Writing Black Feminism

ImageThis week a list has gone viral on Facebook, at least among several of my friends. The readers among us have been exchanging 9, 10, or even 20 novels or essays that have moved us in some way. Of course for a literature professor, condensing valuable texts to a concise list is nearly impossible. But in the spirit of year-end list making, here are 10 Black Feminist Novels that have stayed with me (in no particular order):

1. Toni Morrison’s Sula

2. Nella Larsen’s Passing

3. Audre Lorde’s Zami

4. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun

5. Ann Petry’s The Street

6. Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions

7. Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (not a novel, but …)

8. Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy

9. Alice Walker’s Meridian

10. Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who’ve considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf

What black feminist works continue to inspire you?

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High on Love

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad Forest Whitaker stretched his acting chops in The Butler and am looking forward to seeing Steve McQueen’s Twelve Years a Slave. I think all facets of American history and black people’s central place in it deserve to be represented. It’s especially important to remember those things that many would choose to forget.

And yet, the recent slate of black films about black trauma and servitude has made me slightly war weary. “Somebody, anybody make a film about middle class black folks doing ordinary things!” I even find myself counting down the days to the premier of The Best Man Holiday.

This past week, the film gods finally intervened. Shaka King’s feature debut Newlyweeds was showing at The Charles. I hadn’t heard about the film and even if I had, I’m not sure I would’ve paid money to see a “stoner dramedy,” not even one praised by Sundance. The promise of a Wire reunion whet my curiosity though: the film’s executive producer is Gbenga Akinnagbe (The Wire’s “Chris Partlow”) and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (“Senator Clay ‘sheeeeet’ Davis”) and Hassan Johnson (“Wee-Bey”) have parts in the film. Plus, it’s shot in Bed-Stuy!

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But even more than my desire to nostalgize over Brooklyn, my need to see something black and clever and funny drove me to the theater. And I’m glad it did. Newlyweeds is much more than a stoner film. And while it’s hilarious, it also has an undercurrent of melancholy. Amari Cheatom (“Lyle”) and lovely newcomer Trae Harris (“Nina”) are high on love and weed. Eventually their enjoyment of the latter threatens their relationship and their futures. It manages to be a cautionary tale without turning into an afterschool special. But most of all, it’s refreshing. It’s not a typical “black film,” a stagey romance, or your usual stoner comedy. The combination of King’s keen imagination and dark sense of humor; Harris and Cheatom’s unaffected performances; and Daniel Patterson’s gorgeous cinematography make it a must-see, especially for black indie lovers.