Category Archives: Women

I’m Not Here to Tell You What to Think about Jesse Williams…

I’m not here to tell you what to think. I’m just here to help you think critically.

There’s been a lot of discussion around Jesse Williams and Aryn Drake-Lee’s divorce. This very unfortunate situation has rendered various responses, specifically from the black community and especially because Jesse is now dating Minka Kelly, a white woman. While this dialogue started around Jesse and Aryn, this blog post is less about them and more about unpacking what our reactions/responses mean for “the movement,” and expressions and definitions of blackness.

Do personal shortcomings discredit one’s advocacy work/activism?

Some believe that Jesse’s actions show poor character, a lack of integrity, and warrant us to revoke our support of him. It is important to acknowledge that this perspective is based on the assumption that Jesse cheated on his ex-wife, which he has denied. However, this brings up an interesting notion: do we expect activists and leaders of “the movement” to be faultless? Is perfection required for them to be credible and receive our support?IMG_0407

I think about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. While we hold him in very high regard for his work and advocacy for civil rights, we’ are aware of his infidelity allegations. Does Dr. King cheating on Coretta Scott King discredit his work? Should we cancel Dr. King?

With great power comes great responsibility so leaders will be held to high standards. However, no one is perfect and we all (continuously) make mistakes. While one may be an “expert” in one area, they may not have it all together in another. So where is the threshold? What shortcomings will we tolerate and which will we not?

Can a black person be pro-black but date/love someone who is not black?

Some are challenging Jesse’s (pro)blackness, finding his divorce from a black woman and/or dating a white woman to be hypocritical and negating of his advocacy for black lives, and more specifically, for black women (listen to his words about black women during his 2016 BET Humanitarian Award acceptancIMG_0409e speech).

Blackness is often put in a (small) box.  Depending on how you speak, eat, your hobbies, neighborhood, being multi-racial…your black card comes into question and it just may be revoked. Could this be another example of this? Does dating/loving a non-back person get your black card revoked? Can a black person be pro-black without dating/loving someone who is black? Do we see black people who date non-black people as credible activists and advocates?

 

Do black men really get on and leave our a** for a white girl?

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Now that Jesse’s relationship with Minka is public, some black women suspect that this is another example of a black man leaving for a white woman. The fact of the matter is that it may not be. Maybe this is just how love is happening for Jesse— maybe this is truly someone he has hit if off with and who he cares about. And he is totally free to pursue that.

However, that fact that this thought crosses the minds of many black women speaks to something with much deeper roots.

After quoting Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” lyrics, Michael Harriot explained,

There is always truth in humor. The reason Kanye West’s line is so memorable is that we’ve all seen it happen. The idea that white women have always been a graduation present or lifetime achievement award for black men has become an accepted trope among black people. We quietly talk about it among ourselves, in barbershops and at cookouts.

The thought that rich, successful and famous black men eventually trade in black women for white women is such an acknowledged fact that we don’t even bother pointing out that the guy who wrote and rapped it left our ass for a white girl.

 

IMG_0410Again, this may not be what’s going on in Jesse’s situation, but it is still something to think about. How do we react to black men dating non-black people? How do we react to black women dating non-black people? What causes those reactions?  Why do some black men get on and leave our a** for a white girl?

 

 

 

And after you’ve thought through all of that, ask yourself, would we even be having this conversation if Jesse was now dating a black woman? What does that mean?

I’m not here to tell you what to think. I’m just here to help you think critically. We must think beyond the surface. Take this information, think, and determine your truth.

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 7- Whitney Houston Performs National Anthem

whitIn the spirit of the Super Bowl , Lady Gaga’s beautiful rendition of the national anthem, and Beyonce and Bruno Mars slaying the halftime show, I cannot help but remember one of the greatest Super Bowl performances EVER by the one and only Whitney Houston.

In 1991, 25 years ago, Whitney Houston sang the national anthem at Super Bowl XXV. To this day, Whitney Houston’s rendition is still revered as the standard for performing this song. Whitney Houston performed the national anthem at the hight of the Persian Gulf War and captivated the patriotic spirit of the country so well that Artista Records released the recording as a single. The single made it to the Billboard Hot 100, reaching No. 20. The performance remained iconic, so much so that it moved to the top 10, reaching No. 6, after September 11, 2001.

So let’s all take a few minutes and bask in the glory of Whitney Houston’s (arguably) unmatched rendition of the national anthem:

Today, we remember Whitney Houston for singing the national anthem like never before, and for just being the greatest of all time. Period. She’s no longer here with us but her legacy is and will continue to live forever.

#EverydayBlackHistory

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 4- Claudette Colvin

claudette.jpgToday, we celebrate and remember Rosa Parks on what would have been her 103rd birthday. Rosa Parks is known as the “mother of the Civil Rights Movement” and we are forever grateful for all her work towards freedom and justice. However, before Rosa Parks, there was Claudette Colvin.

Claudette Colvin was one of several women to refuse to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, AL prior to Rosa Parks. On March 2, 1955, nine months before Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin refused to move stating, “I paid my fare and it’s my constitutional right.” In an interview she recalls, “I remember they dragged me off the bus because I refused to walk. They handcuffed me and took me to an adult jail.”  At the time, Claudette Colvin was 15 years old. She explains, “I just couldn’t move. History had me glued to the seat.”

Claudette Colvin was charged with assault and battery, disorderly conduct and defying the segregation law.

It’s important to understand how mush of a sacrifice Claudette Colvin’s actions actually were. Her parents felt that she put their family in danger, so much so that her father stayed up that entire night with a shotgun fully loaded, fearful that the KKK would come to their home. She also lost friends, with their parents saying she was “crazy” and an “extremist.”

Claudette Colvin wanted to continue her fight in the courts, unlike others that had refused to give up their seat. However, even after she sought out a lawyer, the black community leaders preferred to wait on taking legal action. Claudette Colvin had not had any civil rights training and, soon after the arrest, she became pregnant and had a child out of wedlock. She believes they felt she did not fit the image.

However, a year later, federal lawsuit Browder v. Gayle was filed, which included Claudette Colvin, Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith, and ultimately ended segregation on public transportation in Alabama.

Today, we remember Claudette Colvin for her courage and sacrifice. While there are some names that quickly come to mind when we think of the Civil Rights Movement, it is important to remember that there were thousands of foot soldiers who played major roles in the movement. We may not know all their names, but we are forever  indebted to them.

#EverydayBlackHistory

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 3- Mary Jane Patterson

MJPToday, many Black women make the decision
to continue their education at institutions
of higher learning. Whether attending a historically black college or university (HBCU) or a predominately white institution (PWI), countless black women are succeeding, and sprinkling #BlackGirlMagic all around campus. But who did this first?

Mary Jane Patterson was the first Black women to receive a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree. She received her degree from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio in 1862.

While it is not certain, it is believed that Mary Jane Patterson was born into slavery in Raleigh, NC in 1840, moving to Oberlin as a teenager. She completed college preparatory courses at Oberlin College in 1857. But when it was time for her to attend college, Mary Jane Patterson chose not to enroll in the college’s two-year program for women and enrolled in the “gentlemen’s course,” which was a four-year program. She graduated with her B.A. degree with high honors in 1862.

At the age of 22, Mary Jane Patterson moved to Philadelphia, PA. There, she was a teacher at the Institute for Colored Youth for five years. In 1869, she moved to Washington, D.C. and taught at the new Preparatory High School for Colored Youth, the first public high school in Washington D.C.

In 1871, Mary Jane Patterson became the principal of the school until she resigned in 1884. Under her leadership, the school developed a prestigious reputation.

Mary Jane Patterson was also active in women’s rights and assisted in founding the Colored Women’s League of Washington, D.C.

Today, we remember Mary Jane Patterson for paving the way for black women (and people) in higher education, even in a time when slavery still existed and women were extremely marginalized. We thank her for being an early demonstration of black girl magic.

#EverydayBlackHistory

 

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