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 criticismthe 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”.

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21 Comments

  1. I liked the song, but this video is wack. Although I do like the multiple representations of black identities — hair, gender rep, skin tone, etc. — it’s still just a bunch of shit in slow-mo. C-

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  2. London

    I did like it but, it left me feeling like i can only be in the gang if i wear my hair natural, which was kindof strange, it seem to be from one exteme to the other they should have put black woman with all different hairstyles cuz thats how we really are, weave, perm ,press, natural, then that would have really blown me away. We have enough divide in the black community already, and i kindof feel like people want to start a natural against chemical war which is even more boring than the light skin vs dark skin war.

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    • get over it. how many videos have there been were the majority were Black women with natural hair? riiight. NONE. sistahs with natural hair are almost always left out of the mix, and you’re complaining because they didn’t represent you-even though they represent women with relaxed hair ten times more than they do any other Black women? NEXT…

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    • @Nell: I heart you. Just saying.

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    • @Nell: +1000 (hopefully, this comment goes through).

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    • This video did exactly what you claim it did not. There was a spectrum of black hair in the video. Straight, wavy, dreads, fros, fades, even color! watch it again with your biases set to the side.

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  3. The Taker

    Damn, where was I when they decided to shoot this video, I wanna be there shaking my ass and lovely ‘Fro. It seemed like a whole lot of fun. I liked it. I love the atmosphere in the video. It’s warm, it’s inviting, the women clearly have love for another and just want to have a good time. It’s nice to see black women being relaxed and carefree. I also love that there is more and more and more representation of The Naturals. For a LONG TIME, its been about The Chemicals, The Indian-Remys. I’m not some natural nazi but I really could care less if women with relaxers are “included”. They have been represented and beloved for the past 30 to 35 years now, strong. Glad to see we slowly moving away from that. I say slowly because their presence is still very strong throughout the media and beyond. I think it’s high time to break away.

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  4. Sara, no shade. But gotdamn! You intemellectualized this vid!!!

    All I saw was beautiful women! I didn’t see alla dat, but then again my niche is shallowness.

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