Monday, November 01, 2010

Shaq, Dwayne Wade, and Hoopz: Blackface and Drag

Dwyane Wade’s whiteface Halloween spectacle is generating headlines.  Wade, painted in stark white make-up with a parakeet yellow beard as accessory, partied this weekend in Justin Timberlake drag.  Wade’s get-up has sparked interesting debates regarding racial imitation.

Certainly, whiteface does not have the same racist, mocking history as blackface.  Recall:  blackface minstrelsy and films such as A Nigger in the Woodpile (1904) or Birth of a Nation (1915).  However, histories are constantly being created, and whiteface is just as racially divisive as blackface.  That is, unless Wade’s masquerade is some weird celebration of whiteness—a show of love, rather than theft, to paraphrase scholar Eric Lott …but, sorting out that madness is for another time.

Wade wasn’t the only celeb to play dress-up this weekend.  Shaquille O’Neal also opted for mimicry by costuming himself as “Shaqeeta” in a stripey black and grey dress and fake boobs drag.

Together, Wade and Shaq, raise important questions about racial, gender, and sexual appropriation.  To put it another way:  Wade, a black male, decided to play a white man for a day.  He was photographed with a sistah’—hopefully she was not supposed to play Janet Jackson to Wade’s Timberlake.  Shaq, a black man, choose to be a black woman for the day.  Big Shaq was to viewed seen as being comical—just like Martin Lawrence’s Big Momma and Shenenah, Tyler Perry’s Madea, Eddie Murphy’s Rasputia, Jamie Foxx’s Wanda….you get the picture.  The joke is once again on black women.

It gets even odder.  Shaq’s rumored extra special BFF, Hoopz from Flavor of Love “fame,” outfitted herself as—get this—a pregnant dude. 

One has to wonder what’s behind such racial, gender, and sexual borrowing.  Shaq, tell me, is this some form of gender “desire”?  Dwyane, was whiteness so irresistible you needed to “suit up” in it?  Hoopz, please tell me your get-up is about disrupting gender and sexual boundaries.  You are giving us a smack down for inappropriately obsessing over what track athlete Caster Semenya has between her legs, as well punishing us for watching out for women’s’ “baby bumps”—right????

It would be great if these folks were challenging social norms and boundaries.  However, they don’t seem to be; they’re just straight up clowin’.  But that doesn’t mean that the rest of us can’t use this moment as a way to continue discussions about mimicry as it intersects with the politics of race, gender, sexuality and power.  Your thoughts?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Top 40 Election Day Party Jamz!

It is important to get out and VOTE on November 2nd.  Pack up that boom box and lots of size D Energizer batteries (Radio Raheem style).  Turn up the volume and draw in the crowds outside your polling place—remember, you can't block the entrance!  Get folks’ attention with this list of feel-good, motivational songs (in no particular order):

A Brand New Day-The Wiz soundtrack
Wavin’ Flag-K’Naan
You Got to Believe Something-Pointer Sisters
Respect Yourself-Staple Singers
I’ll Take You There-Staple Singers
Respect-Aretha Franklin
A Change is Gonna Come-Otis Redding
You’re All I Need to Get By-Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Sisters are Doing it for Themselves-Aretha Franklin
Oh Happy Day-Aretha Franklin/Mavis Staple

Everyday People-Sly and the Family Stone
Someday We’ll All Be Free-Donny Hathaway
I Got You (I Feel Good)-James Brown
Wakeup Everybody-Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes
War-Edwin Starr
What’s Going On-Marvin Gaye
Stand by Me-Ben E. King
You and Your Folks/23rd Psalm-Blind Boys of Alabama
You Got to Move-Blind Boys of Alabama
Get Up, Stand Up-Bob Marley and the Wailers
People Get Ready- the Impressions
Beautiful Brother of Mine-Curtis Mayfield
We’re Gonna Make It-Damian Marley
Compared to What-Les McCann & Eddie Harris
Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing-Incognito
Work To Do-Isley Brothers
Fight the Power-Isley Brothers
Somewhere Over the Rainbow-Iz
Brother's Gonna Work It Out-Willie Hutch
Better Days are Coming-Jimmy Cliff
Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho-Mahalia Jackson
Yes We Can Can-Pointer Sisters
Taking it to the Streets-Quincy Jones
I Just Want to Celebrate-Rare Earth
Sunshine (I Can Fly)- Raul Midon
Wonderful World-Satchmo
Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours-Stevie Wonder
You are the Sunshine of My Life-Stevie Wonder
Give More Power to the People-Chi-Lites
Man in the Mirror-Michael Jackson

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Top Twenty Black Horror Films for Halloween!

Get your scary on with your very own Black horror film festival. These are just a few I get a kick, er, scream out of…

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The Black guy doesn’t die first, but the movie’s end is gut-wrenching (pun intended) all the same!

J.D.’s Revenge (1976)
Glynn Turman channels his inner-gangster, complete with a conk and a straight razor… and it works!

The Blood of Jesus (1941)
Spencer Williams crafts a beautifully shot morality tale about staying on the path of righteousness.

Def by Temptation (1990)
The cast from Spike Lee’s School Daze—James Bond III, Kadeem Hardison, Bill Nunn, and Samuel L. Jackson-- reunite for this shocker about temptation and sin.  Go Granny!

Street Tales of Terror (2004)
A trio of frightening fictions—stay out of the water, away from abortionists, and don’t trust your drunken friends!

Bloodz vs. Wolvez (2006)
Three words—Hil-ar-ious! When the Wolvez poop on the floor…omg!

Petey Wheatstraw:  The Devil’s Son-in-law (1977)
With Rudy Ray Moore starring don’t expect a true scary movie.  But, there is a devil, and a mammy…oh boy.

Crazy as Hell (2002)
I miss me some Peter Benton from ER.  Get your Eriq La Salle fix—whew he is literally a sexy devil!


Killjoy (2000)
If Michael Jackson came back…as a killer clown.

Kill Joy
Tales from the Hood (1995)
Lessons on staying true to the ‘hood.  Sellouts be damned!

Sugar Hill (1974)
“Hey Whitey, you and your punk friends killed my man…I’m not accusing you “honk.” I’m passing sentence and the sentence is death!”  A classic Black horror line!

Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976)
Ex-NFL'er Bernie Casey turns into a blue-eyed devil and wreaks havoc in Watts.

Abby (1974)
Abby, girlfriend where’d you get that fly white suit?  This is a demon with some serious style.

Blacula (1972)
R.I.P. William Marshall and Vonetta McGee.

Scream, Blacula Scream (1973)
Pam “Lisa” Grier reclaims voodoo, reminding folks it is a respectable religion…not some crazy wizardry as other movies would have us believe.

Soul Vengeance (1975)
Yep, this is the infamous movie…Brother Charles gets his revenge with his—ahem—manhood.  But this is also a film that has a lot to say about police brutality and recidivism.

Spirit Lost (1997)
Leon shows plenty of booty as he gets busy with a ghost.

Ganja and Hess (1973)
Duane Jones of Night of the Living Dead fame is back.  This time he’s with horror Goddess—Marlene Clark.  Bill Gunn stars and directs this gorgeous, haunting film.
Ganja & Hess

Son of Ingagi (1940)
The Black middle-class on full display.  A monster ape is shaking things up, but Black love prevails.

Chloe:  Your Love is Calling (1934)
Racists lynched Mandy’s man—after she steals one of their babies, she plans to walk on their graves.  Keep your chin up Mandy!

For more ideas also check out
For a scholarly take on Black horror, check out Horror Noire:  Blacks in Horror 1890s to Present.
For a whole lotta religion mixed with your horror, check out Nollywood (“Nigerian Hollywood”) films such as 666.

Hip Hop Halloween Hitz! Top 10

Ok sinners, get your Halloween remix on with these horror jams (in no particular order)...

A Nightmare on My Street—DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
Bones soundtrack—Snoop Dogg and various artists
Mind Playing Tricks on Me-Geto Boys
Chuckie-Geto Boys
Diary of a Madman-Gravediggaz
Snoop Dog’s Hood of Horror soundtrack—Snoop Dogg and Various artists
Tales from the Hood soundtrack—Various artists
Vampire-Kung Fu Vampire
Hokus Pokus-Insane Clown Posse
Now Eat soundtrack-Brotha Lynch Hung

Bushwick Bill of the Geto Boys

Kung Fu Vampire

Insane Clown Posse

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blackface madness

Sisterdoc has been away for more than a hot minute, and for good reason.  First, I had to catch up on all of the work I put on the back burner while doing my very small part to help support my POTUS’ election.  Then, Sisterdoc’s students merited her undivided attention—and they still do.  Along the way, Sisterdoc got really sick, joined a gym and hurt her back, discovered that Entenmann’s chocolate donuts (app)ease back aches better than ibuprofen, and Sisterdoc got wrapped up in the reality detective series First 48 (a show that dreadfully features at least two Black deaths per episode).

Now that I’ve come up for some air, I see that madness still reigns.  Did French Vogue really feature a model in blackface!  Did Dutch model Lara Stone not see any problem whatsoever with blacking up! 

And, speaking of more blackface madness… Did ‘70s actor Fred "The Hammer" Williamson (Hell up in Harlem, Black Caesar, Original Gangsters) in a EUR.web interview really hate on the comedy film Black Dynamite, which spoofs blaxploitation-era films by complaining “how can you pay homage to me in a comedy?”  And then, did Fred Williamson turn right around and give kudos to Robert Downey Jr’s. blackface performance in the satire-comedy film Tropic Thunder: “The guy who paid homage to me was a white guy in Tropic Thunder. ... Robert Downey Jr. He did it in blackface with sideburns, looked just like The Hammer. When they reviewed the film in New York and all other venues, they said he did a great interpretation of Fred Williamson. Now, I respect that…” WHAT?!

And still more blackface ridiculouness--why do the Bubble Sisters, a Korean singing group who appeared in blackface, still have a recording contract?

Maybe I should return to my hole until this mess stops.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Strange But True: Crimes and ‘Demeanors II

Strange But True #1: Musaid Ahmed Saeed owned an unoccupied commercial building, but he didn’t want it anymore. What he DID want was to collect on the insurance policy. So the Detroit man hired two men to burn the place down. But the hired arsonists got caught in their own fire and died. So now, Saeed is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of arson, and conspiracy to commit arson. On top of all of that, he doesn’t have the building anymore to sell or rent out to pay for his legal bills.

Strange But True #2: A group of college students decided they would hold a fund-raiser to contribute money to a diabetes prevention organization. In an odd move, the students opted to sell boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts (really, you’ve got to see the irony here). Along comes Sisterdoc who questioned the students’ decision to sell grease, fat, and sugar to help those whose bodies react poorly to all three. This is when things got interesting…one of the students screams at Sisterdoc, ‘It’s not like we’re making THOSE PEOPLE eat this stuff and get fat!” In the words of Dan Quayle, “it’s a terrible thing to lose your mind.”

Thursday, February 26, 2009

February 26- A Very Important Day

Today, February 26, the United States Postal Service and Jackson State University is unveiling a stamp honoring two Civil Rights movement pioneers: Medgar Evers and Fannie Lou Hamer. Let's go buy some stamps!

Today is also Sisterdoc’s birthday. On this, the 44th anniversary of Jimmie Lee Jackson’s death, I use my birthday to memorialize him. His sacrifice propelled a chain of Civil Rights activist events that permits me, and millions of other Black folks, to truly live today.

Jimmie Lee Jackson was 26 years old, a church deacon, a hospital employee, and a recently discharged soldier. He desperately wanted to vote, and tried to register five times. He vowed to keep trying.

On February 18, 1965 Jimmie, his mother Viola Jackson, and her father (Jimmie’s grandfather) Cager Lee, age 82, walked over to Zion United Methodist Church in Marion, Alabama for a meeting. A Civil Rights worker was being held in the Marion city jail and the Black community was deeply concerned for his safety. Jimmie, his family, and others in the community left the church for the jail to engage in a peaceful “singing” protest—their plan was to direct their prayers and hymns toward jail.

The group was met at the jail by a barrier of city police, sheriff’s deputies, and Alabama state troopers. Minutes later, Alabama’s law enforcement decided that church folk singing for justice was a crime punishable by immediate death.

Jimmie and his family tried to get away from the police by ducking into a nearby cafĂ©. Troopers followed them. They beat Cager with their billy clubs—battering his 82-year old body. Viola tried to shield her father, only to suffer the same brutality…somehow they both survived. As for Jimmie, state trooper James Bonard Fowler shot him twice in the stomach. Jimmie died on February 26, 1965.

On March 7, in response to Jimmie’s death, 600 Civil Rights activists marched to confront Gov. George Wallace to demand justice and equality in the name of Jimmie Lee Jackson and others. The marchers made it as far as Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge. The encounter with troopers became the infamous “Bloody Sunday” captured by television cameras and which was broadcast around the world.

One month after Jimmie’s death, on Thursday, March 25th, 25,000 activists marched to the Alabama state capitol. As a result, Pres. Lyndon Johnson would sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in August. Fowler denied Jimmie Lee Jackson the opportunity to see his octogenarian grandfather finally register to vote.

In 2005, Fowler admitted that he killed yet another Black man. He confessed, “This was a great big feller about 6 foot five. Big feller. He was black as it would be…His name was Johnny Johnson or something; I could never keep him straight from Jimmy Lee Jackson.” The man Fowler killed, on May 8, 1966, was Nathan Johnson, Jr. of Ensley, Alabama. Johnson was shot at point blank range three times in the chest.

In May 2007, Fowler was finally indicted for killing Jimmie. Fowler boasted: "I don’t think legally I could get convicted for murder now no matter how much politics they got ’cause after 40 years there ain’t no telling how many people is dead." In October 2008, Fowler's trial was postponed...justice awaits.

(Image: Jimmie Lee Jackson)