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October 2014
19
"Janet, you know how much I love you. I look up to you as a big sister. And this book really, in my eyes, made me see myself as not just the one who went through my experience alone. Every time I would read a page in your book, it would be like a black and white scene of a movie in my head of my life, of something that you experienced that I’ve experienced in some way. It’s really hard for me to express myself to people when it comes to experiences that I had whether it be good or bad. And for you to have written a book about that is really a blessing. It’s like…this is like the ten commandments for us right now. Like literally. It speaks truth. And with truth comes freedom." - CeCe McDonald
Part of what Cece McDonald said to Janet Mock in regards to her important, exquisitely written, groundbreaking book about being a trans woman of colour, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More. Quote is from The Barnard Center For Research on Women annual salon that featured several panelists.

"Janet, you know how much I love you. I look up to you as a big sister. And this book really, in my eyes, made me see myself as not just the one who went through my experience alone. Every time I would read a page in your book, it would be like a black and white scene of a movie in my head of my life, of something that you experienced that I’ve experienced in some way. It’s really hard for me to express myself to people when it comes to experiences that I had whether it be good or bad. And for you to have written a book about that is really a blessing. It’s like…this is like the ten commandments for us right now. Like literally. It speaks truth. And with truth comes freedom." - CeCe McDonald

Part of what Cece McDonald said to Janet Mock in regards to her important, exquisitely written, groundbreaking book about being a trans woman of colour, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More. Quote is from The Barnard Center For Research on Women annual salon that featured several panelists.

October 2014
19

Read This Week

About every week (although lately more like 2x a month; sorry, life!) I share recently read articles, essays, journal articles and/or papers that I find important/interesting and think you may be interested in based on you reading Gradient Lair. 91st Read This Week! Good reads below:

Everyone Watches, Nobody Sees: How Black Women Disrupt Surveillance Theory by @Blackamazon on Model View Culture is incredible. Must read. She writes: "What we have decided to call surveillance is actually a constant interplay of various forms of monitoring that have existed and focused on black people, and specifically black women, long before cameras were around, let alone ubiquitous." 

My Mother Died Three Months Ago, And I’m Still Figuring Out How To Grieve For Her by @thewayoftheid on XOJane is so beautiful. It breaks my heart and inspires me at the same time. I too lost my mother 13 years ago, but it is very new for her. Over time on Twitter I’ve read the things she mentioned about it and each stage and I know the pain too well. One of the most beautiful sentences in this particular essay: "I no longer try to suffocate Grief with a pillow, or stab it with a fork; I hold on tight and ride the wave until the tide settles, until the calm returns." Like…even just retyping this now I’m emotional. Beautiful beautiful read.

Olympic Fencer Kamara James Dead At 29 on The Grio is the report of yet another young Black woman who has passed away (cause of death not listed yet and she lived her young life with mental health issues). Black women are human. And not “strong Black women” that can endure endless harm. 

Applauding Black Death in the Hour of Chaos… by @prisonculture on her blog is incredibly important. She discussed how people applauded a Black teen who stated he wasn’t afraid to be killed for justice, but she contrasts this with the desire to live and how his body is already deemed disposable, so his death doesn’t sit in juxtaposition to the violence. This is important, especially when people assign value to martyrs, and not those who survive, quite often. She writes "We have failed our young by not creating an expansive idea of justice."

Black Atheists Say Their Concerns Have Been Overlooked For Too Long by @kjwinston11 on Religion News Service speaks about that tenuous space of Black not theist, atheist not White supremacist, and Black skeptics/atheists working with Black theists to examine issues regarding social equality and justice. The author mentioned "organizers say social justice is a greater concern to atheists of color than the church-state separation issues the broader organized atheist community often focuses on. Why? Because social justice issues are more pressing in their communities."

Stay tuned for my next Read This Week.

October 2014
18
Via   •   Source

dynamicafrica:

With “The Walking Dead” back on TV screens for its fifth season, it’s great to see Danai Gurira’s beauty, style and talent highlighted in stunning editorials.

via Byrdie

She is glorious. Infinite beauty.

October 2014
17
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blackhistoryalbum:

The Hat Ladies | 1941 | Southside Chicago

Love this.

blackhistoryalbum:

The Hat Ladies | 1941 | Southside Chicago

Love this.

October 2014
17

Black Don’t Crack? Mine Does. Inside.

"Black don’t crack." We Black folks know our phrase. We envision how Pharrell looks the same at 18 and 40. Or how Angela Bassett shits all over your 20-something faves and she’s 56. How we see story after story of an older Black woman who is a grandma or great grandma and over 70 but doesn’t look a day over 40. How women like Nichelle Nichols and Diahann Carroll were straight slaying people with their looks when young and have aged well. How there’s Black people who are famous and not, who have plastic surgery or don’t, and they’re all looking damn good. How many of our older cousins and aunties are so fabulous and youthful-looking and we’d sit around them as young Black girls waiting to hear their stories about life and envisioned our own pending womanhood. 

People say it to me. "You don’t look 35!" Not once has anyone ever guessed my age as whatever it was at the time or older than it is. I dunno what age I look (people guess 21-28 most often) but I know what age range I feel. Old. And I don’t mean “old” as when I make jokes about #CentrumSilverTumblr or #RelicTumblr, or #oldladytweet on Twitter to playfully tease myself as my younger Black followers laugh. I mean the unfortunate negative connotations associated with being oldSick. Tired. Exhausted. Worn. Fragile. Sometimes…done

image

I don’t really want to re-write in depth about the personal physical and mental health issues (i.e. PTSD, Anxiety, Depression, chronic physical injuries from past car accidents, chronic chest pain etc.) that impact my life; I’ve alluded to them in previous essays and in very personal lamentations about abject pain and suicide ideation. In plenty of past essays and posts I’ve discussed the impact of structural violence and oppression on Black bodies and health, in general. I just wanted to say that I dunno if “looking pretty” (though appearing in a way that I am comfortable with and affirming my own beauty—as a Black woman treated as “ugly” by default, let alone treated as not a woman/human by default [and these are connected]—is important/radical) can heal what ails. Of course it doesn’t in a very acute medical sense. Clearly. I meant it’s not always enough. My mother was called “pretty” quite often. She still died at age 48. She still had a very difficult life. (This isn’t a rejection of beauty privilege as a concept, but it’s definitely complicated and highly nuanced for Black women, something I touched on in my essay Conversations About Beauty and Beauty Privilege Need To Be Intersectional and in my past essay compilation of several essays, On Beauty Politics.)

Thus, sometimes my selfies are about remembering times when I am happy, not necessarily “pretty,” though again, I do think for Black women violently degraded in every way, including the connection between the degradation of our appearance and our humanity (and for other oppressed women not often shown/considered in the mainstream), selfies can rock for many reasons. I don’t think Black women have the luxury of denouncing appearance when it’s used as a measure of our humanity; we rarely have the luxury to pretend that beauty as a construct and as power is something we can “ignore” (which I discussed in Black Women Do Not Have To Reject Any Mention Of Beauty To Be Womanist/Feminist) as many non-Black women of colour and especially White women often suggest, while misogynoir and anti-Blackness renders the appearance and the very humanity of Black women as “ugly” and as non-existent, respectively.

I’ve spoken on how positive self-esteem about my own appearance, intelligence and personality is simply not always enough when facing private, public and online violence specifically, in addition to the intersecting oppressions that I face as a Black woman, generally. I’ve also mentioned that positive self-esteem is not suicide prevention. At all. Structural violence impacts health. Contrary to popular belief, self-esteem alone does not eradicate oppression and people need to stop suggesting this. Victim blaming is not compassion and insinuating that a person “doesn’t do ‘enough’ self-care” comes off as irritating as suggesting a Christian theist who suffers “didn’t have enough faith” to keep interpersonal violence and structural oppression away. These are not kind actions. They don’t mend the cracks inside that the “resistant to aging Black woman exterior” may hide. (There’s a combination of other things—the media obsession with youth/ageism in general, at times the pedestaling of youth/martyrdom over survival/thriving among us Black folks, and the societal problem of looking good mattering more than feeling good in general—that are at play, of course.)

To be clear, I am not suggesting that the phrase “Black don’t crack” upsets me, per se. I’ve used it before myself. I know it’s meant to be positive (resistance at times, since it’s usually a reply that insinuates that despite what we face, we still “look good” and visually age better than many non-Black people do). I mean, I even have a “Black aging with style” blog tag, though it is not solely about physical beauty, but just style and Black intellectual excellence with age. But, my Black cracks…inside. Even if it doesn’t appear outside.

I do wonder how much of the “Black don’t crack” phrase for Black women is teetering on being the externalization of the “Strong Black Woman” archetype (and this archetype is ableist and misogynoiristic), as the latter is a common internalization by us, from an anti-Black projection on us. “Impermeable.” “Cannot be harmed.” Perhaps another attempt at a “positive” spin on a harmful stereotype that in fact again masks the reality of the complexity of Black women’s appearance, health and humanity? I am not certain. I just know that the few times that I am called “pretty” (without it being street harassment of course, as I am not okay with entitlement/ownership/violence being called “compliments”) and/or people guess my age as lower than my actual age, I say “thanks” but I think “I’m really tired, I don’t feel well, maybe my appearance hides a truth that few people want to hear about anyway.” I keep it moving as the inside falls apart in every way.

October 2014
17
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colsart:

LSP by Col Williams(me)
Lumpy Space Princess from Pendleton Ward’s Adventure Time.
just some fanart :)

As an Adventure Time enthusiast and Black woman, this is really important to me. I love this piece OMFG.

colsart:

LSP by Col Williams(me)

Lumpy Space Princess from Pendleton Ward’s Adventure Time.

just some fanart :)

As an Adventure Time enthusiast and Black woman, this is really important to me. I love this piece OMFG.

October 2014
16
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If the only time you invoke black suffering is to use it as a barometer of other people’s pain, you do not see us as fully human.

 

ethiopienne

Thank…you.

October 2014
16
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Viola Davis talks about the childhood hunger problem in the U.S. at Variety’s annual Power of Women luncheon. (X)

Painful and powerful speech; I checked out the video of it as well.

October 2014
16

I Am Not Interested In Raceless Genderless Facile Cliché “Advice” On Business/Entrepreneurship

I read a guest piece on For Harriet titled Why “Do What You Love…” is Dangerous for Black Women which critically and thoroughly examines the clichés that amount to: “do what you love and the money will follow,” “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” “do what you love and you’ll always be successful” and the like. People love these clichés. They fit perfectly into trying to use capitalistic standards to measure the result of “passion” and then calling that “success” while ignoring the real economic violence that Black women experience because of intersecting oppressions. These clichés seem “positive” because for a moment we can all engage in raceless genderless classless thoughts about business and labor while holding hands in this racist sexist capitalist nation. 

In this piece she mentioned that such clichés are dangerous, trite, lazy, connect money (an actual needed resource, especially for Black women experiencing astronomical economic violence) with emotion (as in those who “love” their work and really “work hard” automatically “succeed,” where “success” is defined traditionally in terms of economic resources and stability (I do accept multiple definitions of success, however), and implicate the owner of the business (hi, bootstrap theory). It’s definitely worth a read in entirety before continuing to read this essay.

I’ve spoken about my experiences with both jobs (Why Corporate America Hates Me As Much As I Hate It) and as a business owner (On Race, Gender and Being A Professional Photographer). Both are different experiences in some ways, but share a common theme: how the world treats me because I am a Black woman and how intersecting oppressions impact my experience, whether as an employee or as an owner. And while there are economic advantages to ownership—especially when such ownership can facilitate the health of Black communities—it doesn’t make entrepreneurship easy or an oppression-free experience.

Few Black women seem to doubt the reality of oppression in the traditional workforce. Few would accept Whites stating raceless genderless advice about working for corporate America, non-profits or the government. However, this same type of facile advice becomes gospel for many people when entrepreneurship is the topic. Business ownership has grown for Black women in recent years and many Black women have created their own entrepreneurial endeavors out of sheer need for survival (I can relate) moreso than boredom at an elite college after a privileged K-12 experience/later given venture capitalist money to do whatever they want with. Black women are doing what Black women do—innovating, creating. Thus, I feel especially perplexed that this piece got so many negative comments on Facebook and other spaces because Black women clearly know that facile raceless genderless business advice has never been for or about us, and this is what this piece critiques. Black women innovate and create without White permission or approval, so why are traditionally White male frames of thought about business necessary to the point that anyone challenging them is deemed “negative?” (It does seem to relate to the "well Steve Jobs did it" mentality [when most White men, let alone Black women will never be him or at that level of exceptionalism] which intentionally overlooks privilege/connections, which Walter Isaacson did well to illuminate in his biography of Jobs.)

I disagreed with some of the comments I’ve seen about this piece in various spaces, and like the piece a lot so I shared my thoughts on the post itself, and have re-posted them below:

I absolutely love this piece. It is honest, critical and accurate. What I love the most is it is basically challenging so many phony ideologies that ultimately center on benevolence + victim blaming: American exceptionalism, meritocracy, bootstrap theory. I really appreciate this. Further, with an accurate reading of this piece, I do not read it is negative but as complex reality. Black women’s realities have always been complex, hence the scholarship on intersectionality.

Instead of embracing the very false binary of “evil job” versus “perfect entrepreneurship,” I see that a nuanced perspective on the reality of entrepreneurship in a capitalist society—where Black women do in fact face the same oppressions as working a traditional job, (and this is not speculation for me; I’ve worked in retail, corporate America, non-profit industrial complex, have owned a business before and have freelanced before; I know)—has been addressed in this piece. And the myth that we do not experience the same oppressions is encased in all of the facile, gender-neutral, race-neutral business “advice” that shapes the original cliché that you critiqued in this piece.

I do believe that passion can be overrated. I was passionate (and still am) about photography. That had literally NOTHING to do with running a photography business before, however. I love and am good at being an artist. Has nothing to do with chasing down customer invoices/payments, filing taxes, dealing with copyright infringement/plagiarism, being rejected as a photographer by some clients because they expected a White male etc.

I really like that you pointed out believing in what you do and tolerating the work that comes with it; that’s what matters because passion alone is not going to fuel it. It fuels the dream and the later reflections on a career/business, in years ahead. It does not always fuel the 7 days a week of work, 8-10 hours a day that many entrepreneurs engage in.

I don’t read this as "don’t start a business ever!" which would be a lazy and facile interpretation. I read this as complicating the very White/male, Wall Street/Silicon Valley raceless genderless type of business nonsense that is often dangerous and unfortunately accepted as gospel by even some Black women and other Black people who are otherwise critical in thought. There’s still a sense that only raceless genderless White male business advice and clichés are valid—and that’s because of how capitalism (ahem…we know the origins of capitalism in America) favors White men in terms of wealth and power—and are positive since they clearly conveniently work for these same “experts.”

Thank you for the TRUTH.

I agree with the author of the piece and not just because I know her. This topic is especially sensitive for me as my current physical, emotional and intellectual labor are consistently exploited by academics and journalists, primarily White ones. The nature of the labor involved in any movement for justice is where Black women are regularly demanded to accept exploitation…in the name of justice? But…wouldn’t exploitation be antithetical to justice and one of the key ways that Black women are oppressed? I discussed this in detail in Exploitation of Black Women’s Labor…In The Name of Feminism or Justice? Please.

Thus, the same type of people who would suggest that as long as my words are “seen” via plagiarism, then I am “successful,” will willfully ignore the fact that the average White woman my age has more than 8000X the wealth that I do and earns closer to White men’s dollar than what I have ever earned. These are the same people who want me to seek “status” (not interested) just so that they can deny my quest/entry. They’re doing it to me now as a freelancer just as they did it to me as a traditional employee and as a business owner. These are tangible realities that are not going to be erased by “feeling good.” I feel good when I can eat, pay bills and afford physical/mental health care. To me these things are a part of my picture of “success.” Living, not just merely surviving. Pretending that entrepreneurship is a quick fix to the structural oppression of traditional labor is to ignore the reality of the oppression that Black women experience.

October 2014
15
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BLACK WOMEN ON TV, FALL 2014

Miranda Bailey, Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) || Bonnie Bennett, The Vampire Diaries (CW) || Jasmine Braverman, Parenthood (NBC) || Renee Clemons, Gracepoint (FOX) || Zoey Dalton, Nashville (ABC) || Gabriela Dawson, Chicago Fire (NBC) || Stephanie Edwards, Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) || Victoria Gates, Castle (ABC) || Daisy Grant, Madam Secretary (CBS) || Dena Jackson, Red Band Society (FOX) || Rainbow Johnson, Black-ish (ABC) || Annalise Keating, How to Get Away with Murder (ABC) || Abbie Mills, Sleepy Hollow (FOX) || Jenny Mills, Sleepy Hollow (FOX) || Fish Mooney, Gotham (FOX) || Lanie Parish, Castle (ABC) || Margaret Pierce, Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) || Olivia Pope, Scandal (ABC) || Michaela Pratt, How to Get Away with Murder (ABC) || Joanna Reece, Forever (ABC) || Camille Saroyan, Bones (FOX) || Stephie, A to Z (NBC) || Tamra, The Mindy Project (FOX) || Loretta Wade, NCIS: New Orleans (CBS) || Iris West, The Flash (CW) || Charmonique Whitaker, Selfie (ABC)

Cool beans. Not all are “lead” roles and not nearly enough roles, but good that some appear and many of them are well-written roles.  

October 2014
15
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classicladiesofcolor:

Singer Ella Fitzgerald performing at Mr. Kelly’s nightclub, 1958.
[Christine on Flickr]

I am enthralled by this photograph. Perfection.

classicladiesofcolor:

Singer Ella Fitzgerald performing at Mr. Kelly’s nightclub, 1958.

[Christine on Flickr]

I am enthralled by this photograph. Perfection.