Not a Review of The Help

Given the rabid success of 'The Help,' Warner Brothers has announced it will begin filming a Gone with the Wind reboot, opening summer of 2014. Alfre Woodard will play Mammy. Tickets Are Selling Fast! Get yours soon! Support Black Actresses!

“Paternalism defined the involuntary labor of the slaves as a legitimate return to their masters for protection and direction.  But, the masters’ need to see their slaves as acquiescent human beings constituted a moral victory for the slaves themselves.  Paternalism’s insistence upon mutual obligations–duties, responsibilities, and ultimately even rights–implicitly recognized the slaves’ humanity.” 

***

“Wasn’t that the point of the book?  For women to realize, We are just two people.  Not that much separates us.  Not nearly as much as I’d thought.” ~~Kathryn Stockett, “In Her Own Words

The Help is the most disturbing book I’ve read this year.  Skeeter is one of the most annoying “heroines” of 21st century.  Reading it was like eating ice cream with my back against a Woolworths counter while watching hoses slam into black children in the street outside.  Bull Connor is on the corner, motioning for the fire trucks to fill’er’up.**  And somehow, my maid churned and froze this Ice cream herself.***  Of course.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Interlude: The Sable Fan Gyrl Survives the DC Earthquake

Image Credit: Brightest Young Things

via io9.com:

In an interview with NPR, seismologist John Vidale said that the Earth’s crust actually has ancient faults in many places, but that “most of them don’t move very much…the mystery is really what’s pushing the faults to make it move now — and there are a lot of theories.”

Vidale said one of these theories is that the plate is in the process recovering from the end of the last glacial period, relieving itself of pressure incurred while the region was still covered in ice by rising and putting stress on the Earth’s crust.

 

Chrisopher Bailey, chairman of the geology department at William and Mary, told NPR that another explanation could be that the current movements of the North Atlantic tectonic plate are putting pressure on the same ancient faults mentioned by Vidale.

 

According to David Spears, Virginia’s state geologist, there are three such faults in Virginia alone.

 

“An area of central Virginia, along a line that runs from Fredericksburg to Gereensboro, N.C., used to be a plate boundary,” Spears said. “Perhaps there’s some leftover stress in the crust.”

I survived y’all.  Here’s to the impending Rapture.  *sips Bacardi & Coca*

xoxo,

 

If You Need Help with ‘The Help’….

Like it or not, ‘The Help’ is the talk of the interwebs.  Some folks love it, many folks hate it, others just don’t know what the big deal is.

In case you have yet to read the Association of Black Women Historian’s beautiful, eloquent and concise statement on why ‘The Help’ is problematic, faux-Civil Rights history, you should check it out here (Zora Walker also posted it to Tumblr, for your reblogging ease and pleasure).  Reblog, repost, re-Facebook the statement EVERYWHERE. They are the experts.  They paid their dues.  They know what they are talking about.

But let’s say you still don’t see what the big deal is–or you loved the book/movie and you just want to be well informed on all perspectives.  Or you just need help understanding the whole history.  Never fear!  Zora Walker has your back.  Click away and get your mind right.  Then decide for yourself how you feel about Stockett’s work.

#MacheteBehavior after the jump:

Continue reading

SHOTS FIRED: The Association of Black Women Historians has a few things to say about ‘The Help’

SHOTS FIRED:  The Association of Black Women Historians has a few things to say about ‘The Help.’

And they aren’t just talking to white people.  They are talking to all FANS.  And they are telling you to get your mind right (and giving you a reading list to help you).  Statement in full below–bold is my emphasis:

An Open Statement to the Fans of The Help:

On behalf of the Association of Black Women Historians (ABWH), this statement provides historical context to address widespread stereotyping presented in both the film and novel version of The Help.   The book has sold over three million copies, and heavy promotion of the movie will ensure its success at the box office. Despite efforts to market the book and the film as a progressive story of triumph over racial injustice, The Help distorts, ignores, and trivializes the experiences of black domestic workers. We are specifically concerned about the representations of black life and the lack of attention given to sexual harassment and civil rights activism.

During the 1960s, the era covered in The Help, legal segregation and economic inequalities limited black women’s employment opportunities. Up to 90 per cent of working black women in the South labored as domestic servants in white homes. The Help’s representation of these women is a disappointing resurrection of Mammy—a mythical stereotype of black women who were compelled, either by slavery or segregation, to serve white families. Portrayed as asexual, loyal, and contented caretakers of whites, the caricature of Mammy allowed mainstream America to ignore the systemic racism that bound black women to back-breaking, low paying jobs where employers routinely exploited them. The popularity of this most recent iteration is troubling because it reveals a contemporary nostalgia for the days when a black woman could only hope to clean the White House rather than reside in it.

Both versions of The Help also misrepresent African American speech and culture. Set in the South, the appropriate regional accent gives way to a child-like, over-exaggerated “black” dialect. In the film, for example, the primary character, Aibileen, reassures a young white child that, “You is smat, you is kind, you is important.” In the book, black women refer to the Lord as the “Law,” an irreverent depiction of black vernacular. For centuries, black women and men have drawn strength from their community institutions. The black family, in particular provided support and the validation of personhood necessary to stand against adversity. We do not recognize the black community described in The Help where most of the black male characters are depicted as drunkards, abusive, or absent. Such distorted images are misleading and do not represent the historical realities of black masculinity and manhood.

Furthermore, African American domestic workers often suffered sexual harassment as well as physical and verbal abuse in the homes of white employers. For example, a recently discovered letter written by Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks indicates that she, like many black domestic workers, lived under the threat and sometimes reality of sexual assault. The film, on the other hand, makes light of black women’s fears and vulnerabilities turning them into moments of comic relief.

Similarly, the film is woefully silent on the rich and vibrant history of black Civil Rights activists in Mississippi. Granted, the assassination of Medgar Evers, the first Mississippi based field secretary of the NAACP, gets some attention. However, Evers’ assassination sends Jackson’s black community frantically scurrying into the streets in utter chaos and disorganized confusion—a far cry from the courage demonstrated by the black men and women who continued his fight. Portraying the most dangerous racists in 1960s Mississippi as a group of attractive, well dressed, society women, while ignoring the reign of terror perpetuated by the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens Council, limits racial injustice to individual acts of meanness.

We respect the stellar performances of the African American actresses in this film. Indeed, this statement is in no way a criticism of their talent. It is, however, an attempt to provide context for this popular rendition of black life in the Jim Crow South. In the end, The Help is not a story about the millions of hardworking and dignified black women who labored in white homes to support their families and communities. Rather, it is the coming-of-age story of a white protagonist, who uses myths about the lives of black women to make sense of her own. The Association of Black Women Historians finds it unacceptable for either this book or this film to strip black women’s lives of historical accuracy for the sake of entertainment.

Ida E. Jones is National Director of ABWH and Assistant Curator at Howard University. Daina Ramey Berry, Tiffany M. Gill, and Kali Nicole Gross are Lifetime Members of ABWH and Associate Professors at the University of Texas at Austin. Janice Sumler-Edmond is a Lifetime Member of ABWH and is a Professor at Huston-Tillotson University.

Word Count: 766

Suggested Reading:

Fiction:
Like one of the Family: Conversations from A Domestic’s Life, Alice Childress
The Book of the Night Women by Marlon James
Blanche on the Lam by Barbara Neeley
The Street by Ann Petry
A Million Nightingales by Susan Straight

Non-Fiction:
Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household by Thavolia Glymph
To Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women’s Lives and Labors by Tera Hunter
Labor of Love Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family, from Slavery to the Present by Jacqueline Jones
Living In, Living Out: African American Domestics and the Great Migration by Elizabeth Clark-Lewis
Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody

Any questions, comments, or interview requests can be sent to: ABWHTheHelp@gmail.com

Read it again here.  And REBLOG THIS EVERYWHERE.  These are black women HISTORIANS.  They have lived the history or they are close to someone who has.  And they have paid their muthafrakkin DUES to WRITE the history.  THEY are the experts.  Not some…well, you know who.  THEY ARE BAWSE.

Reblog this hot 16 right here.  Because in the future……

Interlude: The Sable Fan Gyrl Presents….

Todd Heisler/The New York Times

“…Butler’s ostensible prescience, as seen through the environment she constructs for Lauren, becomes increasingly evident with each news item I hear while stuck in Chicago traffic. Butler’s foresight goes beyond the evolution of televisions into flatscreens, which Lauren calls “windows.” Consider, for example, that Atlantis’ return to our atmosphere last month marked the end of the space shuttle program—and the jobs of 1500 employees—for N.A.S.A. How can one not recall Lauren’s concern about the government’s desire to end the space program altogether, and the effects such decisions might have on one of her invented religion’s, Earthseed, core tenets: The Destiny of Earthseed is to take root among the stars?….”

Octavia the Prescient” by Summer Mcdonald at @SpecterMagazine’s Ghost+Blog.  Read the rest….

Why I Got Stuck on 1 Sentence for 3 Hours Yesterday

This should probably be a Confessions post, but I feel good putting it here.  From my research (or now my writing) journal:

I am sitting here at the café, more frustrated than I ever wanted to admit to myself. Frustrated with myself, frustrated with language, frustrated with not owning a big dictionary, and frustrated because even if I did, I don’t think it would matter. I’d still be stuck swirling around in a history that no one understands.  I’d still be stuck with a bunch of words that mean almost nothing when placed in the context of women I am studying. They defy every one.  Sex. Race. Gender. Black. White. African. Afro-European. Eurafrican. Whatever these things even mean, whatever they were meant to mean, these are not women who fit very well into the categories.  Wife. Slave. Free.  Consort.  Libertine.  Mulatress.  Signare.  Mistress.  Rivale.  Harlot.  Slut.  And I’m having the damndest time wrapping my mind around how to even speak of this period much less speak of them and their world in a way that centers their ingenuity, their creativity, their industry, their love of self and family, their petty antagonisms, their jealousies, their bitterness, their violence and their pain.

I’m finding myself turning in circles. I turn to the dictionary, browse through the Ds, find decollage, wonder about the meaning of a word that suggests decoration of the neck, consider images of slave women wearing the iron collar —

Click Image for More Information

— and then fight not to cry.

I turn to my library, look for articles I can use for reference, for support, for a way of speaking about defiant women & nasty wenches.  I find a bibliography worth everything and nothing. Because I’m looking for more than just continental early black women’s history and less than literary ruminations on trips to slave castles. I’m looking for the truth–or a truth that I can use to apply to my work and begin to understand what I’m seeing.

Maybe it doesn’t exist.

I remember what Stephanie Camp wrote about trying to find the words to write about truancy and black women and sometimes feeling so frustrated she’d want to throw a book against the wall. And how she’d come back, again and again, to Deborah Gray White’s book, Arn’t I a Woman?.

And I think of Joan Dayan’s piece on Erzulie, and imagine the difficulty she must have had trying to piece together threads of reminisces on a woman, a lwa, an archetype, and how much garbage she had to fight through to make that body known.

I ended there.  Because after invoking the words of my personal heroes, I picked up my pen and started again….

The WOC Survival Kit is Desperately Seeking GIFs!

Never submitted to the WOC Survival Kit?  Now is your chance.  The WOC Survival Kit needs more GIFs!!!!

What’s a GIF, you ask?  Well, since a GIF is worth a thousand words…..

Except if you’ve ever tried to search for the perfect, pro-womyn of color GIF, then you already know.  Not so easy.  Not easy at all.

Help us make the WOC Survival Kit one of the go-to places for poignant, political, ratchet, funny, sexy, silly and honest radical womyn of color GIFs on the web.  

Go forth!  Make those images of womyn of African, Asian, Latina & Native American descent move, shake, flash, beep, bling, snark, cuss, fart, and frakk.  Submit them to the ‘Kit here.  Or toss them up on your Tumblr, Twitter or blog and send us a message so we can reblog.  Or shoot them to us in an email (iwannaliv@gmail.com).  But send them our way!  Because the WOC Survival Kit is here for and accountable to YOU.

Happy searching,

The #AntiJemimas of the WOC Survival Kit

An iwannalive production

R. I. P. Leslie Esdaile Banks (b.k.a. L. A. Banks)

In June, we published a call for donations and support and prayers for Leslie Esdaile Banks who was battling cancer.  We are sad to report that on August 2, 2011, Banks passed away.

From the website:

In Loving Memory

Leslie Ann Peterson Esdaile Banks

It is with the most profound sadness that I have to inform everyone that our most beloved sister and friend, Leslie Esdaile,August 2, 2011.

We will all miss her terribly.

The Leslie Ann Peterson Esdaile Banks Memorial Service will be held:

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

11 o’clock a.m.

at the

Holy Apostles and The Mediator Episopal Church

51st and Spruce Streets

Philadelphia, PA 19139

215-472-3000

At Leslie’s request, in lieu of flowers, donations should be made to the United Negro College Fund in her memory.

The Peterson family wishes to thank you for the love and kindness you have shared with us during Leslie’s illness and her recent death. Your many messages of support, which we were able to share with Leslie, meant so much to her.

Your expressions of sympathy have brought us all great comfort in this time of grief.

Tina R. Wise

Tinarwise@gmail.com

Visit the website here.  Fanboys and fangyrls from around the web poured libations for her:

Continue reading

Death and Other Night Terrors

“It is not something you just let happen.  Your body knows how to do it, but you still have to do it.  Nevertheless, as it is when one is good at something, I enjoyed the effort because in many ways the effort was effortless.  I spread my wings and took to the sky.  No one heard from me for an hour.”

I wish I felt as confident as Onyesonwu, the sorceress-heroine of Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death.  She just took flight.  Me?  I need a blog post to mark what I already feel.

Time to take flight.

So many new things were happening, are happening, that I didn’t even have time to do an update.  With the help of the Shawty Got Skillz/INCITE Women of Color crew and YOU, my lovely & loving donors, I finally attended the Allied Media Conference.  I met activists, artists, bloggers, and organizers I’ve admired for years.  Years.  With @MdotWrites there in spirit, we rocked a session on using safe and critical use of Twitter.  I smanged some delicious pasta and radical POC conversation and made friends I hope to have for-ev-er (Dancing on Embers, I’m looking at you).  Care packages, skill share materials and more are on their way so make sure I have your contact information if you donated, purchased the skill share gift package, still WANT to purchase, etc.  (More info on this to come, don’t worry.  You will get reminders!)

And if you want to follow along with what the Shawty Got Skillz sharers are doing now or catch up on the back tweets, follow @ShawtyGtSkillz (no “O” in “got”) on Twitter, head over to the Shawty Got Skillz Tumblr, or search the #SGSZ hashatg.

I also moved back to the District.  I’m still soaking up the spectrum of sights, smells, and tastes I’ve missed for so long.  No, I didn’t romanticize you DMV.  Even when you’re ugly (#streetharassment, #Gentrification), I love you, because when I look into the worst of you I know I’m looking into parts of myself.  And I know that black & brown folk regroup and rebuild.  We will make it through this.  I can’t wait to re-join the fight.

I moved in with Mr… (Moment–

–go on and get that out of your system)

…which has been a lesson in love, patience, sexual stamina, money management and all the rest.  I’ve been officially banned from posting about it (what I wanted to do was make a new Tumblr because you know how I do) but I will be posting informal updates as the adventure unfolds (Hint: #LivingWithMr on Twitter).

And even though I’m back, I’m practicing a little bit of self-love & solitude.  Yes, even with Mr. here, because in a lot of ways I’m letting him take care of me.  According to Little Sis, this is my Year of the Hermit; I’m either going on a journey, sola, or I’m coming back from one.  She’s the numerology guru but I do feel it.  I’m reaching out less.  I’m micro-managing my real life social networks less.  I’m mothering less.  I’m journaling more.  I’m crafting stories and considering submitting them.  I’m making plans for Nuñez Daughter and iwannalive productions and focusing inward on what my dreams for the next two, ten, twenty years will be.  I’m babying myself.  And I’m learning quite a bit about myself and my relationships as I go along.  Good and bad.  Ain’t that always the way?

Maybe most important, and the reason for the title and the image, I’m also in the last stages of writing my dissertation.  There is a kind of death that this process requires, an execution I have been afraid to face–death of childhood, death of adolescence, death of certain radical dreams, death of certain assumptions about myself and life in general–but the time is nigh.  Not because I feel like the research is over–in fact, there is a world of documents I can’t wait to dive into.  But because circumstances demand that I move on to the next stage of my life.  And the more I discuss my state of mind with colleagues and friends, the more I realize most dissertations aren’t written because the writer feels the research is complete–they are written because the writer feels that something has got to give.  It may be financial or emotional, an impending job offer or a big move or a new marriage or a new baby or a death in the family.  Or the death of a mentor.  It may be that the sun shone through the window a different way that morning.  But if the effort required to write a dissertation is quantifiable, I’d guess that only 40% of it is the work of researching.  The other 50% is just mind & drive & courage.  That last ten?  Typing that b*tch out.

When I left the Little Town in New England, Asian Dancer put it just right.  In paraphrase, she said, “You are setting yourself up with the most perfect situation you could ever imagine, the best situation possible to finish this thing.  You’ll be in a city you love, with people you love and a man-piece who loves you for you to lay on.  You are going to write all day.  And then you are going to have sex all night.  You’ll have no excuse not to.  You’ll even want to.”

She’s right.  I do.  After all:

“…something must be written before it can be rewritten.”

This blog is about to be sporadic in updates.  And when I do write, expect to get an eye-full of ranting and raving about bad coffee and loud cafés, obscure requests from committee members and last minute dashes to the archive.  Along with learning more than you ever wanted to know about bondwomen’s reproduction, labor, market work and higglers, sex across the color line, libertines and debauchery, dances, tignons, 18th century birth registers, slave castles and poor soldiers, Afro-Atlantic maroonage, and other permutations direct from the experience of women of African descent during the period of African slavery.  I’ll also be throwing in the usual Sable Fan Gyrl, pop culture, day-in-the-life, political ranting riff-raff that is my escape hatch.  Can’t get too serious, right?

If I haven’t updated recently and you want to know where to find me, chop it up with me on Twitter (@KismetNunez).  It’s public so you can always lurk my timeline but I’d love to e-meet you so please sign up.  Or poke around the Confessions of a Sable Fan Gyrl Tumblr and leave a question in my Ask box (the really juicy, cuss-word filled ranting will be done there).  The WOC Survival Kit & my other friends will be updating on a regular basis.

In other words, I’m around.  I’m married to the E-Game, after all.  I’m just cheating on it with Ms. Diss.  Respect my mistress.

Till next time (& I’m stealing from @MdotWrites on this one but it’s inspired by @Nnedi):

Wings up.