It's coming to New York this week.
On Wednesday, October 23rd and Thursday the 24th, if you're in New York, you can go to church to worship at the altar of Beyoncé and all she represents.
Wednesday's service will happen at the First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn at 7:00 PM, and Thursday's will be at Harlem's St. James Presbyterian Church at the same time.
The Beyoncé Mass began where most modern religions seem to begin, in California. It started as the project of Rev. Yolanda Nortan, a scholar of Hebrew theology who began her foray into Beyoncé-worship by teaching a class on Beyoncé and the Hebrew Bible at the San Francisco Theological Seminary. The first Mass was held as part of a three-part series at San Francisco's Nob Hill Church called "Speaking Truth: The Power of Story in Community," dedicated to uplifting the voices of people who have been historically marginalized by the church, specifically black women, immigrants, and the LGBTQ+ community.
The first mass drew nearly 1,000 people, and it has continued to gain traction since debuting in 2018. Services feature Bible readings interspersed with Beyoncé songs, and though they're dedicated to and led by Black women, they're open to everyone regardless of race or creed.
Rev. Norton is careful to emphasize that the mass isn't about worshiping Beyoncé at all, but instead about breaking open oppressive traditions. "I believe [Beyoncé] reminds us that you have to do your thing your way, you don't do it on demand, you don't do it for your oppressor, you don't sing when they want you to sing...you sing when God calls you to sing," she said.
Beyoncé - lift every voice and sing www.youtube.com
The service itself is supposed to be a place where "Black women find their voice, represent the image of God, and create spaces for liberation," according to its website. The description adds that the mass is a "womanist worship service that uses the music and personal life of Beyoncé as a tool to foster an empowering conversation about black women." Womanism is a version of feminism dedicated to breaking down the white connotations of the term "feminism," which has historically been used to describe a fight for women's rights that was created by and for white women and that exclusively addresses gender issues and aims for women to achieve equality with white males.
Though the definition of feminism is pliable and different for everyone, many conventional interpretations of feminism have failed to address the unique forces of race and class that inevitably tangle with gender, instead remaining lodged in capitalist systems that rely on the subjugation of certain people.
On the other hand, womanism is a term that was coined by the Black feminist thinker Alice Walker, and it views sexism as inextricable from racism. It also emphasizes the beauty of Black womanhood and promotes solidarity with Black men. Overall, womanism highlights the fact that sexism and racism both rely on the same kind of hierarchical thought that has always benefited off a structure wherein some people thrive because others are kept down.
"The patriarchal/kyriarchal/hegemonic culture seeks to regulate and control the body—especially women's bodies, and especially black women's bodies—because women, especially black women, are constructed as the Other, the site of resistance to the kyriarchy," says writer Yvonne Aburrow in explanation of the term. "Because our existence provokes fear of the Other, fear of wildness, fear of sexuality, fear of letting go—our bodies and our hair (traditionally hair is a source of magical power) must be controlled, groomed, reduced, covered, suppressed."
This fear has long been codified in the Church, which swivels around an age-old terror of female power and its colonialist imperatives. Nowhere is the Church's tendency to suppress the voices of women (and particularly women of color) more apparent than in the evangelical church's "purity movement," which demonizes sexuality, often through a racist lens. Beyoncé, specifically, has been a target of evangelical racism; for example, the evangelical Mike Huckabee recently speculated that Jay-Z was a "pimp," sparking a firestorm of controversy.
She has also been uniquely outspoken in challenging and subverting Christian norms, perhaps most famously in her instantly iconic Virgin Mary-inspired pregnancy photoshoot. According to The Washington Post, Beyoncé's "re-appropriation of Virgin Mary iconography offers a biting critique of this supreme exemplar of feminine whiteness and the ideology that constructs and perpetuates it." She's deconstructed the Virgin Mary image before; in her 2017 Grammys performance, she blended Virgin Mary imagery with references to the Yoruba goddess Oshun, creating a tribute to the African diaspora and the common threads that connect Christianity and diasporic faiths.
Beyoncé live performance at the 2017 Grammys (Love Drought + Sandcastles) www.youtube.com
If Beyoncé's visual and thematic choices subvert oppressive Christian imagery, then the Beyoncé Mass does this for the entire structure of the Church. And it's needed: Black women are particularly active in the church, outnumbering men two to one. Still, in terms of church leadership, this number is reversed. As a service led by women of color and designed to invite people who perhaps wouldn't feel welcome or interested in the Church in the first place, the mass is a step in the right direction, perhaps a vital blueprint for future religious services that could help young people or people who feel excluded by religion find a home in the comforting, communal world of faith and music.
Beyoncé & Kendrick Lamar Freedom Live at MetLife Stadium www.youtube.com
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The Trump-Twitter Industrial Complex continues to fester and mutate.
This week, President Donald J. Trump tweeted a false statement about mail-in ballots.
He wrote that secretaries of state were sending mail-in ballots to every person, when actually states are only sending out ballot applications. For the first time, Twitter jumped in to fact-check Trump's statement, adding a link to a webpage full of information about mail-in ballots.
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Was the Jimmy Fallon Blackface Skit Intentionally Released as a Distraction from the Murder of George Floyd?
Racist police violence is a modern epidemic. So why are we talking about an SNL skit from 2000?
At this point, celebrity apologies are incredibly common. In 2020, it seems like some formerly beloved actor or TV personality is being put through the wringer of public opinion a few times a week.
Most recently, Twitter canceled Jimmy Fallon after an unquestionably racist skit from the 2000 season of SNL resurfaced online. The skit features Fallon impersonating Chris Rock, complete with black face and an offensive imitation of Rock's speech patterns.
Jimmy Fallon Blackface youtu.be
This quickly led to the hashtag #jimmyfallonisoverparty trending on Twitter. While fans seemed split on whether Fallon should be forgiven for the 20-year-old misstep, most everyone agreed that Fallon should apologize regardless. This morning, he did just that in the form of a tweet.
As far as celebrity apologies go, Fallon's is a pretty good one. He doesn't try to sidestep the blame, he doesn't bring up the fact that there were undoubtedly many, many other individuals involved in the creation of the skit, and he doesn't even mention the fact that in 2000, many people still thought it was possible for black face to be done in the spirit of fun, because the deeply racist nature of the act was largely ignored in mainstream (white) media. Of course, we know better now, and it's easy to see that a white person doing an exaggerated imitation of a black person—darkened skin included—can only be a racist, belittling act with a long, dark history of racial oppression. With that in mind, Fallon's only option was to apologize without caveat or reservation. Indeed, it's refreshing to see a celebrity apology that doesn't try to justify or minimize their own misstep. While we can all agree Fallon made a terrible, racist choice 20 years ago, we have to believe that, like all of us, he's grown since then. If cancel culture is to have any efficacy in making the world a better place, it has to leave room for forgiveness and growth. Hopefully, the whole affair will leave Fallon (and those who witnessed it) more racially sensitive.
All of that being said, one has to ask why the clip was brought up now, given that it's been circulated around the Internet before, and the specific YouTube clip that was shared was posted on the site over a year ago. It's also worth noting that the version of the clip that was going around Twitter has a text overlay that reads: "NBC FIRED MEGAN KELLY FOR MENTIONING BLACKFACE. JIMMY FALLON PERFORMED ON NBC IN BLACKFACE."
Megan Kelly, an outspoken conservative, was indeed fired from her job at NBC because she defended the use of blackface in Halloween costumes, saying on her talk show, "Truly, you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface for Halloween, or a black person who put on whiteface for Halloween," she said. "When I was a kid, that was OK as long as you were dressing up as a character." While Fallon's instance of racial insensitivity was in 2000, Kelly defended blackface in 2019, long after society at large had begun to acknowledge the hurt that blackface and other forms of racial impersonation could cause. This fundamental difference aside, Kelly also has a long history of racial insensitivity that Fallon does not, even once saying, "What is the evidence that what happened to Eric Garner and what happened to Michael Brown has anything to do with race?" in a conversation about the epidemic of racist police officers in America.
Given the text overlay, it's pretty clear that whoever began the #jimmyfallonisoverparty was not necessarily seeking justice for the black community, but was instead trying to imply hypocrisy in the cancellation of Megan Kelly, given that Fallon (who has been outspoken about the flaws of the Trump administration and political pundits like Kelly) is still on the air. One even has to wonder if, given that it's obvious that the #jimmyfallonisoverparty trend was begun by a conservative individual or group, if the trend was meant to be a distraction from the widespread racist police violence that has been emphasized in recent weeks by incidents like the death of George Floyd, a black man who was murdered in Minneapolis by a white police officer on Monday. It seems oddly coincidental that the clip of Fallon should flood the Internet with controversy the day after Floyd's murder, unfortunately serving to help steer conversation away from Floyd's unjust death.
Indeed, under the unquestionably racist Donald Trump administration, more and more black people are being harassed, attacked, and murdered at the hands of racist white civilians and police officers. But Trump and his supporters don't want you to focus on that–so much so that it doesn't feel impossible that the Fallon skit was intentionally weaponized as a distraction.
In the last few weeks alone we learned that Ahmaud Arbery was murdered senselessly by a white man while simply out for a jog, and we all witnessed the harassment of Christian Cooper, a black man who was threatened by a white woman in Central Park who didn't want to put her dog on a leash. It's clear that racism in America cannot be reduced to insensitive skits from 20 years ago but is instead a current and deadly problem. What Jimmy Fallon did in 2000 was racist, yes; but don't let that distract you from the deadly consequences of racism in 2020, don't let celebrity apologies make you take your eyes of our lawmakers, who aren't doing enough to protect people of color in this country. Don't let the latest "#_____isoverparty" trend distract you from the deadly consequences of racism in our laws, culture, and criminal justice system.
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