Whitney Houston died last night.
From In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience:
“From early on, racial classifications of Latin America and the Caribbean were complex. The criteria included skin shade, hair texture, and social background. The definition accepted in the United States-the only country with such a categorization-is the so-called one-drop rule, which makes anyone with any known African ancestry a black person.
X-Posted at the LatiNegr@s Project.
I spent a good chunk of my Thanksgiving break falling into the CW’s Vampire Diaries (thank you @Netflix). In the process I turned Little Sis, T the Great and Nuñez Mom into fangirls and addicts.
I didn’t mean to get sucked in. I cut my tween Sable Fan Gyrl teeth on the original Vampire Diaries trilogy (plus one post mortem) by L. J. Smith. And when the CW series started, I was determined not to watch because it couldn’t possibly be as amazing as the books were. I was convinced the casting was all wrong and a little pissed the disgusting success of Meyer’s Twilight was the only reason anyone even seemed interested in L. J. Smith fandom.
I was stupid, ignorant and wrong all at once.
Thinking a lot of academy thoughts this week. Reading Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower.
Dr. Brown just articulated better than I ever could what it is like being a College Educated Negress:
Where can students of color get intellectual validation that does not require them to so fully assimilate that they lose the best of themselves, their families,and their cultures? It occurred to me that through grade school and high school we had learned to compete, to keep up, but not to surpass; to stand alongside but not in front; to fit in but not to reshape.*
Standing alongside you begin to know the discomfort of ghosts.
And that pressure to assimilate, to choose between where your family is and where you are…well.
That feels a lot like the dissonance of being raised under the determined, near frantic optimism of a colorblind, post-Movement, Puerto Rican mother and an African-American father seething with internalized racism in cocaine80s Chicago.
And that feels a lot like wanting things and not having them and striving for things and not getting them, and dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s and still watching the goal move further away again and again and again, and picking up Piri Thomas for help and picking up Cherríe Moraga for help and picking up, good gawd, and picking up and holding close and hugging Gwendolyn Brooks for help and good heavens almighty, it feels like picking up Octavia and picking her brain and reading every word and holding her hand when things were too much….
And it feels a lot like frustration and tastes bitter as blood. Because Piri is dead now. And it took over 24 hours for an obituary to post. And I never had a chance to tell him what his work meant to me. And Gwendolyn is dead. And she lived in Chicago. And I, knuckle-head high schooler I was, missed the chance to tell her what she meant to me. And Octavia is dead. And she lived half a country away and I was never gonna get to tell her what she meant to me but damn if only I could have.
And it feels like the cold that sweeps across the back of your neck when you realize a mentor you loved like a father…his facebook page is still active. Active. Alive. Living. And you want to post something but you can’t. Because how do you tell someone that you are also active.alive.living now but only because they lived? How do you tell someone that you have survived this far in part because of what they were and that you are remembering them all the time and regretting every phone call you didn’t make and even that doesn’t make you feel better because you know they knew that they knew that you knew you were loved anyway. That nothing you could do could lose their love for you.
And it feels like ……..
But is also full of promise.
After all, here I am. Writing stuff. Grateful for things like Facebook profiles and black Latinidad Twitter communities and emails from mentors that affirm that “yes, I check it too” and voices who check in with me from across social media to say, “Hey there. Hey. Hear my voice.”
I am still here. Writing stuff. Thinking thoughts. I haven’t disappeared yet.
*Leslie Brown, “How a Hundred Years of History Tracked Me Down,” Telling Histories: Black Women Historians and the Ivory Tower, 262
“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.”
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.
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:
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
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
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……
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.
Holy Apostles and The Mediator Episopal Church
51st and Spruce Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19139
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
Visit the website here. Fanboys and fangyrls from around the web poured libations for her:
*breathes in deep* *looks around*
I’ve decided to build an army. No, not a harem. An army. We will fight with brown gold and yellow jade and ride black unicorns. We will make magick and cross worlds.
And I’m recruiting.
That shooting star up there? That’s me, skipping across the digi-verse, looking for womyn and gyrls of color who are making radical womyn of color art.
Like Andrea Hairston:
The stage is in darkness. Harsh music is heard as dim blue lights come up. One after another, seven women run onto the stage from different exits….
The lady in brown comes to life and looks at the other ladies….
These days, my mother fights the camera. She sees each photo taken as a violation.
But there are older images of her. Carefree, fresh and open. Dreaming and willing to dream. The woman who took photography class and experimented with black and white film and rolled her hair on top of her head and dabbed her lips with gloss and arched her eyebrows just so and then — SNAP — captured.
I think my grandmother saw it too. She saw herself in her daughter-in-law’s eyes. Brown, big-skinned woman with a one-way ticket from Troy, Alabama to Chicago, Continue reading