Lessons from my Obsession with Beyoncé by Shannon-Eli Braxton

Emelda De Coteau
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Emelda De Coteau

Mother, wife, sister, friend, writer / blogger / creative organizer, budding photographer... These are just a few of the many hats I juggle each day. I believe creativity is oxygen for the soul. I created Live In Color blog to celebrate the beauty in every moment, from faith to inspiration and motherhood.And it is soon becoming Pray with Our Feet blog which will focus on the intersection of faith and activism. Follow the inspiration on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/praywithourfeetblog/
Emelda De Coteau
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Beyonce and Jay-Z in Cuba
Beyoncé and Jay-Z in Cuba

For several months this year, I’ve been obsessed with Beyoncé.  If there was a new picture of her, I had to see it. A new YouTube video, I had to watch it. But as spring started to bloom and the winter chill lifted, I noticed my obsession was making me depressed.

Though I would never admit this to anyone, I didn’t just want to see Beyoncé,  I wanted to be Beyoncé.  I kept trying to talk some sense into myself, reminding myself that no one has a perfect life no matter how perfect it may look online, on TV and in magazines. Then she went to Cuba and wore the cutest outfit EVER!

My next strategy was to harshly judge her lack of modesty. “I would never wear such revealing clothes.” And, “How could she promote the objectification of women after all we have to fight for?!” But that didn’t work either. Just when I thought I was over her, she became the spokes model for H&M, released a song called “Bow Down” and dyed her hair jet black.

So, a few weeks ago, as I sat staring at her latest citing, I whispered a confession to my co-worker; “Dan,” I said, “I’m really jealous of Beyoncé; she has the perfect life and no matter how hard I look for some proof of human flaws, I find none.”

In comes divine intervention…

Photo Credit:: Shannon Braxton
Photo Credit: Shannon Eli Braxton

Last Sunday afternoon my mother sent me a text that said, “The intersection of Park Avenue and Lexington Street is being named after your great grandmother today at 3pm.” Why she waited to tell me this and only gave me 2 hours notice, I wasn’t sure. Still, I headed to the street naming ceremony.

My great grandmother, Vashti Turley Murphy, was an activist for women’s rights and the co-founder of a large sorority with a mission to create equality, Delta Sigma Theta Soroity, Inc.

I grew up celebrated for being the descendant of civil rights leaders. Quite frankly, I never really thought it was that big of a deal. I mean, her accomplishments happened so long ago; I could never understand why people wanted to take so many pictures of me, her great granddaughter who was obsessed with Beyoncé.

Then, as if great grandma herself descended from heaven and disconnected my Internet, I got it. I totally got it. While members of Delta Sigma Theta encircled my family and guests, holding up pictures of young black women behind bars and groups of women standing in the cold with protest signs, a message became clear.

And as if those images weren’t touching enough, one of the oldest members of the sorority  stood behind the mic and asked, “What will YOU do to continue the legacy, and keep the civil right movement alive?”

After the ceremony, our family marched to see the unveiling of the sign and my life completely changed. What really matters is not Beyoncé, being pretty, funny or popular.  What matters is becoming a part of the solution for our world’s problems. It matters so much that only people who make huge contributions to creating a better society become immortal celebrities.

Not to diss Beyoncé, she is one of the greatest performers of all time, but all the booty shaking in the world ain’t gonna get a street named after you.  My new obsession is my
nonprofit to end the harassment of women. Please follow the movement: Help Stop Street Harassment.

Celebrating Beauty with Tea & Conversation

Emelda De Coteau
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Emelda De Coteau

Mother, wife, sister, friend, writer / blogger / creative organizer, budding photographer... These are just a few of the many hats I juggle each day. I believe creativity is oxygen for the soul. I created Live In Color blog to celebrate the beauty in every moment, from faith to inspiration and motherhood.And it is soon becoming Pray with Our Feet blog which will focus on the intersection of faith and activism. Follow the inspiration on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/praywithourfeetblog/
Emelda De Coteau
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British citizenship is not a requirement to enjoy high tea and conversation! Join The Greater Baltimore section of the National Council of Negro Women, Inc. at Two for Tea on June 23 at 3pm (doors open at 2:30pm).

This marvelous event is a celebration of our beauty and style, and takes place in The Champagne Ball Room (2701 W. Patapsco Avenue). Your attendance and $45 donation helps support the organization’s vital work.

Who Are You Calling a Bitch?

Emelda De Coteau
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Emelda De Coteau

Mother, wife, sister, friend, writer / blogger / creative organizer, budding photographer... These are just a few of the many hats I juggle each day. I believe creativity is oxygen for the soul. I created Live In Color blog to celebrate the beauty in every moment, from faith to inspiration and motherhood.And it is soon becoming Pray with Our Feet blog which will focus on the intersection of faith and activism. Follow the inspiration on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/praywithourfeetblog/
Emelda De Coteau
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Some days, my husband and I have spirited debates about the b word, that ubiquitous word in American culture – from hip-hop music to sitcoms. Why, he said, in exasperation, “were so many folks angry about Common’s use of the word bitch in “Ghetto Dreams,” his track with Nas?

Rattling off the laundry list of positive elements, he began by mentioning that this was an ode to black women (how rare is that in popular culture), a dark-skinned woman, Bria Myles, was the love interest in the video (which is not seen often enough). Yes. Nas and Common are conscious brothers, but why must they remain in that box relegated to incense and kente cloth?

He thought the song would make me happy. Wasn’t I always propagating the message that women of color are not included enough in our own culture, let alone mainstream society? Here are two hip-hop artists, veterans of the game, uplifting black women, and all I could focus on was one’s use of the word bitch on the song? Why can’t I just let it go, he seemed to say silently as I continued talking about the impact of patriarchy on the psyches of women and girls, channeling the noted writer and intellectual bell hooks.

Somehow, I couldn’t release it. The sting remained with me long after the hypnotic beats ended. Granted, as a loyal fan of this music form, I am all to familiar with the word’s use on tracks, but as I evolve more, I’m beginning to ask myself about ignoring and/ or excusing it with the lame rationale that “I’m not that kind of woman.” or “Some women behave that way so…” Like many other writers and thinkers, when I am wrestling with an idea or reaction to something, I reach out to others, eager to hear their point of view.

A few of my girlfriends disagree with me, pointing to African-Americans (and other groups) frequent use of the word nigga, which has become a term of endearment for some. The word has been desensitized, they argue. Shannon Braxton, a warm and funny woman, says,” The word bitch doesn’t bother me if the intention behind it is not hateful. Missy Elliott reclaimed the word for black women as many male hip-hop artists reclaimed the word nigga. If I say that’s my bitch, other sistas know what I mean.” While Qiana Fountain, graduate school student and mother of three, admits the word used to offend her, but she has heard others she knows use it affectionately. ” I find it distributing,” she says” when a man uses it because its being used as a way of degrading that female.”

Their rationale is not uncommon. Millions have insisted, particularly in America’s post-civil rights era, that in part, we (people of color), can overcome oppression by appropriating language which has traditionally labeled us as inferior. While I understand the desire to rebel and create one’s own unique form of expression, I cannot embrace this word’s use. What do I teach the next generation about their own self worth if they bear witness to me, and other women, referring to ourselves not by our birth names, but an expletive?

Several years ago, Audre Lorde, the dynamic writer and thinker, called for white feminists to look beyond their privilege and acknowledge the struggles of poor women, women of color, and lesbians – along with their right to be heard in that movement. “The master’s tools, she said, “will never dismantle the master’s house.”  While our subject matters differ, her words echo my own thoughts on language and it’s power to either heal or diminish.

Why do some of us view the solution to empowerment as embracing what ultimately dehumanizes us? If worldwide, women are to ever move beyond mere objects, defined solely by such superficial attributes as physical appearance, doesn’t it first begin with loving ourselves enough to ask and examine this question: Who are you calling a bitch?