Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Inquiring minds want to KNOW...!

The answer is yes. Apparently, it got hot and she passed out.  At least, that's what it looks like from here. Everybody can't take this heat.  Especially Snow White.

Now that summer is in full effect, everything feels like its coming together and falling apart at the same time.  All I can do is pray, work through rewrites, practice my guitar and stay out of the sun. At any given moment, I am glistening with the sweat that happens when you walk or ride your bike everywhere. (Not a good look.) A beauty day is a weekly requirement, an absolute must. My moments of relative calm happen in day spas -- the place where I do all this necessary stuff that used to be for everyone else, like getting manicures.  I feel some small slight shame in saying this but it's true: I leave my favorite hotspot and I think, If I can keep my hands and feet clean and pretty in this filthy little town, I can do anything

Here's my Random Top Five of Whatever that's getting me through this summer. (You're welcome.)
  1. Amp and Guitar Wellness Center 
    I seriously love this place.  The name sounds like a spa and it kind of is. They do way more than sell and fix guitars. The atmosphere is super relaxed -- probably the only guitar spot I've ever wandered into where I felt like I could hang out, ask stupid questions and chill out -- and they know way too much about sound equipment and all kinds of gear.  I can even put stuff on layaway...!  And strangely, it's kind of a bonus that they're not in Manhattan.  I left there with a new Art and Lutherie acoustic guitar, feeling like I had my guitar guy -- the one who would fix my junk and set aside a cool amp for me and all that stuff people do when they look out for you. And what could be more special than that?
  2. Ben and Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk Ice Cream
    Seriously, this is the best flavor on the planet: chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, chocolate covered almonds, pecans and walnuts in a surprisingly rich chocolatey ice cream. When I first came to the city, I couldn't open a pint without eating the whole thing, so I gave it up cold turkey when I started blowing out of my clothes sideways.  I've come crawling back as of this summer -- and now that portion control is my friend, I'll never leave again.
  3. Marc Cary's Harlem Sessions 
    Simply put, this is a beautiful hang that has turned into a happening.  Unlike other jam sessions, there's a list of songs to perform. Every week, Marc gives everyone the creative space and freedom to do whatever they want. 

  4.  Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 45
    Newsflash: Sun exposure causes wrinkles. Yes, so does alcohol and smoking cigarettes/pot -- but the sun does more damage than any of them.  (For more on that from me, click here.) I figured this out as a teenager and have been double dunking myself in a gigantic vat of sunscreen religiously every day before I leave the house. Even in the dead of winter. Even when it rains.  I have no intentions of damaging this good brown skin. The scrapes I got from being a kid were enough.

  5. The Raines Law Room at The William Hotel
    This place is named after an 1896 law that was meant to keep New Yorkers from drinking.  (Fat chance.) It has all the things I love about speakeasies: a quiet, beautiful setting that's dark and rich; semi-private nooks; strong, well-crafted drinks; and -- last but not least -- food.  Not surprisingly, one of the bartenders is my friend and thankfully, he knows exactly what I like.
    This is a cocktail culture. Everyone should have a bartender.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Vintage Black Pin-Ups, Shake Dancers, Black Burlesque -- and more!

FYI: I've got a Pinterest page that delves into the secret history of black pin-ups and burlesque -- not to be confused with my other Pinterest page that flatly states My Black Is Beautiful.

Actually, I've got a lot of Pinterest pages...!

That is all!

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Two for Tuesday: Dionne Farris!

I can't be the only one that was left wondering as to what happened to Dionne Farris after she blew up in 1993 with Wild Seed, Wild Flower.  As it turns out, it was the usual major label hi-jinks.  She didn't release a follow-up until 2011.  Thanks to the worldwide exposure that her major label debut gave her, she'll have a fine career with her own label. So there's that.

Here's the first single from the album -- and a bonus live shot: a Dionne Warwick duet with guitarist Charlie Hunter.

I know what you're doing yeah yeah
I know why you dialed my number
I know what you're doing yeah yeah
I know why you care

I know what you're doing yeah yeah
I know why you say you love me
I know what you're doing yeah yeah
And I don't think it's fair

I know why you dialed my number
I know why you say you're mine
I know what you're doing,

And it's not, gonna work, this time (2)

I know what you're doing yeah yeah
I can never sing in that key
I know what you're doing yeah yeah
And you're the one to blame

I know what you're doing yeah yeah
I know why you can't forgive me
I know why you're singing lost love
The lyrics haven't changed

1-I can recognize the symptoms
You should know I've changed my mind
I know what you're doing
And it's not, gonna work this time
Hey hey hey, said it's not gonna work this time...

I know what you're doing, baby
I know why you call my name
I know why you say you love me
but I can't say the same
(repeat 1)

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Cultural Appropriation 101: Allure says you can have an Afro! (No, you can't.)

Make no mistake. With way more than 140 characters at the ready, it's no surprise that Black Tumblr will, on occasion, drag someone more thoroughly than Black Twitter. And Black Twitter, as Paula Deen knows very well by now, will go in on you.  Relentlessly.

With that in mind, it was no surprise that while traipsing through Black Tumblr,  a righteous black woman posted something she found that was especially obtuse. It was yet another example of cultural appropriation at its finest, masquerading as some form of ethnic fun, wherein some white girl with what can only be described as generic Midwestern good looks gets to use my blackness yet again to augment her bland, cultureless existence.  This time, it's my natural hair that's up for grabs. With a few products and very little effort, an Afro -- the symbol of the Black Power Movement, if you will -- is hers for the taking. Not surprisingly, this gem of an article comes to us from Allure, a magazine that has made a point of habitually not including black women in their beauty articles.

Is this how they make up for their lack of diversity? By blackening up white women with an African-American hairstyle that essentially epitomizes our struggle and oppression?

This is a transformation of Rachel Dolezal proportions.  And that's beyond epic.  She paved the way for black womanhood for all and Allure is handing out the road map.


I must admit: she looks a lot less ordinary and milquetoast with this "Afro", now doesn't she.  And isn't that the point? Take whatever we've got, even if its the kink on our heads, appropriate it to amuse yourself and discard it at your leisure when it's no longer fashionable or it no longer suits you.  And why not? Cultural appropriation is, after all, the American way.

What is cultural appropriation?  I'm glad you asked.

The phrase literally means one culture taking parts from another culture.  And yes, this happens all the time. It's damaging when a dominant culture (white people, for example) takes things from another culture that it has oppressed (or in the case of Native Americans, obliterated) without understanding them fully, in context if you will (white people at Coachella wearing gigantic Native American feather headdresses, for example) and using those things that they have taken in ways that they were not originally intended.

No, it's not cultural exchange. If it were, the sharing between cultures would be mutual. And again -- no, it's not cultural assimilation, where the oppressed culture (people of color) adopt aspects of the dominant culture (white people) to survive (discarding their language/culture/traditions in order to survive).

Consider this.

The fun-lovin' white boy in the picture above is wearing a Native American feathered headdress -- originating in the Plains -- an item that has great political and spiritual significance. They were usually worn into battle, hence the name war bonnet, but now they are worn ceremonially. Because the eagle is sacred to their tribe (the greatest of all birds), these headdresses were made from them.

Each eagle feather had to be earned from some great act of courage or bravery and was inserted into the headdress in a traditional way. Needless to say,  you'd have to live a long noble life to get a feathered headdress that would even remotely resemble what this, our Coachella reveler, is drunkenly sporting, which is why you never see young people or children running around in them.

This guy is not alone.

Apparently, you can't get into Coachella unless you wear one of these.  Surprised?

The bottom line is, everything isn't for everyone.  This should be respected but in the age of entitlement, it's flatly ignored. Believe it or not, there are certain things from any culture that no one should say, do or wear.  It is offensive to say the "n" word with abandon unless you are black.  It is forbidden for anyone to touch the Torah -- the holiest book in the Judiasm -- with bare hands.  A yad (usually made of silver) is used when reading it instead of fingers.  It's against the law for anyone to have eagle feathers (and other endangered migratory birds) unless they are Native American.   Context, as it turns out, is everything.

See? You, the dominant culture, really can't do whatever you want. Unfortunately, the dominant culture does it anyway and this -- not fully understanding the thing that you are taking from a culture that you dominate -- is what nurtures and informs lots of stereotypes, misunderstandings and hate.

(If you're at all curious as to what a Native American of the Plains thinks of this hot mess, click here.)

Not surprisingly, white people are shifting their attention from Native American headdresses to African-American Afros. My natural hair has always been a point of contention (more on that some other time) but this is especially insidious, in part because of that oh-so-ignorant counter argument: black women straighten their hair so why can't white women kink theirs up?

I'll tell you why.

 White people have made laws that deny black women the right to wear their hair naturally. Black women are systematically fired, because Blackness.  You are openly considered unprofessional and yes, downright filthy, if you have an Afro.  You are hounded, you are threatened with flat-out expulsion, if you have an Afro.  Black women can't even wear their hair in its natural state in the military. Think about that: if a black woman wants a career in the military -- if she is willing to die for her country -- she has to straighten her hair. Make no mistake: this means painful chemical treatments, expensive weaves, whatever it takes. Anything but an Afro.

If you are a black woman in America, your hair is a battleground -- and it always has been.

At the other end of the table, there are no laws against white women wearing their hair in its natural state.  No one is governing their hair or controlling their hair. Likening their hair to that of a farm animal or some wild beast isn't a part of the lexicon of our culture.  No one is telling them that the texture of their natural hair makes them patently unattractive. They can do whatever they like -- even if whatever they like is my Afro.

Don't get it twisted. So many of us have learned the hard way to love our natural hair.  But white people don't love our natural hair. Unless it's on their heads.  And then they love it a lot. How ironic is that?

Allure should apologize profusely, retract that article immediately and hire a jillion black women to contribute op-eds, beautiy tips and the like, to tilt this situation in the other direction until it levels off. At the very least, they should keep a black friend on hand, someone that isn't afraid to tell them when they're completely off base. Unfortunately -- like those drunken (white) party people at Coachella -- they're way too ignorant, way too out of touch with reality and way too high on their own sense of entitlement and privilege for anything that sensible.  Or empathetic. 

Monday, August 03, 2015

NaBloPoMo for August: KNOW

Interesting topic for this month's BlogHer NaBloPoMo, especially in light of all the misinformation that is constantly being spewed at me from every direction -- KNOW.

All I know is that I know nothing, sure. When it's time to find some things out, that's when all the balloons go right out the window.  I end up asking the same questions over and over again: Is anything well curated?  Can any news source be trusted? Does anyone know how to think critically? Do we know what's really going on -- or are we so buried in a never-ending avalanche of consumerism, branding, punditry and reality TV that we don't even care anymore?

All of this is compounded by those who don't know how to listen, those who don't know how to talk, those who don't know the difference between an opinion and a fact -- and of course, bad nutrition.  You can't think clearly if you don't get all the nutrients you need.

What's the first sign of bad nutrition? Apathy.  

I think I know and then I keep digging and I know more -- or less.  Not opinions. Because repeating your opinion over and over again authoritatively won't make it a fact. To wit: Obama is not a secret Muslim.  There were never any death panel provisions in Obamacare.  Planned Parenthood is not selling baby parts.  Blah, blah, blah.

I am intellectually curious.  I keep asking stupid questions and I'm not ever really satisfied with the answers I get. They usually lead to something else to get curious about. I pull the string until the whole sweater comes undone -- and then I go and start picking something else apart...

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Sunday Sermonette: Sister Rosetta Tharpe -- That's All

Here's more of Sister Rosetta Tharpe -- guitar slinger, songwriter, vocalist, gospel shouter and rock and roll trailblazer -- burning it down as usual in Paris (where else?) with the gospel number That's All.

She is, without question, the undisputed Godmother of Rock and Roll.  To watch a pretty cool documentary about her life and times so you'll know why, click here.

Video of this lady in action is rare. Listen in and be blessed.

I'm gonna tell you the natural facts
That a man don't understand the good book right and that's all
That's all

You know what?
We got to have more love
More understanding everyday of our lives
And that's all

When you see folks jump from this or that
They don't know they don't know where the devil's at
That's all
That's all

They got to have more love, more understanding
Everyday of their lives I tell ya that's all

Listen, people fighting one another
And think they're doing swell
And all they want is your money
And you can go to heeeeyyyyy

That's all
That's all

Ya'll got to have religion, yeah, I tell ya that's all
Now you can go to the college
Go to the schools
You ain't got no religion you an educated fool
That's all
Yeah, that's all

He got to have more love, more understanding
Everyday of our lives and that's all