Cultural Appropriation – why it makes black people mad

Imagine having a group of people take everything away from you. Your family, your history, your culture – everything that makes up who you are and how you identify. The group of people tell you, “If you continue to express your culture we will punish you for expressing it. We will take away opportunities from you and exclude you from society unless you assimilate to our way of life. After years of being degraded and ridiculed, as a result of practising your culture, you see that the same group of people have taken your culture and used it as a fashion accessory. You point out that you created this culture yet you were miss-treated for it. Despite this, you are told to ‘shut up’  and to ‘get over it’, because ‘we’re all one race – the human race’.

This is what it feels like when black people see cultural appropriation taking place. This is what it feels like when black people see their culture being used as a fashion accessory when their ancestors had their culture taken away from them during the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and this is what the dominant fashion world and white people fail to understand.

Tradition and customs are ultimately what makes African culture, not fashion. When you look at the western fashion world in general, does anything ever stay the same? Yes, we’ve seen the return of jelly sandals and bomber jackets – iconic styles of the 90’s, but trends come and go, culture doesn’t. Culture stays the same. Take the traditional kente cloth of Ghana, where I’m from – this unique cloth can be hand made in different ways but the distinctive pattern has remained the same. That is how you know it’s kente and therefore Ghanaian. The fashion world needs to understand this distinctive characteristic of culture instead of re-branding it as nothing more than a fashion item.

Elle Canada Magazine recently promoted the Dashiki as the new ‘it’ item. The new ‘it’ item? Really? Dashiki’s have been around since before my parents were even born.

The African-American – Oba (means king) Ofuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi born 1928, created the Dashiki. At the age of 14 Adefunmi became increasingly interested in the subject of Africa and African people. When he was 20 years old, Adefunmi decided to travel to Haiti for more exposure to African culture. Soon, he returned to America and launched his African clothing line and the Dashiki was born. So, in what way is the Dashiki new? The point is, if you are going to take what is clearly not yours, and state it as ‘new’ without bothering to ACKNOWLEDGE where it originates from and how it has already been worn by BLACK people, then how can you expect black people not to get mad?

“What about black women who wear blonde weaves and blue contacts?” I am forever sick and tired of hearing this same statement being used by white people thinking they have made an amazing point to shut us down. First, blonde hair and blue contacts are not CULTURE, that’s fashion. There is nothing cultural about blonde hair or blue eyes because there is no cultural link to an ancestral past. With black braiding hairstyles there is, because braiding is part of the historical tribal customs in Africa. For example, braid patterns signify what tribe you are from and help to  identity members of that tribe.  Second, Caucasian people are not the only ones with naturally blonde hair.  Go to the Solomon Islands and you will find the Melanesian people – black people with blonde afro hair.

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When a white celebrity wears braids, cornrows or even dreadlocks it’s a new beauty trend. A black woman who has worn these same hairstyles since her ancestors walked the planet  – before Caucasian people even appeared, is seen as ‘ghetto’.  Zendaya’s loc’s were insulted with a white woman saying, “Her hair looks like it smells like patchouli oil or weed. Black women wearing braids, loc’s etc, are told they look ‘unprofessional’ in the workplace or that the style is ‘not suitable’ for the classroom. White orientated magazines even advertise the ‘afro’ look with no mention or portrayal of black women who are born with afro hair. Instead, we’re compared to dogs…

Some white people like to say, “How can you loose a job over a hairstyle? That’s ridiculous!” Just because it does not affect white people, it does not mean it isn’t a reality for others. This is why it is important black people are outspoken about this.  Amandla Stenberg asked, “What if white America loved black people as much as it loves black culture?” This is pretty much what we see here – the white fashion world loves to use black culture yet it has no love for the people who created it in the first place.

Body features might not be seen by everyone as part of culture but let me say this – when it comes to black  people, body features signify our identity and where we come from because this is part of who we are. The majority of black Caribbean and African women are naturally born with thick lips, wide noses, big hips and big bums, and the men thick lips, wide noses and naturally thick muscle. Yet, these distinct features are not portrayed as beautiful or attractive in the beauty industry – unless a white woman attains these features. I’m sure you all heard about the Kylie Jenner challenge. Do I even need to include a picture of ‘before and after’ she injected her lips, along with pictures of foolish girls sucking bottles? I don’t think so. Kylie admitted to injecting her lips because of beauty pressures. So it’s the thick lips that make a woman attractive now is it? The same thick lips black women have had since the beginning of time, yet we get no beauty recognition for it. No wonder why white women feel they can go on tumblr to declare that, ‘white girls own big bums, black girls don’t own shit’

Excuse me?

If white girls ‘own’ big bums then why was the black female house slave, Saartjie Baartman taken from South Africa to be paraded around Europe and put on display simply because she, coming from the distinctive Khoikhoi tribe, had a much bigger bum, hips and breasts then the average ‘meaty’ black woman, white men came into contact with.  If white girls own big bums then why were racist cartoons made of black characters with exaggerated big lips, hips and bums – not to mention the fact we were made to look like lazy monkeys rather than human beings? This history shows that black women were not taught to love their bodies but to think their bodies were savage, unusual and overly sexual.

Cultural appropriation makes black people mad because the white fashion world fails to acknowledge the ancestral and historical links between the culture they are appropriating and the descendants of those ancestors – black people of today. By failing to acknowledge this link they are showing no respect to something which holds deep roots for so many black people. They de-value this meaning by labelling the cultural item as ‘new’, as if what it was before was ‘old’ and is no longer relevant. If other races want to embrace black culture, fine, whatever, but please don’t act like you created it and don’t ignore the people who did, because that’s not embracing, that’s stealing. Appreciate, don’t appropriate.

– Eunice – ©


Sources:

Black indigenous with blonde hair: http://www.odditycentral.com/news/black-and-blond-the-origin-of-blond-afros-in-melanesia.html

Never forget Sarrarjie Baartman:

Sarrtjie Baartman film (PART 1):


Saartjie Baartman film (PART 2):

Eyebrow Trend: http://www.teenvogue.com/story/eyebrow-cuts-cultural-appropriation

What if America love Black people as it loves Black Culture:  

Senseless Forgiveness

We are forever being told ‘pray for peace’.

We are forever being told that we stand in solidarity with those who are deceased,

Quite frankly I am tired of seeing bodies being dropped on the streets,

Bodies constantly covered in WHITE SHEETS.

Mothers and fathers mourning while losing their sleep,

Racism is more than skin deep.

It has always been a race thing, let’s face it ever since we left the plantations more of us have been killed, raped, tortured, butchered and executed.

I will not be muted.

Why is it hard to understand that we blacks have the lower and upper hand?

Culture appropriation, cornrows, thick lips and hips is making fashion totally mad.

This is disgusting , it’s totally sad, this is more than bad, how do you feel teefin’ and claiming a culture you never really had?

And to make it all worse, you probably thought it was all kosher.

Oh my bad, that hurt you right? I ain’t sorry for bruising your ego, I’m here to tell you the truth through your damn earhole.

This world is witnessing universial genocide.  Until we as a community can unite and fight and leave the petty tings behind, we can never be free  – that includes you and me.

We are tired of running, emancipation never saw us coming, viva la revolucion to all my soldiers out there fighting oppression and terror despite being suppressed by the ultimate terror.

Take note I didn’t make an error, this is more than Amerikkka’s worst nightmare, this is the reality, everyone is tiring of the constant lies and the fallacy,

The sounds of sirens are constant reminders they aren’t protecting and serving me, they’re out here displacing and overseeing me,

If it ain’t our men being killed, the women are being killed and they don’t make the headlines. Nothing more demoralizing than having black women disppaear and die in the hands of the officer’s gun , all in the name of sport and fun.

 

– Ogechi – ©

Absent Fathers in the Black Community

IMG-20150723-WA0000On Saturday 25th July, I went to a seminar designed for black people to talk about the problems we face today, and the solutions we can put into effect, to change the narrative. On this occasion, the topic was on absent fathers in the black community.

I found out about this event through my partner, Ackeem who happened to know one of the speakers organising the event. The seminar took place at the Chinese Community Centre in Hackney, East London. The venue was full of black fathers and mothers, children, family members and friends. It was so good to see so many black men with their sons and daughters.  We are so used to seeing black women with the children but we don’t see enough of black fatherhood in our own community, let alone the TV.  At this seminar, everyone came together to ask ourselves – why?

To begin with, a guest speaker from Canada gave a speech on why we need to understand how the black family unit is broken and needs healing. I remember a fact he shared with us which was shocking. He said that in America, there are 1 million black men in  prison. These 1 million men could be fathers. That’s a possible 1 million children without their daddy.

After the speech, the seminar moved on to a workshop session. Everyone was placed at a table where we had intensive and enlightening discussions about the issue.  Sean, who was the leader of the table me and Ackeem were seated at, began by saying,

“Raise your hand, if you did not grow up with your father”

Sean had already expressed that his father was absent and Ackeem didn’t grow up with his either so I knew his hand would be up, but I did not expect the response that was to follow. I, out of 8 people (myself included), was the only one with my hand down. I was shocked. I was already aware of the issue but to be sat on this table seeing 7 hands up really struck a chord.

Sean asked us – why? Why is it that all but one of you grew up without a father? And what is the absent father in the black community? Well, let’s begin with the ‘what’, because this needs to be understood before we grasp the ‘why’.

A sister pointed out, that the absent black father is a generational cycle. She is completely right. She, and two other sisters revealed  that like themselves, their mothers also didn’t have their fathers around. That is when I really began to see the cyclical impact of  the problem. If a daughter grows up without her father, how will she know what it means to be loved? Who is there to show her how a man is supposed to treat and respect a woman? Respect goes both ways, so how will she understand that yes, a man should respect a woman but a woman needs to give him something to respect. How will she see that being a ‘bad bitch’ is not the way to do this?

Children are always watching and copying their parents. People say boys need their dads and girls need their mums. In some aspects this is true but I think it works both ways. Boys need to learn how to respect a woman and learning this has to come from both parents.  If a mother is not with the father of her child, how will she show her son that being a ‘bad boy’ and treating women as sexual objects is not the way forward? How will the son SEE this when his dad is not there to show  him? I’m not saying that all black boys and girls growing up without fathers will become adults who end up on the wrong path. Ackeem didn’t have his dad around but he has become a conscious, knowledgeable, respectable and inspiring man. But, the sad reality is, that too many black boys go down the wrong path because their fathers were not there to guide them, as there is only so much a single mother can do.

We all agreed that the main reason why so many black children grow up with absent fathers is due to the economic castration  of the black man.  How? Because the white supremacist system seeks to weaken the black man, meaning that he will have the most difficulty  compared to other races, to climb the economic ladder, and to secure his finances for himself and his family. The black man can even find it harder than the black woman to secure a good job.

Too many black people choose to reject their cultural heritage. Instead, some of us choose to assimilate to European lifestyles or ideals. Some choose not to seek their history. They’d rather watch TV than read a book.  When you reject your culture and history you are rejecting the building blocks for the stability of your self-esteem and ultimately, your family. How can you teach your sons and daughters to be conscious men and women when you’ve chosen to forget your cultural customs and traditions, which carry so much wisdom – a wisdom which is meant to be passed on from generation to generation. This is the cycle that we should be initiating, not the cycle of the ‘dead-beat daddy’.

So what can we do to break the cycle?

Communication is key. Black men and black women, we need to talk to each other, listen to each other,  understand each other and learn from each other – then the healing process can begin.

Education. We need to teach ourselves and each other what the system won’t,  regarding our true histories, our spirituality and our own cultures – who we are as a people, where we come from and why we carry so much pain. The passing on of knowledge from generation to generation has to be revived. In Africa, old people are not kept in nursing homes like in Europe. They stay home and TEACH their grandkids the way of life. We need to spend more time with  our elders and bathe in their wisdom.

Read books like one breathes air. Read to achieve. Learn your history. Share it. An absence of knowledge is a lack of living.  Feed your mind and the rest will follow.

Practicing home/group economics is a must. Black women spend ridiculous amounts of money on weave, relaxers, perms and skin bleaching products. All for what? To try ‘something different’ or to emulate European beauty standards? Stop throwing your money to the Asian man who owns hair shops for BLACK PEOPLE. Black men and women, stop throwing your money away to the white man who wants you to buy that Gucci purse or wallet. Stop and think. Think about what we could achieve if we invested in ourselves.

My dad bought a large piece of land in Ghana, for what was the equivalent to around £1000, to build a shop in honour of his late mother, and to build a petrol station to aid a new road. I am also planning on buying some land to build a healthcare centre for the disabled and mentally ill. Buying land in Africa and building on it is so easy I’m amazed more of us aren’t doing it. This is the investment we should be participating in.  Not only are you giving back to your people but you will be accepted by them. Whether you are black American or black British or whatever, you will be part of the community. This is a  great way for black fathers to make productive money for themselves, their family and their people. Make some noise with coins and see what happens. Build and protect your own. Change your narrative.

Remember, there is always a father figure in the family. Uncles, brothers or granddads – they too can do the duty that can lead towards breaking the cycle and healing the black family unit.

– Eunice – ©

White Lives Don’t Matter

Since Mike Brown’s death in August last year, black men and women have been taking to the streets and they are simply fed up of the systematic genocide that is happening in their communities. They feel their voices are not being heard, they have been silent for so long and enough is enough. Sooner or later, these communities will take matters into their own hands. There’s a saying that “history repeats itself”, right? Now in light of what has been happening in the so called “Land of the Free”, the democratic United States of America, you still have conservative, racist white America telling you that “All Lives Matter”. I am sorry but wait, how do all lives matter when the system is killing black and brown people daily yet you are telling me that all lives matter? How and where has there been a system which collectively oppressed white people for over 500 years? I will await for essays in the comment section.

White Lives Don’t Matter will soon be, or probably is a hashtag already. Why? Because many feel the need to highlight its effectiveness via social media. By the end of this post you will probably curse me out but think about it, while you are saying All Lives Matter you are basically saying our lives doesn’t matter and implying all lives are equal which we know in the eyes of the law is 100% false. For instance you wouldn’t go to a HIV fundraiser and scream “what about cancer and cystic fibrosis would you?”

“Stop generalising”, “it’s not a race issue, it’s a police issue” – I have heard it all Stats for postbefore, and quite frankly I find it very insulting to say the least. Why do conservative white people feel the need to say that we are being racist? It is clear in 2015 that race is still an issue, although we have “moved on” from slavery and we use that very lightly because it has only adapted in a way that is more subtle (even I disagree with this, it is blatant to see with your eyes unless you are physically blind of course). Today black people are being found hung on trees and dead in vans, in their beds, in the streets, in the living room, in church (Nope, you are not even safe in the Lord’s house), even Jesus can’t save you.

Another prominent saying I hear amongst white people and unfortunately black people too, is “what about black on black crime?” (I don’t know about you but I find this saying nauseating). In a world that has vast resources via internet giving access to countless journals and publications regarding this baseless argument quite frankly scares me. Again, for those who don’t know, statistics have shown that within every background regardless of race or religion, within their respective communities i.e. white on white crime, black on black crime, Asian on Asian crime etc., crime within their communities are committed at an equal rate. There is no difference (I will leave some links in case anyone thinks I’m lying).

So why does the media choose to highlight ‘black on black crime’? It should be obvious by now that the mainstream media will not promote black positivity because guess what? Its white owned, so to reinforce behaviour they will TELL you that blacks are like this, blacks are like that. Their lives don’t mean nothing.

White supremacy has infiltrated, tainted and ruined every culture to the point that if ‘you ain’t white it ain’t right!’ The next time you write ALL LIVES MATTER across your social media pages, think about whether you as a white person has ever felt threatened because of the colour of your skin. Think about whether you have gone to church and someone has opened fire with bullets piercing  into innocent bodies and 5 year olds playing dead to survive. Think about whether you have been shot at 50 times on your wedding day and the last words were “I love you son”. Think about whether you were walking on the street and being subdued by 6 officers like an untamed animal gasping for air as your throat is being crushed. Think about whether your 7 year old child was sleeping in your bed and was killed because the child  looked ‘suspicious’.

Think about whether your 92 year old grandmother was killed because she was mistaken for a drug dealer. Think about whether your child can go to the shop without being followed by a complete stranger because that stranger felt ‘intimidated’ by the size and colour of your child. Think about whether your teenage child has been killed outside a petrol station because his music was too loud. Think about whether you made an incorrect lane change only to be found dead 3 days later in police custody . Think about whether you have a loved one who had a psychotic episode and called for help only to die in police custody. Think about whether you had your spine severed into several places for something you didn’t do. Think about walking to work only to be  blocked off by police and to be executed in the back, your body riddled with bullets. Think about whether your 12 year old child was killed for playing in the park with a toy. White privilege and white supremacy needs to end and for that I say White Lives Don’t Matter.

*To the loved ones of the Charleston shootings: Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Cynthia Hurd,  Rev. De Payne Middleton-Doctor, Ethel Lance,  Susie Jackson, Myra Thompson, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr. To the loved ones of Sandra Bland, Sean Bell, Eric Garner, Kathryn Johnson, Mike Brown, Aiyanna Jones Stanley, Trayvon Martin, Jordin Davis, Kindra Chapman, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice and  all my other fallen brothers and sisters who I couldn’t mention. My condolences. May we continue to preserve their memories. May their deaths not be in vain.*

– Ogechi – ©


Further reading:

The Distorted Exaggeration of Black-on-Black Crime Ignores Much of America’s Criminality: http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/distorted-exaggeration-black-black-crime-ignores-much-americas-criminality

Why “Black-on-Black Crime” is a Dangerous Idea: http://prospect.org/article/why-black-black-crime-dangerous-idea (Figure: Bureau of Justice)

Fact Check: do black Americans commit more crime?: http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/factcheck-black-americans-commit-crime/19439