Tuesday, July 29, 2008

double yikes

what a hot stinking mess. a 22 year old rookie cop named patrick pogan (only 2 or 3 weeks on the job) slams into a peacefully protesting biker named christopher long out of nowhere, then lies about it in his written report, saying that the biker tried to run into him. his daddy is a retired cop that didn't hesitate to stick up for his foul behavior, so evidently this is the family business.

of course, they took his gun and his badge and now he's riding a desk. i'll bet you a dollar and a twinkie that he gets transferred to another precinct when all of this quiets down. he needs to get fired, with a quickness -- before he kills somebody.

read all about it here.

Friday, July 25, 2008


still processing the black in america series on cnn. much to think about, much to discuss. will get back to you after my well-planned overdose of fun this weekend.

here's what i'll be doing this weekend...

my friend is out of town for the san diego comic con. it's been a whirlwind of activity ever since he left! crazy fun! here's a glimpse of what my weekend holds. who says NYC isn't fun anymore? oh, yeah -- i did. (heh.)

and yes, i wish he was here.
  1. for starters, i'm wandering through MoMA with Chris Adams for the better part of the afternoon. we'll probably do lunch there. later that night, there's a super-secret surprise party for a showfolk friend at a bar in midtown and then if i'm feeling groovy, i may venture down to the slipper room to say hello. great way to start the weekend.
  2. If i don't go to my cousin's BBQ in long island, i'm seriously thinking about entering The Great American Pie-Off at Bowery Electric, 7/26 , 4pm - 7pm -- because my friend thinks i make the best pie ever. and so do i. maybe that means it's time to share it with the world.
  3. Jef Lee Johnson at the Jalopy Theatre, 7/26 @8pm -- here's what the promo blurb says: "Guitarist Jef Lee Johnson is well-known as a session musician, playing for everyone from pop stars like Aretha Franklin and Billy Joel, to smooth jazz vocalists like Phyllis Hyman and Rachelle Ferrell, to fearless experimentalists like Ronald Shannon Jackson and McCoy Tyner. (He even has a mid-'80s stint as the lead guitarist in Paul Shaffer's World's Most Dangerous Band, the house band for Late Night With David Letterman, under his belt.) His solo albums, starting with 1996's Blue, are equally wide-ranging affairs, veering from straightforward pop songs to guitar-noise experiments that recall both Sonny Sharrock and Sonic Youth." not to be missed.
  4. Naked Ping Pong in Union Square, 7/27 @ 12pm -- i should take my niece zoe to this one.
  5. Chris Adams' Going Away Party, 7/27 @ 4pm -- that trip to MoMA was our last moment in the city. he's moving back to the ATL at the end of the month. truth be told, i miss him already.
  6. The Wet Spots at the Zipper Factory, 7/27 @ 8pm -- here's what their promo blurb says: "Picture a husband and wife team from the golden age of comedy. Now picture them singing sweetly about threesomes and taking it in the ass. Internationally acclaimed cabaret duo The Wet Spots (Cass King and John Woods) write the most elegant songs about sex that you will ever hear." nuff said.

aside from this, there's another birthday party on saturday night, an audition, parties with the africans in harlem and more goings on at the gym. i'm going to have a long soak and a beauty day on monday and maybe go see the dark knight at the director's guild in the afternoon.

life is good.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

check THIS out...

yes, i missed the CNN special Black in America: Black Women and Family. what can i tell you?my day had still had me running around like a chicken with my head cut off by early evening. maybe subconsciously, i wanted to miss it because i didn't want to have something else to be pissed off about, right about now. they'll rerun it ad nauseum, i'm sure.

in the meantime, here's an interesting twist: they're going to dissect all of it online, with experts and anchors and viewers oh my! you can send in commentary, video, you name it. they really want feedback. here's hoping they get it.

all i could think was, so what's the goal here? is it redundant to talk to me about what its like to be black in this country? are we attempting to uplift the race with stats about how well we're really doing? are we attempting to initiate thought-provoking conversations about issues like race and class? or are we trying to let white people in on something that they may not be aware of? and isn't it usually a totally different conversation when there are no white people in the room?

like i said, i missed the special. and unlike a lot of black folk i know, i'm going to make a point of watching it. still and all, having an online special is interesting. and yes, i'm definitely going to miss that, too -- i have an audition. more on that later.


Soledad O’Brien Hosts One-Hour Online Special Featuring iReports and Interviews with Viewers, Experts

On Thursday, July 24, at 12 p.m. (ET), CNN anchor and special correspondent Soledad O’Brien will host a live, one-hour online special entitled Black in America: Your Reaction on CNN.com Live, the site’s live, multi-stream video news service. Focused on CNN’s highly anticipated Black in America documentaries, the online exclusive will examine viewer reactions to Black in America: The Black Woman & Family, which airs tonight, Wednesday, July 23, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT) on CNN/U.S. During the CNN.com Live one-hour special, O’Brien will interview several prominent figures in Black America, as well as the documentary series’ producers about their 18-month investigation. CNN.com Live’s Black in America: Your Reaction also will feature a brief preview of Black in America: The Black Man, airing on CNN/U.S. Thursday, July 24, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT).

O’Brien will interview author and activist Maryann Reid about the themes discussed in her latest book, Marry Your Baby Daddy; as well as co-authors of Love in Black and White – former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen and his wife, Janet Langhart Cohen, a public relations consultant and former journalist – about their inspiring story of overcoming obstacles in race and romance as an interracial couple in America.

During CNN.com Live’s Black in America: Your Reaction, O’Brien will speak with Bishop James W.E. Dixon, II of The Community of Faith Church at the King’s Dome in Houston – which this week is holding Black in America viewing parties and town halls – about his congregation’s reaction to the documentary. O’Brien likewise will showcase viewer reactions that were taped following other special pre-screenings of the Black in America series in Atlanta, Chicago, New York City and Washington, D.C.

O’Brien will present viewers’ and users’ firsthand accounts of the black experience and reactions to the documentary series submitted to iReport.com, CNN Worldwide’s first uncensored, unfiltered, unedited, user-generated community Web site. Online users may share their firsthand accounts of and reactions to Black in America through video, photo, or audio submissions to www.iReport.com/BlackinAmerica. Black in America, reported by O’Brien, examines often under-reported stories of the African-American experience, including fresh analysis from new voices about the real lives behind the stereotypes and statistics that frequently frame the national dialogue about Black America. Black in America: The Black Woman & Family airs on Wednesday, July 23 at 9 p.m. (ET/PT), and Black in America: The Black Man airs on Thursday, July 24 at 9 p.m. (ET/PT). Black in America was filmed in high definition and will air on CNN/U.S., CNN HD and CNN International. The series will be available on iTunes and on video on demand (VOD) 24 hours following the premiere. Viewers should check with their local cable providers for VOD availability.

CNN.com is the world’s No. 1 destination for online and wireless news, garnering the greatest audience share among current events and global news sites. Launched in 1995, CNN.com draws from the resources of CNN Worldwide and its many partners to provide consumers with the most enriching, immediate interaction with news anywhere, seamlessly combining articles, videos, images, interactive features and user-generated content. CNN.com’s news video offering – both live and on-demand – is unparalleled on the Web. CNN.com’s recent awards include an Edward R. Murrow award, a National Headliner award and two EPpy awards.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

CNN: Black in America

i have a bad feeling about this one.

what makes this especially frustrating is that i've received at least a half-dozen email blasts encouraging any black anybody to see it. i'm going to make every effort to watch both specials with an open mind.

first up: the black woman and family, on hdtv wednesday july 23th at 9pm.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

high fashion, real progress and black beauty

earlier this spring when i heard about the july issue of vogue italia that would feature black models exclusively, something in me gushed with enthusiasm and more than a little hope. italian vogue has always used black models. it is said that they are driven more by creativity and art than commerce and it has a strong influence internationally. where they go, others follow. would that happen this time? or would this issue be an exotic one-off?

according to the editor franca sozzani, this move was inspired by many factors, most notably the rise of senator obama and the change that seems to be swirling in the air in america, and his smart, attractive and fashionably on-point wife michelle. but there was more. evidently when former agent/mother of kadeem hardison/legendary former 60's model bethann hardison held a 3 day forum on the lack of diversity in the fashion industry last fall, ms. sozzani took notice and was inspired enough to want to do something about it. by february, she and stephen meisel (the photographer behind madonna's book sex) were talking about the possibility of an all black issue and a short time later, they were off to the races.

there was a lot of speculation about this issue: who would be on the cover (that all important question); who would be prominently featured (and how); and most importantly, the impact of the statement that an all black issue from such an influential stylemaker would make on the rest of the fashion world. i looked forward with heady optimism to the rush of being able to open a world-class magazine and see an array of beautiful black women.

then for some strange reason, something in me began to sour on the idea of it, and the more i thought about it, the more unsure i became about its positive outcome.

the last time i was overwhelmed by one black model after another after another, it was when vicksburg mississippi native patrick kelly ruled the runways. remember him? i could glimpse so much of my black southern self in everything he did because he never apologized for who he was. he reveled in it. he ran around in overalls all the time. he gave away little pickaninny dolls -- symbolic of at all of his fashion events, so much so that they became his totem. he amassed a large collection of black dolls, actually. when he used white models, he put them in blackface and put their hair in plaits to make them look like some racially inverted version of topsy. and those mismatched buttons? he said he got that from his grandmother, who couldn't always find buttons that matched when it was time to mend his clothes when he was a child.

as the legend goes, mr. kelly's grandmother brought home a fashion magazine one day when he was 6 years old. when he asked why there were no african-american models in it, she told him that fashion designers didn't have time for black women. and so mr. kelly decided that someday he would do something about that. oh, boy did he ever.

when fashion designer willi smith of williwear -- brother of the infamous toukie smith -- died of pneumonia at 39 in 1987 that was a huge loss. when mr. kelly died of AIDS in 1990 at the age of 35 at the peak of his career, i knew that it was the end of an era. yes, other black designers would appear. but that flood of black models everywhere? not a chance.

with no patrick kelly at the helm to infuse his southern blackness everywhere, i had to acknowledge 3 things as i looked at the preliminary pictures of the july issue:
  1. when we as people of color are in control of our image -- when we photograph ourselves, design the clothes, style the shoots and make the pertinent choices (like who's going to be the model for this shoot?) -- those images are unlike the images that our counterparts would create of us. that led me to another thought...
  2. these are europeans creating and manipulating images of africans/african-americans/people of color -- not africans/african-americans/people of color making those images of themselves. if andre leon talley or bethann hardison had the opportunity to be a guest editor and create something like this, it would probably look a lot different than what vogue italia has done.
  3. exactly who worked on this issue? were there any african-american consultants/stylists/fashion designers involved? were any black people in high fashion a part of the decision-making process? were there any black consultants?

in the end, who is this really for, exactly? is this issue for the fashion world, to show them that black really is beautiful, that there are many black models available for work, that they are just as alluring as the blue-eyed blonde russians/eastern europeans? will it take more than one issue to pull that off -- or will over 150 pages of stunning photos make them see the light?

evidently so. vogue italia was all black but the paris couture show was all white -- and parading the same excuses of "supply and demand." so yes, its going to take more than one issue. but one thing is for sure: the conversation has begun.

oh -- and lest you think that it's just fashion and fashion doesn't matter, i leave you with this quote from Robin Givhan, a fashion writer and Pulitzer Prize-winning commentator for The Washington Post:

“One of the things people need to understand and come to grips with is they’re in the business of defining beauty and selling beauty. Beauty is a form of currency and if the industry is in the business of defining what is beautiful, then it also is in the business of defining who is valuable and who is invisible.”

ps: check out the NYT slideshow here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The New Jersey Four

before i'd read about the new jersey four on a fellow afrospear's blog, i knew nothing about their plight. why? i hadn't heard anything about this on the local or national news. if it was talked about in the black blogosphere, i missed it. even the lesbians i know weren't informed. that's not a cop-out on my part, or theirs. it's the truth.

contrary to what anyone may assume, i don't have an internal rss newsfeed that's race and gender specific, automatically informing me of any and every injustice that applies to me as an african-american and as a woman. where would i -- or anyone for that matter -- have heard about this incident if it weren't publicized ad nauseum somewhere?

when something horrible happens to people of color nowadays, a media-savvy publicist is almost as necessary as a good lawyer. you have to climb to the top of the heap of news items and wave your flag of information as high as you can, and you have to keep waving it until your situation gets the attention and the coverage it deserves. i'm sure that any major media outlet in this day and age would mark this as a story on non-interest but as a black female, i have to disagree. anytime a black woman anywhere defends herself against a male attacker and goes to jail for it, you have my full and undivided attention.

and anyone who's warped enough to believe that this country and its legal system is just and fair to everyone needs to have their head examined.

the details are right here but the story in a nutshell is this: on august 16, 2006 four african-american lesbians walking through the west village were verbally harassed and physically assaulted by a black man, so they did the unthinkable: they defended themselves.

all of this was captured on video from a surveillance camera at a nearby store, including the two men who finally came to their rescue and proceeded to beat living crap out of the guy -- dwayne buckle -- that started the whole thing in the first place. later as mr. buckle recovered from his hospital bed, he said that the two men were responsible for his injuries. visual proof didn't matter, either. on june 14, 2007 all 4 of them -- venice brown (19), terrain dandridge (20), patreese johnson (20) and renata hill (24) -- received sentences ranging from three-and-a-half to 11 years in prison. none of them had previous criminal records. two of them are parents of small children.

do i have to tell you that they were convicted by an all-white jury? hm. i guess not.

the updates are promising. according to the new york times article, ms. dandridge's conviction has been reversed and her indictment dismissed because there wasn't enough evidence to support a guilty verdict. ms. hill has been released because her conviction couldn't be upheld, either. ms. brown and ms. johnson are still in prison, awaiting appeals.

this clip is a testament to the way things are coming together in a grassroots way all over the country to suport this cause.

the new jersey 4 blog has the latest updates, benefits, concerts and anything else you'd need to know about them -- including their contact information, to send donations, letters of support and encouragement.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

ray charles, johnny cash and black country music

for those of you who don't think that you like black country music, don't believe that it exists, or believe that black americana is an abberation before the Lord that i somehow invented when i self-released my CD, here's ray charles on his second appearance on the johnny carson show, singing everyone's favorite -- ring of fire.

actually, ray charles recorded this song for his album love, country style in 1970. truth be told, i love it when anyone can make a piano twang -- but this is something special.

Friday, July 04, 2008

the black national anthem controversy

just in time for the 4th of july, there's some hot black mess in the media that's going to have fox news foaming at the mouth for weeks.

when i was a kid in the 70s, we sang the black national anthem whenever we had to sing the national anthem, say the pledge of alliegance or salute the flag. who taught it to me? who told me what it was? who told me why it was important? maybe a music teacher. or my father. i'm not sure. the truth is that everyone -- from my great-grandparents to my next door neighbors to the children i didn't play with -- treated the song with a reverence and an importance that let me know it mattered a great deal. like the sandbox in the backyard or the pound cake under that glass dome on the kitchen table or fish and grits for dinner on fridays, it was always there. here's the kicker: every black anyone in my little kid world knew this song and they knew it cold. they sang it from the heart, with feeling. and in a way, all of us knowing this song gave us a kind of solidarity and a unity that bloomed all the time.

feeling this togetherness as a child in the south amongst black folk gave me a glimpse into the jim crow years that my now 92 year old father lived through and how, in the moments when all we had was each other, we looked out for each other in so many unspoken ways that don't seem to happen anymore -- probably because white people aren't lynching us as much as they used to or hanging us at their town picnics. what's ironic is that we need that solidarity now more than ever. but i digress.

when i first saw a photo of a lynching (in Jet magazine in the 70s) what struck me the most was that the white people wanted to pose with the twisted hanging bloody bodies. they were laughing and pointing and having so much fun. and don't kid yourselves, yankees -- lynchings and cross burnings happened all over the country, not just the south. even nat king cole's upscale beverly hills neighbors burned crosses on his lawn.

any chance of a national apology to black people for all of this crap? probably not.

i don't know every negro in america but i can't think of any black people that don't know this song. don't believe me? ask an african-american you know to sing it. i don't think we should stop singing it until they acknowledge what happened during slavery and reconstruction and -- at the very least -- apologize for it. there has never been a collective reckoning amongst all americans, where we talk about these ugly racist things openly and deal with our feelings in a supportive way. like south africa, we need a truth and reconciliation commission of our own. everyone should know who emmett till is.

any chance that carolyn bryant, the woman responsible for emmett's murder, will ever see the inside of a prison cell? probably not.

on my last visit home, my adorable 4 year old nephew thomas stood proudly before the entire family after sunday dinner and sang the whole song -- with no help from anyone, not even his musician father. only four years old! where did he learn it? pre-k. then again, of course they're teaching little black children the black national anthem. they live in ATL -- a black mecca if there ever was one.

with thomas' happy little rendition (that left my friend reeling), i realized that singing the song nowadays was really an act of protest. with that in mind, i had to admit that i thought it took a lot of balls for rene marie to sing that song in denver the way that she did.

an act of treason to have a black national anthem, you say? get off of your jingoistic high horse and get real. clearly, america is a nation divided. i know way too many southerners who sing "dixie" (a song straight out of the minstrel tradition) as their national anthem and salute the confederate flag as they do so. the united sons and daughters of the confederacy have been doing this in federal/state/locally funded public settings ever since they lost the civil war and no one has ever batted an eyelash, much less called their actions treasonous. this is the same organization that recently decided to put up this massively huge confederate flag in the middle of a busy interstate in florida. nationally, no one has noticed -- certainly not fox news.

much, much more as this develops.

oh -- and happy july 4th, america! (...you know i already celebrated my independence day on juneteenth...)

Denver singer opts for black national anthem lyrics over 'Star-Spangled Banner'

Rene Marie's unexpected choice at a mayor's event where she was asked to sing the more traditional song has prompted a chorus of criticism.
By DeeDee Correll
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

July 4, 2008

DENVER — The jazz singer, invited to perform the national anthem before the Denver mayor's annual state of the city address, stood at the microphone and let loose her voice.

What came out were the lyrics of the song known as the black national anthem, set to the tune of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"Lift ev'ry voice and sing, Till earth and heaven ring," belted out Rene Marie, as the expressions of city officials behind her grew puzzled.

It was, Marie later said of the unpaid gig, an artistic expression of her emotions about being a black American and a decision she made months ago to no longer sing the national anthem. But instead of telling that to the mayor's office beforehand, "I pulled a switcheroonie on them," Marie told the Denver Post.

Now elected officials and residents are joining a chorus of outrage: Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. called her actions disrespectful; Mayor John Hickenlooper accused her of deceiving the city for the purpose of a political statement.

"We all respect artistic license and support freedom of expression," he said. "But in a tradition-laden civic ceremony . . . making a personal substitution for the national anthem was not an option. We asked for 'The Star-Spangled Banner' and that's what we expected."

Even Sen. Barack Obama, campaigning for the presidency this week in Colorado, weighed in.

"We only have one national anthem," Obama told the Rocky Mountain News on Thursday. "And so, if she was asked to sing the national anthem, she should have sung that. 'Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing' is a beautiful song, but we only have one national anthem."

On newspaper websites, comments have poured in by the hundreds, most of them critical of the popular local singer. Some have said her performance would harm Obama's presidential bid, a suggestion Marie dismissed as "a serious overestimation of my influence as an artist."

She did not return a call seeking comment, but on her website she defended her decision in a statement:

"I am an artist," she wrote. "If I wait until I am asked to express myself artistically, or if I must ask permission to do it, it would never get done. I knew that if I asked to do my version of the national anthem, the answer would be 'no.' "

Marie, 52, said that as a child raised in the segregated South, she sang both songs. But she grew to feel the sentiments of freedom expressed in the national anthem weren't a reality "for black folks living in a town with Jim Crow laws, where the flag often hung from buildings they could not enter," she wrote.

"Nobody but black folks found comfort in 'Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing,' " penned by James Weldon Johnson and put to music by his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, in about 1900 to commemorate President Lincoln's birthday. The hymn was sung at protest rallies during the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and '60s.

So Marie decided to meld the two anthems in what she describes as a love song to her country. She said she also rewrote the melodies to "America the Beautiful" and "My Country 'Tis of Thee," but kept the lyrics. She calls the three-part suite "Voice of My Beautiful Country."

Though she apologized to the mayor for any distress she caused him in her performance Tuesday, she stopped short of the public apology others are calling for. "As for offending others with my music, I cannot apologize for that. It goes with the risky territory of being an artist," she wrote.

Her chances of performing her art for the city again?

Probably not good, according to Hickenlooper, who said he wished he had interceded during Marie's performance.

"We will do whatever it takes to ensure that a situation like this never occurs again," he said, "even if I have to sing the national anthem myself."


Thursday, July 03, 2008

the dark knight

here it is -- as if you haven't seen it elsewhere on the internet! -- the first 5 minutes of the dark knight. enjoy.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

something from goodreads...

my goal is to read 100 books this year and blog about them on goodreads, so i can keep up with my bookshelf life. so far, i'm off to a flying start. we spend so much of our lives waiting. i figured out the trick: keep a book in my purse at all times, so that while i'm waiting for the train, waiting in line at the bank, waiting to see my doctor, waiting for that crosstown bus, i'm reading. in the past few months, i've finished quite a few books this way. this is one of them.

What a Difference a Daddy Makes: The Lasting Imprint a Dad Leaves on His Daughter's Life What a Difference a Daddy Makes: The Lasting Imprint a Dad Leaves on His Daughter's Life by Kevin Leman

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
i read this as a gift to myself for father's day, to give me some insight on my relationship with my father (which is actually pretty cool these days).

this is a smart book, an easy read, one that i would recommend to absolutely anyone, but it's especially a must for black men who are fathers. way too many women i know see fathers as just a paycheck. in many instances, they don't understand the importance of a father because they've never had one who had a strong presence in their lives. sometimes, even when he was physically present, he wasn't necessarily "there".

so why have a father that's especially involved with your daughter?

because according to this book, it is fathers who give girls their self-esteem/self-worth. girls get a sense from their fathers -- not their mothers -- that they're worth being loved. if the father isn't present in the girl's life to give her this, she will find a surrogate who will. this can mean lousy choices in love for the rest of her life. and of course, this cycle will perpetuate itself when it's time for her to have children.

kids are going to belong someplace. the question isn't whether they'll belong but where. a gang. a basketball team. a boyfriend/girlfriend. but they will belong.

some of it was a little too disney-esque for me -- like him crying his eyes out when one of his daughters left home for college/got married (yeah, he's a cryer) -- but on second thought, maybe the ideal situation needed to be presented so we'd see the male/father and female/mother roles in the home in their proper perspective.

yeah. a definite must-read.

View all my reviews.