A Litany For Survival: the Life and Work of Audre Lorde

March is Women’s History Month.

“Women’s History Month is an annual declared month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. It is celebrated during March in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, corresponding with International Women’s Day on March 8, and during October in Canada, corresponding with the celebration of Persons Day on October 18.”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women’s_History_Month

While we tend to be a bit more open talking about racism in this country, we fail to discuss the hatred of women that permeates in our society. It’s not hard to pick up on the loathing via mainstream media.

As a Black woman, I often have to navigate high levels of anti-blackness/femaleness in my daily encounters with white folks/men.

Black feminist scholar Moya Bailey coined the term “Misogynoir” to speak to the unique form of hostility that is geared towards Black women simply for being Black and women (Yes, Madonna and Patricia Arquette you can be both).

While I haven’t been able to do too much for Women’s History Month, I was able to attend a film showing of “A Litany For Survival: the Life and Work of Audre Lorde.”

Audre Lorde tends to be revered in feminists communities. After watching the documentary it became clear why the self-proclaimed “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” is loved. Lorde was a great creative spirit/orator/intellectual.

It was hard to watch the latter years of her life, as she battled cancer. There was one scene (I can’t remember if she was with her daughter or a friend) but even as she could barely speak/was weak from cancer, she was brainstorming how to put an activist conference together. Her daughter/friend told her “No, I wanted us to talk about you doing something fun.” Lorde titled her head slightly and let out a soft sigh.  She had a small smile on her face. She was a thinker/organizer until the end.

I highly recommend the film. The documentary made me realize that Black women intellectuals don’t get enough shine in or out the Black community. Pop stars, actresses, fashinonistas do…but not our Black women intellectuals. Black women pretty much still have to be oversexualized or playing Mammy to get some love.

If you do nothing else this Women’s History Month, at least check out this documentary :)

Brownstone

I was shocked to hear about the death of  Maxee Maxwell. The singer was one of the founding members of 90’s girl group–Brownstone.

It always throws me for a loop when I hear about musical artists from my generation passing away. From Heavy D to Guru to now Maxee it always seems like a little bit of my own soul is dying.

Also,  these tragedies force me think more about the reality of death knocking on my door.  Time goes by so fast.

Rest in peace Maxwell.

Brownstone was an underrated group and often overlooked in favor for En Vogue, SWV, and ‘em.

Overall, 90’s Black women singers/artists will forever ish on contemporary singers (yeah, I said it).

Of course, Brownstone’s classic song. Happy weekend :)

Happy Black History Month (BHM)!

I know, I know…where the hell have I been? My bad.  I got extremely sick near the end of January, had to move last-minute at the beginning of February, and then my laptop crashed soon after. Or so I thought. I was fiddling around with it last night and all of a sudden it wheezed on. It’s the only reason why I’m able to churn out this post today :)

I just wanted to peek in and wish folks happy Black History Month (BHM). I normally like to dedicate the blog to all things BHM, but just couldn’t get it together this time around. I hope folks have been able to partake in events in your area. There’s been some great happenings in my neck of the woods (an amazing feat since I live in a predominantly white city).

While BHM is all about celebrating the fabulous contributions of Black folks to this country that has treated us like crap, there is one VERY important issue that I feel often gets left out of BHM conversations…soul food :)

“The term soul food became popular in the 1960s. The origins of soul food, however, are much older and can be traced back to Africa. Foods such as rice, sorghum (known by some Europeans as “guinea corn”), and okra — all common elements of West African cuisine — were introduced to the Americas as a result of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. They became dietary staples among enslaved Africans. They also comprise an important part of the cuisine of the American south, in general. Foods such as corn and cassava from the Americas, turnips from Morocco, and cabbage from Portugal would play an important part in the history of African-American cooking.[1]”   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soul_food

A couple of months ago, I met a friend at Starbucks for drinks and homegirl talk. She decided to also get a salad. After we sat down, she opened the package and picked through the dish, then pushed it away with a frown on her face.  “What is it with white folks new obsession with kale?” She asked. “It’s so annoying and they don’t even cook it right!” I looked at her food. It was a raw kale with a few tomatoes tossed on top.

I laughed because I knew exactly what she was talking about.  It’s been interesting to see white folks (particularly white hipsters) carry on about kale, mustard greens/collard greens, watermelon, chicken and waffles, etc. foods they have historically looked down upon because it’s been associated with Black folks (ie soul food).  Now many are acting like they discovered these cuisines (kind of like how Columbus thought he discovered America) and are going extremely overboard with it.

Of course, no props are given to Black folks for cultivating these dishes and making them an American favorite comfort food. If anything Black folks choice to eat soul food has often been bashed as unhealthy.  Initially, I was reluctant to watch Byron Hurt’s “Soul Food Junkies” documentary that came out a few years ago. I thought “please no more dissecting of black folks eating habits.” While I did roll my eyes at some parts of the film, overall I thought Hurt was fair. I recommend it for folks interested in learning about what soul food means to Black folks. It’s not just about the eating, but a way to say you love/care about kin/but not kin folks too :)

**This will probably be my last post for this month. I will get back into the swing of things in March. I still have some life happenings going on…but let me leave you with this chicken and waffles recipe to get you through. You know I love a good recipe ;)

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  • 1 Tbsp. dried tarragon
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • 1 Tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 (3½-pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh minced parsley
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Active time: 30 minutes Total time: 30 minutes, plus marinating overnight

Read more: http://www.oprah.com/food/Soul-Food-Recipes-Brown-Sugar-Kitchen-Recipes

Whitney Houston

It took me a while before I became a Whitney Houston fan.

Unfortunately for Houston, when she made her debut, Janet Jackson was also burning up the charts.  As a middle schooler, Jackson appealed more to me with her one dangling earring, intricate dance moves, and defiant lyrics of “Control.” What young person didn’t yearn to sing that to their parents face :)

Whitney seemed too sophisticated to me with her ballroom gowns, huge ballads, and classic beauty. Although really, she and Janet were just a few years apart in age.

Then hip hop and r&b music merged bringing in a new wave of black female singers like Mary J Blige, Faith Evans, Toni Braxton, etc.,  pushing Whitney’s style even further into the background.

As I got older, I started appreciating Whitney more. Ironically, it was right when things seemed to be falling apart for the singer. The controversial headlines about possible drug addiction and a rocky marriage to Bobby Brown.

The Lifetime movie “Whitney” (directed by Angela Bassett) airs this weekend. The film attempts to address what was the “downfall” of Houston. Was it her conservative mother? Pressures from her record label? Bobby Brown? Possible struggles with her sexuality? I guess we will never know. In any case, it was hard to see such a beautiful woman self-destruct before my eyes.

Despite her troubles, Houston will forever be remembered to me for her voice/”The Voice.”There has been an attempt to marginalize her accomplishments due to her drug usage. Yet (white) folks will cut you if you say anything bad about Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, or River Phoenix.  All died from drug related problems.

A lot of celebrities have dealt with the drug demon, but we can still recognize their talents.  There should be no exception for Whitney Houston.

Rest in peace.

Black or White Official Trailer

There is a new show on Vh1 called “Hindsight” in which a woman is transported back to the mid-90’s . The upcoming film “Black or White” makes me feel like I’ve having my own back to the past experience.

“Elliot Anderson is widowed after the car crash death of his wife. Elliot has raised his granddaughter Eloise since his daughter died in childbirth. As he struggles with his grief, Elliot’s world is turned upside-down when the child’s African-American grandmother Rowena demands that Eloise be brought under the care of her father Reggie, a drug addict who Elliot blames for the negligence that led to the death of his own daughter. Elliot finds himself deeply entrenched in a custody battle and will stop at nothing to keep his granddaughter from coming under the watch of his reckless son-in-law.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_or_White_%28film%29

Didn’t we go through this with the 1995 film “Losing Isaiah?” The film starred Halle Berry as a drug addict who abandoned her baby and said baby is saved and later adopted by a white social worker (Jessica Lange).  A custody battle ensues. There are some tweaks. In “Black or White” instead of a loving white woman we get a loving white man (Kevin Costner), a black “crackhead” father (Andre Holland), and a quirky black grandmother (Octavia Spencer).

“Black or White” is directed and written by white guy–Mike Binder. It seems Hollywood loves these “white savior” type films as “Losing Isaiah” was directed by a white man/written by a white woman.

The film looks cliché. The rich white people vs the working class black people, white person not knowing how to do black hair because “it’s so hard,” the rhetoric that love is colorblind, etc. Le sigh.

It’s 2015. Is it too much to ask for black stories that aren’t centered on the love and acceptance of white characters?

Empire

Poor Taraji P Henson.

Since being nominated for an Academy Award in 2008, Henson’s career has seemed to be a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Nothing significant has taken off for her. But this can be said for the majority of Oscar-nominated/winning Black women actresses. Unlike their white female counterparts, they tend to struggle. There’s been hope for Viola Davis (nominated for Academy Awards for her performances in “Doubt” and “The Help) and Lupita Nyong’o (Academy Award winner for her role as Patsey in “12 Years a Slave”). Davis is currently starring on the hit show “How To Get Away With Murder” and Nyong’o is slated to star in an adaption of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s “Americanah,” “Star Wars: Episode 7,” and “The Jungle Book.”

Henson’s acting is definitely on caliber with these women, so it’s surprising she hasn’t had her own big breakout opportunity. She may have found it in “Empire.” “A unique family drama set in the world of a hip hop empire.”http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3228904/

I watched “Empire” on Hulu this past weekend. I thought it was okay. Also, I’m a bit turned off with Terrance Howard these days. I used to think he was a great actor, but he comes across as one-note these days. And it doesn’t help that he seems to have misogynistic feelings about women/allegations of abuse. But Henson did bring the heat with her “Cookie” character. She really is the star of the show.

There’s been criticism that “Empire” feeds into stereotypes about black folks. Well, of course it does, it’s on the FOX Network. But I also think “Empire” is just trying to capitalize on the current adult drama craze that mixes thriller/sex/murder/power/vengeance that can be found in shows like “How to Get Away with Murder,” “Scandal,” “Revenge,” “Deception,”  etc.

Besides side-eyeing Howard, I’ve also been side-eyeing some of the comments made by one of the creators of the show…Lee Daniels.  One of his goals  with the  show is to address homophobia in the hip hop community. Okay, cool. But his rhetoric has basically been  that the black community is more homophobic than other communities, which is not true. If that were the case, white LGBTQI folks would have wonderful coming out stories, which they don’t. The issue of homophobia is a problem in all communities.

It will be interesting to see where the “Empire” storyline goes. If it will even survive a season. It’s all over the map, right now. Henson deserves so much more, so hopefully it works out for her.

Azealia Banks

The end of 2014 brought about some lovely surprises.  D’Angelo dropped a soulful/message tinged album that gave us hope for r&b music, the Ferguson protestors  defiantly declared “it won’t be business as usual” and continued their marches/die-ins throughout the holidays, and Azealia Banks called out the erasing of black women artists in a no-holds-barred interview.

Whew!

I remember the buzz on Banks years ago. Now that I’m older, my ears can’t take too much rap music, but I did share about her upcoming music with my younger women of color friends. Then Banks disappeared from the scene. We would later learn she was having problems with her management/record label and wanted desperately to be an independent artist. She stated, “I’m tired of having to consult a group of old white guys about my black girl craft.”

In the controversial  interview this past December, Banks continued her criticism of Australian rapper Iggy Azalea and the overall “smudging” of black creativity in the current music scene. Many folks dismissed Banks as being bitter and jealous of Iggy’s success. Banks (who is very astute and intelligent) articulated the fact that she knew people saw her as “an angry black woman.” One of the stereotypes that tends to be heaped on black women who don’t smile, shut up, and accept how they are being (mis)treated.

Also many (white folks) tried to claim that Banks/black folks who rejected Iggy were being “reverse racists.” Actually, the black community tends to be very welcoming of white artists.  From George Michael, Michael McDonald, and of course the late “soul sista” Teena Marie.

A few years ago, I saw Marie in concert. President Obama had just been elected for his first stint in office. Marie gave him a shout out and started grooving to her song “Hit Me Where I Live” giving another shout out to “chocolate city.” She was off the hook. My favorite cut from Marie will always be “Square Biz.”

The reason why a white woman like Marie was embraced (or at the very least tolerated by black folks) was because she stayed in her damn lane. Marie (George Michael and the rest) never tried to put themselves above the black musicians in the r&b/soul music genre. They always gave props, honor, and respect to the black artists who came before them. Iggy doesn’t do this and this is why she gets dragged. It’s probably because she is young, but it’s also due to her white arrogance, white privilege, and white supremacist thought.

I recently listened to Banks new album “Broke with Expensive Taste” and it’s solid from start to finish. I can understand her frustration. She’s very talented and wants her voice to be acknowledged. It’s hard due to the current music industry which is determined to make white women the new black women, all the while forcing black women artists to play into rigid white standards of beauty and sing/rap about nothing. Banks wants to be free to be herself and you can’t be mad at her about that.

This is one of my jams from the album.  Banks has an interesting story behind the song “Idle Delilah.”

“Idle Delilah’s father is a famed slave owner in the early 1900’s (America). Delilah is his favorite child. Delilah’s mother Lillith knew of the hatred her father had created for himself in the town by a pro-slavery activist. One day, the white man’s slaves grow tired of his bad treatment and decide to kill his favorite daughter Delilah as payback.