Saturday, October 08, 2011

Listening to Whitney Houston On My Way Home This Evening

On my way home this evening, Whitney Houston's version of "I Will Always Love You" came on the radio and took me aback a bit as I listened to the clear, crisp, and magnificent voice that delivered each powerful note of the song. It was Whitney at her best. and it started me to thinking about Ms. Houston, her remarkable talent, and her gold-dusted career that has seen such highs and such lows as she could once reach with that magnificent range of hers. Undoubtedly, Whitney Houston is the best female vocalist of her generation. No one could even compete with her vocal range, her vocal mastery, And she still holds court as one of the best-selling female recording artists of all time.

When Whitney started out in the early eighties, following her brief, Afrocentric moment at her debut when on the

cover of the album she sported a fade, Clive Davis and the rest of her team worked hard to produce the Whitney magic and introduced her onto the pop scene as the quintessential Black Barbie doll. Oh, she wanted to dance with somebody.... and her outfit was replete with big hair and leggings that read very middle class and feminine. The consuming public LOVED it and in no time she had carved her niche inside the music industry and was accepted as a pop princess holding her own against the likes of Madonna and even finding herself on MTV, one of the few Black artists who did at the time. For more than a decade after that, Whitney was THE most prominent Black female singer in the world. Her superstar status was cemented in 1992 with The Bodyguard. The film, crafted personally for her out of a 1970s chucked vehicle for Diana Ross and Steve McQueen, cemented her reputation as a movie star, shelling in over $400 million dollars at the box office, making it one of the most successful films of the time. The soundtrack coinciding with the film, also called The Bodygaurd, debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 setting a record at fourteen weeks in that position and went seventeen times platinum, landing it as the best selling soundtrack of all time.

There is something to be said about girls, and particularly about Black girls, from good, middle class homes who are always fixated with thugs/bad boys/ and generally unwholesome and unsavory figures. Although Whitney had been using drugs ever since the beginning of her career probably, her downfall started when she met and married Bobby Brown. I, for one, believe everything she told Oprah. She was totally committed to Bobby(good girl syndrome-trained well by her mama) and subsequently they spent a lot of days in bed snorting and shooting and watching TV. Although, though this explains her loss of control over her career( didn't mama at one point take over her finances with a court order ala Natalie Cole?) , by no means does this account for her loss of voice. I, for one, was quite befuddled over the entire brouhaha about Whitney's losing her voice. Everyone was speculating--drugs, Bobby, stress, etc, etc.. I think not. I think more it runs in the genes....It seemed no one remembered it wasnt that long ago people were yelling "Hey Dionne, sit down and shut up, please!" I wasn't surprised at all. Fortunately for Whitney, her legacy is already set....I just hope she can spare herself more embarrassing moments and that, if all she can find is the thug or the bad boy type, that she chooses to remain single for the rest of her .life.

Friday, October 07, 2011

My Faith Has Been Renewed: Michelle Obama, Our First Lady, Is a Wonderful Leader

In this month's issue of Ebony, First Lady Michelle Obama renewed my faith when she spoke with Kevin Chappell about the power of movements. She said, "nothing is ever built in a day. The only thing that happens in an instant is destruction...Build something...earthquake; it's gone. But everything else requires time....Don't let the struggle discourage you because it's hard. It's supposed to be hard." As an example, she spoke of Nelson Mandela, whom she just visited with in South Africa. "There must have been moments in that jail when he (Mandela) thought, ' This is never going to work,,' but if we see Mandela as hope, we would see the slowness not as a reason to stop and be impatient but to keep moving and not get so caught up in the immediacy." Bless you, Michelle Obama....

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Community Healing Days--Listen Up Black People

October 15-17 are Community Healing Days

We’re coming up on an annual celebration that not everyone is familiar with, but is tremendously important to the Black community.

It’s called Community Healing Days, a three day period on the third weekend of every October designed to focus Black people on eliminating the tired, but powerful, myth of black inferiority. The celebration is sponsored by the Community Healing Network and championed by Dr. Maya Angelou.

This year, on October 15, 16 and 17, Dr. Angelou is asking folks to wear something sky blue during Community Healing Days to show “our collective determination to turn the pain of the blues into the sky blue of unlimited possibilities.” That’s right, Sky-Blue, like the beautiful, limitless sky above, a reflection of the positive way we need to view ourselves.

But unfortunately –for many African Americans– how we view ourselves is a byproduct of how others view us. Case in point. In the compelling new book entitled Whistling Vivaldi by psychologist Claude Steele, he references a scenario involving an African American journalist and former grad student at the University of Chicago.

As a student walking down the street in his Hyde Park neighborhood each evening, he would see white folk either clutch their belongings or each other, stare straight ahead, or switch to the other side of the street. Noting that white people were “frightened to death of him,” the young man internalized this treatment and began taking side streets to avoid making his white neighbors fearful or uncomfortable.

Eventually he stopped doing this after he noticed that whenever he whistled as he walked–especially tunes by classical composers like Vivaldi—his white neighbors would treat him differently. Some would even smile at him.

Psychologists reason that whites figured that if this guy knows Vivaldi, he must be okay. The point here is that we sometimes begin to behave in a way that responds to stereotypes.

It speaks both to the sickness in our society and, more importantly, in this case, to the sickness in us. When we start pretending – acting in ways that play into what others think or expect of us, then the sickness is no longer their’s… it becomes ours.

Think about the stereotypes that suggest young black males are criminals, or can’t do well in math… how young black girls are merely video vixens, or can’t do well in science.

You see, when media and society peddle stereotypes –especially those inaccurately characterizing our impressionable youth and children—the damage is both serious and real not just because of the sick folks promoting them, but because of those growing sicker every day by receiving, emulating and perpetuating them.

That’s the thing about stereotypes. They start out as mostly false statements but gain steam if not challenged immediately, and ultimately gain credibility when perpetuated by its victims. The fact is that media and society have been peddling stereotypes about us for centuries.

In Whistling Vivaldi, Steele shows how stereotypes affect our perceptions of ourselves and influence how we act in certain situations, be they professional, academic or personal. As a people, we need to be intentional about overcoming the negative stereotypes about who we are and what we can do. Especially for our children — we need to positively affirm our self-worth, our accomplishments and our beauty to combat those stereotypes and ensure we are defining and viewing ourselves positively.

This is what Community Healing Days is all about. And that ain’t just Whistlin’ Vivaldi.

So let’s be sure to celebrate Community Healing Days – in our sky blue – on October 15th through 17th. You can get more info on this at

Stephanie Robinson is President and CEO of The Jamestown Project, a national think tank focused on democracy. She is an author, a Lecturer on Law at the Harvard Law School and former Chief Counsel to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Stephanie reaches 8 to 10 million listeners each week as political commentator for the popular radio venue, The Tom Joyner Morning Show. Visit her online at

Monday, October 03, 2011

Rick Perry's Niggerhead

Looking at the different components that come together to make up a person will always provide a key to that person's personality and perspective. The idea that Perry's white, privileged family would name their hunting lodge Niggerhead speaks to where they fit socially, politically, culturally. One has to ask did he not think this might cause problems for him if he chose to run for president as he did not even attempt to hide this knowledge--which either spells carelessness or a lack of concern on his part. What part of this man and his background do we want in the white house? Only those wishing for a clear return of white male capitalist patriarchy would even think that Perry, with his track record, would be suitable to lead such a huge, diverse nation such as this. Meanwhile, I wonder when was the last time a soiree was held at Niggerhead?