Category Archives: music

Beyoncé’s SUPERPOWER as a Love Letter to Black Radical Insurgency

A still from Beyonce’s Superpower video via. Entretenimento

By Guest Contributor M. Shadee Malaklou, cross- posted from JesusFuckingChristBlog

In her December 13th article for The Raw Story, A Plea: Remember Beyonce’s Record Is Art, Not A Political Treatise”, freelance journalist Amanda Marcotte — who writes on feminism, national politics, and pop culture — tackles the accusation that Beyoncé’s album is “anti-feminist” (referencing reactions to lyrics like “bow down, bitches”) by reminding us that Beyoncé has produced for us a work of art, not one of politics. …Because if we look closely, her politics are flawed, or so the argument goes. Marcotte faults Beyoncé for “reinforc[ing] the same beauty standards she decries on the records”, but ultimately concludes that Beyoncé is still a feminist because, you know, feminism is messy. Marcotte ends the piece in (what she claims is) a “plea” that not only fails to understand Beyoncé’s feminism, but also functions to silence the Black radical politics of Beyoncé’s work:

I want to remind everyone that music is not a polemical or a campaign pamphlet. Music is art. Art can—should—be messy, contradictory, raw, and emotional. I love that Beyonce openly struggles in her music and in her image between the push-pull of both wanting to embody this kind of feminized perfection and seeing it for the trap that it is. It’s much more honest and human and humane than some kind of bland feminist treatise set to a beat. Beauty is a painful trap to ensnare women, but beauty is also pleasure and it draws you in. Denying these contradictions and presenting ourselves as people who have it all figured out all the time is tempting, but it’s not honest. And it’s certainly not art, which is supposed to reveal, not conceal. Just a small plea from me to remember that we’re talking about an art form, not a political treatise, as we tear into the lyrics, beats, and imagery that Beyoncé just turbo-launched into the public.

In one short paragraph, Marcotte manages to remind us why white feminism fails (still) to address the experiences of Black women as women; and in the same stroke, disaffects us — as a viewing public — from our identification(s) with Beyoncé as a woman of color. As an ideology, (white) feminism demands that women identify (and rally) as women first, and as bodies of color second, or better yet, last. Marcotte forecloses on the overdeterminacy of Blackness in an anti-Black world, and underestimates Beyoncé’s commitment to (what I am going to suggest here is) an insurgent, Black political future.

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Quoted: Eat the cake, Anime: On White Cluelessness (and Beyoncé)

“If that name is a Miley Cyrus pseudonym I’m going to bed. Dang, it’s getting feminist up in this track.”
Naturally, “that name” refers to Chimimanda, whose contribution you later dismissed as an annoying “soundbite.” Okay.
Teachable Moment Two: Learn about a culture other than your own.
Look, White Writerperson, I imagine your cozy Cave of White Clulessness is comfy and fantastic. I’m sure it has central air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter and a friendly, well-dressed Negro gentleman at the door to help you with with a smile when your non-burdens get too heavy to bear on your own. And all the coleslaw and unseasoned chicken one could ever want, I’m sure. Color me relieved envious, really.
But here’s where you get to be a good Privileged Person and learn about a culture other than your own. I know Chimamanda, a Regular Black Person Who Isn’t Doing Anything Worth “Borrowing,” isn’t a pop culture icon. But do yourself a favor and look her up. She wrote Half of a Yellow Sun, for fuck’s sake.

To suggest that Miley would dig deep enough into the barrel of Blackness, doing overtime at the Appropriation Station to adopt a Nigerian pseudonym is telling: You, too, know how serious your skinfolk take their culture vulturing. It’s a full time job. So vast, our Sea of Awesomeness, right?

Teachable Moment Three: Learn how influence works.

French fries do not influence potatoes. Britney does not influence Janet. Justin does not influence Michael Jackson. Lessors do not influence The Great Ones. Similarly, Miley Cyrus does not influence Beyoncé. Now bite your motherfucking tongue.

To say such a thing is akin to saying that the car influences the paved road on which it travels. The Great Ones Blacked Excellently so that the latecomers could siphon that Black Excellence for profit and Blackpoints. Not vice versa.

–  ”Eat the cake, Anime: On White Cluelessness (and Beyoncé),” by Alexander Hardy originally posted at Thecoloredboy.com

 

A Muslimah’s Guide to Rocking the World

By Guest Contributor Amina Jabbar, cross-posted from Muslimah Media Watch

Growing up as a queer-identified South Asian Muslimah and a survivor of domestic violence, I’ve occasionally felt that merely existing was, in and of itself, an act of rebellion. But I’ve been fortunate. I’ve not only survived, but thrived, now living the life of a resident physician.

I can’t take all the credit for where I am because, simply put, I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. Through my life, I’ve consistently found media depictions of Muslim women and others engaging in daily acts of resistance to subvert and redefine the predominant discourses about Muslim women. These people and stories form a series of lessons to which I give credit for the awesome trajectory of my life. Here, then, are my seven lessons for a Muslimah’s guide to rocking the world.

Lesson #1: Our commitment to social justice reflects our commitment to faith.

It’s easy, I think, to get lost in the textual analyses of faith alone. The Qu’ran and hadiths are, after all, rich, deep, and complicated. But in an incredible interview on Vimeo, Amina Wadud makes a distinction between being a servant of God and an agent of God.  She talks about how her focus on the Qu’ranic meanings alone wasn’t enough; that being an agent implies an obligation to actively live in ways that are consistent with principles of social justice. Wherever and whenever there is injustice, we’re obligated to challenge the status quo.

Activist Fanta Ongoiba. Image via The Star.

Lesson #2: Some principles are worth being unwaveringly unapologetic about.

Our social and political positions may not always be popular. In general, I’m all for compromise but, occasionally, there are principles that are and should be “non-negotiable.” With the non-negotiables of life, even when the going gets tough, there should be no sidelining, shifting, or redrafting of the message. Easy to say, difficult to do. But Fanta Ongoiba, executive director of Africans in Partnership Against AIDS in Toronto, makes it look slick. Sexual health and HIV remain hushed, tabooed  topics within many Muslim communities. Ongoiba’s work , recently honored by the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, provides real space and fills a real need, no matter the response from religious leaders. As a Toronto Star article put it, “at an international conference, one sheik called her a ‘troublemaker,’ a label she embraced” and to which she also responded “ I’d prefer to be a troublemaker to wake you up.”

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Día De Los Muertos Video Special

By Arturo R. García

With All Saints Day & Día De Los Muertos approaching, Mayitzin’s 2012 look at the holiday is worth a look for anybody curious about how the tradition has evolved into the day of rememberance we know today. (Also, the musical selection that opens the video, the 4th Movement of “Noche de los Mayas” (Noche de encantamiento) as performed by Mexico City’s Philharmonic Orchestra, is definitely a compelling choice.)

Meanwhile, Pocho.com’s Sara Inés Calderón prepared a quick, 3-step process for doing your nails calavera-style, as part of her recent series of videos centering on Halloween.

Lastly, because the legend of La Llorona still rings out around this time of year, two versions of the song that bears her name, beginning with Chavela Vargas:

And a rendition by Lila Downs:

Video: Jay Smooth and W. Kamau Bell discuss homophobia and hip-hop

By Arturo R. García

I thought W. Kamau Bell’s interview with Jay Smooth was worth sharing and getting our readers’ impressions.

After some talk about Kanye West’s run-in with Jimmy Kimmel and the appearance of a White Jesus character at the first show of West’s new tour, the discussion turns toward the LGBT community and hip-hop, and Jay acknowledges the generation gap at work — while acknowledging the presence of LGBT rappers — in commercial circles.

“There’s a sort of old-fogey, anti-gay Tea Party contingent among hip-hoppers my age,” Jay tells Bell. “They see the tide of history turning against them, so they’re becoming this really loud, freaked-out minority who thinks that our culture’s going to lose its moral center if people are openly gay or wear skinny jeans and things like that.”

Jay also name-checks James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin and points out that the modern LGBT rights movement began with a “bar fight” — the seminal encounter at Stonewall.

“There’s nobody more gangster than the LGBT community,” Jay explains “If they knew their history, like, Rick Ross would be pretending to be gay instead of pretending to be a drug lord.”

Racializens, your thoughts on the interview?

Spirit Day Special: Women and the Word Takes The Show On The Road

By Arturo R. García

The documentary Women and the Word would be worth spotlighting any day, but it’s an especially good time to consider it on Spirit Day. The all-woman project spotlights a group of queer women artists as they hit the road for a series of shows that, as the trailer promises, has “an energy, an attitude, a swag, that’s never been seen before in literary art.”

Filmmakers Andrea Boston and Sekiya Dorsett’s follow visual artist Elizah Turner, musicians Be Steadwell and Jonquille “SolSis” Rice and poet (also known as Dappho the Flow-Er), T’ai Freedom Ford, as well as executive producer and “tour mastermind” Jade Foster, who called the nine-city series of shows “The Revival,” after a 2009 gathering that gave Foster the idea to put it together as a showcase and safe space for queer women of color. The film also features interviews with Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Kim Katrin Crosby, and members of the Earth Pearl Collective, among others.

The project is also currently raising funds on Kickstarter to cover the final $15,000 in post-production costs, an all-or-nothing campaign that ends on November 12.

“A successful Kickstarter campaign is critical, not only for the creation of our film, but for the advancement of queerwomen of color,” Dorsett says. “Our beautiful stories should be included in the cultural discussion and shared by members of our community and beyond. We exist. And our voices must be heard.”

Quoted: David J. Leonard On “Frat Rap” And The New White Negro

 

Image via act.mtv.com.

Image via act.mtv.com.

In 1957, Norman Mailer spoke to the existence of the “white Negro,” an urban hipster whose fascination and fetishizing of blackness resulted in a set of practices that reflected a white imagination: part cultural appropriation, a subtle reinforcement of segregation, and a desire to try on perceived accents of blackness. “So there was a new breed of adventurers, urban adventurers who drifted out at night looking for action with a black man’s code to fit their facts,” he wrote. “The hipster had absorbed the existentialist synapses of the Negro, and for practical purposes could be considered a white Negro.”

As the Princeton University professor Imani Perry has noted, “there is a sonic preference for blackness, the sounds of blackness, but there is a visual preference for whiteness in our culture.” It should come as no surprise, then, that white rappers are slowly beginning to dominate the college music scene with the ascendance of a genre that can loosely be called “frat rap.”

While similarly embracing hedonistic pleasures, the idea of frat rap positions these artists apart from those other artists, those of color, who may offer a similar style and performance. Akin to going uptown during the jazz era without having to leave the confines of white spaces, frat rap is nothing new. Whereas the other rap purportedly celebrates violence, sexism, and materialism, and pollutes hearts, frat rap is fun. What happens in college stays in college.

Historically white colleges remain immensely segregated. The growing popularity of frat rap, which has seized upon the power of online technologies and the stigmas associated with (black) hip-hop, continues not just a history of appropriation and the idea that blackness is merely a culture or an aesthetic that can be borrowed or purchased at the local dollar store; it also continues the American tradition of segregation that is a cornerstone of American colleges and Universities.

–From “Frat Rap And The New White Negro,” The Chronicle Of Higher Education: The Conversation” 8/29/13

Twerkin’ in the USA: On Big Sean and Miley Cyrus

by Guest Contributor Lima Limon of LimaLimonArt

Can’t see the video? Here’s a basic transcript:

I’d like to call this blog “Twerkin’ in the U.S.A.”

Now, lately Miley Cyrus has been putting herself ass first into the hip-hop scene. And you won’t guess where that ass showed up next. Big Sean has this song called “Fire,” and I like this song. You know, he raps about overcoming adversity and manages to avoid saying “ass” 30 times for the chorus. SO the message and the lyrics are nice and the beat is pretty on point to match it.

Then there’s the video, which is basically just Miley Cyrus in different slightly revealing clothes, some fire and an exploding flower. Now the visuals are dope and Miley Cyrus is attractive, but that doesn’t really have much to do with the actual song itself. Oh but luckily he explains via Twitter. He says “Miley is symbolic of strong women overcoming heartbreak.”

Vato, you ain’t fooling nooobody with that shit. Let’s be honest that’s not why you did it. Cause plenty of actresses, models, stars, whathaveyou could’ve easily filled that metaphor. Megan Good, Adriana Lima, and apparently Levy Tran is down to do whatever type of music video gig.

So I will give it to you, those visuals were sick and at the very least you didn’t use an exaggeratedly muscular WWE create-a-wrestler version of yourself for your music video. (see Kanye West’s Blkkk Skkkn Head music video) But let’s be real. Big Sean. Miley. Y’all used each other. Sean, you used Miley Cyrus for the fact that she’s currently a buzz word in pop culture right now. So what did Miley get to use from this? Continue reading