Jamal Muhammad: Farewell My Friend

With all the nasty, hateful things so many Americans have to say about Muslims, both here and abroad, it’s a wonder that there’s a Muslim anywhere in this “wilderness” who doesn’t go around with a snarl and a scowl on his or her face all the time.

But Jamal Muhammad was a cheerful Muslim whose mouth was always full of smiles. When he ran out of smiles, he always had a cheerful or an amusing story to tell.

My Buddy Jamal joined the ancestors Feb. 4. Continue reading

They don’t really care about us!

Michael Jackson, Jan. 16, 2004

Michael Jackson was correct. “They don’t really care about us!”

In his most controversial composition ever, he says again and again: “All I want to say is that/ They don’t really care about us!” The “they” involved being the all-powerful, oppressive, White, authoritarian, rulers; and the “us” being the poor, righteous masses who live under “their” boots on “our” necks.

Someone should sit President Barack Obama down to watch the two versions of that video (one in which the “us” are poor Black Brazilian street children and the other in which the “us” are Black inmates in a penitentiary) and then explain to the President that contrary to what he may have thought when he was inaugurated, he and his agenda of good for the masses of Americans is not a “they,” but rather is an “us.”

In his case, the “they” are clearly gun-toting, White Republicans and other sundry conservatives, who mean him and his ambitious plans for reform absolutely no good. Continue reading

Farrakhan on Michael Jackson

Minister Louis Farrakhan, July 26, 2009

CHICAGO–Minister Louis Farrakhan preached a sermon July 26 about “The Crucifixion of Michael Jackson.”

That’s a curious subject.

As I awaited the Minister’s entrance, three sisters came forward offering a singing tribute to Michael Jackson. It was thrilling! It was almost too good to be something you’d expect at a religious service.

But then again, what would choirs of angels look and sound like anyway?

At your typical Nation of Islam meeting, you always hear shouts and cheers, from the faithful–they call it “Bearing Witness to The Truth.” Their enthusiasm adds an exciting element to his lecture. “Teach us!” “Wake us up!” it’s almost like being at a live concert or a sports event.

Min. Farrakhan’s subject: “Crucifixion of Michael Jackson.” Why compare MJ to crucifixion of Jesus, the Minister asked. Continue reading

Remembering why, I Like Mike

Good. Michael Jackson, Jan. 16, 2004

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t “Like Mike.”

Even though men aren’t quick to confess it, there was probably a time in every boy’s life when that boy still believed in Santa Claus, when he thought he’d like to fly like Peter Pan (or some other fantasy-land character) and when he thought fairies (or some other fantasy-land characters) would make fine friends.

That’s the substance of the worst thing you can say about 50-year-old Michael Jackson: he lived in a fantasy world, where he never grew up.

I like mike.

I once compared the Million Man March to Michael Jackson.

I unsuccessfully argued to an executive producer of a network news broadcast, that just as Michael Jackson was the first American Superstar who sang Black Music in a Black body; the Million Man March was the first grassroots movement expressing the “body” of Black discontent, which had a Black “head” on the body.

The editor wasn’t buying it. While conceding that American vocal superstars Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley both arguably sang Black Music, and that Michael Jackson’s accomplishments had certainly equaled or surpassed those two Original, Old School American Idols, that was as far as I was permitted to go with my metaphor. Continue reading

A Skunk at the garden party

The Black Band

INDIANOLA, MISS.–If there is one place in Creation which symbolizes White racists with their lips dripping with “the words of inter-position and nullification” more than Mississippi, it’s the depths of Hell.

From Simon Legree’s final torment of the loyal slave Uncle Tom; to the bulging-eyed body of 14-year-old Emmett Till, tarred and feathered then thrown alive into the Tallahatchie River with a millstone around his neck; to Medgar Evers and Mack Parker; to Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner; my home state has an unmatched reputation for racial terror-on-terror, on into the 21st Century.

I returned “home” to the Delta with good intentions: to honor Riley “Blues Boy” King, a man who just turned 83, but who has a heart as forgiving as Tiger Woods.

But for me, I just couldn’t forget. I couldn’t let go of the pain. Continue reading

The Promise is True…Tony Snow

The last time I saw Tony Snow.

I really shouldn’t say anything about him.

We disagreed so fundamentally, on

Just about everything.

But the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad reminded

Us of a promise, that we would have

Money, Luxury, Good Homes, and Friendship in all walks of life.

I bear Him witness.

The Promise is true.

The last time I saw Tony.

Tony Snow was Press Secretary

For the President of the United States of America,

George W. Bush.

Some say the “W” stands for the “Worst” President in U.S. history.

But I owe Tony Snow my respect Continue reading

The Civil Rights “Generation neXt”

In the American youth-obsessed culture, young Blacks consigned Jazz music–American Classical Music–over to young Whites for its perpetuation and continuity. Jazz had already undergone one transition after another: from New Orleans Preservation Hall, to Ragtime and Harlem “Jungle Music,” to the Swing Era, to Be Bop, to Hard Bop, to Modern, to Avante Garde, to Free Jazz.

But one Jazz expert I know says he won’t consider the merits of a young Jazz group today, until he hears them play some of the old Jazz Standards, so he can “see if they can play,” by comparing their skills to the performances of the music’s Masters.

There is no such thing as modern Rhythm & Blues. That form, now called “Old School,” is simply relegated to reunion tours and performances on public television fund-raisers and Hand Dance celebrations by whichever original group members can still stand in matching sequined suits and groove in front of a microphone.

Musically, young people today have moved on, and now even the original progressive, consciousness-raising Hip Hop has devolved from so-called “Gangsta Rap,” into pure shake-your-backside debauchery. Continue reading

Bishop S.C. Madison: “Daddy’s” Gone…Long live “Sweet Daddy”

Daddy Madison

Bishop S.C. Madison, the Presiding Bishop of the United House of Prayer for All People has been laid to rest in grand fashion April 14. He was only the third leader of what must be considered the first Black “Mega Church.”

My hat is off to the UHOP. May God Be Pleased With You. UHOP members don’t stand out from other middle class, “Raisin in the Sun” type, striving Black folks, they don’t change their names to “El” or “Bey” or Rashideen. Of course their clean, well dressed, well represented. But there’s something else about their strength I admire. The way they worship, their exuberant musical tributes.

Bishop Grace–Sweet Daddy Grace–founded his first church in West Waltham, Massachusetts, around 1919. By the mid-1920s he had moved South, and was holding large, popular revivals and tent-meetings around Charlotte, North Carolina. In 1927, with an estimated 13,000 followers, Bishop Grace incorporated The United House of Prayer for All People of the Church on the Rock of the Apostolic Faith. The church grew rapidly and soon included branches all along the eastern seaboard, claiming some 500,000 people in 100 congregations in 67 cities.

Was he “charismatic” or merely “flamboyant?”

Charles Manuel Grace was of mixed African and Portuguese descent, born in the Cape Verde Islands around 1882. His family came to the United States during the first decade of the twentieth century. In the Cape Verdean communities of New Bedford and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the young Charles Grace worked as a short-order cook, a cranberry picker, and a sewing machine and patent medicine salesman, before giving his life completely to his ministry.

Bishop Grace was said to have been a showman, but he was always a generous benefactor. He sponsored bands and parades, and tossed candy to his followers (hence “Sweet Daddy”) and to this day UHOP marching bands and steppers travel up and down the east coast in bright, shiny, dream-mobile-looking buses where they perform at various congregation meetings and rallies.

Daddy Grace dazzled with his long hair, multicolored robes, and colored fingernails. Continue reading

WPFW at 30, Pacifica Radio, Washington Style

Imagine, if you will, the hep Village Voice, Washington, DC, “Chocolate City” version. Then open your eyes and notice WPFW 89.3FM.

I first noticed WPFW in September 1977. The station had just been on the air six months. I produced a 14 minute radio show: “I Remember Elijah Muhammad” to be aired around October 7, the 100th birthday anniversary of the leader of the Nation of Islam. WPFW accommodated my effort. I worked and produced the program, and became a volunteer, as well as a contributor to the companion Pacifica National News Bureau.

The marriage of the left-radical Pacifica Foundation, to the Jazz, Blues, Oldies, Caribbean, African, and Latin rhythm-loving indigenous DC community–Chocolate City, if you will–is, without question, a marriage made in Heaven–the Village Voice on the Potomac. WPFW, the offspring of that marriage turned 30 in 2007, and celebrates with an Anniversary Gala on Dec. 15 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Continue reading

‘El Dorado Gold’ ties bind Blacks Latinos

When I was growing up, before the BMW officially became the “Black Man’s Wish,” it was the Cadillac El Dorado, which was the ultimate male automotive status symbol, bar none! Artist Uzikee Nelson has borrowed on that tradition to celebrate Hispanic culture’s pre-Columbian ancestry.

Uzikee formally unveiled his latest outdoor sculpture–Eldorado Gold–at the Josephine Butler House in the Columbia Heights neighborhood, a Latino residential stronghold. It was unveiled, ironically on Columbus Day–Oct. 12, the anniversary of the date the explorer landed in the Caribbean in 1492, opening up the Western and its indigenous people to genocide and domination by the Europeans to follow. The reason he chose Oct. 12, is because it would have been his father’s 100th birthday.

The two-sided sculpture is an 8-foot-tall weathered steel piece, with gold glass. It was inspired by a visit to Latin America where Uzikee discovered that the use of gold was commonplace, before the Europeans with gunpowder conquered the people and robbed them of their gold. The location: El Dorado. El Dorado Gold. Continue reading