A Mirror’s Reflection


I was watching the video for “Tightrope” by Janelle Monae and recognized characters from her video in a 1974 film I started watching with the Jazz composer, Sun Ra, called “Space Is the Place.”

The grim reaper characters with mirrors on their faces also appear in a 1943 short film called “Meshes of the Afternoon,” which Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid directed and starred in. The surrealist film might have influenced director of the Sun Ra film, John Coney. I like that these three works reflect on the concepts of reality, dreams and sanity.

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Buried Treasure


It’s funny how when you are young and watching your favorite TV shows, you tend to miss some of the subtle messages in them until you are old enough to understand. For example, at the beginning of this episode of Recess, Ms. Grotke gives us a small, insightful lesson on how history is told while giving out history books to her class.

Watch until 0:32

Go, Ms. Grotke!!!! I knew there was another reason why I loved her. Also, is it a coincidence that this episode is called “Buried Treasure?” Hmm.

Ain’t I A Woman…And Beautiful!


Saartjie "Sarah" Baartman

Despite my confidence is knowing that I am a beautiful Black women, the recent media scrutiny of Black women — the latest from Psychology Today and Satoshi Kanazawa’s post in which he stated that Black women were “objectively” less attractive than other women– is trying to chip that away and it has me fuming! A few days ago, I read an interview at Cease Fire Magazine that reminded me that this mistreatment and degradation of Black women is sadly nothing new. It is the reason behind Sojourner Truth’s 1851 speech, “Ain’t I Woman” and it still resonates today, especially with Kanazawa article.

The Cease Fire interview mentioned Saartjie Baartman, also known as the “Hottentot Venus,” a South African Khoisan woman who was taken from her village to England and exhibited as a freak show attraction because of her physical features: a large behind (steatopygia), and enlogated labia. She died in 1815 and her skeleton, brain, genitals and a molded cast of her body were on display in Paris’s Musee de l’Homme until 1980s. However, her body was not returned to South Africa until 2002.

Black women all over the world have looked to Baartman as inspiration. Last year, I attended a symposium about Baartman at NYU where presenters, including Rene Cox and Elizabeth Alexander, gave performances, film, panel discussions, speeches and poetry dedicated to Baartman, and connected her to the portrayals of Black women today in art, music, fashion and film. I also bought the book, “Venus 2010: They Called Her ‘Hottentot'”, which has several moving essays and poems dedicated to Baartman.

What connects Baartman to Kanazawa’s article is the use of science to try to claim that Black people are less than human or not as good as other humans. Baartman was examined by French zoologists, George andFrederic Cuvier, who used her physical attributes to compare her to wild animals. In his writings, Kanazawa used faulty scientific methods, analysis of surveys and claims to state that Black women are the least attractive of all the women in the world and to claim that the reason is that we have more testosterone, aka we are more masculine than than the average woman. Seeing that post from Kanazawa reminded me that not much has changed and we still have a long fight ahead of us.

If you want to know more about Saartjie Baartman, you should definitely see “Venus Noire,” a 2010 French film about her life. Here is the trailer:

And sign the petition for Psychology Today to set stricter standards for the posts that are published on their website.

Revenge Killing In Music Is Nothing New!


Rihanna’s new video for her single “Man Down” is developing a lot of controversy because of her portrayal of killing a man after he sexually assaults her. While on Tumblr, I read some conversations that I find interesting and agree with, so I decided to post them here instead of posting my argument, which can be found at my other blog, Reese’s Ear Candy.

Before reading this, to clarify, I do not support murder, but I do think it is interesting that people tend to criticize the violence of the murder and not the violence of the sexual abuse and sexual assault in which someone’s body is violated. His murder became a consequence of his actions, even if she was wrong in doing it. Also, I question why many are criticizing Rihanna, and a song in which the main character is obviously showing remorse for her actions, so much, when they may like these other songs and artists (ex. Tim Mcgraw’s Between The River and Me).

atapestryofdisasters:

harrietsdaughter:

karnythia:

All this backlash about Rihanna’s Man Down video sounds a lot like “Think of the Poor Rapist” with a side of “How Dare She?” and it highlights (for the nth time) the influence of racism in rape culture. If this video had featured a dainty young white woman it would probably be getting hailed as a anthem by everyone from the NRA to Sarah Palin for showing a woman fighting back because she was empowered by owning a gun. Don’t believe me? Think about Independence Day & Goodbye Earl.

But a black woman who both enjoys sex and thinks she has the right to say no? Pfft, rape culture already thinks women in general can ask to be assaulted, but for WOC there’s the extra layer that claims that we never say no. We’re not just sluts for wearing tight clothes, we’re supposed to be sluts on demand for anyone that wants us and once we are in our “proper position” we can only redeemed by becoming Mammy. Sexual agency is never an option for us.

Goodbye Earl celebrates the murder of an abusive husband, and Independence Day is all about a woman remembering her mother freeing her through a murder suicide. The lyrics & the tempo of both songs is upbeat, catchy, with no sign of remorse or grief. In stark contrast Man Down focuses on her regret and highlights that having acted in the heat of the moment Rihanna regrets taking the life of her rapist. Yet, it is her song that is blasted for promoting violence. And for added…something, her abuser’s name is brought up as though his actual violence against women is less important than the fictionalized revenge of a rape victim. Interesting how the message after all these years is still one of “You don’t own your body, so how dare you try to defend it?”

ETA: A friend on Twitter hipped me to the fact that there was some backlash against Goodbye Earl for encouraging women to resort to murder in order to escape domestic violence. I tried to find links, but the song is old enough that all I can find is the stuff about the Chicks being Anti-American and some references to their being some complaints about the song. Anyone remember the size & shape of the uproar against Goodbye Earl?

Yup to all of that.  I do remember a bit of the uproar around Goodbye Earl; if I remember correctly I think it was more about the celebration surrounding the murder.  So there was definitely some hand-wringing.

That said, I think you are spot on about the dynamics involved in the Rihanna video. The uproar makes no sense to me; the woman does not take joy in what happened, she expresses regret all the way through.  This is why we see the whole story.  This is not an“enticement to turn to violence.”  I think you are right – if this video had not shown R dancing in the club and enjoying herself people would feel differently.  In Goodbye Earl, sweet little Wanda “behaved” herself.

As for gender – Hey JoePapa loved MamaBohemian Rhapsodyanyone?

re: how race/gender plays into the reaction, i would use Aerosmith’sJanie’s Got A Gun (link goes to original music video on YouTube) as exhibit A. i may be mistaken, but i don’t know that it created any controversy. (unfortunately, it also failed to raise the kind of awareness they intended it to. but i also think that people see incestuous and presumed-pedophilia rape very differently than the kind where a woman “chose” to be with an abuser.) i am quite sure that has something to do with: 1) Janie being white, 2) Aerosmith being white, 3) Aerosmith being men.

Lyrics:

Janie’s got a gun
Janie’s got a gun
Whole world’s come undone
Looking straight at the sun

What did her daddy do?
What did he put you through?

They say when Janie was arrested they found him underneath a chair
But man he had it comin’, now that Janie’s got a gun
She ain’t never gonna be the same

Janie’s got a gun
Janie’s got a gun
Dog day just begun
Everybody is on the run

Tell me now it’s untrue
What did her daddy do?

He jacked a little bitty baby the man has got to be insane
They say the spell that he was under the lighting and the thunder
Knew that someone had to stop the pain

Run away, run away from the pain, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Run away,run away from the pain, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Run away, run away, run run away

Janie’s got a gun
Janie’s got a gun
Dog day’s just begun
Now everybody is on the run

What did her daddy do
It’s Janie’s last I.O.U.

She had to take him down easy and put a bullet in his brain
She said ‘cause nobody believes me, the man was such a sleaze
He ain’t never gonna be the same

Run away, run away from the pain, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Run away, run away from the pain, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Run away, run away, run run away

oh, and hey, who knew that Pink also has done Janie’s Got a Gun? (link goes to video on YouTube of Pink performing the song live.) i bet no one made a big deal about her singing it either.

full disclosure: i happen to love Aerosmith and Pink.

First, I enjoyed this song. I’m not a Ri fan by any means, but I enjoyed the song as a good quality song. I like seeing her get back to her roots. I appreciate her bringing attention to rape and intimate partner violence. I appreciate it especially because of what it going on in countries where rape is being used as a weapon of war.

Second, I don’t recall uproar against Eve’s “Love Is Blind”. In fact, I remember her being praised for bringing the issues of DV in the Black Community to hip-hop. However, I agree with the assessment that Black women are the most likely to be “slut-shamed” because the assumption is that we’re hypersexual. I just read an article that said Black teens are more likely to be tested for STDs at routine doctor’s appointments than White girls, without asking for them, even when they say they’ve never had sex. There is just a general assumption that we’re all whores. There is an assumption that our bodies are up for grabs, literally. this is why street harassment is so rampant andwhy girls get shot for not giving out their phone numbers

There is also an idea that we’re too strong to succumb to violence. Black women are often seen as strong, almost animal-like… workhorses even. We are so strong that we should be able to fend off rape and if we say we were raped, we’re probably lying.

Update: Here is an article from Ms. Magazine’s blog also discussing the Rihanna video in relation to violence in Rihanna’s past videos and media in general, and sexual assault cases in recent news. The writer also mentions Rihanna referencing of early 90s dancehall culture in the Caribbean and the femme fatale type in the video. This is why these things to be discussed in context because if it is not, we will get response like this, as Jen on Tumblr mentioned:

This quote from the Fox News article is my particular favorite:

“She sings that she killed a man when she ‘lost her cool’ because ‘he was playing her for a fool.’ This garbage from the same woman who publicly bragged to Rolling Stone recently that she likes to be spanked and tied up,” he told FOX411’s Pop Tarts. “Rihanna gets to have it both ways – accuse Chris Brown of domestic violence and be violent herself – because she’s a woman.”

Yes, because obviously if you are into anything remotely “kinky” you must also like to be beaten and/or raped.  It makes me so angry that in his entire argument, he never mentions consent.  He just implies that if you give consent to do one thing that could be considered violent, then you are giving consent to be attacked.  Just because I enjoy being handcuffed does NOT mean that I can no longer say no.

Freakin’ It: A Betty Davis Retrospective


Speaking of Miles Davis, let’s talk about his former wife Betty Davis. I know I should have posted this in March, but school distracted me until now. But better late than never, right? Betty Davis is one of my favorite artists and when I heard about the concert on March 7th at the Schomburg Center, I jumped at the chance to go. Even better, my class happened to be canceled that day, so I didn’t have to skip (Lucky me!).

As part of the Black Rock Coalition‘s spring music tributes, the lineup for the night included Tamar-Kali, KimberlyNichole, Joi, N’Dambi, Nucomme, and Alkebulan. The band included guitarists and singers Kat Dyson and Jerome Jordan. This was one of the best concerts I had attended; it was a beautiful tribute to a woman who has inspired many and receives little attention. The entire band sounded amazing and after a while I did not even care that the singers were reading the lyrics on the stands. All the performances were fierce, but the two singers who were the most fiery were Tamar-Kali, who was the co-musical director with Victor Axelrod (keyboard), and KimberlyNichole.

And for those of you who do like these performances, this saturday the Black Rock Coalition Orchestra is doing a tribute at the Schomburg Center to another singer I love, Sam Cooke. Just click on his name to buy tickets. Enjoy!

Here is Tamar-Kali, KimberlyNichole and Kat Dyson performing “Game Is My Middle Name”

KimbelyNichole performing “If I’m In Luck, I Just Might Get Picked Up”

Tamar-Kali performing “When Romance Says GoodBye”

Joi, N’Dambi and Tamar-Kali performing “Steppin’ in Her I. Miller Shoes”

Joi performing “Nasty Gal”

Destroying Jazz?


Esperanza Spalding

Today, I was on my daily blog scroll and came across this article that Mark Anthony Neal put on his blog, New Black Man. The article is from the music magazine, Wax Poetics and reflects on the genre of Jazz Fusion from Miles Davis to Esperanza Spalding:

“Yet, from fusion’s early days as a noisy musical contender, many narrow-minded jazz aficionados and critics were unable to appreciate the sonic change when acoustic became suddenly antiquated. Appalled by upstarts infiltrating their music with electric guitars, Moogs, wild percussion instruments, tape loops, and synthesizers, purists referred to the new musical movement as anti-jazz. In Considering Genius (2006), jazz traditionalist and essayist Stanley Crouch stated that fusion was “the aesthetic death valley” of jazz.

Yet, while the genre became quite popular, not many women instrumentalists ventured into fusion. With the exception of Alice Coltrane, Bobbi Humphrey, Joni Mitchell, Patrice Rushen, Meshell Ndegeocello, and a few others, fusion has long remained a male-dominated field.

‘Jazz has always been a melting pot of influences and that fusion is what I want to capture in my own music,” says bassist, vocalist, and composer Esperanza Spalding, who won the Best New Artist Grammy earlier this year.'”

Check out the rest of the article and the rest of Wax Poetics; it’s a great magazine!

Show Your Papers!


A little over a month ago, President Obama decided to publicly show his birth certificate to diminish the attention placed on the ignorant “Birthers,” who included the hair-challenged Donald Trump. Well, a few days ago, Trump declared that Obama’s birth certificate is “forged.” Of course, it is Trump! (*sarcasm*). For people like Trump, it has never been about the birth certificate; he is just attention-seeking, ignorant and profiting off the ongoing fear that many in this country have had of people they consider “others.” After President Obama displayed his birth certificate in April, Goldie Taylor, of The Grio, recorded a response that appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC and she put things into perspective.

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The Sankofic Now: Reimagining the Past + Manifesting the Future

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