Reading came first: how I journeyed from hotep to Black queer feminist

By Myles E. Johnson

“Solitude can be a must-be-desired condition. In silence, we listen to ourselves, and in the quietude we may even hear the voice of God.” – Maya Angelou

The search, as it were, began in wanting to deep-dive into something that was about me, and it began early. I wanted a nappy-headed God. I wanted a history dipped in tar, baby, and I wanted to know about political leaders with Jackson 5 nostrils. This history was not being served to me anywhere, so I reimagined my middle-school classes as spaces for me to find this new world where I was the sun, where I was centered. While my teacher taught the day’s arithmetic, I was slowly, quietly being radicalized by the contents of books. With each page turn, a bomb exploded, and a window was being opened, and nobody was any the wiser.

The authors that I discovered–including Alex Haley, Frederick Douglass, and WEB Dubois–are part of what guided my 13 year-old brain into the place it is currently, and where it is developing into. However, I had a desire for something that made sense of the world I was occupying the way religion does for a new initiate.

EVENT: Solidarity Economy Organizing in a Moment of Resistance

Popular struggles– ranging from earliest modern labor movements in Britain and the US, to the global Black Liberation movement, to Energiewende and other climate justice campaigns in Europe– have all demonstrated that to be successful, “resistance” work must go hand in hand with concrete visionary organizing.
 
Join the New Economy Coalition – a network of 180+ organizations building solidarity for a new economy – next Wednesday, May 17th from 7:30pm – 9:30pm for an exciting discussion co-hosted by In These Times Magazine exploring the movement to build a “new” or “solidarity” economy in the current moment of resistance and struggle.
 

A New World From The Ashes Of The Old: Solidarity Economy Organizing In a Moment of Resistance

 
The panel features leaders from across the country sharing how their communities have organized to simultaneously fight back far-right attacks and build powerful bottom-up solutions that model economic democracy, sustainability, and social justice as cornerstones of a new world in waiting.
 
Panelists include:
Harper Bishop – Open Buffalo
Iya Ifalola Omobola – Cooperation Jackson
Amara Enyia – Public Policy Expert
Anand Jahi – New Economy Coalition (Moderator)
 
Learn more and RSVP on the event page: www.facebook.com/events/119407401950823
Bank Black Movement OneUnited

Yes, Black liberals commodify Black Lives Matter too and it’s a major problem

By Blake Simons

The present day Movement for Black Lives, which I argue was revived by the people of Oakland after the murder of Oscar Grant, and came into fruition because of the rebellion that working class Black folks started in Ferguson after the murder of Mike Brown, has been co-opted by Black capitalistic neo-liberals.

Miley Cyrus finally announces the end of her minstrel show, proving once and for all the violence of appropriation

By Sherronda Brown

“When I want something, it’s fucking easy for me.” – Miley Cyrus, the self-ordained savior of our nation

The words “Dumpster Fyre” hover above the head of Miley Cyrus on the cover of Billboard Magazine. Even though they refer to the debacle at Fyre Festival in which rich white kids were finessed out of thousands of dollars and found themselves in a trash pile with bologna sandwiches rather than at the lavish resort they were promised, these words are perhaps more fitting for the interview with the 24-year-old.

via Billboard Magazine

Billboard explains that the Disney Alum “has left behind the pasties, hip-hop bangerz and, yes, weed for her new incarnation: countrified singer-songwriter and hopeful unifier of a divided nation.” Standing among waist-high greenery with her hands in her free-flowing hair, Miley dons a simple pink farm girl dress with frilly lace about the sleeves and bodice. The expression on her face is plain and unassuming. Save for the sporadic miniature tattoos peppering the length of her arms, she is a vision of white Southern Belle innocence and propriety.

Ashanti Hunter

Why seeing the murder of Ashanti Hunter as anti-Black violence does not distract us from fighting for Black men and boys

By Treva Lindsey

Often, there is an alarming silence around the deaths of Black women. From the under-reported murders of Black women by their former or current partners to the vicious and specific targeting of Black trans* women, the killings of Black women rarely garner sustained media coverage, substantive rallying cries, or formidable mobilization and organizing from people other than Black women and gender non-conforming/fluid people.

How Jesse Williams’ divorce highlights the way white-supremacist beauty standards affect relationships

By Catherine Imani

By now, you’re probably aware of the fact that Jesse Williams and his wife Aryn Drake-Lee are divorcing after 5 years of marriage and 15 total together. This is not an article about their divorce, because no one knows what is going on inside of their home but them. This is about the ways beauty politics affect relationships–especially relationships in which one person is more attractive by the general society’s standards than the other.

It’s no secret that Jesse fits many stereotypes for attractiveness. He has light skin, light eyes, he’s physically able and slim-thick with a cute ass. In short, he’s “Hollywood pretty,” and that on top of his acting and social justice politics made him very popular among black women specifically.

Jesse was able to leverage that popularity into speaking engagements, interviews and job opportunities. His wife, on the other hand, while gorgeous and intelligent, is not the kind of woman usually seen in Hollywood. And Hollywood is a microcosm, where the ideals and standards of white supremacy, cis heteropatiarchy, fatphobia, colorism and ableism are magnified.

If the rumors are true, it would be no surprise that a fellow “Hollywood pretty” white woman led to the demise of Williams’ marriage.

Again, this isn’t about the couple’s divorce. But any conversation about love, relationships and community is not complete without talking about who is good enough to love, and how that is often directly tied to what is defined as beautiful in our white supremacist society.

Those of us who are not beautiful enough to love are often left with the opposite: violence and abuse. The fact is, although Jesse leaving his black wife for a white woman might be surprising given his seeming embrace of black feminism, it still fits the trend of “when (a black man) get on, he leave (a black woman’s) ass for a white girl,” which is compounded by the larger trend of “attractive person benefits from the love and labor and resources of their less attractive partner only to discard them when they don’t need those things anymore.” There are so many songs, movies and books normalizing this concept, that its effects on the larger society cannot be ignored.

Studies have shown that black women are viewed as being the least desirable across racial categories. Even within the black community, what is defined as desirable mirrors white supremacists standards. Beauty is often talked about in opposition to blackness, and is instead aligned with whiteness and everything whiteness represents.

Because of this, the pressures around beauty for black women are more pronounced. It makes sense that our community exalts the light-skinned, “mixed”/non-black/exotic, cis, abled, and/or slim women, but what goes ignored are all of the ways that beauty is more than skin deep. Beauty–read: how much a black woman aligns with the white supremacist standard–can be a deciding factor in getting a raise, and changes how that woman is perceived by her coworkers or even the judicial system.

In my community, it was very common for young men who were down on their luck to date women who did not meet social beauty standards but had an apartment or a car. They would dog them out the entire time or spread malicious rumors about them, and then when they were financially stable they would leave them. The women are usually much worse off financially than they were when they first met these men.

When I was more gender nonconforming in my presentation, men would threaten to “beat me like the man I thought I was.” I know many women who did not meet society’s attractiveness standard and have had to physically fight men who would never dream of hitting a non-black woman or black woman they deemed attractive. (And that is not to say that only women who are not stereotypically beautiful are abused, but that their abuse is treated differently than that of other women).

This dynamic is especially evident in the responses to the recent Cleveland Shooting regarding the woman the shooter abused. Once people found out who she was and, more specifically, what she looked like, some noted how weird the shooter was for being homicidal over a woman as unattractive as her. Still others blamed her for his violence and tried to threaten her into contacting him.

Image Descriotion: A screenshot of a Facebook post of a selfie of Joy Lane under the text: “Joy Lane please take that milk dud nigga back you not even all that to be curving bruhh like that you got this nigga going around tripping call this nigga and apologize or i’m fucking you up dude yo peanut head ass bitch you horse teeth dry weave stale ass bitch you betta take him back @Joy Lane.” Joy Lane was tagged by the poster.

 

Image Description: A screenshot of a Facebook message to Joy Lane that reads: “Aye hoe call that nigga Stevie , so he can stop killing ppl!!!!”

Her deviance from the standard of beauty made her someone that a lot of people were unable and unwilling to empathize with. It made her someone that a majority of people did not see as deserving of love, safety or affection. It made people think of her as less worthy of life than the people he could have potentially killed (because I do not believe that she would have survived another 3 years if the shooter hadn’t killed himself).

When a black woman who doesn’t meet the standard of beauty is in a relationship, she is blamed for any failings in that relationship. He cheated? Her fault. He abuses her? Her fault. He leaves her after 15 years of commitment? Her fault, because what should she expect?

When news broke that Jesse was leaving his wife, many people commented that they could see why. One’s alignment to these white supremacist beauty standards has very real consequences on how black women are viewed and treated.

Movement’s like #BlackOut and #DisabledAndCute, and the efforts of black women on social media challenge beauty being about one’s alignment to whiteness and redefine it in a way that is more inclusive. Although this is an issue that can never be resolved quickly, conversations like this help. As Jesse Williams said himself, “Now, this is also in particular for the black women … who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you”.

Further reading:

Romantic Love is Killing Us: Who Takes Care of Us When We’re Single?

What It’s Really Like To Be A Trans Woman

Society (And My Rapist) Says I’m Too Ugly To Be Raped


Catherine Imani is a queer disabled black femme based in Atlanta, Ga. They love art and science and are passionate about social justice and equality. Tip them at paypal.me/catherineimani .

Steve Stephens

Black men, we need to acknowledge that we are the problem. Let’s talk toxic masculinity.

By Shekinah Mondoua

I cannot pinpoint the exact moment I began to question the masculinity of African-American men as toxic. At one point I found myself constantly attempting to live up to the standards presumed from my Black male counterparts. Acceptance from my Black male friends was something that I sought out more than accepting my own self.

It might be best to start this conversation with my experiences at 15 years old. I had just left the private school scene and was entering the public school environment that I had once inhabited. The sights, the rhetoric, the style of the students were drastically different from how I last remembered them.

Trevor Wilkins

Trevor Wilkins, Princeton Alum, Co-Created App That Encourages Good Grades

By Imani J. Jackson

#Blackboyjoy sounded more like hustle than hubris earlier this week during a telephonic interview with Trevor Wilkins. The tech entrepreneur is a Southside of Chicago native and celebrant. He is also a Princeton sociology graduate who shared parts of his journey to co-creating an app with more than a half million users that encourages students to get good grades.  

Why intersectional feminism needs reproductive justice approaches to HIV

By Jallicia Jolly

Amidst the recent attacks on access to quality health care and sexual and reproductive health services, the assaults on the lives of racial and sexual minorities specifically reveal the systematic violation reserved for poor women of color, particularly Black and transgender women.

The neglect of Black women’s intersectional health experiences in national discussions about HIV/AIDS, coupled with the growing rates of HIV/AIDS in black communities, beg a critical question: How can a reproductive justice approach allow governments and decision makers to properly invest in Black health?

Why Stanford accepting the teen who wrote #BlackLivesMatter 100 times on his application does little for Black lives

By Tariq Luthun

This week, the story of Ziad Ahmed–a Muslim-American teen who was accepted into Stanford after writing #BlackLivesMatter in his application–went viral. Since the story dropped, many have come out in praise of the young man for his seemingly bold decision to write the politicized phrase on such an important application not just once, but 100 times. In this article for The Root, the author opens by asking the reader if our activism is “performative or substantive,” insinuating that Ahmed embodies the latter in a way that few others might.