BET’s ‘Read A Book’ PSA Causes Controversy

Now that you’ve watched it. What do you think? I gotta say, I kinda LIKE IT! Before I go into why, I’ll say upfront that it is not without its problems. Who’s watching this video? Will this create another case of people laughing at us, and not with us? Does it further stigmatize black youth? This seems specifically targeted to black boys/teens–why are black women’s bodies still exploited as the vehicle to carry this “message” to them? And does this undermine or outweigh the messages it’s trying to hit home?

I think these are all questions I have watching this video. And they are more than just rhetorical questions, I think they bear some thinking about, and demand answers.

But what I like about this video, as someone who is uber interested in media messaging, is that it does, in a really clever way, intervene on what can no longer be denied as problematic behavior. It’s especially interesting in a time where there is an ever-growing conversation in Black communities and on the left about how do we “reach” black youth. It does what the hip-hop activists and scholars, and “conscious” hip-hop artists have failed miserably at doing over the last decade–which is to use the language and visual culture of hip-hop to drive home messages to create what public health folks call behavior change. I think this has the potential to do that–albeit with the problems it has.

Certainly has come a ways since School House Rock!

Much love to Pop Gumbo for writing about this first.

Larry Craig & Gene Robinson: Two Faces of the Moral Majority

Senator Larry Craig: Christian White Right Morality Police Get Policed

Most of you probably already know that Idaho (no jokes, please, breaking up the syllables) Senator Larry Craig pleaded guilty to trying to get some action in a men’s restroom at the Minneapolis Airport, and then retracted his guilty plea by saying yesterday, “I’m not gay, and I have never been gay.”

While its easy to point to all the hypocrisy of this senator, who voted for anti-gay legislation and what not, what’s more interesting to me is the moralism around public sex, and the amount of policing of gay men that happens in our society. Many cities in recent years have increased policiing of parks and bathrooms with the intention to entrap gay men having consensual sex with themselves, and usually out of the view of other people. It is no wonder that this is why there have been several busts of several prominent republican men attempting to engage in public sex acts. At the end of the day, even with all that power, if you’re trying t fuck some men, you’re still subject to all kinds of surveillance. But the Republicans have just pushed him out there, and I not that I care, but it does speak to the how fragile the moral majority’s grip on the Republican Party is today.

Councilman Gene Robinson: Refused to Play “Moral” Majority Blackmail Scheme

While the world was fascinated by Senator Craig yesterday, Councilman Eugene Robinson in Atlantic City won a legal victory. Apparently he had been set up by local political rivals, who hired a woman (the press is alleging is a prostitute) to lure the councilman into a hotel to have sex, which they secretly videotaped, and tried to use it as blackmail to get Robinson to step down.

Well Robinson said the sex was consensual and refused to step down. Now the 5 alleged culprits have been indicted by a grand jury, which means they will now face charges and a trial. I am not invested in the trial or conviction per se, but I am glad someone finally just said “hell naw” and didn’t play the game. This group of dudes tried to use the power of the moral majority to ruin a political rival’s life, and it looks like it’s biting them right dead in the ass. Hahaha!

Katrina Anniversary: Join the 5 Minute Campaign

ACTION ALERT: 5 MINUTES FOR JUST RECOVERY

Look below the surface.

On the 2nd anniversary of Hurricane Katrina many are documenting the continued struggle of residents in the Gulf to return and the corporate and government mismanagement that has stood in the way.

But as we reflect, there is also much to be done.

The Katrina Information Network (KIN) is a family of groups in the Gulf and across the country using e-advocacy, grassroots pressure, local actions and resolutions to turn the tide toward fast, equitable rebuilding.

Our network is hundreds of thousands strong, but we need more people to stand with us to building public pressure for a just recovery.

This anniversary, will you join us by asking your supporters to take stand for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast?

The 5 minute Campaign
Give us 5 – five minutes a week that is – to make your voice heard for just recovery. Look out for the weekly email and in a few clicks, you will have helped local efforts move national policy. Join Us Now!

Wave a Banner for Just Recovery.
Visit KIN and download one of our banners. Add it to your website or blog and give your readers a chance to join up and learn more about the rebuilding effort.
Get a Banner Here!

Local resolution campaign.
Turn up the heat on policymakers and those profiting unfairly from Katrina. A resolution passed this summer in Milwaukee will cost a wasteful company $30 million. Tell your elected official to block corporations from doing business in your city who mismanaged or wasted recovery funds. Find out how to Hit Them Where It Hurts!!!

It’s Time to Draw the Line.

We need to raise our voices, our votes and our wallets to make a change in one part of our nation that can be a model for others communities we come from and care about.

Here’s a video about musicians from New Orleans. Check out my friend, “Piano Prince of New Orleans” Davell Crawford. I also highly recommend his song Gather By the River from the Our New Orleans CD.

Carolina Chocolate Drops: Black Hillbillies Hit the Big Time

I often joke with my friends that I come from Black hillbillies. It’s kinda true. My mother’s family is from Tennessee (not Memphis) and Kentucky. It helps to explain why you can sometimes hear Dolly Parton’s bluegrass records getting bump in my house or my car (I also like Emmylou Harris, the Cry Cry Cry project, and much of Tracy Chapman’s work is outright country, like “Smoke & Ashes“).

I grew up on country music as much as I did Parliament/Funkadelic. As a result, my tastes are equally as sporadic. I don’t like contemporary country so much, but much prefer the bluegrass tunes with mandolins, dulcimers, and banjo–with a strong voice lilting over the harmonies. When you really, I mean really, get past your initial shock or displeasure, bluegrass is comepletely soul music. It is usually explained by musicologists and historians as having roots in Irish or Scottish folk music.

That is undeniable. But it also sounds very similar in some ways to some traditional African styles–in terms of the melodies, harmonies, and the string playing. The banjo is afterall originally an African instrument–its no wonder why country music is actually very popular in Africa. So why are so many Black people so adverse to bluegrass music (although Black people over the age of 35 in the south will outright admit to liking certain country music. A friend of mine often says, “Black moms love Dolly!”), and think of it as a white thing?

Well, the Carolina Chocolate Drops may change this. I was going thru my Emusic.com account, and decided I needed some more bluegrass, so I am searching the section of the site when the name Carolina Chocolate Drops pops up. I think it cannot be possible! A Black bluegrass band? And I was right! Who are they?

The Carolina Chocolate Drops are a group of young African-American stringband musicians that have come to together to play the rich tradition of fiddle and banjo music in Carolinas’ piedmont. Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson both hail from the green hills of the North Carolina Piedmont while Dom Flemons is native to sunny Arizona.

Although we have diverse musical backgrounds, we draw our musical heritage from the foothills of the North and South Carolina. We have been under the tutelage of Joe Thompson, said to be the last black traditional string band player, of Mebane, NC and we strive to carry on the long standing traditional music of the black and white communities.

Joe’s musical heritage runs as deeply and fluidly as the many rivers and streams that traverse our landscape. We are proud to carry on the tradition of black musicians like Odell and Nate Thompson, Dink Roberts, John Snipes, Libba Cotten, Emp White, and countless others who have passed beyond memory and recognition.

A Little on Piedmont Stringband Music

When most of people think of fiddle and banjo music, they think of the southern Appalachian Mountains as the source of this music. While the mountains of Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina are great strongholds of traditional music today, they are certainly not the source.

The nuances of piedmont stringband music stem from the demographics of the piedmont and thereby its focus on the banjo as the lead instrument. Among black ensembles, the banjo often set the pace and if a fiddle was present and it often was not, it served as accompaniment and not as the lead instrument as is more common in the Appalachian tradition. A guitar or mandolin would have been rare, but unheard of, in these bands but the foundation of this tradition lies rooted in the antebellum combination of fiddle and banjo.

Want to know more about the African-American old-time tradition? Visit blackbanjo.com for more links to more information.

Soif there are other black hillbillies out there, or if you’re interested in exploring something you never thought you’d like, check em out.

Has Castro Died?

Rumors are swirling over the internet that Cuban President and pinprick in the ass of the US Fidel Castro has died. I am not sure if they’re true or not, but I thought I should let you know that they’re out there. I am watching CNN and there’s no story on here yet. There have been many “Castro is dead” rumors over the years, which proved to be untrue. But Castro is really sick. And he’s old. Developing…

Check em out…

Perez Hilton

Babalu Blog

The National Ledger

Wonkette

This Week’s Musts: Pop Gumbo, Hip-Hop’s Down Beat, Angie Stone

Not everybody needs a blog. Others, however, were born for the artform. Meet Pop Gumbo. It funny, it’s smart. It’s black and feminist. Need I say more? It’s a new blog that posted my favorite entry this week called When Celebrities Come Out Of Their Mouth: Terence Howard Edition. Pop Gumbo writes to Howard:

Sir, I have a job, articles to write and New York rent to pay—I cannot worry about how my “Hmm mmm” smells all day, nor can I tolerate a lesson from you about what to use to stay fresh. Do you use wipes? Do your balls smell like clean linen? I think not. Honestly, that is what you should be concerned with.

Confused about the context? Go to Pop Gumbo and check it out!

Time Magazine just published a really interesting article on the demise of hip-hop. It’s really interesting because it doesn’t take the same-ole same ole approach, but really looks at how the financial support that was once there for gangsta (and gangsta-esque) hip-hop has now washed under. Ta-Nehisi Coates writes:

The lesson was Capitalism 101: rap music’s market strength gave its artists permission to say what they pleased. And the rappers themselves exhibited an entrepreneurial bent unlike that of musicians before them. They understood the need to market and the benefits of line extensions. Theirs was capitalism with a beat.

Today that same market is telling rappers to please shut up. While music-industry sales have plummeted, no genre has fallen harder than rap. According to the music trade publication Billboard, rap sales have dropped 44% since 2000 and declined from 13% of all music sales to 10%. Artists who were once the tent poles at rap labels are posting disappointing numbers. Jay-Z’s return album, Kingdom Come, for instance, sold a gaudy 680,000 units in its first week, according to Billboard. But by the second week, its sales had declined some 80%. This year rap sales are down 33% so far.

Lastly, my homegirl Angie Stone has dropped her first single and video from the upcoming The Art of Love & War, on the newly re-fashioned Stax Records. I am glad she left J Records, which Stone says Clive Davis had turned into the label for Alicia Keys and American Idol. She told EurWeb:

“I never enter into a project without a title first. The only time that happened was when I was on J Records. The title of my album was called ‘Diary of a Soul Sister,’ then Clive Davis came to me and said I had to change it because Alicia Keys had ‘Diary of Alicia Keys,’ so I said ‘Well, I had my title first’ and they said ‘Well, we gotta change yours.’ So then I came up with ‘Stone Love’ and that title was not indicative of that album which is probably why that was my weakest selling album. I felt the trust had been broken and I was very upset that I had to change the theme. The album was supposed to have Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan and Roberta Flack and was supposed to be a diary of my life but we had to abort the concept of doing that kind of timeless piece of work. Right after that Jill Scott came out with her duet album. So, I’m a little tight.”

No wonder. That album (Stone Love) didn’t sound finished to me–and that cover art was second rate. Anyhow, the new single is called Baby, and features legendary soul singer Betty Wright. I like the arrangement a lot, and the video brings Stone’s signature ‘keepin it real’ style –where she is pourin’ water over some cornflakes cuz she ain’t got no milk! You betta hold it down for Columbia, SC (where my fam also lives now) Ms. Stone! Here it go!

Following Madonna, The White Gays Take Malawi

I think Madonna has now made Malawi the place to be. She adopted (or at least is trying to) a child from Malawi, and since the white gays follow her every move, they’re making their way, too!

I just saw this on The Advocate. Gay screenwriter John August and straight actor Ryan Reynolds took a trip to Malawi to help build an orphanage for the many children who have lost their parents, largely due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. There are lots of photos from this trip that you’ll have to click on the link to see—I won’t post them for fear of being sued. Here’s how August sums up his trip:

It’s tempting to try to equate what’s happening in Africa with the American experience, but it’s a mistake. Our poor people don’t forage for roots in a famine. The African AIDS crisis is of a completely different scale and time line. After a church service, the orphans—my orphans—got pamphlets in Chichewa with a red AIDS ribbon on the front. I was excited until I realized there were only Bible verses printed inside. Cultures move at their own speed, and my frustration can’t change that.

If there’s a commonality I saw, it was the way the orphans of Malawi have banded together. Lacking parents and traditional families, they take care of each other. That’s long been part of the queer experience. For generations, gays and lesbians were virtual orphans, disowned by their families. That’s changing, quickly. My hope for Malawi, for Africa, is that this upcoming generation can be the last of its kind. If this generation of orphans begets another generation of orphans, we’ll have all failed.

Ugh. This is so goddam annoying (my orphans? Do they really belong to you?). I am sick to death of celebrities who don’t know anything, but get press and accolades for pretending to (cultures “move at their own speed?” Was that a nice way of saying “backwards?).

First of all, it is simply not true that people in the United States don’t forage for food. Been to a major city lately? In NYC, one can see homeless people by the hundreds on a daily basis picking thru the trash cans for food, or for aluminum and plastic bottles to recycle for cash. It may not be foraging for roots, but it’s equally as outrageous. And the African AIDS epidemic is really not of a different scale and timeline when you compare it to African Americans, quite frankly (see your local epidemiologist).

On the one hand August is saying that we can’t compare poverty or AIDS in Africa with the US. So making a comparison about poverty and AIDS (read: N*gg***, stop complaining!) is impossible, but making a link between being gay and being an orphan in Africa is somehow on equal footing? Chile, please! What happened to Oscar Wilde was fucked up, but at the end of the day, he was a white man (an aristocrat!) from the society that colonized Malawi, and helped create or profited from the condition that you went there to help “solve.” Do those things add up to you?

I have not been to Africa yet—before the nay-sayers come for me—for one reason. I cannot afford to. But when I go, I don’t want to provide “aid.” Plain and simple. I think there are Africans doing hot shit and I wanna know what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and what Black folks can globally create to do for each other.

I wanna know about the LGBT Ugandans who are organizing to decriminalize “homosexuality.” I wanna know about the women in Kenya who formed their own community, free of men! …And a bunch of other shit I don’t know.

Enough of white do-gooders. I want to support African innovation for a healthy and sustainable continent. What are Africans doing to that end? They’re there. And they are here and in Europe and in Latin America. I don’t want Africans to merely serve as the vehicle to prop up notions of white charity—in the face of so much destruction. To that end, The Christian Science Monitor has a story about the whether celebrity photo ops and volunteering does Africa any good.