Amy Winehouse: We Lost One

Amy Winehouse was found dead on Saturday in her home in Camden, North London.  I fell instantly head over heels for her brassy, blues and jazz infused voice that sang songs of pain and frustration, lust and love.  What saddens me more than the loss of this talent to the world, are the reactions from media outlets and individuals who blame Winehouse for what has happened to her (even as the autopsy report is pending).

The news of her death sparked immediate head shakes of disappointment in the artist’s “wasted promises”, finger wags and twitter tags of “I knew it,” and for a few of us, feelings of deep sadness in the loss of life, a life which blessed us with music that spoke to our souls.  Known as “the crazy Amy Winehouse” to classmates, what seems clear both from the blues in her voice and the lyrics that she wrote was that melancholia had been a part of her life for a very long time.   The numbing affects and addictive nature of drugs and alcohol were an unfortunate combination which led to her inability to keep up the unrealistic endurance required to live life under the scrutiny of millions.  They also inhibited her from getting treatment, but I never once counted her out.  I had hoped she’d make it through the fire, like Chaka Khan has.

Though I cannot imagine Winehouse’s demons, in my life I have felt lost and depressed; have lived through times where I had no home, no anchor, and was lonely.  Having felt all those things, I know that it is only a blessing that I made it out, both physically and emotionally, intact.  That is not the experience of a great many of us, some of whom numb their unbearable pain with whatever will do the trick.  I feel blessed to have come out of my experience with understanding for those who live with the kind of depression that makes their body ache on the inside and that makes it nearly impossible for them to experience joy or happiness in the way that others do; understanding for those who live with addictions which are as mental as they are physical.

Blessed to have kept my capacity to be sensitive to the loss of life and sensitive to the mistreatment of others in life and in death.

Thank god tears dry on their own

Throwback with a Twist – Amber Rose: the Exploitation of Exoticism

I wrote this two years ago for another blog and I thought I’d share it here with a few twists.  It raises some questions that are still relevant.

Adapted from a November 1, 2009 post by “Doctor” Lane


This evening I was looking for videos and pictures concerning Black women’s sexuality, and was initially assaulted by a series of images and commentary where Black women were being discussed, but where we weren’t in the conversation.  In fact, our voices were no where to be found except where they were doing the police work of keeping Black women “in line.”  Very few voices other than those concerned with propriety seemed to exist, and I have problem with that.

I was on this search because I’m preparing a short lecture on the topic of Black women and our racist and sexist depiction.  After typing the first few names of pop cultural figures that came to mind, I came across photos of Amber Rose.  For the purposes of this post, I decided against reproducing  one of the many images of her in the nude or nearly nude in mostly men’s magazines, opting instead for the above photo where she dons more masculine attire.

For the October 2009 issue of Elle magazine Kanye West produced a photo with: Amber Rose.  I wasn’t impressed.  There are a couple back-shots reminiscent of King Magazine; territory I didn’t know Elle dabbled in, but which take on a particular (racist) character in the context of a predominately white, female readership of Elle. So what are the implications behind Elle producing these dramatically sexualized images of a Black woman?  The implications seem quite clear in the reader comments made on article that Elle writes about her.

Umm excuse does anybody know exactly what Ms. Rose if famous for other than her body and ability to wear anything that will draw stares or gasps from the world???? Pls tell me that she’s actually doing something worth talking about other than herself and advancing off of Kanye’s back. No one knew her or put her on a run-way or magazine to this extreme before she got with Kanye.. Can you say user!!! He is so lost, blind and must I dare say dumb to not see it for himself, lord get that man therapy for his mom has to be shaking her head.. I wish him all the best, but Ms. Rose your style is lets say differnent but no different from a high priced street walker with over exposure. America’s standards have lowered and ELLE I would’ve expected better!!” Posted by: t.p. 10/2/2009

although I did not care to notice at first, Amber has a really nice physique. Nice round, shapely butt cheeks, sensational handful (mouth full) of breast, and a style all her own. She is one lovely brownin’.” Posted by: Avtomat Kalas 10/21/2009

Even without knowing the race/ethnicity of the authors of the post, they reproduce the underlying racist/sexist assumptions concerning Black women’s sexuality, particularly its uncontrollable nature and its inappropriate uses.  The co-option of Black women’s bodies is systemic.

She’s a beautiful woman.  She’s mixed.  She dated Kanye West.  Why is there any doubt that she would be famous?   And would Kanye’s standards be higher if Rose hadn’t been out about previously dating women?  There’s something contradictory and problematic about the way that women can be used by men to elevate their status (Kanye) and then be damned for getting paid for their services.  Don’t blame the “street walkers”… instead think about the individuals and structures which make their services un/acceptable, possible, and necessary for their survival (Elle, Kanye West, racism, sexism, etc.).

Sesame Street… I Think You Love My Hair

I hadn’t seen this until a friend of mine shared it with me this morning. I got a little teary just thinking about how great an impact this could have on little girls. I would have loved to see this as a tot. I hated my hair for a very long time, and I still battle sometimes when looking in the mirror and then at the television.

At any rate, check out this amazing article from Ivy Onyeador, a senior in Yale Col­lege and staff writer for Yale’s feminist magazine Broad Recognition. I couldn’t say it any better if I tried.  She says,

Over the past year, pop­u­lar media has rolled out a slew of arti­cles and news spe­cials attack­ing black women, in par­tic­u­lar trum­pet­ing sta­tis­tics about low mar­riage rates. Arti­cle after arti­cle with titles like “Mar­riage eludes high-achieving black women”, “Sin­gle black women being urged to date out­side race”, “Why can‘t a suc­cess­ful black woman find a man?” and sim­ply “Blacks strug­gle with 72 per­cent unwed moth­ers rate” attempted to explain the “unmar­riage­able” black woman’s rela­tion­ship strug­gles. Expla­na­tions included the gen­der dis­par­ity in higher edu­ca­tion between black men and women, with far fewer black men grad­u­at­ing from insti­tutes of higher edu­ca­tion; “uppity” atti­tudes as a result this gap, sup­pos­edly result­ing in an unwill­ing­ness to cater to black men; a reluc­tance to date out­side their race and so on. The media assault went as far as to claim that half of all black women have her­pes! It was later dis­cov­ered that the sta­tis­tic actu­ally referred to the per­cent­age of black women in their sam­ple that had been exposed to the her­pes virus. By this point how­ever, the dam­age had been done, panic, shame and con­fu­sion erupted, and it’s unclear whether the clar­i­fy­ing piece received  as much atten­tion as the orig­i­nal statistic

 This is excerpted from At the “Whipping” Block: Popular Media and the Black Woman.   


Perpetuating the Myth: America is a “Post-Racial” Society

As a follow up to uncovering the undercover message in NBC’s Undercovers…. I know… I couldn’t help myself…

Here is Professor Kimberle Crenshaw echoing my sentiment that color-blind, post-racial discourse is toxic for America where we are still dealing with the residue of disenfranchisement of African Americans as well as the continual disenfranchisement of people of color, especially those who immigrate from the USA’s southern most border.

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/gdElgoC6LgI]

Thanks Laura Flanders.  We need people of all shades invested in this fight to end racism in this country and we can’t do it if we’re not allowed to bring up issues of race in public.

Perpetuating the Myth: America is a "Post-Racial" Society

As a follow up to uncovering the undercover message in NBC’s Undercovers…. I know… I couldn’t help myself…

Here is Professor Kimberle Crenshaw echoing my sentiment that color-blind, post-racial discourse is toxic for America where we are still dealing with the residue of disenfranchisement of African Americans as well as the continual disenfranchisement of people of color, especially those who immigrate from the USA’s southern most border.

Thanks Laura Flanders.  We need people of all shades invested in this fight to end racism in this country and we can’t do it if we’re not allowed to bring up issues of race in public.