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A brief (and by no means complete) history of Black Los Angeles. Happy Black History Month!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 30, 2012 07:19pm | Post a Comment
Los Angeles' black population is relatively small compared to the city's other major racial and ethnic minorities. The LA metro area is only 8.7% black as compared to 47% Latino (of any race), 28.7% non-Latino white, and 14% Asian/Pacific Islander. However, since its inception, black Angelenos have always played a major role in LA's history and culture. Los Angeles is one of the only major US cities founded largely by people of black African ancestry. When it was still a Spanish colony, Los Angeles began life as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles on 4 September, 1781 (well, sort of). Of the 44 pobladores who ventured over from nearby San Gabriel, a majority of 26 were identified as having African ancestry.

BLACKS IN MEXICAN AND EARLY AMERICAN LOS ANGELES

Pio Pico
Pio Pico ca. 1890

During the period that Los Angeles was part of Mexico (1821-1840), blacks were fairly integrated into society at all levels. Mexico abolished slavery much earlier than the US, in 1820. In 1831, Emanuel Victoria served as California's first black governor. Alta California's last governor, Pío de Jesus Pico, was also of mixed black ancestry. The US won the Mexican-American War and in 1850, California was admitted to the United States. Although one of America's so-called "free states," discriminatory legislation was quickly enacted to restrict and remove the civil rights of blacks, Chinese, and Native Americans. For example, blacks (and other minorities) couldn't testify in court against white people. 

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Guest Amoblogger JR Valrey Presents "The Black Experience Study Guide: My Top 7 Books, Movies, and Albums for Black History Month"

Posted by Billyjam, January 29, 2012 09:50pm | Post a Comment
Guest Amoeblogger JR Valrey pictured here on the air at KPFA Berkeley

For this special Black History Month Amoeblog we've invited author/journalist/broadcaster/activist JR Valrey (a.k.a. the People's Minister of Information) to be a guest contributor and to write the following insightful piece, accurately titled The Black Experience Study Guide: My Top 7 Books, Movies, and Albums for Black History Month. The Oakland-based Valrey, who was interviewed & profiled on the Amoeblog last month, is known for his work on KPFA radio, his contributions to the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper, and his recently published book Block Reportin'. The book, which will soon be available for sale in Amoeba Hollywood's ever-expanding book section, features interviews with such important black cultural figures as political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal, hip-hop emcee/poet/actor Mos Def, former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, comedian/social satirist Paul Mooney, and the late, great, highly influential Gil Scott Heron. In the spring of this year Valrey plans to publish his second book, Unfinished Business: Block Reportin' 2. For more info and insights on JR Valrey, visit the blockreportradio website. Thanks for your contribution to the Amoeblog JR Valrey!

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Black [gay] History Month, 2012

Posted by Job O Brother, January 29, 2012 04:30pm | Post a Comment
black history gay

Ethel Merman’s voice makes my stomach acids sour and the very idea of shopping for clothes gives me a panic attack; despite these and other suspicious facts, I am a member of the LGBT community. For this reason, the issue of equal rights is ever-present in my mind.

There’s been a lot written and said about comparing the history of intolerance between racial minorities and the gay community, most especially in late 2008 when Prop. 8 was passed in the state of California amidst reports that large numbers of black people, urged by their church heads, voted to end the briefly instituted marriage equality of the state.

There were, of course, many exceptions to this and I don’t mean to angle this as a blacks-versus-gays situation – it's far more complicated than anything I'll do justice to here – but it did shine a light on an issue that often ruffles feathers. Knowing my place here on the Amoeblog as “light entertainment,” I will eschew any prolonged essays on the matter (for great, long-winded crap like that you should check out Charles Reece’s blog), but I will say that equal rights for all people is not only a victimless proposition, it’s one that benefits all people. Whether you think it’s appropriate to compare the struggle for gay equality with those of racial minorities, the fact is that everyone should have the same basic, human rights.

It would be one thing if a child was struck with bone marrow cancer every time two lesbians kissed, but kids, that’s just not the way it is and the sooner we let the gays get married, the sooner they can set up homes that will raise the property value of your block.

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The Black Power Mixtape Captures An Important Period In Black History in America

Posted by Billyjam, January 27, 2012 04:59pm | Post a Comment
        
The Black Power Mixtape trailer

Welcome to the kick-off of the 2012 Black History Month Amoeblog series in which, over the upcoming month of February 2012, we will honor Black History Month via a series of blogs covering an array of black history and culture pieces from the various Amoeblog contributors. This latest Amoeblog series will continue the tradition of honoring Black History Month here on the Amoeblog not just in February but all year round with pieces such as Eric Brightwell's thought-provoking Happy MLK Day. Yo, whatever happened to peace? Amoeblog from two weeks ago. Eric Brighwell will be among the many of us Amoebloggers posting articles on Black History Month. Oakland author / journalist / broadcaster JR Valrey, who was recently profiled here on the Amoeblog about his latest book Block Reportin', will be a guest Amoeblogger for Black History Month and contribute an article on his views on black history and culture titled The Black Experience Study Guide: My Top 7 Books, Movies, and Albums for Black History Month. I plan on posting several Black History Month 2012 Amoeblogs including this one on the highly recommended, recently released The Black Power Mixtape DVD.

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Remembering Etta James (1938 - 2012)

Posted by Billyjam, January 21, 2012 08:18am | Post a Comment
Wow. What a sad week it has been for blues, R&B, and funk fans with the passing of Jimmy Castor, Johnny Otis, and then yesterday morning (Jan. 20th) more sad news arrived with word that Etta James had died in Riverside, California following complications from leukemia, which she had been undergoing treatment for for some years. She was 73 years of age but was just about to celebrate her 74th birthday next week. 

Born in LA and raised in the Fillmore District of San Francisco, Etta James (who won four Grammys in her lifetime) was loved by music fans worldwide and was inducted into both the Blues Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Her music could be filed under blues, R&B, rock and roll, and even jazz sometimes (her album Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday won her a jazz Grammy). Even though James is best known for her soothing soulful rendition of "At Last," I personally always thought of the singer, who I saw in concert many times and was always blown away by her performances, as a gritty soulful blues singer since she always brought so much raw emotion and passion to her music. As anyone who has ever seen James in concert will attest, she brought sexy (or "raunchy" as some said) to her stage act in which she always gave it her all.

       

James was discovered by Johnny Otis, who in a tragic twist of coincidence passed just 3 days earlier this week, back when she was just a teen and recorded her first record when she was only 15. That record was “Roll With Me Henry,” which -- because of its sexual innuendo -- had its title changed to “The Wallflower" and as such became a 1954 hit on Billboard's Rhythm-and-Blues chart. A year later, a more whitewashed, toned-down version of the song retitled "Dance with me Henry" by white singer Georgia Gibbs became a mainstream number one Billboard pop charts hit. Understandably, that bummed out the black singer who had created the song.

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