Poetry: Black Drops

water_drop_black_imgpreview

 

Black drops

Cold black drops, rain now,

cry now, then sleep, dream not, cold

black drops, cold black drops.

-db

 

 

Travel | JCU Students Speak About Study Abroad Experience: Black in Rome!

Alexandria Maloney, JCU graduate and Founder of the Women’s Leadership Initiative. (Image from LinkedIn. Click to visit her profile.

Really wonderful video put together by Alexandria Maloney to address the issues that young Black students may encounter when studying overseas, particularly in Italy. ¬†Please, take time out to watch & share. ūüôā

Until Tomorrow,D.

 

A Quick Note: Oh yeah…I am Black.

Self-portrait, August 2010, photography by Diedré M Blake

Self-portrait, August 2010, photography by Diedré M Blake

Preface:

Simply shocking…this article. ¬†I am taking a momentary pause from my hair issues to write about something that has really been on my mind lately: ¬†racism.

—-

From reading articles about racial profiling to even a Black woman being chased and threatened that she would be raped and lynched, I have had enough. ¬† Black women have been seemingly under blatant attack over the last few years…or better yet, centuries.

It seems that as Black women move up in society and make a place for ourselves, as we demand recognition for our work and our intelligence, as we endure hardships from inside and outside of our community, there are some who are trying their very best to stifle our voices and reduce us to those caricatures that plague mainstream media.

We are neither “hoes” nor are we “bitches” nor are we “mammies” nor are we “domineering,” nor are we “baby mammas,” nor are we “welfare queens,” nor are we any other form of degradation that many may want to lay at our doorsteps.

Indeed, consider us strong and proud women, who are unique in our self-expression and our external beauty; there is no shame in that.  I hope you will agree.

—-

Here we go…
I am beginning to understand just how much in the “dark” I have been over the years. ¬†Sometimes I think that being from the Caribbean prevents and has prevented me from really understanding the mental and social plight that many people who look like me experience on a daily basis.

Recently I said to my partner, Matteo, that I see myself as being an extremely privileged Black woman. You may wonder why.

The reason is this: I grew up in a predominantly Black society until adolescence. I was never overtly taught about racism. It was only later in my early twenties that I came to understand that there was indeed a form of internalized racism going on in Jamaica.

That is, from childhood we are subliminally taught that those who were considered to have “pretty skin,” or “pretty hair,” or “pretty eyes” were those who had a lighter complexion, less coarse hair (think hair types 3c and above), and to have lighter coloured eyes (not dark brown like mine).

I remember blatantly hearing people who were very dark-skinned being referred to as “duppies” (ghosts) amongst other terms. ¬†Now back to my privilege.

—-

You see, I am:

  1. a brown-skinned;
  2. highly educated;
  3. well-spoken (read: I do not have a discernible accent that “marks” me as Black, in other words I sound “White”…whatever that means)–I still remember my mother drumming into my head the fact that I was never to speak patois¬†and speak only “proper” English;
  4. well-travelled;
  5. thin/average-sized;
  6. cosmopolitan Black woman.

Even my very English/Scottish name is not easily “marked” as being a “Black name”...again whatever that is suppose to mean–I will say that I have shocked many people over the years with my very non-White (perhaps afrocentric) appearance…and have been greeted with the ever-so-clear “Ms. Black” instead of “Ms. Blake” Freudian slip.

For the love of the universe, I grew up listening to heavy metal, classical music, reggae, alternative rock, and country. I suppose I could add some more to that, but you get my point. ūüėČ

The result of these characteristics is that I am a non-threatening entity to a potential dominant White majority. That is, I fit better into that world rather than in one that is dominated by people who look more like me–as I have often been accused by other Black people of being an “oreo,” i.e. Black on the outside, White on in the inside.

It is a sad thing to realize that because of all of these factors, I am shielded often from the prejudice that people who look like me face on a regular basis.

Even here in Italy, where racism is rampant, I was bluntly told that because I am perceivable “attractive,” then I would certainly not experience racism here.

What?? Let me state that again, I was told that Italians are only racist against Black people (or in my case, women), who they do not consider attractive. ¬†Really?? Okay…

This is not to say that I have not experience overt and covert racism as well as sexism. ¬†Indeed I have, both in my personal life and my professional life. ¬†I have been told things like “Oh, you aren’t ugly like other Black women;” “Oh, you are just like a man, intelligent.”

In high school in Florida, I had wanted to attend Berklee College of Music. ¬†The band director knew of my desire and had many times lauded me as an excellent musician…

I was, however, not given a letter of recommendation (even after multiple requests) , even though I had proven myself and was acknowledged as a multi-instrument composer and musician, who even led her own Baroque woodwind trio.

A more extreme example happened in college. ¬†I was directed not to file a complaint against a White student who assaulted me, because it would be difficult “for someone like me” to prove my case. ¬†Instead, I was moved to temporary housing.

While travelling as a student and even beyond, I was routinely stopped and search.  Perhaps it is because I had

  1. loc’s, (think marijuana), or
  2. a Jamaican passport at the time (think hard drugs/marijuana), or
  3. nowadays because I wear a head-wrap (think terrorist)–

although, I really should thank those airport personnel for the many head massages I have received as a result, and that one rather cute airport screener in London, who felt it was her personal duty to shove her hand down my pants. ¬†You know! ¬†ūüėČ

headonbwAugust2010I have been denied upward mobility in my career, by even being denied the possibility of my master’s thesis project being presented to and approved by an internal review board…

The result of this was a most necessary improvisation on my part and a scaled-down version of the project. ¬†It didn’t stop there.

Anyway, I could go on forever about the slights I have experienced…just like many other women of colour.

—-

You might be wondering why I am posting what could be perceived as a “rant.”

The reason is simple:

it is time for all people, regardless of socially-defined race and nationality, to wake up!

The colour of your skin, the organ that lies between your legs, the texture of your hair, the structure of your face, your height, your accent, your perceived physical endowments DO NOT dictate the state of your mind.

  • They do not dictate your capabilities.
  • They do not dictate your potential.
  • They do not dictate your intelligence.
  • They do not dictate whether or not you are a “good” or “bad” person.

Seriously, isn’t it about time that we stopped all of this tomfoolery? ¬†Why must we remain so divisive in our words and actions whether within or outside of our own “designated” groups?

And before anyone may think to dismiss this issue as simply another stereotype of the “angry Black woman syndrome,” or blow it away like a speck of dust thinking “this has nothing to do with me,” ¬†or try to cheer me on as a “strong Black woman” who is speaking the truth and trying to effectively “Stick it to the man;” ¬†think again.

I write this because I am afraid.

I am afraid of the news that I see coming from various countries on the treatment of women who look like me (yes, I care about men too, but I am a woman first).

I am afraid that with the growing belief that racism no longer exists, we are becoming too complacent and letting our awareness slip noticing the everyday occurrences of racial/ethnic/sexual/gender/physical biases that are happening right in front of our very eyes.

Until Next Time,

D.

On the number 23…

The sound of Italian fills my ears as I stand, tired and sweaty.¬† The number 23 bus is too crowded, and somewhere nearby there is a baby crying.¬† I look behind me and see the tear-streaked face of a little girl, whose dark skin and dark eyes reflect my own.¬† Her hair is artistically decorated with many colourful bands, separating her carefully combed hair.¬† Even as her mother hands to her a small bottle to help calm her nerves, the little girl’s eyes glance around at the many strangers, who tower above her–How scary we must all seem.

In whispered and loudly spoken words, those who speak Italian say of the little girl, “Che bella…” and “Che carina…”¬† Her mother is busy speaking on the phone and does not seem to notice the admiration that her little one has inspired.¬† I am made to smile in the moment, because I can see that those around me are trying in their own way to show appreciation for diversity in beauty.

The elderly gentleman next to me leans over the little girl and tries to ease her worries, speaking to her in Italian as I have not experienced it before.  His voice is soothing and kind with a rich tone that makes every word that he speaks that much more exquisite.

“Non si preoccupi…non si preoccupi…non si preoccupi..”

The little girl’s eyes stare at him with wonder as the corner of her lips curve into a smile.

 

Until Next Time.

Best,

D.

TWFB: No, thank you. I am not a prostitute…

Colosseo, photography by D.M. Blake (2011)

I am still listening to Vivaldi…Don’t ask…

(TWBF=Travelling while Black and Female)

I spent last night mulling over what my exact experiences have been as an overseas traveller since reaching adulthood.  The reality is that there was a lengthy gap, of almost ten years, between my travels overseas.

I had basically ceased all of my overseas travelling in 2001.  Partly because of my own anxiety around 9/11, the war, and also being in the process of becoming an American citizen.  Simply, at that time, it seemed to me to be in my best interest to stay put in America.  Thus, I did just that.

Of course, one thing leads to another (as in years passed by while I was living).  I moved from Florida to Massachusetts, studied, graduated, and then was working.

So, what have been my experiences since coming to Rome, i.e. as a Black woman?

(YouTube is a great travel resource.  Please, watch SaitamaFlowers has some wise words.)

Hmm…I suppose, for the most part, I have been treated¬†respectfully here.¬† There are some things that I have come to understand and experience that leave me with some concerns.

In general, however, my grievances are a bit superficial…like not being able to find makeup to match my skin tone (Thank the universe for Kiko Milano! :)), and¬†not being able to find hair products (Thank the universe for olive oil¬†and¬†Cielo Alto!:)), etc.¬† These types of things, which if one is persistent in seeking a resolution, then all should be mostly well.

It is true (again, this is my experience) that some older Italians are not accustomed to dealing with foreigners.

Sadly enough, while I was waiting in line in a grocery store, there was an elderly man who kept hitting me with his shopping cart.  At first, I thought it was an accident, but I recognized after the second/third/etc times that this man was having a serious problem with me.  Of course, I tried my best to redirect his behaviour, but he simply let loose a string derogatory words about my non-Italian status.

Luckily enough, the people in the grocery store, customers and employees alike, came to my defense and were quite apologetic, and they told the man that he was in the wrong.  The experience was shocking to me.  The response of the bystanders, however, gives me hope for the future of multiculturalism here in Rome.

It is true (again, this is from my experience and some research) that some Italian men see Black women (really, I should say here foreign women, especially young Americans) as easy sexual targets.

For Black women, it is possible too that we may be thought of as prostitutes as there is, apparently, a significant number of North African women who are considered as engaging in prostitution–This is an exceptionally difficult topic, and I am trying to handle it in the best way I know how.¬† Please, understand that I mean no offense.

First trip to Rome (2010)

One of the things to which I had to become accustomed was the staring.¬† People here stare.¬† When I write “stare,” I don’t mean like a lengthy sideways glance.¬† No, I mean stare.¬† They seemingly try to stare you down.¬† These days I treat it as a challenge…a little staring contest.¬† You know, like in childhood, Just who will be the first to look away?? ūüėČ

Now, when I first came to Rome, I took major offense to this behaviour.  You know, it felt like I was being silently assaulted by these stares, because I did not know how to understand them.  A part of me was like, Do you seriously have, or want to have a problem with me?

Then, I learnt that the staring-thing was not just directed at Black people, or foreigners (yes, I asked several people), or people dress a little oddly like I do.¬† Oh no, Italians stare at Italians too…and I have witnessed it first-hand.¬† Actually, I find it quite amusing these days.

So, yes, people here stare.¬†¬†Try not take¬†it too seriously if you travel here.¬†Of course, it is true that they may be staring at you because you are obviously a foreigner, but again it’s a cultural thing.¬† So, don’t let it upset your¬†day…try to have a sense of humour about it.

I will say this:  it is important to learn the basics of the language of the country to which you are choosing to travel before you leave.  Practice aloud greetings and asking for help.  Also, it is important remember formalities of the country/culture.  The more you know about culturally appropriate behaviour, the better off you are.  Perhaps most importantly, it is important to keep a sense of humour, especially at the most difficult of times.

If someone offends you, regardless of intentionality, just remember to treat it like water running off a duck’s back.

Until Next Time!Best,

D.

AMBW… What??

I have a tendency towards researching things.¬† Yes, I am a bit obsessive.¬† However, when I speak or write about a topic, I like to be as well-informed as possible.¬† In my last posts, you may have noticed that I have been using information from Asian countries, i.e. expats living in Asian countries like Japan and Korea.¬† I have been researching on YouTube what it is like for Black women to live in countries where they are a perceivable minority…Little did I know that this research would lead to…

Apparently, there is a growing celebration of interracial relationships between Asian Men and Black Women.¬† I had no idea.¬† Of course, I think it is brilliant that people of different ethnic/racial/religious/etc.¬† can and want to get together.¬† I am, however, a bit concerned by the seeming exoticism of it all…

I know in my life, I have tried to stay clear from people who are seeking to be in a relationship with me because they have a prepared plan of only dating Black women, because Black women are x, y, and z…,or who are seemingly fixated on my cultural background.¬† So, I am uncertain as to¬†what is happening here with this AMBW¬†push.

More importantly, I have noticed that there are even virtual battles that are being waged about the beauty of Black women and where we stand on the beauty standard totem pole…And according to some, we are at the bottom.¬† There are even some arguments that Asian men and Black women should get together, because we are both on bottom in terms of desirability…And I am like (yes, I wrote “like”), “What??!!”

Have I missed the boat here?¬† Was there some big thing that happened culturally that I wasn’t aware of it?¬† It’s true that I don’t watch television, listen to the radio, avoid newspapers and magazines.¬† So, it is quite possible.¬† When, however, did minorities exoticizing other minorities become in vogue.

(Very good YouTube video that addresses this issue. Video by Charly in Korea)

¬†My apologies for the tirade, but…

Until Next Time.

Best,

D.

P.S.¬† This guy is just too much :D…

¬†(“Interracial Dating – Korean Guy’s Perspective”

by famousamos on YouTube)