poet kush thompson sings a black girl’s song.
poet kush thompson sings a black girl’s song.
janelle monae’s wondaland crew kicked off their eephus tour in philly by joining a black lives matter protest. hell you talm bout was released the next day as a tribute and rally cry for the movement. it gave me chills to hear the names of so many black lives lost by state-sanctioned violence.
as imperfect beings, we must come to terms that a perfect world will never be created. i say that not to make good the enemy of perfect, but to remind us of our constant need for criticism and self-criticism. we must do the work to question norms not just outside radical spaces, but also condemn the insidious hierarchies that occur within the movement. (more…)
-zora neale hurston
we all have the responsibility to give back to our communities and support causes we find valuable. there aren’t nearly enough spaces aimed at connecting and cultivating artists of color, so when i saw folasade adeoso’s instagram post seeking support for her newest venture, open space, i jumped at the opportunity.
recently promoted to the FIRST black principal dancer with the american ballet theatre, it’s only fitting that misty copeland is our crush of the week! a child prodigy who didn’t start ballet class until she was a preteen, misty shattered expectations and stereotypes every step of her career. she’s a proud product of the ymca’s afterschool programs and even experienced homelessness as a child (check out her autobiography). i’m so excited for what this means not just for misty, but the example she sets for all the little black girls who have the opportunity to see their reflection in a previously all-white world.
my law school classmate and social impact strategist, danielle lovell jones, tapped my brain during a recent interview for her podcast, the social impact show. danielle consults with individuals and businesses seeking to engage in philanthropy and during the interview we covered everything between my nonprofit work, writing, love of fashion and riley curry fandom. i’m grateful for her sensitive, yet conversational interview style — she pulled some thangs out of me!
at first, i laughed at rachel dolezal. i’ve witnessed blackness get colonized so many times until i immediately found her blackface antics more pathetic than anything. however, after she sat down for an interview with melissa harris perry and refused to answer any question directly, i’d had enough — my giggles and indifference turned to anger.
what disturbs me about dolezal’s actions is not only the performative aspect of her self-proclaimed black identity or the hate crimes that some say she falsely claimed to be the recipient of, but the fact that she conveniently left one privileged position for another. when presenting as a white woman she leveraged the resources attributed to her whiteness, and as a lightskinned black women, she could leverage the resources attributed to having light skin. whether it was the race or gender hierarchy, dolezal always found herself on top.
for dark-skinned people of color, passing is not an option. race marginalizes us the easiest, acting as the visible embodiment of past and present oppression. beyond skin color is the complicated history around our hair — black women’s beauty has been tied to the tightness of our curls since slavery. dolezal never had an authentic experience with this very painful narrative, yet told melissa harris perry that her hair journey has been “interesting,” claiming:
it also felt like an affirmation of black is beautiful, you know? because for so many centuries, you know, there’s been … the relaxers and the long weaves and the skin bleaching and all that fallout of psychological disorientation and certainly trauma came.
as if adorning her hair like a black woman’s is a tribute to blackness, she even claimed to have become a hairstylist to help black children feel beautiful. guess what rachel, we don’t need you to pretend to be black to make women who were born black feel better about their blackness. that’s called cultural appropriation, and it actually has the opposite effect.
in fact, dolezal’s egotistical analysis around her hair, adopting her younger siblings and activism have all given the white savior complex a new meaning.
whether led by curiosity, adoration or bad intentions, rachel dolezal made a conscious decision to maneuver through spaces focused on black empowerment as a lightskinned black woman. the privilege to choose not only one’s race, but color is power that most racial minorities will never experience. in the face of constant white terror and efforts to democratize standards of beauty, her blackface performance is not only exploitative, it’s despicable.
last week, tamar braxton broke down on her television show the real about facing constant bullying on social media. the popular singer and reality tv star has been the recipient of verbal attacks by many, including chris brown and k.michelle. in an era where “shade” and “reads” less than 140 characters can travel at the speed of light, taking shots has never been more toxic.
i’ll always remember the anger in my grandmother’s face when i told her that i was being bullied; however, she wasn’t mad at the bully. she was mad at me. how dare i come home and cry about being psychologically tormented? at seven years old, my responsibility was to use any ammunition at my disposal to clap back. her anger was my first conditioning into a lifestyle that black women know all too well — not to experience pain when hurt, but to hurt others.
i come from a long line of truth-telling women who annihilate the unworthy with words. when words don’t work, they’re known to lay hands. this violent experience of black womanhood is not unique to my family, and represents the mechanism we’ve adopted to survive both patriarchy and white supremacy. our tongues of fire protected us through slavery and racial apartheid, and continue to serve as a safeguard, even when our safety isn’t threatened. welding negative power is better than having none at all.
such negative power is captured in the “strong black woman” stereotype, a depiction of black womanhood that has taught us strength requires toxicity. affirming ourselves beyond the superficial and practicing self-care is weak. affirming other black women and leading with kindness is extremely weak. what’s most ironic is that given our oppression, black women being kind to one another is actually the strongest thing we can do.
we should be ashamed that tamar braxton was brought to tears on national television because of the black community’s abuse. it’s frustrating that so many of us have been raised to construe negative critiques as love that we deny the harm caused by verbal assault. until black women change the definition of strength to include self-care and unapologetic kindness, our emotional well-being will continue to suffer.
in case you didn’t know, one of the best movies of 2015 was directed by a black woman. the film: selma. the director: ava duvernay. a vision with long locks, impeccable style and black consciousness, she just might be politics & fashion’s crush of the year.
selma’s been nominated for a golden globe for best director, making ava the first black woman to be nominated for this award. take a look at this great new york time’s article written about the struggles she and other women directors have faced in hollywood.
A Guild for Creative Subsistence and Crafty Tomfoolery