Jams

Journey thru Blackness

Happy Black History Month!

Music soundtracks the struggles and triumphs of black life. From gospel to blues to what is dubbed “reality rap,” black musicians bare their souls to create art that relates to our daily experiences. I started out making a playlist about hope but couldn’t stay away from the protest songs we’ve accumulated over the decades: songs about lynchings, police brutality, and life in impoverished conditions. As a student of music, I saw fit to cover a narrative that wades through these emotions and accepts them without judgement. The hope, the satire, the vulgarity*, the anger – all valid here. We are policed enough by others for expressing our blackness so why do it to ourselves? The playlist begins in 1939 with Billie Holiday singing about the Jim Crow era, travels to the 70s in hopes of some interplanetary relief with Parliament, and rests in the present day knowing “this ish is for us.”

Other songs in rotation this month: “VRY BLK” by Jamila Woods, “Say It Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud” by James Brown, “Everyday People” and “Don’t Call Me N***er, Whitey” by Sly and the Family Stone, “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar, Motown everything

*I’ve opted not to censor these songs so listener discretion is advised; some of the language may be uncomfortable. “They Don’t Care About Us” was censored by the artist himself after he faced backlash for Antisemitism*

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Jams

The Year in Review: Music

Music has the power to transcend all barriers and connect your heart with the sentiments of the artists. The albums this year did just that for us. With reflections, introspection and pure artistry, each album on this list was a well thought out, well executed masterpiece which reminded us why musicians are called artists. Here’s our list of the best and brightest artists of 2017, in alphabetical order.

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Moodboards

It’s the season for giving and we are counting down to gifting time. Here are some things on our list that we are excited to give (and receive!) this holiday season.

Clockwise from top left: “You Got the Whole Wide World” ASATT sweatshirt, $70, available on Saint Heron until Dec 22; Fenty Beauty Stunna lip paint, $24, Sephora; Tsubota Pearl Latitude lighter, $35, Maimoun; The Autobiography of Gucci Mane, $16.20 on Amazon; Plum Cast Iron Kettle, $17, on sale at Cost Plus World Market; Talkspace giftcard, $156/1 mo; $420/3 mo via Talkspace ; Girls Trip, $19.99 on Best Buy ; How To Make Lemonade box set, $299.99 (sold out, but we can dream)

Holiday Wishlist 2017

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Life, Resources

The Black Feminist Glossary

Feminism is currently more popular than ever. While there’s no one way to be a feminist, here’s where I stand: if it’s not intersectional, we can’t talk. Considering the pervasiveness of white feminism and how it’s not just employed by white women, it’s important to give props and distinction to black feminism/womanism. These terms are not necessarily interchangeable but their usefulness as a way of life predates them as identity markers. Black women have long been pioneers of justice because of our lived experience, being simultaneously oppressed as both black people and women – thus the concept of intersectionality. Today, I’m concerned with how the phrase intersectionality and similar terms are thrown around without proper credit or context. I’d like to provide a space for people to learn, as well as context on the misuse I’m talking about. Enter the black feminism glossary*. I don’t intend to invent the wheel but rather give folks a toolbox for encountering feminism in modern social spaces**. In no way is this glossary extensive; it will be updated as necessary.

  • Anti-blackness – a mindset that devalues black people and our beliefs, values, and traditions (as varied as they are) solely because of their association with blackness
  • Black feminism – historically, black women have been asked to “pick sides” in liberation causes. White feminists have asked black women to align over gender (but not race) whereas black men have asked them to align over race (and not gender). Black feminism emphasizes that sexism and racism are linked, therefore the liberation of black women must consider both factors equally.
  • Colorism—in my definition, prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color” —Alice Walker, In Search of our Mothers’ Gardens. Coined in 1982, this term refers to discrimination faced by darker-skinned people. I’ve seen colorism used to refer to discrimination faced by light skin people and it should be noted that colorism is ultimately about power dynamics. Light skin people do face discrimination, but most times, colorism works in their favor. Common social -isms give attention to the more oppressed of any given group: sexism – women; racism – people of color. People with lighter skin hold more social power than those with dark skin, so implying reverse colorism doesn’t really add up. I won’t deny that the context can change, but use this term in reverse at your own discretion.
  • Intersectionality – coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, theorized by countless others. Refers to the ways in which multiple aspects of one’s identity affect their livelihood. This is a prime example of a term predating its coinage. The Combahee River Collective statement, a seminal black feminist text, was so influential because it highlighted how members not only faced oppressions as black people and women, but as lesbians too (don’t get me started on the hetero-/cis- washing of liberation causes). Intersectionality is a great starting point for thinking about how privilege is not a zero-sum game. You can be privileged in one way but not in others. Areas to consider: race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, etc
  • Internalization – as in internalized racism, sexism, transphobia, etc. When a person accepts prevailing (often negative) beliefs about a group that they belong to. Often, this is an unconscious process that happens through socialization, media exposure, and more. For example, women who slut shame likely have internalized the sexism of the culture they were socialized in.
  • Misogynoir –  discrimination against black women where both gender and race are factors; an intersection of misogyny and anti-blackness; Moya Bailey is the originator of this term.
  • People of color (POC) – this is a term that doesn’t really have a clear origin but is used to refer to non-white people. It has nothing to do with skin color; if you are a non-white person (white in the way it’s used in an American context), then you might be considered a person of color.
  • Transmisogynoir – also coined by Moya Bailey, this term refers to discrimination faced by trans feminine black people; an intersection of transphobia, misogyny, and antiblackness.
  • White Feminism – a concept as old as feminism itself; a mainstream type of women’s liberation that prioritizes the concerns of white women and simultaneously ignores that those of women of color may differ.
  • White supremacist capitalist patriarchy – how bell hooks defines America as a system (sometimes as “imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy”). Like many of the phrases defined here, this one serves to remind us how systems of oppression work together. This country was founded on white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy; therefore the effects of these tools in the present-day can rarely be removed from one another.
  • Womanism – another term by Alice Walker, womanism centers all aspects of black womanhood and fosters respect for how black women inhabit the world. Furthermore, womanism emphasizes the liberation of all black people while combating gender oppression.

*It should be noted that these are terms that black female theorists came up with, but that it doesn’t necessarily mean that each theorist self-identifies as a black feminist or womanist. Furthermore, you don’t have to take on the identity of a black feminist to employ black feminism. The reasons why black women don’t always self-identify as feminist, well that’s a story that’s important and been written plenty times before.

**While priority was given to terms that were conceptualized by black women, not all of the terms listed fit this criteria. The goal is to arm people with terms that they may encounter in black feminist spaces.

 

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Visuals

Tracee Ellis Ross: 10 Times She Made Us Swoon

It’s #WCW and we’re crushing on Ms. Tracee Ellis Ross (the real question is, who isn’t??). Ross, who currently stars in Black-ish and made us love to tolerate her character Joan on Girlfriends, is someone we admire for always staying true to herself. While we have mused over her before, we want to show some extra love to this Scorpio queen celebrating her birthday on the 29th! Here are countless 10 outfits of hers that we just love.

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Visuals

Mini Afropunk Photo Diary

This year marks the second one that I’ve attended Afropunk and it did not disappoint…seeing Oshun, Moses Sumney, Willow Smith, Jamila Woods and Solange (!!!) all in one weekend was absolutely unforgettable! I snapped a few photos that I want to share with you.

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From the moment that I realized one could use the internet to watch fashion shows, I have been doing so. And despite the hype and pretension, I still have a desire to attend fashion week in the future. However, my longstanding love for fashion week waned as I learned more about social injustices – and saw them reflected on the runway. Reading accounts by black models of how difficult it is to have their hair properly styled or even being turned away because well-known designers aren’t “casting black models this season” disinterested me. I realized that I had been in love with an entity that never really saw or understood me.

In recent years, there’s been a shift and NYFW has become more inclusive. This September (a.k.a. Fashion Month), I appreciated the diversity in terms of race, body type, gender identity and age on the runways and in presentations. This diversity on the modeling side has restored my hope for fashion week’s future, yet I was reminded that we still need more designers of color. I was dazzled by the designs of my longtime favorite Cushnie et Ochs and rooted for Shayne Oliver’s Helmut Lang debut, but my total count of designers of color came up short.

I am doubly disappointed to be underwhelmed by this season as a whole, but my love for the art persists. All of the above photos are my favorite looks from the season thus far (hover over image for designer credit). When reviewing runway shows, I ask myself: do I like this only because I would wear it? Also, can I separate my respect from the artistry from my desire (or lack thereof) to wear it? Answering no to the former and yes to the latter is ideal. Here, I’ve tried to strike a fine balance between being fair and wanting certain pieces for myself. I just really want a lucite briefcase in my closet ASAP and to see more black and brown designers going forward.

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The Highs and Lows of Fashion Month

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