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 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 and a member of New York Film Critics Online. He can be reached at

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    Wednesday, April 30, 2008

    "Pharoah had betrayed them.

    And on a nearby street corner, empty-eyed, exhausted, alone, stood Pharoah, the pumpkin-colored mulatto. He was breathing hard. Now he could start home, he thought. Nobody would know who gave the alarm. The white folks would thank him. They wouldn't tell. They would protect him. Now he could start home in the heavy shadows.

    'If Gabriel had of listened to me, he'd of fared a heap better. He wasn't fixing to do no good nohow, the way how he was going about it. I wanted to lead a line, me.'" - Black Thunder by Arna Bontemps, 1936

    Black Thunder is one of the most underrated books in African-American literature. It is the story of Gabriel Prosser, a twenty-three old slave who attempted to lead an insurrection in Virginia in 1800. He mobilized and inspired, but not to kill all whites (as some people assume). There were to be no revolts on Quakers, Methodists and Frenchmen. In many ways, this was a class revolt on the planter elite. Allegedly, Prosser had two white co-conspirators.

    Prosser was close to success but was betrayed by another slave, described as Pharoah in the passage above. Pharoah, once an ally of Gabriel was jealous, angry and a bit unstable. He felt giving "the alarm" would give him the acceptance and respect he felt he desired.

    This is the best way I can describe Reverend Jeremiah Wright, as Pharoah, the jealous, vindictive and once supporter of Senator Barack Obama, who is now attempting to destroy him for his own good. There are rumors he was put up to this by the Clinton campaign and word of a book deal. It's sad that out of all the things that might destroy Obama, it would be his own. As a dear friend of mine said, "I think there is this belief among us folks of color that we are not racist. Unfortunately, being oppressed does not mean you are immune to the characteristics of the oppressor -- Liberia is a prime example of that." More importantly, Wright not only betrayed Obama but he betrayed many in the black community (and others outside of the community who support him!). The Republicans and the Clintons are surely thanking him.

    Some things just don't change from the plantation.

    Note: The most famous unsuccessful slave insurrections: Gabriel Prosser (1800) and Denmark Vessey (1822), were both sold-out by other slaves.

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    Posted by Clay :: 12:43 AM :: 68 comments


    Tuesday, April 29, 2008

    Written By J. Harris

    J. Harris is a reader of and offers an interesting insight about a Southern boy who travels to New York City for the first time. His experience is what many black Americans experience(d), especially pre the Internet when meeting people who looked exactly like their family members. Also, this assumption of blackness is what causes some of the perceived strife between black Americans and Latinos. Note: I know Latinos is a "big" word, but this writer mainly focuses on Caribbean Latinos like Puerto Ricans and Dominicans (based in New York City).

    The representation of Latinos in media is similar to post surgery Jennifer Lopez versus all natural Rosie Perez. So, I thought this piece from J. Harris was an interesting and honest take.

    Age sixteen was the first time in my life that I left my hometown of North Carolina. I was a born and raised Southern boy in the ’80’s, pre the Internet, pre the Latin explosion and pre the new wave of biracial/multicultural identity. I traveled to New York City and was escorted by my older cousin through parts of downtown Manhattan. I kept asking, "Why do all the blacks here have light skin?" Confused, he said, "What the f**k are you talking about?"

    I pointed out, "See, that person, that person... they all have a light complexion." My cousin looked perplexed and ignored me when he couldn't make sense of my point, eventually laughing. Then, with a Eureka expression, he said, "These people are not black, they are Puerto Rican!"

    I replied, "These people are not Puerto Rican, I have seen them on TV and none of them are black like this." I had seen Mexicans before and there were television shows with "Puerto Ricans." But, these Ricans were always the ones with more Indian/Caucasian ancestry than the ones with more African features. He irritatingly responded, "They are not black—stop being silly!"

    I, of course embarrassed because I didn't get it, just didn't comment anymore. Rosie Perez was the first on-screen Puerto Rican I had seen (after leaving NYC) that in my home town would have been considered black without even being mixed.

    I was ignorant not only about racial identity and the diversity of Puerto Rican phenotypes and culture, but I was ignorant about my own history for a long time. Until the age of 10 or 11, I thought light skin and variances in hair texture were some type of sporadic mutation in black people. To say it best, I never questioned it until someone revealed I had white folks in my mother's ancestry. In total shock, my sister and father made the final connection for me clear by relating it to my mother's family skin complexion variation. It then took me years later in college to understand how a white man and black woman in 1900 could conceive a child. These were against the rules that were ingrained in my consciousness.

    The history of black folks took me years to place in the scope of my life and world history. Every black American has some white person in their family somewhere. However, for us down South, it’s rare for it to have happened any time post civil-rights or maybe even post share-cropping.

    Spike Lee brought the "light versus dark" issue to the screen in 1988 with School Daze. Again, as I mentioned previously, unless you looked like Jennifer Beals, you were black and once we found out Jenny had a black daddy—she was then considered black too with her hard to corn-roll hair. Halle Berry, Boris Kudjoe, Tiger Woods and Victoria Rowell “mixed”?

    One of the things the American experience gave blacks over other cultures of the Diaspora was a sense of awareness. While Puerto Ricans, as evidence with their census reporting 80% consider themselves white, we on the other hand embrace a sense of African Pride—no matter how light-skinned someone is. Places like Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic possess a rejection of blackness, even though they are black or in some ways more African than black Americans. However, unlike them, based on our unique history, we shamelessly know we are black peoples—regardless of complexion or class.

    J. Harris is a guest writer for This is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of Clay Cane.


    Posted by Clay :: 1:30 AM :: 18 comments


    Monday, April 28, 2008

    "There was a tragedy in New York. I said at the time, without benefit of all the facts before me, that it looked like a possible case of excessive force. The judge has made his ruling, and we're a nation of laws, so we respect the verdict that came down... The most important thing for people who are concerned about that shooting is to figure out how do we come together and assure those kinds of tragedies don't happen again... Resorting to violence to express displeasure over a verdict is something that is completely unacceptable and counterproductive."

    Above are the comments from Senator Barack Obama on the despicable Sean Bell verdict, which has New York City and other parts of the country in an uproar. On Friday, the day of the verdict, the Michael Baisden radio show other black media outlets (even Wendy Williams) criticized Obama for not making a statement—even though the verdict was read just hours before.

    By the afternoon Obama was questioned on the Sean Bell verdict, which is the statement above. But, some people in the black community weren’t satisfied with Obama’s statement and felt he should’ve offered a sharper critique on police brutality.

    A dear friend of mine, who is a big Obama supporter, said to me, "Why not state the relations between the police and communities of color MUST change? I'm afraid that it he were President, it would be more of the same. He will be constantly trying to prove that can appeal to whites, without being too black. Obama should not take Black folks for granted.”

    Is Obama taking black folks for granted or are black folks taking him for granted?

    I think it's unfair to say, less than a few hours after the verdict was read, that the black presidential candidate has a responsibility to make a statement on a case that he is not completely familar with, didn't even happen in the state he represents and is intensely divided along racial lines. Why isn’t anyone demanding a statement from John McCain or Senator Hillary Clinton? Most importantly, Senator Clinton is the Senator of New York; she is the one who should be pressed to make a comment, not Obama -- this happened in her city. What about New York congressman Charles Rangel? The Governor of New York David Paterson? Lawd knows if Clinton did make a statement, which I doubt she will, if she took the side of the Sean Bell family—no one would be up in arms. However, if Obama did the same, people would shout that he is anti-white and doesn't support the police.

    One thing we as black folks need to realize is that Obama is not a black leader; he is a leader who is black. Being the president you must, or at least should, appeal to both sides. Senator Clinton isn't being pressured to make a comment on Sean Bell because as people of color we must always be the harbinger of hope and change in our community... unless of course you are a rapper, R&B singer, or sports star. You can piss on underage girls, molest children, rape women and still be called a genius.

    I don't want Barack Obama to lose the election simply because he is black, which is what will happen if he is forced to respond to Reverend Wright's latest interview and speech, give an opinion on Sean Bell, blasted by Tavis Smiley for not attending the Black State of the Union, admits whether or not he likes hip-hop, does the electric slide, or sing the theme song from Good Times! As much as the Republicans and the Clintons have “nig'rafied” Obama, I don’t want him to mention anything black till January of 2009!

    Are you wearing black? Wear black today for the injustice verdict in the Sean Bell case.


    Posted by Clay :: 1:50 AM :: 17 comments


    Friday, April 25, 2008

    Written by John Walker

    John Walker is a previous guest writer, who penned Did Latinos Betray Blacks? The conversation got hot-hot-hot and while I didn’t agree with everything that was written, I thought it was an interesting point of view.

    The same goes for Walker’s latest piece. I believe that Senator Barack Obama can win the general election and he has won more Democratic states than Senator Hillary Clinton. When it comes to states like New York, New Jersey and California -- if Nat Turner's ghost were running for the presidency he would snatch those states, which will never go Republican. Nonetheless, I think Walker poses some great points that I haven’t considered.

    The quote above references white Democrats, who said race was a factor for them, in northern Pennsylvania. My question is… what in the world makes Negroes believe these white voters who are admittedly voting based on race won't jump ship and vote for John McCain? Obama's not winning most of the Democratic states and appealing to Democratic white voters in Republican states ain't worth a damn in the general election.

    I love the brother's campaign and I believe he's America's best chance for change. However, for all you Negroes celebrating the Obama campaign like it's Juneteenth—you got another thing coming! This campaign is proving one thing for sure—half black equals black in 2008.

    Am I saying that Obama can't win the general election because he's black? Yes! You say, “Then aren't you agreeing with Hillary Clinton that of the two only she is electable?” Yes! But, do I support her? Hell no! The Clintons decided to blacken Obama up just for a win, insuring that he's unelectable in the fall. Does that sound like something the “first black president” (Thanks Toni Morrison!), Bill Clinton, would do to another brother?

    Obama almost made many white folks forget about color (although I suspect they would've remembered come November), but the Clintons exercised every tactic so America would remember and embrace racial prejudice by raising the specter of an unpatriotic, ill-equipped Negro running the country. The Clintons are betting that if they make it to November their n**gers will have no choice, but to vote for them.

    If Obama losses the Democratic nomination then we, as black people, should stay home and let whites do what they want. Black people need to stop hoping, watching and waiting for a change in white America. The truth is that most blacks didn't get excited about Obama until he won Iowa, proving he could attract some white voters. By attracting white support Obama represented the epitome of black ascendancy, the notion that "we have arrived". Progress for blacks has primarily come from self-determined struggle, not ascendancy driven by white endowment (although it has played a role).

    The way black Americans broke segregation was when black domestics decided to walk instead of ride the bus for 18 long months or the way my aunt went to college because one black educator sent a note to another requesting her admission. Black Americans have achieved great strides by turning inward and doing for self. Any aide that has come from progressive whites is and has always been welcome, but hopes and dreams should never begin and end there. Senator Obama's campaign is a groundbreaking litmus test for white America; and we shouldn't stand around waiting on the results, hoping there is a reservoir of good white folks to help us achieve are greatest goal—to have the first black president.

    John Walker is a guest writer for This is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of Clay Cane.

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    Posted by Clay :: 12:00 AM :: 23 comments


    Thursday, April 24, 2008

    I am interviewing Usher this afternoon for mainstream press. His new album Here I Stand, hits stores on May 27th. I had a chance to listen to the album and I have to admit -- the album is hot. Usher is doing some sangin'.

    Have a question you always wanted to know? Submit your questions in the comments!


    Posted by Clay :: 12:00 AM :: 13 comments


    Wednesday, April 23, 2008

    I was in Philadelphia yesterday—what I saw in the City of Brotherly Love was like nothing I have ever seen in my life for any presidential candidate, celebrity, or sports star. People were fired up, energized and excited about Senator Barack Obama. Folks were lined up at City Hall with homemade Obama signs, official Obama signs and massive stickers. One pick-up truck drove by with a Tsunami of Obama stickers and three little black boys in the back. As a student of African-American Studies, I was so moved because I knew that day is something they will never forget and it's a day that is needed for so many children (white or black) who feel the odds are against them. If Obama can do it, so can they.

    Don't be fooled, it wasn't all black, all the crowds were diverse -- this wasn't a "black movement". I went to the Obama campaign headquarters, which was equally mixed. Someone asked for a car to go to polls and make sure voters were not being turned away after 8pm (they can't turn you away if you're in line). This older white woman jumped up, emoting in a black cashmere sweater, cloaked in jewels, which included an "OBAMA 2008" pin in diamonds—she said, "I’m here! I have a car!" There are more stories of the diversity I saw, from black to white, male to female, straight to gay, Latin to Asian. Never in my life had I seen something like this.

    Then, there were the Senator Hillary Clinton supporters, spread out in pockets. They were nowhere near diverse and looked like the introverted Christians in high school who spoke to no one and attended Jesus Camp every summer.

    The black women (I didn't see any black men) supporting the Clintons confused me. I can see if Big Missy Hill didn't evoke the name of Louis Farrakhan at the last debate. I can see if the Clintons didn't say they would never attend a church with Reverend Wrightwhen the Clintons turned to Reverend Wright for martial advice during the Lewinsky scandal (thanks to Michael Moore for breaking that news and I love how the media ignores it). I can see if Big Massa Bill didn't say on Monday that Obama's campaign played the race card after his Jesse Jackson comment -- blaming Obama for his quiet racism and acting as if black folks owe him something because he played the saxophone, apologized for slavery and has an office in Harlem. I can see if the Clintons avoided all the race cards, just like Obama has avoided throwing other cards, but she hasn't. Hell, I can see if the Clintons were in the lead! But, you still support the Clintons? You have Michael Moore and Keith Olberman calling out the Clintons -- do you need to be called a nigger right to your face to get it?

    Obama did take Philadelphia by 80%. So, it's sad to me that he lost Pennsylvania. I think it was Bill Maher who said, "Maybe Obama is too good for this country." He has refused to throw the blood like the Clintons, because people of color and poor people, we have to always take the high road. However, the math is still against her so it’s nearly impossible for her to win, if the roles were reversed, Obama would already be out. Also, as one of my friends emailed to me, "Mrs. Clinton (the Senator title will be going away next election), your last and largest batch of ignorant white folks in one collective state who fall for the same ole' negative tactics has run out. "

    Check out the madness below from FOX news.

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    Posted by Clay :: 10:46 AM :: 14 comments


    Monday, April 21, 2008

    Five years ago today Dr. Nina Simone, the High Priestess of Soul, lost her battle with breast cancer. She was the last of the remaining protest singers, closing an era of black artists who took responsibility for their music and felt that art had a place in changing the world. Nina would've been 75 today.

    Nina was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in North Carolina. Daughter of a preacher and barber, she was a piano prodigy, having learned as a child and would go onto impress blacks and whites in her local town. Her first encounters with racism as a girl in the Jim Crow South would shape her political beliefs for a lifetime.

    Nina would travel from Philadelphia to New York City, eventually studying at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music. She performed in small, dingy clubs, playing a variety of music, soon changing her name to “Nina Simone” because she didn't want her family to know she was performing secular music. In 1958 Nina's first album was released and she would score her only top 40 hit with "I Loves You Porgy". A star, activist and icon was born.

    As Nina's star rose so did her consciousness. She would befriend the likes of Lorraine Hansberry, Langston Hughes and James Baldwin (she obviously loved the gays!). In addition, she penned legendary protest songs like "Four Women", "Young, Gifted and Black" and of course "Mississippi Goddamn"—funny how so many conservatives were all shook up over Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s “Goddamn America” line (Wright was born eight years after Nina) … I hope Senator Barack Obama never says he is a Nina Simone fan!

    Nina was known to be a "diva" even before the term was popular. She hated that she was labeled a jazz singer, which she insisted was racist—Nina was a classical pianist and felt she was only labeled jazz because she was black.

    Furthermore, she was angered that she was ever compared to Billie Holiday and very vocal about it. As early as 1997, she said in a Details magazine interview, "She was a drug addict! I'm more of a diva, like Maria Callas." Callas was classical opera singer and pianist.

    Nina was known to stomp off stage if she was unhappy and she would normally not allow audiences to clap during her performances, especially in her early years of fame. She once walked off the stage of the Apollo Theater in Harlem because of crowd participation... see, in classical music the applause is saved for the end.

    After the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nina, like many others famous black Americans, left America. She spent time in Liberia, but would eventually settle in Paris. She was disgusted at American racism, but would have a resurgence of popularity in the late eighties and nineties with her songs used for commercials and soundtracks.

    Nina’s legacy still lives on. Her daughter, Simone, is releasing an album of Nina covers titled Simone On Simone on May 13th. The summer of 2003, I saw Simone perform a rendition of “Little Girl Blue” and “Summer Time” at a Janis Joplin tribute concert, only months after her mother’s death. It was riveting and there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience.

    I wonder what Nina would think about the 2008 election. She would’ve never imagined only five years after her death a viable black candidate would be so close to the presidency... a primary tomorrow in Pennsylvania where she was once rejected from the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia only because she was black... a primary in her home state of North Carolina on May 6th, that Obama will more than likely win, where she was once terrorized with racism.

    Nina was soulful without over-singing. Commanding but not overpowering. Genius but tangible. She was everything an artist should be and everything many of our black artists aren’t today. Pay homage to the High Priestess!

    “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me—no fear! If I could have that half of my life—no fear! That's the only way I can describe it, that's not all of it, but it's something to really feel.” – Nina Simone, 1972


    Posted by Clay :: 12:00 AM :: 7 comments


    Friday, April 18, 2008

    Check out my review for Mariah Carey's E=MC², which is in stores now.

    E=MC² is everything you love and hate about Mariah Carey. Predictable but yet likable ("That Chick"). Childish but yet fun ("Side Effects"). Sugary but yet trampy ("Touch My Body"). However, the most lofty shortcoming of Carey’s second emancipation is how she seems to be downplaying her immense musical talent with songs that are, quite frankly, beneath her.

    The oddest moment on E=MC² is when Mariah goes reggae in the song "Cruise Control" featuring Damien Marley. Yes, Jamaican Mariah... she sings with a Jamaican accent, "I’ve been told so many sagas, he brings the drama, six baby mamas", as she cries she needs cruise control. Really, Mariah? The song is embarrassing, uncomfortable and about as inauthentic as Senator Hillary Clinton suddenly gaining a Southern accent when she’s campaigning in red states. This is a song for Rihanna, but not an international superstar who has one of the greatest voices of all time. Carey is trying too hard with her venture into the urban playground that dumb down her musical gifts.

    Mariah Carey is in the history books. You can criticize her for being formulaic, immature, or syrupy, but the 38 year-old pop diva has found the equation for success. Furthermore, any pop artist who survives the viciousness of the music industry (Madonna, Janet Jackson) and still manages to rake in hits will always be held to a high standard. The criticism hasn’t affected Mariah -- she just broke Elvis’ number one hits record. Still, I can’t help but yearn for an album full of vocals, instruments and classic music. If Alicia Keys and Mary J. can do it, why can’t Mariah?

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    Posted by Clay :: 10:03 AM :: 4 comments


    Thursday, April 17, 2008

    Now, it was cute for Brandy and Monica, and I loved me some Aaliyah, but none of those girls could touch Traci Spencer -- the original, '90's R&B, teen princess. I believe if she wouldn't have waited nine years between releasing her second and third studio albums, her career would've lasted much longer.

    You may have had to swim through the mental Rolodex for Tyler Collins, but I know you remember the string of hits Spencer had from 1990 to 1992. She made history as being the youngest female artist signed to a major label and the youngest female artist at the time to receive the ASCAP songwriter of the year award.

    By 1990 Spencer released two albums and in 1996 she released a greatest hits album... I'm still confused on how you can have a greatest hits album after only two albums. Nonetheless, 1990's Make the Difference spawned the #3 Billboard Hot 100 hit, "This House" (a song that never really moved me). It was her mature ballads that blew up urban radio and gave Tevin Campbell a hot-hot battle for the most singing teen. "Tell Me What You Want Me To Do" and "Tender Kisses" had an evil battle on Video Jukebox!

    I've never been clear on why her next studio album wasn't until 1999's Tracie. I heard she wanted to focus on school, but maybe some of the music gurus will clear it up in the comments. The self-titled album did rack up at #18 Billboard Hot 100 hit with "It's All About You (Not About Me)", but it didn't make the impact of her previous work. According to Wikipedia, Tracie is now on hiatus from the music industry. Check out the greatest hits...

    "I'm so confused, you're so unpredictable... " Yes LAWD -- "Tender Kisses", a number one hit on the Billboard R&B singles chart (only #42 on the then segregated Billboard Hot 100 -- thanks to Alizoom for the explanation last week) and a song she co-wrote. The ballad still sounds modern today -- classic R&B!

    Two years after Make the Difference was released, the singles were still charting. In 1992, a then 16 year-old Spencer, hit #2 on the Billboard R&B singles chart (#48 on the Billboard Hot 100) with "Love Me". Those were the days... why do young teen singers today run around doing the oochie-wallie-bang-bang versus just singing?

    Damn, Tracie and Aaliyah look like family!


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


    Monday, April 14, 2008

    Let me specify this list, the stupidest reasons I've heard from black folks on why to not vote for Senator Barack Obama.

    At this point, I wonder if blacks who are still supporting Senator Hillary Clinton are grappling with some self-hate. Obama is ahead in nearly every sector of the race—but you still vote for Clinton? Here are the stupidest reasons I’ve heard...

    Whites won't vote for Obama! -- Utah, Washington, Iowa, Connecticut... I mean, really? Are you paying attention? Clinton isn't exactly snatching the white vote -- she lost the white vote in California, Virginia and other states.

    Obama ain't full black! -- No one is full black! Don't you fret, good ole' white folks obviously see him as nig'ra in this election. All of the race-baiting and saying he belongs to an anti-white church should let black folks know he will never be a half and half slash.

    Big Missy Clinton has more experience! -- How does being First Lady for eight years suddenly give her experience? If that is the case then Nancy Reagan and Laura Bush could run for president. Clinton has only been in the Senate slightly longer than Obama. Cut out Clinton's First Lady experience, which she obviously has delusions of Bosnia grande, and she is basically at equal playing field with Obama.

    Obama hasn't won any big states! -- I'm assuming big states means the top ten states in the Nation, Obama was won three big states: Georgia (#9), Illinois (#5) and don't you forget Texas (#2). Yes, Texas, because Texas was a combination (NOT two different elections) of a primary and a caucus, which resulted in Obama winning more delegates and, therefore, winning the state. North Carolina (#10) will more than likely go to Obama. So, winning three big states (soon to be four with North Carolina) is not losing big states, especially when Big Missy Clinton has also won three: California (#1), Ohio (#7) and New York (#3) -- they've both won the same amount of "big" states. Does anyone see the pop, dip and spin?

    The Clintons did so much for black folks! -- Get your mind out of the fields! Sure, President Bill Clinton apologized for slavery, ate fried chicken and had Maya Angelou read a poem at his inauguration. However, those are all gestures, but what did the Clinton dynasty really do for blacks? The welfare reform act pulverized many urban neighborhoods, Clinton bombed on the prison industry and don't forget how Jocelyn Elders and Lani Guinier were savagely thrown under the Clinton bus (along with the gays: DOMA, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, etc.). Don't let a few crumbs from Bill's overflowing plate confuse you.

    Obama will get assassinated! -- Negro, this is not Jim Crow and Obama is no Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his later years. Why do I say later years? The reasons King were assassinated wasn't because of his views on race, but it was because of his more radical views on the Vietnam War and poverty. King was a threat; Obama is the most non-threatening black man since Wayne Brady. Furthermore, is that a reason for a black person to not move forward because of fear of being assassinated? If that is the case we would've never had black governors, senators, or black people holding any type of political office. Not voting for Obama because you think he will be killed is the most docile stance I've ever heard. Fear should not be a reason to not vote for the most viable candidate—that is exactly what racists want blacks to do, act out of fear. Imagine if the Little Rock Nine didn’t go to school out of fear? Also, Reagen had an assassination attempt, Lincoln and Kennedy were both assassinated -- why doesn't anyone ever mention the possibility of Senator Clinton being assassinated? Don't fall victim to cheap scare tactics.

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    Posted by Clay :: 9:00 AM :: 7 comments


    Thursday, April 10, 2008

    There were a string of black female artists who attempted crossover success in the late '80's and early '90's. The soul was toned down, the pop was hyped up, all with the hope they could be the next pop diva.

    Tyler Collins had all the makings of pop success—extremely attractive, trained dancer and a better voice than the pop counterparts of her time. However, Tyler never crossed over, even with a top ten Billboard Hot 100 hit. The Harlem native would garner a few minor hits in the '90's, but the songs barely charted. Supposedly, after working with Prince in the mid-Nineties ,Collins was signed to a deal with Warner Brothers, which eventually fell through. Tyler Collins would soon go down as a one hit wonder.

    Check out "Whatcha Gonna Do", a song she co-wrote, which is actually my favorite Collins track and was bigger on urban radio than "Girls Nite Out". The song charted at #8 on Billboard R&B chart... can someone tell me how in the eighties a song can chart that high on the R&B charts but not even crack the Billboard Hot 100? I think many R&B artists were shafted in the '80's.


    “Girls Nite Out” was Collins' biggest hit, which peaked at number #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and another #8 hit on the Billboard R&B chart. I owned the cassette single to this song—remember those? Something very interesting about the video... there is only one other person of color in the video. Obviously the powers that be behind Collins truly wanted her to crossover and thought she had the non-threatening looks to do so—don’t think having no other black women in the video and one man with a conk wasn’t a conscious choice!

    You better get into her performance on that bed -- she is emoting like the rent is past due!


    Posted by Clay :: 12:20 AM :: 10 comments


    Wednesday, April 09, 2008

    I know the light-skinned coalition will send me a barrage of emails on this one…

    Years ago, I went out with a guy who was a proud Louisianan, born and raised. He also identified as Creole versus “just black”, as he said, and passionately talked about the history of Creoles. I was happy to see someone so invested in their history, but, on the other hand, as a student of African-American Studies, his near worship of Creoles made me uncomfortable. To me, the advent of Creoles represented a sector of blacks who were trying to gain some sort of white privilege and eventually failed, especially during Jim Crow. I remember reading accounts of Creoles shouting they weren’t a nigger and good white folk letting them know, “You are the worse kind of nigger because you think you are better than other niggers.”

    On one of our few dates he told me I looked Creole. I immediately said, "I don’t look any bit of Creole." He tried to explain I looked like “old world blood”. What the hell is that you ask? Well, I asked the same thing… he said according to my features, skin tone and hair texture that I, “looked like someone who comes from a history of Creoles versus new world blood who just became Creole because of one Creole parent.” I guess Beyonce would be considered new world blood!

    He explained how he looked more like “new world blood” and he wished he looked more “old world”. The self-hating light-skinned man was wearing my old world soul. I felt like I was transported to some bayou plantation in 1825 and just got done picking cotton with a slave who was hustling to get in the house. “Old world” and “new world” blood were terms I never heard before and I wondered if it was consistent with the Creole tradition or just his family.

    Attempting to change the subject, I asked if his parents knew he was gay—he said yes and they were not happy about it. Then I asked how his parents would react if he brought home a guy to Louisiana. He said this, something I will never forget, “Actually, my parents would be happier if I brought home a guy who looked like you versus a dark-skinned black woman.” I was shocked.

    “You mean they would rather you be gay then be with someone dark-skinned?” I asked. He said it was true and agreed that it was crazy. I thought having a Creole-looking partner was about children, but he explained it was more about perception. Never would I have thought in any black American culture that being dark-skinned would trump being gay.

    On the other hand, I know someone who was never attracted to dark-skinned men (he once told me the ones he met just smelled “different”), but now he only likes dark-skinned men—and he bragged about as if it was an accomplishment. However, transferring your prejudices from dark to light is not an accomplishment… it’s the same baggage in a different city.

    I will never be able to understand racialized preferences within black people. It’s one of the saddest and blatant examples of internalized hate. It transcends class, gender and in some cases, even sexuality.

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    Posted by Clay :: 10:30 AM :: 34 comments


    Tuesday, April 08, 2008

    Ever since I received a copy of Martin: The Complete Fourth Season on DVD I’ve been watching as many clips of Sheneneh Jenkins on YouTube as possible. Sheneneh Jenkins was the unruly neighbor of Martin Payne, who constantly harassed his wife Gina and especially her best friend Pam. She was known for flamboyant outfits, weave-a-licious hairstyles, catchy phrases (“Oh my goodness”, “I’m a lady”) and darker skin. Martin embodied the character of Sheneneh like she was a real person, she felt like a part of the cast. I would go as far to say if it wasn’t for Sheneneh Jenkins the show wouldn’t have been as popular.

    After watching endless clips of Sheneneh I remembered many people had an issue with Martin Lawrence. The Negro police, also known as Bill Cosby, said Martin was a “modern day minstrel” -- somebody cue Fat Albert! A 1994 article from the New York Times cited Sheneneh and Mama Payne, Martin's mother, as a clear form of minstrelsy: “The female roles in the minstrel show were fixed versions of the vamp, the termagant and the bonehead, and until late in the 19th century they were played exclusively by men. The type was carried into vaudeville and onto television (Amos and Andy's fussy wives and bossy mothers-in-law; Archie Bunker's fond, foolish wife and earnest, dizzy daughter). So was the tradition of female impersonation: witness Martin Lawrence's bossy country mother and raucous homegirl neighbor Sheneneh.”

    Some felt as if Martin was relying on massive stereotypes and the exploitation of minstrelsy with the eye-popping, random dancing and quick mouths. The more I looked, I saw it, but the bottom line was— Sheneneh was funny. I believe you can get away with nearly anything if it truly is funny and skillfully done. Furthermore, I grew up with girls who were damn near just like Sheneneh, for me and many people who lived in urban black environments, she was close to the real thing: the overconfident ugly girl who thought every man wanted her and would be ready to fight at the drop of a hat.

    In thinking more critically, this was also the time when black women were the butt of many jokes, like Wanda in In Living Color. Wanda was a direct offspring of Sheneneh with big lips, big butt and classic lines like, “Oh, no you didn’t.” Wanda was nowhere near as funny as Sheneneh, but I did get my cackle on a few times. Even today, in films like Norbit, black women are used as the butt of jokes.

    The difference with Sheneneh, and Wanda to a certain degree, is that these characters didn’t cross over to the white community like a Step N’ Fetchit or an Amos ‘n’ Andy. Sheneneh was loved in the black community because many of us could relate and saw an overdramatized relation to our neighborhood. Whites didn’t have the same relation with the Sheneneh Jenkins of the world, which is why when Adam Sandler, Chris Farley and David Spade played valley girls on Saturday Night Live, it was found to be hilarious. However, why is Martin as Sheneneh offensive and Adam Sandler as a valley girl not offensive?

    You decide, check out Sheneneh Jenkins’ greatest hits.




    Posted by Clay :: 9:57 AM :: 12 comments


    Monday, April 07, 2008

    I’ve been to a variety of different churches (Catholic, Baptist, lily white Christian) in my life and most of these “houses of the Lord” have no redemptive qualities. However, there is one forgiving quality about the black church and that is the music. Sure, after you’ve been damned to hell a few times and lost a whole paycheck in the collection plate -- there is still that music.

    Church music of today is much different than the churches my late grandfather described in the South (although my granddaddy preferred the sin of blues music!) or even some of the churches I attended in Philadelphia as I child.

    See, religion, even black religion, has turned into such a corporation that even the vocals have been capitalized. I’m not saying there is no good singing in the churches today, but it’s not much compared to the days pre the gospel charts or especially a time when the church was a place of refuge.

    In the ninth grade I had a choir class in Philadelphia. Previously, I was used to the choir classes of Washington State where we learned about notes, musical theory and mouthing our vowels. Baby, I didn’t hear one word about the fundamentals of music during choir class in Philly. Those folks, especially the girls, sang their souls to the edge at a good 10AM. Each morning “sanging” turned into a competition on who could out soul the other—and sometimes it might turn into a fight!

    I can recall a big light-skinned girl who had a voice like Jennifer Holliday and would roar through any gospel song given to her. When one of the other girls wasn’t up to par the teacher would point to her and say, “Sing girl!” The girls around her were evil, kind of like a hood version of Mean Girls, saying, “She think she all that—trying to out sing everybody!” Munching on a Butterscotch Krimpet Tastykake for breakfast, another girl would add, "As fat as she is she should be able to sing!" Sistah girls curling her hair with a curling iron plugged in a wall outlet (oh yes, baby -- the girls brought a curling iron to school), “Yeah, chile—singing about Jesus and she pregnant! She lucky she pregnant or I'd kick her ass!” It was a cackle…

    We performed all over the city at churches, middle schools and senior citizen homes. Every time the choir killed it and I still remember the chills I would get when we sang Walt Whitman’s “Perfect Praise” or the Negro spiritual “Hush (Somebody’s Calling My Name)”. The sopranos and altos would rip it up, with the big light-skinned girl always on lead, and the boys—all closeted butch queens, belt it out on tenor and bass. I was more of the Janet Jackson of the choir, I was too shy to sing so I just lip-synched with the other boys—them butch queens were competitive with those notes and would read me if I went off key!

    More than anything, I would enjoy the reaction from the audience, the drama in the lead’s mannerisms and the impossible to ignore soul. It was something else…

    Check out a great clip from The Emotions singing “Peace Be Still”. I love when the girl “catches the spirit”. I don't care where you are from - you can't tell me you don't feel this!

    PS. Don't you wish the afro would come back for the ladies?

    Labels: ,

    Posted by Clay :: 1:28 AM :: 9 comments


    Friday, April 04, 2008

    It must’ve been a sad day for Maya Angelou on April 4th, 1968—the day of her 40th birthday and the day Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. was assassinated. For many years she said she didn't celebrate her birthday. Today marks Maya’s 80th birthday and we are also honoring the life of Dr. King.

    Maya is someone I would love to have a conversation with on this day. What was she doing when she found out Dr. King was killed? As one of the few remaining figures left from the Civil Rights era, especially women, what are her thoughts on the African-American community today?

    Also, does she have any regrets about quickly endorsing Senator Hillary Clinton? Congressman Charles Rangel (D-Harlem) said Senator Barack Obama had “no chance” and blacks were only supporting him because of black pride. However, in a recent reaction letter to Black Star News Rangel stated, “I must admit that my statement that supporters of Senator Barack Obama were motivated solely by black pride grossly underestimated the talent and strength of his candidacy.” Just like women in the feminist movement, like Gloria Steinem and Geraldine Ferraro, supported Senator Clinton, does Angelou rethink her endorsement?

    A Maya Angelou quote a day can keep the most hectic of people sane. “When people show you who they are—believe them” or “Stop and say thank you when you’re in the biggest crisis of your life because you know that you’re faith is so strong, whatever it is, it’s only there to teach you more about yourself.” Maya doesn’t only speak the quotes but she lived them.

    Born Marguerite Ann Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. Angelou experienced hellish racism and sexism. When she was seven she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, who went to jail for one day and was murdered four days later. As a result, Angelou was mute for almost five years.

    Her teenage years were no better—she was a teen mother, seduced into prostitution and her son was kidnapped. Dr. Angelou was dealt a futile hand, coupled without constant discrimination on a daily basis. Triumphing, Dr. Angelou would find her passion in the arts. She toured Europe in a production of Porgy and Bess, studied dance with Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey and became active in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s. She was friends with Malcolm X, Dr. King and she credits James Baldwin as one of the people who inspired her to write her autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. Baldwin praised the book by saying: "This testimony from a black sister marks the beginning of an era in the minds and hearts and lives of all black men and women ... Her portrait is a Biblical study of life in the midst of death."

    Dr. Angelou's legacy is endless: films, books, television and a national treasure. For every writer, artist, performer—you better pay your respects to a true icon. Happy birthday Dr. Angelou!

    I don't know if people still celebrate "Lift Every Voice and Sing", which is the Black National Anthem, but check out the performance below from R&B singer Kim Weston. Some of the images in the video... they put a tear in my eye every time. By the way - can someone tell me who the woman is at 2:18 with the serious afro and the painted face? I need to know her!


    Posted by Clay :: 1:00 AM :: 5 comments


    Thursday, April 03, 2008

    Before I begin, after my throwback posts on Neneh Cherry and Lisa Stansfield some hardcore fans (who knew they were still around!) emailed me. Looks like they were a little frustrated that I didn't detail the artists current accomplishments and felt as if it was unfair to sum their careers to a few hits. Shugahs... I'm not saying these artists no longer perform or hasn't released any albums since their hits. However, I am focusing on their biggest hits and, especially for Stansfield, wondering why she didn't have the career of Celine Dion. I have no idea if Lisa Stansfield is performing at a local pub in Brixton -- so in my fake Madonna British accent, "Stop being a wanker!" Isn't it a shame I received emails about Neneh Cherry and Lisa Stansfield, but none on Grace Jones! Lawwwwd -- it's racism I tell you -- racism!

    You can't tell me to this day when "All Night Long" starts in the club that you don't immediately sing along and hit the dance floor. Mary Jane Girls delivered some classic '80's hits that still sound fresh today, thanks to the creative genius of the late-great Rick James.

    Rumor has it Prince stole the idea of Vanity 6 from Rick James' Mary Jane Girls, which Rick named after his love for weed. Only difference from Vanity 6 was the Mary Jane Girls could actually sing. The diverse quartet featured Cheri, Maxi, Candi and JoJo (the girl in those judy beads) on lead.

    The group only recorded two albums, their self-titled album in 1983 and Only Four You in 1985. However, just like Vanity/Apollnia 6, the group never recorded a third album due to the poor vision of the men who created them (Prince and Rick James). Supposedly, after a following out with Motown Records, James dropped the Mary Jane Girls.

    Check out their most famous 1983 hit "All Night Long", which never even hit the pop charts. I think I would've liked Mary J. Blige's remix more if she would've rocked these beaded braids!


    "In My House" hit #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1985. I know you just can't take the cheroegraphy! Especially when Tina from the jungle emotes on the motorcycle!


    Posted by Clay :: 10:30 AM :: 6 comments


    Wednesday, April 02, 2008

    I know I am not alone when I say how much I loved the legendary '90's sitcom Martin. The show was classic and goes down as pop culture history, at least in the black community. Looking back on excellent shows like Living Single (where the hell are additional seasons on DVD?) and Martin, it's disturbing to see the standard of black sitcoms today. What the hell happened?

    "Martin: The Complete Fourth Season" is now available on DVD.


    Also, check out my favorite scene from the entire Martin series, which is from season two and the episode is "Control". When Sheneneh says, "You gotta go to work on Myra's feet!" I am done!

    Labels: ,

    Posted by Clay :: 10:00 AM :: 5 comments


    Tuesday, April 01, 2008

    As promised, here is the audio from my interview with Janet Jackson, which includes chat about HIV/AIDS, Madonna, gay porn and some extras you haven't read. Plus, she responds to gay rumors better than any artist I've ever heard. Takes notes [insert name here]!

    Clay Cane interviewing Janet Jackson

    Janet Jackson's Discipline is in stores now.

    Labels: ,

    Posted by Clay :: 12:00 AM :: 6 comments


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