Archive for the ‘POC’ category

Malcolm X’s birthday

May 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, Malcolm X. I’ve always felt he got the shaft in history class. Not that MLK Jr. wasn’t an incredible human being; I only wish Malcolm X got the same respect in American society. 

I leave you with one of my favorite columns on Malcolm, by Melissa Harris-Lacewell.

Early in his public career, a young white woman approached Malcolm and asked him what role sincere white allies could have in the struggle for racial equality. He rebuffed her and told her that there was no role for whites at all. Years later, he said he regretted his response and spoke of the difficulty in building workable interracial coalitions. He remained committed to black empowerment and self-governance within African-American organizations, but toward the end of his life he also came to understand the critical importance of anti-racist efforts among white Americans. He taught us that we must acknowledge human interdependence if we hope to build enduring movements out of the fragile and complicated interests that we share. -MHL

“I believe that it would be impossible to find anywhere in America a black man who has lived further down in the mud of human society than I have; or a black man who has been any more ignorant that I have been; or a black man who has suffered more anguish during his life than I have. But it is only after this deepest darkness that the greatest joy can come; it is only after slavery and prison that the sweetest appreciation of freedom can come. I do believe that I have fought the best that I could, with the shortcomings that I have had. I know that my shortcomings are many.”

-Malcolm X

You Should Know Jean Grae.

May 18, 2009

I posted this on Feministing a while back, but it bears repeating. I can’t get enough of Jeanie.

As many of you know, the hip hop/rap scene is yet another arena dominated by men. Especially after Lauryn Hill disappeared from the scene, there have been only a handful of known female MCs. Brave & talented women have been doin’ their things without as much coverage and props as their male counterparts. One of these lesser-known ladies is my personal favorite– Jean Grae.

After an early career in groups like Natural Resource & collaborating with successful male artists like Immortal Technique & Talib Kweli, Jean launched her own career. Taking her name from the X-Men character, Jean has commented that growing up she didn’t play with girls’ toys like My Little Pony; she played X-Men. She has put out incredible albums and critics have called her possibly the greatest lyricist. Yet she isn’t well known, and doesn’t make much money.

Record companies have repeatedly fumbled, not knowing what to do with a female hip hop artist who isn’t trying to be a sex kitten, who is just straight up doing her own thing and trying to be the greatest emcee. Her albums have leaked on the internet prior to being released, and she hasn’t been marketed with the respect she deserves.

 She’s had struggles with her label and the people managing her. One of her tracks, “The Story” off the Jeanius album is an incredibly honest flow on her experiences with abortion. Yet her label wanted to go ahead and make a video, without her in it, and changed the vibe of the song. Jean has tried to fight it, remarking,

“You couldn’t have a more pro-choice song. So now, in essence, what you’ve done is taken the choice away for the video for the song called “My Story.” I think it’s the most disrespectful thing ever.”

She doesn’t shy away from discussing the barriers she hits as a female emcee:

“The interesting duality comes from being female and immediately being written off saying anything—it’s: “Oh, she’s complaining again. See? And that’s why bitches shouldn’t rap.” It’s an interesting place to stand. It’s sort of a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

Jean is ridiculously creative with her lyrics and her topics. She’s funny one second, and sensitive the next. Her songs are, to me, the most honest hip hop I’ve ever heard. She even did a song and video for sexual abuse/rape awareness that details a girl in high school attacking the school after continuous abuse that she endures:

She’s unique in the fact that she’s not interested in marketing herself as a sex symbol, but she doesn’t shy away from being a sexual person, with jams like “Love Thirst”: Okay, turn the lights out/no, turn ’em back on/Want you to see my backbone and my black tone / Start minimal, raise it to animal / please You’re no amateur / please me, I’m tangible

She has been pit against other female artists who have a “sexier” image but Jean remarks:

“If at the end of the day, you can rest and feel OK with yourself, that’s fine. Personally, I don’t do certain things. I read articles and they’ll pit me against Lil’ Kim like I’m going to smash them down. I never said any of that; I never said I didn’t like Kim or Foxy. I think the media places a slant on it: “Yeah, she’s so badass! She’s gonna beat them all up! She keeps her clothes on!” I mean, that’s just me. I don’t feel the need to do all that. That’s just not how I am. But if you’re comfortable doing that, that’s fine. I just happen to be doing some other shit. “

If there’s anyone who DESERVES to be recognized, and deserves to make a living off their flow, it’s Jean Grae. Jean is one of the most underrated artists ever. She’s smart, crazy talented, witty, strong, and sensitive. I HIGHLY suggest her music.

Other Jeanie quotes:

“It’s cool to have the naked girl if she wants to be the naked girl. We should be able to express our sexuality. My only problem comes when it’s the naked girl and no other girl. I can be the girl with her clothes on, with the book and the glasses. Because people wear clothes. It’s cold outside.”

“America is racist and people know it. I find it interesting when people are more blunt about it instead of sweeping it under the rug. A lot of people are fucked up and wrong. Sometimes the things that they think about will come out of their mouths. I was just talking to my mom the other day about how racism is prevalent and sometimes you feel it real hard. Especially in NY, we’re like “it’s cool,” but everything is not fuckin’ cool. We’re more of a “sweep it under the rug” type of city – but when you go down south, you know that it’s out there. We’re kind of fakin’ it here. You still can’t catch a cab here. I think that sometimes we’re surprised by a lot of shit that we shouldn’t be surprised by.”

Have We Overcome Our Need to Pose Overly Simplistic Questions?

May 11, 2009

I feel like every time I pull up CNN.com, there is some inane question or line about race or sex equality.  Today, it comes in the form of: Have We Overcome Our Race Problems?

Even posing this question as a realistic and reasonable inquiry shows a really poor and shallow understanding of the issues. Racial equality is not some sort of checklist and once we hit certain check points (voting rights, check. black president, check.) we can consider it over and done with.

There’s nothing wrong in discussing how race relations have improved, and there’s nothing wrong with giving a hopeful outlook on ways things can continue to improve. But I think think that framing the question this way feeds the simplistic ways most Americans (particularly white Americans) think about race. And because we’re not discussing it in a largely mature or deep way, we fail to really think about how race affects our own lives: our privileges, our prejudices. We have to seriously confront those or we aren’t going to get far enough.

 

Still to come…a personal blog about Mother’s Day.

Three updates

March 15, 2009

I haven’t written in a few weeks. Between things heating up at my job, and getting into a few different grad programs, I’ve been quite busy…but enough about me. I’ve got a few updates on a few things:

1. Three cheers for Obama for Lifting the Ban on Stem Cell Research, and for signing a bill that will help lower and control the cost of birth control. That being said, I still want to know what he is doing about Abstinence Only Education Funding…because to me, thats one of the most dangerous things still going on. So many unnecessary pregnancies and STIs, leading to financial and personal crises, simply for the fact that conservative America is embarrassed to talk about sex and thinks if they just ignore it, one of our greatest human instincts will somehow just..go away. 

2. March 10th was National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This is important to me, because I work with a lot of HIV-positive clients on Medicaid. With Obama’s new Council on Women and Girls, I hope one of the top policy focuses if HIV/AIDS for women, particularly of color. As listed on HHS, AIDS is now the leading cause of death for Black women ages 25 to 34. That’s a scary statistic, particularly when its a disease that’s preventible with proper education, access, and policy/financial support. 

3. Kai Wright has a really great piece up at The Root about ‘Raisin In The Sun’ playwright Lorraine Hansberry, and how her homosexuality has been effectively erased from history. Wright compares the erasure of gay Americans, in this case a black playwright,  to the erasure of blacks from history (though one can make the comparison with SO many groups in American history).  There’s a great quote from Hansberry at the end:

 I have suspected for a good time that the homosexual in America would ultimately pay a price for the intellectual impoverishment of women. Men continue to misinterpret the second-rate status of women as implying a privileged status for themselves; heterosexuals think the same way about homosexuals; gentiles about Jews; whites about blacks; haves about have-nots.

WOC and The Great American Novel

February 24, 2009

Today I was browsing news sources when I came across this article on the main page of Salon.com:

Why can’t a woman write the Great American Novel? This is a book review by Laura Miller. Interestingly, my bf had shown me an article in The Economist about it too. The book is a book by Elaine Showalter which is “the first comprehensive history of American women writers from 1650 to 2000.”

It’s a great topic. It seeks to question why women are rarely respected authors, why men outnumber them 2:1 on NYT Book Reviews, why they aren’t writing “the great American novel.” Its basically a modern A Room Of One’s Own–a book I love. To be sure, there are barriers that women find difficult to break through in writing. The concept of a room of one’s own persists today, where men are granted this privilege, something that women have to fight for. Then there’s the idea that housework is a woman’s domain– which leaves no time for writing, and has for centuries .  The book seems to interestingly compare women’s writing in the UK to women’s writing in America– concluding that back in the day, the class system in the UK provided greater opportunities for wealthy women to have time to write.

The review of the book itself drifts off while Laura Miller begins considering the subject on her own. When I reach the end of the first page, I see this:

easierwocnovel2

They had to go there, didn’t they. At this point I am not optimistic for the second half of the article. When I reach the part about WOC it turns out to be just a paragraph:

The great exception to this rule [of being left out of the mainstream-my edit] is women of color — most notably Toni Morrison, but Prose also singles out the Native-American novelist Leslie Marmon Silko — whose work became mainstream in the 1980s. Apart from their own considerable talent, these writers have been politically liberated to claim a big swath of territory that white male novelists could not make a feasible bid for anyway; Don DeLillo knows better than to attempt the Great American Novel about slavery.

Okay. That’s all very well, but just because WOC have different perspectives that whites cannot know, doesn’t mean they somehow have it easier as far as writing novels and being recognized. Morrison and Walker and such are standalones in a great dearth of mainstream-media popularly recognized female authors of color. Surely Beloved and The Bluest Eye come from a place that white people cannot write from, (and are brilliant books), but there’s also the simple fact that for a lot of people, these books DO represent niches. We read Morrison in the “cultural” or “African-American Lit” sections of our high school lesson plans. And are we ignoring all the more numerous black males who write on race issues? (Hughes, Du Bois, Ellison,  Mosley, Jones etc), or white men like Faulkner who write on them as well?

The framing of the issue in a tagline that says: “Is it easier for women of color..?” is always problematic with me. I believe that for all women, recognition in writing, film directing, music, etc is much harder to achieve and sometimes comes at a higher price, than for their male counterparts. Let us not dismiss the problems of WOC simply because we see women like Morrison succeed. Just as this article started pointing out, books about “female subjects” or things largely considered female domains (domestic novels, etc)  just don’t have the legitimacy in mainstream America. The same then goes for writing about  things largely considered niche/ for the African-American communities, not for the mainstream. How can people fail to realize that?

‘Cause I’ve already ripped off my mask’

February 19, 2009

 

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Mike Check is probably my second favorite…after “First Writing Since” which I already posted before

Oh and here’s some Sista Queen cause she’s the shit and I’m on a Def Poetry kick.

‘Try being a lady’ Oh, you mean you want me to act catty and shady,
play with me like a doll, degrade me then trade me.
Use me as your trophy so that you can parade me, Use my vagina to only birth babies.
Be your damsel in distress so a brother can save me, hmmm, HOW BOUT NOT!
Cause if my tongue was a trigger you would have been shot,
Get real i’ma stay inappropriate till I fucking rot. I don’t talk about love, i don’t talk about sex
I don’t talk about things that’ll put your dick on erect. I won’t pour you some tea,
I won’t bake you some cookies, I won’t be your next Ciara singing about my goodies.
I won’t speak when I’m spoken to, how about I speak when I choose,
I don’t care if you the press I’m gonna speak my views.
I won’t be what you want, I won’t be what you ask,
how about some of you LADIES show your real face cuz I’ve already ripped off my mask

WOC Blog Carnival Plug

February 15, 2009

Today, everyone should head over to http://tellitwocspeak.blogspot.com/, where Renee, of Womanist Musings has a WOC Blog Carnival:

Tell It Women Of Color Speak, is dedicated to giving voice to women of color. Historically we have been marginalized, exploited and silenced. Throughout our difficult history we have struggled to maintain our dignity and self-worth. It is in the name of our fore mothers who struggled so that we could be here today that I call this carnival.
Submissions can range from gender, history, politics, sexuality, personal stories etc. I will place no limits as we have been limited enough. Please feel free to share, as we are all on similar journeys. It is my hope that we will devise survival strategies together. For those that seek to ‘other’ us, read and learn, there is so much we have to teach

Everyone should check it out.