February 28, 2006 by Marc Lamont Hill
Last night, Dave Chappelle brought his “Block Party” tour to Philadelphia. Like the upcoming movie, which opens this week, the tour mixes Chapelle’s comedy with neo-soul (yes, I know that everybody hates that title. so do I) and hip-hop acts. The show began with Chappelle, who commented on current events as well as his own recent struggles, even referencing his recent appearance on Oprah. As always Chappelle was laugh-out-loud funny with his keen observations and animated stye. After watching the show, I’m even more disappointed that the Chappelle show ended at the height of its popularity and brillliance. Hopefully, he and Comedy Central (or someone else) will work something out so that we can have regular access to America’s funniest (along with Chris Rock) comedian.
Also at the block party were Talib Kweli and Erykah Badu. Mos Def was listed on the billboard but did not show up. I was surprised at the crowd’s lukewarm response to Kweli, given the number of White, suburban, backpackers that were in attendance. It was particularly disappointing that almost no one showed love as he did a tribute to Jay-Dilla (R.I.P.) (I wanted to sucker punch the dude in the mink coat who asked “Who the f*** is Jay Dilla????). Although Kweli ripped a string of classic hip-hop songs, it seemed that the only song that got people out of their seats was “Get By,” which he performed right beore his exit.
After another short routine by Chappelle, Erykah Badu appeared on stage. Sporting a 1930s style outfit and hairdo, as well as a much thicker frame (must be the baby), Badu performed “Green Eyes” in its entirety. With her raspy voice and drunken style, as well as a throng of nag-champa burnin’ soul sistas desperately clamorin’ for her attention (apparently they didn’t get the memo that neo-soul is dead), Badu performed nearly every standout song she’s ever made (notable exceptions include “Love of My Life” and “I Want You”). Fortunately, she seemed to have competely exorcised the self-righteous, pompous, and bourgie (boojie?) neo-soul demons from her body that made neo-soul so intolerable to many people, including neo-soul artists. Overall, the show was refreshing and fun and made me want to check out the movie.
February 28, 2006 by Marc Lamont Hill
As Black History Month winds down, it is only fitting to think about the heroes from the freedom struggle who rarely get appropriate respect and attention. As Mumia Abu Jamal reminds us, Huey Newton has left an indelible, yet often unacknowledged, mark on American life.
IN MEMORY OF THE MINISTER OF DEFENSE: DR. HUEY NEWTON, PH.D.
By Mumia Abu Jamal
It is somehow fitting that February, the shortest month, has been
designated Black History Month. For whatever Black folks have gotten
from this country, it was given grudgingly, through gritted teeth, if at
It was in February, 1942, when Huey P. Newton was born, in Oak Grove,
Louisiana, the youngest of seven children. He was named after Louisiana
Governor, Huey Long, a man regarded as a Populist.
But Huey’s family would leave the state, and settle in Oakland,
California, where Huey would make his own name.
He was the co-founder, with Bobby Seale, of the Black Panther Party [for
Self-Defense], which rose to become of the most advanced Black
revolutionary organizations of the 1960s and ’70s.
It grew into a national organization, with 44 chapters and branches all
across America; from West, to Midwest; from Boston, to Baton Rouge.
Huey, although poorly educated in Oakland schools, would push himself to
learn about the world around him, and through the Party, would teach an
entire generation about a world bubbling with revolutionary discontent.
The Party, inspired by Black freedom struggles in the Deep South, tried
to put into practice the revolutionary teachings of Malcolm X, who
preached self-defense. Because it was always growing and changing, party
members studied his writings, as well as the works of China’s Mao
Tse-Tung, Cuba’s ‘Che’ Guevara, and the writings of Franz Fanon, who
helped in Algeria’s revolution against France.
Huey’s revolutionary influence would help the Party grow into the tens
of thousands; but, his growing paranoia, fed by the FBI, would also
cause the Party to down-size, as Panthers came from as far away as
Philadelphia, to help the Party during its electoral phase, when Seale
ran for Oakland’s mayor, and other leading people ran for city council
Given his revolutionary ideas, and his uncompromising opposition to the
capitalist State, don’t expect any U.S. Postal Service commemorative
stamps anytime soon. Nor will you ever see any U.S. presidents attend
any of his memorials.
Huey would be just fine with that. His life’s work, the Party, was
designed to give a voice to the poor and oppressed, not the well-to-do
nor the high-born!
He wasn’t a civil rights activist — he was a revolutionary, who wanted
to totally transform American social reality.
His life, and his ignoble death, at the hands of a drug dealer, is
detailed in half a dozen books (including one of my own), but he remains
a symbol of resistance to racist police terror, and the determination of
a people to defend themselves.
That his name and his life isn’t better known is a tribute to the very
forces that he fought against, and that the Party fought against. The
Black bourgeoisie and the rulers, who wanted Black youth to be as
uninformed about the centuries-long Black Freedom struggle as possible.
Perhaps, if he were alive today, and 64 years old, he would be baffled
at how bleak and sour Black life has become for millions of his people.
But, maybe not.
He was a man of unusual brilliance, who saw deeply into how societies
work. His books, like ‘Revolutionary Suicide’ (1973), ‘To Die for the
People’ (1973), ‘War Against the Panthers’ (1996), and the compilation,
‘The Huey P. Newton Reader’ (2002) betray the workings of a first-rate
mind on a wide range of social and political issues.
He may not be remembered by the rulers or the rich, but he will not be
forgotten by the poor and the impoverished.
He will be remembered because the same ugly reality facing his
generation face Black young people today, and history exists to teach us
of our present.
He was 24 years old when he made a vast, and deep, contribution to Black
freedom and dignity. He didn’t bow, and he didn’t beg.
He stood up, and fought back, and urged others to stand with him.
Thousands did so.
They will do so again.
February 27, 2006 by Marc Lamont Hill
One of Black America’s great science fiction writers joined the ancestors today. Best known for her amazing novel “Kindred,” which concerned a black woman who travels back in time to the South to save a white man, Butler became the first science fiction writer to win the prestigious McArthur “Genius” Award. Butler’s ability to wed top-shelf creative writing to keen socio-historical insights has been an inspiration to an entire generation of writers and thinkers. Here’s a link to an interview that my man Jelani Cobb did with her some years back: http://www.jelanicobb.com/portfolio/obutler.html
February 26, 2006 by Marc Lamont Hill
Dr. Randal Pinkett (i.e. Randal from The Apprentice) came to Temple University to give a lecture about reducing violence. After rapping to the brother, I was even more impressed by his intellect, humility, and vision than I was on the show. It also became more apparent just how insensitive and disrespectful Donald Trump was to request that he share his victory with Rebecca. In addition to creating a multi-million dollar business in a few years, being a Rhodes scholar, and having a Ph.D., my man dominated the contests. Still, he was put on the spot by Trump, who asked him to share his victory, something that he never requested from the other, less qualified (and, of course, White) contestants. For example, Kwame Jackson, the first runner-up, was called after the show ended, and offered a job. Why couldn’t the same be done in this instance? If you ask Trump, I’m sure he’d say it was about ratings. However, it is that kind of indifference and willful ignorance of the context –the fact that he’s asking the first Black winner to share his prize with an inexperienced white woman– that embody white privilege and reflect the “Black tax” that many of us have to pay. Trump’s irresponsibility has led to Randal being crucified by many media pundits, who called Randal selfish. Fortunately Randal has responded to his critics with the same dignity and poise that served him throughout the contest.
February 26, 2006 by Marc Lamont Hill
According to today’s New York Times, the United Arab Emirates-based company Dubai Ports Worlds will “request” congressional review of its plan to operate six United States port terminals. Of course, this request comes after nearly one week of bad press (is there any other kind lately?) for the Bush administration, which failed to consult Congress, port authorities, or local officials in its decision making process. Clearly this move is designed to prevent a bipartisan attack on Bush’s plans, which, like always, were made with little or no consideration for democratic engagement.
Surely, many people (both congress and its various constituencies) disagree with the proposal based on anti-Arab bias disguised as security concern (The truth is, UAE has been an ally and is far less of a security threat than Bush’s extreme cronyism). While this is surely unfair, it is difficult for me to feel bad for Bush, whose post-911 scare tactics have created the very xenophobia that is now preventing him from completing the deal
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