The Subtleties of Mammy Honoring Ceremonies

 

The Subtlety Front

Kara Walker’s The Subtlety has attracted widespread acclaim but has serious conflicts that need to be discussed. 

Artist Kara Walker’s first large-scale public project is officially titled, “At the behest of Creative Time Kara E. Walker has confected: The Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby 
an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant.”

Having read interviews featuring Walker’s explanation of the piece, it appears to possess elements of both success and missed opportunities. The Subtlety is recognized by many as a sphinx built in the image of a “Mammy” like caricature. The sphinx is jarring. It makes people want to pay attention or at least ask questions. Her explanations are continuing a conversation about the horrors of the sugar industry’s past.

In a recent interview with The Brooklyn Rail, Walker provided further prospective about the massive “sugar baby” :

She is basically a New World sphinx. A New World thinking of the sugar plantations, the Americas, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, that sort of Rolling Stones-y brown sugar dovetailing of sex and slavery as it reaches the American imagination.

Walker was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered as well:

She’s doing what she does best: drawing you in with something sweet, something almost charming, before you realize you’ve admired something disturbing. In this case, that’s the horror-riddled Caribbean slave trade that helped fuel the industrial gains of the 18th and 19th centuries; a slave trade built to profit from an insatiable Western market for refined sugar treats and rum.

“Basically, it was blood sugar,” Walker says. “Like we talk about blood diamonds today, there were pamphlets saying this sugar has blood on its hands.”

She explains that to make the sugar, the cane had to be fed into large mills by hand. It was a dangerous process: Slaves lost hands, arms, limbs and lives.

“I’ve been kind of back and forth with my reverence for sugar,” Walker says. “Like, how we’re all kind of invested in its production without really realizing just what goes into it; how much chemistry goes into extracting whiteness from the sugar cane.”

The problem with Walker’s sphinx is that the acts of oppression during the slave trade were disturbing but the enslaved Africans were not themselves disturbing. So why continue the distortion of their image? She ends up reinforcing what she seeks to dismantle. How do we honor people who lost “hands, arms and limbs and lives” with further misrepresentations of their identities?

When critically looking at this work of art, we recognize Walker as an artistic genius. Yet even in this framework, when discussing the legacy and horrors of the sugar industry she chose to magnify the mythical overly used “Mammy” imagery. We keep coming back to something that was never truly us.

However, this issue is deeper than Kara Walker’s work. It’s been done before…this mammy honoring ceremony.  This issue speaks to the internalized limitations of imagination among artists and writers when it comes to the African descended lived experience. Lingering onto falsehoods, attempting to manipulate structures in its honor is counterproductive and often representative of an internalized glass ceiling of thought.

We can be something different because we are something different.

I’m not suggesting an attempt at ignoring the history of the “Mammy” caricature but instead I’m interested in what it would look like if Walker went beyond the restraints of this mythical being when it comes to examining the lives of enslaved African artisans.

Subtlety Back

To a certain degree, I understand the appeal of the exaggerated features of the half woman, half beast sphinx. The history of the extravagant sugar sculptures called subtleties, that were bolstered through slave labor is very important. Furthermore, featuring the genitalia of the sphinx can be viewed as taking a jab at the presumed asexuality of the “Mammy” caricature, while also perhaps conjuring images of both sexual abuse and desire. It’s crude and perhaps it’s meant to be.

Yet, the symbolism of this piece is stifled by it’s misplaced distortion and a missed opportunity to unearth what’s often hidden. In this case it would be the Black woman undistorted and unexaggerated. A jewel in her own right, without the need of leaning on identity stripping myths for significance or shock value. We can be both beautiful in our nakedness and whole in our humanity while also critiquing disturbing histories.

Showing Black women as full human beings in a holistic framework is more revolutionary than torturing old caricatures like “Mammy” ever could be…and far more valuable. When we unearth and magnify our ancestors’ true identities, outside of modes of mass societal miseducation, it will be a powerful day.

 

Please do not republish this article without specific, written permission from Jessica Ann Mitchell.

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

Follow OurLegaci on Facebook at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

 

The Subtlety display is available for public viewing until July 6th. Full details available here

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How the death of my friend changed how I see this world

Victory Over Violence: How the death of my friend changed how I see this world

BlackWomanOutside

I still find it hard to wrap my mind around the fact that one of my friends isn’t alive anymore. I don’t like to say he was killed the way cancer or disease or car accidents kill the body. He didn’t just die like people do when they get older or have a heart attack or stroke. My friend was murdered. His life was taken from him by another life. My life-long friend Victor was shot and killed in a parking lot in Newport News, Virginia. He was only 23 years old and would’ve turned 24 just weeks after the shooting. He was a father and a friend. Now he is another nameless face on the list of victims of gun violence in my city and in this country.

VictorThere will be no marches in the street for Victor. His mother won’t be invited to the White House. The President isn’t going to cry on national television over his death. The world will never know the young man who always kept people laughing, who was always trying to have fun, and who had unconditional love for his young son. And the people who did know him will never know the man he could’ve grown to be. And its a shame, really. It’s a shame that violence like this is too common to make a big deal of it each time a person gets shot in the street.

When someone gets killed in this country, I think we get sad for a few minutes then eventually get on with our lives. I don’t want that to happen in Victor’s case. It’s so easy for us to turn a blind eye to all of the violence going on around us all of the time. The violence against young people in our communities, especially young people of color, is like a modern-day lynching. Just as crowds gathered around the bodies hanging from trees, today’s Americans stand idly by as our young people are slain in parking lots in Virginia, while walking home in Florida, in public parks in Chicago, and in elementary schools in Connecticut.

We are a nation in denial about what is happening in our front yards, right before our eyes. We legitimize this violence in the name of our Constitutional rights. But the issue of “gun control” is not a political issue, it is a moral one. No person who values life can value the usage of guns and weapons. A gun’s only function is to take life away. Despite what advocates for weapons may say, protecting someone’s right to bear arms is not more important that protecting the people’s right to life. But even with all of the horrific and bloody murders that take place in the country, we still can’t seem to put a face to the lost lives and protect those who are still living. But Victor’s face will always be in my mind.

At his wake, I held Victor’s mother and we cried while looking down at his face for the last time. But I keep thinking that he wasn’t the only life that was lost that night. While one mother has to bury her son, another mother will have her son put in jail for a senseless murder. That’s the life cycle of murder in our communities: One body goes in the ground, another body goes in a jail cell. Who wins in this scenario? We are living in a culture in which young men have a need to prove themselves to a society that tells them that “you aren’t a man” if you let yourself get punked. When someone steps on your shoe, looks at your girlfriend or boyfriend, posts on your Facebook page or what have you, we feel we have no choice but to react. There’s a hopelessness to this lifestyle. We get into arguments and allow our anger to escalate to the point when the only way to solve a problem is to end a life. So many self images are warped by false ideals of what it takes to be a “real man”.

Victor was a man. He was a loyal friend. He was a selfless father. He was one of the funniest, hyperactive, brutally honest people I’ve ever known. He was an athlete, a college graduate, and natural comedian. He tried to make a joke out of every stressful situation. He didn’t need to use violence or anger to get what he wanted out of life. I know there are others who aren’t able to see another way to live their lives without arguments, fighting, and guns. Funerals, drive-bys, and constant crime is the reality for too many of our young people. We’re exposed to violence which makes it easier for us to transcend into violent lifestyles ourselves. I’m sure in some cases, a gun seems like the only thing in life that you can use to escape the frustrating restrictions of life in our communities. We have unemployment, lack of interest in school, and such a comical ease in getting weapons, our young people turn to violence as a outlet for brief control in a society that automatically writes them off.

Victor was very young when he succumbed to his fate. He would have celebrated his 24th birthday just 5 weeks after the shooting that took his life. Although I’d like to think he’s still turning up at a birthday party somewhere in the universe, he is not here to celebrate with his friends and family who continue to mourn his loss. One bullet took away that birthday. Unfortunately, this is the fate that seems to awaits many young black men. Violence is not definitely not just a black issue, but it cannot be denied that violent crimes plague areas with high black populations like an incurable disease. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, homicide is the leading cause of death for Black men ages 15-19. Is that shocking to anyone besides me?

Apparently not. Shortly after the news broke of another fatal shooting in Hampton Roads, my fellow citizens took to the Internet ready to criticize the victims in the shooting that took Victor’s life. Comments like: “not shocked by another murder on the Peninsula” … “I do wonder, how have you lived your life?” … “keep wanting to live like a gangsta you’re gonna die like one” made me want to cry. We blame others for having to live life in a violent depression instead of trying to find a solution. We don’t help the ex-offenders in our communities resimilate into society. We don’t press upon our children the doors that education can open for them. We shame our single mothers away from getting government assistance so their families turn to crime to provide for their basic needs. We suffer from an endless stream of disappointments that cause us to react violently in desperation.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on guns, life in “the ‘hood”, the Constitution, or even what really happened the night Victor lost his life. But I know we’ll never make progress if we keep allowing the lack of opportunities in our neighborhoods to make us to feel hopeless and worthless. That’s how we break this cycle and claim victory over violence: We reclaim the value of life. We show our young people all of the doors an education can open for them. We press upon others how much more courage it takes to be “weak” and to not react. We help others who need help, instead of making them feel ashamed. Jimmy Greene, father of 6 year old Ana Grace who was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting said it best: “we’re so consumed by the political fight…what about the fight for our children”. We are indeed in a fight for our lives. At the end of the day, our political standpoints won’t protect us. Our young people need to have a shot at a life filled with success, not a shot through the body with a bullet.

I see all of my friends and family posting to social media “Live4Vick”, “RIPVick”, “Gone but not forgotten” and the other typical mantras used to commemorate a lost life. But I sincerely hope we never forget Victor or the others wounded and killed by unnecessary violence in this country. I hope we do live our lives for these fallen souls and stop taking lives away. The best way I can honor Victors memory is to never forget what happened to him. We all can use our gifts to uplift the hopeless young man who sees a gun as the only way to control what goes on around him. We can control our emotions when we begin to get angry about little things. We can try to love instead.

I titled this piece “Victory over Violence” in memory of my friend Victor and also in the hope that one day this nation and people of color will rise above our tendencies to hurt one another. I know nothing we do will bring back the loved ones we’ve lost. But we should not allow ourselves or others to forget what happened to the ones we’ve lost. We have to really live for those who’ve died. We may never have a true victory over violence, but everyday we can make progress towards a more peaceful existence.

 

Jolie A. Doggett is a 22-year-old blogger from Hampton, VA currently living in the DC Metro Area. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2012. Since them, Jolie’s worked with Sirius XM Radio, National Public Radio, Patch.com, The National Congress of Black Women, and more.

Her musings on race, gender, and the 21st century have been featured on numerous blogs and websites, including her personal site, JolieDoggett.com. Her goal is to continue writing and to expand her social commentary into documentary film making. Her passions include Harry Potter, Chipotle, afro puffs, and volunteering in elementary schools.

 

 

 

Dismantling Collective Amnesia

ChoppingCotton-GroupGA
Library of Congress 1941 – Chopping cotton on rented land near White Plains, Greene County, Ga.

When I was a little girl my grandmother told me about how my family came to Augusta, GA. Her parents were sharecroppers in Warrenton, GA. At the time, it was illegal to quit and you could be killed for doing so. The klan was alive and well. But my great grand parents, Flossie and George had a plan. In the middle of the night Flossie packed up the children and fled in a buggy. My grandmother was about 4 years old at the time of the escape. Afterwards, the overseer came knocking on the door asking, “Where are they?” George gave a convincing response declaring, “My wife left me and took the children.” He later quietly escaped, reuniting with his family in Augusta to build a new life for themselves.

This was my first personal Black history lesson.

They escaped a few decades before Martin Luther King Jr. discovered there were people living in Albany, GA that had never seen a dollar bill. Hangings were real, escaping was necessary, money was scarce.

Flossie and George are not people from an imaginary story.

I remember sitting on Flossie’s lap in her rocking chair. Sometimes she would chew her snuff and spit into an old can. She’d say in defiance, ” I chew my snuff and he don’t like it. But I chews it anyway.” At five years old I’d smile at her mischief…my first lesson in feminism.

Meanwhile, George would check my mouth for missing teeth. He’d then demand that my parents and the toothfairy, “Give this baby her money! Make sure they give you your money!” I’d smile at his concern…my first lesson on economics.

Anyone that reads Ta-Nehisi Coates’ masterpiece on  The Atlantic will realize that it goes beyond the traditional conversation about reparations. It’s a beautifully woven story that works towards dismantling collective amnesia.

Conversations about reparations, entitlements, and the public welfare are often scoffed over and quickly dubbed as unfounded, unrealistic and unnecessary. Then rhetoric such as Paul Ryan’s, “culture of laziness” and Rick Santorum‘s “I don’t want to make black blah people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money,” is quickly inserted as an effort to switch focus from the root causes of poverty in America.

Again and again we meet in battle the advocates of collective amnesia, that seek to not only ignore history but also change it.

Us descendants of the unpaid, indebted labor force are often told the past is irrelevant. Our attempts at coherent discourse are subdued as the world flashes before us and we see the hand writing on the wall. We’re told that remembering is “divisive”, this history is “non-existent”, and that most all “nobody owes us anything.”

It’s not really about owing. It’s about fixing and creating a country that is no longer mired in disparity or profitable through disenfranchisement. Recognizing that many of the current policies towards wages, education, healthcare, and housing are guided by a historically racist, classist, sexist discriminatory framework.

For me, that’s the most important aspect of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ piece…remembering and using this memory to guide us towards a more just nation.

This is why I’ll never forget the escape of Flossie and George.

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Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is publisher and multicultural communications specialist. To reach JAM, email her at JAMAiwuyor@gmail.com or visit JAMAiwuyor.com.

Follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/JAMAiwuyor.

Is My HBCU Degree Worthless?

That is the question I asked myself as I stared at the following tweet:

Ignorant-Tweet

No shade?? Honey, you threw shade all the way back to my forefathers with this tweet. Although her page is now private this very public tweet caused a major firestorm that I am sure @med_school12 did not anticipate when she tweeted this. A little research informed me that she is an undergraduate student at James Madison University, a PWI. This means that she in no way is able to make such a broad, sweeping opinion and present it as fact. No ma’am.

The debate over PWIs and HBCUs is nothing new. Every year as thousands of black students pack up and head to college, we debate the nuances of both. I am aware of the backlash blacks receive for being “sell outs” for choosing to attend PWIs just as I am aware of blacks being accused of having “Hillman Syndrome” because they attended a HBCU. Personally, I do not care. All I care about is that black students are given the chance to sit in a classroom and receive an education at the collegiate level if they so choose to.

That is why I have shied away from this debate. But this tweet…rubbed my spirit wrong. So wrong that I broke away from a term paper to tweet my concerns for why this young woman of color would make such a statement. Then I realized that she, along with those who defended her, have no idea that they bought into the superiority of “whiteness.” That whiteness equates to rigor. Although she did not mention race, it is implied in the nomenclature: Predominately WHITE Institutions versus Historically BLACK Colleges and Universities.

We all know the legacies of HBCUs. But the legacies of PWIs need another reexamination. The legacy of PWIs, particular southern PWIs are clouded in racial segregation and white supremacy. The legacies of HBCUs are the response to that racial segregation and white supremacy. Black students were routinely denied admittance to PWIs because of COLOR. Black students who could not afford the migration north were left with no opportunities at the collegiate level, especially in the American South. This means that @Med_School12’s grandparents would have received a denial letter from the institution she attends now. Also, PWIs would routinely hand over “scholarships” to black students to attend an out of state school, just so they would not apply to theirs. But it gets better! I can imply from her twitter handle that @Med_school12 either loves the BET show “The Game,” or she wishes to attend medical school one day. I would hope it’s a desire to attend medical school. I wonder if she knew that states HAPPILY gave money to HBCUs to establish graduate and professional programs so black graduates would not apply to theirs. Yes, HBCU presidents (shoutout to Dr. James E. Shepard) lobbied states for money to establish professional and graduate programs so their students would not face rejection from PWIs. Lastly, let us not forget the violence that black students were subjected to for attempting to integrate PWIs. Does anyone remember James Meredith? I am pretty sure that was not mentioned in freshman orientation. But it was an ugly stain on University of Mississippi’s otherwise “glorious” Dixie southern past.

HBCUs are not without issues. However, that had NOTHING to do with the education I received. My tenure at North Carolina Central University was indeed rigorous. NCCU put me through the ringer before it let me snatch that degree. I anguished over failed exams, cried over classes I could have done better in. I watched my friends fight over the right to not only graduate but graduate with honors. When I graduated, I did a little shout right on the field. Yes, while my parents watched, I had a “Won’t He do it?” moment. I must have been a glutton for punishment because the following fall; I was back for that Master’s. In reality, I knew there was no better program for me. This M.A. in History program was top notch. I learned and was cultivated by the best. We were required to take a Foreign Language Exam, sit for Master’s Comprehensive Exams and successfully defend a thesis of original research before our professor allowed us to hope that graduation was possible. I know PWIs who never even heard of a comp exam until their doctorate program. My cohorts and I walked around like zombies in the months leading up to graduation. By the time I snatched that degree from NCCU (again), I knew that I was well prepared for life at the doctorate level at Morgan State Univetsity. I have a friend who received the same master’s degree from a PWI, yet called me freaking out about writing a historiographical essay as a doctoral student, a skill I learned in undergrad. So yes, the path to my degree was rigorous.

I commend any person who makes the decision to attend college. It is not an easy feat, no matter the instituion. I am not one that buys into exceptionalism, the notion that an institution is sooooo great that it’s above criticism. But HBCUs are constantly attacked for their “perceived” inferiority and I am over it. Sick of it actually. Let us be great! Even though she did not intend to throw shade…she caused every person reading that tweet to take pause. The degree comes from the GPA. The GPA comes from the grades and the grades comes from the ability to perform. So when she questioned the weight of the GPA…she called into question the entire academic experience at HBCUs.

Recently, a young black high school student was bashed for his decision to turn down an Ivy League school in favor of an HBCU. At the end of the day, he made a decision based on proximity to his home and funding. There were no racial issues in his decision. I know black people who chose PWIs because it’s “better” but could never tell me how. Let’s be clear…being black does not mean you have to attend a HBCU…choose a PWI as long as you are making a decision not clouded by mythology. Or that you think that because you attend a PWI that you are given a slice of “white privilege.” Oh and before I’m hit with the “employers choose applicants from PWIs over HBCUs” statement…allow me to flip it this way. What is a black student and a white student from the same PWI were up for that same position? At the end of the day your PWI will not shield you from racial discrimination. It will not protect you and give you special powers. Sorry.

A friend of mine pointed out that HBCU students trash each other. Ummm yes…this is true (HEYYY AGGIES!!!!) but that trash talk is limited to football games and who has the best “yard” or homecoming. But when it comes to its central core mission, and the education of young black scholars, we stand united. I was inspired by the rallying of black scholars in the Twitterverse who came to the defense of not only their HBCUs but the legacy of HBCUs in general. I understand that in the process some people tweeted things that were deplorable and disrespectful to this young woman. That is unacceptable behavior. But I wish this young lady would understand where the sensitivity comes from. It comes from a legacy that we are taught and will defend. It is a legacy that we are proud of.

HBCUs are important because it gave us a chance at the same education that PWIs had to be forced by federal law to give us. If you want to have this debate then I welcome it. I am open to an exchange of dialogue that will foster growth and development. There is much that PWIs and HBCUs can teach each other. But what I will not allow are advocates of PWIs to come to the table with feelings of superiority…and I will not allow them to leave that table feeling victorious because they left HBCU alums and current students feeling inferior. Because when I snatch that degree (for a third time) I will proudly proclaim that ALL my degrees belong to a the “rigor” of a HBCU.

 

Bridgette-RobinsonBridgette Robinson is a graduate of North Carolina Central University where she received both her B.A. and M.A. degrees in history. She is currently enrolled in doctoral studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. She is also an adjunct professor at Prince George’s Community College and Howard Community College, where she teaches American and European history courses. Her research interest includes gender and class issues as it intersects with minority groups. Her blog, “The Misadventures of a Black Woman Scholar,” can be found at tmbws.wordpress.com.

Love Doesn’t Look Like This

Not-Love-Vintage

Over the past few days a video of a father beating his daughter has gone viral. The caption reads, “Bad parenting or is this type of discipline acceptable now a days? Father disciplines his 13-year-old daughter after missing for 3 days messing around with boys & then posts all on Facebook.”

The video shows a man beating a young woman with a belt while pulling her hair and calling her a whore and bitch. It was a horrific display of violence and brutal humiliation. A debate followed the posting about whether or not this form of punishment is appropriate. After spending way too much time debating this issue on Facebook, I felt it necessary to issue this short Public Service Announcement:

Love doesn’t look like this. 

There are many supporters of this abuse, repeating the same phrases to celebrate violence.
Here are a few examples:

1. “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” — Just as mainstream Western society is critical of Islam and the Koran about the treatment women in societies, African Americans should be just as critical of anyone that seeks to use Christianity and the Bible as an excuse for maltreatment and abuse. Self selective religious interpretation for the purposes of supporting physical violence and abuse was used during our own enslavement and colonization.

2. “If I don’t do it, the court system will do it one day.” — Black parents have been whipping their children for decades and it hasn’t stopped millions of our young Black boys and girls from going to prison. Beatings don’t solve that. Addressing overall societal issues is the leading way to prevent prison time. Beatings are not going to end the prison industrial complex because it places the complete blame on the imprisoned instead of society as a whole. It completely ignores the commercial drive of prison systems that lead to overzealous laws and filled prisons. This father’s beating is representative of a myriad of societal issues including the institutionalized usage of brute punishment over rehabilitation.

3. Some one asked me, “Have you ever had a child go missing for 3 days?” — In response I asked, “Have you ever seen child abuse?” The leading reason for runaways is physical and sexual abuse. Based on the video’s caption,  if this is what parental love looks like in her home, would you blame her for leaving or seeking love elsewhere? If this brutality was so easily displayed for public enjoyment, one can only imagine what goes on behind closed doors.

80% of runaway and homeless girls reported having ever been sexually or physically abused. 34% of runaway youth (girls and boys) reported sexual abuse before leaving home and forty-three percent of runaway youth (girls and boys) reported physical abuse before leaving home.  – National Runaway Hotline Stats 

It’s deeply disturbing that so many members of the African American community view such vicious behavior as parental guidance. Perhaps this is indicative of an overall healing that needs to take place in our community. It’s also further indicative of how we view Black girls and women. Zora Neale Hurston once stated, “Black women are the mules of the world.” Her words still ring true as to the thought process associated with the treatment of Black women. You know what you do to a mule that doesn’t obey? You beat it.

There is a pathology against Black girls and women that deems us deserving of abuse no matter how cruel or violent. This is an over present line of thinking that needs to be disbanded.

Finally, what if we are to assume for just one impossible second that this really is a father that “cares?” Is this young girl now supposed to connect physical violence and verbal abuse with love? Let’s just think about it for a second. If this is love, what is hate?

In the introduction of Gender Talk: The Struggle for Women’s Equality In African American Communities, Johnnetta B. Cole & Beverly Guy-Sheftall state:

Violence against Black people wears many faces. There’s a much needed focus on police brutality and Black male-on-male homicide, but too little attention to rape, spousal abuse, and incest. We have often been in contentious debates as well with other Black Women about the impact of gender oppression within our own communities, how we treat one another, and our hasty defense of Black men no matter how offensive their behavior. Many Black women have been convinced that there is a conspiracy by white America to destroy Black men, and as a result they remain silent about physical and emotional abuse women suffer within our communities.

This isn’t about creating divisions between Black women and men. It’s about whether we love our community enough to acknowledge gender oppression, stop silencing pertinent discussions about violence against Black women by Black men and view abuse with a critical eye. We can’t uplift, protect or love our girls and women by inflicting violence on them and calling them bitches. Supporting anyone that uses these abusive actions is not only counter-productive but in the direct opposition to the well being of our future generations. For the sake of Black girls and boys everywhere, it’s imperative that we establish early on that Love Doesn’t Look Like This.

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

Follow OurLegaci on Facebook at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

Saving Pecola Breedlove With Lupita Nyong’o

Photo Enhanced by OurLegaci
Photo Enhanced by OurLegaci

It isn’t enough to say that “Black Girls Rock.” It isn’t enough to proclaim that “Black is beautiful.” These proclamations bear a certain level of importance but what good is it to say these things if too often our collective actions show otherwise? Show Black girls how beautiful they are, how worthy they are, how valuable they are by fighting for them.

As the world becomes enthralled with the talent and beauty of Lupita Nyong’o, she continues to spread her message about the power of self love in the face of colorism. Images of her versatile beauty have taken over the internet in a display of glorious artistic prowess. Consequently, there are a myriad of discussions about the effects of Lupita’s spotlight on the millions of women and girls that look like her.

Yes, her beauty is sure to inspire, much like she was inspired by Alek Wek. But let this moment of adoration, along with Lupita’s openness to reveal her own struggles, lead to something beyond admiring beauty. If we truly want young Black girls to get the message that they are both valuable and beautiful, we have to show them by fighting for them.

lupita-fashionsizzle

Lupita Nyong’o accepted her Oscar while honoring the spirit of Patsey, the enslaved and brutally abused woman she embodied in her award winning performance. Many viewers of 12 Years of Slave wanted desperately for Patsey to be freed from her abusers. We saw the beauty in Patsey. We knew that she was worth fighting for…worth protecting. We can’t go back in time, but we can work to make sure that Patsey’s daughters don’t live a life of congratulated pain.

Abuse happens to girls of all races, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. But when it comes to Black girls, the mechanism of race allegiance and the need to project race respectability often supersedes their need for protection. This leads to families keeping “secrets,” parents refusing to press charges, and neglect reigning supreme under the guise of keeping the peace. The ever present victim blaming then commences by calling the girl “fast” or asking, “Why was she over there if she didn’t want it?” And let us not forget the, “She knew what she was doing,” declaration. In an instant, a 14 year old girl becomes the sacrificial lamb of the Black community in addition to facing marginalization in mainstream society.

And you wonder why a girl could have color issues, wish for blue eyes or blonde hair. It’s not necessarily because she hates herself. It’s because she wants to be what she believes the world is more likely to adore and protect.

the-bluest-eyePecola Breedlove is a character in Toni Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye. Pecola endured rape, neglect and various forms of abuse. She was a little Black girl, undervalued and unprotected, that wished for blue eyes.

Fighting for “her” involves building a fortress around her being. Not allowing abusers and neglecters  to have their way with “her” life. On a personal level, I know many Black woman that were sexually assaulted and abused as young girls. Their stories never made it to the news. Their abusers have gone free and the scars reflecting the pain are permanently etched in memory. They’ve all heard “Black is beautiful,” but nobody fight for them. Instead, they were blamed for their own abuse, shunned and rejected.

When you see a potential Pecola Breedlove, it’s not enough to show her pictures of Lupita to prove the existence of her beauty. We first have to protect her…show her how much she means us. We can let her know that she is not an “ugly ducking” but in fact a beautiful swan by showing her Lupita’s talent and beauty. But it is only after we protect her, that she will be able to believe and absorb this truth.

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

Follow OurLegaci on Facebook at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

Walmart The Welfare Queen

Photo Credit: Amazon
Photo Credit: Amazon

Perhaps Walmart executives should hold a private viewing of the Lion King to learn about the Circle Of Life. After fighting tooth and nail against living wages for employees and working with ALEC, Walmart’s own selfishness is catching up with them. As one of the largest corporations on the planet, Walmart execs work tirelessly to prevent its underpaid employees from getting higher wages and health insurance benefits. Walmart now faces a 21% loss in its fourth quarter and it’s blaming the expiration of food stamp benefits.

On Thursday Wal-Mart reported a 21 percent decline in its fourth-quarter profit. The company said that the Nov. 1 expiration of a temporary boost in food stamps is hurting its shoppers’ ability to spend. It’s also caught up in the debate about minimum wages and dealing with increasing competition from dollar stores and grocers. – MSN Money

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Walmart has plans underway to open up 6 stores in Washington, DC and threatened to pull out if the DC Council approved a new living wage bill. The council approved it anyway but not surprisingly the bill was vetoed by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray in an attempt to keep peace with Walmart.

Mike Debonis of the Washington Post states,”The city’s minimum wage is $8.25 an hour. The bill would raise the annual earnings of a full-time employee making the lowest legal wage from about $17,000 to $26,000.”  It should be noted that $26,000 is just above the Federal Poverty Line for a family of four. At a pay rate much lower than this with limited hours, it’s easy to understand why one Walmart store hosted food donation drives for it’s own employees.

Walmart’s new 21% loss means that in addition to the government subsidizing Walmart’s low wages by providing its employees with food stamps, the government is also a prime provider of funds to Walmart through its customers. Meaning that Walmart depends on food stamp recipients as a key consumer base. Now that those benefits are ending Walmart is in a crunch. Perhaps if they spent more time making sure that their employees could survive without needing food-banks, they would understand that pushing for legislation against the working class is not only unethical but harmful for business. People go to work, get paid and buy things. If they don’t have even money for basic needs like food, potential consumers are not going shopping. Walmart is a prime example of how “job creator” initiatives are hurting the economy. Suddenly Walmart is considering a new found support of Federal minimum wage increase.

Bloomberg.com reports, “David Tovar, a company spokesman, said today in a telephone interview. Increasing the minimum wage means that some of the 140 million people who shop at the chain weekly would “now have additional income.”

I guess they’re finally learning how this works.  The next time a conservative drones on about “entitlements” and poor people bashing, remind them that Walmart survives on food stamps, tax write offs and subsidies. They’re one of the biggest Welfare Queens in the land.

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

Follow OurLegaci on Facebook at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.