The Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls

In the wake of the death of Prince and Beyoncé releasing a new album, The Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls made the news with little fanfare. The Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls is important as its creating space for the unique challenges faced by black women and girls. The caucus kicked off with a symposium last week.

The symposium, titled “Barriers and Pathways to Success for Black Women and Girls,” will explore the current condition and opportunities to improve the state of African American women via testimony from academics, advocacy leaders, business executives, and media personalities. The convening will provide Members of Congress an opportunity to address organizations focused on Black women, other civic leaders and individuals who are committed to advancing the quality of life of Black women in America. Both events are open to the public.” https://watsoncoleman.house.gov/about/events/caucus-symposium-barriers-and-pathways-success-black-women-and-girls

The caucus plans to look at the issues of safety (domestic violence), opportunities for black women and girls (recognizing economic hardships), the criminal justice system (overpopulation of black women in prisons) health concerns (reproductive justice), and outreaching to black women voters (resisting voter suppression).  https://watsoncoleman.house.gov/congressional-caucus-black-women-and-girls

As our society pushes the idea of the “global citizen” the contributions of black women and girls will be greatly needed. Because America has been heavily invested in the oppression of black women and girls, it has hurt our society as a whole. We are missing out on the wonderful resources/skills/knowledge black women and girls can offer. The lived experiences of black women and girls can give us better insight into the effects of racism, sexism, and other isms as black women and girls are often on the margins of mainstream.

While folks toot the horn of America being number one, the truth is we are falling behind “third world” countries. High rates of illiteracy, poverty, and environmental injustices are destroying this country. Centering black women and girls voices may bring in different ideas and solutions to combating these problems.

Brown Girls Do Ballet

A week later, I’m still staring off into space trying to process Prince’s death. As a proud Gen-Xer, Prince’s music was an integral part of my childhood. The iconic singer’s album “Purple Rain” came out in 1984, right as I was preparing for middle school. Even as a kid, I recognized the magnetism of his music, if I didn’t understand it completely (or catch onto all the sexy double entendres that Prince was notorious for).

Since his passing, there have been numerous articles/tributes honoring the singer. One article that stood out to me looked at Prince’s relationship with women entertainers. Prince seemed to have a genuine respect and admiration for talented women. This is not to say he was perfect. He did tend to engage in colorism in the women he choose to promote and was said not to be the greatest guy to be in a professional (or intimate) relationship with, but overall he did go out of his way to highlight exceptional women.

One person he is credited with giving shine to is Misty Copeland, the first black woman ballerina to be a principal dancer in the American Ballet Theater in over 75 years.

How Prince Gave Ballet Star Misty Copeland Her Big Break http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/the-wrap/article/How-Prince-Gave-Ballet-Star-Misty-Copeland-Her-7294782.php

The popularity of Copeland has created an increased interest in black female ballerinas. Copeland’s journey has been particularly inspiring to little black girls who rarely see themselves reflected in the world of ballet. The organization Brown Girls Do Ballet goal is to provide space for black girl ballerinas and other girls of color.

“Brown Girls Do Ballet® is a start-up organization dedicated to promoting diversity in ballet programs through various media platforms, training resources, and an exclusive network in the world of ballet. The mission of Brown Girls Do Ballet® is to help increase participation of underrepresented minority populations in ballet programs through organizing and arranging ballet performances and providing resources and scholarships to assist young girls in their ballet development and training.” http://www.browngirlsdoballet.com/

If you scroll the website, the images of all the brown girls in their poses/outfits is beautiful and touching. Almost makes me wish I was a little girl again. Never mind the fact that I have two left feet:)

See Prince what you started…Rest in Peace.

ballerinas

Sexual Violence and Black Women/Girls #3

There are moments I’m on the verge of kicking Facebook to the curb. I feel it consumes too much of my time, sometimes. But then I come across an organization like A Long Walk Home, Inc., and it reminds me of the usefulness of social media. I probably would not be aware of the group otherwise.

Founded by sisters Scheherazade Tillet  and Salamishah Tillet (whom I recognized from Aishah Shahidah Simmons’s No! The Rape Documentary), “A Long Walk Home, Inc. is a non profit organization that uses art therapy, visual and performing arts to end violence against girls and women.”

The work of these women is amazing. Their approach to resisting sexual violence in the lives of black women/girls is important, as black women/girls often tend to turn artistic forms of expression to the tell their truths/life stories.

Support them if you can:)

 

Sexual Violence and Black Women/Girls #2

The WGN show “Underground” has thankfully not had too many cringe moments. The show follows seven runaway slaves (the Macon 7) hoping to get to freedom via Harriet Tubman’s famous underground railroad.

The show is interesting and seems committed to telling the harsh realities of black folks under slavery/white supremacy. I only have a couple of beefs with the show. The insistence on incorporating modern music into the story line. I don’t like being emotionally swayed by a heartwarming slave spiritual, only to have it rudely interrupted with a song about popping bottles. John Legend please stop looking to Django for musical inspiration.

My other issue with the show is the relationship between plantation owner Tom Macon (Reed Diamond) and house slave Ernestine (Amirah Vann).

I can’t remember which episode, either two or three, Ernestine is naked in the wine cellar calling to “master” Macon. He enters the room, strips down, and watches as Ernestine pours wine all over herself. They kiss passionately. In a later episode, Ernestine refuses to have “relations” with Macon in the house. He demands that she does, but apologizes like a kid after she gives him the evil eye.

I hate when shows/movies depict “relationships” between a slave owner and his slave lover as if they are equals. While it may seem Ernestine has some kind of power over Macon, in the end she is still his slave. When you are a slave, it is never consensual sex. You have no true say over your life, no matter how many “rewards”are heaped upon you.

10 Horrifying Facts about the Sexual Exploitation of Enslaved Black Women http://atlantablackstar.com/2014/11/05/10-horrifying-facts-about-the-sexual-exploitation-of-enslaved-black-women-you-may-not-know/

Ernestine touches on this one night as she drunkenly laments her situation. She actually envies the field slaves. “They are worked from sun up to sun down, but they are able to go home to loved ones/be with their own kind.” She says. “Here, I can never be. And after a while you start becoming like them (white folks).”

What is not talked enough in mainstream feminism’s fight against rape culture, is that the foundation of rape culture came out of slavery. Well, it started with the initial exploitation of Native/Indigenous women. But it was heightened with the legally sanctioned sexual abuse of black women.  Black women’s bodies were considered property to be done with as one wanted.

Slave women never had any say in the matter. It’s important to remember this.

Ernestine-Amirah-Vann-standing-at-the-sideboard-800x533
Photo from: nerdreactor.com

Sexual Violence and Black Women/Girls #1

Well, leave it to Erykah Badu to force my hand. She has a knack for keeping things off kilter.

I had planned to start my series on Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) which is in April…next week. But Badu’s recent comments regarding sexuality and young girls has left me shaking my head.

“Badu, who had a child with Andres 3000 in 1997, said that teenage girls should wear knee length skirts to protect them from the “natural” desires of men.“There was an article ruling that high school girls lower their skirts so male teachers are not distracted. I agreed because…” she began on Twitter.“I am aware that we live in a sex l-driven society. It is everyone’s, male and female’s, responsibility to protect young ladies…” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/erykah-badu-accused-of-victim-blaming-after-saying-girls-should-wear-knee-length-skirts-to-stop-a6980721.html

Badu’s views are alarming, particularly when thinking about how vulnerable young black girls are to sexual violence/abuse, especially from older men. Black girls are already marginalized/stereotyped in educational settings. Are we now going to shrug our collective shoulders when a male teacher is behaving inappropriately because they are of “childbearing age” and wearing short skirts?

“Sixty percent of black girls have experienced sexual abuse at the hands of black men before reaching the age of 18, according to an ongoing study conducted by Black Women’s Blueprint.” http://newsone.com/1680915/half-of-black-girls-sexually-assaulted/

Perhaps Badu should speak with some of her fellow black women celebrities. Vanessa Williams, Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliot, and Tisha Campbell have all shared about being victims of sexual abuse as young girls. Folks might argue that they were children, so it’s different. But there have been cases where girls as young as five years old have been blamed for their rapes. For appearing “sexually mature” for their age. That’s why Badu’s words are disturbing, because it then becomes a slippery slope of putting the onus of male self control on girls, no matter what their age is.

“Childhood sexual abuse has been correlated with higher levels of depression, guilt, shame, self-blame, eating disorders, somatic concerns, anxiety, dissociative patterns, repression, denial, sexual problems and relationship problems” (Hall & Hall, 2011 p.2).  http://www.apa.org/pi/about/newsletter/2014/11/child-sexual-abuse.aspx

Campbell recently made a video about the abuser who hurt her. Campbell, who is 47 years old, struggles to talk about the assault until this day. Sexual violence haunts black girls for the rest of their lives. We owe them more than telling them to wear longer skirts.

Chasing Destiny

One of my favorite girl groups is En Vogue. They were the quintessential 90’s girl group with their beautiful harmonies, sleek fashions, and attractive but attainable looks.

I was pleased to see Kelly Rowland give homage to the group in her new show “Chasing Destiny.”

Rowland, one of the key members of Destiny’s Child, hopes to find the next generation’s “it” girl group.

The first episode was interesting, if not tedious. You know the cliche tryouts, backstories, and repeat singers from other reality shows who are still trying to catch a break.

However, Rowland brings charm and cuteness to the show, so it’s worth tuning in. She also has a vision for the group which is appealing. I had to smile when she said “give me my chocolate” when looking over photos for potential group members. Rowland recently talked about the importance of “chocolate” black women in the music industry.

One of my pet peeves with shows like this, is that so much effort is put into finding people, but often the groups go nowhere.

Sometimes it’s because they really aren’t all that great to begin with, but a lot of the times folks are extremely talented but not properly promoted.

I hope Kelly’s group actually make it. Especially since she does seem to want to expand the images of black women in music. This is needed as black women singers have become pigeonholed if they aren’t dipped in the Rihanna or Beyonce prototype. It’s why phenomenal singers like Jazmine Sullivan, Fantasia,  and others have struggled so.

SheaMoisture: Break the Walls

10 years ago, I went natural.

I decided I was sick of having to get up early on Saturday mornings for hair appointments and sitting for hours for a style that lasted only a couple of weeks.

I also wanted to give my hair a break from chemicals.

Sometimes I wear braids or curly wigs when I want a fuller/longer look, but I keep my own hair happily kinky.

Like most black women, I went through a ton of products after going natural. Eventually, I started using SheaMoisture. The products are pricey, but have been great for my hair.

Recently, the company aired the commercial “SheaMoisture: Break the Wall.” I had to laugh when I saw it, because the commercial looks at what black women often talk about..our small “corner” of hair products in stores.

Some folks have found the ad patronizing. Poor black women have to go to the ethic aisle, as if there is something wrong with that. And/or think it’s just a way to attract mainstream (white women’s) dollars. White women won’t feel “scared” to go to the ethnic aisle if the products are in the regular “beauty” aisle.

What do you think?

Happy Spring Break!

I realized with alarm the other day, it’s been over a year since I’ve had a drink. I couldn’t drink while pregnant, and then I’ve been a busy new mom. But I’m determined to get my drink on. I’ve been saving this recipe for a while now. I will definitely be whipping it up during spring break. Of course, this is only for the grown and responsible folks:)

I will return in April…Enjoy.

Strawberry & Lime Moscato Punch

  • 1.5 liter of Moscato wine
  • 1 can frozen limeade concentrate, defrosted
  • 1 c strawberries, diced plus 1 c strawberries sliced
  • 1 lime sliced
  • 2 Liter 7 Up
 Instructions
  1. place 1 cup of diced strawberries and 1/4 cup of limeade in a blender and puree
  2. run through a strainer to remove most of the seeds
  3. pour into a pitcher
  4. add remaining limeade and moscato into the pitcher
  5. garnish with strawberry and lime slices
  6. chill in fridge
  7. when ready to serve top each glass with 7 Up

Recipe from: http://realhousemoms.com/strawberry-lime-moscato-punch/