RELEASING BAG LADY

“Bag Lady, you gone hurt yo back/ draggin’  all dem bags like dat/ I guess nobody ever told you/all you must hold onto/ is you/is you/is you…”  ~Erykah Badu~

bag lady video

I have played this song at least once a week since the beginning of 2012.  It’s like a mantra, reminding me to release All “baggage” & things that just don’t serve me.  Whether its negative thoughts I may have about myself or the thoughts others have about me.  The baggage is anything that isn’t in complete alignment with my truth.

In setting my intentions on releasing damaging stereotypes about Black women in our society through the events in The Goddess Festival: Oshun Returns, I found that stereotype baggage was taking up a lot of space in my mind.  These ideas about Black women, Black people were more ingrained in my psyche than I would like to admit.  For example, I have been secretly against ALL animal print clothing on Black women for years!  I refused to wear leopard, cheetah, zebra, or tiger prints, even peacock feathers were on the list for a brief period.  I was so afraid of being associated with the  “wild, uncivilized”  idea that has been connected with Black women’s sexuality.  When I would see Black women in the sole animal print garment of a designers collection, while the white women were in more subtle fabrics, I would get so frustrated.  I couldn’t look through a magazine without playing the game” find the Black woman & analyzing her clothes, hair, & surroundings.”  Why were we barefoot walking through the jungle while the same collection showed a white woman fully clothed, shoes included, walking through a cheerful neighborhood?

Animal print was not the only stereotype baggage I was hanging onto:

NO wearing Marilyn Monroe graphic t-shirt: wearing this meant I didn’t think Black women were beautiful.

NO growing cotton plants in your  yard or garden: Someone was growing a cotton plant & I started thinking about slavery, why weren’t they?!

NO buying watermelon in the grocery store for a while.  OR eating watermelon wedges in public.

I would not order fried chicken at ANY sit down restaurant.

NO Tyler Perry films

Only doing Classical Burlesque performances so that I’m not too closely associated with the Jezebel stereotype.

NO RED:

Being told & believing that I couldn’t wear Red Lipstick because of my Dark Complexion.  I thought maybe because I was so dark the red lipstick would remind people of Black face, Yikes!

NO RED DRESS: This dress symbolized Jezebel, a conniving seductress

Having a love hate relationship with my NAME, yes MY NAME: Chiquita, because of all the jokes about it being “ghetto.”  The other issue was that my name is usually followed by the question,” Do you know what your name means?”  This question is always next when I’m introduced to any person of Spanish/ Latin decent.  Even though I say, “Yes, I know what my name means”  Either one of 2 things happens, (1) The person insists on telling me what my name means anyway. (2) They ask me to tell them what my name means, in the most condescending voice ever, that is so full of skepticism I want to scream!  For me, having to deal with this enforces the stereotype that ALL Black people are ignorant is deeply embedded in our society.

NO more looking good: Beauty =’s Stupidity is a universal stereotype that any woman who is deemed attractive by societies standards has to face.

Steering Clear of big hoop earrings, Gold “door knocker” earrings and, gold necklaces with my name spelled out in script to avoid being labeled “ghetto”.

BOTTLED EMOTIONS: Refusing to show my Anger in anyway especially in public, for fear of being labeled the Angry Black woman.

Most of this stereotype baggage I have learned to let go:)  But there are some that I still struggle with.  I have compassion for myself in this re-learning process, hell I have to, its necessary.  I just know that I refuse to be a “Bag Lady” in 2012, especially when it comes to stereotypes!  So how about you, do you have any stereotype baggage you want to release? Please share:)

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. dailychicana
    Jul 09, 2012 @ 21:39:35

    I’m really glad I found your blog through the reposting on Racialicious. Excellent work and writing! I look forward to reading more.

    This particular post got me thinking about how carefully I try to craft my on-campus style (I’m a professor). Once, in my first year of teaching, I went to a committee meeting with my long hair pulled in a low side ponytail, a cute little purple knit hat, big hoop earrings and bright lipstick. When it came time to introduce myself, I suddenly became *very* aware of how I looked. I thought, “omg these people are gonna think I’m trying to be Jenny from the block!” I was the only Latina in the room and of course today had to be the day I wore this. Looking back, though, I think there are people who are going to read me as “spicy Latina” no matter what I choose to wear…so why not keep rockin’ my accessories, right?

    Reply

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