May 9th, 2020
Left of Black
I watched the online podcast “Left of Black with Tanisha Ford” for my project. On Feb 9, 2016 “Left of Black” host Dr. Mark Anthony Neal of Duke University talked with Historian Dr. Tanisha Ford about the inspiration for her new book, Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul. The key topic of this conversation was style, which is central in her book. Ford remarked that style plays a big role in her work because it allows her to discuss the black body. She also discussed how black liberation movements look and how it embodied through dress during anti-police campaigns. Dr. Ford didn’t just talk about African-Americans in America in her book, but compared them to South Africans and Black Britons. She strived to create a broad discussion of how white supremacy and racial inequality – in the distant and recent past entailed attacks toward black people in different places for how they dressed and dress. Throughout the video they discuss important examples on African-American style that helped fight oppression and the various types of African-American movements which fought for equal rights over different periods of time.
Neal asked about Miraim Makeba. She was an iconic figure to young African-American girls because she displayed her beauty and wore her natural afro. He mentioned how many young girls wanted to be like her and would wear the things she wore. In response Tanisha says she uses her as a central figure to her book for many reasons. One of those reasons being she wasn’t from African royalty while she was in South Africa. Rather, she was an everyday community girl. The people could relate to an urban girl in South Africa. Her afrocentric glamour was another reason, her natural hair alongside her beautiful gowns. She essentially became a model in the eyes of African-Americans. Ford then starts talking about when African-Americans would do sit-ins, marches, and protests in the 1960s. While protesting they would look their best to expose their inhumanity of segregation. Ford mentions “The battle for liberation was waged through black people’s everyday encounters with one another and with their white counterparts and through cultural practices, making beauty and fashion a vital arena for struggle alongside formal politics”(Liberated Threads).The fact they were still getting beaten, letting police dogs bite them, and getting hosed was exposing their inhumanity and not about African-Americans who were well behaved.
Neal then jumped away from the book and asked about contemporary events occurring on college campuses, which is the movement Black Lives Matter. He asked Ford if this new movement on campuses surprised her in any way. She responded “I’m not surprised by it but excited about it. I love seeing young people stand up for things they need and they need to see happen on their campuses”(John Hope Franklin Center Duke University).
The points that Neal and Ford talked about through the podcast are great topics and are topics that still are relevant to this day. The way little girls looked up to Miriam Makeba is the same way now. The evolution of haircut styles in the African-American community has changed dramatically since the 1980’s where the picked out afro was the look. It appears that style evolves often according to whoever is an iconic figure during the time. When Micheal Jackson started to wear the jheri curl it became the new look. In modern day the look in the African-American community is having a lot of hair but not picked out.
The same way African-Americans were attacked during the modern civil rights movement. I find they are still attacked to this day. It is not always physical, but at times verbally or expressed in stereotypical beliefs about their style, bodies, and physical features. African-American women are often talked about or made fun of because their hair is a different texture than white women. This might play a big role and explain why African-American girls wear weave –so they won’t be judged for not having hair like the dominant society. Reading the Good Hair Study it stated, “In most stores, hair products catering towards natural and textured hair are often located in the “ethnic” section while products designed for those with straight and smooth hair are often located in the beauty section”(Perception Institute). African-American men are attacked for their hair as well. Men who wear durags or have considered nappy are sometimes looked upon as thugs. These men could be the most respectable people when you get to know them but it’s how society views them because of stereotypes. The podcast relates to many things in our study of African-American history. One of the similarities is influence. I think Miriam Makemba’s influence on little African-American girls is similar to Martin Luther King Junior. Although MLK had a way bigger impact with the civil rights movement I think she can be related because MLK influenced so many people to protest peacefully. The black lives matter movement and the civil rights movement are very similar just in eras. In the study book Freedom On My Mind it stated, “On August 28th, 1963, more than 250,000 black and white Americans gathered on the National Mall for the historic March on Washington for jobs and freedom”(Deborah G. White). This identifies the impact MLK had on this powerful movement in the 1960’s. Both of these movements wanted equal rights and equal justice for African-Americans.
In general, the podcast informs you with valuable information about how people of color have been attacked because of their skin color. Over time things have improved but things are not where they need to be. I think the more this country continues to push for social justice, the better it will become. With this being said, this revealed important examples on African-American style that helped fight oppression and the various types of African-american movements which fought for equal rights over different periods of time.
“The ‘Good Hair’ Study.” Perception Institute, perception.org/goodhair/.
Left of Black with Tanisha C. Ford – YouTube. www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDj3SaKTV3I.
Ford, Tanisha C.. Liberated Threads : Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul, University of North Carolina Press, 2015. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/sandiego/detail.action?docID=4322258.
White, Deborah G., et al. Freedom on My Mind: a History of African Americans, with Documents. Bedford/St. Martins, 2017.