Thursday, December 8, 2016

Universal Appeal: Television in Black and White

Hey Scholars!

I have been engaging in many conversations regarding blackness, images, narratives, and television. To be specific, the question that we have been seeking to answer is, why are white television shows considered to have universal appeal and black tv shows do not? To explain away why white tv shows are able to get away with not having any characters of color, except occasionally, if ever, is because these shows speak to the human experience regardless of color. I call bullshit on this. Universal appeal is a way to justify depicting lily white worlds, in other words, it is white supremacy in a nutshell. Real talk, think about it. 

The tv show Friends, about the lives and loves of six friends in a whitewashed illustration of New York City, is considered a show with universal appeal, or the notion that whiteness and the comfortableness of seeing white faces is an experience that speaks to all people, which is white supremacy. There was an attempt to bring in a black love interest for Monica in season five, but the character did not test well with the show's audience and he was killed off; translation, white folks were not trying to see a black man with one of their beloved white women. White supremacy places white womanhood on a pedestal and an image of an interracial relationship had no room in this space. 

                                          (Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment)  

While Living Single, also a show set in New York City about six the lives and loves of six friends, is not considered to have universal appeal. Why? Seeing black (or any other colored) faces on screens is not a priority. Well, many argue that The Cosby Show has universal appeal. Does it? Many whites are only comfortable because the middle-class respectability of the Huxtables was comfortable for white people. While some black folks argue that this respectability did not speak to their experiences, making the Huxtables unrelatable. On the other hand, people argue that the experiences of the Huxtables were experiences that any family could relate to, regardless of color. I'm not sure how many poor and working-class families have children who get into fights at school over peers calling them "rich kids." I'm not sure how many poor and working-class families have parents who can sit at their kitchen tables and write out "four checks of college tuition." No matter, the show is considered to have cross-over appeal due to its depictions of good wholesome black folks. Living Single though, is not. Not these working-class blacks because it's just that, a black television show. 

                                                 (Photo Credit: HBO)

To bring the conversation into the 21st century, quirky shows narrating millennial experiences like Broad City, is another show that has universal appeal because if you have not learned yet, white folks, specifically white women living in New York City, is considered to be a universal human experience. However, Issa Rae's Insecure, about awkward black girls navigating this world, is not a universal reflection of womanhood. Furthermore, critics have drug this show saying that it preys on black women's insecurities. I have heard from non-black women that the show is a way to perpetuate the angry black women stereotype. Yet, the same women go to bat for Broad City claiming that women who are a hot ass mess is funny and being a maneater is hilarious. Ilana being with Lincoln, a black man is okay because they're not in a relationship, she is just using his goofy ass for sex, her satisfaction is the important this here. This is universally appealing, but black women who go through experiences all women go through at some point in their lives, is just seen as angry black women navigating waters they should not or may be cannot swim in (you know, black people and water).    

Bottom line, white people are just relatable and universally appealing as fuck!! Black people and other POC are not. If we were, there would not be backlash to Idris Elba possibly playing James Bond or Noma Dumezweni playing Hermione.

Just because the inspiration, the creator, and the lead actress in Scandal are all black women, does not mean this universally appealing show is black.  

Fuck universal appeal.  

I'll take "True blue and tight like glue" over "I'll be there for you" any day, every day, all day!!! 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Black Power and Black Lives Matter

Hey Scholars!

This past year, I have found myself engaging in numerous conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement and the meaning of black power. People allow the mainstream media to "educate" them and make decisions for them without ever researching for themselves what the truth is; this sham of an election has exposed this repeatedly.  

I remember, after Jesse Williams acceptance speech at the BET Awards telecast, people started circulating a petition to get the Black Lives Matter organization listed as a terrorist group. Rather than recognize police brutality as an issue when it comes to black, brown, and indigenous communities, people like to blame people for their tragedies they experience. 

I came across a photo sometime ago and it struck me just how inaccurate it is. 

White power is used to instill fear in people through violent means. White power is a promotion of white supremacy. Black power is used to instill pride in oneself in the face of that violence. Black power and the Black Lives Matter movement is not a promotion of black supremacy. For those using the "All Lives Matter" argument to say that black power is the equivalent to white power, stop.

It is dangerous to form an opinion without having knowledge about something you speak out about, which is the case when it comes to the BLM. While many support the BLM, they do not know that it is more than just people protesting when cops kill people. It is so much more than that. I think that it is worth checking out this site where the organization's guiding principles are detailed. This movement is more than just protests. This movement calls attention to issues that affect all people in our nation such as mass incarceration, poverty, education, employment, housing, and health. Taking it a step forward, the movement offers solutions to these problems and targets the branch of government that can do something about it. 

When I see BLM being mentioned in the media, the face and central figure of the movement tends to be Deray McKesson. The problem is this, the movement was founded by three black women, Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors. Why does this matter? It matters because of the very reason these women founding the movement, black women in various capacities are marginalized, silenced, and ignored. The necessity of the movement and the importance of its establishment is detailed here.

For a movement founded by black women, we often find ourselves still marginalized. When black boys and men are killed at the hands of cops, people show up en masse to protest these killings as they should. When the victims are black girls and women, the majority of people who show up are black women. Inside of this movement, the hashtag Say Her Name has been created to bring attention to black girls and women

The Black Lives Matter movement is not interested in or trying to start a race war, it is seeking to end one. Those of us who shout Black Lives Matter are not saying that only black lives matter, we are saying that our lives matter too. Our nation was built on the notion that our lives do not matter. The so-called founding fathers life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness was built on the backs of enslaved men, women, and children- indigenous and black people who lives did not matter. We are reclaiming our power and waking people up. Our nation is not the home of the brave and land of the free if the people who inhabit it are not free and cannot breathe. America, Let us live. Let us breathe. Let us be. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Campus Protest

Hey Scholars!

Around the nation, college students are protesting the racial and sexual injustices they are facing on their college campuses. On Wednesday October 5th, 2016, the Black Student Association at the University of Memphis, staged a protest in response to a situation that took place within the last couple of weeks on campus:

A University of Memphis student found her car keyed and a racist note on her windshield on the morning of Sept. 23 in the parking lot off Central Avenue, opposite Carpenter Complex.

Written on the note were a racial slur against African-Americans, “You dumb n*****s,” and the words, “F**k North Carolina,” said sophomore track and field student, Nicole Lawson.

Read the full article here

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Projection of Images in the Media

As I sit here and watch bell hooks' Cultural Criticism and Transformation and listen to her caution audiences on being aware and critical of images Hollywood projects on us through film, tv, and music videos, I am processing the murders of Tyree King, Terrence Crutcher, and Keith Lamont Scott. I am thinking of how this projection works in news media outlets as well. When a black man is killed, the media demonstrates all the ways he was a bad man and deserving of his fate. When a white man rapes, media tells us about the many ways he can go on and become a great man, undeserving of punishment. 
#Representationmatters #Blacklivesmatters

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

If Only

If only injustices enraged you as much as someone refusing to pledge allegiance to a flag enrages you. If only it mattered to you that human lives are not valued the way animals lives are valued. If only people's stolen lives and names are not celebrated through trending hashtags the way a television show's premiere trends. If only the heritage of groups mattered the way people scream the Confederate flag's heritage matters to them. If only black lives mattered to you like the first and second amendments matters to you. If only you loved blackness the way you love red, white, and blue. If only you could speak out against injustice of your fellow man the way you speak up for patriotism. If only tomorrow or the next day, or the next, I didn't have to see another video of another life taken away. #BlackLivesMatter

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Super Delicious, Creamy Dreamsicle Juice

Hey Scholars!

For the past year, I have been transitioning from vegetarianism to veganism. It has been a year since I have eaten chicken and fish, however, I have been consuming dairy this summer. I understand that this is a process, so I am not beating myself up too badly. I will say that I am reevaluating my lifestyle and am making conscious decisions to consume only a vegan diet. I am also thinking of being a fullyraw vegan, at least most of the time. 

Last week, I had a stomach virus. It was hard to eat anything, so to be gentle with my stomach and intake nutrients, I decided to make a juice that would be easy on my stomach and help me replenish the nutrients I lost while sick. One of my favorite juices is a Dreamsicle juice. This juice is creamy, smooth, and so flavorful. It is really simple to make. All you need are five ingredients: carrots, oranges, coconut water, pink lady apples, and vanilla extract. You will also need a juicer or a blender as this recipe is great for a smoothie as well. 

Regardless of your dietary choices, it is important to consume colorful foods for your overall health. I posted a previous blog about colorful foods and what they do for your health. Find it here.


For this juice I used:

1 Bag of Carrots (It has roughly eight carrots in it.)
5 Pink Lady Apples (You can also use Fiji or any red apple)
8 Navel Oranges (Tangelos also work)
2 Cups of Coconut Water (Whichever brand you prefer)
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract (A little goes a long way, but if you love vanilla you may add more; you can also use a sliver of vanilla bean)

Prep your ingredients by cutting your apples, washing your carrots, measuring your coconut water and vanilla extract, and peeling and cutting your oranges.  

Feed everything into your juicer or blender. For my juice, I take and strain it into a large glass bowl and then pour it into a glass jar and sip from a glass straw.  If blending, make sure to blend until it is smooth. 


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Appropriation and the Power Behind Racism

Hey scholars! 

I came across the photo below on some social media platform. What interests me about is how wrong the caption/text is. 

Since we're on the topic of appropriation, I think someone needs to look up the definition. If the Simpsons were black characters, white people dressing up as them would not be considered racist unless they painted their faces black. 

Also, people use the terms racist/racism too loosely. The fundamental definition of racism is to systematically benefit from advantages based on race. We do not have the power to benefit from such a system. While anyone can be prejudice, black people cannot be racist. 


Friday, July 1, 2016

Let's Get Physical: The Commodification of Black Women's Bodies

Hey scholars! 

Usually when I see shit like this, I ignore it, this time I will not. Why? Why white women? Why do you feel the need to post stuff like this? When we, black women, see images and captions like this, we immediately question your state of mind, not perceived inadequacies in us. Why do you think that we that we are jealous of you? I could drag this photo, but I will refrain from doing so. Instead, I will not take a learning opportunity from you. I find it rather insulting that many of you think that we covet features you enhance, the same kinds of features we are naturally born with and have been degraded for, for centuries.

bell hooks wrote an essay entitled, “Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance,” in Black Looks: Race and Representation. In this essay she states, “cultural, ethnic, and racial differences will be continually commodified and offered up as new dishes to enhance the white palate” (39). The other is ‘eaten’ as whites consume aspects of the other’s culture such as music, language, and even the body. For example, let me take you back to 19th century Great Britain where a young South African woman was forced by white men on display for public consumption. Why? This woman, Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman also known as the Hottentot Venus, had physical features common among Khoikhoi women where their labia, buttocks and thighs are a bit more prominent than other women. This right here points out another issue. In the dictionary, the Greek term used for African women with excessive fatty tissue in these areas is “steatopygia”- a disease. For white women with normal waistlines and flat buttocks, the Greek term, “callipygian,” is utilized. History tells us that in order to be considered beautiful, one has to have flat rear ends, a characteristic according to dictionaries, only white women have. However, these terms are outdated now seeing as how many women are enhancing their asses though various means such as silicon or fat injections or by exercising.   

In life and in death, Saartjie’s body was highly eroticized and fetishized by white audiences. She was taken from her homeland of South Africa and paraded around and exhibited in Great Britain as a freak show due to her voluminous rear end and elongated genitalia. She was sold to a French animal trainer who also put her on exhibit for the public consumption of French audiences. After death, her pickled brain and genitalia were placed on display at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris until 1974. Suzan Lori-Parks’ 1996 play entitled “Venus” explores how whites have associated black women’s bodies with food. At one point in the play, Venus is given chocolates by her lover who as she eats them, he watches and masturbates. She questions if he thinks her body reminds him of the chocolate.

This association of black women’s bodies as food can be seen in recent examples of public consumption of black women’s bodies. In 2012, Sweden’s Minister of Culture, Lena Adelsohn Litjeroth celebrated World Art Day by cutting and eating a cake of a naked black woman that clearly looks like a minstrel caricature. Responding to the racist backlash, the artist stated that this piece of “art” was to bring awareness to female circumcision. One cannot help but to see the blatant racism in this so-called art as white people stand around, take photos of the cake and then consume it. 

After centuries of degradation for our figures, white women feel the need to gloat about their physical features, real and imagined, telling us we are jealous. Trust and believe, we are not pressed. If anything our anger comes from reducing us to our body parts when we are so much more than that. This is not to say we cannot be proud of and celebrate our bodies, we do, but we know that our value cannot be measured by waistlines, bra size, hip dimensions, or thigh thickness. So to all you pressed ass Becky’s with “good hair” (wigs, weaves, and otherwise), try again.  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Books: Too Heavy a Load and Storming Caesar's Palace

In Too Heavy a Load, Deborah Gray White profiles a group of black women who seek to establish a set of moral standards for other black women in the spirit of racial uplift. She notes, “chastity became the litmus test of middle-class respectability…Middle-class status in black society was associated was much with ‘style of life’ as with income” (30). In other words, gender performance was also class performance, targeting white audiences. For clubwomen, defending their womanhood is an assertion that black women are just as feminine and worthy of respect as white women. While attempting to climb social, economic, and cultural ladders, black clubwomen left many behind, feeling that some black women did not measure up to middle-class standards of cultural refinements. Some rural blacks rebuked the “high falutin’” ways of clubwomen. For example, hair straightening techniques were rejected for preferred multicolored headwraps. This form of resistance is a demonstration of gender, race, and class performativity. Whether images of New Negroes or iconic blues women, young black women were offered various examples of how to (re)present their gender, race, class, and sexuality.    

Annelise Orleck’s Storming Caesar’s Palace, is a story of poor women who became anti-poverty activists. In the 1950s, these southern women left sharecropping behind to become domestic laborers (maids and cooks) in hotels in Las Vegas. While there, a number of the women joined labor unions, providing them with their first experiences with political activism and interracial solidarity. During the 60s, issues concerning layoffs, health, and childcare, resulted in them applying for public assistance and forming a welfare organization. By 1971, their grassroots organizing received national attention following their opposition to drastic welfare cuts through a march to the lavish Caesar’s Palace. The march included poor women and their children, peace activists, civil rights leaders, clergy, and celebrities. Eventually, forming Operation Life, these women lobbied politicians and wrote grant proposals to get Nevada to support federal programs like food stamps and WIC as well as attempts to get President Carter to create jobs that addressed concerns of gender segregation in the workforce and lack of childcare for poor mothers. For the mothers, they no longer saw themselves as “clients” rather they saw themselves become “catalysts of change” (167).

            While reading Too Heavy a Load, a couple of books exploring race and gender at the turn of the 20th century came to mind. White reveals that black clubwomen embraced Victorian gender and performance. Responding to this is Glenda Gilmore’s Gender and Jim Crow, which discusses how whites used white supremacy to sexually oppress black people. Entering this conversation is Eileen Suarez Findlay with her work, Imposing Decency, which explores the relationship between political change and discourse on sexuality in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Each of these historians engage in a discourse around racial uplift that links progress with adopting white cultural norms and values. Implied in this assimilation are performances of womanhood related to race and class decorum. During my reading of Storming Caesar’s Palace and thinking of the welfare rights movement, Premilla Nadasen’s Welfare Warriors immediately came to mind. Welfare Warriors examines the racial politics of welfare from the 1950s to the 1970s, during a time when welfare became synonymous with black motherhood. Nadasen explores the grassroots movement and activism of black women in cities across the nation, demonstrating that the welfare rights movement was integral to the Black Freedom Movement and other Black Power organizations.

Black Smoothie

Hey scholars, I have been incorporating activated charcoal into my daily life (almost). From making black lemonade to brushing with it to ...