Maybe I’m too old to have my thumb on the relevant spaces in the interwebs, but it seems like the video barely caused a buzz. Responses from Jezebel, Clutch, and Vibe were mainly negative, complaining about Minaj’s use of animalistic imagery, neon colors and her less than creative wordplay. Black feminists offered mainly negative critique for obvious and perfectly legitimate reasons. Minaj’s challenge to “stupid hoes” included a reference to “nappy-headed hoes” and images of a pale, plastic, Venus Hottentot Barbie.
Me? Minaj hurts my head. She perplexes me. I think of her as Trickster, two-faced in her betrayal of global black feminist possibility and powerful in her contradictory elucidation of black woman’s power within the realms of celebrity and hip hop. Reading her as Ellegua, that frightful guardian of the crossroads and the in-between and the everything-that-is-not-yet seems to fit an artist who switches alter egos as easily as she switches clothes. Conjuring the ritual and physicality of possession seems to fit a celebrity who changes clothes as she changes personality, putting on her and taking off her tropes as each personality comes down. The sometimes garish, sometimes delightful carnival of color, glitter and expression–even the repetitive dancehall/house music refrain–also fit a woman whose aesthetic choices continually find their footing in her Trinidadian roots.
In other words, I think of Nicki Minaj as diasporic black, as radical, and as speculative.
Rodney McMillian Untitled, 2005 Carpet 139 x 178 x 114 in. (353 x 452 x 289.6 cm)
Today I stopped and stared at a carpet.
I was at the @CorcoranDC’s 30 Americans exhibit. I’d just passed through a gallery featuring works by Carrie Mae Weems, Glenn Ligon and William Pope.L. But now a carpet dominated the entire length of one wall, with a single strip of tattered and stained material extending into the path of patrons, guarded by black, rubber bumpers: Rodney McMillian’s, Untitled (2005).
I’d originally passed it by. How does an old, ugly carpet compare to Carrie Mae Weem’s portraits? Or Glen Ligon’s Mirror (2002)? Or Nina Chanel Abney’s caricatures? Granted, Abney’s twisting lines and bright circus carnival colors assaulted me if I focused too closely. And the topics were strange. Ghosts emerged from dress ties and the tails of animals. Jagged teeth gaped and spread into red, wet smiles. Disturbing. But interesting.
Y’all know Nuñez Daughter is all about black latinidad, Afrolatinos, Afro-Latin America, histories of slavery and the experiences of black people all across the African diaspora? That’s part of the reason you’re here–right?
Let’s hope so. Because me, Tony Stark (Anthony Otero), La Bianca (Bianca Laureano) and La Republica Detroit (Violeta Donawa) have formed like Voltron–if Voltron knew how to cook arroz and collard greens with platanos and ran new media projects on the side.
I like Tony’s intro so I’m gonna steal it from his blog:
Negro literacy class at the Parish Prison, New Orleans. Interior, 2 Feb 1937 (WPA Photographs/New Orleans Public Library)
Diving deep into notes I made while sitting in an overseas reading room two years ago, I’m still surprised by how many roles people of African descent played during the period of the slave trade. We (although this is the time period before we were We) were slave traders and grain producers, pounders of millet, sailors, soldiers, wives, householders, and shipowners. And most of us were slaves.
That we were slaves did not mean that we couldn’t still occupy one of these other roles. We were still skilled in what we were skilled in and we were apprentices in what we weren’t. We were still mothers of the children we gave birth to and some we did not and godmothers to children we sponsored at the baptismal font. We still loved our lovers and we still participated in the merchant economy generated by slave trading and plantation slavery. Like bondage, bodies-as-commerce was not a way of life we could escape.
Even those of us who were free or freed–free African men and women, free people of color, freedmen and freedwomen–found our lives constrained by the political economy of Atlantic slaving, a capricious megalith too dangerous to ignore. Raced terminology marked our freedom as “of color” and somehow different from the freedom whites enjoyed and were assumed to enjoy.
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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!
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.
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 →