March 26, 2016

Speaking Truth in Our Communities

"If you are silent about your pain, they'll kill you and say you enjoyed it." ~Zora Neale Hurston

Silence has never unfucked anything! And is it a coincidence that those who prefer your silence are those who inflict your pain and/or, no matter how tangentially, benefit from it? It is no surprise that some of those benefiting from your torment also look like you (a verifiable fact as old as slavery and all other forms of injustice themselves) and join the chorus for your silence?

Make no mistake, speaking truth to power and speaking truth in our communities carry the same risks.

As if that is not enough ...

they have no problem muzzling our agony as we fight to breathe, all the while the squeal of their discomfort pierces the drum of even the deaf ear.

March 9, 2016

International Women's Day

Yesterday, International Women's Day, I sat with how female bodies are claimed, controlled, and brutalized by those intent on subjecting them to servitude.

'A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness' produced and directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy speaks to the matrix of society, violence against women, forgiveness, and the absence of female agency. It points our attention toward the terror of surviving a murder attempt and the struggle of continuing to survive in one's community after that trauma.

This 2016 Oscar winner for Best Documentary Short tells the extraordinary story of a young Pakistani woman who narrowly escaped an "honor" killing by her father and uncle. Told through the lens of a true love story, the film is a scathing examination of the contradictions and gaslighting that is part of everyday life for women in Pakistani society.

Forgiveness as a tool of reconciliation and social cohesion, functions to isolate the survivor from her mate, family, and the broader community if she does not acquiesce. Under Pakistani law, the female victim's forgiveness relieves her assailant of all criminal wrongdoing and punishment. Imagine this added trauma to an experience of terror. Imagine.

'Saving Face,' another short by Obaid-Chinoy, brings into focus the horrific act of dousing women with acid, permanently disfiguring and killing some.

We need to do better. Humanity, we need to do better.

March 6, 2016

Saldana is Not the Problem!

“It’s unfortunate that Zoe Saldana is being attacked so viciously," said Lisa Simone Kelly, the only child of Nina Simone, in a Time interview. Let's be clear, it is a travesty that Saldana is being attacked at all.

Zoe Saldana had as much creative control over the so-called biopic 'Nina' as the director Cynthia Mort, who has filed suit against Ealing Studios Enterprises for excluding her from important decision-making processes that were part of their studio-director contractual agreement.

It is naive to believe that an actress signed to a project is routinely granted creative control over make-up, wardrobe, script, or any other aspects of making the film. Saldana was hired to play Nina Simone. I.e., she was an employee, not the boss. Those who come for her are engaged in misdirected indictment.

Valid arguments have been made that whether or not Saldana was the right choice to portray Simone should be based on her performance rather than the hue of her black skin. Absolutely! Actors do not have to be physical carbon copies of the real life people they portray. Angela Bassett bears little resemblance to Tina Turner but she was hella convincing in that role. Eamonn Walker could not be mistaken for Howlin' Wolf but was very persuasive as the blues icon.

Angela and Eamonn possessed that
je ne sais quoi, which permitted them to convince us, the audience, that they were those characters. It is the casting director's job to identify such inarticulatable traits in an actor's ability to deliver a specific character. Whether the casting director did their job or not will be revealed. And yes, I just shamelessly coined "inarticulatable."

I will not be watching 'Nina' in the studios nor via any of the streaming services to which I subscribe. The trailer, which I refuse to include here, promises that the movie is a wholesale reduction of Simone on so many levels.

The trailer's focus on Simone's struggle with mental illness toward the end of her career characterizes her artistry and her commitment to black power, civil rights--human rights--as the efforts of a madwoman. This functions to discredit her as the powerful revolutionary she was and still is--uncompromising and not for sale.

Everything about the studio's production decisions as revealed through the trailer, including Saldana in blackface, indicates that 'Nina' is a effort to reduce Simone to a caricature, not to be taken seriously by anyone unfamiliar with her musicianship, vocal artistry, and relentless activism. And it beacons those of us unacquainted with her psychological challenges to second guess our relationship with her activism. Additionally, friends, 'Nina' is a dangerous piece of "art" for our young who have yet to learn about the singer-songwriter, social justice advocate Nina Simone. 

I feel compelled as a direct beneficiary of Simone's work and as a carrier of culture, a role women have filled for centuries, to exercise a particular kind of stewardship to ensure the perpetuation of a pristine legacy where Simone is concerned. Nina Simone earned this trust in a public stewardship through tears and years of advocating and sacrificing for the cause of black folk. Sacrifices that translated into the real terms of lost gigs, alienation by the music industry, and I contend, mental illness as a byproduct of these tremendous stresses played out on a world stage.

We owe allegiance to and can support the grand legacy of the phenomenal Nina Simone by saying no to 'Nina.'

And we can do this without throwing Zoe Saldana under the colorism bus!

March 4, 2016

Youngest Publisher in American History

Anaya Lee Willabus, a 9-year-old girl from Brooklyn, recently wrote and published her own book. She's the youngest person to publish a chapter book in U.S. history.

Willabus, joined by her parents, talked more about the book, "The Day Mohan Found His Confidence," and what inspired her to write it. ~Pix 11


When it is exclusive it is limited culturally, intellectually, and spiritually. The instant it becomes elite, it becomes irrelevant.

The second sentence is an adaptation of a quote by some bright person whose name I can't recall at the moment.

March 2, 2016

The High Priestess of Soul: Nina Simone

Nina Simone
Simone was and remains an incredibly powerful figure for black social justice and is a personal heroine of mine. She *is* the High Priestess of Soul to millions of black people.

So, what must be done with a film about Simone in the zeitgeist of unapologetic blackness?!

It must be watered down, her appearance questionable to those whose lives her work is a soundtrack to, simultaneously made palatable for consumption outside her circle of influence.

The selection of actress Zoe Saldana and promotion decisions were careful and suggests what this film will offer upon release on March 31. The actress in black face adds a separate layer to the conversation.

Any erasure of the intensity of Simone's radicalism functions to buttresses the structural policies and systemic practices that support and perpetuate anti-blackness.

The affect of this "biopic" on generations of black youth unacquainted with Simone's oeuvre, activism, and love of blackness could prove crippling.

#NinaSimome #BioPic #ZoeSaldana #DavidOyelowo #EalingStudiosEnterprisesLimited

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