Category Archives: women of color

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Black Glamour Power: The Stars Who Blazed a Trail for Beyoncé and Lupita Nyong’o

A 1960s promo shot of The Supremes, featuring Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, and Mary Wilson.

By Guest Contributor Lisa Hix, adapted from Collectors Weekly

Nichelle Gainer knows a thing or two about glamour: She spent most of her career working for magazines like Woman’s Day, GQ, Us Weekly, and InStyle, with a focus on celebrity, fashion, and grooming. But her true passion is fiction, so she decided to write a novel about black beauty pageants in the 1950s, partially inspired by one of her two glamorous aunts, who was a model in the 1950s—the other was an opera singer who rubbed shoulders with the biggest celebrities of her day.

Looking for newspaper articles on her aunt, she discovered a whole world of history that hardly ever bubbles to the surface: stunning, well-dressed African American stars celebrated in the black community, and sometimes even in the mainstream. Gainer put her fiction work aside to focus on these real-life stories.

Eventually, Gainer started a Tumblr and Facebook fan page, both called Vintage Black Glamour, full of gorgeous images that rarely make it into the public consciousness. While her novel went onto the back burner, her web sites drew the attention of a London publisher, Rocket 88. Gainer’s first book, a nonfiction coffee-table tome about women celebrities, Vintage Black Glamour, which will come out this September, can be preordered now.

We spoke with Gainer over the phone, and she explained to us the stories behind the photos she’s found, why glamour is important, and why Vintage Black Glamour will be more than just a collection of pretty pictures.

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Quoted: White Teenagers Offended, World Stops

Lawrenceville School Student Body President Maya Peterson’s “Lawrenceville boi” picture. Image via Buzzfeed.

One of Peterson’s first acts as president was to institute a “diversity representative” on the student council board to eliminate tension on campus when talking about race and gender issues. But her diversity initiatives were not widely welcomed; a push for gender neutral bathrooms was particularly controversial. And Peterson herself was viewed with suspicion by a significant number of students, mostly white and male, who opposed her candidacy from the start.

Some even thought the school had rigged the election so that a woman would win; only two women served as student body president before Peterson. “There was outcry for Lawrenceville to release the voting data for her presidency, because popular opinion was that she was not actually elected,” said David, a 2014 graduate. “I’d still like to see those numbers, is all I’m saying.” (The numbers were, in fact, released.)

The backlash to her election led to personal attacks. Shortly after Peterson was elected, an anonymous student sent the dean of students photos of Peterson using marijuana. Soon after, the school received more anonymous information that alleged Peterson had posted racist tweets about a Sikh student. In a school-wide meeting, Peterson apologized for the photos and the dean of students clarified that the racist tweets were fabricated. Still, many students believed she wasn’t right for the position.

“There was too much controversy around Maya,” said Rob, a rising senior. “We didn’t really want a president who breaks school rules. It isn’t a representation of who we are.”
– “What Happens When A Prep School’s Black Student President Mocks Her White Male Classmates” by Katie JM Baker, 6-30-14

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In Her Own Words: Dr. Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

Author, poet and educator Dr. Maya Angelou, January 1993. Photo by Getty Images via achievement.org

I thought I would be a poet and playwright. Those were the two forms I really enjoyed. I made my living as a journalist, of course, but I thought that I would just stick with those and I would become better and better and better. But in ’68 … I was at a dinner — now this is name-dropping, but these were the people — James Baldwin had taken me over to see Jules Feiffer and Jules’ then-wife, Judy Feiffer, and we talked all night, and I really had to work very hard to get a word in because they’re all great raconteurs.

The next day, Judy Feiffer called a man who is still my editor at Random House and said, “If you can get her to write an autobiography, I think you’d have something.” He phoned me a number of times, Robert Loomis, and I said, “No, I’m not interested,” until he said to me, “Well, Ms. Angelou, I guess it’s just as well that you don’t attempt this book because to write autobiography as literature is almost impossible.” So I thought, “Oh, well, in that case, I better try.” Well, I found that’s the form I love. I love autobiography. … It challenges me to try and speak through the first-person singular and mean the third-person plural.

NPR, 1986

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Our Canada. Our Women.

By Guest Contributor Bailey Reid, cross-posted from Medium

Trigger Warning: This piece discusses rape

Last week, we saw incredible mobilization worldwide for the #BringBackOurGirls movement. We had Michelle, Malala, and just about every other person on my Facebook feed sharing the information, demanding action, and questioning the lack of media coverage about this tragedy.

In the midst of this, the RCMP quietly released a second number about missing girls. But rather than the generally accepted 600 Aboriginal missing women, they casually mentioned Canada actually has closer to 1200 missing or murdered Aboriginal women. This is not to say at all that Aboriginal women are more important than Nigerian women, or that missing girls in any scenario is acceptable. It isn’t. It is never acceptable to have anyone hurt or missing, simply because of their gender. But Canadians were indignant, horrified, and saddened by the missing Nigerian girls — while our own First Nations, Métis, and Inuit women continue to suffer in silence and isolation.

There was an emergency debate in the House of Commons on Monday to discuss the Nigerian girls. We have yet to see an inquiry about our Stolen Sisters. Why aren’t Canadians demanding action on our own soil about our missing girls? They are being sold into sex slavery too, and the numbers are four times that of the missing Nigerian girls. Why don’t our Indigenous women have their own viral hashtag? Where is the outrage? Where are their memes?
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#BringBackOurGirls: Protesters Worldwide Rally For Nigerian Kidnapping Victims

By Arturo R. García

A protest calling for the location and rescue of more than 200 abducted Nigerian girls is scheduled for Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. local time at the Nigerian embassy in Washington D.C. as part of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, CNN reported.
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After Sterling: Why the U.S. And The NBA Won’t Enter A Post-Racist Era Anytime Soon

By Arturo R. García

They might be loathe to admit it, but good cheer likely wasn’t the only reason so many people connected to the NBA were so quick to declare Tuesday morning the final chapter in Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s relationship with the league. The problem is, the league’s own mechanics all but ensure that won’t be the case. And that’s just on paper.

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Voices: RIP Karyn Washington, Founder of For Brown Girls (1992-2014)

By Arturo R. García

For Brown Girls founder Karyn Washington.

The online social justice community suffered a sobering loss with the death of Karyn Washington, who created For Brown Girls and the #DarkSkinRedLip Project, Clutch Magazine reported late last week.

Adding to the shock was that Washington, whose work helped uplift her fans and readers and raise necessary conversations about the unfair beauty standards pushed on communities of color, reportedly took her own life at just 22 years of age, after struggling with depression following her mother’s death last year. Her passing has not only inspired conversation about her work, but about the struggle facing many of our communities and mental health.

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Quoted: “Black Girls’ Zero-Sum Struggle”

Sasha and Malia Obama, image via Salon.com

Black women remain caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of hyperinvisibility and invisibility. Everyone thinks that they know everything there is to know about us, but based on facts alone, very little is actually known. And what we don’t know can hurt us – is hurting us. What we fail to acknowledge is that images of black and brown women drive a startlingly large amount of social policy. Disdain toward supposedly irresponsible black and brown women – welfare queens as those on the right derisively call them – is at the heart of the right’s continued unfeeling push toward austerity. This same disdain toward disproportionately black and brown female wage laborers undoubtedly informs the national resistance to raising the minimum wage. Images of “dastardly” brown women crossing our borders illegally in order to drop anchor babies drives immigration policy.

And the exceptionalism of Michelle Obama and her daughters frankly doesn’t help matters. Black women themselves become complicit in this pushing of ourselves to the background, marshaled there by our mythic belief in our own strength, our unresolved traumas over fathers who failed to meet expectations, our self-sacrificial love for black men, and our deep desires to respectably conform to the American nuclear ideal. Michelle Obama makes many black women long for this return to tradition.

There are no easy answers here. Black and brown men’s needs and lives matter. And I’m glad we have a president sensitive to those needs. But as Mychal Denzel Smith argued, “The path to equality for Black and Brown people [cannot be] to uphold patriarchy.” And as Dani McClainargues, it seems that women and girls simply have no place in this new set of initiatives.  Beyond the problems of using personal responsibility and philanthropy as models to solve a deeply systemic set of social problems, the failure to imagine the struggles of men and women of color as linked together is perhaps the most short-sighted aspect of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

“Black girls’ zero-sum struggle: Why we lose when black boys dominate the discourse” by Brittney Cooper via Salon.com; March 6, 2014