Preparing…

Looking for the author of this image..

I’m compiling material for a panel at the American Studies Association conference, happening in Puerto Rico next week.  The title?

On Alter Egos and Infinite Literacies, Part 2 (An #AntiJemimas Imperative)

Read Part I here.

I’m presenting with Fleshy Prof but I’ll basically be playing myself (yeah, wrap your minds around that).  And the entire family is invited:  Zora Walker, the Sable Fan Gyrl, the WOC Survival Kit–even Pretty Magnolia’s fine ass.

This little intellectual endeavor comes at a difficult time.  Personally and professionally, I am heavy, struggling to find my voice and stake my claim.  Balancing, consolidating, and exposing the alters will be like walking into a cold classroom filled with hostile, condescending adults and stripping down to a bright red thong.  It will be sexy, nerve-wracking, and vaguely reminiscent of slavery.

While pulling the material for the presentation together, I’m realizing  I’m more of a practitioner than I ever thought.  The #AntiJemimas are more than a project.  They are a lifestyle (note the new blog title) and a survival imperative.  So what does presentating a practice look like…in practice?  How does it roll into the audience?  Does it wave goodbye when attendees come and go?  Does it LOL?  Does it (O_o)?

There is touching to be done in Puerto Rico.  Touching and laughing and mindstroking and healing are waiting for me.  And I can’t wait.

But damn.  I’m not really that much of a voyeur to be so exposed.

 

The LatiNegr@s Project: A Response In Solidarity

In light of the recent Letter to the Editor of Latina Magazine from Alicia Anabel Santos, we, The LatiNegr@s Project/@BeingAfroLatino, stand in agreement that Latina Magazine is misrepresenting Afr@Latin@s through their recent list of “Happy Black History Month: The 50 Most Beautiful Afro-Latinos In Hollywood.” We also believe that the term Afr@Latin@ is not a fad in which to be used to sell magazines or advertisements.

However, we disagree in terms of who and what defines Afr@Latin@s.  Here is why.

Black Latinidad, Afr@Latin@s, LatiNegr@s and other panethnic terms are young in both U.S. and diasporic history. While it may seem easiest to define Afr@Latin@s as “descended of” any one particular thing, doing so only falls in line with codes that have been used to divide us (people of African-descent in the Americas) from much needed resources and divide nosotros (people of African-descent who are also Latin@ or Latin American) from creating coalitions with Anglo-identified or identifying Blacks in the Americas.  Policing culture, bloodlines, and birthplace is behavior very familiar to imperialist and colonialist regimes the world over—and it has worked for generations on generations.  None of it has ever gotten at the root of exorcising racist systems of oppression, classist modes of resources distribution or sexual violence within our communities.

The struggle against racist systems of oppression is about Blackness, as it relates to Afr@latinidad, being acknowledged as its own entity.

Afr@Latin@s are not Black in the same way African-Americans are Black.  Some are Afr@Latin@ because they have African ancestors connected to a particular land with its own particular culture that is not the U.S.  Others are Afr@Latin@s because their experiences, culture, lineage, and personal histories are both of Latin@ or Latin American-descent and of Black descent, whether that be U.S. or diasporic.  This is particularly true of the fast growing population of Afr@Latin@s in the United States—those of Latin@ and Anglo-identifying Black descent.  Still others are Afr@Latin@ because they self-identify as both marked by Blackness and as part of a global struggle against racist oppression enacted against Latin@s and Latin Americans of African-descent.

There have been generations of Afr@Latin@s born on U.S. soil. We cannot ignore or dismiss this history. As early as the fifteenth century and into the last decades of the nineteenth, Africans moved through the slave holding societies of North, Central and South America.  Most often as slaves, though sometimes as free people of Color, they crossed false boundaries created by colonial regimes.  Over the course of a lifetime, a Black person might find themselves enslaved in Cuba, fomenting slave revolt in Haiti, and freed in New York City.

Moreover, and especially in Latin America, Blackness existed and exists along a spectrum created at the intersection of two things.  On the one hand, state-sanctioned racial codes policed and police the line between Black and white.  In Latin America, gradations of morena, quarterona and other castas further divided people of African-descent, even determining access to freedom, occupations, and education.  As a result, Black identity was never any one thing but was always stigmatized in relation to whites.  On the other hand, Blackness itself was and is deep and varied, as Africans hailing from Dahomey created families with those of Congo or Segu, and a myriad other societies and cultures over time, including those here in the Americas.  The combination created and creates conflicting racial identities.  This is why there are even Latin@s of African-descent who do not identify as ‘Afr@Latino@.’  And yet their agency is important too.

This is our history.  ‘Afr@latinidad’ is not linear.  But our struggle creates commonalities.  Because Afr@Latin@s usually don’t match a specific “Latin@” image, we are forced to negotiate our identity and are discursively or personally positioned as outsiders in ‘Latin@’ spaces.  The struggle for inclusion, rights, and resources is also about our children, grandchildren, and kin.  And while relations between Afro@Latin@s and African-Americans, or Caribbean and Latin American folk who identify as indigenous or white, have never been perfect, bonds existed and continue to be formed.  We cannot dismiss or police individuals for how they have structured their families, and we must not think we can dictate individuals racial identities to them.  Self-identification is key.

We are concerned with the definition presented in the Letter to Latina Magazine because there is a difference between denying and accepting African-roots.  We gain nothing by using mainstream constructions of race to define our politics or our struggle.  Coalitions and acceptance are political imperatives as we work on behalf of ourselves and our communities.

To be clear: we will always stand strong when it comes to the exploitation and colonization of our people. We will not stand for commercialization and corporate colonization of Black and Latin@ people anywhere in the world. In Latina Magazine’s blatant disregard of the term and identity Afr@Latin@, they have allowed us to have a dialogue that makes our community stronger.

We always support dialogue that promotes Afr@Latin@s and African Descendants.  Discussion of Latin@s of African-descent needs to happen; often. Acknowledging, honoring, and raising awareness of Black people in Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean is critical, necessary, and not up for debate.  And people of Color producing and sharing knowledge is powerful.  Remembering our historical legacy and the long struggle behind and ahead will only make us stronger.

In Solidarity,
The LatiNegr@s Project/@BeingAfroLatino Team

X-Posted at The LatiNegr@s Project

Happy Black History Month from the Lati-Negr@s Project

Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, Mexico

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.

In eighteenth-century Mexico, as in the rest of Latin America, racial mixture was classified in great detail.”

X-Posted at the LatiNegr@s Project.

Follow us on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook for the Afro-Latino perspective as we celebrate Black History Month.  Honor your ancestors 365 familia.

The (Confederate) Flag and the (Black) Student

Um, this happened:

Byron Thomas is 19, black, a freshman at the University of South Carolina Beaufort and a proud Southerner. He hung a Confederate flag in his dorm room window until the university asked him to take it down because several people had complained about it. (The university later stepped back from the request, saying all students have the right to free speech.)

“I know it’s kinda weird because I’m black,” Thomas said in an iReport he submitted. “When I look at this flag, I just don’t see racism. I see pride, respect. Southern pride, that’s what I see.”

“Ignorance gave that flag a bad name, ignorant people like the KKK,” he told CNN’s Don Lemon.

And this happened:

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We Were More than Slaves (A #TroyDavis Flow)

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.

Regardless, we were more than just slaves.

And we are more than criminals.

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Maggies and Moments

For weeks months, I’ve been trying to do a Thursday Readin’ post on Nisi Shawl’s short story “Maggies.”

“Maggies,” from speculative fiction author Nisi Shawl’s 2008 Tiptree award-winning short story collection Filter House, will make any self-respecting Sable Fan Gyrl cheer and vomit at the same time.  Set in the future-verse colony of New Bahama, the narrator is a young, gender-neutral protagonist sent to live with their father after their mother falls ill.

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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.

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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:

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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……

Thursday Readin’: Finishing Dolen’s Wench

With slut walks, slut shaming, #KanazawaScience and Beyonce running the world , this may be a Most Complicated Week Ever for #blackfeministsex.  Whew!

So why not kick off Thursday Readin’ with a few final reflections on Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s novel Wench?

The Cool Kidz Book Club (@fortyoneacres  & @Mdotwrites) started and finished this book last year.  And I won’t even pretend I read slow.  I don’t.  But I do read with careful attention to violence and danger.  And since I research women & slavery all day, everyday in the Flesh, I need to watch how I enter that space when I am reading for pleasure.

Lucky for me, Valdez got me in and out safely.  She pushed me but she didn’t burn me up and she didn’t leave me with the happies.  She left me just where I should be after a book about enslaved women negotiating for their lives–disturbed, invigorated and ready for battle.

Reading Wench Part 3 & 4 after the jump….

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