Saturday, October 14, 2017

The 1965 American Football League boycott and ny take on the Colin Kaepernick injustice

Read about the courageous act executed of the players of the 1965 AFL All-Star Game. The league was scheduled to play at Louisiana's Tulane University's stadium. The AFL was a new league in direct competition with the NFL at the time. It is now defunct but it had a heyday. The sixties were a time of racial upheaval (like now) and the culmination of the Civil Rights Movement started years earlier. Tensions were high and in the South, and regardless of what the Federal gov't might decree about ending discrimination, White southerners often did as they pleased; laws be damned..

Promises were made that the Black players would be treated according to the Federal laws on the books. Translation? Fairly. Like effin human beings. Like anyone else. Well, turns out that was not the reality they met when they arrived. Restaurants still refused to seat and serve them. Cabs would not pick them up. I'm certain the hotels didn't want them within their walls either.

The 21 Black players, led by Cookie Gilchrist of the Buffalo Bills and Abner Haynes of the Kansas City Chiefs, banded together to send a message. They voted to NOT suit up and play. Two White players backed the move - Hall of Fame inductee Ron Mix and Jack Kemp (future Republican politician).

They won their protest in a round-about way. The game was moved to Houston's Jeppesen stadium.

Athletes taking a stand for what is right. Gee. Could it happen again? Maybe. But they'd have to grow a set first. Yeah. I said it. Grow a set.. But I'll be waiting a bit, won't I? Unfortunately, the Keyrones and LeJohns who make up the NFL today are painfully young and immature. They are highly-paid plantation property and the owners know it. These young players, my Grandfather would have said, "are distracted by the shiny possessions they owe on." They got a huge mortgage on Big Mama's brand new house. They got wives, ex-wives, children, levels of side-pieces, side-pieces' children and a large overhead. They owe their souls to the company store so to speak. So, on game days when the anthem is played, what you'll see from them is a mish-mosh of half-standing, half-kneeling, the locking arms with the owner "in solidarity." Whatever that means. But what you're really gonna see is FEAR. They want to back Colin but, hey, those bills come every month. This is the line in the sand,. There is no going back from here. Either they stand with their hands over their hearts, or they kneel, or boycott. This is the defining moment. No praying. No wishing the unpleasantness away. No in-between. Nope. The sad thing is I know what each of these young ones will choose. It should be their manhood but they won't. They will stand and be owned 'cuz "look at what happened to Kap."

Mister Kaepernick's career is over. Plantation massahs love to make examples out of their errant property..Lord, I hope this guy has saved his money because his peeps have left him to twist in the wind. But he made his point at the expense of his job. It takes guts to put one's money where one's mouth is. I support Colin Kaepernick in his protest BUT let me clarify WHAT his protest was about. So many have twisted his intent to rule the narrative. His protest was NOT about disrespecting vets/troops/military/flag, or whatever else a certain demographic wants to pull out of their collective asses. He knelt because of the clear police brutality that had, and has, been going on. Kaepernick knelt because obviously out of order law officers, ones seen ON FILM assaulting and killing unarmed Black/Brown people were not even being indicted for blatant abuses. He did it every game he was in to SHOW the disinterested that people were dying. He wanted the spectators, and viewers at home to know that.. THAT is WHAT his beef was/is. Not the stars-n-stripes, pseudo-patriotic bullshit that the draft-dodging, Man In the High Chair In The White House, or some Massah/Team owner, has whipped it up to be. Got that? 

My uncles went to war too. They got wounded too. They were Veterans too. They fought so people like Kap could be able to have his protest. It's freedom of expression. It's freedom of speech. They fought to defend a land that when they came home from war, denied them the comforts of the G. I. Bill. A land that, to this day, would erase their efforts from the history books if it could. Watch any WWII movie from the last 60 years. See any Black/Brown/Asian G. I.s? Didn't think so. The first time I saw any acknowledgement of a person of color having been in WWII was on "Hogan's Heroes" So, please. Check the jingoistic, flag-waving BS at the door. Last time that was a hit James Cagney was the movies' box office draw.

America, you've been played.

info courtesy of blackamericaweb

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Sarah Lou Harris Carter - Once the first African-American model featured in a national campaign for "Lucky Strike" cigarettes, she added the title "Lady" to her resume

Sarah Lou Harris born in Wilkesboro, North Carolina  (July 4th, 1923) went to the HBCU Bennett College, graduated and moved to New York City to teach. Once there, in addition to teaching, she took more courses and acquired a master's degree. Curious about other avenues of improvement, she became a radio host and a dancer. These fields led to signing to with the Branford Modelling Agency, an agency created for Black models only. She and her colleagues broke barriers and changed minds about the concept that models could only be blonde and White.

Modelling took her around the globe. On one of her assignments she met John Carter. No. Not that John Carter. This John Carter was a Guyanese attorney. A prominent barrister who in 1944 had successfully gotten the death penalty, which had been handed down from the US military court for a a rape charge to an African-American soldier, commuted. Kismet struck when the couple met. Smitten, they wed. Years later, Queen Elizabeth II knighted Carter et voila! Sarah became Lady Sarah Lou Harris Carter, wife to a lawyer who happened to be an ambassador and a politician

Not too shabby for a girl from Wilkesboro, NC.

Lady Carter continued to model, When she quit the bright lights, she opened her own charm school in Guyana.

Predeceased in death by her husband, Lady Carter died on December 16, 2016 at the age of 93.

Sarah in her heyday

Sir John Carter

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Octavius V. Catto - Homeboy finally acknowledged!

Octavius V. Catto. Orator. Educator. Intellectual. Military man. Cricket player. Activist. Martyr.

A Philadelphian by way of Charleston, South Carolina. Born free to freewoman Sara Isabella Cain on February 22, 1839 and itto the prominent mixed-race DeReef family, a family that had been free for decades. His father, William T. Catto,  had been a slave millwright and had gained his freedom. Once free, his father, now a Presbyterian minister, took the family North. First to Baltimore, then to Philly. He dedicated his life to educating black folk and rallying them to vote. A big fat no-no in Philly of that day. Actually, it's still an uncomfortable affair to be a black voter in Philly. Oh, the stories I could tell. Anyhoo, Catto lost his life organizing black people to get out the vote in 1871 on October 10th. A nasty business involving police and the immigrant Irish community who were mainly part of the Democratic machine and who fought constantly with Blacks who were Republicans. No, not THOSE kind of Republicans. This was the time just before the parties switched ideologies literally. Before that, Blacks had been Republicans and most Whites had been Democrats. The kind of Democrats who espoused the platform that present-day Republican do now. Get it? It's a long, sad story. Basically, a flip flop in thinking happened and we have what we have today. Wanna read more about the big upheaval in the parties? Google it. Catto had a vast and varied background too extensive to relate here. See the provided links below.

Again, tensions in the city were high as immigrants (mainly Irish) had been up in arms concerning their having being drawn into the Civil War. Many were still fuming over their conscription into a matter they felt had nothing to do with them. They'd come to a land for freedom, not to fight for somebody else's. Somebody they felt below them. They saw Blacks as a problem and did not want them organized in any manner, or gaining any power. Who know were that could lead? LOL.LOL. Possibly, solidarity, idiots.

My take? I felt they should have taken it up with the federal government. Not take it out on their Black neighbors. But that's par for the course. People always bitch about what favor their neighbor APPEARS to be getting when in actuality, while they fret, the gov't is taking them ALL for what they are worth and using them. It's laughable really. They thought themselves better than blacks when, if I recall, their names were right up there with Blacks and Jews on those signs proclaiming, "Stay Out. Not Welcome!" But back to Mister Catto.

He'd been rousing Blacks to vote on October 10, 1871. Election Day. A recognizable figure, he'd bought a gun for protection as he was always being accosted when out. While on his way to vote, he was confronted by one Frank Smith, an Irish immigrant. Catto was shot 3 times, dying of his wounds. An inquest could not determine if Catto had pulled his weapon though several depictions of the encounter depict it. In the end, Smith was not charged.

I chose him as a blog topic because growing up in South Philly this man's presence was palpable. As a child, I attended many an event at the O. V. Catto Hall in my neighborhood. Churches, families, and organizations held dances, meetings and socials there. The local fire department hosted Christmas parties there, giving out presents and money to us kids.  The hall was the place to hold all the events crucial to my neighborhood. I have fond memories of fun times at that space.

South Philly is not the same anymore. Gentrification has altered life there greatly. The wheels of time and folk with the money to buy up properties for next to nothing does that every time. I'm sure the hall is no longer there. And if it is, it's probably a coffee shop serving $10 avocado-toast-and-coffee combos to hipsters. The history is lost ut lives in the minds of the O. G.s. That is why I so happy that Philly is honoring the man that the hall was named for. Philadelphians, new and old, need to know of this man.

And it's happening on September 26th, 2017 A statue will be dedicated and erected outside City Hall. Protests will occur I am certain because a lot of people feel some kind of way about the removal of former mayor Frank Rizzo's statue from a public space. Oh, it's gonna get salty. But that is business as usual for Philly. I commend present mayor, Jim Kenney, for proceeding with the project. It was a brave move for a White guy of Irish decent to make  because...It's Philly. The installation will be covered by WURD Radio. Okay, Philly, are you ready for your close-up? Philadelphia. My wacky, nutty, racist hometown. You make me smile sometimes.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Harlem Cultural Festival in the summer of 1969 is often called the Black Woodstock.

The Harlem Cultural Festival was an event that comprised SIX FREE concerts filled to the brim with talent. The bill over the span of the shows featured Stevie Wonder, B. B. King, Sly and the Family Stone, Nina Simone, The Staple Singers, etc. The list went on and on. as you can see from the poster below. Sly and the Family Stone played BOTH venues that summer.

Listen to a 2009 NPR recollection at their website, or at  to get a feel of the event:

This is history. A videographer named Hal Tulchin, filmed and recorded the happening for posterity. I like the word happening. So '60s. Happening. All I can see are fringed vests, bell bottoms, bandanas and beads for days. Anyhoo, it seems posterity wasn't interested in the footage the man shot from the festival. That is until said languishing footage was uncovered. Et Voila! A documentary is in the making. At least 50 hours of performances were captured. 90-year-old Hal Tulchin passed but lived long enough to know that his work would be seen.

Well done, Mister Tulchin.

info courtesy and

Monday, September 18, 2017

Jimi Hendrix - Hail a guitar master!

A black and white photograph of a man playing an electric guitar.

Jimi Hendrix - Born 11/27/42 - Deceased 9/18/70

I've blogged about my love for '70s funk bands and their bass guitarists for a few years. The other type of guitarist I like are terrific rock guitarists.

Eric Clapton. Jimmy Page. Jeff Beck. Carlos Santana. Joe Perry. Duane Allman. Ernie Isley. Yes, Prince. Oh, the list goes on and on. I know I've left out a ton. But the one I listen to, to this day is Jimi Hendrix.

My youngest uncle who lived in the family home while going to college, introduced me to the music of this master. I recall being 8 years old, sitting on uncle's bedroom floor and listening to the needle drop on vinyl and commence to play Purple Haze, The Wind Cries Mary and Foxy Lady.  And my personal favorite: All Along the Watchtower. I was transfixed. My initiation into "The Experience" had begun. Uncle graduated and eventually moved away but Jimi's talent lingered.

Hendrix's style was unique to say the least. I like that reverberating sound he got from playing directly in front of the speakers. His breakout, breakthrough came at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. He and his group were the talk of the event. At Woodstock, he stole the show with his rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Dying young like Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison was part of his continued mystique.

Hendrix was celebrated in a rather overlooked film in 2013: Jimi: All Is By My Side. It didn't do well due to not being able to acquire the rights to his music. Bummer because singer Andre 3000 of Outkast was STUPENDOUS as Jimi. Andre caught the essence of the guitarist. It's a shame the film bombed. It would have released Andre into acting more and boosted Hendrix even more. But thems the breaks.

Today is the anniversary of Jimi's death. This day in 1970, he passed. Go listen to some of his music to honor a riveting talent. .

 All Along the Watchtower:

A color image of three men standing together wearing psychedelic clothing.

Jimi All Is by My Side poster.jpg

info courtesy of blackamericaweb

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Beauty is in session and the industry just got taken to school - Fenty Beauty

Fenty Beauty. Fenty Beauty. Fenty Beauty.

Rihanna. Rihanna. Rihanna. Not just another pretty face.

I can take, or leave her music but I will definitely take her makeup. Definitely. RiRi's launch into the beauty biz showed wannabes like the Kardashians how it should be done. Kim, having 4 contouring kits is nothing. Kylie, Kendall or whatever K you are in the family, your announcement of the addition of something called "Brown Sugar" (conspicuously after the Fenty Beauty launch) to your makeup line was feeble at best. Anemic at worst. It's a tacky, lame attempt to appear "inclusive" in the beauty game. A game who you, and all large, mainstream cosmetic companies, LOST on September 8th, 2017 when Fenty Beauty debuted.

That large section of makeup wearers with very dark skin, or very pale skin. The ones with all that MONEY to spend but had nearly nowhere to spend it, found a place that Friday night. Through your big-company-willful-ignorance, through your business model that touts "medium" as the only shade that matters, you lost out. Oh, yeah, you might have gotten off your lazy duff to make two crappy foundation shades for ALL black or brown women, without acknowledgement of their differing undertones and the fact that we all come in varied shades! Those two shades were supposed to be enough for over half the world. How big of you. And just as bad is your poor representation of deadly pale skin with one shade of "fair" no matter the wearer's undertone.

I will admit a few major brands - MAC, NARS, Lancome, even Clinique - tried. But it wasn't because they cared. It was for the money. They understood business. Not to say that there are no Black-owned beauty companies, or companies that do not have cosmetics for Black skin. There were/are several small Black-owned beauty brands. I left a list below. But we all know how they get treated. Scant shelf space in stores. Low visibility even if they get space in a store. Just to get the endeavor off the ground is a miracle. "White beauty companies get funded on POTENTIAL; Black beauty companies get funded on PROOF!" A quote from Youtube beauty blogger Jackie Aina. Meaning: A White idea gets the moolah without question. A Black idea gets scrutinized out the wazoo, schematics are needed and SALES! Where dey do dat at? How the Hell are you gonna have a sales track record PRIOR to the effin thing being produced?

No thing. Fenty Beauty is here to take all you big boys to school and to tell you that it has it covered. This is not a flash-in-the-pan effort. This is a major effort to rival the biggies in the field. I believe Fenty Beauty is here to stay a while.

40 shades of gloriously different foundation. FORTY! Not 50 permutations of medium beige.

At least 7 of which serve the darkest skin with all its possible undertones. And don't fret pale girls. On the other end of the spectrum, there are at least 5 shades of  Wednesday Addams' complexion and the undertones to go around. And if you are anywhere in-between, you've got it made and will get giddy from the selection.

So while all you big beauty giants scratch your asses and wonder how you missed that YUGE boat and how RiRi didn't, do let me hear the clack of those stilettoes running to whip up the products you SHOULD have been making for years. I know you are in a rush but take your time to make a quality product, okay? Otherwise, you'll have to revisit square one and will have missed the boat TWICE.

Ah! I do love the smell of regret and checked bigotry in the morning!

My personal favs are: the primer, the foundation and the blotter for shine.

PS Here are some small Black-owned beauty brands that have been in the trenches for a bit:

Monday, September 11, 2017

Happy Birthday, Miss Lola Falana!

Born this day in 1942. Lola Falana. An Afro-Cuban Philly, PA girl by way of Camden, NJ. A woman of many firsts. A fixture on every late '60s through early '70s variety show. The one known for her perky "backside" before all the other Janies-Come-Lately. A recording star. A TV star. A dancer. A Las Vegas star before the concept of "residency" was even dreamed up. Vixen before the video age. Often casts as the temptress in films. Face of a major cosmetics campaign (Tigress perfume). Once wife to Feliciano Tavares of the '70s group, Tavares. The total package. Survivor of multiple sclerosis. Human. Lola Falana.

Happy Birthday, Lola! MUAH!

ps Rihanna vibe in the second pic? Or Rihanna is a tad Falana-ish these days? You know what I mean.

Serendipity and Sloane Stephens, champ!


I'd say hold that place for Serena until she gets back but...You are your own force!

I must admit. If it were not for Venus, Serena, you, Madison Keys, women's tennis would be BORING! Boring I tell you. The sport is ALIVE because of BLACK women! Big statement, you say? Well, it's true.

I did yell out loud when Sharapova struck out. Sorry. But not really. I still boil at the thought that she makes the most in endorsements when it comes to women in tennis, but is still considered a TENNIS star. She's not that good. But, that's the way of this world when one is born with that aspect. Girlfriend will be just fine, though. Maybe Enrique will marry her. They still together?

Anyhoo, Sloane, hunty, enjoy that trophy and that check. I saw your eyes. Never seen that many zeroes, right? Kick back, do the vacay thing and hug yourself. Then prepare for that Clash of the Titans should you face Venus again and definitely when Serena returns. With those genes and that talent dashing around, that court is gonna be on fiyah!

Sloane's late father, NFL Running back, John Stephens wgho played for the New England Patriots

Sloane with her equally gorgeous mom, Sybil Smith, a top athlete in her own right. Was named the best swimmer that Boston University ever had!
Sybil Smith

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Ark of Return - A tribute, erected on the grounds of the U. N, in memory of the lives changed and lost during the Middle Passage into slavery

I am ashamed that I'd never heard of this. But it's sort of par for the course here in the States. Any apology or the mere acknowledgement of an apology to for Black misery and/or sacrifice is glossed over, or reported on the news in a 10-second snippet, or ignored greatly lest certain demographics take offense.

Well, I'm here to say: Be offended.

In 2015, a monument that had been commissioned to commemorate the end of the slave trade, was unveiled at the United Nations in New York City. The marker was created by Rodney Leon, a sculptor of Haitian descent. Side note: This talented man also created the African Burial Ground National Monument which resides in Manhattan.

The Ark of the the Return, as explained by the artist, is quite involved. Read his interview here.

I read a couple articles about the piece since I discovered it and all I can say is, I was moved to tears.
It's a piece that was looooong overdue. I suggest that for every Confederate hero statue being de-throned, a replica of this evocative sculpture be set in place.

That certain demographic I spoke of would survive. My people did.

2 Youtube videos on the making of the piece

Sunday, September 3, 2017

POWER - the Starz Network show's 4th season finale was all that!

POWER. My guilty pleasure. It's not a politically correct show. Not by a long shot. But I don't need it to be. Maybe that's why I love it.

I thought the week before last's episode of POWER (Sundays, Starz 9pm ET) was filled with angst and terror and sadness but this week's season 4 finale was all that and more. The family St. Patrick's dynamic played out in all its glory. Wife Tasha wasted no time in telling husband Ghost that their daughter's (Raina) killer has to be hunted down and killed. She told Ghost to get it right and to not get caught. She was in mourning mode and had no effs to give about anyonr's feelings, least of all her philandering husband's. She questioned Tariq, her wayward brother AND Ghost's son, about what he knew about his twin sister's killing. He said, "Nothing." But he lied. Tariq saw the whole thing, He knows who killed his sister (dirty cop Ray Ray) because the killer was gunning for him. Revenge belonged to Tariq tonight. The episode ends with Ghost, Tommy, his best friend, and Kanan (series creator 50 Cent) out hunting for the man (Dre) who'd arranged the hit on Tariq, but whose hitta killed Raina by accident. The Three Musketeers. It was all about business that turned personal that turned deadly. So much death, double-crossing and lying. My head was spinning. Will Ghost stay out of jail? Will Tasha keep him down again? Will Tommy lighten up? Man needs a vacation or some Paxil. All in all, a slam-bam season ending in a very involved, deep episode. The season closed on a tense high note and set up the purpose for season 5 perfectly. Long Live la famille St. Patrick and all their crooked co-horts.

Friday, September 1, 2017

You know what time it is.

Okay. Okay. I know I did this last year But so what? It's my blog. I can do what I want. I implore you. "Get up off of that thing. Dance and you'll feel better," said James Brown. Get on your feet. Welcome the month and say bye to the last unofficial weekend of summer according to those who run resorts (actually, you got another 31/2 weeks).

Whatever. Just dance to the iconic, legendary, unparalleled elements of the Universe!


Bring it, Maurice, Philip, Verdine et al!

P. S.
I don't know which is more disturbing. The white go-go boots on the dude relaxing, or his burgundy knee pants, or the lime green pants, or the red flares right behind them. Or the fact no one looks embarrassed by their individual, or collective, ensembles. Such '70s goodness.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Constance Baker Motley - Appointed U. S. District Court Judge by Lyndon B. Johnson, Jurist, N. Y. State Senator

Constance Baker Motley. Fisk University attendee. New York University graduate. Columbia University law School grad. Talk about a force. She held many firsts in her legal life. 1st Black woman appointed to be federally appointed to a federal bench. 1st Black woman to argue a case before the U. S. Supreme Court. Manhattan 1st black borough president. First. First. First. All around. Once confirmed for her position at the United States District Court for the the Southern District of new York, she commanded the bench until her death in 2005. Read more about her courtesy of

Whoa! The ish she must have faced from the looks of this line up.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Katrina and Harvey. Does anyone really care because so far the remedy to these disasters has been to whistle as you walk through a grave yard while holding a rabbit's foot!

Hurricane Harvey

Water, water, everywhere.

This week. This very day (August 29th), 12 years ago, Tropical Depression Twelve which had developed into Hurricane Katrina, made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane at Bay St. Louis, MS. It smacked into St. Bernard Parish and St. Tammany Parish in Louisiana. This was its third U. S. landfall since it had been birthed in the Atlantic weeks earlier. It had first hit Keating Beach on August 25th, a place two miles south of Fort Lauderdale International Airport. In its wake, it had touched Alabama, the Bahamas, Cuba, and Puerto Rico at various intensities.

But the U. S. mainland had drawn the short straw. Active in the Atlantic in different forms beginning August 24th, she saved her worst havoc for August 28th- August 31st.

Incompetence. Delayed, botched evacuations. Indifference. Lack of compassion. Greed. Thrift. All contributed to the horror show and the its aftermath which continues until today in the area. New Orleans lost @90,000 residents.

Now, we have Hurricane Harvey. It demolished Rockport. Smashed Copano Bay and Aransas Bay. It barrelled through Corpus Christi, Galveston, Victoria, and Edna and made it way to Houston. Where it has sat for two days. Pouring rain. 25 punishing inches to be exact. But it's not over. It's due to get 25 more by Wednesday. It's gonna hit Beaumont and Port Arthur and along other places on the Texas/Louisiana border. It's all so sad. People displaced. people freaked out. But this is not new. This happened 12 years ago. 12 YEARS AGO! Ironically, cruelly, some people who evacuated New Orleans during Katrina, went to HOUSTON to live! They must be beside themselves now. I know I'd be.

Differences between Katrina and Harvey? As far as damage goes, no difference as I can see. There was/is destruction. People are displaced. People have died.

With Katrina, the levees broke and engulfed hold neighborhoods. Lots of foot-dragging and finger-pointing while people perished

With Harvey, the bayous have been overflowing but I see a quicker response albeit one spearheaded by locals. I see a mayor who decided NOT to call for evacuation. I was on the fence about that. But I think he made the right call. Could you imagine thousands of people stuck in cars on gridlocked, flooding roadways? All I could envision was dead folks in cars after the water receded. Who would have to do that duty? How many platoons would have had to clean that up? So, the mayor made the right decision. What is messed up is, how do you handle thousands of people who are trapped at home in 25-50 inches of water? Sheltering in place just ain't making it when water is surging into your house.Shelters are ill-equipped. There is nowhere to go. The problem is these cities have been built BELOW SEA LEVEL (New ORleans, Houston). Can't dig up the cities so a solution to whoever's bright idea it was to construct those places at those coordinates has to be figured out before the next severe hurricane comes.

But after Katrina, the experts assured that it would be solved by the next "big one." That was, what? 12 years ago.

Hurricane Katrina at her height

Monday, August 21, 2017

What a weekend! The anniversary of the landing of the first Blacks in America, the transitions of Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis and the Solar Eclipse

Phew! This weekend, and the next few hours, were, are, going to be lit! Starting off the weekend was the announcement that comedian/Civil Rights defender, Dick Gregory had passed. August 19, 2017.

I recall from my kid days, seeing him on a grainy B&W TV. After my bedtime, I’d sneak back downstairs to see what all the hub-hub was about. Dick Gregory was on some late-night talk show. That was an event I found out because he wasn’t singing or dancing or smiling. He was standing still, holding a mic and “spitting truth” to a White audience and making them laugh. On a particular visit year before, Gregory had broken a barrier for Black comedians. It was a fact that once a comedian had done his set on the Tonight Show with Jack Parr, and had been invited to sit on the couch (the infamous couch) afterward to chat with Parr, the sky was the limit for said comedian. A few Whites had been invited. No non-Whites. Well, Dick Gregory was a hot commodity even though he had only been playing Black nightclubs. His name was on everyone’s lips. Parr wanted him on his show. Well. The word on the street was that Mr. Gregory, being Mr. Gregory, had said to Parr, “If I do not get the invite to the couch, I ain’t doing the show.” He got the invite and the show and the rest is history.  

Now back to my crazy house. My youngest uncle was in college at the time, living at home, was quite militant and Mr. Gregory was his messiah (next to Malcolm X). Uncle Cy was 20 years old and a brainiac. He was more than what the kids today call “woke.” He was the guy who SET THE DAMNED ALARM CLOCK! Yeah. He had a glorious ‘fro, wore dashikis, gave Black Power salutes and called for “action!” Mesmerized me. Worried the hell outta my grandparents. He was a handsome gay man, brilliant and Black. A dangerous trifecta to the “establishment” and himself.  He was set on “changing the world.” Anyhoo, he had bought Dick Gregory’s comedy double LP Caught In the Act and had played that thing so much that my grandfather almost strangled him. After Grandpop laid down the law that any continued airings of said LP had to be in my uncle’s bedroom on his HI-FI (!) at a very low volume, peace was achieved. Nosy me used to sit on the floor outside his bedroom door and strain to hear, for the umpteenth time, the stuff I didn’t understand the first time. I still didn’t get it. I had to wait some years later. Richard Pryor was my icon.

In any case, Mr. Gregory went on to charm to globe into hearing about the plight of the ignored while making the globe laugh and think. My uncle went on to get his degrees in education and taught children because he believed that was the key to liberation for Black kids. He strove for that all his life even while working on his PhD while deathly ill and eventually dying in ’88.

Along with my mom, Uncle Cy, raised me to be a reader and a seeker. To know all kinds of stuff from books. The requisite stuff. That canon. Yeah. But they also raised me to know the stuff you can’t get from books. The stuff that is not on the page that is needed in practical living. So, a comedian changed a young man’s life.  And that young man changed mine because he NEVER let up on me about education. NEVER. Thank you, Mr. Gregory!

The second happening that I am certain most Americans didn’t know about was the anniversary of the landing of the first Blacks in America. That event took place on August 20, 1619, a full year before the Mayflower. Boy, I say a full year, boy! The Dutch man of war that brought them is not mentioned or recorded or named.  It sailed into Jamestown, VA and dropped anchor in the harbor. It was manned by pirates and cut-throats who had robbed a Spanish ship of its load of Africans, a cargo that had been expected in the West Indies. To make a long story short, the captain needed provisions for his crew. To get them, he swapped the Africans for food. One pair was a couple in love: Antoney and Isabella. Who, miracle upon miracle, were allowed to stay together. Around seventeen others rounded out the group. And voila! The first Blacks in America. (For further investigation, see the book, Before the Mayflower by Lerone Bennett, Jr.). So that event came and went. I wonder if Jamestown had a re-enactment of that.

Now, the biggie is upon us. The Solar Eclipse. No, I shall not be watching. I do not trust any apparatus out there on sale. The only place I would trust is the Franklin Institute in Philly if I were so inclined. They are setting up specially-equipped tents on the lawns from which to view the heavens. I’ll catch the next one in 2024 if I’m still here. And if I’m not, I’ll have a front row seat anyway so it won’t matter.

I felt compelled to make note of these events because all three happening were rather extraordinary. An eclipse, the marking of something that should be a major event. I mean the first Blacks landing in America IS a big deal. Perhaps that should be commemorated with a statute? You’re probably asking, “But why did she include Dick Gregory in these things?” Well, I see it as an exchange of energy. According to what I believe, when one passes, one’s energy doesn’t leave right away. It lingers for a bit. I think Mr. Gregory’s essence is now ready to go. So, the eclipse coming in and then leaving will take Baba Gregory’s energy with it. What a fitting exit!

R. I. P. to Jerry Lewis too. I watched MANY a MDA Labor Day telethon and his films over and over at the neighborhood movie theatre. My favorite being The Disorderly Orderly. He made me laugh so hard some times I couldn't breathe. I even used to imitate that laugh he had in films to the consternation of my poor mom. She did end up cracking up though after a while

Okay. Now I must exit. Bye.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Do you set goals and boundaries in your romance writing? - An example

In my historical romance, Kindred, An American Love Story, my heroine is the granddaughter of slaves, and my hero is an indigenous Oneida. When an interracial relationship pops up as the main plot in a romance novel, it’s usually a Caucasian hero and a non-Caucasian heroine/partner. I was drawn to telling a tale with characters who don’t get much play in researched historical romances. A plethora of historical, Native romances have been written over the years. Most have a Native hero and a Caucasian heroine. And the hero is usually portrayed as “untamed” and “wild” and is often seen by the heroine as “uncivilized.” Okay. I get that the writer needs to convey the independence or the single-mindedness or the uniqueness of the Native character, but “untamed and wild?” About an Indigenous person? Really? Um, er, uh…No. No. No. Those writers needed to have thought harder to find better words.

I used the same criteria for my heroine. If you know anything about my work, you know that I write Black heroines, I write them the opposite of the usual spin seen in the sparsely populated arena of Black, historical romance heroines. I only depict them in multi-faceted terms. No one-note wonders permitted. No one-size fits all demeanors. I expect the same for my book covers. I went against the trend for Kindred's cover. The lack of the hero’s bare chest on the cover might have cost me sales but I wasn’t going that route. No oiled-up “savage.” No skimpy loincloth, or spears. No broken English on his part inside the book. No.

I got pushback on my choice of romantic coupling for my book. The first publishing house I subbed to had doubts the pairing, and their depiction, would pass muster. “Pass muster?” Uh? An editor liked the book but said it might be a hard sell to the reading public. She also asked if I could make a “few changes.” Interested in hearing her out, I read her list of changes. Let’s just say ALL her changes were a no-go. So, I sucked it up, kept the faith, said, “No thank you” and moved on. I finally found a Canadian publisher who liked my characters the way I presented them, and wanted to publish the book. Yay! Victory!

The take-away from this post?

If you are writing your historical romance to fit the trends, be aware that your premise will have to conform to what is popular in the sub genre. It will have to contain the familiar tropes, characters and settings. The sameness will sell it. A certain faction of historical romance readers expects comfort and familiarity with their reading material.

Now if you are writing historical romance to bring a too-seldom-viewed take to the sub genre, it is necessary to have different tropes, non-default characters and unusual settings. If you intend to submit your work to traditional publishing houses, be prepared for a fight. Anything out of the ordinary is anathema to them because they are risk-averse when it comes to the bottom line. If your submission is not turned down outright, and gets accepted, expect a request for lots of changes. Could you handle that? If you can, good. Excellent for you. But do fight for what YOU know is crucial to your story. Do not back down if a story point is important. Stand by your choices and give reasons why a thing needs to remain. Be daring. You might not win the war but you might win several battles. I do caution you that you might end up with an unrecognizable book. Ask yourself if you could live with that. On the other hand, if you cannot handle drastic changes to your story, bypass the drama and go straight to self-publishing. Remember, the point is to make your book stand out from the crowd. Self-publishing is the perfect venue for individuality. Its downside? Promotion falls solely on you. 

I hope the accounting of my journey so far helps. Now go create that stand-out book.

Lamar "Ditney" Smith - Voting Rights activist

Yesterday (August, 13, 1955) marked the 62nd anniversary of the murder of Lamar Smith. He was a community organizer (yes. that word is kryptonite to a chosen few), a farmer, a WWII veteran, a regular guy and a voting rights activist. The last title got him shot and killed in broad daylight on a grassy spot in front of a court house in Brookhaven, MS at 10 a. m. But NO ONE saw it. Like really?

Anyhoo, the rats were caught who'd been suspected. But guess what? The case was dismissed. Another day in the study of injustice. Ho-hum.

The scene would be repeated throughout the decade in the South with the same results. Unsung heroes like Mr. Smith need to be remembered.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Some things to consider when thinking about penning historical romance without mainstream, main characters

I write both science fiction romance and historical romance. When I create in those two sub genres, I make all my heroines black. Why? Because there are too few black heroines in those sub genres.  My science fiction series is a little easier to write than my historical series. But not much. For this post, I’ll concentrate on the items one should consider when creating a historical romance containing not-the-usual landed, titled suspects. I believe these tips could apply to any character who is not the requisite straight, Christian, blue-eyed, lady or duke of the Regency period. Since my books follow black heroines I will stick to the things to consider when penning them.

In my Love Vanquishes All stand-alone, historical series, there are two books so far. Kindred, An American Love Story and Dissent. Both follow vastly different heroines from vastly different eras. I’ll be discussing how I created Kindred, the main character from book one. I drew up a list of six important questions I had to ask myself (though many more popped up as I got into the actual writing) before I set out bringing her, and her world, to life. Question one was, “Why do I want to write her?” Question two was, “In what setting will I place her?” Question three was, “How will I depict her?” Question four was, “How will I go about it?” Question five was, “Do I have an interesting story to tell?” Question six was, “Will I be adding anything new to the field?”

The first question was easy to answer. I wanted to write her because I wanted to add to the roster of black, historical heroines out there. Yeah. I needed to add my take to the ranks. There is room for everyone. The second question was easy to answer too. For my first foray into writing historical romance, I wanted to stick to the country in which I reside - the U. S. A. Plus, I’d been none too thrilled with some of the depictions of black heroines from America. I knew they could be more than subservient. And since many that had been written, had been written as subservient, that meant them not having much agency. Nope. I wasn’t going to add to that. I chose colonial New York of America because I knew it would be rich ground to dig around in to unearth the woman I knew I could write. Blacks, Whites, and Native peoples crossed paths every day during that period and took part in forming the U. S. A. And I could place Kindred in a place of agency since as she’d possess a skill (herbalist/nurse) everyone would need to survive. She could act instead of re-act in her environment. Which brought me to question three. My depiction of Kindred would not entail drudgery, would not lack happiness, and would include an air of playfulness and independence and seductiveness (but not the tired exotic label). And since it was America of a certain period, I pledged that she would be a freedwoman, NOT be a slave. Of the black women who existed back then, not all were slaves. If one desires to depict the different, one must think differently, and dig to find the examples. That led me to question four. I researched like hell. I read books. I went to libraries. I took… time. What I’m saying is, if one is truly serious about writing the multicultural historical, one must give it the same, if not more, attention, effort and care as the historical romances with the default characters because they are different.

Now, if a writer goes in knowing they want to depict non-White characters in a historical romance, but only set in some alternate history, then anything goes. The writer can concoct all manner of stuff. Those books are available. I am not saying those kinds of books are easier to write. I am saying there is no history in them, past that which is necessary to place it somewhere in that alternate universe. Which sort of defeats the purpose of writing a historical romance. But to each his own. So, if one wants to create something which informs and entertains, and has a good plot, one must do the research. No fudging. No wink and a nod.

When writing Kindred, An American Love Story, I read history books pertaining to how black people lived in the colonial era, and how they were permitted to live. That was important because, one just cannot plunk a non-White person down into a certain situation because one wants the person there. Now, it’s another thing if the writer’s readership doesn’t know or care. But I always say, the writer should care. A writer must know, whether, the black character had the permission to have participated in said situation, and if so, what was the black character’s capacity. I read books on how people dressed. I read books on how people prepared what they grew and gathered. I researched the modes of transportation people used. Let’s just say I read a lot!

So, dear writer, when you think about writing that historical romance, not starring the usual Regency cast, ask yourself if you are willing to ponder those six questions? The answers? If so, go for it!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Judy Pace - A class act for the ages

70's Judy!

Judy Lenteen Pace. June 15, 1942. Beautiful. Skilled. Underrated. Daughter of an airplane mechanic and a dressmaker. Sister to singer Jean Pace.

I first encountered this lady when she played villainess, Vicki Fletcher on the  old TV show Peyton Place. Loved her part. She was a dark-skinned beauty who had not been cast as a helpless female or a maid or a magical person of color. Why does that matter you ask? Because "America" had never seen a dark-skinned,Black actress that had not been a "Mammy" before. They were only used to actress with her phenotype playing maids, servants and usually groveling. Judy didn't play that. She was sexy, svelte and smooth-talking. Oh, honey. "America" was shook. Viewers wrote letters and called the network. All sorts of calamity ensued. They protested. "How dare this woman NOT be a subservient character! This must stop!" Oh my. Such fragility. She stayed on the show until her character played out and then she went on to other shows

Anyhoo, I was only a kid but I recall dinners around the dining room table where my youngest uncle (The Revolutionary! LOL) would try to draw my hard-to-impress grandfather into discussion about how "groundbreaking" this was. My mom used to nod in agreement. My Grandma used to quietly keep serving the food and my grandfather used to grunt. He was not a  TV watcher. Later, when Pace received an Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series for another TV show The Young Lawyers, Grandpa got impressed. He remarked, "Well, I guess she's good, she won something." Me? I just loved her because she was b-a-d in everything. Do you hear me? Michael Jackson B-A-D.

Anyway, another fantastic break came for her. She became famous for her guest shots on TV shows, TV movies (Brian's Song for one opposite Billy Dee Williams, Shelley Fabares and James Caan) and did a lot of films. Many were blaxpoitation. Whatevs. I ADORED them. Each and everyone. Her biggest break came when she did a show called Owners with two other young, hungry actresses  - Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith. Another show on ABC was in development and since the trio had such good chemistry, they were first choice to star in it. But it was not to be. When it came down to "America,"' the sponsors and plain old prejudice,  ABC choked which was weird because Pace had delivered for them with Peyton Place years before. I suppose visions of all the hate mail they'd get for YEARS if they picked Judy even if the show were a hit was dancing in their heads. Soooooo, Charlie's Angels proceeded without Pace and the part went to Kate Jackson. And you know the rest. It made household names of these women.

Side note: The same nonsense happened to Bruce Lee in the early 70s too. ABC Network executives saw his work as Cato in The Green Hornet and supposedly "absolutely adored" it. Lee was promised the lead in a new kind of TV Westen once the particulars were squared away. The execs pledged to call him. Well, the particulars got squared away and Lee got no call except the wake up call. He lost the lead to David Carradine. ABC shot and aired that new kind of Western, Kung Fu, without Lee. He sat at home and watched it premiere like the rest of us.

In any case, I loved Judy's tenure in Hollywood. I saw EVERYTHING she did. Twice married (first to fellow actor, the late Don Mitchell and then to another groundbreaker, the late baseball great Curt Flood), Ms.Pace is the mother of two daughters, survived the nuttiness of Hollywood and is busy today.

Judy today!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Farewell to two legends!

Some biggies in the music and news industries took their leave of the mortal coil last week. Bobby Taylor, the Motown singer and producer who discovered the Jackson 5, NOT Diana Ross, as the myth goes and Jim Vance, a pioneer in local D. C. news.

Taylor was 83 years old at the time of his passing, and was the man who introduced the Jackson 5 to the world. Diana Ross was the known face that was used to boost interest in the new group to the public, but it was lesser profiled Bobby Taylor who cracked the band. To his own fame, he was a noted record producer and part of the group, Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers. R. I. P. Mr. Taylor.

Newscaster Jim Vance was  a contemporary of Ed Bradley, but never made the leap to reporting network news like Mr. Bradley. Mr. Vance made his stomping ground the D. C. area for over 40 years. Not a happening there escaped his reporter's eye. The last public appearance I recall seeing him at was the televising of the dedication of the mural on the side of Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington. The painting memorialized the stars and politicians who'd eaten there. He looked frail then as he was fighting cancer but he still wanted to part of the news. Mr. Vance was 75. R. I. P. Mr. Vance.