“Pop music, like most things in America, has an especially hard time with black women and their bodies, from Miley Cyrus’ use of them in her tired Jump Jim Crow antics to the condemnation of Rihanna’s wonderful wild,” Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah wrote in her incredibly thoughtful 2014 essay on the BeyHive, the legions of Beyoncé superfans. “Rihanna is a popular target for the BeyHive, a person they often humiliate, maybe just because she is another big-deal black girl in pop music. […] But of late I’ve come to think that it speaks to something important about the BeyHive: I’m not certain they really hate Rihanna, or find joy in her hurt — instead I think what they really hate is that Rihanna knows firsthand, like so many women and girls, and perhaps like so many of them, that being violently hit by a man doesn’t ever feel like a kiss. It feels the opposite. It is a humiliation that is impossible to forget.”
In essays on Beyoncé, Missy Elliott, Toni Morrison, and others, Ghansah — who just won a Pulitzer Prize for her GQ feature on mass murderer Dylan Roof — has shown herself to be an exceptionally insightful analyst of the enormous pressures, hopes, and dreams pinned on creative black women in the United States. As part of the Museum of Modern Art’s PopRally series, she has organized a program of talks, performances, screenings, and a DJ set exploring black female creativity, its legacy, current forms, and possible futures, on Sunday.
Along with Ghansah herself, readers at Sunday’s event, “A Woman’s Work,” will include Saeed Jones, Jamaica Kincaid, Darryl Pinckney, and Greg Tate. Films to be screened include moving image works by Julie Dash, dream hampton, Aretha Franklin, and Whitney Houston. The evening will culminate with a performance by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts and Steffani Jemison and a DJ set by Helado Negro — which, something tells me, will also include its fair share of Aretha and Whitney.
When: Sunday, April 29, 7pm
Where: Museum of Modern Art (11 West 53rd Street, Midtown, Manhattan)
More info at the Museum of Modern Art.