Thursday, December 03, 2015
It's getting to the point where we'll have to teach a course on "What to do in an Active Shooter Situation" to elementary, middle, high school and college students" so they'll be prepared for whatever comes their way.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Thursday, November 12, 2015
In Erykah Badu’s provocative music video for her song “Window Seat,” Badu gets raw for her fans -- literally.
In the video, Badu drives a car along the same route as President John F. Kennedy, just before he was assassinated 47 years ago in Dallas. She then walks down the route that Kennedy’s car travelled, along Dealey Plaza, while shedding her clothes. When she arrives at the spot where Kennedy was shot on the grassy knoll, she’s totally naked. We hear a shot and Badu falls to the ground.
OK, this is all very shocking and has caught the attention of the media, fans, and onlookers, but what’s the singer's point?
Badu told the Dallas Morning News this week that the video is a “protest” and about freeing yourself. The song Window Seat “is about liberating yourself from layers and layers of skin or demons that are a hindrance to your growth or freedom, or evolution,” she told the paper. “I wanted to do something that said just that, so I started to think about shedding, nudity, taking things off in a very artful way,” she said.
But the lyrics to the song don’t seem to support her claim. Here’s a sample:
don't want nobody next to me
I just want a ticket outta town
a look around
and a safe touch down
can I get a window seat
Am I missing something?
I noticed that “Erykah Badu” is listed as one of the “Hot Topics” on the Web site for The Dallas Morning News. Could this have been the point of her stunt?
My guess is -- yes. Didn’t she want to call attention to her new album, to sell more records, to get more people talking about her, to exhibit her body?
This statement below by London’s xiamoogle, which appeared in the comment section of The Guardian’s blog post today about Badu’s performance art, comments on the video briskly:
How is it that female musicians have to be controver-shawl to gain fans/respect/fame? And why must they have to get naked in order to be controversial? Maybe she'll get a billion views too and be projected into the mainstream? … I expected better from Badu.
So did I.
Although I’m not a big Badu fan (she seems to whine a bit when she sings and she’s often off key), I’ve always respected that her attention seemed not to be on overt sexuality. She seemed to have something more substantial to say. I don’t remember her wearing extremely revealing clothes or gyrating her hips, like so many modern performers do to sell their wares.
But with this video strip act, Badu busts the typical move. She shows her body to get attention -- to sell something.
It’s a shame and too bad that she couldn’t have focused all this attention on a cause that was really worthwhile – like, for instance, the documentary about the mass rape of women and children in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo.
The World's Most Dangerous Place for Women, a film narrated by Thandie Newton, follows a London woman who grew up in that city, but was born thousands of miles away in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Judtih Wanga was sent away by her parents to live in Britain when she was three, she returns to Congo to meet them for the first time.
When Wanga arrives in her homeland, she comes face to face with the brutality of this country.
Every day, at least one woman is assaulted in Congo –- not only her character, but her body. This is the perfect kind of injustice to highlight with performance art. Take a wrong and reveal its cruelty and absurdity with metaphor — poetry — action.
Badu missed a prime opportunity to really say something about so many issues -- physically and mentally abused women, poverty, lack of healthcare for the poor, war, the people of Haiti -- the list is endless. Instead, we’re all left looking at her.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
I had no idea that Bre-Z from "Empire" is from Wilmington, Delaware -- my homie! (Click on the text below to read the article). Bre-Z didn’t come from the ghetto. She doesn’t have a violent past. But that didn’t stop the Philadelphia-by-way-of-Wilmington native from relating wholeheartedly to her new, eye-catching Empire character Freda Gatz, who catches the ear of Empire Records head Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard). Freda is a brash, butch battle rapper from Brooklyn’s dangerous Brownsville neighborhood, the daughter of the rose-delivering OG Frank Gatz, played by Chris Rock. With the cockiness of the offspring of an infamous gangster, Freda’s no BS attitude reflects her confidence in her music and her status on the streets. Her debut on the first episode of Empire’s second season sent waves through social media when viewers watched a petite, baby-faced girl rap with a deep, raspy, androgynous voice.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
"You've got a criminal justice system that makes sure a Black guy driving a car and forgot to make a left turn may get a prison record, but the people who destroyed the economy, don't end up in jail.... the bankers aren't just too big to fail, the bankers are too big to jail." -- Bernie Sanders
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Thursday, September 24, 2015
Pope Francis was invted to have lunch with Congress during his trip to Washington, D.C. yesterday, but he said, "No, I have a previous engagement to have lunch with the homeless."
I've got nothing but love for Pope Francis.
I've got nothing but love for Pope Francis.
Monday, August 03, 2015
This WHYY (PBS) program highlights the efforts of the Cease Violence initiative in Wilmington, Delaware. Cease Violence works to prevent violence, promote peace, canvas high crime areas, mediate conflicts, and provide survivor support in the city. "The main thing we're trying to do in the city of Wilmington is interrupt violence and change the culture." -- Ronald Brown, mediator
Friday, July 31, 2015
Monday, July 27, 2015
Uncle Will's Life Celebration last weekend was inspiring and moving. It was a fitting and deserving dedication for such a loving, humble, compassionate, and giving FAMILY MAN! God bless Uncle Will!
Uncle Noonie singing at Uncle Will's
Life Celebration. Sing it Uncle!
Aunt Jocelyn singing at Uncle Will's
celebration. Sing it Auntie!
Uncle Will humbly speaks at his
|Will and cousin Marisa, his granddaughter|
Sunday, July 26, 2015
This StoryCorps animated film tells the story of Alex Landau, an African American man, raised by white parents in Denver, Colorado. He was pulled over and severly beaten by police in 2009. Thank God he lives to tell the story.
Thursday, July 09, 2015
Wednesday, July 08, 2015
Saturday, June 27, 2015
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Sometimes it's just as plain as the nose on your face:
"It was reported that an anonymous bomb threat made to Morris Brown African Methodist Episcopal Church, where black and white congregants sang "We Shall Overcome," was made from a telephone in the Charleston County Jail." (where Charleston shooter Dylann Roof and Michael Slager, the former police officer accused of killing Walter Scott are held).
"Former Texas governor Rick Perry called the massacre an "accident," then later said he meant "incident"; former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum said Roof chose his victims "indiscriminately"; former Florida governor Jeb Bush said he didn't know whether Roof was motivated by racism; and Roof, who wore the flags of Rhodesia and apartheid-era South Africa on his coat and had a Confederate-flag license plate on his car, told investigators he wanted to start a race war." -- Harper's Weekly
Friday, June 19, 2015
Sunday, June 14, 2015
Saturday, June 06, 2015
ESPER; City of Charlotte Mayor, Daniel Clodfelter; the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church Praise Dancers; Postmaster of Charlotte, Le Gretta Roass-Rawlins; Dr. Paxton Hughes; and emcee for the event, WBTV News Anchor, Brigida Mack (who gave me one of the most fun and energetic introductions I think I've ever had). As everyone spoke and performed, I was reminded of the sheer genius, gifts, and reach of Maya's thoughts and work. After all, she was a writer, dancer, singer, poet, actress, director, civil rights activist, professor, and mother. The work she accomplished in her lifetime is breathtaking and magnificently inspiring. Most people don't realize that she directed the moving film, Down in the Delta,, starring Alfre Woodard and Wesley Snipes. Maya's legacy will influence generations and generations to come. She is the ancestor that she talks about in her work who speak to us, teach us, and direct us to higher ground. Thank you Dr. Maya Angelou for your words, your work, and your love. Here's the poem that I performed at the event. Maya wrote it for and read it at the Million Man March on October 16, 1995. Million Man March Poem
The night has been long, The wound has been deep, The pit has been dark, And the walls have been steep. Under a dead blue sky on a distant beach, I was dragged by my braids just beyond your reach. Your hands were tied, your mouth was bound, You couldn't even call out my name. You were helpless and so was I, But unfortunately throughout history You've worn a badge of shame. I say, the night has been long, The wound has been deep, The pit has been dark And the walls have been steep. But today, voices of old spirit sound Speak to us in words profound, Across the years, across the centuries, Across the oceans, and across the seas. They say, draw near to one another, Save your race. You have been paid for in a distant place, The old ones remind us that slavery's chains Have paid for our freedom again and again. The night has been long, The pit has been deep, The night has been dark, And the walls have been steep. The hells we have lived through and live through still, Have sharpened our senses and toughened our will. The night has been long. This morning I look through your anguish Right down to your soul. I know that with each other we can make ourselves whole. I look through the posture and past your disguise, And see your love for family in your big brown eyes. I say, clap hands and let's come together in this meeting ground, I say, clap hands and let's deal with each other with love, I say, clap hands and let us get from the low road of indifference, Clap hands, let us come together and reveal our hearts, Let us come together and revise our spirits, Let us come together and cleanse our souls, Clap hands, call the spirits back from the ledge, Clap hands, let us invite joy into our conversation, Courtesy into our bedrooms, Gentleness into our kitchen, Care into our nursery. The ancestors remind us, despite the history of pain We are a going-on people who will rise again. And still we rise.
Thursday, May 28, 2015
To celebrate the unveiling of the Forever Maya Angelou stamp, three organizations, including the Ebony Society of Philatelic Events and Reflections (ESPER), will host a ceremony on Saturday, June 6 at 1 p.m., Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, 3301 Beatties Ford Road in Charlotte, N.C.
Several speakers and performers will be featured, including Charlotte Mayor, Daniel Clodfelter; Charlotte Postmaster, Le Gretta Ross-Rawlins; Dr. Esper Hayes; WBTV News Reporter, Brigida Mack. I'm happy and honored to report that I will perform a Maya Angelou piece during the event, which is free and open to the public.
Did you know that in 1997, Maya Angelou and 11 other Black authors were honored on stamps in Uganda and Ghana? The stamps, created to promote world literacy, were designed by Seattle artist Gary Aagaard.
|Ghanaian Great Writers stamps (1997)|
Earlier this year, on March 4, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled a Forever Stamp honoring Maya Angelou, the world renowned writer, professor, singer, director, and activist, who died last May. The First-Day-of-Issue stamp dedication ceremony was held on April 7 at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C., with First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey as special guests.
For more information about the Maya Angelou stamp dedication ceremony in Charlotte, contact Beatrice A. Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 704-574-1064.
|U.S. Forever Maya Angelou Stamp (2015)|
|Ugandan Great Writers stamps|
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Last evening someone was pounding on my door like it was an emergency. I opened the blinds but didn't see anyone -- then I looked down. It was a little girl who must have been about 6 years old. When I opened the door she said with urgency, "Can I have a dollar?"
"Where's your momma?" I said.
"She's at work."
"Who's at home with you?"
"My sisters......can I have a dollar? I don't have any money and the ice cream truck is here."
"Oh.....OK... Will a dollar do it?"
"OK. Let me go get it."
I went to my purse, pulled out the dollar and handed it to her.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"Nice to meet you Z----. My name is Ms. Alicia."
She waved and ran off to get her ice cream.
Friday, May 08, 2015
Listen to the song here: Rock Chariot, I Told You to Rock
Thursday, May 07, 2015
I just discovered Vera Hall y'all. I'm speechless and yes I WILL be ordering some of her music. Her voice is simply spellbinding. From what I remember, I believe my maternal grandmother's singing voice was similar to this. "Don't your kitchen feel lonesome, when your biscuit roller gone?" That's poetry right there.
Now you have to listen to a this man sing "Black Woman."
Tuesday, May 05, 2015
Friday, May 01, 2015
This is one of the most important spoken word pieces I've heard or seen. This is history right here and Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby brought it home to us today! Thank you Ms. Mosby. At least we know somebody is on the case, seeking justice for Freddie Gray and his family. (Big sigh of relief.)
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Thursday, April 16, 2015
This little sister asks the provocative question: "What would America be like if we loved Black people as much as we love Black culture?" Indeed!
Thursday, April 09, 2015
This StoryCorps animation is not only fascinating because it shows the tenacity of a young Ronald McNair, who became the second African American to enter space, but also because he's from the home of my paternal grandfather, the very small Lake City, South Carolina.
Friday, April 03, 2015
Thursday, April 02, 2015
Brittany from Alabama Shakes is turning out to be one of my favorite modern day singers. Here's "Gimme All Your Love" by the group. Listen to the pause and change in rhythm at 2:25. It doesn't get any better than that!
Monday, March 30, 2015
|1944 - 2014|
He would often talk in the beginning of a song to set the stage. Examples of this happen on two of my favorite Womack songs: Woman's Gotta Have It and "You're Welcome, Stop on By." With "Woman's Gotta Have It," he gives good advice on how to keep a woman happy in a relationship, and in "You're Welcome, Stop On By" he shows off his storytelling talents by revealing his pain about a woman who put him second on her list of lovers. He lets her know that she's "welcome to stop on by, but there's somebody somewhere, that may truly need me." This song made such an impression on Chaka Khan that she covered it with the group Rufus the same year Womack's version came out in 1974.
Across 110th Street is a colorful, gritty yet smooth song about surviving life in the streets. Quentin Tarantino's film Jackie Brown wouldn't have been the same without Womack's song, since it opens and closes the film, supporting Pam Grier's no nonsense, smart, and beautiful characterization of Jackie Brown.
Thank you Mr. Womack for reminding the world of "what a woman needs," for elevating the film Jackie Brown to a place that feels like home, and for letting us "stop on by." Rest in Peace.
Monday, March 16, 2015
“This revolution goes on and on!” — Public Enemy, Say it Like it Really Isby Alicia Benjamin Imani Henry of Wilmington, Del. won the Peace First Prize last year when she was 13, for organizing 100 Men Reading, a group of professional businessmen who mentor children through reading. Imani, who had trouble reading because of a birth defect, was matched with male tutors who helped her with reading when she was 9. She soon developed a great passion for books and wanted other young people with literacy problems to get the help they needed, so she started 100 Men Reading.
|Professor Yasser Payne and Darryl Chambers, PAR member and doctoral student in the |
Criminology Program at the Univ. of Delaware
|100 Men Reading mentor reads to students in Wilmington, Del.|
Friday, February 06, 2015
Monday, February 02, 2015
I have to admit, I didn't really hear this song until D'Angelo and The Vanguard played it on Saturday Night Live over the weekend. I've enjoyed it many times, as I've listened to it in my car. But on Saturday night, D'Angelo and his group really brought it home for me. It's hard to make out what he's saying on a lot of the songs on Black Messiah, his latest CD, unless you listen as you read along to the lyrics. I've always been more into the music than the words of a song -- I just love great musicianship and really get into what the different instruments are doing, and the harmonies. But with "The Charade," I did myself a disservice by not really paying attention to what D'Angelo was getting across. Well, he and his group did that astoundingly well on Saturday Night Live as many of them wore T-Shirts that read, "I Can't Breathe" and "Black Lives Matter." For those who don't know (and I don't know who that could be), these phrases are reminders of the murders of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, both shot and killed by police officers. The musicians also raised their fists in the Black Power salute, periodically and in unison. To give the image more force, D'Angelo stood in front of a chalk outline drawn on the floor. The song starts off with subtle guitar licks, but the TV images were stark. They had me at "I Can't Breathe." On this number and many of the tunes on Black Messiah, D'Angelo invokes Prince and Marvin Gaye. He's got Prince's Minneapolis flavor with guitar player, Jesse Johnson (from The Time), he's got a falsetto similar to Prince's, and he's got the Artist's drummer, John Blackwell. He does voice layering like Marvin Gaye, seemlessly harmonizing with himself, like Gaye did on so many songs. But he's got his own passion, intentions, and talent that make Black Messiah a masterpiece. It certainly rises above anything I've heard in years, from anybody. What D'Angelo and The Vanguard did on Saturday Night Live with "The Charade" was pure performance art. They took us somewhere, made us feel, and inspired us to do something -- at least I hope so. Check out the performance here: And here are the lyrics: The Charade (lyrics by Kendra Foster and Michael Eugene Archer) Crawling through a systematic maze And it pains to demise Pain in our eyes Strain of drownin', wading into your lies Degradation so loud that you can't hear the sound of our cries (doo, doo) All the dreamers have gone to the side of the road which we will lay on Inundated by media, virtual mind f----s in streams [CHORUS] All we wanted was a chance to talk 'Stead we only got outlined in chalk Feet have bled a million miles we've walked Revealing at the end of the day, the charade Perpetrators beware say a prayer if you dare for the believers With a faith at the size of a seed enough to be redeemed (doo doo) Relegated to savages bound by the way of the deceivers So anchors be sure that you're sure we ain't no amateurs [CHORUS] All we wanted was a chance to talk 'Stead we only got outlined in chalk Feet have bled a million miles we've walked Revealing at the end of the day, the charade [BRIDGE] With the veil off our eyes we'll truly see And we'll march on And it really won't take too long And it really won't take us very long
Friday, January 30, 2015
I must see this film. The images, music, and people are beautiful. I really want to know who these people are. "These images of "Timbuktu" quietly, passionately argue for the richness of life against the intolerance of those who would suffocate it." -- The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
I just found out about this amazing magazine in Charlotte, written and sold by homeless people. It's called "Speak Up." Check it out. More to come.
From the Speak Up website:
Monday, January 26, 2015
Friday, January 23, 2015
Friday, January 16, 2015
Friday, January 09, 2015
Here is my Cameroonian brother, Jean Kue, praising the Lord, along with some Congolese sisters and brothers in Ottawa, Ontario. The song is in Lingala and it's called "Zambe Malamo" (God is great.) I hope it warms your heart and makes you rejoice like I did.
Wednesday, January 07, 2015
In the name of the mother, the daughter, and the feminine spirits, I’d like to tell you the story of Saartjie (Sarah) Baartman—also known as Hottentot Venus. I discovered her story several years ago, but the tale still shakes me.
Saartjie, whose life has inspired both a play and a novel, came from the Khoikhoi people—the indigenous group that once populated what is now the Eastern Cape in South Africa. When her people were attacked, had their land seized and were enslaved by the Dutch in the late 18th century, Sarah moved to Cape Town to escape capture.
When she was 16, Alexander William Dunlop, a doctor, convinced her to go back to Britain with him where he said she could make money by showing her body to the public. You see, the Khoikhoi women were famous for their protruding buttocks and enlarged external genitalia. Her inner labia, like the other women, had been stretched to allegedly make sex a better experience for the males.
The Khoikhoi were called “Hottentots” because the Dutch thought their language—which includes distinctive clicking sounds—sounded like stuttering, so they called the people “stutterers” or “Hottentots” in their language. Of course, to the indigenous South Africans, the Hottentot reference is considered offensive. The Europeans called Sarah “Venus” because of her unusual genitalia.
Sarah, working as a servant for Dunlop in England, was put on display as part of a freak show, alongside people with circus-like attractions. Sarah’s demise continued in Paris where she worked for circus manager Sieur Reaux, a down-on-his-luck French nobleman.
She was poked, proded and insulted by onlookers. Imagine the comments:
“Look at her. Look at that black wench!”
“She sure is an African! Big lips, big nose, big bottom! Have you ever seen such a thing?” Words like these must have been spoken.
Washington Post writer Lynne Duke describes the shameful scene: “She endured ogling, lascivious audiences who poked at her, hissed at her, grabbed at her rear end, even tried to probe her private parts.” (Duke, 2003)
|Sarah Baartman was exhibited as a freak throughout Europe because of her unusual physical features.|
Suffering humiliation and mistreatment, Sarah tumbled into alcoholism and drug abuse. No wonder. The French scientist Baron Georges Cuvier, a famous naturalist of the time, examined Sarah for three days at a special meeting for scientists at the Museum of Natural History. He used her body to try to prove that blacks were on the low end of the human development chain.
At some point Sarah became a prostitute and died from tuberculosis or syphilis— the records aren’t clear—at the age of 26. Sarah was defiled even in death as Cuvier cast her lifeless body in plaster and dissected her—preserving her brain and genitals by pickling them in jars. Sarah’s body parts were displayed at the Musée de l’Homme (The Museum of Mankind) until 1985 when they were put into storage.
With the ending of apartheid, South Africa fought France for the return of Sarah’s remains to her homeland. It wasn’t until 2002, when Senator Nicolas About of France wrote a bill that called for the lost African’s return, that her body was sent to Cape Town where her fellow South Africans celebrated her homecoming with fanfare. At her burial celebration, the Khoisan herb “boegoe” was burned to purify Sarah’s spirit and a women’s choir sang, “You are returning to your fatherland under African skies.” Thabo Mbeki, South African President at the time, declared Sarah’s grave a national monument. (BBC, 2002)
Sarah’s story made me evaluate the ways black women’s bodies have been exploited and disrespected since Europeans pillaged Africa during the slave trade. The raping of Venus was like the raping of Africa. Bodies were taken from Africa, bought, raped and enslaved. Sarah was taken from Africa, defiled and enslaved in cages for people to gawk at like slaves who were poked and prodded on auction blocks.
What made Cuvier, the scientist, feel privileged to do such a thing? Did he think he owned Sarah’s body? Did he think that she existed merely to entertain the whites? I believe it was Sarah’s African heritage and femaleness that allowed Dunlop, Reaux and Cuvier to assume she was their property. “Anyway,” they must have thought, “she is not fully human—she is an African and a freak at that. Why treat her with any semblance of dignity?
When Sarah’s unfortunate journey to England began in 1810, slavery was alive and flourishing in the Americas. African women brought to the Americas were treated with equal cruelty. They were separated from their husbands and children, some died or were killed along the way on the ships. Many (if not most) were raped, had babies cut from their wombs and worked as slaves for no compensation. Like Sarah, these African women were seen as ugly, subhuman animals by the European slave traders and masters that brought them to the New World.
Slave women were also expected to readily give their breasts to their master’s children. They were forced to breastfeed the tots on demand. In the article,“More Slavery at the South: By a Negro Nurse,” (The Independent, 1912) a former slave discusses her experience as a wet nurse.
“I myself have served as “wet nurse” to more than a dozen white children. On the one hand, we are assailed by white men, and, on the other hand, we are assailed by black men, who should be our natural protectors; and, whether in the kitchen, at the washtub, over the sewing machine, behind the baby carriage, or at the ironing board, we are but little more than pack horses, beasts of burden, slaves!”
Did slave masters think they owned the milk that flowed from the breasts of these African women? This must be so. How else did they rationalize such a heinous practice? How has this historical practice of white males lustfully using the bodies of black women affected how people all over the world view African women?
To read more about Saartjie Baartman read a fictionalized account of her life, Hottentot Venus by Barbara Chase-Riboud, the play Venus by Suzan-Lori Parks, and a new book to be released in January 2007 by Rachel Holmes called African Queen: The Life of the Hottentot Venus.
1. Duke, Lynne. “Listening to the Lady in the Glass Case.” Washington Post. Nov. 16, 2003. Page D01.
2. “Hottentot Venus Laid to Rest.” BBC News World Edition. BBC. London, UK. Aug. 9, 2002.
3. Rosenberg, Andrea (transcriber). “More Slavery at the South: by a Negro Nurse.” The Independent. Jan. 25, 1912. Pages 196-200.
Tuesday, January 06, 2015
I just faxed my high school diploma somewhere and I noticed that they have my parents listed as "Robert and Mary Benjamin." Why do people always translate my dad's name to Robert? It's just plain old "Bobby." That's what his mama named him.
Thursday, January 01, 2015
These black eyed peas are the best I've ever made (if I do say so myself). I'm having seconds now! Yes, that's right -- there's no meat here baby.
On the menu:
Sweet potato salad
Broccoli and Cheese Quiche
Corn on the Cob
Black Eyed Peas
Yum! Wishing you and yours a Happy New Year!