No, Queen Bey Didn’t Have To Stand Up. We Do.

Our Beloved Queen makes even being an a firestorm hella elegant.

With that said, let me say something else first. I didn’t watch the 2020 Golden Globes because I think Ricky Gervais is a more palatable form of the demon Screwtape in the C.S. Lewis book, The Screwtape Letters. Life is hard enough–I don’t need extra shenanigans which is both toxic and crazy-making.

Now, as pumped as I was for Joaquin Phoenix, to win Best Actor in a Drama Motion Picture for JOKER, I was irritated to know the world seemed to be mad (again) that Beyonce did what she wanted to do. She chose not to stand when Joaquin’s name was announced.

According to The Griot, she did clap, but she did not stand. Beyonce was in attendance because her song, Spirit (from the album The Lion King: THE GIFT), was nominated for Best Original Song. Now, Joaquin stans are mad she didn’t stand, and insulting her acting ability. Okay. Whatever. But here’s what isn’t talked about:  sis had been drinking, and her dress was huge and maybe standing wasn’t what she really wanted to do. The doper part? The writer of The Griot article, Dawn Onley, can tell you:

She and Jay-Z came to the award ceremony with two bottles of Ace of Spades champagne, also known as Armand de Brignac, the champagne company that Jigga bought out back in 2014, according to Cosmopolitan. Their bodyguard carried the alcohol in for them.

So not only did Bey not stand, they were drinking, they were drinking. And they were also promoting their interests.

Win-win.

I get why the world hates Beyonce. And yet, she moves in grace despite of it! The thing that irritates me the most is people believing she should have stood up–because that’s just what you do at these events. She should be grateful to be in this space, right? She should just do as all the others do–Beyonce is in Rome, right? Do as the Roman do, right?
No.
This is the consistent issue surrounding Black people in White Spaces. The expectation is that all be done to the Master’s specificity:  no deviation, no independent thought. And definitely no room for plain ol’ ‘I just don’t want to.’
The other issue that needs to be address–which I try my best to bring attention to constantly–is this idea of invading White Spaces with more Black people! Any space a Black woman or man inhabits is already a Black Space. It cannot just be those at the intersections of Black, wealth and privilege to negotiate the terms of acceptability. It cannot just be expected that the interest of the unfortunate many be delegated to the advantageous!
We all can do something–we need to stop expecting other people to force that visibility.
Besides, Black women been standing/serving/fighting since our feet touched the waters of these shores called the Americas. I wouldn’t have stood up either.

The Radical Anyway: Slings And Arrows Of This White World

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In the age of Homecoming, Lemonade, the ageless Michelle Obama, and Black Girls Rock, this shit is enraging. How is Taylor Swift Artist of the Decade?!

The decade?! From 2010-2019? Decade?!

Fam.

This shit here, is one of the reasons I listen to more 1990’s rap and hip-hop than anything now! I am over the American Music Awards. Completely over.

In hearing this news, I cannot express to you how I had this thought, “How thee fuck is this possible?” But the 38-year-old Black woman, whom has a mother 30 years older answered. And she said, “These folk see what they want to see. Anything else is unseen.”

Was I surprised? No.

Was I shocked? No.

In hearing this news, I felt the same way I did when I saw Adele win Album of the Year for 25, and broke it in half to share it with her. That wasn’t sweet! That shit was insulting. Don’t you dare insult me by telling me you will share the an award with me. Especially, when I know my work is better than yours!

Yet, this is what it means to be Black, woman, and creative in a world that delegates you to other, sex object or unseen when ‘too powerful.’

All awards represent confirmations to the work you have put together. The hours of work, doubt, sweat and the sheer force of creative will. But trust me, I get it! This nation loves White women! They have to be protected, lusted, lorded and affirmed. Their sex and race together are touted as perfect! As if they created by God first and only! It is only right that you give a White girl this type of affirmation!

Now, let me be firm and summer sky clear.

This piece is not to bash Taylor Swift. I, personally, am not a fan of hers. I don’t listen to her. I don’t have an opinion about her one way or another. It is this system by which I am throwing haymakers at!

The system!

This system that is comfortable, so comfortable with the erasure of anything non-White, no matter how average, is suffocating!

Simply suffocating!

I understand systemic racism is more insidious than people imagine. I get that there are White folk that consider themselves ‘good’ and ‘non-racist’ or ‘having Black friends’ whom have no utter idea what it means to be looked over because of how you are socially classified; having work and efforts ignored because you don’t fit.

I get that the preservation of the White face of a nation founded in murder, usurpation and oppression will stop at nothing to bolster, root, cement power by any means necessary. That facade cannot be broken else the game is had!

I get it. And I am mad. And I am tired.

It is not wrong to want recognition for the work you do. It is not wrong to want an earnest look at your art, music or writing. It is not wrong! The thing that is disconcerting, damning even, is believing someone that is not of a dominant culture, has nothing to add to the overall culture.

Erasure is a natural resource of this nation. This is just the latest insult to those whom desire it not to be.

It is times like this, where I remember the rich conversations with my writer girlfriends. The doubts present. The hesitation that had to be assuaged. The support poured into those that needed to ‘create anyway.’ The affirmation that we give to one another, binding up the wounds made by the consistent erasure of a culture content to siphon from you–but never see you!

Yet, we do so anyway. We write anyway. We create anyway. We network and support anyway. We get into ‘Formation’ anyway.

If the believed-greater are so confident in their power, then they can withstand competition. The doors what we are not allowed into, we will break down or make our own!

Black is always seen, and nothing it touches can be unseen. I refuse to be unseen. Not anymore.

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The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: FUBU Movies, Remakes And Issa Rae.

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It is no secret I am a fan of the dynamic, richly talented, Issa Rae. I believe she is amazing, insecure is brilliant and I am here and present for her next movie.

Shameless plug: GO SEE THE MOVIE THE PHOTOGRAPH STARRING HER AND LAKEITH DAVID IN FEBRUARY 2020. BLACK LOVE MATTERS!

Now, with that said, let us continue.

Issa Rae is known for her quotes related to the power of the grind, how the hustle is ongoing, and sometimes the best networking is done laterally. She has said (as it relates to networking) to ”see whom is along side you, who is just as hungry as you.” With that mantra, she has taken her Awkward Black Girl series–originally on YouTube!–and parlayed this into a full-fledged acting/producing/writing career.

I am proud of her.

I am so proud of her.

With that said, I am tired of the Black Culture Collective coming for sis about trying to remake the FUBU classic, Set It Off. Mother Vivica A. Fox said she shouldn’t remake it and something akin to ‘Getcha own shit.’

Well, damn.

With that said, I know what it is like to be a writer/creative person and see something in the media that you want to put your stamp on. I get it! I think one of the reasons her desire to redo Set It Off has pissed so many people off is the films in the *FUBU canon are–hell, sacred! They are movies that depict Black life, with believable Black characters, whom are visible and believable to an audience that doesn’t just consist of Black people. This phrase–FUBU Movies–I got from Gabrielle Union.

Don’t sleep on Sis; she’s a brilliant woman.

I get that Issa Rae wants to revamp it! In the age of remakes, live-action fairy tales and the juggernaut of the MCU (that sometimes strays from its own source material!), writers like to revamp and reimagine. I get it. However, the nerve I believe Issa Rae has now hit, split and frayed relates to visibility.

Why would a Black woman want to redo a movie made popular and successful by Black people? 

This goes into a studio executive believing that Julia Roberts should have played Harriet Tubman. No, I’m not joking. I wish the heavens that I was. Click here to see that.

As  hard as  Black people have worked to even be in the entertainment industry–let alone films!–we want some things to just be ours. Left untouched. Wholly classic. No remakes.

Set It Off is a FUBU classic. People want it left alone. With this in mind, as talented as Issa Rae is, I am sure she can add to the existing canon, versus trying to recreate a portion of it.

For all of you who think writing and creation of content is so easy, you do it. Meanwhile, leave sis alone about this here! We all have to do better to get visible. The creation of Black content for film is bigger than Set It Off. Trust me.

*Some of the movies that are included in the FUBU canon are (list is NOT exhaustive!):

Paid In Full

Clockers

Boyz In The Hood

Set It Off

Bring It On

Menace II Society

ATL

Do The Right Thing

 

Tyler Perry Presents: The Elements Of ‘The Blackprint’

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I am in awe.

It has taken me three days to get to the point where I can put thought and excitement in the same space.

Tyler Perry has created the first Black-owned (and owned outright!) movie studio in this modern era. As a woman, as a Black woman, as a Black woman writer, I am in awe. I am overjoyed. I am overwhelmed…

And I am writing. Like mad.  Like. Mad.

Tyler Perry has said that Hollywood obeys the ‘Golden Rule.’

Whomever has the gold, makes the rules.

In the middle of the eras of #OscarsSoWhite, Malignant Racism, diet fascism, and  the otherworldly shenangians of Orange Thanos, Tyler Perry, born as a little boy named Emmitt Perry, Jr., has made space where there could be none–in front of a world Ralph Ellison revealed in his novel Invisible Man is determined to not see anyone Black.

To control how Blackness is perceived.  Or depicted. Or control.

In the creation of this studio, this legacy, you see that the hustle–when done consistently–is lucrative. It is sustainable–and there is something to work for and towards!

TylerPerry

Tyler Perry just proved the thing that I have wanted to do, knew I could do, have wanted to do, for the better part of a decade is not a waste of time. That the talents that I house, the stories I tell, the observations that I have are rich. They are worthy. They will be seen.

I know there are detractors who made fun of this better than six-foot tall Black man with wide shoulders in a dress, playing up the most common stereotypes of Black women: a mammy (mammie). I remember the Black professor from USC, Dr. Todd Boyd, speaking about this as well as the historical significance of Stepin Fetchet  (born Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry).

However, I want to challenge Dr. Boyd.

Those tropes still exist in modern cinema. They exist, they are propagated, and perpetuated not just by Black actors. There are White actors, especially in certain genres (namely horror) Black actors and actors were only seen as either magical or sacrificial. American cinema has a century head start on how Black people and other minorities are depicted. With that said, this achievement cannot be taken from him–even from people that look like him.

You can hate this move if you want to! But if you do, I pray that you never encounter an artist.

Matter of fact: yes, I do.

I hope you fall in love with a writer, a musician or a photographer. I hope that you fall in  love with a person that sees what you don’t see, and begins to build it like Noah. I hope that you fall in love with a person that daydreams–and says they want to start production companies.

Or music conservatories.

Or that they want to travel the world playing trumpet or violin.

I hope you fall in love with someone that refuses to get the safe job to make you feel happy. Then you will see what it means to build something, dedicate time and skill to something that you–and maybe only you for a duration–will ever get to see.

Helen Keller said the saddest thing is not to be blind, but to have no vision.

What Tyler Perry just did–What he encouraged every Black artist to do?–is incalculable. The journey towards greater visibility is ongoing, it will not, cannot end with Tyler Perry Studios. Now, let us all go forward. Encourage one another. Writers. Painters. Musicians. Photographers. Directors. Set Designers.

Edify. Support. Encourage.

There is a power in the Put-On. Why? For the grace of God, go US.

 

Week 7-See You When I Get There

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“Big sh-t, poppin, little sh-t stoppin’ “

-Clifford “T.I.” Harris

 

This week? Mane. You remember the paper I told you about that I got a whole 60 on? Well, when I resubmitted it, I got a 92. A 92/100. Bruh. I shouted! I really did! I am now at a 83.5 in Prof. Welch’s class (this is a B-). And this week we started If Beale Street Could Talk? And we have to write a reflection on this? And I love Baldwin?

I am now in a sweet spot for this semester–at least for this week.

In my 4700 class (yes, with Dr. Wall!) we are discussing the poet/writer Tess Gallagher. And with any English class, there will be paper writing. We have a paper that is due in about two weeks. The cool thing is if we do this right, this paper can be used as a basis towards our final paper.

This paper has to be 5 pages. The final paper has to be conference length.  This means it has to be ten pages:  nine full length pages, with the tenth being for citation. I decided to do my paper on Lucille Clifton.

Dr. Wall had us to write a thesis and be prepared to discuss it in class this week. My thesis? Glad you asked:

“The relevance of Lucile Clifton is demonstrated in the canon of American writers because, in the words of Toni Morrison, she helps to decolonize the canon.”

I know, I know. It’s lit.

Not only did Dr. Wall validate my thesis, not only did she champion it, not only did she see how excited I was to write it, she helped to develop my thesis! She helped all of us develop my thesis! This middle-aged White woman, whom is a fan of African-American literature, told me–an African-American undergrad–to write this paper. Like lean into it an write it! She also gave our class this other tidbit.

Dr. Wall reminded us to keep all of our papers. In the case of Lucille Clifton, there has not been enough critically written about her. This just means there has not been enough people whom have engaged her work. There haven’t been enough people that thought enough about her work to ask questions about it.

Trust, I am already thinking about this final paper. I am already thinking about my analysis. I am already thinking about the contrast I want. I am already thinking about where I could send it if Dr. Wall gives her blessing that the work is good enough.

At this point? I’m counting the weeks. I am about 8 weeks out of completing my undergrad. And I get to wear the stole of my father’s fraternity (Kappa Alpha Psi)? I can’t help but think that Daddy would still have to smile at all this.

As long as it took–I still did it. I did it.

 

 

 

 

For My—OUR—Mother, Diahann Carroll.

 

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Diahann Caroll (born Diahann Carol Diahann Johnson) has left the world.

I heard this news after getting the best news in regards to my youngest daughter. I cried tears of joy for her. Then my heart broke knowing that a woman that I had respected, saw myself in, had left the world.

We go a long way back, me and Diahann. My middle name is actually a take on one of the characters that was on Dynasty. I remember my mother and godmother talking about this woman named Dominique on the show. And how she was always getting into it with Alexis Carrington (Note:  I never thought Joan Collins was particularly pretty or talented). But I remember the first time I saw her.

She was immaculate. Like something out of a dream. She looked like a Barbie doll.

She was in his fur (as always) and makeup brilliant, and her hair was down, and she had slapped the stupid off somebody!

She was poised. She was audacious. She was Black.

I remember her being on A Different World as Whitley Gilbert’s mother. I remember her on Grey’s Antatomy. I remember the guest spots. I remember there was no other woman I thought was or could be prettier than my mother–other than Diahann Carroll.

It wasn’t until I had gotten to college that I realized how dynamic, how special, she was. I hung on every word she had ever said. I made sure I studied her mannerisms, her voice–and when I found out she was in Carmen Jones with Dorothy Dandridge? Chile, it was over!

There was something about her that I was drawn to.

My mother has this intangible class about her. Like Phylicia Rashad. Like Diahann Carroll. They were Black, moving through these hurdles life threw at them. Without becoming a stereotype, a mammie or a wench. I loved Diahann Carroll the way I admired my Mama. I have always said I wanted to age like Diahann Carroll. I saw her in me and me in her.

I saw me in her. 

 

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This mixture of grace, class and tenacity–I saw that in myself. I saw that being both Black and girl, not Black and woman, these stereotypes thrown on me were–were wrong. I was more than what I saw in North St. Louis.

There was more to this being a Black girl than what I was told I had to be.

I saw me in her. 

My grandmother died 6 years ago–this year she would have been 90. I find it interesting Diahann Carroll, too, was 84 when she passed. Realizing that she was gone, is gone, was like losing my grandmother all over again! My younger sister told me that I am too emotional when people die. That I am too emotional. I’m too passionate.

That is a slick way of saying I am doing the most. But you know? Most artist do the most.

In her passing there was a quote that she said which I will add to my own cupboard of wisdom. In pursuing acting, she had naysayers. She had detractors. She had people that thought she should most definitely do something else! But she said this:  “I didn’t want to be afraid of anything.”

This is what I will learn on, what supplements my desire to write and create. I don’t want to leave the world having been afraid. Having been subject to the opinions of other people. Having held on to things which will never add to me or the world around me. I do not want to live this life afraid of what it is I am supposed to and mean to do.

I want to live this life fearless, and flawed and loud. I will not leave it with a whimper or whisper. The crucial thing I learned from Diahann Carroll (even Jenifer Lewis), is to keep going. That nothing will be given to me–and it will be hard fought for in some cases. But it’s worth it. Just because people can’t catch up doesn’t mean I slow up.

Thank you, Diahann. Thank you.

Words To Music Are Always Lyrics

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I have always been a fan of music, all kinds of music. And for this semester–if you have noticed–I’ve woven in lyrics and hip-hop lyrics into this series. So, in typical Jenn Harris fashion–I decided to create a playlist for this last semester of undergrad studies.

Look for that at Week 10.

It will be available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Title of the Playlist:

SABEM–How I Made It Over

 

From Nas to Duke Ellington, to Stevie Wonder. From G-Eazy to MTS and Hozier. Music helped me get through papers, study and even press my way through to get through these last weeks.

 

Enjoy!

This is my graduation gift to you all.

 

Love you!