As the exuberance of children at play left the co-op preschool room, I switched on the radio to NPR just in time to hear Talk of the Nation. The topic was blackface. You know. The ol' timey minstrel shows featuring white people with black painted faces and exaggerated lips looking absurdly out of place and just well...offensive? Here is the definition directly from the NPR's website, "Blackface — white actors in black make-up, perpetuating over-the-top stereotypes of African Americans — was traditional in theater and the movies in the days of segregation."
photo by wikimedia commons
Whenever I saw reference to this as a young girl in a historical context yet with no mention of how WRONG it felt in my solar plexus, I immediately felt immense shame and was completely horrified at the caricature of my ancestors. Angry yet no voice. No outlet to speak or process what I intuitively knew had violent undertones of injustice yet lacked the world experience at age 10 to express the angst that flared up persistently and hardened into ugly emotions as the years ticked by. These caricatured black people were seperate but equal and good enough to sow the fields, wipe the butts of privileged white children, and provide human labor literally the blood, sweat, and tears of the ancestors built the economic infrastructure of this country. Here began my first conceptualization of the American caste system that is thriving, alive and well to this very day. As a girl I silently felt muzzled into submission to accept this strange theatrical social norm of Jim Crow days during the brief chapter about slaves and the Civil War. Really it is amazing to me that my very own father experienced Jim Crow. Absolutely mind boggling. We have come so far yet have many many metaphorical miles to go on this journey towards peace regarding race and class in America.
And I digress...what I really felt inspired to share today was an infusion of hope that the Tedx Anchorage talk that I attended last weekend. My vision of the world was validated by someone I admire greatly. Awesome. Phenomenal. Inspiring. Off the hook! Solutions to my angst were prolific and allowed me to step into a new mental space cultivated by the one and only Hon. George Martinez a political activist and founding member of hip hop association and global block. My parting words tonight will be those of the Global Block Mission statement.
The Global Block harnesses the spirit of innovation, creativity and activism at the core of the Hip-Hop movement to empower youth and transform communities across the globe.
Picture my black face replacing the ridiculousness of the ol' time minstrel show blackface. I am hip hop. Watch me fly away on the wings of innovation and creativity. I will rize above, my third eye pulsing with the drumbeat of the ancient heartbeat.