Friday, April 13, 2007

black girls face: r. kelly (preview)

about one year ago, i completed the film i had always wanted to see but got tired of waiting for someone else to make. here's some snippets of it:

i purposely included the black female subjects of this documentary trying to figure things out and make meaning while they spoke. that's real to me. in watching a nation and media obsess about an older white man's remarks about younger black women, i realized that when racism and sexism are the topics, we are allowed very little space to just think and express something outside of guilt and resentment (white folks) or anger and resolve (black folks). anything outside of these emotions exceed the limits of mass media, particularly tv.

the issues underpinning the imus drama can't be resolved or even fully understood in mainstream media, mostly because mainstream media thrive mostly off of eruptions--events that ultimately become spectacles that inundate more than they inform. as far as imus went, i found myself as interested in how the story was reported on as much as the story itself.

one of the most frustrating things is the continued insistence of mainstream media to rely on perspectives from black folks who are older and/or male. to refer to al sharpton at every eruption is almost as offensive as the eruptions themselves. another reality that keeps becoming more and more clear is that if a white man is the perpetrator (imus) or accused perpetrator (duke guys) and the target(s) is black and female, the problem is consider a "racially explosive" issue and is quickly addressed. but if the perpetrator is a black man, its like the infraction didn't happen.

and i am talking about r. kelly. it's going on 5 years since he's been charged with child pornography--younger black females as the targets--and he has not seen a trial. i quietly bring and re-bring this up, not because i have a vested interest in seeing r. kelly being admonished in the same ways that imus was (as an aside, i'm not convinced firing him was necessary). it's more because as a young black woman, i care about what's being implied in all these eruptions, particularly when they have to do with my peers.

rather than glamorize what's being implied, i'll just tell you my goals for the documentary--they are purposely the opposite of what all these eruptions suggest.

show our faces,
show us being vulnerable and pensive,
show us processing,
show us as female.

then we can draw some more appropriate conclusions about black girls and women.

tokumbo bodunde

Sunday, April 8, 2007

united black girls the title of an exhibit i (finally) got to see a couple of weekends ago. a mixed-media display of art exploring "representations of the Black woman in popular culture."

well...this has been my thing for a long hot minute. so of course i was ecstatic to witness it. my homegirl jessica had a piece in it, as did 5 other black female artists. my favorite was a piece by omya alston that "unleashes a verbal assault" on the viewer by having us look at ourselves in a frosted mirror whose only reflective parts are offensive (at least to some) terms that are often leveled at black women in particular.

parts of my face were cut out by the words "ghetto bitch", "project ho", "punany for sale", "video ho", "slut", "hoochie mama", and "babymama" among many many others.

i was stunned. not just at the quiet verbal assault, indeed, of those words. but more at the number of them that were specifically about sexuality underscored by economics. i wish i could recommend the exhibit--it closed, unfortunately, before i could help get the word out about it.

with a mirror as the medium, those words could be attributed to any group--they stared everyone in the face. you literally had to strain to see who you were in that mirror amidst the clutter of denigrating terms. and even when you caught a glimpse of yourself, it was always within those words. god, now that i think of it, that mirror was like "hey, welcome to being a black girl." i'd even go so far to say that this "mirror" is there whether we're conscious of it or not.

regardless of your identities, it'd be difficult not to take the issue of black female oppression seriously when it's all up in your face like that. it's everyone's problem and everyone can participate.

(oh, art rocks!)

i keep this exhbition in mind as the fracas ensues over radio personality don imus' statements about rutgers female basketball players ("nappy headed hos" who look like the [male] "toronto raptors"). i doubt this will receive the attention of michael richards "n-word" incident, not that all of that was productive attention anyway. but it will be evidence of what is allowed toward black women, particularly in media and popular culture. as was the norbit movie. as is r. kelly's "alleged" improprieties and pending court case.

one of the most unnerving things about imus' words was the ease with which he accessed them. they were not simply mean, random words that popped in his head so much as they were tried and true ways of conceiving of black women.

as we figure out policies and actions to take against all of the above and all that is related, we really gotta figure out ways of how to have other things pop into folks' head when they think of black women. you know, like complex, beautiful, intelligent and loving--the stuff that is actually true of us.

i, for one, am trying to get this r. kelly project jumping off again. what you gon' do?

tokumbo bodunde