Black History – one for the ages… and the spacemen

If aliens arrived, and they asked you about black culture in the United States… and YOU are the only ambassador. Well… clearly not you.  But me. We can all agree this isn’t the best option, but it is what we have to deal with.  No pressure. Here is what I hand them:

 A book

soul on ice > Eldridge Cleaver. Eldridge Cleaver as a leader in the black panther party. You need to learn about them, they were AMAZING. They were a ‘black power’ group, but did this by taking over their own neighborhoods. Food drives, shoe drives… etc. Wait, you say – didn’t they shoot white cops? Nope. Geronimo Pratt’s sentence was finally overturned and he was set free. Pratt was jailed in the early 70s for shooting cops. But, he didn’t. He was set up by the cops.  Turns out the witnesses were cops who were lying.  Pratt did almost 30 years for that bullshit.  Same with Hurricane Carter.  It’s no wonder why black people hate you. I hate me already!

So a brief primer on the Panthers, whom I love. It was started by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. In this time, in Northern California… blacks were getting majorly hassled. This was happening everywhere, in here they took a stand. Huey Newton, the leader, knew law. He LOVED law. He would follow cops, and when would pull over and harass black folks, he would stand there and tell them their rights. “you don’t have to answer that”. Or “ask if you are being detailed, and do NOT allow them to search your person or vehicle. You have rights!”  Huey was known to carry a rifle in one hand, and a law book in the other.  Is there a better symbol of America than that?

 Yeah, he really did that. He ran around at night and advised his poor black community peers of their rights against the white racist cops. Well, the cops hated that, as you can imagine. Nixon made them public enemy number 1.
Eldridge became a leader in the group shortly after. According to Eldridge, he was very high up… possibly even #3 (behind Bobby and Huey). This book is Eldridge’s diary while he was in prison for something or other. Before you read it, know that Eldridge is a big fan of Eldridge. Did you read Clinton’s biography? It’s kinda like that. These guys LOVE themselves. Still, though, it is an AMAZING read and opened my eyes to black culture and contributions beyond what my middle class upbringing would provide.

 Bobby also wrote a book, called ‘Seize the Time’. Sadly, it isn’t as good. Know that Bobby was a MUCH bigger figure historically than Eldridge… but Eldridge is a hell of a writer. Eldridge even strikes me as a guy who probably refers to himself in the third person. Still worth it, though.

Side note – Bobby is still alive (unlike Huey and Eldridge). With the passing of Nelson Mandela… Bobby Seale might be the greatest living black activist… or a very close tie to Harry Belafonte.

 A movie

It is a real and genuine tragedy there is no good Black Panther movie. Man, would that make an amazing film. It has everything. I imagine young blacks know about MLK, and perhaps a bit about Malcom X (another amazing memoir, and also a bit of a hagiography)… but I bet few know about the story of the Black Panthers. Or worse, possibly the perception that the white power structure put out – that they were thugs and gangs and anti white and cop shooters. Listen, here is the thing… just because they are pro-black… it does not mean (to me anyway) they are anti white.  Speaking of movies and Malcolm X, I very much enjoyed the Denzel movie.  I think he did a terrific job.

 Sorry, I got diverted. I think Spike Lee’s movie ‘Do the Right Thing’. It’s a great story. Kinda funny, my only memory of the cast is Danny Aiello (the one white guy). I don’t much care for Spike, though. I think he is totally racist.  However, he is honest and upfront about his opinions.  Here is when I turned on him… or when he turned on us.  He was being interviewed for something, by someone, about making a shit ton of money on something or other and the reporter asked how he would spend the windfall.  Spike got all butt-hurt and demanded “would you ask a white man that?”.   Yeah.  Yeah we would.  It was an interview… about all the money you made… where we ask you questions… about the money you made.  No hidden agenda here, man.

Can I add one more thing?  It sure wouldn’t be a Tyler Perry movie.  Those movies are so stereotypie that my stereotypographometer®  just exploded.  Maybe if the aliens asked ‘how about a movie about what black people think white people think about black people’.

 An album

 Jimi HendrixElectric Ladyland.   This album is an insano masterpiece of songwriting and engineering. This is the last record from Jimi (in his life he only did 3). There isn’t much pop on here. No ‘Foxy Lady’, or ‘Purple Haze’. No sir. This fucker goes deep. To listen to the album optimally, I would recommend really good headphones, an ocean, and a shit ton of LSD. Not sure that is what you should do, but it worked for me. What was it Hunter said “I never advocated drugs, violence, alcohol, or insanity… but they always worked for me”.  Here is my favorite song of all.

oh, there is also this one.  Like this one a lot.  Side note, this album has Jimi’s highest charting hit… and it was a cover.

A poem

 You expect me to give you some Maya Angelou. I wish I could. I am sure it’s great. I never read any. From afar, it looked boring and preachy. I am not proud of that, just being honest.   Let’s go deeper, crackers. I am a lit guy, and I had a great lit teacher who turned me on to WEB DuBois. Dig this gem, from around 1900

My country tis of thee,
Late land of slavery,
         Of thee I sing.
Land where my father’s pride   
Slept where my mother died,   
From every mountain side
         Let freedom ring!

My native country thee
Land of the slave set free,
         Thy fame I love.
I love thy rocks and rills
And o’er thy hate which chills,   
My heart with purpose thrills,   
         To rise above.

Let laments swell the breeze   
And wring from all the trees
          Sweet freedom’s song.   
Let laggard tongues awake,   
Let all who hear partake,   
Let Southern silence quake,
         The sound prolong.

Our fathers’ God to thee   
Author of Liberty,
         To thee we sing
Soon may our land be bright,   
With Freedom’s happy light   
Protect us by Thy might,
         Great God our King.

a tv show

 In Living Color, the Wayans family.  So funny, and so aggressive and silly at the same time… about race issues.  That show was brilliant.  That show did what I think Tyler Perry is trying to do but can’t… let black people celebrate their differences and laugh about cultural variances.  This can be done playfully bouncing off stereotypes… without beating them to death.  I have never seen on of the 13 ‘Madea’ movies… but I will bet my life there is a scene in every one where she is sweating in a pentecostal church with a fan saying things like ‘oh lawdy lawdy lawdy’.  I bet she threatens to ‘whoop a lot of ass’.    Perry, you are to blacks what Adam Sandler is to whites.  Don’t over think that, it just wanted to see what it looked like in print.

                               power to the people.  All power to the people.  – Huey Newton



Friday Fives – Nelson Mandela edition

Nelson Mandela died this week.  His story was a big part of my political and intellectual awakening as I learned of his story back in the lat 1980s and early 90s.

What is your first Mandela memory? 

High School.  I was at the peak of my white guilt and empathy at that time.  Mandela was real, and happening in real time.  See, I didn’t get history when I was young.  To me, Jesus, Gandhi, Hitler… they were all unreal.  To me, at that age, 30 years ago was the same as 2,000 years ago.  I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it.  Now, I can, and I am catching up on history at a decent rate.

So, to see a hero and martyr in my time, in real time, was bad ass!  See that picture up there?   That was taken the day he got out of prison.  No one had seen him for 30 years.  There weren’t pictures or interviews or anything.  He was, to the outside world, dead for 30 years

There are about a dozen Mandela movies.  Who is your favorite Mandela actor portrayal?

I have not seen any of them.  I feel I might be disappointed by the portrayal.  I mean, dude was complex. We know he was the toughest man alive, but have you seen him smile?  That is an amazing warmth and joy that would seem difficult to capture.  How about Don Cheadle?  Has he done one?  Love his acting!  Plus, he is from Denver, which is cool.  Also, I understand he may be black.  Not sure, I don’t see color.
 Is there an issue that you would give up your life, your family for 27+ years?

Well, first… let’s assume he did not voluntarily spend his life in prison.  You know the Rush song ‘Temples of Sphyrinx’?  Click here,  it is some operatic nonsense, but tells a super cool story.  Long in the future, music is GONE from humanity.  This kid is playing in rubble and he finds a musical instrument.  So, he is discovering music for the first time.  The elders, of course, are not tickled.  I would fight that fight for music.

 Who are your heroes.

I won’t even compare anyone to Nelson Mandela.  See, here is the deal.  Jesus died for our sins.  That is nice.  What’s better?  Mandela LIVED for our sins, and fought those sins, and WON.  That is a hero, far superior to Jesus in my mind.

Wait, i thought of one.  Harry Belafonte.  You know him as the happy banana boat songs (daylight come and me wanna go home).  Good stuff.  However, dude was also a HUGE pioneer of civil rights.  He was black and proud long before it was cool.  Remember when MLK wrote ‘letters from a Birmingham Jail’?  Know how he got out of jail?  Harry Belafonte!

Plus, he is alive and vital!  Check out him on the Colbert report just this year.

 In your eyes, how has Mandela changed the world?

Well, he gave black people hope, I assume.  He gave everyone  hope, but I can’t imagine the connection Africans, and blacks around the world, must have felt.  He fought city hall. He fought the man, the law!  He was imprisoned for 30 years by his own country, for heresy, basically.  He not only held on, and got out – fucker then ran for President and took the country back for black Africans.  It’s beyond terms like ‘hero’.  A Buddha.  I call him a god, how about that.  As wise and important as the Buddha.  See, Buddha means simply ‘enlightened one’.  Mandela was that.  Mandela is that.  Mandela is dead, long live Mandela.

Friday Fives

If you could interview any person, who would it be?

Mark Gastineau, to ask him why he dropped out of football to support Bridgitte Nielson.  That was, like, 6 husbands ago for her and she has rebounded fine.  Mark?  Still waiting for a call back on that nikey shoe offer from 1982.

Also curios as to how he feels about her boning Flavor Flave.  Remember the AIDS rule of thumb?  It was:  when you have sex with someone, you are having sex with everyone they ever had sex with.  Well, Mark.  You just porked Flavor Flave.

Who is the greatest person in the world.

nelson mandela

Do you have any recent brushes with greatness?

dave barry, who admired that I also kept a small emergency back up dog.

Do you pay attention to the celebrity gossip? Online or on television?

I wish I could tell you I was above that stuff, but I am not.  I have TMZ on my phone, and occasionally read a National Enquirer in the tub.  That shit is real, yo.  They couldn’t publish it if it were not true… just like putting something on the internet.

See, these are good before I go to bed.  Know what I NEVER watch?  The evening news.  It is depressing.  Just people shooting each other.  Totally fucked up world. I watch the morning news every day.  It is light and fluffy.  Just traffic and weather and that cupcake lady that every city has.

5. If you could be any celebrity who would you be? Why?

Me, but rich.  To paraphrase the great Rev Jim Ignatowski… “that way, I wouldn’t have to buy new clothes.”