Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cult of the Black Mama

As salaam alaikum,

I find when I'm stuck in front of a book, studying for hours, I have a lot of ideas for journal entries...of course, because I am studying and not at liberty to write whenever I want. I mean, I could...but then I'd never get any studying done.

So this is one I've been thinking about for a while.

Yes, Cult of the Black Mama. Let me explain.

So, back when I was at Michigan, I took a bunch of classes on race and history in Latin America. The first one I took was called "Writing Race and Nation in Latin America and the Caribbean" or something like that, and it was my first exposure to race in Brazil...the country that would later become a veritable love of my life.

Anyway, it was through this class that I learned a little bit about the Cult of the Mulata. In Cuba and Brazil especially, the mulata, specifically someone of mixed African and European heritage, has a specific space in culture. The mulata is a woman of unmatched beauty, sensual, graceful, the one that people always look for in dance, in front during the desfiles of the samba school, whatever. The mulata is also often objectified as a sexual object. Not as much in Brazil but in the Caribbean you also have the negra, that I feel exists more as an object than the mulata does.

But then again, the things coming to my mind right now are "Una mulata en la Habana" by Adalberto Alvarez and "Yo quiero un vacilón" by Toño Rosario ("yo quiero un vacilón con una negra sabrosa [...] negra, mueve la cintura").

It's not just Brazil and Cuba that have a bit of the Cult of the Mulata going on. The black community in the US has gone through waves of it, when you'd only see "light skinned" curly haired people on the cover of Ebony. These days, you're more likely to see a more mixed-looking woman on commercials than someone with chocolate skin and either natural or straightened hair.

And you know what, I'm actually not mad at any of that. I'm just going to do my own thing, so excuse me while I start the Cult of the Black Mama.

Because in these Latin American cultures and at least historically, not so much the case anymore, the way you got the mulata was through the black mama. Seriously, I read in my Latin American history classes so many eulogies for the mulata and how this was the perfect form for a woman...brown skin, curves with European features, all of this, and nothing about where these women came from. What about their black mothers? Not even worth a mention? They were good enough for these leaders and stuff to get with at the time but now only their daughters get the shout out?

I'm also not mad at that, either. In my Cult of the Black Mama, the black woman shall not be objectified. No moviendo de la cintura, no shaking ya a** and watching yourself, dropping it like it's hot, none of that. No Daisy Dukes and no apple bottom jeans.

For me, my black mama is the absolute matriarch. She is earthy, she lives organic, she is quintessential beauty. She is real, through and through, accepting her imperfections as coolly as she wipes sweat from her brow with her forearm. She is the cornerstone of family, she is loving, accepting, children under her arms and at her feet. She is unrecognized and gorgeous.

I've been part of the black woman fan club for a long time. As a result, all of the protagonists of every story that I've written have been black women. So, and this is probably as much of an intro to this new site as I'm going to give, it will become apparent as I explore about what it means to me to be black, a black Muslimah, whatever else, my feelings about the unique existence of the black woman in society.

So a roda da saia mulata não quer mais rodar, não senhor... The spin of the mulata's skirt doesn't want to spin anymore, no sir...

Welcome to Invisible Muslimah, The Cult of the Black Mama, and other such social anecdotes by Chinyere! It will be a fun trip.

Oh, by the way...smoke from 50 burning Canadian forest fires obscured the Boston skyline on was pretty cool. The whole place smelled like smoke. You could have told folks it was the end of the world and they would have believed it.

Time to sleep. I work out in the mornings now, and given I'm on a diet I'll probably sleep again like a hog tonight.

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