May They Rest In Peace Once They Get Justice:

Eric Garner and Michael Brown — Slain in the Streets

 +   +   +

Rest In Peace:

James Garner, Lauren Bacall and Richard Attenborough — Passed Away


Above:  The late Robin Williams as “Mork” in “Mork & Mindy”

Only last night I was viewing, for the umpteenth time on my DVR, the “Tavis Smiley” two-parter in which iconic comedic auteur Mel Brooks had the Black TV host in stitches.  Brooks extolled the exquisite comedic talents of Cleavon Little and Richard Pryor, the latter whom he called “perhaps the greatest comedian of all time” and the former whom Smiley imagined would’ve had limitless potential in the comedy and acting realms.  Brooks’ appearance on Smiley’s PBS program was on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of Blazing Saddles.  And now, before retiring to bed, while searching online for something to chuckle over, I’ve just read that comedic actor (and a damned great straight-up dramatic actor) Robin Williams is dead, allegedly committing suicide at age sixty-three. And yeah, Williams got a chance to appear on the “Richard Pryor Show” in the late ’70s.

Decades before ADD became a household acronym, fast-thinking and -talking Williams blew our minds organically (or so was our wishful thinking) as one-half the titular characters of the 1970s sitcom “Mork & Mindy.”  It took awhile, but eventually he had me at “Nanu-nanu.” He was on top of the worlds — Earth and Ork — during that television breakthrough, but his list of stand-up shows and film credits would become longer.

Williams was an amazing character actor. Some of my favorite films starring Robin Williams are:  Mrs. Doubtfire (the best man-in-drag movie — with or without prosthetics — since 1959’s Some Like It Hot; 1980’s de Palma homage to Hitch, Dressed to Kill; and 1982’s farce Tootsie); Dead Poets Society; Moscow on the Hudson; PopeyeGood Will HuntingPatch Adams; The Fisher King;  Good Morning, VietnamWhat Dreams May Come; Father’s DayThe Bird Cage; and Insomnia.  And I’m not counting his myriad voice work in great animated films such as Happy Feet and Aladdin.

Overlooked among his TV feature film work was his touching role as a sort-of angel (to Susan Sarandon‘s melancholy character) in the  HBO yuletide drama Noël, which included in the superb ensemble cast another actor we lost too soon and this year:  Paul Walker.

Robin Williams is and will continue to be missed.  Despite his mortal departure creating a dark mood, the night sky beams one star brighter.  We Earthlings have a way to keep him in our orbit, for his pan-galactic humor always will be a click away.

 

 

 

© 2014 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved


AND NOW, she rises.

 

 


L
ess than two weeks ago, I smilingly related to my sibling this afternoon, I had reread Poet Laureate Maya Angelou‘s lyrical and profound 1969 novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. So many times, Ms. Angelou’s words inspired me to confront the painfulness of my past lives. Now she, the majestic writer whose first loves outside of the familial were reading and dancing, has made her Transition and is pirouetting with angels in the firmament. I’m sure she’ll give her latest wings a rest now and then — but always will she keep those angels rapt with attention as she recites poetry with that jazzy voice of hers.

 

  Rest In Peace, Marguerite Ann Johnson

Girl Holding a Flower  MAYA ANGELOU     Boy with a Flower

April 4, 1968 – May 28, 2014

 

 

 

 

Text:  © 2014 Chantale Rêve  All Rights Reserved

Barracoon

2014/05/18


Chain

 

 

 

Chained, sin on my lips,
Bruised within my seeded womb,
I long to jump ship.

 

 

 

 

© 2014 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved

 

 

Photo Source:  publicdomainpictures.net

Photographer:  George Hodan

 


 

                                                 

 

 

This will be a brief post, but not as short as a Tweet. Perhaps fewer than two thousand words. After all, I go off on tangents and on people — well, those who deserve it.  It’s just that I’ve got a gripe, not a grape, to peel.  I’ve got no issue with the non-traditional casting of Zoe Saldana  (Center StageAvatar, Guess Who? Colombiana, Constellation — well, two out of five ain’t bad … and guess which two?)  in the starring role in Rosemary’s Baby, but I’m horrified that she would have the audacity to transform into Nina Simone when so many Black actresses and singers could use the work and work their talents — from Viola Davis, Lorraine Toussaint and Tichina Arnold to India-Arie, Angie Stone and Jennifer Hudson.  Not even Pixar’s special effects combined with the magic of both David Blaine and David Copperfield could create the illusion that Zoe Saldana is trying to sell.

I didn’t have an issue with Saldana portraying the freaked-out, incubus-ravaged wife, Rosemary, in the recent, second TV remake of Roman Polanski’s 1967 cult classic because I needed guaranteed comedic relief.  One doesn’t need to be an NYU Film School student and trust fund baby to know that Mia Farrow’s authentically terrified reactions to pure evil in the role of a fashion-forward human host of Satan’s baby were outmatched only by her iconic pixie hairstyle — a Vidal Sassoon masterpiece — and her screams and the surreal scenes are cemented in many of our minds.

Saldana’s performance in the NBC-TV horror melodrama was so tepid that I was more interested in the Paris backdrop than her character’s malevolent “evening sickness.”  In Part 2 of the TV remake, Rosemary’s novelist-husband (never mind holding a candle to John Cassavetes’ Guy; Patrick J. Adams couldn’t even light the match) shares with her that he doesn’t understand why she has morning sickness at night, and Rosemary replies with a smile: “Well, it’s morning in Los Angeles.”  Ha-ha-snoooozzzzze.  Too bad the blurry special effects couldn’t save “Rosemary’s Baby”; in fact, they and not Saldana were the most annoying aspect of viewing the drama.  All the obscure (and obtuse) editing in “Rosemary’s Babble,” er, “Rosemary’s Baby” — for example, the mom-to-be’s chomping on what amounts to steak tartare — makes no sense when one  (or, at least, when a viewer who isn’t homicide-inclined or -fixated) considers that on TV’s “Hannibal,” the title character prepares hors d’oeuvres of human organs before our eyes.  Of course, those appetizers aren’t actually human meat, but they’re supposed to be, whereas Saldana’s Rosemary actually looks as if she’s shoving cherry pie in her … well, piehole.

Some film classics simply don’t need to be remade.  Then again, with all the horror flicks that get redone into redon’ts, perhaps there’s a subconscious message in that, which is:  As we continue to rape planet Earth, we try to analyze the horrors within us.  Within Man.  Well, the plot of Casablanca involved the atrocities of war, especially the terrorism and brutality of Nazism, but I don’t see the TV arm of Hollywood forcing that film to undergo a facelift, n’est-ce pas?

Speaking of facelifts …

Earlier tonight, as I bumbled about the Internet instead of slipping beneath the covers, I stumbled into a photo of Zoe Saldana in blackface for her portrayal of the legendary Nina Simone.  Keep in mind that I had just suffered through Part 2 of the aforementioned TV remake of “Rosemary’s Baby” starring Saldana. The Nina Simone biopic is allegedly a personal project of hers.  Yeah, and that qualifies her to portray THE Nina Simone? Really? While an actor doesn’t need to resemble the subject of a biopic, and while he or she can lip sync to lyrics (think of the sheer magic, the spine-tingling soul-channeling, that we’ve witnessed from “The Buddy Holly Story,” “Sweet Dreams” and “The Josephine Baker Story” to “Selena,” “Ray” and “Cadillac Records”), it does help a great deal when the filmmaker and his or her team go to lengths to select an actor who comes close to resembling the biopic’s subject.

As soon as I learned of the Nina Simone biopic, I got a case of “evening sickness,” and not from memories of Saldana’s Rosemary devouring raw beef. Here’s my beef:  Casting Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone is the result of some kind of cognitive disorder that’s on the rampage again in Hollywood.  What if, instead of casting Jessica Lange as the late great Patsy Cline, Hollywood had decided to select Sheryl Lee Ralph?  We all would’ve let out an Ed Norton (not the current actor but the fictional Brooklyn character):  Whaaa-aaa-aaa-aaah!  The only beef I have with Zoe Saldana wearing a ton more makeup on her face than Natalie Wood lugged around as Maria in West Side Story  is this:  The immensely talented Viola Davis, whose beauty is highly underrated, would’ve been right on — as in, with an Angela Davis fist!  Viola immediately came to this writer’s mind and especially because she’s got that roll to her female baritone.  Whether she can or can’t sing a lick (can Zoe sound like Nina?) doesn’t matter; lip synching in biopics is the norm.  And Viola wouldn’t need more than a dab of blush and a stroke of ‘stick.  Hell, anybody can don a turban, but that won’t make her Nina Simone. Neither will pouting when one’s naturally superthick lips put the sensual sugah in some blues.

However, I’m just dreaming.  We all know that Hollywood will always be Hollywood, focusing on bankable stars who underneath the Sub-Saharan Matte #5 have conventionally beautiful looks.  Hollywood didn’t have a problem with Zoe’s mocha version of Rosemary getting her swirly on and, later, having the devil’s spawn in Paris, but it thinks nothing of triple-dipping her and her wispy body in chocolate to make Nina Simone’s Africanness palatable to non-Black people and to the Black people who self-hate thickness in lips and hips.  And I doubt that Donald’s anything but sterling remarks lately will change the self-hatred among Us.

Or, allow me to break it down thusly:  Too many of us — and. here, I’m referring to people across ethnic and cultural lines — can understand Viola Davis portraying a maid in The Help, and some secretly were titillated by her mamminess in that film adaptation. Others, including Oprah Winfrey, rationalized the roles of the film’s two principal (and principled) maids in a psychological act of defiance as if they were the only descendants of the African Diaspora who counted housekeepers among their ancestors.  So, while I’m thrilled that younger generations are intrigued by Nina Simone’s music and her life, we won’t get to watch and listen to Viola blowing our minds in the biographical role.  Heck, white French actress Julie Delpy, as the bourgeoise Céline opposite Ethan Hawke’s Jesse, lip synched through a Nina Simone jazz standard in Before Sunset – the second installment of Richard Linklater’s trilogy — and, honey, let me tell you that I didn’t see a spot of shoe polish on her face and hands!  No, chillens, this sho ain’t a new life or a new world, so Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone sho don’t feeeeeeel gooooooooooooooood!!!”

 

 

“Zoe Saldana in ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Remake AND As Nina Simone? What the Devil Is Going On???”  © 2014 Chantale Reve All Rights Reserved


Blades of tall grass bend

As chirping sparrows take turns

Pecking at sweet crumbs.

 

 

 

© 2014 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved

 

 

 


 

 

I must confess

That even if I could

Halve, quarter, eighth or sixteenth

My flesh, bone and blood,

I would not.

 

 

I am raw oxtail teased with spices,

Tossed in with tomato and diced veggies.

My meat has absorbed une mélange de saveurs

That makes lovers salivate over my succotash

Sneak under the cover to lick the pot.

 

 

Despite an atavistic hot mess

From mostly forced miscegenation

Forged through economics, lust, hate and greed

Sprouted from seeds over beaucoup de générations,

Pride I’ve still got.

 

 

I forgive ruthless

Statements that, unlike my hair,

I’m an “oreo,” rootless beneath the skin –

For every moment and in pure love

I live and breathe Divinity and Blackness.

 

 

Poem:  “D.N.A. (deliciously naked authenticity)”  © 2014 Chantale Rêve   All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

Eulogy for a Rose

2014/04/04


If you ever have caressed a petal parted from a rose,

Recall the saline taste of tears and a facial twitch. 

How fragile all of life is, I realized today –

After tossing out with the trash that “life’s a bitch.”

How pungent is the stench of fear to age in our skins,

A genetic mutation of vain minds that propagate the specious

And, with (m)admen, are destined to do us in.

Mulling over my final moments with each withered bloom

Of all the roses ripped from fertile soil and accelerated to decay,

I wonder why we jump to false conclusions in assuming

That our lives do not as delicately slip away.

 

© 1998-2014 Chantale Rêve

 


Woman Behind Flowers

Afro DivaWoman With Medusa Style Hair

 

 

For readers and voyeurs of the Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog who think Chantale is too damned serious, this one’s for you:  rewritten lyrics parodying Black women’s perpetual hair battles and their repercussion in the workplace and, more importantly, in the bedroom – or both, for the friskier (read:  riskier) among Us.

 

 

“Hair Biz”

by

Tiana Irie


Flashback, who’s wack?

“10” bitch shoulda known that

Pam Grier woulda owned it

Like the rack above her ribs.

 

Who screamed “da Sheen!”

I’m not talkin’ Charlie

Or the late Bob Marley

But the latter’s got ma love

 

Now don’tchu have no doubt

I’m gonna stomp and shout

Until I sweat ma press ‘n curl.

 

Hair talkin’ floats ma boat

And I just wanna note

That inside Africa’s alive!

 

I’m talkin’ hair biz to ya, bayBEH

Hair-hair biz

I’m talkin’ love – that is

That is, that is

 

I’m talkin’ hair biz to ya, baybee

Hair-hair biz

I’m talkin’ love –

Hair biz, hair biz, hair biz

 

 

[Rap Intro]

Whassyoname, love?

Madame C.J. Walker?

 

Well, they call me Slick

 

Now, don’t leak all over me (heh-heh-heh-heh)

 

 [Sung]

I’mmmm

Taaaalkin’

Hair biz

 

I’m talkin’ hair biz to you-ou

 

 

I’mmmm

Taaaalkin’

Hair biz

 

I’m talkin’ hair biz to you-ou

 

[Rap – Edited Version]

 

Baby, whasshappenin’

I’m between relaxers.

I know of many sistas given grief and so they take to the scissors.

I heard the rumors ’bout ma mixed textures

But I don’t fall in debt on weaves.

Happy with “knotty,” “kinky” or “nappy” –

Long as I keep my dignity.

So can you dig it while we speak a while

About getting locked up in self-love

Cos no matter how straight tresses come and go 

 Hairy gossip can’t crimp ma style.

That’s what I’m talkin’, behbeh,

Hair biz

   Hair biz …

 

(Original Song:  “Square Biz” by Teena Marie)

* * *

“Relapse”

by

 Fannie Goes Straight to Avoid Wood

 

 

[Cue the synthesizers: bowm, bowm, BOWM]


Relax!

Just do it

 If your Afro pick’s through, yeah.

Relax!

Just do it

If you want the job.

 

Relax!

Just do it

If you cannot comb through it.

Relax!

Just do it

If you want the job.

 

Relax!

Just do it

Or you’ll have to suck to it.

Relax!

Just do it.

 Straight hair or bossman’s cum.

 

Relax!

Jump to it

Unless you’d like to unglue it.

Relax!

Don’t screw him.

He’ll find another bone.

 

Relax!

Just do it

Wavy-smooth or you’ll blow it.

Relax!

Jump to it

If you want the joooob

If you want the joooob

If you want the joooob

If you want the joooob …

COMMMMMMMMMB

 

(Original song:  “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood)

* * *

  

 

“Grazing in the ‘Kitchen’ ”

by

Cousins of Extinction

 

[Chorus]  I can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it / She can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it / They can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it

Oh, let’s wig-it

(baritone) Can you wig-it, baybeh?

 

I can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it / She can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it / They can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it

              Oh, let’s wig-it               

(first tenor) Can you WIG-it, BAYbeh?

 

[Bridge]  Every new growth you can see, gotta hide it

Everything smooth is all right, shout about it

                                                                                     

And it’s reallllllllllllllll

So real, so real, so real, so real

Though you bought it

Woo-hooohhhh!

 

(Chorus]  I can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it / She can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it / They can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it

Oh, let’s wig-it

[baritone] Can you wig-it, baybeh?

                                     

I can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it / She can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it / They can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it

  Oh, let’s wig-it

[first tenor] Can you WIG-it, BAYbeh?

 

 

(Original song:  “Grazing in the Grass” by The Friends of Distinction)

 * * *

“If It’s Too Thick”

by

K.Y. Loeb

 

 

If it’s too thick

Don’t force it

Just relax and letitgo

Cos, look, that’s how they wannit

Bone-straight, flowin’ out tha do’

 

 

(Original song:  “If It Don’t Fit, Don’t Force It” by Kellee Patterson)

 

 

 

* * *

“Baby, It’s Frizzin’ Out There”

by

The Fu-Aqua Nets

 

Don’t let me go outside

In the rain

Cos, boy, I’d rather hide

From the rain–ain-ain-ain

 

 

(Original song:  “In the Rain” by The Dramatics)

* * *

 

 

“Doo Rag, Baby”

by

Priscilla

 

 

Here we are,

Not a kinky strand between us

Lucky our hair just lays right down

You want my wavy stuff like I want yours

So make a scarf of my gown.

 

Fling it, baby

Spritz me all over

Palm me with pomade love

 

Your Dax been teasin’ me for far too long

Hottie, you know,

 Good hair’s what wet dreams

Are made of

 

Doo rag, baby

Like you never tied before

Oh, give it to me

Work that nylon, boy, once more.

 

C’mon, doo rag, baby

Fasten tighter than before

Ooh, I want it now

Snatch one from my bottom drawer

 

 

(Original song:  “Do Me, Baby” by Prince)

 

 

* * *

  

 

“Missing Hair”

by

The South Side Lacefronts

 

 

[Bridge] Why-y-y, oh-h-h why-y-y-y

Didn’t I just weave it and walk away-y-y-y

Now I must pay-y-y-y-y.

 

It’s been used,

Flung when flings were over –

Now it’s lo-o-o-o-ost!

Year’s salary, lo-o-o-o-ost!

 

[Chorus] Oh, I searched every surface in my trailer home

In the tub, even on the vibrator

Have you seen it (my wig)

Tell me, have you seen it (tell her that I love her)

 

 

(Original song:  “Have You Seen Her” by The Chi-Lites)

* * *

 

“Hooked on Your Gloved Love”

by

The Baldwin Sistas


That singed-hair smell

Gives me happy thoughts of you-u-u-u (yeah, babe)

I’m so turned on by conkin’ –

And your greasy sheets, too (oh-oh, baby).

 

 

[Bridge] You free the other woman in me (ah-hai-hai-hai)

Blonde, brunette,

Cain’t you see-ee?

I like the way you tug and tease,

Say, “Ooh, baby, take me

And drop to your knee-hee-hee-hees”

 

What can I do

With this weave all

Hooked on your gloved love, gloved love

 

(Uhm-hmm-hmm-YEH!)

 

What can I do (unh)

With this weave all

Hooked on your gloved love, gloved love

(Hooks a-clingin’, yeh-yeh-yeh)

 

What can I do (ooh-baby)

With this weave all

Hooked on your gloved love, gloved love

 

 

[Bridge] Eh-h-h-heh, every day

Nothin’ to be rad about

Eh-h-h-heh, nothin’ to smear on the lye about –

 

I like the way we get it o-o-o-o-on

Don’t you understand my weavin’, baby

Just beweave in me (oo-oohhh-ohh-yeh)

 

[Chorus] What can I do (whatcanIdo, baby)

With this weave all

Hooked on your gloved love, gloved love

 

(I hear you, yell-yell-yell)

What can I do, baby 

[Repeat chorus, ad-libs to fade]

 

 

(Original song:  “Hooked on Your Love” by Curtis Mayfield, sung by Aretha Franklin on the original soundtrack album for Sparkle)

* * *

“The Tracks of My Fears”

by Ajun Extensions

[chorus]  So take a good look at  the trace

Of naps I’ve pulled away from my face

A frozen smile feigns my warm embrace of

The tracks of my fears (ooh-hoo-oo-oo-oo-hoo)

(Original song:  “The Tracks of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles)

 

*    *    *    *    *

 

This hair-raising post is dedicated to these ladies and the gentlemen among them:

 

Wendy Williams and RuPaul, because if you’ve got the disposable income to buy more wigs than a doll manufacturer or an opera company, life can never be a drag;

Vivica Fox, because she was ingenious enough to create her own wigs and, judging by the million faces of Eve on eBay, she’s making it rain – oh, sorry, wrong expression for Us sistas when the hair’s the money-making thing;

Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, because she’s so damned pretty and such an underrated actress;

Oprah Winfrey, because there wouldn’t be any be bewigged or natural-hair sistas executive-producing and hosting their own TV talk shows with amazing longevity if it weren’t for her (I mean: Herprah).  Damn that Oprah, who set the bar so high that only a trapeze artist can achieve that kind of fame — and with a safety net;

Whoopi Goldberg, because — besides reigning as a Queen of Comedy and a wonderful comedic and dramatic actress — she rocks the locks without an eyebrow in sight like no one else;

Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and Terry McMillan, because they are some of my favorite authors and make that certain age look fabulous from head to foot;

Ja’net DuBois as lovable gossip and sistafriend “Willona Woods” on the hit sitcom “Good Times,” because whether she was stylin’ in an Afro wig or one of many short, perky straight-hair wigs, she knew how to make her hair dance high above those neck rolls and eyerolls whenever John Amos as “James Evans” would toss a love-hate quip her way;

Angela Bassett, because when she donned that long brunette wig in portraying Tina Turner in the 1993 biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It and did the charley horse or cake walk or whatever those hot pony moves with the Ikettes were, I  totally forgot she was Angela Bassett — which, of course, was the point;

Viola Davis, because no matter how she switches it up – natural hair or wig – she’s beautiful and a kick-ass actress who’s finally getting her due;

India.Arie, just for singing “I Am Not My Hair” – and for affirming the intoxicating sensuality of Palms Cocoa Butter Formula (plug, plug – give me my money!) in her midtempo love song “Cocoa Butter”;

Jayne Kennedy, because she was foxy as a sports journalist and a go-go girl on “Laugh-In” and still got it goin’ own-annn-annn-own-annn-own-annn-OWN (plug for Oprah totally inadvertent or simply subliminal [watch "Oprah Prime"]); and

Flip Wilson as “Geraldine,” because, back in the day, “she” was the It girl, working those wigs and some characters’ last nerve, sucka.

 

 

There are so many more dedications I’d love to make, but time doesn’t permit.

© 2013 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved

All Photos:  www.publicdomainpictures.net

 

A Letter from 2065

2012/03/18


Carousel Horse clipart

When your mind drifts to vast deserts of thought,
Take comfort that you will be young again.
Dash out nude into gentle acid rain
To reclaim the confidence some said you lost.

Face the sun and the moon when redemption comes.
Ascend with innate grace to your higher power.
The second hand will not tick past your resplendent hour.
Slip on gossamer wings when that worn shell’s done.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Meet Mommy and me at Nathan’s down on Coney Isle,
Chat with authentic mermaids and swim with dolphins awhile,
Spy on Picasso making art and love up in Montmartre,
And hang tough with herds of regal elephants over in India.

We’ll party with Dalí and Gala by sea cliffs in Cadaqués –
When the surreal revelry ends will be anyone’s guess.
In Africa we’ll learn Wolof, Kiswahili, Moroccan, Shona and Zulu,
Wail and pray about war and other disease — intraplanetary blues.

We’ll fly over the Arctic and Antarctica blowing air kisses
That freeze sea waves into grand glaciers for endangered species.
Hopping on bejeweled carousels stretching across the globe,
We’ll ride horseys with eyes of ruby, sapphire and peridot.

© 2012 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved


Originally posted on Photobycraig's Blog:

“You keep watch dear and I will take a nibble from this apple”

Female and male Cardinals in my backyard this evening.

Cardinals_2923

View original


Thumbnail for version as of 21:10, 30 September 2006


In case you’re wondering:  Who the hell is this guy?  Well, I’ll just have to keep you in suspense, since I love to do that in my short fiction.  I can’t write “hold you captive,” with all these slave movies coming out one after another and so much so that I’ve been kidnapped in my nightmares and whipped with and without a soundtrack playing beneath the rhythms of the lashings and the counterpoint of my screams.

 

Fickle Focus on Existential, Epic Slave Flicks

 

Are you feeling whiplashed between slavery flashbacks?  If so, the last sentence of the previous paragraph probably was traumatic for you, too.  Matter of fact, my digits are still twitching, and welts are rising on my back.  Wait, those are weals from all the b.s. over the latest slave saga, to which I’m severely allergic. It soon will be 40 years since the debut of “Roots” and the concurrent cornrowing of my hair to Mount Kilimanjaro’s elevation — the source of lifelong scalp irritation — and my baby hair still hasn’t grown back.  Maybe I could add to mine from Ginuwine’s.  Or dare I ask “good”-hairy Chanté:  “Puis-je couper, s’il vous plaît?” and risk getting cussed out in the whistle register.

No bones or afros to pick on this captivating subject — I’m just being cheeky.  Hey, you.  Eyes up here or else you’ll get flash-flogged after supper.  I believe in spare the crop, spoil the sub.  Oops, wrong movie.

Of course we need films such as 12 Years a Slave by Steve McQueen!  (If we’re on the same bat channel, you know that I’m referring to the Academy Awards contender, the Black Brit filmmaker, not the legendary star of BullittThe Getaway and The Thomas Crown Affair.)  With 12 Years receiving nine Oscar nods, director McQueen might wind up pumping more than a few of those golden nudes like irons in the fire of controversy.  Now that he has risen above the flames — that is, the hellish heat sputtering from mouths of pitchforked tongues belonging to unseen but heard gremlins in the room, namely the Edison Ballroom in Manhattan — his regal voice will silence his detractors.

Here, I gesture with a peace sign, minus the forefinger, to Slavegate, which got swinging with the stench of “strange fruit” when morons heckled McQueen — a groundbreaking, visionary filmmaker — at the New York Film Critics Circle’s awards dinner last month.  Roast chicken may not have been on the menu at the NYFCC function, but I’m flipping the bird also at the dimwits who continue to whine: “But he’s [McQueen is] British; what does he know about American slavery?”

Most of the whiners have a heap of melanin, so, ironic though the following may sound, I’m not playing “the race card.”  What I am doing is charging them, the whiners, with ignorance in the first degree because they’re uneducated about their own history; for the trans-Atlantic slave trade — which we all know now was operated with some complicity by Africans — benefited mostly non-African economies around the globe and, thus, distributed African peoples everywhere, possibly including some of Steve McQueen’s own ancestors.

Beloved ver2.jpg12 Years a Slave film poster.jpgWhat I’d like to know is:  WTF took so long for McQueen or anyone else to adapt the Solomon Northup’s poignant memoir into 12 Years a Slave?  Did we really have to endure Quentin Tarantino septic music video, which served for some to placate their minds to the extent that they were horrified at the pop-unfriendly scoring of 12 Years a Slave?  I mean, really.

BelovedNovel.jpg

We — and not only Black people — are experiencing short-term memory loss in overlooking the excellent and haunting film Beloved (1998) starring (who else?) Oprah Winfrey.  The Jonathan Demme-directed epic film was based on the novel Beloved (1987) by Toni Morrison, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Morrison’s novel was inspired by the real-life story of Margaret (Peggy) Garner, who reached freedom but then was abducted and forced into slavery. Not too long before Morrison’s novel was published, there was a little-known indie film (so limited in distribution and promotion that I can’t recall its title or director) that starts out in contemporary times and involves a Black female protagonist who is abducted by white slavers and forced back through the centuries into slavery in the South.

And although the 1991 indie film Daughters of the Dust, by Julie Dash, didn’t deal with slavery, it’s the only film by a Black female director who address Gullah culture from Gullah people’s perspective.  It even features dialogue in Gullah Creole.  In her poetic film Dash tells the story of three generations of women from a family that lives on St. Helena Island (among the South Carolina Sea Islands), but from the Unborn Child’s P.O.V.   It’s the turn-of-the-twentieth-century, and the sistren are about to depart from their ancestral homeland. (Gullahs are predominantly of African heritage; enslaved Africans working the rice plantations in the Low Country were able to outsurvive the white slavers, who succumbed to tropical diseases, and so they broke free and made the marshy land their own.  Some say Gullah people are descended only from West Africa, but I am part-Gullah, and my fam has ancestors from the Congo, too; which means I have distant cousins among Black people in Brazil, many of whom derived from the Congo and Angola.  Hmmm … could that be why I’m always drawn to capoeira?)  Through stunning visual imagery, the unusual narrative of Daughters of the Dust shows us the women’s meditations about their family’s journey North.

Maybe Daughters of the Dust will make you think twice the next time you’re at a resort, trying to get that ace in the hole at some golf course on Gullah turf in the Sea Islands of South Carolina or Georgia, hunh?  So check out Netflix or go geechee yourself to a Black film festival when one comes to your town.

*   *   *


“Racial Ambiguity:  Take One”

 

Only in the United States, where, historically, the powers-that-be have brainwashed many citizens into thinking along the racial divides of black/white (f/k/a  nigger/white, colored/white, negro/white), because they were/are short in gray matter, does the term racial ambiguity gain any kind of currency.  Just as I abhor the terms black community and African American community, I detest racial ambiguity.  For the remainder of this essay — the first in an irregular series — I will be capitalizing the “b” in Black. and the “n” in Negro.  If I ever need to use the epithet nigger in a scholarly context, it shall remain lowercase because it is a trigger word that belongs in the gutter.

If the word race is a social construct, let’s not deconstruct it. Let’s destroy it … now!  To do that, we need to begin in our minds.  The preceding statement refers to the minds of all citizens of our world because, at some point, a person comes in contact with U.S. social pathology through the media.  There is only the human race.  We don’t need genetics testing to prove that there are so few “pure Black” / “pure African” people in the U.S. and the world at large because miscegenation went hand in hand with the Trans-Atlantic slave trade — just as for aeons, pillaging of foreign lands and the female bodies on them (and of the psyches of those conquered people) was rampant.  In the U.S. alone — which had far fewer enslaved Africans than, say, Brazil — if white slaveholders hadn’t raped so many enslaved African women in a savage form of breeding for profit (and, sure, lust on the part of the colonies-sanctioned rapists), there wouldn’t have been enough slaves to build industries in what is now one of the most industrialized and <cough> civilized nations on earth.

Having said all of the above, how a person self-identifies is at her or his discretion.  Through history, the descendants of enslaved Africans — no matter what “percentage” of European admixture and/or any other admixture (remember the U.S. “one-drop rule”) — have decided to forge ahead in spite of but in full pride of their complexion; pass or pass on passing despite looking like today’s Wentworth Miller  (sorry, can’t use everyone else’s usual target, Mariah Carey, here because, IMO, she looks like she ‘s got that one drop) or the late TV writer David Mills.  Mills wrote many episodes for various critically acclaimed dramatic series, from “Homicide: Life on the Street” and “The Wire” to “ER,” and he collaborated with David Smith on the defunct and underrated HBO series “Tremé”.

Therefore, the term racial ambiguity is being used and perpetuated by people (no matter how much melanin be in their skin) who believe that one requires external validation of their existence within social and socioeconomic contexts.  I plead guilty to dumping, not in person but in certain essays, on people who self-identify as Creoles.  So here I apologize. Let’s be fair, however.  As Steve Zahn’s “Davis McAlary,” a loudmouth liberal deejay on “Tremé,” once said about the continuing mixing of “races” in the U.S. (and here I paraphrase):  “We are a Creole nation!”

In closing, I turn away from the idiot box and toward literary history to highlight a person of African and European descent who conscientiously honored his Blackness in his native France and throughout the world.  Although his family was of the aristocratic class due to his father’s paternal bloodline, the legendary writer Alexandre Dumas, père (pictured at top), decided not to pass in toto.  (The père following his name  distinguishes it from that of his son:  Alexandre Dumas, fils)  Take a good look at his hair alone; he couldn’t, really.  Nevertheless, he could pass in authorship in much the same way that, today, any of us writers can disguise ourselves by gender, “race,” ethnicity, etc.  And the gentleman — and I bet he was gentle, fathering so called (at the time) natural children with as many as forty mistresses — was wittily confrontational when he felt he needed to be.

Author of The Count of Monte CristoThe Three Musketeers and the much-less-talked-about outside of literary circles, Georges — in addition to myriad other books as well as plays — Dumas was the son of a multiracial father born in Saint-Domingue (n/k/a Haiti):  Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, produced from the union of a French nobleman, the marquis Alexandre-Antoine Davy de la Pailleterie, and an enslaved woman (rumored to be Creole), Marie-Cessette Dumas.  The literary Dumas inherited his father’s revolutionary spirit, famously replying to some idiot who had made a disparaging remark about his African ancestry:  “My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro, and my great-grandfather a monkey.  You see, Sir, my family starts where yours ends.”  (Source:  Wikipedia; boldface emphasis: mine)

Alexandre Dumas’ comeback may not have been subtle but was erudite.  A dollop of anthropological wit with a dash of wise ass.  In contrast, someone calling another “racially ambiguous” is courting verbal whup-ass and is a nitwit and a misanthrope.

 

CUT!

 

 

 

This has been a Black History Month moment.  We now return you to your station in life.

 

 

© 2014 Chantale Reve

All Rights Reserved

 

Photo Source (Alexandre Dumas):  Wikimedia Commons