In Pat Greene: Her Story by Anondra Williams, an elderly Pat looks back over her life and shares stories of love, loss, heartbreak and laughter.
A black lesbian in 1950’s rural Mississippi, Pat was kicked out of the house at 17 because her mamma disapproved of her nasty ways. She started out as a naive country girl trying to survive on her own. She searched for community, a family and a girlfriend. Pat talks about everything.
From the cramped house parties where you had to know somebody who knew somebody to get in–to being in relationships long after they’ve soured. Sometimes, Pat didn’t feel safe anywhere–not at home, not at work, not in her own skin. (If you are a black and/or lgbtq reader, it won’t be lost on you how some of those struggles are still present–marriage equality aside.)
Pat has a down-home, tell it like it is kind of voice. Her stories are peppered with side-tales and funny observations about life. If you are looking for a voice and perspective usually missing from lgbtq literature, you should check it out.
You can hear this review on Anchor.
Listening to Hip Hop’s History of Reproductive Justice, the 2nd episode of the Get It Right podcast, brought back to mind a song that meant a great deal to me in the early 90s: None Of Your Business by Salt-N-Pepa.
Picture it: It’s 93/94, I’m in college and thinking a whole lot about my sexual orientation. What do you do when your realize that your attractions and desires run counter to all of the religious/political/social programming you’ve received? So, I was learning a foreign language (statistics), trying to get up the courage date girls and deal with internal conflict (who am I/who I’m expected to be).
Salt-N-Pepa’s None Of Your Business helped with one of those problems. If there ever was an anthem dismissing hypocrites who get off on regulating the sexuality/sensuality of others–this is it. This song was everything to me. Starting off from the intro: What’s the matter with your life / Why you gotta mess with mine / Don’t keep sweatin what I do / Cuz I’m gonna be just fine.
Now, of course the scenarios mentioned in the song are hetero — women being judged on their dealings with men. When I saw the video and my mind exploded: “oh my God, there are gay people in this. They are talking about me too!”
Check out the cluster of folks dancing/writhing and shouting “None Of Your Business!”
I felt so affirmed. This song wasn’t the only thing that helped me figure out that it was okay to be myself but it felt really good to have media/entertainment from black artists reflecting that too.
(See also: The Woman to Woman episode of Living Single.)
*Get It Right is a podcast that analyzes pop culture through the lenses of justice, and particularly reproductive justice.
Over the past week, I’ve been reading I’m Judging You: The Do Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi and Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture by Ytasha L. Womack.
I’ve been a fan of Luvvie’s blog, awesomelyluvvie.com, for a while; she’s a fun, witty writer. Even when she’s tackling hard and potentially draining subjects like racism, sexism, homophobia etc – she releases some tension with a zinger or two. The essays cover everything from hygiene to culture to social media etiquette and beyond.
The chapters on social media and internet fame should be required reading for teens/young adults before they are given free reign to interface with the internet. They would probably discard these words of wisdom at first–because, no matter how many signs, some people don’t know the stove is hot before getting burned–but it would be nice to have it to come back to after a troll is gloating and gleeful about their trauma.
Ytasha L. Womack’s Afrofuturism is a great introduction to the subject. It’s written for a general audience and covers the history and development of Afrofuturism in the US. It explores the concept through art/music/literature and cultural thought. This book isn’t an end–it’s a beginning. With every chapter, I’m jotting down notes about artists/thinkers/past conferences etc that I need to learn more about.
It also introduces ideas and questions that I’m still turning over in my mind. For example, the challenge of creating and envisioning a future in a world/society that wants desperately to erase your (and it’s own) past…
Both books highly recommended.
I need to treat new horror movies like iOS updates – wait a week and see how it all shakes out. But, alas, I have wasted my money. Don’t waste yours.
Anyway, the lessons:
- Don’t go camping with strangers.
- Don’t go camping with people who make you feel uncomfortable.
- Don’t go into haunted woods were people have been murdered, have disappeared etc without some kind of plan for survival. Don’t treat it like you are spending the night at Jellystone. True, the plan probably won’t work, but at least have one.
- If you get hurt at the beginning of the trip, go back to town immediately. Don’t let people convince you to keep going. They aren’t your friends.
- LOUD NOISES ALONE DON’T MAKE A MOVIE SCARY!
- Don’t write sequels to movies and have new characters act as clueless/naive as previous characters.
- Don’t go camping. Play the Blair Witch Games instead.
- This is the 2nd movie I’ve seen this year with a sibling going into the woods to find a sister. I enjoyed The Forest more.
- In addition to Blair Witch, yesterday I also saw Iced (1988) and Island Claws (1980). The other two movies were more entertaining/fun.
- One character mentions the house at one time was a stop on the Underground Railroad. The Blair Witch was “active” during the pre-civil war-maybe she was an accidental abolitionist? Whatevs.
(Disclaimer: Not a review of the new movie.)
I was excited to learn a few weeks ago that a horror movie called The Woods was actually a new Blair Witch movie in disguise. The first lucky folks to see it walked into a film festival expecting to check out The Woods. They didn’t realize it was a new Blair Witch the movie until it started playing. When the movie was over, all of posters in the theater had been changed to Blair Witch. This kicked off the marketing machine and a franchise that people thought had died in 2000 was back.
In prepping for the revival, everyone is talking about the first 2 movies. What I learned this week is how the success of the first Blair Witch did not trickle down to the original trio lost in the woods: Heather, Josh and Mike. A movie with a $75K budget, made $250M. They got to go on a few talk shows to promote the movie and fruit baskets.
Because the actors used their real names in the movies and those characters belong to the studio, any/all kinds of merchandising could be done without the actors getting a cut…
Heather Donahue recently wrote about the experience in The Guardian. Beyond not getting a share of the wealth, the trio got little credit for their part in making it a success:
It’s a strange thing to get no credit where credit is deeply due. By strange I mean shitty. We were supposed to be really scared, so we weren’t actors (all of us are formally trained). We improvised all dialogue from an outline, but we weren’t writers. We shot it and independently provided the impetus for many of the scenes you see in the film, but we were not directors. While this work became record-breakingly profitable, what we were was dead.
In other BW news, I didn’t realize that Blair Witch 2 – Book of Shadows started out as a decent (or at least better) film. The 1st Blair Witch was done independently and then picked up for distribution. The studio was involved with Book of Shadows from the beginning–and made a mess of it:
The whole Exploring Series done by GoodBadFlicks is pretty good.
Well, I’m off to the movies.
What I Learned This Week: Many of the guest stars in the Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble episode of Murder, She Wrote (1989) were also featured in 80s horror films.
I used to watch this show with my grandmother on, I think, Sunday nights. She recognized many of the stars and I was proud of myself when I started figuring out who did it before Jessica did.
Watching the series now as an adult (via Netflix), I’m picking up on lots of themes that were over my head. For example, there are quite a few episodes that feature a younger man/older woman romance. Also, what’s interesting to me is how Cabot Cove changes through the series. It goes from being a quiet coastal town to a place where rich/affluent outsiders will call you out of the blue willing to pay a small fortune to buy your home.
Anywho, the series itself was just good, murderous fun. In Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble, the ghost of a witch who had been burned at the stake has returned to Cabot Cove. Also, the author of a book about that witch is in town to drum up publicity. Hmmm, I wonder if these two events are connected…
Guest stars include:
Brad Dourif (Child’s Play)
Roddy McDowell (Fright Night / Fright Night 2)
Christopher Stone & Dee Wallace Stone (The Howling)
Russell Nype (The Stuff)
John York (Night of The Creeps)
There are probably more that I didn’t catch.
Here’s a clip showcasing Brad Dourif:
When they were teenagers, my grandmother helped saved her sister’s life. A snake bit my great aunt Susie; she screamed and took off running. My grandma chased her down while others ran for help. Grandma tore a strip of fabric from her own dress and tied it around around aunt Susie’s leg tight above the wound to keep the venom from spreading. Then, someone cut a baby chick in half and pressed it against the bite to draw the poison out. The half chick turned black–proof that the poison was being transferred to it.
Though she survived, Aunt Susie was “marked” by the snake for a little bit–her tongue would flicker out on it’s own.
To make homemade wine, you will need 1 gallon jug (if you use a milk jug, wash it out), a bowl, a funnel, a pound or so of white grapes, sugar, bread, water, a dark corner and time.
Rinse off the grapes, pull them from the vine and put them in the bowl.
Mash the grapes. You can use your hands or a potato masher. Make it good and pulpy.
Using the funnel, pour/push the grapes (juice, pulp, skin etc) into the gallon jug.
Dry the funnel. Then, use it to pour the sugar on top of the grapes. You want a layer of sugar on top of the grapes but not too much. Eyeball it.
Take your slices of bread and tear them into pieces. Not to small (crouton size), not to big. Push them into the jug (no funnel) until you have a full layer on top of the all of the sugar.
Fill the rest of the jug with water, seal it tight, give it a good shake and put it in a dark corner–the back part of the basement is best.
You’re going to leave it alone for 6 months to a year–except every few weeks or so (when you remember it’s there), go down and give it another shake.
When the wine is ready, pour it out of the jug, using a cheese cloth to strain out the skin, seeds, bread etc. The liquid that’s left is your wine. If you are planning for the wine to be ready in time for a holiday, make 2 jugs worth. Keep one for you and your family, the other you can pour into mason jars and give as gifts to your friends.
Tamara, a friend that was really more like a sister to me, died unexpectedly early May 10th. She was 42 years old. This has been a really hard week.
We used to text and or/talk to each other every day. That last week we were talking about Lemonade – she found herself quoting it in everyday conversation and I joked about her being sucked into the Beyhive. We were excited about the summer. Any day now we were going to pull out our calendars to plan our annual beach trip and figure out which prides we were going to hit.
The beach trip would probably have been Asbury Park. I always fixed up the cooler with sandwiches, fruit and drinks. Martina drove. Tamara would bring the chips. She enjoyed finding new, weird snacks for us to try. If we liked something, she would smirk and refuse to divulge where she got it from. It was most likely Trader Joe’s—she loved that place.
Tamara and I met online, in some AOL chat room about 20 years ago. We were part of the same email group-Sistahnet- and she said “hi” because she recognized my screen name/email address. We met in the flesh in 1997 at Black Gay Pride DC. It was a meeting that almost didn’t happen because of a misunderstanding. (I was 24, she was 23 and we hadn’t quite gotten to the “no more drama” stage of our lives.) However, I showed up on her doorstep, we talked it out and have been buddies ever since.
Traveling was one of her favorite things. When Jet Blue had it’s All You Can Jet promotion, she took advantage of it and visited several cities in 30 days. Every place she visited, she had a list of things to do and places to explore. She had lobster ice cream in Cape Cod, in San Francisco she sat quietly with the redwood trees in Muir Woods. She took photos of raccoons in Vancouver, British Columbia—despite rabies warnings posted on the fence.
Tamara got away from organized religion as soon as her grandmother couldn’t make her go to church anymore. She had rituals – celebrating nature/the equinoxes. On Facebook, this is how she described her religious beliefs: Doing the right thing without a promise of heaven or a threat of hell.
Last year, Tamara was right next to Martina when I came out of surgery. I wasn’t sure it was going to happen until the morning of. I told her it was happening—and she was there.
She always claimed that she didn’t like horror movies. Sappy, romantic lgbt films were her favorite. Yet, she’d text me when Friday the 13th was on—because she was watching it…
Tamara has heard all of my weird, awesome, goofy ideas and strange ideas.
I’m going to miss her.
I don’t understand why people are upset by the fictional woman Rihanna plays in the BBHMM video. I mean, I understand, but really, I got a question…
Like many mystery/thriller movies, the last couple of scenes of the video fill in what the viewer didn’t “see” before:
Did you see the look the accountant had on his face when his wife(?) kissed him goodbye? He knew trouble was coming. Then, after she was kidnapped, he went on a spending spree–other women included–and refused to pay the ransom to get her back. (This is why earlier you see Rihanna slamming down phones, etc.) He could have saved that woman at any interval–how come no one is mad with him?
Dude betrayed his client (Rihanna’s character) and his wife – but people are mad with the client’s response?
The kidnap of a loved one is not a new plot device in mystery or horror fiction. Yes, the kidnap victim was topless and upside down for a few seconds (gasp!) but she could have been treated so much worse. Rather than sunbathing and a forced slumber party, R and crew could have used the wife’s body to make back what the accountant owed. They didn’t. They could have killed her when it was clear he didn’t care enough to save her. They didn’t. (She’s alive when they bring her back to the house.)
If the video were from the point of view of the kidnapped woman, it would have probably showed her coming to grips with the fact that her man really could care less about her.
But this video ain’t about her…
Whenever I see someone in a social media comments section trying to explain an ism/phobia to someone who just doesn’t “get it” (especially if the confused person is a self-proclaimed ally), I want to encourage the explainer to drop it and move on.
Tired of trying to explain your humanity? Stop doing it.
Tired of trying to justify your upset? Stop doing it.
Tired of having to say the same thing to the same types of people every time an incident (racist/sexist/transphobic/etc) happens? Stop doing it.
The person who can’t “get it” — especially about racialized oppression? They know.
You’ve heard this song before, right? Have a look/listen, but pay attention to the lyrics AND the audience.
Your clueless friends and acquaintances know.
Just like their parents knew.
Just like their grandparents knew.
Even the commenters who show up openly hostile to pick a fight–they know.
Okay, so maybe some people don’t know that they know. Denial is a thing. Well, there have been enough blog posts, articles and books written — and being written–for confused folks to get what they need on their own. Even better, there are people who get paid to teach! Let the true seeker of knowledge invest in a Google search, a library card or a “recognizing an ism and doing something about it” training.
I know you’ve seen this too:
“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”
The person who (either gently or with rage/hostility) always needs you to justify/explain yourself/teach but never “get’s it” is also a distraction.
That “explaining” time can be turned into “self care” time. It could turn into “community conversation and healing” time. It can turn into a “let’s concentrate on our own powers and how we can strengthen each other” time.
The seeker of knowledge is not showing up in the comments section — under a post where someone has expressed grief/frustration/sadness – asking someone to help them understand, challenging someone to explain, or engaging in hypothetical “what if” scenarios – etc. If someone puts the onus of their “education” on someone else – then they don’t want to know.
It hurts to have to explain, exclaim, reclaim and defend your humanity over and over again.
And don’t forget – some people enjoy watching you suffer.
To make a long story short (too late!), stop entertaining strangers and leave your clueless ally friends in their confusion. They can find their own way out.