On Black Men Telling Our Stories?

One of the reasons why I have devoted nearly a year and half to working on a project on Black women’s sexuality is because I am sick and tired of Black men speaking for us. Telling our stories.

Stories help us to understand who we are. Stories are how we make sense of the world. This is why children love them so much. Stories are magic.

How are you going to understand who you are when someone is always telling your story?

In terms of Black women’s bodies, I have found that between being perceived as being 50 million ho’s in rap videos to having our bodies hyper surveilled by our families, there is no place for us to just be, in our bodies.

The way I see it, the ability to speak for my self, for ourselves is tied to our ability to act, to be human.

Think about it. When was the last time you were at work or at home or with your family and someone started speaking for you, putting words in your mouth.

I can’t stand when someone puts words in my mouth. I can speak for myself.

Last week, I had a heated discussion with Goldy about my blog. I had just learned that a new book  is about to come out about Black women and dating titled “Is Marriage for White People?”  I was pissed because I thought, here we ago, another person, who is not a Black woman, talking about Black women’s narratives. I thought to myself Act Like a Lady and now this?!#@#@!I#P@#%!

With regard to my blog, Goldy couldn’t understand why I did it. Wait scratch that, she asked me whether I thought about the tension between writing publicly about sensitive topics, some of which are personal, and the risks associated with it, ie your google footprint.

I can see why she would be concerned, as I write about my life, so that means I will ostensibly be writing about her as well.

I went on to tell her that I am tired of Black men telling our stories. She then looked at me and said “That story that he is telling is not Black women’s story. In fact, there ARE many women in DC who believe the narrative and the advice in Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.” I said “Well, my blog is a counter narrative. #Blackgirlsarefromthefuture. I write my blog to show that there is a different experience. That Act Like a Lady narrative attempts to erase me and my homies. We don’t want for dates. We are Black feminists. We want to be treated like human beings. Thats the issue. We get all the dates we need.”

She then went on to say that “While that may be true, the Steve Harvey book IS speaking to a group of Black women, they believe it, that is their story but that is NOT Black women’s story. Renina, you are saying that Black men are telling our stories, they are telling one story about a group of women who believe it.”

Then a light bulb went off. I realized she was right. My adviser stays on me about using precise language when I am writing. And I mentioned that.

I then went on to say that “Okay, you are right. Black men are telling a particular story about Black women. However, when we look at mainstream representations of Black women, the image of the single, affluent/middle class, college educated, lonely, heterosexual Black women is pervasive. Wasn’t there an entire special on TV last year about this demographic? In some ways this woman is the new “Welfare Queen.” Black women have gotten off public assistance, according to mainstream representations, but we are still  dysfunctional and deviant, strong, powerful, unmarried and childless.” She nodded.

I like the fact that she challenges me. That she can point to weaknesses in my arguments and my logic. This is a hard thing to find as a doctoral student. #Ummhmm.

**For more Peep Summer’s piece on Black men telling our stories and Beauty standards for Black women set by popular culture and Black men.

What would you change about how mainstream media represents Black women?

What is the appeal of Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man? Have you read it?

For Colored Girls Blog Carnival

Dear QBG/CFC Bloggers, Friends,?colleagues, and more,

With the premiere of Tyler Perry?s?For Colored Girls approaching,?we at?Quirky Black Girls are planning a?blog carnival concerning the movie. A blog carnival consists of hosting a webpage where linked blog posts discuss a similar subject. We know that many people are going to blog about the movie, the way that it relates (or doesn?t) to Shange?s original work, how it represents black women and men, how?triflin? it is, so we decided to create a central location where people could read it all!

If you would like to participate in the carnival, please send us a link to your blog at quirkyblackgirls[at]gmail[dot]com by Friday, November 12, 2010.

Oh and be sure to check out what?Real Colored Girls are doing in terms of helping folks organize screenings and discussions in their area! Also, Evelyn Alfred is rocking out with a?For Colored Girls twitter book club! Check the #forcoloredgirls for all the awesomeness!

With so much love and rainbows,

QBG?s Fallon & Moya

Black Male Privilege x Male Privilege

This piece is dedicated to Michele, T.Dot, John, and Pepe
Shout out to Bianca for the above image.

While on an awesome date last weekend, Pepe hesitated, then proceeded to challenge me on the idea of Black Male Privilege. He didn’t want to because he suspected that it would derail the date.

It didn’t.

In fact I appreciated the conversation because he forced me to think of things I had not conceived of.

The first thing was a question which was “What is the difference between Black Male Privilege and Male privileges period, name some Black male privileges.”

The first is that Black Men are born male in a society that is organized by and for men.

The second is that Black men (who read as heterosexual/straight) can go from point A to point B, from the train to the house without the risk of sexual verbal and physical violence. By sexual verbal violence I mean men yelling out at cars, men leaning into you as you walk down the street, hearing fifty eleven hey baby’s, or can I get a piece of that.

Yesterday I had two confrontations with Black men.

9 either honked or said something.

One on Rhode Island and 3rd, the other a block from my house. It was hot, my skirt was short. In both instances these Negros were surprised that I spoke back. By the time dude said something to me near my house I had had enough. HE claimed that he was BEHIND ME ON THE PHONE TAUMBOUT he wanted to take me to Red Lobster. What he really said was that he wanted to take me to bed. He lied to kick and said he ain’t say that, but you can’t sprinkle sugar on shit and call it ice cream. I heard him.

The psychological costs of being treated like a sex worker on the streets is lightweight unspeakable.

The truth of the matter is that they would NEVER talk to White women like this loud, open and in public because they would be in jail as sure as rice is white.

For many Black men in the street, an attractive Black woman is prey to get at, not a human being returning from running errands so she can go home to write for the evening.

The privilege here is that they know that if they say it to us, more than likely they can get away with it, and that shit is wack sauce. Not the kid.

If you think that I am putting ten on two and that negro men don’t really be fucking with us on the street see,

Black Woman Walking, by Tracey Rose

The college student who was shot in DC for not giving out her number

The Comments in this post

Hey Shorty, a Doc on Street Harassment by Girls for Gender Equity

Walking Home

Going back to Pepe’s question, means that by being born male, they will benefit from the social structure that says that MEN naturally have the right to public space.

The right to earn more than women doing the same job. (statistically Black men’s unemployment is hella high, but when they do work they work in jobs that, across the board, earn more than women, they often tend to be union jobs. See Paula Giddings When and Where I Enter for more on this.)

The right to dominate women and children and be violent towards them if they get out of line.

The right to beat another Negro mans ass if that negro man threatens his property which is his house, car or “his woman.”

The right to be visible leaders and to make directional choices about the future of the household, community and society.

I responded saying that Black male privilage is different from male privilege because Black masculinity is different from White masculinity which is different from Latino masculinity. Yes they have elements in common, however they read differently.

Black men have a different relationship to the police than white men. Oscar Grant, Sean Bell etc. Black men also have a different relationship to each other than white men do. Derrion Albert & Philly’s, Newark’s and Chicago’s homicide statistics. Black men have different relationships to trying to get and keep a job than white men.

They also read differently based on the persons class, their social standing, their income.

Different masculinities have different kind of privileges. This is how patriarchy works.

In addition one further thing that I have realized while writing this is that Black male privilege is different from “male” privilege in the same way that Black Feminism is different from Feminism (which is known as being organized by and for middle classed White women), further more there is Womanism to knowledge as well.

The second thing he said was that he thought the term Black male privilege may do more harm than good, in that it could alienate Black men, who may otherwise be allies.

My response was that first, that I find the words that I choose to be very important. Second, while it is true that using the term Black Male privilege may alienate some cats, so be it. When dealing with violence and oppression this is not the time to get coddled. He disagreed with me on this point and I am fine with that. I don’t want Black men to think I am attacking them, I am not, I am asserting ALL of our humanity and if they can’t that, that’s between them and they Jesus.

In reading Dumi’s post on Black male privilege I had an epiphany today. I realized that it is a challenge for many people to understand that victims can be perpetrators.

Dumi gets at both Black male privilage and the idea that victims can be perpetrators when he writes,

The hidden and overlooked nature is what is crucial for understanding privilege. It is the careful analysis of the social fabric of our world that will make privilege visible, even to Black men.


BMP is akin to White privilege in that it is often invisible to those who benefit from it the most! It is the accumulation of these unearned advantages that matter but are often dismissed as inconsequential. These advantages are often thought to be insignificant, unless of course you are on the receiving end of the oppression.

Meaning that Black men who are oppressed in a society dominated and controlled by Whites, turn around and try and dominate Black women, because thats what society says that men do.

There are many people who feel that because they had fucked up childhoods, or that they were oppressed as Black men or women, or for that matter as White men and women that they have the right to be rageful or abusive to others.

You don’t. No one does.

Just because my father was an addict for more than for nearly half my life, that that shit was fucked up and that drugs took him away from me and my mom and that our lives were profoundly impoverished after he left, doesn’t give ME the right to take that shit out on the people that I meet today. FULL STOP.

Conversely just because the White world treats Black men like shit doesn’t give THEM the right to be abusive and violent towards us.

The more I experience and read and write about this topic I believe that a street harassment awareness/education campaign may be awesome.

A whole new value system is needed. #ummhmm.

Here are some resources to start with:

Girls for Gender Equity does work around street harassment.

As does Men Can Stop Rape.

Read Kevin Powell’s Ending Violence Against Woman and Girls and take one of the recommended action steps.

Men having conversations amongst themselves around how they treat women in the street can be powerful too. #Ummhmm

You buying my Black Male vs. Male Privilege?

Is it all patriarchy?

Or does it read differently on differently bodies?

Someone sent me a video of a young Black woman on the streets of Brooklyn walking from home to the train, dealing with street harassment.? Please leave that link again! Thank you.

Musing on The Window Seat Video

Earlier today, I was on the phone with Bacon Grits, chit chatting,planning my outfit, my day, flirting, and he asked me I had seen the Window Seat video?? I continued looking for my fuchsia leggings, turned it on, put him on speaker, and continued to chat.? I sat down in front of the computer half way watching, listening, and then I noticed, “Erykah Badu is stripping?”

Then I tell him, wait, is she going to get naked?

He says, oh you haven’t seen it, wait until the end.

We both sat there quiet as I listened, and watched. Absorbed.

The Evolving tattoo? **Done.

The awesome lace undies. ***Fancy drawls #somuchwinblackgirlwin.

Keep in mind that I have been bumping Turn Me Away (Get MuNNy) for the last four days. The fact that she says “Let me be your robot girl” had me in the air, as I have been on some #blackgirlsarefromthefuture since I got reacquainted with Janie and Their Eyes Were Watching God in January.

The video struck me for a few reasons.

First, American culture in general and pop culture specifically has never been a hospitable place for nude Black women. Let alone nude Black women making high concept music and music videos.

When I saw the video, I tweeted:

“When was the last time you saw a Black womens body and sensuality centered FROM her perspective in Pop Culture? ***waits.”

“Real Spit. Window Seat is THE embodiment of Vulnerable y Fearless. Given the historical treatment of Black womens bodies in pop culture. +And American history. Window Seat feels like a lightweight Corrective for “Venus Hottentott” and thousands of nameless video vixens.”

The second reason that video hit me in my gut because some of my work is on Black Women’s sexuality and pop culture. THIS was the first time that I saw a self possessed Black women express her sensuality, within in pop culture.

Black women’s bodies are ALL through rap videos, but their voices are muted. Interchangeable, silent bodies are how American Black women are presented to the world, globally, in music videos, by and large.

Think about it like this. If you watch Beyonce’s Video Phone you may feel interested in the costumes and the dance moves. However, watching Window Seat you feel propelled forward. #blackgirlsarefromthefuture. Full stop. You sit there wantig to know what happens next. The distinction is the level of both intimacy and vulnerability that one performance has that the other lacks.

As I watched Erykah Badu, I thought of all the semi-nude and might as well be nude women in rap videos whose names we will never know, and if we don’t know their names, why should we care about them and who they are.

And don’t give me that “no one is putting a gun up to their head” to be in a video shit. People Love saying that, but d boys that sell crack “just need to feed they daughter.” Miss me with those. Our choices are limited to our options.

The third reason is that the video reminded me of Renee Cox’s work, in its fierceness, boundary pushing and its centering of a Black woman.

Renee Cox Yo Mama 1993

As I wrote this piece, I remembered that Erykah Badu tweeted a week or so ago that she had done one of the most scariest things in her life. I noticed the tweet and kept it moving. I now wager that, that experience must of been this music video.

I thank her for this, because it is the ultimate in being both vulnerable y fearless, which many of you know are two principles, I try as hard as possible to live by, and that I encourage others to do as well.

Other Reading Posts on Black Women’s Bodies:

I Know Why Zane Sells

Michelle Obama and the Black Female Body

Black Women Property Twice

Buffie the Body is Venus Hottentott

Why is it that we see nude and semi nude Black women so frequently yet this video hits us somewhere else?

Thoughts on Window Seat?

Badun’em is a Verb

Basquiat, is one of my favorites, along with Frida, Renee Cox, Kara Walker, Faith Ringgold, Michelle Wallace, Klimt, Rothko , Chuck Close

There is something liberating about being around someone who is clear that “everyone has a right to be who they are.”

Last month, while speaking to Supreme, we got into
it about the impact that Erykah Badu had on both Common and
and Andre’s careers.

He was being incredibly insistent that SHE changed their music steez up for the dark side.? This sounded like that Oh Word post from way back when.

In and of it self the post was harmless, BUT given the history of how in heterosexual relationships if the man gets sprung, women and general and Black women specifically are portrayed as objects just short of witches, I said something when this post intially ran.

Back to Supreme. As a producer AND a fan he was insistent that:

a.) It wasn’t until Erykah that Common and Andre started
“dressing funny.”

“How you go from jeans and a t-shirt to knitted caps and
a smedium shirts?” he asked.

Looking back, first of all Common ain’t rocking nothing
that Marvin didn’t rock in the late 70’s.

And I am looking at the phone like, Um you my crush, BUT,
I am not going to be taking too much of this. Lols.

And, where is the these negro’s agency? As if Erykah Badu had
the power to “make” a grown man dress any old kind of way.

Supreme eventually conceded that the issue wasn’t how they dressed, but the fact their their music changed while dating or after Ms. Badu.

He went on to say that while Andre’s Love Below was a far better executed album, the issue with Electric Circus was that it didn’t win.

I was like, “That’s bullshit, because as an artist you have to allow OTHER artists room to experiment and grow.? Besides you are one of the most eccentric negros I know, hence why I stepped to you. How are you going to confine an artist to the style that they started with? As an artist YOU know we can’t do that to ourselves.”

Lastly he conceded that, according to Questlove, the music that came out of Electric Lady during the late 90’s and early 2000’s was just on some other shit, and this had to do a lot to do with Electric Circus and The Love Below, Voodoo and a few others.

It was an awesome conversation. Who beefs over soul music and artists transformation?

A couple of weeks ago Josephine and I turned Badunem into a verb,
to capture what happens when we:? a.) do us b.) we (try to) practice radical acceptance c.) stay fly and in the air d.) Are accelerators for other peoples artistic ?ish, and our own work as well.

Being an accelerator for other peoples artistic shit is incredibly valuable.? Artist are dangerous because they have influence over people. Anyone who influences people has the power to change the world.

I had always known it, but I had no idea how it would impact
my relationships with people.

I mean, cats want to come along, get they artistic charge and scoot. I now realize that these are? delicate, promising and nefarious waters to navigate. Honestly, I always suspected it about myself, but didn’t realize it’s value to others.

The gift and the curse.

As far back as 2001, I was in my early 20’s dating a scientist, who had a function at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Muckety Muck Upper East side steez. We attended a wine and cheese reception. I had been working as a production assistant or admin when I could, BUT what I really wanted to do was work at HBO. My heart was set on it. Well, at this reception there was an original Chuck Close. As I stood there talking to these esteemed, old money seventy something white lady, my then partner looked at me with appreciation and said later, I am glad you were here, because I don’t know anything about that art stuff.

Inactive artist’s walk around stifled. They know they want to pursue something creative at 21, but they ignore it. At 31 the calling is still there. At 41, it just scratches at you on the inside unless you can drown it out with something else, or you finally answer it.

As a self identified artist and one who believes that everyone has a right to be who they are, I am trying to get a handle on what this means to how I go about the world, and how I interact with people. The gift and the curse.

Do you believe that everyone has a right to be who they are?

Has this impacted your relationships, if so how?

Meet any eccentric beings lately