Whitney Bracey, a Dallas-based clothing designer, recently launched a dance apparel line that specializes in nude dancewear, under her brand, Mahogany Blues.
The 29-year old designer got her inspiration for Mahogany Blues from her friend, TaKiyah Wallace, founder of Brown Girls Do Ballet. In conversations with Wallace, Bracey learned that there were no nudes for people of color in the dance industry. "Most dancers have to dye their leotards a few times to get the colors right," she told BuzzFeed.
Not even nude ballet shoes are available to dancers of color.
Here's the Deal @bloch_eu @grishkoworld and #sanshaballetshoes if you create more than One flesh tone I'll love you forever!! 👣👣👣🙏🏾 #AFewFleshTonesPlease#NoMoreMacOnMyFeet#Ballerino#BalletShoeIssues#preparationforTheShow#MyStory
A video posted by ericunderwood (@ericunderwood) on Jul 19, 2015 at 3:04am PDT
Right now, Bracey's line only has four colors.
But she is taking time to hand-make these leotards.
Soon, she hopes to have more colors. #NoDancerLeftBehind.
...and people are excited about it!
When you can twirl in a leotard that matches your complexion ‼️💁🏽💋 Thanks 4 the #inspiration @mbdanceapparel‼️💁🏽💥💋 pic.twitter.com/JUUAm5GrGy
— MyBeautyFullLips (@BeautyFullLips) May 24, 2016
Good Job to @MBDanceApparel for empowering even more dancers of color through creating a wider range of color tones in dancewear 😀
— Guen (@adriellereinde) May 24, 2016
Mahogany Blues is on pointe!
Will you order from Mahogany Blues? Let us know in the comments!
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I am a woman who identifies as a minority on multiple, intersecting levels and who also happens to consider herself an intellectual. Working in higher education and surrounding myself with other academicians of color has allowed me a unique perspective on the complex world of #blacademia.
I hold a master’s degree in secondary language arts education, and have been in not one, but two programs that aim to place high-achieving educators in schools where the students are at risk. In other words, the Teach for America type deals: Pluck an Ivy-League kid out of New England and plug them into the inner city/rural south and see what happens.
During one such program, I was given an assignment where I was asked to “unpack my privileges.” The assignment was based on an article called "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack," by Peggy McIntosh. The article is intended to illuminate how most white people are oblivious to the many unspoken advantages they have grown accustomed to. Which is a perfect activity for those enthusiastic young do-gooders who are ready to save those poor black kids. However, for those of us in the program who were already minorities and who have not quite enjoyed so many invisible privileges, it was quite difficult to identify and talk about how we "will be more sensitive to those less fortunate than us."
"Um… excuse me," I thought, “Some of us don’t actually have privileges in our backpacks. And the few we have fought for, we would like to hold on to them, thank you very much!”
In a similar vein, a colleague of mine, who happens to be the only woman of color in her PhD program at the university she attends, was recently asked to perform an assignment wherein she was required to “attend an event where she was the minority in a group of people she would normally oppress.”
Hmmm, let’s unpack that one. A woman of color in the United States would normally have the opportunity to oppress whom? A woman of color in the U.S. in a situation where she is the minority? Eh… pardon me? We only need to wake up in the morning and walk outside our homes to find ourselves in a world where we are the minority. What is the benefit for us in purposely subjecting ourselves to yet another situation where we are the minority?
My colleague felt the assignment was not relevant to her and that she could easily accomplish the objective by simply recounting a normal day in her life. However, the professor insisted that she most assuredly is an oppressor in one form or another and if she thought about it hard enough she would realize this and surely gain something from this assignment (side eye).
These well-meaning exercises are doled out every day at institutions of higher learning or training programs, and maybe they are helping those in the majority in some small way to gain sensitivity. But as we poor, less fortunate souls begin to rise from the ashes and make it into post-graduate programs, curriculum developers must begin to find more meaningful ways to accommodate our experiences. Academia must now understand that black intellectual lives matter, and that these cute little diversity assignments that they have meticulously worked into their syllabi are not one-size-fits-all. Minority intellectuals are already contending with a completely unique set of micro-inequities from their peers and advisers. Our classrooms should be a safe space where all students are permitted and encouraged to create their own experiences of learning and growing. Otherwise, what's the point?
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My friend and I teamed up to make comics about our teacher in the 5th grade. She drew the pictures and I wrote the stories, one of which included said teacher buying a fishnet bodysuit. The comics made people laugh, and from there my love for writing developed. I’ve tried many types of writing over the years, but I’ve always been introspective and empathetic and applying these qualities to poetry was easy for me. That became my main outlet.
Poetry was just a hobby then and I didn’t seek out other poets or teachers for support. I think if I’d built these relationships early on, I wouldn’t feel so unsure and alone in navigating the poetry world now, especially as a black woman. I don’t blame myself for not knowing the exact path I wanted to take in life while in high school, but as a result I use the internet as a top resource as far as finding journals or competitions to enter.
Although helpful, Google is no true mentor. The closest I’ve been to having one was in college at DePaul University in Chicago, where I took several classes with an established, white female poet. She became familiar with my style and gave me recommendations on material that might inspire me, as well as a list of journals that might be interested in my work.
At that time, I wasn’t writing too much about my race. I wrote a lot of feminist work and pieces about my mental health, but I wasn’t bringing much intersectionality to that. I am a biracial woman who was mostly exposed to the white side of my family while growing up. I also have depression and anxiety. These factors influenced how I used to see myself. Multiple aspects of who I was left me feeling like an outsider. I never denied being black, I just wasn’t as in touch with my culture as I am now. In a more diverse setting, I would have realized this sooner.
This is a lesson that the world of poetry must also learn.
Kate Gale wrote an article for Huffington Post that mocked criticism people have had with the organization Associated Writing Programs (AWP), which she edited as an apology but can be read here. In this instance, people of color expressed their reality and a white woman wrote it off as nonsense. With his poem reworking Mike Brown’s autopsy report, Kenneth Goldsmith boiled down a racially motivated murder to just a public document for his own art; he was then delusional enough to declare his reading of black pain and suffering as powerful. A poet I follow on Twitter posted about a journal that published a blatantly Islamophobic poem and then apologized, despite presumably having gone through a thorough process of being read, edited and accepted.
Even this past month, a poem was published in the Best American Poetry anthology 2015 that was written by white poet Michael Derrick Hudson — but only after he changed his pen name to Yi-Fen Chou. Sherman Alexie chose the poem, seeing the name and making an effort to give a fellow POC this opportunity. Some poets have expressed negative feelings about Alexie keeping the poem even after finding out about the deceit, but I would focus more on the fact that this white poet took advantage of people of color trying to include each other in an industry dominated by people of his actual demographic. It’s as if he thought, “Diversity is what’s in now, right? Better make my name more ethnic,” which is even more insulting given that ethnic names on job applications are often a reason the application gets ignored.
If the literary world stopped allowing instances of racial insensitivity to go unchallenged, I don’t think I’d feel such a need for a mentor that looked like me. For me, it can be easy to think the poetry world is evolved beyond instances like these because it’s a craft where you need to see multiple facets of a thing. Unfortunately, that’s naive of me to think.
And truthfully, after realizing the racial microaggressions seemingly ubiquitous in the literary world and seeing justifications from the media of the murder of my people, I believe it’s perfectly understandable to want to trust a Black person with my creative work — my heart — more.
So how can the white members of the poetry world build this trust?
1. Recognize that your ideas about what poetry is and how it’s constructed come from a past dominated by white men and that these things need to be examined and unlearned.
“It’s just the way things are” is a dangerous sentiment.
2. When we speak up, white editors and the like need to actually listen.
We shouldn’t be dismissed as angry for no reason or expected to forget the racism we’ve experienced as if it doesn’t still happen daily.
3. Our poems shouldn’t be set to the side because you feel exasperated at having to read another racial narrative.
Try living it and you’ll know what it means to be fed up. Educate yourselves on what it’s like for minorities to be in white dominated spaces.
These are only a few ways to be an ally to poets of color. Poetry should be about seeing things in new ways through understanding. A poet can’t call themselves such if they only read or write work coming from one viewpoint and young poets like me can’t feel safe in spaces set on continuing to promote that one viewpoint.
A change is necessary because poetry, much like being Black, is most beneficial and withstanding as a community effort. Communities thrive on differences, and such an old form of expression needs to embrace them to stay relevant and alive.
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Institutionalized racism has kept people of color oppressed throughout both the best and worse times of our country’s history. It has remained a constant that's varied in intensity but is nonetheless significantly damaging.
There have been monumental moments in our country’s history in which racial issues could no longer be ignored and action took place — moments such as the decree of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865 and the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Our generation could once again fight for another moment, another chance for monumental change.
The past two years has brought forth heightened awareness of police brutality and violence against black people. We all face the unbearable truth that racism still thrives in our country. We’ve written and read articles breaking down racism in America. We’ve attended the protests and the rallies. But that's not enough to bring about change in America. We’ve made progress with educating the public. Now let’s make sure this is turned into true change — change within the system.
But when will this actually happen?
Race issues have always been put on the backburner and people of color are told that we must wait for bigger issues to be solved before they get to be heard. Yet we rarely get our turn to be heard. There should not be an excuse to ignore our issues altogether. We can wait no longer for our problems to be resolved. Because if it is not solved now, when will they ever be addressed? We need a president and elected officials who will recognize that our lives matter and keep our best interests in mind.
This is where I urge you to actually vote in 2016.
Many people argue that they are just one person, that their vote doesn’t matter, or that they don’t want to support any of the candidates because they hate all of them. But this isn’t the answer to our problems. Let’s face it, if we want to make change happen we need to force the hand of our elected officials and make it so that the law can be on our side. This won’t happen if you don’t vote.
See, the demographics that vote the most consistently and in large numbers are whites, citizens over the age of 65, and citizens with incomes of $75,000. And let’s face it, this demographic is typically more conservative. And conservative politicians rarely prioritize the rights of people of color and the issues that affect us.
I'm not standing here preaching that our elected officials will push for policies that will better the country for our people on their own. What I'm saying is that it's a whole lot easier to convince someone who doesn't relentlessly support policies that indirectly hurt minorities than someone who does.
So when faced with two politicians that you are not to fond of, you might as well pick the lesser of two evils. I mean, would you rather have an alright representative or president, or one that will bring forth some serious damage and completely disregard the voices of minorities?
So when you are doubting your voting power, just remember what happened in 2008 and 2012 when people of color actually went to the polls. We can make a difference.
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Crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been the funding source for many projects over the last half-decade. Minority artists and entrepreneurs alike have turned to these websites to raise funds and build a community of sorts for their projects, products and services.
Over the years, I have personally contributed to numerous crowdfunding campaigns. Often the projects that I have helped fund would not have been possible without community support, or would have been drastically influenced if funded by large publishing houses, record labels and film studios.
Below are six crowdfunding campaigns you should consider supporting.
The House of June is at it again. If you haven’t already, you should check out their series “The Shrink in B6.” Earlier this year, we told you all about how they were changing the dynamics of the film industry. Now the crew is fundraising for Fried IceCream, a feature length film that “follows AKEEBAH & SLOAN, two mix-matched peas in a pod living and finding self in the summer solstice of inner-city Atlanta.” Get into it.
The Last Black Man in San FranciscoLast I checked, this campaign had already reached its goal. Why not help the team do even more with the film by pushing them even further past their funding mark? In The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Joe Talbot & Jimmie Fails aim to tell the story of “a young man with a big dream (and a quirky best friend) searches for home in the changing city that seems to have left him behind.” Peep their funding video.
Camera Ready Kutz, Inc.
LGBT community members are often on the receiving end of stigma when it comes to sitting in the barber’s chair. With Camera Ready Kutz, Khane Kutzwell aims to create a space in Brooklyn where people will not feel judgment while getting their hair done. Learn more about her plan.
The Angelica Doll: A natural hair doll for young girls
Seeing yourself in media and toys is important as a young person. With Naturally Perfect Dolls, Angelica Sweeting’s goal is to show young Black girls a reflection of themselves in their dolls. Learn more about her inspiration below.
Global Girl Oakland - Changing the Face of Media
Global Girl Oakland is aiming to change media by putting girls behind the camera and at the center of the story. The Global Girl team has been doing this work since 2010. Now they are raising money for their Girls Speak Oakland summer program to create awareness in the push for more inclusive media and to empower girls to become heroines of their own stories.
Large Fears is a picture book about Jeremiah Nebula, a young queer Black boy. You can follow Jeremiah's journey on Instagram. Large Fears creators Myles E. Johnson and Kendrick Daye were interviewed by Mic.
In the interview with Mic, Johnson is quoted saying, “When you don't see yourself in the media, it does weird things to your psyche."
Many of the campaigns above are tied to the larger theme of telling our own stories and reclaiming spaces. Consider funding these campaigns to fight the erasure of our stories.
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The discontent of people of color (POC) at predominantly white institutions (PWI) isn’t something new. It was just last year that Black students at Harvard started the I, Too, Am Harvard campaign that spread to 31 other colleges and universities worldwide. These feelings aren’t new. This discontent is not new. What is new is that students of color are starting to feel validated and are able to share their experiences. Students of color are refusing to be silent on their campuses.
Renegade. Coming 4.3.15 from Harvard Renegade on Vimeo.
About two weeks ago, this video surfaced on my Facebook newsfeed. It starts out with the definition of renegade and then proceeds to explain why renegade.
“Because there is only ONE tenured Latino professor. Because people dress up as my ethnicity for Halloween. Because there’s only one Asian American history class.”
What started as a one-minute and seven-second video became a photo campaign and ended in the official release of Renegade, a POC arts collective and online magazine started by students of color at Harvard. On their website, the mission statement is:
“We are Renegade, an art and advocacy collective of Harvard student artists, writers, musicians, poets, activists, and thinkers who have come together in solidarity as people of color. Choosing not to forget is our first and most radical act. We are rediscovering our identities as people of color on this campus by remembering our ancestors’ courageous stories and by dismantling the regimes of colonization and oppression still present at this university. Through creativity and collaboration, we empower individual voices and minds and place our expression at the center of campus discourse. Our coming together was inevitable, for the time has come when students of color will no longer be silenced.”
Profile pictures on Facebook all started to change and “Because this is mine” was displayed proudly on top of them. In the photo campaign, students of color were asked to take a picture in a place on campus where they felt unsafe or uncomfortable, and then the words “Because this is mine” were put atop the image to reclaim the space as their own.
Soon after all these profile pictures started emerging, Renegade was officially launched. It’s been about two weeks since and already the Facebook group has 906 likes, articles have been shared and re-shared on my Facebook, and people are starting to talk about it both negatively and positively. Whether or not anyone sees Renegade as a good idea, it was only a matter of time until the students of color on this campus would make their voices heard. It’s only a matter of time until more students of color at other PWIs demand that their voices be heard, and I will be there to listen to their demands.
This is only the first article in this series focusing on POCs at PWIs. Stay tuned for coming issues highlighting initiatives similar to this occurring at other PWIs.
Check out Renegade’s online magazine here!
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