In 2008, when I first read “Gay is the New Black” on the cover of the Advocate, I CRINGED at its implications. Even as I write, “Gay is the New Black,” it is unsettling because it elides, obfuscates and erases many tensions and concerns. You may be asking, “Why speak about it now, three years after the article was published?” The answer is simple—I feel the need to talk about my concerns and fears on the matter because of the Obama Administration’s legal/political move to position/add gay people as a protected class of citizens.
As a middle school student, I remember reading Iyanla Vanzant’s One Day My Soul Just Opened Up and thinking who is this black woman to write such a book about spiritual recovery that did not mention Jesus Christ as the penultimate factor in spiritual rejuvenation. Yes, back then I was a burgeoning Christian fundamentalist who enjoyed reading big girl books that I was not suppose to read including Terri McMillan’s How Stellar Got Her Groove Back and T.D. Jakes’ Woman Thou Art Loosed. So, now to watch Iyanla on Oprah tell her story of decline made me think about what it means for Black women to tell each other the “cold” truth in a world that in some very real ways are bent on our mental, spiritual, and physical demise or at the bare minimal our collective demoralization.
A gifted student from North Carolina who was visiting family in Baltimore over the holidays, Barnes was scheduled to graduate early from high school. She did not have a history of running away or being a troubled child.
The Phylicia Simone Barnes’ story is one of profound sadness and injustice on many levels. We know that when our brown and black children go missing they go missing without any national attention from the media. We also know that courageous black parents keep the search alive through their sheer determination to find their children. We also know that there is both a racialized and gendered media double standard.
We know these things.
But, do we know how to write a story—a news article—about black women’s and black girls’ disappearances or stories of violence without having to highlight how good they are, how perfect of a mother they are, how good of a student they are, and how good of a wife they are?
Recently the First Lady visited Spain. This photo was taken from her vacation. Yes, I have copies. As does Essence Magazine. Anyway, since her jaunt to Spain there has been article after article about whether or not it was a smart political move. That back in the states, there were millions of people still facing unemployment. The message here was save your money, find cheap things to do, and support those in the Gulf. To many, even ardent supporters, Mrs. Obama’s “lavish” trip overseas sent the wrong message. Michel Martin’s piece for NPR resonated widely. In part, because she gave credence to the negative attitudes that surround the Obamas including the lack of support they receive because of their race. Then she brought it back around to Michelle’s ill-timed trip to Spain. In the end, she concluded, that Michelle Obama took a “vacation from empathy” and that millions of poor Americans here were now faced with seeing she and Barack Obama as outsiders. Prior to this trip, they were much more accessible. Hell, they were just like us.
So, am I the only one who finds the YouTube’s “viralization” (yes, I made up a word) of the Bed Intruder Song deeply unsettling and problematic? Every time, I check my Facebook newsfeed I see, yet, another “remix” of the Bed Intruder Song. For those of you who are not familiar with the song, it tells the “real life” story of a young black woman who experienced “sexual violation” (yes, I know she was not penetrated, but that does not mean that she did not experience sexual trauma or sexual violation) when a man climbed through her window while she was sleeping. However, the attack was stopped by the young woman’s brother, Antoine, who helped to scare the man off. And, who, vocally stated on the local news the following evening:
Obviously we have a rapist in Lincoln Park, he is climbin in your window, he’s snatching your people up. So y’all need to hide your kid, hide your wife and hide your husband cause they rapin everybody out here. We got your t-shirt you done left your fingerprints behind and all. You’re so dum, you’re really dumb for real. You don’t have to come and confess what you did, we’re looking for you. We, we’re gonna find you. So you can run and tell that homeboy.
I want to begin be saying that I honor the voice of Antoine and his sister, Kelly, for speaking out, fearlessly, against their attacker. Often, when sexual violations happen silence is a safe response for both men and women to take in order to cope with their abuse. So, I applaud both, sister and brother, for speaking out.
Little Sally Walker Sitting in her Saucer Rise Sally Rise Wipe your Blinking Eyes Put your Hands on your hip and let your backbone slip Oh, shake it to the very one you love the best
I remember playing Little Sally Walker with the neighborhood girls. Each one of us had an authentic way of rising and letting our backbone slip. Some put hands on hips. Some went handless and allowed their pre-puberty bodies to sway to the rhythm of the chanting. Now, that I look back on it, in some very fundamental ways we learned about our bodies . . . how to shake them . . . how to shimmy them . . . how to whirl them . . . ultimately in pursuit of the “one you love the best.” We did all of this within the safe space of a girl circle.
Yes, boys would come and tease us and some very brave, but yet foolish souls would attempt to break the circle up only to be met with fire pink nails scratched into their boyish faces. Our dance circle and girlhood chanting was for us and not for them. Mind you, the same boy we scratched in the face was usually the same boy we made out with behind the garage later in the day, but that was later in the day not while we were playing Ms. Mary Mac, Twee Lee Lee, and Mama Lama.
Daughters eased their mothers’ burdens – helping with the spinning, the grinding of grain, and the endless task of looking after baby boys, who were forever peeing into the corners of the tents, no matter what you told them. But the other reason women wanted daughters was to keep their memories alive. Sons did not hear their mothers’ stories after weaning. So I was the one. My mother and my mother-aunties told me endless stories about themselves. No matter what their hands were doing – holding babies, cooking, spinning, weaving—they filled my ears. Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent
So, I took this blog’s title from my godmother who seems to always know the right word to use to convey a thought, “Fallon, the word you are looking for is palpable or the word you are looking for is verdant or the word you are looking for, little one, is yearning.” And, yes, the right word for this blog is “yearning” . . . a type of yearning that is at times “palpable” and at other times unquenchable creating a constant drought lodged in the middle of my throat longing for a thunderstorm.
Yes, I am quite thirsty for a “present” mother. You know the type, the ones who are living. The ones you can share your secrets with even though sometimes you wish they would mind their own business. The ones you lovingly tease for their archaic notions about sex, love, rubbers (yes, condoms), and men. The present ones . . . but this blog is not specifically about present mothers, but more about the expectations that both mothers and daughters have of each other.
So, that we are crystal clear I do not run behind black men. I do not beg them to spend time with me. I am not desperate for their attention, money, or third arm. I am so tired of Nightline, CNN, ABC, and yes the great matriarch himself, Tyler Perry, telling me that I am the problem. There is a political project afoot to make black women feel they are woefully inadequate. And to this, I say bah hum bug.
– April 24, 2010 Facebook’s Status, Fallon
Just in case you’re wondering, yes, I started my blog with a status update I wrote last week when Nightline aired its show, Face-Off: Why Can’t a Successful Black Woman Find a Man? The Facebook status update conveys my sentiments about this latest cycle of blaming black women for the woes of the black man, the woes of the black community, and the woes of the economy. Yes, if only I would become barefoot and pregnant unemployed and desperate for Big Daddy’s benevolent protection then I would be married [cue the Disney’s music] and the mice with their little mice hands would make my white wedding dress . . . living happily ever after . . . yes, if only I could be that type of woman again. Yes, I use to be a version of her (i.e. wanting to marry the senator instead of being the senator syndrome) when I was searching for my voice.
But, I ain’t her now and I don’t know too many black women who are. If you want a more scholarly understanding of this issue I suggest you read Melissa Harris Lacewell’s Nightline asks why black women can’t get a man or Farai Chideya How Does It Feel to Be a Black, Female, Single Problem because my blog is going to be a rant about how I think black men are the problems. Yes, I said they are the PROBLEMS. Okay, not the pen-ultimate problem, but definitely the problem when it comes to how they use their hetero-male privilege in romantic relationships with black women in particular black women like me who are not willing to put up with their shit cow dung.
“Whatever glory belongs to the race for a development unprecedented in history for the given length of time, a full share belongs to the womanhood of the race.”–Mary McLeod Bethune
“As more women enter public life, I see developing a more humane society. The growth and development of children no longer will depend solely upon the status of their parents . . . Though children cannot vote; their interests will be placed high on the political agenda for they are indeed the future.”–Dr. Dorothy Height
“Children don’t vote but adults who do must stand up and vote for them.”–Dr. Marian Wright Edelman
As the world mourns the passing of Dr. Dorothy Height, I am overwhelmed by the tributes that herald her life and whisper her legacy. She’s godmother . . . matriarch of justice . . . civil rights pioneer . . . unsung giant . . . and mentor. She’s president of the National Council of Negro Women . . . women’s rights activist . . . unmovable force . . . and mentor. She was unafraid to tell it like it is, “Yes, mam Dr. Height” and mentor. She was a mentor, a woman who like the mighty Mississippi poured herself into the lives of many including Dr. Marian Wright Edelman who’s work daily ensures that “No child is left behind.” Yes, there is something to be said about the power of mentoring and the making, hewing, shaping, and fashioning of lionesses. Yes, I said lioness women who with ferocity pursue justice and equality to make change evident in the lives of black women and children. As I think more about the work of Dr. Height and the countless number of women who were empowered by the National Council of Negro Women activities and programs, I realize a part of her legacy is the mentoring of lionesses.
TRENTON — City police have charged a 15-year-old girl as an accomplice to the gang rape of her 7-year-old sister. Police said they believe the older sibling was paid for having sex with multiple partners Sunday night during a party at the troubled Rowan Towers apartment complex, and that she then sold her sister to others at the party.
My heart grieves not only for the seven year old black girl who was gang raped, but also for her 15 year old sister who sold her body and her sister’s body for money. Yes, my heart grieves even though many people are angry with the older sister for not protecting her little sister calling for “the book to be thrown at her.” To say the least, the big sister is going to jail for a very long time. But yet, my heart weeps for her as it wept for Precious’ mother, Mary. It weeps because it says something about the level of sexual abuse she herself must have experienced to make the idea of being complicit in her sister’s rape plausible. My heart moans because she like other girls knows that they can make a living by selling their bodies. It wails and weeps because no one stepped in to stop her first sexual abuse. My heart grieves.
The question is: Can we really be angry with the 15 year old sister for what she did? And I am having a hard time answering this question because a part of me wants to be angry at her for not protecting her little sister. However, I have to assess how much of my sadness and anger is in response to the crime of rape and how much of it is in response to her not being a good big sister. You know the type of big sister my older sister was forced to be completely responsible for raising me when she was only a girl herself because . . . momma had to work late . . . momma did not like being tied down . . . daycare is expensive . . . momma had a second job . . . momma was gone . . . momma had to party . . . daddy was gone . . . so she became responsible for raising and protecting “us” her younger siblings.