dimanche, août 27, 2006

I've Been Meaning to...

I've been meaning to read Edward P. Jones's The Known World for some time, particularly after it won the Pulitizer Prize three years ago. The plot, as well as the scope magnitude, and general prize by literary scholars alike pull me towards the novel. All Aunt Hagar's Children, his new book, is apparently a collection of short stories that takes place in the same time period as his The Known World. There are especially no excuses for me not having read The Known World as I actually purchased the book when it came out! Just put is aside one day and neever came back to it! Enjoy your Sunday!

provender -- noun: 1. Dry food for domestic animals, such as hay, straw, corn, oats, or a mixture of ground grain; feed. 2. Food or provisions.

"I am attracted to myths" -- Tina Turner

vendredi, août 25, 2006

Call Me Ambitious

So, in my relenting quest to find some sort of outlet for the ever incessant traffic of ideas and projects that run in and out of my mind, I have decided to (and have been actively working on) putting together a number of edited collections on a variety of topics (which I will go into in a minute) that would serve the following purposes:

1. Giving smart and intelligent writers an avenue (especially writers of color and women) in which they can publish their work.
2. Adding to the canon of intelligent thought with fresh ideas and voices, colorful prose, and critical debate, especially as it relates to the bigotry, ignorance, and stupidity that has a monopoly of the contemporary public space.
3. Bringing to the surface issues, specifically those in pop culture and politics, that while extremely important have barely made it to the surface of critical debate and public scrutiny.

With that said, I am in the works with a few publishers in securing edited collections of the following topics:
1. Race Wars -- An edited collection that will include essays that speak to the publicly contentious relationships between people of color i.e. Blacks/Hispanics, Blacks/Koreans, etc. This collections will probe the possible causes of such dissension as well as why these relationships need to and should be mended. For this collection, I want to especially want to hallmark contributions by people of color.

2. There is no title for this collection but I want to publish a collection of essays by people of African descent in their twenties, who speak about race, gender, and class post-Civil Rights America. How have things changed? Have things changed? As an African American, are you pessimistic or optimistic about the future of Black America. More on this later.

3. I want to publish a collection on Blacks speaking about the Black middle class. These could be your own experiences as well as essays. More on this as well.

For this particular post and for the time being, I have put the above ideas aside(would love to hear any comments on the above ideas) to work on the first edited collection. Below, I have written the unofficial Summary of the first edited collection that I am working on. Next week I will publish a more astute, well-thought out explanation of what I'm trying to do:


Color or colour plays an extremely important role in the landscape of American society. This important role is tied prominently to notions of race, gender, and in many instances class. For this collection, I am seeking essays that analyze the ways in which primary colors (i.e. Black, White, Green, Yellow, Orange, Purple, Brown, Red, and Blue) have been codefied amidst racist and sexist boundaries. For example, why is evil, particularly in cartoons, almost exclusively associated with Black i.e. Black clothing, Black Hair, Black eyes, etc. These entries can span the gamut of culture, language, media, politics etc. Essay can be non-fiction as well as personal experiences of "color". Entries can also look at two colors in opposition or in symmetry as well as mixed together and the color that both create. How is Black, White, Red, Yellow, Brown, etc. codefied in terms of race and sex in American culture. For instance for this collection, I will be looking at the intersection of Black and Blue -- the ways in which Blue has become an alternative version of Black in white culture(think of "the Blues, Blue Man Group, "Blue Dog" in the New Orleans art scene), a signifier of authenticity, depth, suffering, difference, the underdog, and essentially Blackness. I will further look at the ways, especially in pop culture, white culture has figured out a way in which skin can be earned redemptively, mostly by identifying with the colorful, more exotic side of difference -- Blackness and now Blueness. Franz Fanon talked about the "epidermalization of subjectivity" and this collection will do just that. How has "color" become associated with various racial and gender based themes? I also want people who will be looking at the words and/or concept of "color" or "colour" (and any variation of it..i.e. "coloured"). Entries should prioritize fresh, intelligent ideas while at the same time privileging smart and accessible language rather than obtuse, scholarly prose.

How does this sound? I'd like to see first how many people are intersted in collaborating and then by next week, I'll have any official call (that I will be publicizing shortly). I'd also appreciate any additions, questions and/or concerns that any of you may have with the topic.

In other news, I will be planning my first outing for my yahoo group Epicurean Delights (see sidebar) shortly. August Wilson's Seven Guitars is currently playing in New York at the Signature Theatre Company. Tickets are only $15 for all seats. The play is in production until Sept. 23rd so I will be planning a get together for all us New Yorkers soon!

robustious -- adj:1. Boisterous; vigorous 2. Coarse; rough; crude.

"Is it wrong for me to love my own? Is it wicked for me because my skin is red? Because I am Sioux? Because I was born where my father lived? Because I would die for my people and my country?" ---Sitting Bull

mercredi, août 23, 2006

Life is Not a Fairy Tale

Recently there were two made for television movies where Black people or Blackness was the focal point: Life Is Not a Fairy Tale: The Fantasia Barrino Story and The Ron Clark Story. Beginning with Fantasia, her story though contrived was interesting both for the omissions and what was featured. Fantasia's rape, low self-esteem, abusive relationships with men, and poverty were large parts of the story but her illiteracy, a large part of her story (and surprisingly not that uncommon in this country), was left out. Directed by Debbie Allen, Fantasia played herself, her acting not very polished or in many parts believable. Fantasia's father in a Hansberry-esque Raisin in the Sun moment, at the beginning of the show, signs a contract with a record company only to have his partner's writing contributions scratched from the final disc, he goes into a bout of rage breaking all the CDs and promising a showdown with the executives who produced the CD. The image of Fantasia's father is very interesting, characterized by anger, Fantasia's father is a bastion of frustrated dreams, figurative impotence as a provider, and privvy to extreme bouts of anger. In a radio broadcast shortly after Fantasi'a win as idol, Fantasia spoke about the horrific "whoopings" her brothers would receive at the hands of her father. This was of course not in the show but makes perfect since after watching it. Fantasia story of pain and low self-esteem while framed within poverty and a religious upbringing were very familiar.

Only a slightly different tangent, we have yet again another white teacher saves the Black students movie (i.e. Michelle Pfeiffer and Jami Gertz) with Matthew Perry's The Ron Clark Story. A small town kind-hearted North Carolina teacher (Perry) moves to New York and teaches at one of the worst schools in Harlem in order to make a difference. One thing I hate about these movies is the notion that Harlem is the same as Iraq, both battlefields where warfare can take place at any moment. Black malehood is coupled with violence in much the same way as it was in the Fantasia Barrino story. Black womanhood is associated with aggressiveness as well though verbal. I'm interested in the Blackness and class are interpreted via the popular media and next week will engage in a post each day that details my own musings about class and Blackness. Stay tuned... :) And I hope you all watched When the Levees Broke. More on that later this week...

expiate -- transitive verb: To make amends for; to atone for

“What treaty have the Sioux made with the white man that we have broken? Not one. What treaty have the white man ever made with us that they have kept? Not one. When I was a boy the Sioux owned the world; the sun rose and set on their land; they sent ten thousand men to battle. Where are the warriors today? Who slew them? Where are our lands? Who owns them?....What law have I broken? Is it wrong for me to love my own? Is it wicked for me because my skin is red? Because I am a Sioux; because I was born where my father lived; because I would die for my people and my country?” -- Sitting Bull

dimanche, août 20, 2006

Africa is Now Officially in Style

When I speak publicly about my speculation of Angelina Jolie and her rainbow tribe, I am mostly met with discontent from all people of all colors. But I can't help my suspicions. Africa has officially become "chic". Stars like Madonna, Bono, Lindsay Lohan, Gwenyth Paltrow, Jessica Simpson, Nicole Kidman and, perhaps, most famously Angelina Jolie have dedicated themselves to the continent, many picking specific countries, for which they pledge to alleviate one of more of the social ills that plague the area. Now, in order to refrain from being a complete party pooper, philanthropy is admirable. The root words phil (love) and anthro (human) meaning lover of humanity, philanthropy is indeed a beneficient enterprise, the haves creating opportunities and helping the have nots. But I contend that philanthropy is indeed, by definition, an oxymoron. Philanthropy implies a truly altruistic act, the giving of money, services, opportunities, etc. to those who don't have access. But are human beings truly capable of a completely altruistic act?

Let's take for example that giving aid to or spending time in Africa and kissing Black babies is good PR, a tax deduction, and self-fulfilling, in other words it makes YOU feel better about yourself. Philanthropy, by definition suggests that you GIVE, not receive but, at least in my opinion, that seems to be an impossible task. The giver is always receiving and in many cases receives more by giving than the recipient. I can't help but feel a sort of paternalistic overtone in many of the photos and videos that are splashed over the media of celebrities vowing to save Africa. Take Bono for instance. His work in Africa, especially with respect to AIDS, is admirable I can't help but take note that his celebrity has been a great part of his accolades with respect to his philanthropy. Stars like Bono and Angelina Jolie make millions a year based on their music and films then they go to visit Africa for awhile and then go back to their careers. To me, it feels like a hobby. Its also interesteing to note that while Bono is lauded for his philanthropic endeavors he is also has a significant stake in Forbes Magazine, a beacon of capitalism and consumption. Hmmmm????

This issue seems hard to debate. I'm sure the people in Africa aren't complaining. I mean, does it really matter in the long run why people give money to certain causes, people, etc. so long as the people ge the funds and resources to make significant changes to their quality of life? Seems like a question for New York Times and NPR's regular ethicist, Randy Cohen. Nevertheless, it matters to me. I contend that true altruism and indeed philanthropy, are oxymorons and cannot be achieved. To achieve either one of these concepts, a completely SELFLESS act must take place and I don't think that's possible. Just the idea of feeling good about it suggests that the individual has derived something from the act. Just an idea.

This is not to say that philanthropy is not a good idea. It is indeed wonderful but I feel it should be put into its proper context. I'm just afraid that Hollywood has picked its next chic enterprise and Africa may one day go out of style like Kabbalah.

supposititious -- adj: 1. Fraudulently substituted for something else; not being what it purports to be; not genuine; spurious; counterfeit.2. Hypothetical; supposed

"I wish it to be remembered that I was the last man of my tribe to surrender my rifle"
--- Sitting Bull

samedi, août 19, 2006

The Patchwork Family

I've been accused of being a lot of things, mostly in excess: too militant, too radical, too left, too sensitive, too...basically too much on one side but I don't think I'm being too sensitive when I remark on a small article on msn. Recently interviewed and very pregnant, Heidi Klum made the statement,

"In Germany — and this started with a newspaper headline — they call us `the Patchwork Family...I was like, `Hmm, is this an insult or is this positive?' I talked to Seal about it, and we're, like, it's actually kind of great — we're all different shades and we came together and we all love each other."

The patchwork family. The idea that there had to be an official name to it is indeed troublesome. Positive, I declare would be remarks that state they are a beautiful or loving family. Again, race is a focal point. I'm sure Seal gave a pleasantly benign response to Heidi's question, refusing to dig deeper into why his hue or the hues of his son and soon to be born second child would play a role in the description of his family in his wife's native homeland. How will Heidi and Klum tackle race in their household? Unintelligently and uninformed I would imagine. How will they tackle the inevitable (if it hasn't happedned already, exoticism of their children by others? As compliments I suspect.

In other news, check out this article in the New York Times that discusses the, dare I say, trend in adoption --- white people adopting Black babies...

eremite -- n: A hermit, especially a religious recluse

"Since the 1960s, we have seen the failure of the melting pot ideology. This ideology suggested that different historical, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds could be subordinated to a larger ideology or social amalgam which is America. This concept obviously did not work, because paradoxically America encourages a politics of contestation" --- Edward Said

vendredi, août 18, 2006

This Black Girl Reads...and reads and reads and reads...

So I have an idea -- nebulous, nascent at best but an idea. I've decided to apply for this grant that allows me to put together an art project that can benefit the greater New York and I've decided to organize a weekend literary fest. I want to solicit new and established writers, in all genres, who would be willing to share their work. I want to put together panels with established writers. I want this weekend to run the gamut of anything and everything that is related to writing. And I want the focus to be people of color. I want to showcase the literary talents of people of color in New York in the Spring. Eventually, I'd like this to branch out into a full out arts festival: music, film, dance, literature, etc. But I want to start small first. So, I want to start an informal call. If there are any writers: professional, wannabes, or otherwise, who want to participate, let me know. Also let me know what you'd like to see as it pertains to writing and reading. I think people like maryann have done a great job encouraging people to read and creating opportunities that bring readers together. I want to do the same. In the coming weeks, more on this idea will be explored, including an official call for artwork, more details on the program, etc. Any thoughts?

"I have been unable to live an uncommitted or suspended life. I have not hesitated to declare my affiliation with an extremely unpopular cause" --- Edward Said

adumbrate -- transitive verb: 1. To give a sketchy or slight representation of; to outline.2. To foreshadow in a vague way.3. To suggest, indicate, or disclose partially.4. To cast a shadow over; to shade; to obscure

mardi, août 15, 2006

Too Sleepy to Properly Rant About Why I Hate Technology

So after only a year of service, my P.C. completely crashed. Sh*tDa*nMut*aFu*ka!! Needless to say, I'm embarrassingly late on a myriad or projects that I have in the works from contributons to anthologies, DVD reviews, my TV column, my own personal writing, and alas, my blog. I guess its time to get creative. So I have been hogging the computer at Chica Luna Productions where I do grant writing. To top things off, my body is in a chronic state of sleepiness, they way it feels when its preparing it self to go to bed. So much has gone on in the world in just a week. So while I write apology letters to my various editors and try to keep up the 18 billion things I have to do between now and 2:00 p.m. tomorrow, I have included this poem by Derek Walcott that I think is really beautiful. Enjoy! :)

"Love After Love"

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself,
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

---Derek Walcott

sough -- intransitive verb: 1. To make a soft, low sighing or rustling sound, as the wind. n:1 . a soft, low rustling or sighing sound

"Since the time of Homer every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric"
---Edward Said

samedi, août 05, 2006

*For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Jew Boys When the Negroes Ain't Enough*

Danzy Senna begins her 1998 essay "The Mulatto Millenium" as such: "Strange to wake up and realize you're in style". And indeed being bi-racial (or as Senna asserts, being "'fauxlatto': a person impersonating a mulatto. Can be of white, black or other heritage, but for inexplicable reasons claims to be of mixed heritage") is "hot" now, currently being the new exoticism that American pop culture has engendered itself. Its in fact, to a certain extent, advantageous to be biracial or multiracial (or at least appear to be) in Hollywood in the sense that your looks and/or ancestry don't pigeonhole you into one distinct racial category, i.e. Jessica Alba, Vin Diesel, Halle Berry, Alicia Keys, etc, allowing you to play role that other "colored" people may not be privy. Take Jennifer Lopez, a Puerto Rican (which is a category of mixed race in and of itself) has played a Mexican, Native American, and Italian among other things. In fact, in a 2002 study performed by UCLA's Jay Phelan, Phelan asserts that bi-racial people are "more attractive"than "uniracial" people across the board based on data that showed biracial people to have more symmetry in their faces. Indeed being bi or multiracial is becoming more and more politicized outside of pop culture, demanding the re-categorization of race in the American landscape. A number of memoirs and novels have made waves in the past decade, chronicling the lives of their biracial authors and/or characters, most notably: **The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother**, Caucasia, Black, White, and Jewish, The Skin Between Us: A Memoir of Race, Beauty, and Belonging, Fade: My Journeys in Multiracial America, On Beauty and The Professor's Daughter. In the fall of 1993 Time Magazine published a cover story entitled "The New Face of America"featuring a woman who is a composite of varying races. The racial categories of the census have also come under scrutiny for their limited racial categorizations. Prominent celebrities such as Kanye West (in a recent Rolling Stone cover story) have expressed their preference for women of mixed race. And the list goes on and on. It is indeed a multiracial millenium in America, a place where racial categorizations have been so stringently enforced for so long.

My youngest sister is always telling me that race doesn't exist; its a false category. And I know this is true but I argue that the false has become very much real, the fantastical has become reality when it comes to issues as broad as access to health care, incarceration rates, roles in Hollywood and ideals of beauty among other things. Perhaps what makes the multiracial movement so threatening to the power structures that be is its potential to disarm carefully crafted racial stratums. But then again, in places like Brazil where a multitude of racial categories exist, racism is extremely virulent and socially exclusive. Thus, is this a sign of inclusivity or another stratum for racial exclusion and preference? How is a person who is multiracial defined? Take for example, African Americans the majority of whom have European and/or Native American ancestry as well. Are we mixed or multiracial? Should we check that on a census? Or is multiracial only confined to first generation mixtures? If so, why? Blackness is, after all, especially in this country, a category of mixture.

I contend that the only progress that will be made in the name of race in this country is the elimination of race in and of itself. As new racial categories become apparent, new hierarchies of power, beauty, and acceptance are being constructed. As this society becomes more and more blended, questions of race will be called into question more and more. If and when people of mixed race become more recognized in society, racism will still exist. It just changes its form to accomodate the society at hand. Decades ago, it was burning crosses, grandfather clauses, and lynchings. Now its rearing its head in varying degrees: averse government policies to Hurricane Katrina. If we are ever to get to the bottom of racism, then intense dialogues and movements surrounding the intricacies of race are needed.

* Courtesy of Danzy Senna's "The Mulatto Millenium"
** Excellent book that I highly recommend, definitely the best in the list above.

prima facie -- adv: 1. At first view; on the first appearance adj:1. True, valid, or adequate at first sight; as it seems at first sight; ostensible.2. Self-evident; obvious.3. (Law) Sufficient to establish a fact or a case unless disproved.

"To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the inner music that words make" --- Truman Capote

vendredi, août 04, 2006

Save the Date: Spelman College Reunion for c/o 2002

I can't believe its been almost five years since I graduated from Spelman! May 9th-13th, 2007 is my fifth year reunion. So I guess I have some motivation to make something of my life before then. I have to have a book deal or a film project or a boyfriend or something if I want to show my face respectfully.

In other news Sanaa Lathan will have a substantial role on one of my favorite shows on TV, Nip/Tuck, when the season starts. Can't wait!

supercilious -- adj: Disdainfully arrogant; haughty

"Friendship is a pretty full-time occupation if you really are friendly with somebody. You can't have too many friends because then you're just not really friends"
--- Truman Capote

jeudi, août 03, 2006

New Orleans, Kasi Lemmons, and Family Reunions

“What happened in New Orleans was a criminal act,” he said, a tragic backhanded slap to poor, black or politically insignificant people. “The levees were a Band-Aid here and a Band-Aid there. In the famous statement of Malcolm X, the chickens came home to roost. Somebody needs to go to jail”
---Spike Lee as reported in the New York Times

My mother aclled me two weeks ago and said "Courtney, I just saw Spike Lee!" She and my ad were in New Orleans for a monthly Board meeting that my dad serves on that was around the time that Spike Lee was in New Orleans debuting his documentary, “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts”. Being a native Louisianaian (at least five generations deep), Katrina was beyond personal. I'm just beginning to get to the point where I can talk/write about it freely without getting emotional. All four acts of the documentary airs on HBO at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 29, the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I implore everyone to please watch. I'm curious to see how Spike handles this documentary. I've loved some of his works such as Malcolm X and Bamboozzled and had issues with others She Hate Me and She's Gotta Have It but he has always been a filmmaker that made me pay attention to him. He is frequently touted as "controversial" which I disagree with largely because it implies "untruth" or a fondness of created discord when there really isn't any there, none of which I think Spike does. In other Spike news, he's developing a drama for NBC. Details on this drama are hush hush (as is his roll with the drama) but I will definitely support.

I am also included a transcripted talk with Kasi Lemmons below. Will make interested reading if you have time. I am also going out of town (for a lot of things, most notably a family reunion) but hope to keep up with my bloggery while I'm away!

Movie Talk
Kasi LemmonsWriter-DirectorThursday, August 3, 2006; 1:00 PM
Kasi Lemmons made her feature film debut with 1997's well-received "Eve's Bayou." Now the writer-director is working on a biopic based on the life of Ralph Waldo "Petey" Greene, the former inmate who became a Washington, D.C. talk show host and activist. The film, "Talk to Me," is currently in production and stars Don Cheadle, Taraji P. Henson, Martin Sheen and Cedric the Entertainer.

Lemmons was online Thursday, Aug. 3 at 1 p.m. ET to discuss the movie and her career.
The filmmaker also directed "The Caveman's Valentine" (2001), and has a number of acting credits on her resume, including roles in Spike Lee's "School Daze," "The Silence of the Lambs" and "Fear of a Black Hat."
A transcript follows.
Washington, D.C.: I am from Georgetown/Foggy Bottom, and my family knew Petey Greene well. I know it has been 22 years since his death, but what made you do this film now? How did he come to your attention? Were you aware that the Old Georgetown/Foggy Bottom picnic was held on July 15, and T-shirts were made with his picture on the front?
Joyce May Brown

Kasi Lemmons: I wish I could have one of those T-shirt. I first became aware of Petey Greene through this project. The script was submitted for me to work on as a writer They were looking for a writer to do another draft. It was very familiar, even though I didn't know that I had heard of him when I read the script. I guess I'd heard of him someplace, but I wasn't really familiar with him as a person. I fell in love with his story, which really is not the Petey Greene story. It's a story in which Petey Greene is a character and deals with his friendship with Dewey Hughes between 1960 to 1972. It's a story about Dewey Hughes and Petey Greene and political activism through radio. But basically it's a story about friendship and that's why I was interested in it.
That being said, one of the things that really attracted me is Petey Greene's tell-it-like-it-is style. Because that's really missing today. People self-censor or are censored. That's why I related to him, he just told it like it was.
Kasi Lemmons: The story takes place between 1966 all the way to Petey's death in 1984 but the bulk of the story takes place between 1968 and 1972.
Chicago, Ill.: How did you get funding for the Petey Green film? Is it difficult finding money for films with a predominately black cast?

Kasi Lemmons: It's extremely difficult to get money for films with a predominantly black cast. We were independently financed by Sidney Kimmel Entertainment because a producer there, Bill Horberg, felt passionately about the story but we were extremely lucky.
Dorchester, Mass.: I look forward to your film with the marvelous Don Cheadle. Good thoughts and best wishes on this project.
Now, for my question: How will folks outside of D.C. "get" your movie? I know that "Coach Carter" was a good movie but it was about someone most of the country was unfamiliar with and, it seemed, not very excited about. The movie had the kind of values folk drone on about but its staying power was weak. How will you combat this possibility?

Kasi Lemmons: As I've said, this is not the Petey Greene story; it's a story in which Petey Greene is a character. Basically it's a story about friendship so it's very universal. It's a story about investing your dreams in another person. It's a story about activism and politics and community and how those things intersect. And it's a story about a man who had a voice that inspired and that's very universal. It's a dynamic story because the character's (Petey Greene) is very dynamic and you don't have to be a Washingtonian to appreciate that. You don't even have to be black to appreciate. It's something that I think will reach a large audience.
Bethesda, Md.: How did Mr. Greene's time in prison affect his later work? Did he make plans in prison and work towards them while in prison, or was what happened after prison mostly independent of all that?

Kasi Lemmons: No, what happened in prison is very important. It's in prison that he became a disk jockey. He started doing the broadcasts at Lorton and he became very good at it and he was a very popular prison DJ. So when he came out of prison he took that skill with him and expanded on it.
Greenbelt, Md.: As a life-long Washington area resident, I'm concerned about the "look" of your film. Many of the structures and landmarks that were around during the '60s and '70s no longer exist. How will your film compensate for those losses?

Kasi Lemmons: We looked at a lot of documentary footage and matched it as best we could. It helped a lot that my production designer (Warren Allen Young) spends half of his time in D.C. and so he's very familiar with the city. He owns houses there and he's very detail-oriented, so he made sure that the places we photographed really resembled the places in D.C. in the '60s and '70s. So we filmmakers always face a challenge to make things feel authentic in movies and we try to rise to the challenge and get as much right as we can. Well because a lot of it takes place in communities that are not so monument-heavy, we chose locations that just had a community feel and reminded us of D.C. If we do our job right the audience should be completely comfortable in believing that they are actually seeing D.C. in the '60's and '70s.
Washington, D.C.: This isn't a question but a comment. In 1975, my sister, brother-in-law and I went to a Richard Pryor, Kool and the Gang show at the Carter Baron Amphitheater in D.C. Petey Greene was in the audience and giving Richard some back talk. So, Richard put a chair on the stage and made Petey sit in it. Petey quieted down, Richard continued his show, and the audience had a big laugh, thanks to two unusual, outspoken, very crazy black men!!
Best of luck with this movie!!!

Kasi Lemmons: Thank you so much. That's a funny story.
New York, N.Y.: "Eve's Bayou" is one of my favorite films. The cinematography and the way you captured cultural nuances was magical. Are you from Louisiana? I hope your new film can work the same magic with its story.

Kasi Lemmons: I'm not from Louisiana but I have family in Louisiana. Some of my father's family is from there. I spent a lot of time as a little kid in Tuskegee, Ala., where my grandmother lived so I'm very familiar with the Deep South. I also have spent a lot of time in New Orleans, a truly magical city that I hope and pray will recapture all of its former glory.
Altadena, Calif.: How was the cast chosen for this movie?

Kasi Lemmons: I chose them. As a director, I chose the actors. Don Cheadle was my idea. Chiwetel Ejiofor came in and auditioned and he was spectacular. They were so great together; they had such great chemistry. We thought Martin Sheen would be a great idea to play the head of the radio station, E.G. Sonderling. He has that perfect balance of cool and conservative that we needed for the character and he's wonderful in the movie. Mike Epps and Cedric the Entertainer are also wonderful in the cast. Taraji Henson is the female lead and she's spectacular and also my husband is in the movie, Vondie Curtis Hall. It's a great cast and I am delighted to have had the opportunity to work with such fine actors.
Oxon Hill, Md.: When will the movie be release to the public?

Kasi Lemmons: I really don't know yet. Focus Features is releasing the movie and they say they won't make a decision until after they see it edited. I'm thinking either spring or fall of '07.
Chicago, Ill.: In the WP article you are quoted as saying as a black woman, you know black men better than they know themselves. What do you mean by that?

Kasi Lemmons: What I actually said was that was what I said in trying to get the job. It was one of the lines I used to promote myself as the director. I do believe that it's true. I think that men in general shy away from or are afraid of revealing their vulnerabilities and women who love men see them for the fabulous delicate creatures that they are and aren't so afraid of exposing their vulnerabilities.
I've often thought that good writers write more revealingly about the opposite sex, maybe because it's less personal.
Washington, D.C.: I really enjoyed Terence Blanchard's music for "Eve's Bayou" -- will he be scoring this film as well?
Kasi Lemmons: Hopefully he will. I would like nothing better.
Silver Spring, Md.: What role will your husband have in the movie? I must say that he never looked hotter (to me!) than he looked in "Eve's Bayou." Clearly, there's a lot of passion between you.

Kasi Lemmons: He plays Sunny Jim, one of the deejays at the station. I also think he looked hot in Eve's Bayou.
Washington, D.C.: How was it to film in Washington? Easy or hard to do all the red tape? Were the police good to work with? How do you find old cars for a period movie? Can you see yourself shooting something else in DC in the future? I "googled" Petey Greene and came up with links to a clip from his TV show where he is talking about eating watermelon, I guess folks find that funny, without realizing his message was "be true to yourself." I look forward to your film.

Kasi Lemmons: I was very pleased to be shooting in D.C. Next time I would hope to be there longer. The police were great and I at least didn't experience any red tape. So I found it a very good place to shoot and I would hope to shoot an entire movie there one day as opposed to just coming in at the end.
The Petey Greene eating watermelon clip is one of the few surviving clips of the show which is why it always comes up when you google Petey Greene. I've heard that there are more shows in private possession but I've seen only one or two. Petey's message was always be true to yourself, keep it real.
Southeast, Washington, D.C.: Although I'm a native Washingtonian, I was born in 1980 and was surely not listening to talk radio in the four years that transpired between my birth and "Petey"'s death. So I'm not really familiar with his story or his relationship with Dewey Hughes.
Can you share a bit about his role in or contribution to the formation of talk radio in Washington?! As an adult, I'm a huge fan of WOL now, as one of the truly uncensored and straight-up voices of the black experience, but knew nothing of the relationship between Dewey Hughes and Petey. (You're probably going to just tell me to see the movie - which I will - but pre-tell!!)

Kasi Lemmons: Petey was the cell mate of Dewey Hughes's brother and Dewey was a young programmer at WOL. His brother kept telling him about this guy that he was in prison with that would do these broadcasts at Lorton and when Petey got out Dewey brought him in to work at WOL as a deejay. Hughes eventually went on to manage Petey Greene.Dewey Hughes found that Petey Greene's in your face, tell it like it is style made him a radio sensation. He became the voice of the community.Hughes married Kathy Liggins and they bought WOL together. Then Dewey walked away from the business and Kathy Hughes turned WOL into the cornerstone for Radio One.Though this story deals with a specific time period between 1967 and 1972 primarily before the Hughes bought WOL it does touch on the birth of Radio One.
Washington, D.C.: Ms. Lemmons, first, thank you so much for "Eve's Bayou." Truly a classic movie. Rarely have we seen movies that allowed black women to be so beautifully shot and complex. But here's an obvious question, why haven't we seen more movies from you?

Kasi Lemmons: I've spent a lot of the intervening time to get movies made. It's very difficult to get movies made, especially because I like to have at least worked on the script as a writer before I direct it; therefore, the process is often very long. I've had four or five films that I've tried to get made between the time of Eve's Bayou (1997) and this one. In 2000, I made a film called Caveman's Valentine with Samuel L. Jackson which was underappreciated -- more appreciate in DVD than it was when it was released.
Also, I have two young children so I don't necessarily have to be one of those directors that does a film a year. It has to be material that I feel passionately about. I have to be in love with the movie in order to direct it.
Baltimore, Md.: Congratulation on your upcoming movie. I immensely enjoyed "Eve's Bayou." I'd like to know what advice you could give to someone interested in pursuing a career behind the camera. Did you study film and acting in college? Thanks, Jennifer-Baltimore

Kasi Lemmons: I went to film school after I was a professional actress. I highly recommend going to film school if you're serious about being a filmmaker. Film school often gives you the opportunity to make a short film and to experience the different positions on crew. I went to the New School of Special Research in New York City which has a great film program.
Baltimore Md.: Ms. Lemmons: Can you please tell us what in particular drew Don Cheadle to this project? Have you all worked together before?
And on a side note, let me say that I am one of a number of people I know who would get home on Saturday night in time to watch Petey Greene's Washington on Channel 20. When one of us meets another, someone invariably says:
"Don't want no cryin,' don't want no lyin,' and most of all, don't want no signifyin'!"

Kasi Lemmons: Yep, that's a Petey Greene line. "No want laughin'. Don't want no cryin' and most of all, no signifyin'." I think Don Cheadle was attracted to role of Petey Greene and the opportunity to play this charismatic person who spoke the truth, sometimes shockingly but it's a very different kind of character for Don. Petey Greene's very raw and real and unpretentious and in your face. Wait till you see Don Cheadle in this film. He's so wonderful.
Silver Spring, Md.: I loved "Caveman's Valentine" and I am very much looking forward to the Petey Greene film -- Cheadle is always worth watching and Chiwetel Ejiofor is one of my fave actors following "Dirty Pretty Things."But I am curious about "Fear of a Black Hat." My best friend and I have been quoting that movie for almost 10 years now much like we did earlier with "Spinal Tap" when we were a bit younger, and yet almost everyone I meet has never heard of it. Why wasn't it a bigger hit? Do you think the lesser "CB4" stole the whole rap parody angle?
Since you had a big role in "Fear," did you stay in touch with Rusty Cundieff? Why doesn't he do more?Thank you!

Kasi Lemmons: Rusty and I see each other occasionally, mostly at events. He's very talented and I'd like to see more work from him as well. Oddly, Fear of a Black Hat had a big following in the U.K. I went to London for a press tour for Eve's Bayou and all the press wanted to talk about was Fear of a Black Hat. It was funny. I liked that movie too. It's in my personal collection.
Kasi Lemmons: Thank you and I hope that you all will enjoy the movie. I know you will.

myrmidon -- n: 1. (Capitalized) A member of a warlike Thessalian people who followed Achilles on the expedition against Troy 2. A loyal follower, especially one who executes orders without question, protest, or pity.

"Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor" -- Truman Capote

mercredi, août 02, 2006

A Pop Star Leading the Pack

“Just because I have this newfound love in my life, that doesn’t mean I’m going to play it any softer, or that I’m going to change my point of view on sexuality... I still got the nasty in me”
--- Xtina

I've never really been a fan of Christina Aguilera. In saying this, I mean that I have never really embraced the totality of her star image, i.e. her overbearing, gauche sense of fashion characterized by the changing texture and extremist color choices she chooses for her varying coiffures, her outrageously tight outfits of little fabric, and her 15-20 pound makeup requirement for each red carpet or concert appearance. Combine this with her too frequent use of melismas when she sings and her referring to herself as Boricua in her records (I thought Boricuas were Puerto Rican???, which she is not) and I was quickly disillusioned with her.

Now snap back into 2006 and while, I don't necessarily like her, I respect her and the musician that she has become. Her "Back to Basics", which is due out this month, is poised to be one of if not the most impressive and stellar albums by a musician this year. Christina's talent is undeniable. Back when she and another fellow alum of the Mouseketers, Britney Spears, first arrived on the music scene, Christina was unanimously voted the greater talent but Britney was the bigger star. Fast forward a few years and Christina has grown into a huge star in her own right. Her pipes are undeniable, she has new love, a new look (which I approve of, although I don't think she needs that much makeup) and a more evolved, mature sound. Making no bones about her adaptation of the sounds, styles, and appearances of her idols ---Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James and Eartha Kitt --- this new album is her homage (or appropriation depending on how you look at it) of the blues and jazz of Black female soul stars in the '20s, '30s, and '40s. In fact, for the making of this album she wore bright red lipstick and her hair in the style of '30s Blues artists at every recording session to stay in "character".

While I have always had a problem with white stars (which also includes white looking or stars packaged as white) appropriating Black music for monetary and celebratory fame, Christina's "Back to Basics" may turn out to be more like an homage or ode to rather than appropriation (we'll see when the album comes out).

Christina also seems like a woman who knows what she wants and has a clear vision and essence that she wants on her records, asserting a type of control over her image and sound that I see from few young female musicians today. In this week's New York Times, Lola Ogunnaike writes "DJ Premier was shocked to get her call, but Ms. Aguilera said she was drawn to him because of the jazzy sound he gave the rapper Gang Starr in the early 90’s. 'He searches through his vinyl, finds the obscure pieces and reinvents the old,' she said. 'You never know if you’re going to vibe with someone, but we immediately hit it off.' She said it helped that he maintains a much lower profile than many of today’s celebrity producers. 'Isn’t it enough to just make the beats anymore?' she asked, mildly annoyed. 'What are you, starved for attention?'
She likes that his sound is not ubiquitous. 'I have no interest in working with the Neptunes,' she said of the omnipresent producing team. 'A lot of what’s on the radio sounds the same because everyone is using the same producers. Music is suffering because nobody wants to step out on a limb and go for something different. Everyone wants to stay in their safety box,' which Ms. Aguilera said she has absolutely no interest in doing, even if it means upsetting her label.

Though other female pop stars are paving through their own spaces in the pop music realm i.e. Pink (vocally gifted and outspoken, but not a huge revenue builder), Beyonce (vocally skilled with incredible stage presence but extremely co-dependent with no real idenitity outside the men in her life) and many copies and look-alikes but Christina stands out. I have a feeling that she will come to develop what all the great pop musicians have --- longevity.

*If you would all be so kind, please vote for me on the Black Weblogs Awards site*.

malapropos -- adj: 1. Unseasonable; unsuitable; inappropriate; adv: 1. In an inappropriate or inopportune manner; unseasonably

"Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act" --- Truman Capote

mardi, août 01, 2006

In the Name of Charlton Heston or

And indeed, people are making asses of themselves. A slip of the tongue, a drunken moment, psychological breakdown --- there are a myriad of excuses. From Mel Gibson's anti-semitic rant to Gov. Mitt Romney "tar baby" reference to the incessant racial insensitivity (to put it lightly) on ABC's The View, the American public space is being inundated with racism. Now if the FCC, can dictate a fine for Janet Jackson's breast blaring episode at the Super Bowl, doesn't it make since for them to enact fines for prominent celebrities and notables who say offensive things about ethnic groups on air, in front of millions? Shouldn't shows like "Yo Momma" be fined for their glaring racial bias? Radio programs are. If behavior can be labeled as indecent and fined, couldn't speech be fined just as accordingly?

How should vile racist acts in a public space be policed? If you say something or do something that is racially out of line, then you should be held accountable for it. Now, just wait, I know its coming...just a matter of time before Barbara Walters calls somebody a nigger on Primetime, you just wait!

*More on this tomorrow, but please check out the following New York Times ad on overweight, loud Black women in popular media that is covered by the New York Times today*

camarilla -- n: A group of secret and often scheming advisers, as of a king; a cabal or clique

"Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it" -- Truman Capote