Get Out: The Hilarity of Black Pain

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Get Out, the movie thriller that both horrified and effectively unveiled several layers of racialized oppression, is apparently a “comedy.” This is according to the good people at the Golden Globes, leaving many viewers like myself baffled. Get Out focused on a secret group of white body-snatchers that kidnaps young Black people to take over their minds and bodies in order to enjoy their physical attributes.

Did they even see the movie, I mean really see it?

The film resonated with Black audiences, especially since Black people in America have historically been used for medical experimentation and sexual exploitation. Furthermore, throughout society our physical attributes have been used for labor and enjoyment among the white bourgeoisie.

Though some view the film as an exaggeration, it’s actually not far from depicting actual medical practices that have taken place. For instance, the so-called “father of modern gynecology,” James Marion Sims, practiced painful experiments on Black slave women with no anesthesia. Also, for years enslaved Black people were sold on the medical market to be used as specimens for white doctors.

All of this was done in the name of science and medical history!

Though Get Out had some splashes of comic relief, it was in no way a comedy in its entirety. In fact, an alternative ending was chosen in order to lighten the pain shown throughout the movie, as America was in the throes of coming to grips with having Donald Trump as president.

Calling Get Out a comedy further trivializes the very real, very painful experiences that Black people have endured under the hands of white physicians and scientists. I’ve written before about America’s collective amnesia  that conveniently places painful Black experiences within an imaginary realm.

In order to prevent future horrific acts, it must be fully acknowledged that what we’ve gone through is real.

Even more so, in order to heighten accountability, we must fully acknowledge who inflicted the pain and for what reasons. The Golden Globes’ labeling of Get Out as a comedy is an effort (be it conscious or unconscious) to circumvent acknowledging the history of medical research in America.

With the story of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, Henrietta Lacks’ stolen DNA, and the enduring legacy of our ancestors who overall survived terrifying acts of violence at the hands of medical physicians- few Black people were laughing about Get Out.

To further express this point, Jordan Peele, the film’s producer, writer and director stated through his Twitter account that, “Get Out is a documentary.”

Originally deemed a horror film, perhaps Get Out is difficult to place into one genre. However, none of us viewed it as a comedy. It’s hard to see the hilarity of Black pain.

 

Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is the founder of OurLegaci.com. To reach Jessica, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com. Follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/JAMAiwuyor.

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Why More Black People Should Be Blood Donors

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Though millions of people worldwide suffer from Sickle Cell Disease, the general public is still very uninformed about its impact. It’s estimated that about 300,000 children are born with the disease each year. (Source NPR)

According to the CDC, “SCD is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. Healthy red blood cells are round, and they move through small blood vessels to carry oxygen to all parts of the body. In someone who has SCD, the red blood cells become hard and sticky and look like a C-shaped farm tool called a ‘sickle.’ The sickle cells die early, which causes a constant shortage of red blood cells. Also, when they travel through small blood vessels, they get stuck and clog the blood flow. This can cause pain and other serious problems such infection, acute chest syndrome and stroke.”

Some people, like myself, have the Sickle Cell Trait but not the disease. This means that we have, “one sickle cell gene and one normal gene.” Sickle Cell Disease can occur when both parents of a child have the trait. In this case, there is a 25% chance of the child having SCD. (Source CDC )

Though Sickle Cell Disease affects people from various ethnic backgrounds, it is highly prevalent in people of African descent. The Sickle Cell Trait may have developed as a natural resistant to Malaria. Researchers believe,”Due to its protective effect against malaria, the sickle mutation may have been naturally selected in sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria is endemic and one of the major causes of death.” (Source Science Daily)

Some patients require blood transfusions to treat severe anemia. This is where Black blood donors come in because people of similar ethnic backgrounds are more likely to have the same blood type. The success of transfusions highly depends on the similarity in blood types.

Recently one blood donation center encountered some confusion about this and was even accused of being racist for asking for more Black blood donors. Check out their excellent and informative response below:

Based on the explanation above, more Black blood donors will save more Black lives affected by Sickle Cell Disease. Unfortunately, the medical field is highly distrusted by many communities of African descent due to past and recent mistreatment and abuse (Source TheHill). Still the need for Black blood donors exists and would benefit Black patients greatly.

 

Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is the founder of OurLegaci.com. To reach Jessica, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com. Follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/JAMAiwuyor.

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Watch “The Tale of Four” Gabourey Sidibe’s New Short Film

Gabourey Sidibe makes her directorial debut with ‘Four Women’ a film based on the song by Nina Simone. The short film follows four women that are facing life’s crossroads. The women ultimately embrace their truths and work towards healing.

Read the film’s description below as published by Refinery29:

“Inspired by Nina Simone’s ‘Four Women,’ Gabourey Sidibe’s directorial debut is a multi-layered story that spans one day in the life of four different women who are connected through their quest for love, agency and redemption. This 20-minute film interweaves four stories of race-based violence and fatal encounters with the police through a female’s perspective.

As a director, Sidibe touches on the importance of bringing black females on screen, at a poignant time where people are demanding a dialogue on race relations in our country.”

Tale of Four Pic 1

The Tale of Four Pic 2

 

 

Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is the founder of OurLegaci.com. To reach Jessica, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com. Follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/JAMAiwuyor.

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Starting a New Chapter: The Birth of Our Legaci Press

Our Legaci Press (3)

I started this blog in 2009 with one intention – write about issues pertaining to people of African descent from a place of love. It’s been a long time since my very first blog post and I’m happy to say that along this journey over 2 million people have read the articles on Our Legaci.

Though I’ve had marginal success with this blog. I’ve felt restricted in a way by the digital landscape. Though blogs are great mechanisms for sharing thoughts and ideas quickly – I feel that they are not the best mechanisms for enduring topics that require more in-depth discourse. I’ve also found that while whatever you post on the internet lasts forever – blog posts and their responses are often fleeting. Especially when discussing a hot topic or current event. The internet pretty much goes with the tide.

Additionally, I’ve found that countless Black writers are sharing amazing stories and driving intellectual thought online with little to no historical account or credit. Meanwhile, writers previously approved by gatekeepers analyze/recap these thoughts and reap the benefits of “credibility” and academic acclaim. Though much of the internet’s pool of ideas drives pertinent discussions – physical books published by reputable publishing houses ultimately hold more clout in the long run.

Due to its relatively easy accessibility, the internet has all but trampled traditional literary gatekeepers – except for with print books (though it’s trying). After much research I’ve found that Black voices are at a severe disadvantage in the publishing industry. The literary world is already tough and full of competition for authors. But for Black authors, it’s even more difficult.

Publishers often focus on stories that they believe are most likely to sell. Many people of African descent have stories that often fall outside of the perceived traditional / easy to compartmentalize/ mass appeal boxes. There are Black literary agents that help to soothe this gap by introducing publishers to promising Black writers. However, this is an extremely small pool of agents that are often overwhelmed by a flood of inquiries. Similarly, the pool of independent Black owned publishing houses is also very small and at capacity. Thus, generations upon generations of Black writers go unpublished, unheard and forgotten.

So what is a Black writer to do? Where do we go and who will publish our stories?

Well, I’m glad you asked.

It’s time to take Our Legaci to the next level. So I’m launching Our Legaci Press. The goal of Our Legaci Press is to support, publish and promote Black storytellers from around the world. We will specialize in non-fiction anthologies that showcase various aspects of the Black experience.

Stories by Black writers are essential to the development and growth of upcoming generations. Thus, we need more stories, more dialogue and definitely more books.

I will continue to use OurLegaci.com to promote the initiatives of Our Legaci Press and share information about our upcoming books and events.

I hope you join me on this new journey. I’m looking for potential editors, affiliates, outreach coordinators, partners and of course writers! We’d also love to partner with organizations and initiatives that align with our goals.

Learn more about the next chapter of Our Legaci Press at OurLegaciPress.com. If you have any questions or want to learn how you can support this initiative email info@OurLegaciPress.com.

 

Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is the founder of OurLegaci.com. To reach Jessica, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com. Follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/JAMAiwuyor.

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10 Black-Owned Businesses That Will Bring You Joy

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I’m a huge advocate of Black-owned businesses for a number of reasons.

  1. Because I’m Black and I want to see other Black people succeed. The success of Black entrepreneurs is interconnected to the overall success and upward mobility of our local communities.
  2. Because many Black-owned businesses fulfill needs that mainstream society usually avoids, doesn’t care about or hasn’t discovered.
  3. Read number 1 again.

So, I just wanted to take a moment to spotlight 10 Black-owned businesses (and non-profits) that are making Black joy a priority and part of their core mission. This list includes a diverse set of health, arts, entertainment, entrepreneurial and culturally focused Black-owned businesses. Some are well known. Some are lesser known. But all are amazing. Check them out.

1. Afro Flow Yoga owned by Leslie Salmon Jones
Located in Cambridge, MA
Business synopsis (link):

Afro Flow Yoga infuses electrifying dance movements of the African Diaspora with a meditative yoga sequence of gentle yet powerful stretches. Deeply connect with the soulful rhythmic drums, energize your chakras, gain strength and flexibility and rejoice in the bliss of feeling renewed, grounded and peaceful!

2. Black Earth Products owned by Taliah Waajid
Located in Smyrna, GA
Business synopsis (link):

Taliah Waajid has always been at the very core of the natural hair movement. These days her company is still leading the way in innovation and education. For 20 years Taliah Waajid products have set the standard in the natural hair community. That includes the largest consumer trade show that celebrates natural hair, health and beauty, known as naturalhairshow.org. Natural hair isn’t a trend for Taliah Waajid, it is a lifestyle that encompasses everything the consumer cares about.

3. The Urban Movie Channel created by Robert L. Johnson
Located in Silver Spring, MD
Business Synopsis (link):

Urban Movie Channel launched in November 2014, and was created by Robert L Johnson, Chairman of RLJ Entertainment, Inc. (NASDAQ: RLJE) and founder of BET. UMC is a premium subscription-based video streaming service exclusive to RLJE and is devoted to the acquisition of feature films, comedy specials, stage plays, documentaries, music, and entertainment for African American and urban audiences, with plans to move into future development and production. New titles are added weekly in addition to the more than 200 titles in the UMC library!

4. Compton’s Grocery Outlet owned by Kia Patterson
Located in Compton, CA
Business Synopsis (link):

Grocery Outlet is the nation’s largest extreme value Grocery Store with 270+ independently operated stores in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

5. Shades of Afrika owned by Renee Quarles
Located in Long Beach, CA and Corona, CA
Business Synopsis (link):

Shades of Afrika began with a concept when we noticed that there were too few places that offered affordable Afrikan Art, Afrikan made products, and even fewer book stores. There seemed to be a pressing need to tell our story, establish ourselves in the community,  and provide a positive environment for businesses in our community.

There were lots of Afrikan writers, artists, jewelry makers, seamstresses, and entrepreneurs, in the area and they helped bring Shades of Afrika to life…

 

Shades of Afrika has evolved from being a small retail store to a cultural center that hosts a variety of social and educational events, lectures and study groups.

6. NuVegan Cafe owned by Vernon and Lynn Woodland
Located in College Park, MD and Washington, DC
Business Synopsis (link):

NuVegan Café was created through a process of evolution and change. It started with a union which produced a dream that evolved into an idea that 2 young hardworking individuals could combine their expertise to create the perfect business concept. One would possess the formal training, while the other would bring much of the product knowledge to the table. They met at the age of 19 and knew instantly that they were meant to be together. They were unaware of the extent of this connection or even where it would take them, but it was evident that a power much greater, had already preordained this union.

With a bond that seemed to supersede time, what they discovered, was that a common love for cooking would be the main reason their destinies were intertwined. Vernon’s background in food was more practical, while Mickiyah’s was inherited. His decision to explore the culinary arts was influenced by a school presentation (after hearing the odds for the future of young black males within the arena of sports) that would eventually lead him to advanced studies within the culinary arts program in New England. She would find her “place” in the kitchen by way of upbringing. Born and raised as a vegan, her love for nutrition and food preparation was developed through her involvement in her family’s own vegan restaurant in Bermuda.

7. Afriky Lolo founded by Diádié Bathily
Located in St. Louis, MO
Non-profit Synopsis (link): 

Afriky Lolo, founded and led by Diádié Bathily, is a West African dance non-profit corporation that is committed to bringing West African dance and culture to the St. Louis, Missouri, community through teaching and performing. Bathily is a Master dancer from the Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa. He immigrated to the United States in 1998. He has a strong personal and professional desire to share the beauty, culture and passion of West African dance with Americans, especially African Americans.

8. I Love Being Black founded by Kumi Rauf
Located in Oakland, CA
Business Synopsis (link):

Mission: To increase positivity, awareness and action amongst Black people worldwide.

Established in 2003, iLoveBeingBlack.com entered the fashion scene with I love being Black apparel and accessories. These products are sold online and at marketplaces, festivals, expos and trade shows.

9. Noirbnb co-founded by Stefan Grant
Located EVERYWHERE
Business Synopsis (link):

Noirbnb is a global travel community that provides experiences and events with a focus on including and celebrating travelers of color. Our accommodations take our guests all around the world to popular destinations and events inspired by the African diaspora. Noirbnb was born in October 2015 after our co-founder, Stefan’s experience while booking a stay in Atlanta. We realized Stef’s experience was not an isolated case and more importantly, that there was an opportunity to create a better, safer experience for travelers of color. Joining our community is a pledge to treat all members of Noirbnb with respect, regardless of their race, gender, religion, ethnicity, nationality, ability, age, or orientation.

Simply, Noirbnb was designed to be a game-changer in travel, events, and lifestyle by curating authentic experiences for the Black traveler. Whether it’s monetizing your space for additional income, booking a trip, finding your next vibe or connecting with people who share your interests, Noirbnb is your home away from home.

10. Happy Black Woman owned by Rosetta Thurman
Located in San Diego, California
Business synopsis (link):

Rosetta Thurman is the Founder & CEO of Happy Black Woman, a global personal development company dedicated to educating, inspiring and empowering black women to create their ideal lives. She is committed to helping black women all over the world experience happiness, success and freedom in business and in life. Through training, coaching and mentoring, Rosetta teaches black women how to transform their mindset so that they can achieve their big goals faster than they ever thought possible.

Know some great Black-owned businesses in your area? Share them below.

 

Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is the founder of OurLegaci.com. To reach Jessica, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com. Follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/JAMAiwuyor.

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Reflections for the “Other Side”

Medgar Evers

Civil Rights Activist Medgar Evers

I really don’t want to spend the next three years writing and responding to Donald Trump. In an attempt to maintain my composure – I’ve opted to take frequent breaks from theorizing our current state of affairs. However, one thing that recently struck me was Trump’s insistence that the violence in Charlottesville, VA at a white supremacist rally was caused by “both sides.” He was referring to white supremacy advocates versus their opponents – people that are anti-hatred.

Throughout American history, people in opposition to progress have always blamed the “other side” for violence that ensues when countering oppression. The issue isn’t that the “other side” is violent. The issue is that the other side won’t be passive, won’t accept things the way that they are and won’t fearfully bide in silence.

Thus, they are labeled trouble makers for their insistence that society must make positive and progressive changes.

Harriet Tubman was labeled a thief and an outlaw.

Martin Luther King Jr. was beaten and jailed.

Fannie Lou Hamer was beaten and jailed.

Angela Davis was labeled a fugitive and jailed.

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned and labeled a terrorist.

Medgar Evers and countless others were murdered.

They were the “other side.” Today, history is on their side.

Playing the blame game is an old tactic and I’m not surprised at all. So to members of the “other side” – keep dreaming, keep pushing, and keep disrupting.

Keep on being the “other side.” We need you.

 

Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is the founder of OurLegaci.com. To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com. Follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/JAMAiwuyor.

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Remembering George Stinney Jr., Lena Baker and Countless Others When Pondering Dylann Roof

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Recently Dylann Roof, the white gunman that murdered 9 Black church members during a bible study, was sentenced to death. Honestly speaking, my heart felt that anything less would have been insufficient. Yet, the death sentence itself is still unsatisfactory. There is no joy here. No ease away from pain, knowing that the final minutes of the victims’ lives were engulfed in terror as they were slain in their sanctuary.

If it were up to me, perhaps Roof would be sentenced to life in prison and forced to watch an endless loop of family videos and photos of all the beautiful people he murdered every single day for the rest of his life. He would wake up and recite their names, ages, and the number of loved ones they left behind. He would hear their stories. His life would be inundated with their existence, his atmosphere would be permeated with their spirits. Every single day. And it still wouldn’t be enough.

Knowing the evil of what he has done can easily lead many to the rightful conclusion that he does not deserve to enjoy life. And yet with his sentencing, there is a constant ringing in the back of my mind that prevents me from feeling like any justice has been served. There is a Dylann Roof. A man that we all know without a shadow of a doubt is a racist murderer.

Then there is George Stinney, Jr., a young Black boy that was sentenced to death and electrocuted for a crime he did not commit. There was Lena Baker, a Black woman that was tortured by an employer, fought back in self defense, then sentenced to death. More recently there was Larry Griffin, Troy Davis and countless other Black and Brown people that were unjustly convicted of murder and sentenced to death. There have been a large number of unaccounted for state sanctioned killings of innocent Black people under the death penalty.

A study published in 2014 titled, “Rate of False Conviction of Criminal Defendants Who Are Sentenced to Death,” found that one in every 25 people on death row are innocent. Furthermore, with the high number of racial profiling, wrongful arrests, and false convictions the Innocence Project states that 63% of individuals exonerated by DNA evidence have been African Americans. Additionally, “An analysis of the 297 DNA exonerations reveals minorities make up approximately 70% of those proven innocent through DNA testing. (Innocence Project, 2014)”

This showcases a massive racial inequality in terms of wrongful sentencings and executions. And this is one of the key reasons that I am against the death penalty. The unknown number of innocent Black and Brown people that have been wrongfully executed is chilling. Curing this ill would require an end to racial profiling, prejudice and racial inequality – which is no small feat. So in the meantime, ending the death penalty could save a great number of innocent lives as our criminal justice system works through a number of much needed reforms.

Being human, I want Dylann Roof punished to the fullest extent of the law. However, in a society where innocent people are systematically imprisoned and killed simply due to their racial makeup in the name of “law and order” – it’s hard to see the shine of justice here. While Dylann Roof is sentenced to death, the criminal justice system continues to unjustly ruin and take the lives of the same people he terrorized. There is overt terrorism and covert terrorism but it is terror just the same.

It’s a troubling paradox that is hard to grapple with.

The one death sentence of Dylann Roof neither makes up for the deaths of the innocent lives he took or the trove of innocent Black and Brown people being executed along with him. I’m not sure what justice is in this case but I know for sure that the death penalty is no friend of my tribe and never has been.

 

“The fate of millions of people—indeed the future of the black community itself—may depend on the willingness of those who care about racial justice to re-examine their basic assumptions about the role of the criminal justice system in our society.” ― Michelle Alexander

Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is the founder of OurLegaci.com. To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com. Follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/JAMAiwuyor.

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