Archive for the ‘black women and values’ Category

A Story about a Story

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Spent last night at a wonderful 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Student Sit-In Movement here in Nashville. The night’s focus was upon the role the students of American Baptist College (where I’m now Academic VP) played in the Movement: John Lewis, Bernard Lafayette, James Bevel, and others. Bernice Johnson Reagon sang us through the history of that Movement, providing historical commentary and clarity to the genesis of certain freedom songs and the healing power of others. Rev. James Lawson, Rev. C.T. Vivian and Dr. Bernard Lafayette brought remarks. Many others who were in high school and college here in Nashville during the movement and took part by cutting classes and showing up for marches were there on the front row last night. Old men and old women now. But their spirits didn’t know it. They beamed. They lived to tell the story.

I’ve been around lots of preachers this week, preachers who spice their sermons with wonderful stories, stories that serve as allegories, parables, anecdotes, life illustrations to the scripture they are expounding.

I’m not much a storyteller. In fact, I probably only know two stories worth telling. One of them I share with you today.

Today I tell you a story…about a story.

An old story handed down in many different versions over many an evening fire. The story is about the great wise woman, the Ancestress. The Ancestress was dying and sent for her children. “I have acted as intercessor for you, and now when I am gone you must do this yourselves. You know the place in the forest where I call to God? Stand there in that place and do the same. You know how to light the fire, and how to say the prayer. Do all these things and God will come to see about you.”

After the Ancestress died, the first generation faced trouble and did exactly as she had instructed them, and, sure enough, God came to their rescue. But by the second generation, the people had forgotten how to light the fire exactly the way the Ancestress had taught. Nevertheless, when times got difficult they remembered the special place in the forest and said the prayer, and, sure enough, God came.

By the third generation, the people had forgotten how to light the fire, and they had forgotten exactly where the place in the forest was. But they spoke the prayer, and, sure enough God came.

By the fourth generation, everyone had forgotten how to build the fire, and no one knew any longer just where in the forest one was supposed to stand, and finally the exact words to the prayer itself could not be remembered. But one person in their midst still remembered the story about it all, and stood one day in the midst of battle and recounted the story of it all to the rest (the story of the the Ancestress, the forest, the fire, the prayer). And, sure enough, God came.

Whose Image Is It Anyway?

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Happy International Women’s Day everyone!

When I read Ruby Sale’s reaction to last night’s Academy Award for “Best Supporting Actress” going to Mo’nique for her role in the controversial “Precious”, I thought to myself, “this is a post for Something Within.”

What say you, is Mo’nique’s role in “Precious” anything for black women to leap up and celebrate about here during Women’s History Month?

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Many Black people, even Black feminists, seem happy and excited that Mo’nique won an Oscar. I must admit I am not among this group. As a matter of fact, I am stunned at our contradiction. HOW CAN WE CELEBRATE THE SUCESS OF A BLACK ACTRESS WHO MAKES IT ON THE BACKS OF BLACK WOMEN? What I mean is how can we celebrate a Black actress who accepts a role in movies that represents Black women as bad mothers as did Precious and the movie Backside. Is her individual success more important than the consequences of feeding the public images of Black women as whores, immoral and unloving mothers and parents who love dope more than their children? I am not denying that this type of Black woman exist. Nor am I saying that all representations of Black women must avoid our failures. I am saying however that these narratives and representations are dangerous in a popular culture where this is the pervasive image.

Miss MoWhen Black actresses sign on to a script like Precious, they fertilize these lies and locate their work within the contemporary lie of Black women welfare queens that Ronald Reagan created and the conservatives used to the hilt as another example of Black immorality and bad parenting. Conservatives used the misrepresentation of Black women to carry out punitive and racist public policies. Mo’nique cannot have it both ways. Nor can we! She had a perfect opportunity to represent and she failed us. It does not make her right because White Oscar members give her legitimacy. As Audre Lorde said our “wants do not make our actions holy.” Our hunger for fame should never exceed our hunger to advance ourselves and the race with dignity while creating grounds of resistance and reaffirmation that preserve and extend our liberties. In other words, what is the end game of Black art in a society where Black is a dirty word and oppression is a silent killer that touches all of our lives?

Relationships 2.0: Virtual vs. Real Flesh-and-Blood Friends

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Travelling a lot this week and don’t have time to sit to write a full length blogpost. Thought this would be a good time to take a survey.

Thought I’d raise a question about cyberfriends that was raised by a sister blogger on her blog. Are the friendships we strike up in cyberspace (Facebook, My Space, Twitter, blogs) on par with the real flesh-and-blood friendships we’ve made over the years? Are our virtual friends with whom we engage in long, heated, but friendly banter with for days, weeks, months, perhaps years on end — are these people real friends?

The question is prompted in part by a piece by James Taylor on cyberfriendships which appeared over on HuffingtonPost:

Of all the areas of life that computer and communications technology seems to be impacting the most is its influence on relationships. Mobile phones, texting, facebook, and Twitter are just a few of the ways in which relationships are being redefined, established, and maintained by technology. We have entered a new era of Relationships 2.0. Read More…

Personally, I don’t think virtual friends and flesh and blood friends are the same. But judging from comments by readers on other sites, there are lots of folks out there evidently who think differently.

Hear ye. Hear ye. Cyberfriendships are not real friendships. No offense loyal blog readers. I cherish hearing from you. I look forward to your comments. I appreciate the lively banter we enjoy here on the blog. But I wouldn’t know you from Adam if you came up to me here at the restaurant where I’m typing this right now. How can we be real friends? (Boy, oh boy, are my readership numbers going to plummet now. :))  How can you be  friends with someone you’ve never met? How do you trust a friendship that’s made in cyberspace? How can you trust what someone in cyberspace says about herself? You guessed it. No, I don’t believe in cyberdating. But that’s another topic.

I don’t mean to devalue relationships that have been struck up over the Internet. I’m sure there are some moving stories out there about love found on the Internet and about the support, inspiration, and comraderie struck up on the Internet. If friendship is all about love and support, then I guess it is possible to think of a cyberfriends as a real friend. But to call a relationship born in cyberspace and limited exclusively to the Internet sounds sad to me.

cyberrelationships

Call me old school, but friendship is friendship not because there’s a long history of support, confidances shared, and mutual admiration. A friendship is a friendship more importantly because it has withstood the test of time and misunderstandings, disagreements, bruised feelings, and make-ups.  Yep, there have been plenty of times here on this blog when folks have jumped in one another’s chest about comments made and have later come back on to explain themselves and kiss and make-up.  All of us know that mending a friendship in cyberspace can not compare with the awkwardness, the dread, and the pain of mending a “real” flesh-and-blood friendship. Facing a friend you’ve hurt or who hurt you, and slinging, snotting, and crying it out face to face as you try to work out where things went wrong, who’s to blame, and promise to do better—that’s the friendship we miss out on in cyberspace. Better yet, that’s the personal growth we miss out on when we lack real flesh-and-blood friends.

But that’s my opinion. Call me old school. A friend is not someone who signs off with emoticons to make herself appear more friendly than she really is. A friend is someone who was there to jump up and walk behind me to keep others from seeing the spot on the back of my skirt as I walked off.

Getting Played By A Playa’

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Speaking of books…

I’m gonna break three cardinal rules here on the blog today which I work hard to abide by: don’t judge a book by its cover, never get into an argument about a book you’ve not actually read, and avoid raising a topic that’s sure to get people in arms when you’re dashing to get out the door and probably can’t stick around to see the fireworks through.

I can’t understand why black women have been on a stampede to buy Steve Harvey’s Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man. Even though the book managed to make the NYTimes bestseller’s list  for eight weeks in a row earlier this spring I probably won’t get to it anytime soon.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Steve Harvey. The comic. The entertainer. And on those four times a year I catch his show on the radio I like Steve Harvey the morning talk show host. Steve Harvey is a very funny man. He has a great eye and ear for black eccentricities. Steve Harvey’s also a smart man. harvey

He has figured out how in these tough economic times to parlay his floundering stand up comedy act into a more stable job as a radio show host where his new schtick is to present himself as a slick, streetsmart, non-nonsense, wizened, old skool ex-playa doling out keeping-it-real advice to desperate, lovesick women.

I’ll take folks’ word that there are women out there who need a book Act Like A Lady. I believe you when you say that there are women  who will go to embarrassingly foolish, desperate, scuzzy lengths to be with a man, to get a man, and to sleep with a man. I know a few such women. But do you really think Act Like A Lady will convince these women to wise up and make better decisions?

Even if I were single I’d probably pass on reading a relationship advice book by a thrice married man, whose last marriage ended in a messy and quite public divorce in which his ex wife reportedly alleged adultery and physical abuse against her and their son. It took a $20 million settlement to make her shut up. (Maybe she’s the one who should be writing a book.)  “I’ll fix you,” Harvey probably said to himself when he walked out the court. “I’ll get every last dime of that back by writing a book about relationships and proving that black women like yourself ain’t nothing but a bunch of ……..”

As for the title, Act Like A Lady, Think Like a Man. What is that suppose to mean? I know what the writer who says that Harvey stole her book title meant. But what does Steve Harvey mean?

Here’s what I’m guessing: Harvey’s book panders to the symptoms of our malaise. It doesn’t get at what causes women (and men) to do the wild, crazy, skuzzy things they do and do to each other. (Of course, I’m guessing here since I haven’t actually read the book.)

But I have read what sisterblogger What Tami Said has to say in her spot on commentary on Harvey’s book. I agree with her when she writes: I also wonder, with all the problems black men face today, whether Harvey’s time would have been better spent counseling the men he professes to know so well, rather than women.

Why doesn’t Uncle Steve write a book challenging playas like himself rather than writing a book to women who get played? If he really cares about the plight of black women and the black family, especially the fate of at risk children (he has a foundation that focuses on mentoring) then why doesn’t an old playa take what he’s learned and write to young playas about fatherhood and what manhood really means. Act Like A Man will do as the first half of the book’s title. In it a streetwise, but reformed ex-playa of an uncle like Steve Harvey might offer words of wisdom to pitiful males like 28 year old Desmond Hatchett who has 21 children with 11 different women.

Ask me why Harvey doesn’t write to the playas themselves. I’m glad you asked that question. Because playas don’t buy books. But lovesick women do. Beaucoup.

Finally, why in the world do black women continue to gobble up all this misogynistic dribble that’s being passed off to us by (business) men like Steve Harvey and Tyler Perry, dribble that’s being packaged to us as homegrown wit and kitchentable wisdom (the kind  usually transmitted from one generation to the next by women themselves)?  Why do we swoon over this stuff and buy it in the fistful when all it does is blame women for needing love and makes no commensurate commentary about men who exploit that innocent need? How can you trust a writer who doesn’t have anything to say about a system that profits on black women and black men being at each other’s throats and offers us no tools on how to build trust in our relationships?

But like I said, I haven’t read Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man.  And I should probably withhold judgement until I’ve read the book. Which I probably won’t do.

Final note. For what, imo, is an honest, intelligent, thought-ful book on why women fall in relationship traps and how we can avoid these pitfalls and what loving your womanself really looks like, see bell hooks’ Communion: The Female Search for Love.