For those of you who don’t know, the name of this event is taken from the song “Resist Psychic Death.” It is one of my favorite Bikini Kill songs and I even have a vague memory of one of my old bands covering it. Although sung by a white woman, the words “psychic death” remind me of the character Pecola Breedlove in Toni Morrison’s first novel The Bluest Eye. To make a short story even shorter, Pecola is born a dark-skinned black girl into a racist, misogynist, violent world that eventually drives her to insanity. Now, I am not saying that mental illness is equivalent to psychic death. I know that’s not true. The culprit in the book isn’t insanity, the culprit is hatred and its internalization. We live in an ugly and dysfunctional world and we all carry that ugliness and dysfunction around inside of us. Our mission in this life is to prevent self-destruction, to prevent our own psychic deaths–and then to lend a hand to others so that they can do the same. Often, it’s just as simple as speaking publicly from your experience just so that other people like you realize they are not alone in their thoughts and experiences.
And then there are those among us who actually experience physical death. Premature, violent, unjust physical death. In the last year, we’ve seen the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement here in the U.S. in the response to the killings of unarmed black men and the lack of accountability for their deaths. Of course, this predicament isn’t new and my zine was definitely written in reaction to the limited expectations placed on black people solely because of our skin color. Like the Afro-Punk movement, I focus on freedom of expression for black people–but admittedly, this goal has seemed frivolous to me when compared to the myriad other challenges faced by black American communities. But on the other hand, look at how acceptable black expression and representation has been newly confined in the wake of the shooting of Trayvon Martin in particular. Now, black men can’t wear hoodies without feeling the weight of suspicion on their backs? Respectability politics are in increased effect in black communities and in its own little way, “Shotgun Seamstress" was always meant to reject those kinds of confines.
I attempt to use a Xerox copy music fanzine to resist stereotypical conceptions of blackness. It doesn’t feel like much, but I promise, the desire to redefine ourselves, to redefine blackness, to surprise people with the scope of our self-expression, was always central to the project.
All this new stuff they call rock ’n’ roll, why, I’ve been playing that for years now… Ninety percent of rock-and-roll artists came out of the church, their foundation is the church.
SISTER ROSETTA THARPE (The pioneer)
I’ve reblogged this quote before but I don’t even care because TRU
What do you do when you're stressed?
“I live in Atlanta, so I have lil turnup sessions with my friends where I would go turn on a lil rap music and just go crazy. We have fun. But I also do yoga, I allow myself to get frustrated for like 3 minutes and I’m like, ”Ok, Janelle… You got 3 minutes. Get it together.” I have to talk to myself. But when I’m too stressed I’m like, “I need to take a break. I just need to take a break, go call your grandmother, go call home.” because your tribe, they take you back. They remind you of how blessed you are and the struggle they went through so that you can make it to where you are today.” – Janelle Monae
I don’t want to write “nice little lyrics,” that wouldn’t be me. I am who I am and I don’t mince words, take it or leave it. As a black lesbian, I’m hardly the girl next door, more like the living nightmare of every conservative suburban house owner with a neat little garden. I really don’t care. If they don’t like me, fine. I can live with it and I don’t force myself on them, but I refuse to shut up and I can’t imagine anybody who could shut me up.
Skin from Skunk Anansie (1999 interview).
We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be. – May Sarton
photo: Rae Maxwell | makeup: Roxanne DeNobrega | style: Jerisse de Juan | dress: Mark Aguilar | jewels: KURVE Jewellery
so fucking gorgeous i just can’t
The point is, I’m weird, but I never felt weird.
I’ve been performing for 44 years; I really should hang up my dancing shoes. I can’t keep up with Janet Jackson. I’m not a diva like Diana Ross. I’m rock ‘n’ roll, but I’m happy I can do it one more time, so people can remember me at my best.
I never had that thing about being black. If the whole world was like that, maybe there would be more harmony and love.
There were these girls that useta’ chain themselves together with handcuffs and things…but I didn’t write it about them. I just used that kind of bondage theme to express repression. When people see these people wearin’ bondage they think they’re for bondage – but they’re not.
“I love the intimacy of small venues, I really do, I like that look that people have that they feel like they’re special and they can hear and they can see the band as well.”
“We [female musicians] are able to speak for ourselves through our music rather than being defined and put into the spotlight in a very male kind of groomed way for an obviously predominantly male audience.”
– Shingai Shoniwa
Accept everything about yourself – I mean everything, You are you and that is the beginning and the end – no apologies, no regrets.
Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.
To that effect, black female artists exhibiting more rebellious styles are consequently shunned by black audiences for being “too weird,” and ignored by other audiences as not being authentic rock musicians. This is where the Afro-punk movement comes in: a blindingly boisterous collection of musicians whose general style makes them “misfits of society.” However, in the eyes of many, their style of dress and sound simply makes them copycats of white musicians. In other words, with the argument that rock music originated with people of color, some believe that black females choosing to go the Afro-punk route are ultimately suppressing their African-American roots. This has created a Catch-22 of sorts, with black female artists wondering how to be seen as true rock musicians if their work is constantly pigeon-holed into other categories.
This article is very well written, and thought provoking. It bluntly addresses a lot of the issues with being not only female, but also a Black person in the world of rock music.
Poly Styrene was and is unique. Her look and attitude stood apart. Her songs addressed subjects like conformity, the ever-encroaching commercial influences on day-to-day life and the powerlessness brought on by these issues. Her songs tackled the issues with an irresistible surrealism and humour often lacked by punk.
Them, they came out with a sound and attitude and a whole energy — it was just not relating to anything around it — superb.
i LOVE being a black woman.
there is just something about US.