In Memorium: To The Dudes That Saw There First Pretty Black Girl In JET, & All The Black Girls That Wanted To Be On The Cover of EBONY

 

Image result for jet magazine

I remember my mother subscribing to EBONY and  ESSENCE Magazine when I was a girl. I remember I would pour over these magazines before I would give them back to my mother. I would even carry a copy of either or both of these magazines in my backpack or purse. They would be devoured at lunch, after classwork or waiting to be picked up by my parents after school from 6th-8th grade.

Image result for ebony magazine

 

EBONY was a part of my middle school girlhood. I was a part of the ritual of going to beauty salon with my Mama. It was part of knowing who was doing what, and how many people we could identify! I remember what it meant to pick that up, see it in my house, and even in my classrooms at Yeatman Middle School on the Northside of St. Louis, Missouri in the St. Louis Public School District. I even remember some of the guys in my classes sneaking looks the JET Beauty of the Week!

That is how far back it goes. And this was only the mid-1990’s, fam!

Image result for ebony magazine

 

And this week? I find out that EBONY and JET are firing freelancers, getting rid of other staff and these historic portions of Black media are…going away. These publications are one of the reasons I wanted to be a writer. Why I wanted to be a journalist. Why I was a fierce reader. These publications, shaped my Black girlness and emerging womaness, while collecting my collective ethnic, cultural history.

To know that this is being erased, taken from collective Blackness is the resurgence of all things melaninated, dope and from and in front of Black Jesus?! This ain’t fair!

Image result for ebony magazine

 

THIS IS NOT FAIR!

Roland M. Martin was talking about this on his YouTube Channel today. We know the Johnson Publishing Company, the family company that owns EBONY and JET, has had financial issues for past few years. This is no secret. But! The news that is being unveiled  now suggests that the company which has a 70-plus year history, is about to fold! Like how can this be happening!

Roland Martin was saying that there are a lot of Black media groups that have not made the adjustment to podcasting; consolidating with other media groups; valuing the building over the product the building produced. But, there is a truth to this. But the fact is we need our histories too! We need our legacies preserved too! We need to adjust with the times, too!

Twenty-five years ago? I snuck these magazines in my backpack! Now, download this from the site and follow 9 other podcasts just like it! On my iPhone! Does that mean I don’t like the physical copy? No. I still by physical magazines! But it’s the convenience, dear ones.

Image result for jet magazine

 

Just like this blog is for you right now.

But, my heart, dear ones, is grieved. I am so grieved! First the HBCU’s and now this. First the GoFund Me’s and Crowdfunding for Bennett College, and there’s about to be no more EBONY or JET in same year Blackness is about to be supernova?! This is a hellafied Faustian baragain, y’all.

Bruh, I am looking forward to being on the cover of a magazine of and because of these 26 letters I whip together all the time! I wanted my face, my staff’s face on the cover of EBONY! That is the one magazine everybody Black still reads and their grandmother and ‘nem keep in the curio cabinet! That is cultural history, beloveds.

 

Image result for ebony magazine

I don’t know how we come back from this one. But, I don’t want any more Black creatives or creative outlets to take unnecessary losses, dear ones. We keep saying what we do for the culture–then let’s start preserving it.

 

 

 

 

Why It Comes To This

There are certain things in this American pop culture that people clearly don’t want trifled with. Now, me being the fan of language that I am, and as big a fan of storytelling that I am, let me put you on game real quick.

Walt Disney, the machine that is DISNEY, did not have an original idea. Aside from Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto, Daisy and Goofy. The powerhouse stories are taken from The Grimm Brothers, and in the case of The Little Mermaid, it is a taken from the Hans Christian Andersen story. You can link that here. What Disney has done in adopting these stories for the entertainment of children, is take a source text to adapt it to a suitable audience.

This is the beauty and nature of literature and art. What we not about to do is champion the craziness that is found in this campaign of #NotMyAriel or #MakeArielWhiteAgain. We not about to do this over here. We really not. What the Disney has done, again, is take a source text and reimagine it. I don’t have time to go into the literary breakdown of how cool that is, but I will say this.

First, Halle Bailey will be amazing as Ariel.

Second, if you think a mermaid–an imaginary creature from an almost 200-year old Danish story–which is a play on the sirens of ancient Greek mythology, cannot be Black? You are part of the problem.

What is the problem, you ask? The problem is your issue with visibility, diversity and the challenging of what you think should or could be acceptable representation of Black women and girls. It would seem that the people of this adamant persuasion regarding The Little Mermaid, are hilarious. But perhaps, this was the most potent social media comment pertaining to this situation:

 

 Imagine this.

*Not seeing yourself in any media depiction that wasn’t subservient. That wasn’t magical. That was delegated to the maids, mammies, and shadow people. Imagine that the casting of someone that looks like you, in a public medium like film, and having the reaction as vitriolic as Halle is having? Imagine having the color of your skin, your hair, your very being seen as so ‘offensive’ to what people call the ‘original’ film? Can you imagine how insane that would be?

Furthermore, as a Black girl who grew up before Tiana in The Princess And The Frog, was a voting adult before the election of President Barack H. Obama, as a Black girl that was told there were limits on my own imagination–representation is everything. If there was a little White girl that can imagine herself as Ariel, why can’t a little Black girl finally see herself as Ariel?

Is it the seeing of a Black girl as more than a caricature that is offensive? Is it the desire for diversity, in the insistence of our personhood, our presence, or magic? I wasn’t so struck by the need for this level of diversity with this particular film until my oldest daughter, whom will be 12 in September, gave me a gift. She made this mermaid sculpture at a camp. The mermaid was blonde, with brown hands, and a white face. She had never seen a Black mermaid. There weren’t even any Black mermaids in The Pirates Of The Carribean! I remember there being a Black mermaid (read:  tokenism!) on the cartoon in the early 1990’s. But the insidious thing that I had to catch myself on? What I had to confront was because I had not seen it, I could not believe it, ergo it could not be possible.

As a writer, I had to dive into this. Why couldn’t I believe mermaids could be Black? only because I hadn’t seen it. The Little Mermaid, the Disney version, is now about 30 years old. I was 8 when this movie came out–and didn’t even see it in the theaters. I was more into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at age 8. However, in deconstructing this feeling, I was encouraged by the fan art which is making appearances on Facebook. Here are some of my favorites:

 

“Up where they walk,

up where they run.

Up where they play all day

in the sun,

Wanderin’ free–

Wish I could be…

part of that world.”

Indeed this lyric from Part Of Your World has never been more prolific. We are part of this world.

 

 

*Author’s Note:  I would be remiss in my writer duties not to remind you to watch the documentary Horror Noire which is still available on Shudder. In watching that documentary, I believe much more will make sense to you.

 

 [top image: Disney via Google. First Ariel image is by Nilah Magruder (@nilaeffle–she first displayed this image on her personal Twitter timeline.]

 

Birthday Chapters: #38.

img_2031
“I will come in, and leave, as power.” -JBHarris

Can you believe it? The kid is not a whole grown up and almost 40. I’ve been saying I was 38 for the last four months though. Which is hilarious on some end. But the thing that i have learned, going into this next chapter of life are these three things.

 

 

Value of your whole self. I’m learning to celebrate everything that is me. I am becoming happy with me and all that I am accomplishing. I am learning to celebrating  the wins. I’m celebrating the fact that I am not dead. I get the losses, and I accept the time that I have lost. I have a greater value of time, my time. I am a woman. Women value their time, their wins, and their talents. They make, take and hold space. I have finally learned to value me. 

 

Strength is not determined by pain suffered. I don’t think that pain should determine strength or love. I have decided that the pain I have endured doesn’t make me the quintessential ‘strong, Black woman.’ I am a strong woman because I know what it is like to suffer, but also have the strength to rejoice. I know what it is like to be broken, and remain that way–thinking that is week. Believing being broken is a condition to favor. I know what it is like to need help–by admitting that you do. I have learned that being a woman, a Black woman, is to be able to breathe, to express, and even when to rest. I have learned I deserve love, because God is love. I deserve love because it holds up the world. I deserve it not because I had to be proven or emotionally battered to get it. I deserve it, because God gives it to me freely. I acknowledge my wounds, I won’t worship them.

 

Life is glorious. A friend of mine told me that I was always too excited about having birthdays. Never! I almost died as an infant. As a child. And at the hands of someone that said he loved me. I am excited about this gift called life. I am excited for what it holds. What is all set and planned for me. I am still excited about the process of getting there. This life is amazing. I have 37 chapters done. By virtue of blessing and tenacity, I no longer fear what talents I have. I no longer fear the ambition. I plan on making 40 look amazing!

Happy Birthday to me and all my Birthday Twins!

JUNETEENTH In The MAGA Era

 

There are some things that even the woke ally cannot wish you.  Do not tell a Black person, whom is a direct descendant of chattel slavery, Happy Juneteenth.  Stop. Do not do this. I’m not going to ask again.

With that being said, this Juneteenth feels a little different with Orange Thanos in office. It feels like we have to fight a little harder to be seen. It feels like I need to be that much more Black to counteract all the toxic whiteness and malignant red caps. It feels like every thing Black has to be preserved, illuminated. served and strictly defined as ours.

OURS.

This nation is the diverse, beautiful, luminous place that it is, because of the minorities that were either kidnapped, enslaved, conquered and mistreated. From that muddy, rocky roux–we have a myriad of traditions that are now classified and quantified as childhood memories. Especially for those of us whom are African-American.

In this era where the insecure majority feels as though it has to stomp out anything that is not white or conforming, Juneteenth is our reminder as Black/African-American people that we cannot die. We will not die. Our power, our survival has been in traditions and support. It has maintained our sanity and our love for one another. It encamps in the lives of us their descendants to remind us of our own power. The strength of the combined force of time and tradition which yields legacy. It is this legacy which allows us a people to keep going. It is this living history that lets our children know that there is still joy and love and light in the world–and they are owed some of it.

I am in favor of all things being equal, but there are some things that I refuse to compromise with or on. And there are things that these MAGA sycophants are not going to take from me. They aren’t going to make me shrink. They aren’t going to make me think being Black is bad, dangerous or something to apologize for! A red cap is a white hood is a crooked badge is a Johnny Reb is a plantation overseer.

Juneteenth is our holiday. Is our day. Is our history. Our ancestors survived so much worse–we will endure this too. And at the end of this? We will celebrate the end of this tyrannical dynasty too. Just watch.

 

 

 

When Mama Can’t Protect You-Part 1 (Prelude To ‘The Talk’)

TW:  Police brutality, police abuse, wrongful arrest

 

This came through my personal Twitter timeline on Father’s Day of all things. And I was inconsolable. In looking through this thread, all  I could think is, “This could have been my daughter. This child is my daughter’s age.” I make no qualms about my valid, palpable distrust of law enforcement. I make no reassertion that I am changing my mind about that. I have not trusted law enforcement since I was about 10, and I’m almost 40. With that being said, I make no bones about my Mama Lion nature for my children. In reading this thread, my heart sank. I wanted to stave off having ‘The Talk’ with my oldest daughter. The same daughter that is beautiful, intelligent, and stands 5’6.5″ at age 11 1/2.  I am aware that the world will not always see her as a girl. As an adolescent Black girl.

When I saw this thread, and really began to digest what had happened to this child without her mother present, left me horrified. The rundown was this:

A group of Black kids were playing on a movie parking lot. The police saw them and told them to move along. The kids grumbled and muttered but they go on. Nicole (the woman in the screenshot), heard screaming. She looked up and saw one of the officers dragging one of the child to the car. There are more cop cars that appeared (Nicole said it was 5-6 cars). She gets out her car and asks what is going on. The cops tell her to move along. She sees on child in the car’s backseat–handcuffed. The other girl was shaken and about to be arrested as well. Nicole advocated for the child, and confronting the police officer. The handcuffed child did not have her phone, and it would seem she was arrested for ‘loitering.’ Nicole gave this child her phone to call her mother. The police said they were going to release her to her mother. Nicole continues to advocate for these children, and speaking to the girl’s mother–she waits for her to get to the area. Another older couple is parked nearby watching. The handcuffed girl’s mom arrives, and wants to know what happened. Turns out, the girls are arrested without being Mirandized, or without a guardian present. Once that’s pointed out, the officer tells Nicole to leave. She doesn’t. The girls are released to their mother/aunt. Nicole gives Mom the name of lawyers that she knows. 

As a mother, I was horrified. My husband and I have gone round and round about how to handle raising our girls when these situations exist. I know that the world doesn’t see Black girls as girls–especially if Black girls are tall or in any way shapely! I never looked my age from 11-17. And my mother had to gently tell me that I had to watch how I dressed because I didn’t look my age. Not to leave the house without my purse that at least had my school identification. I knew that the police wouldn’t think that I was 13, 14 or 15, unless my parents were with me.

With this though? I thought I had more time, at least one more year to allow my daughter to be protected completely by her Mama Lion. But that shattered yesterday. This is the paradox Black parents have:  we know the world sees our children as never being such. But we know they are. I have talked to my husband about our daughter having a cell phone. He said she was too young. I disagreed. I tried to tell him that the world is such that she needed access to us in case she needed us.

This is another reminder that she is becoming more and more visible on the real world’s radar. It was a reminder that if something like this happened to my baby, I would want someone to help her. To see her. I would want her to know how to handle herself if an officer stopped her, and had no right to do so.  I know that in having this talk, The Talk, with her, a portion of her innocence is, and will be gone. And there is nothing I can do about that.

 

 

Daddy Lesson’s #3-Finances

img_0618-5

 

“Always keep some money on you.”

– Richard L. Bush (1948-1998)

 

The running theme that I tell people is that I’m the daughter of a hustler. I really, truly am. My father didn’t like the word ‘No’, and believed in making sure certain things were in place so other things could happen. One of those things that he taught me was to make sure I could take care of myself. The best way he thought I could do that, was to make sure that I always had some money on me.

My father made sure my sister and I got used to carrying, purses and a wallet. He would tell us that we  should keep money on us in case we go somewhere. He wanted us have some sense of financial responsibility even then. I mean, when I was in fifth grade, when I started carrying a purse WITH money in it! I mean, it was my Dad that taught me how cool having a bank account was! He taught me and my sister how to use and ATM!

Daddy taught me how to hustle, and be okay with (as a woman) to have my own money. Even though he didn’t teach us how to save (that came later for me after he died), but it make me see money as a tool. It was this strange dichotomy:  money is  tool to be used, but not to be saved.  But there was a power in that as a little girl. I had the power to realize that I can do what I wanted to do–if I had the money to do so.

From that, I was never afraid to work for what I wanted. Ever. The dream is free, and the hustle is real…and it needs to be funded. Until the Lord sends more help, or you win the LOTTO? Hustle. It won’t kill you. I promise it won’t.

 

 

Daddy Lessons #2- Dating

 

“If a man likes you just a little bit, you’ll be amazed what he’ll do for you.”

-Richard L. Bush (1948-1998)

 

This is the simplest, boldest piece of advice I have every gotten in regards to dating and dealing with men to date. My father had the habit of telling me this type of advice on a regular basis even when I was still considering boys as gross. However, the truth of this statement? Unparalleled. Armed with this secret confidence, I began to be a constant observer of male behavior.

I began to watch how he and my mother interacted. I began to watch how he treated her, and how she responded in kind. I watched how he did things for her, just because he wanted to. Or because they needed to be done! He got her flowers because he wanted her to have them! Not  because he had done something wrong.

My father loved my mother. Completely. It wasn’t until he died, and I really began dating, that I saw how completely he loved her. That kind of love, I know now, is rare. And worked for. The cooler thing is he liked my mother, as well as loved her. They still went out and did things together. They made time to talk and laugh and be a couple–independent of the three of us.

I took their marriage, their relationship, as a roux–the bare minimum that I would accept as a partner. I expected to be treated well. I expected to be listened to and respected. I expected to be valued. When I ran across a young man that couldn’t or wouldn’t? I ended the relationship.

Now, have I always gotten that formula right? Nope, not at all. I chased me that I thought like me, and it came to naught. I stayed in crazy situations longer than I should, because I gave people time to change. Hell, I stayed with my ex-husband waaaaay longer than I should have because I knew (or thought) if I was a little more patient he would change. This has been my Achilles heel:  I love too hard. I give too much. And I sometimes am way too patient in anticipating a human being change. But perhaps that is the maturity in my father’s statement; I waited to see if like would surface, resurface, or how often it would surface.

On the other hand, I have been on the reciprocating end of affections of young men that I, too, was crazy about. This young men that decided to call me just to tell me ‘Good Morning.’  Who opened doors for me. That got me the flowers. Gave me money to ‘just have’. Even two of them decided they could not live without me and decided to make me a wife.

This quote gave me the awareness of what being treated well is. This portion of wisdom allowed me call crazy what it is. It allowed me to know when relationships should begin or end. It allowed me become cognizant of my time. To value my body. My skills. My talents. It allowed me to recognize what I bring to any situation. It allowed and allows me to know if those attributes are not appreciated, I don’t have to ask for permission to leave. I can just go.

The best thing my Daddy ever gave me was a sense of self. From that sense, he gave his oldest daughter to knowledge that I was special. If any man didn’t see me as that, or able to love me past the pretty, I didn’t need him.