Author Archives: Malaka

Does Lauryn Hill Know How Much She’s Needed?

I woke up with this burden for Lauryn Hill this morning.

There are many reasons we need Lauryn Hill, the most pressing of which is because people are still surprised when I open my mouth and speak both eloquently and intelligently.

sweet brownHow can I blame them when the pervasive images of Black womanhood are Nicki Minaj, her bubble butt and her Bubble Yum pink G-string or Sweet Brown? Sure! You could counter that with “But Malaka, what about Oprah?” Uh-uh. Oprah is not a “black woman”…she’s Oprah. Oprah is a brand to the mainstream culture; not a person.

I really wanted to write something thought provoking and DEEP about Ms. Hill, but I find myself at a loss for adequate words. I just want to find Lauryn and hug her and shake her and pour my emotion into her. My need for her to understand how much the world needs her and craft and her brilliance is visceral.

Lauryn Hill introduced me to the word “reciprocity” and its proper use. For that alone she earns my eternal thanks. Then she penned and performed a song for her son Zion and spoke not about the fear of raising a Black son, but the joy of it. For a while she fell off the map and went a little “crazy”, but she reemerged and showed us that you can indeed rise from the depths of your despair and grief, and go through fire and eventually shake the ashes and soot from your body.

Does Lauryn Hill KNOW how much she’s needed?!?

There are not many musicians who understand the importance and value of their craft. Music is POWERFUL.

Bible scholars will tell you that before Lucifer’s fall, he was the angel over music…that when the wind blew through his body there was a melody on the other end. God takes delight in music. Melody and verse have been used as instruments of peace and tools to declare war. Music has the power to evoke emotion. Music has the power to heal, as well as destroy. And we live in a time when much of the music we hear is destroying the ONE thing that ensures Black survival on this planet: our intelligence. Everyone – men, women AND children – are getting dumber by the minute, and I believe it’s because Lauryn Hill doesn’t understand just how important she really is! She is one of the few educated voices in music that uses her gift to e-du-cate. I mean, have you heard Black Rage?

We need Lauryn Hill. She is our Nina Simone, our Pied Piper, our Oracle, our link to our glorious future and past.

In 2009, Talib Kweli wrote a song simply entitled ‘Ms. Hill’ to encourage Lauryn to continue in her craft, as well as to let her know how much he admires, loves, and supports her. I hope she heard it and took it to heart. It pained me that her re-entry into the public forum was forced by the need to pay back taxes to the sum of $1.5 million. It pained me even more that she paid the majority of the amount – just shy of a few thousand dollars – and a judge still saw fit to jail her, while in the same year Nicholas Cage was guilty of the same offense and never saw the front steps of a confinement institution. But hey, ain’t that America.

Nevertheless, Lauryn is back and she’s touring and reportedly doing it because she loves it. For people who think that Lauryn Hill exists solely to entertain them, this can be a hard concept to grasp. Cherae Robinson wrote an absolutely shallow (horrible, unserious, ridiculous, foolish, retarded… Jesus be a thesaurus…there aren’t even enough adjectives) article on Face 2 Face Africa about Lauryn Hill’s impending arrival and performance in Ghana this December.  She writes:

When Ms. Hill comes to Ghana, she should be prepared to make a big impression, because last time she performed in Africa, she was boo’ed by fans at the Capetown International Jazz Festival.

Image from BET.com

Image from BET.com

No, young blood. When Ghanaians attend Ms. Hill’s concert, they should prepare themselves to receive illumination and to share in the experience. Lauryn Hill isn’t some cut rate new artist, chasing your shiny nickels and dimes so she can build herself a faux throne financed by selling her soul. She is a priestess. She is a queen. She is an originator. You don’t go to a Lauryn Hill concert to merely be entertained; you go to be enlightened. And THAT is why Lauryn Hill is so desperately needed in the culture.

Does she know?

 

 

I Racially Profiled a White Man…And He Didn’t Seem to Like It

We all don’t use social media the same way. We can agree on that, right? Some people create accounts which are simply used to follow/stalk certain users. Some people are actually interested in contributing to the discourse on a particular subject. Some people never comment on anything; ever. Others still don the cape of the QWERTY Crusader and believe it is imperative that they comment on every tweet, like or status on the Interwebs.

A decade ago, I myself was a QWERTY Crusader, on my way to becoming a keyboard thug. A few encounters with some people who had no conscience, no line, broke me of that. These days, when it comes to other people’s conversations, I keep my comments light and happy unless specifically asked. This has become the norm on social media these days. Nobody really just butts in on someone else’s conversation…unless they are a troll. That is why I was so surprised to find this guy in my mentions today.

I’ve already told you all I’m not doing Ferguson. I did Trayvon Martin and that took too much out of me. And it hurt. I cannot spare the emotional currency that is going to be required of every person in this nation who sees Mike Brown’s killing for what it is – murder – when the end comes and the officer in question is exonerated and escapes all of this unscathed and nothing changes for another 100 years. So no, I’m not doing Ferguson. I’m burying my head in the sand on this one.

And yet…and YET!…Ferguson seems to find me. No matter how deep I plant my head in the mud, Ferguson always finds a way to locate me!

As the list of Black White Supremacists grows ever longer with that über bootlicking porch monkey Larry Elder leading the charge, I was horrified to find Juan Williams in their company. As a rule, I respect Mr. Williams. I think he’s a great journalist and very center when it comes to his opinion. Except, that is, when it comes to Black American affairs. Larry Elder may be a porch monkey for the establishment, but Juan Williams is right behind him, grinning, slapping his knees and “ham boning” in time as my kids call it.

He made some remarks today about Black people acting like thugs and not being disparaged against if they didn’t act like thugs, etc. This from a man whose son Raffi was described by a former fellow student while at Haverford as a “disrespectful, loitering, drunk, rude ass”. Fortunately, since Daddy sat on the board of this college, young Raffi went on to boast with glee that he could “slack off, because he would get in no matter what.”

But, you know, Raffi is an RNC staffer, so that’s not “thuggish” behavior. That’s just a college kid enjoying his daddy’s influences and his personal privilege. Funny how the same behavior on Crenshaw can get you shot. Funny…

Anyway, I expressed my displeasure with Mr. Williams’ opinion by calling him a Black White Supremacist, as he is indeed pushing the agenda of the KKK and all the baby terror groups and policy that are offshoots of the Klan’s ideology. A few hours later, this dude shows up in my mentions.

race guy

Just read it. It’s funny. Go on!

Now, anyone who knows me – and truly knows me – is aware that I am a habitual line stepper. Was it wrong for me to say the man looked like he raped babies in his spare time? Perhaps. But that’s why you don’t talk to strangers. I am a STRANGER to J Michael Coleman. I’m liable to say anything. So is anyone else on Twitter, which is why I only follow a handful of people. But this isn’t about social media etiquette; this is about Mr. Coleman’s intense reaction to being racially profiled. From what I can tell, he didn’t like it one iota. Nope, not one bit.

You all know I work at a shoe store. Guess what group causes the most shrink – the most loss due to theft – in our store? Hmmm? No, you’re wrong. It’s White women over the age of 40. They will steal anything: the umbrellas from a London Fog twin set, change purses, those god-awful Grasshopper shoes, Kenneth Cole sling backs and anything Tahari. So while my manager is mobilizing her team to chase after a gaggle of “thugs” in the athletic department, Mildred and her pet dog will be walking out of the store with a pair of Ralph Lauren boots this autumn.

Mais, quelle horreur, let’s all gasp at the idea that I or anyone else on the team should shadow an old White lady around the store like she was going to steal something. The crazy thing is, she IS. She’s going to steal something…tonight!

“The boogie man wears khakis.” That’s what Akuba Sheen and I used to say. It’s not the guy in the hoodie and baggy pants you need to be afraid of: it’s the dude in the boat shoes (with no socks) and Dockers you need to fear. These are the men who steal millions of dollars from corporations, destroy families, and shoot up movie theaters. But no, let’s everyone panic when a corn-fed Black kid is walking through a new neighborhood with an iced-tea in his sweatshirt pocket.

I wondered if J Michael Coleman knew what that felt like. You know: to be looked at with suspicion before you had a chance to say three words? Because bath time with kids was done and my blood sugar was relatively stable, I had both the time and the energy to give him a glimpse into my Black world of perpetual assumption and bias .

race guy2

Gosh, he seemed not to like being judged so severely by appearances, or to have someone assume the worst of you because of one attribute or another. Now why would that be?

Guest Post: This is What Male Privilege Looks Like

I just got this post in from Nana Darkoa who asked me to ‘put this man on blast’. Let her experience be a warning. Read, gasp and hide your kids. The rest of you: behave yourselves in public!

 

The plan was to enjoy an Ethiopian buffet at Hush Lounge in Labone. My friends and I were seated comfortably in a far corner of the dimly lit venue, chit chatting. We were 4 adult women, with a 13-year-old girl in our company. Her brother sat adjacent to us. Close enough to be within earshot, yet far away enough to retain his teenage cool.

I was drinking Smirnoff Ice and chatting with one of my friends when this man came and sat right in the corner where we had ensconced ourselves. I groaned inwardly, why did he have to come and sit right next to us when the venue was practically empty. You could tell he was drunk from the way that he lurched into the seat.

 My friends and I continued chatting.

“Excuse me, excuse” we soon heard him say loudly. Sure enough, Mr. Drunk Man was trying to interrupt our conversation. I looked up briefly, then away, and continued to talk to my friend. One of the women in our party must have said something briefly to him, which I didn’t quite catch before returning to our conversation. I couldn’t help but say to my friend,

“Ah, male privilege can be annoying. Can you imagine ever going to a bar, sitting right next to a group of men and then raising your voice at them to get their attention?” We laughed and went back to our conversation.

Mr. Drunk Man tried to interrupt us one more time with no luck and somehow started a conversation with Mr. Cool Teenage Boy whom he had sat right next door to. While I chatted with his mother, she glanced his way intermittently, concerned about whether or not he was okay. He seemed fine, and walked away after a while.

It was then that Mr. Drunk Man started trying to interrupt our party with something to the effect of, “Oi, I’m talking to you”. We ignored him and tried to carry on our convo. But would Mr. Drunk Man take a hint? Oh no. He just got louder. Eventually I said,

“Excuse me, we are trying to have a conversation. Please leave us alone”.

He started to swear at us. “Shut the fuck up.” “Ugly fat black bitches.” “Fuck off!” and even something to the effect of “You’re just looking for black dicks.” My friend said, “Don’t talk to us like that,” but that made no difference to him and he continued to rant and rave.

Just at that moment a male friend who had told us about the regular Ethiopian buffet at that lounge walked to the corner of the restaurant where we were seated. He tried to calm down the situation. “Good evening, Sir,” he said whilst making direct eye contact with Mr. Drunk Man. But oh no, Mr. Drunk Man couldn’t be talked down into civility. Eventually, security led him away.

 

van-lare-dosooThat night, I did some digging, and found out Mr. Drunk Man was called Lionel, and earlier on had taken to bragging about being a former Chairman of Ecobank (and the fancy school his children attend, and that he used to live in the States and had just come back from Brazil). So off to Google I went, where I searched for ‘Lionel + Chairman + Ecobank.’ Indeed, there is a (former?) chairman of the esteemed bank called Lionel. I did a Google images search with the full name I now had. Yup, it looked like the same man. I sent it to my friend. She was with one of the other women who had been with us at Hush lounge that night. They both confirmed it was the same man. Lionel Van Lare Dosoo, next time you’re drunk go home, don’t harass women in bars.

 

 

 

 

The Concept of Black on Black Crime is the Steam Off of a Pile of Shyte.

*Snnnniiiiffffff!!!!* You smell that? The scent of crap is in the air, wafting in from the misguided views of prejudiced people. In reference to the unrest in Ferguson, I recently saw one woman – an African woman – opine that she wished that more people were just as upset about “Black on Black crime”. This image immediately sprang to mind.

batman

I am not here to insult anyone who believes that Black on Black is a thing. Like an actual, legitimate thing. I’m just here to tell you that it’s fallacy… deflective tactic coined and hustled by the majority (and a great number of misguided Blacks) to get your mind off of the real issues and to participate in victim blaming. In short, the idea of Black on Black isn’t a solid enough theory to be a pile of shyte; it is mere the steam drifting away from said pile.

Close your eyes. Do you remember the first time – the VERY first time, mind you – that you heard/read the phrase “black on black crime”? I do. My mom was a faithful subscriber to Ebony magazine and maintained her subscription even when we moved to Ghana, West Africa. She had a pile of magazines that sat behind the wet bar that was featured in the center of our rented home. She didn’t allow liquor in the house, so the bar became a library of sorts. As an early teen, I flipped through one of those magazines, fascinated by images of American blackness that I was only familiar with through rap videos and month-long visits to the States every 3-4 years. The artwork for one particular article struck me as very profound. It was a big black square and within that square were the words:

‘The trouble with black on black crime is that you can’t see it.’

The words ‘black on black’ were themselves written in black so that they were barely visible. It was a powerful message, and coupled with the spate of John Singleton movies I had just been recently acquainted myself with, made an indelible impression on me. And so there I was, a Black girl, in Black Africa, afraid of Black Americans. I was afraid of them before I’d ever encountered them. I was convinced that black Americans, save for a few, were willfully sneaky and thieving and uncontrollably violent. At a young age, I was already convinced that somehow, their violence was just different. Never mind that just a month before one of my neighbors had run down the street screaming Julor! Julor!!! (thief) in Black West Africa in pursuit of what I can confidently say was a Black man/boy. But that wasn’t “black on black” violence. That was just a home invasion. Black on Black violence was only something folks whose used ‘nigga’ like it was their birth name  and wore jehri curls did.

M.O.M Squad, we have all discussed the racializing of crime as it relates to Black folk before.  David S. gave wonderful commentary on the subject. As he said, talking about black on black crime is nothing but a “smoke screen”. MX5 and I discussed this over coffee recently as well. Again, she makes a salient point:

“When Black people commit crimes against other Black people, it’s because of some personal affront. You talked about my momma, you stole my girl, you were standing on my turf selling when we’ve already made it clear that this is my corner and that is yours. We don’t do ‘senseless’ violence. There’s always a reason. We don’t go blowing up buildings or shooting up schools or movie theaters. We only kill/harm people we know.”

“Except for the DC Sniper,” I added.

“Yes. And you remember how shocked we all were when his description came out!”

Then we chuckled and sipped more coffee and I mulled over her words.

Adam-Lanza-and-James-HolmesBlack people only kill/harm people we know; specifically, people we’re in close proximity to. But, doesn’t the same apply to other races and ethnic groups as well? The Triads, whose criminal resume includes contract killing, prostitution, counterfeiting, health care fraud, drug trafficking, human trafficking, extortion, murder, money laundering, arms trafficking, racketeering operate globally, and within markets where Chinese presence is high. You think a Chinese gang lord is really going to walk up to a group of Black women in an attempt to pimp them out? No. He’s going to find himself a nice down-and-out Chinese family, promise them a better future and sell their daughter’s body. He’s going to operate in the community he knows…where there is some level of kinship and enjoys the convenience of proximity. Same for the Native Americans, same for Eritrean gangs in Ohio, and the same for Adam Lanza who shot up his former elementary school. It is rare for a person of any race to venture too far outside of the confines of his/her community to commit a crime. It’s simply just too inconvenient.

I believe the coining of the term Black on Black crime and those who carelessly toss it out in response to racially motivated tragedy was and is perpetuating White Supremacy…and I’ve met my fair share of Black “White Supremacists”. These are people who think that American Blackness is inherently bad. They believe it is utterly incompetent. If they could, they would eradicate American Blackness altogether. These are the believers that if you “pull your pants up and enunciate you won’t get shot” crowd. As though MLK wasn’t in a buttoned-down collared shirt when he was shot in the face.

Don’t be fooled! Take the blinders off and see the light as I have! The idea of BOBC was created to get your mind off the source of our problems, just like welfare was created to appease an impoverished community when a fair and living wage would have done quietly nicely instead. Welfare was created to take away dignity, not to restore or enhance it. And telling Black people to concern themselves more with Black on Black crime rather than acknowledging that far too many communities in this country live under siege and constant threat by militarized police forces and under the shadow of disdain from American culture at large (unless we’ve got a ball or a mic in our hands!) is asinine.

 

So yeah…discuss. ↓

Why my Vietnamese Beautician is Decked in Diamonds and I have Only Sold One Book this Month

I have no one else to blame for the level of “success” I am enduring now. No, I am not “enjoying” life as a successful author, I am enduring life as a virtually unknown author and I have no one to blame for that but myself. The beautician at my neighborhood wax, nail and hair shop demonstrated why I am so lacking in any sort of real accomplishment as an author. The stunt she pulled is something I would NEVER have the balls to attempt, even if it meant exponential book sales.

I’ve told you all before that ever since I carried and gave birth to Stone, I have had an increase in testosterone production. My OB/GYN told me that this was a perfectly normal phenomenon and that once I delivered my baby boy, the testosterone levels in my body would decrease and the small, black beard that I had steadily been growing would disappear. That was a lie. 5 years later, I still have to was my chin every two weeks. This vicious cycle of growth and waxing, growth and waxing again costs me $40 a month. That’s $480 a year or $2,400 over the last 5 years. That’s a lot of money that could have been put towards other more important things, like a college savings plan!

Still, what am I to do? Just let my face grow hair and risk public ridicule? For two months I tried either tackling my offending chin hairs myself with a pair of tweezers, but tweezing is nowhere near as effective as waxing or threading. Plucking each hair individually is utter torcher, and the process had to be repeated every few days because chin hair grows in daily cycles.

Last week I’d had enough. Enough, I say! I drove up to Smart Hair in Roswell, signed in, and waited to be attended to. An older beautician with bronzed skin and auburn whom I had never seen before met me at the desk. How old was this woman? Asians, like Blacks, are hard to date. She could have been 40, she could have been 60, I didn’t know. All I know is that she was what I call a “clicking lady”. Her heels clicked when she walked, her expensive, structured hand bag closed with a click and her tasteful, carefully chosen jewelry clicked ever-so-gently with a series of clicks with every move she made.

“You wan’ eye-bwow wakh?” she asked loudly, but pleasantly. The other guests in chairs looked up to see who was coming to get served. They looked back into the mirror after her inquiry was made.

“No,” I said, my voice barely above a whisper. “I want to get my chin waxed.”

She looked disappointed. “Oh. I thought you do eye-bwow wakh.”

I informed her that I no longer got my brows waxed and that I only exclusively threaded them now.

“Someone in this shop burned me three times, and I don’t wax by brows anymore. Only my chin.”

She led me to a seat at the front of the store and commanded me to sit.

“Who burn you?” she demanded.

“I don’t know her name,” I admitted. “She was younger. I think her name was Susan, but I can’t really remember.”

“Ahhh…but I not burn you! You let me wakh bwows for you!”

“No.”

“But you have to give me chance, show you I not burn you,” she said aggressively. “I professional skin care.”

“No.”

“I do for you today!” she carried on as though I had never spoken. “You see, I not burn you!”

“No!”

She had been applying wax briskly to my chin as she was talking, pressing and ripping as she negotiated in what manner and locations she was going to liberate my face of hair. She then brought attention to my lip hair or the “Fu Man Chu” as my husband calls it. She wanted to wax that too.

“I usually just pluck that myself. It’s just a few hairs,” I said with what I THOUGHT was finality. The beautician scoffed at me.

“You see? See AAAALLL this hair. I show you!”

As I protested, she slathered wax on my lip and thrust a mirror in my face to reveal the presence of baby hairs on my lip. I explained that the more they were waxed, the more they would grow! She sneered her disregard.

“I told you I didn’t want my lip waxed. You can’t charge me for it!” I laughed nervously.

This was like no other encounter I’d ever had, outside of Accra. In Accra, business women are pushy and aggressive. You out on your armor when you go shopping. In America, sales and business transactions are more cloak and dagger and requires wit and guile of a different sort. I wasn’t ready for this behavior in America!

By this time, the beautician had her hand on my shoulder and was restraining me in my seat. I was powerless…utterly powerless and slightly annoyed at being manhandled in this way. I couldn’t leave because she still had wax remnant on my chin and had yet to clean me up. Her protestations and ministrations had drawn the interest of another patron who came to watch her work on me. With her hand resting gently, but firmly on my shoulder, she ran her hand along my cheek and said:

“I also do you facial. I take away AAAALL bump. Only sixty dollah.”

I’m sensitive about my acne, and thankfully, before I had a chance to respond, the other Asian customer who had come to watch me get waxed (who again could have been 60 years old or 100, I couldn’t say) inquired about said facial. They discussed pricing in broken English as I lay there like a dead black weight.

“And now, I do you eye-bwow,” the woman concluded. “I do whole face for you, fifteen dollah. I show you I not burn you.”

I stopped squirming. That wasn’t a great deal, but it was still a deal.

“Okay,” I agreed.

“That not mean every time you come here I do for fifteen dollah for you!” she warned.

My eyes were trained on her diamond encrusted Channel charm laying against her neck. I was transfixed by its glitter. This was both a tragedy and a comedy! I told her I understood and closed my eyes, waiting for it to be over. She slathered wax, pressed her paper and ripped. There was no burning, but there was a sense of shame when I left Smart Hair that afternoon. Her will had usurped my own, and despite my intent to spend only $7 on a chin wax that day, I had been expertly parted from $15, plus tip. She smiled and waved me good bye, saying she would see me next time.

And that, folks, is why this Vietnamese beautician and others like her all around America are driving new Acuras and own property and putting their kids through college with CASH. Because they refuse to take no for an answer. Because they don’t give a crap about your past experiences, or your fears, or your likes or dislikes. They have one goal, and that is to get the money that’s in your pocket into theirs.

If I had such a mercenary spirit, I’d be far more successful in my sales as an author… but I want people to “like” me. No one likes pushy people, do they? Pushy people have a funny way of getting over that though, don’t they? Rolling up to the home/successful business you own (not rent) bearing your name on the mortgage/marques has a way of inoculating any sense of guilt.

I should consider hiring that woman as my agent.

 

Have you ever been bamboozled out of money? Better still, have you ever done the bamboozling? How did either experience make you feel? Discuss! ↓

 

 

#Freguson, ‘Murrka, and the Attempt to Make John Legend a Minstrel

He's on Mitt's right knee. I see you squinting.

He’s on Mitt’s right knee. I see you squinting.

Greetings M.O.M. Squad! I won’t keep you long this morning. I just wanted to ask if you’ve been paying attention to reactions to “our” rage. In a sick way, I’m pleased that the definition of “us” and “we” is steadily becoming wider. As more and more Black men sire children with White women, they too have come to understand the worry and fear that accompanies an event as dull as sending your kid to the gas station or walking to Grandma’s house.  Let’s not leave out the kind hearted folks who save our Black sons and daughters from certain doom through the magic of adoption. I wonder if Mitt Romney spends any portion of his nights or weekends wondering if his grandchild will be shot at or shooed away from the country club grounds at age 16? If he’s non-compliant (or doesn’t comply fast enough) little Kieran Romney could find himself in a pool of his own blood. I would advise Mitt to start practicing and strategizing on how to deal with the anguish now.

Radmom thought: Someone really ought to create an app for that. Obviously, there’s a huge market for it…

Denzel JamalNope; not gonna keep you long today because before Michael Brown’s body has had a chance to get good and cold in the ground, I’ve heard tell of another teen shot and killed by South Caroline police. Eye witnesses say they saw an officer order him to the ground with his hands behind his head, after which he was executed in the street. The details are sketchy because police have not been forthcoming with evidence, but they say Denzel Curnell’s death was the result of s suicide. They allege he shot himself on the right side of his head. Trouble is, Denzel Curnell was left handed, according to his family.

This morning I trawling through my Twitter TL, as is my custom, when I came across what can only be described as a very peculiar tweet.

Jlegen

Yes, you read that correctly. Whoever is behind the handle at IBNN News just told John Legend to keep sangin’ and stop opinin’ about what goes on in his country. Now this is where it gets interesting. IBNN News describes itself as:

News and Politics with a focus on outcomes within the Black community by using real investigative reporting and following the money.

It’s just a hunch, but I highly doubt these brothas are doing any “real investigative reporting”. That’s twitter bloviating at its finest. These are a crop of young guys, with little world experience or historical knowledge. What else can explain such a blunder?

Legend’s response was succinct, targeted and was surely devastating to the ego of whomever was handling the twitter account at the time. (We’ve already talked about how one douche bag behind a keyboard can ruin an entire brand’s reputation before it even has a chance to blossom. Here’s another example.) The man has proven – again – that he’s not just a pretty face with the voice of an inebriated angel, but he’s smart and civic minded as well.

Fans and people who can read know that John Legend has spear headed and partnered with several causes to improve outcomes for the nation’s poor and disenfranchised. He initiated the Show Me Campaign  which aims to break the cycle of poverty through education. John also sits on the Boards of The Education Equality Project, Teach for America, and the Harlem Village Academies. He has been lauded for his activism and humanitarian work, and used his celebrity as an accelerant for the success of those efforts. Contrary to what mainstream culture would have you believe, the benefits of Black celebrity do not exclusively manifest themselves in the purchase of exotic vodka or extravagant sea craft.

The reaction to tell a musician to “stay in his lane” when it comes to the plight of minorities is not a new one. I remember my first boss recounting a tale his uncle had told him from years before. I can’t remember what we were talking about. It could have been anything. The office was a mixed bag of races and personalities. We had a conservative Indian, the Irish sales guy addicted to porn, a Mexican IT manager, the drunk Cajun, three ‘regular’ white Americans (two of whom were involved in a sexual relationship. They eventually got married) and me. Anyway, Tom*, our director said this in conversation one day:

“My uncle saw Harry Belafonte on an elevator once.”

“Really?”

“How cool!”

“Oh yeah,” my former boss continued. “He had something he had always wanted to say to him. Couldn’t believe he’d finally had the chance. He goes ‘Sir, I really like your music… but your politics SUCKS!’ and then he walked right off the elevator.”

Portrait

“What did Harry Belafonte say??”

Tom shrugged. “Nothing. My uncle never gave him a chance to respond.”

People of a certain generation will understand exactly what kind of disgust and cynicism – for both parties – was involved in that encounter. Harry Belafonte was big news in the 50’s and 60’s. He was the Calypso King. He was an international sensation. But he was also a vehement civil rights activist, and was very vocal about the tyranny of the majority and the terrorism Black people were suffering under in this country. Essentially, Tom’s uncle was telling Mr. Belafonte to ‘stay in his lane’ and stick to music n’ stop stirrin’ up all that trouble with that equality talk.

Riiiight…

Cue the banjos!

Minstrel

Of course we know that this is an inane idea: that a celebrity should be so narrow minded in their thinking. Celebrities are limited in what they can say publicly of course (because they have to make sales) but there are those times when one is compelled to ignore the glint of gold and speak up for ones convictions, especially when they hit so close to home. The people who live in ‘Fergustan’, and cities just like it, are those who John Legend tries to reach through his activism. Sarah McLachlan has her dogs and John Legend has his people. Should Sarah also be advised to stay in her lane and commit only warbling melancholy tunes and selling them for profit?

sarah_mcLachlan

Like I said, didn’t want to keep you long. Just wanted to see if you had taken note of how folk are policing our reactions…because I have. Now, let’s leave you with a little laugh courtesy of Mr. Legend, shall we? No really, it’s funny. *cackle*

On the Nonconformist, Uppity Negro’s Response to Tragedy and the Establishment’s Problem with It

I love period dramas. After a hard day’s work, there is nothing for satisfying for me than to lock my door, lie in bed with a bar of chocolate and watch Pride & Prejudice or Downton Abbey for the umpteenth time. There’s something about life in the 18th and 19th centuries that appeals to me, even though I know that by virtue of my heritage and race I had a better chance of living out my days as a miserable field hand than a sighing, spoiled debutante waiting for her prince charming to magically appear.

And because I’ve seen Pride & Prejudice and other novels put-to-screen of its ilk hundreds of times, it can’t be hard for you to imagine my delight when I stumbled upon a show called Copper on Hulu. Copper depicts life in 19th century New York, focusing on the slums of Five Points – a district so renown for violence and crime that novelist Charles Dickens, whose themes often centered around the hardship of the working class, had to come see it for himself.

dr freemanIt is rare to find persons of color in period dramas, unless the story is someway centered around slavery. People often forget that Blacks, Asians and even Persians have lived, studied and created in this country for centuries. This is because the face of education, intelligence and success has been depicted and accepted as Anglo-Saxon for so long. What made Copper such a treat for me is that it provided an unflinching view of the immigrant’s (read: NOT Anglo-Saxon) struggle for acceptance in a country that saw them as ‘invaders’, as well as Black people’s battle to achieve person-hood in a nation that saw them as property. Detective Kevin Corcoran (an Irish immigrant) and Dr. Matthew Freeman (a runaway who became a physician) are two of the main characters who play out these dynamics. In one episode, Dr. Freeman and his wife have been asked to harbor Corcoran’s friend Eva in their farm house outside of the city limits. A guard is posted at their door with strict orders not to move. He has to pee, so he runs to a tree and relieves himself. When he returns, someone has gotten into the house.

Eva fires a shot at the intruder, who turns out to be Matthew. The guard is shaken by the scene.

“Please don’t tell Detective Corcoran!” the young officer pleads, before adding these words to his entreaty: “Be a good nigger about this!”

For that last caveat, he receives a slap from the doctor’s wife who storms into the house.

I was gobsmacked. Be a GOOD nigger about this…

By now you may have heard about the murder of Michael Brown, the unarmed college bound student who was gunned down – shot TEN times – by a police officer as he was on his way to visit his grandmother in Ferguson, MO. I’m not writing this post to discuss the senseless shooting of yet another unarmed Black teen. I have long given up trying to understand White society’s disregard for Black life. It’s as futile as trying to catch wind in a Mason jar and just as tiring. And before any detractors yell “But what about Black on Black crime?!” go deal with your White on White school shootings and then we’ll have a conversation.

No, today, I want to talk about the establishment’s obsession with the manner in which Black people respond to the tragedies and offenses meted out against us. There was a brilliant article written this year on this very topic. (Sadly, I can’t recall the author or the title.) The writer expressed his disgust with the media’s preoccupation with the way Black people handled racism and bigotry. He used footballer Dani Alves’ approach to having a banana thrown at him as an example. Mr. Alves, if you recall, walked over to the offensively tossed fruit, took a bite from it and subsequently took his corner kick. Dani Alves was then hailed for his ‘good humored’ and ‘comedic approach’ to combating racism. He was being a Good Nigger, about it.

Let’s go back a little further in history. I recently encountered the tale of Mary Turner, who was a twenty-one-year-old African-American woman, lynched in Valdosta, Georgia. Eight months pregnant, Turner and her child were murdered after she publicly denounced the extrajudicial killing of her husband by a mob. I urge you to read the details of her demise yourself. In a nutshell, her husband had been implicated in the murder of a local White planter and was himself lynched by a mob that exacted their own brand of justice. Distraught, she declared that she would contact the local authorities and have those who committed this crime brought to justice. For that, she was hunted down, captured, strung up by a tree by her ankles, set ablaze and had her body riddled by bullets. Someone sliced open her abdomen, swollen with unborn life. When her baby dropped to the earth it was stomped to death by the indignant crowd. Had she been a Good Nigger about her husband’s lynching, perhaps opting for dignified silence instead carrying on like an uppity Negress with silly demands for justice… Well, we’ll never know. A bottle of whiskey marked the site where her body and that of her unborn child were destroyed. That was in 1918.

Not much has changed in 100 years. This weekend, 18 year old college-bound student was shot dead in the street by a cop that was drunk off his own power. Nothing else explains why any person would shoot a kid who had his arms raised in surrender 10 times at close range. This was not a dog or a deer: this was a young man making his way to visit his relatives. The police have been largely silent as they gather their “facts” (concoct an acceptable story), and in the meantime, yes – people in the community are angry. They are not being Good Niggers about it. As a direct result of this senseless violence – a kid shot TEN times – they are assembling, they are protesting and yes, they are looting.

See some of the headlines major news organizations in the country lead with in the wake of the shooting:

AP kill police

cnn mike brown

In one, you see no mention at all of what led to the chanting. In the other, there is a deliberate circumventing of the core of the real, horrific events surrounding the ‘fatal shooting’. Renisha McBride, who was killed as she sought help from a stranger, was treated to similar scorn by the Associated Press with this headline following the sentence handed down to her killer.

AP-Renisha1

(Twitter went into a veritable frenzy shortly afterward.)

To say that I am tired of talking about Black people being killed in the streets is an understatement. We’d barely caught our breaths after the public strangulation of Eric Garner when news of John Crawford hit our collective radars. And now this…

Statistically, by the time a hit “publish” another unarmed Black person will be killed by law enforcement in this country. As distressing as that thought may be, it pales in the light of the mainstream establishment asking/demanding that we all have a good attitude about it.