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The Church of the Really Feel Good!

The Right Reverend Feelgood is going to have a high time with a literally euphoric congregation!

Old Hippies never die…They just huff away.

At Denver’s Newest Church, Marijuana Is The Holy Sacrament

“We are all ‘high’ priests,” said a member of the International Church of Cannabis.

The International Church of Cannabis will open its doors in Denver on April 20, a day marijuana enthusiasts everywhere have memorialized as a sort of “high” holy day.

The church is not your average house of worship, for obvious reasons. But the religion it preaches, members say, is no joke.

Members of the church are known as Elevationists. Their faith holds that “an individual’s spiritual journey, and search for meaning, is one of self-discovery that can be accelerated and deepened with ritual cannabis use,” according to the church’s website.

“We do not believe in authoritarian structures, nor do we profess the arrogance of knowing God’s mind,” Elevationist Lee Molloy told The Huffington Post. “There are no Grand Poobah’s or High Priests ― well, we are all ‘high’ priests ― rather, we are all on our own quest to be the best self we can be, and to give back to the community with our talents and labor.”

Church members refer to cannabis as “the sacred flower,” which Molloy described as “a gift from the Universal Creative Force.”

Ritual use of cannabis has a long, well-documented history dating back over 3,000 years, according to Mark S. Ferrara, an associate professor of English at the State University of New York and author of Sacred Bliss: A Spiritual History of Cannabis.

“In low dosages, such as those achieved by inhalation and through tinctures, cannabis produces a mild euphoric effect employed by shamans and herbal healers across time and culture,” Ferrara writes.

One of the earliest recorded mentions of cannabis comes from The Vedas, a set of ancient Hindu texts. To this day, many people in India enjoy a drink called bhang, made from the leaves of the female cannabis plant. Adherents of Rastafari, an Africa-centred religion that formed in Jamaica in the 1930s, also use marijuana to aid in meditation and community bonding.

As Molloy puts it: “When we ritually take cannabis our mind is elevated and we become a better version of self.”

Marijuana is legal in Colorado, with some caveats. Residents cannot smoke or consume the plant in public ― including at “social clubs” ― which has posed some challenges for the church’s organizers.

“We are being forced to jump hoops by the City,” said Molloy in an email to HuffPost. For now, all programming and ritual cannabis use will be by invitation only. Programming will include guest speakers, comedians, artists, musicians and film screenings. Visitors can come to the church between 12:00 p.m. to 2 p.m. daily to see the space, but no burning will be allowed in the building during those hours, Molloy said….Read the rest Here

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J74ttSR8lEg

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2017 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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Dueling Memes on Black Murder

Conservatives, vested in racism, always want to start any discussion having to do with the black community on a standard set of racist memes..black-on-black crime, illegitimacy, poverty…

It is, after all, all The Great Society’s fault.

Such racial histrionics stymie any conversation, and derail any substantive effort to attack either the structural or micro-cultural issues at the base of the gun violence issue.

Quite frankly, I am hoping this election cycle ends up in a landslide for Democrats, destroying the Republican Party. Not that the timid-tabby Democrats, replete with their own Closet-Queen bigots, and Blue Mutts are any better. It is just that they are likely to GTF out of the way, instead of actively submarining and resisting community or local efforts.

What Black Americans Say About ‘Black-on-Black’ Gun Violence

We understand that police violence and gun crimes are two parts of the same systemic problem. If only news media saw that, too.

Over Memorial Day weekend, at least 69 people were shot in Chicago. If past trends continue, most of them are people of color. Mass shootings in places like Newtown, Aurora, and San Bernardino grab national attention, but gun violence is a regular part of life in many communities of color. Among boys and men ages 15-34, for example, African Americans are over 20 times more likely than whites to be victims of gun homicide.

While more attention to gun violence in communities of color is sorely needed, too often existing coverage focuses on “black-on-black” dysfunction rather than structural causes and potential solutions.

A recent New York Times story provides an example. “A Drumbeat of Multiple Shootings, but America is Not Listening” chronicled the victims of 358 shootings with four or more deaths or injuries. Many stemmed from arguments over a petty grievance, an insult, or another sign of disrespect. The story emphasized the “black-on-black” nature of gun violence, and suggested black activists expend too much energy protesting police violence against African Americans and too little energy focused on “routine gun violence.” While the story’s narrative describing the death of an innocent bystander put a compelling face on statistics, the story did not offer meaningful solutions.

The problem of gun violence stems not just from petty grievances among impulsive youth of color, however, but from larger structural issues such as credibility of law enforcement, easy access to guns, and a lack of job skills and opportunities. Communities of color care about both gun violence and police violence. Further, communities of color are not simply sources of problems—they also provide important solutions.

Last month, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the Urban Institute, and the Joyce Foundation released Engaging Communities in Reducing Gun Violence: A Road Map for Safer Communities. Our research debunked the notion that African Americans are less attentive to the problem of gun violence than police violence.

In compiling this report, we brought together and listened to residents of communities hard-hit by gun violence—faith leaders, formerly incarcerated individuals, law enforcement, elected officials, social service providers, community activists, and others. Most of the participants were black or Latino—people like Fathers & Families of San Joaquin Executive Director Sammy Nunez; Petersburg, Virginia, Police Chief John Dixon; and Wanda Montgomery of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Others were members of our steering committee and have devoted their careers to building safer communities—people like Gary, Indiana, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson; Rev. Michael McBride of PICO National Network; and Kayla Hicks of the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence. We then tested the ideas that emerged against a nationwide survey of 600 African Americans and 600 Latinos conducted by Benenson Strategy Group (BSG) and Ron Lester and Associates.

While about half of African Americans we surveyed nationally described police brutality (54 percent) and police misconduct (50 percent) in America as extremely serious problems, 80 percent of African Americans described gun violence in America as an extremely serious problem. Indeed, rather than discounting gun violence or seeing it in a silo isolated from police violence, many African Americans see the problems as interconnected. For example, 61 percent of African Americans agreed with the statement that “fewer guns on the streets would improve the relationship between the police and the communities they serve.”

Similarly, the communities with which we met thought improving police-community relationships was a key factor in reducing gun violence. Distrust that stems from arbitrary stops and discriminatory enforcement makes residents less willing to work with police, and makes communities less safe.

Solutions put forth by community members were supported by the survey research. Over 90 percent of African Americans and Latinos supported strengthening police accountability through civilian review boards, body-worn cameras, and racial bias assessment and training of police (including new recruits). Over 76 percent of both groups support prioritizing enforcement on higher-level gun violence offenders rather than lower-level “broken windows” offenders.

Community members also emphasized other solutions that address structural factors that underlie gun violence.

For example, community residents recommended limiting access to guns by the small group of people at high risk of engaging in violence—sometimes no more than 0.25 to 1 percent of a city’s population. Rather than looking to greater penalties for handgun possession that could increase mass incarceration, community members emphasized universal background checks, mandatory reporting for lost and stolen firearms, and increased oversight of licensed firearm dealers. Each proposal was supported by over 86 percent of African Americans and Latinos in the survey research. These restrictions are seen as reducing rather than fueling mass incarceration.  About three-quarters of both African Americans and Latinos agreed that “if we keep guns out of the wrong hands, we can also help decrease the number of people who are in prison.”

Community members also recognized that areas hardest hit by gun violence often have suffered disinvestment of resources by companies and the public sector, and that many of those at high risk to commit or to be victimized by gun violence face a lack of job skills and opportunities, addiction, and other challenges. Thus, our report recommends increased investment in social services targeted at high-risk populations and their families, such as drug treatment, mental health services, job training and placement, and conflict interrupters who mediate disputes and discourage retaliation. Over 92 percent of African Americans and over 88 percent of Latinos support solutions like job training, life skills support, and mental health counseling available to young people and people just released from jail or prison.

In addition to these solutions, we heard a deep desire for community members to engage with law enforcement, elected officials, and other community leaders in developing and implementing solutions to gun violence.

While we should be honest and give much-needed attention to gun violence in communities of color, we need to consider all the facts. Focusing largely on shallow black-on-black spats makes gun violence a “black and brown” problem, masks deeper structural causes of gun violence, and obscures the responsibility of all Americans to help solve the problem.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2016 in BlackLivesMatter

 

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Smithsonian African-American Museum Opens

The National Museum of African American Culture and History has opened. Love the idea, but really am no fan of the building architecture, which is both decidedly visually unexciting, and unlike the Native American Museum seems to have no visual cultural clues as to it’s function.

National Museum of African American History and Culture; (NMAAHC) construction site - Conststution Avenue and 14 th Street image taken on Conststution site October 23, 2015.

 

Smithsonian’s National African-American Museum opens at last

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture was over a century in the making. In 1915, black Civil War veterans collected funds they later put toward creating a museum on the National Mall that would celebrate African-American achievement. In 1929, President Calvin Coolidge signed Public Resolution 107, establishing a commission to plan its construction, but the project went nowhere. It took a renewed effort by lawmakers and African-American leaders beginning in the 1960s, and then decades of planning and proposals, before President George W. Bush signed legislation in 2003 authorizing the museum, which is set to open September 24, steps from the Washington Monument.

“It’s one of those sites and projects that comes about only once in a generation,” says the lead designer of the building, David Adjaye. “It’s always magical to complete a project, but to complete this one on the National Mall, it’s very profound. It’s very humbling.”

Construction on the exterior of the building, a glass structure wrapped in a three-tiered bronze-colored scrim that’s meant to recall a motif in African sculpture (it looks like boxes stacked on a figure’s head), was completed in 2015. Curators are now filling the galleries with artifacts from a collection of some 34,000 items spanning centuries or longer. Museum Director Lonnie Bunch says the exhaustive preparation and organizing is “really almost like planning a military exercise.”

Larger artifacts already in place include a 1944 training plane used by the black military pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen; a once-segregated railway car and a guard tower from the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, both of which the museum lowered in place with cranes before constructing the roof; a 19th-century slave cabin from South Carolina; and Chuck Berry’s red Cadillac.

“When I walk through, I feel the weight of my ancestors,” Bunch says. “I feel an amazing sense of joy that we are close to giving to America, giving to the world, a gift. A gift of understanding who we are as a people in ways that we haven’t before.”

The museum’s nine floors contain three history galleries covering slavery through present day, including the #BlackLivesMatter movement; a theater named for donor Oprah Winfrey; culture galleries featuring African-American icons of music, theater, film and television; and a Contemplative Court, where visitors can reflect on what they’ve seen.

Adjaye has said “there’s triumph and there’s also incredible tragedy” in the history of the African-American experience. Bunch agrees: “You cannot tell stories of celebration and resistance without understanding the trials and travails.”

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2016 in Black History

 

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Afrofuturism

Fascinating…

The Parliament-Funkadelic Mothership, now on permanent display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC

 

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Outdoor Afro

Analysis of visitor data has shown that black folks are among the lest likely to enjoy our National Parks system, and to engage in outdoor activities. Getting out and doing activities is one of the most important things in terms of long term health. Doesn’t men you have to zipline Grand Canyon or scale El Capitan – but moderate hiking has great cardio benefits. Not to mention the psychic benefits of just seeing something wonderful.

One of my hobbies for years has been Landscape Photography. Backpacking gear into the wilderness to photograph the scenery, wildlife, and beauty in the mountains, desert, or coastlines. Walking through the 2000 year old Old Grove trees in the Pacific Northwest can be a religious experience, as can the silence of the Desert. Many of these places are located within a few hours drive of a city – some are so remote only a few people even get to them a year.

 

This Woman Wants To Encourage More Black People To Embrace The Outdoors

“There’s something so dynamic about a forest environment,” she said

One woman wants to inspire more black people to participate in outdoor activities, so she created a network where “black people and nature meet.”

Rue Mapp is the founder of Outdoor Afro, an organization that encourages black people to embrace the outdoors and all the activities it has to offer.

“I found that in the nature experiences I had, I was far too often the only one who looked like me,” Mapp said in a video by Facebook Stories. “So I decided to do something about it.”

The nationwide network was created in 2009 and started out as a Facebook group Mapp made to help connect black nature-lovers everywhere. The social media platform and its offerings has become a useful tool for many organizations. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced Wednesday that now one billion people are using Facebook Groups every month.

“Outdoor Afro is a perfect example of how people can use Facebook groups to build relationships around the things they care about,” Alex Deve, a product manager on Facebook Groups, said in a statement to HuffPost.

Since its launch, Outdoor Afro has grown significantly and now has over a dozen chapters across the country with more than 13,000 members. According to a 2015 report released by the Outdoor Foundation, 70 percent of people who participated in outdoor activities last year were white. Only 10 percent were black.

“National park visitorship, especially in more remote areas, can be as low as 1 percent African Americans,” Mapp said. “I just felt that there were these opportunities and lessons I was learning that more people could benefit from.”

Outdoor Afro has been able to reconnect black people with nature. It encourages black people to invest more in the planet by inviting them on outings such as nature trails and teaches them important lessons on conservation. Mapp said the work she is committed to has evolved beyond her wildest dreams.

“At the end of the day, this is about love and connecting [with] one another,” she said. “Connection is strength and the chance to be better, bigger, stronger and sustainable.”

The Bioblitz Dance – Outdoor Afro and the California Conservation Corps Dance. That is Rue Mapp on the lead in.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2016 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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Nina Simone Interview 1968 – On Black Pride

Blast for the past! The shadow of the events of 1968 still afflict America. The serial murders of both King and Kennedy, the rise of the right – and “The War”.

Nina Simone Talks Black Pride in This Rare, Beautifully Animated Interview From 1968

Through the ’60s and ’70s, Nina Simone essentially soundtracked the American civil rights movement, emerging as one of the era’s most brilliant, bluntly political artists, and one who was reluctant to speak to white interviewers for fear of misrepresentation. A rare exception to that rule came in 1968, when European jazz singer Lilian Terry talked with the legend at her home in Mt. Vernon.

That interview, which never aired in the United States, has been beautifully animated in the latest installment of Blank on Blank. In it, Simone and Terry start with some light, discursive chat before segueing into a sober discussion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s recent assassination. Simone concludes by noting that “it’s a lot of hell and a lot of violence, but I feel more alive now than I ever have in my life.”

 

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Charlie Hebdo – “We Have Champagne”

Translated … “They have the weapons. F$%k Them! We have the Champagne!”

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2015 in General, News

 

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Jay Leno Comments on Mizzou

The student protest at Mizzou has moved some folks, and changed some minds. Here, Jay Leno lays out the fact that the students indeed had cause for their actions…

Jay Leno tells Bill Maher: Mizzou protesters were right — school president was ‘clueless’

Real Time host Bill Maher battled panelists Jay Leno, Michael Steele and Dylan Ratigan on Friday when he complained about the recent anti-racism protests at Yale University and the University of Missouri.

Maher recounted the discussion at Yale that was touched off by a university email advising students not to use Halloween costumes based on cultural appropriation or stereotypes, which led to a faculty member, Erika Christakis, questioning whether the school was stifling students’ right to be “a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive.”

That, in turn, led to hundreds of students signing an open letter criticizing Christakis.

“Who raised these little monsters?” Maher said of the letter. Leno countered by saying that the pendulum in public discourse had swung in the other direction from the days when virtually any sort of slur would go unchecked.

“You could call a government operation ‘Wetback,’ and no one said anything about it,” the former Tonight Show host said. “Now the pendulum swung back, so now the other side gets a taste of what it’s like. Will it come back to the center? I believe it will.”

“That’s spreading — it’s not just Yale,” Maher insisted.

The host also expressed sympathy with protesters at Missouri, but questioned whether prompting the resignation of president Tim Wolfe was beneficial to their cause.

“Do we purge even clueless people from their job now?” he asked. “Is that where we are with the battle against racism?”

“I say yes,” Leno responded. “You know why? Because if you’re president of the university, you shouldn’t be clueless. When I saw the faces of those African-American young kids when they had won, they looked like Julian Bond in 1965. They looked like all the black students that protested when I was in college that did the sit-ins that didn’t think they would get whatever it was [that they wanted]. It’s just a different version of that. I applaud them. They looked like they won something. One of those people could be a senator.”

Ratigan concurred with Leno, saying that the protests were forcing conversations about racism “to permeate deeper into the system.”

“You have all this structural racism that we all know about and we talk about it, but it doesn’t get talked about as much as it should and it doesn’t get dealt with,” he said.

Maher then scoffed at the protesters’ efforts to set up a “media-free zone” at one point.

“They characterize themselves as the protesters in Tiananmen Square, but sometimes they look like the Chinese Army,” Maher protested. “Their right to never be offended does not supersede the First Amendment.”

“However irrational the response may be, the irrational response pales in comparison to the structural racism that still exists,” Ratigan shot back.

Steele also argued that the conditions that spurred the protests had not just developed over hours or days, but at least several months.

“This even goes back beyond a few months — it goes back over a period of time that these students have had to live in this environment where they’ve had to deal with this by themselves,” he said. “And after a while, enough’s enough. And cluelessness is no longer an excuse.”

 

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The Black Professional Minefield

If you are a black professional in America, the more than likely you work in an environment surrounded almost entirely by white people. I remember back in the 80’s, speaking before a group of 2,000 of my peers at a corporate conference and being the only black face in the room, along with a half dozen other minorities and women. An executive job in an American corporation is a Fly-Trap. You are there, but the chances of a lateral move to another company to move up, which is a common strategy available to white managers – is difficult, if not impossible. You probably can count on one hand the number of black CEOs, Presidents, or Sr VPs recruited by other companies for executive positions outside of the company in which they earned their position in the first place. An issue which makes the expansion of black CEOs in the Fortune 500 difficult.

It goes beyond just simple watercooler small talk in that black folks are more likely to be fans of Football and Basketball, while whites are fans of Hockey and Baseball. And you are never going to be able to explain the Black College Greek tradition of a Step Show. Being bi-lingual, speaking at least two English dialects…

And learning to love Broccoli and kale as a salad.

And yes, you have to put up with the occasional racial micro-aggression (typically born more of ignorance than anything else), as well as the full on racism. Nor are your white co-workers or peers going to get why BLM has resonance with you, who aren’t living in the poor part of town, aren’t covered in tats, or are speaking in the dialect of the lower class.

Being Black—but Not Too Black—in the Workplace

To be a black professional is often to be alone. Most black doctors, lawyers, journalists, and so on—those in white-collar positions that require specialized training and credentialing—work in environments where they are in the racial minority.

This comes with challenges. Beyond outright discrimination, which many still face, there are psychological costs to being one of just a few black faces in a predominantly white environment. In a study of black professional workers in a number of different occupations, I found that these employees worked to carefully manage their emotions in ways that reflected the racial landscapes they inhabited.

In particular, black professionals had to be very careful to show feelings of conviviality and pleasantness, even—especially—in response to racial issues. They felt that emotions of anger, frustration, and annoyance were discouraged, even when they worked in settings where these emotions were generally welcomed in certain contexts—think litigators interacting with opposing counsel, or financial analysts responding to a stressful day on Wall Street. Interestingly, this often played out at trainings meant to encourage racial sensitivity. Many of the black professionals I interviewed found that diversity trainings—intended to improve the work environment for minorities—actually became a source of emotional stress, as they perceived that their white colleagues could use these trainings to express negative emotions about people of color, but that they were expected not to disclose their own honest emotional reactions to such statements.

One of the most interesting recent contributions to this area of research comes from legal scholars Mitu Gulati and Devon Carbado. In their book Working Identity, they argue that while everyone needs to create and put forth an “appropriate” workplace identity, for members of minority groups—women of all races, racial-minority men, LGBTQ people—this becomes particularly taxing because their working identities must counter common cultural stereotypes. For example, black men may feel compelled to work longer hours as a way to repudiate stereotypes of a poor work ethic among blacks. To make matters more complicated, such strategies can backfire, reinforcing other stereotypes: Working those long hours may lead colleagues to assume that the workers lack the intellectual preparation needed for high-status professional jobs.

Carbado and Gulati also note that minority professionals tread cautiously to avoid upsetting the majority group’s sensibilities. Put simply, they can be visibly black, but don’t want to be perceived as stereotypically black. As Carbado and Gulati write, a black female candidate for a law firm who chemically straightens her hair, is in a nuclear family structure, and resides in a predominantly white neighborhood signals a fealty to (often unspoken) racial norms. She does so in a way that an equally qualified black woman candidate who wears dreadlocks, has a history of pushing for racial change in the legal field, is a single mother, and lives in the inner city does not.

The same is true for professional workers who are members of other racial minority groups. For instance, Latina attorneys may be able to advance further at work if they take pains not to speak with any trace of an accent. These are challenges in addition to the more well-known ones—the difficulties finding mentors of the same race, coping with racial stereotypes, being treated as a representative for one’s entire racial group.

So what does this mean for black workers in professional environments? First, it’s indicative of the degree to which race shapes occupational outcomes. In many circles, people feel more comfortable reducing racial issues to class-based ones, assuming that poverty explains much, if not all, of the differences between minorities and whites.

But for blacks in professional positions, issues of poverty are not the problem. Poverty does not explain biases in hiring, the need for particular types of emotional management, and the careful self-presentation that minority professionals engage in at work.

Second, all of this ought to encourage a rethinking of some of the existing efforts to create more diverse work environments. Do diversity and inclusion initiatives take into consideration how minorities placed in those environments feel? How can policies create not just more equitable hiring processes, but address the emotional toll of being a racial minority in a professional work setting?

In the current political climate, there is generally support for solving race-related employment challenges by focusing on job training and education—in other words, increasing human capital to improve access. Given the research, it’s also important to consider how to create better workplaces for the minority professionals who are already in these jobs.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2015 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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Archibald Motley – Painter of the Jazz Age

Born in 1891, Archibald Motley would document, through his art – the next 70 years of black experience in Chicago and France.

Portrait of a Sophisticated Lady

Octoroon, 1922

Self Portrait

Archibald Motley, The Painter Who Captured Black America in the Jazz Age and Beyond

The artist Archibald Motley captured both the high times and cultural vibrancy of the Jazz Age, as well as graver themes of racism and injustice.

The sexy sway of a 1920s Paris nightclub, filled with light and dark-skinned people pressed against each other.

The bustling streets of the almost exclusively black “Bronzeville” neighborhood Chicago in the 1930s under a nighttime glow.

A depressing surreal scene of horror following the death of Martin Luther KingJr.and the failings of the 1960s Civil Rights movement.

These are just a handful of the diverse visual expressions of the African American experience that the artist Archibald Motley so adroitly and sumptuously captured throughout his career.

Bronzeville By Night

As versatile in his aesthetic style as he was committed to scrutinizing African American culture, Motley was a uniquely daring and sharp artist who stood out even among the Harlem Renaissance greats.

Yet, Motley’s name does not elicit the same nods of recognition and respect as his peers, like Langston Hughes, Josephine Baker, and Zora Neale Hurston. That could–and certainly should–change after the retrospective Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist opens October 2 at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Traveling through different chapters of his career, though not boxed into a strict chronology, the exhibition showcases how Motley was a thorough and sensitive observer of the black community, documenting its diversity while bringing his own keen perspective to its traditions and subcultures.

Motley “set his work apart” because he “created a modern, vibrant world which, as seen through a pair of jaded, laserlike ‘Negro’ eyes, revealed the jazz-and-blues-accented absurdities that lay behind life’s facades and public face,” writes Richard J. Powell in “Becoming Motley, Becoming Modern” an essay in the book,Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist.

Mending Socks

Powell, who is an art historian and Dean of Humanities at Duke University, curated the Whitney exhibition.

In other words, Motley wasn’t afraid to capture the good and the bad of black life, as his peers made tremendous gains yet the community in general often struggled in poverty and disenfranchisement in a segregated, very racist America.

At least a significant part of Motley’s distinct perspective on African American life came from his unique upbringing for a black man of his era.

Born in New Orleans in 1891, Motley was raised in Chicago’s then largely white immigrant Engelwood neighborhood and married his white childhood friend, Edith Granzo, in 1924.

Trained at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Motley’s earliest critically-acclaimed paintings were portraits of different figures within the African American community.

His 1924 Mending Socks depicted his grandmother, Emily Motley, a former slave, sitting with a quiet pride and refinement.

Motley was not so forward-looking that he ignored the complicated, painful slaveholding past. Mending Socks features part of a portrait of his grandmother’s mistress in the upper left corner, hanging over her.

As important as it was for Motley to capture history, it was equally, if not more, significant to him depict the spectrum of skin tones considered black. A blend of ethnicities himself, he was dedicated to painting “the whole gamut,” as he said, of African American complexions.

1920’s Mulatress with Figuring and Dutch Seascape and 1925’s The Octoroon Girl speak to his commitment of not only visually presenting multi-racial figures, but doing so in a way that showed them as refined, strong figures.

As the Whitney exhibition notes of Motley’s artistic interest in these portraits: “On the one hand, he believed that seeing themselves in art would help African Americans feel pride in their own racial identities; on the other, he hoped that seeing beautiful contemporary black subjects would dispel stereotypes and undermine racism.”...More…

Street Scene

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2015 in Black History, Giant Negros

 

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Fats Domino’s Piano, Like NOLA After Katrina -Still Has a Ways to Come Back

Worked on the post-Katrina recovery efforts in NOLA and Mississippi. The flooding not only killed the houses and infrastructure, but threatened to kill the spirit of a city whose residents were used to adversity.The story 10 years after is one of gradual rebuilding, but how do you knit the spirit of the town’s communities back together when so many are gone? The even bigger question though in my mind – is if we can’t even get it right in America, right in our own back yard…How exactly can we get it right anywhere else?

In terms of the Fat man’s pianos, one black, one white – one working fully, one not restore-able…Seems like a reflection of the whole city 10 years after.

The Piano That Can’t Play a Tune

If you could see Fats Domino’s piano today—white and gleaming on a pedestal at the Louisiana State Museum in the Old U.S. Mint in New Orleans’ French Quarter—you might think he had been kind enough to donate one of his signature grands to the museum for its music collection. That is, if you were unaware of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago, including Domino’s home on Caffin Street in the largely obliterated neighborhood known as the “Lower Nine,” where the white Steinway once held pride of place in Domino’s living room.

Submerged in nine feet of water from a massive breach in the nearby Industrial Canal, it sat for weeks in the fetid lake that covered 80 percent of New Orleans after Katrina. Curators from the Louisiana State Museum raised $35,000 to have it reassembled and restored, and it now sits beneath a spotlight in an exhibit room as if waiting for Domino himself to sit down and play it. At the dedication ceremony in 2013, Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardanne said, “His beautiful grand piano, fully restored, will serve as the perfect symbol for Louisiana’s resilient nature and ever-evolving musical heritage.”

Well, no and yes. Despite the painstaking restoration, the white grand piano is unplayable. It is this last fact that makes the story of this instrument such a powerful metaphor for New Orleans since Katrina. It is a tale about persistence in the face of government neglect, cataclysmic disaster, and the painful incompleteness of reconstruction. More particularly, it is a lesson about the importance of preserving the material remains of the city’s past even as it focuses on the future.

These objects—some partly restored, some not—are all the more important in light of the city’s record of demolition of many significant musical landmarks, despite the recent efforts of preservation groups to turn the tide. Louis Armstrong’s birthplace, for example, was torn down in the 1960s to build a city jail. Other jazz landmarks are in grave disrepair.

The history of New Orleans music had an additional vulnerability before Katrina: The homes of the city’s musicians and writers held much of the city’s musical heritage. Letters, handwritten scores, photographs, cocktail napkins, matchbooks, and musical instruments were under the beds and in the attics of working musicians and their descendants. Most of Michael White’s enormous collection of artifacts from early jazz musicians—some 50 clarinets, reams of sheet music, reeds and mouthpieces, and taped interviews with musicians—is gone. White’s house near the London Avenue Canal in Lakeview took in water up to the roof. The only things salvaged by volunteers were some of his clarinets. “They looked like bodies,” White told me. “And the ones that were in cases looked like bodies in coffins. They weren’t really about me, they symbolized New Orleans history and culture and the present state of the culture.”

Tending to the artifacts the storm left behind, as White did, can feel restorative. And it is not the same as choosing property over people, something that does not bode well in New Orleans. “The black working class in New Orleans,” the historian George Lipsitz wrote in Katrina’s aftermath, “has long refused to concede that white property is more important than black humanity.” After the storm, neighborhood traditions like the parading of Mardi Gras Indians persisted, despite and because of the challenges of rebuilding those communities. But the preservation of cultural artifacts after Katrina, such as Domino’s piano, was something of a different job.

As show-stopping as Domino’s white Steinway grand is, it is the opposite of the first piano he played, acquired by his family in the 1930s. That piano, Domino told his biographer, was “so beat up that you could see the rusted metal through the ivory, it had been played so hard.” According to the authors of Up From the Cradle of Jazz: “The Ninth Ward blues built off of pianos and horns.” There was an old upright in just about every small music club in the Lower Ninth Ward. The white piano, on the other hand, was not even Domino’s regular instrument. Instead, it was the one that greeted visitors to the house on Caffin Street and was a favored backdrop for family photographs. The glorious grand piano testified to his rise from a part-time musician and factory worker to one of the founding fathers of rock ‘n’ roll.

Domino’s upbringing in the Lower Ninth Ward, surrounded by his Creole relatives, inflected his music. His father was descended from French-speaking African Americans who lived as enslaved and then freedpeople in Louisiana’s sugar parishes. Like many Louisiana Creoles, black and white, they had roots in Haiti. When the Dominos arrived in the Lower Nine, the neighborhood was still mostly rural, with unpaved streets, farm animals, and scarce electricity and indoor plumbing. In a recent radio show devoted to Domino, writer Ben Sandmelobserved the artist’s “Caribbean vocal style” in songs like “My Blue Heaven.” “It’s almost like he’s an English as a second language speaker. It’s a very thick regional accent,” Sandmel said. “If you listen to oral histories of people [from the Lower Nine] who recorded around that time there are a lot of thick accents and a lot of French-isms in the speech.” …The rest here

 

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Trevor Noah – I Wanted to be Black

South African Comedian Trevor Noah, who is scheduled to take over for Jon Stewart on Comedy Central Sept 23rd…

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2015 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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Iceberg Slim – Pulp Fiction

Iceberg Slim was the nom-de-guerre of a Los Angeles Pimp, whose story became famous when he turned to writing. At least one movie, and countless bad-ass characters in the movies are based on his character and style.

Not sure why the renewed interest – but Slim is part of 40’s-60’s black history, and was a model for others (apparently still) – as well as a character from which numerous movie depictions were based. Before the Drug Dealer of the 70’s – the black pimp was more likely to be at the top of criminal enterprise in poor black communities. These guys would flash their money and “power” based on a “Players Ball” purportedly created in the 1974 Movie, “The Mack” – although such “annual conferences” existed long before that in Chicago. Apparently some of these guys are still around as you will see in the video at the bottom of this post.

I remember watching from the street one of these back in the late 1970’s, at a certain club located in downtown Washington DC. Lots of flash, jewelry, and outrageous outfits.

 

The Pulp Fiction Pimp Who Inspired Chris Rock, Jay Z, and Snoop Dogg

Robert Beck was the godfather of Blaxploitation, one of the most influential African-American voices of the 20th century—and also among its most violently misogynistic.

For many of his 73 years on the planet, Robert Beck—aka “Iceberg Slim,” the subject of a new biography, Street Poison, by African-American literature professor Justin Gifford—was a lousy human being.

Beck—who by his own account violently brutalized women during his quarter-century-long career as a pimp, and later mythologized his felonious lifestyle in a best-selling memoir and a series of popular pulp novels—raised misogyny to an art form.

The smooth-talking, cold-hearted Beck, whose nom de plume celebrated his detached and chilly streetwise demeanor, was the vain and selfish only son of an irresponsible mother; a careless father of three mixed-race daughters and the estranged stepfather of a Caucasian son; and a manipulative and philandering husband who only redeemed himself in a second marriage late in life as his years of prison, drugs, and hard living took their inevitable toll.

Albeit ghetto-famous, with countless fans, he died penniless in Los Angeles of diabetes and gangrene; his fancy above-ground berth at Forest Lawn was paid for by Mike Tyson, one of Beck’s many celebrity devotees, who also include Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Quincy Jones, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Ice Cube, and Ice-T (the last of whom co-produced a 2012 documentary tribute, Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp).

And yet, by Gifford’s estimation and that of others, Beck—born Robert Lee Moppins Jr. (later Frenchified to Maupins) in the slums of 1918 white-racist Chicago—was also one of the more influential voices in 20th century black culture and literature, to be ranked alongside James Baldwin, Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison.

Indeed, Iceberg Slim’s 1967 novelistic and poetic autobiography, Pimp: The Story of My Life, and his later works are widely credited with inspiring the Blaxploitation film genre and the beginnings of hip-hop and rap. His nine published books—translated into a dozen languages while one, Trick Baby, was adapted into a feature film—had sold an estimated 6 million copies by the time of his death, which might have made him the J.K. Rowling of black pulp fiction, if only his royalties were commensurate with his sales.

Beck’s pain and rage at having been callously exploited by his white-owned publisher, Holloway House—much as he had exploited and abused his revolving stable of prostitutes—is a recurring theme in Gifford’s meticulously-researched narrative.

The fact that Beck’s biographer is also white and middle-aged—an academic of somewhat younger vintage, Gifford teaches at the University of Nevada—is testament to the enduring crossover appeal of Iceberg Slim’s story.

It begins in Chicago’s Black Belt, during a period of lethal viciousness by white thugs against African Americans who dared venture out of the ghetto. Terrible race riots and mass murders comprised a history of violence that doubtless shaped Iceberg Slim’s adult identity as a revolutionary and Black Panther partisan.

Three incidents in his childhood seem to have left a searing imprint and shaped his future.

His biological father, a cook who’d grown up in “Nashville’s upwardly mobile and respectable black working-class society,” according to Gifford, had plunged headlong into the Black Belt demimonde of whoring and gambling, and saw his son as an inconvenience.

His mother, Mary, left her husband, taking her infant son with her, after refusing his demand that the baby be abandoned on a church doorstep—“so,” Iceberg Slim recounted, “he hurled me against the wall in disgust.”

The second formative experience—the memory of which forever haunted Beck and twisted his feelings about women—involved being 3 years old and sexually molested by a babysitter while his single mother toiled all day at a laundry. According to his autobiography, the babysitter forced him to perform oral sex.

“I remember more vividly the moist, odorous darkness and the bristle-like hairs tickling my face,” he wrote, “and most vividly I can remember my panic, when in the wild moment of her climax, she would savagely jerk my head tighter into the hairy maw.”

According to Gifford: “The event deeply scarred Beck—as his hateful language suggests—and he later attributed his anxious and violent relationships with the women he pimped to this incident.”

The third seminal episode—after his mother’s 1922 marriage to a devoutly churchgoing community leader and successful businessman, Henry Upshaw, whom Beck loved as his only real father—was her reckless decision to leave Upshaw after nine happy, stable years for a charming but violent street hustler.  Relocating from Chicago to Milwaukee with his mother and her boyfriend, Beck fell into bad company in the red-light district and became “street poisoned,” as he put it in his memoir. (Beck ultimately took the surname of his mother’s third husband, Ural Beck, a hardworking railroad employee in Milwaukee, whom she married in the early 1940s.)

“At the height of his career,” Gifford writes, “he would intentionally draw upon his traumatic memories—especially of the babysitter, as well as his mother’s betrayal during his teenage years—to fuel his cruel treatment of his prostitutes,” using a wire hanger as his preferred instrument of discipline….The rest here

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2015 in Black History

 

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Confederate Flag Auto Plates

In my state there are at least 200 different License Plate designs you can choose from. It is a good deal for the State, which tacks on an additional $10 a year fee to purchase the plate. Most States have followed suit, vanity plates being an easy source of revenue.  One of the Virginia Plates, , the “Sons of Confederate Veterans” Plate has come under attack in the state post Charleston.

My view of the SCV is that it is a legitimate organization. A lot of what they promote is historical reinvention and falsehood (which any of my more savvy readers can suss out with a quick glance at their Web Page) but, in the spirit of “Live and let Live” – I really don’t care about what they want to do, as long as it doesn’t infringe upon the rights of other people. These are the guys who historically are more likely found dressing up in the Grey for a historical reenactment than driving their pickup trucks adored with the confederate flags through black neighborhoods. Unfortunately, they have been invaded by the racist whackjobs , and there is contention over the direction of the group. They, as a group wholeheartedly buy into the Southern Myth.

9 States, all except Maryland in the South offer plates with the SCV Logo. Florida offers a “confederate Heritage” Plate, which is a bit more questionable in my view.

Poll: Virginians Split on Confederate Flag License Plate Option

Virginia voters are divided 46 – 45 percent on whether the Confederate flag should be removed from state license plates, according to a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released Monday morning.

In Virginia, support for eliminating the option of ordering a license plate with a Confederate flag is 73 – 19 percent among Democrats and 48 – 42 percent among independent voters, with Republicans standing by the Stars & Bars 71 – 24 percent.

Black voters say 73 – 16 percent eliminate the Confederate flag option, while white voters say 55 – 37 percent keep it.

The plate I personally have the most problem with is this one…

There is no Republican, or Democrat, or Green plate – why exactly should there be one for the Tea Party?

 

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Being Gullah or Geechee, Once Looked Down On, Now a Treasured Heritage

Being Gullah or Geechee, Once Looked Down On, Now a Treasured Heritage.

The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor links historic African-American communities in four southern coastal states.

Emory Campbell remembers growing up Gullah on Hilton Head Island, before the golf courses and the resorts. He remembers hunting in the forests and roaming free in the marshes. He remembers an island where white people were a rarity and his family was part of a close-knit community of African-American farmers and fishers, of teachers and preachers. He remembers the curse and blessing found in the island’s isolation, of having to take a ferry to get to the outside world.

And he remembers the year it all changed: 1956, when the first bridge opened and the developers poured in. Campbell was 15. Today, the cemetery where his ancestors are buried is corralled by vacation homes set back from a fairway at the Harbour Town Golf Links. To visit, he needs to get waved through at a guardhouse.

“This part of the South used to be too hot for anybody to care about before mosquito control, before bridges and air conditioning,” said Campbell. “We were the ones that endured, and ironically, it is us who is now suffering.”

The Gullahs or Geechees are descendants of slaves who lived and still live on the coastal islands and lowcountry along the coast of the southeastern United States, from the St. John’s River in Florida to the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. (Gullah tends to be the preferred name in North and South Carolina, Geechee in Georgia and Florida.) Their communities dot the 400-mile strip, and they are slowly disappearing, casualties of progress and our love affair with coastal living.

In 2004, the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed the Gullah/Geechee Coast on its list of most threatened places. “Unless something is done to halt the destruction,” the trust said, “Gullah/Geechee culture will be relegated to museums and history books, and our nation’s unique cultural mosaic will lose one of its richest and most colorful pieces.” (Read “Lowcountry Legacy” in the November issue of National Geographic magazine.)

Drayton Plantation Slaves (Former?) c.1865

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2014 in Black History

 

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