n. reading this blog may be hazardous to your complacency

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hopes for "Good Hair"

Good Hair is a comedic documentary on the perils of Black women and their hair. It is

“[a]n exposé of comic proportions that only Chris Rock could pull off, GOOD HAIR visits beauty salons and hairstyling battles, scientific laboratories and Indian temples to explore the way hairstyles impact the activities, pocketbooks, sexual relationships, and self-esteem of the black community,” according to goodhairmovie.net.

Vanity Fair calls it “Hilarious” and Variety says it is “ Fresh, funny and altogether fascinating. Audiences will wig out.” But, at whose expense I ask.

I understand that his film is a comedy. However, why is it that the bodies of Black women get put on display, once again, as deviant from Amerikkkan culture. Black people have always had a history of being seen as different and more “fascinating.” Furthermore, any culture that is not white is seen as "fascinating" and exotic. It is no wonder that in this “comedic film,” Chris Rock chooses to explore another dimension in the "absurdity" and "hilarious"-ness of Black culture. What I see as being more comical, is that White women do the same thing to their hair: perm, weaves, sew-ins, bleach, clip-ons, wigs, etc. However, I doubt if white women will appear as examples in this movie. My guess is that they will be the commentators on “funny” things Black people do.

The problem is that the bodies of Black women are continually offered as space for commodity consumption i.e. music videos, television shows. The ideological equation of race has maintained that white people = normal = human race, therefore anything beyond that is abnormal – deviant, bad, black. Hair, which has represented the idea of beauty for women, then becomes soo powerful as to become the embodiment of Amerikkkaness, whiteness. Even Malia Obama doesn't stand a chance:

“Anyone who thought such preconceptions were outdated would have been reminded otherwise by some negative reactions to the president’s 11-year-old daughter, Malia Obama, who wore her hair in twists while in Rome this summer. Commenters on the conservative blog Free Republic attacked her as unfit to represent America for stepping out unstraightened.” ---- Catherine Saint Louis

There are a number of articles written on the hair and body of the first family. It is a fetishization for Blackness that continues to find popularity in mass culture.

Thus, I have 'Hopes for Good Hair.' I hope while “entertaining” audiences, Rock enlightens as well. I hope he at least gives some kind of intellectual thought on how “whiteness” has accounted for the reasons why many Black women feel the need to damage their hair. That the complexity of hair treatment by Black women is a consequence of colorism. "Good hair, light-skinned, pretty eyes, Blue Vein Society, brown paper bag test; these are just a few of the derogatory references used by Black people to create skin color divisions within the our community. However, this occurs in all communities of color; Asian, Latino, Native American, Indian; Blacks are not the only victims to this ideology.

Furthermore, Black men too, hope for “good hair,” constantly claiming “waves,” as a result of the same white beauty standards Black women measure themselves against. And I hope he talks about when he hoped for “good hair." Yes, Chris Rock rocked a jheri curl.

“I used to get perms—I had a Jheri curl for years, and it used to burn my scalp like crazy,” says Chris Rock in an interview.

It is important for Rock and others to recognize the root of why many women and men of color feel the need to straighten their hair. It is an issue that can be laughed at, at first, but then must be examined closely. My argument is that it is not funny when Black women’s struggle and suffering for privilege and power become a spectacle for audiences. Our accepted beliefs as Black people, for white value systems and standards of beauty, are a result of colonial expansion and racial capitalism - all racism. And this is a subject that should be taken seriously. Chris Rock’s talent and privilege as an acclaimed actor and comedian, lend him the responsibility as a Black person, to communicate crucial issues to mass audiences, which I hope he does.

Black is more than beautiful, it is extraordinary!! Breathe it, Live it, and Wear it. You can choose how you want to maintain your hair, but for me, how you dress and how you look have always reflected what you have to say about yourself. So, what are you saying sisters, brothers?


Friday, June 19, 2009

Celebrate Freedom: Juneteenth or NOT

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.  Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.


In a written statement, Mr. Obama said the Juneteenth anniversary serves as a time of reflection and appreciation. He said African Americans have helped build the nation "brick by brick" and have contributed to its growth in every way, even when they were denied rights and liberties.

Mr. Obama, the country's first African-American president, said the occasion carries "even more significance" considering Thursday's resolution passed unanimously in the Senate apologizing for slavery and segregation.

The resolution apologizes for "the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery" and system of institutionalized racism and segregation known as "Jim Crow."

The resolution, introduced by Senators Tom Harkin and Sam Brownback, "expresses its recommitment to the principle that all people are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." It also calls on all people of the U.S. to "work toward eliminating prejudices, injustices and discrimination from U.S. society."

The House of Representatives is also expected to take up the measure soon. A similar resolution passed by a voice vote in the House last year. 


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Library Lovin

While watching one of my favorite episodes, Bad Timing, from my favorite show Girlfriends, I was introduced to Pablo Neruda.

In this episode Joan has to decide between Sean, the man who "may be the one" and Davis, all on V Day!


Pablo Neruda is described as one of the greatest poets of all time. However, it was not until I watched this episode for the umpteenth time that I actually paid attention and decided to learn more about the great poet.

From then, I had to read and learn more. Thus, after reading some of his love sonnets, all inspired by his wife, I searched the Internet looking for copies of his literature. However, because I remembered that there was an independent bookstore right next to where I worked, Amaranth Books, I decided to go there in support of the business and for a better deal J.  I had wanted to go in since passing by for the past 3 weeks and now I really had a reason to.

While I did not find exactly what I was looking for, Neruda's 100 Love Sonnets, I did find a book entitled The Essential Neruda Selected Poems. It was not until after I checked out that I then remembered how I wanted Black Skin, White Masks. So I went and searched for that within the African American section. That then led me to The Souls of Black Folk and Images in Black: 150 Years of Black Collectibles. It was some good Library Lovin. In the meantime, I must get trough Race Matters and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, from last summer, and The First R: How Children Learn Race and Racism.

I share with you 2 sonnets that I have come to Love thus far:

  Sonnet XVII

  I do not love you as if you were a salt rose, or topaz

  or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.

  I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,

  in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

  I love you as the plant that never blooms

  but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;

  thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,

  risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

  I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.

  I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;

  So I love you because I know no other way

  than this: where I does not exist, nor you,

  so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,

  so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

  Sonnet XI

  I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair.

  Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets.

  Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me, all day

I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps.

I hunger for your sleek laugh,

your hands the color of a savage harvest,

hunger for the pale stones of your fingernails, 

I want to eat your skin like a whole almond.

 I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body,

the sovereign nose of your arrogant face,

I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes,

and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight, 
hunting for you,

for your hot heart,

Like a puma in the barrens of Q

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Just In Case U Were Wondering

...i'm Black

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Black Shows": We've Scene It Already

I put quotations around Black Shows because shows featuring all Black casts are seen as just that. Arguably, shows featuring all white casts can be seen as having stereotypical white humor, white interactions, white style and dialect – catering to a white audience, however these mainstream shows are not labeled “White shows, ” but simply Television shows. It is only in the absence of white actors are shows with all black casts seen as negative in the alienation of white viewers. I presume if it is not Rap or Hip Hop, then it’s just not kosher.


I am inspired to write this piece after the recent cancellation of The Game and Everybody Hates Chris. While I am not an avid viewer of The Game, Chris Rock’s show, Everybody Hates Chris, always had me amused. It was not until reading a post through “Black Gossip” that I really began to question the lack of quality entertainment by and for African Americans. Today, it hard to find a television series that operates outside the notion of viewing Black people as spectacle. Presence and portrayal become crucial notions here. Both notions have heightened the dramatization of Blackness by appropriating fabricated stereotypical images of African American people. The lines become blurred as audiences feel the need for the presence of any Black person on television at the cost of any portrayal.

“What you talking about Willis?”

Well, I am talking about several shows.  Lets take The Wire. I would go as far as to say that I am the only person, both African American and female who does not like, love, watch, or am entertained by The Wire. While the show does succeed in its complex story lines, ‘brilliant writing,’ and multilayered characterizations, it continues the cycle in representing African American males in demeaning roles. Now, I am not reducing the show to age-old caricatures, however, what I am saying, is that The Wire is all to familiar with television series, news coverage’s, and movies featuring African American males as criminals and gangsters: Training Day, COPS, popular ‘hood’ films of the ‘90s such as Boyz ‘N’ the Hood, your local 6 and 10 o’clock news.

"In the end, The Wire falls somewhere between Birth of A Nation and the Six O'clock news as urban propaganda: a unique compilation of white liberal science fiction and hip-hop gun porn.”

                                                                                                          --- Jimi Izrael The Root

Word to ya motha Brotha!

Tyler Perry…hmmm…. I would hope and pray that I would not have to expound upon the tomfoolery and ignorance of both his television series and movies, but alas, someone out there will charge me to praise his work.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Tyler Perry has overcome many obstacles in obtaining the privilege and success of where he stands. Clearly the numbers explain it all, right?:

Tyler Perry By the Numbers

Number of Tyler Perry Films: 7

Number of Films That Have Opened at No. 1 or No. 2: 6

Combined Domestic Gross: $356 mil

Everybody must be watching it. Yes, indeed a lot of audiences are watching it. However, I do not think his television shows are conducive to the future of African American presence on television. His show The Browns is not far from the all to familiar and popular radio and television series Amos N’ Andy.  “[Amos N’ Andy] was the first television series with an all-black cast (the only one of its kind to appear on prime-time, network television for nearly another twenty years).” --- The Museum of Broadcast Communications. Furthermore, among both Black and white viewers, “At the peak of Amos 'n' Andy's success, 40 million listeners - a third of America - tuned in six nights a week, making it the longest-running and most popular radio program in broadcast history.” --- PBS.org.   Or how about The Flavor of Love television series? It is one of the most successful shows in Video Hits One (VH1) television history, captivating more audiences on the days it airs than on any other channel.


Accordingly, shows of this caliber continue to generate success, but at what costs??

What’s the point?

 I am not trying to revert to looking at the negative and positive representations of Black films and actors. My point is that we have seen this films already and we need more dynamic presence and portrayals of African Americans on television and in films. And this does not mean simply inserting 2-3 Black actors in mainstream TV series and films.  We need shows with all Black casts.

But even with the half good shows featuring an all African American cast, television networks are still not giving these programs an opportunity. 

In an article written by Zurawik in 2006, on the demise of Black sitcoms, he writes, “The new lineup will include the shows that exhibit the widest appeal among young viewers and thus command top advertising dollars. None of the eight UPN shows under review, though popular with African-American viewers, has achieved the kind of crossover hit status that ensures high ad rates.”

“Although UPN's One on One is the 170th-most-popular show among all network television viewers, it is tied for 11th among black viewers. Half & Half is ranked 167th among weekly series in overall network viewership and is the seventh-most-popular show with black viewers.”

But it’s not fair right. If African Americans make up less that ¼ of the total population how ever will our viewership be recognized among “all network television viewers”? While the presence of Black actors in mainstream television shows are essential, it does not suffice for the lack of Black themed programs.

Today, we must rely on weak channels such as BET and VH1 for the presence of Black themed shows. However, such networks as TVOne and HBO prove to provide entertainment television network for African Americans in some capacity. But it’s still not enough.  The problem lies both off an on screen:

 “The 2006 Diversity Report by the Directors Guild of America offers a glimpse into the state of ethnic representation at the networks. After examining all episodes of last season's top 40 network dramas and sitcoms, the guild found that 83 percent of the shows were directed by white men, 10 percent by white women, 5 percent by minority men and 2 percent by minority women.”

As a community, we need to understand at what costs the presence of Madea and Omar have on the portrayal of us all.

Until then, re-runs will have to do.

What’s the reality?...shows that I endorse: Girlfriends and Soul Food, the HBO series. All created and executed successfully. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

.happy birthday.

Malcolm X aka El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz الحاجّ مالك الشباز 
(May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965)

"one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history.period."