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Images of Black Women in Music Videos Harkens Back to Hottentot

At this year’s Essence Music Festival songstress Jill Scott, and others, addressed a panel concerning the media’s portrayal of black women in popular music and videos. I was thrilled to see the attention given to this topic. Such a platform is long overdue.

The promotion of black women as body parts with a particular emphasis on the buttocks has a painful place in our history. In 1810, Saarjite Baartman (also known as Sarah), a Khosian woman, was taken from South Africa to Europe to be publicly displayed because of her steatopygia, or enlarged buttocks. Known as “The Hottentot Venus,” she was exhibited naked in a cage for more than five years. After Saarjite’s death, her genitals were removed and dissected as European scientists sought to understand the “primitive sexual appetite” of African women.

Black women’s thrusting, vibrating buttocks are the primary object in many of today’s videos. These videos perpetuate the continued assault on the sexual integrity of black women’s bodies. It is not simply the depiction of black women as big booty, scantily clad, gyrating, voiceless sex toys. But, there is little to counter these images anywhere else in the media. Consider the role that garnered actor Halle Berry an Academy Award. It involved an animalistic sex scene suggesting something primitive about the sexuality of black women.

I’m led to wonder about the impact upon black girls absorbing these images.
Although a link has long been suspected between sexually charged images in the media and the socio-emotional development of adolescent girls, empirical evidence is beginning to establish a correlation. And as you may assume, black girls don’t fare well.

A study recently published in the American Journal of Public Health found that black girls who view more rap videos are more likely to get in trouble with the law, take drugs and become infected with sexually transmitted diseases. “We can see there is some link, some association,” says study co-author Gina Wingood, an associate professor of behavioral sciences and health education at Emory University in Atlanta.

Whether or not we want to believe these assertions, the statistics regarding the sexual health of black girls are troubling. A survey conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy found 32.7% of sexually experienced black girls aged 15-19 reported having 2 or more male partners in the last year. Research done by Girls Inc., showed that among black girls between the ages of 12-18 tested for sexually transmitted diseases, 25% tested positive for at least one STD, with chlamydia and gonorrhea most prevalent. Although black girls made up about 15% of all U.S. girls between the ages 13 and 19, they accounted for 72% of all HIV cases reported among young women. Many rap videos heavily promote sex without consequences. We can see the results are devastating.

Growing up as a girl in the 1970′s, the potential for women seemed enormous. Black women were part of changing history and left a formidable legacy. Recently, Oprah broadcasted her Legend’s Ball honoring great black women in media, music, and the civil rights movement. The legends were women I grew up watching–women like Diahann Carroll, Gladys Knight, Nancy Wilson, Cecily Tyson, Dorothy Height, Coretta Scott King, and Maya Angelou just to name a few. These women were dignified, graceful, and commanded respect. They were (and still are) beautiful black women, courageous and strong. As a girl, whenever I saw these women a sense of pride welled up inside of me and still does today. Who can black girls turn to today for such inspiration?

As a society, we must ask ourselves several questions. Do we care about the type of women girls grow up to become? Is their public image worth defending? Is their sexual integrity worth protecting? There was a period in our history during which black men risked lynching if they attempted to protect their women from the sexual assault of other men. I am perplexed by the silence of black men as black women are publicly degraded and sexually exploited. We are in need of a new sexual revolution, one which restores the dignity of black women. A revolution is needed that will transform black women from “baby mamas,” “chicken heads,” and “‘hos” to self-respecting wives and mothers (preferably in that order.)

While I applaud the Essence Music Festival for providing a platform to discuss the portrayal of black women in popular media, it is essential that we take action that will begin to make a difference. Getting the media to present balanced images of our women is imperative. But, we must also do some work on ourselves. By challenging every attempt to exploit the sexuality of black women and girls by men in our community we can create safer, healthier spaces for girls to grow up. And girls must be taught media literacy so that they can deconstruct the images they are absorbing.

As an advocate, consultant, and educator, I have worked on behalf of girls for more than a decade. I love girls. They are beautiful, caring, resilient, and strong. But, over the years I have seen girls struggle to grow up in a society that fails to protect them at every level. The rate of sexual harassment of girls in their own neighborhoods and schools is extremely high. Black girls face extraordinary incidents of sexual abuse at the hands of a relative or close family associate. Many of these girls end up involved in the juvenile justice system, the focal point of much of my work. Because of their traumatic sexual histories, girls in the juvenile justice system are easily lured into the sex industry. Pimps disguised as video producers seek them out as easy prey.

The troubling reality is that many of these girls are mothers of more than one child. What will their children grow up to become? Can they pass on to their children the love they didn’t experience? To change the trajectory of the lives of these girls, we need to begin with restoring their sense of value and worth. I have heard girls speak of making self-destructive choices because they believed they didn’t deserve any better. They saw their lives as worthless. As I mentor these girls, I tell them that they are valuable and have tremendous worth. And that it is not dependent on anything other than the fact that God made them wonderful. As I read to them from the book of Psalms, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well,” they are amazed. If we want to begin to transform the lives of girls, we as a community must demonstrate our belief that their lives are worthy by showing that we care enough to take action on their behalf.

I felt hopeful and relieved when a group of courageous women at Spelman College organized a boycott of Nelly, known for his misogynistic lyrics and music videos that demean black women. Our communities need more of that kind of organizing and action. We must keep the momentum going and begin to turn the tide. A future generation of healthy wives and mothers depends on it. The Hottentot Venus is a tragic part of the history of black women. Doing nothing about the present day assault on the public image of black women stands to be just as tragic.

Pocket Consoles Are Latest Educational Toys

A new generation of hand-held electronic devices have entered the children’s educational toy and game market.

Apart from Nintendo’s DS and Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP), hand-held electronic devices such as mobile phones, MP3 players and readers (characterised by Apple’s iPhone, iPod and iPad ranges) have so far been made for and marketed to adults and teens.

Now a new generation of pocket consoles have been launched specifically for chldren, including Fisher-Price’s iXL Learning System, Leapfrog’s Leapster Explorer and VTech’s MobiGo.

Available in Green or Pink, Leapster features a touch-screen display and built-in stylus, and retails for less than 40.

Aimed at children from toddler and preschool age to nine years old, Leapster features educational games covering subjects from art and music to geography and maths.

Games come in the form of slot-in 64 Megabyte cartridges, but you can also buy and download software ‘apps’ called ‘Leaplets’ from an online shop by connecting the device, with it’s 512Mb internal storage memory, to a PC or Mac computer.

Leaplets come in various forms: e-books to teach vocabulary and spelling, videos to teach counting, language flash cards, and games.

Cartridge games include Mr Pencil Saves Doodleburg, a kind of electronic children’s craft kit game based around drawing, writing letters, numbers and shapes.

Disney Princess: Pop-Up Story Adventure teaches linguistic phonics skills, story comprehension and musical pitch.

The Jewel Train Leaplet teaches logic and reasoning skills by challenging kids to piece together a train set to reach a particular destination.

Older kids will like Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which manages to work geometry and fractions into the action.

Other games include popular franchises Dora the Explorer and Toy Story 3.

MobiGo, which features a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard in addition to a touch-screen display retails for 50. It has a headphone socket for no-noise fun, but be warned – it runs on 4 AA batteries, so invest in rechargables if you don’t want to spend a fortune.

Game cartridges go for 17 and the device can hold up to four downloadable educational mini-games, most of which you must pay for.

Cartridge titles include Dora the Explorer, Toy Story 3 and Mr Men and Little Miss, but the console comes with the six-game Touch & Learn Game Pack.

Touch and Learn includes Wild Fun, where kids must choose the odd one out from a set of animals displayed on the screen.

In Space Challenge, players tap on spaceships to complete number sequences and addition problems.

Shooting Gallery uses the keyboard to type letters matching those on cardboard duck targets.

Ice Escape is a logical children’s puzzle game where the player moves ice blocks to make a bridge for a little penguin.

In Fantastic Forest, kids help a squirrel leap from tree to tree by drawing lines and geometric shapes on the screen, while in Music Maestro players improvise music by tapping on the screen.

3 Basic Tips in Selecting Educational Toys

Parents are now provided with a broader set of choices in selecting toys for their children. A major innovation has long been recognized and is currently presenting a better option for kids to further their mental growth and development. While several toy companies are emerging, educational toys are also gaining wide acceptance and are facing a significant demand in the market.

Growing children require proper guidance and special attention, considering the fact that they are at a stage where their brains are recognizing concepts that are new to them. And given their high curiosity, toys are an effective way to feed their hungry minds with basic information. Parents can passively help their children improve their understanding of the world around them. However, parents should be selective in choosing such for their children. Even though they have opted for those which are highly educational, they should look to find those that meet the needs of their children and will give the kind of care that they want their kids to have.

1) Find those that are appropriate to his or her age. Certain toys are specifically made for a certain age group. When kids toys are being used by children beyond the age range being specified, they become useless since these children would find it hard to use and relate to them. This is because they have not reached the level of understanding that is necessary for them to appreciate the subject matter being tackled or addressed. The opposite goes for children who deal with toys that are too young for them. They usually find them boring and unchallenging. In addition, they would not really cater to the intellectual needs of your child. Do not assume that by providing your child with those that are advanced for him or her will also advance her skills. Manufacturers also take into account safety considerations relating to age that is why they are also mandated by law to specify age bracket of target users. Those for younger children do not use small pieces to avoid having them swallowed.

2) Target specific skills. Certain toddler educational toys are made to target a specific behavior or skill in children. These skills may pertain to cognitive, logical and even artistic talent, to name a few. For infants, those that can stimulate their vision and audio skills should be considered. With toddlers, on the other hand, they have a wider range of choices since they have already developed basic skills such as attention, symbolic thinking and memory. But if you are honing your child to become someone or acquire a certain personality like being musically-inclined, you must expose him or her to music-related materials such as musical books, musical instruments for children and other musical toys. You can also opt to frequently play nursery rhymes and children’s songs on your music box or disc player. To enhance logical thinking, they can be exposed to puzzles or related games that are also suitable for their age. You can also further develop your child’s literary skills by reading them stories. There are educational videos that are produced and marketed everywhere. They are typically presented in various lessons that are aimed to target specific abilities.

3) Safety first. This is a basic rule for anything that you wish to do. And selecting toys for your kid should not be an exemption. Childrens educational toys may also pose danger if their composition or production does not meet safety standards. These should not contain toxic materials, such as lead content, that might go into the way of your child’s health. Parents should give extra attention to this as youngsters are more sensitive and prone to issues that may endanger their own health. Even though the government is strictly prohibiting the use of harmful materials in these articles, parent should still be extra cautious by taking particular attention on what they are buying. You should read the outer cover or the toy box which should say “non-toxic”. You must also read manuals or precautionary measures that come with the product to determine proper use. The same attention should be given on things that should be avoided. To ensure that you buy baby toys that are indeed friendly to your child’s health, look for certification on certain brands and products.