mardi, février 19, 2008

Whoop Dee Whoop Phobic

Pic swiped from YBF. Photog: Wargo

Erykah Badu absolutely murdered "Appletree" this evening during a taping for VH1 Storytellers. Building off a classic booty shake beat that will surely come to me later she revved up the ethical declamation, a longtime favorite of mine, to knee knocking exuberance. Standing up and dipping low were proscribed for the duration of the taping but I did as much seated as possible, swaying, foot tapping and clapping vigorously to the beast and hopefully that will win me and my verdant green scoop neck a millisecond of screen time.

I tell you its as if Badu crafted the set list especially for me: Dilla's "Dolar" (technically Steve Spacek's), a searing "...& On," that sick Girlfriends joint, "I Want You," "Honey," "Otherside of the Game", and the Karriem Riggins produced "Soldier." She also threw in "Didn't U Know", "Danger", new joint "Annie", a Madlib Production and a Shafiq of Sa-Ra production. I'm probably forgetting something. The band was tight especially the flautist/woodwind dude. Her outfit was cute. She had a red tee emblazoned with something about overdrafts and checks and cute purple pants. Can't wait till this airs. I hope it airs on regular VH1 'cause I don't have VH1 Soul.

In other Badu news: Tom Ford is charmed.

dimanche, février 17, 2008

An Ember in the Hole

With music, there is what you are weaned on and then there is what you stumble upon. Both are valuable but the former carries more weight as it seeps in the self during the formative years. There is nothing like engaging someone whose life was intimately informed by an artist or a song way back when. That dating and placing holds the ultimate significance. I can't overstate being and sentiment especially when so much of the writing and public consumption of music today concerns watching and self-aggrandizement or in some case just straight up self-pleasuring. This is not the getting off the afkap had in mind.

Steely Dan is a band I properly came to later, just 4 years ago actually but pre-Kanye West "Champion" sample, and I can't believe they were once relegated to the Warm 106.9 ghetto of the car radio dial. You see, that was the station in Seattle that played Steely and Heart and seventies and 80's white pop-friendly rock or sandpapered jazz-lite for commuters' consumption. My mom generally allowed me the run of the dial but occasionally demanded we listen to less aggresively loud and grating music than played by the other radio stations I favored. I even got chided one day for playing D'Angelo's first CD, which she adored, on account of foolishly not skipping "Shit, Damn, Motherfucker" in her sanctified presence. So Steely is sort of slowly blowing my mind having thankfully transcended soft rock radio in my eyes.

lundi, février 11, 2008

Ah Um: Mia Mingus on Activism and Ableism

samedi, février 09, 2008

The Tom Tom Gesticulates?

Given a few spottings of X hats, one on the stoop of an adjacent Brownstone, and my recent deep desire for one the those mid-nineties Black college sweat-suits, I'll now reconsider that infamous tee-emblazoned pronouncement, "It's a Black thing. You Wouldn't Understand." The statement, however simplified and essentialist, has/had/will always have something to it. I recognize some folk's reticence to lend it any credence like the self-righteous white woman quoted in this 1989 Letter to the Grey Lady's Editor,
Who but an avowed racist would wear a T-shirt that reads: ''It's a Black Thing - You Wouldn't Understand!'' Blacks have had masterful white role models for racism. It's easy to justify the building of pride based upon it. But let me dream of a time when at least our better-educated children know better.

Who but an avowed racist would wear a T-shirt that reads: ''It's a Black Thing - You Wouldn't Understand!'' Blacks have had masterful white role models for racism. It's easy to justify the building of pride based upon it. But let me dream of a time when at least our better-educated children know better. Please make me a T-shirt that says: ''It's a Human Thing - We All Understand!'' - Lois Atkinson
Now, I imagine Lois thought she was really saying something with that tie-dye trite motto and by indicting white racists as originators of American racism before she indicted Black youths in kind but she was sadly and commonly mistaken. Her misapprehension was/is the thing.* The lack of understanding of how and what that statement resonated amongst us evinces a lack of understanding of us, which is what the damned t-shirt said quite clearly in the first place. That the uneventful course of confusion made Atkinson angry and ready to paint Black youth biased, instead of embarking on the team tasks of working to conquer her own racism, sincerely engaging Black people in relationship, and humbly acknowledging those things about the Black experience that she would never understand, is unsurprising.

I get how Blacks could have balked at the statement too. As Maya Angelou gravely enunciated on "African American Lives II" the other night, we range in color from "plum blue to milk white" and our experiences and judgements are just as vast. But I don't think the statement has to preclude difference, it just suggests a common thread amongst a complex and colorful tapestry.

And I get that many people across the spectrum think that everything is all good these days what with all the interracial familes, multi-hued crews and some Black people allowing their close non-Black associates to call them nigger, I'm sorry nigga, and what not. But the dream was not to repurpose the epithets undergirding racism but eradicate them and their informing ideologies. The dream was not for Black people to exploit their exploitation for financial gain but for parity, for the opportunity to not have to coon or mule for dough. That the reward for acting a fool is greater and more widely parsed, although still enriching but a sliver of our population, doesn't make it right.

A central feature of white privilege is an unchecked cognitive audacity, such that most white people, especially the earnest, are unwilling to accept that there exist people and places and things that they don't understand, that they might not ever get: bi-racial offspring, lifelong Wu affinity, 2 year Tibetan sojourn or Teach for America stint notwithstanding.

Sometimes white people just don't know what its like, that's why I detest canons. They exists to perpetuate a feigned monopoly of knowledge: the we only know what it's like. The misled of us work or fingers to the ashy knuckles for token inclusion. The wiser often toil in obscurity. And neither is a fulfilling fate.

Black things and understanding weigh heavily on my mind this morning as I just read at Variety that Martin Scorsese has signed on to direct a Bob Marley biopic. Discouraged just strikes the surface of my sentiment at this news. Recently, I have seen too many, in some cases well-funded, big name directed, one dimensional studio takes on Black life to hold much hope. Just as the mainstream media culture has no empathy for Black female abduction victims, the mainstream film culture has no empathy for the Black female character. Gesticulating or greasy stark-naked female bodies stood in for Black female character in both the Last King of Scotland and American Gangster. They had no purpose other than sassy advisory, or titillation, or earthy spirituality despite the admirable efforts of skilled and perpetually underemployed Black actresses. And the virile stoicism of Washington or Blackfaced buffoonery in Whittaker's case was little better but at least them two had a bit of screen time. Black interiority is but the dream of dusky film buffs, excepting the underfunded undercirculated work of some Black independent filmmakers so I am not excited for this new Marley biopic or eager for the mass advent of 3D theatres. I haven't picked up them goofy glasses since an elementary trip to the Pacific Science Center. We don't need any more distortion.

*The genius of the statement was that the author(s) repurposed this white deficiency as a source of affinity amongst Blacks.

jeudi, février 07, 2008

You Gotta Love TJ

Quick notes on Henry Louis Gates' (I can't in good conscience call a Black man Skip) PBS Special "African American Lives II"

+I almost didn't watch but I'm glad I did. Unlike last year, this year was about historiography, not suspect pseudo-scientific estimations of Black people's racial composition.

+How crunk upon it was I for my favoritest Black public figure, Chris Rock. I loved the way he specified that this unknown family history would have precluded, "the inevitability that I was gonna be nothing." More on this as it relates to me another day.

+As to Don Cheadle's people's lot, DAMN!

+And the quote of all eternity goes to Tom Joyner: "I love loving black people and the way that black people love me back."

Now, I got to e-mail my cousin Beverly to fax me the family tree.

mardi, février 05, 2008

Saturday, I spent my afternoon in Bed Stuy with a civil rights vet, teen siblings, a videographer, a neighborhood everyman, a woman named Ocean who let me use some of her peppermint oil to reduce the ash on my hands and some other remarkable individuals in a cluster of housing projects over on Pulaski. We were all campaiging, for the first time ever mind you, for Barack Obama. We provided literature and enthusiasm to the tenants and were met with a range of responses. My favorite was the stone-faced young woman we met in the lobby of one building and later encountered on a upper floor as we went door to door. Before she hopped on the elevator on her way back out, she hollered if we would like her to put up some flyers in another project she was heading to. Of course.

More on the civil rights vet later. She asked me to write her story. In the meantime, many folks' polling stations may have changed. I know mine did. New Yorkers can looks their polling stations up here.