Take It Back: Huff Post Black Voices promoting Black girl “beef”

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One would think that there are more than enough instances of “bad girl” promotion and instigated “beef” between Black girls and their real or phantom “haters.” Just do a media audit, surely you’ll find an excess of lyrics and images blasting messages that insist on competition, superiority, gossip, and violence amongst girls. From reality TV to music (rap or a tune from your favorite pop divas), to videos and film. Yet, apparently staff at Huffington Post Black Voices  (a curated NEWS platform) felt the need to add their voice to the negativity and pit girls against one another when they posted a very baiting headline on their Facebook page regarding the new film adaptation of the musical, Annie, starring Quvenzhane Wallis.

"How Quvenzhane snatched the role of 'Annie' from Willow Smith?”

“How Quvenzhane snatched the role of ‘Annie’ from Willow Smith?”

 

“How Quvenzhane snatched the role of ‘Annie’ from Willow Smith?”

Really?!?

There’s no telling what prompted “Black Voices” to use such divisive, antagonistic phrasing as a headline. One can only deduce the reasoning is sensationalism, especially when the actual article, published in Playbill and written by Karu F. Daniels, makes no reference to any competition between the two girl stars. In fact, there is a very minute mention of Willow, simply saying she was originally cast as Annie. It also mentions her parents remain producers.

A moment of shining celebration for the history-making, Academy-Award nominee Quvenzhane Wallis was otherwise ceded to the mindless/heartless decision that could have a detrimental impact on the very tone in which our girls consume AND are portrayed in media. The post acquired more than 50 shares and stirred conversation on social media.

Several commenters, myself included, requested Black Voices retract the title and find more affirming phrasing.

I thought it practical that when brought to their attention, an editor or someone on staff there who is sensitive to the influence media has on our girls, their interactions and identity,  would realize how important it is to correct the wording. I even crafted a few recommendations as a  guide: “Quvenzhane Wallis Glows as America’s First Black Annie” “Willow Smith opens lane for fellow girl actors…” “Black Girls rock the big screen; make history…”

We’re still waiting for HuffPost Black Voices  to move in the right direction on this. How long that will be is anyone’s guess as the post has sat for more than 5 days and as of Monday, November 17 remains.

Why make this into a big deal? In a space and time when young girls are bombarded with messages that glorify them into “mean girl” behavior and the internet is saturated with fight videos where girls get a digital audience for taunting and provoking their peers, girls deserve responsible media to share their stories.

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At the same time, as we so often have to all but conduct an anthropological dig for intentional language that affirms our girls, I did want to include here what the director says about Quvenzhane in the original Playbill piece:

“The people in the press have been saying, ‘Wow, there’s an African-American Annie, and why [would] you make such a change?’ and my response to that is, ‘This is an 11-year-old girl who has to shoulder the entire movie with her music, with her singing, with her acting. How many times in history do we have an 11-year-old girl who has been nominated for an Oscar? So we were extremely lucky that she was available and that she existed and that we didn’t have to find someone. ‘The Beasts of the Southern Wild’ found her for us, and we were really lucky for that.”

Perhaps those of us who work closely with girls are more connected to the impact media messages have on their development. This is why we encourage media to truly reflect on the way it narrates the reality of our girls and be mindful of how their messages are consumed.

What do you think, should Huffington Black Voices retract the headline? Should we be concerned about this? If so, how do we hold media accountable for influencing positive interactions among girls?

Thankfully, Essence magazine got it right!


Credit: Columbia Pictures Twitter

Credit: Columbia Pictures Twitter

 

Whitney Houston: Queen of the night forever reigns

I saw the AP Breaking News tweet, but my mind would not allow me to believe it.  I was hoping and praying that it was another of the weekly Twitter RIP hoaxes. Not for many hours after did I accept what the news outlets and social media buzz was saying. Whitney Houston had died in a Beverly Hills Hotel.

The realization has left me somber and deflated. To understand my anguish you have to know what Whitney’s gift gave to my childhood and ideal of love and romance. Fighting back tears while at times writing through, I tried to put it into some sensible words using titles from her hits, but below is the best I can give at this time…please receive with all the love, respect and admiration I had for what God shared with us in human form as Whitney Houston…

The scene from the happy days of my childhood is so vivid. Singing. In the living room. In the church choir. In the bathroom. At the dinner table (before being silenced by receiving a stern look from my mother or Granny, cause it was a cardinal sin to sing at the table).

Yes those memories stand out. I would fling my Diana Ross big hair and wrap fake boas around my neck singing with combs, brushes, brooms or mops as my microphone. But I never had a song.  I mean Miss Diana was old…all her songs were from Doo Wop and disco days. This was the 80s and I had never sang any words that I felt were mine.

Until I heard the voice of Miss Whitney Houston.

That voice. That persona…it connected to something within me. So The Greatest Love of All became my song. The words encouraged me and spoke all the things I wished the adults around me would say. Whitney sang that song as if she was the saving grace for every brown girl child who ever breathed. And that voice singing those words awakened a belief inside of me that has never been shaken since; that the greatest love of all is inside of me, and if it is indeed inside of me I was destined for greatness. I am greatness. That’s what Whitney told me, and I believed her.

But beyond that voice, that pure, sanguine, fluid, yet mighty voice was a girl who was my reflection. In a culture where being skinny (or bony as its called in the Black community) is ridiculed and mocked, yet here was Miss Whitney looking poised and regal, sweet and fun, sexy with all the world watching her. I was a pair of those eyes watching- looking up in celebration and awe. Instantly I recognized Whitney was a girl like me.

So I donned a wardrobe change with my idol as inspiration…. coached along by my step mother I sang at talent and fashion pageants.

I was a swirling motion of high-volumed hair, shiny lip gloss, neon bright singing sensation saving all my love for that one moment in time when all my cares melted and I just wanted to dance with somebody, singing like I knew things, tears streaming from my pubescent eyes, I got so emotional.  Just a girl child but felt like I was Every Woman with the greatest love flowing through me. It was a force, somebody bigger than me had given the world this angel, and I studied and learned from the best what poise and inflection and crescendo and perfect pitch meant.

Step by step of my life, there is a song from Whitney to give peace, encouragement, love, clarity and a good time. I felt it deeply then that we had something in common. I recall the early years of college when things were getting serious with my boyfriend, I’d asked him to listen to the words from Run To You, because if he could truly hear those words, if he  got the song then he’d get me. He got it, no wonder he is now my husband.

I Want to Run To You

Now today is one of those days when the world just doesn’t make much sense. Finding myself so emotional in a different state of being. I didn’t know Whitney, but every time she sang I felt like she knew me. Thinking back on what she gave the world, I marvel thinking didn’t we almost have it all. Maybe she gave us too much, it lead to entitlement. Her voice, relationship and struggles weren’t enough, the cameras and fans and media always wanted more. The queen of the night told us who she was, left herself wide open…she was a miracle of our time. The greatest.

And now Whitney Houston is gone. Something just doesn’t feel right, but it’s okay because we can look to her marvelous works. She definitely lived life with passion and on her purpose. We can listen to her gift and savor that million dollar bill feeling…Whitney made us feel large didn’t she?

So diva, I ain’t got nothin’ but love for you.

Rest in peace and power in your next realm. I pray for peace and comfort to blanket your family and all those who truly shared in your life with you.

There will never ever be another Whitney. Salute!

 

Take a look back at some of my favorite Whitney songs. Please share your memories and songs that touched you, too!

You Give Good Love

Every woman

Miracle

Queen of the Night

All the man that I need

Greatest Love of All

One of those Days

Something In Common

Red Tails…a little off base

Last weekend I headed to the movies, along with throngs of other Black folks, in support of Red Tails, the cinematic Hollywood portrayal of the Tuskegee Airmen which is by all measures a blockbuster.

The George Lucas produced film depicts the potent racist struggle Black pilots had to navigate in order to join the U.S. Air Force, notwithstanding the fight they fought just to defend this country in World War II. This story of the Tuskegee Airmen, like much of our little-known and devalued history, deserves to be told. Watching the film (steered by a Black director, writer, and an all-Black cast of leading actors) I couldn’t contain my pride.

We are all sick and tired of seeing stereotypes of Black men played out in media; from the nightly news to cooning sitcoms to big screen flashes of men in dresses. It is a daily fight to resist what we know is NOT the norm of brothas. We know Black men are hard workers who commit to their responsibilities, affectionate and respectful of the women in their lives, proud of their accomplishment, not to mention intelligent and articulate. So for me, seeing that visualized on the big screen as a major production was a glorious moment in time.

I am proud that I saw Red Tails. Proud that my husband, children and I shared the experience as a family. And even still proud that my choice to go out and see it during opening weekend was included in the chorus demanding more positive, full-bodied films about Black life.

Yet, midway through the film I did lean over to my husband and whisper my concern of the absolute absence of Black women on the screen?!!? Now I cautiously pointed this out.  But not before I checked myself and my filters. I mean this was, after all, a film about the experience of the Tuskegee AirMEN. So, no I did not go into the theatre expecting to see women in major roles…I honestly would not have minded if there were no women in the film (well it would bother me just a teeny bit).

However, it is because of the fact that there was only one woman given a major role in this film; a film about one of the most historical contributions Black Men have made in this country, that I am most aggravated. That one woman was Daniela Ruah. A White woman.

This has stumped me. Still I know my person; that I have been viewed as being a little subversive when it comes to Black women and our plight in media. I accept that I am intensely aware of societal “norms” and how those norms are guided by patriarchy and racism. Conversely I questioned every possible filter to find why this bothered me so much, and IF it should.

I must say, all the soul-searching in the world won’t shake my disappointment. Disappointed for a few reasons. The most glaring reason is that there is not a Black man on this earth who can say he has not been nurtured, loved, encouraged, chastised,  or influence by a praying Black woman. Hold my mule right now if I’m exaggerating…

Didn’t think so. Before a Black man even understands the dynamics of an intimate relationship or attraction to women, he is familiar with the love o a Black woman. This is why, for the life of me, I cannot grasp how the audience comes to know the influence of the father of Easy’s character and Black Jesus, but never that of a mother, grandmother, Big Ma, sis, fiance or wife back home…

Beyond befuddled. Especially when considering the real-life stories of Tuskegee Airmen boasts solid marriages with Black women…many were married during their time of duty.

Now let’s factor in the enormous attention this film got after George Lucas, the formidable Hollywood  director (Star Wars Trilogy) who happens to be white, revealed how many rejections he received from studio heads to produce and distribute this film. He was quite literally the great white hope for Red Tails- the Hollywood version.

That speaks volumes to how we had to get this right…this was our one shot. This sets the bar…at what ever level we believe we qualify for. Whatever is in this film will be considered the formula for movie execs when considering Black films. That formula will be devoid of an intimate and sanguine relationship between a Black man and woman. Conversely it will have Black men pining over the foreign (read exotic) love interest of a lighter hue.

Just on the other side of perturbed.

On the brighter side, I wasn’t so miffed that I would discourage other people from seeing  Red Tails. However I do see this as a valid point of discourse about 1.) the image mainstream media is pushing regarding Black male/female relationships; and 2.) the historical shared experience we have had breaking down barriers in America and 3.) last but not least is the consistent symbolic annihilation of Black women by media which in turn erases us from the history books.

Am I off-base?

Please join the discussion during #GirlsMediaChat on Twitter, 9p CST Thursday, Jan 26 (TONIGHT)

Get the real history of Tuskegee Airmen:

Follow the Tuskegee Airmen dedicated Tumblr started by National Museum of African American History and Culture 

Listen to living legends share their stories on StoryCorps

Check out Red Tails Reborn, a PBS documentary