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Lemonade: Our Album of the Year

By Stephanie Shonekan, Contributing Editor, Art, Music, and Pop Culture

This year’s Grammy Awards show was one of the best I have seen in the last few years. Almost every performance was spectacular–Bruno Mars as himself and then as Prince; Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, and their fiercely political statement; Adele and her beautifully vulnerable moment when she bravely revised her tribute to George Michael on live TV; Chance the Rapper and Kirk Franklin merging hip hop and gospel like never before; and then, of course, Beyoncé’s highly anticipated appearance satisfied our collective curiosity about her ability to perform while pregnant. She killed it.

One Week of Poems on Love and Terror

By adrienne maree brown

In this moment, when the future is so uncertain, Praxis Center turns to poetic offerings by adrienne maree brown. As she wrote on her blog, “i still believe it is the core work of our species – to reason, to feel, to reconcile power and brilliance and compassion, to expand into our miraculous potential. i am relinquishing whatever illusions make me think i know the future, and making more room to co-create something worth living into. i am learning to create futures/poems/stories about what i don’t know, what i can’t explain, where i am not sure.” 

As we continue to do the work of building a more humane and just world, our words can help move, shape, and inspire us. We are “learning as we go.”

Lupita: One Small Step for Dark Girls?

By Stephanie Shonekan, Contributing Editor, Art, Music & Pop Culture

In the week of April 21, 2014 People Magazine announced their long anticipated choice of “Most Beautiful Woman” Lupita Nyongo. It was not unexpected because the Kenyan actress had become the new media darling since her performance in 12 Years a Slave and her ensuing effervescent appearance on every red carpet of note during the award season. Suddenly, Nyongo was the new face of beauty, an alternative to the long held status-quo, an acknowledgement that mainstream society was now willing to carve out a space for a new definition of beauty. Indeed, People Magazine appeared on the shelves last week and Lupita’s charming smile was dazzling against her smooth dark skin.

At the grocery store as I walked towards the cashier, I saw the cover and stopped to stare. A familiar feeling of self-consciousness overcame me as I glanced around to see if anybody was watching me. It is the same feeling one gets when you are one of only two black people in a room – you think twice about talking to the only other black person because you imagine that the others, those who swim comfortably in the mainstream, will think you are self-segregating or plotting something. It’s as if there is an unwritten rule in this historically constructed environment that if you want to assimilate, you cannot be caught too often fraternizing with your own kind.

As I stood there feeling anxious and proud, I caught myself. Why shouldn’t I stop and revel in the fact that for the first time in my life – someone with the same skin tone and hair texture as me – has been endorsed by People Magazine, one of the major gatekeepers of popular culture and beauty? These types of gatekeepers have celebrated white women’s beauty for centuries. If black women’s physical attributes are ever deemed desirable, these features are viewed through non-black women like Bo Derek (cornrows), Angelina Jolie (full lips), and Jennifer Lopez (ample derriere).

How to Win a Beauty Pagent- Race, Gender, Culture and US National Identity

In the past few years, beauty queens have appeared with increasing regularity in mainstream U.S. media. Tara Conner’s frequent partying and underage drinking were highly publicized when they almost lost her the Miss USA crown in 2006. The following year, Miss South Carolina Teen USA’s 30-second response about Americans and maps grew to such heights of popularity that it became one of the most watched YouTube clips of its time. Two years ago, pageantry intersected with electoral politics, as debates arose around Miss California USA’s response to an onstage question about same-sex marriage in the wake of the passage of California’s Proposition 8. And last year, Rima Fakih’s crowning as the first Arab American immigrant Miss USA drew criticism from conservative bloggers who questioned her abilities to represent the US. Since the Miss America Pageant began in 1921, the popularity of beauty pageantry in the United States has ebbed and…