We Die Black not Human: Screening ‪Social Death #blackgirlsmatter

Social death [from Wikipedia] is the condition of people not accepted as fully human by wider society. Used by sociologists like Zygmunt Bauman and historians of slavery and the holocaust to describe the part played by governmental and social segregation in that process.[1][2] Examples of social death are:

“If we are to be honest with ourselves, we must admit that the “Negro” has been inviting whites, as well as civil society’s junior partners, to the dance of social death for hundreds of years, but few have wanted to learn the steps. They have been, and remain today – even in the most anti-racist movements, like the prison abolition movement – invested elsewhere. This is not to say that all oppositional political desire today is pro-white, but it is usually anti-Black, meaning it will not dance with death.”
Frank B. Wilderson III

Kizzie

In class Monday, I shared that these deaths at the hands of the police are numbing my ability to cry it’s happened so much throughout my life since childhood. A naive Puerto Rican/ Dominican male whose been pretending he can get by in the class was gleeful and said “awesome!” after I shared that yet another man was shot dead by the cops on video. Stunned, I asked what was so awesome about it. He naively shared, as Darnell L. Moore, points out in the repost below, that this time would actually prove something. His naive public declaration does more harm to others and himself than he knows. It speaks to a problem I face in higher ed among students and faculty who resist that race/racism intersectionally affects them. This young man said in class weeks back that he doesn’t identify with race or ethnicity ; he doesn’t identify as Dominican or Puerto Rican. He’s American. More power to his right to self identify but his reaction was utterly clueless about not only the history of capturing such abuse on video and the lack of effect it has on structural/state violence but also the very thing I talked about in my TEDx talk on self worth being directly shaped by how others view us as racialized and gendered subjects, as organisms living in an environment.

This numbness in the moment it’s happening leaves me reducing individual lives lost to a nameless black man. I never shared his name Eric Harris was somebody’s son, somebody’s love of their life, somebody’s guardian as well as all his not so favorable acts and connections. It’s why we stand indivisible behind #blacklivesmatter with all who join us.

Tulsa Sheriff’s Office Robert Bates, 73, shot to death suspect Eric Harris in Oklahoma after pulling out his gun instead of his taser, all captured on cop cam. An arresting officer whose knee pinned the head of the violently assaulted man to the concrete said point blank “F*ck your breath!” as the wounded man gasped in shock at being shot and gasping for his last breaths of his life.

‪#‎ericharris‬ ‪#‎trayvonmartin‬ ‪#‎renishamcbride‬ ‪#‎rekiaboyd‬ ‪#‎michaelbrown‬ ‪#‎walterscott‬
Who sat in awe for the last breaths of these human being? Who helped them as they lay suffering without compassion? We die black and not human is on all our screens lately. The fourth screen handheld and mobile and the big screen that bears Oscar’s dead body but not Oscars. #oscargrant #12yearsaslave #passingstrange

It’s only at films mediated by a screen that individuals who are marked as oppressed groups of color are allowed to see ourselves as human in public. At least that’s how it feels.

For me as a child 40 years ago, this began first at home, watching television. First, it was the film “Cornbread, Earl and Me” (1975) with young actor Larry Fishburne when I was in junior high. I remember only the dead son not the surviving mother. Or “Cooley High” (1975). “Boyz in the Hood” when I was pursuing my doctorate.

This is patriarchal hegemony at work. It shapes the algorithms of my memory. Even as a woman I remember all these scenes about the boys and men before I think of the character of Celie in Alice Walker story shot for the big screen by Spielberg — The Color Purple (1985) — which broke my heart when I first saw it on TV while pursuing my master’s degree. Or even Tyler Perry’s 2010 version of For Colored Girls which brought on sobbing tears but left out the realities that matter for black and brown women that were so eloquently represented on stage in Ntozake Shange’s original choreo-poem which I saw when I was in junior high. I don’t remember feeling any way about it then but the I later bought book in grad school? Genius!

Only in the dark, narrowly focused attention of screens mediated by actors distancing the reality from its lived moments did it seem that I/we were allowed the permission or the freedom to mourn publicly and to resist before social death. It was only in the personal space of a private or somewhat segregated theater that I could grieve quietly and publicly mourn and even laugh to resist the hegemony of what has come to always seems like a destiny for us black and brown folk–man, woman, and child. And then there’s us women who are black and brown and the girls.

The more hidden deaths not immortalized often screen–the cis and transgender females and little black girls like Aiyana Stanley-Jones–seem to always matter less to everyone but us black women and our allies. Even black female “actors” on TV, film and the news matter less; little black girls like Quevenzhané Wallis or the president’s daughters Sasha and Malia at Thanksgiving or Racheal Jeantel in court not yet 18 are denied humanity online and in public. ‪#‎blackgirlsmatter‬

Really makes me wanna holler, they way they do our lives, to paraphrase Marvin Gaye. A better quote from Zora Neale Hurtston hits the mark.

I have no separate feeling about being an American citizen and colored. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company! It’s beyond me.

My presence in the classroom matters but I wish I was teaching more black students at CUNY how to be engaged and to ethnographically study this networked public crisis. ‪#‎admissionsmatter‬ ‪#‎CUNY‬

Hip Hop Generation Feminism: A Manifesto

Originally posted on The Crunk Feminist Collective:

We are Hip Hop Generation Feminists.  We unapologetically refer to ourselves as feminist because we believe that gender, and its construction through a white patriarchal capitalist power structure fundamentally shapes our lives and life possibilities as women of color across a range of sexual identities.  We are members of the Hip Hop Generation because we came of age in one of the decades, the 1990s, that can be considered post-Soul and post-Civil Rights. Our political realities have been profoundly shaped by a systematic rollback of the gains of the Civil Rights era with regard to affirmative action policies, reproductive justice policies, the massive deindustrialization of urban areas, the rise and ravages of the drug economy within urban, semi-urban, and rural communities of color, and the full-scale assault on women’s lives through the AIDS epidemic. We have come of age in the era that has witnessed a past-in-present assault on our…

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“Slap her”: Fanpage.it video objectifies girls, exploits boys, and trivializes domestic violence

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Kyra Gaunt, Ph.D.:

As disturbing as the videos and comments I am studying on YouTube. Thanks Dr. Hains!

Originally posted on Dr. Rebecca Hains:

A new anti-domestic-violence video created by the Facebook page Fanpage.it is being widely shared because people find it heartwarming and touching.

I find it sickening.

The video’s description asks, “What happens when you put a boy in front of a girl and ask him to slap her? Here is how children react to the subject of violence against women.”

Fanpage.it: What's your name?As the video begins, it seems promising. An off-camera male voice asks five charming young boys questions, one at a time:

  • “What’s your name?”
  • “How old are you”
  • “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
  • “Why?”

Thanks to this line of questioning, each boy is brought to life for the viewer. With a range of personal demeanors and interests, it’s easy for viewers to see each boy as a unique and lovely individual.

Then, each boy is visibly surprised when a tall, blonde, conventionally beautiful young girl joins them in front of the camera…

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New YouTube Kids App. Don’t Forget to Search for Their Digital Traces!

 Beauty was not simply something to behold; it was something one could do.”
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

 

What an amazing week! I want to give you a little review what’s been going on in my academic life and what’s been happening in digital media land, esp. YouTube at the intersection of race, gender and adolescents online.  Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been rebranding how I talk about my digital ethnographic research. I’m recoding the 1000 videos I’ve collected that feature adolescent black girls (ages 13-17 and younger) broadcasting while they twerk from the “privacy” of their bedrooms in a participatory research project with my three intro to anthro courses. More on that soon.

This weekend since Friday I have been attending the Eastern Sociological Association meeting here in New York City. It’s being held at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in Times Square. Any local New Yorker knows that how much we loath having to go to Times Square’s Tourist Trap. But because my friend (online and off-line) sociology professor Jessie Daniels (@JessieNYC) organized and is hosting a digital sociology mini conference it was well worth the trouble. And it’s been amazing. You can follow our live tweeting of the conference at #DigitalSociology on Twitter.

YouTube App Just for Kids Launched

This week YouTube announced a new app designed for kids and their gardens. It’s called  kids.

On February 23, 2015,  U2 launched a new kid-focused app for parents and guardians to download.  YouTube video advertising the new  access is pretty compelling. They also released a remarkable playlist of viral videos featuring kids titled Kids We Love.  It starts with of one my favorites  “Worry about yourself” featuring a little toddler in her car seat telling her dad to leave her alone, she can take care of herself. Many of the videos I’ve seen before. One is precious.  It’s called Kids play with paint a get it all over their faces. Reminds me of when I was that age.


Kyra-Kyra on the Wall/
Who’s the Fairest of Them All?

I was 4 or 5 years old staying at my Granny’s while my mother was at work. I’d been playing in my youngest aunt’s Avon powder … without permission. I’d been told not to play with my aunt’s makeup. I was having a ball with that powder puff imitating (or I thought mirroring) what I saw in a Warner Brothers’ cartoon.  I was too young to notice that I was different from the white female figure in the cartoon. The white powder became invisible, it disappeared on her skin. I had no idea that the Avon product betrayed my lie, and defined my otherness at the same time. My aunt’s tall dresser did not have a mirror attached so I never saw how I looked. When I heard my mother unexpectedly came in the front door after work, I jumped off a chair I had placed to reach her makeup and stood outsider my aunt’s room as if I had not been doing anything.  My mother, Ardell, asked me, “What have you been doing, Kyra??!!” I stood on the step and said “Nothing.” My little brown face was covered in white talcum powder and she still tells the story about how she tried not to laugh. Parents had a rough job before the Internet. Image telling a child to not watch YouTube. Or moreover, don’t upload any videos of yourself without my permission. Uh-oh!!!

From Dusty Faces to Digital Traces

Parents may be pleased with this but they also need to start search the YouTube archive for images of their kids by name. Even if videos are removed from a channel, they may still exist in the search archive. Check for the digital traces. They are not as obvious as the powder was on my brown face decades before digital video and mobile devices were tethered to today’s youth.

If I made the playlist for Kids We Love it would definitely include Princess973 or Princess Maji representin’ Jersey. Here’s her dancing to a remix of “Let it Go” from Frozen–clearly every parents favorite song they could stand not to hear one more time. Princess Maji is black girl genius!! She is much more incredible at dancing, if you asked me, than any of the kids represented in YouTube’s present playlist.

Privacy? (No!) Adversity? (You Bet!): Black Girls’ Bedroom Twerking

 “All have their worth and each contributes to the worth of the others.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion

“Guileless and without vanity, we were still in love with ourselves then. We felt comfortable in our own skins, enjoyed the news that our senses released to us, admired our dirt, cultivated our scars, and could not comprehend this unworthiness.”
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

Adverse Childhood Experience: Black Girls and YouTube

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris in pediatric care is one of my sheroes, esp. for children in communities of color who suffer high levels of childhood trauma including physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; physical or emotional neglect; parental mental illness, substance dependence, incarceration; parental separation or divorce; or domestic violence. 

Below I share her persuasive and passionate TED Talk that introduces viewers to the The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study.

As I wrote up a new abstract today about the re-segregation of black girls’ musical identities in the blurred public of YouTube, I am increasingly present to the emotional and cognitive impact of new media and digital video on the socialization of black girls’ adolescent brains and their views of how they see themselves differently than others. We must bring more of a sociological lens to our ethnographic and ethnomusicological study to help us all understand the social forces that do not empower online black girls’ value in their own eyes and perhaps more importantly in others. Their ecological fitness is at stake.

Seeing ourselves through Technology:
What Do Black Girls See?

I am writing an article titled Mirrors, Monsters and Webcams about the ways in which girls learn to see/hear themselves through technology from the 1970s to now. I was thinking about how the policy of Desegregation affected me and my view of my self identity when I was an adolescent learning to fit my body into the latest dance in the mirror just outside my bedroom. A white woman about my age with whom I was sharing about this article reminded me how we 2nd generation television teen girls would dance with the TV screen, too.  I am making an argument for public/private and public/domestic spaces that hinges on an understanding of Segregation policies and early social media practices of radio and television in the 1970s.

The twerking videos I study of black girls who broadcast from the “privacy” of their bedrooms always make me think about how segregated that space–the bedroom–was and still remains for black girls’ dancing. In public settings there is more exposure to harm and the bedroom was a barrier to public groping but also an easy target for domestic abuse. Your closed door symbolized safety, temporary as it might have been. Having privacy was a key to adolescence. The webcam has changed how privacy works for everyone. But that change didn’t begin with Web 2.0.

The differences then and now are both complicated. It wasn’t simple when American Bandstand was broadcast into your family’s living room or bedroom (we had a TV in my mom’s master bedroom, too). It was uncomplicated when Soul Train blew its horn into the soundscapes of domestic life. Even my local show The New Dance Show with its host the Moonman in DC shaped how I wanted to perform my Self when I finally entered the public sphere. The private space of home back then also became a place for advertising the consumption of musical media to teens through radio and television. Parents began to lose more and more control before kids ever left their front doors. Today on YouTube it’s much more complicated with forms of segregation in mixed engagement that is both alarming and invisible to far too many. That’s what I am working out teasing out in my latest article.

You Betta Be In Before Dark!:
What is Public Safety on YouTube?

Adolescent play with strangers was rare when I was a kid. And parents tried to protect you by insisting you stay within shouting distance. The boundary was always marked by the onset of twilight. You better be home before it’s dark. Parents born before Desegregation in the South where I grew up knew or remembered that the general public was never save for dark-skinned folk. Daytime was dangerous, too. What was really a concern was the possibility of not being under a caring watchful eye when visibility decreased. What happens when being visible to strangers you meet online becomes the norm for adolescent girls of any color, but particularly for black girls?
Two days ago, I found a twerking video uploaded that same day by an 8 year old black (seemingly Afro-Brit) girl. YouTube’s age minimum is 13.  Her brother, who is recording the video and seemed a bit younger than her based on the sound of his voice and what frames he was capturing with a mobile webcam–he seemed fascinated with the technological capacities of the camera; with what it can do.
This adolescent 8 year old in contrast to her brother was all into the technology of her body–which is an important aspect of socialization for black girls historically and for young American girls in general. She was so into managing and performing the technology of twerking, of self-presenting herself like what she perhaps had seen before, that she seemed almost unaware of the implications of the camera. She was clear she would be made visible from its upload, I am sure. The video appears to be her channel with her actual name, which is mentioned in the performance by her brother. Her channel only has 2 videos. This video received over 600 views in less than one day. What’s more disturbing is the engagement below it. 3 comments, all by males, designed for “grooming” — like pimps and predators groom girls or boys for sexual abus — inviting her to expose or unclothe more of body. No comments per se about her dance.

I am sure you will find this as disturbing as I have.  I could say much more about this video and how YouTube is not monitoring it’s content for harm to minors. I could also talk about the appetite that the porn industry produces that leads young men and strangers to solicit hooking up with this girl.
Screen Shot from YouTube 2015-02-21 at 2.34.53 PM

Screen Shot from YouTube 2015-02-21 at 2.34.53 PM

Who Poisoned the Well in the First Place?:
YouTube’s Ecology meets Systemic Bias

Dr. Burke Harris’s talk speaks to learning how much adversity can harm children’s cognitive growth and emotional well-being not to mention their life chances and health well into their adulthood.  This is why my research matters so much.  I am trying to link the pleasure of messing around online for girls to the need for better digital media literacy and attention to not simply their social agency but their cognitive fitness in the most crucial years of their brain development. YouTube is not always the best environment for girls’ public health.
Dr. Burke-Harris states in her TED Talk, which I watched live last year:

I did a master’s degree in public health, and one of the things that they teach you in public health school is that if you’re a doctor and you see 100 kids that all drink from the same well, and 98 of them develop diarrhea, you can go ahead and write that prescription for dose after dose after dose of antibiotics, or you can walk over and say, “What the hell is in this well?” So I began reading everything that I could get my hands on about how exposure to adversity affects the developing brains and bodies of children.

http://go.ted.com/X5Y

 

Bet UOENO Her Name: Bottomlines for BeTTy BuTT

Ms. Jamie Adedra (“Betty Booty”) Moore

Born: Wed., Feb. 14, 1990
Died: Wed., Nov. 12, 2014

OI35000142_JamieMoore

Jamie A’dedra Moore was born February 14, 1990 in Queens, New York to James D Moore and AnnetteTownes. The date is significant for my research because YouTube launched its domain name on February 14, 2005. YouTube would launch Jamie and her two friends from ATL into online user-generated fame. On June 9, 2009 she and two other local twerkers uploaded their 3rd attempt to broadcast themselves as the Official Twerk Team on YouTube.

On Wednesday, November 12, 2014. Jamie was involved with a failed drug deal where she was accosted and shot in the head over $1115. Jamie better known on YouTube as BeTTy BuTT, the capitalized “T”s stand for “twerk team” which they made famous as a colloquial expression and a cultural meme. Twerk teams of lil’ sisters and cousins and later cheerleading squads and white girls in San Diego high schools led to a kind of moral panic following the appropriation of twerking by Miley Cyrus in a  YouTube video in April 4, 2013 (that date is probably of no significance to Miley and her handlers–it’s the date MLK was assassinated). The video titled Miley Cyrus Twerking Video has over 6.7 million views to date. 

My students and I since last summer have been learning about CPMs. The cost per thousands YouTube uses to calculate the monetization of a channel. According to several sources (will update later when I have time), the average subscriber today makes only $2.09/CPM minus a 45% cut for YouTube. To put the $1115 that Jamie was shot in the head for into CPMs, she died for 500,000 YouTube views.

Her top upload on her personal channel @BeTTy BuTT had only 4 videos. She had left the Official Twerk Team. More about that in another post. The video with the most views had only over 200,000 views. She died for twice that number and some. #bottomlines  YouTube ain’t as lucrative as everyday folk want to make it out to be. When I tell folks I am studying twerking, black girls’ twerking on YouTube, one of the initial responses is always they are making money on YouTube.  Pardon the vernacular but…NO THEY NOT!!  At least for the millions of views she got with the Twerk Team and her own site she could have at least been remembered for her born name, her government name, in death. Not one news report claimed her real name. She was just some “dumb bitch” (pardon the expression) who twerked on YouTube. RIP.

Here’s more from her obituary online.

She was …

full of life, she enjoyed swimming, sewing, music, dancing, volunteering and spending time with family and friends.Jamie graduated from Chapel Hill High School in Douglasville, GA. She had many talents including fashion desiging, modeling and teaching dance. She was a the true daddy’s girl. She mirrored and enjoyed every minute of swimming, motorcycling and other thrill seeking activities with her father. Additionally, she loved making arts and craſts with her mother. Theyenjoyed sewing, crocheting and knitting many items which inspired her aryistic ability as a fashion designer. Recently, she was helping her mother create a website for her craſt business. Jamie had an awesome relationship with her stepmother and they enjoyed attending theater productions. Jamie’s affinity for travel was inspired by stepmother and she loved traveling with her grandparents and aunt Curly. Jamie was a water lover and the beach was her best friend. She was also an ovarian cancer survivor.

The Black Girl Project’s Sisterhood Summit 2014: This Weekend

“You must learn her.

You must know the reason why she is silent. You must trace her weakest spots. You must write to her. You must remind her that you are there. You must know how long it takes for her to give up. You must be there to hold her when she is about to.

You must love her because many have tried and failed. And she wants to know that she is worthy to be loved, that she is worthy to be kept.

And, this is how you keep her.”  ― Junot Díaz, This Is How You Lose Her

Sisterhood Summit Image

 

BEEN A MINUTE…

October has been an incredibly fulfilling and intense month so far. Aside from writing and teaching, I’ve been updating my blog here with a new header that speaks to my work on YouTube.  I’m on the job market seeking a full-time position in digital media studies, ethnomusicology and/or African American/women’s studies.  I attended the critical and intense Town Hall for Girls of Color hosted by Girls for Gender Equity and Kimberle Crenshaw’s African American Policy Forum at Columbia Law School two weekends ago in honor of The International Day of the Girl. And there’s a lot of new things happening with my collaborative ethnography team of undergrads. We start collecting new data on adolescent and teen blacks girls who broadcast while they twerk for my research and their Anthropological Analysis course and training.

All that said, this post is about another project that has inspired my work.  This weekend, Saturday October 25th, 2014, Founder and Executive Director Aiesha Turman and the advisory board of The Black Girl Project hosts the 4th annual Sisterhood Summit at Empire State College from 10am – 6pm.  I would love it if  shared this post on your Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram or your Twitter!!

THE BLACK GIRL PROJECT: SISTERHOOD SUMMIT #BGPSS14 

View the day’s program here.  The theme is “Treat Yo’Self: Healthy, Whole and Free Black Girls.”  Come volunteer for the morning (10-2) or afternoon (2-6pm) sessions! The girls and women attending need your support!! If interested, DM me at kyraocity at gmail.

Love, peace and hairgrease! All the ladies say “He–alth!”