Happy Birthday Billie Holiday!

Billie Holiday (1915-1959) is a legendary Jazz ancestor. A live recording of her music from a 1956 performance in New York city has been finally uncovered., originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos.

Ninety-five years ago, on April 7th, 1915, Eleanora Fagan was born. By 1929, Billie Holiday began to come alive.

Each year on Lady Day’s birthday, WKCR 89.9FM NY, Columbia University’s student run radio station, broadcasts 24hrs of her music. The birthday party starts at midnight April 7th and continues until midnight April 8th.

WKCR is committed to jazz programming and does it ever deliver! I learned about the Billie Holiday birthday broadcast in my Twitter stream. I clicked on the Mp3 link on the station’s website which opened the channel in my iTunes. The DJs read the liner notes from the recordings, giving ‘props’ to the ‘alligators’ (alligator was the nickname jazz musicians called each other). Jazz DJ and historian Phil Schaap commandeered the controls this afternoon and provided a more extensive account of Holiday’s music, personal history and other fascinating jazz anecdotes.

As I listened to this auditory delicacy streaming live online, I was reminded of WEBR’s “Jazz in the Nighttime” Buffalo’s longest-lasting jazz program hosted by Al Wallack. Those were the days when live performances were featured from some of  the Queen City’s greatest jazz venues.

Then federal government cuts in funding crimped the jazz style and “Jazz in the Nighttime” faded into glory.

WKCR regularly features Birthday Broadcasts, Memorial Broadcasts and other jazz tributes. You can read more about the WKCR jazz programming and history here.

The next jazz Birthday Broadcast is April 22, celebrating the 88th birth-anniversary of Charles Mingus.

I’ll have to remember to bring a cupcake and a candle.


French Hip Hop and French Racism

Check out this video on French Hip Hop and French Racism produced by the Bronx African American History Project. This sensational project was achieved with a grant assistance from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Karima Zerrou of Tala Entertainment Services and Charlie Johnson of the Bronx African American History project. The interviews were conducted by my friend Dr. Mark Naison in collaboration with Dr. Jane Edward and Dr. Benjamin Hayford. This video was filmed at and assisted by the Bronx Museum of the Arts and its program director Mr. Sergio Bassa.

The Academy Awards: Take the Party on the Road

Last night as I decided to watch the 82nd Academy Awards. The ceremony is the Cinderella ball of the film industry.  I don’t watch them every year nor anticipate the Best Film, Actor and Actress awards with bated breath. I have a moderate interest in red carpet regalia. However, this year I decided to watch because I adore Gabourey Sidibe. I find her personality and her personal story as stellar as her film debut in “Precious”.

Hollywood is big bucks. The millions of dollars spent for film productions are par for the course. This year’s Best Picture, “Hurt Locker” cost $11 million dollars to produce, a paltry amount compared to the blockbuster “Avatar” which had a $230 million price tag. The economic impact of award shows on Hollywood and Los Angeles is also rather significant. The Academy Awards is a $130 million boon to the local economy. Remember all the furor over the writer’s strike and the 2008 cancellation of the Golden Globes? That resulted in at least an $80 million loss.

I began to think, with local economies across the nation starving for cash and Hollywood’s willingness to spend hyper-gobs of money on ceremonial displays and related ancillaries, (e.g. designer clothes, makeup, hotels, limousines etc.) why not host the Academy Awards in a different U.S. city each year just like the Super Bowl? It is the “Super Bowl” of the film industry, right?

Think about the economic value in addition to the publicity value of this world renowned event on the local economy?

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was a nice boon to cab companies, hotels, bars, restaurants and tourist attractions in Buffalo. Twenty-five years ago, “The Natural” was filmed in Buffalo and with it came a little Hollywood spending.  Keanu Reeves was also here filming “Henry’s Crime” a few months ago. I’m sure he bought a few burgers and a couple of beers. He did his part.

Imagine the possible fiscal jolt for any city that hosts the Academy Awards? A $130 million jolt!

Hotel workers, florists, limousines, caterers, taxi drivers, waitstaff, bartenders and delivery personnel would get a brief but necessary windfall. Buffalo is full of low-wage jobs in case you have not heard.

Of course big events are not longterm solutions but local businesses do benefit from them.

I’m not advocating that hosting the Academy Awards in a different city each year is the ultimate anti-poverty measure. Poverty ain’t pretty but it sure as hell is sexy and profitable for Hollywood. I just think it might be nice if Hollywood would spread the wealth that it’s successful films generate to the good people who don’t get always get a thank you on Oscar night.

Black History Month: Lost in Translation

Several days ago three White South Los Angeles elementary school teachers were suspended without pay for encouraging students to honor O.J. Simpson, RuPaul and Dennis Rodman as part of Black History Month observation. The children carried photographs of the celebrities during a parade on the playground.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa discharged his outrage about the incident, the school’s principal has apologized for the teachers “errors in judgment” and the episode precipitated anger, uncertainty and debate about the teachers motives amongst Los Angeles community leaders,  the Los Angeles affiliates of The Urban League and The National Association for The Advancement of Colored People.

It is very important to note that the children were given a list of approved Black History Month personalities, a list that has not been updated since 1985.  Logically, Mr. Simpson is on that list; it predates his 1994 murder trial as well as the birth of all the students at the elementary school.

Rodman and RuPaul were added in pencil; the updates were not seen by the principal.  The teachers involved instruct first, second and fourth graders. The average fourth grader was born in 2001. Frankly I would be surprised if the students know who Dennis Rodman is let alone O. J. Simpson. Regardless, it is certainly time for the approved Black History Month list of the Los Angeles County United School District to be reviewed and brought up to date.

Notwithstanding, this cause célèbre has resulted in my observations about the purpose, meaning and evolution of Black History Month.

In 1915 The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) was founded by Dr. Carter G. Woodson. The mission was to provide research and consciousness about the roles of Black people in American and World history. 1920 Dr. Carter G. Woodson and Omega Psi Phi fraternity created Negro History and Literature Week with the purpose of emphasizing the importance of Black heritage and cultural preservation in photography, literature and the performing arts which dramatized black history. In 1926, Woodson changed the name to Negro History Week and selected the month of February as homage to the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (Feb 12th) and Frederick Douglass (Feb 14).

Negro History Week gained significance during the Civil Rights movement as Black people challenged the barrier of social justice-racial discrimination and post-Civil Rights in the 1970s during The Black Power movement. In 1972 The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) presently called The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASAALH) changed Negro History Week to Black History Week. In 1976, the nation celebrated the bicentennial and Black History Week became Black History Month.

The original intent of Negro History and Literature Week as a presentation of Black heritage and cultural preservation through photography, literature and the performing arts has resulted in the evolution of Black History month to include the celebration of Black pop-culture icons, television personalities as well as defamed Black professional athletes who are pop-culture icons and former reality TV personalities.

Performing arts may be a common thread between O.J. Simpson, Dennis Rodman and RuPaul if I use the term performing arts loosely, very loosely. However, if you evaluate the filmography of Simpson, Rodman and RuPaul, their TV and film roles as “black history dramatizations” are largely indefensible and not in the spirit of Carter G. Woodson.

Nevertheless, the inclusion, presence and influence of Black popular culture in America is undeniable.  Unfortunately, the inclusion, presence and influence of Black playwrights, choreographers, composers, writers, scientists, scholars, educators, engineers, physicians, CEOs, entrepreneurs is not as commonplace as Black pop-culture icons.

Suspending the teachers without pay is sending the wrong message. Instead Mayor Villaraigosa, The Los Angeles United School District, The Urban League, NAACP, scholars and parents should work toward expanding Black history resources, exposing children to Black history and culture beyond a 25 year old list, 20th century pop-culture relics, professional athletes and most television personalities.

Is Facebook A Friend Or Foe of the Class Reunion?

This summer my alma mater will celebrate the graduating class of 1985; I will have my 25th high school reunion. I attended The Buffalo Seminary, a small, private school for girls. There were approximately 30 girls in my graduating class and 120 enrolled girls that year. It was a small school indeed!

The utterance of “high school reunion”  can often result in an assortment of emotions and memories, particularly with such a milestone event like the 25th anniversary class reunion. A few weeks ago the class leader assigned to organize our upcoming reunion asked me if I would help her plan and the event. I said yes. My situation may be unique; our school has always fostered an environment that encouraged the girls to nurture and value friendships long after we departed from the school’s hallowed hallways. I also liked the girls in my class and I enjoyed high school so the thought of attending my reunion does not induce nausea or anxiety as it might for some people. Besides, Facebook has allowed me to network and reconnect with alumnae, faculty and staff.

Nonetheless, I began to wonder, how has Facebook impacted the American custom of the “class reunion”?

The emergence of Facebook has made reminiscing with classmates about the “good old days” immediate and convenient. Many people have “friended” former classmates and alumni on Facebook. Status updates, wall posts and photo uploads allow people to keep in touch and stay abreast of the personal lives of former school pals. Let’s face it, some of us read about the professional and familial comings and goings of old classmates on a daily basis. Not only do you know their career paths and family statuses, in some instances you have likely read about daily culinary experiences as well as the language and physical developments of their children.

It is no longer necessary to wait until the class reunion to ask, “So, what have you been up to since graduation?” If you are on Facebook, you probably already know.  Has the practicality of Facebeook diminished the need or desire for a class reunion?

The social networking site has certainly simplified the task of finding a schoolmate.  Digitized photos can be fun or humiliating to look at. Today you may have have less hair, grayer hair, or a few wrinkles. Hopefully your skin has cleared up, you still have your own teeth and if you can still wear any clothing item from your senior year you deserve a medal.  Nonetheless, Facebook has spawned new life to the 20th century Baby Boomer and Generation X graduating high school classes.

So, are you more or less inclined to attend your high school class reunion in spite of the Facebook virtual reality of “Class of 19??”

The Internet Learns a Few New Languages

Email, social networking and chat applications allow web consumers to exchange information with family friends and business people all over the world.

General public access to the Internet has been around for 40 years; the Internet celebrated it’s 40th birthday On October 29, 2009.

W.B. Pitkin said “Life begins at forty.” Well that certainly seems to to be true for the Internet. On November 16, 2009 ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) will launch the process for Internationalized Domain Names (IDN). The Fast Track process will allow countries and nations to integrate the name and  characters of their national language into domain names. At present, the Internet endings are based on Latin characters. This opportunity will broaden Internet access for the global community.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
posted with vodpod

In October, Twitter announced that it will give the present of language support to F.I.G.S the acronym for French, Italian, German and Spanish languages.

This is an exciting time! Multiple language support will spark a romance with the Internet for newbies and rekindle the flame for others. Internationalizing languages on the Internet will also provide students and adults opportunities to develop language skills enabling them to compete in a global workplace.

The World Wide Web is wooing the globe! Isn’t it romantic?

The “Talk” Must Be Fortified

DaughterMy mother was a nurse but she never had the “talk” with me. My father was definitely not going to have the “talk”; that was my mother’s job. I did not grow up in a broken home but there were some roles and responsibilities that were gender exclusive.

I learned about the birds and the bees one sunny spring afternoon with my classmates. I attended Martin Luther Christian School, a now defunct small Lutheran school in the suburbs of Buffalo, NY.

The school nurse corralled the 8th graders into a classroom, showed us an unsophisticated film on the anatomy of males and females, gave a rudimentary explanation about the the hormonal and physical changes that will occur, for girls this included the why, how and when we should begin menstruation.

There was minimal discussion on birth control methods. Basically the message was “Don’t do ‘it’!”

That was 1981.

Before Music Videos

Before Reality TV Shows

Before Amber Alerts

Before Sex-ting (Texting sexual messages)

Before The Burning Bed

Before To Catch A Predator

That was before citizens and lawmakers discoursed about the plight and pervasion of sexual, mental abuse and domestic violence in this country.

That was before Rihanna and Chris Brown.

This morning I watched the web clips of Diane Sawyer’s interview with pop star Rihanna. She talked about the physical abuse she suffered at the hands of Chris Brown. She talked about the physical abuse she witnessed between her parents. Chris Brown has spoken of being exposed to similar circumstances with his parents, a charge his father denies.

You can watch the Sawyer interview here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

I have been a victim of physical abuse by a boyfriend. I was a little older than Rihanna; I was in my mid-twenties. I watched her. I listened to her. I was empathetic. I even cried a little.

Take away the celebrity status and they are any girl and any boy. He is your son. She is your daughter. She is the girlfriend. He is the boyfriend.

Teen couple

I don’t have any children but that doesn’t mean that I do not I care deeply about the physical,mental and social health of young women AND men.

As I watched, all I could think about was how times have changed and how much they haven’t.

Tween and teen boys and girls need to to be educated, by women AND men.

The “talk” use to be comprised of an anatomy film, a rubber replica of a vagina and uterus, a box of pads or tampons, a packet of condoms and a prescription for birth control if you were lucky enough to have a cool mom or an older sister to go with you to Planned Parenthood.

Now the “talk” must be fortified with a discussion about intimate partner violencephysical and mental abuse in teen romantic relationships. Now we have to educate boys and girls about aggressive behavior, how to recognize the signs of intimate partner mental and physical abuse, and equip them problem-solving skills for a romantic relationship.

We have to teach them how to have a healthy relationship. Prevention and education should have no boundaries of gender or sexual orientation. Fathers and mothers must share the responsibility.

Sexual, physical and mental abuse is not a man’s or woman’s issue.  It’s not just an adult issue.  Now it’s become a children and teen issue.

Mothers, talk to your son. Fathers, talk to your daughter. Parents talk to your children, together.

Mom with Child

I’ll be thinking of you.