Open Letter to Maya Angelou

Leave a comment

1282069587

Dear Maya,

I must admit when I first heard of your passing, I was shocked.

Though I am not sure why.

What I mean is that although you lived a life that is equivalent to two, or maybe three full lives, there was something about you that seemed indestructible.

I would not have been a bit surprised if you would have lived passed 100.

I remember watching the TV version of your first autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

I was mesmerized. Your story is my story.

You see my brother and I were abandoned by our parents and sent to live with our father’s mother in rural Mississippi.

Although my grandmother was the symbol of strength in the face of crushing challenges, I still carry the feeling of inadequacy with me into my middle age.

Unlike you, I have yet to repair the relationship with my mother.

As a child growing up in Mississippi, thoughts and memories of my mother haunted me.

I often daydreamed that my mother would suddenly appear and take me and my

brother home with her to Illinois where we would live happily ever after…..

My how I envied you and your brother Bailey when you finally got to go live with your mother in the north (St. Louis)!

Just like you, I always felt that I was the ugly duckling born of a beautiful mother.

My dearest Maya,

Although there are many parallels in our lives, please know that if I live to be three hundred years old, I will never possess the intestinal fortitude to endure and survive the many “tests” that you have been given:

Rape..

A teenaged mom…

Jim Crow…

But then again, If God meant for those adversities to be my destiny then I guess I would have had to endure.

But what I do know is that although I may have endured and survived, I would have never accomplished what you have:

Cabaret entertainer…

Civil Rights organizer…

Writer…

Poet…

Television writer, Director…

Actress…

Professor…

Legend…

Maya, you are truly a phenomenal woman that no fashion model could ever compete.

I love you Maya!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

R&B-The Music, The Message, The Magic

Leave a comment

black-music-month

Hi Readers,

It is that time again. Last June, I expounded a lot on the style and forms of Black music.

This year, I want to explore the message of R&B and its importance to the African American community.

Recently I was watching a series called Unsung on TV One-a station oriented towards the Black community.

One of my favorite R&B groups was featured-The Manhattans. They scored big in the late

70’s with classic hits such as “There’s no me without you”, “Kiss and say goodbye”, and “Shining Star”.

In all of these ballads, the woman is exalted, treasured and loved.

Somehow (with the exception of Baby Face and a few others) the contemporary romantic Soul ballad has become raunchy akin to its rap counterpart.

Instead of being exalted and put on a pedestal, women are referred to as jeeps, and other inanimate objects.

For instance, the R. Kelly and Notorious B.I.G. collaboration-“You must be Use to Me Spending” is a prime example of the declining positive influence of R&B music.

Please understand readers that I applaud the artistry of rap and hip hop. I just don’t always agree with its message.

Unfortunately rap and hip hop has gotten away from the positive images and messages of the late 1970’s and mid 1980’s.

It seems that the classic message of love and unity that was a cornerstone of Black popular music has been corrupted by the marriage of rap and R&B and the materialistic values that it has come to embrace.

If we are to ever sustain a vibrant community where love is the central theme, how can contemporary R&B songs such as “You Make Me Want to Leave the One I’m With” contribute to healthy Black relationships?

If we gauge the health of our community by the quality and current state of our music-then we are in T-R-O-U-B-L-E!

There may be some who would criticize our balladeers for displaying a great sensitivity towards our women.

Baby Face’s “Whip Appeal”, The O’Jay’s “We Cried Together”, The Isley Brother’s “Living for the Love of You” and “Hello It’s Me” are prime examples of the stability of Black love.

By stability, I mean these men prove disprove the myths and ideas about what qualities constitute a “Real” man.

Take note: If all of our male singers and lovers have negative and hateful messages-then our women will in turn become hateful and negative.

They are only responding in turn to the treatment they are receiving.

And readers, haven’t we had enough of the battle of the sexes between Black men and women?

Think Alice Walker’s The Color Purple and Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale.

Critics of Black popular culture always convey that hip-hop is another form of Black cultural expression.

If that is true I guess hip hop chronicles the breakdown of the elements that has sustained our communities through the many obstacles we have faced in this country as second class citizens.

Just imagine if the singers who have often acted as our great love poets would make a conscious return to the great standards set by the mighty balladeers of our past.

Just imagine how far our community would move forward in a direction that will sustain us for generations to come.

Well, that is all for now readers. I am glad to be back after a long hiatus.

Until next time….

 

The Agony and Ecstasy of our Roots

Leave a comment

Kunta Kinte

Hi Readers,

As some of you are aware, it has been awhile since I have posted.

However, not for a lack of material-but the interference of life!!!!!!!

I want to give a heartfelt thanks to all who kept visiting my site in the brief interim.

This past holiday season media giant BET aired the provocative and still relevant T.V. miniseries Roots.

I am somewhat surprised that this series still has the power to evoke certain emotions within me.

Emotions???

Anger

Outrage

Empathy

Sympathy

Forgiveness??

Before we discuss forgiveness, let’s discuss the other emotions.

I guess this is about the 3rd or 4th time that I have viewed Roots since its debut in the 1970’s.

I remember clearly the first time I actually sat down to watch Roots.

My whole (dysfunctional) family sat down to watch it together.

Why, now that I think about it, this is the first time that we ever united or bonded in this way.

Well maybe bonded doesn’t quite cut it.

Anyway, nobody spoke. We barely breathed.

The images of Lavar Burton in chains left us all absolutely speechless.

For my grandmother, the bitter rage and anger was visible.

I remember my 7 or 8 year old (older) brother laughing at the stark nudity of the women in the African village.

As for me-an imaginative 6 or 7 year old, I felt bewildered.

I distinctly remember going to school the next day and hearing the teachers discuss this rare event.

I think there was an underlying fear among the white teachers and an overt anger among the African American teachers.

There were some themes in the series that my father made a light joke of.

When an older Kunta married the middle aged cook Belle, they had a slave wedding and jumped the broom.

My father kidded my grandmother that she and my grandfather jumped the broom.

Moments in the series where I felt the most burning anger were:

Kunta’s first brutal beating when he refused the slave name Toby….

Kunta’s feet being chopped off to keep him from running away…..

Kunta’s daughter-Kizzie being sold away and the reaction of her childhood white friend….

The rape of young Kizzie by her new master….

Of all of the themes treated in the movie, I believe the rape of Kizzie resonated the most with me and my family.

For me????

The rise of bitter bile, anger, rage and helplessness has its appeal in the reality of life for Black women in slavery.

For most young women, their first encounter with sex is a much anticipated and coveted event.

In the series, Kizzie had a teenaged crush on a suitor.

Unfortunately, she violated a sacred rule of being literate and wrote a pass for Noah-her suitor.

As a result, she was sold.

Anyway, her first encounter in her new home was a brutal rape.

Please readers, ponder a moment….

Coupled with the unimaginable heartache of being torn away from the only family you have ever known, raped, and then forced to bear the rapist’s child.

I guess the reason for the anger is that not much has changed for Black women.

I guess what has changed is that her violator is more often than not a Black man. (This is a story for another time).

Don’t get me wrong, there were other poignant scenes where I empathized and sympathized.

If I was a gambler, I would wager that the rape of Kizzie provoked an unspeakable rage in the adult males in my family.

Why???

Imagine being a man-a Black man and rendered helpless when your daughter is violated.

The only time that I could summon a positive mood was watching Kizzie’s prankster son George.

I know to some he may have conformed to a stereotype with his happy go-lucky attitude.

For me however, he was a much needed respite.

He in a sense lifted the burden of a deep sadness within me.

His character is perhaps the only reason why I can watch this series every few years.

Although the movie ended on a positive note, I still feel a great trepidation because of new trials and tribulations that were in store for the newly freed-that still haunts the Black American experience to this day.

Until next time………

From a Lofty Perch: Bill Cosby’s Bird’s Eye View of Black America

3 Comments

Bill+Cosby+9th+Annual+TV+Land+Awards+Arrivals+iebHM1qbRvnl

Cosby Cos,

How could you?

“Let’s not go into a racial discussion unless we really have something there.”

Hello readers,

These were Bill Cosby’s words concerning the aftermath of the George Zimmerman trial.

I must confess, I wasn’t totally surprised-given Bill Cosby’s bird’s eye view of Black America from his lofty perch.

Don’t get me wrong, I have great admiration and respect for Bill Cosby.

I am not calling the man a sellout by any means.

As far as I know, Cos-in addition to Oprah-is one of the largest benefactors of our Historically Black colleges and universities.

Lest we forget, Cos contributed money to Spike Lee to finish his epic Malcolm-X after the studios pulled the plug.

In addition, Cos was also one of the earliest contributors to the Blaxploitation genre.

He gave much needed funding to Melvin Van Peebles to finish his film Sweet Back’s Bad Ass Revenge…..The film that started the rage of Black men taking their revenge on the White Man!!!!!

I also respect Cos because the ’70’s movies he made were family oriented and never depicted African Americans in a derogatory manner.

What gets to me about Cos is his reproachful manner when it comes to African Americans.

I will never forget Cosby’s burning anger after he made his famous pound cake speech at Howard University.

In a sense I could understand his outrage.

I especially understand it in the context of the current climate of Black America.

  • The nightly newscast in Chicago details several murders or injuries of Young African Americans by gun violence at the hands of young gang members.
  • Black mothers are the head of household in the majority of African American homes.
  • African Americans of varying ages make up most of the cases in recent AIDS/HIV diagnosis.

It would appear that the African American community is hell bent on self-destruction.

However, Cosby’s anger is misplaced.

I get his sense of outrage and disappointment because of Black America’s failure to take up the mantle of leadership and gain prosperity after the Civil Rights Movement.

Hey Cos, consider this:

The dismantling of the gains of the Civil Rights Movement-especially during the Reagan era.

Not to mention Bill Clinton’s cleverly cloaked ambivalence towards African American progress.

While I considered Bill Clinton a centrist at best who tried in vain to toe the line straight down the middle, it was his support and passage of the welfare reform act that I found most reprehensible that possibly trapped more African Americans in a hopeless cycle of poverty and despair.

Also consider this Cos…….

The Civil Rights Act helped some African Americans to gain passage into the middle class-however precariously.

I say yeah for those who managed to stay there.

Were they able to pass the wealth on to their offspring?

You know-how they do it in the White community!!!!!

It’s called generational wealth.

If so yeah!!!!

Now consider the vast majority of those who were not able to gain access to the middle class as a result of the Civil Rights Movement.

Especially consider the early 1970’s.

While the laws may have been in place to offer African Americans protection, laws don’t have the power to wipe out discrimination, hatred and fear from people’s hearts.

So my dear Cos, while you have the right to be angry-make sure your anger is directed at the right target.

I am not saying that some African Americans are not at fault.

Consider the generational gap……

African Americans are part of the human family.

Just like white yuppie youths were alienated from their parents, young African Americans are alienated from their parents and ancestors.

I guess if I want to play the blame game on the failure of African Americans it would start with our warriors and veterans of the Civil Rights Movement!!!!

Yes, you heard me right.

Maybe they didn’t know that we would overcome.

But, if they had a vision, then why didn’t they create a roadmap to help those who would come after?

Why don’t you create a roadmap cos?

One last disturbing thought……

What really makes me sad and a little angry is the belief that Zimmerman did not act out of xenophobic racist beliefs.

Consider the death of your own son at the hands of a white racist dog!!!!!

It seems right now Cos you are waging a one man war with Black America.

Can’t wait to see the last man standing.

Until next time…….

Drugs, Demons, & Drags: Flipping Over America’s First Black TV Superstar

2 Comments

flipwilsonshow

Hi Readers,

While I consider myself an avid reader of the Black experience, I particularly love reading African American biographies.

I just finished reading a newly released autobiography about legendary comedian Flip Wilson.

In my tween years, I remember the comic legend for his outlandish Geraldine character.

Remember Geraldine?

“The Devil made me do it”.

Lol.

Compared to today’s Black comics-Black and White, Flip cut a wholesome figure.

He was safe…….

Especially Geraldine

A la Madea…..

A La Bill Cosby….

But oh readers, if only you knew.

Let’s rip the mask off of Geraldine and reveal the pain and flawed Mr. Wilson-first name Clerow!!!!!!

His seriously “humble” beginnings….

While we Americans love a good Horatio Alger rag to riches tale, Flip’s tale is more like “Hags to Bitches”!!!!!!!!!

Let’s ponder for a moment……

Think of some raw comics who use their life experiences as fodder for their acts.

According to Flip’s biography, his mother abandoned the family.

Flip’s father was left to care for over a dozen children of varying ages with Flip either being the youngest or one of the youngest.

Apparently, his father-chronically unemployed, left the children to fend for themselves.

As a result, young Flip was fanned out to abusive relatives and hellish foster homes.

From being forced to wait to have a meal to severe beatings which left lifelong scars, I am astounded that comedy and the desire for laughter could have manifested itself in little Flip.

Escape

In an attempt to escape the slums of his native Jersey City, Flip lied about his age and joined the United States Air Force as a way out.

The one poignant issue that stood out for me in this point in his life is that he was still faithful about sending money to his abusive family and the man he thought was his biological father!!!!!

Flip, who was apparently the darkest of all of his siblings was criticized constantly by his dad for his deep dark complexion.

His older sister revealed in an offhand manner that “pops” was not his father.

Thus explains the interest a family friend took in Flip-his real father!!!!

From a predictable tour of duty marked by the “required” racism he faced (this was in the 1950’s), Flip started to realize his gift and passion for comedy…..

Paying those dues

Bill Cosby…

When we think about the comic giants of the 1970’s Bill Cosby is right in the mix!!!

Cos, it seems was the prototype-the goal every comic worth his weight in ambition and talent tried to emulate.

And believe me, Flip had that ambition baby!!!!

For years, he traveled the chitlin circuit enduring hunger and homelessness.

Heck, he even gave himself a fifteen year plan.

Fifteen years?

I would have probably given up after fifteen months.

Readers, can you seriously see yourself in an unstable career trying to battle it out for fifteen years before deciding to walk away?

Still pressing on after much heartache, the Flipper finally got a chance.

Enter Redd Foxx…

Thanks to perhaps the greatest Black comedian of all times and beyond, Foxx on live television proclaimed Flip as the funniest comedian alive!!!!!!

Right on Time

After Foxx’s endorsement, Flip got his chance to be seen by a national crossover audience.

Thanks to a little luck, business savvy and perseverance, the Flip Wilson show was born.

The Flaws and the Demons

I was mildly surprised but not totally devastated to realize that Flip was human….

He was a mildly neglectful father who involved his young children in helping him to package his drugs.

His kids would all form an assembly line and help dad roll his marijuana!!!!

Quality Time…..

After seeing the writing on the wall due to the volatile nature of the early 1970’s, Flip decided to end the show to spend time with his children.

Daddy Dearest

It would seem that being the product of a broken family, broken community, and broken foster care system, father of the year would have been Flip’s blind ambition.

Maybe in his warped sense of reality he was…..

As his kids grew older, he had a schizophrenic relationship with them which continued towards the end of Flip’s life.

A Tragic Figure

While Flip is one of the few comic legends that I admire and respect, he will always appear as a tragic figure to me.

I am not judging.

I am not blaming Flip.

Imagine walking in Flip’s shoes and enduring the sick racism, and abuse from family and enemies.

It is good that he had the gift of laughter and the endurance and desire to bring it to the masses.

What if he didn’t have the gift or desire?

I hate to think of the alternative.

Bitter Black man?

Turning his rage in on himself, his family, and community?

With these odds, maybe Flip isn’t a tragic figure after all but a replica of endurance and the best of the Black experience.

Hats off to Geraldine.

Eat that Madea!!!!

Until next time…..

Tyler Perry’s Cultural Pimp Juice

Leave a comment

Tyler Perry

Hi readers,

I just recently started watching Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots on Oprah’s network.

I must say what a startling departure from his usual television fare.

I must confess….

I am a total fan of Tyler’s beloved Madea.

Why?

I swear readers, if I didn’t know better, Madea is my grandmother reincarnated!!!!

I remember the first time I became acquainted with the Madea character.

It seemed as if Tyler Perry had a front row seat to my life.

Wow, what a brilliant storyteller……..

Ever since the introduction of this character, he has been bashed for perpetuating stereotypes of African Americans!!!!

It seems some think of Madea as a buffoon.

Tyler made an interesting observation about his Madea creation and the negative reaction to it by some.

Tyler states that he came of age in the Louisiana backwoods from a woman dominated family whereas Spike came of age in the urban North and was reared in a house with a father who was a Jazz musician.

As a 42 year old woman raised in Mississippi by my paternal grandmother, I got it right away with the Medea franchise.

For all of you TP haters out there, understand this about Madea:

As a Southern grandmother, she provides stability and strength for her community.

(Witness this in several movies when she takes in relatives and foster children)

As a Southern grandmother, she provides wisdom to sustain her community.

(Witness this in several movies and plays when her advice heals, strengthens, and nurtures)

Back to the Haves….

As I mentioned earlier, what a departure.

When I first saw the promotions and ads for the new dramatic series I was certain that Tyler was out of his element.

I mean what does a poor kid from the sticks of the Deep South know about the interior lives of the rich and famous?

And if he did have a view, it was only from that of the help!!!!

I thought his show at best would be unconvincing, tired, and trite.

Boy, was I ever wrong!!!!!!

If I didn’t know better, I testify that I was watching a reboot of the popular 1980’s Dallas.

From his rendering of the evil villain, the powerful patriarch pitted against the equally powerful matriarch, he has delivered a sure drama TV classic with a twist….

What is unique-or maybe not-about The Haves… is the depiction of African Americans in positions of power in the business world.

A welcome break from viewing wealthy African Americans as entertainers and sports starts.

Hey-any way you can make it to the top-right?

Equally fascinating is his representation of the poor African American community and the values this community still struggle to uphold.

The Black maid Hannah is my favorite character.

I love her devout honesty grounded in her deep faith.

Last night was very touching when in a poignant scene she got the evil judge/lawyer to pray with her over her wrongfully incarcerated son.

Despite the attacks from other powerful Africa Americans, Hannah holds on to her devout faith.

She has even inspired the series matriarch.

After viewing three consecutive episodes, the verdict?

Tyler has that rare cultural pimp juice!!!!!

By that I mean, he can tell stories across economic racial groups that have a universal appeal and resonate with a large swath of the public.

Tyler has proven that he is equally at home dispensing knowledge about that rare breed of Southern Black grandmothers who can keep it real and the lofty rich and famous who make scheming, cheating and lying a glamorous art form.

Spike always told angry stories from a decidedly masculine point of view.

Not to pit him against Tyler.

It is just a simple matter of two different ends of the African American experience.

One no better than the other.

It’s about time our grandmother’s got respect!!!!!!

Thanks Tyler,

Until next time……

Whose Post-Racial Society is This? Barack, Trayvon, & a Delayed Rap on Race

2 Comments

2013-07-19T215711Z_1Obama

Hello Readers,

I come to you today somewhat gratified about President Obama’s recent comments concerning the aftermath of George Zimmerman’s acquittal.

As a quasi man of the people, Obama’s decision to address the nation was short of a momentous occasion.

I know that there are some of us out here who feel that Barack’s views on race are often delayed, tentative, and skewed toward the conservative side.

What if the president would have opted to remain silent around the growing anger surrounding Zimmerman’s acquittal?

Like Booker T. Washington in Post Reconstruction America, Black leaders are often in a roundabout manner forced to subvert issues of race.

What do Barack’s statements mean for America?

Black America?

The world?

The president asserts that “when Trayvon was first shot, this could have been his son. Trayvon could have been him 35 years ago.”

It seems from this statement that issues of race have subsided for some…..

In the president’s autobiography Dreams of My Father, he relates as a (biracial) Black teenager growing up in Hawaii how he was often profiled.

He recounts the numerous times the pointed stares he would get bounding in and out of his grandparents’ apartment.

Another poignant moment in his story is his grandmother’s incident with race.

Apparently a Black man tried to rob Obama’s white grandmother and she used that epithet (N$#@&%).

His white grandfather tried to calm her because young Obama was in earshot.

Wow!!!!!!

Can you imagine, hearing that word from the mouth of your beloved grandmother?

Well, imagine it if you were (biracial) Black…….

Believe me, growing up in a household with too many people and very limited funds, that was a word that I heard often.

But, the impact wasn’t as shattering.

He also recounts another time concerning the naive actions of his white mother.

Mother and son attended a movie where the Blacks on the African continent were suffering under the weight of Colonialism.

While his mother praised the film, a distraught young Barack contemplated getting up and walking out of the theatre.

Although he loved his mother a great deal, he agonized that she could not understand the pain of being Black.

I often feel that America is kidding herself when she states that we have come a long way.

But have we?

Yes, we are not being forced to work for free on Southern plantations under the lash of the whip.

It seems to me sometimes that the whip has been replaced in the Northern ghettoes by the police baton.

And yes, we are no longer being ripped and torn from our families at the whim of the slaveholders.

Or are we?

I remember from my childhood single women on public aid having to have clandestine meetings with the fathers of their children because the government decided that married or domiciled couples on aid were not an option.

I also remember the few single black fathers not being qualified.

And now the media wants to blame the MIA Black fathers on some idea that all Black men are not fathers but baby daddies!!!!!

The president goes on to challenge white America to see this issue through the eyes of Black Americans due to centuries of injustice.

Again I ask, what does his speech mean for White America?

Certainly not sentiment!!!!!

Why?

I have read numerous comments and posts on various news sites citing that African Americans are too hung up on race.

Where do we go from here?

Continued profiling and more incidents like Trayvon!!!!

What does his speech mean for Black America?

Certainly not the belief that we can finally exhale……

Why?

Because we are veterans of the Black American experience where the doors of equal opportunity-while not closed completely-offers just enough wedge for a sliver of Blackness to seep through!!!!

And finally, what does his speech mean for the world with all eyes on us?

The world-especially the Mother Continent-may note that there has been much progress for its Black citizens.

In all fairness and spite, they can also note the hypocrisy of America as the great champion of democracy and freedom around the globe!!!!!

W.E.B. Dubois once stated that the problem of the twentieth century was the color line.

In the first decades of the 21st century it seems that race may be the problem for many decades to come.

This may be especially so if we have renegades like George Zimmerman who are sponsors of racial profiling.

Until next time…..

Older Entries

Journalicious!

A Sweet Taste of Hollywood!

hollywoodsblacklist.wordpress.com/

There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about

The Cut

Everyone has that one song.

Chocolate Vent

Just saying what's on my mind...even the crazy things!

Nubian Sisters

The Website for the Modern Day Black Woman

Encourage.Dark.Skin.

Encourage.Dark.Skin.

The SuperSpade

Black Thought at the Highest Level

%d bloggers like this: