R&B-The Music, The Message, The Magic

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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….

 

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The Agony and Ecstasy of our Roots

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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………

Tyler Perry’s Cultural Pimp Juice

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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……

Journalicious!

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