President Barack Obama, Parliament, P-Funk & the Chocolate City Reality

11 12 2008

“Uh, what’s happening CC?
They still call it the White House
But that’s a temporary condition, too.
Can you dig it, CC?”
(Lyrics from Parliament’s Chocolate City LP)

Back in 1975 when George Clinton and the P-Funk band Parliament released Chocolate City, a tongue in cheek musical parody on the African American population majority of Washington, D.C. it is doubtful if any of those listeners thought a black man would ascend to this nation’s highest office.

“There’s a lot of chocolate cities, around
We’ve got Newark, we’ve got Gary
Somebody told me we got L.A.
And we’re working on Atlanta
But you’re the capital, CC”
(Lyrics from Parliament’s Chocolate City LP)

No doubt, today’s Hip Hop youth prone to believing conspiracies such as Tupac still being alive are probably declaring that the often sampled, 67-year old, multi-colored hair George Clinton is a prophet of sorts. Chocolate City would go on to reach number 18 on the Billboard soul LP charts in 1975 and later hit #91 on the album charts. “Chocolate City”, the title track and first single, reached #24 on the black chart and #94 on the Billboard Hot 100. Prior to Parliament’s use of the moniker Chocolate City local D.C. Radio One’s flagship station WOL-AM regularly referred to D.C. as “chocolate city” because of the preponderance of African Americans making up the capital city’s population.

“Hey, CC!
They say your jivin’ game, it can’t be changed
But on the positive side,
You’re my piece of the rock
And I love you, CC.
Can you dig it?”
(Lyrics from Parliament’s Chocolate City LP)

The year 1975 was an eventful, if not sometimes turbulent one, in the U.S. and abroad. John N. Mitchell, H. R. Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman were found guilty in the Watergate cover-up and sentenced from 30 months to 8 years in jail; the South Vietnamese surrender Saigon and the remaining American POWs are evacuated back to the United States effectively ending the Vietnam War; President Gerald Ford escapes two assassination attempts in one month; home videotape systems (VCRs) are developed in Japan by Sony (Betamax) and Matsushita (VHS); the Altair home computer kit allows consumers to build and program their own personal computers; Saturday Night Live premieres on NBC; the current median household income (in current dollars) is $11,800; a first class stamp is 10-cents and the federal debt is $541.9 billion.

“Hey, uh, we didn’t get our forty acres and a mule
But we did get you, CC, heh, yeah
Gainin’ on ya
Movin’ in and around ya
God bless CC and its vanilla suburbs”
(Lyrics from Parliament’s Chocolate City LP)

This particular year also was cause for African Americans to celebrate small but important gains: Arthur Ashe becomes the first African American to wins the British Men’s Singles at Wimbledon; the Morehouse School of Medicine (Atlanta) becomes the only black medical school established in the United States in the 20th Century; General Daniel “Chappie” James of the Air Force becomes the first African American four star general; The first black owned television station, WGPR, begins broadcasting in Detroit, and Frank Robinson becomes the first black Major League Baseball manager when he takes over the Cleveland Indians.

“Ah, blood to blood
Ah, players to ladies
The last percentage count was eighty
You don’t need the bullet when you got the ballot
Are you up for the downstroke, CC?
Chocolate city
Are you with me out there?”
(Lyrics from Parliament’s Chocolate City LP)

In retrospect the iconoclastic cover art stands out even more so, because it displays images of the United States Capitol, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial in the form of a milk chocolate medallion. The trickster-musician Clinton and his sidekick co-writers (Bernie Worrell and Bootsy Collins) are probably winking at one another in a knowing way–particularly since the mainstream press and the Obama cabinet have patterned the President elect as a 21st century reincarnation of the great emancipator Abraham Lincoln.

When the second executive order of the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by Honest Abe in 1863, it is highly likely that even he believed (or wanted) a tall, rangy, Senator of African ancestry with a non-Anglo name from his home state of Illinois, would in a little over 135 years become the President of the United States.

“And when they come to march on ya
Tell ‘em to make sure they got their James Brown pass
And don’t be surprised if Ali is in the White House
Reverend Ike, Secretary of the Treasure
Richard Pryor, Minister of Education
Stevie Wonder, Secretary of FINE arts
And Miss Aretha Franklin, the First Lady
Are you out there, CC?”
(Lyrics from Parliament’s Chocolate City LP)

Maybe George Clinton and crew in their own cosmic, otherworldly, way knew something in 1975 that the rest of us Americans are only understanding today.

“A chocolate city is no dream
It’s my piece of the rock and I dig you, CC”
(Lyrics from Parliament’s Chocolate City LP)





Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama: Old Guard Civil Rights Envy and the Conundrum of Post Modern American Politics

15 07 2008

“A setting sun gives off no heat”
—Hayward L. Oubre, visual artist

Chicago and the Chicago political scene have long been said to be the playground of an assortment of unsavory politicians, corrupt and crooked public officials, shady hustlers and Mafioso old school gangsters (e.g. Sam Giancana, Al Capone, Bugs Moran) and their modern day prodigy (crews that go by names like Latin Kings, Vice Lords and Gangster Disciples). However, the recent comments whispered by aging Civil rights leader and longtime activist Rev. Jesse Jackson into an open microphone, to another guest on a Fox network program, to castrate presidential hopeful Barack Obama was the epitome of Windy City gangsterism.

Far from being a simple case of individual jealousy between individuals, the Obama/Jackson differences signify a greater issue: generational disconnect and ego starvation. Age and experiences tend to affect the viewpoint of the human being. Across the United States and the world, as they always have, youth are re-defining their realities, perspectives, vantage points and world views via their music, clothing, mores, technological advancements etc. The Baby Boomer, Civil Rights and Anti-Vietnam War Homo-sapiens scarcely understand their text messaging, computer saavy offspring.

For the Rev. Jackson and his Civil Rights era cronies Barack Obama’s theme of non-racialist collaboration, racial reconciliation and content of character seems to threaten their hegemony as the leader/spokesmen of African Americans and lower class Americans; equally it could cut into the lucrative race-based lectures, seminars and Shakedowns that have been said to benefit Rev. Jackson and friends. Of course this also applies to those on the opposite side (e.g. Rush Limbaugh, David Horowitz, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly et. al) that have benefited financially from playing up racial differences and immigration issues.

For both sides (Conservative and Liberal) to expect today’s youth demographic to buy into their out of date manifestos and well worn truths, is analogous to the U.S. military in Iraq launching a ground offensive using Revolutionary War era muskets.

Amazingly, Rev. Jackson’s comments on Fox news that Obama was “talking down to black people” based on the latter’s Fathers Day sermon at a church, in which he asked African American men to be more responsible, seemed to be along the lines of comedia Bill Cosby’s much debated comments made in 2004 at an NAACP convention. Incidentally, several months later in July 2004, Jackson was on the stage beside Cosby at a fundraiser dinner for Jackson’s Rainbow/Push Coalition. At that time according to media sources Jackson defended a worked up and ranting Cosby by saying: “Bill is saying lets fight the right fight, lets level the playing field…drunk people can’t do that, illiterate people can’t do that.” Apparently Cosby’s ability to put large sums of money into the Reverend’s coffers far outweighed any comments the Cos had made that some took to be offensive and degrading when it came to African Americans.

Interestingly enough, for all of the Group Think-ism about black radicalism and extremism history points out the fact that African Americans, on the whole, tend to be pretty conservative when it comes to most issues of personal behavior. Even the Chicago based raconteur and Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan seems to be speaking the same type of ultra-conservative, self-help message that sounds similar, at times, to that of Pat Buchanan, Jerry Falwell and Rush Limbaugh.

Many of the Clinton supported Old Guard Civil Rights activists like John Lewis and Andrew Young were not supporters of Obama during the Democratic primaries–(actually at times both were greater detractors than ardent Hillary supporters)–and attempted to rally African Americans behind Hillary Clinton, whose husband Bill was known to give numerous insider perks to certain people during his presidential days. The often beat up (during the Civil Rights protests and Freedom Rides) John Lewis eventually recanted his support for Hillary after black Georgians made overtures that he (Lewis) would not receive their electoral support in the future. The congressman and Super Delegate later retracted his support for Hillary and sputtered a new position: “The peoples of the 5th district have spoken!” Translation: Most of you (my constituents) are on the Obama change wagon, so I guess I might as well get with the program. His buddy in “Civil Rights redneck beat downs,” Martin Luther King, Jr. confidant, former Atlanta mayor and Nigerian oil speculator Andrew Young was also heavily criticized by African American youth and hip hop generationalists that were born many, many years after the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Bill for his “bought and paid” attitude.

At the core of these generational divides is ego and what author Charles Johnson says may be the “end of the black American narrative“. Or rather, according to Obama and todays color-blind youth, the forging of a new postmodern racial construct may not be in line with Rev. Jackson and the Old Guard Civil Rights outlook. Following a protest march in the nations capital several years ago, one seasoned Harlem activist was said to have commented to a local newspaper: “Well, they (the opposition and source of the protest) have something for marching feet these days–Scholl’s foot pads.”

Charles Johnson’s narrative revision is not applicable to Rev. Jackson, Al Sharpton and his comrades alone, but also goes for Cold War ludites, rabid southern segregationists and that particular clique of citizenry that worship Rush Limbaugh, Jesse Helms and Ann Coulter as the coming of Jesus Christ. Problems of war, economic demise, food shortages and climate/ecological upheaval seem to be the issues on the radar of today’s youth. Thus, the left and right rhetoric and ideologies, represented in the worldviews of Jesse Jackson and Jesse Helms, appear more increasingly as dinosaur fossils to youth seeking middle ground and equitable solutions.

It certainly appears as though the rise of Obama, and other post Civil Rights babes threatens the affluence of the older “shakedown” activists and the legitimate politicians, conscious clergyman and well-meaning change agents still ensconced in a mythical past. As some black youth have contended, “we appreciate and revere the contributions made by Rev. Jackson and the older Civil Rights leaders, but this is a new day.”

Indeed it is. Indeed it is.





Noise from the Right and Left: Barak Obama, Presidential Candidates and Faulty Language Use

8 07 2008

Barack Obama is a muslim” says the mass email and cordial whispers being circulated by poor, middle, upper middle class and wealthy Americans. Some, but not all, of the persons that write and verbally repeat the “Obama is a muslim” reframe are conservative; while some are liberal; many profess to be Christians; some are white collar professionals and others are blue collar workers; a few appear to be employed as journalists or have affiliation with the news industry; many are highly educated while others have little or no formal education; a large number appear to be of Caucasian ethnicity but there may be some other ethnic groups that have picked up on the noise and spread the rumor. One thing for sure, a large proportion seem to be native born Americans.

The U.S. with it’s abundance of free schooling and large number of universities prides itself on having a learned and literate populace; however, the recent firestorm of unsubstantiated innuendos and accusations against Barack and Michelle Obama validate the hypotheses developed by mathematician/linguist Alfred Korzybski half a century ago. Namely that “our perceptions/conceptions (called Reality Tunnels by Dr. Timothy Leary) are also shaped by the structure of the language we use.”

Korzybski’s opus on the study of semantically inaccurate word usage is entitled “Science and Sanity”. The proponents of Korzybski and later Richard Bandler (advocate of neuro-linguistic programming) define the aforementioned linguistics work as ‘General Semantics’. As such, advocates and proponents of General Semantics, state great displeasure with Western language (English) mis-use. Korzybski’s followers state the chief culprit of the “Obama is a muslim” hysteria gripping America would be the verb “is” and cognates like “was” and “be”. Essentially these cognates suggest “constant assumption of identity”.

Notice the difference in the following absolute statements: “The photon is a wave. Barack Obama is a Muslim. Hillary Clinton is a racist.” In Korzybski’s system of general semantics these absolutes might be re-stated as: “The photon behaved like a wave when measured with this particular scientific apparatus.” The unsubstantiated, dogmatic, Obama is a Muslim might read: “Many people have assumed Barack Obama is a Muslim because his father was a Muslim and his middle name is common amongst Muslims in Saudi Arabia.” The over-simplified “Hillary is a racist” would become “Hillary came off as being a racist to some because of comments made during the election concerning Obama and white voters.”

Korzybski said that Isness is an illness.

The writing and speaking of English without “is” and other cognates (was, be, will be, etc. “appears as E-Prime. However, E-Prime can prove clunky and stylistically unfeasible.

Worse still, I wonder how much “human anger and violence and wars” have resulted from poor semantics. Imagine if a nationwide ban on “IS” and other guilty cognates had been applied on this year’s presidential campaign?





The Meaning of the 21st Century

18 06 2008

In the cover blurb of his outstanding book “The Meaning of the 21st Century” entrepreneur, scientist, philanthropist and the founder of Oxford’s 21st Century School Sir James Martin says: humanity is “traveling at breakneck speed into an era of extremes–extremes of wealth and poverty, extremes in technology, extremes in weapons, extremes of globalism. If we are to survive, we must learn how to manage them all.” If we do not, then according to Martin “we may be headed for a new Dark Ages”.

Martin notes unequivocally, that if humanity is to survive on planet earth, it will do so because of the 21C Transition Generation. These are the creative, innovative and tech saavy teenagers and college students, currently living, very well may experience fresh water running out in many parts of the world (that will ultimately make food production difficult and bring about conflict and war); they will also experience increased climate catastrophies that caused Hurricane Katrina, and significant increases in human population. This generation will be responsible for implementing many of the changes Martin mentions in “The Meaning of the 21st Century”.

In chapter 13 The Awsome Meaning of This Century the author ask the question, “So, what is the meaning of the 21st Century?” Good question. Martin says emphatically that the 21st Century will bring us the following challenges:

1). The Earth 7). The Biosphere 13). Existential Risk
2). Poverty 8). Terrorism 14). Transhumanism
3). Population 9). Creativity 15). Advanced Civilization
4). Lifestyles 10). Disease 16). GAIA
5). War 11). Human Potential 17). The Skill/Wisdom Gap
6). Globalism 12). The Singularity

Not content to just produce a book on the 21st Century Martin also has plans to release a film of the very same title. A gifted futurist, Martin’s ideas about the future and the earth’s sustainability were well-received by attendees at a lecture on the campus headquarters of Microsoft computer software.

The issue that all educators in higher education should be ultimately concerned with is: Are today’s first generation 1.0 colleges and universities prepared for the world their students will inhabit?





Ralph Ellison: A Biography

16 06 2008

A must read book for lovers of great literature and biography enthusiasts is Arnold Rampersad’s phenomenal book Ralph Ellison: A Biography. This hefty but well developed tome is not for the faint of heart used to skimming through light weight, sundry, literature of the day.

In typical Rampersad fashion the erudite and urbane Stanford professor thoroughly deconstructs the life of the complex and complicated Ralph Ellison. If you enjoyed Ellison’s Invisible Man the thoughtful reader will take tremendous joy in Ralph Ellison: A Biography.

Links on Ralph Waldo Ellison:
Arnold Rampersad speaking at Library of Congress
New York Times Book Special
Harpers Magazine Interview
Jim Lehrer News Hour
NPR Interview with Ellison Biographer Arnold Rampersad
NPR Book Review on Ralph Ellison





Barack Obama Quotes R&B Icon Sly Stone

16 06 2008

barack obama

Just in from my colleague Bob Davis of the Soul Patrol:

When is the last time you heard a Presidential contender quote Mr. Sylvester Stewart?

Soul-Patrol doesn’t endorse candidates, however last night I became inspired when I heard Senator Barack Obama actually quoting Sly and the Faimily Stone, during the speech that he made right after his stunning win in the 2008 North Carolina Democratic primary. Although Soul-Patrol doesn’t endorse candidates, it does provide commentary on what’s going on in the culture and this was certainly a historic moment. And if Senator McCain would like “equal time” all he need do is contact me and I will give it to him…

The use of classic Sly & the Family Stone lyrics during the speech by Senator Obama inspired me to create a broadcast of some NEW releases that we are featuring both here on Soul-Patrol and on Nu Soul @ RadioIO.com that fit with the overall mood of the cultural phenomena surrounding the campaign of Senator Barrack Obama.

At the same time I want to provide an introduction (for some of you) of what the idea is behind the concept of NU SOUL. It’s BRAND NEW BLACK MUSIC, produced for today’s audiences that is steeped in the tradition of Black Music of the past (soul, funk, rap, blues, jazz, rock, etc), presented by the artist in a modern day context. In short it’s what’s missing from the so called Black music that is being rammed down out throats by the mass media. Here are the songs from the broadcast, performed by some of Soul-Patrol.com’s core artists!

FUNKY PRESIDENT
Chuck D feat. Kyle Jason & the baNNed- Introducing the SLAMjamz Artist Revue (Tribb to JB). Remember Chuck from Public Enenmy

A CHANGE IS GONNA COME
Gerald Alston
(Gerald Alston Sings Sam Cooke)

MLK
Chip Shelton/Peacetime
(Imbued With Memories)

SLAVE
Nadir/Distorted Soul
(Distorted Soul 2.0)

CAN YOU MAKE IT
Rose Stone
(Already Motivated)

LISTEN TO: SOUL-PATROL/NU SOUL/CAMPAIGN 2008

Featuring the following Artists: Barack Obama, Chuck D, Gerald Alston, Chip Shelton, Nadir, Rose Stone

For more information on the new, conscious, African American musical aesthetic taking the nation by storm contact Bob Davis at earthjuice@prodigy.net

–Bob Davis





Reframing African Slave Insolence: Jeremiah Wright, U.S. Presidential Politics and the Legacy of Race in America

6 06 2008

In the American chattel slavery system one of the most dangerous acts that threatened the enslaved African’s very existence—his or her life—were personal affronts, or behavior seen as discourteous or rude to the Caucasian ruling class and to white women in particular.* Insolent behavior was not tolerated and could lead to severe beatings or death by lynching.

By the accounts of some independent bloggers and the corporate media, many Anglo and African Americans that heard the much maligned Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s pre-Q & A comments at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., were not particularly offended or angry. However, Wright’s deft deflection and dismantling of questions posed by the white female moderator at the close of his formal comments, seemed to draw the ire of many people. Anglo-America was not by itself in chastising Wright; many African Americans and people of color unfamiliar with the double meaning, signifying (e.g. playing the dozens) tradition in African American and African Diaspora culture were offended by Wright’s one-upsmanship of the moderator. Undoubtedly, in another time Wright would have been considered an unruly, cheeky, mouthy, and insolent slave. In the Press Club transcript Wright even refers to this verbal jousting as “playing the dozens.”

Harvard scholar and professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. contextualizes the phenomenon of signifying in detail in his book The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism.
A book that deconstructs America’s historical aversion to so-called haughty and arrogant behavior by African Americans, which may be deeply engrained in America’s collective psyche, is William E. Weithoff’s The Insolent Slave. In the book preface, the series editor, Thomas Benson says: “insolence was a verbal activity, a communicative accomplishment exercised primarily through language that expressed disrespect for the master and, at least indirectly, denial of the legitimacy of his authority.” Wiethoff shows the reader “how slave insolence was regarded as a threat to (white) mens’s honor and women’s virtue.” A review of southern antebellum literature points out that “insolence was regarded as a moral failing on the part of slaves, who were obligated to respect the divinely assigned authority of their masters and mistresses.”

The aforementioned power dynamic (often played out on many gender, class and racial fronts) in daily human interaction is mentioned in the writings by the Greek philosopher Aristotle. In his commentary on rhetoric Aristotle says: “people expect to be respected by their inferiors; rulers demand the respect of the ruled.”

In the book The Slave States (Before the Civil War) the astute chronicler of southern antebellum plantation life, Frederick Law Olmsted, gives the reader insight into the psyche of the ruling class by recounting the words of a Tennessee planter’s wife. The planter’s wife was to have said: “If they was to think themselves equal to we…I don’t think white folks could abide it—they’re such vile saucy things.” In the same text Sella Martin (a black male slave employed on a ship in New Orleans) who questioned and argued with the ship’s captain was reminded by his master John P. Cady: “Your notions are too elevated for a slave, and if you are going on in this way insulting white people, some of them will kill you, and be justified for doing it.”

In a March 18, 2008, article in Counter Punch by racial apologist Tim Wise, an Anglo American himself, entitled “Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama and the Unacceptability of Truth: National Lies and Racial America” Wise says: “For most white folks, indignation just doesn’t wear well … what seems to bother white people more than anything, whether in the recent episode, or at any other time, is being confronted with the recognition that black people do not, by and large, see the world like we do; that black people, by and large, do not view America as white people view it.”

Coming forward to 2008, supporters of the demonized Jeremiah Wright and beleaguered Pesidential candidate Barack Obama have said that both are susceptible to the aforementioned fate—figuratively and possibly literally—particularly in the case of assassination by the media.

Let us take a look at Wright’s supposed insolence during the Q & A session following his Press Club speech. Is it possible that Wright’s use of language is what the author Wheithoff referred to as disrespectful or a denial of authority?

Scenario 1.
Moderator: “You just mentioned that Senator Obama hadn’t heard many of your sermons. Does that mean he’s not much of a church goer? Or does he doze off in the pews?”

Wright: “I just wanted to see—that’s your question. That’s your question. He goes to church about as much as you do. What did your pastor preach on last week? You don’t know? Ok.”

Scenario 2.
Moderator: “You have said that the mainstream media have taken you out of context. Can you explain what you meant in a sermon shortly after 9/11 when you said the United States had brought the terrorist attacks on itself?”

Wright: “Have you heard the whole sermon? Have you heard the whole sermon?”

Moderator: “I heard most of it.”

Wright: No, no, the whole sermon, yes or no? No, you haven’t heard the whole sermon? That nullifies that question….to quote the Bible, ‘be not deceived. God is not mocked…theses are Biblical principles.” [Applause and laughter from audience.]

Scenario 3.
Moderator: “Some critics have said that your sermons are unpatriotic. How do you feel about America and about being an American?”

Wright: “I feel that those citizens who say that have never heard my sermons, nor do they know me…I served six years in the military. Does that make me unpatriotic? How many years did (Vice President) Cheyney serve?” [Applause and laughter from audience]

Etc. etc. etc. Another little understood theme (that we do not have space to dissect) is the unique, multi-dimensional use of English language structure by African and African Americans in various social and cultural settings (e.g. churches, on the street, in barbershops etc.).

In conclusion: The Jeremiah Wright situation and its perception by people of different experiences and backgrounds bring up many questions and issues. One issue that is readily apparent is how little Americans (e.g. Anglo Americans, African Americans and other ethnic groups) know about the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, slavery and capitalism, the English language its uses and development in American life, and the formation of the African American church as a change agent in slavery and modern times. Maybe one of these days America will be a more learned, introspective, critical thinking and informed society.

* Author Kathleen M. Blee in her book Women of the Klan: Racism and Gender in the 1920s notes that the Ku Klux Klan was dedicated to the sacred duty of protecting white womanhood.








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