Reconciling the Non-Profit “Post Industrial” Complex with Black Girls in Mind

Who is Anna Julia Cooper? Click here to learn more. Awesome FIRST wave Black Feminist.

On Monday, I went to visit the Score Small business mentoring office to learn about the benefits and limits of a 501 (c) (3 versus an LLC or a conventional corp. #planning. #wingsup.

I was REALLY surprised to learn that a 501 (c) (3) is seen as being owned by the public because of the tax exemptions that it receives.

I was really surprised to learn that there was an entire series of tax exempt classifications.

I also learned that,

To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not be an action organization, i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.

This has huge implications for Black girls, in that I know that 501 (c) (3)’s are relatively recent institutional creations charity wise. This also makes me I wonder what was the unstated rational for preventing 501 (c) (3)’s from being allowed to be involved in electoral politics.

Here is the exact language,

Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity.

Were 501 (c) (3)’s created to absorbed the progressive energies of women while also giving them a wage?

#blackgirlpolitics.

What happens to Black girls employed in 501 (c) (3)’s when the executive directors don’t know that they are magic, and attempt to relegate their duties to to administrative realm ?

Don’t get me wrong, I have been an admin before, and I enjoyed the work, because not only was I good at it, but I was also recognized for it. I can run your office. Trust. Without an awesome admin, you don’t have an office.

However, if you are a Black woman who is a policy expert, health expert or finance expert and you have to keep struggling to not have your position turned into one that is increasingly administrative and less focused on your expertise, it feels both racialized and gendered. Our mothers and fathers did not sacrifice and fight tooth and nail for us to go to school, only to be treated like administrative mammies in the workplace. #DamnthatwasaTangent. #HadsomeShittoSay.

Which leads me to the question of how does this rule impact the lives of women in general, women of color in particular?

How does the creation of 527′s impact the lives of women of color?

How different would community organizing look of 501(c)(3)’s could participate in electoral politics?

Black Girl 501 (c) (3) thoughts? I wonder what Latoya thinks…

Listen to Your Intuiton

Image via Dr. Ergo

Yesterday, Goldy and I were walking down New Hampshire. It was warm enough that Black folks were on their porches, and young folks of all races were walking their dogs. But on this particular stretch of street there wasn’t a lot of foot traffic.

We walked pass an older Black man, and kind of pepped up when he saw us an started with the “hey’s” and “how you doings”, I just let out an #ummhmm, because I was not going to be bothered.

After a few seconds I didn’t hear him. Remember that.

Something told me to turn around, and not ONLY DID I TURN AROUND, but I turned around with my finger in his face saying “You need to back the fuck up”.

I was scared, not because of him. I am protected.

I was scared of how powerful it was to have a spirit that FELT a person coming that I did not SEE.

Goldy didn’t feel him coming, I did.

He looked at me, thought about whether or not he was going to “back the fuck up” and turned around and walked away.

I mean he had to honestly assess whether or not I was going to escalate, which I clearly was.

I don’t know what it was gina that told me “#allcity, turn the fuck around now and stop him”, but I listened to it.

It was surreal, like magic.

Listen to your Intuition. It might save your life.

#Blackgirlsarefromthefuture. Yesterday was further proof.

You ignore your intuition lately?

Watching “The Best Man”: Old Movie, New Feminist Lens

Last night I watched The Best Man. What is significant about it is that watching the film with an eye towards representations of Black women, I knew that there were going to be major distinctions and differences that I would see now that I didn’t see before.

The first difference is in the opening when Sanaa and Taye are in the bathtub and she confronts him on his desires to take the next step towards commitment in their relationship. She gets upset, and gets out of the tub. The camera then remains on Taye’s character. This has the impact of forcing the viewer to experience the moment from his eye’s, not hers. This is important, because the focus of the camera tells us who the director thinks is important in a scene.

The second difference is that I noticed that the Black women fell into representations of “controlling images” that honestly could have come out of a Tyler Perry movie.

There was the “good Christian woman who deserved her man”: Mia/ Monica Calhoun.

There was the attractive Black woman, who was invested in her career more so on getting married, so she was seen as someone who “didn’t need a m an” and was “damn near a lesbian”: Jordan/ Nia Long.

There was the attractive, materialistic and shallow Black woman who emasculated her man/partner: Shelby/ Melissa DeSousa.

There was the attractive Black woman, who was smart and sweet, but held in a holding pattern by her gentleman friend: Robin/ Sanaa Lathan.

Needless to say, I enjoyed the movie but it was interesting that the Black women characters were very similar to the representations of Black women in Tyler Perry movies.

In the book Beyond the Black Lady Lisa Thompson helped me to think about how women in general were presented in the film, Nia Long’s character in particular. Thompson writes,

 ”The middle class black woman (or Black lady) represents a problem to be avoided; she is too indendent, too intelligent, and too self sufficient. The men declare her a threat and romantic outcast who resonates to them in the same register as “the lesbian”.

Thompson then goes on to connect the dots regarding how middle class Black women are represented in films during this era. She writes,

Popular African American romantic comedy like “The Best Man” and “Soul Food” consistently reward women who pursue tradtional female roles. They present the desperate social circumstances of professional black women as the result of misplaced priorities and aggressive personalities. In essence, these films uphold and further the cultural stereotype the black lady as cold, prim and passionless. They also, in light of bleak marriage rates for black professional women, send an alaringly conservative message and signal a backlash against the recent academic and professional successes that women have enjoyed.

So, “The Best Man”. Old movie, feminist lens.

Thoughts?

 

On the {Sexual} Politics of Viola Davis’s Natural Hair at the Oscars

It wasn’t until my homie Gisele, a Black woman and working actress pointed out to me that Viola Davis graduated from Julliard in the late 80′s, that my growing obsession with Davis began to make sense.

In Davis, I saw myself.

I saw the struggles of so many Black women who try to remain whole in the face of economic, racial, sexual and financial circumstances that threaten to undermine them, in a mainstream culture that reads them by and large as maids, hypersexual video vixens, or as invisible.

A couple of weeks before the Oscars I watched the Tavis interview with her and read two articles at Shadow and Act titled “It’s a Difficult Time to be a Black Filmmaker with an Imagination” by Tanya Steele and “A Young Viola Davis Thought Experiment” by Charles Hudson. This material helped me to flesh out my ideas around Davis.

I wanted to know, what Davis’s process for deciding whether or not to take the role?  When I learned from the Tavis interview that she thought about it for three months, that it kept her up at night, she had me.

In the bookToms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks Donald Bogle studies the history of representations of African Americans in film. Bogle contends that all of these stereotypes are rooted in entertaining to stress “Negro inferiority”. Which leads me to ask, what is the political purpose of seeing “Negros” as inferior?

You see, I believe that one of the most interesting intersections to explore is the intersection between race and cultural productions because they can teach us both about the insidious and peculiar history of race and gender. This is important because I believe that understanding history can possibly lead us to a different, equitable and just future.

As many of you know I enjoy writing about films more than I writing about rap music these days, largely because the financial and racial politics of filmmaking remains highly undertheorized in pop culture blog spaces.

Which brings me to Ms. Davis and erotic capital.

Viola Davis and Erotic Capital

I take the idea of erotic capital from Siobahn Brooks. She has done some interesting work on class and race in strip clubs in New York and Oakland.

Erotic capital is made up of the things that are used to evaluate a womans sexual desirability in the public marketplace. So for Black women, I see erotic capital as hair texture, hair length, skin color, skin hue, body shape, nose and mouth size.

If we look at Ms. Davis, against mainstream standards of beauty that says that thin, white, young, curvy and blond is the norm, then I read her desire to show up to the Oscars with short chestnut afro as a rupture in popular culture representations of beauty. At least for that moment.

In a moment, when she knew that the focus would be on her, she chose to show up wearing a hairstyle that many people, some Black women included would call uncivilized.

What does it mean to  show up to the Oscars as a Julliard trained dark skinned Black woman, who is nominated for an Oscar for playing a maid in a movie that is a mainstream/hegemonic narrative about the “Good Old South”? In 2012?

Viola Davis and Black Women’s Genius

I knew that Davis was a genius when I learned two things. The first, is that for her role in Doubt she created a thirty page report/dossier on her character because she knew she only had two scenes to nail the character.

Thirty pages? That means you are invested in your craft.

The second reason why I knew she was a genius is because of Toni Morrison’s Sula. In some ways when I read that she created this dossier, I was immediately reminded of Morrison’s Sula, and the idea of a woman without an artistic form becoming dangerous.

It was in this moment that I realized that Davis, needs to produce her work otherwise she wouldn’t be right.

What do I mean by being right?

How many broken spirited people do you know who ain’t right largely because they knew they were put here on this planet to do something, but rather than embrace that thing, they took the path of least resistance?

What does it mean in 2012 to not take the path of least resistance when your Julliard training implicitly tells you that you should expect to be doing Shakespeare after you graduate from your acting program?

What do you do when you learn that the rules for you and the rules for your peers are not one and the same?

What does it mean to be a Black woman, looking to be validated by an industry that has historically seen people like you only as being fit to play a maid?