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“When protecting Black women at all cost” goes wrong?

An Opinion-Piece on Will Smith’s Oscars debacle.

On Sunday 28th of March, one of the most prestigious and significant event of the films industry, the 94th Academy Awards, the Oscars, took place. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a night of celebration and recognition for actors and other films professionals were overshadowed by Will Smith’s infamous “slap that was heard around the world”.

On Friday 8 April, The Academy who launched an investigation of the incident, gave its verdict. Will Smith is banned from attending the Oscars, or any of its event, for 10 years.

Although the incident took place almost a month ago and, has been and discussed in the media and, across social media ‘ad nauseam’. The issue is still trending online and making international headlines.

Chronology of the incident

Before I proceed , here’s a recap’ of the facts: (assuming you’ve been living under a rock-no pun intended-and, have no idea what people are talking about):

Comedian Chris Rock took the stage of the Oscars to introduce the “Best documentary feature” category. Upon his arrival, he immediately poked fun at Jada Pinkett-Smith who was sitting with husband Will frontstage saying: “Jada, I love you! G.I Jane 2 can wait to see it!”.

The joke is an allusion to Jada’s bald hairstyle and a reference to a 1997 movie, in which actress Demi Moore plays a fictional first woman lieutenant to join the Navy Seals, a special US Navy’s operation force. She is determined to succeed/survive a grueling special training program, in a male dominated environment. To blend with her male peers, Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil (her full name in the movie), shaves her hair.

Demi Moore Movie GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
(Via Giphy)

It is worth mentioning that, over the past few months, Jada disclosed that her shaved look is the result of Alopecia, a condition that cause hair to fall.

After the joke, Will is filmed laughing loudly, in unison with the public. Then, in a bizarre twist of events, Will who has just noticed Jada rolling her eyes and acting irritated, stood up and started walking toward Chris Rock.

As the 2 men are face-to-face, Will seems unsure for a few seconds of what to do next. Then he proceeds to give Chris Rock- who continues to laugh, looking a bit unsure though- an open-handed slap. The scene is so weird, that the public and most of the viewers might have thought first that, everything was staged.

“Wow, Will just hit the shit out of me!” said Chris Rock, while Will is marching back to his seat, in a much more assured demeanour, a little victory lap.  People were still unsure of what was going on, judging by the audience who continued laughing for a few minutes afterwards. One person who probably understood that sh* was going down, was actress Lupita Nyongo, sitting right behind The Smiths couple, judging by her facial expressions.

Chris Rock, who is trying to keep his composure, and in an attempt to keep things moving said: “This will certainly be the best night in television!”. Will Smith then starting shouting angrily back at him, twice, “KEEP. MY WIFE NAME. OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MOUTH!”.  

Rock, who admirably managed to keep his composure, finished what he came to do, introduced the next category’s winner [let’s get real for a second: imagine if he had decided to push back or retaliate and a real fist fight erupted?!- At the Oscars?!, Woo the ghetto! ].

Two things can be true at the same time…

A lot has been sad about the incident, but here are a few takeaways, or my 2 cents rather :

Firstly, it is concerning to read across social media, how people (mature adults who are expected to behave better) were quick to justify, (even praise), Smith’s behaviour, in the name of ‘defending his wife’s honour’. But being roasted at the Oscars is part of the game. This is a tradition that happen to most US awards ceremonies. We can criticize some of the jokes or find them cringy, but Will and Jada are both veteran actors in Hollywood who have attended countless of awards ceremonies. So they know what to expect.

I came across a segment on a French TV channel, where one of the commentators passionately said, and I translate: “Will Smith should have even gone harder on Rock. If it was me, I would have punched him hard, take my wife and leave!”. He adds:” Taking jabs at someone’s wife, who is furthermore dealing with a sickness, should be off-limit”.

The problem is, Jada Pinkett is an actress and Hollywood personality in her own right. Rock was not taking aim at a poor little sick lady who had accompanied her husband. Jada is Rock’s industry peer, and an outspoken confident woman, who didn’t need this kind of ‘defending’.

Like the French commentator, many people rejoicing in this reaction, were just happy that Will validated their own toxic and problematic views of masculinity.

What is probably more concerning, is that, people seems to think that Chris Rock joke, deemed insensitive towards people suffering with alopecia and, Will Smith violent reaction to it, cannot both be condemned. Two things can be true at the same time. We can call out Rock’s joke and ask comedians to adapt their comedy to the current social settings. At the same time, we can firmly condemn Will’s reaction, because it is not ok to go around slapping or hitting people, just because we didn’t like something they’ve said or done.

The Academy producers let down Chris Rock

The Academy producers were strongly criticized for letting Will Smith go back to his seat after what was clearly a public assault (on live television on top of it). He was even allowed to collect his award and make a (rather pathetic) long speech. Will Packer, who was producing this year’s event offered a justification for this inaction, but still, this confirm that we live in a world where double-standard is the norm.

What was perhaps more disturbing than the slap, was Will’s acceptance speech of “Best Award Actor” for his role in “King Richard”. In the biopic, he portrays tennis legends, Venus and Serena’s father, Richard Williams. So, rambling through tears, Will Smith apologized to the Academy and his colleagues-he didn’t mention Chris Rock- and, justified his action as an ‘act of Love’. He even went as far as comparing his action to Richard Williams’ role as a protector and fierce defender of his family.

This performance was really problematic, because not only it resembles the behavior of men who are abusive towards women, then justify their violence as an act of love gone bad. The speech was also disrespectful towards the Williams sisters (who were in the audience), as we never seen their dad going around assaulting people, in the name of ‘love’ and defending them. Even when his daughters were subject to unfair, frustrating and discriminatory treatments from the press, tennis’ umpires and sometimes, hostile crowds.  Richard Williams even commented on that, diplomatically rebuking Smith.  

An evening that should have been a celebration for the movie’s entire cast, a tribute to the Williams’ sisters and their dad’s extraordinary story of resilience, and determination, will forever be tainted by an unfortunate outburst, which could have really been controlled.

What is even more sad, the incident has taken the spotlight away for so many other celebratory moments. For instance, Will Packer and his production partner were the first all-black team to produce the prestigious event. And things were going pretty well before the slap. For a ceremony that has been criticized over the past few years for so many misses, this edition seemingly, was going to be a hit (again, no pun intended). Also, the all-female trio of comedians (Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes), chosen to officiate the grand mass, were, according to many reviews, doing a great job too. The ‘slapgate” has also sadly overshadowed musician Quest Love’s win in the category announced by Rock.

The incident has brought up so many debates, some of which very particular to the United States’ discourse on race, gender and class. Many ‘think-and-opinion pieces’ on respectability politics, black-on black crime, how our ‘faves” gets away with awful things. In other words, how Will Smith was handled with care during the ceremony because he is a rich successful good looking black man who has managed to keep a polish, good guy image for decades.

Although the incident has been a polarizing issue, like everything that lands on social media nowadays, it is important to state that Will Smith’s reaction, in such a professional setting (no matter how glamourous it seems, the Oscars are a work event for actors and films professional), was completely wrong. We can debate at length on how Chris Rock’s joke was distasteful, but for an actor to get up on stage and punch a comedian during such an event, set a dangerous precedent. Some comedians have raised their concerns and how this was dangerous to their profession.

Media reports has announced that security had to be beefed up for the Grammys, which happened the week after.  It was hosted by Daily show’s host, South African comedians Trevor Noah. Thankfully, no such dramas were reported.

Will Smith’s behaviour is most probably the consequences of years of bottled-up embarrassment, because of the constant airing of intimate secrets about their marriage and family life, via Jada’s family talk show The Red Table Talk. Indeed, Will has been over the past 2 years, the butt of jokes and generator of countless memes on social media, most notably since the ‘entanglement revelation’.

Jada didn’t need that kind of defending

As said before, Jada is a confident, outspoken woman, who proudly sports a gorgeous shaved hairstyle (Jada, along with Hally Berry and Tony Braxton are some of the Black women who has been sporting gorgeous short hairstyles for decades.), and doesn’t need this kind of “defending in the name of love and protection”. It would have been more impactful for Will, or Jada to address Rock’s joke afterwards and raise more awareness regarding alopecia.

” When it comes to defending Black women, America is still stuck on stupid”

Karen Appiah

As a Black woman, I cannot deny the fact that we are often at the receiving ends of racist, misogynists jokes (misogynoir) across social media and, generally demeaned by the society at large, (sadly by black men very often). But as written by Washington post’s columnist Karen Appiah, in her opinion-piece about the incident : “(..) We need new options in this culture. The choice for protecting Black women shouldn’t be between male violence and everyone else’s silence. When it comes to defending Black women, America is still stuck on stupid.”. In the world of famous songstress Aretha Franklyn, what we need is R.E.S.P.E. C. T! From everybody.

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From The Editor: Happy New Year And Best Read Roundup

Happy New Year Fam!

Happy New year Girlfriends! We’re a few weeks well into 2022 and I hope the year has started off well for you. Most importantly, I wish that 2022 will be good to you and to your loved ones.

Before properly kicking off things for 2022, How about we have a look at our best read content of 2021?

Hopefully, 2022 is the year we finally overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and find our New Normal. Because, the virus has been with us for over 2 years now , so health experts now know more about it then during the first months of the outbreak. And, by health experts, I am not talking about the resident self-proclaimed ” natural health guru ” from your family WhatsApp group but, immunologists, virologists, doctors and nurses… REAL health professionals.

From pandemic to endemic?

Health professionals predict that the pandemic is likely moving toward being endemic.

Endemic means that the disease will still be prevalent and recurrent like the flu for instance but more manageable. But endemic doesn’t automatically mean that it will be less severe. Malaria for instance is endemic and still kills hundreds of thousands of people every year (Source : World Health Organization). Also, don’t just throw yet your masks and sanitizers, they’re still your best protection against the virus.

Anyway, 2022 certainly feels like a pivotal year, where the light at the end of the tunnel is closer, brighter and holds promises of a new chapter.

While we anxiously wait to see what this year has in stock for us ( after 2 crazy years! ), have a look at our 6 most popular articles of 2021.

The year that was 2021:  Best- read roundup

  1. Welcome to the QueenDom

If you’re new to this website and you’re wondering where to start? Start here!

This is your navigation map to the website. In this ‘Explore’ feature, you will find all the necessary links to know more about the website, Myself (The Editor), and everything that is relevant to find your way around the Queendom.

2. Letter From the Editor: How To Deal With Disruption?

In one of my most vulnerable and intimate Monthly Editorial letters yet, I reflect on the process of Disruption and finding a New Normal. This feature is inspired by the state of the world amid the pandemic and personal events.

3. Five African Pre-Colonial Queens You Should Be Aware of

They are many women in African History who have ruled kingdoms and empires; furthermore, they led armies and fought wars against invaders and colonizers. Queen Nzinga (Angola), Amina of Zazzau (Nigeria), Candace Amanineras of Kush or Yaa Ansetwa (Ghana) can be counted about these women. Read this feature to know more about them and other inspiring African women leaders of our past.

Read Part 1 and Part 2 here.

4. Three Wealthy and Powerful Kings of Ancient Africa

What’s a queen without a king? (“Well historically speaking more powerful says this book title, and I agree 😊! In this feature, you will learn more about Mansa Musa, the man often referred as “the Wealthiest person in history” and how Mali became of the richest empires in the world, in his time

5. Five Powerful Women Who Made An Impact in South Africa

This feature introduces you to five South African women who have made history by their fearless and resilient resolve in the face of adversity.

Read more about how Winnie Madikizela Mandela (The Mother of the nation), Charlotte Maxeke (for her woman in her times, her story is simply amazing) and Miriam Makeba have each made an impact through their activism, during different period of South Africa ‘s darkest history.

6. [ WATCH] : Travelling the world as an African Woman-A conversation with Tania from Kongo Travels

 This one of my favorite piece ! I sat down with my friend, entrepreneur and travel content creator, Tania Mukwamu from Kongo Travels. We discussed her passion for traveling, her earliest travel memories and her dream destinations. Read/Watch this interview if you want to learn a few tips for discovering the world  on a budget.

Watch Part 1 and Part 2 of this interview. Or better, Watch it below:

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I hope you’ve enjoyed our best read roundup? Once you’ve read these features, let me know which one is your favorite and why, by leaving a comment. I would love to hear from you!

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Thanks for stopping by and come back again very soon for new and fresh content.

Would you like to get notified when the next article is up? Don’t forget to subscribe on the newsletter and to follow us on our social media pages to be the first to know about new and exclusive content.

Let’s get social, let’s connect!

Website:    http://houseofnzinga.com/

Facebook page : House of Nzinga

Instagram:  @Fabulous_Trysh (Personal Page)

Instagram@House_of_Nzinga (Official Page)

YouTube Channel : House Of Nzinga TV

Podcast: https://anchor.fm/houseofnzinga -(Coming Soon!)

Welcome to the Queendom : http://houseofnzinga.com/welcome/

Beyoncé’s Evolution piece : 3 Takeaways From Her Interview With Harper’s Bazaar

Every Beyoncé’s media appearance is an event. The global superstar has, overtime, mastered the art of controlling her public image and the direction she wants to move towards, in her career. Every project, media interview (which are super rare), song release or a launch of the latest collection of her clothing line, Ivy Park, are carefully crafted, planned and part of a bigger picture: an aesthetically cohesive feast (with a solid PR and marketing plan)!  

Beyoncé graced the covers (3 different covers were shot) of the Harper’s Bazaar ‘s “Icon Issue” and talked about lessons learned in her 4 decades (Queen Bey is hitting the big 4.0 very soon), her inspiration found in her roots and upbringing and how she keeps her inner-self private.  

Here are 3 lessons and takeaways from her interview:

Most of her projects have a “Black History lesson” moment

In one of the covers Beyoncé is wearing an all-denim piece of her Ivy Park forth-coming collection, Ivy Park Rodeo. She was inspired by her Texan upbringing and the forgotten history of Black cowboys:

“This collection is a mixture of my childhood growing up in Texas and a bit of American history. I grew up going to the Houston rodeo every year. It was this amazing diverse and multicultural experience where there was something for every member of the family, including great performances, Houston-style fried Snickers, and fried turkey legs. One of my inspirations came from the overlooked history of the American Black cowboy. Many of them were originally called cowhands, who experienced great discrimination and were often forced to work with the worst, most temperamental horses. They took their talents and formed the Soul Circuit. Through time, these Black rodeos showcased incredible performers and helped us reclaim our place in western history and culture. We were inspired by the culture and swag of the Houston rodeo. We combined classic elements with the athletic wear of IVY PARK x Adidas, adding our own spin, monogrammed denim, chaps, and cowhide.”

Most of her recent projects contain little gems that are a tribute to Black history events, references and cultures.

She turned 40 and yet she is just getting started!

Beyoncé started singing and dancing at age 7. By 10 she was taking part in talents competition, shows and recording music. She was propelled to international stardom at 16, with the commercial success of Destiny’s child first hit single “No, No, No” in 1997. In an industry where there is an expiry date on women’s career, beauty and dreams, she wants to break the rules now.

“My wish is for my 40s to be fun and full of freedom. I want to feel the same freedom I feel on stage every day of my life. I want to explore aspects of myself I haven’t had time to discover and to enjoy my husband and my children. I want to travel without working. I want this next decade to be about celebration, joy, and giving and receiving love. I want to give all the love I have to the people who love me back.

I’ve done so much in 40 years that I just want to enjoy my life. It’s hard going against the grain, but being a small part of some of the overdue shifts happening in the world feels very rewarding. I want to continue to work to dismantle systemic imbalances. I want to continue to turn these industries upside down. I plan to create businesses outside of music. I have learned that I have to keep on dreaming. One of my favorite quotes is from the inventor Charles Kettering. It goes “Our imagination is the only limit to what we can hope to have in the future.”

I want to show that you can have fun and have purpose, be respectful and speak your mind. You can be both elegant and a provocateur. You can be curvy and still be a fashion icon. I wish this freedom for every person. I have paid my dues and followed every rule for decades, so now I can break the rules that need to be broken. My wish for the future is to continue to do everything everyone thinks I can’t do.

On the importance on setting boundaries between her public and private persona to protect her inner self

“We live in a world with few boundaries and a lot of access. There are so many internet therapists, comment critics, and experts with no expertise. (…). One day I decided I wanted to be like Sade and Prince. I wanted the focus to be on my music, because if my art isn’t strong enough or meaningful enough to keep people interested and inspired, then I’m in the wrong business. My music, my films, my art, my message—that should be enough.

Throughout my career, I’ve been intentional about setting boundaries between my stage persona and my personal life. My family and friends often forget the side of me that is the beast in stilettos until they are watching me perform. It can be easy to lose yourself very quickly in this industry. It takes your spirit and light, then spits you out. I’ve seen it countless times, not only with celebrities but also producers, directors, executives, etc. It’s not for everyone. Before I started, I decided that I’d only pursue this career if my self-worth was dependent on more than celebrity success. I’ve surrounded myself with honest people who I admire, who have their own lives and dreams and are not dependent on me. People I can grow and learn from and vice versa. In this business, so much of your life does not belong to you unless you fight for it. I’ve fought to protect my sanity and my privacy because the quality of my life depended on it. A lot of who I am is reserved for the people I love and trust. Those who don’t know me and have never met me might interpret that as being closed off. Trust, the reason those folks don’t see certain things about me is because my Virgo ass does not want them to see it…. It’s not because it doesn’t exist!

Read the full interview here to discover more gems like: what each decade taught her, the sacrifices she made to focus on her craft and develop her skills, the community of women who inspire her and how the quarantine helped her adopt healthy routines.

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Facebook page : House of Nzinga

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Podcast: https://anchor.fm/houseofnzinga -(Coming Soon!)

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5 Powerful Women Who Made An Impact in South Africa

Many African women have made history by their fearless and resilient resolve in the face of adversity. A lot of South African women were involved in fighting the Apartheid regime. On 9 August 1956, 20 000 women marched against the abusive system of ‘pass laws’. South Africa commemorates this day as “Women Day” in honor on these courageous women.

Pass laws were a form of an internal passport system designed to segregate the population between Blacks from Whites in South Africa, and thereby, severely limit the movements of the black African populace, manage urbanization, and allot migrant labor (Sources : sahistory.org.za)

To celebrate Women’s month below are 5 powerful women who made an impact in South Africa:

1. Lilian Ngoyi

Born in Pretoria in 1911, Lilian Masediba Ngoyi was an anti apartheid activist and freedom fighter. Throughout her time, her influence was felt amongst the black women in South Africa. Her distinct talent in public speaking made waves as her speeches resonated with thousands. She became one of the vice presidents of the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) formed in 1954.

in 1955 she traveled to Europe, before to her election as FEDSAW president the next year. On August 9 1956, Lilian along with other freedom fighters, led the march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

2. Charlotte Maxeke

Charlotte Manye Maxeke is an early activist and advocate for women rights. She is considered as the “Mother of black freedom”. She was recorded to be born either in Fort Beauford in the Eastern Cape or at Botlokwa Ga-Ramokgopa in Limpopo. But that much hasn’t been clearly clarified as yet. Her achievements are quite impressive for a Black South African woman of her times.

Among her many ground breaking accomplishments, her recruitment into an African choir that was touring across Europe and the USA. Charlotte is also the first Black South African women to receive a university degree. When on tour in the US, the choir was left stranded . This was an opportunity to complete her studies. She obtained a Bachelor of Sciences degree from the Wilberforce University, the AME Church University in Xenia, Ohio.

It is worth mentioning that, she was taught under the eminent American pan Africanist W.E.B Dubois.

Later, when she returned in South Africa, she was heavily involved in multiracial civic movements. She is an early opponent to the pass laws for women. Charlotte has helped organized an anti pass protest of 700 women in Bloemfontein in 1913. Maxeke was also a columnist, writing about women related issues, in Xhosa.. She passed away on the 16th of October in 1939 and buried in Kliptown, Johannesburg

3. Winnie Mandela

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is remembered for the struggles she encountered, as the wife of Nelson Mandela, during his incarceration. Starting her career as a social worker, Winnie made many sacrifices and dedicated her life to fight injustices. She notably rose to prominence as she acted as the public face of her imprisoned husband.

During the apartheid years , Winnie was arrested and detained on several occasions. She was tortured, put in solitary confinement and banned to rural areas.

Affectionately called “The Mother of the Nation”, Winnie is both a revered and controversial figure. But she will always be remembered, as one of the most courageous women in South African ‘s history, to have stood up to the inequality and injustices that Black people faced during a time of massive repression.

She was involved in politics until her death in 2018.

4. Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba, also known as Zenzile Miriam Makeba, was born in March 4th, 1932  in Johannesburg. She was a singer as well as a human rights campaigner. She was the first artist to put South African music on the international scene. Her mother, a domestic worker, was imprisoned for six months for illegally brewing beer to help make ends meet, and Miriam went to prison with her as she was just 18 days old. Miriam work shines through the name she has created for herself as an artist and acitivist.

Her history goes far beyond what is presented here, as she has been a part of various organisations and foundations such as the Zenzile Miriam Makeba foundation as well as the Miriam Makeba Rehabilitation centre which aided abused girls. Miriam’s work and achievements are not bound from her origin, as she is widely recognized globally, even as far as June 16 being declared Miriam Makeba day in the city of Berkeley and even receiving the highest decoration from Tunisia.

5. Helen Suzeman

Helen Suzman was born in the South African mining town of Germiston, on 7 November 1917. Her parents were both immigrants from Eastern Europe, who had come to South Africa to escape the restrictions imposed on Jews by Russia.

She was brought up in a family which had financial stability, and was educated at a convent and thereafter at the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS). Helen was an active member in the anti-apartheid resistance and did not share the ideals and the laws that were imposed on the black people of South Africa under the Apartheid regime.

Her work received recognition by the United Nations in 1978 and also won the Medallion of Heroism in 1980. In November 7th, 2007, After years and years of selfless work and efforts to put a stand to a chaotic and divided South Africa, Helen passed away at the age of 91 peacefully in her sleep.

Let’s get social, let’s connect!

Website:    http://houseofnzinga.com/

Facebook page : House of Nzinga

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Welcome to the Queendom : http://houseofnzinga.com/welcome/

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