October 29, 2009

Category: Best Of, First Lady, Lifestyle, Real Talk

From Hottentot Venus To The White House

Last Saturday’s dreary grayness did not stop me and about 100 women from attending NY Open Center’s panel, “From Hottentot Venus To The White House: Black Women On Beauty & Bodies.”  The panelists were Veronica Webb (Super+Role Model), Tricia Rose (Chair, Africana Studies @Brown U.), Susan Akkad (SVP Corporate Marketing/Diversity for Estee Lauder) with Michaela angela Davis (Cultural Critic) moderating.

I settled in with style maven Sharon Pendana sitting on my left and Ngozi Odita, founder of Society HAE, on my right. I had seen the flyer for this event weeks before and noticed a glaring theme with the featured panelists, but had hoped the lineup would “diversify” some by the day of event. As I looked up on stage I realized it was as the flyer had suggested. I immediately took out my Blackberry and tweeted: “It looks like u had to pass the brown paper bag test in order to be on this panel. (Panelists) r all very light skinned & ‘good-haired.’” From my discussions with other attendees, I clearly wasn’t the only one disappointed with the very high-yella panel. Afterwards I spoke to Michaela and here’s what she had to say:

Tricia, a former professor of mine, opened up the discussion stating, “I’m very critical of the industrialization of the world of beauty.” Not one to mix words or hold her tongue, Tricia continued by sharing, “I have to selectively reengage with my history or I’ll be like one of those angry 80’s rappers.” She was humorous, insightful and delivered the academic goods– including a detailed history of the life of Saartjie Baartman p.k.a. Hottentot Venus.

After hearing how Saartjie was taken from her home in Africa to England where she was publicly exhibited naked in a cage and then later sold to a French animal trainer who exploited her body and abused her further in Paris, it was ironic and displeasing to then hear Susan Akkad describe her introduction to cosmetics. “I never bought Fashion Fair. My mother told me to go to the French counter for make-up because their men love us.” She is now a SVP at Esteé Lauder. I’m sure Hottentot Venus would be proud.

Veronica, who shared that she was the first Black model to secure a major cosmetics contract, talked about her love of fashion, fashion mags and style. “I like putting together things I love, to attract what I want.” This was a cute sentiment that got a few pleasing ah-ha’s from the audience although it was soon overshadowed by the advice she said she gave her two young daughters who said they’d like to be in the White House like Sasha and Malia: “Maybe you’ll grow up to be President,” which was great. The gaffe was when she followed up with “or maybe if mommy gets married again she’ll marry a President.” Huh?

Tricia, who really was the centrifugal force of the panel talked a bit about women in hip-hop, the subject of her latest book. Even though hiphop has become increasingly less relevant in my life, I was amped by some of the questions Prof. Rose posed: How do we make ourselves beautiful within hip hop– an industry complicit in creating a demand for things and ideals that are damaging to Black women? Another question: “How do we know about Hottentot Venus and not live like that is all we know and can be? To this I would’ve answered Michelle Obama. Crazy thing though, Michelle Obama was never mentioned in the three hour discussion on images of Black women in major media. Suddenly Susan’s joie de vivre for French make-up counters seemed inconsequential. Not talking about the mass mediated image of the 1st Lady, a Black woman with her bare arms standing in front of a portrait of Thomas Jefferson, in a context about Black bodies and resistance was, as we hashtag on Twitter, a #FAIL.

Instead the Q&A centered on the hot topic of the hour– Good Hair. One audience member believed that “Chris Rock served up Black women as a deviant scientific experiment.” Yeah it was like that! Women had strong opinions about the subject and ladies in the house were excited to talk about the movie. Susan responded with what I thought was a damn near profound realization when she said: “Hair is to Black women what weight is to White women.” Then Michaela testified, “You’re only as sick as your secrets,” and encouraged conversation about our painful issues. Many women shouted in agreement. Not only had we gathered in a church, but at that moment we were having church. I think it was a good conversation that unfortunately lasted too long. Considering all of the panelists, except for maybe Susan, had what Black folks deem good hair and therefore could not fully understand or articulate the pain, shame, and anxiety many women internalize and young girls feel who have “kinky” hair, and considering that half the panel had not even seen the flick, we should have moved on to other subjects (i.e. Michelle Obama). When Tricia half jokingly suggested we petition Oprah to charter a plane from Bed-Stuy to Mumbai so all the sisters buying weaves can do so directly straight off the heads of impoverished Desi women who ritually sacrifice it for nada except a blessing, I think it was a good laugh that signaled the end of any further critical thinking of Chris Rock and his documedy. Personally, I’ve been to so many panels like this and even wrote my college thesis (“From Hottentot to Hip Hop”) on the subject more than 10 years ago so I was definitely looking forward to and in need of a more timely conversation to get my wig blown back.  One that went beyond Chris Rock, hip-hop and Azzedine Alaia to involve a discussion of  Michelle Obama, Caster Semanya and even Gabourey Sidibe, the star of the much talked about film, Precious. The space that these three women, these three Black bodies take up and hold in pop culture is groundbreaking and how they resist and revise racism, sexism, and patriarchy is crazy interesting.  I definitely was disappointed, but so grateful for the community of sisters that I connected with that day.  I left meditating on two quotes that resonated with me and my desire to engage women in work that is socially transformative and empowering. The first: “Many of us look for love, but will settle for attention,” said by Michaela. And Tricia shut it down when she stated, “It’s not just about accepting love, but we have to be willing to give each other transformational love. And then we have to be prepared to be ignored.”

For those that attended this panel, I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Hollaback and post a comment. Everyone else please tell me what you think about the post and how we can have more transformative dialogues about our beauty, our booty and ourselves.

Sharon & Ngozi

Ngozi & Sharon

Marcia C., Crystal W., Me & Aissata D.

Marcia C., Crystal W., Me & Aissata D.

Tgist, me & Sharada M.

Tgist, me & Sharada M.

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25 Responses to “From Hottentot Venus To The White HouseComment RSS feed

  • Jake-ann Jones
    October 29th, 2009 8:04 pm

    Loved your entire post. Great suggestions for more interesting discussion in Michelle O., Caster Semanya and Precious.

    It’s always wise to include folks from a variety of generations, view points and associations — especially when discussing things having to do with public presentation and image. It’s so important to look outside of familiar generations, communities and relationships to build a team with a really comprehensive scope of ideas and input.

    SO — there’s a new breed of panelists and audience waiting for YOU to put together a new kind of panel discussion. March on sista, march on!

  • Lisa
    October 30th, 2009 12:50 am

    I thought the same thing about reaallly light skin panelists and for the most part, “good hair.” But I’m sorry I don’t buy the explanation Michaela Angela Davis gave about there not being enough women of color and darker skin at that, in the mainstream world. SHE’s not mainstream by any means!!! so why was she there? (By the way, my understanding is that she did not put this together but Gail did, so I don’t get why she took credit for it.) So if Michaela who’s not mainstream can be up on there, why not oh I don’t know, say June Ambrose (major fashion stylist) or Mikki Taylor (Essence) who are really IN the fashion and beauty scene? That’s just 2 people I came up with in 2 seconds of darker skin black women, so don’t tell me they’re (we’re) not out there.

    I agree with the comment above. Black beauty is not about 1 color, 1 generation, or even 1 socioeconomic background and it’s high time that we represent ourselves in more all encompassing light.

    Last thing, why wasn’t Michelle Obama discussed? THERE is a beautiful, intelligent, darker skin woman who should have featured or at the least discussed.

  • Marcus Reeves
    October 30th, 2009 10:52 am

    LMAO…Great post, Nicole. Great points and very enlightening. As a light-skinned, biracial black man I feel very white right now. Was ROTFL when Michaela said it dawned her what the panel looked like. Oooooh, shady….lol.

  • Anita Bryant
    October 30th, 2009 11:14 am

    I am surprised no one even looked at the panel before presenting it to the public. We have come along way, but still have miles to go before we really get it. The issue of Light/Dark – Good Hair/Bad Hair still plagues our community. So many women (now I am in LA more often) have a complex about their hair/skin/and now body type.

  • Julia Chance
    October 30th, 2009 11:22 am

    Woefully missing was mention of Ayana Byrd’s and Lori Tharps’ “Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America,” Noliwe M. Rooks’ “Hair Raising: Beauty, Culture, and African American Women,” Pamela Johnson’s “Tenderheaded: A Comb-Bending Collection of Hair Stories,” and Ayana Byrd’s and Akiba Solomon’s “Naked: Black Women Bare All About Their Skin, Hair, Hips, Lips, and Other Parts.” In fact, Ayana and Akiba, who live in NYC, should have been included on this panel.

    To much time was spent on “Good Hair,” the film and the neurosis. I wanted to hear more about body image, stereotypes and how black women feel now in this age of Michelle Obama. Would also have been nice to have heard from a black woman psychologist.

  • theHotness Grrrl
    October 30th, 2009 4:16 pm

    Thanks for your comments! I have to admit I do not know a great deal about the ins & outs of the fashion/ beauty industry and only know a handful of folk in the business. More of them are on the indie side now although I think all of them have worked for either Essence or Vibe and even though these are mainstream entities, I think Michaela was referring to white corporations. From my Twittering I’m seeing that there’s definitely some great chocolate sisters in that industry Pat McGrath, Ayana Byrd, Bev Smith, Zandile Blay & Julia Chance to name but a few.

    I’m thinking of possibly planning a group event to see Precious and then gathering for drinks and discussion afterwards. Not sure how this could work logistically though so please, if you have any suggestions, post them.

  • Jelani Bandele
    October 30th, 2009 9:44 pm

    You want a brown sister who’s dealt with the big machine to talk about beauty and bodies? OK, Julia Chance, Roxanna Floyd, Marica Cole, Aleck Wek. There’s a start.

    Now why THE MOST VISIBLE BROWN GIRL OF ALL TIME, MICHELLE OBAMA, does not get talked about is something we must deconstruct. Her very presence addresses the theme of the panel. Forget the big machine, she’s is a major part of the global machine. She defies the concept of having to have a light or white wife to be a successful black man. She’s intelligent. She’s got her fashion all the way on. She’s beautiful. Wasn’t White House in the panel title.

    In all fairness to the panel, it’s not unusual to get off topic for a bit, but it sounds like the topic was lost completely and that’s unfortunate. Hopefully, there will be another opportunity.

  • Lisa
    October 31st, 2009 12:10 am

    Great points Julia, especially about Ayana & Akiba and Naked!! I would’ve much rather heard from them than the foot in the mouth moments from Veronica or Michaela.

    A group Precious viewing and discussion would be wonderful. Keep us posted!

  • Marcia
    October 31st, 2009 1:48 am

    So funny!
    The monotone hue of the panelists was the first thing I noticed. Unfortunately, because the discussion went straight into Q&A after the panelists introduced themselves, it never carried on the theme that Tricia began. Her thoughts were truly the highlight for me. The discussion of Good Hair was a waste of time.

  • Greg Tate
    October 31st, 2009 12:50 pm

    whew!–pulling no punches huh ‘Hot Nicks’? like marcus i not only feel mighty white and gender-in this context but also like rodney king –esp.considering my own friendships/history with folk involved on and off the panel.that said, i didnt think Ms Webb’s ‘marrying a Prez’ line was a gaffe but a wicked and sly one-liner–but hey,what i know about funny?. i gotta agree, Michelle Obama was the startling unintentional erasure of the day. A panel on the public perception/display/exploitation of various black womens bodies–Hottentot, Michelle,Serena, Caster Precious– mos def would leveled the trauma field and made for a richer, more self-revelatory and far less hair n skin conflicted forum. skin and hair contretemps is a case of DNA vs beauty in the eyes of massa and miss ann–their rules, our pain, once again. But body image is where the personal and the political collude to wage psychological warfare on everybody in Holly-weird-ed out America, and I’d bet on the panel, equally.
    Black women’s struggles w. body image,weight,hollywood body fascist culture–are maybe not so easily dismissed as a problematic by sister Akkad’s joke. Anyway, keep raising the temperature Nicole.–as any movement that can’t withstand rigorous self-interrogating self-criticism is doomed to failure. Like Amilcar Cabral said, ”We must practice revolutionary democracy in every aspect of our Party life. Every responsible member must have the courage of his responsibilities, exacting from others a proper respect for his {and HER! }work and properly respecting the work of others. Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories.”

  • Greg Tate
    October 31st, 2009 12:52 pm

    ‘mighty white and gender-exposed’ i meant to say!

  • maven huggins
    October 31st, 2009 7:57 pm

    watching that video of Michaela was about to give me heart palpitations or a coniption (sp?)…that is what someone looks like when they are called on the carpet and have nothing to say and refusing to say, you know what, I/we are F&*d up like that; our color bias rolled on us and no one was awake to catch it before it became publics. Seriously, that was hard for me to watch and I stopped it at 0:55.

    that said, I read through the lines here and see that the author was trying hard to give the benefit of the doubt and had a standard for the workshop far higher than the participants and organizers.

    “Hair is to black women what weight is to white women” does not excuse our neurotic obsessions and derived decent into accepted madness.

    some serious interrogation is called for here, with the questions raised but not resolved. How can this exercise on black women and beauty have such a light brite panel? How can it have legitimacy and not talk about Michelle Obama. Reading this I feel and wonder if anyone there had a brain’ and why were these questions not raised on the floor, in public to the panel and organizers, or was it? To not have done so is how we give each other pass for bs and thereby the madness is perpetuated.

    i feel i need to breathe fire on this exercise, how can women and black women’s image in media not include that horrific case of Caster Semenya just a few months ago? It makes me wonder what class of mind we are discussing here, and I reflect back on myself, to whom am I talking and why do I waste my time to dissect further> dumbing down is not a myth

  • Global Fusion
    November 1st, 2009 5:21 am

    Wow- interesting write up & comments. I actually wanted to attend this panel, but decided against it because I did not want to attend yet another panel where we do not take real personal inventory & responsibility by truly looking within to realize that before we can go & clean up some one else’s house we have to be able to clean up our own. I know & respect many of the people on the panel, but I am glad that you took the discussion to task by pulling up our own skirt to show our dirty underwear. We are so quick to take the mainstream AKA white people to task about excluding us or not being aware or considerate of people of color, yet we fail to take ourselves to task and hold ourselves up to the same standards & scrutiny. I like Maven would like to know if the audience brought up some of the observations you addressed or was it yet another feel good therpeutic moment of needing to hear our own voices without truly getting to the core of our problems & finding solutions beyond the same usual discussions. How often do magazines like Essence , Vibe etc. show a broad diversity in body types & hues in their magazines in the niche market that they are there to serve. If a bald headed dark African like Alek Wek is on the pages of Vogue etc. then all of a sudden we begin to see more look-alikes represented in our own magazines as if we needed White people to validate the diversity in our own beauty. If the Beyonce types are the new haute in Cosmo. then we follow their lead- so where does the blame of exclusion in when & how we are represented truly fall? How often do you see Black celebrities, celebrity stylists or magazines patronize & showcase designers of color? Please don’t tell me there are not enough of us globally to fill up pages monthly & to dress every single Black celebrity, particularly when we know that getting that press will elevate our businesses to the mainstream level since we are the provocateurs of style & culture. You would never know that the African fashion industry grossed over 4 billion dollars last year alone with just the buying power on the continent, creating high end & couture designs just like the Louis Vuittons, Diors & Guccis of the world who we covet as they tell us that their collections are inspired by different aspects of African & Black culture. We help build their businesses with our spending power as we complain about how they exclude us from their advertising campaigns, runways, magazines & follow us like criminals in their stores, while we we leave our own to fall behind in obscurity. You would never know that places like Ghana , West Africa have the best minerals used in major cosmetics empires like Revlon. There are high end beauty companies in Europe owned by people of color like Errol Douglas, Pat Mcgrath & many others who have won major mainstream awards & make millions to billions of dollars annually catering to both people of color as well as the mainstream, but we never hear about them from our own so called beauty & fashion experts because we are too busy worrying about being accepted by so called mainstream & AKA White people. Even when we get in positions of power where we can make a difference in educating & showcasing the best of us, we would rather covet a position at Gucci or Estee Lauder to make us feel as if we have arrived. In the era of the Obamas look at the foolishness that BET continues to showcase as the representation of us on a global level. We have become a nation of people in the big business of controversy in need of a platform to complain about racism & how White people do us wrong, while we do the most damage to ourselves. The New York Times had a huge two page article on how many of the new African based magazines are doing better than mainstream magazines like Vogue , Glamour etc. but most Black people in America have no idea that these magazines exist & those in the position to educate us don’t even educate themselves because they are too stuck on the formula on focusing on why we are exclude from white media. You would never know that Nollywood (Nigeria’s film industry) recently surpassed Hollywood as the 2nd top film producing entity in the world after India’s Bollywood which hollywood has been going to for their funding in recent years- so Black actors who are complaining that they have no work –guess what there is a bigger world out there with people who look just like you & would welcome you in all hues & sizes. We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard on educating ourselves on who we are , what we have & what we represent on a global level otherwise we will never move beyond the conversations on these panels. The business of fashion & beauty is exactly that , a business. In every business there is a target market of focus, so just as the panel were given a pass for unconsciously or consciously not including the entire spectrum of who we are in topics & hues in a limited target market, we have to give the so called mainstream the same benefit of the doubt knowing that their target market is not us. Unless we clean up our own house & hold ourselves to the same scrutiny, we can’t keep complaining about exclusionary practices in the mainstream because it is not White people’s job to represent us in our full spectrum when we don’t even do it for ourselves. We are only limited by our ignorance.

    Ignorance is a harder addiction to conquer than Crack/Cocaine!

    Ignorance is the state in which one lacks knowledge, is unaware of something or chooses to subjectively ignore information. This should not be confused with being unintelligent, as one’s level of intelligence and level of education or general awareness are not the same.

    African Wealth and African Style at a Glamorous Juncture

    Debra Lee called out on the BBC

  • Cree
    November 1st, 2009 2:39 pm

    I feel your heat Maven. Michaela’s explanation or theory behind the panel’s high yella complexion was straight out wack. That IS what someone looks like when they’re called out on their shiit and hoping you’ll take whatever excuses are given to you. Just like they expected us to take whatever dumbed down discussion of black beauty they gave us at the forum. It was a disgrace not only because of the uniformity of the panel but because you have Michelle Obama on the flyer but she’s never addressed! As the moderator I expected Michaela to take reign of the discussion and we would eventually talk about Michelle but that didn’t happen.

    I left there wondering what happened to Ester Armah and her play Entitled. Why was this intelligent chocolate brown journalist sister not included in this discussion?

  • Cree
    November 1st, 2009 5:37 pm

    WOW Global Fusion, just wow! I’ve made a couple of the same points you’ve made about having the same conversation repeatedly and that we should stop blaming white mainstream media and take ownership and responsibility for ourselves. But you said it all so much better than I ever could!

  • Sista Moon
    November 1st, 2009 7:44 pm

    How insensitive and short-sighted to say that a fair-skinned “good-haired” woman cannot “understand or articulate” the “pain and shame” from having “kinky” hair. I will try and keep that in mind when I think back on my elementary school years where I was tormented, terrorized and tortured for my “good-hair” – so much I had to change schools and stay home from school more times that I can remember. I have My Own Pain. Respect mine and I will respect yours.

    I am so sick of this pre-historic “brown-bag” sob story. Let’s move on.

  • Global Fusion
    November 2nd, 2009 3:56 pm

    Sista Moon -I feel u. I don’t think we should get caught up in the madness of light skin vs. dark skinned issue because no one has ownership over Black pain because historically even one drop makes you Black – no more or less than another. We are all experts just by the fact of living in our blackness & I doubt anyone would deny anyone on the panel for being able to represent us. I think the problem is speaking on the issue of Beauty & Black progress in general & unconsciously falling prey to the divide perpetuated since the time of slavery on our community globally- where light was what was beautiful & acceptable as a representation of us. I have no doubt in my mind knowing some of the people on the panel that this was an unintentional misstep & the way to move forward is just calling these things out in a productive manner without further perpetuating the divide & taking us backwards. Words like high yella , light bright , good hair & all that foolishness should really be deaded in this conversation so we can focus on productive progress without further alienation.

  • Paula
    November 2nd, 2009 5:53 pm

    The “oversight” of the entire panel being fair skin complected women is the SAME thing we black women endure in white, mainstream culture. Being overlooked.

    Why is Michaela’s explanation center upon these women having experience in the mainstream aka white beauty world? Why was that a criteria when we are talking about BLACK BEAUTY? Seems to me that was the first major mistake. We should be defining ourselves for ourselves and not, ironically, based on the very group we cry that negate our beauty.

  • sharon
    November 3rd, 2009 12:38 am

    Good, good piece Nicole and what a great dialogue it has sparked. I would agree with many of the sentiments expressed.

    One of the issues I was flummoxed by was the odd dismissal of the question regarding Caster Semanya. Now I realize that the young woman who queried asked more than one question, but I was struck by the “deer in headlights” response from the panel when she brought it up. They responded to everything but. And quite honestly I was looking forward to Tricia Rose’s take. But she too was trangely silent.

    Julia Chance is right about Akiba and Lori and a black woman psychologist, but Julia herself would have been a great choice for the panel. She’s been up in all the houses-iblack and white-I and has forged a career in beauty. She’d have come with insight and consciousness of and about the business as well as that of a brown girl from B’more who sees beauty in the. full spectrum from the light brights to the blackest berries. Without platitudes, just truth.

  • Sista Moon
    November 3rd, 2009 5:05 pm

    Indeed, Global Fusion. We have come upon a huge global shift in consciousness and it is MORE important than ever for us to come TOGETHER and heal the rifts in our community so we can get to the business of healing our PLANET.

  • theHotness Grrrl
    November 3rd, 2009 7:18 pm

    Whoo-heee! These comments are amazing– passionate, substantive, mindful, insightful!!!
    @Maven: Please know that the point of the video was not to call Michaela out. I just wanted folk to know that she had acknowledged the faux pas and was aware of the potential fall-out for not representing the full spectrum of Black beauty on the panel. I definitely don’tthink the panelists were selected based uponthe complexion, I just didn’t buy the excuse that Bethann Hardison and Iman were/ are the only two Negras in NYC to achieve major status in the beauty and fashion industry.

    Also I did get on the Q&A line to ask a question about Michelle Obama but bythe time I stepped to the mic, time was up and the woman in front of me got the last question. Someone else also posed a great question about Caster Semanya as Sharon noted in her comments but the question was never addressed.

    @Global Fusion: Damn you are bringing the fiya! Is it white validation that we are seeking when we demand that they use Black models in Vogue or in major runway shows? I don’t think so. I hope it’s more about their hiring practices– diversity in the workplace. It’s like a major hospital in NYC not having any Black doctors on staff. The talent is clearly out there so why are they not represented in your payroll? With fashion mags its interesting because in the 80’s when I used to read Elle I did so because I would see Naomi Campbell, Beverly Peele and so many other Black models consistently on their pages. For there to now be a decline in representation is clearly a regression in terms of bookings. So I see it less about validation than I do about getting a slice of the pie we helped bake!

    On the flip side, I barely read Vogue or Elle anymore so I care less if they choose not to feature a Black model in their Top Supermodels Issue. I read Arise—my favorite magazine. Before that I read Honey and Trace and in between I have the Web to inspire and amuse me with powerful images of Black women and models. I totally agree with you about dealing with our own hypocrisies and shortcomings. I’m way more concerned about the derogatory images of Black women on BET than I am with who is walking Chanel’s Fall runway presentation. I’ve put Debra Lee on blast several times because I know the young girls in my hood are watching Frankie & Neffe and For The Love of Ray J. They don’t read Vogue, but unfortunately they don’t read Arise either.

    BTW—Using terms like darky and high-yella is my personal tongue-n-cheek style of writing.

    @SistaMoon: You know you are right! It was insensitive and short-sighted of me. I should have said dark skin grrrls with afros and tightly coiled hair probably have a different psychology around beauty than fair-skin Black females with straight or curly hair. As a child my best friend was bi-racial and yes she was sometimes teased and taunted about her appearance. But every time we opened our Right On magazines there was Stacy Lattisaw, Rae Dawn Chong, Appolonia and Irene Cara. Her beauty was affirmed by seeing their faces in the hottest mag of our youth. Mine was not. And even though I had Kim Fields, she was not glamorized like these women. Thanks for calling me out on my ish. We all have pain and the thing is to remember it’s all rooted in the same history.

  • Global Fusion
    November 4th, 2009 12:28 pm

    @Paula -I am sending u a virtual soul clap-cuz that is exactly the point I made to Michaela when she asked how do we heal from the fallout of all this. We have come to far as a ppl. globally 2 have the White litmus test b the criteria of some sort of perceived accomplishment.
    @Hotness -this is exactly why I feel there is some realm of validation seeking as a ppl when we are constantly looking to white ppl to include us or we make ourselves so concerned with what their views of us are-this is part of our psyche that we have 2 come 2 grips with because it has been with us since slavery. I happened to have had my own boutique PR/Marketing/Advertising company for the past 13 Yrs & all my clients were White because many of the Black companies I tried to work with would rather hire White publicists because they felt they would give them broader range or validation in the white world & others just played games with my payments cuz I am sista ! I am a dark skinned 1st generation American of full Ghanaian parentage so my upbringing was very much African in America. I went to predominately white schools were I just got used to often being the only Black person in a room & never really had a problem with that & still don’t. I have basically felt & seen the issues from many sides. I gave up my firm in June to pursue opportunities in Africa after hearing one 2 many times from my clients how they would prefer I not use Black girls in their Ads. because they didn’t want 2 b perceived as urban brands cuz that was not their market. From a biz point of view I could understand that, but it came to a point where I realized I am building brands for ppl who have no interest in building me & my ppl unless it was a convenient direct money making venture-understandable cuz biz is for making money- but I was not interested in perpetuating it. I had put Black females in the Ads before with rave reviews -the only difference was they were celebrities & when I had put Black models/non celebs in the Ads prior it was b4 the fashion industry & us as a ppl decided that being an urban brand meant Black instead of just cosmopolitan. So called urban brands allowed themselves 2 b pigeon holed in the fashion industry which completely limits distribution at retail & so many areas so we should have nipped that b4 it got out of hand. My White clients sold their brands just as much in so called urban retailers as they did in saks & bloomingdales because they were not pigeon holed as urban AKA Black. We need to be conscious of how we market ourselves from a global business point of view because sometimes what we see as benefiting us often limits us.

    As for validation & hiring practices are concerned -we don’t enforce or think twice about the fact that so called urban brands & Black businesses hire only or mostly people of color, so we need to think about that when we feel White ppl MUST hire blk ppl otherwise they are being racist in some way. I was talking to a multi millionaire African CEO who said straight up that he doesn’t hire white people & when he has meetings with his white counterparts he specifically makes them wait to see him, but I am sure many Blk ppl would pump their fists up in the air for him on that – but I don’t think that type of mentality is helpful to our cause anymore than white ppl feeling the same way in not hiring Blk ppl. My whole point in all of this is that we first need to look within, evaluate & upgrade our own standards to where white ppl desire to work for our many multimillion $ companies just as much as we desire to b employed by theirs. As much as I can’t deal with Puffy’s foolishness sometimes -he is someone that has a good understanding of this from a biz stand point & elevated the game 2 a point where he got a CFDA award-deserved or not he got it – & I know plenty of White ppl who r begging to work for him. It is a new day in a mass global environment of business & we should all act accordingly. I think with all the feedback perhaps you can work with MAD on a redo of this discussion & completely elevate our forwardness cuz it takes a village!

  • Paula
    November 5th, 2009 1:38 pm

    Thanks Global Fusion. There comes a time when we have to ask ourselves if having the same conversation repeatedly needs some adjusting. I think you were the one who made the point that it becomes more like a therapy session airing out our grievances but with no individual or black responsibility addressed, no solutions, no forward movement. I wholly believe that the very premise of these conversations is the major flaw, the “white man litmus test.” It’s perpetuating the notion that we need the master’s validation and approval insteading of empowering ourselves by defining ourselves for ourselves.

  • Nicole
    November 6th, 2009 5:59 pm

    Well after your comments and our great dialogue on the site about “Good Hair” and the Hottentot Panel on Black beauty, I’ve decided to get the ball rolling and continue the discussion with the movie “Precious” as our new platform.

    Mark your calendars because this Sunday, November 8th there will be a group outing to see “Precious” in NYC at 2:55PM. We will eat (if you choose) and discuss the movie after. Click the link below to purchase your tix online:


  • LaTasha Diggs
    November 6th, 2009 11:08 pm

    wow. hate i missed this one. why not have the outing at MJ Theatre girl?