Monday, July 20, 2009

An Open Letter to My Brothas & Sistas, Inspired by President Obama's Speech @ The NAACP

Remember back in the day when black was beautiful? I remember my dad wearing a dashiki and having various picks to groom his afro. I think my favorite was the folding pick that had a handle which on one side was red, the other was green and the two unfolded and came together. He also had "the rake" and the ever popular black pick with the peace sign in the middle and a fist on the end of the handle.

Being a child of the seventies, I have photos of my older brothers wearing shirts with collars as wide as their shoulders and plaid pants with belts four inches wide. Thankfully, by the time I came along, the train wreck which was the fashion of the 70's had been cleared from the tracks to make way for lace gloves, day glow colors, gummy bracelets and the like, but that is a different blog altogether.

By the time the nineties rolled around, the dashikis were replaced with kente cloth in vibrant, bright colors. Braids and locs were very popular among African-Americans and artists like Arrested Development, De La Soul, Meshell Ndegeocello, Public Enemy and A Tribe Called Quest were raising our awareness and celebrating our culture, our lives and our selves.

I remember turning on the TV and seeing images which were like us. The Cosby Show was the first show with which I truly identified. The professional parents, the family values, the children going to college, the appreciation for jazz and art - all of these things reflected my upbringing. It was followed by others like Amen, A Different World and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. So why is it that in 2009, there are no black family dramas or sitcoms in primetime on any of the major networks? Sure, there is the "CW," the result of a merger between the UPN and the WB networks and TBS has a couple of Tyler Perry shows. But why is it that the major networks are still devoid of any black sitcoms or dramas? Cosby was “must see TV” in the 80s and this is where we are more than 20 years later?

Even BET or Black Entertainment Television fails to provide us with any intelligent or socially redeeming series (think Tiny & Toya – enough said). But then again, BET is no longer black owned, just as many of the radio stations these days (a fact in which I find myself taking pride as of late). Are black people less interested in our culture now? No. Do black people watch less television or listen to less radio today? No.

It seems we have reverted to the 70s, when the only black people we saw on TV were pimps, hookers, felons and clowns. “Jive Turkey!” has been replaced as a catchphrase and the over-sexualized black woman is again in fashion. Today’s youth hear profanity and nonsense on the radio at all hours of the day and night. Undercover Brother must have been right and we must have eaten "The General’s fried chicken" because the new part of the problem is that WE are condoning it, emulating it and aggrandizing it by celebrating songs, movies and videos that glamorize it.

Surely I missed the memo that said it was time for us as a race to begin behaving like the stereotypes and abandon the ingenuity, pride, dignity and resolve that characterized the civil rights movement and our history in general. I would neither appreciate nor accept a man calling me a “hoe, trick or biatch” in real time so why would I accept it in a song, movie or video? I WOULDN’T, but according to what we see in the media, I am obviously in the minority here - a side effect of too much scantily-clad booty shaking, no doubt (insert eye roll and sarcastic tone). It must be a directly related to the fact that my black man is not rough and tough enough to beat me into my right mind. He must need to sag his pants a little lower, don a fresh doo-rag and wifebeater and complete another 5-10 year bid in the state pen to set me right .

Our president spoke at the centennial anniversary of the NAACP and implored us to do better and demand better for ourselves, our children, our ancestors and our communities. My mother didn’t march in the 60s to be disrespected by young black men who choose not to benefit from her sacrifice and her commitment to the fact that her children would not know the same hardships and inequalities she did. No, she worked to eradicate barriers and although they still exist, we as a people are creating new obstacles as we shuck and jive ourselves back into the days of Jim Crow and second-class citizenry.

Wake up, people! Demand that Hollywood and the media put some clothes on black women and allow them to say more than "Uh huh!" "No you di'nt" and "You go Girl!" Analyze the lyrics you and your children hear and repeat, and determine whether or not they are in line with your morals and values! Instill in your children a strong work ethic and the desire to educate themselves and succeed in life - rather than "get rich or die trying.!" Look up the words “class” and “dignity” in the nearest dictionary or Google them if you don’t own a dictionary (then hang your head in shame for not owning one) and begin to emulate them, rather than this ridiculousness we currently accept as African-American culture. WE ONCE WERE KINGS. If we must turn back time, let’s turn it back far enough to teach our children to be royalty rather than wannabe thugs and comic relief.

Sadly, this message will be ignored. Why? Because the people who are reading this are already doing what needs to be done. The challenge is reaching the ones who are not.

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