Michael Baisden Radio Show and Comments

According to ‘Abraham Lincoln’ Harriet Tubman Shouldn’t Be So Black

There are two things the American masses can’t seem to get enough of, revisionist history and vampires, so, hey, why not mash up the two and make a quick box office buck?

Enter film maker Tim Burton (yes, thee Tim Burton) and his just released bright idea, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” a re-imagined version of our 16th President as a hatchet-wielding, freedom fighting abolitionist on a quest for vengeance against the blood-sucking, slave-eating Confederate vampires who murdered his mother.

I’m guessing the film is as over the top as it sounds, which is probably why critics have mostly panned it; but, I can’t actually speak on whether this flick has any redeeming qualities, because, out of respect for Harriet Tubman, I will never see it.

(Yes, thee Harriet Tubman)

If you know even a little bit about Araminta Harriet Ross Tubman, you know that she stands as one of the greatest human beings who has ever inhaled oxygen on this blue marble we all call home.

No, that is not an exaggeration.

Harriet Tubman is a super hero’s super hero.

If you don’t know much about her, we’ll just place the blame for that squarely on the educators who cheated you. If you don’t learn more about her after today, there will be no one to blame but you. Google is, after all, the great equalizer. Or, you could read “Harriet Tubman: The Moses of Her People,” which is (at the time of this posting) absolutely free on Amazon.com

It is really difficult for me talk or write about Harriet Tubman without being overcome with emotion, because, even though I know many, many details of her life story (a story that is beyond amazing), I am painfully aware that the details I DO know are but a tiny fraction of all that this woman was, all that she saw, and all that she suffered so that others might live in freedom. Gazing at her picture both inspires and shames me; I am reminded of how much I have not done in comparison to this woman’s breathtaking life of service.

Born into slavery c. 1820, Araminta “Minty” Ross was forced to perform hard field labor from the time she was a small child. She witnessed several of her siblings being sold off to other owners (never to be seen again) and she once heard her mother, Harriet Greene Ross, threaten to split open the head of anyone who tried to sell her remaining children. That threat (which worked) was Minty’s first exposure to the idea of “resistance,” but it would not be her last.

Minty was permanently disabled at age 13 when she refused to help an overseer catch an escaping slave. The overseer threw a heavy metal weight at the fleeing slave and it missed and struck Minty in the head. Her owner allowed her two days to recover from the trauma, after which she was forced to work the fields with blood from the wound dripping down her face. She suffered with epileptic and narcoleptic spells for the rest of her life as a result of the injury.

Minty eventually married a free black man named John Tubman and adopted her mother’s name, Harriet, as her own. Never contented to be a slave, Harriet Tubman soon began plotting her solo journey North to freedom. Though her husband threatened to turn her in if she tried to run, Harriet escaped to Philadelphia where she established a base of operations and dared to return to the South twenty times to lead hundreds of souls to freedom via the Underground Railroad. Tubman famously never lost a passenger–a feat she attributed to a pistol at her side and direct communication from God.

Never captured, Tubman eventually served as a spy and nurse during the Civil War, became a suffragette after slavery was abolished, established a home for the aged, lived to be 93 years old, was buried with full military honors and has this inscription on her headstone:

“Servant of God, Well Done.”

So, when filmmakers start messing around with this woman’s legacy, those who love and revere her are definitely going to sit up and take notice.

What we notice about this Burton film is that somebody (Casting agent? Executive Producer? Director?) decided it wasn’t important to portray Harriet Tubman as the dark-skinned daughter of Africa that she most definitely was.

Harriet Tubman (left) & the actress cast to play her 

Tubman’s direct ancestors are believed to have been of the Ashanti tribe from what is now Ghana, West Africa. She was not “mulatto” and she received none of the advantages during her life (literacy, freedom, income, protection) that might have come from being mixed with the slave master’s blood.

Harriet Tubman’s dark skin is central to her story as a black American woman, and anyone who knows and respects the history of Africans in America would know that.

Which raises the question…

Why was Jaqueline Fleming even in the running for this part? (I get why she took the role, but it is lost on me how she could be cast here.)

Casting a movie is never haphazard. Casting agents are like character chemists who are responsible for connecting the audience to the actors and the actors to one another. Their expertise is generously compensated, and their track records are what get them gigs. A quite prolific casting agent, Mindy Marin, cast this movie, though she may not have had the final say in how Harriet should be portrayed.

But someone did. And someone decided she shouldn’t be so black. Someone decided Harriet Tubman should look less like herself and more like Jaqueline Fleming, and that someone had a reason which is left open to speculation.

So, let’s speculate:

Perhaps the closer a woman of African descent is to looking like a white woman, the more palatable she becomes to the audience.

And when a woman of African descent is darker-skinned it seems we are more comfortable if she stays in her place.

Removing Harriet Tubman’s pigment for the purpose of making her more “palatable” to an audience is called E R A S U R E. Distorting Harriet’s image so that it can no longer serve as an example of heroism to the successive generations of brown girls who resemble her is called E R A S U R E.

Erasure must be socially sanctioned if it is to be effective.

So, don’t sanction it. In honor of a great black American woman who devoted her life to freeing slaves and being of service to her fellow humankind, please do not support this film.

“I freed a thousand slaves; I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” -Harriet Tubman

And, if it’s not too much trouble…

:-/

…contact the film’s producers to let them know why:

@20thcenturyfox @bekmambetov @SimplyBurton

Bekmambetov Projects, Ltd.
11600 Dona Alicia Place
Studio City, CA 91604
Ph:(818)755-0640
Email: kathy@bazelevs.com

20th Century Fox Film Corporation
Attn: Scott Rudin
10201 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Ph: (310)369-1000

Michael Baisden Radio Show and Comments

Here’s Why I Love Kola Boof

“I wish, so much, that I hadn’t stayed with the bodies over night. Because that is how I received my imagination…I could hear their blood going into the earth…And I know TOO MUCH.” -Kola Boof

Naima Bint Harith (a.k.a. Kola Boof)

Whenever I think of Kola Boof, I see an image of Naima Bint Harith, a little girl with gorgeous deep brown skin, a sweet smile and shining eyes, who, at age six, witnessed the murder of her parents.

Naima’s father, Harith Bin Farouk (a light-skinned Arab/Egyptian) and her mother, Jiddi (a blue-black Gisi-Waaq Oromo from Somalia) were both slaughtered in retaliation for Harith’s “crime” of speaking out against the enslavement of the charcoal-skinned Sudanese by the lighter-skinned Arab ruling class.

During the first night of her new life as an orphan, Naima’s innocence was dyed blood red as she spent the dark hours before dawn lying alone and traumatized with her parents’ lifeless bodies.

Within days of the murder, Naima’s Egyptian grandmother informed her orphaned grandchild—the only living child of Harith and Jiddi—that her skin was too dark for her to be welcomed into their light-skinned family. Little Naima was put up for adoption.

When I think of Kola Boof, I think of that little girl who should have been happily skipping along the banks of the Nile with her parents, but, who was instead violently and callously flung into a war against white supremacy that no human being should have to (but every human being should be willing to) fight.

It is not lost on me that had Naima’s father been unconcerned and complacent in the face of the injustice he saw, he would still be alive. Her abandonment and suffering are born of his sacrifice. Our complacency is a twisting knife.

If you don’t know who Kola Boof is, I’m going to have to let you Google her, because trying to sum up this writer/activist’s life and work in a few paragraphs is an impossible task.

Suffice it to say that the Sudan-born, D.C.-raised author of “Diary of a Lost Girl,” “Long Train to the Redeeming Sin,” and “The Sexy Part of the Bible,” writes edgy, thought-provoking, paradigm-shifting literary prose (and, at times, vicious, profane, irreverent twitter rants) that have led journalists, fans and haters to variously label her “genius,” “disturbed,” “talented,” “polarizing,” “brave,” “racist,” and, increasingly, among her hundreds of blocked haters on Twitter, “crazy black bitch.”
Though Boof can at times be found at the center of distracting social media hurricanes (like the recent drama in which she boasted about regularly sexing Djimon Honsou during his marriage to Kimora Lee Simmons), her impassioned and important message is that the earth’s dark-skinned black woman is systematically disrespected, hated, insulted and erased by those who, influenced by white supremacy, cannot or will not recognize her black beauty and her intrinsic perfection as a creation of God.

It astounds me that anyone disagrees with that message, as it is quite apparent that in every country or culture on this planet that is heavily influenced by European values, dark-skinned women with black-African hair and features are rarely held up (for its sons and daughters to look to) as models of what is beautiful, marriageable, or worthy of admiration.

Don’t even get me started on the American entertainment industry and its proliferation of images that relegate dark-skinned women to the roles of maid, mammy, slave or sex worker. But it’s not just the media that is guilty. Too many young dark-skinned girls are tormented by their family members and bullied from toddlerhood, with the terms “African,” “dark” and “nappy” being viciously hurled at them like profane weapons.

Insult is added to this injury when darker-skinned black women are uninvited or invisible in situations where light-skinned or biracial black women (whose physical features are closer to the “white ideal” of beauty) are welcomed to show off their “black” beauty. If you need an example of this blatant disregard for the plentifully pigmented sisters among us, click here, or here, or here, or here, or here.

It also astounds me that so many lighter-skinned people who profess to be about “erasing racism,” “honoring diversity” and “building unity” are so resistant to understanding Kola’s life experiences or at least listening with an open mind to her observations about the annihilation-by-rejection and psychic injury dark-skinned women are being subjected to around the world.

I get that folks are turned off by Boof’s caustic delivery and her irreverence-bordering-on-hatred for some of the world’s most revered institutions (such as Christianity and Islam). I get that people are offended by the sweeping negative generalizations she makes about the inhabitants of entire countries (especially since she so deeply and righteously resents the negative generalizations made about black women). I get that people are shocked and repulsed by Kola’s disregard for what she sees as repressive and oppressive Western moral codes.

What I don’t get is how there is this loooooong line of individuals ready to invest their energy in attacking Kola for her lifestyle, her opinions and her temper, yet there are so few champions who are willing to speak up about the HUMAN RIGHT so many black girls have been denied—the right to be seen, to be admired, to be protected and to be cherished.

I admit I am frequently appalled at the words Kola Boof uses to voice her rage against her detractors—especially the vitriol she reserves for black American men (whose psychic injury she acknowledges, but cannot forgive); but even when she is at her angriest, my gut feeling about this sister is that she created “Kola Boof” to be the warrior she needed but didn’t have on the day her parents died–a ferocious defender who should have been there to protect little Naima—the generous, intelligent, soft-hearted, world-embracing spirit that lives inside Kola.

Given the mountainous struggles that little girl faced (severe trauma, several abandonments by parental figures, adapting to American culture, learning English, rejecting colorism…) it makes perfect sense to me that her alter-ego Kola would (on the surface, at least) be so FIERCE.

Anyone who knows even a little bit about the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder a severe childhood trauma creates, knows that one of its key components is an easily triggered and exaggerated fight or flight response. It is an extremely difficult to control SURVIVAL response that has nothing to with intelligence or morals or wisdom.

Among the many symptoms PTSD sufferers deal with are:

Physical ailments with no apparent physical cause
Sleeplessness
Fear for their safety; always feeling on guard
Feelings of shame, despair, or hopelessness.
Difficulty controlling emotions.
Impulsive or self-destructive behavior.
Changed beliefs or changed personality traits.

I don’t know Kola personally and I don’t know the degree to which any or all of these symptoms affect her life, but her writings, her online presence and her tweets seem to indicate that there is much residual injury that she lives with daily. If she is suffering from PTSD, I see no reason why her life’s work to restore THE ORIGINAL AFRICAN WOMAN to her rightful pedestal of dignity and respect should be diminished by it.

“I am a very SAD, broken, damaged human being…And I live, literally, by the grace of GOD. The pain in my vagina I have spoken of…but rarely the pain in my brain and my heart.

My teeth and my bones hurt me like headaches, because I am so broken and damaged EMOTIONALLY.

People read my books and ask, “How can you write like that?” It’s because I live in constant emotional “psychotic” pain.

Don’t they understand that I saw my parents killed in front of me? Do they think a child can EVER grow up and get over that?

And now I wish, so much, that I hadn’t stayed with the bodies over night. Because that is how I received my imagination. From that night, when I could hear their blood going into the earth. I suddenly had an “imagination”. And it’s very…

And I know TOO MUCH.

Much of the vicious attacking you see me do…is mainly to make people AWARE of the rage and bitterness that they create in the world…simply by accepting the world the way it is.

That’s why I tell people…don’t accept it…REBEL.

Because although it’s too late for Naima…it’s not too late for the daughters of the future.

When YOU SEE me hurt someone, strike at someone…I’m just trying to set a new example for the MULES of the world….that we mustn’t go down without loud screaming and fighting.

…I don’t see myself living that long, and I just want to give…as an artist….what the people NEED.

And I pray for my sons to be OK. I know I’ve taught them how to make generations and where inside themselves to find answers and to find me.” -Kola

Although I have never met Ms. Boof, I interacted with her online many years ago and did speak to her once on the telephone after she wrote an amazing poem for me entitled “Angels and Insects” which she posted at the African American Literary Book Club (AALBC) discussion board where she and I crossed paths.

An inter racially married white woman on that discussion board who called herself, “Moon,” had become the target of Kola’s rage when (among other things) she refused to acknowledge that white and light-skinned privilege exists at the expense of black women. Kola was trying to get Moon to realize that privilege and injustice are inseparable and that her white privilege had a cost that she simply chose not to acknowledge (which is another privilege).

Moon was the source of much conflict on that board because she was a white visitor to a black online forum who was always in “teach” mode, and she did not seem to respect the opinions of the black women whose life experiences differed so greatly from hers. Moon was convinced that simply by mothering her mixed children and teaching them that love sees no color she was actively promoting the unity of the human family. “I don’t walk in brown skin,” she wrote, “I can sure teach children about love.”

Being the product of an interracial union myself, I joined the debate. (Forgive the use of CAPS; it was an intense conversation):

“Your children deserve more than your LOVE. They deserve to LEARN what it means to live in a society that will try to convince them they are BETTER because they came from YOU. Who is going to WORK DAILY and DILIGENTLY to undermine that lie in your household?

I am not a hater, Moon. I KNOW in my SOUL that all human beings are ONE CREATION, and these designations of racial categories are not REAL. But that does not mean human beings are not behaving as though they [the labels] are real. WE are all affected by our socializations regarding race, skin color, hair texture, innate intelligence, morality, etc. etc. etc.

You cannot toss me indescriminately onto the heap of black women who you consider jealous of you and your husband, or simply hate your whiteness. My mother is white and my father is black and I can speak on the subject of white privelege personally, because having white skin and blue eyes I am treated with UNEARNED deference just about everywhere I go.

One of the few places my physical appearance is not automatically “respected” is in the company of black women I don’t know. That is when I humbly SHUT MY MOUTH AND LISTEN so that I can LEARN more about what it means to be a black woman in America — and thereby understand more clearly what it means to be a member of the human family.

I don’t agree with everything Kola says, but I don’t take what she says personally either. I know she is “FIGHTING for her life…” Her fight to lift up black women does not diminish me….WHAT are YOU fighting for MOON? The rights of all humans, regardless of skin color, to love and intermarry? That right already EXISTS. As you said earlier, your life is proof of that.

Show me proof that Kola’s BLACK SONS are held in HIGH REGARD by this supremacist society. She is fighting for THEM, MOON. And for EVERY BLACK BABY who will be shown and told (maybe by YOUR children) that they are NOT PERFECT EXACTLY AS THEY WERE CREATED. They will be told that if their father had lain with a Scandinavian or an Asian or a Mexican or ANYTHING but their AFRICAN MOTHER they would be more beautiful or smarter or healthier or… (you know the list you’ve heard it many times).”

Kola’s response to my post was immediate, and, I believe, sincere.

…I have never denied that I have many prejudices against Bi-racial people and white people—despite that fact that I am, technically, Bi-racial and that my White Arab birth father was a great, great man who dedicated his life to the dismantling of “White Supremacy”. He called it “the world’s only true religion”.

But my “prejudice” against Bi-racials and Whites is not what I…..REALLY…..feel when I’m alone, topless in the mountain streams praying. I feel LOVE for those people—only I keep it a secret, because I fear they are against me and my sons.

It seems there are two realities co-existing within this daughter of a slain freedom fighter. There is Kola Boof, the consummate REBEL whose words and actions are symbols of her RESISTANCE to being controlled, ignored or annihilated by the spirit of white supremacy that destroyed her family and threatens her progeny.

And then, there is Naima Bint Harith whose broken heart did not lose its capacity to love us all.

I wrote and posted this short poem on the AALBC discussion boards eight years ago. It still reflects why I love her:

Naima peels back her own skin
with life-sharpened nails
and we peer inside

inside her

and exclaim,

see, a huge heart
oh, and innards
soft, open, vulnerable

and in her exposure
we are exposed
safe, selfish, cowardly

and still
she names us
sister

Click here to read “Angels & Insects” by Kola Boof.

Michael Baisden Radio Show and Comments

Joshua Bennett’s ’10 Things I Want to Say to a Black Woman’ — To Click or Not to Click?

Spoken word artist Joshua Bennett has ten things he wants to say to a black woman, and I’m not sure I want to hear it.

I’ve happened upon Bennett’s YouTube video and I see that hundreds of thousands of viewers have already clicked “play.”

I’m curious.

And dubious.

Haven’t I seen more than enough of these user-submitted monologues and their hurtful diatribe masquerading as “advice” on how black women can become less flawed?

Yes, I’m defensive, despite the fact that whatever Bennett’s message is, it is probably not directed at me.

As a “mixed” woman who did not inherit my black father’s genetic code for brown skin, I exist in a narrow category of African Americans for whom the “racial” identifier “black” is hesitantly (at times begrudgingly) applied. Despite my stubborn insistence on claiming my “blackness,” the truth is, I have walked through life experiencing the privileges white skin affords one in America. Privileges I am acutely aware of due to my proximity to brown-skinned family and friends whose social interactions differ so greatly from mine.

I’m sure there are some privileges I’m clueless about because they are conferred when I’m not paying attention to how brown I am not.

But sometimes I am paying attention.

Like recently when I sat with two four-year-old brown girls to watch Disney’s latest princess movie, Tangled. And, no, this won’t be a rant about popular culture’s preoccupation with the pretty white girl and her extra-long glistening blonde hair. I can discuss that image with my girls, no problem. I can confirm to my little ones that Rapunzel is bright, brave and beautiful under her blonde tresses, and in the next breath I will rave about how smart, sweet and stunning my girls are beneath their brunette twists and braids.

As a mother of four brown-skinned daughters, I have become quite adept at explaining how the Creator made us all with varied skin tones and physical features that are a perfect reflection of the Universe’s awesome diversity. In our discussions, brunette does not trump blonde. Long and straight isn’t more perfect than tightly kinked. Vanilla is delicious. Chocolate is delectable. It’s all good. It’s all beautiful. 

I can do that conversation. No sweat.

But there are times when the Media are so blatant and brutal in their bias against black women that it knocks me back a few paces and I have to regroup.

Like when Psychology Today publishes “scientific” findings on why black women are the least attractive on earth.

Or when the Los Angeles Times Magazine honors the 50 Most Beautiful Women in Film, and omits stunning black women who apparently are too brown to be visible.

Or when First Lady Michelle Obama must publicly defend herself against accusations she’s an “angry black woman.”

Or when filmmaker George Lucas spends his own money to make an amazing film about the black Tuskegee airmen of WWII, omits the black wives, and focuses instead on a love story featuring a Portuguese woman. (By the way, George, there were Tuskeegee Airwomen, too.)

With the exception of a rare few (most of whom are very light skinned), black women are not celebrated in mainstream American culture, or held up as role models for American children to cherish, respect and emulate.

Having said that…

We are twenty minutes into Tangled, these two little brown girls and I, and we are getting to know and love this feisty Rapunzel, and we are celebrating her escape from the tower, and she is led by prince-to-be Flynn Rider into a dark den of disgusting, mean , lawless outcasts, and…

Disney flings this dagger at my little loves:

Flynn Rider: You smell that? Take a deep breath through the nose. (He inhales.) Really let that seep in. What are you getting? Because to me, that’s part man-smell, and the other part is really bad man-smell. I don’t know why, but overall it just smells like the color brown.

Really, Disney?

There wasn’t one human being among the hundreds who worked on this picture who read/saw that scene and said something like,

“Um, won’t there be little brown children watching this? Won’t this movie be around, like, forever, and should we equate the skin color of millions of children who will watch this with ‘really bad man smell’?”

blink

Seriously?

And, what might this moment have to do with white privilege?

Everything.

It has everything to do with having the privilege (or not having it) of raising daughters in a society where their skin color will be publicly celebrated. Where it will be held up as something beautiful and worthy of admiration and protection. Where it will not be referred to, even indirectly, as something really bad smelling.

Before you watch Joshua Bennett’s poem, watch this excerpt from Kiri Davis’s brilliant film A Girl Like Me, and ask yourself what is going on in the heart and soul of this little girl at marker 1:36. What messages has she already received about being a black girl, and from where are they coming? Who will counter those messages with beautiful truth?

I must admit, when I clicked on Bennett’s YouTube video, “10 Things I Want to Say to a Black Woman,” I steeled myself for what I suspected would be another disgruntled man giving “advice” to black women on how to be less “angry” and more “lovable.”

Not even close.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-FJKzJeVlA[/embedyt]

 

Michael Baisden Radio Show and Comments

Brown and Beautiful: 10 Children’s Books That Nurture Healthy Self-Esteem in Black Toddlers

More than 70 years have passed since Dr. Kenneth B Clark and his wife Mamie designed and conducted the “doll test” to study the psychological effects of racism on young children.

They showed four dolls, identical except for color, to black children ages 3 to 7 and asked them questions to determine racial perception and preference. When asked which they preferred, the majority selected the white doll and attributed positive characteristics to it, leading the Clarks  to conclude that “prejudice, discrimination, and segregation” caused black children to develop a sense of inferiority and self-hatred.

In 2005, 18-year-old filmmaker Kiri Davis recreated the Clarks’ experiment with 21 young black children, and included footage of the testing in her short film A Girl Like Me. The stunning and disheartening results mirrored those in the Clark experiment so many decades earlier:
[embedplusvideo height=”387″ width=”480″ standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/zJJSps0CUr8?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=zJJSps0CUr8&width=480&height=387&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep3779″ /]
“These children, even though they’re 4 and 5 years old, they’re kind of like a mirror and they show exactly what they’ve been exposed to by society,” Davis says. She hopes her documentary will help people see how subtle messages—like those in the media and through product marketing—continue to affect children.

Knowing our children will be bombarded with negative images that  can undermine their ability to look in the mirror and admire what they see, we must remain ever diligent to ensure that they are receiving daily as many affirming messages about their beautiful selves as we can give them.

Removing terminology like “good hair” from our conversations is a great place to start in preventing the erosion of our children’s self esteem. Not using or allowing the words “black,” “African,” and “nappy” to be used as insults in our homes is also a must. And, while we’re at it, one truly powerful way to give our children positive feelings about themselves is to read, with love, uplifting stories that feature children whom they resemble. Here are 10 books parents, teachers and librarians highly recommend:

It should be noted that these are excellent books to read to all children, regardless of their ethnicity or skin tone. The messages in them are universal, and the positive exposure to brown skin as something to celebrate is a lesson every child can ultimately benefit from.

This is where the breaking down of old barriers and old stereotypes begins.

Michael Baisden Radio Show and Comments

“Curvy” Ballerina Speaks on Being American Ballet Theatre’s First Black Soloist

The image most of us have of mainstream classical ballet is one of stick-thin white women  who got their start in the world of dance back when they were toddlers sporting baby ballet slippers and tiny tutus.

Prepare to revamp that image now that Misty Copeland has forever changed the face (and a few other body parts) of American classical ballet.

Misty was 13 years old when she took her first ballet class wearing socks and sweats on the basketball court in the Boys and Girls Club in her home town. Four years later she was dancing with the notoriously homogenous American Ballet Theatre as their only African American troupe member. Today she is the first black soloist to perform with the company since Nora Kimball, 30 years ago.

“When I started dancing I never thought I would have such a voice,” says Copeland. “Being the only black woman in my company for 11 years I’ve found my voice…I want to introduce more people to [classical ballet].”

In addition to the attention her ABT career has brought her, Misty also found a new audience when she was asked by Prince to tour with him and perform her classical technique on stage. “Collaborating with Prince opened up so many people’s eyes…and made [ballet] cool,” she says of the experience.

Copeland told the Huffington Post that working with Prince, “helped me to see the bigger picture — to not be so focused on the political things that happen in my company and with dancers around me…Not to feel judged by other people. When you’re in a field like I am, you get more negative feedback than you do positive. I mean, we stand in front of a mirror all day because we’re supposed to look at our flaws and fix them. So it’s been nice having someone say positive things like, “You can do this” and “The sky’s the limit.”

Misty recently filmed a “Day in the Life” segment with award-winning documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock in which she visited a Boys and Girls Club to mentor a group of aspiring ballerinas. She told the girls, “It’s really exciting to see young dancers that look like me…It makes me so happy to see you.  My mom was a single parent and I’m one of six kids and we all went to the Boys and Girls Club…It seems like this fairytale but I made it.”

Misty intends to encourage more black girls to consider dancing classical ballet. “It’s important to keep black women in this field motivated and on track,” she explains, “because so many are turned away and told do other forms of dance because they’ll be more accepted and it will be easier for them. So, my goal is to try to push them in this direction. I wish I would have had someone, especially a black woman I could have looked up to.”

-by Kathleen Cross for RollingOut.com