Category Archives: BlackGirlsRock

I’m Insecure & Queer: The Importance of Visibility & Big Dreams with Even Bigger Plans

I’ve been glued to Issa Rae since The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl. I was in the early years of college or maybe late years of high school, I don’t really remember now. I do remember being glued to my computer screen thinking, “Oh shit! She knows my life!”. I loved everything about Issa, her style, her awkwardness, her confidence, her work. The joy I felt at watching not only that series, but the appearance of a whole YouTube Channel eclipsed anything else that I might have wanted to watch. My friends and I would call each other up or message each other post episode drop, “Oh snap girl, she finally gave White J some!” and we would launch into laughter and recalling of our own lives, sighing in relief that we finally were feeling and being seen. It wasn’t just a dream. There was nothing to wake up from.

When Insecure was finally announced on HBO, I remember doing a happy dance in my bedroom. I had moved on from being a semi-awkward Theater & Africana student to a semi-confident Education Intern at one of the best theater companies in the US and yet still felt like so many things were missing. I was one of the very few people of color in most spaces, including my living space and I was hungry. I oftentimes found myself in situations with either queer men of color who could and would shut me down and desire my silence or with white women who wanted to empathize but not actually do any work required for change. These people all wanted change to happen at a comfortable pace for them, but I needed to see and speak with people in the entertainment world who looked like me and who were visibly making change. I needed to know that it was possible, that all of it was possible. I didn’t have to choose between being an actor and writer. I didn’t have to only put down director or producer on my resume. But at the same time, I didn’t have a black theater/film fairy godmother to guide me along. So I looked to Issa. Issa always got me through. The first episode of Insecure, Season 1 found me hunched in front of my computer screen yet again, and having finished an entire bottle of wine, I don’t remember much, but I do remember screaming “TAKE THAT LENA DUNHAM!” and then falling off to sleep. As Season 1 rolled into Season 2, I continued to watch, joy filling me at the fact that the 20s are just messed up and I’m just normal and that black people look gorgeous in all shades, sizes, sexual positions and hilarious anecdotes.

But still, in all of that visibility and glorious blackness, messiness and realness something was always missing for me. I’m Black, Womxn, Queer, Pansexual and Polyamorous and I want to make work that highlights the art, realness, and humanness of the spaces that I find myself in. Most often, the shows and web series that I find center either white women or drama. The L Word, was the first show that I watched that featured queer women. I remember sitting in front of the computer in college thanks to Netflix and binge watching The L Word. Although it made me feel invisible because of my blackness, it made me feel seen because of my queerness. I’m not saying that the world of queer womxn of color isn’t dramatic, cuz it certainly can be at times, but people don’t need to be murdered for a following to build. So then, what’s the point?

The point is that visibility is possible in all it’s variables. We already know that POC make money. No one wants to see all white anything anymore unless it’s the Bordelons dressed in all white on Queen Sugar (Cuz that was black people magic on all levels). But the thing about production that bothers me is the who. No matter what, are we always engineered by white men because they are the ones with the bank? Literally. How many Oprah’s and OWN Networks are there? Right now? Oprah. That’s it. She’s got it. But even in that, there’s a closed door. I love Oprah, but Oprah isn’t queer, poly or foregoing the idea that GOD isn’t the end all be all for the black community. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up going to church, but at this point in my life, I choose to believe that there’s a lil bit of truth in everything but that doesn’t mean that I have to subscribe to it. So what’s next?

I’ve made it my mission to center varying art forms alongside black, womxn, and queer. I know that’s what I want to see. So why not make it? It’s hard. My biggest obstacle so far is capitalism. I need a team. I want a team. I want to work with artists who are just as hungry as I am. But most of the time, that means money and at 20 something, who has money? But where there’s a will, there’s a way. Right? If that’s my only obstacle, then I’m doin pretty damn well. I also want to highlight theater.

I don’t work loudly. I work mostly in silence. You don’t see that I’m doing work until the work is done. So often, my friends and I sit and dream and plan for our future world where there’s artist housing that’s cheap, studios to work in that houses various forms of art and a collective of beautiful people that just get us. Isn’t that the dream? As good as all this visibility and dreaming feels, how good will it feel when we finally get further along in our process? Maybe that’s the whole point. That it’s never ending and each moment is in fact a process to be savored. I used to say, “I’m the next Oprah”. Now, I simply say that I’m the best version of me, day to day, I’m working towards elevation and building and creation and art.

Thank you Issa for pushing me to be better. Thank you for being visible. I may never meet you and you may never read this, but know anyway, you’ve helped more than one black womxn to find her purpose, just by being you.

 

Love Always,

 

Damali Speaks Xx

Follow Me on Social Media:

Instagram: @blackgirlhope
YouTube/SoundCloud: Damali Speaks

 

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Learning Liberation: Week 3 – On Abuse

“Hit me and it’ll be the last thing you do.” I saw my father hit my mother one time. I was young, maybe 3 or 4. Previous to that moment, I had watched them fight only verbally. They would spar with words like boxers before a long awaited fight, ducking and dodging each others’ blows, some landing with fierce force and others just glazing and narrowly missing the tender skin of their face or neck. The one time I remember physical blows being exchanged, she went after him with a bat, the cops were called and I remember her saying that if a man or woman ever hit me, I had full permission from God above to beat them to within an inch of their life. They probably don’t remember this moment themselves, or maybe they don’t remember that I remember. It’s funny what sticks in a child’s brain, isn’t it?

How do we, keep ourselves safe in a world marked with active bombs ready to detonate at any minute? Maybe the bigger question, concerning the reality that black womxn are currently being killed at higher rates than anyone else in the United States, is how do I as a part of that targeted group, preserve my mental, physical and spiritual self in the midst of a war?  Today’s topic is on the many forms of abuse that are slowly killing black and brown women in the world and how we maintain our selfhood in the midst of it all.

I didn’t think it would ever happen and so I didn’t think I would ever have anything to worry about. I also didn’t ever think that I would experience any kind of abuse. But as I grew older and first physical, followed by sexual, then on to emotional and secured by verbal abuse arrived into my innocent bubble of comfort, I realized that abuse is insidious and can take many forms. It makes me heartbroken to realize that my truth isn’t singular. So many of my black womxn peers have experienced the same and worse across boundaries of sexual orientation and gender identity. Just as black men are guilty, so are other people. Domestic violence happens so often in queer relationships. Let’s not forget it.

I was in college when I discovered the writing of Pearl Cleage and her essay called “Mad at Miles”. In it, she talks about black men and women who were known abusers, mainly Miles Davis, but also including Bill Withers and even more.  How is it that Pearl Cleage can write about so many forms of domestic abuse in 1975 and it still rings so true in 2017?

The idea for this post came from a bar in New Orleans. I sat and enjoyed the music being played until “Use Me” by Bill Withers was played. I stopped and my blood turned cold. I wondered if he had written the song after beating a fellow sister, or maybe after she left him, refusing to be continually abused by someone who claimed to love her unconditionally.  As “Use Me” played on, I thought about what a cosmic oddity it was that I, a black queer woman could dance and enjoy this tune written by a man that would and could have easily beat me into submission before I could have ever enjoyed the loud and yet lilting sounds brought forth by black struggle. 

In this week of approaching and now waning eclipse energy, I thought a lot about what it is to be a black womxn that is healthy, centered and working. If I don’t have my mental, psychological state in check, I can work all I like and make no headway at all. In order to thrive, I have to first establish my center, my groundedness, my spiritual self, my emotional well-being, etc. How often do fellow black women allow ourselves the space and time to self care? How often do we even get the time to evaluate? It may seem cliche, but it’s necessary. If we don’t put ourselves first, how can we hope to move forward? Black womxn have always been the background of movements here in the United States and elsewhere. Without us, there would be no past, present or future and yet we’re dying at higher rates. Black womxn are the most likely to be sexually assaulted, abducted and  abused starting at younger and younger ages. How do we distinguish foe from friend?

Abuse isn’t always obvious. I do think that it comes in many forms and facets that may actually be difficult to spot and even harder to call out. I do think that it’s easier to approach abuse if I truly love myself. When I truly do care about my own investment in self and security, I can choose to truly engage with the best and worst parts of myself from balance while at the same time, choosing the best that I see in others who only mean me well and not ill. I choose to actively engage in self care and moments that speak to the best parts of my soul and reality.

The narrative isn’t that we’re victims. I don’t wish to bring forth energy that says that we all must pity the black womxn her plight. I want us to mobilize for black womxn like we do for black men. I want us to engage with the problematic and hurtful narrative that keeps vulnerability from entering a conversation honestly and openly. I want to talk openly about toxic masculinity, misogyny, and patriarchy that result in the emotional crippling of both black men and womxn in our communities. We can’t talk uplift until we talk unlearning.

Damali Speaks Xx

She Ain’t My Wonder Woman: The Problematics of White Feminism and Film

Hey Speakerz! Another Monday, with more material. Most recently, there’s been tons of buzz around the DC comic turned film “Wonder Woman“. The film is the first in history to feature a woman superhero as a lead role and while some have fallen madly in love with the idea of a sword wielding woman taking no stuff, others have felt once again left out of the narrative. Why? Well because Wonder Woman in her fullness has always been a white feminist ideal, even from her inception. So before we delve in, let’s take off our hats of fragility, look at the facts and remember that equality should not come one gender, race, or social construct at a time. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Where did Wonder Woman begin and how? Her first appearance was in DC All Star Comics #8 in October of 1941. She was created by two white men by the names of William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter. The character modeled after the women suffragists of the turn of the century, namely Margaret Sanger, a white woman who like her peers fought for birth control, the sterilization of black women and refused to see past any other fight than that of white womanhood. Don’t believe me? Ask google. It’s factual. Since her inception, Wonder Woman has been given a more muscular look by yet another male artist, George Perez and declared bi-sexual in an effort to give her a broader span of audience.

Wonder Woman, or Diana Prince, as is her civilian name is an Amazon Princess from Themyscira located on mystical and magical Paradis Island. I’m gonna take a guess and if they call themselves Amazons, then they’re located deep in the Amazon Rainforest which is in South America which has the largest population of Black and Brown people outside of the continent of Africa due to the TransAtlantic Slave Trade, but I suppose that in the world of Comics that’s not so.

The thing that makes me question the most isn’t the factual evidence of Wonder Woman as a problematic source. What makes the question is the reaction to her. Are women, specifically white women,  so hungry for representation that they’ll take anything thrown in their way? This leads me back to a post I made a while ago about Nate Parker’s “Birth of a Nation” and the support given to him despite the fact of the one dimensional rape narrative that he presented in more ways that just the film. Being desperate brings about a terrible reality. We will accept anything presented even at the expense of someone else’s humanity. She ain’t my wonder woman because I don’t see any of myself reflected in her but also because she represents everything oppressive that I as a young, black, queer, lower middle class woman has ever known. Even if she isn’t oppressive to you, the fact that I am oppressed and expressing that reality should make a person think twice. If not…why? Why do you not question? Why do you not stand with me in my hurt, even though you will never understand?

Overwhelmingly, the film industry is still run by the rich, white and male. I could say many things about this, but let’s focus on the reality that the male gaze is still in complete control. So no. The film will not feature a complete adherence to all annihilation of privilege. It will have the male gaze because it is still engineered by and for the male gaze even in it’s seeming progressiveness.  What does it look like to completely band with fellow frustrated sisters? It is as though we are all still attempting to get into the “club” that wasn’t made for us in the first place. The “club” exists because someone is on the inside and the outside. It wouldn’t be the “club” if everyone was accepted. What poison do you wish to consume?

I shouldn’t have to convince you of my worth, even if I am well aware of my own self worth in this world. It isn’t this hard. Embrace all of our humanity. Embrace ALL of the Wonder of Women, not just those engineered to satisfy.

Love Always,

Damali Speaks Xx

Talk to the Cat – Woke Diaries: I Am Not Your Negro Review

Hey Speakerz!

Welcome to Talk to the Cat – Woke Diaries! This week’s review is on the documentary “I Am Not Your Negro”. Watch, enjoy, share and let me know how you feel!

Love Always,

Damali Speaks Xx

Meaning-Filled Meditations: On Choices

Hey Speakerz! 

You know it’s our Friday episode time! Today’s episode is about choices! How we make them? Why? When? & all the goodness! 

Enjoy!


Love Always,

Damali Speaks Xx