About the #BlackPantherSyllabus

Best known for his research into television content and cultivation theory, George Gerbner (1972) said that “representation in the fictional world signifies social existence; absence means symbolic annihilation” (p. 44). Historically, the Black experience has been absent, underrepresented, or misrepresented. Intersections within the identity have suffered with additional pressures, promoting a continued sense of invisibility. Within the last few years, visual representation has been on a rise, with our stories of the Black experience being told on a multitude of platforms. Narratives filled with stereotypes and misrepresentations are being overridden by success, wholeness, and imagination. This is particularly present in popular culture. Marvel’s Black Panther film serves as the highest profile example of a fundamental shift in our experience.

The Marvel character, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966, is inspiration personified: he is a servant leader, he is a protector, he is an intellectual, and he is a power house. Inspired by the record shattering blockbuster film filled with incredible performances and sociopolitical commentary, the #BlackPantherSyllabus is designed to continue the dialogue around the importance of diverse representation of the Black identity and its intersections in visible forms of media in popular culture and the arts, including television, film, comics, music, science/speculative fiction, fantasy literature, manga, anime, gaming, and more. The hope is that this celebration of Blackness in the form of a syllabus creates an educational tool and a movement that promotes a deeper sense of self-authorship.

Curators: Dr. Brandon W. Jones bjonesproject.com, Shawn J. Moore shawnjmoore.com

Source: #BlackPantherSyllabus | Feminism | Ethnicity, Race & Gender

Parsley ~ Rita Dove

July 9, 2012

1. The Cane Fields
There is a parrot imitating spring
in the palace, its feathers parsley green.
Out of the swamp, the cane appears

to haunt us, and we cut it down. El General
searches for a word; he is all the world
there is. Like a parrot imitating spring,

we lie down screaming as rain punches through
and we come up green. We cannot speak an R-
out of the swamp, the cane appears

and then the mountains we call in whispers Katalina.
The children gnaw their teeth to arrowheads.
There is a parrot imitating spring.

El General has found his word: perejil.
Who says it, lives. He laughs, teeth shining
out of the swamp. The cane appears

in our dreams, lashed by wind and streaming.
And we lie down. For every drop of blood
there is a parrot imitating spring.
Out of the swamp the cane appears.

2. The Palace
The word the general’s chosen is parsley.
It is fall, when thoughts turn
to love and death: the general thinks
of his mother, how she died in the fall
and he planted her walking cane at the grave
and it flowered, each spring stolidly forming
four-star blossoms. The general

pulls on his boots, he stomps to
her room in the palace, the one without
curtains, the one with a parrot
in a brass ring. As he paces, he wonders
who can I kill today. And for a moment
the little knots of screams
is still. The parrot, who has traveled

all the way from Australia in an ivory
cage, is, coy as a widow, practicing
spring. Ever since the morning
his mother collapsed in the kitchen
while baking skull-shaped candies
for the Day of the Dead, the general
has hated sweets, He orders pastries
brought up for the bird; they arrive

dusted with sugar on a bed of lace.
The knot in his throat starts to twitch;
he sees his boots the first day in battle
splashed with mud and urine
as a solder falls at his feet amazed-
how stupid he looked!-at the sound
of artillery. I never thought it would sing
the soldier said, and died. Now

the general sees the fields of sugar
cane, lashed by rain and steaming.
He sees his mother’s smile, the teeth
gnawed to arrowheads. He hears
the Haitians sing without R’s
as they swing the great machetes:
Katalina, they sing, Katalina,

mi madle, mi amol en muelte God knows
his mother was no stupid woman; she
could roll an R like a queen. Even
a parrot can roll an R! In the bare room
the bright feathers arch in a parody
of greenery, as the last pale crumbs
disappear under the blackened tongue. Someone

calls out his name in a voice
so like his mother’s, a startled tear
splashes the tip of his right boot.
My mother, my love in death.
The general remembers the tiny green springs
men of his village wore in their capes
to honor the birth of a son. He will
order many, this time, to be killed

for a single, beautiful word.

I admit it. I bought this book because I like Edwidge Danticat’s books and was very interested in reading her choices. So far I have read two of the essays in the book: Generation Why? by Zadie Smith and Beds by Toi Derricote.

Generation Y was devastating in its critique of the Facebook phenomenon and makes me rethink being constantly connected; especially  considering I tend to reconnect with books when I disconnect.

Beds was originally published in Creative Nonfiction. A more apt named journal for this piece of writing, I cannot imagine. It reads like a piece of harrowing fiction but its placement in a book of essays dispels that delusion. With this essay, I found myself a fan of Derricote’s and will be adding her poetry to my to-be-read-this-year list; right alongside White Teeth by Zadie Smith.

 

Roaming the blogosphere as I am wont to do, I came across a challenge on calyx press’ blog. Of course, at 43, I do not qualify as a “young feminist” (if I ever did) but still it set me to thinking about my intentions to write a review of Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology.

To a young woman unanchored, on the verge of being culturally divorced from self, the anthology was one of a series of buoys clung to and devoured like I was a member of the Donner party – not the daughter of Salma. Comprising both poetry and prose, the book represents discussions black women were having with other black women – and society in general – about what it means to be a black woman. The scope of the conversation is wide-ranging. It includes the Combahee River Collective Statement which includes articulations such as

This focusing upon our own oppression is embodied in the concept of identity politics. We believe that the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end somebody else’s oppression. In the case of Black women this is a particularly repugnant, dangerous, threatening, and therefore revolutionary concept because it is obvious from looking at all the political movements that have preceded us that anyone is more worthy of liberation than ourselves. We reject pedestals, queenhood, and walking ten paces behind. To be recognized as human, levelly human, is enough.

I’m not entirely clear on the concept of identity politics. However, it does strike me as the essence of self-determination to push your own cause. In the case of black women, the cause should be black women. Home Girls is one of the spots along my literary reading history where I realized it was acceptable, revolutionary even, to come out from the background, open my mouth and express my full self.

Home Girls is also where I first encountered the work of poet Kate Rushin. Her poem, the Black Back-ups,

is dedicated to Merry Clayton, Cissy Houston, Vonetta Washington, Dawn, Carrietta McClellen, Rosie Farmer, Marsha Jenkins and Carolyn Williams. This is for all of the Black women who sang back-up for Elvis Presley, John Denver, James Taylor, Lou Reed, Etc, Etc, Etc.

This is for Hattie McDaniels, Butterfly McQueen, Ethel Waters
Saphire
Saphronia
Ruby Begonia
Aunt Jemima
Aunt Jemima on the Pancake Box
Aunt Jemima on the Pancake Box?
AuntJemimaonthepancakebox?
auntjemimaonthepancakebox?
Ainchamamaonthepancakebox?
Aint chure Mama on the pancake box?

Mama Mama
Get offa that damn box
And come home to me

And my Mama leaps offa that box
She swoops down in her nurse’s cape
Which she wears on Sunday
And on Wednesday night prayer meeting
And she wipes my forehead
And she fans my face for me
And she makes me a cup o’ tea
And it don’t do a thing for my real pain
Except she is my Mama
Mama Mommy Mommy Mammy Mammy
Mam-mee Mam-mee
I’d Walk a mill-yon miles
For one o’ your smiles

This is for the Black Back-ups
This is for my mama and your mama
My grandma and your grandma
This is for the thousand thousand Black Back-ups

And the colored girls say*

After reading this poem, I couldn’t hear Lou Reed’s Walk on the Side as just a song. Instead, it now expressed a relationship where the talent and artistic skill of black women is used to enrich other artists – musically as well as economically. It’s Big Mama Thornton and Elvis played out all over the cultural landscape. Or would be – except that Big Mama’s daughter wants her mother and wrote a poem about it; a poem which changes the dynamic landscape of understanding.

 

 

* © 1983 Donna Kate Rushin