|"Josephine Baker 1950" by Rudolf Suroch |
Licensed under Public Domain via Commons
Surely the day will come when color means nothing more than the skin tone, when religion is seen uniquely as a way to speak one’s soul; when birth places have the weight of a throw of the dice and all men are born free, when understanding breeds love and brotherhood.
In light of the terrorist attacks in Paris, I decided to dedicate this post to Josephine Baker. I wasn’t going to even feature her because I write about her so much. I couldn’t help but think about her while watching news of these attacks and the racial violence happening here in the United States.
We’re living in turbulent times and Baker lived in even more turbulent times. She used her stardom to make a difference, which is one of the reasons I love her. She lived with passion—passionate about her equality, civil rights, animals, children and humanity. This is from a chapter on a book I’m writing about black sexuality:
“I developed a deep admiration for Baker when HBO aired her biopic The Josephine Baker Story in 1991. Lynn Whitfield gave an incredible and unforgettable portrayal of the icon. I was only 11 years old, but so amazed by how much passion Josephine Baker carried and exuded. Not just sexual passion, but passion about life. When America’s racially segregated theatres shut her out from performing in the 1920s, she moved to France and became one of the highest-paid performers in Europe. Baker was bisexual and was rumored to have affairs with a number of high-profile women of her era, including Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. She brought her passion to human issues by getting involved in the Civil Rights Movement, serving in the French air force and going undercover as a spy for the French Resistance during World War II. Josephine Baker lived and thrived by her own rules, even in a racist, sexist and homophobic society.”
I imagine those attacks throughout Paris tonight would have broken her heart. I imagine the death threats of American black college students and the police violence of unarmed black people would’ve frustrated her. Baker found refuge in France like those Syrians that some people are pointing the blame for these attacks. I bet she would have something to say about the xenophobia as well. People like Baker spoke out against injustice then, so that history wouldn’t be repeat itself today.
Many lives were taken in Paris today. And I’m sure Paris was not the only place in the world where innocent people died at the hands of violence of hatred. That is why I always encourage you who read this blog to live life with every drop of passion in your body. I grew up an only child, the only girl in a sometimes overprotective household. I feel in love with Baker because she did what the hell what she wanted to do. She lived her life with sensuality and passion. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized I admired her for these reasons and wanted live my life with similar energy. I wanted to live mentally and spiritually shackle free in a world that constantly tries oppress me because I’m black, female and what the best out of life. I know my sistas who are gay, poor, immigrants, abused, etc, have to break even more chains. These attacks and shootings remind me that one of the biggest chain is fear. One way to challenge fear is with love. So live and love passionately, fiercely and beautifully in spite of…It is your right.