I recognize the women in this preview: these women were me when I was growing up. The kids at my mostly black Catholic school called me just about every black-related perjorative ever since 3rd grade, letting me know and telling others within my earshot that I was physically inferior solely because I was dark-skinned. I even remember a boy in my 7th grade class drew a picture of me being nothing more than a solid black square. Even though the same kids voted me 8th grade class president…I was still considered in their estimation an ugly (vis-a-vis my skin tone) girl. Even had the only boy who was my boyfriend (we were in 8th grade) dump me for a lighter-skinned and younger girl, to the mocking laughter of the lighter-skinned students.
My mom—a dark-skinned African American herself—told me something that didn’t make any sense through my woundedness: “You know those light-skinned girls people think are pretty in school? Wait ‘til you’re grown and see where you’re at and where they’re at.” Added to this was my mom’s constant admonition to “get an education.” Well, sure enough, what my mom said came to pass. I’ve had photographers approach me and ask to photograph me. I had lovers of various hues—even had a husband. (He was white.) And women of various hues, races, and ethnicities have given me love on the streets, at the job, and at workshops.
I’m not sure how—or even if—some of the women in the clip worked through the pain some black people have inflicted on them. But, instead of the usual devolving, derailing, and erasing conversations of “that’s happened to me, too, though I’m a lighter-skinned black person!” (that’s a thread for another post) or “it wasn’t me! I’m a down black person!” (will be met with an exasperated eyeroll)…it would be a really good thing to simply listen to these women’s truths, as uncomfortable–sometimes, as implicating–as they may be.
I met filmmaker Faith Pennick when I lived and went to school in Boston. At the time she was promoting her film, Silent Choices. I traveled to the Big Apple to interview her for my now-defunct ‘zine when the Republicans decided to hold their convention and several New Yorkers weren’t having it. Just on the passion for her flick, I even tried to host a viewing/fundraiser for it. As people and life go, we lost touch.
Forward several years and my move to New York City. I reunited with Faith the other night at the full meeting of the reproductive-justice organization SisterSong NYC. Faith announced to the group her award-winning film is getting a free showing online today.
Her film addresses a rarely covered topic: Black women discussing their own experiences with getting abortions (trigger warning):
I can’t recommend Silence Choices highly enough, especially in light of how others are trying to dictate how Black women should feel about exercising our reproductive rights and are trying their damnedest to make sure we don’t have access to reproductive options. But just don’t take my word for it. This is what Professor Dorothy Roberts, author of Killing the Black Body, has to say about the documentary: “Silent Choices explores not only black women’s personal and political struggles around reproductive freedom, but also the complexities of abortion too often ignored by the mainstream media. Silent Choices is essential viewing for students, scholars, and activists interested in reproductive justice for all women.”
For more information about Faith, her work, and more on Silent Choices, click here.
When we embrace our curvy bodies, we’re told we’re fat. When we accept our thin frames, we’re accused of lazy or bad cooks. We’ve been charged with nursing and caring for the children of our white employers from Antebellum times through today, but we’re constantly being portrayed as bad mothers. We put a weave in our hair trying conform to a beauty standard that has nothing to do with us and we’re still called “nappy-headed hoes”. When we go to school, get degrees and a career, we’re “un-marry-able”. If we work and have kids early instead of going to school, same thing happens. When we or others decide to celebrate us, white women scream out “REVERSE RACISM” but we have to comb through 50-11 magazines with white women on every page to find ONE with a Black woman on the cover. We bare it all in a video or keep condoms in our nightstands and we’re called sluts. We dedicate ourselves to The Church or are decidedly single and we’re prudes or “bitter”. All too often, we are forced to choose our race over our gender or risk feeling the wrath of our Brothers, despite having to live with the realities of both. From Saartjie Baartman aka “Venus Hottentot” to Satoshi Kanazawa’s “scientific” study claiming Black women being less physically attractive than EVERYBODY else, we’ve been studied like freaks of nature instead of just regarded as human beings with the same value as all others.
We’re pretty much damned if we do, damned if we don’t. So, the stereotype of “The Angry Black Woman” is rooted in a very visceral truth. We’re tired of this shyt. Stop telling us to stop getting upset. Stop telling us to not be mad despite having to deal with this crap ALL THE TIME. Why are we supposed to put up with this reckless disregard for our humanity with a smile on our face? Because we’re women? Because we’re Black? Please, miss me with that bull. We are HUMAN first. This anger is righteous and all ignoring it and the causes of it will do is create a dyspeptic breeding ground for spiritual, psychological, social and physical dis-ease.
The May 2011 cover girl for ESSENCE magazine this month is none other than one Wendy J. Williams, the woman the Black gossip blogs love to hate and misgender.
Like I’ve said in previous posts on this subject, some of you Black folks need to buy a vowel, pick up a science book and get a clue that transpeople exist in all colors and sizes and aren’t going anywhere.
Note for the ignorantly clueless: Some of my transsisters are petite size 8 pump wearing fashion divas, so don’t get it twisted..
We are all blends of genetic material and characteristics from mommy and daddy. A little less testosterone in the womb and some of you so called ‘men‘ attacking Wendy would be rocking her dresses and pumps.
You also need to get a clue that it’s not cool to do what whiteness has done to the images of Black women for centuries and participate in the denigrating of the mothers of humanity. It’s even more repugnant to me as a proud African descended transwomen to see Black people (or alleged online Black people) deliberately misgendering Black women they don’t like.
But some of you are too stupid or insecure about your own gender identity and sexual orientation issues to get that point.
Toni Bond Leonard, President/CEO of Black Women’s Reproductive Justice BWRJ), said this about it (from RH Reality Check):
“The groups behind these heinous attacks upon Black women care nothing about Black children or the Black community. These are some of the same groups who fought against healthcare reform and oppose government safety net programs that would directly benefit Black women, our families and our communities.”
“This billboard and the twenty-nine others they plan to erect are offensive to Black women and the Black community, overall. We saw them cowardly placing the billboards in the dark late last night. These billboards are painting an abhorrent image of Black women as perpetrators of a plan to eradicate the future Black race.”
“That they would place these billboards in the Black community with such a despicable lie is reprehensible. It also must not go unnoted that they placed the billboards on the side of a building facing a vacant lot filled with garbage and broken glass. This only further shows their disrespect for Black women and the Black community that all they could think to do was put up billboards telling us Black women are preventing future leaders from being born. What about highlighting the need for economic resources to remove garbage-filled lots in urban areas and creating safe communities.”
And, according to BWRJ, Life Always, the anti-choice group who placed these billboards around Chicago’s South Side, is backed up by the same funders who are down with Sarah Palin. o_O
“African-American women tend to have more chronic illness and disease. So in terms of having just basic health maintenance and well-woman care, when women get a general health assessment and exam, many things get discovered, like undiagnosed hypertension and diabetes and all of those basic primary health care needs. Usually, Planned Parenthood helps get that patient to someone who manages chronic illness. So 15 percent of our patients are African-American women. Many are often uninsured, and programs like Medicaid and Title X allow those women to have access to basic health screenings.
“If they didn’t have Planned Parenthood, where they could come to be seen on a sliding scale, or where we might be the only agency in their region that takes Medicaid, or where many African-American women have their medical home, you are destabilizing the safety net that many people of color rely on. A hit on Planned Parenthood really becomes a hit for African-American women.”
~~Dr Willie Parker, Medical Director of Metropolitan Washington DC’s Planned Parenthood. Read the rest of the interview here.
I guess I’m not the only one who found the solemnity-yet-randomness of the Black History Month Minutes in my youth a tad ridiculous. I understood why the segments were needed and learned a lot from them–and still found my hand in front of my giggling mouth. The comic troupe Elite Delta Force 3 may have felt the same way.
By Guest Contributor Alona Sistrunk, cross-posted from HairPolitik
When I was in eighth grade, my English teacher asked each student to place five items in a box that best represented him or her. In my box, I placed a pair of scissors, a brown crayon and three other items I’ve long since forgotten. When it was time to present my “Alona box” to the class, I pulled out the scissors and cut off a piece of my weave! Holding the borrowed hair next to my heart, I professed my undying love for weave. That day, I knew that other people’s hair would always have a special place in my heart!
As I made my way back to my seat, amidst much applause from ALL of the black girls in the room, I felt conflicted. With the same zeal it took to love and publicly praise other people’s hair, privately I hated and damaged my own. Even at the tender age of thirteen I knew that didn’t make sense. The fact that I hated my kinky hair is remarkable since I’d hardly ever seen it! It was always chemically straightened or hidden underneath a barrage of ever-changing weaves. Since all I knew about my hair was that it was “bad”, not having to “deal with it” was quite alright with me.
As I grew older, my love affair with extensions grew even more complicated. How could I continue to despise the thought of “freeing” my naturally kinky hair while at the same time wholeheartedly embracing weaves (read: straight and loosely curled hair) with an almost obsessive devotion. How could I become the strong black woman that I wanted to be, that I claimed to be, if I hated who I was made to be? By the time I reached college, shouts of betrayal from the few black women who were “brave” enough to “unleash” their natural hair made me question my authenticity even more. They asked, “Why do you hate yourself, Sistah? Why are you trying to be White-something you’re not? Why don’t you embrace who you are and let your natural self show?”