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 #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.

Street Harassment 2016

It’s happened again. A young woman minding her own business was murdered because she refused to “talk” to a guy.  Janese Talton-Jackson is the latest victim of street harassment.  The senseless killing of Jackson is reminiscent of Mary Spears, a mother I wrote about who was shot for not giving a guy her phone number. When I hear these kind of stories it’s alarming how some men feel they are entitled to women’s everything.  Why can’t they just go away when women express disinterest in them? It doesn’t matter if you try to be nice about it. If you don’t act how they think you should act you quickly become a bitch, ugly, etc. 

Reading about the death of Jackson made me think about an incident that happened when I was 18 years old.  I was fresh from the beauty salon sporting jumbo box braids I had seen Janet Jackson wear in “Poetic Justice.” I was waiting at the bus stop happy about my new ‘do.  Two adult black males walked past me. One of them catcalled me.  I tried to be polite gave (the head nod) and went back to staring off into space like a typical teenager. For some reason, my response pissed the guy off.  Suddenly, this grown ass man became belligerent with me. I was shocked and scared. Luckily, the other man with him grabbed him and pulled him away. “Hey man,” I heard him say,  “She’s just a kid.” The man went on a rant about “bitches” being rude.  The friend continued to push the guy away as I looked on in confusion. The bus pulled up and I hopped on relieved.

Why Black Men Must Take Responsibility for Ending Street Harassment

When I think back on that day I get goosebumps. What would have been the outcome if the friend HADN’T been there? Would I be another victim of gender violence? Would my name even made the evening news. This was back in the early 90’s before folks really talked about street harassment, especially how it affected black women/girls. We are only more aware of this issue because of social media. BLACK WOMEN/GIRLS have made it their mission to say enough is enough. We can’t continue the kinship of “brotha/”sistah”if one half of the duo isn’t truly being a “brotha” to us.

OF COURSE, black men aren’t the only ones guilty of street harassment. But intra-racial violence is more common than not. That’s why it’s ridiculous when people talk about “black on black” crime.

And for the men saying they are the “good ones” it’s more than respecting the women in your life. You have to stand up like the guy did that day when I was all alone and stop your friend if you seeing him getting out of hand. Don’t laugh or encourage it. You may prevent an unnecessary loss of life.

Rest in Peace

 

 

 

Barbershop 3/Giving Thanks

Okay, the first barbershop was decent enough. The second one I don’t even remember. Now a third one with no Michael Ealy? Blah. I guess the movies try to be positive, although Ice Cube got on my nerves this past summer with his “Straight out of Compton” anti-woman antics. The film comes out spring of next year.

This is the time of year folks post on Facebook “thanks-giving” lists sharing all the things they are grateful for in their lives. I usually find these lists annoying, but after this bizarre year of the rise of Donald Trump, the continued violence against black folks/folks of color, push back against reproductive rights, etc.,  I find myself also reflecting on the more positive aspects in my life/the world. You have to to stay sane in these increasingly cold-hearted times…

  • Thanks for my new little one. He brings me love, happiness, and no sleep all at the same time  🙂
  • Thanks for my recent birthday celebration. I usually bemoan another candle on the cake, but hell I could be dead.
  • Thanks to friends who supported me when I needed help with housing/relocation this year.
  • Thanks to the the three women who started #blacklivesmatter igniting a new wave of social justice/civil rights/student activism across the country.
  • Thanks to President Obama for telling folks to stop “popping off” at the mouth. I have my issues with him, but he does have a way of bringing flavor to boring American politics.
  • And last but not least love to the Native/Indigenous folks as we get ready to celebrate the colonizer’s holiday. Special shout out to Mrs. Universe Ashley Callingbull who refuses to let folks shut down her work for Native/Indigenous women. Go girl.

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Chi-Raq

Spike Lee so crazy.

I am a huge Lee fan. I give him props for renewing interest in black cinema almost 30 years ago with his debut film “She’s Gotta Have It.” I think Lee brings a unique style and pro-black stance to the film industry. He represented Black Lives Matter before black lives mattered. You always know when you are watching a Lee production even when it’s not a “black” film (“Inside Man”). Sometimes he goes too far (I’m still trying to figure out what the hell “Red Hook Summer” was about) and he tends to be hit or miss with his black female characters. Mostly miss.

So, I’m curious to see how he handles all the dynamic black women featured in the trailer for his new film “Chi-Raq.”

“Chi-Raq, Spike Lee’s latest joint, is an update of Aristophanes’ anti-war comedy Lysistrata, otherwise known as the play where all the women of Athens stop having sex with their husbands in an effort to bring the devastating Peloponnesian War to an end. Set in the modern day south Chicago Urban war zone nicknamed Chi-Raq (as in “Iraq”) the story sees a group of women organize against the on-going violence after the murder of a child by a stray bullet, by withholding sexual access to the point that even strippers refuse to work. What follows challenges the nature of sex, race and violence in America and the world.” http://deadline.com/2015/11/chi-raq-trailer-greek-comedy-in-chiacgos-south-side-1201605210/

Uh, oh. Black women and sexuality isn’t Lee’s strong point as was shown in the ill-fated “Girl 6.”  There’s also the controversial sexual assault of the lead character in “She’s…” Lee has said to be ashamed of that scene.  As he should be.

Well, we shall see how “Chi-Raq” turns out. What I enjoy about Lee’s films is that there tends to be messages for the black community, white racism, and ourselves. He better not be coming out with some nonsense.

‘Skinned’

LisaRaye McCoy looks at the issue of  colorism in her new film ‘Skinned.’

“For her directorial debut “Skinned,” LisaRaye McCoy is pulling out the punches tackling a controversial subject that is plaguing people of color: skin lightening. In a world where people are preaching self-love and not holding to the media’s standard of beauty, colorism is still an underlying issue in the black community. The movie is about a woman named Jolie (Jasmine Burke) who was always ruthlessly teased when she was younger for being dark-skinned. Jolie believes the only thing that will make her more beautiful is if she bleaches her skin to snag the perfect man, but years later, when she does get married, the skin bleaching comes back to haunt her.”  http://www.accra.io/blogs/p/129591/trailer-lisaraye-mccoy-tackles-colorism-skin-bleaching-in-new-movie-skinned

What’s interesting about colorism is how clueless white people tend to be about this issue. Yet, it is because of white supremacy/the push of whiteness as the ideal why it’s so pervasive.  White folks created colorism. Regarding the Black community, what’s frustrating to me is that this issue tends to be framed only as a problem with darker-skinned Black women.  If we would just love ourselves more rhetoric. It’s more complex than that. Also, these types of films (like Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry’s “Dark Girls”), tend to gloss over the fact that Black men have been harshly affected by white supremacist thought regarding beauty. When we look at the current entertainment world, it has been Black men who have pushed light/biracial/non-black women into the spotlight. I’m sure LisaRaye herself has benefited greatly from colorstruck Black men in the industry.

I’m waiting for someone to make that film. Anyway, good for LisaRaye and her venture into directing.

 

Domestic Violence Awareness Month (4)

“Sister, you’ve been on my mind Sister, we’re two of a kind So, sister, I’m keepin’ my eye on you.”–Miss Celie’s Blues

I was shocked recently when a black girlfriend told me she has never watched  “The Color Purple” in its entirety.

Now how has that happened?

I’ve seen practically every Tyler Perry film and I loathe Tyler Perry films, but my black female friends make sure I watch them. I’m surprised she has been able to get away without being made to watch it at the beauty shop or something 🙂

When “The Color Purple” originally came out in 1985, there was controversy that it depicted black men in a negative light.

The outrage over the film is said to have prevented it from receiving any Oscar wins, thus helping to stall the careers of some amazing black actresses in the film.

“The Color Purple” movie is based on the book of the same name. The author is black woman writer/feminist/womanist icon, Alice Walker.

 While the movie didn’t capture the  complexities of the book, Walker has been unfairly bashed for her work.

“She was accused of betraying her race, of hating black men, of damaging black male and female relationships, of being a lesbian.” http://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/jun/23/featuresreviews.guardianreview23

I thought “The Color Purple” (book/movie) was simply trying to show that black women are not only black, but also women and how the intersectionality of these identities contribute to the oppression (and violence) we tend to face in our daily lives.

The fact that many people feel overly comfortable being abusive towards us outside and in the black community.

The book/film is also about hope, and more importantly black sisterhood. Celie survives because of her own perseverance, but also because her friends Shug and Sophia had her back. This helped her to overcome the violence in her life.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month (1)

Recently, a few black women activists and myself, decided to start a local black feminist group. It’s an opportunity to talk about issues affecting black women in our city, as well as nationally.

This month our discussion was in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. 

“Evolved from the first Day of Unity observed in October, 1981 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The intent was to connect battered women’s advocates across the nation who were working to end violence against women and their children.” http://www.ncadv.org/takeaction/DomesticViolenceAwarenessMonth.php

We talked about an article I read in the newspaper, where the black male author did a lot of victim blaming. In “For Once, Let’s Have A Real Discussion About Domestic Violence” by Devin Robinson, Robinson wrote a convoluted article stating why it was okay for men to retaliate against women.

“Here’s the thing. Just like blacks spend so much time proving we are not racist that we make it easier for the racist to be racist, women spend a lot of time unconsciously proving they are not equal (with the wrong rhetoric) that it makes it easier for the chauvinists to be chauvinists. But I get it. In this country of “who has less are automatic victims” it also holds true in the world of domestic violence; who loses the battle is the victim, forgetting that we are in the middle of a bigger war of mankind.”

Wait…what?

One of the attendees at our meeting does work around domestic violence (DV) and black women. We talked about the implications of this article and about the accepted (and encouraged violence) against black women in/outside of the black community.  It’s alarming when people try to make the argument that it’s okay for men to hit women if they’ve been “emasculated,” as black women already have high rates of violence used against them.

“Compared to a black male, a black female is far more likely to be killed by her spouse, an
intimate acquaintance, or a family member than by a stranger. Where the relationship could be determined, 94 percent of black females killed by males in single victim/single offender incidents knew their killers (415 out of 443). Nearly 15 times as many black females were murdered by a male they knew (415 victims) than were killed by male strangers (28 victims) in single victim/single offender incidents in 2011. Of black victims who knew their offenders, 52 percent (216 out of 415) were wives, common-law wives, ex-wives, or girlfriends of the offenders. Ninety-three percent (459 out of 492) of the homicides of black females were intra-racial.” When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2011 Homicide Data

We also discussed the stereotypes about black women and the limited lens people tend to view us through. This also becomes a justification to be abusive towards us. If black women weren’t “loud,” combative,” “smart-mouthed,” we wouldn’t find ourselves in these situations. Even if a black woman does have those traits, it is most likely due to having to navigate an Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy.  Majority of black women have caught on that they live in a society that doesn’t give a damn about them. They know they only have themselves to rely on.

Domestic violence is a heinous act that needs to be eliminated in the black community. While it’s good that we march for black men murdered by police, we also need to march for black women murdered in their own homes.

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

Laverne Cox and bell hooks Talk About Feminism and Pop Culture

Whoa! bell hooks has been KILLING it these last couple of days, as she does another week-long residency at The New School. She’s had some great discussions with white feminist icon Gloria Steinman and fellow black intellectual, Cornel West (the two of them had me rolling).  My favorite conversation was the one between her and Laverne Cox.

Cox stars on the television show “Orange is the New Black.” I have not watched the show. It hasn’t really interested me (and in their talk) hooks articulated some of my concerns about the show.  However, it’s been great to see Cox get mainstream shine. It’s rare you see contemporary black celebrities knowledgeable about politics/social injustices. Particularly, the work Cox does around transgender rights.

Enjoy their fun and thoughtful discussion by clicking the link 🙂

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Photo from: http://colorlines.com/

http://new.livestream.com/TheNewSchool/bell-hooks-Laverne-Cox/videos/64265837

 

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

This past weekend marked the 20th anniversary of The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA):

“The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) is a United States federal law (Title IV, sec. 40001-40703 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, H.R. 3355) signed as Pub.L. 103–322 by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994 (codified in part at 42 U.S.C. sections 13701 through 14040). The Act provides $1.6 billion toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, imposes automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allows civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave un-prosecuted.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violence_Against_Women_Act

The issue of domestic violence (DV) has been in the media (as of late) due to the cases of Ray Rice, Greg Oden, Floyd Mayweather, and others. And I’m sure more will cases will be popping up.

Some Black folks feel that men of color are being unfairly used as the face of DV. Probably. But if these men kept their hands to themselves they wouldn’t be such easy targets. However, I agree white abusers like Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson, Sean Penn, etc., have been protected by the media.

In any case, Black folks shouldn’t worry about what white folks are doing with their abusers, we only need to be concerned with what our community does with ours. DV is not more prevalent in the Black community. But due to a complicated history with the criminal justice system and already negative stereotypes about Black men, the Black community is leery about speaking about this issue in public. Black women, in particularly, don’t want to be seen as disloyal to the community or “getting another brother locked up.”

The issue of combating DV is complex in the Black community. I hope to write more about this in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

There have been many discussions specifically about the Ray Rice case.  I was most moved by a recent interview with actor Terry Crews. Crews spoke about growing up as a child in a DV home. We need more men of color to speak about their experiences with DV, as well as speak out for women and children.