Cappuccino Soul

Cappuccino Soul

Monday, November 24, 2008

Why Doesn't She Have Something Else On?

I was pleased to know that my 6-year-old daughter is turned off by certain television images that she herself considers too risque or provocative, not just for her, but period. When she sees a scantily-clad woman exercising or advertising some weight loss program, she runs to me and says, "Mommy, why doesn't she have something else on?" or "Mommy, why are they showing her like that?" I can only tell her that I too think certain images are inappropriate. I usually say something like, "That's not right is it?" scrunch up my face and change the channel.

My daughter has also pointed to pictures in books or magazines that she deems "not right." I have a copy of the book "Confessions of a Video Vixen" by Karrine Steffans that Gigi spotted on the book shelf. (Steffans' book is one of the most depressing books I think I've ever read.)

In it, the former hip hop music video "star" includes revealing pictures of herself, mostly taken on the video shoots. Gigi pointed to one of the pictures and said, "Why do you have this book?" and "Why is she dressed like that?" I had to explain to her that I bought the book so that I could read the woman's story and that the lady chose to pose like that for pictures.

I'm thankful that my daughter knows what's suitable and acceptable in the eyes of the people she spends most of her time with and what some other people -- who have more relaxed views about what's considered appropriate and inappropriate attire -- accept as appropriate.

As I was reading the New York Times online recently, I was pleased to discover this opening sentence from a blog entry by Tara-Parker Pope:

When Addie Swartz was shopping with her 9-year-old daughter and friends, one of the girls noticed a scantily clad model at an Abercrombie & Fitch store. “Why do they have to do that?” one of the girls asked.

Pope then goes on to talk about a book series called Beacon Street Girls that offer young ladies a more healthy option of literature than novels such as “Clique,"
“Gossip Girl" and "A-List" that feature high school girls who obsess about fashion, status and casual sex.

Oh, the horror.

Let's give our young women some inspiring, uplifting, and self-esteem promoting literature to read. They'll thank us for it later, I'm sure.

Here's the rest of Pope's blog entry about the Beacon Street Girls series:

Lake Rescue, one of the books in the series, offers inspiration to overweight girls.

Ms. Swartz describes it as an “aha” moment when the idea for a new book series came to her.

“It made me feel like the world is making them grow up so, so fast,” says Ms. Swartz. “It felt like there were so many messages out there that were bombarding her and her friends and girls her age.”

As a result, Ms. Swartz created the Beacon Street Girls book series. The stories, which revolve around five middle-school girls in Brookline, Mass., are shaped by leading experts in adolescent development, with the goal of helping girls build self-esteem and coping skills. Pictures include the problems of an overweight girl and cyber bullying. This month the series will launch its latest book, “Green Algae and Bubblegum Wars,” a novel aimed at encouraging girls in science. The book is the result of a collaboration with Sally Ride, an astronaut who was the first American woman to orbit Earth.

But can expert health advice wrapped up as fiction really make a difference for the books’ young readers? A surprising new study suggests that for some girls, it can. To learn more, read Pope's full New York Times article here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Toni Morrison and Creative Imagination

Toni Morrison gives a stimulating interview in The Nation's November issue. She talks a bit about her admiration of Barack Obama and her new novel, A Mercy. I love Toni Morrison. Like a few other female writers and performers, including Mariama Ba, Gloria Naylor and Nina Simone -- Ms. Morrison feels like a member of my family. I've learned so much from her about the arts, life, and spiritual matters. She is simply a Queen.

Here's a small excerpt from her recent interview feature in The Nation. I'm looking for more commentaries on Obama from Black women and other women of color that don't trivialize or sexualize Mr. Obama. This country is overflowing with that kind of sentiment -- sexual exploitation and overstimulation. We don't need more of that kind of treatment of Obama, especially among those of us who have been objectified and sexualized over and over, and many times, inappropriately. Let's give some reverence and respect to the man who will be our leader. Check out what Ms. Morrison has to say about Mr. Obama:

Christine Smallwood (The Nation):

Last year, in your letter endorsing Barack Obama, you specifically cited his "creative imagination." What do you think of him as a writer?

Toni Morrison:

I think my introduction to him was the speech at the Democratic National Convention, you know, back in 2004. And then I read his book Dreams From My Father, and I was amazed because he writes so well. Really well, with really nice big, strong, artful sentences. But equally important was his reflection. You know, I'm not accustomed to that. I've read memoirs where people talk about their lives, and sometimes they're modest. Sometimes they excuse themselves--you know, the big ones, like My Life by Bill Clinton. They're very interesting books, but nobody was a writer, with reflection and change and meditation and strength. Dreams From My Father was very, very compelling. So I got interested in him.

Read the entire article, "Back Talk: Toni Morrison," in The Nation here.

And here's an excerpt from Toni Morrison's Letter to Barack Obama, in which she edorsed the Illinois Senator during the Democratic primary season:

In thinking carefully about the strengths of the candidates, I stunned myself when I came to the following conclusion: that in addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. It is too bad if we associate it only with gray hair and old age. Or if we call searing vision naivete. Or if we believe cunning is insight. Or if we settle for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it. Wisdom is a gift; you can't train for it, inherit it, learn it in a class, or earn it in the workplace--that access can foster the acquisition of knowledge, but not wisdom.

When, I wondered, was the last time this country was guided by such a leader? Someone whose moral center was un-embargoed? Someone with courage instead of mere ambition? Someone who truly thinks of his country's citizens as "we," not "they"? Someone who understands what it will take to help America realize the virtues it fancies about itself, what it desperately needs to become in the world?

Our future is ripe, outrageously rich in its possibilities. Yet unleashing the glory of that future will require a difficult labor, and some may be so frightened of its birth they will refuse to abandon their nostalgia for the womb.

There have been a few prescient leaders in our past, but you are the man for this time.

Good luck to you and to us.

Toni Morrison

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Editing Project: Killing Stereotypes

This week I finished editing my first in-class project using Final Cut Pro. We used footage given to us by our instructor, along with some of Rza’s music from the Kill Bill soundtrack. The video clips featured apparent Latino gang members who are meeting up at some back alley to perhaps go to war. But when they go to pull out their weapons (baby bottles filled with milk), you realize they are only teasing us and are actually fathers who are meeting up at a picnic gathering with their children and other family members.

The goal of the project was to build the intensity of the scene and reveal the surprise at the end (it also makes a commentary on certain stereotypes about young Latino men). The Kill Bill music helps, as does the way one might choose to piece the clips together.

I worked hard on it y’all. I’m pleased to say that after I showed mine to the class, they all applauded. What a thrill! I can’t wait to actually edit my first real project using my own footage. I’ll keep you posted.

Here’s a trailer from Kill Bill that includes the music that I used for my assignment.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Miriam Makeba: Musical Mother of South Africa

Mail and Guardian

Nelson Mandela praised Miriam Makeba as a "mother" of modern South Africa, who gave voice to the anti-apartheid struggle, as tributes poured in on Monday for the legendary singer.

Makeba (76), who was widely known as "Mama Africa," collapsed on Sunday after a concert in Italy. She later died of a heart attack in hospital.

"She was South Africa's first lady of song and so richly deserved the title of Mama Africa. She was a mother to our struggle and to the young nation of ours," Mandela said in a statement.

"Her haunting melodies gave voice to the pain of exile and dislocation, which she felt for 31 long years. At the same time, her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us," he said.

The African National Congress, which spearheaded the anti-apartheid struggle, hailed her musical contribution to the fight against the white-minority government.

"The passing of this African songstress leaves a gaping hole in the cultural life of our country and the African continent," said party leader Jacob Zuma.

"Miriam Makeba used her voice, not merely to entertain, but to give a voice to the millions of oppressed South Africans under the yoke of apartheid," said Zuma.

"Miriam was an indefatigable African patriot who used her immense talent in the service of her people and the struggle for freedom and democracy, not only in South Africa, but in the continent as a whole."

Fellow African musical giant Youssou Ndour mourned her death as a loss to the world's music.

"It really is a great loss for Africa, for African music and all music," he told a Senegalese radio station. "She was somebody who did a lot for Africa, and in general for black people. It is a great loss."

In Sierra Leone, where Makeba was well known for frequent weekend shopping trips or playing concerts when she lived in neighbouring Guinea in the early 1990s, radio stations played her songs, including her famous hit Pata Pata.

"We have received the death with shock as she has no comparison," said Samuel Richards, a senior Culture Ministry official.

'We will surely miss her'

Cote d'Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo said one of the continent's finest voices had disappeared, while the South African government also mourned her.

"One of the greatest songstresses of our time, Miriam Makeba has ceased to sing," said Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

Fellow artists remembered her as someone who nurtured young musicians.

"She is a legend. We will surely, surely miss her," South African diva Yvonne Chaka Chaka said.

"She was a mother, a friend, an extraordinary woman who survived many tribulations in her life. She was an icon," said Gugu Sibiya, the arts and entertainment editor of the Sowetan

Veteran Congolese musician Ray Lema praised her for taking African music to the world.

"She was the first great African singer to take the voice of Africa beyond Africa. She was a passionate artist and a great activist," the 62-year-old jazz pioneer said in Paris.

"It was a beautiful death, worthy of her memory. I would be proud to go like that," he said.

Makeba, famed for hits such as Pata Pata and The Click Song, died of a heart attack in a Naples hospital after she collapsed as she left the stage at a benefit concert in Castel Volturno on Sunday.

Born in Johannesburg on March 4 1932, Makeba was one of Africa's best known singers. While Mandela was in prison, she took up the battle against apartheid through her music.

South Africa revoked her citizenship in 1960 and even refused to let her return for her mother's funeral. Makeba spent more than three decades in exile, living in the United States, Guinea and Europe.

Click here to listen to Miriam sing "Khawuleza," recorded in 1966.

Dispelling Myths about Islam and Muslims

Does the mere sight or sound of words like Ramadan, jihad, Muslim or terrorism cause you anxiety? If so, you could be suffering from "Islamophobia."

In an effort to develop tolerance and respect for each other's culture, religion and heritage, Central Piedmont Community College invites you to a special presentation and discussion on dispelling age-old myths, misconceptions and stereotypes about Islam and Muslims.

Following an introduction on the importance of religious understanding by Dr. Chris Brawley, CPCC students Abrar Alkusaimi and Shaista Balqees will discuss common stereotypes and share personal experiences associated with being Muslim in the U.S.

The presentation and discussion will be held on Tuesday, November 11, 2008, from 11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. in in the Hall Professional Development Building, 1112 Charlottetowne Avenue, Room 304.

A coordinating exhibit featuring Islamic clothing, cultural artifacts, information and books about Islam will be on display in the Central Campus library until the end of the semester.

This program is being sponsored in collaboration with the CPCC Libraries. For more information, contact Retha Hall at 704-330-6113. Free admission.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

For His People, Everywhere

For a poetic man like President Elect Barack Obama, it is only fitting that I honor him here on my blog with a dynamic and epic poem from a great African American writer, Margaret Walker.

"For My People" was the title poem in a volume that served as Walker’s master's thesis for the Iowa Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa. Walker earned her Ph.D. from that university in 1965. “Her World War II-era poem, "For My People," won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award in 1942. Dr. Margaret Abigail Walker Alexander was born on July 6, 1915 and died November 30, 1998. She would undoubtedly have been immensely proud of this heroic and fearless American son, Barack Obama.

For My People
by Margaret Walker

For my people everywhere singing their slave songs repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties, their blues and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an unseen power;

For my people lending their strength to the years, to the gone years and the now years and the maybe years, washing, ironing, cooking, scrubbing, sewing, mending, hoeing, plowing, digging, planting, pruning, patching, dragging along, never gaining, never reaping, never knowing, and never understanding.

For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama backyards, playing and baptizing and preaching and doctor and jail and soldier and school and mama and cooking and playhouse and concert and store and hair and Miss Choomby and company;

For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn to know the reasons why, and the answers to, and the people who, and the places where, and the days when, in memory of the bitter hours when we discovered we were black and poor and small and different, and nobody cared, and nobody wondered, and nobody understood.

For the boys and girls who grew in spite of these things to be Man and Woman, to laugh and dance and sing and play and drink their wine and religion and success, to marry their playmates and bear children and then die of consumption and anemia and lynching;

For my people thronging 47th Street in Chicago and Lenox Avenue in New York and Rampart Street in New Orleans, lost disinherited dispossessed and happy people filling the cabarets and taverns and other people's pockets needing bread and shoes and milk and land and money and something—something all our own;

For my people, walking blindly, spreading joy, losing time, being lazy, sleeping when hungry, shouting when burdened, drinking when hopeless, tied and shackled and tangled among ourselves by the unseen creatures who tower over us omnisciently and laugh;

For my people, blundering and groping and floundering in the dark of churches and schools and clubs and societies, associations and councils and committees and conventions, distressed and disturbed and deceived and devoured by money-hungry glory-craving leeches, preyed on by facile force of state and fad and novelty, by false prophet and holy believer.

For my people, standing, staring, trying to fashion a better way from confusion, from hypocrisy and misunderstanding, trying to fashion a world that will hold all the people, all the faces, all the adams and eves and their countless generations;

Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second generation full of courage issue forth; let a people loving freedom come to growth. Let a beauty full of healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing in our spirit and our blood. Let the martial songs be written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men now rise and take control.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Condoleezza Running Behind Bush

I saw something on CNN last weekend and I can’t seem to get the image out of my mind. President George W. Bush was walking briskly (carefree and maybe even whistling) across the White House lawn and U.S. Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, was following a few steps behind him. What struck me was how Condolezza was struggling to carry several bags. One was strapped over her shoulder and she was carrying the other luggage with her hands. It made me wonder, “Is she carrying George Bush’s bags?” Maybe they were her own bags, but that’s just as bad. Couldn’t he have seen that she was struggling and helped her? Wasn’t his staff looking at this scene and recognizing the absurdity of it?

Then I started thinking about how brilliant Condoleezza is and how she could easily be President of the United States. She has a Ph.D in political science, she’s a Soviet Union specialist, speaks fluent French and Russian, and she’s also an accomplished pianist. Now she has served eight years in the Bush administration as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. She's well qualified to run a country.

Somebody help me with this. Why in the world would Bush’s administration allow this image to go over the airwaves? This woman deserves more than to have to struggle along behind George Bush across the White House lawn carrying lots of baggage.

Did anybody else see this travesty?