Black Celebs

moonlight-19405x

It was not strange to work under white people ten years my senior when I was 18. Around 30, however, I was enraged that I routinely interviewed to work under people who were slightly younger –or the same age– and less credentialed. The moment you realize your graduate degree is no match for your boss’s B.A. in music, you begin to question how “post-racial” we are. Joi McMillon, a black woman, knew very well the rage that stems from seeing whites with less qualifications advance while she did not. She was told she lacked the right experience while her less qualified white peers were advancing. But Joi will not experience that rage again. She is a film editor who made history with her Oscars nomination for her work on Moonlight; a film based on the writing of two black men, directed by a black man with a black cast. The self determination of black people ended Joi’s frustration, not the benevolence of whites.

In a world where discrimination and disparities abound, it is critical that black people create our own opportunities and support those endeavors as a community. Joi was nominated for an academy award precisely because of such an endeavor. Sean Combs became a music mogul only because Uptown Records, a company founded by a black man, gave the young college dropout the opportunity to become a talent director. It is doubtful that Combs would have been given the same opportunity at another major label. In the same way, Moonlight is a work of black self determination which afforded McMillon the opportunity to finally move up from “first assistant editor” into the editor’s role. The quality of her work is obvious, for even the Academy had to give her a nod. McMillon never lacked talent but simply opportunity, in a white male-dominated film industry. Rather than waiting for acknowledgment from benevolent white people, the creators of Moonlight created an opportunity for Joi.

Moonlight’s excellence led to their infamously delayed Oscars award. That mixup was far less controversial than Jada Pinkett-Smith igniting the #OscarsSoWhite firestorm. While several have opined that Pinkett-Smith’s motives may not have been pure (oddly, Denzel failed to take home an Oscar this year and Jada raised no fuss), we should not discount what Jada actually said when she told the world, “Maybe it is time…we make programs for ourselves that acknowledge us in ways we see fit.” Also, “Begging for acknowledgement or even asking, diminishes dignity and diminishes power.” Moonlight fulfills much of Jada’s sentiments. We should appreciate that the Academy (after some delay) awarded Moonlight best picture but only celebrating that misses the larger significance of the film. Moonlight gives us yet another model of what we should all be striving toward in every industry. In a world in which even black people with a college degree are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than our non-black peers, we need strong black institutions and creative ventures, brought about by our own self-determination.

There is only one thing that could have made Moonlight even more triumphant and that is if the movie was also financed by our community. By no fault of their own, the creators of the film had to seek financing from outside of our community and thankfully, they found it through A24, an Indie distributor. Still, we must continue striving to attain that next level of independence and power and that is to self finance our own ventures. As we support our own, that will happen. Joi had her day but now let us continue investing in our community to create opportunity for millions more. HopewellThought will continue our campaign each month to help get you started.

**No One Can Oppress You Unless You Give Them The Money To Do So**

michele

Spike Lee announced that he would not be using Chrisette Michele’s song “Black Girl Magic” in his upcoming Netflix series. The reason? Michele had decided to perform for Trump (although she ultimately did not). Facing a strong current of white supremacy in America, I’m uncomfortable with the idea of blackballing someone because they sing at an inauguration. True, Michele and her “boycotting is not the answer” self is no Angela Davis but her performance at Trump’s inauguration isn’t holding us back as a people. A herd mentality that draws our focus to the surface and not the substantive is holding us back. Black people are diverse and should be allowed to think differently, so long as we are all committed to our progress as a race. Not sharing that commitment should get you blackballed, not singing a song.

So what, Michele wanted to perform at the inauguration. Our herd mentality, predictably, strongly reacts to that and we drag her. We did the same thing when she wrote her letter on the Black Lives Matter movement a while back. She said some questionable things but she also said a great deal that would be helpful, like encouraging people to attend city hall meetings. Why didn’t anyone rush to promote those parts? As soon as we hear something we don’t like, we discount all else and that is not helpful. Conservative or liberal, we all have some insight that would ultimately help us attain power as a people and that should be our focus, not blackballing each other. Sadly, the herd mentality just won’t allow for that level of thoughtful analysis. Most tragic, the surface level bickering distracts us from the substantive and that pattern of oversight has real and very damaging consequences. While we are blasting Michele for not hating Trump enough, countless other black celebs get a pass for being “woke” but do nothing to help us advance as a race.

How many black celebrities are actively creating opportunities for black people? How many invest their money with black owned investment firms? Is “Black Twitter” dragging anyone because they don’t do these things? We have enough entertainers and athletes that, if all were intentional about it, progress could be attained much more quickly. Love or hate him, LeBron James gets a lot of this right. Behind his billion dollar empire is his management team, once dubbed the “Four Horsemen.” They grew up together in Akron and rather than just hang out in clubs, LeBron decided that they would all learn the business world together and run his empire. Maverick Carter, his business manager and Rich Paul, his agent, are now giants in the business world. They are black men who earn millions every year and employ others. LeBron used his gifts as an athlete to create black wealth and impact his community. The celebs that do not possess enough commitment to their people to mimic LeBron are the ones we should be blackballing. Their actions help to perpetuate unemployment in our community, not Michele’s performance.

We do not live in an authoritarian state. We should be free to differ with each other and still work together to build up our community, without being blackballed. Plenty of white Hillary supporters probably don’t like Tom Brady’s love affair with Trump but he isn’t being thrown off of white people island, either. What black people should not tolerate are the celebs who are not committed to the values that will actually create black power. We should not tolerate black entertainers who take our dollars but don’t use them to create more opportunities for our community or even hire their own people. That should ignite “Black Twitter,” not a song.

 

j-_cole

J. Cole was renting a house a in a wealthy (white) neighborhood in the ‘burbs. A SWAT team soon found its way there and kicked the door in. Having seen a parade of black artists and producers come through, Cole reasoned the neighbors thought he was selling dope. This is the sort of racism black people face daily but I only have a small degree of sympathy for Cole. He is like so many black people in America, that hate battling this type of racism but continue to confront it daily because of their need to always be near white people. Cole did not have to subject himself to constant harassment and the intrusion of a SWAT team. He could have easily bought–as opposed to rented–a much larger home in a black neighborhood for less or invested in several properties and had rent paid to him. If we as black people could ever free ourselves from the belief that we need to be around white folks all the time, we’d save ourselves a lot of headache and have a lot more money.

kanye-prez

Kanye West is so gifted that he is insane. He has said that he wants to run for president and he just might be a black Donald Trump in the making: narcissistic, occasionally clever, obviously gifted but ultimately self destructive. Kanye said he did not vote in the last election but had he done so, Trump would have been his candidate. At a concert this past Saturday he compared himself to Trump and went on to give post-election analysis on why Hillary Clinton lost. His analysis validated the hurt feelings of the “white working-class,” who were privileged enough to endorse a blatant racist for president.

nate-parker

I saw “The Birth of a Nation” over the weekend. The movie had everything to do with race but in the months before its release the discussion around it was anything but. Blacks and whites in my circle united in their insistence that I boycott the film because Nate Parker was accused of rape 17 years ago. While my reaction to these individuals differed depending on their race, one thing is certain: all were asking me to boycott in an attempt to police the issue of violence against women because our criminal justice system does not police the issue well. For systemic change to occur, however, the energy and protests toward Nate Parker (and other individuals accused) must also be turned against a criminal justice system that does not value women.

lil-wayne-carter-v

Dear white people: this article is not for you. Continue to dig deep within your souls to find racism and perhaps we’ll connect later. Yes, racism exists. It has and continues to shape outcomes from housing and employment to police shootings rooted in white fear of “the darker brother.” Still, we should pretend Weezy is a genius and adopt his fantasy. Screaming about racism and posting articles on Facebook about the subject has never made you one dollar. Further, the most brilliant scholarship on the topic has seemingly not changed one thought in the collective conscience of white America. Toni Morrison said it best: racism is just one big distraction that “keeps you from doing your work.” The work is to ensure that our children no longer have to beg white people to be nicer to them.

Behind the scenes with San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the National Anthem on Friday, protesting the treatment of blacks and other minorities in America. The quarterback said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” He went on to say that, “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” If you agree with the American Revolution, you must agree with Colin Kaepernick. If you believe Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry and George Washington were justified in their protests, you must also concede that their grievances are minor compared to those Kaepernick is highlighting. Colon Kaepernick just completely shitted on the American Revolution.

ali

I thought I had a cold this morning but I realized I was just sick of the fake tributes to Muhammad Ali. We hated his guts, just be honest. UNC professor Matthew Andrews points out that we hated him so much, we made the movie Rocky about a white underdog beating a faux Ali because no one could do it in real life. Ali had the audacity to say that whites were universally the enemy of suffering blacks. Ali delved further into race when he refused to fight in Vietnam because those “darker people” had never lynched him or called him nigger. As he is now being celebrated, our hypocrisy is on display and we must reckon with it–we still hate what he stood for and thus we should stop our insincere praises posthumously.

wilmore

Saturday night was Barack Obama’s last White House Correspondents’ Dinner. It is customary for participants to tell jokes; however, Larry Wilmore went a bit too far. Attempting to praise Obama’s legacy, Wilmore ended by saying, “Yo Barry, you did it my n—a.” As a black man, I’m enraged. But I understand that some black people disagree with me–their vote counts in this matter. As a black man, I’m equally enraged that non-black people are attempting to police the word–their vote doesn’t count. Other groups are allowed to own their own wounds within their communities and treat them as they wish. But for some reason reason, the “N-word” is a cluster.

beyonce

Beyoncé’s talent and success are undeniable. Hell, she drops albums in the middle of the night with no promotion and the whole nation stops. Impressive. While her talent is undeniable, so is the role of sexuality in her success. Even her latest project “Lemonade” features a decent amount of shots of her in revealing and/or suggestive clothing and as a bonus, Serena Williams shaking her ass like an average “video girl.” These women are two of the most accomplished humans in history and yet they still feel some need to sell something other than their artistry.