Links of the Week April 1, 2013

Hi Everyone,

We were away last week. Actually spent it in the beautiful mountains of Colorado. Hoping to write a blog post related to that experience soon.  But here are some articles and blogs that we thought were interesting.

1Beyoncé asks women to ‘bow-down’: Is this an identity crisis? [ The Grio]

And this is why it seems so… jarring, really, for Beyoncé, after 15 years in the game, to start calling fellow women “b***hes” and demanding that they “bow down” like they are her lowly subjects.

Maybe Bey’s picked up her husband’s hip-hop swagger and God Complex by association, but I wish she’d put it back down. If for no other reason than as much as everyone dislikes a sore loser (like Cole appears to be), they loathe an arrogant winner even more. (And it’s not because she’s a woman. Kanye West is maligned for his arrogance, too.)

24 Amazing Black Women They Don’t Tell You About in School [Our Common Ground]

Even as a slave, Elizabeth Freeman, known as Mum Bett most of her life, had the audacity to sue for her freedom. Born into slavery in Claverack, New York around 1742, Freeman, at a reported six months old, was sold, along with her sister, to John Ashley of Sheffield, Massachusetts, a judge in the Massachusetts Court of Common Pleas. Enslaved to Ashley until she was almost 40, Freeman was spurred to action when the mistress of the house Hannah Ashley tried to hit her sister with a heated kitchen shovel. Freeman intervened and was hit instead, leaving the house, vowing to never come back.

Aware of the 1780 Massachusetts state constitution and its declaration of all men being free and equal from Sheffield’s many conversations, Freeman sought the services of Theodore Sedgwick, an attorney with anti-slavery sentiments. In 1781, a Massachusetts court awarded Freeman and another of Ashley’s slaves named Brom their freedom in Brom and Bett v. J. Ashley, Esq., even requiring Ashley to pay damages.

3. Why It’s Important to Keep Knocking [ The Simply Luxurious Life]

One of the most significant lessons to learn as we each traverse toward our most ideal life is to keep a burning persistence within ourselves. For when we set our sights on what we wish to achieve and are able to not be distracted by an endless list of goals that only tickle our fancy but then quickly lose our interest, we streamline our energies toward an eventual success.

I Am Slave: A Review

Slavery is not a thing of the past. Nor is it solely an American story.

The British film, I Am Slave, does an excellent job of reminding us of this persistent evil that still exists in the UK and worldwide.

Inspired by the story of  Mende Nazer, former slave turned author and activist, I Am Slave chronicles the life of Malia and her struggle to regain not only her freedom but also her identity while living in London.

tiff-iamslaveThrough a series of flashbacks we learn that at 12, Malia, the protaganist,  was kidnapped from her village in the the Nuba mountains in Sudan and sold to an Arab family in Khartoum. At 18, her owner gives her to a cousin in London.

The film highlights some of the obstacles that a modern-day slave faces.  Malia struggles with her fear and lack of understanding of the alien environment of London. In one scene she escapes from the house and rushes into the streets but she is confused about who to trust. Her ignorance and fear forces her back into captivity. Throughout the film Malia lives under the threat of violence: her current slave master threatens to have her father killed if she disobeys.

I Am Slave  shows Malia wrestling to hold onto her identity. Her days are spent as a slave: cooking, cleaning and caring for children. In one scene, she whispers into the darkness: “I am Malia Nour, daughter of Bah Al Nour, wrestler of Nuba.”

However, Malia is not the typical heroine that I expected to find in a movie about slavery.  Her years of slavery have broken her spirit. And throughout the film, I struggled to ‘like’ the character.

Malia is not sassy, cunning or bold. There is no backchat. No s*** in the pie. No muttering under her breath. No daggered looks.

Her fear of punishment has silenced her voice.

Throughout the film, she maintains a soft, childlike voice that is filled with fear. During the climax of the film when Malia is about to escape, her slave master begs her to stay. Malia’s response is not one of defiance or rebellion. Wearily, she tells her former slave master, “No more.”

Malia isn’t even angry. She is just tired.

Her character contrasts with the narratives of slavery that I have heard. As a child, I listened to stories about slave rebellions in Jamaica and Tobago. As I grew older I read about Haiti’s slave rebellion in 1791 that resulted in the island becoming the first independent black-ruled country in the Western Hemisphere. I watched Roots. And most recently I watched The Help and Black Girl about black domestic workers who worked under oppressive employers.

My view of a slave has been colored by these stories. And I wanted the defiant heroine with flashing eyes and a strong sense of identity. Who wouldn’t be so stupid to escape from captivity and then get into the car of the family’s chauffeur and return to her prison.

The film directly challenged my perspective of what a slave is supposed to be like. And perhaps this view of a slave as P. Djeli Clark’s brilliant blog post argues is “tied more to modern political ideologies of black self-reliance, in which black dignity is found in those who achieve on their own merits, despite what obstacles are placed in their way.”

And eventually Malia does achieve her freedom but without all the bravado.

Despite my dislike of Malia’s docility, I believe the actor Wunmi Mosaku captures the fear, vulnerability and

Wunmi Mosaku

Wunmi Mosaku

desperation that Malia experiences. Her expressive doe-like eyes and beautiful dark skin are captivating. She is supported by an excellent cast: Yigal Naor who played the family chauffeur, Hiam Abbass as her cruel slave master and Issac de Bankole as her father.

I Am Slave is a must-see film demonstrating how easily modern-day slavery can disguise itself in the Western world and one woman’s fight for her freedom.