Archive for the Brown and Beige Beauties Category

African Beauties

Posted in Brown and Beige Beauties, Cultural Matters, Photo-Essays with tags , on September 18, 2016 by playthell
13164291_726953114111349_2926071960629653620_nAfrican Style

Godesses from the Breast of the Earth!

As I select the images for these photo-essays on the beauty of black women – this is the second in a series of four covering the US, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean – I am constantly struck by two things: what an amazing treasure trove I have to choose from, and how Europeans manage to convince so many people of the superior beauty of white women.

Of course the answer to this riddle lies in the fact that by virtue of their dominence in the military, economic and technological spheres Europeans have been able to impose their cultural values on the rest of the world.   In fact, mastery of a major European language has until the last fifty years been essential in order to gain access to the tools a nation needed to achieve modernity.  Simply put, the learned texts that contained the scientific knowledge that is the gateway to the modern world were written in those languages – which also produced a prolific literature that was employed to indoctrinate the colonized populations in the ideas and values of their oppressors including notions of vice and virtue, beauty and ugliness.

The knowledge of modern science was not to be found in Sanscrit, Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, or Yoruba. Even our concept of time and place had been defined by Europeans.  The ancient wisdom of the great empires of Africa, Asia and Latin America proved impotent weapons against the onslaught of modern Europe.  This was not because Europeans were inherently superior, as they would claim, rather it was a function of the fact that “The Enlightenment,” an intellectual movement which separated the functions of church and state, priviledging reason over religion, science over mysticism, physics over metaphysics, ushered in the scientific revolution and the Industrial revolution which followed in its wake.

These dynamic developments in European society provided them with the technology to devestate the armies of the Third World and resulted in European conquest of the globe.  In the early twentieth century the little Island of Britian – whose King, George III, had been rebuffed by the Emperor of China as a “Barbarian” in an official rejection of his bid to establish trade relations around the time of the American Revolution in the 18th century – could boast that “The Sun never sets on the British empire” and had the audacity to call itself “Great Britian.”

The parts of the globe that was not controlled by the “conquoring Anglo-Saxons” were controlled by the other major nations of Europe, which exported their surplus populations all over the Third World, changing the physical characteriscs of the indigenous “natives” and implanting their language, literature and religious beliefs among them.  As a result of these historical events European values dominated the psyche of the subject peoples and convinced many of them that Europeans were superior in all things and and thus it was “a white man’s world” and the white woman became the ideal of feminine beauty.

The anti-colonial revolutions that burst out all over the non-white world in the aftermath of the second world war, was spurred by the fact these subject peoples had fought in the armies of their colonial master’s in two global conflicts within a generation and discovered that Europeans were not invincible and could be killed just like them.  Hence it is no surprise that the leaders of the anti-colonial movements in Afica and Asia, as well as the black liberation struggle in the US, were largely led by ex-military men.  This was true whether we are talkig about Franz Fanon and Abdel Gamel Nasser in Africa or Medgar Evers and Robert Williams in the US.

A major part of the liberation struggles of oppressed peoples of color, as the revolutionary psychaitrist Franz Fanon described so poignantly in hyis writings was to reclaim their personalities, their sense of self.  Nowhere was this process more in evidence than among the black peoples of the world – especially in the USA with the rise of a militant black conciousness that inspired the “Black Arts Movement” which challanged European standards of beauty.  I came of age amidst that movement and was an avid participant in promoting it’s ideas.

I was on the scene when the African Jazz Art Society – founded by a collaboration between visual artists and Jazz – that boldly promoted an “Afrocentric” esthetic view that celebrated au naturel hair styles and African inspired dress which accentuated the beauty of African women.  The four cultural visionaries that created AJASS were musicians Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln, along with the Braithwaite Brothers: Photographer Kwame and graphic artist/illustrator  Elombe.

The major vehicle through which they promoted the celebration black beauty was the Grandossa Models, who were presented in a series of cutural happenings in which Jazz, especially the Africa concious revolutionary music of the founders Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln – see video clip at the bottom of this essay – Visual Arts, and Poetry readings were also on display.

The Grandossa Models

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Setting an Afro-Centric Standard of Beauty

Max and Abbey

Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln
Kwame Braithwaite: Photographer of the Movement

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Elombe!
All Creator’s of the “Black is Beautiful” Slogan

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A Pan African soldier welcoming Nelson and Winnie to Harlem!

A statement explaining the raison d’etre for the show  billed as “Naturally 62,” held in that year proclaimed it was “created to show Black women (and the world) that our Black skin, kinky hair and full lips were a thing of beauty, not something to be ashamed of.  This photo-essay was created as an extension of that spirit!

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Vanity!

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A Regal Beauty

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The Source: Where Big Bootys Come From!
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Elegante

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 Academy Award Winning Actress

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Miss Ghana!

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Click on link to view Max and Abbey perform “All Africa”

 Compiled by: Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
October 17, 2016

The Most Beautiful Girls in the World!!!

Posted in Brown and Beige Beauties, Cultural Matters, Photo-Essays with tags on September 10, 2016 by playthell

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 13: Tennis Player Serena Williams arrives at The 2011 ESPY Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on July 13, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Serena Williams: Ebony Goddess

A Reality Check!

Harlem Sweeties
Have you dug the spill/ Of Sugar Hill?
Cast your gims/On this sepia thrill:
Brown sugar lassie, Caramel treat, Honey-gold baby
Sweet enough to eat./Peach-skinned girlie,
Coffee and cream, / Chocolate darling
Out of a dream. /Walnut tinted / Or cocoa brown,
Pomegranate-lipped / Pride of the town.
Rich cream-colored /To plum-tinted black,
Feminine sweetness /In Harlem’s no lack.
Glow of the quince /To blush of the rose.
Persimmon bronze /To cinnamon toes.
Blackberry cordial, Virginia Dare wine—
All those sweet colors /Flavor Harlem of mine!
Walnut or cocoa, Let me repeat:
Caramel, brown sugar, A chocolate treat.
Molasses taffy, Coffee and cream,
Licorice, clove, cinnamon/ To a honey-brown dream.
Ginger, wine-gold, Persimmon, blackberry,
All through the spectrum/ Harlem girls vary—
So if you want to know beauty’s / Rainbow-sweet thrill,
Stroll down luscious, 
Delicious, fine Sugar Hill.
By: Langston Hughes, Poet Laureate of Harlem

I am absolutely certain that I speak for most Afro-Americans…and some other folks of different ethnicities when I say that I am sick of witnessing the tyranny of the Caucasian female Image ad nauseum!   Ever since I can remember I have been inundated with images of white girls. In my forthcoming novel “Tall Tales from the Life and Times of Sugarcane Hancock: The Phallocentric Memoirs of a Sweet Colored Man,” The central character remembers the experience this way:

“White Girls….they seemed to be everywhere.  They beckoned to me from billboards beside the highways, and smiled from he pages of Sears and Roebuck catalogues inviting me to sample their wares.  They attempted to seduce my mind with carnal desire with their scantily clad bodies in girlie magazines, and attempted to infect me with a high heel and garter belt fetish on the covers of calendars and pin up posters.  They sashayed aroud our sunny Florida town in high heels and short shorts exposing tanned alabaster flesh thay I was forbidden to look upon let alone touch. They winked at me and hungrily licked their lips from the giant silver screens in dark movie palaces on Saturday afternoons; they even descended from the walls and stained glass windows of grand cathedrals and churches on Sundays….even black churches; blond blue eyed angels pointing the way to heaven!”

However even back in the day, when beautiful black female images were banished from the mass media, only overweight Black Mammy’s  – like Hattie McDaniel in the lavishly produced but sappy white plantation fantasy, “Gone with the Wind’ – got the nod.   Yet all of us who had eyes could easily see that it wasn’t so.  But given that the mass media was owned and controlled by white folks the beauties we saw in our daily lives – which were as common as water in black communities EVERYWHERE in America – were never celebrated in the images beamed into the psyches of millions of Americans.

This is the only plausible explanation for why white women are so widely promoted as the universal standard of beauty.  But I never bought the hype….as was the case with most of the black men I knew.  When I was a teenager the White folks said that Elizabeth Taylor was “The Most beautiful woman in the world; I thought Liz was pretty, but she paled like a fading flower when compared to Dorothy Dandridge.  And I also thought that Dorothy Dandridge looked a lot like my girlfriend Harriet Phoenix and was in a dead heat with my mamma…THE REAL QUEEN ELIZABETH!

Liz Taylor

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 Dottie Dandrige
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What was especially grievous about the comparisons of Dorothy Dandridge to Liz Taylor is that Dottie was so much more talented.  In the golden age of Hollywood, when film production was dominated by a few mammoth studios run by corporate dictators popularly called Moguls, every performer longed to be a “Triple Threat,” talented at acting, singing and dancing.  Dorothy was a Triple Threat par excellence.   She was a good actor, a moving singer and a spectacular dancer, who was good enough to appear in Hollywood films dancing with the Nicholas Brothers, the most spectacular dance team to ever appear in movies…the best in the world!   The only reason that she did not become the biggest star in American show business, including Hollywood is because of white racism!

It is amusing – in the sense of laughing to keep from crying – to witness these same attitudes expressed on the part of white Americans today, albeit far less than in my youth, when they seek to compare our beautiful, elegant, First Lady to Jackie Kennedy. Demonstrating yet again the bogusness of white feminist intellectuals who claim that racism is a male malady, that wicked witch of the reactionary right, Anorexic Annie Coulter, drew an invidious comparison between Jackie and Michelle and suggested that any attempt to compare the two in style, elegance and beauty was absurd: Jackie had it all around….hands down.

As is often the case with the pronouncements of this silly skinny amoral skank, when I heard what she said “I got tha ass” as the old folks would say down home in Florida.  And since one of my favorite sports is unmasking charlatans and chastising pretentious white sophist…especially the pugnacious ones, I responded to Crazy Annie with a photo-essay that demolishes her vulgar and tasteless claim.  She should be the last one to speak on this anyway, since she is a skinny booga bear who looks like she was in a gang fight and everybody had a hatchet or a ball and chain but her!  See: “The Best Looking first Lady Ever!” at www.

Michelle….Oh Well!

Portraits of our Stunning First Lady

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Raphsody In Blue

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Need I say More?

A Study in Elegance

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Day or Night….She’s the One!
***See Video on the elements of hers her Style below)
https://youtu.be/UzrvKIHWfDk

Jackie O

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 At the White House Ball
Jackie had Style 

First Lady Jackie Kennedy standing on the grounds of the Taj Mahal during visit to India. (Photo by Art Rickerby/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

But she literally pales beside Michelle

The essential point here is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and to my eyes Michelle is a far more strunning figure than Jackie Kennedy.  I love her colorful style which has a special flare when contrasted with her beautiful chocolate complexion.  What ever color Michelle chooses to wear including Jackie’s favorite white, will look better than when it adorns Jackie’s pale skin.  Furthermore, whereas Jackie was a slave to fashion dictators Michelle is a trend setter who chooses clothes from a far wider range of designers…making reputations instead of seeking the safety of choices from the trendy houses of fashion.

Left to my own devices I wouldn’t be engaged in this exercise because I see beauty in all of the world’s women, but some white folks made this an important issue that must be addressed.  The beauty and taste of black women has been disparaged far too often, and like white Americans have always done, they just declare that it is true without presenting any evidence, or even defining a clear standard.

Having consorted with beautiful and refined women of various races and ethnicities, I believe that middle class and upper class black American women are the most stylish ladies in the world.  And I also believe black women, with their myriad complexions descibed so deliciously by Langston Hughes – a task only an able poet with a fertile imagination could hope to pull off  – exotic eye shapes, widely varied facial features, endlessly inventive hair styles, and spectacular bodies  are the most beautiful women in the world!

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Black, Brown and Beige Beauties!

The Girls of Sugar Hill Today

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Makeda Voletta
 Sports Scientist and Former Athlete
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Dancer
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 Photographer’s Model

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A Magical Moon Dance comjuring the spirit of Oshun
Queen Makeda!
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Actress/Producer Michele Turner
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A Sophisticated Lady
Satin Doll
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Sizziling in her Sixties!
Black don’t Crack!

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A Sexy Senior Citizen pushing 70!

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Light Bright to Ebony Black and All the Shades in Between!

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Lovely Leana Horn: Triple Threat!
Pick yo Flava

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Beautiful Bodacious Bootys
A Chocolate Delight 

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Oshun’s Daughter
A Pecan Tan Brivk House!

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 High Yellow

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Teasing Brown

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The Queen B!

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The Blacker the Berry

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The Goddess Oshun

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 A Movable Feast of Many Flavas!

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Dangerous Curves!

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Actress Meagan Goode

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A Stunning Bronze Afro-Amazon!

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Cafe Au lait

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 Mahogony Fine II

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Cinnamon

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Poet Jessica Care Moore
Black And Fantasies

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Our women are like a flower garden/You can Choose any color you like”
My Grand Daddy, George Benjamin Sr.
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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
Fall 2016