Unapologetic, day 7: Excellence (Intro to Macro)

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Tommie Smith and John Carlos were two Black American sprinters at the 1968 Mexico City Games. As teammates on the track team at San Jose State University, the men were both informed of the boycott led by Harry Edwards, creator of the Olympic Project for Human Rights, and a young sociologist among Smith and Carlos. The intention of the boycott was to remind the citizens of America that the injustices faced by Black people had not been amended, and the actions America had taken civil rights thus far were not sufficient enough to change this. While the all-out boycott itself never formally took place, its efforts were recognized widely by civil right’s leaders and many athletes.

Inspired by the efforts of Harry Edwards, and encrusted with the knowledge of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Smith and Carlos planned a non-violent protest after the completion of the race. Smith was awarded the gold medal for the men’s 200 meter race, for which Carlos was awarded the bronze medal. The two athletes both approached the podium without shoes, but with black socks, to symbolize black poverty in America. Smith’s black scarf was an emblem of Black pride. Carlos’ tracksuit top was unzipped to represent all blue collar workers in America, with a beaded necklace in remembrance of “for those individuals that were lynched, or killed and that no-one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred. It was for those thrown off the side of the boats in the middle passage,” (from Black Power, Dean Lucas.)

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“Victory Salute,” a tribute piece at San Jose State University, created by Rigo 23.

Demonstration of Black excellence. These men went farther than to represent America but also to shed light upon the “other” America. This was their pledge of allegiance to Black America. They made sure to classify themselves as Black athletes, Black Olympians; Black champions. They took the risk, and the response to their actions resulted in a ban on both men from the Olympic Village, and a suspension from their national team. Yet, they are rewarded with commemoration, admiration, and zeal by Black athletes and Black students everywhere who note their willingness to use their platform; to use their art as a form of resistance.

 

 

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As we remember them, we are encouraged to follow in their footsteps…

“It is the duty of the young Negro artist, if he accepts any duties at all from outsiders to change through the force of his [work] that old whispering ‘I want to be white,’ hidden in the aspirations of his people, to ‘why should I want to be white? I’m a Negro – and beautiful!'”

The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain ~ Langston Hughes.

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Unapologetic, day 5: Unstoppable

“The oppressor’s power is fading, and you, every day, are becoming better informed, and more numerous.”

Let Your Motto Be Resistance!, Henry Highland Garnet, 1843.

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Black mentorship within a community provides knowledge and wisdom of the verbal stories passed down by our mothers and grandmothers; our fathers and grandfathers.

Through acquiring information about our history, and passing down this information to our Black youth; by allowing them to know their history, we are acting as a form of resistance.

The young Black person can now speak up in these discussions of race, and affirm, for himself and for others, that his natural abilities, as to his political, intellectual and moral status are greater than what you want to project onto him.

SNCC-hero-AB.jpegStudent Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was an organization established in 1960 as a response to the older generation’s efforts to steer the students in the direction they at to go in terms of the flourishing Civil Rights Movement. The statement of purpose for SNCC included the values of:

“Through nonviolence, courage displaces fear; love transforms hate. Acceptance dissipates prejudice; hopes ends despair. Peace dominates war; faith reconciles doubt. Mutual regard cancels enmity. Justice for all overcomes injustice. The redemptive community supersedes systems of gross social immorality.”

5dc3a0ca2ca06668b83e6ec61ee5e26f.jpgHere we see life given to a space wherein youth can critically and intelligently analyze their living, schooling, and societal conditions while constructing peaceful, courageous and hopeful ways to amend the injustices that they see in these “systems of gross social immorality.” The role of a mentor was embodied by none other than Ella Baker, the group centered leader of the 1960s, who helped ordinary people develop their leadership. She lived by the motto: “Learn from others, pass on what we learn.”

Known as the Fundi, she served as Education Director and President of the NYC NAACP branch, and was known as a bridge leader in her community. A bridge leader is a community or neighborhood organizer who mediates between top leadership and the vast bulk of followers. People that are doing that unseen work within the community, committed to the bulk of the movement’s emotional work.

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By doing this bridge leadership work, Ms. Baker was able to conclude in her speech Bigger Than a Hamburger that “it was further evident that desire for supportive cooperation from adult leaders and the adult community was also tempered by apprehension that adults might try to ‘capture’ the student movement. The students showed willingness to be met on the basis of equality, but were intolerant of anything that smacked of manipulation or domination.

So, we are invited to go deeper into our meaning and execution of mentorship and ask ourselves:

does it reveal principles encouragement or confinement? Our quality of mentorship is just as valuable as our willingness to provide it.

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I am your sister, 

and you are my brother. 

You are the husband, 

you are the news, 

you are the father, 

you are the truth…

and thus, often a target, 

but this is why you

inspire me,

to do what I do. 

 

You are the youth, 

and of the movement, 

you are the seed. 

I am your mentor, 

here to adhere to your every need.

 

Hand in hand,

Back to back,

Wearing our pride,

and a smile wide,

we move together

 through this strife — 

Unstoppable,

Even in this trying life.


 

Unapologetic, day 4: Unbreakable (Jezebel & Mammy)

Black_Beauty_Salon.jpgThe duality of a Black woman includes demanding her to be a producer and reproducer. A producer for the global market, and a reproducer of the slave system. this is how she is distinguished from the Black man who is solely demanded to be a producer.

Beauty Shop Activism is defined as an economic base independent of white pressure or white gaze; creates a Black space and a female space. We are to recognize the power and importance of this space, and how it can give birth to knowledge, ideas, and growth that is essential to our liberation. Female Slave Network was a network that enslaved Black women formed as a sisterhood forging of bonds as a form of resistance.

Rho_Chapter__Alpha_Kappa_Alpha_Sorority__University_of_Ca__1921.jpgAlpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. was the first Greek-lettered sorority to be ignited and established by African American women at Howard University. The idea of a sorority involves principles academics, community service, and sisterhood. I ask that you implore the importance of instilling these principles within a space that allows Black females to bond as they cultivate and encourage these principles. The women who founded Alpha Kappa Alpha established principles of Sisterhood, Scholarship, and Service to All Humankind. While these principles require effort from the female, it does not demand any product other than what can be gauged by her, because it can only be measured by the change she sees within herself. These spaces afford the Black woman the freedom to be concerned with the growth, development, and enrichment of herself and her sisters.

These are the spaces in which Black women were able to assert:

“I matter to my community, and I am more than a work force.”

 

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My sister

My strength 

My healer 

My bane

You know it well, 

My pain. 

Would it have been healed,

Without her brain?

Without her eyes, 

Her mouth,

Her scars, 

Her secrets

and her wounds?

Without her recipes for home cooked food?

Share with me, the pictures,

My sister,

Dwelling within that brain —

however profane. 

For we ourselves must become unbreakable,

before the breaking of those chains.

Introducing: Jezebel and Mammy.

halle-berry-sexy-lingerie-1.jpgThe image of the Jezebel stereotype is a constructed identity for the enslaved Black woman, and is a counter-image of the Victorian lady. As the White men view Black women scantily clad as they work and carry themselves, their observations were twisted to support the idea of Black women not being real women, as they break one of the obvious elements of the “cult of true womanhood.”

The Jezebel is a temptress who shows characteristics of nudity, lewdness, light brown skin with White phenotypes, and is a foil to mammy. Jezebel image showed that Black women were destined to “have [a large] insatiable sexual appetite, that forced them to go beyond the boundaries of their race to get satisfaction.” Thus, alluded to the fact that White men never had to use coercive force when seeking a Black woman, because her body is already on display for him; supported by her oozing sexuality, and uncontrollable lust. Jezebel defied every law of what it meant to be a lady.

 

           Carolina_Mammy-04324_1.jpg The image of Mammy is the opposing identity given to the enslaved Black woman, who represents “the woman who could do anything, better than anyone else.” So, this Black woman is expected to excel in both her roles of producer and
reproducer. She is not just any other house slave, but instead the head of every operation occurring in the “Big House.” She proved herself to be a good cook, a courageous and dignified woman, and an indispensable housekeeper.

Mammy is respectful, demure, and is allowed the private space to serve as her platform. I see her as the closest that a Black woman was able come to the classic image or idea of the Victorian lady of the time. This woman is in direct control of childcare, and household duties, all of which are too much of a burden on any one woman in a day. By showing herself as a friend, a compliant, and servant of her White family, she opens up the possibility for her and her family to “gain some immunity from sale and abuse.” She is conscious of her role in the household, and isn’t so much as white-washed, as she is strategic about her relationship with the White family.

How do these myths appear as images in our society?

Are we consuming critically?

Coming Soon: Unpacking Jezebel & Mammy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unapologetic, day 3: Untwined

This issue we face is the singular presentation of Black womanhood, and the reproduction of that singular presentation. We have moments of multiplicity—our challenge is that they are only moments. Both women in the images are Black women – although their hair textures and styles are drastically different.

Are locs the fitting or appropriate style for the Black woman, or is a weave? Race is constructed and is constantly being created and reproduce; media does so for both whiteness, and blackness.

Which of these women are Black, and how can you tell?

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Does “Blackness” exclude the common idea of “good” hair?

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The danger we face is that this singular lens may become the only projection of the Black woman, silencing the identities of her sisters. And if one image is projected as a representation of us all, mindless consumption and mindless acceptance of these images and ideas will result.lhhatl.jpg

Will we let this singular story become the truth or will we disrupt this idea of the singular presentation?

Is your performance breaking the mold of singularity?

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I am me 

She is me 

Although her hair 

is locked 

And my waves

hang free.

My smile is hers

Her joy is mine. 

Bundles are beautiful

And braids are fine

But she is just as beautiful 

When she is untwined.

Unapologetic, day 2: Unfeeling

news_1505_1459_cacadudistrictnamechange.jpegSaartjie, “Sarah” or “Sara,” Baartman was a Khoikhoi woman used as an exhibition in the early 1800s of Black woman’s disfiguration and difference. The point of the exhibition was to exaggerate the features of the Black woman in comparison to European females. At this time, White men controlled female sexuality and reproduction for all women, Black and White. However, this public display of unclothed, and scantily clad Black women as suggestively robust gave way to the idea that we are not women by definition.

The White female, by historical definition and demonstration, are vulnerable to being polluted, as white womanhood as an idea should reproduce purity. But, the Black female, by one’s historical definition, is the very portal through which slavery was born. Her identity includes the duality of producer and reproducer — producer for the global market, and reproducer of the slave system cycle. Under patriarchal control, the Black woman has cara-SaartjieBaartman10-BMus.jpgicatures or myths created for her that constitute the counter image of the Victorian lady. However, it needs to  recognized that these caricatures and myths are constructed identities, not a real embodiment of the Black woman.

The viewing of unclothed Black women derived from having to
come up with a reason why Black enslaved women were so often raped and abused. It had to be their fault; the sexual act had to be their initiative. For she is not strong, but animalistic. This philosophy does not acknowledge the possibility for rape, because she was always “asking for it.” This is the same philosophy to later birth the idea that women who are scantily clad, or who have invitingly irresistible features of Black woman (that no poor man can resist), cannot be raped because they are always “asking for it.”

628875da23c4897b4057cca4af7c6d8b_crop_exact.jpgWe are challenging this narrative by retaking control of our sexuality, reproduction and display of our Blackness. My body, your body, is no longer an object to be owned, a spectacle to be gawked at, or a justifiable means of disruption. We are challenging the narrative by asserting our Black features, our nudity, our expression of our bodies – that it is our turn to determine our own sexuality, reproduction and expression of own self.

 

 

 

 

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Is my butt too big?

Rhetorical question.

but should that limit

my range of expression?

The answer is no.

I am no object;

I am no quest.

No matter how wide my hips,

Or how succulent my breasts.

I am my own, 

and I am making myself

anew.

So, I choose to move through this world

Unfeeling

Of how uncomfortable 

My body 

may make you.

-Starr Baker

 Related Reads:

Representation and Black Womanhood: The Legacy of Sarah Baartman

African Queen: The Real Life of the Hottentot Venus

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Unapologetic, day 1: Intro

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Unapologetic:

A Blog Series

by Starr C. B.

 

Unapologetic is a blog series that depicts the perception of micro and macro representations of race through the lens of one Black woman’s experience in America. By using historical comparisons, we are able to see the foundation upon which our movement stands. As the album unfolds, we see absence of a white face, but is there absence of the white gaze? The white gaze has the ability to peek through the lens of the Black woman. But we also see the ways in which the lens can be her own– the act of resistance that comes from creating her own perception of her reality; from creating her own gaze.radschles_murray_commencement_0.jpg

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Unapologetic teaser

Unapologetic is a 12 day electronic exhibition that micro and macro representations of race through the lens of one Black woman’s experience in America. Sources include Let Nobody Turn Us Around.