Our communities are so proud and still abuzz, a-tingle and aglow over 16-year-old Gabby Douglas, who became the first African American to win Olympic Gold Medals in women’s gymnastics. Like a young superhero with a red, Black and green cape waving in the wind, defying gravity and physics while overcoming bigotry and ignorance with seemingly ancient poise and agility, the dazzling and phenomenally acrobatic Gabby Douglas took a quantum leap from Small Town, Virginia, across the Atlantic Ocean and over the astonished face of the moon, into the welcoming arms of international stardom to become the darling of the 2012 Olympics and the sweetheart of the nation and the world. And yet her hairstyle wasn’t good enough for some of her brown-eyed folks back home who made such a fuss about it on the internet that it made international news and headlines.
Our communities are so proud and still abuzz, a-tingle and aglow over 16-year-old Gabby Douglas, who became the first African American to win Olympic Gold Medals in women’s gymnastics. And yet her hairstyle wasn’t good enough for some of her brown-eyed folks back home who made such a fuss about it on the internet that it made international news and headlines.
This has been the most incredible year for stories about Black women and their hair. There is a grassroots natural hair movement throughout Pan Afrika that is reaching such epic 1970s-like proportions that there has been a worldwide media backlash on the virtues and vices of Black women wearing their hair natural, even in magazines and on talk shows. Outrageously, a number of culturally biased universities and workplaces throughout the country have banned the wearing of locks, twists and braids in the classroom and workplace.
The multi-billion dollar Euro-Asian Black hair care monopolies are in such a panic that they are now offering 99-cent perms and incredible discounts on weaves and other Black hair care products. Apparently they don’t want Black women to liberate their minds and take their heads back to Afrika, because this renewed Black consciousness is taking money out of their pockets.
And speaking of “good hair,” I was recently reading an article on page 66 of the September 2012 issue of Essence Magazine when I saw an article about which make-up should be used for the various shades of Black women’s skin, categorized as four major types: deep (whatever that means), dark, medium and fair-skinned Black women. Fair skinned!?! That phrase immediately gave me flashbacks to the 20th century when Black women were forced to pass the “brown paper bag test” in order to get into a party or function. If you were darker than a paper bag, you weren’t allowed in the party. Your skin wasn’t “fair” enough. In other words you must have some “white blood” in your skin, and it must be obvious for it to be fair.
Using that same criterion today, Michelle Obama, who recently made one of the greatest speeches by a first lady ever at the Democratic National Convention, wouldn’t have been allowed in those parties because her skin is not fair enough. And the same would be true for Olympic champions Gabby Douglas and Venus and Serena Williams.
Fair skinned!?! That phrase immediately gave me flashbacks to the 20th century when Black women were forced to pass the “brown paper bag test” in order to get into a party or function. If you were darker than a paper bag, you weren’t allowed in the party. Your skin wasn’t “fair” enough.
What is “fair skin” anyway? Is it possible to have ethical skin? Is “fair skin” well behaved, righteous and endowed with good judgment? In European fairy tales, a “fair maiden” is a beautiful girl. So in a world plagued by white supremacy, it is assumed that good hair is straight and like a white European’s hair. And thus the opposite, bad hair, must be curly, kinky and like Black Afrikan hair? And if fair skin is equated with that which is righteous, light, bright, beautiful and Snow White pure, then dark skin must be bad and ugly etc.
In my opinion the low point of the 2012 Olympics for Pan Afrikans was when sister Meseret Defar came all the way from East Afrika, the birthplace of Huemanity, and Ethiopia, the Black capitol of the world, traveled thousands of miles to London, England, ran the 5,000 meter race faster than any woman in the world and crossed the finish line balling her eyes out in triumph; then she collapsed to the ground and pulled out from her brassiere a picture of a white virgin Mary who, before a billion onlookers around the world, she attributed her victory to and gave all the glory. A Black girl giving all the credit to a white girl with good hair and fair skin!?!
How sad is it that millions of Black girls all over the world feel the same way. When they look into a mirror and say, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” their mirrors tell them the white girls with the good hair and fair skin are the prettiest. Their mirrors tell them that because society says it’s true, including many Black people in our own communities.
Which is why such an issue was made when a group of famous Black rappers, unworthy of being named here, proclaimed to the world earlier in the year that they prefer “fair skinned” women dancing in their music videos. Sadly this brown paper bag attitude has prevailed for Black dancers since the days of the Cotton Club in Harlem. Is there any wonder why we do not buy Black on purpose with all this self-loathing?
When I was growing up, I got teased and called “Blackie” so much I remember looking for salvation in Ebony, Jet, Essence, Sepia and Hue magazines and wishing I could purchase a jar of that Porcelana skin lightening cream advertised in Ebony.
I won’t go into it thoroughly in this note, but white male supremacy and Black inferiority is deeply coded in the English language. Do you really think it’s by accident that the word “angel” sounds very much like “anglo,” that Eve is sounded in the word evil, that a black cat is rumored to bring bad luck and that it’s not a good thing to be the black sheep of the family?
Even the world’s favorite movie, “Star Wars,” is nothing but a modern day remake of the racist propaganda film, “Birth of a Nation,” although the message is more subtle and subliminal: All the good guys in the movie wear white and all the bad guys wear black. And if that “white is good, black is bad” message doesn’t come through clear enough, the ultimate bad guy in the movie, Darth Vadar, has the distinct voice of a Black man, James Earl Jones. We’ve been “white maled!” Thank God for the ‘60s and ‘70s Black Power and Pride movements and for artists like James Brown who exorcized centuries of shame from our race with one song, “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud.”
White male supremacy and Black inferiority is deeply coded in the English language. Do you really think it’s by accident that the word “angel” sounds very much like “anglo,” that Eve is sounded in the word evil, that a black cat is rumored to bring bad luck and that it’s not a good thing to be the black sheep of the family?
Ironically, in most Ethiopian churches and many places in Europe and South America, a Black Madonna is worshiped. And the Pope secretly worships a Black Madonna in the Vatican. And when the Greeks first laid eyes on the Ethiopians they were amazed at how regal and beautiful and well mannered and behaved they were – hueman. So much so that they took the first four letters out of the word ETHI-opia and put it in the word “ethics,” the study of human behavior, and called it “ethical” to be like an Ethiopian. So how did we get it so twisted today that ethical is now associated with having fair skin and being like the least ethical people in the world?
We’ve been “white maled!” Thank God for the ‘60s and ‘70s Black Power and Pride movements and for artists like James Brown who exorcized centuries of shame from our race with one song, “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud.”
Black don’t crack, don’t wrinkle for 60 years; it absorbs the power and brilliance of the sun, moon and stars. And like phonographic records contain the music they are imprinted with, so your Black bodies and souls are imbued with the music of the spheres. Those deep tans that don’t fade give you your astral funk, your Black genius, rhythm, intuition, huemanity and musicality.
So if you are suffering from a Black inferiority complex, I recommend that you read at least two books about Black consciousness and self-empowerment and call me in the morning. Or better yet, call me not when you feel the need to say, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest …” but, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the blackest of them all?” And you answer the question and say it loud, “I’m 939,000 shades blacker than midnight … and I’m proud.”
And please don’t be senile like Clint Eastwood who, at the whitemare called the Republican Convention, was last seen talking to empty chairs. He grew up in Oakland but has shown little or no love for where he came from.
Please give back to your community. Be Black, buy Black, think Black and support the future Gabby Douglases of the world by voting every day with your dollars.
Business of the month: True Vibe Records
My choice for the Buy Black Wednesdays business of the month is True Vibe Records. True Vibe Records was founded by bass player, producer and then school teacher, Bill Jackson, in 2005. Bill had just gotten back from a trip to West Africa and was inspired to do something to commemorate his journey. Bill started to ask around seeking artists to fulfill his project of creating a CD.
He heard about and contacted me, Paradise, and the rest is Ourstory. Our first CD is called JazzFunkHipHoPoetry because these are the various forms of music and art I use when I rap, recite and perform and this is the kind of music and artistry True Vibe records incorporates. And each of the company’s first three records has incorporated JazzFunkHipHoPoetry in the title. The first album was called the “most important release of the year” by Bill Davis and Soul Patrol’s international internet radio show.
True Vibe Records is Oaktown based and aspires to be a new school Motown with old school musicality and artistry. The performers and artists are all locally based here in the greater Oakland-San Francisco Bay Area. The music and the artists are multigenerational, from young rapper Kalazay to internationally renowned crooner Rufus Wonder.
We pride ourselves in making music the whole family can listen, dance to and enjoy while being fed mental, spiritual and revolutionary soul food. We put the flavor of Motown and Malcolm X on wax. And our next album, “Mucho Mas: JazzFunkHipHoPoetry,” will be the best yet and aspires to bring the world and especially Black and Brown folk together to wage peace in our communities and “fight the power” and plague that is social injustice and oppression. You might call this a Black and Brown solidarity album but it’s so much more. It includes songs like “Uncle Sam is Going Broke,” “Aint Yo Mama Black” and more.
True Vibe Records is Oaktown based and aspires to be a new school Motown with old school musicality and artistry. We put the flavor of Motown and Malcolm X on wax.
The new CD will drop this month, October 2012, and may be sampled and purchased at www.trueviberecords.com. Great Black music is back.
Paradise is president of the International Black Writers & Artists Local 5 in Oakland and was recently honored by the City of Oakland with “Paradise Day,” on Oct. 6. Visit www.2012worldsfair.wordpress.com and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Paradise also facilitates the Buy Black Wednesdays Facebook page and group, hosts the Black Wednesday Show every Wednesday at 6 p.m. on www.harambeeradio.com and blogs at www.blackwednesdays.blogspot.com.