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Oh You Fancy, Huh?

 http://www.mtv.com/videos/misc/559930/fancy-live.jhtml#more

Nails done, hair done, everything big.

Drake’s hot performance last night on MTV Video Music Awards.

My fave R&B singer, MJB.
Hot producer and Mr. Alicia Keys, Swizz Beats.
And of course, the hottest mulatto in Rap right now: Drake

(((((video wont post….dammit)))

Nice.

***Marx and Benjamin**

This week I would like to talk about the gris-gris bag.

Gris-gris

Image via Wikipedia

In our class discussion we spoke of Marxism and Bejamin’s theories on commodification, or the fetishism of commodities. In my studies on mulatta conjure women, there is the object called a gris-gris bag. This object is made of sack cloth, linen, or cotton and contains items specific for the purpose of healing, warding off unwanted spirits or providing protection, to name a few. This can include nails, rocks, glass, seashells, hair or other articles in the area that can affect the person who carries the gris-gris bag, or the object of their affection/repulsion.

Marx says that objects alone are not powerful but it is the faith we put in these objects which gives them power thus the object becomes a fetish. In Voodoo, hoodoo and any pagan religions, these objects become a source of power for the believer who goes to a conjure woman and has one made. Comparatively, in Christianity, specifically Catholicism which existed side-by-side with VooDoo in New Orleans, the cross is nothing but two pieces of wood, much like the example Marx uses of the table. However, pieces of wood made into a cross become a symbol of worship for those who believe in it.


Madame Marie  Leveau of New Orleans was one such conjure woman. Infamous for her power and influence over the people of New Orleans, she turned her magic into a commodity; she began producing these fetishes to survive. Wives wanting their wandering husbands to return home, men who wanted to be more desirable to the opposite sex, mothers hoping to protect their children departing overseas, whatever the reason, there was a gris-gris bag she could make to help you. As her premonitions and spells rang truer than any other conjure woman in the area, she became increasingly popular and her grave is still visited to this day.

Marie Laveau

Image by howieluvzus via Flickr

I would not argue that she produced these items for trade, as she did not charge based on the amount of labor, there was one base fee, but she did create an economy for them as she was eventually producing commodities for exchange/profit.

Benjamin would argue that the mass production of these gris-gris bags would change the way her believers valued them. Mass production leads to an impersonal disconnection between the artist and “the work”. Her popularity rose because each individual felt a personal connection with Madame Leveau so any feeling that these were “made in Taiwan” would diminish the value therefore her reputation.

Faith is a very strong motivator and whatever faith we place in objects and people dictates our characters, value systems and shapes our lives.

Watching the news this week has certainly demonstrated the faith of Muslims in the Qur’an and the blatant lack thereof of those who place no value in it. It is, in essence, just a book made up of printed pages which contain the fundamental ideology of their faith. However, the burning of the words of the prophet Muhammad and his teachings, their value system, their way of life, is in their eyes blasphemous. No matter what the object is, the person who puts faith in that object is a believer. Whether you agree with it or not.

Qu'ran

Spread Love.



“Queen”

“I’s Nigra! Dis my famlie! Dis my Home!”

Alex Haley's Queen

Image via Wikipedia

It’s sort of a running joke in my home. This declaration of Alex Haley‘s great-grandmother “Queen”. I remember lying ill in bed on my 21st birthday, away from home at college, with the flu, which I believe I contracted going door-to-door in the Fall of ’91 getting an idea of which Democratic households would be voting for candidate Bill Clinton. The money I made wasn’t worth the trouble.

Official White House photo of President Bill C...

Image via Wikipedia

Yet as I lay/lie/laid there, I remember thinking how this would be the first time I would see a film based on actual events in U.S. History dealing with

Historical marker in front of Alex Haley's boy...

Image via Wikipedia

miscegenation and on such a personal level. I was intrigued. I will put the novel on my book list but Halle Berry‘s depiction of the protagonist was under great scrutiny as this was to be her first dramatic role in which her career would either catapult or flop.

I remember her skin seemed lightened with make-up for the role since she would pass for white. She and actress Lonette McKee played mulattas who chose to seek out prominent white men to be their “kept women”, which beat eating at soup kitchens and wandering aimlessly with no particular group to belong to. During Reconstruction, the new free blacks were just not too ready to accept her into their community as they knew of those who passed and denied their black heritage in order to take advantage of opportunities they could not.

The Tragic Mulatto “Queen” is not. As she survives the Civil War and Reconstruction, she suffers a mental breakdown and is admitted to an asylum. (Well, I guess that can be considered tragic in itself).

Q: Does The Tragic Mulatto have to DIE to be considered tragic?

I remember her loving a black rebel and he is hung for his opposition. Her and their baby weep at his feet.

All this death, torment, psychological breakdown when it comes to the mulatto in history.

Just my thoughts……..

The mulatto, quadroon and octoroon individuals were certainly a culture. This diverse population was composed of people who had the psychological dilemma of finding their place in American society. As blacks were designated to their shacks and even small towns and whites sat at the top of the social hierarchy, mulattoes, quadroons and octoroons had neither. Their culture consisted of individuals with mixed, tainted or diluted blood. As they could not blend into the black population fully nor ever be accepted by the white community, they had to decide which road to take. Some chose to pass for white, taking full advantage of all the opportunities afforded them as a full citizen, which the blacks resented, or they could choose to live as blacks and feel all the disparaging inequalities and hardships that this life would present.

Raymond Williams would argue that “culture” is both a way of life as well as the process of discovery and creativity in the arts and learning. Well if you were a mulatto who chose to live as a black person, clearly you had no access to the latter as education was not yet a right until after the Reconstruction Era and the carpetbaggers from up North felt the responsibility to educate the now free people of color. He would also find the “teashop culture”, or cultivated people, he detests so much in the nearby shops along the Charleston and Savannah riverfronts espousing their views on the latest shipment of slaves approaching the harbor from Africa or the West Indies and how grateful they were that the South had seceded from the Union so their livelihoods in textiles and their investments in the cotton gins were able to prosper.

In this particular population of free blacks, mulattoes and whites, I would assume that those in power, or the high culture, would look upon the blacks as “the masses” for “the masses” were considered in Marxist theory, to be the ignorant people. People with no impressive lineage, no access to the arts, or a classical education to stand on. However, the argument could be made that Northerners at this time would more than likely consider Southerners “the masses” given the long history in the Northern colonies of Puritan education and a much more “cultured” environment which surely did not include the barbaric dependence on slavery found in the South. Abolitionists, in their many speeches, essays and books, made better orators and public speakers as a collective group than their fellow countrymen South of the Mason-Dixon. An attitude still prevalent in the North today.

One of the terms that stood out to me was Williams’ “cheapjack”, or “peddler of cheap, low-taste goods”. I thought of Andy Cohen right away. He is the SVP of BravoTV and is the main shit-stirrer/instigator for the “Housewives” franchise. Reality TV is in and of itself  a “culture industry” since it commodifies groups/relationships/lifestyles to those of us who absorb it. Real  actors cannot find work for the saturation of reality shows on television.

But back to mulattoes, quadroons and octoroons.

As books and film introduced us to the Tragic mulatto, this culture of misfits, into mainstream society, the masses, or readers and moviegoers, would be exposed to the plight of these individuals trying to navigate and survive before “Black Power” or “Black Pride” existed. Adorno would be less critical of the media and consider these works of art to be a medium for the people. If it was informing them of the circumstances and choices mixed-race characters had to make, he would support it. In opposition, Leavis would argue that these films and literature were nothing less than excess stimulus leaving the masses bewildered and distracted as the subject matter did not contribute to any intellectual conversation or was of any concern to the elite class of high culture which he felt he represented.

Leavis would of course be proven wrong as time went on because more and more films, more and more literature have been produced and found a niche in their respective industries. From the shrill cry Alex Haley’s “Queen”, portrayed by Halle Berry, “I’s Nigra!, you my family! Dis my home!” to the popularity of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the mulatto is not so tragic today as in the past. This is because it is no longer illegal to marry someone of a different race. This idea that mixed children possess the worst of both blood lines and can be the most evil people can been discredited by scientific studies which state that genetically these children take the most dominant genes from both sides and can experience less health problems, longer lives and score somewhere mid-range between their black and white counterparts academically.

I would consider the  bi-racial population in this country to be a culture but are they a part of the masses? I think of the masses in terms of a collective whole who agree on what is popular. We just don’t have the numbers to make that claim. Is there a portion of the bi-racial culture out there passing? Trying to dilute their black blood out of their genealogy and become pure whites? (Quadroon=a child with one white parent and one bi-racial parent). Depending on their blood line, I guess it would always place us as the minority within the minority. Or the minority in the majority.

Somewhere along the line, the attitude towards “the evil mulatto” has changed and I would attribute some of this, if not all, to the images of them we see in the media. Our blood has no longer attached to it the stigma of “mistake” or “other” as much as it was in the past. Some of us still struggle with identity issues but one thing’s for sure: Our stock has gone up.

Mixed is the new Black

Based on a Time magazine article some years ago, by the next millennium, the population of the United States will no longer consist of a White majority. Homogeneous race constructs will be in the minority as the country will find itself an amalgamation of both homogeneous and heterogeneous populations.

This excites me as an American of both Irish and African-American ethnicity. An aspiring English teacher and writer, I have often heard the question “What ARE you?” or “You’re not from here, are you?”. The former regarding my ethnicity and the latter a reaction to my Northern accent once I moved to Atlanta. I have often felt as “The Stranger” or “Other” which can be found in so many literary themes.

I would like to add to the blogosphere and follow the portrayal of bi-racial people in pop culture, from “The Tragic Mulatto” up to and including President Barack Obama. “The Tragic Mulatto” trope throughout literature and movies in the U.S. is typically a depressed beauty, usually female, who “passes”, or chooses to deny her African roots to live a life of culture, luxury and connectedness by identifying as a White female, generally during the time during and post-Civil War slavery. As time progressed, the acceptance of bi-racial individuals by society and the legalization of inter-racial marriages has been a part of U.S. history but I plan to follow and document the images and attitudes towards us “others” in pop culture.

From William Wells Brown’s first African-American novel on the subject, “Clotel”, the movie “Imitation of Life” starring Mahalia Jackson, and Alex Haley’s novel “Queen”, to Kanye West’s comment that he prefers “mutts” in his videos, the portrayal of bi-racial individuals, the choices they have made and how it has affected their lives will be the focus of this blog.

My own personal experiences have been funny, offensive, enlightening and always a new learning experience. Learning something about myself along the way is always a good thing. From hair texture to dating preferences to outward appearances and stereotypes about either your White or Black side, it remains a question of identity for bi-racial children as they become adults. This “choice” is usually a mandate of society because how can you choose one when you are both. You might as well ask me who I love more; my mother or my father. Like most children, I am closest to my mom but that doesn’t mean I negate my father’s love or support or the bond we share. The same with my identity. I can appear to be certain things to certain people. They “determine” this mostly based on my appearance, and my accent or articulation. But never ask me to choose, because this is not your world, it’s mine and in my world, I am both. (Thank God for the “Other’ box on application forms now).