Representation, like oxygen is a thing you don’t think about needing until you’re deprived of it. I crave images of beautiful black women daily, gasp for them as any of us would for air if it became rare. I’ve been excited about dream hampton’s music video since she tweeted a picture from the set a while ago. I was not disappointed when it premiered on YouTube last week. Black women, black women getting ready for a party, black women being the party, brown skins, loud hand claps, silent finger clicks, all the best accessories, all the best colours, all seen not often enough. It makes my eyes so happy, the luxury of comfort, the audacity of beautiful blackness, these are a few of my favourite favourite things.
hampton’s music video feels radical because in watching it you are doing a rare thing, watching black women just be. In this video black women just are. They are not an idea. Or a plot point. Or a quota filled. They are not one thing. Or all things. They are not a place for projected anxieties or fantasies. They just are. They are black women. Smiling. Warm. Calm. Serious. Happy. Dressing each other up. Putting on gloves. Sharing necklaces. Fingertips to zippers. Hands to smooth creases out of shirts. Clashing colours and polka dots and so many patterns. Indulging in small acts that are empowering. Painted nails. Adjusted bra straps. The just right red shade of lipstick. A living room dance party. The mood just is. The feeling is of all feelings suspended inside one. Black women. Warm. Calm. Serious. Happy. Their presence is its own manifesto.
It is funny, maybe even a little ironic that the “QueenS” video was released slap bang in the middle of last week, a week that contained a lot of pointed talk concerning the scant representations of black women in popular media.
“Where (My) Girls At?” asked Jenna Wortham of HBO’s much lauded new show “Girls”. How could it comfortably claim (or at the very least accept) ‘voice of a generation’ labels while excluding women of colour from its narrative? This was the initial criticism. And there was more: Dear Lena Dunham: I Exist stated Kendra James as she pondered how frustrating it is that a supposedly groundbreaking series is content to make black women visible only in the narrowest sense. James unearthed a call sheet revealing people of colour were only ever called to be cast in “Girls” as nannies, one-liners and stereotypes. There was a particularly ugly response to the initial criticism from a “Girls” writer. And then support of the ugly response. And then there were responses to the response. And then the dissections of the initial criticism, the ugly responses and the responses to the responses.
The representation discussion is important and I’m glad smart people continue to have it in many different ways even though overall I’ve found need to take a time out from it. It is too wearying to keep engaging in, I’m tired of counting the spaces where I am not. It is exhausting to have to stand up again and again and again and say, “I am here.” “I am here.” “I am here.” “Why did you exclude me?” “Can I be included?” It’s more satisfying, more edifying to seek out places where I am, relax there for awhile, regroup. This is why I’ve kept a tab with “QueenS” in it open all week, to click over to and hit refresh whenever I need its mood. Instead of worrying about how black women are excluded, I can just watch them be.
I am a black woman and I just want to be, to be, to be. hampton’s video reminds me that this is possible and THEESatisfaction has given me a soundtrack to set my action to. As I go about my business, I’ll sing the song’s refrain, “Whatever you do / Don’t funk with my groove”.