On R. Kelly On Gayle King

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I’ll never forget Noah Cross’s (John Huston) comment to J. J. Gittes (Jack Nicholson) when he discerns Gittes knows he raped his own daughter Evelyn (Faye Dunaway) in the classic film Chinatown. I paraphrase: “When you have money, you believe you can do ANYTHING.” I’ll add, “when you have celebrity and a charmed fan base as does Kelly, you believe you can do anything.”
R. Kelly’s “performance” on Gayle King was a desperate attempt to save himself with the only tools he has left: anxiety, anger, and fear all wrapped up in tears–neither over which he has any control. To add to another person’s Facebook post I have read, Kelly charmed his way out of and beat his last case; his emotional behavior on Gayle King suggests his realization that he will not beat this case especially given the heart-rending stories of survival witnessed in the production Surviving R. Kelly.
R. Kelly on Gayle King was a piteous sight to behold. It was. Some have commented, “well, he should have thought of that before he …” or “he should have known better …” Well, he didn’t and he didn’t have to. Our celebrity culture allows for this !@#$ Riches and wealth allow for it as Noah Cross schools J. J. Gittes. When an entertainer generates the capital to fill the pockets of executives and miscellaneous crew members, some members of the group will go to lengths to ensure his desires are satisfied–no matter how prurient–to keep the money flowing (though at present the flow of money has stopped). It’s just that cut and dry. One thing is for sure, though: Whatever R. Kelly did not know and did not think of beforehand, on Gayle King he had his ‘Ah Ha’ moment.

On Yolanda Adams

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Here is what I have to write about Yolanda Adams’s tribute to Anita Baker during the 2018 BET Awards show :

Yolanda practiced; she rehearsed. I’m not talking about the week before scheduled rehearsals for the show–no. I refer to practice and rehearsal the day after she accepted the invitation to give the tribute. I’m talking about listening to the song over and over until it becomes a kind of muscle memory; writing the lyrics on paper with pencil to engrave them on the mind; parsing out the meaning; and, then, practicing bit by bit and piece by piece until the song made friends with her vocal chords as well as her personality. “You Bring Me Joy” became Yolanda Adams’s song as only she could deliver it. That’s downright Holy!

She honored the voice/performance process to such an extent that she could let it go and allow the song to breathe. As a vocalist who has been a student of voice off and on since I was 14 years old (and currently under the coaching talents of Alicia Opoku), I saw, felt, and heard every single technique she used to make this performance flawless (i.e., posture, resonance, breath control, diaphragm support; voice and note placement [head, chest]; mouth, and jaw placement; tonality, diction, et al). She was grounded and she stood tall so as to allow her breath to easily travel throughout her body. She and her vocals were as one; in sync. She did not try to show up Anita Baker but she made it possible for her own talent to soar. She gave “You Bring Me Joy” its own due. As a result, the cosmic forces anointed her performance. This anointing is the answered prayer of every vocalist but it only comes to those who are serious about his/her work. Believe me: It is a spiritual experience.

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Nation Hunger ~ Some Words

Screen Shot 2018-09-06 at 3.36.42 PM.pngBefore I begin Writing … , I have some words:

Be careful–very careful. When you beat down the door to drag a ‘moron’ out of the room, be aware of who is standing in the room–still. It is not empty.  Pay close attention to the person who scoots around the desk to pull out the chair for the next person to sit in it. Observe who will take the seat:

A well-versed and well-rehearsed official and his supporters who have been biding the time.

The emotional and psychological turmoil Americans have been experiencing every single day since November 2016 I believe, on serious reflection, has been well-orchestrated to create what I call Nation-Hunger for that someone else to take the helm. Once fed, and we are belching out perceived pleasure brought on by the change of the guard, watch how events will unfold. We will be too satiated and too distracted to respond because we will have been seduced into a faux-euphoria.

The strategy is brilliant in its simplicity. I fear, however, subsequent action on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will be treacherous in its implementation.

Be careful. IJS. Stay woke.

‘Dreamgirl: My Life As A Supreme’ ~ NET All About Books


At St. Martin de Porres, my elementary catholic school in Columbia, South Carolina, the playground served as a venue for a myriad of activities. Tucked into the corner, away from the noise of the playground, is an assembly of girls. With the right foot forward, one hand on the hip and the other stretched out in front of them, they demanded that somebody stop in the name of love. All the while in another little corner is a group singing about love and an unreachable scratch that keeps itchin’ the heart! as hips swing and heads bob, the nuns glide silently by. Lip-synching was the one activity they did not interrupt or keep in check. Their silence seemingly was a sign that they understood the itchin’ of the heart and heartbreak. I imagine now that perhaps in the quietness of their hours, they secretly watched The Supremes on Hullaballoo, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Red Skelton Show, Mike Douglas, or The Tonight Show, pledging to say 10 Hail Marys and Our Fathers afterwards. Whatever, the reason, The Supremes and their music captivated everyone, after all it was the 1960s.

Florence Ballard, Diana Ross, and Mary Wilson having some backstage fun.

Florence Ballard, Diana Ross, and Mary Wilson having some backstage fun.

In the 1970s, word spread about an impending break-up of The Supremes and Ross’s alleged ruthless campaign to become the lead singer of the sterling group before that. Soon, that group would be introduced as Diana Ross and The Supremes. Fast forward to 1986. Mary Wilson’s autobiography Dreamgirl: My Life As A Supreme hit bookstores, and, needless to say, I ate up every printed word like a bear coming out of hibernation. Wilson does not hold back in her writing about the alleged affair between Diana Ross and Motown Mogul Berry Gordy. Gossip about the House of Motown plays itself out within the text in every sordid detail along with stories of jealousies, and apparent career sabotage. Oh it was a joy!

The Supremes

The Supremes

Mary Wilson’s story of three Black teenagers from the Brewster Projects in Detroit, Michigan gave me an up-close-and-personal relationship with three Supreme women who exemplified ladyhood, fashion, and, most important, talent! Each young woman had a body type every teenager could identify with to boot. I leaned towards Diana Ross because she, like I, was no wider than a no.2 pencil. My sister loved Florence Ballard because she was voluptuous; and Mary Wilson was in between!

Mary Wilson

Mary Wilson

A closer look at Dreamgirl, however, revealed a curious twist. Carefully interwoven in Wilson’s autobiography are two threads of mini-biographies of the original Supremes: Diana Ross and the late Florence Ballard, and it is Ballard’s mini-bio that distressed me the most. To read how Ballard tried her best make The Supremes an equal partnership and that of her efforts were undermined by Gordy and Ross brought home for me that entertainers really have little, if any, control over their artistic expression. I still idolize The Supremes, but when I hear or read Diana Ross and The Supremes, I feel sorrow because Wilson’s autobiography makes known the back-handed truth behind that name change. The story also scared me since here were two best friends—Mary and Flo—who, after a talent contest decided to go for that Star together; but when Diane Ross entered the picture—to read Wilson tell it–that dream became compromised when Ross and Gordy align themselves with each other. Oh, the intense personal pain and suffering Mary and Flo experienced.


When I began to include autobiographies of celebrities in my book Dancing on the White Page: Black Women Entertainers Writing Autobiography, Mary Wilson’s Dreamgirl was at the top of that list. This autobiography, for sure, removed the scales from my eyes about entertainers and made me more knowledgeable about the entertainment corporate structure and the moguls who run it. What’s more, Dreamgirl outlined a history of Motown, Hitsville, USA—a house that just about every African American girl and teenager dreamed of entering one day! Looking back as an adult, I see that Wilson’s Dreamgirl was a caution: some houses are dysfunctional even though they appear to be healthy and normal.


Listen to my commentary on NET All About Books http://netnebraska.org/interactive-multimedia/radio/all-about-books-kwakiutl-dreher-rethinking-music-your-past

Devil in a Blue Dress ~ NET All About Books


Elementary school was where I first learned of Florida and California; the two places where the sun showed her face practically every day of the year. Oh, how I longed to be in a place where winter had no place to hang around. When I read in a magazine that all of the beautiful stars and celebrities lived Los Angeles, California, Florida became a blur. Fast forward to 1996, when the scholarship came by way of the University of California-Riverside, I quit my well-paying job, packed my bags, and headed west to begin my graduate studies. I lived in Riverside, only an hour away from Los Angeles — well … that drive depended on which stretch of the freeway you travelled and … well … what time you left to travel on that freeway. In any event, the city of my dreams, Los Angeles, California was just around the corner.

Los Angeles is everything it markets itself to be, and the sprawling city showed off its pretty people, palm trees, beaches, Rodeo Drive, the film studios, and all of the usual suspects of sights and monuments peculiar to that city. It wasn’t until I read Devil in a Blue Dress by murder mystery writer Walter Mosley, however, that Los Angeles began to have a deeper broader meaning for me in terms of the history of African Americans and migration. Not just Los Angeles, but Watts, South Central, and Central Avenue—the Black Los Angeles. These are the places that housed Black Hollywood. Hattie McDaniel, the first African American to win the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Mammy in Gone with the Wind in 1940; also entertainer Dorothy Dandridge, the first African American to be nominated for Best Actress in 1954, for her portrayal of Carmen Jones in the film of the same name. Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, the Nicholas Brothers, tap dancers extraordinaire, and Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry, better known by his stage name Stepin’ Fetchit graced the sidewalks of Black Los Angeles as well.

Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley

This is the world Mosley’s main character Easy Rawlins lived, and African Americans who migrated from the south to California during the great migration of the 1930s and 40s were his neighbors. Prior to Devil in a Blue Dress, my knowledge of this great migration largely centered to the migration of African Americans from the agrarian south to the industrial north. Several 20th Century African American fiction writers created stories around this social current, and uncovered the raucous and chaotic world of the concrete jungles of Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Kansas City, and Harlem, New York, long considered to be the Black Manhattan, to name a few. Harlem Renaissance writer Claude McKay, for example, explored the day-to-day life of African Americans who migrated to Harlem, New York in his novel Home to Harlem; Richard Wright drew upon the plight of the family of Bigger Thomas on the south side of Chicago in his critically acclaimed novel Native Son; and, Ann Petry, in her novel The Street delved into the life of Lutie Johnson, a single mother trying to make her way through the streets of Harlem in a world dominated by men. In her novel, Jazz, Toni Morrison continues this trend when she sets her novel Jazz in the jazz scene of Harlem, taking us into the lives of families who migrated from the south.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Walter Mosley illuminated for me the migration of African Americans from the south to the west. In Devil in a Blue Dress Mosley brings to relief the nuances of old Los Angeles and all of its beauty and dangers wrapped up in love and murder and dirty politics, and most interesting the issue of passing for white during a time when the country segregated by law its population. Devil in a Blue Dress is the first installment of the Easy Rawlins series. Easy, a native of Houston, Texas, moves to Watts after his service in World War II, and discovers racism on home shores still prevails as he is laid off from his job from an aircraft factory for no reason. He is hard-pressed to find employment, until his friend Joppy, a boxer during World War II refers him to DeWitt Albright, a shady white private detective who employs Easy to find a young woman by the name of Daphne Monet or the Devil in the Blue Dress.

Hattie McDaniel

Hattie McDaniel

Now, I want to pause here to make mention to something else the novel did for me: Devil in a Blue Dress facilitated my understanding of what house and home and the caretaking of them meant to my parents. Easy decides to take the job offer from DeWitt Albright because he needs the money to pay the mortgage on his house, and his house serves as his sanctuary from a hard and cruel world.

Home ownership! That I understood all too well! When I told my mother that I had put down a deposit on an apartment when I landed a good paying job, she squinted her eyes and then unleashed her story of she and dad worked hard to purchase a home. It was the 1940s—the time of Mosley’s story. Fresh out of high school, dad had earned his certificate as a brick mason, and he immediately helped one of his buddies launch a very lucrative construction business. After he and mom married, mom would travel with him to different parts of the country when he received a contract to work with other construction companies. When they returned home to South Carolina, they immediately purchased a home. “We were not going to rent! No. Never!” she exclaimed. I stood there dumbfounded, and my pride was hurt but she didn’t care. She continued on, “I wanted a house—not a wood house—but one made of brick with a front porch and lots of rooms so the children could run around freely! Paying rent? Pshaw! It’s like giving money away, and for what?”

Dorothy Dandridge

Dorothy Dandridge

Easy Rawlins would have agreed with my mother, and in one patch of dialogue from Devil in a Blue Dress, my mother’s voice resounded through my mind as well as visions of my father’s own sense of home maintenance: Easy ruminates on his home after he takes the job offer from DeWitt Albright. He says,

“I drove back to my house thinking about money and how much I needed to have some. I loved going home. Maybe it was that I was raised on a sharecropper’s farm or that I never owned anything until I bought that house, but I loved my little home. There was an apple tree and an avocado in the front yard, surrounded by thick St. Augustine grass. At the side of the house I had a pomegranate tree that bore than thirty fruit every season and a banana tree that never produced a thing. There were dahlias and wild roses in beds around the fence and African Violets that I kept in a big jar on the front porch.

Easy continues to rhapsodize about his humble abode, he says,

“The house itself was small. Just a living room, a bedroom, and a kitchen. The bathroom didn’t even have a shower and the back yard was no larger than a child’s rubber pool. But that house meant more to me than any woman I ever knew. I loved her and I was jealous of her and if the bank sent the county marshal to take her from me I might have come at him with a rifle rather than to give her up.”

Pride in the home. I knew that all too well. My father felt he had made well on his duty as a husband and a father with the purchase of that house, and he intended to make sure she was presentable to those who saw her. At dusk, Dad changed into his casual clothes to water the azaleas he and mom planted in the front yard; the evergreens mom planted in the backyard; and the zinnias with which she lined the sides of the driveway. “You never water plants when the sun is up; otherwise the sun will suck up the water. Plants need water at dusk so their roots can soak up the water and be fed to grow.”

Yes, Devil in a Blue Dress gave me greater understanding if not a reverence for a nimiety of histories and images. Though alluded to in the novel, Black Hollywood was alive and well in Mosley’s setting in the bustling Central Avenue of the 1940s and 1950s. Central Avenue was the hub of Los Angeles Black Culture, and Black celebrities contributed to the vitality and joie de vivre of that place. And though Mosley moves Easy Rawlins through the multi-ethnic neighborhoods of Los Angeles, south Central, Watts, and the hustle bustle of Central Avenue were the worlds where Easy Rawlins lived. He cherished his little humble abode, and Easy tells the reader that houses are more than just shelters; they are the holy temples that provide refuge and safe havens from the whirlwind of life; and, when we love them, we will go to great lengths to protect them.


Listen to my commentary on Mosley’s Devil In Blue Dress:

To Paula Patton, Robin Thicke and Gloria Loring

The Family

The Family

Dear Paula Patton and Robin Thicke, parents of a 3-year-old son, and Gloria Loring, grand/mother:

Here’s the chase:

The sun set on my anger Sunday, August 25, but days later I woke up in a clear contemplative mood. After careful review of comments made by all of you in myriad media outlets over the Thicke/Cyrus MTV-Video Music Awards performance on that Sunday, I am ready to read more of the signs from that night, and, if I may, I begin with a statement:

It is about time all of you admit Robin’s complicity in this mess, not to mention Paula’s prior knowledge of the risqué nature of the show. It is about time. Yes, it is.

Paula, if the reports from sources on tmz.com are true on your response to your husband’s performance at the MTV VMA with Cyrus, and I quote, “we’re told Paula knew the performance wasn’t gonna be G-Rated because there were ‘tons of rehearsals’ before the show”, then you cannot wash your hands of the responsibility for that visual debacle.

Robin, if the reports from sources on perezhilton.com as to your response to your ‘duet’ with Miley Cyrus are true, and I quote, “Robin thought it would be fun to include Miley, but he didn’t realize how much she would overshadow him”, then you are more than responsible; you are the culprit.

During ‘tons and tons of rehearsals’, you let Miley Cyrus, a 20-year-year-old lick and bump and grind YOU, a 36-year-old husband and father, tons of times as you sang, “you know I want it! so c-c-c-come on!” from your newest release Blurred Lines. And, more glaring, in the end, your only worries are that you did not win Video of the Year and were upstaged by Miley both on and offstage.

In your appointed ’15-minutes’ onstage, you expected to (re)introduce your hot new single as a young hot(?) ‘kitten’ purred to your blurred lines, but you failed to anticipate a backlash from the public or that we would even care or notice. We did, though! The backlash, Miley Cyrus, along with the performance, and the blogs and scholarship on same, will attend your newest hit–always! There’s the gotcha!

To Robin’s mother, Ms. Loring, in your exclusive interviews with Yahoo! and OMG!, you lamented,

I just keep thinking of her mother and father watching this. Oh, Lord, have mercy. … I was not expecting her to be putting her butt that close to my son. The problem is now I can never ‘unsee’ it. Him? Loved it. I love that suit, the black and white suit. I don’t understand what Miley Cyrus is trying to do. I just don’t understand. I think she’s misbegotten in this attempt of hers. And I think it was not beneficial.’

Ms. Loring, recognize your son’s collaboration in that performance, then maybe some understanding of a grown man taking advantage of a young woman’s sexuality to advance his own artistic endeavor will come to you. THAT is misbegotten.

As for Paula and Robin, you are hereby added to the list of guilty parties for the infamous Thicke/Cyrus spectacle. As you are more than aware by now, the public noticed:

Paula Patton, actress; Robin Thicke, entertainer; Jesse Ignjatovic, Executive Producer; Amy Doyle, Garrett English and Dave Sirulnick, Executive Producers. Joanna Bomberg, Jen Jones and Lee Lodge, co-Executive Producers. Hamish Hamilton, Director.


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On Miley Cyrus

Jesse Ignjatovic, Executive Producer, 2013 MTV Video Music Awards

Jesse Ignjatovic, Executive Producer, 2013 MTV Video Music Awards

This ain’t nuthin’ but the devil! Here I am making headway on my review of Lee Daniels’s The Butler, and now I have to take time out to comment on this swill from Miley Cyrus. I will be brief. Cyrus did not just drop down onstage on a whim at the MTV Video Music Awards last Sunday night to perform the most bush league of choreography I have seen—evah! Pull back the curtain and see the wizards for who they are! Someone came up with that idea! Someone directed that choreography! Someone gave Cyrus the Green Light! Cyrus’s ‘trick’ had to be practiced to perfection(?) under the eye of a director before the award show even went on the air! Plus, costume designers put together each costume for Cyrus and the dancers, and you know there were fittings.

What is worse, Justin Timberlake gets handed the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award—this after he abandoned Jackson’s sister Janet at the Super Bowl (No! I will not get over that!)

I get it, I really do. Pop Culture is trendy and is subject to the whims of the public. As products for consumption, entertainers are fawned over one day, and the next day we’re channel surfing or streaming for that next ‘thing’ that pops. Remember the ending of The Truman Show? With that written, I understand the difficulty for artists to ‘keep it fresh’ so the public can stay interested in them. ‘Keeping it fresh’ is especially challenging for child stars; so it stands to reason that Cyrus desires to crossover from Hannah Montana to … well after Sunday’s performance … I don’t know to what- or to wherever. It just was a very loutish performance.

Hamish Hamilton, Director, MTV Video Music Awards 2013

Hamish Hamilton, Director, MTV Video Music Awards 2013

My question: Who let that ghastly cat out of the bag? Here are the answers: Jesse Ignjatovic, Executive Producer; Amy Doyle, Garrett English and Dave Sirulnick, Executive Producers. Joanna Bomberg, Jen Jones and Lee Lodge, co-Executive Producers. Hamish Hamilton, Director. There.

On Russell Simmons and Harriet Tubman (after the apology)

Harriet Tubman

I haven’t yet expressed my outrage on the smut accorded Academy Award Nominee for Best Actress Quvenzhané Wallis by The Onion. As she sat in her seat at the Oscars, a grown man from that social network looked on this nine-year-old and tweeted: “Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a c–t, right?”

Nor have I expressed my outrage on Justin Timberlake and his blatant demonstration of cowardice at Superbowl XXXVIII. He left—no he ABANDONED Janet Jackson on stage. Standing. By herself.

Nor have I expressed my outrage over Chris Rock’s signification on Janet’s breast and holding her totally responsible for the mishap during his HBO stand-up comedy special Never Scared.

Nor have I expressed my outrage over Li’l Wayne’s lyrical dare to compare his alleged sexual prowess to that of Emmett Till’s lynching. I won’t even mention R. Kelly.

These posts still are to come, but I do believe I curry a hesitancy that stems from trying to find the words to engrave the depth of my anger.

Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons

Now, this draff from Russell Simmons.

Yes, Simmons,

the Hip Hop magnate whose HBO Series Def Poetry attracted master wordsmiths such as Nikki Giovanni, Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, and Nuyorican Poets Café founder Bob Holman,

who mined the field for a whole new generation to appreciate the elegance and power of words, and

whose pioneering efforts honed the comedic talents of Ced, the Entertainer and D. L. Hughley.

Yes, THAT Russell Simmons who produced all of that artistic hauteur has thrown to us some of his prurient imaginings. What’s worse, THAT Russell Simmons expected us to LIKE them. After the apology, I wonder if he will reflect on his pop culture gesture, and what it will mean for him, a father of two young women. He obviously knows his history, and I’d like to know what was it about this particular moment in African American history that compelled him to make that video? What did he expect to accomplish? Why that particular storyline? Why Harriet Tubman? The Harriet Tubman Sextape is a blatant disrespect of African American history; more specific, his visual product is an attempt to devalue the vital role African American women have played in history.

I just have one last statement as I close out because I have to prepare to do what is necessary to keep my day job:

Russell Wendell Simmons, we are moving still through our grief over Trayvon Martin; some of us are shoring up the strength to see Fruitvale Station in honor of Oscar Grant; and, some of us are doing all that is necessary to free Marissa Alexander from that 20-year sentence down in Florida. We are in mourning; yet, the Harriet Tubman Sex Tape produced by you is what you hand to us to look on as we journey towards healing?

A Note of Gratitude

Gabrielle Douglas demonstrates superior skill on the balance beam

There is no need to replay the insane preoccupation with the hair of 16-year-old Gabrielle “Gabby” Christina Victoria Douglas. There is no need to comment that this emphasis on her hair rather than on her self-mastery and consummate skill that spun gold is senseless. There is no need to point to the absurdity of the media circus surrounding her father, Timothy Douglas, and the financial hardships faced by her mother Natalie Hawkins, no matter the authors of this information. These news articles are having full play right now as this column is being written, and let’s just leave it at that.

Instead, let’s cast our attention on two families from disparate backgrounds who dared to believe in this one Olympic hopeful and who were present to see the fruits of their labors because they dared to exercise their faith: The Hawkins family: Natalie (mother) and Gabby’s siblings, Arielle, Joyelle, and Jonathan; and the Parton Family: Travis and Missy (parents) and children, Hailey, Leah, Lexi, and Elissa.

A Note of Gratitude

Dear Families Parton and Hawkins:

In Bible literature, the book of Hebrews 11:1 gives the reader a definition of Faith: Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. When I read Gabrielle’s story, I imagined an informal interview whereby each of you would walk me through how you managed the enthusiasm a teenager had for not only her talent; but, also a robust confidence in her ability to carry it through to an Olympic scale. It is one thing for a child to have the will to reach heights; it’s another to have people who stand in the gap, uplift her, and steady her on shoulders so that she may reach a little higher.

I curry the hope that such an interview will occur. Until then, however, I want to extend to each of you this Note of Gratitude:

Ms. Hawkins, the word “sacrifice” is not enough to cloak the trepidation you felt when you handed over your 14-year-old African American daughter to a white family in the Midwest to train for the Olympics with Liang Chow. I cannot imagine the interior discomfort that settled in your heart when you realized that through all of your caretaking, in order for your daughter to make it to the next level she had to leave the home you made for her. I am sure that you tried to find some consolation in conversations with the Partons, holding on to every assurance that your daughter would be taken care of. I am sure that you tried to see through to the success that your daughter so enthusiastically wanted to achieve but had yet to happen. Away from home, things could go horribly wrong in a nimiety of ways. Sometimes, though, we are sent intercessors to help us along in our faith, and what you could not see, your daughter Arielle envisioned it for you. There are two other children in the home—Joyelle and Jonathan—for whom you are responsible, and mothers always have to be cognizant of a potential fall-out from the perception that one child is being favored over the other. After much soul-searching and encouragement from Arielle, you took the chance. When you reluctantly let Gabrielle go to the Parton home, nevertheless, you set in motion faith—that thing hope for–and from that day forward, Gabrielle’s works would not die. We are grateful.

Missy and Travis Parton, you opened your home to a 14-year-old African American girl while raising four daughters of your own to live with you for 2 years. You took a chance. You could not foresee how this newest addition to the Parton home would pan out. How would your daughters react to the new girl? Somehow and from somewhere, you pulled from within yourselves the faith in something you could not see. You facilitated for Gabrielle a most difficult transition. You continued her rigorous schedule of practices; kept up her spirits; and enabled her to sustain her discipline and focus that her mother had worked hard to cultivate. You rested in the hope of the formation of a congenial relationship between members of your home and that of Ms. Hawkins. Soon, you named Gabrielle “daughter.” We are grateful.

Families Parton and Hawkins, we offer up to you our heartiest gratitude.

Thank you for exercising your faith and hope.

Thank you for taking care of our girl.

(Note: This commentary was published in the August 16, 2012 edition of The Washington Informer at http://washingtoninformer.com/index.php/lifestyle/item/11639-a-note-of-gratitude).

Ruminations on Beyonce and Jay-Z, The Carter Family

It used to be that disparaging things said about people transpired in select places. We have talked about Mrs. Jenkins’s crooked wig in the church parking lot or Sunday’s boring sermon at the dinner table. The most scathing comments made about current events, entertainers, athletes, politicians and other public notables occur in the special venues of the barber/beauty shops and even on the street corner. Usually, debates held in these venues stayed there. That was the rule. Filmmakers have dramatized this culture of talk in films such as Shaft, The Mack, Do the Right Thing, Barber Shop 1&2 and Beauty Shop. The audience is privy to the conversations; yet, it is understood that these acts of talk are exclusive to the community represented within the cinematic frame.

Jay-Z holds his daughter, Blue Ivy

Now, the rule has been broken. In the context of our use of privileged spaces, it is quite disturbing to know that the slander directed towards the developing facial features of a 6 month old African American baby named Blue Ivy Carter, the newest addition to the family of Shawn Corey “Jay-Z” Carter and Beyoncé Giselle Knowles, has escaped. The appalling comments center on fear that as she develops, nature will curse Blue Ivy with the full and broad facial features of her own father rather than the European features of her mother. Of course this reaction to Blue Ivy has caused an avalanche of responses from the African American community, with right conclusions that the installed standard of beauty—blond, blue-eyed; thin lips and keen nose—and racial hatred within the community are as robust as ever.

I am perplexed, though. Did the issue of nose and lips circulate around Jaden and Willow Smith? Julian Fuego Patton-Thicke? How about Nahla Ariela Aubrey-Berry? Memory fails to bring to bear any calumny towards these babies. Why, then, Blue Ivy?

Blue Ivy’s parents have managed themselves well in the world of entertainment. In the intense scrutiny of entertainers, they are the haute-couture of celebrities. There has yet to be a scandal published about them. We have feasted on their talents, and across the board, their performances have been worth the price of the ticket. When Blue Ivy was born, her father blessed her with a song entitled, Glory!, a voiced emotion that church congregants holler when the Holy Spirit has visited them. On February 10, 2012, Beyonce and Jay-Z shared Blue Ivy Carter with us to join them in welcoming her into this/our world. Joy can be seen in Jay-Z’s eyes as laughter spills from his bountiful lips in pictures carrying his daughter. He demonstrates the honor of fatherhood and that of a husband at this point in time of his life.

We, in turn, insult them, especially her father. It is safe to hazard that technological advances bear much of the blame. What we spoke in the privacy of the aforementioned venues among each other we somehow knew that we didn’t mean it. It just was the shuck and the jive of the talk. The advent of cyber social spaces such as Twitter, however, has compromised that particular aspect of privacy. A comment removed from the protection of the private space and takes on a life of its own once released. Plus, the post in cyberspace is immediate. This compromise is what R&B singer Gladys Knight meant in her comment on Paris Jackson’s tweets about the family: “[…] people read into whatever they want to read into, that’s how they get the drama.” (http://tinyurl.com/cz55ybt). Now there is a link entitled Twitter Files: The Jackson Family Drama According to Paris that can be accessed and left up to interpretation by anyone.

What I am saying here is this: The comments made about Blue Ivy now are part of the public’s legacy to her. The remarks have been archived, and this legacy will touch her or someone will remind her of it. We have broken the rule. Our talk has moved out of those old school spheres and journeyed to the superhighway of the internet. The same public that facilitated the making of her parents the awe-inspiring entertainers they are today has cast aspersions on them and their offspring. Some are waiting for this African American baby to grow up not in anticipation of her healthy integration into society; rather, in an extreme anxiety over whether or not she will carry her mother’s features and not those of her father’s. We all know the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Beyonce and Jay-Z introduced Blue Ivy to a diverse community; some members blessed her while others chose to malign her facial features. Such is the curse of the standard of beauty in this country, “probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought” according the narrator in Toni Morrison’s novel, The Bluest Eye. We all must wonder, then, once Blue Ivy comes of age, in her awareness of the world around her, will she look on us and smile?

(Note: This commentary was first published in the August 2, 2012 edition of The Washington Informer.)

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