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Dancing the Grit and Glitter, Through the Humanizing Lens of James Haskins: An Analysis of Black Body Image and Implications for Black Youth

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Abstract:

James Haskins was explicit in addressing what he felt Black youth needed to succeed: Black role models who (1)challenged society’s stereotypical associations of “Blackness,” (2) offered humanizing qualities often disassociated to Black individuals, and (3)who were successful by having a strong racial identity. James Haskins’ solution for writing about successful individuals was never an attempt for advocating a stainless and over exaggerated depiction for positivity in Blackness; instead it was to highlight the humanity of individuals who represented a population of people who, from the beginning of American history were dehumanized. By showcasing the lives of successful media icons, he made it apparent to those suffering from a handicapped esteem that Black racial identity/ “Blackness” was not antithetical to success.
Today, there is a constant battle between Black individuals and the media (the biggest distributor of racial stereotypes) over who will be the narrator of what “Blackness” is, and what it represents or should represent. Who is at the frontline? Black youth. Constantly bombarded with media images, their rejection or internalizations of these images creates the foundation for confidence in their racial identity. Trivializing their perceptions of “Blackness” goes beyond simply having an abstracted view of one’s cultural heritage, it affects potential for success. How to present positive connotations to Black identity is therefore a central issue.
By writing the autobiographies of Katherine Dunham, Bill Robinson, Ada B. Smith, Lena Horne, and Michael Jackson, James Haskins provided Black youth with the ability to solidify their racial identity by using a particular visual portrayal of the Black body: dance. Haskins wrote and helped write the biographies/autobiographies of these successful Black dancers who used dance to readjust their societal perception of the Black body. As avant-garde performers, these individuals used dance (once a tool of racist white societies to depict Blacks as “backwards” or to further imply inferiority) to illuminate their humanity in their autobiographical narratives. By exploring James Haskins’ interpretation of these legendary and hallmark geniuses, we can examine the interconnectedness of racial identity, the Black body, and the implications it has for Black youth’s success.
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Association:
Name: 96th Annual Convention
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http://www.asalh.org


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p521686_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Valery, Yoldine. "Dancing the Grit and Glitter, Through the Humanizing Lens of James Haskins: An Analysis of Black Body Image and Implications for Black Youth" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 96th Annual Convention, TBA, Richmond, VA, <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p521686_index.html>

APA Citation:

Valery, Y. "Dancing the Grit and Glitter, Through the Humanizing Lens of James Haskins: An Analysis of Black Body Image and Implications for Black Youth" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 96th Annual Convention, TBA, Richmond, VA <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p521686_index.html

Publication Type: Invited Paper
Abstract: James Haskins was explicit in addressing what he felt Black youth needed to succeed: Black role models who (1)challenged society’s stereotypical associations of “Blackness,” (2) offered humanizing qualities often disassociated to Black individuals, and (3)who were successful by having a strong racial identity. James Haskins’ solution for writing about successful individuals was never an attempt for advocating a stainless and over exaggerated depiction for positivity in Blackness; instead it was to highlight the humanity of individuals who represented a population of people who, from the beginning of American history were dehumanized. By showcasing the lives of successful media icons, he made it apparent to those suffering from a handicapped esteem that Black racial identity/ “Blackness” was not antithetical to success.
Today, there is a constant battle between Black individuals and the media (the biggest distributor of racial stereotypes) over who will be the narrator of what “Blackness” is, and what it represents or should represent. Who is at the frontline? Black youth. Constantly bombarded with media images, their rejection or internalizations of these images creates the foundation for confidence in their racial identity. Trivializing their perceptions of “Blackness” goes beyond simply having an abstracted view of one’s cultural heritage, it affects potential for success. How to present positive connotations to Black identity is therefore a central issue.
By writing the autobiographies of Katherine Dunham, Bill Robinson, Ada B. Smith, Lena Horne, and Michael Jackson, James Haskins provided Black youth with the ability to solidify their racial identity by using a particular visual portrayal of the Black body: dance. Haskins wrote and helped write the biographies/autobiographies of these successful Black dancers who used dance to readjust their societal perception of the Black body. As avant-garde performers, these individuals used dance (once a tool of racist white societies to depict Blacks as “backwards” or to further imply inferiority) to illuminate their humanity in their autobiographical narratives. By exploring James Haskins’ interpretation of these legendary and hallmark geniuses, we can examine the interconnectedness of racial identity, the Black body, and the implications it has for Black youth’s success.


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