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Shes Mad Real

Shes Mad Real: Popular Culture and West Indian Girls in Brooklyn

Oneka LaBennett
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 253
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  • Book Info
    Shes Mad Real
    Book Description:

    Overwhelmingly, Black teenage girls are negatively represented in national and global popular discourses, either as being at risk for teenage pregnancy, obesity, or sexually transmitted diseases, or as helpless victims of inner city poverty and violence. Such popular representations are pervasive and often portray Black adolescents' consumer and leisure culture as corruptive, uncivilized, and pathological. In She's Mad Real, Oneka LaBennett draws on over a decade of researching teenage West Indian girls in the Flatbush and Crown Heights sections of Brooklyn to argue that Black youth are in fact strategic consumers of popular culture and through this consumption they assert far more agency in defining race, ethnicity, and gender than academic and popular discourses tend to acknowledge. Importantly, LaBennett also studies West Indian girls' consumer and leisure culture within public spaces in order to analyze how teens like China are marginalized and policed as they attempt to carve out places for themselves within New York's contested terrains.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6528-9
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 Consuming Identities: Toward a Youth Culture–Centered Approach to West Indian Transnationalism
    (pp. 1-40)

    China takes the A train to the Fulton Street/Broadway Nassau stop to get to her job as a sales clerk at a clothing store near Ground Zero, one of two after-school jobs China holds. It is just after 4 p.m. on a Friday in August, and, on this particular afternoon, China rides the train with her best friend, Nadine, and two other friends, Neema and Mariah.¹ The subway car is full of businesspeople leaving early from Wall Street jobs, vacationing tourists, and a few local New Yorkers of varying ethnicities. The businesspeople are mostly White and dressed in suits. The...

  5. 2 “Our Museum”: Mapping Race, Gender, and West Indian Transnationalism
    (pp. 41-102)

    It was a hot July day in 2006, and, emerging from the subway station at Borough Hall/Court Street, I was relieved to enter the cool, air-conditioned space of the Barnes and Noble bookstore. I arrived to find that China, Nadine, Mariah, Amanda, and Dionne were already there. China and Nadine, the best friends we met in chapter 1, are both tall, dark-skinned girls with chemically straightened hair. Although China is from Barbados and Nadine from Trinidad, intra-island differences took a back seat for this pair, who typically dressed similarly, down to their occasional splurge for matching long, synthetic manicured false...

  6. 3 Dual Citizenship in the Hip-Hop Nation: Gender and Authenticity in Black Youth Culture
    (pp. 103-134)

    On a frigid Friday night in January 2006, I accompanied the Museum Team interns and two BCM educators to a performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), in downtown Brooklyn. The performers were Urban Word NYC, a young spoken-word poetry troupe; M-1, a member of the hip-hop group Dead Prez, known for its political lyrics; and the 1990s crossover hip–hop sensation Arrested Development.

    The trip was organized and chaperoned by Kiara and Neru, two BCM Museum Team educators. There were about fifteen teens, mostly West Indian, in attendance, with more girls than boys present. The girls included several...

  7. 4 “I Think They’re Looking for a Skinny Chick!”: Girls and Boys Consuming Racialized Beauty
    (pp. 135-182)

    The twelfth graders’ mood switched from the cool resignation they often displayed when a museum educator introduced a new project to one marked by rambunctious, animated chatter when they realized that the “project” I was introducing involved eating pizza and watching an episode ofAmerica’s Next Top Model.Their critiques of my pizza topping selections not withstanding—“Vegetable?!?!”—the teens showed real excitement, with the girls quickly weighing in on the show’s previous seasons and its winning contestants. One or two boys chimed in, while the other male teens just appeared relieved that at least they weren’t being asked to...

  8. 5 Conclusion: Placing Gendered and Generational Notions of West Indian Success
    (pp. 183-206)

    Amanda scribbled in a stenographer’s notebook—she was busy organizing her interview questions when I approached her at a Harlem cafe in March 2009. She shouted “Miss Oneka!” and rose to throw her arms around me. When I told her (for the hundredth time now) to drop the “Miss” and just call me “Oneka,” she said, “Okay, that’s just how I was raised. You always show respect.”

    Amanda and I have been in sporadic touch since 2007. She is now nineteen years old and a sophomore at a branch of CUNY (City University of New York) in Manhattan. She still...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 207-214)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 215-226)
  11. Index
    (pp. 227-239)
  12. About the Author
    (pp. 240-240)