BROADCAST!: Are Black Girls’ Voices Out-of-Print…Like Our Books?

Out of print refers to an item, typically a book, but can include any print or visual medium or sound recording, that is no longer being published.

The abbreviation OOP (also OP) is a more general term that encompasses craft, hobby, toy, and collectable items that are out of production. (Wikipedia)


Is a Black Girls’ Dance Her Primary Voice?

Most teen girls never speak with their mouths in their twerking videos. Many viewers misconstrue their mute-ness for a lack of agency. But dance plays such an important role during black adolescence and during youth for many Americans. It makes sense that they learn to “talk” and express themselves with their body. What complicates things is the objectification that a video frame creates for the viewer who is no place (not in the bedroom of the girl, not in their ‘hood, not conscious of their mind or cultural insights into the power of being in one’s body as an articulation of joy and doing your best. It’s the other narratives that come with projecting a teen black female body into a public that we overlook.


YouTube Vlogging: Empowering One’s Voice

This morning I recorded a vlog related to voice and out-of-print concerns.  I posted it after visiting Maria Popova’s brilliant site She wrote a blog post about a book titled BLAST OFF!, which is out-of-print. It’s about a black girl who describes space exploration.  I wrote more than expected below (I always do). I guess I needed to make plain some of the politics of black publications and publishing that surrounds being a black girl/women in the U.S. Voicing those critical politics — using my voice and inviting black girls under 17 and those committed to them to bring voice to such matters — becomes increasingly important as I consider my legacy in life.

I’ve known that my voice is a key to my own empowerment after having people in my youth invade my private journals in ways that thwarted my freedom to write and speak for decades. So considering vlogging as a way out of that mind trap occurred to me years ago as a right of passage to liberation. This really intensified as I started having my students vlog in my anthro classes the last 18 months. But still I’ve resisted vlogging. So, here I go again. Take a listen!



Black Girls Gone (OOP): Blast Off! & Bushmen 

Curious connections occupy my thoughts often and this is no different. The vlog above is the result of a connection made between out-of-print books and visual media by/about  people of African descent esp.  children’s books by/about black girls as well as the seeming lack of voice in user-generated twerking videos by teens.

I was listening to my favorite Sunday morning radio show On Being with Krista Tippett featuring an interview with renowned citizen-cellist musician Yo-Yo Ma. During the interview, Krista mentioned that Yo-Yo Ma had performed with the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, a well-documented and abused ethnic group of hunter-gatherers who now reside nationally within South Africa. They are urban and continue to protect and practice values that urban life has encroached upon as their traditional way of life. Anthropology has invested much ink into the research and study of the Kalahari Bushmen and you can find a great deal of video about them on YouTube.

When I searched for the music, I found the name of the project: Distant Echoes: Yo-Yo Ma and the Bushmen, but I found nothing to access the documentary that had once appeared on KLRU-TV, an Austin PBS channel. Nothing was available. Despite Yo-Yo Ma’s commercial success, the DVD was nowhere to be found online. There was barely anything written about the project online either. I found one great article from Harvard Magazine (so students and alumni at the nation’s most elite university were introduced to it). In in Yo-Yo Ma recalled how his obsession began with his undergraduate study in anthropology at Harvard. They described for readers who the Bushmen are and where they reside: The “Ju/Wasi (the name means “the proper people”) [are] a subgroup of the hunter-gatherers known as the Bushmen of the Kalahari, a desert region bordering Namibia and Botswana.” But other than that no evidence of the project is available or for sale, even on Ebay. Nothing public exists. OOP.

What Does a Public Role Mean for Teen Black Girls Who Broadcast?

As I continue to think about how we see adolescent black girls who twerk on YouTube, I constantly confront sociological issues as well as ethnomusicological ones. The word adolescent comes from a Latin word meaning “grow up.” What we do during adolescence tends to be considered critical by teens themselves, by their parents and guardians and by social scientists of every field including childhood studies.

If a quote from Proust tells us anything, then black people and black girls should be among the freest people in public given the constant of out-of-print publications about us.

Certain favourite roles are played by us so often before the public and rehearsed so carefully when we are alone that we find it easier to refer to their fictitious testimony than to that of a reality which we have almost entirely forgotten.

MARCEL PROUST, Within a Budding Grove

But the omission of critical texts about us, written to defy stereotypes and uncollapse how others tend to limit how we are see because of our skin color or myths about our difference as a “race”, is much more restrictive. So when publications go out-of-print, and for reasons too complicated to discuss here, we cannot compete with the dominant public discourse of lies that travels farther than our face-to-face reach can, especially when it comes to online media. We are still a minority in those ecologies as our co-presence with much more dominant media reveals.

It’s been my experience as a mid-career scholar of black culture and history as well as an ethnomusicologist that black and/or African-descent music and literature… let me clarify, that the books and the music of Africans and African Americans tends too often to be out-of-print in United States publications and worse yet when searching among the Internet of supposedly everything. We still don’t exist or are hard to locate despite our myths that the Internet makes everything accessible to all.

More from Wikipedia OOP:

An item goes out of print when a publisher does not reprint, re-press, or reissue after all copies have been sold to retailers. Reasons may include:

  • the perception of the publisher that continuing to produce the work is no longer a commercially viable venture, i.e. that there is no longer a market for it
    [We need targeted marketing to minority groups in publications to create a healthy democratic ideology of e pluribus unum. A diverse public based on white norms will not do in the USA or any other diverse nation. It breeds disintegrated public selves.]
  • a limited print run (Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern)
  • antiquation, or the obsolescence of content or format (laserdisc, VHS, compact cassette).
    [Does black lit and visual media about black girls or other mean WE are not viable? WE are obsolete in our American public?]
  • plans for a revised or reformatted edition
  • the presence of errors, flaws, fabrication, offensive content, or plagiarism (sometimes preceded by a recall)
  • banning or censorship
    [This is particularly thorny when it comes to YouTube which rarely bans but they do sort of censor twerking videos with the persistent community “flagging” of twerking videosas “age-restricted content” which is common for videos that feature black girls under 17 . Since these videos will persist on the Internet, it’s like tagging or stigmatizing black girls as deviant online. It’s becomes a Scarlet letter marking difference or “ratchtness”.]
  • intellectual property obstacles, such as the expiration of a publisher’s license to release content owned by another copyright holder. For example, a novelization of a film that was released 10 years ago is likely to go OOP for this reason. See licensing section in The Criterion Collection article for an example.

Out of print items are often pursued by collectors through aftermarket retailers such as used book stores, record shops, and online auction sites.[This has not surfaced much with black lit and visual materials like the old video sellers in Harlem or the cut-outs of records] Sellers of out of print merchandise on auction sites will typically include “OOP” or its equivalent in product descriptions. The designation is sometimes misappropriated—an example is in keyword stuffing, where the acronym is used to generate numerous search results even as it does not apply to the items retrieved. The abbreviation is sometimes placed in descriptions of items whose publication or production status is unclear (such as DVDs said to be returning to the “Disney Vault“) to affect interest in the product.

3 thoughts on “BROADCAST!: Are Black Girls’ Voices Out-of-Print…Like Our Books?

  1. Hi Kyraocity, I found your blog (vlog) mentioning “Distant Echoes: Yo Yo Ma and the Kalahari Bushmen,” while I was on the same search for it as you and coming up with the same zero result. My late wife Marjorie Shostak, author of Nisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman, was originally supposed to go with Ma to the Kalahari to make this film, but her cancer prevented her. I started on this search when one of our daughters, a dancer/choreographer, found out about this and really wanted to see the film. I wrote to a couple of producers involved with the film, and if I learn anything I will try to let you know. Meanwhile, thanks to Marjorie, Nisa’s voice is one that is not OOP 🙂 It would be my pleasure to send you the book (it’s considered an anthropological classic) as a gift if you are interested in reading it. Thanks for keeping those OOP voices alive! Mel

    1. Dear Mel,
      What an honor to have learned you found my little blog post! I’d love a copy. You can find me at kyraocity a gmail. I’ll share my campus address at UAlbany. I am an ethnomusicologist. Thank you!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s