50 Shades of BLACK vs. 50 Shades of HUMANITY

The title 50 Shades of Black is a word play. What is often lost in the word play is its reference to sexuality. A major function of our platform is to examine the ways in which both sexuality AND race are constructed and the similar ways in which they are regulated, made exotic, placed into a structural hierarchy. We seek to explore the intersection of both as well as the ways in which normative views are established and maintained. Both represent a spectrum of identities and both represent real life people like you and me who are trying to make sense of those identities in a very narrowly defined framework. It started off with voices of people who see themselves as and identify as black. The spectrum was unbelievable.

It moved quickly to include voices of people from India and other Asian countries, Brazil, and varying African countries who offered insight into the global influence of skin tone in the shaping of identities across the world and in hetero-normative views. The closer you fit patriarchal, heterosexual, european, Christo-centric norms in look, actions, belief, the better you faired across the globe. We see ourselves as contributors to a nuanced conversations about identity formation in the world.

Because "Black" is stigmatized and, based on the framework and construction of race (as opposed to identity), is often marginalized, we seek to affirm black identity...across the spectrum of the diaspora and among the many people who seek to align themselves with it. We also seek to affirm the LBGTQ community. "There can be no hierarchy of oppression".  At the intersection of sex and race is a depth of assumptions about masculinity and femininity and, believe it or not, the assumptions are different based on shade AND sexuality. 

When we established our signature empowerment campaign and called it beautiful in every shade, it was b/c of how clear it was made through the stories that we received that people didn't believe it to be true. Now in incremental ways, people who identify ALL KINDS OF WAYS are appreciating the ways in which we are working to critically examine AND affirm.

Someone asked why don't you change it to 50 Shades of Humanity then?

I'll change the name to 50 Shades of Humanity when people find it as easy to say Black as they do Humanity.

Carlton Mackey
Creator of 50 Shades of Black

Posted on May 7, 2014 and filed under activism, blog, LGBT.