Posts filed under race

Fahamu Pecou Connects Social Justice and Pop Culture with Talking Drum

50 Shades of Black featured artist Fahamu Pecou is on fire...and he's setting every platform that he touches ablaze.  In a Boss move by the Center for Civil and Human Rights, the organization sought to maintain its relevancy to the community by connecting with one of the city's most relevant artists.

 Photo by Jeoff Davis

Photo by Jeoff Davis

 

‘Talking Drum’ puts social justice on blast 

Fahamu Pecou’s Center for Civil and Human Rights exhibit speaks, sings, shouts

By Jacinta Howard

What is an artist's responsibility with respect to social change?

Fahamu Pecou poses the question from inside his cozy Inman Park art studio. It's a question that seems inevitable given the world's current political and social climate. Pecou, who is wearing a college sweatshirt bearing American author/activist James Baldwin's name, smiles when the inquiry is lobbed back at him.

"I don't have an answer," he admits. "That's part of the beauty of it. What's that saying — the best destination is the journey? To ask the question is to begin to answer it. If we're thinking about it, then we can begin to act on it."

COMPLETE ARTICLE HERE

Posted on January 26, 2016 and filed under activism, art, blog, Masculinity, race.

MLK: A REVOLUTION OF THE MIND AND HEART

I believe Dr. King wanted folk to actively engage in a process of reformulating the way they thought and felt about themselves. In a society where your ancestors had been enslaved, in a society where you couldn’t vote, it’s not hard to see how people might begin to think of themselves as secondclass citizens. It’s not hard to see how people might begin to think of themselves as inferior to other members of society. So I believe the first step in the Civil Rights Movement was revolutionizing the mindset of Black folks. It was about getting people to see and understand themselves in a new light. Therefore, I believe that certain aspects of the Black Power Movement were essential in advancing King’s efforts. What was required was a movement that would raise the consciousness of a generation. Black people needed to see themselves for who they were and not simply for how they were being treated. Black people had to see themselves as people worthy of more, as people who were more, and as people who must not wait, who must not waiver, and who must be willing to sacrifice much. People had to incrementally begin to see their own strength. King, in his own way, but much like the Black Power Movement, had to be the herald of the banner that said “Black is beautiful.” -cm

Published in HOSPITALITY (June 2015) Vol. 34, No. 5 << Click to Download full article

The Open Door Community is a residential community in the Catholic Worker tradition (sometimes called a Protestant Catholic Worker House). We seek to dismantle racism, sexism and heterosexism, abolish the death penalty, and proclaim the Beloved Community through loving relationships with some of the most neglected and outcast of God’s children: the homeless and our sisters and brothers who are in prison.

Posted on January 18, 2016 and filed under activism, blog, history, race, religion and culture.

Her Name: Kim King

One year after the death of Kim King, Hands Up United leads a vigil to Say Her Name & Ask: Who Killed Kim King.

IN BROAD DAYLIGHT: Tribute by Dontey and Bud Cuzz of Lost Voices - Saint Louis, MO
---


September 19, 2014 Kim King, a 21 year old and mother of 2 was arrested for a street fight by the city of Pagedale.  Kim had traffic warrants which caused her to be held by the Pagedale PD. The city of Pagedale along with St.Louis county said Kim King hung herself with a T shirt within 10 minutes of her being in the cell.

A year later and we are still asking the same question. ‪

#‎WhoKilledKimKing‬

50 Shades of Black reporting from Saint Louis.

Posted on September 23, 2015 and filed under activism, art, community, feminism, race.

I AM SHAUN KING. Question Him. Question Me.

I Am Shaun King. Question him. Question me. Question every light-skinned African American you see. I’m sure you might learn some enlightening HISTORY.

I Am Shaun King.

Wow! I can‘t believe this. For a few days I’ve been following all of the media craziness surrounding my good friend Shaun King. Shaun is an outspoken activist whose race has been recently questioned. Is he black? Is he white? Is he a race fraud? Did he lie to get a scholarship? Is he Rachel 2.0?

Ever since the Rachel Dolezal ordeal I cannot count how many times I, myself, have been jokingly asked:

1.     Can you show me your race card?

2.     Let me see your birth certificate?

3.     Who are your parents, really?

4.     Are you really black?

5.     I’ve always wondered about you…

Shaun and I went to Morehouse College together. We were members of the largest class to ever enter this historic HBCU. I still remember meeting Shaun for the first time. He shook my hand, looked into my eyes and said ‘hello brother’ with the quiet confidence and energy that one would expect from a world leader. Literally, from the instant I made his acquaintance I knew this man was destined for greatness. He was special and I knew it. Shaun and I shared something unique.  It was something I wrote about in my 50 Shades of Black (Volume I) story titled, “Red Bone with Blue Eyes.”  My story in 50 Shades of Black reignites the issues I had growing up as a light-skinned African American child. Some of these painful memories I had repressed for many years.

 

My daughter Addison is a spitting image of me as a child. She is called “beautiful” on a daily basis. Thirty years ago my look was called, “weird.”  Growing up in Pensacola, FL during the 80’s and 90’s I was the victim of constant verbal abuse and often provoked into fights. I had to prove my blackness to my own African American community. Yes, I was a pretty popular kid. That’s how most of my classmates probably remember me, but there was a part of my life, my horror, lurking in the shadows. I remember waiting for the bus after school and receiving a tip that I was about to get ambushed. For a while I started sneaking to get on the bus first so that I would not be subjected to hateful words or bullying.  A student once cornered me in the bathroom with a knife. Many of my friends (lets just call some of them acquaintances) would say to me that I thought I was better than them because I was lighter...that I thought I was more intelligent...that I was the teacher’s favorite because of my skin. I was called a reverse Oreo cookie just because of my appearance and because I had friends of all races.

 

The verbal abuse did not end with kids from school; there were adults that took part in this foolishness as well. “That can’t be your dad? What are you? Where did you come from? What’s wrong with your hair? I wish I had your fair skin color. You’re going to make some pretty babies one day.”  A lot of this pain led to my search for a racial identity. It has shaped the person I am today and the sensitivity I have as a photographer.

 

 Photo of Shaun King by Ross Oscar Knight

Photo of Shaun King by Ross Oscar Knight

In August 2008, I photographed Shaun. He needed portfolio images to use for his ministry, The Courageous Church, as well as other endeavors. We shared stories about Morehouse, our family, and our future. It was like we were two brothers plotting a world takeover. Since then, Shaun has supported all of my international trips and in 2010, he gave me the opportunity to visit Haiti. My images of Shaun and his projects have been used around the world in magazines/books and on television.

 

I know Shaun as an honest person who stops at nothing to help people (cue hopemob.com). You can’t hold him back from achievement. That only fuels his passion to make a greater difference in the world. He has constantly used his voice and influence for justice. He has risked his life to create positive change. He doesn’t just start conversations about race; he is the conversation about race. 


"He doesn't just start conversations about race; he is the conversation about race."


Ever since his involvement in the #blacklivesmatter movement, he has been under constant scrutiny. He is facing a character assassination in the media. His race and his intentions have been taken into question. I know him and I’m just not having that!!

Although he didn’t have to respond to the attacks, Shaun decided to explain his painfully private story:

Race, love, hate, and me: A distinctly American story

 

I Am Shaun King. Question him. Question me. Question every light-skinned African American you see. I’m sure you might learn some enlightening HISTORY.

---

50 Shades of Black examines the complex role Sexuality and Skin Tone play in the formation of Identity.

 

Ross Oscar Knight is a photo-culturalist,  Owner of Ross Oscar Knight Photography, and Co-Director of 50 Shades of Black

Posted on August 21, 2015 and filed under current events, Identity, personal stories, press, race, skin tone.

THE TALK: 10 Heartbreaking Instructions To Stay Alive if Confronted by Police

Dear son,

As your father, I feel there are some very important things that I must tell you right now.  Many of them may seem totally contradictory to things I’ve told you in the past but I need for you to listen carefully and do everything exactly as I tell you.  It breaks my heart to tell you this, but it seems apparent from recent events that these measures are what are required to ensure you stay alive if confronted by police.

If you are ever pulled over by police:

1)   Avoid Extended Direct Eye Contact

Yes. I know son. I always tell you to look each person you encounter directly into their eyes as a sign of mutual respect for yourself and as a way to acknowledge the other individual’s shared humanity, but this is a different encounter...and you are black. Because of the confidence you have in who you are, your extended direct eye contact will force an officer to immediately grapple with their own fears and insecurities.  They need to feel in control of the situation, and that they have an upper hand.  Eye contact for too long may be interpreted as a) a challenge or b) a threat…and these are bigger crimes than anything you were stopped for.

Direct eye contact may force an officer to immediately grapple with their own fears and insecurities


2)   Say Yes Sir - No Sir 

Yes. I know son.  Your mom and I don’t require it nor do your teachers.  But (pause, deep breath), I guess police officers think they need more formal signs of "respect" than even your father.  Never say “yeah,” and if the answer to one of their questions is “No” and you forget to say (or can’t make yourself say) “No Sir” DO NOT say “No” with any intonation or with any emphasis.  Saying “Yeah” or “No” may be interpreted as a) a challenge or b) a threat…and these are bigger crimes than anything you were stopped for.

Police Offices think they need more formal signs of respect than even your father.


3)   Don't Ask Why

Yes. I know son. I taught you to question everything.  I know that even when you are in trouble with me you are always allowed to ask questions because I feel you entitled to know why you are in trouble.  But (long pause, suppresses anger) you are not to expect the same level of respect by police you are shown at home.  Sandra Bland asked why she was asked to step out of the car and why she was being arrested 14 times and the officer's response was get out of the car or "I'll light you up". I don't want this to be you.  It seems that asking ‘Why’ may be interpreted as a) a challenge or b) a threat…and these are bigger crimes than anything you were stopped for.

You are not to expect the same level of respect by police you are shown at home.


4) Ask for Permission

If asked for license and registration, ask for permission to reach and get them.

Yes. I know son.  They just asked for it and asking them for permission to do what they just asked you for sounds crazy but because your license will inevitably be in your pocket and your registration will likely be in your glove compartment, you will need verbal affirmation.  Reaching to grab either one without this verbal affirmation may be interpreted as a) a challenge or b) a threat…and these are bigger crimes than anything you were stopped for.


DEAR GOD, I PRAY YOU NEVER NEED THE FOLLOWING RULES

 

5)   Open Door Using Outside Handle and Move Slowly

If you are ever asked to get out of the car, slowly show both of your hands and open the door using the OUTSIDE handle.  Looking down and reaching for the car door on the inside may be interpreted as reaching for something else.

Please make sure every move you make is slow from this point forward. 

*You are about to enter very dangerous territory. 

Once an officer sees your entire body, they will begin to IMMEDIATELY hone in on your physical attributes and no matter what your size is, your physical presence alone, as a black man, will somehow pose an immediate threat…and this is a bigger crime than anything you were stopped for.

Your physical presence alone as a black man will somehow pose an immediate threat.


6) Raise Both Hands Above Your Head

Yes. I know son. You have no idea why you were stopped or what you are being asked to step out of the car for but if you find yourself at this point it is of CRITICAL importance that you do exactly what I say.


7)   Bite Your Tongue

While you are being frisked do not move and do not say a word unless you are asked a question.  If you are inappropriately touched, or groped, or if your genitals are fondled, please Son, do not react in anger.  If you say, “What the hell are you doing?” or “Don’t touch me” like Eric Garner or move suddenly or kick or even snatch away from these violating gestures, your life is now certainly at risk because it is already evident by their actions that you are dealing with an individual who is now intentionally trying to provoke you (because up to this point, you have literally done everything right).


8)   Let Them Cuff You

If they attempt to put cuffs on you, let them.

Yes. I know son.  Your heart will be beating fast.  You will be afraid.  You have never been in this position before.  You will be angry.  You will be confused.  You will be embarrassed.  But PLEASE DO NOT LOSE FOCUS!  If you turn to your emotions now, anything that comes out of your mouth or any movement of your body will bee seen as a threat and WILL BE met with violence.  Please son, hear me!


9)   Remain Silent

You are being arrested and though you may feel as if you have been wronged and your rights violated, this may be the only right you have left.


10)   Know That I Love You

No matter what the situation is. No matter if you turned without a signal or not.  No matter what they said to you or what they did to you or how they made you feel or your sense of helplessness or how stupid you think I was for making you follow all these rules to only end up in jail.  No matter how much the “burden” of your blackness may make you want to wash it all off.  No matter how much confusion comes flooding your mind, know that I am proud of you.  Know that you are a man even if you don’t feel like one right now.  Know that your dignity is not something anyone else determines. 

Know that hate is rooted in fear and fear is rooted in ignorance and ignorance is rooted in being too arrogant to learn and arrogance is rooted in privilege and privilege is the direct result of a well crafted, calculated, systemic plan initiated many years ago to build a wealthy independent empire…and empires don’t work if everyone benefits equally.  Though privilege itself doesn’t make a person bad, it is a very difficult thing to let go of or to use constructively…particularly if there is no acknowledgement of its existence in the first place.

And since "Power" is the bastardization of Authority, it is the most abused privilege of all…with the harshest consequences.

 

But Love.

The love I have for you.

The love we have for each other

can overcome this situation, Son.

Don't do anything now to harm yourself.  

I am coming to bring you home.

And you have permission to be angry when you get there.

And you have permission to cry.

I am crying right now.

May our collective tears serve as baptism

And may we emerge from the water with clearer vision for what to do next

To restore justice
To dismantle this system and its “empire” ideology that put you through this to start with. 

Pick your head up.  Let’s work. 

I love you son. 

---
Carlton Mackey

Director of the Ethics & the Arts Program at the Emory University Center for Ethics
Creator of BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE™ and its signature project 50 Shades of Black 

BLACK AMERICANA VOL 1: Amore of the Diaspora

Amore of the Diaspora

As an artist and scholar I want to redefine and re-appropriate Black Americana to reflect, and highlight the positive contributions of people of African decent in the Americas and through out the diaspora. The first installment of the project or BLACK AMERICANA: Volume One explores relational dynamics between black men and black women at various points within the African American historical timeline looking to quantify and establish what it took for one black man to love one black woman in the past and what it takes now and cast vision for it will take generations to come. My hope is to create a body of work that encourages healthy dynamics within the Black nuclear family and helps us identify with the love that sustains us in our darkest moments and inspires us during our best, and brightest. The mixed media creative work spans multiple creative platforms, including a coffee table book of fine art photography, scholarship and documented accounts of the lives and love of real black American couples and includes contributions of notable visual artist of color selected by myself working together to expand and nuance the conversation around the legacy of Black American’s, exploring both the pain and pride in our collective stories.

Using the same two subjects, myself and Atlanta based artist, activist, and cultural influencer Devan D. Dunson we seek to embody the "black lovers” who meet at pivotal moments within black history and various meta moments within black consciousness. Visually and creatively placing ourselves in the shoes of our ancestors, experiencing and connecting with truths and moments they endured and discovering "the love" over and over again. Let our collective knowledge of black history, esteem and honor for the countless black couples and families who’s love stories are the foundation for our own be increased as we unearth the SUBSTANCE and fiber of our communal connection. What it is that binds and bonds us as a community, as brothers and sisters, as man and woman? What is the soul, spirit and dynamic power of black love? So few of us are taught, have modeled or EVER really get to experience what LOVE looks and feels like when its healthy because "our love" story has had to unfold in the midst of injustice, poverty and a racially toxic society, to me the art and the artist are one, as I seek to unlock and creatively express what is contained in my own heart, my own pride and pain found, I hope to heal and celebrate the beauty and spirit of "our stories" and find the “love" in our legacy.  

-Tanisha Lynn Pyron


TAXI! -On Being a Black Woman Catching a Cab Ride In Cuba

 Photos and Text by The Travel Guru

Photos and Text by The Travel Guru

Click to Enlarge

hen I travel I am always surprised at how safe I feel. I have traveled all over the world by myself and for the most part, have always felt safe when walking down the street. I was recently in Havana, Cuba and from  American news outlets I’ve heard all of my life that Cuba is a place where I should have been scared. However, my black skin was well received and I was treated with dignity and respect by all I met.

Traveling to a country where your color isn’t a factor in how you are treated is an amazing feeling. When I was in Havana the blackness of my skin wasn’t an issue. From the moment I walked out of the airport until the moment I left I felt as ease. There was never a moment where I was reminded that my blackness was considered inferior. I am in no way saying Havana doesn’t have racial issues because they do. Many dark skinned Cubans have a much harder time than their light skinned brothers and sisters but as an American, my Black skin wasn’t a factor.

Sometimes when I travel I don’t realize how much my race is a factor in America until I leave and visit a country where I’m celebrated and appreciated. Being able to walk down the street and not feel judged is freeing in ways unimaginable. Getting most of my information from American news, Havana has been vilified. It has been portrayed as this evil third world place that no one should dare visit. However, my experience was the complete opposite. Seeing people all around me with the varied hues of blackness was refreshing. Hearing the first foreign language I learned being spoken daily put a smile on my face that hardly ever left. For me, my blackness in Havana was empowering. Even though the city is poor, the feeling of having my skin valued and not questioned made me feel rich in ways unimaginable.

One example of how my blackness wasn’t an issue and safety not a concern was when I was coming home from a night on the town. I was hanging out with some of my Black American friends and we got into a taxi, there were 5 of us. I was staying in a different part of town so one of my girlfriends said, “Roni, we will drop you off first so you don’t have to be alone.” Because I had felt so safe in Havana I didn’t think it was necessary but I wanted to appease my friends so I agreed. When I told the light skinned driver in Spanish that I wanted to be dropped off first he said that wasn’t the best way and he was going to drop them off first. I told him my friends were concerned with my safety and the look he gave me was one of incredulity. He merely waved his hand and said in Spanish, “What’s gonna happen?” When he took me to my apartment he waited until I got into my door before he drove off.  The thought of harming me or that harm could come to me didn’t even seem to be part of his psyche and the cab ride was easy which isn’t always the case as a Black woman trying to catch a cab in America.  Again, I am in no way saying Havana doesn’t have issues with skin color but from my perspective as an American visiting, I felt welcomed and free which is always liberating. 

-The Travel Guru

My name is Roni Faida (pronounced fie-e-da) I'm a former tour guide and a trilingual travel expert who is now traveling for fun and sharing my adventures and advice with you.

www.the-travel-guru.com

>> AND Join the Travel Guru here on 50 Shades of Black Blog for reflections on race, culture, adventures from around the world from the perspective of a black woman. 

Posted on July 27, 2015 and filed under personal stories, race, skin tone, travel.

Being 12: "What Are You?" | Kids Demonstrate Their Interactions with Race.

For many, race becomes a factor in their lives even at an early age. In this video, nine kids discuss their interactions with race. Are middle schoolers old enough to understand something many adults cannot come to a consensus on? Perhaps it's time to start listening more to our children.

These kids know what they are talking about. While children seem to be able to understand and conceptualize how race affects their lives in certain situations, it's perplexing, at least, as to why there is such a lack of consensus on race for adults. 

Originally found through Upworthy.com, Upworthy contributor Maz Ali goes on to articulate that as our media continues to report on racially charged events there is still dispute as to the racial significance of these cases. I invite you to check out the statistics there.

But he ends his article with a poignant statement: 

When a group of 12-year-olds this diverse can easily identify ways that racial and ethnic identity play out negatively in their lives, maybe the question shouldn't be, "Is race still a factor?"

Dorian Capers is a contributing blogger for 50 Shades of Black. Using Tumblr for Good; Venturing into the Facebook comment section so you won't have to. 

Posted on July 20, 2015 and filed under community, family, Identity, personal stories, race, Body Image, current events.

50 Shades of Social Media: Tumblr #BlackoutDay 6/21

This weekend saw the most recent installment of Tumblr's #BlackoutDay. 

Tumblr user T'von expect-the-greatest) first created Blackout Day in an effort to increase the presence and appreciation of black people online and on social media.  

"I got inspired to propose Blackout day after thinking “Damn, I’m not seeing enough Black people on my dash”. Of course I see a constant amount of Black celebrities but what about the regular people?"

   "Blackout Day is a way for black people on social media to say 'Hey. I see you. I appreciate you. I’m here for you.' "

"Blackout Day is a way for black people on social media to say 'Hey. I see you. I appreciate you. I’m here for you.' "

"I thought about the tag #Black Friday, and making it a tradition on the first Friday of every month, because celebrating the beauty of Blackness is of the UTMOST importance. I’m really sick and tired of seeing the “European standard of beauty” prevail. It’s past time for the beauty of Black people to be showcased.  I love all people of color, but this here is for us."

Originally March 6th, 2015, #BlackOutDay quickly became a top trending hashtag in the US. Pictures, vines, selfies, and videos of black women, men, transgender, all body types and shades were quickly uploaded to Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Vine, and Facebook.  The day, a 24 hour celebration of black and brown people,  had quickly become a point of unity for young "black tumblr" and "black twitter".

It's just a bunch of kids posting selfies, right? Why is this important? 

Representation. Being a regular tumblr user myself, the sight is heartwarming. Selfies of black young men and women often come with small anecdotes about how they had never felt comfortable posting an image of themselves online where the act is common place for young people. Many times these young black men and women felt unappreciated or had been told black people were unattractive. After seeing confident, beautiful people of all shapes and sizes on social media, some that looked like them, they felt reassured and noted that #BlackoutDay helped them to accept their own beauty. It isn't rare to see a selfie of a young individual with similar words and tears of joy and subtle apprehension under the hashtag. 

Starting as a 'first friday of the month event', Blackout Day has continued to evolve. The original blog has evolved into a movement of its own touting the unity and apprecation of black people as its banner. A new schedule aimed at consolidating posts across social media arose "Blacking out" the first day of each season this year. Get ready for #TheBlackOut coming in 2015 and get those selfies ready! Black is Beautiful!

   "No matter what your skin tone is, you’re beautiful."

"No matter what your skin tone is, you’re beautiful."

"Like books and black lives", Representation matters. 

Check out some of the #BlackoutDay posts | Twitter | Tumblr 

SOURCES:

  1. Color the FutureT'von ( expect-the-greatest), creator of BlackOutDay, speaks his piecehttp://colorthefuture.org/post/112564471328/tvon-expect-the-greatest-creator-of
  2. Bring it Love. HI! Tomorrow, March 6 is Blackout Day!!. 2015-03-05. http://bring-it-love.tumblr.com/post/112824723279/hi-tomorrow-march-6-is-blackout-day

Slavery and Salvation...Fury and Forgiveness: Reflections on the Charleston 9

 Original Photo by featured artist Chris Charles |  Creative Silence . Edited by Carlton Mackey

Original Photo by featured artist Chris Charles | Creative Silence. Edited by Carlton Mackey

“…This is proof. Everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love and their legacies will live in love. Hate won’t win…” Alana Simmons, Granddaughter of Daniel Simmons, Charleston Shooting Victim

“I forgive you, my family forgives you…”

“Love is patient, love is kind…” Whether we’re believers of these words in the Bible or not, at some point or another, we have all heard the definition of what love is, and what it is not: “…it is not envious, boastful or puffed up…rude, selfish, it is not provoked, thinks no evil…endures all things.”

To the human psyche, in the name of all logic, the very being of all that love is sounds ludicrous. The idea that the loved ones of the Charleston 9, as they’ve been called, can find it within themselves to utter the words, “I forgive you…” to a man who so brutally took love from them is evidence that it does exist.

Many won’t understand, or even agree with these individual’s conscious decision to walk in love. But that is exactly what true love takes: Walking in the teachings of Jesus through every circumstance. As Black Americans, living a life established in the principles of Christianity is a difficult tow to haul. How can the descendants of enslaved Africans worship the God of the very men who enslaved them? How can we believe the words of their book? Or believe that the freedom found in Christ is even meant for us?

These are questions that only a relationship with your creator can answer. While slave owners may have intended to use the Word to keep our ancestors enslaved, throughout the generations, we have gained knowledge for ourselves beyond ritual, establishing individual relationships through Christ. This knowledge and understanding providing peace for our hearts and minds, power in all things and wisdom in our daily living.


Whether one considers themselves a Christian or not, the same principles can be applied and taught as we teach others to love by the way we love…and forgive. -Nina Brewton


Experiencing the love of God through our relationships with others is what will continually build our faith. Displaying that same love is what will help others comprehend our faith and reasoning. Our daily walk will show them how patience and kindness, and as in the case of the family members of the Charleston 9, forgiveness are possible in the face of unthinkable adversity.

  Alana Simmons leaves a message on a board set up in front of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church after a mass shooting at the church killed nine people, on June 22, 2015. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Joe Raedle

Alana Simmons leaves a message on a board set up in front of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church after a mass shooting at the church killed nine people, on June 22, 2015. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Joe Raedle

Being Black or being Christian shouldn’t be exclusive. Our dedication to living as both doesn’t make sense and it’s not meant to for every person in every space to understand. Forgiveness is a thing that isn’t for those we’re forgiving. Forgiveness brings peace to the heart and minds of those who are strong enough and willing to continuously make a conscious decision to walk in it.

Alana Simmons and other loved ones of the Charleston 9 know that the ability to walk in love and being everything that love is takes a concerted effort every day of our lives. Whether one considers themselves a Christian or not, the same principles can be applied and taught as we teach others to love by the way we love…and forgive.

-Nina

Nina Brewton is the newest member of the 50 Shades of Black Blog Team.  Visit each week for her personal reflections into womanhood, spirituality, black identity, and inspiration.

Visit her on her website baldheadqueen.com

ALSO BY NINA: BLACK. SELF. LOVE. Just Because I Love Me Doesn't Mean I Hate You

Posted on June 24, 2015 and filed under current events, faith, family, race, religion and culture.

Tywanza Sanders: Youngest Life Lost in Charleston Shooting Will Now Smile Forever

SMILE FOREVER. 


**I utilized this photo from Wanza's Instagram page. The caption he had under this photo was: "Believe you can and you will. Believe in God and he will."

BLACK MEN SMILE is a new signature project of 50 Shades of Black "Celebrating the Way We See Ourselves".

OUT IN THE NIGHT: Gender Identity, Homophobia, Racial Profiling, Fighting Back

PBS Premiere: June 22, 2015

Check local listings »

Online: June 23, 2015 – July 23, 2015

Synopsis

In 2006, under the neon lights of a gay-friendly neighborhood in New York City, a group of African-American lesbians were violently threatened by a man on the street. The women fought back and were later charged with gang assault and attempted murder. The tabloids quickly dubbed them a gang of "Killer Lesbians" and a "Wolf Pack." Three pleaded guilty to avoid a trial, but the remaining four — Renata, Patreese, Venice and Terrain — maintained their innocence. The award-winning Out in the Night examines the sensational case and the women's uphill battle, revealing the role that race, gender identity and sexuality play in our criminal justice system. A co-production of ITVS. A co-presentation with the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC).

The film touches on issues of gender identity, homophobia, street harassment, self-defense, racial profiling and intersectionality. 


Posted on June 17, 2015 and filed under Identity, Homophobia, LGBT, race, sexuality, art, film.

BLACK. SELF. LOVE. - Just Because I Love Me, Doesn't Mean I Hate You

 50 Shades of Black newest blogger Nina Brewton. &nbsp;Photo by Chris Charles (Creative Silence)

50 Shades of Black newest blogger Nina Brewton.  Photo by Chris Charles (Creative Silence)

“Just because I love me,

doesn't mean I hate you.”

These are words that I’ve tried to express the majority of my 35 years of life. First, as a teenager coming of age in the small city of Wichita, KS, that state’s largest “metropolitan” area yet, behind the progressive curve in regards to…well, everything it seems.

 Early on I embraced my dark skin and hair

Early on I embraced my dark skin and hair

I’ve always adored my brown skin. Spending summer days soaking up every ray of sunshine I could trying to match my father’s rich, dark chocolate melanin. By the time I was fifteen, I finally began to love the other staple of my Blackness – my thick, nappy, Afro, outstretched, reaching for the sun. With this newfound boldness came a love for everything Black that many in my predominately Caucasian community weren’t quite prepared for. Including my own bi-racial mother who ethnically leaned more towards the white side of town.

My pro-Blackness intimidating to those who refused to understand why I insisted on reading Black, buying Black and dating Black: Embracing and uplifting Black.

Even now, all these years later as I voice my views on the state of race relations in America, having experienced racial profiling and harassment by white law enforcement officers, boutique employees and timid teachers myself, many don’t get it. And many more don’t care to. So many don’t understand that the concept of Black love does not equal Black supremacy or hatred for anyone who isn’t “one of us”. 

Learning these truths, I quickly got over the feeling of needing to make people understand my point of view and the experiences that created it. My heart broken and last nerve plucked trying to get others to just see the world the way I see it. Consider my way of thinking and to just have a little…empathy.


Truth is, when we love others, we'll find that we love ourselves more. It really is a continual cycle of everything that Love is. Embrace you and embrace the world. This is how lives are changed and how we make the greatest impact on the world we live in. -Nina Brewton


As I continue to grow and become more comfortable with who I am as an individual and who I am in this world and the various hamlets that I find myself a part of, I can say with every bit of confidence that, “I love you…I just love me more.”

As an individual, I’m committed to shining my Light on the world and truly loving others the way that I want to be loved. I am determined to teach others how to love me by loving me first.

What I know for sure: We shine brightest in our own house before illuminating the world around us. Love begins at home, with self. Home is where the flame is rekindled, giving us what we need to feel confident enough to approach the darkness of the world with every beam of light that is within us. As long as our hearts intention is towards loving others, we can love ourselves all we need.

Truth is, when we love others, we'll find that we love ourselves more. It really is a continual cycle of everything that Love is. Embrace you and embrace the world. This is how lives are changed and how we make the greatest impact on the world we live in.

---

Nina Brewton is the newest member of the 50 Shades of Black Blog.  Visit each week for her insights into womanhood, spirituality, black identity, and inspiration.

Visit her on her website baldheadqueen.com

Posted on June 3, 2015 and filed under blog, Identity, personal stories, race, skin tone.

Black Beauty: Miss Universe Japan Winner Faces Challenges

  Ariana Miyamoto by&nbsp;  KO SASAKI FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Ariana Miyamoto by KO SASAKI FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Excerpt from NYT article By MARTIN FACKLER

In school, she said, other children and even parents called her “kurombo,” the Japanese equivalent of the N-word. Classmates did not want to hold her hand for fear her color would rub off on them.

“I used to come home angry at my mother,” Ms. Miyamoto recalled. “I’d ask her, ‘Why did you make me so different?’ ”

She said everything changed at age 13 when she decided to reach out to her father, who invited her to his home in Jacksonville, Ark. She said she will never forget the moment she first saw her father and his relatives.

“They had the same skin and the same face as me,” she said. “For the first time, I felt normal.”

She said that in the United States, she came to speak of herself as black. But here in Japan, she still calls herself hafu. As Miss Universe Japan, she has played down her African-American roots, presenting herself instead as a representative of ethnically mixed Japanese from all backgrounds.

NEW YORK TIMES Complete Article

 


Video and text from Bloomberg

The importance of racial purity held by some Japanese is codified in a genre of writing called nihonjinron, or theories of Japaneseness. 

“If there hadn’t been this kind of criticism, there would be no point in me competing,” she said, with no trace of bitterness. “I don’t want to ignore it. I want to change those people’s attitudes.”

Posted on May 31, 2015 and filed under Identity, personal stories, race, religion and culture, skin tone.

Fahamu Pecou brings the "Black Male" to the forefront of the Atlanta Art Scene

50 Shades of Black contributing artist Fahamu Pecou explores black male identity and representations of Black Masculinity.  He is one of 12 artists celebrated by ArtsAtL for their impact on the Atlanta art scene.  

As both artist and PhD student in Emory University’s Institute of Liberal Arts, Pecou unravels and scrutinizes representations of black masculinity through satire and caricature, acting out various modalities in which such identities are constructed.

To call Pecou’s work ironic, however, is missing the point. And if you think that, you might be among the multitudes lured by a marketing campaign fashioned after the celebrity culture he critiques.
— Faith McClure
Posted on April 7, 2015 and filed under activism, art, Identity, Masculinity, press, race.

FINDING MY QUEENDOM

  For twenty years of my life, I did not know who I was. For twenty years I was seeking the one who I wanted the most, myself. It was my sophomore year in college when I went on my spiritual journey and found who I truly am. I found the light within me. I lost people along the way, but it was for the best because in order for me to grow, I had to leave behind those who was not a good factor in my life. I was mocked, I was teased, I was talked about but I did not care because at the end of the day, I was happy. And your happiness is the most important thing ever in life. I do not seek the approval of society to be myself. I love that I'm different. I love that I stand out. I love the beautiful brown skin that I'm in. Along my journey I learned to love myself. I learned that we are Kings and Queens. I learned to always walk with my head held up high and let the Sun Goddess beam her rays on my beautiful crown. I learned to love and appreciate my brown skin. When I was younger I wanted to be white because I grew up in an area where it was very few black people. I wanted to have blonde hair and blue eyes. But when I found myself, I was like "what the heck was I thinking?" I love the kinks in my thick black hair. I love my brown eyes. I love my full lips. I love the rich history of my people. I love my melanin and I would not give that up for anything. I love my shade. My shade is beautiful. It's powerful beyond anything in this world. I love when I'm out and I see my fellow Kings and Queens and their melanin skin just glowing as I walk pass them. Don't hide who you are or where you came from. Embrace it because it makes you who you are. Love yourself, respect yourself, educate yourself. And always remember we come from royalty so you are naturally a King/Queen. Peace &amp; Love to you all.     Kadijah Wright     ------    BRIDGING THE GAP: Contemporary Realities, Our Ancestral Past, &amp; Our Liberated Future    This is from our personal story series curated by the creator of&nbsp;  50 Shades of BLACK  , in partnership with&nbsp;  I Love Ancestry  &nbsp;featuring contemporary stories of people like YOU from around the world.    We personally invite you to join us on this journey of discovery and healing. Share your stories, find your voice, speak your truths.    &gt;&gt;  SHARE YOUR STORY  &lt;&lt;

For twenty years of my life, I did not know who I was. For twenty years I was seeking the one who I wanted the most, myself. It was my sophomore year in college when I went on my spiritual journey and found who I truly am. I found the light within me. I lost people along the way, but it was for the best because in order for me to grow, I had to leave behind those who was not a good factor in my life. I was mocked, I was teased, I was talked about but I did not care because at the end of the day, I was happy. And your happiness is the most important thing ever in life. I do not seek the approval of society to be myself. I love that I'm different. I love that I stand out. I love the beautiful brown skin that I'm in. Along my journey I learned to love myself. I learned that we are Kings and Queens. I learned to always walk with my head held up high and let the Sun Goddess beam her rays on my beautiful crown. I learned to love and appreciate my brown skin. When I was younger I wanted to be white because I grew up in an area where it was very few black people. I wanted to have blonde hair and blue eyes. But when I found myself, I was like "what the heck was I thinking?" I love the kinks in my thick black hair. I love my brown eyes. I love my full lips. I love the rich history of my people. I love my melanin and I would not give that up for anything. I love my shade. My shade is beautiful. It's powerful beyond anything in this world. I love when I'm out and I see my fellow Kings and Queens and their melanin skin just glowing as I walk pass them. Don't hide who you are or where you came from. Embrace it because it makes you who you are. Love yourself, respect yourself, educate yourself. And always remember we come from royalty so you are naturally a King/Queen. Peace & Love to you all.

Kadijah Wright

------

BRIDGING THE GAP: Contemporary Realities, Our Ancestral Past, & Our Liberated Future

This is from our personal story series curated by the creator of 50 Shades of BLACK, in partnership with I Love Ancestry featuring contemporary stories of people like YOU from around the world.

We personally invite you to join us on this journey of discovery and healing. Share your stories, find your voice, speak your truths.

>>SHARE YOUR STORY<<

Posted on February 19, 2015 and filed under Identity, personal stories, race, skin tone.

Amma Asante: Seeing Myself In Belle - Exclusive Interview (Part 2)

Belle Movie Director opens up about the connection of the film to her personal life, her bi-cultural identity, and why art is a power resource for inspiring positive social change in the world in exclusive interview with 50 Shades of Black Co-Director Ross Oscar Knight. www.50shadesofblack.com

Posted on January 5, 2015 and filed under art, education, film, history, Identity, personal stories, press, race.

Multicultural, Mixed, Bi-Racial: I Just Say Black and Proud

I am from a multi cultural background. My mother was black and white mixed and had very fair skin. My father was black and both of them were born in New York City as was I (Harlem). I have always dated black women and am married to one for 12 years. I had one white girlfriend in 10th grade and when her mother came home and found me and her daughter sitting on the couch she pulled her daughter into the bedroom for a private chat.This made me uncomfortable and I never had/presumed a white girlfriend since. I can relate very much to people such as President Obama, Lonette Mckee (in particular her Jungle Fever character).

I don't bother to call myself mixed or multi ethnic or bi racial I just say Black and am proud of it. I am more comfortable living in an all black neighborhood than I would be living in an all white one(comfort and safety issues). I do embrace soul music as well as rock and roll however, I also enjoy all ethnicities of food and want to see Europe as well as Africa. It has always been my opinion that people are way to preoccupied with skin color/class etc. The focus should be on furthering ones self in education staying health conscious and trying to grow spiritually. I am a stand up comedian for 20 years and an actor for seven and counting. I would love to own a brownstone in Harlem close to Convent Ave Baptist Church..love those houses and that neighborhood. I love children and traveling. I am 50 years old and want to spend the rest of my life staying goal oriented health conscious and never forgetting the thing that means so much to me.....Family.

-Adam Phillips

---

BRIDGING THE GAP: Contemporary Realities, Our Ancestral Past, & Our Liberated Future

This is from our personal story series curated by the creator of 50 Shades of BLACK, in partnership with I Love Ancestry featuring contemporary stories of people like YOU from around the world.

We personally invite you to join us on this journey of discovery and healing. Share your stories, find your voice, speak your truths.

>>SHARE YOUR STORY<<

Posted on December 27, 2014 and filed under family, Identity, personal stories, race.

I Am No One's Nigger

To say it’s been an emotional few weeks would be an understatement considering that two police officers just went unpunished by our justice system for the murders of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. With all of this racial tension in the air and protests galore going strong in cities across the nation, it’s become a tense and difficult time in America to be black.

In the thick of all of this chaos, I’ve had many a conversation about race relations and politics, including one particularly salient conversation with my father about racialized trigger words for black people, specifically the word nigger. My father, who is now in his 60s, told me about some of the times in his life where white people have called him a nigger, whether to hurt him or prove they were somehow “down.” And he shared with me that he had to learn for himself that he couldn’t allow that word to trigger his rage because it wasn’t worth it to lose his freedom, his dignity or his life fighting the world over a word that did not define him. And he advised me to do the same to keep my sanity and my freedom.

Being an 80s baby, I’ve only ever been called a nigga by white guys who thought, in this so-called post-racial world, that it was okay now to say nigga because we were friends - emphasis on were. For me, I’d been lucky not to have been called that word in a hateful manner.

However, I got a rude awakening about how the racism of America can easily hit home last week when I had an unforgettable run-in with a racist man on the road.

While driving through Roswell in search of a Chase bank, I accidentally cut off a white man on the road behind me from making a turn before me. He immediately began honking his horn and when the oncoming traffic had cleared for me to make my turn, he sped past me, took the turn first, and shot a bird at me while mouthing fuck you. 

Sadly, it doesn't end there. After we both turned into the shopping complex, he drove to a stop sign 100 feet away from me, jumped out of his car and yelled "FUCK YOU!! FUCK YOU NIGGER!! FUCK YOU!!" at me at the top of his lungs. He yelled so loudly that I heard him clear as day with my windows rolled up. 

The entire time I looked him in his face and saw nothing but sheer hate and rage as he hurled "NIGGER" at me like it was a barbed whip and he wanted to see my blood spill and splash to the ground - The look in his eyes told me that he wanted me dead. He wanted me to not exist anymore, as if I was the thing in his life that was causing him so much pain.

Unfortunately for him, the turn was just a turn, nothing more. The moment was unimportant and his rage was unwarranted. I had nothing to do with his rage. He was angry before he even came across my little Civic. He was a fucked up individual long before the day we crossed paths....and in the words of Kermit the Frog, that wasn't none of my business.

I wanted nothing to do with any fight, any chaos or any life-threatening brawl over something so small and petty. So, instead of hopping out of my car and confronting the racist, I simply shrugged my shoulders and arms in front of his face and drove off to his destination.

if being a nigger is such an evil and vile thing, then it that moment I wasn't the one who was being a nigger. I was a black man looking for a bank who made a simple driving error in a place that I'd never driven to before. I wasn't looking for any trouble, nor was I going to entertain it. He on the other hand was an angry man looking for trouble who was willing to disturb the peace, harass and insult me all over the most minor of annoyances.

According to "The Boondocks," that kind of attitude is what leads to so-called "Nigga moments"

It wasn't my black ass that was acting like a angry, violent fool. Instead, it was a cowardly, racist older white man who was acting like a so-called "nigga/nigger" that day.

It's sad that in these modern times young black people still have to deal with the racism that our foremothers and forefathers fought so hard to erase, and it's even sadder that the world still sees people of darker skin as worthless niggers who deserve any kind of inhumane treatment just for breathing...or taking cutting them off on the road. 

It shouldn't be that way....and there shouldn't be any one who is thought of or called a nigger. There shouldn't be anyone who is treated as less than human. 

But that's not the world we live in right now. Thankfully, I didn't forget the lessons of my father and so many of my black ancestors taught me about how to deal with racists and their hate. I didn't forget that I am Nicholas Robinson, not some so-called nigger, not some word that has nothing to do with my character, my body or my spirit.

I am no one's nigger.

 

Nicholas Harbor

Freelance Journalist, storyteller and blogger for 50 Shades of BLACK

www.nicholasharbor.com

www.facebook.com/NicholasHarborOfficial

www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Harbor

Posted on December 10, 2014 and filed under activism, race, skin tone, personal stories.

The Mike Brown Murder: Do Our Black Lives Really Matter In America?

Honestly, it came as no shock to me that police officer Darren Wilson was not indicted in the shooting death of Ferguson, Missouri teen Mike Brown.

From the violent reaction that Ferguson officials had towards protestors to the shady way they handled evidence in the case and even the way the media tried to vilify Mike and spare Darren's dignity, all signs pointed to the imminent result that Darren would walk away a free man

And how could be I surprised? History has shown me so many times that when any white person or person of fair skin kills a black person, the lighter person is usually some brave, heroic soul doing his or her job to defend their self against the evil dark black people

That's exactly how it played out when police officers in Staten Island thought it okay to choke Eric Garner to death back in July. That's exactly how it played out when police officers shot and murdered John Crawford for holding a toy gun in Walmart. And that's exactly how it played out when George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin after claiming that the young boy looked suspicious as he walked home from a trip to the store.

Even if they aren't killing us, they're vilifying us with the same laws that they use to protect themselves when killing us. Marissa Alexander used a firearm to fend off her abusive husband, and though her act of defense should rightfully have fallen under the Stand Your Ground law that allowed Zimmerman to walk free after murdering Martin, Alexander has spent over 1,000 days in jail and recently had to take a plea deal in order to bring a swifter end to her legal ordeal.

And to add insult to injury, in each one of these situations the media said the same negative things about the victims: "Their hands weren't clean anyway," "They were no angel," "They were still criminals," "They brought it on themselves." Because in the eyes of the media, all black people deserve to be treated violently because we are inherently evil. We are niggers, you know.

So why should I be shocked that Wilson would go free for murdering Brown? Why should I be surprised that, once again, America has proven that our black lives have no value or worth?

Instead, what I feel is the same thing I've felt my entire life: disappoint, anger and terror.

Living in this country as a black person must be one of the most mind-blowing and insane forms of existence because unlike our fairer skinned brothers and sisters, we don't seem to have the luxury of just worrying about our own self-perception. No, we live a life of dualities, double standards and code switch that forces our sense of self to battle with white people's perception of us on a daily basis.

We can learn, grow, educate, laugh, love, excel at life, create amazing new things for the world and even change it with our minds and hearts, but as it stands right now in this society, all that we are can be diminished and extinguished by those in power simply because of our skin tone. And sometimes, too many times, we pay for that inequality with our lives.

So we live out our time believing the best of ourselves, all the while knowing that for all of the great things that we are we are seen and treated as less than human by White America.

And what could be more of mind fuck than that? Knowing or at least trying to believe that you are amazing and worthy of life and freedom, but also knowing that someone else has the power to take that away from you and will do it at their leisure just because of who you are.

Honestly, it's hard to feel optimistic and hopeful in these times, let alone offer some words of comfort. I don't know that what I have to say will be comfortable to anyone. Then again, perhaps it's best that it not be. This isn't a comfortable situation to be in and it's certainly not a comfortable state of existence for black people to live in.

What I can say though is that the voice in our head telling us that we are amazing and that we deserve better is right. We are worthy of this life and we are worthy of the freedoms of this world. And history has shown that we are one hell of a resilient community of people. So while we are alive, let us learn if we have to, fight if we have to, rage if we have to, and make peace if we have to. Let's do whatever we can to make this world better for and equal for all races and people.

And perhaps most importantly, let us love in the face of hate and terror.

P.S. Hearing this song has helped me deal over the last day. Perhaps it can help you all deal as well.

 

Nicholas Harbor

Freelance Journalist, storyteller and blogger for 50 Shades of BLACK

www.nicholasharbor.com

www.facebook.com/NicholasHarborOfficial

www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Harbor

 

Posted on November 25, 2014 and filed under activism, race, skin tone, current events.