Collections / Reviews

Rebecca Walker, Black Cool

One of the reasons I love Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness is that it celebrates the diversity of expression of blackness while at the same advocating that the heart of this culture can not be bought or sold. Or in the words of Michaela Angela Davis, “You cannot have our cool-ass Black style.” Davis goes on to say that there are no solid definitions of blackness, and it lacks the need for the validation from mainstream society. It exists as it’s own enigma, and when you try to change it or alter it, it dies (59). This collection has a lot of mixed love going on, firstly with the eloquent Rebecca Walker as its editor. In her introduction, she calls for the building of a “periodic table of Black Cool, element by element.” While this book is an excellent beginning, the movement reaches beyond the pages with the site Our Black Cool and an increasing Twitter presence.

Some of the other mixed contributors include Mat Johnson, Staceyann Chin, and Rachel M. Harper. Harper’s essay describes the tough black cool of her father, a trait that she found intimidating, untouchable and admirable. Within her community, men like her father “were fighting not only to assert their identities, but to create them, to solidify and define their myths. They were making the stories of who they are – to themselves, each other, and to the outside world.” This is something that bridges the experience of all people of color, and certainly a position mixed people take on every day.

Johnson, (whose new novel, Pym, just came out in paperback), writes about identifying (or being labeled as) a geek in the context of blackness. In a style that is complimentary to his fiction, his essay is a mix of humor, cultural criticism and academic analysis of what blackness is today. He writes: “Blackness is one of the few identities that comes with its own self-enforced expectation of expression. …Blackness can be a rigid identity, with people stepping out of line facing ridicule and admonishment, or worse, condemnation. Those who reject the perceived identity of Blackness can be seen as rejecting the whole of black worth itself” (14-15). Right? What more can you can say?

Read this book. Support this reclamation of Black Cool.

Listen to Rebecca Walker convince you even more:

Share your Black Cool. Here’s my sister and I sporting our early 90’s style and ‘fros.

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