Colorism is far from being over here in the states. The subject is just as toxic in other countries causing rippling effects like skin bleaching. Due to the seriousness of the issue, Ghana is doing something major to combat the issue.
Ghana’s Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) plans to ban the sale of cosmetic products containing hydroquinone. The skin bleaching ingredient is commonly known to act as a cancer-causing agent and there's already a ban in place for the United States.
FDA spokesperson James Lartey told Face to Face Africa that the products will no longer be imported to the country.
“Concerning skin lightening products, we are saying that from August 2016, all products containing hydroquinone will not be allowed into the country. From 2016, the acceptance for skin lightening products is going to be zero,” said Lartey.
Skin bleaching is a regular practice in Ghana and according to the outlet, it's especially done by celebrities. A Ghanaian boxer admitted to bleaching his skin for political means.
Beasts of No Nation actress Ama K Abebrese, has dedicated efforts to end skin bleaching in Ghana with the "Love Your Natural Skin Tone" campaign.
Long live melanin.
Do you agree with the ban? Let us know in the comments.
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"We don't always hear about the people who we know as legends in the ways that they were very true to themselves. I'm more interested in the moments when they were uncompromising and they were fearless” - Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah.
Black art (music, literature, fine art, etc.) does not get the nuanced, adeptly researched analysis it deserves. It's a fact Solange touched on in a series of tweets calling out white publications' ill equipped attempts to write about black art, black culture, black life. Solange is not the only artist to have complained about the paucity of adequate reviewers of black art and life, Nikki Giovanni's poem Nikki Rosa speaks of the apprehension of having one's life written by a white biographer:
“They never understand that Black love is Black wealth and they’ll probably talk about my hard childhood and never understand that all the while I was quite happy.”
Toni Morrison also spoke of her critics, in conversation with Nellie McKay, who do not “evolve out of the culture, the world, the given quality of which I [Toni Morrison] write" and how they always leave something to be desired:
“I long for a critic who will know what I mean when I say ‘church,’ or ‘community,’ or when I say ‘ancestor,’ or ‘chorus.’ Because my books come out of those things and represent how they function in the black cosmology."
That longing seems to have been fulfilled in Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah and her profile of the Nobel Prize winning author. Ghansah refers to the piece as her way of “lay[ing] flowers at the feet of this woman.”
Ghansah delivers the most comprehensive profile on Morrison yet. She digs into Morrison’s criticism from black male writers and black contemporary critics. She shows us Morrison before she was the literary deity we view her as today. We begin to understand her form of protest, which was not in marching in the streets, but in publishing the words of the those who did. From Muhammad Ali to Angela Davis to Huey P. Newton, Morrison commemorated the voice of a generation that would have otherwise been lost. And while reading the piece we not only learn about Morrison, Ghansah adds depth to Morrison’s story with an understanding of The Black Arts Movement, and the black women writers emerging from this literary period, while still managing to review Morrison’s latest novel, God Help the Child, and reflect on the author’s relevancy in the age of the millennial. Ghansah’s authentic ethos, dense research, and powerful layering presents to us a woman, a scholar, a critic, a storyteller, a literary genius.
Before Ghansah wrote her piece on Morrison she was already answering the author’s call for an astute intracultural critic in her pieces on Dave Chappelle, Kendrick Lamar, Jimi Hendrix. In her profiles, Ghansah has established not only a nuanced style of long form writing with extensive bibliographies, but a context for black art and black life. A consistent theme of Ghansah’s work is how black artists have shaped their own narratives through an exertion of autonomy not usually afforded to black people. She then weaves those threads of resistance into the larger tapestry of black history, giving breadth to figures and actions mainstream media views as existing in a vacuum.
“There’s an interior reality that not everyone understands about an existence, what is important is that we have the ability to tell those stories, to say this is what it’s like,” Ghansah once said. She not only comes from an interior reality of blackness, she studies the dynamics with acute precision and reveals her findings in magnificent pieces that teach you as much about the subject she’s profiling as the history from which they emerged. The story of the subjects she profiles are parameterized around a larger tale of the history of the geography, significant events, and predecessors that shape the individual. In her profile of Dave Chappelle, Ghansah is somehow able to uncover a link from a young boy in Yellow Springs, OH to liberation leaders in the Congo that not only highlights Yvonne Reed's (Chapelle’s mother) political activism, but the diaspora connection that contextualizes our lives, cultural practices, and social ingenuity. Perhaps it is Ghansah’s own Louisiana and Ghanaian roots that allow her to connect the Schmurda dance with 300 years of dance styles from the West Indies to West Africa, however, as Kameelah Janan Rasheed says, Ghansah’s ability to “follow the ghosts and pick up where a footnote has left off,” shows that she is not just a journalist; she is a historian, a geographer, a biographer, a preservationist. All of these disciplines inform her dense work and reveal a multilayered pluralized story of Africa and the children of her diaspora.
Ghansah’s profiles stand in stark contrast to those recently done on Nicki Minaj and Rihanna--two of pop culture's biggest influencers. In both instances the story of black-caribbean-female artists were placed in the hands of white female journalists who fumbled not only in their handling of race -- as it prevailed in the interviews -- but their understanding of these women and their dimensions. While Minaj was berated with antagonistic questions that had more to do with beef that didn’t concern her--ultimately forcing her to leave the interview -- Rihanna’s profile was centered almost exclusively around the interviewer. And when the subject of race did breech Rihanna’s interview, the profiler admitted to being afraid to ask the question as she viewed the starlet as being “post-racial.”
Recently, @_sadblackgirl, provided her own reasons behind Beyonce’s polite refusal to grant interviews. Simply put, they--white journalists--cannot adequately write about her.
This mishandling of such stories is precisely why Beyoncé has kept journalists away from her narrative, and it is precisely why we need critics like Ghansah, Jenna Wortham, Fanta Sylla, Danyel Smith, Shannon Houston, and more.
Beyoncé’s latest offering of Lemonade has further solidified her icon status while revolutionizing the way music is marketed and consumed. In the digital age, where the Internet can be an entertainer’s worst enemy, Beyoncé has made it her ally -- shielding herself in secrecy she no longer has to rely on someone else to get her message across. She is eradicating the idea of a radio single, instead, calling for the delivering of a comprehensive album equipped with cinematic visuals that not only appease the eye but challenge the mind. But even this ingenuity does not exist in a vacuum. One cannot understand Beyoncé without understanding Prince, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Dorothy Dandridge, Josephine Baker, Fredi Washington, and Oscar Micheaux. These innovators are not mutually exclusive, they serve as a comprehensive cloth from which Beyoncé is cut. Ghansah’s historical eye would see that. She’d watch Lemonade and see Daughters of the Dust where other nonblack women and men critics saw a Malick-esque influence. In the midst of all of her record breaking, genre-blending, medium-mashing achievements, Beyoncé has solidified herself as a feminist and centralized her focus on the experiences of black women. She, however inadvertently, echoes the calls for intersectional feminism campaigned for by Audre Lorde, Patricia Hill Collins, and even bell hooks. Beyoncé’s story is too rich, too weighty, too dynamic to be profiled by someone who has not emerged from within the same culture.
Though Ghansah spoke on Queen Bey in her profile of Yoncé’s infamous Beyhive, she has the ability to understand, as @sadblackgirl put it, “the confluence of race and gender in America.” Ghansah is also not the only one. Miriam Bale spoke of Beyoncé’s revolutionary black feminism work. Fanta Sylla touched on Beyoncé’s ties to Julie Dash’s film. Janet Mock saw Janie Crawford in Beyonce. Even I couldn’t resist adding to the collection plate of analyses. Black women critics have an intrinsic understanding of Beyoncé —the brand and woman— and the symbiosis behind her strict control on how the world sees her, literally. While Beyoncé once received backlash after rumors of her involvement in a film about the life of Saartje “Sarah” Baartman, she is also a part of Beyoncé’s collective history, as is the thousands upon thousands of women whose rights to control their image, their body, their story were forcibly stripped from them. Black women critics are necessary in reclaiming those stories and understanding the context they provide for the hair, the physiognomy, the fashion, the language that is much celebrated and widely appropriated today.
“It’s an undeniable truth that when African-American writers write about African-American musicians, there are penetrating insights and varieties of context that are otherwise lost to the nonblack music aficionados of the world, no matter how broad the appeal of the musician under scrutiny,” James McBride wrote in his book about James Brown. But what happens when women of the African diaspora write about our musicians and writers and artists? How much more insight and variety of contexts are revealed that are otherwise lost not only on nonblack music/literary/art aficionados but nonblack female music/literary/art aficionados? The black female critic is one who not only understands, and can analyze, the intersection of race and gender, she lives it. Who else would pick up on the nuances of Beyoncé’s career in relation to her southern roots and the black female entertainers who came before her? After Wortham’s discussion of Beyoncé’s “Formation” video she was sent flowers by the Queen herself with a note that read, “Thanks for understanding my heart.”
It’s not just the heart of a black woman that black female critics understand, it’s the texture of their lives, the cosmology of our own subcultures, the nuances of their own styles. If there’s one thing Beyoncé’s latest work has revealed, it’s the plethora of black women ready, willing, and able to do the work of adeptly critiquing black art. The insight they have shared, the varied contexts they provide add flesh and bones to our many histories across the diaspora. Ghansah, and her peers, continue to build, with their writings, bridges that connect us from across seas and allow us to examine what we share and respectfully appreciate what we don’t. Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah and black women critics are our 21st century griots, while they may not always use an oratorical approach to sharing stories, they are keeping our history alive, they are adding to the black cosmology, they are providing context to black art and black life.
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Black History, Afrodiasporic futures and melanin? Present! Black History Month 2016 is over, but we should celebrate black excellence all year long. Here is a curated collection of some of my favorite works from illustrators, painters and artists of the African diaspora.
1. My name is Odera Igbokwe. I am a fantasy illustrator and you might know me from projects such as my redesigns from the cast of Sailor Moon/Melanin Mythologies.
I launched Melanin Mythologies to help create more visibility for people of color in fantasy and science fiction. You can check it out here.
What prompted this project was exploring the spectrum of amazing illustration and artwork coming from people of the African Diaspora. This curated collection features african americans, africans, afrolatinos, mixed people, and work as diverse and beautiful as the magical intersectional people highlighted.
This is a sample of the collection, but you can find more detailed and personal writeups of each artist here. Be sure to follow each of the artists who are absolutely spectacular. And you can follow me on Tumblr, FB, Instagram, or Twitter.
And now here are 29 more artists who are creating absolute magic!
2. Thomas Blackshear is an illustration legend. Check out his radiant oil painting called “Night In Day.”
Blackshear now creates a line of spectacular figurines called Ebony Visions.
3. Louis Mailou Jones is one of the founding mothers of the Harlem Renaissance who lead the way for many painters, illustrators and art educators today.
Lois Mailou Jones
4. Aaron Douglas, is a master of telling stories with his iconic imagery. We can’t speak of black illustrators or the Harlem Rennaissance without mentioning his legacy.
"Aspiration" by Aaron Douglas
5. Leo and Diane Dillon, the dynamic duo who create absolutely magic book illustrations.
The Dillons are illustration royalty. Be sure to check out their legacy and breadth of artwork.
Rest in peace and rest in power, Leo Dillon.
6. K.L. Ricks is a contemporary freelance illustrator and cartoonist.
Follow them on Twitter.
7. Wangechi Mutu creates haunting works, transmutates bodies, and battles misogynoir with her painting and collage works.
8. Asiey Barbie provides a stunning take on Steven Universe’s Gem War.
Follow them on Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
9. Chris Visions is a comic artist and illustrator extraordinaire.
Follow them on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram
10. Njideka Akunyili-Crosby describes an afro-diasporic, intergenerational, interracial slice of life with this painting.
11. Gyimah Gariba creates breathtaking illustrations, visual development work and animations based on black culture and intersectionality
Follow him on iInstagram, Tumblr, Facebook and tTwitter.
12. Jerry Pinkney has had a rich career spanning decade with award-winning picture books.
13. Shadra Strickland shines as a contemporary picture book illustrator and educator.
14. Kat Blaque is well known for her fantastic YouTube channel, but is also an absolutely stunning illustrator.
Be sure to subscribe to her YouTube channel here.
And visit her art blog here and her store here.
15. Paul Davey, also known as Mattahan, is a masterful illustrator.
Follow him on Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter.
16. Paulo D. Campos explores Brazilian folklore with his own unique visual language.
Follow them on Instagram or Tumblr.
17. Tiffany Ford, a cartoonist, comic maker and illustrator, creates gorgeous images while working on some of your favorite cartoons.
Follow her on Tumblr or Twitter.
18. Saina Six combines art nouveau with gorgeous African patterning for magical results.
Follow her on Twitter , Instagram, and Facebook.
19. Chris Kindred creates work that hits you with reality while still being fantastical and imaginative.
Follow Chris on Tumblr and Twitter.
20. Nneka Myers creates character designs and visual development that’s full of so much life and energy.
Follow Nneka on aPatreon, Tumblr, Twitter or Facebook.
21. Charles Chaisson is a master of portraiture and storytelling, check out his stunning take on FKA twigs.
Follow Charles on Instagram.
22. Jay Bendt creates stunning illustrations with a beautiful range of emotions while also co-creating a webcomic called Nightshade.
Follow Jay Bendt on Patreon, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter.
23. Chioma Ebinama of Chioma Studio creates work crafted around myth, magic, femininity and cross-cultural diasporic feels.
Follow Chioma on Tumblr.
24. Kadir Nelson is a master of telling stories with his paintings. You have probably seen his work on some of your favorite musical albums or book covers.
Keep in touch with Kadir on Facebook.
25. Lady Garland is a freelance animator and comic artist. Check out her take on Alice In Wonderland and her webcomic The Wind Children.
Follow Lady Garland on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter.
26. Ronald Wimberly is a designer, storyteller and artist with an incredibly rich body of work.
Follow Ronald on Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
27. Richie Pope creates masterful illustrations full of life, texture and thought-provoking symbology.
Follow Richie on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram.
28. Shannon Wright balances thought-provoking editorial illustrations with her love for comics, character design and the fantastic.
Follow Shannon on Tumblr and Twitter.
29. Kehinde Wiley is a master of portrait painting who reimagines, transforms and recontextualizes the identity of black people
Follow Kehinde on Instagram and Twitter.
30. Leland Goodman is an illustrator, animator and designer of characters and environments. She does it all. Check out her promotional illustration for her rockin’ comic, Basement Dwellers, coming out in April.
Follow Leland on Tumblr or Twitter.
And that’s concludes my list of 30 artists!
There is so much beauty and such a spectrum of illustrators, painters and artists of the African Diaspora. I couldn’t possibly fit them all in one post. Be on the lookout for more updates on the Twitter thread, Facebook album, or Tumblr tag.
Support black artists and share this post on Facebook below!
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Odera is a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, where they earned their BFA in Illustration. At Brown University, Odera studied movement-theater and west African dance with New Works/World Traditions. As anillustrator, Odera loves to explore storytelling through afro-diasporic mythologies, black resilience, and magical girl transformation sequences. You can also find Odera as a manager of Every Day Original, curating and collaborating on zines, or combo-breaking the internet. Clients include: Fantasy Flight Games, Lightspeed Magazine, Double Take Comics. Personal commissions for: Beyoncé, Solange Knowles, Oumou Sangaré, and Dawn...
If you're like me, you weren't exposed to African dance until you got to college, but definitely don't have enough exposure to call yourself an expert. I'm not saying you'll be an expert after watching this video, but you'll definitely know your African dance alphabet!
Enjoy this interpretation of the alphabet? Tell us how much and share on Facebook below!
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It wasn’t until a couple of weeks before New Year’s that I publicly stated that I was a former victim of child molestation via Facebook status. It hadn’t hit me until then that this was the first time I said it out loud to a non-familial audience, so when I got a Facebook message from one of my older brothers who lives in southern Africa — asking me what happened, how come he didn’t know, if he could go hurt the person who did it, and if he was asking too many questions — I realized that I have never really talked about it.
Rewind to 24 years ago. My mother, 33 years old, my brother, 8 years old, and myself, four years old, came to the United States in 1991 from Uganda. My father had recently died about three months prior to our arrival in the States. We left behind five of my half-brothers and our entire family. The transition and relocation were very hard, lonely and scary. The kids were mean, the adults were mean and everybody just seemed to hate us. We slept on floors in sleeping bags for quite some time at my mom's older sisters place, sometimes moving back and forth between there and my great-aunts’ apartment. We jumped from place to place in the beginning because our own relatives didn’t want to take in a single mother and two young children. At one point, my mother sent us off to live with distant relatives for a year or so, to save money and get us our own one-bedroom apartment. She worked as a babysitter, nanny and dog-sitter to save that money. My brother was sent to New Jersey and I was sent to Pennsylvania. After being reunited with my mom and brother and getting help from Catholic charities, eventually things got a little better.
Fast-forward to 1997. I was 10 years old and my abuser was (as is usually the case) someone close to my family.
He was my uncle in the same Ugandan community as my brother, mother and myself. We had just moved out of our old apartment. The uncle and his two sons (my older cousins) who we lived with for several years, had moved to another apartment complex. That night, he had come over to get some things he left behind from the move. My older cousin was home too; he had come to our apartment to visit and play catch-up with my mom and brother and was in the living room playing video games at the time. My brother was at track practice and my mother was working nights again. My uncle said he had something for me in my mother’s room. As a child, with a child's innocence, I believed him. I followed him into my mom’s room and there, the sexual abuse began. He forcibly kissed me, touched me, groped me and fondled my vagina and body parts. I was scared out of my mind, shocked, paralyzed and at some point, I suddenly snapped out of the paralysis and began to cry and scream hysterically.
He started panicking and trying to bribe me with toys, money and trips to amusement parks, for me to stop. I ran out of the room, grabbed the cordless phone and locked myself in me and brothers bedroom. I called my mom right away, crying and screaming. I’m not even sure if any words actually came out of my mouth. My cousin ran and started yelling my name, banging on the door, trying to figure out what happened. My mother came home and I could see the look on her face. She was ready to kill. She asked me questions about what happened over and over. To be honest, I actually don’t remember too much after that. It’s as if I went numb, feeling violated and constantly uneasy. All I recall after that moment, about two weeks later, is me being called into a meeting with my mother, another uncle and an aunt. With my brother being angrily sent off to play outside. I was softly interrogated for a couple of hours, my mother emotional and furious. She told them that she was going to press charges and that was final. They begged and pleaded my mother to not go to the police and how it would look in the Ugandan community and for her to also forgive and forget. Thank God they released me and finally let me go play outside with my brother and friends. They stayed in that meeting for several hours later.
Fast-forward to my 29th birthday. That night, after partaking in some of life’s liquescent celebratory pleasures like many millennials my age do, I slid into one or two DMs. Probably shouldn’t have, but I was feeling amazing, on cloud nine and owning my #BlackGirlMagic (not to mention those guys were cute). However, I also started thinking about the last 28 years of my life, specifically my academic and professional accomplishments. I was pretty proud of how far I’d come and excited to explore this next phase in my journey. Still, in the middle of my reflections, the dreaded love life questions kept on popping up. I’ve had my fair share of failed relationships, I’ve been stood up a time or two — I mean fully decked out in my most fabulous of first date outfits ready to go. I’ve been cheated on, lied to, and in situationships that just didn’t make any type of sense. In summation, I’ve had the regular dating life that most women living in the DMV area have unfortunately experienced. I’ve been disrespected by black men and have also been uplifted by them as well, but surely far less uplifting has occurred than I would have liked. But this time thinking of my love life was a bit different.
After the night was done and I came home and finished talking to one of my good friends in Nairobi on Whatsapp, I sat there on my bed and I wanted to know why I had not been in a successful and healthy relationship for so long. I began to question myself; was I too opinionated, too dark, too tall, too “fat” (P.H.A.T. of course), too available, too pro-black, too educated, what was it? One thing I did know was that at some point in my early 20s I emotionally and physically had the inability to become intimate with a man. I didn’t have walls up — I had barricades, rabid pit bulls, electrical fences, snipers and a big brother who would summon goons at a drop of a dime. For a long time, I was comfortable playing the role of the 'homegirl' because she was safe. She was fun. She protected and guarded herself and fell underneath the radar of any male interactions, which could potentially turn violent. She wasn’t deemed as sexy, so not much was required of her. She could dip in and out without having to commit to anything or anyone. Little did I know that my 'homegirl' disguise was one of the many defense mechanisms I used to shield myself and it wasn’t much of a disguise after all. Simply put, I feared black men.
I’ve always known that I wanted to be married to a black man and have African descendent babies to teach the woke philosophies of me and my husband.
I loved black people, the black struggle and essentially the liberation of the black community so much so that all of my degrees thus far have been focused on black and African Diasporan issues. Consequently, much of my academic and professional life has been centered on understanding the historical and intimate interactions between black men and black women. I found myself frequently advocating mainly for black men and making a case for their plight in the world in most conversations surrounding black issues. Since undergrad, I was locked-in and determined to make my black-love fairytale come true while attempting to make sense of my own internal battles. I’ve literally dated men from all over the African Diaspora. But something had never really settled well with me. How could I reconcile fighting the black struggle and advocating for the liberation of black people, and at the same time, hold this little secret I had and have so much resentment and fear toward black men?
This is a question that many black women, having been sexually abused or not, have struggled with and continue to struggle with. The actions of people such as Bill Cosby on the surface speak to the larger discussion of rape culture, patriarchy, power dynamics and the structural discrimination and neglect of the experiences of women. It also further ferments the flawed idea of the black male sexual predator, who regardless of his professional and economic accomplishments, should never be trusted. However, on a deeper level for me, it brings up some things within the black community that are often not talked about — child molestation, rape and sexual abuse amongst black women and girls by black men. At first, I naïvely thought this was exclusively an African problem, until one girls night during undergrad, some of my closest friends, who are African-American, shared their encounters with sexual abuse. I was stunned at what I was hearing. I wasn’t alone. For them, they were not able to discuss what happened and their abuser was also a close family member and they were also asked to keep quiet. Statistically, black women report sexual abuse in drastically lower numbers than white women, but it doesn’t mean it never happens.
The feelings of neglect of black women from black men are ultimately rooted in our historical past. Historically, during slavery, the civil rights movements and the freedom struggles in America and in Africa, the face of liberation, power and the black struggle has been the black man. Aside from the challenges and conditions of the black person to become a viable and free human being in the world, black women have had to burden and weather the storm of the racial injustices, all while taking care of the family and her beloved black male counterpart. Power dynamics and power struggles occurred within the black struggle itself as black women were also fighting a very different battle than that of the white woman. She was fighting to be heard, respected, honored and loved by the world at large. Throughout the middle-passage, African female slaves were repeatedly raped and abused by crewmembers on the slave ships. Throughout slavery, black women continued to be raped by slave masters and plantation owners and there was no legal recourse that protected them from the sexual abuse. The sexual abuse of black female slaves was justified as legal because ultimately, she “deserved” to be raped and she innately had “promiscuous" characteristics about her.
Even during Marcus Garvey’s Back to Africa Movement, Garvey’s own wife, Amy Jacques Garvey, began to outwardly question the actions of her husband and the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA) in relation to the absence of the issues facing black women. In Mozambique, during the independence and freedom struggles of the 1960s, female African Mozambican guerilla fighters were left out of the narrative. Female fighters were expected to perform sexual favors, take care of the soldiers, fight in the bush and were also often times raped within the army camps. After independence was achieved, most female combatants went back to being wives and fulfilling traditional roles and their stories were often never told.
The psychosocial trauma that was incurred during slavery and the colonial era in Africa had a hefty toll on the interactions and engagement between black men and black women. These periods in human history disrupted the cultural and social fabric of not only the black community but more importantly, the black family. For decades, little back girls watched the matriarchs in their family sacrifice, toil and fight to uphold a legacy. Black women have been taught to endure, despite how horrible the circumstances and the inconveniences of life. It is in those moments of enduring that she has also had to forget about taking care of herself and, to her own detriment, keep quiet, all in the name of protecting the black family legacy.
The reality is that both black women and black men are invisible. However, because of the male privilege that men are generally afforded, black women often fall to the wayside of black issues. The sentencing of officer Daniel Holtzclaw, a white cop from Oklahoma who was found guilty of rape charges and specifically targeting black women, is a good example of this. For weeks, the media coverage on this case was very minimal until Black Twitter and especially black women called attention to this matter. Holtzclaw's victims were sex workers, drug addicts and women who were economically marginalized. One of his victims said that she didn’t report him or say anything because she didn’t think anyone would believe her. This case speaks directly to the invisibility of sexual assault and the erasure of black women in society. Holtzclaw not only used his male privilege and the power that his police badge gave him but ultimately he understood that these black women wouldn’t report him and their lives really didn’t matter.
There is fear, shame and guilt attached to sexual abuse. It can be one of the loneliest experiences that anyone can go through. The healing process from my own experience of molestation has been long and challenging at times. It has taken countless years, prayers, meditation and educating myself on sexual abuse and the support from my family and friends to get to this place. I’ve forgiven my abuser, not out of sympathy for him, but so I may be released from the burden of carrying such a heavy weight. I’ve also forgiven myself for allowing that experience to hold me back from fully enjoying life. Despite these revelations, I’ve still had to grapple with many questions. Does my love, protection and advocacy of the black male experience both in America and around the world come from a place of wanting so badly to be loved, appreciated and protected by black men? Even in the midst of the historical dissonance between black men and black women, many black women still hold on to that notion of the black-love fairytale. The question is, do black men feel the same way? And where do they stand on sexual violence and abuses not only against women but, more specifically, against black women?
Loy Loggosse Azalia, MA, is an African/African Diasporan development specialist, and a PhD Student (ABD) in the Department of African Studies & Research at Howard University. She also moonlights as a contemporary African dance phenom, writer and is the creator of Reign.InTheCity, a “blogazine” for African and African Diasporans, who are global game changers, to share their story perspectives and experiences. Follow her on Twitter.
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Although we often complain about the accolades received by all of the blue-eyed soul from across the pond (i.e. Adele and Sam Smith,) are we acknowledging the beautiful, black soul singers from the same place, contributing amazing sounds and scenes to the genre of soul? I, for one, think that the African Diaspora in Europe is tearing it up in regards to soul music, where we stateside soul singers are clinging to the few that we've always clung to (no disrespect to Erykah, Jill, D'Angelo, Musiq Soulchild and even Tank, who have been formidable in keeping soul music and R&B meaningful.)
There are two artists that I appreciate, however; who are making beautiful music that's relevant to our struggles as a people, are highly original sonically, and reference back to tribal music in all of their sounds.
Laura Mvula, from Birmingham, England, released an incredible debut album, Sing to the Moon, in 2013. She's back with an uplifting new single, "Overcome," which falls in line with the perils black folks are facing in America right now. Her bridge resonates: It ain't no time to die, die/Even though we suffer/Come together, be brave/Come together/All God's children, come. Accompanying an already remarkable song is a visually stunning video, with Mvula clad in gold and surrounded by gorgeous dancers.
Kwabs is a Ghanaian-British jewel from London, England. I first heard his music when crate-digging on Soundcloud, and was taken away by his strong lyrics and penetrating voice.
Signed to Atlantic Records, Kwabs released his debut album Love + War in September of 2015. What I love most about Kwabs is that his style, although full of instrumentation, never overcomes the vocals. His voice is always first and foremost, allowing the music to color the story more than drive or control it. His single, "Perfect Ruin," reads as the most unexpected wedding song of someone with amazing taste, the hook moving to crescendo with the words: "Somehow it moved me/Your love has powers over me/Oh what dream is this?/Somehow it towers over me/Send your love to move me/My world has powered over me/In perfect ruins/Somehow it towers over me." His paramour never appears in the video, rather we see him traveling through cold, darkness and fields of snow. I assume he is running toward the one who will keep him warm. This is the essence of soul music, the love story we've heard a million times, made new through the lens of black brilliance.
What soul singers have you found as you've gotten lost in the spider web that is Soundcloud? Share and post below!
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First released in 2010, Bino and Fino is an animated series, created by EVCL, that aims to fill a much needed niche in contemporary educational children’s programming. Catering primarily to children and families with African ancestry, the Nigerian-produced show takes children on an exciting ride through the continent, as they explore various cultures, geographies, themes of female empowerment, and science, with their new animated friends, Bino and Fino.
“There’s a missing voice in children’s television in Africa,” Ibrahim Waziri, head of business development at EVCL, explains. “Even in the U.S., how many Black children’s shows can you count on your hand right now? Apart from maybe Doc McStuffins. We want to reach the Black diaspora and families who are interested in knowing more about Africa. And I think right now there is a key interest to learn more about our culture.”
Additional to the educational element of the show is Bino and Fino’s cultural authenticity. The children voices behind the main characters use their Nigerian accents and the characters wear traditional garb. “It’s a show from here, so it has to reflect how people speak,” Waziri says. And while showcasing diverse accents on children’s programming may seem frivolous to some, this small aspect helps children from around the diaspora to further build familiarity with other Black cultures as they head out into our continuously globalized world.
Bino and Fino has been aired across Nigeria, South Africa and the UK, and can be watched online on Kweli TV, Rainbowme, AfroLand TV as well as their YouTube channel.
If you can’t get enough of the show, visit their website where you can find DVD’s as well as Bino and Fino plush toys, which make the perfect gift for any child....
After studying abroad in Argentina for several months where black people are few and far between and the porteños point, stare, and want to touch your skin because it’s much darker than their own, I was desperate to find a face that looked like mine. There weren’t many in Buenos Aires, other than the study abroad students like myself and a few Brazilians here and there. However, I did find blackness in the mammy figurines in a few restaurant kitchen windows. This made me curious about the countries past and relationship with people of African descent.
Since then, when traveling to a new place, I’m always on the lookout for black history. Whether we see immigrants, descendants of slaves or historical artifacts, black travelers can land on almost any continent and find hints of people of African descent.
Here are a few unlikely places to look:
It’s reported that when artist Josephine Baker traveled to Argentina in the ’50s, she asked the mixed-race minister of public health, Ramon Carilio, “Where are the Negroes?” Carilio joked, “There are only two – you and I.”
There are many stories about why the second largest country in Latin America is lacking melanin. Although most records show that Buenos Aires was a major slave port, you won’t find many descendants of those slaves in the country. Some historians say that Yellow Fever epidemics in the capital wiped them out. Others report that many black men were sent to fight in a war against Paraguay. Others say that that they married and had children with the white population until black people became unrecognizable.
The majority of historians will agree that Argentina’s famous dance, the Tango, was influenced by a Candombe, a dance and music style of former black slaves in the city. Their legacy lives on through this dance.
If you’re looking to learn the dance, Tango lessons are offered at milongas, tango houses, and at Caminito, a famous tourist street in city of La Boca, the birthplace of Tango.
Chances are if you take a trip to Panama City you’ll visit a place with a lot of black history: The Panama Canal. Though this epic structure, a monumental feat for international trade, is often not mentioned in conjunction with black history, people of African descent played a crucial role in building the canal. Afro-Caribbeans were brought in from the West Indies to construct the canal. On the job, they faced treacherous working and living conditions, low if any pay, racial discrimination and high death rates.
Because of previous years of slavery and recent migration, people of African descent make up about nine percent of Panama’s population.
If you’re backpacking through Europe and find yourself in Rome you might run into several Ancient Egyptian obelisks. Taken from Egypt after Roman conquest, these obelisks have been erected throughout the Italian capital. The Romans also created their own obelisks, borrowing the iconic Egyptian design. Rome houses the most obelisks of any country in the world. Check out a few of the popular obelisk sites, including St. Peter’s Square, Piazza del Popolo and Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano.
And if you happen to travel to London, New York, or Ethiopia you can find Egyptian Obelisks in those cities as well.
Belize is known for its beautiful beaches, Mayan ruins and multicultural society. About six percent of the population is Garifuna or “Garinagu.” Garifuna are descendants of West Africans on a slave ship that shipwrecked off the coast of St. Vincent. Survivors swam to shore and lived prosperously until exiled to the island of Rotan off the coast of Honduras by the British. There, nearly half of the population died. Others settled on the mainlands of Honduras and Belize. Currently, Garifuna villages can be found in Hopkins and Punta Gorda in Belize.
Tourists in these areas are invited to try their famed cassava bread and take drumming lessons from Garifuna residents. Additionally, visitors can check out the Garifuna museums in Belize City and in Dangriga, Belize.
There is a very small population of African Sri Lankans. Many of them are descendants of African slaves and soldiers brought to Sri Lanka by the Portuguese during the 16th century.
Although the current community remains in the low thousands, their ancestors left their mark on Sri Lankan music, creating the popular dance music of the country called Baila. The music style is often played at parties and other celebratory events.
As we learned in U.S. history classes, runaway slaves often escaped by taking the underground railroad north, sometimes as far as Canada. To this day, several historic Unground Railroad sites remain in the country.
Ontario is home to the Freeman Walls Historic Site & Underground Railroad Museum, a site that pays homage to those who escaped American slavery and leaders of the civil rights movement. The site contains a log cabin that was home to fugitive slaves. The museum also boasts an Underground Railroad pathway simulation, a few artifacts from the civil rights movement, and a cemetery of fugitive slaves and Walls family members.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site is also located in Ontario. This home-turned-museum is where abolitionist Josiah Henson wrote his memoir, The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself, which Harriet Beecher Stowe used as inspiration for her anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
A few travel agencies offer heritage tours that take tourists to these places along with a few historical sites in Detroit.
Ever notice how the Olmec Heads in Mexico look like black faces and how the pyramids have similarities to the ones in Egypt? The sameness extends beyond conspiracy theories.
According to historian Ivan Van Sertima, author of They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America and several other historians, linguists, archeologists and botanists, African pioneers and drifters crossed the Atlantic sometime between 800-680 BC. These explorers became a part of the culture, fusing their traditions with traditions of the native ancient Mexicans of the time.
Sertima suggests that these ancient Africans from Nubia and neighboring civilizations could have influenced the construction of the Olmec Heads and pyramids in Mexico.
In modern times, because of slavery and immigration, a Dec. 2015 Mexican survey reports that Mexicans of African descent make up about 1.3 million.
Black history can be found almost everywhere. Yet, sometimes uncovering the stories of people of African descent who have walked the paths we now travel to takes a little...
1. Karl Reeves
“It seems like there’s a trio of what black men shoot: Video vixens, black and white pictures of kids in the ghetto, and event photography at rap shows” says Karl Reeves, an Oakland transplant from Wisconsin. But Reeves has broader ideas, and wants to shift the common narratives of the black experience through his photography.
“Historically I was shooting art that reminded me of oppression and I don’t want to do that anymore. All I want to do now is promote the beauty of black people and inspire us to think.” Looking at Reeves’ photos, you can’t help but to dwell in possibility. His shots are bold, inspiring and exalt both the inner and outer beauty of our people.
His new photo series is called “The Perks of Being an Artist” and a continuous theme is the use of plants and flowers. When asked about the rationale he explained, “The Perks of Being an Artist is both good and bad…People treat flowers the same way they treat artists; they’ll come up to me and say ‘Hey that’s a great photo.’ But I am more than just a photo. I have things that I like and favorite foods. Similarly, people only know a fraction of the names of the flowers they say are beautiful. They don’t really know anything about them.”
Through his work, Reeves attempts go beyond the superficial and tap into the inner essence of humanity. His photos speak to an inherent yearning for natural beauty and innocence, and strive to highlight and promote the beauty of black people above all else.
You can find more of his work on his website Film Did Die and you can also follow him on Instagram @35martyrz.
2. Sasha Kelley
Sasha Kelly is a Bay Area native photographer, creative director, and group facilitator who is one of the founding members of Malidoma Collective; a women-led artists collective “with the objective to cultivate a culturally-empowered and socially regenerative community.” Malidoma Collective Website.
Sasha’s had a passion for taking photos since high school, but during her development as an artist, she’s had to navigate the white and male dominated field of photography; “I went to art school for a while and I dropped out for a mixture of reasons. It was expensive; I was going to school full-time and I was exhausted. Also, I was the only person of color in most of my classes. After my third year a lot of my classes came to me either defending the validity of my concepts to my teachers who were mostly white males, or people who remained silent and complicit. I felt like it wasn’t feeding me.”
However, this didn’t deter Sasha from pursuing her passion.She found solace among the black artist community in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco as well as black artist spaces in Oakland however, most of these spaces were male dominated. Sasha states, “We definitely felt like we had to constantly prove ourselves and we felt like our ideas and femininity weren’t being heard.” Eventually she ended up creating the Malidoma Collective with another female artist by the name of queens d.light in 2012. Since then, the collective has provided space for black women in Oakland to express themselves in both artistic and entrepreneurial endeavors by providing donation-based yoga, healing clinics, networking events, performances and artist residencies.
When she’s not working with her collective, Sasha continues to hold space for Oakland’s black community through photography and youth work. You can check out more of her projects on her website and you can follow her on Instagram @yessashakelleyn.
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In her first film called The Love Below, director CHEL$Y O (Chelsea Odufu) elegantly wraps themes of colorism, self-doubt, and alcoholism into a beautifully-shot film that unfolds in a little more than 10 minutes.
"Im sure you'd look at me more often if I were the color that makes you smile. Tell me it's black, mom...Just pretend that you like me long enough to capture the ultra-violet in my flesh."
Those are the thoughts of the main character Tiana (played by Thais Francis), whose mother has drawn a color line right in the middle of their home. Tiana's mother (played by Nora Caroll) belittles her for her browner melanin and spews abusive, degrading insults at her in between gulps of alcohol.
Their tensions have gotten worse ever since Tiana's older, fair-skinned sister died of an asthma attack when their mother was too deep in her drunken stupor to assist. CHEL$Y O presents a drama that will resonate in your heart as you see a family being pulled apart by false ideals of beauty.
CHEL$Y O is a recent graduate of New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, where she majored in film and television. As a young, up-and-coming filmmaker, she boasts an impressive resume; she now works for Spike Lee and in the past she worked for Vashtie Kola, The Source magazine, MTV, Nickelodeon, and The Rachael Ray Show. Under her own production company, O Chel$y Productions, she produced and directed The Love Below. She is also working on a new film called Ori Inu: In Search of Self with her older brother Emann Odufu.
Although CHEL$Y O has a very strong relationship with her mother and brother, Ori Inu is also a film that deals with family strife. According to the director's statement:
"This film tackles the complex relationship within a family between three strong female characters with different views on spirituality. In exploring her roots in Candomble with its female orishas/goddesses and its matriarchal priestesses, [the main character] Natalia is also looking to redefine her own views of what it means to be a woman and the roles which women can play in society. This contrasts with her mother’s more conservative views and her belief that happiness can be found in conforming to the status quo."
CHEL$Y O's Afro-Caribbean culture and womanhood are very important to her and she commands respect of their impact and relevancy in her films. Follow her on IG: @chelsthedirector_, and her film's page @oriinufilm.
Ori Inu: In Search of Self is currently in the fundraising stage for post-production work. CHEL$Y O hosted a trailer release party at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) in Brooklyn to raise awareness about their film and kickstarter. Check out the trailer below.
Thoughts on CHEL$Y O's work? Let us know in the comments below! ...
Earlier this year in an interview with Oprah, Raven Symone publicly stated that she does not identify as an African. Instead, she said, “I’m an American, I don’t like labels.” Reasonably so, the entire diaspora launched a simultaneous Black Twitter rant, dragging Symone and her New Black rhetoric. Symone’s statements shocked many of us because of her blatant dismissal of the many ways in which black people in America have been taught to disassociate from Africa. Clearly, we all seemed to be on the same page about Symone having African roots, regardless of whether or not she wanted to acknowledge them.
Earlier this week, an article was published titled “Black America, Please Stop Appropriating African Clothing and Tribal Marks: Yes, that means everyone at Afropunk too.” In sum, this article draws parallels between white girls with cornrows and black people at Afropunk expressing themselves through African-inspired clothing.
Ultimately, this is a lackluster comparison.
Drawing this parallel assumes that Black America can contribute to the erasure of African cultures at the same degree to which White America does. The reasons we vehemently oppose white people appropriating African cultures are because of the power dynamics at play and the very real history of whites taking credit for and ownership of African cultures. Not only is the tone of this article condescending, but it ignores major nuances about the identities of black Americans.
For many, a connection to Africa forged by clothing, music, customs, etc. acts as a form of liberation — a way to unlearn the many ways white supremacy has embedded a hatred toward Africa in the black psyche. By reducing the dress of many black people at Afropunk to a mere attempt at looking “trendy,” this article dismisses the longstanding history of Black America aiming to reconnect with Africa, proving this is much more than a clothing trend. The author states “if you’re not from an African tribe, please leave off wearing the tribal marks,” without acknowledging the fact that black Americans indeed are from African tribes. They might not know which ones, but who is to blame for that? Does black America feel this offended when youth in all countries and regions of Africa wear Rocawear and FUBU?
How can we criticize Black America for not identifying with Africa when they are constantly being told they aren’t African? Instead of encouraging reductionism, let’s provide this discussion with the context, nuance and thought it deserves. Rather than stress about particularities of clothing, let's focus on the real and pervasive threats to our diaspora. Instead of dictating identities and constructing hierarchies, we should provide safe spaces for people to explore and engage with different African cultures especially when those cultures reflect their lineage.
Ultimately, as a diaspora, let us focus on building bridges of unity aimed at advancing the lives of our people.
What are your thoughts on the idea of Black America appropriating African cultures? Let us know in the comments below.