― Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night
Teaching college sucks.
Textbooks might be wide open
But not the adults.
Cognitive threats hold
These lectures don’t stop.
Will your teaching touch
on more than autotron-ing?
Would you pass their test?
IV (...What the hell are we fighting for?)
When knowing makes so
cld touch offer more?
Poetry by kyra0city
“To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.” – Chief Justice Earl Warren in Brown v. Board of Education, 1954.
May 16, 2013 by Bob Livingston
On May 17, 1954 [59 years ago today], the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision, ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that racial segregation in public educational facilities was unConstitutional. The case was brought on behalf of Linda Brown, a black girl from Topeka, Kansas, who had been denied admission to her local elementary school on the basis of her skin color.
At the time, public facilities were segregated based on the justification that a 1896 Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson that “separate but equal” accommodations in railroad cars conformed to the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. But in Brown’s case, the all-white school she wanted to attend was closer to her home and was far superior to the all-black school that other children of her skin color and from her neighborhood were required to attend. For more read here.
Today, students of color and poor whites in industrialized countries like the UK or the US still struggle for access to the right to an education but it’s not skin color that limits most anymore. The film DEBT SLAVES gives us a view into the problems college students are facing today. I wish I could an embed it here but trust me — you want to what this short but engaging film by young film-maker Makeda Mantock in association with the Guardian and the National Union of Students
In the US it is said that there remains a 60% drop out rate for high school and 40% drop-out for college. Students today, who are emerging adults, have “money on our mind” and cope with being “burdens on parents and the state.” There’s little time to focus on a higher education that could solve the needs of society and dreams of our societies — the next generation. Who would have thought Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign would include college students?
Wonder if there will ever be a National Union of Students here in the “Untied” States of America (where separate but equal remains in higher ed in subtle and not-so-subtle ways)?
Please watch the short film DEBT SLAVES from the Intergenerational Foundation Young Film-makers’ short film competition.
What I love about this short film is its use of a personal poem (written and co-directed and co-produced by Havana Wellings-Longmore, performed excellently by several actors). It’s got a hip-hop and spoken word feel though in reality it’s scripted and performed with veracity. The flow and the passion is palpable and speaks to issues college and university students around the world are struggling for. #powertothepeople #educationforall
We just ended our spring semester at Baruch College-CUNY on Wednesday. After engaging and empowering 33 diverse emerging adults in my political sociology course to “go public” — to plan and launch public speech acts around issues they cared about for at least 20 people – I noticed we never once considered working together as one group, as a collective on one collaborative act. That would have been social power in a social setting. In any event, the class tracked over 400 courageous acts throughout the semester. Many if not all now feel empowered to express their freedoms and practice their civil rights like never before.
Unionizing efforts may seem long gone in higher ed but I just bet eventually these emerging adults are gonna surprise us all. I’ll be waiting!
Up with the Learning Revolution!!!
‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.’
While everybody’s buying flowers for dey mamas, everything ain’t coming up roses for girls and women in the American landscape of hip-hop. Since I’ve been using rants in my political sociology class to inspire social participation in the public sphere among my students, it’s high time for my own civic engagement rant.
Last week an open letter to Michelle Obama composed by UK-mom Rakhi Kumar dating back to April 20th found it’s way to me through social media. When I read it I thought this is a sign It’s my turn! Time to return to my blog (cuz’ it’s been a minute).
When I read Kumar’s letter asking FLOTUS to distance herself from Beyoncé rather than promoting her as a role model for girls, I was like YES!! It resonated with my current project on the seduction of young girls and hip-hop social media. [Read a teen's response to Kumar on the benefits of the Beyoncé generation.]
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that all the recent apologies by rap artists Rick Ross, Lil’ Wayne and Tyler the Creator that showed up in my social media feed on Twitter and Facebook around the same time. All things have their season. But their “apologies” brought Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem to mind. Those of you who know it, know what I’m talking about.
When I was fourteen or fifteen years old, my mama took me to see the Broadway show For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Was Enuf by Ntozake Shange. It was a group trip. She and I and a bunch of other real and fictive “sisters” and their daughters took a 4 hour bus-ride from Maryland to New York City, where I now reside. I searched for my own copy of the book which I probably bought in grad school or maybe I took my mother’s copy like I took many of her albums when I headed off to grad school.
For Colored Girls was pivotal in reorienting certain ways of thinking about my self as a woman of color. If I ever raise my own kids, it will be a must read. It helped me align my experiences with other non-white bodies–which I think is a New York thing but wasn’t a DC area thing back then in my adolescent thinking. My thinking was limited by a distorted mental image of myself shaped and conditioned by 60 second Cover Girl TV ads, weekly fashion magazine covers viewed from the A&P supermarket aisle, and school bullying by white boys since 4th grade teasing me about the size of my butt. One of them I still remember by name. He’s probabaly long forgotten me. James’ 4th grade aspersion was “buttweefer” (translates: you got a bigger butt than my sisters) and I was convinced by some social force or being outside myself to believe it was because he liked me. I was thin then. Normal sized for my age. But I couldn’t see my own beauty back then. The media left me with little vision.
There was time and space for reflection during my doctoral studies around the age of 30. Time and space to develop my own view of Self. I became socially conscious, aware of the sociological imagination that produced the structural burdens of my internalized racism and sexism. Finally, it wasn’t just me. Being black and female in a patriarchal society was fostered as being outside the norm by a corporate culture that sold “the majority” as an ideal to its minorities for profit.
The antidote to the internalization was poetry. My own and Shange’s. Only poetry could rewire the internalized racism and sexism. It is primarily through language that change begins. We are linguistic social beings. Poetry demands a linguistic reorientation of the brain, of one’s self towards loving one’s own voice, towards the power of the erotic, as Audre Lorde said, rather the pornographic.
From my poems came my dissertation. In the dissertation there were social stories about music and gender in hip-hop. Narratives that area feature of my book The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-hop. I am proud it won the most outstanding book award in my field. Check out the Kindle version. Perhaps a new poem is emerging out of my most recent project.
On March 8th, I am searching for new words to say when I inadvertently get hooked into watching the release of the “Freaks” video by French Montana f/ Nicky Minaj on YouTube. It was released on March 7th. I was doing some YouTube research on women emcees in hip-hop. I think I was watching a Missy Elliot video in a VEVO frame. VEVO advertises other videos in a frame within a frame. Talk about distraction factor. Curious, I took a look since I was studying female emcees. The promotion showed Nicky Minaj who is now recognized as the largest-selling female rapper to date, like it or not, and young girls’ attraction to her as an icon would become clear. I watched it more times than I anticipated. What I saw stunned me.
At 1:30 seconds in, Minaj makes her “bad bitch” entrance bouncing her booty “on a throne.” As she turns and faces the YouTube audience–an audience that had swarmed to over 900,000 within 24 hours of its YouTube release–she displays her full luscious breasts in fashionable jacket, the gold, flesh-toned pasties applied to hide her nipples don’t really count as a method of covering up her nudity.
The comments section revealed an expected reaction from the male viewers. One read: “I want to stalk her!” This was only a week after the media spectacles surrounding the Steubenville trial and reporting. I was stunned that this wasn’t viewed as contributing to rape culture or that no one had reported it to the FCC.
What made it most alarming was the statistics. Females 13-17 years old were and continue to be the top audience demographic viewing the “Freaks” video which in just over two weeks amassed over 9 million “hits” and after a month over 11 million. The other top demographics were males 18-24 and females 18-24. Not sure how much I can say from these statistics but it is noticeable that boys 13-17 were not among the top demographics. The comments of the males 18-24 clearly indicated that their relationship to the video was not about respect.
I tried to file a complaint with the FCC. Had this grand idea from Elizabeth Mendez Berry that I’d file a complaint a week and then write a piece about it. I got a rude awakening when I learned that filing with the FCC is not accessible to the average public. It’s expensive. You actually need to hire a lawyer to engage with the FCC and worse yet, the FCC monitors TV and radio but not telecommunications like YouTube. YouTube has a set of community standards for obscenity, profanity and indecency. What you do is flag a video for review. I flagged the video on April 6th and have yet to receive any response. Not even a sorry.
Apologies came from three of raps industry heavyweights–Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, and Tyler, the Creator–over the past weeks. Dan Charnas explained in Billboard last week:
…in 2013 the people pursuing Ross, Wayne and Tyler are in many cases older fans of hip-hop (and, by extension, fans of older hip-hop), most often people of color, motivated by progressive politics and empowered by social media…. [That pressure led to the loss of] lucrative endorsement deals –”ending Ross’ with Reebok and Wayne’s with Mountain Dew, and inducing Mountain Dew to remove a Tyler-helmed ad deemed offensive from the company’s site and his YouTube channel.
Once again men prove that in reality when it comes to misogyny its the bottom line that counts–assets always trump objectifying asses. When the profit gets moved from the background to front and center, then and only then will apologies be in order.
In the early 20th century, Upton Sinclair, once wrote:
It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.
Understanding is the booby prize.
So this is my open letter. An open letter to all the “better-late-than-never” apologies for extra-linguistic acts from the faux papas of club rap and the music industrial complex. Faux papas who exploit and subject girls–and boys–to a kind of emotional verbal abuse, an unacknowledged environmental injustice issue of our times. Social media now peddles their sorries via hand-held devices that produce profit for themselves and corporate entities in the name of moving the crowd.
But as Shange inspired me to say, “one thing I dont need” is an apology from a grown ass security guard turned rapper, from Wayne (who they say was a straight A student in school before all this) or Tyler (the creator of whose reality and on whose dollar?). Just so y’all know, I didn’t accept Chris Brown’s late apology to Rihanna either. But in that case I guess it doesn’t matter cuz’ she did.
Since keepin’ it real will not necessarily elicit more than your illicit cooperation to promote more bad bitches and hoes in videos, I must share dis poem, and my own poems, and dat poem, this choreopoem which my mother planted in my soul in New York City. There was no social revolution called YouTube. My revolution at 15 could not be televised and sometimes I still think it isn’t. But my mama made sure it was live back in ’75. How do we get more choreopoems to outdo the Freaks video on YouTube?
I don’t know. But I know one thing. “i dont need” another reason to write another choreopoem like For Colored Girls. Plus we keep writing ‘em and y’all don’t seem to listen. People been saying the more things change, the more things stay the same. So I’ll bring Shange back again. Know this: That the power of words are not equal and they are not free. Even on mother’s day!
one thing i dont need
is any more apologies
i got sorry greetin me at my front door
you can keep yrs
i dont know what to do wit em
they dont open doors
or bring the sun back
they dont make me happy
or get a mornin paper
didnt nobody stop usin my tears to wash cars
i loved you on purpose
i was open on purpose
i still crave vulnerability & close talk
& im not even sorry bout you bein sorry
you can carry all the guilt & grime ya wanna
just dont give it to me
i cant use another sorry
you should admit
youre mean/ low-down/ triflin/ & no count straight out
steada bein sorry alla the time
enjoy bein yrself
Blessings to the Creator Mother and all mothers on this fine Mother’s Day!
No apologies necessary.
Social Ecology n 1: a coherent radical critique of current social, political, and anti-ecological trends. 2: a reconstructive, ecological, communitarian, and ethical approach to society.
Last semester after teaching political sociology for the first time, I found a website that closely articulated the view I was developing of what political sociology could mean as an environment for teaching and learning in a world where self-care is overrun by addictive consumer behavior among students and faculty.
We form consumptive addictions to make conditions we actually hate bearable, thus incorporating an abuse into “normal” functioning. We use the abuse or addiction to adapt to a environment or condition that we know is not satisfying to us, that is a threat and we rarely act to eliminate the threat. We abuse substances, activities and our own self-care in order to make the threat to our labor “disappear” versus using our knowledge to make requests and counter-offers to eliminate the threat so we can eventually get what we need to thrive.
Instead I see students (and many faculty) functioning as laborers as in a factory. We are not tinkerers or thinkers finding ways to support what we need in the supposed marketplace of ideas that institutions of higher learning are thought to be. Instead we trade our ability to think for an ability to tolerate an unsustainable labor which requires a little thinking as possible–we take the easy route somehow thinking we are enhancing our effort, our labor. All this is happening at the expense of our well-being socially and biologically.
Here is an area where we need to be both teaching and learning about what Barry Schwartz calls “moral jazz” or improvising inside of real world problems in our educational settings and the environments for learning we teachers desire to actually create. I would swap “ethical” for moral to side step the religious zealotry that often accompanies moral standards. But Schwartz offers his own warnings:
I’ve been trying to help students notice these kinds of things, to start thinking vs. thoughting about what they do and how they do it, in my anthro courses or any course I teach. We cannot keep allowing a culture to thrive that robs us of our vitality, energy and thinking.
THE WALKING DEAD – NO DOSE
A friend and teacher from Nashville shared with me that during college she traded thinking for no-dose, sex, and alcohol. Dancing was one of the only things that kept her her college mind and body–present, awake and perhaps thinking.
Yesterday my students clued me in to the 21st century versions of no-dose. RedBull and 5 hour Energy drink (NOW in 5 different flavors!! as an ad announced on NPR this morning). And what is not so publicly announced, the illegal selling of “study drugs” like Adderall, a prescription drug for people diagnosed with ADHD. There is an unethical ecology, an invisible economy sucking the lifeblood of learning out of the minds of emerging adults. It is stunting not only their cognitive development but I would assert their biological growth and their access to their own wisdom and self-care. It no doubt has long-term costs for the short term gain but we are teaching on top of this for the sake of testing for the right answers.
This as a serious and political risk to the sustainability of our democracy and the well-being of our futures as individuals.
In the introductory anthropology courses I teach, I recently gave an assignment designed to get students to notice a “drinking ritual” like drinking milk before bed, sharing arabic coffee every morning with family, or drinking gatorade around going to the gym. I wanted them to observe their own participation (participant-observation) in repeated “performance” and begin to notice the ritualized behaviors and the web of significance that “ritual” lives in beyond the personal meaning they attach to it. To notice how they learned it, what beliefs are attached to it, what cultural knowledge they associate with it and to study the material culture associated with it, too (i.e., the glasses, mugs, water, Pepsi, etc) .
One student from Singapore wrote that she limits herself to one can of Redbull a day “for health reasons” and she noticed that drinking it has been an “acquired” taste. We discussed her micro-ethnograpy in class yesterday but I didn’t unpack the way people tend to use “acquired taste” culturally. Usually something we dislike at first but I would assert that some external and usually social factor leads us to give in to liking it. That was beer for me.
The Singaporean, a recent immigrant who is fluent in US youth culture now, wrote:
[Redbull] is something i picked up very recently through the influence of friends here in NYC.” She has developed an acquired taste for Redbull. “I never like soda and Redbull feels and tastes like one. However, it gives you energy just enough to pull you through that last class, or that last hour with efficiency over the roof. … I started being very fond of the frizz and the taste. Now I can’t get enough of it.”
To draw attention to the learning process (acculturation) or what sociologists call “resocialization” during adulthood, I mentioned that what she described seems like addiction. Wikipedia defines “addiction” as:
The continued use of a mood altering substance or behavior despite adverse dependency consequences … Addictions can include, but are not limited to, drug abuse, exercise abuse, sexual activity and gambling. Classic hallmarks of addiction include … preoccupation with substance or behavior, continued use despite consequences, and denial. Habits and patterns associated with addiction are typically characterized by immediate gratification (short-term reward), coupled with delayed deleterious effects (long-term costs).
Barry Schwartz argues that it is not teaching more ethics courses but we need more
A wise person is like a jazz musician – using the notes on the page, but dancing around them, inventing combinations that are appropriate for the situation and the people at hand. A wise person knows how to use these moral skills in the service of the right aims. To serve other people, not to manipulate other people. And finally, perhaps most important, a wise person is made, not born. Wisdom depends on experience, and not just any experience. You need the time to get to know the people that you’re serving. You need permission to be allowed to improvise, try new things, occasionally to fail and to learn from your failures. And you need to be mentored by wise teachers.
What will it take to start noticing that we as professors and teachers are pushing the environments towards this kind of substance abuse as we keep our focus only on our own classes – silo thinking – and not on being part of a sustainable environment of learning? Working hard and testing knowledge is not the answer in and of itself but there is something happening that is causing this work hard, no sleep culture to thrive while students are languishing emotionally and I would venture to say cognitively, as are some professors.
We cannot keep pushing our bodies, which house our minds, with no long term cost to our culture and society.
American psychologist Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of human needs” model claims that people don’t have access to leisure until they take care of all of the essentials in their lives. One theory that has become widely accepted is that leisure is time free of obligations from work.
I actually think that it is leisure, time to think, that is missing from our educational environments for cognitive well-being. It is said that leisure is a universal human right but the question I am struck by is where do we get the time to actually notice that things are not working or not aligned for your growth and long term development as a citizen or a human being?
Perhaps there is a leisure justice issue here or a cognitive-leisure issue that we have yet to articulate but it is a ethical issue in my mind. There is a ethical economy of learning in higher ed to consider where students get both rest and knowledge, time to think and grow in their abilities to see their own faulty thinking, and to apply the new insights into their lives.
The blogosphere of Facebook, Twitter and sites like HuffPo have been amplifying an unsuspecting yet powerful voice of reason, irony, and insight–the former championship basketball player from the Bucks and the Lakers, one of my favs, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as writer.
He’s been offering his critiques on popular media from the HBO series “Girls” to his most recent POV on the Best Picture nomination of director Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012).
In the early days of Abdul-Jabbar’s professional sports career, he like many other African-American athletes faced racism. In a recent interview that appeared in the Harvard Business Review (biz types love to explore links in unusual places these days), the former champion formerly known as Lew Alcindor was asked:
In the NCAA and the NBA you occasionally faced racism. How did you play through those distractions?
[Abdul-Jabbar]: If you let it distract you, you’re playing into their hands. Their whole purpose is to distract you and prevent you from succeeding. And for me, success was the goal. My success and the success of other black Americans was exactly what would silence people who indulged in racism. So it was “Keep your eyes on the prize.” That was one of the messages of the civil rights movement, and I tried to do it.
Since retirement, Adbul-Jabbar has shared is other loves with his followers including his love of the writing of Alexander Dumas (1802-1870), who actually identified himself as a mulatto, of African descent, in French society. Abdul-Jabbar offers on his official website:
Once when someone insulted [Dumas] about his racial background, he said, “It is true. My father was a mulatto, my grandmother was a negress, and my great-grandparents were monkeys. In short, sir, my pedigree begins where yours ends.”
I think Kareem identifies with someone like Dumas at this latter stage in life because he can find his successes off the court speaking to issues of race that matter to him whereever that may be. TV and film is a great place to find your voice as a critic of American culture. What’s noticeable about Kareem is that he loves irony not unlike the comment by Dumas. So why wouldn’t he love Tarantino’s film. What’s not to love!?!
His take on Django Unchained gives us an unexpected skyhook to the right that shows his love of things far beyond just basketball. I’ve enjoy reading his thoughts on popular culture while also observing how readers respond since most times our society’s expectation of sports figures, especially black men, does not include listening to them think.
Kareem’s review of Django appeared this week in Esquire magazine, distinguished as an early publisher of “New Journalism” and awarded often for its provocative pieces targeting men. In the Esquire review Kareem wrote,
Basically, Django Unchained is a B movie. A damn fine B movie, but still a B movie. That’s not an insult. I’ve been in B movies, many of my favorite films are B movies, and B movies tend to make a lot more money than A movies.
Despite its slavery setting, Django Unchained isn’t an exploration of the subject. It offers no critical insights into the circumstances, no nuances exploring the political realities (as Lincoln does). In the end, slavery is a prop to excite audience emotion and motivate the action. With the exception of Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) and Stephen, the characters are fairly stereotypical. Pro-slavery characters are grotesque cartoons and those against (mostly the slaves themselves) are admirable and inspiring. And that makes Django melodrama, not literature. It offers no insights, only the most familiar observations.
MY SKYHOOK (ON THE OPPOSITE END OF THE COURT)
Abdul-Jabbar is getting a few minutes “court-time” in the media for his take on Django, which I too loved at first glance. An appearance following the piece on Conan O’Brian’s show is making the rounds via a viral video but since I don’t have cable or watch late night shows online, I first learned of the piece on the Colorlines site under “Now in Racial Justice” section via Facebook.
While Kareem’s critique is likeable and definitely worth the read, I beg to differ with his comment Django offering “no critical insights into the circumstances [of slavery], no nuances exploring the political realities (as Lincoln does).”
A noted scholar, Dr. Jim Downs (Sick from Freedom: African American Illness and Suffering During the Civil War and Reconstruction), mentioned at an Emancipation 150 event hosted by WNYC-FM at the Greene Space in January, that Django depicted the experience and terror of being a slave much more so than Spielberg’s Lincoln did at any level.
Downs said that of the 5 million slaves freed by Lincoln on January 1, 1863, 1 million died in the first year. A quarter of the population starved, froze to death, couldn’t subsistence farm or other. Whole families died in their newfound freedom. In Django Unchained, one need only recall the scene using the dog to attack the runaway slave nearer to the end of the film (having taken us many places to get there emotionally). But there was also the scene soon thereafter of the lock box in the heat of the midday sun that Kerry Washington’s character “Broomhilda von Schaft” is removed from when Django (Jamie Foxx) arrives to save her. In that moment, we witness Django’s lack of freedom to scream her suffocation while we must suffer with him waiting for their moment of escape. We are slaves watching these scenes.
Just one glimpse of either scene (and there are others) that are far from the workings of what one might call a B movie. This film had the power to emotionally wrench me from this present moment back into the realities of slavery I have never witnessed being born just before the Civil Rights Act was even introduced.
EMANCIPATION: DJANGO vs. LINCOLN
There is no amount of “nuance” that could explore that reality effectively and neither Spielberg nor Daniel Day Lewis took me there in Lincoln. The genre of film, much more sophisticated than a B movie, that consummate filmmaker Tarantino is divining in, allows us to peer into a reality that historical writing or memory cannot capture at the level of social phenomenon today. Film is pivotal in this way and lest those of us how know better forget, too often our “top” filmmakers will not allow such depiction when it comes to African American subjects or subjects that not only put our eyes on the prize of freedom but call our minds to the injustices and exploitation of people of color or women and women of color. These films are still not made for public reception.
So I’ll take Django Unchained any day over Lincoln (which I enjoyed though a slow film for me). Yet I think it’s wrong to compare the two films. Just because they occupy the same historical reference point does not mean they are comparable films, films one should compare. They are not the same genre, the same space or the same race of film. Correlation in this case would be wrong in my view. They context of the 150th anniversary is really the only connection as far as films go.
And I want to remind myself and others that Django Unchained as a Oscar nominated film for Best Picture is not simply Tarantino’s film to claim. This film would not be what it has become without the cooperation of its black actors as well as its nonblack actors, all of whom contribute to its brilliant representation. One sorely needed, whose time finally came, among African Americans of all classes but, more so, among nonblacks of all classes–perhaps a more likely candidate of a post-racial Obama era than any.
This film belongs to its co-producers including Reggie Hudlin and even more so it belongs to us–the people. It’s the closest thing to a people’s history of slavery re-presented in a modern skin. It’s all about how we the people read Django Unchained as-text and the fact that so many people have been moved into public discourse around the film, into a discourse about slavery, film-making, genre, acting, irony, history and injustice, and more. All of that makes it an Oscar worthy contender.
I doubt it will win Best Picture. Why? Because of the subject matter, its treatment and the reaction of its black audience members who loved it too much for some fellow theatergoers. That kind of behavior “insubordination” during the Obama era can’t be allowed…at least that’s what people say.
I’m willing to be wrong. Django did something no other film has done for me. It allowed me to have a fantasy of revenge IN PUBLIC, in mixed company. It freed my laughter that hides pain, my sorrow that hides decades of struggle to be free, it unchained people’s disbelief and made possible riding off into the sunset for once. All that made me feel free in a way that I never thought possible in public, in mixed company. It was liberating and OK.
The film also provided a kind of vindication for white guilt with which anyone whose taught racism courses or courses involved black culture must constantly contend. This was a depiction of a white man, the hero, who let his compassion lead him to sacrifice himself for those considered less human than other white men. Christoph Waltz’s portrayal of Dr. King Schultz does that for us, but let us not forget it was the writing and the film direction that allowed him to freely act that part, portray that possible reality.
So my vote Sunday night is for Django Unchained for Best Picture 2012 and much more. If it doesn’t win, I’ll be ok. The film will remain to save the day.
3 THINGS I NEVER KNEW ABOUT DJANGO
I hope you find this trivia as interesting as I did.
- Although the film is technically a part of the western genre, Quentin Tarantino preferred to refer to the film as a “southern” due to the films setting in America’s deep south.
- Leonardo DiCaprio, who portrays villain Calvin Candie in this film, was originally the first actor choice for the role of antagonist Hans Landa in Quentin Tarantino‘s previous film Inglourious Basterds. However, Tarantino decided that a fluent German-speaking actor should portray the character, and the part went to Christoph Waltz, who portrays Dr. King Schultz in this film, marking Waltz’s second film collaboration with Tarantino. DiCaprio can however speak some German.
- Director Quentin Tarantino revealed at Comic-Con that Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington‘s characters are meant to be the great great great grandparents of the character John Shaft from the Shaft movies. An overt reference to this connection can be found in Kerry Washington’s character’s full name: Broomhilda Von Shaft. (all from IMDb.com)
Calvin Candie: [to Django and Schultz] Gentlemen, you had my curiosity. But now you have my attention.
See the shorter, tighter version here on the TEDFellows Blog.
I am doing the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog challenge and Day 2 asks that we write a list post. My post title is reminiscent of the narrative titles from the earliest printed books in the 18th and early 19th centuries, a time, I must remark, when enslaved Africans were not allowed to read and write or play drums for fear of the power to communicate. Now that we’s free, we black folk got lots to say and too many don’t care to hear.
We professors often learn to trade and mediate between worlds which can be a blessing and curse. But as I see it, communication and writing–having a voice–is essential no matter who you are. Blogging is a mechanism I downplay too often to get my thoughts across even though I have had 3,000, 6,000 and even 12,000 reads on something I’ve written before. I still resist owning my own voice. In 2013, I am putting more of my words out in the blogosphere.
Books tell stories as can list posts. I realized my list could tell my story of microaggressions. You may ask, what is a micro-aggression?
Sue et al. (2007) describe microaggressions as, “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.” These can be both racist and sexist.
My list of 12 Microaggressions adds a bit of irony, not unlike my descriptive narrative subtitle recalling the descriptive titles in the 18th and 19th centuries
12 Lessons in Micro-aggressions: A Guide to the Memories of a Learned Black Womanist Professor Upon Writing A List Post for Black History & Women’s History Months Which Can’t Begin to Scratch the Surface of the Deeper Politics of Racism and Sexism Women and People of Color Encounter Still Today.
12 DON’TS THAT DO MICROAGGRESSIONS
- Don’t ever read June Jordan’s “Poem about Police Violence” in a racism course with any white male student who once loved you. His version will be: What if every time you follow suit, I threaten to file a lawsuit? You think the litigation rate for reverse racism would drop subsequently?
- Don’t play a female rapper first in a hip-hop course. Queen Latifah might have said “Ladies first” but women in hip-hop are supposed to only be one of the boys or a bitch at best.
- Don’t be surprised when in 1997 you get hate mail addressed “Dear Ms. Afro” after your first semester teaching at the University of Virginia. And there won’t be a check in the mail across the Mason Dixon line.
- Don’t sing the Negro National Anthem after the Star Spangled Banner at a joint concert of the choirs from the University of Virginia and Hampton University. One of your conservative white women students who is majoring in music will complain and even if you can convince her to study the history in her final paper where she learns and even teaches you that James Rosamund Johnson and his brother wrote “Lift Every Voice and Sing” BEFORE the Francis Scott Key anthem, she will not let her white privilege be shaken. No older anthems, she will conclude, should be allowed.
- Don’t dance in your white colleague’s African Drum and Dance ensemble unless you are ready to deal with the tensions that will rise between you of always being considered the teacher and her resenting that you’ve never been to Africa. Skin color privilege and mental slavery still trumps travel.
- Don’t defend your group’s ability to name itself when even a white Jewish colleague with a Ph.D. in public administration lapses in judgment when she asks why you call yourself ”African” American. You’ll be asked by other acquaintances on the Air Train. Be prepared. Her rationale will be that her friends from Senegal are Senegalese American?
- Don’t hesitate when your music department chair, a composer of Western art music, asks how much time are you actually teaching music as an ethnomusicologist. Don’t forget to simply answer 100% to battle potential rage or cry in her office later telling her you won’t stay if her lack of support continues.
- Don’t dream it won’t happen again that while supporting the 100-member gospel choir from U.Va. as they sing at the predominately white episcopal church across the street from campus that a white church member, seated just in front of you, turns, sees you, and then shares how much she loved your singing. They call us the “frozen chosen” she adds to soften the blow.
- Don’t hate when your white date whom you thought might be a real boyfriend asks you to teach him how to dance right after spending the whole afternoon with a dozen of his white friends on Memorial day. Their earlier episide of trauma sharing after the BBQ, going round the table one-by-one to share how burnt they got while tanning that summer while they wait silently for you to go will be penance enough. Just join in the color blind fest and teach him tonight.
- Don’t expect to get the $700 for writing a test item for the ACT about Bessie Coleman or the Negro National Anthem coming before the Star Spangled Banner. They will reject your question informing you that any questions that would disturb [white] testers are not allowed.
- Don’t get riled up and lose your mentor cool when a liberal white student asks you rather than his black peers why black students don’t apply to live on the Lawn at Thomas Jefferson’s University with no running water, no toilet, and an “outhouse” in the back that comes with your own rocking chair and fireplace too. Roughing it on T.J’s former plantation should be an esteemed part of a public education in our century.
- And finally, don’t go Django on ‘em (meaning “off the chain”) when you learn that you can’t visit the ruined slave quarters at Monticello in the winter time. The docent will remind you that the regular patrons would find it uncomfortable cuz’ it’s all about the main house.
Each of these incidents actually happened in my 15 years as a professor or in my personal life experiences during that period. Some happened at Baruch College-CUNY, most are from University of Virginia which was rich and contradictory space in which I taught both black music studies and hip-hop culture with Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia as a backdrop.
But never yet could I find that a black had uttered a thought above the level of plain narration; never see even an elementary trait of painting or sculpture. In music they are more generally gifted than the whites with accurate ears for tune and time, and they have been found capable of imagining a small catch. Whether they will be equal to the composition of a more extensive run of melody, or of complicated harmony, is yet to be proved. Misery is often the parent of the most affecting touches in poetry.–Among the blacks is misery enough, God knows, but no poetry. Love is the peculiar oestrum of the poet. Their love is ardent, but it kindles the senses only, not the imagination. Religion indeed has produced a Phyllis Whately[Wheatley]; but it could not produce a poet. The compositions published under her name are below the dignity of criticism.
The Founders’ Constitution
Volume 1, Chapter 15, Document 28
The University of Chicago Press
One of the hardest moments of recent years came after a white male student at CUNY threatened to sue me. I had been his advisor and he had deeply admired me before taking a course titled “The Evolution and Expressions of Racism” where I read a poem on police violence by Brooklyn poet June Jordan. I realized I coddled him too much as his advisor — wanting to be liked in a department that tried to sack me after the first semester.
In a ten-page single-spaced paper (that’s term paper length and he was eager to share it with others), he accused me of saying all white people and all white cops should be killed. (June Jordan’s poem never distinguishes between white and black cops on the NYPD.) He went to both my department chairs. I was jointly appointed. He went to the Dean and the president of the college. (Not the first time a student went that high in a complaint about my teaching.) After 6 weeks of it unrequited complaints, we had a mediation. I was mentally shaken afterwards but I pretended to be strong as I ran to catch a taxi to Soho from Midtown and was refused by several empty yellow cabs.
I recall commiserating with a friend about the incident (or complex of incidents) at a conference for global transformation who was also a black woman professor. She shared that my experience was not uncommon in hers — that of having a white male student wheel about and turnabout and jump Jim Crow once racism as an education became part of the picture.
I want to read, play, be surprised and sing; I want to dance, defend, hesitate and dream; I want the freedom to hate, expect, get riled up, and go to those places where conventional black history months don’t go.
Black History Month in February and Women’s History Month in March should be more of a space for all kinds of dialogue not just some predictable presentation of firsts or facts about women and African Americans.
Fear of Change
It’s sad to me that black cultural confrontations of structural racism often require humor or irony to be digested but I also realize this is true of all taboos of cultural norms. Status quo discourses often seek to replicate themselves through our fear of change. We might be sittin’ in garbage but it’s familiar garbage all the same. And we often cannot see what change might be needed. Something simple, easy to master would do but it feels so monstrous when we encounter problems of race and racism, sexual power and sexism.
Darren Rowse, the author of 31DBBB, created a list of 21 ways to write posts that are guaranteed to grow your blog. It it included:
- Write something useful
- Write something unique
- Write something newsworthy
- Write something first
- Write something that makes those who read it smarter
- Write something controversial
- Write something insightful
- Write something that taps into a fear people have
I hope my list taps into a few of these ways. Every professor hopes we she/he does makes you a little smarter. You be the judge and don’t hesitate to let me know whatever your reaction.
2013: THRIVING AGAIN
I mentioned in a previous post how academia had beat my love of reading out of me and yet late last year I started learning to love reading and writing again. Maybe some of these microaggressions have had me more than I imagined. I am thankful that my desire for both reading and writing has begun to thrive again.
Presently, I am reading Kevin Young’s book The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness–which is a brilliant remix of literature, thought and music. In it Young writes:
“[T]he lost shadow book is the book that blackness writes everyday. The book that memory, time, accident and the more active forms of oppression prevent from being read. […] As African Americans, we have gone over the past century and a half from Reconstruction, to resistance, to recovery–and today, to a real need for reclamation. Forget reparations–we need to rescue aspects of black culture abandoned even by black folks, whether it is the blues or home cookin’ or broader forms of not just survival but triumph” (Kindle Loc 199 ff.).
POSTSCRIPT FEB 8th:My Facebook friend Suzanne Broughel recommended the great Tumblr blog on microaggressions where you can post your own.
See the shorter, tighter version here on the TEDFellows Blog.
The study of black music is more than the appreciation of black musical traits, styles, and genres devoid of attention to the lived and embodied experiences of being male and female. [...] Focusing on girls and their musical games complicates …things. It makes the inequalities within music and culture transparent in ways that ordinary readings of black music and culture have not (Gaunt 2006, 12).
This was my first time teaching a Winter Intercession. And it was the first time I’ve really devoted a course to much of my own research. In my own self-interest, I needed to write an essay and wanted to use the space and conversations of the classroom to explore my ideas.
I’ve learned over the years that the way I am most creative as a writer/scholar is IN RELATIONSHIP with others. I think on my feet, see openings for intervening in what people don’t really consider, and kind of freestyle that way–in relationship. So I think is the power of great learning environments. They get you thinking (not thoughting about all those things you already had before you came to the classroom). It takes something to create an environment where students become emerging adults (vs. acting like conformist kids followin direction) where they challenge your ideas knowing you are learning and growing too and they they are no less capable than any colleague of mine (esp. since they tend to know more about the subjects that interest me than many colleagues–hip-hop, popular culture, social media, etc.)
Every semester I teach, I invite students to complete the course with a final reflective essay examining what THEY got not what I expected. Learning is a non-linear phenomenon with each mind creating a set of networks of logic that if they were similar would make me think I am doing my job incorrectly. I am not out to create conformity in any subject but rather collaborative growth.
This course was about black women in hip-hop really. There wasn’t really room nor did it sound as good to add “black” or “African American” to the course’s title. Ropes, Rhymes and Women in Hip-Hop felt right.
27 students, among them only 1 black man and 2 black women, trusted me enough to join in a cipher from Day 1. Teaching the way I do–and it’s wild and wooly, interdisciplinary and structured–comes from years of experimentation starting with teaching my first course titled “African American Women and Feminism” as a grad student at the University of Michigan. It comes from teaching art music (Beethoven and Mozart) for non-majors, from teaching social constructs in anthropology and sociology, from teaching the structural privileges of whiteness and superiority in racism courses, and from teaching hip-hop as both music and as an access to studying the social constructions of race, gender and embodiment. You gotta go down the life-giving womb of the Soul Train Line to pass this class! I train students to discover the musical elements of rapping as well as the sociological or ethnographic aspects like in Lauryn Hill’s verse on “Manifest.” There so much more we covered but it was digestible not overwhelming.
As I complete all the essays from the 27 students, one struck me. It was from an African American woman who attends GWU (George Washington U) and came home to fit in one course in January before heading back to DC. She wrote:
Malaika: After our final Ropes, Rhymes, and Women in Hip-Hopclass, I decided to walk the seventy blocks home. “Two Turntables and a Mic” by Black Moon came on shuffle and I realized I hadn’t heard the song for months. Right away I recognized the song’s Check One structure. The song’s introduction reflects hip-hop’s block party and scratching stage while the chorus uses call and response. Unable to get over the reframing I unintentionally applied to the song, I continued to strut to the song on loop for about thirty blocks.
This course, in its short duration, managed to shift my entire way of thinking.
First and foremost, it revolutionized the way I think about myself. As a senior at GWU, I have experienced a spectrum of course structures and assumed I had seen them all.
The intimate and independent nature of the course became clear on our first day. This course’s balance of freedom and structure was almost perplexing! As a 23-year-old Great One [I call them great ones. That's another story for another post], I’ve finally realized I am my biggest motivator. I have to find the courage and resources to apply and challenge anything I come across while maintaining confidence and open-mindedness. Atlas’ said during our Skype interview that women must realize complimenting another woman does not diminish one’s own self-worth, even though society makes it seem that way. After fourteen years at a girls’ school and having most of my inner circle consisting of females, my mind never reached a conclusion similar to that. Once Atlas’ said it I couldn’t stop thinking about its simple, genuine brilliance.
The course also reframed my understanding of black women in American society today as well as in hip-hop culture. Going into the course I was aware of misogyny, video vixens, and a random assortment of female MCs my mind aggregated over the years. My grotesque perception of women in hip-hop was arguably no different than the masses, yet I felt fairly confident I knew the content of the course. I have not felt so relieved to be wrong about something in a very long time. Learning hip-hop’s double dutch origin and the significance of movement in black culture lifted the veil over my eyes. Gender, sexuality, and social constructs of feminine versus masculine in hip-hop, created a bridge between my Anthropology-major courses and real life.
I’m thrilled I was able to get into this course last minute. It’s motivated me in a time in my life where I really needed it, made me more confident in the major I chose, and eternally influenced the way I understand something. The great thing about being more educated in hip-hop is that every time I hear a new (or even old) song, my mind immediately perceives it differently than before. It’s almost as if the aural and neurological workings of my body were reformatted. Thank you again, Professor Gaunt!
I wrote back:
You almost got me to tear up over here, Malaika.
It means the world to me to have another black woman who knows loads about hip-hop say what you said. I am not taking an ordinary approach and in the beginning I got slammed for it. But I persisted. I intend to create ethical spaces where musical blackness can thrive no matter who is or is not present without ME being the only conveyor of that intelligence. All can participate.
I learned so much in the short semester, too. I learned how an understanding of hip-hop sampling might be a perfect conduit to understanding the need to document or cite your sources in academic settings. Might actually lead to an ethical understanding of it despite claims that sampling is stealing. If you have any question, watch Stanford Professor Lawrence Lessig’s 2007 TED talk about the remix. There so many ideas that come from studying the students’ thought processes as well as my own. So much to say. This will suffice today.
Blessed to have the privilege of teaching and learning with these emerging adults!
“People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do does.”
― Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason
For about 4 years now, I’ve been experimenting with an assignment of remix in writing and other practices in my classroom where students emulate and replicate being consumers of their own productivity inside a given text or framework. I was in a course exploring how one can be empowered by ANY communication, verbal or non-verbal. It was not an academic training, thankfully, but it was a 10 month course with a weekend long training in Los Angeles once every two months and meetups with local participants here in NYC every week for, yes, 10 months. The meetups were practice sessions for completing homework between the five weekends. The course was called Partnership Explorations.
If anyone knows me personally, they know that for years I’ve said that academia beat my love of reading out of me. Perhaps it started earlier when being book smart and “talking like white people” made me assign a separation from my people to reading. I loved Shakespeare as a teen and wanted to read Freud by my mother thought it was taboo for some reason she never really explained back when I was 14.
By the time I reached the Partnership Explorations course in 2004, I was eight (8) years into being a tenure-track professor. I taught at NYU then and I hated reading books and never read anything outside of work needs. I loved the Internet and probably read as much online as some do from hardback novels. But I resisted reading. Always fell asleep. LOL. I read from cover to cover one book in maybe 10 years, a confession no self-respecting professor should probably make, but it’s true. [The book was The Funeral Planner by Lynn Isenberg, a womanist entreprenurial comedy based around my alma mater, University of Michigan. It was mature, sophisticated Chic Lit.]
So when the course instructor of Partnership Explorations said there were 5 recommended books I confronted my bias. I loved the course but reading books… Each of the weekends involved sharing individually to a group of 300 participants about what you were learning about yourself and your conversations with 20 people we were expected to track in our lives.
I read one book completely. Dire Mastery: Discipleship from Freud to Lacan and I read the first 50 pages of The Order of Things: The Archeology of the Human Sciences by Michel Foucault. Not unlike in the halls of academia, everyone in the course found the book confounding and many hated it. Though I had exposure to Foucault’s work on sexuality and liked it in grad school, this was different. I LOVED it. But still didn’t finish it. My habits were then not servicing any interest in reading more. But the preface of that book wOw-ed me.
Thus began an experiment with slow learning for me. Teaching students to replicate the preface of the book (found here: The Order of Things, 1970) in my African American music courses, my jazz course and my hip-hop courses. I have them do it early, the first weeks of class, to throw them into the world of their own thinking and sorting – reordering the mental maps of the subject they are about to encounter newly and in new ways hopefully.
In all the years since 2005 when I began assigning it, I have never written my own version but I have meticulously edited over 200 versions, I’d say. Often rewriting it for them to see other ways of thought, to instigate and agitate their thinking (vs. thoughting). Yesterday I wrote my first draft. Today my second.
From my non-academic training, I often challenge myself to do the work that I assign in my classes. It should be a requirement, I have learned from this practice. It was my students’ experimenting this winter intercession that inspired me to share my own version. I’ve learned so much from my students in this and other assignments about the “sociology” of people’s experiences with black women in hip-hop. It’s like taking a sociological sampling of culture. I wrote them earlier today: “It’s your mind each of your need to consider learning more about and intervening in the social constructs you simply inherited that were begun by people long dead and gone but that we transmit and carry on unthinkingly about race, gender and music-making. This is your opportunity to shine! Here is mine…”
Prof. G’s Foucault Remix (2nd draft):
This began as a riff off a intellectual rhymebook not well known, nor understood, inside the ivory towers of its social commons where even PhD students front in abstractions, wastin their breathe on what they “took away” from some book as if they were jookin on a basketball court (not!). It began out of a non-academic course I took on discourses and the partnership of language to uncover what’s unsaid and unknown. It arose out of the pain that shattered, as I read my participation in academia, all the familiar landmarks of my former thought — black and female thought, the thought that brands the video vixen of our hip-hop age and our corporate geography — breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which I as a black woman, a performer, and a scholar had become accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing racist and sexist things students carried with them, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse their age-old distinction between desire and ambition.
This riff quotes a ‘certain true mathematics encyclopedia’ contributed to by the fellowship of Bernice Johnson Reagon (If You Don’t Go, Don’t Hinder Me), Audre Lorde (The Uses of the Erotic read here in her own words), Tricia Rose (Black Noise and Hip-Hop Wars), Jeff Chang (Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of a Hiphop Generation), Joe Schloss (Making Beats and Foundation), and many other oracle mathemeticians, an encyclopedia in which it is written that ‘humanity in hip-hop is divided into: (a) true to Rha Goddess not Gangsta, (b) masculine masoleum, (c) domesticated pornography sold to the white masses selling black behinds, (d) Sucka MCs, (e) a Blige(d) or Beyonce(d) , (f) Fiiiiiine!! (with an extreme nasal sound to intensify meaning and syncopation), (g) rhyme retreatists, (h) not included in the present classification = invisibilified, (i) dope fiends diggin in the crates, (j) bounce, bass, snap, house, (k) Is that your real hair cuz I can’t get a comb through it?, (l) whatevah, (m) just breaks on the Billboard charts that won’t last long if they hear its a female, (n) that from a long way off look like I got fries to go with dat shake and imma reach out and take that junk in the trunk public violence.
In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing black women, women and girls everywhere as well as conscious fathers, apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of a rhyme and a video screen, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of patriciarchal and post-colonial system of hegemonic thought, is the limitation of our my own thinking, the stark impossibility of ever being without that.
The source of my remix/sample is the “Preface” from Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things (1970).
“Knowledge is not for knowing: knowledge is for cutting.”
― Michel Foucault, The Foucault Reader
“Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories. Listening for them is something more acute than listening to them. I suppose it’s an early form of participation in what goes on. Listening children know stories are there. When their elders sit and begin, children are just waiting and hoping for one to come out, like a mouse from its hole.”
― Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings
In my classroom, I take great care to care about who is present (or absent) and to reach out to let each one know I notice. I take great care to bring to each conversation a concept I first learned from Paul Gilroy’s book The Black Atlantic–an “ethics of antiphony”. Antiphony is a fancy word for call-and-response which is a highly complex phenomenon in music and in life. It can involve many voices (solo vs. chorus, small chorus vs. large chorus, one emcee vs another, one crew battling another, and much more than this short post can delve into).
The ethics of antiphony for me is inviting each and every student to speak to be heard by all not just the professor. To listen for what’s behind what someone says as well as what they are saying–listening for the unsaid. To respond to what another is speaking to vs. what you think about what they are speaking to. It’s also noticing when someone’s body language says “I want to speak” or say more before they are willing to admit it. The body often speaks first. And I notice. That, too, is ethical. Having big ears and eyes and empowering each and every body/person to do the same. It makes the classroom as sustainable as well as ethical space and place you want to be in. Why? Cause you know you matter and you honor that others do, too.
I am training the students in my new Ropes, Rhymes and Women in Hip-hop course this winter intercession to be present and listen for the possibility of greatness and to speak to and challenge that which is not empowering or ethical or that which doesn’t really say anything and to be honest, not to front or pretend what someone said is ok when it is not. In essence to have compassion and courage.
SKYPE + DOPE EMCEES = CONSCIOUSNESS
SKYPE + WOMEN = ACCESS TO VULNERABILITY
Yesterday I had two guests visit via Skype. I like to offer Skype as an alternative to classroom visits cuz I know a lot of artists need to conserve their energy (mind + money) and I am the kind of facilitator even with Skype who can generate a great conversation and engage students in it. You can actually get students to the front of the room to ask questions and it’s so empowering for them and their peers.
I invited artist Toni Blackman to share. She blessed us with her mission to use the site of the “cipher” as place-making or as a way to build community. A cipher is essentially a space where everyone contributes to the creative experience even if to say “Unh” or “YYeah!!” to help build the communitas, the sense of community. The cipher, Toni said, “pulls people away from individualism.” It inspires “collective energy” and could be used by MTA to breed “civil dialogue.”
She brought along one of the emcees she’s been training. Her name is At’Las (think “at last” and the mythical character). The two of them shared so much deep knowledge. They spoke on vulnerability as an emcee. Being given the freedom to live the life that contributes to great emceeing which is full of humanity and vulnerability. Art heals. Let them live.
Allow a boy to cry; allow a woman to connect to another women as opposed to “do you see what she had on?!?” A lot of people have to learn that your praise, what you receive, does not detract from them. The fact that I’m dope doesn’t make you any less dope.” Get rid of that comparison, allow an individual to be an individual.
Allow people to live. Emcees report it. Stop judging an artist for what they go through.
earlier she had said:
Nobody talks about the art of freestyle. It’s a pure place.
I love the way, in my view, women allow themselves to speak to vulnerability directly and in non-gendered ways that is inclusive of all genders and all that life brings to each individual including digging a Nikki Minaj or music that is not so conscious, if that’s your thing.
At’Las urged, “Let people have their B side music!”
In hindsight, it reminded me of hearing Jean Grae on a panel at FIT 3 or 4 years ago. She was asked what she thought of another more mainstream women emcee. Remy was on the panel and she was being alluded to indirectly. Grae’s response was brilliant. “I ain’t knockin’ nobody’s hustle.” Plain and simple. None of that pitting black folks against each other. That ish was over in those five words.
Toni addressed a larger concern about women in rap by saying, “There are an incredible number of female emcees out there. We could probably name 100.” She said she couldn’t explain why we don’t know about them exactly. I said that sociology might give us a better understanding of how women and the feminine is stigmatized in hip-hop. I’ll be teaching my students about social role theory today.
Toni also mentioned something profound as someone interested in truth-telling. She said (and I paraphrase):
There’s a lot of lying in our culture. People front [pretend] and withhold. But people forget that art is therapy. It’s ok to seek the knowledge but also seek out the Blues. The blues are a part of Hip-hop but we don’t acknowledge that.
Toni and At’Las dropped a lot of wisdom on us including why women need their own spaces, their own ciphers to be able to share about abuse and assault and not have that masculine energy limit vulnerability. She added that there is nothing wrong with the masculine energy being there. But “women need their own space to get open.”