Tuesday, February 28, 2006

What Would Dr. King Say? Part I

Part I

As we bring the 2006 Black History Month activities to a close, I must admit that this year presented me with a truly disturbing question. From the small screen to the internet, the question of the month seemed to be "What Would Dr. King Say?" Before I weigh-in, allow me to bring you up-to-date on my Black History Month highlights.

My #1 Highlight: Dave Chappelle's interview on Inside The Actor's Studio. You can love him or hate him, but don't let the jokes fool you. Dude is definitely not a joke. Bravo is running the interview regularly so check it out when you can.

Highlight #2: Tavis Smiley's State of Black America Forum on CSPAN. While I didn't see it from the beginning, what I did see was compelling - especially the discussions surrounding the best-selling book, The Covenant with Black America. I recently ordered my copy and hope to address it right here with you in the near future.

For a gathering of intellectuals, the forum was also quite funny. Something about Black History Month ensures that there will be a plethora of panelists rhyming and reasoning in their best "I Have A Dream" cadence. When the debate shifted from think tank-speak to offering "What Would Dr. King Do," the forum morphed into classic Greek theater, complete with the requisite elements of comedy and tragedy.

If the Forum panelist were at times mildly irritating, then the Black History Month contribution that set me off was a much-forwarded email which enlisted the help of Mrs. Coretta Scott King to convey a message of apology to Dr. King for the shortcomings of black folk and, specifically, the hip hop generation. I ain't never seen so many folks responding with exaltations of amen and hallelujah. I admit the email was well-crafted, but in the end it felt off-base.

Do you honestly believe Dr. King would condemn the hip hop generation or any generation for their failings? Do you? How prepared are you to open that door? What I mean is... what if Dr. King's 2006 assessment ran contrary to the state of affairs detailed in the email? Could you handle that? Consider this:

  • What would you think if Dr. King surveyed the 2006 landscape and concluded that integration wasn't the best thing? Unclench your teeth... breathe... ponder.

  • How would your views change should he declare these facts: today's crack is yesterday's heroin, preceded by alcohol and centuries earlier, the dynasty destroyer known as opium. As for the drug boys on the corner? They call themselves soldiers, and ironically, the U.S. Government treats them as such. Whether it's Operation Freedom, the Vietnam War, or the War on Drugs, America has always conjured up wars in which it's minority citizenry are expendable casualties of war.

  • What if Dr. King reminded you that your disdain for the doo-rag sportin' cornrow wearin' youngsta's compares favorably to the condemnation leveled against the original afro/bush-wearin' cornrow sportin' dashiki-clad generation? You declare "it's not the same." Sure it is. Rebellious behavior - even under the guise of fashion - is rebellious behavior. And who were these denouncers of Black Power? They were the once upon a time fried-dyed-laid to the side conk generation.

  • Would you lose all respect for Dr. King if he informed you that this generation's liberal use of the "N" word, while subjectively deplorable, isn't unique to the hip hop generation? Indeed, many who detest its usage have been known to utter the "N" or two in closed quarters. Think the "N" word is offensive? Let me transport you back to a period between 1940 and 1968. Now run up to the first colored person you see and yell out, "Hey Blackie." Go ahead, I dare you. Nope, I double dare you. Just remember I told you that Black wasn't cool until James Brown said it was cool.

As my dad often states, "There's Nothing New Under The Sun." The problems so apologetically detailed in the email first sprouted as weeds in the Garden of Eden. Each generation has a distinct variation of the same ole weed. The achievements of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement were obtained, not in the absence of our weeds, but in spite of them. Believe that. FYI: Horticulturally speaking, a weed is a plant that is "held to have no value, especially one growing detrimentally in one's lawn." God created every plant on this earth. Man determines which are weeds. Sound familiar? Oh, Gatekeeper... where art thou?

In closing, neither myself or anyone else can elaborate on what Dr. King would or would not say in regards to the state of black america in 2006. But, I can tell you in no uncertain terms what I strongly believe in regards to this matter.

Let the spirit of Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., Rest In Peace. He, along with all of the soldiers in the Civil Rights struggle, have earned that right. The real question that you and I must answer is a two-headed monster of enormous personal and universal ramifications:

What will you SAY? What will you DO?

Part II is coming in two weeks. It'll be a doozy... trust me. Until then, may God bless you and keep you - keep you from going upside my head! And if anybody ask you the source of this insanity, you tell them That Johnson Boy Said It!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Something New for Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day!

Ladies, today is your day. Perhaps you'll spend the day smelling the roses. Maybe the day will be spent yearning for some token of affection. Either way, I understand. But this Johnson Boy has a gift of a different sort. May I propose something new for you, this Valentine's Day of 2006? My gift to you can best be described as:

Something Old ~ Something New
Something Borrowed and yes, Something Blue

The Treasure of Something Old - History will reflect that a powerful Nor'easter blanketed the Eastcoast with record snowfall prior to Valentine's week 2006. No disrespect to the meteorologist, but Washingtonians know better. If it's snowing Valentine's week in the Nation's Capital, the Iceman cometh. For those unaware of the Iceman, I'm speaking of the legendary, Jerry Butler. Thousands will descend upon a dark, frigid alley way along the Potomac River for the privilege of experiencing the Iceman weave his heartwarming magic. Eyes will glisten while listening to Mr. Butler interpret priceless gems such as Let It Be Me, Ain't Understanding Mellow and Mr. Dream Merchant. But "le Piece de Resistance" is a honest, r&b ballad penned by a then, 16-year old Jerry Butler. The lyrics and melody never fail to leave an indelible impression upon the listener. It is my Valentine's Day wish that you, too, will forever be marked by the sentiment expressed by the Iceman, who wrote unabashedly...

For your Precious Love
Means more to me,
Than any love, could ever be.

My wish for you doesn't stop here. May your Prince embrace the Iceman's third verse as if it were his very own...

And of all the things I want,
In this whole wide world
Its just for you to say,
That you'll be my girl.
Don't fret if this Valentine's Day doesn't come equipped with a lover to breathe life into these lyrics. As you can see, the sentiment behind these lyrics are much too precious to waste on the frogs and toads of the world. Your prince shall come. So moving is this ode to love that I offer it as my gift of Something Old. It is vintage. It is timeless. It is my first gift to you - complements of the Iceman, Jerry Butler, along with ASCAP co-writers Richard and Arthur Brooks.

The Joy of Something New - This Valentine's Day, I want to offer you something more beautiful than roses, more stimulating than exquisite chocolates, more fulfilling than fine dining and more earth-shattering than... (hehe, don't act like you don't know what comes next!). My next gift comes courtesy of Sanaa Lathan, Sanaa Hamri, Kriss Turner and Stephanie Allain. These are the uber-talented ladies behind the cinematic gem known as "Something New."

If you've seen the trailer, you already know that this beautifully written, directed and performed film is centered around an interracial relationship. But, it's depth and texture runs much deeper than meets the eye. Once you experience it, I believe you'll join me in praising this celebration of closet-smashing freedom. Imagine Ms. Valentine... freedom to seek and embrace true happiness and love on this side of heaven. Imagine that! A lil' bit of heaven on earth. It's your day Ms. Valentine. Enjoy the gift of Something New.

The Richness of Something Borrowed -- I have no doubt that you are a phenomenal woman. It's your birthright. Yet, life has a way of dulling the luster of the phenomenal you. Some days, nothing in your closet or makeup table can restore the magic. Fret not, Valentine, as I have a very special treat for you. Let us borrow from the richness of the Lady forever known as Diahann Carroll. For the trailblazer in you, may you don the crisp white nurse uniform of Julia Baker, the first African-American woman to star in her own weekly TV series. When the funds are short, responsibilities long, children actin' a fool and the Gatekeepers banish you to stereotype-hell, drape yourself from head to toe in the ghetto-fabulous-before-ghetto-was-fabulous dignity of Claudine. For those days when the world insist on closing doors and shutting you out, put on your baddest pumps and kick down the damn door a la Dominique Deveraux. After all, she was TV's first black glamour vixen, not by network choice but rather the phenomenal will of the lady known as Diahann Carroll. One last thing... when you kick down the door, make sure your hair is flawless! Dominique would insist on it!

The Awesome Power of Something Blue - Ms. Valentine, my present would be incomplete without something blue. I'm not talkin' blue as in "woe, I don't have a valentine." No, no, no, my dear -- this is Valentine's Day, not Validation Day. We can, and must, celebrate you just as you are wherever you are. You may not hear a Jerry Butler song today, nor make it to see Something New. You may even put the powerful garments of Ms. Carroll on layaway until a rainy day. But this, the Awesome Power of Something Blue, must be embraced today. Promise?

Whether you do it right now, or later today, I need you to do this one simple task. I need you to go outside. A park would be ideal. A backyard will do. Heck, a Bronx rooftop will do just fine. Just do whatever you must to get outside to a place that offers some measure of peace and quiet. Take a moment to still yourself. Then slowly... slowly... allow your eyes to venture towards the sky. Whether it be powder blue, midnight blue or a slate gray derivative of blue, I need you to look to the heavens. As you gaze outward, hear the words of our ancestors as reintroduced to us by author, Alex Haley...

"Behold The Only Thing Greater Than You."

Happy Valentine's Day from That Johnson Boy!