Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Episode 110: Cynthia McKinney

I first really heard of Cynthia McKinney when I moved to Georgia years ago. She was already in elected office as a member of the House of Representatives from Georgia's 4th district, and even though I didn't live in the 4th district and could never vote for her, she seemed to often be a subject of the local Atlanta news. As time passed and I watched the way she was portrayed on television, and learned more about her, I became impressed at the way she handled herself despite her obvious political enemies. But I never really understood why she seemed to be so despised by about half of Atlanta. To me she was a refreshingly outspoken politician. A black woman who was very candid and, to me at least, brave enough to confront divisive Southern issues like the need to change the old Georgia State flag (from the old confederate battle flag with a blue bar on the side...that was a big news story/issue when I moved to Atlanta), and the men who supported stuff like that.

So when I found this video of Cynthia McKinney speaking about how she got into politics, and some of the issues that made her such a political target in Atlanta, I thought that I'd share it with you. She was finally defeated for her seat in the U.S. House in 2002 by Denise Majette, then after she won her seat back in 2004 she was again defeated in 2006 by Hank Johnson. That's where Cynthia McKinney's political story ends. But I still admire her fight and candor. If you want to find out more as to how Cynthia met her political fate, I recommend you watch the GNN documentary "American Blackout" (that I'll feature in a later episode of the podcast). I think that you'd find it intriguing, especially in this election year. Peace.

P.S. Supposedly, the podcast is being upgraded to a better hosting plan, and the episodes will be able to be downloaded much faster. Sorry for the slow downloads, but I'm doing what I can to get it up to speed.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Episode 109: Barbara Jordan

Impeach the President!! That's what happened to President Richard Nixon way back before my time (1974). So this is what a speech in favor of impeaching a crooked high ranking public official, or a "president swollen with power, and grown tyrannical" sounds like. Plus, Barbara Jordan gives us an education as to what a vote for impeachment actually means, and how it applied in the case of President Nixon. She knew what she was talking about. Very interesting indeed...Listen up everybody! Sisters gonna work it out! Peace.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Episode 108: Fannie Lou Hamer

***Correction: It was brought to my attention that this speech was given on October 15, 1969. (Thanks, P.L.)***

The celebration of the sisters continues...and this episode is a good one. Sometimes, when I listen to some of these speeches it's kinda creepy how relevant they still seem to be. It's almost as if you just swapped out some of the key words or names with some of our modern day issues and figures, the speeches would be just as potent today as they were when they were first given. This speech is an example of one that gave me that feeling. It seems that if you would swap out the word "Vietnam" with the word "Iraq", or "Johnson" with the name "Bush", the rest of the speech still applies, even though it's forty-something years later. Not to mention that in this election year, we seem to be listening to some of the same arguments. That's crazy. But that's also the beauty of a lot of these materials. They're almost timeless. I guess that some struggles and battles are just that. Fannie Lou Hamer was definitely a woman that was unafraid to speak her mind, and in her memory, the BMA is proud to rebroadcast this speech. Listen closely to her words and enjoy. Peace.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Episode 107: Rosa Parks

According to my recent audience poll numbers, the sisters are my number one target demographic. Much love to y'all. In recognition of this, I'm going to release the next few episodes in celebration of some famous black women. I said in the beginning of this blog that I wanted to share more episodes that featured the voices of important black women with y'all, but unfortunately a lot of materials featuring African American women has been difficult to find. But I do have some...so I think it's time that I release a few. Starting off with Mrs. Rosa Parks. This interview was recorded in 1956, and is supposed to be one of her first after becoming a national figure due to her unjust arrest, and one of the few of her early interviews that is still available for us to hear. The interviewer (I don't know exactly who conducted this interview) sure seems to talk a lot in this episode, but it is still a revealing conversation. I especially like Mrs. Parks' quote, "I had decided that I had to know once and for all the rights I had as a human being, and a citizen, even in Montgomery, Alabama." Yeah, I like that. I hope y'all do too. Peace.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Episode 106: "Cocaine Habit Blues"

And now ladies and gentlemen...for your listening pleasure...the BMA is proud to present...the lovely voice of Hattie Hart, Will Shade on harmonica, Tee Wee Blackman on guitar, Ben Ramey on kazoo, and Ham Lewis on the jug...the Memphis Jug Band playing their classic hit, "Cocaine Habit Blues". (Applause) Black folks were singing about cocaine waaay back in 1930. This is another one of those old timey gangsta tunes I was talking about a few episodes ago (episode 104). Well here's another example that the drug music of today is really nothing new. Even back before the D-boys took over the rap game, the old jug bands were singing the same tune, with a little more humility. You need more proof...here's the lyrics:

Cocaine habit mighty bad
It's the worst old habit that I ever had
Honey take a whiff on me

I went to Mr Beaman's in a lope
Saw a sign on the window said no more dope
Hey, hey, honey take a whiff on me

If you don't believe cocaine is good
Ask Alma Rose at Minglewood
Hey, hey, honey take a whiff on me

I love my whiskey, and I love my gin
But the way I love my coke is a doggone sin
Hey, hey, honey take a whiff on me

Since cocaine went out of style
You can catch them shooting needles all the while
Hey, hey, honey take a whiff on me

It takes a little coke to give me ease
Strut my stuff long as you please
Hey, hey, honey take a whiff on me

What more can you say? Peace.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Episode 105: "Clean Pastures"

I know that judging by the poll, the cartoons I put out on here are not the most popular episodes...but I love cartoons, always have...and this in one y'all got to see. I mean, this is a real piece of classic American art right here. "Clean Pastures" (a spoof of the 1936 movie "The Green Pastures" which I've never seen) features black folks running heaven (or "Pair-O-Dice" as it's called in the cartoon) and yet they are all illustrated in that grotesque old school style (if you've been watching this podcast for a while, you know what I'm talking about...if not, go back to episodes 8, 13, or 21). Apparently in this one, Pair-O-dice is losing business to the Harlem night life, and after Stepin Fetchit is unable to persuade the folks on the street, its suggested that the only thing that will save the people is some good ol' foot stompin' swing band rhythm! All led by some caricatures of the black jazz stars of the day (1937, that is) done up as angels, including Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, and Louis Armstrong. Will the rhythm save the black sinning souls of Harlem prone to dancing, drinking, and gambling? Can Pair-O-Dice turn it around? What the hell does it all mean? I don't know...but it's definitely a piece of classic American animation that ought to be seen. So here it is. Enjoy. Peace.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Book Review: "Dreams from My Father" by Barack Obama

During my recent move to Texas, I had plenty of time to kill on a twelve-hour drive from Georgia. So it was a great time for me to sit back and listen to the audio book, “Dreams from My Father” by Barack Obama that I had gotten from the library months ago, but had never gotten around to listening to. So I thought that this would be a good book to try my first attempt at a book review for my blog/podcast...let me know if I’m any good at it. Maybe one day when I get settled in here, I’ll record this in audio format and release it on the podcast.

With the 2008 presidential election raging on, I was interested in hearing more about this guy Obama. This Senator from Illinois who is making history, by trying (pretty successfully I might add) to become the first African-American Democratic nominee for the office of President of the United States of America. That fact in and of itself if pretty impressive to me. But the first thing that struck me about Obama’s story is that his African-American experience is many ways different from my own.

I have a good friend from Nigeria who persuaded me to finally give this book a listen. He had read the book recently, and was telling me that, “We really need to elect this guy man, (in deep Nigerian accent)” even though he is unable to vote himself. After finishing the book, I think I can understand why my friend recommended the book. From what I know about him, Barack Obama’s story, or really what the book is about - Barack’s coming of age as an African-American man, his search for knowledge about his father, his retelling of his father’s journey to America, and his Kenyan roots, resembled my Nigerian friend’s American journey much more than my own life as a black man descended from slaves born and raised in America. After finishing his book, I understand better that Barack Obama is a very unique political figure in America. He is a man with native white American and native African heritage, who was exposed to the world outside of America at a very young age in a way very different from most Americans and African-Americans I know. He writes in the book about how he had to search out and learn for himself what it really means to him to be an African-American, in the truest sense of the word.

The story begins with Barack learning about his father’s passing, and then flashes back to him reminiscing about his childhood. He spends the first part of the book describing the family members that raised him. His mother, Stanley Ann Dunham (yeah, her father named her Stanley, but she was called Ann) and his grandparents, a white Midwestern family from Kansas who follow the whims of the grandfather through several jobs and states before settling down in Hawaii. The Dunham family members are each intriguing and complex characters, who in their own lives demonstrate the societal changes that took place in American in the mid-20th century. Obama describes his family as fair-minded people, and very likeable through their interactions with each other. Then his father enters the picture. Barack Obama Sr. is described as a man who made a strong impression upon everyone he met. The stories shared about his time in Hawaii are some of the funniest moments of the book. Well, Barack Sr. and Ann meet at the University of Hawaii, fall in love, and soon young Barack (Barry) Obama is born.

Shortly afterwards, the elder Barack leaves his new family (for reasons discovered later in the story) and returns to Kenya, leaving his wife and son behind. As Barry grows older, his mother Ann then falls in love with and marries a Filipino man named Lolo, and the young family moves to the Philippines.

It is in the Philippines, where Barack describes his coming of age and learning about the differences between the rich, powerful, and privileged, and everyone else. His stepfather Lolo, and his struggles in the Philippines is the model through which Barack learns these important lessons. At the time, the Philippines were going through political and economic turmoil, and these chapters are very revealing in describing how Barack views the importance of what it means to be an American.

Upon he and his mother’s return to Hawaii, Barack continues his schooling in the United States, and it is in these chapters where Barack begins to learn and describe his experiences as a young black man in America. This part of the book is very interesting in that Barack describes the inner struggles he dealt with in trying to identify with what America perceives young black men to be. He writes very candidly about his friends, and their talks and ideas on race, as well as the reactions of the white people he grew up with to his foreign, Muslim name, bi-racial heritage, and expectations of him as a young African-American man.

From this point Barack describes his college years in California and New York, many more observances and attitudes of race in America, his path towards finding himself beyond the American stereotypes, and what he wants to do with his adult life. He eventually settles on becoming a community organizer in an attempt to follow in the footsteps of his civil rights movement heroes, and to try to offer help to the black community. After meeting a young black woman in college and being intrigued by her description of her life growing up in Chicago, Barack decides to pursue his career as an organizer there. The way Barack writes about his time in Chicago, was to me some of the most interesting and important moments of the book. He describes the people he met and worked with honestly and beautifully. All of the men and women from the neighborhoods, streets, churches, city offices, and organizations are revealed as good and honest people, whose views and opinions on how to best help change their inner-city communities differ and conflict with each other, but are each sincere and good intentioned. In these chapters Barack vividly brings the city of Chicago to life, and describes it as a complex city during and after the time of its first black mayor Harold Washington.

In time Barack takes a break from his community organizing responsibilities to pursue a law degree at Harvard University. He also begins to meet his extended Kenyan family, most memorably his oldest sister Auma. She persuades him to return to his father’s homeland of Kenya, and eventually meets him there and introduces him to his extended African family members, including his grandmother, brothers and sisters, aunts, and uncles. It is on this journey that the book concludes, with Barack receiving his family inheritance (not the monetary inheritance you would immediately think of) and learning much more about his father Barack Sr., his grandfather Hussein, and his African ancestry than he ever imagined. These chapters were fascinating in their descriptions of Kenyan life, and the history of his patriarchs in their dealing with their families, the white men who colonized Kenya, and the burdens they carried in trying to lead their children to pursue better lives for themselves. The epilogue closes the book beautifully with Barack describing his return to America, and his meeting and marriage to his wife, Michelle.

“Dreams from My Father” is Barack Obama’s honest look at himself and his early life, and is written in a voice much more timid and personal than the confident political speaker that we have become used to hearing during his presidential campaign. For anyone wishing to learn more about this man, and how he views himself and his place in the world, I strongly recommend it.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Episode 104: "The Man From Harlem"

Beginning with this episode, the BMA is broadcasting from my home state of Texas. I was busy trying to relocate last week, so that's why there was no comment on the last episode. But I am back online, and bringing to you Cab Calloway and his orchestra, singing "The Man From Harlem". In past episodes, (episodes 49, 79, and even 97) I have tried to share some music that was pretty edgy for it's time. "The Man From Harlem" is another example, of some pre-gangsta rap gangsta music. "The Man From Harlem" sounds like some thug life to me, and it was recorded in 1932. He even throws in a little line about the 'dro at the end. And does anyone else out there consider Cab Calloway rapping on this song? So I guess all that is really nothing new. But I hope that y'all enjoy it all the same. Peace.