Amoeblog

Black History Month Leap Year Review: the Good, the Sad & the Bizarre

Posted by Billyjam, March 2, 2012 11:40am | Post a Comment

Among the "good" of this year's Black History Month was Robert Glasper's excellent
Black Radio album on Blue Note released Feb 28th, 2012


Maybe it's because this is a leap year that Black History Month 2012, which ended two days ago, seemed a little out of whack. Or maybe it was because it was a Black History Month that started on a really bad note when, on the morning of Feb 1st, the tragic news that Don Cornelius of Soul Train fame had taken his own life was the first thing we were to read about. That was bad enough but this tragic news came hot on the heels of the world losing a string of other black music/cultural icons, including in just the preceding two weeks both Etta James and JImmy Castor.  And then, of course, ten days later, on the eve of the Grammys, the whole world was taken aback with the shocking news that Whitney Houston had died at age 48. Not exactly a great time to joyously celebrate black history!

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The Influence Of African-American Culture On A Non African-American: Four Examples

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, February 19, 2012 11:31pm | Post a Comment
Malcolm XI grew up on black culture. For most Mexican-Americans like myself growing up in the seventies and eighties, we didn’t feel a part of dominant society nor of our Mexican heritage. Schools were devoid of Latin American studies and English as a second language courses were frowned upon. As a kid I was lost; I didn’t know anything about my own culture but felt distant from American or European culture. For many of us, African-American culture was our alternative. I believed our struggles were the same. We were occupied people. We were once a part of progressive society and then we were conquered and made slaves. Although we received some basic human rights over the years we were always looked as second-class citizens here in the U.S. We were looked as something to fear and exclude. As years went on, some blacks and Latinos started to feel that they were part of mainstream society. Perhaps wanting to forget the past, some blacks and Latinos forgot the oppression they once shared. We separated, made our own history and often competed against each other to get out of the racial cellar.  

Even after becoming aware of my own cultural heritage, I never forgot the influence that African-American culture had on me. I find it strange to meet Mexican-Americans that have many European influences but no black cultural influences. I find it even stranger that many of them have the same fears of blacks as other members of dominant society. 

I cannot shake the influence of the many African-American musicians, activists, athletes and artists had on me, even after discovering the many great Chicano/Latin American icons that influence me today. For that reason, I would like to pay tribute to some African American icons that have influenced my life in some way or another.

Malcolm X

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The Last Holiday: A Memoir

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, February 5, 2012 02:18pm | Post a Comment
The Last Holiday: A Memoir If you are looking for a tell-all autobiography about the tumultuous life of Gil Scott-Heron, chances are you are going to be disappointed by The Last Holiday: A Memoir. What Gil Scott-Heron gave us were selected memories, the ones that resonated in his mind before his death. He is a man full of inspiration and controversy, but chose to reflect on his accomplishments and share the memories of people who most inspired him most.

The autobiography jumps around in the beginning, from his tour stories from his 1980 tour with Stevie Wonder to his upbringing with his grandmother in Tennessee. Gil writes eloquently about being raised in the south and being one of the first black students to integrate into an all-white school public school. After his grandmother’s passing, he moves with his mother to New York, in which his mixture of book smarts and street smarts ends up going to a private high school mostly reserved for students of privlege. From there it covers his college days, in which he takes a leave of absence to finish his first novel, The Vulture. From there, he returns to school and starts on a path as the musician the most people know him as.

Gil never dwells too much on his accomplishments. For instance, Gil spends more time writing about his appreciation how other artists covered his songs off his excellent album, Pieces Of A Man than he does about writing the songs himself. Much praise in the book was given to the people that he felt helped him along the way, such as his family, instructors, musicians as well as guys such as Bob Thiele and Clive Davis, who both released his albums and helped make him the icon that he became.

Gil Scott-Heron & Stevie WonderThe most praise and perhaps could have been a book on its own, was Gil’s stories about tour with Stevie Wonder in 1980. The significance of that tour was that Stevie Wonder used the tour to help spearhead the campaign to make Martin Luther King Jr. day a national holiday, with a show at the Washington Monument, the very spot were King gave his infamous, “I Have A Dream” speech. Gil admiration for Stevie, who though blind, was keen in every other sense. He was a person who could say exactly what was needed to be said and do what was needed to accomplish his goal of a Martin Luther King Day, an accomplishment that was achieved during one of the most conservative governments in U.S. history. It is also noteworthy to add that Gil was supposed to do a few selected dates on the tour, as Bob Marley was the opening act. But as it was, Bob was diagnosed with cancer and had to cancel the tour.

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Numerous J Dilla Tributes & Benefits Happening This Month on Six Year Anniversary of Revered Artist's Death

Posted by Billyjam, February 5, 2012 02:13pm | Post a Comment
Super Bowl isn't the only event happening today. On a more bittersweet note around the same time as the Giants/Patriots game over in the UK is a big J Dilla fundraising tribute party - just one of numerous events scheduled this month, on both sides of the Atlantic, that will honor the greatly revered late hip-hop producer and emcee who died six years ago around this time (Feb 10th, 2006) following a battle with lupus. Fittingly money raised at the British Dilla event today, which is titled J Dilla Changed My Life and will be held at Scala in London, will be donated to both Lupus UK and the J Dilla Foundation with all the DJs performing for free to benefit both causes. Also in the house today will be Ma Dukes - the mother of the late great artist born  James Dewitt Yancey and was also known as Jay Dee (not to be confused with an early 90's European house music act of same name). For more exact details on today's London event, that will be hosted by Phat Kat, visit the official Facebook event page.

Other J Dilla tribute events this month include ones in Detroit, LA, Baltimore, San Francisco, and New York where on Feb 19th at the Brooklyn Bowl the sixth annual Donuts Are Forever celebration will start at 8pm and will feature such talents as DJ Neil Armstrong, Prince Paul, and the hip-hop group Tanya Morgan. Of this NYC accidentally annual event Derreck "Dee Phunk" Johnson,  a partner in Rare Form - the event's organizer, said, "We never went into this planning for it to be an annual series. The original Donuts Are Forever in 2007 was a commemoration of the first anniversary of his passing.  But when we witnessed the turnout, we were dumbfounded.  We were fans and we knew there were a ton of other fans out there...but just seeing the physical manifestation of that love blew us away.  And five years later...here we are on number six." Details.

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Don't Dream It, Be It: Jero's Enchanting Enka Legacy

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, February 1, 2012 11:33pm | Post a Comment
In Japan, you'd have to living under a rock to not know Jero (or ジェロ) and prior to 2003 an event listing like the concert poster pictured below might have drawn attention for all the wrong reasons (see: Other).

enka singer jero african american history month japan jerome white

There is certainly nothing inherently other about Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native Jero, Jerome Charles White, Jr., but he stands apart from the pack in that he has, before the age of thirty, achieved living his dream of becoming the first successful African-American Enka singer in Japanese music history.

jero jerome charles white enka singer japanese pop vocals black history month african american mixed heritage jero enka singer grandmother takiko japan american back history month african mixed heritage traditional pop vocals

Jero grew up among a str
ong influence of Japanese culture and began singing Enka at an early age due to his Japanese grandmother Takiko's enthusiasm for the genre. She had met Jero's grandfather, an African-American serviceman, at a dance in Yokohama during World War II. They married, had a daughter - Jero's mother Harumi - and eventually moved to Pittsburgh, his grandfather's hometown. Though his parents divorced when he was still very young Jero was reared under the cultural influence and familial guidance of his Japanese grandmother and his Japan-born mother in a mixed-heritage household.

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