Saturday, August 2, 2008

Essence 2003

Po ‘ Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Essence Stew
A White Boy Caught In The Blues
The 2003 Essence Music Festival is here and it’s sponsored by Coca-Cola. That says a lot to me, although I don’t know what. Perhaps I’m unclear on the focus of the event; I mean, is the purpose of the ‘Party With A Purpose’ to party or to pursue purposes? I seem to recall (here I go again) that when I was first made aware of this event, it was described as a convention by and for African Americans to network, share experiences, and to work on/out cultural, political and economic challenges mutually exclusive to African Americans. Music was thrown in to help unwind after a day chock full of workshops and empowerment seminars. I don’t know, I’ve never been to Essence. I guess I felt like it was a place that an old white guy would be out of place in. It’s just that I don’t remember it as being…commercialized.
So, here I go, ready to pull my foot out of my mouth (where it’s sure to wind up) and write, again, about something I know nothing about. I may even have to get ready to ingest a little crow.
I have the credentials of the un-empowered. I was raised inner city, in the projects, on welfare, broken home, physical abuse, public schools…the works. But I’m not a person of color; in essence, I’m not black and have no birthright to the blues. And while my ‘roots’ did not fling open the doors of an affluent mover/shaker American society, many of those doors were left ajar, mainly because of my color, or lack of it. The same cannot be said for my many colored friends. As much as we need workshops now, we needed them more then, and, maybe if we had had them then, we wouldn’t need them now. Hmmmm.
Ask random New Orleanians about Essence and they’ll probably confuse it with Bayou Classic, which is mistakenly likened to a Mau Mau uprising. Am I prejudiced? Are we prejudiced in the Big Easy? Are we prejudiced in the South? Hell, while we’re asking, are we prejudiced at all in the good old Yew Ess of A? The answer is a resounding NO! (Anyone heard of ‘Racial Profiling’ though? Shhhhhh!)
One restaurant manager (White) explained to me that it wasn’t the out of towners that caused trouble. It was ‘our’ blacks coming in to prey on their own, or ‘them’ (black people in general are referred to as ‘them’ or ‘those people’ by whites). The restaurant was going along at a good clip that night, if I recall; but, when the call came in that it was “getting dark” up the street, we promptly closed.
Recently a woman (Black), who is much more intelligent and articulate than I am, made the point that Essence was a good thing…for the tourist industry. She also pointed out that the seminars and workshops did have a positive effect…for those that attended. We agreed that, in essence, it could be called a “Black Jazz Festival”. If she ever runs for office, she’s got my vote.
One point is that it’s easy for the rest of the population to make assumptions about African Americans. Blacks generally don’t go explaining their ‘Blackness’ to us dumb Crackers, or anyone else for that matter. We get our information from the examples that are set in public, and, the media. We are left to draw our own conclusions. Our conclusions generally run the gamut from Jack the Ripper (they haven’t proven that he wasn’t of color) to the idiots on Sanford and Son.
Well let me tell you: I don’t go there. If there are any Blacks that read this column, (gotcha!) let me tug on your coattail. I personally have seen persons of color ordering meat cooked medium rare, wine other than white Zinfandel, and then tip grandly. I know Black people who can’t dance, don’t spit, do vote, hold down steady jobs, marry and are faithful to their spouses, and don’t wear their trousers with their undies showing. I personally have seen a look of disgust cross a brother’s face when I mentioned that I actually liked pigs feet! And look, if I don’t say that some of my best friends are Black, it’s because I have no best friends. Hell, I’m as liberal as anybody else! It’s just that I don’t know who these people are!
If you saw me get out of my Eminem blaring ride, in FUBUs, with my baseball cap on sideways, gold crucifix around my neck, drinking a 40, smoking a blunt and grabbing at my crotch would you take me for a ‘Brutha of Anotha Mutha’? Probably not.
I know what I’d take me for: someone who needed to turn that damn music down and get to a seminar because I’d obviously got Black mixed up with stupid. But heck, a lot of folks display, in their image, their level of intelligence.
That also goes for overweight hicks in Mickey Mouse shirts, Asians that dye their hair blond, white kid pierced/tattooed gutter punks, Italian stallion goombahs, war perpetuating nationalists, public drunks, misogynists, self-serving hypocritical evangelists, people that take unfair advantage, plantation mentality bosses, breast beating liberals, those that don’t play fair, and Albanians in general.
But I’m not prejudiced.
I like to think of myself as… biased.
A while ago Calvin told Hobbes that he was writing a self help book called “Shut Up And Stop Whining: How To Do Something In Your Life Besides Think About Yourself”. Hobbes advised “You should probably wait for the advance before you buy anything.”
I’ll go one better: “It’s The Twenty-first Century: Stop wearing Other Peoples’ Names On Your Clothing” Or “Behave Like You ARE A Song In The Key Of Life. There’s still a lot of work to do”.
But that’s just my opinion.

No comments: