Sunday, August 29, 2010


"in a space before time and words, the world was covered in a thick blanket of darkness. it was a warm and loving covering. since it was hard for the spirits who inhabited this space to see one another they learned to live by and through touch. so if you were running around lost you knew you were found when arms reached out in that loving darkness to hold you. and those arms that held the spirits in that beautiful dark space before time are holding us still.

this is a little origin story i made up. i thought of it one day when i was trying to explain to a little brown girl where the babies lived before they were born-so i told her they lived in this world of loving darkness. i made up this story because i wanted this little brown girl to grow up dreaming the dark and its powerful blackness as a magic space she need never fear or dread. i made it up because i thought one day this little brown girl will hear all sorts of bad things about the darkness, about the powerful blackness, and i wanted to give her another way to look at it. i held her hand, just like my father's father, Daddy Jerry, a man who worked the land, who knew the earth was his witness, had once held my hand in the darkest of the summer nights and taught me that the blanket of night i was scared of was really longing to be my friend, to tell me all its secrets. and i reminded her, as he reminded me way back then, that those arms that first held us in that dark space before words and time hold us still. "
~bell hooks
Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Color Complex

while white racists had never deemed black people beautiful before, they had a higher aesthetic regard for racially mixed black folks. when that regard took the form of granting privileges and rewards on the basis of skin color, black people began to internalize similar aesthetic values.” ~bell hooks

The color complex. Seems like a slightly trivial aspect to the struggle, but it can be, as its name suggests, complex.

Crunk Feminist Collective wrote a really interesting post about the color complex entitled the Huey Newton Complexes as well as a follow-up entitled More Musings on Melanin (or lack thereof). Very enlightening and definitely a must read. My homegirl Yvette linked me to this youtube video entitled Complexion Obsession. Marita Golden also wrote a really good book about the color complex called Don't Play in the Sun that’s definitely a must read as well.

I think it’s really important for all black people to understand the workings of the color complex because it IS racism; it is the inferiority that we have been forced into; it IS the superiority that those with lighter skin have designated themselves. If we do not understand the ways in which favoritism and preference for lighter skin can wreak havoc in our communities, then it is arguable whether we can truly understand the workings of the apartheid that has pushed us to the undesirable end of the racial spectrum. If those of us in the black and brown communities cannot admit our individual privileges, then how can we expect whites, males, and the upper class to admit their privilege?

Not only that, but how can we progress as a community unless we all admit that the color complex is perpetuated every day in our community?

how many people do you see or hear perpetuating the color complex that more and likely have no idea where it comes from? Friends on my facebook update their status all the time with comments like “ain’t nuthin better than a light-skin chick…” or “I love me a light-skin girl”. What? and rappers who only want light-skinned girls or girls of other ethnicities in their videos…and men who only date light-skinned chicks…and people who unconsciously think only dark skinned men are violent…and…and….and. yet these people have typically never asked themselves why they have this preference.

although the color complex is maintained by colored people on other colored people, it is not a cause, but a symptom of a society based on a racial hierarchy. it's not just about wanting to be white. it's about status, about wealth, about health, about nearly anything positive you can think about. for too many centuries and in too many colored nations, whites have been the ones in power, making the decisions, and making the most money. when the United States was early in it's formation, ethnic groups that weren't white or black (Asians, Middle Easterners, Pacific Islanders, etc. ) tried for years through legal means to be considered white. being white wasn't/isn't just about aesthetic preferences (nothing is ever really just about aesthetics), it was the difference between being free and being doomed to slavery; between owning land and not; between having legal rights and not.

i think we can all benefit from having a discussion about how the color complex and converse about things some of us maintain it in our sexual or relationship preferences (brothers or sisters who only date light-skinned people), our ideas of beauty (all the people you want to be with and the people you wish you looked like are all light-skinned), our speech (comparing dark skin to negative things like dirt, coal, stained, tar), our stereotypes, etc. when was the last time you heard someone say "you're pretty for a dark-skinned girl"? or heard comments about the beauty of a female that only describe her light skin? or hear a mother tell her children to stay out of the sun for fear of getting dark? i think we need to start collectively probing and questioning these manifestations of colorism.

"why can't she just be pretty AND dark-skinned?", "why are all the females you like light-skinned?", "yo i fucks with your album....but why aren't there any sistas YOUR skin tone in the video, Rick Ross? whats really good, Wale?" "i like playing in the sun, mom, what exactly are you afraid of?"

heres a video (in 3 parts) about the color complex in Southeast Asians.

and some good spoken word by a rad sister.

here is one about the notorious doll test.

and a really good video about it from some intelligent brothers (when they aren't being homophobic and anti-reproductive rights):

comment. think. criticize.

this post is kind of everywhere, but hopefully the links i provided will fill in some of the gaps.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fractal Patterns in African Societies

Ron Eglash talks about fractal patterns in African societies. VERY interesting.
it's also really interesting that he says he's started teaching it in schools in Ghana and surrounding areas because its nice to know that your history isn't just about singing and dancing. which is very very true and telling about the ways in which we've come to learn about Africa and African history.

Monday, August 23, 2010


in protest of the protest of the building of a mosque near ground zero (two blocks away, to be exact), i wanted to show some photos of some beautiful mosques. freedom of religion is one of the most important laws in the United States law code and why anyone would want to compromise that is beyond me. to the protesters, most of which are xenophobic racists, i say "suck it". if you want to protest something, protest the fact that the government still hasn't told us all there is to know about 9/11 or the fact that many people still suffering medical issues caused by 9/11 are having to pay their own medical bills.
that is all.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Breast Ironing

as i mentioned in the last post, there was a video on the blog i frequent about breast ironing that seems like a very interesting and troublesome issue. the Huffington Post also did an article about it. here is another article that goes more into detail and personal anecdotes.
in another post, i mentioned meeting with the women from the Black Women's Blueprint. at this event, someone else mentioned breast ironing, and i got a little more info on it.

apparently, young girls in Cameroon are beginning puberty and developing breasts earlier than they have in the past. the rate of sexual assault among young girls is high (is high in most all countries, even the United States), and their mothers do this in order to stop or hold off sexual assault.

now, if you look at the comments from the blog, you'll see the type of foolishness i was referring to, but you'll also see the typical western response to this problem ("those people are just crazy"). but issues like this are never that simplistic.

one of the leaders of the Black Women's Blueprint group mentioned that this is a practice that happens in the Caribbean as well as countries in Africa and is done not only to ward off unwanted sexual advances, but also to keep a girl in school. in some of these parts of the world where this is practiced, girls may stop going to school once they hit puberty, and this is done to prolong the education. and while these journalists and health organizations do a good job of discussing the process of breast ironing, actually filming girls' breasts being ironed and tell the perspective of the mothers, it does not highlight the bigger issue here. and that is sexual assault.

someone at the group meeting where this was discussed also mentioned that the age at which these girls are getting their breasts ironed do align with the age most girls get sexually assaulted, not just in Cameroon, but even in the United States. this article goes in depth about different perspectives concerning the practice and the criticisms. it's easy to point the blame at the mothers and female relatives that are doing the actual breast ironing, but i think it should be pointed at society at large, ours included. the Cameroonians as well as our and many other societies put the responsibility on the female sex as opposed to encouraging males to control themselves (which is more psychological than physical arousal, considering rape is more about control/power than it is about sexual pleasure). we can see that in birth control pills being marketed to almost exclusively women and the new Rape-Axe that came out in South Africa.

why are they/we not discussing the rates of sexual assault, the laws in place (or lack thereof) to deter these types of assaults, or the types of protection offered to women that have been sexually assaulted? there are plenty of people looking to stop the practice of breast ironing, even petitions happening online now, but where is the discussion to urge their government to protect these girls once their breasts do fully develop, their hips spread, and they begin to be attacked?
here are some statistics on sexual assault in Cameroon.

comment. think. criticize.

The Book of Night Women

i just finished reading probably one of the best book i've ever read before. ever. and its fiction. and i almost never read fiction. someone i follow on Tumblr mentioned The Book of Night Women by Marlon James to me. i ran across it at the library and was hooked.
here is the author's synopsis on the book (i love his voice):

there is so much to this story.
Obeah is practiced by many of the main characters in the book. the religion of colonized people is always of source of interest for me, and this book goes into some slaves killing other slaved though Obeah and the ignorance the whites at the time had about it. theres also a part in which Lillith gives her account of the "white god/religion" thats quite comical and simplistic and i wonder if this is the way Africans first viewed Christianity. here's more on Obeah.

West Indian history:
Marlon James is an author from Jamaica, and the book is written in Jamaican slang. some of the words i had to read a couple times in their contexts to know what they meant (like "unu" and "combolo"). i've come to love the West Indian accent, although it's looked at the same way american slang (or Ebonics) is looked at. theres an essay written by James Weldon Johnson about Negro Dialect and how he thinks it should be used more often in contexts other than those that degrade us, but also of how it has served to reinforce stereotypes. and i really like how not only the characters in the book used this dialect, but also the narrator.

black/white and black/black relations:
Lillith considered herself and was called by everyone a "nigger"; a slave. but her father was a white slave driver whom everyone knew was her father because she had his eyes. this man was a horrible human being, but often stopped others from whipping her. she also fell in love (which was mutual) with a white man....although he was still out killing, selling, and whipping blacks all while he was in love with a black woman. crazy and confusing and backwards, but probably quite close to the reality at that time.
it also showed relations between blacks. Maroons were groups of escaped African slaves that lived in the mountains of West Indian islands. i'm not sure how historically accurate this is, but in the book, Maroons often times caught and returned runaways back to their slave owners in exchange for money or food. so, on top of having to fight whites for their freedom, they were also having to fight (or sometimes be killed by) other blacks. sometimes slaves were having to kill other slaves who wanted to be white more than they wanted to be free.

looking overall at the way in which Marlon portrayed men and women, i'd say this is a feminist novel on all accounts. the real, hardcore, leaders, heroes, protagonists were women. the women were the ones leading the rebellion on the estate, meeting at night, plotting, scheming, killing the slaves who would snitch and screw up the rebellion. while the men were just bystanders who had no idea what to do with freedom had they had it.
while the rebellion was getting under way, one of the women leading the rebellion walks in on two or three black men raping the white mistress of the plantation. to which she says "We fighting for freedom and all you want to free is you breeches."
when a woman had been raped or beaten, it was other women that were putting cloths on the wounds, making teas to ease the pain and cutting up special fruits to induce abortions for the other women.
at the end, the rebellion comes to be named after one of the male slaves who was believed to be intelligent and mischievous enough to plan a rebellion. this in he book is really just an example of how all of history has been. white males who had/have power holding history to their patriarchal, Eurocentric perspective. i wonder how many times in the history has a story been told of some type of rebellion named after and credited to a male when in fact women were the backbone; the leaders; the doers?

this book is sooooo good. and it was just written last year! personally, i think it should be listed among the greats of the slave novels like Uncle Tom's Cabin and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. seriously, read this book.

comment. think. criticize.

Friday, August 20, 2010

the non-religious community

heres a link to a blog i frequent. they have really interesting stories and videos that i like to see. however, the comment sections on these blogs reiterate the exclusivity i feel within the non-religious community.

i am finding it more and more difficult to be a part of this "non-religious" community. i am non-religious and have been for some time now. however, as i learn more about the past of people of color, of women, of any group of oppressed people and am coming to want more kinship with colored communities, the more exclusive the non-religious community seems to be.
most (probably 95%) of non-religious individuals are western, white, upper/middle class males; basically the most privileged group of people of the planet. besides sharing thoughts on theology and some concerning some religions...i have nothing in common with these people.

you'll see on this blog, the only time someone of color is featured in a clip (with the exception of Ayaan Hirsi Ali....who is becoming more and more euro-centric everyday) is when they're ironing their daughter's breasts down with hot stones (which, by the way, has nothing to do with religion or non-religion....why it's on the website is highly questionable)or chanting in some remote jungle....while the readers respond saying someone needs to go help these people (someone- i.e. white and western with no connection with the cause, but feels the need to help them because they can't possibly help themselves. help- i.e. be taught that their ways are barbarous and shown the "right" ways one should live).
most of these non-religious individuals have rejected Christianity, and assume that most other theistic religions are close to or similar to Christianity. which is not really the case (Islam and Judaism are Abrahamic religions as Christianity is, but they have many many MANY differences from their text to their cultures to their histories) and thats among Abrahamic religions-Hinduism, Shinto, Baha'i, to name a few, have even fewer similarities. so when they see some random traditional African religion.....instead of realizing that there is MUCH to learn about any/all traditional religions, they categorize it with Christian zealots and apply the same criticism to them both. as if religions and cultures should all be held in comparison to western standards. in addition, they think they know all there is to know about the religion of some indigenous society from some youtube snippet of a small group of a denomination of a religion practiced by .0001% of the population of this one country!
i am so over euro-centrism.

comment. think. criticize.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

black folk DO travel

being a lover of travel shows, i was happily surprised to discover with Nelson George who travels to various places domestic and international and mentions some interesting things that may suit the traveler of color. most black people just don't tend to travel as much as many want to (and/or should). whether that has to do with financial limitation or fear of an unknown territory is up for debate.
many people of color like to live within the confines of what they think someone of color do or don't do ("black folk don't hike; kayak; rock climb; go to Japan; eat sushi....etc.). it may be an attempt to define a culture in a society in which our culture has been defined by typically white people or left undefined....but it's serving as yet another limitation. eventually those sentiments will turn into "black folk don't live; don't enjoy life; we just survive..."

heres somewhere i plan on travelling to (so beautiful):

check out his videos to Bejing, Rome, and Kingston.

comment. think. travel. do something outside the race box/status quo.

may my love lift you up to the place you belong

Saturday, August 14, 2010

its bigger than HIP HOP

yesterday i met up with the Black Women's Blueprint to help plan an upcoming event about women in Hip Hop; an event that will hopefully open up some much needed dialogue.

getting together with these women is like sitting in on a history lesson, a live Oprah show, a BBC news broadcast and a local library lecture all at the same time. theres always something new i learn....about the state of affairs, new statistics that no one's talking about because they're about people of color, a different legitimate point or opinion on a recent topic in the news, to....different positions on why Wyclef Jean is running for president of Haiti and whether or not he has the skill to handle it. it's just an all around inspiring and enlightening space to be in with amazingly intelligent women to learn from.

we watched a film that may be shown at the event entitled 'Say My Name' and there was much conversation to be had. this film showed nearly every black female rapper that is out or has been out (from MC Lyte and Monie Love to Remy Ma and Jean Grae) and interviewed them on what they thought about being female in the industry.

there is MUCH to be said about Hip-Hop. so much so that i don't really even want to go into it in this post. the biggest issue is that it has become synonymous with "black culture", not just to whites who know nothing about our culture (whatever that may be...) but also to many black people. consequently, how much stake does/should society have in other people's children; in society as a whole?

for example, when 5 out of the 10 female rappers raps about how fast and good she can have sex along with making money by any means necessary (regardless of the dignity or lack thereof involved)and these women are influencing many many young girls to act as they do as well as many boys and men that this is how women are supposed to act....when do we take it out of the parents' hand, and tell the artist that they need rap with a higher level on conscience than they have??
a little over a third of the families in the Unites States are single parent families. something like 90% of those are headed by females who tend to (still) make $.80 to every man's $1. when this is the case, and many of these women are over worked, under paid, then many a times the child's role model goes to those they see in the media (although nearly every child feels some level of media pressure). when do we start holding not only parents accountable for their child's negative views (such as seeing all women of color as sexual objects as they are shown in most hip hop vidoes), but also artists, producers, record company execs, tv show hosts, and news media outlets?

think. comment. criticize.

and just to be clear, here's one example of the video i'm referring to that produces negative views. and here is one by a female artist that produces the same type of misogyny as well as the breakdown of simple sisterhood.
but to end on a positive note (because, while i have many issues with it, i do LOVE hip hop), there are a good number of conscious rappers who strive to promote positivity, love, sisterhood, self-respect, political consciousness, community, constructive criticism and constructive dialogue. and a favorite from a female rapper that never gets enough credit:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Carrie Mae Weems

Carrie Mae Weems is am amazing artist. her subjects speak to me. i also like how she took the daguerreotypes and put a level of...revenge in them. and i like how she combines poetry to her pieces to add another dimension.
some pieces from 'The Kitchen Table Series':

and some from the 'From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried':