Previous month:
October 2007
Next month:
December 2007

November 2007

I Love Chuck D

There's nothing like an school rapper. I'm talking back in the day before the bling. Apparently rap legend Chuck D laid it down old school style in a recent forum on the state of hip hop. Be sure to read the entire article before you start trippin' off his choice of words. Peace and I'm out.

Chuck's Still Fighting

You gotta love Chuck D, a true original and a genuine badass. Even when he's wrong, you nod your head and throw up a fist. Chuck took part in a hip-hop summit at the University of South Florida last night: "Perspectives of Hip Hop in Today's Society," a rather wonky title for a decidedly hot-button event. I'm not that crazy about the story I filed on deadline -- it's pretty stiff -- but I've provided it below nonetheless. There's definitely more to be said about hip-hop perpetuating the very stereotypes it claims it hates.

Anyway, at the very least, I can clarify here what Chuck D said about Viacom media mogul Sumner Redstone, puppetmaster of MTV and BET: "I wanna whup that cracker's ass!" Again, god bless Chuck D.
Continue reading…]

Blog Spotlight: Hello, Negro

Surfed across a wonderful blog, "Hello, Negro." You may like the posts there. Here's the one that caught my attention…

Tom Joyner on Black Men and College
By sista
Before the end of the year, young men at Edward Waters College and Savannah State University will be recognized. I had to do something to at least level the playing field for these brothers and make sure they have every chance they can ...
Hello, Negro -

This Christmas: You Can’t Exchange Family, You Just Have to Love Them!

Two months ago I would have told you that Chris Brown was one of the most annoying entertainers around. That's seems a tad cruel but I'm just keeping it real. He was everywhere. The comments equating him to Michael Jackson really did it for me. Anyhoo, I think he was overexposed and rewarded way too early for a neophyte musical career. Well, it seems that young Mr. Brown just may have proven himself in his role in This Christmas. Obviously, his singing talent and appeal to young women are capitalized on to sell this movie and the soundtrack. It works.

The cast seems to click so much so that the interaction seems so real and I could definitely identify with my own family members and many of the characters. Now, don't get it twisted, there's nothing new in this movie. The storyline is predictable but ya know what? It still works. The jokes, one-liners and come backs remind me of any of several family gatherings.

If I could have changed anything, I probably would have one less Soul Train line. While black folks like to have a good time, I just don't recall that much extraneous dancing going on in my household. That being said, I love this movie and I could watch it over and over again.

Regina King is awesome, as usual, Sharon Leal, Loretta Devine are fabulous and video model turned actress Lauren London holds her own. Two of my favorite actors, Delroy Lindo and Idris Elba bring sexy back for me every time.

I also like the way black filmmakers are infusing the value of education and attending a historically-black college or university in their work.

If you want to see a feel good movie with a few twists and turns, you'll enjoy This Christmas. Remember, you can't exchange family.

Judge Opens Mychal Bell’s Trial to Media and Public

In another setback for LaSalle Parish District Judge J.P. Mauffray, the upcoming trial proceedings of Mychal Bell will be open to the public and the media in a lawsuit brought by the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. Mark your calendar and stay alert for the December 6th trial. Click here to read Howard Witt's coverage of this latest episode in the Tribune.

Related link:

Comprehensive coverage of Jena 6 at Chicago Tribune website

Before Madonna and Grace Jones there was...Josephine Baker


Josephine Baker sashayed onto a Paris stage during the 1920s with a comic, yet sensual appeal that took Europe by storm. Famous for barely-there dresses and no-holds-barred dance routines, her exotic beauty generated nicknames "Black Venus," "Black Pearl" and "Creole Goddess." Admirers bestowed a plethora of gifts, including diamonds and cars, and she received approximately 1,500 marriage proposals. She maintained energetic performances and a celebrity status for 50 years until her death in 1975. Unfortunately, racism prevented her talents from being wholly accepted in the United States until 1973.

Humble beginnings

She was born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 3, 1906 to washerwoman Carrie McDonald and vaudeville drummer Eddie Carson. Eddie abandoned them shortly afterward, and Carrie married a kind but perpetually unemployed man named Arthur Martin. Their family eventually grew to include a son and two more daughters.

Josephine grew up cleaning houses and babysitting for wealthy white families who reminded her "be sure not to kiss the baby." She got a job waitressing at The Old Chauffeur's Club when she was 13 years old. While waiting tables she met and had a brief marriage to Willie Wells. While it was unusual for a woman during her era, Josephine never depended on a man for financial support. Therefore, she never hesitated to leave when a relationship soured. She was married and divorced three more times, to American Willie Baker in 1921 (whose last name she chose to keep), Frenchman Jean Lion in 1937 (from whom she attained French citizenship) and French orchestra leader Jo Bouillon in 1947 (who helped to raise her 12 adopted children).

Josephine toured the United States with The Jones Family Band and The Dixie Steppers in 1919, performing various comical skits. When the troupes split, she tried to advance as a chorus girl for The Dixie Steppers in Sissle and Blake's production Shuffle Along. She was rejected because she was "too skinny and too dark." Undeterred, she learned the chorus line's routines while working as a dresser. Thus, Josephine was the obvious replacement when a dancer left. Onstage she rolled her eyes and purposely acted clumsy. The audience loved her comedic touch, and Josephine was a box office draw for the rest of the show's run.

Parisian sensation

She enjoyed moderate success at The Plantation Club in New York after Shuffle Along. However, when Josephine traveled to Paris for a new venture, La Revue Nègre, it proved to be a turning point in her career. Amongst a compilation of acts, Josephine and dance partner Joe Alex captivated the audience with the Danse Sauvage. Everything about the routine was new and exotic, and Josephine, boldly dressed in nothing but a feather skirt, worked the audience into frenzy with her uninhibited movements. She was an overnight sensation.

Josephine's immense popularity afforded her a comfortable salary, which she spent mostly on clothes, jewelry and pets. She loved animals, and at one time she owned a leopard (Chiquita), a chimpanzee (Ethel), a pig (Albert), a snake (Kiki), a goat, a parrot, parakeets, fish, three cats and seven dogs.

Her career thrived in the integrated Paris society; when La Revue Nègre closed, Josephine starred in La Folie du Jour at the Follies-Bergère Theater. Her jaw-dropping performance, including a costume of 16 bananas strung into a skirt, cemented her celebrity status. Josephine rivaled Gloria Swanson and Mary Pickford as the most photographed woman in the world, and by 1927 she earned more than any entertainer in Europe. She starred in two movies in the early 1930s, Zou-Zou and Princess Tam-Tam, and moved her family from St. Louis to Les Milandes, her estate in Castelnaud-Fayrac, France.

A 1936 return to the United States to star in the Ziegfield Follies proved disastrous, despite the fact that she was a major celebrity in Europe. American audiences rejected the idea of a black woman with so much sophistication and power, newspaper reviews were equally cruel (The New York Times called her a "Negro wench"), and Josephine returned to Europe heartbroken.

Righting wrongs

Josephine served France during World War II in several ways. She performed for the troops, and was an honorable correspondent for the French Resistance (undercover work included smuggling secret messages written on her music sheets) and a sub-lieutenant in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. She was later awarded the Medal of the Resistance with Rosette and named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the French government for hard work and dedication.

Josephine visited the United States during the 50s and 60s with renewed vigor to fight racism. When New York's popular Stork Club refused her service, she engaged a head-on media battle with pro-segregation columnist Walter Winchell. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) named May 20 Josephine Baker Day in honor of her efforts.

It was also during this time that she began adopting children, forming a family she often referred to as "The Rainbow Tribe." Josephine wanted her to prove that "children of different ethnicities and religions could still be brothers." She often took the children with her cross-country, and when they were at Les Milandes tours were arranged so visitors could walk the grounds and see how natural and happy the children in "The Rainbow Tribe" were.

Josephine continued to travel to the United States, and during her visits she developed a close friendship with American artist Robert Brady. Now divorced from her fourth husband Jo Bouillon, she was looking for companionship on a more platonic level. Brady felt the same, and on a trip to Acapulco, Mexico in September 1973 they went to an empty church and exchanged marriage vows. Though no clergy was present, and they were never legally joined, it was an important personal bond that she and Brady maintained the rest of her life. Josephine told very few people about the pseudo marriage, fearing the press would ridicule it.

Sad farewells

Josephine agreed to perform at New York's Carnegie Hall that same year. Due to previous experience, she was nervous about how the audience and critics would receive her. This time, however, cultural and racial growth was evident. Josephine received a standing ovation before the concert even began. The enthusiastic welcome was so touching that she wept onstage.

On April 8, 1975 Josephine premiered at the Bobino Theater in Paris. Celebrities such as Princess Grace of Monaco and Sophia Loren were in attendance to see 68-year-old Josephine perform a medley of routines from her 50 year career. The reviews were among her best ever. Days later, however, Josephine slipped into a coma. She died from a cerebral hemorrhage at 5 a.m. on April 12.

More than 20,000 people crowded the streets of Paris to watch the funeral procession on its way to the Church of the Madeleine. The French government honored her with a 21-gun salute, making Josephine Baker the first American woman buried in France with military honors. Her gravesite is in the Cimetiére de Monaco, Monaco.

Josephine Baker has continued to intrigue and inspire people throughout the world. In 1991, HBO released The Josephine Baker Story. The movie won two Emmys, for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries (Lynn Whitfield) and Outstanding Art Direction. The movie also picked up one of three Golden Globe nominations.

Source: The Official Josephine Baker Website

Services set for Dr. Donda West, educator, author, businesswoman and mother of Super Star Kanye West

Services set for Kanye West's mother

Published on: 11/17/07

The funeral for the mother of rapper Kanye West will be held Tuesday in Oklahoma City, according to a report on

The website said it was told by a spokesman for the Howard-Harris Funeral Home in Oklahoma City that the service for Donda West, who went to high school in Oklahoma City, would be held at the funeral home. The report said Donda West's parents and brother live in Oklahoma City.

West, 58, died a week ago at Centinela Freeman Regional Medical Center in Marina del Rey, Calif., after she stopped breathing. She had undergone cosmetic surgery in Los Angeles and had gone home.

An autopsy was conducted, but an official cause of death won't be made for at least 1 1/2 months, pending further tests, the coroner's office has said.

From the National Hall of Records

Donda West, mother of Kanye West and former chairwoman of Chicago State University's English department, has died. She was 58.

The mother of hip-hop mogul Kanye West died following a "cosmetic procedure" in Los Angeles this weekend, her publicist told CNN Monday. Donda West was known for the strong bond she shared with her son, by whose side she was often seen at parties and award shows.

Kanye West, 30, often spoke of his close relationship with his mother, who raised him as a single mother since Kanye was 3. She was the inspiration for the song, ''Hey Mama,'' on Kanye West's 2005 album ''Late Registration,'' in which he sings: ''Hey Mama, I wanna scream so loud for you, cuz I'm so proud of you ... I appreciate what you allowed for me. I just want you to be proud of me.''

Donda West frequently defended her son against critics who accused him of penning misogynistic lyrics and other purported transgressions. ''I support my baby,'' she said in a Chicago Sun-Times interview. ''He is telling how he feels and he is speaking the truth as he sees it.''

In May, she published the book ''Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip-Hop Star,'' in which she paid homage to her famous son.

Donda West served as chief executive of West Brands LLC, the parent company of her son's business enterprises, and as chairwoman of the Kanye West Foundation, an educational nonprofit that works to decrease dropout rates and improve literacy.

Kanye West told the Associated Press in August that he and his mother worked together to devise the foundation's first program, ''Loop Dreams,'' which helps public school students get involved in music. ''Me and my mother were discussing ways to give back and came up with the concept,'' he said.

Donda West worked in higher education for 31 years, before leaving academia in 2004 to help manage her son's career, according to a biography on the Kanye West Foundation's Web site. She began working at Chicago State University in 1980 and eventually chaired the school's English department, according to the site. She started her teaching career in the early 1970s as an instructor at Brown College in Atlanta.

Please sign the Guest Book and leave your memories, condolences or prayers.

Rest in Peace
Dr. Donda West

Dr. Donda West was initiated into Alpha Eta Chapter at Virginia Union University.

Alpha Eta Chapter website

Has Damon Wayans lost his mind?

Damon Wayans was on The View recently and spoke of freedom of speech surrounding the Don Imus controversy referring to the women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos." See the video below.

Personally, nervous or otherwise, there was way too much laughter accompanying Wayans' comments. Sherri Sheppard changed the flow of the conversation but the damage was already done.

Last time I checked, I was black too. Contrary to what Wayans said I was not laughing, I found his comments highly offensive and insulting.

But you know what? Calling someone a nappy-headed ho may not be illegal such as yelling "FIRE" in a crowded room but I can also exercise my freedom by NOT watching Mr. Wayans' new sitcom on ABC-TV next season.

Judge will open Jena trial to public but won’t allow access to preliminary hearings

With much of the last few days of publicity regarding the Jena 6 being the controversy regarding fundraising and how money has been spent, there's not been enough focus on the upcoming trial of Mychal Bell. Here's an update from the Chicago Tribune…



By Howard Witt | Tribune senior correspondent

9:08 PM CST, November 15, 2007

HOUSTON - Replying to a lawsuit filed by a coalition of U.S. media companies, the judge overseeing the trial of Mychal Bell, one of the teenage defendants in the racially charged Jena 6 case in Louisiana, reversed course Thursday and agreed to open Bell's upcoming juvenile trial to the public.

But LaSalle Parish District Judge J.P. Mauffray, in a court filing, maintained that he is not required to open pre-trial hearings in Bell's case to the news media or the public, and he argued that the media lawsuit seeking full access to Bell's case should be dismissed.

The lawsuit, initiated by the Chicago Tribune and joined by the Associated Press, The New York Times Co., CNN and other major media organizations, asserts that Mauffray's earlier decision to close all the proceedings in Bell's case runs counter to Louisiana juvenile laws and provisions of both the Louisiana and U.S. Constitutions.

New Orleans and Gulf Coast Residents Still Need Help, Give a Day of Service

Here's an opportunity to help rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Far too many former residents of the area are still displaced and need to return to re-claim their land. This is an opportunity to actually do something to help that historic area.

More than two years after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, some neighborhoods still remain devastated and uninhabited.

Join Tavis Smiley, Tom Joyner and the State of the Black Union panelists in partnership with the Office of Lt. Governor Mitchell Landrieu to assist in the clean-up and rebuild of New Orleans.

Friday, February 22, 7:00am to 3:00pm
(Service Orientation: Thursday, February 21, 7:00pm – 8:00pm)

Volunteer to help rebuild New Orleans! The goal is for 1,000 people to come out in their sweats and work boots and help rebuild New Orleans.

Attendees will be assigned to one of six projects.
Project 1 – Build a Home
Project 2 – Beautify a City Park
Project 3 – Build a Playground
Project 4 – Demolish a Home
Project 5 – Beautify a School Yard & Donate Books
Project 6 – Build Shelves for Public Library and Donate Books

Volunteers will receive a T-shirt, service kit (gloves, face mask, sponsor giveaways), continental breakfast, box lunch, and Reserved Seating at State of the Black Union 2008.

Title Partner
Office of Lt. Governor Mitchell Landrieu

National Sponsor
Wells Fargo

Lead Partners
Habitat for Humanity
Trinity Christian Community
Xavier University
Recovery School District
New Orleans Public Library
PBS & PRI - Public Radio International