Throughout the past two years, I’ve really been embracing my blackness a lot more than I have throughout my whole life. I’ve come to realize how important and magical being a black woman is. There are so many things that make me so blessed to be a part of this sisterhood. Inspired by this tweet, I decided to compile a list of books, films, music, and TV shows that celebrate black womanhood to its very core.
I’ve talked about a few of these books before in my first 2017 book list. First is Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, it reaches into the depths of the what it means to be black. Americanah also explores what it means to be a black American. I love that it included a part where Ifemelu was getting her hair braided in an African braiding store (it was certainly something that brought back a lot of memories lol). It is by far one of my favorite books and I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to read it. Second is Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (HU! You knoooowwww!), it centers around a Janie Crawford’s life and really shows how resilient black women truly are. Even though it was published in 1937, there are so many things in this novel that are relevant in 2017. I read it over winter break and just fell in love with it. Lastly is Kindred by Octavia E. Butler, I read Kindred after the end of the school year because Ariel recommended it and I honestly finished it within three days. Yes, it’s that damn good. It also shows how resilient black women are and also shows how caring and nurturing we are, regardless of who the person is. Two books that have been recommended to me and told should also be on this syllabus are I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and The Mothers by Brit Bennett.
I am a huuuuge fan of films and television shows. Even though I’ve changed my major, working on them will always be one of my dreams. Although there haven’t been many films that correctly embody what it’s like to be a black woman, I was able to gather a few for the syllabus. The first film I’m going to include is one that is currently taking the world by storm. It features four crazy talented and hilarious black women and a few fine ass black men. If you haven’t guessed it already, I’m talking about Girls Trip. Now, the film is still in theaters so I won’t spoil it but I will mention a few key things that really prove that this was a film to show the chronicles of the sisterhood that there is within our community. For one, the four main characters went to FAMU (if you don’t know, FAMU is a historically black university in Florida). Two, I love that the actual girls trip was to Essence Fest, which is an event by black women, for women. Three, I loved how Regina Hall’s character checked her white agent for using AAVE (“ratchet,” “Bye Felicia,” “yas,” “slay,” etc.) before they got to Essence Fest. Dear white people, using black slang only because you’re around black people is not only insulting, but it’s uncomfortable. You’re probably using it wrong anyway. Four, I loved that there were scenes of the Flossy Posse with scarves, bonnet, and their hair wrapped. We don’t get to see black women with them a lot in movies and television so it really made me love this film twenty times more. The second film is obviously for black women because it says so in the title. For Colored Girls is truly one of my favorite films. It features an ensemble cast of incredibly talented black women (including Janet Jackson and Kerry Washington). For Colored Girls tackles serious topics that aren’t usually talked about and that is one of the most important things about this film. It’s also a book (with the original title, for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow enuf by Ntozake Shange). This movie is brilliant in so many ways and it makes me cry every time. 10/10 would recommend. Other movies that I feel like should be included in the syllabus are Waiting to Exhale with Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, Whitney Houston, and Lela Rochon and The Color Purple with Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah. Both are also based on books written by black women.
Music is a gigantic part of the black experience, and it doesn’t just include hip-hop and R&B. Solange’s A Seat at the Table is one of the blackest albums out right now. It explores the trials and tribulations of black womanhood from “Don’t Touch My Hair” to “F.U.B.U.” The latter’s interlude even includes a quote from Master P saying, “If you don’t understand my record, you don’t understand me, so this is not for you.” That quote alone explains how I feel about each of the things I’ve included in this post. If you don’t understand it, then it’s not for you. The entire album just covers Solange’s life experiences and they all resonate with me in a way that many other albums don’t. Solange is also known to sing directly to black women during her concerts because that’s exactly who she makes her music for. The next album has received universal acclaim from people of all colors and all genders. However, I believe that SZA’s Ctrl speaks to black women more than anyone else. Even though the line about taking her hair down in “Pretty Little Birds” technically refers to Rapunzel, to me it made me think of taking out my braids or my sew in. “Go Gina” is titled after Gina Waters-Payne from Martin. Ctrl also features the use of lots of AAVE and advice from the black women in SZA’s life. Last but certainly not least is Solange’s sister, Beyoncé. Although Beyoncé’s self-titled album explores feminism, I believe that Lemonade explores black feminism (aka womanism). This is most obvious in the lyrics of “FREEDOM” and “FORMATION,” but the visuals of the entire project really shows how the album was made with black women in mind. Another album I believe should be on the black woman syllabus is The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
Many of the TV shows that air today feature stereotypes of black women. Don’t get me wrong, I watch the Love & Hip Hop franchise and I applaud all of these women getting their coin but at the same time, it isn’t productive to the public image of the black woman. It’s damaging but luckily there have been and are shows out there that show black women’s brilliance. Mara Brock Akil really brought all kinds of black women together with Girlfriends. It’s honestly one of my favorites. It features more than just one archetype of the black woman and I think that’s super vital. Joan, the successful woman who is searching for love. Maya, the most “ghetto” of the four. Toni (featured above), the homegirl from the projects who made it out but tends to look down on those like Maya. And Lynn, the mixed sister who grew up embracing her white side but is now more into her black side. Girlfriends was revolutionary for showing for successful black women just enjoying life, celebrating the sisterhood between them, and the relationship between them and black men. You can watch full episodes of Girlfriends on YouTube, here’s season one. The next show is one that I’m in love with, it’s the show I wish I could work for in the future. Insecure chronicles the lives of two black women as they try their hand at love, career, friendships, and adulthood. Issa Rae literally created the show I’ve been dying to see throughout my entire teenage years. My first time watching the show, I fell in love with the character Issa because we have so many similarities and it helps me relate to the show so much. Besides the great storyline, the show is hilarious (especially Natasha Rothwell’s improv), the music is amazing and Lawrence is fine as hell. Even though the episodes are only 30 minutes long, you’ll definitely be left shook by the end of each one. One of the things I love about Insecure is that it includes so many inside jokes that only black people truly understand. Plus it’s like a family reunion on Twitter every time an episode airs. It also provides the perfect ending to self-care Sundays. Other shows I feel belong on the syllabus are Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder (A bisexual black woman on network television? Legendary!), and Black-ish (soon Grown-ish too!)
To me, all of these works of art represent the sisterhood of black women and ups and downs of being a black woman. I cannot wait for the next novels, movies, albums, and TV shows created for black women (and preferably by black women) to be released. What do you think should be added to the black woman’s syllabus? Put it in the comments below!