“For Colored Girls”

I didn’t think I could feel any lower. The week started with the news that George Soros, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Barack and Michelle Obama were the targets of some deranged person sending pipe bombs to Democratic politicians and supporters. Next I learned of two Black people over 65 years old who were gunned down at a supermarket in Kentucky by a man who initially attempted to kill people in a Black church. By Saturday I learned that 11 people between the ages of 54 and 90 something were murdered by a madman in a Pittsburgh synagogue. It was all too much and it forced me to shut off the television, the radio, and stay off social media. I just needed a break from bad news. However, when I decided to re-engage I was greeted by the news that poet Ntozake Shange had died. At that point, every bit of resilience I thought I had evaporated.


Shange is of my generation. I still have my original copy of For colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf that I purchased in 1977. I both loved it and envied her writing. She was my contemporary and she had created something that blew every Black woman’s mind. As we read each poem we saw ourselves in every page. I was reading Shange at the same time I was reading Amiri Baraka, Don L. Lee (Haki Madhabuti) and listening to The Last Poets and Nikki Giovanni. I loved each and every poem but was especially captivated by, “Somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff.” It detailed an experience every Black woman I knew had gone through and she said it all in a Black woman’s voice.


Many years later as an academic I published a book chapter titled, “For colored girls who have considered suicide when the academy is not enuf.” Ntzoka Shange was the complete inspiration for this chapter that details the way that Black women are regularly wounded in higher education. The chapter also talks about my ability to triumph over the toxicity of the academy. It was a tribute to Shange and every Black woman who had pointed the way for me…my mother, my grandmother, my aunts, the neighborhood mothers, the church mothers, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Anna Julia Cooper, Septima Clark, and so many more.


Shange declared, “I found God in myself and I loved Her fiercely.” This theological declaration was the beginning of my developing a deeper sense of self-esteem and purpose. It moved my gaze away from the “man” in the pulpit and toward that which God had placed inside of me. Shange grew up in a middle class family—her father an Air Force surgeon and her mother a psychiatric social worker. She attended and graduated from Barnard College with a degree in American Studies. She later earned a Master’s Degree from the University of Southern California. She had many of what psychologists call, “protective factors” but they did not keep her from sinking into depression and contemplating suicide.


Her last 14 years were difficult. She suffered a series of strokes in 2004 and was living in an assisted living facility in Maryland. She was showing signs of recovery and had begun producing new work and doing readings. She has transitioned to the next world and knowing that makes me incredibly sad. However, I find joy in the fact that daily there is yet another Black woman who discovers there was someone who dared to speak, “for colored girls!”


Stay Black & Smart!

“Kanye, Bruh… We Don’t Need Another Uncle Ruckus”

In the film “Barbershop” and its sequel Cedric the Entertainer plays a contrarian character, “Eddie” a Black man who disputes the legitimacy of Rosa Parks’ sacrifice, the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and other Civil Rights icons, and the worth of the entire civil rights struggle. Similarly, Aaron McGruder’s animated series, “Boondocks” includes a character, Uncle Ruckus, who although Black voices strong anti-Black sentiments. These characters ring true throughout the Black community because we have seen them in a variety of iterations, mostly older disenchanted Black people who suggest that the younger generation merely seeks special favors from the society and is unwilling to work hard to earn what they need.

Enter, Kanye West…a talented artist whose music has helped transform the hip hop landscape. Lately, Kanye has uttered some bizarre statements that are not merely anti-Black, they are flat out wrong! First, let’s talk about the optics. Kanye West in his “Make America Great Again” hat is an affront to most Black people. But as bad as that might seem, West’s statements about slavery being a “choice,” along with his call for a repeal of the 13th Amendment (the abolition of slavery) and regularly singing the praises of Donald Trump make many in the Black community assume that West’s self described mental health issues are indeed quite serious.

I do not deny that West has some mental health and wellness concerns. I don’t know if they are bipolar disease, depression, or any other diagnosed mental maladies. What I do know is that what he has is probably treatable and I do not believe they fully explain what we are seeing in this young man.

I believe Kanye West is obsessed with celebrity. I think all this Uncle Ruckus-like behavior is tied to his need to have all eyes on him even if those eyes are on him for negative reasons. In his mind that is better than not having them on him at all. Kanye wanted his marriage to make he and Kim Kardashian THE celebrity couple. Instead, the hip hop world considers Jay-Z and Beyonce THE celebrity couple. Their “On the Run 2” tour is a sell out where ever it plays. Additionally, Jay-Z has become a brand. He has a clothing line…Kanye’s has sputtered and failed. Jay-Z has a cologne sold at Macy’s…Kanye has none. Jay-Z has authored a book (“Decoded”)…Kanye has not. Jay-Z is a multi-millionaire who owns an NBA franchise (Brooklyn Nets). Kanye is rumored to be near bankruptcy. The role Bey and Jay played in the Obama Administration far overshadows whatever Kanye thinks he’s doing with Trump.

Other hip hop artists are making their marks in other ways. Kendrick Lamar has been dubbed “the thinking man/woman’s rapper” and has not only been a half time performer at the NCAA Football Championship, but wrote the music for the wildly popular film, “Black Panther.” Chance the Rapper is changing the hip hop game with philanthropy. P. Diddy has always been an entrepreneur who has turned his celebrity into a brand also—clothing line (Sean Jean), cologne, and vodka (Ciroc). Common has won an academy award. There is enough fame and fortune to go around for every talented artist. There does not have to be just one.

I don’t where Kanye West’s egomaniacal, megalomania emanates from. I don’t know what the impact of his mother’s untimely death has been on his psyche. I don’t know how sick Kanye is. I don’t know how much we see of him and his interactions with and on behalf of Donald Trump are real or merely theater in an attempt to keep all eyes on him. I just know we don’t need another Ruckus!

Stay Black & Smart!