Black women have long deserved a celebration as bold, colourful and debauched as Girls Trip since John was a boy. Girls Trip, written by Tracy Oliver and Malcolm D Lee, serves to upend the cinematic status quo that sees black women ignored, abused or absorbing the ills of society by ensuring friendship, love, joy and sexual desire are our focus in the comedy hit of the summer. Hollywood royalty Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Regina Hall and silver screen newcomer (my new personal obsession) Tiffany Haddish take us on the craziest journey as their friendships are tested and romances blossom. It’s well measured medicine for the battered psyche, taught for decades black women are beasts of burden, gifted at shouldering the pain inflicted upon us.Read more
Since the release of Beyoncé’s only photo of her children, one she released on her Instagram account and didn’t sell to People like a myriad of stars before her, white women across the Twittersphere have made wild claims about the mother of three. Danielle Ryan, a journalist with a slew of credits, asserted “Beyoncé is literally a female version of Kanye West. Full blown narcissist. I can't understand the insane reverence around her.” Twitter verified white supremacy account, Wife With A Purpose tweeted a photo of the Madonna & Child next to a photo of Beyoncé with the caption “Tubillardine Whiskey (1952) vs Kool-Aid” . These women (tbh the gender of the latter is suspect) and their tweets are easy to dismiss as twitter fodder, coded racist dog whistles written for attention at a time when it was wholly fixed on a black woman and the bold, beautiful display of her motherhood. What I will not ignore is Stylist Magazine’s institutionalisation of the coded language surrounding Beyoncé’s photo. The women behind the popular magazine thought it wise to commission one Lucy Paget to write an ill-conceived, poorly executed ‘think’ piece entitled “The problem with Beyonce’s impossibly perfect baby announcement.” “Oh Bey. We expected nothing less, but we deserved so much more…” starts the article.Read more
The driving rain of racism was inescapable on July 10th 2017, from unseasoned Anne Marie Morris’ “the real nigger in the woodpile” comment (that slithered of her tongue too expertly to be any kind of mistake) to top dry head Emmanuel Macron declaring Africa’s problems are “civilisational” as if France didn’t played a direct role in the destabilisation of the continent and her hands aren’t awash with the blood of those they violently colonised. These are both explicit examples of racism and someone more well versed in politics can unpick the wider socio-political implications of these politicians’ comments; I’m here to talk about Stormzy.Read more
Diane Abbot was the first black woman elected to the House of Commons as a Member of Parliament in 1987. Bridget Minamore’s article on The Pool outlines clearly and succinctly “racism and misogyny explains why there are so few black women in politics.” Minamore details Abbott’s experiences of misogynoir (the intersection of racism and sexism) as an example of the challenges all black women politicians face “all Members of Parliament (especially the female ones) get online abuse. But still, I’ve never seen a white female MP get abuse at the scale Abbott does.” The online abuse Minamore’s article focuses on isn’t from your average, backwater troll. It is public figures “journalists who write about her and her parliamentary peers” and so confident are they in the acceptance of misogynoir by the British public, they do not even seek the protection of anonymity online trolls enjoy.Read more
For Tobi, whose tweet inspired this post and whose tireless work championing black, British women has directly, positively influenced my writing career.
My mum curated my experience of blackness on television and in film by directing me to the channels on Sky that represented me when I was younger. My mum, in her infinite wisdom, also collected a vast array of videos and DVDs starring black actors but had a penchant for comedy specials. We had the whole Def Comedy Jam collection and all of Walter Latham’s titles including The Queens of Comedy. It was in that special, showcasing the talents of Adele Givens, Sommore and Laura Hayes, that I was first introduced to Mo’Nique’s no holds barred brand. Unshackled from her TV-safe turn as Nikki Parker in Moesha and The Parkers, I was shocked, delighted and in awe by her, and her colleagues; their ability to be just as raw, equally as funny- if not more hilarious than The Original Kings of Comedy.Read more
On April 18th Tresemmé, you lot’s Prime Minister, called a snap General Election to strengthen the Conservative Party’s grasp on power during the country’s impending exit from the European Union (and off a cliff to a Thatcher like doom.) At the time, the opposition Labour party, who swing to the left of the Conservative’s right wing political stance, was in disarray and many assumed Labour would be easily defeated. However, in the last month campaigns like #GrimeforCorbyn have helped galvanise previously disillusioned young voters. Grime artists Stormzy and most prominently JME have come out publicly in favour of Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party Leader. The BBC reported of the 100,000 people who’ve registered to vote in the last seven days, 40% are under 25 years old and warn of a spike in numbers as the deadline to register to vote grows closer.Read more
“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.” -Zora Neale Hurston.
I was ten years old when I first saw a fresh faced Jamelia dressed in a mantua literally waltzed across MTV Base declaring she was no prima donna while Beenie Man zaga zow, ziggy zowed his way through his feature. She was a vision I would often don my mother’s net curtains trying to recreate. Jamelia’s visibility in the early noughties was important to me as a dark skinned black girl because I was able to see myself in popular culture and her existence validated mine. During the early noughties, the trifecta of women who I could look to as representations that reflected how I saw myself in popular music were Jamelia, Kelly Rowland and Sabrina Washington in British girl group Misteeq.Read more
Serena Jameka Williams, First of Her Name and Queen of the Grass Court announced her pregnancy on Wednesday 12th April and exultations erupted across the Twittersphere. Sports pundits quickly pointed out Williams was with child when she held the winner’s trophy aloft at the Australian Open and very quickly Very Smart Brothas prophesied that in 16 years time Williams’ progeny would also beat Maria Sharapova.Read more
Three years after Alecia Moore, better known as P!NK, made it clear she wasn’t a racially ambiguous woman of colour (because come on, Can’t Take Me Home bamboozled me), she, Beyoncé and Britney Jean Spears formed the trifecta, the Trinity if you will, of Pop to star in Pepsi’s 2004 iconic “We Will Rock You” commercial. Ridley Scott’s 2000 triumph Gladiator heavily influenced the ad and saw the musical juggernauts combine forces to defeat Emperor Enrique Igeslias with the power of Queen. Vibe.com chronicling Beyoncé’s relationship with Pepsi quote her as her saying “I remember Michael Jackson’s commercial …and to think that I’m getting a chance to do this. I know that it’s gonna be perfect.” For the last decade and a half Beyoncé’s Pepsi ads have been just that, evolving in style as she evolved musically. Starting with a spot to accompany her role in MTV’s Carmen: A Hip Hopera, and most recently her 2013 retrospective “Grown Woman”, her “unconventional” $50million deal renewing her relationship with Pepsi in 2012 included the stipulation they “fund to support the singer’s chosen creative projects.” The superstar ensured that not only would they pay her to use her likeness but also financially support her future endeavours. The deal was a stroke of genius.Read more
For John, Tanya and Ronke who first paid me to write.
I made sure I was home, front and centre to witness first hand and in real time Rachel Dolezal’s interview with Emily Maitlis on BBC Two’s Newsnight. Astounded, I watched mouth agape as Dolezal spoke about her horrific, violent childhood and unapologetically continued to claim she was, despite the naysayers and indisputable facts, a black woman. Dolezal lamented her inability to gain employment since the revelation she was a white woman darkening her skin and wearing curly hair lost her job as the president of Spokane, Washington’s NAACP chapter. After the interview, Maitlis was joined in the studio by Guilane Kinouani to discuss Dolezal’s claims “race is a lie. How can you lie about a lie?” Kinouani spoke with truth and power clearly articulating “I remain sceptical in her inability to recognise her privilege as a white woman being able to occupy or inhabit the lived experience of a black woman.”Read more
Before the bodies of those killed in the attack in London this week were cold, Katie Hopkins sporting her “can I speak to the manager” haircut found her way onto Fox News to share her hot take “People are cowed by one particular religion, which is promoted by the Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, son of the bus driver.” Her divisive rhetoric works as a dog whistle to the far right and neo-Nazi movements both here in the UK and in the United States and it’s nothing new. Hate brands like Nigel Farage and Ann Coulter have long cultivated their message choosing to speak for and to those unable to abide by the slowly changing power structure. The difference between Ann Coulter and Hopkins is Coulter believes every word she writes and says- Farage is moulded and motivated by white supremacy; Hopkins is not.Read more
Twitter was alight this morning after news broke of the appointment of former Chancellor of the Exchequer and full time dry head George Gideon Oliver Osborne as Editor of the Evening Standard newspaper. Immediately people began questioning exactly what experience Osborne has to qualify him as the right person to edit the Evening Standard; London’s free evening paper. Jim Waterson, Political Editor at Buzzfeed reported “every Oxford library copy of George Osborne’s student journalism has gone missing. And only for his year.” Not surprising when you realise this nincompoop couldn’t even secure a place on a Times Newspaper training scheme in 1993 and later applied for a position at The Economist but was “turned down at interview” as Simon Kuper happily reported with named references for the Financial Times. Of course Osborne’s writing samples are “missing.” Who would want the general public assessing the calibre of his work or knowing their employment process is based purely on nepotism? Jeremy Corbyn goes a step further and suggests Osborne’s appointment is an attempt to subvert media neutrality, further highlighting the problem with journalism in the UK; those writing our daily news are rarely there based on merit.Read more
It’s a smooth 2017, the year of the Prophet Micheal “Stormzy” Omari, and still the big publications are getting it dangerously wrong. Yesterday, Cosmopolitan Magazine removed an article from their site entitled “The 10 Most Beautiful Women In The World, According To Science.” Luckily for me, my sister Bolu, grabbed a screenshot before the tweet disappeared and I can continue with today’s lesson; Why Are You Lot Still Doing This?Read more
I learned to centre the African American experience growing up as a Black British child. Growing up black in South London, my experience was so rarely represented in British television film and music. Last year, I explained how I exclusively looked to the Americans for affirmation that my blackness was beautiful and mattered when I was younger. I understood, at least on a purely aesthetic level, the nature of the African American experience because I consumed their varied representations while the UK was still floundering to fully articulate the similar but ultimately different Black British experience on the small and silver screens. Grime artist Stormzy’s number one album and Michaela Coel’s BAFTA Award winning turn creating Chewing Gum herald a new age for the Black British community where we are finally cementing our autonomy as worthy participants in the global creative community. This visibility of British Blackness, on our terms, has never before been seen in the multifaceted way it is today.Read more
This winter I dove off a cliff, headfirst; cinematic black excellence rushing towards. The onslaught against my senses; visually, sonically was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. Often throughout the multiple screenings of Fences, Hidden Figures and Moonlight I’ve attended, I found my face wet, tears having slid down my cheeks and puddled on my chest, for no other reason than I had never before witnessed all these three films were offering. The lazy, sumptuous indulgence with which Denzel Washington allows August Wilson’s words to live eternally through Viola Davis and his stellar cast. The three black women in segregated Virginia working at NASA Octavia Spencer, Taraji P Henson and Janelle Monae brought to life after being hidden for so long. Tarrell Alvin McCraney’s play ‘In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue’ translated to celluloid with Barry Jenkins’ masterful vulnerability. When I came up for air, having immersed myself fully in the waters of these three films, one thing was clear; Hollywood’s antiquated notions of blackness had been shaken to its very core, not yet dismantled but on its way to ruin.Read more
Dr Robin DiAngelo’s article explains “White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviours such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviours, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.” Buckle your seat belts for this flight through white fragility of the highest order.Read more
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter announced her pregnancy and the impending arrival of her twins on Instagram this past Wednesday 1st February 2017, the first day of America’s Black History Month. Happiness, joy and glee instantly burst forth from every corner of the internet, it’s light shining bright in the political darkness that has shrouded the world recently. The much-needed reprieve from the turmoil felt from seashore to seashore revealed itself in lapping waves as more photos from Beyoncé’s maternity shoot were released on her website accompanied by a poem, “I Have Three Hearts” written by Warsan Shire, the poet responsible for the words in the 2016 film Lemonade. The race was on to come up with the wittiest tweet or the most creative meme celebrating the joyous occasion. The beautiful photograph, shot by celebrated, Ethiopian photographer Awol Erizku, quickly became the most liked photograph in Instagram history and as of the writing of this post has more than 9 million and counting.Read more
Clara Amfo has risen, step by well-timed step, to become a staple on British radio. Originally on Kiss FM, now as the host of BBC Radio One’s morning show, she’s interviewed the world’s biggest stars and has done so without having to assimilate her image to fall in line with the industry standard for black women; I’m talking about her hair. Years before she started wearing it in an afro, she wore her hair in big Ghana twists; a bold move considering the insidious, prevailing, pervasive notion that black women’s hair in its natural state is “unprofessional” and “unacceptable” for the corporate environment. There is quantifiable evidence of the policing of the way black women present themselves and their hair. The backlash black women (and girls) have faced for daring to wear their hair naturally grows as opposed to perming, straightening it or wearing a wig to keep a job or stay in a classroom is chronicled in the stories of Malaika Maos Eyoh and her South African school's aggressive ban on natural hair, Simone Powderly's ultimatum to lose her braids or lose her job and countless others. Despite Clara’s decision not to conform in styles that help keep her hair healthy, to wear her hair how she is comfortable and happy instead acquiescing to society’s pressures her career progression hasn’t been hindered as she continues her climb to the height of British media.Read more
Former First Lady Michelle LaVaughn Obama was thrust into the public spotlight during her husband Former President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2007. Immediately I recognised in her the standard bearer of all my aspirations and physical, quantifiable proof I could achieve all I set my sights on. The most highly educated First Lady in American History, she is so well loved Marmalade Mussolini was warned against attacking her on the campaign trail. My first cultural studies essay in University was about the politicisation of Michelle Obama’s hair and to my great pride I scored 92% for my efforts. Do you get it? I love the woman and to love her is to be abreast of stories circulating about her; the good, the sexist, the racist and the violent. Mikki Kendall compiled a list of “22 times Michelle Obama endured rude, racist, sexist or just plain ridiculous attacks” for The Washington Post. The listicle is a reminder that Michelle Obama has had to be stronger and more graceful than any First Lady before her for no other reason than the colour of skin.
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Dear Stacey Dash,
I heard your contract as a correspondent for Fox News was not renewed today and a laugh bubbled up from the depths of my spirit so hearty it nearly knocked me off my feet. Since you became a contributor to Fox News in 2014, I have watched you spew divisive diatribe from your platform both on screen and online. You chose to model yourself after the Katie Hopkins and the Ann Coulters of the world but ah! You forgot one thing sis; you are a black woman. Thus, despite your proximity to whiteness, your melanin rendered you expendable to your bosses at Fox News.Read more