Why I Don’t Do Halloween

Halloween has become a time for white people to leave the house in blackface. Let’s face it. I live in the NYC area, and NYC’s Greenwich Village has one of the most popular Halloween Parades in the country. The last time I went, I was greeted by lots of white people dresssed in all forms of blackface–pimp costumes, rastas, hip-hop “thugs”, and “hoochie mamas.” Why doesn’t anybody think this is a problem?

Here’s a few of the costumes you’re likely to see this year, and why I’ll be home by 6pm:

Raisin’ Hell: Obama Hires Homophobic Gospel Acts

I am late to blog this but school is sucking the life force out of me so until late December, expect me to not be as on top of things as I should be (which is ironic, since I am in J-school. But I digress.)

In any case while I was in classes all day, the blogosphere was aflame with the news that Barack Obama hired ex-gay gospel minister/megastar Donnie McClurkin for a tour to snatch up votes from the wanna be second Black Prez Hilary Clinton in South Carolina, aka “the Black Primary.” NOTE: I don’t really think Bill was the first Black President–by any stretch of the imagination. But again, I digress.

So what the hell is thebig deal? Black progressive columnist Earl Ofari Huchinson may have been the first to break this story, and if not, certainly is the one that folks pick up on. And while I am ususally wishing more straight Black people would be better allies to Black queers, the point at which they get to set the agenda for how Black queers should respond to things, I have a problem.

And I know the white gays are gonn have a fuckin’ field day with this but let’s face it: it’s not that Barack is necessarily homophobic, it’s a gospel tour! How is he gonna have a gospel tour and not have some homophobes along for the ride??? Along with McClurkin on the Obama tour is the duo Mary Mary, who may be worse homophobes that McClurkin if you ask me. They told Black gay blogger/entertainment journalist Clay Cane in March of this year exactly how they felt about their gay fans and homosexuality in general for VIBE:

Erica: Um… how do I feel about homosexuality? I feel how God feels about it, um… but I still love them. You know what I mean? I don’t agree with the lifestyle, but I love them. They can come to the concert; I’m going to hug them just like I hug everybody else. They have issues and need somebody to encourage them like everybody else – just like the murderer, just like the one full of pride, just like the prostitute, everybody needs God.

Tina: You know, I think the fact that our music is very, very upbeat and works well in clubs – you know, I think that’s something that makes more people gravitate to it. Like Erica said, we don’t necessarily agree with the lifestyle, but we don’t pride ourselves on bashing. Everyone has things in their life that they need to correct, everybody has struggles. Even though that’s the way we feel, we don’t bash, and we embrace everybody who enjoys our music. Hopefully our music is impacting them in a way that, if they see there’s some things in their life that’s not quite right and doesn’t align themselves with what the Bible says – hopefully our music impacts them in a way that makes them want to change it.

Anyhow, Obama is distancing himself from McClurkin now. Obama, has been pretty outfront in terms of talking about homophobia, especially in the Black community (and tying it to the HIV/AIDS epidemic) But I think that McClurkin, despite being an ex-gay, seems to be talking common sense to the Chicago Tribune on his views on homosexuality and his support of Obama–

“I don’t believe that even from a religious point of view that Jesus ever discriminated toward anyone, nor do I,” McClurkin said in an exclusive interview with the Tribune. “Most of the things that were said were totally out of context and then other things weren’t true.”

“My only concern is to be in place with Sen. Obama in unity and bring all the factors together for the sake of change,” he said. “That’s my only thing. Of course some agents have twisted it as though he [Obama] were embracing a racist or a Nazi, and that is anything but true.”

“I believe in his stance. I believe in his platform and his agenda. So when they asked me if I would be a part of it, there was no problem,” said McClurkin, who has performed at both parties’ conventions and identifies himself as a Democrat. “We don’t have to agree on everything, but we do have to agree on the main thing: that there needs to be change and I believe he is the candidate to bring it.”

Salt-n-Pepa Return with the Best Reality Show Since Bobby & Whitney

Salt-n-Pepa, the female rap duo who broke all kinds of records in the 80’s and 90’s not only for being the precursor to TLC and Lil Kim, but for just being a hugely successful hip-hop group of whatever gender. They had a decisively feminist message that was sex positive and queer-friendly. Then it all came to a screeching halt.

Well the duo can now be seen on VH1 in The Salt-n-Pepa Show, which premiered tonight and traced the duo’s first meeting after many years, and their attempts to reconcile their differences and perhaps ressurect the group. Listening to the opening theme of the show made me realize how much I actually miss their presence on the pop music soundscape. But the show very qucikly cuts to the really intense (and contentious) relationship that broke them up in the first place.

It seems that Cheryl “Salt” Wray had become depressed during the height of their success. She was also a bulemic. She apparently had grown disgusted with the sexual nature of their persona, and just quit the group, and became a born-again Christian, and never looked back.

Sandy “Pepa” Denton was left holding the bag, and a lot of bitterness at the friend and business partner who left her hanging. While most reality shows (for example, I Love NY) have become so fake so as they mught as well be fully scripted, The Salt-n-Pepa Reality show is intense, and seems to be a brutally honest look–not at two washed up stars trying to eek out the last drop of celebrity–but of two friends struggling to understand the path that led to their relationship’s destruction, and the path to rebuilding it. Of course the situation is set-up, the cameras are there to catch all this drama of course, but the emotion is completely honest. Watching it, I can think of friends and family members whom I could very easily be having this conversation with.

This, methinks, is the one to watch this season.

Mariah Carey Throws Shade at J. Lo!!!

This is just fierce! Mariah Carey was interviewed by a European (sounds German) televesion show. She was asked about Beyonce, whom Mariah spoke glowingly about. But she wasn’t so nice when asked about Jennifer Lopez, who just released a new album. Mariah does not see Ms. Lopez. That’s no secret. But it’s a scandal that she threw this much shade in front of the cameras.

BACKSTORY: Mariah was once signed to Sony, run by her ex hubby Tommy Mottola. Mariah says that once Tommy was ready to cut her from the label (after they were divorced, but before her contract was up), he signed J-lo, who copied Mariah’s look, and allegedly took an unfinished Mariah song (yes, Mariah actually writes alot of her own work) and used it on her (J.Lo, that is) album. So Mariah has no love for J. Lo. And now she’s making it public.

I can’t wait for Mariah’s new record, due out this winter. J. Lo’s? Well, the tracks I heard on iTunes didn’t do anything for me.

Not that I’m taking sides.

Bill Cosby on Meet the Press

Bill Cosby has caught hell in recent years for his controversial speeches about the hip-hop, poor black people, and the state of Black folks in American in general.

Today, Tim Russert’s Meet the Press hosted Cosby and his longtime collaborator Alvin Poussaint, MD., to talk about their new book, Come On People–a treatise on the state of African-Americans and what they think needs to shift. He doesn’t seem to be saying anythign that isn’t knew or innovative, but another hand-wringing book about the lack of Black fathers in the lives of their children, Black women have “made it” while men suffer in prison, that AIDS is the result of our “behaviors,” etc. I guess I have to say I am glad that there is at least a conversation happening in the Black community about what we need to be doing poltiically and socially, but I hate that the conversation never seems to evolve past the “we need the strong black man to take his rightful place” type of foolishness.

I guess it’s too easy to make fun of him as some doddering old fogey–I think the sentiment of his fears is sincere. I share his basic concerns. I do think something has to be done to improve the conditions of young Black men. But I don’t think that the people who currently hold the mic on the discussion, have much in the way of useful answers.

MSNBC.com has posted the entire first chapter of the book, and you can read it here.

Black Women Voting Power: New York Times & Washington Post Cover Clinton/Obama Tactics In South Carolina

It seems really strange that the New York Times and the Washington Post would run news stories both taking place in Black beauty shops to talk about th efight for Black women’s vote in South Carolina. But today, they did. Their stories, both accompanied by video, take different points of view on what Black women are thinking about how they are going to vote this year, and on the tactics Clinton and Obama’s machines are using to court their vote.

The most interesting thing to me is what the women in both stories say about how they’re voting, or considering their vote. In the Washington Post story–which focuses most on using the political tactics of reaching Black women voters–the women say:

“I’m not even thinking about color, but I guess in a way I am. I think basically white people won’t vote for him,” Bell said of Obama. “Isn’t that what voting is all about? You are voting for a person that you feel could be a winner.”

That pessimism that a black man could ever become president is a powerful force, even for Obama supporters such as Gaynell Wise, 51, an accountant who was getting her hair cut the day Champaign came into Passion Slice.

“I’m voting for him. I’m old-school. I know what’s going on,” she told Champaign. “He’s trying to take this country someplace it’s never been before. It’s going to take a lot for him to win. I know that. I know the system is not set up for him to win. It’s going to take a miracle and a lot of prayers for him to win. If you can get us to vote . . .” Most of the salons Champaign visits are frequented by younger women, who polls show have been more likely than their elders to vote for black presidential candidates.

But I think the New York Times story has a more nuanced and interesting approach. They talk to the women not just about the vote, but about their conflicted feelings about loving Bill Clinton and wanting to support Hillary mostly because of that. But they also are afraid, literally for Barack Obama’s life, and some are afraid to elect him, for it will mean his untimely demise:

Clara Vereen, who has been working here in rural eastern South Carolina as a hairstylist for more than 40 of her 61 years, reflects the ambivalence of many black women as she considers both Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

“I’ve got enough black in me to want somebody black to be our president,” she said in her tiny beauty shop, an extension of her home, after a visit from an Obama organizer. “I would love that, but I want to be real, too.”

Part of being real, said Ms. Vereen, whom everyone calls Miss Clara, is worrying that a black president would not be safe.

“I fear that they just would kill him, that he wouldn’t even have a chance,” she said as she styled a customer’s hair with a curling iron. One way to protect him, she suggested, would be not to vote for him.

And Mrs. Clinton?

“We always love Hillary because we love her husband,” Ms. Vereen said. Then she paused. Much of the chitchat in her shop is about whether a woman could or should be president.

That’s an interesting predicament. The Black women profiled in this story it could be said, want to elect Clinton because they like Bill, and because perhaps they want to seek revenge against the Republicans for the 2000 Florida voter fraud. The are scared to elect Brack not because they don’t think he’s Black enough (a media hype) but because they know he is more likely to be assassinated.

Perhaps for the first time in American history, people are really taking the voting interests of Black women seriously. I’ll give more of my analysis of this at NYU on Tuesday.

10/16: Race, Gender and The 2008 Election

If you’re in NYC, come check out this panel!

Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality
New York University


“Are Americans ready to elect a woman or a black man as president?”

A panel discussion with:

Kenyon Farrow, co-editor of Letters from Young Activists: Today’s Rebels Speak Out

Richard Kim, Associate Editor, The Nation

Marianna Torgovnick, English, Duke University

Moderated by Tavia Nyong’o, Performance Studies, NYU

October 16, Tuesday
6 to 7:30 PM

19 University Place, Great Room, 1st Floor
between 8th Street and Waverly Place

This event is free and open to the public.

Venue is wheelchair accessible. If you need sign language interpretation services or other accommodations, please let us know by Monday, October 8, if possible.

For more information or to contact us, call 212-992-9540, email gender.sexuality@nyu.edu, or visit us online at www.nyu.edu/csgs .