Melanin Poppin’ – Afropunk Brooklyn 2017 with My Girls

For those of you who don’t know what Afropunk is, in just a few words, it’s a two-day alternative music festival that incorporates fashion, art, food, activism and other creative expressions of blackness. It originated in Brooklyn but now has festivals in Paris, London, Atlanta and Johannesburg, South Africa. Afropunk is a huge event that is a convergence of many different interests, but for me, the dress-up aspect is the most exciting part. Just do a Google search for “Afropunk fashion” or “Afropunk street style” to see what I mean. Or better yet, continue reading!

Last year was my first time going to Afropunk, although I had been wanting to go for several years. When I finally made it there, I ended up having so much fun and decided that I would definitely go again next year. This year rolled around and I was able to get my ticket early, thank goodness because the prices go up as it gets closer to the date. This is an issue for some since prior to 2015, the concert was free of charge. But one thing to note, whether you consider it a good or bad thing, once it stopped being free, the acts moved closer and closer to being mainstream. The concert still features alternative acts, but I think one difference is that Black alternative music is becoming more popular, as I mentioned in my post, “Is Alt-R&B a Thing? (What I’m Listening to These Days & a Review of Ravyn Lenae).”

Anyway, I was super excited about this year’s show, which would have, among other acts, a Saint Heron Stage that included performers curated by Solange herself. So I got a group of 6 of my closest friends and family together to go with me. We were going to have a mini girls trip! I even created a What’s App group chat for us to plan. For weeks, the seven of us chatted and laughed about what outfits and hairstyles we would be rocking for the big event. We sent each other Pinterest pictures for inspiration and thought of DIY ideas for accessories and anything else we could think of.

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“Chill out, it was Just a Joke.” – Is America Getting too Sensitive?

 

I get so annoyed when people complain that America is “getting too sensitive”. What does that even mean? Is it wrong to respect humanity so much that we get upset if anyone commits mental and emotional violence on others with their words and actions? Is it wrong to be concerned that negative ideologies, beliefs, and stereotypes are being reinforced by the media or people who simply like to hear themselves talk?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy fun and “ratchet” music and TV or a (thoughtful) satire or a sarcastic joke as much as the next person but sometimes humor and entertainment value are used as excuses to continue to cast a blind eye on how marginalized groups are treated and viewed in this country. Sadly, the unwillingness to learn about others takes precedence over understanding others’ experiences in order to simply treat people better. And it doesn’t stop at entertainment and social media. There are many offensive things that take place in our everyday lives that have been so accepted that it is hard to convince people of their harmful nature. Things like work and school micro-aggressions, exclusionary practices, and cultural and ethnic erasure and homogenization are just a few ways we have ingrained ignorance into our existence.

 

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Black TV: “Unrealistic” Black Excellence vs. The “Relatable” Stereotype (Part II – The Black Woman)

Just like the Black family, Black women have had a similar struggle to be represented positively and accurately on TV. It’s important that Black women are not only given more roles but that these roles are accurate and positive, thereby making them for us, not just about us.

But throughout the years, it has seemed like too much to ask to see TV shows that were both about Black women and also made for Black women. Black women have been awkwardly inserted into TV shows as the token on mostly white shows or as incidental characters on shows with Black ensemble casts (e.g. if the star of the show is a Black man, he will most likely have to have a Black girlfriend, wife, mother, etc.) These characters don’t always necessarily speak to our real experiences as Black women and that is usually not the purpose that they were created for.

I believe that for these shows and characters to be not only about us as Black women, but for us, the shows must be created by Black women, or at least feature our writing or direction so that we can have more control over how we are portrayed. Then we can create characters that exemplify attainable #BlackGirlMagic as well as the relatable girl-next-door persona. We don’t need any more characters who represent the gamut of negative stereotypes; from being fetishized to being the best friend with no love life to being the angry Black woman. In addition, it’s important to note that depending on the era, the face of the Black woman and how we want to be portrayed on television changes.

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You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover: The Urban Novel

 

Something that I have been wanting to write about for awhile is the plight of the urban novel. I love a good urban romance or street lit book, but there are so many nowadays that it’s a challenge to find ones that are written up to a certain standard. Even so, there’s the common misconception that poorly written hood fiction is a direct result of the skill level of the authors who write them, but this isn’t necessarily true.

Urban novels often get a bad rap, not only because of their “hood” content but because some of them are not written well. As I have been toying with the idea of self-publishing my own books, I’ve realized that much of this has nothing to do with whether an urban novelist is less capable of forming a grammatically correct sentence than a mainstream fiction writer. Instead, it has very much to do with the self-publishing process or, in the alternative, with underfunded publishing companies who sometimes can’t afford to hire a good editor.

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Black TV: “Unrealistic” Black Excellence vs. The “Relatable” Stereotype (Part I – The Black Family)

 

Everyone can agree that representation of Black people in the media is a huge issue, but our reactions to the attempts made to be more inclusive vary depending on each of our own experiences. It’s obvious that there is not enough representation of Black people on TV in general, but the other concern is that the representation that we do have is not always positive or accurate. The argument over what positive and accurate representation looks like is an argument that we have been having for decades, especially when it comes to the portrayal of the Black family and the Black woman.

Often the argument comes down to whether we as Black people disagree with the constant barrage of stories with a slave or house servant narrative or whether we are annoyed by stories featuring characters with almost superhuman qualities or “unrealistic” excellence. Do we feel alienated by upper-middle class Black families on TV or do we feel offended by the stereotype of poor Black families on TV?

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#MillennialGirlMagic

As far as I’m concerned, people in my generation are the only true millennials. I mean, I graduated from high school in the year 2000, the beginning of the new millennium (by popular opinion, if not the actual beginning). They said that those in my class represented the future. It was an honor, yes, but it also came with very high expectations. Apparently, now there are two decades of people, most of whom are younger than us, who have been dubbed millennials and for whatever their reasons, older generations look down on millennials as a whole today. I guess things have changed.

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Freedom: The Fight isn’t Over

I have been avoiding writing about this topic ever since November 9th. But in a few days, our nightmarish fate will be sealed. People say not to have a defeatist attitude but it’s hard not to.

After the election results surfaced I was devastated, as many of us were. I couldn’t express my feelings in full sentences but the one word that did come to mind was, “Angry.” I tried so hard to make some sense of what had happened by writing. All I could think of to write were these words, “An open wound, salt, never been more woke, beaten and beaten, we are being tested.” I couldn’t get any farther than that incoherent string of words. As I bring my mind back to that day and weed through the foliage of my thoughts, I think this is what I was trying to say:

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The Top 10 Books on My Holiday Wish List

 

As I have said before, I used to be an avid reader growing up. Even now, I absolutely love reading. But, as I got older I’ve had less and less time to read. Or maybe I just wasn’t making the time. Either way, adulting definitely distracted me from my favorite hobby. Thankfully, I have started to get back into it.

Here’s a list of books that I have on my Christmas wish list. Some of them I have been hearing great buzz about lately and others are books I have known about the past few years but I haven’t gotten around to reading them. This holiday season, I hope to get all of the books on this list, and more!

1.

Another Brooklyn, By Jacquline Woodson

This book speaks to me because I remember when I was younger there were so many coming-of-age stories for white children and not many for young women of color. So when I did come across any, I would be so excited to read them. Another Brooklyn is about a woman reflecting back on her experience as a young Black girl growing up in Brooklyn during the 70’s. This seems like the perfect adult coming-of-age story and I can’t wait to read it. 

2.

Purple Hibiscus, By Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

This is the debut novel by acclaimed author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, so I’m a bit late. But better late than never. I knew this book had to be on my list because I really enjoyed reading Adiche’s other work and the story, about a young Nigerian woman’s internal struggle for autonomy from her family, was something I think many people can relate to. 

3.

Underground Railroad, By Colson Whitehead

I read a lot of historical fiction when I was younger but, as an adult, I haven’t found any that sparked my interest. What struck me about this book was that not only is it set in pre-civil war America, but Colson added his own spin – the underground railroad is an actual railroad and not just a metaphor. It tells the story of a courageous young woman who escapes slavery via the railroad and all of the adventures that come with that voyage. I’m sure this book will be just as heartbreaking as it is exciting but I’m looking forward to the entire experience. 

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America, Police Your Racism

Police Brutality Protest in Union Square

In just two days, two black men were gunned down by police officers without justification. One, Alton Sterling, was pinned down by the police who were restraining him. He was immobile and his hands were nowhere near his pockets, yet the officers shot him multiple times, killing him. The other, Philando Castile, who had a license to carry a gun, told the officer who had pulled him over for a supposedly broken tail light that he had his legal gun in his vehicle. Despite him having done nothing wrong, the police shot and killed him in front of his fiancé and young daughter who were in the car with him. These stories are becoming entirely too familiar.

What disturbs me the most about the continuous police brutality that black people in this country face today is not only that it is still happening, with little or no consequences to the perpetrators and endless demonizing of the victims, but that not everyone in this country, where we all claim to value freedom above all else, sees these killings as a problem that must be solved. There are people who would rather point out that there is violence all over the world and that, according to them, there is so much black on black crime that more black people dying shouldn’t matter so much. Violence in any country is horrendous, but who are we as Americans to use that as an excuse to ignore the atrocities that happen every day on our soil? So much for patriotism.

As for black on black crime, of course that is upsetting but it is horrible in the same way as people on people crime is. When people of any color are involved in violent crimes it is deplorable but there is a specific difference. With racially motivated violence, there is an added layer of trauma. It is not just the tragedy that violence causes that is of concern, but it is also the hatred that spurns such violence and the fear that creeps into the back of every Black-American’s mind that they could be next. This violence is even more sinister when it is at the hands of those who vow to serve and protect us but yet in the name of their blue badges, they gun down men, women and children simply because they are black. How is this not a problem that we all care about and all want to change?

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Social Media (& Black Twitter) – The Gift & The Curse

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As a new blogger (I know I’m super late to the game) I have been realizing that I have to step up my social media skills. Not to say that I don’t usually do social media, because I do. I just miss the days of Facebook, for example, where not everyone and their mom could sign up and it wasn’t such a free for all. Mind you, I’m not one to be elitist about things, especially not something like Facebook but I enjoyed it a lot more when friends were actually friends.

Nowadays, even if you do actually know your Facebook friends in real life, some of these “so called” friends might not be so friendly. We all know of people who use Facebook as a platform to spew their ignorant, often hateful or just plain old judgmental speech. It gets so bad that we end up having to un-friend these people. As a writer, I’m all about free speech but it’s come to a point where I dread having to log on to Facebook, a network that I used to use to keep in touch with friends and family and share with them the current statuses of my life. If I wanted to hear ignorant, hateful speech, I would turn on Fox News and if I wanted to argue with people, I would join a debate Meetup, or better yet, call one of my exes. I wish I could permanently log off of Facebook but alas, it is connected to pretty much every app I use and as intrusive as this may be, it’s pretty damn convenient for log in purposes.

And then there’s these new-ish social media platforms like Snap Chat. Don’t get me started on that one. It looks so fun when other people use it, but for the life of me I can’t figure it out. I’m more of an Instagram person. As much as I love words, there’s nothing like a simple yet beautiful or funny picture and a cute caption to go with it – not that I am in any way an expert on captions. I’m more of a “Happy Friday!” captioner.

Anyway, the one social network that I still don’t entirely get but am determined to add to my very small social network repertoire is Twitter. It can be a great way to spread the word about everything from a blog, a movie, or even breaking news. So I was all for it, ready to start tweeting, sharing links and pics, re-tweeting and mentioning. But after following a few of my favorite personalities, bloggers and podcasters, and seeing the hell they get from not only trolls but *gasp* Black Twitter, I began feeling a little intimidated.

Trolls are awful and can’t be helped, I suppose, but Black Twitter is actually something that I used to imagine that I could be a part of, until recently. I will say Black Twitter is very in tune with what is going on in the Twitter-verse (or is it Twitter-sphere?) but they are also always ready to pounce, sometimes without the proper information. It doesn’t help that there probably is no vetting process to becoming a member. I’m pretty sure you just have to identify as Black, have an active Twitter account, and use whatever clever hashtag all the other members are using. I’ve never been one to back down from a good argument but like I said above about Facebook, who wants to be involved in unnecessary Twitter beefs? I just want to promote my blog and put my words out into the universe, not be a part of any drama.

But, at the end of the day, I have decided to forge ahead with my entry on to Twitter because I have to admit that Black Twitter does attack those who definitely need to be attacked, not just the undeserving, and Black Twitter is funny as hell and consistently provides me with laughs.

Here are some examples of Black Twitter moments and hashtags that I’ve enjoyed and also some not so great Black Twitter attacks:

1. I love when Black Twitter gets political: The hashtag #WhichHillary #WhichHillary Trends on Twitter after BLM activist interrupts Clinton fundraiser (Note: this hashtag was used by many on Twitter not just Black Twitter, but it was started by a Black Lives Matter activist and member of Black Twitter)

2. And when it fights for Black feminism and social justice: See New York Times Dubs Shonda Rhimes and Characters the “Angry Black Woman,” Black Twitter Attacks; and the hashtag #LessClassicallyBeautiful #LessClassicallyBeautiful Takes Over Twitter Challenging NYT’s Review of Viola Davis and White Beauty Standards; and the hashtag #SayHerName Twitter Expresses Outrage Over Sandra Bland With #SayHerName and 32 #SayHerName Tweets That Spotlight The Police Brutality Black Women Face, Too

3. I especially love when Black Twitter is just plain old hilarious: People Are Doing #TrapCovers Of Pop Songs And It’s Incredible, #WhitePeopleInvitedToTheCookout Is The Best Thing To Happen To The Internet, Once You See A Little Bit Of #BeyonceAlwaysOnBeat You Just Can’t Stop, and Black Twitter Nailed What It Was Like #GrowingUpBlack

4. But we can’t forget when Black Twitter is simultaneously thoughtful while making jokes, a skill in and of itself: The hashtag #CNNBeLike BLACK TWITTER REACTS TO RACIST REPORTING OF OTIS BYRD WITH #CNNBELIKE and the hashtag #AllLionsMatter #AllLionsMatter Parodies the Fact That People Are More Outraged Over Cecil the Dead Lion Than Slain Black People

5. Unfortunately, a thoughtful and funny response can sometimes go wrong: The hashtag #RealBlackPeopleQuestions hashtag was great Black Twitter asks #RealBlackPeopleQuestions after this Buzzfeed Video fail, but then Black Twitter attacked Black Buzzfeed writers who had nothing to do with the video Why Buzzfeed’s Latest Video “Questions Black People Have for Black People” is Out of Pocket

6. And sometimes attacks can be divided, and in some cases both sides can be totally off base – even if only in the delivery of the message: Black women attacked Ayesha Curry and then, surprise surprise, Black men attacked black women for not being more like Ayesha Curry after a Tweet she posted, see Ayesha Curry Ruffled A Few Feathers On Twitter With Commentary On How Women Dress

What I’ve learned about this social media world is just like with so many other things, I’m going to have to take the good with the bad, and most importantly, enjoy the laughs along the way. Oh yeah and I will have to avoid the dreaded #hoteptwitter and Hotep Facebook at all costs. Those who don’t know what that is, consider yourself lucky. Just know that if they dare come for me, I’ll be ready – maybe even with my own Femme-inist Black Twitter posse.