..is the title of an exhibit i (finally) got to see a couple of weekends ago. a mixed-media display of art exploring “representations of the Black woman in popular culture.”
well…this has been my thing for a long hot minute. so of course i was ecstatic to witness it. my homegirl jessica had a piece in it, as did 5 other black female artists. my favorite was a piece by omya alston that “unleashes a verbal assault” on the viewer by having us look at ourselves in a frosted mirror whose only reflective parts are offensive (at least to some) terms that are often leveled at black women in particular.
parts of my face were cut out by the words “ghetto bitch”, “project ho”, “punany for sale”, “video ho”, “slut”, “hoochie mama”, and “babymama” among many many others.
i was stunned. not just at the quiet verbal assault, indeed, of those words. but more at the number of them that were specifically about sexuality underscored by economics. i wish i could recommend the exhibit–it closed, unfortunately, before i could help get the word out about it.
with a mirror as the medium, those words could be attributed to any group–they stared everyone in the face. you literally had to strain to see who you were in that mirror amidst the clutter of denigrating terms. and even when you caught a glimpse of yourself, it was always within those words. god, now that i think of it, that mirror was like “hey, welcome to being a black girl.” i’d even go so far to say that this “mirror” is there whether we’re conscious of it or not.
regardless of your identities, it’d be difficult not to take the issue of black female oppression seriously when it’s all up in your face like that. it’s everyone’s problem and everyone can participate.
(oh, art rocks!)
i keep this exhbition in mind as the fracas ensues over radio personality don imus’ statements about rutgers female basketball players (“nappy headed hos” who look like the [male] “toronto raptors”). i doubt this will receive the attention of michael richards “n-word” incident, not that all of that was productive attention anyway. but it will be evidence of what is allowed toward black women, particularly in media and popular culture. as was the norbit movie. as is r. kelly’s “alleged” improprieties and pending court case.
one of the most unnerving things about imus’ words was the ease with which he accessed them. they were not simply mean, random words that popped in his head so much as they were tried and true ways of conceiving of black women.
as we figure out policies and actions to take against all of the above and all that is related, we really gotta figure out ways of how to have other things pop into folks’ head when they think of black women. you know, like complex, beautiful, intelligent and loving–the stuff that is actually true of us.
i, for one, am trying to get this r. kelly project jumping off again. what you gon’ do?