Thursday, January 14, 2016

mammy's cupboard ... really?

Perhaps the wise thing to do would be to wait before saying/writing anything out loud on this topic.  It's what I would normally do when faced with information I'm having a hard time digesting. HOWEVER, (and maybe I'm the last to know, since this place has been in business since the 40s), there exists a restaurant in Natchez, Mississippi called MAMMY'S CUPBOARD.

How did I get to this topic? It's not like the word Mammy is running rampant from mouths like its cousin we know so well, or like I've had reason to have it on my mind, except for the recent memory of a White acquaintance who tried to explain her use of the word towards our mutual Black friend (more than once) as an expression of gratitude (whatever happened to just plain "Thank you"?).

Long absent from re:thinking, I was just minding my business, mining saved and new articles for inspiration, when I happened on a Clutch piece about artist Kara Walker's large scale installation, A Subtlety,or the Marvelous Sugar Mama, presented in what remained of Brooklyn's old Domino Sugar Factory (Spring 2014). It began:
"There is a restaurant in Natchez, Mississippi called Mammy’s Cupboard where you can slip beneath Mammy’s skirts and eat a delicious lunch with a sweet slice of pie for dessert.“Affectionately” called “Black Mammy’s” by locals, the restaurant is a Dixie ode to the Old South, where Confederate flags waved gently in the magnolia scented breeze and the blood of enslaved Africans dampened the earth.From miles around the White people come. Ignorant—or dismissive—of the subjugation and violence against Black female bodies that “Mammy” represents, they eagerly live out Gone With The Wind fantasies and giggle at the sight of the 30-foot tall Mammy standing silent, subservient and vulnerable to those who would part her skirt and rape her memory. To them, Mammy is delightful. She is mint juleps and cotton; antebellum homes and White supremacy. She is a reminder that once upon a time, White people owned other human beings and they liked it. Even more so, they would like it today." (Clutch)

                                                                                   photo: Clutch
 My blood started to boil. Then I clicked on the video:


The narrator said:
"The world is lucky that folks will work to keep bizarre buildings in shape."
Is that what that is? Luck?  At least he acknowledges Mammy as "an outdated African-American caricature."

Cut to Doris Kemp, who runs the business:
"The building's been here since 1940, designed for just what it does, to attract the traveler to stop, look and buy, and leave their money."

Then a litte more "history": Henry Gaude (pronounced go-day) built it for his wife. And at first, it was just going to be a teahouse, y'all, but then folks started requesting food.

Cut to the woman in the kitchen:
"It's what you would expect at your grandmother's kitchen, actually.  If you go to Mamaw's house, there's, you know, good delicious deserts and homemade food."
Okay, so how about you call it Mamaw's Kitchen?

Cut to Miss Lady Customer #1:
"We eat here all the tahm.  We love Dawris tuh dehyeth.  We think she's the sweetest person."
Well, i'n that sew sweeyeet?

And because that's not enough, it keeps coming: The place was built to fit in with The Pilgrimage, a popular annual springtime tour of the area's old homes and plantations.

Cut to Miss Lady Customer #2:
"With Mammy sittin' on top, it's different "

Jovial Male Voice:
"It's so incorrect politically, but I guess back in the 30s and 40s you could do that. But it seems to be accepted now."

More from Dawris:
"There could still be some resentment, but we haven't seen any.  Because it's historic, and, and we're friends with everyone."
Everyone?  Where are the Black people?

And the big finish from Jovial Male Voice:
"If she had the same restaurant in a liitle flat building, she wouldn't get the business."
Soooo, it's either a small flat building, or straight up Mammy? No other options in between? And didn't I just hear a man's voice saying "She has fantastic desserts you'd drive a hundred miles for" in the mix?

Two and a half straight minutes of folks tiptoeing around what we could call an elephant in a room, if it wasn't a giant "Mammy" structure, plain as day, towering outside.  Is lightening her skin over the years, as they have, supposed to make it feel better?  How long before the U.S. is ready to look its entire history in the face?  Will it happen in our lifetimes? With all this so-called luck, who knows?
But while we are here, those of us who are aware can stand up, even in minuscule ways, in our own corners of the world, and say "This is an offense." Because apparently, some folks still need reminding.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

pretty. period.

"She's pretty for a dark-skinned girl."
Yes, some folks still feel this way, and say this ignorant s#*t out loud.

No.  She's pretty.  Period.
Check out Dr. Yaba Blay's ode to dark-skin, a beautiful way to start another year in this our "post-racial" situation.  #prettyperiod

photo: #prettyperiod
photo: #prettyperiod
photo: #prettyperiod

Sunday, June 8, 2014

dr. maya angelou (r.i.p.)

Today was the day of Dr. Maya Angelou's funeral.  How do you do your makeup for work, the most important thing expected by your bosses when you do and sell makeup for a living, when you know there's a strong chance of heavy tears in your forecast?

When I first heard about her passing, I was so wholly unready for anything like it, I let it scroll up my  news feed with everything else I couldn't deal with.  I put it away, on that shelf in the back of my mind; the one with the dusty memories -- you know the ones you put away because you already tried running from them, long and hard, and still got nowhere, because there's no getting away?  The ones that needle you in just that way? Yea, those ones.  They sit on that shelf, sometimes for years, collecting dust, but oh, how every once in a while, they need to stand up, shake it all off and just say out loud, "I Am."

  I put the news of her passing on that shelf, content to glance at the eloquent words so many others were posting, and to enjoy the sudden flurry of photos of her that kept popping up.  But I knew full well that a Reckoning would have to come before the first coat of dust.  When I read that her funeral would be streamed live, Saturday June 7th at 10am, I knew that would be a beginning.

I knew I'd have to leave for work around 11am, but I also knew that I would watch as much of the service as I could beforehand, so I did my makeup differently (for me) this morning:  I've been playing lately with variations centered around bottom liner--an almost bare lid focused on contour/highlight, different ways to do graphic liner,super smoky lids, etc...Today it was a blue, dark, sparkly, smoky-eye (no bottom-liner) situation to match both mood and  circumstance.

  I got lucky with keeping makeup on my face.  By the time I had to leave, dabbing had been enough to keep things copacetic.  Oprah was just getting started.
But what was coming, did come...  I finished watching the funeral just after 4am, and my heart feels as full as it feels broken.  Words, in my hands right now, would fail the beauty of that service, the sorrow, the joy. (Did you watch?)  I don't have words.  Just a big, achy hole in that place where I used to know that she was here with us, that place where I couldn't have imagined it not being so.

So what if I go to bed with the sunrise?  The hurt in my heart is busy dancing with a feeling of complete and total inspiration. And it's not quite the same urgency we sometimes feel to live harder when someone we care about dies.  It's that this particular someone, this someone we cared so much about, lived a life that was so fully about stepping up, slaying obstacles and thriving, no matter what, she shook up the world with her Living.  In just the time it took for them to recount her story, I felt myself grow bigger, vaster than I ever thought possible.  She was a force of nature, and she made those of us whose hearts she reached want to live like that, to be our own versions of that, unabashed.  Phenomenal Woman Indeed. How dare we not shine loud and relentless, every single time we get a chance to?

 The funeral has made it real.  She is gone from this place.  And now, it is Time to stand up, shake it off, whatever it may be, and say in whatever way I need to, with my own unique talents, "I Am."  So, for this feeling, for the way YOU've made me Feel, Dr. Maya Angelou, I say, with every cell in my being, Thank You.