Black Girls be Announcing the Winner: “Hidden Fences” and the bounds of white imagination

And the Winner is…: “Hidden Fences” and the bounds of white imagination

Last night the Golden Globes aired and amidst the normal red carpet couture conversations there was a sense of expectancy, no, the arrival of something different. Maybe it was the way the paparazzi’s flashes bounced off their skin; the Black and brown bodies dripping in shimmering metallics like they had floated in from an intergalactic cocktail party in a universe far, far away–but it felt like no matter who got a golden trophy, they had already won.

But then whiteness showed up, as it always does, a tether pulling us away from the Afrofuture, back even from this moment and to a not so distant past. With one “innocent” mistake whiteness reminded us that we are interchangeable, frivolous and indiscernible. When “Hidden Fences” fell from one white mouth after another, it was supposed to be a sign that our stories don’t matter, no one cares and we can be invited and still unwelcome. At least, it was supposed to be: But instead it showed the limitations of the white imagination.

An imagination that cannot tell the difference between a screenplay based on a play by one of the greatest and most prolific playwrights in American history and a movie based on the true story of the Black women who were pivotal in NASA’s moon mission. Black imagination propelled us to space. White imagination couldn’t get the names right.

But what’s ironic about this “unintentional” snub is that “Hidden Fences” is exactly why the Black bodies are in the room. These Black artists can see the truth, beauty, pain, complexity and fullness of Black life and experiences. With this vision, they can tell the stories that white imagination doesn’t believe exists. White imagination can’t fathom an awkward Black girl because that would mean acknowledging the full humanity of Black women and girls, and yet there sat Issa Rae with a Kanekalon crown, donned in white. White imagination is struggling to solve a very simple equation that has been stumping it for centuries; if bodies have souls and Black men have bodies, how then? To which Moonlight replies, then Black men have souls. And as America prepares to send its first Black woman to the International Space Station, white imagination cant find the space in its mouth to admit and affirm that Black women got us to space in the first place.

There were indeed hidden fences at the Golden Globes last night. However it was not a nominated film about a baseball game on the moon featuring Denzel Washington and Janelle Monae. It was formed by boards of ancestral lies and fortified by indifference that makes it impossible for white imagination to dream Black characters beyond caricatures. So Donald and Viola and Tracee and Mahershala and Janelle and Issa and Octavia and Courtney hopped the fence. A fence that is coming down, whether whiteness can imagine it or not.

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Black Girls Be Thinking About Maya

Maya Angelou left her body behind 12 days ago. I am usually not affected by celebrity passings but I realize that I deal with death the same way I deal with most emotions; I put it away until it falls off the shelf and knocks me in the head. Well Maya just knocked me in the head.

I was reading this quote,

I’m grateful for being here, for being able to think, for being able to see, for being able to taste, for appreciating love – for knowing that it exists in a world so rife with vulgarity, with brutality and violence, and yet love exists. I’m grateful to know that it exists.

and I could almost feel her whispering in my ear. I was reminded of the memes that I saw that featured Phenomenal Woman, “thots” and Kermit the Frog; quotes that made me sadder than I understood. I blamed it on my cycle, but now I understand.

My junior year of college, Dr. Angelou gave the convocation speech. Out she came, a little ol grey-haired lady with glasses and an assistant to help her on. Was this the same woman whose poems we recite with a hip check and a snap and words we wear like a shield? She looked like someone’s grandma bringing them cookies from the house. But when she spoke there was no denying. She said something to the effect of,

“When your back’s against the wall your pride will fall like a hooker(prostitute’s) drawers.

There were gasps, snickers and full out laughter. I was a bit aghast myself. Mama Maya No! Not a prostitute’s drawers! I didn’t understand then but I think I understand now.

Enough people have highlighted the hypocrisy of these statements in comparison to Dr. Angelou’s experience as a sex worker. The part that hurts is that we have abandoned our grandmothers, our great aunts, our woman elders and made them relics in the corner, good only for recipes and warm hugs. We refuse to accept that they were once young women with full breasts and full beds. No, Granny was born, met Grandpa, had kids, cooked meatloaf and now she’s old. The End. We have completely erased their womanhood thus rendering them sexless, voiceless and powerless. That’s what caused the discomfort of my fellow audience members when Maya dared to let the words “prostitute’s drawers” fall gracefully from her lips. Because in that action she said “And Aint I A Woman?”

Imagine the lessons we could learn if we listened to older women. And imagine the cycles that could be broken if older women were not shamed into silence. I need the mothers to tell me about the men they loved, the loves they lost and the lives they’ve lived. I dont want to reinvent the wheel every generation. I want to sit around the the table, turn down the radio and giggle and wipe tears and be schooled. Pass down some life saving knowledge with that biscuit recipe; we wont get it right the first time but we’ll learn.

*Thank you Mama Angelou for reminding us that our stories matter, even if no one wants them or understands them but us. Thank you for living, breathing and telling your truth. We needed you.*

 

Black Girls Be Listening: Rapsody & “The Idea of Beautiful”

If you’re an avid reader of Black Girl Blue then my adventures on Spotify are not new to you.  Well folks, it happened  again.

I have known about this artist for a while.  I’d heard a few songs by her and watched a few music videos.  I followed her on Twitter and people always spoke very highly of her music.  I went to 95 Live, a monthly hip hop dance/dj party hosted by 9th Wonder and his squad and I saw this short, brown skinned woman weaving her way through the crowd and I recognized her.  Yep, it was Rapsody.

So today as I sat at my computer and worked, I hit play on “The Idea of Beautiful” and just… listened.  I was stuck on the melodic arrangements that only played second to the searing truth that was laid, track after track.  I wasnt even bobbing my head, not wanting to miss anything.  It has just the right blend of old school hip hop and a brave new world where Jay Z is the New Negro and the President is black.  Yes.  It is perfect.

After listening to the entire record the first time ( I say first time because I am listening to it again as I write this post), I wondered where is the space in hip hop for Rapsody?  She doesn’t fit in with the flamboyant, caricature stylings of a Nicki Minaj nor is she going to lyrically P pop in a handstand like Trina.  No. If I had to I would put Rapsody somewhere between an Eve and a Lauryn Hill, someone you wouldnt want to cross in a rap or a street battle, with a pinch of MC Lyte and a dash of Hov for good measure.

Rapsody makes music that one can grow with and grow to.    Her music does not have an expiration date; a time when it will no longer be relevant to the beauty and struggles of life.  She does not sell you surface or body or shock and awe; Instead she welcomes you into her world and her heart and asks you to share in the experience.

So take a peek, steal a listen. There are some cuss words so this is NSFW (Dont say I didnt warn you)!

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Black Girls Be Winning Grammys

Did you watch the Grammys  last night? I didnt but I twatched it (watched it via the plethora of tweets).  I promise this will not be another post about Kelly’s dress, Frank’s singing (or lackthereof) or Katy’s boobs.

…. ok I will talk about Katy’s boobs for a quick moment.  Women have breasts.  Breasts of all shapes and sizes.  I just find it really interesting how people talk about boobs.  Folks really think they have the right to say when boobs should and should not be displayed and how and how much.  When they think it looks good or doesnt ruffle their sensibilities, they accept it.  But if someone is exposing themselves as they see fit and outsiders dont agree they have so much to say.  I have a lot to say about boobs but I’ll leave that for another post.

The Grammys that I was most interested in weren’t even being televised so I am very pleased to announce that Esperanza Spalding and Robert Glasper took home Grammys last night!  Esperanza won her second and third Grammys for Best Jazz Vocal Album (Radio Music Society) and Best Instrumental Accompanying Vocalists (“City of Roses”).  If you didnt know, she received her first Grammy in 2011 for Best New Artist beating out the Biebster.

And, in my humble opinion, one of the best albums of the year, Black Radio by Robert Glasper Experiment won Best R&B album.

But why is this so exciting to this broke lil Black girl who will not prosper not nary a bit by these awards? Well first off Esperanza is the latter day saint of New Age Naturals.

I mean just look at her! She is serving Diana Ross realness for the GAWDS!

I mean just look at her! She is serving Diana Ross realness for the GAWDS! Photo Credit

She is a prodigy and her music is awesome.  I am glad that I get the opportunity to experience her artistry.

And oh Robert…

He's the one in the middle. Yup.

He’s the one in the middle. Yup. Photo Credit

First off, he’s my kinda fine (Remember that post? No? Refresh your memory here.).  Second awf, his album rocks! And third off, he lives for his team! He really crafted an album with all these people that he likes and respects.  That album is full of art and love and fun and that can be felt in every song.

But I am especially excited about these wins because one of my first few posts, Black Girls Be Listening to New Music and Getting Sentimental: Gregory Porter’s Be Good were about these artists which means that this Black Girl’s got taste!! Two out of the three artists in that post got Grammys last night and Gregory Porter… well…

So yeah… the biggest winner could be Gregory Porter.  Call me boo.

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Black Girls Be Loving Soul Music

So it’s 11:25 and though I am committed to my Black History Month blogging challenge, all I want to do is listen to Emile Sande and Lianne La Havas.  So this post was born!  I dont know whats in the water in the UK or if they have just started getting hip to the soul greats but the best soul singers have been coming from overseas! They sing from a very raw, emotional and deep place not like the sterile sound that “R&B” has taken.  Dont believe me? Listen for yourself:

Exhibit A: Emile Sande

Her debut album came out last year and it is awesome.  I like every single song on that album but the following song touches me. I think we’ve all stood at the precipice of a major decision, choosing whether to sell out or follow our heart.

Exhibit B: Lianne La Havas

This girl man… I have adopted her as my cousin in my head.  She is 23 (1989 was a damn good year) and from the UK and her debut album is doing great! I cant wait to see her live.  This song asks the forever relevant question, “Is Your Love Big Enough for What’s To Come?” And though the “on tour-concert” video is over done, I like it because I feel like I get a glimpse into her life and her personality. Making me like her even more.

And I’m gonna end this music recap with a young brother named Michael Kiwanuka.  When I first heard his voice I had to stop what I was doing, look at his picture and read his bio because I just knew my Spotify was messed up and had played some long dead soul singer.  But it hadnt.  This 25 year old man stole Sam Cooke’s voice box.  That’s my hypothesis and Im sticking with it.  Here’s his song “Home Again”. Did I mention that he’s 25 and I find him oh so very attractive? *Makes googly eyes and bookmarks all his videos*

So there you have it folks. I hope you enjoyed this musical journey. What are some of the musical acts you’ve discovered?

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Black Girls Be So Proud to Be Aggies!

I mentioned in a previous post that I am a proud graduate of an illustrious HBCU, but I didn’t name it.  Well it’s Black History Month and I got my alumni newsletter in the mail today and my pride bubbleth over.

I am an alumnus of the North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University!!! AGGIE PRIDE!!!! (Whoo! That takes a lot out of you when you do it right lol)

I am so extremely proud of my university.  It was established in the basement of Shaw University in 1891. It would go on to give us the “Greensboro Four” (really the A&T Four) who were famous for their nonviolent protest of sitting in at the Woolworth’s counter in Greensboro, North Carolina on February 1, 1960.

A&T Four

Ronald McNair, first African American astronaut, was an Aggie.  And though he made the ultimate sacrifice on the Challenger on January 26, 1986, he forged an indelible bond between the university and NASA that continues to this very day.

mcnair

And on the cover of the alumni newsletter there was the First Lady of the United States, newly robed and mid-speech.  She gave the commencement address for the Spring 2012 graduation.  She was also given an honorary doctorate from A&T making her an Aggie for life!

moatA&T

But it’s not the glorious achievements that my alma mater boasts that make me so proud to call myself an Aggie.  It’s all the Aggies I know who are out in the world kicking down doors, obliterating barriers and creating their own opportunities that make me proud to say I am one of them! Aggies dont understand No! Aggies know no wait! And Aggies know what they can achieve when they call on the Aggie infantry.  When we yell “AGGIE PRIDE” it is not a mere spirit chant, its a battle cry. Its a rallying call that tells us to gear up and get ready; for the fight is not over.

So on this Black History Month 2013 I celebrate my alma mater, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. The legacy its created, its present growth and its continued and future success!

Wanna learn more about NC A&T? Visit them here.

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