Here is a really cool interview I found with Rep. Lauren Underwood talking about how she learned a lot and was deeply inspired by Shirley Chisolm. While we were watching the film about Chisolm in class, I found myself wondering “how well would she do if she ran in the 2020 election. While I’m not saying that Rep. Lauren Underwood is exactly like Chisolm, it is interesting to see how Chisolm’s influence and legacy carries on in present politics.
You might know “Summertime”, a unique hit found on Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald’s 1958 album “Porgy and Bess”. Ella Fitzgerald, nicknamed First Lady in Song had an outstanding voice so it was hard for venues to turn her down on the basis of her race. Her mother Tempie, passed away when she was 15. Fitzgerald took her chance when she won a drawing at the Apollo Theater in 1934. She launched her career that night, and few years later found herself playing with Dizzy Gillespie’s band. Norman Ganz, her manager did not tolerate racism. He took off “White Only” signs wherever the band toured. Fitzgerald was constantly harassed, turned down by clubs, forced off a plane in Australia in order to provide more seats for white patrons. Although Fitzgerald was not politically involved, she opened the gates for future young African Americans with her confidence and resilience. In 1975, the NAACP presented Fitzgerald with the President’s Award.
Jordan Peele’s movie creations including “Get Out” in 2017 and chilling tale of doppelgangers “Us” released just weeks ago both star black families. The movies are not similar plot-wise, “Get Out” alludes to systemic racism still lurking in the present day. In “Us” however, the main character Adelaide finds her doppelganger, who comes back to haunt her thirty years later. The foundation of the plot for this movie is based on Hands Across America movement, a real event that occurred in 1986. Adelaide is played by actor Lupita Nyong’o (also in “12 Years A Slave”) is shown as a resilient, and strong mother. The progression of her character throughout movie is worth noting. Her doppelganger (Red) thinks and acts the same way she does, but towards the end of movie Adelaide becomes increasingly more violent than Red. Instead of being portrayed as a stay at home mother who depends on her husband, Adelaide is the main character, and it is she who faces Red alone in the amusement park. By the end, the audience can clearly see the sympathy, pain and love for their kin instilled in both characters, above and below ground.
In class, we have been discussing how Black women have been over looked and often forgotten about. Last semester I took a class called Afrofuturism, and the issue about Black women not being seen in Afrofuturism was brought up. One definition of Afrofuturism that always stood out to me was “It tends to mix the mystic and limitless nature of the African diaspora who have both reached back to their roots and embraced the technology and culture of the future.” One common issue that I came across was the fact that a lot of Black women were not seen in Afrofuturism. Then I got to thinking about how this could be seen as people not wanting to see Black women as the future or not wanting them to be apart of the future. The only time Black women were seen in Afrofuturism was went they were being over sexualized. I decided to speak upon this because connecting the two shows how Black women are always at the of the chain when it comes to getting respect. Also this is me using what I learned in one class and bringing it to another.
To continue the story of the importance of black women in the 2020 elections, Richard Fausset from The New York Times wrote an article on recent Democratic appeals (particularly from Senator Harris and Mr. O’Rourke, but from many candidates) to black women as a voting bloc, who many Democrats consider a key demographic for winning the democratic primaries. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/28/us/politics/black-women-voting-south.html. The article traces how many of the major players are currently either appealing to certain issues or campaigning in specific locations geared at gaining the support of black women voters. Many of these appeals call upon identities of the candidate and relate them to specific struggles—either arguing ‘I can help you because I am like you’ or ‘I can help you even though I’m not like you.’
“Watching in the back of the crowd were Kadara and Kaywon Nelson, a black couple in their 30s, who had come out to learn more about Mr. O’Rourke. They were anti-Trump, but otherwise undecided. The biggest issue for Ms. Nelson, the campus safety compliance officer, was the cost of health care…They both said a candidate who could address the country’s issues was more important than finding one who represented their race. ”
As conversations surrounding the 2020 election continue to circulate, what is most important? Descriptive or substantive representation? Issues or the person pursuing them? Does treating black women as a ‘voting bloc’ in electoral politics disregard individual experiences and black women’s individual autonomy?
In class we’ve talked about how black women have historically been pushed to the back and often times forgotten about. In many instances the history of black women is distorted and disregarded. This also stands true when it comes to the conversation of art. Many art pieces in modern day have been whitewashed and continue to diminish the existence of black women in historical art. In an article by Sophia Smith Galer, Galer uses many examples of historical black skinned females in mythology and history that have been whitewashed in art. Andromeda, who was a originally depicted as a black princess from Ethiopia, has been made to be a white woman in many art pieces. She was in fact a black woman, but many artist went on believing she was white. In addition, in many paintings of the old testament the queen of Sheba is depicted as white. Gale notes “the Renaissance saw a whitewashing and sexualization of the Queen of Sheba”. This quote stuck out to me because as we’ve discussed in class black women are often unnecessarily over sexualized. I found this article to be very relevant to our class because of the discussions we’ve had about how black women are forgotten or the last in line for respect. It is important to realize that this idea can be applied to other disciplines that aren’t usually discussed. Art is one of those disciplines and examines this idea closely.
Today, March 31, marks the celebration of transgender visibility. The purpose of Transgender Day of Visibility is to acknowledge transgender and gender non-conforming people around the world and their accomplishments as well as continue the conversation about their frequent struggle for equality. For the purposes of this class and for spreading general awareness on the issue, black trans women and their experiences with discrimination not only for their gender identity but also in terms of race needs to be addressed. An analysis titled Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey was recently released and contains startling statistics about the lives of transgender people in general, emphasizing even further the impact discrimination has on trans people of color. I encourage everyone to look into the findings of the study and I will provide the link. However, a few key findings are: 49% of black respondents had attempted suicide, 34% reported a household income less than $10,000 per year, and 41% reported being homeless at least once in their lifetime- and this is more than 5 times the U.S national average. A clear conclusion of this study is that transgender people are victims of harassment and discrimination in larger numbers, but black trans people are fairing even worse. Until black trans women are free, none of us are free.