33 Brilliant Quotes From Legendary Black Women Writers

 

Ntozake-Shange-Black-Women-Writers

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

 

Spread The Word. Share This Post!

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.

Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

About these ads

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.

Ray-Rice

All My Life I Had To Fight

About four years ago I was having a discussion with a friend about his new web show. He wanted to focus on topics concerning the Black community. I told him we should discuss domestic violence. To which he responded, “That’s not an issue. A sista would never let somebody beat her!” I stood there in disbelief, that a grown man with a family could actually believe such a thing. But there we were, standing outside with me trying my best to convince him that many Black women were getting physically abused everyday and it had nothing to do with us “letting” something happen.

Fast forward to earlier this year when Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was seen on video dragging his then girlfriend’s body on the floor of an elevator. Excuses ensued. What happened that night? The theories went as followed:

She was drunk and he was taking her back to their room.

They were both fighting.

Maybe he beat her up.

We don’t know what happened, so “let’s not judge.”

While watching him kick and drag her limp body, there were many presumptions about what happened. The main one always circled around “her involvement.” Not long after, Janay Palmer and Ray Rice married. Then, came the press conference. The couple sat along side each other with Ray trying to undo the PR disaster, while Janay was forced to apologize for “her role.”

Months later, with the football season starting, the full video of the assault has been released. It showed that he spat on her, punched her in the face multiple times, kicked her and dragged her. Now that the public has a wider view of the assault, the excuses are:

They were both fighting.

Maybe he beat her up.

We don’t know all of what happened, so “let’s not judge.”

She provoked him.

She started it.

She still married him.

She doesn’t care, why should we?

She must be a gold digger.

The excuses are almost the same even though we’ve seen the footage. We saw what happened to her. We saw how it happened. Yet, there is still somehow this belief that it “didn’t really happen like that.”

The same thing happened in 2007, when preacher Juanita Bynum was choked and stomped in an Atlanta parking lot. The excuse then was, “She didn’t let him be the man.” This was a woman that had advocated for women to have sex with their husbands, even if they didn’t feel like it. If anyone was a trumpet of patriarchy, she was. Still, the very community she preached within ignored the violence and conjured up ways to blame her for being physically abused.

This leads me back to the discussion I had with my friend. Perhaps, he didn’t see domestic violence in our community because he didn’t want to. Perhaps he didn’t believe it for the same reasons the people defending Ray Rice don’t. They don’t want to believe it because it would mean that Black women can no longer be the blame for “violence” against us. That’s scary because then people would have to be held accountable, Black men included. That’s something our community continues to grapple with. How do we end violence against Black women without further criminalizing Black men in an atmosphere that is hostile to Blackness?

That’s why at this moment there are some people worried about Rice’s career. Where will he work? How will he live? Will he ever be able to get a job again?

Yet, we should be worried about Janay Rice. Will she be okay? Will he take his anger out on her…again? Is she safe? Where will she go? Does she have family members that will support her instead of tell her to “stand by his side?”

There is a difference between criminalizing and protecting. Criminalizing is when a person or group of people are unjustly deemed as inherently criminal. Protecting is when there are consequences for harming a person or group of people unjustly. Protection is a mechanism of prevention. When a man kicks a woman and punches her in the face and he loses his job or goes to jail for it, that’s called Protection. We’re letting members of society know that for the safety of everyone, this will not be tolerated.

For many battered women, there is no where else to go. They often endure mental abuse that prevents further access to care and freedom. This belief that she somehow “provoked him” or “he just snapped” is why so many women are battered and die under those circumstances. It’s just an excuse, another trope of denial in order to circumvent accountability.

This did happen. This is happening.

Still, it is no surprise that Janay Rice partially blames herself. This often happens to battered women. As a well meaning survival mechanism, at times they defend the abuser, taking on the blame for themselves as a way to avoid facing the reality of what’s really happening.

Often times when there are debates about sexism in the Black community, male counterparts often ask, “What privileges do Black men have?” In case you’re still wondering, this is what Black male privilege looks like. It’s the privilege to withhold accountability in cases of sexual and physical abuse against Black women, and still have members of the community vehemently defend their right to do so. Abusers will have people rally on their behalf, including their own victims.

The same thing happens to sexual abuse victims. People go through oratory gymnastics to blame molestation, rape and sexual abuse on the women and girls that were abused. We’ll hear things like:

She was a fast girl.

Why was she over there if she didn’t want it?

She knew what she was doing.

Why didn’t she say anything, if she didn’t like it?

This shower of condemnation of the survivor and excuses for the perpetrator happen time and time again in the case of sexual abuse against Black women.

However, it would be dangerous to believe that sexism, patriarchy, and abuse exist as vacuums in Black communities. They are an overall societal problem, prompted up my mainstream culture. The key issue with the Black community is, because mainstream culture already demonizes Blackness, the Black community fears that by outing abusers, they are adding to the demonization of their community. This has become a dangerously error-prone survival mechanism. Instead there should be an understanding that outing abusers (no matter who they are) is a way of strengthening the overall health of communities.

In Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, many Black women related to the now famous words:

 All my life I had to fight. I had to fight my brothers. I had to fight my cousins and my uncles. A girl child ain’t safe in a family of men. But I never thought I’d have to fight in my own house. I loves Harpo. God knows I do. But I’ll kill him dead before I let him beat me.

Country wide protests were launched against the movie by Black men and women stating that it would make our community look bad and that it demonized Black men. When on the contrary, it shed light on key issues like incest, child molestation, sexual abuse, patriarchy and domestic violence. These are the issues, we often refuse to seriously address as a community. There was nothing unreal about it. It was just the ugly painful truth for many generations of women. It for this reason that The Color Purple has since become a classic, with many scenes viewers can recite word-for-word.

Indeed, all our lives we’ve had to fight and it will only end when our community rejects its abusers. I’ve had close friends and family members that faced the world with broken souls after being sexually/physically abused and blamed for it. We have to make the decision. Will we protect abusers or not? Will we take a stand against violence or not?

In the case of Janay Rice, the three minute visual of Ray Rice beating her has created more public awareness. Though this is a sad situation, the good thing about public cases like this is that more and more people are publicly condemning this behavior. These condemnations are added boosts needed to sway public discourse around this topic. This issue isn’t solely about one couple or one woman. It’s about the strengthening of our community as a whole. Otherwise, it will crumble within.

Spread The Word. Share This Post!

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.

Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

We Stand On The Edge Of The World And Dance

Geoffrey And Carmen Our Legaci

Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade – Library of Congress – Carl Van Vechten Collection – Photo Enhancement by OurLegaci

While riding the tides of turmoil, Black identity can seem overwhelming. We are cloaked in a wondrous mystic that the world both consumes and rejects. Yet, still a dancing spirit overrides hopelessness. The inner joy of elder generations that proclaimed, “The world didn’t give it, the world can’t take it away,” resounds more than ever.

I’ve felt this throughout my childhood.

During summer break, my mother made me read books to keep my mind sharp. History books and short stories were among my favorites. There was one book in particular called, Eyewitness Negro History. My eyes widened as I read about revolts, the Great Migration and anything Zora wrote.

Church also played a crucial role in crafting the vividness of black identity.

Before church service, the elders would sing old negro spirituals, the kind you don’t hear anymore. The really old ones. Though I hated going to church so early, I secretly loved this part. “We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder”, “He’s A Lily In The Valley”, “You Don’t Know What The Lawd Tole’ Me”, “Come On In the Room” and “I Know I’ve Been Changed.”

On some songs, before every verse an elder sings the first few lines and then everyone joins in. You won’t find this on television. It isn’t for entertainment or show, it was just what we did.

Even then, I saw that we danced on the edge of the world.

I loved it all. It made me feel eternal. Connected. It was history. It was spirit. It was us. It was Blackness. There was no “proper” talk or no code switching.

“Jesus is my docta’ and he writes out alla my ‘scriptions.”

“The angels in heaven done signed my name.”

I was listening to a lively spiritual people.

Yet, this inner force was more than religion.

It was jazz, funk, soul, theater, poetry, story, dance and all the moving energies.

It was all the stories I read, watching them play out in my generation. It was Zora singing again. It was Carmen and Geoffrey. It was Maya’s Still I Rise.

It was everyone in the Gypsy Song performance.

It was my father’s Uncle Trouble.

It was the fact that people still cooked rabbit, coon and corn puddin. And it was Mother Burrell showing me how to do the  Suzie Q, they way she did it in Harlem.

It was the defiance of erasure, the boldness to live fiercely and joyously in spite of being marginalized and appropriated.

It was Langston‘s words :

They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,"
Then.

It was us still building for tomorrow. But until then, we stand on the edge of the world and dance.

Spread The Word. Share This Post!

 

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.

Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

 

 

Ferguson Police Are Following These Guidelines

ourlegaci-final-guidelines2

The following guidelines are for police officers, neighborhood watchmen and anyone else that was “frightened” by an unarmed Black person. They’ve been utilized successfully throughout the Jim Crow era and are heavily based on 18th century Slave Codes. Yet even in 2014, these guidelines are as ripe as ever. During the Ferguson police press conference held on August 15th, 2014, they let the public “know” that they are carefully following these guidelines step by step.

1. Act Like It Didn’t Happen

Best case scenario is if the person killed was a prisoner, had a criminal past, was homeless or a sex worker. Generally society has marginalized these sets of people so much that their humanity and human rights are often overlooked.  In that case, someone is less likely to champion for them, come looking for them or report them missing. This is the easiest type of crime to push under the rug.

If they officer that killed the person is also Black, this makes it even easier. Then the public can’t blame racism.

2. Hide The Facts

If there are any key facts that can point to your wrongdoing, hide or destroy them before the media or an outside department gets wind of it. Remember that the evidence is in your control. Sometimes people catch feelings, so fire or publicly discredit any possible whistleblowers. Dig up dirt on them to make their words less credible.

3. Be Slow To Make An Arrest

No matter if the killing took place in broad day light or how many people saw it, don’t make an immediate arrest. It didn’t happen until you said it happened. You are the one to determine whether an actual crime took place. Take as much time as you need. Don’t worry about public push back. Let them eat cake! In due time you will make your decision on how to handle this. Don’t provide any information to the public while you’re getting your story together/or creating one.

4. Demand that the public believe you over their lying eyes.

What? That’s not a chokehold, that’s the police officer giving the Heimlich maneuver to a helpless man.
 
What? That’s not a long distance shot, that’s a close range shot.
 
What? That’s not a gun, that’s a taser. At least, we thought it was a taser.
 

No matter what the video shows, don’t allow the public to believe their own eyes.

5. Create an optical illusion.

Is it a bird, a plane? The public has a short memory. Work off of that, use this knowledge to your advantage. If you have any footage or videos potentially showing the person in perceived devious acts, send it to every news media outlet imaginable. Even the blogs. Make sure that every Tom, Dick and Harry knows that one time, the person smoked weed or gave “the finger.” They were bad, very bad and had to be stopped before they became a greater nuisance to society.

6. Criminalize, Criminalize, Criminalize

Can you link the person to a crime? Can you dig up something from their past? Did they ever attend a juvenile detention center? Did they have alcohol or marijuana in their system? If any of these things applies, use it as your greatest asset. This will prove to some members of the public that the person was not worthy of life.  If you can’t find anything, make something up. Try to make it sound as believable as possible. Say the person was a suspect to a recent crime.

Do this even if the “alleged” crime is as simple as selling cigarettes on the side walk or stealing a box of Swisher Sweets. In the legendary words of Tim Gunn, “Make it work!”

7. Push For No Blacks On The Jury Or No Jury At All

If the case actually goes to trial, there can absolutely be no Black people on the jury. None. Push for them to all be excused for some sort of inherent bias. If even one Black person is on the jury, consider the case over. They fight amongst each other a lot, but they tend to run a tight ship when things get rough. Also push for no jury, if applicable. In that case your local friendly judge can let you go home.


8. Glorious Freedom – Rinse & Repeat 

If you’ve managed to make it through the obstacle course of so called “accountability” you’re free to go back on the streets to protect and serve. This also goes for self appointed neighborhood watchmen and anyone else that has taken an issue with Black people just living their lives.

Writer’s Note: Everyone of these instances continues to happen. The police departments are meant to protect and serve. There are many police officers across the country that are working with their local communities but there are others that are terrorizing their local communities.  There needs be a change, bottom up, top down and every way imaginable. At the same time I recognize that many people say they hate the police, until they need them. Whenever we feel like our lives are in danger we reach for the phone to call the police. But we need stability, trust and respect. Communities can not be protected without mutual respect. Crimes can not be solved and lives can not be saved if police don’t listen to the local community. But the question remains, “Do the police and government care about Black lives as much as others?” History has shown us the answer to that question time and time again. 

 

Spread The Word. Share This Post!

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.

Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

 

 

 
 
 

Riots Are The Language Of The Unheard: If You Don’t Want Riots Listen

Ferguson-Language-Of-The-Unheard

“Come on you f*ckin animals,” said a Ferguson police officer. These disturbing words capture the root of the issue in Ferguson. The reason Mike Brown was murdered in the first place was due to the local community being perceived and treated as sub-human/animals by the local police.

Their voices, their pleas for justice go ignored after an unarmed man has died. No one is listening.

They’ve marched. They’ve prayed. They’ve tried it all. And now they’re rioting.

What exactly is a riot? Is it a chaotic brutal rebellion? Is it a nonsensical act of frustration? Or is it more?

I’d say it’s the hearts, souls, minds of a people bent, twisted and turned as they shout and their words become frozen in space, never seeming to reach the ears of the intended receiver. Or even if the words are reached, the receiver doesn’t want to hear what they have to say..because their words are not important enough.

During the “Race” riots of the late 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And, what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the economic plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years.”

He didn’t advocate for riots but he understood why they occur. It’s not because people are undignified lunatics, on the prowl for destruction. It’s because people are battered, bruised, downtrodden and silenced. Riots happen because the state makes them happen by failing the community.

Right now in Ferguson, Missouri people want answers. In return they are receiving martial law, no-fly zones, tear gas, wooden bullets and arrests. What’s next, Drones?

If anyone has no dignity it’s the local police department, as they try to suppress the 1st amendment rights of the local community and the national media.

There are pleas for the community to maintain it’s “dignity” and not riot. Yet this perspective negates that fact that the riot itself is about regaining “dignity.” The rioters are saying, “Look at me! I’m here. I’m a human being and you can’t ignore me.”

To those that believe riots have no merit, PhD candidate Dara Walker makes a significant point:

One of the consequences of the Detroit Rebellion of 1967 was the creation of New Detroit, Inc. While it wasn’t quite a revolutionary response to unrest, it did work to lower unemployment rates amongst black youth, seek and implement remedies to improve the quality of education, etc. Also, the federal govt issued the Kerner Commission report because they actually took the riots of the 1960s seriously. The connection between the two? Officials and laypeople listened to the concerns of the rioters and their communities AFTER the riot.

The Kerner Commission report also noted that even in 1967, the riots much like the ones happening in Ferguson, did not stem from one event but over a period of time in which a “disturbing” atmosphere was created:

Disorder did not erupt as a result of a single “triggering” or “precipitating” incident. Instead, it was generated out of an increasingly disturbed social atmosphere, in which typically a series of tension-heightening incidents over a period of weeks or months became linked in the minds of many in the Negro community with a reservoir of underlying grievances. At some point in the mounting tension, a further incident—in itself often routine or trivial—became the breaking point and the tension spilled over into violence.

“Prior” incidents, which increased tensions and ultimately led to violence, were police actions in almost half the cases; police actions were “final” incidents before the outbreak of violence in 12 of the 24 surveyed disorders.

It’s been over 50 years since this report and tensions are still running high, mostly being fueled by police actions or the lack thereof in pertinent situations. In this case, Mike Brown was killed by a police officer. The police department is in-turn is keeping the killer’s name secret, is refusing to interview key witnesses and offers the public absolutely no solid information about the happenings of the case. It appears that instead of serving the people, the local police department is busy coming up with a story that does not match any of the key witness accounts circulating and documented by local media.

The Facebook page Son of Baldwin, shared a quote that further explains the issue. In a 1966 article , the iconic poet and novelist James Baldwin noted:

Now, what I have said about Harlem is true of Chicago, Detroit, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco—is true of every Northern city with a large Negro population. And the police are simply the hired enemies of this population. They are present to keep the Negro in [their] place and to protect white business interests, and they have no other function. They are, moreover—even in a country which makes the very grave error of equating ignorance with simplicity—quite stunningly ignorant; and, since they know that they are hated, they are always afraid. One cannot possibly arrive at a more surefire formula for cruelty.

This is why those pious calls to ‘respect the law,’ always to be heard from prominent citizens each time the ghetto explodes, are so obscene. The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer. To respect the law, in the context in which the American Negro finds themselves, is simply to surrender [their] self-respect.

This keeps happening, not because of the people but because of the state. There is no respect for the local community and fear is the driving force behind how the police interact with the community, which is why pictures of Ferguson, Missouri look like the scene of a war movie.

I’m not advocating for riots, but I’m cautious of any rhetoric that would serve to create a facade surrounding the local community of Ferguson. I implore that even in the midst of these riots, they are dignified.

Indeed, “a riot is the language of the unheard.” If you don’t want riots, listen.

 

Spread The Word. Share This Post!

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.

Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

 

 

We’re Making These People Famous

BGC-Chicago-Fight

I wish I were one of those “dignified” people that never watches reality tv or other trashy television shows, but the truth is I’m human. So I delve into the wacky world of reality tv from time to time. It all started when I was in middle school and MTV still aired the first 10 seasons of their leading reality tv show, The Real World. I can still remember the slap heard round the world from Real World Seattle (1998). I was 13 years old. Yes, I’m an old school reality tv viewer. I’m also ashamed to admit that I watched Flavor of Love (mostly out of confusion and horror). I didn’t make it through all of the seasons.

Over the last 15 years, reality tv has become a national past time in which viewers unite to watch the most outrageous, embarrassing and down right unbelievable antics ever seen on television. There is a good side to this and a bad side. The good side is, shows like American Greed highlight white collar crime in the corporate world, showcasing what shows like Cops refused to air. Shows like Shark Tank and The Profit highlight interesting business ideas along with basic business principles that aspiring entrepreneurs can learn from. There are many other examples of entertaining, yet educational reality tv shows. Yet, usually when reality tv is mentioned the first thing that comes to mind is Basketball Wives, Love and Hip Hop, Real Housewives and the Bad Girls Club.

I’m not going to pretend that I don’t watch some of these shows as well. It’s easy to get sucked into the seemingly never ending spiral of televised tomfoolery. I’d opt for a good PBS Frontline documentary over any of these shows. But when I do take that boredom inspired plunge towards VH1 or Bravo one thought continues to pervade my mind, “We’re making these people famous.”

As a culture critic, it’s imperative for me to know the latest television and digital trends. Yet, I can’t use this as a scapegoat. The truth of the matter is, every time I turn that channel, I’m helping to make people that would usually be non-factors (<–see what I did there) famous. It’s a scary fact that gnaws at my subconsciousness every time a bottle is thrown, a person is dragged, someone is punched in the facesomeone lands in prison or dead. Then there’s the pervasive yet subtle colorism, classist, handbag/hair obsessive ignorance that appears to heighten with every show. Now the reality tv legion has brought us BAPS (Black American Princesses and Princes).

I haven’t watched it and don’t plan on it. When it comes to reality tv, I’m quite simply tired of money hungry, violence and cattiness being popularized. And I actually feel sorry for many of the cast mates that feel like they must do outrageous things in order to stay relevant enough to come back for another season, keep receiving the grossly underpaid checks, and keep renting houses/cars they can’t afford. It’s people from all backgrounds and cultures, not just Black women as some would like you to believe. Meanwhile, the television networks bank millions due to the reality tv industry’s abusive and manipulative practices.

In the end, almost no one comes out on top. The few 15 minutes of fame will render Twitter followers, club party promotions, leftover trinkets and if you’re lucky another chance to make a fool of yourself on television. The one thing that most cast members come away with is a forever documented tape of embarrassment.

Even though this fame is temporary, it’s impactful. There is an entire generation of young women aspiring to be the “baddest bitch” in order to be on the “Bad Girls” club and etc. The lines between reality and fiction become more blurred everyday. Thus it’s not surprising that Facebook is flooded daily with videos of real life fights that are liked and shared for casual entertainment purposes. Even reality tv cast members are confused about what’s acceptable in the real world.

It would be both hypocritical and unrealistic to expect people never to watch these shows. However, it would behoove all of us to be more careful about the people and the behavior we popularize by increasing the ratings of certain shows. Whenever you see something heinous and sadistic,  remember that we’re making these people famous.

 

Spread The Word. Share This Post!

 

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.

Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.