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?

Black Girls Are Certainly From the Future…Book Update…(Tentative)Table of Contents List

Strap in your seat belts, because this list is a doozy and it is completely me, and a record of our long relationship as a community!!! Can you believe that it is happening!?!?!
Race
1. On the Steve Harvey Industrial Complex (Blog Post)
2. Twerking, Ratchet and the Politics of Black Respectability: What Exactly Can We Teach Black Girls About Black Women’s Sexuality? (New)
3. Ta-Nehisi Asks If for Colored Girls is a Classic, My Response (Blog Post)
4. Gabby Douglass, Black Women’s Natural Hair and Standing Straight in a Crooked Room (Blog Post)
5. The Miseducation of All City: An Essay  on Race, East Oakland and Prep School (New)
6. A Black feminist Response to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In (New)
7. Thinking About the Possibilities and Limitations of Teaching Black Girls to Code (New)
8. The Politics of Teaching Kids of Color How to Fail (Blog Post)

Digital Creativity

1. How I Used the Internet to Find My Voice, Claim My Tribe And Build My Brand (New)
2. 5 Key Business Points for Artists: 5 Minute MBA for Your Brand (New)
3. Rafi Kam x Okay Player x Community (Blog Post)
4. In 2009 I asked ‘Is a Black Web Browser Racist’? What About Algorithims in 2013? (Blog Post Revisited)
5. Black Women, Digital Creativity and Entrepreneurship (New)
6. On Claiming My Voice as a Writer and Business: The Politics of Getting in Front of Your Story (New)

Pop Culture

1. Whitney Houston and Genius (Blog Post)

2. Are Black Men Really That Homophobic? Thinking About Conversations on Kanye’s Attire (Blog Post Revisited)

3. Arielle Loren Asks Whether Beyonce is the Contemporary Face of Feminism: My Response (Blog Post)

4. Viola Davis’s Natural Hair At the Oscars (Blog Post)
5. And You Even Licked My Balls: A Black Feminist Note on Nate Dogg (Blog Post)
6. Yes Black, White, Asian and Latino Men: Feminism is Here for You Too! (New)

7. Thinking About Need, Desire and Politics of Naming Beyonce a Feminist (New)

8. Musing on Makode Linde and That Cake (Blog Post)

The Black Girls Are From the Future & Friends Meet and Greet is in the final planning stages for July 20th, 2013. Sign up here to receive an invite. I will never spam you 🙂

This is an epic undertaking. However I knew it was possible last winter when I began to COMPILE the blog posts, and I was able to see, in Black and White,  how much I had written. The issue then became, not the process of writing but actually conceptualizing what this book would look like, how I would organize the various essays and creating a process and space to get it done.

Thank you for traveling with me. Leave a question or comment below.

Love,

Reneens

A Thin Line Between Protection and Domination: Thoughts About that Cleveland Bus Video

Last week, I reached out to @sassycrass and @dopegirlfresh because I wanted to write about the thin line between protection and domination for Black women. Lo and behold, it appears that the opportunity to write about the issue has made itself known sooner than I expected.

When I talk about the thin line between protection and domination I am thinking about many things including gender roles, race and street harassment.

Ultimately, the thin line between protection and domination rests on the reasoning that if a person states that you deserve to be protected because of the body that you come in, then it stands to reason that that same reasoning assumes that you can expect to be dominated because of the body that you come in. This kind of thinking has to be taken to its logical end.

As a Black woman who doesn’t take shit off of anyone I deal with a whole of street harassment in DC. For me street harassment is a kind of racial profiling because when I am in a White area of DC (Du Pont Circle in particular) and I see how Black men fuck with me in ways that they do not attempt to do so towards White women who are nearby, it is so clear to me that this is a racialized and gendered act.

I cringed when I saw how the bus driver hit the woman in the video largely because I am reminded of how Black women are, in the streets and in pop culture are often times hyper masculinized, rendered as men and dominated by default if they step out of acceptable gender roles.

Full stop. If she was talking shit to him, and she hit him, she should have been taken off the bus and handed over to the authorities. Bus drivers already have enough bullshit to deal with.

Hitting her was wrong not because she was a woman, it was wrong because you do not have a right to put your hands on anyone. Nor did she. As the person of authority in the situation it was his job to descalate and contain the situation and continue to get the folks on the bus from point A to point B.

In choosing to hit her the way that he did, the image read as “I will teach this Bitch a lesson.” And he did. Based on the way that he hit her, I am led to think that if he had a gun, he would have shot her.

Thoughts?

Do you ever think about the thin line between protection and domination?

Why does it matter what size she was?

 

HBO’s [White] Girls, White Feminism and How It’s Connected to Think Like a Man

I know you are thinking #allcity, how in the hell is the connected? It is, trust.

So yesterday, Andrea on Racialicious posted on tumblr about a writer, Aymer, who feels that while Girls is White, it isn’t the Lena Dunham’s problem. Dunham created the show.

Here is part of Aymer’s post,

I think the show is smart, and (c) I agree with Seitz: race is the industry’s problem, not Lena Dunham’s. She is privileged, yes, but–let’s be honest–also got lucky with a sweetheart Louie-like deal: cheap production and relative freedom in lieu of high ratings (Girls‘s paltry 0.4 rating in the demo would get it canceled everywhere but HBO, and maybe FX**).

Here is what Andrea says,

I disagree with Aymer that Lena Dunham isn’t to blame. Her show—which is fueled by her imagination—is another vehicle for Hollywood to continue maintaining the idea of whiteness at the expense of people of color. She is part of the problem, so she has a part in the blame. What I do agree with is that people have done incredible analyses on this racial problem with Dunham’s creation.

Here is my response,

Given my intense focus over the last 4 months on the ways in which Black men and White corporations earn millions of dollars on the stories featuring Black women’s dating and relationship narratives (Think Like a Man, Precious, Jump the Broom, For Colored Girls) I am inclined to think that the darker the US gets the Whiter television will get.

My rational? Symbolic domination is tied up in economic, spiritual and other forms of domination. So the thinking is, so what Ya’ll brown folks might be swoll in numbers, but ENTERTAINMENT- the number 1 US export will not reflect you with nuance; full stop.

They need to just call the show “White Girls”. #Done.

And now I will add this. Think about it. We have a Black man in the White House and a brown skinned, Harvard Law educated, elegant Black first lady.

Conversely though, George Lucas can’t get a film about African American fighter pilots distributed in Hollywood. the film version of the book Think Like a Man, a heterosexual, patriarchal dating advice book for Black women, earned 33 million dollars in it’s opening weekend and it has been the number one film in the US two weeks after it opened.

Dig it, you can have The President and Flotus all over tumblr, buzzing around each other like two SPIRITS who like and Love each other; but, seeing a hetero OR queer Black couple be intimate on the silver screen in a way that is NOT patriarchal and rooted in stereotypes. Good Luck with that shit Gina.

What is the connection to White feminism? Well when I say White feminism in this instance I mean third wave White feminism that pivots on the idea of “women” being “equal” to men or what I like to call equalism. A few weeks ago my students were throwing around this “women being equal” to men mess and I turned to them and said “I am going off my lesson plan here, but I need to ask you all a question; What is the difference between being equal and being free. Please do not answer immediately as I want you to take your time and think about it.”

Someone eventually responded saying that a woman can be equal to a man by possibly earning to same wages in a certain career, but she wouldn’t be free if everytime she walked out of the house she was bombarded with messages about how ugly she was, or how she needed to lose weight, lighten or darken her skin,  get married, have a baby or (I thought to myself ) if she suffered street harassment on every hot summer day.

So. With that being said Dunham has appeared apologetic saying that while she writes based on her experiences, she didn’t realize that because the characters came from a personal place, that they would be all White. This points to a very interesting moment in popular culture where the impact of racial segregation on the pop culture is crystalized. Dunham doesn’t want to write about folks of color, because they are not apart of her life and she doesn’t want to tokenize them. Is that legitimate? Wouldn’t it be interesting to create a story arch of a young White girl dealing with her Whiteness on an HBO show? Making friends with folks of color? Examining racial privilege?

I thought Dunham’s response was interesting because often times folks have three defenses when they are called on their racism, sexism, transphobia or homophobia which is a.) I was just being funny b.) I didn’t mean any harm c.) I don’t have to be PC, I am an artist. However, I don’t know the last time someone said “Well, this IS based on my experience and I don’t want to tokenize.”

Historically, feminists of ALL races have said that experience is useful for theory and creative work, in fact it makes for some of THE most interesting work that we have created. But they have also said that experience does not mean that you are ABOVE criticism; Peace to Joan Scott.

I like this particular moment in the feminist blogosphere because it speaks to how feminists on social media are co constructing old media, and holding them accountable for how they represent their worlds. That shit is fresh.

So, as the US Browns, will TV and Film become more White?’

Why is it so hard for folks to recognize the connection between racial perceptions, electoral politics and representations in film?

I also think that it is interesting, in terms of power (relationships of power) that the director of  Girls has a small budget and creative license and little pressure to attract audiences, at least according to the blog post. Is that freedom?

What would a woman of color director do with those kinds of working conditions? What would Kasi Lemons, or Julie Dash, Nzinga Stewart or an Asian, Latina, Indian woman do with those kinds of working conditions? What would she create?

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…