Friday, March 27, 2009

Before Carter G. Woodson, the scope of African-American contributions to the history of the United States consisted of one sentence in most public school text books. "Negroes were slaves and were freed by Abraham Lincoln". Carter G. Woodson began to find, publish and celebrate the nuggets of facts that related to African-Americans (In 1916 he founded the Journal of Negro History). African-Americans began, for the first time, to be included in mainstream history but only as side notes, footnotes and antidotes. It was John Hope Franklin who first began to weave the African-American experience into the fabric of United States History.

John Hope Franklin was the architect of Black Experience and African-American Studies as academic disciplines. If W.E.B Dubois had raised the question of "race" in America with The Souls of Black Folks (published in 1903), then Franklin strove to answer the question. From Slavery to Freedom has been, for sixty years, the definitive book for the study of the history of the United States from the point of view of African Americans. It is not just required reading in the fundamental study of a more representative history. Since 1947 it has remained the textbook. His life work on education and race relations earned him the highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

As a result of his work, both on the front lines of race relations and in the ivory tower, public school text books are more inclusive. Dialogue between the races is more civil and productive. United States history is more accurate and complete. Franklin's gift for tenaciously and meticulously pursuing the truth through sometimes tedious research was his gift to the world. Throughout his long life he was dedicated to improving the world through scholarly enlightenment. He believed knowledge should spur action. He was a shining example of how men and women with keen minds should conduct themselves. He will be remembered as an intellectual giant and a credit to his race. The human race.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

In Memoriam

Dr. John Hope Franklin
Legacy: Member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, Past President of Phi Beta Kappa, the Organization of American Historians, the American Historical Association, and the Southern Historical Association, Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University, Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President William Jefferson Clinton, Author of From Slavery to Freedom and most recently Mirror to America

"My challenge was to weave into the fabric of American history enough of the presence of blacks so that the story of the United states could be told adequately and fairly."

-John Hope Franklin

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Beaux Noirs En Vogue

Vogue magazine was first published in 1892. It has become the world's most influential fashion magazine. Caroline Weber wrote "The magazine has long functioned as a bible for anyone who worships at the altar of luxury, celebrity and style." But for nearly a century African-American style did not warrant the much coveted cover of the magazine.

It was eighty-four years after the first edition that the first African-American woman graced the the cover. In 1974 super-model Beverly Johnson was literally en vogue. Now we see the image of African American beauty so often in the media that its easy to forget that Black was not always considered beautiful in the main stream.

In 2009, almost 35 years since the first African-American woman appeared on the cover of the iconic publication First Lady Michelle Obama beamed all over the March 2009 cover. And if anybody embodies luxury, celebrity and style she does. The world class entertainer Beyonce will be featured on the of the April 2009 cover. Only four months into the year, and half of the covers have gone to African-American women. That's some achievement, when you consider that it took almost 100 years for it to happen at all.

The Year of the Cougar

Madonna dumped her hubby Guy Ritchie and has been dating Brazilian model Jesus Luz. Jesus and Madonna...are you kidding me? The names alone are too coincidental to make up, and kind of creepy if you ask me. The material "girl" who is 51 years old is nearly 30 years older than Jesus.

Hurray, lets hear it for the cougars. And if you have to date someone thirty years your senior it might just as well be Madonna. But given her long list of romances I wouldn't unpack my speedos just yet if I were Jesus. My advice is to just hang on and enjoy the fifteen minutes of fame while is lasts. And don't quit your day job.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Press Conference 2.0

President Obama gave his second prime time press conference tonight. The questions ranged from health care to the economy. The answers were the same answers we've been getting since January 20th.

In a nutshell, he inherited a trillion dollar deficit, two wars on two different fronts, a lack luster immigration policy, a crumbling infrastructure and the worst economic crisis since The Great Depression. His solutions include stabilizing the economy with large infusions of capital, investing in health care, education and energy; and doing it all at once. But the most interesting thing about the press conference wasn't what he said but who asked the questions.

President Obama invited questions from a cross section of journalists that ran the gambit in the media industry. I may be mistaken but I think that tonight was the first time I ever heard a reporter from Ebony magazine ask a United States president a question on television. A journalist from Politico was invited to ask a question. I know that's the first time I've ever heard a journalist from a blog site ask a question. Representatives of the Hispanic television station Univision and Fox News were called upon as well. I'm use to hearing questions from ABC, CBS, NBC and even CNN. But kudos to the new president for broading the scope of media represented in the White House Press Corps and in prime time. Appealing to various media outlets to get his message out is the way to build unity and reinforce the respect he's gained in different cultural communities.

Monday, March 23, 2009

What Ever Happened to Theme Songs?

Remember television theme songs? Different Strokes, The Brady Bunch, Gimme A Break, The Beverly Hillbillies, All in the Family, The Facts of Life, Silver Spoons, Good Times, Giligan's Island, Golden Girls. The air waves use to be full of sitcoms with lyircs that set the tone of the show in musical verse. It was a slower time. A calmer time. It was a little added fun to lull you into 30 minutes of frivolity. And like Fat Albert use to say "if you not careful you might learn something before you're done." But then theme song lyrics were replaced with jazzy little instrumentals. What happened? Where did the lyrics go? What's wrong with words?

One show with a lyrical theme song remains to delight. The Big Bang Theory (cast pictured here) which airs Monday nights on CBS at 8:00 pm has a really fun theme song. The theme was written and performed by the group Bare Naked Ladies. The theme recounts the history of the world in about a minute.
The show is brilliantly funny, extremely well cast, smartly written and shot beautifully. Everything about the show works. But after I accidently missed the begining one week I felt like something was missing. I realized that I missed the opening theme song. That's the thing I look forward to most. The half hour was still good, but if I don't get to try (the song is really fast) and sing along with the them then I feel incomplete. For one minute once a week I shed the weight of the last 25 years and I a kid again. Aaah those were the days.

Dear Hollywood,

More theme songs please.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Obama and the Disabled

Last night President Obama was interviewed by Jay Leno. He joked that his bowling skills were on par with the skill levels associated with the Special Olympics. He has been criticised for the off hand comment and apologized to the director of the Special Olympics even before the show aired.

But lets face it. If a non-disabled person performed certain tasks at the same level of someone with a disability that might be an indication of a lack of skill. Technically speaking, that is part of the anatomy of a joke.
I know these are serious times, but come on people a joke is a joke. I know the country has lost confidence in the market, do we have to give up our senses of humor too? What the president said wasn't even a stereotype it was the truth. If people with disabilities performed (without modifications) at the same level of skill as people without disabilities they would compete in the "regular" Olympics. We wouldn't need a special one.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

In Memoriam

The actress Natasha Richardson died yesterday after suffering head trama in a skiing accident on Monday. The 45 year old star was the daughter of screen icon Vanessa Redgrave (72) and the sister of Joely Richardson (44), an actress on the small screen. Joely Richardson can be seen on Nip/Tuck, she plays Julia McNamara.

The family is pictured here (l to r Natasha Richardson, Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson)

Seperated at Birth

I think America's Next Top Model and Rupaul's Drag Race are the same show. In fact, I'm pretty sure that Tyra Banks and Rupaul are the same person; or they were at least separated shortly after birth.
What I can't for the life me understand is why these freakishly unattractive people consider themselves qualified to coach people who are, as a general rule, relatively attractive? Tyra Banks and Rupaul are successful at hiding their extra terrestrial looks behind air brushed make-up, sewn on wigs and couture costumes. But outside of the circus, how exactly does that qualify you to be a career coach?
Perhaps it's a reflection of the insecurity of the contestants that people compete season after season for the glory of being America's next carnival freak. Or perhaps the fact that millions regularly tune in to watch each week is more of a reflection on the downward spiral of society.

The Queen's Crown On Display

No, not Queen Elizabeth II. I'm talking about the Queen of Soul. The hat worn by Aretha Franklin when she sang at the inauguration of President Obama is going to be donated to the Smithsonian Institute. It will be displayed in the presidential exhibit.
Aretha Franklin, dissapointed by her own performance the day of the the event, is releasing a commemorative studio version of My Country Tis of Thee.
I've listened to the track. All I can say is that I wish she had pre-recorded like the other performers. It's a vast improvement. Not that Franklin sounded bad. But you could have heard that level of quality at any missionary baptist church in any given Sunday service. This studio quality recording is classic Franklin; and truly worthy of both her majesty and the moment.