“A Seat at the Table”: Black Girl Magic Incarnate

Solange couldn’t have released “A Seat at the Table” at a better time.

She’s released at a time that cripples Black people and our right to live and breathe freely.

She’s released at a time where racial hatred, anxiety and fatigue threaten to swallow the Black soul. She’s released at a time where Black women are still fighting to make movements for Black lives recognize the deaths of Black women.

She’s released it when we are on the path to get free, when we are having to fight for all Black lives—the queer ones, the trans ones, the hood ones—to be on the path of liberation.

She’s released it at a time where Black magic—Black Girl Magic—is most necessary.

I’ve always considered Solange to be a womanist as opposed to a feminist. The difference between womanism and feminism is one that must be highlighted but is often dismissed or outright denied. Womanism is a practice that centers the Black woman, and how the sociopolitical and socioeconomic state of Black womanhood is vastly different than any other woman. Womanism allows for Black culture and theology to thrive in an intersectional analysis of society. I am a womanist because Black women are my priority; they are my passion, in fact.

They are Solange’s passion, as well. “A Seat at the Table” shows me that.

“A Seat at the Table” is Black Girl Magic incarnate. The album, a collection of 21 songs dedicated to blackness in all of its glory, discusses pro-blackness, self-care, the right to be angry, the rise of self through turmoil and having the ability to shine when others want to dim your light.

The album encourages you to celebrate Blackness despite people’s misconception of it (“This Moment” and the assertion of how Black people belong) and despite the charge that pro-Blackness is anti-whiteness (“Tina Taught Me” is the most perfect explanation of pro-Blackness).

The album asserts the autonomy of Black folk. It reminds the audience that Black people are not up for consumption and what we make is what we own (“F.U.B.U and the beautiful interlude before it that explicitly states that if you don’t understand it, maybe it’s not for you.)

The album demands the respect of Black spaces and Black History (“Dad Was Mad” and the eye-opening discussion of Matthew’s experience with integration and “Don’t Touch My Hair” discussing the sanctity of what we’ve created).

The album forces you to confront yourself and how you treat yourself in times of struggle (“Cranes in the Sky” and “Ode to Self-Care”). It reminds you that you—your wellness, you state of being—is something you must hold gently.

“A Seat at the Table” is an invitation to liberation. Through it, Solange showcases how she has crafted her path to being free and tells the audience, “You must do it, too. You must get free. You must believe in your blackness, love yourself deeply and you must get free.”

And Solange tells us this with clips in her hair.

I can already see people confusing the celebration of Blackness and Black Girl Magic as segregationist and anti-white. To be honest, I am not in the business of appeasing the feelings of the ill-informed and racially obtuse.

I will say that I understand why White people feel threatened by the celebration of Blackness; celebrating a self that is so oppressed seems foreign and terrifying to the dominant culture. This oppression is what makes “A Seat at the Table” amazing and necessary.

We have to get free. And we have to be Black while doing it.

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There was a lot of talk today about the media’s failed coverage [read: non-coverage] of the 234 Nigerian girls, thus came the #234WhiteGirls hashtag.

No, none of us wants any white girls to go missing. We just want these Nigerian girls to get the same amount of coverage that white girls get (or would get), because EVERY girl matters.

#BRINGBACKOURGIRLS

kitschmix.com
Amandla Stenberg Opens Up About Her Gender Identity
The 17-year-old, Hunger Games actor Amandla Stenberg has come out as non-binary. Stenberg - who plays Rue in the adventure film franchise – says she feels like she’s not a ‘woman’ all the time, and non-binary is a term that she feels comfortable using to describe herself. (She is using female pronouns).

“The 17-year-old, Hunger Games actor Amandla Stenberg has come out as non-binary.

Stenberg – who plays Rue in the adventure film franchise – says she feels like she’s not a ‘woman’ all the time, and non-binary is a term that she feels comfortable using to describe herself. (She is using female pronouns).

Writing on Tumblr, she said she is organizing a workshop on feminism, specifically how ‘mainstream feminist movements have continuously excluded women who are not white, thin, cisgender, able-bodied and neurotypical’.

Something we are struggling with is understanding the intersection of feminism and gender identity…

We’re both people who don’t feel like “women” all the time – but we claim feminism as our movement.

Basically, we’re trying to understand the duality of being a non-binary person and a feminist. How do you claim a movement for women when you don’t always feel like one?”

Read the full piece here

#1: THANK YOU AMANDLA FOR YOUR CONSISTENT AWESOMENESS AS AN INTERSECTIONAL FEMINIST AND ROLE MODEL FOR YOUTH & EVERYONE ELSE!

#2: YOU DON’T NEED TO BE A WOMAN OR CIS TO BE FOR WOMEN’S RIGHTS. Just like white people can and should advocate for racial equality, everyone can and should advocate for gender equality. 

I give Amandla a TON of credit for having to not only grow up in public, but grow up as a non-binary POC in a white / sexist / cisnormative society! She is young and figuring herself and society out. I’m Team Stenberg and am not looking to call her out, I just wanted to make this crucial clarification. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says, We Should All Be Feminists

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In response to anyone who thinks they have an fierce inner black woman in them and is not in fact, a black woman

See the thing about that fire and that “fierceness” is that it’s born out of our oppression, out of always being told that we are ugly, that our bodies are too fat or too muscular, that we don’t have the right kind of hair – and having to deconstruct all those things and tell ourselves that we are beautiful even though society is telling us that we are not.  

That strength is born out of always having to defend ourselves against white supremacy and anti-black-woman-patriachy. From years of not seeing ourselves represented in anything aligned with beauty, of buying products that are made to make us look like not ourselves.

So there is no way you could have an inner black woman in you. You have not experienced our struggle, you don’t know it, you haven’t lived it, and you can’t imagine it. 

See, you can’t sit with us, because we haven’t been able to sit at your table since our existence in this country. And while we were being excluded from your table we made our own, and it is fabulous and fly. And of course you now want to try and have a seat at our table, take our table, use it and ignore all the labor that went into creating THAT table.

But nah, sorry boo boo.

You ain’t never going to be us, you can try to wear your hair like us, you can try to dance like us, talk like us, wish you were us, but know this – 

YOU-WILL-NEVER-BE-US

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Black bodies have been dehumanized since our horrific introduction with European culture and white supremacy. The white gaze has despised, violated and objectified the Black female body. The narrow European (and Black) standards of beauty have to be dismantled all together. Not all Black women have big hips and big butts. Not all have small waists. This photo set, though only limited by the amount of photos that could be uploaded, attempts to broaden that standard of beauty to include Black women of all shapes and sizes. 

Dear White folks who are mad at Michelle Obama for saying Black Girls Rock

“Dear White folks who are mad at Michelle Obama for saying Black Girls Rock,

I think I know why you are mad. You are not used to seeing other women rock because for centuries you’ve been told that only you do. Perhaps it is jarring to see that other people exist beyond being your sidekicks, model minorities, imaginary friends and false stereotypes that promote the myth of your supremacy. You see, unlike you, for 400 years Black women and girls have been told we don’t rock. Heck we’ve been told a lot worse. The thing is you’ve never known how it feels to be a Black woman in America. So this post is my meager attempt to show you.

  1. Imagine how it feels being told every single day that because of the amount of melanin your skin, the world instantly assumes you are hood, ghetto, uneducated, immoral, lazy, a leech on government and violent.
  2. Imagine knowing that these ideas are lies and regardless of who are and what you do, you can’t change that lie because you don’t control the image.
  3. Imagine being told that your God-given tresses are ugly, unprofessional, unmanageable and bad hair. (Here, here and here.)
  4. Imagine having to spend thousands each year on chemicals to straighten your hair, without knowing the health risks of burning and scarring our scalps just to be accepted.
  5. Imagine not being the standard of beauty within your race. (Here)
  6. Imagine watching shows, reading articles and hearing new studies where people say you are not marriage material simply based on the color of your skin. (Here, here, here and here)
  7. Imagine people calling their racist stereotypes about you a preference.
  8. Imagine knowing that some employers will not look at your resume because you have a Black sounding name. (Here)
  9. Imagine hearing White women complain about making $.77 to a White man’s dollar when Black women only make $.64 and people rarely talk about it. (Here)
  10. Imagine being told that regardless of your hopes and dreams that Black women are doomed to be backbone of your race.
  11. Imagine the burden of constantly representing your race and then being the blame for your race’s ills when one person out of millions of Black people makes a mistake.
  12. Imagine how it feels when people of your race make rap songs calling you bitches, hoes and anything but the child of god.
  13. Imagine Black celebrities openly stating that they won’t date you because the your texture of hair, the darkness of your skin and because you are Black. But in the next breath they will use emotional blackmail because if you do not support their movie, album or book, Hollywood won’t hire Black leads. (Here, here and here.)
  14. Imagine then marching, fighting and dying for the Black men, White women and others who ignore you because you are a Black woman. (Here and here.)
  15. Imagine knowing that those same people will never march, fight or even die for you. They’d prefer to ignore you. (Here and here.)
  16. Imagine having nonBlacks mock 400 years of rape, murder, broken families, state supported terrorism against you, income inequality and your ability to survive it all by calling themselves “a strong independent Black woman.” (Here and here)
  17. Imagine how it feels when your existence becomes a joke made by Black male comedians to their White audiences. (Here)
  18. Imagine how it feels to have to wait over 30 years to finally see a Black woman lead on TV. This time she wasn’t a slave, on drugs, a prostitute, a maid, struggling or a big mamma, with superhuman strength who was sassy and angry, but content with her pain because she’s overly religious. (Here)
  19. Imagine having those new images questioned because all Black women are supposed to be angry, not classically beautiful, are told there are too many on TV and are supposed to be a stereotype. (Here and here)
  20. Imagine how it feels to know that even though your family has been here for 400 years, your history is not considered standard American history. It is only recognized in February and even during the month of February being told that Black history heroes are all Black men. (Here)
  21. Imagine how it feels to be ignored in America when 64,000 of our daughters, mothers and sisters are missing. (Here)
  22. Imagine how it feels to be one of the 40-60% of Black women and girls who are sexually abused by the time they reach 18 years old. (Here)
  23. Imagine how it feels to be suspended from school at a higher rate than your peers of other races who commit the same infractions. (Here and here)
  24. Imagine how it feels to receive a higher prison sentence for the same crimes than your female peers simply because you have Black skin. (Here)
  25. Imagine being told you are the blame for the country’s social ills when statistics show you are not.
  26. Imagine having to write this post and explaining to someone whose image dominates the media and race controls the political, social and economic spheres why Black girls rock.
  27. Imagine having you discount everything I said because deep down, you like things just the way they are.

After everything I have said (and I could go on), if Black women and girls being told by another Black woman that they rock offends you, check yourself and your insecurities. Instead of having a problem with Black Girls Rock, have a problem with the White supremacy that constantly tries to remind Black women and girls that we don’t. Direct your energy towards a world that refuses to recognize our collective humanity. If you did, we wouldn’t have to constantly remind Black women and girls that we are powerful, beautiful, worthy and full of love. You see, it is a revolutionary act to be a Black girl or woman who loves herself in a world where she is reminded that she should not. Even with every odd stacked against us, Black women and girls are thriving (see here, here and here). So yes, Black girls do rock.”

This awesome essay brought to you by BougieBlackGirl

All too often women believe it is a sign of commitment, an expression of love, to endure unkindness or cruelty, to forgive and forget. In actuality, when we love rightly we know that the healthy, loving response to cruelty and abuse is putting ourselves out of harm’s way.
—  bell hooks

Womanist/Black Feminist Epistemology

So there’s this thing that I’ve always known about, that @Karynthia, @Blackamazon, @so_treu @weseerace and @bad_dominicana discuss often, about how terms, ideas and scholarship that Black women create are not associated with their originators or even with any Black women at all (and not even speaking of just plagiarism; I mean erasure). Or worse, they’re used against Black women. Or even worse, people actively fight the terms’ existences especially within mainstream feminism.

Womanism. Intersectionality. Matrix of domination. Misogynoir. Four of the many concepts that are fought tooth and nail to not exist (especially the latter since it’s newest). Subject to the scrutiny of imperialist White supremacist capitalist patriarchy (this is bell hooks’ combined term) and how it shapes epistemology. Eventually once accepted, then they are disconnected from its originators often for the purpose of silencing other Black women. There’s people who use the terms and ideas to push their agenda (agendas that usually exclude Black women) yet none of the originators are anywhere on their sites. No tags. Not mentioned in conversation or teaching. Nowhere. And even when they discuss modern issues in feminism, they refuse to name Black women currently doing the work. They gladly name any White woman they’re referring to. 

This is not about Black women wanting “White approval” as utterly boring and predictable Whites and some Black men (who also try to silence Black women with other Black women’s words) will suggest, a notion I already deconstructed in the past. It’s about a long history of taking and erasure. Taking. Erasure. This has a history as certain aspects of Black progressive politics are regularly appropriated and then used by Whites to shame or exclude Black people. 

Anytime I mention Black women’s work, all of a sudden it becomes “unethical” or “greedy” to credit our work or idea spreading and education is deemed “impossible” if our names, contributions, ideas and praxis are mentioned. I am fascinated by multi-degreed, multiple column-writing White feminists who can’t figure out who coined “intersectionality” or what it actually means. This is willful ignorance shaped by a need to erase Black women’s work/relevance in feminism on the surface and marginalizes Black women, in general. 

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NEWSFLASH: Activists Stage #BlackWomenMatter Marches

“Baltimore Chief Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby charged six officers today in the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African American man who died last month from a spinal cord injury while in police custody. But while justice may be served in Gray’s case, activists are raising awareness about another group who experience police brutality but rarely receive media attention, let alone attention from the courts—African American women.

Using the hashtag #BlackWomenMatter and taking to the streets in Washington, D.C. andother U.S. cities, organizers have staged rallies and marches to bring attention to the deaths of Rekia Boyd, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Natasha McKenna and countless other black women and girls killed by police.

The Cut reported that “women account for 20 percent of unarmed people of color killed by the police between 1999 and 2014,” and according to the Black Liberation Project, 15 black women have been killed by police in the last 18 months. Yet few of them have received the same attention as Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin or Freddie Gray.”

Read the full piece here

I know that Black creativity has saved your life many times before. I know, because I’ve seen it happen. I’ve listened as non-Black people in my communities raised on Hip Hop talked about how it was the only relatable, empowering culture they found that also educated and radicalized them as a youth. It was formational. I’ve watched people become politicized, shaping their new political identities after bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Assata Shakur, Angela Davis and Frantz Fanon. I’ve watched as folks become activist celebrities using radical ideas from Black Power and Civil Rights movements to shape programs that do not benefit Black people. I’ve watched as people make livings and loads of social capital off of DJing Black music, dancing, walking and dressing like Black people, selling the Black aesthetic to others. I’ve heard that friends use Nina Simone and Sade to sing them back from depression, Rihanna and D’Angelo to get them in the mood. So many people in my communities, lately, have been using Octavia Butler to renew their hope for radical futures. Without Black people, what would your lives be? You might be thinking, you know, it’s so much more complicated than all this, race is complex, we’re all part of the human family, etc., etc…

Black art is not free for all damaged souls. When Nina sang about strange fruit, she was talking about a lynching…of Black people. When Black rappers say Fuck the Police, they speak to a state system of lynching…Black people. Your pain and isolation, however real it may be, is not the same as being Black. Your self-adoption into hip hop and djembe drumming and spoken word, makes our art forms all about you. You, however well meaning, have stolen Black labour and invention and used it for your own purpose. It warps the medium and changes the message, the magic, the healing. From now on, consider how the cost of consuming, appropriating, regurgitating, and getting your life in multiple ways from Black art, Black culture, and Black peoples’ creative genius detrimentally impacts our lives. Being Black in an anti-black world means experiencing daily attacks that threaten our dignity, our happiness, our freedom, and often our lives; and in order to enjoy Black culture, you’re going to have to take action to help get these back.

But because Black people’s labour, language, intelligence, creativity, and survival arts have always been considered free for the taking, you probably didn’t feel ways about using it. You probably didn’t think twice. Black culture is the most pilfered, the most ‘borrowed,’ the most thieved culture, and we’ve seen this happen time and tie again.

— 

Nadijah Robinson

Quote is from her essay Black Art Is Not A Free For All on Black Girl Dangerous. Read it all. Truly exquisite writing, especially as non-Black people continue to use, consume, pilfer, plagiarize and be appropriative of Black cultural production and art while simultaneously suggesting that Black culture, especially that Black American culture, does not exist. 

I’ve also watched non-Black people suggest Black people contribute “nothing” to anti-oppression theory or praxis while their ENTIRE FRAMEWORK for approaching it is via Black cultural production or Black women’s epistemology.

Like…the cognitive dissonance proffered via perspectives shaped by anti-Blackness is astounding.