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America is a super power not because we make the biggest guns. We’re a superpower because our culture has

saturated the planet: Levis, Apple, Nike, Disney, Coke, Pepsi, McDonald’s, Jazz, Rhythm n Blues, Rock ‘n Roll,

and Hip Hop. Our culture dominates the world far more than any nuclear bomb can.

 

 

Being a Maid
By James McBride
 

 

Last night, President Obama, our first African American President, delivered his third State of the Union address. On that same day, the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated two gifted African American actresses, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, for Oscars for playing maids in The Help. This is 73 years after the first African American to win an Oscar, Hattie McDaniel, garnered the award for the same role—as a maid, and a slave maid at that, winning the Oscar in the Best Supporting Actress category on Feb. 29, 1940.

And here we are, in the year of our Lord, Jan 25, 2012. Maybe I’m getting old, but the irony of this is too much. Or perhaps I’ve heard this song before. In the 1970s, when I was a freshman at Oberlin College, my white friends and I used to sit up and talk about racism and solving society’s problems all through the night until the sun rose. Not much good came from these talks, the least of which is I hoped to get laid, which rarely happened. But on those cold nights, I was convinced that when I walked out of college, racism would be just about finished. Instead, it smashed me across the face like a bottle when I walked into the real world. Now, 33 years later, I find myself talking about the same thing I talked about when I was a college freshman.

I have no take with Ms. Davis and Ms. Spencer. They’re outstanding actresses. But the nomination of these two women by the Hollywood community 73 years after Hattie McDaniel won for the same role speaks for itself. As co-writer and co-producer of Spike Lee’s newest film Red Hook Summer, and his previous feature film Miracle At St. Anna, I have a clear eyed view of what the cultural display of African American life means to hearts in Hollywood, a land of feints and double meanings and as tricky to navigate as anything inside the Beltway. I wish someone had told me this when I was a freshman at Oberlin.

America is a super power not because we make the biggest guns. We’re a superpower because our culture has saturated the planet: Levis, Apple, Nike, Disney, Coke, Pepsi, McDonald’s, Jazz, Rhythm n Blues, Rock ‘n Roll, and Hip Hop. Our culture dominates the world far more than any nuclear bomb can. When you can make a person think a certain way, you don’t have to bomb them. Just give them some credit cards, a wide screen 3D TV, some potato chips, and watch what happens. This kind of cultural war, a war of propaganda and words, elements that both Hollywood and Washington know a lot about, makes America powerful beyond measure. The hard metal of this cultural weaponry, much of it, emanates from the soul of Blacks, the African American experience in music, dance, art, and literature.

But this kind of cultural war puts minority storytellers—Blacks, Asians, Latinos and people of color—at a distinct disadvantage. My friend Spike Lee is a clear example.  

Three days ago, at the premiere of  Red Hook Summer at The Sundance Film Festival, Spike, usually a cool and widely accepting soul whose professional life is as racially diverse as any American I know– lost his cool for 30 seconds. When prompted by a question from Chris Rock who was seated in the audience, he blurted out a small, clear truth: He said one reason we did Red Hook Summer independently was because he could not get Hollywood to green light the follow-up to Inside Man which cost only $45 million to make and grossed a whopping $184,376,240 million domestically and worldwide—plus another $37 million domestically on DVD sales. Within minutes, the internet lit up with burning personal criticism of him stitched into negative reviews of Red Hook Summer by so-called film critics and tweeters.  

I don’t mind negative reviews. That’s life in the big leagues. But it’s the same old double standard. The recent success of Red Tails which depicts the story of the all black Tuskegee Airmen, is a clear example. Our last film, Miracle at St. Anna, which paid homage to the all-black 92nd Division, which fought on the ground in Italy, was blasted before it even got out the gate. Maybe it’s a terrible film. Maybe it deserved to bomb. The difference is this: When George Lucas complained publicly about the fact that he had to finance his own film because Hollywood executives told him they didn’t know how to market a black film, no one called him a fanatic. But when Spike Lee says it, he’s a racist militant and a malcontent. Spike’s been saying the same thing for 25 years. And he had to go to Italy to raise money for a film that honors American soldiers, because unlike Lucas, he’s not a billionaire. He couldn’t reach in his pocket to create, produce, market, and promote his film like Lucas did with Red Tails.

But there’s a deeper, even more critical element here, because it’s the same old story: Nothing in this world happens unless white folks says it happens. And therein lies the problem of being a professional black storyteller—writer, musician, filmmaker. Being black is like serving as Hoke, the driver in Driving Miss Daisy, except it’s a kind of TV series lasts the rest of your life: You get to drive the well-meaning boss to and fro, you love that boss, your lives are stitched together, but only when the boss decides your story intersects with his or her life is your story valid. Because you’re a kind of cultural maid. You serve up the music, the life, the pain, the spirituality. You clean house. Take the kids to school. You serve the eggs and pour the coffee. And for your efforts the white folks thank you. They pay you a little. They ask about your kids.

Then they jump into the swimming pool and you go home to your life on the outside, whatever it is.  And if lucky you get to be the wise old black sage that drops pearls of wisdom, the wise old poet or bluesman who says ‘I been buked and scorned,’ and you heal the white folks, when in fact you can’t heal anybody. In fact, you’re actually as dumb as they are, dumber maybe, because you played into the whole business. Robbing a character of their full dimension, be it in fiction or non fiction, hurts everyone the world over. Need proof? Ask any Native American, Asian, Latino, Gay American, or so called white “hillbilly.” As if hillbillies don’t read books, and Asians don’t rap, and Muslims don’t argue about the cost of a brake job.

There’s nothing wrong with being white. I’m half white myself and proud of it. There isn’t a day passes that I don’t think about my late white Jewish mother and the lessons she taught me about humanity.   But bearing witness to this kind of cultural war over the course of a lifetime will grind a man or woman down in horrible ways, and that’s my fear.  I remember as a young saxophonist, just out of Oberlin, standing at a tiny jazz club in West Philadelphia watching the great jazz tenorman Hank Mobley in his last days, sick, broke. It was a jam session, and he strode onstage to reach for the magic one more time, to conjure up the power of his younger years when his mighty tenor powered Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and Miles Davis when those guys were the toast of Europe.  Drink destroyed him. He was helped onstage by the kind musicians around him, and he stood there swaying, barely able to hold up his horn in that rancid little joint. When he put his mouth to his horn to play, it broke my heart. I felt like I was being strangled. His ability to play had vanished, and I saw my future.

It was terrible lesson for a young man fresh out of college and I did my best to forget it. But I understand it then and I understand it now: This is what happens when you walk through a supermarket and hear muzak playing ninth chords borrowed from your history; when you see instructions books made from the very harmonic innovations you created, and in my case, when you spend a lifetime watching films that spoof your community. Your entire culture is boiled down to greasy gut bucket jokester films, pornographic bling-rap, or poverty porn.  

I used to think that if only there were a peaceful way, we could make Hollywood listen to the sound of America’s true drumbeat: the voices of working class poor, blacks, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, and the so-called rednecks of this country; the people that walk the land, work in the K-Marts, run the fast food joints, drive the trucks, stand in line at 4 a.m. for the i-phones, go to church for redemption, and sell the knockoff s on eBay. But the new breed of Republicans have taken that high ground. They’ve gotten rich off it. That leaves me with nothing but the notion that Washington and Hollywood may be just alike. They’re engaged in a cultural war. They take your gun and use it on you, and it makes you sorry you drew your gun in the first place. It makes you wish you were a maid.

James McBride (born September 11, 1957) is an American writer and musician whose compositions have been recorded by a variety of other musicians. He is best-known for his 1996 memoir, the bestselling The Color of Water, which describes his life growing up in a large, poor African American family led by a white, religious, and strict Jewish mother, whose father was an Orthodox rabbi, but converted and became devoutly Christian during her first marriage to Andrew McBride. "I thought it would be received well in the black community but it's sold much better in the white Jewish community," he said. "Most of my readers are middle-age, white, Jewish women. . . ."  The memoir spent over two years on The New York Times bestseller list, and now appears on high school and university course lists across America.

In 2002, he published a novel, Miracle at St. Anna, drawing on the history of the overwhelmingly African American 92nd Infantry Division in the Italian campaign from mid-1944 to April 1945. The book was adapted into the movie Miracle at St. Anna, directed by Spike Lee, released on September 26, 2008. In 2005, he published the first volume of The Process, a CD-based documentary about life as lived by low-profile jazz musicians. In 2008, McBride uses the notorious criminal Patty Cannon as a villain in his novel Song Yet Sung.Wikipedia

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Oscar nominations 2012: full list

Juano Hernández (July 19, 1896 – July 17, 1970) was a Puerto Rican stage and film actor of African descent who was a pioneer in the African-American film industry. He made his debut in an Oscar Micheaux film, The Girl from Chicago which was directed at black audiences. Hernández also performed in a serious of dramatic roles in mainstream Hollywood movies. His participation in the film "Intruder in the Dust" earned him a Golden Globe Award nomination for "New Star of the Year." . . . In 1949, he acted in his first mainstream film, based on William Faulkner's novel, Intruder in the Dust, in which he played the role of "Lucas Beauchamp", a poor Southern sharecropper unjustly accused of murder. The film earned him a Golden Globe nomination for "New Star of the Year." The film was listed as one of the ten best of the year by the New York Times. Faulkner said of the film: "I'm not much of a moviegoer, but I did see that one. I thought it was a fine job. That Juano Hernandez is a fine actor—and man, too." Film historian Donald Bogle said that Intruder in the Dust broke new ground in the cinematic portrayal of blacks, and Hernandez's "performance and extraordinary presence still rank above that of almost any other black actor to appear in an American movie."—Wikipedia

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Mammy to Minnie: Black Women Oscar Winners—Luchina Fisher—28 February 2012—After Octavia Spencer won the Academy Award for best supporting actress, Jennifer Hudson, who won the same award in 2006, was first to welcome her into the very exclusive club of black women Oscar winners. . . . Like all families, this one comes with baggage. For most Oscar winners, an Academy Award is a boon to their careers, both in terms of roles and earning power. For black women, the road after Oscar seems to be less certain. "The reality is there aren't enough good roles for black women, let alone plus sized ones," Village Voice columnist Michael Musto told ABCNews.com.

Just look at Mo'Nique, who won the same award in 2010 for Precious. She only recently signed onto her next feature after her BET talk show was cancelled. Then, there's her co-star Gabourey Sidibe, who was nominated for a best actress Oscar. After a couple of small film roles, Sidibe is now a regular on the Showtime series "The Big C" with Laura Linney. Spencer, who became only the sixth black woman to win an Oscar, has more acting chops than both and should fare better. "Octavia has already shown her range in both drama and wacky comedy, so she should do fine in a variety of character parts that show off her talent. In addition to films, there's also TV (which Octavia's already done and can shine in again)," Musto said—abcnews

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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The Black Arts Movement
Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s

By James Edward Smethurst 

Emerging from a matrix of Old Left, black nationalist, and bohemian ideologies and institutions, African American artists and intellectuals in the 1960s coalesced to form the Black Arts Movement, the cultural wing of the Black Power Movement. In this comprehensive analysis, James Smethurst examines the formation of the Black Arts Movement and demonstrates how it deeply influenced the production and reception of literature and art in the United States through its negotiations of the ideological climate of the Cold War, decolonization, and the civil rights movement.

Taking a regional approach, Smethurst examines local expressions of the nascent Black Arts Movement, a movement distinctive in its geographical reach and diversity, while always keeping the frame of the larger movement in view. The Black Arts Movement, he argues, fundamentally changed American attitudes about the relationship between popular culture and "high" art and dramatically transformed the landscape of public funding for the arts.Publisher, University of North Carolina Press

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Visions of a Liberated Future

Black Arts Movement Writings

By Larry Neal

"What we have been trying to arrive at is some kind of synthesis of the writer's function as an oppressed individual and a creative artist," states Neal (1937-1981), a writer, editor, educator and activist prominent in the Black Arts movement of the 1960s and '70s. Articulate, highly charged essays about the black experience examine the views of his predecessors--musicians and political theorists as well as writers--continually weighing artistic achievement against political efficacy. While the essays do not exclude any readers, Neal's drama, poetry and fiction are more limited in their form of address, more explicitly directed to the oppressed. The poems are particularly intense in their protest: "How many of them / . . . have been made to /prostitute their blood / to the merchants of war." Rhythmic and adopting the repetitive structure of music, they capture the "blues in our mothers' voices / which warned us / blues people bursting out." Commentaries by Neal's peers, Amiri Baraka, Stanley Crouch, Charles Fuller and Jayne Cortez, introduce the various sections.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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Enjoy!

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 27 January 2012

 

 

 

Home  Kam Williams   Jean Damu Table   Washerwomen Table

Related files:   Who or What Does "The Help" Help   My Mother Was a Maid      Tera Hunter & Joy My Freedom   Being a Maid By James McBride  Cuba Gooding, Jr. in Red Tails  Film Reviews of The Help    

Red Tails in the Sunset   The Return of the Nigger Breaker