All Articles Tagged "black"
Although the fashion industry continues to be dominated by Anglo-Saxon ideals of beauty, these seven black fashionistas turned the industry on its head. Displaying the splendor of diversity in color and size, they broke racial barriers and used their modeling and fashion platforms to pursue other business opportunities, support their favorite causes and open the world’s eyes to the beauty of black women.
Donyale Luna was the first black cover girl. Born Peggy Ann Freeman in 1945, this Detroit native enjoyed success in front of both still and motion cameras. In 1965, her sketch was featured on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. The following year, Luna became the first black model to be featured on the cover of Vogue; it was the British version of the magazine.
The New York Times proclaimed 1966 “The Luna Year” and stated that at the age of 20, she was the hottest model in Europe. She appeared in several Andy Warhol movies, starred in an Otto Preminger movie alongside Groucho Marx, and was the title character in Salome, an Italian movie made in 1972. The Sunday Times Magazine of London, described Luna as “the completely new image of the Negro woman. Fashion finds itself in an instrumental position for changing history, however slightly, for it is about to bring out into the open the veneration, the adoration, the idolization of the Negro.”
At the workplace, unbeknownst to their coworkers, many black women are holding down a second job editing themselves. Whether it’s passing up fried chicken for lunch or feigning ignorance when the conversation turns to Love & Hip Hop, we tend to feel the need to adjust our behavior for mixed company. It’s a practice dating back to W.E.B. Du Bois’ concept of “double consciousness,” a “sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others.” As an upwardly-mobile people, we take great care not to reinforce stereotypes others have of us. Maybe it’s time we let them see the real deal.
I’m guilty of feigning a disability or two for the cause. I’ve pretended I was deaf to spare my co-worker the horror her remark mistaking Kelly Rowland for a member of TLC. I’ve improvised a bout of dementia to forget my manager fingering my waist length braids and asking if they were my real hair (I had a bob the day before). The tales of black women on their best behavior are plentiful and, at times, comedic enough to fill a Web series on the topic.
We work hard to play against the stereotype of the “angry black woman,” but to what end? A recent study found that black women are expected to be pushier at work and receive higher approval ratings when they are assertive. This is in stark contrast to the results for white women and black men, who receive backlash when they exhibit aggressive behavior.
The nice girl act isn’t exactly what our employers and co-workers are looking for. So, should we all walk in the office doing our best Oprah does Ms. Sophia impression? Those can’t be the only options for success. It’s about time black women break the cardinal rule of being black in the workplace – be yourself.
Since our country’s inception, black women have been instrumental in shaping the law of the land. They overcame racial and gender barriers to become lawyers and judges, while using their influence to enact laws for the greater good of society. One legal eagle – a former slave – never went to law school, but possessed the innate ability to present oral arguments before the Supreme Court. These trailblazers reshaped the legal landscape in their pursuit of liberty and justice for all.
Charlotte Ray has the distinction of being the first black female lawyer in the United States. In 1869, she applied for admission to Howard University’s Law School under the name “C.E. Ray” since the university discouraged women from applying to law school. When Ray graduated from Howard in 1872 with a degree in commercial law, she was the first black woman – and only the third female in the United States – to receive a law degree. That same year, she also became the first woman admitted to the bar in the District of Columbia.
“You Can See How Black People Evolved From Apes” and Other Racially-Charged Comments That Left Me Speechless
I grew up with an Italian mother and a black father in a predominantly white town where the black population hovered just below 10 – including my sister, my father and I.
So by the time I hit my pre-teen years, I was not surprised when I heard racial slurs like “oreo,” “zebra” and the n-word, and even some I didn’t immediately understand, like “mocha face.” I was not surprised when some people griped I was “too white” and others complained I was “too black.” I was not surprised when my class took field trips into Boston and students shouted “Look at all the n—–s!” when we entered the city.
I had readied myself for these types of comments so that when someone called me a cruel name at lunch, or the boy I liked couldn’t like me back because his parents said so, it hurt a little less. I put my personal struggles in perspective and considered the plight and sacrifice of those who came before me, who endured much more than name-calling and forbidden dates.
But no matter how many racially-charged comments I faced with the most dignity I could muster, some statements — usually from people who were drunk or unaware I was listening — simply left me staring wide-eyed and speechless, simultaneously trying to pick my jaw up off the floor and process the nonsense I just heard.
As we all know, racism is powerful and pervasive, creeping into areas of life we are sure it can’t gain access to. And sometimes, people just say some crazy things:
“You know, looking at black people, you can really see how man evolved from ape.”
There I was, walking nonchalantly up the stairs at a family gathering when I heard a white relative blurt this out. He’d been watching a golf game and thought I was out of earshot, so he allowed his hatred to simmer above the surface, then smiled at me when I’d finally worked up the nerve to enter the room. I was 11 years old, and I was not quite ready to figure out that family is a seemingly protected boundary that racism can easily penetrate.
“Mick Jagger has a n—–’s lips.”
It was a middle school art class, and a girl at the next table over made this comment with an air of casual disgust. To no one in particular, or perhaps, indirectly to me. In a way, I wish she had addressed me specifically rather than ignoring the fact that I was 10 feet away, because by exclaiming this in my presence and pretending I didn’t exist, she made me feel both singled out and invisible. And I spent the rest of the class trying to understand what exactly a “n—–‘s lips” were, and whether or not Mick Jagger had them.
Webseries have become the holy grail for black people in the film industry who are tired of sitting around waiting for opportunities to tell their stories, and we’re increasingly seeing even established actors and film producers jump on the trend. Aasha Davis of the critically acclaimed film “Pariah” has recently gotten into the game as the star of a new series on the drama that unfolds in the workplace, “The Unwritten Rules.”
The series was created by Kim Williams and is based on her book, 40 Hours and an Unwritten Rule: The Diary of a N***er, Negro, Colored, Black, African-American Woman. She says the webseries
“examines the comedic realities of being an African-American in a predominantly white workplace.”
Pretty much all of us have been there at some point or another so it shouldn’t be too hard to find a situation we can identify with. Aasha Davis, who plays the lead role of Racey Jones, says the series is both entertaining and expository, opening up a dialogue on issues we all know exists but only talk about amongst ourselves.
“The series immediately made me laugh because, it reminded me of stories that my sister would tell me about working in corporate offices and in the same turn it made me nervous because it was exposing those type of stories I only felt comfortable enough to discuss with someone like my sister. I’m really attracted to stories like the Unwritten Rules’ because they inspire interesting and sometimes difficult conversations.”
When I watch the trailer I can’t help but think of Awkward Black Girl because of Aasha’s sarcasm, although she has a slightly different style of delivery. So far, four episodes have aired, and a new one comes out every Wednesday. Check out a couple episodes here and tell us what you think.
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Black women have a long and proud history of advancing the cause of education in America. Their groundbreaking accomplishments – particularly in higher education –inspire, encourage, and challenge not only black women, but people of every race, age, gender, and economic background to pursue their dreams. From the first black female PhD graduates to the first black female presidents of prestigious universities, the 7 women on this list are game changers in the world of education and beyond.
Dr. Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander
In 1921, when Dr. Sadie T. M. Alexander graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School, she became the first black person in America to earn a doctorate in economics, and only the second black female to earn a doctorate in any area. Following graduation, Alexander enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and helped found the National Bar Association. In 1927, she was the first black woman to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Adding to this impressive list, Alexander was the first black woman to pass the bar exam, and when she went to work for her husband’s law firm, Alexander became the first black woman to practice law in Pennsylvania. In 1948, President Harry Truman appointed her to his Committee on Civil Rights, where she coauthored the Commission’s report, “To Secure These Rights,” which laid the foundation for Truman’s civil rights policy.
Since the country’s inception, black women have been working tirelessly to advance the cause of medicine and eradicate sickness and disease. From the first black nurse to the first black female neurosurgeon, African-American women have solidified their place in medical history and left a legacy of firm determination, selfless compassion, and academic excellence.
Dr. Alexa Canady
In 1976, at age 26, Alexa Canady became the first black female neurosurgeon in the United States when she was accepted as a resident at the University of Minnesota. In 1986, after four years at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Canady became chief of the hospital’s neurosurgery department. In 1993, she received the American Women’s Medical Association President’s Award. Canady’s research in neurosurgical techniques resulted in the invention of a programmable antisiphon shunt, which is used to treat excess fluid in the brain. She shares a U.S. patent for the device with two other neurosurgeons.
When “Glee” actress Amber Riley fainted at a red carpet event recently, rumors swirled that her new diet was the cause. Amber took to Twitter after the incident to dispel rumors, saying she would “never starve [herself] to fit clothes.”
The 25-year-old actress, who has recently dropped at least two dress sizes, says that she lost the weight by cutting out fast food and sticking to a new diet and exercise plan. She said she has always been comfortable with her size but just wanted to be healthier.
Of course being healthy is paramount, but beyond that, does size really matter? It does if you ask the people told to lose weight because they’re obese by BMI standards or the ones that are told they are too skinny and need to put some meat on their bones.
Celebrities are under intense pressure to maintain a certain size because every pound gained or lost is a potential magazine cover story (think about how Jessica Simpson was treated), but this pressure seems to apply to more than just those who are paid for how they look. And without a standard, contentment must be found when looking in your own mirror because feedback from the outside world is often conflicting.
For one, many of us have no idea what size we really wear because sizes vary from store to store. In one shopping trip, one might purchase a pair of jeans in a size 4, 6 and 10 — yet those jeans might all fit the same.
This common experience makes the obsession with size strange because there isn’t a universal way to measure it (no pun intended). Sure there are ballparks, but if you’re looking into buying a weight loss product that promises you’ll drop a size in a week, you’re probably better off just buying a different brand of jeans.
The second issue – especially in the black community – is that some men claim weight is an important factor in choosing women to date, so many women tailor themselves to fit a shallow standard. But one man’s “thick chick” is another’s “overweight neighbor” and one man’s “slim sweetheart” is another’s “too skinny friend.” We’re better off just finding someone who is content with our size rather than trying to fit into one man’s narrow preferences, but some people would rather play shapeshifter.
You can barely watch television these days without seeing Jennifer Hudson, Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey endorsing popular weight loss products. At the same time, gossip sites demanded answers after paparazzi pictures surfaced of Avatar’s Zoe Saldana walking down the street looking too skinny for her skinny jeans. When the famously thin actress starred in the film Colombiana, she prompted one writer to say, “female action stars have gotten too skinny to throw a believable punch.” (Ouch!)
However, sometimes, the size pressures placed on black women are even tougher than those placed on other cultures. Anyone can shrink their whole body, but on the flipside, the pursuit of video vixen style prominent bosoms, flat abs, and enormous derrieres is a tall order for someone who is not genetically shaped that way.
I’ll never forget the time one of my friend’s showed me her booty booster. I’m not sure what the proper name was for that painful looking contraption, but when she put it on underneath her jeans, it significantly boosted her backside.
“Guys like girls with big butts” she told me with a shrug.
Of course “guys like girls with big boobs” too and that is undoubtedly where the inspiration behind padded push up bras — such as Victoria Secret’s “Miraculous” bra — come from. But who really wants to carry around all that extra material just to give off an illusion and to feel good about themselves? There are an excessive amount of devices created to enhance, diminish, distort, and constrict a woman into looking a particular way, but all that stuff has to come off at some point and you’re left feeling inadequate with what you’ve been given naturally. That’s sad.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to take pride in our appearance, but there is a fine line between a healthy desire to look our best and unhealthy desperation to be a certain size and have certain curves. And with all the images directed at us acting as though only black women are big yet other images saying being skinny and less than curvy is out of style aren’t helping us get any more healthy. Maybe crazy, but not healthy.
Besides, when taking your full potential into consideration and what it is you bring to this world, does the fact that you’re a slim sista or “thicker than a Snicker” really matter anyway?
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Since the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 – the document that expresses the want, will, and hopes of the people – the country’s political system has reflected a disproportionately low number of women. Black females are even scarcer. However, some black women have been trailblazers in the political arena, shaping history and leaving a legacy that cannot be erased.
Patricia Roberts Harris
Patricia Roberts Harris broke several racial and gender barriers throughout her distinguished political career. In 1965, she became the first black female ambassador when President Lyndon Johnson appointed her as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg. Two years later, she returned to her alma mater, Howard University, where she became the law school dean, making her the first black female law school dean in the country. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Harris to serve in his cabinet as secretary of housing and urban development. She was the first black female in a presidential cabinet.
I’m not quite sure where to begin so I’ll just start with the news most outlets are talking about. We found out a few weeks ago that George Zimmerman had set up a website where his “supporters” could send donations and it turns out he’s been getting quite a bit of support—$200,000 worth of support. The problem is (besides the fact that people are aiding this man) Zimmerman’s lawyers didn’t know about that money when his $150,000 bond that he had to pay 10 percent of to be let out of jail last week was set—otherwise it would have been a lot higher.
Benjamin Crump, the lawyer for Trayvon Martin’s parents has requested that the bail be revoked since Zimmerman didn’t disclose how much money he really had at the original bond hearing. Florida Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester said he wanted to know more information about the money and what Zimmerman knew before deciding whether to revoke or raise his bond. He plans to address that at a hearing after giving Zimmmerman’s lawyer Mark O’Mara some time to gather information.
Now on to this black thing.
Reuters published an article today detailing Zimmerman’s upbringing and seemingly attempting to distract from obvious charges that Zimmerman’s fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin was racially motivated. Zimmerman who has gone from white to Hispanic to biracial and everything under the ethnic sun now apparently is part black. According to the article:
“He was raised in a racially integrated household and himself has black roots through an Afro-Peruvian great-grandfather – the father of the maternal grandmother who helped raise him.”
The article goes on to talk about Zimmerman’s “mixed household” and regularly being around poor black kids and is frustrating to read so I’ll let you do what you will with that info. Whatever mulit-cultural background he has doesn’t take away from the crime he committed Feb. 26.
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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