Dope

I remember the buzz surrounding “Dope” last year. I mentally put it on my list of films to watch, but kind of forgot about it. The film popped up on my Google Play recommendations so I decided to give it a shot. “Dope” is an amusing tale about high school senior Malcolm. Malcolm hangs out with fellow “geeks,” Jib and Diggy. He wants to attend Harvard, but finds it’s not easy coming from a disadvantaged environment/home life.

While there were plenty of chuckles and moving moments in “Dope,” I’m still processing the film. It seems like another story of a young black kid wanting to get out of “the hood.”  Yet, actually subverting/mocking that stereotypical story line. The film doesn’t necessarily fit into a box, similar to the character of Malcolm. Or rather it’s “complicated.” The movie in some ways reminded me of the 1994 drama “Fresh.” 

The one thing I can say is that the black women characters were underdeveloped/blah.

  1. the single brown mother (the underused Kimberly Elise)
  2. the light skin crush (the bland  Zoe Kravitz)
  3. the film did try to be unique by including a gay female character, but she was mostly there for the guys to talk about ***** and show her breasts to get into a club (the curious Kiersey Clemons)
  4. and finally the drug snorting/sex kitten (the okay Chanel Iman)

Overall, an interesting indie film that will definitely make you think while giving you a fun ride.

 

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Eclipsed

oooh la la…

My girl crushes Michonne and Patsey are on the cover of Uptown Magazine. Or maybe I should use their real names. Danai Gurira (“The Walking Dead”) and Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”) have made history. It’s the first time a Broadway play has had an all female cast/writer/director. Go head ladies!! What a great way to end the week. Black women doing big things.

Happy Friday 🙂

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Photo from: http://www.uptownmagazine.com

Black Women and the PIC

While I was banished to the land of sickness,  I was still able to see Kendrick Lamar’s interesting Grammy Performance. The 28-year-old rapper made a heartfelt statement about black men and the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC).

It was a bold stand at an event that has become too pop/boring/white washed.  I know I personally haven’t paid attention to the Grammy Awards show in years.

I read an article critiquing the lack of space given to black women prisoners in his performance. I’m willing to give Lamar a slight pass for this. As a young man, he’s probably had more experience with his male friends/relatives/young folks he mentors having contact with police/the prison system.

With that said, despite black women being incarcerated at an alarming rate as much/if not more so than black men, the focus still tends to be on black men in prison.

Years ago, I took a class on women and the PIC. Our class read “Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women,” by Victoria Law. Law, an anarchist writer and prison abolitionist, detailed her experiences working with women prisoners. A zinester/DIY artist, she helped the women create a zine showcasing their words/art on prison life. The majority of women she came into contact with had children.This brings me to why it’s urgent we also focus on black women in prison.

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The truth is, women tend to be the primary caretakers of their families. It doesn’t matter if there is a male partner in the home or not. This is particularly true in black communities, were we rely heavily on our extended female relatives.

A disturbing trend I noticed in our class readings, is that whole black communities are being wiped out due to the PIC. It’s leaving significant amounts of black children without parents or guardians. Because not only are the mothers being overly incarcerated for minor/non violent offenses, but so are grandmothers/aunties/cousins etc. I remember reading about a grandmother and her daughter and the daughter’s daughter all locked up   in the same prison (drug addictions). The young daughter’s children were in foster care. There was no one to take care of them.

These mothers are losing custody of their children left and right. Obviously, they are in prison. They can’t just walk down to the local courthouse to attend court dates etc .

The PIC is destroying black motherhood/families. This issue really needs to be addressed in folks anti-PIC activism. Good job to Lamar for highlighting the problem of black men in prison, but we need to expand the conversation.

Dark Black Beauty

Last week, my baby and I came down with serious colds. Then I found myself mixing various concoctions trying to deal with a mysterious bump that popped out on my neck.  Life is rough, y’all. But I’m back and in full effect. The little one is better too 🙂

One of the things I had planned to write about, was the video floating around of the Brazilian beauty queen who was stripped of her title for being “too dark.” I was reminded of her plight after reading about a dark skinned model whose luscious lips were subjected to racist attacks on MAC Cosmetic’s Instagram page.

Despite the increase of folks of color in America, the beauty standard hasn’t evolved all that much. Let your eyes gaze magazine covers while standing in the check-out line. It’s still mostly white women who are featured. Occasionally, a woman of color will be tossed on the front page for the “diversity” issue. And that’s only if they fit the white standard somehow (light, skinny,  narrow nose, etc.).

As a darker black woman in her 40’s, I have had to fight “all my life” to love my skin tone/fuller lips. I find it fascinating that folks think it’s perfectly okay to treat darker people with such disdain. Anti-darkness is a sickness that needs to be treated in this country. We need to call out folks who engage in this behavior. All day, everyday. We don’t want a color caste system like Brazil. Brazil is a great example of what happens when white supremacy/internalized racism regarding beauty/social status is allowed to run amok.

It’s important we provide younger black folks with positives images of darker skin/”ethnic” looks. And be willing to challenge ourselves if/when black beauty standards also become stagnant.

Photo from:  jezebel.com

Black Future Month #3

A few days ago, actress Aunjanue Ellis was spotted at an awards show wearing a dress with the words:”TAKE IT DOWN MISSISSIPPI.”

The actress was protesting Mississippi’s state flag which includes an image of the confederate flag. I was introduced to the beautiful Ellis after watching the film “Book of Negroes.” A relative was always trying to get me to watch the movie, but I would decline. I think it’s important slavery movies are made. But I tend to be weary of most slave films as they tend to consist of the same narrative of the downtrodden/beaten slave. I thought for sure it was going to be another one of those depressing tales.

However, I was pleasantly surprised. The “Book of Negroes” tackled the issue of slavery from a unique perspective. The fictional movie is based on a novel based on a true account of black slaves called “Black Loyalists.”

“The Book of Negroes is a historical document which records names and descriptions of 3,000 Black Loyalists, the African-American slaves who escaped to the British lines during the American Revolution and were evacuated by the British by ship to points in Nova Scotia as freed men. ” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Negroes

Ellis plays Aminata Diallo, a young African girl stolen from her family. She is sold into slavery and experiences the horrors that fell upon many slave women (abuse, rape, and children sold away). The story takes a turn as Aminata, who was taught to “catch” babies or help birth babies by her mother, has adventure after adventure due to her talent. She is also admired for her intelligence and literacy abilities.

I enjoyed “Book of Negroes” because it brought a freshness to the slave story and features a courageous black heroine. What I also liked about the film, it showed what happened when some slaves were able to make it back to Africa. It was rather heartbreaking, as they were not returning as the same people and struggled to adjust. It was foreshadowing of the conflicts that often happens between African-Americans and Africans today.

While black folks look to our future, we definitely should never forget our past. There are so many people who had to suffer for us to live today.

 

Black Future Month #2

When I first learned I was going to become a mother, I wondered how it would impact my work as an activist. The reality is, mothers tend to sacrifice the most of ourselves/time even if we have supportive allies in our lives. Then I came across the article “Claudia De la Cruz: Motherhood As a Part of Her Revolutionary Process.” Cruz, who identifies as Black Dominican or Afro-Caribbean, wrote about how motherhood influenced her role as a community activist. Motherhood doesn’t have to hamper one’s political goals. If anything, it can be used as a valuable tool.

It’s easy to forget the power of mothering. We live in a society that gives lip service to honoring mothers,  but only on the surface. Particularly, when it comes to mothers of color.  The Revolutionary Mothering Book Tour seeks to give space to marginalized mothers. The co-editors (Mai’a Williams, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, and China Martens) have created a gofund account to support their work.

“Our goal is to raise $10,000 to create a series of events, through a national tour,  that will truly embody the legacy of radical Black feminists and move their visions forward, because marginalized mothers are at the center of a world in need of transformation. We are now so excited to bring this vital work to your communities with readings, and a national tour, where we will do not only revolutionary readings, but also motherful community events, presentations, conference panels, and interactive workshops” https://www.gofundme.com/8qqthgbc

How we raise our children. What we teach them. And the wisdom/legacies we leave for our children is an integral part of the future of communities of color. The Revolutionary Mother Book Tour aims to remind us of that.

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Revolutionary reading with my little one (“A is for activist” and “Counting on Community” By Innosanto Nagara).

 

Black Future Month #1

The beautiful thing about black folks is despite the hostile attacks we face in this country, we still have hope. Perhaps that’s why there tends to be such a particular disdain for black folks. We thrive when we are meant to die.

As the U.S. increasingly becomes dominated by folks of color, black folks are envisioning the future.  It’s why Afrofuturism has grown in popularity in recent years. What will black identity/thought/activism look like in 2030? How will racism/sexism/other isms impact or not impact our lives?

February is Black History Month. While there is still the tradition of giving honor to black heroes who paved the way, there has also been a call to to think about the future of black history. We are at a crossroads in this country.  The current atmosphere is taking us back to a time of intolerance and outright violence to curb dissent. Black folks have been there done that and don’t want to go back.  We are ready to move forward. We are ready to create communities that are built on love, respect, and equality.

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Image by EI Jane