I’m a filmmaker. I did my first documentary about the representation of Black students in the media in Chicago’s public schools. I decided to do that film for a number of reasons, with the main reason being that Black students are almost always portrayed very negatively and harshly in the media. I wanted my film to counter those images and beliefs. The other reason why I did my documentary was (and I still hold these reasons in the present) is because there is great importance in the individual (versus a corporation) producing various types of media, particularly film and television. As a woman of color, I’ve observed that our stories are told in a different perspective when they are not told by someone of color; this means that the story of the Black experience has a different perspective when told by a Black person. The story of a White person has a distinct perspective when told by a White person and so on. The point that I am addressing is that Blacks need to tell their own stories: be it visually, textually, verbally, or theatrically. I believe that there is a distinct trait in Blacks telling their own stories versus non-Blacks telling our stories. Also, this is where I’m arguing for Blacks to create their own media. We need to have a voice in the way Blacks are represented in film, television, music, photography, etc. and this voice begins with us holding our own camera, writing our own music, drawing our stories by ourselves and not only for ourselves, but for the rest of the world. I don’t want to focus on what someone is doing about us, to us, for us, I want to focus on what we can do for ourselves and by ourselves. There is power and agency that can be enacted if Blacks take control over our situation and tell our own stories.
Here is an example of a story told about a Black person by a Black person. This is a story about an activist who was involved in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s. We must tell our stories that we see fit, stories that don't include negativity or detrimental images, but stories that tell of our positivity and the enactment of our own power, love, and faith that has helped to overcome our struggles.
Friday, February 24, 2012
“We Are the 44%” Coalition Challenges Sexual Violence Against Black and Latina Teens
Public Statement - For Immediate Release
February 21, 2012
“We Are the 44%” Coalition Challenges Sexual Violence Against Black and Latina Teens
Online and offline Activism Spurs XXL Magazine to Suspend Digital Editor Over Too Short’s So-Called “Fatherly Advice”
Last week popular hip-hop magazine XXL posted a video on its website (XXL.com) from Too $hort, a 45-year old rapper who came to prominence in the late 80’s for his raunchy lyrics and videos. In what was called his “fatherly advice” video, the rapper instructed 12, 13, and 14-year-old boys on how to “turn out” their female classmates. In a transcript from the video, he said: "A lot of the boys are going to be running around trying to get kisses from the girls; we’re going way past that. I’m taking you to the hole. …You push her up against the wall. You take your finger and put a little spit on it and you stick your finger in her underwear and you rub it on there and watch what happens."
As a response, a coalition of outraged Black and Latina activists, artists, and writers – all of whom have a long history in social justice activism – have come together to ensure that this does not happen again and have named themselves the We Are the 44% coalition. The coalition’s name aims to give voice to the many teen survivors of sexual assault. Too $hort’s video specifically targeted adolescent students. This group is consistent with the appalling statistic that 44% of sexual assault survivors are under 18 years old (visit the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network website: www.rainn.org/statistics). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reports that 1 out 5 women in the United States have been raped in their lifetime (www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/sexualviolence/index.html). Because Too $hort’s video blatantly promoted sexual violence against girls, and because boys are also being advised to develop irresponsible, abusive and ultimately criminal behavior compelled, the all-women coalition decided to take pointed actions (see demands listed below).
The coalition recognizes this video—and the fact that XXL gave it a platform — as part of the larger issue of sexual assault against our women and children, particularly Black and Latina girls. The coalition also recognizes that the aforementioned statistics do not reflect the countless abuses that go unreported, including that of teenage boys who are often the unrecognized survivors of sexual assault. And most importantly, the coalition recognizes the urgent need to create heightened awareness and broad, uncategorized support for the eradication of sexual violence against children.
The community of people who have been sexually assaulted in the United States is one that includes millions of people.* In fact, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, a person is sexually assaulted every two minutes
It is also true that sexual violence disproportionately affects Black and Latina girls. For this reason, We Are the 44% coalition has decided to focus its work on this marginalized segment of the larger community, for it is one that is often unrecognized and unheard.
Because February is Teen Dating Violence Prevention month, the coalition will also highlight and support various anti-sexual violence organizations, including:
1. A Long Walk Home [www.alongwalkhome.org]
2. Just Be Inc. [www.about.me.com/justbeinc]
3. Girls for Gender Equity [www.ggenyc.org]
4. GEMS [www.gems-girls.org]
5. Sex Crimes Against Black Girls Project [www.sexcrimesagainstblackgirls.com]
* * * *
Since the video’s release, online activism has kept the pressure on the media outlet’s Editor in Chief Vanessa Satten and on Too $hort: A number of petitions (including http://act.colorofchange.org/sign/protectgirls/?source=coc_website) have been created and signed by thousands of people. And the hashtags #FireVanessaSatten and #ItsBiggerThan2Short both generated significant activity on Twitter. As a result, XXL removed the video from the site on Sunday. On Wednesday night, in response to escalating pressure, Satten suspended the digital editor allegedly responsible for putting up the video.
The We Are the 44% coalition acknowledges that both Too $hort and Satten have issued public statements about the video. We firmly believe that because the threat of sexual violence was levied against Black and Latina girls – whether or not is was meant as a joke and whether or not it was uploaded with approval – there must be amends in order for the apologies to be relevant and meaningful. Today, the coalition will deliver the following demands to Too $hort and Harris Publications in the hopes that they will demonstrate their willingness to end sexual violence.
We demand that:
1. Too $hort, along with the professionals he hires to support his recording and touring career, must participate in education and sensitivity training on the topics of sexual assault and rape.
2. Too $hort must donate to local and national anti-sexual violence organizations that service Black and Latina girls.
3. All Harris Publications leadership, management, and staff members participate in education and sensitivity training on sexual assault/rape.
4. Harris Publications improve and make public its editorial policy so that the promotion of sexual violence is not encouraged or accepted under any circumstances.
5. Harris Publications create premium space for the promotion of anti-sexual violence content (articles, creative work, etc.) on its websites and in all its publications, on a permanently and quarterly basis. Additionally, that Harris Publications permanently set aside, on a quarterly basis, two full pages for use by the coalition to highlight its work and that of its member organizations.
6. Vanessa Satten, Editor-in-Chief of XXL.com and XXL Magazine, be fired immediately.
* * * *
The Women of the “We Are the 44%” Coalition Are:
Nyoka Acevedo – Educator, Activist
Esther Armah – New York Radio Host; Playwright
asha bandele – Author, Activist
Monifa Bandele – Activist, Writer
Dereca Blackmon – Educator, Organizer, Spiritual Activist
Dr. Yaba Blay - Scholar, Professor and Co-Founder, Sex Crimes Against Black Girls Project
Nuala Cabral, Educator, Filmmaker, Activist and co-founder, FAAN Mail
Raquel Cepeda - Writer, Filmmaker, Cultural Activist
Rosa A. Clemente - Activist; Doctoral Student, UMASS-Amherst; 2008 Green Party VP Candidate
Dr. Brittney Cooper - Professor
Michaela angela Davis – Image Activist
Dr. Dawn Elissa Fischer – Professor and Parent
dream hampton - Writer, Filmmaker, Activist
Shantrelle P. Lewis - Curator and Co-Founder, Sex Crimes Against Black Girls Project
Dr. Treva B. Lindsey - Professor of Women's and Gender Studies
Condencia Brade - The National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault
Joan Morgan - Author, Cultural critic and Doctoral Student, NYU
Stacey Muhammad - Filmmaker, Activist
Dr. Rachel Raimist - Filmmaker, Scholar, and Crunk Feminist
April R. Silver – Activist, Writer/Editor, “Be A Father To Your Child”
Dr. Kaila Adia Story - Assistant Professor Audre Lorde Endowed Chair in Race, Gender, Class, Sexuality Studies, University of Louisville
Farah Tanis – Black Women’s Blueprint
Lah Tere – Inner City Queen Productions
Dr. Salamishah Tillet - Academic, Activist, and Co-Founder, A Long Walk Home
[list in formation]
Male Activist Allies
Dr. Jared Ball - Professor of Communication Studies, Morgan State University
Lumumba Akinwole-Bandele, Community Organizer; Professor, Lehman College/CUNY
Dr. Marc Lamont Hill - Professor, Author, Columbia University
Byron Hurt - Filmmaker, Activist
John Jennings - Scholar and Artist; Associate Professor of Visual Studies, SUNY Buffalo
Bakari Kitwana - Author of The Hip-Hop Generation
Dr. David Leonard - Prof., Dept. of Comp. Ethnic Studies, Washington State University
Dr. R. L'Heureux Dumi Lewis - Writer; Assistant Professor, City University of New York
Dr. Mark Anthony Neal – Prof., African & African American Studies, Duke University
Dr. James Peterson – Dir. of Africana Studies, Assoc. Prof. of English, Lehigh University
Kevin Powell - Activist and Writer
For more information and background, visit the new We Are the 44% Facebook Fan Page. Check regularly for updates and activities from the coalition. Media inquiries are directed to Rosa Clemente at 413. 345.4018.