All Black Cast Masters The Wiz

Photo credit: http://www.nbc.com/the-wiz-live
Photo credit: http://www.nbc.com/the-wiz-live

What a joy it was to watch The Wiz Live last night. To see and hear Ms. Stephanie Mills belt out the opening number in classic fine-form reminded me of many of her songs which were part of the soundtrack of my earlier youth. Of course there were comparisons to the original Wiz production, but in my mind, there was not a fault to be found in this latest production. They brought down the house!

Yet, during last night’s awesome-Black-star studded presentation of The Wiz, not everyone saw it that way. While most of the feedback was awesome, Twitter was also afire-not with appreciation but with hateration. See what had happened was White-twitter Wiz-haters tried to burn down the house with racism and negativity. White Wiz-haters decried the fact that the lead roles in the production were all played by Black actors.

Their hating and negative vibes didn’t work. The cast presented the traditionally Black-casted Wiz with aplomb, which probably further incited the hating. Some people just can’t stand to see others succeed knowing they had no hand or at least no visible hand in their success.

Most likely all the White-twitter Wiz-haters probably were not inherently racist, but they were all inherently jealous, misguided and misinformed. As is so very common, many White people want to be a part of anything that Blacks do well.

Those that were hate’in fall into the White school of thought that White people are somehow responsible or should be attributed-when Blacks do well. Yet, they rarely want to take ownership for the things they do that are to their detriment. They weren’t attempting to call-out  and address racism-as evidenced by their tweets. If they were, it was misguided, because they didn’t acknowledge that racism is what creates a need for Blacks to create their own productions. And, “Yes”, racism still exists to drive that need. As well as, the the fact that Blacks are perfectly permitted to create all-Black or mostly Black productions-just as Whites do. Not everything is for everybody-or about everybody.

Some White people’s indisputable legacy of being descendants of some of the most vicious and racist people in history compel many of them to want to assuage themselves of that legacy- with just about anything thing and every opportunity they can. That includes wanting to see themselves as part of something creative, community-building, and happiness endorphin-inducing.

So much so, do some White people need to see themselves in every Black accomplishment, that they will even rewrite history and credit themselves with Black accomplishments. This is nothing new. We’ve seen it when Black Egyptian Gods and Kings and Queens are depicted as White in major Hollywood productions.

We’ve seen it in the attempts to take Black music and dance as their own. I can’t tell you the number of White boys I see dancing hip-hop style in commercials, movies and talent shows-without an attribution to Black people in sight.

So, no it’s not new that they would hate on a stellar production of The Wiz and inject their negativity into the evening. The Wiz was a production that brought smiles to our faces for 2 hours, during a time when horrendous acts of violence against our people, our children and humanity in general leaves us scratching our head. That’s the power of jealousy; it couldn’t be tempered for 2 measly hours to just enjoy other people doing well. Sigh.

Yet, if those White-twitter Wiz-haters weren’t blinded by their own jealousy, they would’ve been able to see that production of The Wiz most likely did have some White hands in the mix. They may not have been visible-and those types always want to be visible-but they were indeed present.

NBC itself is a White-run network and it presented the production. Apple, which was made quite prominent in the production, is White-run. The marketing team for the production most-likely was made-up of, or consisted of White people. The Advertising support for the production was from majority White-owned and/or White–run companies. While these support roles can’t take credit for the outstanding script or the stellar acting, they were important roles to in the production- never-the-less.

Instead of White-twitter being happy that White people contributed to something stellar in a number of ways-large and small-they choose to focus on the “fact” that they didn’t see White people on the stage, front and center.

I wonder if those same White-twitter Wiz- haters will complain when XYZ network airs The Wizard of Oz, (as they almost annually do) that there are no Black people in the cast?

To bring things more current, while I was watching The Wiz Live, I saw a commercial advertisement for “Wicked” that doesn’t have any Blacks cast in the major roles (a few in ensemble roles).

Will White-twitter complain about that? Will Black-twitter?

 

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What it Means to be a Blacktivist

Blacktivist

Blacktivist: [Black-tuh-vist]

Noun: 1:  Specifically: a Black person who is enlightened (or striving to be) seeking  the betterment of the Black Community on all fronts: e.g. Political, Educational, Financial, Relational, Legal, Health, Well-being, etc; and who endorses, promotes and advocates for the betterment of Black people by taking an active role  in addressing  causes, issues, and actions that are specifically directed at the Black community.

2: Generally: a Black person who is a Black activist which endorses and promotes causes and positive actions that uplift all of humanity.

 

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Chevron’s “Doers” Doesn’t Do Justice

railroad-tracks-503717_640

The Chevron Petroleum and Energy Company “Doers” commercial Watch Here  is another attempt at rewriting history and erasing contributions of Africans and African-Americans. Don’t be fooled by their visual and verbal omissions of historical facts.

The “Doers” commercial’s narrator starts with, “This is the story of America. Land of the Doers. Hardworking doers and smart-working doers. Doers who turned nothing into something. Doing got this nation done-along with the hola-hoop, blue jeans and that little thing we call the interstate highway system. All this doing takes energy. Energy got us here.”

“Energy got us here”, hmmm… Too bad the ad doesn’t acknowledge just whose energy got us here. Truthfully, the commercial does a real injustice in depicting whose energy built the railroads, canals and dams and much of the entire infrastructure of the U.S as it was being done at the time.

In typical old-White-corporate-aggrandizing fashion, they portray themselves as the patriotic heroes that built this country… and still keep it humming along today. As is typical, Chevron chose not to acknowledge that the infrastructure of the U.S. was built by and on the-backs of enslaved Blacks, poor Whites (and later Chinese laborers).

With a smug pride dripping from the narrator’s voice, he exclaims “Doers built this country!” while historical footage and images flash across the screen showing White people doing manual labor constructing railroads, and White people doing “important” intellectual work like being the boss and planning how to use enslaved labor to build the infrastructure of the U.S.

According to Theodore Kornweibel author of “Railroads in the African-American Experience: A Photographic Journey, “The entire southern railroad network that was built during the slavery era was built almost exclusively by slaves. Some of the railroads owned slaves, other railroads hired or rented slaves from slave owners. And the most shocking thing that I found was that women as well as men were actually involved in the hard, dangerous, brutal work of railroad construction and continued to work for railroads after they were built in lesser roles.”

As the commercial’s narrator goes on to suggest that “They built the dams and the railroads”, the sarcastic line “John Henry was a steel driving man” is sung. To which the narrator glibly states-“Hmmm, catchy.” You would think that quick reference to John Henry would be a perfect segue to show Blacks working on the railroad. But, noooo, that would be too honest, too factual, too much of an acknowledgement of Black historic contributions.

Further piling on the insults, Chevron gives silly shout-outs to the Hola-Hoop and Blue jeans as having gotten this nation “done”. As the commercial enters the 21st century in its imaging, it does show a Black or two and other persons of color. However, that’s not good enough, nor is it the point. The point is that in order to dismantle institutional racism, you have to go back and acknowledge historical facts such as those who contributed to the founding of “America.”

One can’t simply show a Black face or two now, as if that is when their contributions began. As if they have no history of being contributors. To continue to espouse the Great-White-Way as the only way things got done and ignore and deny the Black facts of the matter, keeps racism institutionalized.

The media is a powerful tool used to subtly or overtly frame how the viewer perceives history and who did what. So, while yes, there were Whites working on the railroad estimates suggest that up to 75% of the work on Southern railroads was done by enslaved Black labor. While Whites had the choice and got paid to work on the railroad, Blacks had no choice and received no pay. The railroad owner’s were paid quite handsomely leaving a legacy of riches for future generations to enjoy. Let the record reflect that.

The Chevron ad does not do justice to the truth. When Chevron talks about “Doers”, the least it could do- is acknowledge all of the doers-past and present. Since they won’t do that-discontinuing purchase of their goods and services is what we can do.

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Black Hair: Getting into the Thick of It.

 

all that is me

It’s trying times for Black women. Well, it has always been trying times for Black women. That’s what happens when people want to be like you, but can’t. They try to tear down what they can’t be- to destroy at the roots-what they will never have or be. Or, they don’t understand or appreciate what they do have.

These attempts on the part of those who put forth the effort, is so that they don’t have a constant reminder of just how high god set the bar with our creation. Admittedly, it ain’t all bad, but it ain’t always easy at the top either!

When I see Black women claiming their beautiful, natural hair in unprecedented numbers and so beautifully, I am pleased. It’s an indication that we are freeing ourselves from mental-slavery and hair bondage-at least some sense. I’m lov’in that just about every commercial I see on television featuring a Black woman/Black women, has her/them in a natural hair-style.

The media is a powerful weapon in contributing to building or destroying hair-esteem. I’m happy to see that many companies have (or the agencies that represent them at least) chosen to dispense with the madness of Europeanization and have begun to celebrate Afro-nization in its many versatile forms.

Virtually the only time I see a Black woman in the media with chemically straightened hair is in Hollywood movies and TV shows. To be clear, how ever, a sister wants to wear her hair…I don’t hate on that (well…you know…as long as it’s kempt). That’s the beauty of having the kind of versatile hair that we do. We can do “the do” up, down and sideways in ever new creations that run the range of Afros, Braids, Locks, Curls and somewhere in-between.

As Black women, we are in a position of envy-there is nothing we can’t do with our hair. If we choose to straighten, we can. If we choose to wear it naturally, we can. However we wear our hair, let it be because we like it that way and we want to. Not because we have an external pressure to do so.

Straight-up, it can be a much more cobbled path to travel if you choose natural though. You may encounter a few or many who espouse hair-brained ideas because they’ve been conditioned into promoting a European standard of what is acceptable and not.

Recently, I read about a Black, female school principal in Toronto, Canada that reprimanded a young Black girl for wearing her hair in a natural style. (Read about it here) Perhaps, she falls into the category of not understanding and appreciating…There are always at least 2-sides to a story. So, I’ll reserve comment on the allegations against her specifically and talk generally about what I have heard and seen with my own beautiful brown eyes here in the U.S.

 

When a Black woman hates on a natural-hair young girl, it is a reflection of her own induced self-hate. She is obviously uncomfortable in her own hair and her own skin and trying to project her discomfort on a future strong Black woman. She is trying to weaken her spirit, because her spirit has been broken. Either that or she’s doing work for “The Man”.

When I see other Black women who have given into the conditioning self-hate, it affirms for me that we must continue to let our hair down-but not let our guard down. We owe it to the present and future generations to highlight the truth of our incomparable beauty for them.

It affirms that we can’t rest thinking that we have turned that corner of being mentally, emotionally, and socially conditioned by a society that is itself conditioned to believe self-aggrandizing European messages.

We owe it to our ancestors to create a different world for present and future generations than the one they had to endure.

At first, it was a fight to fit in by adopting European aesthetics (and often still is), but we stayed strong and fought/fight through that. Given their history, that fight is expected. Then, as European pressure abated a bit, many Black men turned up the heat for us to adopt that aesthetic. Given our history, that fight is disappointing. Fortunately, many of us have split with those who refuse to cut and fade those knotted notions.

Now, we have Black women who’ve let their roots dry-up trying to enchain future generations with their over-conditioning. That fight simply cannot be tolerated either.

Let’s clarify. From my little sisters out there to my big ones; rock your natural god-given locks, with the natural god-given style that only you can! We are leaders and trend-setters. We decide what is cool and the rest of the haters just try to keep-up, imitate or tear-down. Let them continue to imitate or hate if that’s how they choose to spend their time. We have more important work to do.

One of the biggest, best benefits that we have as a sisterhood is our collective strength. When it seems no one else has our backs, we know a sister does. We must ensure at all costs that is never put asunder. It’s a bad hair day just to think of it!

Let us not assume the position of haters on each other, for it leads to denigrating our true crowning glory-that of being singularly unique in our connectivity and collectivity-in our ability to do and to get things done.

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Send In the Clowns

Black and White Masks graphic

Don’t you love farce? My fault, I fear
I thought that you’d want what I want, sorry, my dear
But where are the clowns, send in the clowns
Don’t bother, they’re here                                                                            –
Send In the Clowns-Lyrics by Judy Collins

White male aggression toward Black women is nothing new-and it continues to be a sickening occurrence. An entire slave trade was founded upon it. If they weren’t raping enslaved Black women themselves to perpetuate an enslaved labor pool, they were forcing Black men to do the job for them. White male aggression toward, and sense of entitlement over Black women’s bodies and their psychological prostration of the black male is a well-established historical fact.

Fast forward one-hundred forty some years later, that sense of entitlement is still coursing through many of their veins. And, a willingness to prostrate themselves for the White man is still running rampant in the psyche of many Black males. You could say it is in their blood.

Black women are still fighting slave-era notions of entitlements to their bodies and attempts to diminish and marginalize their personhood– from both White men and Black (of course, not all White and Black men).

From Clarence Thomas to the doubting Thomases that the media loves to trot out for interviews meant to cast doubt over a Black women’s victimization.

From the Black male pastors and clergy that perform their dutiful placation of reasonably angry Black people by rushing to “forgive” transgressors of Black women’s body’s.

From a Black male school administrator that stands idly by watching as a Black female student is assaulted literally “under his watch” and by extension-his permission.

From White-owned media corporations (i.e. CNN, Fox and BET) who hire Black anchors that will protect the White image.

From Black anchors (i.e., Don Lemon and Stacey Dash) who dutifully toe the line.

From Black presidential candidate (i.e. Ben Carson), who likes to compare everything from Abortion to Obamacare erroneously with slavery-thereby diminishing the gravity of the institution.

From the “Not African-American”, Raven Symone to the Black-natural-hair-hater, Sheryl Underwood (at least she apologized) who peddle a white-washed commentary disguised as…white-washed commentary.

Yes, the enslaved/enslaver mentality is alive and doing its job well.

This warped sense of loyalty to defend White people when they’re wrong or Black people (i.e. Bill Cosby) is rooted in a enslaved/enslaver mentality. It has to stop.

If you (in general) don’t use your voice to promote change, then things will stay the same. If you’re going to use your voice to keep things the same, then be quiet.

We can’t dismantle institutionalized racism-until we deinstitutionalize the minds that consciously and unconsciously support it.

 

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When the Classroom Bully is a Police Officer

Officer with hand around student's neck as she sits.

There is no defense for such an offense. Sitting defiantly may be irritating-but it’s not a crime. Assaulting a student for it is. Or, should be.

We know that kids who were bullied by kids at school have left lasting emotional scars on some of the kids that were bullied. Would an adult bullying kids at school be any different?

The world has seen the footage of school resource officer Ben Fields, assaulting a young, Black, Female, Student in her classroom.  Her classmates, watching in stunned silence, fear and immobility.  And what about her Black teacher?  Yeah, I want to know more about his role in this too. Troubling questions to say the least.

From the looks of it, he was able to move…just not toward the officer and to be a voice of a reason, but rather to step back out of his way…and watch.

The media has continued to report “The student was not hurt.” as if wanting to minimize the officer’s actions-lest anyone get too horrified by what they see. Yet, for me, their placation was of no comfort because I know better. You do too. Continue reading →

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