The Tale of Four

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.

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Missing Black Girls

When I first read about the tragedy of Kenneka Jenkins, like a lot of folks, I got caught up in the sensationalism of the story. Did her friends set her up? Who spiked her drink? Was it her voice calling out for help, during a sexual assault?

Unfortunately, the confusion that has accompanied this story has been exacerbated by the incompetence of the hotel, the indifference of police officials, and social media conspiracies.

Once you shift through all the chaos surrounding this young woman’s death, one of the bigger issues that emerges is how mainstream society deals with missing Black girls.

The stories of young black girls and women who are missing don’t get the Elizabeth Smart or Natalee Holloway treatment. We don’t see primetime television specials on them. Their images don’t become permanent fixtures on Twitter. Their names don’t get hashtags or trending topics. Nationwide manhunts or search parties don’t ensue. Crying black parents, pleading for their children to be found, don’t interrupt our sitcoms as breaking news. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/king-no-accident-hear-missing-black-girls-article-1.3005609

I became aware of Jenkins through the Facebook group, Black and Missing, But Not Forgotten. The story may have received more press coverage in Chicago (where the incident took place), but I haven’t noticed much mainstream media attention to this case.

I can only imagine the hoopla if a white girl, was found dead in a freezer in a fairly upscale hotel.

I was angered to read when Jenkins’s mother, after reaching out to police officials to report her daughter missing, had the police called on HER by the hotel. Jenkins’s mother decided to take measures in her own hands with family. They went around the hotel, knocking on doors, asking guests if they’d seen her daughter. A reasonable action, most parents would take.

Yet, the hotel had authorities remove her for “disturbing the peace.” It’s hard to believe they would’ve done the same thing to a white mother, frantically searching for her lost daughter.

The police, once involved, were no better. They initially refused to take seriously the disappearance of Jenkins. Perhaps, if they would’ve reacted faster the young woman would still be alive. Once they did find her in the freezer, they pretty much wrote it off as a “drunk girl” who foolishly locked herself in a freezer.

There was reluctance on their part to do any real investigative work. It was only the outrage of the Black community, that they were forced to do something. Once again, I don’t think this nonchalant attitude would’ve been used towards a white family. The criticism of the police,  has been reduced to “keystone cops” antics. No, they just didn’t give a damn.

As of 2014, 64,000 Black women were missing in the United States–March For Black Women

The calling of the police on Jenkins’s mother, shows that even when Black folks are the victims in need of help, we are still treated like threats. It’s reminiscent of the Seattle police shooting of Charleena Lyles, who called police for help. Lyles believed someone was breaking into her house. The police killed her instead.

A few days ago, the hotel released videos of the last hours of Jenkins’s life. It was alarming to watch the young woman desperately trying to figure out where she was. It was hard not to get upset, knowing the end result. If I was traumatized by the videos, I’m sure Jenkins’s mother is devastated. Her daughter went to a party (as most 19 year olds do), and will never return home. For her to be treated like a burden by the hotel and police, is a disgrace.

The mysterious circumstances of Jenkins’s death, will hopefully be resolved. Her family deserves proper closure.

March For Black Women

On Saturday, September 30, 2017 the Black Women’s Blueprint is hosting a March for Black Women in Washington, DC.

The purpose of the event is to highlight issues affecting Black women across the country.

  • State violence against Black women
  • The criminalization of Black women
  • Rape culture/Sexualized violence
  • Murders of trans Black women
  • Addressing missing Black girls and women

and much more.

A few weeks ago, I sent in a form to their main website hoping to get more information about the event. The organizers are encouraging sister marches in other cities. I didn’t realize I was signing up on the spot to lead a march! 🙂

But it’s fine. I love planning events, especially something that seeks to empower Black girls/women. Also, I try to be a woman of my word and when the organizers contacted me via email, I decided to push forward.

Support the work of these amazing women in DC or if you know about a similar gathering in your city. If you are a Black woman in Portland, come on out to my event. I’ve decided to host a townhall, since it’s too last-minute for an actual march. We are in precarious times, and Black women have to make sure we don’t continue to be marginalized/silenced.

If you can, contribute to the main March For Black Women’s fundraiser and/or my event. I believe strongly in paying Black women for their time and labor.

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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”

It’s summer…

Man, I can’t believe it’s June already. It feels like we just started 2017. Yeah, I’ve been gone for a minute. But life happens (I think I said that in my last post :). I’ve been busy with a youngin, moved, and getting back into the swing of things in my city. Normally, I would be off to blogcation right now. But since I’ve been letting the blog lag a bit, I’ve decided to post throughout the summer. So, get ready.

Plus, with all the tomfoolery going on with the Trump administration, I doubt this will be a peaceful summer. Trump’s blatant support of all things racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., has brought out the evil in folks. I think the hot heat is going to rise hateful shenanigans.

The summer of 1919 has been dubbed the “Red Summer.” It was named this due to horrifying race riots that happened across the country. The killings of Black folks were at an all time high. The majority of these attacks were initiated by white folks. Brutal beatings, lynchings, and fires/property damaged that destroyed Black homes/communities.

With the alarming outpouring of white supremacists/terrorists (my city has seen a huge influx of them) it is not far-fetched we may live to see another “Red Summer.” Particularly, in the case of outright murders of Black folks by police.

Recently, a young black mother was killed in Seattle, WA when she called the police for HELP. If this isn’t a bad omen for the upcoming summer months, I don’t know what is. Rest in peace Charleena Lyles, and stay vigilant Black folks/folks of color.

To support Lyles children…https://www.gofundme.com/bdgbc8pg

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.

Truth and Power

“Truth and Power” is a new series that “tells the stories of ordinary people going to extraordinary lengths to uncover breaches of public trust by governments and private institutions.” http://www.pivot.tv/

The first episode focused on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. The activists shared stories of how they’ve been tracked by the government. One talked about being at a protest rally and a police officer calling her out by her twitter handle. Scary. But the truth is anyone who has written/played a part of the BLM movement is probably on a list somewhere.

I’m a conspiracy theorist at heart, so this show was right up my alley. The BLM movement is unique in that it was founded by three queer black women and has been mostly sustained by the activism of young black women. They are not the cliche older black male clergy leaders who usually dominate and are more willing to compromise with “the man.” BLM activism is unconventional. These young black women’s persistent resistance is definitely a threat to the status quo.

Tamir Rice

“That there is a lap baby.” My uncle said as he pointed an accusing finger at me. Me and my baby were visiting for the holidays. I’ve learned quickly as a new parent folks always want to offer unsolicited advice. I remember one time running errands. It was nippy out. A lady fussed it was too cold to have a baby outside. I replied “what can ya do.” She was shocked. But moms can’t stay in the house all day. Things need to get done. So just hush.

I shrugged as I bent over to pick up my squealing little one. He sniffed and rubbed his face into my sweater. “What I am supposed to do. Let him cry?” My uncle leaned back into his recliner chair. “You know I raised six kids. Now let me tell you–” I tuned him out. The truth is, my nerves can’t take too much hollering. Plus, I enjoy snuggling with my little one. Especially when I think about the black mothers who aren’t able to hold their babies.

As  folks prepared to bid farewell to 2015, we got the news that the cops who killed 12-year old Tamir Rice would not be indicted. How horrible that a mom was going into the new year without justice for her son. While all the murders of black folks by cops bother me, the deaths of children like Rice and Trayvon Martin, are particularly upsetting. Both were minding their business being kids. It’s disturbing to me they died alone. I’m sure in their final moments they longed for their mothers.

Rice was left to bleed out before he received any medical attention. His sister, who was with him, was restrained from helping her brother. This had to be a frightening experience for both children.

So, while my uncle may harp on about picking up my baby too much. I think about not being able to hold him at all.

Rest in peace Tamir.

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Black Children Matter

The world is a big and scary place. Once you have a little one, it becomes even bigger and scarier. You realize with alarm there is really only so much you can do to protect them.  It’s even more nerve-racking when one is a Black parent. In a society built on anti-blackness/hatred of black folks, you know your children are more vulnerable to violence/oppression by the dominate culture.

By now, folks have heard about the black teen girl who was brutalized by a white police officer in the classroom.

When I first saw the video clip, I immediately thought it would be on and popping if that had been my kid. Or maybe not. I most likely would just get arrested myself. Any excuse to lock us all up. As is the case of the victim’s classmate who was brave enough to record the attack and verbally let her anger be known about the incident. She is being charged with…who knows what. I guess daring to stand up to a white male authority figure? This is what folks mean when people talk about the school-to-prison pipeline.

Freddie Gray’s Mom

A few days ago it was reported that Freddie Gray’s mom may have attempted suicide. Gray was killed by police when they failed to give him proper medical attention and contributed to his death by shattering his spinal cord. While scrolling the Internet, I came across a person who asked why Gray’s mom would do such a thing. Well, probably because her son was basically tortured/murdered, she was under enormous pressure by the Baltimore police/politicians to contain the rightful protests over the incident, and there tends to be a lack of support for black parents whose children are victims of police brutality.

I believe the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and Tamir Rice reached out to her, but it may have all been too much.

The world is not kind to a black mother’s pain.

Recently, a friend shared a conversation she had with a white woman. The woman declared that black folks don’t cry as much as white folks. Wait…what? Rewind. Yes, she sincerely believes black folks don’t cry.

Initially, I wanted to laugh at the absurdity of her comment, but the woman’s sentiments support a study done a year or so ago that white people tend not to recognize black people’s pain. It’s even worse for black women as we have to contend with strong black woman rhetoric. It makes me wonder about some white folks sometimes. It truly does.

In any case, sending love to Freddie Gray’s mom.

Yes, black folks cry too. Photo from:
Yes, black folks cry too.