Friday, May 15, 2009

Black Women Need New Dreams and a Black Woman's Arts Movement

This essay is contained in my new book. I'm delighted to announce that The Sojourner's Passport site has launched! You can visit it at http://www.sojournerspassport.com/.

Everyone, I can't thank you enough for your ongoing encouragement and support; I truly appreciate it. Your support is what made this possible. And here's a special shout-out to my web designers at Educo Web Design. They're nice people to deal with, and they do outstanding work!

Peace and blessings,
Khadija Nassif

71 comments:

Gennifer said...

One of the reasons I loved The Coldest Winter Ever was because the girl did not get her happily ever after. I remember reading that book when I was younger and people were actually rooting for the main character to win. I remember thinking she did everything wrong so why is she supposed to live happily ever after. I think Sister Souljah wrote it because it needed to be told. Young women living in poverty need to read that if you become involved with a drug dealer, you will go to jail. The other books that African-American teenage women were reading at that time did not portray the truth. And I think that was one of her reasons behind sharing the story.

I'm not up on art. I wasn't exposed to it as a child and never took the initiative to learn about it as I became older. Because of this post I'm finally researching and learning about it. So thanks for this post and please provide any links to books or information that you feel will help me on this part of my journey. Thanks!

Lurker no more,
Genn

Khadija said...

Gennifer,

You're welcome. And thank you for de-lurking and your kind words about the post. I truly appreciate it.

I generally don't get involved in "spoonfeeding" (for a variety of reasons). But I'll make an exception this time. There's a Wikipedia entry about the Black Arts Movement. One section of that entry is entitled "Key writers and thinkers of this movement." There are links to many of the writers that are listed.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

anna said...

Oh goodness, please reconsider "Beloved". I didn't see the movie, but the book was really amazing. It talks about the mom's determination to keep her kids out of slavery, and what price she pays for keeping the guilt of some of the things she had to do to leave her situation.

I'd also recommend Octavia E. Butler (scifi -- read "Parable of the Sower"), and Tananarive Due (horror) for fiction -- really amazing!

Also, IMO, I think a huge impact can be made in the genre of kid's art and lit. Kids today make a lot of art/music and can use each other as incubation centers, because of the ubiquity of computers and the internet.

But kids are susceptible to recreate the worlds that they're exposed to. So if their source material is tainted (not showing protagonists that look like them or that have positive attributes) they are more likely to be negatively impacted.

I would lovelovelove to see a digital publishing house for African-American lit. I personally don't have the business savvy there, but I really think the world of online publishing can make a huge cultural impact for our people (easily accessible + low overhead.)

Khadija said...

Anna,

You said, "But kids are susceptible to recreate the worlds that they're exposed to. So if their source material is tainted (not showing protagonists that look like them or that have positive attributes) they are more likely to be negatively impacted."

RESPONSE: As far as I'm concerned, it's not just the kids. I believe that we need to check ourselves as grown women. So many of us have been impacted by tainted materials and ideas. Ideas that we need to purge from our minds. Myself included.That's why I get skittish when I hear people say that "we've" got to talk to the children. I believe that we've first got to get our own thoughts and objectives straight; and then talk to the children.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

anna said...

Khadija,

I agree. After I made my initial comment, it struck me that an unhealthy mind would affect the final product, regardless of the target demographic.

I think it's hard for an artist to totally divorce herself from her work: some part of the person mindset/values will be reflected in whatever they produce. I think of Tolkien's labeling of good = white/northern, bad=dark/southern, which was a reflection of the biases of his time, although he explicitly stated that racism was wrong. However, the implication to the reader that a certain look indicates goodness is no less damaging because of his intent.

So I definitely agree, it's necessary to...decolonize one's own mind if we are making materials for others.

(this next is a bit of a digression)
I think sometimes though, people work through their issues by using their art. I think it's useful to understand where the artist was coming from was the art meant to uplift, condemn, instruct, or to just explain a certain feeling at a particular time?

I only mention it because it think it's important to consume art with a critical eye to it's context as well as its efficacy -- so that the viewer/reader can be sure the message that they're getting is the one they want (or can afford) to get. I think that artists should expose themselves to art in a pragmatic and calculated way: looking at a particular work to learn a given skill, not necessarily to accept the entire work whole-cloth.

(back on topic) This is where it bothers me that certain types/genres of art is funded and publicized, where other kinds are left to wither.

Thank you for you post, it gives me a lot to think about.

Aphrodite said...

Hello Khadija,


"Even though much of Black Nationalist thought devolved into dangerous, anti-Black woman madness, this school of thought also produced many ideas of great value. The Black Arts Movement of the late 1960s was one such thing of value."


This is another amazing post. I must say again that I love how you are able to see 'nuances'.



My undergrad degree is a BFA - I went to a large art school. I was teased mercilessly before during and after about real job, starving artist, and consistently asked how are you going to make money?



So although I have my side projects that fear is what drove me to grad school to get a harder degree to give me more flexibility to pay the bills. Which was tough in the beginning. Grad school was a different way of thinking for me and I sometimes have difficulty in relating to my cohorts bc they seem "hard/cold", but at my new school a professor gave me a test and I knew I was visual, but I learned that I was 80% right brained. Which explained a lot. And I have found my professors generally helpful in making changes in the delivery of material so that I can process it better.





Hello Gennifer,

"I think Sister Souljah wrote it because it needed to be told. Young women living in poverty need to read that if you become involved with a drug dealer, you will go to jail."


On one hand I can agree, but the thing is that this tends to be the only voice [type] that is being heard with regards to AAs. Not only that, but it seems like AA's don't see books, films, music like this as cautionary tales... they don't look at it and say, "Wow it is so awful that those people endured that...etc"

They see this stuff as instruction manuals on how to be. They say this is we and us and what it means to be AA.




RE: Art

Gennifer, art is so broad. You can just jump in anywhere! I took 4 art history classes for my major and we covered every culture/ethinicity from the beginning of time. I still have my books, which may be dry for most people because it is theory heavy.



Art covers drawing, painting, sculpture/installations, film, TV, literature, poetry, dance, music, photography, architecture... there are affiliated areas like some crafts- ceramics, beading, quilting, graphic design, advertising, animation, industrial design, computer arts like gaming/website design. toy design... etc and so on.. You could probably even throw landscaping in there. :)


You may have never formally studied it but it is all around you, you use it, see it and take it in all the time... :)


I don't think art should be a chore I think you should enjoy and experience it. It can disturb you, provoke you,and make you think - not all art is pretty, but it can also soothe you nourish you, inspire you, give you joy.

In addition to reading, and some of the links that Khadija mentioned get out and go to a museum - you can search for exhibits about AAs or whatever interests you, you can take a walking tour of the AA historic districts in your town... there are tons of things you can do and get involved in...





RE: Beloved

The book was a good albeit a difficult read, but I think Oprah and Jonathan Demme need their backsides beaten raw for that mess. I just can't - not today- not about Beloved. LOL


I am still mad about Their Eyes Were Watching God, which was just another "Halle Berry is so pretty-a-thon" mixed in with that Lifetime I need a man/love to be whole crap.

Z. Hurston was one of the first AA women authors that I discovered. she fueled my love of FL and to a lesser extent some of my interest in other things...




But I have read that book {TEWWG] many times at different points in my life and that was not the crux of the book IMO [the lovestory angle as Oprah said]. The fact that there were three screenwriters told me something.


Oprah got skills, but I am kinda tired of her destroying AA literary classics like this.




I apologized.. I went in so many different angles. :)

Khadija said...

Anna,

Oh yes, I agree that artists are often working through their own issues through their art. This is to be expected. We're all human.

I also agree that "it's important to consume art with a critical eye to it's context as well as its efficacy -- so that the viewer/reader can be sure the message that they're getting is the one they want (or can afford) to get." One problem is that AAs tend to be lazy, and therefore BLIND, consumers of products.

AAs don't look at anything with a critical eye. Be it art, politicians, ideologies, whatever. Whatever it is, we swallow it down whole without any scrutiny of what we're taking in.

This is why those AA artists who claim to care about AA people need to be careful about what they present to us. They have to be mindful that there are entities out there (basically the entire Entertainment Industrial Complex in its current form) that consciously and deliberately want to promote only destructive ideas to AAs.

That's why I refuse to give Sista Souljah or the hip-hop creatures a pass about the harm that their work has done to the AA collective.
______________________

Aphrodite,

Thank you for your kind words about the post. I truly appreciate it. Well, I have a "thing" about intellectual honesty, and giving credit and blame in whatever degrees that are due. This requires acknowledging the nuances involved in situations. Across the board. We really can't assess the proper way forward without an honest and complete post mortem of how we got to this point.

Many situations remind me of the yin-yang symbol. There is a spot of yin within yang, and vice versa. Even things that are perceived as "good" have the seeds of their opposite within them. Even harmful things usually have at least a few spots of "good" mixed in with the poison. It's hard to get people to knowingly drink straight poison. Unless they happen to be AAs. LOL!

In our historical context, the integration movement had the seeds of AAs' future scattering and fragmentation within it. The quest for integration contained the seeds of the future destruction of AA businesses, institutions and communities. And really, the ultimate destruction of the collective AA identity with the mass creation/promotion of the "Don't you dare call me Black" "biracial" individuals.

The Black Nationalist/Power movement had good things such as ethnic/racial self-respect mixed in with some of the more harmful ideas within it.

There are almost always nuances.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Gennifer said...

Thanks for the Wiki info Khadija! As soon as I hit reply I wanted to make a change because I have no clue why I asked knowing that I have an internet connection and can take the initiative to learn on my own. So I appreciate you still taking the time and pointing me in the right direction.

@ Aphrodite - I agree, most don't see the tales as cautionary but a few of us did. I was in high school when it came out and I remember that her book was the only book in the "hood" genre that didn't end with a happy ending. I just searched for interviews about Sister Souljah that may provide clarity, but didn't come up with much outside of this interview. I'm going to listen to it after dinner.

http://odeo.com/episodes/23722448-Sista-Souljah-Interview

I also discovered that she released other books in the same genre recently so I'm also curious to her response now.

---------------

And you just gave me an idea. I'll begin my senior year in the fall and I do have a general studies elective left. I'm going to see if I can fit an art class in my schedule.

When I said I'm not up on art, I really meant that I don't have a real appreciation for it. The original post made me want to learn more especially when the topic changed to Black women being able to distinguish what is and what is not Black art.

The conversation between Khadija and Evia really called me to action. I don't only want to learn and appreciate Black Art but all art. Better late than never.

Miriam said...

There's "Jumping In" about a young AA girl who learns to "stick fight" and then she and her fighting teacher decides to take on whoever it is that is behind media's negative promotion of bad image of BF.

Unfortunately, they realize its a superhuman being.

The young AA girl's mother, who is a teacher, big boned, very skilled at hacking computers, decides to use her computer skills to help the duo out.

The story is not done yet.

*****************
That project started out with the hopes that bloggers would pitch in and swerve the story where they wanted it to go, but now its more must me writing.

PioneerValleyWoman said...

Khadija, you are definitely touching on some things I can remember and relate to.

When I was an undergraduate, I studies Eastern religions, and the ying-yang symbol, the symbol of the "tao/dao" was my favorite: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tao. Shoot, I used to wear jewelry with the symbol (a pin I once made), as a reminder to live a balanced and sane life!

I like this post on the black arts movement. I agree, there is much to appreciate about it in its earliest, but as you mentioned, it held in some respects, the seeds of its own destruction.

The movement began with just discovering African American's roots in Africa, recapturing a positive African identity, to appreciate through art, and express through theater, literature and history, all in the hope of documenting African Americans' cultural and social experiences, ie., August Wilson's plays.

Nothing wrong with explaining that, but to me, the problematic aspects came in when some of those writers seemed to excuse or glamorize seedy aspects of their African American experiences, and cultivate their anti-black women sentiments, ie., Eldredge Cleaver, and those started to be seen as something to cultivate, asa though representative of all black people. Once again as you said, black people lacking critical thinking skills, and buying it, with whites saying, "Oh, that is what we thought all along, this proves it!"

The Entertainment Complex took some of the stories that they thought would sell to a popular audience, and created them for mass entertainment.

I look for example, at books like Piri Thomas' Down these Mean Streets, and even some aspects of Malcolm X's biography, the Black Panthers, and their messages.

I see a direct correlation between their image and those created in the wake of Malcolm X's death and the demise of the Panthers: they became recreated through blaxploitation films, at the same time the earlier version of urban lit was developing, the Goines type stories, which tied in with books like Thomas'.

As far as I am concerned, it has been downhill since then, with the urban lit being made into movies that do black women no good!

Thus, we have today a new movie called Push/Precious, which I believe Oprah and (Lord save us) Tyler Perry are involved in: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0929632.

So what is the story line? Illiterate, obese black teenage girl living in Harlem, experiencing abuse, pregnant, looks into attending an alternative high school to get her life on track.

And of course, there will be the underlying message of her as "being real," being true to what it means to be black.

As you used to say, Khadija, "shudder, moan!"

Evia said...

Khadija, Thank you again for highlighting and giving me credit for saying some of the things I say in some of my wiser moments. LOL!

Anyway, re some of the comments, I think it was Karl Marx (?) who said that "EVERYTHING has within itself the seeds of its own destruction," and that's kind of comforting to me. LOL! ALL things will eventually perish because nature/the Higher Power is fair and operates with different rules.

HOWEVER, I realize that saying that is not saying much because things perish at different rates and some things cause other things to perish or speed up the perishing rate. For ex., Hip Hop sped up the demise of the better aspects of AA culture--whether intentional or not--by astronomically increasing the number of ABCs who became agents of AA destruction.

It is possible to listen to Hip Hop and read Sister Souljah and not be affected or swept away by the lyrics or the message, but it doesn't seem that the bulk of even middle class AA youths were/are able to do that because there's apparently nothing in their brains to counteract seductive-destructive messages. For ex., most of Darren's nephews listened to Eminem and many other Hip Hoppers when they were younger and maybe even now, but they still go to college and grad school, get married, and behave like normal people who want to continue their line. My own children have listened to Hip Hop, but they know it's JUST MUSIC. I've listened to Hip Hop and I know it's JUST MUSIC.

Anyway, AAs getting swept away is why we now have the HBCUs full of the ABC mindset and behavior on the parts of the students and the faculty and I'd bet a lot of it is also at the white Ivy League schools too among some AA students BECAUSE a lot of them think that's normal thought and behavior if you're an AA.

As I keep saying: The crux of this issue is IDENTITY. AAs do not know who or what they are. They don't really know HOW they're supposed to think or behave so any behavior will do as long as it doesn't seem "white" or might oppose whites or make whites mad. LOL! This is why as soon as a loudmouthed AA labels any behavior as "acting white," many typical AAs want to disconnect from it. And this is really where it becomes insane.

Most AAs emulate whites, especially the bad and the ugly aspects of whites, because it's just easier for undisciplined people to copy the bad and the ugly. But the fact is that AAs are the product of AMERICAN culture and whites have dominated American culture for centuries. Whites emulate the better aspects of AAs also.

Like the Amish, whites generally "pick and choose" what they want to copy from other groups. They tend to choose those aspects of AA ways that will enhance them in some way or further their goals. I'm not exactly a Star Trek devotee, but isn't that what that species "the BORGs" do? I've lived for portions of my life around the Amish and I've studied their ways. They evaluate the long term effects of copying any behavior from other whites around them before they do it. And this is why they live quite well in the various pockets they live in around the country without changing much at all about their ways.

On this note, my ex-husband used to always point out how when whites first went into Africa, they copied many of the better aspects of ancient African civilizations and brought it back to Europe and claimed it as "European." And much of this is documented by various white historians in old books & manuscripts, like in the Vatican and other museum libraries.

Groups copy from each other all of the time. But this love-hate relationship with whites makes AAs look silly to whites and other groups because they all know we're emulating present day whites. So many AAs are still trying to act like they're not. So much of the ABC behavior is based on pretending to act "un-white" and like these distorted black caricatures. These ABCs are fighting white people in a war that's been over for a LONG time. SMH

Anyway, Khadija--you've outlined Sojourner's Path. It IS a compass. Many AA women will fare MUCH, MUCH better if they follow that path.

There are many paths in life. All paths may not be suitable for all people. This is what I was getting at yesterday when I mentioned that maybe some of these AA women--who are so wedded to these black physical and mental constructs--need yet another path. Some of those women are apparently unable to shake off the opinions of DBRbm or their desire to please those males--no matter what path is presented to them away from that madness. Maybe somebody can provide that set of AA women with another path?

A path that I've outlined and strongly advocated is for AA women to learn how to vet men, identify Quality men, associate with ONLY Quality men, and marry ONLY Quality men of whatever skin shade. This too is a compass and a path.

I think a good analogy to clarify some of this--is a roadmap. Before and during some parts of the Civil Rights movement, AAs had a roadmap where the lines were drawn with, say--a pencil. The bulk of AAs followed that map towards uplift at that time.

Some of us managed to be privy to most or big chunks of the roadmap, memorized it, committed to it and other life enhancing ways that we learned and adopted, and are living our lives as such, in a common sense matter. Some of us are therefore 'living well.'

The old AA roadmap had some flexibility in it but led towards AA uplift being achieved in certain respectable and honorable ways. Writing a book that highlights or brings to the forefront the depraved lifestyle of AAs living in the drug culture or making songs about AAs living like savages killing, robbing, maiming, molesting, raping, committing crimes against AAs, sexing anything that moves, shirking responsibility for abandoning black children, wholesale disrespecting of AA women, and behaving in general like lowdown black caricatures are behaviors that would be nuked by people who follow the uplifting lines on that roadmap. And there are still some of us left.

And re: "BELOVED," I just have a disagreement with ***focus.*** It may have indeed been a great work of art, but in general, I don't believe we need to focus much attention at all on "what was." When people are in the latter stages of taking their last gasp, the bulk of the attention, IMO, needs to be focused on "what could be" or ways towards a NEW LIFE.

Maybe my view comes from the fact that I already know about the savagery of chattel slavery and I guess many AAs don't know it. Maybe that's why Toni Morrison wrote the book and maybe that's why Oprah made a movie about it? Or are well-intentioned AA people just acting without any overall purpose? I advocate IR and out-group marriage because I believe that if that path is pursued properly, it could offer many AA women--who are taking their last gasp on May 17, 2009--a better chance at LIFE. NOW. That's my overarching purpose.

But make no mistake about it, right now I could start a blog or write a book glorifying the behavior of DBRbm or the DBR lifestyle or start a pity party about that, and it would be a very convincing, popular blog highlighting aspects of the DBR lifestyle in a seemingly positive or compassionate way. Obviously, many of the DBRs and their supporters would carry me on their shoulders if I did that. I would be praised to the heavens. Folks would say that "Evia FINALLY gets it!!" LOL! But what would be my overall PURPOSE in doing that?

I encourage AA women to think more about the long-range purpose of what they do. Think about the micro AND the macro. Think 500 years into the future. We live in a global village now. Where do you want your progeny to be positioned on the global stage? You've got to make certain decisions today and DO certain things bit by bit everyday to make sure your progeny (your genes) are in that position. LOL!

Of course, this is all a part of my "living well" philosophy that will make sense to some and not to others.

Khadija said...

Miriam,

Hmmm...Open-source literature. What an interesting idea.
_____________________

PioneeerValleyWoman,

You said, "Nothing wrong with explaining that, but to me, the problematic aspects came in when some of those writers seemed to excuse or glamorize seedy aspects of their African American experiences, and cultivate their anti-black women sentiments, ie., Eldredge Cleaver, and those started to be seen as something to cultivate, asa though representative of all black people."

RESPONSE: A LOT of these (womanizing, domestically violent) Black Nationalist Negroes were looking to build an ideology that would justify and give them license for their personal negative behaviors, such as beating & exploiting women.

It reminds me of the Negro "thinker" mentioned in your recent post about the Moynihan Report. This invented pseudo-cultural/pseudo-political justification of their personal failings was the point at which this stuff started to go wrong.

And then industry Whites promoted it because it fit in with their "brutal Negro buck" notions of BM.

And then BW from that era were mostly silent in response to that madness. With said silence being interpreted as agreement.

And then, after all of the above, we had a huge mess. A mess that we're still suffering from today 45 years later.

About the Oprah/Tyler Perry project: {twitch, shudder, moan}
_________________________

Evia,

You said, "As I keep saying: The crux of this issue is IDENTITY. AAs do not know who or what they are. They don't really know HOW they're supposed to think or behave so any behavior will do as long as it doesn't seem "white" or might oppose whites or make whites mad. LOL! This is why as soon as a loudmouthed AA labels any behavior as "acting white," many typical AAs want to disconnect from it. And this is really where it becomes insane."

RESPONSE: Now that you mention it, this mass behavior pattern sounds a LOT like Oppositional Defiant Disorder from DSM IV:

{long sigh}

"Oppositional Defiant Disorder is defined by the DSM-IV as a pattern of negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior lasting at leastsix months during which four of the following are present:

1. Often loses temper
2. Often argues with adults
3. Often actively defies and refuses to comply with adult requests or rules
4. Often deliberately annoys people
5. Often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehaviors
6. Is often touchy or easily annoyed by others
7. Is often angry and resentful
8. Is spiteful and/or vindictive

Additional criteria include the following:

1. The disturbance and behavior causes clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning.
2. The behaviors do not occur exclusively during the onset of a psychotic or a mood disorder.
3. The criteria is not met for a conduct disorder.

These children usually have a pervasive pattern of a negativistic, hostile, defiant behavior which is usually directed toward adults and authority figures. These children usually behave as if parents, teachers, and other authority figures are "the enemy".

Temper tantrums, including screaming, crying, throwing objects, thrashing on the ground, refusing to move, and defiance of direction from an adult caregiver are common. These children constantly argue with adults, refuse to comply with requests and rules even when they are in the child's best interest and are obviously very reasonable."
(emphasis added)

Obviously, this is CRAZY and SELF-DEFEATING on many different levels.

It also reminds me of how irked I was to discover that 1960s AA slang referred to WM as "the Man." I always wondered, "If BM from that era were identifying their competitors/opponents as 'THE Man,' what did they perceive themselves to be? 'The BOYS'?" Pitiful. Just pitiful.

Anyhoo, as you mentioned, healthy people pick and choose what they're going to copy from others. They don't blindly copy every foreign idea. And they also don't do a blanket rejection of everything foreign.

You said, "The old AA roadmap had some flexibility in it but led towards AA uplift being achieved in certain respectable and honorable ways.

Writing a book that highlights or brings to the forefront the depraved lifestyle of AAs living in the drug culture or making songs about AAs living like savages killing, robbing, maiming, molesting, raping, committing crimes against AAs, sexing anything that moves, shirking responsibility for abandoning black children, wholesale disrespecting of AA women, and behaving in general like lowdown black caricatures are behaviors that would be nuked by people who follow the uplifting lines on that roadmap. And there are still some of us left."
{raised fist salute}

RESPONSE: May our numbers increase as more AA women snap out of the Hip-Hop Crackhouse Culture-induced death trance!

You said, "But make no mistake about it, right now I could start a blog or write a book glorifying the behavior of DBRbm or the DBR lifestyle or start a pity party about that, and it would be a very convincing, popular blog highlighting aspects of the DBR lifestyle in a seemingly positive or compassionate way." (emphasis added by me)

RESPONSE: We need to understand that what looks like compassion isn't necessarily so! Sometimes what looks like compassion is a slick way of keeping us down.

Other people are much more careful with their image. Other people are HIGHLY aware of how their images have them positioned in the global village. For example, note the difference between how Jews present and portray their Holocaust and the way we PLAY with (and allow others to play with) the portrayal of slavery.

Also note how, even if the White character dies at the end of the story, they still have that story end on a high note. [Think: the last image in the movie Thelma and Louise. The audience does NOT get to see them broken and dead. The audience's last glimpse of them is of them choosing their own fate.]

Other people are careful to present themselves as WINNERS even while they are losing!

Evia, you gave extremely wise advice when you said, "I encourage AA women to think more about the long-range purpose of what they do. Think about the micro AND the macro. Think 500 years into the future. We live in a global village now. Where do you want your progeny to be positioned on the global stage? You've got to make certain decisions today and DO certain things bit by bit everyday to make sure your progeny (your genes) are in that position. LOL!"{raised fist salute}

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Anonymous said...

How can I escape these Hip Hop Crackhouse fools? I work around them now. The Generation Y folks are everywhere in Atlanta. I am also surrounded by the 40 and up crowd who did nothing while the economy tanked. They are now playing catch up in their training and education. Even the teachers are very negative and hostile. I hope that I find something next year. I am working the escape plan but I don't want to hurt myself trying to escape from them. If I can give some advise. Please leave these predominatly black cities and po dunk southern cities. There is nothing there. On CNN , they were talking about Selma, Alabama. They have 10 percent unemployment.Selma is one of th0se all black towns. It is so sad but some of us ain't going to make it out.

Nu Girl said...

Hello All,

Khadija You Said:

This is why those AA artists who claim to care about AA people need to be careful about what they present to us. They have to be mindful that there are entities out there (basically the entire Entertainment Industrial Complex in its current form) that consciously and deliberately want to promote only destructive ideas to AAs.

When you speak this truth, Melvin Van Peebles Sweet Sweetbacks Badass Song comes to mind. As a budding filmmaker, when I first viewed this film I did not see it as revolutionary in it's message at all. Why would this movie be required viewing by The Black Panthers? My husband half jokingly stated " that the movie was just an excuse for Melvin to hump a white woman and call it art." At the time I felt that I needed to keep my opinion of the film to myself. Because of my age and lack of experience I felt that maybe I was missing the life experience that would make the film relevant. I have since viewed Melvin's earlier works while he was a young film student in Paris and the themes are recurring. The black male character is in danger because he is sleeping with a white woman. If I were to say this among the black filmmaker community, I probably would be ripped a new one!

A sister named Josephine Premise said "Create your own reality and the world will eventually catch up."
If black women are going to escape these boxes that we are in, we are going to have to create our own realities especially in film.

I was in Blockbuster last week and almost all of the African American independent film had a cover depicting two nubian women with a nubian male in the middle of them, all with the same theme finding, fighting for and keeping a bm. No nubian women in science fiction, no sister assassins with samurai swords, no nubian epics, no nubian romance adventures etc.

Khadija said...

Anonymous,

Everybody who wants to escape has to find their own personalized escape route.
__________________

NuGirl,

You said, "Why would this movie be required viewing by The Black Panthers? My husband half jokingly stated " that the movie was just an excuse for Melvin to hump a white woman and call it art." At the time I felt that I needed to keep my opinion of the film to myself. Because of my age and lack of experience I felt that maybe I was missing the life experience that would make the film relevant."

RESPONSE: {chuckling} Sometimes, things are exactly...what...they...appear...to be. As you discovered when you saw other works from Melvin Van Peebles.

You said, "I have since viewed Melvin's earlier works while he was a young film student in Paris and the themes are recurring. The black male character is in danger because he is sleeping with a white woman. If I were to say this among the black filmmaker community, I probably would be ripped a new one!"

RESPONSE: Notice how BW are pressured & silenced in so many areas from speaking the PLAIN truth. It's yet another case of "the emperor has no clothes." Everybody sees it (in this instance, many BM's obsession with non-Black women) staring them in the face. But people feel forbidden to speak the obvious truth.

You mentioned Josephine Premice. I enjoyed the book her daughter Susan Fales-Hill wrote about her titled Always Wear Joy. I'm angry whenever I read of how BF entertainers/artists in previous generations were truly ROBBED of any meaningful opportunities to practice their craft.

This history is what makes AA women's current passivity all the more outrageous. Ms. Premice, Diahann Carrol, and others did NOT have any tools at hand to leapfrog over the "gatekeepers" and offer their art directly to an audience. They were truly trapped in a trickbag of begging others (be it racist Whites or anti-Black woman Negroes such as Melvin Van Peebles, etc.) for a chance to practice their art. They didn't have things like viral marketing, YouTube, print on demand publishing, etc. available to them.

[Not to get too far off-topic, but it annoyed me even as a pre-teen to see the spectacle of a long-haired Asian woman being granted extended camera time while dancing on Soul Train. Readers of a certain age will remember exactly who I'm talking about! LOL! I always wondered: Why was she there in the first place? Who let her in? And why did she get so much camera time?]

You said, "If black women are going to escape these boxes that we are in, we are going to have to create our own realities especially in film."

RESPONSE: This is it, in a nutshell. NOBODY else is going to free us from these boxes (read: coffins) that we're in but US.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

tasha212 said...

Re: The Movie Precious/Push

PioneerValleyWoman: "As far as I am concerned, it has been downhill since then, with the urban lit being made into movies that do black women no good!

Thus, we have today a new movie called Push/Precious, which I believe Oprah and (Lord save us) Tyler Perry are involved in: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0929632.

So what is the story line? Illiterate, obese black teenage girl living in Harlem, experiencing abuse, pregnant, looks into attending an alternative high school to get her life on track.

And of course, there will be the underlying message of her as "being real," being true to what it means to be black."

RESPONSE: The movie "Precious" is based on the book "Push" by Sapphire. It is an excellent read, a gut-wrenching story. It is also a difficult read because of all of the trauma that the main chracter Precious goes through. She was abused by almost everyone in her life, including her mother. In reading the book, I didn't get any subliminal messages about what "acting black" or anything of that nature. It's basically about how her teacher and other counselors helped her to get her life on track. The book was publshed in the '90s and thus is not considered to be "urban fiction". I may consider seeing the movie only because I liked the book so much. Oprah and Tyler Perry were investors but the movie was directed by Lee Daniels. Usually movies don't live up to the book. So, I don't have high hopes.

Peace,

Tasha

Khadija said...

Tasha,

You said, "The movie "Precious" is based on the book "Push" by Sapphire. It is an excellent read, a gut-wrenching story. It is also a difficult read because of all of the trauma that the main chracter Precious goes through. She was abused by almost everyone in her life, including her mother. In reading the book, I didn't get any subliminal messages about what "acting black" or anything of that nature. It's basically about how her teacher and other counselors helped her to get her life on track."

RESPONSE: This material is by somebody calling herself "Sapphire"...?

{low moan} Oh...God...no. Please, Lord, NO MORE "traumatic," LOSER fiction. Please, Lord, no more fiction that plumbs the depths of depravity. Please, Lord, deliver us from any further exposure to this type of material. And please guide us to life-giving, spirit-nourishing, VICTORIOUS material.

And please guide us to create life-giving, spirit-nourishing material that acknowledges and celebrates healthy, NORMAL images of ourselves.
Ameen. ["Amen."]

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Khadija said...

Everybody,

Something else that occurs to me is that we don't understand that repeatedly showing trauma and depravity serves to normalize such things. Even when it's done under the guise of showing somebody supposedly "overcoming" the depravity. This is what's wrong with the "reality" shows. Things were better before people starting openly broadcasting all the sick and depraved things they did or that were done to them.

Some things really DO belong underground, in the closet, on the fringes, and NOT spoken of in polite company.

White people restrict [and keep on the fringes] such bizarre reflections of themselves to Lifetime channel movies, and "very special" Afterschool Specials. They do NOT create a constant stream of such images of themselves.

The norm is NOT for a White family to be depicted as physically, sexually, or emotionally abusing their children. The norm is NOT for a White teenage girl to be depicted as pregnant, beaten, raped, sexually molested, emotionally abused, etc. They mostly portray themselves as basically decent, wholesome and HEALTHY people and families.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Selena said...

{low moan} Oh...God...no. Please, Lord, NO MORE "traumatic," LOSER fiction. Please, Lord, no more fiction that plumbs the depths of depravity. Please, Lord, deliver us from any further exposure to this type of material. And please guide us to life-giving, spirit-nourishing, VICTORIOUS material.

And please guide us to create life-giving, spirit-nourishing material that acknowledges and celebrates healthy, NORMAL images of ourselves.Ameen. ["Amen."]
Co-sign!!

Hollywood NEVER ceases to amaze me. I found it puzzling that they can't or shall I say won't back a romantic movie with a leading bw, leading bw with an IR love interest, or a black family portrayed with an uplifting story-line.

However they find all kinds of black actresses (or bm in drag) to portray "scratching and surviving" or "step-n-fetch-it" roles. For this, I will say: If you come out in droves to see this movie, Hollywood will continue to churn out this crap. I don't care if Moses himself was the lead, I won't pay to see it.

Selena said...

BTW Star Trek finally stepped up their game in adding a little depth to LT Uhura's role (to include an IR storyline) in the movie. Besides me and my family, there were only 2 other black families present that I counted. One "family" consisted of 2 bw and a bm. We checked it out at the IMAX theatre so maybe that counted for such a low turnout for black folks??

Khadija said...

Selena,

You said, "Hollywood NEVER ceases to amaze me. I found it puzzling that they can't or shall I say won't back a romantic movie with a leading bw, leading bw with an IR love interest, or a black family portrayed with an uplifting story-line.

However they find all kinds of black actresses (or bm in drag) to portray "scratching and surviving" or "step-n-fetch-it" roles."

RESPONSE: This is a vicious cycle that many of us are complicit with. Both as consumers and as artists. We're so starved for images of ourselves that we will support anything in Black face, even when it is degrading/harmful.

Meanwhile, so many Black actors and actresses (especially the actresses) have a passive mindset. They're waiting for somebody else to make it happen for them. They're waiting to be cast into somebody else's production. So, they bite at any degrading, FOUL part that is offered to them.

They do this instead of doing what our ancestors like Oscar Micheaux did. They do this instead of even doing what Tyler Perry {cough} and Spike Lee {double cough "She Hate Me," "Girl 6" cough} did. They are passive and lazy. They are addicted to the idea of having stardom in the same form and fashion that is offered to White artists (which is generally NOT going to happen). As far as I'm concerned, they get what they deserve (as a form of divine punishment) regarding their careers.

About Star Trek: AAs seem to have an aversion to the original series. This is what I've gathered from listening to the hair salon conversations about why people refuse to see that movie. It's all quite strange. These same women have been watching the same White soap operas since high school. They went out to see movies like Transformers, etc. I don't get it.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Evia said...

Hollywood NEVER ceases to amaze me. I found it puzzling that they can't or shall I say won't back a romantic movie with a leading bw, leading bw with an IR love interest,Selena, they'd probably point out that they did that with Whitney in "The Bodyguard," or "Something New," but the former doesn't count to me because the bodyguard character wasn't on Whitney's level. I, for one, definitely don't want to send the message that it's normal for AA women to marry their bodyguards because that would be marrying "down" IMO unless the guy is financially comfortable or there're other extenuating circumstances. At least, in Something New, the wm was the owner of a thriving landscaping business, though lots of folks try to claim he was her gardener.

We have to also admit that there's still a lot of ambivalence out there among AA women about bw-ir relationships. I notice this because I do on-the-spot experiments where I will sometimes deliberately bring up the topic of AA women choosing to explore the IR route when I'm around a bunch of AA women and they either all freeze or they become fidgety or both. Or one of them will say something like, "Well, love is love." But there's rarely ever any follow-up by the other women and the subject quickly changes.

Also, I would imagine there're a relatively few "meaty" books about bw-ir relationships with strong plots to choose from out there, though that never stops Hollywood from choosing when it comes to other themes. LOL! If there are meaty books about Bw-irs, I'd like to compile a list.

Many people still connect Bw-Ir relationships with abnormality and strife or problems. Just look at "Lakewood Terrace," "Something New" and "The Bodyguard." The fact is that there are NO problems or nothing going on that's "abnormal" inside of lots of these bw-ir relationships. As a matter of fact, the available research presents the bw-ir relationship as one of the most stable, wholesome relationships for various reasons. Of course, in most good stories, there has to be problems, but the main problem in all 3 of these movies centered around whether this man and woman really ***should*** love each other which points at abnormality and social strife, because WHY NOT?

We really need to get away from that and present a normal view of these relationships. Since I've been in both an intercultural and am now in an interracial marriage, I know that's usually someone else imposing THEIR tainted views on these relationships when there's such strife about loving someone.

Anyway, I've found that it's really hard to convince people that we don't have these "abnormal" issues inside of our relationship. If I ever wrote a book with bw-ir characters, their different races would just be little more than incidental to the story.

geekgrl said...

Yesterday, I started reading my first Octavia Butler novel, Kindred. So far it is pretty good, but I know she’s a dystrophic writer, so I’m worried for the heroine.

I like to recommend a really good graphic novel, Bayou. The art is stunning and the story is well written, but dark. Below is a bit of the synopsis. You can read it for free at http://www.zudacomics.com/bayou.

“LEE WAGSTAFF is the daughter of a poor, sharecropper in a depression-era, Mississippi Delta town, called Charon. She’s an introspective, brave child and hard labor in the fields has made her sturdy and strong. One day, Lee and her father help the sheriff retrieve the body of a boy who’d been lynched and thrown into the river. Lee dives into the depths to tie a rope around the boy. While under water, she catches a glimpse of a strange world. Ever since that day, Lee hears voices in the trees and rivers. When Lee’s playmate, Lily, is snatched by BOG, an evil inhabitant of that place she saw, Lee’s father is accused of kidnapping. The worst thing a black man could do in the 30’s was harm a white child. Lee must pursue Bog into his world in order to save her friend before her father is lynched. Lee enlists the help of a benevolent, blues-singing, swamp monster called BAYOU and together they trek across a Southern Neverland in search of Lee’s friend. Along the way, they meet several colorful characters, like BR’ER RABBIT. Lee soon realizes that Bog has some sort of hold on all the inhabitants in this world and feeds off of hatred and strife in our world. As the racial tensions grow, Bog grows more powerful, so not only are Lee’s friends and father in peril, but all of Charon.”

I admire Zora Hurston and plan to read her stuff. I‘ve been reading a lot of classic fiction and apocalyptic fiction. So I want to read some thing current, before going back to the classics.

geekgrl said...

Nu Girl said “I was in Blockbuster last week and almost all of the African American independent film had a cover depicting two nubian women with a nubian male in the middle of them, all with the same theme finding, fighting for and keeping a bm. No nubian women in science fiction, no sister assassins with samurai swords, no nubian epics, no nubian romance adventures etc.”

One of the reasons, I loved Firefly was because Gina Torres was in it. She was smart, good with a gun, and had a cute husband. If the show had lasted, she would have been amazing.

ActsofFaithBlog said...

Wow these comments are so on point. Now I wrote a blog post earlier that said some of the same things being discussed here. Sometimes I can't sleep because I have so many things coming to the surface and I want to write them all down before I forget them.

Yeah Push has become Precious and it looks absolutely horrifying. Not to mention all the light-skinned women are emotionally intact. Double whammy of intra-Black racist pathologies. I learned my lesson after reading about American Violet and how stereotypical the portrayal is.

How many people would go see a movie about a AA woman who had a great career, love and other successes and KNOW it was normal?

Anonymous said...

I just love the sight of black men and women having the most romantic get together. And I see so much love in the black community these days, even though for some strange reason these power couples are not shown abundantly in the mainstream media. I get the feeling there's an orchestrated attempt to part us. Anyone else feel this way?

PioneerValleyWoman said...

Khadija:

And please guide us to create life-giving, spirit-nourishing material that acknowledges and celebrates healthy, NORMAL images of ourselves.

My reply:

And movies like these only add fodder for the consumption of the "suffering but strong black woman" trope, once again, presenting the view that it is normal for black women to be downtrodden and suffering.

Yes, there are plenty of images of black women who have suffered and overcome to be celebrated, but is a constant diet of it really necessary? It is an old trope that all are familiar with. But is this the sole image black women can have of themselves?

Yet, this seems to be the sole images others have of us and which they want to present to us for our own consumption.

I think not.

Why consume a constant diet of images like these of black women, that present black women in the worst light?

So it is thus no surprise then that images of normal black women seem so odd and unusual, not only for significant segments of the community, but for outsiders as well!

Remember that these images are not only for consumption by black women, but outsiders who don't understand the nuances of who black women are.

They see movies like these, are fed a constant diet of it, and their response to normality among black women becomes, "but how is it that you are not like the black women I see in the movies," or "was your life like hers"?

Whether through pure ignorance or feigned inadvertence, this is what black women are experiencing when these images are the primary ones of them that are promulgated by the Entertainment Complex: the abnormal and aberrational is presumed to be normal.

Khadija said...

Geekgrl,

I don't have a problem with dystopian novels. In fact, I loooved Octavia Butler's Parable of the Talents/Parable of the Sower books. It's not the presence of problems that I take exception to. It's who and what are being defined AS "THE problem."

Most dystopian literature and screenplays define "THE problem" as emanating from the society itself. There can be flawed and even evil characters, but most of "THE problem" stems from some extreme flaw from within the society that is the novel's setting.

Something has gone horribly wrong with the society in which the characters live. Typically, things such as police states, catastrophic global warming, prolonged economic crashes, fundamentalism run beserk, genetic engineering run beserk, etc.

What's wrong with the traumatic, depravity-wallowing material is that these materials position AAs (be it AA families, or AA individual characters) as THE problem, and THE source of most (if not all) of the evil in these books. The crackhead AA mother/sister/cousin is THE problem. The drug dealer/convict/pedophile boyfriend is THE problem.

And these types of miscreants (crackheads, abusive parents, criminals, etc.) ARE problems. Huge problems, in real life.

My concern is that there is a CONSTANT stream of entertainment products that portray AAs as PROBLEMS to be solved. We're almost never shown to be healthy, normal people. Instead, we are "THE problem."

Also, as Evia pointed out, any non-Black character who gets involved in an IRR is portrayed as having signed up to have "A PROBLEM" due to their involvement with an AA.

About Gina Torres: Well, I have a habit of reading up on these Black entertainers to see if this is somebody that I should go out of my way to support. I'll quote from some of Ms. Torres' statements on her official site at www.gina-torres.com.

In the interview section titled "What Is She?" she said the following:

"Looking the way I do, I've found that people in power who are making decisions feel they have to explain me. The title of my autobiography should be 'What Do We Do With Her?' I do not meet the Black American ideal. I blur the line. But I don't fulfill the Latin ideal either. They say, 'She looks black, with those big lips and big eyes, but she's got this long hair. We love her but what do we do with her?!'"(emphasis added by me)

Hmmm...This comes off like apparently, she (seems desperate to) believe[s] that having long hair somehow makes her look something other than Black. Despite her pronounced features. Sounds to me like this chick is tripping. Hard.

Hmmm...
_____________________

Faith,

You said, "Yeah Push has become Precious and it looks absolutely horrifying. Not to mention all the light-skinned women are emotionally intact. Double whammy of intra-Black racist pathologies."

RESPONSE: {shudder, twitch, moan}

You said, "How many people would go see a movie about a AA woman who had a great career, love and other successes and KNOW it was normal?"

RESPONSE: I don't know. I also don't know how many AA girls would believe that they could have a normal life like that. {sigh}
_____________________

Anonymous,

You said, "And I see so much love in the black community these days, even though for some strange reason these power couples are not shown abundantly in the mainstream media."

RESPONSE: I don't know where it is that you're seeing all this love. I don't see it; and the commonly known statistics do not indicate that such exists within the former Black community. Instead, we have "never been part of a married family unit" single parents and broken homes.

You said, "I get the feeling there's an orchestrated attempt to part us. Anyone else feel this way?"

RESPONSE: There is that. There is also the now even greater problem of us buying into and supporting these bizarre portrayals of ourselves. Even though numerically there are very few wholesome families left among us, I believe that it is CRITICAL that we highlight the few that exist.

We need to reposition healthy, legitimate, normal families as the norm. We reposition this as the norm by portraying it as the norm. Instead of highlighting all the dysfunction that exists among us.
_______________________

PioneerValleyWoman,

You said, "And movies like these only add fodder for the consumption of the "suffering but strong black woman" trope, once again, presenting the view that it is normal for black women to be downtrodden and suffering.

Yes, there are plenty of images of black women who have suffered and overcome to be celebrated, but is a constant diet of it really necessary? It is an old trope that all are familiar with. But is this the sole image black women can have of themselves?

Yet, this seems to be the sole images others have of us and which they want to present to us for our own consumption.

I think not."

RESPONSE: I join you in "thinking NOT!" I say NO MORE of this!

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

roslynholcomb said...

I love Octavia Butler's books. Kindred is beyond awesome as are the Parable stories and her 'vampire as alien' story, Fledgling. I'm amazed that no one has optioned the Parable stories for a movie. Of course, for Oprah, if there's no incest or rape involved, she's not interested. I like Oprah, but I can't stand her book recommendations, and as a filmmaker, well I'm so not feeling her. After working in social services for years, the last thing I want to read about in my leisure time is sexual abuse. And I agree that we become desensitized to depravity the more we're exposed to it.

I agree that it seems that many of our actors have become complacent and thinking they can get movie deals the way white actors do. Apparently they've missed the point that even white women over the age of 40 have developed their own production companies because nothing is coming their way.

There's plenty of good literature out there ready to be developed. It may well be that the creators will have to use 'alternate' means to get their films made. We have a long tradition of 'self-publishing,' I'm not sure why anyone would hesitate to get into self-filming. As I've said before, I really have no interest in making movies, though I might write a screenplay. IMO, movies rarely have the impact that books do, and most of the time books are ruined when they're made into films.

Khadija said...

Roslyn,

I also looooved Ms. Butler's last novel Fledgling. Her passing is part of what spurred me on to get serious about writing. I ask again, who's writing the sort of work about US that I would enjoy reading? I can't think of anybody off the top of my head.

I'm happy that Oprah is encouraging people to read. But I'm also NOT feeling any of her literary or filmmaking choices.

And you're right about WW having a clue where our actors and actresses don't. WW actresses who don't even need to do so have formed their own production companies! Women like Jodie Foster (who has been in a position to do whatever the heck she wants to do for quite some time now), and Jennifer Aniston.

After a bit of online research, it appears that at least Angela Bassett and her husband have purchased a clue:

"Angela Bassett Turns Director with 'United States'
Posted on Mar 04, 2009, 0 replies

Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winning actress Angela Bassett is prepared to make the leap from performer to director with independent film, "United States." Bassett will produce the film with her husband Courtney B. Vance under the couples production company, reports Eurweb.com

The film is a dramatic comedy about Monk Ellison - a prominent black writer who publishes a false autobiography from the perspective of an uneducated hoodlum. While Ellison's intention is condemn the glorification of "ghetto" culture, the book is believed to be a true story and put in the running for the National Book Award.

Screenwriter Dwayne Johnson-Cochran adapted the story for "States" from the novel "Erasure" by Percival Everett. The project is the first by Bassett/Vance and is scheduled to begin shooting this summer."
This is good news. I bought the novel Erasure, but I haven't gotten around to reading it.

But I wonder why it seems to have taken so long for Ms. Bassett to wake up. She's near 50 years old. She looks great, and looks at least a decade younger than her age. But the harsh reality is that she seems to have wasted most of her prime (lead character) acting years. This age-related discrimination (especially in terms of roles for women) is not right, it's not fair. However, it is what IS right now in terms of entertainment products.

Ms. Bassett should have started this production company at least 15 years ago.

AA actresses need to understand that there's a narrow window of opportunity for them to practice their craft. It's very similar to women's narrow window of opportunity in terms of reproductive years. Since AA women are NOT going to have stardom handed to them on a silver platter like WW, they need to hit the ground running. Instead of wasting most (if not all) of their prime acting years (before the age of 40) passively waiting to be cast in other people's stuff.

Which is what GENERATIONS of BF actresses have done. Earlier BF actresses did this because they literally had no other options. Modern AA women do this due to laziness and lack of vision.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

geekgrl said...

Hi Kadijah,

Just to clarify, I don’t love Gina Torres as a person. I what I know of her is underwhelming, but I don’t particularly care. I liked the character, like I like a lot of Joss Wheaton shows. The character was well written.

I read Erasure. It’s a good book, but I thought it had a sad message about selling yourself to the point of almost driving yourself crazy.

geekgrl said...

Roslyn said:

“I love Octavia Butler's books. Kindred is beyond awesome as are the Parable stories and her 'vampire as alien' story, Fledgling. I'm amazed that no one has optioned the Parable stories for a movie.”

I’m not surprised at all. Hollywood for the most part has decided they only want certain types of black characters. Every now and then an exception is allowed, as long as it is a supporting or infrequently seen character.

I’m reminded of Neil Gaiman’s novels American Gods and Anasi Boys. He said he wrote the books because his friend Lenny Henry complained of the lack of black characters for his daughter to look up to. So he wrote the books, although the main characters are black males, not female. (I haven’t read them yet, my ‘to read list’ is long). He said that he has had nearly a dozen offers to make the books into films. He has stipulated that they can change the story a bit since he is not as strict as Alan More (Watchmen), but not to change the race of the characters. For Hollywood, this keeps being the deal breaker.

Khadija said...

Geekgrl,

I realize that you never said you liked Gina Torres as a person. From what I saw of the Firefly tv show and movie, I also liked the character she played. I've also enjoyed some of the other characters that she's played over the years.

My thing is that we have to be extremely cautious about who we promote. Whether it's among ourselves as adults, and also as pertains to our children. So many of the Black/AA/"Black-ish" entertainers that we hold up to our children have anti-Black/anti-AA issues.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Selena said...

@ Khadija,

Wow thanks for that info on my girl Angela. I always wondered why she didn't turn to directing/producing after Hollywood started snubbing her. But just like any other job, she may have also hit obstacles along the way. The story said that her and her husband have their own production company. I'm sure they had to go thru a lot of financial challenges as well.

I hope Halle and other bw are taken notes because the shelf-life for bw of any age in Hollywood is a lot shorter than ww over 40.

Evia said...

Why consume a constant diet of images like these of black women, that present black women in the worst light?

So it is thus no surprise then that images of normal black women seem so odd and unusual, not only for significant segments of the community, but for outsiders as well!

Remember that these images are not only for consumption by black women, but outsiders who don't understand the nuances of who black women are.

They see movies like these, are fed a constant diet of it, and their response to normality among black women becomes, "but how is it that you are not like the black women I see in the movies," or "was your life like hers"?

Whether through pure ignorance or feigned inadvertence, this is what black women are experiencing when these images are the primary ones of them that are promulgated by the Entertainment Complex: the abnormal and aberrational is presumed to be normal.
RESPONSE:
I'm in a hurry, but I just had to respond to this!! OMG! This is such an accurate description of what I encounter so often these days when trying to present AA women as just "normal." It's getting harder and harder everyday to get the "normalcy" of ***SOME*** AA women across to other ethnic groups and races.

And for sure, when it comes to AA women broadening their options on the romantic front across racial and ethnic lines, these images are like swallowing cyanide.

I communicate quite often with wm, for ex. who are interested in dating and possibly serious relationships with an AA woman because they're attracted to the desirability of AA women as women. HOWEVER, these guys often assume that the women aren't interested in them because they see so many AA women behaving "differently" AND sometimes these men say things that contain the embedded assumption that these caricatures of AA women they're presented with in the media are the 'typical' AA woman.

And this is NOT surprising since it's obvious from some of the comments here, even SOME AA women think these are normal representations of 'typical' AA women. Even worse is that SOME AA women think that a steady diet of these images is OKAY to present to the world!!!!! SMH

Also, as I've often pointed out, many AA women seemingly TRY their best to behave like these caricatures or "act black." So how justified are AA women in getting angry at others for marking down their value when they themselves support the presentation of these dysfunctional aberrational images?

We need to clean our OWN house before we continue to blast others for thinking less of us or for not wanting to be connected to us. Major work needs to be done on the DE-INDOCTRINATION OF even supposedly 'conscious' AA women.Anyway re bw-irs, just yesterday, I received a note from a white guy who said he would love to meet a compatible AA woman, BUT he is not a church goer, is left-leaning politically, doesn't consume media and other modern junk like TV, loves making music, loves studying and discussing history, and is involved in making historical productions, and etc.

LOL! His (I dunno--mistaken?) assumptions were that there aren't many AA women in his locale who'd be compatible with these interests, and was asking me about his chances of meeting ones who might be--out there somewhere.

I could lie to him and say there are LOTS of AA women who think TV is junk and don't consume media, but I personally haven't encountered more than a handful like that. Too many AA women I encounter also "live" in the church and/or are media junkies and too many AA women I've encountered are spectators at life, meaning they don't do much participating in it except the same-ole, same ole stuff they've been indoctrinated to do.

And it's those dysfunctional images and messages that the bulk of AA women readily or eagerly consume and are obviously not objecting to that is largely responsible for the continuation of this. INPUT = OUTPUT. I, for one, wouldn't spend a cent to see this latest Opran-Tyler Perry piece of poison!

I mean, do we really need to see more proof that AA girls and women have suffered and are suffering? I'd like for someone to break it down to me WHY do you want to see that? Why would you PAY to see it?

roslynholcomb said...

Yep, even actors legendary names like Drew Barrymore has her own company. It only makes sense. I remember the brouhaha over Angelina Jolie being cast in Marianne Pearl's story. Pearl sold the rights and anyone could've put up the money to buy it. Brad Pitt bought it and cast it as he saw fit. Yet you had black folk wailing about the fact that the role should've gone to a black woman. First, did any black women try to buy the rights? Pearl's book was not a bestseller, so I can't imagine that the rights were terribly expensive, yet somehow they just expected Pitt to 'do the right thing.' One more time people, a man's first loyalty is to himself, and then to the woman he's sleeping with. The time of folk even marginally 'doing right by black folk' is long gone. People are going to do that which benefits them, period.

Angela Bassett makes me so furious I could scream. The way she squandered her career is absolutely obscene. I read an article she did in Essence and it made me want to bang my head on a rock. Her sour grapes over Halle Berry seriously looked bad, and her claim that she turned down roles even in movies like Eve's Bayou because they weren't 'strong black women' roles. I'm like, what in the name of heaven are they teaching at Yale Drama these days? Most movie roles these days aren't 'strong women,' but you certainly can't go into hibernation for a decade and expect to have a career. Plenty of good actresses take stupid parts just to get and/or keep a name. Look at Reese Witherspoon in those Legally Blonde movies. Even Jane Fonda did Barbarella. Bassett actually said 'You can't go from being an Oscar nominee, to Melrose Place.' Uh, MP was a hit show at the time. It would've at least helped you keep visible. How does it feel to go from being an Oscar nominee to a freaking chitlin circuit movie?

She really doesn't get it, and now, it's much, much too late. She totally wasted the juice she got from What's Love.

Danny Glover is another one who annoys the living stuffing out of me. Twenty years ago when he was huge making those Lethal Weapons movies he had the clout to do something more substantial, but he didn't. Now he's trying to get funding for Toussaint L'Overture movie. He's irate because producers are asking him, "Where's the white hero?" Of course they are. I'm sure they're also asking 'Who's going to watch this movie?" Black folk won't support anything without a black man in drag, and white folk certainly aren't going to see a movie WITHOUT a white hero.

Back in the day, he could've gotten studio backing for a small vanity film. But now? Uh no.

LaJane Galt said...

About Push..

I saw a video of Lee Daniels (director) referring to Precious' experience as being "OUR experience"

He made it seem authentic, real, normalized.

That book was satirized in Percival Everett's Erasure ("My Pafology")

ActsofFaithBlog said...

I had to throw in an affirmation of Neil Gaiman. He's a great writer and has stories that are definitely off the beaten path. Octavia Butler was brilliant as well. I personally loved the Vampire Huntress series by LA Banks and would kill to see that as a movie or even a tv miniseries if they did it justice. There's stories available and yes a lot of apathy has set in for some of our Blacktresses. I wonder why they aren't doing more when they have all the access in the world and everybody in Hollywood knows each other once you've gotten to a certain level.

witchsistah said...

I definitely agree with you all that BW need better stories told about us for us to read, see on TV and watch on the silver screen as well as sing in our showers and swing our hips to. But how many Black people, especially Black women and girls are being encouraged in these endeavors and professions? How many Black folk are encouraging BW to become writers and not the Zane/Terry McMillan kind? How many Blacks encourage their kids to get into the arts period in ANY way, shape, form or capacity (all the while complaining about the dearth of positive art product that features us)?

I remember growing up hearing that art careers were for rich, White folks whose kids had trust funds to live off of whilst they dabbled in artistic expression. Black kids needed to get themselves a good, safe job someplace and keep it. If one HAD to be artistic, let it be something that can be done in the little spare time you could find as a Black woman.

But the writing we're talking about needs long periods of time alone to formulate thoughts and stories, to get them down on paper or a hard drive, to edit them. And that's just producing the work. We haven't even begun to find a publisher.

I watch BookTV on the weekends on CSPAN and they often do profiles on writers and visit their homes. Every writer I've seen profiled had a writing room/office. Oftentimes, the writing room was a separate building on their property--a converted shed, outbuilding or garage. But it didn't matter if the writing room were a separate structure or a converted closet, the main rule was once the writer was in this space, they were not to be disturbed until they emerged from it, even if it were a matter of hours, even if they slept in the space. That meant no interruptions outside of TRUE emergencies. No phone calls, no visits, no unnecessary interruptions. I am so reminded of Virginia Wolfe's "A Room of One's Own."

Bell hooks wrote about how writing seems one of the ultimate selfish acts because you need so much time alone in order to do it properly. And taking that time seems a selfish act, especially for BW who are supposed to be at everyone else's beck and call. To take all the alone time needed to write (much of which is not involved in the actual physical writing but in thinking about what to write and how to write it) appears to be the ultimate indulgence.

Khadija said...

Something is wrong with Blogger. They fixed the problem with publishing the other comments, but Evia's latest comment won't go through. [It's a conspiracy, I say! LOL!] I've tried copying and then posting the comment, but that won't work either. [Conspiracy! LOL!]

If I can get it to publish (one way or another), I'll post her comment later. If not, I hope Evia will come back and reshare her thoughts. They were important.

DeStouet said...

witchsistah,

this is one of the areas where AA women will need a strong sturdy support team who are fully vested in her future and needs, if she chooses to pursue a craft such as writing.

After the support team is in place, everyone else learns how to adapt to the times a writer needs their space.

My son, who just turned three years old, has learned to wait until I get to the end of a page if I am writing in my writer's journal -and- if I am typing away on the computer, how to tell when I am at the end of a thought before interrupting me.

Khadija said...

Here's the 1st part of Evia's earlier comment:

Evia said:

"Why consume a constant diet of images like these of black women, that present black women in the worst light?

So it is thus no surprise then that images of normal black women seem so odd and unusual, not only for significant segments of the community, but for outsiders as well!

Remember that these images are not only for consumption by black women, but outsiders who don't understand the nuances of who black women are.

They see movies like these, are fed a constant diet of it, and their response to normality among black women becomes, "but how is it that you are not like the black women I see in the movies," or "was your life like hers"?

Whether through pure ignorance or feigned inadvertence, this is what black women are experiencing when these images are the primary ones of them that are promulgated by the Entertainment Complex: the abnormal and aberrational is presumed to be normal.RESPONSE:
I'm in a hurry, but I just had to respond to this!! OMG! This is such an accurate description of what I encounter so often these days when trying to present AA women as just "normal." It's getting harder and harder everyday to get the "normalcy" of ***SOME*** AA women across to other ethnic groups and races.

And for sure, when it comes to AA women broadening their options on the romantic front across racial and ethnic lines, these images are like swallowing cyanide."

Khadija said...

Here's the 2nd part of Evia's earlier comment:

Evia said:

"I communicate quite often with wm, for ex. who are interested in dating and possibly serious relationships with an AA woman because they're attracted to the desirability of AA women as women. HOWEVER, these guys often assume that the women aren't interested in them because they see so many AA women behaving "differently" AND sometimes these men say things that contain the embedded assumption that these caricatures of AA women they're presented with in the media are the 'typical' AA woman.

And this is NOT surprising since it's obvious from some of the comments here, even SOME AA women think these are normal representations of 'typical' AA women. Even worse is that SOME AA women think that a steady diet of these images is OKAY to present to the world!!!!! SMH

Also, as I've often pointed out, many AA women seemingly TRY their best to behave like these caricatures or "act black." So how justified are AA women in getting angry at others for marking down their value when they themselves support the presentation of these dysfunctional aberrational images?

We need to clean our OWN house before we continue to blast others for thinking less of us or for not wanting to be connected to us. Major work needs to be done on the DE-INDOCTRINATION OF even supposedly 'conscious' AA women.Anyway re bw-irs, just yesterday, I received a note from a white guy who said he would love to meet a compatible AA woman, BUT he is not a church goer, is left-leaning politically, doesn't consume media and other modern junk like TV, loves making music, loves studying and discussing history, and is involved in making historical productions, and etc.

LOL! His (I dunno--mistaken?) assumptions were that there aren't many AA women in his locale who'd be compatible with these interests, and was asking me about his chances of meeting ones who might be--out there somewhere.

I could lie to him and say there are LOTS of AA women who think TV is junk and don't consume media, but I personally haven't encountered more than a handful like that. Too many AA women I encounter also "live" in the church and/or are media junkies and too many AA women I've encountered are spectators at life, meaning they don't do much participating in it except the same-ole, same ole stuff they've been indoctrinated to do.

And it's those dysfunctional images and messages that the bulk of AA women readily or eagerly consume and are obviously not objecting to that is largely responsible for the continuation of this. INPUT = OUTPUT. I, for one, wouldn't spend a cent to see this latest Opran-Tyler Perry piece of poison!

I mean, do we really need to see more proof that AA girls and women have suffered and are suffering? I'd like for someone to break it down to me WHY do you want to see that? Why would you PAY to see it?"

arthur said...

..Plenty of good actresses take stupid parts just to get and/or keep a name.. Halle Berry did "Catwoman", which was not critically acclaimed, to say the least. But her calendar had a blank and the money was good; and she didn't have to spend a year out of the public eye. Smart.

roslynholcomb said...

@witchsistah, you have a very good point. I usually write late at night. My son is usually in bed no later than eight and my husband goes to bed at nine, from nine until midnight and sometimes later if I'm on deadline, I write. The room I've optimistically dubbed my office is also the guest bedroom, and more than once I've pulled all nighters and then collapsed on the bed. And here's the amazing part and the reason why every book will be dedicated to my husband. More than once he's gotten up and quietly gotten my son up, dressed and fed. Then he'll put him down in front of cartoons with instructions not to wake mommy. I rarely sleep past 8 a.m., but it's absolutely fabulous to catch those extra winks!

Keep in mind, I'm a stay at home mama, my husband rarely works fewer than 60 hours a week, but he respects my craft and is so understanding. I'm truly blessed.

witchsistah said...

DeStouet,

You're right. AA women need to have those around us that see our writing not as a mere hobby ("Can't you do that scribbling some OTHER time?") but as real intellectual and artistic WORK.

I forgot to mention that each writer on that CSPAN show is asked about their routine. The writer's usually have set times they do their writing or anything writing related like research for a work. In other words, they have a schedule they tend to keep to more or less. This schedule still involves them spending stretches of HOURS at their writing, not snatching 15 minutes here, a half an hour there with a whole uninterrupted hour being like a holy grail. During this time, everyone knows, including spouses/partners and any children, not to disturb them. Phone messages are taken for them by hand or by machine. Drop in guests will just have to do without them for that time.

The problem is that most AAs see REAL work as something that gets you a fairly immediate and guaranteed paycheck. You do a job; you get your money for it. That's REAL work. Creative/artistic work where you don't yet have a purchaser for your product and don't really know if you ever will or if it'll sell for a "decent" amount--well, that's not real work. That's some stuff you did on a hope to most AAs and is therefore worthless. That is unless you make it big and then they were with you all along.

Khadija said...

Selena,

You said, "But just like any other job, she may have also hit obstacles along the way. The story said that her and her husband have their own production company. I'm sure they had to go thru a lot of financial challenges as well."

RESPONSE: Don't these Hollywood AA folks talk to each other and learn from others' experiences? Or do they mirror our collective's current dysfunctions and recreate wheels with each person?

IIRC, I vaguely recall Tim Reid and his wife running their own production company something like 20 years ago. IIRC, they produced the (short-lived because of its quality) tv show Frank's Place.You said, "I hope Halle and other bw are taken notes because the shelf-life for bw of any age in Hollywood is a lot shorter than ww over 40."

RESPONSE: Word! Unless they're careful AND assertive about their careers, AA actresses end up as nothing more than glorified video vixens. With the accompanying shelf-life; which is roughly the lifespan of a gnat.
____________________

Roslyn,

You said, "Pearl sold the rights and anyone could've put up the money to buy it. Brad Pitt bought it and cast it as he saw fit. Yet you had black folk wailing about the fact that the role should've gone to a black woman. First, did any black women try to buy the rights? Pearl's book was not a bestseller, so I can't imagine that the rights were terribly expensive, yet somehow they just expected Pitt to 'do the right thing.' One more time people, a man's first loyalty is to himself, and then to the woman he's sleeping with. The time of folk even marginally 'doing right by black folk' is long gone. People are going to do that which benefits them, period."

We need to get it through our heads once and for all that real life is basically "pay to play." And the payment is made in one form or another [hard work, smarts, the cost of buying the rights, or for the unscrupulous strategically-granted sexual favors, payola (i.e., bribes) etc.]. AAs have got to STOP looking for charity.

I didn't interpret Angela Bassett's comments about Halle Berry's role in Monster's Ball as sour grapes. I took it as genuine disdain for that degrading role. [Although, it could have been sour grapes. I don't know.]

I noticed that the Oscars rewarded Halle and Denzel for playing undignified roles. There's a historical pattern with that. The Entertainment Industrial Complex usually only rewards AA artists for things that are demeaning and/or harmful.

As far as how Angela Bassett, Danny Glover and others have squandered their careers, I just don't get it. They stayed confused for a LONG time. And as you mentioned regarding Danny Glover, some of them are still confused. {shaking my head}

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Khadija said...

LaJane,

You said, "About Push..I saw a video of Lee Daniels (director) referring to Precious' experience as being "OUR experience." He made it seem authentic, real, normalized."

RESPONSE: {shudder, twitch, moan}

Yep, I bought Erasure because it seemed to mirror my outrage at the "ghetto lit" that has crowded out real work by real AA authors.
_____________________

Faith,

You said, "There's stories available and yes a lot of apathy has set in for some of our Blacktresses. I wonder why they aren't doing more when they have all the access in the world and everybody in Hollywood knows each other once you've gotten to a certain level."

RESPONSE: Laziness, lack of vision, fantasy of having the type of stardom that is handed to WW on a silver platter. We saw what happened to Angela Bassett. I'm curious to see if Nia Long or Sanaa Latham wake up before it's too late for them, as well. The clock is ticking on them and other AA actresses in their 30s.
_____________________

Witchsistah,

I'm not talking about encouraging the children to get into the arts. We can't wait that long. AA women and girls need new dreams right now.

We can't afford to do our "business as usual" tradition of creatively listing all the perceived "reasons" why what we need is impossible. We also can't afford to follow our tradition of throwing our responsibilities off on the next generation.

We can't wait any longer for the things we need in order to survive and thrive. While we're waiting (stalling, procrastinating) the STIGMA that we have collectively attached to ourselves as AA women is getting more repellant with each day that passes. I've noticed the trend that Evia described in her latest comment.

This "We Are Dysfunction" banner that we've been waving for the past few decades is tightening into a noose around our collective necks. This noose gets tighter with each new foul image of ourselves that gets beamed across the planet. This movie "Push/Precious" sounds appalling. Right now, there's next to nothing to counteract that sort of madness.

I'm challenging all of us who are capable (that would be me, YOU, and others) to start meeting this need right now. Now. Not until after we have homes with specially-designated "writing rooms." NOW. If we are committed, then we will find ways to do what needs to be done. And not wait until it's totally convenient, comfy and cozy to do so.
_________________

Evia,

You are correct. The images that we are beaming across the planet of ourselves as AA women are PURE POISON. And this self-inflicted poison is hindering our escape into healthier environments in which we can survive and thrive.

You're also correct that we need to check ourselves for a minute instead of blasting others in this context. That's why I'm challenging all of US who are capable to get busy creating what we need for ourselves. Nobody is going to do it for us except us.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Khadija said...

Arthur,

You said, "Halle Berry did "Catwoman", which was not critically acclaimed, to say the least. But her calendar had a blank and the money was good; and she didn't have to spend a year out of the public eye. Smart."

RESPONSE: I agree that this was smart. It was a popcorn, NON-degrading movie that provided income and kept her name circulating.

It reminds me of a "more or less continuously-employed for the past 27 years" tv actor named Jack Scalia. He never broke into the so-called "big time," but he stayed constantly employed. From what I read, he came to work like a professional and made a point of being easy to work with. [Not to mention, he's visually pleasing to many women. LOL!] But in an industry filled with "handsome but difficult to work with" actors, I'm sure he got more parts because he's had the sense to understand the industry he's working in.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

DeStouet said...

"I'm challenging all of us who are capable (that would be me, YOU, and others) to start meeting this need right now. Now. Not until after we have homes with specially-designated "writing rooms." NOW. If we are committed, then we will find ways to do what needs to be done. And not wait until it's totally convenient, comfy and cozy to do so."

I've just recently come into this realization. For the six months or so, I allowed my writing to come to a complete halt. Before that time, I was pumping out short stories ever week, paying people to edit my poetry, attending various writer's group for critiquing and entering all kinds of contest.

But somehow, I eventually allowed myself to get into a gigantic funk about what I felt was my limited vocabulary. I allowed myself to get into this funk even though, I was doing everything --at that time-- to widen my vocabulary. Looking back and being honest with myself, I was in a sort of "creative" depression, along with feeling sorry for myself about what could have been. {SMH}

Anyhow, just about a week ago, I said to myself that I can always improve on my areas of weakness. I can always learn the thing I don't know, but want to know. Using a wide range of words in my writings is no different.

So, in order to help me with properly using words and phrases I started reading articles written by John Lienhard, and Williams Safire. I listen to NPR all during the day. I borrow other use of different phrases --but most importantly I washed that feeling of not being good enough off my body and thoughts.

Khadija said...

DeStouet,

Good for you that you snapped out of this funk! It's funny that you mention the vocabulary worries. One of my colleagues at work has recently expressed similar concerns. I believe that the solution to such worries is to expand one's reading horizons out of one's habitual "comfort zone." Which is what it sounds like you've been doing.

Another unhelpful pattern I've noticed is that most AAs have developed the habit of "dumbing down" our speech patterns in order to fit in socially. Many of us place ourselves in social settings that are anti-intellectual-curiousity.

The vocabulary/speech pattern issue was something that I (briefly) considered in terms of the blog essays here. Ultimately, I decided to write the same way I speak when talking to peers.

Anyhoo, my response to all those who believe that quality writing can only be done under perfect, "hothouse" conditions is: Maybe it would help to remember Dr. King's Letter From a Birmingham Jail!

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Khadija said...

I should look for my copy of Erasure this weekend. LOL! Here's the description of the book on Amazon.com:

"From Publishers Weekly
Everett's (Glyph; Frenzy; etc.) latest is an over-the-top masterpiece about an African-American writer who "overcomes" his intellectual tendency to "write white" and ends up penning a parody of ghetto fiction that becomes a huge commercial and literary success.

Thelonius "Monk" Ellison is an erudite, accomplished but seldom-read author who insists on writing obscure literary papers rather than the so-called "ghetto prose" that would make him a commercial success.

He finally succumbs to temptation after seeing the Oberlin-educated author of "We's Lives in da Ghetto" during her appearance on a talk show, firing back with a parody called "My Pafology," which he submits to his startled agent under the gangsta pseudonym of Stagg R. Leigh.

Ellison quickly finds himself with a six-figure advance from a major house, a multimillion-dollar offer for the movie rights and a monster bestseller on his hands...The dark side of wealth surfaces when both the movie mogul and talk-show host demand to meet the nonexistent Leigh, forcing Ellison to don a disguise and invent a sullen, enigmatic character to meet the demands of the market.

The final indignity occurs when Ellison becomes a judge for a major book award and "My Pafology" (title changed to "F***")[Khadija: I bleeped out this faux title] gets nominated, forcing the author to come to terms with his perverse literary joke."

JS said...

I’ve noticed the trend in visual and print media of African Americans portraying themselves as suffering on the cross crucified a la Jesus Christ. This trend is even directed towards our young. I know this might sound bad, but as a child and adolescent, I would sometimes avoid works by blacks because I knew it would be rife with racism, pain from poverty-afflicted dysfunction, no real solutions for maneuvering in life, foul content, or plain old lack of genre variety. Books like Sounder and even the Bluest Eye are not what most folks want to read for leisure regularly, unless you have some sadomasochist tendencies. I compare books like these to documentaries about childhood sexual molestation or incest. Who wants a steady diet of that? It would be like eating the rotted flesh of road kill infested with maggots as dinner five days a week.

Khadija said...

JS,

You said, "I know this might sound bad, but as a child and adolescent, I would sometimes avoid works by blacks because I knew it would be rife with racism, pain from poverty-afflicted dysfunction, no real solutions for maneuvering in life, foul content, or plain old lack of genre variety."

RESPONSE: It doesn't sound "bad" at all. You've perfectly articulated the underlying reasons why I developed an aversion to what is perceived as "serious" AA literature (by women writers) as well as the "ghetto lit" garbage.

You said, "Books like Sounder and even the Bluest Eye are not what most folks want to read for leisure regularly, unless you have some sadomasochist tendencies. I compare books like these to documentaries about childhood sexual molestation or incest. Who wants a steady diet of that? It would be like eating the rotted flesh of road kill infested with maggots as dinner five days a week."

RESPONSE: THANK YOU! THANK YOU! Thank you for putting into words what I felt, but couldn't quite articulate until now!

The bottom line is that most work by AA women writers is grounded in masochism!
Who wants to read that as entertainment? Really now, let's pause and think about this for a moment:

We actually seek out and consume, on a regular basis as leisure reading, works that feature women and girls like ourselves being emotionally abused, BEATEN, RAPED, and MOLESTED!

What's up with that? How did this sort of material become a steady source of entertainment for us?

This is sick.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Evia said...

Khadija, this is a test because when I tried to comment, I got a msg saying that I can't have more than 4, 096 characters. LOL!!!! If this comes through, I'll break my comment up into parts.

Evia said...

Khadija, re these tawdry images hindering the escape of AA women into healthier environments, that's SO, SO true. It is especially the case because most healthier people in these healthier environments or groups can't tell the difference between an AA woman who is on the path of the Sojourner and one who wallows in, is wrapped up in, can't separate herself from dysfunctional relatives and associates, and/or upholds Dyfunction.

Sometimes, even many of us AAs can't tell the difference until we've been burned or pulled down by these dysfunctionites or they reveal who they are in some other way.

And IMO, anyone who continues to support, uphold, invest in, explain, highlight, excuse, enable, glorify, etc. those dysfunctional images and messages re AA women is an upholder/supporter of that dysfunction. We may all have been guilty of that in the past in one way or another and for a variety of reasons, but today is another day. As AA women know more, they have to ***immediately*** STOP upholding or feeding dysfunction in every way.

The bottom line is that ANYTHING that is not fed, supported, reinforced, or upheld is going to die. You can kill ANYTHING if you don't feed it. LOL!

What I'm saying is that you can cause any behavior to lessen or cease if you don't positively reinforce it and you can outright eliminate it if it doesn't get any reinforcement or enough reinforcement. But you also have to be able to control the negative reinforcement too because some people and some systems thrive on ANY kind of attention/reinforcement. This is straight up behavior modification 101. It works!

The exits are definitely closing for AA women because of how so many of them position themselves or limit themselves by wrapping up in their "black" cloaks. Many times, the questions AA women ask me reflect that they don't know the importance of positioning themselves well or the URGENCY of separating from dysfunction and dysfunctional people.

Anyway, NOW is the time for the Sojourners or 'sojournites' (LOL!) and those on the path to flee or otherwise do all in their power to set themselves apart from the ABCs and/or the 'dysfunctionites.'

Evia said...

I cited that example of my chat with that white guy yesterday just to show how the assumption among many out there (including some wholesome bm) is that a typical AA woman is not compatible with a man who has generally 'wholesome' interests. This is because neither he, nor I, nor millions of others barely ever see or read anything depicting AA women embracing an ordinary 'wholesome' but interesting, dynamic lifestyle.

IMO, sitting around absorbing "Reality" TV and trying to talk constantly about the this and that of canned material doesn't reflect an 'interesting, dynamic' lifestyle. That's a spectator, sedentary lifestyle if that's predominantly what ANYONE does. That type of man to me would be boring to the max and 'limited' and it wouldn't matter how much education, money, looks, or whatever else he had.

In regards to the contents of the literature, screenplays, etc. that needs to be presented to AA women, I think there's a need for detailed clarity. Detailed clarity is so important for everything when it comes to uplifting AAs. SMH

For ex., the other day, I got an e-mail from a presumably AA woman who writes erotic BW-IR fiction, and she was interested in advertising on my site. I didn't spend more than minute at her site, but the "beautiful" bw on the covers of the books featured there either look like blow-up sex dolls (tastefully done-LOL!) and/or chocolate Barbies. Now I'm not knocking this woman for doing what she does because we ALL have a responsibility to present a variety of images showing the whole gamut of AA women. Not just her. I mean, nothing is stopping me or any other AA woman from writing material presenting images of other types of bw, as you're urging us all to do NOW--and not wait until we get those designer "writing rooms." LOL!

Now wouldn't it just be too shameful if writers from "other" groups are reading this and start writing those books and making those screenplays? SMH

So, what this erotic book writer woman does is her thing and we know that sex sells. For all I know, she may be an "other." But these are not 'wholesome' images that I can endorse and the brief summaries of a couple of books that I scanned do not indicate that the books are about bw in "wholesome" normal dynamic relationships/lives. AA women are already seen in a too-sexual way, or other one dimensional way. So I can't promote her books on my site.

An AA woman can be very sexy, desirable, and still present an overall WHOLESOME appearance. Many AA girls and women obviously are not getting this message. The bulk of AA women have been genetically gifted with probably more than our share of female attributes: naturally tanned skinned, incomparable proportions, and both from an artistic standpoint and from the standpoint of the typical non-racist male, AA women are top drawer females. We don't need to have it all hanging out for it to be noticed. LOL! It WHO so many AA women are trying to get noticed by that is a biggest part of the problem. That "WHO" is a very small number of males, many of whom are not interested or are too damaged.

My point is that we have the contents, but what AA women in general lack is HOW to package it and WHO to present it to. Or there's still LOTS of ambivalence about our 'market.'

Khadija said...

Evia,

I also got that "more than 4,096 characters" message yesterday when I first tried to paste and copy your earlier comment from yesterday. That's why I had to break it up into 2 sections to copy, paste, and publish it. Blogger seems to have fixed everything except that one comment from yesterday (which still can't be moderated at the moment).

You said, "Now wouldn't it just be too shameful if writers from "other" groups are reading this and start writing those books and making those screenplays? SMH "

RESPONSE: This is the next step. Other people know that we are an underserved market. They also know that they can build their own financial empires off of our uncritical hunger for AA images.

I'm sure we all remember how the cable networks UPN and WB got off the ground by offering a lineup of cheap, Negro comedies. And then dumped those Negro shows once the network didn't need them anymore (after building up a White audience with other types of shows).

Eventually, some enterprising "other" sort of person will notice that there's an underserved, large segment of AAs who DON'T want to read any more volumes of "My Pafology"! The other factor is that AAs tend to cheerlead when "others" deign to involve themselves in (read: rip off) our cultural artifacts. [See Amy Winehouse.]

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

LaJane Galt said...

I have some random responses:

I’ve noticed the trend in visual and print media of African Americans portraying themselves as suffering on the cross crucified a la Jesus Christ.YES! The Martyrdom-Redemption complex (Mammy anyone?).

Can we be anything other than victims of brutality or emitters of self-help psychobabble and religion?

I love that you all are writers or are fans of scifi. My mom inhaled Butler & Asimov. (me, not so much...but I'm getting there. I do like strange or dark books). When I'm on the Metro I check out what people are reading. I see way.too.many. of us reading T.D. Jakes or n--lature (forgive me Khadija, but that is exactly what it is. I didn't coin the term). What does that say about a person if those are the only books she can relate to? Really?

***

You all have me rethinking Angela Bassett. In my mind, she was just a victim of a racist/ageist/sexist industry.

But what I want to know is...how many times did she pound the sidewalks of Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca or any of the hundreds of film festivals around the world? Did she do theater? Does she write, direct, teach? I will assume that she and her husband (Courtney Vance) work together. Her website looks rather thin. She's too good for that. (MFA-Yale)

Now, I recognize that she may have taken time off to raise kids. Plus she's from a different generation that just wanted to get seen.

I don't want to be understood as beating up on her (I totally got why she turned down MB). But I think the younger actresses have to step their game up and roll with a different crew. Mainstream Hollywood is not where it's at. The red carpet is great, but I think we can gain control of our images by working the indie scene and non-star portions of film. Learn a new language...be the foreigner in a "foreign" film.
***
Rent Medicine for Melancholy.

****

y'all know Madea worked itself into Star Trek.

****

Khadija~when I bought Erasure, I initially looked for it in the fiction section. I willed it to be with other books of its nature. I gave up and found it where they stuck it...near Cornel West and Charge it to Da Game.

Tam said...

This was such a great post, and the points made were spot on.

I want to go back to something Khadija pointed out:

Also note how, even if the White character dies at the end of the story, they still have that story end on a high note. [Think: the last image in the movie Thelma and Louise. The audience does NOT get to see them broken and dead. The audience's last glimpse of them is of them choosing their own fate.]

This is so true. I remember seeing for the first time this year, the movie Girl Interrupted. A good movie, but they made it seem like even the mentally disturbed had a chance at a future.

I always say Black folks seem to have the worst PR team in the business. We don't write our past and can't predict or script our future. Khadija, you are right, what better way to do this than with our media.

I remember coming to this conclusion as an enlightened child of 10 when I saw the movie Ragtime (horrible movie) great book. The Jewish man went from being an impoverished peddler to a movie prducer / director whatever and took the rich WASPs wife. The Black man in the story was reduced to nothing, in a hail of bullets. Who told that story? It wasn't us.

Now on to books: Three of the best books I have read in the past 5 years is Upstate - Kalisha Buckhanon, Lion's Blood - Stephen Barnes (husband of Tananarive Due) A Love Noire - Erica Simone Turnipseed.

I do believe great books are out there, they are just few and far between. Right now everyone is competing with the Urban fiction genre, but God willing, that too shall pass.

Khadija said...

LaJane Galt,

You said, "Can we be anything other than victims of brutality or emitters of self-help psychobabble and religion?"

RESPONSE: This also reminds me of the "Magical Negro" movie trope. {sigh}

You said, "I love that you all are writers or are fans of scifi. My mom inhaled Butler & Asimov. (me, not so much...but I'm getting there. I do like strange or dark books). When I'm on the Metro I check out what people are reading. I see way.too.many. of us reading T.D. Jakes or n--lature (forgive me Khadija, but that is exactly what it is. I didn't coin the term). What does that say about a person if those are the only books she can relate to? Really?"

RESPONSE: It says that our collective universes are extremely small. I also notice these patterns.

Another pattern that has irked me over the years while browsing in AA-owned bookstores is: Seeing almost all of the men ONLY gravitating to the non-fiction section, while almost all of the women ONLY gravitated to the fiction (Terri McMillan) section. This sort of self-imposed narrowing of intellectual stimulation is NOT healthy. And this is with the subsection of Black folks who bother to read!

About Angela Bassett: You raised some good questions about her professional activities. Let me stress that I'm not in any way beating up on her. I just feel that the squandering of her talent is a shame. And the result of her (and other AAs) buying into the "Jackie Robinson--I'M going to be that 1 in a million to break the color line" fantasy.

So, no...I don't think Ms. Bassett or others of "her generation" were content with merely being seen. I think that they ALL were/are addicted to the fantasy of having stardom handed to them on a platter the same way it is for White artists.

For example, I'm constantly amazed at how White Hollywood makes room for, and elevates, FOREIGN White actors. Let's just list some foreign White actors from ONE country, Australia, that have been elevated by White Hollywood: Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts.

My goodness!

I believe that AA artists simply refuse to face the reality that White Hollywood is NOT going to do the same thing for them that they do for foreign Whites. And AAs' mass delusion about the meaning of Pres. Obama's election does not help us get in tune with reality. We desperately want to believe that the days of having to make our OWN way are over.

You said, "Khadija~when I bought Erasure, I initially looked for it in the fiction section. I willed it to be with other books of its nature. I gave up and found it where they stuck it...near Cornel West and Charge it to Da Game."

RESPONSE: I haven't thought through how I feel about the book shelf/section segregation/"redlining" of AA authors' books. On the one hand, it creates one stop shopping for lazy AA consumers who are looking to buy "Black stuff." On the other hand, this practice guarantees that random non-Blacks WON'T even come across these books while browsing.

Off the top of my head, I would guess that this practice would be a bad thing for serious, non-ghetto literature. Because it prevents real work by real AA authors from "breaking out" into wider sales. {sigh}
______________________

Tam,

You said, "I do believe great books are out there, they are just few and far between. Right now everyone is competing with the Urban fiction genre, but God willing, that too shall pass."

RESPONSE: No, it's not going to pass. The same way hip-hop didn't pass. Unless we push back with quality fiction, so-called "urban literature" will be THE definition of AA literature in the future. The same way hip-hop has come to DEFINE AA music after being allowed to spread unchecked.

If we don't push back, it will only get worse; similar to the trajectory of AA music after the arrival of the hip-hop poison.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

tasha212 said...

Khadija said: Another pattern that has irked me over the years while browsing in AA-owned bookstores is: Seeing almost all of the men ONLY gravitating to the non-fiction section, while almost all of the women ONLY gravitated to the fiction (Terri McMillan) section. This sort of self-imposed narrowing of intellectual stimulation is NOT healthy. And this is with the subsection of Black folks who bother to read!

RESPONSE: I have always been a person who has read a variety of different books in different genres, both fiction and nonfiction. I also never limited myself to reading books only by and about African Americans. I feel the need to clarify my statements from before. I don't want anyone to think that because I have mentioned an appreciation for the books "Push" and "The Coldest Winter Ever" (and Sister Souljah in general) that these are the only types of books that I read. I have scaled down my reading of AA contemporary fiction to include only a few select authors whose work and writing that I enjoy and get something from.

I also don't want people to think that I condone the constant barrage of AA dysfunctional images that have become the norm. I definitely believe that we need a movement to create works that reflect a multitude of AA images, especially black females. I plan to definitely contribute to the movement.

Peace and solidarity,

Tasha

Sister Seeking,Miriam,Mary Ann said...

Salaam Khadija,

I’ve been silent up to this point because I lack the credentials or educational training to evaluate literature. Writing is not one of my gifts.

BUT…

I’m willing to financially, and politically support black women who are doing what you are doing.


I half to be completely honest with you sister… I’ve spent the majority of my life reading both fiction and non-fiction. Primarily faith based, especially when it comes to romance novels ( suppose I’m a prude for not enjoying orgies with humans, animals, and vibrators).

I wish I could say that I enjoyed reading the classics or faith based novels based on the principle you and others are discussing--but I’d being lying to you. Due to my childhood history, I could NEVER get into anything( books, movies, music) that glamorized the abuse I either experienced or witnessed in foster care. I also could not understand why others who did not have my experience were so interesting in reading or seeing girls get beat up, drugged, raped, or molested. Till this day, I still don’t get it--not as a form of entertainment or to pass the time away?

I went to Amazon and Tyler Perry’s site to research the movie referenced here.

I don’t understand why his work is considered inspirational, and healing to his fans? **To each his own.**

I’ve heard, and read that young people need to “take a lesson” from his work.
Please forgive me if I stray off topic but I’ve been trying to understand this mentality for a long time…

I see this in the “black community” allot: in order for us **especially the youth** to be inspired we must engage in suffering, pain, bondage. In order for the youth to learn, their will or spirit must be broken.

Why does hitting rock bottom half to the be the agent that inspires people?
Why does the constant exposure ( which just desensitizes people) to violence, pornography, predators, drugs, vice, etc half to grab your attention?

I’d rather read or see a movie about a black woman who comes from humble beginnings ( with out the child molestation by the way) who joins the Air Force, ends up in a war, falls in love with a man from Germany, and ends up becoming a Governor.

Anywho,

Its late.

Salaam

Khadija said...

Tasha,

Oh, no...it never occurred to me to make any sort of ill-founded assumptions (and that's what they would be) about your reading habits. [Not to mention that it's none of my business. LOL!]

I was just describing the gender-based book browsing pattern that I've seen with other shoppers in the Black bookstores I've been to. The bookstore personnel that I've asked about this have made similar observations. [I'm nosy enough to ask the store personnel about any customer patterns that they've observed.]

In terms of what folks are reading, I'm nosy enough to ask the people around me (coworkers, acquaintances, etc.) that I see with books what else have they read recently. Since I'm going to be part of this industry, I try to keep my finger on the pulse of our book purchasing habits.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Sister Seeking,Miriam, Mary said...

White people restrict [and keep on the fringes] such bizarre reflections of themselves to Lifetime channel movies, and "very special" After School Specials. They do NOT create a constant stream of such images of themselves.

The norm is NOT for a White family to be depicted as physically, sexually, or emotionally abusing their children. The norm is NOT for a White teenage girl to be depicted as pregnant, beaten, raped, sexually molested, emotionally abused, etc. They mostly portray themselves as basically decent, wholesome and HEALTHY people and families.
_________________Khadija __________


So very true!

DH and I were HUGE fans of 7th Heaven.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7th_Heaven


When producers announced the show was ending, I remember many fans wrote, and called in to express their appreciation for the show being aired in the first place as well as their opposition to the show being canceled.

I also remember in the 90's a movie I think was called American Family or American Pie? At any rate, many white family groups protested and boycotted it.

Khadija said...

SisterSeeking/Miriam/MaryAnn,

Oh no...I'm definitely NOT any sort of expert on "literature" or "the classics." I've collected lists of various "classics" that I had planned to get around to reading. The lists get dustier each year. LOL! My reading habits are just as eccentric as anybody else's. Which is okay.

I don't have any sort of specialized education in "literature." I don't know any more than anybody else (who reads) about so-called "literature." I'm just another person who reads. And a person, like you and so many others, who recognizes MESS when I see it. That's all that I'm talking about in this context.

I'm not talking about fancy-pants "literature" here. [Not that there's anything wrong with high-falutin' "literature."] In terms of the "ghetto lit," I'm talking about straight-up MESS. In terms of the new dreams that we need to create for AA women and girls, I'm talking about FICTION in various forms (novels, short stories, screenplays, plays, etc.).

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Evia said...

Khadija, I had an interesting chat with my sisterfriend, Vera, about the movie "Precious." I told her we were discussing it here and Sister Souljah's books and the books of other bw who are seemingly on a mission to only show the sordid underbelly of AA women's lives.

She pointed out that this is just what these women (characters) have endured and the way they live and they should be able to talk about it.

So, as usual, Vera had another perspective on this. She said that AA women are trying to get someone to care about their pain. This is why they keep screaming for help in all of these books and movies.

I told her that help is not coming because ***no one cares.*** I tried to find out from her why so many AA women apparently think someone is coming to help them. I've pointed out to her that it's magical thinking that makes AA women think that. I don't think I convinced her though. She seemed to have difficulty with the notion that other folks don't care. She just didn't want to think that.

I think that many AA women have that same difficulty.

This is really problematic because afterwards, I had more thoughts about the movie and similar images of bw. Here's the problem: Once again, AA women are shooting themselves in the foot by highlighting all of the sexual abuse they suffer. Pretty soon, it's just going to be ***assumed*** that we ALL have been sexually abused and thus have bad emotional scars that will be expressed or repressed by either overeating or in some other way. I'm sure that after some people see that movie, they'll just assume that many big black women (like Precious and Oprah) are sexual abuse victims--whether they are or not. So AA women will have once again sunk themselves deeper and gotten nothing for it in return.

And while some quality men may have compassion for AA women who've been the victims of sexual abuse, many of them will NOT want emotionally-scarred victims of sexual abuse as partners/wives and the mothers of their children. Among other things, there are bigtime trust issues with many people who are sexual abuse victims. And lots of anger and pain.

Plenty of other women are victims of sexual abuse and have baggage from this or that, but they're not defined by it as some AA women seem to be trying to define themselves in order to get pity. Once again there is no forethought about this, but after this label has been firmly attached to ALL or the bulk of AA women, those same pity-party women will be screaming about how unfair it is that folks think that ALL AA women are sexual abuse victims. LOL!

For sure, I definitely wouldn't want a man who'd been sexually abused or severely abused in any other way as a partner--if I knew about it in advance or even suspected it. Of course, a lot would depend on the severity, type, and the length of the abuse, but given a choice, I wouldn't want to deal with it at all because it leaves wounds that sometimes never heal. No one has a magic wand for this. Many times, they cannot be repaired.

It is SO important for AA women to THINK before they start waving this or that flag because people are reading, listening, and watching and after awhile those negative labels and personas become the AA woman's BRAND, as we always talk about in these various forums. We need a positive brand and we have the ingredients to base it on but we don't highlight them enough. I mean AA women are known to be doing quite a few things that are good, so we need to build on those things, highlight those things in as many ways possible and leave off the rest. I would like to challenge everyone to think about what they'd like the brand of AA women to be. Then, how can we use the ingredients that we already have to actualize that brand. Then we need to promote,promote, and promote it. Anything that is promoted enough can be sold.

Khadija said...

Evia,

In many ways this issue runs parallel to the discussion we had in Part 1 of the Table Talk for Activists series. As I said during that post, modern Black victims of an atrocity will often behave in ways that are NOT helpful, and are actually contrary, to the cause of justice.

This means that activists need to make some decisions up front about what is more important. What is more important in the arts context? Catering to these BF victims' desire for PUBLIC emotional catharsis? Or is there a greater BF collective interest that takes priority?

In the arts context, the problem is that these BF victims' PUBLIC forms of catharsis are extremely damaging to BW and girls as a collective. Their PUBLIC form of catharsis is helping to keep BW trapped in the damaging circumstances that inflicted the wounds that they are putting on public display!

Their public showcasing of their wounds is stigmatizing ALL of us as a group. And thereby hindering our escape into healthier environments and into marriages with healthier men.

We can't afford any more of their public catharsis. Their showcasing of wounds needs to be pushed back into the fringes. As you said, in general NOBODY CARES about their wounds. By showcasing their wounds all they're doing is harming the rest of us.

Many of us DO care as fellow BW, but NOT at the expense of our collective future. What was done to these victims is already done. There's no undoing it. The best we can do is prevent the creation of new victims. The way to do this is to keep the escape routes open for other BW and girls. Regrettably, this means that we will probably have to shove these "I want to publicly showcase my many wounds" type of victims out the way. {very long sigh} Through their actions, they are blocking the escape routes.

I am truly sorry that it has come to this. But this is for keeps. This is for our very survival. We have to out-shout and out-promote OUR positive, attractive brand over the brand of these destructive BF victims.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Southland Diva said...

I believe movies like 'Precious' help to spur AA women to action, because heaven knows having yet another movie produced about AA pathology, is crazy-making!!

This is not who we are!!!!!!! OMG we are so much more than this!!

There seems to be quite a few writers who read this blog and I believe as we publish; as we get our works out in the world for public consumption, the tide will turn. We need forums other than 'Oprah' (no disrespect) to focus on this alternative fiction/non-fiction. Is it just me, or isn't it a little sad to think that positive stories about the human condition of an AA females appear to be the 'alternative' storyline.

I intend to do my part to starve the horrid trend of 'victims-are-us' moviemaking out of existence.

Oh, and I am a straight up Trekkie (well, maybe Trekkie-lite, because I haven't attended a convention, yet) from way back!!!! Scifi books, movies and television shows have fired my imagination since I was a wee one.

(Total aside) Does anyone remember Space: 1999???? Just asking. Does it make me a scifi-geek because I do? {smiling}

Peace

Khadija said...

SouthlandDiva,

You said, "I intend to do my part to starve the horrid trend of 'victims-are-us' moviemaking out of existence."---------------------------------------------------------

RESPONSE: YES! {raised fist salute}

You said, "Oh, and I am a straight up Trekkie (well, maybe Trekkie-lite, because I haven't attended a convention, yet) from way back!!!! Scifi books, movies and television shows have fired my imagination since I was a wee one. (Total aside) Does anyone remember Space: 1999???? Just asking. Does it make me a scifi-geek because I do? {smiling}"---------------------------------------------------------------

RESPONSE: You're not alone! Although I don't care for the original series, I did enjoy ST: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and (occasionally) Voyager.

My thing is that Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek universe is a bit too Pollyanna-ish for my tastes. I liked the first 2 seasons (before executive-producer Kevin Sorbo got the "big head" and destroyed the show by causing the firing of the head writer) of Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda. [Not to mention that eye candy such as Keith Hamilton Cobb was a pleasant part of the show. LOL!]

I much more enjoyed "darker" shows such as Farscape and the reimagined Battlestar Galactica.

Now, a "dark" sci-fi show that was decades ahead of its time in tone was the British show Blake's 7. Especially after the title "hero" Blake disappeared, and leadership of the band of freedom fighters went to a totally AMORAL character named Avon. The writers had that character doing things that would never happen in the wholesome, smiley-face Star Trek universe.

Yes, I vaguely remember watching Space: 1999. I mostly recall the shape-shifting character, Maya. LOL!

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Southland Diva said...

{Ridiculously Ginormous Smile!!}

You do remember!!! I thought Maya was totally cool....I mean shaping-shifting....what's not to love.

Keith.Hamilton.Cobb.

I have nothing more to say.

Stay Luminous!