I saw the movie Precious, but what about her mother, Mary?

I am my mother’s daughter and my mother is the daughter of my grandmother. And both their stories and silences speak through me.

I begin with this mantra because spiritually and mentally I desperately need to understand why tears stained and wrinkled my cheeks as I watched the movie Precious. Yes, I am a Cancer and have been known to wear my heart on my sleeve, but there was something so violent and painful about how Lee Daniels portrayed Precious’ mother that tears could only convey my ill ease and anger. Mind you, there are many critiques I could write about the movie. However, I think summer’s Lost in Translation: A Response to Precious gets at the root of why so many people like myself wanted to storm out of the theater babbling among many things, “I can’t stand Tyler Perry’s @s$ who makes millions off of black women being damaged.” So, if you want to read a good critique, please read summer’s Lost in Translation. I guess I should also say that I have not read Push by Sapphire and all my comments are in response to the movie, Precious.

So, I begin by asking the question, what if the movie Precious was not told from the point of view of Precious, but told from the point of view of Mary. I know many of you are scratching your heads asking, “Who’s Mary?” Well, Mary is Precious’ mother. I think it is important that we know the name of the woman who is “solely” responsible for making her daughter overweight, infecting her daughter with HIV, allowing her father to rape her, and forcing her to quit school to get welfare. Given all of this, I think it is important to know the name of Precious’ mother, Mary.

Yes, I know that the purpose of the movie was to tell the daughter’s story. But, as I watched Mary silence, physically abuse, and sexually sodomize her daughter, all I could think about as tears flowed was Mary’s story and how she became who she was. What were the political, social, cultural, and economic forces “intersecting” to shape how she saw her daughter and how she saw herself? Mary is not one dimensional in the sense of simply being organically evil. But, Lee Daniels—as he also did in Monster’s Ball—did a good, downright extraordinary job of painting her as such, ignoring the many structural and cultural forces at play during the 70s and 80s that made the image of the black welfare queen palatable and punitive.

Derrion Albert, Fenger High and Neighborhood Melee Part 2: Establishing Blame



“Where were the cops?” asks Letzbeforreal in his mini-video.  His question is not new. He, like everyone else, is looking to hold some bigger entity accountable for the murder of Derrion Albert.  He wants to lay blame where it does “the most good.”  Others assign blame to the administration of Fenger High School.   Despite this, Letzbeforreal’s female guest and those who agree with him suggest that neither the Police Department nor the City Administration care about murders involving black youth.  Ultimately, I think we all want to be able to hold someone, who has the ability to alter situations, accountable. I think, however, that to blame the school or CPD falls short of examining the root causes of youth violence in America, particularly in the case of Derrion Albert. 

Be Bold Be Re(a)d: The Podcast

I want to thank my good sisterfriend and comrade, Alexis Gumbs, for pulling the Be Bold Be Re(a)d podcast together.

3 years ago women of color came together and transformed what it meant to transform terror on Halloween, declaring October 31st Be Bold Be Red Day, a day for women of color and allies to wearredspeak out against violence against women. And 30 years ago women of color came together to respond to violence in the same critical and poetic spirit.

Towards the world the we all deserve, fully transformed from the misogyny and internalized racism we face in popular music to the frightening expendability of the lives and bodies of women of color this podcast places the brave voices of women telling the truth about gendered violence over the remixed sounds of Miles Davis. This year we take every sound back, starting with our own voices and the background that seeks to silence them.

Listen with your community, your class, your friends, your study group, your church, your crew, pass the link on or listen by yourself and see, hear and wear red.

listen here

or download here: http://brokenbeautiful.wordpress.com/files/2009/10/real-be-bold-be-red-podcast.mp3

Yes, I’m a Spelman Woman, but do I have to wear a white dress every damn day?

“Spelman thou name we praise STANDARDS and honor raise we’ll ever faithful be throughout eternity . . .”

Reflecting on my twenty some years of existence, I must say the best decision I’ve made thus far was to attend Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Not because it was the blue print for the show, A Different World (even though I loved that show) and I often imagined myself as high pitched voice Whitley Gilbert and not the strangely socially conscious Freddy because I thought she was annoying always yapping about helping the world and saving the damn humpback whales. But, life is ironic and as I get older I feel more and more like Freddie always yapping about violence and oppression. But this is not the point of this post. The point is to answer the question, “Why is Spelman the best decision I’ve made thus far?” And the answer is because of the many invaluable lessons Spelman has taught me and continues to teach me about the strengths, weaknesses, complexities, “respectabilities,” and boundaries of who can be called a bonafide black woman.

You see at Spelman we would chant with arrogance, “You can tell a Spelman Woman, but you can’t tell her much.” We would also bellow, “You get you hoes from Morris Brown. You get girlfriends from Clark Atlanta. But you get your wives from Spelman College.” We understood from the very beginning who could and could not be called a Spelman woman and by default who could and could not be called a real black woman. In many ways the social practices at Spelman defined black womanhood as feminine, heterosexual, smart, non-promiscuous, have good relationships with Morehouse men, Christian, and class privileged. For instance, during orientation week at Spelman, incoming students are required to wear dresses the entire week and also until recently they were paired with incoming Morehouse students to foster a sexual platonic brother and sister relationship. Mind you, when I was a first year student I didn’t see any problems with either tradition. Yeah, I was in my Whitley Gilbert’s phase.

However, as an emerging Freddie, I can now say that these seemingly innocent social practices, Spelman and Morehouse Alumnae would call traditions, narrate and with an iron fist in a white velvet glove enforce “appropriate” feminine and heterosexual behaviors. Of course, this is not to say that Spelman should not create spaces for young women to be traditionally feminine or to identify as heterosexual. I think they should. However, I think this same facilitation of social practices—once again alumnae would call traditions—should be extended to girls who are queer. Yes, girls who prefer to date other girls. Yes, girls who are attracted to men, but feel awkward around them for various reasons. Yes, girls who don’t like to wear dresses and prefer pants and Timberlands. Yes, girls who like to have sex with different partners, male and/or female. I will be the first to admit I felt very uncomfortable around my Morehouse brother not only because he was weird, but because he was aggressive. So, to be paired the first week at Spelman with a man from Morehouse was not comfortable for me. To say the least, these social practices help to define appropriate behavior for Spelman women.

You’re probably wondering where I am going with all of this. Well, the recent uproar surrounding Morehouse’s announcement of their Appropriate Attire Policy got me to thinking not only about Morehouse College, but also about Spelman and other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) like Hampton University (i.e. no braids or locks policy) where similar policies seek to control sexuality and present “respectable (i.e. class)” heterosexual images of black men and black women. So, the frustration and anger that many feel about the new Morehouse’s policy should also be equally apportioned among other HBCUs where the “politics of respectability” reign supreme. Of course, many people have been throwing the phrase the politics of respectability around as if it was a Frisbee and self-explanatory. But I do not think the term is completely transparent and easily understood.

Derrion Albert, Fenger High and the Neighborhood Melee Part 1


Derrion Albert’s murder was something like a blood sport event. As you watch in this clip, you can hear the man and woman, the camera crew, filming with their phone.  Starting at 36 seconds, the man says “Let me see that shawty,” to which the female responds presumably as

First Strike

First Strike

she hands over the phone, “Zoom-in… Zoom-in, Zoom-in.” As Derrion strikes out at another teen, we see one young man pick up the wooden railroad tie and strike Derrion across the back of his head.  As Derrion Albert tries to get up, he is clipped again by another guy, whose punch puts Derrion down for a while as folks kick, stomp and hit him while he is on the ground.  We then hear the male from the  camera crew yell, “Damn, they kickin’ that NIGGA’S ASS.”

She's Gotta Have it: What, Exactly, is "Rape Rape"?

I’m still on IR trying to get this chapter draft to semi-embarrassing level.  (Which, frankly, would be a pleasant surprise to my committee since, you know, I rarely have anything to show them–and when I do it’s some incoherent mess about black people and geography. Yes, I mortify the race with every word I type.) So, I have to give you video you’ve probably already seen.


Yeah Monica,"Just One of those Days . . ."

There are so many interesting things to write about this week. I could write about Oprah trying to rap with the overly sponsored poster child of a good rapper, Jay Z. Or, I could write about the 25th Anniversary of the Cosby Show and how I can’t stand the grown-up version of Rudy Huxtable, Keshia Knight Pulliam. Or, I could write about the new HIV vaccine that shows hopeful possibilities. Or, I could write about the governmental propaganda behind and moral panic of the Swine Flu H1N1. But, the only things I can think about this Friday morning are my cramps. Yes, I said cramps. And, if you have not guessed by now this post is about women’s menstrual cycles. So if you have a weak stomach stop reading now. Yes, this post is about the monthly visitor. To be honest, I don’t like the phrase monthly visitor because it falsely gives the idea to men and naïve non-pubescent girls that women’s encounters with their cycles will be like entertaining guest in their homes where the guest are polite and charming.

Yeah right. It’s more like a hostile bank robbery where the biology of having children forces your ovaries to produce eggs causing body crippling pain that would make a grown man weep and gnash his teeth against the rock pavement crying out loud, “God, why hast thou forsaken meeeeeee to bleeeeed!” Humph, I am convinced that if men could experience only a small measure of what we endure until we reach the blessed promised land of menopause they would know without a doubt that we are the stronger sex. And of course we are forced to be strong because the thing about having a period is that I have no choice not to have one without drastically altering the hormones in my body. So, I like every other woman in the world between the ages of 15 and 48 bleed, cramp, and curse the male gods. Yeah, it was definitely a male god who did this to me . . . partially kidding.

And have you noticed that when you’re on your period people seem to be more annoying, more irrigating, and more in your space then they should be? Yes, I’ve noticed. And, I like many who cramp have shared polite if not loving words with these individuals resembling the clip in I’m Gonna Get You Sucka where Cheryl played by the amazing actress, Dawn Lewis, also known as Jaleesha of A Different World tells Damon Wayans to go away because she is cramping badly. (Watch the video it’s hilarious, but it’s also a good representation of how I would respond to an attacker when on my first day of my cycle when the cramps cannot be soothed by Advil, Aleve, and Tylenol combined).


Hey, what can I say Monica had it right when she song:

It’s just one of them days,

When I wanna be all alone.
Its just one of them days,
When I gotta be all alone.
It’s just one of them days,
Don’t take it personal.
I just wanna be all alone,
and you think I treat you wrong.

Don’t take it personal.

I guess if I’m honest having a period is not all bad because historically and even now it gives women space to be by themselves or to be in the midst of other women only because men historically, religiously, and presently are afraid they will catch our “sin,” our “uncleanliness,” and our sometimes “fishy smell” depending on what we have eaten so they leave us alone. Yep, it’s a generalizable fact that men will melt like the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz if they come into contact with a bloody tampon or pad. This is so true that when I was a teen my mother made my sisters and I triple wrap our pads place them in a paper brown bag wrap them in a white plastic bag and take them outside to the “main” garbage can and wait for the trash to be picked up.

Can you imagine having to do all of this six times a day? Okay, clearly I am kidding about waiting for the trash to be picked up, but the point is that y father, grandfather, and any other man in the house had to be completely kept in the dark that we were on our periods. And yes I had three sisters which meant we are tended to bleed around the same time. All in all, having a period allowed women to escape the male gaze on occasion. Of course, this is not to say that some women did not enforce the male gaze in “the red tent,” in “the moon den,” or in “the goddess circle,” but that women had a space where they could talk about women’s work, girl’s initiations, stories of girlhood, and gossip about such and such. A good representation of this is found in one of my favorite books of all time is Anita Diamante’s The Red Tent. The Red Tent tells the story of Dinah who in the Bible was raped. Instead of leaving the story where the Bible leaves it of Dinah being raped, Diamante writes a story from Dinah’s perspective about the love, the complexities, and the hurt of polygamous families and how the menstrual tent becomes a place where Dinah and the other women in her family learn skills, stories, gossip, and family secrets.

Well, perhaps, in another post I will write about the politics of the period, but this post is about the pain, humor, and woman centeredness of having a period. Yep, it is about being able to laugh as one bleeds.

Human Rights in the Near East: Part 1


In 2004, humiliation, pain and torture were inflected on an Afghan grain merchant named Mohammed Shah Poor. The torturer was Sheikh Issa Al Nahyan, one of the 22 royal Sheikhs of the United Arab Emirate (U.A.E). At this point in the clip, I hope you have realized that Sheikh Issa’s accomplices are police officers. Moreover, I believe (call me clairvoyant) that Mohammed (and Sheikh Issa) both realize there are to be no consequences for Sheikh Issa. After looking at the family chart, we notice that Issa’s kinfolk has the U.A.E on lock.  In fact, every top office belongs to a Sheikh Al Nahyan.  According to The Observers , on April 22nd 2009, the U.A.E Ministry of Interior (lead by one of Sheikh Issa’s brother) told ABC News that “all rules and procedure were followed correctly by the police.”

Mobs, Cracker Barrel, and Hunters . . . Oh My!

So, what does a frog, a violent racist white man, and non-violent racially complicit white people have in common? Well, they’re all  mammals. No, that’s not the answer because a frog is an amphibian. What they have in common is that they all contribute if not directly participate in the abuse of black women. I know at this point, many of you are wondering how so and in particular how the frog figures into the equation. Well, I’m glad you asked young grasshopper. Inspired by summer’s You Gon’ Be All Right: On Maia Campbell and (More on) Tyler Perry, I decided that I too wanted to map connections between dissimilar current events to talk about how they represent normal and normalizing narratives of violence against black women. The stories I want to talk about are the upcoming Disney movie, The Frog and the Princess and the Cracker Barrel Nut. I know for some of you these stories seem inconsequential to each other. However, if you look closer you will see common strands of violence against black women.

So, let’s begin with talking about Disney’s The Frog and the Princess. Of, course there are many critiques to throw against this movie from the emphasis on girls being Princesses to the racist stereotyping of African cosmologies.  However, the bone I have to pick with the film today has to do with the “white” hillbilly “frog” hunters pursuing and hoping to eat the first Black Princess, Princess Tiana, who spends the majority of the film as a frog. Of course, I am pretty sure Disney like the rest of Post-Race America is banking on black people being so desirous of a black princess that they will only see the “clueless” and “stupidly innocent” nature of the white frog hunters because how could the hunters know the true “human nature” of princess Tiana. (In my best sarcastic voice) Just like how could Glen Beck and Joe Wilson know that their comments about Barack Obama were racist they were only saying what they felt they didn’t call him the “N” word. And my response to this hogwash is that’s some cow dung. Yep, just in case you did not catch it I said “cow dung” instead of using the four letter expletive.

Even if the white hillbilly frog hunters are impervious to Princess Tiana’s humanity the historical and at times very present nature (i.e. Duke Lacrosse Team gang rape of Black female Dancer) of white male mobs “hunting” black women’s bodies should have signaled an alarm. But, it did not because it’s all too common of a practice to abuse or to imagine abusing black women whether they are human or in “frog” form. If you are skeptical of my claim all one has to do is look at the footage of the Boston Tea Party March on DC, go to a Cracker Barrel, read about what happened to Semenya, or type the phrase “black girl” into any search engine to know black women like other women of color are subjected to the most violent and horrific forms of real and imaginary physical and sexual abuse and often without legal, societal, and communal recourse.

And let’s be honest, Disney is not completely clueless to the historical meaning of white mobs because if they were the white hillbilly frog hunters would be featured in The Frog and the Princess’ movie trailers, but they are not. To know that they are a part of the movie you have to visit The Frog and the Princess’ Facebook Fan Page. 5655_151497223708_99911703708_3551667_1534218_nThere you meet the white hillbilly hunters—Two Fingers, Reggie, and Darnell.  And of course, Disney makes sure to mention how “dim witted” the klan clan is as if their dim wittedness and “hunger” for frog legs is suppose to make us feel as if they do not really mean “intentional” harm to Princess Tiana because if they, the klan clan of hunters, knew she was human than they would not harm her. Yeah right. What crack is Disney smoking? It must be that good stuff that Whitney referred to in her interview with Diane Sawyer. Because if we bring into the conversation the historical setting of the movie—French Quarter turn of the century— white supremacy and racism was the law of the land meaning white men could easily rape and kill black women without retribution meaning the seemingly innocent dim witted white hunters in Disney’s film could literally not only eat frog legs, but also devour black women’s flesh through rape.

And of course, we don’t have to look at historical times to see how white men have violent access to black women’s bodies. Just look at what happened to Tashawnea Hill and 7-year old daughter at a Georgia’s Cracker Barrel. Ms. Hill, an African American woman, was beaten by Troy West, a white man, because she asked him politely to watch out when opening the door at Cracker Barrel. At this affront, Troy West started to beat Ms. Hill and call her Black Nigger Bitch. No one intervened to help her and her daughter. Furthermore, Ms. Hill recalled how some of the white patrons grinned in delight as she was beaten senseless. Can you believe that no one helped her? Perhaps, it isn’t difficult not to believe because just a month ago a black woman was beaten by her husband in broad daylight and no one interviewed to help her.

And of course of many of you are saying what does all of this have to do with an animated Disney Film? Well, it has everything to do with it because movies like The Frog and the Princess and Monster’s Ball represent what is normal, acceptable, if not downright desirous behavior toward and of black women. It becomes publicly sanctioned behavior for men irrespective of race to abuse black women. Therefore, Disney’s animation and characterization of the white hunters as dim witted white hillbillies minimizes the intended violence of the hunters, makes their violence normal, and makes their “hunger” a justified reason for killing Princess Tiana. This all too well reminds me of what a white man screamed at the Boston Tea Party March on DC this last Saturday. Holding a sign that read, “We did not bring guns this time,” a middle age white man begins to fuss about how he lost his job and how the government is too big because of black welfare queens. I know all too well how his words and job loss can justify the retrenchment and sidewalk abuse of black women during this recession time.

Lions and tigers and bears Mobs, Cracker Barrels, and Hunters . . . Oh My!

You Gon' Be All Right: On Maia Campbell and (More on) Tyler Perry

Note: I know this post is mad long.  I’ll be more succinct in the future.  I know you have better things to do.

Last week, I didn’t take the opportunity to blog about Maia Campbell, something that I had fully intended to do.  Instead, my only significant output was a blog about Tyler Perry taking over command of the for colored girls film.  I worry that not allowing myself time to post my thoughts about Campbell was an implicit, unspoken participation in the suppression and dismissal of her situation, her struggles.  I want to correct that.  Further, I want to make a connection to both events, which is something I haven’t seen folks do, but I find especially necessary at this juncture.