Understanding the Proverbial ‘Bad Bitch’ Through The Black Lady Sketch Show

Out of a plethora of shows available on creative platforms, I choose Black shows because I seek to clearly understand the many complex issues plaguing the Black community and especially the Black woman.

I came upon this show on Instagram. It was advertised as a coming soon on HBO and looked like it held so much value because of a HILARIOUS preview and later scenes that serve/d as fluid vehicles to push social commentary about women’s lives in post modern society. In summary, I  would say the show is an honest parody of societal issues with a limelight on feminine life. The topics projected in the show span impossible beauty standards, a comparison of marriage and it’s gradually changing or totally changed standards and expectations from our parents’ generation as compared to the millennial generation and a lot more!

This post will explore the Bad Bitch Support group scene from one of the episodes and hopefully spark your interest in jumping on this show as a way to understand, reinforce or refute certain ideas you may already have.

The Bad Bitch Support Scene –

Impossible Beauty Standards Enforced by Who?

Context

Words at Play – Bad Bitch,  Basic Bitch, Okay Bitch, Pressure, Men, Lace front, Waist Trainer , Fucksicodone ( Spelt as heard on show ).

This scene is set in what seems to be a lab. The women  are seated in a group and are observed through a glass window by two scientists. The scientists have a representative ( Angela Basset) who chairs  the group. The Bad Bitches are in deep conversation about their lives and some of them speak of the pressures and stresses of maintaining a life that is eternally linked to heels and make up. Some of the members of the group seem perfectly fine with their state and are horrified at the thought of ever allowing their partner ( Men in this case ) see them without make up. They all agree to some extent about the need to remain in their current state all except one of them who is distraught and ready to give up. The rest of the ladies and the scientists are shocked at her questions and non conformity. The scientists resolve to increase the dosage of Fucksicodone ( a coined term from the word ‘Fuck’ and the suffix of a family of drugs that are meant to numb pain and in this case common sense or a desire to rebel against imposed beauty standards.)

From The Top

Third/Forth wave feminism circles around agency and choice. Particularly for Black women who have witnessed struggles shaped in the form of sexism and racism, the state of being a Bad Bitch has become a doubled layered protective tool that could help navigate the aforementioned terrains. A Bad Bitch is defined as a woman who embraces her body while simultaneously using it as a commodity (Lavoulle and Ellison, 2017).

  Screen Shot 2019-09-02 at 13.17.04In the scene above, the implied truths portrayed are that these women must be confident, tall and unflinching because as one of the characters say; ‘they didn’t choose this life, this life chose them‘. This statement though is indicative of a certain kind of lack of a choice, of a lot that has been cast on them through the workings of the male gaze, objectification of the Black female body and capitalism, link to the second factor. The location of the scene, –  a lab, – is a weighty portrayal of the fact that indeed, there is a working behind the scene when it comes to beauty standards. Through the scene we further understand how a woman can be objectified with no gain and with shame only and unnecessary vulnerability as side effects. For this reason and in tandem with the specific definition of a Bad Bitch as offered by (Lavoulle and Ellison, 2017), Bad Bitchery can enamor and position women  to  gain over the forces that suppress them. One of the characters explains that she goes great lengths to fix her make up an hour before her man is up. It is unclear if this work (of rising early to make up), is meant to elicit some form of gain from the man; – however, if it is, then the choice of the character to use the tool of make up ( which equally functions as a tool of objectification ) to her personal gain guarantees some kind of a win for her.

The final scene where the scientists question why the outlier lady does not want to play into the idea of what a woman should be ( made up, waist trainer clad and in heels ) sums up the play of capitalism and the male gaze in objectifying women. However these females have a choice in how they can turn the powers to their advantage via Bad Bitchery.

Related Post

 

Thank You for reading, here is a Song for you.

Why Jordan Peele’s US Movie has Inequality Written all Over It

Theme song from the US movie

Any literary fanatic knows that the technique of recurrent motifs in a work of art be it literary or visual is a way of sending home an idea.

Motif – In a literary work, a motif can be seen as an image, sound, action, or other figure that has a symbolic significance, and contributes toward the development of a theme. … In a literary piece, a motif is a recurrent image, idea, or symbol that develops or explains a theme, while a theme is a central idea or message.

The Image of the Bunny

The movie opens with a shot that enlargens as viewers are brought from the image of the pink eye of a bunny to a larger frame containing a good number of bunnies all stuck apathetically behind the iron mesh of individual cages they are kept in.

Question – So how does a bunny connect with the idea of inequality?

Answer – All the bunnies are white, and stuck either inside the cages they are assigned or freely wandering in the rabbit hole in which the minions ( whose doppelgangers are up above on the earth are located ). The color white is a symbol of innocence, and purity. The bunnies are victims of their situation, are powerless and incapable of doing anything except wander. The use of an even color for all the bunnies symbolises the sameness of all the bunnies, their sameness does not only stop at their color, their sameness is seen in their collective lot; they are all trapped in the rabbit hole or the cages. At some point, we are unable to quite distinguish between the bunnies and the doppelgangers that remain in the underworld with the bunnies, who represents who? do the bunnies represent the puppetted humans or do the puppetted humans become an extension of the bunnies?

A bunny is an animal that can connotatively be linked with docility, apathy and indifference. Ever seen a bunny eating mindlessly? They eat as though they do not even care about the food itself; I’m yet to encounter a bunny that has been aggressive or that has tried to exit its circumstances or act in any kind of proactive way. In the same vein, a rabbit hole denotatively defines as a bizarre, confusing, or nonsensical situation or environment, typically one from which it is difficult to extricate oneself. ( credit Google ) The puppetted humans are trapped in an underground area with the rabbits; this underground area which is nestled beneath a lone house on a beach is a place of chaos, brainless and idiotic repetition and confusion. The tethered remain down the rabbit hole and for the rest of their lives, are subjected to only doing exactly what their copies do on earth. The camera shows us many a person that simply repeats exactly what their earthly copy does without a will to stop or break out of it. The people trapped in here seem to be a part of an entire calculated system that is designed to keep them there; the cages of the bunnies are a larger symbol of the prison of a carbon copy life these people are subjected to. The bunnies in their own terms also hop around the area without any particular direction or purpose in mind. This repetitive system and bubble that these beings are trapped in mirror a system that is designed to keep people below and hopeless. The people like these bunnies being the puppets they are will forever be unable to leave the shackles of their situation ( cages/rabbit hole). Which is why when they get the chance to leave their circumstances, they come out with a lot of little bit of contempt to trade places with their alter egos who by living their lives have subjected these minions to suffering.

Aimless bunnies in the rabbit hole

A Reversal that is Born out of Contempt

To start quite tragically, the people on earth who by living their daily lives deprive the tethered of will and choice do not even know of the existence of their suffering doppelgangers. The tethered – The very name of the alter egos indicate a deprivation of will. To be tethered translates into being tied or bound to a thing or person out of compulsion. Adelaide’s tethered often describes herself as the shadow of Adelaide. How then can a person separate themselves from their shadow? It is the impossibility of this separation that irks the tethered and makes them exact revenge on the earthlings because as we see, the very existence of the earthlings guarantees an endless suffering for the tethered. In Red’s ( Adelaide’s alter ego’s) narration of her life, we see a binary that is deeply soiled with inequality. While Adelaide enjoys a warm bed and gifts and love, Red barely lives, enduring what she is dealt which is the exact opposite of what Adelaide enjoys. The first thing that gives a brash indication of the stark message Peele wishes to send across comes through when Adelaide asks Red who the tethered are; to this question, Red answers, ‘We are Americans’. This answer begs many questions, if they are Americans, and humans at the core of everything, why do they get a different treatment from the other Americans who live freely? Let’s not forget that the protagonist as well as their friends are middle to upper middle class families who can afford a vacation, a vacation home, a yacht and other luxuries. Gabe is college educated from his overly apparent alumnus Howard sweater and his taste for the finer things in life which pushes him onto an unhealthy need to rub shoulders with his wealthy White friend whose wife is as vain as a peacock. These are a cohort of people whose concerns exceed the mundane and painful lot of living as a puppet ( which is the fate of the Reds so to speak).

Also interesting is the fact that the movie commences with the obvious message of a humanitarian organization ( Hands across America ) that is known for its 1986 protest of a people connected hand in hand in a solidarity statement to end poverty, homelessness and hunger. In the US movie, it is no longer regular people that hold hands, it is the Reds that hold hands perhaps to protest inequality. After all, what is the aim of standing in solidarity and unison with connected hands if not to support each other? The imagery of this human connectedness is cast in such dramatic irony when we realize that Peele’s characters are everything but connected. Like in modern society, they remain apart and far from connected while one group suffers and another ‘lives’

Follow theAffickyPodcast for an extensive conversation on what the movie meant for us 🙂

Black Panther – Hidden Messages and Why You Probably Should Know about the Oliphant

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La Chanson de Roland  – 11th C French Poem

When I read La Chanson de Roland, as usual, I was lost in a whirlwind of unfamiliarity and confusion over why this middle age French poem matters. While the protagonist of the poem needed to blow an ivory tusk (Oliphant) for the French king Charlemagne to come to his army’s rescue, simply because the Moors, (their opponents) had gained an upper hand over the French army, Roland delayed blowing the Oliphant due to his pride and disillusionment of singlehanded victory over the Moors. Roland finally blew the Oliphant but, rather unfortunately, he does it too late. He loses his own life and his army with him.

The Oliphant is a horn made from the ivory obtained from predominantly male elephants found in Southern Africa and parts of Asia. By extension, the Oliphant represents masculine fervor, conquest, and hegemony. This post will dwell mainly on the Oliphant’s representation of male dominance and how it is overturned in the Black Panther movie.

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Roland and the Oliphant in La Chanson de Roland

The political tyranny of Killmonger leads to a division of sorts that leaves Wakanda in two divisive wedges. Though Okoye swears her allegiance to the throne, she ends up fighting on the side of T’challa though technically Killmonger is the current king (occupant of the throne Okoye swears loyalty to).  This act on the part of Okoye causes a battle that resides on sexual factions. The battle is between the male and female sexes in the kingdom. Okoye, the commander in chief of Wakanda’s army of women, Shuri and Nakia, all women, against the insurgents, Killmonger and his new aide and right-hand man, Wakabi, and the army of cloth wearing men fighters.

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Okoye and the army of Women

The scene with the summoning of the kingdom’s store of rhinos which Wakabi gathers by blowing the Oliphant is representative of the exertion of masculine control. Of all the animals to opt for defense, why the rhino? The rhino is sturdy, towering and strong, it is symbolic of what a warrior should be. The rhino is the personification of Wakabi and is summoned to help the men’s army win the battle yet, the irony of the situation leaves viewers shocked because the indefatigable rhino suddenly freezes in his tracks when it sees Okoye. In addition, it licks her face, crumbles at her gaze and finally bows at her feet. Needless to say, this freezing of the rhino is vaguely reminiscent of how T’challa freezes in the opening scenes when he sees Nakia. These parallel scenes show a lack or at least an exaggeration of the seemingly impermeable nature of the male species.

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Wakabi and the Rhino both bow to Okoye

A few comparisons between Roland of La Chanson de Roland and Black Panther’s Wakabi are –

*In both situations, the male actors needed to blow an Oliphant to save their situations.

*Both actors, ie Wakabi and Roland display some disillusionment, Wakabi’s at the mere thought that Wakanda needed a new King with more revolutionary ideas and Roland’s, the fact that he thought he could conquer the Moors single-handedly without the help of Charlemagne the French king.

*Both scenes in both works of art revolve around war or battle and actually take place on a battlefield.

*Both characters blowing the Oliphants are male.

*The Oliphant is used as a means to an end, in both scenarios, the horn is blown as a recourse.

***

 

Moesha Boduong, the Ghanaian Reality or a Disgrace to the Image of the ‘Honest’ Working Class Ghanaian Woman?

When I saw Christiane Amanpour outdoor her new show Sex and Lovearound the world, I wondered what grand plan lay behind the production of this show…

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9:40 something pm, my phone is buzzing with messages. The girls are upset over Moesha’s comments about Ghanaian women and their having to live off transactional relationships often with older men. Moesha is a Ghanaian socialite whose real profession is unknown. We either think she lives off her men or is employed in a day job that can not technically pay for her lifestyle so the sugar daddy or better put, the sponsor, fills in the paycheck gap. Chimamanda Adichie in her novel Americanah paints a vivid depiction of the complex socio-economic landscape in Nigeria while specifying the ambiguousness surrounding the economic life of one of her lady characters. The other co-protagonist of the novel, the man who is in love with the main character ends up marrying into a family mainly for financial reasons. Right from the middle ages until the twenty-first century, financial gain has remained a motivator of unions and relationships, Moesha’s declarations seem no different thematically from the allusions this paragraph has developed from.

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Screen Shot of South African article on transactional relationships and the spread of HIV/AIDS

My friend just returned from Nigeria and literally remained without female ‘company’ while away because he was unwilling to go along with the transactional reality that relationships are in that part of the world. Another friend recently returned from Cameroon and while asking him how his trip was, his words were that basic prostitution is out of hand. What in the world is basic prostitution? Casual relationships that dwell on economic gain was his answer. Wow, I said. Weeks ago, my eyes widened as I read this article about the blesser syndrome in South Africa. (Blessers are older men that literally bless younger women with HIV AIDS and money and condomless sex) As I drew comparisons between the facts the article presented and Ghana, I arrived at the conclusion that while the article portrayed Southern Africans as being more overt about their search for blessees and blessers, (because adverts were/are made on social media in search of younger girls to bless and older men who bless) Ghanaians are a bit more discreet in their ways I daresay mostly because of our religious hypocrisy but moving on, songs such as Ebony’s Sponsor among a host of other products of popular culture such as this episode on An African City shows us that the dynamic of sexual-economic relationships aren’t a new thing under the Ghanaian sky.

While I am not interested in determining whether Moesha was wrong to have said what she said or not, my focus rests on what Ghanaians are doing to empower women and renew mindsets so that people do have the need to rely on sugar moms or dads out of economic need. Logically, there is no way to dictate the lifestyle of humans but the more important thing is to realize the urgency that needs to come from issues like this. Our society is morally decadent and sexual episodes such as these are not the only things that we should be alarmed about. Being a Ghanaian has taught me that we are people that easily forget and make fun of every possible thing on earth. In addition, Ghanaians literally live with crocodiles yet scream in fright when we see lizards outside.

In a country where a minor can flash her naked body on camera while flies dance around her vagina and receive acclaim through viral shares and much laughter, in a country where preachers go to bed with members of their churches, hold entire services to demand the body counts of their members with much focus on how much members are bringing to the church coffers rather than a focus on the salvation of members, in a country where female singers get shamed over their choice of dress, in a country where full grown parlimentarian women get shamed over wearing body jewelery such as anklets, in a country where women sometimes often fall prey to sexual requirements to secure or keep a job, ( well this happens in our schools too ) in such a country, a country where if you’re a woman in a top position, people wonder if you slept your way up, paying little heed to your credentials, a country where self-acclaimed relationship experts and mariage counsellors hide behind morality and push severe and unrestrained sexism and remain justified, this is our country where scandals blow over quickly just to be replaced by other ones while we laugh and laugh, maybe it is time to ask what exactly we are doing besides laughing or hurling angry words at people such as Moesha while the truth stares us in the face. Ghanaians love to circumvent and address everything else but the truth and possible solutions. Maybe it is high time we brainstorm real solutions.

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Comments like this are refreshing because it is very much like that community with the dusty, bumpy, eroded road. One of the community members decides to tar only the portion of the road that is in front of their house while the dust from the rest of the road blows up and touches the same house that sits in front of the little stretch of tarred road.

Watch Moesha’s full interview here.

 

Teaching Philosophy

‘If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.’Toni Morrison

“My philosophy of education is that all students are unique and must have a stimulating educational environment where they can grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially.

I do not believe in penalizing students. I believe in penalizing them for behavioral short fallings but not for intellectual short falls. Tasks in the classroom are an opportunity to improve and a fair chance to build intellectually and creatively and so in my view, penalizing a student and punishing them for not reaching a satisfactory place with a project is stifling their capacity to think and expand. Each student in my class will get the chance to rework their project until it gets to a place they are comfortable enough to turn in. Every student should and will succeed if they so wish.

In line with this, I will not be using a red pen or sharpie to mark up the mistakes of students. Mistakes in my opinion are an opportunity to learn and therefore will be approached with a positive rather than alarming and negative mark.

Finally, according to the recasting method in pedagogy, mistakes will not be highlighted, neither will students be told they are wrong. The desirable answer will be provided to them through the recast method.

‘If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.’

Toni Morrison

“My philosophy of education is that all students are unique and must have a stimulating educational environment where they can grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially.

I do not believe in penalizing students. I believe in penalizing them for behavioral short fallings but not for intellectual short falls. Tasks in the classroom are an opportunity to improve and a fair chance to build intellectually and creatively and so in my view, penalizing a student and punishing them for not reaching a satisfactory place with a project is stifling their capacity to think and expand. Each student in my class will get the chance to rework their project until it gets to a place they are comfortable enough to turn in. Every student should and will succeed if they so wish.

In line with this, I will not be using a red pen or sharpie to mark up the mistakes of students. Mistakes in my opinion are an opportunity to learn and therefore will be approached with a positive rather than alarming and negative mark.

Finally, according to the recasting method in pedagogy, mistakes will not be highlighted, neither will students be told they are wrong. The desirable answer will be provided to them through the recast method.

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One hour to midnight. I’m half asleep listening to my cousin cry about her boyfriend and how she isn’t so sure she can get over him. I have good intentions. A part of me is on the phone comforting her, another part of me is asleep and yet a third part of me is very frustrated with the situation my cousin is in. The man or boy is probably fast asleep or nestled in the warmth of another woman. Not to be entirely pessimistic but flashback to a couple of years ago I thought men and women or to put it quite right, people, could stay faithful and true. Times where we could attempt to raise glasses in a grand and bubbly hope of a happily ever after. I was wrong. People were selfish quite honestly, and no amount of science or providence could explain why or how we had things in hand and still had eyes on other things. I guessed her boyfriend loved/loves her but sort of feels she’s entirely in his grip. I blamed it on complacency. He’s become complacent, I breathed into the phoneI said this in a matter of factly way.  It was midnight after all, and no one had time to spare mincing words.

He feels there’s no need to keep trying. You’re in the net hun.

What net?

The net…

I rolled to a more comfortable position and tried to help her understand what net I was speaking of.

Haven’t you heard of that analogy?

No. I rolled my eyes in disbelief. She’d never heard of that analogy. Interesting.

Well, I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

Tell me now.

Sigh…

Grandma always spoke of a man at sea who stood aboard his vessel with impatience and a fiery determination in his eyes. He was literally and figuratively hungry for fish. Fish, any kind of fish, big or small, silvery or dirty black, scaly or scaleless. Fact is, he had to return home with a big catch. The sea was boundless and dangerous and he knew he had to take his chance because there was so much more to gain. The gain outweighed the inconvenience. The vessel rolled lifelessly on the undulating current. The man’s gaze was indifferent yet expectant. He had a dirty cup in his big chapped hands. He drank slowly out of it while keeping his eyes on the vast body of water before him. He stayed transfixed until he suddenly let go of the cup. He shook his head several times and shielded his eyes with his hands. He had to see for himself if he was actually right! Fish! Fish! Oh my God Fish! There was fish! The proof was a shiny silvery patch in the water ahead. He sped ahead and threw his net with a great fuss. The silver-gold lay right beneath the water’s surface. He waited. Held his breath and stared. In a flash, he began, tugging his catch back on board. The fish jumped and tossed and wriggled and gyrated. The man remained nonchalant. He’d gotten his catch, after all, and that was all there was to it. He’d been at sea and in pursuit of the fish for ten plus hours, he’d been stressed out and frantic, yet the fish was safely in the net and the chase was over. Mission accomplished, it was time to move on.

With love from East Africa

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Insert love eyed emoji

Crossing the Atlantic changes lives. I was less than two days in Rennes and partly stunned at my renewed sense of understanding of the word ‘overseas’. I was literally over the seas, I had traveled over the Mediterranean to this new place where 9pm still looked like 3pm and where everyone smoked and spat on the street corners. The dogs were more than the people and everyone automatically made a gurgly distinct sound in their throats when they had to pronounce the letter R.

I was in a completely different world and surrounded by very different people, ideas, food, and experiences. Everyone spoke so fast and public transport was unbelievably reliable. I stared at people on the metro and looked away when they looked back at me. Some people preferred to sit in a hunched bird-like position, huddled over their bags in a desperate bid to catch the last bits of sleep before they arrived at their destinations. Others stayed wide awake reading a paper or staring out the window. I’d come to know the tram line so well. Three more stops before we get to the University. I’d jump off energetically lest the door ram shut! On this vast college campus, I’d sometimes meet people that I felt not all that mentally in tune with. Small talk would develop into conversations, and these conversations would slowly plateau into dismal pleasantries. Later, I’d start avoiding people entirely in a frantic attempt to dissociate. Other times, I found myself in the company of people I thought were perfect! We had the same thoughts and impressions on a myriad of topics, we loved the same music, we agreed on what outfits looked good and which looked tacky. We would sit for hours on end enjoying the silence of our shared experiences.

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My class was full of Asians. I think I may have mastered the art of small talk at that point in my life. I ‘d ask the dumbest questions, like how did they make the chopstick not fall out of their grip and why they ate that many eggs. The White Americans in my class preferred to walk together in cliques. They drank wine with whatever little breaks we had in between class and maintained a close-knit group. They were here on a group travel sponsored by one of these organizations, AISEC or CIEE. My breaks were times where I had conversations with myself or someone from back home. I was lonely and mostly too cold to care for conversation or feel like I was missing out on the Asians out-of-the-world Tofu experience or the Americans’ wine drinking spree. I sat with my phone in hand on most days, close by the heater.

I had gloomy days for a while until I met Mandy. Mandy was American and she was in Université Rennes 2 through CIEE. She is originally from Kenya and full of life and laughter. She quickly became a representation of East Africa and opened my eyes to the possibilities of real life, real people, and experiences beyond the confines of Ghana. She had long black braids that came down to her waist. They were dyed scarlet at the edges and she was really tall;  about six feet and two inches and unapologetic about towering over our heads. She wore heels all the time! Heels and really short mini jupes. She wanted to get married thrice because she was unsure of the possibility of being stuck with one man for life! She was an outlier, funny and the perfect friend. Mandy reinforced the importance of travel and the acceptance and acknowledgment of different perspectives. I was Ghanaian after all and had known everything Ghanaian up until that point so meeting her was truly refreshing and very different. We went out at night in zero-degree weather and came back near morning, half asleep and holding our shoes in our hands. She lived with a host family and loved the family’s daughter Carla but hated their dog with all her might. She said the dog got hair on all her fine clothes.

Eight years after Rennes, I am still in touch with Mandy.Image-1 (4)

 

Book Review I, The Sympathizer – Viet Nguyen

I stared at the paperback and suspected immediately that the name Nguyen in Vietnam must be as common as the name Mensah in Ghana. ‘Ngu…yen’ I slowly stressed each syllable while completely throwing away any remote knowledge of the uselessness of some letters in some French words. Studying French for years had taught me better. Also how these Frenchies are able to ignore whole letters in words without pronouncing them all while still physically maintaining the letters still baffles me.

Anyway, so I finally found out later from my Vietnamese colleague (whose last name is also coincidentally Nguyen and who agreed to write a part of this post) that the name Nguyen is actually pronounced /W3n/! How interesting.

Outside the use of the Vietnamese war as the backdrop of this novel, the narrative explores topical issues such as identity in the transnational space. This post will discuss identity in the novel and will lean on the perspectives of James Baldwin and Amin Maalouf to draw contrasts or similarities to the main narratives and issues presented in The Sympathizer. I’ll also have my Vietnamese colleague Mailé share about growing up Vietnamese in America.

Through the introduction of characters such as Ms. Mori, the General and Madame and the Crapulent major who names his twin babies Spinach and Brocolli, the narrator makes riveting commentary on identity in the transnational space.

Ms. Mori is American born and of Japanese heritage. She is criticised for her inability to speak Japanese and her personal choice to visit Paris versus Tokyo for holidays for example. She believes that how she is perceived in society’s eyes is flawed because deep within her, she identifies as American, Miss Sophia, the opinionated American who isn’t to be fucked with.

On the surface, I’m just plain old Ms. Mori, poor little thing who’s lost her roots, but underneath, I’m Sofia and you better not fuck with me

The General is disillusioned at life in a foreign culture. He probably dwells on past glory to keep his already downcast disposition from taking an even steeper turn. He is forced into a life that bows down to his former prestige as General and finds himself wasting away until his wife explodes out of fatigue and anger at him for leaving all their responsibilities on her shoulders. He decides then to open a liquor store which gives him some kind of purpose in life, however in the midst of his life’s troubles, he remarks that

fair percentage collecting both welfare and dust, smoldering in the stale air of subsidized apartments as their testes shriveled day by day, consumed by the metastasizing cancer called assimilation.’

His wife madame, addition to dealing with domestic burdens has their young daughter Lana to deal with. Outside quickly realizing that in America, children talk back, Lana has acquired a taste for clothing that is distasteful to both her mother’s and culture’s expectations. Lana meanwhile has become more direct and less apologetic about the way she expresses her femininity.

The Crapulent major who names his children Spinach and Brocolli leaves room for questions surrounding the possible meaning or reason behind naming children vegetable names when he could as well have named them Vietnamese names.

Book Review, The Fire Next Time – James Baldwin

if we, who can scarcely be considered a white nation, persist in thinking of ourselves as one, we condemn ourselves, with the truly white nations, to sterility and decay, whereas if we could accept ourselves as we are,  we might bring new life to the Western achievements and transform them…

James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time is a profound book that ponders race relations between black Americans and people of caucasian descent in America. James Baldwin also examines the role of the Negro in western society and touches on black identity and the importance of understanding and maintaining this ‘black identity’ in a transnational space that can be both confusing and potentially overwhelming.

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Why I Love this Book

While very direct and fast-paced, the narration feels like a conversation. He uses the first person and leaves the narration with an overabundance of commas. These commas give the impression of hurried speech that continues without the general literary pause that manifests itself in a full stop. He candidly talks about his experience and observations on life and living it ‘black’, so to speak in a particular western society which is America. He makes references to societal structures which are designed to keep one race atop the other and also critiques religion and its role in the nigger’s depraved condition.

The Nigger’s Social Condition

Through the use of double negative structures, James Baldwin reveals the hopelessness surrounding the black man’s condition. He paints a picture of his childhood where ‘you were not expected to aspire to excellence: you were expected to make peace with mediocrity’. He makes it more than clear that the societal structure built to keep niggers at the bottom was not only oppressive but restrictive. One in which mere effort could not suffice to deliver niggers…..that ‘the social treatment accorded even the most successful negroes//something more than a bank account// to be free// (because) it was absolutely clear that the police would whip you and take you in as long as they could get away with it…’  (Happens police brutality against isn’t a reality of the 60’s only…)

Religion,…the bane maybe?

One can not miss the overt presence of Biblical allusions in the book. Words like ‘Sin’,’Pharoah’, ‘Church’, dot the book which makes it hard to not conclude that the author is likely trying to explore certain issues in that respect. James became a preacher and soon grew uncomfortable with the extortive world of Christendom. Basically how money is taken from congregations in the name of God. In addition, James notes that the reality of most churches is ‘blindness, loneliness, and terror’ instead of faith, hope, and charity’. He satirizes the church saying that ‘ there is ‘no drama like the drama of the saints rejoicing, the sinners moaning, the tambourines racing and all voices coming together and crying‘ yet in all this purging of emotion and the expression of genuine love for God, why did the white God ensure to let the blacks be ‘cast down so far?’ Needless to say, the Bible was written by white men. These contrasting ideas can help draw a subtle link with the manner in which colonialism was presented in Africa. Was it not with the Bible and was it not tagged mission work?

Finally, James mentions working as a preacher and compares being in the pulpit to being in the theatre. He was both behind and on the scene and knew ‘how the illusion worked’  including how to work on a congregation until ‘the last dime was surrendered‘ and knowledge of where the money for ‘the Lord’s work‘ went.

Conclusion

This book isn’t one of those books you read once. I think everyone should own a copy and refer to it as it is still very politically and socially relevant. I would say it is one of those books whose biting truth will occur and reoccur to you. Most importantly, it is okay to read a book and not fully grasp the depth of all it has to offer. Some books make sense only after years of reading them.

Withering Heights IV

I saw a Tee shirt on Instagram that said NAH. Rosa Parks – 1955. I was greatly impressed at how pieces of history were gradually and steadily being integrated into popular culture. Maybe I was going to get this Tee shirt and probably also attempt to help artists or visual experts work or draw inspiration from the long and bitter struggle for freedom over the years both in Africa and America for the negro….

perfect segue for talking about how reading James Baldwin had had so much of an effect on me. His Fire Next Time was brimming over with double negative structures. I mean, the most apparent reason for the excessive use of this structure was remotely tied to the admittance of the hopelessness of the nigger’s situation…

The word independence in Africa and the word integration (in America) are almost equally meaningless; that is, Europe has not yet left Africa, and black men here are not yet free – James Baldwin

It was a double negative life for me the whole week. Dinner with my Botswana people was fun…but for some reason, I couldn’t shake off the analysis of the relationship dynamics between white and black people. We’d come far and I knew people were now more sensitized and maybe exonerated of all racial bias….but then, wasn’t the subtle slave master, dominant dominee (if you like ) relationship still present somewhere? even in the most subtle way?… So this happened to me.

Previous weeks ago, I had a misunderstanding with a peer over something as basic as filling a tub with water. The peer was white and I wondered if her ‘concern’ for how I filled the tub was due to anything linked to my lack of logic or simple common sense.  I was livid. I wasn’t about to allow myself be micromanaged over something as basic as filling a tub with water.  Had post-coloniality left me sensitive to the point of extreme cynicism?

The tub of water was my no…