by Michael P Coleman

janetjacksontourThe element of surprise has been a hallmark of superstar Janet Jackson’s 30+ year career. 

If you’re too young to remember, Jackson’s landmark 1986 Control album, with its defiant distancing from her famous family, surprised even her most ardent fans.  I was one of them; I’ve loved that girl since she was little Penny on Good Times.  As I think about it, Jackson’s entire recording career was a surprise, with her having spent the first years of her career focused on acting instead of trying to compete with her incomparable older brother, the King of Pop. 

At the age of 19, Jackson fired her father (he’d been her manager) and shocked the entertainment world as she emerged from her brother Michael’s enormous shadow via a series of huge hit records (courtesy of wünderkinds Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis) and impossibly sexy music videos. 

Then there was the follow-up album a few years later.  Instead of issuing a Control 2, the artist released Janet’s Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814, an opus that was her generation’s What’s Going On? with a strong, running theme of social consciousness interspersed with a groove that wouldn’t quit. 

Rhythm Nation encapsulated visual joys as well.  What an impression she made in those jeans — Lord, those jeans! — that push up bra, blond, upswept wig, and that signature megawatt smile in her Herb Ritz-directed Love Will Never Do Without You video.  I still haven’t recovered from it.  “They said it wouldn’t last, but we had to prove them wrong…”. WOW. 

 

 

Who can forget Jackson’s first secret marriage (to El DeBarge), her second secret marriage (to René Elizondo), her secret relationship (with Jermaine Dupri), or her third secret marriage (to Wissem Al Mana), which she has recently confirmed is ending just after having delivered her first baby — unless you believe a long-standing rumor that she had a baby with DeBarge when she was still in her teens). 

And then there was the infamous Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction.”

So Jackson knows a thing or two about the element of surprise.  Hence, it shouldn’t have been that much of a shock when she released a video earlier this week that both confirmed her pending divorce and announced a new tour.  But it was a shock — and Jackson dominated entertainment news coverage the next day.  She’s certainly proven her penchant for masterful media manipulation — we all ate it up. 

The tour is not the resumption of her truncated 2015 Unbreakable tour but rather a new one, entitled State Of The World.  The tour’s title echoes one of the more popular album tracks from Rhythm Nation, whetting fans appetite for what’s sure to be a great show — if Jackson shows up for it. 

The superstar’s last tour was plagued with cancellations and rescheduled dates, so I’m hoping she’s ready to hit the road and solidify her place among pop music’s would-be royalty.  Sorry, Beyoncé but in my book, if anyone’s a triple threat, it’s Janet Jackson.  She sang, danced and acted her way into my little elementary school heart way back in the day on Good Times — I STILL can’t pick up a clothes iron to save my life.  You’d best believe I’ll have tickets to Jackson’s October 3 show in Sacramento — just in case she decides to join us. 

Tickets for Janet Jackson’s State Of The World Tour stops in Sacramento and Concord go on sale at Ticketmaster at 10am Friday, May 5th. 

 

Michael P ColemanMichael P Coleman is a Sacramento-based freelancer writer who would marry Janet Jackson if he weren’t still holding out hope to marry Diana Ross.  Connect with him at michaelpcoleman.com or on Twitter:@ColemanMichaelP 

 

Moonlight posterI saw the Academy Award-winning Moonlight for the first time at the beginning of its initial run in theaters, last fall. I walked into a screening of the movie with every intention of reviewing it. I walked out having been profoundly moved, forever changed, and temporarily muted. I simply couldn’t find the words to describe the movie.

I’d not felt that way after seeing a film since Precious, another film with honest, gritty performances, flawed, human characters that commanded my attention, and a character arc that left me literally exhausted and speechless. I felt the same way after seeing Monster’s Ball and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Dreamgirls.

In all of those prior cases, the films went on to win Academy Awards, and I’d accurately predicted them. In the case of Monster’s Ball, I knew that if Halle Berry hadn’t gone on to win the Oscar for Best Actress, it would have been due to racism in the industry. Berry’s performance, particularly a critical scene during which her character is processing an unfathomable loss, earned that trophy.

Similarly, after watching Moonlight, I called Mahershala’s Oscar, the screenplay award, and the Oscar for Best Picture. I knew if Moonlight didn’t win on Oscar night, homophobia — not racism — would have been the primary culprit

One Moonlight scene in particular brought tears to my eyes, during which Ali’s character teaches the young Chiron (played by Alex R. Hibbert) how to swim, before he gives advice on self-acceptance that we all could use, independent of sexual orientation. I was reminded of my dad teaching me to swim decades ago, and our subsequent conflict regarding my own sexual orientation years later.

While Moonlight undoubtedly muted me, I dug a little deeper and realized that I’d not written an initial review due to my own internalized homophobia. As a bisexual black man, I was worried that my glowing endorsement of the film wouldn’t be taken seriously. Now, looking back to last fall, I’m not proud of that moment. In a sense, Moonlight — or my visceral reaction to it — steered me back in the closet — at least professionally — for a hot minute.

For the complete article, visit EURThisNThat.com.

MPCBatman2015

This blog was written by freelancer Michael P Coleman. Connect with him at michaelpcoleman.com or on Twitter: @ColemanMichaelP.

No Tolerance For “Nigger”: Calling A Spade A Spade At A Coffee Shop

by Michael P Coleman

A few months ago, I wrote an editorial about the use of “the N word” and why I think it has no place in modern, civilized society. That said, I also think that use of the phrase “the N word” diminishes the impact of the word in media reports of its use.

Pardon the pun, but the media should just call a spade a spade. It’s kinda like writers who use the spelling “f**ck,” or worse “phuck.” We know what you’re saying, so just say it for fuck’s sake — or better yet, find another, more articulate and less abrasive way to express your thoughts and feelings.

So back to “nigger.” I believe the word has no place, and its prevalence in what’s now popular music and public vernacular (especially with younger people) has desensitized us. Even the media’s use of the phrase “the N word” obscures “nigger”’s vile history and current power.

After I published that original story, most of the readers I heard from agreed with me. However, a small minority argued that the younger generation had reclaimed the word and that the newly-branded “nigga” didn’t hold the same meaning.

I stick to my original thesis, especially after the conversation I had last week with a white fellow coffee-lover in a quaint little bistro in California’s Bay area.

I was sitting at my favorite table in the window, tapping away on a story, searching for inspiration and facing a looming deadline, when an adjacent table began to fill up with middle-aged, business-suited white men. Soon, four of them had assembled and were casually chatting while sipping their beverages, when a fifth friend walked up.

As one of the men pulled a chair over to their table, another commented on the newest addition’s haircut.

“New hairstyle!” he bellowed, drawing the attention of the other friends along with that of a good third of the people in the coffee shop, including that of this writer. His hair was combed up oddly in the front of his head. I was later told that the younger, whiter generation sometimes refers to it as a “pineapple.”

“Yeah,” the man remarked. “It’s just like the kind that niggers wear!”

My head bolted up from my MacBook’s monitor. Could I have heard what I thought I’d heard?? Slowly, I turned my head to the right, in a cloud of disbelief and shock. At my ever-advancing age, my ears HAD to be going.

“Oh, yeah! Kinda!” one of his friends affirmed.

“Yeah, you know, niggers take a comb and comb it right up and it stays up there!,” Mr. Pineapple laughed.

Now, at this point, I really DID think that my hearing was leaving me. The continued torrent of words began to swirl around me, forming a bit of a jumble that resembled the “wah wah wah” from the Charlie Brown TV specials. Could this middle-aged, salt & pepper, shirt and tied gentlemen actually have used the word “nigger” in public at 11:17am in the middle of a work week and a crowded coffee shop?

And if he actually had, what was I to do about it? Wasn’t it a free country, and didn’t the gentlemen’s freedom of speech allow him the right to…

Then, my heart sharply shoved my brain out of the way.

“Excuse me, sir. What did you just say?” I asked Mr. Pineapple, as calmly as I could.

Five white heads turned, and five white faces looked at me. For a split second, I was taken back to the first time I was called a “nigger” by one of a handful of faces in Davenport, Iowa decades ago. This time around, one of the faces seemed amused, while the other four, including the one attached to the guy who’d uttered the word “nigger” — twice — appeared shocked. I don’t think they’d seen me tapping away at my table in the window, just across the aisle from them.

“Oh,” Mr. Pineapple exclaimed. “I was just telling them how you black guys comb your hair up…”

“Sir, you didn’t refer to us “black guys” as “black guys,” I countered, in a tone that was slightly cooler than my initial question had been. A part of me was proud that I’d been able to choke out the word “sir.”

“You said ‘nigger,’”, I countered, “and that is very offensive.”

To Mr. Pineapple’s credit, he apologized to me. (He also introduced himself, but I’m using “Mr. Pineapple” to protect the not-so-innocent.). But either my question or Mr. Pineapple’s apology had clearly ruined the group’s outing, as the five men quickly packed up and left…maybe to go to another location where their racist rhetoric could continue unchecked. The conversation also left me with a severe case of writer’s block, so I closed my MacBook and headed out for lunch.

I’d planned to push the entire conversation to the furthermost recesses of my mind, and had done a pretty good job of it until later that night, as I brushed my teeth and got ready for bed. I glanced at my hair, a still-dense thatch of tight black curls accented by the ever so slightest of gray. (Self-esteem has never been an issue for me.). Even without the help of the comb that Mr. Pineapple had referenced, I couldn’t help but notice that my hair DID stand up, and it DID stay just where I placed it.

Just like the hair on the heads of the rest of the niggers that Mr. Pineapple spoke of, and the ones he sees every day.

I stick to my original thesis. No tolerance for “nigger.” That’s where we as a society need to be headed — no, where we need to be! If a middle-aged businessman can effortlessly toss the word out to a group of his white friends at a coffee shop, the use of the word “nigger” needs to be abolished — for good.

What do you think? No tolerance for “nigger?” Or would you have just told yourself that Mr. Pineapple may have said “nigga,” that the words are different and the world’s different now, and just walked away? What would you have done? Let us know in the comments.

http://www.eurthisnthat.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/MPCBatman2015.jpgThis blog was written by freelancer Michael P Coleman. Connect with him at michaelpcoleman.com or on Twitter: @ColemanMichaelP

by Michael P Coleman

Rev. Jesse JacksonThe Reverend Jesse Jackson has been at the forefront of the civil rights movement for over 50 years.

Well, kinda.  He stood next to MLK as he was gunned down in 1968, having been one of his closest advisers and mentees.  Twenty years later, Jackson vied for the Democratic presidential nomination, helping to lay the groundwork for President Obama’s successful bid twenty years after THAT.

But sometimes, Jackson seems to kinda hang out at high profile events, raising the ire of black and white folks alike.  He has been openly critical of President Obama, and was once caught on a live mic making crude comments about him.  

And now, folks on people.com say he’s just not “relevant.”  

We want to know what YOU think of the Reverend Jesse Jackson.  Don’t let people.com’s readers speak for you!  Here’s the background:  

Jackson, 75, attended the Women’s March on Washington last weekend.  He says he did so because he’s concerned that hard-fought civil rights gains are being threatened by President Trump.

“50 years of civil rights have been threatened,” Jackson said.  The right to vote is threatened.  Trump’s first act is to attempt to stop healthcare for 30 million poor people and the thousands of workers who service them.”

Overall, Jackson says he thinks that the thousands who participated in the Women’s March did so out of hope.

“My sense is that people here are not so much anti-Trump — they’re pro-American,” he said.  “We’re not going back.  Women aren’t going back to the back alley to make their health choices.  We’re not going back to having our right to vote denied.”

Readers on people.com immediately jumped on the story and attacked the civil rights legend.

Tracy Thomas Rylee, who says she’s 45 and appears as white as the driven snow, says that “Jesse Jackson is always looking for a way to make himself relevant.  He jumps in the spotlight whenever he gets a chance,  that’s all he’s good for these days.”

Karen Carnes Booth says “…back in 1999 [Jackson] praised Trump for his dealings with minorities.  Just another liberal hypocrite…”

Susie Smith adds that “Jesse [has] worked for 5 DECADES to keep blacks down, always stirring the racism pot because THAT is what makes [him] a fortune.”  She goes on to say that Jackson is a “maggot” and  “…a national disgrace.”

The Reverend Jesse Jackson:  a “maggot” and “a national disgrace?”  

Let me tell you what I think:

Anyone who marched for me in the 1960s and devoted their lives to the advancement of civil rights, be it Jackson or John Lewis or anyone else that Trump or any other one of a number of white people want to deem “irrelevant,” is in fact “relevant” and will be for the rest of my life,   I remember voting for Jackson during the 1988 primaries, and dreaming that he might have been our first African American president.  

While Jackson’s Rainbow / Push Coalition may have faded from view long ago, he’s a national treasure, not a “disgrace” or a “maggot.”  Jackson, Lewis and others are VERY relevant today, especially for those of us who are younger than they are and haven’t walked in their shoes, during a civil rights march or otherwise.  

If you’re one of many who’s benefitted by the work that Jackson, Lewis and others have done, lay off of the keyboard and be quiet if you’ve nothing respectful to say about a civil rights legend who was attending a protest march while you sat on your ass playing with your smartphone. 

I have read People Magazine since Miss Piggy first appeared on the cover in 1979 and that was back in the day when if you read something with which you disagreed, you had to sit down at your IBM Selectric typewriter and craft a well thought out, well written response, in the hope of getting it published in the next issue.  Nowadays, folks can read an article on their smartphone, hit “respond” while they’re driving down the street (don’t get me started on THAT!), and shoot off the first thing that pops into their crazy-assed heads, even when it unfairly insults a civil rights legend.

Michael P Coleman

This blog was written by freelancer Michael P Coleman, who still sometimes misses his IBM Selectric and still dreams of a date with Miss Piggy.  Connect with him at michaelpcoleman.com or on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP.  

 

by Michael P Coleman

17613 0A lot has been written and said about Viola Davis’ stunning performance in the Denzel Washington-directed Fences. Her name is being mentioned as a potential Oscar contender.

Every word you read about Davis’ Oscar prospects is absolutely true. The actress is incendiary on screen, forcing you to feel every emotion her character displays as she manages the ups and downs of a life that may not have been lived to its fullest.

It’s been a long time since I saw a movie theatre crowd applaud after a performance. In Fences, Davis delivers a crying, knee-buckling, nose-running monologue that’s not to be missed. It left every woman cheering midway, and earned an ovation from the entire audience after Davis was done.

But to talk about Davis too much is, perhaps, not giving enough attention to Washington, who also stars in the movie.

For the full review, please visit Eurthisnthat.com.

by Michael P Coleman

I still remember hearing Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” for the first time.  I was six years old, it was a version by Diana Ross & the Supremes, and I thought the song was racist.

Don’t judge.  I was a late bloomer. 

I was a few years older — eight or nine, maybe — when I realized that the classic described a dream of a different kind of “white Christmas” than I’d imagined.  That revelation was a shock — kinda like the one I had twenty years later when I realized that, yes Virginia, the soulful Bobby Caldwell, who had just released an ironically scorching version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Vanessa Williams, was (and still is) a self-described "cracker." 

“Do I sound terribly white?” Caldwell laughed by phone, after I told him that his speaking voice differed more than slightly from his Peabo Bryson-eque singing voice.  “My influences are broad.  We’re talking Motown to Philly to Muscle Shoals to the Beatles to Steely Dan…all kinds of stuff.  As a child, I was a huge Sinatra fan, and then around the age of nine or 10 I started to get into Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, The Spinners, The Dells, Earth Wind & Fire, all of that stuff.” 

Caldwell, 65 burst onto the national scene in the late 1970s as the voice behind the massive R & B and pop hit “Won’t You Won’t Do For Love.”  He’s stayed true to his soulful craft over the years, releasing an impressive collection of R & B - steeped songs including impressive covers of Etta James’ “At Last” and The Emotions’ “Don’t Ask My Neighbor” while earning a solid base of devoted, and largely African American, fans. 

For the full article, please visit SacCulturalHub.com/News/.

mahalia jackson 300If you don’t know Mahalia Jackson, you don’t know gospel music. If you’ve come in contact with Jackson along the way, perhaps as she told you about that great gettin’ up morning, you’ll be thrilled to listen to the 22 tracks on this superb new Mahalia Jackson album, Moving On Up A Little Higher.

That’s right. A NEW Mahalia Jackson album. As her glorious contralto was silenced in 1972, at the age of 59, and with the abundance of Jackson collections that have been released over the years, who knew that an entire album worth of her performances, from her artistic peak, was waiting to be heard?

All of the new album’s 22 tracks are seeing the light of day for the very first time. Half of the album was buried in audio libraries in New Orleans and at Indiana University. Other tracks were recorded as Jackson stretched out during rehearsals. Still others were recorded live in 1957 at the Newport Jazz Festival, a year before her landmark recording from the next year’s event would make Jackson an international star.

For the complete article, visit EurWeb.com/News.

Niggers are all over the place these days.

Yes, I said “nigger,” not “the N word” or “nigga” or “n****r” or some other version of the word that the overwhelming majority of media outlets routinely use in lieu of THE word. I say if we’re going to use the word, let’s use it.

Or more aptly…let’s not. Ever. In any form.

I remember when only Richard Pryor could get away with regularly using the word “nigger.” He even named one of his standup albums Supernigger and sold millions of albums in the process.

My mother didn’t allow that album or any of Pryor’s others in our home, but when Mom was at work Dad howled with laughter to his contraband Pryor cassettes and 8 tracks.

When George Jefferson said “nigger” on the classic sitcom The Jeffersons, millions of viewers laughed while advertisers threatened to drop the show.  Then, in the mid-1980s, Eddie Murphy picked up in feature films and standup specials where Pryor had left off, and the word’s use started to creep.

By the 90s’ torrent of hip hop and rap, use of the word had spread broadly. “Nigger” was on a roll! And now, we’re living with a whole generation of people who grew up hearing the word used very casually — and we need to be ashamed of ourselves.

Today, if anything makes me crazier than pulling up to a red light next to someone blaring “nigger”-infused music from their car speakers, it’s the increasing acceptance and use of the word in the media.

Just last weekend, Saturday Night Live’s Michael Che let the word rip at the Weekend Update desk during the show’s season premiere.  (SNL has a history with the word, as Chevy Chase called Pryor a “nigger” during the show’s inaugural season.) Also last weekend, the premiere of Netflix’s new Luke Cage series pummeled viewers with the word, including a scene where Alfre Woodard’s character expresses her disdain for its use.

“You know I despise that word,” she sneered, only to have the character she was speaking to say “I know. It’s easy to underestimate a nigga.” Over the course of the series’ first seven episodes, the word is used over two dozen times.

I’ve heard the argument about the difference between “nigger” and “nigga,” but I believe that just as when I use “brother” or “brutha” to describe another man of color in a loving, positive way, “nigger” in any form is abhorrent, vile, and without a home in civil, modern discourse. I don’t think of the word “nigger” in ANY form as a term of endearment of ANY kind.

I’ve also heard the argument about “taking the word back” from our oppressors. To that argument I’ll simply reply with another obscenity: bullshit.  We are making it easy for white folks to use pejoratives when describing us, and by sanitizing the word “nigger” and using it so effortlessly, we are sanctioning its use by others.  

Maybe I feel so strongly about it because I still remember the first time it was used to describe me. Somewhat like your first kiss, you never forget the first time you’re called a “nigger.”

 I was in my late teens and finishing up a college internship in Bettendorf, Iowa. I’d gone shopping at the Duck Creek Mall. In retrospect, the name of the place should have tipped me off that I was far from the ‘hood.

As I walked through the mall’s parking lot to my car, four or five young, white The Dukes of Hazard rejects pulled up to me in a symbolically white midsize pickup truck and started a conversation with “Get out of town, nigger!” This was in broad daylight, in a crowded parking lot, and believe me, the fellas were using their outside voices.

An almost debilitating cocktail of terror and rage swelled inside me, but I somehow managed to suppress the former. I’d always heard that dogs could smell fear, and I’d always suspected the same of bigots. I lashed out with a few choice epithets of my own (my parents had taught me well) and luckily, the good ol’ boys laughed and drove off, leaving a trail of cigarette smoke and hatred.

I was left standing in that parking lot with a taste of what civil rights workers — those heroes who had paved the way for me to complete a college internship in Bettendorf, Iowa — must have gone through. I’ve never heard the word “nigger” or any of its derivations the same way again.

Most media outlets can’t — or won’t — report on incidents of the word having been used without resorting to diluted, softer terms like “the N word” or  “n****r.”  That industry-wide practice is profoundly hypercritical. The Jewish Lorne Michaels, SNL’s executive producer, can approve “nigger”’s inclusion to Michael Che’s script for a live comedy show on NBC, but the next day, the network’s own news division resorts to the term “the N word” in talking about the broadcast.

My initial experience of having been called a “nigger” — and a few subsequent experiences — just don’t have the same punch if I sanitize the word. When I have spoken of having been verbally assaulted, I don’t quote the hillbillies of Duck Creek Mall as saying “Get out of town, N-Word!” The heinous act itself deserves fair, accurate reporting. If someone can say the word “nigger,” I can tell people it was said. And media should, too.

The word “nigger” is rooted in the very foundation of the darkest chapter in our nation’s history. I imagine it was the last word heard by men before they were lynched, often set on fire and torched to death or hung from trees — or both.

Routinely, large crowds of cheering white onlookers watched those executions smiling…laughing…and chanting…“Nigger!”

“Nigger!”

“Nigger!”

 
 

And just as those thousands of lynchings were executed without remorse, we should send the word “nigger” and all of its variants to their final resting place.

Immediately.

Let’s lynch “nigger.” For good.

 

MPCBatman2015This blog was written by Michael P Coleman. Connect with him at michaelpcoleman.com or on Twitter: @ColemanMichaelP