Seven Women at the Cross: A Black Feminist Speaks of Widows

This week I had the opportunity to speak at Spelman College’s 8th Annual Seven Women at the Cross. For those who are not familiar with Seven Women at the Cross Services it is a time when women preachers and speakers recount the last seven days of Christ living on Earth through the stories of the women he met on his way to the Cross. So, I thought I would share with you the speech I gave about the widow woman in Mark 12:41. Of course, it is a black feminist interpretation of the text.

“A poor widow came and put in two small cooper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciple and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12: 41)

The story of the widow woman in Mark 12:41 is fundamentally a story about women pursuing their purpose . . .  their most burning desire  . . . that which calls them back to their center . . . irrespective of what it may cost them. And because they are widows the cost is high. You see, it’s a miserable existence to be a widow woman in a patriarchal culture because you are not valuable. To make you valuable in Biblical times as a woman you had to fulfill your purpose of first being a good daughter then a good wife, and most importantly being a good mother meaning you spent most of your time catering to the wishes of your father, your husband, and your children. That was your purpose.

Women’s Her-story Month: Why Not Sex Workers (Sofia Maldonado’s Mural)?

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thzHCAjOgAI

There is a “moral panic” that Keysha Whitaker highlights in “Latin Female Artist draws criticism for Times Square Mural” brewing on the streets of Times Square where Sofia Maldonado, a young Puerto Rican-Cuban woman, is under fire for creating a mural that for many embodies the sins of rap videos . . . big booty black women . . . exotic looking Latina women . . . crouch mesmerizing poses . . . and at the end of the day “un-respectable” images of black and brown women. One incensed passerby said the mural harkens back to a time when 42th Street was a “red light” district . . . a place where prostitution . . . drugs . . . and un-catholic like debauchery reign supreme. People are mad not ordinary mad, but “witch-hunt” mad. Men of color are mad not ordinary mad, but I need to protect “my woman” mad. But the question is: why? Why are they mad? Why are they Mad Men?

And all that I can think of to answer this question is that these images are not “respectable” images. They do not paint black and brown women are Supreme Court Judges—Sonia Sotomayor—or as First Ladies—Michelle Obama—or as multi-billionaires—Oprah—or as activist— Linda Chavez-Thompson—or as writers—Sandra Cisneros. Nope . . . as one mural viewer said, “They look like prostitutes.” And in response to this I say [silent drum roll], why not sex workers? Why not a mural honoring sex workers during Women’s Her-story Month? Of course, this is not to say that the mural showcase sex workers, but the way in which people are talking about the images of the mural gives substance to the claim that people see the images as such.

Women Her-story Month: Do You Have a Chosen Sister?

I speak as a – a sister of a sister. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on my birthday. And for over 30 years, Coretta Scott King and I have telephoned, or sent cards to each other, or flowers to each other, or met each other somewhere in the world.

We called ourselves “chosen sisters” and when we traveled to South Africa or to the Caribbean or when she came to visit me in North Carolina or in New York, we sat into the late evening hours, calling each other “girl.” It’s a black woman thing, you know. And even as we reached well into our 70th decade, we still said “girl.”

I pledge to you, my sister, I will never cease.

Dr. Maya Angelou’s remarks at Coretta Scott King’s Funeral

So, I was watching the Monique Show last night and Taraji P. Henson was one of her guests. What was interesting about the show was not that they both were Oscar nominated actresses, but that they were girlfriends. I mean Sistergirl girl friends. Sistahfriends whose on screen chemistry spoke of countless nights of belly laughs and Girl, let me tell you . . .” call and response, “I almost had to take my earrings off,” black girl stories. So, inspired by their on camera friendship and Women’s Her-story month, today I pay tribute to Sisterfriends without whom many black women including myself would go crazy on what seems like an ordinary day. Yes, black girl friendships are a blessing.

Women’s Her-story Month: A tribute to Old Black Women Healers

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

–Maya Angelou

So, how do you make a little black girl believe that all she has gone through does not determine her ability to take flight? How do you “teach” her that her wings are beautiful and that the risk of flying is a marvelous growth enriching endeavor? How do you make her see that her cadged song and flight will one day inspire others to freedom? How do you “teach” a black girl to fly?

You see, it’s not an easy endeavor because so many things seek to clip their wings, silence their voice, and keep them cadged. It takes a special kind of spiritual intervention to release little black birds. It is not a task for the faint of heart or for those who benevolently (i.e. good white women) “swoop” in to save de Negro children from the pathology of their colored communities. Hmmmm . . . it is a task well suited for wise black women like Baby Suggs in Beloved who said, “Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it . . . No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands . . . You got to love it,” and Minnie Ransom in The Salt Eaters who said, “Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well? Just so’s you’re sure, sweetheart, and ready to be healed, cause wholeness is no trifling matter. A lot of weight when you’re well,” and my 8th grade colored school teacher, Mrs. LaVern Colvin, who said, “Now listen here, Fallon, if you do not know by now how much I love you . . . you will never know, dearie.”

Vanity Fair's Racism Sings: Don’t Cha Wish You Were White Girl Like Me. Don’t Cha.

Cover Girls March 2010

“Mirror . . . mirror on the wall who the fairest of them all?” In most fairytales, the mirror would reply, “Snow white is the fairest of them all.” However, in the case of Vanity Fair’s March cover, the names are Abbie Cornish, Kristen Stewart, Carey Mulligan, Amanda Seyfried, Rebecca Hall, Mia Wasikowska, Emma Stone, Evan Rachel Wood, and Anna Kendrick . . . all up incoming young white Hollywood actresses. According to Shine’s writer, Joanna Douglass,

Vanity Fair writer Evgenia Peretz calls out the young cover stars by their best attributes: “downy-soft cheeks,” “button nose,” “patrician looks and celebrated pedigree,” “dewy, wide-eyed loveliness,” “Ivory-soap-girl features.”

Clearly, Evgenia Peretz has over-dosed on the proverbial white supremacist poisoned apple. I know what you’re thinking. Do such apples exist? Yes, they do just ask Pat Robertson what he thinks about Haiti or ask the producer and director of Couples Retreat about taking the black comedian, Faizon Love, off the European posters.

It's better than money: It's FOOD STAMPS!

 

 

FoodStampsI read the New York Times article titled “Food Stamps Usage Soars, Stigma Fades.” The article is about the lessening of  stigma regarding the use of food stamps. What comes to mind when you think of the U.S. welfare system, specifically food stamps or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)?

 For me, I remember seeing black single mothers with multiple children (read: more than 3) in the grocery store handing multi-colored slips of paper across the counter to the cashier. Others, like President Ronald Reagan, associate with this program certain women, like Linda Taylor, Barbara Williams, Arlens Otis, and Dorothy Woods. As defrauders of government sponsored welfare programs, these women’s public “transgressions” aided Ronald Reagan to stir the public imagination and create the “welfare queen. ” In his most famous of quotes regarding the welfare queen, He said:

Ronald-Regan “She has 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husband. She’s got Medicaid, getting food-stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names.” 

 
 
 

The Princess and the Frog, but what about the White Frog's Hunters?

Today the Princess and the Frog opens across the nation. Of course, I’m going to go see the movie, however like most cynics I wrote a blog about the movie before it premiered approximately two months ago to  be exact. So, if my argument is proven wrong by actually seeing the film, I will write another blog saying I was wrong. However, I do not think this will be the case. Also, I hope bloggers, writers, teachers, critics, etc. are equally critical of this movie as they were of the movie, Precious.

The original title of the blog was, Mobs, Cracker Barrel, and Hunters . . . Oh, My.

Today in Post-Race History: Full Corps Press

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rKhbzJ8YeU&feature=player_embedded

I don’t follow the comings and goings of the White House press corps, so I’m wading in uncharted water here.  (I come from a long line of water waders, so I think I’ll be ok.)  Yet I did watch the clip of last week’s exchange between White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and American Urban Radio’s April Ryan three times after I saw the story posted on Yahoo!.  (It does not get near my “Video Phone” record, but who’s counting?)

Beyonce Says Big Ego, but Ruth says, “Eat your [damn] eggs, Walter Lee”

So, why is it that every time I talk about black women’s lived experiences feeble-minded always on the black woman’s titty black man hollers in his best tonka truck voice, “We got it hard not black women?” Wow. My first immediate response is, “Did I say anything negative about the black man?” No. My second response is, “Did I even use the male pronoun in any part of my statement?” No. So, how is it that you, Mr. Beans and Rice eating barefoot and pregnant needy black man, are offended, wounded, and betrayed by my acknowledgement of black women’s stories? You see, Beyonce calls it your big ego. I simply refer to it as your broke-down Napoleonic black male privilege having @$s. I know the tone of this blog seems reminiscent of Erykah Badu’s Tyrone and Beyonce’s Irreplaceable, but my intent is not to lyrically serenade you with all the ills black men have visited upon black women, but to say that I am sick and I am tired of the, “I am black man and the world is on my shoulder boo who who” whine every time I mention anything about black women.

I mean, I can say, “I as a black woman sneezed today,” and the black man would counter, “I have a sinus infection.” I as a black woman could slip and fall and the black man would argue for dear life that he invented the slip then fall movement. I can say, “As black woman I love my vagina,” and the black man would say, “Not as much as I do (hearty John Coffy from the Green Mile’s laugh).” I can say, “I scraped my knee,” and the black man would moan like an old southern Baptist minister, “I am quadriplegic . . . I am so oppressed.” Really, is it that important that you, Mr. I am an Endangered Species, be the center of attention all the damn time?  When I go to the bathroom, I have to seriously think about how my brown poop will oppress you. When I sleep at night, I have to think about how my dreams will challenge your manhood and rival your oppression. I am so over, “The world is against me” black man’s dirge. Go sing that song to a group of people who care, people like Tiger Wood’s wife and even they are tired of your big ego.

We Are All like Precious' Mother, Mary, Gotta Have a Man!!

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s my best friend flying away at supersonic speeds into the distant sunset with her new boyfriend. As she soars hugging her newfound beau who she only met a week ago on eHarmony, does she look back to see her best friends staring at her in utter disbelief? No. As she breaks the sound barrier itself with her rampant flight after a man who claims to love her after only knowing her a week, does she wonder if her best girlfriends who she has known since high school’s English 101 will be there waiting when she falls from the blissful skies of love?  No. No because she is one of them. You know the ones I’m talking about. The girls who get boyfriends and then disappear off the face of the Earth only to be spotted like wayward UFOs when times of distress arise. The girls who ignore your phone calls because they are so enraptured by a guy they have only known for a day. The girls who expect you to be understand why they have canceled the last five girls’ night out activities because Tyrone wants to watch the NBA Championships. Yes, those types of girls.

Before you take my opening comments as a sign of Erykah Badu’s “My eyes are green cause I eats a lot vegetables,” green-eyed monster called jealousy or take it as “You wish you had a man” syndrome, let me clarify my intent and the purpose of this blog. I hate downright loath when girls who claim to be your friend, your best friend, and your sister friend decides that they have to sever ties with you to be with a man. Mind you, I can critically analyze how patriarchy shapes how women interact with each other and how privileges are garnered through performing appropriate hetero-patriarchal behaviors like dating a guy and making him the center of your universe. However, it still pisses me off.

Every time one of my girlfriends goes what I have now termed as “ghost” I feel angry and deeply betrayed. And let’s be honest, when she goes crazy underneath her bed babbling like Miss Sophia from The Color Purple, “Sat in dat jail . . . sat in dat jail,” from being at the intersection of being black and woman who’s going to climb underneath that bed and cry with her or at least climb underneath the bed and tell her that she can as Maya Angelou wrote, rise? And if you’re thinking it will be that man of hers who she has metaphorically only known for a day is going to be her Savior or her Prince Charming you, my dear friend, are mistaken. It will be us, her girlfriends. You see, it never fails to happen that girls who go “ghost” call you in times of distress after not talking to you for ages and expect you to drop everything you’re doing to help make their world better.