Category Archives: Voices

Voices: Remembering Don Cornelius [Culturelicious]

When I looked at “Soul Train” host Don Cornelius back in the ‘70s, I didn’t see a pro-black entrepreneur who would become the “African American” Dick Clark.

I saw my dad. And his entire generation.
- Eric Deggans, Tampa Bay Times

Continue reading

Voices: R.I.P. Etta James (1938-2012)

Compiled by Arturo R. García

The live performance is brutal, a storm of laidback blues and thunderous notes, and as raw as if the song’s betrayal had happened just earlier that evening. James punishes that microphone until you pity it. At one point she begins to pounce on the word “baby,’’ booming its syllables like they’re meant to sound like gunfire.

Dr. John eventually saunters over from his piano, looking like a dog that’s just peed on the rug. He’s supposed to appease James for stepping out on her – “It wasn’t nothin’ serious / I guess I was just a little delirious’’ – but even he knows it’s in vain. Hell hath no fury like this particular woman scorned.

At the end of the performance, James embraces Dr. John, her head resting on his shoulder, and I like to imagine James is thinking what I’m thinking: Where the hell did that just come from?

In just six minutes, that, to me, is the essence of Etta James. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since.
- James Reed, The Boston Globe

Continue reading

Voices: Reactions To ‘If I Were A Poor Black Kid’

By Arturo R. García

Just when you thought Satoshi Kanazawa had wrapped up Tone-Deaf Article Of The Year honors for 2011, Forbes’ Gene Marks sauntered his way into consideration Monday with “If I Were A Poor Black Kid,” which spun a speech by President Obama on economic inequality into a privilege-fest with bon mots like these, emphasis mine:

If I was a poor black kid I would first and most importantly work to make sure I got the best grades possible. I would make it my #1 priority to be able to read sufficiently. I wouldn’t care if I was a student at the worst public middle school in the worst inner city. Even the worst have their best. And the very best students, even at the worst schools, have more opportunities. Getting good grades is the key to having more options. With good grades you can choose different, better paths. If you do poorly in school, particularly in a lousy school, you’re severely limiting the limited opportunities you have.

Somehow Forbes chose not to tag the bit about good grades as BREAKING NEWS. But maybe Marks’ editors didn’t want to overshadow the moment when he breaks it down even further than the President. That whole Occupy business? Totally barking up the wrong tree:

President Obama was right in his speech last week. The division between rich and poor is a national problem. But the biggest challenge we face isn’t inequality. It’s ignorance. So many kids from West Philadelphia don’t even know these opportunities exist for them. Many come from single-parent families whose mom or dad (or in many cases their grand mom) is working two jobs to survive and are just (understandably) too plain tired to do anything else in the few short hours they’re home. Many have teachers who are overburdened and too stressed to find the time to help every kid that needs it. Many of these kids don’t have the brains to figure this out themselves – like my kids. Except that my kids are just lucky enough to have parents and a well-funded school system around to push them in the right direction.

And about Prof. Melissa Harris-Perry thinking Marks’ column sounded like something out of The Onion? Well, she’s not wrong:

You know, it occurs to me that you don’t even live in America. And I’ve got to know, what the heck are you doing living in Sri Lanka? What do they have there? Camels? Rugs? Well, I can tell you one thing they don’t have: 100 percent grade-A American opportunity.

America is the land of milk and honey. You can probably catch a flight here from Sri Lanka for as little as $2,500 if you shop around. So what’s keeping you? Okay, I can imagine how it is: you live in a back alley and you eat garbage. And maybe you don’t have the liquid capital to outlay $2,500 on a luxury-like first-class airfare to the U.S. Well, you can always fly coach for about a third of first-class fare, and if worst comes to worst, put it on the plastic. As long as you pay it off as quickly as you can, the interest won’t cramp your style. (See Tip #1.)

It should also be noted that, as, Talking Point Memo’s Callie Schweitzer pointed out, Marks has also applied his “wisdom” to gender-equality issues in the workplace:

Women also have more personal and social pressures than men. And this affects their ability to further their careers and get the experience they need to become good managers. It’s common today for families to have two working parents. But let’s admit it, when little Johnny gets sick at school who’s the first person that’s usually called? When a child is up at night coughing, which parent is staying up with her? When the plumber has to make an emergency morning visit, who’s generally staying at home to deal with it?

It’s usually mom. And even if she has a full time job too.

When my wife and I were younger and our baby would cry in the middle of the night I would put a pillow…over my head. That stopped the crying for sure. My wife (who was working full time by the way) was the one who got out of bed to care for the child. Yes, I was an ass. I’m not saying that many dads don’t pitch in or try to do their fair share. But as much as women have achieved in earning their equality, there are still some age old cultural habits that won’t die. Children need their mommies. And most moms I know, whether they have a full time job or not, want to be there for their child. I know plenty of women who admit they struggle with this instinctual tug on their gut. Men don’t have this kind of instinctual tug. Let’s face it: unless there’s beer involved, men don’t have many instincts at all. We figure our wives will ultimately handle these things. And in many cases, they just do.

I could go on and on, and but, you know – beer. More reaction from around the ‘Net under the cut.

Continue reading

The Racial Legacy of 9/11 [Voices]

Superman and the Heroes of 9/11

September 11th is often remembered as one of those moments where we all came together as Americans in response to a horrific attack on our nation’s soil. However, the truth is more complicated. The enduring legacy of racism prevents many people from being considered as full Americans, and the years after the attack were marred with prejudice and hatred toward American citizens who were suddenly marked as different. We spend this day in remembrance, not only for those who performed everyday acts of heroism, and not only for those who lost their lives, but also remembering the way in which Americans have failed each other – for allowing an attack from terrorists to call into question our ideals as a nation. We may have lost the Twin Towers, but we did not lose who we are.

So, in true American fashion, we will continue to fight to be heard, ensuring that everyone’s American story is told.

Let’s begin with a great video series on the Unheard Voices of 9/11 produced by the Sikh Coalition.

Since many people were caught in the wave of backlash and discrimination post-9/11, the Sikh Coalition asked people to send in their videos about how discrimination has impacted their lives.

Shawn Singh talks about how suddenly, post 9/11, it impacted his understanding of his Sikh Identity:

Kevin Harrington talked about discriminatory treatment at the New York City Transit Authority – despite the fact that he helped to evacuate people on 9/11, Harrington was approached in 2004 and told he could not continue working in passenger service because of his turban:

Rabia Said remembers being 8 years old and being told by a pastor and by the police that her clothing was why she was targeted racial profiling:

Continue reading

Voices: Reflecting on Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 2011

Monday, February 7, was National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.  Below are two writers on the continuing conditions perpetuating HIV infection in Black communities and how to combat them.–AJP

Black AIDS Institute’s chief executive and president, Phill Wilson, wasn’t exaggerating when he said that “AIDS is the fire that is ravaging the black community.”

So what exactly is fueling the flames?

There is no one answer. It’s a combination of many factors: Poverty and economic instability. Institutionalized racism. Lack of quality health care, poor access to health care in general and mistrust in the medical system. Gender inequality and domestic violence. Homophobia. Intravenous drug use and the lack of needle-exchange programs. Poor health literacy. High rates of incarceration. Untreated sexually transmitted diseases, such as herpes and gonorrhea, which make people more vulnerable to contracting HIV. And people having unprotected sex while unaware that they are positive, and who thus go untreated while they’re highly infectious.

The slow response by the federal government has played a role as well, as has a lack of funding. Thirty years into the epidemic, and it was only just last year that the U.S. government finally released a national HIV/AIDS strategy.

But most importantly, the black community’s own slow response to the epidemic has had a profound impact. Minus a few exceptions, most black media publications, churches and community leaders set the tone early by turning a blind eye to HIV, believing that this epidemic was not their problem and that HIV was a moral issue as opposed to a public health crisis. In the end, we have all paid a price for their unwillingness to address the disease early on.

Don’t get me wrong: Over the years, we have seen some progress in having public conversations about HIV, and the importance of getting tested and practicing safer sex. But we still have a long way to go. Unfortunately, too many current conversations about HIV — especially in the black media — are either met with resistance, treaded lightly or saturated with inaccuracies (think: everything about the down low).

~~Kellee Terrell, “HIV/AIDS in Black America: The Uphill Battle

In the late 1990s, right about when taxpayer-developed lifesaving drugs hit the market and America declared victory over HIV, the epidemic split: Black diagnoses continued climbing as a share of overall diagnoses, while white diagnoses plummeted. In other words, in the part of America where people had access to care, the epidemic changed dramatically; elsewhere, it didn’t.

There are many, complex factors driving the black AIDS epidemic, from the much discussed stigma to the much less discussed basic access to meaningful health care. We’ll be parsing these throughout the year. But in the end, as the graph above suggests, today’s epidemic is also shaped dramatically by one factor: whether our government takes it seriously enough to end it, in all parts of our society.

~~Kai Wright, “One Question on Black AIDS Day: Do We Care Enough to End It?”

Image credit: CBS Minnesota