Queen me Slim

(Spoilers)

Listen…I saw Queen & Slim last night, and it was first and foremost cinematic excellence.

“Why Black people always have to be excellent? Why can’t we just be ourselves”

Well… sometimes who you are is just fucking excellent, and Lena Waithe and Melina Matsoukas are that. This movie was black on black, and it spoke on love, brutality on Black bodies, freedom, and protest. It was in so many ways #BlackLivesMatter on film. It was also so much more. I found myself paying attention to things I don’t normally think I would have. It made me feel things I didn’t expect to. Let’s get into it.

1. Black Skin

This movie moved around melanin.

The cinematography highlighted it. The colors that surrounded it seemed to make it look smoother, richer, and more beautiful. The bodies of the title characters intertwined on the side of the road, was like watching chocolate stirring. The scene at the jazz club, appropriately called The Underground, was a sea of Black skin, darkest mahogany to cafe au lait, moving in syncopation with the heavy blues music. Uncle Earl’s “girls” moved about in lace and natural hair, bodies thick to thin, and skin glistening. It was a huepalooza! Everything seems to move around it. Everything.

2. Black Freedom

What starts as a blind date, ends up as a freedom story. The couple moves from Cleveland to Florida, trying to escape to Cuba and avoid certain death for killing a police officer in self-defense. It’s a typical traffic stop turns fatal, but this time the usual victim turns the gun on the clearly racist cop. Somehow in this struggle they find strength and freedom.

As they move through the country, they are celebrated and protected by other Black people along the way. It’s not a celebration of their killing the officer so much as a celebration of their remaining alive. A vindication of sorts for the Black folks they encounter who have grieved for Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Willie McCoy, and countless others. It’s also a celebration of the Black network. The Uncle Earl’s along the way that often help all of us when we are in precarious positions, to find our way out. The various people they meet along the way that cry for them after they perish. I am my brother’s keeper.

Most importantly, they find themselves. The uptight and loner lawyer is able to heal from her past and embrace sharing her most personal and intimate spaces with her cohort.

 “I want a guy to show me myself. I want him to love me so deeply, I’m not afraid to show him how ugly I can be.

They fall in love as she is healed and he is able to be his true self, telling her about his wants, fears, shortcomings.

“I ain’t going to bend the world. As long as my lady remembers me fondly, that’s all I need.

To be able to love and be vulnerable is the greatest freedom. It’s a love story sure, but much more a freedom story.

3. Black Culture

Music

jazz, hip hop, blues, gospel

Clothes

snake skin boots, jogging suits, jewel tones, gold, animal print, Gucci, lace, sexy, all white

A major big up to Shiona Turini as costume designer. That fur Bokeem Woodbine wore to the funeral was some of the dopest shit I’ve seen in a movie in a long time, fashion wise. And that Dapper Dan jogging suit was major. Way to focus on Black fashion!

Ancestry

Langston (as in Hughes) the Black cop who let them go ; The Underground (as in Railroad) club and the bartender like a Southern Harriet Tubman “you’re safe here” and the reverse fugitive slave narrative (North to South); and Assata Shakur’s escape to Cuba after escaping from prison for her part in a shootout that left a white cop dead.

Being Black in America. After shooting a cop in self-defense, they become the criminals simply because they are Black and the cop was White. They are hunted, labeled armed and dangerous when they don’t even have a weapon, and killed, her by a overzealous female cop and him execution style, holding her lifeless body, unarmed, and clearly not dangerous. We don’t ever hear their names until the end… Angela and Ernest. The news clip is the same victim as criminal shit we heard after pictures of Trayvon Martin putting up the middle finger and Michael Brown possibly robbing a party store were used to lessen the severity of their murders. We are assumed criminals by birthright in America. We are born into the bondage of racism.

4. Black women

I watched Angela Johnson go from a judgey, I’m smarter than you stoic figure dressed in all white with her middle parted braids to a flirty, sexy, fun woman in a short dress, short hair, and open and vulnerable disposition. She was every woman. She was me. She was my sistafriends. She was strong and afraid. She was in control and able and willing to relinquish it. When they both knew their lives were over, she looks to him and says “Can I be your legacy” … the ultimate ride or die. And while most of us aren’t willing to pledge death, we will die for what we believe in. And she believed in Ernest. Black women are all these things. We were represented well.

“He is nothing out there, but in here he’s a King!”

A Queen is indeed her King’s legacy!

Queen & Slim was an excellent film. It was a full circle film, where everything made sense. At one point Ernest attempts to assure Angela telling her that they are safe because the person they encountered was Black, and she remarks “that’s not always a good thing” under her breath. The movie, which rides the music in the film in perfect rhythm, reaches a crescendo and her comment rings true when that Goodie Mob meets Hootie Hoo snitch ass negro feigns helping them to turn them in. Ole sucka MC ass! Sorry… he made me feel a way! A testament to good acting. Did I mention that Bokeem Woodbine was awesome…

These characters, these actors, the fimmakers… they are Black excellence. They don’t have to try, they can’t help it, they just are.

I deserve this, bye

Y’all know how I do… I applaud all dope girl shit, and don’t be Black too… cuz how does the saying go …

Speaking of Issa Rae…

Her speech at the Women in Film Awards was the stuff all dope girl shit is made of. It was witty, clever, creative, real, and absolutely awesome af. Sis said…” we are conditioned socially to be humble…and I grew up in the age of hip hop…. none of my favorite artists are humble, they don’t even know what that means…” She went on to give a hip hop inspired braggadocious speech about being the first to win the Entreprenuer award saying…”I’m the first so you future hoes need to bow down unless you wanna catch my fade, wit yo week ass!”

I was all 😂🤣, then all 🤷🏽‍♀️, then all ✊🏽! Listen here.

It was the epitome of litty!

But let’s be real, any woman who grew up in the 80s and early 90s and listened to LL, Big Daddy Kane, Special Ed, Snoop, Nas, Jay-Z, and Big L really can’t be faded. We excel then prevail. We was nice before ice. We could sell water to a well. Walking with a switch, talking with street slang. It ain’t hard to tell. We break em and bake em and rake em and take em and mold em and make em.  We will not lose, ever. We… are the magnificent.

That’s right, we are unapologetic about our shine in 20-1-9. It’s one of the most rewarding results of the impact of hip hop on the culture. It gave us permission to let a nigga know we the bomb, and… you can MOST CERTAINLY catch this fade.

So to all those that say be humble, we say…

…sit down!

That’s right, cop a squat, get comfortable, and if any of this confuses you… Lemme learn ya.

………..

This. IS. a public service announcement:

In 2015-2016 64% of all bachelor degrees awarded to Black students were earned by women. In that same year, 9.7% of Black women were enrolled in various college programs, higher than any other race or gender. (National Center for Education Statistics) We smart out in these streets.

From 1997-2013 companies started by Black women increased 258% and had revenue of $44.9 billion dollars. (Blackdemographics.com). We securing bags out in these streets.

In 2019 we have 22 Black women serving in Congress, out of only 42 in history, with Shirley Chisholm being the first elected Black female US Representative in 1969, and Carol MoseleyBraun serving as the first Senator in 1989. Today we got Auntie Maxine reminding us our time is valuable; Ayanna Pressley giving these white boys hell and hella sideeye; Ilhan Omar representing the culture and the struggle; and Jahana Hayes showing that teachers, perhaps the most important career professional, needs a seat at the table to represent the needs of our future. Too.much…sauce.

But it’s some hoes in this house, so…

We still make considerably less than any of our White or male counterparts, making 64 cents to a White man’s dollar. In the venture capitalist world, we get very little investment support for our ventures, making up only about three percent of investment dollars spent in 2016. There is currently only one Black woman that runs a Fortune 500 company, Mary Winston as as interim CEO of Bed, Bath, and Beyond, out of the 33 women in total. We own ZERO Fortune 500 companies. Even in the federal government, though Black women make up about 11% of the workforce, we are grossly underrepresented in the higher paying GS levels and SES level jobs. (opm.gov)

Our positioning is just one thing. We are forced to navigate issues of race and gender that others simply don’t have to consider. We are simply left out of the dominant cultures conversations and decision-making. We often have to find sponsors, particularly of color -which is challenging in itself, to help us get special projects, interviews, promotions. We are forced to code-switch as Black vernacular, style, and values, while copied by the majority, are not valued coming from us. If I hear blah blah blah “gurlfren”, or such and so’s “babee daddee” with some feigned attempt at colloquialism by my privileged co-workers, one more time, I might let out a tribal scream! We butt heads with Black men attempting to play a game of patriarchy they were never included in, with White women, whose feminism we simply don’t fit into, and even other Black women who have bought into the dim your light strategy. But yet…In the words of Antwon Fischer…”You couldn’t break me. I’m still standing. I’m still here!”

We figure that shit out, because we have no other choices. It may take us longer to break those ceilings, but when we get close we breaking holes in high definition, loud and clear! Many of us leave corporate America, with its racist and sexist ways, lack of diversity or inclusion, and failure to implement real family friendly policies, to bet on ourselves, bet on each other, invest in each other. We are designing furniture and sneakers. Moving from online Instagram boutiques to brick and mortar stores. Opening restaurants, and selling our cosmetic, food, and clothing lines in major retail stores.

We find ourselves growing apart from or just having to drop off those dim your light sistas and patriarchal brothas. So often we have to build our own supergroups. We epitomize the hip hop crew philosophy, get you a clique of like minded individuals with one goal… success. Like the Zulu Nation, Native Tongues, and BDP to our hip hop juggernauts Death Row, Bad Boy, and No Limit, Black women have created and crafted groups of like minded sistas, personally and socially and professionally, in everything from entrepreneurship to tech to fashion and even health, media, and motherhood. The bonds we form, help us find the tools, opportunities, and assistance we need to move forward and progress.

“We can’t stop now b*tch. We can’t stop. You can’t stop us, so b*tch don’t try.”

So while there has been a lot of hateration in our dancery… our sistafriends are also apart of our crew. They “gon pull me up… never let me drown” and make sure I’m mentally healthy enough to be the boss I was born to be. Sometimes they are both our personal and professional support. Other times, they just hold us down by ordering mimosas, sending a care package, listening to a rant, or doing choreography on a balcony… whatever works!

And when we win, because we will win… they win! When we eat, they eat. And when they call our name, we taking everybody on stage, the whole crew, Ty-Ty, Jungle, and all ’em. “What about your friends”… they better than yours that’s what! “…they pray and pray for me. See better things for me. Want better days for me unselfishly

So as you can see… Black women are legit. We overcome. We support. We defy the odds. We succeed in spite of. We won’t stop. We WANW. And we have to let folks know from time to time: I deserve this, bye!

Makidada

Weezie & Helen

Florida & Wilona

Pam & Gina

Whitley & Kim

Joan & Toni

Cleo & Stoney

Taystee & Poussey… (real tears)

Suzy Skrew & Sascha Thumper (thots need friends too)

Issa & Molly

Celie & Nettie

We don’t need “Thelma & Louise” we got our own Black Girl Besties in History to choose from. Don’t underestimate the real life need for a Black Girl Bestie. She is like your very own superhero. I call mine boonapolis, that’s Greek for she’s mine (not really, but go with it). Every so often she just unties my cape, puts it on over hers and scoops me cuz I’m out here tired, sleepwalking, had too much tequila (ok that’s usually her), being wild, or just need to be Robin for a little while. So she does her whole Batwoman thing… slaying and what not. Lemme explain…

Basically, it’s hard out here for a pimp…

and by pimp I mean “Phenomenon in Melanated Pulchritude” (you’re welcome and yes you can use it…)

… and we need some support. A group of like minded sistas is very important, but that one you can depend on, the keeper of your secrets, the holder of your most deep truths, the one that keeps their “dressed in all Black like the omen” outfit in a duffle in the trunk, always ready to knuck if they buck…she is very necessary. And when people say one name… the other usually follows.

👏🏽You and me, us never part 👏🏽

In a world that diminishes us no matter how much they mimic us, she is like your shadow, the only one that really understands. She knows your number; she remembers the ones you no longer claim. She completes your thoughts; she knows what you are thinking. Y’all got inside jokes and code words. She will call your ass ALL the way out, and everyone else knows only she can do that. Likewise you call her on her shit, because every partner in crime needs an equal partner. You help bury her dead bodies, she’s got a shovel in the trunk too. You know how we do.

Most importantly, she knows your heart. While you are code switching in your intersections all damn day, you can send her bat signal and she’s ready!

If you are sensitive, she guards you like Fort Knox. If you are sarcastic, she enjoys your banter. When you suffer from uncertainty she adjusts your crown and reminds you that you are royalty. When your heart is broken she reminds you of how awesome your heart is when it’s healed and whole, and waits until you are okay to remind you that she said he was trash. She gives you a safe space to talk about your passions, face your fears, and be your authentic self.

👏🏽You and me, us have one heart👏🏽

Likewise, you pick up the phone in the middle of the night because she knows you like sleep… so something is up. You let her know her fave movie is on, and and pray for her because some things only God can do… limitations and what not. She is your person and you let her know by being a constant and continuous support. By cheering the loudest when she wins, and being there to help her up when she has a loss. Bottom line, when one is falling, the other one has the parachute…

You see, your best girlfriend will say shit that makes you think… mind blown! They will give you advice tailored just for you, because they know you so well and they can relate. They are like your life partner with the same PMS, love of mimosas, and attraction to men with strong backs. She will be uncomfortable for you. She will be dependable and loyal to you… even if she doesn’t give other folks that same energy.

👏🏽Ain’t no ocean, ain’t no sea👏🏽Keep my sista way from me 👏🏽

For Black women, our bestie is much more like a sister. We go in the refrigerator and might go find a place to take a nap. We just show up at family dinner… cuz we are family. Her mom and dad like our own. The kids think we are really related. Blood couldn’t make us any closer. Now maybe you are lucky enough to have two or three… but most of us are too flawed and complicated to have more than one Nettie to our Celie. Someone who will hold on to our collective promise to be by one another’s side. Our best friend. Our greatest confidante. So, we stay on sideeye… she all we got!

It Ain’t About HER it’s about US

I want to shake some of y’all until you get brain damage, because at least then there will be an excuse for you being so DAMN ridiculous. You have a conspiracy theory about everything… but when it comes to negative shit about Black women, you will ride that shit ’til the wheels fall off. It doesn’t have to be even mildly rooted in fact, because we are the poster children of oppression. We are sitting at the intersection of race, sex, and class and we never get the right of way.

In America, what is White, what is male, and what is wealthy is given absolute power. In order to maintain this power, wealthy White America has set up these systems that keep anyone different from them at a disadvantage and they are able to get others (non wealthy Whites) to buy into it by convincing them to fear and ultimately hate those differences. Black men are the tools they use to effectuate these systems, by weakening them financially and socially, imprisoning them and miseducating them. Black women threaten their power and the objects of their protection, White women, because we make their dicks hard. By robbing us of our protectors, our men, we are left to fight alone.

And fight we have! In the past 100 years, no group has improved its standing financially, socially, and educationally more than Black women. Black woman owned businesses have increased over 200%; we are earning graduate degrees at two times the rate of others; and although we still only make 60 cent to the dollar of White men, we continue to increase our numbers in politics, higher education positions, and management positions- especially in companies that value diversity and innovation.

But as we have climbed, we simply do not gather the support of our own and don’t receive as much support as Black men, who we often lead the army in protecting. It’s a very perplexing fact. The numbers of Black men and Black women supporting R. Kelly and Bill Cosby was expected, and sadly not alarming, even after hearing of the numerous Black girl children Kelly had violated. When Black women are violated, it’s barely reported and barely shared. Over the past year hundreds of young Black girls have gone missing in major US cities, most of us can’t name one. Yet we still see the graphics of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Oscar Grant and the many other young Black men killed by police officers on their birthdays and the anniversaries of their death years later. All these children, male and female, deserve to have us #saytheirname. But sadly, Black female victims rarely get that same support.

Enter Kamala Harris.

On January 21, 2019, Senator Kamala Harris announced her 2020 Presidential bid. The American machine churned quickly and turned out a myriad of articles misquoting facts and painting her as inadequate for the position. She was blamed and labeled non-progressive based on prior positions as District Attorney of San Francisco (where the prison population decreased by 2011) and Attorney General of California, and the increase in the prison population in that State during her tenure.

The Two Faces of Kamala Harris – Jacobinmag.com

Kamal Harris law-and-order past threatens progressive 2020 bid – The Washington Post

Kamala Harris Hopes You’ll Forget Her Record as a Drug Warrior and Draconian Prosecutor -Reason.com

Extramarital affair with Kamala Harris? Former San Francisco mayor, 84, admits it happened -FoxNews

Kamala Harris: Criminal justice reformer, or defender of the status quo? The record is mixedPolitifact

Kamala Harris has been Tough in Black People-Not in Crime – Afropunk.com

It was to be expected, Malcolm X told us! But sadly, we are victims of our own ignorance. The Miseducation of the Negro is real and we still allow it. So shortly thereafter, Black media sites started to regurgitate these articles, when it was clear their authors skipped American Government 101 and don’t even know what District Attorneys and Attorney Generals do. One of the most heinous was the Afropunk article written by a Black man, which stated, “It is clear that Kamala Harris is not for the people. She is for the American empire. Don’t let her identity as a Black woman, or her identity as an AKA, or her status as an alumna from Howard University fool you into thinking she is actually for us: Kamala don’t give a fuck about you niggas.

It was an article full of generalizations that failed to look deeper into her role as DA and AG, the responsibilities of those roles, the system she inherited, her actual numbers, and the circumstances surrounding the increase in violent crimes and the rate of recidivism in California. It also generalized her stance on certain issues without an analysis into why she took those positions. Her record is not without contradiction and questionable decisions, but to imply she doesn’t care about Black people is asinine and without merit… and this from a Black man. As Natalie Hopkinson, a professor at Howard University stated, “A lot of black men are just not hearing what black women are saying because they are too busy complaining about their own situation.” We are not your enemy bruh!

As a black woman, the decision to love yourself just as you are is a radical act -Bethanee Bryant

The reason why some Black women have given Harris their vote until she does something to lose it, is because she stands at a disadvantage NO ONE but us will ever understand. She has her loyalty to Black men questioned. She has her Blackness questioned. She has her affiliations with anything historically and authentically Black questioned. She has her sexual and relationship choices questioned. She has her heritage questioned. Only because she is an attractive light skinned woman has she yet to have her looks questioned, and we understand that shit better than anyone. So we choose to stand by her, because standing by her is standing by ourselves. And this time, no matter how much major media attempts to lessen her and Black men attempt to silence her, Black women will support her, even if she doesn’t get our vote. We are never allowed to make mistakes, make wrong choices, or choose ourselves without being labeled traitors to the culture. We birth the culture, hold it in our womb, so miss us with all that!

We are living our best lives, and we give a fuck about y’all, but we ain’t going back and forth with you niggas!

Black Mixed with Black

“I’m light skinned, but I’m still a dark n!%%#…” Drake

I love this line, cuz people have assumed my whole life that I got it easy cuz I could check several boxes on the race question and no one would question it… but the only thing I claim is the only thing I am… Black.

I got two Black ass Afro wearing Black power fist raising parents. My mama dropped me off at high school bumping Ice Cube… my mama. We had Black ass records in the house… Miles Davis, Coltrane, Aretha, the Isleys, and brown Michael Jackson, and Prince before the Just for Me relaxer. We had Black ass food… franks and beans, tuna and peas, hot water cornbread and fried chicken, black eyed peas and greens, cabbage and corned beef, and that big ass yellow block of cheese on occasion. We had Black ass books… My mama had Soul on Ice on the bookshelf and my granddad had The Miseducation of the Negro, the two I remembered most, among the other Baldwin, Lorde, Giovanni, and Black Panther penned books. We went to Black ass places, Eastland, the African World Fest at Hart Plaza, and Shrine of the Black Madonna. I know nothing else, but who and what I am. My folks were educated and had good jobs and demanded I be well educated; that’s not unique to White people. We once had wealth in our communities. During segregation we were forced to do business with one another and create our own communities of necessity. We have been going to college, been doctors and lawyers. We have been marrying across the spectrum… Loving v. Virginia in 1967 was almost 100 years after Kinney v. Virginia in 1878 which held their interracial marriage in Washington, where it was legal in 1874, as a violation of Virginia law. So all of this “ain’t Black enough” shit is garbage.

Somewhere between the Middle Passage and Emancipation, we lost who we were. Although we had escaped slavery, because we weren’t just freed it was definitely a freedom mission, we were still mentally enslaved. Black people were never afforded these unalienable rights and liberties; “we the people” didn’t include us. We have been forever entangled in a web of racism so tough that the simple ratification of an amendment could put us right back into chattels. We were robbed of our history, not allowed to read or write, so we only knew we were slaves. We were were actually descendants of royalty. Our ancestors created mathematics, language, and science. Egyptians from gold to blackened brass hues, taught the masters of philosophy and deeper thought, ideology, math, science, and sociology. It’s hard to love yourself when you have only been told you were valueless, so in the nature of humans who despise themselves, we turned on each other. But regardless of where we toil, we are still Black. I’m still a Slave in the house… with no rights, no control, and easier access by the massa to the bloom under my bloomers. “House nigga, field nigga…still nigga.” And yet, after educating ourselves to the highest degree, we still are mentally enslaved. Now that we know who we really are, instead of fighting against one another, we need to rise up against theses racists who impregnated our minds with self-hate and colorism… and take our power back. We need to stop this Black enough rating system that we base on shit that doesn’t matter… I’m Black enough if I’m Black, I support Black people, I’m proud of my Blackness, and I identify. Period.

I’m Black mixed with Black and I’ve had my loyalty to the cause questioned because of traits I had nothing to do with. I can’t help a privilege, but I can surely acknowledge it and let you know that I’m uninterested. I can earn everything I get. If you are going to give me anything, let it be because I have done something to earn it outright. I am uninterested in your bias against folks that look like my Father, my Grandfather, my beautiful Aunts and cousins who just happen to be on the deeper end of the complexion spectrum because we span from milk to coffee and every latte and macchiato in between. But if I’m given anything because of my genetics, trust that I’m sharing it across complexion lines, and using it to put myself in a position where I can combat the very thing that got me in the position.

I got Black ass art on the walls. Black ass books in my library. Black ass records and songs in my Tidal playlists, cuz I support Black folks with Jackson Five nostrils who marry beautiful Black Queens and have kinky haired babies who go out with their fro out. I quote Amanda Seales, Issa Rae, Killer Mike, and Soulja Boy cuz they by culture and for the culture. I’m bad and I’m bougie. I like beauty supply earrings and authentic Gucci bags. I only shop at markets but I listen to trap music on the way. I’m looking for a trap Pilates or trap boxing class if you hear of any… and I like my men educated, Black, hairy, with a grey jogging pants and Timbs section in their closet next to the suits, and non-hotepian. I have a Black man and a Black son, who I support and love without fail or question. I’m smart, educated, dope af, and Black as hell!

So judge me and everyone else who is Black with that in mind. You don’t know my story, his, or hers. If I told you:

-I almost died because being Black and female and pregnant isn’t taken as seriously because we had babies in fields and huts and shucked corn through labor. I was Black enough to be ignored.

-I have been discriminated against because I’m Black, female, a Black female, and an educated Black female. I was Black enough to the racists.

-I carried a Black male baby while carrying a Black man, and my back still hurts from it. I was Black enough to support Black men inside and outside.

-I have been cheated on, lied to and lied on, wrongfully accused, stolen from, harassed, threatened, and assaulted by Black folks. I was Black enough to be mistreated by my own.

-I have dressed in all Black to handle the enemy.I have dressed in all Black to protest the enemy.

-I buy Black with intention.

-I speak up for Black people and Black women in ways I don’t broadcast, beyond my Facebook rants, that have harmed me personally but I still carry on because it’s necessary.

… would you discredit me because I don’t look like what you think that woman looks like? Trust me, I know where my own loyalty lies, and if you let other people and your assumptions tell you who I am, I guarantee you’d be wrong. This is just my story, but we all have one. And all of us, whether we acknowledge it or not, have been Black enough at some point to feel the pride of being Black and experience the pain of being Black.

This Black ratings scale, are you Black enough trash is hotep shit at its worst. Black attempts at supremacy is rancid poison, and a by product of White male supremacy that some Black folks have accepted to feel superior in a world where we lack power. Hoteps, both male and female, have latched on to supporting Black folks who belong under the jail, then criticize anyone who isn’t in blind support of every wrong Negro man, especially those who wrong Black women. I proudly despise any attempt to lessen who Black women are in the name of patriarchy, of any race of men, Black men in particular. All that hotep shit will get you cussed out and deuced really quick. Thou shalt not pull your dick out, be a Nazi, or be a hotep. Those three things apply to hotep high priestesses as well… no amount of sage, crystals, and head wraps will save you from being called out. The rest of us are tired of you and want to call the delegation to order every time you rear your ugly head to oust you from the kingdom. Just call me Jon Snow… I cut folks off at the neck clean. Besides, Winter is coming (well this week it arrived) my tan has worn off, I’m back to my original color, and I gotta fight off the Night walkers and shit who dare challenge me my Blackness. I ain’t a killer but…

-Signed, everyone Black person ever labeled, questioned, or assumed to be low to non-existent on the “Black enough” scale.

It Ain’t All Roses: Birthin Babies while Black

I’m officially Beyoncé…

Well ok not really but you gotta admit that pic is hilarious! But what I’m gonna talk about is no laughing matter, it’s serious and we have got to start casting more light on it…

” I was swollen from toxemia and had been on bed rest for over a month. My health and my babies’ health were in danger, so I had an emergency C-section.” -Beyoncé in September 2018 Vogue

Maybe I am officially Beyoncé… because I gained 100… yes, I said that correctly, ok maybe 96, pounds during pregnancy. I was so swollen my feet looked like loaves of bread and I didn’t have cankles, I had thankles, just one big ass thigh! I was a chicken dinner! I too had toxemia, so bad that my liver failed and I went into hepatic shock and a coma. I was hospitalized for over a month, and didn’t officially hold my son, well that I can recall anyway, until he was more than a month old. This was over ten years before Serena and Beyoncé made their pregnancy scares public, and over ten years before these stories about Black Women and childbirth were talked about at large. I thought my case was unique… turns out, like many of the concerns of Black Women, it just wasn’t a big deal to the medical community yet.

But we can change that…

Pregnancy was great for me until I reached my 7th month. Up until then I was rocking my loose fit size 10 jeans, pulling them a bit under my growing belly. I had no stretch marks, and had gained only about 18 pounds. Life was good. I was high risk because of a pre-existing liver disease, but for months I showed no signs of toxemia or preeclampsia, high blood pressure brought on by pregnancy. And literally, overnight, that changed.

From roses to rancid…

From sugar to shit…

According to the CDC, while generally only 3.4 women suffer from toxemia during pregnancy, and 700 die from its complications yearly, Black Women are three times as likely to suffer from these childbirth related issues. Conversely, Asian and Hispanic women seem to have an ever lesser chance of developing toxemia than White women. (1) Yet, no one seems to know why. It’s been one big mystery why pregnant Black Women looked like the boy in the bubble, compared to those cute baby bumps. Perhaps it is linked to the lack of research on the subject!

In a 2004, the Journal of the American Heart Association published a study that showed that women with preeclampsia had decreased levels of folic acid and high levels of homocysteine, which is linked to heart disease, but these levels were lowest and highest in Black Women. (2) The study suggested that since high levels of homocysteine were related to low folic acid, B6, and B12, that these supplements could potentially lower the risk of preeclampsia amongst all women, particularly African-Americans. Who knew?

Another study by ProPublica, in 2016, entitled Lost Mothers spoke with Black Women intergenerationally about pregnancy complications to try to prevent maternal complications and death. Out of the many complications a woman can face, it was found Black Women suffer disproportionately from postpartum hemorrhage, fibroids, preeclampsia, uterine rupture, coronary artery dissection, and maternal heart failure. (3) All of these illnesses boast a much higher mortality rate than other complications. When searching for other studies on these pregnancy related illnesses in Black Women, there were few to find.

It is essential that Black Women share our stories, and that if no one else will, Black Physicians and medical researchers focus on these maternal health concerns in our community. Central Brooklyn Hospital, featured in the Pro Publica study has a new initiative to reduce maternal complications in women of color. Hopefully other hospitals and medical professionals will follow suit. It is imperative to the health of mothers and children that research into how to prevent and treat these issues are brought to light.

Just on a human level, it is important that babies grow up with their mothers, and research into their mother’s potential mortality from childbirth is necessary and worth every dime it costs. The powers that be can’t claim to be pro-life and not simultaneously be pro- maternal health, pro-mother, or pro-Black mother. The continuance of the systematic ignorance of people of color in medicine must be taken to task. If we can study the effects of viagra, surely we can study the complications of childbirth.

It shouldn’t take Beyoncé or Serena or any public figure to talk about something that affects 7% of Black mothers to make it important to the public at large. If we only consider things when a celebrity brings them to light, we are neglecting 99% of the population. Furthermore, we are failing these women by failing to consider their medical concerns … and failing Black children by neglecting their mothers.

So, let’s all be Beyoncé…

Note: Fellas be Jay-Z, but not while drinking Lemonade with Becky, and never be Eric Benet!

……

References

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4171100/#__ffn_sectitle

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4764298/

3. https://www.propublica.org/series/lost-mothers/p2

This Woman’s Work: Part II

“Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free.” -Eckhardt Tolle

Picture it, 2018, Detroit, three scenarios:

Two professional Black Women discussing a disturbing incident with a customer during lunch, the victim says, “…I didn’t want to make a big deal about it and be the Angry Black Woman.”

Similar environment, two sistas discussing career development, the older woman says to the younger woman, “Be careful with all those ideas and opinions or they’ll label you the “b” word.”

One Black female supervisor speaking to her Black female team member on talking to White male managers…”You can’t lead with your intelligence because that is intimidating.”

But …. I am Black, I am a woman, I am opinionated, intelligent, and sometimes I am angry… especially in the one place I spend most of my waking hours that gives me zero respect despite the fact that it thrives off my intellect… Work.

I am who I am… and I don’t need to be less than that to ever get what I have worked hard for… even if I’m Black, female, opinionated, and sometimes angry. I have just as much right to be my authentic brilliant, compassionate, but take no shit self as:

these sexist and racist White men get to use work to play out their gestapo porn fantasies, shouting out authoritarian demands like orders at a fast food joints while trying to feel on your ass;

these racist White women get to prance around without a care in the world, except the hands going up their skirts which they payback (to the wrong people) in the form of harassment and discrimination of people of color;

these turncoat Black people get to act like they have assumed some privilege by selling their souls to do the racist’s dirty work, but as Jay-Z said “still nigga”.

Whether we know it or not, our presence is vital in every space and place, especially professionally, as we are representative of the people who use and purchase the services and goods we are in the business of providing or selling… whatever our role. We are their mouthpiece. And despite what insecure co-workers, supervisors, and managers might believe… we are often the leaders others look to for guidance and expertise… or perhaps it is the reason they dislike us. If those people get to be all they can be… then surely my whole authentic self is welcomed… no?

According to a 2018 survey of 100 Professional Black Women, 59% report feeling like they have to be less of themselves to be accepted in the workplace. While 58% reported co-workers who are not Black females are treated better than they are. 71% reported being discriminated against in the workplace. 72% reported being talked down to by a man, and 56% reported having a power struggle with another Black Woman. (1) Similarly, a study by the Perception Institute in 2016, tested bias of Black Women and their hair. It showed that Black Women had more anxiety about their hair than their White counterparts and that the majority of people had negative towards Black women with natural styles, particularly white women (2).

The writing is on the wall, that who Black Women are is looked down upon by people that they see and interact with daily, even to our own. And while we are capable and creative and innovative enough to break the glass ceiling, we can do it with our Afros, braids, sass, and round asses despite anyone’s prejudice. But that prejudice is a weighty issue.

Black Women are judged based on negative stereotypes that have no roots in the truth… assumptions about our hair and grooming, marital status, parental abilities, health, bodies, and community. We must be dirty if our hair is natural, singularly raising kids if we are parents, have undisciplined children, be unhealthy because we are curvy, and from violent and dangerous neighborhoods. Our personal lives are not considered our private business, and we are subjected to questions and demands that would never be made on White men or women. When your worth and lives are considered of minimal value it’s common for others to treat you as less than the professional you are… and instead treat you like a child in need of correction or a servant to take their orders.

It’s not our professionalism that should be being questioned. I assure you, the sistas I know are not only professionally responsible, but they can take care of their kids, mates, homes, selves… then come into work and deal with levels of harassment, discrimination, and privilege unlike any other group.

But we don’t have to deal with it!

We have earned the right to be exactly who the fuck we are… curly and kinky hair, big personalities, opinions, big ass brains, and yep, sometimes anger… because we carry the weight of the world’s -isms on our backs. Both Black and woman, marginalized and disenfranchised. Not just misogyny but misogynoir. Living at the intersection of racism, classism, sexism, and often, colorism. Let’s not forget our LGBTQ sister’s dealing with homophobia and transphobia, and our disabled sisters being discriminated against because of their physical limitations. I see it everyday, a Black woman with MS is treated like she has a learning disorder because she walks with a limp, and the sista with the big butt is talked to like she’s an idiot. Our brains are in our heads just like all other humans. WTF! Whose the idiot in this scenario?!?

We have to embrace our Blackness, and disallow anyone from making us believe that we have to conform to standards outside of ourselves to fit in… we don’t have to fit in. We were born to stand out! In a world full of thigh gaps ours were made to touch. In a world full of flat hair, ours waves, curls, and coils towards the heavens. In a world full of hateful and narrow thinkers, we continue to be compassionate because were meant to make them uncomfortable. Only in discomfort do people change.

In the workplace, we have to continue to assert ourselves, have confidence in ourselves, promote ourselves, stand up for ourselves, and be ourselves! And when it’s a detrimental environment, remove ourselves. Our voices, creativity, opinions, intelligence are necessary. We matter just the way we are… now go out with your fro out!

Update: I’m currently embarking on a bigger project about the lives of Black Women in the Professional space. If you would not mind doing a short phone interview or filling out a brief questionnaire about your professional experiences, please contact me at info@karyndeshields.com. Thank you.

(1) The Balancing Act.www.karyndeshields.com

(2) The Good Hair project. The Perception Institute, 2016. http://www.perception.org/good hair/

This Woman’s Work: Part I

At least we aren’t handmaids….

living in the fictitious, but eerily and oddly relatable -given the current state of things- Gilead in post war America. A country taken over by men, using divine law to subjugate women and the poor into servitude. Of particular disturbance is the work of the handmaid. The “lady in waiting” each leader, or commander, with an infertile wife employs, her sex and womb for room and board. Her job, to birth children for the couple, in the way of Rachel’s handmaid Bilhah in the Bible. Luckily it is confined to the Hulu menu of great acting that is hard as hell to watch. A twisted dystopian This is Us. Even as I applaud Offred’s attempts to escape on the edge of my seat, I can’t help but wonder how she will ever be mentally and emotionally healed.

But when we cut off the tv, and really look at the lives of working women… much of what is portrayed and endured by Offred, the Martha’s, and Aunt Lydia is applicable modern day, we just pick our own clothes and keep our same names. So much of our reality in the private and public workplace is controlled by men, who take license to act in ways very similar to fiction. In a recent study, 38% of women reported being sexually harassed at work. (1) We all know this reality creates lifelong traumas from which many of these women forever suffer.

Imagine now, the lives of Professional, Black, and educated women… who come with their own set of very real and very intersectional concerns, race and culture based traumas, and historical wounds. From blatant racial discrimination to patriarchy, and everything in between… the lives of sistas who collect a paycheck are fraught with issues that not only create trauma but cause us to relive unhealed and past trauma all the time. But at least we aren’t handmaids…

When 100 random Black Women working in professional (non blue collar or service industry) jobs with at least a college degree were surveyed (2), the results were not shocking but definitely painted a bold and unquestionable picture of the professional lives of these women. 71% indicated they had experienced discrimination at their job. 79% felt race, gender, or both contributed to negative attitudes about them at work. 72% indicated they had been talked down to by a man, and 65% reported hearing offensive comments about Black people at work. Clearly, Black Women are subjected to pervasive racism and sexism in the workplace.

While Black men are seen as far greater victims of racism, and sexism is generally identified as a White woman’s issue, it is the intersectionality of these issues that are the bitch that Black Women go toe to toe with daily. Since these intersectional concerns are not shared simultaneously with most groups and not as pervasive for other women of color, we often get labeled as having bad attitudes or being “angry” for no reason at all. When in fact, our reasons are front and center. We will always be Black and always be female. When combined with the naturally occurring childhood and adult traumas, most of us have never fully healed from, intersectionality in the workplace is a beast most of us are not properly prepared to handle, but must handle nonetheless. But at least we aren’t handmaids…

Take Kelsey, a teacher in the suburbs of the inner city. Kelsey grew up with demanding parents who made her feel her best wasn’t enough. Not only did she live with the “you have to be 10x better” lesson most Black children learn about themselves in relation to White children early on… her own familial demands were hard to bear. So in both her professional and social life, Kelsey overextended herself. She went above and beyond the duties she was paid for, spreading herself too thin, and not even acknowledged for her efforts. While she was definitely the best teacher in her school district, the most reliable daughter, the most loyal friend, the most steadfast wife, and all with the best twist-out west of Woodward… she brought with her the pain of being labeled “not good enough” to a workplace that didn’t appreciate her skill and hard work. Her employers, in the business of educating, which she was stellar at, had no problem taking advantage while never giving her the props she deserved!

Black Women are often the diving board for other people’s dreams and success…and systematically limited from realizing our own.

Jessica is similarly reminded of childhood conflict with other Black girls when she’s harassed and mistreated by Black Women in the office, the real life Aunt Lydias, and the abuse she’s experienced when spoken to in a patronizing manner and set up for failure at the hands of Black men at her job. It’s as if they are overseers for the powers that be, preparing her to walk the green mile to her professional fate, because she’s not a “good gal.” Constantly under his eye. Jess has to quell her fight response every single time… and since her mouth is much mightier than the sharpest sword, she just straps on her invisible muzzle to secure the bag… at least until something better presents itself.

So many sistas I know have taken pay cuts for peace.

Maya is haunted by her own family’s experiences with mental illness, and their failure to heal or even acknowledge it, when she encounters children and their parents struggling with emotional disturbances in her role as a school psychologist. So much so she has a visceral reaction to the work. Have you ever been traumatized to illness… I know a gang of sistas who have.

Like Maya , Monique faces the same trauma related setbacks when she handles family legal issues in private practice. Guardianship and power of attorney processes remind her of the pain her family put her through when a loved one was no longer able to care for herself. Jumping hurdles over familial patriarchy, youthism, and the “White is right” brainwashing that many of us have accepted as fact, is yet another hump we must traverse.

Young Black Women often carry our race and gender as badges of pride, bridled to our education and talent, that others often see as a threat. Thinly veiled disrespect, even at the hands of our own people, is commonplace in these instances.

In addition to these very real issues we carry with us from personal experiences, Black Women have a very real historical reality that makes navigating the workplace, often dominated by White men and a much more protected space for White women, painful. You might not be like Monique, Jessica, Kelsey, or Maya, but perhaps you are just Jane-, yep Jane is Black- who is reminded of her ancestor’s enslavement, involuntary servitude, and the hurt and pain of Jim Crow, lynching, systematic racism, and her own ancestral trauma in her workplace. Jane took on union work as an act of service, but living out the modern vestiges of White supremacy is a very real source of trauma.

For Jane, it isn’t her personal experiences but our collective reality that wells up in her soul when she listens to the stories of her co-workers, women spoken down to and inappropriately propositioned by the men in her office. Qualified people of color being passed over for opportunities they are the most qualified for, and Black overseers serving the supremacy by setting up those with whom they are in competition. Like Jane, so many of us hold this history in our bosom, and in an oppressive workplace, it’s realization mimics asphyxiation.

The very real wounds that Black Women cover, depriving of air, so they can scab over with our own protective shield and heal by our own strength, have a way of seeping when we face stress in areas of our lives that we take personally. For the woman who has gathered together more student loans in her name than prayers, vacations, or shoes… her career is a very important part of her life, and the very real fact is that it often serves as a reminder of her most tragic memories. Therefore, it is imperative that she deal with and heal from those tragedies. Whether through therapy, meditation, prayer, or some combination of healing mechanisms. You see… we may not be handmaids, but we have wings, and we only activate them if we lay down our burdens, under His eye.

Praise be.

(1) stopstreetharassment.org

(2) karyndeshields.com

Black Women are Unicorns

Black Women are magical

We are at the bottom of the totem pole but we don’t age, don’t crack… cuz crack is wack, and we were the definition of lit before DTJ used the word and buried it from our brains eternally. I guess it wasn’t enough to take “whoop there it is” and “my bad” … although neither of those were as well liked as “lit”… but whatever!  Upon our wooden shoulders we carry the weight of all the burdens that everyone else piled on top of us, but despite it all,  we keep a fresh beat!

Whose got it harder than us?

No one. But we are among the most highly educated and the lowest paid for our skill, value, knowledge! We are the most worked, often keeping a home, mate, kids, job, and maybe even school and several other obligations to organizations and caregiving on lock!

Internally, in the Black community, our bottom rung status is challenged, often! I once was talking to a Black male co-worker about my plight at work as a highly educated, experienced, and God forbid opinionated and proud Black Woman… and his comment… “Stop doing that Black Woman Stuff, just be a woman!”

Jigga what? Jigga who? And NO, I am not making that up. Needless to say I spazzed on his ass, but it was after work at the bar so I didn’t do it in front of company!

Similar topic, and another Black male commented to me, “So Black Women have it harder than Black men?” Hmmm let’s see. In the street my body gets unwanted attention, at work my mind doesn’t get enough respect, and you are asking me this crap…. so?!????! I acknowledge your plight even though it is not mine, acknowledge mine even if you don’t understand it.

Trust me brothas, we do such a good job at caping for y’all… all the time… I think sometimes you forget that while you were picking cotton, we were picking cotton, having babies in the field then attaching Little Chicken George to our nip to gets back to picking more cotton, and then having to visit Massa and his ole shriveled dry ass for some late night slavery. You got it bad. We get it. But let’s not have a competition in hard knocks. Mmmkay!

Externally, we are invisible. Unless it’s our hair, our ass, our style, or some negative stereotype… very little else seems to make waves. It’s a fight of the stereotypes that personally I’m not going to engage in… but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. We aren’t hard working in the home like Hispanic and Latino Women, we aren’t smart like Asian women, we aren’t princesses who need to be rescued or brutish, Sarah Huckabee Sanders type, White women.  Unless of course you are Beyoncé… and then y’all go apeshit!

We are entering a time in history, American history, where humanity is being pushed aside by power. If you believe in the value of all human life, evaluate your personal spot on the totem. We can accomplish more when we break down the power hierarchy and acknowledge each other’s unique skills and talents as humans! And if that fails…

Black Women, be Beyoncé…“Pay me in equity”