Archive for the ‘Joshua Generation’ Category

And A Little Child Shall Lead Them…

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

You’ve all seen the video by now of little Tyren Scott,  a fourth grader at a charter school in New Orleans, who got to ask  President Obama the last question at the town hall meeting the President held there in his city.

“Why do people hate you?”

“Ahhhh…” we collectively say to ourselves.

Our hearts break as we listen to a little boy ask the question on the minds of plenty adults and children as they witness the rage that has been directed at President Obama over the last few months.

But what about the President’s answer? How do you rate the President’s answer?

Watching the video, I find myself wondering if His O-ness missed the moment. Oh sure, he tried to explain to the little fellow that it was all politics, and then wanted him to know that he needn’t worry that he  [the president] could take care of himself. I get that. I even get that the President was probably sideswiped by the boy’s question and was so moved by the his genuinely not understanding all that was going on that  His O-ness  fumbled for a moment there on how best to respond knowing that cameras were zooming in on him. I get that.

But still I wonder.

Might there have been a better response to the little boy’s question about hate and American politics? I haven’t yet figured out what I wish the President had said.  I just know that I was looking for something a little more thoughtful.

What else, or what differently, might President Obama have said in response to the little guy’s question, “Why do people hate you?”

Throw Back Thursday: Jackie Wilson

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

It’s taking a few days to get back on schedule and back into this time zone after nearly two weeks on vacation.

Thanks to Fal for her provocative guest commentary which kept readers’ occupied here on the blog while I struggled to catch up on reading and resting there in Hawaii. Cough. Cough. It was a struggle.  I managed to break the spine of a new novel and lose myself in it while on vacation: Mother of the Believers by Kamran Pasha’s, a tale of the events and conflicts surrounding the beginning years of Islam as told from the point of view of Aisha the second wife of the Prophet Muhammad. Got another hundred pages of the book to finish before I launch into a commentary. Mind you, I’m bristling with thoughts and impressions.

In the meantime, time for a trip down memory land. In light of all the feasting going on surrounding Michael Jackson and his death, I thought I’d take this time to introduce the younguns’ here on the blog to someone Jackson idolized and drew inspiration from. He was one of the two entertainers (the other being the legendary James Brown) whose singing and entertainment style had enormous impact on Jackson the star-struck boy sitting before his parent’s black and white tv.

Enter Mr. Jackie Wilson (1934-1984).

While I remember swaying to a few of his tunes when I was girl, Jackie Wilson was more a heart throb to the women in my mother’s generation.  I remember the women from my neighborhood gathering in our living room to watch him on the black and white television with his processed pompador and leg tight pants singing, sweating, pulsating with sensuality. I was still too young to understand what all the sexual fuss was about at the time.

Although I gotta admit watching this video of Wilson with his falsetto tenor singing one of his signature songs “Lonely Teardrops” — a performance that dates sometime in the late 50’s or early 60s– I think I can understand now why women fanned themselves with their dress tails standing there in our living room watching Wilson perform and why they stumbled back to their dreary lives and tired husbands with faraway smiles on their faces. It takes watching Jackie Wilson perform a song like “Higher and Higher” twirling, flipping, and diving, throwing the mike around without missing a note to really see his influence upon the young Michael Jackson. Wilson knew how to entertain. Says Rolling Stone, “Jackie Wilson was one of the premier black vocalists and performers of the late ’50s and the ’60s. No other singer of his generation so perfectly combined James Brown’s rough, sexy style and Sam Cooke’s smooth, gospel-polished pop.” Wilson’s career came to an end as a result of a fall he suffered during one of his performance (a heart attack sent him over the edge) which left him in a coma and vegetative state for nine years before his death.

Sometimes it’s good to remember that great performers do not emerge ex nihilio, but that many of their innovations are not innovations at all, but are lines, steps, sounds, and unfinished thoughts of others who in their day were equally great even though now long forgotten.

Feasting on Michael Jackson’s Flesh

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Special thanks to Fal for granting me permission to post her reflections on last night BET Award Show with its special tributes to Michael Jackson. I couldn’t catch the show here in Hawaii, but thanks to Twitter I managed to catch folks’ reactions to the show.

bet awards show 2009I am deeply troubled by the buffoonery of the 2009 Black Entertainment Television Award Show where “blackness” guaranteed BET’s ownership of honoring Michael J. Jackson’s life. Of course, there is an endless laundry list of technical, sexist, homophobic, and simply tone death performances that I could blog about. However, the most compelling issue for me is that we witnessed consumption at “it’s finest” where Jamie Foxx unabashedly highlighted his many upcoming projects and the beauty of his voice, where every five seconds large digital placards of sponsorship appeared before our eyes beseeching us to buy their wares, where Joe Jackson plugs the revival of his singing career, where the infamous golden arches tell our children that they should dream of working at McDonald’s when they “become big kids,” and where we the viewing public further the cannibalization process of Michael Jackson by not turning our televisions off in righteous indignation because consciously or unconsciously we enjoy the thrill of consuming flesh . . . the gossip, the speculations, the betrayals, the “sins,” and yes “if it bleeds then it leads” or in the case of the BET Award Show if it stereotypes black people then it sales.

This only shows that we do not know how to honor our dead. We only know how to consume them and extract the last bit of value from their dead flesh. With Michael Jackson’s death, future record deals will be made from sampling his catalogue, cottage t-shirts industries on each street corner beckoning people to remember Michael through purchasing a t-shirt, increased Itunes downloads of Michael Jackson’s work, juicy gossip to make the workday bearable, legal rangles on CNN about the authenticity of Michael Jackson’s will, biased scholarly debates on Michael’s masculinity, psychological fragility, and his love of children. Of course, I too am guilty of participating in feasting upon his flesh, after hearing the official announcement that he was dead, I raced to Itunes and bought one of his greatest hits albums so that I could remember and honor him.

But does buying an album and then privately consuming the purchase constitute honoring the dead?

Of course, all of this is not to say that consumption in of itself is bad because we need to consume various things to live, however, when consumption becomes the end in of itself and when it is not intimately connected to the idea of mutual replenishment than it becomes capitalism where I take more from you and there is no guarantee that I will give you anything in return unless it too benefits me.

bet awards show

Did anyone else notice that not one of Michael Jackson’s songs that deal with accountability (i.e. the Man in the Mirror), building a peaceful global community (i.e. We Are the World and Heal the World), environmental justice (i.e. Earth Song), critique of globalization/policing (i.e. They Don’t Care About Us), ending global racism (i.e. Black or White) justice and safety of children (i.e. Little Susie/Pie Jesu and Childhood), and the need to be connected to each other (i.e. Will You Be There and Stranger in Moscow) showed up on last night’s BET Awards show? Why not? Because these songs are Jackson’s kryptonite critiques on consumption behaviors.  And BET decided that that’s not what interests his fans, especially his young fans like those of us who are 20something like myself.  But I disagree. Yeah, there was Ciara’s song Heal the World, but my ears don’t allow me to count her rendition. (But that’s another story.)

Hey, I am not saying that Jackson’s pop and romantic tunes should not be celebrated because they should. But something is wrong when not one ballad about healing, community, connectedness, and environmental responsibility was featured in any public or pronounced manner.  That omission says something about where we are as a society. Certainly reminds us that the Black Entertainment Television channel  cares more about black consumption than black legacy.

Someone special told me recently that the way you honor your parents or mentors is not by submitting to their authority or legacy, but by choosing to live your life seeking your purpose so that if your parents or mentors had to choose to live their life over they would choose to live your life because your purpose is enriching the world.

Here’s how musical legend Michael Jackson would have been remembered last night if I were producer of the BET Award Show.  I would have ended the show featuring global cultural workers who enrich the world followed by a musical medley of Man in the Mirror, Heal the World, Will You Be There, and Earth Song set against the video depictions of current political events—political protests in Iran, rape in the Congo, foreclosed houses in the US, fighting in Israel, and Hurricane Katrina—and environmental concerns—erosion of beaches, global warming, pandemics and epidemics of all kinds. All of which was to remind the audience that Michael Jackson cared deeply about people and the current state of the world. Thus, we honor him not only by remembering his soulful music—Billie Jean, Thriller, and so forth—but by choosing to live our lives dedicated to the service of humanity, a life that if Michael Jackson had to live his life over he would choose our interpretation of his best vision. That’s what I think should have been done last night. Or something like that. Anything but how BET and last night’s performers chose to remember Michael last night.

I guess it gets down to this: Can we expect people who live in a consumeristic culture to know how to honor the dead when they don’t even know how to honor the living –without consuming them alive?

Lessons Around the Kitchen Table-1

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

I’ve invited a couple of young women in their 20s to write a guest editorial here today at Something Within. I know these two young womyn personally. They are two of my toughest critics as well as two of my biggest supporters. We are from different generations. I am from the Moses’ generation, they are from the Joshua generation. Sometime I want to take a switch to their legs and banish them from buttin’ into the conversation of the grown women around the kitchen table.  Other times I’m grateful that they keep showing up and buttin’ in.  I guess I oughta listen.

It’s called the quarter-life crisis. Not to be confused with the mid-life crisis, the quarter-life crisis is not about re-inventing yourself. It’s about starting from scratch. Some refer to it as “finding voice,” “searching for self,” and “becoming a woman.” But what it’s called is not the point here. The point is that just about every young Black woman around the age of 25 knows what it’s like. It’s that period when you find yourself teetering on a fine line between promise and potential and a full-fledged mental breakdown. That period just between graduation and starting a career. That time in your life when you look around and realize that while the mid-twenties is about reveling in the glory of newfound independence, it’s also about milling around in uncertainty and confusion. All of a sudden, you find yourself trying to recall what your mothers and other-mothers once said to you. Or you find yourself reflecting on what you wish they had said to you. To prepare you. To get you ready.

As two young Black women in our mid-twenties, it is from this place—this “quarter-life crisis”—that we write. Seeking wisdom, insight and dialogue from older, wiser women, we’ve mustered up enough courage to venture from our spot at the “children’s table” to enter into the kitchen, the revered realm of grown women. And thankfully, instead of being shooed away, we’ve been invited by Dr. Weems to stick around, “sit a’spell,” and engage in a series of intergenerational discussions here on the blog about the pressing issues impacting young Black women, how older Black women in our lives have informed our experience with these issues, as well as what we need from older generations of Black women to help us navigate our journey.

In the midst of a nail-biting U.S. presidential campaign season, we’ll begin this series with the topic of politics and more specifically, the larger socio-political-economic landscape that impacts the lives of young Black women in the 21st century.

mother-daughterAs is the case with older generations, there are a number of current events that have impacted our sense of political consciousness, including the September 11 World Trade Center attacks (most of us recall stories of being interrupted in the middle of morning classes in college with the shocking news), the War in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, the Don Imus comments, the Jena 6 protest as well as the Dunbar Village gang rape and the Megan Williams case. And yet, for many of us, our political awareness started budding well before any of these events ever occurred. In fact, much of our early political formation and awareness is indelibly tied to the ways we saw our grandmothers, mothers, and other-mothers engage (and disengage) with politics and current events when we were small children.

While we may have never felt the rush of adrenaline or righteous indignation during a Civil Rights march or sit-in, we did witness (and feel) the hard, cold scowl that came across our mothers’ faces whenever Ronald Reagan was on the television screen. We learned, through eavesdropping on conversations, that the “war on drugs” was a code phrase for the “annihilation of the Black community.” We had grandmothers who allowed us to look at the comics section of the newspaper while they casually told us the “goings on in the world.” We had aunts who read the newspaper from section to section, including every single obituary. There were days when, after a long day at school, we waited in even longer lines just to squeeze into a small voting booth with our mothers, who took less than a minute to vote.  We heard women in our families and in our communities rally around Clarence Thomas and shout with joy over of O.J. Simpson’s acquittal and somehow, we learned that Black men must be protected, even if it is at the expense of Black women.

Now, we know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering why our generation, after witnessing such awareness and engagement among older generations, has not continued the legacy of political engagement, or as one older Black woman put it, “We were storming buildings and holding rallies. We knew what was happening in the world. But you all are too busy playing Wii and watching television to care.” O-kay. Enough already! Before the gnashing of teeth, wailing and lamenting commences, we need to debunk a myth: Though young black women (and men) are not out marching and holding sit-ins, it does not mean that we aren’t politically conscious nor does it mean that we aren’t doing political activism. It does, however, mean that our method of activism looks and sounds different.

For the most part, we use the internet to mobilize diverse groups of people to protest injustices. Internet websites like Facebook, Myspace, and Friendster allow people to “interface” with each other creating in cyberspace traditional social networks where mobilization efforts can occur. Just look at the online mobilization efforts and activisms surrounding Megan Williams, Jena 6,’s campaign to out President Bush to see that the internet is a new place where young activist are being political. In particular, Black women and we would venture to say younger black women between the ages of 18 to 35 are blogging about the political complexities of black female identity.

This is not to say that cyber space is the only place where young black women are acting politically because that’s not true. At younger ages, Black women are creating and sustaining non-profit organizations geared toward uplifting and empowering themselves and their peers politically such as Women’s Empowerment Street Team or HOTGIRLS.

Furthermore, while it’s true that most popular and mainstream black female music artists like Lil’ Kim and Trina rap about material things and their sexual abilities, not all black female MC’s do. There are some that rap and write about the political landscapes of their communities and its implication on black women such as Jean Grae, Lauryn Hil, Toni Blackman, and Bassey Ikpi. By and large, our activism takes on different shades of purple. Yes, we marched on Jena, but we also used cyberspace, lyrics, and non-profit organizations to voice our political agendas concerning Megan Williams and the Dunbar gang rapes.

And of course the reason why silvered hair black women cannot see these activisms is because of the mantra “I brought you into dis world and I will take yo behind out” which quails any type of youthful dissident or political voice. This mantras has other manifestations such as, “Y’all think you stand on your own two feet,” “You don’t know anything about struggle,” “You girls are too fast,” “Y’all don’t go to church no more.” All of these parental, aged, and experienced sayings minimize the ability of older black women to see the activisms and political opinions of young black women.

mother-daughter2In most cases, younger black women know the shoulders they stand upon whether they acknowledge the names of the shoulders is somewhat irrelevant if they are acting upon the sacrifices that were rendered. With some limits and constraints, younger black women are creating spaces for them to speak and not relying upon men to pave their way, just look at all the Myspace pages detailing who they are and what they want. Furthermore, they do not have to experience fire hoses, biting dogs, and lynching to know of struggle. They experience struggle everyday when confronted by men who grope them without condoms, by a growing rate of HIV infection among young black women, by a school system that cheats them out of a quality education because they are black children, and by older black people and white people who judge them by their clothes, their hair, their language, and their lack reverence to authority. Black girls know struggle.

And for older black women to understand this—our activisms, political thoughts, and struggles—they must listen to us. Not to tell us “we are in grown folks business” when we convey our concerns and skepticism about Barack Obama’s black male privileges. To listen to us as individuals with opinions and not to down play our voice when we do not share their opinions regarding Hillary Clinton. Ultimately, for seasoned black women to see our activisms, struggles, and concerns, they must get to know us which means dismantling the wall of “I am older and I know” mantra and replacing it with “I am older and know, but I am willing to hear and actively engage your ability to know.” Because at the end of the day this creates a space for mutual dialogue about how we “collectively” and “intergenerationally” can ensure that black women’s voices are heard in various political arenas.

cookingUltimately, the act of listening and actively engaging our voices helps us to trust older black women. When we trust older black women, we will allow them to assist us in constructing tight critiques of Don Imus and Hip Hop Artist Nelly. When we trust older black women, we will tell them that we want to see more Ella Baker black female leaders who unapologetically confront systems of racism sexism, homophobia, and capitalism. When we trust older black women, we will tell them that we’re supporting Obama because black men have it hard and also because he looks good without them casting The Eye upon us in judgment. When we trust older black women we will tell them that justice and sisterhood extend beyond black women to include other US women of color as well as Mexican US immigrant women and women who live in the Global South. When we trust older black women we will undoubtedly respect their frame of reference when it comes to traditional ways of mobilizing and acting politically. We are even willing to assist them with becoming techno savvy and learning how Hip Hop can be used as a vehicle of social change . . . when we trust older black women to listen and actively engage our voices.