Thursday, August 30, 2007

Booty Clappin'

It's Labor Day...soon! Three day weekends are always a source of joy. Everyone smiles on a Monday they have off. Celebrations all around.

Speaking of celebrating, it's time once again for the annual West Indian Day Parade in good 'ol, not so slowly being gentrified Brooklyn. I'm down for change but not complete dismissal. I often feel like the attitude of new residents in "up and coming" neighborhoods is focused around just putting up with the discomfort of having the locals present. The approach is similar to steeping tea; you just have to wait until the herb has completely disseminated into the water, then it's aaaall chamomile.

Anywho, that's not even my point.

The Parade holds a lot of fond memories for me. Jumping the barricades to join the dancing with friends and family (note: please only try this if you're resilient and wearing the right shoes), strolls with my parents along the route and, of course, watching people and being a part of a celebration of self are all moments that bring joy to my heart and a smile to my face.

However, I recently had a discussion with one of my co-workers about the fine line between the celebration and the exploitation of the female body in music and dance. It's something I struggle with often being, at times, a kind of booty-shaker myself and well aware of the issues that can often arise from said behavior.

Growing up with one side of my family from Trinidad and the other African-American there's an amount of gyrating and shaking that just comes naturally. You hear the music and often your lower half is the first part to move. I would argue, though, that there is a difference between that kind of movement and the booty clapping I've seen on un-cut music videos. But, with that judgment arises the question of "What has the right to be classified as culture?"

There's also the question of security. Being female, and specifically, being a female and a minority, there's a constant feeling of having to protect your body as well as assert your right not to be exploited. So, when it comes to expressing yourself in public there is, often, a feeling of not being able to do so freely.

As you can see, I'm still working through it. Regardless, the parade is this weekend in Brooklyn. If you're able, come and celebrate. No worries, joining in the parade is not a requirement. Unfortunately, I would no longer recommend it. The police aren't too fond of the "just jump in" practice anyway. Although the police, and this is just from my own observations and that of friends and associates, don't seem too fond of large groups of minorities gathering in general. Last year at the parade there were a number of unexplainable arrests and detainments...hmmm. Stay positive though and come out to support.

-Ashleigh Rae

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