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Go See Beasts of the Southern Wild!!!

I am a elitist film scholar and fangirl with maximum nerdery. I am always on the alert for complex films where black people are portrayed in their full humanity. A fantasy film about a little black girl facing a series of trials after the mysterious disappearance of her father is right up my ally. The problem with loving films like this, Eve’s Bayou, Daughter’s of the Dust and George Washington is that they are not put in wide distribution because film distributors do not believe that whites will go to see films with black actors. An academic study has proved their suppositions to be true, whites people are extremely narcissistic audience. The few predominately black cast films that receive mainstream acclaim feature stereotypical characters that affirm white ideas about black dysfunction. I took me a week to get through Monster’s Ball & I am never going to watch Precious. The black actors who can open a film can only do so with a predominantly white cast. Denzel Washington’s films Antoine Fisher & The Great Debaters made a fraction of his Oscar winning film Training Day.
Beast of the Southern Wild has won honors at Cannes and Sundance. A film with that kind of buzz should be at least get an art house distribution in major cities but it is only opening in New York & Los Angeles. If you are in one of these cities please check it out. If you want find out where the film is playing check out the Fox Searchlight page below.

Where and when to see BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD |

African-American Actresses Decry the Lack of Good Roles – The Daily Beast

Though the likes of actresses such as Halle Berry and Mo’Nique have all won Oscars in recent years, some would say they were awarded for stereotypical portrayals of African-American women in controversial films like Monster’s Ball and Precious. And while many African-American actresses say they’re still struggling to find work that fully reflects all facets of black female life, others say they’re struggling to find work at all.

African-American Actresses Decry the Lack of Good Roles – The Daily Beast.

ABWW Heroine of the Day: Janet Collins

Ballerina and choreographer, Janet Collins (March 7, 1917 in New Orleans, Louisiana – May 28, 2003 in Fort Worth, Texas), becomes the first Black dancer to appear with the Metropolitan Opera Company…However, because of her race, she could not tour with them in parts of the deep South.

Janet Collins was one of the few classically trained Black dancers of her generation. In 1951 she won the Donaldson Award for best dancer on Broadway for her work in Cole Porter’s Out of This World. She also performed in Aida, Carmen, and was the first Black ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera. She could not tour in parts of the Deep South due to her race. In later life she taught dance.

Janet Collins was among the pioneers of black ballet dancing and paved the way for others to follow. (Arthur Mitchell, for example, joined the New York City Ballet in the year Collins retired.) In 1932, aged 15, she auditioned with success, for the prestigious Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, but as she was required to paint her face and skin white in order to be able to perform, she did not join the company.

Janet Collins struggled time and again against racism, which did not spare the world of professional ballet dancing. Not many African-American dancers and performers achieved the successful career she was able to attain. In 1951, Janet Collins became the first African American to be hired full-time by the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Marian Anderson, the first to sing there, did not perform until 1955.

Janet Collins’ dance reputation today resides primarily in her role in breaking the color barrier; the constraints on Black classical dancers were too strong for her to have a vibrant performing career. However, her original choreography, which she performed in solo tours, was clearly of note, although few records survive. In her late forties she retired, turning to religion and finding comfort as an oblate in the Benedictine order. She was also an accomplished painter. Janet Collins died in 2003 at the age of 86, in Fort Worth, Texas. In recognition of her great work and dedication, her renowned cousin Carmen De Lavallade established the Janet Collins Fellowship which would honor aspiring talented ballet dancers.

Courtesy of Harlin C. Kearsley via Wikipedia

ABWW Heroine of the Day: Shirley Chisholm

One of first memories of seeing a black person on TV outside of a situation comedy was a dignified, straightforward African American woman campaigning for President. I remember thinking if she could so that, I could do anything. In 1968, she became the first black woman elected to Congress. On January 25, 1972, she became the first major-party black candidate for President of the United States and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. Shirley Anita St. Hill was born in Brooklyn, New York, of immigrant parents. Her father, Charles Christopher St. Hill, was born in British Guiana and her mother, Ruby Seale, was born in Christ Church, Barbados. Born in Brooklyn, New York and at the age three, Chisholm was sent to Barbados to live with her maternal grandmother and did not return to New York City until roughly seven years later. In her 1970 autobiography Unbought and Unbossed, she wrote: “Years later I would know what an important gift my parents had given me by seeing to it that I had my early education in the strict, traditional, British-style schools of Barbados. If I speak and write easily now, that early education is the main reason.”

In 1964, Chisholm ran for and was elected to the New York State Legislature. In 1968, she ran as the Democratic candidate for New York’s 12th District congressional seat and was elected to the House of Representatives. Defeating Republican candidate James Farmer, Chisholm became the first black woman elected to Congress. Chisholm joined the Congressional Black Caucus in 1969 as one of its founding members. From 1977 to 1981, during the 95th Congress and 96th Congress, Chisholm was elected to a position in the House Democratic leadership, as Secretary of the House Democratic Caucus. By the time she retired from Congress she was the third highest-ranking member of the prestigious Education and Labor Committee. Throughout her tenure in Congress, Chisholm worked to improve opportunities for inner-city residents. She was a vocal opponent of the draft and supported spending increases for education, health care and other social services, and reductions in military spending.

All those Chisholm hired for her office were women, half of them black. Chisholm said that during her New York legislative career, she had faced much more discrimination because she was a woman than because she was black. In the 1972 U.S. presidential election, she made a bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. George McGovern won the nomination in a hotly contested set of primary elections, with Chisholm campaigning in 12 states and winning 28 delegates during the primary process.At the 1972 Democratic National Convention, as a symbolic gesture, McGovern opponent Hubert H. Humphrey released his black delegates to Chisholm] giving her a total of 152 first-ballot votes for the nomination. Chisholm’s base of support was ethnically diverse and included the National Organization for Women. Chisholm said she ran for the office “in spite of hopeless odds… to demonstrate the sheer will and refusal to accept the status quo.” Among the volunteers who were inspired by her campaign was Barbara Lee, who continued to be politically active and was elected as a congresswoman 25 years later.

She announced her retirement from Congress in 1982. Her seat was won by a fellow Democrat, Major Owens, in 1983. After leaving Congress, Chisholm was named to the Purington Chair at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. She taught there for four years. She also lectured frequently as a public speaker. Chisholm was married to Conrad Chisholm, a Jamaican private investigator from 1949 to 1977. Upon their divorce, she married Arthur Hardwick Jr., a Buffalo businessman who died in 1986. Check out the wonderful documentary of her extraordinary life at

ABWW Stereotype Buster of the Day: Margaret Cho

Asian women are fetishized in a very different way than black women. They are seen as subservient and the keeper of exotic sexual allure. I grew up in an integrated neighborhood with a small Chinese and Indian population. I never saw them as different, they were immigrants just like me. It was not until I got to the Midwest that I realized how narrow the views of many folks are. One of my Chinese friends in junior high was so talkative that our math teacher nicknamed her yenta. Margaret Cho is loud, slutty, funny as hell, not in the least subservient and quintessentially American, in my humble opinion.
Cho is best known for her stand-up routines, through which she critiques social and political problems, especially those pertaining to race, sexuality, and sex. She is the only Asian American to star in her own show, the disastrous All American Girl. Cho is hilarious when she describes how the bosses at ABC thought she was not Asian enough and then fired half the Asian cast .
She has also directed and appeared in music videos and has her own clothing line. She has frequently supported LGBT rights and has won awards for her humanitarian efforts on behalf of women, transvestites, Asians, and the LGBT community.
Check out some of her routines at youtube

ABWW Heroine of the Day: Jackie “Moms” Mabley

Jackie “Moms” Mabley (March 19, 1894 – May 23, 1975) was an American standup comedian and a pioneer of the so-called “Chitlin’ Circuit” of African-American vaudeville. Moms Mabley was born Loretta Mary Aiken into a large family of twelve children in Brevard, North Carolina in 1894. Her father, James P. Aiken, owned and operated several businesses while her mother, Mary, kept home and took in boarders. Her father died a sudden accidental death when she was eleven. By the age of fifteen Mabley had reportedly been raped twice and had two children that were given up for adoption. After being pressured by her stepfather to marry a much older man [citation needed] and encouraged by her grandmother to strike out on her own, she ran away to Cleveland, Ohio with a traveling minstrel show where she began singing and entertaining.

She took her stage name, Jackie Mabley, from an early boyfriend, commenting to Ebony in a 1970s interview that he’d taken so much from her, it was the least she could do to take his name. Later she became known as “Moms” because she was indeed a “Mom” to many other comedians on the circuit in the 1950s and 60s. She was one of the top women doing stand-up in her heyday, and recorded more than 20 albums of comedy routines. She appeared in movies, on television, and in clubs.

Mabley was billed as “The Funniest Woman in the World”, and she tackled topics too edgy for many other comics of the time, including racism, one of her regular themes was her romantic interest in handsome young men rather than old “washed-up geezers”, and regularly got away with it courtesy of her on stage persona where she appeared as a toothless, bedraggled woman in a house dress and floppy hat. She added the occasional satirical song to her jokes; her version of “Abraham, Martin and John” hit #35 on the Billboard charts in the summer of 1969. At 75 years of age, Moms Mabley became the oldest person ever to have a US Top 40 hit.

Mabley was one of the most successful entertainers of the Chitlin’ circuit, earning US$10,000 a week at Harlem’s Apollo Theater at the height of her career. She made her New York City debut at Connie’s Inn in Harlem. In the 1960s, she become known to a wider white audience, playing Carnegie Hall in 1962, and making a number of mainstream TV appearances.Mabley died in White Plains, New York from heart failure.

ABWW Heroine of the Day: Evelyn Preer

Evelyn Preer, (1896-1932) one of the first African American silent screen actresses to transition into sound Hollywood films, was born on July 21, 1896 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. After her father’s death, Preer and her mother relocated to Chicago, Illinois where she completed high school before pursuing acting.

Preer’s big break came when she landed a role in Oscar Micheaux’s first film, The Homesteader (1919), in which she played a tragically unhappy woman abandoned by her husband for a mulatto woman whom he believed to be white. Impressed with her talent, Micheaux cast Preer in several roles in which she generally played dramatic characters, challenging many of the prevailing black film stereotypes. Preer expanded her acting abilities into the area of theater, frequently alternating between the screen and stage as she became a staple for Micheaux’s dramatic films and an esteemed actress for the Lafayette Players.

Preer met and married stage actor Edward Thompson while traveling with the players and the duo headlined productions for the traveling section of the Lafayette Players throughout the early 1920s. Preer’s impressive theatricality led her to Broadway where she recorded with the legendary musical composer Duke Ellington, performed with Ethel Waters, and won acclaim for her role as Sadie Thompson in the revival of Somerset Maugham’s classic melodrama Rain.

By the end of the decade, Preer’s versatility led her to Hollywood where she became a contract player for Paramount Studios. She appeared in productions of The Framing of the Shrew (1928), Melancholy Dame (1928), and Oft in the Silly Night (1928). Although her roles were often uncredited, The Framing of the Shrew became her most notable Hollywood role as she parlayed her comedic and vocal talents into her act. Preer’s career on the silver screen would have perhaps broadened further had she not developed post-parturition complications and died of double pneumonia in November, 1932 at the age of 36, just months after giving birth to her only child, Francesca Sr. Thompson.

ABWW Action Alert: Grown Ups

It is time for ABW everywhere to stop supporting media products that constantly demean us. African American women have a huge influence on what is bought in or household and we must be more circumspect around what we use our green for. A new ensemble comedy is coming out called Grown Ups. It is the same story that many recent films have covered detailing the fact that adult white men do not have the power and prowess they used have (i.e.Hot Tube Time Machine, Wild Hogs). These film’s usually have a black male character for flavor but their purpose is usually to help the white characters get their groove back. Grown Ups stars Chris Rock in this role. I will devote a whole day to Rock’s he-man-black woman-ways but today I want to point out how pervasive slamming black women has gotten. In the commercial has a clip of elderly black woman walking up some steep stairs accompanied by young white boy. Instead of helping her up the stairs, this unnaturally strong black woman knocks him off the stairs and sends him flying through the air. This stereotype of the manish black woman has it’s roots in black male comedy back to Flip Wilson and has lined the pockets of those like Martin Lawrence and Tyler Perry. In addition to the black woman bashing the film uses the fact that is now OK to look at white woman with adoration is played up for jokes. Rock and his compares spend their time on their trip admiring a woman who is so dumb that she cannot see that they purposefully tampered with her car. There are plenty of movies out this summer why spend your money to be visually assaulted. I for one would rather see Shrek Forever After. Any movie that advocated loving a green lady ogre as the epitome of beauty is the one for me. You can see the trailer on youtube

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