black native

Black history month day 23: American aviator Bessie Coleman.

Bessie Colman was born January 26, 1892 in Atlanta, Texas as tenth of thirteen children born to sharecroppers George and Susan Coleman. At the age of six, Coleman began walking four miles each day to a segregated one-room schoolhouse, where she loved to read and excelled in math. When she was 23, she moved with her brothers to Chicago and became a manicurist at a barber shop. It was there when she first heard stories of the pilots in World War I and decided she wanted to fly.

At the time, both black and female pilots in the United States were practically unheard of, so Coleman studied French so she could learn flying and get her license in Paris. On June 15, 1921, Coleman became the first woman of Black and Native American descent (as her father was part Choctaw or possibly Cherokee) to earn an aviation pilot’s license and an international aviation license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

Coleman begin a successful career of stunt flying, saying: “The air is the only place free from prejudices. I knew we had no aviators, neither men nor women, and I knew the Race needed to be represented along this most important line, so I thought it my duty to risk my life to learn aviation.”

Coleman’s dream was to start a school for young black aviators. Unfortunately, On April 30, 1926, she died after being thrown from a malfunctioning plane. But her numerous accomplishments served as inspiration for many future aviators.

It’s Thanksgiving which means tables decorated with tiny porcelain figures of Native Americans sharing corn with pilgrims. It’s a holiday about being grateful, coming together, and being at peace but while we use caricatures of a great people, mainstream media ignores their cries for help. While we set tables with servings of food that are far too large, the original inhabitants of this great nation struggle to fight for clean drinking water and respect for their ancestors.

I’m not great at words but this issue is very dear to my heart so here’s some art.

A reminder of the difference between equally non-violent protests when the protestors are majority black and majority white in terms of the police.

And if you need a reminder of what happens when it’s non-violent Native Americans well…

Stereotyped vs Nuanced Characters and Audience Perception

Writing with color receives many questions regarding the stereotypes Characters of Color and their story lines may possess.

There’s a difference between having a three-dimensional character with trait variance and flaws, versus one who walks the footsteps of a role people of their race/ethnicity are constantly put into. Let’s discuss this, as well as how sometimes, while there’s not much issue with the character, a biased audience will not allow the character to be dimensional.

But first: it’s crucial to consider the thinking behind your literary decisions.

Trace your Logic 

When it comes to the roles and traits you assign your characters, it’s important to ask yourself why you made them the way they are. This is especially true for your marginalized characters.

So you need an intimidating, scary character. What does intimidating look like on first brainstorm? Is it a Black man, large in size or presence? (aka a Scary Black Man) A Latino with trouble with the law? If so, why?

Really dig, even as it gets uncomfortable. You’ll likely find you’re conditioned to think of certain people in certain roles on the spot.

It’s a vicious cycle; we see a group of people represented a certain way in media, and in our own works depict them in the way we know. Whether you consciously believe it’s the truest depiction of them all or not, we’re conditioned to select them for these roles again and again. Actors of Color report on being told in auditions they’re not performing stereotypical enough and have been encouraged to act more “ethnic.” 

This ugly merry-go-round scarcely applies to (cis, straight) white people as they are allowed a multitude of roles in media. Well, then again, I do notice a funny trend of using white characters when stories need a leader, a hero, royalty, a love interest…

Today’s the day to break free from this preconditioned role-assigning.

Keep reading

Although they are presented as harmless, goofy explorations of inane historical side-notes, cable TV specials such as Ancient Aliens and The Lost History of Ancient America normalise expressions of racist intellectual attitudes towards native peoples.

Their basic premise remains: ‘These primitive brown people couldn’t possibly have contributed to our cultural history! It must have been [aliens / giants / prehistorical Europeans]’. Indigenous peoples in North America, Latin America and Africa were practical metallurgists, experimental chemists, civil engineers and urban planners - restoring native peoples to their factual place in human developmental history reveals a dazzlingly beautiful archaeological narrative which throws grubby crypto-fascist conspiracy loons into the shade. 

Busting these absurd, revisionist ahistories is an anti-racist duty.