The Criminalization of Black Women

The shooting of Justine Diamond by a Black officer, has riled up white folks. Diamond’s death has caused white folks to bemoan the overuse of force on the most “innocent of victims.”  Besides the curiosity of this outrage, has been the amusing scolding of the Black community to come together as “humans” and fight against police brutality.  Huh? These are the same people who cursed Black Lives Matter activism. They tend to see Black victims as having “done something wrong” to warrant their killing. Even when the victim is a child. The lack of support from many Black folks has confused white folks, but what did they expect? You can’t treat a group of folks sh*t, then turn around and expect them to be a shoulder to cry on.

While it’s a terrible thing that happened to Diamond, in the end she will get justice. Already the police chief has resigned, and the black officer that shot her is getting vilified (no Blue Lives Matter love for him!) The same can not be said for Black victims. I’m not going to get too emotionally involved in this particular case.

What did pique my interest, this past week, were two articles I came across on the ‘net. Both deal with the criminalization of Black women, particularly poor Black women. In “A Warrant to Search Your Vagina” Andrea J. Ritchie discussed the abuse of Black women by police officers. Ritchie  has written extensively about the sanctioned violence by the criminal justice system against Black women. Ritchie detailed how Black women are often beaten, raped, and killed by police. It is the combination of race and gender, that makes Black women particularly vulnerable to police harassment.

Currently, there has been a call of compassion and health crisis by politicians for opioid/meth users (usually 90% white), this olive branch has not been extended to Black women. Black women are still being brutally attacked and exploited in “the war on drugs.” Black women bodies are routinely degraded.  It is reminiscent of the days of slavery, when Black women were made to strip naked and sexually assaulted.

“In 2015 Charneshia Corley was pulled out of her car at a gas station after a police officer claimed he smelled marijuana during a traffic stop. Two female officers then forced her legs apart and probed her vagina in full view of passers-by.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/21/opinion/sunday/black-women-police-brutality.html

Ritchie noted that police CAN issue a warrant to search one’s vagina. It may seem absurd, but it is true. This is alarming and sets the stage for abuse of power, as illustrated in the cases discussed in the article. Generally, the women did NOT have drugs on them, but will forever be humiliated by this invasive body search.

Continue reading “The Criminalization of Black Women”

New Year’s Giving #2

Sorry about that y’all. I’ve been a bit neglectful keeping the blog updated. Thank goodness the holidays are over. That was such a stressful time. HAPPY NEW YEAR!! (I hope you got your spoonful of black-eyed peas 🙂 Unfortunately, we are starting 2017 with the inauguration of a President who has made it clear he is anti-people of color/women (don’t be fooled by the celebrities of color who are kissing azz for their own benefit). I encompass both, so Trump will be no ally to me.

It’s more important than ever to support marginalize voices/communities, as these groups will not be able to look to the new administration to align with those who aren’t  white, male, and wealthy.

As someone who is a big lover of DIY (Do It Yourself) culture…I urge folks to financially/promote alternative forms of media/activism, as we will need these resources to keep ourselves safe and heard these next four years.

Here are a FEW to connect with:

Black Girl Dangerous: “Amplifying The Voices of Queer & Trans People of Color.”

Black Women’s Blue Print: “Black Women’s Blueprint envisions a world where women and girls of African descent are fully empowered and where gender, race and other disparities are erased.”

Feminist Wire: “The mission of The Feminist Wire is to provide socio-political and cultural critique of anti-feminist, racist, and imperialist politics pervasive in all forms and spaces of private and public lives of individuals globally.”

Brown Recluse Zine Distro:“Zine culture is not white culture. D.I.Y. culture is not white culture. Punk is not inherently white culture. So in the spirit of resistance, in the spirit of visibility and in the spirit of celebrating our cultures and intersectionality: Brown Recluse Zine Distro.”

15826505_1713041772270584_5698820217072211617_n

 

 

Surviving Compton

I’m a huge Mary J Blige (MJB) fan. I will never forget when her video debuted on Video Soul (old heads will know what I’m talking about). She had me at “you remind me…” So it pains me to have to besmirch her name. Just a little. While Blige has been credited with being the iconic voice of the merging of hip hop/soul music, spanning a 20+ career of record sells and awards, technically the honor should go to Michel’le.  Michel’le’s self-titled album was released three year’s before Blige’s in 1992. She really is the first r&b singer whose sound was heavily infused with hip hop music. This can probably be attributed to her boyfriend at the time, rapper/producer Dr. Dre.

Over the years, Michel’le has talked about her tumultuous relationship with Dr. Dre, stating he was very abusive towards her. When the film “Straight Out of Compton” came out last year, the allegations resurfaced. Most folks told Michel’le (and Dee Barnes) to shut up about their violent encounter(s) with Dr. Dre. Many felt that they should “let the past be the past” and that Dre had right to have his life story told.

Thank goodness neither Michel’le or Barnes listened to that nonsense. Barnes had an opportunity to tell her story via an online interview and now Michel’le will tell her side of things in the upcoming Lifetime movie, Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Me.” The movie will premiere this upcoming Saturday, October 15th.

Fitting it comes out during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Finally, one of the first female contributors to hip hop/soul music, is getting her due.

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.

Lady Gaga

This past week folks have been talking about Lady Gaga’s moving performance at the Oscars. Gaga’s nominated song “Till It Happens to You” is about rape and she shared the stage with survivors of sexual assault. I thought it was great that such an important issue was being spotlighted at the Oscars. But then I came across a poster who pointed out that Gaga worked with R.Kelly and did that undermine her current anti-rape culture stance?

Ah, yes. I had forgotten about that. The two singers collaborated on the r&b tune “Do What U Want” back in 2013. I guess it can be argued Gaga didn’t know about the statutory rape allegations against R.Kelly, but that is highly unlikely. The allegations/”jokes” have been swirling for years. Also, I’m sure celebrities have access to what goes on in the industry more than the public will ever know. So, it is curious that Gaga had no qualms working with R.Kelly. Does she not care about the victimization of black girls?

I did notice it was mostly white survivors on stage in clips I saw from the show. Maybe it was just a coincidence. Or perhaps Gaga, working from a white woman’s perspective when it comes to sexual assault, doesn’t know how to outreach to women of color on this issue.  Gaga, like many white female celebrities, have been speaking out/supporting singer Kesha. Kesha accused a popular music producer of sexual abuse, but has been forced by the courts to continue working with him. I wonder if these same celebrities would be so quick to speak up if it were a black female singer in the same situation.

rs_1024x759-131118145856-1024.rkelly-ladygaga.cm.111813
Lady Gaga and R.Kelly

 

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.

images

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.

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.

 

‘Underground’ TV Series

Really, slavery set to the background of rap music? It seems someone has watched Django too many times. The  new ‘Underground’ TV series features Jurnee Smollett-Bell the cute little girl from “Eve’s Bayou” (well, I guess she’s a grown woman now).

The show will debut in early 2016.

“Get ready for an escape drama like no other. Underground is set in the pre-Civil War South and follows a group of plantation slaves as they search for freedom, by any means necessary, with plantation owners closely following behind, and paying mercenaries for their return. The WGN America drama highlights the Underground Railroad, which consisted of a secret network of men and women who put their lives on the line to help slaves escape the South.”

I tend to have mixed emotions about slavery movies. I think it’s important to tell the stories from this time. Our country is too quick to act like slavery was just an “unfortunate act” and not the exploitation/abuse/rape of human beings for hundreds of years (and then subsequent years of anti-blackness/oppression via Reconstruction/Jim Crow/lynchings, etc.) or as Texas textbooks tried to rewrite history that slaves weren’t slaves just “workers.”

However, the chosen narrative tends to be that of the downtrodden slave. I don’t only want to see whippings/abuse of slaves, it often tends to border on torture porn. How about a film on slave revolts/rebellions? Nat Turner has still not got his due. Or women slaves who resisted rape/selling of their children by engaging in infanticide as depicted in Toni Morrison’s book “Beloved.”

Hopefully, ‘Underground’ goes in this direction. And please bring some dignity to the character of Harriet Tubman.