Monthly Archives: February 2014

February 9th is Alice Walker’s Birthday

alice walker picIt’s still February 8th on the West Coast, so I’m considering this a February 8th post and an early birthday greeting to Alice Walker. I don’t know if I’ll have any other living people on this BHM blog, but I’m going with Alice Walker for this day.

In this Q&A we discuss sexuality, identity, the writer’s role, and our rapidly changing society.

Alice Walker Q&A


The Trini Connection – Lord Kitchener, Calypso King

Part of my family is from Trinidad, but according to my father, nobody liked Calypso. Well, his mother didn’t and apparently her children weren’t wild about it. When I finally got my hands on a Lord Kitchener CD in the 1990s, I felt like I’d found the key to my family’s humor.

Here’s “If You’re Brown,” and you may say this point of view is dated.

After all, there’s a black man in the White House and (it goes without saying) a Black First Lady and children.

On that note, here’s one more Kitchener tune: “If You’re Not White, You’re Black.”

What I like about Kitchener is that he wrote and sang about these topics.

Here’s some more information about Lord Kitchener:

(Never mind the typos/run-together words.)

On this 4th Day of Black History Month, I honor Lord Kitchener (April 18, 1922 – February 11, 2000).

A TRUE ICON: Billie Holiday, briefly

If everybody lived to 101, Billie Holiday would be alive today. That’s kind of a trip, right? You see all these 100-some-odd year old folks in the news. They’re Bille Holiday’s contemporaries and Billie Holiday had so much more to say when she died in the Metropolitan Hospital in NY on July 17, 1959, after being arrested in the same hospital room weeks before.

When I was about 13 years old, my mother told me that Billie Holiday, Lady Day, was one of her favorite singers. But Cass Elliot, “Mama Cass” was another one along with Carol King, so I never was too sure what that really meant. One day in a record store I found a compilation LP and bought it for my mother. I listened to it, and listened to it, but never really felt like I got what Lady Day meant to my mother. My mother’s life was not tragic like Lady Day’s but really what child really knows the darkest night of their mother. That’s not the stuff mothers easily reveal, at least not mothers like mine, and not at that time. Maybe mothers blog about it now.

Lady Day sang like no one else ever had before. In 1958, Frank Sinatra said of her: “With few exceptions, every major pop singer in the U.S. during her generation has been touched in some way by her genius. It is Billie Holiday who was, and still remains, the greatest single musical influence on me. Lady Day is unquestionably the most important influence on American popular singing in the last twenty years.” That was Frank Sinatra quoted in “Ebony” magazine.

While always loved by those who love music, Billie Holiday has at times almost been dismissed as a sad, hopeless figure and a drug addict in American culture. One can barely link Billie Holiday without linking heroin. Perhaps it is her ability to express sadness and hopelessness with voice and song-writing, and her dependency on heroin that play such a large role in defining this unique talent, this stellar African-American talent. On this third day of Black History Month, I honor Billie Holiday.

February 2nd, 2014 – Canada’s Viola Desmond

Canada’s Viola Desmond, because why not start with a little controversy. If you search for African-Canadian heroes, Viola Desmond’s name is one of the first delivered. Desmond was a successful business woman born on July 6th, 1914 in Halifax, Canada, and passed away in New York on February 7, 1965.

According to Wikipedia, in 1946, Desmond went to the movies and sat down in the orchestra section reserved for “whites only”, declining the balcony where regulations would require her to sit. She was forcibly removed from the theater and charged with tax evasion. As wild as the tax evasion charge sounds, the Canadian government justified the charge because to the taxation difference between ground floor tickets and balcony tickets. The amount in question? One cent.

The Viola Desmond event became the most publicized racial event of that time in Canada. Desmond would lose the case, and the racist policies continued at that theater. During the trial Desmond was supported by the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and in turn when Desmond’s lawyer returned her fee after losing the case, Desmond contributed the sum to the NSAACP.

Between the import of Desmond’s actions and that it involved rebellion against the segregated seating, Viola Desmond is sometimes referred as the Rosa Parks of Canada. There are those who would argue against that moniker, but Desmond’s actions did help to move Canada toward racial equality.

It would be 66 years after the event that the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia would grant Desmond a posthumous pardon via Royal Prerogative.

Two years ago on February 1, 2012, Canada Post issued the Viola Desmond stamp.


28Black – 2014

It’s Black History Month, 2014! Yes, it’s the shortest month, but I decided back in 2011, that I would use it, use the designation, for my own purposes.

If you’ll look at 2012, you’ll see that most of February went without a single post. In fact, there was only one post, on February 1, 2012. That was my dad talking about his hero Paul Robeson one morning. Most of my Black history thinking for the rest of that month was focused on my father. And the same thing happened for Black History Month, 2013. My father passed away on July 15, 2013. I miss him a lot and will be thinking of him a lot during this month as always.

One thing I’ll do differently this year is instead of limiting the posts to writings on Americans, I may include people of African descent in other countries, with a focus on places outside the United States where my family lives and has lived. That list includes Barbados, Bermuda, Canada, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Now, before we start taking on the coming events, milestones and reminiscences of 2014, I’ll close with a look at February 1, 2012. The lone BHM post of 2012:

One of the things that I appreciated the most about the experience in my first year of 28Black was the time I spent reflecting on my elders who have passed. I found myself wondering about their experiences, their reactions to Black figures and prominent events in early 20th century American History. I wondered if my great uncles enjoyed Jelly Roll Morton, Ma Rainey. I would have loved to have seen their faces or heard their reactions when Joe Louis won the heavyweight championship.

The first year of 28Black made me hungry for time travel.

I can’t travel back in time, but I can confer with this 81-year-old I know to see where his memories might take us. This year I’ll spend some time checking in with my father for his take on people, issues, politics and other things related to being black, and in recognition of Black History Month.

Here’s a teaser:

Background on the Peekskill Riots:
Peekskill Riots – Wiki