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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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.