Performed by Tatiana Pandiani, Zakiya Markland, and Mariana Vallejo
In a very racialized 1910s America, young Josephine Baker is both lauded and taunted for the brown hues of her skin. Internalized racism displayed by blacks around her (people of her own race) had young Josephine on the outskirts of stardom on Black Broadway, despite being incredibly talented. Never light enough to pass the quintessential “paperbag” test (a test used by African Americans at this time to test the lightness of one’s skin/how much white or mixed-blood one possessed), she left the United States and found stardom in the land-of-the free Paris, France, where racism was...well, different than in the States. There she became an instant success: a symbol of French liberation from Western austerity; an icon of female liberation; France’s “Black Venus.” In La Negrophilie audiences are invited to bear witness to a change in her view of self that is as thrilling as it is chilling. What happens to the soul when fetishization, and eroticization of the body is the price you pay for fame...for freedom? With diety-like stardom steeped in the objectiScation of the black body, I dare to to ask, was Josephine Baker truly free, or just another n*gga in Paris? (n*gga: a black person, usually of the African diaspora, who is mentally and/or physically enslaved)
Despite all of the glamour and her profound global accomplishments, did this beautiful black woman learn love the skin she was in? And what really is this suffering caused by the internalization of the white gaze that perceives you as ’other’ to the point where, in your eyes, you too view your blackness is other, strange and ugly? And how do we *continue* to effectively unpack various forms of internalized self-hate and trauma linked to global white supremacy in a way that’s reaches liberation at it’s purest?
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