Tag Archives: black

Quoted: Kiese Laymon On Slowly Killing Yourself And Others In America

I enroll at Jackson State University in the Spring semester, where my mother teaches Political Science. Even though, I’m not really living at home, everyday Mama and I fight over my job at Cutco and her staying with her boyfriend and her not letting me use the car to get to my second job at an HIV hospice since my license is suspended. Really, we’re fighting because she raised me to never ever forget I was on parole, which means no black hoodies in wrong neighborhoods, no jogging at night, hands in plain sight at all times in public, no intimate relationships with white women, never driving over the speed limit or doing those rolling stops at stop signs, always speaking the king’s English in the presence of white folks, never being outperformed in school or in public by white students and most importantly, always remembering that no matter what, white folks will do anything to get you.

Mama’s antidote to being born a black boy on parole in Central Mississippi is not for us to seek freedom; it’s to insist on excellence at all times. Mama takes it personal when she realizes that I realize she is wrong. There ain’t no antidote to life, I tell her. How free can you be if you really accept that white folks are the traffic cops of your life? Mama tells me that she is not talking about freedom. She says that she is talking about survival.

One blue night my mother tells me that I need to type the rest of my application to Oberlin College after I’ve already hand-written the personal essay. I tell her that it doesn’t matter whether I type it or not since Millsaps is sending a Dean’s report attached to my transcript. I say some other truthful things I should never say to my mother. Mama goes into her room, lifts up her pillow and comes out with her gun.

It’s raggedy, small, heavy and black. I always imagine the gun as an old dead crow. I’d held it a few times before with Mama hiding behind me.

Mama points the gun at me and tells me to get the fuck out of her house. I look right at the muzzle pointed at my face and smile the same way I did at the library camera at Millsaps. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

“You gonna pull a gun on me over some college application?” I ask her.

“You don’t listen until it’s too late,” she tells me. “Get out of my house and don’t ever come back.”

I leave the house, chuckling, shaking my head, cussing under my breath. I go sit in a shallow ditch. Outside, I wander in the topsy turvy understanding that Mama’s life does not revolve around me and I’m not doing anything to make her life more joyful, spacious or happy. I’m an ungrateful burden, an obese weight on her already terrifying life. I sit there in the ditch, knowing that other things are happening in my mother’s life but I also know that Mama never imagined needing to pull a gun on the child she carried on her back as a sophomore at Jackson State University. I’m playing with pine needles, wishing I had headphones—but I’m mostly regretting throwing my gun into the reservoir.

When Mama leaves for work in the morning, I break back in her house, go under her pillow and get her gun. Mama and I haven’t paid the phone or the light bill so it’s dark, hot and lonely in that house, even in the morning. I lie in a bathtub of cold water, still sweating and singing love songs to myself. I put the gun to my head and cock it.

From “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: A Remembrance” by Kiese Laymon, published on Gawker. Read the rest.

Is It A Good Time To Be ‘Black & Sexy’?

by Guest Contributor Aymar Jean Christian, originally published at Televisual

In one episode of Black & Sexy TV’s The Couple, Dude and Chick bicker over space in their small bathroom. In another they have a tit-for-tat over what side dishes to order with lunch. Two people, one location and a common scenario comprise most episodes of The Couple.

“It’s about two people living together. Doesn’t matter what their names are. Doesn’t matter how old they are. Doesn’t matter where they live. They could be anybody,” creator Jeanine Daniels said when I met up with her and the Black & Sexy team in Los Angeles last month. “Anybody could relate to them.”

Welcome to black television during the rise of YouTube, or at least that’s the hope of Dennis Dortch, director of 2008′s A Good Day to Be Black & Sexy and creator of the YouTube channel Black & Sexy TV.

Television today is brimming with black sitcoms. TV Land just premiered The Soul Man with Cedric the Entertainer and Niecy Nash, new networks like Bounce TV are already showing original scripted programs and older networks like BET are ordering more (and more channels are premiering every year). None of these shows have been as buzzy or relevant as classic series from the Eighties and Nineties, from The Cosby Show to Martin. They’re passable and pleasurable, but few could be called new or innovative.

Maybe it’s because our 300-channel universe demands fresher, fleshier shows, and here the web is picking up steam. Web showrunners are innovating largely out of view of cable network executives, from the diverse oeuvre of Al Thompson to the roaring success of Issa Rae’s Awkward Black Girl, now releasing its second season on Pharrell’s premium iamOTHER channel.

Black & Sexy TV has spent the past year carving out a clear niche amidst rising competition among black web series: focusing on artsy realism that shares more in common with Louie than Let’s Stay Together.

“I really wanted to showcase black people in a certain way. Black is beautiful,” Dennis Dortch said. Continue reading

Quoted: Miss Navajo Nation Radmilla Cody

The Root: The experience of having your Miss Navajo Nation reign challenged calls to mind the debate over the Cherokee Freedmen. Is this a common issue across the Native community, of African-Native Americans having trouble finding acceptance?

Radmilla Cody: I grew up having to deal with racism and prejudices on both the Navajo and the black sides, and when I ran for Miss Navajo Nation, that especially brought out a lot of curiosity in people. It’s something that we’re still having to address as black Natives, still having to prove ourselves in some way or another, because at the end of the day, it all falls back to what people think a Native American should look like.

But there’s been many times when people have said to me, “Oh, my great-great-grandmother was an Indian.” I’ll ask them if they know what tribe, and they don’t. It’s very important because in order to be acknowledged as a tribal member, you have to be enrolled. So I can see where Native people are protective about defining who’s a tribal member, and are questioning of people claiming Native ancestry.

TR: Were you surprised by the backlash that you received?

RC: I wasn’t surprised. I knew it was going to happen. Right before I left to go to compete in the pageant, my grandmother sat down with me. She said to me, “My child, I just want you to know that there are going to be some people who are not going to be accepting of this.”

Growing up, I was taunted at school with racial slurs and would come home in tears. My grandmother would be there, waiting to console me. She always said, “Let ‘em talk. You are a Navajo woman. This is your land. This is how I raised you. You be proud of who you are.” Every time, that’s what she would say.

So this day before the pageant, when she cautioned me about people who wouldn’t be accepting of me participating, I turned around and told her, “Let ‘em talk, Grandma. I’m a proud Navajo woman, remember?” She had a big smile on her face. I think she felt content that I was ready for what I was going to be challenged with.

TR: Do you have any connection to African-American culture and community?

RC: I spent more time in the Navajo community growing up because my grandmother raised me. When I would come into town in Flagstaff, Ariz., to see my mom, who had black friends, and my dad’s relatives, I was in the black community more. I went to high school in Flagstaff, and one day a friend was wearing a T-shirt with a big “X” on it. I said, “That’s cool! I should get one that says ‘R’ for Radmilla!” I didn’t know anything about Malcolm X. He told me to join the black student organization. I had a lot to educate myself about and embrace, because I come from two beautiful cultures.

In the black community I also had my challenges. I was always told, “You think you’re cute because you got that long, fine hair,” and I would have to stand up for my Navajo side because of stereotypes placed upon the Navajo. When I’d go back to the Navajo community, I would have to stand up for my black side because of stereotypes.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Image credit: unieketrouwringen.nl

A Racialicious Halloween: Target Shopping Edition

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

From the same store that stays sold out of Princess Tiana dolls (especially the green-gowned ones), from the same store that stays sold out of the latest Black Barbies (I was lucky I got this one, button not included)….

DSCN1248

I saw this display for some Target “Spook-tastic Savings”….

DSCN1369

Which is fine–I still watch and collect DVDs, even though they’re becoming an obsolete medium–so I’d purchase some…until I saw exactly what was on sale.

DSCN1370

If my photo’s too blurry or the print too small, my deepest apologies. I tried surreptitiously to take the photo.  What’s on the shelf:

The BrothersThe Color PurpleDiary of a Tired Black ManEve’s BayouThe Five HeartbeatsGifted HandsGood HairPurple RainMenance II SocietySchool Daze…

…to name a few.

To those who may not know:  “spook” is a racial slur for Black people.

To answer the question of where I saw this, the display was in a Target in downtown Brooklyn, NY, where a large number of its on-floor staffers are Black and has a very racially and ethnically diverse customer flow.

Of course, we can talk about intentions–the usual variations of “they probably didn’t mean it” that I heard from a couple of customers–but the impact is the continued perpetuation of an single old stereotype, even with a display of new(er) and varied representations of Blackness.

Just in time for the holiday.

I called over a sales associate, a very sweet young Black man.

“‘Spook’ is an offensive term referring to Black people. Having ‘spook-tastic’ and Black films together can be considered offensive.”

He looked at the display with surprise and apologized. “Oh really? I’m so sorry.  I’m not in charge of the display.”  He looked at it again, the “aha” moment spreading across his face.

“Is there a manager? If you want to let the person know…maybe I can speak to him or her?”

“Sure.” He found a manager in the next aisle.  He discussed the situation with her and came back to me.

I said to the sales associate, “Maybe you can find some horror films to put up on the display, which would be more appropriate. But “spook” and Black films…just nah.”  When I finished what I said, the manager peeked her head around the corner.

I walked away to try out my iPod on a display stereo to see if music was coming out of one speaker just on my speakers or if it was just jainking up on other equipment.

When I left the store, the associate, the manager, and a security guard gathered around the display, discussing it.

ETA: The sign was changed to something about their “low price promise.”  And I purchased a green-gowned Princess Tiana doll.

Photo credits: Andrea (AJ) Plaid

Is Black Queer Back?

by Guest Contributor Aymar Jean Christian, originally published at Televisual

In Brooklyn one night in May I was treated to my very first performance from Monstah Black, an artist who defies categorization, but whose show I would characterize as part-rock concert, part-live art theatre, with a black queer bent. Despite my awe I managed to divert my eyes long enough to dwell on the audience, mostly avant-hip black Brooklyners, but with two notable exceptions: indie filmmaker and artist Hanifah Walidah and, looking a touch out of place, internationally renowned artist Chuck Close.

I started thinking that something rather trendy was going on. Monstah Black seemed to be just one of a several black artists, performers and personalities working today trafficking in what he calls “genderfuckery.” (Though maybe I was just flush from an unusually art-glamorous day at internationally renowned artist David Salle‘s salon with such art world luminaries as Dana SchutzAmy Sillman and Eva Respini in attendance!).

Has black queer (and, in many cases, black androgyny) come back in style?

Continue reading

White Teacher Kicks out Black Student over Hair-Care Product

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea Plaid

Natural Black HairI could barely contain my rage when I saw this item:

In Seattle, Wash., a white male teacher had an 8-year-old African American girl removed from the classroom. In most cases, children are removed for behavioral and disciplinary issues, which is clearly understandable and acceptable; however, this wasn’t the case here.

The teacher removed the girl, claiming her Afro was making him sick. Naturally, the father of the child, Charles Mudede, was extremely concerned after the incident, and, as a result, the girl, who was the only black child in the advanced-placement class, has missed two weeks of school.

The incident, which occurred at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, was featured on KIRO-TV. The segment showed the hair product the girl used, Organic Root Stimulator’s Olive Oil Moisturizing Hair Lotion, as well as interviews with her mother and lawyer.

Checking out Afrobella’s Facebook page, I found the link to the original story filed by reporter Tonya Mosley, in which she interviewed the student’s mother, the lawyer taking the case, and others:

Bellen Drake still can’t believe she’s here, at a news conference with the NAACP, fighting to get her 8-year-old daughter back into honors classes - all because of hair moisturizer.

“I couldn’t comprehend it. I was trying to make sense of it and it took awhile,” said Bellen.

Bellen says late last month, the teacher pulled her daughter out of class at Thurgood Marshall Elementary and into the hallway.

“My daughter reports that she kept saying she’s afraid and it’s your hair and that she could go to another class for the rest of the day.”

Bellen says the school never contacted her about it, but instead removed the girl from her honors class and into a regular classroom.

“This is about the conduct of an adult and the ramification of that conduct by the principal,” says Vonda Sargent, the family’s attorney.

Someone who reblogged the quote from my Tumblr blog responded that the student’s father, Charles Mudede, has been writing about the situation.  Come to find out the white teacher in question was a white woman, not a man as first reported:

[Just] last week, my daughter—who is 8 and happens to be the only brown person in her Accelerated Progress Program class at Thurgood Marshall Elementary—was ordered out of the classroom because her teacher did not like the smell of her hair. The teacher complained that my racially different daughter’s hair (or something—a product—in the hair) was making her sick, and then the teacher made her leave the classroom. My daughter was aware of the racial nature of this expulsion not only because she was made to sit in a classroom that had more black students in it (the implication being that this is where she really belongs, in the lower class with the other black students), but because her teacher, she informed me, owns a dog. Meaning, a dog’s hair gives the teacher less problems than my daughter’s human but curly hair. Most white people do not have to deal with shit like this. Shit that if not checked and confronted will have permanent consequences for the child. Continue reading

Black Hulu: Creating a Home for Independent Black Video

by Guest Contributor Aymar Jean Christian, originally published at Televisual

When new technologies emerge a host of new companies tend to sprout up. Tons of independent radio stations catering to diverse interests before 1970s-style deregulation. Digital technology brought dozens of new channels to television; that same technology fostered numerous production companies making independent TV and films. Now the drive to create original web video — a trend that dates back to the late 1990s, but has gained new steam with broadband and YouTube post-2006 — has attracted  new voices previously unheard. We have corporately produced web series, but also black web series and series made with virtually no budget at all.

Well, that’s great. But how do you distribute and promote all these shows and videos? Anyone can create a video, but if, like my YouTube videos, nobody sees them, then there isn’t much a point. Sure, decently endowed websites now fund and promote web shows. But what about black content, in many cases prone to smaller audiences?

Enter the sites pictured above. Entrepreneurs, keen to the problem of distribution, have created sites where folks looking for black content can go. Surprisingly it looks like all these sites are coming out around the same time — now.  As noted in my article in The Root, BET.com is just now getting into the market for original web shows; there’s been a lack of visibility from major black media companies. In my interviews I found numerous black producers didn’t know of the other black shows debuting online. Continue reading