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Black(ness) in Bold: Black Professors, Black Experiences and Black Magic.

a dialectical display of revolution, research, ideas, theory and love.

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Blackness

Black Sista Professors in the Line of Open Carry

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Today is the first day of my second year as an Assistant Professor of Education in Houston, Texas. As I embark upon this academic year, it is hard to ignore the feeling of unease in my body. As of August 1, 2016, it officially became legal to carry guns on campus. I learned that this would occur a few days after moving here a year ago with a newborn, a 2-year old and my husband. There was much to do at that time to say the least: unpack, become acclimated to life in Houston, Texas, prepare brand new course syllabi, pump breast milk for my son when I was away from him, figure out how to drive, etc. etc. I did not have the time to fully think about what this gun-wielding law would mean for me in a year. So, like most Black women with much to do, I kept going. I created new syllabi, I met new colleagues, I learned about the urban campus in the heart of downtown, which was more on the quiet side in comparison to New York. The silence bored me. I missed the noise of home, but I kept going, because that is what we do, us sistas of the sun, we keep going even when we should stop and reflect.

Many things happened to me in my first year. I experienced racism (been there). I shut down racist colleagues (done that). I spoke up at meetings (I am free). I started this blog (I don’t believe in censorship). I learned that my Blackness (still) precedes my doctorate, my actions, my ideas and my perspective every time I speak. But this does not bother me, because I have learned how to love myself without white supremacist validation. Yet still, actively rejecting white supremacy can be dangerous while living in a Black sista body, rocking Black sista hair and blazing Black sista boldness. And now students can carry guns, because it is “their legal right.” As a Critical Race Theorist, I know that the law is not colorblind in any way, shape or form although, it proposes to be just that. Assata taught me. Tamir taught me. Renisha taught me. Aiyanna Stanley Jones taught me. Jordan Davis taught me, which may explain why I am still cautious about how loud my music is when driving close to police cars or other white civilians who the law chooses to protect when they pull out pistols upon hearing so-called “thug” music. To be free in this Black sista body also means that I have to make a living and come home to my family each day. How do I make a living in spaces that were not built for me, that were not built for the kind of radical sparks that emanate from my soul intentionally and impulsively?

Now that students can carry guns in a state like Texas at a public institution where I am employed, I find myself thinking about how to preserve the integrity of my work. How do I continue to practice social justice pedagogy in a space where some students may be armed? Surely in my classes, I may come across armed students. Now to be clear, the law maintains that the weapons must remain concealed. But I find that danger becomes more alive when concealment comes to play. For example, institutional racism is often concealed too, but it is there, powerfully altering Black/Brown lives because it can and it will. Do I change the radical nature of my pedagogy because of the possibility that I can get harmed for doing so? Or, do I walk by faith and not by sight, as my Christian upbringing whispers in my ear? I honestly don’t know the answer to these questions. I am a revolutionary with a cause but one that I am not willing to put myself in blatant danger for. I can say that honestly and fully. Yet still, I do not compromise on what I believe is right either. I know that teaching my students about the intersections among literacies, race and education is work that must get done. I also know that I love the sound of my daughter’s laughter in the morning. I love the way my son looks at me when he is tired. I love my husband’s faith in my ability to change the world. How do I balance spaces of violent institutional oppression and love simultaneously? At this moment, I do not have any answers.

Today is the first day of my second year as an Assistant Professor and I am armed with love and language. I am armed with nontraditional knowledge systems. I am armed with motherhood and false notions of meritocracy. I am armed with the faith that my fear will have to fester in in the face of freedom.

Remembering Fertility on Mother’s Day

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Source: urbanintellectuals.com

Today, on the day of Mothers, I want to wrap my lens around fertility. The magic of it. The fear of it. The very idea that it makes one w(hole). The competitive aspect of it. The femininity of it. The masculinity of it. The body as public thorns that wrap themselves around women. Fertility, a weapon and a winner that chooses some bodies and not others. Taken for granted like clean water and fresh air when it’s not you who tried for something you did not receive. Today, on the day of Mothers, I want us to remember that fertility ain’t free. And it is also not deemed The prize by everyone either. It is often measured like Capital yet undermined legislatively at the same time. Maternity leaves are trapped in the crevices of manmade trees that only produce Strange fruit. And yet still, women smile and care and uplift one another, even when some want what the other one has, on both sides.

Feature Fridays with Jay: Teen Black

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Source: Atlantic Releasing Corporation

So the other day I’m channel suffering and I bump into a childhood favorite movie of mine, Teen Wolf. Excited to watch the film, I immediately stopped and watched. As I’m watching the movie I found myself analyzing and truly dissecting the film. No longer did it seem benign, comical or jovial. It became a very layered movie about acceptance, and being comfortable in your own “skin.”

I’ve come to realize that Teen Wolf was really about being safely white. I know we can find race in anything, but I really believe Hollywood found a clever way to talk about race. Think about it, the character Scott, was a white nerd from the ‘burbs. He has a main core of friends, but that wasn’t enough for him. He wanted to be popular, he wanted to play basketball. But he couldn’t do that as the white nerd, right? So he finds out later that through anger and embarrassment he has super powers. That he comes from a family heritage of super wolves, which I believe is code for “big Black strong slave blood”. As his wolf heritage is finally revealed at a basketball game, through pressure and anger he decides to live as the wolf. He becomes magically good at basketball. He can now jump higher, run faster, and is instantaneously popular while being the wolf. That’s great right? All his dreams finally coming true huh?

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Now let’s dissect that. The wolf is darker, stronger, taller, hair all over his body and face. Are they calling us animals subconsciously? Is that how white folks view black people? Obviously the wolf is an animal, but why was the wolf chosen to be the character he morphs into? These are questions I ask myself while watching the film. White male jealousy and anger for him and his popularity for NO other reason than he’s different. White women’s fascination with him sexually, all while not seriously committing. God forbid she’d be in love with the wolf, the outcast, AKA the Black guy. But sexually, it’s all good. Give me that so called ” Mandingo Animal Penis”. But a serious relationship? Meh, not so much.

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Scott enjoyed the fame and popularity of the wolf when everything was positive for his image; he loved it. But when things turned negative, and he became angry (because apparently all Black folks and animals are always angry), he withered into his safe place of being the white nerd. He realized he wasn’t ready for the discrimination, the jealousy, and the hatred that came with being the wolf. He couldn’t handle being Black, excuse me, the wolf, for a few months because it became too complicated. So like Hollywood typically does, it wraps everything up in a bow and Scott goes back to being Scott. The white nerd with the white picket fence, and the pretty white next door neighbor who always secretly loved him, but they’re finally together now when he decides to be himself. I think this narrative honestly started with a lot of white people, especially white men’s disdain and jealousy of Black NBA players. Players, who out of all the sports leagues, get into the least amount trouble. Yet, they’re still labeled “thugs.” Why? Because they’re Blacker, taller, more talented, faster, popular and richer? Because if they wanted to, can take your blonde wife? Oh, don’t worry man she’s marrying YOU, But she’s going to fuck him. Or like the NBA changing dress codes because it was starting to get too “ghetto” or too Black? Teen Wolf was made to say, in my opinion, it’s nice to be the strapping, handsome, talented Black guy for a day or two. But in the end, the Scotts of the world are the safest men to be. There you go, a bow!

jaybell

Jarmil Belle aka Jay, is a sneaker and music culture enthusiast. He is a man of worldly and intellectual views, who demands himself and others to think outside the box. People who regurgitate platitudes need not be around him. You can follow him on twitter at @Jahb1911.

If You Think You’re Giving Students of Color a Voice, Get Over Yourself

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Source: PBS Rikers Island Documentary

 

Miss, miss! What the C.O. toldju about us? They already gettin’ in y’all heads right?

Miss, we human! I’m a human! We have families….

-Rikers Island Youth Workshop Participant

The walls on Rikers Island are the same as the walls in my high school. In a facility six security check-points deep, where it takes myself and my team of social justice educators over 1.5 hours to get from the first screening to the classroom where we run a workshop with a small group of incarcerated adolescent boys, the walls are the same style of brick as every inner-city school I have ever attended or visited. While I am struck by the visceral effects of this very concrete reality for these young men who have attended public schools across the five boroughs, I am not at all surprised. Still, within the physical, psychological, and emotional confines of this space that they navigate daily, I am the one who often feels the deep constraints of internalized social attitudes and perspectives about young Black and Brown men, who they are, what they need, and how they should be engaged within the context of the classroom. The possibilities of our time together are tethered to my internal work—The shedding of any savior complexes and constant collective reflection with the team to live in the tensions and questions of our work as critical educators.

So imagine my horror when on a recent phone call, a white educator who expressed interest in my youth development work, squealed with congratulations and awe for the way that we “give so many young people voice.” Her words were deeply disturbing, but hardly surprising. Grateful that in our last email I chose the ‘phone call’ over the ‘in-person’ or ‘facetime’ option for our meeting, I rolled my eyes, and promptly ended the call.

I should not have ended this call. I should have said to this woman, “if you think you’re giving students of color a voice, get over yourself”… then hung up the phone.

So what’s the big deal? Why get caught up on words when you know that kind well-meaning woman only meant to celebrate the work that you are doing?

Some of the most deeply problematic issues of inequity within the field of education are sustained by well-meaning people embracing progressive politics without intentional frameworks of self-reflection to guide their praxis in a healthy direction.

Here’s the problem:

The idea of “giving” students voice, especially when it refers to students of color, only serves to reify the dynamic of paternalism that renders Black and Brown students voiceless until some salvific external force gifts them with the privilege to speak. Rather than acknowledge the systemic violences that attempt to silence the rich voices, cultures, and histories that students bring into classrooms, this orientation positions students, and by extension, the communities of students, as eternally in need of institutional sanctioning. I do the work I do for these very reasons.

When the young men at Rikers share their work, I am fully intimidated by their uses of extended metaphors, similes, and other literary devices. But all we did was lend them an ear. They woke up like that. We did not give them a voice. We gave them space to be heard. We need educators who are down to create space for the rich identities of their students to thrive, and who are down to be schooled by their students as authorities of their own voices and narratives in the classroom

We need educators who have the courage to do the internal work of critical honesty around their attitudes toward students. Is there space in your classroom for the realities, perspectives, and identities of your students? What is your attitude toward your perception of their cultures and how does this affect the interpersonal dynamics of your pedagogy? So much of the rhetoric around colonialism, imperialism, and American chattel slavery had to do with giving civilization and Christianity to people who were “less fortunate.” Do not align your pedagogy with the same narratives that perpetuated so much evil in our world.

If you think you are giving students of color a voice in the work that you do, get over yourself. They woke up like that.

If you think you are giving students of color a voice in the work that you do, get over yourself. They woke up like that.

jamilialyiscott

Jamila Lyiscott is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME) of Teachers College, Columbia University. She also serves as an educator, community organizer, consultant and motivational speaker locally and internationally. Jamila’s work focuses on contexts where the cultures, literacies, and literatures of young people of color are critically engaged and humanized for social change. Her scholarship is situated in Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy, Literacy Studies, and Black Literature. Jamila is the founder and co-director of the Cyphers For Justice (CFJ) youth, research, and advocacy program, apprenticing inner-city youth as critical researchers through hip-hop, spoken word, and digital literacy. She was recently featured on Ted.com where her video was viewed over 3 million times. Along with several publications, she has lectured and directed educational justice projects widely. Through her community, scholastic, and artistic efforts, Jamila hopes to play a key role in forging better connections between the world of academia and communities of color outside. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#BlackMenGreeting – Recognizing Each Other’s Presence and Humanity

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DeVaughn Ward and Pastor Al Johnson greeting local kids on their first day of school in Hartford, Connecticut.

A couple of weeks ago the #blackmengreeting hashtag made its rounds on social media. I was reminded of when I was doing interviews for my dissertation. I asked my participants to reflect on an incident in the past year and a half that spoke to the significance of their presence as Black male teachers in their schools. There is this silence that I allow to stretch for moments as they sit there in their reverie. Garreth tells an anecdote where a parent who had the reputation of being aggressive approached him at the beginning of the school year and asked him how he was going to ensure that her son was not going to end up a part of the school to prison pipeline. He says that he was completely taken aback by the question, as it was literally his second week of teaching. He explains her demeanor changes as he introduces himself and she learns more about him:

I think that a big part of it was she trusted me on a deeper level because I was a Black male and some of the experiences I had because of being Black and male; and throughout the year we were able to foster a good relationship and ultimately she trusted me a lot more than I think she would have had I not been a Black man. 

As he talks there are nods of assent from the other three participants and it becomes apparent that this is an understanding of experience that the others can speak to, too.

Alex adds that the way he interacts with the kids at his school makes him feel like his presence is a little different than just being their teacher; that there is something familial about the interactions; where he could easily be an uncle or big brother. He says:

It’s that family relationship where you can be mad at one another and still have respect for one another outside the context of the classroom. It’s a tough thing for me because I’m trying to be the teacher and they don’t always want me to be that and they want me to be something else and if they feel like I’m being too “teachery” they let me know.

Jay reiterates that being Black is enough sometimes – that being the only Black male on the teaching staff is enough and that kids sprint out of their lines to greet him or to hug him, and that he knows that it’s an acknowledgement of self.

When Ricky starts talking I am struck so deeply by his passionate stance. He literally vibrates with it as he talks. He informs us that he works at a school where 98% of the population is Black boys and that he is one of 3 Black men on the teaching staff. He says that he wants to be able to create a perfect balance between keeping a strong relationship with students and meeting academic excellence. His voice breaks a bit when he says that he tries to grow as much as he can as a professional but “without taking out the edge and rawness (he) came in with”. He goes on to say:

It’s tough because my colleagues in higher positions don’t like it, because it isn’t what the norm is. But I’ve come to realize that I really don’t care because they won’t mess with you when you are getting the results -they won’t mess with you -and that is something that I’m trying to push myself to do right now is to become the best teacher I can possibly be in this system in any system and don’t keep…don’t lose that realness and edge that I have.

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Source: yourblackworld.net

I am so profoundly struck and I see his anxiety and his worry that he will lose his edge; that he will get caught up in a system that doesn’t love him.

“Talk more,” I say to him; to them, “I see you shaking your head…and there is a lot of shaking of heads and head nodding as he (Ricky) is talking; because I think you are talking about the same thing. Talk more about what that edge is.”

He looks to them as he starts to answer…they nod to him. An affirmation. A dap. They see him. They see themselves. He says:

The edge is an unspoken respect or unspoken vibe almost, that we have. The kids know, it’s like when I see another Black man in a setting where we are not the majority and we are the minority – we always connect. If I see you walk past, I’m going to say ‘what’s up’- I give you a head nod. I give you the dap. We know what it is. It’s the same with the kids. It’s like a special power and it’s a gift – at first I thought it was both a gift and a curse, but it can’t be a curse because it can only help you push the students to where they need to be academically – it works hand in hand. Other people are great teachers and I can’t take that away from them and others are great at this and that subject but I’m great at what I do. It flows professionally and into the professional realm of our career.

When he is done talking we are silent; all of us are caught in reverence. Ricky has articulated beautifully this connection we feel as Black educators, as Black people and I know I am not the only one in the room encouraged to hear it described as a ‘gift’ and a ‘special power’.

Alex explains the dap in the school setting:

It was equally as shocking for me in retrospect to realize how much the Black nod is really, like a real thing. I think it happens in school as well. The kids are looking for us to affirm their existence and their reality, and you realize that you look to them for it, too: What’s up, how you doing? That’s the reality… yeah, that’s how we roll you know- it’s not like us to ignore each other’s existence.

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Marcelle Mentor is South African & a Ph.D. candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is a former high school English Teacher. Her academic interest focuses on Critical Race Theory, with an emphasis on Black Masculinity. She is an activist, a mother of two teenaged sons; a scholar and teller of stories.

Feature Fridays with Jay: The McDonaldization of Hip-Hop

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You know, the advancement of technology and time has made our lives a little easier. No longer are the days when we had to use rotary phones to call anyone. We nhiphopow have cell phones. Hell, no one actually calls anyone anymore (except mama), we only text to communicate. Even with that, we’ve expedited it. Sometimes people send me texts and I feel like I’m reading hieroglyphics. I don’t know what the fuck they’re saying. I say that to say this, I don’t know what the fuck I’m listening to these days! The Mediocre has risen and well the cream, the cream is just taking too long to drop new material frankly. Not only has the Mediocre risen, it’s churning out cheap product as often as possible. And we’ve all gotten fat on it.

Contrary to popular belief and avid music lovers, FUTURE is the most “popular” artist in hip-hop music right now. I know, I know, you don’t want to hear that shit, but it’s true in the metrics and in content. Future has learned and literally mastered how to make actual “crack music”. It’s intoxicating and addictive sonically, but the substance not so much. It reminds me of McDonald’s, the king of making fast, affordable food with legendary secret sauces and all. But how are they able to do that while producing so much product? With the help of GMOs, steroids, fake meat, even fake fries etc. McDonald’s Big Mac, a societal staple, is probably part cow, chicken and plastic all rolled together to mass produce and build an enormous profit.

I watched a documentary called Food Inc, and it made me question every edible decision I’ve ever made. I assure you it looks as bad as it sounds. Which brings me back to Future, the art of mass production is his gift. He realized the quality doesn’t really matter as long as the beat is musically close to appealing and has a twinge of bounce and reggae. From there it’s rinse and repeat. You think it’s different, NO it’s all the same. He exclusively talks about drugs, money and women in a non-creative high school way. Then he flips it, women, money, drugs. And why would he change it? It’s a winning formula and others have followed suit. Even some of our “so called” greats and favorite artists occasionally follow suit because it undeniably works.

I blame Jay-Z for this metamorphosis in hip-hop, because he mishandled his photographic memory gift that allows him not to write. His ability to make music effortlessly with the same content and make it sound fresh was damn close to genius. He made LAZY artists feel they could do that as well, and they obviously  can’t. They viewed not writing as a short cut, not as a crafted God-given skill. Hence, I believe it was the birth of the lazy-no-thought musical genre and probably the beginning of the demise of New York hip-hop. How fast he used to put out “quality” music annually would be way too late now. Now artists are dropping product every other week just to keep up. Forget about the quality, they’re just trying to stay relevant. It’s like the people who really want to eat well, but can’t afford it; McDonald’s will have to do. Tastes so good, but yet so bad for you and your bowels. There’s nothing developed in a week that’s great, I’m sorry. However, living in an ADHD society, this is looking more and more like the new norm. Not everyone has the luxury of Beyoncé, Kanye, and Adele of taking their time to make substantive music and when it drops, it drops. Tragically, they’re all in a race to be the queen or king of mediocrity while sipping lean and making lots of money. It rarely ends that way though. I wrote this while listening to FUTURE. Now I either need to head to the strip club or pop a Xanax while wearing Gucci flip flops. Wonderful SMFH…

jaybell

Jarmil Belle aka Jay, is a sneaker and music culture enthusiast. He is a man of worldly and intellectual views, who demands himself and others to think outside the box. People who regurgitate platitudes need not be around him. You can follow him on twitter at @Jahb1911.

Feature Fridays with Jay: Jordan Uses Your Green to Gain Green

The following post is written by Jay Belle as a part of the Feature Fridays series.

It was the winter of 1989 in Brooklyn, New York and the memorable Air Jordan IV just dropped. My brother, a big dope dealer in Brooklyn at the time, called and said he was taking me shopping. Being an exuberant 9-year-old kid with a love of shoes, I was excited. Excited, because I knew he would buy me what my mom wouldn’t or couldn’t. He took me to the local sneaker store at the time, Friedmans on Flatbush avenue, in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, where I was born and raised.

“Get whatever you want little bro.” I knew what I wanted. I saw all the popular kids in school wearing them.

“Bro, I want the Jordans,” I said ecstatically.

The owner, a skinny white man with a curly mullet and a thick black mustache said, “What size?”

I said, “5 and a half please!”

As he walked to the back of the store, I felt the anxiety roaming all over me. Not only because I was getting what I wanted, but because of the status I believed at 9 the shoes would give me. That status I saw my brother and the other drug dealers get from wearing the shoes. The girls, the adoration of my peers in school. I wanted that and desperately thought I needed that adulation. The owner returned from the back and when he handed me the shoe I rejoiced. I remember that lovely smell of new. The black suede, Nike Air on the back and the complexity of the lace system. It’s a smell I try to keep as often as possible with the massive collection I’ve attained over the years.

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Michael Jordan smoking a cigar© Getty Images

Dispirited, at 35 the euphoria of MJ has ended for me. As an avid sneaker collector I’ve recently stopped purchasing the Jordan brand. Part of the reason is that I’m convinced Jordan only cares about anything “Black” when it increases his bottom line. I’m in a weird place with Michael right now, being that he was a childhood hero of mine. But as I’ve grown into adulthood, I’m more cognizant and acutely aware of his supposed integrity. Frankly, I’ve become quite weary of the icon. I get it, we’re in a capitalist society, but in the midst of the money making when do “you” Jordan, stand for something? Poor people, especially Black kids killing each other for shoes they can’t afford? Price hikes for less quality and quantity, causing riots. Again I get it, exclusivity is big business, but when do we look inside and change that system? For the sake of children’s lives and poor parents’ bank accounts. It’s one of the struggles I have with Jim Brown. Jim Brown is a sport’s icon and opposite to Michael Jordan. Brown did so much for the Black communities around the country; it’s legendary. Marching in the Civil Rights Movement with the likes of Dr. King, Muhammad Ali, and Bill Russell to name a few. He once made gangs in California, the Bloods and Crips call a truce. He was also very instrumental in giving young poor Black youth jobs in security, while creating jobs in poor Black communities. Yet still, Brown was also known for his chauvinism and abuse against women, causing a conundrum about what he really stands for. I don’t know what Jordan stands for besides a dollar. In the 25 plus years of me watching the icon he’s shown no acts of activism. One of his famous quotes is “Republicans buy shoes, too,” in response to him refusing to endorse a Black Democratic candidate, which is so disheartening and capitalism at its finest. I’m personally long past hero worship because no one is perfect including myself. But sometimes it would be nice if our legends would guide and lead with integrity while occasionally giving monetary reprieve to the hard working poor who support you by any means. I honestly think I’m out of the making Michael Jordan rich business. Are you? What do you think?

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Jay in his closet with a pair of his sneakers.

Jarmil Belle aka Jay, is a sneaker and music culture enthusiast. He is a man of worldly and intellectual views, who demands himself and others to think outside the box. People who regurgitate platitudes need not be around him. You can follow him on twitter at @Jahb1911.

Beyoncé Does Slay, But Does “Formation?”

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Because this space is meant to be an unapologetic Black space, much like a Third space, operating to uplift, dissect and discover Blackness in all of its realms and (anti) respectability, I think it’s only right that I address Beyoncé’s “Formation.” Being Black in the Divided States is clearly a problem, much like W.E.B. Du Bois reminded us of in 1903 when he asked a simple yet relevant question: how does it feel to be a problem? It is clear that Beyoncé knows that being Black is currently a problem and historically has always been a problem, despite false claims of post-racialism. One could argue that her latest visual protest piece and song “Formation” are a testament to that as well. However, I disagree. *gasp* (how DARE you disagree with Queen Bey?) I saw the Bey hive emerge in all of its glory, ready to attack whomever had anything critical to say about “Formation.” But something else happened, too. I’m a Black woman professor. I have other Black woman professor friends, sista doctas, sista teachers, sista lovers, sista artists and sista community organizers. They too, were convinced that this was the greatest statement Bey had ever made, that this visual revolt was a fabulous SLAY on white supremacy…. I felt alone in my thoughts and my feelings. On one hand, I love the intoxicating beat, her professing her love for her man and child…. But. That was all. A Black anthem? How so? A very smart, extra talented, RICH Black woman, dropped a track the day before the Super Bowl. Obviously she wanted you to learn the words before the big day: 1) So you could sing along 2) So you can eventually purchase the track 3) So you can purchase her world tour tickets that she announced mere seconds after her performance. And I am not mad at this at all. She makes a living by entertaining. And she is allowed to make political statements, create music, and be boldly Black simultaneously. However, as a piece of art, I did not feel the Black anthem claim. As a consumer of media in a critical way, there was something that did not work for me personally after watching the video. As a consumer of popular culture and as a listener, I too have a right to offer my own critiques.

But what about her atop the New Orleans police car which she eventually drowns on? But what about the young Black boy dancing in front of police officers only to have them put their hands up? But what about her ode to feminism by taking her man to Red Lobster if he handles his business in the bedroom while sticking up her middle finger? I agree the images are powerful. I believe many of the images evoke elements of a collective Black consciousness and resistance. You could certainly teach lessons on the structure of the video. BUT. What is this really about? Is Beyoncé really enraged that Black folks are getting murdered by the police? Maybe. It is not my place to judge. I believe she is using her platform to address what is in the collective imagination of many marginalized Black folk, which I guess is cool… But I struggle with the intersections of capitalism and revolution. Can we struggle in theory? In a video? On wax? Who is allowed to capitalize from the struggle narrative? If I’m Beyoncé does that mean I can do it because I’m Black? If I’m Beyoncé, does that mean I have an obligation to do it because Harry Belafonte called me out on my lacktivism (re: lack of activism)? Can lacktivism suddenly become Blacktivism overnight in front of the biggest sporting event of the year in American culture due to its mere BUYING power? These questions are not meant to be rhetorical. I am genuinely grappling with these questions and her cultural and iconic Black woman power.

Then there are other aspects of the imagery in the video that troubled me:

1) Her daughter Blue Ivy looking into the camera’s eyes intensely, childlike with her Afro for the world to see. She is 3. Black girls can’t be carefree children. But as she professes “I like my baby hair with baby hair and Afros…” We know that Black girls’ and Black women’s hair continues to be a site of contention in AmeriKKKa. We know about all of the criticism Blue Ivy’s hair has received, unfortunately, considering that she is a child… But addressing it in this public way, does it empower Blue Ivy’s Black girl magic? Does the video become an historical testament for her to reflect upon? Genuine questions to consider.

2) Beyoncé shaking her ass for the zillionth time, performing moves we have seen time and time again. Her moves profess: I know I’m the shit. Catch me if you can because I’m rich and gorgeous and you know it. One could argue this is her brand of feminism, that she should be able to intersect her sexuality, her creativity and her political consciousness. I am all for women doing what they want, when they want, with their bodies, especially Black women. Yet still, this redundant imagery troubled me.

3) We already know Beyoncé exudes white beauty ideals, blonde hair and all. Her claim that she likes her “Negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils” while gyrating effortlessly in a Louisiana mansion is certainly textured. Yet still, it alludes to the idea that she can have whoever she wants, yet she chooses the man with the “Jackson Five nostrils.” Is it because deep down we don’t believe someone of her “caliber” (re: complexion) would choose someone like Jay-Z? We all know how Michael Jackson’s nose transformed over the years and yes, we can assume she is talking about the “original” nose but we must admit that the complexity of Jackson’s nose is centuries deep. Perhaps that is her point? It’s hard for me to believe when I keep hearing about her “twirling all over her haters.”

“Okay ladies now let’s get in formation. Show me that you got some coordination.” I have read all kinds of think pieces that this is a call to arms for Black women. That is hard for me to personally digest. We know in dance routines there has got to be coordination. We know when you idolize a pop icon, there has got to be coordination of how people literally fall in line to uphold her above the masses. Every time she says these lines, women are dancing effortlessly in lines, shaking, gyrating, being pretty, being sexy. On the Super Bowl field, the women behind her donned all Black Panther themed outfits. But the message was still the same: I slay. I’m Beyoncé. I’m idolized. I’m rich. And I can do whatever I want. Including a pseudo-consciousness video and folks will call me Angela Davis.

I like a poppin’ Bey song like the next carefree Black woman. I will jam to it. Wear freakum dresses because of it and effortlessly “slay” my so-called haters. But I will not pretend that this song has started any personal revolutions for me, other than grandiose vanity and extreme capitalism in the name of power, while adhering to white supremacist beauty ideals. Period.

Suicide as Revolution? The Demise of MarShawn McCarrel

When I was in my 20s, I often thought of suicide as a selfish act. Now that I am in my 30s my perspective has changed. By no means am I endorsing suicide. But I have also witnessed firsthand how people I love suffer from depression, and it is no easy mountain to climb. The mystery alone of death itself and its uncertainty is scary to many. Does it mean you are in control when you determine your own death? Or does it mean that you have merely given up? MarShawn McCarrel was an extraordinary activist who participated in the Black Lives Matter movement and created a mentorship program called Pursing Our Dreams which was designed to feed Columbus, Ohio’s homeless population. McCarrel himself was homeless for several months upon his high school graduation. He recently attended the NAACP Image Awards on February 5th, 2016, just three days before his death. Unfortunately, he succumbed to his “demons” which he professed on Facebook before taking his own life in front of the Ohio Statehouse on February 8th, 2016… after taking a piss on the statehouse that is. His decision to die there is certainly a political statement, even in his suicidal state. One cannot ignore this blatant act of Revolution. I uplift the brotha and the powerful work he put in for Black lives. 23 years young. Rest in eternal power.

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Marshawn McCarrel © Meghan Ralston
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Taken from his Facebook profile
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At the NAACP Image Awards on 2/5/16, 3 days before his demise

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