2009: Looking back on the year of the Black woman

Whether it was all the single ladies, housewives gone wild, girl scouts, lady detectives and nurses, princesses or a first lady, 2009 was definitely the year of the black woman in a myriad of ways that broke profound barriers. In 2009, Black women were setting trends that made headlines like never before. No doubt from beginning to end, we took center stage.

Ladies First

The cries of independent woman gave way to what is arguably a Sankofa moment as we watched Michelle Obama on January 20th take us back to Coretta Scott King and beyond our wildest imagination with her simple measures of dignity and grace. A day of historic significance gave way to a night of elegant mystique while the world witnessed Michelle stand beside her husband, President Barack Obama, as he took the oath that sealed his family’s fate and lead them into their new home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to become the first family of the United States of America. Her style, evident honor of family and health, has painted a new face and role for Black women to aspire to. The kind that is supportive and tender, ambitious and focused. It truly is a moment from 2009 that will live in the history of wo/man kind!

Do the Ladies Run This?

First Lady Michelle Obama is not the only haute stepper in the White House. Adding to the history books was the appointment of several sisters to key positions in the Obama Administration. As noted by the Washington Post, “they are the largest contingent of high-ranking black women to work for a president.” Essence Magazine did a fabulous job detailing their roles. http://photos.essence.com/galleries/white_house_power_list#284021

Certainly the formulation of a White House Council on Women and Diversity, headed by Senior Advisor, Valerie Jarrett, further asserts President Obama’s diligent respect for women’s perspective and contribution to society.  

Camera, Lights, Action

2009 Academy Awards presented another defining moment for black women when screen gems Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson were nominated for best supporting actress. Neither won, still the nomination nod raised the curtain on some very deserving and talented sisters finally getting substantial roles in critically-acclaimed mainstream films.

A Thin Line…

We barely crossed the threshold into the New Year and were less than 15 days in the afterglow of our nation’s refined First Lady, when before our eyes we witnessed the morning after images of pop-princess Rhianna following a night of domestic violence between she and boyfriend, R&B sensation, Chris Brown.

Rhianna became the new poster child for domestic violence. Yet, there seemed to be more to the story than what made it to mainstream news. Intuition, albeit circumstantial evidence, hints there was a deep-seeded pattern of teen dating violence during the course of this tumultuous relationship. According to National Youth Violence Prevention http://www.safeyouth.org/scripts/faq/dateviolfacts.asp

“Both male and female adolescents report being victims of physical violence in relationships.[7] ,[8] Many relationships involve mutual abuse, with both partners using violence against the other. However, it is clear that male and female adolescents use physical force for different reasons and with different results.[9] Researchers have found that female teens suffer more from relationship violence, emotionally and physically.[10] They are much more likely than males to have serious injuries and to report being terrified. In contrast, male victims seldom seem to fear violence by their dates or girlfriends, often saying that the attacks did not hurt and that they found the violence amusing.[11]

It appears the actions of that night pushed past the amusing button and left both young sensations scarred beyond measure. Still, thankfully it did open the lines of dialogue for young girls to share their pain and find a way out. Wonder if women can play our role to free teen males from this sad cycle as well.

Love and Politics

India Arie may have channeled psychic powers as her 2009 offering released came on the heels of historic political landscape and a few days after the infamous Chris Brown/Rhianna situation. Debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard R&B charts, it was her first release since moving from Motown to Universal. Ironically titled, Testimony Volume 2-Love and Politics, the album served as part healing balm and fodder for political discourse. For me it was the perfect soundtrack for 2009.

Fly above…

For the first time ever, an all-female, all black crew navigated and serviced a flight from Atlanta to Nashville, making not only Black but women’s herstory! And what better month than February to reach for sky. http://www.11alive.com/life/story.aspx?storyid=127470&catid=37

Don’t be tardy…

Not to be outdone, Real Housewives of Atlanta got it in with high-flying dramatic antics and became the addictive guilty pleasure for many ‘progressive’ ladies, including yours truly. Even modest men didn’t want to miss out and be tardy for the party. Everything passed for real life drama, divorce; cat-fights; escapades of a mistress; extravagant transgender adoration; and so much more catapulted many of the shows “players” into auto-tune and synthesized entertainment careers. Needless to say, some of the reality was too fabricated and word is the show will return with a little less bust action and hair.

 

No. 1 Ladies and Nurses…

Cable television took a step to do what network TV has apparently been scared to do (UPN and CW don’t even count). HBO kept it real progressive when they tapped Jill Scott to lead on-screen adaptation of Alex Mccall Smith’s novel series, No. 1 Ladies Detective. The beautiful part of it all is it was filmed in Botswana during the first pregnancy of the leading actress. It proved to be a diamond for HBO and Jill…nominated for NAACP Image Award and season two premiers Feb 1, 2010!

Miss Jada didn’t fail in her leading role either as HNIC (head nurse in charge) on TNT’s HawthoRNe. Though Jada Pinkett Smith executive produced and directed the series, it lacked a strong supporting cast and smart writing. Still, the message was clear that we have surpassed witty sidekick and can lead the way. In august the series secured an extension for 2nd season.

Girl Power

The only time most people pay attention to Girl Scouts is when its time to buy some of those scrumptious cookies. (My favorite, by the way, are the Samoas and Lemonades). So now they’ve demanded our full attention after tapping Connie Lindsey, a sister, to be president of Girl Scout’s National Board of Directors. The role is ranked as “the highest volunteer position in Girl Scouting.” They further hiked their relevancy when in October First Lady Michelle Obama became their Honorary National President http://www.girlscouts.org/news/news _releases/2009/michelle_obama.asp

Don’t call it a comeback

So many had written her off as a washed up diva who didn’t believe her own words when she declared for the world, “crack is whack,” but when Miss Whitney Houston belted out the title track to her comeback album, I Look to You, her fans looked to find fabulously stunning, foretaste of the diva who graced us with soundtracks to Bodyguard and Waiting to Exhale. The voice and the spirit have been through the storm, but her redemption was obvious on songs such as Like I Never Left, I Didn’t Know my Own Strength, Nothin’ but Love and Salute. Salute indeed.

O Girl!

Who can remember a year when Oprah did not have major influence? Whether getting Mike Tyson to cry and admit he wanted to “sock” Robyn Givens during infamous Barbara Walters interview, supporting philanthropic causes like education and universal women’s issues, or giving the “green” light to back major films that empower and portray Blacks in multi-dimensional roles that have been virtually non-existent in traditional Hollywood, there is no denying the O-power.

And yet she just may have earned a new title of shock jock with her announcement of her plans to end her show.  But come on…did MJ retire the first 3 times?

Besides, nobody is quite ready for Oprah to exit stage left and leave the mantel to Monique or Wendy Williams… let’s face it, an induction into the Radio Hall of Fame does not necessarily qualify one to take the reigns as a television talk show host. But, let’s give props to Wendy on her accomplishments anyway. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-MMInos4yE that is sorta big deal!

Point taken…

After literally changing the game of tennis, Venus and Serena Williams stormed the courts in 2009, especially Wimbledon.  But it was the U.S. Open when Serena exploded on a line judge for a bogus call in favor of her opponent. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/13/serena-williams-unsportsm_n_284813.html Her behavior may very well have been pent-up aggression after years of subliminal ridicule from media, judges and other players. Let’s face it, the Williams’ sisters have been referred to as animals and shunned in locker rooms for years. Too bad Serena had to take it there. And they finished 2009 ranked as WTA top ten female players (Serena #1/Venus #6).

Dirty Laundry

In 2009 two films were accused of airing the Black community’s dirty laundry. Good Hair was Chris Rock’s simple approach to a complex issue that possibly dates back to the Atlantic slave trade. Sprinkled with celebrity anecdotes and a dose of around the way beauty shop banter, this film even had Tyra pull her weave out.

And then there was Precious. A movie that was everything but. If there was ever a need to quantify the Moynihan Report, it came for all the world to see in the plot of this film complete with dysfunctional family, failing education system and white social workers. The story itself was indeed powerful, albeit familiar, perhaps the director’s choice of quick camera cuts and bright lights were somewhat disjointed and abrupt not quite in synch with the tone of the film. A theatrical release backed by Oprah and Tyler Perry should have pushed this film beyond mediocrity. But Precious fell short leaving Monique’s stunning performance to anchor and carry it.

When it comes to first, the new Disney 2D animation, Princess and a Frog, featured the first ever Black princess. Unfortunately, Disney steered clear of highlighting this distinctive quality and although it opened as a blockbuster earning $24.2 million, overall the Princess hasn’t leapt to the numbers of its predecessors. Furthermore, critics have pointed out a few minor royal flaws to the plot of this Disney magic moment. For one, Tiana never quite got crowned an official “princess.’ And her “prince” couldn’t share in the glory of being the first Black to wed the little princess named Tiana. All in all, with a majestic cast including Oprah, Terence Howard, and Anika Noni Rose in the lead role, this will be a major addition to the Disney vault and every little girl’s collection.

No more Drama…

Late last year Mary J. Blige opened the Center for Women in her hometown Yonkers NY. It was received as a saving grace for all those women who have suffered from abuse akin to the personal experiences Mary shares through her music and in interviews. http://edition.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/Music/10/29/mary.j.blige/ So it is a sad reflection that we ended the year with a drama scene reminiscent of an earlier  2009 episode. Mary J. Blige, Miss No Drama herself, surely brought much drama to her release party when she struck her husband and added provocatively, “what you going to do, Chris Brown me?”  Check out the video and share your thoughts. http://www.nypost.com/p/pagesix/blige_fracas_caught_on_tape_C6diAYK0vWqMdYPJHA6kVK Hmmm…I call it a teaching moment and a reminder that we indeed have a true issue with domestic violence in our community, where we tend to see only one aggressor. Yet it was so evident during Oprah’s interview with Mike Tyson when after he admitted to hitting Robyn Givens on more than one occasion and that he’d been on the opposite end of the punches, then a facetious Oprah replies, “come on, look at you…” implying a woman can’t hurt a man. Can we all agree that no one, man or woman, should ever put their hands on anyone and that everyone in a relationship should be treated with dignity and respect? Or is dignity and respect reserved for platinum-selling songstresses and female entertainers?

Now it’s time to say goodbye to 2009…

So that was the full ensemble cast of Black ladies who graced our attentive celebrity screens for 2009. But the list wouldn’t be complete without adding some everyday sisters who are making things happen and impacting lives on the ground.

Of course there are so many women you should know moving into 2010, can’t list them all, but here are a few:

The New New…

There’s a new web-series that has garnered nominations from several awards programs and screened at the prestigious New York Television Festival, where it also competed in the Independent Pilot Competition . If you are not up on The New 20’s you are missing out on sizzling hot must-see web TV written, produced, directed and starring Tracy Taylor. Some in the know may recall Ms. Taylor as writer/director/star of the BET Award-winning film Walking on Sunshine, which was also nominated for an NAACP Image Award in 2005. Not seen Tracy’s work? That’s okay ‘cause it’s just as good in 2010. http://thenew20stv.com

Hip Hop sisters in Oakland and the Bay Area represented in light of the tragic aftermath of the January 1, 2009 murder of Oscar Grant by BART police officers. Dereca Blackman and Christina Gomez  (Coalition Against Police Exection) organized a movement to hold officers accountable. The rallies and messages reached the masses from Oakland to Chicago to NY to Atlanta resulting in a public outcry which garnered mainstream media attention and eventually brought criminal charges against the officer who discharged his weapon on the handcuffed Grant. http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/01/13/18562532.php

Sister Dereca and Christina continued their organizing efforts following the case all the way to LA, the jurisdiction the case will be tried.

Jessica Norwood- Founder of Emerge Change, an advocacy and leadership institute. Ms. Norwood is making the connection between issues and leaders. http://www.emergechange.org/Founder.html

Pamela Avery- in 2009 Ms. Avery celebrated 25 years as Founder and Director of Studio One Dance Theatre which trains and nurtures Chicago youth in dance. A hidden gem on the south side of Chicago, Studio One deserves your attention.   http://studioonedancetheatre.com/index.php/sodt_pages/

Nichole Pinkard- creating the path for urban students to be multi-literate and gain access to the world through digital media, Ms. Pinkard is truly someone you should know. http://iremix.org/team_members/2-nichole-pinkard

Hope you enjoyed the look back on 2009. Here’s to looking forward into 2010.

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3 Comments »

  1. ess jones Said:

    Very well done. That was a comprehensive look back at 2009 – and hopefully any lessons learned will be carried forward to 2010. I look forward to reading more from you.

  2. Thorough write-up! Looking forward to seeing more of your perspective in 2010!
    I had no idea about the Mary J Blige story…either one of them actually. Gotta take the good with the bad sometimes I guess…

  3. […] ← 2009: Looking back on the year of the Black woman […]


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