Showing posts with label African-American. Show all posts
Showing posts with label African-American. Show all posts

February 28, 2014

Revisiting the Film: Little Senegal

Updated review. Originally posted December, 2011


Last night while in the throes of insomnia, I decided to lull myself to sleep with a mini-movie marathon of sorts via Netflix. I watched and stopped several films before deciding on one: Little Senegal.  This film left enough of an indelible impression after I finished watching it; I was up until about 4:00 AM this morning mulling it over.
The Netflix reviews were ambivalent at best, suggesting it was dull, uninteresting, and that the acting was "wooden", however, as far as I'm concerned this reaction is par for the course from folks who don't have an emotional or vested interest in these types of films unless it's palatable and more along the lines of ‘magical negro’ fare with a white savior trope.

Little Senegal, a 2001 film directed by French-Algerian filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb, was far from uninteresting. It explored elements of the African Diasporic, immigrant experience and was somewhat reminiscent of Haile Gerima's film Sankofa, in that it charts the history and effects of the Atlantic slave trade. While the main character in Sankofa— a self-absorbed, black fashion model living in the present-day— is forced back in time to a plantation in the West Indies, to experience the horrors of slavery and learns the importance of community and advocacy; the protagonist in Little Senegal, an elderly man named Alloune, researches his heritage and those of his ancestors who were kidnapped and sold into American slavery, prompted by his own curiosity.

May 30, 2012

Michelle Rodriguez Says Only 'Black and Trashy' Roles Get Oscar Nods


When thinking down the line of Hollywood actresses of color who’ve made an indelible impact on current films, Michelle Rodriguez probably doesn’t register on anybody’s radar; at least not enough so, that she’d be recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. So when Vulture caught up with the actress at an amfAR event at Cannes this past week, the actress had just come from a screening of the controversial Lee Daniels directed film, The Paperboy-- (which has been garnering unfavorable reviews by critics) -- and expressed her appreciation for the film…
“I say fuck them because they don’t get it”, the actress opined. “He’s so good at keeping me entertained. When I don’t like the dialogue, I’m amused by the visuals. And when I don’t like the visuals, I’m amused by the dialogue. It’s always switching up senses. I’m intrigued by his ability to capture me in a theater. It’s not easy to capture me in a theater — I’m ADD like that.” 
When prodded about a scene in which Nicole Kidman apparently pees on actor Zac Efron  to soothe a jellyfish sting, Michelle waxed philosophical about the politics surrounding Black actresses and actors who’ve been nominated for and/or won film awards…
"I fucking loved it. One of my friends said, 'She’s going to get nominated for an Oscar for that.' I was like, 'Nah, man. She’s not black!' I laugh, but it’s also very sad. It makes me want to cry. But I really believe. You have to be trashy and black to get nominated. You can’t just be trashy."  (Source)
It didn’t take long for Michelle’s public gaffe to start circulating those Black pockets of the social media realm.  Re-tweeted and re-posted on Twitter and Facebook, Black bloggers and pop-culture critics were not amused and immediately took offense; but doesn't Michelle Rodriguez present a very good point about the worth of Black actors and actresses (or anyone in that industry, of color)  in Hollywood? As a woman of color, navigating the landscape of the Hollywood machine, Michelle herself has been typecast since making her debut in Girlfight, whether she’d be inclined to agree with that very obvious point or not, so on some level perhaps she speaks a very honest (albeit it an unfiltered and somewhat tactless) truth.

Consider some of the voices of displeasure when Octavia Spencer nabbed an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role (playing a sassy domestic) in The Help. And most of us couldn’t even fathom Viola Davis emphatically defending having played a maid in the same movie.  Some of our sistren and brethren still harbor the bitter aftertaste Halle Berry’s 2002 Oscar win  for her turn in Monster’s Ball left in our mouths… the same evening Denzel  won for playing a corrupt and unscrupulous police officer in Training Day, to which he quipped, “Two birds in one night, huh?” during his acceptance speech.

In a sometimes tense Black social media sphere, where certain ones us hurl accusatory epithets like Mammy, Ghetto Queen,  Sapphire and thug towards entertainers who portray such roles, directors (both Black and non-Black, who help steer actors in those roles), and towards everyday people who don’t convey modes of behavior befitting the ideals and expectations of an upwardly mobile person of color; I get and understand the exasperation and desire to see better images of ourselves on the big screen and to see better behavior modeled by some folks in our community.  So in essence, isn’t Michelle Rodriguez mimicking a truth we often voice out loud about ourselves?  One commenter who actually agreed with Michelle’s assessment, wrote on Facebook...
The "black and trashy" are the most recognized and talked about which tends to silence all the valuing nominations into the backdrop or a footnote. What she speaks of are not absolutes but are of the most resonating nominations.”

Is Michelle Rodriguez’s comment about rewards for “Black and Trashy” roles a dig at Black actors or a critique of Hollywood’s perpetuation of racial stereotypes?

Also read: Barbara Jordan: Trailblazer, Leader, ... Common Asexual Mammy?  


March 25, 2012

Toni Morrison Talks Race

May, 1993 interview featuring Charlie Rose interviewing literary giant, Toni Morrison. In this short clip, Charlie Rose asks Morrison about her experiences encountering racism. Toni rejects responsibility of having to shoulder the burden of explaining racism and how it functions, by redirecting the question back to Charlie Rose and white people to explain.

March 23, 2012

I Know Trayvon Martin


I know Trayvon Martin…

I came-of-age watching him sit on the stoop of some tenement; baggy jeans, clean sneakers and hooded sweatshirt, shooting the shit with his friends and arguing over NBA front-runners and the best teams. When I attended Weaver High School, I watched him sit in the back of the class, swathed in the same urban uniform, tapping beats on a desk… aloof and disinterested. Sometimes, the teacher would say something that piqued his interest and he’d interject before going back to nodding his head to whatever freestyle beat he was composing on his desk.
During algebra class he’d shuffle up to the front of the room, calmly push the hood of his sweatshirt back, pick up a piece of chalk, and effortlessly solve a complex math equation, much to the teacher’s delight and mild surprise. 

I’d see him congregated in the cafeteria with a group of his friends pointing and laughing raucously as they played the dozens, roasting one another amid an eager group of like-minded spectators.  
I got to know him a bit beyond his casual, be-hooded demeanor while bouncing yearbook, prom, and fundraising ideas off each another during weekly Class of 1996 meetings. He made an exception the night of prom and opted for a black tuxedo instead… leaving his hooded sweatshirt at home for the evening. 

As an adult I listened to a hooded young teenager just like Trayvon, exchanging loud and crude stories about high school dating prospects with his friends as they sat in the back of an empty-- (save me and them) complimentary downtown shuttle bus. I sat towards the front, rolled my eyes with a smirk and shook my head as he boastfully showed off to his friends. “Be careful” the driver… a White male… warned me, as he side-eyed and nodded in the direction of the young boys. “Oh, they’re fine. They’re just being silly.” I said, annoyed by his warning. Trayvon’s hooded contemporary took a break from fronting for his friends, shuffled to the front and sheepishly asked me, “Miss, um, you wouldn’t happen to have 75 cents uhh… would you? I’m short for the bus ride home.” I shook my head, recalling how only minutes prior he’d been putting on a show for his buddies, and handed him 3 quarters… which I happened to have in my pants pocket from an earlier transaction. “Thanks Miss! I appreciate it.” He said. 

While walking to Carlos Supermarket in the Asylum Hill-Farmington Avenue section of Hartford, I watched a young, Black teenager in a hooded sweatshirt size up an older woman struggling to pull her shopping buggy along the sidewalk. He removed his earphones long enough to ask her if she needed help before realizing that he knew her as an acquaintance of his mother’s. She seemed pleased as one of those “your mother should be proud” smiles passed across her face.
See, I know Trayvon. While he isn’t a choir boy or above reproach, I grew up with the likes of him and know he is more than a “suspicious looking” perpetrator in a hooded sweatshirt who "always gets away",  skulking down a dark, rainy street. I know that sometimes he’s walking with a purpose and that purpose isn’t always to cause harm or to rob someone. 

My nephews are Trayvon Martin. They love candy and juice boxes, and will be teenagers in about 10 and 13 years respectively. According to the social construct of White supremacy and privilege, whose opinions about young Black and Latino boys (and young girls) are predicated on gross racial stereotypes and according to Geraldo Rivera, my nephews should be subject to scrutiny and possibly marked for death by trigger-happy vigilante bigots like George Zimmerman, because they have the nerve to expect their humanity to be taken into account, if they dare walk down the street while Black and dressed in a hooded sweatshirt. They deserve to be racially profiled, even amidst all the Post-Racial America propaganda... and somehow being Black is the scarlet letter they'll have to suffer for. 

February 25, 2012

Secret History of the Black Pin-up: Dan Burley

I'm no connoisseur of vintage adult publications, but do consider the elements that went into creating them during their time, quite interesting; specifically the role Black artists, photographers, models, and distributors (if any) played in the world of vintage adult periodicals and magazine publishing, as we don't often see information charting the history and are hard pressed to find rare materials from their era, which seems to have been wiped from the annals of publishing history in some cases, and costs an arm and a leg if you do track something down on eBay or sites of the like. 

Enter the late Dan Burley; who was a Black-American polymath-- musician, poetry writer, actor, editor, and noted journalist-- who created, edited and wrote for several prominent African-American publications including: Ebony, Jet (an idea he sold to the Johnson family), New York Age, the wildly popular Harlem Handbook of Jive, and Amsterdam News. Burley, who also collaborated creatively with several famous jazz greats, wrote the forward for Elijah Muhammad's book, Message to the Black Man in America and was commissioned to edit Muhammad Speaks (now known as the Muslim Journal) for print in the Pittsburgh Courier (which was owned by Black American entrepreneur and Republican, S.B. Fuller)-- despite not being an American Muslim or member of the Nation of Islam.
Dan Burley's political connections, friendships, and work in the fields of music, journalism, and publishing is an extensive and impressive one indeed, but it is his foray into the world of adult magazines that intrigues me the most; and my interest in and fascination with the history of Black pin-up heavy periodicals and vintage ads featuring Black models is no secret as evidenced here, here, and most notably here; so it was with great interest, while visiting one of my favorite sites and resources for this type of information, that I read about Dan Burley serving on the editorial staff for Playboy-esque periodical, Duke Magazine; which filled a niche for upwardly mobile Black male readers and only produced about six issues featuring comely Black women, a Duchess of the Month centerfold, work from noted writers, as well as comics drawn by freelance artist, Bill Ward.  

According to Vintage Sleaze, Bill Ward (purveyor of Good Girl Art and creator of risqué female characters), did a series of drawings for Duke Magazine featuring Black versions of his ample-breasted female gag-comic sirens, under a pen name.The publication also presented reprinted works by Langston Hughes, Ray Bradbury and one of my favorite Black expatriate novelists, Chester Himes -- who penned the controversial book The End of a Primitive

Much like my initial search for vintage photography featuring Black female pin-up models, a Google search of Duke Magazine didn't garner too much information beyond the sparse footnotes I found on a couple of websites and of course Vintage Sleaze, which notes,
If you search Dan Burley, you'll find him identified as a sports writer. A Journalist. A Jazz Musician. A Poet. And yet he only lived 54 years. His Wiki Biography (which also omits his smut magazine) is HERE.
Researching the rare history of Black pin up models has definitely led me to uncover some compelling other information regarding publishing and the history of vintage adult periodicals featuring the Black female aesthetic, I'd never heard of. As a writer who's interested in the Black female image in media and pop-culture, it's always great to uncover any lost or rarely discussed aspect of Black History. Stay tuned... 


**Additional Reading: 


February 23, 2012

Post-Racial America: The Mis-Education of Mainstream Youth...

The featured video is what happens when parents (and so-called responsible adults) fail to educate their children properly and mainstream media perpetuate tired racial tropes and stereotypes...
This is yet another inarticulate and very public rant courtesy of the sad and misinformed; this time in the form of two young high school aged women from Gainsville, Florida; who-- coincidentally enough-- opine that Black people "can't fucking talk right", yet can't discern between the words "intelligible" and "eligible".
Needless to say, these two unintelligible young women aren't eligible representatives of what evolved young minds are supposed to be. And while one of these quacking ducks has enthusiastically pointed out what a very "nice white neighborhood" she lives in, her rant is one of the reasons why platforms like the Un-fair Campaign have cropped up and are needed.

Racism, hate-speech, and class-discrimination -- (some of which comes from Conservative Republican pundits and political hopefuls) -- seem to be at an all time high (especially in the wake of the current political debates). This is why I refuse to subscribe to the post-racial, color-blind propaganda people like to trot out, whenever the issues of race and xenophobia come up.

White privilege and supremacy is still very much alive and kicking. The idea that there's a post-racial society is a farce concocted and heavily pushed by its proponents, because they want to be able to spread hate freely, marginalize people of color and falsely appropriate marginalization as an issue that solely affects them, and teach their ignorance to young people, without having to be held accountable for their actions. I'm curious to know what type of conversations these girls have with their respective families at home and how their parents will set about dealing with their daughters' racist YouTube rant and the subsequent fall-out. On a completely unrelated note, I hate World Star Hip Hop and everything that site represents... That's all.

**Additional Reading







February 16, 2012

In Which I Share in Earnest: The Uprising

 My writing prowess isn't just relegated to essays, blog posts, and articles. For years-- well before I delved further into the world of print journalism, blogging, and freelance writing; I was a prolific short-story writer. Short-story fiction is my first love and I haven't done nearly enough of it lately. 

I dabbled in poetry, participating in half-hearted public readings at open mics (I'm not a performance artist by any means), but I've always had an affinity for writing prose. Every now and again I dust off an old piece of work and put it through a series of revisions with the intent to self-publish. The Uprising, perhaps my favorite Pièce de résistance, is no exception. It's a story I've always aspired to have published as a novella since conceiving and writing it while at college. 

I rarely share anything I've written within the realm of short-story fiction via the Blogosphere and have an inkling to do so now. 

In observance of Black History Month, I've decided to release the prologue to The Uprising.
Perhaps if the mood strikes me, I'll share more.   


**Also, check out Dolen Perkins-Valdez's compelling book, Wench. I recommended this before however, I'm currently re-reading it for the third time and it's what prompted me to share an excerpt of my own work.


Read The Uprising...
 

January 13, 2012

Blogging Elsewhere: When Sh*t Hits The Fan


It all started with the video Shit Girls Say and then spiraled (and has since disintegrated) into a barrage of Shit (insert ethnic/gender group) Say… spoof videos. Shit Girls Say morphed into Shit Black Girls Say, which prompted Shit Black Guys Say, which encouraged Shit Latinas Say. And you know the natural and relaxed haired sistren had to create a spoof of their own: Shit Naturals Hair Girls Say /Shit Relaxed Girls Say to Natural Girls… until many of us implored, Enough!
The series has definitely run its course, yet people won’t let it die a quiet death until they’ve squeezed the last vestige out of the joke… adding Shit to an already heaping pile. Amongst the wreckage of daft Shit Whoever, Everybody, & Their Mama Say videos, popular YouTube vlogger Franchesca Leigh Ramsay, better known as Chescaleigh to the rest of us, managed to stand out and prompt an interesting discourse on race relations. In her spoof video Shit White Girls Say to Black Girls; Chescaleigh dons a blond wig and an affected Valleyspeak accent, as she cleverly lampoons the ways in which some White women may try to relate to Black women (or any woman of color).
As a Black woman who went to a predominantly White liberal arts college in the Midwest and who has interacted with White women from all walks of life during college and throughout my everyday life, Chescaleigh presents circumstances that are very familiar to me and many of my friends. The: “Come on! Lemme just touch your hair this one time, really quick!” and the “Look at my tan, I’m almost as Black as you!” comments or bizarre questions I’d get from White women, initially flummoxed and then frustrated me. Once during my first year at college, questions about my otherness from a floor (and dormitory) of mostly White women, ran the gamut. “How often do you wash your hair?” and “Do Black people get the chicken pox?” were popular ones. Whenever I divulged where I was from, I’d get asked, “Oh, do you know someone named Tyrone Jones? He’s Black and from Connecticut too.” I know Connecticut’s a small state, but umm…

September 26, 2011

Black Glah-MOUR Update!

Some days ago, I wrote about how much I love vintage ads featuring Black spokes-models helping endorse different beauty products. I also disclosed my fascination with the pin up era and lamented about the limited number of periodicals featuring Black glamour models save for a website called Vintage Sleaze, which archives an impressive collection of Black pin up periodicals and helpful resources for those wanting to learn even more... and I do, as anyone who reads this blog, knows that I like writing about the history of the female aesthetic and beauty regimens, specifically women of the African diaspora. 

I think Black sexuality is a relevant part of Black history, regardless of how people may (or may not) feel about it that element of our beings. Most of us are aware of the tragic life and times of Sara Baartman and continuously  try to understand the Jezebel vs Mammy stereotypes that is perpetually attached to our image. So in addition to having a genuine fascination with that moment in time and space, I naturally wonder how the relatively unexplored history of Black pin ups plays into those stereotypes and who the purveyors were... 
Enter writer, publisher, and collector Jim Linderman (who also runs the site, Vintage Sleaze)... 

I recently received an email from Jim (who happened upon my blog post), informing me that he has amassed a collection of rare photos featuring Black pin up models and featured them in a self-published, paperback book titled: Secret History of the Black Pin Up. Jim Linderman got the idea for the book after seeing a question on an internet message board asking; Why aren't there any Black pin up girls? This prompted Jim to find the answer to that question and much, much more about the history of Black glamour/adult modeling during 1940's to the present. 

Based on the previews I've read and the bits of information I've been able to scrape together via Google, It's an intriguing history. 

The softcover version of the book sells for $22.99 and additional  information on Jim Linderman can be found here as well as on his blog

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