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Gender: Male
Hometown: VA
Home country: USA
Current location: VA
Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 55,395

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I'm still living... Twitter: @glitchy_ashburn

Journal Archives

The Cost Of Being A Nation Of 'Soul Food Junkies'

You are what you eat, the old saying goes. But if you change what you eat, are you fundamentally changing who you are?

That question underlies much of the new documentary Soul Food Junkies, premiering Monday night on PBS' Independent Lens series. Director Byron Hurt's highly personal, often funny film explores how traditional Southern comfort fare became entwined with African-American identity. And it asks whether this food, often loaded with salt, fat and sugar, is doing its consumers more harm than good.

The film was inspired by Hurt's father, Jackie Hurt, who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer in 2007. He was overweight and in poor health.

"When he became ill, I started to examine his relationship to food," Hurt tells NPR's Michel Martin, "and it was soul food he grew up with and loved so much."

It's a love affair with deep roots in the African-American community. As the film recounts, soul food was survival food in the black South. Dishes were inspired by a need to make do with what slaves could access: greens they grew themselves, leftover meat parts like pig ears and feet, and cheap foods like rice and yams loaded with calories to fuel a field slave's work. Some of these recipes had origins in Africa. (Gumbo, we learn, was the West African word for "okra."

And during the civil rights era, it was soul food purveyors like Ms. Peaches of Peaches Restaurant in Jackson, Miss., who fed demonstrators and helped keep the movement going — at no small risk to themselves. "Black women have done so much to sustain us as a community and as a culture," Hurt says. "Ms. Peaches is one example of a woman who used her culinary skills and her courage to help feed the civil rights movement."

But even at that time, when places like Sylvia's in Harlem were bringing soul food to a wider audience, some in the African-American community were raising questions about soul food's toll on health. Nation of Islam leaders denounced soul food as "slave food," while comedian Dick Gregory, who became a vegetarian in the '60s, termed it "death food..."


Rutgers-Camden Scholar Clears up Misconceptions about Hoodoo

CAMDEN – When browsing through novelty stores, one might find an old-fashioned Hoodoo remedy that promises to ward off bad vibes and change luck. But a Rutgers-Camden scholar says there’s much more to Hoodoo than hex-breaking oils and candles.

In her new book, Mojo Workin’: The Old African-American Hoodoo System (University of Illinois Press, 2012), Katrina Hazzard-Donald tells the true story of the African-American tradition of herbal healing.

“Scholars who write about African traditions in the United States have become concerned over the work that has been done by those who are outsiders to cultural traditions,” says Hazzard-Donald, an associate professor of sociology, anthropology and criminal justice at Rutgers-Camden. “For example, some of the material on African culture and tradition presents premises that are inaccurate. This has happened a lot with Hoodoo.”

Hoodoo is a form of traditional African-American folk magic that developed from a combination of beliefs of a number of separate African cultures after they came to the United States during the slave trade.

It is not to be confused with Voodoo or Vodoun, a West African religion, although Hoodoo began as a religion and lost its religious status after the 1880s.

In her book, Hazzard-Donald says Hoodoo first emerged in the southeastern United States when people from West African tribes of the Congo, Sierra Leone, and present-day Ghana came to America.

“The cultural profile of those three regions is very different and the religions are different,” Hazzard-Donald says. “But after 1807, the African slaves are united under a common material culture and Hoodoo begins to emerge out of these three distinct African religious traditions."

Hazzard-Donald says Hoodoo beliefs are purely naturalistic and practices used naturally obtained supplies like herbs, minerals, and even animals. For example, “chewing the root” was done to release the sap of a plant to conjure spiritual power.

However, Hoodoo practices began to be commercially marketed, modified, and fabricated.

“A tremendous amount of exploitation has taken place among merchants and Hoodoo emerges as a commercial enterprise right around World War I among people who were not believers or practitioners even though they were willing to sell it,” Hazzard-Donald explains. “What many people start to see is something that I call commercialized or tourist Hoodoo. It has been presented as the ‘real authentic’ Hoodoo.”

Commercial marketers gleaned information from partial conversations with people uneducated on Hoodoo practices and other faulty assumptions, Hazzard-Donald says.

In commercial marketing, one might see “hot foot” powder, which is derived from a misunderstanding of the traditional “spell” known as “the walkin' foot,” which was designed to make victims walk in unusual ways, or make their legs tremble.

It’s the kind of novelty item found in many shops in New Orleans and across the country.

“Commercial marketers have capitalized on Hoodoo practices to make money,” Hazzard-Donald says. “I wanted to go back and provide an account of how we turned a traditional African religion into a novelty; to something sold in curial shops. I wanted to point out the shortcomings in these interpretations and show readers what really happened.”

Hazzard-Donald is the director of Rutgers–Camden’s Africana Studies and Research Program. She is the author of Jookin: The Rise of Social Dance Formations in African-American Culture (Temple University Press, 1992) and numerous articles on African-American dance and culture.

Jan Carew, 92, first chair of African-American studies at NU

Jan Carew, the first person to chair the department of African-American studies at Northwestern University, was an esteemed writer in his homeland of Guyana, tackling issues of colonialism, class divisions and racism. He also knew Malcolm X, and performed in an acting company with a man considered one of the greatest thespians of all time: Sir Laurence Olivier.

Mr. Carew, 92, died Dec. 6 in Louisville, Ky.

His literary legacy “is quite considerable,” said Al Creighton, head of Amerindian Studies at the University of Guyana in Georgetown, Guyana, where his works have been taught. His most well-known novels were probably “Black Midas” and “The Wild Coast,” both published in 1958.

“Black Midas” resonated in Guyana because it told the story of “Shark,” one of the South American country’s tough, adventurous gold miners, known as “Pork Knockers.” Their mythology—independent and ruggedly resourceful — is comparable to that of the American cowboy.

“People recognized it, and it was also representative of a particular aspect of Guyanese life,” Creighton said.

The Pork Knockers are “men who have gone into the Guyanese interior to search for gold, and they tend to work individually,” Creighton said. “They would use crude, primitive methods of mining. They form a distinct, different group from the gold-mining companies.....they came before the big companies.”


‘Black First’ new book by Jessie Carney Smith

Long and slow. That’s how you’d describe every line you’ve ever stepped into.

Don’t you hate that? You’re waiting in line and you see a chance to go to a shorter queue so you change lanes. Suddenly, the line you just left looks like the Indianapolis speedway. And you know what happens if you switch again…

There are definite advantages to being first. In the new book “Black Firsts” by Jessie Carney Smith, you’ll find information on tens of thousands of folks who’ve gone before you – in a good way.

In your lifetime, you’ve seen a lot of big milestones: the first Olympic gold-winning African American gymnast; the first black head of National Security and, of course, Barack Obama as the first black U.S. President.

But Mr. Obama wasn’t the first African American to make White House news.

Read this book and you’ll see that pianist Thomas Greene Bethune was the first black artist to perform there in 1858. A baby named Thomas was the first black child born at the White House in 1806. Booker T. Washington was the first black American to be entertained at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue , and Sammy Davis, Jr. was the first known black entertainer to sleep there.

Speaking of entertainment, Ray Charles was the first person of any race to perform at the Georgia Assembly. This book will also tell you who was the first black singer to appear on TV and when the first recording of black music happened.

You’ll learn that your grandma’s favorite cartoon was drawn by America ’s first black cartoonist. Both Dave Chapelle and Chris Rock broke comedy records in this century. America ’s first black insurance company opened its doors in 1810 and the first black-owned car dealership opened 160 years later. The first known black bookseller started his business in 1834. The world’s first black professional model walked the catwalk in the 1950s and the first black Playboy bunny hopped on the scene in 1965. A black chef was reportedly the creator of potato chips. America ’s first black Mormon elder gained the priesthood in 1836.

And America ’s first black Millionaire lived in New Orleans in 1890.

It’s hard to imagine anything missing from “Black Firsts.” It’s so hard, in fact, that author Jessie Carney Smith challenges readers to find and notify her of other milestones in Black history – but not just in North American black history. You’ll find entries here of things that happened to African Americans, as well as black firsts in other countries around the world, too.


Vermont’s first African American heritage trail opens with 10 sites and exhibits

Vermont’s First African American Heritage Trail Opens with 10 Educational Sites & Exhibits
Statewide events honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month

MONTPELIER, Vt. – When it comes to diversity in this nation, Vermont has a strong history of Firsts. Vermont was the first to abolish slavery in its constitution, and the first state to enroll and graduate a black student, who went on to serve in state legislature.

Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing honors Vermont’s African American heritage with the new Vermont African American Heritage Trail; 10 sites that explore museums and exhibits where films and tours illuminate the lives of African Americans for whom the Green Mountain State played an integral part of their lives. Visitors will meet teachers, storytellers, activists, ministers and legislators – people unique in history for being the first to attain positions formerly held only by Americans of European descent.

“Vermont is defined not only by the varied people who made our history, but also by our distinct geography. This trail anchors the stories of African descended Vermonters to our landscape and, as such, does a great service in helping to change the history of our state from a predominately white story to what it has always been from the beginning, a multicultural endeavor,” said Elise Guyette, author of “Discovering Black Vermont: African American Farmers in Hinesburgh, 1790-1890.”

The trail includes one of New England’s best documented underground railroad sites, Rokeby Museum, the Old Stone House Museum, which includes the school built by African American Alexander Twilight, Hildene, the Lincoln family home, and exhibits about raconteur Daisy Turner.

“Vermont’s cultural organizations and historians have been eager participants in the development of the Vermont African American Heritage Trail,” Vermont Dept. of Tourism and Marketing Commissioner Megan Smith said. “This speaks to Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin’s intent to showcase our state’s cultural heritage and diversity to residents and travelers alike.”


African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement Launches Multi-Platform Label, Array

The African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement, Ava DuVernay’s collective for distributing black independent film, has launched a new multi-platform label, Array.

Its first acquisition is “Better Mus' Come,” a love story set in a violent time in Jamaican history when rival gangs wreaked havoc on the streets.

DuVernay launched AFFRM to push movies from African-American filmmakers into commercial theaters with help from supporters like Los Angeles’ Pan African Film Festival and New York’s Urbanworld Film Festival.

This new distribution label will target not just theaters but other platforms like video-on-demand.

“AFFRM’s new label Array is built to serve the tremendous burst of black cinematic talent across the globe, filmmakers who are embracing new technologies to tell their stories by any means necessary,” DuVernay said in a statement. “The goal is to expand the brand cultivated over our first four theatrical releases by reaching new audiences via both digital and traditional platforms,”

“Better Mus' Come,” to which Array holds all U.S. distribution rights, was written and directed by Storm Saulter.

“Storm’s work on ‘Better Mus' Come’ as director, writer and cinematographer is wildly impressive, incredibly important and deserves to be seen by as many film lovers as possible, DuVernay said in a statement. “We’re proud that his gem will launch ARRAY.”


Black America Is Not Shawty Lo and His 10 Baby Mamas

In a piece at Clutch magazine, Tami Winfrey Harris writes a sharp rebuke of the media and the African-American community for buying into black dysfunction in light of the impending spring premiere of Oxygen's All My Babies' Mamas, about Atlanta rapper Shawty Lo, his 11 children and their 10 mothers.

Sometime this spring, the Oxygen network will air a program called All My Babies' Mamas, featuring someone called Shawty Lo. You probably already know this because a press release and video leak last week (video since removed) caused the heads of good black folk to explode all over the interwebs. You could hear the pop from space. The one-hour special documents Shawty, 31, whose mama named him Carlos Walker, and his relationships with his 11 children, their 10 mothers, and his newest, a 19-year-old girlfriend. Oh, and in the spirit of Flavor of Love, the women on the show will have their identities erased in favor of nicknames like "Fighter Baby Mama," "First Lady," and "Bougie Baby Mama."

Lord, pass me my smelling salts.

The impending debut of All My Babies' Mamas has been met with some predictable responses: A petition urging Oxygen to shelve the special and a whole lot of people vowing never, ever to let their eyeballs see this shitshow. But two reactions I find troubling: black shame and a heap of demeaning talk about single-parent and nontraditional families.

The "Ban All My Babies' Mamas" petition, which, as I'm writing, has 73 signatures on Change.org, calls for the Oxygen show to be canceled for demeaning black women, girls, and children and stereotyping black men. I have no doubt the show will do all these things. And -- make no mistake -- the show's creative team, Liz Gateley and Tony DiSanto, mean for this to be so. Nearly every reality show, from Here Comes Honey Boo Boo to Love & Hip-Hop, is built on the exploitation and promotion of bias and stereotype.

Read Tami Winfrey Harris' entire piece at Clutch magazine.


Host Hiatus...

Fellow DUers:

I'm sad to say that circumstances in life have intervened, and I'll be spending much less time on DU starting a couple weeks from now -- So this group will need the other hosts (currently Number23, nofurylike, Frenchiecat, onpatrol) to carry the load...

I won't be gone forever; just a lot more occasional lurking and less posting...

I want to thank all of you for your participation, insights, and helping to make this a very headache-free group to host...
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