Posts tagged ‘feminism’

Tyler Perry, step away from the camera.

Last week we found out that Tyler Perry revealed the cast for his film adaptation of for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow was enuf by Ntozake Shange.

Read ’em and weep:

Black Voices has learned that writer/director/producer Tyler Perry has selected the cast for next film, ”For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.

At last night’s premiere for his latest film, ‘‘Why Did I Get Married Too?,’ the black box-office maverick revealed that the cast will include Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Whoopi Goldberg, Phylicia Rashad, Jurnee Smollett, Kimberly Elise, Kerry WashingtonLoretta Devine and Macy Gray.

Based on Ntozake Shange‘s award-winning 1975 play, the film is scheduled to shoot in June in New York with a possible winter 2010/ 2011 release date.

I’m not even going to go in on the cast for this film nor about Tyler Perry films themselves because I know there are plenty of conversations going on about that. I know that we are all looking at Janet Jackson getting top billing and wondering why she’s there in the first place. I know we’re wondering when Macy Gray became an actress or why one “aight” performance in Precious makes Mariah Carey a capable of playing, say the Lady in Red. And lastly, I know many of us are questioning of Tyler Perry knows what he’s doing with a Shange play in the first place, or if he knew about for colored girls… before Oprah mentioned it that one time at Sunday Brunch.

for colored girls… has a special place in my heart. When I was 17, I had the amazing honor and privilege of spending a whole day with Ntozake Shange in Taos, New Mexico during the Taos Poetry Circus. While there, I participated in her small group poetry workshop where I shared some of my work. I spoke with her in depth about for colored girls… and her inspiration for it.

So when I heard the news that Tyler Perry was directing for colored girls, I was disappointed.  Nzingha Stewart, a black woman director, was originally slated to direct the film adaptation of the play, but all of a sudden I started to see Tyler Perry’s name all over it.

Hmmm. There’s something totally wrong with this picture, and it has nothing to do with Janet Jackson getting top billing.

I’m certainly not convinced that Tyler Perry is the best black filmmaker out there regardless of what his box office sales are. But my biggest problem is he is seemingly unable to give up the reins of power, step away from the camera and allow for other Black screenwriters and directors to have their shine.  What would have been wrong with Nzingha Stewart directing the film and even selecting her the cast by herself while Tyler Perry funded and promoted the project? Nothing, unless he wants to convey the message that he is uncomfortable sharing   the wealth and  the limelight with other (young and/or female) talent.

Precious was not a perfect movie, but if it didn’t show us anything else, it showed that Tyler Perry has the potential to fund the projects of other Black filmmakers and help make them a success. Part of being a leader in any industry is helping other young people rise to the top as well. The Black experience is not a monolith; some of us like myself never grew up with a character like Madea. Because of this, it’s important that we have a large variety of filmmakers who can speak to the myriad of ways a Black person can experience and live in society. Perhaps a successful, wealthy director like Tyler Perry is in a position to support other directors in their projects, but what bothers me more than his so-so movies are his unwillingness to step from behind the camera and let someone else take a crack at it.

Black, Successful, and (not so) Unhappy

It’s taken me a long time to talk about the now-infamous Helena Andrews profile on Black Girl Blogging, because it made me so upset. Not because I think there is truth to how lonely, sad, and unlovable black women are, but because I know that there isn’t much truth to it to begin with.

What really sticks out to me are the lack of narratives about Black women who are happy for reasons other than finding and keeping a man. The “single, sad, lonely Black woman” meme assumes that without a man we can’t be happy and can’t even begin our search for happiness.

My black girl blogger-in-crime Rosetta Thurman has started a “happiness project” of her own called The Diary of a Happy Black Woman. A few nights ago on Twitter, she talked about why she has decided to embark on this new project.

I hadn’t thought about this angle of the story until I saw it mentioned in the above tweet. What really has annoyed me about the whole damn dialog about the poor, single Black women is that it not only paints all Black women as unlovable, but it also assumes that until we find a man we can’t be happy or fulfilled. It even pre-supposes that Black women should be perpetually unhappy.

Yes, there are Black women out there who are sad and who are lonely…and perhaps who are also angry. But those feelings often have very little to do with their marital status (or lack thereof). Many of us  can find ourselves feeling that way even after we’ve found the supposedly elusive relationship with a successful Black man. I should know: I was one of them for quite some time before ending my last immediate long-term relationship (another story entirely).

It’s true that I have since then started a new relationship with a new partner, but I spent the better part of 2009 getting back in tune with the things that make me happy outside of being with someone who liked me and cared about me and took me out on dates and stuff.

In 2009, I lost 42 pounds after getting back in touch with physical activities I love (yoga, dance, walking/jogging), and doing something else I loved too–cooking delicious, healthy meals. I explored new angles and avenues to the media career I have chosen for myself and began to carve my own niche. I traveled to different cities and went to some great conferences. I kept in touch with old friends and made new ones. And I did all of that despite not having  a boo by my side to witness me doing all of this. I did the “brave” thing and started last year without a relationship, having broken up with my then-boyfriend around this time last year. And I regret not one damn second of it.

My soror and friend Cheri had a great response to the profile on Helena Andrews, with whom she happened to have attended Columbia once upon a time:

She said “I’m a successful black woman” several times, listed off the things that validated the statement, and then says she isn’t happy. I know many women who describe themselves this way, and they too end up in that same place at the end of the sentence. “I’m a successful black woman, why can’t I find love or happiness?”

It might be worth while to go back to the beginning of the sentence and see where we made a wrong turn.

What is success? I’ve heard it described a number of ways: having a degree (or two), a house, a car, a job, the right clothes, and/or invites to the right parties. Some women define it as beginning married or having a child. But in many cases, all of this “success” is not accompanied with happiness.

If what you want is happiness, then are you really successful without it?

Someone along the way told us the work is done once you get the tools. We want a cake – so we get the eggs, sugar, and the flour…. but we leave them on the counter and go get ready for the club. We go out, drink, dance, have a good time, and wonder why we don’t have a cake with cute rose petal frosting details when we get back. We want the results but have not done the work.

In this first week of 2010, I’ve had the chance to think about what new things I want to do at Black Girl Blogging this year and in years to come. If there’s one thing Helena Andrews’s new book Bitch is the New Black and the accompanying profile in the Washington Post showed me, it was the need for more Black women telling their stories and having their stories told their way. Stay tuned and join me as I feature and highlight Black women (and a few men) who have made their lives and their work about a pursuit–or several pursuits–of happiness.

Surprise! For many orgs, Social Media=more success

Image courtesy of Bio Job Blog

A recent study shows that organizations that use social media are more financially successful than those that don’t. There’s been some talk about what this means for corporate companies and non-profit organizations as well.

Organizations that were measured to have the greatest depth and breadth of social media engagement grew company revenues by an average of 18 percent of the past 12 months. Companies that showed little engagement or interest in social media experienced an average decrease in company revenues of six percent.

The study, ENGAGEMENTdb: Ranking the Top 100 Global Brands, reviewed how the top 100 most valuable brands (as identified by the 2008 BusinessWeek/Interbrand Best Global Brands rankings) use more than 10 different social media channels, including blogs, Facebook, Twitter, wikis and discussion forums. The study examined the width and breadth of each organization’s social media use, and scores for overall brand engagement ranged from a high of 127 to a low of 1. The top ten brands with their social engagement scores are:

  • Starbucks (127)
  • Dell (123)
  • eBay (115)
  • Google (105)
  • Microsoft (103)
  • Thomson Reuters (101)
  • Nike (100)
  • Amazon (88)
  • SAP (86)
  • Tie – Yahoo!/Intel (85)

As a pr and social media professional, I have worked primarily with non-profit and social justice organizations, The findings from this study was no surprise to me, but it begged the question: what does this mean for non-profits? How important is social media to the way we raise money, recruit volunteers and most of all, build our base?

Rosetta Thurman has a few answers:

The web has created new and low-cost options to get the word out about your organization. This new study just goes to show that if you want to achieve maximum success in the work you do, social media will have to become part of your communications strategy with clients, donors and customers. If your organization is not yet engaged in social media, now is the time. Seriously.

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of attending the Women Action and the Media Conference. It was a great place to meet and network with other young women activists from across the country, and there were a lot of panels devoted to the impact of social media–especially blogs and viral video–to the women’s movement. I really loved how intentional the Center for New Words was with keeping developments in social media at the forefront. I was really excited to see how WAM! would integrate a social media strategy into future conferences.

And then, around August of this year, I learned that the Center for New Words was phasing out and that Women, Action, and the Media would become an independent organization. I’m excited for this new development, but the pr/social media nerd makes me wonder how big of a roll will social media play in this transition. How will they keep conference goers engaged in the next steps of the organization? How can people get involved as donors or volunteers?

Having a good mission, vision, and tool$ to form an organization are all important, but just as important is building a base and using a variety of strategies to make that base strong, and diverse.  It can also keep past conference-goers connected to WAM’s mission…and keep them coming back to see what the organization’s next moves will be.

Bottom line, building and maintaining a base–a community of supporters–should be just as important as building all the other aspects of a non-profit.

(h/t: Rosetta Thurman)

I Do Not Consent: Musings on Sexual Terrorism

This is a re-post from JoNubian’s blog. A painful truth is that rape plays too big a role in the lives of one too many of the women closest to me. I hope that both cis and trans women continue to tell their truths about rape and that men join us in breaking the cycle of rape culture.

I am the history of rape

I am the history of the rejection of who I am

I am the history of the terrorized incarceration of

myself

I am the history of battery assault and limitless

armies against whatever I want to do with my mind

and my body and my soul and

whether it’s about walking out at night

or whether it’s about the love that I feel or

whether it’s about the sanctity of my vagina or

the sanctity of my national boundaries

or the sanctity of my leaders or the sanctity

of each and every desire

that I know from my personal and idiosyncratic

and indisputably single and singular heart

I have been raped

From A Poem About My Rights by- June Jordan

I have been steadily dodging the writing of this blogpost about Black women and sexual abuse, however the words you are reading haunt me.  I would like to say that my thoughts on rape began just a few months back, but this would be a lie.  As a woman, and especially a Black woman, unkept and unsafe, the threat of rape is almost as constant as breathing and books.  What I will say is that rape has been at the forefront of my thoughts since POTUS Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which may seem odd- although it is not.  I became curious to see who else was nominated for the award.  I consider myself solution oriented and felt that if I would denounce my support of the committee’s choice, I certainly would need to provide the name of a more deserving victor.

As I searched the list and read the stories, one name in particular was familiar to me, although unfortunately not in cheer. It was Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist, who has dedicated his life to treating the women of DRC who are the victims of rapes so brutal that I would need an entirely separate blogpost to describe them.  Dr. Mukwege’s hospital is overrun with battered, tortured, mutilated women. In one province alone, over 27,000 rapes were reported, which accounts for at least 70% of the women living there.  While addressing the US Senate last year Dr. Mukwege made the following statement, that has etched it’s way into my memory much like my favorite lovers or Baldwin quotes, “It is important to point out that this sexual terrorism is done in a methodical manner”.  It had never occurred to me previously to describe rape as terrorist or methodical, but therein lies the truth of it.

Moving forward in time, again my thoughts and heart are bombarded with the ugliness of rape after reading an article about a fifteen year old girl being gang raped by five boys (and men) as more than twenty people spectated.  My blood boiled so terribly that I assumed it was fever and that this world had been successful in literally making me sick.  And as I spoke about the incident on twitter, I began to receive all of these private messages from women who had been victims of gang rapes themselves.  I didn’t want to believe that such violence against women was so prevalent and commonplace. Subsequently, the days and nights following the details of that rape were exhausting.  Thoughts of my and my daughter’s safety began to eat away at my sleeping hours, and I kept wanting to embrace all of the women who contacted me, somehow allowing my love to spill through my pores, providing protection where others had failed them.  Yes rape is terrible and a terror, even for those women not raped.

Rape is terrorism, especially if one defines terrorism as, “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce”.  Certainly, there is no stronger example presented to contest an individual’s (and possibly a group’s) humanity than a publicly viewed rape and torture as were the cases in the Congo and in California.   Suddenly there did not seem to be so much distance between the US and the DRC.  However, as tragic as these rapes are we cannot afford to limit our anger and remorse to these specific cases of abuse.  Sexual violence against women also includes sexual harassment/extortion, spousal abuse, incest and child rape (May peace be upon Shaniya Davis), forced sterilizations, and an overall inability to choose, as a woman, what happens to one’s body.   My revolutionary crush, Angela Davis, agrees, which I noted while reading an address she presented at Florida State University in 1985 entitled, We Do Not Consent: Violence Against Women in a Racist Society. She writes:

These particular manifestations of violence against women are situated on a larger continuum of socially inflicted violence, which includes concerted, systematic violations of women’s economic and political rights. As has been the case throughout history, these attacks most gravely affect women of color than their white working-class sisters.   The dreadful rape epidemic of our times, which has become so widespread that one out of every three women in this country can expect to be raped at some point during her life, grimly mirrors the deteriorating economic and social status of women today.

If we disconnect rape, and consequently, all sexual violence against women, from their socio-economic foundations, we cannot adequately discuss solutions to said abuses.  We dis-serve women by only acting or objecting to sexual abuse in extreme cases.  We have to understand that a woman should control her reproduction, or desired lack thereof- and be allowed to do so safely and with no judgement.  We must admit that, no matter how “provocatively” dressed or sexually explicit a woman appears to be, we have no right to objectify her and/or harass her.  We cannot emotionally abuse women, use women, treat them as receptacles, even if they contend that such treatment is okay, because we know that it is not. We have to sincerely view women as human beings before we can wholeheartedly respect and protect them.

There is no truth but this.

Please read the rest of June Jordan’s poem A Poem About My Rights here:

http://wp.me/pxAOY-2Z

To truly understand the intersection of race, class and gender, please read Angela Y Davis’ Women, Culture and Politics

More on Dr. Denis Mukwege and his mission here:

http://wp.me/pxAOY-2Z

WAT? Roger Sterling in Blackface????

If you follow me on Twitter, then you probably saw my shock and awe at seeing Roger Sterling in Blackface on last night’s episode of Mad Men. Wat? Blackface? In the 60s? I was in disbelief. In my last post I talked about my frustrations with the lack of race commentary on the show.  Wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing but I now think that we will see more commentary on race and white privilege in this season than we ever have before on the show.

From Basket of Kisses:

Matt Weiner has been criticized often enough for not quite getting there about race. We have, on this site, discussed “Magical Negroes” in Mad Men, and the Sheila storyline ended up fizzling in an unsatisfying way.

So now that he’s decided to address it, it’s not just a scene or an incident, no, it’s Matt, so it’s a holistic embrace of everything privilege; the privilege of race, of gender, of age, of money, of social class, and of how all of those things intersect.

Surely the most privileged person on the show is Roger Sterling; even more so than YodaBert, because Roger was born with his silver spoon. Roger is so incredibly privileged that he can parade an embarrassingly young wife and make a lot of powerful people treat her politely, and do it, nauseatingly, in blackface to boot. Blackface! (And don’t even try to say “sign of the times;” privileged people still do this). Roger can make people swallow any kind of bad behavior, because he’s got the money, class privilege, and power.

I certainly think Roger in blackface was a symbol of his level of privilege. On another note, I loved seeing the tension between Betty’s father and Carla–of course he accused Carla of taking the money without actually saying, “that n*gger stole my money.” And then when he got her name wrong? “We don’t all know each other, you know”…..a woman after my own heart as I’ve retorted with that in my travels.

Damn…the Black blogosphere might go nuts over this one.

So…what did you all think about Roger in Blackface? Did we like it? Was it a sign of the times? Do we hate him more?

And isn’t Joan’s husband just a complete loser (and a rapist)?

Black people on Mad Men (or lack thereof)

As a pretty big Mad Men fan, I was so excited about last night’s Season 3 premiere. Not only did I want to know how the rest of the story unfolded but part of me hoped that maybe, just maybe, we’ll see more than a passing glance at a Black character on the show or the mention of race as an afterthought. Every time I watched the show, I couldn’t help but think, “gotdamnit! When are they going to say anything about race or Blackness! It’s the sixties for cryin’ out loud!”

It wasn’t until I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ recent post that I realized that it the absence of Black people is precisely what we love about the show as it explores what white privilege and masculinity is—and in the case of Mad Men it does mean that people of color are rendered invisible.

I actually think it’s a beautiful, lovely, incredibly powerful omission. Mad Men is a show told from the perspective of a particular world. The people in that world barely see black people. They’re there all the time–Hollis in the elevator, women working in the powder-room, the Draper’s maid, the janitors, the black guy hired at Leo Burnett–but they’re never quite seen. I think this is an incredible statement on how privilege, at its most insidious, really works.

It’s been argued that the absence of people of color is a romantic view of “the good ol’ days”, but I beg to differ. The fact that Black people are so absent and silent in the face of white privilege is exactly a commentary on race in the 60s, especially as there were already so few Black people who lived in worked in the type of environment that Don Draper and company were so accustomed to. There are several female writers on the Mad Men team, which is why the gender commentary is so on point, but I often have to wonder what would have happened on the show if there were people of color on that team. Would we be more present? Or would things remain the same?

Amber Rose in Complex Magazine: Sexy Beast (?)

500x_amber_cage_01

saartjiebwJezebel talks about Amber Rose’s most recent photo shoot for Complex Magazine:

The industry’s general unwillingness to embrace models of color as anything besides the exoticized “other” is thwarting the development and popularization of other kinds of black beauty. Even Alek Wek, the Sudanese supermodel, noted that she was often asked to pose in spreads that she felt fitted into a wider and more troubling tradition of black peoples representation in the mainstream media, particularly with regard to a Lavazza calendar where she posed inside a coffee cup, her skin intended to represent the espresso. As Wek wrote in her memoir, “I can’t help but compare them to all the images of black people that have been used in marketing over the decades. There was the big-lipped jungle-dweller on the blackamoor ceramic mugs sold in the ’40s; the golliwog badges given away with jam; Little Black Sambo, who decorated the walls of an American restaurant chain in the 1960s; and Uncle Ben, whose apparently benign image still sells rice.”

It’s worth noting that in re-creating these pictures, Complex did tone them down; gone are the chains from the whip photo, and so too is the raw meat and the sign explicitly referring to the model as an animal in the cage photo. The choices the Complex art director made are almost certainly intended to mitigate the offense of the original images; we’ve come at least some way as a society since Jean-Paul Goude’s day. But how long will it be before we automatically recognize any picture of a black woman caged up like an animal as offensive?

If the pictures above look oddly familiar and even similar to you,  they should. When I see the image of Amber Rose  or Grace Jones in a cage, I immediately thought of Saartjie Baartman, a black woman in the 18th century captured in S. Africa by British imperialist and then put on display at carnivals and fairs because of her voluptuous body.

It’s no secret that the “black woman as sexual beast” meme is still very prevalent in portrayals of Black women, particularly in fashion and music. That said, I really don’t think it was that deep for Complex. What I mean is, I don’t think their intention was to fetishize Black women at all in these pictures. It seems as though they just wanted to pay homage to Grace Jones* and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. However, even though the magazine had the best intentions it doesn’t mean that the implied racial and sexual implications of these picture don’t exist.

*and stereotypes aside, Amber Rose ain’t SEEIN Grace Jones in these pictures. Grace Jones is SO stylin on her.