*Presented by Lynette Dixon on 12/6/16
Good after noon, (intro) Before I start I want to issue a trigger warning, I will be speaking about suicide. Additionally if this presentation is triggering to you or if you or anyone you know has suicide ideations please call: 1.800.273.8255 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
For my project I kept a semester long journal which is comprised of my personal reflections on self-love as well as close readings of various scenes for suicide as a theme in the lives and narratives of Black women in Being Mary Jane, Beyoncé’s Lemonade, and For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf. Being Mary Jane is a drama that airs on BET. The series chronicles the personal and professional affairs of successful TV anchor Mary Jane Paul (played by Gabrielle Union). In the show, Mary Jane’s best friend Lisa successfully commits suicide after previous failed attempts. Lemonade is a visual album released by Beyoncé in April of 2016. The visual album is divided into eleven chapters, each corresponding with a song. Beyoncé utilizes a sample from Malcom X’s “Who Taught You to Hate Yourself” as well as poems from Somali poet Warson Shire to celebrate Blackness and Black power and femininity. For Colored Girls: who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf is a choreopoem by Ntozake Shange. Shange tells the story of Black women to glean the particularities of “being Black and female in the twentieth century.” For Colored Girls has been featured on Broadway and various theaters around the country since its debut in 1974. Ultimately, this journal explores whether suicide indicates a failure of self-love or the supreme act of self-love; complicating representations of suicide in popular culture that figure suicide only in terms of failure. The complex ways in which suicide shapes these literary and cultural works opens the possibility that suicide might be consistent with self-love.
Journaling was important to me for two reasons: My mom and I were having a conversation about the greeting hi, how are you that is often exchanged in passing. She asks how can someone be interested in how you are actually doing if they do not ever stop long enough to her the answer. be it family, friends, or strangers, they do not really care, rather they want to hear the confirmation that you are ok. She says it is much easier and quicker to go ahead and give them that confirmation, regardless of whether it is true or not. This common greeting and practice is emblematic of apathy towards another’s wellbeing. So we often suffer in silence and we often don’t have conversations about self-love when it works or when it fails. Journaling was my way of checking in on my self and sharing it is my attempt to start a difficult conversation.
My reflections on suicide were inspired by the musical da kinks in my hair. The musical is a collection of Black women’s stories. The story that struck me the most was that of a successful Black woman with high demands from her job and her family and friends. Her story ends with her suicide. She claims she just wanted it to stop. This was powerful to me because it was a different narrative of suicide than I’d heard before. I was used to hearing one type of story of suicide, that of the person who has been subject to abuse or that suffers from depression which manifests as a withdrawal from society. However, Da kinks in my hair presented a story a Black woman who would appear to have it all, a nice job, ample resources. We don’t see the manifestations of depression if she has It, she just wants it to stop. This narrative sparked me to think about other representations of suicide in popular culture and how Black women specifically are represented in regards to suicide.
For the larger project, I analyze the three sources, for the purposes of this presentation. Now I am going to read one of my reflections from part two of my journal. Here I analyze Beyonce’s line in Sorry from her most recent album Lemonade. The line reads: suicide before you see this tear fall down my eye.
This line is part of the song’s bridge, a while It is not seemingly significant, as it is a quick moment in the song, it is striking. While the line is not seemingly significant it illuminates that it would be better to suffer internally than to show pain, seek help, or reach out to friends and family. I see this as both a product of capitalism and emblematic of societal conceptions of the strong black woman. In her essay, Uses of Erotic, Audre Lorde argues that feeling, affect, and I would add self care, is diametrically opposed to capitalism. Audre Lorde states: “The principal horror of any system which defines good in terms of profit rather than in terms of human need, or which defines human need to the exclusion often psychic and emotional components of that need -the principal horror is that it robs our work of its erotic value (55). We forsake our feelings in order to keep going , never stopping because we would then fail to comply with the values that drives society. In the same way, the trope of the strong of the strong Black woman depicts Black women as indestructible, unaffected, as superwomen. This trope places value on Black women’s output: What they do, and does not focus on their fulfillment. However Lorde’s theory of the erotic however provides us with a formulation that delinks between labor and production and value. Lorde stresses an affective power of the erotic. It focuses on feeling and doing.
For conclusion: From my reflections, I could never quite come up with an answer to my question. I felt uncomfortable and almost dirty about thinking and writing about suicide as self love. I found myself taking pause, or writing and rewriting. In effect, this is precisely why I was inspired to do these reflections, to push and question the narrative of suicide. While uncomfortable, this is a conversation we must have to uncover the narratives buried both by our discomfort and by a limited discourse.