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 In the Manichaean world of black sexuality in America,

Mya B points out that there are two stops for the black female:

Jemima and Jezebel, one undersexed, the other oversexed.

 

 

 Mya B’s Silence: In Search of Black Female Sexuality in America

 

Exploring Sexuality from a Black Perspective

 Review  By Rudolph Lewis

 

I like very much what Mya B has done with the digital camera. Her first full length documentary, Silence: In Search of Black Female Sexuality in America, partakes of a full-blown movement by conscientious black artists to put the new technology to the task of our liberation as a people. Mya B daringly undertakes to bring to focus our American heritage of sexual puritanism and hypocrisy, a  subject that is only undertaken casually, though sexuality is such a strong undercurrent to the stability of all our lives as Americans.

Mya B’s major point is that silence rules black sexuality, particularly, black female sexuality. It was Dr. Hilda Hutcherson (I believe), one of the featured authorities, who said her mother gave her this sexual prescription and nothing more: “Keep your pants up, your dress down, and your legs closed.” 

Dr. Hutcherson is a woman quite educated and middle-class, a professional. So in her case, sexual repression may have in a Freudian way transferred energies into a certain kind of discipline, focus, and drive for success. But Hutcherson concludes that her puritanism decimated the intimacy between her husband (whom she loves) and her, and they divorced. The relationship could not be reconciled.

Mya B interviews a good cross-section of Black women, beautiful and often luscious, old as well as young adult women in their 20s and 30s. That this silence occurred for this age group, children of my generation, suggests that the sexual revolution of the 70s and 80s did not run very deep in matters of sex as it plays out in black life. So the black Baptist preachers seem to have the last word on black sexual ethics, these days. And their ambivalence toward sexuality is legendary, witness Jesse Jackson.

Mya B puts forth the argument that black female sexuality is governed more by the inadequacies of black Protestantism, puritanical to the core, and unable to confront matters of sex and sexuality beyond the proscriptions in the Bible. The attitude is, Don’t ask, don’t tell. Be silent. Thus the general response of these young women is that their mothers told them wait until marriage before sex, and nothing more. They all thought it was good motherly advice. Few however followed it.

There was an Afrocentrist also who spiritualized black sexuality into Maat, again a return to ancient texts as a means of resolving post-modern realities. He says he and his mate pray before they have sex. He thought that was light years beyond the stereotypical structures in which the West has placed black sexuality and particularly black female sexuality.

In the Manichaean world of black sexuality in America, Mya B points out that there are two stops for the black female: Jemima and Jezebel, one undersexed, the other oversexed.

Both females have biblical correlates, and both command in their own manner. Jemina is always rotund with a scarf tie to the front. Her breasts are ample, and that was necessary for she had to nurse not only her own children but also those of her mistress. And in her affections she was thrown into an emotional dilemma, the black baby (boy) at her breast is her love and her blood; but she knows her realistic hope lies in the affections of the white child (boy) on the other tit.

Opposite of Jemima, Jezebel does not give way to the airy hypocrisy of Virginia patriarchy. These black women know American white men, their need for slave cabins, Harlems, and gangster honeys. And the dark of night. These Jezebels know sexuality stark naked stripped of romance and the Church as a field for power, for struggle, or the submission to power. It provides advantages and opportunities. The few strippers interviewed said they loved to be sexy, naked, dancing before an audience, and I assume, an audience that has dollar bills to spend, the more the better. A female acquaintance concluded that the whore was lying about her liking her job. I’m not quite so willing as she to abuse what now is called “sex workers.” I’m a union man.

One of the most enlightening pieces of Silence: In Search of Black Female Sexuality in America is a rape scene, repeated like a leitmotif. I’m uncertain about the source of the dramatization. The scene has its sexual ambiguity on one level, and its shocking revelatory aspect on the other. It takes place in a barn (or a horse stable) on the hay, a beautiful, well-limbed chocolate woman drenched in sweat and horror fights off the advances, the attack of a white man, her master, presumably, or maybe an Irish "nigger trainer." One senses, on one hand, why such a possession (such a woman) is desirable; the other, is that the camera pans to five or six black children watching the rape, and back to the rape.

One comes to the radical conclusion: we are the children of that rape, that we blacks of America are bastards. And that America has been indeed SILENT on that issue of rape. Where all these yellow babies come from, one is afraid to ask. We should ask Nathaniel Turner's mama; she'll tell how it works, how it happens, off the slave ship and in the homes of good Christian white men.. 

It is something we black folk should just get over, recommends the suburban soccer mom. That’s what counseling and psychoanalysts are for. "Get a hold of yourself, get over it!" This callous attitude toward the profundity of black suffering, of course, is derived from the ignorance of black life, by both blacks and whites, old and young. We, it is not understood widely, are a people born in violence, much like America, shaped by violence, and we have been slaughtered by outrageous gang violence (entire villages and towns), and by torture and lynching. There is a great measure of shame attached to this existential reality of black life in America, this vulnerability, this centuries long courting of death by black men to carve out their own human reality.

Is there any psychoanalyst, guru, living saint, or black Baptist preacher capable of healing such a chasm within the black American psyche. We ask too much of individuals in curing individuals of a dilemma so encompassing, so horrific. None should expect that Mya B with her documentary Silence: In Search of Black Female Sexuality in America to resolve such a dilemma. But I think Mya B’s film is a good start, despite its shortcomings.

The major flaw in the argument of the film is that there is an attempt to discuss black female sexuality without a discussion of black male sexuality and white male sexuality and the entanglement of the two. For it has always been white men who (their cultures which) have established the structures in which black sexuality has operated. And those structures set black men and white men at odds, with black men always in the weaker power position, that struggle undermines societal accomplishments, thus decreasing their availability as scholars, business men, family men, and respect from black women.

There is a kind of mother-child relationship that exists too often between black men and their women. Too much teenage love unresolved in the lives of black women. One senses that black female sexuality has yet to really mature. That may result because black women have not yet truly dealt with the male sexuality issues of black men, and their existential implications. In these days and times of evangelical sway and republican ideologies of power at any cost, our middle-class leaders tell us, in the name of self-reliance that we cannot blame white people for anything, witness Bill Cosby.

Unfortunate, today we have the prevalence of female positions that are oriented too much around the personal (witness Oprah), outside the context of the larger struggles of black life. Let me point out to you a statement made recently by spoken word artist Ro Deezy, known also as "Sister Cypha":

You cannot change a person. Too often, women hang onto unhealthy relationships (both intimate relationships and same-sex friendship) for the sake of having someone around. We need to learn to stop identifying ourselves by our relationship status. A lot of women stay in unhealthy relationships as a result of their assumed inability to cope with the sadness or emptiness that they may feel if they leave.

The truth is, if you are in a bad relationship, chances are, you already feel sad and empty. It’s one of the oldest saying in the book, “you can do bad by yourself.”

"Sister Cypha," www.Femmixx.com

Black women sessions are filled with stories of their unhealthy relationships with black men after the evening of pleasures has resided. Many black women however have managed to disassociate their sexuality from the church and even from men, though they continue to have relationships with both. I was quite shocked when I first heard a church-going friend speak in terms of being "serviced." Of men making "service" calls, or as the more hip call them, "booty calls."

Mya B’s film is not a Ken Burns production. But I think she’s on her way to that kind of artistry and professionalism, and thoughtfulness. The dvd is worth any value she places on it. I recommend it highly. Though it contains nudity and semi-nudity (African slaves), I recommend its instructional value for older teenagers, especially those of  high school age. It might indeed be an icebreaker for parents to use in  ethical and rational discussions about sexuality in America with their teenage daughters and sons.

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Promotional Synopsis

This 74-minute documentary explores the reasons for sexual silence in the black community with historical facts and testimonies that dates back to slavery and the myths that were created about black women from slavery, the Jim Crow era, and up to now.

In this documentary, fifteen black women in Chicago from all ages, backgrounds, and professions speak for the very first time about their sexual wants, needs, and desires, aiming to clarify these sexual misconceptions and reveal the truth about their sexuality "in their own words."

In the age of misogynist hip hop, as black women are portrayed as "freaks," Mya B sets to destroy the present sexual myths about black women. Among those interviewed, Little X and Nzingha Stewart, two well-known black music industry and the societal impact of the "video hoe" images.

Mixed with melancholic music, film clips, and hard-hitting interviews from every-day people, professors, and music video directors. This film takes us on a journey into American  history, unveiling the hidden skeletons that lie deep in the bedrooms of many slave owners.

Mya B can be contacted at 718-398-0725 or myabrooklyn@aol.com

 

Filmmakers Bio

Mya Baker is a  young filmmaker and raised in chi-town. She currently resides in brooklyn, NY where she came to be around people of like mind in the independent film industry. Graduating from Columbia College of Chicago in 1995 with a concentration in film studies gave her the writing and production skills needed to pursue her passion as an independent filmmaker.

She was inspired by film as a young child with her indoctrination into the film world with the movie, Exorcist. Since then, she has been a horror movie fan, and fascinated by the works of Spike Lee, Mira Nair, Jim Jarmuch, David Lynch, John Singleton, Pedro Almodovar and many others.

From working as a PA on several independent films and interning, she decided to venture into her own project. After two years of groundbreaking interviews and obtaining historical information, she has just finished her documentary entitled Silence: In Search of Black Female Sexuality in America. This documentary has already received a Telly Award for 2004 and has been making noise at various film festivals.

Her first documentary short, Warrior Queen was shown in 1994 at the Dusable Museum of African American History at Chicago. Mya B also writes poetry and is well rounded with her knowledge of music. She hopes to incorporate this knowledge of music into her future productions by working with hip-hop producers on film scores for her next projects.

She is now working on some feature length screenplays and on a short film.

posted June 2005

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books

For July 1st through August 31st 2011
 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

 

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Weep Not, Child

By Ngugi wa Thiong'o

This is a powerful, moving story that details the effects of the infamous Mau Mau war, the African nationalist revolt against colonial oppression in Kenya, on the lives of ordinary men and women, and on one family in particular. Two brothers, Njoroge and Kamau, stand on a rubbish heap and look into their futures. Njoroge is excited; his family has decided that he will attend school, while Kamau will train to be a carpenter. Together they will serve their countrythe teacher and the craftsman. But this is Kenya and the times are against them. In the forests, the Mau Mau is waging war against the white government, and the two brothers and their family need to decide where their loyalties lie. For the practical Kamau the choice is simple, but for Njoroge the scholar, the dream of progress through learning is a hard one to give up.—Penguin 

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 6 August 2008 

 

 

 

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