Barefoot discusses blues’ lyrics sung by female artists

Cate Kennedy

In conjunction with African-American Heritage Month, the Brown Bag Lecture Series will feature an exploration and discussion of traditional blues songs performed by 20th century black female singers.

The lecture will be held today at 12:30 p.m. in 308 Manly Hall and will be delivered by Bebe Barefoot, a professor in the English department and New College.

Barefoot’s lecture, “Singing the Sexual/Textual Blues: Black Female Sexuality and Cultural Resistance,” will focus specifically on how these singers’ performances, as well as lyrics, use anti-feminist stereotypes to their advantage.

“They actually make them their own and ultimately use them to their advantage,” Barefoot said.

“I think that the Brown Bag Lecture Series provides University students the unique opportunity to explore important themes regarding sexuality, women, and society that would otherwise be ignored,” said Samantha Silor, president of the Feminist Majority Leadership Association.

In addition to being a member of the UA English and New College departments, Barefoot is also on the board of directors for the Alabama Blues Project, a foundation that aims to preserve blues music as a traditional and contemporary art form through various educational and entertaining interactive programs. One of ABP’s main goals is to increase awareness of the impact blues music has had on the development of popular American music. Barefoot is also on the board of directors for West Alabama Aids Outreach.

An avid fan of blues music, Barefoot said she loves the old-time female blues singers, such as Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, in addition to contemporary female singers like Janiva Magness and Candye Kane, who follow in the same musical tradition.

“They are amazing, powerful women with strong voices, sassy lyrics, and incredible stage presences. Their bodies are a form of cultural resistance,” Barefoot said.

The Brown Bag Lecture Series is sponsored by the Women’s Resource Center and the Department of Gender and Race Studies. The series picked up this semester with a discussion on reducing women’s imprisonment in Alabama as a part of Women in Prison Awareness Week in early January.

The two remaining lectures will take place on March 3 and April 7. The next lecture will focus on black female sexuality in hip hop music.

The last lecture of the semester will focus on disruptive Creole bodies in the short stories of Kate Chopin’s and Alice Dunbar-Nelson, as well as what happens when the pregnant woman falls out of the picture. These lectures feature Women’s Studies graduate students Jami Harris, Melanie DeMaeyer and Rachel Watts as the speakers.

For more information, call 348-5040 or 348-5782.