This Is Not About Ferguson (But Could Be)

Paul Robeson High School is in Englewood, one of Chicago's most dangerous neighborhoods. The area is also one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, with a median income of $18,955.  In Chicago Public Schools, only around half the freshmen who enter high school will earn their diploma.

In April of 2008, at approximately 11:00 pm, a family of three was found slain in a house in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, across the street from a school where I had just spoken to middle schoolers about my writing career … Continue reading

Marion Ettlinger’s Author Photos: Black Writers Shot by Famed Literary Photographer

Author April Reynolds

 About Marion Ettlinger: Marion Ettlinger graduated from the High School of Music and Art and The Cooper Union in New York City. She has been photographing writers since 1983. Her book Author Photo, containing more than 200 black-and-white portraits shot exclusively in natural … Continue reading

Ruby: New York Times Obituary

Ruby: New York Times Obituary

Photo by G. Paul Burnett/The New York Times

Tulsa Race Riot miniseries to come to OWN.

BlackWallStreet

In 1929, race riots tore down the little-known area of America once known as “Black Wall Street,” where hundreds of middle-class and upwardly mobile African-Americans sheltered for their own version of the American dream. The community burned to the ground, … Continue reading

“You May Sit Beside Me”: Visual Narratives of Black Women & Queer Identities

YouMaySitBesideMe_E-flier_6

You know how you go to the grocery store checkout counter and leave with not only your bags of food, but all those annoying tree-killing printouts from the register and a bunch of coupons for stuff you don’t even eat? … Continue reading

A Few of My Favorite Things Now (Just a Few…)

Raisin in the Sun

Top Video: The trailer for the reprise of one of my favorite movies of all time, Annie, with more than just one Black guy playing Punjab this time! Clockwise from top left: David Boykin’s Soul Sessions in Chicago every Sunday … Continue reading

Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video

Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video.

Black Butterflies

Nia Long

This gallery contains 20 photos.

The ongoing conversation about Black Americans in Hollywood ties a new knot: currently, forasmuch as we are proud and excited for our recent successes in Black film productions and critical acclaim, it is talent from the entire African diaspora that … Continue reading

Black Woman Gossip (Or, Ten Great Black Women’s Story Collections)

White Rat

If nothing else, Black women can certainly tell a story. And where others are more subdued or might strain unto artificial performance and nearly-rehearsed expression, such embellishments to a tale are attributes we can’t help but deliver automatically. While the privileged classes … Continue reading

Black History Month

BHM40

This gallery contains 42 photos.

 

Are You a Joyce Vincent?

Joyce Carol Vincent

I There is a defining 21st Century Western World story about a Black female Londonder who passed away in her government-subsidized bedsit/SRO flat in 2003, as she wrapped Christmas presents and wrote Christmas cards—and she remained in there, seated on her couch, evaporating … Continue reading

The Way We Will Celebrate Them Today

Martin Luther King

Today, January 15th, 2014, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been 85 years old.  It is arguable that, in this age of globalization and its increased emphases on the heightened role Americans should play in African diaspora nations and … Continue reading

Amiri Baraka Has Passed

Amiri Baraka Has Passed

Black American and Arts Movement Poet, Playwright, Writer and Literary Grand/Godfather to Countless People has passed away at the age of 79 years old. Full New York Times Obituary.

The Best Black & African-American Books of 2013

Samantha Irby

2013 was a phenomenal year in literature for Black/African-American authors as well as the readers who love them. From a thirtysomething Chicagoan who re-defined the art of the ‘rant’ in her first book of essays (Samantha Irby’s Meaty) to a respected non-fiction author … Continue reading

Good Black Stuff…

Portrait of Jason

I am so excited and overwhelmed with the fabulous things Black American people are doing in the arts now.   Everywhere I turn, there’s something new to be proud of.  A picture can be worth a thousand words.  Not sure if I … Continue reading

Bush Mamas: A Black Film Gives Birth to Sociohorror

1367949069-bush_mama

Professor, Writer and Director Haile Gerima’s 1975 student thesis film Bush Mama premiered on the independent and student film circuit one year before I was born.  I was born in the small-town Midwest: Kankakee, Illinois, a town most people have … Continue reading

Patriarchy Gone Awry: The White Exploitation in The SnowTown Murders

Snowtown Murders

The Snowtown Murders, a 2011 film directed by Justin Kurzel and written by Shaun Grant under Warp Films Australia, is an interesting and unusual study.  It bears specific affinity to me as a former student who debated the merits of … Continue reading

My First Grays

It is startlingly appropriate that I was introduced to my first gray hair this past evening, at about a quarter to 7 p.m. in the basement of the Logan Center for the Arts on the University of Chicago campus right around the corner from my home. I came out of a bathroom stall to wash my hands and there it was visible in one of the lavatory’s mirrors, uncooperative with my repeated attempts to rub it into what I thought was a dab too much of white coconut oil. I believe there may be another one at the very center part of my head, but I am too nervous to confirm. I am unsure when I conceived the one strand I can not deny, but it delivered itself to me at my left temple right in the area where I am at ironically at risk for a receding hairline; maybe I will have good luck, and my lone gray hair’s siblings will cluster in an area that is expected to evaporate a little bit anyway. Or, maybe this is a silver lining. There’s always hope.

Most comforting about the particular setting and timing of discovery tonight is the obvious: I could have just gone right back home. For what, I am not sure: to have a tantrum, to hold the public bathroom mirror’s verdict up to the scrutiny of my private bathroom mirror’s trustworthiness, to Instagram a photodocumentary no one but I would care to revisit, to wail and moan and get the Holy Ghost, to call my best friends and family with a long-awaited announcement (of the unusual sort)? Thankfully, I stayed where I was. The event in waiting, a film screening of the film My Brother’s Wedding with director Charles Burnett present and introduced by my mentor Jacqueline Stewart, was a grateful distraction to this new fact of my life. The former I love in spirit and the latter I love in person; if I would love the movie or not remained to be seen, but I would never know if I did not stay and follow the hunch that I would.

Therefore, that alternate person inside me who noticed the gray was forced to come and go, with little to trigger or say. The work of a great artist awaited. I was expecting to see friends. And, most basically, I was at the movies for the first time in a long time. I could not spend time to create analogies with my gray hair and the oddly loose lower half of my stomach, or the expansion in the back of my arms, or the fading glory of my teeth, or my missing big house with a white picket fence and family dog.  I can not imagine if I had been home with nothing at all to do upon such a discovery, this new dimension to what a woman might call her little “friend.”  With so much else to think of in the moment of discovery, my existential crisis could not linger.  I told my friends there about the gray hair.  And so she was formally born, just as inconsequential as a few extra pounds but nothing close to losing a virginity.

At present, I am 36-years old and this lone gray hair may be the only thing to remind others of it.  Even worse, I need the reminder more than others may. I do not have pre-teens blowing up my Smart Phone with their catastrophes or loan requests to me, “Mom.”  I do not have babies younger.  I have yet to breastfeed.  I do not have a mortgage in good standing or foreclosure, nor a husband with his own companion gray head of hair to clue others into how long we have been married–thus how old I could really be. For most of the people who know me, I remain fixated in a perpetual fountain of youth…most known for my dimples, bright smile, funny jokes and abilities to be there at the last minute with no extenuating circumstances to prevent such.

For the last 5 years, I have asked no one in particular to bring me my gray hairs. When I have been the only person at a table of fine food to be carded for my usual order of house Merlot, I have remarked: “I’ll be glad when I get my gray.” When I have walked down the streets dressed casually for the day or a bit more polished for work, but approached lewdly by men young and old either way, I have asked for gray hairs; surely, no one irritates my aunts or grandmothers on their ways about town. When I have walked into a community center or artistic venue seeking information or tickets, and had the blase attendant ask me my age after alerting me that I must come with my parents, I have almost pulled out my hair.  When I have been in a high-end store or dropped more than an allowance on a necessary adult expenditure, my handlers in these moments have surveyed me less as an adult customer to respect and more as a little Black girl to suspect.  I have wished for gray hairs, in hopes I may have been treated a little better.

In the self-deprecating and sad rages that followed the last most gross example of these occurrences, I have come to near tears and butterflies wishing for gray hairs  I felt they would certify and dignify me at last: like a girl waiting for her period to get back at bossy adults, or an adolescent scorning the tooth fairy for her dollar under the pillow when one last baby tooth lost will reward so much more payment than that, or a Black woman sat-in at the counter of Woolworth’s to declare that she can not be slighted based upon how she looked. For, it seemed that a scalp of commanding  gray hairs would assist me in exercising my full rights as an equal adult worthy of proper comportment and approach by other adults; that such thin and fine miracles could be my silent partners to shed any and all’s presumptions that I was young therefore subordinate, youthful therefore deferred, cute therefore “Seriously?”

And, so now, here they are.