Captain Save-a-Negro: A Primer

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Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I swear I saw commercials for the movie The Blind Side more times than I caught the ads of those cats singing the free credit report jingle.  (F-R-E-E that spells free/credit report dot com, baby…) Environmentalists could learn a lot from Hollywood; that place recycles scenarios more often than a tree hugger sneers at Hummer drivers.

The trailers for the movie indicate that The Blind Side is yet another addition to that long list of white savior movies.  I haven’t seen it and don’t plan to (In grad school, we call this not being bound by the text.), but it seems that Sandra “I’m doing this movie to make up for playing a racist in Crash” Bullock saves a big black kid from the perils of blackness.  (Crabs in a barrel.  You know the deal.)  I guess the Based on a true story tagline wants to goad me into not being critical of the movie, the genre.  Whatever.  The movie has provided an occasion to address the white savior film.  Since I’ve seen every episode of Webster and Diff’rent Strokes and Dangerous Minds (twice), I’m going to provide a primer for Negro saving for any and all white folks with plenty of money and love in their hearts to adopt a hapless black kid.  And for you black youth out there, pay attention.  You might find something useful here to make yourself more marketable.

Facts and Fictions

Like Che printed t-shirts and Darfur doo-rags, tragedy has become fashionable. che-smoke-shirtIt isn’t rare that I find someone trading stories (with great excitement) about a friend of a friend who was in Indonesia during the tsunami, or meet an artist eager to proclaim that he lost everything in New Orleans. Surely, a life of meaning must have been filled with unbelievable obstacles. If you spit lyrics, you must have bit the bullet (literally) at some point, right? Well, if not…did you almost die some way? Why do you think Kanye West is still rapping about his car crash?

Rappers are some of America’s earliest poverty-pimps, doling out pain and suffering long after they can pay bills. But rap artists aren’t the only people making a pretty penny off popular pities. Reality television has become the great distributor of everyone’s story, for better or worse. We can watch obese people cry over food, older women bed younger men, unattractive people get new faces, and burdened parents struggle with troubled children. The is The Biggest Loser, The Cougar, Extreme Makeover, and The Nanny.

Beyond reality television, there is Facebook, twitter, blogs, and i-reports. As a result, the democratization of news has created a culture of entitlement, where people not only hope, but believe their individual stories are important. And when pop culture themes suggest otherwise, people go to great lengths to swing the spotlight to their side. salahifacebookThey crash acceptance speeches and White House parties and build mysterious saucers to fake-launch their six year-olds. And we return, ad-nauseum, to the same opportunity for uplift where people fight to surmount unbelievable obstacles. With media along for the ride, who is left to interrogate how we all got to this new reality in the first place? Who bears the responsibility of separating fantasy from the real world’s many harsh realities?

Mykwain Gainey’s Loo$e Change

On occasion, I like most people dream of meeting famous black people you know the Halle Berry(s)

Photo Taken by Mykwain Gainey

Photo Taken by Mykwain Gainey

and Denzel Washington(s) of the world.  However, the likelihood of Oprah knocking on my door screaming at the top of her Ms. Sophia’s lungs, “You are one of my favorite things and I want you to meet my mentor, Maya Angelou,” is highly unlikely.  And so I wonder what it would be like to meet a black star. Oh wait; I’ve met a black star (yes, I sound pretty corny right now, but we all have our days). His name is Mykwain Gainey. You probably are scratching your head trying to figure out who is Mykwain Gainey. You’re probably wondering, “Was he in Denzel Washington’s The Great Debaters? Is he a reality TV star?” and the answer is no to both. Okay, so Mykwain Gainey technically is not a “bonafide” star yet, but his short films about being young and black are eventually going to skyrocket him into movie directing stardom.

Mykwain is a graduate of Morehouse College and is currently a film student at Columbia College in New York. He has directed and produced several amazing short films including the one I will premier today, “Loo$e Change.” After watching Loo$e Change I found myself thinking critically about young black men and the pressure to enact “appropriate” masculine behaviors.  I know I usually don’t talk about black men per se when I blog, but Mykwain is a good friend and his short film Loo$e Change caught my attention because of the cinematography and the emphasis on black youth.  Please click the link below to watch the short film and leave a comment about the film.

Mykwain Gainey’s Loose Change

The Silent Depression:Young, Black and Jobless

 

Hirable or NOT?

Hirable or NOT?

On November 24, 2009 in an article form the Washington Post, it has been reported that joblessness for 16 – to – 24 year old black men has reached proportions similar to the Great Depression; i.e., 34.5 percent of black men between the ages of 16 – to – 24 are jobless, which is three times the rate for the general U.S. population. Additionally, young black women between the ages 16 – to – 24 unemployment rate is 26.5 percent.  These sobering statistics speak to the forked-tongue nature of the American Dream, and who historically have been its favored sons and daughters.

The Lies History Tells Part 1: Happy Thanksgiving?

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I am starting a three-week series based on the lies that I was told in grade school. It recently occurred to me that a lot of the history that I was taught was not only wrong, but the truth was skewed for very specific purposes. I can remember learning about the Black Panthers in elementary school and how I was given a negative and demonizing view of Fred Hampton, or how I was made to think the Civil War was a black and white issue about abolishing slavery. I realized that these lies changed my outlook on important figures in history and seemed to always paint America as the hero/peace maker, when many times the leaders of this country were the main perpetrators.

Since I can remember, Thanksgiving has marked the start of the holiday season for me. A time of year that was usually pretty happy in my childhood mind. The idea of being grateful for where I was in life and the things God has given me always made sense.  My family never really had much, but we always knew it could have been worse.

In this age of technology, globalization, and the continuous sharing of information, how do we continue to get history wrong? Is deception more comfortable?

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Thousands of years before Governor Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony proclaimed the ‘official’ Thanksgiving Day in 1637, North American Indigenous people across the continent had celebrated seasons of Thanksgiving. ‘Thanksgiving’ is a very ancient concept to American Indian nations. The big problem with the American Thanksgiving holiday is its false association with Native Americans, the infamous ‘Indians and pilgrims’ myth.

Sometimes I Feel Like A Fatherless Child

 

“Daddy come back!” “Daddy will you take me out for ice cream?” This is what one of my peers and I heard as we left the St. Martin de Porres House of Hope Saturday morning. Normally this question wouldn’t have disturbed me. However, the question was directed at two college sophomores who have yet to father any children. Confused yet? I must admit I was a little baffled myself. The seven-year-old continued to call out “Daddy” without any hesitation in his voice. We stopped, looked at each other, and then looked back at the young boy. He was really talking to us.

 

Sometime I feel

Like a fatherless child

Sometimes I feel

Like a fatherless child

And sometimes I feel

Like a fatherless child

A long…long way…from home

November 16, 2009 – November 22, 2009

Decade after Decatur, Racial Discipline Gap Widens
John O’Connor, Associated Press, November 22, 2009

Lawmakers from Minority Districts Appointing Few to Service Academies
Brian Witte, Associated Press, November 22, 2009

School Board Member: Race a Legitimate Issue in Curriculum Battle
Marc Freeman, Sun Sentinel, November 21, 2009

FBI reopens 1962 slaying of Macon black youth
Amy Leigh Womack, Philidelphia Tribune, November 21, 2009

A Black Teen Longs for the Wild Blue Yonder
Sholnn Freeman, Washington Post, November 20, 2009

Mississippi District Seeks to Keep Student Suspended
Shelia Byrd, Memphis Daily News, November 20, 2009

To Blacks, Precious is ‘Demeaned’ or ‘Angelic
Felicia R. Lee, New York Times, November 20, 2009

Was Blind But Now I See
Melissa Anderson, Houston Press, November 19, 2009

Sacred SISTAHS helps mentor area’s girls
Imani Tate, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, November 19, 2009

Initiative Takes Aim at Connecticut’s Persistent School Achievement Gap
Grace E. Merritt, Hartford Courant, November 18, 2009

Two Films, Two Routes from Poverty
A. O. Scott, New York Times, November 18, 2009

University of Chicago and Non-Profit Organizations Team up to Reduce Youth Gun Violence, Improve School Outcomes in Chicago
University of Chicago, November 18, 2009

Juvenile Justice
Bangor Daily News, November 18, 2009

Actor in role of helping homeless teens
Odell B. Ruffin, The Washington Times, November 18, 2009

Study Criticizes Va’s handling of youth offenders
Bill McKelway, Richmond-Times Dispatch, November 17, 2009

Culver: Juvenile Detention Rates Decline
Associated Press, November 16, 2009

Saving Our Sons,’ One Connection at a Time
Brooke Edwards, Victorville Daily Press, November 16, 2009

EspeciallyMe Conference Helps Teenage Girls with Self-Esteem, Dignity
Annette Espinoza, Denver Post, November 15, 2009

Valley Club to File for Bankruptcy; Minority Kids Were Kept from Swimming There
Tom Infield, Philadelphia Inquirer, November 15, 2009

Upgrade U: What We Can Learn From Beyonce

Beyonce performs during the MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2009, in New York City. (Brad Barket/PictureGroup via AP Images)

Beyonce performs during the MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2009, in New York City. (Brad Barket/PictureGroup via AP Images)

Beyonce’s  Thanksgiving special airs this week, and I know there are plenty of folks hating.  Had I not seen the light, I would’ve been one of them.  A few weeks ago, I was checking my Facebook account, and a friend’s status message read that she intended to write a negative (feminist) critique of Beyonce.  Of course there were the co-signers with their expected “This is so necessary; can’t wait to read it,” responses.   Whatever.  These people probably bowl with bumpers in the gutters, and celebrate when they roll a strike.  Either exercise is about as difficult as convincing a 4-year-old that there are monsters in the closet.  The implicit position, the crux of “Beyonce makes feminists nauseous,” argument, I imagine, might be described as something about Beyonce failing to meet certain expectations–her apparent lack of depth, her music, her relationship to men, her skin tone in those makeup ads.  Such critiques are ironically similar to a Tyler Perry movie: you’ve seen the tropes before and you how that it’s going to end.

Chris Brown and Rihanna: A Woman's Worth

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BNw-j-8394

This situation is tragic. There is no other way to describe it. It is tragic. As with other tragedies, there are lessons to be learned. And no, i am not of the mind that it is somehow more tragic because it happened to Chris Brown and Rihanna. Whenever i hear or read that “if it could happen to them it could happen to anyone”, i cringe. What do we mean by that? Are young, pretty (yes, he’s pretty too) Black stars somehow domestic violence proof? Does the shroud of fame and fortune protect them from the horrors that haunt countless families?

We Are All like Precious' Mother, Mary, Gotta Have a Man!!

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s my best friend flying away at supersonic speeds into the distant sunset with her new boyfriend. As she soars hugging her newfound beau who she only met a week ago on eHarmony, does she look back to see her best friends staring at her in utter disbelief? No. As she breaks the sound barrier itself with her rampant flight after a man who claims to love her after only knowing her a week, does she wonder if her best girlfriends who she has known since high school’s English 101 will be there waiting when she falls from the blissful skies of love?  No. No because she is one of them. You know the ones I’m talking about. The girls who get boyfriends and then disappear off the face of the Earth only to be spotted like wayward UFOs when times of distress arise. The girls who ignore your phone calls because they are so enraptured by a guy they have only known for a day. The girls who expect you to be understand why they have canceled the last five girls’ night out activities because Tyrone wants to watch the NBA Championships. Yes, those types of girls.

Before you take my opening comments as a sign of Erykah Badu’s “My eyes are green cause I eats a lot vegetables,” green-eyed monster called jealousy or take it as “You wish you had a man” syndrome, let me clarify my intent and the purpose of this blog. I hate downright loath when girls who claim to be your friend, your best friend, and your sister friend decides that they have to sever ties with you to be with a man. Mind you, I can critically analyze how patriarchy shapes how women interact with each other and how privileges are garnered through performing appropriate hetero-patriarchal behaviors like dating a guy and making him the center of your universe. However, it still pisses me off.

Every time one of my girlfriends goes what I have now termed as “ghost” I feel angry and deeply betrayed. And let’s be honest, when she goes crazy underneath her bed babbling like Miss Sophia from The Color Purple, “Sat in dat jail . . . sat in dat jail,” from being at the intersection of being black and woman who’s going to climb underneath that bed and cry with her or at least climb underneath the bed and tell her that she can as Maya Angelou wrote, rise? And if you’re thinking it will be that man of hers who she has metaphorically only known for a day is going to be her Savior or her Prince Charming you, my dear friend, are mistaken. It will be us, her girlfriends. You see, it never fails to happen that girls who go “ghost” call you in times of distress after not talking to you for ages and expect you to drop everything you’re doing to help make their world better.