For Kathleen Collins With So Much Joy: A Syllabus for the Losing Ground Film Screening Saturday July 18th 2015 @AFI Silver Spring

On Saturday I along with some friends will be attending a screening of Losing Ground (1982) directed by Kathleen Collins and you are welcome to join us.

I LOVE this movie. I saw it earlier this year at Lincoln Center as a part of the “Tell it Like it Is” program featuring Black film in New York from 1968 – ’86. I also saw it in 2011. I wrote about it on my blog here and in my book.

I’ve befriended Collins’ daughter Nina Lorez Collins, and I sent her a copy of the book on some ZOMG I LOVE YOUR MOMMA BUT YOU KNOW YOUR MOMMA BETTER THAN ME SO YOU KNOW WHY I LOVE HER.

Girl. The movie features a Black woman philosophy professor searching for the ecstatic experience. A Black woman hunting for ecxasty in the passionate sense, in the religious sense, in the embodied sense.

The colors are rich, and luscious, the writing is funny, and we get to see two heterosexual Black married creatives sort the through the messiness of being Black, creative, quirky, and artistic.

I didn’t find Ms. Collins. She found me. I am so grateful this opportunity. Join us if you can on Saturday or try and catch the film before it leaves AFI.

Of course I have background reading because that is what I do. So here is a little syllabus for her screening.

The Kathleen Collins Syllabus:

I thank Carmen Coustat for making sure that a 16MM version of the film was available for me to find, had I not located it there, I would not have found this work when I did. (Ironically I sent her an e-mail thanking her for providing access to the film last week right before I learned about this screening. #WatchGod.)

In the spirit of my old posts, I’ll end with a few questions:

1.  If you like Black women filmmakers have you SEEN Beyond the Lights? Girl. Get up on that work. It will speak to you.

2. Haven’t you noticed the shift in terms of Black women being centered as both protagonists and directors in pop culture in a way that WAS NOT the case as recently as five years ago. So many sacrifices have been made for this historical moment. I am excited about this work! What have you seen lately that you like?

3. Is you rollin’ on Saturday?

For My Grandmother

When in doubt, if you have an question, look to you ancestors first for answers.

I think we waste a lot of time, fiddling around, instead of exploring the answers  already set forth by the folks came before us.

When we do this, I think we will have the future that we already have and need, the future that we come from.

——————————

Today is my grandmothers birthday, and told myself last year that I would honor her. She was a cold piece of work of a Black woman from Dallas, Texas. Afraid of no human being.   Family lore says that she once slapped an Oakland police office for being disrespectful to her. She wrote her own habeas corpus in order to have herself RELEASED from jail after my grandfather put her there. And she could read you in your bone marrow both when she had sight and after my grandfather blinded her; her ability to read had nothing to do with her eyes. Like me.

When people compliment me on Black girls are from the future, or the book or anything, I don’t shirk. Why? Because I know quite honestly that I have the life that my grandmother wasn’t allowed to have. My work is hers.

She is a genius, like so many Black women born in the 1940’s who made due with what she had. I get my tenacity, wit and perhaps my comfort with language from her.

Grandmomma, thank you for my life, I am glad you were able to live with me for that short period when I was eight years old. I always think about the conditions under which you lived your life when I think about giving up on my creative projects. I am honored to be your little bear.

You’re my favorite Libra.

Love,

Renina

Ms. Viola Davis and the White Beauty Industrial Complex

SGHI For Project._New Font

Viola Davis looks like the women in my family. ~My friend, and African American Playwright

So.

Alessandra Stanley called my friend* Ms. Viola Davis “less classically beautiful”.

Let me be clear. As a scholar my work is on Black women’s sexuality in popular culture. So I’ve been keeping a keen eye on the images of Black women being deployed in mainstream spaces (Scandal, Belle), in alternate baby mainstream spaces (Peace to Hello Cupid and Roomie Lover Friends, Almost Home) and on the film festival, alternative indie theater circuit (Pariah, Into the Night).

I wrote a while ago that when Viola Davis showed up at the Oscars wearing a short chestnut colored afro, in the age wind swept blond locks, fair skin, taught slim bodies, I saw myself.

I didn’t see myself because of the aesthetic beauty affirmation. You can go to pretty much any city mid sized or large city in 2014 and SEE yourself as a natural Black girl.

What I am saying here is that I saw myself in that I saw a person who took her craft as seriously as I take mine. Lip game. Eye game. Dress colors…popping.

It is incredibly powerful to see your reflection when you live in a culture that simultaneously sees you as brilliant and abnormal AND hypersexual and subhuman, but #Blackgirlsarefromthefuture.

Like a woman with a form she became dangerous. (**See Morrison’s Sula).

Which brings me not only to Viola Davis, but also Beyonce Knowles Carter, Lupita Nyong’o  and Rihanna Fenty.

When Black girls construct desire in mainstream media the matrix quivers because we are not suppose to hold space, and we certainly aren’t suppose to be desired.

We ain’t suppose to stunt, flaunt or fly.

If you think about the various conversations that have been had about the aforementioned women over the last year, there is a subtext of “go sit down, you are taking up too much space”.

But here is the rub, for me, it makes sense that this historical moment is happening with representations of Black women’s beauty and representations. Every since 2009, I’ve been documenting and marking the consumption and images of Black women in mainstream spaces (Precious, Pariah, For Colored Girls, Good Hair).

It appears that we are manifesting on the smaller screens tablets and televisions, rather than the silver screen.

It makes sense, Black girl stories are profitable.

The technology supports the evolution of our stories into these spaces (smart phones with video bandwidth, Kickstarter campaigns, the rise of Black and Sexy TV and Issa Rae’s production company, Black Girl Twitter on Scandal Thursday’s). An entire ecosystem of Black girl stories has emerged AND they are focused on sustainability; this is key.

In some ways, the critique of Shonda Rhimes and my push back is also about giving respect to the worlds that Black girls make. (When I say Black girls, I mean Black women and girls, and the spirit of our playful Black girl hand clap, braids with a jillion multi-colored beads and  summertime double dutch games that last into dusk. These manifestations of our creativity reminds me of the  space that many of us inhabit before the world forces us to crunch that part of ourselves up in order to survive. Our quirky selves, our out the box selves).

I can’t end this without looking at Allesandra Stanley’s article on Shonda Rhimes. In this article Stanley examines the cultural space that Rhimes has been able to build within primetime telvision using the archaic and sloppy trope of the angry Black woman. She attempts to contextualize the characters that Rhimes has created by creating a historical timeline of Black women in primetime television, for example she mentions Claire Huxtable’s role amongst others. She also situations Rhimes’ place/legacy within archive of other show runners such as Aaron Sorkin and Aaron Spelling.

However, as many have said, the article, at times comes across as heavy handed, tone deaf and light weight insulting to Rhimes’ and Davis’ fan bases across race.

To say that Davis is “less classically beautiful” operates at three levels, at least that is what I am thinking about now.

It is an attempt for Stanley to describe a Black woman, who doesn’t fit the Beyonce beauty aesthetic OR the mainstream beauty aesthetic (and let me be clear here, they overlap) within a journalistic space.

It is an attempt to mark the power of White beauty standards without mentioning White beauty standards.

It is an attempt to mark the significance of the space that Davis is currently taking up in 2014 without explicitly saying why it is disruptive.

Davis embraces her beauty and takes up space in a main stream culture that says that she needs and  doesn’t have permission to do so. Venture capital cats talk about disruption; they have no idea.

Stanley wrote, she stumbled, Black women got pissed, but the long and short of it is that these stories are here and I am here for them.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. -June Jordan, 1978.

For more reading on Black women in film and video see the following:

Black Women Film and Video Readers edited by Jacqueline Bobo

The Black Lady by Lisa Thompson

Black Looks by Bell Hooks

Dark Design and Visual Culture by Michelle Wallace

Some Black girl fundraising campaigns that you can support, in the spirit of this post because “Black Girls Been Creating (Sub)Cultures”.

Reagan Gomez: Project Title: Surviving the Dead

Marquette Jones: Project Title: “Forgiving Chris Brown”  <— Dear Friend

Lisa Marie Rollins: Project Title: CALLALOO Literary Journal’s 2014 Writing Workshop<—Digital Sister

Latisha Fortune and Felicia Pride: Project Title: After the End Again h/t @arieswym

Also follow my tumblr Black Girl Funded, which features Kickstarter campaigns as well.

So less classically beautiful?

Did you actually think that show would launch without some kind of blow back?

White beauty industrial complex? Too far or just right?

A version of this essay will appear in my forthcoming book “Black Women’s Sexuality in Pop Culture”. Sign up here to receive updates. I will never spam you:)

From Cafe los Negros to Black Girl Twitter: A Note on Race and Ownership of Social Media Properties

 Cafe los Negros

 

Last year while writing my book I read (@ Moya’s recommendation) “Race, Technology and Everyday Life“, edited by Alondra Nelson, Thuy Lihn N. Tu and Alicia Headlam Hines.

In this book there is a hell of an interview by Andrew Ross of Mclean Mashingaidze Greaves. Greaves was the founder of Cafe los Negros an online destination for Urban Black and Latino folks founded in 1996. Yes. 1996, nearly 20 years ago.

Now I am going to get into race, access to venture capital, Black girl twitter and why Greaves was a visionary.

First, what is deep to me about this interview is that Greaves was running an internet start up company out of Bed Stuy in 1996. He was a visionary. He saw that the internet was a natural space for urban folks of color to congregate and support independent artists. He understood that once broadband expanded then independent content creators like myself, would be able to interact directly their their communities. He knew that the television and the internet would eventually become fused together. He also foresaw that that there would be a niche to be filled, as Brown and Black folks in the city with disposable incomes would begin to want media that was relevant to their lives. The Black gossip blogosphere and the hip hop blogosphere speaks to that, so does the evolution of The Root, Ebony, Essence and Jet.

Ultimately, Greaves argues that his company was cut off at its knees because he needed a team and funding to really gain some traction.

Here is the thing that disturbs me about the current rhetoric around women, technology, coding, venture capital, Black girl twitter and even crowd funding.

Whether than complain about diversity and numbers who is funding venture capital pipelines for folks of color to OWN their platforms, rather than continuously uploading free content to Wall Street traded social media platforms all day (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Yahoo…etc.)

Reading this Greaves essay shows me that even prior to the rise of the Blogosphere, young urban Black and Brown people were trying to OWN their own platforms. Not only where they trying to own their own platforms but that had a sense of building community while they did so. They were trying to own their own platforms while living in the ‘hood. After I read this, I was really curious as to why Greaves’ narrative is absent from the “we need to teach folks to code” discourse. Of course I am being rhetorical and marking power here because it is important.

Now let me tie this to Black girl twitter.

According to Pew Internet research I’ve known since appropriately 2010 that Black women are hyper represented on twitter. Because I’ve known that Black women are hyper represented on Twitter, I’ve been sensitive to the notion that NOT ALL social media platforms are equal. For instance, I can go back through all 963 blog posts I have written here I have statistics on which are the most popular, I can find old comments, I can see the countries of the people who visit my site. This level of social media info isn’t available on Twitter (even though they just upped their analytic cards) and you cannot get granular levels of details about who has visited your page and when, and for how long from Facebook.

My point about Black girl twitter is that I came to the conclusion at the end of last year that Black women (primarily in the US and on the coasts) are creating quantifiable value for other peoples media content on Twitter. I didn’t understand this until, one day while watching a show on OWN, a friend pointed out that there was a group of people sitting at a desk on laptops within a frame of the show. If you blinked you would have missed it. I was told that those are producers, interacting with Twitter users and that this was a relatively new development. I was also told that show runners negotiate for MORE money for ad sales for shows that have high tweet engagement. This is one of the ways in which Black women create quantitative value for television shows, but on user generated content sites, as they stand now, they will not be rewarded for this value creation. Don’t believe me, see Scandal Thursdays, Being Mary Jane Tuesdays, or the tweet volume associated with the airing of  the Black Girls Rock award show.

I am still working out these ideas here, however I am clear that it is ahistorical to rely on coding rhetoric when thinking about the pipeline of Black and Brown technologists.

Greaves legacy shows that Black and Brown folks have been visionaries with regard to early adopting digital technologies and leveraging them to build businesses and niche communities.

Perhaps there needs to be less diversity talk, and more of an examination of the past, as well as more money placed into pipe lines to create the owners that folks like Greaves wanted to be nearly 20 years ago. Let me be clear here, I am not simply talking about making more moguls, but I am thinking about tech literacy, and justice literacy as it pertains to these tech spaces. I am particularly concern because the internet of things (sensors being placed on objects that then store information such as your refrigerator sensing that you are low on milk) will become an ingrained part of our day to day lives as we move into the future.

What are the limits of tech diversity rhetoric?

Did you know about Greaves? What does it mean that a Black dude who was trying to create a start up 20 years ago in Bed Stuy?

Overall post response? Is this really about making little Black and Brown Mark Zuckerbergs? If so, what are the benefits and costs?

 

More on Greaves here:

 

Girls of Color on Tumblr: AMA (Ask me anything: Reddit Style)

Girls of Color Tumblr

TW: suicide

In mid April of this year we lost kick ass Black Girl blogger Karyn Washington,  the wonderful Black feminist historian Stephanie Camp, and DC was still looking for Relisha Rudd.

To say that I was overwhelmed was an understatement.

In order to cope with this, I decided to make myself available to girls of color on tumblr who are creating new media (blog posts, podcasts, digital poetry books, indie fiction) etc.

It was a way for me to honor the legacies of Karyn Washington and Stephanie Camp, and not be overwhelmed by the fact that we were looking for Relisha Rudd.

I promised myself that I would do the exercise again. So here it is.

When I did this exercise the first time people asked me questions about:

  • Using blogging to get into journalism (depends, you can go the school route, but you need to have a social media presence and online archive that legacy media folks can recognize, you can go indie as well)
  • How to make a blog that makes money? (get a squad, feed the meter, have and en game; a blog is social capital)
  • What was hard about writing the book? (finishing it was hard, marketing is far more difficult)
  • How can I monitize my Black girl fashion blog? ( you need to sell something your community is willing to pay for (make up boxes, t-shirts, coffee mugs…etc), or feed the machine in order to earn enough traffic to attract advertisers…this was easier to do pre-2010.
  • One person wanted to learn more about how to apply to grad school and I just had her call me because, that was too long of an e-mail to type out. We still remain in contact:)

So leave your question below or e-mail me @ first name.last @ gmail and I’ll respond. The deadline to reach out is 11:59 pm Thursday night and  I will respond to everyone by the weekend.

Thank you for your patience. I’ve wanted to do this all summer, and I just now have the time.

I look forward to hearing from you all.

~<3 Allcity.

  1. What do you want to learn more about?
  2. How are you trying to grow your current blog/podcast/vlog?
  3. Is there anything you’d like to know about book writing, marketing?
  4. How do I avoid burnout?
  5. #BringBackRelishaRudd