I got cable last summer just to watch Being Bobby Brown. More than I am fascinated by the drug use among Whitney and Bobby, I was more intrigued by the politics of respectability – this idea that Black public personas, especially Black women, need to be “respectable” and represent the race well in all aspects. That means, for women, being “done” all the time, and conducting one’s self based on all the bourgie (pronouced BOO-zhee) social norms that come with being a “lady.”

People watched Being Bobby Brown for the reasons people watch most celebrity relaity shows–to make fun of the celebrities. With Black celebrities, and particularly the narrative around Whitney and Bobby, it takes on the “even with money they’re still a bunch of n****s.” Suddenly, to me, it’s not so funny.

Furthermore, the narrative of the “tragic Black diva” is something all Black women vocalists have had to deal with since Billie Holiday, including Chaka Khan & Mary J. Blige. Writer/scholar Farah Jasmine Griffin writes brilliantly about in her work about Lady Day,If You Can’t Be Free Be A Mystery.

Whitney was one of the few Black women artists who had not had that narrative placed upon her for many years, until she married Bobby Brown. But what I learned from the reality show was, whether due to the drugs or tiring of the public pressure of being that “Black Girl Next Door” persona (which people close to Whitney have said that it was JUST a persona), it was clear that Whitney is over and done with pretense. I was, though, holding out hope that she was in recovery, but recent reports (namely a story by Tina Brown, Bobby’s sister, in the National Enquirer) seem to suggest that Whitney is in worse condition than we may have thought. If what Tina Brown says is true, it is a testament to how devastating drugs, and in this case, crack, can be.

Now, I’m not one to be promoting Fox News, but I did find this piece about Whitney that was at least sympathetic, and explains alot about what’s going on with her, and some other details about the music industry that you may not know. Read it here

Campaign to Stop Firestone’s Exploitation in Liberia

Hello all. I know I have been extremely lax in keeping up my blog, but I am going to try to get better at it. I promise. I’ll update you all on my life soon.

In the meantime, I got this in from an African woman journalist who interviewed Angelique Kidjo for the Summer 2006 International issue of Clamor Magazine. The issue is very important to me of late. I have begun to get (re)invested in what is politically happening in West Africa. In addition watching all the recent coverage of the mass demonstrations on behalf of “immigrant rights” and not seeing any thought or interest in the situation of the 1 million African immigrants (nor Black immigrants from the Caribbean or Lation America for that matter)in the US, it is more apparent to me the necessity of Black specific political formations, organizing, analysis, etc.
In any case, exploitation of the enviroment and of people and their labor happens in Africa! In this case, Firestone, the rubber/tire manufacturer in Liberia. Robtel has been working to expose the situation both with a campaign and with her writing. Read On!
Hello all:

In collaboration with stalwarts of the Liberian human rights community, I have recently started campaigning to expose the American corporation, Firestone, for its pillaging of my country’s rubber wealth.

A court case that will open next Monday, April 3, pits Firestone against Liberian plaintifs and charges the corporation with environmental degradation, violation of child labor laws, and human rights abuses.

Please visit Stop Firestoneto read more about the case. I encourage you to also sign the online petition, in addition to flooding Firestone’s mailboxes with letters of condemnation (if you feel so inclined).

You can also access a column I wrote in The Washington Informer Newspaper about the case and campaign:Modern Day SLavery in Liberia

Please spread the word.

In peace and solidarity,
Robtel Neajai Pailey

A Prison Activist Loses Son to Medical Neglect

I have had the opportunity to meet Ms. Roberta Franklin. She is an activist and radio show host in Montgomery Alabama who works bravely and tirelessly on behalf of prisoners in the state. She has been a friend of Critical Resistance, and I got this very bad news today.
It is with a heavy heart that I bring this message to you. Radio Show host Roberta Franklin’s son died this morning at 3:30 a.m. It all started when he had a medical condition that was ignored in prison. It turned into an infection around his heart which was never treated until after he was released as I understand it. That is what brought Roberta to be one of the outstanding activisits in the country for prisoner medical neglect. This is why she is so attached to the work of the mothers in the UNION. She literally wiped up the floor with the politicians and Alabama prison administrators. Not an easy thing to do for a black woman living in Alabama.

Her son was a very young man and he suffered in the hospital a very long time before passing on. My heart is breaking over this, believe me, Roberta is a dear friend who has paid too high a price for her work as a prisoner advocate and journalist.

When she is in a better place, I will get all the details and write a column about this but at the moment she is engulfed by grief.

Please don’t send flowers but DO send her some money to help with the burial costs. She didn’t ask for it but I know that no one who is a prisoner advocate gets rich from this grueling work. If everyone in the UNION sent her $5 that would really add up and help tremendously. The radio show that she does for everyone which was so effective that it almost landed her in prison is unpaid work. I can imagine no pain more blinding than the loss of a son by medical neglect.

Family and Friends of People Incarcerated
Roberta Franklin, Director
2243 Ajax Street
Montgomery, Alabama 36108

——————-This is Roberta’s website link.