Blunts, Brunch & Bougerie

Two Sisters. Two Tables. Two Thrones. November 2, 2016
An Alternative View: 2014 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival - Day 2
(Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Coachella)

BY My Stupid Fucking Cooking Blog

I’ve been flattened by this album every time I’ve listened to it. This world doesn’t deserve A Seat at the Table and Lemonade in the same year, but we got it anyway.

I’ve been looking for articles celebrating these two sisters releasing their odes to black femininity that are so utterly appropriate for each woman, but all anyone can talk about is how Solange is sure gonna endanger Beyoncé’s Grammy! Some people like her album more than Beyoncé’s!

Ugh. Can y’all shut the fuck up? First of all, who gives a fuck about the Grammys. Second of all, why don’t we focus on what is good about each of these albums and why we’re losing our collective shits over both of them?

Read more at: My Stupid Fucking Cooking Blog

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

“So I will continue to write in this blog, which may not always be comedy considering how annoyed I am all the time, because I need the practice. Feel free to critique, throw pies, fart on my pillow, or send me potted plants.”

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‘Malika: Warrior Princess’ Serves All Kinds of #BlackGirlMagic October 20, 2016

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The year 2016 has been a crock of bullshit in a lot of ways, but black art is not one of those. Netflix graced us with The Get Down and Luke Cage, HBO debuted Issa Rae’s long-awaited Insecure last week, and Donald Glover released his brilliant series, Atlanta. Finally, we’re not compelled to support any and every black work out of rarity (at least for now). We can pick and choose.

If you love shows like Game of Thrones, Avatar: The Last Airbender and Marco Polo, you should probably to choose to support Malika: Warrior Queen. Set in fictional fifteenth century West Africa, Malika is queen and military commander of Azzaz, a large empire with five provinces she inherited from her father. Trouble arises within Malika’s council, as well as abroad, with a foreign empire planning to destroy her people (sound familiar?)

Creator Roye Okupe surpassed his $7,000 goal on Kickstarter, so we can expect a graphic novel in spring 2017. I’m excited to support, but when looking at the pictures, all I can think about are the possibilities for an anime or live-action series. Okupe did seek distribution for his first futuristic comic, E.X.O.: The Legend of Wale Williamsbut didn’t get far and was finally told by a producer that he should consider changing the race of the hero. Hopefully, Malika gets further than E.X.O.

Read more about the kingdoms of Azzaz,  Roye Okupe’s kickstarter and YouNeek Studios here.

Black Lives Matter September 23, 2016

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BY My Stupid Fucking Cooking Blog

We must stop denying racism and instead acknowledge it, examine it, critique it, make every attempt to abolish it. We live in a racist society where people of color have less agency than white people. We internalize the reality of the situation, regardless of which race we are. If you’ve ever seen that video of black kids saying they’d rather have white dolls because they’re more beautiful, you’ve seen (a minute example of) what internalized racism does. If you view the status of black people in this country – more likely to live in poverty, more likely to be accused of crimes, more likely to go to jail, more likely to be on welfare, etc. – and do not actively consider it the effect of hundreds of years of subjugation, starting with forced removal and slavery, and consistent inequality since – then you are passively blaming black people for their own status in this country.

We all live in a racist society (just as we live in a misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic, etc. society), therefore we are all racist and have to actively examine ourselves and reject the impulse to have racist thoughts and, more importantly, actions. Additionally, we need to hear our black friends when they call us out, and take responsibility rather than deflecting.

And if I hear “I have black friends” one more time I will drop kick a motherfucker.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

“So I will continue to write in this blog, which may not always be comedy considering how annoyed I am all the time, because I need the practice. Feel free to critique, throw pies, fart on my pillow, or send me potted plants.”LEAH.jpg

The Criminal Justice Matrix July 26, 2016

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BY JOSEPH SANDFORD

Several powerful themes emerged from the Republican National Convention last week: American society is synonymous with freedom, our Constitution is sacred and the only instrument capable of securing our freedom, and law and order must be restored in a country that has succumbed to widespread violence. The gusto in support of such ideas was on full display during the affair’s dramatic finale, but do they accurately portray how the broken system of criminal justice plagues our country?

Before the Republican Party turned to demagoguery to inspire their reactionary base, Georgetown University Law professor David Cole published No Equal Justice, a depressing study of our country’s criminal justice system. In the book, he shows that the Constitution fails to protect all Americans’ rights equally, and that the Supreme Court has encouraged Fourth Amendment abuses by law enforcement in black communities.

Some might see the Supreme Court as a beacon of hope for those whom the cards are stacked forcibly against. Cole demonstrates that the Court has recently been the opposite: “The Court has consciously created a regime designed to coerce the less well educated and the less self-assured among us to surrender their constitutional rights.” Police coercion manifests disproportionately within black communities, leading to increased arrests, distrust, and the disintegration of effective policing.

This pattern revealed itself again in the Court’s June 20th Utah v. Strieff decision. The Court upheld Utah’s ability to prosecute using evidence obtained after the illegal detention of a law-abiding citizen. On the basis of a technicality, the Court moved to protect a police officer’s right to “stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants – even if you are doing nothing wrong,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor asserts in her dissent.

The technicality was the discovery of an arrest warrant for the suspect in question and the absence of the appearance of a dragnet effort to stop and question citizens throughout the streets of Salt Lake City. However, Sotomayor argues that these practices are not isolated or cases of benign negligence, citing evidence that police units throughout the country have conducted tens of thousands of suspicionless stops in the search of people with arrest warrants who can then be exploited.

The closing paragraphs of Sotomayor’s dissent convey the danger of these types of police practices: “This case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged.”

Decisions such as Strieff act as a destructive feedback loop within black communities. Police concentrate their abuses in black neighborhoods, which leads to increased arrests and a collective identification of blacks as criminals deserving of unequal treatment. “The criminal stigmatization of blacks perpetuates and justifies their subordination as a group,” Cole writes, “and the status of blacks as a segregated, subordinated groups makes it easier to insist on ever-more-stringent stigmatizing measures in the criminal law.”

The appeal of the Republican’s law and order propaganda is a trap designed to ensnare members of the white community fearful of recent violence. It disguises the effects of elevating law and order above equality. This trap will confirm the police as above the law, and further encourage corrupt law enforcement practices within minority and impoverished communities. We must ask: Is the Constitution meaningful if it doesn’t equally apply to all? Rhetoric and action conflict on this issue, and come November we’ll see where our country truly stands.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joseph is a student of all that can be found on earth and beyond. He and Natalie met during their freshman year of college, and they’ve been debating everything from the pitfalls of democracy to the wonders of astronomy ever since. Joseph is a historian by training, who’s searching for meaning through the art of the essay. An avid skier and golfer, he currently lives in Boulder, Colorado (420 anyone?).

I Will No Longer Explain Why #BlackLivesMatter July 14, 2016

 

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(Photo by Whitney Curtis/Reuters)

I feel as though I’ve been through an emotional ringer the past two weeks, and I know I’m not alone. I, and others like me, have been assaulted with headlines, videos and links to bleeding, dying black bodies. I have watched young men and women, bold enough to cry out in front of cameras, critics and cops, suddenly silenced. I have watched murderers walk away from dead black men and women with little consequence and proactive protection. I am tired.

I have taken efforts to avoid harmful conversations that leave me dejected and disappointed in friends and acquaintances. The force that impulses the world to justify and excuse the abuse of dark bodies feels like a toxic gas only the most affected can (sometimes) see. I find myself making strenuous effort to remind myself that we are not powerless. I know that powerlessness may be the most dangerous emotion of all

We cannot ignore the psychological damage in witnessing violence against people who look like us, solely because they look like us, over and over and over again. We are strong, but as Jesse Williams told us, “just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not human.” We need therapy, we need safe spaces, and we need protection, even if that means we must provide it ourselves.

In a new act of self-preservation, I have decided I will no longer explain why our black lives matter. I understand that white supremacy has brainwashed all of us, and those blind to its effects are not always hateful people. I know that racists are not the villains we see in The Help and Quentin Tarantino movies; they are regular people; teachers, nurses, police officers- with families. I have watched non-POC attitudes towards race and race issues evolve, and have seen their eyes open to experiences outside of their own. I know that change is possible, and I believe I’ve had a hand in this type of change before.

I can no longer make myself personally responsible for this change in people I share spaces with. I cannot put myself through the trauma of arguing my humanity with well-intentioned white-people, struggling to remain calm while face-to-face with the very cause of my oppression. I will not discuss our righteous anger with those who are willing to tell me, in all their unfelt authority, that my experience as a black woman in this country is an illusion because it is foreign to them. I no longer have room for the burden of others’ ignorance. At a very minimum, I can ensure those in my closest circles understand that my life, safety, and mental health matter, and that there is need to emphasize this in a world where it seems I matter less than everyone else.

I don’t have space and time to pause my work and explain its necessity. There are too many little black girls and boys with uncertain esteem and uncertain futures. I will not go backwards and engage in dialogue to change the hearts and minds of sometimes kind, racist white people. That is not my calling. If you’re looking for that, MTV Decoded is a great option. Francescha Ramsey does a great job kindly breaking down the ABCs of America’s romance with slavery, racism and genocide, and the effect that has on our thoughts and actions today. An older blog, My Black Friend Says, is another great source that focuses on breaking down racism (and race-ishm) for those who don’t have a black experience.

My focus is elsewhere. I have empathy and respect for those in my life that I know will never understand our plight, and my patience to explain what I face to them is probably much more than that I would have for a stranger. Still, I can only explain so much. I have to save my explanations for little black boys and girls who live in a world that conditions them blind to their own humanity. I have to work on us and telling our stories. I have to work on me and my story. To do this well, I must operate in a space made safe for (and by) me.

Our Divisive Contradiction July 12, 2016

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BY JOSEPH SANDFORD

Over the July 4th weekend, before the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, I consumed an instructive dose of history from Christopher Hitchens’ short biography, Thomas Jefferson: Author of America. Introducing his subject, Hitchens wrote, “It would be lazy or obvious to say that he contained contradictions or paradoxes. This is true of everybody, and everything. It would be infinitely more surprising to strike upon a historic figure, or indeed a nation, that was not subject to this law. Jefferson did not embody contradiction. Jefferson was a contradiction.”

Here, the essence of an incredibly influential man is asserted, and the difficulty in painting an accurate representation of an entire nation is revealed. Given the diverse perspectives, styles, shading, hues, and brushes available, it’s impossible to render an authentic sketch of any nation.

This week that picture became acutely clear for the most casual student of history or current events. Through the lens of fear our perspectives shifted and our image refocused. Fear that adhering to every letter of the law may get you killed at the hands of the police. In these instances, people were doing the right thing, but ended up on the wrong side of terror and injustice simply by the color of their skin.

The slaveholder Jefferson declared, “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal.” This sentiment lays bare the American contradiction – all men are not treated equally. This past week demonstrated that achieving harmony within our society remains considerably beyond those with the furthest moral reach.

President Obama deftly summed up the meaning of last week’s tragedies: “These are not isolated incidents. They’re symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system.” Videos of Castile and Sterling bleeding to death are not the first evidence of this disparity. How do we remove this reality from the realm of possibility in America, and create a society representational and respectful of all it comprises?

Institutional racism and injustice remain woven into the fabric of America. Jefferson reserved the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to white men, setting the foundation for our current predicament. Generations have fought for inclusion under the law. This struggle will continue, and it is one that must reverberate throughout all of society.

At the nadir of this generational struggle for equality and justice, it is naïve to caution against violence and rioting. The effects of oppression cannot be tamped down through clichés of non-violence and universal love. Rather, love and respect dictate that we find empathy for communities dehumanized by unjust social forces, and build their experiences into a moral system deserving of the words Jefferson wrote that revolutionary summer 240 years ago.

Thus, our collective attitude must change in the wake of the cruel destruction of black bodies. These tragedies demonstrate that battles seemingly overcome by abolitionists and the civil rights movement continue to plague America. Following these examples, society must lift its head above the ocean of ignorance and indifference. We must embrace calls to morality, justice, and the unalienable rights of all people to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

However sad and fearful the future of this country may appear, it is encouraging to know what must be done. Respect for black lives must be nurtured. The criminalization, oppression, and harassment of black bodies must cease. Whatever has occurred to this point has been a rehearsal of form and practice. The events of last week highlight what does not work. Let’s move forward by finding a way that does.

Our collective identity will not reveal itself on your TV or phone – the truth is discovered through education and engagement. These are not optional practices for a country so divided by race and class. In the image of America, black lives remain blurred and shadowed by our history of slavery and racism. And only those communities wholly feel the weight of America’s past. Trust and communion will be achieved when we see the problems through their eyes and heed the message of their stories. Black lives are our leaders and experts on this issue. It is the responsibility of everyone else to follow.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joseph is a student of all that can be found on earth and beyond. He and Natalie met during their freshman year of college, and they’ve been debating everything from the pitfalls of democracy to the wonders of astronomy ever since. Joseph is a historian by training, who’s searching for meaning through the art of the essay. An avid skier and golfer, he currently lives in Boulder, Colorado (420 anyone?).

Where Does Your Allegiance Lie? July 7, 2016
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(Photo by FoxADHD)

For 12 years, I was required to pledge my allegiance to, “…one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” For 20+ years, I have celebrated “our independence” from the oppressors, across the pond.

Today however, I am in total shock and disappointment at a nation that permits the execution of its citizens (natural-born or otherwise). Today, I am in solidarity with those whose are in utter disbelief that lives, black lives to be exact, can be so easily discarded. Today, I am outraged, unconsolably so. Today, has irrevocably changed my life.

Hence forth, I will no longer recite the words of centuries ago. I will no longer pledge allegiance to a nation that STILL views those of my skin color as 3/5’s of a person. I will no longer celebrate an “independence,” that was never afforded me.

Thus today, I pledge my allegiance to the empowerment of black lives. I pledge allegiance to the indivisible community that WE WILL nurture and rally behind. I pledge to fight tirelessly for the liberty and justice we deserve. Today, I pledge to never forget how we were executed in the field, on the street, in a church, in the back of a police car, in our home, and worst of all, in front of our youth. So today, I pledge my allegiance to ALL black lives- past, present and future.

My allegiance lies with those who believe in the unequivocal worth of black lives. I look forward to the day when the sound of OUR independence chimes louder, and resonates further than the Liberty Bell.

To all of those who stand in opposition, I leave you with this chilling thought…

“Negroes,
Sweet and docile,
Meek, humble and kind:
Beware the day
They change their mind!
Wind
In the cotton fields,
Gentle Breeze:
Beware the hour
It uproots trees!”

-Langston Hughes

We Love Elle Varner, But Here’s Why She’s Wrong June 10, 2016
88th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Elle Varner’s post made me sad. I’m not exactly sure why it did; it is entirely possible to create a beautiful R&B album in 2013 and say something problematic in 2016. Still, I sit here guilty of the same thing Erykah Badu fans were guilty of last month: equating musical excellence with cultural awareness. Obviously, we still love Erykah Badu, just as we still love Elle Varner, and they may be culturally aware on some level (don’t forget, it was Erykah who told us to ‘stay woke’). Still, this doesn’t mean they can’t be dead wrong when it comes women, dress codes and modesty.

To my own detriment, I’ve tried to make myself become more active on Instagram, which includes scrolling though posts (yawn) and posting pictures (ugh). Yesterday morning, I came across this post:

First, I looked at the picture, and thought “good point.” I glanced at the long caption Elle left and was surprised to find a very wrong rant about the removal of dress codes, anti-slut shaming, and feminism that looked like it belonged in the very unliked, unretweeted depths of Black Twitter.

Elle deleted this post by the end of the day,  which I honestly found a bit disappointing. I’m sure she knew her comments would draw backlash, but purposefully decided to take a stand. Everyone has a right to their opinion, and everyone has the ability to learn when they are wrong. If Elle (or her team) realized a mistake was made, it should have been publicly admitted, not deleted. When public figures make problematic statements, criticism is immediate, harsh, and often educative. With social media, we’re all going to say stupid shit publicly, which is why we should do ourselves (and others) the favor of learning publicly.

How School Dress Codes Shame Girls And Perpetuate Rape Culture

There’s a lot to learn here. I’m not sure exactly who Elle was referring to when she wrote about “grown women promoting ‘slut’ culture and validating their personal choices and actions behind phrases like ‘slut shaming.'” Elle looped them in with women who “throw around words like feminism and women’s empowerement,” all the while conflating anti-slut-shaming with “loose or provocative behavior.” It was pretty disparaging, and seemed to spring from an existing prejudice that women’s sexual freedom is a choice, but a less moral choice. A woman’s choice to engage in safe, consensual sexual activity is always ‘valid.’ To imply that women must do something to validate a personal choice is to imply that the personal choice was not valid to begin with.

It got worse.

“The average girl will be of child bearing age at 14 and boys of the same age experience completely natural raging hormones!”

What does this have to do with the decisions young women make standing in front of their closets every morning? Should these young women dress in fear of the “natural raging hormones” of their male peers? Should these girls now feel responsible for the emotions, or worse, actions the “natural raging hormones” may incite? Even if she dresses with intention of attracting attention, is she responsible for her peers’ misbehavior?

The idea of modesty has crippled men. We have taught boys that they are not in control of their own bodies, that they are too weak to resist their animistic, predatory sexual tendencies that provide access to skin women don’t choose to cover. This teaching is very dangerous, and very, very old.

A History of Women’s Bodies

Clearly, we have crippled women as well, and while things are slowly getting better, dress codes are one of the many remnants of this history. Boys’ restrictions in dress codes do not compare to that of girls’, who are ultimately taught they are responsible for the behavior of their male peers.

Modesty is just one of the tools of patriarchy, which we’ve all been brainwashed with. Unlearning is a conscious and challenging process, and we’re bound to say some stupid shit while working on it. Elle Varner just made her process public.

Concert Review: Formation World Tour June 9, 2016

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When an artist of Beyonce’s stature announces a tour, odds are it’s going to sell out. But, when Beyonce tells the world to get in Formation, oh boy, do we. Sold out stadiums, demands for second shows, police forces literally trying to “Boycott Beyonce.” All this to say, whatever Beyonce put in our kool-aid is not of this world. 

On Tuesday, June 7th, I arrived at Citi Field (if by chance you are not familiar with the five boroughs, simply type “No Man’s Land, Queens, NY” into good old Google maps) to what one would safely assume was the second coming of Christ. Having purposefully arrived within fifteen minutes of the doors opening, I assumed the lines to enter the stadium would be tolerable at best. Thankfully, I was right. It came as no surprise that in addition to endless merch tables, DJ booths and radio promotion girls, Beyonce also had fantastic security. Whether in formal blues, or neon-green vests, those lovely men and women with (holstered, for which we must thank Lord Jesus) firearms were ready and willing to corral the swarms of concert goers into neat and tidy, but rather long lines.

Once inside, the sheer aura slowly began to take over. Within an hour of being in the stadium, I realized as every minute had passed, I had shamelessly begun to sprout both wings and stinger. By a quarter past seven, I had gone through the transformation and become, a bee.

After finding our seats and some well needed alcoholic bevs, Snapchat’s very own DJ Khaled quickly hopped on stage and thus, the night began.

During DJ Khaled’s set, I was fortunate enough to witness two modern marvels. The first being DJ Khaled’s vernacular, which spanned from, “Another one!” all the way to, “They didn’t want me to (insert verb), so I did!” The second, and albeit the more marvelous of the two was the slew of artists that graced the stage. First up was French Montana with his single, “Pop That.” Then Travis Scott delivered us the “Antidote,” and moments later it went “Down in the DM,” with Yo Gotti. Last but not least, Fat Joe and Remy Ma hopped on stage to perform their new hit single, “All the Way Up.” While all the guest artists were fan-fucking-tastic, the last two performers were indeed the piece de resistance. 

As curtains closed, or rather, when DJ Khaled waved good-bye and exited stage left, the fact that we were soon to see her Majesty the Queen (remember, I was fully converted, wings and stinger, an hour or so prior) had concert-goers emotions in flux. Seconds turned into minutes, minutes turned into a half-hour, and a half-hour into one hour and ten minutes. But then, as if she could sense our pain and anticipation, the benevolent box (that we were certain housed our Lord and Savior), began to revolve ever so slightly.

As visuals of the Queen, paired with audio of Big Freedia’s sonorous voice began to fill our, minds, bodies and souls, I knew the time had come.

The night began with a riveting and awe-inspiring performance of “Formation,” complete with wide-brim hats and vintage cinematography on screen. Following the tour’s anthem, was the crowd favorite “Sorry,” which is when I lost every last shred of sanity I had left. Not a single seat was occupied as we all recited in unison, “Better call Becky with the good hair,” and then cheered and whoopee-d.

As the night progressed, I was vividly reminded of how large Beyonce’s catalog is. When she brought back true oldies like, “Baby Boy,” “Survivor,” and “Bootylicious,” my eardrums recalled decades of pure excellence. I was a bit shocked when “Drunk in Love” and “Crazy in Love” (sans Jay-Z), were performed. Then I remembered that this tour wasn’t about the dynamic duo; but instead, her Majesty the Queen’s unequivocal ownership of all that is sonically celestial.

Towards the end of the show, Beyonce surprised us all by revealing that her stage transformed into wading pool. This served as the focal point for the last few songs which included another crowd favorite, “Freedom.” Once the night was clearly coming to an end, we were serenaded by sensuality as Beyonce performed “1+1,” and to close out the show, “Halo.” It was truly a moving moment, complete with fireworks and life-deliverance, for which I will be forever grateful to have witnessed.

Long live the Queen!!