Sunday, February 18, 2018

Why “Black Panther” Matters for Black America: thoughts for the rest of y’all

I’ve been typing and erasing for about fifteen minutes now. I just saw “Black Panther” and I am trying to organize my thoughts and emotions in hopes of conveying the importance of this movie at this time.

(this post contains no spoilers)

The history of African-Americans in the United States has been shaped, in large part, by our efforts to survive within a system that was not designed for us to do so, and to thrive when that very system shape-shifts at the behest of the powers that be, in order to prevent our advancement from occurring. History will show that those brave souls who step outside of this matrix and declare the emperor “naked” are gaslit, discredited, or cut down. 

Were you treated this way for one day, what effect would it have on you? On your psyche? On the way that you rear your progeny? 

We readily discuss the after-effects of events such as The Great Depression and the Holocaust. When, however, the talk turns to the mass enslavement of African people, too often the topic is dismissed as no longer being relevant: “Nobody alive today was a slave or a slave master.” goes the refrain. Never mind the fact that people of African descent were in chains for far longer than the lengths of the Depression and the Holocaust combined, nor that Jim Crow, and current discriminatory practices still act as invisible shackles. Black American people are told that every evil that befalls our communities is our fault and ours alone, as if we exist in a vacuum, and that our inability to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps is due to some intrinsic inferiority.

Were you told for centuries that you are inherently “less than”, what effect would it have on you? On your psyche and those of your children? If you saw the lynching of those who told you differently, would you speak up, or would you go along to get along? Might you tell your children not to shine too brightly, in hopes of keeping them alive?

We, African-Americans, have not been the writers of our own histories in this country. For MOST of our time here, we were not even permitted to learn to read and write, because there is power in the pen, and our captors needed us to feel as powerless as possible. Those who have the power can control the narrative. Those who write the history books determine whose history gets told and what will be omitted. Those who run the studios decide whose stories get greenlit and how the people in those stories will be portrayed. 

“Black Panther” is a superhero movie, yes, but in the telling of this fantastical account:
  • Not one black character’s primary role was to be of service to white people. 
  • Every black character was unambiguously so. 
  • The women were strong AND undeniably beautiful, without having to fit a Eurocentric standard of beauty. 
A short, incomplete list - to be sure, but of very important elements.

While watching the screen, the thought occurred to me that I was watching people who looked like me interacting with other people who looked like me, and that nullified any need to consider the characters’ actions within a racial framework. It was simply a non-issue. 

I have no idea what that feels like in real life. 

I saw well-ordered kingdoms run by people who look like me. I saw people who look like me falling in love, disagreeing without disrespecting one another, advancing technology, fighting for honor, and being their glorious black selves without apology or deflection, in a big-budget feature film.

I, and everyone else, saw black people in a way that white people have seen themselves on every screen for at least a century: 

as the default setting instead of an alternate.

Were you shown for a century that your beauty is determined by your proximity to qualities largely foreign to you, what effect would it have on you? How about your psyche and the self-esteem of your children? If you saw the silencing of those who told you differently, would you speak up, or would you straighten your hair to get a job? Might you tell your children to do the same?

Representation matters. 
 And not only “who” is portrayed, but also the “how” of the portrayal. 

Representation matters because once you see a proxy of yourself on screen, you may reasonably assume that the actions and achievements of your proxy are possible for you too. For Americans of African descent have seen an overabundance of crack-ho, gangster, mammy, and sapphire-type characters, seeing ourselves in roles that celebrate our heritage in a dignified way is a mind- and game-changer.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Identify your passion: Change your LIFE!

There's no hocus-pocus, and I'm not trying to sell you anything! In this video, I'm giving you REAL LIFE steps that you (yes, you!) can take to transform your situation. I did it, and you can too.


Monday, January 01, 2018

My ONE Resolution for 2018

In 2016, change came.  I lost two 20+ year relationships.  One to death, and one to… well, I’m still not sure.  I don’t want to belabor the point, so I’ll just say - it was a tough year and I was sure I’d just drop dead from heartbreak.  I did not.

In 2017, I gave myself wide berth to find my new normal.  I spent a lot of time alone, mentally combing through my relationships and activities, figuring out which served me and which didn’t.  I challenged myself to “vibrate higher” mentally (ok, yeah, some days that was literally me saying to myself “Don’t be a bitch, Nicole.”).

I was very, very patient with myself, which highlighted how impatient I HAD been with myself.  Since childhood I’ve always been driven to succeed at whatever task that I undertook. Long ago I figured out that competing with other people caused me to behave in ways that I didn’t like, so I learned to compete with myself and my own abilities. My goal was always to be better that day than I had been a month or a year prior.

I allowed myself to drift a bit, teeth-gnashing notwithstanding.  I didn’t set any goals other than “self-care.”  I didn’t have “systems” for doing this or that anymore.  I instinctively eschewed productivity advice from various online sources that I had previously found helpful. Not only did I not have the energy to put into making breakthroughs, I also didn’t have the energy to give a shit. I tried, but in the interest of self-care, I eventually had to open my hands and let go. I allowed myself to be afraid that the little sandcastles that I had painstakingly built for myself would be washed away.  Water washed over them AND me… and it didn’t wash us away - just softened our edges a bit.

People have always called me “strong.”  How I feel about that depends on the day and whatever operational definition of “strong” we’re using.  There’s no delusion here:  I ain’t no punk or nuthin, but I’m not invincible either.  What I AM, though, is adaptable: What doesn’t bend, breaks.  

And here I am, looking around my living room, taking stock of how I feel in this moment, and thinking “Okay, so this is 2018.”  I don’t generally get into making a list of resolutions because that stresses me out, but today I’d like to make one resolution.  An overarching, principle to guide my hands, feet, brain, and mouth as I move through this year:

“i’m gonna do exactly what i want to
& i wont be sorry for none of it
letta sorry soothe yr soul/ i’m gonna soothe mine”
--lady in blue from “for colored girls…” by Ntozake Shange

My take?

I’m a grown-ass woman, and free as fuck.  

My resolution for 2018 is to carry this knowledge with me every second of every day.


Happy New Year!🎉