Thursday, June 30, 2005

African-Americans Snub Dubya To Celebrate Their Own...

Onyango Oloo Gives Props to a Night of Magic in The City of Angels...

Artist : Stevie Wonder
Song : So What The Fuss
Lyrics :

If I'm caught at a dance party without my dancin' shoes
And everybody dances on my bare feet
Shame on me
If I'm mindin' my business just doin' the right thing
And you try to front me off in the street
Shame on you
If a family's waiting for that special blessing to
come their way
But they ain't tryin to get on their knees and pray
Shame on them
And if we live in a time where every nation's fightin
'round the world
Yet we can't all agree that peace is the way Shame on us
Shame on me, Shame on you, Shame on them, Shame on us
So what's the fuss
If I gotta get up early in the morning for a job
And I forget to set the stupid alarm
Shame on me
If my children are playin outside like little children
And you come 'round there tryin to bring them some
Shame on you
Should I be drivin thru a klantown, find a restaurant
to get me some food
And someone says "hey boy, we don't serve your kind"
Shame on them
And if we live in a democracy and you don't use your
power to vote
Knowin' some would like to turn back the hands of time
Shame on us
Shame on me, Shame on you, Shame on them, Shame on us
So what the fuss
If I'm hooked on a habit knowin damn well it could
cost me my life
Yet I keep doin what I should do without
Shame on me
If you're locked in a marriage and your other half
just gives you abuse
Yet you've convinced yourself that there's no way out
Shame on you
If we're jammin the music and somebody's got the
To say that they can jam it better than us
Shame on them
And should there be just a handful that believe that
we are totally free
And there's no need to fight for equality
Shame on us
Shame on me, Shame on you, Shame on them, Shame on us
So what's the fuss

Watch video of What's The Fuss via this realaudio link or this windows media one

"I was asking the kids: What is it about Tupac? Why is that there? I kept asking why. They were saying we want to dress like you dress, wear all the things you wear, talk how you talk. The impression is that black Americans are the dragon slayers. Here we are 13 percent minority in a foreign land, and yet we can make laws, change laws. If Jesse Jackson shows up at Coca-Cola, something changes."

Will Smith, talking about his conversation with a bunch of kids in a Mozambican village

Last night(Tuesday, June 28, 2005),while a gaggle of the GOP die-hards and blow hards were nodding in anxious and skeptical "agreement" as Dubya tried to spin away the bloody carnage that is the American quagmire in Iraq, I joined millions of African-Americans and music enthusiasts in keeping both eye balls glued to the BET channel.

Truly, it was a veritable embarassment of riches in terms of highlights and stand out performances.

And I watched every second of it, right up to the very last line of the closing credits way after eleven thirty in the evening last night.

What do you zero in on and what do you leave out?

The spectactular return of the always stunning, ever talented Lauryn Hill reunited with Wyclef Jean and Pras doing a medley of Fugees chart-toppers to kick off the show; the pulsating rythms of the troupe of African dancers doing their West African choreographed piece right into the audience; John Legend at the piano; The Game holding an unfazed bambino while doing a duet with Mary J.Blige; Missy Elliot and her sizzling tribute to Michael Jackson; MJJ's older bro Tito giving a sombre ahsante to the African-American community for standing by his hitech-lynched superstar brother; Beyonce, Michelle and Kelly inducing a pandemic of spontaneous erections and other predictable male side-effects around the globe with their audacious, bootylicious lap dance; Omarion macking his way to the viewers' choice award; Ciara announcing her arrrival as the next superstar;Fantasia's continued ascendancy in the pop world; Mariah Carey's heart stopper; Gladys Knight's show stopping diva super dupa super performance; Queen Latifah and the Set It Off crew "bullying" a defenceless man; a double win for hip hop maestro Kanye West;a nod to Michael Jordan; effusive tributes to Ossie Davis and Johnnie Cochran; female athlete of the year kudos to Serena Williams; an award to Paulleta and Denzel Washington for their amazing humanitarian work; words of wisdom from Alicia Keys and of course an intriguing risque ribbing/banter from the husband and wife co-host team of Jada Pinkett and Will Smith... I am sure I left someone the tall guy who used to play for the Lakers and the lovely lady who had a cd called Secrets...or this guy whose name sounds like Mwanaisha binti Asha's...

Usually I shake an irate fist at the telly every time I see yet another sexist, demeaning commodifying portrayal of women on BET or have to endure some silly clowning on Comic View that helps to perpetuate the stereotype that all we Black people are capable of is sports, clowning and serving White people.

Last night as I joined in an unconscious North American conspiracy to tune out the blather from the Selected One, I sensed something else during the BET show.

Of course, on the surface, it was just another awards night in America beamed to the world at the prized prime time slot, complete with the megastar sightings, fashion accidents, flubbed telemprompter lines and overcaffeinated or inebriated acceptance speeches. There were the usual scowls from the almost winners(Fantasia was a sad woman last night-she wanted so much to win, to phrase things deliberately awkwardly).

But I saw and heard something else. Whether it was

Alicia Keys exhorting Black people to aim high in all fields of human endeavour; Will Smith emphasizing the connection between Africans and African-Americans; Jada Pinkett bigging up Black women; Gladys Knight stressing a need for spiritual grounding; the Washingtons showcasing philanthropy; Stevie Wonder reminding African-Americans of their social justice traditions and vocations; the television judge extolling Johnnie Cochran's crusade against racism and police brutality; the recognition of Ossie Davis and the embrace of the vindicated Michael Jackson and the embrace or the love engulfing the dramatic return of Lauryn Hill or the resurgence of Mariah Carey or the mere presence of icons like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson or the passing of the BET CEO torch from founder Bob Johnson to long time insider Debra Lee- there was something palpable going on last night:

It seemed to me as if Black America was consciously thumbing its collective flat nose at WASP America and inviting the latter to kiss the former's ebony derriere. Mingled with the celebration of African-American cultural achievements I could sense a real, seething bubbling to the surface anger- almost as if the African-American community was reaffirming to itself that it will continue to thrive and prosper despite the fiasco of the kangaroo trials involving its icons like Michael Jackson and Kobe Bryant .

Maybe this is a cultural bias on my part, but I kept wondering how the Oscars would FEEL and SOUND like if it was organized by African-Americans. Sure there is the mystique, the pizzaz the oomph of media celebrities who grace the biggest awards night in the year bedecked in trinkets and haute couture from the Dolce & Gabannas,Versaces, Armanis, Christian Diors and Donna Karans (with or without the accesories from Hermes). And of course, the clever humour and visual gags of Billy Crystal are gems to die for. Missing completely in my opinion from the Oscars is that sense of community; that raw energy of plain old fun that I sensed as I watched the BET awards last night.

As a Kenyan who is more than slightly conscious of American cultural imperialism, I am aware that in an ironic twist, Uncle Sam has no qualms about turning around and peddling African-American culture as part of their capitalist rags to riches, American Dream HOAX. We know how sad those radio DJs in Nairobi sound with their phony wannabe African-American accents. We have seen how our indigenous sounds and music still remain in danger of being swamped by a deluge of the Top 40 drivel from the Billboard 200 chart toppers. I also see how crass materialism, cheap commercialism, gratutious violence, obligatory sexism and internalized self-hatred from American music videos featuring Blacks is exported abroad as the ONLY REPRESENTATION of the exceedingly complex and diverse African-American communities. Who can fail to smile ruefully at the cynical turn of events that has seen mainstream America appropriate the inner-city b-boying, tagging and rapping to become the contemporary soundtrack of the modern consumer culture pushing a cut-throat Me-First capitalist ethos to the detriment of other less commericialized, more cultural and cultured ways of living? I mean who could miss the half a minute commercials that came on every six minutes or so(or so it seemed) as Reebok teamed up with the flavour of the moment/bad boy/cash cow du jour 50 Cent to mercilessly flog their new

G-Unit shoes?

Nevertheless, for a few hours last night, I pushed back the previous paragraph to the back of my mind as I joined African-Americans in celebrating their achievements in a society that continues to marginalize, disenfranchize, criminalize, infantilize and racialize their experiences.


I am Out.

Onyango Oloo

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