Assism Is Not Feminism

Assism-Feminism-OurLegaci

People need to understand that women who present provocative images of themselves are not automatically making a feminist statement. This isn’t to say that a woman can’t express herself, but when this self expression is deeply hinged upon supporting oppressive systems it is not a liberation moment. This is why Nicki Minaj can express herself and still glorify Nazi propaganda. Kim Kardashian can express herself #ALLDAY and still glorify the hypersexualization of women’s bodies. Provocative imagery does not automatically equate to activism or empowerment.

feministtheoryThis point of confusion was described by bell hooks in Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center:

“A central problem within feminist discourse has been our inability to either arrive at a consensus of opinion about what feminism is or accept definition(s) that could serve as points of unification. (p. 18)”

This statement feels even more relevant in 2014 as it did in 1984, especially with the emergence of what some are calling “Millennial Feminism.” Across the digital sphere conversations are constantly springing up around feminism. Still, few are actually producing or referring to a substantial definition of feminism.

The fixation on women’s butts, I’ll call it “assism” is a well documented form of objectification, deeply rooted in the commodification of Black women’s bodies. Kim Kardashian accentuates this fixation, layering it with the benefits of whiteness to score on monetary profits. Though Nicki Minaj is Black she comes as close as she can to Kim K by combining anti-black sentiments with the commodification of Black phenotypes to yet again benefit monetarily. Additionally neither of them are bothered by classism as a form of oppression. They are not feminists. Stop trying to make fetch happen.

ButSomeOfUsFeminism is hinged upon an awareness of oppression in conjunction with working towards ending all forms of it. In All the Women Are White, All The Blacks Are Men: But Some Of Us Are Brave, Barbara Smith explains:

“Feminism is the political theory and practice that struggles to free all women: women of color, working-class women, poor women, disabled women, lesbians, old women–as well as white, economically privileged, heterosexual women. Anything less than this vision of total freedom is not feminism, but merely female self-aggrandizement. (p. 49)”

To refer to Nicki Minaj or Kim Kardashian as de facto feminist icons is to minimize the anti-oppressive backbone of feminism. It’s reductionist thinking. Neither of these women have exhibited any substantial work towards ending sexist, racial, or economic oppression.

While some may point to their open display of sexuality as a liberation moment, this thought process over looks the fact that their displays are based more on the history of women’s commodified bodies under the patriarchal gaze. Yes, they make a lot of money doing this but that does not necessarily translate into freedom. They are riding the constant wave of hypersexualized images of Black women’s bodies with no intention of challenging the status quo. In fact it becomes a competition of who can promote sexual commercial objectification more, who can more closely embody the mainstreamed fantasy of women in sexualized positions.

Yet none of this is new or shocking. It’s actually pretty underwhelming. Another day another booty. Where is the triumph in that? It’s an attention getting tactic but it is not a feminist manifesto or challenge to oppression. The recurring statement is that they were “free” enough to show themselves. However if the only way for them to gain the public’s attention is through a constant stream of butt shots what does that say about society? That’s a far cry from freedom or liberation.

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Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda was an act of desperation used to counter the emergence of Iggy Azalea. Iggy then responded by appearing alongside JLo in a video for a song literally called, “Booty.”

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Since the emergence of her sex tape with Ray J, Kim Kardashian has been profiting from racialized butt adoration for years.

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The sentiment has been, “You want to see more? Here you go!”

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Perhaps for her that’s winning. But is it winning for women overall? It doesn’t challenge the realities that women face everyday as constantly sexualized beings. This imagery plays up the dehumanization and never dares to deconstruct or even acknowledge it. This article is not suggesting a policing of women’s bodies. It’s about recognizing a thing for what it is. Nakedness can be a political empowering statement  but Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj are not examples of that. This may be provocative but it is not feminism.

We already have a plethora of mistruths floating around about feminism. Why add to the list? It’s very dangerous for feminists to automatically embrace commodified sexual images as feminist modules. There are levels to this. Where are the discussions about about intentions and context? It is a teachable moment. But it is not a grand moment in Women’s History.

Sorry folks but assism is not feminism.

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com. To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com.

Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

Now Hiring: Director of White Women Outreach

THE DirectorOf White Women Outreach (2)

Let’s face it progressives, liberals, activists and etc. White women voters as a demographic are a thorn on the progressive movement.

As an African American woman writer I focus much of my time on “African American” issues. For that reason it may seem odd that I’m using my platform to focus on White women as a voter demographic. I do this because mainstream media continually blames Black communities for not voting enough. Then President Obama is blamed for what was basically the outcome of extreme voter suppression and scaredy cat democratic candidates. Meanwhile Black women voters supported Democrats, in some cases voting over 90% for democratic candidates. Black men voters had similar numbers.

Days before election day, Obama said that “Pookie” needed to vote. Pookie was used as a character to describe young Black men like my cousins and brothers that you wouldn’t typically view as the “voting type” (what ever that is). This is a stereotype in itself but I knew where he was coming from. Basically, everybody. Absolutely everybody needed to vote. However, perhaps election day would have been better for the progressive movement if Democrats had said, “Mrs. Sally needs to vote and vote for candidates that will actually care about her health, education, and right to equal pay.” An entire demographic was preparing to solidify the working class’ fate to dust and the Democrats let it happen.

How did this happen?

1. Fierce voter disenfranchisement across the country targeted the poor, young, Black, Brown, and women. So much has been written about this yet mainstream media outlets are clamoring over all the various “reasons” Democrats lost, many of them overlooking the effects of voter disenfranchisement during the recent election.

2. Democrats fell for the mystical anti-Obama polls.  Thus, they hinged they’re candidacy on this, “I’m not really friends with Obama” theme. Michelle Nunn even aired commercials showcasing George H.W. Bush as some sort of ally. Alison Lundergan Grimes couldn’t decide if she’d ever voted for Obama. Grimes’ campaign slogan might as well had been, “Coal, Coal, Guns & NoBama.” It failed. It failed miserably.

3. White women voted but they weren’t progressive. The progressive movement has spent a lot of time focusing on what has been dubbed Women’s Issues, Black Issues, and Latino Issues but has not spent enough time focusing on “white women” as a specific demographic. I’ve been in a number of initiatives where the focus is automatically on people of color, “How do we reach them?” This makes white people once again be inadvertently viewed as the normative group. Yes, you know where they are. Yes, white people are predominantly on your mailing list but how do you reach white people outside of your progressive bubble? What is the plan for that other than ignoring it or pandering to “moderate” values? The answer is there is none. This is laziness and it is not working.

The cancer of racism is deeply rooted in patriarchy, classism, sexism and individualism. Thus, the Republican Party hires specialists to help them play up societal tensions under the guise of “Christian” family values and sexual wholesomeness. Religious rhetoric is manipulated and used as a communication tool for maintaining a mental stronghold over the conservative base. This abusive tactic of societal influence has been central to U.S. domination for 400 years. The concept of Manifest Destiny is a historical example of its usage. This is why fear mongering along with the perpetuating of these ideals are still successful even as the emerging majority becomes more centralized.

It also addresses why heterosexual married white women follow their husband’s vote. They are aligning themselves with white male privilege and adhering to obedience under the rules of male domination. This is where the staunch resistance to birth control access comes from. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the Republican platform for Renewing American Values. Check out the key words, “traditional” marriage and the juxtaposition of “culture” and “poverty.”

Republicans hired people. Really good people. The “Death Tax” guy is proof of that. It’s propaganda, subliminal messaging and entitlement signaling 101.

Consequently, many white women voters consistently vote against measures and candidates that would work towards advancing access to women’s health care, increase wages for the working class, build a better education system and anything that would support the upward mobility of the emerging majority (the others).

Why does this keep happening?

White progressives are guilty of normalizing whiteness by not treating it seriously, by not looking at white women and men as real demographics. White is not the “default” race. In many campaigns there are designated African American, Latino American, and Asian American and Pacific Islander Outreach Directors. People of color (I hate this term) are constantly “studied,” poked, and prodded.

Yet as Andrea Grimes noted in White Women: Let’s Get Our Shit Together:

Among voters, 94 percent of Black women, 90 percent of Black men, 61 percent of Latinas, and 49 percent of Latinos in Texas voted for Wendy Davis.

Meanwhile, just 32 percent of white Texas women who voted did so for Wendy Davis.

Who is in charge of outreach to white women voters? This a demographic that needs serious attention.

Black activists take a lot of heat during outreach and education efforts. We are doing our part.  We keep talking about outreach in Black hair salons, in barbershops, and on HBCU campuses. What about predominantly white hair salons, churches, etc?

Joan Walsh has been trying to make progressives think about this to no avail. John Haplin and Ruy Teixeira summarized a 2013 speech where Walsh advised that:

…whites are not a monolithic group: “If whites in Ohio and Wisconsin and other Mid-west states voted like those in Virginia, Obama would have lost the election.” Progressives, of course, are not unaware of these trends. But there is little evidence that much is being done to expand institutional outreach, community building, and political education in white working-class communities outside of the rust belt areas and big cities where labor unions and other working class organizations continue to do great work. The key for progressives is to develop a mechanism for reaching more members of the white working class in the same way that they have organized communities of color, young people, women, and professionals.

This is going to take willpower. Outreach efforts will require a nuanced understanding of public relations, while breaking down the often fear-filled logic behind many societal tensions. It also requires constant intensive face-to-face activism. There needs to be a real debriefing, an action plan for making sure this never happens again. Until then, I don’t want to hear another thing about the Black vote. White women voted. And look what happened.

If the progressive movement wants to succeed in the near future, it’s time to hire a Director of White Women Outreach.

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JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com. To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com.

Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

 

 

 

 

Top 5 Phenomenal A Different World Episodes

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As an 80’s baby, I grew up watching A Different World. I can honestly say that the show affected my life in a number of ways. It was the reason why I wanted to attend an HBCU. Consequently, I attended both Albany State University and The Fort Valley State University for undergrad. The first time I ever heard Nikki Giovanni’s “Ego Tripping” poem, was while watching an A Different World episode. I was just a kid but I still remember thinking to myself, “Wow I have to find this poem.” Did I mention, I’m also a poet?

The power of A Different World was its complete grounding in the African American experience. It was when Debbie Allen stepped at the beginning of the second season that the show really started molding towards this trajectory. A Different World started off as a Cosby Show spin off, following Denise to college and ended as a show with a massive following and fan base completely its own.

There are a slew of memorable episodes but here are my top 5.

1. The “A World Alike” episode aired in 1990, when I was five years old. I saw it a number of times as a re-run. It was one of the first times I heard African Americans speaking about what I would later come to understand as Pan-Africanism. The students at Hillman College were putting pressure on their school to divest from South Africa and cut off all connections with any companies that engaged in business with South Africa during the apartheid era. It was real life worldwide protests like this that supported South African freedom fighters and helped bring additional awareness about the horrors of apartheid in South Africa.

2. The “Mammy Dearest” episode aired in 1991. Kim, an aspiring doctor recounted how she was called “Mammy” as a child, after she dressed up as a queen. The pain of this stuck with her, as a young dark skinned Black girl. Meanwhile, Whitley struggled with the new found knowledge that her family had owned slaves. It was during this episode that Kim triumphantly performed Nikki Giovanni’s “Ego Tripping.” She shed the mammy stereotype and was re-crowned queen (I’m pretty sure I practiced this scene about 10 times. My favorite line was, “I turned myself into myself, and was Jesus.”

3. The “No Means No” episode aired in 1989. In this episode Dwayne learns that one of his friends is a rapist. His friend Garth bragged to him about forcing a girl to have sex. Garth says, “Once we got started, she started putting up a fuss. You know how they are. They wanna do it but they just can’t give it up. It’s our job to let them off the hook.” Dwayne then realizes that his friend Freddie who has a date with Garth, is in danger. He rescues her right as Garth is trying to rape her. This episode does a great job of defining rape with its mantra, “No means no!” There is no confusion or excuses.

4. The “Love Taps” episode aired in 1992. In this episode Gina attempts to hide her abusive relationship with Dion, a local rapper. With black-eyes and bruises, Gina is caught in the cycle of abuse and is unsure how to escape. Her friend Lena tries to help her but she is too ashamed to accept assistance. Once the rumor spreads about her painful truth everything unveils and her circle of friends comes to support and protect her. This is what needs to happen in real life. So many Black women are in abusive relationships and not enough receive the support that is needed in order to break away from them. The episode also touches on the recursive nature of abuse. Dion recounts how his father beat his mother. In real life many abusers grow up in domestic violence environments and grow up to become perpetrators themselves. Most importantly this episodes shows Black women AND Black men coming to her defense.

5. “Save The Best For Last”, known to many at Whitley and Dwayne’s wedding episode is one of my absolute favorites. It aired in 1992. I don’t advocate someone storming into an ex-girlfriend’s wedding to confess their undying love and steal the bride. However, this episode showcases a powerful bond and love between two Black people that is not seen enough on television or anywhere in the media for that matter. I also rewound this scene a number of times.

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JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com. To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com. Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.

Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

RIO Hair Naturalizer System, Magic Hair Pills, And God Knows What Else

Photo Credit: Youtube Screenshot

Photo Credit: Youtube Screenshot

Years ago Black women across America were enthralled with the hottest new hair product on the market, the RIO Natural Hair Relaxer. It was supposedly so harmless, that the infomercial showed someone eating it. It was the best thing since sliced bread. Until people suffered from severe hair loss, burned scalps and hair that turned green. There was a class action lawsuit and the company quickly folded. It caused a nationwide alopecia outbreak  that is still being talked about. However, it’s a key lesson of caution that is often forgotten.

There are a plethora of articles about the harmful effects of relaxers (especially when applied by non-professionals). However, the natural hair community is not exempt to throwing caution to the wind when it comes to hair. This is because dialogue about natural hair often emphasizes length, and other ways (besides perms) to alter the natural texture of hair.

Right now there are a few products on the market that are exciting hair enthusiasts and raising the eyebrows of skeptics. I’m one of those skeptics, mostly because I know these products are going to draw in a lot of money for the worst reason imaginable. Simply put, Black women relaxed or natural are still overly consumed with hair texture and length. These are remnants of Western beauty standards that perforate the otherwise positive discourse surrounding going natural.

As far as we’ve come with recognizing our natural beauty, there’s still a long way to go.

There are countless products focused on helping women with natural hair get the “perfect” curls. Followers flock to these brands in hopes that they too would have “curly” hair. The problem is, for everyone, natural hair is different, so certain curls are completely unrealistic for some.

Consequently, people are going through stunt shows for the “good” hair they claim not to want. People are obsessively popping pills ordered from the internet or putting their scalps at risk with the latest miracle concoction.

I’m not against pills or relaxers, I just want people to be more cautious. Right now, there are a plethora of tex-lax, natural relaxers and hair growth pills permeating the natural hair market place. These products are best used under the guidance of professionals and physicians.

In the case of hair growth pills, there is an ongoing debate as to whether or not they render desired results. Some users have even claimed that pills caused hair thinning and acne breakouts. These are symptoms of what could be greater unknown affects to your body. As I tell you these things, remember I’m not a doctor but you probably aren’t either. This is why greater counsel than a Youtube video is needed when deciding to use these products.

In the case of natural relaxers, tex-laxers and hair straightening crèmes, consumers are often mesmerized by the term “natural.” In the beauty product world, “natural” actually means a lot of things. Products regularly contain ingredients that can be labeled as natural even though they contain synthetic substances. This is because the FDA has yet to define what “natural” actually means.

FDA has not defined the term “natural” and has not established a regulatory definition for this term in cosmetic labeling.

And remember, choosing ingredients from sources you consider “organic” or “natural” is no guarantee that they are safe. You are still responsible for making sure your ingredients are safe when used according to the labeling, or as they are customarily used, no matter what kinds of ingredients you use.  Source FDA

Unfortunately, so many people still haven’t learned their lesson. Every year there’s a new hot product that promises Black women long flowing hair. Many of these come in the form of pills and elixirs. As many times as we’ve been through this, I’m flummoxed by how quickly people put their lives on the line for hair.

Vitamins are no exception either. Contrary to popular belief, “vitamin” is not synonymous with “harmless.”

On October 10, 2011, researchers from the University of Minnesota found that women who took supplemental multivitamins died at rates higher than those who didn’t. Two days later, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic found that men who took vitamin E had an increased risk of prostate cancer. “It’s been a tough week for vitamins,” said Carrie Gann of ABC News.

These findings weren’t new. Seven previous studies had already shown that vitamins increased the risk of cancer and heart disease and shortened lives. Still, in 2012, more than half of all Americans took some form of vitamin supplements. (pg. 1)

Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic, said, “The concept of multivitamins was sold to Americans by an eager nutraceutical industry to generate profits. There was never any scientific data supporting their usage.” (pg. 2) Source: The Atlantic

Additionally, certain vitamins are better suited for certain bodies. Certain people have deficiencies that others don’t, for them an increased intake of these vitamins may increase hair growth. Right now the vitamin Biotin is the popular kid on the hair block.

Excess biotin is excreted in urine; therefore, no known side effects exist for this vitamin. However, any ingested substance carries the potential for an allergic reaction; consequently, let your physician know if you have any allergic reaction to biotin, as advised by Drugs.com.

The fact that it is a B vitamin indicates that people who have an allergy to cobalt or to cobalamin should not take biotin. In individual cases of allergy, a serious reaction may result. Signs include chest and throat tightness with chest pain, which could indicate the life-threatening reaction, anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can produce a loss of consciousness and severe respiratory or breathing problems. This is an emergency situation — immediate medical treatment is essential. Source: Livestrong

Livestrong also notes:

…it is important to note that the amount of biotin you take or consume is not commensurate with the amount of hair growth that will occur. Instead, biotin is more often used to supplement those who have a biotin deficiency. For these people, consuming increased amounts of biotin or taking a biotin supplement is associated with faster hair growth.

The amount of people that are willing to gulp down a pill for speedy hair growth, instead of eat healthier for overall health is disturbing. Countless Youtube videos and articles across the blogosphere are unknowingly encouraging recklessness. Every time you swallow a pill or “vitamin” for the sake of hair growth without first seeking professional medical guidance, you are putting your life at risk.

Even though it may be unnecessary, some vloggers are offering non-chemical methods for hair growth like the inversion method. The premise is that by placing your head at an inverted angle and rubbing the scalp, it stimulates blood flow and increases hair growth. Once again, I’m skeptical.

However, if people want to stand on one leg, hop around in a circle, bark like a dog 3 times and spit when the wind blows west, and it keeps them from unnecessarily popping pills; it’s better than the alternative.

Just please stop taking your hair more seriously than your health. Let’s focus instead on overall wellbeing starting with exercise, an apple, kale and some almonds.

 

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JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com. To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com. Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.

Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

The Losing Paradigm of Nicki Mi-Not

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Last month the internet was set ablaze with Nicki Minaj’s booty opus, “Anaconda.” Some saw it as a body positive victory as Minaj proclaimed, “F*** the skinny b**ches.” Yet others like myself saw it as a final flame of hope in a withering torch. Through Nicki Minaj’s music video and Video Music Awards performance, the world witnessed her extreme act of desperation in hopes of not being overshadowed by Iggy Azalea (whom some are referring to as the female Vanilla Ice).

Nicki was the ultimate “barb,” presented with pop culture approval with her hit single “Starships.” Just as Nicki grew tired of her new pop star status, switching her blonde hair back to black, in comes Iggy Azalea.

As much as mainstream music fans claimed to love Nicki, proclamations that Iggy Azalea “runs hip hop” emerged almost overnight. She was even proclaimed “hip-hop’s bright blonde star.” Nicki Minaj was suddenly Nicki Mi-not. No matter how blonde her hair could go, no matter how much her skin color was altered in photos, no matter the amount of plastic surgery, Nicki was never going to be the “Barbie” she and many of her fans aspired to be. Iggy Azalea had the security of Whiteness and Nicki didn’t.

Though Nicki’s popularity was bolstered from the support of young Black girls, her idea of beauty was steeped in anti-blackness. She exclaimed that Black girls were “nappy headed hoes” in need of a “permanator.” She said they were “chimpanzees” eating bananas. Still Nicki Minaj was a power force.

Now with the emergence of Iggy Azalea, Nicki has chosen to rely on booty prowess as her savior. Ironically, while savoring anti-Blackness, she uses a traditionally African phenotype as a crutch. Additionally, there is a difference between asserting sexuality and utilizing capitalism’s tradition of objectifying the female body for profit and plunder.

This is a losing paradigm.

Iggy-JLOIn response to Nicki’s “Anaconda” video and gyrating buttocks, Iggy declared that she too could be a carefully constructed object of desire. Jennifer Lopez featured Iggy on her song “Booty.” The two women literally bumped bottoms in a lackluster thirsty bid for musically inept attention. It’s tit for tat in this game of butts and nobody wins.

Iggy Azealea tries so hard to prove her “realness” but both in voice and construction continuously lacks authenticity. She could have been just as popular with her natural Australian accent. Instead she’s chosen a path of badly imitating Black girls from Atlanta.

Opinions bounce back and forth on Nicki and Iggy. Yet neither artist is authentic. The emerging booty wars are proof of that. Black women have been adored for well-rounded derrières as well hypersexualized for what feels like an eternity. This mainstream thrust towards big butts has become more of a multicultural affair through the wonders of modern medicine and plastic surgery. Yet, just like the African history of braids vs Bo Derek, mainstream media often forgets these truths.

This is nothing new. In fact it’s so old, it’s depressing.

In 2014, women (one white and one black) feel that the best way to trump each other is by flailing around buttocks. In the spirit of hip-hop, a rap battle may have been more sustainable for their careers than this.

For now, Nicki is being supported by her decreasing legion of Barbz. On the other hand, Iggy is riding the wave of corporate sponsored Ice-Ice baby privilege. Both are temporary crutches to an ongoing problem.

Male rappers engage in competitions rooted in the legacy of hyper masculinity. Yet, there hasn’t been a time in rap history (that I can think of) where male rappers literally engage in genital slinging competitions. Perhaps this is proof that the music industry and audiences still have a long way to go in terms of accepting women performers without the need for a sexualized visual display. However, it’s also a fact that pop artists often use sexual imagery in lieu of talent.

Artists like Lauryn Hill, Janelle Monae, Adele and Lorde are examples of women artists that are loved by audiences internationally for their artistry and creativity. Miraculously they gained appeal while circumventing the pressures to bare all, though they’ve endured their own plights dealing with Western ideas of beauty.

While Nicki Minaj is far more lyrically talented than Iggy Azalea, both of them are lacking in terms of creativity and innovation. There’s no message beyond hood codes and bad bitchism. It’s hard to imagine Nicki Minaj performing “Anaconda and Iggy Azalea performing “Booty 30 years from now and audiences still paying to see it. There’s no message, there’s no meaning and neither song is pleasing to the ear.

Yes, it is a woman’s prerogative to twerk or not to twerk. But this booty campaign that pop artists are tapping into is both dated and a signal of desperation. Is this truly all they have to offer? A rap battle, a lyrical challenge, anything but this would be better. This is a war that can’t truly be won. There will always be someone new, fresh from the doctor’s office with a bigger butt and perhaps even more talent. Then both of them will become obsolete.

For now, the words of Lauryn Hill still ring true, “Everything you drop is so tired. Music is supposed to inspire. How come we ain’t getting no higher?

 

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JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com. To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com. Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.

Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

33 Brilliant Quotes From Legendary Black Women Writers

 

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Ntozake Shange

Growing up as a Black girl writer, various books and writers sustained me. One such writer was Zora Neale Hurston. I lived by her. Her robust unveiling of Black human experiences were the literary nourishment to my young mind. I read over and over again her short story, The Gilded Six Bits.  It was like I was there. I could feel the spirited home of Missie May and Joe. I could taste the molasses kisses Joe bought for their new born baby boy. I was literally wrapped up in the entire story.

Yet what intrigued me the most about Zora as a writer was her free spirit. As a folklorist and anthropologist, she saw the world and soaked up its wonders. This captivated me.  As I grew older, the list of Black women writers that ruled my universe expanded. In college I was enamored with Ntozake Shange, then in graduate school mesmerized by June Jordan. They all knew a part of my soul, they all held pieces of me in their words. It was a long running connectedness. With each page turned, I saw myself.

When it seemed like the world had turned against me or had become lopsided, they turned it right side up again. Through their writings they let me know, that the things I’m seeing and experiencing are real. Most of all I learned that I had the right to tell my truth, no matter how often its existence may be denied and its fullness unsuccessfully subdued.

This edging out is a tradition of oppression, while the ability to rise even in its midst is a signature testament to the dynamic tradition of literary inspired liberation through Black women writers.

Here are some quotes from legendary Black women writers that can be used as continual tools for learning, growth, confidence and fearlessness.

 

1. “It’s no use of talking unless people understand what you say.” -Zora Neale Hurston

 

2. “No black woman writer in this culture can write “too much.” Indeed, no woman writer can write ‘too much’…No woman has ever written enough.” – bell hooks

 

3. “I’m a firm believer that language and how we use language determines how we act, and how we act then determines our lives and other people’s lives.” -Ntozake Shange

 

4. “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” – Audre Lorde

 

5. “We write for the same reason that we walk, talk, climb mountains or swim the oceans – because we can. We have some impulse within us that makes us want to explain ourselves to other human beings.” – Maya Angelou

 

6. “I think writing really helps you heal yourself. I think if you write long enough, you will be a healthy person. That is, if you write what you need to write, as opposed to what will make money, or what will make fame.” -Alice Walker

 

7. “If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” -Toni Morrison

 

8.  “The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power.” -Toni Morrison

 

9. “Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.” ― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 

10.  “Everything I’ve ever done, in the writing world, has been to expand articulation, rather than to close it.” – Toni Morrison

 

11.  “Challenging power structures from the inside, working the cracks within the system, however, requires learning to speak multiple languages of power convincingly.” – Patricia Hill Collins

 

12. “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” ― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 

13. “Writing can be a lifeline, especially when your existence has been denied, especially when you have been left on the margins, especially when your life and process of growth have been subjected to attempts at strangulation.” ― Micere Githae Mugo

 

14. “Sure you can do anything when talking or writing, it’s not like living when you can only do what you doing.” ― Sapphire

 

15. “A writer should get as much education as possible, but just going to school is not enough; if it were, all owners of doctorates would be inspired writers.” – Gwendolyn Brooks

 

16. “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.” ― Octavia E. Butler

 

17. “I write for young girls of color, for girls who don’t even exist yet, so that there is something there for them when they arrive. I can only change how they live, not how they think.” -Ntozake Shange

 

18. “Let woman’s claim be as broad in the concrete as the abstract. We take our stand on the solidarity of humanity, the oneness of life, and the unnaturalness and injustice of all special favoritism, whether of sex, race, country, or condition. If one link of the chain is broken, the chain is broken.” – Anna Julia Cooper

 

19. “I don’t want to be limited or ghettoized in any way.” -Sista Soulja

 

20. “Discomfort is always a necessary part of enlightenment.” ― Pearl Cleage

 

21. “Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.” -Maya Angelou

 

22. “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” ― Octavia E. Butler

 

23. “Many times, what people call ‘writer’s block’ is the confusion that happens when a writer has a great idea, but their writing skill is not up to the task of putting that idea down on paper. I think that learning the craft of writing is critical.” -Pearl Cleage

 

24. “Shakespeare wrote about love. I write about love. Shakespeare wrote about gang warfare, family feuds and revenge. I write about all the same things.” -Sister Souljah

 

25. “Putting words on paper regularly is part of the necessary discipline of writing.” -Pearl Cleage

 

26. “Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness.” -Alice Walker

 

27. “You must be unintimidated by your own thoughts because if you write with someone looking over you shoulder, you’ll never write.” ― Nikki Giovanni

 

28. “Writers don’t write from experience, although many are hesitant to admit that they don’t. …If you wrote from experience, you’d get maybe one book, maybe three poems. Writers write from empathy.” ― Nikki Giovanni

 

29. “There is always something left to love. And if you ain’t learned that, you ain’t learned nothing.” -Lorraine Hansberry

 

30. “People who want to write either do it or they don’t. At last I began to say that my most important talent – or habit – was persistence. Without it, I would have given up writing long before I finished my first novel. It’s amazing what we can do if we simply refuse to give up.” ― Octavia E. Butler

 

31. “People wish to be poets more than they wish to write poetry, and that’s a mistake. One should wish to celebrate more than one wishes to be celebrated.” -Lucille Clifton

 

32. “Poetry is a political act because it involves telling the truth.” ― June Jordan

 

33. “We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.” -Angela Davis

 

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IMG_0054-ZF-7906-35913-1-001-006Jessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com. To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com. Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.

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Read Boy! I Don’t Have It All But God…

MotherAndSonII

During my high school year I was employed at the Brooklyn Public Library. I enjoyed it cause it allowed me to pick up a few things to read. One day, as I was shelving books, I noticed a mother and son sitting on the seat having a conversation. It was an African American woman with a kid who had to be about 12 years old… and it wasn’t until long that I noticed that they visited the library consistently… everyday.

They were homeless. What made it even more sad was that she wasn’t mentally stable. I’m not a doctor but my diagnosis… schizophrenic.

Whenever they felt it was the time to bathe in the bathroom, I remember discreetly placing a few dollars on their seat before they would get back. I didn’t want people to know I cared. It never failed. Whenever they would get back and discover the money, the mother would tell her son to run out and get some food. He would always come back with a box of Chinese food with an extra tray to share with his mom. She would always decline and say “Nah it’s for you, all of it. I’m not hungry. I don’t have it all but God gonna give it to ya, everything that I can’t.” It was touching but also funny because she would always end up picking off from the plate and nearly eating half anyway.

On a daily basis I watched her Jekyll & Hyde from unstable to sane. When she had these moments, I can tell that the son was sort of embarrassed but no one reacted. When she was sane, she would say things like “Read, read. Can’t go no where with nothin’ in that head. Take God with ya.” Kind of profound for someone mentally ill… or maybe it was a spirit?

Yesterday night, I was at Brooklyn College in the computer lab and I overheard someone behind me say in a conversation, “I’m graduating in May. I just wish my mom was here to see this.” I turned around and looked and it was the boy at the library. His mother passed. As he began to walk away I stopped and told him that I was proud of him and everything he went through. But because he didn’t remember my face, he assumed I was only talking about him finishing undergrad and said, “Thank you.”

 

Have a personal or inspiring story to share? Email OurLegaci@gmail.com for consideration.

DonJacquesDon Jacques currently resides in Brooklyn NY. He is currently finishing his undergraduate studies in Business Marketing and finds likings in the areas of Business entrepreneurship, music and philanthropic work. He is currently serving as a board member of Tomorrow’s Leaders NYC INC., a program dedicated to enrich underdeveloped youth socially, emotionally and academically. He plans to continue to expand his philanthropic endeavors in the near future.