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    Entries in black (4)

    Thursday
    Dec102015

    The bklyn boihood calendar 

    Greetings earthlings --

    You may have noticed there was no call this year for models for our annual calendar. That’s because, for the first time since the beginning of bbh, we elected to not do one this year.

    Each year our calendar has brought something special and perfect. Each year we hear stories of its impact. As we grow and evolve, we want the calendar to grow and evolve too. So over the next 12 months, we’ll be curating doing a 2017 multi-media calendar project. We’ll share more details but it’s going to involve various platforms (video, print, possibly audio) and ways to connect with the models of this and past years.

    In 2010 the calendar was a icy hot snowball that got thrown out into Brooklyn. To be a boi was not a rarity, but to be a boi unabashedly celebrating one’s presence in the world, to be handsome and beautiful, to participate in a photoshoot dedicated to affirming your place in the world--that was revolutionary and unique. We didn’t know it then, but the work was built upon generations of elders and ancestors who were doing their own types of affirming and organizing.

    As the years went on, the calendar spread to dozens of states, several countries and a few continents. Tumblr wasn’t really poppin’ yet. Instagram didn’t exist. Buzzfeed hadn’t featured bois. We were not in fashion. We were, as we continue to be, in danger, misunderstood, hyper-generalized. We were, as many of us continue to be, unaware that being a boi--being gender non-conforming, transmasculine, masculine-of-center--all those things--is not married to a particular brand of masculinity that teaches us violence, possession, fear. Our calendars were an attempt to become unafraid. 

    Since 2010 there are many, many more ways for bois of color to see themselves represented in the world. Some of them are shallow; others extra problematic and others are amazing. But it’s not enough. A one-dimensional calendar is no longer enough. We are dreaming bigger and can’t wait for what’s going to come.

    -the bois

     

     

    Monday
    Feb132012

    We Are Not All Black in the Same Way (A Rant)

    (Originally published here, at spectraspeaks.com)

    Warning: This is a rant. AKA I’m pissed (enough to write about it), and don’t feel the need to explain myself further than this:

    I’m Nigerian. I’m African. I’m Black. They don’t compete, they complement, which is why when I’m asked to silence one for the sake of the other, I don’t. This rant is a response to ignorant statements I’ve heard all month, like these: “It’s Black History Month, not Nigerian History Month,” “The reason one would cling to ethnicity is that they’re victims of internalized racism; self-hate for being black,” “Why do you feel the need to differentiate yourself by calling yourself Nigerian?” (wow).

    So, I’m done with the placating diplomatic internet speak (for now). I think it’s healthy to reserve the right to throw a tantrum every once in a while. We’re all human. Especially when there’s this sanctioned idea that it’s okay to rant against white people but not ‘your own’ — which in itself is why I wrote the piece. Who decides who ‘my own’ should be? Who decides where I belong?

    Dear American / Black Person / Over-Educated Academic, Who Seeks to Educate Me about Race,

    Please don’t tell me I relate more to my ethnicity than my race because of internalized racism. I can’t tell you how infuriating this is. Displaying pride and passion about my cultural roots isn’t — and should not be taken as — an affront on anyone else’s. I’m proud to be Nigerian, period.

    When you imply that the US framework for discussing race is the only framework that matters, you invalidate my experience as an African woman. I didn’t grow up here — by speaking as a Nigerian, Igbo-Rivers woman, I am merely staying true to myself and honoring where I came from, the same way I believe it’s important to never erase the history of slavery, colonization, apartheid, and other chapters of “black” history. It all matters, regardless of where or how my history has happened, and so I honor mine.

    My mother’s people were killed for being Igbo, not for being black; I was bullied in high school for being African, and having an accent, not for being black; and while I won’t deny that I’ve experienced racism in this country for being a black woman, and would never downplay the solidarity I feel with women of color, racism is not my whole story.

    I still get black people making derogatory comments about my “mandigo” African heritage. I still hear black people saying stupid things about immigration. I will not re-center my narrative to fit into your western framework about oppression from white people, because black people — and the idea of monolithic blackness that erases my cultural heritage — have been just as oppressive.

    I am so very perplexed at your view that “north” american (since you keep forgetting that south america exists, and have appropriated “america” to mean just the US) discourse is and should remain the center of all conversations about race (a la “Let’s stay focused — it’s the US we’re talking about…”) especially since there are so many migrant groups in this “melting pot” such as (Black) Latinos, Haitians, African immigrants, other Caribbean folk etc who have also had to submit to the dogma of Blackness just to “fit in” to your imposed, binary conversations about race; one that perpetuates the unhealthy idea that the monolithic black american community has suffered the worst kind of oppression — that there’s an hierarchy of oppression in the first place; one that maintains that, if we are to engage in any discussions about racism, we will have to identify solely as “black” for the purposes of presenting a “unified front.” Forget being Nigerian, or African. Hell, forget being a woman. But f**k that.

    I wasn’t viewed as black until the age of 18 when I arrived for school; I was Nigerian before then. Even still, I’ve only been Nigerian for as long as the history of colonization, but I’ve been an Igbo/Rivers matriarchal warrior way longer than that i.e before Africa’s colonizers draw squiggly lines on a map, designating me “Nigerian” for the purposes of dividing and conquering. And though you may not see it, being “culture-blind” is just another form of being “color-blind,” which we all know is just another way for oppressors to avoid talking about how they are actively or passively partaking in a racially oppressive system. It is no different for conversations about ethnicity. I won’t sit down and be black for the sake of fake solidarity.

    Diaspora immigrants like me have our cultural reference points along the axes of nationality and culture — not just race — so please stop with the xenophobic, nationalist view of blackness, brownness, race etc, because we come in multiple shades, ethnicities, languages, and histories etc, and as a direct result, multiple and varied perspectives about oppression. It is burdensome to keep having to remind you about this, and I am so over it.

    I’d rather teach race 101 to white people, than have to explain to one more person of color — the people who really should get it already, the people who I assume would be able to understand the pain of being continually silenced — that we are all not brown in the same way, in the same “American” way. I’d rather bury my head in the sand than listen to one more black person tell me “you need to learn your history,” when you know nothing of my heroes — the Margaret Ekpo’s, Ojukwu’s, Soyinka’s, Ngugi’s, and Adichie’s of world black history as I know it. We are not all black in the same way. Ethnicity matters (at least, to me). Can I get a month — say, Black History Month — off from having to explain this? That would be awesome.

    Signed,

    Over-Black-Dogma, Spectra

    Nigerian Writer & Media Activist | Queer Afrofeminist Social Commentator | Creative Entrepreneur | Idealist Warrior Woman 

    Wednesday
    Feb022011

    Public Service Announcement: Go learn some shit. (TBG)

     As Black History Month arrives (that’s your history, YOURS whoever you are) I always get a little antsy because I know damn well mufukas don’t give a damn about nobody’s Black History Month. I mean let’s be real. You sighed when you saw Rosa’s pick, didn’t you? Nevermind that she’s a fuckin G. The last time most of us did something usefully commemorative or intentional related to Black History Month was re-tweeting your conscious friend’s black history tweet of the day, listening to one of your cousins recite the I Have A Dream Speech or watching Roots on TVOne. And that’s only some of us. Most of us don’t attend events, make an effort to read/acquire information about our history or contribute to organizations that engage in strengthening communities. Some of us don’t even feel like we shouldn’t have to because we aren’t Black. Or you are Black and it feels cliché. It’s a joke with a punch line we all recognize (shortest month, coldest month…). But we are playing ourselves.

    The truth is, we know less about our history than ever before. That’s you queer. That’s you white woman. That’s you transman. That’s you brown femme. That’s you prettyboi. That’s you black man...While we busy shittin on this month and hoping Rev J Jackson doesn’t accidentally rhyme any of his words or phrases and embarrass us in front of the white folk, history continues to be built and we lampin’ in the shade…with our natural hair and incense, all eccentric in our red black and green.

    One BHM long ago, way back in the era of desktop computers and blue-screen phones I was in an undergraduate class where the professor asked us to list prominent black women of present day or the past.

    “Do Venus and Serena count?” was the only submission after Oprah. An awkward silence filled the room like smoke and I realized that my professor was holding back tears.

    I couldn’t comment then and I really can’t now. My blood pressure…it’s too much.

    What makes me more stressed out than those ignorant asses in that class years ago is thinking about how this community, my community, our community of browns and tans and peaches and queers and allies would be hard-pressed to make our own list of people, places and things (without Google) that have built our histories.

    (Also, sidenote: This isn’t about formal education. So don’t kick me no insecure, ‘oh, just cause you went to school blah blah…’ bullshit, I’m talking about paying attention to the world. Investing in learning about the people who have literally died investing in you.)

    Understand that RIGHT NOW in Egypt (as I write this, who knows when you’ll read it cause I’m rambling) they are holding what people are calling a Million Man March. A revolution in Africa (or, ‘Middle East’ depending on your…politics) is unfolding and pulling straight from the pages of our Black History. This is it. Understand the way we impact the world.

    (Sidenote number two: being knowledgeable is sexy. Not that pretentious name-dropping/fact-spitting mess, that’s stressful to be around and nobody likes you. But just carrying a living interest and awareness in the world around you ups your game 100%. Guaranteed.)

    In order to really be about the shit you represent being about—smoke weed and rap about— wax mad poetic at potlucks and house parties about—there is a critical need to have information. Be consistent in the acquisition of knowledge. This month is about your history. It’s about understanding the laws that are being passed against you, that are being legislated in direct opposition to your life. It’s about learning who organized movements and led people who have granted us permission to live in ways we could never repay. This is us, man. We are the sum of all parts past, present and future. 

    Real gangstas know real shit. Retweet THAT got-damn it. And go learn some shit.

    -TBG @the_bad_gay

     

    I also happily dole out suggestions for places to pursue aforementioned knowledge and information and welcome your suggestions too. Love.

    Friday
    Jan212011

    F**k the T-Shirt, I Really Can't Afford To Love NY.

    by The U.N.EYEwitness.



    It’s the 20th of January. I sit here typing this article from my $1937 apartment in Flatbush, with glee, knowing that I’m 12 luxurious days away from having to shake my bank account dry to pay my $664 share of the rent. Some may say this cost isn’t that costly. It’s not the $1000 and up shoebox rooms in Williamsburg, Park Slope, or any other rapidly gentrified community in Brooklyn. But, it’s well on the way to being so. 

    As someone who did not grow up in NYC, it’s hard to imagine what these neighborhoods were like before their sharp, sweeping transitions from the hood to hood chic, from Black and Latino to mixed, aka, young white college-educated hipsters as your neighbors. We know the stories – we’ve got an A-list of BK emcees to flesh out ‘90s ski-mask tales and crack sales. Where these used to be red (and blue) lights flashing to caution said individuals away from neighborhoods like Bed Stuy, Crown Heights, Bushwick, and Flatbush, they have now become selling points – a “cool” factor, of sorts. A chance to frequent the new bars, coffee shops, and restaurants, without all thatsketchy crime stuff. But this is no new news to you.

    Us queers of color are clustered up in these exact same neighborhoods – a community within a community. Some of us were born and lived here our whole lives, others moved in from other cities and settled down where we’d feel most comfortable. But sometimes I wonder, am I one “young professional” who moved in and hiked up the rent for that family that’s been living here for generations? Am I the cause of Flatbush being bombarded with cops walking in packs of 8? Did they build that organic market up the street for me? What’s the thin line between simply moving into a neighborhood you can afford, and gentrifying it?

    On the surface, I look as if I’ve been here for years, just by being Black. I'm aware, though, that my income as a single person probably matches some families I live next to. But don’t get it twisted – I am extremely far from a trust fund baby. My parents can't pay my rent, since they’re struggling to pay theirs. I lived on a very modest budget of $32,000 for a year and four months, only for that to be slashed by 55% with unemployment. This barebones income now covers my basic living expenses. In keeping that gentrification is as much about class as it is race, I’m as expendable as my Caribbean neighbors are. The uncomfortable truth is, being white and living in these neighborhoods means you physically embody an inevitable change in the neighborhood, and even more striking, an inevitable change in NYC. 

    The definition of “low-income” according to City Hall is anyone who makes $68,000 or below. $68,000. Obviously, this means some millions of New Yorkers simply aren’t even on the map. The blitz of luxury condos and rehabilitated apartments have been built in these neighborhoods, without a second thought to whom they’re displacing. Rent-stabilized apartments that hit the $2000 mark for rent can pretty much kiss “stability” goodbye (our $1937 number has me shaking in my boots). I’m seeing more sushi places than Kennedy Fried Chicken spots…

    And I’m wondering how much longer I can realistically last here. 

    I’ve been to several going away parties in the community, as some of our folks want to experience other parts of the US where you’re not paying for a NAME when you’re paying your rent. (And if you are, it’s significantly less.)  I’ve also been chatting with many college juniors and seniors who are pondering where they should move, and seeing NYC as an option. I immediately screech to them, “DON’T DO IT. It’s not for us anymore.” I really want to remain optimistic, and bask in the shopping list of Brooklyn perks that I don’t get many places else, but that list is getting shorter and shorter. I own up to my privilege of being able to bounce to another city, but this time, it would be out of necessity rather than pure desire. Bloomberg wants NYC to be a “luxury product”. The underbelly of the Brooklyn, or the working class that built its legacy and culture, are being traded for bike lanes and Crunch gyms. 

    What does that mean for queers of color? We come from various class dynamics, so I can’t profess that all of us going to the same $10 party are living comfortably. Sure, we may frequent the same bars, restaurants, or galleries, but what happens to those of us who can no longer afford to stay here? What happens when we start getting citations for “trespassing” for walking in the park? Or denied that new apartment because we don’t make enough income? 

    I’ll let the good times roll while I’m here. But by the time they start rolling out red carpets at subway stations for people carrying Whole Foods bags, I have a good feeling I’ll be gone. Smooches.