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Janelle Monáe: Living Out Loud - them.
"When Janelle Monáe came out as queer in a Rolling Stone cover story last April, the revelation made headlines around the world. As one of the most prolific multi-hyphenate artists of a generation, her declaration carried immense weight, both for herself and for queer black women and LGBTQ+ people everywhere. The announcement was followed by the release of her most brilliant, vulnerable work to date: Dirty Computer, an album that was at its core about embracing the freedom one finds in self-exploration and discovery. Bold, unabashedly fluid anthems like “Pynk,” “Screwed,” and “Make Me Feel” further solidified Monáe as a leader for “free-ass motherfuckers” (as she delightfully referred to herself when coming out) everywhere, one who challenges social binaries and norms alike with grace and strength.

Always evolving sonically and aesthetically, today, Monáe is entering a new era of her genre-bending career. The constant, though, is her work, which remains centered in advocacy, agency, and empowerment, regardless of what form it takes. With reverence for the responsibility of an artist and activist, Monáe uses every platform she builds to amplify intersectional discourse about race, gender, and sexuality in new ways. She takes action in a way that makes everyone take notice.

Monáe’s ascent as an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community has tracked alongside her own journey towards personal enlightenment and fulfillment of purpose. It has come with an understanding of the paradox of visibility, and a reckoning with the fears and challenges that queer people, specifically queer people of color, face when living authentically. In taking center stage to speak out and perform against aggressive oppression, Monáe’s voice and vision for humanity help to define what it means to advance emancipation for all.

That’s just a sliver of why we chose Monáe to star in them.’s debut cover story, “Janelle Monáe: Living Out Loud.” It would only be right to have one free-ass motherfucker interview another for the occasion, which is why we recruited Lizzo, an inimitable musical force in her own right and an unerring LGBTQ+ ally, to speak with Monáe below. Both women are known for hits that make you dance while reaching for something deeper, and both share a commitment to uplifting marginalized communities, championing self-love and self-care, subverting social expectations, and speaking their truths through their work. In the wide-ranging conversation below, they touch on that common ground and more, speaking to the terrifying, liberating process of challenging the world’s preconceptions about you, what it really means to live freely in our world today, and loving and living out loud."



[Janelle Monáe] "It's been a journey. For me, sexuality and sexual identity and fluidity is a journey. It's not a destination. I've discovered so much about myself over the years as I've evolved and grown and spent time with myself and loved ones. That's the exciting thing — always finding out new things about who you are. And that's what I love about life. It takes us on journeys that not even we ourselves sometimes are prepared for. You just adapt to where you are and how you've evolved as a free thinking person."

[Lizzo] "Absolutely. I was just talking about this the other day, about how fluidity can mean so many things. It's not just what you like in that moment. I've seen fluidity change with age. I've seen people come out in their sexual identity in their forties and fifties. Yet there's so much pressure on young people to choose an identity, when you're a teenager and your hormones are jumping off — it's like, "Choose an identity, choose a sexual orientation." It's like, "How?” When I like everything sometimes, and I like nothing sometimes.

Do you have any words for those who are struggling with their sexuality or coming out? At any age, but especially for young people."



[Lizzo] 'You know what I noticed? The more I started loving myself, and the more I started self-caring, the people around me changed and became more conducive to that. The people who were toxic and weren't conducive to a self-loving nature just were segued out by God, by the universe, by my energy just repelling them. And I wish it didn't have to be that way, I wish it was the other way around. I wish that the people around us could help us find self-care and self-love. But that's unfortunately not the world that we were given.

We have to create our own worlds. And I think that mentorship is so important. Like you were saying, therapy's expensive. But mentorship can be free. And that's something that we can start with. Especially in lower income communities, the black community. But for now, we just have you. [laughs] We have music. People are looking to Dirty Computer and artists like you as mentors, long distance mentors. And I think it's really special that you hold that place in people's hearts and that it's reaching a culture. You can watch Queer Eye and see your influence. I'm just so happy to breathe the same air as you.

[Janelle Monáe] Oh, please. I’m happy to breathe the same air as you. You also are a free ass motherfucker to me in the way that you approach how you perform, how you love yourself publicly, how you embrace your body. And you're just gorgeous. On stage, offstage, the fact that you play an instrument, the fact that you're writing, the fact that you have ideas as a black woman — you are redefining what it means to be young, black, wild, and free in this country. And you are someone I actively look to whenever I feel like second guessing if I should take risks or not. Because I see the risks that you're taking and the love and appreciation that you show for yourself makes me lean further into loving and respecting myself, and being patient with myself, and not allowing myself to live by anybody's standards."
janellemonáe  lizzo  2019  criticalthinking  feedom  sexuality  gender  interviews  queer  binaries  fluidity  dirtycomputer  identity  therapy  life  living  self-love  art  music  making  lorrainehansberry  bellhooks  meshellndegeocello  lenawaithe  rosettatharpe  janetmock  mjrodriguez  indyamoore  lavernecox 
april 2019 by robertogreco
bell hooks: Buddhism, the Beats and Loving Blackness - The New York Times
"G.Y.: Absolutely. You’ve talked about how theory can function as a place of healing. Can you say more about that?

b.h.: I always start with children. Most children are amazing critical thinkers before we silence them. I think that theory is essentially a way to make sense of the world; as a gifted child growing up in a dysfunctional family where giftedness was not appreciated, what held me above water was the idea of thinking through, “Why are Mom and Dad the way they are?” And those are questions that are at the heart of critical thinking. And that’s why I think critical thinking and theory can be such a source of healing. It moves us forward. And, of course, I don’t know about other thinkers and writers, but I have the good fortune every day of my life to have somebody contacting me, either on the streets or by mail, telling me about how my work has changed their life, how it has enabled them to go forward. And what greater gift to be had as a thinker-theorist, than that?"



"G.Y.: Is there a connection between teaching as a space of healing and your understanding of love?

b.h.: Well, I believe whole-heartedly that the only way out of domination is love, and the only way into really being able to connect with others, and to know how to be, is to be participating in every aspect of your life as a sacrament of love, and that includes teaching. I don’t do a lot of teaching these days. I am semi-retired. Because, like any act of love, it takes a lot of your energy."



"G.Y.: You’ve conceptualized love as the opposite of estrangement. Can you say something about that?

b.h.: When we engage love as action, you can’t act without connecting. I often think of that phrase, only connect. In terms of white supremacy right now for instance, the police stopped me a few weeks ago here in Berea, because I was doing something wrong. I initially felt fear, and I was thinking about the fact that in all of my 60-some years of my life in this country, I have never felt afraid of policemen before, but I feel afraid now. He was just total sweetness. And yet I thought, what a horrible change in our society that that level of estrangement has taken place that was not there before.

I know that the essential experience of black men and women has always been different, but from the time I was a girl to now, I never thought the police were my enemy. Yet, what black woman witnessing the incredible abuse of Sandra Bland can’t shake in her boots if she’s being stopped by the police? When I was watching that video, I was amazed the police didn’t shoot her on the spot! White supremacist white people are crazy.

I used to talk about patriarchy as a mental illness of disordered desire, but white supremacy is equally a serious and profound mental illness, and it leads people to do completely and utterly insane things. I think one of the things that is going on in our society is the normalization of mental illness, and the normalization of white supremacy, and the evocation and the spreading of this is part of that mental illness. So remember that we are a culture in crisis. Our crisis is as much a spiritual crisis as it is a political crisis, and that’s why Martin Luther King, Jr. was so profoundly prescient in describing how the work of love would be necessary to have a transformative impact.

G.Y.: And of course, that doesn’t mean that you don’t find an important place in your work for rage, as in your book “Killing Rage”?

b.h.: Oh, absolutely. The first time that I got to be with Thich Nhat Hanh, I had just been longing to meet him. I was like, I’m going to meet this incredibly holy man. On the day that I was going to him, every step of the way I felt that I was encountering some kind of racism or sexism. When I got to him, the first thing out of my mouth was, “I am so angry!” And he, of course, Mr. Calm himself, Mr. Peace, said, “Well, you know, hold on to your anger, and use it as compost for your garden.” And I thought, “Yes, yes, I can do that!” I tell that story to people all the time. I was telling him about the struggles I was having with my male partner at the time and he said, “It is O.K. to say I want to kill you, but then you need to step back from that, and remember what brought you to this person in the first place.” And I think that if we think of anger as compost, we think of it as energy that can be recycled in the direction of our good. It is an empowering force. If we don’t think about it that way, it becomes a debilitating and destructive force.

G.Y.: Since you mentioned Sandra Bland, and there are so many other cases that we can mention, how can we use the trauma that black people are experiencing, or reconfigure that trauma into compost? How can black people do that? What does that look like therapeutically, or collectively?

b.h.: We have to be willing to be truthful. And to be truthful, we have to say, the problem that black people face, the trauma of white supremacy in our lives, is not limited to police brutality. That’s just one aspect. I often say that the issue for young black males is the street. If you only have the streets, you encounter violence on all sides: black on black violence, the violence of addiction, and the violence of police brutality. So the question is why at this stage of our history, with so many wealthy black people, and so many gifted black people, how do we provide a place other than the streets for black males? And it is so gendered, because the street, in an imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, is male, especially when it is dark. There is so much feeling of being lost that it is beyond the trauma of racism. It is the trauma of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, because poverty has become infinitely more violent than it ever was when I was a girl. You lived next door to very poor black people, but who had very joyful lives. That’s not the poverty of today.

G.Y.: How is the poverty of today different?

b.h.: Let’s face it, one of the things white people gave us when they gave us integration was full access to the tormenting reality of desire, and the expectation of constant consumption. So part of the difference of poverty today is this sort of world of fantasy — fantasizing that you’ll win the lottery, fantasizing that money will come. I always cling to Lorraine Hansberry’s mama saying in “A in Raisin in the Sun,” “Since when did money become life?” I think that with the poverty of my growing up that I lived with and among, we were always made to feel like money is not what life is all about. That’s the total difference for everyone living right now, because most people in our culture believe money is everything. That is the big tie, the connecting tie to black, white, Hispanic, native people, Asian people — the greed and the materialism that we all invest in and share.

G.Y.: When you make that claim, I can see some readers saying that bell is pathologizing black spaces.

b.h.: As I said, we have normalized mental illness in this society. So it’s not the pathologizing of black spaces; it’s saying that the majority of cultural spaces in our society are infused with pathology. That’s why it’s so hard to get out of it, because it has become the culture that is being fed to us every day. None of us can escape it unless we do so by conscious living and conscious loving, and that’s become harder for everybody. I don’t have a problem stating the fact that trauma creates wounds, and most of our wounds are not healed as African-Americans. We’re not really different in that way from all the others who are wounded. Let’s face it — wounded white people frequently can cover up their wounds, because they have greater access to material power.

I find it fascinating that every day you go to the supermarket, and you look at the people, and you look at us, and you look at all of this media that is parading the sorrows and the mental illnesses of the white rich in our society. And it’s like everybody just skips over that. Nobody would raise the question, “why don’t we pathologize the rich?” We actually believe that they suffer mental illness, and that they deserve healing. The issue for us as black people is that very few people feel that we deserve healing. Which is why we have very few systems that promote healing in our lives. The primary system that ever promoted healing in black people is the church, and we see what is going on in most churches today. They’ve become an extension of that material greed.

G.Y.: As you shared being stopped by police, I thought of your book “Black Looks: Race and Representation,” where you describe whiteness as a site of terror. Has that changed for you?

b.h.: I don’t think that has changed for most black people. That particular essay, “Representations of Whiteness in the Black Imagination,” talks about whiteness, the black imagination, and how many of us live in fear of whiteness. And I emphasize the story about the policeman because for many of us that fear of whiteness has intensified. I think that white people, for the most part, never think about black people wanting to be in black only spaces, because we do not feel safe.

In my last book, “Writing Beyond Race: Living Theory and Practice,” I really wanted to raise and problematize the question: Where do we feel safe as black people? I definitely return to the home as a place of spiritual possibility, home as a holy place.

I bought my current house from a conservative white male capitalist who lives across the street from me, and I’m so happy in my little home. I tell people, when I open the doors of my house it’s like these arms come out, and they’re just embracing me. I think that is part of our radical resistance to the culture of domination. I know that I’m not who he imagined in this little house. He imagined a nice white family with two kids, and I think on some level it was very hard for … [more]
bellhooks  2015  georgeyancy  buddhism  christianity  spirituality  religion  race  class  patriarchy  racism  classism  mentalillness  money  greed  mentalhealth  society  capitalism  consumerism  materialism  domination  power  gender  feminism  idenity  listening  love  humor  martinlutherkingjr  cornelwest  allies  influence  homes  intellectualism  theory  practice  criticalthinking  pedagogy  writing  children  unschooling  deschooling  teaching  howweteach  oedagogy  solitude  workinginpublic  publicintellectuals  narcissism  healing  malcolmx  blackness  whitesupremacy  abandonment  betrayal  anger  masculinity  markmcleodbethune  resistance  safety  whiteness  terror  wealth  imperialism  inequality  pathology  poverty  truth  truthfulness  sandrabland  thichnhathanh  activism  estrangement  everyday  humanism  humanization  humility  grace  change  changemaking  transformation  canon  empowerment  composting  desire  lotteries  lorrainehansberry  araisininthesun  culture  trauma  sorrow  leadership  psychology  self-determination  slow  small  beatpoets  jackkerouac  garysnyder  beatpoetry  ethics 
december 2015 by robertogreco

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