The My-Stery: Save the Pearls Reveals A Fear of the Future


“Save the Pearls” is a vanity published YA novel trying to bill itself as the next “The Hunger Games.”  The publisher says that “‘Save the Pearls turns the tables on racism.’”It uses blackface as a plot device.In author Victoria Foyt’s futuristic world, no one wants to mate with white people—or “pearls”—considered to be the ugliest humans oppressed by people of color.  In order to survive, they must put on blackface make up to be attractive to the ruling class of “coals.”  Hoyt explains: “their stunningly dark skin that carries the greatest amount of melanin…makes them the strongest, most powerful race alive.”  The protagonist is a white girl who must smear her face with “midnight luster” make up in order to protect herself from radiation and in order to look beautiful to the oppressive “coals” in hopes that they will mate with her.The rule in Eden’s post-apocalyptic world is: the darker the skin, the higher the mate-rate. Other factors calculated into one’s mate-rate include wealth or employment status. For example, Ronson Bramford, a handsome Coal titan of industry, is at the top of the heap with a mate rate of 98%. At age twenty-two, he only has two years left in which to mate—or else he’d probably have a 100% mate-rate. Tiger’s-Eyes, or Latinos, usually rate above Ambers, or Asians, in the future race wars. White-skinned Pearls offer little resistance to The Heat, and therefore, are at the bottom. Only a Cotton, or Albino, would be lower.”THE MIND IT BOGGLES.

“If we let them be in control, they will get revenge. They will do to us what we did to them.” I believe these are probably the thoughts that are and have been on the minds of many Americans; many who will state that they want their country back or that they need to preserve the white race or the “Anglo-saxon” heritage (Thanks Romney!). All I see is people who are afraid losing control; that a “dark future” (pun intended) will turn the tables on them. Last week, there was yet another call for salvation, Victoria Foyt’s independent, quasi-science fiction and dystopian novel, Save the Pearls.

Here is the background of the story: It follows Eden Newman (fitting name, reminder of the Garden of Eden perhaps?) who lives in a post-apocalyptic society in which the increasing heat from the sun has created a world of “reverse racism” where white people are considered undesirable and forced underground while black people rule the world and create havoc. This sounds so much like a return to the 19th century Reconstruction era during which whites feared Black domination after slavery was abolished. And it gets worse. There are a number of issues with this novel that just has me shaking my head.

First, the names given to the different races and the pseudo-science about race and melanin that draws from old stereotypes. White people are called “pearls,” hence the book name, Asian people are referred to as “ambers,” Latinos are “tiger-eyes” and then most obnoxious is that Black people are “coals.” Not “onyx” or “obsidian,” but “coal,” an exploited substance that when put under heat and pressure turns into a diamond. Why do the light-skinned races receive nicer names if the lighter ones are considered uglier in the story. The names also compartmentalize the races; there are various shades and amounts of melanin within each race. Race does not work on a spectrum. Additionally, melanin may help somewhat against the rays of the sun, but that doesn’t mean darker skinned people would not be affected by the increased heat of the sun at all. Raising eyebrow already.

Next, the character Eden, in order to find a mate, since white people now have a low mate-rate, puts on “midnight luster” to pass as a person of color. I myself might have let that one pass if the story was better, but not with the idea that just putting on makeup will change her features and protect her from the sun. It comes to close to images of blackface. And this description of the story does not help:

Eden Newman must mate before her 18th birthday or she’ll be left outside to die in the Heat. But who will pick up her mate-option when she’s cursed with blond hair, blue-eyes and a tragically low mate-rate of 15 percent? In a post-apocalyptic world where resistance to the overheated environment defines class and beauty, Eden’s coloring brands her as a weak and ugly Pearl. If only she can mate with a dark-skinned Coal from the ruling class, she’ll be safe. But when she unwittingly compromises her father’s secret experiment, she is thrust into the last patch of rainforest, and into the arms of the powerful, beastly man who she believes is her enemy, despite her overwhelming attraction. Eden must fight to survive, but only if she can redefine beauty and true love.

“Beastly man?” Foyt even had the nerve to compare the story to Beauty and the Beast. Also, according to chelseabigbang‘s letter, she gave the coal characters names likes Nate Dogg and C-Money. Again, she is relying on stereotypes for her story. Nothing about this sounds original or clever so far.

Her complete ignorance of how she thought African-Americans would react and ignorance of our present situations just adds fuel to the fire. It feels like another attempt to call black people animals. It feeds into the ongoing theme of a fear of us ruling the world and enacting revenge because to them we are animalistic. More, it is a projection of their own animalistic behaviors of the past and present, and the fear that they will have to pay in the future.

This is another example of trying to hold onto a golden past that never actually existed and to control the present to stop a future that will force them to deal with the consequences. But we don’t have time for that. We don’t have time for your pity parties, guilt-tripping projections, and revenge fears. We want justice, we want healing, and to stop the world from falling apart. That is what a proper dystopian novel would teach us, not this.

Here are some ways to voice your opinion on the book.

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Modern Griots: Kim Hill


“Mars”

She describes herself as “the angel who wears her halo as a belt.” Kim Hill is a singer-songwriter who makes her own rules. Hill has been around since the 90s, working with the Black Eyed Peas, Tupac, Jane’s Addiction, Les Nubians and Mos Def. Although she was signed to Interscope Records in 1998, she was later dropped because her music supposedly “wasn’t black enough.” But Hill pushed forward on her own, releasing three albums. The first was Surrender to Her Sunflower in 2000 and Suga Hill followed soon after. Her last album was Pharaoh’s Daughter in which several of her songs, like “Disney”, “Hollywood” and “Mockingbird,” criticized the superficiality of the music industry. Now Hill spins records as a DJ and will be releasing songs as part of an upcoming project with DJ Dummy. The first single is “Other Worldly” in which Hill continues in her brand of spacey vintage soul. Listen to the song here.

Otherworldly Videos: Black Body Radiation


Written and directed by Greg Tate, Black Body Radiation is a short film that “imagines a future New York dominated by three rival, warring, black religious sects after two space ships mysteriously crash into Manhattan. Kulu, leader of a circle of priestess healers lives beneath the African Burial Ground. Through trance she is in communication with an alien artificial intelligence, an is able to intervene in the war between the sects in enigmatic, provocative and illuminating ways.” The film stars Karen Good and Michaela Angela Davis.

Cosmic Ghost at the Museum: Afrofuturism at MoCADA


Traveling through the “Sankofa Portal:”

Last week, I attended the Afrofuturism exhibition at MoCADA before it closed. This was my first time at the museum and walking in, I did not know what to expect, but afterwards I was greatly impressed. Looking at the artwork, it was easy to forget that these pieces were created by people who are still in grade school. As part of a program in which MoCADA works with schools and students to do an exhibition each year, the art pieces included paintings, collages, photography, and sculpture.  Although all the works were artistically compelling, the ones that stood out to me were the Elemental visual poem and the fable stories by the elementary school students. The visual poem, which was influenced by Dogon religion and mythology, combined photography (regular and multiple exposure) with words of wisdom based on the four elements earth, water, fire and air. These are two of my favorite quotes from the poem:

Earth: Anything you lose comes back around in another form

Air: Clear glass equally mirrors wisdom and madness.

From Elemental visual poem

The second piece I enjoyed was a jungle scene with a variety of wild animals and on the walls were four short stories about an elephant, lion, tiger and frog on Saturn in the year 5072. The part that interested me about these stories is that these were typical fables about animals — how the elephant received its tusks, the tiger its stripes, the lion its roar and the frog its jump — but the set in the future on another planet. In a sense, the idea of a fable became timeless despite the change in setting.

As I discussed with Dr. Sionne Neely from Accra dot Alt, who I met at the exhibition, it is incredible that concepts about afrofuturism are being introduced into schools already and these students are learning about artists like Sun Ra and Afrika Bambaataa as well as mixing elements of art, science and technology to create innovative pieces. We both wished we had this while growing up. After the exhibition, I also picked up a couple of books (being the nerd I am) Diaspora Diaries: An Educator’s Guide to MoCADA Artists and Danny Simmon‘s I Dreamed My People Were Calling But I Couldn’t Find My Way Home.  Below are some more pictures I took before I left:

Otherworldly Videos: Meridian’s Magic


The video for “Magic” by Merdian. The duo consists of Yohimbe Sampson, from Game Rebellion, and Bradley Valentin, a music teacher at Urban Arts.

Doesn’t the song just take you to another place? I wouldn’t mind going to the place in the video. Also, doesn’t Valentin kind of look like Theo from the Cosby Show? Okay, I am stopping now.

Moving on the Wires: Chibis, Miss Zee, Concrete Park


*Do you like my chibi at the left? Well, if you want one of your own, Sugabelly will do one for you for $5.

*Miss Gee of Afroglitz is creating a coloring book called Miss Zee and is

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raising money to print this book. Her kickstarter fundraiser has 9 days left and she still needs about $1000 to reach her goal. Please support the project!

* Remember Living Single and Maxine Shaw? The actress who played her, Erika Alexander, is currently working on a graphic novel, Concrete Park, that she started with her screenwriter husband, Tony Puryear and brother Robert Alexander. Inspired by Octavia Butler, the graphic novel is set in the near-future and features two lesbian leads, Luca and Lena, who are trying to survive in a world where humanity is threatened by gangs. Other actresses, like Rosario Dawson and Rashida Jones , are also in the graphic novel business with O.C.T.: Occult Crimes TaskForce and Frenemy of the State.

Art of This World: “Wangechi Mutu -The Catatonic Bliss of Violent Incidences”


Wangechi Mutu, Howl, 2006.
Wangechi Mutu, Howl, 2006.

Here is part of an in interesting interview with Wangechi Mutu from Another Africa:

…There is always a sort of underlying violence embedded in each of the pieces she creates. Affirmative fears, archetypal dogmas and the stigmata of war are all woven into one highly elaborate composition. The results are overpowering metaphors that often puts the viewer in a state of catatonic bliss, halfway between sheer avoidance and not being able to confront the subject directly.

Mutu‘s art is a constant stimulus on how children of the diaspora are able to successfully merge parts of their African roots with elements of Western culture. The confrontation between African identity and predominance of Western culture remains a central point in Mutu’s work. Often the ghosts of Josephine Baker or Eartha Kitt (two of her favoured muses) come to haunt her. She is also intrigued by modern icons the likes of Grace Jones. These women were all forced to reinvent themselves as new hybrid “alien” creatures largely based on Western stereotypes; however, they were able to turn their caricatural characters into powerful maces of protest against the myth of white supremacy.

“Camouflage and mutation are 2 important themes in my work, but the idea I’m most enamoured with is the notion that transformation can help us to transcend our predicament. We all wear costumes when we set out for battle. The language of body alteration is a powerful inspiration. I think part of my interest in this comes from being an immigrant but I’ve also always been interested in how people perform and maneuver among one another.” 

Although European and Western development are still perceived as the pinnacle of civilization, history has clearly uncovered their failure to address the obvious atrocities…

Read the rest by clicking the link above.