Okay, before we get into this—as a champion of Girls Write Now and #blackgirlmagic, and as Girls Write Now’s new Community Outreach Coordinator, I was thrilled to find out that we would be honoring Phoebe Robinson at our Day of the Girl Event on October 11! So, if you want to support an incredible organization, hang out with me, dressed my best and wobbling around in uncomfy shoes, oh and see Phoebe, go snag your ticket!
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Photo by Arian Howard
My name is Kyndal and my first celebrity crush was Gene Kelly from in Singin’ in the Rain (but also Brigadoon and An American in Paris tbqh). Young Kyndal could not resist those strong, agile thighs and that charming, crooked smile. I don’t talk about this a lot. Here’s why:
- Most people my age probably don’t know who I’m talking about.
- Upon further research, Gene Kelly does not seem exactly *breathes deeply, channels Phoebe* Prince Char Char.
- Most importantly, I’m ashamed.
Growing up with one black parent and one white parent potentially, scratch that, definitely gifted me a complex. The “one wrong step and they’ll revoke my black card, but if I’m not black, what am I, because I’m definitely not white?” complex. You know the one.
My dad is a large black man who loves his spices, his Denzel and Eddie Murphy movies, and used to play basketball with me in our driveway. He’s also a retired competitive gymnast who studied calligraphy and loves Rod Stewart and old Hollywood musicals (not exactly your traditional black family staples.)
I’m a light-skinned, curly-headed black woman who danced most of my college weekends away in sweaty basements to beautiful throwback hip hop jams, many of which, I was hearing for the first time. I grew up putting creole seasoning on literally all of my food and also eating Kraft mac and cheese. Solely, Kraft Mac and cheese.
(I buy Deluxe now because I’m an adult.)
Photo by Arian Howard
To put it simply, my grip on my precious black card has always felt precarious. As a result, I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to culturally affirm myself as black. Striking that balance of retaining my black card and being true to the myself has always been a struggle for me (i.e. openly and honestly loving both Mahershala Ali and Ryan Gosling #GodBlessOaklandAndOntario).
So when I started listening to 2 Dope Queens and was introduced to Phoebe Robinson’s unabashed love of Bono, I was struck, but also comforted. This black woman, this #Down #Woke #BlackityBlackBlack woman, was professing her love for an Irish white dude who sings in a rock band my parents’ suburban white friends stan. And I mean Pro. Fess. Ing.
And finally, Exhibit C:
I’m not crying. You’re crying.
Phoebe subverts expectations in so many ways, inserting herself into numerous spaces that were not traditionally built to include her—comedy, publishing, the elusive ~writers room~, Bono fandom, etc. She never asks “Am I allowed here?” And she never asks “Is this black of me?”
She operates with the knowledge that blackness is not uniform, it’s not prescriptive and it’s not monolithic. Some folks get down to Boys II Men, some get down to Billy Joel, and some get down to both. (Hi, it’s me. I contain multitudes.) Some of us crush on Idris Elba, some of us crush on a thicc 40-year-old white man in tap shoes. And, wait for it, some of us crush on both. (Still me. #SelfRead)
*daydreams a “Hit ‘Em Up”/”You Always Hurt the Ones You Love” mash-up*
Photo by iemi Hernandez-Kim
Just to be clear, this isn’t a #MixedChick thing. I’m not one part white Wizard of Oz fan, one part black Michael Jackson fan, to one whole The Wiz fan. (After all, it’s my dad who’s always trying to get us to watch Brigadoon. Although, to be fair, the Kraft powder cheese thing was all mom. #LoveYouMom) This is about recognizing that just as actors, writers, women, and so on vary in every way imaginable, so do black people. So do their their tastes, their styles, their triggers, their favs, their signs, their spice tolerances, their hair textures, their love languages, and their voices.
That’s what this is all about really, voices. Phoebe Robinson is unapologetic. She owns her “hot-messiness,” her love of U2, her #IntersectionalFeminism, her lust for Michael Fassbender, her blackness, and her agency in every way she navigates the world—from our earbuds, to our tv screens, to our news feeds, to our bookshelves. In doing so, she invites us all to do the same.