Sunday, October 19, 2014

Triple Consciousness: Black + American + Female

On Saturday, October 18,
Brooklyn Museum hosted
Body Rock: The Politics of Black Female Identity on "Stage,"
the first in a series of three conversations
co-sponsored with 651 Arts and MAPP International Productions.
photo (c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Shay Wafer (l) of 651 Arts
and Lisa Yancey of MAPP International
welcome the audience to Body Rock.
(c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Panel moderator, Toni Blackman
(c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa

I'm not sure what I expected from an event entitled Body Rock: The Politics of Black Female Identity on "Stage." But what I took away was nourishment to keep me going in the daily struggle as a Black woman surviving and making my contributions. So, thank you to 651 Arts, MAPP International Productions, Brooklyn MuseumRasu Jilani (MAPP Director of Community Programs), Ebony Noelle Golden (series curator), Toni Blackman (panel moderator) and panelists Pastor Desiree Allen, Charlotte Brathwaite, Karma Mayet Johnson and Shannon Washington.

"Stage," for these multi-talented sisters, means anything from an actual theater (Brathwaite acts and directs) to the pulpit (where Pastor Allen, typically sporting a pair of killer shoes, affirms rebellious personal style) to Shannon Washington's high-tech digital world. "Stage," in the title is all about space, visibility and agency--how Black women occupy environments and possibilities, how we choose to shape space for ourselves and for those around us and coming after us.

It started beautifully with Johnson's song heralding "a new day comin'" when everything would turn over and Golden declaring it "a good day to be a Black feminist." And I'm sure Golden wasn't just talking about this particular Saturday afternoon in the museum's fairly chilly auditorium. She was talking about the intense times we're in and how needed we are. "We are at a crossroads, culturally, politically and socially," said Blackman, hip hop artist and actress.

Charlotte Brathwaite
(c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Pastor Desiree Allen
(c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa

Shannon Washington
(c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Karma Mayet Johnson
(c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa

The conversation, always grounded in the personal, turned to the very fact of presence as power.

"Our showing up, being here, changes everything, changes the rooms we're in," said singer-composer Johnson who regularly listens and responds to the frequencies within any environment. "There's a gift inside my being incarnated as a woman that makes my listening exponentially [heightened]," she said.

Washington, with her pioneering work as a creative director in advertising and online platforms, takes pleasure in the popularity of the selfie. "Nothing gives me more joy than a good selfie, she said. "We are not used to seeing ourselves happy on a mass media stage. There is so much power in that, so much permission." With her video storytelling project, I'm Feminist Enough, Washington takes that idea to the next level.*

Pastor Allen focuses on making "more space for Black women and girls to find themselves in relation with God" by being authentically themselves. "All of our experiences are Bibles."

The way of feminism--by that or any other name or no name--is not at all foreign to Black women, and the panelists offered up examples from their own families and colleagues. They also acknowledged the many personal and societal barriers that continue to challenge Black women--capitalist institutions, a culture of competition pitting one woman against another, a fear of facing and seeking help for hurt and trauma, and the trap of being the pulled-together, selfless one constantly available for everyone else's needs. There were calls for daily spiritual practice, no matter what form that might take, and many sighs of assent and relief when Washington wisely declared, "By any means necessary, REST!"

Watch Body Rock here.

*Visit Shannon Washington's
I'm Feminist Enough video project here.

About the Triple Consciousness series
Derived from W.E.B. Dubois’s concept of “Double Consciousness”, “Triple Consciousness” speaks more acutely to the experience of black women as both black and American and also female. Through a series of three public dialogs, Triple Consciousness delves into and looks beyond the current representations of Black female identity in mainstream media and culture. Each conversation features a different theme to explore black women on “stage” and in pop-culture, and to reframe black feminism(s) in the 21st Century. Formats and discussants vary for a dynamic conversation with audience participation.
Upcoming Triple Consciousness discussions at Brooklyn Museum:

Triple Consciousness: "Mythologies of the Diva"
Saturday, November 8, 2pm

Triple Consciousness: "Beyond Binaries and Boxes"
Saturday, November 15, 2pm

Click here for information and tickets.

Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn

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