Urban haps of a grrrl on a mission to be a better writer, a new music master-blaster and a wonderfully brilliant razor-packing, MAC LipGlass wearing feminista...

Monday, March 31, 2008

Beyonce's Dreams & Jhumpa's Reality

Okay I have to admit that when I first heard that Beyonce was doing a straight-up dance record with house music as the overarching theme I was not amused. But clearly someone got it wrong if Beautiful Nightmare is any indication. This gem "leaked" late last week and I can't stop playing it. It's a wonderful hypnotic mash of 80's new wave groove rock and afro punk funk. And if this song does not sound like the pop version of Tamar Kali's Ocean then this year's presential campaign has nothing to do with race! Check it and tell me what you think?

While Beyonce is caught up in her dreams, writer Jhumpa Lahiri is all about the realness in her new book The Unaccustomed Earth. Earth like Jhumpa's previous works, especially Interpreter of Maladies, dives into the lives of its characters giving readers a very raw and honest perspective of middle class South Asian life. What I love about Jhumpa is that she's not hokey. She's all about the real world madness, sadness, successes and challenges of everyday life. In this week's NY Mag she responds to criticism about her Bengali-American centered subject matter:
 ‘Is that all you've got in there?’ I get asked the question all the time. It baffles me. Does John Updike get asked this question? Does Alice Munro? It's the ethnic thing, that's what it is. And my answer is always, yes, I will continue to write about this world, because it inspires me to write, and there’s nothing more important than that.
This book will surely make my summer reading list and I will try to catch one of her upcoming readings in the city. Check her out, that is if you are interested in keeping it real too.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sex For A Green Card

Did you see last Friday's NY Times article : An Agent, a Green Card, and a Demand for Sex ? In it reporter Nina Bernstein describes a conversation between a young immigrant woman with her agent from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. What’s the big deal, you ask? Well the conversation went a little something like this:
“I want sex,” he said on the recording. “One or two times. That’s all. You get your green card. You won’t have to see me anymore.”

She reluctantly agreed to a future meeting. But when she tried to leave his car, he demanded oral sex “now,” to “know that you’re serious.” And despite her protests, she said, he got his way.
Nina adds:
And it raises broader questions about the system’s vulnerability to corruption at a time when millions of noncitizens live in a kind of legal no-man’s land, increasingly fearful of seeking the law’s protection.
This begs the question then, how often do these types of situations occur and what happens to the women, emotionally and psychologically, who generally speaking, do not record these types of illicit and illegal conversations and cannot prove their abuse?

And how different are these sexual offenses from those that happen everyday to women and girls (with citizenship) in exchange for better grades; in exchange for a raise at work; in exchange for the lead role in a music video? And how do you think we can better build coalitions between all of these women? Because at the end of the day sexual abuse is sexual abuse, green card or not!


Monday, March 17, 2008

Black Magic

I am so happy that on Sunday night I was able to catch part one of ESPN’s documentary Black Magic, which gives an in depth absolutely mesmerizing account of how historically black college basketball players struggled to get respect, recognition and dang how they struggled just for the chance to compete. I mean the doc starts by giving the details of a secret match between North Carolina’s College for Negroes and some random cats from Duke’s Medical School. The game was done behind close doors in secret with nary a seat filled. It had to be this way b/c in 1944 Blacks, err Negroes were not allowed to play with whites. Later to hear cats like Earl "The Pearl" Monroe tell it, you really get an idea of the isolation and the frustration they experienced. Earl’s story of how he went away to college and how the coach (the phenomenal Clarence Gaines) would work him so hard on the court but didn’t give him the play he felt he deserved was humorous, heartfelt and crazy poignant. Of course he went on to play for the NBA and became a legend. (Earl, I know you read this here blog and I have to say it publicly how grateful I am to now know your story!)

If you can, please check this documentary. As a matter of fact buy it if it ever goes to market. It will definitely educate you about civil rights and professional sports (The Negro Baseball League wasn’t the only entity that was affected). It is simply remarkable how these brothers changed the game, which shouldn’t come as a surprise after seeing how Tiger has rocked golf and even Venus and Serena in Tennis. Before Blacks b-balled white boys would just stroll up and down the court with a slow dribble and pass three-step. When brothers were allowed to compete they were running up and down the court like the Klan was on their as*. I really hope every current slick talkin, blinged-out NBA player sees Black Magic. Maybe they will be inspired to play harder, hit the hardwood and fight for the ball and play like it’s an opportunity of a lifetime. Because it is really is.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Weekend Washout: The Wire

As if the rain wasn't bad enough, it was so, so sad to see The Wire go bye-bye. As I mentioned here before The Wire was one of those shows that had that crunky trifecta for great tv —superb writing, outstanding, gritty acting and some serious directing. Personally I loved seeing so many of my homies from round the way make their mark and give HBO some more color, some more shine and some more edge, and of course it was gratifying knowing their hard work was finally paying off and they were getting paid. Andre Royo, who deserves an Emmy for his work this season, has paid mad dues (he played a dude named Fruity Pebblez in Big Bank Take Little Bank-- need I say more). I met him while working with Mums in this wonderful production he did for the Hip Hop Theater festival many moons ago and always thought he was as intriguing on screen as off. And of course Sonia Sohn, who I met sometime in the 90's when she was down with the amazingly tight spoken word cipher of the time. She always had that thing and would hit us with her crazy sexy cerebral flow. I remember one of her most popular poems was about sex and I can’t even remember anything more specific other than the reaction of deep guttural whoas and frenzied screams she would get every time by everyone within earshot. It was seductive, heart stabbing hard, and full of passionate angst. Now that I think about it, that poem sounds a lot like her Detective Shakima Greggs. I bet Sonia laced David Simon's eardrums with that joint and got the part just like that. I wouldn’t be surprised. Anyway I loved so many of the characters on the Wire especially the ladies and thanks to Maxwell (yep that one, now that The Wire is done he promises to finish his album... lol) he's posted all of their pics in an homage of sorts.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Uptown Magazine Goes Green

Last Thursday night I went to a panel discussion at the New York Society for Ethical Culture entitled "People of Color Don't Care About the Environment." Sponsored by Uptown Mag, the panel was moderated by this fly sister Simran Sethi of the Sundance Channel's The Green. She was on point with her questions and comments especially her criticism of Vanity Fair's recent mostly-whites-featured Green issue. Even though I haven't seen the latest issue of Uptown I think this month's jawn is their urban (read Black) spin on the environment and going Green. Anyway the discussion was ambitious and well intentioned, it's just that afterwards you just couldn't help but have this keep it real feeling reverberating in your mind that the hood ain't going green anytime soon. At least I don't think so. And by the many heads I saw nodding when the woman asked how do we do connect recycling and beautifying the earth with folk who are struggling to pay their rent and make ends meet, I'm gathering I'm not the only one with that sentiment. There just seems to be so many other issues going on in this country that I just don't think people of color feel, unfortunately so, that the environment-- the greening of the world at large is relevant. I live in a building that is mixed with working class, middle class and upper class educated colored (and white) folk and do you think we recycle? Nope. Not a blue bag or bin on the premises. Right now one of our concerns is that Columbia keeps their gentrifying hands off of our apartments. And then when I walk outside and I see the chicken bones thrown about the sidewalks and the synthetic hair blowing pass storefronts, I'm disgusted and know that folks in my hood are very far away from thinking about nature and land preservation. So many of them don’t even respect their own walk-ups and elevators as the ubiquitous, penetrating smell of piss will undoubtedly confirm. Is it just me and my cynicism or do we need to get hiphop on board the Green boat before we can expect to see change in our urban areas. And it cannot simply be a few (Russell Simmons, Erykah Badu and dead prez), but it’s gotta be infused in the culture as a whole. And what's going on in our public schools? I don't have children so I have no idea if eco-friendly ideals are being taught and discussed.

On a positive note there are quite a few heads in NYC (esp in the BX-- oh yeah!)taking charge and doing their part to save our earth like Jarid Manos (who was on the panel) and who has written a very intriguing book called Ghetto Plainsman.

There's also Zena Nelson's South Bronx Food Cooperative that's getting people hooked on eating organic and at very reasonable prices.

I gotta give propos to the folks behind The Go Green East Harlem Cookbook!

And of course there is Majora Carter, also in the South Bronx, who won a MacArthur Genius award for her work "greening the ghetto." (her talk @TED conference)

UPDATE CORRECTION: Simran Sethi was not critical of Vanity Fair's Green Issue. She was instead "proud and grateful (to be) featured - as a woman of color and as a person who cares deeply about these issues." Read more of her remarks in the comments section. Sorry Simran about the confusion!

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