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.

THE CRIME OF SERENA WILLIAMS

A few weeks ago, I had been at my nephew's 8th grade graduation. The Valedictorian and Salutatorian were two black girls who, while not being sisters, resembled each other in the fact that they both had their hair washed and set similarly; the lenses of their glasses were both held in place by black frames; and they both were constantly being called, in tandem, to the stage for awards. Before either of them had a chance to sit down after being acknowledged for their exceptional performances in one subject, they were summoned back to the stage to be recognized in another. Victory laps were being ran in the auditorium. The audience, assembled of parents and grandparents , siblings, cousins, close friends, teachers, and security guards, were in rapturous applause. But after the third lap, something changed: Hands got heavy; palms got sore; and cheers were slowly being overshadowed by shade. In any subject their names hadn't been called, the applause roared then immediately whispered when they were called again. Silent hands and malicious mouths became acts of retribution on two girls whose only crime that day was being better: "They could've at least gave some of these awards to other kids;" "I didn't come to watch someone else's kid win." Those naive enough to believe that this could only occur in an auditorium full of white bodies severely underestimate the human condition's oldest and most beloved hobby: hating. This hobby is most intense in those who recognize that part of themselves on the stage at the expense of them realizing that part that isn't. Adults and children alike recognized probably for the first time what they should've been doing and hadn't. That envy dictated the atmosphere up until the ceremony ended. That envy is dictating the current atmosphere surrounding Serena. That envy is calling her womanhood into question. That envy is using the plumpness of her ass to shade the rigor of her accomplishments. That envy is accusing her of steroid usage. But most of all that envy is unwilling to admit, like that auditorium, that the only real crime Serena, or those two girls, committed is showing us that we could all be better. 

-Yahdon Israel

Yahdon Israel  is a 50 Shades of Black featured writer.  Read his exclusive essay THE TRANSATLANTIC.

 

Posted on July 11, 2015 and filed under Body Image, current events.

HERE & NOW: Modern Ideas of Slavery in Correlating Historical Landscapes

In the mid-1800s, Richmond VA was the largest source of enslaved Africans on the east coast of America. "Visitors to Richmond today have no way of seeing these stories, and residents have few ways of marking them." The stories of these spaces are worth recalling, as part of our own representational spaces.

In this two part series by 50 Shades of Black featured artist Breonca Trofort, we recall these stories and discover ways these spaces are part of our own narrative.


PART 1

Silas Omohundro’s Negro Slave Jail - 17th & E. Broad Street 

Photo by Breonca Trofort from her series HERE and NOW

Photo by Breonca Trofort from her series HERE and NOW

Popularized by the Hip Hop culture, the male fashion statement of “sagging” is often displayed through young men wearing pants revealing their underwear, while usually being overly accessorized with jewelry, mostly chains. “Sagging” was adopted from the United States prison system where belts are prohibited to keep prisoners from using them as weapons or in committing suicide by hanging themselves. This style has become a symbol of freedom and their rejection of the mainstream society. Also popularized by hip hop artist are the use of wearing chains. Chains, primarily used in the past as a form of bondage, has now become a symbol of wealth. Since these ideas can easily be linked back to prisons, I decided to photograph this person at Silas Omohundro’s Negro Slave Jail located on 17th and E. Broad Street, present day Exxon Gas Station. 



"This exploration has given me another way to look at history, realizing the cycle that the past continues to play on the present."

-Breonca Trofort 


Slave Auction - 15th & E Main St

Photo by Breonca Trofort from her series HERE and NOW

Photo by Breonca Trofort from her series HERE and NOW

Common in the African American community, young males are often taught that the only way they can be successful is through becoming a rapper or an athlete. Mainstream media often glorifies these professions and young children believe that is all they can become. I decided to photograph this young child holding a basketball in the location of where a slave auction was held, in order to describe how the process and system of becoming a college-athlete and/or pro-athlete has been compared to a slave auction. Setting aside the hard work and determination that athletes pursuing this dream endure, it is commonly stated that the professional sports "drafts" are looked at as an auction. During drafts, primarily wealthy institutions predominantly owned by white men are "buying" the persons (predominantly black athletes) they feel will "work" the hardest and benefit their business the most.

Stay Tuned for Part 2

Breonca Trofort is one of four Lead Artists of 50 Shades of Black. She is a sports and portraiture photographer for commercial and editorial clients. 

http://www.balyssatrofort.com/

Posted on July 2, 2015 and filed under art, education, Masculinity, activism.

President Barack Obama Delivers Powerful Eulogy for Clementa Pinckney

 Beautiful and moving, please take a moment to watch if you have not seen or heard this in full.

Obama eulogizes pastor in Charleston shooting. Obama sings Amazing Grace at funeral of Charleston shooting victim Clementa Pinckney. Washington (CNN) President Barack Obama on Friday eulogized the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of the victims in last week's church massacre, calling him a "man of God who lived by faith."

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".

BRINGING THE GIFTS: An Exhibit by 50 Shades of Black Creator Reflects on the Hopes and Dreams of Enslaved Africans

 

January 31, 2015 marked the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America which abolished the forced labor and enslavement of human beings.  On June 19, 1865, known as Junteenth the last remaining slaves in America were declared free. It was a day that many enslaved Africans dreamed of, struggled for, and died for in an effort to obtain…but never saw in person. 

In 1935 the federal government created a program known as The Federal Writers’ Project (FWP). The project employed photographers and writers, who travelled throughout the United States photographing and collecting stories of Americans across a spectrum of society.  Among the FWP projects was the Slave Narrative Collection [Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938]

The narratives are a collection of over 2,300 personal accounts of rural, southern African-Americans, the last of a dying generation of Africans born into the horrors of North American enslavement.  Though their adult lives were spent in “freedom,” they knew firsthand the limitations of Reconstruction.  Many lived under the harsh conditions of segregation and the debt of the vicious system of sharecropping. Though they had been emancipated from the peculiar and brutal system of chattel slavery, they could still only hope and work tirelessly for equality.

It is their sacrifice, resolve, and relentless commitment to resist any system or ideology that saw them as less than a human being that etched the blueprint for generations to follow. This blueprint is their greatest gift. It would serve as the foundation upon which a future they had faith in would come and would be built. 

BRINGING THE GIFTS

In 1978 Maya Angelou penned the now famous poem, “Still I Rise.” The poem was initially popularized by its use in a campaign by the United Negro College Fund and the name Maya Angelou itself became ubiquitous for Black Empowerment Poetry after she delivered the poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at the inauguration of President William Jefferson Clinton in 1993.

The poem “Still I Rise” ends with the refrain: “Bringing the gifts that the ancestors gave… I am the hope and the dream of a slave.”  “BRINGING THE GIFTS,” a series of portraits that pairs historic photographs from the Federal Writers’ Project with the photography of contemporary Atlanta artist Carlton Mackey, is a creative re-imagination of that refrain.

Tiffany Young preserves the history of Butler Island and created the annual homecoming for Butler descendants.

At the invitation of Ms. Tiffany Young, descendant of Africans enslaved on Butler Island and creator of the annual Butler Island Plantation Homecoming,Mackey agreed to conduct an Open Photo Shoot of BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE ™, a movement created by Mackey to celebrate and affirm the beauty found in every human being. The Butler Island Plantation Homecoming is an annual event comprised of Butler Island descendants, friends,and supporters who wish to celebrate and remember the ancestors that lived and toiled upon the former rice plantation of Pierce Mease Butler near Darien, Georgia. At its peak more than 500 enslaved Africans worked the plantation.  Fanny Kemble, an abolitionist and wife of Pierce Butler, wrote of the life and harsh treatment of those enslaved on the island in “Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839”. Her harsh opposition of Butler’s practices ultimately lead to their divorce.  The publication of her journal became an effective tool of the anti-slavery movement and is considered one of the “best primary sources from the point of view of the slave owner of slave life on an early 19th Century plantation” (www.gacivilwar.org/story/butler-island-plantation).

 

Just days before the event was to take place, Mackey began searching the Internet with the hopes of potentially finding images of Africans who were enslaved in the area of the Homecoming events. Instead, he found several images from the Federal Writers’ Project archive.  In the archive he stumbled upon the image of Mr. Henry Brooks.  At that verymoment, Mackey claims to have been spoken directly to by the ancestor in the photograph and given instructions for executing a new photo series in lieu of the traditional BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE ™ Open Photo Shoot. Overcome with emotion,Mackey followed instructions and searched for a digital photo of himself taken earlier in the year by Atlanta photographer Bryan Meltz.  When he placed his photo next to the photograph of Mr. Brooks, the resemblance was uncanny -both in their physical features and the posing of the two in their respective portraits.  The revelation was ultimately clear and the concept for this new series was born.


To create this exhibit, Mackey collected and printed as many photographs taken of Africans formerly enslaved in the state of Georgia as he could from the Federal Writers’ Project and the U.S. Farm Security Administration archives. While at the Butler Island Plantation Homecoming, participants were invited to spend moments in quiet mediation while looking through these photographs.

Each participant was to choose (or be chosen by) one person in the photograph to honor. At various locations on Butler Island itself and throughout the town of Darien, Mackey photographed the participants and invited them to offer written reflections about the process and why they were drawn to a particular image.

The pairing was meant to invoke and awaken the essence of the living participant by creating a direct connection to the ancestor in the photograph.  It was meant to foster a heartfelt acknowledgement that through their living, they were the physical embodiment of someone’s “hopes and dreams.”

This series and the process of creating it are also as much about honoring one’s ancestors as it is about reflecting on the nature and meaning of hope. It challenges us to remember the gifts we’ve been given and dares us to ask: 

  • What are the gifts that we bring to the world?

  • It challenges us to critically reflect on our own hopes for the future and the source of the deep personal longings that reside at the epicenter of these hopes. 

  • What are the responsibilities that we have to make these hopes manifest? 

  • How might our living be a fitting memorial to those who came before us?

BRINGING THE GIFTS was on display at APEX Museum April 25, 2015 

Carlton Mackey was the Healthcare Ethics Consortium artist in residence for the 2015 HEC Annual Conference.  As part of his residency Mackey presented the inaugural display of BRINGING THE GIFTS at the Emory Conference Center Hotel March 19 & 20.

CONTACT US to inquire about displaying this series

 

Posted on June 18, 2015 and filed under africa, art, education, history, religion and culture.

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.  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   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.

Celebrating Edward Gumbs of Shinnecock and African Heritage

Celebrating Edward Gumbs of Shinnecock and African heritage for our Bridging The Gap series curated by the creator of I Love Ancestry, in partnership with 50 Shades of BLACK.

THE SHINNECOCK INDIANS OF EASTERN LONG ISLAND.

The Shinnecock Nation is a federally recognized Native American Indian Nation, located on the East End of Long Island adjacent to the Town of Southampton. Federal recognition was achieved October 1, 2010, after thousands of years of documented history on Long Island, and 32 years of struggle with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. As the 565th federal tribe, its banner has taken its place among other tribal flags at the U.S. Department of the Interior, BIA, Hall of Flags, Washington, D.C.

(c) Photo by Toba Tucker.

------

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

This is from our personal story series curated by the creator of I Love Ancestry, in partnership with 50 Shades of BLACK 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 28, 2015 and filed under Identity.

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 & 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  <<

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

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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.

Bisexual Malcolm X: Black History Month

Yesterday 1000 question, comments, and rants ran across Facebook.  Some ran towards but most ran away from my picture below. Homophobic rants, racist rants, nationalist rants, religious rants, lifestyle rants, confusion, and misunderstandings of others is still carrying on the conversation(s) today.....

Bi Malcolm X

Bi Malcolm X

In Harlem this week and reviewing the latest biography on Minister X from 2011 by Columbia University professor Manning Marable titled "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention" and its opposition Jared A Bell's "A Lie of Reinvention".

Life of Reinvention

Life of Reinvention

Manning Marable identifies a homosexual relationship had by Malcolm X with a white business man, and also identifies him as a street hustler looking to survive by what many deemed necessary means. Regardless of the context of the homosexual activity, it was identified thought US corrections documentation that profiles then Malcolm Little's criminal activity. I only posted this picture labeling X as a bisexual after a picture of Mississippi's NAACP President and politician Aaron Henry who was arrested 4x for "public indecency" and "sodomy" which was documented by MS corrections. I was lifting thhem up and admiring them. I tagged them as my #MCM (man crush monday). The response to Marable was that FBI documents were collected on Mr. X after the dates of his alleged homo activity. What they fail to identify was classification of homo activity by municipal corrections in the 20th century.

Bi Aaron Henry

Bi Aaron Henry

It should be stated that the American Psychiatric Association identified homosexuality a "mental illness" until 1974, and so did the United Nations as a result. Malcolm was murdered in 1965, but had a profile by corrections facilities and officers since the late 1930's.

Facebook erupted with disgust and skepticism of my label for the more famous and reigning symbol of Black American masculinity, Mr. X, and it disregarded Mr. Henry. Labels are important for their cultural context. Even though branding campaigns like "Labels are for clothes" have pervaded our culture, a more formal labeling of everything is in fact what is connecting our many communities across the globe. Labels are not merely for clothes.

Lie of Reinvention

Lie of Reinvention

The context of this picture is a loaded one, mainly because a community’s external identification of an individual can differ based the many identities of individuals from the community. For instance, men and women can regularly view rape differently based on their identity and informal understand of that identity. Wealthy and poor individuals regularly understand the activist and anarchist in different ways, as identities often lay within the eyes of the beholder. Malcolm X is such a controversial figure because of the many lives with which his identity lays. We will never completely know how he identified or felt about his lifestyle(s) or work(s). The picture of Malcolm himself was a part of a series on my instagram that put identity labels on images worth 1000s words, for Black History Month.

Labels Are For Clothes

Labels Are For Clothes

While the truth can be debated regarding Malcolm’s sexuality, the 1000 words used in a growing group of viral comments can be boiled down to the various community's understanding of identity. In an analog era, Malcom’s identity was divided into “Little” & “X”, a luxury that the latest digital spawn of the civil rights movement cannot enjoy. The most thoughtful interpretation of the picture’s 1000 words was from editor Carlton Mackey, the creator of “Beauty In Every Shade” and LGBTQ ally. He asked what if people associate LGBT identities with the worst of Malcolm Little and his early actions. Mr. X himself identifies his early years as “regretful” and “embarrassing” in multiple biographies. My intention with the image was to tie in all of X’s identities while thinking about myself and so many other people who have transformed throughout the journey of life. Erykah Badu's analog girl does not exist in the digital world., and every leader ends up humanizing themselves through digital transparency. Neither Malcolm nor his community of onlookers can wholly own the identity of his person, alone. As individuals we have free will over some of our choices, but those choices are reflections of interactions with others. Having played many different roles in 39 years, it’s important to understand that we as individuals do not have totally autonomy in this world of increasing interconnectivity. We are not alone.

Malcolm X

Malcolm X

I was only waiting on one question from Facebook. It came very early. “Why is this important?” ...my response:

Civil Rights are about humanizing individuals and integrating them into the social fabric of our community through legal means. Having stated that, labels are important. They come in two forms. The labels that we choose for ourselves and the labels that other people give us. Aside from the label bisexual that was give to Malcolm by a biographer through research leveraging the Freedom of Information Act and government files, his timeline showed that Malcolm was extraordinary in reinventing himself to leave an impactful impression on the people he met directly or indirectly. Through all of the identities that he lived in (street hustle, homosexual, convict, student, minister, traveler, thought leader, badass, proud man) the bisexual one wasn’t one that stuck. Black History Month is here to cover all of the history. This is important because I know it wasn’t something that he could be proud of before 1965. It is also important because in 2015 it is something that he could be proud of, if he were alive, as a result of the work he did 50 years ago. It’s important because “Civil Rights” was not a time period, but it is a continuous period of identifying and including more individuals into the social fabric of our community through legal means. People too often avoid or ignore or reduce the significance of a given reality in order to avoid controversy. I’ve posted this pic of Malcolm with these words to be obviously provocative and integrate the latest spawn of civil rights with Black History as it has always been a piece of the movement. Regarding the comments that state we don’t need to know about someone’s sexuality, you should know that is a ridiculous statement. When we truly look at the most intimate friendships and relationships we share, the intimate details about how who why where when and what we like are relevant. It is a very civil activity that we humans use to identify similarities and build camaraderie with each other. Now we can do more of that around Malcolm X as an ice breaker ;-) #FullSpeedAhead #TheMoreYouKnow

Posted on February 18, 2015 and filed under Homophobia, LGBT, Masculinity.

Stop Telling Black Women to BE STRONG

Has anyone else noticed the high profile suicides of some notable black sisters this year. Positive sistas who seemed to have it all? For Brown Girls blogger Karyn Washington and Titi Branch of Ms.Jessie are both examples.The myth of the STRONG black woman is literally KILLING sista's.

Why do we sisters wear our strength and independence as a badge of honor? Is it because it hurts to acknowledge few answer the call for help? Why are we culturally esteemed and marveled at for our ability to absorb and tolerate negative situations and trying times? You wanna know a secret. I actually take offense when people worship my black girl strength because it means they NEVER have to acknowledge my need for help or correct ill treatment, or advocate for justice on my behalf. Real family and community both glean and offer strength to those they love. I ask for support and help when I need to. Do I get it? Rarely...(low key I can't even get those I'm in community with to like a facebook post or AMAZING PHOTOGRAHY and my sh*t is DOPE. I guess they are too busy watching me work and marveling at my resilience. lol) But I ask any way.

EVERYTHING in creation has inherent to its design both STRENGTHS and WEAKNESSES. -Tanisha Pyron

I cuss and cry when I need to (I get it out.) I pray AND I get counseling when I need to (cause I ain't got all the answers Sway ) I tend to my heart and those who love and support me acknowledge the truth. That EVERYTHING in creation has inherent to its design both STRENGTHS and WEAKNESSES. It is balance. We handle things we perceive to be strong differently. We apply pressure and heavier weight because we think it can take it. That pressure produces STRESS and TENSION and if we judge incorrectly that which we thought was strong collapses under pressure. We all know what STRESS and TENSION does to the body and mind. Sisters out here having heart attacks, strokes, break downs, or rendered NON functional, or becoming addicted to drugs simply because life handed them more then they could bear, a DISPROPORTIONATELY HEAVY LOAD and no one reached out to lend a hand. Support ya sisters. Gentleness and hugs work wonders. Black women need help too!!! Independent women need support too. Strength is balanced through weakness. 

Tanisha Lynn Pyron

Posted on January 23, 2015 and filed under art, current events, feminism, Identity, personal stories.

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.

Exclusive Interview with Amma Asante: CNN Woman of the Year, Belle Movie Director (Part 1)

Amma Asante: 2014 CNN Woman of the Year and Director of Award Winning Film, Belle, sat down with 50 Shades of Black Co-Director Ross Oscar Knight to discuss her inspiration to create one of the highest grossing independent films of the year, why she cast Gugu Mbatha-Raw to play the leading role, and the film's connections to her own life. 

50 Shades of Black: Conversations about sexuality and skin tone in the formation of identity.

Posted on December 28, 2014 .

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

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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.