children

dear lesley mcspadden

after watching lesley mcspadden’s reactions to the grand jury’s decision not to indict her son’s murderer, darren wilson, i cried with her, sharing pain that only black women know for our born and un-born sons. melissa harris-perry addresses lesley in an open letter on sunday’s show that captured my sentiments exactly (check out the video here):

letter

Dear Ms. McSpadden,

It’s me, Melissa.

Like you, I am the mother of black children. Like so many other black moms I wanted to say something to comfort you this week. But here I stand, still unsure of what to say. For months we have watched you navigate the treacherous, agonizing, and now all too familiar role of a grieving black mother seeking justice for your slain child.

Along with the stoic and extraordinary Sybrina Fulton, we endured the not-guilty verdict for George Zimmerman who killed her son, Trayvon Martin. Along with the undaunted Lucia McBath, we felt some sense of fairness with the retrial conviction of Michael Dunn who killed her son, Jordan Davis. Along with determined Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, we were stunned by the senseless motivations of gang rivalry espoused by the alleged killers of her daughter, Hadiya Pendleton.

This week, along with you we were broken as we learned that a grand jury found no crime in the killing of your son-Michael. I cannot speak for all black mothers, but I want you to know that many of us felt your anguish through the screen, felt it penetrate our core and break our hearts as we bore witness to your shock and torment.

I want you to know: your son’s life did matter. No decision by any jury, anywhere, can ever change that truth. (more…)

a little link love 2.20.14

1. i’m flabergasted that a florida jury allowed yet another man to murder a black teenager without a murder conviction.  i’m sickened by the constant reminder that the lives of black children are less important than those of their white counterparts.  watch as jessica williams of the daily show does a tongue and cheek run-down of white america’s omnipresent “fear goggles” that can make “four black teenagers taking a calculus test look like a scene from the wire.”

2.  yayadon’t you just love yaya alafia (nee dacosta)? i remember her season of america’s next top model and the way she schooled tyra banks on the origins of kente cloth.  the ivy league grad  is now an actress, wife and mother who was recently interviewed by michel martin on npr’s tell me more.  listen to her thoughts on her role in lee daniels’ the butler, colorism and why she calls herself an african in america.

3. have you heard the teaser to beyonce’s drunk in love remix featuring kanye?!?! it made me jump up and run around my apartment full speed — the only appropriate response when one of your favorite songs from beyonce’s new album gets better.

4.  it’s not every day that you hear an artist reference brandy, bun b, bounce music and kirk franklin as their inspirations.  in a recent interview with npr’s new r&b and hip hop show, microphone check, i fell in love with solange all over again as she rattled off a list of 90’s hip hop and r&b that only a person raised in the south can appreciate.

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mother of george

mog5have you seen mother of george?  the film premiered at the sundance film festival earlier this year to great reviews.  directed by andrew dosunmu, director of last summer’s restless city, the film is about the struggles a yoruba woman faces soon after her marriage and immigration to brooklyn.  she and her husband unsuccessfully tried to conceive a child for over a year when, as a result of his frustration, a neighbor recommends a surprising suggestion.  built around the themes of culture, tradition, marriage and gender roles, the story line is just as remarkable as the images.  no surprise the cinematographer, bradford young, won the award for best cinematography at sundance.

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this is not just a story about prostitution

the documentary very young girls is groundbreaking.  the film depicts a program called gems in new york that supports girls, as young as 13, who serve as commercial sex workers.  often involved in the sex trade, these girls have little agency over their lives and are stuck suffering from a twisted love affair with their pimps (men and women) that left me emotionally exhausted.  “the life,” as they call it, is not for the faint at heart, and just when you think you know what it’s like to trade sex for money, another layer is added, making their stories complex glimpses of the best and worst parts of humanity.

photographer alicia garcia captured a similar story about a creative young woman named eden who, initially working as a stripper, was influenced by an older friend to become a prostitute.  the friend eventually became her pimp.   eden’s photo essay is jarring and her story of childhood abuse and victimization is a painfully common narrative.  check out alicia’s work, including a photo essay about exotic dancers titled stripped.

it’s a family affair

the smith family attended the premiere of after earth, will and jaden’s new movie, and the ENTIRE family was swagged out.  after watching the video of jaden and will rapping earlier this week, i’m determined to take a lesson from will and jada’s parenting — their kids appear to be more well-adjusted and self-assured than most adults.  thanks to willow, i’m still whipping my hair back and forth.  to quote an observant facebook friend: “the smiths are our cosbys.”

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i am not my hair

jada pinkett smith is rightfully fed-up with the hair nazis who constantly criticize her daughter, willow smith’s, hairstyles.  before i jump into my redundant tirade about how hair is a political statement for black women, let me say that willow smith is the most self-assured teenager in hollywood.  i’ve watched and read countless interviews with the pre-teen and was mesmerized by her fearless spirit that is both mature and confident.  if she was my child, i wouldn’t care if her hair was blue, red, purple, AND orange.  she appears to be more grounded than the vast majority of her (and my) peers.

it’s no surprise that many black folks would have a problem with willow’s cropped, natural hair.  as i explained in my post about gabby douglas, black women are taught that our hair is our primary source of beauty.  the longer and curlier it is, the better.  allowing a young girl to cut and color her hair is unheard of in most african-american families; after all, we train our girls to spend hours in beauty salons by the age of five.  the whole idea that only long hair is beautiful is indicative of the mental conditioning we endured during slavery and this country’s racial apartheid.  we indoctrinate our girls with a european standard of beauty because we were indoctrinated.  we were indoctrinated because our parents were indoctrinated.  our parents were indoctrinated because our grandparents were indoctrinated…you get my drift.  unlike many black women, willow smith has gone beyond sexist imagery and realized that her self-esteem should not be tied to the length of her hair.

jada pinkett smith took to her facebook fan page to state the realest commentary that i’ve heard about black women’s body image in a very long time:

This subject is old but I have never answered it in its entirety. And even with this post it will remain incomplete. The question why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It’s also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be. More to come. Another day.

well put sis.