I Made this Money, You Didn’t: or Why I Won’t Be Supporting YOUR Black Lesbian Business

I came across the article Black Lesbian Owned Businesses are Endangered today, and I have to admit that it read more like a rant than anything else, and to be honest with you, as a Black lesbian with dollars to spend, I was offended by Ms. Breedlove’s comments. I do my best to support Black owned establishments, and actively seek out Black and lesbian owned businesses that provide services or goods that I need. While I understand that she may be frustrated, the way to encourage me to patronize your place of business is not to call me a “crab in a barrel,” or to make judgments about how I spend my money.

Likewise, if you know anything about the current state of our economy, then you must know that Black lesbians have a higher rate of poverty than most other LGBT folks, and are usually raising children as well. So, no, most of us aren’t spending $400 on weaves or sneakers, and if we are, that’s our business, not yours.  If you want me to buy what you’re selling, how about you market a quality product that people want instead of putting them down and suggesting that all Black lesbians are a bunch of weaving wearing, stripper loving idiots who don’t have the good sense to know how to walk away from poor service, or that we all patronize homophobic or racist establishments?

Perhaps Ms. Breedlove needs an attitude adjustment more than my business.  The one thing that she seems to forget that she is in the social networking business, so no, we don’t necessarily NEED your service, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr do just fine. However, I have utilized Black lesbian-themed social networking sites, because I do like the idea of an internet space that caters to my needs, and I’m a member of at least one site that I truly love.

In order to EARN my business, Black lesbian business owners need to do more than assert that I engage in behaviors that are taking money out of their pockets or lay some guilt trip on me about tithing my money to a business that doesn’t meet my needs, simply because we are part of the same community.  And while I support strippers and other entertainers’ right to do what they do, I’d rather spend my money on a nice vacation, concert, or some other activity where I’m getting more for my buck than a handful of sweaty ass.  You also need to do more than insinuate that all of us are fighting at the club every weekend, drinking up the money we should be spending with you. You also shouldn’t assume that some, if not most of us, who are doing well financially, aren’t already giving back to our communities, financially and by providing other resources and support to the issues that we care about.

Ms. Breedlove, you seem angry that we aren’t supporting YOUR business, and while I am certainly willing to give any business a chance to earn my loyalty and hard earned dollars, I am hard pressed to give one to a business that focuses more on telling me why I’m a careless consumer than proving that she has the best service or product on the market.

From one Black lesbian to another, it might be a good idea to change your marketing and publicity strategy, because although some Black lesbians may engage in some of the behaviors you mention, you may have just managed to offend a huge portion of your target consumer base in a major news source.

Probably not good for business.

I Am Your Sister: Notes from a Native Daughter

To commemorate the life and legacy of our sister Audre Lorde, who would have been 79 years of age today, I am reposting this piece I wrote in 2009 on the new collection of Lorde’s work, edited by Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Rudolph Byrd, and Johnnetta B. Cole. 

Musings on I Am Your Sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde

Travel back in time with me to 1986, (I realize that some of you might have been very small children then, but work with me), to my senior high school English class, taught by Chi-Chi Peak, and yes, she looked just liked her name sounds, like a little bird, flitting around the classroom correcting our English and encouraging us to embrace Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which I loved. When it came time to select a text for our book reports, I wanted to write about one of the few black authors I knew of at the time, James Baldwin.( Morrison and Walker had both been writing for decades, but their work had not received the status that it has today.) I had read If Beale Street Could Talk and fallen in love. From that point forward, I read everything by Baldwin I could get my hands on, including his famous collection of essays, Notes of a Native Son, The Fire Next Time, and Giovanni’s Room. Somehow I figured out that Baldwin was gay, and even though at that time I didn’t know that that was something we had in common, I felt as if Baldwin was my big brother, uncle, something. He became my hero, and I wanted to write the kinds of essays that he wrote, essays that would spark a nation divided by racism into action, to write essays that would stir the types of emotions that Baldwin’s work had stirred in me. Mrs. Peak didn’t want me to write about Baldwin, and she wanted to know why I chose this author rather than one of the authors on our reading list. Well, to me it was quite obvious, he was Black and wrote about all of the things I cared about, racism, oppression, love, family, literature, all of the issues that shaped the world I lived in. He was my brother, and I wanted everyone I knew to appreciate his work too. Mrs. Peak did not share my enthusiasm for Baldwin, and indeed, from this point forward I was “militant.” I guess you could say that I still am.

Fast forward to the year 2007. By this time I had been married, had a daughter, divorced, and had been “out” as a lesbian for about 13 years, even though I had been only out to my family for about four. I came across Alexis DeVeaux’s biography of Audre Lorde, Warrior Poet at a used book store. I didn’t read it then, but knew that I should. Still, I put it on my shelf and promptly forgot about it.

However, in 2008, I was reintroduced to Lorde’s work, and in the past two years, Audre Lorde has become central to my research and central to the ways in which I have come to view my identity. Yes, my identity. For those of you who think that identity politics is an exercise in futility, that the death of the author, theories of structuralism, and post-structuralism, postmodernism, and psychoanalysis, queer theory and performance theory, have done away with the subject, be advised that in doing so they erased our very humanness as well. It is very easy for us to sit in the safety of our tower, our classrooms and offices and theorize about what it means to be Black, lesbian, woman, man, the list could go on. But for the past several months, a lot us of have shed tears of the senseless suicides of several gay youth who suffered at the hands of bullies because of their real or perceived identities as gay men. But how many of us have cried over Sakia Gunn? The young Black lesbian woman murdered on the streets of Newark, New Jersey because she rejected the advances of white men and proclaimed her lesbian identity? This is the kind of oppression that Lorde speaks about in her essays. And this is why I Am Your Sister:Collected and Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde is such an important book.

This collection of essays is in part inspired by the recent opening of the Audre Lorde Papers housed at the Spelman Archives at Spelman College, where both Guy-Sheftall and Cole have been faculty and administrators. The Arcus grant that funded the processing of the archives seeks also established the ZAMI project to: “increase the public awareness and understanding about African American gay and lesbian experiences; explore the marginalization of racial issues in the GLBT movement;… and other activities to combat homophobia in the Atlanta University Center community and other historically black colleges and universities; and contribute to the production of scholarship on Lorde” (Guy-Sheftall 2009, 255).

So this volume has several goals as articulated in Byrd’s introduction:

  • To honor the life and legacy of Audre Lorde.
  • To elevate the importance of Lorde’s published essays and other work, which have served as a catalyst for theorizing by scholars and activists in relation to questions of identity, difference, power, social movements, and social justice.
  • To publish selections from the unpublished writings by Lorde.
  • To recover some of Lorde’s prose writing that has been out of print. (2009, 4-5)

What Guy-Sheftall, Cole, and Byrd suggest in their reflections on Lorde and her work is that “each of us has multiple identities” and Lorde reminded us of that each time she introduced herself as “black, woman, feminist, lesbian, mother, teacher, warrior, poet” (2009, 236). Indeed throughout the text Lorde is referred to as a Black lesbian feminist, and as the sister outsider. Why are the authors privileging these identities? For two reasons: The terms bring to mind Lorde’s collection of essays, Sister Outsider; and also because the term “illustrates the ways in which Lorde reclaimed and transformed overlapping , discredited, and marginalized identities—black, lesbian, feminist—into a powerful, radical, and progressive standpoint” (Byrd 2009, 5).

Likewise, the introduction traces a brief history of Black feminist thought, and gives us snippets of Lorde’s Back lesbian perspective on the civil rights movement, second wave U.S. feminism, the Black Nationalist movement, and the gay and lesbian movement. Lorde had something to say about it all. We also learn about her battles with cancer, her trips to the Caribbean, and the homophobia she experienced at the hands of Black intellectuals. I Am Your Sister is important because we need to rethink how we hear and don’t listen; see, but look through, past, or around; identify and dismiss.

In the years since I’ve become re-acquainted with Lorde and her work, I’ve  come to understand that my fierce commitment to self-definition, to speaking boldly, to embracing difference, and to uncovering racism, sexism, and homophobia wherever I find it, are also hallmarks of Lorde’s work and life.

I am a Black mother, sister, daughter, lesbian, scholar, writer, activist, southerner, friend.

And I too, am your sister.

WNBA star speaks out for marriage equality in Minnesota battle

WNBA star speaks out for marriage equality in Minnesota battle

I am so excited for Seimone and her partner!  I’m even more excited that Black lesbians are coming out and taking a stand on marriage equality and talking about their same-sex relationships in positive ways.  

 

“Being Queer Does Not Make You Radical” via GataAgressiva411

Sista is right on point. This is for those of you who insist that only LGBT identified folk (not queer identified) are always already invested in heteropatriarchal capitalism.  Queer men are especially adept at this. How about y’all pluck that rafter from your own eye so that you can see the stake in ours?

With love,

Sista Outsider

I am a Black lesbian

I am lesbian, not queer. I am Black, not colored, and while I stand in solidarity with my sisters, brothers, and genderqueers of color, I will not allow anyone’s deconstruction of identity to erase my own. I am a Black woman, cis-gendered and femme. I reserve the right to name and claim my own identity and I respect the right for you to do the same.

That is all.

A “Dime Piece,” Seriously?

I heard this term used recently and decided to repost this from a piece I wrote a couple of years ago.  The Struggle continues. 

So, check this out. A couple of weeks ago I got a message in one of my in-boxes from this woman who wanted to submit an application. (More about that later.) Now, I’m always respectful and polite when people send me messages, even when I don’t solicit them. Regardless, I responded to her and later on that day, we proceeded to chat on the phone. Well, as she began to tell me a little about herself, she made the comment that she was looking for a “dime piece.” She said that she was “vain” and wanted a certain kind of woman on her arm. I was rather stunned, first because I hadn’t asked her what kind of woman she was looking for and second, because she used such an archaic and misogynistic term that signaled the commodification of women and their bodies. Well, I sort of let it go for the moment, and the conversation proceeded onwards.

My problem, however, is the term in which she used to refer to the type of woman she was interested in dating. But first let me mention a bit about this wonder of a woman. From what I gather, she is newly out and continually referred to her lesbian identity as a “lifestyle.” I was offended, but figured she was only parroting the heterosexist terminology that is floating around in American culture today regarding lesbian and gay identities as a lifestyle choice, rather than as an ontological state or as an identity.  (But that’s another blog.) She mentioned that she had been out for five years which might explain her rather heterosexist attitudes, but who knows? Either way, this chick has three kids, the youngest of whom is 12 and all of them at home and never mentioned a job. I thought to myself, “She talkin’ ’bout looking for a dime piece, what, pray tell, is she going to do with her when she finds her?” It seems to me that she has her hands full raising her children, and might want to focus on that rather than searching for a woman who is only 1/10th of a 100 percent of a real person.

Finally, by the time we got to phone conversation two, this woman wanted to talk about intimacy (ok, sex).  Really? Now, I’m a firm believer in having those types of discussions with someone with whom you have decided to become intimate. But shuga, I don’t even know your last name. Is there any particular reason you want to know what I’m into behind closed doors before you even know my favorite food? Is there anything wrong with getting to know someone BEFORE the sex questions come up? Sheesh!

So the moral of the story is this: don’t refer to women as articles of currency. Not only is it crass, but it suggests that women are objects to be bought and sold based on physical attractiveness and according to whose standard of beauty anyway? And I thought we stopped selling Black women in 1863. Black women should be slapped up side the head  every time one of them mentions a “dime” piece to remind them of their fore-mothers who were bought and sold on the slave market.

And lest any of you think I’m hating on beautiful Black women, I’m not. ‘Cause I’m one of them. But I just wish we would think more about how we’ve internalized heterosexist attitudes towards women, and stop engaging in behaviors and speaking in terms that dehumanize and commodify each other.