representation and colored girls

For Colored Girls … Is Representation Enuf?
by Christa Bell

The Tyler Perry film version of Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls opens this coming week. What better moment to consider the representation of black women in popular U.S. culture. Forgive us if we cringe in anticipation …

Continue reading @ Ms. blog

And while you’re over at Ms., check out “10 Things” to Know about Ntozake Shange and For Colored Girls by C. Davida Ingram.


hijacked and hackneyed?

Early reviews are in for Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls and, from what I glean so far, theyain’t good. I’m silencing much of the critical chatter about the film for the moment. While I have little to no faith in Tyler Perry’s ability to take an amazing piece of literature and a tribe of class “A” black actresses and make something remarkable, I want to be an informed and fair cultural critic.

I’ve said much of the same to my NYU students in our discussions about film adaptations of black women’s literature. I’m teaching a course on black women’s writing traditions that spans from Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl to Sapphire’s Push. I couldn’t help but notice that a number of books on our reading list have been adapted to screen: The Color Purple, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and now, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf (yes, the whole title is important).

If far more black women’s texts have been adapted to the screen than black men’s, it is likely due to the renaissance of black women’s literary production in the 1970s and 1980s (coupled with Oprah’s bankrolling of several book-to-film projects). But I’m also interested in the fact that (black) male directors seem to be at the helm of a number of these projects. I don’t think that only black women should head black women’s cultural productions. I would much rather a skilled director of whatever gender bring black women’s stories to screen. Unfortunately Hollywood privileges dollar signs over skill and, like it or not, Perry is one of the most lucrative black directors of all time.

Even more fascinating for me is the appeal of black women’s trauma stories to Lee Daniels and Tyler Perry. Both directors have disclosed experiences of abuse that informed their interest in Precious and For Colored Girls. Perry’s appearance on Oprah to recount his childhood sexual abuse, in the weeks leading up to the release of his film may be an effort to identify with black women’s sexual trauma. To be sure, black men’s literature seldom explores the sexual abuse of black boys. It is not unlikely, then, that Daniels, Perry, and other men may see their own experiences reflected in the stories of black women.

At the same time, Hollywood greenlights Tyler Perry’s film projects because they draw box office receipts. The events that led up to Perry taking charge of a film Nzingha Stewart was set to write and direct are fuzzy and while Stewart is credited as an executive producer on the project, I can’t help but wonder if the power Perry wields in Hollywood enabled him to hijack the film that he claim’s “chose him.”

Next week, I’ll be teaching Shange’s choreopoem and allowing her words to take hold of my students’ imaginations. Most of them have never read it. As the national release of Tyler Perry’s film approaches, I can only hope that others who haven’t heard the music in Shange’s words will read it along with us.

tyler perry’s new image with "for colored girls"

Madea Takes a Break, and Tyler Perry Gets Serious
by Brooks Barnes

LOS ANGELES — Is Tyler Perry capable of highbrow cinema? The studio behind his 10th movie is determined to make audiences and Oscar voters look beyond his track record and answer yes.

Mr. Perry is the most successful black filmmaker ever. His nine pictures — from the comedic romp “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion” to the melodramatic “Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?” — have brought in over $530 million at the North American box office. He also has an enormous business in stage shows and two television series on TBS.

But Mr. Perry — who writes, directs, produces and frequently stars in his films — also has a reputation as a one-man schlock factory. His movies are reviled by many critics, who complain that his original source material panders and stereotypes, while his directing is sloppy and unsubtle. Now comes “For Colored Girls,” an attempt by Mr. Perry to make a radical turn toward the art-house crowd.

continue reading @ The New York Times

a joyous case of whiplash

The Best Week Ever for Black Girls
by Veronica Miller

This week, a precocious and adorable 9-year-old premiered her first music video on cable television. At the same time, a two-minute clip from a classic children’s show went viral and won the hearts of many.

Continue reading @ NPR

black marriage negotiations

Black Marriage Negotiations Video Perpetuates Stereotypes and Ignores Context
By Rose

The video isn’t just bunk because it misuses the term “womanist,” a label meant to convey that black women’s emancipation cannot be achieved without black men and children also being fully equal in society. Simply stated, it’s another baseless attack on educated, professional, single, African American women who seek healthy partnerships with men. There are so many stereotypes about black women that this video affirms without providing any context, but perhaps the ones that sting the most are about sex and money.

Read more @ Feministing

don’t believe the hype

Don’t Believe the Media Hype … When it Comes to Black Women
by Charing Ball

As a black woman, I find it particularly odd that my lifestyle choices, finances and other habits are, all of the sudden, under the suspicious glare of the mainstream media spotlight.

If the media isn’t speculating on why as many as 70 percent of us are supposedly single, than it’s citing erroneous research on the various reasons we might not be able to get a man, including: our likelihood to catch an incurable STD, or our over-reliance on Jesus or why we are either undesirable or unlikely to date or marry outside of our race.

Read more @ The Atlanta Post

still no justice for civil rights-era rapes

“For many years, they tried to say that women were the cause of this, that (black) women wanted sexual activity. … It hasn’t been true, but the courts used that to justify not taking action on behalf of the women. It was very demoralizing to all of us.”

read more here

more on morehouse

Thinking about “The Mean Girls of Morehouse” from a different perspective, I’ve been wondering about transgender policies at single sex institutions. Do trans students have to be FTM (female to male) to attend a “men’s college” or does admission extend to women-identified men? What if the student transitions while matriculating? Would a female-identified (pre or post-op) be more accepted at a women’s college? And what about genderqueer or nonconforming students who identify as neither male or female (as is the case with some of the genderbending “plastics” at Morehouse)? Where do they belong? As biological and cultural gender identities become more fluid, non-sex-specific and single-sex colleges are being encouraged to address these changes on applications, in classrooms, and in very material ways, like ensuring that bathrooms and dormitories accommodate students of varying genders safely. The recent controversy over Morehouse’s “proper attire” extends beyond the clothing to the body itself. The policy in part reflects the homophobic culture that has long plagued Morehouse but the “dress code” also challenges us to reconsider our definitions of gender.

morehouse manhood mayhem

A year after the controversy surrounding Morehouse’s “Appropriate Attire Policy” and on the heels of a string of suicides committed by LGBT youth, Aliya S. King profiles former and current gender-bending students in “The Mean Girls of Morehouse” @ Morehouse president Robert Franklin lobbed a preemptive strike against the piece in his letter to alumni. One alumnus, R. L’Heureux Lewis hopes that King’s piece will spark necessary dialogues about fear, intolerance, and narrow definitions of manhood in black communities.

Having also attended an HBCU, I witnessed the silence surrounding sexuality firsthand. Students at my alma mater, Howard University, are mourning the death of Aiyisha Hassan, a nineteen year old whose struggle with her sexual identity caused her to take her own life. With the founding of the Coalition of Activist Students Celebrating the Acceptance of Diversity and Equality (CASCADE), Howard is beginning to address the issues that LGBT students face. Similarly Morehouse College’s Safe Space has increased awareness of homophobia on campus. Long perceived as safe havens from the racism of majority institutions, can black colleges provide spaces of belonging for our queer youth?

more on the occult of single black womanhood: the BBC doc

The BBC Plays Black Matchmaker
Dr. Jason Johnson

African Americans have been meeting, falling in love, getting married and having kids, and getting divorced and looking for love long before the BBC, CNN or any other media outlet decided to make Black matchmaking the stop gap story for a slow news day. And I’m pretty confident we will continue to do so without any outside help. Besides, what’s so wrong about 30-plus Black women continuing to explore their options until they find Mr. Right? When white women do that, it’s celebrated to the tune of five seasons and two Hollywood movies of Sex and the City.

continue reading