Black Female Artists Tackle The Dangerous Stereotypes That Have Never Defined Them

Mildred Howard, “I’ve Been a Witness to this Game IX,” color monoprint/digital on found paper with collage, 2016.

article by Priscilla Frank via huffingtonpost.com

The pop culture landscape is littered with lazy images of black women ― the nurturer, the hussy, the angry bitch. Hovering around the all-encompassing myth of the “strong black woman,” those paper-thin characterizations fail to represent real women in all their complexity and vulnerability.

Despite the monolithic representations that appear so often in TV series, advertisements, films and the imaginations of those who digest them, artists have long worked to provide images that speak to the depth and sweet fallibility of all human beings ― black women included.

An exhibition at the Alexandria Museum of Art, titled “Beyond Mammy, Jezebel, & Sapphire: Reclaiming Images of Black Women,” deconstructs the limiting categorizations mainstream culture allows black women. The artists on view reveal the shoddy nature of the stereotypes in favor of challenging, poetic and thorough visualizations of black culture ― the myth, the archetype, the self-portrait and beyond.

Characterizations commonly ascribed to black women in America are both historical and insidious. The Mammy ― a big-bosomed, jolly mother figure ― was written fictitiously into history to make slavery appear more humane. Her illusory existence suggested that there could, in fact, be such a thing as a happy slave. Today, the Mammy is often framed as a sexless, selfless nurturer.

Then there’s the Jezebel ― an overly sexualized, promiscuous black woman ― with a similarly atrocious origin story: her image was used to justify the sexual violence systematically inflicted upon black women in the antebellum South. Its influence persists to this day, making it more difficult for rape allegations by black women to be taken seriously.

And finally, the show addresses the image of Sapphire, named for the one-dimensional character on the radio and TV show “Amos ‘n’ Andy” ― an angry black woman. This cultural generalization, too, is a corollary of slavery and oppression. It calls back to a time when history overlooked the atrocities committed against black families and suggests instead that black women are inherently hostile, a foil to the delicate femininity of white women.
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BOOKS: “Never Caught” Tells Story of Ona Judge, Enslaved Woman who Escaped and Defied President Washington

512y-xth0ilarticle by Jennifer Schuessler via nytimes.com

MOUNT VERNON, Va. — The costumed characters at George Washington’s gracious estate here are used to handling all manner of awkward queries, whether about 18th-century privies or the first president’s teeth. So when a visitor recently asked an African-American re-enactor in a full skirt and head scarf if she knew Ona Judge, the woman didn’t miss a beat.

Judge’s escape from the presidential residence in Philadelphia in 1796 had been “a great embarrassment to General and Lady Washington,” the woman said, before offering her own view of the matter.“Ona was born free, like everybody,” she said. “It was this world that made her a slave.”

It’s always 1799 at Mount Vernon, where more than a million visitors annually see the property as it was just before Washington’s death, when his will famously freed all 123 of his slaves. That liberation did not apply to Ona Judge, one of 153 slaves held by Martha Washington.

But Judge, it turned out, evaded the Washingtons’ dogged (and sometimes illegal) efforts to recapture her, and would live quietly in New Hampshire for another 50 years. Now her story — and the challenge it offers to the notion that Washington somehow transcended the seamy reality of slaveholding — is having its fullest airing yet.  Judge is among the 19 enslaved people highlighted in “Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon,” the first major exhibition at Mount Vernon dedicated to the topic (it runs through 2018, check link above for details).

She is also the subject of a book, “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge,” by Erica Armstrong Dunbar.

Erica Armstrong Dunbar, the author of “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge,” at George Washington’s estate in Mount Vernon, Va. (Credit: Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times)

Erica Armstrong Dunbar, the author of “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge,” at George Washington’s estate in Mount Vernon, Va. (Credit: Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times)

Most scholars who have written about Judge’s escape have used it as a lens onto Washington’s evolving ideas about slavery. But “Never Caught,” published this Tuesday by 37 Ink, flips the perspective, focusing on what freedom meant to the people he kept in bondage. “We have the famous fugitives, like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass,” Ms. Dunbar, a professor of black studies and history at the University of Delaware, said in an interview in Mount Vernon’s 18th-century-style food court. “But decades before them, Ona Judge did this. I want people to know her story.”

Research on slavery has exploded in the two decades since Mount Vernon, Monticello and other founder home sites introduced slavery-themed tours and other prominent acknowledgments of the enslaved. “Lives Bound Together”  was originally going to fill one 1,100-square-foot room in the museum here, but soon expanded to include six other galleries normally dedicated to the decorative and fine arts, books and manuscripts.

An installation about Ona Judge, often referred to by the diminutive Oney, in the exhibition “Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.” (Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times)

The exhibition makes it clear just who poured from the elegant teapots and did the backbreaking work on the 8,000-acre estate. But integrating the harsh reality of slavery into the heroic story of Washington — “a leader of character,” as the title of the permanent exhibition across from the slavery show calls him — remains unfinished work, some scholars say. Continue reading

“Hidden Figures,” Viola Davis, Mahershala Ali, Denzel Washington Win Screen Actors Guild Awards

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“Hidden Figures” Wins Best Cast Ensemble for Film at 2017 SAG Awards (photo via kansascitystar.com)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)

The 2017 SAG Awards took place on Sunday night at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, and among the winners were favorites Viola Davis for Best Supporting Female Actor in a Motion Picture (“Fences”) and Mahershala Ali for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture (“Moonlight”), as well as surprise victors Denzel Washington for Lead Actor in a Motion Picture (“Fences”) and “Hidden Figures” for Best Cast Ensemble in a Motion Picture.

“Hidden Figures”  also added $14 million to its box office numbers this weekend to cross the $100 million mark and bring its current total gross to $104 million.

Other notable wins were “Orange Is the New Black” for Best Cast in a Comedy Series and “Stranger Things” for Best Ensemble in a Drama Series.

The complete list of winners is below:

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Denzel Washington, “Fences” (WINNER)
Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”
Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”

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Serena Williams Triumphs over Sister Venus to Win Record 23rd Major Title at Australian Open

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Serena Williams lifts her trophy after defeating her sister Venus Williams in their women’s singles final match at the Australian Open in Melbourne on Jan. 28, 2017. (Mark R. Cristino / EPA)

article via chicagotribune.com

Serena Williams held up a Grand Slam winner’s trophy for the 23rd time, celebrating her unrivalled place in history, and received a congratulatory letter and a pair of custom-made shoes from Michael Jordan, the name most synonymous with No. 23.

Venus Williams got to watch from close range again, and shed tears more of joy than regret after being beaten in a major final for the seventh time by her record-breaking younger sister.

Serena won the all-Williams final, the ninth in Grand Slam history and the second in Australia, 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday.  With her record seventh Australian Open title, Serena moved ahead of Steffi Graf for the most major titles in the Open era.

When Serena sat on the court, holding both arms up to celebrate on Saturday, Venus walked over to her sister’s side of the net for a hug.  “This was a tough one,” Serena said. “I really would like to take this moment to congratulate Venus, she’s an amazing person — she’s my inspiration.  There’s no way I would be at 23 without her — there’s no way I would be at one without her. Thank you Venus for inspiring me to be the best player I can be and inspiring me to work hard.”

Asked if it felt awkward to be on the receiving end of so many losses to her sister, the 36-year-old Venus didn’t flinch.  “No, because I guess I’ve been here before,” she said. “I really enjoy seeing the name Williams on the trophy. This is a beautiful thing.”

Venus won the last of her seven majors in 2008 at Wimbledon. She didn’t make the second week of a major for a few years as she came to terms with an energy-sapping illness after being diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome in 2011. And she only made it back to the semifinals last year at Wimbledon.

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Essence to Honor Issa Rae, Janelle Monae, Aja Naomi King and Yara Shahidi at Black Women in Hollywood Awards

(photo via shadowandact.com)

(Issa Rae, Aja Naomi King, Janelle Monae, Yara Shahidi (photo via shadowandact.com)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)

Essence, the nation’s preeminent brand for African-American women, will commemorate the 10th anniversary of its “Black Women in Hollywood Awards” by shifting from a daytime luncheon to an evening gala for the first time.

The Awards & Gala will honor Hollywood’s “Next Generation”— young women who are excelling and elevating their crafts—including actress/musician Janelle Monáe (Breakthrough Award); groundbreaking “Insecure” actress/writer/producer Issa Rae (Vanguard Award); “How To Get Away With Murder” Yale-educated actress Aja Naomi King (Lincoln Shining Star Award); and “Black-ish” actress Yara Shahidi (Generation Next).

Actress/Producer Gabrielle Union will serve as the program’s host and the red carpet ceremony will be held at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, CA, on Thursday, February 23, 2017.

“For the past decade, the “Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards” have paid homage to our modern image-makers—both in front of the camera and behind the scenes,” said Essence Editor-in-Chief Vanessa K. De Luca. “This past year has been an exceptional one for diversity in film and television, and with the incredible contributions of Janelle, Issa, Aja and Yara, it is fitting that our 10th anniversary will honor the future of Hollywood and its continued steps on the path to inclusion.”

Also for the first time, internationally acclaimed visual artist and filmmaker Mickalene Thomas will be infusing the event with her elaborate imagery celebrating the power of female beauty as a facet of women’s empowerment.

To check out highlights and behind-the-scenes access to the “Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards & Gala,” go to Essence.comFacebookTwitter or Instagram @essence #BlackWomeninHollywood.

‘Moonlight,’ ‘Fences,’ ‘Hidden Figures’ and Actors of Color Make Oscar History

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 08: (L-R) Actors Trevante Rhodes and Naomie Harris, director Barry Jenkins, actors Ashton Sanders, Janelle Monae and Mahershala Ali of 'Moonlight,' winner of Best Motion Picture - Drama, pose in the press room during the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 8, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – JANUARY 08: (L-R) Actors Trevante Rhodes and Naomie Harris, director Barry Jenkins, actors Ashton Sanders, Janelle Monae and Mahershala Ali of ‘Moonlight,’ winner of Best Motion Picture – Drama, pose in the press room during the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 8, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

article by Sameer Rao via colorlines.com

Reversing course from last year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored “Moonlight,” “Fences,” “Hidden Figures” and other people of color-centered works with Oscar nominations today (January 24).

The three films, each of which features a predominantly Black cast, compete in the “Best Picture” and “Writing (Adapted Screenplay)” categories. Actresses Viola Davis (“Fences”), Naomie Harris (“Moonlight”) and Octavia Spencer (“Hidden Figures”) also square off for best “Actress in a Supporting Role.”

“Moonlight”‘s eight nominations are the most of any film this year besides the musical “La La Land.” They include “Best Director” and “Writing (Adapted Screenplay)” for Barry Jenkins, and “Actor in a Supporting Role” for Mahershala Ali.

“Fences” star and director Denzel Washington received a best “Actor in a Leading Role” nomination. Playwright August Wilson‘s script, based on his original 1983 play, earned him a posthumous “Writing (Adapted Screenplay)” nod.

Other acting nominees of color include Ruth Negga (“Loving”) for “Actress in a Leading Role” and Dev Patel (“Lion”) for “Actor in a Supporting Role.” Patel is the first performer of South Asian descent to receive an acting Oscar nomination since Ben Kingsley for 2000’s “Sexy Beast.”

Ava DuVernay‘s “13th,” Raoul Peck‘s “I Am Not Your Negro” and Ezra Edelman‘s “O.J.: Made in America” each received Documentary (Feature) nominations. The category also includes another Black director’s work: Roger Ross Williams“Life, Animated,” and Joi McMillon became the first black female to be nominated in the Editing category for “Moonlight.”

This year’s nominations are far more diverse overall than last year’s, and NBC News reports that this year’s acting nominee pool is the most diverse in Oscar history.

To read more, go to: http://www.colorlines.com/articles/moonlight-fences-and-actors-color-make-oscar-history

Know Any Young Heroes? Nominate Them for a $5,000 Gloria Barron Prize

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Mary-Pat, a 2015 Gloria Barron Prize Winner and Founder of Think Twice Campaign (photo via barronprize.org)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes celebrates inspiring, public-spirited young people from diverse backgrounds all across North America. Established in 2001 by author T.A. Barron, the Barron Prize annually honors 25 outstanding young leaders ages 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive impact on people, their communities, or the environment.logo-horiz-green-blue-300

The top fifteen winners each receive $5,000 to support their service work or higher education.  Applications are accepted online only and are due by April 15, 2017.

For more information, visit www.barronprize.org/apply

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