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Performances of “Blackness” . An examination of E. patrick johnson’s appropriating blackness: “ nevah had uh cross word”: mammy and the trope of black womanhood & Sounds of blackness down under: the café of the gate of salvation Molly andrews & Sara schriefer.

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performances of blackness

Performances of “Blackness”

An examination of E. patrickjohnson’sappropriating blackness:

“nevah had uh cross word”: mammy and the trope of black womanhood


Sounds of blackness down under: the café of the gate of salvation

Molly andrews & Sara schriefer

black authenticity in performance
Black Authenticity in Performance
  • Johnson looks at the performance and construction of the Black “mammy” through interviews with his Grandmother Mary.
  • Addresses how the “black domestic” is represented in culture by reviewing other scholarly literature on the black “mammy”.
  • “In this chapter, I examine such a reappropriation by illuminating the ways in which my grandmother’s performance of “mammy” in her oral narrative about her days as a live-in maid avows and disavows that prototypical image” 105
prototypical image
Prototypical image?
  • “ Dinahs”, “Aunt Jemimas” and “Mrs. Butterworths”105
  • “childlike, subservient, promiscuous, sassy and whose mission in life is to serve her mistress and mistresses family”106
  • “happy to make your pancakes and wash your clothes”106
performance of mammy
Performance of “mammy”
  • “ the movement toward and construction of a more “trusting” relationship between the domestic and her employer is frequently satisfying to both parties. On the other hand, because the domestic’s economic livelihood is dependent on her employer’s needs and satisfaction, her position is always subordinate to that of her employer”108
mammy as trickster
Mammy as Trickster
  • The idea of the double sided domestic (Mammy), originating from ancient West-African Cultures- the priest/priestess of trickery and masking.
  • Like priestess of trickery, the domestic is often a “duplicitous, doubled mouthed, bilingual boundary crosser as well”.109
mary rhyne a trickster narrative
Mary Rhyne: a “trickster” narrative
  • Four key characteristics stand out in Mary’s narrative:
    • Her domestic work was physically demanding with low pay
    • Non-monetary compensation combined with the Smith’s as “very nice people”= part of employee/employer contract
    • Mary took pride in her work
    • Mary’s experience as a domestic influences her post-work life
mary rhyne an authentic black image
Mary Rhyne: An Authentic Black Image
  • “Ah Done Ol’ an’ Broke Down”
    • Hard physical labor
    • Yet, kind treatment and relations with family “compensate”
  • Authorizing Power “Like One of the Family”
    • Non-monetary compensation, like hand-me-downs and home-ware, but also a part in the family- most symbolically the dinner table.
    • Had tremendous influence in the Smith household, reaffirmed her identity and strengths in her narrative.
mary rhyne an authentic black image10
Mary Rhyne: An Authentic Black Image
  • “Proud Mary”: the Valuing of Domestic Work
    • Unlike the stereotypically “mammy” image, Mary did have a breaking point
    • Took self pride in honesty and trustworthiness- again an aspect that created an authentic black image for Mary.
  • “Homeplace” After Domestic Work
    • Her experiences and actions within the eighteen years in the Smith household tremendously shaped her life at Tate Terrace from her established sense of authority to self-determination.
performing the other white blackness black whiteness

Performing the “Other”: WhiteBlackness &Black Whiteness

Part II

An Examination of the Café of the Gate of Salvation Gospel Chorus and other White Performances of “Black” Music

By Sara Schriefer

african american gospel
African American Gospel

Gospel is music that is written to: express either personal or a communal belief regarding Christian life, and to give a Christian alternative to mainstream secular music.

  • Performances are characterized by movement, energy, spirit
  • Mutual relationship between audience and performers:

“clapping hands, rocking bodies, and stomping feet that shook the church’s… floorboards.”

the caf of the gate of salvation
"... a spontaneity and dynamism ... a tight ensemble that engages and inspires the audience by its enthusiasm, high energy sound and original material."Barry Walmsley, Newcastle HeraldThe Café of the Gate of Salvation
e patrick johnson black gospel down under
E. Patrick Johnson- Black Gospel Down Under
  • Rejection: Difficulty accepting performance as “authentic”
    • Australian gospel singers romanticize black gospel music and black American history
    • Australian Media: Sexism, exoticization and fetishization of white Australian gospel music
  • Performing the “Other”
  • Gospel as a sphere for Australian cultural expression
  • Acceptance: Dialogic Performance
performance of the other
Performance of the “Other”
  • “I’ve always sung music that comes from a black tradition. So if it’s not soul, it’s funk, or reggae. So I think black music touches me in some way, I don’t know why that is, a white Jewish girl from Sydney, what can I say, them’s in my roots.”

-Tracey, Café of the Gate of Salvation

judith carson
Judith Carson

“When Judith placed those

sights, sounds, and rhythms

in her body, her body

responded in way that

empowered her to find her

own voice by singing with and

through Others’ voices. Her

‘transformation’ was

emotional, psychological, and

physical…. Her ‘broken’ voice

was ‘healed’ through the

‘miracle’ and power of gospel”

(pg. 210).

dialogic performance
Dialogic Performance
  • The audience, the performers and the subject being performed
  • “Each time the choir performs gospel music they participate in what has become one of the most recognizable signifiers of black culture… They perform blackness when they sing… The performance of their own and the Others’ identity, however, is never a static process but rather one of flux and flow- of possibilities.” (218)
establishing their authentic voice
Establishing their “authentic” voice

“Blackness” is established when the black audience approves of the performance:

"This blurring of subjectivities in the symbolic space of

performance foregrounds and the discursive nature of

identity… the Australian choir and the black listening

audience participated in the co production of

blackness. Thus for all intents and purposes the Cafe of

Gate of Salvation in face of evidence to the contrary

‘became’ black" (pg. 216).

performing blackness
Performing “blackness”

Cafe of the Gate of Salvation Performance

other performances of black gospel
Other Performances of Black Gospel

Heritage Mass Choir

“Taking their inspiration from Afro-American church music, the Heritage Mass Choir presents original Korean Gospel music .”

Video: My Desire is to Worship God

applying white blackness to popular music
Applying White Blackness to Popular Music

White artists’ adoption and performance of “black” music:

  • White artists enter black culture
  • Adopting elements of “black” music:
    • Soul
    • Hip-hop
    • Jazz
  • “An all-white, mostly atheist Australian gospel choir- at first it sounds contradictory. Yet, when situated in contested contexts of “blackness” and “performance” white Australian, atheist gospel singers are no more contradictory than black gay republicans. Indeed we live out the contradictions of our lives” (pg. 161).
interracial collaborations
Interracial Collaborations
  • White performances of

“blackness” are legitimized and

solidified when black artists

choose to collaborate with


  • Collaborations between black

and white artists that yield

and/or reflect “black” music

establishes and authenticates the

white artist within the black

culture and community.

the other side of performing the other
Disparity between the prominence of white artists performing “black” music and black artists performing “white” music

However, the collaboration of black artists who interject “black” music into “white” music has yielded a new genre of music and performance

Coldplay and Jay-Z collaboration: Coldplay feat. Jay Z- "Lost"

The Other side of Performing the “Other”
now for a bit of humor
Now for a bit of humor….

John Stewart on White Blackness- Larry Wilmore enlists the help of Robin Thicke to show kids there is hope for white people…

Robin Thicke on the Daily Show- “White In America”