Clay Cane is a New York City-based writer who is recognized for his contributions in journalism. Clay is a regular contributor for various print and online publications such as The Advocate and BET.com. He is the author of the highly anticipated novel Ball-Shaped World, which is a fictionalized account of the black and Latino ballroom scene. Also, he is the Entertainment Editor at BET.com and a member of New York Film Critics Online. He can be reached at claycane@gmail.com.


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    Friday, May 25, 2007

    Today is the 86th Anniversary of Memorial Day Weekend of 1921, which is also known as the Tulsa Riots.

    Her name was Sarah Page, seventeen year-old white woman who worked as an elevator operator at the Drexel Building in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma. His name was Dick Rowland, a nineteen year-old black man who dropped out of school to shine shoes. He was also known as "Diamond Dick"...okay, you know what, I'm going to respect history and not go there, but that does sound like an alias name for DawgpoundUSA...!

    I digress...several black workers had jobs at the Drexel Building, but of course they were not allowed to use the restrooms on the first floor. The only restrooms that were available were on the top floor, which obviously required a trip on the elevator.

    On Memorial Day, Monday, May 30, 1921 with a parade outside, Dick Rowland got on the elevator operated by Sarah Page. No one knows what happens next...of course white folks at the time said Miss Sarah was raped by Rowland. Some have claimed Sarah and Diamond Dick were lovers, but Dick's family said he was so terrified of white people he would have never touched a white woman. I'm more than likely to believe the black folks.

    D-Dick supposedly walked into the elevator, tripped, tried to catch his balance and accidentally grabbed Sarah's arm. Well, Miss Sarah lost her God forsaken mind and hollered like an alley cat in heat! Rowland, scared out of his mind, immediately ran, but a nearby clerk heard the scream and saw a fleeing Negro. The clerk and Sarah decided she was raped. Quite conveniently, there are no records of a police interview with Sarah Page, but the po
    lice immediately went into a violent investigation. The next day the local paper read:

    "A few minutes later he entered the elevator she claimed, and attacked her, scratching her hands and face and tearing her clothes. Her screams brought a clerk from Renberg's store to her assistance and the Negro fled."

    In 1921 the Greenwood section of Tulsa, Okalahoma was a thriving city filled with banks, doctors, teachers, newspapers and endless wealthy black entrepreneurs. It was appropriately titled “Black Wall Street”. Due to the oil on the land (it’s always oil isn’t it?), the area was able to grown beyond any white person's imagination of black people. At one point Tulsa was called the "Oil Capital of the World". Yes, even back then Americans were fighting for oil. Black folks were working it out and doing amazingly well, even despite a racially segregated Tulsa. Obviously there were tons of resentment toward Black Wall Street from the whites in Tulsa. Miss Sarah Page was a perfect way to vent their white-privileged rage.

    After hearing of the “rape” white folks lost their cotton-pickin' mind. They stood outside the courthouse where Dick Rowland was being held and screamed, "Let us have the nigger!" The local newspaper claimed that Rowland would be lynched. There had never been a lynching in Tulsa and African-Americans in the thriving city weren't going to let it happen now, black folks went Downtown to protect Rowland. Over 100 hundred black men went to the courthouse with guns and rifles, but the white mob had over a thousand people.

    One of the bloodiest and unmentioned massacres in U.S. history began.

    One report claimed:

    "A white man approached a tall African American World War I veteran who was carrying an army-issue revolver.’Nigger', the white man said, 'What are you doing with that pistol?' 'I'm going to use it if I need to,' replied the black veteran. 'No, you give it to me.' Like hell I will.' The white man tried to take the gun away from the veteran, and a shot rang out."

    A shoot-out occurred and approximately a dozen blacks and whites were dead. After precious white lives were killed over 500 whites were sworn in by the police department and told, "Get a gun and get a nigger." Like serial killers that would be great accomplices for the Virginia Tech Murder, Cho Seung Hui, the possessed white men gunned any black person in sight.

    Rumors spread among the frantic whites that several blacks were coming to Tulsa and preparing to fight back for Black Wall Street. This caused an uproar and some reports claim as many as ten thousand whites came to Tulsa to fight off the educated, progressive and wealthy Negroes. At first the riot remained in downtown Tulsa, but the 10,000 screaming maniacs invaded the Greenwood section—Black Wall Street.

    White men armed with guns and liquor bottles, horrific murders, lootings and fires took place. One eyewitness said:

    “There was an aged colored couple, saying their evening prayers before retiring in their little home on Greenwood Avenue. A mob broke into the house, shot both of the old people in the backs of their heads, blowing their brains out and spattering them over the bed, pillaged the home, and then set fire to it.”

    Many blacks were fighting back; therefore, the National Guard was called in to help control a "Negro Uprising". In the morning of June 1st the National Guard brought in airplanes, which flew over Black Wall Street and began shooting every black person in sight. They dropped bombs of "liquid gas", an eyewitness said, and proceeded to issue total devastation to the entire town. Reports say one set of explosives were dropped directly on a black family attempting to flee the city. The terror was endless.

    Believe it or cotton-pickin' not, over 85 African-Americans were indicted. Not one white person was charged.

    Sarah Page dropped all charges against Dick Rowland, the man who was accused of rape. Once charges were dropped Rowland moved to Kansas City never to return to Tulsa again.


    THE CITY OF TULSA GOT THEIR OIL BACK.

    Tulsa has never taken accountability for the well-documented monstrosity. Attempts in 1997, 2001 and 2003 were made to give reparations to the descendants of the families, five survivors were still alive in 2001 and they were led by legendary attorney Johnnie Cochran. However, the federal district courts claimed under the statue of limitations an 80-year-old case is not valid and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

    HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY!

    For more info on Black Wall Street click here: http://blackwallstreet.org/bwshistory/bwstulsa1830-1921.m.htm

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    Posted by Clay :: 12:00 AM :: 11 comments

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    Wednesday, May 23, 2007

    Despite releases from many black female artists this year like Jill Scott, Ciara, Macy Gray, Fantasia (December 2006) and more, black female artists are nearly nonexistent on the Billboard charts. This week there are no black female artists in the top 20 on the Billboard 200 album chart (Beyonce and Corrine Bailey Rae make the top 40) and there are no black women in the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. Just five years ago there were six black women in the top forty on the Billboard 200, two being in the top five (Ashanti and Lauryn Hill) and Ashanti had the number one single in the country (yeah, not that I'm an Ashanti fan but you get my point).

    What is happening to black women in music? Before you say it's just a woman thing—this week, there are 13 white women on Billboard 200 album chart in the top 40 and six of them are in the top ten. It simply cannot be male domination on the charts.

    Black women are being ignored in popular music. There is little to no marketing, which results in little to no airplay and equals no sales. For example, we are all eagerly awaiting Kelly Rowland's new album, which has been pushed back another week to July 3rd, but where is the promotion? I barely hear the first single on the radio and shouldn't a second single be released soon? Someone hypothesized to me that Rowland will never get the promotion she deserves because she is dark-skinned. However, if being a light-skinned black woman equals promotions (i.e., Rihanna, Beyonce, Alicia Keys) then what about Mya? Mya's album has been pushed back again and her promotion is about as visible as an R. Kelly trial.

    Many white woman are jumping on the R&B band wagon (if you want to call it that) like Fergie, Nelly Furtado and Gwen Stefani (two formerly being rock artists). Years ago, the only white women who would sing an R&B song were Teena Marie and maybe Madonna. Now, the American public would rather hear R&B music from the skinner, paler, overproduced white counterpart. Are white female artists taking jobs away from black females, similar to models complaining actresses are snatching their jobs?

    Who is really to blame? Is the black female voice no longer important in popular music? Surely, if R&B music still equaled VOICE then Nelly and Fergie would not have a chance in blonde-haired hell. But, R&B music equals overproduced rhythms and the person who is the most marketable to whisper in tune.

    It is a crisis in the music industry when it seems there is no room for black female artists. Unfortunately, the days of Stephanie Mills, Patti Labelle and Phyllis Hyman are long gone. However, the days of Diana Ross and even Janet Jackson are many moons ago. R.I.P. black women in music...oh, there is still Beyonce......................................................

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    Posted by Clay :: 10:56 AM :: 28 comments

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    Monday, May 21, 2007

    It sounds like a plotline for an independent film. A frustrated artist retreats to the jungle to find peace and solitude. She reflects on her chaotic life, mistakes, abuse, selfishness, rebelliousness, disappointments, creativity and success. However, she believes a "spirit is chasing her". In the end, the spirit catches up with her...

    Not even the greatest gossip columnist could have made up the mystical events that lead up to the death of Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes on April 25, 2002. I wouldn't have believed it myself if I didn’t see the most chilling documentary I have ever watched on a pop artist, Rock Docs: The Last Days of Left Eye, which debuted on VH1 at 9pm Saturday night.

    Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes was one third of the biggest selling R&B female group of all time, TLC, and the biggest selling female group next to the Dixie Chicks (number 93 of all time to be exact). I never understand why the Destiny's Child camp claim they are the biggest selling group of all time. I’ve had to argue this fact with many delusional Bey and DC fans so for those who don’t believe me, click here for the direct link.

    Seeing the documentary I couldn't help but recall the impact TLC had on pop culture in the ‘90’s. They had a message we never heard from three black women in the music industry, safe sex and female empowerment. It’s interesting to hear people criticizing hip-hop now because I vividly remember when parents were mortified by TLC…yes, good ole’ non-threatening T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli were supposedly corrupting the children of America. Left Eye said in the song “Fanmail”, “Some parents was like, you're the thieves and the pimps and the thugs of stage and you owe every mother in America a public apology.” They were as political as R&B music was going to get in the 1990’s.

    TLC was an amazing group—original, creative, intelligent, ballsy and there wasn’t a lead. No plastic Barbie doll smiles, they, or at least Left Eye, were going to say what was on their mind, regardless of the cost... even when it came to battles within the group. But, rather than going through a revolving door of group members, they rode the storm with loyalty.

    The Last Days of Left Eye compelling shows the driven energy that Lisa had, which would take TLC to major super stardom. Her honesty was legendary…and not in the Kanye West type of way…but more in a “I’ve been fucked over too many times by demons in this industry.” In one scene they show Lisa in classic Left Eye mode telling MTV that Dallas Austin was charging them over four million dollars to record with them—so she blasted him. I miss artists like Left Eye.

    In 2002, taking a break from the industry Lisa trekked to Honduras for a spiritual retreat. She decided to make a documentary of the experience. We see a reflective and strikingly beautiful Lisa "in the bush", as she put it, naked in waterfalls, laying in the grass and telling her journey. Lisa is not the crazy figure we see in the media, but she does take accountability for her actions such as going missing for weeks at a time, challenging T-Boz and Chili and being the diva of the group. Lisa said with a smile on her face, “What’s better than showing up and being a star? Not showing up. So, I didn’t show up and I was the star.”

    With each minute that goes by the vibe gets increasingly disturbing as Lisa goes into detail about her violent childhood. Lisa admits to different personalities that she created in order to endure her pain such as "Nikki" and "Nina" (Nina was also her name on Deathrow Records). Also, she lets loose on the horrific abuse she suffered from Andre Rison, whose house she, “Burnt to ground!”

    Many parts of Lisa’s story we know, but what we don't know are the strange and Stephen King-ish events that lead up to her unexpected death, which the documentary ominously reveals like a script. Lisa believed a spirit was chasing her. She was having bizarre dreams and premonitions. And, beyond bizarre, in only days before her death a child ran in front of the car she was riding in and was killed. A melancholy Lisa holds up a pair of shoes and says, "These are the shoes that belonged to the little boy and his last name was Lopez…ain’t that something?" Lisa reveals to her friends that a spirit is haunting her and killed the child by mistake. Well, if that ain’t The Twilight Zone, I don’t know what it is!

    In the last scene, Lisa is driving through Honduras with a pack of cards in her hand. She looks into the camera and gives a soft smile, the last eye contact we will have with Left Eye. The camera pans to the passengers in the back. Someone asks for the cards, Lisa hands them over…suddenly, the car screeches down the road, you get a quick flash of Lisa trying to gain control, people scream, the car crashes and the camera goes blank. I was mortified at this footage; this was one of the most powerful scenes I have ever seen from a mainstream documentary. You are sitting there stunned as the screen is black for seconds.

    Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes was wearing a seat belt and was the only fatality. Supposedly, there is more footage showing Lisa’s death, but was thankfully edited out. Some might have an issue with showing the last minutes of her to life to the world. But, I believe Lisa would’ve wanted it to be shown. She believed if you were going to tell a story, go all the way.

    This documentary was immensely moving and I wondered why it wasn’t released at an independent film festival or a bigger media outlet? The story was twenty times better than the Dixie Chicks Shut Up & Sing, which was also a great movie...but this documentary had a plotline like a screenplay and the rawest look into the mind of one R&B/hip-hop’s most complex figures.

    Never in the history of pop culture have we seen the last moments of a pop star. Imagine if we had the last moments of Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrison deaths? Do people think TLC was not artistically relevant enough? I cannot imagine anyone watching this documentary and not being deeply moved. If this were a white artist from Britney Spears to Norah Jones would it have gotten distribution and not just a TV special? Hell, Kurt & Courtney was a major film. I remember when mainstream journalists in New York City criticized the public outcry for Aaliyah, who they did not think was deserving of the attention.

    A half a decade after Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes’ death she is still sharing her visions, philosophies, truth and...is still the star.

    On May 27th Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes would’ve been 36 years-old.

    Check your local listings for airings of Rock Docs: The Last Days of Left Eye.

    Pasted below is a clip of Left Eye talking about 2Pac--another eerie coincidence...



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    Posted by Clay :: 12:00 AM :: 14 comments

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    Thursday, May 17, 2007

    Hit the link below for my Vibe.com interview with rapper/actress Eve (this is separate from the audio interview last week). Eve discusses going Hollywood, Don Imus, the real deal with Aftermath records and even says which rapper she performs more -- Lil' Kim or Foxy Brown.

    Labels: ,

    Posted by Clay :: 12:00 AM :: 0 comments
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    Friday, May 11, 2007

    Yesterday I sat down with Eve in an interview for her first studio album in five years Here I Am, which hits stores August 7th. I will say this...and you know I'm a critic, but I did have a listen to the CD and Eve has still got it. If there is any album that can regenerate female MCs it is the album I heard today.

    Click play on the hipcast image below to listen to my interview with Eve—she let's it out Don Imus (finally a voice from a female rapper!), interracial dating, lesbian rumors, her DUI arrest and more.

    Also, be on the look out for full interviews with Men's Fitness and Vibe.com in the next upcoming weeks, which discusses the new album, going "Hollywood", the real deal with Aftermath and Dre...and more.

    By the way -- yeah, I know Paula Patton is black! I just didn't realize she is Robin Thicke's wife.

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    Posted by Clay :: 12:00 AM :: 15 comments

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