All posts by Black Girls Speak

Talitha Anyabwelé is a freelance writer, educator, actress, wife of an ambitious entrepreneur, mother of two young geniuses, world traveller, curator of black culture, and former Asian expatriate. Visit www.blackgirlspeaks.com for more.

Lemon Squeeze

beyonce-lemonade-albumBeyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is not playing with y’all simple handkerchief head, panty-waste asses no fuckin’ mo’! She just put all our business in the streets with “Lemonade.” And, by “our,” I mean every(black)body!  She told all y’all that held her up as the next feminist sheroe to, “fuck yo’ feminism and all its exclusions of the terrorism of black bodies.”  She ain’t here for that shit and she ain’t gotta pretend no fuckin’ mo’.  Checks been cashed. She rich bitch! She ain’t nobody’s pick-a-ninny, mammy, or negro wench. She ain’t window dressing or keeping calm for not none of y’all.  

Now, if you watched that whole montage of black beauty, brilliance, and womanhood and still think it’s just about Jay Z’s alleged cheatin’ ass, you missed the whole fuckin’ point. Bey ain’t told nobody nothin’ about her business in ever. Oprah couldn’t even crack her ass. You really think she just put her journal to a beat ‘cause y’all bffs in your head? Ya’ll so busy tryin’ to put a name to where Jay been dippin’ his paintbrush, that you can’t see the whole picture. That was the minor plot. These simple surface basic bitches ‘round here thinking they done found a roaming husband support group in Bey. I can’t even deal! So, I’mma have to let somebody with a little bit more patience break it all the way down til’ it can’t be broke no fuckin’ mo’.

Lemonade

Pitcher 1 – Intuition

On the surface, Queen Bey is referencing the power women are known to have to be spiritually connected with those they love.  We tend to know when our mates mess up, step out, transform from the lover who only seeks us as a source of affection to an infidel.  We feel the haunts of strangers in our corridors and bedrooms. We pray to catch you uttering a name other than ours in the clandestine corners of our shared spaces. We pray you see us see you so our inner visions can be confirmed; to know we are not “crazy” or “insecure” without just cause.hqdefault

We know. Even when we silence the internal discourse that reveals it and suppress the evidence you leave trailing behind, your dishonesty is palpable. We are each others confidants standing in solidarity without sharing a single word because we hold true to the declaration that “what happens in this family, stays in this family.”  That mandate, the root of our cyclical heartaches and familial destruction.

beyonce-and-mathew-knowlesMany of us have seen it time and again; first as an infantile witness, now as an object of the indiscretion. There is a lineage of malfeasances that some men {and women} uphold. It is unspoken, but understood by everyone for generations. It is seen in the familiar eyes of outside children with no last names. Proof is revealed in the glances of whispering women in back pews of the sanctuary. It is the look of pity and shame bestowed upon the children and spouses of the adulterer. It is the critical, shifting moment of womanhood when a daughter juxtaposes the perfection of her father with his failures as a husband. Oh, we know. Yet, we still try to make a home with you.

“You remind me of my father / A magician / Able to be in two places at once. /…. Like the men in my family, you come home at 3 am and lie to me”

 

This is often why wives are persecuted when husbands are unfaithful. “She had to have known,” they say. “She must not please him,” they relent. “How could she be so ‘great’ if she can’t even keep a happy home,” they scoff. Women are lashed on both sides of the “stand by your man” debate and criticized for being the “other woman” even if they believed themselves to be the only woman. Rarely is the man offered a scarlet letter with which to adorn himself.

Contrarily, men are demeaned intellectually rather than in deed. They are denigrated in the belief that their actions are beyond their control. “They can’t help themselves.” The implication is that men are so feeble in mind and tawdry in character that they would all roam from one willing woman to the next save the controlling claw of their “ball and chain.” Both suppositions derogate the roles and expectations of husbands and wives. So, as women, we usually play the role of being taken by surprise when these misdeeds come to surface.

But, here in this first chapter of the visual album “Lemonade,” Beyoncé owns our power of “Intuition.”

Visual Recounts of Intution

Cornrows                                                                                                                                                  Bowed head                                                                                                                                                  Dirty                                                                                                                                                            Blonde                                                                                                                                                                    Fur                                                                                                                                                                  Chains                                                                                                                                                            Fluid deadened grass                                                                                                            Deconstructed brick                                                                                                                                Walls                                                                                                                                                            Black woman                                                                                                                                        Kneeling                                                                                                                                                      Head                                                                                                                                                           Draped                                                                                                                                                                   Cloaked                                                                                                                                                   Hooded                                                                                                                                                               Black in tall grass                                                                                                                                     Hands clutched                                                                                                                                    Tunnels                                                                                                                                                                  Solidarity                                                                                                                                                      Pale faces                                                                                                                                                 Words about nothingness                                                                                                   Encompassing everything                                                                                                               Building emptiness                                                                                                                                    Black women                                                                                                                                      in Formation                                                                                                                                                  On the edge

Teetering

Jump

Leap

Crash

Submersion

-Muthafuckin’ Rose & Black Girl

Beyond Beyoncé: A Lesson In Colorism

I remember when I first began performing spoken word with the poetry collective Black on Black Rhyme.  I was introduced by the stage name “Black Girl.” Hisses and heckling greeting me as I graced the stage. “She ain’t black,” darted from the back of the room and hit me in the face like a paper bag of dog shit. I laughed and addressed the echo of our collective self-loathing. I knew exactly what they meant. It was a sentiment I’d heard my entire life.

If (we know that it is) the darker sister’s struggle is that she is not seen as beautiful, the lighter sister’s struggle is that she is not seen as black, by her own people. And then enters Beyoncé, stage left to center.

This past weekend she dropped a single so revolutionarily black (for an artist of her celebrity) that she has E-VER-RY-BODY talking about it. Even thosebeyonce-formation-video-thumb that don’t want to entertain it, write about how much they don’t want to entertain it. Not one white person is able to sing along with this song without looking crazy, but any black person can. We all know and understand what it means to be culturally “mixed” without being racially so. She’s black mixed with black, but we know the difference. Some of us cringed and clutched our pearls, others of us rocked in bold affirmation when we heard her bellow, “My daddy Alabama. Mama Louisiana. You mix that Negro with that Creole, you get Texas ‘Bama.”   But, we’ve all claimed to have “Indian” in our family because we wanted to be “special” black and not just regular. And, when there was no evidence of anything other than pure blackness in our melanated skin and the tight coils of our natural hair; when we couldn’t mask it with concealer and flowing weaves; when our perfection of grammar and European languages didn’t erase our broad features; when we realized we could never “pass” and therefore a certain level of privilege within blackness would not be afforded to us, we began to hate….ourselves and anyone (of us) that represented the other end of the color spectrum. This isn’t some universal language song. This is an undeniably, unapologetically black song. It exposes the good, the bad, and the shameful self-loathing.

beyonce-formation-halftime-640x639She did this the first weekend in Black History Month. She did this on an international stage Super Bowl weekend.  She did this with an army of black women in afros. She did this in the state that houses Oakland. She did this with black berets and Black Power fists plunging in the air. She did this without any men in her squad (to correct the ails of the misogyny within the Black Panther Movement.) She did this in an “X” Formation.  She did this for every person from NOLA that was called a “refugee” in their native land. She did this while referencing Katrina, hot sauce, the Jacksons and their original noses, how we grind, black lives, systemic genocide, our non-monolithic subcultures and her “baby hair in baby hair and afros.” For the power of the impact alone regardless of how we feel about the music sonically and lyrically, we should collectively be proud. And, yet, the internal struggle is real.

I’ve seen the comments repeatedly that she’s self-serving and that her lyrics are just about her.  But, what black woman song isn’t? Cue I’m Every Woman . Yet, we still all relate. I’ve heard that she and the song lack substance; as if every song we’ve ever rocked to was the Black Revolution Manifesto. I’ve heard that she’s opportunistic and capitalizing on this vital time in black uprising. When wasn’t it a vital time?nick-young-confused-face-300x256 I’ve heard critiques of the song’s usage of stereotypes, but I fully embrace stereotypes that are true and rooted in our culture. There is no negative connotation to carrying hot sauce in your bag, taking your man to Red Lobster or making him tacos if he put in work unless, out of shame, you have detached yourself from parts of our black subculture; the parts birthed from poverty. We can’t even adopt the lyrics to her music because we don’t feel connected to her. Her struggle has never been that she wasn’t pretty enough and therefore she cannot fully understand the black girl’s plight. Her struggle has never been that she wasn’t popular enough,or loved enough, or accepted (we assume.) Whatever struggles she may have faced pale in comparison and therefore, her music, her lyrics, her voice is self-serving because she cannot possibly associate herself with the core trials of black womanhood. Damn! We have some healing to do. 

We aren’t even conscious of this internal struggle and that this is the source for many of the palpable disdain for her; not just her music, her. Colorism is visceral. It’s intrinsic for black people, especially in regards to black women. The well read of us understand that this is rooted in the division intentionally perpetuated through centuries of chattel slavery and forced miscegenation, but we own it anyway. We rally behind it with  banners that read “Team Light-Skin” vs. “Team Dark-Skin.” It’s cancerous to the core. It is the vile excrement and pus of the layered wounds of an earthed history cloaked in colonialism. Colorism

When I see black women divisive on this issue, I find it easier to be a vocal advocate for my darker-hued sisters because I too have been considered “privileged.” Erykah Badu can do no wrong. She’s the safe color. Her hair is just kinky enough to be black, but just soft and textured enough to be considered “good.” Mary J. Blige is safe. She can rock platinum blonde hair for her entire career and never be questioned about her identity struggles. Her music has always been undeniably black. She has so many black girl anthems in her catalog that we each feel she has read our personal journals and put our business in the streets. But, the others, the Janell Monaes and India Aries aren’t getting all of their just due praise. And, I call all of my lighter-hued sisters to the carpet about it.  I can because I share ALL of their struggles. They can hear me.

It is undeniable that darker women have been marginalized and that their beauty has been overlooked. We, as black women of every shade, can stand in solidarity on that fact. We watched the documentary “Dark Girls” in horror and stood together against colorism, even though I was literally and figuratively given the side-eye because I just couldn’t possibly understand. However, I feel less supported by and less empowered to check my darker sisters on the visceral disdain for any black woman that doesn’t pass their paper bag test because they aren’t dark enough. Yes, it cuts both ways. no-one-cares-about-your-white-feelingsThe hatred of darker black women against lighter black women for that sole reason is dismissed and denied. It’s lumped in the same box with “white tears.” To offer such an accusation is internalized as insulting and demeaning immediately; the mirror is never held. No one wants to accept or hear these truths because to allow lightness (which we equate with whiteness) to play the victim in any way usurps the power of victimization from our darker sisters who’ve been denied so much already.   When our refusal to recognize it in ourselves is presented in our defensiveness and justification for our feelings, I bow out.

I was talking to a girlfriend last night, a sister who shares a lighter complexion and a rational love for Beyoncé and black women in general. I was confirmed in what I was feeling. I shared with her a reluctance to recognize the reaction to Beyoncé because I feared putting a name to it. Though it was cellularly familiar, I didn’t want to make the bold accusation that we, as black women, still hate ourselves and therefore cannot fully embrace each other as a reflection of ourselves. “You know what you’re feeling as a thirty-five-year-old light-skinned black woman. I know it too.” I was feeling the discourse and challenge of my own blackness, just as I did on that stage years ago. I was feeling even more connected to Beyoncé in a way that I didn’t want to share. Beyoncé didn’t just have the nerve to be light. She had the audacity to come from a middle-class, two-parent household and be able to sing and dance as the leader of a black girl group where she was by far the lightest. How dare she?! confusion

But, I saw an uprising when Faux News came for her. Nobody can talk about us, but us. That’s code. It is not until she is attacked by whites for her blackness that we will rally around her and collectively support her. A black woman is not a black woman unless she has scars.

The black women who have healed are obvious. It’s not just her fans, because there are those of us who are her fans because she’s light. No, they have not healed. There are those who dismiss her as an artist completely and overanalyze every single step she makes. “She did this too late, too quietly, too loudly, too….white.” They are those who look at her with the expression one makes when they walk in a house of someone cleaning chitlin’s. No, they have not healed. There are those who share her hue but who have denounced their “light privilege” and therefore hate her for benefitting from it. No, they have not healed. There are those who will only come to her defense when the attacks against her can clearly be defined as racially motivated and spirited with hate towards our collective. Then, they’ll jump to her/our aid. No, they have not healed.  It is those who love her just as they love every other black girl using her voice; not necessarily all of her music or decisions, but the woman that she is and is becoming because they see her as a reflection of us all. They are the ones who have healed in this way, because be certain, we are all still wounded.

We believe that if you’re of a darker hue, you’re black and could be “pretty for a dark girl.” If you’re of a lighter hue, you’re beautiful, but “not black enough.” Our darker and lighter sisters feel the sentiments, “I hate you because you’re seen as beautiful,” and “I hate you because you’re seen as black,” respectively. We divide our blackness and beauty while failing to realize the two are synonymous.

Nina Simone is praised for her boldness in creating music that edified our people, our struggles, our resilience, our inevitable rise.  She was unapologetically black and beautiful, though the latter was often overlooked. She did not have crossover appeal in the states because of her black brilliance and skin. We see Beyoncé draped in mass appeal and we challenge her allegiance to us. If white folks embrace her, then she must not really be for us we think. But, she is undeniably beautiful and black.

Beyonce is ours.

 

 

Beyond Beyoncé: Why When She Slays, We All Slay

Part I: An Ode to Beyoncé’s Ode to Blackness

A Black Woman.
Has the whole world.
Watching.12710761_10208433348781066_5985896541149786763_o
Talking.
Wondering.
Thinking.
About her.
MJ.
Afros.
NOLA.
Katrina.
Blackness.
Malcolm.
Exposure.
Janet.
Rhythm.
Nation.
Building.
Cops.
Black.
Lives.
Power.
Panthers.
Quarterbacks.                                                                                                                        
Girls.
Womanhood.
Excellence.
A.
Black.
Woman.
Got us.
All up.
In our feelings.
Of Black.
Pride.

12694911_10208436472259151_7819585740998084655_o

Be the focus.
The heart.
The center.
Carry your own wind.
Breeze through barriers.                                                                                                               Get in Formation.                                                                                                                         Let them watch.                                                                                                                           Admire.                                                                                                                                         Speculate.                                                                                                                                      Flaunt your Blackness.
Strive for greatness.
Achieve it.
Again.
And again.
And again.
Speak.
Black Girls.
Speak.

4cboba4gi 2016

 

Why BHM Is Still Relevant

My daughter is four. Just yesterday, we were calculating the number of states she’s visited and how it pales in comparison to the number of countries she’s traveled.  Being an expat kid afforded her opportunities and exposure most kids her age never experience, especially most black American kids.  She is, or at least she was when practiced daily, fluent in Mandarin and the colloquial language of Singlish.  Singlish-SamanthaHanna-722x500She can count in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and French. She can recognize the difference between Asian cultural nuances and people; a characteristic most adult Americans lack. (They do NOT all look alike.)  She is well versed in globalization, and is accepting, loving, and inclusive of everyone. Never has she met a stranger when it comes to other children. This is not, however, because of her exposure to multi-cultures. Her ability to engage cross-culturally is due to the foundation of her education being rooted in a love for her own culture.

A few weeks ago, we were asking questions about Ida B. Wells and President Obama in a casual conversation. She rattled off answers and was able to compare their contributions without hesitation. She ended the dialogue with the statement, “I know all about my heroes because you teach me everyday.” It was a proud moment as her mother and first educator.

She began learning of our “Heroes” as a part of her daily curriculum once she turned 14-months-old.  We would introduce her to a new hero through flash cards and teach her facts about each one.  If I was feeling ambitious, I’d couple the introduction with an activity that cemented who the hero was and what they contributed to society, not just black society, but their impact on the world. She understood the importance of offering reverence to our ancestors and the difference between our ancestors and the ancestors of our counterparts. She learned to appreciate our history, culture, beauty, and contributions at the very beginning of her educational cultivation.  This was intentional and imperative because “culture is elemental, not supplemental.”  Now, each hero serves as a reminder of her own ability and greatness. 

Whenever she feels timid about performing, we remind her of Lena Horne or Paul Robeson or Janell Monae.  When she’s frustrated by math or science, she hears encouragement from the strides of Mae Jemison, Benjamin Banneker, the creator of Mathematics, our ancestor Imhotep, or her uncle who holds a Masters in Applied Mathematics. http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/wohist.html When she’s in need of inspiration, we echo the poignant words of our legends Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, and Countee Cullen. nat_maya-angelou_52814_539_332_c1We do this so often, she understands that it’s a part of our regular exchange. During Black History Month this year, we’ll be highlighting even more living heroes like Eunique Jones and our recent contributions, so that she understands that our greatness is still relevant and being displayed. Not only does this teach her the importance of loving ourselves, it gives her the confidence to walk in any setting anywhere in the world and know that she can hold her own, while appreciating the other cultures represented; appreciation without assimilation. In every great obstacle she’ll face in her life, she’ll know that someone, someone that shares her history, lineage, and culture, has already conquered something similar, and therefore,victory is simply hers to obtain.  This is why…..image008.jpg

 

2015, The Reflection

So many thoughts as  I reflect on 2015. It was a time of heartbreak for me and many very dear to me. This year took a friend’s son, paralyzed another, a friend’s brother, my last two grandparents, and a friend from her son in the most painful way.

o-ATLANTA-facebook
The Lifeblood of Atlanta

It was a year of shifts. It shifted my entire family from one side of the world to another. It shifted my husband into entrepreneurship. It shifted family members into unemployment or underemployment. It shifted our collective paradigm from being complacent bystanders in the face of systemic injustices to being vocal advocates for social change. 

Charleston-Emanuel-AME-Church-Shooting-Victims-with-Names1It awakened our consciousness, and in many, our fears. It reminded us of the fragility of life and the devaluation thereof by many in positions of man-made power. It tested us. Some failed, but many of us found purpose in the wake of tragedies. 

Even in this, I am grateful. I am grateful that I’m still here. It means my work is not done and because I’m clear about my life’s work, I’m more focused on its execution. I’m grateful that those I know who’ve transitioned, some peacefully and others violently, are on the side of justice and are now guiding forces in our fight for it. I’m grateful that my marriage and my children, my infant son especially, survived my functional depression and state of melancholy at long stretches this year. I’m thankful that joy is still at the root of it all. I’m thankful that I have a direct line of communication with the Divine, and that I can be used as a vessel for Its work. I’m thankful that I have black friends who are aware of all that means and take pride in it, take an active role in our quest for liberation, and recognize the importance of coming together within ourselves first to heal and restore before we continue to offer our culture, traditions, and greatness to everyone else while being excluded from power by everyone else. I’m thankful for my very few white and non-black friends who get it; I mean really get it and support the fight for justice despite their inherited privilege. I’m thankful that we’ve finally found a pastor and a church that’s ’bout that life! 

Most of all, I’m thankful for the spirit of gratitude in the midst of the chaos of the world. Farewell 2015. May we all learn from your lessons so they need not be repeated; gain from your blessings, and move forward renewed and ready to face all that 2016 has to offer. 

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