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

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?

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?

The Choices that Creatives Make

Image via Metro Times

Dedicated to Jonzey and our conversations about Hennessy / Carol’s Daughters sponsored art.

This post is about money, artists and how corporations are deliberate and never neutral.

Spending the last few months teaching a multiracial group of young people about race, art, class, history and feminism, I have learned a lot about how challenging it is to teach people about topics that force them to question basic assumptions that they have held nearly all of  their lives.

Especially when it comes from a body that reads as one that some are not socialized to see as being “an authority” on intellectual topics, ideas and teaching.

Some were clearly resistant to learning how race, hue, class position and gender structure our day to day lives. Others LOVED being taken seriously, Loved examining their own social position as it relates to others, Loved thinking about questions of agency and gender roles.

They also wanted to derail on sexuality, but I was not going there, not yet.

The topic that arguably it was most challenging for my students to understand is that corporations are not not neutral. Now, they KNEW that corporations are set up to make money, but they had a hard time making the connection between the fact that they are set up to make money and how the desire to make money means that corporations will and have looked the other way when a crime or many crimes occurred as a direct result of the pursuit of profit.

Yesterday a friend of mine asked me “How Do I make money”? I waited before I responded because I was unsure where her intentions were. I thought, why, you have a freelance writing job for me? I also thought to myself, and I didn’t know if it was true, so I kept it so myself, clearly the daily labor invested in teaching and writing original knowledge production is not being seen as all encompassing as it is.

Having taught about corporations, I am very clear about them. As someone who studies the political economy of Black cultural productions, which is fancy way of saying that I study Black pop culture (Beyonce, Tyler Perry), how much money they earn, why they are allowed to earn the money they they do, the ideas conveyed within their productions, how their work relates to the history of Black movies and music, and how these ideas shape how we see ourselves regarding gender roles, race, sexuality etc.

The older I have gotten I have come to the conclusion that “all money ain’t good money and all head ain’t good head”. I say this to mean that while we do all have bills, and we have all done what we have to do to keep the lights on (I have waitressed), having taught how  corporations are not neutral and HAVING taking the course “corporations” (<<<the fucking irony) I am particularly sensitive to how creatives may be inclined to make choices, in a political economy in 2012 which forces individuals to align with a corporation who at best, can only see you as temporary, expendable and replaceable.

What kind of facts are those?

What kind of terms are those?

This is not to say that folks do not align with them, or I have judgement if they do. No. Going into 2012 in some ways, aligning with one is a means of survival.  What I ask though, is that we acknowledge they are not neutral. That we acknowledge that you can learn a lot about a corporation based on who they protect, who they exclude, who they include. That we can acknowledged that you can learn a lot about a corporation based on how they deal with systemic patterns of harm that are premised on age, race and class. Penn State.

In fact in teaching the students about corporations not being neutral, I had to do a 5 min South Africa, Apartheid, Coca Cola explanation. Geez, laweese, I was not ready for that. And I had to say that I am NOT an expert on South Africa, but you all are too young to remember this AND it serves as an example of young people leveraging pressure on corporations (Universities and Schools) in the 80’s who were invested in upholding racist and oppressive regimes in South Africa. They couldn’t believe it.

I think that learning early on that a corporation isn’t neutral is an incredible tool. I also think that in 2012 creatives, it may benefit us to think about this seriously, especially creatives of color.

Thoughts?

You accept the idea that a corporation is neutral?

You remember Coca Cola & South Africa?

On Kim Kardashian’s Empire and Race

On Clutch Danielle Belton has an excellent and problematic post titled, “Celebrating the Black Beauty on White Women”. She discusses in general the politics of race and women’s bodies as well as the politics of White artists performing what has historically been seen as Black music (see Eminem, Elvis and Adele).

I am really interested in the politics of race and Black women’s bodies AND I have been wanting to write about Kim Kardashian every since that I learned that there were some black communities (notice I used a plural because we are not all the same) who felt that she did not deserve to be in a Tyler Perry film.

The post is awesome because Belton interrogates the different ways in which some Black men may desire say a curvy Black woman with light skin who looks like Kim Kardashian versus how some Black men may desire a curvey White woman because she is just that; affluent, curvey and White. Belton writes,

If society tells you, from birth, that you should dream of marrying Blake Lively, but dream of screwing Nicki Minaj, a woman with Blake’s face and Nicki’s ass is going to trade high on the “male gaze” market.

Which brings us back to Kim Kardashian. (And by proxy, her sisters, Ice-T’s wife Coco, Angelina Jolie’s lips who are gorgeous on her, but “ordinary” on every other black girl in America, etc.) This goes beyond just physical beauty.

Belton then goes on to discuss how “everyone likes Black stuff when it isn’t on Black people”. Which brings me to another thing.

We need to talk about race.

Race is an unstable category and identity marker. So is gender. Race is unstable, dynamic and always changing. Read Omi and Winant for more about this.

If race were a fixed category and identity marker we could never have a conversation about whether President Obama is  “really” Black. 

Race is a moving target. So is sexuality and gender and this makes people hella uncomfortable.

In fact, it is precisely because ideas of race, and markers of race are unstable and dynamic that we have these conversations in the first place.

So, the title of the post doesn’t reflect the actual content of Belton’s post but I want to address it because it is problematic. To say that Black beauty equals curves suggests that there is only one kind of beauty on Black women.

Ideas of beauty are subjective. Meaning that they are personal value judgements based on individual standards that vary from person to person.

And.

Black women’s bodies and beauty come in a variety of shape and sizes. We are not all the same.

We have to be very mindful of the kinds of beauty standards that we set up.

In fact, I think that with regard to Kim Kardashian the issue isn’t so much that she is an attractive White woman who is curvy, the issue appears to be that she is an attractive White woman who is curvy who enjoys dating Black men and who has leveraged her sexuality into a multi-media empire.

I mean, didn’t the folks complaining about her being in Tyler Perry’s new movie because she is “a bad influence” on Black children because of her sex tape etc. How many of these same folks bump R. Kelly hard (Trapped in the Closet series and all), despite his penchant for teenage Black girls. Remember ya’ll he married Aaliyah.

Why is Kim Kardashian a “bad influence” but R. Kelly gets a pass. No I am not saying that they are trafficking in the same material, nor am I saying that she is as talented in the same way that he is. I am, however, asking why some do Black people’s moral respectability police come out for Kim Kardashian and not for R. Kelly?

Young girls are taught from a young age that their most important value is how pretty they are. In some ways, in a society that devalues women over men, a society that teaches women that their primary value is their beauty, a society that emphasizes the visual, the rise of a woman who embodies Kim Kardashian’s beauty makes sense.