Once again, one of my favorite online professor bros, Dr. Mark Anthony Neal, has connected me to some amazingness.
Last week, I shouted him out for letting me that my boyfriend-in-my-head, Dr. Vijay Prashad, is hanging in the Twitterverse. Now, thanks to his Facebook feed, I found this pretty fabulous web series, Black Folk Don’t.
The webisodes starts with riffs from Black people on the streets on the things Black people are stereotyped as, well, not doing: not tipping, not participating in winter sports, not swimming, not going to the doctors, not seeking therapy, not traveling (especially internationally), and other notions before settling in on the topic. Then, award-winning showrunner Angela Tucker and her equally distinguished crew, in response to a call from the National Black Programming Consortium for a web series, sit down with family, friends, and folks in both New York City and New Orleans to see if these stereotypes hold true in their own lives and the lives of people they know.
Hari Kondabolu on stage. Courtesy: harikondabolu.com
I’m willing to wager that you don’t laugh at every joke you hear–to each her own fart joke, as it were. An obvious fact, but therein lies the challenge for stand-up comedians: how do you make as many people laugh as possible, while still being true to yourself and what you value?
Take that comedic quandary, bear-trap it to an ongoing graduate-level sociology course, and you are now in the head-space of confounded sui generis comedian, Hari Kondabolu.
By day, Sergio Martinez labors in a modern air-conditioned factory a few miles from the Texas border, a human cog in the global supply chain that helps build pickups and tractor-trailer cabs. He wears a smart uniform at work.
At night, he comes home to a dirt-floor shack with a bare light bulb and no indoor plumbing. Mosquitoes buzz incessantly. He and his family live like poor dirt farmers.
His salary of $7.50 a day is enough to provide for the family dinner table, the cost of bootleg water and electricity, and an occasional article of discarded clothing for his wife or two girls, but rarely anything else.
Martinez, 35, is emblematic of the industrial sector of Mexico, a magnet for foreign investment hitched to a strong U.S. locomotive. Factories in Mexico pump out plasma TVs, BlackBerry smartphones, kitchen blenders, airplane components and automobiles. Yet millions of workers, like Martinez, can only dream of climbing from the lower class to buy the appliances, smartphones and cars they help manufacture.
As a 41-year-old black woman living in America, you can imagine my visceral reaction. “It’s about #*!^@% time!” But I quickly moved past that, because I couldn’t wait another second to dive into a column announcing the sunset of white racism, written by my former Globe colleague and syndicated conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby.
We’ve been breathlessly forecasting the arrival of a post-racial society going on four years. Now, according to Jacoby, it’s Jubilee time. “America’s racist past is dead and gone,” he proclaimed, and as I read on all I could think is, this is gonna be some funeral.
In a 2009 column, Jacoby wrote about the enduring hatred of anti-Semitism, calling it a mutable and unyielding virus that morphs over time, but never dies. Thank God for black people white racism doesn’t work that way. And apparently, we literally do have God to thank: To hear Jacoby tell it, the recent election of the Rev. Fred Luter Jr., a black New Orleans pastor, to lead the historically racist Southern Baptist Convention isn’t merely a milestone in a long and often tortured American story lived in black and white. Luter’s rise is actually proof positive that this thing we call racism — our original sin, the fire and water of this country’s baptism — is once and for all in our rear view.
My mis-independence was informed by the singleness of many of the women in my life and the way they came together to take care of me and each other, sometimes with harsh words warning me that blackgirls become strongblackwomen, and I better not depend too much on anybody but myself (and, when applicable, them). What they didn’t say was that there is nothing wrong with wanting to be kept, cared for, and loved on. I imagine they didn’t want to get my hopes up so they taught me to be prepared because the ability and luxury of being dependent was reserved for rich women or white women or rich white women and we were none of those things.
The lessons I was given insinuated that I should never tolerate the malfeasance of a man, (as in “you can do bad by yourself”) while watching women, with needs that went beyond money-help or affection, put up with all manner of foolishness from men (as in “do as I say, not as I do”).
The confusion of these childhood lessons are equivalent to the confusion forwarded through mainstream media and hip hop. Last month I wrote about the evolution of a down ass chick, and while an independent woman, like the “good girl” I discussed in the first installment, is in theory the antithesis of the stereotypical down ass chick, I think in a way she can be manipulated into another version of the DAC, riddled with contradictions about being desirable and unwanted at the same time.
The coverage of the event in the Spanish-speaking media provides further information on the ideas behind the Islamic Style festival. Color ABC quotes Abbyasov as reaffirming the idea that Muslim women must be modest and cover everything except their hands, face and feet. Yet, the article highlights the beauty of the collections and the elegance of the models in the runway despite the fact that the article also mentions that some of the clothes were seen as “too tight” and the heels “too high.” Despite the fact that Islamic fashion shows may bring together a number of Muslim designers and models for the sake of offering alternatives to mainstream western clothing for Muslim women, coverage of such events, and the events themselves, perpetuate the idea that it is ok to judge Muslim women purely based on their clothing.
The Color ABC piece also aims to provide a glimpse into the fact that Russian religious authorities are trying to prove that Islam and modernity can interact with each other in a positive manner even through fashion. Terra further quotes the shows spokesperson as drawing the line between Middle Eastern Islam and Russian Islam by explaining that “in Russia we have never had a tradition of black tunics like in the Arab world. Russian Muslim women do not spend their days locked in the houses without talking to anyone.”
Last night, we got a passionate email from reader Denarii about Frank Ocean’s Tumblr post. Denarii writes:
I’m just sending a quick note asking that you guys be mindful of the fact that, although he has “come out” (and even *that’s* possibly arguable), Frank Ocean hasn’t actually come out as anything in particular, from all the accounts I’ve read, including his Tumblr posting. As a bisexual identified person, the media’s erasure is simultaneously disheartening and maddening.
As an organization that I’ve followed for several years and greatly respect for actively attempting to be mindful of the many ways in which oppressed peoples can be made invisible, I know I could’ve just waited and commented on a piece if I felt any erasure was occurring, and understand I hate feeling like I’m being “bossy”, so to speak. But from where I’m standing, if I said nothing and The R posted something that erased the possibility of bisexuality/non-monosexuality, whether I make a comment or not, the damage is already done. I’m not making any assumptions about how he identifies–for all I know, he *is* gay. My only wish is that MSM was as thoughtful and considerate about not making assumptions. Alas, as I’m sure you all well know, things are often made to be straight/gay, black/white, etc. I hate binaries. >_>
Well said. Denarii’s email made me reflect on a few different things. There’s definitely the erasure of bisexuality–while Ocean specifically mentions the women he dated and the man he loved, a lot of reports do just say he’s gay. (Also, his love was also in a relationship with a woman, so there is the possibility that they are both bisexual.) And Denarii was on the mark here–why did coverage default to a binary? Continue reading →
by Guest Contributor Daily Chicana, originally published at Daily Chicana
A few weeks ago, I was at the grocery store buying some jalapeños to make a batch of guacamole. An older white woman watched as I picked several peppers and placed them in a produce bag. “You better be careful with those!” she cheerfully warned.
“Oh, it’s okay,” I smiled, tossing the jalapeños into my cart. “I can handle them. They’re not too hot for me.”
“Well that’s because you’ve got jalapeño blood!” she replied before ambling away.
I stood there for a minute, taken aback at the notion of jalapeño blood. I was unsure of what to make of this comment. Was she a kindly old lady trying to make a silly joke? Or was she making some sort of reference to my skin color and/or ethnicity? I found myself asking, “Is ‘having jalapeño blood’ another way of saying ‘Mexican’?” Continue reading →
by Guest Contributor Aymar Jean Christian, originally published at Televisual
“Oh hark, Alison! The theater calls. Answer! You were a smash in summer stock,” Audra McDonald shouts to her sister, Alison, as she signs autographs and collects flowers.
“I never did summer stock. That was you,” Alison replies, flatly.
“I have so many good reviews, I’ll just give you one of mine,” Audra says. “You just need to lose a few pounds. 30 or…35. Remember when you had meningitis? You were attractive then!”
That’s just the kind of self-deprecating humor audiences can expect from Alison McDonald, a television writer (Nurse Jackie, American Dad, Everybody Hates Chris) and performer whose short films “Alison Is Having a Really Bad Day” and “She Got Problems” have been making the rounds on the web this year.
Both “Bad Day” and “She Got Problems” focus on Alison, playing a version of herself, as she navigates being a single black woman in America. Both feature lengthy and ambitious musical numbers set to classic American songs, like ”Black dudes are a few of my favorite things” (after The Sound of Music‘s ”My Favorite Things”). A sample: ”When the blues strike, and my mood swings, when I’m feeling fat, I think of the sluts of the Flavor of Love, and then I don’t feel so bad!”
McDonald’s story lines are often based on true stories, like in the first and last scenes of “She Got Problems.” “It’s a very personal story…I’m making lemonade out of lemons, as they say,” she said in an interview.
While she identifies as a writer, McDonald, like her sister, also acts, dances and sings quite well, if not as professionally as her five-time Tony Award-winning sister. “I can carry a tune,” she joked. “I’m not tone deaf.”
McDonald said she views the two shorts more as trailers than episodes or installments. She’s pitching the project as either a web series, television or feature film, depending on what generates the most interest. She recognizes she has an uphill battle but is enjoying the opportunity to think outside of the “very small box” of the mainstream media.
“The commercial marketplace is not a very inclusive one,” she said. “Statistically I’m only going to be able to go so far.” Nevertheless she highlighted a number of positive developments for black women in television, film and online, including Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal, recently picked up for a second season; Ava DuVernay’s historic best director win at Sundance for Middle of Nowhere; and Issa Rae’s massively successful Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, now debuting on Pharrell’s iamOTHER premium YouTube channel.
“These are milestones that have only recently been crossed,” she said. “But the fact that Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl has found its audience and is thriving cannot be understated.”
Take a look at the two shorts below!
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World