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The Harlem Gospel Choir has backed out of a holiday performance with controversial conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck, the Daily News has learned.
The famous choir, which has performed for Nelson Mandela and Pope John Paul II, was set to appear in the simulcast film of Beck's novel "The Christmas Sweater - A Return to Redemption," which opens Thursday in theaters nationwide.
The choir canceled the appearance Monday, citing financial reasons.
James Rucker, executive director of Color for Change - which has helped persuade more than 80 advertisers to ditch Beck's show - said the group did an about-face after he called the choir.
"We wanted to make sure they understood who Beck was," Rucker said. "We believe their mission is about spreading the Gospel and and promoting harmony, and we thought Beck was the antithesis of that."
Before we contacted the Harlem Gospel Choir about Beck, they didn't know much about him. After learning more about Beck and his history of race-baiting, the choir quickly came to the right decision and cancelled their appearance with him.
The choir told the Daily News that their reasons for canceling with Beck were financial, and it's understandable that they would want to avoid getting involved in what could be seen as a political fight -- the choir is about faith and music, not politics. And it's hard to blame them for wanting to avoid starting a fight with Glenn Beck -- he is a powerful man with a large megaphone and a large audience that includes some very hateful people (based on some of the email we've received after launching our campaign against Beck, we know this first-hand at ColorOfChange).
"The Christmas Sweater" is part of Beck's effort to present himself as someone who represents mainstream American values. His desire to work with the Harlem Gospel Choir serves that goal, and it would have helped him position himself as embracing Black people while his rhetoric works against the interests of not only Black folks but most Americans.
That's what makes the Harlem Gospel Choir's refusal to perform with Beck so important -- they are world-famous for spreading a message of peace, love, unity and respect. They've performed for Nelson Mandela, in honor of Dr. King, and before Pope John Paul II. They have proudly represented one of Black America's oldest musical traditions around the world, and now they have refused to allow their name and their legacy to be used by someone like Glenn Beck.
"Precious" is a haunting film that stays silent on how the political realities of 1980s Harlem shaped women.
Clareece ‘Precious’ Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) is the shining star of her own imagination in the new movie Precious, which hits theaters nationwide on November 6. Surrounded by bright lights and flashing cameras, she’s a magazine cover model with dreams of being in music videos and having a light-skinned love interest. The only thing she has to overcome are her circumstances—and boy, are there plenty of hurdles ahead of her. The recipe is familiar: Start with an unfailingly tragic character, pile on the hardships, throw a few famous names on the credits, then sit back and watch the Oscar nominations roll in.
[B]eneath the film was something that I found to be problematic:
a reliance on the villainization of Black matriarch
—rather than a mention of systemic race issues—
to make the larger message of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” more palatable.
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire could have been just another one film championing the underdog, but the powerful performances and unabashedly raw storytelling saves it from falling through the cracks.Precious is pregnant, illiterate, unloved and unwanted. Her mother, Mary, (played to chilling, cruel perfection by Mo’Nique) works harder at destroying her daughter’s self-esteem than she does anything else. Precious silently endures unbridled physical and sexual abuse at home, only to experience the ridicule of her peers at school and around Harlem. It’s a wonder that anyone could survive the sort of utter despair that Precious lives in every day, but despite being illiterate in the ninth grade, she excels in math and is encouraged by a concerned teacher to pursue an alternative education during her pregnancy—a suggestion that her mother meets with a better one: to start collecting welfare and not to worry about education.Luckily, Precious escapes academic purgatory and enrolls in an alternative school for pregnant students, where she meets a series of nurturing figures who instill in her the sense of love and self-worth that was absent from her household for 16 years. In addition to her teacher and mentor Ms. Rain (played by Paula Patton), there’s her classroom of tough-yet-supportive peers, and Lenny Kravitz as a nurse who shows her what is likely the most positive male role model that she has seen in her young life. There has already been considerable Oscar buzz surrounding both Mo’Nique and Sidibe, and the film has received numerous accolades, including the Grand Jury Prize for the Dramatic category at Sundance and the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. The actors and director Lee Daniels deserve the praise they’ve received for making such a powerful movie. But beneath the film was something that I found to be problematic: a reliance on the villainization of Black matriarch—rather than a mention of systemic race issues—to make the larger message of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” more palatable. This is a problematic image to see in white media, but it’s even more disheartening to see in examples of Black media. What’s so problematic about Mary is that the woman is made into a monster with no redeemable qualities—a decision that isn’t only lazy on behalf of the filmmakers, but also wholly irresponsible to the African-American community.But director Lee Daniels makes the critical mistake of ignoring the social and political reality that his characters inhabit. Besides a title card in the beginning of the film and some outdated hairstyles, we as the audience see little of the forces that compel Mary’s actions. To ignore 1987 Harlem as the foundation for the permanent Black underclass created by the Reagan Administration through its abhorrent social reform policies—including the War on Drugs and welfare reform—is to ignore a crucial aspect of his characters’ lives. The political forces at work during the period operated in a much larger scope than the familial level portrayed in the film. And that’s why it was a grievous error for Daniels to paint a portrait of Mary as a one-dimensional demon, seemingly devoid of any ounce of compassion toward even her own offspring.
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Actor Jeffrey Wright reads Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" from the Walt Whitman Houses Ft. Greene, Brooklyn, on Open Book, a new weekly television series created and hosted by Ina Howard Parker.
Open Book, created, produced and hosted by Ina Howard-Parker, premiered May 11th at 8:30pm EST and May 13th at 11:30pm EST, nationally on LinkTV (DirectTV ch. 375, Dish Network ch. 9410, and cable channels nationally. Click here to find where Link broadcasts on your dial.
Open Book is a new show about books, focusing on a single spot on Earth in each episode to introduce you to the writers and other storytellers-- musicians, actors, poets and more-- whose work reminds us we're all connected through the stories we have to tell and the communities we inhabit.
In the premiere episode, we visit Ft. Greene, Brooklyn, a neighborhood with a rich cultural heritage, to meet some of the writers and artists who live there including former child soldier Ishmael Beah, award-winning novelist Jennifer Egan, legendary jazz musician Bill Lee, Walt Whitman devotee Daryl Blaine Ford, creative genius Carl Hancock Rux, Def Jam poet Suheir Hammad, singer Nucomme, and star of stage and screen, actor Jeffrey Wright.
Midway through the movie, Cadillac Records, director Darnell Martin’s film on the groundbreaking record label Chess Records, Martin depicts rock pioneer Chuck Berry unleashing his signature “Sweet Little Sixteen” guitar riffs against scenes of surfing revelry. Berry’s song was notoriously pilfered by the Beach Boys in their song “Surfin’ USA,” a homage to white California youth subculture. Chewed up and spat out by an imperialist marketing machine, Berry’s music becomes yet another Jim Crow soundtrack for Americana pleasure.
The first African American female to direct a studio film, Martin’s take on the Chess saga breathes new life into the all too familiar history of gifted black musicians ripped off by a white record promoter. Chronicling the rise of Chess artists Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Berry, Little Walter and Etta James, Martin highlights their struggle to gain just compensation and recognition in a culture whose appetite for “black music” would ripen into a multi-million dollar industry during the 1950s. The avarice of record company owner Leonard Chess, who amassed a fortune from the music of these artists, paying them off with Cadillac cars and shady contracts, is a vivid reminder of the plantation ethos that drives American pop music.
It’s no revelation to say that white appropriation of African American derived music and idioms has been a cornerstone of mainstream American cultural identity, yet Martin’s film throws the question of consumption, commerce and the capitalist subtext of white pleasure into vivid relief. In the film young white women flock to black guitar players at segregated concerts, parading their relative racial and sexual freedom, oblivious to the consequences for black men.
For white Americana, the rise of 1950s rock and R&B transformed racial otherness into a more mainstream adventure, a resort vacation into unexplored vistas of self-discovery that even white consumers with a few cents for a 45 record could take. White postwar prosperity and suburbanization made blackness all the more appealing because of its transgressive potential. As long as actual black people remained “out there,” in segregated urban ghettos and rural communities, black cultural production would continue to be a seductive bromide.
The 1956 Interstate Highway Act paved the way to white suburbia and ignited a car culture that was baptized in the sounds of rock and R&B. As suburban white flight exacerbated residential segregation, black music became the commodity of choice for a new generation of young white consumers. Yet in the film, scene after scene of crushing poverty, racist police abuse and public humiliation endured by Waters and company underscores the parasitic relationship between white consumption and spatial apartheid.
For scores of white record buyers and musicians, classics such as Wolf and Willie Dixon’s “Backdoor Man” and Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” would become standards, while segregated black spectators would grow up watching Hollywood scenes of white romance and redemption against the backdrop of black music.
Like Motown, Stax Records and other black-dominated labels, the work of the Chess artists established a new language for white self-invention while foregrounding the disparity between white and black postwar opportunities. The parallels between this history and the commodification of hip hop are compelling. As hip hop has spanned the globe netting mega-millions for white corporations it has become another metaphor for imperialist exploitation of Black America. Though Berry ultimately won song writing credit on Surfin’ USA after a threatened lawsuit, the film leaves us with the image of the hip swiveling Elvis Presley; his legacy and global empire forged on the backs of African American geniuses unknown and unrecognized in American music history.
Sikivu Hutchinson is Editor of BlackFemLens.org, a journal of progressive commentary and literature. Afro-Netizen strongly encourages you to visit and bookmark this important and informative site! Ms. Hutchinson can be reached at sikivu at blackfemlens dot org.