Friday, July 29, 2011

One- Big -Room [Full of Bad Bitches]: Feminism Friday

Its been twelve years since Joan Morgan's, When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost, was published. Morgan's book was the first work to articulate the position of a a "hip-hop feminist." And while much has stayed the same,much has changed in hip hop and popular culture, as a whole.

Womanism, as represented by Alice Walker, was my spiritual birth as a feminist. But I was born in 1983, after the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, after the introduction of crack into urban communities, after the explosion of violence and after the birth of hip-hop. So,I have found, that Womanism cannot fully address my current concerns.

Joan began the conversation about the women of her generation,twelve years ago and I find myself hungry for a new, reinvigorated one, about gender and sexual politics in hip-hop.During a quick google search,I came across an interview with Joan, in which, she expresses a point of view that I would tend to agree with. At this point we know hip-hop is laden with misogyny, we've been there, done that, now what?

Morgan contends that the battle should now be fought on the front of "respectability politics". According to Morgan, respectability politics [a term I will borrow from her], keeps women sexually unfree, and silent-- with all expression of her sexuality,sacraficed on the altar of not being labeled, a "hoe".

That is why Morgan finds, Nicki Minaj,as I do,to be very important to the discussion of hip-hop feminism. I would also agree that it is important to discuss her role in rap music, outside of comparrisons to Lil' Kim. Joan Morgan is right, Nicki Minaj, is not Lil Kim, a point best illustrated by listening to their respective debut albums, Hardcore and Pink Friday, track for track.Outside of aesthetics,in fact, the two rappers couldn't be more diametrically oppossed. While Lil' Kim suceeded in giving us a lovable anti-hero, teaching us, that its better being a rich whore, than a broke virgin; I would contend that no female in hip-hop has done more to challenge the foundation of respectability politics, than Nicki Minaj.

Respectability politics say that women, particularly, female emcees, can exist in only two categories: conscious and coochie popping. For example, you are either a Lauryn Hill, a Queen Latifah, Missy or MC Lyte, marketed and embraced, based on your skills, creativity,elevated consciousness, or your rough and tumble quality, that makes you almost one of the boys.

These rappers were not meant to be sex-symbols in the traditional sense, their intelligence didn't allow for it. OR you are a Foxy Brown, Lil' Kim or Trina, where your sexuality is the driving force, the factor, which your entire act hinges upon. In these women's cases their intelligence could never be truly showcased, as their "assets" prevented that. The only other female rapper that I can think of with popular sucess outside this binary is Eve. But where has she been?

Nicki Minaj has managed to challenge respectability politics on almost every front. These politics dictate, that in order to have something to say that is valuable, a woman must present complete sexual propriety ,must not have any identifiable "bimbo/bopper/ or hoe-like qualities, in terms of speech or dress, and must above all show "respect".

Clearly this allegiance to "respect" went out the window with the Kim beef. And in my opinion, rightfully so. Lil' Kim used to spit bars about pussy, dick and designer clothing, she didn't march for Nicki Minaj's freedom. So at the end of the day, what does she really owe her? Do we expect Drake, J. Cole or Wayne to pay the same type of public homage to Jay-Z?

No, the boys just get to make music together because there is room for all of them to shine.

Nicki has put sexuality both front and center in her music, while taking the objectification of it, off the table. During her mixtape days, when her lyrics were very sexually explicit, Minaj has said that, she and those behind her, believed very much in the model of nineties. Meaning, if you have titties, a weave and big-ass booty, then you're coming out Lil'Kim style. Now, Nicki raps about her dreams and fantasies;showing that you can do more with a fat ass, than hit the pole or cover it up, pretending to be Nefertitti or Rita Marley.

Much has also been made over her flirtation with sexual orientation. I've heard backlash from all sides. With some outright condemming her identification with the gay community from the perspective of "immorality",with others questioning the veracity of her claims. Is it okay to flirt with the perception of bisexuality if you're straight? What is the purpose and is it valuable?

I would contend that it is both okay and extremely valuable in the arena of identity politics and gender equality. From a practical standpoint, Minaj has huge appeal and sucess in the LGBT community, so setting herself up as a potential member of this community is personally beneficial to Minaj. But on a broader sense this is why even a "stage" lady-lover is important to female liberation.


Traditionally, women who defy or live outside of male dominance, have been labeled as one of two things: whores or dykes, and sometimes both at once. Minaj's flirtation with bisexuality in her public persona, is a rebellious act-- putting forth a female body, that is very desirable to men, that cannot, however, be fully controlled or satisfied by them.

A woman with a body, that is not solely, a man's domain, cannot be a dog to kick, a rider or his down ass bitch. Nor can she be his housekeeper, assistant or mere member of his entourage. A woman whose body exists outside of the ownership of men, has no choice but to be her own boss.

Minaj has created, in the body of a video vixen,a perspective totally outside of the male-centered,heterosexism that dominates our society and hip-hop. One need look no farther than the boob signing that began organically and is now the hallmark of her act. And don't forget the Ken Barbs, Lil' Kim definitely loves and is loved by the gay community. But Nicki Minaj was the first major rap artist to make them a part of their brand.

There are legitamate points of critique to level at Ms. Minaj herself, no doubt about that. But like her or not,Nicki Minaj, being one of the biggest stars in rap music,means a lot in for the discussion of women in hip-hop. How do we take her stardom and sucess and extract it from the next talented young woman looking for a deal? How do we get to the point that our culture will support several, differing, female stars at once? How can we shape an effective conversation with intelligent brothers like Killer Mike,who think that there is a deficiency in hip-hop just because one of its biggest stars is a woman?

It may sound ridiculous, but a woman signing titties,just might be a start.

Kim and Nicki in happier times...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kreayshawn: All White Everything


So I decided to space out last night, you know hit the clouds. And while I was at it, I finally checked out this White Girl Mob shit. I've been reading the blogs and following the controversy surrounding her Mob member, V-Nasty's free use of nigger in her lyrics. But I had yet to actually listen to any of the music behind all the hype.

Maybe from up high the view looks different, but I found myself confessing to my most militant insides, that I found this little girl oddly endearing, posessing a certain,genuine, talent and a sense of humor. She is also a loud mouth little bitch, with a point to prove. The preservation of that kind of spunk past adolescence has to admired in a girl when most girls become snores on the altar of male approval by Kreayshawn's ripe old age of 21.

What I wish is, that she stuck to her too-cool for school, urban white girl, make art and smoke weed, cut-up and rage vibe, because that, I think, is authentic. More Amy Winehouse when she was clean and less wiggerette. East Oakland or not Kreayshawn needs to lose the dope and guns in her rhymes.We don't believe you, we need more people. For real.


While I do like her fusion of pop with Oakland- Bay Area beats, as a brown girl that's been rocking headscarves and heavy eye-liner out the womb, its no secret that this is "BoDerek braids" all over again. It's not lost on me that her you-tube to Columbia records story has much to do with the novelty of her whiteness.But that's the way this business works, it's all about who has got that new thing. And Kreayshawn does have talent, whether or not that can turn into record sales is another matter.

As for V-Nasty,its her use of the nigger that's causing all the controversy, Kreayshawn likes to point out. I feel this way:

Growing up in New Orleans I knew a some V-Nasties.One white girl, a white boy and a couple of Palestinians that lived in and amongst black people, in similar socio-economic circumstances, that talked the talk of black people, including the word nigger.

From all accounts V-Nasty had a pretty rocky upbringing,but whatever points are earned for being a product of your enviroment, lose steam once they hit national stage. If this is, indeed, how it goes down in the Bay with the kids, what V-Nasty, and especially Kreayshawn need to realize is that they're not in Kansas anymore.

Meaning once you leave your little bubble, your slice of the white girl in East Oakland pie,you enter the real world, where you're face just isn't your face and the earrings in your ears, and the words coming out of your mouth mean something. What plays in Bay Area youth culture has another realm of context to be placed in once it leaves the neighborhood. Bearing the whole of our racial- social critique,maybe a little undue burden for the little ragers to bear, but that's the reality.

With the likes of Snoop and Drake taking notice of her, Kreayshawn is no doubt getting her chance to shine. Justly earned or not, one can only make the most of oppurtunity, hope she knows:

Only basic bitches wear black face,

Gypsy

Gucci Gucci







Monday, July 25, 2011

"From Prison Bars I Have Flown": Afternoon Reflection

Life comes in seasons and cycles, this is an easy enough observation to make. What is more difficult to grasp is, how do we cope with the pain of mortality? How do we become truly accepting in our hearts, of this non-negotiable fact of life?

How do we rock with the ebb and flow of life and not be thrown off balance?

Afterall,change and the impermanence of life, has been known to put many a strong man on their ass and some bad bitches too. There is nothing like the feeling of thinking, even if you don't have it all figured out, you at least have a plan; then realizing you didn't know shit all along. And not only did God laugh, when you made that silly-ass plan; he may have even snorted a little.

Impermanence,being that I thrive on routine and stability, has been a worthy adversary in my life. Fear of change has caused me to cower in the shadows, stay in the background, always afraid to show my true face to the world. However,there is nothing like death or a natural disaster to make you look change right in the eyes and say,

Its cool, I am not afraid of you. I will Survive...

Its not that acceptance replaces grief or mourning for me. I still shed tears for my lost city, souls and love, but like the old people say,

If you drink your tears, you always be happy again.

Meaning, in life, we just gotta take the bitter with the sweet. To use a little Buddhist advice, one must strive for an open heart. An open heart sees the futility in fighting life's natural condition of suffering and impermanence, and cultivates the value of each moment.

This is only way to know or come close the beauty that is life, even in its most retchid state.

All loves, encounters and experiences are not equal. But being mindful of each one helps to illuminate those that are meant to be exceptional and changing.

An open heart can hold an infinite amount of tears,without breaking beyond repair. It is aware that joy is just on the other side of suffering. And while maybe not a permanent condition,an open heart helps us to recognize that we are happy,right in the moment, when we are. Anyone, blessed to come to this realization, in the midst of an experience, knows how truly joyous this revelation can be.

We can't change the facts--nothing lasts forever. But we can grab hold of those moments of grace with all our might. We may not ever be able to escape pain, but we can learn to bear it. And just when we think we cannot hold anymore, there is an open door.

Life goes on,

Gypsy

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Love is a Losing Game : So Long Shangri-La


Another one long gone.

Fresh off the ground, years before our son was to be born, with nothing to our empty apartment but a twin-mattress and a few burnt CD's and a stereo, we moved in.

When I listen to Amy Winehouse, it takes me to Uptown, New Orleans,06-07, me and Tim,smoked out, trying to shake that muck off our skin, and begin again. Amy reminds me of the new friends,we made during that time.

They got us through the hard times, gave us a family, in the absence of our own. I love them so much for the good memories we all shared together.

It always saddened me to see Amy's decline so publicly documented, the caricature of herself, that it turned her into. How far away from her actual,amazing, talent that her public image had become centered around.It made me wonder what the press for Jimi or Janis would have been like, had they become famous in today's media culture, and what that would have done to their legacies.

I've seen many people lost like Amy, and whether it was the drugs in her system or their use that destroyed her body, made it too weak to fight, this loss is tragic to me. Addiction is a disease, that attacks the addict and all those that love him or her. And sometimes even when we want to try, when we want to live and create, it just isn't enough.

Those times Uptown have faded into the past. My love awaits his family's arrival on that other side of life-- death, a shadowy figure that we fear,yet rarely acknoweledge. And Amy joins plenty of good company--people lost too soon.

Miss you baby girl.
Rest in peace...

Music Videos by VideoCure

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summer of Love Part V: Nothing Can Come Between Us

New Orleans loves Sade.

When the rest of the country was just becoming sophisticated enough for Ms. Adu, we had already loved her music enough to put it on a bounce beat. And last night we packed the New Orleans Arena from the floor to terrace to show her that.

I've never been as excited to see anyone perform. Not even the Jigga man put the butterflies, that I felt in my stomach, waiting for Sade to take the stage.Though the music, image and videos of Sade have been ever-present in my life,the sight of her took my breath away.And I felt, slightly, out of my body, hearing her, a woman who exists so in the myth of her stardom, actually stand a few feet in front of me, open her mouth up and speak.

But as soon as I heard the throaty, smoky, English accent, I knew she was real and everything I had believed about her was true. I knew what I was in for,so I sat back and let her tell me all about my broken heart, about sadness, and love--the beauty that is life.

Some people found it weird that I would go to see her alone. But I wanted it to be just me and her and whatever vibe would be in the room with us. I wanted to be the woman that I have become over the past few years, remember the places I had been, and just stand in that emotion with nowhere to lean, except forward into my own heart.

More than a mother or an artist, Sade gave me poetry and confidence. She showed me that there was power and beauty to be had in a quiet, steady spirit. Hone your craft until,you are better than all the rest, then don't change yourself trying to compete with them.

*****

Sade rose from beneath her stage, like Persephone come to kiss the lonely earth, and her return was nothing short of intoxicating. That woman damn sure brings something powerful into the room with her. She posseses a magnetism that is hard to describe. Her physical beauty, slow, languid dancing and haunting voice are an intoxicating combination.

I remembered summertime parties to which Love Deluxe was the soundtrack.
The most supreme compliment I ever received at one, as a little girl,was when the old people were like:

"A little like Sade, hanh,cher?", when describing my "dark" looks.

Creole people being much into fashion and the like; my grandmother and mother decided that at 8, I should model my "look" after Sade's. My mother took this seriously, buying me monochromatic outfits and showing me pictures of Sade, to illustrate the difference between a ponytail that was just that, and one that was sleek.

******
As Sade began to sing Skin and In Another Time, off her latest release, Soldier of Love,I cried for the one person, who I did want there with me. Grief over my son's father, the sudden nature of his death, had hit me hard a couple hours before the concert. When Sade belted Kiss of Life, it was for us and I tried to remember
what I did have, not what I had lost.

Sade, the band, are incomparable musicians.Seeing them perform live really brings into perspective how much of a collaborative effort their music is. The set list they played for us in New Orleans took me on a journey,from Sunday mornings to many,many, glasses of wine and tears and poems, over those things, that you sometimes. just can't shake or resolve.

I laughed,cried, and moved, in a way that didn't feel entirely voluntary.In short, Sade took me to church.

You showed me how deep love can be...



Love,
Gypsy

Friday, July 22, 2011

Two is Better than One:Freedia, Feminism Friday and a Safe Space for Ass- Shaking

Its Friday, Feminism Friday and it's my favorite,little, feminist's birthday. My sister is twenty three, so I decided to dedicate this post to her and one of her favorite people, Big Freedia.

Things have been pretty heavy lately, pretty heavy always,if your walking around this city, in this world, with your eyes open. But there is joy to be found in this "get it how you live", "city that care forgot". Freedia,my sister, and bounce music bring me closest to that place of joy. So, I decided to smile in their honor today.

Feminist academic circles are taking notice of Freedia and what's been going on in New Orleans for years. People are beginning to see that the overt sexuality of bounce music isn't all for male consumption. And that a gay man can flourish in the entertainment business, in a city like ours.

It isn't about the boys, at least not the heterosexual ones, its about us.

Happy Birthday Lil' Sis

Who I might be?

Gypsy


Y'all get back nah,



[I liked this video overall except for the intro, felt like a tourism video then...ass everywhere...lol]

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Public Service Announcement #2: Calling the Good White People of America


So, this began as a music blog.

Life in High Times, would allegedly be tightly focused on hip-hop, local shows, music reviews and the like, you know, keep it light. However, as the weeks have gone on, the focus of this blog has widened. I've never had a one track mind,but what I do have is a strong passion for social justice and I get regularly pissed off at the world around me.

What's got me pissed off lately, is that the humanity of all people is under attack in a major way."Mainstream" candidates [Republican] for the President of the United States signed a pledge recently, actually stating that African American children were better off duing slavery!

Sit back and ponder the implications of that for a second. Think about the gross insensitivity, ignorance, revisionist history,sense of supremacy and dominance, involved in the inception of a statement like that.

It makes me shudder, really.

It also makes me laugh when I think about all the ways my premise of writing about race has been criticized. While, the writing I've shared has been accepted by people of all races, even embraced, in a way that has been truly rewarding. I have also been told that writing about my experience of race is divisive and racist. And that my style and tone, creates an alienating experience for "good white people".

After I read that pledge, signed by Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachman, it made me wish I had actually flipped the bird at those, who offered that commentary,as I had been tempted to. I have a low tolerance for people who wail at pin pricks when I have to have the skin of an alligator just to walk out the door in the morning.Really, cry me a river, then get over it and do something to make a difference.If you really aren't a racist, then show it.

[Hint: The first way you can tell a person isn't a racist is that they don't get angry when people talk about racism! If you do, or find yourself getting defensive or red-faced you've got some looking in the mirror to do.]

You can't reject or claim not to be subject to an idealogy until you become aware of it and all the insidious ways its has shaped your conciousness. We are all products of our enviroments,that can't control the garbage force fed to us as children, but we are responsible for what we perpetuate as adults.

I used to walk around with a great hesitation when it came to writing about race, class and priviledge. I knew how some people would react, black and white. Did I have to be that girl?

But the answer is, Yes,Yes,Yes I do.I have sharp tounge, that's no doubt, and its not shuck, jive or sass. I'm not here to write kumbayah tales of how we can all make it together if we try, and that we're all in this together. There are some people, systems and behaviors that are the enemies of liberation and I'm not afraid to say that.


Agitator is bad word in the United States,but agitate, is exactly what I strive to do with my writing. Move people to action, even if that action is just a new thought. Afterall, the battle begins in our own minds.

So,I don't write fairytales.

There are no heroes, just hard,cold realities to this world and you can't be on the side of justice until you acknowledge them. You can't put an end to a preference or a privelidge or discrimination, as long as you choose to view the world through rose colored glasses, looking for absolution from guilt.

I have known no "good white folks" but plenty good people. And good people of all colors are what it takes to make this a more just and humane society for us all. I've said many times,to use an expression borrowed from my great-grandfather, "Its not the color its the kind."

He was right. What kind of person are you? Who do you stand in solidarity with? These are questions for us all.

"All we need is love"

Gypsy

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I's Don't Know Nuthin Bout No Books

"I's Don't Know Nuthin Bout No Books, but I'sa Writer Missus"

--Kathryn's Stockett writing the dialogue to her meeting and "discovering" my talent.

****
I have a mission,several actually, but [one] of my current soap-box issues is this god damn movie, The Help. I absolutely abhor the attention this bullshit is receiving. Even as I sit, working on this post, the woman next to me is reading it! I really loathe its existence and the sucess of a writer like Kathryn Stockett.

Some would say that my opinion is harsh,given it is of someone I don't know. I would say the moment when Aibileen compares her skin color to that of a cockroach, is equally rough and an even greater instance of someone making assumptions about someone,a societal position, she doesn't have a clue about.

For the record, I have known many black people, even those with a self-loathing toward their skin color, and they would never, ever, compare their complexion to a roach's.

"Black cockroaches" is,however, an insult, that I remember(vividly) being called, along with my classmates, when we arrived to play a volleyball against a Lakeview [predominantly white New Orleans neighborhood]Catholic school, in the late nineties.

A little projecting on Stockett's part I'd say.

Aibileen also doles out such advice as, "don't drink coffee, you'll turn colored." And there are Skeeter's gems, how many times does she have to tell us how black someone is? As in, "black as night, asphalt or so black, she couldn't tell them apart."

Is she kidding me?

Unfortunately, she is not and neither is Hollywood, nor are the astronomical book sales, that have led to this movie to star the likes of Viola Davis, a joke. It has been nice while trolling the internet to see that I am not alone. Many people share my utter disgust at the journey of this project from print to film.

Kathryn Stockett, ripped off the stories of black women, a real lady named Aibileen in particular, and retold it in her version of black talk. Stockett's book is a coon-shouting, exploitation of a very painful history.From the fictional "Aibileen",who just bares the pain of her niggerness in quiet dignity, to the back talking, sassy Minny Jackson, The Help is a gem for the good white people of America, nostalgic for days gone by.

Why do I say for white people?

The movie and book's title hit the nail on the head."The Help," sets black people as the subjects and objects of this story, and whites as the assumed ears and eyes of the audience. It is clear down to the savior the women receive by way of Ms. Skeeter, who this movie is for and who it is suppossed to reach and uplift. There is a nostalgia for this time period,a thirst that is seemingly insatiable in white America, for the age of exalted Southernhood and black domestics. Don't take my word for it, check the book sales.

In 2011, when the sitting President of the United States is a black man and his wife, Michelle Obama, was pulling in a six-figure salary before leaving for the campaign trail, is the only leading role for a black actress is still, a fucking mammy?

Apparently, the answer to that question is yes. Viola Davis put it this way,

"What do you do as an actor if one of the most multi-facted roles you've ever been given is as a maid in 1962 Mississippi?"

Her answer is play the part, but her question is the problem. Why is it that this is the only multifaceted, suppossedly round portayls available to her? I think its because people prefer things the way they were or at least in these uncertain times, like to be reminded of them. But also be reminded of a fantasy, in which, brave, ballsy, little, white girls from Ole Miss were on the side of their black maids. A world where white girls had an imaginary sisterhood with black women.

I for one couldn't imagine the horror of walking out of the movie theatre, surrounded by hoards of well meaning white women, looking lovingly upon me, as their "former help". I would suggest they keep the patronizing smiles and misplaced sympathy to a minimum, if that day should come.

I don't doubt Viola will deliver an excellent performance. I smell an Oscar nom, or at least a Golden Globe. From Gone With the Wind to Corrina Corrina,black women have mostly received Acadamey recognition for playing maids. And forget Halle Berry cause she had to get fucked by Billy Bob Thorton, drunk off some cheap-ass whiskey and fresh off beating her son's ass for hers.
Davis can rationalize playing mammy all the she wants, but whether its Mammy in HD or Hattie McDaniel in technicolor, it really hasn't changed much. I mean, did she read this book? From no count black men to its imaginary version of coon talk , it is a putrid,caricature of the black men and women, who lived and suffered the brutality of the time. In the age of Michelle Obama, Abileen, is a not so subtle reminder of our "place" in history and the popular imagination of white America.

Black women's stories do deserve to be told, but it would be nice if we got the pleasure of telling them, in our real voices, not how white ladies perceive us to sound.

Stockett, in my opinion, is as unscrupulous as they come. How can you in good conscience profit off centuries of another group's pain? You can't,you just cash checks. So I won't be adding any cents or credibility to what Stockett is taking home. I'll see The Help, when it comes to the bootleg man near me.

Or maybe I will go to the movies, I love a good, righteous, confrontation. I've been called an agitator before by good white folks,maybe this time I will be and label myself for a change.

Pleez and thank ya suh,

Gypsy

I can't tell you what to do people, so here it is, coming to the theatre near you.

If You Are What You Say You Are: The King James Guide to Life


"I just wish he [Lil'B] did a song called "James Baldwin" and I would've loved to see you twitter-lectuals and goon rules street professors argue against one of the foremost, prominent black intellectual radicals the world has ever known who just so happened to be an overt homosexual but repped the ghettos of Harlem harder than Nicky Barnes and Rich Porter combined and took the struggles and achievements of the black and impoverished experience and intellectually and dazzlingly rubbed it all in the pasty face of the oppressive power structures of the time and this time as well! I wish a ***** would!!! Don't matter if your gay, that's between you and your religion. All I care about is if your down for the cause."

--Lupe Fiasco on the genius of Lil B's ablum titled,"I'm Gay (Happy)"
We don't always see eye to eye, but this is why I love Wasalu Jaco. Lupe Fiasco, is a man, a Muslim man, who is free. You should go and get your own...

Afterall, comrades, in the battle for true liberation, the ones on your side aren't always those that look like you or love who you do. Ultimately,it really isn't about color or any other silly,human, fixation but about the mind of the soldier standing next to you.

The mind, which is not the brain, that thing that neuroscience can't quite touch. That something approaching soul. James saved my soul, showed me the epitome of, and every inch a real man.

Lupe Fiasco is the only rapper with the balls,besides Kanye, to denounce the rampant homophobia in the hip-hop community.And then there's a the young dude out the Bay,named Lil' B, recently featured on Wayne's, Sorry For the Wait Mixtape

Lupe and Kanye have shown extra love for the homonym/double entendre wordplay of the year. While he may not have crazy,genius skills,he does have sharp observations, and a new take on the fiction, that is the pathology of the hood.

Man,the nigga's just happy. Lighten up.

I think James' advice to some of these young men out here today would be to let go of their nuts for a sceond and live. Quite the revolutionary approach to these ultra high times.

I like this one...

Monday, July 18, 2011

In Search of My Mother's Garden: Racism, History's Bastard Kids and the Way Forward



Whew...that is the only way to describe how I am feeling after this weekend's full moon cycle.My emotional reactions, to the pull of the moon, ran the gamut from laughter and rage to tears and frustration. There was African art, seer-sucker,coon shouters [and those negroes that answer],cracklin and even a tounge lashing from Ms. Kola Boof, herself.

Part1: Can I Get a Little Grease With My Pinot?
The journey down the rabbit hole into the matrix of race began at Cork and Bottle, a nice little wine store and bar in the American Can Company building on Orleans Avenue and Jeff Davis. My cousins and I were headed toward the New Orleans Museum of Art for the Congo Square exhibit, we had an hour to kill,and I was craving a glass of good red.

Fast forward to a quirky, little, white guy trying his best to strike up a conversation with me. Now, there was no interest on my end but he was funny and self deprecating and doing a surprisingly good job at making me laugh. He offered to pay for my wine and that is when things got fuzzy.

His friend, a woman, who had been chatting up my cousin about her wedding and how the guy was her groomsmen, suddenly lost focus and found herself, eyeballs deep, in the contents of my purse.

"So, I have to ask...what's in the bag?" she asked gesturing toward a crinkled paperbag in my purse."It looks greasy, is it cracklin?"

Cracklin? Really? at 5pm? on a Friday afternoon? in Cork & Bottle?

Putting the smash on these misconceptions is the mission of my honery, mulatto cousin,so she answered with a swift,

"Nooo...its not cracklin,fried chicken or watermelon either..."

After receiving a quiet reprimand from her friend,my prospective suitor,the woman stormed out for a smoke.

Seeing that this was definitely not a conversation worth lingering for,my cousin and I politely said goodbye to all, silly white lady included. As we stood to go,the look on the white guy's face was priceless, as he tried to salvage his shot in the dark with some tan skin.

"I come here every week, so..."

I could only imagine what he wanted to tell his racially insensitive and worse- yet, cock-blocking friend...

Part 2: To Be Young Gifted and Black

Walking into the Congo Square exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art, we entered the Sudan first, taking a slow journey across the equator to West Africa. I always expect to be moved by art but it is not often that beauty brings me to tears.

There were photographs depicting processions you can still see happening on Mardi Gras Day. All I could think as I moved from one peice of metal-work, masking, beading, to the next was,

Man...have we've been "had,tricked, hoodwinked, bamboozled". African people are brilliant.

The first step toward rebuilding ourselves and our community is knowing that for a fact. The second step is passing this knowledge on to those who don't. Whether that be a white woman that thinks I carry cracklin in my purse, or better yet, the black community of New Orleans. People whose culture has been so devalued,we don't even realize that we are among some of the only black people in America (with the exception of the Gullahs of the Carolinas),who still ,literally ,talk the talk and walk the walk of our ancestors.

The third step is to be a student of history. Know that secondlines and Mardi Gras Indian masks,and that extra emphasis in your speech (y'all know what I'm talkin bout, yeah) is the source of your strength not a weakness to overcome.


Our roots go deep-- our traditions are straight from the motherland, their survival was no small feat, nor was it an accident. Therefore the well we have to draw from is deep.

W.E.B. DuBois believed that the Talented Tenth, that group of black people who were able to attain upward social mobility,education and knowledge of their history, could be the saviors, the solution to the "negro problem."

"The function of the college-bred Negro. He is, as he ought to be, the group leader, the man who sets the ideals of the community where he lives, directs its thoughts and heads its social movements."

Sadly, many of the Talented Tenth in New Orleans seem to be only interested in dressing up in seer-sucker, being mock southern gentlemen and southern belles,and joining organizations that belittle and exclude the very "community" they claim to want to "uplift."

You can't serve a people you feel superior to;true charity comes by way of solidarity not pity.

Part 3: Mommie Dearest

I have a self-professed, crazy,love for Kola Boof's crazy ass. And believe me, I say crazy with all due respect, cause I love a crazy woman. Anyone not enraged, sceaming at the top of their lungs, at this world around us is asleep at the wheel.

I have followed Kola's career for years and her twitter for a few months. One of Kola's missions is destroying the "niggerstock" phenomenon of colorism in the black community. From battles with rapper Wale to random "yellow, mutt bitches" in America, Kola goes in.

I tried my hand at passing a bit of New Orleans speak along to her, by way of the all appropriate saying, "respect it or check it".

What I meant was,people should respect or check Kola's views on colorism in the African-American community.I also added that while I was "half-caste" (an expression for the less than pure-bred), I knew who my mama was.

Kola didn't understand my muddled, mutt, English very well and hit me with the following:

And with all that....you still weren't clear. What are you saying now? Because I was the one disrespected. @gypsy_27

What are you....another Half-Caste BENEFICIARY talking about she's my fucking "SISTER" yet not caring I'm invisible & erased? @gypsy_27

You all want Sisterhood with REAL Black Women as long as they stay on the bottom right? @gypsy_27 ...#SMIRK

So my image should not be celebratd in videos but yours should?@gypsy27


****
I have followed Kola a long time and what came to mind while I received these tweets was the American saying,"don't bring a knife to a gun-fight." And also the sure knowledge that an ounce of humility is worth a pound of pride.

So, I answered Kola this way(paraphrasing):Africa is my mother and my father is a man who never claimed me. So, with that being said,I want to see her honored and I love her. I am no tragic mulatto. To which, Kola responded,that she loved me as well and appreciated my spirit.

Many people would say that I acquiesced to Kola and didn't offer any counter-attack to her assumptions about my motivations. However, I meant what I said. All that I am does flow from women like her,from African women. Its their contribution to culture that made my city what it is. Thats real deal for me, so that's what I said. And even if she had gone on to call me a "stupid, yellow, mutt, bitch" I would have continued to love her all the same.

After all this is the woman who said,

I wish to find the swell
of constant waters
…and the death of the locust night
I wish to find the anguished heart
of the blue blackened earthquake
and lay my minkish head against his
armoured chest
To bless him with full, swollen lips
and behold his darkened portholes
drinking my softened flesh…oh, but yes
I wish to die as spirits then…
droplets
lost and swishing forever
deep within my purple folds
sweet
like birth and no regret

Damn..some people are deep others are infinite. I respect her rage.




What I would like to know about Kola Boof is, how do her feelings about mutts, like me, square with the fact that she is of mixed heritage?Is the ancestors "showing" the ultimate litmus test to authenticity?

Especially, given what we know scientifically about modern genetics.Our phenotypes, the face we show the world, is essentially a crapshoot.I mean, look at Clarence Thomas' ass.I can see his ancestors loud and clear but what does he see when he looks in the mirror?

Now, there is no doubt that the world sees and treats Kola Boof like a black woman and what people see or treat me as, depends on the beholder and I guess, that is all the difference. When Kola Boof sees me, she may not see a black woman, but nevertheless, I AM her daughter. My stock is what they used to call the children of strangers.

A pretty kind euphemism for rape, don't you think?

Mama's baby, papa's maybe...

Good morning.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Temple of My Familiar: Feminism Fridays Part Deux


The Buddha said,"If you meet the Buddha in the road, kill him."

Now, this is no call to murder, but a recipe against hero/god-worship. Meaning, seek your own understanding in this world. You can respect the perspective of those you admire,but reach your own conclusions, trust where your own experience has led you.

I've been on this "murdering your gods" vibe lately. I have been taking apart a lot of the women,who loom large in my experience and imagination.

It's not about disrespect,but a quest for a deeper understanding of our society's current power structure and where we land in in it all.

****
I got the idea to compile this list, from a blog post, "The Twelve Mothers of Kola Boof" by Kola Boof. Its truly amazing to see where her "genealogy" overlaps with my own. It's a stone cold fact that no matter our disagreements, women touched by the grace of Feminism and/or Womanism in their lives share a common "ancestry".

I do think that a critical approach to reality is a necessary tool. It is the only way to keep cultural and artistic voices sharp and non-complacent. So, I have questions for all these women, places where I disagree with them all. However,equally as valuable to the critical approach, is paying homage to those that walk the path ahead of me...


*****

The 12 Sister-Mothers of "Gypsy"


1. Sojourner Truth When I was in the eigth grade my friend Cherelle, who would die later that summer, delivered Truth's "Aint I a Woman" speech for our Black History Program. Complete with a Carribean accent, I will never forget Cherelle's performance or the chill bumps I got when we locked eyes. Sojourner Truth was the first woman in history I looked up to, all of who I am is because of people like her. The embodiment of a mind that reaches out beyond the confines of her times.


2.Alice Walker Her gift to me and the world is Womanism. Finally words for what I had been feeling my whole life. Womanism adresses the crucial and necessary equality of women in our society, specifically in regard to the unique and divergent [from white] experience of women of color.From Alice Walker I learned to treasure who I was and the unique and sacred knowledge, passed on through mothers.


3.Lisa Bonet I love Lisa, Lilakoyi, whatever she wants me to call her, like really. Growing up I saw the kind of woman, I knew, and hoped I'd have the courage to be. Eccentric, talented,sexy,dynamic, the kind of woman you can't resist but not because she plays by the rules. Lisa showed that the way to be noticed wasn't by denying your eccentricty but embracing it.


4. Sister Souljah This is the lady that showed me how not to be intimidated, patronized, condescended by anybody who sought to belittle the power of my mind. The worst nightmare of those people who see me as inferior is such a woman who can outsmart, outtalk, and outlast their attacks.



5.Zitkala Sa indigenous mother that connects me back to another bloodline and through an experience that is carried in many of our bones. Much has been stolen by way of divide and conquer. She is the woman who taught me not to quiver at the words, "I am not a Christian". She gave me the confidence to trust the Creator and my ancestors with the fate of my soul.



6.Toni Morrisson If you want to know what a master is, hold true, unadulturated literary genius in your hand, pick up a copy of The Bluest Eye and pay some homage. Toni is not for the faint of heart, ask me how many times it took to read Beloved all the way through, but she is for the hungry.


7. Audre Lorde Poet beyond description. The first time I read, "Coal", I was changed. This mother gave me the secure knowledge that if being called a dyke was the consequence of being a feminist, than I was in very good company indeed.


8.Foxy Brown (Inga Marchand) This may seem odd, given the women that have preceeded in her on this list. But I have always been a die-hard Foxy fan. She was all listened to in my middle school days. She definitely contributed to my writing imagination by teaching me the slang of a state far away.

"Hotter than acid and don't even practice". She sure is, just wish she had been in better control of her emotions, had a better work ethic and niggas were more loyal.


9. Erykah Badu My soul sister, my babymama, a true free-spirit with artistic integrity to back up her skills. The rasta style flower child O.G. I think Mama's Gun is still my favorite. She poured her heart into those tracks. The emotion in "Green Eyes" alone tells a million love stories.



10.Nadal el Sadaawi Feirce Arab woman, who spoke to me through Fatima Mernissi's, Dreams of Trespass. She took to the Middle East, gave me more vocabulary to describe the struggle I saw across the world for women's equality. She showed me what being rebellious really means.


11. Frida Kahlo There is beauty in, to, through, before and after pain. Somethings in life occur, an accident, a death, a broken-heart for which there is no cure. Pain becomes the constant but what we create is our redemption. Thank you, Frida.


12. Kola Boof she has been called many things, but one thing she hasn't been called enough is the excellent writer that she is. Womanist, African woman. I discovered her "urban legend" back in the days of Black Planet and have been intrigued ever since. I have only recently really been able to immerse myself in her words. Fuck Osama and read her books.


To all of you, my first loves... I love you...Thank you.

Love,

Gypsy

Breaking Up is Hard to Do:Feminism Fridays


I was just ten years old when Sista Souljah ignited a firestorm in 1992 with her comments,

[“If Black people kill Black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?”]

It was these comments which prompted Bill Clinton to equate her with hate-monger, David Duke.I still admire the balls it took to make such a biting commentary on black on black crime and society’s lack of concern with the alarming rate, at which, black youth are murdered in this country.

I had the feelings of a little feminist, but I definitely lacked the experience, mental framework, vocabulary and voice to express myself. Already I was struggling with this notion that little girls, women even, should be seen and not heard.

Sister Souljah was young, black, fearless and definitely being heard. This is the woman that inspired me into adulthood until I revisited her early work, No Disrespect, and listened to some of her recent comments regarding her latest work, Midnight and the Meaning of Love.



Sista Soulja's seminal work, The Coldest Winter Ever, was so-called, “urban-literature”, at its finest. The novel featured black characters that were three- dimensional and a plot line that goes a bit deeper than that of your average music video.I am eternally grateful to Sister Souljah for exposing that there is struggle and pain in the hood and stories that need to be told.

Winter Santiaga and Midnight are two of the most complex and memorable cult-characters to emerge in African-American popular -culture in recent memory. Midnight’s character is so compelling and beautiful, I was not surprised, nor do I begrudge, Sister Souljah for continuing his story onward.

But as much as I hate to say it, my Sister, Souljah, is on some other shit….

It’s not the writing, nor her fierce imagination, I would challenge. Rather, it is the critique that she uses Midnight,as a conduit to launch, that I take issue with.

I tend to agree with a lot of Sister Souljah’s assessment of the pitiful state of black, male/female relationships. I also agree that no one, including those Negroes who call themselves a part of the solution, has done much to address what black youth are experiencing on the street –level. But her conclusion that we somehow arrive at a more stable community, as fulfilled African people, through this man-sharing, patriarchal, half-a-Islamist solution, is where we defer.

How did the fierce girl spitting fire to these men’s grills get to this place?

I don’t know, but I hope she finds her way home because we're waiting for her...




Damn this is the Sister Soulja,that made me breathe...(Courtesy of the Isis Paperz on YouTube...check her out...you may not always agree with her but she will make you think)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pop (But Don't Love) that Coochie: Uncle Luke's Revenge


So Uncle Luke, who by virtue of that chester-the-molester nickname alone,should keep his mouth closed, has taken to print to diss, my baby , Wiz Khalifa.

What is his bone to pick with the paper rolling,gangsta-hippie, from PA? Does he disagree with his m.o. as an artist? Dislike his music, feel like he's undeserving of the limelight and attention that he is receiving?

The answer is none of the above. What has Luke's panties in a bunch is actually Wiz' relationship with Amber Rose.

Now,we are free to question Amber Rose's motives in dating Wiz Khalifa. But I am a big believer in, "innocent until proven guilty", and an even bigger one in, "whatever floats your boat".

They're grown and seem happy, so, so be it.

But apparently, Amber Rose, really gets under Uncle Luke's skin and its easy to see why. In his world, men like himself, are the proprietors of "trifling women". And only men like himself should obtain the benefits from the deeds and misdeeds of such women.

How dare one break ranks and get some shine [and paper] for herself!

****

Frankly, I found the whole line of argument from Luke, that of typical misogynst and pretty homoerotic. It also souds like he drank a huge glass of haterade while he was at it.

In his column, he also calls out producer Memphitz for marrying Toya Carter, the ex-wife, of Lil Wayne,stating that rappers' greatest loyalties, when it comes to women, should be to one another.

Sounds pretty fishy, if you ask me.



******

What is most disturbing is this use of the word "soft" to describe a man who could be with a "trifling woman" like, Amber Rose. Its my estimation that what places her in the category of trifling, is not dating Kanye or any of the other men that she has been linked to. But being an ex-stripper, who made good on that line of work.

See to a man like Luther Campbell, the "hard" thing to do with a woman like Amber, is anything she may have let a man pay to do to her, while putting money in her g-string.

Being hard means profiting from women's exploitation. Being "hard" means he deserves his current-wife [a former lawyer] and the chance to be a husband, despite his past. But not the women he made money off of.

What's "hard" is keeping the money rolling in, off a fresh crop of, [hopefully] eighteen year olds, willing to take their clothes off for money.

See,that's how you show that you are man. You can do any filthy, degrading thing you want to a woman, "like" Amber Rose, except love her, if you so choose.

****

Really? What is he smoking?

Uncle Luke, who has overseen and profited from many acts of questionable, sexual, integrity, has the audacity to call out Wiz Khalifa over the violation of an alleged moral code?

Not all men are looking for the same thing, or have the same requirements for the woman they choose to love,especially not the newer, younger, hip-hop generation. Not all men feel the need to put women into such sharply defined categories, of those you must respect and those you can [ab]use.

Moreover,many-- but not all, men have a Madonna-Whore complex or use a sexual litmus test to determine a woman's value.

Me, I wish the two kids the best, love is always flawed,no matter the packaging. And if nothing else,I wish them both, especially her, an extra 15.

If Kim Kardashian's entire family can come-up off her sex-tape,why can't Amber,a half-breed from the South Philadelphia hood,capitalize off dating Kanye West?


I'm not a hater and ain't we all trying to shine?

***
On some throwback ish...here's Kanye's, Good Life... Shiiit, I ain't mad at Am'

Unfortunately it Was Paradise


Stayed up late last night watching, Miral, and I couldn't sleep for a few hours afterward. Miral is a movie, based on the book,by Palestinian journalist, Rula Jebreal. Starring Freida Pinto of Slumdog Millionaire fame, it is the first movie to take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the perspective of a Palestinian, and a woman to boot.


Anyone with an opinion on this conflict, should see this movie. Anyone with an opinion should become a student of the history and talk to those people who have lived it.

Miral tackles the subject of violence, as a method of resistance, in a nuanced and thoughtful way. Violence is nothing new to this region, with roots in the British mandate to Hamas to the IDF. Miral tries to present and deconstruct it all.

When is/ Is/ violence ever acceptable?

The female prisoner that Miral's mother shares a cell with briefly is convicted of attempting to blow up a movie theatre full of Israelis. Miral's love intrest, and member of Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO], uses violent means of sabotage not necessarily with the intent to cause deaths. Similar tactics were used in resistance to the apartheid goverment of South Africa. Bullets fired into a crowd by Israeli soldiers kill Miral's best friend.

What is the meaning of it all? Where does it leave the people of the Holy Land.

In the end, no matter how much blood is shed, there are some things that people are unwilling to yield.

*****
Occupation will never be an acceptable state.

People have the right to rule themselves.

The right to return;to live in the land,where they were born.

People are owed compensation for what was taken.

*****
The only solution will be one that recognizes the humanity, dignity, and right to life of all people living in the Middle East. The ideology of true freedom for a people can never hinge upon the opression of another.

No Justice, No Peace.

Resist


********
Bonus


Identity Card by Mahmoud Darwish

Record!
I am an Arab
And my identity card is number fifty thousand
I have eight children
And the nineth is coming after a summer
Will you be angry?

Record!
I am an Arab
Employed with fellow workers at a quarry
I have eight children
I get them bread
Garments and books
from the rocks..
I do not supplicate charity at your doors
Nor do I belittle myself at the footsteps of your chamber
So will you be angry?

Record!
I am an Arab
I have a name without a title
Patient in a country
Where people are enraged
My roots
Were entrenched before the birth of time
And before the opening of the eras
Before the pines, and the olive trees
And before the grass grew

My father.. descends from the family of the plow
Not from a privileged class
And my grandfather..was a farmer
Neither well-bred, nor well-born!
Teaches me the pride of the sun
Before teaching me how to read
And my house is like a watchman's hut
Made of branches and cane
Are you satisfied with my status?
I have a name without a title!

Record!
I am an Arab
You have stolen the orchards of my ancestors
And the land which I cultivated
Along with my children
And you left nothing for us
Except for these rocks..
So will the State take them
As it has been said?!

Therefore!
Record on the top of the first page:
I do not hate poeple
Nor do I encroach
But if I become hungry
The usurper's flesh will be my food
Beware..
Beware..
Of my hunger
And my anger!

by Mahmoud Darwish
1964

Good day,

Gypsy