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Black Models| Italia Vogue 2008

The European standard of beauty has become so much an axiom that black beauty is nearly “lost in translation” for good. I see people searching for black models and black beauty constantly on search engines and the likes and coming up short with a few they can count on one hand. That could change.

Of course, black women are beautiful on or off a magazine, on or off a catwalk, whatever and wherever. I think the problem is relying too much on main stream to get ourselves out there when we can BE main-stream.

Why is it that almost every time I see a beautiful spread in a magazine featuring a model, it’s in white mainstream media?—-Do blacks not have the same ability? Of course they do, that was a rhetorical question. It’s well known that most of the people who bought the Italian EnVogue magazine were black, and it sold well. Blacks support blacks’ period—especially in incipient business ventures. If things are done right and professionally with class etc….support will double, and maybe even come in unlikely places, because it will not be about the fact that they are black owned but that their work wreaks quality.

Here are some of the pictures from the “all-black” Italia Vogue: From Left to right (Alek Wek, Arlenis Sosa, Iman,  Karen Alexander, Naomi Campbell, Noemie Lenoir,  (2)Toccara Jones, (3) Tyra Banks,  Ubah)

Between the continent of Africa and the other majority black countries who are having similar issues of black model’s not getting work—we could ubiquitously take the world by storm because there are some undeniably beautiful black women out there; that’s veracity. Where are the black photographers and the black modeling agencies? Hiding? I am not talking about those photographers that do borderline porn; I’m talking professionals.

I know Ebony and the likes have modeling agencies and there are plenty of blacks who have their own clothing line, some not so well known but classier than those that are well known, and that is an issue–they are not put out there. If Ebony along with other more recognized black modeling agencies monopolized around the world—made this not just an African American thing but a Caribbean thing, and African thing—a black thing, I really think the potential of this is prodigious.

That gives more diversity, more exotic looks, more style, and flare. That makes the problem of not being well known obsolete and a broader audience to which one can appeal. When white, main stream starts noticing a decline in their sales, which means their avarice is not satisfied— I assure you they will take notice but by then, they will not be an issue, merely a side note.

Aftermath|of CNN’s Black| in America

Some are saying OK…we get the problems….where are the solutions?

What can WE do?

Well, I say to you…..put the same or more momentum in this as you did for Obama and that is your solution. This is by no means an overnight success but change is possible; it takes dedication and hard work from people who are passionate about their people and the future of black America. It’s the first step of many steps.

Resources:

The following link is a list of local and national organizations and programs designed to address many of the issues raised in “CNN Presents: Black in America” and “CNN & Essence: Reclaiming the Dream.” Some of the people or guests featured in the programs are involved in some of these organizations

CNN does not endorse any organization, and information is provided only as a resource and inspiration to help people explore the many local and national organizations involved in these areas.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/07/18/bia.resources/index.html

I imagine a lot of people probably do not know about these programs. The links are extremely helpful.

 

BET:

  1. Write letters to the network and president demanding change in videos and programs shown on BET that promote negative stereotypes and images of black people that our children often  use as a reflection of themselves, and demand more educational programs.
  2. Boycott the program (children and adults alike) so that BET will loose money and their ratings will drop. I assure you; this will ring loud and clear.
  3. Here are three petitions that are currently going around; bring awareness and send these things  to those you know and those you don’t know to the dangers of such programs:

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/change-bet.html

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/betterBET/

http://www.petitionnow.com/BETVIDEOS/petition.html

 

In Addition:

  • Promote education at home:

http://www.ehow.com/how_2147355_promote-early-reading-home.html?ref=fuel&utm_source=yahoo&utm_medium=ssp&utm_campaign=yssp_art

 

  • Start some educational and inspirational after school programs in black schools and churches:

http://www.ehow.com/how_2335689_start-after-school-care-program.html?ref=fuel&utm_source=yahoo&utm_medium=ssp&utm_campaign=yssp_art

 

  • Start free parenting class in your community –even if it is only one or two days out of the week.

http://www.fathersworld.com/fulltimedad/issue2/bf.html

http://www.blackparents.org/

 http://www.babycenter.com/0_fathering-classes-could-you-use-one_8249.bc

 

  • Start free abstinence classes, not just Safe sex, in your local black churches and black schools, especially HBCUs:

http://www.physiciansforlife.org/content/view/247/27/

 

  • Send copies of the CNN’s Black in America special to your church and school.  (This is something I am very intent on doing)

Black|in America|Part I: A Positive Review

From what I saw on the program, they did go over some  positive aspects of Black America. I wouldn’t say the entire show was aimed towards this, but all the same there were very positive aspects. Can we ignore the bad in search of something good? Were we expecting an entire show dedicated to the positive aspects of black America when half of black America is, indeed struggling?

Since most have already pointed out the negatives of the program, I’ll point out the positives that I saw:

The black family with both parents and 5 children, all of which they successfully sent to college, except one because she/he was not of age yet and the parents have their own family business.

They covered a child who successfully made it out the “hood” and went to Julliard for dance and we all know Eric Dyson’s success story.

I remember them talking about the rapid increase of black business (up 45%, I believe) in the last decade which often the media ignores.

I remember them covering a large family who annually held family reunions, strongly stuck together and helped each other, and knew their family history tenfold.

They talked about the large number of black sisters who hold a degree. They talked about the many intelligent, financially well off sisters who are doing  very well for themselves.

They covered the 2 year experimental program in NY for less fortunate children which actually pays children to go to school and is designed to help motivate young black children in learning and give them a more promising future that would probably otherwise be bleak. So far , it has proven to be a successful motivation tool for learning.

I’d give the program a chance to play itself out before I denounce it. I’ll be tuning in tonight @ 8pm central time for the Black Men segment.

Besides this, I was watching it with some family members (cousins, aunts)—some of whom fall into the category of single parent mothers and they were very pleased to have an open dialogue about these issues and it opened their minds to many other things mentioned on the program. I think overall, it was more helpful than harmful.

Following|in Her Footsteps|and in His Shadow

Approximately 70% (66% to be more precise) of single black women are raising children. A disheartening 50% of these single black mothers live in poverty, and if one lives in poverty it is very likely that they will stay in poverty. This is increasingly becoming more of the rule than it is the exception. Soledad O’Brien’s Black in America  Part 1  on CNN only confirmed what I have always known and that is that the children of single parent households generally  follow in their parents’ footsteps, or shadows  when it comes to the absent father.

Black children who grow up in single parent households are more likely to:

  • Go to jail (mostly males): It’s no secret that many young, black men are incarcerated.
  • Get pregnant at an early age/Become “Baby Mommas”: With no father figure around, a lot of them go looking for a father figure and the love of a father that they never really had. Despite some women’s best efforts for their daughter not to make the same mistake she made, this seems to be the trend, especially for young girls whose mother had them at an early age.
  • Become “Baby Daddies”:  Considering this is, more or less, what his father did to his mother, this is the example his father set for his son by default.
  • Drop out of school: Nearly 50% of black students drop out of school and never graduate.
  • Join a gang (mostly males): 80% of black males who join gangs are those who have no father figure in the household. A lot of them look up to “OGs” or Original Gangsters as father figures. The OG is merely his name’s sake, and only cares about increasing his money through drugs and elimination of his competition through murder—-enter the young black troubled mind looking for a fatherly figure.
  • Get caught up in drugs: A lot of the black men in jail are there because of drug-related crimes. Murder, rape, and theft are also reasons.

The other side of this is some children know the mistakes their parents made and want to avoid them at all cost so that they can have a better life and future for themselves and family, however, statistics show that these are a small minority.

I am reminded of my two small cousins, one is 1 ½ and the other is 2 ½ —both are girls. Of course, I only want the best for both of them but I fear for them that they may very well following their mother’s footsteps or linger in their father’s shadow. God knows I pray that they are a part of that small minority and that the minority one day becomes the majority.

Now…why were/are some people mad at Barack and Cosby again?

Paying|Children|to Attend|School

1 student every 26 seconds drops out of school in America. Nationally, only 53.4% black Americans get a high school diploma. What happen to the other half? Numerous factors, of course, weigh in on this statistic.

As Soledad O’Brien’s part 1 report in the CNN special of Black in America reveals, some people are taking steps to change this. In New York, there is a program in process that actually pays children to go to school.

The program last 2 years and is obviously experimental; the children who participate in the program start young (10yrs old), and they get paid for scoring perfectly on test given.

As crazy as this may sound to some, this isn’t anything new. In the mid 1990s, Mexico implemented a similar plan except it paid poor parents to keep their children in school and to take them for regular health check-ups.

The Million”, another experimental program implemented, is a cell phone that disables text messaging, certain internet features, and other distracting features of cell phones while children are in the class. These particular phones allow children to learn and take test via their cell phone incorporating traditional teaching as well. When outside of the classroom, the cell phones function normally.

Most of the children in these programs are children from poor backgrounds and/or broken homes, which makes them all the more likely not to graduate from high school among other things.

Some people may look at this as a “bribe” of some sort, and basically, it is. It serves  more as motivation for the children than anything else.

People above the poverty line may take motivation from those around them, family, friends, etc. On the other hand, 33% of all black children live below the poverty line and these children typically do not have this kind of motivation in their lives. Most of their families/friends are poor like I mentioned earlier, so they don’t have the degree(s)/careers and such for a child to “look up to” so to speak. Often the things that they do have to “look up to” is very bleak.

For people like you or me who may look at things from a long-term point of view, we may think motivation lies in getting the diploma, degrees, and then great careers, supposedly, that are to follow. We are motivated in knowing we will eventually get to that point with the right steps taken.

However, these children mostly look at the “now” because most of their circumstances are based on the now and not the “later”.

For example, if there is no food in the refrigerator and their mother/father doesn’t have the money to buy food today for them to eat because they don’t get paid until 3 days after today, and the parent is barely living and providing pay check to pay check—- the child is still hungry and waiting for those three days will not cure his/her hunger.

So far, the program has been successful but it is simply too soon to tell if the true success of graduating these children from high school, furthering that into college, and giving an overall promising future will actually be achieved.

The Revolution|will NOT be Televised



I am not angry; I am anger.
I am not dangerous; I am danger.
I am abominable stress, eliotic, relentless.
I’m a breath of vengeance.
I’m a death sentence.
I’m forsaking repentance,
to the beast in his hench men.


Armed forces and policemen
that survived off of oils and prisons until there cup runneth over with lost souls.
That wear over-sized caps like blind-folds
Shiny necklaces like lassoes
Draggin’ them into black-holes
And I may have to holla out to Fidel Castro
To get my other brothers outta Guantanimo

And the innocence on death row?
It’s probably in the same proportion to criminals in black robes
That smack gavels
That crack domes
That smack gavels
That smash homes

Justice is somewhere between reading sad poems and 40 oz of gasoline crashing through windows
It is between plans and action
It is between writing letters to congressmen and clocking the captain
It is between raising legal defense funds and putting a gun to the bailiff and taking the judge captive
It is between prayer and fasting
Between burning and blasting
Freedom is between the mind and the soul
Between the lock and the load
Between the zeal of the young and the patience of the old
Freedom is between a finger and the trigger
It is between the page and the pen
It is between the grenade and the pin
Between righteous and keeping one in the chamber

So what can they do with a cat with a heart like Turner
A mind like Douglass
A mouth like Malcolm
And a voice like Chris?!

That is why I am not dangerous; I am danger
I am not angry, I am anger
I am abominable, stress, Eliotic relentless
I’m a death sentence
For the beast and his henchmen
Politicians and big businessmen
I’m a teenage Palestinian
Opening fire at an Israeli checkpoint, point blank, check-mate, now what?!
I’m a rape victim with a gun cocked to his cock, cock BANG! Bangkok! Now what?!
I am sitting Bull with Colonel Custard’s scalp in my hands
I am Sincay with a slave trader’s blood on my hands
I am Jonathan Jackson and a gun to my man
I am David with a slingshot and a rock
And if David lived today, he’d have a Molotov cocktail and a Glock
So down with Goliath, I say down with Goliath

But we must learn, know, write, read
We must kick, bite, yell, scream
We must pray, fast, live, dream, fight, kill and die free!

Amir Sulaiman

Tensions|Between|2 Brethren

Polemically,  when the issue of (A)frican/(A)frican (A)merican relations is broached, most will argue that due to cultural differences between As and AAs, there is little  to nothing they have in common and therefore, any interaction between the two is limited and too much interaction will only led to failure of some kind.

As I look around into all the various and diverse African faces while watching NGC (National Geographic), they’re in traditional clothing and surrounded by all the cultural things unique to them, and I notice that many of these people look just like or very similar to the black faces I see around me here in the US everyday, who are not natives of Africa as for 4-5 generations, they have been native to American soil. Namely, African Americans.

Why are some Africans extremely critical of and largely marginalize African Americans?

  1. As noted in the first paragraph, many think/claim that due to cultural differences, it is inevitable they would only clash with African Americans and due to propensity, they stay with “their own”.  However, I suspect that is mendacity and it has much less to do with culture and much more to do with them being black Americans. If I am incorrect, why is there an ever increasing number of Africans marrying and having strong ties with white Americans? There has to defiantly be a culture clash/barrier in this case as well, does it not? Many can marry white but can not even form an authentic friendship with an African American. So I find this invalid.  To be unfeigned, marrying white, in many African minds, means success, a boast of ego and/or status in a white privilege world.
  2. With that being said, Africans don’t identify with blacks because, black in America, is a negative connotation by convention, so they tend to try and identify more,  almost in an idolatrous, hubris way, with their tribes/country; the problem with this is…in America, no one cares about tribes. If your skin is black, you are seen as black. You may or may not be treated better or worse for being a foreigner from Africa, but you are still seen as a black person nonetheless.
  3. I think I may have heard all the stereotypes by now: “The ancestors of African Americans struggled for what?  For their women to be loose and have children out of wedlock and the males have children with four or five different women they are not married to, for them to be loud and destructive, call their women “bitches” and “whores”, wear the equivalent of a college education on their ears, to sell drugs on the street, kill each other, yell and curse, get locked up and blame “whitey” for everything?” Africans tend to disparage African Americans, attempting to claim superiority over them—despite the numerous, obvious, dire conditions in which many of their families and/or countries are in, with little to no understanding of African American history and the many struggles they still face, by-passing the fact that the only reason they are able to come to America is by means of the African American struggle. Some As take to calling AAs “Akatas”, which is a term originated in Nigeria. This term is very derogatory and it more or less means a “lost, confused, wild cat/fox away from home”.

Why some African Americans have officially cut all ties with anything dealing with Africa:

  1. Slave trade– Although it is an obvious evil primarily at the hands of white Americans throughout history, it is a well known fact that African slaves were SOLD into slavery by other Africans.  It is tacit that just the “undesirable” Africans and “prisoners of war” were sold into slavery. However, it is also a well known fact that the white slave traders wanted and paid for the strongest, and consequently most healthy, slaves who could offer the greatest capacity for work once in the America, so that would cancel out the notion of only “undesirables” and “prisoners of war” being sold into slavery. In either case, as one of my closest friends tells me, “You just don’t betray/sell your own ”; he (my friend) wonders if this is an unforgivable act and if this is the reason Africa is in a seemingly perpetual  cycle of misery (from a karma stand point)—by the way, my friend is African. Some African Americans are obdurate and rancorous; they argue that because they were sold into slavery by their own people, they want nothing to do with them.  One the other hand, many Africans respond to African Americans in diatribe and do not fully embrace them as brethren—- even when they are interested in their African heritage.
  2. Obligation– They feel, and rightfully so, as if they should be able to benefit from the prosperity of this land. Since the ancestors of African Americans have built this country literally on their backs— through blood, sweat, and tears, they feel obligated to this country if for no other reason other than their ancestor’s struggle. To many of them, rejecting it would be rejecting the many lives given in the struggle and tenacity for freedom, civil rights, and justice.
  3. Others feel, since they were born here and have never been to Africa, nor their parents, do not know where their ancestry is in Africa or respective culture, they would prefer to be called black Americans or just Americans. Simply put, America is the only place they indentify with.
  4. Since they know Africans tend to look down on them and make generalizations, they, consequentially, look down on them (Africans) too ….pointing to things like the current condition of Africa with poverty, AIDs, government corruption, senseless/petty killing of eachother, and basic quality of life concerning health. Some who are ignorant even make fun of them based on their cultural traditions as derision.

Our commonalities:

  • Biased media- The media in America generally paints a pretty crappy picture of Africa, as a whole. Generally, you see dirty, starving children, HIV and other disease stricken villages, and little development by means of modern-day technologies with people literally begging just for clean water. Concerning AAs, many As are already  fed the similar stereotypes mentioned above of AAs via the movie media and I’m sure word of mouth, also. However, there is also much beauty in Africa and its people that often goes untold, unnoticed, maybe both—their rich culture-language and food and in the beauty of their land. On the other side, there are many successful, well-educated, well-read African American women and men who are not “baby daddies and mommas”. Contrary to popular belief, not all African American men disrespect or mistreat their women. Not all of them are loud and ghetto. Not all of them are killing people or in jail for breaking the law. Not everyone drinks, smokes, or does/sells drugs etc as one may credulously believe. Both African Americans and Africans are individuals; it would be simply unwise not to look at them as such.
  • Despite the fact that African Americans are, by large, mixed to some degree with Native American or European blood, every African American can directly trace the vast majority of their ancestry back to some country in Africa, does this make them any less African than the next African when they have similar blood running deeply in their veins? One may argue, African Americans  have no sense of African culture, but does this make a child–whose parents are natives of Africa and submerged in the culture— raised in America and, for whatever reason, does not know anything or is seriously confused about his/her culture—language, tradition, etc…say due to “Americanization”…. a non African? This is still up for grabs.
  • The universal black struggle at the hands of mainly Europeans has affected African Americans and Africans alike; there has been no impunity given to either, and we both are, until this day, still struggling due to the exploitation of our people and our land.  We’ve both had leaders who were sedulous and courageous. African Americans have been exploited through slavery and all the injustices that have followed at the expense of their people, and Africans have been exploited by means of their land and resources at the expense of their people. Being black anywhere– outside of Africa or some other nonblack countries/cities— in this world, we are all likely to be discriminated against or encounter prejudice of some sort, simply because we all are black and have dark skin. You could be from Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Cameroon; you name it…same result. From a personal stand point, I believe there is a scramble, especially in America, to be on “top” concerning As and AAs. Undeniably, from a universal standpoint, black people (As and AAs alike) are at the bottom of the pyramid, and I feel that it is a mere scramble/battle for one to be on top of the other…as long as they are not at the very bottom, they don’t mind being one step away from it and far away from the top, which is ignorant because we are all ultimately, the same people and it does not, by any means, solve anything —as you’re still at the bottom. Keeping in mind that one of the cardinal reasons we are far from apogee is because we lack unity within the masses of our black brothers and sisters.