SAAM #2: NO! The Rape Documentary

Rape is one of the most evil acts one can commit on another. What makes it more alarming is that it tends to be perpetuated by folks we know. Yet, even in 2014, rape is still depicted as a stranger hiding in bushes. The fact is survivors tend to know their assailants. These people tend to be relatives, friends, ex-partners, co-workers, casual acquaintances, etc.

The rapist isn’t a masked man

  • Approximately 66% of rape victims know their assailant. (2000 NCVS)
  • Approximately 48% of victims are raped by a friend or acquaintance; 30% by a stranger; 16% by an intimate; 2% by another relative; and in 4% of cases the relationship is unknown. (2000 NCVS)

http://www.sarsonline.org/resources-stats/reports-laws-statics

In communities of color, especially the black community, sexual violence is even more complex. Black women not only have to accept the fact that they know their rapists, but grapple with what will be their next step. Despite being more prone to sexual violence, Black women/women of color tend to be very racially loyal.

A lot of it has to do with Black women worrying about feeding into stereotypes about Black men or not wanting to “lock another brother up.” This fierce community protection comes at the expense of Black women’s physical and mental health:

“Historically, law enforcement has been used to control African-American communities through brutality and racial profiling. It may be difficult for a Black woman to seek help if she feels it could be at the expense of African-American men or her community. The history of racial injustice (particularly the stereotype of the Black male as a sexual predator) and the need to protect her community from further attack might persuade a survivor to remain silent.”

http://www.forbes.com/sites/shenegotiates/2012/04/25/black-women-sexual-assault-and-the-art-of-resistance/

In her film, NO! The Rape Documentary, Aishah Shahidah Simmons does a great job of deconstructing the myths about rape and how sexual violence affects the lives of Black women.  She shows how the intersectionality of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism,  etc., prevent Black women from reporting their assaults.  She also shows the healing process of the survivors in the film.

I met Aishah a few years ago, when she did a screening of NO! in my city. I was extremely moved by the film, and was so glad that someone was speaking out on this issue.It took her over 13 years to make the documentary. She was committed to making the film because she thought it was important that this issue was discussed in the Black community. Much respect for that!

I have shown the NO! documentary as a way to support Black women’s voices during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). I encourage other folks to do so as well. It can be a great way to start a conversation on how this issue is unique to Black women. And the ways Black men can be our allies.  If my group had a bigger budget, we would’ve also brought Aishah to speak about her film. If your school or organization has the funds, not only show the film, invite Aishah!  She’s an amazing woman who we should support.

The NO! Rape Documentary is a powerful act of resistance against the oppression of Black women’s voices/bodies.

SAAM #1: Rape Culture

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).  This week I will be dedicating the blog to this important issue…

“The month of April has been designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in the United States. The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. By working together and pooling our resources during the month of April, we can highlight sexual violence as a major public health, human rights and social justice issue and reinforce the need for prevention efforts.” –http://www.nsvrc.org/saam/what-is-saam

In order  to successfully prevent sexual violence in our communities, we  have to acknowledge that we live in a Rape Culture. It’s noted that “in feminism, rape culture is a concept that links rape and sexual violence to the culture of a society,[1] and in which prevalent attitudes and practices normalize, excuse, tolerate, and even condone rape.” For example, when Rick Ross made a casual reference to date rape in his song “U.O.E.N.O” (Put molly all in her champagne/ She ain’t even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that/ She ain’t even know it.) He was rightfully clowned and called out for using this lyric.

Of course, it isn’t just rappers/entertainers who normalize rape in our culture.  It also isn’t a new phenomenon. It can be argued that rape culture has its roots in slavery.   In order to justify the rapes/sexual assaults on black women’s bodies (to keep the slave trade business intact), black women were horribly stereotyped:

“The portrayal of black women as lascivious by nature is an enduring stereotype. The descriptive words associated with this stereotype are singular in their focus: seductive, alluring, worldly, beguiling, tempting, and lewd. Historically, white women, as a category, were portrayed as models of self-respect, self-control, and modesty – even sexual purity, but black women were often portrayed as innately promiscuous, even predatory. This depiction of black women is signified by the name Jezebel.1 ” http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/jezebel.htm

The young slave woman who has come to symbolize the normalization of abuse on black women’s bodies is Saartjie Baartman. Baartman is often known by the racist term “Hottentot Venus:” 

“Sara ‘Saartjie’ Baartman was born in 1789* at the Gamtoos river in what is now known as the Eastern Cape. She belonged to the cattle-herding Gonaquasub group of the Khoikhoi. Sara grew up on a colonial farm where her family most probably worked as servants. Her mother died when she was aged two and her father, who was a cattle driver, died when she reached adolescence. Sara married a Khoikhoi man who was a drummer and they had one child together who died shortly after birth. Due to colonial expansion, the Dutch came into conflict with the Khoikhoi. As a result people were gradually absorbed into the labour system. When she was sixteen years old Sara’s fiancé was murdered by Dutch colonists. Soon after, she was sold into slavery to a trader named Pieter Willem Cezar, who took her to Cape Town where she became a domestic servant to his brother. It was during this time that she was given the name ‘Saartjie’, a Dutch diminutive for Sara.”http://www.sahistory.org.za/people/sara-saartjie-baartman

I had the misfortune of watching the film “Black Venus.” It’s supposed to be based on the life of Baartman. I felt the film was really a white man’s story, not Baartman’s. She barely has any lines in the film. I also felt ill at ease that the black actress in the film was really being mistreated. However, I did think the film gave some insight into the horrifying ways Baartman was treated on a daily basis. It is a thin line of trying to show the reality of her life, but not being exploitative about it. The director failed. Hopefully, someday the fullness of  Saartjie Baartman‘s life will be told.

While I also had some of the same issues with  “12 Years a Slave,” I thought the film did at least show the hatefulness of white supremacy and the beginnings of rape culture:

“Although the kidnapped freedman Northup is the main character, the film also does an excellent job of exposing the gendered sexual violence at the very foundation of enslavement. Patsy isn’t the only victim of rape culture, either. In their brief scenes Mistress Harriet Shaw (Alfre Woodard) and Eliza (Adepero Oduye)—both objects of the affection of their masters—intimate a complex interplay between sexual coersion and agency in a corrupt system that gives them zero options. “The Accused,”* the 1988 Jodie Foster film, dramatized victim-blaming in gang rape. “12 Years a Slave” crystalizes in images and in sound what it is to be owned and exploited.” http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/10/i_saw_12_years_a.html

Recently, a friend told me that true liberation can not come about until black women are allowed to give voice to the sexual violence they have experienced in their lives. I agree. Anti-rape activists need to acknowledge that this country was built/continues to be built off the abuse/ sexual assaults on black girls/women, in order to truly dismantle rape culture.

Photo from: http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/10/i_saw_12_years_a.html
Photo from: http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/10/i_saw_12_years_a.html

 

 

 

Tico Armand

I was tripping when I saw these photos of Tico Armand featured on AfroPunk:

TicoArmand3

TicoArmand2

TicoArmand

Wha-! Go girl!

 I envy women who rock the baldie look…someday :)

Armand is more than fabulous looking, she has an amazing story to tell:

“Her story is one of great joy and great pain, struggles, self-acceptance, identity, abuse, trauma. Haitian activist and model Tico Armand exposes her truth. From being a baby born into poverty in Haiti, to her move to Brooklyn as a young girl and the adversities she’s had to endure, her experiences filled her with the strength and the motivation to succeed. She is now an accomplished model who has graced the pages of various magazines, and runways across the globe.”http://www.afropunk.com/profiles/blogs/interview-activist-and-model-tico-armand-shares-her-powerful

Have a great weekend!

Steel Magnolias

Last year, when Lifetime Network announced they were remaking “Steel Magnolias” with an all black cast, I wasn’t impressed. “Steel Magnolias” is one of those classic films that shouldn’t be messed with. Also, why not make an original film about black womanhood? The remake has an amazing and accomplished cast. They were wasted on this film:  Phylicia Rashad (Tony Award Winner), Alfre Woodard (Academy Award Nominee), Queen Latifah (Grammy Winner/Academy Award Nominee), Jill Scott (Multiple Grammy Winner), Adepero Oduye (Independent Spirit Award Winner), and Condola Rashad ( Phylicia Rashad’s daughter. I just caught that…lol. She was nominated for a Tony Award in 2012). See…stellar cast.

I thought it was kind of half-azzed of them to just make the characters black when the film  is mostly known an empowering story of white female sisterhood.

Women are all the same right? *rolls eyes*

The new “Steel Magnolias”is currently streaming on Netflix. I wasn’t in a big rush to watch it when it first came, since I thought I wouldn’t be good. I watched the film the other day, and I was right. Well, it’s okay. The original cast members made the characters so much their own, that you just can’t separate the two (or at least, I couldn’t).  Also, the southern accents were all over the place. Scott was especially hamming it up. LOL. I am from the south, so I know a good southern accent when I hear it :) I will say I thought Woodard was perfectly cast as Ouiser and I actually preferred Rashad’s Shelby over Julia Roberts portrayal. Julia Roberts irks me for some reason :O/

The male characters were pretty forgettable (but I think they were also forgettable in the original film).

While they did add some cultural tweaks, I thought it was odd the film completely glossed over that the beauty salon has different connotations for black women. I thought they would have gone deeper with that. And I thought it was suspect that they kept the “there is no such thing as natural beauty! line in and it’s said to the black woman with natural hair. Also,  it was bizarre one of the characters points out at a party that she just hooked up another character’s wig. I don’t know no black woman who would want folks knowing her business like that. LOL.

The remake just had to include an interracial relationship subplot. I have nothing against interracial relationships, but it seemed so random. As if Lifetime worried white folks wouldn’t be interested in the film if it didn’t have at least one white person in it.  Ouiser is the one who gets the white love interest.  Another reason why I didn’t buy it.  She’s supposed to be an older black women from the Deep South. I would think it would be  more complicated than she’s just a fussy old woman who doesn’t appreciate love when it’s right in front of her face.

The film also left out some major scenes from the first film, I guess their attempts to make it original :O/

Despite my bashing, the film still gets ya.  I mean, anytime someone is dying and they seem like a very sweet person, you are going to be touched. It’s decent enough to check out. You just have to try hard not to compare it to the original (I failed).

Karyn Washington & Domineque Banks

On Friday, Black women bloggers were shocked to learn about the death of Karyn Washington. Washington was the founder of the website For Brown Girls and the #DarkSkinRedLip Project. We were doubly shocked to learn her death was due to an apparent suicide. She was only 22-years-old.

I have never met Karyn, but I received a post from her once.  I run another blog and posted about the  #DarkSkinRedLip Project Karyn responded, thanking me for the shout out. I never imagined that it would be my only opportunity to connect with her.

It hurts my heart to know that while Karyn was doing so much to empower other young black women, she was dealing with her own struggles/pain. In an article on Karyn, For Harriet wrote:

“We don’t know Karyn’s story. Perhaps she, like many other “strong” black women did an incredible job of masking her pain. Or, it’s equally as possible that she recognized that she needed help and sought treatment for mental illness. What we know is that something went terribly wrong and we owe it to Karyn, and others with similar struggles, to find out what happened and work to fix it.” http://www.forharriet.com/2014/04/all-is-not-well-with-our-girls-when.html#more

Amen

In her short life, Karyn did more than most folks.  I have much respect for her/her work.

Rest in Peace Karyn…

karyn_washington.jpg.CROP.rtstory-large

While trying to process Karyn’s passing, Black women bloggers were also alerted to the passing of Domineque Banks. Banks was a popular natural hair advocate on YouTube. She went by the name Longhairdontcare2011. Domineque had lupus:

“No one knows for sure what causes lupus. But some groups of people have higher rates of lupus. African-American women are three times more likely to get lupus than white women. African-American women tend to develop lupus at a younger age and have more severe symptoms than white women.” http://womenshealth.gov/minority-health/african-americans/lupus.html

When she Domineque passed, she was only 27-years-old. Last year, I was bummed when I turned 40. It seems silly now, when thinking about the deaths of these young women. Time is not guaranteed to any of us, we should never take it for granted.

While I am natural, I wasn’t aware of the work of Domineque. However, she was obviously loved by other natural hair advocates on YouTube. There have been some nice tributes.

Rest in Peace Domineque

Violence Against Black Girls/Update on Dr. Teleka Patrick

These past few weeks I have been numbed by stories of violence against little black girls. The horrifying murder of 2-year old Tierra Morgan-Glover by her own father. He left her to die in a creek while she was still locked in her car seat.

“Prosecutors had said he killed Tierra to get back at her mother for breaking off their engagement. They said he weighed down her pink car seat with a tire jack to ensure it would sink. Her body was pulled from a creek in Wall Township, about 20 miles from her Lakehurst home, with one tiny black and purple sneaker sticking out of the water.”   http://m.nydailynews.com/1.1745059

The murder smiles. Photo from:  http://m.nydailynews.com/1.1745059
The murder smiles. Photo from: http://m.nydailynews.com/1.1745059

 

 

The case of Relisha Rudd has also chilled me to the bones. The 8-year-old has been missing since early March. Her mother allowed 51-year-old  Kahlil Tatum to take custody of her. The mother meet Tatum at the homeless shelter she and her children were staying at. The case has gotten even more confusing, after Tatum was found dead in a park. Where is Relisha?  This case has been disturbing on so many levels.

Despite the very suspect behaviors of Rudd’s mother and other family members, For Harriet’s Stephanie Sneed points out how the system also failed Rudd:

“In more affluent communities schools are safety nets for students, a place to turn when their home lives are lacking. However, Relisha, like numerous other students in DC, attended a school whose student body demographic, location east of the Anacostia, and perpetually low test scores made them all but invisible to the DC Public School system. Inexperienced teachers are funneled in and have no more qualifications for teaching than they do for dealing with the socioeconomic factors that prevent many students from prioritizing education over survival. Teachers, who are mandated reporters, often don’t know what signs to look for aside from easily discernible bruises, but it is critical for teachers to be trained on how to identify abuse, including sexual abuse. When a student misses 30+ days, excused or not, this should be a red flag.” http://www.forharriet.com/2014/04/on-relisha-rudd-and-why-we-must-care.html

 photo relisha-rudd.jpg

***

I was sad after I read that the body of Dr. Teleka Patrick had been found. The cause of death has not yet been determined. Patrick was struggling with mental health issues, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t a victim of foul play. Hopefully more will be said about her case soon:

“The coroner in Porter County, Ind., confirmed Wednesday that it was Teleka Patrick’s body that was pulled Sunday from Lake Charles in northwestern Indiana. The site is about 15 miles east of Gary and near where a car belonging to the 30-year-old doctor was abandoned Dec. 5 along Interstate 94.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/10/teleka-patrick-found-dead_n_5124701.html?ir=Crime

Rest in Peace Dr. Patrick

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Dr. Joy DeGruy

Dr. Joy DeGruy is not for the faint of heart.

I try to be a radical activist. I try to push the boundaries in the things I say/do, because I think it is a perilous time for Black women/black folks/ and even non black folks.  I love Octavia ButlerDr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs has described Butler as a prophet. If you read Butler books, you will understand what Dr. Gumbs is talking about. A lot of what Butler writes about (the destruction of our society due to the continuing oppression of folks of color, women, the poor, etc.) is coming to fruition. The gap between the have and have-nots has grown worse (read her two-part book series Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents to see how bad things will get).

Things will continue to spiral out of control if these issues aren’t addressed. You can’t keep oppression/degrading a portion of folks and expect the country to thrive. It doesn’t work that way.

Dr. DeGruy is an activist I have much respect for. She wrote the book “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome” to give space to the pain that black people have endured in America:

“While African Americans managed to emerge from chattel slavery and the oppressive decades that followed with great strength and resiliency, they did not emerge unscathed. Slavery produced centuries of physical, psychological and spiritual injury.

Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing lays the groundwork for understanding how the past has influenced the present, and opens up the discussion of how we can use the strengths we have gained to heal.” http://joydegruy.com/joy-de-gruy-books-cds-and-dvds/

I have attended a Dr. DeGruy lecture before, and she keeps it 100. That’s why I say she’s not for the faint of hurt. If you truly believe that we live in a post-racial society, your world will be shattered after hearing one of her lectures. It’s why I love her work, she forces people out of their comfort zone. It’s something I try to do in my activism.

Check out one of Dr. DeGruy’s lectures:

Military Bans Black Hairstyles

Last week, the military angered a lot of black folks and allies with their updated regulations on braids, twists, locs, and other hairstyles normally worn by Black women:

Photo from: www.thesisterlockeddiva.com

Photo from: worldofbraiding.wordpress.com

 

It’s funny, because I just got my hair braided a week ago.  If I tried to sign up with the Army, I would have to cut them all off. I used to work with women veterans returning to school. To a certain extent, I get why the military has these rules.  The women veterans often talked about uniformity in the military.  Everyone must look the same. It’s a way to keep soldiers in line/disciplined. It’s not about individuality when one is in the military.

However, one of the women made a good point when she said perhaps it explains the hostility towards women in the military.  The military views them as interrupting the flow of uniformity because they are so “different.” Imagine how much more difficult it is for black women and other women of color. The hair regulation is a way to punish black women for being the “other.”

“Attention people who don’t have natural black hair, African American coils are not the same as other coils. As a result, creating rules that are easily followed by non-black people but not black people is unfair and yes, it is racially biased. It is akin to the idea that natural black hair is unprofessional, or schools that send little black girls home because their hair isn’t straight like their non-black school mates. For white women, the equivalent would be if the Army ordered every straight haired person to go directly to a salon, get a curly Jessie Spano perm and forced them to keep it fresh and bouncy for the rest of their lives. No. One. Wants. That.” http://jezebel.com/army-bans-braids-and-twists-because-they-dont-understa-1556250329/+HillaryCrosley

The ban also speaks to the continued oppression of black women’s bodies. Black women are often forced to confirm to white standards of beauty when looking for employment. I’ve always maintained if white women could easily sport our hair styles, they would be welcomed with open arms in the work place.

Remember when white folks went crazy over Bo Derek braids, when black women sport them like, every day :O/

There tends to be surveillance on black hair because the majority of white folks don’t understand it and are even afraid of it. Despite being around us hundreds of years, white folks don’t even know the basics of black hair. It’s why black women are often asked ridiculous questions about their hairstyles. I refuse to answer such questions. I usually piss folks off, but I view it as a form of othering. Because frankly, I don’t give a damn about white hair. And why should I,  when I am bombarded with white beauty standards everyday.

It will be interesting to see how the military handles this situation. There is currently a petition going around the internet to get the military to reconsider banning ethnic hairstyles.

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/reconsider-changes-ar-670-1-allow-professional-ethnic-hairstyles/BnR900wx