Dating Violence

A few days ago, I was shocked to read about the death of Dr. Jeannine Shante Skinner. Dr. Skinner was murdered by a man she was dating. I was further appalled by some of the comments I read on the Internet, regarding the killing of this beautiful woman. It was the typical rhetoric leveled at Black women who are victims of interpersonal violence. It wouldn’t happen to them if they didn’t love “thugs.” The pictures that I’ve seen of the couple together, is that of a polished/professional man. Most likely, he is a sociopath who knew how to camouflage who he really was, well.

11 Signs You May Be Dating a Sociopath

Initially, I was going to title this post “domestic violence (DV).” However, after reading more about the case, I learned that Dr. Skinner had only been with the guy a couple of months. The couple did not live together. She took him to church to meet friends and family. She seemed to be taking her time getting to know him. All the “right things” we tell women to do, when they begin seeing someone. This wasn’t a long-term relationship, were there were incidents of recorded frequent violence. That’s why it’s disturbing so many folks are chalking up Dr. Skinner’s death to a DV situation…of a woman who didn’t leave when she had the chance.

It can be argued, Dr. Skinner saw something that DID raise a red flag and she decided to end the relationship. It was probably what triggered the guy to kill her.

While we have gotten a bit better talking about domestic violence, we don’t talk enough about dating violence, particularly for older women. Usually, the focus of dating violence tends to be on teens/young people. Regardless of age, abusers will latch on right away during the dating stage, pushing for full-blown relationships.

Black Women and Dating Violence

Currently, there is debate if whether a fellow who has decided to win his ex back by playing the piano everyday in a park until she comes back, is romantic or abusive behavior. When I first saw the story trending, I thought it was odd, but figured he must really miss her. After reading why many women felt his behavior was abusive and controlling, I had to agree.

Continue reading “Dating Violence”

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Racism Fatigue

Last weekend, I attended a zine festival. I was excited, because I knew I was going to see friends of color I hadn’t been able to connect with since moving back to my city.  While folks seemed okay for the most part, I noticed a weariness with a lot of them. The DIY (Do It Yourself) event showcased the creative writings/art/comics of those who self-publish. The history of the festival has traditionally been white hipsters. This year, organizers worked hard to center the voices/work of writers/artists/activists of color. The overall theme was how marginalized communities are resisting the resurgence of hateful racism happening in America.

I actually was invited as one of the guest speakers, and hosted a workshop specifically for Black women/non-binary black folks. My workshop was called “The 94%: Dusting Off Our Shoulders,” after a piece I wrote for a women of color zine collective I contribute to. The workshop was a continuation to the homage I wrote to Black women. Black women were a powerful force during last year’s election. It wasn’t so much because Black women overwhelming voted for a potential woman for president (while white women let Clinton down), but rather the bigger issue of Black women’s activism, leadership, and organizing skills that were ignored by mainstream media, including “progressives.” Instead the media focused on the woes of the white working class, especially white women.

We had a heartfelt conversation about this at the workshop. The thing I that stood out to me the most was the fact Black women are exhausted.  We are giving are all to better our communities/society as a whole, and keep getting degraded/rendered invisible. Later, I thought about this discussion, as well as remembering the tired faces of some of my friends of color, I encountered that weekend.

The Message (Grandmaster Flash)

Racism fatigue is hurting our health. I mean, at this point, what more can Black/Brown folks do? We’ve written scholarly books. We’ve put on insightful plays. We’ve read soul-stirring poetry. We’ve made numerous truth-telling movies. Hell, Black/Brown folks even created a whole new genre of music, rap, to discuss these issues (early rap music focused on the lives of poor Black/Latino youth).

Yet, despite it all, studies show that most white folks still tend to hold stereotypical views of Black folks/folks of color. It doesn’t matter if we’ve gotten the degrees, have traditional relationships,  or “act right…” most white folks still tend to see Black folks as less than. It’s strange. One would think it was Black folks who held white folks in slavery for hundreds of years, and continually denied them their basic human rights.

It’s not that we’ve given up hope. It’s just that we are “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” to quote Fannie Lou Hamer. We keep giving and giving, and all we’re getting back in return is a kick in the ribs.

 

Southside with You

I kind of forgot about the film “Southside with You.” Maybe it’s because the movie had a limited theater release,  so it came and went rather quickly. The Obamas were still occupying the White House when it came out. Why go see a movie when you could witness their love in real life? Perhaps, the film would’ve done better if it were released now. Folks have already started to wax nostalgia for the Obamas after the ridiculousness of #45 and camp.

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I finally watched the film for the first time. It was interesting.  The film was directed by Richard Tanne, a white man. He did a decent job in capturing Black life, but it may explain why Mrs. Obama’s character was so harsh. Men directors (regardless of race) seem to rarely know what to do with Black female characters.  I know the story was trying to capture the precarious situation Mrs. Obama was in by starting a relationship with Obama. She was his boss. She was Black and a woman, fighting daily misogynoir in her office. She couldn’t afford to mess up. However, the film depicted her as overly cautious and rigid and even obnoxious.

When the Obamas ran for their first presidency, Michelle often displayed a humorous, tell it like it is persona. She was witty and smart and you rooted for her more than you did Obama (well, I did anyway 🙂 Then politics got a hold of her, and soon she was forced to play a subdued First Lady role.  We got to see the real Michelle again on January 19th, 2017. I would’ve liked to see more of a well-rounded image of her in the movie. Yet, Barack’s character was allowed to ooze charm. Interesting, as it’s Michelle who actually gives him his flavor (to me anyway 🙂 If you ever observed them on television, it was she who would get up and start grooving or singing or just having fun and he would follow along.

The movie wasn’t horrible, it opens the doors for other directors take on the loving relationship of the Obamas.  “Southside…” actually made me want to see a movie on Michelle’s life. The father she sweetly speaks about, her brother, the expectations placed upon her growing up…how she truly felt about it. The racism and sexism she had to endure during her college years.  The fact that she and Barack, actually planned to divorce at one time. I think it was due to her having to put her career on the back burner, so he could shine in politics.  I guess in the end, she made history. But most women never really forget their dreams.

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