Old School Friday: Who Was In A Band, Then Went Solo & Back To A Group

Oh boy this week’s meme really had me in a pickle and my brain is already fried as it is. I’m going to hope the meme creators don’t mean the person who left had to be a totally different band because then I quit!!
Help me out here folks who would fit the bill AND have originally produced work before 1999?
The only person I could think of are the ladies from Labelle: Nona Hendryx, Sarah Dash & Patti Labelle.  Don’t mess with Miss Patty that’s all I have to say. She is one of the few singers from her generation who has sustained a vibrant career. The reunited LaBelle recorded a new album and went on tour this past year. Patty is also one of the few to have maintained her vocal abilities. In fact, I think she may even sound better than she did a decade ago. Is hot sauce her secret?

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My Observations On Quincy Jones Questioning Michael Jackson’s Blackness: Pot Meet Kettle

Was anyone else as perplexed as I was reading this Men.Style.Com article? We know how writers can take things out of context or let’s be blunt – lie – about what an interview subject says to generate a salacious headline. So I was personally waiting for some sort of public protestation from Mr. Jones to clarify any of his comments as featured. Looks like they’ll stand as is so I wanted to have a conversation about it. Talk about fair weather friends!
Q: Have you been crying?
A: Oh, man, it’s more than that. It’s way more than that. It hurts my soul, man. It’s just a lump down there.
Q: You were there to witness the strange evolution in Michael’s appearance. Did you ever step in and saying anything about it?
A: Oh, we talked about it all the time. But he’d come up with, “Man, I promise you I have this disease,” and so forth, and “I have a blister on my lungs,” and all that kind of b.s. It’s hard, because Michael’s a Virgo, man—he’s very set in his ways. You can’t talk him out of it. Chemical peels and all that stuff. 
Q: Did you believe him about the disease?
A: I don’t believe in any of that bullshit, no. No. Never. I’ve been around junkies and stuff all my life. I’ve heard every excuse. It’s like smokers—”I only smoke when I drink” and all that stuff. But it’s bullshit. You’re justifying something that’s destructive to your existence. It’s crazy. 
Q: But it must’ve been so disturbing to see Michael’s face turn into what it turned into.
A: It’s ridiculous, man! Chemical peels and all of it. And I don’t understand it. But he obviously didn’t want to be black.
Q: Is that what it was?
A: Well, what do you think? You see his kids?
Read the entire interview. I wanted to make sure I included the excerpt about how much he missed Jackson before getting into it. I thought he was very observant and blunt….but after all of these years Jones is well aware of what audience he’s speaking to when discussing certain things. This wasn’t an interview in Ebony. He was speaking to a predominantly white audience about Michael Jackson’s behavior that went against established norms of other groups. That was a very calculating move on his part.
Let me be blunt: Quincy Jones made some valid points but he is the last person to be questioning another black man’s “blackness”. I was discussing this interview with a friend born in Italy who’s staying in California for the summer and the first thing she asked about was Jones’ penchant for dating white women – and she’s white! This friend of mine holds no compunction about asking me direct questions about her own observations regarding this and other situations related to race, class and gender. She says she’s always wanted to know about things of this nature but had no one to ask or didn’t feel comfortable with potentially offending anyone. So white people do notice even if they’re not saying anything. 
So to be clear, this isn’t about Jones’ mating rituals and I could care less. For as long as I’ve heard of Jones he has been with anyone but a black woman – but that is his choice. If Enrique Iglesias was available and asked me if he could be my Hero, he’d get an emphatic yes. Trust and believe that! More black women need to cast a wide net, meet and mate with a much larger variety of decent men than the wading pool selection of guppies they’re picking through right now. We also need to do it for ourselves and not care what anyone else thinks! After three marriages, several children and numerous alliances I’m certain Jones has lived a very full life. He’s a contemporary of Duke Ellington so he’s been around for quite some time now. 
I don’t remember what magazine featured a story on him but there was an accompanying photo of his children – that’s when I found out that he had in fact been married to and had children with a black woman but it was before I was born! Anyway, my point is that he has biological children whose appearance looks very similar to MJ’s kids. Is he confirming his own desire to escape from blackness by trying to have the whitest-skinned children possible. Is he telling us this is what some (many? most??) black men who mate with non-black women are trying to do? I don’t get the pointed dig at bringing them into that conversation. They have nothing to do with his relationship with himself or Jackson and I thought that was very declasse of him. 
The other issues he brought up, about blacks who want to change their appearance to be more comfortable in their skin was very telling. Michael Jackson was an extreme case because he was so famous and under such scrutiny. It has me wondering now if it is in fact more common for black males to feel that need to be a different phenotype. Regardless it is black women collectively getting pressure from other black men to be different from who they are.  We can observe this in noticing those who publicly express their desire for all women who aren’t black, or have to fit a narrow definition of blackness based strictly on appearance. It’s a pretty vicious cycle that goes back to the core weakness of a few dictating terms for the majority.
The observation of Jackson’s struggle with his identity is one that can be applied in a broader sense to other black men who don’t feel comfortable with who they are in their skin when a sizable portion chose to mate with women who look nothing like the women who begat them. It’s all a choice and that choice is an individual’s right, but what motivates it and to what lengths? When you have high-profile black men choosing non-black women and elevating them as the preferred choice that’s where I protest. That doesn’t seem to be about determining who’s best for you and being in an affirming reciprocal relationship. That’s about black-on-black racism and disdain for black women. I cannot abide by that.
In “Michael Jackson On Race – His Race” an article featured on CNN.com, Carmen Van Kerckhove delves very eloquently into the intracacies and contradictions of our struggle with race and identity. 
Each of our individual histories and the histories of our ancestors act in concert to shape who we become and what we value. And when personal histories are complex (as most are), they often result in a racial identity that is equally complex and sometimes even contradictory. 
About Jackson: Race cannot be separated with precision from body dysmorphic disorder, hatred of his tyrannical father, or any potentially relevant theory being discussed right now.
Because if he hated his body, he was hating a black man’s body. If he hated his father, he was hating a black man. Race ran through it all; we cannot and should not dismiss its effect.
So in our own history of being black in this country where does the conscious, healthy, non-colorist behavior begin and when has the “hatred” or its varying degrees of discomfort ended?
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It’s An All Williams Wimbledon Final Again – Spare Us The Haterade!

Wimbledon 2009: Serena Williams reaches final after epic with Elena Dementieva    Venus Williams of U.S. plays a return to Dinara Safina of Russia during their semifinal match on centre court at Wimbledon, Thursday, July 2, 2009.
Venus and Serena Williams won in contrasting fashion (early) Thursday to set up their fourth all-sister Wimbledon final and eighth meeting in a Grand Slam title match. The sisters – who hold 17 Grand Slam titles between them – will face each other in a Fourth of July final. 

“Oh, my God, this is my eighth final, and it’s a dream come to true to be here again and have the opportunity to hold the plate up,” Venus said. “A fourth final – it’s so exciting. It was so hard before my match to watch all that drama,” Venus said, referring to Serena’s semifinal. “

One Williams or the other has won seven of the past nine championships at the All England Club. Serena beat Venus in the 2002 and ’03 finals, and Venus came out on top against her younger sister last year. Yahoo sports

I am so looking forward to what will be an exciting match for the final Wimbeldon Ladies round. The fans of good tennis always are. What I am not looking forward to are the snide comments from the US broadcasters’ decision to let some of the most hateful, jealous ex-tennis players moderate it. I’m calling out John McEnroe specifically because he doesn’t even try to hide his utter disdain for all things Williams. You’d think it was a personal vendetta. Or that they had done something to him. We see you John. 
I also see it as the allowance of the denigration of black women as started by black men for….you guessed it black women whose features, skin shade and appearance are not the sacred cow of fairness and light. We all know whatever activities women engage in, her appearance is more noticed and harshly judged than a man doing the exact same thing. A man with a big belly will be referred to as a teddy bear while a similarly shaped woman…is not. Both Venus and Serena have gone through their own journey as women and seem to have found their beauty regime and fashion niche. 
I recall all the years they were ridiculed for their appearance which was really about their refusal to conform to what others wanted. Apparently it hasn’t stopped as evidenced by this HuffPo article. It was always about the superficial. We know that had they possessed more “keen” features no one would have said a word. This isn’t about pitting black women of various features against each other or elevating one over the other either. We know that certain black women time and time again get the short end of the stick and are bashed by other blacks for their features and some white men have taken their cue in adding to the pile-on (Don Imus, Asher Roth, etc). 
It was also about their sheer dominance of a sport all-hallowed as lily white. Well Miss Anne and Mister have to take a back seat. They have ruled US tennis for the past decade and don’t appear to be anywhere close to being on the back end of their peak. They should be on the cover of more magazines, have prime time specials dedicated to them and be afforded the respect they deserve for all of their hard work. When I watched the elevation of certain foreign white female tennis players over the players of their own country by the USTA and these commentators I shook my head in disgust. Federer gets more favorable press and he’s the male champ from Switzerland! I also noticed last year how the Olympics were all about a certain white male swimmer who very quickly showed how false idols quickly disintegrate when proof of his drug use surfaced.
This isn’t about the worship of athletes and celebrities, but have you ever heard of such a scandal with either sister? Of course not! If I hear another of these fake commentators talk of “physicality” I will hurl. It is not sheer “brute” force that propels these women as the premier tennis players of the last few generations. They’re not superhuman. It is their mental focus, dedication to craft and practice. Oh and I’m certain a little natural ability, but that won’t carry you over the threshold. I am also tired of hearing comments about Serena’s body shape and weight. I cannot recall at any time that I’ve seen or heard them make public spectacles of themselves, bash other players, or be anything but model citizens. 
We can’t say the same for Gigantic Sense of Entitlement McEnroe can we? He’s not the only one hired by these networks who’s been snide, but he is the worse offender. He knows they are better tennis players and he wouldn’t have been able to beat them even when he was in his prime. He really hates the idea that he’d have been beaten by two non-white women. It’s another case of racialized sexism. You’d think these people would be relieved to have such exemplary players and role models for all the complaining about the numerous arrests and felonies of so many male sports figures. The disrespect is astounding and I’m here to declare: ENOUGH. 
They are intelligent women who decided early on to not put all their eggs in one basket and expanded to other industries. They have also made tremendous humanitarian efforts. They live more exemplary lives than most people. Or at least they have the common sense to keep it private! I love the fact that they continue to kick butt and live their lives with dignity. They could care less and the haters can keep on hating! One of them will emerge victorious and one will be runner-up. They are both now and forever more winners at life.

Update: Serena Wins!! Now both sisters share 3 Wimbledon plates apiece. Can’t wait until next year!
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Why Do Black Themed Sitcoms Showcase Shucking & Jiving Intros?

It’s a question I’ve wondered about for years but I used to think I was being “overly sensitive” and second-guessed myself. Now I know better! When you get a hint of something being off it’s best to investigate why until you’ve found an answer. In the continuation of making the abnormal, dysfunctional or flat out depraved seem neighbor-next-door normal have you noticed the last few years where nearly every non-dramatic series with a predominantly black cast features them singing, dancing, playing basketball, wearing huge grins or with loud theme songs with extra Negritude. You know that extra sassy spin: think the theme song for Sister Sister.  
Now don’t go trying to kick the messenger. I found it so odd because by contrast for every predominantly white sitcom I would be hard-pressed to find one person singing…or dancing…or the rest. I used to think, “well black people are generally talented so maybe it’s a compliment”. Or some of those stars actually were singers or dancers so the theme just showcased their ability. Perhaps, but if the character they were playing was a student, designer, nerd next door or something that had nothing to do with performing why feature that in the show’s opener? I’m not even going to touch the actual show content. That’s a whole other blog post!! 
Then it dawned on me I was watching a 15-30 sec minstrel show. It was far too many shows across the board and there was no parity. I wondered if blacks watching needed to be entertained even for the opener. Do you dance to the theme song of a show as it comes on? Or was this for the benefit of others to marginalize a show from the start? Admittedly I’ve actually enjoyed some of these shows and compared to what came after their run, I’d gladly have them back instead of the nonsense that replaced them.
We know networks like Fox and the former WB and lately the CW used black audiences to build their market share and solidify their positioning before often abruptly dumping these shows once they’ve found it. Those of us who watched Girlfriends, for example found the show canceled with no prior notice and no finale when the network claimed…what exactly did the network say that made any sense actually? Then I watched as they added a show like Gossip Girl which I think is horrible for so many reasons and see it get trumped as the be all end all. 
Except if you look at the ratings, the viewership numbers are nearly identical while the makeup is what differentiates. One has a predominantly white female audience and one didn’t. One is lauded as a “hit” and the other was relegated to the bin without so much of a farewell. One allows for the leads to land major magazine covers and get lots of media coverage. One was virtually ignored and it had been running for eight seasons. Not that Girlfriends didn’t have it’s share of plot holes and questionable presentation but it was one of the few that actually had black women cast. We failed to demand for more and settled for seeing them on tv, counting on the benevolence of the white executives running the network to “do right by us”. Argh!!
Now that the bulk of shows with black casts is practically down to nil – again – in 2009 no less we have a larger issue at stake. I could talk about racism of course, but what about the apathy and lack of support from black executives in Hollywood? I don’t think Debra Leevil is the only one with plans for the “destruction of black people” as quoted in the Hunger Strike episode of the Boondocks. We as viewers have a huge amount of power that we don’t even use. Some of us complain but never do anything. Also since so may of these industries are diseased and dying this is the time for all creative people to DIY. 
The price of technology has brought the price down for equipment and software programs are the great equalizer. I’m personally brushing up on my media arts skills as we speak. It’s going to become a situation with the haves and have nots and I’m not going to be left behind or still focus on trying to fit into an old business model. We’re younger, faster, stronger and we can survive. Some of these people and companies won’t. 
It’s time for us to make our own user-generated content that uplifts but is super duper fly at the same time. Start a digital magazine. Create an e-book. Learn guerilla filmmaking. Stop asking for permission and waiting for other people to validate your vision. Don’t second-guess yourself any more. Go forth…and create. It’s time to put the charcoal and red lipstick away for good and allowing others to dictate how we are portrayed.
On your march….get set…..go!

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Michael Jackson, Lil Wayne, R. Kelly & Roman Polanski: Media Coverage Vs. Perception

I was reading this essay last night. Oh, I feel a headache coming on as I’m writing this but it’s the big giant pink elephant in the room. Depending on what you believe, what you’ve been led to believe, actual court proceedings or a refusal to accept reality we could made a wide arc and include all of the men in one category. It just depends which side of the fence you reside on. All have achieved artistic success. Some are more vilified than others. Two have been acquitted. One was never tried. One needs to be investigated. Some are victims themselves. Some displayed clear grooming tactics of a sexual predator. Let’s discuss. One thing that will always be a hindrance in discussing this is race and class. 
Roman Polanski: His pregnant wife had been tortured and murdered when he turned his grief and rage onto an unsuspecting 13 year old. Court testimony clearly indicates that he drugged and violated a minor. We don’t need to go into details. Yet the mother who had offered her own child up for a potential movie role got off scott free. The problem was the judge tipped his hand about his personal feelings so the defense could claim bias. Yet he was guilty. Yet people felt sorry for him, so he was allowed to skip the country. Male privilege wins again. I say allowed because all the years Polanski’s been on the “lam” he’s been yukking it up in France. His wealth has been intact, he’s had rather favorable press, he still works and was even nominated for an Oscar. He’s been able to publicly complain about not being allowed back in the US. France and the US do have extradition laws. They could have demanded him back to stand trial at any time if they’d wanted. There was further attempt at revising history with a documentary where his teenage victim (who’s in her 30’s now) declares that “the incident” is all behind her now and she’d like everyone to move on. Should we? Why? What punishment did he actually receive when he would’ve long served any time if he’d actually been convicted. He probably would’ve been able to get it tossed out on appeal. Running away never solves anything. So his discomfort at being “inconvenienced” is mostly his own design. He never expressed serious remorse for what he did. Compare his press coverage to….
Michael Jackson: Case #1. It was problematic from the start because it had the wiff of shadiness. Johnny Cochran defended him. He settled out of court and paid millions. I’m not a parent but I always thought no amount of money would make me settle a case like that. I’d want a trial. Apparently there wasn’t enough evidence. We know that cases involving sexual misconduct are difficult to prosecute. We also know as with the McMartin case children can be coached to lie. I think people with an agenda to discredit someone or lessen their sphere of influence always involve a very publicly humiliating situation that offends. MJ’s mere presence as the biggest star on the planet would be considered a threat to the order of white supremacy. That influence could have political ramifications as evidenced by his humanitarian efforts and attempts at normalizing the face of AIDs. On the other hand his abuse and childhood trauma was nothing to ignore either. He displayed an obstinance at having things his way. There comes a point where you have to take control of your inner demons. He may have wanted to be a kid in his head but the reality was that he was a grown man. Yet he was vulnerable to Case #2 which had holes bigger than swiss cheese and a prosecutor who requested the state law be changed with a one-time exception to prosecute and was granted. Now who does that? That makes the Polanski claim of bias from the 70’s look like a joke. He was acquitted. The problem was that people watched the Bashir interview and saw with their own eyes the lack of good judgment on MJ’s part. I saw a young boy who seemed to really adore him and it bothered me. It was the proximity, the lack of boundaries and the still unresolved issues all on display and I couldn’t believe MJ would so foolishly expose all of that for the world to see. The backlash was severe. I think we lost him then and that was years ago. Now there are rumors that Case #1 accuser Jordan Chandler wants to recant but that ship has long sailed and there are people who will never believe him one way or the other. They have twenty million reasons to doubt.
Lil Wayne: He has publicly admitted to being an abuse survivor. That’s a brave thing. I’m not sure that’s he’s actually survived anything though. He seems to be mired in it. He still has contact with the relative that violated him. He allowed his own 10-year old daughter to dance on stage with him at the BET Awards and other grown men while he sang a song about wanting to sex as many women as he could. That’s grooming behavior of a pedophile. I would hate to think he’s unconsciously setting the stage for his own child to be harmed but there it is.  All the outrage people expressed is justified but what has anyone done about it. I’d suggested people call Protective Services but I don’t think I made that a definitive statement. This blogger did. It should be done. Apparently he has a fiancee and a third woman knocked up at the same time. Boy I could talk about acting out, irresponsible behavior, greed and a host of other nonsense but I feel dirty right now. I wonder if people forget they’re displaying their pathologies for the world to see and many are not impressed? Worse yet were all the people in the audience who seemed to be oblivious to this scenario and were carrying on as if nothing was wrong with the debauchery on display. 
R. Kelly: Well he was acquitted. We have the tape though. We know what he did and what he’s done to many others that will never see the light of day because law enforcement didn’t follow proper evidence collecting procedures. The excuses made by other black women was very telling and equally appalling. We have the tape. We have the tape. The one tape that made it to the light of day. There were many others. If one of the young girls had been white he’d be in prison right now, but apparently the value for a black female body is….not much. Race loyalty over common sense. If someone would accuse us of making too many allowances for any other music star I can point to this man and trump them. Which isn’t really a win. **Now there’s word that prosecutors are looking to charge him in another case. Let’s hope if they do they don’t blow this case like the last one.
In all of these situations we have people who’ve been erased, silenced, marginalized or ignored. This is the time to discuss our dirty little secrets and remove that veil of shame once and for all. Victims can become perpetrators and all sympathy must go out the door. Race and class and gender have just as much to do with it as anything else. The influence of media on making things appear larger, grosser or lesser cannot be discounted. Our own prejudices taint our viewpoints. The guilty go free, there may not be any innocent in any of these scenarios and we have life circumstances where better judgment would have led to a much smoother life. It’s a mess. Life is messy. Regardless we’re just spectators in all of these situations. There are those who actually have to live through it and with what they’ve done.
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