Month: February 2011

The Rear View Mirror


Now before we go any further, I’m going to let all of the men who read the Mad (political) Scientist know that unless she just happens to be in a picture with President Barack or First Lady Michelle Obama or at some point talks about something I might be interested in with the same level of intelligence she reserves for talking about her fashion line, her latest movie, or the rather inane music she puts out, this will be the first, last and only time that you will see Mrs. Beyonce Knowles Carter on this blog.

But now that this disclaimer has been issued, I’ll move on to the reason why I have decided to illustrate this post with a picture of the creator of some of the most annoying dance music this side of Lady Gaga.

This is a post about image. To be specific, this is a post about how image can kill and how a young woman from England who longed for a career in music videos found that out the hard, and permanent way.

A few weeks ago, I read a column by Philadelphia Daily News columnist Jenice Armstrong about the new trend that’s sweeping the nation: butt implants.

No, I’m not kidding.

Apparently, something that me and most of my friends have been made fun of about our entire lives is now the rage for women of all races, creeds and colors. Thanks to the popularity of women like Beyonce, Kim Kardashian, Nicki Minaj and others, you’re envied if your derriere isn’t as flat as a pancake.

Because of this, women are buying special underwear, sticking pads on their backsides, or rushing off to the plastic surgeon to pay for something that they could get for free if they just hit the gym or took the stairs instead of the elevator.

(Anatomy 101: your buttocks are a muscle. You build it up, you get Beyonce. )

But hitting the gym or taking the stairs doesn’t produce the kind of results that will help you win that job in Beyonce’s Husband’s Next Video by next Tuesday. Besides, what happens if you find yourself reenacting the scene from “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka!” where the lead character finds out that nothing on the woman he’s taken home is real? Thus, better living through Brazilian Butt Lift becomes the next best thing. There’s just one problem with that: like most plastic surgery, it ain’t cheap.

So just like anything else, you can get it illegally if you think you need it.

And that reality brought 20-year-old Claudia Seye Aderotimi to America.

Aderotimi had done a music video in London when she met talent scout Tee Ali, according to the Sun newspaper. She wore the specially padded trousers that women who don’t have the badonkadonk needed for music video fame use to give the appearance of a fantastic fanny.

She was a dancer, so she could move. She wanted to be well-known, so she had the drive.

But she didn’t have the booty. And when she went to audition for another video and had to tell the truth about her curves, Aderotimi didn’t get a second shot.

So she came to Philadelphia for one. Aderotimi and three of her girlfriends came to the United States for a holiday. Two of the women went to New York while Aderotimi and her other girlfriend came to the Hampton Inn at the Philadelphia International Airport to see a man about a liquid silicone injection for illegal hip and buttock enhancement.

Aderotimi died Monday after complaining of chest pains and trouble breathing after the procedure.

Now I could go on about some of the substances that people are allowing themselves to be injected with in the name of the booty beautiful, substances that range from petroleum jelly to building caulk.

But this is a post about image, so let’s stick to that.

About a month or so ago, a friend of mine named Heather Faison wrote a post on her blog about an image issue that she was going through with some young girls she was teaching in Cameroon. She noticed that these beautiful Black children were walking around under umbrellas and using products to bleach their skin.

Why? Because they wanted to conform to the image that they saw in the fashion magazines. They wanted to be the long-legged white models with the long, flowing hair that they saw in mags like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle. Since they couldn’t do that with what they had, they were willing to stay out of the sun and poison themselves with skin creams to do the job.

I felt for Heather. So I asked if there was anything that we, meaning myself and the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, could do to help. She said that if she had some printed alternatives to show them, that might help.

And to the credit of everyone in PABJ, they stepped up to the plate big time. I sent out a bunch of magazines about a month ago, and another bunch is leaving tomorrow. In fact, Heather might need help getting this bunch back to her place in Cameroon. When folks give you boxes of magazines, it’s no joke.

But one of PABJ’s members made a good suggestion: include something like a study guide with them because American magazines, even ones with Black faces, can send the wrong message. I didn’t think of that, but once it was brought to my attention it made sense.

You see, when America presents Black women, you’re more likely to see someone who looks closer to the models in Vogue. Even when I look at magazines like Essence or Ebony or Vibe I don’t see me.

Lots of women don’t. And we need to address that.

Hopefully it’ll happen before the next enhancement trend springs up….and the next illegal entrepreneur figures out a way to profit from it at the expense of another young woman.

(You notice that this stuff never happens to men? I’ll address that next post.)

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From the mouths of comics…

It’s February 2, 2011.

For those of you who either don’t know, or don’t want to acknowledge this, it is the second day of Black History Month.

This is the month that is singled out to look at the historical accomplishments of African Americans in this country. This is when teachers talk to students about the achievements of such folks as Booker T. Washington, W.E.B DuBois, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. If we’re lucky, these teachers also talk to students about Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ida B. Wells Barnett and others.

I know that this year the subject of President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama will come up. It has for the last two years. Can’t talk about Black History Month without talking about the one piece of history no one saw coming….

But if you’re black in America, and a native of this country, chances are that at some time during this month, you’re going to have a white person ask you the following question: “Why is there a Black History Month?” followed closely by “Is it still necessary?”

Sometimes, there are people who pose this question looking for a fight. When I lived in Klan Kountry, a lot of white guys asked me that question in hopes of getting me to tell them where to go and how to get there, thus confirming my lack of humanity in their eyes. But after awhile, I found that ignoring them was the better course of action, especially since if you’re supposed to be superior to me, why is it that I’ve discovered soap and water and you haven’t?

But most white folks who are asking that question are doing so from a position of innocence. They really want to know why we need a particular month to recognize what people of color have brought to this country.

They especially want to know this if they’re not originally from these parts. And it helps if the person asking is a really, really funny comedian.

Last night, Craig Ferguson, devoted the entire hour of his Late, Late Show to this question. As a new citizen of this country and someone who hadn’t grown up surrounded by the unique brand of racism that was practiced during the time that Black History Month was created, he innocently wanted to know why the observance existed.

Dr. Cornel West was who Ferguson went to for answers, and what resulted was a pretty good show that talked about everything from the origins of Black History Month, why taking the N-Word out of “Huckleberry Finn” cleans the text….and the history surrounding it …far too much, and whether or not you can find an orgasm machine.

(I did mention that it was a comic having this discussion, right?)

I didn’t get a chance to see it live because I was trying to write a paper at the time. But I made a point to check it out today. I thought that it was good because you could tell that Ferguson had done some homework. He was also able to connect it to the history of his native country, which was also nice. And West, as he often does, made the discussion as much about humanity as it was Africanity. I am going to find a way to use his phrase “former Negroes” in my writing somehow. I don’t know how yet, but I’ll find a place for it!….

I was glad to see his questions answered.

But to be honest, I look forward to a day where separate months to celebrate the achievements of everyone who makes up the salad that is America is no longer necessary. Not because I don’t like having my own month despite it being the shortest on the calendar, but because I thought that by now we’d have our act together as a people.

You see, in 2012 I celebrate my 30th anniversary of being out of high school. When I left Pemberton Township High School, which is located just outside of what used to be called Fort Dix in New Jersey, I left a much different person than the person I am now.

That’s because Pemberton Township High School was a very different place. We were what in Yiddish is called a mishegas (thank you Jeff Winbush!), or a collection. Pemberton was truly multicultural not because of busing or anything like that, but because of the United States Military. Any race, creed, color, national origin or religion that you could think of here in the salad that is America was represented in the hallways of PTHS. Uncle Sam doesn’t play favorites….and dares you to!

And it was amazing.

But it was also a bit sheltering. So much so that when I got hit with the reality that where I came from wasn’t necessarily the norm, it kinda hurt.

I went to The Ohio State University for college. Columbus, Ohio isn’t much of a city when the university isn’t in session, but when it is, it is the center of the universe. I went to college with future NFL Hall of Famer Cris Carter and saw first hand what women are willing to go through to get themselves a man with deep pockets, or potentially deep ones, which is a subject I’ll tackle in another post.

Anyway, I had the most popular yearbook in Lincoln Tower, the dormitory in which I spent my freshman year. Not because it was such a good yearbook (although I was on Yearbook committee and was kinda proud of it), or because the wrestling team was kinda cute (which it was…).

My yearbook was the talk of the town because it was the only yearbook that featured a diverse student body. I can’t tell you how many times I got asked “Were the cops there a lot?” because no one could believe that a student body that diverse could exist without there being a lot of tension.

Now I’m not going to say that everyone at Pemberton got along because that doesn’t happen anywhere. We had our knuckleheads. Every place does.

But for the most part, the students at PTHS not only got along, but genuinely liked each other. That it wasn’t the same everywhere kinda bothered me. In fact, it bothered me so much one time that I ended up in the Dean of Students Office.

(Anyone who knows me well is probably not at all surprised by that fact.)

However, the “you’re not in Kansas anymore” lesson was brought home. It was innocence lost. And I am still sometimes annoyed by that.

But all that I can do is my own personal part to bring forth the change that I’d like to see. That’s all any of us can do.

I have the first part of Ferguson’s interview with Cornel West at the top of this post. Here are the last three, one of which also includes a musical performance by George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars of the classic “One Nation Under a Groove”. I apologize in advance….