This blog is composed of images and writings related to the life and work of Faith Ringgold, her mother Mme. Willi Posey, and her daughters Michele and Barbara Wallace. There are pages with links to blogs composed of the materials arranged by decades. The blog, itself, will ultimately be composed of materials related to the life of the family in the 90s and the 21st century.

Sunday

"You sound like you're for sale"--Excerpt from WE FLEW OVER THE BRIDGE: The Memoirs of Faith Ringgold

In this excerpt from Faith's memoirs, she discusses the issue of interracial dating that was often perceived as problematic among black female students on predominantly white college campuses during the 1970s where she lectured or taught (231-232 in the Duke University Press 2005 edition.
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0822335646/ref=rdr_ext_tmb


 "Despite the positive experiences of the students in my class, there was cause for deep concern over the plight of the black women students. A group of them approached me one evening after class and asked me to speak to their black student organization about a most serious problem--the brothers and their white girlfriends.

Wagner College was a conservative white middle-class private Lutheran College perched on top of a hill in one of the most affluent sections of Staten island. Tehre were only thirty-five or forthy black students were part of Wagner's minority program to bring black and "disadvantaged" white students from poor sections of Staten Island into an otherwise affluent all-white campus. Many of the middle-class white students were from the suburbs of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  They were new to black people and black/white dating, and some were eager to get started.

I had thought the young black men and women on campus were surprisingly close and obviously committed to the cause of black unity.  Like a family they ate breakfast and supper together at a nest of tables in the cafeteria, but rarely saw one another otherwise.  Too often, sisters noticed brothers had just announced that they were "off to study."  The black women students complained that the brothers would not make social commitments to them for weekends and holidays for fear it would conflict with their ongoing relationships with white girlfriends on campus.

My role was to confront the brothers with this story so that the sisters could open up a dialogue and try to clear up a bad situation before it got worse.  On the night of the meeting, I came in with the black women students, sat down and was introduced.  "Faith Ringgold, our new and very together instructor of black art . . . . If you're not already signed up to take her courses, make sure you do it next semester . . . all the black students should."  Finally I had the floor. The men students were seated across the room and the women students were seated around me. I decided to start by rambling on enthusiastically about how I had become aware of their black student organization, and that many of the brothers and sisters present were responsible for the administration's increased commitment to black students on campus, and to outreach programs of relevance to the surrounding black community.  I went on to mention that the sisters, who ahd been arrested and gone to jail in support of the black male leadership, were being rejected for white women.

Nobody spoke, so I continue. "These sisters want to know where your white girlfriends were when you needed support to take over the building.  And why didn't they go to jail with you?"  The brothers looked sheepishly at one another.  They recognized that this was a family dispute potentially volatile but not terminal.  They had to proceed with caution to make sure that nobody gave any gorund or made any promises he couldn't keep.  "They have money and they can afford to give us some of the things we need," came a voice from the brothers' corner.  The other young men made a protective circle around the speaker. He was a very tall, good-looking young man who wore a school sweater and was probably a freshman on the basketball team.  They all knew him. "Are you for sale?" yelled out a sister, who had stopped braiding her hair and stood facing the brothers' side of the room. (Half of her hair was standing straight up with the Afro comb sticking up in the part, separating that hair from the fresh cornrows already done. She was obviously preparing for bed.  Tomorrow her combed-out Afro would be full with tiny crimps.)  "You sound like you are for sale," she repeated, now focusing on the young man in the circle. "Like you're hungry and you think these white people gonna feed you for nothing."

"Uummmh, Ummmh," testified the other young women in the way that black women speak, their voices trapped down deep in their throats as if to disguise where the sound was coming from.

This sister reminded me of a young woman from the University of Milwaukee, who told me that her boyfriend was dating white on campus.  When she finally confronted him, he told her, "Well, she gives me money."

"Money?" quipped the young woman. "You want money?"  Why don't you go with the white man? He's the one who's got all the money."

It was time for the brothers to speak, to say something -- anything to get off the hook. Another brother spoke up this time; he was much shorter than the basketball player and slight of build.  The minute he rose to speak, the young women went back to their throat-talking chorus of "Uummmh, Ummmh," as if they already knew what he was going to say.  He faced the brothers and spoke directly to them. "You know, it's hard out there, and they're attracted to us.  What's wrong with it as long as it's on our terms?" The rest of the brothers gave in to embarrassed laughter as they engaged in a slapping of hands. They had made their point: This was the sisters' problem not theirs.

It was my time to speak again.  "And what about the sisters?" I asked, facing the brothers in their victory circle.  "Can they go out with whomever they want on campus?"

"Sisters better not be seen on campus with no white dudes," said the little guy who had spoken earlier.  He was obviously speaking for the brothers. The sisters weren't talking, but their silence was convincing.  They would be faithful no matter what--at least that's what they wanted the brothers to think. "

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Michele Wallace: Talking in Pictures
Barbara, MJ, Michele and Mom in the background in sunglasses at a fashion show in the early 60s