Amoeblog

African American Lives

Posted by Amoebite, February 10, 2009 04:36pm | Post a Comment
African American Lives is a great documentary that uses history, genealogy, and new technologies toafrican american lives retrace the violently and deliberately erased ancestral histories of a group of participants, all of African ancestry, whose relatives were, for the most part, brought over involuntarily from Africa. The answers it provides are often thought-provoking in ways that most discussions about race aren't.

The host is Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr, a W.E.B. DuBois professor of the Humanities and the Chair of African and African-American Studies at Harvard University. I’d seen Gates in Wonders of the African World where he seemed to feign ignorance about everything he learned about through his travels in Africa. I mean, he’s got some pretty big credentials and yet he’d continually act like he had no idea about the realities of his chosen subject of expertise until his interviewees revealed it to him. It seemed like he felt that pretending that everything was new to him would make him more identifiable to us, the presumably ignorant viewers. In this documentary, unfortunately, he does the same schtik which is just about its only shortcoming, although it can be sort of funny. For example, he “guesses” that, given his appearance, his ancestors came from the East African kingdom of Nubia (huh?!), despite the fact that nearly all slaves in the U.S. came from the West Coast slave centers built centuries earlier, not by Europeans, but by other Africans. Of course it turns out that 0% of slaves were Nubian. His surprise at his DNA results seems genuine though when they reveal that his matrilineal line goes back to Ireland.

And race gets complicated for others too. The documentary points out that the vast majority of African-Americans have suboprahstantial genetic ties to Europe through slave owners and, far less often, voluntary miscegenation. Realizing that more blacks are descended from slave owners than whites was something I’d never thought about before. Chris Tucker is the only participant to go back to his African roots, in his case to modern Angola, revealing a sedate and emotional side quite unlike his hysterical, shrieking film persona. South Africa-obsessed Oprah Winfrey seems positively gutted to find out that Dr. Mae Jemison her ancestors came from, you guessed it, West Africa and not the out-of-the-way Zulu homeland she was clearly rooting for. Dr. Mae Jemison (the first African American Woman in space) finds out that she has Chinese relatives whereas her physical appearance had always been passed down as having been owed to that old stand-by, Native Americans. Everyone’s results are interesting and frequently revelatory and show how all of us, regardless of our backgrounds, preconceptions and physical appearance, can find out a lot about who our ancestors were, and that it often won’t bear much similarity to what we’d thought was the truth.

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Black History Month 2009: A Convict's Perspective - X-Raided, Part II. Q&A with incarcerated rapper from Pleasant Valley State Prison

Posted by Billyjam, February 10, 2009 03:07pm | Post a Comment
x-raided the eternally unforgiven project
This is the second part in the exclusive two-part Black History Month: A Convict's Perspective by X-Raided, for the Amoeblog Black HIstory Month series. The first part, posted a little earlier and found immediately below this Amoeblog, is an essay that I invited longtime incarcerated Sacramento rapper Anerae "X-Raided" Brown to pen on what Black History Month means to him from where he sits: the California State Penitentiary in Coalinga. This part is a Q&A with him.

Due to the prison recently being on lockdown, both this interview (via mail) and his insightul essay on what Black History Month means to him, took longer to get done than initially anticipated. But such is the plight of living a life behind bars, something that Anerae addresses in both of these engaging Black Hisotry Month Amoeblogs which might be a little long but are well worth taking the time to read.

Now 34 years of age, Brown has been incarcerated for half of his life, since the age of 17. From his early to mid teens in Sacramento, X-Raided had been an active member of the 24th Street Garden Blocc Crips gang -- even long before his first release came out. In 1992 he was arrested for his alleged part, along with several others, in the fatal shooting of Patricia Harris (the mother of a rival gang member). Brown has never denied being present at the shooting but has always maintained his innocence, in that he was not the one who pulled the trigger. Adhering to the unwritten "No Snitch" code of the streets, he would not tell cops who did pull the trigger. “I could have testified and gone home,” the rapper famously said in an interview at the time. “But I kept it real.” Hence, he is still incarcerated on murder conspiracy charges with a 31 year sentence. His first album, Psycho Active, came out in 1992 and made history when it was used in court against him, with authorities playing music from the indie rap album and also citing the cover art (the rapper's face with a .38-caliber handgun pressed to his temple --see below) as evidence in the case against Brown.

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Black History Month: A Convict's Perspective, Pt 1: Longtime incarcerated California rap artist X-Raided offers his perspective

Posted by Billyjam, February 10, 2009 03:05pm | Post a Comment
Black History Month – A Convict’s Perspective By Aneraé “X-Raided” Brown

As a 34 year old incarcerated African-American male, as a hip-hop artist, and as a human being, I can unequivocally say Black History Month has a deeper meaning to me now than it ever did, any prior year. You see, I am a California boy, a real child of the 80’s. You know, Reaganomics, Oliver North, Freeway Rick, Manuel Noriega… no Rick Ross. I am the fabled crack baby. A boy who became a teen during what some argue was one of the roughest, most dangerous periods in U.S. history. I turned 14 in 1988, a black boy, a fledgling member of the notorious Crip gang, trying to learn how to fly, in the wrong direction, unknowingly, with lead wings. Pistols, cocaine, HIV/AIDS, the Cold War; how those things became the concerns of a 14 year old, who, according to a paternal grandmother named Jesse Mae Martin, of Mobile, Alabama, had “the bright eyes of an old man and an old soul,” God only knows. A boy who learned by what he decried, I was an impressionable teen absorbing the teachings that emanated from the conditions I saw on a daily basis, which included police brutality, the devastation of the gang and crack epidemics on the black community, and an overall fear and disdain of both white people and law enforcement, issues with were largely ignored by the mainstream media. The only journalistic reports being published that addressed these matters to reach my eyes and ears were coming to me in the form of hip-hop music, videos, movies and magazines: Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing; Yo! MTV Raps; The Source magazine; In Living Color; and the strongest voices of all, which came from a few little groups you may have heard of that went by the names of Public Enemy, NWA, and the Geto Boys. They were, to the streets, what The Beatles were to white folk. What James Brown, Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye were to older black folk. They were the voices of our generation. Chuck D and Ice Cube’s voices are as recognizable to us as Paul McCartney and John Lennon’s are to, say, a Baby Boomer, for perspective.  "Fight the Power," "Fu*k the Police" -- you know Chuck D and Ice Cube’s voices and the sounds of Dr. Dre and The Bomb Squad, even if you do not know their names and faces.

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The Great Black North

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 10, 2009 12:56pm | Post a Comment

One fact that’s widely overlooked during Black History Month is that it’s not only Black History Month in the US. Besides having the stated aim of highlighting the contributions to human history made by the entire black diaspora, BHM is simultaneously observed in Canada. People who've never been to Canada may not believe that black people live there. While it's true that the black Canadian population is minute compared to the black American populartion both in terms of numbers and percentage, black Canadians have contributed significantly to Canada's mostly overlooked music scene and their contributions are surely worth honoring (oops! ...honouring). [Special thanks goes to MuchMusic].


Dream Warriors - Wash Your Face in My Sink


Maestro Fresh Wes - Let Your Backbone Slide

Interspersed with exemplars of black Canadian musical contributions, allow me to ponder the controversies surrounding terminology used to discuss black Canadians and hopefully in the process shed a little light on history. No doubt we'll never come to a consensus on what's the most accurate/least offensive/least ridiculous terminology, but just thinking and talking about it is worthwhile far as I'm concerned... or at least fun.


Oscar Peterson - Waltz For Debby

Sweaters

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, February 10, 2009 12:05pm | Post a Comment
Sweaters were a big deal in the 80's. Obviously black artists did not have a monopoly on outrageous sweater covers -- see early 80's Cheap Trick for some serious sweater related catasrophes. However, I must say that there's a ton of soul, funk & R&B covers featuring various knit jobs. Bunny DeBarge takes the cake, if you ask me. How many of you could pull off a full skyline pattern???
Bunny DeBarge in love lp coverbill withers something that turns you on lp coverCameo word up lp coverBunny DeBarge in love back lp cover
eugene wilder lp covermauirice white lp coverisaac hayes u-turn lp coverthe best of johnny mathis 1975-1980 lp cover
patti labelle it's alright with me lp coverloose ends a little spice lp coverkool and the gang emergency lp coverpatti labelle it's alright with me lp insert
force m.d.'s love letters coverthe fit just havin' fun lp covermidnight star s/t lp back cover4 by four lp cover
Patti Labelle
looks like she's wearing a snuggie. I don't know which look I like better on the Force M.D.'s- the ultra preppy sweater vest action we have here or the giant fur coats they wear on the
Chillin' album.
dazz band on the one lp covero'jays love fever lp coverquincy jones purple sweater innner sleevetavares new directions lp cover

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