The last few weeks the public has been inundated with shocking revelations of predatory behavior in Hollywood. So much so, I needed time to process before writing about it. Some folks have been skeptical of the allegations, as many of the women have waited 5-10 years (if not more) to share their stories. While I’m sure most folks figured there were shenanigans going on in Hollywood, I think it’s been hard for people to grasp that it’s on such a wide scale. Especially, with celebrities they admired. I think it speaks to the fact, that this country has not really addressed the pervasiveness of sexual violence against women.
Recently, I came across a post that pointed out that we need to make a distinction between sexual assault, sexual harassment, and just asshole behavior. I thought this was important, and probably what’s contributing to most of us feeling overwhelmed. The mixing of incidents, is creating confusion. Ellen Page shared that Brett Ratner “outted” her on set. While offensive, and the way he did it was vulgar, it’s not rape. Lupita Nyong’o wrote an article about her interactions with Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein lured Lupita into several uncomfortable situations, one that resulted in her having to give him a massage, for her own safety. She experienced harassment, but it wasn’t rape. Other women (and men) talked about incidents they’ve endured, while disturbing, many were asshole antics…but it wasn’t rape.
This is not about oppression olympics, all of these scenarios feed into the larger issue of rape culture. However, it’s making me a little anxious folks are lumping a outting story (as Kevin Spacey also tried to do), or someone giving a perverted sneer, with rape.
“light my fire, blow my flame” 😉
A few days ago, actress Gabourey Sidibe released her short film “The Tale of Four.” The film is part of Refinery29’s Shatterbox Anthology film.
The purpose of this series is to highlight films by women directors. This is Sidibe’s directorial debut.
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from the film. “The Tale of Four” is a take on Nina Simone’s “Four Women.” Now, folks who know this song, know this is one of Simone’s most iconic gems. The song stays on rotation in Black women’s playlist for revolution. Folks still get chills from Kelly Price, Marsha Ambrosius, Jill Scott, Ledisi rendition of this song at 2010 Black Girls Rock. Ledisi appears as “Aunt Sarah” in the film.
Well, the joke was on me. By the end of the 20-minute short, I was near tears. Sidibe managed to bring a contemporary spin on the characters of Simone’s song. She portrayed the women as complex people. No one is all good or bad.
Aunt Sarah-is taking care of her sister’s children after her sister goes to prison for shooting Sarah’s abusive partner. Despite this sacrifice, Aunt Sarah struggles with keeping the children or placing them in foster care. She feels obligated, but overwhelmed. She loves them, but wants her life back.
Safronia-is a light-skinned biracial woman. She’s harassed by Black peers for her skin color, but she gives as good as she gets. She refers to one of her tormentors as a “burnt bitch.” Safronia demands her dark-skinned mother tell her who her father is. The mother breaks down and tells her daughter how she was conceived. She was raped by a white man. Safronia goes to her mother and hugs her. It was a powerful moment. Black women sexual assault survivors rarely get unspoken love/support. Also, it wasn’t the cliché story of the “confused” biracial, rather acknowledging the pain of the mother.
Sweet Thing– is a sex worker. She’s not ashamed of what she does. She enjoys it, but would like respect from her client. She’s a talented woman. She sings with a husky voice, plays the piano. When she picks up the phone and apologizes for an argument. Of course, it’s the client. The man she really wants to be with. Or so you think.. When she opens the door to a Black woman holding flowers, and they bashfully hold hands. You realize Sweet Thing wants a different kind of love to fill her heart.
Peaches-is the Black mother grieving her child killed by police. She represents Black Lives Matter, the protest of the flag/anthem, the resistance of white supremacy. Peaches is Lesley McSpadden, Sybrina Fulton, Samaria Rice, Geneva Reed-Veal, and more (sadly). More importantly, Peaches is the symbolic revenge of Black mothers. I recently read an article how the narrative of Black people abused by the police/white oppression is that of forgiveness. We are expected to forgive the transgressions against us. Peaches rejects that notion. She knows she will suffer when takes her revenge, but it helps her heal.
“The Tale of Four” was wonderful. It makes the Nina Simone film with Zoe Saldana in blackface, even more insulting. This brilliant songstress deserves more than that. Sidibe redeems Simone’s honor with her film.
I’m a big fan of 90’s r&b. It was a such great time for Black music. There was a diversity of looks/talent, particularly with Black female singers. Once r&b merged with hip hop, it opened the door for young Black women’s swag. Mary J Blige, Faith Evans, Aaliyah, En Vogue, Zhane, SWV, etc. ruled the charts. Black women singers from the 80’s (Angela Winbush, Miki Howard, Stephanie Mills, etc.) were able to hold on and crossover into the new beats driven sound, up into the mid-90’s.
Eventually, these old school Black female singers, would be pushed out. It was due to record companies recognizing the power of r&b/hip-hop. They hooked their claws into the music, and repackaged it with more palatable images for mainstream America (white folks).
By the late 90’s-2000s white female singers Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus etc. were promoted as the latest flavor of r&b, which by now had been watered down to “r&b lite.”
Since the mid-2000s, Black female singers have struggled. For over a decade, there’s only been two spaces given to Black women. Largely occupied by Beyoncé and Rihanna. It’s been hard for other Black female singers to break into the box. There’s been upcoming Black female singers who have generated buzz here and there (Janelle Monae, FKA Twigs), but most Black female singers continue to be marginalized.
Recently, I went on a music site to check out the latest tunes. I try to stay hip to what the kids are listening to. It was amusing to scroll through the r&b section and see a sea of white faces. The music industry has successfully been able to hijack Black music to showcase white singers (Sam Smith, Adele, Ellie Goulding, Ed Sheeran etc.)
This has contributed to the stagnation of Black female talent. There hasn’t been a buzz on a Black female singer for a minute…until now. A couple of months ago, Kelela’s page popped up on my timeline. I decided to check her out. I was pleasantly surprised. She’s an interesting/innovative musician. I also find Kelela’s honesty about being a Black woman in today’s music scene, refreshing. She’s not running from the topic. She understands how the intersections of race/gender impact her career.
I was excited when I learned she was coming to my city. Sadly, something came up and I had to cancel. I was bummed as hell. But I was happy I was able to support by buying a ticket. It’s time for the Black female singer to make a comeback (especially Brown/Dark skinned ones, but that’s another post 😉
Kelela’s debut album “Take Me Apart” is good. It’s experimental/Afrofuturistic r&b. She just released a new video for the song “Blue Light.”
As she said on her page, she’s having sex with her hair. Well, okay, go girl.
The Trump administration has ushered in such chaos in our country, it’s hard to know what to bash first. Trump has pretty much confirmed that he is incompetent, as well as cold-blooded. I’m still tripping off the fact he said “good luck” literally with his thumbs up, regarding the tragedy of Hurricane Harvey. He has also used it as an opportunity to peddle his wares.
So, talking about colorism can seem out-of-place, even insignificant. However, it actually connects to the bigger issue facing our nation. The resurgence of white supremacy rhetoric, a hostility that Trump has not tried to squash. It highlights the importance of tackling the problem of colorism. Black folks need to get hardcore about calling out folks who engage in this behavior. Their antics contribute to the overall oppression of the Black community.
Those who espouse colorstruck comments are no different from white supremacists. Hell, they are white supremacists. When you position lighter-skinned folks as better, more beautiful, more worthy…essentially you are upholding anti-blackness.
Colorism generally tends to be aimed at darker-skinned Black women. Probably, because women’s status in an imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy, is based on attractiveness. Black women, in particular are valued more if their looks align closer to white standards of beauty. This summer quite a few folks have shown who they are. Folks like Gilbert Arenas, Kodak Black, and Amber Rose have made it clear that they are white supremacists.
Arenas’s colorist attitude has been especially disturbing. He’s fixated on actress, Lupita Nyong’o. He has attacked her several times in the media. Arenas’s public degradation of Nyong’o skin tone speaks to an alarming display of misogynoir.
Arenas married and divorced a light-skinned woman of color. He has treated her like crap via social media. That is what I find interesting about men like Arenas. They trash darker-skinned Black women, but mistreat their trophy light women. There is obviously something lacking within themselves. They have a hatred for all women, but they zero in on darker-skinned Black women. Probably because folks recognize dark Black women are the least protected in our society. They know they can humiliate us with little recourse.
I didn’t even know what a Kodak Black was, until he made headlines for disparaging darker-skinned Black women. The rapper has been able to elicit some sympathy from folks. Besides, emphasizing his disgust for dark Black women he shared about disliking his skin tone. Folks have argued that explains his contempt for darker-skinned Black women. Meh. If Black felt such pain about what he has gone through as a darker person, why would he then turn around and inflict that same pain on people he doesn’t even know. These people insist on making HUGE public announcements about why they loathe dark-skinned Black women. We’re out here minding our business, when these fools come with the nonsense. Getting loud, telling us how much they dislike us. Okay, well f*ck you too.
Amber Rose expressed sadness for Black, but it wasn’t long before she was making her own insulting comments about dark-skinned Black women. Albeit, she was a bit subtler about it.