Of Course ‘They’ Snubbed Beyonce! And Here Is Why.

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Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is becoming a force of nature, with her Sara Baartman hips. From a pretty young woman with this power in her throat and heart, to this dynamic, sentient, vibrant, and culturally aware and present Black woman. Isn’t this what an icon is supposed to be –and become?

I have watched her progression from Destiny’s Child to her own grown woman. While not signing on or applying to the Beyhive, but I do work PRN for it. I have cheered her, been a Stan of hers–officially–after the release of Lemonade. After the experience of listening to Lemonade.

There was a pure pride I carried for her. Not a worship, not a reverence. But a pride. The same pride I felt when I learned that Cleopatra was Black. That Queen Nzinga was not a figure of my imagination. That Queen Hatshepsut became a Pharaoh due to sheer wit and brilliance. It was a sense of knowing there is a woman who looked like me–not bound by narrow societal imagination.

Although she wears the privilege granted to the beautiful, the cis-het and wealthy, Beyoncé is still a Black woman in an industry dominated by White men. The people that create award shows like the Emmys and Academy Awards, do not resemble the men that look like Beyoncé’s father.

For all her achievements, all her influence, for as far as her reach, she is still a Black woman. Playing a rich, White man’s game–laced with avarice and malice. Which chokes out love.

Knowing this, I am not surprised she was snubbed for an Emmy this hear. I am not, was not, shocked when she lost the Grammy for album of the year to Adele!

For all her power, the industry fears her. Those she inspires behind her. They fear her.

This light-skinned, country-talking, beautiful Black woman, descended from slaves, Texas plantation soil and Louisiana Creoles–is one of the most influential Black women in history.

In. History.

And money has not taken her Blackness. It has not refined her speech, vision or daily reminder that she is both Black and woman.

Why would the owners of the master narrative acknowledge such an accomplishment? The fierce representation and preservation of culture!

Why would the master acknowledge the slave?

The worlds and spheres Beyoncé’s inhabits, that she orbits, she spins, are still determined to remind her of limitations. Her weaknesses. How Black everything about her is, and how detrimental Black motherhood and mogul persists are!

How acknowledgment is equivalent achievement. That should be good enough.

Separate, but equal.

In the face of that, Beyoncé still creates. She still makes space. She now Mama and Nala and the creative power of The Gift. This is the resilience of Black women. The wisdom of the artist is what James Baldwin admonishes: “The goal of the artist is to disturb the peace.”

The wealth and worth of an artist is, nor will ever be, measured by people to whom they differ. The value of their work will not be held on the high esteem of people–haters and critics–insistent on ignoring it.

The wealth and worth of artists is most often awarded through the grace of time. The earnest nature of creativity. Through harsh critique becoming acknowledgement. As it was said by John Wilmot, the brilliant (and debauched) Second Earl Of Rochester in the movie The Libertine (portrayed by Johnny Depp):

“Your critics will come in two forms. The stupid and the envious. The stupid will love you in five years. The envious never will.”

Let time factor which we all will become.

[images from Netflix, Apple Music and Pinterest]

Denise. Carol. Cynthia. Addie Mae.

*On Sunday, September 15, 1963 in Birmingham, AL four Black girls were ripped from the world at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. All four are pictured here: Denise McNair, Carol Robertson, Cynthia Wesley & Addie Mae Collins.

 

 

Four little girls, ripped from the world.

All Black, all precious, forever little girls.

The right of life stolen

In favor of all things White

And hung to remind those

Whom were not of their places.

Their lives to be counted at

Fodder, kindling, for

The Fire Next Time,

This time.

As they were found together,

So we find ourselves the same,

Among the rumble of loss,

We still remember their names.

Cynthia. Carol. Denise. Addie Mae.

Forever together, forever this way.

Four little girls ripped from the world.

All Black. All precious. Forever little girls.

-(c)JBHarris, 9.15.2019

The Women You Least Expect

Author Note: I am a cisgender, heterosexual woman married to a cisgender heterosexual man. As a woman acknowledging my own privilege, I can no longer be silent about the murder of transwomen, especially Black transwomen.

I am a fan of two specific YouTube Channels: JahairasMission and DiamondStylz. In finding out these women were trans, didn’t allow me to see them any different. What the vessel of YouTube has allowed is for me to remember this life is not the same for everyone you meet.

In becoming more vocal about this issue was time and personal reflection. I am a fan of Jahaira–she called me her sister in a video she did. I follow Diamond Collier on social media, including the podcast Marsha’s Plate. I adore Janet Mock! And POSE on FX?

YASS. More. Please!

Am I aware of the brutality facing Black transpeople? Transwomen especially? Yes. It is abhorrent to me now as a Black woman, whom is writer and mother, to not say anything! To not add my voice to this conversation. I believe it is in poor taste to love POSE, and not speak out about the murder of Black transwomen.

You cannot have ugly cried when that John killed Candy on POSE and be silent. This is not to say that I’ve been unaware of these murders till recently. No, quite the opposite! What I have done is allowed Black transwomen to lead this conversation. I acknowledge my privilege as a cishet/cis-het woman.

Some spaces just ain’t for me to be the lead voice.

But in listening to Diamond on her podcast Marsha’s Plate, in appreciating everything Janet Mock does, I had a gut check. I don’t celebrate these women as mere Black transwomen. I celebrate them as Black women. That was powerful! In seeing that, recognizing it, I was compelled to say something about the murder of Black transwomen.

With that acknowledgment, I remembered what Diamond said about transwomen needing allies. And, how cis-het women can be trash about being allies. The women whom look like me, whom come to their Black womanhood a different way, need my voice. Not to overtalk or over take, but to add power.

As of this month, there have been 19 Black transwomen murdered in this nation. This is a pandemic! You cannot, should not be allowed to kill someone based on how they believe, need and choose to walk through the world!

I am tired of these arguments that say these women aren’t women, but men. I am tired of hearing transwomen are out here tricking or catfishing men! In weary of the gay-panic defense! Like Ilan Nettles in New York who was murdered: she was clocked by a group of young men and one of those young men killed her! Why? The young men he was with told him that she wasn’t a woman, but a man.

And he killed her!

The disconnect. The callousness. The ignorance.

I understand the part toxic masculinity and patriarchy play in these crimes. Which is why silence about these matters is detrimental! This goes beyond treating someone as you would like to be treated. It goes beyond keeping your hands to yourself.

This pandemic is at fever pitch! Black transwomen are being killed for existing! Existing! And murdered under the guise of ‘I was tricked’ or ‘I’m not gay’ or ‘She a whole man.’ Like that justifies anything!

Pro-tip: it doesn’t!

If I am tired of hearing about the murder of transwomen, I cannot imagine the exhaustion to be a transwoman hearing it! I cannot imagine what it is like to be damn near hunted because of how you walk through the world!

I have never had a moments doubt about being female. I have never looked in the mirror and not seen anything not female. Never. I cannot fathom the pain to look in a mirror and not see who you know are. I cannot imagine, as Laverne Cox did once, death would be the only way the world can acknowledge who you are!

As a mother, all I want to do is wrap my arms around every transwoman that will let me. A hug which will acknowledge and strengthen! A touch that will affirm humanity and visibility. From that bringing in, of us together, my hope is she feel protected. That someone is looking out for her. That I will do all I can to help, assist and support–and know she has a right to exist.

Black transwomen, too, deserve to see the promise of tomorrow! There is enough sun for us all to get some.

[images 1-colorlines.com 2-entertainmentforus.com 3-huffpost.com]

Click here for Diamond’s piece in Essence magazine regarding Dave Chapelle’s latest Netflix special.

American Girls, Addy & Me

I am almost 40.

This means I am old enough to remember when the American Girl dolls came out. I was in fifth grade and totally enraptured by Samantha. Keeping in mind, the first three dolls (Kristen, Samantha and Molly) were all White. I, ten-year-old girl in St. Louis, was not. It would be 1993 when Addy would be added to the American Girl doll line; with her addition, her story.

I have always played with dolls. My first doll I remember having and taking care of was a female Cabbage Patch doll named Lynn. She was white.

My first Barbie dolls were white.

My godmother got my first Black Barbie when I was in third grade. But throughout my toys in my girlhood, I always had White dolls. There were always more White dolls, and Black dolls were harder to find. If there were ever any.

Seeing Addy as an American Girl, even in reflection, has me sad. I am glad that such representation exists. Yet, my first question is why does she have to be a slave?

Why did the first Black girl to be marketed to other girls–namely Black girls—have to be a slave?

We can debate about history, recognition and visibility. We can have the free versus slave argument. We can even debate using Addy as a teaching tool! But the question still is, “Why did the first Black girl to be marketed to other girls–namely Black girls– have to be a slave?”

The diaspora of Black people does not have its genesis here on colonized shores, nor will it have its zenith here. Having Addy being this controversial is only a further indication of the chasm that is race relations in this country. The thing which I don’t think we pay enough attention to is the American Girl company was not founded by a Black woman or a person of color. That unique cultural awareness–that mix of representation, honor and sensitivity–was absent.

Just like with the founders of Mattel. The first Black Barbie was sold in 1968–as Christie. But a BLACK BARBIE was not marketed until 1980! I was born one year later. The first Black Barbie I ever remember being given to me was Peaches and Cream Barbie. She was so pretty–but you have to understand. Black dolls, Black Barbies especially were hard to find! I know this was only 30 years ago, on the heels of all things Black:   from Civil Rights, Voting Rights, literature (Roots and Queen by Alex Haley for example), the Cosby Show. Yet, there seemed not enough Black Barbie dolls in St. Louis for every Black girl that wanted one.

So imagine My delight, when I find out American Girl had this doll.

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Who is this girl?

Cécile Rey was the eleventh Historical Character of the American Girls, representing 1850s New Orleans. Cécile was released in 2011 along with Marie-Grace Gardner.

In May 2014 American Girl announced that they would archive Cécile’s entire collection; she, Marie-Grace Gardner, and their collections were archived prior to the BeForever relaunch. Their books remain available for purchase.

Personality and Facts

Cécile comes from a well-to-do and highly regarded family within the New Orleans community. Cécile wishes to become a stage actress, and shows a talent for storytelling, recitation, and poetry when she volunteers her time at the Holy Trinity Orphanage. Unlike Marie-Grace, Cécile is homeschooled.[5] She finds her lessons to be boring and especially dislikes writing. Cécile takes voice lessons with Marie-Grace, but unlike Marie-Grace, she doesn’t feel she’s very good at singing. Cécile is very good at keeping secrets, as she kept both Armand’s and Marie-Grace’s secrets.

Cécile is characterized as being confident, curious, and loving the limelight. She likes to be original. Americangirlpublishing.com describes her as bold. Cécile loves to make others laugh. Cécile is popular and has many friends in contrast with Marie-Grace. Cecile is outgoing and loves parties. One of her dreams was to become a famous actress, and dance at parties every night.

While Cécile can occasionally be outspoken at times, she is also shown to be sensitive and caring, such as teaching Marie-Grace French, spending time with elderly people of color at La Maison, and keeping Armand’s desire to become an artist rather than a stonecutter a secret from Papa. Cécile has also shown interest in distant lands, traveling, and adventures as she loves to hear the exciting adventurous tales her Grandpa tells her and is in awe with Marie-Grace’s experiences.

Cécile is quite interested in clothes and her appearance, and often tries to avoid getting her clothes dirty. For this reason, she’s not too fond of Marie-Grace’s dog Argos, who often has muddy paws.

She is always full of clever ideas and can be quite mischievous.

Her nickname, Cécé, is a diminutive of her full first name.

[taken from Americangirl.fandom.com]

See how deep this goes? See how imperative it is for Black children *to see themselves outside of what is reinforced? I understand not every child was born into such privilege as Cecile but not every Black child was born into chattel slavery either! I can appreciate that American Girl tried to make Addy as connected to her African culture (with her earrings and celebration traditions). I can appreciate that they tried to have Addy be an exception of sorts as it relates to chattel slavery. I can appreciate the effort to try and embody everything an entire culture familiar with erasure would need. The problem is, it wasn’t enough. There was more that was needed.

The doll did not, does not challenge the Master Narrative. Neither should that responsibility be laid on a toy company, or on the plastic soldiers of a doll. Addy began the conversation, but she has only scratched its surface. Leave to a White-loving world to think a Black girl, even a doll, can fix everything.

*-To date (with Cecile included), American Girl Historical Collection only has 3 Black American Girl dolls, 1 Latina doll, 1 Native American doll and two doll which can be classified as a POC.

[images from American Girl fandom]

Jenn Harris Does It ExpediTIously

Mane.

Can I tell y’all something? On a real tip?

I am a fan of TI. I really am, and have been for a while now. I am impressed by his growth, and his transitioning from hustler, to rapper, to actor and activist. I am little sister proud of Mr. Clifford ‘TI’ Harris.  I still write and study to three of the following tracks (in no particular order):

-Big Sh!t Poppin

-King Back

-What You Know About That

-Motivation

 

Aside from his personal shenanigans with the outside kids, his wife leaving,  getting arrested outside his own house, and you can’t forget when fam when to jail (bruh!), when I saw him make this turn towards social justice, activism and attempting to a voice within the current culture? I was for him even more.

There is something about his voice that reminds me of home:  accent unapologetic, raw and not quite as polished as white folk would like you to be–but it’s the truth anyhow.

The current culture also knows TI is fan of college level vernacular, and this hybrid slang of what I call hustler vernacular linguistic acrobatics. There is a element of truth uncut to what he says, with the hint of  ‘don’t try me about this shit’, that you can’t help but believe him on!

When I little birdie told the kid that TI was doing his podcast, the name of which is a word he uses often? With the swag culture offers? Bruh. I put it on my calendar! I listened to it this morning!

The language is frank, and I had the feel of coming home when I listened to this first episode. It was like putting my ear to the door of listening to my father and his brothers talk:  this mix of righteous and ratchet. But, with enough truth to keep me listening.

Aight,TI.

I see you.

 

Click here and be a part of this movement…ExpediTIously.

[image from The Source (thesource.com)]

They Didn’t Hire Me To Entertain The Staff.

Despite what the reading public thinks or says, I’m an introvert. I like to be left alone, I like quiet, and people are taxing. This doesn’t mean I’m sociopathic, or people-hating or even unapproachable! I grew up as a shy, quiet Black girl in a family of loud people. My quiet nature led to me being shy–which is not an asset in a public school.

I learned to be loud, and vocal–just like I learned to write. I learned that as a quiet, introverted kid, I needed to have a loud persona.

But then came life after high school. There was this unspokenness around me when I entered college. The school I was at (the now closed Deaconess College of Nursing) was predominately White. My high school was predominately Black. So, I really didn’t know how or where I fit in at.

But what I did notice was my White cohort thought I was unapproachable when I was quiet. Thought I was mean when I spoke my mind and needed my banter to feel comfortable. Even on some jobs that I have worked, I have noticed the same thing! When I’m quiet and doing my job, I am seen as someone worthy to be suspicious of. I’m legit just working.

But, when I am more open, soft-spoken and quiet at certain intervals, then I’m seen as a team-player, consistent in my work, and easy to work with. That is my personal favorite.

(Thee personification of my silent rage.)

When I came across this article on BESE.com by Sequoia Holmes, I rejoiced. Every woman in me, lived before me who had taught those women, telling them to hold on for me, screamed.

Can I not just come to work, make this money and leave?! Please?! Damn!

But I know that predominately White places police anything and everything which isn’t White, or White and male! From the names on resumes, to if you bring a dish to the office party or participate in Secret Santa. You are consistently monitored to see just what kind of Black girl you are.

If you don’t play the role of a Mammie or a Sapphire, then you have become identified as a problem. White America loves sexy, sassy, loud Black girls! Introverted Black girls need not apply.

Let me help the White folks you work with right quick:

The powers that be did not hire me to entertain you. They don’t pay me enough to banter with you, make up nicknames for you or teach you how to twerk. Don’t touch my hair when I change it. If my door is closed to my office do not knock. I meant to close it, I do not care what y’all are getting for lunch. You slick wanna see what I’m doing. If I am at my cubicle working quiet, that means I am doing just that.

I’m minding my business.

You should try it.

Black women have to be and do so many things just I have peace walking through the world! This none so apparent as when we work in predominantly White spaces. It is tiring: enter code switching, shifting and have a persona you put on from the moment you darken the door in the morning.

You cannot just go to work and be left alone–because introverts need to recharge from people. It’s just how we are wired. But Black girls are expected to be on in order to have some peace at work.

At work.

My job is to do what my job requirements are, and no more. Not every Black girl is Tiffany Haddish or desires to be! Not every Black girl dances or watches Scandal or Power. I don’t have to placate your expectation about being Black people to be seen as valuable to a company.

The same respect you give to David who never opens his office door until he leaves, to Becky that brings her cat pictures to work because it soothes her, is the same respect I need when I come in and sit at my desk to answer emails.

Let me be Black and remain employed.

Thank you.

The Legendary Missy Effin Elliot.

 

First:  Kanye could never on his best day.

Second:  Taylor Swift could never if someone showed her how.

Melissa “Missy” Elliot is not new to this. I need these new fans to understand that as of next year, the 1990s will be 30 years ago! Missy has been songwriting, mixing, performing and producing longer than most of the demographic who watched the VMAs this year.

I remember when Supa Dupa Fly came out! Bruh! In the rap waters that contained Lil Kim and Foxy Brown, Missy was so damn out the box! There was no female rapper like her–before or now.

None, y’all. None!

The fact that the VMA’s finally, finally honored to the capacity she was with the Video Vanguard Award? Fam. It was everything! The world finally caught up with and do Dr. Melissa Elliot! Oh, y’all forgot about that honorary doctorate?

I didn’t.

Missy Elliot is the kind of creative person with the hypersonic energy you either want to harness or buy. That is if you don’t already have it. I have always like her (read: loved her) because she was innovative; she was new–everything she did was new! Like a Missy video was an event!

That type of innovation only comes with a level of gift so tough that only God could have given it to you. Don’t debate me on this! There is no debate on this. In this era copycats, Snaps and IG models, my music-loving, hip-hop loving, Awkward Black Girl self needed to see Missy!

I needed to see unleashed creativity.

I needed to see the end result of consistency.

I needed to see what it was like to break away from a pack of cats, with your integrity, all while obliterating that box people tried to put you in! I needed that.

My whole soul craved it…and was filled.

Excuse me while I go jam to LOSE CONTROL again.

Millennials. Could. Never.

[images from Pitchfork]