On this last day of 2012, I’m sharing the moments from throughout the year that are most memorable to me when I think about black women in arts and entertainment, sports, politics, and life. Why aren’t there 10? Just because. In no particular order, here we go:
1. Whitney Houston Died
I learned about it on Twitter. I turned on my phone just to see what was happening on what I thought was an uneventful evening and found Whitney Houston was a trending topic. Her death was shocking, but the fascinating moment came at the funeral. The service introduced many white Americans to black church protocol. (“They call it a ‘homegoing service,’” more than one reporter said, bewildered.)
2. Ava DuVernay Won at Sundance
At the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, director Ava DuVernay became the first African American to win the Best Director honor. Her film, “Middle of Nowhere,” shares a rarely told story about our criminal justice system’s effects on the families of those who are incarcerated. When films like DuVernay’s are released, I always wish I lived in a city that brings them to theaters. Sigh.
3. Black Woman Leading a Scripted Drama Series? It’s Handled.
Kerry. Washington. #ThatIsAll
Wait–that’s not all. “Scandal” is the first primetime, Big 3 scripted network drama to star a black woman in the lead; AND the woman is powerful, complex, and beautiful; AND a black woman is writing and executive producing the show; AND it’s based on a real-life black woman; AND it’s crazy addictive; AND Shonda Rhimes uses her own show to go after haters in the classiest way possible.
4. Breaking Records and Making History at the 2012 Olympics
Gabby Douglas became the first U.S. team member to win gold in both the women’s all around competition and the team competition. I wanted to go back in time to when I was three years old and beg my mom to put me in gymnastics instead of dance. I can’t even tumble nor do cartwheels, but I can dream, right? And that’s kind of the point, to get little black girls to dream, and get moving.
Meanwhile, black strength and beauty was breaking records in track and field. When you know you did the damn thing, you can’t hide it, and Carmelita Jeter pointed at the clock as she sailed across the finish line as the anchor. She and teammates Tianna Madison, Allyson Felix and Bianca Knight ran the fastest women’s 400-meter relay ever. I must admit, I was kind of proud of myself for watching the race from a strenuous spot in the gym rather than a comfy spot on my couch.
5. When You Can’t Beat the Guy Who Just Won Re-Election …
Pick on his choice for the next Secretary of State instead. Some say President Obama didn’t defend Susan Rice enough against GOP attacks on her capabilities in the wake of talking points she repeated about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, but I think he did. Rice put in the effort to talk face to face with senators determined to impede her confirmation, but sometimes even the best efforts aren’t enough when it’s not about you.
6. First Lady Love
I drooled over her speech at the Democratic National Convention, too—but then my friend (who blogs at Ain’t Studying You; check it out) pointed out that Michelle Obama didn’t mention ending slavery among the list of great achievements that proves, “surely, surely we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American Dream.” Also, a single reference to Martin Luther King, Jr., is all the acknowledgment the 20th century civil rights movement got. She said America’s is “the story of unwavering hope grounded in unyielding struggle,” so emancipation should’ve gotten a shout-out. But during the speech I was too busy fantasizing about what a career as an attorney—which was also omitted from her introduction video, by the way—could do for my public speaking skills and about the day I’ll talk about someone the way she talks about the POTUS.
7. Worst Nightmare
The killing of Trayvon Martin brought what some might say is every black mother’s worst fear to light. I had to put this on my list as I recalled hearing black women pour out their collective and empathetic grief with audible wailing at a rally held at UofL in support of Zimmerman’s arrest and in protest of mistreatment of black males of all ages.
8. Defending the Indefensible
Love for Chris Brown, including from Rhianna, continues to abound. But defense of the bus driver who punched a woman on his bus in the face before physically removing her from his bus was worse. So as not to be repetitive, I’ll just direct you to Soul in Stereo, where the bus driver and his defenders were graciously awarded the 2012 Play Please Award.
9. Just … I Can’t, SMH, etc.
I stumbled onto this story late last week, and though it’s not about the U.S., it’s about misogyny, a problem that affects black women everywhere. I was speechless when I learned the king of Swaziland has passed a law banning women from wearing mini skirts, low-cut jeans, and crop tops because they provoke men to rape. Women must also be careful about how they retrieve objects from the ground. Squat daintily, revealing nothing. This news made me recall the story from several years ago out of Italy in which a court reversed a rapist’s conviction because his victim was wearing jeans on the night of the attack. The judge said it was impossible to forcibly get those jeans off, so she must have consented. So, if you’re traveling, ladies, get it right. In Italy, wear jeans–I recommend extra tight ones–to avoid rape. Not sure if they can be low-cut. In Swaziland, don’t wear those, because they provoke men to rape. And don’t teach men that they don’t have rights to a woman’s body or that women should be respected. That’s silly.
And that’s the end of 2012.