Modern Griots Interviews: Renina Jarmon and Black Girls Are From the Future Part 2


Here is part two of the Renina Jarmon interview from yesterday. Below Jarmon talks about the significance of Erykah Badu, Octavia Butler and Janelle Monae, her future plans for Black Girls Are From the Future and the future she dreams of for Black girls:

6) The book includes discussions on Octavia Butler and Janelle Monae. What is the significance of science fiction/afrofuturism to the lives of black girls?

I don’t think that I am equipped to speak as to why Afrofuturism speaks to Black girls; I think that that is a dissertation topic. #AboveMyPayGrade. However, I will say that Ms. Octavia Butler and Ms. Janelle Monae speak to the importance of the knowledge production of Black women and girls. There work also speaks to the importance of being fearless in terms of creating the work that we feel needs to be made. When I say the knowledge production of Black women and girls, I am talking about the books, the blogs, the podcasts, the web series, the novels and the songs that we create. To that end, the book has an appendix where I list nearly 100 sites created by, for and about Black women and girls.

Back to your original question, in the essay “Erykah Badu, Octavia Butler and Janelle Monáe: Musing on Time Travel and Black Women,” I contend that Black women artist find time travel attractive because time travel allows us to create spaces of freedom. What I mean by spaces of freedom is current spaces or even future spaces where being Black, being a Black woman, being a Black man, being a Queer Brown person doesn’t always mean being dominated and being discriminated against. Racism is exhausting. Sexism is exhausting and racialized sexism will have you tired as shit. So this notion of being able to still be you and not be racially profiled, to not be confined to an under-funded school, to not go to the funerals of brown teenagers, to not be forced to live in a segregated neighborhood, to not have to deal with street harassment is just fantastic to me. This is what this freedom symbolizes. Also, I just saw the film “12 Years a Slave” this weekend, so the importance of the autonomy of Black bodies, of bodies of color, that freedom to move without being police, monitored and punished is what I think what some Black girls find attractive in the work of Ms. Butler and Ms. Monae.

7) What other things are you planning to do with Black Girls Are From the Future? Do you plan to make sequels to the book?

This is another excellent question. The next projects are the documentary and another book on Black women’s Sexuality in Pop Culture. The documentary will be on Black women’s sexuality and I hope to have a cut of this complete by next May in time for the film festival application season. The book will be about Black Women’s Sexuality in Pop Culture. Some of the essays that I have on deck are “The Politics of Twerking and Ratchet: What Exactly Should We Be Teaching Black Girls About Black Women’s Sexuality?,” “The Politics and Limitations of Calling Beyonce Knowles Carter a Feminist,.” and another essay that I’ve had on draft that I will bring to light, “The Racial Politics of FLOTUS as a First Mom in Chief.” I am really excited about all three essays but the last on in particular because of the ways in which I think that young(er) Black feminists can make a contribution to the public conversation on how Black motherhood is racialized. I for one, am hella excited that FLOTUS has described herself as the mom in chief. Often times the work and labor of Black motherhood, or woman of color motherhood is diminished, marginalized and erased, so I appreciate her for that.

Black Girls Are from the Future was named one of the "Black Feminist Books Everyone Should Read."
Black Girls Are from the Future was named one of the “Black Feminist Books Everyone Should Read.”

8 ) Why it is important culturally and socially to have a book like this coming out now? What is the main thing you want readers to take away?

For the last two weeks I have had the idea that right now is #BlackGirlTime. What I mean by #BlackGirlTime is that this may be the peak time Brown and Black women in the US who are leveraging the internet in order to build community, start businesses and distribute their work. Last Friday Latoya Peterson tweeted about how the internet created a space for her create a career out of thin air, and now she feels like the gates are closing behind her. I think that there is some truth to this sentiment.

The corporations are here (on Twitter and Facebook), and the IPO’s (Twitter’s, Facebook’s) and acquisitions (Tumblr) are here, and so the ability of an independent media maker to leverage the internet and break through noise and become a signal is going to become tougher. I didn’t say impossible, I just mean that it is going to become more difficult.

Brown and Black women have been grinding and doing work on the internet for at 15 years. This essay by Jessica Johnson speaks to not only this work but the #femfuture conversation as well in the essay “#FemFuture History and Loving Each Other Harder.” So I think that three things have coalesced into creating visibility and recognition for Brown and Black women in girls on the internet. These things are the visibility of First Lady Michelle Obama in the White House, the visibility of Shonda Rhimes with “Scandal”, the visibility of Kerry Washington with “Scandal”, the visibility of #BlackGirlTwitter on “Scandal”, the visibility of Black and Brown voices on Melissa Harris-Perry’s show and her respective digital #nerdland community. I would like to thank my friend filmmaker Marquette Jones for pointing out to me how Black women’s usage of Twitter for “Scandal” symbolizes a shift in both the television industry, the advertising industry and the social media industry.

9) What kind of future do you dream of for black girls?

This is a hell of a question and honestly it is why I have taken so long to get this interview back to you because it floored me, it is a question that I take seriously and I wanted to do right by it.

Image of Black Girls Are From the Future Tote BagTwo weeks ago I came across a podcast of Ms. Angela Davis and Ms. Grace Boggs. The central theme of the podcast is that we need to be thinking about the world that we vision for ourselves. Another key part of the podcast is that young people are central to the future. This podcast really helped me to think about what it means to think about the future, when you are living on minimum wage. How the future can be anything from tomorrow to next year for Brown and Black folks.

I want Black girls to take this moment seriously but also the future seriously. We are not always told to take our lives seriously; honestly, in 2013 many of us are doing well if we are making ends meet and I get that, I have been there. Let me say something here. I want to be very clear about the class privileges of what I am saying. I know that so many of us are surviving at this moment in 2013. It is one of the reasons why I opened the book with an essay on race and the politics of food. Health justice, race justice and economic justice are all intertwined for me. I mean food stamp benefits were slashed today. It is real in the homes of the working poor and low income folks. But I do also want to say that I want us to hold on to that sliver of hope, even if that is all we have, until we can change our lives into the future that we want it to be. Our ancestors did it, over and over again.

So to answer your question explicitly: I want a future for Black girls where they aren’t afraid of joy.

I want a future for Black girls where they think about what Black girls being loved look and feels like.

I want Black girls to think about the choices that we make when Black girl self-Love is on the agenda.

“What do I envision for Black Girls?” I want a future for Black girls where asking questions such as the aforementioned is central to the Black and Brown and to a certain extent the White feminist blogosphere.

Thank you so much for your time and this opportunity.

“Black Girls Are From the Future Essays on Race Digital Creativity and Pop Culture” was named one of the “Black Feminist Books Everyone Should Read” by The Root. The book is available on Amazon and at Big Cartel. Join the Facebook Community here. Check out the blog here. Sign up to receive updates about Renina’s work here! #kaboom.

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