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

Today is my son’s 12th birthday. 12 years! Time flies and flies! Motherhood has, of course, changed me…for the better. Over the years since I’ve become a Mother, I have seen a lot of things that assault what it means, for me, an African woman who is consciously single, to be a Mother. Be clear, when I say consciously single, I mean that. I ended my marriage but not my interaction with his dad (my was-band). It was after our divorce that I got pregnant. His dad and I discussed remarrying and my answer was a resounding no!

Don’t get me wrong. I still have love for his dad. We went through a lot together…and apart…and there is no other man in the world, if it was possible to go back and re-choose, that I would have chosen to be my child’s father. I recognized, even at that stage when my child (aka fetus) wasn’t formed enough to move inside me, that two different things were at play. There was the relationship of a man and a woman. And there was the relationship between father and child. I believed then and still believe now that it’s wasn’t necessary for his dad and I to be together in order for his dad to have a relationship with our child.

Still, I was a womanist and when I found out I was carrying a boy, I sat in the ultrasound room and cried my heart out. Of course, now I look back and say “that was hormones”. But still, I had spent a lot of time and emotional energy deciding on a name for a girl. I was convinced, in my heart of hearts, that I was going to give birth to a girl. Still bound by a patriarchal understanding that women can’t raise boys to manhood, I wasn’t at all happy about the fact that my child was going to have a penis!  So I cried, something I do only when I am extremely upset!

But then the day came. When I felt the first contraction, I immediately gave up any idea of giving birth naturally and said “give me the epidural”. I look back now and say “you punk, you were so scared of the pain, you allowed the nurses to give you a shot in your spine” and said shot numbed me so much I was unable to feel my legs, let alone “push”. And the white female doctor, who was so unfamiliar with black women’s health issues, that she had to look up, in my presence, what it meant that I carried the sickle cell trait, decided, eventually, that she would have to bring my child into the world through a Caesarian. And she also gave me a scar I haven’t been able to eradicate to this day; presumably because black people heal unlike white people…

Still, I love that scar and I love the boy I gave birth to. I realized, pretty quickly, that my womanist bent meant I was more qualified, emotionally and culturally speaking, to be a mother of a boy than I was of a girl. In other words, I wasn’t a “girly girl”. I don’t wear makeup. Whenever I wear a dress or a skirt, people in my circle feel it necessary to exclaim and exalt me for doing so as if a dress or a skirt suddenly demonstrates to them that I possess a vagina; even though I do so whenever the weather is conducive. I don’t torture my feet by wearing what I call “hooker heels”.

I used to agonize about the above like it meant that I was, inherently, deficient in feminine qualities (aka “ain’t I a woman?”). And then I had a conversation with a now-former Sister-friend and said conversation resulted in me saying “I’m okay and have been for quite a while”. I realized that it wasn’t me that was deficient. The motherhood model was what was deficient.

Once I realized, and embraced that I was and continue to be, able to raise a boy to manhood. I realized that all the patriarchal/hotep folks who were very vocally against women raising boys weren’t against it because they doubted a woman’s ability. They were against it because they disagreed with the kind of man women such as I were raising. We weren’t (and are not) raising our boys (they don’t consider the girls) to be the Barack Obama version of Kaitlyn Jenner. (Ponder that for a moment)

As I routinely state on my private (friends only) Facebook page, I am raising a man, not a slave. And as my child (and I) celebrate his twelfth year of existence in a country where black children can’t play in a park without being murdered by those who are alleged to “protect and serve”, I give thanks to all I am that enables me to do so (raise a man, not a slave).

So…happy, happy bornday (he was born, I gave birth) to my very, very beloved yng blk star. May you continue to thrive and grow…and define for yourself what it means to be you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I became pregnant, I made the conscious decision to a full-time stay-at-home mother. Eight years later, I have come to the conclusion that what I thought was a personal decision is more than that. It is political. It has been made abundantly clear to me that such a decision is supposed to be only the purview of married women whose husbands work at jobs where they earn a wage that makes the lack of two incomes a non-issue.  It is not a decision that society permits low income, not-completely college-educated women-such as myself. My status as a mother is, apparently, qualified by the pejorative “single” as if the way I mother my son is somehow qualitatively different than the way I would mother him if  his father and I hadn’t divorced before he was conceived…and also by the fact that I turned down his father’s remarriage request after our son was conceived.

The links below provided today discuss this “situation” in terms that define the saying “the personal is political”.

http://socialistworker.org/2012/07/23/single-mother-myth:

As long as our society is organized around the existence of the nuclear family, no matter how mythical that ideal has become, those who live outside it will be punished. In our society, the entire cost of raising the next generation of workers is pushed onto the private family. This represents a massive savings for those who run this society. Women’s unpaid labor in the home–in the U.S. alone–represents more than $1.4 trillion each year, according to the estimate of United Nations researchers in 1995.

http://bit.ly/MA7YMC:

Rather than opining on whether [Marissa] Mayer will be a good mommy, what we really ought to be talking about is why the workplace remains so incompatible with motherhood in the first place – and why we assume that fixing that incompatibility is women’s work.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-can-8217-t-have-it-all/9020/6/?single_page=true

EIGHTEEN MONTHS INTO my job as the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department, a foreign-policy dream job that traces its origins back to George Kennan, I found myself in New York, at the United Nations’ annual assemblage of every foreign minister and head of state in the world. On a Wednesday evening, President and Mrs. Obama hosted a glamorous reception at the American Museum of Natural History. I sipped champagne, greeted foreign dignitaries, and mingled. But I could not stop thinking about my 14-year-old son, who had started eighth grade three weeks earlier and was already resuming what had become his pattern of skipping homework, disrupting classes, failing math, and tuning out any adult who tried to reach him. Over the summer, we had barely spoken to each other—or, more accurately, he had barely spoken to me. And the previous spring I had received several urgent phone calls—invariably on the day of an important meeting—that required me to take the first train from Washington, D.C., where I worked, back to Princeton, New Jersey, where he lived. My husband, who has always done everything possible to support my career, took care of him and his 12-year-old brother during the week; outside of those midweek emergencies, I came home only on weekends.

Reading Round-up

February 15, 2012

 

The Help:

I know I’m a day late and a dollar short in discussing The Help but I recently saw an interview/discussion between Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Tavis Smiley that made me order the book. I read it relatively quickly over a weekend. During my reading of it, a quote from Alice Walker flashed into my mind:

“I used to wonder if any white child in the South who received the love of the great souls forced to tend them would ever develop enough soul of his or her own to rise in their defense.  Or even to an understanding, however limited or imperfect, of their silenced, hidden sacrifice.  Kathryn Stockett has done so.”

I think that, ultimately, is the value of this book.

 

Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons:


This is a book of narratives of women both formerly, and currently, imprisoned. Every single one of the “stories” highlights the anti-human nature of prison. I’ve heard the phrase “if you do the crime then you do the time”. However the condemnation inherent in that phrase pertains more to black and/or poor  women than any other group. The women tell tales of being eight months pregnant and being shackled across their belly during visits during the prison hospital. One pregnant woman, Olivia, who was sentenced to a year in prison, nine years of probation and a $100/month post-incarceration repayment schedule for stealing $700 reports the following:

My due date was May 24, 2008, just before the Memorial Day weekend. A female doctor from the Atlanta Medical Center came to visit me on the 22nd. At that time, I wasn’t showing any signs of labor. We did an ultrasound, and the baby hadn’t moved one bit. I wasn’t dilated at all, wasn’t even close, and I wasn’t having any pains. She said I should be fine through the weekend, and that everything was normal about my pregnancy.

Then, on the evening on the 23rd-this was a Friday evening-the guards called me, and they told me to pack my stuff. But I hadn’t even had one contraction, so I asked a guard, “Where am I going?” And the guard said, “I don’t know. They just called  and said for you to pack your stuff.” I thought, Okay, maybe I’m going home!

I got over to the infirmary, and the captain said, “Well, the doctor from the prison says he’s going to send you to be induced.” When I asked why, she said, “Because your due date is May 24th, and this is a holiday weekend.” I said, “But I’m not even in pain or anything! I don’t want to be induced, I’m not even late. Nothing’s wrong with me!” And she said, “Well, these are orders.”

They put me in a room and shackled me. I was more upset than anything that the baby just wasn’t ready, and I didn’t want to be forced. They gave me Pitocin, but it wasn’t working. Later, in the middle of the night, the doctor came in to check on me. He came in and he started poking inside me with an instrument-I’m not sure exactly what it was, it looked like a little stick. He put it inside me and started poking the bag of water, where the amniotic fluid was, so he could bust it. It was a lot of pain, and I said, “You’re hurting me.” He stopped, but by then he had swollen up  my insides, and the baby couldn’t move any more than six centimeters.”

Then he said, “Well, if you don’t move any more by tomorrow, we’re going to have to do a c-section.” I said, “So you come in here, and you poke me to death, and now I”m swollen! I have never had a c-section in my life. My oldest son was nine pounds-no cuts, no slits, no nothing. And you’re going to make me have a c-section?”

The next day, the doctor came back and took me in to have the c-section done. A sergeant came in and said, “She needs to be shackled. She’s no different from anybody else.” I was hurting and I was tired. I said to the sergeant, “Ma’am, there is no way I need those shackles. I’m not going anywhere; I’m in pain. You’ve got a guard in my room. And I don’t know if you have kids but this ain’t something fun to have your hands shackled for.” But she made them keep the shackles on me when I went in for the c-section.

The doctor gave me an epidural. I went through with the c-section and finally, the baby came on out. It was a boy. The guard held him up to show him to me. Even then, they never took the shackles off me.

This c-section I was force to have-I doubt that it’s legal. I don’t remember signing any paperwork but I never looked into finding a lawyer. I was hoping there was something I could do but I was told that I had no rights. The guard said to me, ” You lost your rights the day you walked in here.”

I named the baby Joshua.

Now that was a long excerpt for what was supposed to be a round-up but it disturbed me enough to want to share what happens behind the wall to the fastest-growing population of prisoners: women.

Zong! – M. Nourbese Phillips

I had such high hopes for this book when I read the description: “[an] extended poetry cycle is based on a legal decision, at the end of the eighteenth century, related to the murder of Africans on board a slave ship. It was intended to be part of my research for my next book. However, the arrangement of the words on the page make the book, honestly speaking,  unreadable!  Here is a link to a sample so that what I’m saying can be understood from a reader’s point of view. Flipping through page after page, I found nothing else but the same.

Now I had watched a video of Ms. Phillips read-performing her work and I got it. In fact, it was the video that predisposed me to order the book. However, I simply think print isn’t the best format for that type of poetry.

The below quote is taken from the chapter, Framing the Panther – Assata Shakur and Black Female Agency by Joy James

 

[Assata Shakur’s] eulogy for Safiya Bukhari, given in Havana on August 29, 2003, is haunting. Bukhari collapsed hours after she buried her own mother-the grandmother who raised Safiya Bukhari’s young daughter the day her own daughter became a BLA fighter and fugitive, going underground only to surface for an eight-year prison term. Bukhari survived the maiming medical practices of prison doctors (although her uterus did not) only to succumb to the “typical” black women diseases of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and heart failure in 2002. The eulogy could be read as Assata Shakur’s – and that of all revolutionary black women who refused to circumscribe their rebellion, and paid the costs for that decision:

It is with much sadness that I say last goodbye to Safiya Bukhari. She was my sister, my comrade and my friend. We met nearly thirty-five years ago, when we were bothe members of the Black Panther Party in Harlem. Even then, I was impressed by her sincerity, her commitment, and her burning energy. She was a descendant of slaves and she inherited the legacy of neo-slavery. She believed that struggle was the only way that African people in America could rid themselves of oppression. As a black woman struggling to live in America she experienced the most vicious forms of racism, sexism, cruelty and indifference. As a political activist she was targeted, persecuted, hounded and harassed. Because of her political activities she became a political prisoner and spent many years in prison. But she continued to struggle. She gave the best that she had to give to our people. She devoted her life, her love and her best energies to fighting for the liberation of oppressed people. She struggled selflessly, she could be trusted, she was consistent, and she could always be counted on to do what needed to be done. She was a soldier, a warrior-woman who did everything she could to free her people and to free political prisoners.”

For Assata Shakur, the weight of isolation, alienation, and vilification are scars that are borne. Redemption does not occur on this plane or in this life. Betrayal by nonblacks and black, by men and wome, to part of the liberation narrative. There will be no gratitude, no appreciation, no recognition equal to the insults and assaults. So, Assata Shakur, in true revolutionary fashion, must conclude her testimonial embracing a community that radiates beyond our immediate boundaries and limitations:

“I have faith that the Ancestors will welcome her, cherish her, and treat her with more love and more kindness than she ever received here on this earth.”

Framing the Panther

Want to Start a Revolution? Radical Women in the Black Freedom Struggle

Related Links:

What Happens When a Book is Judged by its Cover

Assata Shakur: In her Own Words

Assata Shakur’s Autobiography (amazon)

Octavia Butler Interview

August 29, 2011

Bio on AALBC

Octavia Butler’s Amazon page

 

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

Twelve years ago, before I was a Mother myself, I gave my Mom a copy of Mothers of the Revolution. Reading the subheading of the book: The War Experiences of Zimbabwean women, she thought it was going to be the war experiences of gun-toting nappy-haired women who don’t hesitate to shoot upon seeing the white of someone’s skin. But it wasn’t. It was about the quiet, non glamorous, non-romanticized work of revolution; the work that is so quiet we don’t normally see it unless it’s not there…or unless it’s a threat to the dehumanizing status quo.

The whole question of motherhood, revolution and writing has been on my mind lately due to a conversation I had with a sister-friend about the sacrifices inherent in good mothering/parenting. She says that she may not be cut out for motherhood because she wants to be able to spend time writing and having mornings in bed, etc. Oh, how I can relate! What wouldn’t I give for just a week of that!! Then I look at my chocolate bundle of goodness, stubbornness and just plain 6 yr old boyness and I think no. Mornings in bed alone or with a man or a book or music or just the sunshine streaming through the window can’t compare with his scream of laughter when I tickle him in his armpits or the tightness of his arms when he comes to me for a hug after being hurt or even the endless questions that have me telling him to hush.

What’s even more ironic about her position is the fact that she had previously informed me, during one of my venting sessions, that my Son is now my revolution. I had understood that since writing

Sankara Mantra (7 Months)

Lashes like mine
Eyes like mine
even in the way
they peruse a room
Skin like mine
but darker.

A bafflement inside me
every time I hear him
referred to as black.
(how’d you get such a black baby?)

It has happened twice.
Just like my response.
(black is beautiful.)

His mouth like his father’s.
He even smirks like him
causing an almost instantaneous
transfer of affection.

Sankara
whose birth filled the holes
that were consuming my heart

Sankara
who is entranced by his reflection
in the mirror
has begun to stand.

I am in awe of his determination
and the fact that
at barely seventeen pounds
his head is already past my knees.

Sankara
who I brought into an oppressive world
clutches his walker with his pudgy fingers
and walks completely around it.

I watch with a joy that is miraculous.

Sankara
Who I brought into an oppressive world
is owed happiness and well-being
and that is a debt I will pay
like Malcolm said
by any means necessary.

 

Still even though I love my revolution too deeply to ever to ever abstain, this quiet work sometimes gets to me.  I once wanted to be louder than oppression. Now I find myself writing poems about wanting quiet! The same sister-friend mentioned earlier says it’s due to maturity but I miss immature me!  I miss the woman who wrote oppression should be shot down like john f. kennedy. I don’t quite know the woman who wants it quiet like days at ocean beach. I don’t know much of anything except there’s a richness to my life that wasn’t there before…no matter how much I gave of myself to the people and causes I believe in.

I guess I just have to unite womb and mind. The pre-mother me heard Tupac say “I’m your son” and even though he wasn’t talking to me, I said yes. And now that I’m a mother, I’m still saying yes.

 

Links:

http://www.postcolonialweb.org/zimbabwe/miscauthors/mothers1.html

Louder than Oppression

My Spirit Talks

sinew under skin stretches as i open my eyes, look at the clock and start counting. ninety minutes until the other human being who resides with me has to be at school. as i run through the ritual, i find myself missing those days when time was an entity to enjoy, not count.

i hate counting. i hate constantly eyeballing the clock but i what i hate most is what i’m teaching my six yr old as i tell him over and over he’s wasting time.

i heard myself tell him that this morning and even after the flag went up the first time, i heard myself repeating it several more times.

how can time be wasted? i mean, literally, when time is constantly being reborn. there’s always going to be another minute coming. if not for me, then for someone. and if not for them, then for someone or something else. can something that doesn’t stop be wasted? is time the one thing that has an endless flow? how to demonstrate the endless nature of time…and still get him to school on time?

i hate counting. i hate to be counted even more; which is why the census form is still in its envelope. is statistical data really a requirement for fixing neighborhoods across the country? i would’ve thought having the desire to fix neighborhoods across the country would be the main ingredient for success. plus, when i think of how the government’s little counting games can end up in gerrymandering, i’m even more reluctant. 

in addition to the other reasons are the fact that it brings to the mind the plantation when africans were counted as things…and sometimes not even fully things but 3/5ths of a thing.

and if that isn’t enough….

it also reminds me of when i used to visit my ex-husband in prison and if i went at shift change time, i’d have to wait almost ninety minutes while they counted every single inmate in the place. they did this several times a day – even w/o a single report of a prison break or any other possibly legitimate reason other than capitalism’s insane love of counting.

i hate counting. i hate being counted but certain people can count on me.

Reading is Evolutionary

March 18, 2010

Two years ago a blogger for Circle of Seven Productions posted a blog/rant on my space in favor of reading and literacy. As part of it, she issued a challenge: “I challenge anyone reading this blog to write one blog…just one…encouraging people to read. Encourage them to encourage others to read. READ ANYTHING!”

As I find myself getting almost orgasmically excited by my latest read (The Book of Night Women by Marlon James), my mind traveled to my response to the challenge.

 

Reading is Evolutionary

It was the diary of a young girl living in an era I could never go back because time moves forward.

Just like time, my eyes moved forward through each page growing more and more enamored of the first book that touched me in my black girlness. It was beyond affirming.

That book, The Color Purple by Alice Walker set me on the path to being a writer because it enabled me to see how our life stories can contribute to literature.

It also helped me to redefine the definition of fiction. I have heard a lot of people (black men in particular) say that they don’t read fiction because they’re tired of “lies” or some statement to that effect. I believe however that those statements miss the point of black “fiction”.

It is (or should be) indisputable that prior to the mid to late 20th century our voices were censored. What better way for a people to get in where they fit in that to position their works under the banner of fiction. Is Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man total fiction? Or does it resonate with the experience of black men, regardless of their generation? Toni Morrison’s Beloved was based on the life of Margaret Garner. Margaret Garner’s story isn’t fiction. Is Sethe’s? My favorite James Baldwin novel is If Beale Street Could Talk. I recognized the main character, Tish, in the faces, lives and pride of my sisters. Black fiction is not automatically fictional.

Read.

Even though I am an advocate and a believer in well-written, reality-based “fiction”, that is not the only thing I read. As someone who intimately understands the saying “those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it”, I also read history. In high school, a teacher slipped me the Autobiography of Malcolm X on the sly. It was a thick paperback that I had to rubber band together in order not to lose any of the pages. Reading that book led me on the path to researching the Black Revolution of the Sixties. My research deepened my awareness of black resistance. At no point were we passive.

Regardless of the danger, we struggled to learn to read when it was dangerous to the point of death. Frederick Douglass described in his autobiography of the poor white boy who showed him how to read. The Free African School movement is an indication of our desire to reclaim what was stolen from us and learn.

Read.

Reading is Evolutionary.