I got a hypochondriac flow that get real ill, get nauseous to the beat, I spit sick at will.

My 13 Favorite Pop Culture Moments of 2013

I don’t have a long preamble for this. This list is just my way of trying to pull together a lot of disparate pop culture moments that struck me in some profound way during the year. I think the more you engage with pop culture the more it can feel like you’re always having the same conversations, with the same people, in the same way. So when something disrupts that monotony, frustrates the dominant ways we think and talk about our relationship to one another, I think it’s important.

Here are the 13 moments this year that made me sit up and look at the world just a little bit differently.

 



Posted on December 31st, 2013 - Filed under Best of 2013,Culture,Film,Music,Television
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The Cruel Racism of the Real World

reg_634.QWallis.mh.022413Quvenzhané Wallis was the butt of a deeply sexist, racist inappropriate joke by whoever is tweeting for The Onion last night (which I will not link to or describe because it’s ugly).

And what upsets me so much about it is that this beautiful little nine-year-old black girl had to get a lesson in just what it means to be a black girl in a white supremacist patriarchal country at the exact time that she’s being honored for her artistry. In fact “upsets” is too bland a word for what I feel. It’s anger. A profound sadness.

But the sad, maddening truth of this moment is that it is not surprising. Black people, girls and women especially, are never safe from the random omnipotence of anti-black sentiment that infects this nation, but I had hoped that maybe this poised, thoughtful, remarkably self-possessed beautiful little girl would have this one night.

But she didn’t. The Onion tweeter took that from her. Violently. Cruelly. Unconsciously, it seems.

Welcome to America.



Posted on February 25th, 2013 - Filed under Culture,Current Affairs,Film
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Telling Our Own Stories, Black People

Khalil Kain

Khalil Kain, late of the brilliant television show Girlfriends, has a fascinating interview on Ebony.com promoting his new role in the classic 1970s Negro Ensemble Company play, The Great MacDaddy.

I was struck most by this exchange:

EBONY: How do you feel about Black theater and Black film right now? Do you feel like it’s growing?

KK: What African-American film? What African-American theater? I just watched Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway and Daphne Rubin-Vega, Nicole Ari Parker, Wood Harris, these are people that I know personally, ripped it, it was all good. I love the production, but it’s still Tennessee Williams. It’s still not ours.  So now, as opposed to Blackface, it’s Black folks up there doing White work. And I love the opportunity to kind of do a classic piece like that, but at the same time there is a whole bunch of stuff that we already have. Can we do some of that? Paul Carter Harrison is the man. He’s one of those old heads that we have to tap into, because he has so much knowledge. That’s one of the reasons I took the job; the chance to sit next to the man and get up in his head for a little bit and see what I can take away. That’s how it use to go down. We use to learn from our elders, and we don’t do that anymore. I think it’s a huge mistake.

EBONY: Why do you think everybody should go see The Great MacDaddy?

KK: The play is hugely relevant and its part of African-American history. I don’t want to even get into culture because, really, what is our culture as African-Americans? This young man I met in the street, probably in his late 20s, asked me, “So you’re doing plays? Why you doing plays?” And I’m like, “You need to come check it out.” He’s like, “Why would I go?” And I was like, “To get some culture up in you! What does culture mean to you?” He was like, “Culture is annoying.” I was like, “Wow, how do you define where you come from?” He was like, “I know who I am.” I didn’t want to ask. I was just like, “alright bro.” That’s where we’re at now.

I think what Kain is getting at here is really quite remarkable because I don’t feel like we hear enough Black artists articulating forthrightly – Paul Carter Harrison is the man – that to do our own shit is valuable in and of itself. And that we lose something when we don’t.



Posted on December 4th, 2012 - Filed under Culture,Film,Television
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Lupe Fiasco and the Radical Messiness of Black Male Feeling

Get More: Lupe Fiasco, Music News

 

I wonder if people – black people especially – really appreciate how beautiful it is to live at a time when black men are allowing themselves to feel so openly, to be emotional in public.

Lupe Fiasco articulates something that black men have been saying for a long time: that black men are dying, killing themselves and each other, that we live in a society where black male life is disposable. And he’s eloquent on the substance of what you see in this clip.

But what is truly remarkable is that he lets himself feel something more than just frustration and anger at the plight of black men. This is a display of profound, deep sadness. It’s love. Pure. Messy.

It takes Lupe Fiasco a minute to find the words. Those precious, awkward moments before he starts to find the words are wonderous, awe-inspiring, and deeply affecting.

And yet, when I watched this I was uncomfortable because I still don’t really know how to respond. This is not my vernacular. My reference is the 90s’ cold, hard grip on “keepin it real,” even as I never felt fully a part of that. My language is 2pac’s righteous indignation and anger, even it left me in so many ways illiterate.

I struggle with deep emotion. Still.

Artists like Drake, J. Cole, Frank Ocean, Kanye West and others are playing in space that is quite new. And while I think they often confuse narcissism for reflection and miss the mark in communicating what they are genuinely feeling, I appreciate so very much that the range of emotion that black men can feel publicly – and be successful and lauded – is so much broader now than it has been in the past.

Millennials have so many more colors to play with than previous generations allowed themselves. We should celebrate that.



Posted on July 28th, 2012 - Filed under Culture,Music,Self-reflection
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I Spent the Week at Alyssa Rosenberg’s Crib on ThinkProgress