Monday, January 30, 2012

Beyoncé as a Political Figure? — Rutgers FOCUS

Beyoncé as a Political Figure?
Rutgers Ph.D. student who teaches course on celebrity says artist provides perspective on race, gender, sexuality

By Amber E. Hopkins-Jenkins

The course explores such topics as the extent of Beyoncé’s control over her own aesthetic and whether her often half-naked body is empowered or stereotypical.
Beyoncé is known as a performer, fashion designer, Jay-Z’s missus, and arguably the most famous new mom in the world. But should she also be considered a social change agent?
Kevin Allred, a doctoral student and lecturer in Rutgers’ Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, where he teaches “Politicizing Beyoncé,” thinks so – though, he says, the artist may not be “political” in the traditional sense of the word.
“This isn’t a course about Beyoncé’s political engagement or how many times she performed during President Obama’s inauguration weekend,” he says. Rather, the performer’s music and career are used as lenses to explore American race, gender, and sexual politics. Allred pairs Beyoncé’s music videos and lyrics with readings from the Black feminist canon, including the writings of bell hooks, Alice Walker, and even abolitionist Sojourner Truth.
“Politicizing Beyoncé” emerged from Allred’s four semesters teaching Women’s Studies 101 at Rutgers, during which he and his students, both male and female, often discussed the thin line Beyoncé walks as a sex kitten-cum-girl power role model.
“She certainly pushes boundaries,” Allred says. “While other artists are simply releasing music, she’s creating a grand narrative around her life, her career, and her persona.”
Course topics include the extent of Beyoncé’s control over her own aesthetic, whether her often half-naked body is empowered or stereotypical, and her more racy performances as her alter ego, “Sasha Fierce.” In-class discussions often lead to other vocalists, including Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Lady Gaga, and contemporary musicians who embrace the soul singing tradition like Adele and the late Amy Winehouse.
More academics are beginning to explore race, gender, and sexual politics through popular culture and bring such discourse into their classrooms. Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson offers a similar course, “The Sociology of Hip-Hop: The Theodicy of Jay-Z,” on Beyoncé’s rapper husband.
Allred welcomes conversation about the course, particularly from those who question the relevance of intellectual study of pop stars. “It’s important to shift students away from simply being consumers of media toward thinking more critically about what they’re engaging on a regular basis,” he says. “When students don’t respond to theory or dense readings, it’s often easier to see things play out in the world around them.”
Kevin Allred is a doctoral student and lecturer in Rutgers' Department of Women and Gender Studies.A folk singer/songwriter and owner of an independent record label, Gutter Folk Records, Allred was initially drawn to Beyoncé’s work after listening to her second solo album, B’Day. He notes a raw quality in the technical production of the album, over which Beyoncé is said to have had total creative control.
“It wasn’t as polished as her first and subsequent albums,” Allred says of B’Day. “You can even hear her breathing on the tracks, which is normally edited out. I wondered, ‘Why would you record a vocal to stand out in that way?’”
Allred’s desire to merge his passion for music traditions with his interest in the politics of race, gender, and sexuality in the United States emerged during his undergraduate and graduate studies. He holds two degrees in American Studies – a bachelor’s from Utah State University and a master’s from the University of Massachusetts Boston.
As a doctoral candidate at Rutgers, he is currently writing his dissertation on the ways black female performers manipulate their vocal qualities, including tone, timbre, and pitch.
Growing up a white gay male in a relatively homogenous community in Utah, Allred spent a lot of time in the library. There, he discovered black feminist texts, including the works of Audre Lorde, Octavia Butler, and Toni Morrison.
“Their work resonated with me in ways that other content hadn’t,” Allred says of the black feminist scholars. “I found myself identifying with their writing because racism, sexism, homophobia, and privilege are larger systems under which we all operate.”
Allred only assigns his students writings by black women for “Politicizing Beyoncé” as black feminism is an academic discipline replete with identity politics.
“Of course, there are people who’ll say, ‘You’re not black. You’re not a woman,’” he says of his research and teaching interest. “It’s something I’m always questioning and staying aware of so as not to overstep any bounds or make any claims for a group that I don’t belong to. It’s a fine line and I want to remain respectful of that.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Quincy's Music Mix...

Check out my man A.K.Steppa... Next artist highlight coming soon A.Y.Lee...

Give them the key, set us free.

2012 is here! A new year for new resolutions, promises, proposals, ideas and solutions. Nobody is taking advantage of this more than the Presidential candidates trying to lead this great country, and as many would assume the free world as a whole. What a monumental responsibility this is to take on. With our incumbent pretty much just trying to prove that he isn't one of "them", those against him are trying to prove they aren't "Him", and should be elected over Mr. Obama because what ever reason they come up with. Since 2008 we've been to the bottom of Recession and now emerging from it, Blacks have lost the national minority to Hispanics, millions more have become reliant on government assistance, fuel prices fluctuate daily, large job sectors have been eliminated or shipped to countries where the educated work cheap,The Tea Party emerged stronger then thought, and OWS has made the nation realize....something. What is up for debate, but they surely got your attention etc., etc.......
All in all, throughout all of this the US government has done 1 thing effectively. Made our nation dumber and dumber year by year. I mean hell, why not? In an age of instant information, scientific discovery, medical advances, and completely NEW knowledge about many things that we had NO CLUE about, the government has effectively made sure that our youth and many adults are as 'sheep-like' as possible. I guess it's getting harder and harder to keep up the same old stuff, if people can vividly see what's going on, if their minds were tuned to paying attention to it.
Our education system is failing our youth. Sure parents need to be more involved, but schools and school districts need to take responsibility for how they educate our youth. Much has relied on S.O.L. training, so much that kids don't learn outside of what the S.O.Ls test for. Long gone are the days of idealistic teachers who know how to reach the most hard headed of students. Long gone are the teachers who sat in class and read books to children, hopefully opening the gateway to imagination and discovery. In many school districts, books have been replaced with lap top computers. Hell, even when we used to cheat from the answers in the back of the book, you had to read it, and if you wanted to pass the test at the end of the week you would try to remember the answer, if you didn't figure it out by then. can google math equations and get answers, and copy book reports from online, that were written by somebody else, who actually read the book. Interestingly enough...Nobody cares. And what has replaced this interest in self preservation and well being? Reality TV of course. Why concern ourselves with fixing our own problems, when we can just watch so called celebrities act as if every little issue is news worthy and deserves public attention.
Not 1 politician is speaking about education. Wait, I take that back. Ron Paul is, and he wants to eliminate the Dept. of Education and leave it up to the states. Maybe a good idea in merit, but I see some of the poorer states quickly falling back into the 18th century should that happen. Liberal states would run out of people that could actually fix something (because apparently learning a trade isn't a liberal concept) and rich conservative states would only benefit in times of prosperity. Most surprisingly Nothing from Mr. Obama.
Mr. Obama, should he use his power correctly, is a spitting image of the American Dream. He rose to his power through education. Nothing more, nothing less. During the time he was growing up the USA was #1 in the world with Math, medicine and science. We were sending people into space, creating wonders from nearly nothing, and most of the nations in the world owed US money. I know from my own experience that i was educated better in the 80's then i see my daughter being educated now. Thankfully, her teacher is older, old school, and goes outside of the curriculum. A friend of mine who's daughter has a young, new age teacher said his daughter learned more in Pre-School, last year then she has learned at all this year, and the class still hasn't caught up. I guess that's the difference between a S.O.L. teacher and a real teacher. I had real teachers, when S.O.Ls were being experimented with. A few years after my graduation they were the norm, and I notice the education change with my niece and nephew. I've also noticed that the cost of a college education has DOUBLED if not more, since my final year at college in 2005. Sure you can place no value on the worth of an education, but how much do we need to pay just to get it?
Well to make this long story short...why are none of our leaders concerned with education? There is no discussion on how to bring us back to the top as the most educated in the world. Only talk about capitalism. Wealth and War, and how each person would handle it. I guess you don't have to be smart to make money. I'm sure many of us has a boss or a friend that we cannot figure out for the life of us HOW they got to where they are in the world, but they are there. To quote Buckshot from BlackMoon "I'm about to take it back, back to when the wack use to play the gopher, carrying equipment, but nowadays, the wack are getting over."
Some where America took pride in being stupid. Somewhere the struggles before us were forgotten and are being taken advantage of. Some how it became national news that Homeland security was legally giving guns to Drug Cartels, and the FBI and CIA were helping cartel members transfer funds and contraband through wire reports, and somehow, none of them have been prosecuted, or arrested (sure us blacks knew this already, but they finally admitted to it, and NOBODY CARED!). All because the US has found a new place to hide information. In writing. Because if half the country barely knows how to comprehend what they are reading, or are having a hard time concentrating between 50 year old spoiled brats squabbling about nothing and loose women on TV trying to make people think they live glamorously in their pitiful, disgusting, groupie lives...while many of the rest don't speak English in the 1st place, well it's the perfect storm for the rich to get richer and the poor to be slaves sooner then you think.
Education is the key to freedom, the key to prosperity. Give us the key, Set us free, and watch the nation change for the better, once again, right before your eyes.