IRMA: Save Me! Discovered on Vimeo #blackgirlsmatter

Think Feist (1234) meets Des’ree (You Gotta Be). Found a version of it on YouTube. It’s quite amazing after searching the Staff Picks on Vimeo to finally find a black actor in a video.

Here name is Irma. Irma Peny. She is a a Cameroonian singer-songwriter living in France. Love it!!

IRMA / Save me from SUPERBIEN on Vimeo.

Videos of Protest Can Be Healing – Context is Everything! #Ferguson

Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
― Henry David Thoreau

“Your silence will not protect you.”
― Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

#Ferguson: On Peaceful Protest and Democracy

Fatigue. Yes, we’ve all been experience attention economy fatigue with videos of police brutality, killing, tear gas, and assaults as well as resistance and disobedience in the name of justice. But we are still biological beings in a social ecology. If that social ecology lacks trust, does not feel fit and serve our needs, we suffer and fatigue comes. You must care for self to be able to hold such visual struggle for long. Take a break OR find a video  that is like a balm in Gilead. THIS!!

Music by Mt. Eden “Oh That I Had”

“Bottoms Up” (film)? Thumbs Down!–Entertainment Info Is Not News

Sara Baartman was a celebrity. Carried on a chair, she went to meet a duke. (73) Elites from out of town came to visit her. On Duke Street, two African children [freak show organizer Alexander] Dunlop had brought from Cape Town, probably in conditions of slavery, served her and the men. On Sundays, she went for rides in a carriage— much more like a woman of the elite than of the working class. Cartoonists represented her, songs were written, and poems were composed.(74)

Baartman was a celebrity who had to endure people poking her bottom and commenting on her figure. Her experience fit that of many performers of freak shows at the time, when freak meant wondrous or strange as much as it did awful and inferior.(75)           — Scully and Crais (2008, 316-317) on the “Venus Hottentot”

Unable to attribute authorship of this image. Any info is welcome.


Connection. Real connection. Everyone of us knows that social media is not giving us the biological connection we truly need to be authentically social. But we keep buying in. LIKING it all. Like. Like. Like. And more Like buttons. And top it off with a Share. What are we sharing for? This week I decided to stop using the LIKE button on Facebook in lieu of actually leaving comments if I liked something a friend or stranger posted on the walls of our daily exchange.

And what a week it’s been of entertainment info while #Ferguson freedom summer has been happening. Nicky Minaj released her Anaconda twerk-fest video and Taylor Swift has been criticized for what doesn’t even come close to twerking in my mind though she has one black woman doin the do. So much hate when what artists do is play with dominant scripts in our consciousness from the words of Kanye to the meme of twerking.

Presently, I’m writing a new article about “ways of seeing” the black bottom though the inherited media of popular music. While searching the web, I learned of a new documentary available that was featured by Madame Noire (August 6) in a CBS entertainment-information piece about butt augmentation. The film Bottoms Up was advertised there.

On the surface, “Bottoms Up” is a documentary film that examines the newest booming trend in aesthetic surgery – big butts. Placed under a microscope, the film explores the media’s impact and other societal pressures that have propelled big butts from a cult fetish to a mainstream phenomenon.

From Sir Mix-a-Lot, whose 1992 hit “Baby Got Back,” sensationalized round posteriors  – I like big butts and I cannot lie – to new artists like 2Chainz – She got a big booty so I call her big booty, it is men who actively pursue women with this new fetishized feature. So who is to blame – the media? Men? Women? – See more.

Baby Got Back is still gettin views, entertainment info traffic, distributing its messages to toddlers and adolescents across all nations who have little contact with black girls or women or recognize the objectification of their bodies they are being taught. A recent video of Sir Mix-A-Lot with the Seattle Symphony features a spectacle of mostly white woman shaking their asses like they just don’t care.  Where is the counter cultural critique of this by white women? By conductors at symphonies or the black members? OH! They only have one black musician in the orchestra. That’s another conversation close to my heart as a classically-trained musician. But off-topic here. Twerking — Stay focused, Kyra!




When I began exploring my interest in a practice on YouTube by black girls that most people I meet find repellent …if they even know what twerking is, I never imagined the richness of this study. I have begun to understand the pleasure and escape found in black girls’ who broadcast while they twerk. I still am learning how to represent it ethnographically in a way that honors the exploration of adolescence, the play and sensuality of black dance and sociality, and the complexity of twerking in online video. YouTube seems so liberatory and at the same time its a place of neoliberal exploitation of youth and their expressive cultural traditions and practices.

It’s been complicated by my own parallels as a black woman and formerly black girl adolescent struggling to discover my place in a world that denigrates blackness. Whether it was being called “pretty for a black girl” or being teased by white boys for what was then a small butt by comparison to the one I have grown into now.  This is about me and not about me or my history at all. But what constantly comes up is the emotional injustice and subjective manipulation, dare I say the microaggressive assaults upon the ways others see my body and thereby how I perceive who I may be for others in the world. It dominates who I want to be at times. Worry for what others see and think and how I must overcome that to be free–and the struggle continues. But it’s personal that it’s not at all about me. It’s the sociology of being black and female if you have (or perhaps don’t have) the right big butt.

I often wonder what it would be like to be 13 today with Beyonce singing about surfboards and Kardashians implanting their bodies with what never shined on us.

So when I just discovered this new documentary Bottoms Up available on Google Play, iTunes and Amazon, I find myself trapped in a sort of damned if I do, damned if I don’t mentality. Buy it and contribute to the madness of our objectification in popular music media esp. online participatory video. Ignore it and shirk my objective research agenda. Contradictory #bottomlines if there ever was one.


This form of consumption is entangled with constantly sensing that the body you happen to possess is the object of derision and lascivious attention often masking any real attention to who I really am, the me within this body. And it’s entangled in that everybody is making a profit off it as long as they are not too dark or too black, too sexy or too cultural. Our bodies in some crazy neoliberal reality (not fantasy) is expropriated, extracted, take all the colonializing language of exploitation and globalization and it becomes a metaphor for the mountaintop (or bottom) removal of black women and girls from what’s profitable. We, it seems, are only viable as spectators of the sport or entertainment-info that uses our body for profit whether social or economic capital.

I find this work tiring. Hard. Difficult to parse out. I have to bite my tongue, the very last thing needed for a writer or scholar or for a black girl or woman. Shutting down breeds the bitterness. Better to take the bitter pill and dive in, I keep reminding myself time and time again.

I began to think of this work as being more about cognitive justice as well as emotional, ecological and sociobiological inquiry into violence vs. fitness for black girls (and women). Really for myself, too. This is inner warrior work and staying strong when the entertainment info machine and attention economy uses what houses your live and used to be part of your dance not the focus, takes deep and rigorous courage.

So with that, here is the trailer for the documentary Bottoms Up. If anyone has a way around buying this, I would definitely avoid doing so.

GONE? Handclapping Games, Suggestive Lyrics, and Social Innovation

When we think of African American popular music, our first thought is probably not of double-dutch: girls bouncing between two twirling ropes, keeping time to the tick-tat under their toes. But this book argues that the games black girls play –handclapping songs, cheers, and double-dutch jump rope–both reflect and inspire the principles of black popular musicmaking. – Kyra D. Gaunt, Ph.D.

Depardon, Harlem 1981


I was searching through my YouTube messages and subscribers today. Never even looked at who’s subscribed to my YouTube account before. Still learning the ropes of the YouTube community. I lucked upon the channel of EbonyJanice Peace who subscribes to my channel. I subscribed to hers and checked out her videos. Lo and behold, she is talking my talk–handclapping game-songs and the underlying meaning of the lyrics we chanted day in and day out.

Joan Morgan’s seminal text When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost inspired EbonyJanice to vlog about several handclapping game chants unpacking the suggestive meanings in all.

She says:

         I thought it was incredible that
0:15 black girls in Chicago, black girls in Virginia, and black girls in Ohio and
0:21 black girls in California
0:23 all had learned these sing-song handgame rhymes
0:26 how did that happen who was transporting these
0:30 messages from Virginia to California
0:33 Miss Mary Mack, for example , who taught black girls in Virginia
0:36 little black girls in Idaho, Miss Mary Mack?


She asks the question that guided my work for my book The Games Black Girls Play. She asked

it made me think about the conversations
that are… are just in our DNA or something(?). How do we just know these things?
Check out my book for my answers. (see below for links to reviews). Suffice it to say, it’s not DNA (exactly). It’s learned.
The Games Black Girls Play illustrates how black musical styles are incorporated into the earliest games African American girls learn–how, in effect, these games contain the DNA of black music. Drawing on interviews, recordings of handclapping games and cheers, and her own observation and memories of gameplaying, Kyra D. Gaunt argues that black girls’ games are connected to long traditions of African and African American musicmaking, and that they teach vital musical and social lessons that are carried into adulthood. In this celebration of playground poetry and childhood choreography, she uncovers the surprisingly rich contributions of girls’ play to black popular culture.



One is that the grapevine of Twitter is not the first time we were so hyperconnected. Patterns of segregation and the impact of patterns of desegregation have led many black families to remain connected in their private and public lives because they were and are still not fully accepted in the public sphere of accomondations. Plus all our folk back in the 1970s were still back in the South or in segregated communities and still are. But the games are not as significant. YouTube videos and online videos on Instagram and VINE have become the 21st century games.
EbonyJanice goes on to say handgames live on and they will be here forever. Well? I haven’t been convinced over the last five years or so. I would suggest that girls handgames ARE declining in significance. They are being replaced by handheld mobile devices and a much more sedentary lifestyle which is not necessarily good for any of us much less black girls.
Black girlhood is changing and my theory about it from studying black girls who twerk from their bedrooms on YouTube is that we are no different that the rest of the wider (whiter) population. Our patterns of participation are online. We moved from the read-only culture of previous music media (BET, Soul Train, radio and TV shows) to read-write culture but black girls tend to not create, invent, or riff as much with their online video production. They don’t even talk as much it seems.


(Think #BlackTwitter)

What complicates things further is that within this category “black girls” are women of various ages who endearingly call themselves “girls” or “gurl” and the demographic categories of adolescents and teens are being drowned out by us.
The games represented, for me, the kind of social innovation that marks the revolution of networked individualism, hyperconnectivity and social media like Black Twitter.
I was an early adopter of the #BlackTwitter hashtag and moniker. I blogged about it first in 2011 with about 12,000 reads on the TED Fellows blog to speak out against the prosecution of Kelley Bolar-Williams, a single mom who was sent to jail after my post, for sending her kids to a white school district and being found guilty.



There is so much work to be done about the loss of culture due to changes in social media. While we are highly active on social media, on mobile media–I just read a report that said black teens interact with celebrities on the Twitter and other social media accounts much more than whites, I think I am as good as an example as most black female teens in that making/creating media vs. consuming media is not our first action.
I am thinking about all the time I spent reading about #Ferguson and black men or women killed by the police the last 7 days. And how much I’ve written or published online myself other than short media. It’s time to reinveest in the creative culture we already have. To convert it into new media. To create more voice, original content, remix, and other from black girls–and I mean black teens and adolescents as well as black women, particularly online video.
More to come as this fall I teach my Anthropological Analysis course and resume by Black Girls Twerking on YouTube project.


Book Reviews: The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop.

  1. Review-a-Day: bitch, Sunday, August 20th, 2006
  2. Review by Matthew Somoroff from Mark Anthony Neal’s MAN-in-Exile Blog.
  3. Review by Nadiyah R. Bradshaw

And consider purchasing the book at The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop

2007 Alan Merriam Prize presented by the Society for Ethnomusicology
2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Book Award Finalist

Thoughts on The Shmoney Dance: For a HuffPo Google Chat

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”
James Baldwin

“Music begins to atrophy when it departs too far from the dance.”  – Ezra Pound


I was asked to be on HuffPost Live tomorrow but I had to decline. H/T to Dr. Marc Lamont Hill who hosts the show and it celebrating 2 years on the set!! Happy Anniversary and congrats on the Morehouse gig!!

The topic is a summer dance craze and viral YouTube video by Bobby Shmurda from East Flatbush.

Given my work on embodied musical blackness from double-dutch to hip-hop and the digital ethnography of twerking, the Shmoney video and the memes associated with it on YouTube and other platforms speaks to the different ways dance and the social body works since advent of participatory media. Everyone wants to be part of a globalizing trend–the summer dance craze or the latest viral thing you can broadcast being a part of from your hood and/or your bedroom.

The Shmoney dance is more or less a novelty dance that will garner 7 million impressions worth of CPMs and digital currency on YouTube/Billboard tracking for Bobby Shmurda. These days this is the only kind of work that seems to pay with such high rates of unemployment in East Flatbush for black boys and men.

The dance reminds me of the novelty of Digital Underground’s Humpty Dance or the Ed Lover Dance from back in the 90s. It’s simple but marked by an irreverent style of self-presentation as part of a larger social phenomenon or meme online. It ain’t that complicated so it allows for a kind of all-together-now moment in online video. That’s the power of participatory media like YouTube.

Black Dance in a Hypernetworked Age of YouTube

But I would ask folk to consider this: When black dances from places like East Flatbush are shared freely with non-black audiences in our hypermediated age, young people of African descent can revel in the fact that their uptown or block party moves are shaking the dance floors of the nation (and perhaps beyond). But most black youth are still dying in the hood literally and figuratively.

Meanwhile non-black people who join in vicariously can remain safe; far from the realities of what goes on before and long after the song ends. Black men like Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin are losing their lives as are black women like Renisha McBride and others who are getting punched in the face by the cops or gunned down in the name of Stand your Ground even when these citizens throw their the hands in the air waving surrender in the sights of a rifle’s crosshairs. I wish I could be there to hear what this young man is trying to say with his music.

What I also find fascinating about the dance is what one could say about it as a symbolic representation of the social body in America–the black body. The dance requires little mobility in an age where blacks have the least social mobility and suffer from the highest rates of income inequality. The dance shows a kind of bravado in the face of the real life tragedies happening every day in East Flatbush and Ferguson defying the dancehall lyric “nobody move nobody get hurt.” These meme dances are popular because they are so simple to stylize (doesn’t require very sophisticated techniques of the body). They are a kind of open cipher for anyone to join in. And you don’t have to move your feet much; just shuffle from side to side. Anyone could probably get a pass–including your grandmother or father–since the steps are generally open such that even athletes and people with two left feet can join in and not get sharply criticized. Something in us needs this synchrony and some part of it seems so insidious given the legacy of black dance and the kinds of sophistication we have produced dating back to partner dances like the Lindy, through street double-dutch and hip-hop up to the real Harlem Shake. It’s complicated and it ain’t. Wish I could be there.

WATCH the segment here.

Have a great HuffPo conversation!

PS Had to go back to my old school with the kind of tracks that I used to do my irreverant dance to. Bahamadia. True black girl who rocks YouTube.
Dr. Gaunt

Feeling Insecure? Learn To Love Your Body and Your Soul!

 “And who will join this standing up
and the ones who stood without sweet company
will sing and sing
back into the mountains and
if necessary
even under the sea:

we are the ones we have been waiting for.”
June Jordan

Screenshot 2014-08-09 20.06.42


Meet Miyya (pronounced like Maya). I watched this amazingly courageous black girl on Facebook today.I’m supposed to be on my way to the Bronx for an annual jam session and BBQ at my friend Benny’s place. But this video lingered on in my mind. This video is not yet available on YouTube. It surely will be soon.My friend (in real life and online) Bill Lamond wrote this about Miyya after I posted her video on my wall.
I transfixed by this…better than any movie I could have gone to see. More riveting. More alive. More gripping. More entertaining. More. Just more. This is a being who has mastered Divine Compassion with a Mother who knew that the only way through was to get over herself and get beautiful. I found the simple message, “I lived” an opener to my heart.  In a world of whining and complaining and Whyme’ing, I found this intoxicating. Thank you.
16 hrs · Like 5
YouTube is a distribution platform for many other platforms. But this video from FB is so—- courageous and an inspiring example of the power of online video for black girls out there who would otherwise never have such a public audience before digital media changed everything for youth of color.

It’s amazing when you can introduce people to the audacity of humanity via socially-networked media. Before I share it with you one word about owning your body online.


Earlier today, I was writing about black girls who twerk after what was projected as the end of the Digital Divide. I was preparing another manuscript to be submitted for a peer-reviewed journal review. This one is about the so-called freedom of YouTube and its digital seduction 50 years after the sit-ins and freedom rides that marked the protest by youth for Civil Rights.

Back then a black body was “owned” in the worst kinds of ways in public. Sitting at a lunch counter in Greensboro in 1960 to gain access to public accommodations was a radical public act. The Freedom Summer of 1964 became a deadly act for those whose bodies and person were identified as black and female or male between 13 and 24.

On YouTube today and other online video platforms, showing your adolescent or teen female body is not always privileged when it comes to twerking especially compared to non-black bodies. In other ways, black bodies rule, they are privileged, but more often than not it is negative or dysfunktional, as my friend Robin Kelley called it. Now, they call it ratchet.

BEARING WITNESS: One’s Body as a Testimony

Miyya (pronounced Maya) gives a whole different interpretation to using the body in her online video. She’s facing the camera as opposed to backin that thang up.  Let me stop you in caseyou worry, I am not interested in diminishing the social value and play of twerking. If I were a teen, I’d been doing it today. My scholarly interest is in helping young girls and women understand the implications of broadcasting yourself while claiming to “own their own body” in ways that are not so free.

Miyya flips any script about the lack of agency among black girls owning their body, broadcasting from a recording webcam.
I couldn’t download this video. Haven’t figured that out yet on Facebook but if you click POST below you can watch it. You will feel blessed to have clicked it. Don’t wait! No need to imitate this one. It’s rare!! It’s absolutely incredible to behold and to learn what courage looks like.
 Screenshot 2014-08-09 20.08.11

CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO> Post by Miyya Ulove.


U.G.L.Y. – U Gotta Luv Yourself

This video and photo project  by a friend Lacey C. Clark with Sisters’ Sanctuary in Philly is an empowerment project for black girls. The artist she uses as a soundtrack is captivating. The singer @Anhayla reminds us in the song U.G.L.Y. that You Gotta Love Yourself!! So I added her YouTube video below that because it speaks directly to those who feel insecure.

I did once. Sometimes still do. Anhayla paints a big picture to help young and old understand–it ain’t personal! It’s human.

Phenomenally U Photo Phestival


Immersion & the Great Escape: Is Queen Bey a Surrogate Reality?

74% of young girls say they are under pressure to please someone.
― Eve Ensler, I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls, 2010

Loneliness, Cacioppo points out, has nothing to do with how many people are physically around us, but has everything to do with our failure to get what we need from our relationships.”
David DiSalvo, What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite

Cherish your solitude. … Say no when you don’t want to do something. Say yes if your instincts are strong, even if everyone around you disagrees. … Decide if fitting in is more important than finding out what you’re doing here.”
Eve Ensler

Screenshot 2014-08-07 11.35.56

I’ve been thankin’

This past weekend I attended an amazing training during which I discovered that I tend to misinterpret my assessments as results or reality. It’s not something I’ve ever noticed or understood about myself before. As a professor, this can be harmful to myself and to the people I train to think for themselves. It’s also costly in doing research on YouTube. I also learned that how I best learn is from thinking and reflecting. So what I have started to do as a habit is whenever I get upset, I go to reading something outside myself or getting out of my head (trapped in my ego) to learn something about what I am struggling with — alone.

If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.
— Isaac Newton

Yesterday, after being in a tailspin about a decision I made, I went to my Kindle Reader and opened Chapter 5 of What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite by science writer David DiSalvo. The chapter is titled “Immersion and the Great Escape“.

DiSalvo discusses how our brains have the capacity to split and collapse two “existences” — or role-playing in immersive e-media like Twitter and Facebook  and our face-to-face interactions. Pre-digital era days we played with multiple existences such as in playing Dungeons and Dragons or for girls playing with dolls or putting ourselves in Diana Ross’s place while practicing the choreography of The Supremes with your female playmates. I remember playing with my two female cousins and one of their best friends. We played with heternormative roles. Who was married to which Jackson Five.  The most ambitious girl to yell first got Michael. Sometimes it was the oldest girl. Sometimes it was the girl who say “let’s play” whatever game that was invented from our imagination.

Does Musical Immersion = Identity in 21st Century?

DiSalvo suggests that this two existences we now contend with–online role-playing in immersive e-media like the interactions around the recent audio remix released by Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj and face-to-face connections off-line.

DiSalvo provides  scientific data from pscyhology and neuroscience that suggests loneliness (feeling lonely vs. being alone) is correlates to a strong desire to create social conflict. We then adapt to a need for this kind of engagement as dopamine is released in our brains. Then those of us who are lonely using online immersive media as a surrogate for real connections will often seek more of that kind of engagement. Engagement or social conflicts that are not good for us.

Online we seek the rewards of likes, our brain gets lit up when we check FB or other social media like our YouTube videos to see how many views we have. We get more value in such a context from our human-digital interface. Your favorite mobile device carried 24-7–always one is your BFF mediating conversations about stars like Beyoncé that seem really relevant to our reality.

What’s Real vs. Relevant?

In this context, our  brain suffers a kind of reward-distinction blindness–for our online connections that is increasingly indistinguishable to our brain from F2F contact and this is a problem. It can lead to compulsive/addictive behavior. Many of our brains may be seeking the wrong kinds of rewards (socializing online more and more and diminishing our F2F connections daily). This is happening with YouTube videos on FB and on YouTube itself as well as other networks where online video takes our focus and attention more than other kinds of interactions. Hypernetworked sharing is seduction because of its immersiveness in our daily lives today. Our brains are seeking the surrogate relationships online and preferring them over face-to-face according to a number of studies DiSalvo references. This got me thankin’.

What if you and I began to unhook from social media? Would you be willing to test out possibility of confronting this kind of compulsive blindness to digital interactions? How often are you immersing yourself, isolating yourself primarily to online surrogate relations an hour? There are only 24 hours in a day. That’s 1440 minutes. Most of us should be spending 7-8 of those hours (420 – 480 minutes) sleeping and about 3-5 hours (180 – 300 mins) preparing to eat and eating. That leaves about 600 minutes. If you work  8 hours a day + travel if you don’t work at home, that’s 600 minute more leaving only 60 minutes remaining IF you are doing one thing and one thing only at a time. I probably spend the rest and some checking Facebook and email daily.

Are Black Girls Online Actually Lonely?

I read in a study that I don’t have handy that black youth spend more time alone than any other demographic. Strange, isn’t it? And don’t forget that being online is still being alone. Could we be masking our feelings of being alone with our surrogacy of social media? I been thankin’. Can’t speak for you but i know this is something to think about and strategically change as a habit.

What would you be willing to do to insure face-to-face interactions have more time, are more compelling, in your life each day?

I remember in my childhood my mother and the black women in her network would meet at my aunt’s house on a Saturday night to play pokeno. Check out this video of an elder black women teaching a group od sistas how to play.

I think I need more face-to-face play like this. More house parties. More dinner invitations for others to come chat with me. But I’m gonna start slow. I’m trying one social gathering a month and one meetup with another person or two a month. I think I’ll also vlog about the experience too.

“We have to create culture, don’t watch TV, don’t read magazines, don’t even listen to NPR. Create your own roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are now is the most immediate sector of your universe, and if you’re worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, then you are disempowered, you’re giving it all away to icons, icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y. This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion, and what is real is you and your friends and your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears. And we are told ‘no’, we’re unimportant, we’re peripheral. ‘Get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that.’ And then you’re a player, you don’t want to even play in that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that’s being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.”
Terence McKenna (this is from the YouTube video below. WATCH IT!!)


What are you creating? Content is becoming your identity? Your bottomline. Don’t trip!  Create & Share! and Un-hook once a day!

Borrowing Black Girls Snaps & “Yo Mama Jokes” to Sell Kmart’s Layaway

… the appropriation of black culture by white suburban youth as being not only racist, but sexist….the phenomenon is definitely racist and simultaneously sexist. It creates a need for competition between the two races to maintain a hypermasculinity that is damaging not only to males, but females as well, on the basis of degradation of women by men that is further promoted in a manner in which females become willing participants in their own objectification and denigration.

A metamorphosis is then created whereby white supremacist assumptions about black culture are perpetuated and masculinity, as a performance, further marginalizes women and creates a movement of regression in response to advancements achieved by feminism. (Lemley, 2007)

Using our Bodies to Sell Us Out: Borrowing the Vernacular & Black Female Atttitude

My Mama utilized KMart’s layaway plan when I was in 7th grade. I remember she let me put a pair of brown cordoroy bell bottoms on lawaway — my first. A Senegalese man I dated said they also wore them in the 70s. The Francophone African culture called them “pattes d’éléphant” or “pattes d’eph”  (meaning elephant feet or bell bottoms). Back in 1976, I was heading to a new school district entering junior high school. I’d moved to different schools since 4th grade so having the right clothes to fit in really mattered. It seemed like I was one of the last kids to catch on to the bell bottom fashion trend. Waiting for them was torture. My frugal single mom was working two jobs–one at Geico and the other at a liquor store in suburban Maryland–to pay off the balance. By the first week of classes, she made it happen. I had what I “needed” or wanted to fit in and thus began the adolescent socialization process of establishing friends (or not) and having the clothes that marked you in the right clique. I wanted to be part of the black girl clique from my neighborhood where lunchtime was card playing time. Spades every day! I still remember the underclass shaming among black kids that came with having to use layaway.  My mother like most of our moms used layaway plans because they were being smart shoppers using the mechanisms available to them to access school clothes they could never buy outright. Other budgetary priorities were in demand. And my mother met all her bills on time.


The youth culture at school–on the playground and in the hallways–on the other hand was about who got them first which was a sign of how facile your family was economically. Like it meant something to kids who earned NO MONEY to play the game of how much–pardon the pun–“booty” your family had. Did you have to wait to get your clothes or did you have the latest fashion sold? So it troubles me to see this new KMart advert where 2 urban-dressed black girls and 4 boys (South Asian, Latino and white) diss one another in black English vernacular “Yo Mamma” jokes revamped to laud the frugality that most kids have been socialized BY THE MEDIA to not even participate in. They are all about WHAT’S NEXT? What’s the latest fashion generally. And the pull of that consumerism is hard for most kids to resist in social settings like on the playground. I post it here inside of watching Black Girls on YouTube and inside of thinking about the work of Douglas Rushkoff. I was reading his 2000 London Times article “A Brand by Any Other Name: How Marketers Outsmart our Media-Savvy Children” published on PBS’s website.

The liberation children experience when they discover the Internet is quickly counteracted by the lure of e-commerce web sites, which are customized to each individual user’s psychological profile in order to maximize their effectiveness. [Read more here.]


Is this type of advertising annoying or empowering?