Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Life Always Using Sensationalism to Target Black Community

Today here in Chicago, Life Always is expected to unveil a 30-billboard campaign featuring President Obama’s face and the words “Every 21 minutes, our next possible leader is aborted.”

Life Always is planning to“launch” their sensational billboards this morning at 11 a.m. near vacant lot at 5812 S. State Street, here on the south side, a part of the city that is predominantly Black and densely impoverished.

Life Always is the same group responsible for the disgusting billboard in NYC that claimed “the most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.” And  in ATL, their propaganda claimed “Black Children are an Endangered Species.”

These billboards are all tactics in this group’s concerted effort to silence and take away a woman’s right to choose.

Their tactic is to use guilt, misinformation, and limit reproductive justice. This fight may very well be used to perpetuate political interests and affect Roe v. Wade decision.

Much like activists in NYC and Sister Song in ATL, sisters and brothers in Chicago cannot allow Life Always to target our families with bombastic and exploitative messaging that incites fear and guilt, trivializes a complex and emotional human rights issue.

Today, a reproductive justice coalition will attend the press conference. I have also started a petition on Change. org

Please visit and sign the petition letting Life Always know their tactics do not support reproductive justice, human or civil rights, nor does it serve the best interest of Black and Latino communities.

We want to let Life Always know the African-American community does not welcome its exploitive and politically motivated billboards in any city of our nation.

We are demanding that Life Always cease and desist with its marketing scheme that uses sensational anti-abortion rhetoric to target Blacks and Latinos.

We do not want an influx of their billboards in NYC, Chicago, Dallas, LA, Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, etc.

Please sign the petition and share with your friends and community. You should also contact Marissa Gabrysch at Life Always 210.617.0967 and share your outrage at these sensational billboard antics.

Stay tuned for updates and I’ll be live tweeting from press conference today, posting video and audio.

Pride and disappointment: Oprah Behind the Scenes

When I was a kid, I watched TV with my mother a lot. All the dramas of that time, both prime time dramas and daytime soap operas. But I loved watching Phil Donaghue’s talk show. He had these really intriguing people from a myriad of backgrounds. I loved the format; a host asking the most revealing questions, leading an audience yet also allowing them to ask questions. It was the audience that caught my attention mostly though, because it always had faces that resembled those of my neighbors and mine. And the show fed my young, curious and analytical mind. I was born a journalist at heart so Phil Donaghue’s show was a provision that fed that in me.

Oprah Winfrey back in the day

Yet, the game changed when along came this Black woman doing the same thing Phil was doing. Now it was no longer just the audience, voyeurs but the host, OprahWinfrey who I could identify with. I remember seeing her and thinking how much she looked like my kindergarten teacher, Miss Akebe, whom I loved.

Oprah from there to here

Instantly I loved Oprah, too. And I wanted to be just like her, in charge and telling stories, finding answers.

She's got her OWN thang!

Fast-forward to my big girl dreams, and Oprah is still the measure of possibility. Simply the best to ever do what she is doing, on her terms. In fact, this next chapter in her life is so ambitious and next level, it churns inspiration and faith into some kind of ‘dream big concoction” and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one sipping it on New Year’s day when she launched the Oprah Winfrey Network.

The 36th Annual NAACP Image Awards - Show

We celebrate Oprah and her intrepid living. We embrace her accomplishments as our own. We own a pride manifested simply because of her being, after all she epitomizes the very best of our people for the world to see.

And maybe that all equates to illusions of ownership. Maybe we believe we can claim Oprah…that she somehow belongs to us.

That would explain why I always feel a stinging pang of disappointment when I faithfully tune in. And though the inference is there in her selection of guests and topics for her show, the Oprah Season 25: Behind the Scenes gave us all clarity. As O herself coined for us, she gave us our very own “Aha moment.”

This program was to honor the 464 staff employed by arguably the most influential woman. (I would be remiss not to note how monumental that feat is for a Black woman). Oprah opened the program by saying, “Over the past 24 years you’ve seen me as the face of the Oprah show. But, I do not do this alone. Now meet the team behind the scenes, they are the best in the business.”

And then we got our “big reveal.” From all appearances, it looks as if only 5% of her staff looks like her, shares her roots. Still, more telling than that is the fact that her senior staff is void of ANY color. Hmmm.

I can’t help but feel some kinda way. Does this mean that in her estimation, the best creative minds, the most astute producers in the business do not look like her. On behalf of all the intelligent, talented, creative, tenacious, ambitious, capable and trained producers like me; I have to wonder almost like a child whose parent won’t claim them “why am I not good enough for her.”

Too deep huh? Maybe. Maybe not.

I can definitively tell you that producers often have just as much power (if not more) over the messaging and tone of productions than the hosts. Which is why I feel caught up in this quagmire of feelings back and forth between pride and disappointment when I look behind Oprah and see no Black women, no Latino representation nor heterosexual men in senior level production positions.

My feelings are further validated when one of her senior producers, a white gay male, adamantly fought against a segment he thought would give a platform to anti-gay rhetoric. This was his rationale…

“As a gay man, I have a strong opinion. We have 130 slots left to change the world; make our mark, I don’t understand why this would be one of them. We don’t just portray the reality on our show. We pick and choose what we want based upon criteria of how we want to produce the show.”

See, producers bring their perspective and experiences to their jobs just as much as anyone else. Is it wrong to feel Oprah owes it to her community, to ensure our perspective adequately represented? What does she owe the many little Black girls and boys who grow up training and aspiring to be like her if not empowering job opportunities? If Black women are not up to her standards, why not adopt a school of journalism at an HBCU?

Her philanthropy cannot be challenged. O gives unequivocally. But what of the missionary who does not see the value in those she shares gifts with? The exchange is only valuable when the philanthropist realizes there are gifts to receive from the recipient as well. No greater fulfillment comes from reciprocity that you can repay to your charitable giver.

Miss O summed up her next level living with her vision for OWN. She says it is “a network that empowers you the viewer to turn your dreams into reality.”

I wonder if I, as a viewer, will see myself enough to feel empowered.

Then again, maybe Oprah doesn’t owe me a thing…

Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls

Kanye, quite unnecessary but big of you to apologize to the little man

Just for clarity and background…I am an extreme critic when it comes to art and culture. It is not easy to impress me. That’s why in the summer of  2003, I was the ultimate critic of a new kid on the hip hop scene. There was a popular concert series here in Chicago called Neo Soul Explosion that featured up and coming “neo-soul” artists. Folks like Eric Roberson, Ledisi, Raheem Devaughn, Anthony David,  and Floetry. I was producing for WVON, who was the media sponsor. There was this guy joining one of the series and everyone was making a big deal over…Kanye West. My intial thoughts were “The rapper guy? Affiliated with Jay Z? Why is he performing in a neo soul concert series?” One of my excited colleagues even asked him for his autograph. I’m thinking, again, “dude is a rapper…and he is affiliated with Jay Z.” Now personal hang ups with Jay Z aside, I’d heard his single, “Through the Wire,” and while I thought is was an interesting sample and great story telling, I hadn’t heard any particular line that inspired nor empowered me, my measurements of good hip hop.

But later in the summer I heard Jesus Walks! That was the moment I cared who Kanye West was. This certified dude for me. Ever since then, I have been a Kanye West fan. he is my Chi-Town brethren and I am biased, so you should know that before reading further.

Now that we’ve got that out-of-the-way, shall I proceed? Thank you for the digital head nod.

Watching the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and its devastation on NOLA, there was a collective sense of helplessness; a shared sense of neglect; a communicable outrage at the lack of emergency assistance, and moreover the outright disdain shown for the American people struck by this natural disaster. Looking at news coverage, it was obvious that a disproportionate amount of those Americans had a couple of things in common. One, many were poor. More than half hey were Black. It was heartbreaking to watch, especially when you heard the words refugee and looters media notables like CNN’s Anderson Cooper used to label the survivors.

More than anything, watching as a Black person, it became crystal clear…this country has yet to value or embrace Blacks as first class citizens.  Watching as a Black person, one could not help but imagine them self in the same predicament, abandoned by their government, ridiculed and exploited by their fellow countrymen. It was a time of collective suffering for Black Americans. At what to do when you are wounded and hurting? Lash out. So it came as no surprise to me that Kanye West seized his opportunity to speak truth to power during NBC’s Concert for Hurricane Relief.

Kanye’s proclamation that “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” was quite fitting. Hell it is exactly what I was thinking and what our audience on WVON had been calling in to say since the levees broke and drowned the lower 9th ward of NOLA.

Too bad more influential Blacks did not come forth to speak that same truth. Kanye’s delivery may have been brash and ill-timed. But he stepped up to shed light on a dark place in America’s history-making moments. The moment that gave yet another entry into the plight of race in our Nation.

So I find it very telling that George W. Bush would take Kanye West’s opinion of him as one of the “most disgusting” moments of his presidency. Really?

Now I’m a person one either loves or hates. I accept that about myself. There have been some pretty mean things said about me, hell but that is true about anyone who lives more than a month on this planet. Not even crying, colicky babies get a pass.  Still, most mature people understand that not everyone is going to like them. Mature and rational people totally accept that they cannot please everyone, that folks will feel some kinda way about them. That’s human nature. You chalk it up and keep moving…that is unless there is a strand of truth in their assessment of you. Well, then their evaluation haunts you.

Judging from Bush’s congratulatory remarks to FEMA executive Mike Brown telling him he was doing a “Heck of a job,” and his analysis of his administration’s response, Bush has not given a second thought to the people who had suffered.  And again, those people disproportionately were Black and poor.

The media genius Rachel Maddow shares with us how Bush in his own words proves Kanye’s theory:

I’d like to hear what legislation, commitments, initiatives, resources he developed and lead during his 8 year administration that would discredit Kanye’s observations.

Crickets….

Fast forward to 2010 when NBC’s Matt Lauer decides to take Kanye to task for his passionate remarks made in 2005. First of all, I watched the tape several times. Virtually I gave a high five to Kanye on Myspace and Facebook for his accurate summary of George W. Bush and all those who identify with his “cowboy” oil-slicked mentality. Kanye never used the word racist. Though if we could hear some of the hunting conversations between Bush and his buddies, and by analyzing some of his Presidential priorities, that point could be proven, too. But don’t put that in Kanye’s lap. He did not call George W. Bush a racist…he said the man does not care about Black people. Huge difference.

Furthermore, as a producer, I recognize the effect The Today Show team was going for when they staged Kanye’s previous remarks to play under his present interview. Every decision made by the executive producer and tech director is for effect, one that does not require the knowledge or input of the subject. And Kanye, being the intelligent Black man that he is, understood he was indeed a subject trying to be manipulated. I am proud of him for thinking through his responses and for asserting himself to Matt Laurer.

Yet, even more than his own defense, I was proud to see Hip Hip mogul and cultural influencer, Russell Simmons, send out a support signal to his young brother.

Unfortunately, not many others have seen fit to do so. Black intellectuals love to pontificate on matters like the death of hip hop and misogyny, but even James Baldwin would’ve clearly seen the juxtaposition of Black celebrity and corporate media. The thought that Black culture is to be exploited and celebrated if/when it mocks itself. When Black artists portray themselves as villains and helpless, then they are “cool.” But let them have an opinion that is remotely political and they are Muhammad Ali’d.

Not to mention the corporate triangle in all this that my boy, Davey D connected for us.

Kanye has made albums in which he questions himself and his contradictions, speaking about his tendencies to fall for the patriarchal leanings of this society when he refers to women in derogative terms. But I don’t see anyone taking him to task for that.

But I digress. All of this to say, America needs to knock it off. Stop the damn farce. Be honest about where Blacks stand in this country and how we are tolerated only if we don’t step out of the boxes deemed for us.

Then too, I’d like to give George W. Bush a few other disgusting moments from his presidency. I found this site, one of several, that gave a very thorough account of all the disgusting missteps of this duck-brain. http://www.netrootsmass.net/hughs-bush-scandals-list/

Feel free to add your own.

Oh, and just to make a point, look at how he insults a blind journalist.

Let’s face it. Bush owes the American people an apology for (fill in the blank).

Blind man insult

What’s the ‘wig’ deal…it’s post-racial America?

Halloween 2010 has come and gone this year. That’s not to say it was an uneventful season of horrors. In fact, there were quite a few shocking occurrences to usher in the traditional trick or treat festivities. Perhaps the most prevalent is the politricks for the upcoming elections, Still there was one other trick that came in the form of a supposed costume marketed by retailers, namely Kohl’s Department Store. It wasn’t entirely spooky or ghoulish as is customary for the “ultimate” Halloween costume. The item in question was simply a wig. Yes, a wig. Sounds harmless enough, right? It could have been. But… it freaked a lot of consumers out and exploded into a PR nightmare for Kohl’s.

Now, I’m sure Kohl’s and other retailers believed the costume would be a seasonal top-seller. Unfortunately, Kohl’s chose to market the wig as a “Ghetto Fab Wig.”  Granted the manufacture created the name for the wig, still the final decision rested with Kohl’s.

Outraged consumers found the wig’s name flagrantly offensive, a failed attempt at creative marketing. Social networks exploded with comments and blogs on the situation.

Eventually the company conceded with apologies and the removal of the wig from its online store.

This appeased many…and those who’d berated the company smugly tweeted, updated Facebook statuses and blogs about their assumed victory. Subsequently, Sears followed suit removing the product from their seasonal offerings, further prompting a declared social media victory celebrated with more glib posts, virtual high fives and fist bumps.

But here again, the root problem was NOT the wig.

Now that Halloween 2010 lives amongst the ghosts of holidays past, it has buried with it the impetus for a very necessary, American conversation.

In this century, where many love to wax poetic about our “post-racial” society, race, ethnicity and cultural differences seem to sneak back into our public conversation, all too often in ways that are not the most endearing. Truth is, we have never had a frank discussion on the matter in the first place, but then expect to jump over the real talk to get to the fluff. The only time we want to deal with complex issues is when a white person uses a racial slur or makes an evenly derogative comment.

Race and culture aside, it is an intricate and complex web of issues whenever you begin to discuss Black women’s hair.

The name prescribed to the focus wig symbolizes the utter ignorance related to cultural identity. It is a struggle that has always existed. And it is a painful struggle for Black women who share the history of Sara Baartman, paraded to the world as Venus Hottentot, as well as the fictitious Aunt Jemima. Over and over again in our history is a ripped wound where Black beauty has been ridiculed, parodied, yet simultaneously coveted in secret.

So when Whites use social class to describe hairstyles, fashion and the myriad ideologies culturally relevant to Black women, without an authentic understanding or appreciation, it is offensive at the surface level, and ignorant at its base. First to have some inherent knowledge for the origin and complexity of use for words is the only way to avoid misappropriation of language. Still, when a corporate entity commits the offense, it becomes much more reprehensible and is exploitative in nature.

Perhaps the virtual fist bumps and the high fives could’ve waited a tad bit longer. Because when, (as I know the situation has probably already made its way into a PowerPoint or Keynote), folks reference this as a case study for “social media activism,” I do hope they understand that this was merely a small scuffle, not credible enough to gain the title battle. We lost a momentous advantage to take up a worthy battle with deliberation. The battle yet to be won is when corporate entities confer with consumers who can speak to the messaging they aim at “targeted” audiences. It is to ensure proper representation is at the table when marketing “experts” seek to brand and promote “cultural” products as a parody. It is to put front of mind the imperative pairing of sensitivity and sensibility.

And though some may consider it a stretch, this outcome was/is the fear that caused such an emotional response from Black women following the news that Essence Magazine decided to hire a white woman as Fashion Director. We know the power put into the hands of those who first observe then seek to define us. One wrong move can crush progress and strangle race relations. Where intentions are mired with the end and hard to justify.

Even further, the battle is internal. We must define ourselves for ourselves. What we do and speak gives others consent to do the same, or worse. It is largely due to our own glamorization of certain terminology. While so many are quick to set up a “reality” scene with abject connotations to their very own culture; dismissing a group because of their social class all while sharing the same original pedigree, it gives way for misunderstandings from those on the perimeter. What is communal and a shared language amongst cultures always stands the risk of losing its meaning, but even more dangerous is the chance for outsiders to interpret the exchange with malice. This is a fact for strong consideration as we make music and art to express the gift of our culture. And it is especially detrimental if we do not consider it when purporting things as “reality,” no matter if we consider ourselves Housewives, editors, producers, journalists, and yes artists too.

Take caution in the use of language. After all I am a firm believer that words have the power to heal or kill. And so corporations and individuals must choose.