Category Archives: men of color

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.

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

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.

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Lady Gaga and R.Kelly

 

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.

 

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.

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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India’s Daughter

A few years ago, I got the opportunity to travel to Southern India. It was a community service course offered via my graduate program. We traveled from Chennai to Madurai. The cities were beautiful as well as the Tamil people.

The purpose of the trip was to learn about the roles/lives of Indian women. We attended lectures at a women’s college and engaged with the students around/off campus.  One of the more interesting lectures we attended was on dating/love relationships. Basically, those things just didn’t happen in India culture. Arranged marriages are still dominate in India and a young woman has a lot to lose if it’s even suspected she likes a boy, let alone actually talking or going out in public with one.

Of course, as a feminist I was annoyed by this but many of the young women saw nothing wrong with it. This is the world they have been raised and conditioned in.  Even if they didn’t like it, why risk being rejected from your family/society. The consequences were too great.  However, there are Indian feminists/activists who are resisting the oppression faced by women in India.

You see that activism in the PBS documentary “India’s Daughter.” The film chronicles the horrifying gang rape/murder of 23-year-old medical student Jyoti Singh. The film interviews one of the rapists and defense attorneys. Their rationale for the young woman’s assault is disturbing. Basically, she had no right to be out with a boy late at night. The boy was actually just a classmate and “late at night” was only around 7-8pm. One of the attorneys even stated he would light his daughter on fire if she ever did such a thing.

It was a hard film to watch, especially as it brought back memories of my time in India. I meet so many dynamic young women, who because of the reinforced rape/anti-woman culture, will have a hard time living lives free from abuse.

Yet, one can’t get too smug about “those” people being uneducated, etc. The fact of the matter is male violence against women is a worldwide problem. This is illustrated in the ending credits highlighting the staggering statistics of sexual assault against women in different countries.

I mean we just had a Canadian judge tell a young teen to close her legs when being sexually assaulted.  Or the Georgia police chief who said women can’t get raped they’re just stupid. Or the U.S. representative who said a real rape victim’s body knows how to shut down a pregnancy. Ignorance knows no cultural bonds.

“India’s Daughter” will be available online until February 13, 2016.

Rest in peace Jyoti.

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Welcome back…

or maybe I should say I’m finally back 🙂 Whew, it was a long summer/early fall. I have had so many life changes. I relocated to the misguided Deep South (they still walking around with confederate flags, y’all) and popped out a baby. Yep, you read right, I had a little one. If you’ve been following the blog you know I have stated no babies for me. And as someone in her 40’s figured those days were over anyway. The joke’s on me!  I wasn’t going through menopause after all.

I’ve been enjoying my new role as a mom. It’s hard work and you never know if these kids will even like you when they get older, but for now my baby’s gummy smile is worth it 🙂

Now that i’m getting adjusted to motherhood, I’m ready to get back to blogging. There is so much nonsense happening out here from the presidential campaign to the continuing murders of black folks by cops (RIP Corey Jones) to the out of control memes on Drake’s Hotline Bling… there’s no way my keys can stay quiet!

However, before I get too deep into it, I am excited about the upgrade on The Wiz movie. A lot of white folks tend not to respect the 1978 film starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson and an amazing score by Quincy Jones. The film also features the beautiful song “Home” torn to shreds (in a good way) by Stephanie Mills for the stage version. Many white folks think The Wiz is a tacky take on The Wizard of Oz, but The Wiz is more creative than the original film IMO.

I’m looking forward to the live version that will be shown on NBC in December. Hopefully, NBC won’t mess it up.

Brotherly Love

Wow, this film looks pretty bad. And cliché. Let’s see (1) crackhead black mama  (2) menacing thug brother **watch Jason’s Lyric for the epitome of this** (3) black boy student depending on basketball career/scholarship to give him a better life (4) light-skinned love interest…although for a change it’s a guy this time and (5) someone seeking fame/pop stardom. Maybe I am just getting old, but you would think films for young black folks would have progressed from these storylines by now. I was watching these type of films when I was a teen back in the late 80’s/90’s. The only difference now is characters are cussing each other out via smartphones/social media.  KeKe Palmer tends to be underused as a young actress so good luck to her and her film. But I will pass. 🙂