colored-no-more-v-books-2-1510257736 colored-no-more-v-books-2-1510257736
University of Illinois Press

God Is A Woman: Professor Treva Lindsey's 'Colored No More' Uncovers Black Womanhood In D.C.

There are black women in D.C. doing godly things. 

Washington, D.C. has contributed to this nation in a number of ways: from its slaves building the White House, to birthing award-winning actors and rappers, and developing world-renown critical thinkers. Chocolate City natives like Regina Hall, Dave Chappell, and Taraji P. Henson have been staples in the entertainment industry. Unfortunately, not much is known about the African-American women who were instrumental in shaping the District of Columbia’s academic and non-academic spaces.

Thankfully, this subject is being brought to the forefront, thanks to the self-proclaimed "Diva Feminist Scholar", Professor Treva B. Lindsey. The D.C.-bred, and graduate of both Oberlin (B.A., 2004) and Duke (Ph.D., 2010) universities, recently published her brilliantly researched book, Colored No More: Reinventing Black Womanhood in Washington, D.C. (University of Illinois Press).

READ:: Colored No More: A New Book on Black Womanhood in Washington, D.C.

In Colored No More, Dr. Lindsey, associate professor of women's, gender, and sexuality studies at Ohio State University, examines historical and a la mode experiences of black women in the nation's capital.

"Using a black feminist approach, I examine how black women resist systems of oppression and cultivate generative spaces for black women’s creativity," Prof. Lindsey tells VIBE. "I specialize in African American history, black feminism, popular culture studies, histories of violence, and hip-hop studies."

Capping out at 137 pages, Lindsey traces the lives of black women professionals, sex workers, mothers, beauticians as well as artists and activists while shedding light on the many challenges these women faced.

"I was born in Chocolate City when it was still Chocolate City,” Prof. Lindsey remembers. “Surprisingly, there was very little historical scholarship on African Americans in Washington- and more specifically, black women in D.C. I wanted to trace the footsteps of my formidable foremothers. I knew the women of my city were pioneers, trailblazers, and everyday women figuring out how to survive, live and thrive under Jim Crow and widespread sexism. I felt compelled to tell a part of their stories."

Lucy Diggs Slowe is one of the women Prof. Lindsey unveils in Colored No More. Slowe, born July 4, 1885, excelled on the tennis court, resulting in her becoming the first African American to win a national championship in any sport. But Slowe, a 1908 graduate of Howard University, also kicked a** off of the tennis court.

“Lucy Diggs Slowe [is] the first Dean of Women at Howard University,” says Prof. Lindsey. "In addition to her tremendous work advocating for black female students, faculty, and staff at Howard, Slowe was a tireless activist for the power of education as a transformative force in the lives of black women. She challenged anti-black racism and sexism both within and outside of the black community."

Lindsey also excavates the voices of other D.C. women such as Nannie Helen Burroughs, Anna Julia Cooper - who was very instrumental in the Black Women's Club movement - and Mary Church Terrell, the subject of Professor Brittney Cooper's recently published book, Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women. Terrell, who’s also the first president of the National Association of Colored Women, is known for her tireless work in black women's suffrage movement, among other issues. Mary Church Terrell also became the first African-American woman appointed to a school board before serving on a committee that investigated the alleged police mistreatment of African Americans.

"Additionally, I hone in on communities of black women - many whose names are not as familiar, but are equally important to understanding the history of the nation’s capital," Professor Lindsey says.

Intellectual spaces for black women were not limited to classrooms, either. Black women’s fashion and beauty played major roles in challenging many stereotypes that peered down at black goddess in D.C., as Lindsey outlines in Colored No More.

"Black beauty culture was and is an industry that pivots around the desires, skills, consumption, and innovation of black women," Lindsey explains. "For black women, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, beauty culture functioned as one of the many fronts black women challenged racist and sexist stereotypes about black women. Beauty culture thrived as a space of reclamation, self-determination, and invention. Black women made a culture about them and it was complex, multidimensional, and expansive."

Despite contributions that women made to intellectual spaces in D.C. and the prestige that follows Howard University, the women of H.U. were not exempt from double standards of being black as well as black women.

"Although Howard welcomed black women as students, faculty, and staff during its first several decades, sexism and rigid ideas about the roles of women in modern life proliferated," Professor Lindsey shares. "Black women like Slowe fought back against lower expectations and demanded equal opportunities to become leaders in their communities. Black women at Howard pushed the university towards recognizing and nurturing the potential of black women. These battles were not easy but were significant in shaping one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the country. These women affirmed that Howard could not be pro-black if it devalued black women."

Lindsey's brilliantly researched book adds to black culture by mapping out the intersections of various identities of African-American women who shaped black life on a local and national scale.

"These women are significant figures in freedom and equality struggles of the early twentieth century," adds Lindsey. “Their stories tell us more about what it meant to be a “free” black woman, post-slavery. Black Washington women affected local and national change. We should never erase the work of our foremothers - they fought too hard to be forgotten. This book introduces readers to a community of black women who fought to make the world more just and equitable. As we currently fight against anti-blackness, knowing these histories of resistance and radical creativity is a powerful weapon."

What's great about African-American history is the fact that the lives of black people are so rich and complex that there’s always a crevice that has yet to be discovered.

"I would love to see more work on black women and pleasure. I want us to continue studying and uncovering histories of violence and oppression, but I also desire to engage more research interrogating what black women created and how they found ways to establish intimacy and joy. There are countless areas ripe for exploration, so I would encourage people interested in studying black women to dig in with a sense of purpose and justice. Black women have been freedom fighters for centuries and we need their stories in as many accessible forums as possible. Black women have been and will continue to be a huge part of how we change the world."

Professor Treva Lindsey is also a fervent hip-hop head, hailing from the school of Nas, OutKast, A Tribe Called Quest, Lauryn Hill, and others.

“Right now, I have Rapsody on replay. I listen to such a range of hip hop and love the diversity within the genre. I love the party and bullsh*t stuff too,” she says.

Back in 2014, Dr. Lindsey published an intriguing article titled, Let Me Blow Your Mind: Hip Hop Feminist Futures in Theory and Praxis, which examined hip-hop feminism.

“This article maps a history of hip-hop feminist theory and thinks about it as a tool of resistance in current social justice movements,” Lindsey recalls. “Hip-hop feminism is a term coined by writer and cultural critic [Joan Morgan] nearly twenty years ago. The term continues to resonate as a powerful tool for critiquing oppression and for imagining and creating new worlds of possibility.”

Colored No More can be purchased over at Amazon.com.

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LA Lakers basketball star Kobe Bryant poses for a shoot held in 1999 at the Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.
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Sound Check: Bobbito Plays The Tracks, Kobe Bryant States The Facts

"Hey, Jon B's in the house!" says Kobe Bryant, laughing, when I step into New York's Hit Factory.

"Money, you trying to snap?" I ask. "That's why you're wearing bell-bottoms." It's no surprise Kobe and I get along. We share passions—for hip-hop and basketball—and the same high school alma mater, Lower Merion, in Ardmore, Pa. Although I graduated twelve years before he did, I felt much pride when he made our school a household name in 1996, the year he jumped from his senior year in high school to the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers.

In '98, Kobe represented again as the youngest player in history to play in an NBA All-Star game. And while the current league lockout threatens to shut down the Lakers' dreams of a 1999 championship, Kobe's not sweating it. The six-foot-seven-inch guard's making moves as CEO and president of the one-year-old Kobe Family Entertainment. He's also picking up the mike as part of rap group signed to Trackmasters/Columbia. After our interview, he played me some milky-thick instrumentals, then later he rocked complex rhymes during his interview on New York's Hot 97 FM (WQHT). This cat Kobe is smart. And cool—mad cool.

Public Enemy—"Brothers Gonna Work It Out" (Def Jam, 1990)

B: Do you know this song?

K.B.: It's Public Enemy. Everybody knows them. Back in the day, me and my cousin used to do the Flavor Flav dance! My grandma would be like, "Kobe, what are you doing? You got an itch down there?" I'd be like, Grandma, it's the new dance.

B: I used to work at Def Jam—from '89 to '93—and Flav would come into the office and literally take it over. Nothing could be done, workwise, while he was there. One time, he got on top of my desk and was doing his dance. He was like that all the time. It wasn't an act for the stage or videos. That's just Flav.

De La Soul Featuring Pete Rock and InI––"Stay Away" (unreleased bootleg, 1998)

B: This record is beautiful. Do you like it?

K.B.: Hell yeah. It makes you want to listen and do nothing else. Not like some other songs—you hear them and want to punch the table. Even the lyrics have a melody. De La always bring it lyrically. You can always expect that they'll rhyme honestly about what they see.

B: I can listen to their first album, which is ten years old, and still not know what the fuck they're talking about. Regardless, their voices, delivery, flow, and intelligence make them one of my favorites of all time.

K.B.: When one of their songs comes on, you have to listen. But today, a lot of people don't have the patience for that.

B: Do you have a different name for yourself as an MC?

K.B.: Kobe, plain and simple.

B: What's the name of your group?

K.B..: Cheizaw. It stands for Canon Homo sapiens Eclectic Iconic Zaibatsu Abstract Words. Canon is the ruler of the spiritual body. Homo sapien is the [scientific] term for human beings. Eclectic means choosing the best of very diverse styles. Icon is a symbol.  Zaibatsu is a Japanese word for powerful family. Abstract makes concentration very difficult. Words, meaning lyrics. That's Cheizaw—that's how we're putting it down. Six members, all from Philly...Illadelph!

4 Hero—"Loveless" featuring Ursula Rucker (Talkin Loud/Mercury, 1998)

K.B.: I feel that joint to the most. I love the most. Who is that?

B: It's a drum n' bass group called 4 Hero, out of London. The poet, Ursula, is from Philly. She's on the Roots' first two albums, Do You Want More?!!!??! (DGC, 1995) and Illadelph Halflife (Geffen, 1996), and I hear she does a poem on their upcoming release too. She's ill—on some emotional poetry shit.

K.B.: Yeah, man. I love poetry. Don't you have a famous [poetry] spot out here [in New York]?

B: The Nuyorican Poets' Cafe. My man Ricky and I do shows there twice a month. Common, Wyclef, Saul Williams from the movie Slam, and Roy Hargrove have all come down and jammed.

K.B.: I've never been to a spot like that before, but I love poetry. I love writing it.

B: Have you ever checked out Gil-Scott Heron? I highly recommend him.

Nancy Wilson—"Call Me" (Pickwick/Capitol, 1966)

K.B.: Sounds like the melody from that TV show, from back in the day. The one with two girls in it...two roommates...

B: Three's Company?

K.B.: Nah, I think it was Laverne & Shirley...I don't know this record at all. I don't know what you want me to say.

B: Well, does it make you happy or sad? Does it make you want to take a sh*t?

K.B.: It makes me...[snaps his fingers and shimmies with his shoulders]. You know what I mean? Ha, ha!

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RCA Records

Grammy Contender Lucky Daye Is Waving R&B's Melodic Flag With Pride

Perhaps it was a baton passed by February 2019 Vibe digital cover star H.E.R. during Grammy that solidified Lucky Daye’s 2020 nominations. At an intimate gathering during Grammy weekend last year, the 2019 Best R&B Album and Best R&B Performance winner sweetly sang a rendition of “Roll Some Mo,” much to Daye’s amazement. As H.E.R. struck gold with five nominations last year, walking away with two gramophones, Lucky is poised for a similar fate, nominated for Best R&B Song (“Roll Some Mo”), Best R&B Album (Painted), Best R&B Performance (“Roll Some Mo”), and Best Traditional R&B Performance (“Real Games”). Though the nominations were announced merely two months ago, for Daye, the news finally sunk in as he attended The Recording Academy’s L.A. Chapter Celebration.

“My body doesn't react to verbal news, it’s like a normal thing. I'm so used to expecting stuff that people say--especially in music--and it not happening,” Daye says, as we speak a day following the L.A. Chapter Celebration. “Now that I should be excited early--because I want to be excited this whole time--it [doesn’t] happen until I walk into a room. Then I get all jittery and nervous, like, ‘oh my God, this is happening.'”

While the Grammys have previously been attuned with Black artists accruing few awards (only ten Black artists have won Album of the Year in the show’s 60-year history), the Recording Academy has attempted to diversify their categories. This means adapting to the stark change in the R&B climate, leaning on subgenres and mixtapes, rather than solely mainstream artists. Daye’s 2019 debut album Painted was transfixed in the lush, instrument-driven sounds of funk’s heyday, enriched by vocal sensibilities and near-spiritual opulence, stamping his destiny in R&B. Fellow singer-songwriter Victoria Monet shared with Billboard that Painted was her favorite album of last year, noting that Daye’s hometown of New Orleans was “the soul of the project”. For Daye, Painted wasn’t just a reclamation of home, but a testament of emotional reverence.

“I got a chance to get everything out, like, my deepest emotions and feelings. To finally say it without getting cut off, or to finally say it and not get a rebuttal before I actually try to get people to hear it… Most times, I get feedback and it discourages me, [but] this time, it was too late for anybody to discourage me since the album was done,” he says. “I was already like, ‘I love it, so I don’t care what anybody thinks’. To me, it felt good to get a response from people [but] a positive one, for once. I’m still adjusting, [so] I’m kind of new to how it’s moving and I’m new to the people liking stuff from me. People don’t really get it, it’s a different side of life that I’ve never been on.”

Daye, previously known as D. Brown during a run of being a songwriter and background vocalist, follows a tradition of fellow songwriter-turned-full fledged R&B artists including D’Angelo and Faith Evans. However, he assures that crafting music behind the scenes wasn’t his end goal, as collaborating with producer D’Mile ignited his passion of re-pursuing solo stardom. In a recent Rolling Stone profile of D’Mile, the producer noticed an uptick in contemporary R&B paying homage to the 70’s, notably psychedelic cut “Redbone”, which snagged Childish Gambino a Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Performance in 2018.

Both Daye and D’Mile followed suit, with their own formulaic reverence to 70’s funk and soul on Painted, ushering in a modern take. Daye mentions that while D’Mile is knowledgeable of music theory, it was Daye’s “chemical imbalance” over D’Mile’s production and radical instrumentation that essentially made them musical soulmates. “When it comes to music, [it] will teach consciousness in the body to be open, to be understanding of everything. To have multiple perceptions, it’s rare, and [D’Mile] has that,” Daye says. “If anything else, we know that at the end of the day, it’s all going to boil down to music. We’re here to do something on Earth at this age and time, and I’m indebted to him.”

For long-time fans of Daye, some were initially surprised once playing the album, as songs featured on his introductory EPs I and II were featured prominently on Painted. For Daye, he wanted to ease his listeners into living with his music for a while longer before presenting the remainder of his debut, unexpectedly recommended by a rap icon. “I didn’t want [fans] to listen to it and be like, ‘yo, it’s a jumble of a bunch of mess’, because honestly, that’s how I felt at the time. I just felt like, ‘they’re not gonna like it’. If we’re going to really put it out and [make] it a big deal, I don’t want to mess this up. The best advice was putting it out piece by piece. I talked to Nicki Minaj about that and that’s where the idea originally came from,” he says, referencing that he accompanied a friend to a studio session with Minaj.

“This was probably eight months before [Painted] came out. We’re sitting in there, they couldn’t come up with [any] ideas and she was like, ‘Why you sitting over there quiet? What you humming? Sounds like you got something if you wanna hop in, you can.’ I just hopped in and freestyled a whole song.”

Taking Minaj’s advice made for the organic success of his EPs, and a gradual acclimation of ‘Daye Ones’--a token for Daye’s dedicated fanbase--especially those who witnessed his performances during a streak of three tours in the past year. After joining Ella Mai and Kiana Lede during Mai’s debut tour, Daye launched into The Painted Tour, later heading to Australia with Khalid during The Spirit Tour. Daye admits the stage is where he’s most carefree, but that he’s still getting acclimated with finding time to rest. “It’s so crazy because I look around [and] sometimes I’ll push my friends too hard, or I’ll push other people too hard because of my expectations,” he says. “Fresh off the Khalid tour, I didn’t sleep for a week, I was like ‘I don’t know what’s going on’. I’m calling doctors, Kehlani’s helping me like, ‘maybe you should drink that’, I just realized it was adrenaline. It’s hard to go to sleep when you’re running off that kind of energy.”

Daye’s adrenaline and charismatic stage presence made his mainly-female audiences buckle at their knees, even intimately crooning select attendees to violin-driven track “Concentrate” at shows. But it was the track “Roll Some Mo” that stood apart from his catalog, instantly becoming a fan favorite and soundtracking The Photograph, which premieres on Valentine’s Day next month. Though “Roll Some Mo” is beloved for its penchant in marijuana-infused desire, Daye says he initially rejected the song being featured on Painted. “That was the fastest song I did. Most times when I write fast, I’m not trying and I felt like I didn’t put my all into it. That’s why, to me, “Roll Some Mo” wasn’t strong. I felt like I could do better, but everyone else was like ‘that’s the one’,” he says. “So I should just write and not think, that’s a lesson I’ve learned from misjudging “Roll Some Mo”: don’t overthink and do not try to make it perfect.”

Long accustomed to songwriting, Daye had a natural inclination to join the ranks of Keep Cool Records, especially the intensity of their songwriting boot camps. Prior guests of the boot camps have included Masego and Baby Rose, and Daye mentions that he also attended recording sessions of Revenge of the Dreamers III on their final day. “It’s so much pressure at writing camps like [Keep Cool Records] because there are so many people that are amazing. They go in with that mindset--and I understand that because I can write, as well--I just don’t do it with that type of intensity, because my confidence has been killed in that area,” Daye says. “Being in a room with those people, you learn different ways to make music and that’s the beauty [of it]. Music is art, it’s in me and I can’t do nothing about that, so to be in that environment is paradise.”

With writing credits for Keith Sweat, Boyz II Men and Keke Palmer years prior to releasing Painted, it was mentorship from Mary J. Blige during recording sessions for Blige’s 2017 album Strength of a Woman, that aided Daye with honing in on lyrical simplicity. Co-writing “Love Yourself” and “U + Me (Love Session)”, with admiration for Blige, Daye even attended her 2018 Walk of Fame commencement. “[Blige] always speaks vulnerability and she always taught me a lot about changing words [for them] to make more sense,” Daye says. “I’m way more abstract than I was when Painted came out, and she’d always bring me back, like, ‘why don’t you just say it like this?’ I’m like, ‘that’s ghetto’. (laughs) She’d be like, ‘but it’s good’. I’d be like, ‘Well, alright, I got it; just do what I normally do if I was talking to somebody.’”

With Blige’s guidance in mind, Daye knew that he wanted the apex of Painted to revolve around intricacies of love, his previous relationships being the basis of the album, notably, overexerting himself while in those relationships. “On Painted, I wanted to convey love as being misunderstood and not what you always expect it to be. I feel like we watch all of these things around us and we got these high expectations of what love is supposed to be and it’s really an illusion. When you find somebody who’s actually a real person and they don’t meet your illusion, they fail in your eyes,” he says, subtly warning women to beware of overzealous suitors. “I just wanted to say ‘it’s fine to not be perfect, it’s fine to be normal’. Being normal is actually what love is, everything else is extra. You can’t always exhaust yourself. I’ve exhausted myself and I wanted to portray that on the album, like, I’ve done that already. I’ve tried everything I could to try to stay in love and try to be in love. It allowed me to fall in love and get my heartbroken, and that created more content for me and it created more depth for my character.”

With room to create meaningful content, though not intentional, Daye withheld from having collaborations on Painted. For many listeners, the “Roll Some Mo” remix featuring Ty Dolla $ign and Wale was the first time they heard Daye accompanied by featured guests. “I don’t think I had any power to even get anybody that wanted to get on my record. I would like to think that the music industry would hear good music and want to get with it because it’s good to them, not necessarily good to popular people,” he says. “I wanted to at least do my first album complete and not wait on features. I think all great artists can do an album with no features and you’ll still be able to listen to the whole album. I don’t care who it is, if someone’s not good on my record, I’m not putting it out.”

While Painted didn’t lack in vulnerability, Daye is open to the possibility of having features on his sophomore album. With his majorly-female audience in mind, he wants to reintroduce an influx of female features to create melodic balance. “The second album might be a little bit different. I’m probably gonna do an album that has a great amount of features on it and I’m working on that right now. We’re reaching for gold,” he says. “When it comes to singing, girls are listening to me. Most guys, they have too much ego to listen to me, I’m too real. They don’t want to feel soft. I feel like if get girls featured, it’ll make more sense for me than male features because I talk about love a lot. Ain’t too many guys I know that’s gonna open up like that on a record. That’s one of my goals, I want to do a lot of songs with girls like Marvin Gaye did.”

With music videos traditionally having a cinematic, thoroughly crafted feel, Daye shares that a visual album is soon to come, with a slew of screenplays already written. Initially wanting to release a visual album alongside Painted, he’s tentatively reserving it for his sophomore album. Though he’s mapped out his plans for 2020, Daye says that he’s willing to let go of his reigns to get better acquainted with fans. “I’m gonna make myself more uncomfortable this year when it comes to putting myself out there--controlling less of what I think I should be controlling--and just be more free and just be present. I want them to know, if there’s anything I should do, I’m open [to it].”

During a generation of R&B when artists are arguably most hands-on with their creative intention, Daye fits right in, nominated in nearly every R&B category of the 2020 Grammys. Hinting at surprise single before the ceremony, while arguably a veteran, Daye assures that his journey is far from over. “The fact that [artists] can reach so many people, just with one button, that’s awesome. Most people have to climb, they climb a long way from city to city and it takes years just to get to a level. I have millions of views in a year, and I believe [“Roll Some Mo”] might be gold. Just to do that in one year, being able to touch so many people, I feel like we’re getting closer,” he says. “It’s come back around, for sure, [but] there’s way more to accomplish. I plan on having at least eleven albums, and I feel satisfied, kind of, but this is the beginning. I just started, it’s the first day.”

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Drake accepts Best Rap Song for 'God's Plan' onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

10 Problems With The Grammy Awards And How To Fix Them

Going into the 2020 iteration of the show, The Grammy Awards couldn’t be more irrelevant and in a place of struggling to attract younger viewers. Each year sets new lows in the coveted 18-49 demographic, and the show continues to take one step forward and ten steps back when it comes to its relationship with hip-hop. The step forward this year will be the confirmed tribute to the late Nipsey Hussle featuring Kirk Franklin, DJ Khaled, John Legend, Meek Mill, Roddy Ricch, and YG. Fixing what was once the most cherished institution of the music business and one of the most-watched events of each year is complicated and will require drastic directional shifts and changes to elements of the show that have been part of its fabric for many years. These are the 10 problems with the Grammy Awards and how to fix them.

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