Review: MODA’s “Inspiring Beauty” makes a political and aesthetic fashion statement

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“Eunice Johnson came from a well-to-do family, and part of her goal with the Ebony Fashion Fair was to show that not all black people were destitute. One of her challenges was to convince European design houses that there were black people with enough wealth to purchase high fashion garments and that those designers would not lose clients by putting couture gowns on black bodies.”

Read it all here.

I’m a black ARTS journalist. I’m not a myth.

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“I’m tired of jockeying for position in a profession that never hesitates to finger “racists” in public, but can’t see the very real racism in its own newsrooms.”

As I was scrolling through my Facbook news feed I noticed one of my friends posted a link to an article whose headline pierced me like the tusks of an ox: I’m A Black Journalist. I’m Quitting Because I’m Tired of Newsroom Racism,” written by Rebecca Carroll.

The photo that ran with the article is a promotional image from Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series The Newsroom. There are no black people at the fictional ACN network either. And all the women on staff are irrational workaholics who can’t maintain a healthy relationship with anyone and speak in falsetto all the time…but I digress…

I went to J-School twice–undergrad and grad–and have been a freelance journalist for three years. My beat is the arts, I write in print and online, and in my three post grad school years in the field I have not met a single other black print journalist. All of my editors have been middle aged white men and women. I personally know of one other black woman arts journalist and her name is Valerie Boyd, and she was my magazine writing professor in college.

What I have encountered over the past three years is A LOT of middle-aged white men who claim that they are too liberal to have any ethnic blind spots as it relates to reviewing and criticizing art. I have also encountered people who are surprised, and dare I say intimidated, by the fact that I can write in the first place. I graduated from two of the best journalism schools in the country, and when white people find out they look at me as if I am a Siren or cyclops or unicorn or big foot. I am none of the above.

As a matter of fact when I went to a theater conference last summer, the director of a black theater company in Texas said to me “Whoa! You’re the only one!” He might be right.

Currently I freelance for various arts publications and sites when I can, and work full-time at a magazine. However, I am not on the editorial staff, and there is only one person of color on the editorial staff. Why am I not on the editorial staff you may ask? Well, you try finding a full-time writing or editing job at a magazine and let me know how that goes. But, I do have a foot in the door and the ear of the publisher, and that’s a start.

This is why it disheartens me that Rebecca Carroll is leaving the newsroom. There is no Lean In with a “How to deal with racism and sexism at the same time” addendum for black women, but Sheryl Sandberg’s principles still apply: Every woman who throws in the towel makes it harder for the next one to get in the door. Ms. Carroll has paid her dues in this industry, so she will continue to be able to work, but what about the people just getting started?

I am by no means blaming her. After doing something for so long, you deserve not to have to deal with bullshit. Suffering for the art is cute and idealistic when you’re 20 and infuriating by the time you’re 40. I just wish things were different.

Read her article here: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119912/black-female-journalist-quits-media-decries-newsroom-racism

Review: “Dear White People”

It’s rare that I go to see a movie based on title alone, only having watched the trailer once. It is also rare that I see a movie that portrays my experience in such a way that I feel as if I am watching a documentary, and not a feature film. Dear White People is revolutionary, and even though this is a movie, it drives home the sentiment that the revolution will not be televised.

The premise of the film is that Ivy League Winchester University has recently placed a sanction in order to diversify its residence halls, but this sanction only seems to affect Armstrong/Parker Hall, aka the residence hall where the black people live. One of the Black Student Union’s most vocal students, Sam White (Tessa Thompson), has taken to the airwaves on her campus radio show “Dear White People” to express her opinion about the issue. However, not all of the students– black or white–share her “separate but equal is better” sentiment.

There’s privileged Troy (Brandon P. Bell) who wants to appease his father, who is the Dean of Students; Coco (Teyonah Parris) who wants to be famous, even if it means overdrafting her bank account for a weave; and Lionel (Tyler James Williams) who is searching for his place somewhere between afros, Mumford & Sons, and his Man Crush Monday editor at the student paper.

This is not a movie to expect Tarantino or Scorsese type cinematography, or even Judd Apatow or Diablo Cody’s level of finesse in their wicked, humorous screenwriting. However, Dear White People gets its message across and is entertaining. There is humor coming from Justin Simien’s pulpit, that clearly shows he either lived the events in the film or did a lot of research. I won’t compare him to Spike Lee, as I’m sure many have and will, but he is on to something Spike Lee a la School Daze-ish. He challenges many of the predominant millennial views of racism (we’re post-racial), activism (I’ll tweet using #Ferguson), social change (let’s rally!), sexuality (I just love people; I don’t like labels), and communication (text, sext, whatever).

Where Dear White People is at its best is in its portrayal of intraracial and interracial conflict on predominantly white college campuses. As someone who graduated from a PWI where white sororities and fraternities held “pimps & hoes” and “plantation” parties where they hired local black homeless people to dress up as slaves and pick cotton and serve drinks (for real), the events in Dear White People deeply resonated with me. It also succeeds in portraying the students’ resistance to acknowledge the privilege they inherently have by attending a university, but in doing this it does not take a side. This is not a white people are wrong and everyone else is right, or vice versa, film. It is also not a  movie that makes the college educated seem better than everyone else. This is a thought provoking film that challenges perceptions of what it means to be white or other– and it’s funny as hell.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“Dear White People, knowing all of the lyrics to Lil Wayne’s songs doesn’t make you down. It just reminds me of how many times you say the N word when there are no black people around.”

“Did you have the Cosby dream again?”

“I woke up in a really big sweater with straight hair”

“Dear White People, dating a black person to piss off your parents is a form of racism.”

“They want to be like us. I’m not going to go protest over a party.” 

“Can I touch your hair?”

“The only people concerned about racism are Mexicans, maybe.”

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), I saw the film in Atlanta in a theatre filled with all black people. Dear White People is a movie that I fear will be total insider baseball– only seen by those whose experience it depicts, and not by those who need to see it most. I hope that every college and university in this country brings this movie to its campus, and has deep discussions among students and faculty about how we view race in this country, the ways in which people within a race view themselves on an individual level and the ways in which racism is perpetuated on college campuses.

Dear America, We can’t treat Ebola like crack.

EBOLA is an infectious and generally fatal disease marked by fever and severe internal bleeding, spread through contact with infected body fluids by a filovirus (Ebola virus), whose normal host species is unknown.

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EBOLA has been wreaking havoc in Africa and Asia for years, and there has never been an ice bucket challenge, walk, race, or telethon to raise money for Ebola research.

EBOLA is now in the United States of America, and everyone is panicking. Particularly, it’s in Texas, the South, and I have a feeling if it was in New York, D.C., or Chicago, we would see a different response from the government, but I won’t go off on that tangent.

In this panic, all of the suggestions and “solutions” about how to prevent the spread of Ebola involve the United States scaling back the number of American doctors working in Africa, putting in screening checks at the airport, and securing our borders against a microbial. Turn on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and they all say the same thing: “We must contain this in Africa.” Must we?

We want to contain Ebola to West Africa, just as we wanted to contain crack in Compton, Brooklyn, Detroit, Chicago, and D.C. But, we are one human family. What affects one of us affects all of us. There is no containing Ebola. This word contain continues to show that we devalue black and brown bodies in this country. “Keep that Ebola over there so that no more white people become infected” can’t be our mentality. “Keep that crack in the ghettos” did not work for us. How do we know it did not work? Fatherlessness in communities of color, gang violence, the prison industrial complex, welfare reform, charter schools, and gentrification in urban communities can all be linked to the crack epidemic of the 1980s. You can’t contain humanity.

We can no longer treat Africa like the world’s bastard child. This mineral rich continent has been raped, pillaged, diseased because of imperialism and colonialism, and now the world is playing a game of hot potato. It’s like the child who walks away from his mess. You can’t cry over spilled milk, but you can’t just leave it there either. It is such a slap in the face to humanity to all of a sudden come up with a possible Ebola vaccine once white people and dogs have been infected. Black people cannot continue to be treated this way.

We have got to do better, America. There is an undeclared Civil War happening in this country, and this Ebola scare on top of Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, unemployment, disabled troops, a 52% divorce rate, diabetes, and heart disease could be the fall of an empire.

Black Jesus, Black-ish and black satire that white people can appreciate

SPOILER ALERT

 

Black Jesus: Jesus is in Compton trying to encourage peace and economic empowerment in the hood. The way he plans to do this is by starting a community garden with his few faithful followers. Now, instead of eating fried chicken, brothas in the hood are eating salads and feeling better and more energized. Obstacles to this flourishing garden include a wino, a slumlord, a few cholos, and a community of skeptics who believe that Jesus is just a rabble rouser. In short, Aaron McGruder, the creator of The Boondocks, is testing Jesus’ gangster and your ability to take a joke and recognize the deeper social commentary that he offers to disenfranchised communities of color. What he is also doing is exposing white people to black and brown comedians who have been household names for years. Unfortunately, the latter is almost more critical than the former, because proving the success of black comedians so that we can continue to see their faces on television is more important than the art itself.

Black-ish:

Dre (played by Anthony Anderson), his mixed wife (Traci Ellis Ross), his father (Laurence Fishburne), and their four children are living the American dream. He has just been promoted to the Senior Vice President of the Urban Division at the ad agency where he works, his wife is a pediatric surgeon and they are living in an upscale, majority white area of Los Angeles. Because this is suburbia and not Compton, Dre is questioning whether the progress he has made is removing his kids from their roots. Does their love of Juicy Couture, quinoa, field hockey, Pilates, and baked (instead of fried) chicken make them black-ish, instead of black? This is a parody that pokes fun of people who believe that black families like this can’t exist and at the black families whose lives this show reflects.