Urban haps of a grrrl on a mission to be a better writer, a new music master-blaster and a wonderfully brilliant razor-packing, MAC LipGlass wearing feminista...

Monday, October 24, 2005

For Colored Grrrls

Without even realizing it, I woke up this morning feeling like I've somehow gotten off track with my life, career, writing. Well maybe not off-track as much as meandering too much along the way. I know what I want to do but have been so damn over analytical about how to get there that I’ve lost focused almost entirely. Anyway this morning I awoke with the kind of sharpness and clarity that knocks you out of bed, onto your knees and then on to the computer where I wrote the words I am a Black Woman Journalist. What does this mean exactly? So many things. Too many to discuss now and in this space, but right now for me it means that I need to be SERIOUS about the business of writing about the beauty, complexity, simplicity and madness that generates from, envelopes throughout and blesses the lives of grrrls like me. This awakening is probably a result of a few experiences I’ve recently encountered.

The first was this absolutely dope performance by Imani Uzuri of Her Holy Water: A Black Girl’s Rock Opera on the 14th. She sang songs with lines like “I’m a diamond in the sky/ I’m a Black woman;” Had the greatest commentary in between songs like: “Carrie from Sex & The City may have rocked Manolo Blahniks but my shoes are $5.99 from Payless and guess what, my life is epic too” or my favorite: “You know all of us came from a Black woman and it seems like most of you are trying to get back up in one!” Imani said afterwards that the naming of her opera as being specifically a Black Girl’s version was the recognition on her part that she was always being classified as being a Black Girl first—before artist, before singer, before musician, so in line with that, she has embraced the identity as a form of resistance, pride and in tribute to past works like For Colored Girls, which had the same impact for Ntozake Shange.

The second revelation occurred in Harlem while at Iman’s (official) Day of Beauty event at Hue Man Bookstore. Iman, who is stunning in person, was there with the official proclamation (signed by the mayor himself) in hand. She signed copies of her book while her make-up artists gave free makeovers. So there were a gang of folks in the place and besides Iman, the other big draw was the unveiling of a mural featuring the photos of Black & Latina girls mainly from the neighborhood. Well oddly enough this mural, which was supposed to be huge, was tiny--small enough to fit on my bathroom wall. I was stunned as I had been one of the sisters that came out to be photographed that weekend before and I know that there were atleast 55 girls that day alone so I know over the course of three days the 100 or so photos I saw could not have been representational of all who came out to pose. And sure nuff, as I stood there looking at the mural I would say no less than 20 sisters walked up to the collage of photos and stared and then with utter disappointment said things like, “I wonder why I didn’t make the cut” or why was I left out and she put on” pointing to one of the many light skinned girls featured. I asked the woman in charge what happened to the supposed grandiose mural and she said that there was a snafu and this wasn’t what was originally planned but this is what they got.

After noticing that my photo too had not been one of the lucky ones selected for the muralita, I decided to hang-out and observe and what I saw surprised me. I was moved, fascinated by the responses of people. Women, and I mean grown a*s Black women were slightly pissed, but mostly so, so sad that their face was not among the images on display. I didn’t realize that these mamas I see walking down 1-2-5 had such sensitive and fragile levels of self-esteem. Many seemed to get over the disappointment though by getting a makeover. I had to ask myself how damaging was this so-called Day of Beauty becoming? Right when these sisters felt like they had fallen short of qualifying for the Beauty Mural they were enticed by free make-up and makeovers. What the hell kinda message is that sending out to the Uptown Girls that were pinpointed for this event? So you're Black and ugly, but don't fret cause make-up makes you beautiful!?

And speaking of makeover jobs, the third incident that brought me back to the middle was the brouhaha over the Vanity Fair cover featuring Beyonce where this was alleged. To me she looks just as light as she does on the cover of Essence (but that shot was a lil’ out of focus so I could be wrong). She's a fair skinned chica, whatever!

That's so not important in the larger scope of things. That scope being there hasn’t been a Black woman on a VF cover for over 10 years. Now that my friend is insane! We are sorta missing the point by just focusing on the airbrushing issue. If VF feels that we are only significant every decade or so, then eff them! Why are there no boycotts to not buy the damn mag at all? Where's our motivation to do something powerful with our dollar?

The last thing that led to my current moment of clarity was an Images of Women in Pop Culture panel sponsored by NOW held last Thursday. Jean Kilbourne’s award-winning documentary “Killing Us Softly,” was shown and it was really interesting-- despite the footage being so old, the themes were still relevant. When the panel began and the grrrls on the panel introduced themselves their seemed to be this tension mounting on the dais-- a tension that I’ve seen so many times before at events just like this. The panelists selected for these types of feminist joints are so clichéd. The white women are usually over the top liberal lesbians with something to prove and the Black women always seem annoyed, angry and tired. Just as I start packing it up to leave, this white woman runs up to the stage and takes a seat on the panel. She introduced herself and made everyone laugh and really turned the panel around. Her name was Wendy Shanker and she's the bomb. Her shtick is centered on being a fat women but she was relatable to all the women in the audience because she was insightful, witty and humorous with her commentary. It made me realize how fricking academic and staid issues around beauty and self-esteem are and have been. How we need to maybe get rid of the word feminism and replace it with fatty gal, I&I, theHotness or something else that doesn’t cling to ivory towers, but resonates in the hood with colored grrrls who like Popeye’s, their long nails painted hot pink, their hair cornrowed on an angle and who need to know they are diamonds in the sky and that they look fine without a pound of makeup on their skin.

Yes, I am a Black Woman Journalist!

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