by Gloria Dulan-Wilson
I appreciate the fact that you brothers are focusing in on what has been the most serious threat to Black self-empowerment- and no, it isn’t EMPIRE – it’s the meanstream media, and its means of propagandizing through subtle and overt stereotypes, images, and inuendos about Black people and people of African heritage.
In point of fact, because of my admiration for Taraji P. Henson and Terence Howard, I watched the first two episodes of Empire. And that was it – it was enough to know that it was not a show of my liking – like Boyce, I saw too much garbage in it, enough to tell me that this was definitely not a show that I was going to watch – ever.
That said, I worked in Hollyweird for 9 years – with some great and not so great producers, around the time of Norman Lear – when he was producing the Jeffersons and Different Strokes. Apart from Norman, not much of relevance was going on on for Black artists the mainstream. And it wasn’t because they weren’t trying, either – we had Blacks In Cinema and other organizations trying to put forth Black scripts, sit coms, and other shows – with marginal success – the shows that got greenlighted were the quasiA-hip-hop shows, particularly the gang-banging shows, which were given primacy over the more positive – well acted – Black movies and tv shows.
It was also the beginning of the dumbing down of education – especially in New York and California – and the cessation of Black history in the classrooms. Now for a Black person to get on the screen he or she had to be adversarial and using 4 letter words – And instead of protesting and standing against it; instead of parents insisting the retention of Black history classes; instead of protesting the diminution of classes in the core curricula in Black communities, parents were watching crap like New Jack City with their kids (don’t get me wrong, I love Wesley Snipes!!!).
The brainwashing was across the board, from parent to child. There seems to have been supplanted, via propaganda of a different sort, this new, arrogant, anti-education, hostile, but savvy Black person which apparently heralded in a brave new world of counterculture Blackness – so now we had the “Shaniquas” and “Rakims” and they had African sounding names and they ruled, even if they didn’t know where Africa was on the map. Now our sisters could show off with pride (?) their voluptuous figures by wearing a size three dress on a size 16 body and call it (ghetto) fabulous; wigs and weaves were everywhere it was as if there was a patently anti-Blackness movement going on all of a sudden – and they were cool with it! Now they could use the “n” word – which by the way was part and parcel of every poem by the Last Poets, but somehow back then it seemed acceptible because they were using it in the context of how not to be one – and use it in general conversation and everyday language as though it was no big deal. Now the women could wear snuffalufogus eye lashes, 9 inch finger nails, etc, and be “proud”. Now their children could go through school, come out the other side as dumb as a box of rocks, can’t write their names, make a decent sentence, get a job – but were told by white folks that it was okay because they had made and effort and it was the best they could do because they had been “deprived” and it was acceptable, because at least they weren’t “brainwashed.” And if you had a beef with someone down the street, and they looked at you the wrong way, you now could blow each other away with magnums or worse – just like in the movies – and keep stepping. The sick, sad and stupid thing is that we were educated into being that stupid – via TV and the diseducational system that now is in 80%.
When they show blacks behaving like his on TV, this is how they are telling your kids to act-cs
And you want “positive images” in TV? I’m just glad that the hoochie-mama look is just about played out – at least I thought it was until they brought my girl, Taraji P. Henson on the screen playing a conniving sister just out of Prison to show us how it’s really done. Watch for it! Because the dresses from Empire will most likely be on sale in somebody’s store soon.
There are tons of great movies, independently being produced by Black artists online everyday. On Sundays if I don’t go out, I usually park myself in front of my computer and watch two or three of them. I have been amazed at how good they are. I know we all know about the pioneer Black producer, cinematographer, Dr. Micheaux – he was back in the 20’s and 30’s and did more for Blacks in the movies than most of these guys combined. We definitely, with all our technology, should to be able to do half as much as he did.
In reference to the educational aspect: when I was in college, we used to dissect the movies – our professors would have us take a movie or a play, break down the dialogue, the double meanings; and would ask us if a person had come from another country and saw or heard this, what would they think? But I like Marvin’s question much much better – would you let your 3 year old grandson watch it?
When my son and daughter were younger, they could not watch Def Poetry Jam – it was absolutely forbidden until they cleaned it up and made it much more about positive Black images and expression.
We just got the TV show -Sorority Sisters – which had negative depictions of Black female sororities – kicked off VH1 – we did it in several ways; but it was clear that 800,000 Deltas, AKA, Sigma Gammas and Zetas weren’t going to stop until it was pulled. We boycotted every product they had; we contacted all their sponsors – we got it pulled.
Don’t know if that’s what’s needed to change the content of Empire. But we definitely need to be about making sure that shows with spurious content are balanced with shows of positive content. I’m not looking to throw out the baby with the bathwater. What I am saying is that we need to be about putting forward and supporting those with higher standards when it comes to Black TV series – but don’t get me wrong – I love good comedy; not everything has to be so socially relevant that you can’t enjoy the content – and we definitely have more than our share of great comedic writers – like Robert Townsend, Damon and Keenan Ivory Wayans, Tyler Perry, Spike Lee and others who can keep it light, funny and relevant – there are others out there – just these five sprang to mind immediately.
Which leads back to education – a well educated people wouldn’t tolerate this crap. We’ve been both dis-educated and mis-educated at the same time. And we are still allowing it to happen. Our HBCUs are being decimated because we have drunk the koolaid of thinking the white man’s ice is colder. We are not either starting our own schools like Mary McLeod Bethune did (elementary and secondary, not just college); but we are not insisting that the local public schools be appropriately funded and staffed with real teachers; we have neither started Saturday Schools like the Japanese, Chinese and Korean Brothers and sisters; or used our own Sunday Schools at church to provide more than a Biblical education.
Charter schools, which obviously eliminate most of the students in public schools are used as a panacea, when they should be taking those funds and transforming the schools into centers of quality education. We have entire communities of Black people who are no more knowledgeable than they were back in the 1890s when DuBois did his book The Philadelphia Negro; and know no more about their history than when Carter G. Woodson wrote the Mis-Education of the Negro in the 30s. We can and should be focusing on the consolidation of some of these home schooling programs and work with families to get their kids out of the brainwashing and into the brain enhancing levels of education – immediately, if not sooner.
Don Lemon, to me, is a well paid mouthpiece. He does what he’s paid to do – he’s not going to go up against the white status quo – he loves his job too much – and I can’t say I blame him. There are far too few Black commentators – unfortunately,but Don is not relevant to who we are – so I don’t watch him, unless he has someone on that I’m really interested in, or is talking about a topic I care about – and as I stated earlier – Not interested in Empire.
Only interested in something Zach said – when he called the Brothers together to stand for their families; I likewise call the Blackwomen together to do the same for our children and grandchildren, nieces, nephews, brothers and sisters. Black women are the first educators. We are really responsible for the upbringing of our children. Some of our sisters have really fallen down on the job. It’s time to pick up the standards of Black motherhood and Black woman hood and get the job done. It has been said that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, and in many cases it’s true. But we’ve been allowing too many other things to get in the way – we say stupid stuff like: Times have changed; children are different now; children have their own minds; he or she is too young – none of it is true or relevant – if we are in the mode to save our own people and our children – we have to be about it. Turn off the garbage on TV or find something else for them to watch – if you are watching Empire or some of the other craptv shows, find a positive show for them to watch in another room. We can get it done if we work it, work it together, and work it together consistently and continuously.
We did it before – right Zach and Marvin? We come from a generation of change agents. We are the generation that stated BLACK POWER, the Natural or Afro, Afro Centric clothing, consolidation of African and African American history and communication. With us Nothing Is Impossible!!!
Stay Blessed &
bullet Columnist Gloria Dulan-Wilson Is a veteran New York City Journalist. Her experiences, perspective & sense of history are an invaluable combination. “check out my blog:” www.gloria-dulan-wilson.blogspot.com