Monday, December 24, 2007

travelin' light

after a week or more of working from can't see in the morning until can't see at night, i barely made it onto an early evening flight on sunday, bound for ATL. i stood in a ticketing line for more than an hour behind some pasty middle aged woman's whiny hyperactive four-eyed brat kid, then endured a royal hazing of the highest order that included everything but a cavity search when the metal detector went off. of course, it was my rings. i refused to take them off. they treated me like a criminal. i had to wait in a tiny plexiglass closet for a female attendant with an irate nigerian woman who was wearing so much gold, she may as well have been a walking jewelry store. she cranked in right away about having to go to the bathroom, which was totally out of the question. and of course, she had no idea why they stopped her. stupid, crazy stuff. actually, once i got away from that little kid, i was fine.

of course, all of those guards and checkpoints and such gives the appearance of security -- but how secure are we in any airport? didn't some journalists smuggle weapons and sharp objects in their luggage a few years ago to show how sketchy the whole process can be? i didn't have a weapon in my luggage, but i did have a pastrami sandwich on rye. it was carefully triple wrapped in foil and placed in a zippered container and refrigerated overnight. when i put it in my brand new red samsonite luggage the next day, it felt like a meat bomb. my friend and i ran out the night before to the carnegie deli to get my 90 year old father's request. his implicit instructions? "find a jew." he came up with his entire family during the first wave of the great migration north when he was 12 and lived in coney island/brighton beach before settling deep in the heart of brooklyn with his mother and nine brothers and sisters. so i guess he'd know.

my first thought was eisenberg's because they've been around almost as long as he has and when it's time for me to have a pastrami sandwich on rye, they are my favorite spot. but of course i remembered to get it late at night when my only two options were katz's and the carnegie deli -- and since neither my friend or i were in the mood to deal with the lower east side and all the drunken hipsters that usually go with it on a friday night, it was a done deal.

i thought about that pastrami sandwich as the woman passed that wand almost apologetically between my legs, and other strategic parts of my body. if they really knew what they were doing, that sandwich wouldn't make it to my parents house. but i knew that it would. i had done this before with fred, the sizeable catfish that my friend caught in my uncle's pond on his farm. once cleaned and frozen, it fit neatly in my luggage. i turned fred into a fried catfish po' boy sandwich and we ate him during a weekend getaway to traipse down a memory lane in central new jersey, in a park that my friend had played in often as a child.

later, i got in line at starbucks like everybody else and told myself over and over that this was the last time i'd do it like this. the next time would be different, if only because i wouldn't be alone. who knows? maybe we'd drive. maybe we'd be somewhere else. maybe we wouldn't go. these were the thoughts that comforted me as i stood at the gate and waited to hear my name, like a lowly stand-by passenger, because they'd overbooked the flight so drastically. i can remember thinking, i knew that ticket was too cheap to be true. and then just like that, i was dozing off on the plane, wishing i'd smuggled something more than a sandwich on board. like maybe two sandwiches. wierd.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

black santa!

i was at work late at night in the bowels of my corporate situation, eating a late night dinner with a few members of my team. inevitably, the casual conversation turned to the christmas season and how careful we had to be when sending out wintertime salutations, to not offend anyone. it was important to keep it neutral and safe, with phrases like "happy holidays" and "season's greetings." saying something like "merry christmas" was completely out of the question.

"who would be offended by santa," joe the a.d. asked broadly.

"are you kidding me?" i blurted. "i know plenty of black people down south who would be like, 'i don't want my black child thinking some white man is going to come down our chimney and give them anything.' and i'm related to quite a few of them." strangely enough, i had just spoken to my sister-in-law who was readying her first child, a four month old boy, for his first photo with santa. over her dead body would it be a white one.

the looks on all of their faces as i said this was priceless. then came variations on the inevitable "i've never thought about it like that" remark. if i've said it once, i've said it a thousand times: tact is important, but so is honesty. don't soft-pedal it with white people. when the opportunity presents itself, let them have it -- but only if you're in the mood to do a lot of explaining. they just so happened to catch me at the right moment, probably because i love black santa a lot.

then again, i was raised in ATL and i know who matthew henson is, so black santa makes a lot of sense to me.

when i go home, i'm going to take a picture with black santa. it'll be next year's christmas card. when i told my friend, he seemed genuinely sad. "i want to take a picture with black santa," he said. hm. maybe we both will.


Some parents seek out a black Santa

Since 2003, the Mall at Prince Georges has hired a black Santa Claus to pose for pictures with children and adults. And since then, black families have traveled from across the county and from Washington, D.C., so their children can have pictures taken with a Santa who looks like them.

Keesha Crosby of Washington, D.C., has brought her 3-year-old son, Jayden, to take pictures with the Mall at Prince Georges’ Santa since he was born.

‘‘I bring him here because he identifies with a black Santa Claus,” she said at the mall on Saturday. ‘‘All the other media outlets publicize a Caucasian Santa Claus, and he doesn’t identify with that.”
Victoria Clark, marketing director for the Mall at Prince Georges, said because most Prince George’s County residents are black, the demographics most likely called for a black Santa.
She also acknowledged that the area’s demographics have been changing. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, black people make up 66.1 percent of Prince George’s County and Hispanic people accounted for 10.7 percent in 2005. In 2000, black people made up 62.7 of the county’s population and people of Hispanic origin made up 7.1 percent.

‘‘In the past we’ve had a Hispanic Santa, but we take it one year at a time,” she said. ‘‘So far there haven’t been any requests for a Latino Santa.”
However, Clark said she’s observed people of all backgrounds stop to take pictures with Santa.
‘‘I think that’s indicative of the fact that there are people who come out who aren’t necessarily seeking a black Santa,” she said.
Nicole Davis of Brandywine said she learned about the mall’s black Santa Claus from her sister, who has brought her children to the mall for the past few years.
‘‘This is the only location in the area that promotes an African-American Santa,” said Davis, who brought her daughter, 23-month-old Emma, to take pictures at the mall. ‘‘So we’re making it a tradition to come here every year. ... It’s important for a child to know that Santa Claus isn’t just one color.”
Jackie Irvine of Atlanta, who tagged along while her two grandsons waited for their turn to take their pictures, said she began the tradition of taking pictures with a black Santa when her daughter, Kelli Neptune, was young.
‘‘I started taking her as a child to a black Santa and I had to travel to do so,” Irvine said of Neptune. ‘‘As a cultural figure, Santa represents kindness ... and I always wanted her to associate those attributes with a Santa Claus who shared her ethnicity and culture.”
Neptune, a Bowie resident, said she’s passing the tradition to her children who she hopes will pass the tradition on to their own.
‘‘I want my children to celebrate a Santa Claus that looks like them,” she said.
And her mother said it’s important for her grandsons to be able to identify with Santa.
‘‘I’m very glad to see him here and I think there should be Santas of every ethnicity all over Metro D.C.,” she said.
Santa will be available for pictures at the Mall at Prince Georges, 3500 East West Highway, until Dec. 24. Prices range from $15.99 to $39.99.

Monday, December 10, 2007

another (commercial) audition -- antidepressants!

this was an audition at kipperman casting on friday for an anti-depressant drug that had me coming into the frame with a cup of coffee and a smile as "the black friend." (no, i'm not kidding.) bizarrely enough, i was wearing all black and they gave me the black mug (she held the white one.) at first she's depressed but then her mood changes. when it does, i enter and sit down, and then we pretend to laugh and talk as we both cheat front and "relate" to each other. it was over as soon as it started. hilarous.

no waiting, no lines. i was in and out in all of ten minutes. my white counterpart was a very pretty, wide-eyed mom-looking young mom, with sleeping baby in tow. the actress that came out of the audition room (a young black woman who had on a terrific "ethnic" wig, by the way) was kind enough to watch the baby while we went in. i remember thinking, this is how some people do it -- and why not bring the kid along? you're not in the room for very long and it's well worth it for the money you could make.

wow, what a crap shoot. the hardest part? i have to keep my hair like this for all of next week, until my agent knows that i didn't get a callback.

wouldn't it be the best christmas present ever, to land a commercial before the end of the year?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

another (commercial) audition -- sculptra

this one was at house on thursday afternoon for a new product that's hitting the market soon. really caught me totally off-guard. there was no script. they simply wanted me to talk onscreen about my idea of beauty. once i settled into my chair and slated, i was asked "does a beautiful woman look like?" what a huge question. it totally took me off-guard. my immediate response was, a beautiful woman is someone who takes what she's got and makes the most of it, no matter what it is. and when that happens, every woman is beautiful. but to tell you the truth, i actually had to stop and think about it. as i explained myself, what i said surprised me.

immediately, i thought of my great-grandmother, my grandmother, my aunts, my mother -- the first women i ever knew and spent any real time with. none of them ever wore make-up or had regular spa visits and yet to this day, i think of them as the most beautiful women that i have ever known. my Godmother, my aunt doris, in her twentysomething/thirtysomething prime was prettier than most women i know now.

why, she asked. more thinking.

they were lean and strong and healthy, as i recall. my great-grandmother would work all day in more than an acre in her backyard that was filled with vegetables and fruit and flowers, and she would do this in that south carolina sunshine, the kind of heat that made me dizzy as a child. she did that almost every day without a tractor -- unthinkable then and now for a woman her age. and that's not all she did.

i don't come from heavy-set, overweight people, either. when my aunt doris got married, she had to be all of a size 4, if that. there's a balance and a lankyness to us physically. but that's not it, either.

there was that unaffected natural approach to beauty. i understood at an early age that i didn't need to do anything or get anything to be pretty. there was an emphasis on cleanliness, order in the home and staying close to God. everyone had such pretty brown skin -- so clean and clear -- no matter how old they were. it was almost as though they were saying, this is who i am. no apologies, no excuses. this is it. if you don't like it, whatever. there's a lot of power in that.

she also asked me what i thought about plastic surgery and what i thought about the way i look at my age. as i'm jump-cutting through all this verbiage in my head to give her a clear-cut answer and tell her what i really think, i'm also thinking, where is this going? what kind of a commercial is this going to be? .

in the end, i don't think they're going to call me because my hair was natural. heck -- i was natural. they could surprise me. we'll see. what i'm really wondering about are the kind of answers they got from everyone else. it felt like a dove campaign for real beauty ad, not a commercial audition for a product that "plumps up" your facial skin.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


i can't believe it. napoleon dynamite was right! there is such a thing as a liger. all this time, i thought he made it up, but no -- a liger is a lion (father) and tiger (mother). its ginormous -- twice the size of either parent. they only exist in captivity and they are wierdly beautiful. and if they are male, for some reason, they are sterile.

i can't believe i'm saying this, but i love ligers, too.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

thank you very much!

thanks to a nomination by The Francis L. Holland Blog, i'm now a member of a blogging community called AfroSpear. consider this an open invitation to lose yourself in their blogroll to the left and explore.

too bad i can't blog for a living.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

another day, another (commercial audition): breakfast cereal!

my agent -- all wiry and full of nervous energy and bounce -- called me yesterday talking sideways into my answering machine, like he had a question in his thoughts. he goes, "hi, bunch!" (why he calls me that is a bizarre little story. remind me to tell it to you sometime.) "there's an audition for Curves cereal," he said like he was telling me a secret, and he went on. "didn't you tell me that you just lost 15 pounds? they want you to talk about losing weight on camera. very natural. chatty. you know."

i'm listening with one ear and i'm thinking, Curves? isn't that the excercise place for, um, all those big beautiful women out there? and right on cue, he goes, "they want real women, all shapes and sizes, not just big," and then i'm thinking, what about my hair and he added, "just so you know -- your hair is fine natural, bunchie. okaaaay? call me!"

i figured why not. at this point in my on-camera life, i've figured out how to relax on camera -- no small feat. i wasn't worried about what my hair would do. it was cornrowed into a bun and therefore rendered powerless. would i oh so tame "natural" hairdo get me a callback? if i did, maybe i had a shot.

this was at house on 15th street and 10th avenue of course -- the place that cast me in my first two commercials -- so it was very much a home for me, no pun intended. i tromped through the wet sleety snow to get there. this not being my first time at the rodeo (and time being of the essence), i made a beeline for the sign-in sheet (beating three other ladies to it in the process), grabbed the lines, checked to see if someone was in the room (yup) and if there was someone ahead of me (yup again), then took off my coat and whatnot as i looked over the lines, took a picture and filled out the card it was printed on. in no time at all it was over: i was in the room, i was jovial, chatty, friendly and open. and then i was back out on the street in the snow, bewildered, not knowing how i did. i could say, i was great! but i'm not sure. i'm never sure. maybe she hated me. maybe my face wasn't relaxed enough. whatever happened in that room, i couldn't take it with me. i trudged off, and with every step, all of it mattered less and less. by the time i got home, it didn't matter at all.

here's the thing, though: my spidey sense is tingling because the palms of both my hands are itching like crazy. southern black folk, you know what that means.

i've got another audition tomorrow -- for anti-aging cream. stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

a timely article


Published: August 20, 1989 The New York Times

I am a black man. I am a young black man, born, let's say, between Brown v. Board of Education and the murders of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman. Or, in the years that followed the murder of Emmett Till, but before the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I am one of the young black Americans Dr. King sang of in his ''I Have A Dream'' speech: ''I have a dream that . . . the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood . . . that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. . . . I have a dream today!''

Though I have a living memory of Dr. King, I don't remember that speech. I do remember my parents, relatives, teachers and professors endlessly recounting it, exhorting me to live up to the dream, to pick up the ball of freedom, as it were, and run with it, because one day, I was assured, we would look up and the dream would be reality.

I like to think I lived up to my part of the bargain. I stayed in school and remained home many nights when I didn't have to in the interest of ''staying out of trouble.'' I endured a lonely Catholic school education because public school wasn't good enough. At Notre Dame and Brown, I endured further isolation, and burned the midnight oil, as Dr. King had urged.

I am sure that I represent one of the best efforts that Americans, black Americans particularly, have made to live up to Dr. King's dream. I have a white education, a white accent, I conform to white middle-class standards in virtually every choice, from preferring Brooks Brothers oxford cloth to religiously clutching my gold cards as the tickets to the good life. I'm not really complaining about any of that. The world, even the white world, has been, if not good, then acceptable to me. But as I get older, I feel the world closing in. I feel that I failed to notice something, or that I've been deceived. I couldn't put my finger on it until I met Willie Horton.

George Bush and his henchmen could not have invented Willie Horton. Horton, with his coal-black skin; huge, unkempt Afro, and a glare that would have given Bull Connor or Lester Maddox serious pause, had committed a brutal murder in 1974 and been sentenced to life in prison. Then, granted a weekend furlough from prison, had viciously raped a white woman in front of her fiance, who was also attacked.

Willie Horton was the perfect symbol of what happened to innocent whites when liberals (read Democrats) were on the watch, at least in the gospel according to post-Goldwater Republicans. Horton himself, in just a fuzzy mug shot, gave even the stoutest, most open, liberal heart a shiver. Even me. I thought of all the late nights I had ridden in terror on the F and A trains, while living in New York City. I thought Willie Horton must be what the wolf packs I had often heard about, but never seen, must look like. I said to myself, ''Something has got to be done about these niggers.''

Then, one night, a temporary doorman at my Greenwich Village high-rise refused to let me pass. And it occured to me that it had taken the regular doormen, black, white and Hispanic, months to adjust to my coming and going. Then a friend's landlord in Brooklyn asked if I was living in his apartment. We had been working on a screenplay under deadline and I was there several days in a row. The landlord said she didn't mind, but the neighbors. . . . Then one day, I was late for the Metroliner, heading for Harvard and a weekend with several yuppie, buppie and guppie friends. I stood, in blazer and khakis, in front of the New York University Law School for 30 minutes, unable to get a cab. As it started to rain, I realized I was not going to get a cab.

Soaking wet, I gave up on the Metroliner and trudged home. As I cleaned up, I looked in the mirror. Wet, my military haircut looked slightly unkempt. My eyes were red from the water and stress. I couldn't help thinking, ''If Willie got a haircut and cooled out. . . .'' If Willie Horton would become just a little middle-class, he would look like me.

FOR YOUNG BLACKS of my sociological cohort, racism was often an abstract thing, ancient history, at worst a stone against which to whet our combat skills as we went winging through the world proving our superiority. We were the children of the dream. Incidents in my childhood and adolescence were steadfastly, often laughingly, overcome by a combination of the fresh euphoria of the civil rights movement and the exhortations and Christian piety of my mother. Now, in retrospect, I can see that racism has always been with me, even when I was shielded by love or money, or when I chose not to see it. But I saw it in the face of Willie Horton, and I can't ignore it, because it is my face.

Willie Horton has taught me the continuing need for a skill W. E. B. DuBois outlined and perfected 100 years ago: living with the veil. I am recognizing my veil of double consciousness, my American self and my black self. I must battle, like all humans, to see myself. I must also battle, because I am black, to see myself as others see me; increasingly my life, literally, depends upon it. I might meet Bernhard Goetz on the subway; my car might break down in Howard Beach; the armed security guard might mistake me for a burglar in the lobby of my building. And they won't see a mild-mannered English major trying to get home. They will see Willie Horton.

My father was born in a tar-paper, tin-roof shack on a cotton plantation near Holly Springs, Miss. His father was a sharecropper. His father had been a slave. My father came north, and by dint of a ferocity I still find frightening, carved an economic space for himself that became a launch pad to the Ivy League, to art school, to professional school, for his children.

As the song by John Cougar Mellencamp says it, ''Ain't that America. . . .'' But a closer look reveals that each of my father's children is in some way dangerously disgruntled, perhaps irrevocably alienated from the country, their country, that 25 years ago held so much promise. And the friends of my father's children, the children of the dream Dr. King died to preserve, a collection of young people ranging from investment bankers to sidemen for Miles Davis, are, to a man and woman, actively unsatisfied.

DuBois, in ''The Souls of Black Folks,'' posed a question perhaps more painful today than in 1903: ''Training for life teaches living; but what training for the profitable living together of black men and white?''

I think we, the children of the dream, often feel as if we are holding 30-year bonds that have matured and are suddenly worthless. There is a feeling, spoken and unspoken, of having been suckered. This distaste is festering into bitterness. I know that I disregarded jeering and opposition from young blacks in adolescence as I led a ''square,'' even dreary life predicated on a coming harvest of keeping-one's-nose-clean. And now I see that I am often treated the same as a thug, that no amount of conformity, willing or unwilling, will make me the fabled American individual. I think it has something to do with Willie Horton.

BLACK YOUTH CUL-ture is increasingly an expression of alienation and disgust with any mainstream (or so-called white) values. Or notions. Cameo haircuts, rap music, outsize jewelry are merely symptoms of attitudes that are probably beyond changing. My black Ivy League friends and myself are manifesting attitudes infinitely more contemptuous and insidious; I don't know of one who is doing much more on the subject of Dr. King's dream than cynically biding his or her time, waiting for some as-yet-unidentified apocalypse that will enable us to slay the white dragon, even as we work for it, live next to it and sleep with it.

Our dissatisfaction is leading us to despise the white dragon instead of the dragon of racism, but how can we do otherwise when everywhere we look, we see Willie Horton?

And we must acknowledge progress. Even in our darkest, most paranoid moments we can acknowledge white friends and lovers. I wouldn't have survived the series of white institutions that has been my conscious life without them. But it is hard to acknowledge any progress, because whites like to use the smallest increment of change to deny what we see as the totality. And, even in the most perfect and loving interracial relationships, racism waits like a cancer, ready to wake and consume the relationship at any, even the most innocuous, time. My best friend, white and Jewish, will never understand why I was ready to start World War III over perceived slights at an American Express office. In my darker moments, I suspect he is a bit afraid of me now. In my darkest moments, I wonder if even he sees Willie Horton.

Some of you are by now, sincerely or cynically, asking yourselves, ''But what does he want?'' A friend of mine says that the complaints of today's young blacks are indeed different from those of generations ago because it is very difficult to determine whether this alienation is a clarion call for the next phase of the civil rights movement or merely the whining of spoiled and corrupted minority elites who could be placated by a larger share in the fruits of a corrupt and exploitative system that would continue to enslave the majority of their brothers and sisters.

I don't think there is any answer to that question. I also think that the very fact it can be asked points to the unique character of the American race question, and the unhealable breach that manifests itself as a result in our culture and society. I don't think, for good or bad, that in any other ethnic group the fate of an individual is so inextricably bound to that of the group, and vice-versa. To use the symbol and metaphor of Willie Horton in another way, I do not think that the lives and choices of young white males are impacted by the existence of neo-Nazi skinheads, murdering Klansmen or the ordinary thugs of Howard Beach. I also, to put it plainly, do not recall any young black man, even those who deal drugs in such places, entering a playground and spraying bullets at innocent schoolchildren as happened in Stockton, Calif. It is not my intention to place value considerations on any of these events; I want to point out that in this society it seems legitimate, from the loftiest corridors of power to the streets of New York, to imply that one black man is them all.

And I want to be extraordinarily careful not to demonize Willie Horton. He should not be a symbol or scapegoat for our sins; he is a tragically troubled man - troubled like thousands of others, black and white - who was unwittingly used by a President to further division and misunderstanding. If anything, Horton is a particularly precise example of the willingness of those in power to pit us against one another. One lately fashionable statement, about to slide from truth to truism, is that blacks have the most to fear from lawless blacks. Any clear-eyed perusal of crime statistics will prove this. But what does it avail if the media, if the President, use this ongoing tragedy merely to antagonize and further separate Americans?

I THINK THAT WHAT I am finally angry about is my realizaton of a certain hollowness at the center of American life. Earlier, I mentioned the sense of having undergone a hoax. That hoax, as I now see it, is that the American community is putatively built upon the fundamentals of liberty and justice for all, that it is to be expected that the freedom to compete will result in winners and losers, and that the goal of society is to insure fairness of opportunity. In light of the events of recent years, I begin to see that we are, competing or not, winners or not, irrevocably chained together, black and white, rich and poor. New York City is a glaring microcosm of this interrelatedness, which can be thought of as either a web of fear ensnaring and enslaving us, or as a net of mutuality that strengthens us all.

As events like the Central Park rape illustrate, the world is becoming ever smaller, and it is increasingly difficult to consign social problems to realms outside our personal arenas of concern. I see the connection between Willie Horton and me, because it affects my own liberty. It was not always an obvious connection.

Another quote from Dr. King brings the issue into focus: ''. . . most of the gains . . . were obtained at bargain rates. The desegregation of public facilities cost nothing; neither did the election and appointment of a few black public officials. . . .'' To move to the next level of progress, we must face the fact that there are going to be costs, especially economic costs. To hire two black firefighters means two white firefighters won't be hired, and this is no easy reality. Racism is ultimately based on power and greed, the twin demons of most human frailties. These demons cannot be scapegoated, as the saga of Willie Horton proves. They are more like the Hydra, and will haunt our dreams, waking and other, regardless.

Monday, December 03, 2007

this is willie horton

for those of you who were born in the 1980s and have absolutely no idea who the willie horton is that i mentioned in my last post, i thought i'd enlighten you. his mugshot was called "every suburban mother's greatest fear" and his name is pretty much synonymous with everything that white america is afraid of when they think of black men, incarcerated or not.

here's his big moment: the commercial that cost dukakis the 1988 presidential campaign against bush the senior.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

where this blackgrrl stands, part 3 -- the aftermath

When taken as a whole, I’m not sure how I feel about the segments African-American Women: Where They Stand. On the one hand, it’s a minor miracle that it happened at all. On the other hand, they didn’t say anything that I didn’t already know – so maybe they weren’t talking to me.

so who was their audience, exactly? Were they letting white America in on something? When you don’t know any black people and all you get is what you see on television or at the movies, -- what pop culture programs into you or some republican feeds you (Willie Horton, anyone?) -- what are you supposed to think?

well. the title told me that this was about them (where "they" stand) not us (where "we" stand) so i wasn't too sure how many black women were responsible for putting this whole thing together, anyway. (thanks, faboo.) and that just didn' t make any sense -- having special segments about black women and not letting black women tell it, in front of the camera as well as behind the scenes. as i watched and listened, i kept wondering what the segments would have been like if black women had complete control over the entire project, from start to finish. perhaps we would have heard from some of us who are somewhat left of center, like ms. angela y. davis. but i suppose that's my edit.

White people are way too surprised to meet me (“you’re soooooo articulate!”) for me to believe that there’s any real fundamental progress between the races in that basic “why can’t we all just get along?” way. There are very real reasons why we can’t get along and no one in the media seems to be particularly interested in exploring them. Jena 6 was no surprise to me. Even Europeans are adopting this "they-all-live-in-the-ghetto-and-they're-diseased-oversexed-violent-animals-that-play-
basketball-and-spew-rap-lyrics-at-will" attitude towards African Americans. And why shouldn’t they? They’re watching the same crappy tv shows, the same sexist “BET Uncut” rump shaker videos, the same hip-hop “artists,” the same black 21st century coon show movies (like Booty Call), too – with everyone throwing around the “n” word. I will never, ever forget the shock and horror i felt when i crash-landed in my German hotel room the day before a gig, flipped on the TV to see if anything was on, and caught that ultra 70s sit-com “Good Times” – with all the inflections, all of the strutting, all of it – in German, with “black sounding” voiceovers. sometimes, i could see the people i met looking at me sideways, mentally going through their internal rolodex of "what is black" (much like The Terminator looking for an option in his database) to see how i measured up. (ps: i never did.) oh, yeah. The Europeans have definitely been indoctrinated.

if they refuse to include us, i think the answer is to go underground. delve into the black blogosphere. watch our news programs. check in on what our pop stars are up to on our own gossip rags. if i want to know what's going on in the world, i don't watch nbc/cbs/abc nightly news because they aren't fair or balanced. none of them are, really. i check in with the bbc online -- because at least they're somewhat global. and the new york times online, too. and then i watch the daily show and the corbert report, respectively. that's about all the news i can stand -- and it's more than what most people get in this country.

as black folks, underground is where we live, anyway. We are a part of the subculture that feeds the culture, gives it dimension and substance and flow. we are the perpetual alternative.

here's the real remedy: we should strive to be our own unique authentic selves at all times. i know that seems insignificant but when i do this, i am forcing the person in question -- whatever their race or culture -- to see me as an individual. and that feels right, somehow. especially when it doesn't work -- probably because it's an easy way to separate the sheep from the goats.

there are those who meet me and who see me as an individual and things move along swimmingly from there. but then there are the others. others who, once they realize that i'm not like any black girl that's in their Terminator database, well, that's when the fear sets in. fear of the unknown. i become x, an unknown factor. this makes me dangerous. they don't know what i'll say or do. and that makes me a threat. evidently, i can be a threat to absolutely anyone. i am an intelligent black woman. i have that power.

throw in some nappy hair, clothing that would hardly be considered conventional and a facial expression of complete indifference, and voila! you get the ultimate threatdown -- a 21st century uppity negress.

where's my tv special?

Friday, November 30, 2007

"Jake" didn't get in!

unbelievable but true -- the film i was in called Jake Gets Paid didn't get accepted to Sundance Film Festival. well, thankfully they're not the only game in town. there are festivals everywhere, not just colorado. if you know of one, tell the director ed durante all about it at

here's the trailer once more, for your viewing pleasure.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

where this blackgrrl stands, part two -- "interracial dating" and the cool guy

i decided a long time ago that when it came to dating, i wanted someone that was basically a good guy, and i really didn't care what race he happened to be. finding a smart, decent, cool, God-fearing person would prove to be difficult enough. why cut my chances of meeting that special someone by setting up racial barriers? to my way of thinking, it just didn't make any sense.

i knew very early on in the dating game that just because a guy is an african-american, that didn't mean that he would understand me or "get" where i was coming from or get along with me -- or find me attractive. as a matter of fact, a lot of african-american guys find me patently unattractive because i don't straighten my hair -- believe it or not. (note: i said african-american. not west indian. not african. african-american. but i digress.) it's the wierdest thing, to walk through greenbriar mall in atlanta and watch black folk stop eating to stare at my hair.

here's an interesting sidebar: i don't straighten my hair because it is at its strongest and healthiest and most beautiful when its in its natural state. it's expensive to chemically treat it, too. do the math: if you trot to the beauty parlor every other week or so for a touch up, that money invested wisely long term could probably buy you a house or give you an early retirement situation in no time.

besides -- i don't think i should have to affect a white standard of beauty to be presentable. or pretty. if some african-american man thinks otherwise, that's his problem.

unconsciously, i realized that because i had essentially become the person i wanted to date, that's exactly what i usually attracted: men who wanted a cool girl, irrregardless of race. oh, there was the occasional righteous brother who preferred me with a perm, or who was genuinely disgusted that i'd dated "outside of my race." as far as i was concerned, that made them much easier to sort through. i didn't care how black or white or whatever he was. he's not cool, i'd casually observe. i cannot date him. and i would move on.

case in point?

years ago, some white guy was trying to chat me up at a party somewhere deep in the heart of brooklyn and i wasn't having it. somewhere in the midst of the conversation we were barely having, he told me that he only dated sisters. what baffled me is that he said it in this confidential "just between us" tone. the implication was that i had nothing to worry about because he understood who i was and where i was coming from -- he was familiar with me, with my culture, my people. bad move.

"who are you calling 'sisters,'" i snapped, "black women aren't sisters to you. you have to be a brother to say that." he vehemently disagreed. we were off to the races. i remember watching his face change as he realized how deep he'd stuck his foot in it. that's when i said, why would you only go out with black women, anyway?

to his credit, he tried very hard to explain himself. he went on about how beautiful black women are, how intelligent, how much more interesting they are than white women -- blah, blah, blah. as he went on, what i couldn't stop thinking was, there's some great looking white women out there that really are all that. why is he systematically excluding them? why would someone not date within their own race? it reeked of self-hate but he didn't see it that way. fortunately, i did.
(it's a preference, he said. no it's not, i countered. it's a fetish. amazing, the things people will say to justify themselves.)

my friend happens to be one of the coolest guys i've ever met. i think we're kind of spoiled because we're artists and we don't really live in america. we live and work in new york city -- a place where it's very easy to meet and hang out with people of different races and nationalities and cultures. here, your life can be as segregated or as diverse as you want it to be.

last night, i made my friend watch the online component of nbc's african-american women: where they stand series called love in black and white. he sat there quietly holding my hand, occasionally crinkling his nose in disapproval. when it was over, he said it sounded like the black women in question were dating white guys because black men weren't available. like the white guy was a consolation prize, and if some black guy came along, she would dump him. to his way of thinking, race is not a reason to date anybody.

and that's when the obvious struck me: it's really not about black women dating white men. it's about black women dating the cool guy. why wouldn't anyone say that on this segment? why can't anyone think it? they were so conditioned to think in terms of black and white that they couldn't see it any other way. ridiculous. it's a big world out there, ladies. lots of men, all over the world. the one for you could be anywhere. he could be anyone. a turkish businessman. a polish bar owner. a chinese chef.

it could very well be that the cool guy that God wants for you is probably in Prague right now, having a latte.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

where this blackgrrl stands, part one

so far, the nbc series african american women: where they stand has been a rousing disappointment. as i glimpse the black blogosphere, i'm thinking what everyone else is saying: why is this the last 2 or 3 minutes of the news? what -- cosby gets an hour on larry king to spew his idiocy about black people and we can't get an uninterrupted hour on dateline? why are they comparing black women to black men? is this about black women or not?

there's so much that they're not addressing, it's almost dizzying. here's my top three:

  1. the impact of slavery and how in many ways, we are still living through its aftermath
  2. the antebellum south, reconstruction and how that decimated us
  3. the drug explosion of the 60s and 70s, urban blight and ghetto miasma
and no, they're still not talking to me. consider this: college graduate, single, never married, no kids, yeah that's my life. but you know what? i was raised in a two parent home. as a matter of fact, my parents are still married and still living in the house i grew up in. i don't have weight issues. i don't have any health issues. i've never even had a cavity.

where's my tv special?

if we're accomplishing so much, why does all of this sound so negative, somehow? isn't it good that we're college graduates, that we're enterprising and self-sufficient and independent? why did the segment end with me feeling profoundly let down by everything they had to say?

get this, loud and clear: there are more women than men in college of every race -- period. why aren't we talking about what's wrong with white men and why there aren't as many of them in college as their female counterparts and what can we do to help them along? why has no one ever thrown that statistic up in the air?

more later.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

blonde on black

ps: just in case you didn't know what i was referring to when i mentioned blonde hair on the famous african-americans of today, here's two you've probably seen a lot. for the record, this one is eve

and this one is mary j. blige

i suppose i could wax some kind of poetic about the pain and expense that they had to endure to get their hair to look like that (nevermind the contacts or the makeup, if you can) but it's so far removed from what they're naturally like, you could probably fill in the blanks for yourself. if i wanted tamara dobson's afro when i was a little kid, i shudder to think of what black girls see when they watch their videos ad infinitum on b.e.t. and then look in the mirror.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Remember this?!

don't front, grown black folk. you know you remember those commercials for afro sheen and ultra sheen cosmetics that would come on during soul train back in the day. (the one below is for their blow-out kit.) actually, johnson products was the first black owned company to trade on the american stock exchange. like fubu and b.e.t. it's owned by white people now but back in the day, that company started a revolution.

i saw the commercial below and man alive -- all that black pride and love for the natural hair in the vibe of this 30 second blurb just blew me away. instantaneously, i was transported back to a childhood filled with aunts in dashikis, uncles in bell-bottoms and chunky high heels and pert near everyone with an afro. (you weren't going to get your grandma to give up her pin curls, because that was her thing from back in her day, but you know what i mean.)

ah, my 70's childhood. somebody was always coming back from africa, all enlightened and everything. somebody was always changing their name to something in swahili or arabic, something more in keeping with who they really were. someone was always going on about the struggle and progress and politics. what was happening, you know. finishing graduate school was the absolute pentultimate. everybody called each other "brother" and "sister," stuff like that. that was my world when i was a little munchkin. my godmother was my mother's little sister. would dress me up like a little doll and put my hair in afro puffs.

we were so beautiful. we were starting to truly love ourselves. what happened to us?

i want to be famous so i can declare war on weaves everywhere -- and any black woman who doesn't think that how she looks isn't presentable or acceptable, until she straightens her hair and dyes it some bizarre shade of blonde. i'm going to be a freakin' ultra blackgrrl superhero, just like cleopatra jones or foxy brown -- except instead of getting "the man" out of the community, i'm going to get him out of your hair.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

mental health day

i didn't really get anything done today so i'm taking the day off tomorrow to sleep in, clean house and get it together. wish me luck.

i really miss having a life. something has got to give.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

james blood ulmer live at radio city music hall

this is pretty cool -- james "blood" ulmer in action with alison krauss at radio city music hall performing sittin' on top of the world (one of my favorites) when someone (scorsese?) had the bright idea to explain and reintroduce the blues to the world via PBS. i love eddie "son" house's input at the beginning; it really connects the old and the new.

Friday, November 23, 2007

buy nothing day

my friend constantly tells me that i have way more stuff than he does but i don't have anywhere near as much stuff as most people i know. besides, a lot of his stuff is in storage. and he's got a jillion comic books. whatever.

that said, i don't shop recreationally because i can't afford it -- but even if i could, i wouldn't spend, spend, spend. i'm way too frugal. i'm going to be the multi-millionaire that everyone thinks is broke because i'll clip coupons and shop at sam's and eat in. no one is going to know that i'm loaded. interestingly, that's the way it is with most rich people.

i wonder how many millionaires next door were at walmart today?

anyway, i think most days should be "buy nothing day" -- because people don't need to eat or wear most of the crap they buy. especially in this country.

what did you buy today?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

it's always good to see things from another perspective...

hope you're having a great thanksgiving day!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


too busy having fun with my friend to write anything of real merit. i'll fill you in later.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


when has a national news program of any merit ever done anything this comprehensive about african-american women in this country? whose idea was this? i don't know about you, but i intend to preorder copies of this series -- or harass someone with tivo to make me a copy -- so this can be dissected and discussed at length amongst all the black folk i know.

my first thought was, they're going to get this all wrong. when it's time to talk about african-american women, they dwell on the poor and underpriveleged who live in some urban ghetto situation, with kids they can't take care of. they talk about the welfare system. the prison system. the system, period. i'm never mentioned -- probably because i don't fit into anyone's ethnic stereotype. i'm a single, never-married, college-educated african-american woman with no children. i'm in excellent physical condition. i see a doctor regularly, i get a mammogram annually. i vote. i pay taxes. i've got my own business, more or less. and i've got good credit. in a minute, i'll flat-out own my own home in new york city -- no easy feat by any far stretch of the imagination.

i'm the typical african-american woman out there, not this claptrap i see everywhere in the media/movies/tv. where's my profile? where's that episode of sex and the city? why don't they do a sit-com about me and my single black college-educated friends who are just like me?

even if they did -- would anyone believe it?



New York, N.Y. - November 15, 2007 - Throughout the week of November 26, "NBC News With Brian Williams" will take a look at the issues facing African-American women across our nation in a new series "African-American Women: Where They Stand." The series will cover a wide-range of issues from their role in the '08 Presidential race, to the increased health-risks that they need to be concerned about.

Monday's installment will discuss African-American women's progress in the education field. Nearly two-thirds of African-American undergraduates are women. At black colleges, the ratio of women to men is 7 to 1. And that is leading to a disparity in the number of African-American women who go on to own their own businesses. Rehema Ellis will talk to educators, students and businesswomen about why this disparity exists.

Tuesday, Ellis will look at relationships within the African-American female community. Many agree the gender disparity in education and business among African-Americans is having an effect on relationships that African American women have. Some even say the implications could redefine "Black America's family and social structure." In the past fifty years, the percentage of African-American women between 25-54 who have never been married has doubled from 20% to 40%. (Compared to just 16% of white women who have never been married today). Ellis sits down with the members of a Chicagobook club and talk about this difference and how it impacts them.

Dr. Nancy Snyderman will discuss the increases risks for breast cancer for African-American women on Wednesday. Mortality rates for African-American women are higher than any other racial or ethnic group for nearly every major cause of death, including breast cancer. Black women with breast cancer are nearly 30% more likely to die from it than white women. Premenopausal black women are more than twice as likely to get a more aggressive form of the disease. And, not only are African-American women more likely to die from breast cancer, but they're less likely to get life-saving treatments. Dr. Snyderman will profile one of the only oncologists in the world who specializes in the treatment of African-American women with breast cancer.

On Thursday, Ron Allen will take viewers to South Carolina -- the first southern primary state -- and ask the question: Will race trump gender or gender trump race? In South Carolina, black women made up nearly 30 percent of all democratic primary voters in 2004. This year, polls show a significant number are undecided, torn between choosing the first African-American or first female Presidential candidate. Allen talks with the undecided, as well the state directors for the Clinton and Obama campaigns, who happen to be African-American women.

To close the series on Friday, Dr. Snyderman will raise the frightening statistic that African-American women are 85% more likely to get diabetes, a major complication for heart disease. And, like breast cancer, more black women die from heart disease than white women. Dr. Snyderman will profile a leading expert and a unique church-based outreach program in South Carolina that seeks to spread the word about heart disease risks to black women congregants.

Mara Schiavocampo, Digital Correspondent for "Nightly News," will address two hot topics in the African - American community: interracial dating and the impact of hip hop music on black women.

Interracial dating is a growing trend in the African - American community. An <> poll found that 81% of participants approved of black women dating non- black men. According to a U.S. Census Bureau report in 2000, 95,000 black women were married to white men. In 2005, that number increased to 134,000. Schiavocampo will talk to experts about the trend and discuss how this defines the "Black family" of the future.

Schiavocampo will convene a panel of leading black men and women from the hip-hop industry for an engaging discussion on whether hip hop lyrics and videos positively or negatively affect black women. The roundtable also will address how these portrayals are affecting relationships between black women and black men.

Consumers can go online to join the discussion and share their thoughts on message boards. They can also read and respond to blog entries at< < > > .

Alexandra Wallace is the executive producer of "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams." Bob Epstein is the senior broadcast producer, and Rich Latour is the senior producer for this series

Monday, November 19, 2007

You Make Me Feel Mighty Real

i can't even begin to explain how much i love sylvester. like alejandro escovedo, he is in his own sonic category because he is so completely himself. there's something about this video that transcends how dated it feels. i don't know. maybe that something is sylvester.

Sylvester - You Make Me Feel 1970
Video sent by PeteRock

Sample De Byron Stingily Pour You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

garland is right

garland farwell has fallen in love with the southland -- and it's the deep south, surprisingly enough. he says he's really blown away by the place, the vibe, the people, the food, all of it. not surprising, actually. its very beautiful there. he says it's like soho in the 70s except people are "all spread out and tripped out on jesus and earth spirits and shit. there's craftsy artists everywhere." he's got a residency at coleman center for the arts in york, alabama and is working on a project regarding the work of the folk artist mose tolliver. sounds interesting.

what's cool is reading about his adventures via his blog and seeing the beautiful pictures. at one point, he says that the south is the most beautiful place this side of heaven that he's ever known. and it's true, it's so true. it's so sweet to see that he's figured that out. but you have to go there to see that, to understand that. you have to get past your preconceptions and all those misnomers and stereotypes about the south and its history, just let it go and embrace the beauty of it all. most people can't do that. like there wasn't racism anywhere else -- certainly not up north, in places like brooklyn or out west in san francisco. like the klan wasn't everywhere.

in his last missive, he told me what i'd known to be true for quite some time: that new york city is not the center of the world anymore, and that with every olive garden and applebees and pottery barn, it's becoming more and more generic. the city is dying and no one seems to care. "you can make art anywhere," he said dismissively. that depends entirely on exactly what kind of art you want to make. you can't do broadway if you live in omaha. then again, with stuff like the little mermaid up and running, and a julie taymor-directed spiderman coming to the great white way, who cares?

i'd rather bankroll my record label with commercials and film/tv work, sequester myself in graduate school and wait to originate something cool onstage. and you know what? garland is right. i don't have to be in new york city to do any of that.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

ah, graduate school

i'm going to the campus of my alma mater, the new school, for their graduate school open house today. i'm not sure what i'm looking for, exactly. i was accepted to their media studies program a few years ago, but i couldn't afford to go. they gave me a scholarship and a grant but they didn't make enough of a dent. the attendance grace period expired and i forgot about it. so what i really want is for someone to tell me how i can come up with the money to pay tuition without taking out more student loans. that's what i'm looking for -- a way in that won't have me making payments in my golden years.

why do i want to finish a master's degree program from the new school? i'm so glad you asked!

a rather wise lester bowie once told a somewhat clever kelvyn bell: "don't be in new york city for 15 and 20 years and have nothing to show for your time." although i never met mr. bowie, i clung to those words for quite awhile, and in the telling of that little antedote, kelvyn gave me a precious gift. both lester and kelvyn are musicians from st. louis, missouri. they well understood the sacrifice that happens on this whole other level when you want to live in new york city, much less accomplish anything of merit here. when you're not from new york city, you don't have the luxury of not knowing exactly what you want and how you want to go about getting it. everything around you constantly says, time is of the essence. you don't have the luxury of a home court advantage.

and yet even with the best intentions, you can spin your wheels ad nauseum and end up with nothing that's tangible to show for your time.

what mr. bowie said caught me early in my time in the city. it changed the way i thought about my art and my life in general. i became much more focused in a different way. doing it wasn't enough. i wanted results. and i got them. i went back to college, finished my BA and became a working professional. but that wasn't enough. so i started writing and creating work for myself and i haven't looked back since.

i've got a decent reel but i'm still transitioning into film/tv. i've got two music projects to finish. i'm working on another one person show. and blood wants to make another album. so as usual, i'm flying by the seat of my pants. graduate school would be another log on the fire but it wouldn't be an impossible thing to do. it's a two year program -- and anyone that's lived here for more than a month knows that time moves differently here. two years goes by in new york city in about six months. i would have a chance to study semiotics in theory and in practice. i could take an audio component and finally learn pro-tools. concentrate on screenwriting and develop some ideas. make little art films. think and grow in another direction. i'd get to explore certain theories and ideas that would make me a better rock star. basically, all of that reading and writing and free expression would augment who i am creatively in a profound way.

the thing is, their graduate degree program isn't anything that i'd have to stop the world to do. that's the beauty of it. all of the coursework is offered online, so i could do it anywhere, at any time. and i suppose i could just take class here or there but ultimately, i want something quantifiable and tangible, and that's where the degree comes in.

it feels quite sane, to fly by the seat of my pants.

that statement reminds me of a story about james "blood" ulmer. early in my time in new york city, he used to sit me down and make me tell him everything that i was doing. i can still see him in my mind's eye, sitting at his kitchen table, leaning to one side towards me, smiling at me sideways, holding my hand and listening to me tell him all about it. one day he told me that i was a harmelodic person. that's why it was so easy for me to do everything all at once. he said that people wouldn't "get" that about me, that this was a difficult thing for most to understand -- especially certain free jazz musicians, ironically enough. i told him that i didn't know enough music theory to understand harmelodics, so i didn't really know what he was talking about. i was just being myself, really. but that's just it -- you don't need theory, he laughed, you've already got it!

evidently, he was right.

Friday, November 16, 2007

new clothes

thanks to tim gunn's book, i'm unhinging my closets and editing my wardrobe, one item at a time. after i dropped off the second huge bag of clothes to the salvation army, i knew that i was making progress. i need new basics but i can't afford to get them all at once, so today i splurged at american apparel. for some strange reason, i had always made a point of not buying anything there. probably because most of their ads featured scantily dressed girls with their legs splayed apart, and soft-core porn just isn't my thing. someone told me that they underpay their workers or something. the guy who owns it was brought up on charges of sexual harrassment. evidently, he likes to masturbate while conducting interviews. rumors, fact and fiction. who cares? they're doing a brisk business. but still.

i passed by the american apparel store in the lower east side with my friend and his buddy todd the merman once. all the salesgirls were wearing micromini dresses or hot pants that exposed their bums, with skimpy semi-see-through tops. one of them was spinning records. "let's go shop in there," todd the merman said, and he headed inside before my friend and i could reply. i wasn't blown away by their selection like todd seemed to be. maybe it was the fluorescent lights but i remember thinking that there was something drab about clothes that were that colorful. it's like that store units from the 80s, but urbanized -- garanimals for the tragically hip. both todd and i left emptyhanded. my friend thought the whole thing was funny. he thinks american apparel is a cult. (he's probably right.)

jump cut to me, feeling the pinch of the cold and realizing that i'd tossed out all the worn out leggings i had. while surfing the net for a high-waisted version, i fell onto the american apparel website and i found what i was looking for in short order. was it any good? it was cheap enough for me to take a risk. i called first to make sure that the particular store location had everything i wanted -- i can't stand wasting time in a store when i know what i want -- and that was pretty much it.

what did i get? really great thigh high socks. high waisted leggings. high waisted shorts. a tube dress that's going to be a terrific long skirt. all of that, for a grand total of $99. not bad. and here's the kicker: everything fits remarkably well.

i care about style. style has nothing to do with fashion. i pick and choose certain pieces so i can look like my own unique self when i get dressed. whatever works, you know?

next: h&m for a black 3/4 sleeve cardigan. i tossed my worn-out ratty ones -- and after all, it is a basic.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

panning for gold

last night i went out to dinner at pastis with joan. we had a lot of catching up to do. ah, joan. when i say her name, a flood of memories from my earliest years in new york city come rushing back to me, all at once. she was one of the first people i met in the city. i liked her right away and i don't know why. she was pretty and smart and cool and funny. gobs of insight. west indian by way of the bronx. big family. her long-time boyfriend eric person (that she eventually married) was a musician. although she was in publishing, she wanted to be an actress. clearly, we had a lot in common.

the years floated by. with every bit of progress, joan was somehow a part of it. over steak frittes, she reminded me of when she came to boston when i did RENT and i popped the strap on these amazing shoes she let me wear. and then there was the work i threw at her, at random. one of them was a short off-off broadway stint that i couldn't finish. she stepped in and closed the run. she saw my one person show. i gave her sheet music. "you were good to me," she said. truth be told, actresses don't do things like help each other. especially black ones. but i never concerned myself with that kind of backstabbing piffle. i knew i'd never get anywhere by stepping on people and using them. i figured, what's mine is mine. so why not tell someone about some audition or whatever. why not? no one can take anything away from me that God wants me to have. God is sovereign -- not some casting person on the other side of the table. if God doesn't want me to have it, i don't want it.

after the divorce, as joan settled into her new place in east harlem with her son, she thought of me and decided to take me out to dinner, to catch up and reconnect.

i'm glad she did.

of course, everything was running fast in our conversation. fast and strong. that's the kind of thing that happens when you're with someone that you know, and the love and respect are ever-present. when someone doesn't have an agenda with you, when they aren't denigrating you or one-upping you or playing games with you. when you're just talking -- free and open and easy. it's actually a relief, to be that way. no wonder i've always liked joan.

i caught her up on my family, my career and my love life before the steak hit the table. there was her babysitter to relieve uptown, so unfortunately, there wasn't much time. nevertheless i gleaned so much from what she said. and of course, with those pearls of wisdom came a great deal of sweet relief. but i'm getting ahead of myself, i think.

it's so easy to get stuck here, doing the same things over and over in the name of your career or progress or whatever. making the rounds and going to auditions is something you have to do strategically. you can't just do it ad nauseum -- not without strong results. but then again, auditioning is one of those things that you can do and do and do and keep doing, whether anything ever happens or not. because something could happen. and so you keep doing it. and i suppose that makes it hard to walk away -- there is always the idea looming that the next audition is The One. it's like panning for gold. you're an eternal optimist. but after the divorce, joan makes the rounds again and discovers that those early 40-something trying-to-look-30-something black dolls were now in their early 50s. they never stopped to have a life -- to get married, have kids or whatever. they never stopped auditioning and hustling to the callbacks and scheming towards the next job. they never stopped panning for gold.

i stopped that hustle with Harlem Song. i hit a wall and i realized, i didn't want to do any more regional theater. i didn't want to do any more off-off broadway for the glory of a great new york times review and no money. and club dates made me sick. i wanted to get paid. and that meant transitioning into movies and television. what did i do in the meantime? i wrote songs. i played guitar for fun. i treated working out like it was my part time job. i spent optimum time in day spas. i got my teeth fixed. i worked a day job. and somewhere in there, i landed a ton of callbacks, three commercials and a movie.

all of a sudden, i was so grateful. for everything. i was so grateful to be in the place that i'm in right now. i'm not out there, grasping at sheet music, standing in line and waiting to sing 16 bars. i don't even think i want that anymore. that's when i realized: something happened. i don't know what it was, but something happened. i took a turn somewhere in there and the next thing i knew, everything headed in another direction. and as if all of that weren't enough, i have a friend that's the coolest guy in the world. go figure.

for joan, it was her little boy. she says having him changed everything. it forced her to live on a certain level, get organized and reconfigure her life. auditioning was no longer a priority.

i think we're thinking along the same lines: we want to create and produce something for film and/or tv. have a comfortable life filled with creativity and family and ideas while the checks come in.

we're still panning for gold. we're just not standing in the same stream, doing the same thing over and over again, hoping for different results.

hm. the next time her son is with his father for the weekend, i think i'll show joan my screenplay.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


i know, i know. he was mentally deranged, he had a hairbrush and they thought it was a gun. i mean, even his momma thought he had a gun. but what about the cop who kept shooting when the victim was down? what about witnesses who said the victim had already dropped the hairbrush by the time the bullets started flying? why did five cops have to shoot him at once? what about the cop who shot at him more than anyone else did -- even when another cop told him to stop, told him the guy was down, why did this particular cop continue to shoot?

why did it take 18 shots to "disarm" this guy? why do they always have to shoot to kill? couldn't they have shot him in the foot or the arm or something, like they used to on the rockford files or whatever? they didn't kill the guy every time they shot at him on hawaii five-0, so why is that the policy now? (i know, i know -- that's television. but still.) why doesn't this "the cops shot him 41 times" or "tomorrow would have been his wedding day" stuff ever happen to white people?

when are cops going to stop getting away with shooting black men?


Man, 18, Is Fatally Shot by Police in Brooklyn

A young man was fatally shot last night in a hail of 20 bullets fired by five police officers who responded to his mother’s 911 call for help in a domestic dispute in Brooklyn, the authorities said.

The police said they believed that the man, Khiel Coppin, 18, had a gun. But when the gunfire stopped, it turned out that he had been holding a hairbrush.

Officers went into the building at 590 Gates Avenue, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, about 7 p.m. The police said they were responding to a 911 call from the mother reporting domestic abuse and asking for help to “deal with this,” and that on the call a man was overheard threatening to kill her and claiming “I have a gun.”

One resident of the building, Andre Sanchez, 17, said that after the police arrived, he saw from the hallway through the open door of the apartment that the officers inside were talking to Mr. Coppin, who was in a bedroom and opening and closing that door as they spoke.

Mr. Coppin then climbed out a first-floor window and confronted more officers outside the building, and multiple shots were fired at him, bystanders said. Wounded, Mr. Coppin fell to the ground and was handcuffed, witnesses said. He was taken to Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center, where he was pronounced dead, the police said.

It was unclear how many of the 20 shots hit Mr. Coppin, a law enforcement source said.
Mr. Coppin’s mother, whose name was not released, was among the people outside the building during the shooting. Earlier in the day, she had called a hospital psychiatric unit asking for urgent help in dealing with her son, the law enforcement official said. Psychiatric workers came, but Mr. Coppin was gone. After waiting two hours, the workers left, and later, Mr. Coppin returned.

Two bystanders who said they saw the shooting said that Mr. Coppin was not armed, but was carrying a hairbrush when he climbed out the window and that he dropped it when the firing began. The two witnesses also said they both heard one officer yelling for the shooting to stop.
According to the police, another witness described Mr. Coppin as concealing the hairbrush under his shirt, pointing it outward.

A restless crowd quickly gathered and grew to as many as 150, as some neighbors shouted protests against police brutality. “You need training — this is absurd!” one woman shouted out a window to the police. Another man pressed against a yellow crime-scene tape and said: “I’m not trying to start a riot. I’m just saying it’s not right.”

The site and surrounding blocks were cordoned off as dozens of police officers, detectives and community affairs officers arrived to investigate the shooting and control the crowd. Community leaders at the scene included City Councilman Albert Vann.

Witnesses and the police offered different details about how the shooting occurred.

Mr. Sanchez said that just before the shooting, he went outside and saw several officers there with guns drawn. Mr. Coppin approached the window, backed away, then returned and stood on the sill, Mr. Sanchez said. When an officer told him to get down, he jumped to the ground and started to go through a gate in the fence in front of the building, Mr. Sanchez said.

An officer told Mr. Coppin to put up his hands, and when he did he dropped the hairbrush and the shooting began, although one officer called out to stop the gunfire, Mr. Sanchez said.
Officers started chasing Mr. Sanchez and knocked him to the ground after, he said, he protested: “Why you got to shoot him like that, for nothing?”

A similar description of the shooting was given by Precious Blood, 16, who said she heard about 10 shots fired, most if not all by one officer. Another officer called out: “Stop, stop, stop shooting — he’s down,” she said, but the shooter kept firing, “like he was playing with a toy.”

The law enforcement official gave a different version of the encounter, saying that Mr. Coppin charged toward the officers and refused repeated orders to stop. The police said they were also exploring the possibility that Mr. Coppin was trying to prompt a shooting, a phenomenon known as “suicide by cop.”

Mr. Coppin’s mother was at the 79th Precinct station house last night and gave a statement to the police, they said.

The five officers who fired all passed Breathalyzer tests, the law enforcement officials said.

Al Baker and Annie Correal contributed reporting.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

groovy, baby...

you mean to tell me that terry mc millian didn't know that the guy on the left in both of these photos is gay? seriously? because everybody else did.

(by the way -- these are from derrick l. briggs book club that had a book release party last weekend for jonathan plummer, aka mr. terry mc millian, at chocolate bar in downtown brooklyn, new york -- not to be confused with the chocolate bar on 8th avenue in new york city, a candy shop for grown-ups.)

for real, though: my southern 85 year-old, piggly wiggly-shopping, late model caddie-driving church lady grandma could have picked him off a country mile away. in his bio, sylvester said his grandma was the one who told him that he was gay. hm. maybe that's it. black mommas always know. terry mc millan had a very nearly grown kid when she hooked up with this guy -- plus, she's a woman of the world (with all the pomp and circumstance that goes with that title) -- and she still couldn't figure it out? sometimes it's astonishing just how far some people will go to decieve themselves.
is anyone going to be surprised if this happens to star jones?

i watched the stella lose her groove episode on oprah like everybody else. confronting your gay soon-to-be ex-husband on national television, all the while admitting that you were intimate the night before and you still love each other? now that's some high drama -- and an implosion heard 'round the black (gay) world, like none other in recent memory. as oprah took terry's side, he seemed very much the victim on the show -- and then later, he and his lawyer threaten to release messages from his answering machine to the media of terry calling him a "little fag" (amongst other unsavory things) unless she ponies up some big bucks. tsk, tsk.
as the three of them attempted to dissect What Happened on the oprah show (with no real answers of course), i wondered how many other black women were going through this "i married a guy that isn't gay, he just likes to have sex with other guys" scenario. after all, mr. plummer has never stated flat-out that he's gay -- a fact that other black gay men have pointed out to me repeatedly. it seems that nowadays, lots of black men straddle that fence. actually, it's not just black men. it's everybody -- but evidently, it's much more salacious and alluring when we do it.

after the oprah debacle, mr. plummer signed a fictionalized tell-all book deal with simon and schuster. (i could go on about truly talented writers out there not being able to get book deals, but why?) it's called balancing act, appropriately enough -- probably piggybacking on terry's book disappearing acts -- and it just hit the bookshelves. i know that in posting any of this, i'm promoting this garbage and all the hot mess that goes with it (is she over it or not? her latest essay says "not really"...) but mr. plummer's book is so badly written, so trashy, so out that i had to post an exerpt. (and two reader reviews!) enjoy.


here's an exerpt:

Copyright © 2007 by Jonathan Plummer and Book Bloc Publishing, Inc.

Chapter One

"You bitch-ass motherfucker!"

Tasha Reynolds hauled back as if she was pitching a fastball for the New York Yankees and slapped Justin across the face with all of her might. His head whipped around as a smattering of blood formed where his full lips had crushed into his top teeth.

"Who the fuck do you think you are?! You can't leave me! You ain't going no fucking where!"

If any of Tasha's clients or competitors had seen her, they wouldn't have recognized her. In public, Tasha was one of the most controlled and controlling women there ever was. Tasha was, in every sense of the word, "regal," in her walk, in her talk. She possessed the trained grace of someone with upbringing and character. She rarely smiled or joked. She was all business and very good at what she did. She was a perfectionist without a conscience. There was no place in her business for someone who was sensitive, for someone who had second thoughts, for someone with emotions.

Tasha Reynolds was at the top of her game because she did what she had to do to be the best. She worked harder than anyone else and she made tough decisions without batting a fake eyelash. She was never out of control. She was smooth as ice, cold as ice, hard as ice. Tasha Reynolds always got what she wanted.

And what she wanted right now was Justin Blakeman.

He stood in front of her, wiping the blood from his mouth, trying not to react, holding himself back. The last time a woman had smacked him, he'd been ten years old and it was his mother. He'd lied to her about where he went after school, and she smacked him in the mouth for lying. He also got a beating with a cane when his father got home later that evening. The smack on the mouth by his mother was worse. It was humiliating, even for a ten-year-old. But he'd learned how to take it like a man. And he held himself like a man now.

Justin had been raised in an old-fashioned Jamaican family, where roles were very distinct. Women had their place, and men were king. A man never subjugated himself or bowed to a woman. Justin had allowed himself to be Tasha's subject for far too long, as far as he was concerned. She had been the queen and he had been part of her royal world. He had allowed himself to be paraded around like one of those Westminster Kennel Club show dogs for three years, at her beck and call, doing whatever she asked. He'd loved her in the beginning, and there was a part of him that would love her always. But now he was reclaiming his manhood.

"It's over, Tasha," he said as calmly as he could, trying not to respond at all to her emotional outrage. His nonreaction stoked her anger.

"It will never be over until I say it's over!" she growled.

Justin turned and began to leave. He had packed one bag, taking only the few clothes he'd bought for himself and some personal items that he'd brought with him from Jamaica. He knew how she was and he didn't want to give her any cause to come after him.

As Justin reached for the door, a Baccarat ashtray narrowly missed his head, crashing into the cedar door. It didn't shatter, the crystal was too heavy. But had it connected with his head, Justin would have had at least a concussion, if not worse.

"Where the fuck do you think you're going?! Are you hard of hearing? It's not over, Justin!"

Tasha rushed him, slapping at his face and shredding the skin on his forearms with her nails as she tried to pry his bag out of his hand. He dropped the bag and grabbed her arms, stopping her from hitting and scratching him. She was struggling and he threw her to the floor. But Tasha was possessed. She kept coming at him, swinging. He blocked most of her blows and grabbed her around the waist, lifted her from the ground, and carried her to the couch in the living room, throwing her like a rag doll.

"Now, stop this!" he said, finally raising his voice. "Look at yourself, Tasha! This isn't you! It doesn't have to end like this! Just let me go!"

Tasha's chest was heaving. She was out of breath and going out of her mind. She rushed him one more time. This time Justin met her with a blow to her head, driving her backward with force. She fell to the ground hard, teetering on the verge of consciousness.

"You motherfucker!" she slurred. "'re going to pay for this."

Justin looked at her -- a woman the world saw as untouchable greatness. He looked at her with sadness. He walked calmly to the door, picked up his bag, and left. He didn't look back. He walked to the elevator and rode the twenty floors down, collecting his thoughts. His black Lexus convertible -- the car she'd bought him -- was parked in the front of the garage, as it always was. A nice, fast drive was just what the doctor ordered.

Justin started the engine and screeched out of the garage, headed for the FDR Drive and on to his new life.

He was excited. He was free. More free than his days chopping sugarcane in Jamaica. Freer than he had ever been in his life. He allowed himself to smile, dabbing away a bit of the ugliness he had just left behind, as he thought about where he was headed next. It would be the first official night as a single man. He was free to love. And he couldn't wait.

He selected "Love Songs" on his iPod's playlist and drank in the opening notes of Maxwell's "Till the Cops Come Knockin'."

Gonna take you in the room suga'
Lock you up and love for days...

Justin was caught up in the music. And caught up in his fantasies. He didn't notice the flashing lights bearing down on him and he raced past the Twenty-first Street exit. He was a couple of miles from Tasha in distance and a million miles from her in his mind. But it was all catching up with him.

"Pull over!" The gruff voice came over the loudspeaker, shaking Justin out of his mist. He'd never noticed the sirens because Maxwell's song has sirens throughout, which he had grown used to over the years.

"Pull over, now!"

Justin eased over.

"What the...?" But he knew. "Tasha."

The police were angry for having to chase him for nearly a mile. They got out, hands on their guns, one at the passenger-side window, the other at the driver's side.

"Step out of the car," the officer barked.

"What? Why did you pull me over, Officer?" Justin asked.

"Shut up and step out of the car!"

Justin kept his hands in full sight. He was new to America, but he'd heard about Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell and knew he was black enough to give a New York police officer cause to pause. He didn't want to be that kind of victim. So he kept his hands raised above his head and, because he didn't want any trouble, asked the officer to open the door.

The officer opened the door with one hand and yanked Justin out of the car with the other hand, threw him to the ground, and handcuffed him.

"You have the right to remain silent..."

Copyright © 2007 by Jonathan Plummer and Book Bloc Publishing, Inc.

and here's two, um, interesting reviews:

By Stanley Bennett Clay "author of LOOKER" (Los Angeles CA USA) -

With the rampant accessability of print and electronic tabloid journalism, the old fashion roman a' clef, popularized by the likes of 60's pulp fictioners Jaqueline Susann, Harold Robbins, and Grace Matalious, the genre has been virtually neutured. Jonathan Plummer, aided and abetted by novelist/journalist Karen Hunter, tries his best to sew the balls back on the old geezer and damn near succeeds.

Balancing Act is an entertainingly naughty, quick, souffle'-of-a-read where the names are changed to protect the infamous. Oh, who cares that it throws plausibility and logic right out the window. I thought the book was an absolute hoot.

Okay, so now our protagonist, an almost Christ-like Jamaican body-by-Fischer-brains-by-Mattel boy toy, is selling sugar cane on the side of the road, even though his family is one of the richest on the island nation when Tasha, an African American Cruella DeVille fashion agency mogul decides to snatch this 'innocent and virtuous' chocolate little joy stick up out of the boonies and turns him into America's instant super model even quicker than she secures his U.S. citizenship.

The sex, of course, is off the hook, which still doesn't stop Miss Thing from knockin' boots with her white female stylist.

In the mean time, Jamaica's Mighty Joe Big accidently discovers the joy of gay sex while on a European fashion shoot with a hot Abicrombie and Fitch superstar even though he protests with legs in the air, 'I'm not a batty boy!'

Even though there's lots of talk about condoms and safe sex, there's enough orally-ingested seman in this tawdry tale to populate a small desert community, but I digress. Control Freak Super Mama uses her infamy (she is universally hated and feared) to control the three-legged wonder. But alas, his virtue wills out and he decides that he must be his own man, or at least some other man's man.

The cat fights between the keeper and the kept are as catty as they get and the knock down drag outs are cartoonishly festive. I suppose what I'm saying is that Balancing Act is a guilty pleasure; sort of like masturbation, a swift and sudden thrill, but rarely memorable. I laughed out loud at this dumb and delicious piece of entertainment. I couldn't put it down and couldn't figure out why. Miss Terry M. needs to go somewhere and sit down because if she's not careful, Brothaman Jonathan just might write a sequal and become black gay America's answer to Jackie Collins. Then she'd really have some competition.

WHAT THE???, September 9, 2007
By Missy Me "ONE DISGUSTED READER!" (Oakland, California)

I don't know what this world is coming to. This is the first time I read a book that was so bad it was good. When I wasn't laughing I was shaking my head.

When Justin is going on and on about how his parents were going to react about him going to New York to be a model, I was really looking forward to that. NOTHING! One minute he's discussing it with his granny then he's in New York. What was his parents and friends reaction to his succcess? We don't know! This story was unrealistic, weak, and straight-up ridiculous! Once I read the part about Tasha having a lesbian fling I knew I was too through! Just goes to show that Mr. Terry, uh, the EX Mr. Terry wants to keep milking her one way or the other.

The cover is nice I will say that much. Then I see the SAME exact cover on another book! And the ending was an absolute insult! I picked this mess up in the airport in Vegas, read it while I was waiting on my flight and was done with it by the time I got back to Oakland. I made a beeline to the nearest Borders and got a refund! This is fine if you are very YOUNG and realistic. Just like most fairy tales...