SBW part 2 (or 3 or 4, I’m losing count)

SBWs (single/successful/strong black women) are in the news … again. This time the BBC’s Nina Robinson hops the pond to interview single black women in NYC and find out why there is a such a shortage of marriageable black men.

At first blush, Robinson’s report departs from most previous accounts because she focuses on the lack of marriageable partners for black women instead of presuming that something is lacking in black women.

The report attributes the shortage of marriageable black men to inordiate high school drop out and imprisonment rates. Black men who are college educated and economically stable tend to have a world of dating options available to them. They are also much more likely than black women (10% more likely) to date interracially.

We’ve heard this litany of statistics before. But Robinson does not take them as a pronouncement of black women’s inevitable solitude. She ends her segment with the assertion that successful black women have options and that they can have fun exploring them. She also suggests that black men and women confront the negative stereotypes they have internalized about one another.

While Robinson’s story is more even-handed than say, Steve Harvey’s unsolicited relationship advice, “The Occult of Single Black Womanhood” (nod to Ann duCille) is troubling in myriad ways. I could think of any number of “states of emergency” concerning black women: sexual violence and inadequate health care are two issues that immediately come to mind. Why, then, is there so much pronounced emphasis on black women’s marital status? I come away from most of these stories feeling that the media’s attention to black women’s purported “undesirability” is yet another psychic assault that–in combination with the white aesthetic that remains dominant in American culture–serves to reinforce (in case you didn’t get the memo) the message that black women are not valued. The devaluation of black women in part explains why many black readers of Essence magazine were so disappointed with the mag’s decision to hire a white fashion director.

The devaluation of black women extends beyond beauty and marriage markets, of course. Audre Lorde credits a “systematic devaluation of black women” for the historical abuse and sexual assaults against black women. Perhaps, then, we should redirect the conversation to the way the convergence of sex, race, and class impact black women’s well-being, despite our marital status.


dispatch from new birth

Long Odds by Jelani Cobb

The cars began streaming into the parking lot at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church even before the sun had risen. On a normal Sunday church traffic chokes the off-ramps at Interstate 20, down to Bishop Eddie Long Boulevard that leads onto the grounds. This, as the news vans lining Bishop Eddie Long Boulevard attested, was not a normal Sunday.

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the grace of silence

Michele Norris’ new book reveals “The Grace of Silence”

At first, Michele Norris didn’t think her revelatory, heart-piercing book, “The Grace of Silence,” would get so personal. The co-host of “All Things Considered” presumed that writing about race would extend the work she had done in 2008 for a multipart National Public Radio series that asked residents of York, Pa., straightforward questions. “Do white Americans underestimate discrimination? Do black people make too much of it? How would the country be different if led by a black man?”

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the african american rosie the riveter

Remembering the African American Rosie the Riveter
by Callie Shanafelt

Now at 88-years-old, Soskin has had time to process her role on the home front during World War II. Despite the great social changes of that time, she still remembers the pain of the discrimination she faced as a black woman.

SOSKIN: We were forced to hire men too old to fight, boys to young to go, women out of their homes disrupting the entire American mystic of what it means to be a man or woman in order to gear up for that great mobilization. Even at that time we were willing to sacrifice on the altar of racial segregation, human potential of a huge, huge percentage of people based upon color.

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Photo Credit: Gordon Parks, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540

ntozake shange and ifa bayeza

Yes, I love Ntozake Shange! There, I said it.
Check out the conversation between Shange and her sister and co-author Ifa Bayeza at WaPo.

for black men

For Black Men, Goal Remains the Same
And that is educational and professional success, not pursuing ‘manly’ careers.

by Joshua Alston

In some ways, trying to mimic a traditional model of masculinity has been part of the problem for us. If men define themselves through doing blue-collar work, and getting dirty and making things with their hands, they find themselves in a pinch when those sectors shrink, as construction and manufacturing have recently. That’s an issue that affects white and black men in the same way. The difference seems to be in pursuit of education. When white, blue-collar men find themselves out of work, they’re more likely to have at least a high- school diploma to fall back on.

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a new work and a reprise

Felicia Lee speaks to Ntozake Shange and her sister, Ifa Bayeza, about their new co-written family saga Some Sing, Some Cry. Lee also talks to Shange about Tyler Perry’s film adaptation of For Colored Girls:

“For years, filmmakers talked about a movie version, but it came about courtesy of Mr. Perry, the writer and director of a successful string of films (and television series) about African-American life that some observers have criticized as clichéd and racially stereotypical. Much of his work has featured Mr. Perry in drag as the saucy matriarch Madea. Ms. Shange said she explicitly told Mr. Perry that Madea could not be in ‘Colored Girls’.”

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hey baby

I first bought an I-Pod mini so I could listen to music while working out at the gym. I had finally retired my portable CD player. Remember those? I had to rest it on the ledge of the treadmill or crosstrainer and hope it wouldn’t fall to the floor.

Now my I-Pod mini does double duty as a harassment blocker (or at least a blunter). I’d complain to friends that my walks through my Brooklyn neighborhood–on my way to yoga, the train, or the store–were always punctuated by lewd and sometimes aggressive remarks from men who loiter in front of buildings all day. And I have a swift gait! I navigate my ‘hood like most New Yorkers: walk with a purpose and keep my eyes straight. But neither haste nor sweaty gym clothes discourage random men from commenting about my appearance or body or suggesting that I smile.

Photo Credit:
Street harassment is a daily occurrence for most women and for queer and trans people. Last week, my friend sent me a link to this animated scenario of street harassment @ Jezebel. Yesterday, the Crunk Feminist Collective reprinted a poignant piece by Elizabeth Mendez Berry about the insidious trauma of street harassment. Sites like Stop Street Harassment and Holla Back host women’s stories and recommend empowerment strategies. Street harassment is so tied into our misogynistic culture that both women and men will have to work to make public spaces safe for women and men. My white ear buds may block out daily annoyances but they don’t always quell my anxiety and hypervigilance. I know as a woman who stakes a claim to public space–to my city, my neighborhood, and my stoop–that at its worst, street harassment can turn violent or deadly.

Stop Street Harassment recommends a multilayered approach to ending public harassment: educate, empower, raise awareness, and campaign. How do you address street harassment?

fashion in action

Young Women Stage “Fashion in Action!” Demonstration at New York Fashion Week

By Geneva S. Thomas

On September 9, the opening day of New York Fashion Week, a group of young Black women staged a silent demonstration. The 20-something ladies wanted to acknowledge the first time in their lifetimes that Essence magazine—a formidable Black women’s print beloved by scores Black girls for 40 years—does not have a Black fashion director.

continue reading @ Clutch

Photo Credit: Fashion photographer Marc Baptiste

for colored girls … the trailer

The actresses are fierce! To echo Ball, will Perry be enuf?