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Urban Media Warrior http://urbanmediawarrior.com Wed, 24 Nov 2010 18:04:10 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 Race and Crime in America when the Scottsboro Boys comes to Broadway http://urbanmediawarrior.com/2010/11/03/race-and-crime-in-america-when-the-scottsboro-boys-comes-to-broadway/ http://urbanmediawarrior.com/2010/11/03/race-and-crime-in-america-when-the-scottsboro-boys-comes-to-broadway/#comments Wed, 03 Nov 2010 20:14:27 +0000 urbanmw http://urbanmediawarrior.com/?p=315 A young man was murdered after being shot in the back while in custody by a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Police Officer. A young woman was arrested and threatened with a 15yr jail sentence for cutting the line in a store. Two sisters were sentenced to life in prison for being accessories to an $11 robbery. These are not unfair incidents of the justice system from a distant past but within the last ten or more years.

In January of 2009, Oscar Grant, an unarmed civilian, was shot in the back by BART Officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland, California. The young woman, Heather Ellis , was a college student when arrested for cutting a line at a Walmart in Missouri in 2007. She could have been sentenced to 15yrs in prison, but received probation and 4 days in jail after her story received public attention and assistance from the local NAACP. The two sisters, Gladys and Jamie Scott , are still in jail while serving 17yrs of their life sentence. These are just a few examples of how race continues to play a role in the in Justice System. Many of these acts of injustice began shortly after the end of slavery as a way to manage and control the newly freed and limit their independence. Lynching also served as vehicle to rule by fear, especially in the South. Telling a similar story is The Scottsboro Boys, a musical opening on Broadway the week of Oct. 31st at the Lyceum Theater. The Scottsboro Boys, part musical, part minstrel show, is the story of nine young Black men put on death row after being falsely accused of raping two young white women while riding the freights at the height of the Depression in Scottsboro, Ala.

You wonder how you turn such a story into a musical much less as a minstrel show? Very carefully!!! But to be fair, no one said a musical had to be happy and lighthearted. Especially at a time, when the majority of plays already on Broadway are regurgitated productions of movies and tv shows. Even films are rehashed tv shows or serialized versions of the last blockbuster. So, its refreshing to view a form of art that uses the medium to challenge, educate as well entertain it’s audience. The Scottsboro Boys does just that. It’s a brilliantly crafted and magnificently performed telling of the real life story of these nine young men fighting for their lives. The credit goes to the production team of John Kander and Fred Ebb, also producers of Cabaret and Kiss of a Spider Woman as well as the amazing director and choreographer Susan Stroman and book writer David Thompson.

With a bare set that illuminates the effectiveness of the light design, you are immediately pulled in from opening scene to closing number. The show opens with a young woman at a bus stop, the only woman in the entire show, who only speaks once and serves a figure of things to come. Of the twelve actors, eleven are all Black, which makes it one of the few largely Black productions on Broadway. Nine of those actors, play the Scottsboro boys, two of which also play the two white women who accuse them of rape. The other two men play a variety of characters including two stereotypical minstrel performers as well as white racist police, prison guards and lawyers. The always, talented John Cullum, and the only non-black performer, plays the Masters of Ceremonies to the Minstrel Show as well as a Judge and the Governor of Alabama. Each actor gives life to the once voiceless men who tell their own story as the case drags on year after year. And although each dramatization of these men were incredible, the standout performance belongs to Joshua Henry as Haywood Patterson, the de facto leader and oldest of the nine young men. The other standout of the show, is director’s Stroman’s use of twelve to thirteen chairs that serve as prison, freight car, set of the Minstrel show and courtroom. Never have you seen such an imaginative use of chairs in a Broadway production. But, not every creative decision has connected with the audience or even the critics. Using a minstrel show as backdrop for the telling of this story has proven controversial and even has turned some folks off. The minstrel, in this scenario moves way beyond the buffoonery and stereotypes of that time by using satire to explore as well as condem these caricatures. The men who portray the young white women avoid the over exaggeration of women normally seen with Tyler Perry’s Madea character but create a sly caricature of them. Actually, all the white characters portrayed by black actors are caricatures, similar to the portrayal of African Americans during the height of the vaudeville and minstrel circuit. There are also challenging caricatures of Jewish Americans, which also reflect commonly held beliefs about them. It’s a commentary on the way we see each other and a reversal of believed stereotypes. The entire production is a walking, breathing commentary on race in America, crucial at a time when the lack of real talk about race is fueling long held hatred and assumptions about each other in this country. The Scottsboro Boys is an invitation for more intergenerational and interracial dialogue, so we can be the America we tell the world we are.

This is what art should be, challenging and unnerving! If you want to sit in your comfort zone and be dulled into a warm and fuzzy existence then there is plenty out there for you. But, we are and can be more than that. So much of the media already believes that the American public doesn’t have the capacity to absorb and digest complex ideas. The Scottsboro Boy is just that, a musical that shines above the noise, a dark, complicated and even entertaining tale wrapped in a bow for all to see.

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R Kelly and the return of the Gentleman http://urbanmediawarrior.com/2010/10/19/r-kelly-and-the-return-of-the-gentleman/ http://urbanmediawarrior.com/2010/10/19/r-kelly-and-the-return-of-the-gentleman/#comments Tue, 19 Oct 2010 17:38:49 +0000 urbanmw http://urbanmediawarrior.com/?p=289 R. Kelly’s new single and music video for “When A Woman Loves” shows him in a way that we really haven’t seen since the beginning of his career and during some of his most successful hits, clean cut, sharp and well dressed. He appears to be focused and ready to go back to the business of creating good music. Time has certainly pass and many artists, new and old have surfaced in the midst of his downfall. While he was off fighting charges of child pornography and making ridiculous albums like the 22 chapter series “Trapped in the Closet,” albums like NeYo’s “Year of the Gentleman,” Maxwell’s “BLACKsummers’night” and Raphael Saddiq’s “The Way I See It” were left to filled a void left by Kelly. All great singers in their own right have created a distinctive sound amongst a sea of autotune singers. These artists not only provided us with good music, but returned to a look and sound reminiscent of the glory days of R & B music or as some may say, “Classic Soul.” Today, as back then, slim suits, white shirts and skinny ties are the standard look. Performers like The Temptations, Four Tops, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and a young Marvin Gaye were the poster boys of not only the look but the sound of great soul music.

Its no surprise that male artists, particularly those who are considered part of the “Neo Soul” sound would want to return to the pureness of that time. This was the height of Rhythm and Blues, when Soul music became the image and sound of a new Black America. Fast forward 40yrs. and those who consider themselves, “Grown and Sexy” are tired of the sloppy, tatted up autotune singer. We want real music and R. Kelly looks like he is ready to give it to us.

So, will R Kelly fit into this resurgence of 60’s soul music, with his new retro look and sound. There is no doubt that he is a extremely talented singer/songwriter/producer, who allowed his personal trouble not only overshadow his talent but almost destroy it. Its too early to determine if this new style and sound will have a positive effect on the trouble R&B singer. It’s obvious that he has moved on, but have we!!! Is good music all we need to mend a broken heart??? Only records sales will tell how forgiving we are a music buying audience. Good Luck R, you’ll need it!

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Black Filmmakers organize for a place at the table! http://urbanmediawarrior.com/2010/10/11/black-filmmakers-meet-for-a-place-at-the-table/ http://urbanmediawarrior.com/2010/10/11/black-filmmakers-meet-for-a-place-at-the-table/#comments Mon, 11 Oct 2010 20:04:50 +0000 urbanmw http://urbanmediawarrior.com/?p=293 In collaboration with the Black Documentary Collective, the National Black Programming Consortium, and Firelight Producers’ Lab, the Black X-Change was an ITVS sponsored weekend in NYC for Black filmmakers who are seeking funding from ITVS. ITVS has hosted similar workshops with other groups. For this event, eight out of forty filmmakers who were invited to submit a proposal were selected to participate in this weekend workshop. Those who were not selected, were able to attend as observers. Over the two days, the filmmakers presented their films to a panel of experts who provided feedback and advice. The panelists were Leslie Fields-Cruz (NBPC), Chi-hui Yang (former Director of the SF Asian American Film Festival), Sharon La Cruise (filmmaker), Mable Haddock (former founding President and CEO of NBPC and now Director of Firelight Media’s Producer’s Lab), Emir Lewis (documentary editor) and Richard Saiz and Allison Davis (ITVS).

One of the goals of the workshop was to assist filmmakers in moving to the next level of ITVS funding. Most of these filmmakers had already made it to either the 2nd or 3rd phase of the application process or had received development funding, therefore the feedback they received could assist in submitting a better proposal and work in progress.

With each presenting filmmaker, a consistent theme came up regarding their treatment. Many panelists felt most treatments lacked a clear story clarifying the themes to be addressed in the film. All of the panelists felt the works-in-progress were better representations of the projects submitted. One panelist, felt she needed to see and hear the voice of the filmmaker in their treatments. Some filmmakers were criticized for being too academic in writing their treatment: “You have to tell the story in an active voice”. Leslie Fields-Cruz talked about the need for filmmakers to create public media projects that use outreach and engagement strategies to reach youth and people of color who are not watching and using public television.

On the 2nd day, Sharon La Cruise, also a consultant for the Ford Foundation, used her upcoming film on Daisy Bates as a case study. She applied to ITVS several times over a five-year period before she finally received funding. She began the process of making the documentary in 1997, when she first met Ms. Bates and approached her about it. She eventually received funding from NBPC (development), the NEH (research), and the Arkansas Council of the Humanities, along with other funding sources. She talked about being strategic about who she applied to, since many foundations/funders don’t support historical documentaries. As part of her development stage, she did a lot of research, reading and met various historians. One of the most important revelations about Daisy Bates was that even as a flawed person she still did amazing and courageous things during a very turbulent period in American History.

Her comments provided a great deal of insight into the process of creating a historical documentary.

One of the filmmakers who presented their film was Carol Bash. She is the producer and director of the upcoming documentary, “Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings The Band” about the incredible composer, musician and pianist Mary Lou Williams. Carol has applied to ITVS six times. Her film was further along than most of the filmmakers who presented over the weekend. The clip she presented provided a fresh perspective on the amazing Mary Lou Williams, who stood out among the musicians during that period of “Bee Bop” and “Swing”, a male-dominated era of Jazz music.

In addition to Carol, several filmmakers presented films in various states of production, many in the early stages. Even as an observer, listening to the criticism was often difficult but extremely insightful and necessary. The weekend not only provided these filmmakers with an opportunity to get feedback and suggestions from a panel of experts but also an opportunity to network and socialize with filmmakers in similar stages of production and fundraising. As an artist, it’s easy to feel that you are suffering alone but to know that others share the same frustration and challenges, as well as possible successes, is priceless. The challenges and funding limitations of filmmakers overall are tripled for filmmakers of color. Therefore, this X-Change, even if briefly, provided a light at the end of the tunnel. Creating a forum for the next generation of documentarians of color ensures the voices of the unknown heroes and the rarely heard stories are told.

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The Roots – One of the Greatest Hip Hop Groups Ever! http://urbanmediawarrior.com/2010/06/21/one-of-the-greatest-hip-hop-groups-ever/ http://urbanmediawarrior.com/2010/06/21/one-of-the-greatest-hip-hop-groups-ever/#comments Mon, 21 Jun 2010 15:00:12 +0000 urbanmw http://urbanmediawarrior.com/?p=124 The new Roots album hits stores June 22, 2010 and you better cop it. With many of the rap artists all about the cash, cars and shorties (yeah, I know that’s been way played out but someone likes it). One group continues to stand above the fray to produce good music. Their success is not in ring tones and iced out platinum but with inspiring lyrics and dope music. Unlike most hip hop acts, all the albums produced by The Roots are largely with live instruments, meshing jazz, blues and soul with a little poprock. And what an inspiring way to create music… with instruments and lyrics that read like the best urban poets of our generation. Mixing upbeat messages, hood tales of bravado with reports of political and cultural clashes. Theirs is a musical legacy that encouraged Marvin Gaye to ask, “What’s going on?” It was a legacy which had meaning and evoked action. One that was a part of a cultural history way before we were invited to these shores.

Remember when Public Enemy and other artist like KRS One were the voice of urban youth. Remember when our hip hop artist were the CNN of the hood. They’re not all gone or have a realty show on VH1, many are still around and even new ones have emerged. Out of the ashes of gangsta rap and coast to coast beefs, came The Roots. With more than a finger on pulse of the streets and suburban communities of the global urban landscape. Along with Mos Def, Common, Talib Kweli and Dead Presidents (all east coast rapper might I say), they bring truth to knowledge and knowledge to truth. If you don’t believe me, peep the new video from their first single, How I Got Over. Check it out and tell me if I’m wrong!

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Fela and the failure of Hip Hop http://urbanmediawarrior.com/2010/06/02/fela-and-the-failure-of-hip-hop/ http://urbanmediawarrior.com/2010/06/02/fela-and-the-failure-of-hip-hop/#comments Wed, 02 Jun 2010 18:43:36 +0000 urbanmw http://urbanmediawarrior.com/?p=187 The play Fela, the musical is not just a performance but an experience. It’s not just a musical, but a glimpse into the life of a man who was a musician and a revolutionary figure. If you think about all the one-hit wonders and artists who spend their enormous influence and power on expressing how much money and bling they have then its not hard to understand why there hasn’t been another artist of Fela’s magnitude. I only knew Fela as a musician and artist, but through this play I learned a lot more about the background and history of this larger than life figure. I was not aware of his role as a revolutionary force in Nigeria, his musical background in London and the USA and his legacy in African music overall.

Fela was a man of many contradictions and short-comings but for all that he wasn’t, he was definitely a man of the people. He used his music to not only influence and inform the Nigerian people but as a call to action. He infused political lyrics into his music and created a musical literacy that moved a nation. Inspired by the Black Power movement of the 70’s and the Pan African politics of his mother, Fela’s music spoke to the disempowered and disenchanted in his country. As a musician, he created AfroBeat, which was a cross breeding of Funk, Jazz, Calypso with Juju, Highlife and African percussive beats. His style of music is still performed by many musicians such as New York City’s Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra.

Hip Hop was much like the music of Fela for me, when I was growing up in the Bronx. It was a new form of music that was culturally revalent and exciting, it also made me feel like I was a part of a movement. Yes, there was the traditional bragging and boasting but as rap grew as an art form, especially in the mid 80 to late 90’s, it became a form of communication and education that spoke to young African Americans. I remember teaching video at Park West High School in Manhattan, in the early 90’s and the excitement and frustration that one high school student expressed from learning more about her history as an African American from KRS One then from her school. Hip Hop artists, from the late 80’s to the mid 90’s, such as Public Enemy, KRS One, Gang Star, Eric B and Rakim, Queen Latifah, Bahamadia, Mc Lyte, Pete Rock and CL Smooth, 2 Pac, Arrested Development, Mos Def and Talib Kweli and The Roots, to name a few where more than just rappers they were educators and social commentators. They provided a window into the souls of Black folks, while providing cultural commentary on the social and political strife of urban communities

Fortunately, a few of those artists are still around with others who attempt to struggle to move above the status quo like Jay Z, Outkast, Goodie Mob, Nas and Kanye West. Among the current rooster of rappers, Mos Def is one of the best as well as most under-rated hip hop artist. Not many artists are as creative, humorous, enlighting and culturally aware as he is. In comparison to Fela, Mos Def would be the closest cultural link. Check out the lyrics to Mathemethics, from his first solo album, Black on both sides and then listen to Fela’s Beast of No Nation. There is a thread that connects the two stories of political mistrust and social empowerment. In Mos Def, we have a modern revolutionary using his musical legacy to uplift and inform.

The legacy of Fela is kept alive in artists like Mos Def and through the vision of Bill T. Jones (http://www.billtjones.org/), who recognized the need for Fela’s story to be told. Fortunately, Questlove from The Roots, Jay Z and actors Will and Jada Smith provided the financial resources and clout to push the play to Broadway. Now, with the recent TONY nominations, rave reviews and a lot media attention, hopefully more and more members of the Hip Hop generation will see their hidden revolutionary in the music of Fela and use that inspiration to bring Hip Hop as a culture back to its roots!!!

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Women are the new Hip Hop http://urbanmediawarrior.com/2010/04/27/women-are-the-new-hip-hop/ http://urbanmediawarrior.com/2010/04/27/women-are-the-new-hip-hop/#comments Tue, 27 Apr 2010 20:41:31 +0000 urbanmw http://urbanmediawarrior.com/?p=228 It was fitting that the South Bronx, the birth home of Hip Hop, was the host site for Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen Vol. 3: Back to Our Roots–Environmental Justice, Education Equity, at the Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture. Thank God for Twitter. If not, for the up to date, news breaking, event posting phenomenon, I would have never known about the event. Of course, once I had a taste of it I was upset and embarrassed that I missed the first two events.

It was an amazing day of activity and performances on the first brisk and sunny afternoon in March. It would have almost been ordinary, it was just an incredible group of women rappers and break dancers. But, it was more than that!!! The exterior of the auditorium hosted political, cultural and art based vendors, offering everything from books, CD’s and clothes to health screenings, condoms and free HIV tests. Inside the auditorium was a huge audience of mostly youth of color, largely young women. Sprinkled throughout the women were a few young men and some seniors (30 to 40+), like myself. It was empowering to see not only young women expressing themselves in a such a creative and artistic manner but with so much conviction.

The day was filled with wonderful performances by local artists and invited guests from as far as California. Poets, singers, b-girls, rappers and breakdancers filled the stage. Each addressing important topics related to their communities and experiences such as rape, domestic violence, sexism and racism as well as concerns related to street and police violence. Some performances were done in both English and Spanish. Latinas were definitely representing in all forms of performances as well as Black and Asian women. In between the performances were slides displaying graffiti produced by young women of color and during the intermission youth produced media focused on environmental racism, gentrification and a poor education system.

It was one of the most empowering and uplifting thing I participated in all year.

As the issue of women in hip hop has been picking up with the introduction of Nicki Minaj and the disappearances of hardcore women rappers such as Mc Lyte, Queen Lattifah and Bahamadia and even some of the more commercial artists such as Eve, Lil Kim, Foxy Brown and Trinia. Its obvious that the world of hip hop has been missing some of its most influential as well as controversial members. There has certainly been a hole that needs to be filled especially by young women who rip it without tearing each other down or try to out buy the other with Prada and Gucci that they rarely afford to have. Even the academia is getting into the discussion on women in hip hop. Check out the link to Black Women in Hip Hop: Limitation or Liberation? a presentation given by San Francisco State Professor, Dr. Dawn-Elissa Fischer

http://theblackhour.blogspot.com/2010/04/black-women-in-hip-hop-limitation-or.html

The discussion of women and rap needs to continue and to make sure you don’t sleep on any upcoming events check out the website for Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen. Learn what they do and how they do it. Slowly, hip hop is getting back to its roots, there is an underground swelling of independent and grassroots artists that are flourishing on the internet and through social media networks. There will be an end to the era of wanna be thugs, fake drug dealers and the boasting of money, cash and women. Then we can focus on the skills ….. http://www.myspace.com/hiphopkitchen

http://mhhk.org/

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Life After Precious http://urbanmediawarrior.com/2010/03/23/life-after-precious/ http://urbanmediawarrior.com/2010/03/23/life-after-precious/#comments Tue, 23 Mar 2010 18:36:36 +0000 urbanmw http://urbanmediawarrior.com/?p=170 Here are other articles related to Precious:

Embracing Precious: The nuances and truths in the individual and collective stories we tell

BEYOND/WITH PRECIOUS: BLACK WOMEN, INCEST AND RAPE

Now that some of the hysteria over Precious has died down and we’ve moved on to the good and bad of being a Black Princess with a frog for a Prince or blue aliens. We can take a moment to sit back and look at what Precious says about us as a community. Especially, now that the hype of the awards season is over and Precious has won at least one award from almost every award show from the NAACP Image Awards to The Oscars.

As we look at Precious as a social commentary about society and our community as a whole, a number of issues have come up. In the month or so since it opened to a wide audience last year, there have been several articles dissecting, criticizing and praising the Lee Daniels’ film. For the folks who were lured by the pre-release buzz and for those who just recently saw it, many are still reacting to the gritty and un-apologizing story of an overweight and illiterate Black teenage girl. And despite all that you have heard or read about the film, nothing can really prepare you for what you saw. It’s not a common story but it’s also not unheard of. Some, in the Black community were already familiar with this story, have witnessed it ourselves, know someone like Precious or saw ourselves in her. Its a story that can be too close to home and is a bitter reminder of all that can be self-loathing, ugly, sad and disheartening about our community. Teresa Wilts of theRoot.com, says “No amount of hype can prepare you for the visceral shock that you get from watching this film. It’s got a lot of a lot. A lot of urban pathology, a lot of sadness and grief and a whole lot of rage and venom and jaw dropping cruelty.” But, unlike other ghettoized stories about the black community dealing with violence, many related to this film due to the universal story of abuse. A friend who happened to be a slightly older and middle class white woman empathized with the main characters because of her own experience of abuse. People of different races have also related similar feelings about the film in a manner different than many of us are used to. We are more familiar with the usually feel good movie about downtrodden people of color that makes white folks feel sympathetic, yet superior. Even the most recent Clint Eastwood film, Invictus, seems to have fallen guilty to that premise. That without Matt Damon’s character’s charisma and athletic ability, South Africa would have collapsed despite the leadership and dedication of its most celebrated and respected President, Nelson Mandela.

So, with all the commercial and critical success of this film, what’s the problem with Precious ??? Well, there are a few issues. Since there are a limited amount of films by and about Black and people of color, there is a need to see more of the diversity and depth of the African American experience. “Serious African American cinema scarcely exists. It arrives in fits and sputters, in the occasional legends (Melvin Van Peebles, Gordon Parks), outliers (Charles Burnett, Julie Dash) or mavericks (Spike Lee). But demanding cinema based around the black experience are largely absent from American screens, displaced by gangstas, guns and masquerading comedians in drag or fat suits (Tyler Perry, Eddie Murphy),” as noted by Anthony Kaufman of ifc.com in the article, What the Success of “Precious” means for Black Indie Cinema. When images rarely reflect who you are, filmmakers and audiences of color become sensitive about any and every story told about their experience. The same has happened with Precious, a grim and sometimes gross dramatized depiction of poverty in Black America. And although, it has a more uplifting ending than the book, Push, by author and poet, Sapphire, its still an almost hopeless story. As film critic Armond White stated in the New York Press’ article Pride and Precious, “The hype for Precious indicates a culture-wide willingness to accept particular ethnic stereotypes as a way of maintaining status quo film values.”

So, how do we tell stories about poor people and people of color and is it necessary to always exploit Black pain for commercial gain. Stories that focus on poverty, ugliness and abuse have become gateway subjects to award shows. If you want to win an Oscar, then films like Monster’s Ball, Monster and Slumdog Millionaire have the right elements to guarantee you a golden statue. And with downtrodden poor and undereducated folks being the flavor of the decade, Precious has all the right elements to be a winner. Now its not to say, that the stories of poor and undereducated folks don’t have value and shouldn’t to be told, but is it possible to do so without victimizing the victims. Mississippi Damned is a great example of a film that depicts the challenges of growing up poor with little opportunities to get out of a small town. Written and directed by Tina Mabry, a Black woman filmmaker, who grew up in a small black rural town similar to community she dramatizes in the film. Her film, based on a true story, is about three poor Black kids in rural Mississippi who reap the consequences of their family’s cycle of abuse, addiction, and violence. Mississippi Damned pulls you into the story, you are not a spectator in the drama of someone’s else life. Which brings into question in how stories are told. As a filmmaker, a woman and an African American, I have great issue with who gets to tell my/our story. Men get to tell the stories of women, ie. Precious and white folks are afforded the opportunity to tell the stories of Black and Brown people. (If you don’t believe me, check to see any documentary film about a person or community of color that has a won an award or received major funding in the last 10 yrs, and I can assure you it was done by a non-person of color). Which, of course, wouldn’t be so bad if this weren’t the norm.

In addition, to who tells these stories, I’m also concerned about the images of Black women and women of color in these stories. There have been recent periods where the images of black women were of large, boisterous, buffoon like characters, who were more than often played by men. Now, the images reflect poor and angry women unable to care for themselves or their families. Very rarely do you see the diverse characterization of women played by actresses like Cicely Tyson in Sounder and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman or Dianne Carroll in Claudine or more recently Nia Long in Love Jones and Soul Food, Sanana Lathan in Love and Basketball and Brown Sugar or anything that Regina King has been in. And these are only a few of the many incredible black actresses who rarely get the opportunity to portray dynamic and well-rounded women. Of course, this not to say that any of the actors in Precious gave inadequate performances, its quite the opposite. Mo’Nique has deserved every award she has received. If her performance wasn’t as moving and challenging as it was, there wouldn’t be as much discussion about her disturbing portrayal of Mary. And obviously, Gabourey Sidibe, Paula Patton and Mariah Carey were each excellent in portraying the depth and uniqueness of their character. Each of those characters needed to have their stories told. Most importantly, Precious needed to be seen and the issues around our poor education system, illiteracy in this country, all forms of abuse and most importantly women and HIV in the black community, needed to be brought to light. This was a rich but difficult and raw film that explored the pain and ugliness of being poor and black. As noted by Seeing Black.com’s film critic, Esther Iverem, “There are some rich moments in “Precious,” especially several scenes with Precious at a new high school for troubled girls and in interviews with her social worker, played with perfect Noo Yawk attitude by Mariah Carey.” But will the story of Precious and their portrayal of black women help to elevate the future of Black film or should it even be expected to do so. Well, only time will tell.

So far, Precious has held the highest number of Academy Award nominations for a Black film in history and its DVD sales have seen record numbers. As of now, even in its glow of success, folks are still debating the value of this film. Some writers see it as damaging as the Birth of a Nation, while others feel it paints a vivid portrait of those ignored by society. Whichever way you view the film, it certainly has encouraged one of the most interesting and yet challenging debates about race, film and culture in recent memory. Hopefully, the dialogue will continue while the opportunities for filmmakers, writers and actors of color will expand and evolve in the wake of its success.

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Women, Gender and the Media Panel http://urbanmediawarrior.com/2009/10/28/women-gender-and-the-media-panel/ http://urbanmediawarrior.com/2009/10/28/women-gender-and-the-media-panel/#comments Wed, 28 Oct 2009 06:30:14 +0000 urbanmw http://urbanmediawarrior.com/?p=160 On the Saturday afternoon of Oct. 24th, the Phenomenal Women’s meet-up group hosted a panel/forum on “Women, Gender and the Media.” The event wasn’t as well attended as it should have been but what it lacked in attendance, it made up in information. The small turnout could have been due to its location, Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Which for a Central Brooklyn resident, like myself, was a dream but probably not convenient for someone traveling from Harlem, Queens or the Bronx. The panel was billed as an event co-sponsored with the College, but it was hard to determine how many of the audience members were from the school. It’s unfortunate that students and staff didn’t take advantage of a great opportunity to network and learn from media professionals.

The panel was fairly impressive and large. I would have to say in my several years of attending and participating in workshops around the country, I have never seen a panel with as many people. There were at least 8 to 10 women on the panel but despite the size the moderator managed it quite well and the women were conscious not to interrupt each other. Other than the size of the audience, another disappointment was the lack of handouts or printed materials of the names and bios of the panelists. On the panel were a few bloggers, journalists, filmmakers, educators and independent business owners. So, by the end of the afternoon, it became difficult to remember the names of each panelist.

The panel also took a while to start but once it did, the panel could not have come at a better time. Issues around women and the media have been re-surfacing lately, specifically around the lack of good roles for women in film and television, especially women of color, to the stories of women involved in questionable relationships with their supervisors, as in the recent incidents with David Letterman and ESPN staffers. The women touched on these issues and more.

The first topic of the afternoon dealt with the uneven portrayal of women of color in the media. Many of the panelists felt there weren’t multi-dimensional images of women specifically Black women in the media. There was a lot of talk about the negative portrayal of women in music videos, films and television. Few of the panelists felt the lack of women writers help promote the stereotypes male writers create. One of the panelists felt that if more women had self –esteem and pride then they wouldn’t accept the demeaning roles offered to them. The feeling was that women needed to take responsibility for adding to the stereotypes they portray and the women in power who work on these sets need to speak up against these images. A few felt they had less problems with these images, assuming this was the only option for some women, if there were a balance of more positive image of women. They felt these images have extremely negative effects on young women and critical thinking skills and an understanding of media criticism could help them weed out the negaitivity.

There was also talk about the importance of teaching men how to view these images so they don’t have the same expectations of women as the stereotypes they see in the media. All agreed that channels, like BET, enforce these stereotypes and bad images of Black women and the Black community. All the panelists felt there needed to be more standards in the Black community to help elevate our own image of ourselves.

The conversation then moved to blogging, with the bloggers on the panel offering the most input on this subject. It was noted that most successful blogs were largely gossip driven, using Media Take Out and Perez Hilton as an example. The bloggers, who also had backgrounds in journalism, felt most blogs are rooted in “citizen journalism”, consistently mostly of opinions instead of facts. Many people view blogs as journalistic endeavors although many are not; there isn’t the same level of responsibility or accountability expected. The main point many of the bloggers made was that it was important for them to produce positive work and to encourage young women to follow uplifting blogs that had reliable resources. The understanding was that many young adults get their information from the web; therefore it was important to provide a healthy alternative to the gossip sites.

The conversation then moved into the importance of networking and making sure employers know that you are interested in doing other things and capable of more responsibility. Two of the women also talked about the extreme sexism in the music and sports industry. It appeared that sexism was a much more consistent form of discrimination than racism. They both spoke of constant sexual harassment and despite the few most recent cases reported in the media, it’s well known that this happens regularly. It was also noted that some women use sex as an entry point or an opportunity to advance their careers. Therefore for those who wanted to be rewarded for their own merit, it was important to study your craft and to set your standards high early in your career. They both agreed that independence, morals and determination were key to a successful career.

Although, much of the information was common knowledge, it was important to hear again and for those new to the industry to learn and understand. It was very comforting and reassuring to hear women share their stories, to share their highs and lows. Hopefully, Phenomenal Women will host a similar panel in the near future. The opportunity to hear, learn and network is crucial for women in the field.

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Fear of a Black Planet http://urbanmediawarrior.com/2009/10/07/fear-of-a-black-planet/ http://urbanmediawarrior.com/2009/10/07/fear-of-a-black-planet/#comments Wed, 07 Oct 2009 16:00:46 +0000 urbanmw http://urbanmediawarrior.com/?p=131 Fear Of A Black Planet, was considered one of their best. That album became the soundtrack for the political, cultural and economic strife existing in many Black communities at that time. Oddly, the album still holds up almost twenty years later, with many of the same issues of race and politics rearing its ugly head in the months after Obama's election win and first year as President.]]> Was Chuck D able to read into the future?

In 1990, Public Enemy’s third album, Fear Of A Black Planet, was considered one of their best. That album became the soundtrack for the political, cultural and economic strife existing in many Black communities at that time. Oddly, the album still holds up almost twenty years later, with many of the same issues of race and politics rearing its ugly head in the months after Obama’s election win and first year as President.

With the smell of smoke in the air, its beginning to feel like a Civil War is brewing. The outrage that has been voiced against the President and the violence that has been springing up in cities, rural and suburban communities around the country, its obvious that there is a lot of anger. Flaming the flames, among others, are conservative talk show hosts taking advantage of the fear of average Americans on the brink of desperation and those already filled with race based hate. This at a time when job security doesn’t exist, folks are losing their homes and families are being ripped apart. And instead of our trusted politicians and media pundits seeking calm in a sea of fear, there seems to be greater interest in fueling the fear and spreading the hate.

And why, cause there is always someone to blame, to be the scapegoat. And of course, its always been them. In good times and bad times, its always been those people. The black, brown, red and yellow people. Before Barack Obama became President, people of color, the poor and immigrants were the downfall of this country. Now, we are on the hunt to steal power away from the real Americans and of course, create the downfall of the country. How can African Americans, Latinos and other people of color wield so much power in such a short time. In the face of the win of the Presidency, it appears that people of color have all the power and we are just going to go buck wild with it. Despite the fact, that it is statically known that the majority of the economic crisis (foreclosures, job loss and financial insecurity) hit Blacks and Latinos the hardest. And not because we were the cause of the housing crisis. But because poor and working class people, primarily those of color, were targeted by greedy banking and mortgage lenders. There is no one group that did better than the other. Well, many of those who were rich just got richer, but if you were poor, working class or middle class, whether white, black, brown or yellow, we were all hit the same.

But that’s not what the power brokers in media, corporations and major industries like the insurance companies want you to believe. There is a lot of finger pointing going on and as a result random acts of violence, some that are race based and others based on a fear of government control, is becoming less random and more calculated.

How do we as a nation move beyond our mistrust and fear of each other. How do we take the lessons and success of the Obama campaign to move this country to its full potential as a land of opportunity to all who share in the dream of freedom and the pursuit of happiness. Not to just the rich, the famous or of any particular race, religious or cultural group, but to all.

Share your thoughts on any of the issues addressed above or how we can move this country forward, assuming we can move beyond race, power and money.

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