Our parents figured that their generation saw the end of “real” dancing. You know, they tell you that they danced artistically and romantically and that we have pioneered a tasteless substitute for sex. I’m embarrassed to say that I was starting to believe the hype, but this was before I paid attention to our generation of choreographers. Never has there been such a style that is so sensitive to both music and lyrics as that of our young people of color. Artists such as Ian Eastwood, Kenzo Alvares and Pat Cruz represent a new heritage of dance that brings the body, as an object of creative contortion, to the incomplete music of Hip Hop and R&B.
Here we are again at the start of another Holiday season and while some of you are thinking of turkeys and Christmas trees, all I can focus on is the copious amount of shit talking that will occur around the inevitable domino games. So while my family is busy scouring Black Friday ads, I’m practicing my slam.
The games always start innocent enough when I team up with one of my cousins to play a game of dominoes with my grandmother and her sister. “Big Six” is played and then my cheek-kissing, pie-baking, church-going, sweetheart of a grandmother reverts to the way she was before she found the Lawd.
If you haven’t heard from a pizza fanatic, like myself, last month Congress wrote a bill that continues to allow the tomato paste on pizza to be counted as a serving of vegetables. While you may have heard this argument circulating for a while, the Obama administration and the Department of Agriculture have proposed to make school lunches healthier in recent years. In opposition, schools with tight spending budgets argue that the government should not regulate what their students can or can’t eat. The proposal for healthier lunches was based on the fact that childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years and future health care costs will suffer because of it.
If pizza and potatoes, served daily in many schools, continue to bombard the school lunch lines, the majority of students will choose these unhealthy options while passing up the selection of other vegetables. I know how it feels to walk through the lunch line, knowing your parents aren’t watching over your shoulder and telling you what to put on your plate. It is irresponsible for schools to serve so many unhealthy options, knowing that the majority of students will choose them. Without the responsibility of the schools to implement healthier lunch options through cutting back on pizza and potato options, children will fall into the trap the frozen food and salt industries want them to.
At certain moments, especially when cultural expectations require you to reflect on thankfulness, it becomes difficult to know exactly how to process certain events that take place in life. As I continue to try and understand privilege, struggle, and resilience the two things that continue to surface are the themes of place and environment. Specifically how these things impact the developmental process of human beings. I heard one of my friends say it makes them angry when “people were born on third base and feel as though they hit a triple.” This is my tension with individuals with privilege.
It is also my recently found privilege that I have somehow stumbled upon somewhere between high school and getting my masters degree, that I’ve had to recognize, be thankful for and figure out how to use that privilege to support others. Regardless if it is based on your race, gender, or socio-economic status (or all three for those wealthy white men out there), the important thing is to know your position in society and how that impacts the people around you. This is what I am forced to think about daily as I work for the HIV/AIDS impacted community. How does power and privilege impact their daily lives?
I’ve grown up hearing stories from my parents, many of which were about their political activism, and many of which highlighted the lack of police support the experienced. In the summer of 1975, my dad participated in a desegregation protest on a beach in Boston where blacks had been excluded. While some protesters threw rocks, others remained peaceful. The police, viewing all of the protesters as outsiders, as troublemakers refused to intervene. My dad had a broken nose in the summer of 1975. The police had refused to intervene. It is that type of opposing mindset which so often has inhibited police from protecting protesters, and often led to antagonizing them.
On a rare occasion, such as this past weekend, I happened to be listening to the radio. I was tuned into 107.5 WGCI and there I heard an ad for their annual concert, The Big Jam. This event takes place next month on 12/23 at The All State Arena. The lineup includes Mindless Behavior, Young Jeezy, L.E.P Bogus Boys, and headliner, Chicago’ own, R. Kelly. Growing up as a teenager, GCI was my favorite radio station and I made it my duty to attend several Big Jam concerts. They always featured some of my favorite artists and stars including Beyonce, LL Cool J, Ciara, Ludacris, Shawnna, Twista and others.
I was very excited to hear that Mindless Behavior is performing because I’m actually a supporter of their music. These are young pop/R&B boys whose music and message is directed towards young people and teenagers. I’m a HUGE supporter of Young Jeezy and would willingly go to his concerts, any day of the week. However, I must admit that I found it disturbing that Clear Channel (parent company who owns 107.5, 103.5 and 102.7) would book a concert featuring R.Kelly as the headlining artist especially with his controversial background with young women. R. Kelly was acquitted of all charges brought against him based off pictures found in his Florida residence, as well as the infamous sex tape that floated around the country in 2002 which showed someone that resembled the singer having sex with an underage girl. This past is not to be overlooked.
With all the changes Mr. Zuckerberg makes to privacy settings on facebook and general formatting, one would think that I wouldn’t be welcomed by porn on my newsfeed. Due to some virus my mini-feed is riddled by inappropriate photos and stories, warranting a daily round of deleting and unsubscribing from “friends”. While I am not happy with this newly added task, it has served a purpose in causing me to reevaluate social media and my thoughts on boundaries.
The ability to use information technology to engage in civic discourse and collaborative projects is why some people claim that the Internet is a democratizing tool. Because production and engagement costs are lowered, theoretically anyone, even individuals from low-income or disadvantaged communities should be able to have access to the same information as individuals from privileged backgrounds. Yet, when one takes more than a cursory glance at the social dynamics of the Internet it becomes abundantly clear that many of the schisms that exist in physical communities also exist in the digital realm. As Craig Watkins points out in his book The Young and the Digital, there is a racial and class divide on social networking sites, insofar as young people’s income and ethnicity seems to map which social networking site they tend to primarily use. A digital “White flight” occurred from Myspace to Facebook that eerily mirrored the migratory patterns of Whites moving out of cities and into suburbs to escape the “blackening” of their neighborhoods.
Most of the discussion around rap music is almost always about it’s negative effects. Blog after blog of so called intellectuals rant about mainstream rap music’s bad influence on youth. I often wonder why they never mention the countless MCs all over the country and overseas using Hip-Hop music to educate, organize, and raise awareness about injustices in their communities. One organization that should be at the top of that list is The Sound Strike, founded by Rage Against the Machine’s front man Zack de la Rocha.
When I was a kid, after every Thanksgiving dinner my dad would go around the table and have each kid say what we were thankful for. It was an excruciating process–and nothing like the scene from The Cosby Show. Since my siblings were younger and cuter they came off a lot less abrasive than a bespectacled prepubescent misanthropist way too young to be that cynical.
This many years later, I appreciate my dad’s Cosby-esque efforts at family togetherness and reflection. Such endeavors made my upbringing semi-respectable and gave me something to undermine in my adult life. And so, it is in that spirit that I consider some of the things I’m grateful for these few days before the Thanksgiving holiday.