Misty Copeland quite simply is the best Ballerina in America right now, and perhaps the world. To reach that pinnacle with the American Ballet, she had to overcome a lot of obstacles beyond that of just having the physical and artistic talent including race and body image. Ballet dancers at this level also are incredible athletes, at the level of he most demanding professional sports.
Growing up, I thought that Ballet, like the Opera and Classical Music were things for old white people…Until I got to see the Bolshoi perform in Moscow in their heyday in the early 70’s. The beauty and artistic form was breathtaking. In those days, the old communist government began training the dancers in state schools at 3 years old. Those that survived the brutal regimen were quite simply miles better than anything else in the world in the dance form.
BTx3 is saving his pennies for that ultimate trip to NY to see Hamilton and Misty.
The two discussed activism, body image, gender and success.
On Feb. 29, President Barack Obama and ballerina Misty Copeland sat down with Time reporter Maya Rhodan to talk about race, gender and success in their respective careers.
While one currently resides at the White House and the other can often be found rehearsing in the storied halls of the American Ballet Theatre, they’ve encountered similar setbacks and triumphs, whether they’re talking about the body image ideals of classical ballet or the way social media is used by political activists today.
This week, Essence Magazine is running a three-part video series that gives a peek inside the White House Cabinet room, where the interview took place. The clips show Copeland, a member of the presidential Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, and Obama discussing Black Girl Magic, Black Lives Matter, and the realities of raising two African American women today.
Here are 11 of the best quotes from the interview:
On the Power Of Athleticism
“As a father of two daughters, seeing how images of strong athletic accomplished women carry over, and encouraging them in sports and dance and how they move physically, it turns out that every study shows that young girls who are involved in sports, dance, athletics end up having more confidence generally.” —Barack Obama
“For all the blessings and privileges and responsibilities that I’ve gotten, I’m just representing a huge cross section of people who are talented and capable and supported me getting to where I came from.” — BO
“A lot of what I’ve experienced has not always been to my face, or it’s been very subtle. But it’s in a way that I know what’s going on and I feel it deep inside of me. And I, being the only African American in almost every environment in terms of classical ballet, it weighs on you and it wears on you after a while […] I think that being African American has definitely been a huge obstacle for me. But it’s also allowed me to have this fire inside of me that I don’t know if I would have or have had if I weren’t in this field.” — Misty Copeland
On the Future of Ballet
“I think that being in this position and showing that I can execute and do all of these things, that it’s possible to have any skin complexion, to have a healthy body image for the ballerina body. I think it’s given me more of a voice. And it’s I think forcing a lot of these top tier companies to address the lack of diversity and diversifying the bodies that we’re seeing in classical ballet. It’s really forcing that conversation to be had.” — MC
On Black Girl Magic
“To use social media to have a positive impact on our generation is huge […] to have movements like Black Girl Magic, I think it couldn’t be more positive for a young black girl to see that it’s okay to be yourself, it’s okay to not have to transform and look like what you may see on the cover of a lot of magazines. That you are beautiful, that it’s possible to succeed in any field that you want to, looking the way that you do.” — MC
On Social Media
“Well social media obviously is the way in which young people are receiving information in general. So the power of young activists to help shape color and politics through things like Black Lives Matter, which I think is hugely important. And when I think about the journey I’ve traveled, there’s no doubt that young African America, Latino, Asian, LGBT youth, they have more role models. They have more folks that they can immediately identify with.” — BO
“I hope that there are young men of color who are looking at me and saying, I can aspire to be the president, or a senator, or a community organizer and make change in my neighborhoods. But if they are locked out of opportunity, and in neighborhoods where even if I’m on television, there are no men in their neighborhoods who’ve got jobs that are able to support a family, then you’ve still got problems.” — BO
“You know, being the only African American at this level in American Ballet Theatre, I feel like people are looking at me, and it’s my responsibility for me to do whatever I can to provide these opportunities in communities to be able to educate them. And if that means having a program just for black dancers to allow them to have the same opportunity that generations and generations of white dancers have had, it’s necessary.” — MC
On Teaching Kids about Race
“You know, I mean I think about this now as a parent. Michelle and I are having a lot of conversations around the dinner table. And for me, what I always try to transmit to my kids is that issues of race, discrimination, tragic history of slavery and Jim Crow, all those things are real. And you have to understand them and you have to be knowledgeable about them. And recognize that they didn’t stop overnight. Certainly not just when I was elected.” — BO
“Part of what I think successful social movements have involved is having a certain righteous anger about injustices being done to you, but also understanding that people who are on the other side of this, they’ve got their own history and their own circumstances. And you have to understand that, and you have to recognize that each of us has some good and some bad in is. And that’s not an excuse, but what it does do is it gives us an opportunity then to have a conversation and to reach across the divide.” — BO
“Well, you know, I spend most of my time thinking about institutions. And there’s no doubt, even though it’s a cliché that the single biggest difference we can make is making sure that our kids get a good education. We can do a lot to keep the economy moving forward, we can do a lot to make sure that we’re enforcing our nondiscrimination laws. We can do a lot more to open up people’s perspective about who belongs where. And press to make sure that we have more women CEOs, and more African American film directors. And more Latino police officers. And all those things are important. But the foundation that all this depends is making sure that on the front end, when these little babies are born and start to get curious about the world and are like sponges, that we are giving them the kind of education and the nurturing that they need. So that they’re off to a good start. And that involves an imaginative leap, a moral leap on the part of the society as a whole that says every kid should get a genuine opportunity and we’re willing to put money behind it, and we’re willing to invest in that to break cycles of poverty.” — BO
Misty performing solo
How the movement started, some of its philosophy, and future…
http://www.npr.org/player/embed/469545405/469545406“>An Audio of this interview is here
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Before Black Lives Matter was a hashtag, before it was a slogan chanted by protesters in cities across the country, before it was a national movement, it was a Facebook post by an Oakland-based activist named Alicia Garza. She wrote it after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. It read in part-
JELANI COBB: (Reading) I continue to be surprised at how little black lives matter, and I will continue that. Stop giving up on black life. She ended with black people, I love you. I love us. Our lives matter.
MCEVERS: That’s Jelani Cobb. He’s written an article in this week’s New Yorker magazine about Black Lives Matter, how the movement started and where it stands today. And he details how those three words were later adopted as a rallying cry by protesters from around the country who came to Ferguson, Mo. after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer. And, Jelani Cobb says, there’s still tension about who speaks for the movement.
COBB: I think there’s been a conflict that’s played itself out publicly in terms of the people who founded the idea or came up with the name and the people who really did the pivotal work on the ground in Ferguson. And – I mean, I think in some ways, it’s an entity that has two births. I mean, it’s conceived after one tragedy and really comes to fruition after another. And we’ve talked about the Internet and social media and the ways that those things have really revolutionized and changed the way social activism happens. And in some ways that’s a plus, but, you know, it can be a really big liability as well because a good bit of the conflict between the various factions of Black Lives Matter has played itself out in public and on social media.
MCEVERS: Give us an example of that.
COBB: A little more recently, Alicia Garza was going to come to St. Louis to give a speech at Webster University, and…
COBB: …A great deal of social media chatter erupted about this and whether or not she had any place coming there, and whether it was more appropriate to think of the people who were in St. Louis and Ferguson as the founders. And when I spoke to Alicia Garza about it, she said that she got death threats and, you know, threats of violence, and she wound up canceling the talk. And so that became kind of a crucial moment in, I think, the history of this organization where a person who is organizing about African-Americans and their lives is really not giving a talk because of threats to her own.
MCEVERS: One of the main principles of the Black Lives Matter movement is that it is without a leader. This isn’t just some flaky leftie thing. It’s this idea that in the past, we had great black men in history leading us through the civil rights movement and that that’s not necessarily the way to go. Can you explain that?
COBB: Yeah, the great black man theory of history. We associate, you know, whole blocks of history with, you know, W.E.B. Du Bois or Booker T. Washington or Malcolm X or Dr. King. You know, entire constellations of history are distilled down to two individuals, almost always male. And there’s been a certain kind of fatigue, and I think Black Lives Matter represents that. And they find a more horizontal ethic of leadership to be more important, and they find inspiration from Ella Baker, who was one of the most central figures of the civil rights movement in – partly due to her belief in kind of grassroots and local leadership in her aversion to the spotlight. Her story wasn’t as well known. And so they have kind of resurrected her idea that it’s better to have 10,000 candles than a single spotlight.
MCEVERS: Do you think that trying to fit more than one idea, though, under the Black Lives Matter tent – including not just police violence against men, but also talking gender politics – do you think that’s something that’s a liability?
COBB: I don’t think it is. You know, movements tend to pick up where the last one left off. And when people look back at the civil rights movement, one of the most glaring shortcomings that emerges is in many ways the marginalization of women within the movement or, you know, things like Bayard Rustin, who was the pivotal organizer of the March on Washington, but also faced discrimination as a gay black man. And so those are the things that Black Lives Matter look at and say, we want to not replicate those things. We want to not replicate the errors of the past.
MCEVERS: It seems like one of the consequences of Black Lives Matter being this kind of diffuse organization where you can – you have several chapters across the country – is backlash, right? I mean, you’ve got one group you talk about in your piece chanting about dead cops, and you have police departments talking about a Ferguson effect, you know, that these protesters are making it so that police are afraid to go do their jobs. And – what did some of the founders tell you about that?
COBB: Well, when I talked with Alicia Garza, she was very clear about making a distinction between Black Lives Matter the organization and Black Lives Matter as a movement. But it’s been almost kind of like a franchising effect. And, you know, the fact that there’s a low barrier to entry has been useful when there are people who have never participated in a political protest before and they’re willing to come out and say, OK, I can be part of this Black Lives Matter thing, and I agree with, you know, what’s happening here. At the same time, it makes it a little bit more difficult to have a kind of discipline within the ranks. And then you have a third element, which is the tendency of people to refer to any statement by a disgruntled black person as – somehow, now they’re connected to Black Lives Matter.
MCEVERS: At the end of the piece, you write Black Lives Matter may never have more influence than it does now. Do you think the movement has already hit its peak?
COBB: Potentially. I don’t think it’s easy to predict these things. But one of the things that I think we ought to take note of is the circumstances that allow Black Lives Matter to flourish. One is the existence of a black presidency and these sorts of egregious racial problems continuing in the context of a black presidency, which contributed, I think, to a climate of frustration. And, you know, we’re in the last year of the Obama presidency, and so that will change. And in addition to that, precisely because we’re in an election year, we’ve seen the movement to be able to leverage influence and – helping to shape and push the direction in which these two candidates on the Democratic side, at least, are moving. I don’t think that necessarily will happen after the presidential election. Or at least it’s not as easily achieved. …Read the Rest Here…
Megyn interviews Tavis Smiley. Tavis masterfully turns Megyn’s arguments back upon themselves again and again, as Megyn confuses symbols with reality.
Did President Obama miss opportunities? Yes, from the beginning in not realizing the depth and scope or Republican racism, and acting to counter that directly. Leading to the losses in 2010, based on his party’s perceived inability to lead, and allowing Republicans to dominate the megaphone. Are black folks worse off today because of that strategy failure…Yes. But it misses the point of who engineered that situation – and that in vast majority rests upon the shoulders of a Republican led Congress.
Megyn Kelly kept trying to talk about the political optics of race, Smiley kept on returning to the substance
On “The Kelly File” Monday evening, host Megyn Kelly spoke to PBS’s Tavis Smiley about the state of race relations in America today, which according to a recent Gallup poll are worse now than when the president first took office.
Smiley opened by noting that this is largely the Republican’s fault, as they have made the president’s race a divisive issue by other means.
“But people were crying the night he was elected in Chicago,” Kelly replied, “and I don’t want to say he was ‘The Messenger,’ but this was a guy who could change things.”
Smiley said that we will “debating unto time immemorial whether or not the right move was to go after jobs or healthcare first.”
“The healthcare was divisive,” Kelly replied.
“It’s not just divisive, I think it was the right thing to do ultimately, I’m just not sure I would have led with that,” Smiley said.
“That one cut to the heart,” Kelly agreed, “people were scared — but on the subject of race, are we better off now than we were seven years ago?” Kelly seemed intent on speaking about race relations as a political issue, but Smiley deftly returned to the subject to the actual lives of actual black people.
“On every major economic issue, black Americans have lost ground,” Smiley replied. “For the last ten years, it’s not been good for black folk. The debate’s going to be whether he wasn’t bold enough, or whether he obstructed.”
“I think the answer’s ‘both,’” Smiley added. “Historians are going to have a field day juxtaposing how in the era of the first black president, the bottom fell out for black America. Black people are still politically marginalized, socially manipulated, and economically exploited.”
Kelly again attempted to goad Smiley into a conversation about the optics of the Black Lives Matter movement, saying that Obama’s “tried to walk a line on that,” referring to the president’s support for police and “law and order.”
“I think law enforcement has diminished itself,” Smiley replied, explaining that turning the subject of police abuses into a racial issue is precisely the problem with the conversation Kelly was attempting to have with him.
This is painful. Another one those uneducated black ministers (apparently claiming to have a “Doctorate”) turns out to be basically illiterate.
Blast for the past! The shadow of the events of 1968 still afflict America. The serial murders of both King and Kennedy, the rise of the right – and “The War”.
Through the ’60s and ’70s, Nina Simone essentially soundtracked the American civil rights movement, emerging as one of the era’s most brilliant, bluntly political artists, and one who was reluctant to speak to white interviewers for fear of misrepresentation. A rare exception to that rule came in 1968, when European jazz singer Lilian Terry talked with the legend at her home in Mt. Vernon.
That interview, which never aired in the United States, has been beautifully animated in the latest installment of Blank on Blank. In it, Simone and Terry start with some light, discursive chat before segueing into a sober discussion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s recent assassination. Simone concludes by noting that “it’s a lot of hell and a lot of violence, but I feel more alive now than I ever have in my life.”