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SpiritHouse Launches campaign to end the image war against African American women

by Ruby Sales, SpiritHouse Friday, Apr. 13, 2007 at 6:39 AM

On the tails of the hurtful words of Don Imus, the Our Name is Our Own Campaign™ will target the systemic level of this habitual branding, and how it sabotages the work of social justice and obscures the vision for our common dreams. This grassroots campaign will be unveiled by Ruby Sales -- acclaimed civil rights activist, social critic, public theologian and history maker -- at the Lucy Florence Cultural Center located in Los Angeles, at 11am this morning. See below for press release.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 11, 2007
Contact: Ruby Sales, Founder and Director of SpiritHouse Project
on the web @ www.spirithouseproject.org or via email spirithousedc[[at]]aol[[dot]]com
Office: 323-293-1356; Cell: 202-431-0764

On April 12, 2007 at 11:00 am, Pacific Standard Time, at the Lucy Florence Cultural Center located at 3351 West 43 rd Street, Los Angeles, California , the SpiritHouse Project, a national social justice organization, inaugurates a national campaign to end the sexist and racist image war against African American women. This grassroots campaign will be unveiled by Ruby Sales, acclaimed civil rights activist, social critic, public theologian and history maker.

The Our Name is Our Own Campaign™ comes out of the hard work of the Civil Rights and Women's Movements. The public branding, discourse and marketing that misrepresents Black women as bad mothers, whores, mammies, immoral and amoral bitches, welfare cheats, passive love slaves, hoochie mamas, ghetto women is a serious challenge to this work.

As a matter of fact, this brand of thinking emerges out of a reactionary and dehumanizing world view that will bear disastrous consequences in a 21st century world community where the impulse for democracy and dignity still burns strongly in communities throughout the United States.

So, it is in our best interest as a nation to understand that the image war against Black women dehumanizes us all and sabotages the vision that guides the heart of this nation: to build a more perfect union. This is the common dream that binds us together in the face of our differences. It is a common dream that comes out of the hard work, struggle, sacrifices and blood of generations of Americans of all colors, classes, religions, sexualities, genders, ages, religions and classes. We cannot let a group of greedy and unjust power mongers who long for the "good ole –good old boys" days rob us of this common dream.

Therefore, the Our Name is Our Own Campaign™ gives us an opportunity to call the nation back to its highest self. The hopeful and good news is that we are not objects of history; we can play a major role in shifting the cultural center of gravity in our country. This is a campaign of meaning and hope that advances democracy and insures its growth now and in the future.

Without a doubt, Black male hip hop artists must be held accountable for demeaning Black women and adding gas to the image war. Simultaneously, we must not make the mistake in assuming that they stand on equal ground with the real white male power brokers. While their maleness informs who they are and their positions in the world, their color lands outside them outside of the loop of power. Unlike white men, they do not control who has the public mike or what is seen and heard in the public square. Nor can they make public policies that concretize these gender hating stereotypes.

Our Name is Our Own Campaign™ positions itself in the long held understanding passed down to us, as Black women, from generation to generation, that our name is worth more than silver or gold. It is the essence and spirit of our individual and community lives. Our name is a powerful witness of collective triumph over adversity and dignity over vulgarity. It is the story of women and communities who not only overcome but transcend. It is the story of race women and cultural carriers who anchored our community and pushed the nation towards democracy in the most virulent days of enslavement and southern apartheid.

We know from history that stereotyping is dangerous. It is a dehumanizing practice with severe economic and social consequences that creates fertile ground and justification for violence, exploitation, injustice and public policies that rob us of our rights and places in society. Therefore because of these dangerous consequences, the right to represent ourselves with dignity and authenticity is a human rights issue in the 21st century.

Our protest reflects a national conversation and movement that calls the question on the ways that mainstream and hip hop culture demonize and vilify us. It comes at a time of great urgency where the power elite and their go-fers are up to their old tricks of using an image war to hide and justify the nature and the truth of systemic white supremacy. By now, most of this nation know that Imus in the Morning host, Don Imus, and his Executive Producer, Bernard McGuirk, called the black female basketball players of Rutgers University "nappy headed hos."

Their racist and dehumanizing language and audacity reflect a deeply held public feeling that goes beyond personal attacks- beyond the individual racial and sexual hatred of the Don Imus' of the world or the internalize racism and misogyny of the Snoop Dogs of hip hop culture. The core issue is the systemic racism and sexism that lives deeply in mainstream American culture. The shapers of racism and sexism attempt to reshape reality and truth to obscure the nature and consequences of the world that they create and use their power and resources to sustain. They twist our minds and consciousness to believe that racist and sexist behavior and language is acceptable, realistic and normative.

Our rejection of these images as the cornerstone of our history and creativity reaffirm our refusal to continue to sit quietly and passively while members of the establishment distort our names, histories, and images for their economic and social benefit. They do not have the power to make us up or create us out of their imaginations and self interests. The power to name ourselves is in our hands. Without our permission, it cannot be stolen or bought.

That's why SpiritHouse came to Los Angeles two months ago and partnered with the Lucy Florence Cultural Center to address this growing racist and sexist assault against the image and community of Black women through a concept performance called: SisterAll Two: Our Name is Our Own ™.

SisterAll Two opened on April 6-7 with powerful voices of women of color activists artists who are turning popular culture on its head by refusing to root our voices and images in the slanderous and long standing stereotyping of Black women. SisterAll Two: Our Name is Our Own™ performance concept continues on April 13-15 at Lucy Florence Cultural Center in Leimert Park .

Ruby Sales says "This is a time for innovation rather than reaction. We must be on the cutting edge of human rights issues of the 21 st century. Our message is simple. We might be Davinas up against giants, but our slingshots are powerful tools that can bend empires and shape the world."


SpiritHouse Project
1615 Buchanan Street, NW
Washington, DC 20011

SpiritHouse Project's Los Angeles Headquarters
At Lucy Florence Cultural Center
3351 West 43rd Street
Los Angeles, California 90008
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