Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Show Me the Money: The Significance of Harriet Tubman and the Twenty Dollar Bill

                                                                           
                                                                             


     I like the old, weary, accomplished photo of Queen Harriet.  There is a story to be told in those wrinkles that reside upon her beautiful face.  There is a narrative connected to that feeble, Black, female body that lead enslaved Black bodies to freedom up North.  There is sadness that sits in that chair as she contemplates what her people overcame and what was to come for the American Negro.  And that is why I chose this particular picture of  "Moses" or "General Tubman" (it is peculiarly ironic how all of her monickers were masculine yet she is now the first female to grace paper U.S. currency that has always been occupied by the faces of white males) to preface my attempt to justify and celebrate her being chosen to be the next American icon to grace the "front" of the third most used U.S. piece of currency (the 5, 10, 20, then the dollar)--the twenty dollar bill.

     The late, great, Black American singer, writer, and composer, who can only be rivaled by a Chopin, Beethoven,  Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, or Mozart, Prince Rogers Nelson once sang, "Money didn't matter yesterday, and it sho' don't matter tonight."  But, I must, though it pains me to do so because Prince is my favorite and the most influential artist in my lifetime, beg to differ within the context of those sentiments.  Sure, money cannot buy you love or satisfaction or acceptance or self and societal worth, nor can it rid the world of greed or poverty, which were the major literary themes addressed within the lyrics in his 1992 "Money Don't Matter 2Night tune. But, in this particular instance, money can purchase a place, if not a position, of power and profundity to a Race of people who have been systematically denied the aforementioned since setting foot on what is now the United States of America.  Maybe (Lady) Moses' likeness being on the $20 bill will help lead Americans out of the wilderness of gender inequality and racial bias as did the historical and biblical Moses literally did the Egyptians from the grasp of the despot Pharoah.  We can only imagine what the psychological effect on Black people and women will be when, in 2020 or 2030, they will own and spend currency with the face of a woman and an African-American on it.  The literal pictorial of the renowned freedom fighter will induce Google searches and historical research so that Americans will know who it is that adorns the money in their pockets, wallets, and purses.  Who knows?  Maybe Black folks will think twice before haphazardly throwin' Tubmans as they would Benjamins.  Folks may possibly cease makin' it rain---or at the least not rain Tubmans down upon the naked bodies and at the feet of occupationally disenfranchised strippers at both high-end and ratchet gentlemen clubs.

     Like any logical and apt scholar of American and Black American History, I am aware of the distasteful irony that persists within academic dialogue and scholarly discourse when thinking of the possible disrespect of putting Tubman on a piece of currency that is validated and given "worth" by the same government that enslaved her and her people and created a perpetual second-class citizenship of people of the darker hue and African descent.  I can almost guarantee that, if a quiji board and an available medium was used to contact Harriet in the afterlife, she would rather have women obtain wage-equality than her face be plastered on a bill that a woman, at this point in History, is only entitled to 70%.  The mere visual of Queen Harriet on U.S. paper currency will be transformative for our children's generation and generations to come.  Rejoice sometimes.  Everything should not be trivialized by academic and Black Nationalistic debates, damn it!   So, yes, money didn't matter yesterday, but if we are to measure societal victories, money sho' does matter tonight.

                                                                                                         -Gee Joyner

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The BeyHive: How Beyonce' Went From Hottentot to Hotep

                                                                     


 
The Black woman has long been seen as an anomaly of sorts when it pertains to gender-assignments as well as an object, for lack of a better term, to be desired, reviled, castigated, and celebrated. There are a plethora of stereotypes that have been wantonly assigned to, be they egregious or haphazardly heaped upon, the woman of color in the good ole’ U.S.A. and even the world. Both Black and white Americans, male and female, have deemed the Black woman as “strong” and “independent” due to the matriarchal leadership role(s) they had to assume do to the dehumanizing and degrading experiences of American slavery. Yes, Black women had to be strong when they were oft times forced to rear their children, as well as Massa’s children, without the aid and assistance of a consistent male figure (mainly due to the perpetual state of unknowing and absence of the Black, and white, male due to the selling and trading of the Black male body/slave within the institution of slavery and the absentee fatherism of the white male planter). Yes, they had to try their damnedest to shield their children, for as long as they could, from the hardships, both physical and psychological, of Black American enslavement in the United States—for the most part on their own. Yes, they had to endure the wrath of a jealous white mistress who hated them because of their (romantic, if you can call it that) relationships, be them forced or unforced, with their husbands. Yes, they had to teach their daughters how the ins and outs to avoid constant harassment from the sadistically grotesque sexual yearnings of their Massas. And yes, they had to be the burden barer and uplifter of the Black man when he was perpetually raped of his manhood, fatherhood, personhood, and mere humanity at the hands and psychologically warping fantasies of the white slave owner. But even more, she had to be independently strong in combating the stereotype that she, and all of Black womanhood, was a walking metaphor for sexual deviancy and licentiousness comparable to the Biblical Jezebel; an indictment of Black womanhood that fostered the notion that the Black woman was evil because of her physicality or sensuality which was only a piss-poor excuse for the white male’s need for dominance, specifically sexual, over a being that was considered chattel/property, thus making Antebellum era slavery a sexual-free-for-all for the white male who was “privileged” enough and wealthy enough to own a Black female slave.
But what has always been lurking in the mind of America is the perpetual gaze, if not physical and psychoanalytical gaze of the Black woman---and her aesthetics seemed to be a source or focal point of admiration and abomination and not necessarily in that order. From Saartijie "Sara" Baartman to Josephine Baker to Beyoncé, the Black female body, be it extremely talented- you know dancing and singing better than the average human- or just aesthetically different from the physical endowments and make-up of the prototypical non-colored European woman-- you know, big thighs and buttocks and a sassy, alluring switch/sway in the walk-- has been on public display, for gregarious gawking and erotic entertainment, for as long as Modern History can remember. But, what happens when the Hottentot snatches a page from the Afrocentric, Back-to-Africa, be proud of the Western Coast of a huge-ass-continent-of-Africa Negro and proclaims its love of the skin, appendages, and physical features that were bestowed upon it by the Southern Hemisphere? Oh, and does it on America's fourth biggest holiday (After Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Independence Day). Well, you have Black Womanist Beyoncé Knowles-Carter going from Hottentot to Hotep to, even, Black Nationalist vis-a-vis worldly acclaim, monetary fortune, and international influence.
Bey has taken heat from the entire U.S. Pop Culture Brigade (written, visual, and auditory media outlets). Some criticism has been supportive of her stance while much, both Black and white, has been negatively critical of either the aesthetics of the performance, the place or time, and even the 2016 "space"-- you know after, during, and more than likely before a killing of another Black civilian body at the hands of authoritative police figures. I believe this is because we, as Americans, both black and white males and females, have an issue with Eve, the mother of all, who had to have been black since everyone who has historically been born and raised in that portion of Africa where the Judeo-Christian Bible tells us the Garden of Eden was located (Mesopotamia, Iran, or the Persian Gulf, which ain't to far east of the continent of Africa, so she had to have had a dark tint to her skin which is the antithesis of our European artistry and illustrations of a Kate Winslet-looking Eve) , schooling us all the while massively and broadly disseminating her opinion of Humanity in a holistic manner--at the mother-fuckin' Super Bowl Half Time Show, I might add. Beyoncé’s deliberate call for and public display of empathy and sympathy for the fallen Black lives that should've mattered to the American public, as well as the world, just as much as those American bodies that are lauded as heroic when dying while fighting for the supposed freedoms and democratic society of states united in America via a respect of fatigues, flags, and military follies has disrupted the comforting narrative of the carefree, “Single Lady” songstress whose musical persona to date focused on fun times, love relationships and female empowerment. By adding the veneer of race, and creating an intersectional perspective (and critique) to her music, Beyoncé the “Happy Black Girl” entertainer became Beyoncé “Menace to Society.”
 Trespassing the boundaries of gender representation by using the voices of New Orleanians Messy Mya and Big Freedia, men who were and are comfortable claiming alternative ways of “doing” masculinity, even pushing the boundaries of femininity,  Beyoncé´ reminds the world and acknowledges how much of popular culture is built on the outliers of gender nonconforming men…(Madonna’s Vogue, anyone?). Proclaiming a staunch love of self, family, and blackness vis-à-vis Afros and big noses, she disrupts the fun single lady persona and presents us with a Black mama determined to receive and give the love she and her family deserve, and in turn extends that love to all of the black mamas whose babies have afros and whose men have big noses...this line makes Formation, in the words of a late 90’s tee shirt “A Black Thang” (You wouldn’t understand) This intersectional approach, claiming race, and gender is further complicated by space. Beyoncé brings the entire south, the land historically (and currently) rooted in Black/African enslavement and European/White domination as her homeland, her place of creation. Her creation has co-opted the old Louisianan notion of Creole as exception and borne out the most “basic” forms of Blackness…a Texas Bama. Borne of the shortening of the word Alabama, and used to generally describe a country bumpkin type character, the Texas Bama that is Beyoncé is anything but unsophisticated. Indeed she is overly polished. Her genteel deep country lilt in her speaking voice gives listeners an immediate comfort which is ultimately disheveled by the business acumen, work ethic, drive for perfectionism and professionalism that has become synonymous with the Beyoncé brand.
Wrapping her meaning making into representation by natural haired black women of all skin tones dressed to mimic the garb of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense is a direct reclamation of history, power and rebellion. In one fell swoop, she reclaims beauty standards AND comprehensive Black power, two things which are often polar opposites and especially not compatible in Eurocentric America’s viewing of Black women and their bodies. The Super Bowl performance of Formation forced white American viewers to accept both a failure of the program to degrade, define and control Black womanhood but also a failure to destroy the legacy of the Black Panther Party (and with it the continued struggle for Black liberation) which celebrated the 50th anniversary of its founding during the week following the performance. In performing the song Formation, Beyoncé moves not simply from Hottentot to Hotep, but even further to Black Womanist. Embracing family, community, empowerment and love of self, layering race, gender, class and political agency, she throws down the gauntlet for those who made claims to love her and her music while simultaneously daring them to utter a word of critique. Rejecting the narrative of the tragic black entertainer, the obnoxious diva and the unappreciated soulful earth mother, Formation and Beyoncé take us back and bring us forward in one moment. Her audacious performance yells for a new agenda and rejects all that came before, including the overarching Eurocentric dictates of what Black womanhood should be, and shows instead what her Black womanism is.
 
 
 
 
 
                                                                 - Giovanni Dortch & Gee Joyner
                                                                                         
 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

I Teach. Do You?

                                                                             



I stopped by a gas station on my way home to get a knick-knack. On my way into the store I noticed a man in a nice, large pick-up truck eyeing me. I looked at him momentarily and advanced into the store thinking, "This mofo is lookin' at me like he wanna do somethin'." I got a bit perturbed because my goal is to get home to my family after 14 hour days as quickly as possible. I began to calculate my movements and the possibilities as how this could turn out. While at the counter, the man from the truck walks into the store and stares at me with a wicked smile. He walks up to me and immediately grabs me and bear hugs me and lifts me from the ground a couple of inches. I look at him the entire time and recognize him as one of my former, non-traditional students; he is a few years older than me, an Iraqi War veteran, and strong as a wild, angry, unfed, vengeful bull. We hug. Not the dap hug, but a full bodied, open-armed hug. We talk and catch up, and as he was leaving, he said, "Love you, mane." You can't imagine what that means to me. If you do the work, when you do the work, the work tells you!! 


-Gee Joyner

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Aunt Viv and Me: How Janet Hubert Clapped Back & Made a Hollywood Comeback

                                                                       


Between Aunt Viv's, BET's & Stacey Dash's clapbacks, I am enjoying the debates and analyses of Black American ideologies in all there sociopolitical glory and ideological fallacies and conundrums; Janet Hubert and Stacey Dash are publicly displaying the diversity of Black American Thought.  Janet Hubert's response to Jada Pinkett-Smith's audio-visual call to boycott the Academy Awards has literally propelled Ms. Hubert, even if only for a week's news cycle, back into the psyches of Hollywood elite and the players, producers, and money-men who own and operate it.  
  In a most verbose fashion, Black Americans are conspicuously, in the age of social media , 24-hour news outlets, and perpetual sound-bytes, deconstructing the idiotic farce that Black folks in America are a monolithic lot; We are either all for Obama and Cosby, or we are against them. We are either Team Malcolm or Martin.  Team DuBois or Booker T.  We are either -pro or –anti police. We are either Republican or Democrat. Are we “hood” or “bourgeoisie”? We are either “real” or a “Sambo” or “Uncle Tom”. Stacey and Janet, in my opinion and scholarly deduction, are both spot on--to an extent.  You might not have liked their delivery or even questioned the vehicle or media outlet or platform in which they chose to deliver that message but their messages are clear, and I will mesh the two focal points from these “woke” ladies into what I believe as a scholar, writer, and Black American meant: You cannot be a part of Hollywood or America, as 13% of the population, and get upset when the majority doesn’t give you more public acknowledgement than you are statistically worth. You cannot tell the masses what to do when you are utilizing the masses to disseminate your messages. Either get your own or accept the circumstances, be they good or bad, without a public outcry—particularly if the institutions, or powers-that-be, have aided and assisted, and do aid and assist, in your financial stability and hierarchical ability to “boycott” or “speak out” against the aforementioned “oppressive” institution or establishment.
Many in the Twittersphere, both Black and white, and in the Book of Faces (Facebook) have had all kinds of analyses, critiques, and commentary on the impetus, possible repercussions, and solutions, behind Jada’s video-call to boycott the Oscars.  Every social commentator and ethno-historian and philosopher of the American Race problem has disseminated a scathing or praising rhetorical composition on Janet Hubert’s Youtube clapback  and Stacy Dash’s response to Jada and Spike, and Will, and Viola Davis by default (she’s allegedly going to be on vacation during the Academy Awards) and Idris Elba and Quinton Tarantino, our adopted, by way of the clandestine Racial Draft that is convened in homes, churches, barbershops and beauty shops all across Black America boycott of or challenging of the Oscar’s practices of exclusion of African American thespians from acknowledgement, acceptance, and awarding of dramatic excellence. 
I can imagine that the uber-Black, revolutionaries, the racist imbeciles, and even the empathetically loving liberal whites in America may think that the Black actor is complaining, whining even, about something trivial.  Like, who really cares about movies?  Who really can feel sorry for people that get paid to play make-believe, who, even at their worst paying gig, make more than your average citizen with a good job?  A TVOne, Lifetime, or Sci-Fi channel original movie probably pays a bit cast member more for a few weeks of filming than your average elementary or high school teacher makes in a year.  How can they complain?  Especially if they’re Black.  Why is art or cinema or the Black depiction of cinematic art important and why should it be acknowledged by the Academy?  Do Black Americans really need white people to acknowledge their existence in and contribution to the film industry, let alone go as far as to reward and award it?
Art, be it Literature, music, or film, has historically been the major form of display for humanity.  It serves as a historical narrative that defines, if not redefines, a person or a people’s position in society.  So, to say that Black American films must be recognized and given their due in the American cinematic landscape is an understatement.  We’ve come a long way since “Birth of a Nation”, and, if the United States is going to continue touting itself as a melting pot of cultural diversity, how can it not acknowledge, and showcase, African American representation in film and dramatic entertainment? Yet, if African Americans and the Black folks in this nation want equality and an independence-of-sorts, along with unadulterated integration into what Dr. Martin Luther King called "the burning house", then we, and they, must not gripe if we do not get the due diligence and recognition in which we, or they, think they deserve because, often times, integration and equality has a habit of neglecting and disregarding the individual as well as the masses.   To quote Stacy Dash, "Either we want to have segregation or integration. And if we don’t want segregation, then we need to get rid of channels like BET and the BET Awards and the (NAACP) Image Awards where you’re only awarded if you’re black."  Or, to paraphrase Aunt Viv (Janet Hubert), "Motherf#ck, the Oscars."

                                                                                                   -Gee Joyner


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

No More Magical, Intellectual Sambos, Mammies, and Ambulance Chasing Activists: Why Black People Should Cease Dialogue With Bigots

                                                                         

     It’s been a while since I’ve written for my blog.  Hell, it’s been a while since I’ve written at all.  But the non-indictment for the Ohio cops who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice as well as the peculiar circumstances surrounding the shooting death of Memphis teen Darius Stewart, have pulled me out of my socio-political writing funk.  There is no longer a need for me, or any other academics, intellectuals, civil rights activists, preachers, or civic/community leaders within the Black community, to recite all of the names and incidents regarding Blue on Black crime;  It is in and off itself exhausting, horrific, and abominable to say the least.  Damned the statistics and what opponents of the Black Lives Matter movement are contending;  You know the old rhetorical combats they use:  “What about Black on Black crime?”  “Do what the police tell you to do and you won’t get killed.”  “Look at their criminal record or past.”  “The police have a hard job.  They’ve got families to go home to.”  “The media is trying to start a race war to keep our minds off of Isis.”  Figgety-fuck all of that. 

     Sure, we know that proportionally whites out number Blacks and the incidents of Black Americans being criminalized in the U.S. is more than twice the rate of non-colored Americans, but non-Black Americans don’t exist in a neighborhood vacuum of consistent police-patrol as if the Negro is more prone to violence, skulduggery, and societal mischief than their white counterparts.  So, with that stated, the aforementioned is the impetus and excuse for the haphazard killing of armed or unarmed Black Americans be they male, female, young, old, threat or not.  Again, I say figgety-fuck all of that.  Why is it that the uniform of chocolate skin is paraded across the local and national news in death too many times by law enforcement with an excuse and a debate as to why a Black life matters or doesn’t when that Black body is encountered by the very authoritative entity sworn to protect and serve all of America in all of our American cities?


     I grew up watching the first, and one of the most successful, reality shows in American television history, Cops, and never once did I witness a shooting of an alleged suspect.  At the worst, I was entertained by a good wrestling match between cops and sometimes robbers—the “robbers” being both Black and white, male and female, but never did anyone die even if they were armed.  But today, it’s always a killing of people of my hue, people of my ethnic heritage---sometimes “warranted”, but most times not.  And the narrative is always disgusting to digest because of both Black and non-Black people trying their best attempt to remain objective and playing Devil’s advocate.  We see white liberals trying to be fair, white conservatives are not being balanced, and, in the midst of it all, you have Black activists and social commentators and the cherry-picked PhD toting scholar either  acting and speaking as apologists for our wayward brothers and sisters who had the audacity to not cower or “obey” the commands of law enforcement, or as uber-angry ethnocentric microphones of hate and segregation—all the while gaining public notoriety, local or national fame, and getting a little pocket change for speaking engagements and blog hits.  I, for one, am disgusted with it all.  No longer will I, and hopefully others, become Black intellectual Sambos consoling white Americans and explaining to white America how the consistent and persistent murders of Blacks by Blue cops must be addressed, condemned and eradicated.


       The scary thing is that the Black Lives Movement has done an excellent job of keeping the attention on the abuse of authority by many rogue and racist policemen in this nation and even pressuring District Attorneys across the country to either bring up charges or convene grand juries as a means to acquiesce to the demands of the broader (Black) American community and taxpayers, but it seems as if this is often used as a band-aid meant to suffice the moans, groans, and cries of our community.  For some reason, and I may be being petty, glib, or paranoid, but I feel like these grand juries seem to only be convened as a pacifier to the Black community, a call to "chill out", but a pacifier is meant only to soothe in the immediate, to suffice for the moment, but it's not even doing that because this racial, if not ethno-specific, pacifier got a rank meat taste to it. And if the pacifier tastes bad, the baby gonna spit it out and keep crying. 

      So, for me, and for the righteous and awoke "we", are gonna keep hollering until the baby get changed.  And, please don't talk about the "race card" because Black Lives being massacred at the hands of law enforcement ain't a game, and even if it is or was we only are "playing the race card", yet America created the game and the card table. America, don't try and find the Negroes with a magical intellect or rhetorical gift to serve as a conduit between white racism and prejudice and the African-American community.  Stop trotting out these civil rights ambulance chasing lawyers and activist looking for a crowd, a payday, and airtime.  There is no magical Negro that can quiet the voices of our community.  There is no intellectual Mammies and Sambos who can console your offspring on college campuses, universities, and at a concert-like panel discussion of the dialogue of Race in America.  None of that works anymore.  Your "thugs" and  "good Negroes" are all alarmed, frustrated, and fed up with it all.  And the card game is fixin' to get robbed.  Kenny Rogers said it best, "You gotta know when to fold 'em, know when to hold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run."  It's time to leave your winnings at the table and concede.  These lost lives are an injustice, and like Dr. King said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."  And now, the masses want justice--both any and everywhere.   



                                                                                                       -Gee Joyner


Friday, November 13, 2015

The Lights Went Out in Paris

                                                                               


                                                                             


It ain't romantic no more
Because the lights went out in Paris
They won't say, "Bonjour"
Because the lights went out in Paris
The lovers may start a war
Because the lights went out in Paris
150 or more tried to flee to the door
When the lights went out in Paris
And Isis came in with a roar, still a media-whore just begging for more
But they shouldn't have shot out the lights in Paris


                                            - Gee Joyner



                                                  

                                    

Monday, September 7, 2015

Black Lives Matter: When the Cameras Aren't On and There Aren't Faces, Names, and Spaces Getting Exposure, Does America Really Care?

                                                                     


"The sheep's entire life & dialogue is consumed with the wolf & its intentions. For if the sheep relaxes one iota, it very well may get gobbled up---literally”-Navar Ero


So, Sandra Bland was suffering from depression & posted a video about it on Facebook. Hmmm. Who isn't? I'm sure between the party, family, & food pics many of you are too but don't know it. Does that mean a $500 bail & an ass kicking from the cops will make you hang yourself with no sheet nor blanket in sight? ‪ 
Class, Occupational Status, Education, and Socioeconomics are all defining factors when analyzing culture & the similarities of one's culture & individual background, but once Race, particularly American Blackness, is thrown into the mix, not only is it an entirely different ballgame, but the parameters & rules & regulations of the proverbial ballgame cannot even be defined, let alone found, in the aforementioned rule book(s).  

Eric Garner was selling loose cigarettes in New York City, you know, that diverse melting pot where anyone who is no one can actualize the American Dream, was accosted by the police for his illegal endeavors and ended up dying en route to the hospital via ambulance after being subjected to a Southern-style lynching vis a vis a police choke hold.  Tamir Rice, only twelve-years-old, was haphazardly pointing a be-be gun at people, though it looked like a real firearm, in a Cincinnati park, was killed without warning by white policemen.  Numerous other humans of a darker hue than the prototypical Eurocentric shade have been beaten, unjustly accosted, and/or killed at the hands of both Black and white police officers solely, in my opinion, because of the criminalized and deviant stereotype that is so often connoted with people with “African” or “Black” heritage in the United States of America. 

Why is this?  Sure, whites are killed by cops, but men lie, women lie, and numbers don’t like the greatest rapper who ever lived Jay-Z/Shawn Carter once stated.  Black people are roughly 12.2% of the American population.  Latinos/Hispanics another 16.4%, Asians around 4%,  and the rest of the nation is or considers themselves to be “white” (63%).  

So, I, in my most humbly-hued opinion believe the comparison of Black bodies being snuffed -out by government-sanctioned law enforcement officials is disproportionately, and negatively, swinging in the favor of the Negro. So, what do we, as a nation? (particularly a 70.6% Christian nation, per the census and various nationals polls) Approach the injustice and violent encounters in which many Black/African Americans endure during police encounters—whether those encounters end up in incarceration, or, even worse--brutality, humiliation, and death?  Or do we become “the ones we have been waiting for” like June Jordan once wrote and said, whether publicly or in her mind’s psyche when she was constructing her rhetorical art?  

Do we, both Black and White Americans, mirror the Christian ideology in which our nation so dotes and touts itself among the international community, and practice what our Protestant nation preaches throughout the world?  The main tenant of Christianity—Love, has been proselytized and historicized throughout modern History as the tool good over evil and democracy over tyranny, which encapsulates a World History that has mythologicalized  Anglo-Christianity as the embodiment, ideologically speaking, of justice and equality, and the international media portrays it as mankind's saving grace, a ideological Christ-of-sorts, which must be witnessed or experienced by the every human, every community, every nation, and hamlet in the world.  So, if this message of democracy and Christianity is exhibited and defined by "acts" of kindness and love, then, there can be no American or Christian/Protestant dominance without Equality and Justice, right? (to be continued.  I apologize.  This text has been a two month stream of consciousness.



                                                                                               -Gee Joyner