding some of the stuff that I have held onto for years might make handling life’s unexpected disasters lighter.

Power restored.

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Hearts led Baby it’s your deal…

25 Apr

Apparently people across the country are outraged by Erykah Badu’s public disrobing.  Perhaps this was a matter of timing.  Had Ms. Badu waited until this month, April, which is Confederacy History Month in southern states like Texas, it might not have been such a big deal–the War of Northern Aggression being all about a state’s sovereign right to disrobe black people and buy and sell black bodies all willy-nilly and everything.  Still, no one wants to admit to viewing a black woman’s body on her own terms.  That shit’s embarrassing.  So much so that Dallas police had to compel one actual witness to come forward so that they could formally charge @fatbellybella with disorderly conduct.

Watch the video.

Guilty as charged. On several counts.  Giving the middle finger to the state by not securing the proper permits to film in the big D (li’l a double-l-a-s)? Guilty.  Resuscitating a beloved dead white man’s violently tragic death for purely niggardly purposes?  Guilty.  Removing one’s clothes for reasons other than satiating the male gaze?  Guilty.  Demanding that said gaze look at a black body in a non-sexual manner?  Guilty.  Publicly proclaiming a black woman’s agency?  Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.  /sarcasm

What was just as interesting as the video was the responses to the video. There were blog posts (here, here and here), Twitter comments, response videos and legal action taken against Erykah. In fact as of today April 20th, Erykah Badu has been charged with disorderly conduct and can either pay a $500 fine, or contest the charge. It will be interesting to see what she does. Which leads me to two questions:

What does it mean that this is a society where women’s bodies are used to sell everything from beer to cars, yet the presence of a Black woman’s body on her own terms prompts fears about children witnesses and fears of nudity? Let me be clear, a nude body and sexual body are not one in the same. But then again, folks don’t have #noactright because the nude white model’s at the MOMA got fondled last week by  museum visitors. This happened in an installation, which is apart of the Marina Abramović restrospective, where patrons must walk between two nude female bodies. Full stop. Jen Carlson, writing in Gothamist says,”the Yugoslavian-born performance artist wouldn’t be doing her job if she didn’t make her audience experience something they haven’t before, no?” Two different settings, high art, nudity and folks acting like they have no home training when it comes to seeing a naked female body. One body violated in the moment and another subject to a public scrutiny that’s still copping its feel.

Back to Erykah and the Dallas Police Department. The Dallas police received hundreds of calls from outside the state in complaint of Badu’s actions.  Badu’s pale(r) inspirations, Matt & Kim, generated no such vitriol.  No one lodged complaints out of concern for the poor children who were exposed to the pasty frostbitten (it looked cold right?) bits of a white woman and man.  Erykah’s video predicts the retribution by a state that wants to keep people on the straight and narrow.  (Who shot ya?) She did apparently disrupt the order despite the fact that most people weren’t even paying attention to her when she did it. Check the disinterest in the bystanders.  Wu-Tang is for the children (RIP, ODB), but according to Dallas police, Erykah ain’t.  The DPD said she didn’t care about the kids grazing the grassy knoll. This despite her own words on Twitter and in numerous interviews about how she worried that they might be traumatized. So she sent out a telepathic signal to let them know her intent.  Next time, Erykah, use an iPhone.

Despite Badu’s best efforts to explain herself (she went on 106 & Park, for fuck’s sake), despite her attempt to be intentional, folks had the unmitigated gall to say that they couldn’t understand the clip as anything more than a publicity stunt.  Which is to say they’d rather not read or listen…to words.  Which explains several (pop) cultural phenomena, including Sarah Palin and blazing hip-hop and R&B, in general.  (To be sure, Sarah Palin and Erykah Badu will never be mentioned in the same blog entry again.)

What good do your words do if they can’t understand you (or stop looking at your ass)?

Let’s write a $500 check to the city of Dallas on behalf of Erykah.  The shit might bounce, but the sentiment won’t.

Co-authored by moyazb, summer of sam, & mdot

Necessary Fierceness

29 Mar

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

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

*spoiler alert*

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

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

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

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

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

She’s f*cking fierce!

Read other praise by M dot and Summer M!

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