Sunday, September 15, 2019

Joan Johnson, co-founder of Johnson Products along with her husband built an empire and groomed the hair, and conscience, of a generation

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founders of Johnson Products - Joan Johnson and husband, George E. Johnson in their early years

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The Johnsons later in life

Wow. Does this bring back memories.

Johnson Products.

I must have used EVERY hair care item Mr. and Mrs. Johnson manufactured back in the day

First, it was the relaxer line which I used off and on for years until I dropped the creamy crack a decade and a half back. And before then, and occasionally to this day, I hot comb my hair the old fashioned way.

Oh God. Early relaxers were an hours long process. I cringe when I recall the torture. One of my uncle's owned a beauty shop and he REFUSED to do them. Said a "press and curl" was good enough. He lost money but his tried and true church ladies kept him in business.

Ultra Sheen Relaxer. Ultra Sheen Conditioner and Hairdress for Extra Dry Hair.  Ultra Sheen Original Formula. Ultra Sheen Creme Satin Press

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And when I wore my faithful Afro, I bought ALL the products to keep that looking presentable. The afros in the following videos are what kids today call GOALS)

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Afro Sheen Easy Comb Shampoo. Afro Sheen Blowout Kit for the natural. Afro Sheen Oil Spray.

I could work up a mess in the bathroom with the oil spray.Tricky thing was, you thought you weren't using that much. UNTIL. UNTIL. You noticed your shoes were slipping on the tile floor and you were coughing.

And no I NEVER had a Jheri Curl. The amount of activator I saw people run through scared me away.

What we do for fashion.

They even produced cosmetics forthe variety of  Black skin tones. I bought several.

I thank Ms. Johnson and her husband for creating the products because before that our options were for press and curl only - My Knight, Dixie Peach (which came as Dixie Peach Red and Dixie Peach Pomade), Royal Crown, Dax, and Blue Magic.

R. I. P. Mrs. Johnson. You pushed a generation to embrace itself eventually!

Sunday, September 1, 2019


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Okay! Okay! Okay!

Dude, put on your purple flares, your platform shoes with the clear heels and your matching Qiana shirt and I'll slip on my co-ordinating mauve-colored, Qiana wrap skirt with matching bodysuit and a pair of beige Candies.

Oh, and don't forget your gold chains and the coiffure of your choice. Afro or Slicked straight back like Tony Manero's.

It's that time again.

Sing along while you Hustle around the dance floor.

It's SEPTEMBER. Finally.

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Image result for earth wind and fire songs

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Anne Wiggins Brown - Gershwin's 1st "Bess"

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Anne Wiggins Brown, born August 9, 1912, was the 1st African American vocalist admitted to Juilliard School in New York City. She'd been raised from an early age to excel and was considered a child prodigy. Her family supported her through her quest for vocal excellence. At first she applied to the Peabody Institute but was rejected due to, let's say it together, boys and girls! - HER RACE! I'm shocked I tell ya. Just shocked. Anyhoo, she applied to Juilliard and was accepted at the tender age of 16. Her vocal range was soprano.

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While there she honed her craft and heard that George Gershwin was writing an opera about Black life in the South. The work was to be called Porgy and Bess. She wrote him. He answered. They collaborated and she played the role of Bess when the show opened in 1935 at Boston's Colonial Theater with its all Black cast.

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Having made history, she continued to work but nowhere near as much as, say, a White counterpart like Mary Martin. Sick of the racism and the U. S.'s segregation laws, Wiggins-Brown moved to Norway where she became a vocal coach.

Decades later, she was honored with the George Peabody Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Music in America. An "award" bestowed upon her by the same 'institution of higher learning" (YAWN) that had denied her entrance years before.


Brown passed in 2009 at the age of 96.

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Sunday, July 28, 2019

Classicist, diplomat and historian Frank M. Snowden

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Frank Snowden was a historian of Blacks in Antiquity. He was most knownfor his works, Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience and Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks.

The classicist pioneered a new field of study. He focused on the role and place of Blacks in Greek and Roman cukture and, most importantly, how rabid racism against Blacks was peculiar to solely to Western Civilization. He noted that Blacks in the Ancient World were not subjected to the irrationality of racism to the extremes that would later befall them. When first encountered by Greeks and Romans, Blacks were the warriors, charioteers, soldiers and artists of their nations, and were treated as such by Greece and Rome. They were not labeled  "savages" or seen as less than making them ripe for enslavement.

Several academics challenged his work by saying basically that he was viewing those worlds through "rose-colored glasses." Which might be true but Snowden's work, boiled down to the bare bones, depicted a time where racism toward Blacks, because they were black, was practically non-existent. Flawed or not, his research, his dedication and his contribution were radical..

He earned his undergrad, graduate and doctoral degrees from Harvard University. After teaching jobs at several colleges, he ended his career at Howard University where he was Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and began the school's Honors Program.

Snowden had countless accomplishments. Read more below.

Born July 17th 1911, the scholar, fluent in 5 languages, passed in 2007 at the age of 95, preceeded by his wife of 70 years, Elaine

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Friday, July 19, 2019

The Pea Island Lifesavers - If ya didn't know, ya know now!

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Folks love to say we can't swim! True. A lot of us can't. Laws set in place over the centuries, decades banned us from public pools and public beaches so, learning to swim wasn't big on our list of ish-to-do. Surviving was top priority. Other stuff was squeezed in as life permitted. Okay?

Hence, the PEA ISLAND LIFESAVERS (circa 1896) are a huge surprise to many in the U. S.

Pea Island, situated on the Outer Banks of North Carolina (my people! my people!) was the 1st life-saving station to have an all-Black team and the 1st station to have a Black commanding officier, keeper, Richard Etheridge.

As we cannot have nice things, per usual, five months after it opened, (FIVE FREAKIN' MONTHS!) the all-Black station was set a fire and burnt to the ground, Oh, I wonder why? And by whom, pray tell? It is truly a puzzlement!

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You can read so much more about this amazing crew and amazing man at its helm at the links below. A documentary called RESCUE MEN is available now.. :

Years after his death, on August 3, 2102, the second of the Coast Guard's 154-foot Sentinel Class Cutters, USCOC Richard Etheridge (WPC-1102) was commissioned in his honor.

Courageous men!

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"Fire on the Beach" an excellent book about the origins of the lifesavers and Richard Etheridge

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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Why is the hue of a mermaid, a friggin' CARTOON, that crucial?

Okay. Okay. Okay. Calm the eff down!

1) It's taken me  a few days to process this nonsesnse. This is a three part treatment. As the kids say, "Issa rant." Get a snack.

Initially, I thought "Oh, wow. Disney has woken up!" But after reflection, I realized that Disney is just, and still is all about the moolah. Not the white or the black but the almighty green.

Always has. Always will.

My initial joy consisted of me thinking how neat it was gonna be to have another Black princess in the Disney pantheon. Until I stopped and pondered.

Wait one minute. "The Princess and the Frog" (2009) had Princess Tiana. Lovely. But the more I thought, the more I was pissed. Not a single Disney princess in the last, what? like 70 years, has ever had to be UNSEEN AND A CREATURE for about 90 percent of her own damned film. Not a freakin' one. But this outfit decides, after almost a century, that they were gonna "do the right thing" and present the Black audience (and yes, it was for us. No other audience was clamoring for it) with a Black Princess. So Disney relented and Tiana was born.

As I said, we saw her as HUMAN in about 10 per cent of the film and she didn't even get a Black prince. I mean, every other Disney chick had a prince of her own nation. A happy Black couple, even in animation, is threatening?

2) Then we got the #NotMyAriel squad. The twits on social media bemoaning the notion that their childhoods were gonna be permanently marred with the re-casting of a Black girl to be Ariel in the live-action remake. REALLY? Y'all need t go take your Zoloft or Adderall or Ritalin or all of them and go lie down. The uproar over the telling of a story about a FICTIONAL FISH is simply an excuse for bigotry. I could not bring myself to participate in this stupid battle. My brain cells are too  precious. One fool on Twitter said, "Ariel is Danish. A Black person can't play her." Another future rocket scientist deduced that "since Black people can't swim. Halle Bailey is wrong for the role."

And people say we live in a post-racial society and that the youth will save us. Possibly if they come from another galaxy. But if any of that alien youth has any sense, they'll pass by this hellmouth. I've said enough about the bigots. More than enough. They get too much play as is.

Lastly, this part is a call to Black folks. Stop getting happy about the crumbs of others. Meaning? Stop looking for validation from folk who do not notice your existence unless it benefits them. Disney ain't doing this out of the goodness of their tiny hearts. Disney sees seas and seas and seas of green..They saw how giddy and gooey Black audiences got over "Black Panther." The cries of "we got our own superhero" "we in da Marvel house now!" "Wakanda forever!" I think T'Challa and Nakia got ONE lousy kiss out of the whole film. Please. WE aren't anywhere, darlings but our dollars are. In the cofffers of others. WAKE UP! Make something of our own to get jubliant aboutt!

I wish more "content creators" on Youtube would be interested in more then the latest lace front or color palette. Their creativity is needed beyong make up tutorials.

Oh, I am certain there is another agenda bubbling behind this live-action recasting. It hasn't hit me yet. Let's see cartoon Ariel wasn't a human girl and was from an aquatic family and wanted legs and the prince. Was willing to leave ger people to be with the human dude.

Oh, I get it now Disney. It's not just gonna be a interspecies love story. It's gonna be an interracial one too. Ariel will be Black and a fish and her prince will be non-Black (I'm certain) and human. You know Disney, there is room for another Black prince?

Personally, I loathe remakes of any kind in any genre of film. Hey, I probably won't see the "Star is Born" remake unless it comes on STARZ or something like that. I'm partial to the 1976 version with La Streisand and Kris Kristoferson..That one speaks to my generation as I am sure the previous ones spoke to those generations. I have nothing against the newest one; I just won't go out of my way to see it. Or act mental because it's "destroying memories of my youth."

So, to those bigots whose childhoods are being "destroyed" with this news: Get a grip. Face the future. Find something truly pertinent in your shallow lives to tackle. 'Mmkay?

Black folks: Learn how to discern when you are being played. But you probably can't hear me because you are somewhere already standing in line for "Black Panther 2"

And Disney: I have no words for you. You play the long game too well.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019


Say what you will but the man changed the effin game! When he was in the Jackson 5, they, then he, went big thanks to BLACK radio. "Mainstream" radio in America was NOT playing Black music. I don't care what your folks have told you. Oh yes, they jumped on the bandwagon AFTER they could no longer ignore his talent and success. But that's what mainstream does. It FOLLOWS trends, it does not set them.

Michael knocked on music's door then when it took too long to answer, he kicked the sucker down and nothing has been the same since.

Mainstream got its revenge (of sorts) when the child molestation allegations sprang up. They totally nixed playing anything from his magnificent 2002 album "Invincible" which came out after those allegations. It contains my favorite MJ song - "Butterflies." (Though "Jam" vies for attention sometimes) "Butterflies" is soft and edgy at the same time. How I like to think he was.

To hell with the naysayers and moochers. Be at peace. Rest in Power, Michael

"Butterflies" -

"Jam" -

Wednesday, June 19, 2019


Like Odunde, Juneteenth is a big deal in Philly. A new awareness of the holiday swept through Black neighborhoods in recent years. Thre's even an official Juneteenth website for the roster of activities planned. The organizers of the events decided to keep the festivals in the Black neighborhoods and not shift them to Center City.The decison was not to gentrify the events. Doesn't mean all aren't welcome. It means that folks who are interested but do not frequent said neighborhoods on the regular will have to venture out beyond the usual downtown parade venues.

Definition of Juneteenth: celebration commerating the end of slavery in the U. S. It was on June 19th, 1865 (two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was in effect) that Union soldiers landed at Galveston, TX with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.

Two and half years AFTER the Emancipation Proclamation was in effect!

Damn! Where's Twitter when you need it?

Festivities started mid-week and will culminate with the main Philly parade, scheduled for June 22. Not exactly the 19th but it's the closest weekend day to the date. Additional goings-on will unfurl across the city.

Hope the weather holds.

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Monday, May 27, 2019

Joyce Bryant - The "Lost Diva,' Vocalist and nightclub performer from the 40s and 50s

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Joyce Bryant. Jazz singer. Actress. Provacateuse.

Yes. Joyce had her eye on films but she was so hot the film industry didn't know what to do with her. Like usual when it came to Black, female performers considered "sultry"  and "too sensual" for the film-going public.

A public at the time (and to an eextent, today) that was largely White, rather bigoted, and whose female movie-goers were having conniptions when they saw their hubbys or boyfriends or male family members got all worked up over watching a negress emote. Talk about insecure.

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Anyhoo, as with most Black female actresses who didn't fit the comfy, neuter "Mammy" mold or prim helpmate part (Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, Ketty Lester, Eartha Kitt, etc), acting became an aside, an afterthought. Performing in nightclubs became the butter for their bread. Still, nutcases used to send death threats to her venues. The KKK once burned her in effigy. Those cretins do things more than once, so I find it hard they'd only do it a single time. That's their mainstay.

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But Ms. Bryant was still slaying them in the aisles in the clubs. Her trademarks were her silver hair (courtesy of radiator paint!) and her extremely tight, low-cut, mermaid gowns. Dresses so freakin' tight it was said she was sewn into them and to attest to their impracticality, she had to be carried off the stage after performances due to their constricture.Girlfriend wasn't just all about the look though. She had a 4 octave voice

Now that's a diva!

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Dubbed the "Black Marilyn Monroe" and the "Bronze Bombshell" she was too sexy for a lot of folks. Banned in Boston due to her song "Love for Sale," she got banned from airplay and from performing in other cities. Ms. Bryant retired at the height of her career at age 28 in 1955. She was tired of organized crime's hold on nightclubs, plus, she'd been beaten up by a man whose sexual advances she'd turned down (Personally, I do not think it ended there. If the cretin was bold enough to proposition you, you then turn him down and he beats you...I say a rape happened afterward. The two go hand in hand). As a Black female performer she was seen as "pretty meat." "Pretty meat" hired to entertain an audience. "Pretty meat" who no matter how ill had to hit the stage or be sued. During one stint, she had a throat so stressed out from doing 8 shows a day, the club owner called in a doctor to examine her. The result? Doc said he could spray her throat with cocaine so she could sing but informed her she'd be hooked. The club owner's response?  "I don't care what you do, just make her sing." Joyce had no say. WOW. "Pretty meat" indeed.

In the mid-50s she retired to to pursue other endeavors after devoting herself to her Seventh-Day Adventist Church. She returned years later as a classical vocalist and then as a vocal coach. The Civil Rights Movement beckoned and she answered.

Now 90 years old and plagued with Alzheimer's, she lives on in the memories of those who saw her at her peak.

Grand Diva!

Think you know all about Memorial day in the U. S.? Think again

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Well if you didn't know, Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, has some very contentious origins.

It involved a certain Gen. John A. Logan, head of the fraternal group, the Grand Army of the Republic, who'd rallied for remembrance of the Union soldiers who'd perished during the Civil War and who'd urged for protection for freed slaves and freed slave soldiers. During the same speech he responded to July 1866 newspaper reports that southerners were "decorating" the graves of dead Rebels. Something that didn't sit well with him.  So, two years later in formal response (why the delay?) the General, on May 5, 1868, ordered the same "decoration", nationwide, for all war dead - MAY 30TH- DECORATION DAY. Years later in 1967, it became MEMORIAL DAY

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Well, now you know.

Now this story is contested by many and has many versions.

I just say if you want to honor war dead, pick your tale and honor them.

Remember them on that day.


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Sunday, May 19, 2019






BIRTH: MAY 19, 1925


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Sunday, May 12, 2019





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Friday, May 3, 2019

One of the originators of ragtime and jazz - New Orleans own, Charles "Buddy" Bolden

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Charles Bolden. A man who was one of several who laid out the blueprints for ragtime music and jazz. He and his band members played everything by instinct as none of them could read music. The New Orleans native, born Sept. 6, 1877, was a master cornet player. His admirer and up-and-comer, the young Louis Armstrong, chose a windwood instrument too to express his talent - a trumpet.

"Buddy" Bolden rode the wave of fame for years. After awhile those usual tools exerted pressure on him - the racism, the instant wealth, the excessive drinking, his "playa" lifestyle though married..Typical story of the country boy getting too much, too soon sprinkled with bigots.

Bouts of mental illness plagued him until he was finally committed to a psychiatric facility in his 30s. His mental health continued to decline and he remained under the stae's care until his death in 1931.

A film of his life was released today with music played in his style by Wynton Marsalis.

Learn more about Charles "Buddy" Bolden at the links above.

Buddy Bolden and his band
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Sunday, April 28, 2019

Mifflin Wistar Gibbs - Lawyer, judge, diplomat

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as a younger man

Mr. Gibbs (april 17, 1823 - July 11, 1915) was a lawyer, judge, diplomat and banker. Phew! That's a lot for one plate.

He hailed from Philadelphia, Pa and traveled to California during the Gold Rush era. Oh, that must have been harrowing. All I can think of is the lawless settlement of Deadwood and its grungy, greedy, grasping denizens.

Not to mention the odors of all the unwashed people and animals and the offal from all of them lining the thouroughfares. UGH!

The only Deadwood I liked was the HBO TV show. But I digress.

Mifflin Wistar Gibbs (what a name. Just reeks greatness) had lived in Canada for ten years pror to the Civil War. When that debacle ended he returned to the States and then ventured West.  it was in Little Rock, AR that he staked his claim and became part of the that short, glorious period when the formerly enslaved steered their own lives - THE RECONSTRUCTION.

During it he became a lawyer then a city judge. In 1897 he was appointed American Counsul to Madagascar under the McKinnney Administration

This man had a full, busy life. Too full for me to cram into this post Read more about him at the links above.

as an elder
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Sunday, April 21, 2019

It's eat Chocolate-and-Marshmallow-Animals-Until-You-Drop Day! Or for normal people, it's Easter

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I totally forgot that today is Easter Sunday and that Passover is intersecting with the Christian holiday.

To all those who celebrate either one, or both - Happy Easter! Happy Pesach!

To those who celebrate sprng and all things green and bunnies and eggs - Happy Spring Equinox! (yeah. I know it was March 20th.)

Whatever you do, I am certain it involves eating too much of something. So enjoy your comestibles of choice and do as this creature commands:

Monday, April 8, 2019

DISSENT gets a new cover and a new life!

Well, if you hadn't noticed in the sidebar, my recent historical romance got a facelift! Yeah, DISSENT received a new cover styled by a cover designer who goes by the tag Designovator_ . I discovered her on fiverr.

The image I plucked from the archives of photographer Taria A. Reed. That woman is the only photo source I know of who actually has in her stash a number of stills that fit the era in which DISSENT was set. Plus, more importantly, she had the pairing I needed for my cover re-do! You have no idea how hard it is to find images of historical IR couples. Oh, there are a few out there if you are searching for that DixieLand/Old Virginny, slave/master, Old South concept. Noooooo! I wasn't.

I needed French Renaissance and she had it. Thank you, Taria and Designovator_ for your talents.

I had another fiverr pro re-format the book's Vellum. If yoy ned your books formatted in Vekllum. hit up arrancat on fiverr. She is the truth! And right now she will give you 1) a Kindle version, 2) a version for print, 3) a ePub versions.


My book refreshening tallied @45 bucks plus tips. Can't beat that/ Now feast your eyes close up on the final product.

Otelia Cromwell, Smith College alumna and scholar

Otelia Cromwell. First Black grad of Smith College. Then she conquered Columbia U and finally earned her Ph.D in English from Yale.

Wow. And she didn't have filthy rich 'rents to bribe her way in. She used her brain. Can you imagine that? One of her nieces (Adelaide Cromwell Hill) became an instructor in sociology at Smith College years later.

Smith College honors her in November each year..

Read more about Otelia at the links above.

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her niece, sociologist Adelaide M. Cromwell Hill
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Enslaved Tour Guide Stephen Bishop Made Mammoth Cave the Must-See destination it is today

Master Spelunker by accident. Slave through no fault of his own.

Stephen Bishop was one of several enslaved Blacks who were guides for visitors to the Mammoth Cave system of Kentucky. He and they were honored this past February for their contributions to the art of spelunking.  Though slaves above ground, they were masters of the terrain underground.

Stephen Bishop
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that hair is err'thang.

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Image result for enslaved tour guide stephen bishop