A new allegation has surfaced that pop superstar Whitney Houston was murdered. Legal television commentator Nancy Grace ignited a firestorm of criticism speculating Houston’s death might have been a homicide. “I’d like to know who was around her, who, if anyone gave her drugs, following alcohol and drugs, and who let her slip, or pushed her, underneath that water,” Grace told CNN. On Feb. 11 Houston was found dead in the bathtub of her Beverly Hilton Hotel room on the eve of the Grammy Awards. Continue Reading →
When Viola Davis lost the Oscar for best actress portraying an African American maid in Katherine Stockett’s The Help to Meryl Streep portraying former Britain Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady at the 84th Academy Awards ceremony, there was a collective sigh of relief from many of us African American sisters. Tulane University Professor Melissa Harris-Perry, the author of an upcoming book on racial stereotypes, summed up my feelings best when she told MSNBC that ”what killed me was that in 2011, Viola Davis was reduced to playing a maid.”
Earlier during the Academy Awards ceremony Octavia Spencer won best supporting actress for her stereotypical role as the sassy, tart-tongued, “mammy-fied” maid, Minny Jackson, in The Help, making Spencer the fifth African American woman to receive the coveted Oscar, and the second sister portraying a maid. Sixty-two years earlier, in 1940, in Jim Crow America, Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to win an Oscar, for her supporting role as a maid called ”Mammy” in Gone with the Wind. When civil rights groups, like the NAACP, criticized McDaniel for her portrayal as “Mammy,” McDaniel famously retorted, ”I would rather get paid $700 a week for playing a maid than seven dollars for being one.”
Knowing of the controversial legacy stemming from McDaniel’s role, Davis told Fresh Air’s Terry Gross her ”role of Aibileen, in the hands of the wrong actress, could turn into a cliché… You’re only reduced to a cliché if you don’t humanize a character. A character can’t be a stereotype based on the character’s occupation.” Davis contested she gave depth and dimensionality to her character by pulling from the actually lived experiences of both her mother and grandmother, who worked as maids. Continue Reading →
Cleo Manago is despised by some in the LGBTQ community. Descriptors like “homo demagogue,” contrarian, separatist, and anti-White are just a few that can be expressed in polite company. However, to a nationwide community of same-gender loving (SGL), bisexual, transgender and progressive heterosexual African American men, Manago is the man! He is seen as a visionary, game changer and “social architect” focusing on advocating for and healing a group of men that continues to be maligned and marginalized — brothers. ”Without an understanding of the deep hurt that Black men have around issues of masculinity and their role as a man, you can’t hope to eliminate anti-homosexual sentiment in Black men. Continue Reading →
Robert Champion, Jr.’s murder may never be solved. Those who struck the fatal blows may never disclose whether they used the guise of hazing as an accidental homicide to cover up an intended hate crime. Champion was an unusual student to be at one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). He was openly gay, and a drum major slated to be the head drum major next school year. At HBCUs, drum majors are usually heterosexual macho brothers, equivalent to captains of football teams.
On November 19, 2011, Champion, a music major from Atlanta, was one of six drum majors of the famous Florida A&M University (FAMU) Marching ”100” band who traveled to Orlando for the annual Florida Classic football game between FAMU and Bethune-Cookman University. Continue Reading →
Last July, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) Americans and our allies celebrated New York State becoming the sixth and largest state to allow same-sex marriage. And, of course, it sent an urgent message to President Obama. But what does it signal to us LGBTQ citizens when the first African American president wants to employ states’ rights, which once upon a time in this country federally mandated racial segregation and sanctioned American slavery, to address the issue of same-sex marriage? As a civil rights attorney, Obama knows that employing states’ rights violates our full constitutional rights as well as re-institutionalizes the 1896 U.S. Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson. As a result of that case, the ”separate but equal” doctrine became the rule of law until it was struck down in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. Continue Reading →