Sunday, September 4, 2016

Colin Kaepernick's Afro Has No Choice But to Stand During the National Anthem


     In the midst of it all, Colin Kaepernick’s Afro must stand for the National Anthem.  Not because of its girth and height and fabulous glory but because it must do it because of the History of the African in America since 1619.  Sure, Colin is of mixed heritage and his adoption by white, Anglo-Saxon parents and his rearing deems him to be a resident of the village of Mulatto.  But, his afro speaks volumes as to why it, and he, must stand, not sit, for America’s national anthem.  In the past few days, the media has used Colin’s decision to not stand, nor sing, during America’s national anthem, as a ratings-boost to create a dialogue, mainly negative, about whether or not it is patriotic or treasonous to disregard, or, even, show disrespect for the nation and the people that fought and/or died for the the Democracy and Freedoms that the United States uses as a tool of nationalistic superiority that is often times lorded over the global community.  It has stirred a debate that is dividing the country again to say the least.

     Colin's Afro, which apparently was picked or blown out from his previous locks of curls, is an aesthetic exhibition of his defiance of, and inclusion in American History and its culture.  Along with his decision to not stand during the anthem, his choice of hairstyle displays his understanding and embracing of his African-American heritage as well as how Black American hairstyles have been used and viewed as a tool of subversion as it pertains to combatting, challenging, and even dismantling the hierarchical structure of America that so often utilizes, at least since 1619, one's aesthetics, or physical appearance, to subjugate them to a life rife with inequality and a lack of justice and opportunities as well as demonize and dehumanize an individual's very existence. 

     From the Black American Civil Rights Movement to the Black Power Movement of the 1970s, the Afro has served as a radical and revolutionary symbol of the American ideals described in the Constitution that afford “all” Americans the freedom of expression  and (aesthetical) freedom of speech (First Amendment). And the monumental Afro probably speaks to those freedoms more loudly than any other act in that it is verbally silent yet speaks with a deafening sound that cannot be ignored.  I would even go as far as saying that, for the most historically oppressed group of people to ever reside on U.S. soil, the Afro is the embodiment of America in that it serves as a symbol of solidarity amongst those who choose to deviate and counter the archetypes and hierarchical structures of Eurocentrism that, internationally and domestically, have been the face, skin hue, and hair of the American portrait that was published in the World's Yearbook. 

The Afro, particularly when it is grown long or high, stands up to the oppression, bigotry, classism, and racism that lurks in the minds, hearts, and souls and shadowy cul de sacs of American culture.  It protests the aforementioned picture in the world’s yearbook.  It has served in all of the branches of the military and government.  It has fought crime on the nation’s police forces. It has put out fires and saved kittens from tree limbs within the nation’s Fire Departments.  It has entertained the country through song and dance.  It has won Olympic medals, many of them gold.  It was there when San Diego Chargers' running back Duane Thomas declined to stand still nor sing the anthem before a game against the Dallas Cowboys in 1972. It stood when NBA guard Mahmoud Rauf declined to put his hand on his heart nor say the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the National Anthem before games.  And apparently, it will be standing when its owner throws passes in the NFL for the San Francisco 49ers when, or if, Kaepernick’s number is called this season.  And whether we like it or not, it will be standing tall and high and glorious when the National Anthem is sung regardless of whether or not Colin decides to stand. 

                                                                                                - Gee Joyner

Monday, August 29, 2016

It's All About the Benjamins: Black Lives and the Money That Makes It Matter


I recently saw a post via Facebook stating that the Ford Motor Company was giving $100 Million dollars to the Black Lives Matter Movement.  Being the skeptic that I am, I researched and found this to be not entirely true, you know like Clinton and Trump have been doing for the last 6 months on the campaign trail as they spew their “facts” to the general public.  But what I found is quite interesting, disturbing, and even condescending.  Per the Washington Times, Ford Motor Company and Borealis Philanthropy are pledging $100 Million dollars over six years to the BLM Movement along with another $33 Million the Civil Rights organization received from George Soros’ Open Society Foundation.  What and where exactly are the “allotted” funds going to do as it pertains to Black Lives mattering?
 I mean, I get it. Having grown up with my father the owner/operator of a small, Black-owned business, I understand how business works and the expenses thereof.  I imagine plenty of those funds will go to travel, legal, and operating expenses, materials, overhead, and personnel salaries, but if a Black life like mine isn’t connected with a particular chapter, more than likely the national chapter, or does not have a seat at those decision-making, camera-stealing, microphone and ambulance, I mean police car-chasing tables, how can my Black life benefit from Black Lives Matter?  And I’m not just being salty or a hater because the founders and members of the national and local chapter are getting caked-up with paper after all of the protests and bull-horning they’ve done to garner national and international opinion. 

         I actually came across something on the BLM website that was blatantly, and even disrespectfully, exclusionary under their Get Involved/Find a Chapter tab that stated the following:  Please note that #BlackLivesMatter is a network predicated on Black self-determination, and BLM Chapters reserve the right to limit participation based on principle.  Please be aware that BLM chapters have varying membership policies, and may or may not be accepting new members at this time.  The aforementioned reeks of exclusion and divisiveness.  It seems to suggest that the BLM’s criterion is set and the choice to include or exclude an individual from being a part of “the Movement” is purely subjective.  My question is, “Who is doing the picking and choosing?” and “What makes me unqualified for acceptance into the Black Lives Matter Movement?”  The bigger question is, were the liberal funders of the grant money from George Soros’ Open Society Foundation and Ford Motor Corporation vetted like those who want to be an official member of the Movement will be?  Or did the money trump their individual and collective ideologies?  I get it.  It’s all about the Benjamins, baby., the Movement’s official website, lists numerous tenants or criterion necessary for inclusion in the movement and the tenants/criterion are quite subjective in their interpretations.  It lists Diversity, Restorative Justice, Globalism, Black Women, Collective Value, Transgender Affirming, Unapologetically Black, Black Villages, Empathy, Queer Affirming, Black Families, Collective Value, Loving Engagement, and Intergenerationality as the things one must subscribe to in order to stand in solidarity with the movement as a whole.  But, after reading through their explanations, I failed to see any mention of Black Men under the exhaustive list of the Blackness in which Black Lives Matter promotes and champions. This is ironic being that the movement, and the hashtag, which to me aren't necessarily synonymous, gained its following in notoriety on the backs of the murders Black bodies, predominately males, by Blue cops.  To add to this, how does the BLM Movement include a Black Family as one of its focuses/themes yet fails to mention the Black male?  There can be no Black Family null and void of the Black man, be they be present as a father, husband, or brother. This is disingenuous at best and dreadfully exclusionary to say the least?  And please, miss me with the Black Man being a parroting clone of America’s robust tradition of white, male patriarchal ideology, rule, dominance, and subordination of the non-male, non-heterosexual American—I will argue that in another rhetorical and sociopolitical writing space at a later date. Plus, I’ve never been able to exclude nor dominate anyone or anything in my 38-years of the American experience.

     If Black Lives Matter, shouldn’t any and all things pertaining to Black Lives be listed?  I’m sure they could have considering the lengths they went to be explanatory as it pertains to the 14 criterion necessary to be in solidarity with the movement.  But my major concern is financial/economical equity, equitability, dissemination and occupational opportunity.  Is the Ford Motor Company, the Open Society Foundation and the Borealis Philanthropy Group subscribing to each and every tenant listed?  I doubt it.  But, it’s all about the Benjamins, baby. And would it not be more economically prudent to receive, and solicit, grant funding that will guarantee, promise, or earmark salaries and positions within major American companies and corporations totaling over $133 Million dollars over that 6 year period rather than the funds just being allotted to the BLM Movement to do as they wish?  Granted, I have not, nor will I ever be privy to the nuances and deliverables of the grant that was awarded, unless I apply for membership in my local city’s Black Lives Matter branch, but I’d like to know whether it is or isn’t “All about the Benjamins, baby.” 

                                                                                       -Gee Joyner    

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

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