She’s Mad Real
Popular Culture and West Indian Girls in Brooklyn

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.

Oneka La Bennett (Fordham University) is Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies and Research Director of the Bronx African American History Project. She received her Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from Harvard University in 2002. Her research and teaching interests include popular youth culture, race, gender, West Indian migration and transnationalism. Dr. LaBennett is currently working on a book entitled, Consuming Identities: Race, Gender and Transnationalism among West Indian Girls in Brooklyn. For the BAAHP, sheis heading a hip hop history initiative which prioritizes uncovering women’s contributions to hip hop music and culture. Email.


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