Category Archives: Racialicious Crush Of The Week

Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Beyoncé (With Shout-Outs To Tina Turner)

By Andrea Plaid

Beyonce Knowles-Carter. Via wallpapersbest.net

Beyonce Knowles-Carter. Via wallpapersbest.net

I find myself increasingly defending someone whom I otherwise wouldn’t look around at or wouldn’t listen to: Beyoncé.

I haven’t converted to listening to her discography: To me, she sounds like every other Black female soloist in a Black church choir, so her voice–her timbre and melisma–isn’t unicorn-unique to my ears. In fact, I find it gratingly common because I heard so many women with her voice every Sunday from the age of five to my late twenties; Beyoncé just has a better production team.

And, as I’ve said on the R, her female-empowerment messages aren’t my feminism:

[S]ome of folks who see Bey as “girl power” may have never heard of Valenti or may even want to be bothered with her writings or what they perceive to be “white feminism” that she embodies. Bey is their feminist text and their idea–and ideal. And whatnot…On the real though, Bey is not my sort of feminism–and that’s not blasphemous to say. Then again, neither were the Spice Girls…or the Riot Grrls, for that matter. And I remember folks tripped on each of those pop-cultural “generations” of feminist representations, too, trying to figure out their effects on younger people.

Feminism is rather malleable as each generation figures out what it means to them, even when we’re fighting the same old battles.  Or because of them.

And let’s not forget Beyoncé now-notorious photo layout in French Vogue, which she said was an homage to “African queens in the past” and “African rituals”:

Beyonce Blackface 5

And I was quite happy to leave Beyoncé to her ideas about race pride and “girl power” with a genuinely heartfelt “bless her heart”…until Harry Belafonte came along.

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Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Strong Families’ “Still Wading: Roe At 40″

By Andrea Plaid

Forward Together‘s Strong Families Movement curated a superb commemoration of Roe v. Wade‘s 40th anniversary this week. Of course, the organization showcased fantastic work by artist-activists like Dr. Kortney Ryan Ziegler

Still Wading DRKRZ Design

“Still Wading” by Dr. Kortney Ryan Ziegler.

 and Favianna Rodriguez.

Share Your Abortion Story by Favianna Rodriguez.

Share Your Abortion Story by Favianna Rodriguez.

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Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Restaurant Opportunities Centers United’s (ROC United) Videos

By Andrea Plaid

You know I love the hell out of something or someone when I have to write a second post about it/them.

In my interview with Crush alum Yvonne Yen Liu, I posted this video ROC United co-founder Saru Jayaraman showed at Facing Race’s “No Justice, No Peas” panel that Liu moderated:

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Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Heidi Renée Lewis

By Andrea Plaid

Heidi Renee Lewis. Courtesy of the interviewee.

Heidi Renée Lewis. Courtesy of the interviewee.

Once again, Mark Anthony Neal–aided and abetted by one David J. Leonard–committed the kindness of introducing me to another cool-ass groove in African American-ness, this time on his Facebook page in the form of Heidi Renée Lewis and her post on Li’l Wayne and his politics of cunnilingus.

After reading her smart essay–and seeing how she dealt with some fooligan respectability-politics criticism in the thread about her post being fluff under the guise of an academic-sounding title–I had to be friends with her. We friended, and I’ve been deep into her brilliantly funny loving-The-Community commentary on vids about gospelizing over chicken, praise leaders losing their shoe trying to be cute and jumping on cheaply made tables, and people doing the Robot at church services (among other ones) ever since. Hanging with Heidi is like hanging with that one wild-ass play cousin whose pithy ongoing social commentary has you holler-laughing for days.

In other words, totally Crush-worthy.

Of course, I talked to Dr. Heidi…but I had to talk about her lively ass, too! Check out what I said to Crush alum Tamura Lomax about our latest one…

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Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Isaiah Wooden

By Andrea Plaid

Isaiah Wooden (left) with Joe Morton. Photo: courtesy of the interviewee.

I met Isaiah while I was staying at the home of a mutual friend who seems to gather all who are Black and brilliant into his orbit. Isaiah being a native Baltimorean, I was able to chat with him about the physical and socio-economic layout of what I could see of the city when I was there for the Facing Race conference in November. Considering that he’s this week’s Crush, you know I find Isaiah rather amazing, and I’m all about sharing the amazing in this column, right?

So, here’s Isaiah, in his own words…

Isaiah, my first question is: whatcha studying at Stanford that pulled you way away from the East Coast?

First, I have to say: it is such a pleasure to be in conversation with you again! I so deeply appreciate the work that you are doing at Racialicious and, indeed, in the world. To answer the question: I am currently a doctoral candidate in Theater and Performance Studies (T&PS) at Stanford, where I am in the throes of writing a dissertation entitled, The Afterwards of Blackness: Race, Time and Contemporary Performance. The project begins with the premise that one of the more urgent questions to emerge in what has been theorized as the “post-soul,” the “post-black,” and/or the “post-civil rights” era is: what is the time of blackness? Attending to examples of expressive art, I analyze the aesthetic strategies and practices that several contemporary black cultural producers deploy to dramatize the deeply intertwined relationship of blackness and time and, correspondingly, to critique concepts of normative or modern temporality. The project, in many ways, is reflective of my broader teaching and research interests in twentieth and twenty-first century dramatic literature, theory, and criticism; performance studies; African American studies; (black) queer studies; and popular culture. It also evidences my continued engagements with both theory and practice: I have been fortunate to direct a number of the plays that I take up in the dissertation.

Part of what drew me to Stanford in 2008, in fact, was the T&PS Department’s integrative approach to the study of theater and performance. Stanford has been tremendously supportive of what I call my “directing habit” and, indeed, has provided wonderful opportunities for me to flex both theoretically and creatively during my tenure. I was reminiscing just a few days ago with the brilliant playwright A-lan Holt, a recent Stanford alum, about the time we spent in Kampala, Uganda devising a new performance piece that I staged, along with a colleague, at the National Theatre there. As you might imagine, it was a transformative experience. Beautifully, I have had many similar experiences since venturing westward.

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Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Tamura Lomax

By Andrea Plaid

Tamura Lomax. Photo: courtesy of the interviewee.

You may have seen the R’s cross-postings from The Feminist Wire (TFW), that brilliant collective of mostly writers of color doing their intersectional thang on topics like Black women’s self-care in academia, forums on World AIDS Day 2012 and voting, and–in full disclosure–an interview with one of the R’s staffers. (I’m telling you–it’s a treat of a lifetime to be interviewed by one of your heroes.)

So, mutual admiration is fair play.

I got to interview the great brain behind TFW, Tamura Lomax. Her bona fides: she’s the Assistant Chair and an assistant professor of African American Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her work has been featured at, among other spaces, Religion Dispatches. She’s working on a co-authored book about the Black feminist/womanist reponses to Tyler Perry’s work and a book on Black feminism and Black cultural production. And she’s just hella fun to clown around with online, which, of course, has led to some hush-hush plans for a future academic conference.

I’ve said too much already about the event. Here’s Tamura…

The Feminist Wire is a heck of a collective of some of the best minds thinking about the intersections of race, gender. sexuality, bodies, politics, etc. How did you gather such a great group of people and, more interestingly, why and how did you start the blog?  

The Feminist Wire began as a concept in 2010.  Hortense Spillers and I were working on my dissertation and we thought it would be neat to write something together—two black feminists working across generations.  At this time, she even referred to me as a younger version of herself.  We were definitely similar in terms complexion and hairstyles and–as we learned later–personalities.  Her work and writing style definitely informs my own.  Our initial idea was to write some sort of peer-review essay for academia.  However, when the Shirley Sherrod incident occurred, we knew it was our time to put pen to paper–or, in my case, fingers to keyboard.

We wrote the essay, “Shirley Sherrod: Open Letters Between Two Frustrated Feminists, Hortense Spillers and Tamura Lomax,” which was a critical call-and-response about Sherrod, of course, but also black women and media.  We shopped the essay, hoping to get it published at theroot.com.  However, no one responded.  Frustrated, we decided to “create our own damn site” so that we could publish what we wanted when we wanted.  Due to timing, we published the essay on my now defunct webpage, tamuralomax.com, and began charting our path toward The Feminist Wire.

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Racialicious Crush Of The Week, Facing Race Edition: Yvonne Yen Liu

By Andrea Plaid

Yvonne Yen Liu. Photo: courtesy of the interviewee.

Like I mentioned at the Facing Race roundtable yesterday, the “No Justice, No Peas” panel left a deep impression on me because it addresses what otherwise great food-movement documentaries like Food, Inc. and Forks Over Knives sometimes touch on but tend to erase entirely: the food workers of color who do the incredible work of bringing the food–both organic and non-organic–to USians’ palettes and gullets and how deeply economic exploitation and racial injustice not only affects their lives but the lives of their families and neighborhoods. (The Storified version of the panel is here.)

Pretty prescient and very relevant, considering the current fast-food workers strikes.

I just had to vibe with the panel’s brilliant and passionate facilitator, Yvonne Yen Liu, who’s the outgoing Senior Research Associate at the Applied Research Center (the people who bring you the Facing Race conference and Colorlines) and the incoming Director of the Global Movements at WhyHunger. We chatted about not only how she found her way to food justice but also how that issue intertwines with race, racism, sexism, and labor justice, and how one journalist cluelessly said that the food movement isn’t a social justice issue.

I know. I know. Read on…

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Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Junot Diaz

By Andrea Plaid

If we had to pick a Racialicious poster boy–that aphrodisiac of sapiosexuality–Junot Diaz would be it.

Junot Diaz. Photo: Carolyn Cole. Via Los Angeles Times.

The R’s Owner/Editor Latoya Peterson says this about his book, The Brief Wonderous Life Of Oscar Wao:

My eyes drank in every word of “Wildwood,” the second chapter in Junot Díaz’s novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. On the plane from Baltimore to Austin, the narrative gripped me solidly by the throat, turning a casual curiosity about Oscar into a desperate longing to hear more from his sister Lola.

When the plane touched down, my sweatshirt was crunchy with the salt from shed tears and I had run through six napkins while the story unfolded. I grabbed my bags, and called my boyfriend who had been badgering me about reading the novel for some months now.

“Why didn’t you mention Lola?” I asked.

“Who? Oscar’s sister? Why is that…oh.” His voice suddenly bloomed with recognition and we sat in silence for a few seconds.

In all the reviews I have read about the novel since I finished the final page, the character of Lola is generally a footnote. Described as a beautiful girl, or a troubled girl, or Oscar’s sister, the strength of her narrative and her story seem overshadowed by the book’s focus – obviously, Oscar – or by the story of her mother, Belicia, the beautiful prieta who seemed forged partially from the steel intended to break her into submission. And yet, to me, Lola’s story was the most compelling, reflecting back in stark focus so many emotions, trials and ideas that were intimately familiar to me and the other girls I knew growing up.

….

Because in the book I read – as in life – the men in each of these women’s lives were not central figures. There are men, yes, and Oscar is the unifying force in the narrative, but the people Belicia and Lola were involved with were not the point unto themselves. The men stood for the method of escape. With the exception of The Gangster and Yunior, all the men in the book that Lola and Belicia were involved with were ways to get the hell out.

Lola’s boyfriend Aldo is the method to escape her mother. Sure, she loved him. Kind of. But reading through the lines, the catalyst for her leaving with Aldo was that he asked to her to come live with him. Sex was part of the travel cost. As I have written before, a guy is the easiest way to escape a fucked up family life.

But this easily overlooked difference belies the true genius in Oscar Wao. It isn’t just a documenting a fictionalized account of the things that happen in our real life communities. The book shines in how Diaz fills in what would normally be an outline, and shows us the after. Or more appropriately, how Diaz demonstrates how there ain’t no happily ever after. There are just choices and consequences.

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