Sunday, February 14, 2016

Beyoncé: The Duchess of Viralshire

The Duchess of Viralshire  

When Beyoncé broke the internet Super Bowl week with the release of her Formation video, Super Bowl Halftime Performance and Take My Hand, Precious Lord mini-documentary, two things primarily happened; people reacted and people responded. From Political Talking Heads, Barbershop Talk, 15 second Instagram Vloggers, Conspiracy Theorists, Conservatives and Entertainment Bloggers, everybody and they Momma had something to say, positively and negatively. On February 9th, one of my colleagues Salim Adofo, Vice-Chair of the NBUF [National Black United Front], shared this poignant thought via his Facebook Page which effectively summarizes the same perspective I share:

"You can have whatever critique of Beyoncé that you want to have. The fact is she has help to keep the conversation of Black Resistance alive and in the mainstream media for the time being. I see this as a teachable moment. I understand the power and influence a mega star like Beyoncé has and if an incorrect message is sent out, it could be very misleading. Beyoncé is going to do what she is going to do. I cannot control that. However what I can control are the elements of my own cipher. I just need to perform my duty as a civilized man and continue to teach freedom, justice and equality. This gives me another avenue to educate some one that I may have not been able to reach before." 

On a personal level, I like Beyoncé's business acumen, work ethic and of course her beauty and sex appeal. Above all, I enjoy seeing how she communicates the complex dimensions of a woman; it's a level of sophistication you oftentimes don't see. Many women, especially in mainstream entertainment, are one maybe two-dimensional. If they ooze sexuality, that's all you see and it may take them a lifetime to change that perception. If they're chronically single and about that turn-up lifestyle, they may never successfully transition into a wife or mother, even if they got married and had a child. Beyoncé is an archetype of a woman's multi-facets. She's able to successfully and seamlessly articulate a variety of a woman's dimensions, which are, yet definitely not limited to, a Mother, Diva, Daughter, Sister, Wife, Bonnie [partner of Clyde] Queen, Girlfriend, Round The Way Girl, Sexy/Erotic, Activist and etc. Beyoncé's most recent manifestation is the real Sasha Fierce; the archetypal Phoenix from the X-Men, Dr. Jean Grey's alter-ego and one of the most powerful mutants. If you understand the context in which Stan Lee created the X-Men, the correspondence of Professor X. to Martin Luther King Jr. and Magneto to Malcolm X., what I'm saying makes perfect sense. In my assessment, some of the women who don't like Beyoncé oftentimes dislike one of her dimensions. Sometimes it's the same dimension they have yet to manifest. In other words, some women who criticize Beyoncé about her sex appeal, don't have sex appeal. Not all women are like that, some are, and those who are express it on social media every day. Some women simply don't agree with Beyoncé publicly displaying her sex appeal and think she needs to be more modest, more like a Sade. I can understand that concern for her or any woman's safety and any thinking person should. America is historically misogynistic, chauvinistic, [white] patriarchal and much of its low-brow citizenry still openly objectify, oppress and brutalize females/women with impunity. I talked about some of these standards in my article Is Bill Cosby Innocent or Guilty? This concern for her or any woman's safety doesn't mean that I think women should wear scent neutral potato sacks to not set off the savages. It does mean that I think we need to work towards a paradigm shift in terms of better educating our young girls and boys about self respect and respect for each other. It also means that if we want to teach that respect we need to consistently demonstrate it in our everyday lives and help each other do the same. Some of us, men and women, are savages and aren't going to do anything about our level of respect. When this is the case, it's important for us to manage our children's expose to this and help insure this kind of mentality isn't poisoning the wishing well of our next generation. As our children become young adults, adults and then possibly parents, they will make their own decisions about what they agree and disagree with. For those of us who care, it is our job is to make sure that the legacy we're creating, and will ultimately leave behind, helps lead our future generations in the right direction.

In seeing events like Beyoncé's recent media storm, it all comes down to asking ourselves, "What are you going to do about it?" -regardless if we're Team Reaction or Team Responded. One of the things that I've always strongly advocated is to critique something with contributions. Everyone has an opinion yet everyone is not willing and able to offer anything above and beyond that opinion. That inactivity changes nothing, especially when that critique is negative, and that's a double whammy. Even if it's a positive critique, we can still do something above and beyond that opinion. For example, I like the Hip Hop artist Earl Sweatshirt who was a member of the group OFWGKTA. Not only are my critiques of his music generally positive, I literally support his brand; a took two youth to a concert, I exposed thousands of listeners to him by featuring his music on a Musicology Episode of my show Atlantis Build Talk Radio, and I purchased some of his music and merchandise. I may not like everything Earl Sweatshirt does but if I do, I support it, with more than an opinion. If I don't, and I publicly share that critique, I offer some contribution as an alternative. I likewise don't like everything Beyoncé does artistically yet there are some things I do. In 2013 I screened Bey's 'Life Is But A Dream' documentary for an International Woman's Day event I co-hosted and again in 2014 for 9-12 year old youth in my STYA Program. If you haven't seen the documentary I encourage you to check it out, it's very insightful and especially empowering for girls and women of color to see. 

Queen Cee, owner of Queen Dollylama

Seeing all of these critiques I contacted one of my sisters in Canada, Queen Cee, who among many other things she does as an artist/activist such as the Be-You-tiful Girls Club initiative, owns and operates a company called Queen Dollylama that creatively re-images dolls to give them a naturally unique, ethnic and artistic look. As there is a lacking of dolls that are Afrocentric, she also specializes in re-imaging dolls of color. My idea was to build upon the positive momentum of Beyoncé using part of her platform to project black consciousness and culture into the mainstream media and collaborate with Queen Cee to customize a collectors edition doll that reflects these ideals of black resistance, #blacklivesmatter, Black Panther homage and of course #Formation. When complete I'm going to do an online drawing and give it away to one of my supporters. I will be sharing the rules of how to enter the drawing via my Facebook Page and Twitter so if you're not connected with me via Facebook and Twitter you'll need to in order to stay informed. 

In doing this project I am demonstrating what it means to "critique something with contributions" and expose my subscribers to Queen Dollylama and the work Queen Cee has been doing for more than two decades to advocate positive cultural expressions of people, especially women, of color. Events like Beyoncé breaking the internet will continue to be landmark moments within the chronology of our people that shapes the humanity geography of this world, whether we like it or not. The bottom line is we must be mindful of our position of power to consistently control this narrative. Not with an opinion, with contributions that are purposeful and a part of our legacy. Stay tuned for the Queen Dollylama Giveaway!

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