#TeamNanny

Today, I turn 29 years old. I don’t know what that means, per se, but I feel like it’s time for me to get anything of mine that’s not together all the way together.

I’ve only recently been forced out of adolescence, what with the acquisition of a stepson and a husband (in that order), a new grown woman job, a household to manage. I could swear that my cat looks at me from time to time, as I’m in the middle of deciding whether I’m going to hold it together or fall apart when I’m up against my will at 6:45 am trying to drag Baby B to school, willing me to “keep it tight, Jackson. Keep it tight, and make sure you don’t forget to scoop my poo and change my water.”

28 was so traumatic that it taught me how to not give a damn about: 1) things I can’t change; 2) things that will work themselves out; and 3) things that aren’t really my business. I learned how to take life in stride, how to worry slightly less than normal, and how to be slightly more patient than comes natural. It also began to teach me how to allocate my energy and my time, how to center myself in my purpose.

I have grown folks’ business to which I must attend. I am on this earth to stir things up, to provide voice for the silent and voiceless. I am here to write, to teach, to sing, and dance. I am here to dream and discern, to warn, and advise. I am here to organize, strategize and resist.  So, my promise to 29 is that I will dig ever more deeply into a faith that has preserved, promoted, and provided for me, and that I will walk more firmly in my commitment to fighting, scheming, and screaming for human rights–especially for women, and everyone else to whom rights are systematically denied.

I make this promise because though I am not necessarily fit to share space with them, I am here to carry forth the work of warrior women who came before me. I am a daughter of Queen Nanny, the revered and legendary community organizer, resister, healer, counselor, and colonialism’s worst enemy on the island of Jamaica. The blood of inwardly liberated women–liberators–runs through my veins. I am here to empower while speaking truth to power. I am here to dismantle and create, to correct and to encourage, to eviscerate and to give life. I am a woman, and I belong here, in the fullness of my being. QueenNanny

Ain’t I a Human? On the Fairweather “Brothers” Who Need NFL Football this Fall…

JanayRice

I thought Ferguson had awakened us, but many of us are still fast asleep.

In the wake of TMZ’s release of a video* of Ray Rice’s brutal attack on his then-fiancee, now-wife, Janay Rice, the responses from many were predictable, boring, and utterly exhausting. Despite the fact that the video shows Ray Rice spitting on his fiancee before punching her, and then punching her unconscious, before casually standing over her body and then dragging her, limp, out of an elevator, many people were more focused on what the victim might have done wrong.

Why did she marry him? Is she a gold-digger? Was she talking too much? Did she, no physical match for her fiance, hit him? Had she really been spit upon?

And then there was the apathy: Despite the fact that the video footage revealed the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens, and the relevant law enforcement officers to be liars, conspirators, and misogynists (yes, even the female prosecutor) who covered up Rice’s brutal attack for a host of financial, commercial, and deeply cultural reasons, many folks have decided that they do, in fact, want and even need to watch Monday Night Football this evening. Because football > women’s rights to be liberated from systemic gender-based violence. Because those watched football this evening are PARTICIPANTS–tacit, or otherwise, in a culture of systemic gender-based violence.

This disgusting response has transcended ethnicity, race, gender, educational attainment, and class. We have all, at some level, been indoctrinated into our culture of victim-blaming, slut-shaming, and rape-condoning. We still believe that what a man does with an intimate female partner is that man’s business because that woman is his property, at some level of our subconscious. In the words of Deion Sanders (words that no one has requested since the late 1990s), we should be praying for the Rice’s marriage and otherwise be staying out of their private business–advice too many Black women have heard in church concerning what to do with an abusive spouse. We have to buy into this garbage and sell it to others, too, if we are meant to be able to enjoy professional football this season.

While that alone enrages me, I am particularly indignant vis-a-vis all the so-called revolutionary, activist Black brothers who were recently on the front lines of protest in support of Mike Brown (though even he seems to be old news now, in September…his murder was sooo August 2014, it seems…we are fickle, and, well, football season is upon us). I have come to accept that though I was willing to spend a Saturday morning in Staten Island marching for Mike Brown, Reverend Al and his ilk will never, ever organize a march for all of the identified and unidentified black women that police officer Daniel Holtzclaw raped in Oklahoma City, neither will they be issuing any statements in condemnation of Ray Rice’s abject brutality. Black women are meant to be supporters of the black male agendae; we are never the agenda. Ours are the bodies upon which Black men practice rape before completing a perfected act upon White women, per Eldridge Cleaver. And if we’re lucky, if we’re very lucky, we get to be pressured into marrying a (Black) man (Black women are still disproportionately expected to date and marry Black men, even though Black men are free to be with whomever they choose) who beats us unconscious because we are taught that we need a man, and that if we find a man with money who wants to “wife” us, we’d better stay with him, because what the hell else are we good for, anyway…

What I cannot accept, and will not accept, particularly after Ferguson, is the rhetorical double-speak in which many of my “brothers” are engaging, concerning Janay Rice. While we righteously protest the attempts of folks in the media and elsewhere to cast aspersions on Michael Brown’s character and personal history, too many Black men have insisted that Janay Rice’s personal choices may have justified Ray Rice’s attack. While we understand that nothing that Michael Brown did warranted him being gunned down by Darren Wilson in the absence of a firearm in Brown’s possession, no matter if he had a criminal record, or stole cigars, or if he mouthed off at the police, too many fail to understand that the same rules apply to gender-based attacks. While we have rejected colorblind equivocations and deflections–irrelevant queries about the much-exaggerated prevalence Black-on-Black crimes and disingenuous claims that Black people systematically brutalize White people or otherwise systematically express anti-White racism–the damning video of Ray Rice literally knocking Janay Rice unconscious in an elevator has been met with purportedly gender-blind proclamations that “well, neither women or men should hit each other”, which are specifically meant to distract us from the reality that men brutalize women daily, worldwide, and discredit brutalized women’s disproportionate experiences of disproportionate violence.

I am enraged because I must now accept that Black men’s deceptive culture of gender oppression is absolutely no different from the modes and means used to maintain and preserve White supremacy and racial domination in the United States. Indeed, it has recently become clear that many Black men, in fighting racism, have never sought liberation from neo-liberal White Supremacy, but access to its tropes, tools, and benefits. They have sought equality with their oppressors, not liberation from their oppressors, and certainly not for Black women. Just as Black people are not human in the United States, but thugs, welfare queens, monkeys, and a host of slurs, hip-hop artists who protested in Ferguson constantly refer to Black women as bitches, hoes, while others refer to us as “light butts” or “dark butts”. Lil’ Wayne, who was recently outraged by a tape of Donald Sterling’s racist tirade, is featured on infamous woman-beater Chris Brown’s “These Hoes Ain’t Loyal” and also talked about “beat[ing] that pussy up like Emmett Till” on another track. As to the latter, much outrage was expressed by his disrespectful reference to Emmett Till, but not to the violent sexual imagery.**

Rape culture was never to be dismantled, neither a culture of domestic violence, neither sexism in the Church or other religious institutions. Patriarchy has always been a key ingredient in many Black men’s recipe for freedom, and Black women, as always, have been expected to do the cooking. After all, just as the United States has always depended upon a permanent Black underclass for its economic, social, and political survival, men will never feel like kings without subjects, or more specifically, enslaved harems. For too many Black men, it seems, racial justice means little more than acquiring the means to make enough money, so that they can afford to buy a wife to slap around. And that’s why they can’t see–won’t see–the parallels between Janay Rice and Michael Brown. And that’s why so many of them will be watching football this fall, angrily dreaming for an end to structural and institutional racism that will never actualize so long as they fail to check their misogyny and knock it unconscious.

 

* I decline to provide a hyperlink to the video, which, I believe, further dehumanizes and degrades Janay Rice.  Even in the absence of the complete video footage, sufficient evidence existed to demonstrate, beyond a shadow of doubt, that Ray Rice brutalized her and should have been held accountable by the criminal justice system, as well as in the court of public opinion, months ago.

** I decline to provide hyperlinks to crap rap misogynoir.

Detroit Flood Insurance Map 1981

marissaesque:

Very, very interesting…

Originally posted on DETROITography:

Detroit FEMA 1981

This map (with an interesting take on the Detroit border) is unfortunately timely in its discovery after the recent flooding. The map is a part of a 1981 study of flood insurance and flood plain issues in Detroit.

“This Flood Insurance Study investigates the existence and severity of flood hazards in the City of Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, [...]“

The study was to cover areas of low development for potential upcoming flood risk as far into the future as 1983 and there was a focus on the shoreline because it was highly developed and “susceptible to flooding and erosion.” The report later notes that the shoreline area of the City of Detroit had a very low likelihood of flooding. There haven’t been ferry boats on Downtown streets since composite photography made some stunning fake postcards in the early 20th century.

Source: Detroit Historical Society

The 1970s also saw some serious…

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Companies that got rich from Slavery

marissaesque:

Lawd…

Originally posted on Kushite Kingdom:

Slavery1
History has consistently shown that slavery has diminished the quality of life for African Americans and simultaneously enhanced the quality of life for White Americans. From institutionalized racism to blocked social and economic opportunities, African Americans are often excluded of African Americans.

Apologies cannot compensate an entire race of people for all of the social and economic ills they face as a result of their enslavement. They cannot address the residual effects of slavery. They cannot provide job opportunities to a race of people who are experiencing high unemployment rates. Apologies without action from the very systems they helped to create. Had it not been for slave labor, many corporations would not be where they are today and for these companies to acknowledge their involvement in slavery and then simply say ‘Oh, I’m sorry”, is to downplay their role in perpetuating the degradation are nothing more than a futile attempt…

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Detroit citizens transported back to Stone Age

marissaesque:

Spot on analysis, from Dakar, Senegal

Originally posted on Phantive Blog:

The United States of America. The self-professed “greatest country in the world”; the “land of the free.”

Anyone who knows me knows that I would beg to differ. And perhaps, so would the people of Detroit, Michigan.

Detroit used to be a bustling metropolis. In the early 20th century, it established itself as the world’s automotive capital, and during the 1950’s to 70’s, it was a prosperous city thanks to the thriving auto industry. It’s also the home of Motown, Berry Gordy’s record company (which is now a nickname for Detroit, as well as the musical genre), which was played a large role in racially integrating music and entertainment.

Despite all of the commercialism and creativity that the city was known for, there was also volatile racial tension, not to mention a Klu Klux Klan presence that surfaced in the 1920’s. The city’s decline has resulted in…

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back to reality

Originally posted on Fledgling:

IMG_2296My flight home from Dakar was not a happy one, but I’m not going to dwell on that here. I got home safely on Tuesday and my luggage followed two days later. My little car rapide got dinged up a bit but everything else was ok. Now that I have my power cords, I can pick up where I left off with my writing. I spent two days indoors—partly because I was waiting for my suitcase to be delivered and partly because I wasn’t ready to leave my bubble. The Novotel in Dakar was the perfect place for me; the staff was friendly and helpful but not at all intrusive (except for the housekeeping lady who would enter the room regardless of the “do not disturb” sign on the door). It was quiet and I was able to write without any real distractions—and despite ordering room service twice a day…

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Somebody is walking off with all our shit: Chapter 2

jafaican

Because of capitalism and globalization, cosmopolitanism, imperialism, racism and essentialism, along with colonialisms, some cultures are more dominant than others in the world. Nothing new here, right?

Others are more demonized, others are disproportionately ignored.

And still others are fetishized.

Allow me to rant about the latter, just for a moment:

Imagine that we lived in a world where African-Americans were widely believed to be, and celebrated (or denigrated) as, ebonics-spittin’, welfare check cashin’, government leeches who always made delicious soul food (thank you, food stamps!), and were always eating, always sleeping, always having sex, always playing basketball better than white Americans, and generally dominating any other athletic endeavor to which they had meaningful access. Just imagine if that were the case here in the United States, instead of the happy reality that black Americans are all stereotyped as being exceptional math and science students, and consummate professionals who cherish nuclear, patriarch-headed, Christian families.

(No, seriously, work with me, here. The sarcasm is necessary, I promise.)

Now, whether you are or not, imagine that you are African-American, and that you have a Facebook account, and a white American Facebook “friend” who insists on speaking in African-American Vernacular English–a marginalized and denigrated, yet sacred and culturally unifying and intrinsically legitimate dialect–on Facebook all of the time, who brags–in really hideously unsuccessful attempts to successfully speak Ebonics–that she is going to visit Harlem or Compton or Detroit–and that she’s “finna” kick it like nobody’s business with all of the black natives she finds. “Yup, homie, best beleee dat.”

You would feel incredibly salty, would you not? Not because you don’t believe that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but because you are conscious of her power and your baseline powerlessness as an African-American because of the stereotypes and assumptions proliferated and perpetuated concerning your very existence, and the additional burdens you bear each day as you attempt to overcome those assumptions and stereotypes. You know that you don’t have the luxury of speaking the way you’d like in every setting, and that breaking linguistic rules could cost you employment and reputation. Meanwhile, because of her privilege, she can butcher a language that you can only speak in the house or among friends-who-understand, and actually gain street credibility–street credibility that you, an aspiring black professional, can only afford to LOSE. Not only that, but she doesn’t even have to consider how you feel about her snatching and grabbing and intruding and perverting, because post-racialism, and colorblindness, and that red herring called reverse racism that she can use against you, and she totally voted for President Obama, see. You will have to seethe privately, as she continues to push back the gate between your lawns, her lawn getting bigger, yours becoming smaller, and her choosing not to notice.

I bring this up because of an experience I have been tolerating on Facebook, and offline, for the last four years or so, with increasingly exhausted patience. I became connected to the cultural arts and African dance (even the term “African dance” is highly, highly problematic, but that’s what its called) community in New York more or less by chance in 2010, after joining a white-shoe law firm forced me to search for convenient hobbies. In the community, African art teachers/producers/reproducers in the community are forced to tolerate fetishization of their cultures by their students/consumers because of supply and demand…because of money. They have to put up with being exoticized and essentialized by students who understand too little and want to access too much, and some will go so far as to encourage you to become more and more interested in peddled art, in the way that Verizon would prefer to you to be on contract rather than risking the loss of your custom as it does if you are a month-to-month client.  As one seeks to become better and better at the art form, it becomes difficult to avoid viewing it as sacred, especially when the classes are too expensive and require too much time away from friends and family and other hobbies, and otherwise necessitate some justification. I fell into the trap myself, spending nearly $100 a week on classes, and only hanging out with fellow dancers because no one else would understand. And then it became uncomfortable, and then nauseating, as I realized that while some of the students simply wanted to escape their own life’s realities in  a perfectly normal and healthy manner, others were aggressively disrespectful, taking liberties with language, customs, dress, and even religions whose privileges they would co-opt while simultaneously rejecting the accompanying, racialized burdens.

Perhaps I have become increasingly sensitive to these issues because I, too, am assumed, by some to be a fetishizer. Many community women, of all races, sexually fetishize West African men, and will enter into relationships with one or more artists. These relationships often provide the women in them with influence in the community vis-a-vis other women, and so, the relationships become cherished and sought-after. The men, black West African men, become commodified, and if the men happen to need immigration regularization, skin trade becomes tough to resist, and marriage offers imprudent to refuse.

I met my husband, who is not an artist despite hailing from a family of artists, through my connection to that community, and folks make their assumptions. However, because he is not a participant in the community, I had a chance to meet him on different terms–as a human being, with a soul, a brain, and a family–and not as an object, a mystical, exotic body that was required to perform for me when I rented it for 90 minutes at a local dance studio. Life as a member of that family has revealed to me just how damaging it is to have privileged outsiders parachute in and then run off with all of your shit, leaving you not only just as marginalized as your people had been since the Berlin Conference, but also without the right to possess and control your own customs and traditions, and the narratives surrounding them.

So sensitive have I become that I am no longer comfortable engaging in so-called “African dance” so long as it is rooted in inequality and benevolent racism, in commodification of art and history and human flesh, in cultural appropriation, or in crass capitalism. And I no longer feel that I have to tolerate the abuse of my own father’s rich cultural traditions simply because someone else feels, deep down inside, that he or she is doing me a favor by engaging them, and is therefore calling extreme amounts of attention to their cultural appropriation experiment on Facebook.

The island of Jamaica is not a talisman. Jamaicans are not djinn. Jamaicans are human beings, with a variety of lifestyles and interests and appearances and challenges and opportunities. Jamaica is no more “magical” or “mystical” than Trinidad and Tobago, Canada, or Estonia; stop treating Jamaicans like they are all little skinny men wrapped up in swaddling cloth around the loins, in a tropical forest chanting unintelligible chants and passing out magical marijuana that will help you find yourself. Jamaicans are not a monolith. Not all Jamaicans imbibe marijuana, neither do Rastafarians comprise a majority of the Jamaican population.

Don’t visit the island just because you’re horny; that’s racist as hell, and sexual tourism (read: exploitation) contributes to the island’s poverty–a poverty that you find inspiring, and that Jamaicans find miserable. Also, some Jamaicans are middle-class, and others, are rich. There is no need for you to seek out the poorest citizens you can find, in search of authentic patois that you will never speak correctly, patois that Jamaicans are discouraged from speaking at work, or in school, and in some homes–patois I was never taught because my father knew that because of folks who would denigrate or fail to take it seriously, if I spoke it, it would be to my detriment EVEN THOUGH THAT SUCKS AND ISN’T FAIR.

No, I do not want to discuss dancehall music with you, and I will not explain why. Must you have access to everything? You flew to Jamaica for a dancehall concert because you wanted to experience the “nice vibrations” even though you could have turned up on Utica Ave for the cost of a round trip on the 3 train? But you knew that they would have laughed you out of the lounge in Brooklyn, and so you went to Negril (what the hell?! Margaritavile? STOP.) where you knew that you’d be warmly received by desperate rent-a-dreads who will tell you that you’re a good dancer because they need to feed their kids. You are a predator. Go away.

Listen, if you want to romanticize France or England, or scream out “BECAUSE MURICA” on July 4th, go ahead. You can essentialize world powers without them losing their power. But when you decide to start butchering Kreyol or Patois or Papiamento on your Facebook status updates just because you like Bob Marley’s music and have convinced yourself that you have a divine connection to a country whose history you have never actually learned, you become a racist pig who contributes to the systematic global oppression suffered daily by (formerly?) colonized peoples, no matter how anti-racist you feel on the outside, no matter how black or brown or white your skin is, no matter how “culturally rooted” you imagine yourself to be, and no matter the number of people from that culture whose beds you’ve shared (in search of mystical, magical sex) notwithstanding. You are stealing in broad daylight, and it’s disrespectful. Give us back our shit.

 

snoop

Stoppit.

I need a break from Internet outrage. The world is terrible, it’s true, and accordingly, if I read or contribute to or comment on or share or instigate one.more.post concerning the Tea Party or Apartheid in Detroit (yes, it’s real), corruption in FIFA, racism in Brazil, the fact that the world still and always will hate women and their bodies, or whether or not Beyonce is a feminist, I think I will actually vomit.

I am incapacitated.

I am always nervous.

I am burned out.

I am depressed.

My chest hurts. Often.

And I find that I forget to breathe, as I try to keep my soul from exploding when folks make offensive comments or are offended by me.

If Internet outrage is a job, it must come with summer vacation. I’m out.

On Race, Films, Essentialism, and Lupita, in America(nah)

I don’t want to be critical or cynical or anything, I swear.  No, really, I promise.

If anything, I’m so tired of the smug, smarmy, intellectual in-fightings over identity politics of late, but isn’t feeling that uncomfortable burn what it’s all about? In this age of Obama, this twilight, where “yes, we could, so why haven’t we, and will we ever?” seems to sum up everyone’s mood, it seems like one more critical tweet or Instagram or column or Facebook status is one too much.

But here we are, and here I go:

I feel the tiniest bit of a way about Lupita Nyong’o in the film adaptation of Americanah, assuming she’s going to be Ifemelu.

Yes. I said it. I’m thrilled that there will be a film adaptation. I am less thrilled about Lupita Nyong’o as Ifemelu. I apologize if that’s blasphemous in some way.

Like so many, I love and respect Lupita as an actress and style icon and accidental symbolic activist (like all women, her very existence is a political statement)  so much, and even loved her work in Shuga way before she became a household name in the USA, so I’m not criticizing her…Please understand that I’m not criticizing her. Lupita Nyong’o is not the problem.

I’m only sad that it’s assumed that she’s perfect for the role because she’s a Black African actress…THE one famous Black African actress Hollywood has accepted right now. I’m sure there are incredible Nigerian actresses who would have loved to play Ifemelu (and could name many), and whose careers could use the same boost from which Nyong’o recently benefited, and now they won’t get that chance because no one knows the difference between Kenya and Naija, and, anyway, there is still only room enough for one.

Image