This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

October 31, 2009

I Smile for Old School Friday: Halloween Edition

Because I am late with my Old School Friday selection, I am going to kill two ravens with one headstone and combine the official OSF theme, Songs That Make Me Smile, with a tribute to one of my favorite dates on the calendar. Here are Halloween-flavored songs that make me smile.

I may as well start with the obvious. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” has become more than a song. It is a cultural institution. From prisoners to wedding parties to my little brother’s recent swim team talent show, everyone at some point in their life must find reason to participate in a reenactment of the Thriller choreography.

Of course this Halloween the song is bittersweet, with the recent death of MJ and the thus-far enormously successful film This Is It. “Thriller” is still one of those Halloween-appropriate songs that makes me smile.

“Thriller (Bird Peterson Remix)” by Michael Jackson

Another highly participatory Halloween song that always puts a smile on my face is from one of the most uproariously fun movies of all time. If you ever meet me in person remind me to tell you the story of the first time my friends and I, in high school, went to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show downtown, bringing bags full of raw eggs and rocks and filled water balloons—all of which were confiscated by the security guard at the door. Or, about the time we took my exchange student from Yugoslavia to see it for his first time, and he got mad when the audience yelled “VIRGIN” to him when he said the wrong thing at the wrong time.

“Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show Motion Picture Soundtrack

My last pick is probably the best song ever made to send a chill up your spine. It makes me smile because ever since I was a child I have loved scary movies—and The Exorcist is one of the scariest ever made.

“Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield

Have a safe Halloween weekend!


As always, a big thank you to OSF hostesses, Marvalus at Conversations with Marva and MrsGrapevine.

Please check out the rules for joining and list of other OSF participants here.

July 23, 2009

The Obama Harley and Other Scenes from 2009 IBE

"Obama Harley." PPR_Scribe

"Obama Harley." PPR_Scribe

Last year’s Indiana Black Expo was all about (then) Candidate Obama. The Obama Harley, courtesy of One Off Incorporated, proves that our love affair with BHO is still going strong a year later.

"Obama Harley Close-up 1." PPR_Scribe

"Obama Harley Close-up 1." PPR_Scribe

"Obama Harley Close-up 2." PPR_Scribe

"Obama Harley Close-up 2." PPR_Scribe

What a way to make a statement rolling down Fall Creek Parkway!

This year’s Expo, however, belonged to the dearly departed King of Pop.

"King of 2009 Expo." PPR_Scribe

"King of 2009 Expo." PPR_Scribe

MJ was everywhere. A DVD of one of his concerts graced all of the screens outside of the Best Buy exhibit. The roller skating crews and the youth dance groups and even the gospel performers skated, danced and sang to Michael Jackson. Every third person had an MJ t-shirt on. And in case you forgot your MJ gear, just about every vendor had MJ-related gear for sale.

Michael Jackson has not been this big since…well, since he was last this big—many, many moons ago.

"Police-Community Relations 101." PPR_Scribe

"Police-Community Relations 101." PPR_Scribe

"And little children and a crime dog shall lead them." PPR_Scribe

"And little children and a crime dog shall lead them." PPR_Scribe

All manner of law enforcement always have booths, giving away plastic state trooper or police force hats and stick-on badges and pop corn and safety coloring books with crayons.

Peace officers roam the exhibition halls—making sure no trouble breaks out, but also serving as ambassadors to the Black community.

The children loved the troopers, police officers, fire fighters, and EMTs. One female police officer was especially the object of young girls’ fascination and respect.

What happens between police and Black youth in the space of 5 years old and 15? Between Hall B of the Convention Center and the intersection of 10th St. and MLK Drive?

"Al B still makin 'em swoon." PPR_Scribe

"Al B still makin 'em swoon." PPR_Scribe

Of course, Expo wouldn’t be Expo without celebrities. If you are touring, or trying to make a comeback, or just released a book/album/movie, you must make a pilgrimage to the Hoosier state’s biggest summer celebration. Al B. Sure! promised to bring real music with real lyrics back to Black radio. Some radio personalities promised to bring President Obama to next year’s Expo.

I cannot decide which is the biggest longshot.

July 6, 2009

Never Can Say Good-bye: Ritualizing Death

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — pprscribe @ 11:08 am

I know you have probably seen one, too. Sitting at a stoplight…happening to glance over to the side of the road outside your car window…you see a small roadside memorial to someone who, likely, had died near there in an automobile accident. Perhaps there was a wooden cross, a teddy bear or two, maybe a name. Last month right around all the high school and college graduations I saw a roadside memorial adorned with the tassel of the graduating senior whose commencement would forever be her or his crowning moment.

How do you react when you see such humble displays? What is the thinking of those who erect such monuments to a deceased loved one?

"PPR_Scribe's Sister, Jackson family home, Gary, IN." Image courtesy of Sister Scribe

"PPR_Scribe's Sister, Jackson family home, Gary, IN." Image courtesy of Sister Scribe

Some of the most poignant visual images following the World Trade Center attacks were the memorials that popped up on fences and street posts and building walls. For a while these were not memorials, but pleas for information on missing loved ones. “Have you seen this man?” “Do you know this woman?” But soon the hope faded and in the place of the telephone numbers and other contact information were the memorials. Images frozen in time: of a now-dead father holding a little baby, silly grin on his face as he proudly displayed his first-born…of a now-dead sister rail-side on a cruise ship, showing off the clothes she purchased for her long-awaited vacation.

These memorials were all the more stunning because of the vast scale of them. Not just a small white cross at a busy intersection, but a whole community of monuments to the deceased.

I was in “the neighborhood” the other day, buying hair supplies. During my hour or so there, I saw three people wearing “dead man” t-shirts, memorial shirts with the images, names—and the sadly brief documented lifespan—of casualties of our urban war on our citizens. The air brushed art work was stunningly beautiful. In one shirt the deceased young man posed alongside late rapper Tupac. I cannot speak for the young man, since I did not know him, but the likeness of Tupac was amazingly accurate.

How does it feel to wear such a shirt? How does it feel to have a closet full of such shirts?

Many people are turned off by the sideshow that follows the deaths of many famous people. Princess Diana, Michael Jackson, Steve McNair. It has been said that we can be voyeuristic when it comes to the lives—and deaths—of those in the public eye. Sagging magazine and newspaper sales then soar. Tributes fill the airwaves. The insatiable hunger for any tidbit about the circumstances of the celebrity’s final days and death demands meals out of even the most insubstantial crumbs of half-truths, speculation, and outright lies.

Those who are mourning, or who otherwise feel a loss, can become lumped into descriptions of the three-ring circus. Maybe because they are most visible, they can become the biggest targets of public scorn and derision. “But you didn’t even know him personally.” “Why was her life worth more than any number of other human beings who died the same day, but who were not well known.” “This shows how messed up our society is—how much we worship fame and fortune.” I remember when singer/actress Aaliyah died. I read from someone, marveling at the outpouring of grief by some young people, something to the effect of, “She hadn’t even achieved that much. It is not as if she were Aretha Franklin or something.”

Who has a “right” to grieve?

"Mourners, Jackson Family Home, Gary, IN." Image courtesy Sister Scribe

"Mourners, Jackson Family Home, Gary, IN." Image courtesy Sister Scribe

Evolution has given us humans many gifts. But they come at a price. We are acutely aware of our own mortality. The deaths of others remind us how short our earthly lives are. Some of us do not so much fear death as we fear death followed by being forgotten. Being forgotten means it is as if we were never here to begin with. Being forgotten erases what brief life we had. The rituals we enact around the deaths of others—famous and not, old and young—help us to remember.

They do more, though. Somewhere there is an elderly church mother who attends every funeral of every church member or church member’s relative. She cooks for the fellowship meal following the funerals, investing her own time and meager financial resources to fry enough chicken or bake enough cheese-infused pasta to feed a horde of grieving family and friends—many who she does not even know. What is the point? Is she just some sort of voyeur who enjoys the emotions and attention? Or does she feel she is only doing for others what she hopes someone will do for her when her time comes?

Sometimes at the stoplight I see the small cross and teddy bears out of the corner of my eye and I make a point not to look. I am not in the mood to see a roadside memorial today. If I think of it at all, I think how foolhardy it was for someone to stand so close to the dangerous road that killed their loved one, just to place an old teddy bear and handmade sign that will look ratty and sad following the first heavy rain anyway.

But it is hard to escape these displays for long. At some point I will look.

June 30, 2009

This New Racism Ain’t for Everybody

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — pprscribe @ 1:16 pm

As I alluded to here, I do not Twitter. But I am thinking of adopting this social networking technology after this ish a few nights ago:

As one would expect many people watched the tribute [to Michael Jackson, on the BET awards show] and were tweeting their experiences…. [W]ith the number of people watching and tweeting, it quickly became a trending topic.

Twitter became a bridge for people to come together to share their impressions on the ever controversial BET.  This interactive format gave many people of color an outlet for our frustrations, rather than the usual snarky commentary from a couch that goes nowhere.  Twitter provided a platform for the voices of people of color.

But not everyone was pleased with the prevalence of these topics of twittering. Some of the comments were along these lines, for instance:

Did anyone see the new trending topics? I dont think this is a very good neighborhood. Lock the car doors kids.


It has been said that on the Internet no one need know  you are a dog.

But apparently racism still comes through loudly and clearly.

June 26, 2009

Gary on My Mind

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — pprscribe @ 11:30 am

Michael Jackson has died. Michael Jackson, originally from Gary, Indiana…part of”The Region” where many of the Scribe clan still resides. Where me and my family and extended kin will be traveling in a couple days to attend a funeral. My heart is broken at the loss of an aunt who was more like a big sister. She was also a Jackson, and her first born was even a Michael. To my knowledge, no relation to the famous Jacksons also of Gary.

This is not something I can talk about right now. It is easier to talk about how bizarre it is for the King of Pop to have died this same week. It is easier to talk about how hard it is for me to go back to Gary. The Gary of today is not how I remembered it as a child. As the suburban kid with the long braids, who “talked like a White girl.” Gary and East Chicago meant freedom. Freedom to roam the streets to buy “Now’r Laters” and purple pop from the corner store and to build forts in the parking lot. To learn cheers and jump rope rhymes and new dances from the cousins and the neighborhood kids.

Gary was alive.

Now to see Gary is to see a case study of a politician’s or academic’s lament about what happens when work and brain power and youth and stability leaves a community. It is hard to go back to Gary after long stretches away because of the image of the old Gary still in my mind. It is better to hold onto the fantasy than to get on with the work of grieving and moving forward.

Cities, unlike the physical bodies of people, can come back to life after death or near death. Right now, even as I write these words of Gary’s lifelessness, there are people and organizations working to improve The Region. Hopefully I will see proof of this Monday as I ride through the streets on my way to the church or the cemetery.

I can still hear my aunt’s laugh, and the last stories that she told echo in my head. I had thought about taking pictures the last time she was here at my house, just days before her death. But I was having too much fun just relaxing and laughing and listening to the tall tales and relating my own. I figured, now that we all lived in the same city, there would be other opportunities to take pictures.

I was wrong.

Yet, I am glad that I spent the time just being together. I took pictures and videos with my mind, and they will never be lost.

Michael Jackson has died. An important part of my childhood. My aunt has gone, and we will take her home to Gary. She will never truly be gone.

Old School MJ

Filed under: Old School Friday — Tags: , , — pprscribe @ 10:45 am


  • It’s Too Late to Change the Time
  • Whatever You Got, I Want
  • Darling Dear
  • Happy (Love Theme from “Lady Sings the Blues”)
  • Mama’s Pearl
  • Gone Too Soon
  • I Wanna Be Where You Are
  • You Can’t Win
  • My Girl
  • A Fool for You

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