In light of the recent DeRay McKesson interview of Katy Perry discussing her past appropriating atrocities, I've been thinking about the trend of cultural appropriation, particularly as it pertains to "melanated" people. Appropriation obviously is not a new phenomenon, as all cultures of individuals have been replicated and borrowed by people all over the world. For example, I enjoy watching hip-hop dance crews from Japan or Russia. They're dope! Or when I go out and I dance to Latin infused Afro rhythms, I have a fabulous time. People are influenced by other people. It's as simple as that. It's part of human nature, and it's bound to happen.What is problematic about the appropriation of Black culture, is when "members of a dominant culture adopt elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group." It's problematic when people like Katy Perry, and the whole Kardashian family, morbidly appropriate a culture that does not belong to them, for profit and/or notoriety, that leads to financial and societal gain—and totally act unaware of said actions. This kind cognitive dissonance is so troubling, and a smack in the face to the people that live, breath and walk in the black skin that is gaining non-black people so much glory. Granted, in Perry's interview, she stated that she had no idea about the "power in black women's hair..." In her amplified, yet soft apologetic voice, she boo hoo'd about her ignorance. "I won't ever understand some of those things because of who I am. I will never understand, but I can educate myself and that's what I'm trying to do along the way." Well you've been around for quite some time Katy, and it's funny how you have just been "put on" to what you have been doing in every album you've put out. It was cringing to watch her attempt to dance to a Migos song during an awful performance just a few weeks ago, then flash forward to watching her apologize for her whiteness, right around the time she is promoting a new album. Has anybody ever asked Katy Perry, Iggy Azalea or Justin Timberlake why they make the music they make, and if they think they would sell as much as they do if they didn't appropriate black culture?I had to ask myself, in all fairness, do white people in these positions really not understand the gravity of what they're doing? I think about Kylie Jenner, and her ever growing behind, bloated lips, textured hair pieces and spray-on melanin skin, and I wonder if she has any idea that she is completely taking on the identity of a black woman? Is she really oblivious? It's not just in how they look. It's how they move, it's in the targeted demographic of the products they design, it's in the way they speak. Looking at Kylie three years ago and looking at her now, is like looking at two entirely different people. Why does the media not attack her like they attacked Michael Jackson? How many mainstream memes/parodies/editorials can you find about MJ's transformation from a "black man to a white woman?" How many news headlines have you read that say "Blacko-Kylie" on the front cover? There must be some conscious understanding that something is not natural here. It takes applied effort to change one's physical identity. And it must take an even more, subconscious inner turmoil, to bring that insecurity to life. Why isn't that insecurity beat and bruised under the scrutiny of the media?This discussion becomes very political only because of the white fragility that it wounds. Name one black person that you know who would keep quiet in the room if this topic were brought up. Now name one white person you know who would keep quiet in the room if this topic were brought up. My point exactly.The next time a white person touches my hair or complements me on "how well I articulate or carry myself," I'm going to ask, "WHY?" Why did you feel the need to touch my hair? What do you like about it so much? Why are you so impressed by the way I speak? Where do you think I learned how to carry myself in this manner? I hope that the awkwardness in that answer, or lack thereof, helps to define what white fragility and privilege looks and feels like, so a discussion like this can even be had.White people want to appropriate the culture, without any understanding or willingness to know how that is detrimental to the culture. Then they scream "race card" like the boy who cried wolf, when called out. I wrote an article about privilege versus opportunity some months back, and a white man tried to call me out, and accuse me of blaming him personally for my failures because he was white. He went on and on in the comment thread, sending me angry jabs left and right. I felt compelled to take a look at his Facebook profile, and I was low-key shocked about what I found. This white man was indeed a rapper! All of his pictures had his pants sagging low, with his snapback on backwards and his Jordans on fresh. It was a real, "well I'll be damned" moment. This guy is arguing with me, essentially calling me a "reverse racist", claiming he didn't see color or recognize privilege, yet he's looking like a white Fabulous from Wade County, Florida. His very own sense of self-identity is obviously skewed and misaligned to his actual outward beliefs. Everyone has the right to self-expression, true, but not at the expense of hijacking someone else's culture, who happens to be systemically marginalized by the same construct that rewards you with privilege. That makes you a culture vulture, and in the words of Biggie, "If you don't know, now you...
Grandma’s salmon croquettes, mama's potato salad, the laughter of children playing flag football in the front yard, the Soul Train line that spontaneously forms at every family function — I live for it!Photo: gifhop.tumblr.comI love my people, my heritage and so many of the cultural components that define us. These traditions, passed down from one generation to the next, mold our identities and cement us into a larger clan. The uniformity of shared values provides a sense of safety, simplicity and even freedom. Tradition is the backbone of families, religions, social groups and society at large. As much as I value them, I recognize that traditions aren't always positive. In fact, sometimes they are dysfunctional. Whether it's addiction, abuse or some other harmful pathology, every family, community and culture has negative traits that can be traced back through its lineage. When this is the case, blind adherence to tradition can be harmful, and even problematic.Here's why it's sometimes necessary to respectfully challenge our traditions and what we've been taught to believe.1. MarginalizationNo matter your race, gender identity or background, the world has a certain perception of you. While gains have been made to challenge and eliminate some stereotypes, they are still very prevalent. As a black person and a woman from a small southern town, society has a specific plan for me. I could very easily follow the margins of that plan down a socially acceptable path, specifically assigned to someone of my demographic, socio economic class and status. While the path itself is neither bad or good, it was formed with no regard for my unique personality, talents or aptitude. If the traditional roles assigned to your demographic works for you, GREAT! But if not, defining yourself beyond their confines is step one in overcoming marginalization.2. Imposter SyndromeWhen the pressure to fit in outweighs one's own inherent persona, it can lead to inner turmoil, pretentiousness and fraudulent contradictions. If the approval of your community requires you to suppress or deny the very essence of who you are and what you want out of life, you may want to re-evaluate your membership.3. IgnoranceFor some families, the owning of slaves was customary for hundreds of years. For others, the act of being enslaved was a family tradition. While these examples might seem extreme, the derivatives of such dysfunctional practices live on today. Racism, chauvinism, homophobia, crab mentality and colorism are still being passed down from one generation to the next. This ignorance will persist until we really start to challenge the validity of our traditions and beliefs.4. Self-Imposed StruggleGiven the nature of our existence in the U.S., from slavery through Jim Crow to modern-day institutionalized racism, it's absolutely justifiable that so much of the African-American narrative is centered in struggle. Our ancestors had no choice but to endure adversity, their survival depended on it. There is zero shame in taking pride in the legacy of a people who have defied insurmountable odds and prevailed in the face of crippling adversity. But glorifying the struggle and choosing it when better options are available is an insult to their sacrifice and a perversion of our legacy.5. Generational DysfunctionEvery family has its own dynamics that govern how members relate with one another. Not only do our familial relationships set the tone for how we interact with the world, but they can also have a strong impact on our development and life trajectory. When dysfunction is left unchecked in families with a pathology of abuse, the damage can live on for generations. These kinds of traditions need to be broken.6. GroupthinkIf you have been a member of a group for any extended period of time, you know the personalities of the group members, what triggers whom, what to say and when to say it. Groupthink is what happens when, in order to accommodate the group, we turn off our rational thinking and suppress our opinions. While keeping the peace isn’t necessarily a bad thing, history has shown us that this kind of tribal thinking can have treacherous consequences. This is why it’s so important that we make the conscious effort to seek information, form our own opinions and think for ourselves.7. Lack of CreativityIf the measure of what you can do is based solely on what's already been done, then innovation suffers. In this way, tradition can stifle creativity. Groupthink can show up as tension and reluctance to engage in any form of creative expression that goes contrary to the crowd. Thank goodness for those creative geniuses who bucked tradition and charted their own unprecedented course — the Ava Duvernays, Barack Obamas and even the Jordan Peeles of the world, who didn’t limit their dreams to what had already been preapproved by society. Oprah Winfrey has slayed traditional roles on multiple fronts without awaiting the co-sign from her community. When it comes to delivering your unique gifts to the world, you can't allow any judgment or limiting belief to infiltrate your attitude.What leverage should tradition have when it comes to how we shape our lives? I wouldn’t be who I am if not for the endurance, customs and rituals of those that came before me. Tradition is a beautiful thing to be honored and revered, but the key to honoring tradition without becoming its slave, is the realization that adapting, evolving and sometimes defying it, for the sake of progress, is the grandest tradition of them all.Want more articles from Ebony F? Sign up for Blavity's daily...
At one point in time, black women experienced difficulties breaking into the entertainment industry. For black actresses, your options were portraying a nurse, educator, a domesticated role or nothing at all. Forget being the hero, we were shut out of the conversation. In 2017, you can turn on just about any network and see a black woman front and center, be it scripted or nonscripted. There's more than what meets the eye. If you're buying into reality TV, you'll find the longstanding "angry black woman" saga. Where did America's romance with the perpetual "angry black bitch" myth begin? Should we start with Kenya Moore and Porsha Williams exchanging blows during a 2014 Real Housewives of Atlanta reunion special? For true RHOA fans, you recognize this scene is just one of many brawls between the black Southern Belles featured on the highest rated Housewives franchise. Black women fighting are clearly selling points for advertisers. Bravo.Photo: Bravo / Hello BeautifulOr how about Tanisha Thomas' pots and pans rampage in season two of Bad Girls Club?Photo: Oxygen / TumblrMaybe we can pin it on the president-elect's right-hand girl, Omarosa, and her nonstop cattiness seen inThe Apprentice, season one? Sorry, but I can't blame Omarosa for this one (as much as I'd like to).Photo: NBCLet's cut this historical timeline in half and go back to reality tv origins; The Real World. While MTV's longtime unscripted series isn't considered the first, it produced landmark content forever changing history and American TV watching habits. For the first time, viewers witnessed a same-sex couple exchange vows, a young adult living with HIV, and a woman's decision to abort her child as the cameras rolled. All just a few of many once taboo topics, which are now the norm for cable television. While America continued to marvel at wholesome family programming, the network's gamble on this edgy style of TV pushed the envelope like never before.The Real World debuted in 1992 following the lives of seven strangers picked to live in a house, agreeing to give up any privacy as cameras followed their every move. A unique concept 25 years ago is now a millennials dream. The New York City installment of season one introduced viewers to the first depiction of young, woke African Americans; Kevin Powell and Heather B. The two were the only black housemates, both unafraid to tackle race-related topics. America's first encounter with white tears came in the form of Kevin calling his castmate Julie on her racism and microaggressions. She cried, leaving him forever to be the abrasive big black wolf. Heather, on the other hand, is more notable. For the most part, Heather was a nonconfrontational roommate. Not one to bite her tongue, she was pretty easygoing and gave respect where it was earned. In the last two minutes of episode 11 of 13, the police are called after a woman accuses Heather of assault at a party. The scene ends with the cops driving Heather away in a cop car. While we didn't see the actual fight, Heather says the girl called her a bitch, then proceeded to hit her. Right here is where the angry black woman narrative on reality TV could be pinpointed. This is up for debate because we did not get a chance to see the actual fight. She's frustrated, in the back of a cop car, pacing, and raising her voice, but still, there's more to her story.What's interesting about Heather's role in the house is shown through her complicated relationship with Eric. He is sensitive and passive aggressive, while Heather is the exact opposite; direct and assertive. At the hallmark of their failed bond, Eric just wants to be her friend. In the episode prior to the season finale, Eric and Heather finally go at it. There's a back and forth as the other housemates watch, turning into a play fight with Heather wrestling Eric to the ground. Eric shares his insecurities with Julie (cry babies unite) and feels as though no one is sympathetic to his first time being away from home. Heather's "fuck your feelings" mentality leads the other women in the house to treat Heather as though she is insensitive and merciless. Heather is a natural born survivalist and hustler, Eric is not. Obviously, she finds no sympathy in his white privilege. The beauty of their exchange is the essence of the show's original premise; highlight our differences and find common ground to coexist. They kumbaya it out with Eric helping Heather take out her box braids. Eric's perception of Heather inadvertently laid the foundation for what is to come in the season to follow; OG Tami Roman. A year later, in season two of the show, we meet a 23-year-old Tami, like Heather, with musical ambitions. Due to her background, Tami isn't a stranger to hard work, making it known that nothing is given to her, despite the protests of the other black roommate, David who sees Tami as a spoiled brat. In this season, Tami gets her mouth wired shut as a means of weight loss, experiences an unwanted pregnancy ending in an abortion and she brings the first-ever reality TV brawl. Viacom has removed the scene from the web, but you've seen Tami Roman in action. She doesn't play. David tries to pull the covers off of her while she is in bed in her underwear, despite her screams (under laughter) not to do so, he drags her from the bed and she subsequently beats the shit out of him. Tami yells expletives and made it known that he is a troublemaker. While you want to feel for David after his apology, Tami expresses her discomfort with him being around, therefore David is the first housemate in show history to get evicted.This wouldn't be our last run-in with Tami. We saw Tami's repeated physical and verbal altercations with Evelyn Lozada and other women on Basketball Wives. Two decades later, the rowdiness continued in 2015, with her Marriage Bootcamp: Reality Stars war of words. Reality TV viewers have witnessed Tami Roman's life changes, emotional outbursts, and heated debates. She outlasted the 15 minutes of fame expiration date. So how does all of this tie into the angry black bitch myth? Tami confirmed the stereotypes that Heather B presented by her white roommates. For two decades, Tami Roman has found something to be pissed off about and America has an obsession with ticking time bombs. The most memorable reality stars are the ones who fall on the spectrum of outrageous to lunatic. We love to gawk at them, but at what expense? A white woman, we'll use Kendra Wilkinson here, is coddled and earns an entire show for her strength to cry out her mess of a life. The Kardashian klan is famous for Kim's vagina and their mother's business smarts to build an empire from her daughters' sexuality and affinity for black men. Oh, and they cry too. And what are black women on reality TV reduced to in this genre? Black bitches. When a white (or Armenian) woman airs out her frustrations, she is strong and a champion for standing up for what is right. When a black woman gets fed up..well, you know the story. She's argumentative, hard to handle, obnoxious, and downright insensitive. Historically, black women have been made to believe our feelings are invalid and taught by our mothers, aunties and the church ladies to keep it together. When we try to keep our feelings in check but constantly pushed in a corner despite minding our own business, the frustration rears its ugly head. When we defend ourselves, it's far too late. The seed is planted. There's no going back. Every word from this moment on isn't heard from that of a human being, it comes from a mad black woman. Remember, Eric and the other housemates treating Heather like a sociopath for not catering to his feelings? Who caters to ours?Same network, but let's change shows. Remember Gladys and Abe on Road Rules: Latin America in 1999? He kept picking and picking. She lashed out, but that wasn't good enough. Abe had to call her a bitch.He felt the retaliation.Some would argue, "she hit him first". Yeah, she did hit him first. You win that round. Where your argument crumbles in this scene is the fact that Abe's white male fragility was put to the test and his only defense mechanism was to try and reduce Gladys through name calling. She retaliated. A scene dubbed as one of the ugliest showdowns in reality TV history is where the castmates on Real World Portland fight during the most drawn out duels on reality TV. Nia warns Johnny not to mess with her then Averey brings her happy ass along, in aims of defending her man's honor. Even in a Variety article about the Nia vs. Johnny and Averey fight, the opening sentence reads, "On one of the final episodes of “Real World: Portland,” viewers watched as a cast member wrapped the cord of a blow dryer around its handle and hunted down another member of the house." Gossip blogs and media outlets with their show recaps keep the angry black woman stereotype going. This depiction is one-sided and unfavorable to the black character as always. Nia retaliated by extreme means only after she warned Johnny, "Play with me if you want to." This came between him placing a snotty tissue in Nia's lap and throwing a drink on her. Again, male fragility is put to the test when he feels threatened by not only a woman but a black woman. Once she got going, there was no stopping. The housemates soon considered Nia a threat and danger to the house, but my how things would have been different if Johnny had listened to her peace offering from jump street. A recurring theme.Nia described the scene in an interview:“This is what happened: he had the dog, obviously he threw the snotty rag on me and when I walked away he came back towards me and threw a drink in my face. Those punches were all delivered and that justified me grabbing the hairdryer for round 2 –eh maybe I shouldn’t have done that, But at the same time, I’m not a fighter. The first fight I got into was my last fight and I was 16 years old. I don’t touch people. I don’t violate people. People respect me and I respect them, or they keep their distance. To have somebody yet again bring spit to a verbal fight, I was over it. I was like “I have to teach these punk ass red necks a lesson.”This is just one instance with Nia where the housemates feared for their safety, not to mention exchanging of spit.The producers were aware of her market value to their core audience, promoting this season as the house versus Nia. Here, viewers come into the new season with past aggressions toward black cast members and preconceived notions that a black woman will lead to more disaster. Peep the season 28 promo:No one is playing innocent here. Nia describes herself as "manipulative" and "powerful", both qualities a sane person would not want to interact with. From here we can gather that she does indeed invite drama and loves to keep mess going. Because she is the black sheep, where every reality show needs one, black women like Nia are crucial for both rating and keeping this golden narrative alive. It's what the people want. Every good story needs conflict, even the unscripted ones. What we see repeatedly on reality TV is the underestimation of black women and their retaliation. She's only a danger to society when her aggressor feels victimized.Viewers watch these shows, like any other show, with preconceived notions about the subject-matter, the stars, prejudice antics and everything else under the sun. The intent is entertainment; only adding frustration to biases that are optionally greeted with open-mindedness or opposition. Black women are notoriously viewed in society as monoliths entangled in a complex existence. There is a long-standing admiration with black women's features and eccentric nature, so it makes sense to have her on any show. Yet over time, each black woman presented on reality TV is met with the burdens of past characters. One black woman shows her ass on TV, the ones to follow carry viewer animosity. Cast members from other cultures and various backgrounds are not rattled with the task of carrying preconceived notions. Even black males have their own set of biases imposed by viewers, yes, but it doesn't come with the same price tag of toxicity.Not only are black women perpetually stereotyped as mad on reality TV, but they're portrayed as unstable. Photo: VH1/ TumblrSex sells as do crazy black women. From the early days of reality TV with everyday young adults agreeing to give up their personal lives for a social experience, celebrities jumped on the train from Whitney Houston to Tamar Braxton and now Mariah Carey. Loud, flashy and boisterous. Photo: BravoWhere does the obsession start and stop? Well, the black women that sign up for the shows, just like their counterparts know what they're getting themselves into. There's a difference in actually filming the show and how it airs. Hell hath no fury than a producer hungry for a storyboard and an editor tasked with putting together all the pieces. The end product typically looks worse than what was originally captured. How should we end this narrative? Should all black women boycott joining the cast of trash TV? Nope. Maybe black women should tone it down? Nah. As much time as we spend diagnosing the perceived rage of black women on television, we should also discuss the positive moments of camaraderie, philanthropy and the boss moves that many of these women are making off screen. The positive images on reality TV are always overshadowed by the ugly. Black women on reality TV isn't the real issue. The problem is society's overall low regard for black women. The stereotype starts and ends with the viewers. Check your bias at the door. "The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman." -Malcolm X (May...
There’s often a preconceived notion that racism and prejudice are mainly an American thing. Yet somehow, our friends across the pond keep reminding us time after time that it’s an issue they need to fix as well. Earlier this month we learned about #JusticePourTheo, protests took place all over Paris for a 22-year-old black man harmed by police brutality. Just a couple of years ago, Lin Mei and her friends were banned from a London nightclub for being “too dark” and “overweight.”Well, here we are again. On Monday evening, New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram took to his Twitter account to call out London nightclub, Cirque Le Soir, for denying him and three of his teammates' entry for being “too urban.” Ingram detailed the alleged encounter on his Twitter account for all to see. It started with a text message to him, Sterling Moore, Vonn Bell and B.W. Webb, that had reservations ahead of time.We pull up to @CirqueLeSoir where we have reservations and this is what they tell us!! @SterlingMoore @TheVonnBell7 @burtleyc @OhGi_3Dawg3 pic.twitter.com/vfKGcqUmxQ— Mark Ingram II (@MarkIngram22) February 28, 2017He went on to explain that they had an issue with the physical structure of "6 big guys."They told us they were "6 big guys" that are too "Urban" but nobody taller than 5'11!! 😂😂🤔🤔 cc:saints roster 😂😂😂😂— Mark Ingram II (@MarkIngram22) February 28, 2017Ingram went on to explain that he doesn’t have a problem with England and this was his first encounter with racism there. In reality, he and the Saints are excited to play in the NFL UK vs the Miami Dolphin this year. Although Ingram may be brushing the incident off, the Internet isn't letting it go. The popular nightclub that is known for having A-listers like Lady GaGa and Kanye West has yet to respond to the situation but that’s not stopping Twitter from leaving their mentions in shambles. Trying to pump up their supporters on Friday, the club tweeted this:It's lit 🎪🔥💯👌🏽 #IYDKDW https://t.co/P25e16ZFyx— Cirque Le Soir (@CirqueLeSoir) February 24, 2017But you knew people weren’t going to let that fly.I'm sorry, you must delete. This tweet is #TooUrban https://t.co/tgrdgKtJnG— Jessica (@12jessica22) February 28, 2017Upon further digging, people were confused by the exact message the club was trying to make.I'm confused. This is the same place that called @MarkIngram22 #TooUrban ? https://t.co/SoYvcaEjsU— D (@barker1980) February 28, 2017Waka Flocka has also performed there on multiple occasions and that same night the NFL players were denied entry, the club was heavily promoting their “Hype Hop” night with a video featuring Big Sean and MadeInTyo’s ‘Skate Board P.’After a total roadblock sell out La Monday, all eyes are on Hype Hop to build on Monday's heat! 😝🎪💯👌🏽🔥 #IYDKDW pic.twitter.com/NdrxhFS6wf— Cirque Le Soir (@CirqueLeSoir) February 22, 2017It’s apparent that they love our music, our slang, our culture but not our people....
In light of recent events (read: the election, the inauguration, the past few weeks), I think it is abundantly that clear that white entitlement is a bitch. And that it will try to drag us all down into the dirt if it can. I have a couple of thoughts about how we can mitigate this kind of nonsense in future.My black people — we need to stop letting non-black people get away with dumb shit. Yeah, I said it. We need to stop tucking nonsense in at night. We need to start believing that our white and non-black POC brethren can do better than they currently are. We need to hold them to higher standards of humanity, and not to baby them so much that the systems of inequality that they both consciously and subconsciously benefit from (and in some cases maintain) are never dismantled.Let me state upfront that I have been guilty of this on many occasions. I was that kid in middle and high school who assured my non-black friends that they could they say the n-word as long a black person said they could, and if they made sure to say n*ggah and not n*gger. This brought them endless glee and made me feel extremely uncomfortable. But as long as they were happy with me, everything was Gucci. The problem is that in the global system of white supremacy, this is not how things work. Being an agreeable Negro did not protect me from being racially profiled at the local supermarket. It did not keep my teenage years from being marred by white supremacist beauty ideals. It did not stop people from perceiving me as threatening or violent. Because it did nothing to challenge the ideas my friends held about people of African descent.I have also been the friend who offers up way too many cookies to my white and non-black friends and acquaintances for doing the bare minimum. “Oh, thank you so much for being my friend. Some people wouldn’t even walk on the same side of the street as me.” We all know that not every black person is a saint. But looking at my social circles, I would say a fair number of us are decent human beings and some even downright delightful. And non-black people do not deserve medals of honor for befriending, dating, or even marrying us. Better yet, they should not be patting themselves on the shoulders for not having reached KKK or Donald Trump levels of overt racism. You may not be burning crosses in someone’s front yard, but those microaggressions you dole out like hot steaming bowls of chili come autumn? They are chipping away at black people’s souls.Also let’s stop giving non-black people WAY too much credit for doing things black people do all the time and BETTER. Yeah, I said it. Stop making basic shit go viral because a non-black person did it. I’m all for cultural sharing, but this fascination with seeing non-black people partake in our cultural artifacts is on another level. I grew up in Norway, and no one ever freaked out because I tucked into a bowl of sour cream porridge. Because Norwegians know that the stuff is dope and that anyone in their right mind would want a taste. You would think that with the amount of appropriation of black culture throughout history, that by now we would understand how beautiful blackness is. But, like everyone else, we have bought into the white supremacist notion that our culture and our bodies are inferior. Which is why when we see a video of white Danish girl speaking Nigerian pidgin, or a white British guy dancing Azonto, we collectively start to tap dance with excitement. And when we do this, we create a space for non-black folks to take ownership of our stuff. We need to decolonize our minds and internalize a true appreciation for our cultures, so we stop thanking people as they pilfer it from right under our noses.Now, please do not take this as me encouraging black people to take it upon ourselves to conduct racial sensitivity trainings for all our non-black friends. We all know some amazing non-black allies who are conscious and down for the cause. But oftentimes, they end up chilling with us while we tell them how awesome they are for being ‘woke’. What they should be doing is going back into the trenches of their communities and using their positionality to spread the word. Actually doing the work of dismantling white supremacy, not just broadcasting how good and kind they purport to be. That is how we chip away at flawed systems. And please, when you are in mixed company, do not pander to the whiteness in the room. Do not try to present yourself as the agreeable Negro. The one who is glad to dole out cookies, listen to struggles of privileged individuals as they grapple with their positionality, and teach them how to dougie afterwards. And please, please, please - do not cast another black person in the room as the “radical antagonist” to your protagonist of “progressive post-racialness.” One of the major tools of white supremacy is that it makes us hypersensitive to the emotions of white people, and to some extent non-black POC. And even the most liberated of souls will find themselves jumping to take down another black person if it means protecting the fragile souls of the white people in the room. This is not necessary. Again, we underestimate the emotional capacity of our non-black brethren. If we truly care for them and if we want the world to be a better place, we cannot protect them from these realities. It is not our job to be emotional mammies, especially at the expense of relationships with fellow black people.And non-black people - when you notice these things, don’t give into the temptation to nestle into the accolades and get cozy. It’s nothing but oppression in action and if you bask in it, then you are complicit in allowing it flourish. I will leave you with a quote by the great Jesse Williams, who had this response to a white fan’s disappointment regarding his outspokenness about police brutality in Ferguson: “Please disabuse yourself of the notion that my purpose on earth is to tuck ignorance in at...
Which notorious icon was the first woman to threaten to “throw shade, if I can’t get paid, blow you up to your girl like the Army grenade?” If you answered Lil Kim while rapping to yourself the lyrics to the 90’s hit single, “Crush On You,” then you’ll love the new pop culture trivia board game, “Say It Loud!” Photo: Facebook/Say It Loud!The game's creator, Jacqueta Bess, designed the board game with black culture in mind. The trivia encompasses decades of black music, movies, television, and literature. The game requires a minimum of five players, a host and two teams of at least two people, and the goal is to spell out the phrase, “S-A-Y-I-T.” Here’s how it works:1. The host reads a clue 2. The first team to shake their maraca and answer the question correctly wins a letter3. The first team to spell out “Say It” wins the round. 4. The first team to win three rounds wins the game.Photo: Facebook/Say It Loud!In an interview with Madame Noire, Bess said the inspiration for the game derived directly from her childhood. She remembers taking road trips with her dad and singing along with the radio. Her dad would playfully say to her, “You don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that. I’ll give you a dollar if you can tell me who’s singing.” Fast forward a few years and Bess is hoping to collect several dollars to put the board game into mass production with the launch of her Kickstarter campaign on April 1st. If funding is successful, “Say It Loud!” will premiere just in time for the Labor Day cookout. The board game even won a shout out from Evelyn From The Internets as part of her 2016 favorite black things.To stay up to date on the progress of the campaign, follow “Say It Loud!” on Facebook. Now, let me get my coins together to help this sister out.Never miss a headline! Sign up for Blavity's daily...
Whether it's Kim Kardashian and the media trying to rebrand something that's been ours as a "new trend," or Iggy Azalea rapping in her perception of what the "black" dialect is, or even Zoe Saldana refusing to step aside to allow a more appropriate casting of Nina Simone, I'm over micro, macro or even intra-cultural appropriation. You can get DRAGGED every time, am I right, Black Twitter? Now, for those unfamiliar, to "drag" something or someone is to call said thing or person out on completely inappropriate behavior, sometimes in a sarcastic manner or sometimes with pure fury. I tend to lean toward the former, but for what I'm about to share with you, the fury has been evoked. Source: The Fashion Tag A group of fitness instructors who misrepresent themselves as "fly," decided to take Beyoncé's "Formation" and turn it into a marketing tool for themselves. Now, while I personally haven't seen Bey's song or video as some epic black power movement artistic vision, many have interpreted her work as an unabashed presentation of unapologetic blackness and a calling out of disproportionate police brutality against black people. Because this is the overwhelming opinion of the majority in the black community, this piece of music should have been left alone, but NO – we can never have nice things! Our culture must always be stolen, diluted and made more palatable (and thereafter rendered horribly uncool) for the masses of white folks who would continue to profit from our pain. They've even entitled the video "Swerve," stealing yet another slang term created by the black community to lend a sense of relevance to their stiff and offbeat choreography. Well, famous or not, I say we drag them! "To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time." - James Baldwin No one is exempt from the power of black fury. We are staunchly reminded of our cultural relevance (and our lack of ownership), our mortality (and how it's culturally and legally dismissed) and how both are capitalized on without our inclusion or permission. But we deserve nice things, y'all! Our artistic, intellectual, and especially industrial contributions to this country are immeasurable. We will never have our house on a hill if we continue to allow others to believe that they can steal the bricks anytime they damn well please. Black Twitter, I leave you to it. As the Power Rangers often said, "It's morphin' time!" DRAG THEM. Photo: Tumblr What do you think of the video? What are other instances of cultural appropriation that have disturbed you? Leave your comments below! READ NEXT: Listen to these 7 podcasts driven by black...
Legendary activist-turned-philosophy professor, Angela Davis is set to have another film created to illustrate her life. Codeblack Films CEO, Jess Clanagan is leading the way to produce the cinematic version of the scripted, Angela Davis: An Autobiography, including Nina Yang Bongovi producer of Fruitvale Station and Dope, as well as Sidra Smith, who produced the 2012 documentary Free Angela and All Political Prisoners.
Angela Davis is acting as an executive producer while her niece, Eisa Davis, is writing the script for the film. While no word has been released as of yet about casting for the film, there is sure to be a list of actresses clamoring for the leading role. Here's a few picks for who I think could do Angela's role justice.
1. Halle Berry
She has been adamant for years about wanting to play Angela Davis at some point in her career. There's no question that she has the acting chops to pull it off but, it'd definitely be interesting watching how she would tap into portraying this role.
2. Thandie Newton
Thandie is drawn to characters that challenge her as an actress and performer. We've seen her make lasting impressions in For Colored Girls and One Half of a Yellow Sun, so there's no telling what one could expect to see, if she was to portray a woman as prolific as Angela Davis.
3. Tessa Thompson
Tessa makes a statement on screen by portraying roles that reveal the vastness of black identity and black resistance. After seeing her as Diane Nash in the Ava Duvernay film, Selma, it would be dope to watch her tackle the other end of the Civil Rights spectrum as Davis.
4. Yaya DaCosta
Yaya has made a name for herself as a talented actress that pushes beyond her own boundaries for the greater good of the character. While I already know how bomb she looks in a fro, I think that if slated to play the political activist icon, her performance would be one that could take her career to new levels.
5. Jurnee Smollett-Bell
She has been on screens practically her entire life and has recently gained massive props for her standout performance as Rosalee in the WGN series, Underground. Smollett-Bell has a way of captivating audiences with nearly every role she's played by making non-fictional roles feel like reality. That sense of realness would be pivotal to portraying Angela Davis and resonate with audiences long after the credits roll.
6. Rosario Dawson
She has made headlines for years due to her political stance and no-nonsense tactics when it comes to using her First Amendment rights. Leaning on those experiences, she could definitely add some dimension to portraying Angela Davis and channel some of her frustrations into the part.
7. Grace Gealey
Grace would be my wildcard pick, if offered the opportunity to play Davis. Audiences have gotten to know her as the classy and witty, Anika Calhoun on Empire, but beyond that, her educational background and previous experience as a stage actress leads me to believe that there is much more to see from Gealey.
8. Cree Summer
This actress is well-known for being the voice of many of our favorite childhood characters and as the ecclectic, radical Freddie Brooks from A Different World. I know that Summer has the skills and experience to portray practically anyone but, seeing her step into a role of this magnitude would be refreshing to watch and entice viewers across generations.
9. Eisa Davis
She would without a doubt have the most connection to this role, if she was cast to portray her own aunt on the big screen. "Angela's Mixtape," the 2009 autobiographical show produced and starring Eisa, could also add to the cinematic performance she could use to enhance in this portrayal.
10. Amandla Stenberg
She is everything, but we already knew this. Watching her channel her own values and ideas that parallel that of a young Angela Davis, on screen, would be incredible to see.
11. Sophie Okenedo
Sophie is an accomplished, award-winning British actress who no doubt has the skills to step into this role. Her ability to take on any part and bring characters to life has made her one of the most talented artists in the field.
Whoever is in charge of casting this cinematic feature had better be thorough in their selections. The work and continued legacy of Angela Davis's work still ripples through the movements we live through today. Hopefully, the actress and all other cast members who will be a part of this film will take that into consideration and produce a film that not only entertains, but educates more than anything else.
Who would you cast to play Angela Davis in this upcoming film? Share your opinions in the comments.
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School is almost back in session, and this year, you could be laced up with some of the most creative school supplies that anyone in your lecture class has ever seen!
Innovative Supplies, a black-owned, online retail store is owned and operated by 27-year-old mom and soon to be college student, Nneka. With the hopes of becoming a history teacher in her local area, she began Innovative Supplies as the first step to a bigger vision of "being a positive change in her community." Innovative Supplies includes notebooks and apparel that showcase black art by black artists and weave together elements of black culture from the past and the present. Her goals for Innovative Solutions are just as impactful as the business itself, which includes depositing profits into a black-owned bank, hiring local minority youth and using environmentally sourced materials.
If you browse through the Innovative Supplies website, you'll soon understand why products sold out in less than 24 hours. Some of her handmade school supplies include a notebook with an image of Tupac Shakur wearing a t-shirt with the words, "I Am Sandra Bland," drawn by artist, @Raheim81art. Another notebook that is slated to be coming soon has the iconic Michael Jordan crying meme in various sizes all over it, which is sure to make your classmates and maybe even a few professors laugh out loud.
With over 8550 orders to ship out before she can take on new orders, Nneka and Innovative Supplies are off to an amazing start! Along with the dope designs that Nneka offers on her site, customers can even request custom designs making her business one that is sure to represent all that encompasses black culture and excellence. There's no question that Innovative Supplies is living up to it's motto of being a company that "stands to bridge the gaps between minority owned business and helping to foster more group economics."
When the order forms are back up and running, Innovative Supplies can look forward to an order from me and a large number of folks who are already itching to have these amazing products in their hands. Shout out to Nneka and her team who are definitely moving the culture forward and doing their part to sustain the wealth of black businesses.
UPDATE: Nneka has recently launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to purchase machines that'll enable her to sell Innovative Supplies in larger quantities and at a faster rate. Feel free to donate to this black-owned business if you want to see more from her and the Innovative Supplies brand.
Which Innovative Supplies notebook would you like to have? Share your favorite designs in the comments.
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Nothing would have made 16-year-old hip-hop-head version of me run away screaming for a safety only the ghost of Marcus Garvey could provide more than the sounds of banjo. But now, years later, I spend an unreasonable amount of time in a rocking chair with a 'jo pickin', grinnin' and feeling super black about it all.
Seem like a strange sentiment? The well-known scene from Deliverance (no, not that scene, this scene) and decades of hillbilly showmanship might agree with you. But the banjo is much older than all of this.
Africa, or rather African slaves, gave America the banjo.
These roots to the banjo are known to seasoned pickers. Blea Fleck, amazing banjo player and lifelong white man, filmed a documentary in 2008 titled Throw Down Your Heart, in which he journeyed to Africa in search of the banjo’s origins.
“I thought it was important for people to realize where the banjo comes from because it’s been associated so much with the white southern stereotype,” Fleck said in his documentary, “A lot of people in the United States don’t realize the banjo is an African instrument.”
In a handful of early paintings, black folk were illustrated picking the banjo as a part of an intimate culture. Notable examples include The Old Plantation by John Rose in the late 1700s and Henry Ossawa Tanner’s The Banjo Lesson in 1893. In 1781, Thomas Jefferson wrote about slaves’ relation to the banjo on his own plantation. Jefferson stated that, “the instrument proper to them is the Banjar, which they brought hither from Africa."
Up until the 19th century, the Banjo was exclusively black as hell. Unfortunately, the banjo was so black that it ended up as a prop in racist Minstrel shows to exaggerate black culture for white entertainment. Aside from a handful of pickers such as Gus Cannon, early blues players settled for guitars to separate their music from the laughed at tunes of Minstrel theatre. Overtime, the banjo was phased out completely from popular black music, but continued on as a fundamental instrument in the folk tunes of poor folk, most notably in the South.
But just because the banjo was black doesn’t answer why it is black.
Common narratives of where “black culture” originated, or what it is now, tend to start from a misnomer. It's assumed slaves of the Americas had no culture other than the fragments gained from observing white folks in the big house. This is aggravatingly false, and a main contender of why we’ve lost so much history as a community.
African slaves brought artistic symbols and imaginative storytelling. They brought traditions, dialects and communication full of wit. Clever similes and put-downs didn’t start with Sanford and Son, our contemporary flavorful language has a significant past. For example, in The Art of Rap, KRS-one explains the origin of rap battling and the tradition of “The Dozen,” done by slaves throwing around put-downs at the auction block.
But arguably above anything else, Africans brought musical traditions that have penetrated centuries of Americana.
Blues, jazz, spirituals, rock 'n' roll, hip-hop, reggae and ska all have elements from the rhythmic thread of the African tradition, and yes, even banjo.
Black historical significance is often downplayed in a fit of what Editor-in-chief of Very Smart Brothas, writer of supa-black stuff and all-around great modern cultural observer, Damon Young describes as “white tears.” According to Young, white tears is a “phrase to describe what happens when certain types of white people either complain about a nonexistent racial injustice or are upset by a non-white person’s success at the expense of a white person.”
Take, for instance, Black History Month, a time when mainstream culture regurgitates the same five or so historical figures of blackness in its self-righteous attempt at diversifying the common understanding of America’s past. I’m not a meteorologist, but my hunch is that more white tears fall in February than any other time of the year. For a convoluted number of reasons, white folk hold onto whiteness for dear life as if somehow all white contributions to society will be replaced in every textbook by black faces.
In February and beyond, there’s a continuous attempt to downplay any lingering impacts of racially-motivated atrocities while also remaining annoyed by anything to do with “black pride.” Even when unintentional, American culture tends to forget the fruitful blackness of its past, and antagonists claim a war on Whites when simply discussing the existence of black contribution.
It's in producing white tears that the banjo becomes black again.
Including the banjo as a hallmark in black contribution to America would mean acknowledging yet another occurrence of cultural and historical suppression. It’s an example of yet another time we were forgotten about and not included in the peachy history of American development. All the while, the uneasy conservatives of the country will claim that adding a little color to the banjo’s history is another attempt to replace white history with black history.
Oddly enough, the banjo is the perfect example of our history. This is an instrument that helped construct songs of plantation life as well as the coal mine. The banjo has been held by the enslaved and the American Victorian. It’s as American as apple pie and fried chicken. There’s room for everyone, no matter how uncomfortable the history lesson might feel.
Taking back one’s stolen history from exploitation and exclusion means a win for a deeper cultural identity.
The more of our roots we connect with, the more we learn about how we became our present selves. For so long, the black American story began from slave ports, when in reality, there are elements of common culture even today evident of a distant and elaborate past. The African diaspora exceeds the marginalized box black culture is so often shoved into.
Contemporary musicians such as Dom Flemons, The Carolina Chocolate Drops and Valerie June have pushed against the confines of what culture allows of blackness. Every day, as we gain more of our whole identity in a historical context, we destroy the barriers of what blackness should or can be.
“African-American kids and old folks have no problem with our music,” stated former Carolina Chocolate Drops musician Don Flemons in the book Banjo Camp!, “It’s the ones in between who aren’t that far out of the country and are just making it in urban culture who say, ‘What do you want to play that kind of music for?’”
Picking banjo serves as my little way of taking back a piece of black history.
As my fingers pluck and knock against the strings, I imagine distant relatives doing the same, and I can’t help but feel an inner connection to something far greater than myself. Am I the Nas of banjo playing? Not even close. Escobar status is far outside of my abilities. But, can I play songs like those my ancestors picked more than 200 years ago with sounds of white tears falling like raindrops in the foreground? Damn right.
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Have you been super sensitive to the way other black folks have treated you in the past few weeks? With everything happening around the country and around the world, our treatment and care for each other seems even more important to me. The girl behind the counter at your favorite fish fry spot with the attitude seems a little harsher, the neighborhood car mechanic who fixes cars for the low and offers his wisdom seems more precious, the elderly mother who keeps watch over the neighborhood seems to have wiggled her way deeper into your heart. It's as if we're smack dab in the middle of a Spike Lee movie, trying to get everyone to do the right thing.
If someone forgets to nod while walking past us on the street, the world feels a little colder.
The black nod is the non-physical version of the pound or giving someone dap. It's a (usually silent) acknowledgement of our existence, our commonality, our shared struggle and triumph. It goes deeper than a simple salutation. When I give you the nod, I'm telling you that I see you, you're telling me that you see me, and in times of crisis, we're assuring each other that we have each other's backs.
My parents were the kind of people who spoke to everyone. I remember asking my dad why he sat on the porch, saying hello to every passerby. He would tell me, "There's nothing wrong with speaking." Much to my embarrassment, my mom would always strike up a conversation with someone in the grocery line. When I would groan and question her during the car ride home, she would tell me, "There's nothing wrong with speaking." Salutations such as the black nod, dap, the pound, even the way we shake hands or hug are all an integral part of black culture. It's a small, yet consistent way that we show each other we still care about one another, and one of the last vestiges of black culture that I actually have yet to see appropriated.
This month, we're celebrating the 40th anniversary of Stevie Wonder's song, "Love's in Need of Love Today," and it couldn't be a more timely song. There is so much hate against black people (and yes, other groups, but that's not what we're talking about right now). We've read and shared article after article about self care, about finding our zen, about coping with trauma, about self love, about unplugging from the onslaught of tragic news to protect our psyches. The black nod is one small but important gesture to say that we'll be okay. We'll make it. We're affirming it, even as we pass each other on the street. Personally, I feel like everyone needs a hug right now, but sometimes a nod is all you've got or all you get. That will have to do.
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Even though I practice alternative spirituality now, I'll still pop in to regular ol' church every now and then. A few weeks ago, I went to my mom's church with her and found that the regulars are still in attendance, no matter how large or small the membership is. Here are our church regulars, and don't forget to list yours in the comments!
The Unstudied Minister
This is the guy (usually older) who feels his age automatically has given him the right to "minister" to the congregation. He brings his bible to the podium, but never references any actual scriptures, opting instead for church phrases and trying to disguise them as scriptures. "The bible says, 'when praises go up, BLESSINGS come down!'" Um, no sir, it doesn't.
The Sweet Church Mother
She always has some encouraging words for you, the good mints, is dressed to the nines, and can sing like no other! Whenever you're in attendance, you look forward to seeing this mother. She gives advice based on her experience and not her bias, and never judges you for the mistakes you make. She knows that being spiritual doesn't mean having a boring or strict life, and she encourages you to have fun and create adventures for yourself. This mother is an expert at creating safe spaces, and everyone loves her.
The Mean Church Mother
You reconsider your dress three times before you leave the house because of this mother's ire. She'll call you a Jezebel in a second and lecture you on why you need not tempt the ministers of the church with your wayward wardrobe. She wrote the book on respectability politics, and will cite every violation of it she sees fit. She's also a master shade thrower. People put up with her because of the mythical and vaguely described "hard life" she's had, and because she can sing as well (if not better) than the sweet mother. She calls out all of the choir's mistakes at their next practice, and acts like the (amazing) Sunday dinner doesn't have enough seasoning. You try to avoid her at all costs.
The Church Chef
Preparing for Sunday to be your cheat meal is a MUST, knowing he/she is going to throw down a massive and delicious Sunday dinner after service. You smell the chicken frying (and during the summer, the grill going) in the back kitchen area around offering time, and might even try to slip out for a second. This chef has all of the best stories and lets you be their taste tester, should you make it past the ushers to chat it up while they mix it up.
The Misbehaving Child
If it was morally or legally right to punch a child, you might do it to this one. They sneeze on you, break your tambourine for the fifth time, step all over your feet while play shouting, and of course, ask to play on your phone when they're finally tired out enough to sit down somewhere. Most times, they are dropped off by their parent who wants some free child care and knows the church folk will look after the kid, but even when the parent decides to also attend, they can't keep this child under control. Your mantra is always spanking is not the answer. Spanking is NOT the answer. Of course, their friends encourage the misbehavior.
The Longwinded Testifier
You never know who this person is going to be, because it's usually a visitor who doesn't know the rules. They're also prone to say something highly inappropriate, provoke a church sigh, and eventually be cut off by the music or whomever is officiating the service. They're good for a laugh, but you wish you could skip this person every time you show up.
While this person annoys most people, you actually enjoy seeing their progression over time. Yes, that first year or so of hitting the wrong chords or being utterly unable to stay in the pocket on the drums is frustrating, but then you show up one week and notice how much better they've become. It makes you proud to see a young person stick with something that they are passionate about, and actually get good at it. They even become skilled enough that you hire them (and their friends) for your next office holiday party.
The Prodigal Son/Daughter
They're a semi-regular. They go out into the world, do their "dirt," feel guilty, and come back and get "saved" again. It's a toss up whether or not you'll see them when you stop in, but you hope you do because you want to be one of the people in their lives who isn't judging their life choices. You just want them to become the best person they can be, regardless of where and how that happens.
The Money Deacon
He gives all of the kids a dollar every Sunday after service, drives the longest Cadillac you've ever seen, is always matching the loudest colors, and is the sweetest guy on earth. He and his wife let you crash in their guest house the semester you couldn't afford to live in the dorms, and he always made sure you had pocket change for a movie out or to get something to eat with friends. Always standing up for anyone in the warpath of the mean church mother, he's like everyone's favorite uncle, good with making money, smart with how he's spends it, and a giving person. You never suggest he hire a stylist because you don't want to offend him.
The ChristianMingle.com Deacon
He's been married at least five times, and this somehow qualifies him as the unofficial marriage counselor of the church. He walks around with this holier-than-thou attitude, until someone "accidentally" hyperlinks his ChristianMingle.com profile in the weekly church bulletin, and everyone sees his greased up topless profile picture. He comes to church next week without shame, current wife giving a rousing testimony about how a wife's job is to stand by her husband and make sure she always slays, while getting the side-eye from every woman in the church who her husband has hollered at (which is basically the entire membership base). Definitely perfect for a laugh.
The Candy Lady
Always with the best outfits, the best candy in her purse, knows everybody's business but won't spread it. The children's choir director, who sits up front with the mothers because she takes care of her grandmother and that's where her grandmother sits. She's like everyone young person's favorite auntie, the beautifully successful and single woman that every guy wants to ask out, and the sister who never throws shade at anyone. The women of the church both love her and are jealous of her, but no one dares disrespect her, lest they be cut off from her smile and her candy supply when service runs long.
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