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Amandla is Right. Kylie (and the Kardashians) are Problematic.

 

The Kardashian-Jenners are no strangers when it comes to public drama. Usually, it’s the older half sisters of Kylie Jenner who are caught in public confrontation. However, a recent spat between Kylie Jenner (best known for being someone else’s half sister)  and Amandla Stenberg (beloved Black actress from the Hunger Games series) highlights just how much certain members of this family appropriate blackness while openly diminishing actual Black people.

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What if We Loved Black Women Like We Love Black Male Rapists?

This article was originally posted at Water Cooler Convos.

When I was seventeen, I was groomed and preyed upon by a high school basketball coach. He told me to stop wearing panties if I wanted to get a ‘real man.’ He invited me to drink, smoke weed, and hang out with his twenty-something year-old friends. He explained to me that part of becoming a woman was wrapped up in how men viewed me. For months he did these things. Then, when I had ongoing issues with my abusive dad, he coerced me into sex (an act of statutory and coercive rape) after I asked for his help and called him on a school day seeking safety.

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Let Jaden Smith Live

My one-year-old son loves to wear his sister’s red, polka dot Christmas dress. For a few weeks, he would sneak into her bedroom, pull it off of the hanger, and drag it around the house until someone with more dexterity would put it on his body. We never told him he couldn’t wear it because it was “girl clothes.” And, while his older sister and brother initially expressed confusion as to why he was “allowed” to wear the dress, they quickly let it go when they saw how my partner and I de-emphasized gender rules and their entanglement with popular fashion. I imagine that Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith take much the same approach with their children, Willow and Jaden Smith. So, why can’t the rest of the world come to terms with the fact that Jaden’s clothing choices are his to make?

Jaden Smith’s presentation in dresses and skirts, floral prints and headbands, and tights has been causing some media outlets and Twitter users to lose their scruples for the past few months. They continue to express confusion over his wearing of “female clothes” despite the fact that clothes, as far as I know, have never had a gender. In fact, they never will.

Kat Blaque, artist and dope Black girl, made an informative video about the differences between sex and gender and how often those terms are mixed up with gender norms like clothing.

 

Her core message is simply that our conceptions of “masculinity” and “femininity” are based on societal norms not actual biology. Our mental commitments to labeling and categorizing some bodies as “female” and others as “male” stems from our inability to move away from restrictive gender binaries which exclude many people in society.

While Jaden identifies as male, his choice to wear clothes commonly worn by folks who identify as female shouldn’t be misconstrued to mean that he has a new gender identity. Because, again, clothing does not determine, validate, or articulate gender.Given that we are living in the year 2015, it seems odd that many people still struggle with these simple concepts.

At this point in history, where we have seen the legalizing of same-sex marriage and challenges to historic symbols of racism in America, this uproar over Jaden Smith’s evening wear is almost baffling. Perhaps the puzzlement stems from an overall discomfort with allowing others to be free.

What we choose for ourselves by way of clothing, sexual partners, or anything else, is our choice. Yet, the same freedom we seek and protect for ourselves, we deny in others.

For most people, self-expression is not a privilege but a right. When Jaden walks out of his front door dressed as a caped hero or in an outfit typically found in the petite young women’s section of the department store, he, too, should have the right do so freely. Like my children, who were able to understand that fact within a matter of moments, I’m certain that us adults can let Jaden Smith live in whatever clothing he pleases.

 

Photo credit: Jaden Smith Twitter

Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.

 

Young, Black and Mentally Ill: ‘No Shame Day’ Reduces Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness

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Many people of color living with mental illness face stigma in public spaces. Because of a lack of general education around issues of mental health in the community at-large, many of these individuals are forced into the background and erased from the public psyche. However, Nigerian writer and artist, and founder of the Siwe ProjectBassey Ikpi, has been working to make space for folks living with mental illness. Her work as the creator of “No Shame Day” is meant to educate others, encourage those living with mental illness, and reduce the societal stigmas associated these diagnoses.

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month (MMHM). Thus, Ikpi has worked to highlight the lived experiences of people of color, specifically Black people, living with mental illness during this month. She lives with Bipolar II Disorder, which she shared with Essence several years ago. While she has been open about her struggles, she does not define herself by her diagnosis.

What Ikpi seeks to eradicate is the idea that folks have to live away from the public eye and the scrutiny and judgement of others. By living freely and on her own terms, she has made clear that she seeks to liberate others like her.

She told Essence:

“There’s no shame in what I and millions more like me have been through. And I hope to encourage others to speak up, hold their heads high – to let go of the stigmas and get help. Getting help takes strength. Staying healthy takes strength. Being here takes strength. Feeling good is your right. Fight for it.”

While many have shared their experiences across social media, Twitter erupted in support of #NoShameDay Monday.

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The affirmation of Black folks with mental illness is a long overdue phenomena in public and social media. Let’s hope this trend continues indefinitely.

 

Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.

Racism in the Dominican Republic Rekindles Calls for Boycott

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The Dominican government has long-standing issues with activists and human rights organizations regarding their treatment of Haitian-descendant residents in the country. Now, they have engaged in a deliberate “ethnic cleansing” of Black Dominicans of Haitian descent by legalizing the mass deportations and the terror-like hunting of Haitian residents in the DR. While many have suggested that the United States should do more from an institutional perspective, some have pushed for a travel and product boycott hoping to send a message to Dominican leadership that their treatment of Haitian-descendant residents is unacceptable. But will it?

Many of the concerns regarding human rights infringements and accusations of apartheid in the Dominican Republic stem from a September 2013 ruling by the Constitutional Court which left thousands of the descendants of Haitian immigrants stateless. The ruling left a gap in the terms of citizenship which could be (and have been) exploited by those seeking to “ethnically cleanse” the country of their poorest, blackest residents.

These actions spawned the creation of a Facebook group and Change.org petition calling for mass boycotts of the country. Similarly, recent criticisms from Dominican-American writer Junot Diaz and Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat suggest that American citizens have some influence on these issues by how they choose to spend their dollars on travel and other leisure activities. While they have not explicitly called for boycott, they have emphasized that there are many ways to understand how Americans contribute to the DR’s economy. On the political front, Boston’s Mayor and state senator have each called for a boycott of the DR following these recent events. However, we have yet to hear anything concrete from Congress or the White House regarding the ongoing exclusion of Black Haitian-Dominicans.

Some have suggested that a boycott might actually be harmful to the very citizens it is meant to help. To add, these folks suggest, it is hypocritical of the United States to suggest boycotting the DR when we engage in similar practices here, specifically toward Mexican immigrants. These criticisms are completely valid especially when considering our historical poor handling of border management, deportations, and immigration detention centers which has only slightly improved in recent months.

At this juncture, the boycott does seem counteractive. It won’t actually dismantle the racist systems which continue to oppress Haitian-descendant residents in the DR. In addition, it won’t actually hurt those in power enough to persuade them to change course.

What is needed now is a definitive statement from the United States government decrying these types of human rights violations. Without sanctions against these behaviors, the leadership in the Dominican Republic will likely continue to treat its Black citizens as inhumanely as possible. And, as long as this continues, we will exist in contradiction with the values we profess to hold so dear.

Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.

 

Here’s a #BBHMMSyllabus Just in Time for the Weekend

 

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By Jayy Dodd

For your own sake I hope you’ve seen Rihanna’s short film for her song “B—- Betta Have My Money”, if you haven’t watch it here (warning: make sure yo Momma ain’t over your shoulder).

Now that you have died and been resurrected it is important to know the critical work that Rihanna is doing here. From demanding particular economies as a Black woman to her disavowal of White man’s property, Rihanna is providing needed language for carefree and resistive Black girls.

She is a in a long lineage of Black girls out there for themselves, their bodies, their money and their time. Here’s a round-up of some important things to know, learn, and re-watch when locating Rihanna’s work!

Read:

 

  1. RiRi crafts notably rebellious black female self-determination in this spirit, eschewing propriety in favor of a carefree, self-indulgent womanhood not contingent on respectability.” – Rihanna And The Radical Power Of “Carefree Black Girl” Celebrity by Hannah Giorgis.

 

  1. Just as Rihanna’s eponymous girlness-as-image brushes against but never touches affective white girlishness, she functions just outside of the womanish labor so often determining blackness. Her girlness shapes her relationship to cash.” – The Prosperity Gospel of Rihanna by Doreen St. Felix

 

  1. “She is making the claim that, in some sense, she is selling her body like the strippers and dancers in her video. And she doesn’t have a problem with that. Far from it, she embraces it.” – Talkback: In Defense of Rihanna by Muna Mire

 

  1. “The mere fact that the woman who directed this entire video is Rihanna herself is laudable — an action that could even be interpreted as a subversion of these typically male-run narratives that Tarantino & Co. tend to go hog-wild with sans repercussion.” – Stop Saying  Rihanna “Bitch Better Have My Money” Video Is Anti-Feminist by Sandra Song

 

  1. The fact is, Rihanna doesn’t get dubbed as a feminist icon for the very same reasons her white peers do: the black female body is deemed as overtly sexual. – Why We Can’t Have Black Feminist Pop Icons by Lesli-Ann Lewis.

 

Watch:

 

  • Janet & Carly Simon featuring Missy Elliott – Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song Is About You):

 

  • Lil’ Kim – Came Back For You (Explicit)

 

  • Jhené Aiko – The Worst


What’s missing from the #BBHMMSyllabus? Use the hashtag to see more!

Jayy Dodd is a writer and performance artist based in Boston, originally from Los Angeles. After recently graduating Tufts University, Jay has organized vigils and protests locally for Black Lives Matter: Boston. When not in the streets, Jay has contributed to Huffington Post and is currently a contributing writer for VSNotebook.com, based in London. Jay Dodd is active on social media celebrating Blackness, interrogating masculinity, and complicating queerness. His poetic and performance work speaks to queer Black masculinity and afrofuturism.

Watch Bree Newsome’s Short Film ‘Wake’

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Bree Newsome garnered national attention when she climbed a 30-foot flagpole at the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina last week and removed the Confederate Flag. But, the activist, singer, and filmmaker is not new to discussing and addressing issues of race and racism in the United States. Her powerful 2010 short film “WAKE” deals with the intersections of race, belief, and culture in the South. It gives a glimpse into what Newsome’s ideological and directorial stances are on the whole.

Among the other videos on Newsome’s channel, you can see the activist discussing issues Black science and fiction at Spelman College.

Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.