May 28, 2016 § Leave a comment
In history and today, Black women have consistently published evocative, thoughtful works that provoke and inspire. This is my compilation of 20 book selections by Black women that touch on gender, race, class and sexuality. I invite you to leave a comment and share more brilliant literary works by Black women.
Beyond the Masks: Race, Gender and Subjectivity – Amina Mama
Psychology has had a number of things to say about black and colored people, none of them favorable, and most of which have reinforced stereotyped and derogatory images. Beyond the Masks is a readable account of black psychology, exploring key theoretical issues in race and gender. In it, Amina Mama examines the history of racist psychology, and of the implicit racism throughout the discipline. Beyond the Masks also offers an important theoretical perspective, and will appeal to all those involved with ethnic minorities, gender politics and questions of identity. (Source)
Angela Davis: An Autobiography – Angela Davis
Are Prisons Obsolete? – Angela Davis
With her characteristic brilliance, grace and radical audacity, Angela Y. Davis has put the case for the latest abolition movement in American life: the abolition of the prison. As she quite correctly notes, American life is replete with abolition movements, and when they were engaged in these struggles, their chances of success seemed almost unthinkable. For generations of Americans, the abolition of slavery was sheerest illusion. Similarly,the entrenched system of racial segregation seemed to last forever, and generations lived in the midst of the practice, with few predicting its passage from custom. The brutal, exploitative (dare one say lucrative?) convict-lease system that succeeded formal slavery reaped millions to southern jurisdictions (and untold miseries for tens of thousands of men, and women). Few predicted its passing from the American penal landscape. Davis expertly argues how social movements transformed these social, political and cultural institutions, and made such practices untenable.
In Are Prisons Obsolete?, Professor Davis seeks to illustrate that the time for the prison is approaching an end. She argues forthrightly for “decarceration”, and argues for the transformation of the society as a whole. (Source)
Women, Race & Class – Angela Davis
Assata: An Autobiography – Assata Shakur
This intensely personal and political autobiography belies the fearsome image of Assata Shakur long projected by the media and the state. With wit and candor, Assata Shakur recounts the experiences that led her to a life of activism and portrays the strengths, weaknesses, and eventual demise of Black and White revolutionary groups at the hand of government officials. The result is a signal contribution to the literature about growing up Black in America that has already taken its place alongside The Autobiography of Malcolm X and the works of Maya Angelou.
Two years after her conviction, Assata Shakur escaped from prison. She was given political asylum by Cuba, where she now resides. (Source)
Sister Outsider: Essays & Speeches by Audre Lorde – Audre Lorde
Presenting the essential writings of black lesbian poet and feminist writer Audre Lorde, SISTER OUTSIDER celebrates an influential voice in twentieth-century literature. In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change. Her prose is incisive, unflinching, and lyrical, reflecting struggle but ultimately offering messages of hope. This commemorative edition includes a new foreword by Lorde scholar and poet Cheryl Clarke, who celebrates the ways in which Lorde’s philosophies resonate more than twenty years after they were first published. These landmark writings are, in Lorde’s own words, a call to “never close our eyes to the terror, to the chaos which is Black which is creative which is female which is dark which is rejected which is messy which is..” (Source)
Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism – bell hooks
A groundbreaking work of feminist history and theory analyzing the complex relations between various forms of oppression. Ain’t I a Woman examines the impact of sexism on black women during slavery, the historic devaluation of black womanhood, black male sexism, racism within the recent women’s movement, and black women’s involvement with feminism. (Source)
Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Wench – Dolen Perkins – Valdez
Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez is startling and original fiction that raises provocative questions of power and freedom, love and dependence. An enchanting and unforgettable novel based on little-known fact, Wench combines the narrative allure of Cane River by Lalita Tademy and the moral complexities of Edward P. Jones’s The Known World as it tells the story of four black enslaved women in the years preceding the Civil War. A stunning debut novel, Wench marks author Perkins-Valdez as a writer destined for greatness. (Source)
Tropical Fish – Doreen Baingana
In her fiction debut, Doreen Baingana follows a Ugandan girl as she navigates the uncertain terrain of adolescence. Set mostly in pastoral Entebbe with stops in the cities Kampala and Los Angeles, Tropical Fish depicts the reality of life for Christine Mugisha and her family after Idi Amin’s dictatorship.
As the Mugishas cope with Uganda’s collapsing infrastructure, they also contend with the universal themes of family cohesion, sex and relationships, disease, betrayal, and spirituality. Anyone dipping into Baingana’s incandescent, widely acclaimed novel will enjoy their immersion in the world of this talented newcomer. (Source)
Cane River – Lalita Tademy
The unique and deeply moving epic of four generations of African-American women based on one family’s ancestral past. (Source)
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide.
Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.
Poetic and powerful, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings will touch hearts and change minds for as long as people read. (Source)
Who Fears Death? – Nnedi Okorafor
In a far-future, post-apocalyptic Saharan Africa, genocide plagues one region. When the only surviving member of a slain village is brutally raped, she manages to escape, wandering farther into the desert. She gives birth to a baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand, and instinctively knows her daughter is different. She names her daughter Onyesonwu, which means “Who Fears Death?” in an ancient African tongue.
Reared under the tutelege of a mysterious and traditional shaman, Onyesonwu discovers she possesses a remarkable and unique magic. The journey to fulfill her destiny will force her to confront nature, tradition, history, the spiritual mysteries of her culture, and eventually to learn why she was given the unusual name she bears: Who Fears Death? (Source)
Kindred – Octavia Butler
Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin. (Source)
The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl, prays every day for beauty. Mocked by other children for the dark skin, curly hair, and brown eyes that set her apart, she yearns for normalcy, for the blond hair and blue eyes that she believes will allow her to finally fit in.Yet as her dream grows more fervent, her life slowly starts to disintegrate in the face of adversity and strife. A powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity, Toni Morrison’s virtuosic first novel asks powerful questions about race, class, and gender with the subtlety and grace that have always characterized her writing. (Source)
Sula – Toni Morrison
Two girls who grow up to become women. Two friends who become something worse than enemies. In this brilliantly imagined novel, Toni Morrison tells the story of Nel Wright and Sula Peace, who meet as children in the small town of Medallion, Ohio. Their devotion is fierce enough to withstand bullies and the burden of a dreadful secret. It endures even after Nel has grown up to be a pillar of the black community and Sula has become a pariah. But their friendship ends in an unforgivable betrayal—or does it end? Terrifying, comic, ribald and tragic, Sula is a work that overflows with life. (Source)
Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth – Warsan Shire
Nervous Conditions – Tsitsi Dangarembga
This story explores the alienation of two young African girls – Nyasha, brought up in England and now a stranger amongst her own people, and Tamba, who leaves her village for the pricey mission school. (Source)
Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature. (Source)
April 23, 2016 § Leave a comment
For refusing to bend my back for the white supremacist to ride.
For refusing to kiss the ass of the male supremacist.
For refusing to lick the boots of the wealthy.
See, these things are “normal” here.
And my failure to adhere,
makes me “Crazy”.
So be it.
February 20, 2016 § Leave a comment
Until I prove that I exist for the service of a man, my home remains unserviceable.
Until a man takes charge over it
my home remains vacant.
Only when I begin to cook, clean, twerk or rear children for a man
will my existence be validated.
Only then will I become visible.
Only then will my home find an occupant.
The Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient Penis will only negotiate with other
Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient Penises.
The Almighty Penis has no time to deal with a lowly vagina.
February 18, 2016 § Leave a comment
In conversations about poor young Africans in Diani engaging in sex tourism with older, rich white men and women, the typical explanation I get from fellow middle-class Kenyan peers places the blame entirely on the poor. I’d like to address some of the stereotypes about the poor that I keep hearing:
“They are just lazy. If they really wanted, they could work.”
Work where? There are no jobs in Diani. Tourism is the backbone of Kenya’s economy and most of the coastal region is almost entirely dependent on tourism, particularly Diani which has no other industries. And now in its 5th year, Kenya’s war in Somalia has led to the devastation of the tourism industry. Retaliatory attacks at the coast by Somali militants has made the tourists afraid to come. Several hotels have closed, many hotel workers have lost their jobs and crime is on the rise.
“If the poor would just take responsibility for themselves, all their problems would go away.”
What about the government’s responsibility? We need to stop scapegoating the poor for the failures of the Kenyan government in providing all Kenyans with the basics we need. Poverty is not caused by a lack of effort or priorities. The major factors that contribute to and keep people in poverty are systemic and actually not in their control.
“Everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.”
On the contrary, I think that the rich and poor end up where they are mainly because of the opportunities they have in life, rather than due to personal successes and failures. The poor are poor because they lack opportunities and good jobs, not because of individual failings or poor work ethic.
“In life you just have to work hard.”
Most rich people I know got to where they are mainly because they had more opportunities, not because they worked harder than others. Yet we congratulate the wealthy for their hard work while blaming the poor for not working hard enough. We ignore statistics that clearly indicate that you are more likely to be rich if you were born rich and insist that the poor could do better for themselves if only they tried.
We forget that poor children have all the odds stacked against them. A child born into poverty has to contend with inadequate food, healthcare, education and crime-ridden neighborhoods. And even if she does try her best, very few opportunities will be open to her. Therefore chances are she will forever remain trapped in a low-wage job that prevents her from improving her life. And this cycle will repeat itself in the next generation.
While I’ve met lots of people who’d love to stop being poor, I have never once met anyone whose childhood dream was to be poor when they grow up. A little more empathy and compassion is therefore in order for those denied what they deserve by a system of inequality. As humans we should want to help the poor, not vilify them. A good place to start doing this is by changing the language we use to describe poverty and inequality.
January 17, 2016 § Leave a comment
Another whitewashed Hollywood film on Ancient Egypt is set to be released this April. The only black person cast in “Gods of Egypt” is a token in the stereotypical “magical negro” role: a black person with supernatural powers who always rushes to the aid of white people. As usual, Ancient Egyptians and their gods are played by an all-white cast.
Be sure to BOYCOTT the film “Gods of Egypt” if it comes to a theater near you!
I have reblogged this article I wrote in 2014 about the similarly whitewashed “Exodus: Gods and Kings” to give you an idea of my thoughts on “Gods of Egypt.”
Although set during a specific period in ancient Egyptian history, the film Exodus: Gods and Kings features white American, European and Australian actors in the majority of the key roles playing ancient Egyptian characters. Directed by Ridley Scott, the film stars Christian Bale as Moses, Joel Edgerton as Ramses, and Aaron Paul as Joshua. John Turturro and Sigourney Weaver have supporting roles as Seti and Tuya, another king and queen of Egypt. This controversial casting decision sparked outrage online among film fans calling for a boycott of the movie under the hash tag #BoycottExodusMovie.
Hollywood – A Legacy of Historical Revisionism
This is not the first time that Hollywood has produced period films based on colonial fantasies of white domination, never mind that European “civilization” was not even in existence yet. Similarly in the classic epic The Ten Commandments, white actors…
View original post 1,509 more words
October 30, 2015 § Leave a comment
As a pacifist feminist who has protested Kenya’s war in Somalia, I cannot applaud the recent appointment of Fatumah Ahmed as Kenya’s First Female Brigadier.
Last August, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed Fatumah Ahmed as Kenya’s First Female Brigadier of the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF). Fatumah Ahmed was promoted from a colonel to a brigadier as well as appointed the managing director of the Defense Forces Medical Insurance Scheme.
Ahmed’s appointment has generally been viewed as a win for feminism by feminists themselves, with the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) hailing it as a “milestone” and praising the President for the appointment. NGEC Chairman Winfred Lichuma deemed the appointment a promotion of gender equality in the management of the affairs of Kenya.
“For the first time, Kenya has a woman brigadier who is all-rounded, competent and qualified to serve in our disciplined forces. This is an empowerment to marginalized groups in the country,” said Lichuma.
Ms Lichuma acknowledged the appointment as a way to integrate women into male-dominated sectors, urging the State to borrow a leaf from Ahmed’s appointment and ensure it brings women on board to serve in key decision-making organs.
I’m a feminist myself who certainly believes that women should enjoy equal access to career advancement and jobs in all spheres. Kenyan women are already part of the military and the appointment of a Kenyan woman to this rank just means that they are able to get as much credit for risking their lives as men do.
Nonetheless, while the appointment is deservedly a feminist victory, it is certainly a mixed one. On one hand, achieving equality for Kenyan women in military leadership illustrates just how successful feminism in Kenya has been in one of its key missions: achieving equality.
Military leadership is, in a sense, a defining male role. And exclusion from the military hierarchy, has, in turn, been a defining feminine trait. A policy that acknowledges the participation of women in, and capacity for military leadership, is, therefore, an important assertion that we are not our gender roles. It demonstrates that women truly can do anything, and must be allowed to do everything that men can do.
But here’s the thing, feminism has never been just about equality. While many feminists advocate the need for women to enjoy equal opportunities as men, many still advocate for the need to criticize male patriarchal ideals and values. And one of the male patriarchal ideals and values that has been consistently questioned and criticized by feminists is war.
Fighting has always been a habit of men, not women, a difference that has been developed over time by practice and law. Throughout history, the majority of human beings and animals have been killed by men – not women.
Yet, as many female soldiers and female politicians have demonstrated, women can be just as attracted to warfare as men. The satisfaction, ,necessity and glory of fighting – which I as a pacifist feminist woman do not understand, feel or enjoy – is clearly not restricted to that one gender.
That said, while the history of war may not be entirely male, it has overwhelmingly been male. And this fact is not a mere anomaly; it is a pattern that deserves our attention. Yes, we can view the exclusion of women from the military hierarchy and say, “This is unfair; women must be allowed to lead wars.” But we can also view that exclusion and say, “If half of humanity has been excluded from warfare, maybe it’s because fighting is an exception rather than the rule, an aberration rather than a necessity.”
The satisfaction, necessity and glory of war are often linked to masculinity, the need to prove one’s moral worth as a man. From one perspective, this too is the reason why it’s important for women to be allowed inside the military hierarchy. Its because war is the standard for moral action, and Kenya’s status as an ethical nation is today linked to its people’s willingness to fight and die in a “righteous” war.
If this is the case, if our morality is tied to battle, then women must lead in warfare if they are to be honored and valued as moral actors. When war is so integral to the moral experience, those who are not warriors cannot be deemed equal. That is why modern-day feminist cultural icons like Onyesonwu are often warriors. And it’s also the reason why equality in the military has been such an important goal for numerous marginalized groups. Women leading wars are a tremendous boost for feminism and gender equality. It will also get increasingly hard to justify discrimination against women now that we are openly leading the fight and dying for our country.
Kenyan feminists can then draw moral force from the Kenyan military. But this moral force comes at a high price. That price is the moral force itself: acquiescing to war as the moral force and the moral standard.
Judged by the experience of women, war has long been found to be wanting. However, Kenyan feminism seems at ease in judging the experiences of women in relation to standards of empowerment that are traditionally male – of which military leadership is a particularly good example. Such judgment leaves no room for feminist criticism of war and militarism.
The tragedy of Fatumah Ahmed’s appointment is that Kenyan feminists have lost one more justification to protest when our daughters and sons are sacrificed on the moral altar of war. Is having a woman rise up in Kenyan military ranks really worth the lives of our sons and daughters lost in war?