Cappuccino Soul

Cappuccino Soul

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Black Girls Like Us

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A teenage filmmaker from Manhattan, Kiri Davis, decided to make a film called A Girl Like Me, that reflected the concerns of today’s black girls, so she pointed her camera at some friends at her own high school in Manhattan to explore their perceptions of beauty and self-image.

Davis thought a replication of Dr. Kenneth Clark’s infamous “doll test” would shed some light on how black girls perceive themselves and how the dominant culture’s standard of beauty affects them.

As early as 1939, Dr. Clark and his wife, Dr. Mamie Phipps Clark, began conducting “doll tests” to try to understand how black children saw themselves. This test was used in the landmark 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education case. Black and white children across the U.S. were shown black dolls and white dolls, as part of the experiment. The children were asked which dolls were nice, which were bad, and which they’d like to play with. Overwhelmingly, both groups chose the white dolls to play with and gave them positive attributes. Also overwhelmingly, both groups called the black dolls “bad.”

In Davis’ short film, she places two dolls—one black and one white—on a table and asks several black children (mostly girls), a series of questions:

Show me the doll that looks bad.
Show me the nice doll.
Can you show me the doll that you like the best?

Yes, the pattern remains the same after 50 years. Most of the children said that the black doll was bad, the white doll was good, and they overwhelmingly chose the white doll as the one they liked the best. Sad isn’t it?

When Davis conducted interviews with girls from her high school she got some honest, raw, and sometimes disturbing comments from these ladies. One brown-skinned girl says that the message that she gets from society is that darker girls aren’t smart and that light skin is better than dark skin. Another girl says when she started wearing her hair in a natural style, her mom told her to stop because she was “starting to look African.”

All women raising little black children, please watch this film. It might make you cry, but just dry your tears and remember to tell your little lady or man how beautiful she or he is—-everyday.

“Human beings who are forced to live under ghetto conditions and whose daily experience tells them that almost nowhere in society are they respected and granted the ordinary dignity and courtesy accorded to others will, as a matter of course, begin to doubt their own worth.”

-- Dark Ghetto: Dilemmas of Social Power by Dr. Kenneth Clark, the
the first African-American to earn his doctorate in psychology from Columbia University in 1940.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Yayyy for One of Us Bloggers!

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The New York Times reports today that a Canadian judge found that Brunswick blogger, Charles LeBlanc, did not obstruct justice when he took pictures at a protest rally during the Reaching Atlantica business conference in Saint John last summer.

Police officers deleted all of LeBlanc’s photographs while he spent four hours in jail, LeBlanc told CBC News in Canada. LeBlanc said he was standing beside a CBC cameraman at the protest when police arrested him. "Next thing you know, they handcuffed me right to the ground, and they paraded me in front of all the businessmen and they told me I was charged for obstruction," he told CBC News.

A photograph on the CBC News Web site shows two police officers holding LeBlanc on the ground. LeBlanc yelled, “I'm a blogger, I'm a blogger. I'm just taking pictures!" according to the site.

“Members of the so called mainstream media were taking photographs and filming in the same area without interference from the police,” provincial court judge, William J. McCarroll, wrote in a 20-page decision. “I believe it’s fair to say that the defendant was doing nothing wrong at the time he was approached by Sergeant Parks and placed under arrest. He was simply plying his trade, gathering photographs and information for his blog alongside other reporters.”

LeBlanc also proves that you don’t have to look a certain way or belong to a certain socioeconomic class to work as a journalist. CBC News also reported that the officer who arrested LeBlanc said he didn’t consider the blogger to be a legitimate reporter because he looked “scruffy” and had a cheap-looking digital camera.

Hey! As long as it gets the job done! Big ups to Charles LeBlanc who won a victory for all the bloggers of the world.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Tale of a Debased African Queen

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In the name of the mother, the daughter, and the feminine spirits, I’d like to tell you the story of Saartjie (Sarah) Baartman—also known as Hottentot Venus. I discovered her story several years ago, but the tale still shakes me.

Saartjie, whose life has inspired both a play and a novel, came from the Khoikhoi people—the indigenous group that once populated what is now the Eastern Cape in South Africa. When her people were attacked, had their land seized and were enslaved by the Dutch in the late 18th century, Sarah moved to Cape Town to escape capture.

When she was 16, Alexander William Dunlop, a doctor, convinced her to go back to Britain with him where he said she could make money by showing her body to the public. You see, the Khoikhoi women were famous for their protruding buttocks and enlarged external genitalia. Her inner labia, like the other women, had been stretched to allegedly make sex a better experience for the males.

The Khoikhoi were called “Hottentots” because the Dutch thought their language—which includes distinctive clicking sounds—sounded like stuttering, so they called the people “stutterers” or “Hottentots” in their language. Of course, to the indigenous South Africans, the Hottentot reference is considered offensive. The Europeans called Sarah “Venus” because of her unusual genitalia.

Sarah, working as a servant for Dunlop in England, was put on display as part of a freak show, alongside people with circus-like attractions. Sarah’s demise continued in Paris where she worked for circus manager Sieur Reaux, a down-on-his-luck French nobleman.

She was poked, proded and insulted by onlookers. Imagine the comments:

“Look at her. Look at that black wench!”

“She sure is an African! Big lips, big nose, big bottom! Have you ever seen such a thing?” Words like these must have been spoken.

Washington Post writer Lynne Duke describes the shameful scene: “She endured ogling, lascivious audiences who poked at her, hissed at her, grabbed at her rear end, even tried to probe her private parts.” (Duke, 2003)

Sarah had been duped. She was lured to Britain with promises of wealth and fame, but instead was treated like a circus animal with no more dignity than a caged monkey or ape. For it is the ape that many European “natural” scientists said black people were linked to. Sarah’s physical attributes became proof for these scientific racists that black people were subhuman.

Suffering humiliation and mistreatment, Sarah tumbled into alcoholism and drug abuse. No wonder. The French scientist Baron Georges Cuvier, a famous naturalist of the time, examined Sarah for three days at a special meeting for scientists at the Museum of Natural History. He used her body to try to prove that blacks were on the low end of the human development chain.

At some point Sarah became a prostitute and died from tuberculosis or syphilis— the records aren’t clear—at the age of 26. Sarah was defiled even in death as Cuvier cast her lifeless body in plaster and dissected her—preserving her brain and genitals by pickling them in jars. Sarah’s body parts were displayed at the Musée de l’Homme (The Museum of Mankind) until 1985 when they were put into storage.

With the ending of apartheid, South Africa fought France for the return of Sarah’s remains to her homeland. It wasn’t until 2002, when Senator Nicolas About of France wrote a bill that called for the lost African’s return, that her body was sent to Cape Town where her fellow South Africans celebrated her homecoming with fanfare. At her burial celebration, the Khoisan herb “boegoe” was burned to purify Sarah’s spirit and a women’s choir sang, “You are returning to your fatherland under African skies.” Thabo Mbeki, South African President at the time, declared Sarah’s grave a national monument. (BBC, 2002)

Sarah’s story made me evaluate the ways black women’s bodies have been exploited and disrespected since Europeans pillaged Africa during the slave trade. The raping of Venus was like the raping of Africa. Bodies were taken from Africa, bought, raped and enslaved. Sarah was taken from Africa, defiled and enslaved in cages for people to gawk at like slaves who were poked and prodded on auction blocks.

What made Cuvier, the scientist, feel privileged to do such a thing? Did he think he owned Sarah’s body? Did he think that she existed merely to entertain the whites? I believe it was Sarah’s African heritage and femaleness that allowed Dunlop, Reaux and Cuvier to assume she was their property. “Anyway,” they must have thought, “she is not fully human—she is an African and a freak at that. Why treat her with any semblance of dignity?

When Sarah’s unfortunate journey to England began in 1810, slavery was alive and flourishing in the Americas. African women brought to the Americas were treated with equal cruelty. They were separated from their husbands and children, some died or were killed along the way on the ships. Many (if not most) were raped, had babies cut from their wombs and worked as slaves for no compensation. Like Sarah, these African women were seen as ugly, subhuman animals by the European slave traders and masters that brought them to the New World.

Slave women were also expected to readily give their breasts to their master’s children. They were forced to breastfeed the tots on demand. In the article,“More Slavery at the South: By a Negro Nurse,” (The Independent, 1912) a former slave discusses her experience as a wet nurse.

“I myself have served as “wet nurse” to more than a dozen white children. On the one hand, we are assailed by white men, and, on the other hand, we are assailed by black men, who should be our natural protectors; and, whether in the kitchen, at the washtub, over the sewing machine, behind the baby carriage, or at the ironing board, we are but little more than pack horses, beasts of burden, slaves!”


Did slave masters think they owned the milk that flowed from the breasts of these African women? This must be so. How else did they rationalize such a heinous practice? How has this historical practice of white males lustfully using the bodies of black women affected how people all over the world view African women?

To read more about Saartjie Baartman read a fictionalized account of her life, Hottentot Venus by Barbara Chase-Riboud, the play Venus by Suzan-Lori Parks, and a new book to be released in January 2007 by Rachel Holmes called African Queen: The Life of the Hottentot Venus.

Works Cited:

1. Duke, Lynne. “Listening to the Lady in the Glass Case.” Washington Post. Nov. 16, 2003. Page D01.

2. “Hottentot Venus Laid to Rest.” BBC News World Edition. BBC. London, UK. Aug. 9, 2002.

3. Rosenberg, Andrea (transcriber). “More Slavery at the South: by a Negro Nurse.” The Independent. Jan. 25, 1912. Pages 196-200.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Chess Pie Anyone?

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I sent an e-mail to some family and friends yesterday asking them how much they would pay for a delicious homemade chess pie that was delivered to their homes. I knew my friend Lisa in Jersey City wouldn’t know what a chess pie was. She grew up in Brooklyn and Delaware and hasn’t had as much contact with the south as I’ve had. But my friend Cheryl who was born in New Orleans (she moved to Los Angeles when she was 8), my friend Andrea from Florida (who now lives in a D.C. suburb), and my cousin Monica in the D.C. area, really should know all about the chess pie. Especially Monica, who has tasted the same chess pie that I’ve had in North Carolina when we would visit OUR grandmom Pauline.

Last year I made my first chess pie and I have to say it was quite delicious. I was calling on the spirit of my grandmother who loved sweets and could whip up a mean chess pie in no time. Although I won’t divulge my recipe for chess pie here (it’s a secret!), most chess pies use the same basic ingredients, including sugar (sometimes brown sugar also), flour or cornmeal, eggs, butter, vanilla extract and a few other things.

Lisa wanted to know the origin of the chess pie and I had to admit that I didn’t know. After doing a little research I’ve found a few theories. It seems that the chess pie is a southern delight, most especially well liked in the Carolinas. One explanation for the name of the dessert is that someone asked a cook what she put in her pies and she replied “Anything in our chest.” Evidently, the word “chest” was pronounced “chess.” Another story is that a plantation cook was asked what she was baking that smelled so delectable. Her answer was, “Jes’ pie.”

Click here for a recipe that I’ve found on the internet. If you have a favorite chess pie recipe, please send it to me. I’d like to compare it to my own, which is a pretty good one, I must say. And if you live in Nashville and you’d like to purchase a homemade chess pie from me (with free delivery), please send me an e-mail at Ramalicia@aol.com.

Monday, November 13, 2006

“Bring the Boys Home”—Freda Payne’s Homage to Soldiers

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"Bring the Boys Home" has been bouncing around in my head for about a week or so. I’m hopeful that people in power will read this and heed the call.

The U.S. Command banned the song from the U.S. Armed Forces Radio during the Vietnam war, claiming it would “give aid and comfort to the enemy.” Freda Payne
released the tune 35 years ago as a single, but it wasn’t added to her “Contact” album until the song became a hit. We still hear echoes from the lyrics today.

Fathers are pleading, lovers are all alone
Mothers are praying-send our sons back home
You marched them away--yes, you did-on ships and planes
To the senseless war, facing death in vain

Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
Turn the ships around, lay your weapons down

Can't you see 'em march across the sky, all the soldiers that have died
Tryin' to get home--can't you see them tryin' to get home?
Tryin' to get home--they're tryin' to get home
Cease all fire on the battlefield
Enough men have already been wounded or killed

Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
Turn the ships around, lay your weapons down
(Mothers, fathers and lovers, can't you see them)

Oooh, oooh...
Tryin' to get home--can't you see them tryin' to get home?
Oooh, oooh...
Tryin' to get home--they're tryin' to get home

Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
What they doing over there, now (bring 'em back alive)
When we need them over here, now (bring 'em back alive)
What they doing over there, now (bring 'em back alive)
When we need them over here, now (bring 'em back alive)


I hope the powers that be will work hard to bring the boys and girls home—alive.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Recognize! There's a Muslim in the House.

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By now, most people are aware that California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi is set to become the first female speaker of the House in the new year. This is most definitely something to celebrate.

But have you heard about Keith Ellison, the newly elected U.S. House representative from Minnesota—the first Muslim to be elected to Congress? Ellison is also the first African-American from Minnesota to win a U.S. House seat. He has served as a member of Minnesota’s State House since 2002.

This 43-year-old Michigan native, who converted to Islam from Catholicism when he was 19, seems to be well liked in Minnesota. He was endorsed by the Twin Cities’ American Jewish World newspaper, over his rival Alan Fine, who is Jewish.

As you can imagine, there’s been lots of investigation into Ellison’s possible ties with the Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. It’s not clear whether Ellison was ever an official member of the Nation, but he does seem to reiterate that his connection to Farrakhan and the Nation was "limited" to helping to organize as aspect of the Million Man March in 1995.

"It's very interesting that Minnesota would be the first state to send a Muslim to Congress," Lawrence Jacobs, Director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota, told Voice of America.

"I think many Americans think of Minnesota as a state that's overwhelmingly dominated by whites, but Minnesota has changed in rapid and dramatic ways," Jacobs said. "The other key factor is that Minnesota has a long tradition, stretching back to Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale, in supporting civil rights and the inclusion of African-Americans and others of color in the political process."

Ellison, who is married with four children, favors gay rights and abortion rights. While serving as a Minnesota state representative, Ellison authored and passed a repeal of vagrancy laws that criminalized homelessness and raised funds for homeless outreach. He fought against a gay anti-marriage bill and authored a bill to restore voting rights to ex-offenders.

This week Ellison told CNN that he is inspired by the Quran’s message of "an encompassing divine love, and a deep faith that guides my life every day."

Do your thing Keith!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I Want to See Sommore!

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Why in the world didn’t somebody tell me that my girl Sommore will be at Zanies comedy club tonight? Had I known about this earlier, I could have arranged for a babysitter. I don’t think I have enough time now! Dag nabbit! I’ve never seen her in person and I know I’d be guaranteed some big laughs. This is my homegirl people! (Well, she’s from Trenton, which is about an hour away from my hometown in Delaware). But that’s close enough. Sommore reminds me so much of some girls that I grew up with. She has the same mannerisms, speech patterns and everything. Oh well…..maybe next time.

By the way, did you all know that Sommore and Nia Long are half-sisters? They have the same daddy.

Zanies contact information: 2025 Eighth Ave. South, Nashville, 615-269-0221. Tickets are $23.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

At Least I Have Some Cappuccino

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I am part sad and part tickled about the looong election night. Harold Ford didn't win and therefore, didn't make history, but some other developments happened all over the country that I'm really excited about--namely the results in Minnesota and California. More on that a little later.

But I do have some caramel cappuccino to sip on this morning, thanks to my co-worker Gayle! Thanks girl!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Make Your Voice Heard--Vote Now!

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Yeaaaaaaah Boy! I just left the polling place in North Nashville and cast my vote. I’m not going to say who I voted for but a quick survey of this blog will give you the answer. The line was long but it was well worth the wait. Some people were walking in with crutches and canes. One man was a dialysis patient and had to sit down every few minutes while he was waiting in line, but he said NOTHING would keep him from voting, especially in this election.

The space was a little tight at the 15th Avenue Baptist Church, but it was not too uncomfortable. After hearing a story on NPR today about unusual polling places in Southern California, I realize how lucky we are to have such a nice polling facility. Some of California’s more unusual polling places include a mortuary, an ice rink, and a few private homes.

Make your voice heard—get out there and vote!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Obama for President?

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My dad and I have been talking about Barack Obama’s chance of winning the next presidential election. We’ve shared many hopes, dreams and even some jokes about the matter. On the one hand, we’re proud that there is such a strong, intelligent, and charismatic politician like Obama out there—on the other hand, we know all too well the attitudes of not only southerners, but people all across the nation who would never vote for a black presidential (Congressional, mayoral, etc.) candidate.

Kurt at Bring It On! Shares his pessimism about Obama’s possible run for president. In a letter to Mr. Obama, Kurt writes:

Mr. Obama, I believe you to be an honest, intelligent, even charismatic politician, with a refreshing message of hope. Unfortunately, the cold, hard fact is that you cannot possibly carry any southern state, since racial bigotry is still so prevalent.


A Bring It On! Reader named Nelson responded:

I live and work in a very red part of the country, a part where the desire for a hunting season on “Mexicans” is considered a good idea. A part where African-Americans are still refered to as “niggers” by old and young alike. A place where homophobia is rampent and anyone even remotely effeminate is assaulted and the authorities turn a blind eye.


This sad backwards part of the country that Nelson refers to is not Tennessee or any other southern state. Click here to find out yet another place where "Mexicans" and African-Americans aren’t respected.

Friday, November 03, 2006

‘First Black Senator Since Reconstruction….’ Please explain!

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Blanche K. Bruce, U.S. Senator


The statement, “If Harold Ford wins, he would become the first Black Senator elected in the south since Reconstruction,” is starting to get on my nerves. Why? Because no news outlet, as far as I’ve read or heard, has discussed who these Black Senators were!

Here are some interesting facts:

The first African-American elected to the U.S. Senate was Hiram Rhoades Revels, a Mississippi state senator who was selected to fill a seat in 1870, which Jefferson Davis vacated to become the president of the Confederate States.

But the Black Senator credited with serving a full Senate term was Blanche K. Bruce, another Mississippi resident who was elected in 1874. The African American Registry reports that Bruce advocated the fair treatment of African Americans and Native Americans. He also sought to expose fraud and corruption in federal elections. Bruce, who served as a Senator from 1875–1881, lost his seat when Reconstruction ended in Mississippi. He then was appointed register of the Treasury and went on to become a Howard University trustee.

Edward W. Brooke of Massachusetts was the next African-American to serve in the Senate when he was elected in 1966. Let’s share this news with one friend and then they can pass it on to others!


Will Harold Ford, Jr. become the first Black Senator elected in the South since Reconstruction? I predict that he will.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

'She is Excellent, She is Wonderful'

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Dinqnash College (The Women's College of Africa) is currently being developed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A group of supporters in Nashville, Friends of Dinqnash, are raising funds and resources for the College. But the school would welcome support from people all over the world. The funds will support Dinqnash's current drive to purchase land, build classrooms, buy books and instructional materials, computer labs, classroom and office furniture.

The Web site offers this worldview for women:
At Dinqnash we envision and cultivate a community comprised of a rich diversity of women, representing all cultures and regions of the world; women who live healthy lives in balance with nature; women who will become caretakers of the earth, women who cherish excellence and commitment; women who serve as catalysts for Life Centered Life. In the Amharic language of Ethiopia, Dinqnash means, “She is excellent/she is wonderful.” We are committed to the good and to excellence.

Friends of Dinqnash would appreciate your help. They need Fundraisers, Administrative Assistants, Writers, and all who would like to help. For information contact: Nefertiti Makeda, ubuntu_edu@yahoo.com, and you can visit the school's Web site at www.dinqnash.org