Sarah-Baartman

Basically the era where being thicker than a midget was a crime just because Africans happen to be thick. Sarah (Saartije) Baartman was a Khoisan (South African) woman who performed under the name “Hottentot Venus” in 19th century England and France. She is the original video vixen: discovered at home in South Africa during her late teens, she was offered money and fame in Europe as a singer and dancer. Little did she know that she would be exploited and put on display for everyone to gaze at her large butt, long clitoris/labia, small waist, big breast and kinky hair– all traits that are very common amongst Khoisan women. As her shows attracted more fans, she was forced against her will to have sex with men AND WOMEN who gave enough money to her exploiters. Sarah got none of the money, as she was once promised. After her act got old, she was forced into prostitution, where she died of std’s and alcoholism. The obsession with Saartije lasted after her death as well. For more than 100 years, visitors and “scientist” were able to examine her dissected body parts in Paris museums. The 19th century shapewear, the “bustle” was inspired by her in order to give european women her unique physique. Yes, an old school booty pop. On behalf of Nelson Mandela’s request, Paris returned Saartije’s remains to South Africa in 2002. Black men, it’s time that you start respecting the black woman’s body, because this act of objectifying it was taught to you. #sarahbaartman

I’ve come to take you home –
home, remember the veld?
the lush green grass beneath the big oak trees
the air is cool there and the sun does not burn.
I have made your bed at the foot of the hill,
your blankets are covered in buchu and mint,
the proteas stand in yellow and white
and the water in the stream chuckle sing-songs
as it hobbles along over little stones.

I have come to wretch you away –
away from the poking eyes
of the man-made monster
who lives in the dark
with his clutches of imperialism
who dissects your body bit by bit
who likens your soul to that of Satan
and declares himself the ultimate god!

I have come to soothe your heavy heart
I offer my bosom to your weary soul
I will cover your face with the palms of my hands
I will run my lips over lines in your neck
I will feast my eyes on the beauty of you
and I will sing for you
for I have come to bring you peace.

I have come to take you home
where the ancient mountains shout your name.
I have made your bed at the foot of the hill,
your blankets are covered in buchu and mint,
the proteas stand in yellow and white –
I have come to take you home
where I will sing for you
for you have brought me peace.

—  Diana Ferrus, a South African poet who wrote this about Sarah Baartmen (read more: here).  She came and visited one of my classes today and gave us a history lesson on South Africa, told us her life story, and read this and two other poems, one about her experience voting in the first democratic election in South Africa and the other about her reclaiming the Afrikaans language. What an amazing woman, she had me laughing, smiling, and crying the entire time. Check out her work online or buy her book, “I’ve Come To Take You Home.”
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According to popular history, Baartman was born in 1789 in the Gamtoos Valley of South Africa. When she was barely in her 20s, she was sold to London by an enterprising Scottish doctor named Alexander Dunlop, accompanied by a showman named Hendrik Cesars. She spent four years in Britain being exhibited. Her treatment caught the attention of British abolitionists, who tried to rescue her, but she claimed that she had come to London on her own accord.
Baartman lived on in poverty, and died in Paris of illness in December 1815. After her death, Cuvier dissected her body, then displayed her remains. For more than a century and a half, visitors to the “Museum of Man” in Paris could view her brain and skeleton until she was peacefully laid to rest.

*from my Instagram* I am soo sick and tired of the abuse on the black female body. The first picture is of Swedish Minister of Culture when they kicked off World Art Day with a ceremonial cut to the genitals of the black coated cake with a woman in black face. While the second image is of a cake in the shape of a thong wearing butt that is presented to 2Chainz in the music video “Birthday Song” where he repeats “All I want for my birthday is a big booty hoe.” I mean in the end is there any real difference in the two cakes? I’m offended and outrages of the constant objectification of black female bodies dating back to the days of Sarah Baartman aka Hottentot Venus. 

Her story is rarely told, but it is a true one. 

They used and displayed her body as an object, void of any compassion towards or for her.

 She was originally from South Africa of the Khoikhoi people and exploited throughout Europe. Baartman lived on in poverty, and died in Paris of an undetermined inflammatory disease in December 1815. After her death,  her body was dissected, then displayed her remains. For more than a century and a half, visitors to the Museum of Man in Paris could view her brain, skeleton and genitalia until she was buried

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A Poem For Sarah Baartman

“I’ve come to take you home –
home, remember the veld?
the lush green grass beneath the big oak trees
the air is cool there and the sun does not burn.
I have made your bed at the foot of the hill,
your blankets are covered in buchu and mint,
the proteas stand in yellow and white
and the water in the stream chuckle sing-songs
as it hobbles along over little stones.

I have come to wretch you away –
away from the poking eyes
of the man-made monster
who lives in the dark
with his clutches of imperialism
who dissects your body bit by bit
who likens your soul to that of Satan
and declares himself the ultimate god!

I have come to soothe your heavy heart
I offer my bosom to your weary soul
I will cover your face with the palms of my hands
I will run my lips over lines in your neck
I will feast my eyes on the beauty of you
and I will sing for you
for I have come to bring you peace.

I have come to take you home
where the ancient mountains shout your name.
I have made your bed at the foot of the hill,
your blankets are covered in buchu and mint,
the proteas stand in yellow and white –
I have come to take you home
where I will sing for you
for you have brought me peace.”

By Diana Ferrus

the naked black woman

Everywhere I look your there, standing, sitting all the same

In history books, the internet, on television

I wish you knew what you became

They all see you as strange

While I glance at a picture in shame

You look like me each curve, each swift, each frame

I wish you knew what you became

I wonder what you might’ve thought of all the ones after you and before you

Your skin exposed by each flash, while your picture circulated more then your name

I kept seeing those like you as I grew up in magazines, books, and TV we might as well have been a game

I wish you knew what you became

I started comparing myself to you because I mean, aren’t we all the same?

We’re naked here, we’re naked there and who’s to blame?

Not me, not you but that camera

Am I naked? Is that all the camera exposes?

The naked black woman - its me, its you - we’re one in the same.

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Saartjie Baartman’s Story (Part ½)

AFRO EDUCATION: know the real history. 

This is a good film that shows us the reality of the colonialism out of africa. The true dehumanization of a person. How different is it of the things that we do our days?? Differentes ways, more sutil, but the same essence.

Watch it and learn!

They called me "Hottentot Venus", I pray that you call me Inspiration.

Dear Sons and Daughters of the Sun,

           If a wolf cries boy will the tears matter? Will the agony echoed through the wolf’s howl be muffled by the unforgiving beast of fear that lives within the hearts of mankind? Will the big bad wolf’s story ever be told? The story of how she so gallantly fought against hunters to protect her offspring and her legacy. Will her truth be buried with her memory and replaced by fables and fairytales of her monstrous instincts?  

          I remember the very last tear that fell from my eyes, I named her Amour. I gently asked that she would never leave me. She was the closest feeling to love that I had felt in many years. When I parted ways with Amour I knew that I was also saying goodbye to life. My story is like that of the wolf who cried boy, rarely ever told and sadly misunderstood. My cry for help was also hushed by fear. Unlike the wolf I was a human being. It never mattered that I too dreamed of happiness. In the eyes of my alleged superiors I was an animal. If I only knew I also had a legacy to protect I wouldn’t have felt so alone. For almost 200 years I’ve felt the piercing deception of history’s pin poking at my memory. I just want to rest peacefully now.

           To the sons and daughters of Europe I was a freak of nature, to nature I was simply a woman. I was a product of her beauty and a reflection of her wonders. I wasn’t some mutation of normality placed on this earth to be subjected to their ignorance. The way that I was created made me no more of a freak than the actions of my secret admirers. Their eyes spoke truths their mouths would never admit to.  I wasn’t inferior, I was bewilderingly beautiful. They publicly gawked but privately longed to ignite the fires of my passion. They desired to understand my curvaceous body so they sought to simplify the complexity of my composition. I was labeled inferior because the wonders of my ambiguity could not be tamed. I was a woman, emotional yet strong and ready to love eternally. I was no different from their mothers or even their daughters. I had dreams; I loved and longed to live happily. I was more than images of a hypersexual primitive beast exhibited as a part of a freak show. I am Sarah Baartman and my memory lives on through you.

          According to history’s ink I am the “Hottentot Venus”, a Khoisan woman from South Africa whose body was a freak attraction placed on display throughout London and France. I was a slave in Cape Town, South Africa before being “discovered” by a ship surgeon and persuaded to travel to London. I was caged and placed on display for starving eyes to feast upon. Stripped of my pride, I stood there naked before audiences of lustful citizens who claimed to be superior. My buttocks and genitals, which they viewed as abnormally large, became objects of their fascination. Even though I was subjected to extreme humiliation history’s pen is sure to inform you that this was of my free will. The notion that I willingly exploited by body as if I enjoyed it only perpetuates the stereotype of the oversexed primitive black woman. From London to Paris my body was exhibited as if I weren’t human. I eventually turned to a life of prostitution and died at age 25 of inflammatory and eruptive sickness, some say syphilis. Even after my death my genitals and other parts of my body were pickled and displayed in bottles at La Musee de l’Homme in Paris. For 160 years my body parts were exhibited for audiences to indulge in my exploitation. Just recently my remains were returned to my homeland and properly buried.

          Since the day I said goodbye to the earth I have been unable to rest in peace. I can’t help to feel as if I’m still on display with every image of degradation I see being produced and consumed in the world today. Imagine being naked in a cage and placed on display for all to watch. Remove the cage and change the early 1800’s to the new millennium and not much has changed. Women of color are still being publicly degraded and subjugated. With each flash of exploitation you are stomping on the memories of those who came before you. The exploitation may not always be in the form of sexual subjectivity. Today, the perpetuation of stereotypes depicted on what you call “reality television” seems to be the greatest exploitation.  I see women who have acquired fame through simply selling sex when I know that they have other talents, and more importantly a brain. Not only black women are degraded, however I feel as if we are still the least appreciated. I see women who neither look like me or you receiving high praise for their curves when we’ve carried the blessing since the beginning of time. Sometimes it makes me laugh, but it’s not long until my laughter turn into tears.

           I simply ask that you remember me. My question for you is who will you let write the story of your life? What will the world remember you by?  According to history I was a freak of nature who willingly walked into the circus of exploitation to be the subject of ridicule and freakish infatuation. The world will never know the thoughts that crossed my mind as I traveled to Europe. They’ll never know why I participated in such cruel and inhumane practices. The reason is simply because I never wrote my own story. My story has been told by a stranger who never met me. Now my story is his, they call it history. Black women, I ask that you own your story. I ask that you write each and every sentence and close this chapter of degradation. Some may call me the very first “Vixen”. If I knew how you would have been impacted I probably would have fought a little longer to stay alive. I would have fought a little harder to write my own story for you to read. I would have fought for the world to see that our bodies are to be celebrated and not subjugated. This is why I still cannot rest in peace.

           I wrote this letter for all daughters of the sun to remember me. If you have never learned of my story I am now here to share. We can’t rely on strangers to tell the story of our lives. I want you to know that you were blessed with supernatural beauty. Black women your makings are a work of art. I want you to embrace your skin in all of its diversity. From the deepest sun kissed coatings to the brightest reflections of light I want your beauty to be celebrated.  From the fullness of your lips to the secrets that hide in the crevices of your brilliance I want you to be celebrated. I want you to love yourself so much that you never place a price on your beauty. I want you to be remembered for the changes you’ve made in the world. I want you to be remembered for the hearts you’ve touched and the lives you’ve inspired. Learn from my story. Think of me when you chose your movie roles. Think of me before allowing a television network to capitalize off of your misunderstood ways. Think of me as you dominate sports, the corporate world, law and medicine. Entertainment is not the only path that leads to the fulfillment of your dreams. When the world places labels on you I want you to stand proudly and proclaim, I am __________ ________ and I am BEAUTIFUL. You deserve to be loved and admired; you don’t deserve to be exploited. Your mind can take you places that your body can only follow.

           I also wrote this letter for every black man. I want the world to see that while you too have bodies resembling classical architecture your minds are far more intriguing. I want you to show the world that not only can you dominate sports but you can also dominate business.  Aspire to own the brands that have established extreme wealth off of your unprecedented skills. I want you to take the hustle developed on the street corners to the boardrooms and establish your presence. Establish empires of excellence that the fruits of your labor will one day enjoy. Always remember how important it is to celebrate and understand black women. In every black woman you should see your mother, sister or daughter and show respect. Even when you find a black woman who has never learned how to respect herself treat her with respect and set that standard. Don’t allow yourself to be degraded to dogs through the exploitation of your women by calling them “bitches”. You are a king, always remember that. You don’t have to be a pawn in the ploy to eradicate the strength of the black family. There is no image more serene than that of black love. For every black woman that is degraded you are also degraded. Black man I ask that you learn how to love the black woman again. With that being said, black women I ask that you allow yourselves to be loved. Write your very own love story and paste it to the sky.  I encourage you to write stories that your great grandchildren will be proud to share. Love each other and build each other up. Don’t allow history to label you as the wolf that everyone feared or as the primitive beast that needed salvation. You are the living legacy of Kings and Queens who have walked this earth before you. March on, march with love.  Always remember me.

Love, Sarah Baartman

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Sara “Hottentot Venus" Baartman : if you haven’t heard of her story, you really should. 

As Black women, we as a whole to fail to realize our potential and worth. Instead we allow ourselves to be objectified through the media and in black communities as if this was our purpose in life. Sara was exploited against her wishes and here we have Black women today lining up to be video vixens and such. Is getting paid really more important than understanding your True worth? 

The Progress of Nitty Scott, MC: Do We Have Our Female Kendrick Lamar? (Review/Opinion)

ssemWAs a young black girl just delving into the hip-hop scene at 17, there were so many rap albums I needed to be put onto. That was the era I was a Nas stan, and no one could tell me any other rapper was great. I bumped NWA, and that was when I slowly began to shed my image of the “good black girl” who wasn’t like those other black folks. Nitty Scott, MC came around the time I was appreciating East Coast rap in particular. As a Michigan born to Florida to Brooklyn femcee, Nitty Scott is important for rap and the Afro-Latina/African-American diaspora in general. 

 From Doobies x Popsicles to Creature!, Nitty Scott has evolved from a young Puerto Rican girl figuring out her identity to an experienced womanist and hip-hop femcee in the span of 5 years. I remember Nitty when she was in a circle discussing whether V-Nasty and other white girls can say the “N” word or not, and she had a lot of woke things to say before people even knew what the word “woke” meant. Now here we are, listening to a beautifully crafted album that brings the diaspora within the African community together, and Nitty is not to be silent anymore. For my Afro-Latina sisters, Nitty shares her identity as an Afro-Latina and like many womanists before her, she is not here for the “Are you black or Hispanic?” arguments? Pussy Powah and Negrita reveals that, and they tend to be theme songs for Afro-Latinas and girls in the diaspora who can relate to the embracing of black female sexuality and African-indigenous roots. 

 La Diaspora featuring Zap Mama is self-explanatory. No sooner than the album starts, Nitty Scott has snapped. She is done with the erasure of Afro-Latinas. She is tired of the fetishism of being mixed race and told you’re “pretty for a black girl.” She is not here for the rift between the black community and black women being pit together based on how “foreign” and “exotic” they are. She has been observing and doing her homework, and I am proud of her. I feel I have grown up with her and grown as a hip-hop scholar and womanist just as much as her, and I may have not talked about her as much as I did in 2012, but I always supported her in spirit.

 In The Water is the song that hit me hard. “Not black enough for the Ricans, I’m black enough for the blacks.” While I do not understand what it’s like to be “half” of anything other than just black, it made me cry tears of joy hearing that she does not need to go the same route as black people not accepting her while anti-black non-blacks get passes to do the same thing. As if there is not history of black people accepting one another when non-black people excluded black people from their own spaces. As if there isn’t reason why some black people may distrust other black people who are half of an ethnicity or race that may be anti-black. She then talks about her not being straight and how she is attracted to women, and as a bisexual woman, I wanted to cry. We live in a era where more femme black women are coming out and saying, “I like men and women too.” That warms my spirit.

  Nitty Scott drops all the ideas of what it means to be black, mixed, and Afro-Latina, and it shows in songs like “In The Water” and “For Sarah Baartman.” Sarah Baartman is a love letter to the legacy of a woman who was stripped from her homeland and brought to the states to be put on a circus display for her large buttocks. Nitty speaks of fetishism and the views of black women and their bodies. It’s a poem. She asks, “If you, you found me slain, would you still say my name? See I know about the black man, and what he been through. What if I sung about the woman that he brought it home too?” Yes, Nitty. I too have asked that on countless occasions, even just the other day when I revisited some of NWA’s songs that talked about being a nigga but with only the views as a black man. Nitty asks a question plenty of feminists and womanists of the black community have asked for years: Do our black lives matter? Do our black BODIES matter, or is it just for your consumption? I felt it in my soul when she said, “I be crying for my brothers, but I cry for me too.” Plenty of us have been there where we’ve cried for our brothers and fathers for far too long, we have forgotten to humanize and cry for our selves.

 “I’m pretty blended, but don’t call me exotico/As if I was half-black…and half-beautiful.” Once again, Nitty let’s people know that her being mixed does not make her beauty or strength. I’m sure so many of us have heard the stories of how so many successful girls in hip-hop or in general are only there because of their being mixed race or not being like “regular” black girls. She let’s us know that while her being mixed makes her and it is indeed a beautiful mix, mixed and black girls are not beautiful for being “half non-black.” Black is just as beautiful as her non-black side. We’ve been fed this image that while someone is half-black, their non-black side is the “beautiful” half. “Being black and [insert non-black race] is such a beautiful mix!” But have we heard we’re beautiful just for being black? Are we called beautiful for being half black, or are we called beautiful for being half not?

 For Sarah Baartman throws a nice shade to people who fetishize our bodies but don’t want to endure the struggle of being a black woman. Sarah Baartman is the prime symbol of being a black woman in America viewed as an exotic caricature for her curves and big butt, but never humanized. We have so many women who shall not be named in the media going out of their way to buy features similar to Sarah Baartman and calling it a “beauty” trend, but not knowing her struggles and how those “beautiful features” is what caused her pain and death.

 Nitty Scott has been no stranger to letting us know who her influences are. She states something I have always said since I embraced it: Born in the Midwest, raised in the South. She is a unique individual in hip-hop because her influences has ranged from Golden Age hip-hop set in the streets of Brooklyn, New York to going back to her Southern roots on songs like In The Water and Don’t Shoot! where she is not hesitant to let us know that she can spit a cypher in a minute. If she wanted to hop on a trap beat, she would kill it. Don’t Shoot! is trap meets the East Coast in an efficient way I feel other East Coast rappers today have failed to do. Kaleidoscope is a combo between trap and drill, as Nitty said, “Born in the Midwest, raised in the South.” The chorus tauntingly asks, “How does it feel to be one of us?” I still can’t help but go back to the video where the woman said, “Everyone wants to be a nigga but they don’t want to BE a nigga.” Nitty was in it, and Don’t Shoot! may be a bop, but it’s a conscious bop promoting the message that Black Lives Do Matter. If you know, you know.

 As for her being the female Kendrick Lamar, I may be reaching, but can you see the similarities? I have made health critiques of Kendrick Lamar. I can be a petty and snarky opinionator, but at the end of the day, Kendrick has influenced a generation. I believe Nitty can too. I hear the influence but I also hear Nitty’s own voice she has successful and neatly crafted in what seems to be in so little time, but it’s been a progress and journey. She has all the tools to lead a group of black girls to get in touch with their roots, blackness, and embracing their natural beauty in a healthy way that allows us to have agency. So I do ask, do we finally have a female rapper we can look to and say, “That’s that pro-black rapper who gets us lit and fired up for justice at the same time.” We have to let the hip-hop community decide. Go stream and buy Creature! on Itunes now and also check out her other mixtapes, Doobies x Popsicles, The Cassette Chronicles, The Boombox Diaries, Vol. 1, and The Art of Chill.