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Racial identity of ‘Black Sam’ debated

In Uncategorized on April 1, 2009 at 12:04 am

Racial identity of ‘Black Sam’ debated

When the Continental Congress passed a resolution barring Black men from serving in the American army, one of the first heroes of the Revolution was an African-American, Crispus Attucks, who died in the 1770 Boston Massacre.

Surprised by the large number of slaves who responded to a British offer of freedom for all slaves who joined their forces, George Washington approved Black enlistments.

After the war, General Washington came to New York City to say farewell to his officers at a restaurant owned and run by Samuel Fraunces, a successful Black businessman from the French West Indies. When Washington moved to New York and then Philadelphia as the nation’s first president, he chose Fraunces to be his chief steward.

“Black Sam” Fraunces (1734-1795), who was renowned for his good food and business savvy, was also a spy and loyal friend to Washington, who lauded him as a patriot.

“You have, invariably through the most trying times, maintained a constant friendship, an attention to the cause of our country and its independence and freedom,” wrote Washington to Fraunces of their relationship.

Today, nearly 214 years since Frances’ death here in Philadelphia, he lies buried in an unmarked grave in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church cemetery located at Third and Pine streets in the heart of Society Hill.

Around the corner, a Pennsylvania state historical marker at Second and Dock streets marks the location of last tavern Fraunces operated following his retirement from the presidential household.

Frances ran the business for about a year until his death at age 61.

For over 30 years, Charles Blockson, historian and curator emeritus of the Blockson Collection at Temple University, has been documenting the story of Fraunces, his personal relationship with one of America’s most powerful men and the legacy that has continued with some of his over 500 descendents.

Blockson, author of “The Liberty Bell Era: The African American Story (Insight, $19.99),” along with the help of genealogist C. R. Cole have confirmed that Fraunces was born in the West Indies of African and French ancestry.

Cole, author of “Samuel Fraunces ‘Black Sam’ (Xlibris, $19.99),” has been researching the free Blacks living within the boundaries of Pennsylvania before the Civil War for the last 20 years.

Both the historian and the genealogist are of the opinion that Fraunces and his descendents are long overdue their acknowledgement as celebrated African Americans.

While the 1790 New York Census lists Fraunces (who until 1776 called himself Francis) as having been white and a slaveholder, other historians have claimed that references to “Black Sam’s” racial identity may instead refer to his temper or appearance from working in the kitchen.

“He should be given his due, so to speak,” said Cole. “Even within his family, I think the thing I noticed the most that you can explain a lot, but that’s not saying he’s not African in origins. And when you say it does not matter, what you’re saying is that it’s all going away. It dismisses a whole part of colonial America, at the same time because then you dismiss the fact that most of the skilled labor was African American.”

One of the oldest colonial structures in New York City today is the Fraunces Tavern, near Wall Street, which still serves as a restaurant and revolutionary era museum.

According to Cole, early in the museum’s history, a reporter wrote of a portrait that used to depict Frances at his namesake tavern and “described him with curly brown hair, a slight double chin and dark black eyes.

That’s missing now. What they have in its place is some guy in a white powder wig and a blue velvet coat with green eyes and no hint of a double chin. And that’s their biggest piece of proof that he’s not African American.”

While some historians have cited that there are no 18th-century references of Fraunces’ African descent, Blockson notes that “many fair-skinned persons of African descent were presumed as white from appearance unless their racial identity is known.

“While researching the story of his life, it was discovered that Fraunces’ racial identity was recorded as Negro, colored, Haitian Negro, Mulatto, ‘fastidious old Negro’ and swarthy. Fraunces was immortalized in Philip Freneau’s 1786 book of poems as ‘Black Sam.’ He was familiarly called by his nick name because of his tan complexion and his tight, curly hair. Keeping with the time, he often wore a white, powdered wig.”

The Fraunces family history includes the heroic act of “Black Sam’s” daughter, Elizabeth “Phoebe” Fraunces, whose beauty helped unravel the treachery of a British double agent’s plot to murder Washington and several military officers by adding a poison to a dish of peas placed before Washington.

She whispered to Washington the nature of the contents. Washington, according to tradition, threw the peas out of the window where some chickens were feeding. The chickens picked the peas and fell dead.

Thomas Hickey later confessed to the assassination plot and on June 28, 1776, was hung before a crowd of 20,000 people.

In 2003, the rediscovery of The President’s House at Fifth and Market streets further highlighted the role Fraunces played in the nation’s past and future into the 21st century, as Blockson explained. “One of Samuel Fraunces grandsons, William D. Kelly (1814-1890), whom they called ‘Pig Iron,’ was one of the founders of the Republican Party supporting Lincoln and also founded the Union League. He was a friend of African people. He also helped organize the U.S. colored troops at Camp William Penn.”

So, does the controversy over the racial identity of Fraunces continue to deny him his proper place in American history as a person of African descent?

The anonymous Society Hill gravesite of an acknowledged American patriot who was a right-hand man to the father of this country serves as a sour reminder of this nation’s conflicted stance on race.

“There was no question of his origin because certainly the daughter was still in the area,” stated Cole. “Phoebe and her husband had a large successful boarding house for years in Philadelphia. I’d go out on a limb and say the grave is probably not marked intentionally.”

 

Source:  Philadelphia Tribune

Date: March 22, 2009

Byline: Bobbi Booker

…just because.

In Uncategorized on March 10, 2008 at 1:26 pm

kermit20.jpg

Nutter: City needs new identity for future

In Uncategorized on December 22, 2007 at 6:53 am
 
Nutter: City needs new identity for futureMayor-Elect Michael Nutter addresses his vision of “The Identity of the New Philadelphia” at Franklin Hall in The Franklin Institute Science Museum Tuesday. — HIROKO TANAKA/TRIBUNE STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
 
As Philadelphia Mayor-elect Michael Nutter prepared to give a Tuesday evening keynote address titled “Identity and the New Philadelphia,” it was breaking news of the crime-riddled city that concerned many of the 400 guests gathered at the Franklin Institute.Moments before Nutter’s arrival, he had been briefed with a report of another Philadelphia police shooting.“Two more police officers were shot earlier this evening,’ said Nutter. “It is an unconscionable situation. We’ll do what we need to do on the streets of this city and make Philadelphia safe.”In what was Nutter’s first speech since his election, Nutter offered a visionary look at the future of Philadelphia in a dressed themed with the kickoff of the Institute’s new exhibit, “Identity: An Exhibition of You.”

Using the films “Rocky” and “The Philadelphia Story” as talking points, Nutter said residents need to embrace a new image of themselves.

Nutter says he believes the city is entering the “post-Rocky era” and suggested, “The Rocky identity is not working. For one thing, businesses do not want to come to the city if they think we’re an uneducated population not ready for the new world. And unfortunately, I have to share with you that the statistics about Philadelphia are overwhelming: We have the highest percentage of adults with a high school education and not college degrees.”

Nutter’s address and the subsequent question ad answer session was punctuated by several sustained rounds of applause while he explained his intention to expand education and employment opportunities for residents and the implementation of his get-tough policy of crime and litter.

“It’s about identity,” explained Nutter. “It’s about who we think we are and who we can be. And so as we grow our economy, as we get businesses to come here, as we think better of ourselves and each other in adopting a can-do kind of spirit and attitude.

“We have to change the model of what leadership is about in Philadelphia because that will change the model of who we are and what we’re about. So let this be the new identity of Philadelphia: the can-do city; the city that works; the city that keeps clean; the city that educate its kids; the city that works hard; the city that makes sure our streets are safe and that our kids are going to school; that we’re creating economic opportunity and that we value arts and culture.

“That we share our collective and wonderful city, not only with our suburban neighbors, but also with the rest of the country.”

 
 
=Originally Published in The Philadelphia Tribune=

Koresh dancers share joy in their art

In Uncategorized on October 11, 2007 at 3:20 pm
 
 
 
By BOBBI BOOKER

 
Koresh Dancer Fanju Chou-Gant
 
Lifestyles Headlines
The seeds for the creative dance force known as the Koresh Dance Company began when its founder, Ronen Koresh, was a small boy growing up in an Israeli village.
An uncle took the shy 10-year-old to the side to demonstrate a few dance steps so the youngster could participate in a family gathering.
Those nascent steps unfurled the first essence of creativity that Koresh has harnessed into evolving from a noted street dancer to blossoming as a world-class choreographer and performer.
“The creative part was always there,” recalled Koresh. “But there was also a part of me that wanted to perform a lot.”
And perform he did. By his mid-teens, he was studying jazz and ballet at the Batsheva Dance Company, a Tel-Aviv group co-founded by legendary dancer Martha Graham.
At 17, he choreographed his first show featuring 40 female dancers in a performance before an audience of 3,000 people. By the time he was 18, he was drafted for compulsory military service and he’d never even worn jeans.
“Here is a country that is 15 years old. There were no lights in the streets. No cars. Nobody to call. Nothing. I had one pair until I was 20,” and Koresh laughed. “That’s why I have an obsession with jeans now.”
Koresh was determined to continue dancing, and after appealing to his officers, he was allowed to pursue his dancing, but only after he had completed his day’s work as a soldier.
After his discharge, Koresh headed straight for New York to study with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and then to Philadelphia to join the (now defunct) jazz dance company Waves.
In 1991, the Koresh Dance Company was founded and has since been lauded as “The Ailey II of Philadelphia,” by Dance magazine.
Koresh Dance Company’s performances feature an eclectic repertoire of over 50 works by Koresh, as well as guest artists such as Brian Sanders, formerly of Momix, Hector Vega and Donald Byrd.
The company’s critically acclaimed work attracts increasing audiences across the nation, and Koresh’s reputation for passion and outstanding technique regularly results in sold-out performances. The company presents bi-annual home season concerts, and performs on tour at various national festivals, performing arts centers, university performance venues and charity benefits.
Koresh Dance Company also teaches dance at all levels and offers free arts education to underserved youths in the region. Koresh says similar opportunities offered when he was a child created the dancer he was destined to become.
“I am a product of outreach myself,” he said. “I didn’t grow up with money. We grew up with nothing. People reached to me and when I was a kid (so) I didn’t pay for classes. They kind of pulled me out of the community into a world where maybe if I didn’t do what I did, I may have been a hoodlum. You never know.”
Company members give lecture-demonstrations in local public schools so the students can see a performance and talk to the dancers about their art and work. The students also participate by dancing in their own “master classes.”
“Talent is a powerful thing,” said Koresh. “It gives you the feeling of self-respect and self-esteem when you know that you possess inside you something that nobody else does, or not a lot of people do. It’s kind of a light that’s inside you. It’s a little light bulb inside your heart that just lights up because a lot of people live in darkness all around them. All they see are not very nice things all day and then there is this light bulb that gives you direction.”
When Koresh came to the region in the mid-1980s, he felt welcomed by the people and the potential.
Today, at age 46, he looks forward to expanding his vision of maintaining the artistic legacy Philadelphia is renowned for.
“There is something in Philadelphia that is so magnificent and so beautiful,” said Koresh, whose company is currently on a 24-city tour. “I think that we have a responsibility to make this city the best. The art and culture is the light and soul of the city. If we all continue to support it and put it on the map it will become a beam of light that will shine everywhere, and people are going to come to Philadelphia and would want to be a part of the culture in Philadelphia.”
The Koresh School of Dance, at 2020 Chestnut St., will host its 15th anniversary celebration Fall Bash next Saturday. The evening will include a special performance by the Koresh Dance Company. For more information, call (215) 751-0959 or visit www.koreshdance.org.=Originally Published in The Philadelphia Tribune on Sunday, October 7, 2007=
 
 
 

…“Everyplace has stories and they don’t get told a lot.”

In Black Folk who matter..., The Book Report, Uncategorized on October 8, 2007 at 11:59 pm

By Bobbi Booker

Photo Credit: James Keyser 2003
Winner of both the Newberry Award and the Coretta Scott King Medal, Christopher Paul Curtis has become one of the most important voices in children’s literature today. His new book, “Mr. Chickee’s Messy Mission” (Wendy Lamb Books, $15.99) continues to delight young readers with Curtis’ uniquely humorous brand of story telling.

Born in Flint, Michigan, Curtis spent his first 13 years after high school on the assembly line of Flint’s historic Fisher Body Plant #1. Although he resides in Windsor, Canada with his wife, Kaysandra, and their two children, his heart remains in Flint, the partial setting of many of his books. “I’m a Flintstone to the bone,” Curtis enthused. “You don’t think that’s something we say with pride, but we do anyway.”

With grandfathers like Earl “Lefty” Lewis, a Negro Baseball League pitcher, and 1930s bandleader Herman E. Curtis, Sr., of Herman Curtis and the Dusky Devastators of the Depression, Curtis felt he was destined to life beyond the factory. “Oh, I hated working in that factory, but like so many people I was trapped. I had to have a new car and I had to pay the bills and I couldn’t get out. It was soul crushing. It was a really tough job physically, mentally and emotionally. I had to quit finally because I wasn’t heading for anything good working in that factory.”

During breaks at the factory, Curtis honed his writing skills enough to convince his wife to suggest that he take a year off from the factory to see if he could make it as a writer. “We had a long distance relationship and he use to write me a lot of letters,” said Kay. “I know he is funny and a good writer and I just thought it was something that he wanted to do and if I could help him in anyway, then we would see how it goes for a year.”

Throughout that year Curtis crafted his outstanding debut in children’s literature with “The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963.” His second novel, “Bud, Not Buddy,” became the first book ever to receive both the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Author Award.

“I would tell you that even though I thought he was good,” reflected Kay. “But, I didn’t think he was that good.”

Since Flint is an automobile town, once you leave the factory, you also leave behind the social fabric of the area. Curtis, however, remains true to his hometown roots and frequently visits family or catches a pickup game of basketball with friends. Although he’s lived in Canada for nearly two decades, Flint continues to influence his writing today.

“Everyplace has stories and they don’t get told a lot,” explained Curtis. “And that’s what I tell kids, nothing happened in Flint, but I just told my story about Flint. I could write a thousand stories about things that have happened in Flint. Flint is a very important part of all of my stories so far.”

=Originally Published in The Philadelphia Tribune on February 20, 2007=

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…A subject that is universal to all: Love.

In Uncategorized on October 8, 2007 at 11:56 pm

By Bobbi Booker

Social activist, renowned author of more than 20 books, iconic feminist, and beloved teacher—bell books (lower case, please) is well known for her unapologetic intellectual writing. In language that is both spare and powerful, the poetry of “When Angels Speak of Love” (Atria Books, $16.95) offers the romantic reading public hooks as a major modern poet to contend with. Each of the 50 poems of “When Angels Speak” are designed to be read aloud, cherished and celebrated. Each numbered poem captures an emotion, or offers wisdom with straightforward language and clarity, leaving the reader with the resonance of hook’s fiery voice.

Readers of bell hooks’ scorching attacks on racism and sexism might be surprised to see her take on the elusive subject of love, but her previous four titles on the topic—from “All About Love” to “The Will to Change” –have made her the go-to source for contemplative contemporary literature on love. A theme in hooks’ most recent writing is the ability of community and love to overcome race, class, and gender. The interconnectiveness of these series of books on the elusive emotion was evident when she first wrote in “All About Love” the following: “When angels speak of love they tell us it is only by loving that we enter an earthly paradise. They tell us paradise is our home and love our true destiny.”

All of her books on love deal with the fleeting aspects of romance and society’s misuse, yet dire need of it. In poem Number 2 from “When Angels Speak”, hooks writes: in love/there are no closed doors/each threshold/an invitation/to cross/take hold/take heart/and enter here/at this point/where truth/was once denied.

hooks adopted her pen name from those of her mother and grandmother. Her name uses an unconventional lowercasing, which, to hooks, signifies that what is most important in her works is the “substance of books, not who I am.”

In her own unique way hooks continues to engage the public with the subject that is universal to all: Love.

=Originally published in the Philadelphia Tribune on February, 23, 2007=

Is Michelle Obama’s Scaling Back at Work for Her Husband’s Campaign Front-Page News?

In Uncategorized on October 8, 2007 at 10:28 am

Is Michelle Obama’s Scaling Back at Work for Her Husband’s Campaign Front-Page News?

Originally published on Tuesday, May 15, 2007
By: Bobbi Booker, Special to BlackAmericaWeb.com

News of Michelle Obama’s decision to scale back her duties as VP of community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals and hit the presidential campaign trail with her husband, Barack, has put the spotlight back on the professional and personal choices career women must often make.

The press coverage of Mrs. Obama also reveals the newfound role political spouses play in modern-day elections. Two of the presidential contenders wives — Elizabeth Edwards and Ann Romney — are respectively battling cancer and multiple sclerosis, and another spouse — Bill Clinton — is a former president.

“I think she’s constantly surprised at what people chose to make news,” Katie McCormick Lelyveld, communications director for Michelle Obama, told BlackAmericaWeb.com. Lelyveld said a recent front-page Washington Post story, which first announced Obama’s decision, had initially misreported Mrs. Obama’s intention to leave her job.

“As of May 1st, she reduced her hours to 20 percent and, as we all know in the age of Blackberries, is very hard to quantify exactly how much she is working,” explained Lelyveld. “She still goes to meetings, manages her administrative responsibilities and stays on top of some of the projects that she’s been working on because her career has always been very important to her. Completely leaving it at this point is not something that she’s doing.”


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Neighbors stay in on rainy days. Good neighbors save up for them. Visit statefarm.com


AP VideoA lot of attention is being paid as Michelle Obama publicly makes a transition from her status as a private citizen with a white-collar job to possibly become America’s first black First Lady. Last year, Essence magazine listed her among “25 of the World’s Most Inspiring Women” while Ebony anointed the Obamas one of “America’s 10 Hottest couples.”While Obama reportedly makes doubly her husband’s income, she is still the primary caretaker of the couple’s two young daughters. Like her husband, Obama attended Harvard Law School, and according to insiders, she is crucial to her husband’s success. As a Chicago native, Mrs. Obama as been credited with introducing her husband to mainstream America. He is now the junior senator from Illinois.

Last week, Mrs. Obama made her first visit to New Hampshire, one of about a dozen solo campaign stops she has made. Since Barack Obama’s formal announcement in February, she has made 16 joint appearances with him.

“Barack has given people that hope, but he’s going to get tired. This is a long campaign,” Michelle Obama told Democrats gathered for a house party in Windham, New Hampshire. “I joke he’s not going to be able to bring people to tears with every speech that he makes. He’s going to make stumbles.”

She told those gathered of the sacrifices her parents made to put put her and her brother through Princeton University on a working class salary. She said that dream of supporting a family and putting children through college seems to be getting further away, even with loans.

Obama says she believes as president, her husband could change things for the better, and that if she didn’t believe that, she’d tell him to do something else.

Obama told the Washington Post that she grappled with her decision to work after the birth of her daughters.

“Every other month [since] I’ve had children I’ve struggled with the notion of ‘Am I being a good parent? Can I stay home? Should I stay home? How do I balance it all?'” she said. “I have gone back and forth every year about whether I should work.”

Obama does not fit into the neat definition of either stay-at-home or working mom. While she is a vivid example of a full-time executive mother who is supportive of her spouse, her decision to scale back in her job duties is ultimately very personal.

“I believe you should let women decide what they’re going to do, as long as they have all the options, they should do what they want,” Martha Leslie Allen, Web editor for Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press, told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “Part of the problem that pushes women out of most jobs is it is hard to have all the responsibilities of a career with children when there isn’t good child care, and it isn’t equally divided. And those responsibilities fall onto women.”

Lelyveld speculates the reason Obama’s decision is front-page news is “perhaps it’s because she’s a woman whose maintained her own career. I don’t know why that’s news, but people think it is.”

The more than 280 comments in the Post‘s “On Balance” blog late Monday reflected a variety of viewpoints on both Mrs. Obama’s decision and the media’s coverage of it.

“The day I read about the aspiring first husband quitting his job to support his aspiring president wife will be a great day,” opined a poster named Meesh. “I think the media report on this type of stuff because our country is very partisan, and news like this is potential fodder for either side. The media thrive on controversy. Issues like these evoke strong emotions, and people want to read about it.”

“I think it’s clear that in America, we’ve come to expect the two parent household, and women are clearly in the workforce,” according to Kari, who offered that “when you note that women’s work is still not valued as highly as men’s work in real dollars, and then take into account the backlash against strong working political figures like Hillary Clinton and the backlash against the strength the 41st First Lady Bush endured, you could see why Mrs. Obama made her decision … Being smart and funny and articulate is wonderful, if you’re a smart, funny, and articulate woman working to further her husband and family. Following your own ambitions comes at a political price.”

Another comment, from Common Sense, read, “Personally, I’d like Michelle Obama to be First Lady in 2008, but politics is pressure, even for political families. It’s no surprise that she has left her job. I’m certain she’ll be a benefit to her husband in the campaign. Even so, she will have a high profile, and I doubt this will damage her career. By the way, I don’t equate being outspoken with being ‘strong.’ A leader doesn’t simply give orders; a leader is defined by who will follow based on personality, character and principles. Hillary Clinton is not ‘strong’ by that measure. Hillary is a divider, not a uniter. I’m sick and tired of dividers. That’s reason enough to support Obama. I couldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton at gunpoint.”

Associated Press contributed to this story.

20 People Who Changed Black Music: Wild Child George Clinton, Funk’s Fearless Godfather

In Uncategorized on October 8, 2007 at 10:27 am

 

In commemoration of June as Black Music Month, BlackAmericaWeb.com will examine 20 inspirational creative and business visionaries whose contributions to black American music and culture have made an immeasurable impact all over the world.

Originally posted on Thursday, June 21, 2007

By Bobbi Booker for BlackAmericaWeb.com

When you hear MC Hammer’s “Turn This Mutha Out,” Tone Loc’s “Funky Cold Medina” or Heavy D’s “The Overweight Lover’s In The House,” you are actually listening to hit tunes that were heavily dependent on samples (from “Give Up The Funk,” “Knee Deep,” and “Pass The Peas,” respectively) of songs of music pioneer George Clinton. And as you go through a litany of hits from the 1980’s until today, many dance classics have the unmistakable mark of Clinton to credit for their success, or – at the very least – their listenability. The credit due to Clinton comes from his 50 years as a music innovator who has redefined one of the tenets of soul music: funk.

“Funk is a basic soul with a lot of rhythm, and it’s the structure of that rhythm that makes it funk,” music expert Fred Sutton told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “It’s just soul music with a heavy rhythm that involves drums and bass. You listen to jazz in its pure form, you know its jazz, but if you blend in another type of rhythm, it’s called fusion. Therefore, you have jazz/fusion, and you have soul/funk.”

In the beginning, Clinton (born in 1940 in Kannapolis, North Carolina) was influenced like many of the youth of his era by the melodic sounds of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. After founding the Parliaments as a doo-wop group in the 1950’s, the group finally hit pay dirt with their Number One R&B hit “(I Just Wanna) Testify” in 1967.

For some time in the ’60s, Clinton served on the songwriting staff at Motown Records, and in 1968, Clinton formed Funkadelic, a visionary band that combined acid rock with primal funk. By 1972, Clinton renamed the band Parliament and signed them to Casablanca Records, while Funkadelic signed with Warner Brothers in 1976. The brilliance behind the move was that the same personnel housed both powerhouse bands.

“Parliament was more orchestrated with horns and complicated vocal arrangements,” explained Clinton on his website, “while Funkadelic was more a straight-up rock band with a heavy rhythm section.”

“The interesting thing about George Clinton is the evolution from his initial roots from the Funkadelic to going into the whole Funkadelic-Parliament transition,” said Sutton. “They started out on more of a soul kind of thing and went into a soul/rock type of thing which eventually metamophasized into a whole funk situation. Basically, that separated him from a lot of groups in that his music was a lot more syncopated and, of course, the way that they combined the story telling. The lyrical content separated George from other acts as well.”

Clinton and his crew got on a roll, as his bands each had successive chart-busting jams like “Tear the Roof Off the Sucker (Give Up the Funk)” in 1976; and “Flashlight” and “Bop Gun” in 1977. They also hit hard with anthemic funk jams like 1978’s “One Nation Under A Groove” and “(Not Just) Knee Deep” and “Aqua Boogie” a year later.

Clinton also employed The P-Funk mythology in a series of concept albums and live shows. One of Clinton’s more popular characters was set in a lyrical story that spun the tale of Sir Nose, Devoid of Funk, an alien creature who would initially not engage in the funk rhythms he was encountering and, by song’s end, would reluctantly admit to feeling the rhythms. Parliament-Funkadelic concerts would follow the Sir Nose tale, while additionally staging some of the most outrageous concert stunts – from futuristic costumes and on-stage spacehips to grown men beating out tunes in cloth diapers while Clinton and his trademark colorful braids spurred the band on to funkier rhythmic heights.

“He had a major coup in getting Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker, Bootsy Collins,” noted Sutton. “Many of the rhythm aspects of the group at that point where former musicians who’d played for James Brown. It was just a fabulous, rhythmically, syncopated soul-oriented type of group that at that point was playing strictly funk. The musicianship was outrageous because most of these players had actually worked with James Brown for many, many years.”

By 1981, Clinton had dissolved both bands (but held on to the members) and reemerged as a solo act and leader of the P-Funk All-Stars with his biggest solo hit, “Atomic Dog,” in 1983. From 1986 to 1989, Clinton became embroiled in legal difficulties that stemmed from the litany of royalty problems from the ’70s with recordings of over 40 musicians for four labels under three names. However, a generation of rappers who had been reared on Clinton’s music began to sample his tunes, thus making him the most second most sampled artist after James Brown. As always, Clinton retooled himself, and in 1989 signed on with Prince’s Paisley Park label for the release of his fifth solo project, “The Cinderella Theory.” Clinton next signed with Sony 550 for his 1996 release, “T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M.”(“the awesome power of a fully operational mothership”), which reunited the funk pioneer with several of his Parliament/Funkadelic comrades from the ’70s.

Today, Clinton is head of his own label, The C Kunspyruhzy, that will release his first studio album in 10 years, followed by solo recordings by individual members of the P-Funk empire.

“We got four generations of fans out there who keep bugging me to get these live shows out there, and now’s the time,” says Clinton. “I’ve seen what the Grateful Dead have been doing with their archives, as well as bands like Pearl Jam, and I figured it was time to show the world what the funk is all about.” Clinton also plans to release a collection of Parliament-Funkadelic and P-Funk All Stars live recordings gleaned from board tapes. Called the “Uncut Funk Series,” the live CDs will incorporate some of the best shows over the past 30 years and will be augmented with superior graphics and extensive liner notes.

“George Clinton always made the transition from the beginning all the way up until today with film and television score,” notes Sutton. “His ability to write and bridge each segment of each decade has been there from the beginning. Although there is a comparison between George and James Brown, they distinctly have carved out their own niche in music. James Brown has a larger and broader legacy because he started it. From James Brown, you got the best, and George Clinton is one of the best that came from that legacy.”

In commemoration of June as Black Music Month, BlackAmericaWeb.com will examine 20 inspirational creative and business visionaries whose contributions to black American music and culture have made an immeasurable impact all over the world.

For Visionary Black Artists Selling Their Music Online, Every Day is Independents’ Day

In Black Folk who matter..., It's a Black Thing That You Need To Understand..., The Book Report, Uncategorized on October 8, 2007 at 10:26 am

 

 

Originally published on Friday, June 08, 2007
By Bobbi Booker, Special to BlackAmericaWeb.com

R&B singer Eric Roberson has had over 137,000 MySpace.com profile views, and over 5,000 visitors have listened to or downloaded the several tunes he posts at the site from his CD, “Left.” As vocalist N’dambi prepares for her third album release, over 8,600 guests have listened to her song, “If We Were Alone.” You might not be able to score eight-time ASCAP winner Gordon Chambers at your local record store, yet he is a heralded star on CDBaby.com. And while the soulful sounds of Lady Alma have been in the air for years, hearing her on the air is quite another matter.

All of the above independent artists are bonafide stars in their own right, often selling out venues as they tour the nation or world. Their success stems from their affiliation with online music distribution, which has given independent artists new prospects for production, marketing and circulation on a global level, in an instantaneous fashion.

“When people hear of Lady Alma and a lot of other artists who have created a buzz nationally and internationally, the first thing they do is go to the Internet and find more history and music on these people. And if you’ve got music for sale online, that’s the fastest way people can get a hold of the music,” according to Tony Allen, Alma’s former manager. “It’s faster selling online, as far as reaching out to the masses internationally. People all over the world can buy your music, and you don’t have to worry about going to a retail store in Berlin trying to meet a storeowner and educate him on the artist. The community is right there on the Web.”




AP VideoThroughout the history of recorded music, independent artists were at a disadvantage to their mainstream music colleagues, who could count on financial and commercial backing from record labels that were often affiliated with large conglomerates that controlled many subsidiary record companies. Today, the Internet has opened up new distribution channels for digital music, and this has leveled the playing field for music artists and performers. The rise of new media technologies, such as digital music and the Internet, has created new opportunities for independent musicians to self-produce and distribute their work on a global scale, both easily and affordably.A decade ago, James Collins, founder of the popular Baltimore-based band, Fertile Ground, created his own label, Blackout Studios, surrounded himself with like-minded musicians and began releasing his own music. To date, Blackout Studios has independently sold 300,000 units.”Each release that we have produced or marketed has a different strategy and doesn’t really follow a blueprint,” said Collins. “We don’t necessarily pump records to a formula. For instance, Fertile Ground, the biggest seller that we have, is a band that stays on the road. The records really support the tour, as opposed to modern black music that creates the inverse — where people only tour to support their new record. Fertile Ground really lives onstage; they have records that capture that light, and that is one of the strongest ways. The band sells about 60 percent of those records touring the 75 to 80 dates they do per year.”The Okayplayer.com form of Internet promotion inspired Collins, he says. In 1999, The Roots’ co-founder and drummer Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson established Okayplayer as the official website for the innovative Philadelphia-based hip-hop band. Okayplayer has since evolved into an influential online community that not only nurtures its artists and encourages fan interaction, but also hosts an independent record label and sponsors a series of concert tours. Collins also credits his label’s success to online independent retailers, such as Dusty Grooves and CDBaby, which offer artists 75 percent of sales on a consignment basis, as well as additional promotion.”Everyone and anyone can do it,” said CDBaby spokesperson Sean Croughon from its Portland, Oregon headquarters. “The world’s changed a lot. It used to be that you used have to jump through the hoops of a few people in order to have your music made available. Before that, there were tons of tiny little labels all over the country that would put out records, but that was destroyed in the 50s and 60s, and now we are kind of returning to that. Everyone can be their own label.”

Online music distribution has given independent artists new prospects for production, marketing and circulation. The Internet has allowed individuals the ability to call their own shots by bypassing “the middleman,” taking control from both record companies and management. Technology has eased the chore of music production and CD duplication. Additionally, online record stores help artists tailor their tunes for music download entities like iTunes and Rhapsody.

“So now, those independent artists can be on the Web site alongside all other major label artists,” explained Croughon. “You can find music from any part of the world online, whether it’s through CDBaby, iTunes or any of the hundreds of independent record labels that sell online. It’s great. It’s just a golden age.”

New York hip-hop artist Count Coolout (born James Minor) recalls the initial street buzz that propelled his 1980 hit, “Rhythm Rap Rock.” Minor, now a music marketing consultant, runs his business online via JaThom Records.

“In the old days, (the major labels) didn’t want to touch us because we weren’t what they considered to be music at one point. A lot of guys were selling on independent labels,” said Minor. “It might be the neighborhood number man, the dealer who lent the money to actually make a label to put a record out. When the labels started to see how this music was being sold, they decided to start signing us and start giving distribution deals as well. Now, it’s come full circle.”

Today, major labels are even more reluctant to accept unsolicited material, forcing potential acts to rely on high-end intermediaries such as entertainment lawyers. Those artists who are signed are often submitted to a formulaic process that leads to similarity in the tunes that do receive airplay.

“What happens today, as opposed to yesteryear when I first started out, is there was no Internet. Back then, if the ‘net existed, there probably never would have been a brother on a major label,” explained Minor. “Today’s artists are selling the CDs from the Internet. They’re on the underground, but they’re still getting fame. The money coming from the ‘net may not be as great as if they were on a major label, but how much of that major money do they keep?”

On average, an artist signed to a major label deals gets about 8 percent of the wholesale selling price of the CD single (about $5) or CD album (approximately $7-$8 each). Depending on the deal the artist signed, they could receive mere pennies on a chart-topping hit song. It was this kind of formula that led to the financial downfall of such artists such as TLC and spurred other artists like Prince to trendsetting online music dominance.

“If a major outfit sells 100,000 CDs, it’s considered a total flop. If an independent person or label sells 10,000 CDs, they’re breaking out the champagne,” says Minor. “Do the math: 10,000 at $10 a pop is $100,000. So the majors, being who they are and doing business the way they’ve been taught to do it, have pushed themselves to the side. And people are just going forward.”

… Rebecca Walker’s emotional and intellectual transformation through birth

In Black Folk who matter..., The Book Report, Uncategorized on March 27, 2007 at 4:33 pm

Originally published in The Philadelphia Tribune, Sunday, March 25, 2007

The generation of child bearing women who are now in their twenties and thirties are faced with a myriad of choices as they contemplate pregnancy. Many young women are faced with uncertainty as they juggle the demand of their personal and professional lives. Like other women in her generation, bestselling author Rebecca Walker’s was at a crossroads when making her life altering decision to experience pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood and she share her concerns in her latest memoir, “Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence” (Riverhead Books, $24.95).

For fifteen years Walker recognized a persistent yearning to have a baby but feared actually choosing to do it. As a result, she almost missed what she now knows to be the single most meaningful experience of her life. “When I was writing the book I was thinking a lot about how important it is for young women to strategize and prioritize having a child if its something they want to do and not to let the very finite period of their fertility get past them because of their ambivalence, or because of fear or because of different relationships in their lives that haven’t been resolved. It is such a powerful experience that if you miss it, you miss. It’s a message I really diidn’t get when I was younger, and I wish I had, so I feel like it’s my responsibility having to come into that awareness to just put it out there.”

In Baby Love, Rebecca Walker tells the story of her pregnancy: not just the physical evolution, but also the emotional and intellectual transformation from ambivalence to certainty to unconditional love. It’s the story of the birth of her son, Tenzin, the development of her relationship with her partner, Glen, and the demise of her relationship with her mother and fellow author, Alice Walker.

This older Walker opposes her daughter’s decision to have a baby and challenges Rebecca’s account of their relationship in the memoir “Black, White and Jewish.” Alice ends their relationship and removes Rebecca from her will, and Rebecca endures a tumultuous pregnancy, estranged from her mother as she prepares to become one herself. Tenzin, now 2, has yet to meet his grandmother.

“I think it’s the best thing for everyone’s mental and emotional health,” Walker says. “I support the decisions that I have made to make a better life for my child. I’ve always been open to reconciliation and I always will be, but it has to be in such a way that healing will take place and not harm.”

Like her mother, Walker has received numerous awards and accolades for her writing and activism. The elder Walker is one of the most prolific and important writers of our times, known for her literary fiction, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Color Purple (now a major Broadway play).

Walker acknowledges the sacrifice that her mother made to become one of America’s most recognized African American authors. “In many ways, it’s much easier for me than it was my mother,” explained Walker. “There are some differences in terms of the pressures and the arduousness of the task of being an African American woman writer at that time. She had to break ground that I don’t have to. The pressures and the resistance were tremendous in a lot of ways and so the impact on our home life was more intense. I clearly have obstacles that I have to negotiate, but it’s a different time so I think the extreme of the experience won’t be the same for Tenzin.”

As we speak, the sound of birds chirping emanate in the background of the Hawaiian home she’s made with her son and partner. Walker says she has found a secure place, within her self, to enjoy her life and her decisions. Today, Walker draws strength and serenity from the realization that her unconditional love for her son is vastly different from her mother’s love for her.

“I think (motherhood) makes me more appreciative of this journey to have realized that I could have missed it allows to embrace it even more every day,” reflects Walker. “I could just stare at my son for hours. I have to stop myself because I’m just so in awe of the experience. I definitely think that coming close to missing it has made it a more precious experience for me.”

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