Coffee Rhetoric: Black History
Showing posts with label Black History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Black History. Show all posts

January 20, 2014

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Dream Deferred

The Importance of Looking Beyond the Words: "I Have A Dream" 

Once a year, during Martin Luther King, Jr.'s day of commemoration and/or during the anniversary of his famous 1963 "I Have A Dream" speech, people are prompted to do one (or all) of a few things: fist pump about having an extended weekend before rolling over to sleep-in, hit up all of the MLK shopping deals at the mall, cull a cursory menu of food items that include fried chicken, collard greens, and other edibles ascribed to Black-Americans, or reduce Martin Luther King to nothing but the opening line, “I Have A Dream…”, gleaning the parts that best suit myopic platitudes to peddle post-racial propaganda and silence or they'll co-opt his words and misuse them to condescend to black people, in hopes that black folks will stop talking about racism and the daily microaggressions we have to navigate.

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 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...
 

October 20, 2011

Secret History of the Black Pin Up: From Tease to Sleaze

I recently wrote two blog posts regarding the lack of information on Black pin up or adult models from the 1950's here and here.

In response, a collector, historian and independent publisher named Jim Linderman contacted me and divulged that he'd written and self-published a book (laden with images) outlining the lives and experiences of Black pin up and porn models. 

He had amassed an impressive collection of vintage adult periodicals and pictures showing Black women in various stages of undress and poses. and included some rare finds in his paperback Secret History of the Black Pin Up, which is 118 pages and includes some brief, but  interesting, history with the visuals. 
"There is a whole generation of young women who idolize Bettie Page and such, but they have no idea how UN-glamorous it was for her and the others. I wanted to show some of that, as well as make some points about racism of course." Linderman said in an email exchange

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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September 15, 2011

Black Glah-MOUR

http://vintageblackglamour.tumblr.com/
This is the sort of post I'd usually reserve for my tumblr page, but I absolutely love this vintage ad for Noxema and wanted to provide a little commentary on my fascination with vintage glamour photos featuring women of the African diaspora. 
I've always been curious about any possible vintage ads featuring Black pin-ups, products for afro-textured hair, and various other beauty products. My searches have usually turned up less unfulfilled whenever I Googled information featuring Black women as pin-ups. Recently and much to my surprise, I stumbled across information about a pre-Black Tail, pre-King Magazine periodical called Tan N' Terrific (undoubtedly considered to be exploitative smut back in the day) - via the site Vintage Sleaze, which features a treasure trove of vintage photos showcasing Black women in various stages of photography. Despite the seemingly... sordid nature (and I write "sordid" sans judgment or scorn)- of Tan N' Terrific, I'm even more intrigued and interested in learning about the history of periodicals that predate Black Tail and King, and whether they were Black owned publications. I've a feeling Tan N' Terrific wasn't and the person behind the periodical saw an opportunity to capitalize on this particular brand of adult material, as I'm sure there was a niche that hadn't been filled yet, due to the sign of those times.  
Google Images
I'm quite impressed with the work of prolific Black photographer, Howard Morehead, however; who died in 2003. Morehead was one of the few legitimate Black photographers who did consistent and steady work in the entertainment industry, shooting iconic jazz figures such as Ray Charles. Just as importantly, Morehead set out to capture the beauty of Black women during the 1950's, in a less explicit fashion than Tan N' Terrific, despite proclamations that Negro women weren't attractive enough to be captured on photo or featured as models in reputable publications. Howard Morehead did extensive photography for both Jet and Ebony magazines and was instrumental in promoting the Miss Bronze California pageant, in which Marilyn McCoo of Solid Gold fame (don't act like you didn't watch it) placed first, in 1962 . Unlike Tan N' Terrific, Morehead presented the beauty of the Black female form in a more artistic way, while still managing to maintain the allure of the Black female form. This work was collected in the rare 1964 book of photography, Gentlemen Prefer Bronze, which Jet Magazine described as "a photographic tribute to Negro beauty... featuring a wide range of camera moods, from portraits to figure studies..."  
Howard Morehead's work can also be seen at the California African American Museum
I'm overly excited but per usual, any issue having to do with women of the African diaspora as they relate to our image (good, bad, and ugly), current and past marketing campaigns, beauty regimens, or the arts, is near, dear, and important to me. 
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July 17, 2011

Help Me Understand The Help


Social and Print media has been buzzing about Kathryn Stockett's book The Help. The story takes place in the 1960's during the Civil Rights Movement and is about a young woman named Skeeter... an aspiring writer who returns home to Jackson, Mississippi after having just graduated from Ole Miss (University of Mississippi). Encouraged to write about disturbs her, Skeeter decides to down-low collect stories from Black maids detailing their experiences working for their affluent, White mistresses who while relying on them, also mistrusts them - (A woman won't even let her maid use the family's bathroom in one instance). Skeeter collects these stories with the help of a domestic named Aibileen and Aibileen's friend Minny. Like many bestsellers that pique Hollywood's interest, Stockett's book has been adapted into a film also titled The Help, due for release this August and starring the underrated and prolific Viola Davis, who plays one of the several domestics.
General consensus about the book seems to be positive with most people calling its story "uplifting." One commenter on an article's feedback section patronizingly wrote (perhaps without meaning to): "The best book I've read all year. I would welcome any of the maids in my household... especially Aibileen..." But it definitely isn't without its share of controversy. There're a few people who're skeptical about Kathryn Stockett's intentions (for better or worse), the story's theme, and the upcoming film. Ablene Cooper, a 60-year-old woman who has worked as a domestic for many years, has filed a lawsuit against Kathryn Stockett, claiming the principal character in The Help appropriates her back-story and likeness; and also uses a variant spelling of her name, without her consent and finds it "emotionally distressing." Another interesting twist is that Cooper has worked and currently still does, for Stockett's brother and his wife (who seem to support Ablene in her suit against Stockett). Cooper claims that Kathryn Stockett never approached her prior to the writing and subsequent publishing of The Help
The issue of race, especially as it relates to Black women (particularly in the American south) working for affluent White families... cleaning their homes and raising their children... is still somewhat of a delicate matter, most notably for those who've had to do it for many years for lack of better opportunities and at the risk of their own families. A white person composing these stories about the Black community heightens the skepticism many feel. Stockett herself has acknowledged the book’s cool reception by people (including some of her own family members) in her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. I understand that most of us writers are very keen about our surroundings and the people that inhabit it, and so may base ideas and characters off of those elements... but sometimes it's a slippery slope and can come with its share of backlash. Particularly if we aren't careful in how we re-configure those characters we base off of real people, places, and things. 
Additionally, most Black people have mentioned being sick and tired of stories and movies featuring somewhat wayward Black people seemingly being rescued by heroic White people. The August 2011 issue of Essence Magazine features two perspectives on The Help by two Black writers, one of whom enjoyed it as she could "picture the homes, hairdos, and even feel the Delta heat" each time she opened the book and didn't think it reinforced stereotypes, while the other commented that the book "glosses over the reality of African-American triumphs we bled and died for, in order to make a feel-good Hollywood story." 
I'd be remis if I didn't mention my own reluctance about books and movies that tell our stories from a third party perspective not similar to my own ... and have actually tried reading The Help myself, but couldn't quite make it past the first two chapters, as it just failed to sustain my interest. I'm also ambivalent about the upcoming movie. So I'll refrain from opining whether I believe it to be a "uplifting" read or whether I think it'll be a great movie. I will say that I do enjoy reading compelling and honest Black stories, written by Black authors and am still reeling from Wench written by Dolan Perkins-Valdez and would love to see more Black films about Black women, made by... well Black women. It has been a while since I've seen a feature film made by Kasi Lemmons or Julie Dash. I'm still a bit... cranky about Tyler Perry's movie adaptation of Ntozake Shange's "For Colored Girls Who've Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Wasn't Enough." but I digress... that's a whole other topic.
It'll be interesting to read the reviews once the movie has hit theaters and people have actually seen it. Either way, please discuss...

February 14, 2011

Black History Essentials: Reading Is Fundamental

This month is as great a time as any to catch up on noteworthy books to read. Whether they be staples from authors of yore or present day provocateurs with something powerful to share... Here're a few books that shook me to my core after I read them. 
Wench by  Dolen Perkins-Valdez made me privy to a part of Black... American history that I was completely unaware of... This article over at Racialicious sums it up really well..
I was also rather struck by the late Chester Himes' searing and controversial (especially for its time) "race novel", The End of A Primitive, which charts the slow disintegration of a heated and alcohol fueled interracial relationship between a, as Himes describes, "sexually frustrated American woman and racially frustrated Black American male" where he allows them to "soak in American bourbon." The result is ... intense to say the least. Himes' own story is interesting in and of itself. 
Another novel of note is Walter Mosley's The Man In My Basement. I believe I read this in two nights... An intense  and philosophical study about race, identity, and impressions. Also seemed to tackle moral dilemmas about evil, redemption, power, and punishment... 
Check them out! 

 

February 12, 2010

Hathor Take The Wheel

I did not want to bat an eyelash over John Mayer’s recent FAIL interview with Playboy Magazine, but the more in-depth I read it- (in its entirety, because I did not want to comment based solely on the excerpts that got everyone in an uproar)- the harder I blinked and the more perplexed I became. I will not comment on the obvious homophobia or misogyny and ageism he displayed whilst commenting on his former girlfriends (‘right made the acid in my stomach gurgle with displeasure), nor on the lack of confidence he has in his manhood for he spoke at length about his sexual prowess and technique as well as his need to prove himself and be better than the former flames of his conquests. 
What I will rant and rave about however, is John’s proclamations that he has a “hood/nigger” pass, suggesting that having one somehow justifies his never ending, assholish behavior, asinine public comments and Twitter rants. He said he was "Very" just like Black folks. "V.E.R.Y." and so it absolved him of stupid behavior. Man, I guess (not).  John also name dropped Kanye West, a fellow partner in lame grappling with his own P.R. issues and who in 1996 (publicly creamed his trousers over the splendor of biracial women or “mutts” as he affectionately called them, Jay-Z, and other rappers, who, shall I add, seem color-struck and enamored with all things lighter-skinned and/or non-Black themselves, and will never miss an opportunity to bash dark-skinned Black women or to drape themselves with the finest of racially ambiguous vixens. But I digress... 
John Mayer… who always manages to fellate his foot hungrily, deep-throating it with gusto whenever he has the media’s attention… felt his scrotum swelling with douche water after waving his “nigger pass” in the air... going on to gloat, after being asked if Black women threw themselves at him  (a stupid question in and of itself), that while he has a Benetton heart he just couldn’t open himself up to the possibility of entertaining Black women, due to his having a David Duke cock.”
insert record screeching to an abrupt stop right here
Correct me if I’m wrong, or perhaps I’m out of the loop, but I had no idea Black women were drowning John in a river of crème de la coochie. I was completely unaware that this rather uninteresting and bland musician was the stuff that makes Black women swoon with unbridled desire. John also went on to make vulgar remarks about noted Black actress Kerry Washington’s hotness and how she might possibly suck a dick and say, “Yeah, I did it, so what?” for she’d undoubtedly break a Caucasian cad’s heart because she's "crazy like a white girl," or some such nonsense to that effect, his love of porn, and how every White dude bulged out of their boxers for sitcom character Hilary Banks from the The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Additionally, while John Mayer is entitled to his preferences, why do it at the expense of Black women by suggesting that we are somehow not worthy or significant enough for someone as inane as he is? Listen, at the end of the day, I don't need John's racist penis to validate me as a Black woman or any other White man with a "nigger pass" or otherwise for that matter, so I'll sleep well this evening, but imagine the shock and furor had Halle Berry stated she had the heart of Coretta Scott King but the vagina of Minister Louis Farrakhan ... Mmm hmmm... Think, think, think... famous people. THINK before you spew. 
To the assholes who gave Mayer a “nigger pass,” Therein lies the problem, jerks. You make it OK for dumb-asses to engage in hipster racism because you’re giving them the go-ahead to do so…ofttimes at a Black woman's expense.  And then you’re the same jack-asses who want to mollywhop your White buddy, because he said,  “Nigger please!” Um. No sir. You can't have it both ways. Good for the goose but not for the gander??
John Mayer or any other wanna-be down chav gets no “hood pass” from me EVER. I don’t care how many BLACK friends you collect, I don't care how many close White friends I happen to connect with, and I don’t care how many of your BLACK FRIENDS said it was OK to make stupid statements steeped in bigotry. It is never OK to wallow in ignorance because you think it's the hip thing that will get you an *in.* Real talk. I don't hand those types of passes out. Null and VOID. 
Mayer, choked up and regretful (because his publicist told him to be ), issued a tearful apology onstage in the middle of a performance in addition to taking to his Twitter page yet again to partake in some major damage control. I refuse to stroke his ego by saying, “Awww, he made a mistake.” A mistake is something that’s unintentional and not predicated on arrogance and one’s privilege. He's sorry, because folks got pissed and his statements were not well received, because just like many White people who share Mayer's sentiment(s) about being "down", it's always cool to smile proudly and proclaim how much Black people love you, as a way to justify making ignorant (regardless of one's intention) statements out loud. And to co-opt the cool parts of being a racial minority, while rejecting the difficulties of being one. 
In the grand scheme of his stupidity, self-loathing, and narcissism however, I do not believe that Mayer is a racist. And I don't care if his David Duke cock wants to burn a cross at my window, because I am personally not, nor have I ever been rubbing myself raw over John Mayer. He is a bigot who hates women, however... and is a sad a victim of his own delusions of grandeur, arrogance, and sexual inadequacy. And to those Black folks who think it’s cute for some "others" to trash-talk your mothers, aunts, dads, brothers, uncles, and sisters (yes, those of you issuing out the free "nigger passes" to your White buddies)… stop perpetuating the disrespectful behavior. Enough is enough.  
Perhaps Mayer's attempt to fumble towards ecstasy and understanding will help us mull over the topics of race and gender a little more closely, and think before we open our gobs... trying to be clever. And a simple, "No, Black women don't throw themselves at me. Not at all." would've sufficed, John.

Read more about Mayer-gate 2010---

July 21, 2009

It's a Mad Houuuuuuuse...

And I'm mad. If you've yet to read the media circus surrounding the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. then you're probably a bit perplexed by the public outrage... mostly by people of color. For those not in the know, Henry Louis Gates, Jr is a writer, literary critic, scholar extraordinaire, and tenured professor at Harvard University. He has hosted and produced compelling documentaries for PBS such as; American Lives and American Lives 2, where he helped noted Black American celebrities trace their lineage through DNA testing. Gates also created and edits an online magazine called The Root. So in summation, the man has the skills to pay the bills, and is a distinguished member of the literati. So it was with dismay and shock that many of us read that he had been arrested and taken into custody, where he was kept for 4 hours, before being released. Anger and exasperation soon followed after details of his arrest came to light.
Apparently, after returning from a trip to China where he was filming his latest documentary, Gates came home and discovered that his door was damaged, had jammed and so had problems entering his home. He then entered through the back, and he and the driver who transported him from the airport proceeded to try to pry the front door open. Upon doing so, said driver helped Gates bring his bags inside before driving off. Gates immediately got on the phone with the Harvard Real estate office to tell them about the damaged door. During his phone call, Gates noticed a police officer on his front porch. Through a recently released statement via an attorney/friend/colleague to the press, he would express his surprise at finding several police officers outside his residence. Apparently they were responding to a phone call placed by a neighbor- a 77 year old magazine fundraiser- that "two Black men with backpacks" were on Gates' front porch, one of whom was "wedging his shoulder into the door."
According to Gates' statement-After proving he was was a resident of the home, and after asking the interrogating officer for his badge number and name, and after showing substantial identification, the officer simply walked off sans an apology. Incensed (undestandably so) by the humiliation, Gates exclaimed that the police were displaying bias and being racist. To make a long story short, the police arrested him for "disorderly conduct" because he displayed "loud and tumulutous behavior."
I felt compelled to be thorough about the details leading up to his arrest, because general, mostly White consensus (because many have failed to read and grasp the details concerning the matter)- is that Gates deserved to be arrested, and that he had no right to question the obvious racial profiling that was taking place. To say I was upset by the comments displayed on the Boston Globes' comment board would be putting it mildly. I would then go on to read "Stop playing the Race Card" type propoganda on Facebook's "I Love Black People" board as well as on various other forums. Hence this blog post. One common thread in these comments were "Obama is the president, therefore RACISM NO LONGER EXISTS. GET OVER IT!"
Apparently ignorance is bliss for you naysayers. While it is true that minorities, namely Black folk, have made some strides... we have a looong path ahead of us. Uncompromising situations such as the one Gates experienced is demonstrative of that. How DARE you, having little knowledge about the daily struggles of minorities, tell us to get over it, and stop playing the race card?? I don't expect THE PRIVILEGED MAJORITY to even have an inkling of an idea of what it's like to have to fight to disprove racial stereotypes because people have no faith in your intellectual prowess. Until you many of you (this guy gets it)- take your heads out of your asses and stop pissing all over progress, then NO we will NOT get over it. Since when is it against the law and disorderly for one to express his opinion, on HIS PROPERTY? After Gates identified who he was and why he had to force his way into his home, the officer should have stopped questioning him, apologized for the intrustion, and moved on.
See, the visual that plays in my head, when I picture this happening to a White professor is as follows: Officer examines ID, and says, "Sorry to bother you and for the confusion Mr. Smith. Have a great day."
You mean to tell me that after a long trip, not being able to get into your house, and then having the coppers show up on your doorstep because of some busy body who thinks we're all suspect, to question you for only wanting to decompress that you wouldn't be ruffled by the experience?? Give me a break! You would be mad too! Period. The neighbor in question obviously thinks A Black man trying to force a door open, in broad daylight, whether she recognizes him, what was going on, or NOT, was suspect enough to call the cops rather than making sure she knew what she was seeing was in fact a burglary. While no charges have been filed against Henry Louis Gates, the scar still remains, and tax dollars have been wasted.
We will stop playing the RACE CARD, when it stops getting DEALT.
That is all.

December 29, 2008

Start the New Year Off Right...

As I stated two posts below, I'm not one to compose an extensive list of New Year's Resolutions, but I do try to start the new year right, as best as I can. I hope you all do the same. Please, don't be a "Jump Off Bitch Trick Freaky Dick Suckin' Cum Drinkin' Dick In the Booty Ass Young Bitch." Seriously.
To each his and her own, but it's just not a particularly sophisticated or classy way to act. You can't really expect to meet a man of worth or value displaying such overt and gratuitous sexuality in this way. It's not pleasurable and it's painful and disrespectful. Trust this. I try to keep it classy at all times. I suppose this is why I'm okay with being 31 and still single. So start 2009 off with some class. Don't be a "Jump Off Bitch Trick"... oh read the rest above and more importantly listen to Alexyss K. Tylor! She's raw and uncut, but her messages are oh so right. In fact, her words are pure poetry (see "jump off bitch trick..."). Take care of and respect your body, cervix uteri, vaginal cavity, uvula, and intestines. If you don't, no one will. Allow and demand that a man acquaint himself with your intellect and your true visage, not your "pussy face."

November 08, 2008

The Story of (What I Did for) O

Tuesday, November 4th was undoubtedly, one of the most important days in the history of important days. Its aftermath would make or break the United States as we know it, and considering what we know, the vast majority of this country's citizens were looking to make history and break-up with the current White House administration. Election day. Monumental, nail-biting, extraordinary because of the response this year's voting process evoked. I got up, determined to project my voice with some measure of success this time around. Election day was particularly mild and sunny, perfect for waiting outside for hours. This is how I spent November 4th.
7:55AM - I arrived at my old polling station hoping to put one over because A) voting downtown was sooo convenient since I work down there plus there was NO line to speak of! and B) my old downtown address was listed on my ID, and I was worried voting at my new district without current address info would present a problem. Needless to say, my efforts were to no avail because I wasn't on the registration list and District 19 was not having it, so they politely told me where my new polling district was located when I told them I'd moved. "Make sure you go vote! You HAVE to do it!" one of the volunteers yelled after me. A little dejected, I decided I'd use my lunch hour to do just that.
12:30PM- I arrive at my new voting district and groaned when I saw the long line. I saw a small group heading in the same direction and so walked at a clip, taking a shortcut through some hedges, jumping right in front of them before they closed the gap. I took my place. And I waited, and waited, and waited. The facility was hot and stuffy. I smelled some sort of stench coming from inside. The more the line inched forward, the stronger and more putrid the funk got. My olfactory glands hung on for dear life, struggling not to collapse my nose. The young man in front of me started fanning his and pinching his nostrils together. The line inched forward some more. I'd been holding my breath the whole time, and made the mistake of inhaling to take in some air. The perfume was undeniable: rank breath, unwashed body, strong week old piss with a hot helping of fresh pee, dirty socks and mildew. I was awash in its aroma.
The line inched forward. I was standing directly in front of a bathroom door at this point. A volunteer made his way through the crowd, and went in. He opened the door and the smell of eau de TOILET added to the already pungent perfume swirling through and around the line. I slowly turned my head and stood with my back to the door so as not to smell or HEAR what was going on in the restroom. Fortunately the line began to move further up.
I looked at the time on my mobile phone:
12:45- I noticed an animated Latino family standing in front of the young guy fanning his nose. They pushed their elderly daddy in a wheelchair as the line moved forward. At this point, Fanning His Nose Guy started holding his nostrils and fanning at a feverish pace. I sighed and started texting my best friend Cat.
12:50- It still stinks and I'm still texting.
1:15- I finally make it in front of a middle-aged man checking photo IDs and the voting register. The Latino family left their old daddy parked right next to the election volunteer. They were nowhere to be seen. The man reeled back and away from the daddy in the wheelchair, turned up his nose and said, "Is someone helping you SIR??" Daddy pulled out a crumpled up Kleenex and began blowing his nose in response. A random voice yelled out, "I think his family is voting!" the man leaned further way from the daddy. I shrugged, assuming he was put off by the nose blowing.
I moved closer and opened my mouth to tell the volunteer that I'd just moved when the pissy aroma reeled up and bitch slapped me in the face hard, like an angry spirit. It was then that I realized the abuelito in the wheelchair was wearing the bulk of the pungent perfume of STANK. Breathless, I told the volunteer that I was new to the district and he directed me to another line. Annoyed over having to stand in another line, but glad to be away from the unwashed papá, I took my place.
1:20- Two elderly Black ladies sat behind a table. One drew lines on a blank piece of paper with the help of a ruler while the other was on the phone to City Hall... squinting at a piece of paper. Apparently trying to determine which district a perplexed gentleman was supposed to be at. I sighed.
1:25- It was clear I wasn't going to make it back from lunch at 1:30, so I placed a call to work.
1:27- The woman continued to draw her lines. "I don't know if this gon' work" she muttered to herself, as she struggled to line up her ruler. The other granny continued to squint at the paper with the phone cradled between her ear and shoulder. An Ethiopian man in front of me grew impatient, "I need to be at work een 9 meenutes! I deedn't even eat yet!" he said in an agitated voice. "We doin' the best we can" granny on the phone said. I rolled my eyes.Then glowered at the woman drawing the lines. She never looked up.
1:30- "Can I help you?" granny on the phone (now off the phone) finally said to me. I told her that I was new to that particular voting district and I may not be on the list, and that my old polling district assured me I only needed to fill out a form, updating my info. "Oh no honey. THIS your voting district, you gotta go to 500 Main Street." She showed me where I was, in fact, listed on the registration form, pointing to district 19 with a pen. "NO!" I said impatiently, "that's my OLD district. I just moved near HERE. I need to fill out one of those pink forms and update my address. I'm at the right place." "Ohhh." she said, finally understanding. "The administrator needs to approve this info." I sighed, and followed her to yet another table.
1:34- "You're all set!" the woman behind the table said. FINALLY. "Just fill out this voter registration card with your new address and mail it to City Hall. The rest of your info is up to date. You're registered already." Relieved, I went to retrieve a ballad so that I can place my vote!
1:38- I slip my ballad in the machine. A man, another volunteer peeled the backing off of an I Voted sticker and stood poised. I reached for it, he pulled back. I held out my red pashmina scarf, he shamelessly stuck it on my right bosom instead, and pushed it down to make sure it stuck. Then he patted my arm. I rolled my eyes and walked toward the EXIT, anxious to get the hell out of there.
I made it back to work at around 1:45!
Wednesday would restore my faith in our judgement as a nation, as I'm hopeful about its future. I'm also relieved to know that we as a community don't have to find Halle Berry and Denzel Washington's Oscar wins good enough to placate us, regarding how far we can get in this country.
The discussions instigated by some well-meaning? White people... strangers... so far, have already begun to agitate me. Annoy me in that-
"HaveyouseenthenewMalcolmXpostagestamp didyouvoteforObamaIsupportyourpeople'cause IhaveBlackfriendsdidyoucryIdid?IsawtheAmistadfivetimes didyoulikeit??IvotedforMcCainHopefully Obamaknowswhathe'sdoingbecause I'mindenialoverwhattheBushAdministrationdid!"
way. "We have four years to put up with this shit" I opined to a Black co-worker. She snickered and nodded in understanding, after an animated conversation by said type of person and proud McCain supporter. Considering this momentous occassion, I'm willing to suck it up.

November 02, 2008

These and Those

Schtuff continues to keep me extremely busy (I am at the tail end of having coordinated a list of successful activities to help raise money for the United Way Campaign), and I'm still breaking in my new abode. I'm also excited and a bit anxious about voting Tuesday. I've been having these huge-mini panic attacks, fearing that when I arrive at my designated polling station, something stupid is going to hinder me from being able to cast my vote! This is a historical election year, and I intend to exercise my right to vote!
On an interesting and unexpected note, last night I did something I hadn't done in years! I read (a poem) at a gathering. Folks, fellow artistes stood up and took the floor so to speak, and I got inspired (perhaps by the red wine and strawberry dacquiri I drank)- and decided to project my voice. It had been a while since I shared in that capacity, but it felt cathartic. Nerve wracking at first, but good nonetheless. I'm not really a performer, and usually share my chose art form through print. Spirited games of Taboo and Scategories (trash talking included) soon followed. Here're some of the other things I've been up to...
P.S. to my BFF Cat: Congrats to running a half marathon for Breast Cancer Awareness in San Francisco recently. I was only joking when I said you probably 'ran like a slave.' Election day is upon us, figured I'd clean this up to help ring in a new and hopefully monumental moment on a POSITIVE note.

April 20, 2008

Hair Raising Tale

Recently, while browsing in a store at the mall, an attractive, young Black woman and sales associate (she worked at the store) around my age approached me. "Excuse me, are you from around here?" she asked me. A bit perplexed I answered, "Yes. I am."
She said, "Like reaally from around here or from somewhere else?" "I dont' know how you mean," I answered. "Do you want to know if I'm from this particular town, or if I'm from this state??" "Well, I'm asking you, because I think your hair is BEAUTIFUL and I love it!" she exclaimed. "Wow, thank you!" I answered sheepishly. "No really!" she said. "I think your hair looks great. See, I'm not from around here. I just relocated from Minnesota. I live in Middletown, CT. I've been here for six months, and the towns I've frequented so far haven't been that receptive to my hair." Confused, my gazed found the top of her head... "Oh, I'm wearing a wig." She said, shyly. "My hair is natural underneath here, and I usually wear it in a style similar to yours. Since I've moved here, I haven't worn it that way though." "Oh why??" I asked her. "I don't know," she started. "but I get this weird feeling when I'm out shopping at organic food markets or if I'm out and about running errands, people stare at me disapprovingly. Like they don't like my hair! And the job interviews I've gone on since moving here... I since that they find my hair inappropriate... plus I'm a full-figured woman so I feel..." At this juncture in the conversation, an older White sales associate happened upon the conversation and listened with interest. "Well what towns are you going to? I know Middletown is known as a relatively artsy town." I conversed. "Well, towns like Glastonbury..." she started. I rolled my eyes knowingly, as did the White sales associate. "Firstly, Glastonbury??" I smirked. "Look girl, I think you should not hide your hair underneath that wig. I get nothing but positive feedback from people. I've been on numerous job interviews with my hair just like this! Perhaps it's my attitude and demeanor. But I've never had that issues. And if someone doesn't like it, I could care less. My hair is neat, I keep it combed and it's not unruly and unkempt when I venture out in public. I completely understand that 'feeling' you get, however. And it's certainly valid. I don't understand why someone would demand that we wear our hair a certain way that isn't natural to who we are ethnically!" She nodded appreciatively. The white sales associate (who's hair was dark, somewhat course, and curly) opined that she doesn't understand why someone would discriminate against the texture of someone's hair. She also pointed out that people in the major cities and towns (in Connecticut) could care less! I agreed and told her the black hair issue is a complicated and multilayered situation. And that it'd be hard to explain and chop up in just fifteen minutes. "Look, wear your natural hair." I told the young sales associate. "Don't hide behind the wig." "I just want to thank you!" she said. "You've inspired me to do just that! You really have. I'd like for you to return so that you can see it! Perhaps we can become friends and you can suggest other places and towns I can roam freely, without feeling insecure!" I told her it was a done deal. And that I'd return to the store, when time permitted me to.
The issue of Black hair is indeed a touchy one for the Black community. Many of us have a difficult enough time coming to terms with specific aspects of our ethnicity, but when you have White people weighing it, it makes it all the more difficult to navigate! While the situation is a little more tolerable now, Corporate America has, for years, made it taboo and uncomfortable for Black professionals (especially women) to sport braids, dreadlocks, and naturals to work. Preferring that we chemically process our hair or sport hair extensions to properly "fit in" with what 'the majority' considers to be the norm. I highly doubt White-American women would be asked to tan and perm their hair, to add texture if they want to be hired or considered as a candidate for employment. So why are Black women, Black people expected to change those parts of ourselves, we can't help being. Natural hair dictates just that! Something that's natural to our ethnicity and race. Glamour Magazine came under fire last year when an editor accepted an invitation from a New York law firm, to present a slide show on the "Do's and Don'ts of Corporate Fashion."
The first slide allegedly featured a Black woman wearing a stylish afro. "A real no-no" scoffed the Glamour editor. Who followed up by stating that dreadlocks were "truly dreadful!" She continued that it was ’shocking’ that some people still think it ‘appropriate’ to wear those hairstyles at the office. ‘No offense,’ she sniffed, but those ‘political’ hairstyles really have to go. I'd be willing to wager that the offending editor pissed off several African-American lawyers, who were undoubtedly present during her presentation.
Glamour Magazine found itself doing major damage control, by hosting a panel discussion in November, dedicated to Women, Race, and Beauty. The March issue featured a transcript of said discussion. Not good enough, because the fashion industry and society, no matter how many panel discussions (a seemingly common solution to flagrant bigotry)- are hastily thrown together, Black beauty will forever come under fire. And quite frankly, I'm sick to death of it. Period. I find it appalling that a woman who makes no apologies for her "blackness" is accused of trying to make a "political statement." Or is described as a "nappy-headed ho' "
Perhaps if I bleached my skin along with over processing, beweaving, and damaging my hair, I can avoid offending racist and self-hating zealots who refuse to acknowledge that blond, skinny, and spray-tanned is not the sole criteria for beauty. I'm sorry (not) if my brown self and kinky hair offends. But then again, that's not MY problem. It's White and Corporate America's hurdle to get over. Black people... Black women specifically need to get over it and stop allowing society, people, Black men, other Black women, White men, purported White "fashion mavens" and the media dictate and define how our beauty should register, just so they can feel comfortable.

February 16, 2008

Arn't I A Woman Pt II

I happened upon this article entitled, "Not Woman Enough" over at racialicious, written by a contributing guest writer who calls herself Tami. Tami, a Black woman, questions her femininity and ponders the inner workings of White privilege (particularly of the white, patriarchal variety ofttimes with very narrow views of beauty and intellect)- after a White male colleague (unconsciously?) makes her feel inferior and less alluring than her White female counter-part and co-worker. The writer hit on a number of very relevant points and raises some interesting questions about the de-sexualization and fetishization of Black women... How we can't be beautiful (to them... as if it matters) sans a long list of prerequisites or unless they're trying to meet their "I've never had sex with a (insert race) girl before" ethnic quota. So we fall under their "to do" list. Some Black women may try to assimilate completely, by engaging in damaging behaviors such as, pouring bleach on their heads, slathering on the wrong type of make-up, wearing painful and cheap looking weaves and wigs that contradict their ethnicity, and rubbing dangerous skin lighteners on their persons. I don't think the writer is seeking validation from her white male counter-parts nor is she speaking from a particularly vain view point. I think she is simply tired of being invisible and seen as less than. Sometimes that experience has nothing to do with aesthetics, but can be on an intellectual level as well. One would have to be living at the opposite end of the spectrum, to truly understand where she is coming from. Here is an excerpt from the article:
Today I was reminded of my place in the female hierarchy.

I was in an impromptu meeting with a 50-something white man and a white woman who is my age, when this exchange occurred:

White male: The only people who liked that design were under 28.

White female: Under 37…I loved it.

Me: Yeah. Me too.

White male: (to white female, pointedly) Well, YOU don’t look older than 28.

White female: (to me–maybe attempting to soften white male’s comment) You don’t either.

White male: (eyeing me) Mmmm…I don’t know about that.

It is peculiar–in my experience, some white men don’t relate to black women as women. On more than one occaision, at more than one job, a white male co-worker has made comments to me that violate society’s codes of chivalry. What gentleman comments on how old a woman looks? This is not the first time the man in question has made a subtly derogatory comment about my appearance. I have also noticed how his eyes slide distastefully over my natural hair.

When I began typing this post, I worried that I was overreacting. In the re-telling, the offense seems so petty and maybe subject to interpretation. Maybe it wasn’t about race at all, maybe my co-worker simply finds me haggard looking and is surprisingly untactful. So, I called up a good friend–another black woman–that I can always count on for wise counsel. She understood exactly what I meant about the peculiar state of non-femaleness black women sometimes occupy in the mainstream. It is the weird flip side to the stereotype of the wanton black sexual temptress.

Read the rest of the article here and visit Tami's Blog and PLEASE read this post (something Black people do, and is at the top of my list of pet peeves!), while you're over there...

January 21, 2008

Unsung Activists

While everyone uses this day home from work and school to reflect on Martin Luther King's birthday, attend special observances and programs, or simply to piss around (or however you choose to spend your free day off)I'd like to take this opportunity to recognize the women who made a significant impact during the Civil Rights Movement. It's rare that we read or hear about how Black women (in addition to Rosa Parks) have impacted our (black) history and women's history in general. Stereotyped, hypersexualized, and often labeled as 'right bitches (or hoes, depending on who's hurling the insult), Black women... we don't get a fair or accurate rap sometimes. Zora Neale Hurston's contribution to African-American literature was written off by her Black, male literary peers, who accused her of "romanticizing" the Black experience, but that's for another post. My point is, we often can't get a break or any cred for the things we've done in the past and the ways in which we continue to thrive presently. We hear so much about the indelible mark Rosa Parks - left, it probably leaves some folks wondering if she was the ONLY black woman who fought for equality during this time. She's not.

JoAnne Gibson Robinson was a professor of English at Alabama State and member of the Women's Political Council. Months prior to Rosa Park's negative bus experience Gibson-Robinson experienced similar treatment from an abusive Montgomery City Lines driver and used her membership to the WPC as a catalyst for change. Ella Baker. Septima Poinsette Clark. Fannie Lou Hamer. Civil Rights overlooked revolutionaries who remained stealth, in the background... perhaps due to sexism, racism, and other biases. Author Lynne Olsen writes:

After the bus boycott got going and (Martin Luther) King got involved, they wouldn’t even let Rosa Parks speak at the first mass meeting. She asked to speak, and one of the ministers said he thought she had done enough.
Olson added that Parks is often depicted as a deferential woman who defied segregation laws at the urging of movement leaders, but in fact she had for years quietly pushed for racial justice — and she had carefully planned the actions that led to her arrest. She was not just a symbol, She was an agent. Olsen also added. I think it's great that we get to observe the significance of Martin Luther King's birthday and that it was made into a national holiday. I think he also wouldn't mind us extending thanks to some of the women that helped him make such relevant and important changes in helping him further his cause. ...

  • Ella Baker was a charismatic labor organizer and longtime leader in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She believed the movement should not place too much emphasis on leaders.
  • Septima Poinsette Clark, often called the “queen mother” of civil rights, was an educator and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People activist decades before the nation’s attention turned to racial equality.
  • Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi sharecropper, was beaten and jailed in 1962 for trying to register to vote. She co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and gave a fiery speech at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.
  • Vivian Malone Jones defied segregationist Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace to enroll in the University of Alabama in 1963 and later worked in the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department.

January 19, 2008

Handkerchief Head Negro

Is it just me, or do quite a few Black, male leader types from the Civil Rights era have a lot of disdain for Barack Obama's run for the White House? Where was the disappointment when Condi and Colin joined the ranks of the Bush Administration and contributed to the downfall of our international relations and this country's current state? Anyway, this pastor says we young Black people don't have a right to vote or choose who our next President should be, because we're ignorant, have no substance, have amassed massive college debt, we're trying to "eat and date white" and we've corrupted society. Notwithstanding the fact that he sounds like one of the biggest, intra-racially bigoted, mark ass, ignoramuses yet. What the FUCK does "eating white" mean?? I'd love to hear him expound on that whole theory of eating white.