A Bitch in Black Round-Up


 Mike Tyson’s “confession”, The Pocketbook Monologues, un-beweavable Oprah, Pulitzer winners, and Farai Chideya’s “Kiss..”…

Remember back in the day when a group of black ministers rallied in support of Mike Tyson when he was accused (and later, convicted) of raping a black woman, Desiree Washington?  When it comes to a black man facing a white supremacist justice system in cases like this, allegiances needed to be clarified, doncha know?  And what William Kennedy Smith’s (remember him?) acquittal ever had to do with Tyson’s actual guilt or innocence, I’ll never know.  But anyway…I wonder if those ministers found this tidbit from the new documentary (released April 24), Tyson, as interesting as I did:

“In one cut of the film, while discussing Desiree Washington (the beauty contestant whom he was convicted of raping), the fighter implies that there’s no way he raped Washington. His reasoning: He’s raped before and knows the difference. You have to wonder: accidental slip, or calculated confession?”

 In his analysis of the film, cultural critic Stanley Crouch makes these observations:

“When the boxer says that everything that happened to him is his fault and that he can only blame himself, we are in not only a new land for a depiction of a black athlete but one very fresh for a celebrity today, where apology and promises of forthcoming therapy seem the norm…”

“His obsession with sexually dominating powerful members of the opposite sex or women better educated than himself provides us with inside maps to the psychological roads traveled by certain men from the bottom as they stumble upon what they have been told is the best of everything. Delusions beset them as they enter the boudoirs of females shallowly prized for their runway looks or understandably honored for the skill, imagination, and endurance that took them up career mountains craggy with difficulties. This is a ritual in which such a man delivers his savagery so effectively that he falls victim to a cluelessly sad assumption: Guaranteeing female ecstasy will insure the station of a noble.

“Even pimps know better than that. Part of Tyson’s continuing trouble is that he does not have enough confidence in his poetic sensibility. More inarguably high-quality women are out here than the fighter seems capable of imagining. A quantity far from small would find that soulfully delicate sense of life equal in its force and magnetism to the bare facts of Tyson’s sexuality. That lack of awareness is perhaps the worst thing that happened to Tyson: His troubles resulted in the champion losing faith in his imagination, his compassion, and his ability to deeply empathize. Those were the qualities that both liberated him from his grounding in criminality and individuated the man in sparkling ways that were a charming victory over the numbing power of the streets.”

I suppose I have to see the film to grasp how “Mike Tyson” and “female ecstasy” can be mentioned in the same sentence.

Speaking of female ecstasy…

You may have heard of “The Vagina Monologues”, but have you heard of “The Pocketbook Monologues”?


I grew up hearing elder black women in my family and community refer to the vagina as “pocketbook”–as in the admonition to young girls to “keep your pocketbook closed”–whenever sex was discussed, or more accurately, hinted at.  Borrowing on this linguistic heritage and in the spirit of Eve Ensler’s work,”The Pocketbook Monologues” presents a black female perspective on sex and intimacy.  The brainchild of Chicago TV news director Sharon K. McGhee, “The Pocketbook Monologues” offer “brutally honest, funny, and poignant recollections.”  McGhee conceived the idea for the show while watching “The Vagina Monologues and thinking to herself, “Where are my stories?  These are important stories, but they’re not mine.” The production has toured in several cities around the country.

From the carpet to the drapes…

Apparently there are people who suspected that the lovely hairstyles Oprah Winfrey rocks are the work of a Weave Master/Mistress Extraordinaire, and not the gazillionaire talk show host’s own natural hair.  For the naysayers, Oprah showed a never-before-seen photo of herself (top of post) on a recent episode of her show.  Thanks for clearing that up.  We should all rest better now; I know I will.

Oh, and Oprah also Twitters now too!

In way more substantive news…

Count Lynn Nottage and Annette Gordon-Reed among the recently-announced Pulitzer Prize winners.


 Nottage’s winning play, Ruined, is set in a Congolese brothel.

“…this powerful play follows Mama Nadi, a shrewd businesswoman in a land torn apart by civil war. But is she protecting or profiting by the women she shelters? How far will she go to survive? Can a price be placed on a human life?

“We’ve spent the last eight years being told not to engage with the world,” Nottage told the Chicago Tribune. “I think there is a great hunger now to do so.” 

“I wanted to depict the modern Africa in all its complexity, and to show the beauty and humor and what keeps people there going,” Nottage told the New York Daily News. “I hope it will raise awareness about the issues that the play raises. The war ended in 2002, but the conflict and violence against women continues.”

Nottage is from Brooklyn, and her previous works were about black women in New York, including a turn-of-the-century seamstress in ‘Intimate Apparel’ and a riches-to-rags public relations executive in ‘Fabulation.’


The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family is Annette Gordon-Reed’s epic work about Sally Hemings, a slave girl whose children are believed to have been fathered by Thomas Jefferson.

In other book news…


Journalist, political analyst, and the former host of NPR’s News & Notes (Boo, NPR, boo!), Farai Chideya, is releasing her 4th book and first novel, Kiss the Sky, on May 12th:

Kiss The Sky tracks the life of Sophie “Sky” Lee, a thirtysomething black rock musician making a comeback in New York City in 2000. There are a few hitches to her plans: Sky’s guitarist is her mercurial, drug-abusing ex-husband; her manager is also her boyfriend; and Sky herself is frightened of the cost she’ll pay to reach the pinnacle of fame. Add to that her struggles with religion, her family, and her meddling girlfriends and you have a book which blends substantial themes of love, faith, and longing with contemporary pop culture. Kiss the Sky also has a catalogue of music references on par with books like High Fidelity.

I’ve already pre-ordered my copy!

by Deesha Philyaw
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4 Comments Have Been Posted

re: News and Notes

I don't understand why NPR had to start the "Tell Me More" program (which sometimes deals with Black culture/issues and has only been on for two years) after the "News and Notes" program was already well-established. It shocked me to learn that "News and Notes" was cancelled while "Tell Me More" was being kept on. What's the relevance of "Tell Me More?" From what I have heard of the show, it sounds like NPR's excuse to feature more celebrity interviews, "The View"-style coffee klatschs [sic], and other "fluff" pieces. "News and Notes" was more hard-hitting and Farai Chideya is a better journalist and interviewer than Michel Martin (whose opinions make me groan more than say "yes!"), in my humble opinion. Me and some of my friends who loved the show did not donate to our NPR station during pledge time in protest of the cancellation of "News and Notes." Shame on NPR!

On a brighter note, I cannot wait to read Farai's new novel, either. Sounds like great summer reading!

Great post!

I am excited to read Chideya's book as well. It's not every day that you get to ready about a black, female rock musician. (That career path is usually reserved for men when it comes to literature, e.g., High Fidelity.) I am looking forward to reading about a woman who likes to rock out!

Three Cheers for Farai!

Add me to the list of folks anticipating Farai Chideya's Kiss The Sky. And I completely agree with the first comment that News and Notes is a better program than Tell Me More. Michel Martin is cool and all, but there are some things that she just doesn't quite get that stick in my craw.

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