Monday, January 15, 2007

Breaking Bread -- A Dinner in English, Spanish and German

Today is MLK Day. It is interesting to watch it morph into an African American version of a national church service, like the Palm Sunday of my childhood as delivered by the Rose of Sharon Club at Mt Zion Holy Tabernacle, or Men's Day Services at any congregation's house of worship found on Nashville's Church Street near Fisk University. James Brown's funeral gave me the same feeling, especially after he has appeared on the cover or Rolling Stone and other magazines. It is kind of like a potluck, where you don't know which black man or woman is important in the constellation of American heroes till they are dead. So Ed Bradley gets a yes, while Gerald Levert gets a no.

For my MLK festivities, I went and had dinner with Sylvia and her kids. I walked into a room full of ladies and babies, between the ages of 3 and 8 or so. All boys, all part Venezuelan, African American, German, Argentinian, Jamaican and a couple of other countries. Great! Before our dinner, the kids sat down and were given a great speech by the Sylvia about how it is important to stick together and not allow other people to be teased because they may be different than the group. Then we ate fried chicken. That was one of the best dinners I have had, not just because of the food, but because of the company, and the spirit of the evening. I felt like it was done right, kind of like Christmas, but kind of not. It just turned into a German, English and Spanish verbal love fest. The only problem was that I was the only non-parent, so I didn't know how to let it end. Parents get going, I feel like I lingered a bit, but not too long. Talking to Sylvia's husband Andre at the end was great, he gets my anxiety about being back stateside. He grew up outside of Muenster.

This is the first MLK Day without Coretta Scott King, so it is significant to me. It is like the festivities are set to start a life of their own. I wonder what it will look like in 100 years, will people have an inkling of what it was really like, or will it be just sound bites and a collage of black and white images presented as the totality of the experience. I saw footage from Meet the Press from 40 years ago, and I must say that I am impressed beyond a doubt every time I hear Dr. Martin Luther King's speaking voice. But the true kind of fighting and blood letting I heard from my grandmother is never talked about in this part of the country (Up North). She talked about black soldiers rioting, about a cousin shooting to defend his property in the 1920's or 30's, about hiding her brother when the Klan was riding and the death of a child after a car accident because the ambulance only picked up white people. Before and sometime after MLK and his non-violence stance, I always received the message that at some point, in order to defend their property, many blacks resorted to violence or tactical cunning. For some the outcome was divine benevolence from a judge or God him/herself and for others it was death by an angry mob, but in the end . . . c'est la vie.


I saw I Love New York on VH-1. I know that many of my friends dislike the show, but I really don't like entering the American workforce or dealing with people without knowing what the prevailing stereotypes are, nor why the white people at my job look at me funny when I tell them about my work experience and life. Many of the people think that I am lying because "black people don't do", what I do. Everything from their change in posture and their switch to the vernacular betrays this. So, I like to keep current.

Virginia Heffernan's review in NYT is an anthropological interpretation of this season's Celebreality. The review is really efficient in its dramaturgical dismantling of the minstrel show, but the reviewers language is definitely crafted for the middle-class and the Uber-middle-class of NYC. In short, the show itself was less alarming to me than for the sweet and salty New York Times reviewer of this new Negriod Heaven by VH-1.

I am going to watch this show regardless of what my friends say though. Many believe it is acting (and it really is), staged, retrograde, reprobate and derogatory. Yeah, that is there, but there are also some interesting issues concerning character. New York is fascinating to watch because she has no internal core, just an internal compass for her desire. Her responses to people and different environments are truly protean. Her inner demeanor changes, but the body stays the same. In terms of race, the "negrita" comment by Rico and New York' s response was very good for people to see on television. Plus, there is a good amount of nice booty in this bunch, and as far as I can see it is all being pimped by one woman. So, I am wondering how the contestants and the producers play this angle.

There is one thing that the reviewer pointed out that hit close to home. All the guys that were rejected were the ones that were not hard enough, but might have had something going for them. The ones that stayed were completely crazy. I remember this being my life in high school and college for the most part. Black women blatantly told me I was too smart to date, then when I dated someone outside of my race I was pounced on like a intruder at Artemis's bath (been watching HBO's ROME, excuse the metaphors). And when I said I had a relationship with a man then I became this strange non-person, or privy to some black women's secrets concerning other men but with no desire of my own. New York's selection is staged and arranged by producers, but then again, doesn't this happen in real life too? If New York has ratings to maintain, then what is the reasoning behind what happens in our community concerning hard and soft men? A reverend years ago said that this was a problem in the black community that will come home to roost. I have heard no other analysis of this situation since that chance meeting twelve years ago.


Lyrically speaking said...

The show "I Love NY" to me is a disgrace, i watch it and always feel so disgusted...there are no good shows out there...I miss the good old days

Littlemilk said...

I agree. It is the most censurable of guilty pleasures. This last week's show was really brutal, especially with New York reading out a brother's credit report.


But it was telling of some other things in our community. Just as the source of Pootie's fear shocked me too! To think that Tupac and Biggie's death have such a debilitating influence on him.