Posts Tagged ‘the coolness’

The Language of Blackness

July 11, 2015

10151426_10155654773955324_244993667383908735_n

Alternately, I could have named this post “On How America Taught the World to ‘be Black’ ” and not be too far off from either sentiment. Of course, it’s about more than simply language as spoken communication, but the specifically unarticulated as well. A language of knowing and understanding in a plethora of ways. As I was reading through the real time tweets of those epic #AskRachel memes, I kept thinking about this, how a kind of blackness becomes codified through popular culture and all the rest of us, black people from elsewhere — know the answers too.

It’s knowing that even though I have never been to a family reunion before,* replete with matching t-shirts and a rounds of the Cupid Shuffle, I feel as though I know what it might be like. And even what I think I know probably pales in comparison to the real experience. I understand also, that black Americans are not always singularly in control of or ultimately responsible for the way those cultural images of themselves are reproduced and disseminated. I’m not going to delve into whether all the images are nuanced enough or multifaceted enough. But I will say in many parts of the world where black people reside, seeing glamorous black people in daytime soaps or movies — in fact, kinds of reflections of ourselves in any form on screen — took place in American movies.

I grew up primarily on American pop culture and occasionally, British. When I was younger, we paid one price to see double features from Hollywood, sometimes Bollywood. Every wave of fashion and music rooted in African American culture made its way to the West Indies. Though the boys in my secondary school worshipped at the altar of dancehall, with original songs, “dollar discos,” and chanting sessions accompanied by poundings on the desks mimicking riveting basslines — at my graduation dance, someone also breakdanced. Although breaking was no longer in vogue then, unexpected dexterous dancing was always cool. We got in a circle like we’d all seen on TV, and we whooped and cheered him on.

That the cultural blackness of the Rachel memes was instantaneously recognizable for segments of the English speaking black diaspora should come as no surprise. We all greased and sprayed with African Pride and coated strands slick with Pink moisturiser at some point, because it was being done in black American culture. And the ways in which capitalism spun blackness into products and encoded blackness into branding found markets far beyond the United States for those who had access to them.

(more…)

Advertisements

Feminist Kaiso and Soca Playlist

February 11, 2014

Image

Because you needed this in your life and the carnival season is upon us and because wining (without an “h”) is totally a feminist act. And some of allyuh need to be schooled in some classics.

Do note: for the purposes of my personal analysis, a feminist calypso or soca song can be feminist regardless of whether the performer has explicitly called themselves feminist. So, no, Destra may or may not consider herself feminist (I have no idea about that) but that doesn’t prevent a feminist lens from being applied to her work.

I’m also aware that male songwriters have penned some classics for women, but unless we are going to completely erase the agency of the women performers who bring the songs to life, then that too, doesn’t detract from meaning and implications. All shared art: musical, written and otherwise, is liable to interpretation, which may or may not collude with the artists’ agenda. Additionally, all songs sung by a woman aren’t implicitly feminist just because a woman sings it. Case in point: Patrice’s “Give Him (Bam Bam).” Yeah, no eh.

Anyhow, a soca or calypso song may be feminist if it advocates for women’s autonomy and agency, interrogates and or celebrates women’s sexual agency (in soca and calypso, this is often symbolised by the free movement of and “ownership” of the bam bam as well as wining); reinscribes social mores, or advocates for or examines gender (in)equality, or complicates how we think about gender or gender roles in society. Or just sounds good to the feminist ear. Basically, if feminists can flex out to it and not cringe inwardly, then we might be on to something.

Without further ado, some of my favourite feminist chunes in no particular order. (List is not at all exhaustive. List is also, arguably, very Trini soca/calypso oriented.)

“Die With My Dignity”: because you shouldn’t have to bull for a wuk. Unless of course that is what your work entails. Voluntarily, safely and with personal agency of course. (We don’t slutshame or invalidate sex work in these here parts.)

Also, because Singing Sandra was part of The United Sisters, the first ever all-woman kaiso soca group and she’s a legend!

Sample lines: “Well if is all this humiliation/ to get a job these days as a woman/ Brudda, dey go keep dey money/ I go keep my honey and die with my dignity!”

Which leads me to “Whoa Donkey” by The United Sisters because of soca sisterhood and the no-attempt-to-hide-sexual-innuendo coupled with a dance that is nothing short of classic. Sample lines: “Tonight in de fete/ Is ride until yuh wet/ climb up on ah back. . .”

Saddle up, fellas! And ladies.

“Obsessive Winers.” Denise, Alison and Destra. Soca Queen Triad who doh deal with outta timers. That is all.

Calypso Rose’s version of a classic, “Rum and Coca-Cola.” She is a Tobagonian by birth from the sister isle and the first woman to ever win a Road March title!

Drupatee Ramgoonai for rewriting social, gender and racial expectations as the first female East Indian soca star. (Also see the equally classic “Mr. Bissessar.”)

(more…)

2013 in review

December 31, 2013

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,200 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Strength and powers tee

December 16, 2013

Strenth and powers tee

Reppin’ for our Caribbean and West Indian women writers.

Click photo if you want one!

2012 in review

January 5, 2013

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 16,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Updates: On life, living etc.

November 18, 2012

So, while I have missing from my corner of the blogosphere (if anyone noticed), I have been staying relatively busy on the Facebook page, linking and posting all manner of poetry, articles, images that inspire and incite and more, from various web sojourns. I suppose, overall, lots of stuff has been taking place — let’s see, I got a manuscript accepted. My forthcoming (and first!) poetry chapbook will come out in late 2013, published by the ethereal and immensely talented dancing girl press. It will be suffused with hibiscus, creaking spines, dark rum, blackness and blackgirl love.

Also, in the meantime, my heart has been aching for Palestine, I have kept peeping my favorite blogs (yeah, I see you all), I’ve been bonding more with Mama Oshun, snuggling regularly with a certain deliciously warm and wonderful brown body, I got involved with the Two Lips collective project where I’ll be trying to work all kinds of black-West Indian-femme-feminist-fierceness in partnership with Kayla from Sage (among others); I watched Sesame Street (random post coming on that soon); I got more in tune with my cosmic ish (take heed: Jupiter is in retrograde allyuh!); plus, I got thoroughly annoyed with the ever tiring myth of Indian exceptionalism being spewed by one of our country’s ambassadors (post might be coming on that soon) Grrrr.

All that taking place, then I saw this:

OK, to start with, I understand that “jokey soca” is supposed to be a genre onto itself (see some chunes by Crazy for example) which is separate from picong, though the traditions inform one another in some ways. This is also separate from the tradition of double entendre in soca and kaiso which, may or may not, be funny. Alright — now with that said, we can connect cultural notions of Trinbagonian picong too to similar diasporic manifestations like “playing the dozens” where insults and barbs are “New World” incarnations of African sociolinguistic expressions and the oral tradition carried within descendants of the earliest Africans.

We also cannot categorically consider this song anything close to picong because there is only one voice in the song and that is of Myron B’s. Picong involves an exchange of wits at least. The woman has no voice here. I’ve noted before how even inside supposedly “jokey” soca — there are always problematic elements of truthtelling about who we are as a people and who we decide to make fun of and in what ways.  In Anthurium, Andrea Shaw has observed how the fat black female body became this site for hypersexualisation in soca and dancehall, as well as humor.

Note the kind of big woman in this music video, note her shade, note her nod to Mammy — her simultaneous pseudo-sexualisation (from the first attraction) then the chronic, progressive desexualization throughout the song and video; this is key here: the fact that the “attraction” and whatever sexual attributes once there, (oh wait, it’s happening only because he never dated someone 300 lbs before) positively shrink throughout the song and the fat black woman is in fact, the central punchline by the end. The joke is on her actually, never him, even though they end up in a bed together and he ends up in bandages and he would like us to think the joke is on him (she dreams of ice-cream while next to him, remember?). And that’s a problem. The whole thing is a problem.

Image via: Buttah Love

The very premise of fat women and fat black women as voyeuristic challenges for a man to prove his manly mettle because of their size, is problematic all on its own and not just because real fatphobia exists and women who don’t fit in the dominant paradigm’s mandate of what an appropriate size should be end up having to deal with these same attitudes from too many people every damn day. It’s not okay because fat people are human beings and their feelings are valid just like anyone else’s. Their right to exist free from body shame, bullying and damaging parodies is valid, again, just like anyone else’s.

Pinky and Emigrante

July 30, 2012

Pinky and Emigrante. Get on it.

In praise of pums: The good, the bad and the bloody

July 6, 2012

 



Go see the show if you can nah?

For the Love

July 2, 2012

Spreading some luscious link love. First off, my darling friend Marissa (activist, feminist, critical thinker and all around fantabulous person) is interviewed about trafficking in the Caribbean on Womenspeak. Kim is one of Go magazine’s “100 Women We Love” (yay!) and yours truly is a featured Femmeoir on Sage–and don’t stick on the other womym either.

Thankful for, humbled and inspired by and enamoured with the community of women I am in.

‘Femme is on Purpose’: Truthtelling for us all

May 27, 2012

My Trini sista Kim, speaking fierce truths at Slutwalk Toronto 2012.