Monday, January 25, 2016

Stacey Dash is Right

Now, I'm not going to pretend that I heard everything Ms. Dash has said but I do agree with her about BET and Black History Month. She gets a lot of flack, my position is always that she has the right to her opinion. Anytime a black person goes against what is perceived to be the "black grain" he or she  is labeled "anti-black." Whether Stacey is or not I have no idea. But what I do know is that I agree that in this new millennium black people should handle these matters in a different way. I know these and other mediums were created out of necessity and maybe frustration that our voices, talents, and contributions were being excluded. That is not to say that the need is no longer valid. However, using terms that alienate others is not helpful to our cause. I think a more subtle approach will do more than a statement of separation does.

I hate terms like "black neighborhood" and "black movie or TV show." "Black church" annoys me every time I hear it. Because in theory, when there exists a "white neighborhood" and a "white church," there shouldn't be a problem right? (And I know these terms are used just as much)
So when a black person moves into a predominately white neighborhood and is told to get out. Should the correct reaction be, "Well it is a white person's neighborhood. Let's pack our stuff?"
Think about it. It's almost like reversed psychology and some black people are falling right into the trap. This goes back to black people being American, just American, and to that end we deserve the same rights as being said American.

Offense is just as powerful as defense. I want to see black history included in our educational materials not an aside for a month. The shortest month of the year at that. No, Black history belongs in the text. Black history is American history. It should be celebrated every month. As should everyone else's history who contributed to this great nation. We need to make sure that is the case. That's what we need to fight for in this decade and those to come.

I won't say that BET doesn't need to exist. In fact, I think it needs to exist. But imagine for a moment if the network was called, the "XYZ Network," and 90% of their programming featured black artists and 10% featured non-black artists (which BET seems to be doing these days). Would anyone dare say, "Why do you feature so many black people?" And if one did ask that rude question, the answer could in turn be, "Why not?" How many magazines feature 90% white artists and 10% non-white artists? And that's ok? Just par for the course? Do they call themselves "white" this or that? Nope, they don't have to and we shouldn't either. I would find that to be a more powerful position than simply throwing up "black-label" barriers. Feature whomever you want but also be welcoming to those who are sincerely interested in stories, features, and entertainment from artists and people who happen to be black. By labeling something "black" by definition the assumption is that you exclusively speak to and for black people. No one can or should try to do that, black or otherwise. This is not to say that BET has ever tried either but to the uninformed, it would appear that way.

I recall reading a recent fan letter in Ebony magazine. Maybe a year or two ago. It was from a non-black person. He said that he had just read Ebony for the first time because his favorite actor, Sam Jackson, was on the cover. I was delighted to find out he enjoyed the magazine overall. So much so that he felt compelled to write them a letter. Wouldn't we like this to always be the case? Non-black people being given the opportunity to enjoy us for being us and not feeling like a trespasser in "Blackland?" Like Ms. Dash said, "Black people need to decide what they want, do you want inclusion or separation?" If others try to exclude us we (rightfully) get angry but when we exclude ourselves, with whom should we be angry? 

"There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs-partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.”- Booker T. Washington.

Helen Willis, The Zebress

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Farewell Mr. Bowie

One half of one of our favorite couples

8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016

Sincerely, Helen Willis, The Zebress

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Teen Vogue:Things Black Girls are Tired of Hearing ft. Amandla Stenberg

I have never heard many of these statements. I've had braids, weaves, wigs, my natural hair up to my chin and now down my back. People have thought I many be of more than one ethnicity and no one has ever measured my nose. People have called me "pretty" just pretty. So I cannot relate to most of the comments and I ain't a kid. My teen years are long gone. But the few comments I have heard came from black people which I'm going to assume were not the audience to whom the speakers of this video were addressing. I have a story. I had a black guy see me through the salon window, come into the salon, inquire about my marital status and asked me if I was mixed all while the stylist is blowing my hair out. I said no. He said I had to be mixed "with something" because and I quote, "Black women don't have hair like that." "Fool, didn't I just tell you I wasn't mixed?!"
I thought to myself. Wow.

Anyway, curiosity about the variety of beautiful, versatile hair textures on black women (note I didn't say "black hair") is not a bad thing in my opinion. Some white people have not experienced this type of diversity in their environments. It's like when we were kids. If you are a black woman, you can remember touching your white friend's hair out of curiosity. I know I do. There are white kids who may not have known any black kids growing up so there is a curiosity. When they get to high school or college they might feel more comfortable asking their non-white friend's about matters in their life. Including their hair. That's nothing to get so defensive about. If you are in a position to let a non-black person who you know (or a perfect stranger if you can handle that) touch your hair, I think you should. So the next time they hear ignorance about a black person's hair from other friends or family they can say, "No, my black friend so-and-so's hair is (fill in the blank)." That's how we learn. And by the way, afros are awesome! Who wouldn't want to touch them? I still touch them when I find them. And you do know white people can have afros too right?

I remember a black woman telling me that a white hair stylist wanted to know if she could do her hair so she could learn how to do other textures and cater to a more diverse clientele. The black woman got offended. I thought that was dumb.

I would post the video of Chael Sonnen (white man) asking Sage Steele (black woman with curly hair) if he could touch her hair but the title is too crude for my taste. But here's the summary, she leaned across the table, he touched it and was amazed at how soft it was and they went on with their interview. Ignorance annihilated. You can check it out on Youtube if you want.

And this thing about men not liking curly hair is not exclusive to "race." Patti Stanger tells her clients of every shade, (white and Latin included) that some men, of every shade, prefer straight hair because they can run their fingers through it. Other men have grown accustomed to the fact that with some women, it just ain't gonna happen and go on with their existence. So it's up to you whether or not you give two craps about that. But many, dare I say most, women of every shade can find those who straighten their hair. Even *gasp* white, Asian, and Latin ones. Ever heard of Japanese straighteners?

One of my biggest problems in dealing with negative "race" relations is when people, black, white, Latin, Asian, Pacific Islander, or multi-ethnic, don't take a minute to put themselves in someone else's shoes. Too many people make it seem like it's so hard to see (or even imagine) things from another person's perspective. It's not that difficult. Think.

Things Black Girls are Tired of Hearing ft. Amandla Stenberg

Helen Willis, The Zebress