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Music to My Nose, Huh? I Don’t Think So.

I’m sitting here, eating left over chili dog that my daughter didn’t want. It’s cold, but it’ll do. I simply couldn’t garner the energy to make myself a fresh one. Ten hour work day, packing for a move, grading essays, and waiting for the one fingernail I had to re-paint to dry. I remain grateful, but my journey to urban zen is rudely interrupted by what I am deeming one of the most infuriating commercials of 2014. Can you guess? Well, you don’t have to cuz I’ll gladly tell you:

Gain Flings
Take the next 30 seconds to relish in this little beauty.

You know what I did, right?  One of these:

20140421-222401.jpgYes. I took out special time to rant about this travesty of a commercial because:
1. It’s yet another demonstration of advertising’s inability to see my black ass as anything but a church singin, smilin’ mammy. Note big mama wailing out a super so-saved run at the end (hiya, and hi-yaaaaahhhh!). First Black president? Nope. Release of Marissa Alexander? Negative. The cancellation of Preachers’ Daughters? Naw. Self-actualization and spiritual empowerment? No, thanks. I’m celebrating over laundry! Eye roll. Middle finger up. F— you very much.

2. It tries to make my least favorite chore of laundry look like a celebration just because GAIN smells good. Guess what? So does a honey glazed ham, but I’m sure the hell not inclined to devote the time to cook one every day. Dumb asses. Not to mention the fact that it takes no more than one night of post-milkshake flatulence, an overcooked bag of microwave popcorn, or one of my daughter’s mani/pedi marathons to wipe out what they are proposing is the enduring heavenly scent of GAIN in our homes. I object.

3. They have the audacity to show a woman savoring the smell of her sheets that have just dried on the line outside. Oh sure, I’m certain that after scraping together enough clothespins to hang my linens up (because I guarantee you my son has tried to make some kind ammunition or craft project out of them, so half them bitches are lost now), straining to make my short ass arms get everything fastened and secure (and completely pitting out in the process), waiting who knows how long it would take for sheets to air dry in this wet ass spring Washington state weather, I can’t wait for my sheets to fall upon my face so I can breathe in the mind blowing fragrance of GAIN. Yep, that’s every woman’s dream. Hey GAIN, here’s another mind blower for you: electric dryer yield far more smiles from busy Betties across the land than a clothesline ever could. I’m not Celie and me and Nettie are prancing about the clearing as we hang Mista’s socks in the cracks. Imbeciles.

4. How dare you minimize that handsome bald brother to a sheet sniffing goober that’s laid up in the bed with a bunch of harmonizing strangers in his bed?! You could have easily shown him and his son (since you think you’re being so damn progressive), folding clothes in front of the TV like normal, everyday, hard working folk. You’re dead to me.

You may be thinking, damn Betty, hard day? Such ranting is surely the result of misplaced anger. To that I say: BINGO!
Monday kicked me square in the chest and negativity is doing the nae-nae across my face. And, it’s laundry night.
Okay, I’m done. Pray for me ya’ll.
Love,
me

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The Bitch is Back…and I’m Mad as Hell

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Hey babies…how I missed your energy, your ear, and your love. Got about half of my shit together so here I be. Back with some words for the well intentioned assholes I so often tolerate to avoid jail time. I got babies, after all, right?

The Proof

The proof is me, you simpleton.
I am both witness and testimony.
See, me and mine, we sit, lean,
jump and sigh into this shit.
All this shit.
Because it can’t be broke down, broke out,
or segmented like a chocolate bar,
doled out or
dispensed like communion wafers
to the cloudy eyed us.
Your helping hand is a thin grinning lie.
It reeks of guilt and foolish intent;
it breeds blindness,
but my people see everything.
Our perfect sight fights your myopia,
Clarity brings us to solstice
and charity pushes and pulls on justice.
The difference between the two
like a breeze and a hurricane.
One flighty and targeted to the visible,
the other uproots to the foundation and
demands reconstruction.
So I ask, to which train will you hitch you car?
Which result do you deem most worthy?
Either way, we won’t wait.

So there it is. I’ll be back soon….for real.
BB

Forgive them, Gabby, They Know Not What They Do!

I sit here seething at the utterly misguided and feeble comments criticizing Olympian Gabby Douglas’ hair.  WTF, people?!!! So much about these negative and smart ass comments infuriate me, it’s difficult to know where to begin.

First and foremost, the Olympics is about athletic prowess and the incredible will of the human spirit.  It ain’t no damn hair show.  The fact that people would even think to pay her hair any mind is a sad testament to the self-hatred that so many Blacks still feel.  That her outward appearance has to align itself with what is considered acceptable (straight, smooth, White) in order for her astounding achievement to be validated is fucking hogwash.  Shame on whoever has the unmitigated gall to call her hair into question. Before she even secured her win, this young lady has faced unfounded and needless criticism, unfavorable and skewed media coverage, and sub-par commentary which she has handled with poise and grace.  She has shown unwavering focus and maturity beyond her 16 years.

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Gabby has trained countless hours and demonstrated dedication and fortitude to represent not just her race, but her country. The physical, mental, and emotional toll this champion has endured was finally vindicated as she took home the gold.

She’s the first African-American to win gold in the women’s gymnastics all-around.  Recognize.

She’s the second African-American to be on Team USA in this event.  Olympic great Dominique Dawes is singing Gabby’s praises.

She has secured multi-million dollar endorsements as a result of her success.

And these dumb asses are asserting her ponytail wasn’t smooth enough? This criticism posted on social media for the world to watch Black people hate on our most accomplished; for those who already mock Black people/culture to obtain additional fodder for their white supremacist rhetoric?  That’s just great.

Go to hell, you short-sighted joy suckers.  This girl is a magnificent testament to commitment, and a role model to young girls (not just black girls) everywhere.

Soledad O’Brien weighed in on a great Get Real! panel discussion asking why Gabby’s success is being overshadowed by comments on her appearance.  I so appreciated those people of color publicly shutting down the ugly commentary and plugging affirmation, pride, and love in its place.

Proctor and Gamble, Gabby’s first endorsement, certainly finds no fault with her in this inspiring video about her journey to gold:

Gabby, play on, playa. Your victory feeds my fire and makes me proud.  Your beauty is undeniable, your integrity soars.

We Wear the Mask

Happy Hump Day.  I’m weary today…the code switching, and systems navigation is exhausting, and frankly I’ve grown tired of making others comfortable by diluting myself.  My words, my hair, my language, my concerns, my intelligence.  This picks at my soul and discounts my gifts.  Conditional, sometime-y acceptance is a lie.  I want to scream, “Dig me as I am, or keep it pushin’! Get right with who you are, and you likely wouldn’t be so damn scared of me!”

I, of course, need my job.  I also aim to leverage resources to struggling youth and communities.  Whether that’s mentors, money, or visibility, I measure my success on how many new faces I see at the table, and if we can all eat while we sit there.  This requires a masquerade of sorts.  Musical identities, small talk, and adaptability that rivals tofu.  While mastering a variety of contexts is important, those in power do not often realize (or even friggin’ care), that the conditions placed upon the very “diverse voices” you solicit, come at a cost to our souls.

To the decision makers, the leaders of both the new and the old guard, I say:

It hurts when you don’t take me as I am.  It is an act of violence to impose your dominance on others.  You torment your fellow brothers, sisters, and children when you maintain your power by fueling oppressive systems, and fearing those who don’t fit in the boxes you’ve preserve out of complacency and ignorance.

Paul Laurence Dunbar lays it out so cold:

We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,–
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

-Dunbar, Paul Laurence. The Collected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar. Joanne M. Braxton, ed. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993.

Now, you know he nailed it.  I’m not angry, I just ain’t gonna smile all the damn time.  Just like the mask from our Halloween costumes, it gets hot, sticky, and uncomfortable under that mask.  You can’t see everything like you want, but you have to keep it on for folks to buy into the image you want to convey.  Eventually though, you can’t take it anymore and you have to take it off.

I have more to offer than humor, soul food, or sex.  There’s all kinds of intellectual ammunition going on here, people.

boom

The older I get, the less I smile.  This is my reasonable service to those who follow me.  I speak rather than smile.  I assert without apology.  I let my hair down (literally), stare leaders in the eye as I educate and inform versus explain and translate.  I bring light to substantive issues rather than interpret slang and dance moves.  The only way to properly thank those before me is to keep the tension in the room going.  Keep pushin’ back. Live outside the labels I didn’t create.

I’m finding the key to maintaining my gumption lies in my circle.  I thank God for a personal and professional community of people who will take the risks with and on behalf of all of the souls that live behind the mask.  After all, masks should be hanging on a wall, right?

Art in Our Own Image: Where MY Girls At?

So I was hanging with my girl, doing our coffee and fashion mag hang out day.  I peeped Marie Claire UK’s article Mothers and Daughters Get Naked from the April 2012 issue.  The piece is aimed at examining body image from different generational perspectives, and each mom (or mum, as they say in the UK) and daughter reflect on their confidence, shame, regrets, or goals regarding health, weight, aging, and self-image.  The images accompanying the piece were soft, artistic, ethereal, and featured mothers and daughter posing naked.  That’s right, they bared it all.  Sporting various gaits, sizes, and silhouettes, the duos showcased their figures proudly and unapologetically.  While one side of me is encouraged at the freedom these women felt to take it off, and feel empowered in their bodies, my wheels got to turning on whether women of color, particularly Black women, will ever be showcased and celebrated for their femininity and beauty in such a way.  In the current media climate, Black women are depicted on polar opposites of the continuum: we are sexless nurturers (mammy) or lascivious sluts (jezebels).  They are one dimensional caricatures, reminiscent of the sexual terrorism of slave days.  I often explain to my students that the roots of these stereotypes sprang from propaganda justifying slavery and the violent, rampant colonialism that interpreted the nudity of native Africans as promiscuity and asserted that slave women liked to be raped; that their sexual appetites demanded it.

Our bodies are art too.  Just as they are.  Mainstream only deems our bodies as art if we are in an Alvin Ailey production, or have made the cut to grace a runway. There is a blatant aversion to the black body.  If not reduced to sex objects or gratuitous comic relief, society runs from authentic black form like a cockroach when the lights come on.  The lips, the nose, the hair; the broader builds and unique carriages that don’t demand, but simply are a presence.  Yes, we are more than the filtered expression of white America’s standard of beauty.  However, you wouldn’t know that tuning into prime time TV, stopping by a news stand, or grabbing a movie at your nearest theater.  The expansiveness of hips and fullness of bellies, the ample and seasoned line of large breasts, hair too coarse to tame, or too short to fasten.  Hell, that is art.

I mean, when Erykah dropped this video, people went ballistic.  While one could only speculate her motivations, inspirations, and intentions, I have to wonder if Madonna, Jewel, Lady Gaga, Kylie Minogue, or Pink would meet such immediate criticism and dismissal if they released a similar video. Cindy Crawford, Demi Moore and Jessica Simpson were lauded for their magazine covers featuring their nude pregnant bodies.  Would this welcome reception, or even the invitation for the shoot be afforded, to Nia Long, Amber Riley, Toccara Jones, or Sara Ramirez?

Art is the beauty of the human form. It is the myriad of depictions of the essence of the human experience. If this is true, and art imitates life….when will I see the lives of all sisters framed in gold, featured in an editorial, or covered in a fine arts survey course? Here’s a little collection that stimulates my artistic side while honoring the art of woman in all of her shades, forms, and flavors:

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Please weigh in with your thoughts and comments.

QUESTION: Do you feel reflected in art and/or media?  Which artists, magazines, writers do you look to for inclusive and honest depictions of women?