February 11, 2016

Getting In Formation: Representation, Race & White Tears



Unless you’ve been unplugged and living in the woods as a hermit, you’ve probably seen Beyonce’s surprise video for her new single Formation—quietly coyly released just a day ahead of her scheduled Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show appearance, and in preparation for her upcoming Formation World Tour—have already viewed said SB50 performance this past Sunday, have read the numerous think-pieces (either questioning her political motives and song lyrics or praising her efforts), and have heard the angry call to arms by white conservatives, insisting that folks boycott Beyoncé, 'cause she's suddenly enemy #1 and a threat to 'Murica's values. You've probably also seen the ire from white feminists who are hellbent on reminding us that #solidarityisforwhitewomen.  
Most commonly recognized as the quintessential crossover darling and purveyor of catchy pop-music and dance routines, this year Beyoncé decided to extol the wonders of her Blackness by releasing a song and video, and performing a SB50 set, that’s undeniably Black without the burden of respectability, Single Lady-friendly hand gestures, or Flawless soundbites preferred by the mainstream; the better for them to thrust and sing to, or co-opt as part of their YouTube reenactments or cabaret acts. I mean, this go-round, Beyonce went balls to the wall, and described herself as a Texas bama who loves to hoard hot sauce in her handbag, and white folks are like, 'Quoi? What does any of this even mean?'
I don’t want to make this solely about Formation—(more than enough essays have been cranked through the pipeline already)—as much as I mean for this to be about the push-back against Black self-love and representation, but the video and song are decidedly political (for Beyoncé); and much of the Melina Matsoukas-directed offering seems to be a love letter of sorts to New Orleans and the Black southern aesthetic often derided by the mainstream (when they aren't pilfering style and music trends from it), featuring clips of New Orleans bounce culture; Beyoncé and her dancers (all Black women) strolling; the pop star singing about the love she has for her baby’s afro and Negro noses with ‘Jackson 5 nostrils’; voice-overs by New Orleans-born comic and rap artist Messy Mya (who was shot and killed in 2010) and ‘Queen of Bounce’ Big Freedia; Beyoncé draped atop a New Orleans police car submerging herself underwater over voice clips about Hurricane Katrina; graffiti that reads “Stop Shooting Us”; and a Black little boy in a hoodie, dancing in front of a white police squad while they stand with their hands up. 

December 03, 2015

The Wiz Live! or Racists Ruin Everything

In case you don’t know, NBC’s The Wiz Live! makes its nationally televised debut tonight at 8:00 pm, much to my (and loads of other people’s) delight. If you’re a fan of the 1978 film version directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Lena Horne, Nipsey Russell, Mabel King and a host of other Black entertainment notables, then this a big deal. Furthermore, if you’re a fan Stephanie Mills’s soul-stirring version of Home from the 1975 Broadway version of The Wiz, and saw the clip of her rehearsing with newcomer Shanice Williams (the new Dorothy), then you’re really stoked for tonight, no doubt.

This is all cause for an exciting night at home, snacks and wine on deck, right? Right? Well, not according to Whiteness… which works to piss on the proverbial parade of any person, place, or thing that poses a threat to its power and/or privilege; and anti-Black sentiment extends to the world of entertainment and theater—whether racists are having a collective hissy-fit over actress Amandla Stenberg being cast as Rue in the first installment of The Hunger Games, lobbing ugly racial hate at singer FKA Twigs for being engaged to Twilight actor Robert Pattinson, or threatening to boycott the new Star Wars movie for its inclusion of a Black Storm Trooper—anti-Blackness isn’t exclusively perpetrated by old-timers from the American South, the GOP, and Donald Trump supporters; liberals, millennials, and Gen Xers alike are just as hateful… despite some of these same offenders liberally vulturizing Black culture and vernacular, but I digress.

A Twitter-search of ‘The Wiz Live’ will expose a host of clueless white folks who’ve never even
heard of the 1975 Broadway production of The Wiz or watched the 1978 film adaptation, but who felt equipped enough to complain about what they perceive to be ‘reverse-racism’ because, Yemaya forbid, if everything isn’t centered on Whiteness. Notwithstanding the fact that the 1939 musical-film fantasy The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland as Dorothy, was an all-white affair.

October 10, 2015

Thats So Raven: Raven-Symoné Won't Hire You If Your Name is Too 'Ghetto' Despite Her Own

I been gone for a minute, now I’m back with the Jump off.  And what better way to dive back in than through unfettered snark aimed at a short-sighted celebrity’s misguided ways?

The last time I expended energy on our, now be-cockatooed , friend Raven-Symoné, she engaged Oprah Winfrey in a bold (and awkwardly worded) ramble about her identity, and how she’d rather be considered as American rather than African-American. Despite Oprah offering Raven an opportunity to clarify her comments, she stood her ground and let her awkward, hippy-dippy b.s. ride the wave of stupidity.

Since my aforementioned post, Raven has been christened as the latest co-host on ABC’s The View (another in a revolving door of hosts), and her newly minted position has enabled her to curse us with several gaffes in-between being an American with a "nice, interesting grade of hair" and now. Perched on a nationally televised platform, with the Blackety-Black name Raven-Symoné, our sad clown has seemingly committed herself to playing The View’s resident Supreme Troll… a crown she quickly made haste, and snatched from Whoopi Goldberg--'cause let's be real, despite intermittent moments of clarity, Whoopi says some simple-minded shit too.

June 16, 2015

Notes on a Scandal: Rachel Dolezal and the ‘Trans-Black’ Con

By now, you’ve probably heard the sordid and bewildering story of world class Decepticon, Rachel Dolezal, explode across your social media timelines. Each day since her cover was blown Rachel's alternate reality shatters in a million little pieces, as more information is revealed about her real identity. In the event you’ve been luxuriating on a remote island, off the coast of I’ve Got Fancier Shit to Worry About, here’s the gist of the situation: Rachel Dolezal—a White woman, and (now former) president of Spokane Washington’s NAACP chapter—has been living a good chunk of her adult life masquerading (with the help of slightly darker makeup, box braid extensions and Afro-textured wigs) as a biracial woman with a Black father, and reaping the benefits of colorism’s complexion hierarchy.

In an elaborate 21st century minstrel tale that probably makes Vijay Chokalingam envious, Rachel was able to craft a highly derivative life, as if she’d taken her cues from the scripted pages of a psychological thriller.