Sunday, May 30, 2010


by today's Urban Chameleon Contributor The Activist formerly known as Undungu Goldstein

I'm retired from the game. I have my reasons. I turned in my afro picks, my Kwanzaa-kit, my library of revolutionary rhetoric and all of my Curtis Mayfield albums about 6 years ago. Currently I reside in a no-need-to-mention-the-name town in New Mexico. I say "no-need-to-mention" I mean, if I told you the name, you wouldn't know of it anyway. Besides, i don't need any unsolicited emails, calls and definitely visitors!

Despite my state of retirement, I can not turn a blind eye to certain things. I mean after all, I'm retired, not dead.

So the other day I'm at Ci Ci's Pizza… WHAT?! I'm retired and living on a black revolutionary's budget! SHOOT ME… Anyway, I'm in line behind a brother and his clearly teenage daughter and I hear the following exchange;

Cashier: "Ok sir, you have three adults and one child in your party, right?

Man: "Oh, this is my daughter, she's not an adult yet"

Cashier: "Yes, but our child price is for children 11 and under. She told me she was 14"

Man (to daughter): "Why'd you do that?!" (to Cashier): "You can't give her the kid price? C'mon. She's still a baby, my baby. Hahahaha

Cashier: "No sir. Its store policy."

Man: "Ahhh c'mon. I'm not going to tell your manager. You can't help me out?"

Cashier: "No sir."

The man sighs, stares at the cashier for a few hoping his anxiety will sway her. She does not budge. He scoffs and passes the cashier his American Express card.

Did I mention, that the buffet at Ci Ci's Pizza costs $3.95 per adult? THREE DOLLARS and NINETY-FIVE cents!!! Brother, you wanna haggle and hold up the line because you have to pay $3.95 for your teenage daughter to eat at a PIZZA BUFFET?! Did I mention that the kid price is $2.95! It's a dollar. ONE DOLLAR. I sincerely doubt that one dollar is going to bring about your ruin. And further, after all of this huffing and puffing, you pay with an American Express card! What's the real sense of it?

See this is why I had to get out of the game. I realize that brother and sisters have their priorities out of sorts. I appreciate the art of haggling and negotiating, its virtually an African institution. In African markets, merchants and patrons haggled and negotiated over their goods. A person's tradable goods were valued based on what they meant to the buyer. I might be able to get 6 yams in exchange for 1 chicken. Another man might be able to get 12 yams if what he had to offer in exchange meant more to the yam vendor. I am quite sure the adage "one man's trash is another man's treasure" was born of these type exchanges. The problem I have is that far too many neo-negros don't know what to haggle for, what to fight for, what to stand for! As a result we end up haggling over the price of a $3.95 buffet. Fighting for the right to destroy our minds and bodies for the most trivial of things. And standing for everything but anything that looks like progress.

Choose your battles. Wisely.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Some Black People's Relationship With the Lord - EXPOSED!

The truth is not all Black people have a relationship with the lord. In coming across this article from Secular Parent, one might find it borderline courageous to expose this fact. But then again that's what we do here... provide you with multifaceted perspectives. 'Cause god forbid somebody put us in a box!

Shhh...not all black people love the Lord!

Original source from Secular Parent

When Steve Harvey’s Act like a lady, think like a man came out last year, he was given deserved respect. He managed to stay grounded in the world of “the rich and the insane”. He has also managed to extol some wisdom to the masses of black women in search of a man with his character traits.

And according to him, he couldn’t have done it without God.

But as he began outlining the tenets of finding a good black man, I was surprised to hear him say black women should “walk the other way when a blackman says he’s an Atheist.” As a matter of fact, he did more than that. Steve decided to balk at the idea of questioning the existence of God in general.

Certainly, Steve has history on his side. As a people, we have a stale history with worldviews outside of Christianity. This includes

Atheism (the idea that their is no God),

(Secular) Humanism (a worldview that considers humans to be of primary importance in the creation of morals and ethics),

Agnosticism (the uncertainty of whether either Atheism or religious teachings are true),and

Skepticism (the general principle of questioning all aspects of ones life).

The sordid history of blacks and faith can help answer the question of why. Let us not forget that it was indeed faith (specifically Christianity) that was used to shackle blacks in America–with the Bible itself being quoted as a rationale for our servitude.

It was also black people who used Christianity and the teachings of Jesus to set ourselves free. Nat Turner invoked the “divine right” of freedom in his short-lived revolt against white supremacy, and it was through the power of God that Sojourner Truth had the courage and the fortitude to force slaves (against their will if need be) out of bondage and into freedom.

Even as we moved into the 40’s, the 50’s, and the 60’s, our faith in God strengthened a voice that cried out for justice: be it El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (who called his God “Allah” instead of “Jesus”), Medgar Evers, or Martin Luther King, God spirited our way.

Of course Steve Harvey isn’t the only brotha to question blacks and our relationship to God. D.L. Hugley stated that “he’s never met a black Atheist, because we are so rooted in theology.”

Rooted is one way to put it.

Harvey, Hugley, and others like them perpetuate the myth that life can’t be good, decent and just for black folks without God. They insist that, essentially, to be black is to be God-fearing. But in reality, there are plenty of black freethinkers.

W.E.B. DuBois was on of America’s earliest black skeptics. While growing up under strong religious precepts, it would be at Harvard that he would loosen the grasp that Christianity had on his mind; by the time he’d returned to America from his studies in Europe, DuBois had developed a not so “black” view of religion.

As a matter of fact, when DuBois took a job at Wilberforce University in Ohio in 1894, he immediately “irked his superiors by refusing to lead students in public prayer.” He would later write that he “increasingly regarded the church as an institution which defended such evils as slavery, color cast, exploitation of labor and war.”

Zora Neal Hurston, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Cheikh Anta Diop, all of these beautiful are among the many American Blacks who have made serious inquiry into the relationship between our people and the faith that has propped us up for so long.

And as more black people leave the folds of the Christian church and move into the arms of open skepticism, what will replace our will to do good, to instill goodness in their children, and to ground ourselves in the morality that God once provided?

We’ll do it ourselves.

And there is no shortage of organizations and websites willing to help us.

Few skeptic organizations focus on one ethnicity; rather, most free-thought organizations take a wide-lens perspective and focus on society as a whole. However, one of the oldest freethinking organizations solely directed at the black community is African Americans for Humanism (AAH). Founded in 1989, the organization describes itself as beyond the labels of Atheism and Agnosticism, stating that AAH seeks to

offer a rational alternative to superstition, irrationality, and outmoded religious ideas…AAH recognizes the accomplishments of religion, but also acknowledges its many shortcomings.

There are also numerous websites and blogs that have been started by individual brothas and sistas in an effort to promote networking among freethinking black people: The Black Atheist Alliance, Life as a black Agnostic, The Secular Parent (my blog), The Black Atheist Blog, Life as a Black Atheist, , and many more.

So I guess Harvey and Hugley need to do some net-surfing, and I guess as a people WE need to do some net-surfing. Although we are deeply rooted in the Christian faith, we have a responsibility to seek the truth, and a growing number of black people in America see the truth outside the shiny, paper thin pages of the King James Bible.

Original source from

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How Far Will You Go to Pay for Some Nookie?

BALLIN' vs PROSTITUTION: What's the Difference
Original source from

As a 36 29-year old black man with nearly a decade of marital expertise, I find relating to single people increasingly difficult. I suppose its just the whole "rearview mirror effect". The further I'm separated from my singlehood, the hazier my recollections of those distant days become.

Still, my ear is close enough to the ground to have a general clue of what's still going on out there, and as I've said here before, I'm always repulsed when I hear such nonsense as "it ain't trickin' if you got it". I mean, seriously, dudes here in DC are taking that "Throw Some D's" thing a bit too literally and buying chicks fake boobies. What part of the game is that?[1]

Sure, a gentleman should always be a gentleman. No woman likes a cheap (or broke) man, and part of courting/pursuit involves doing things like eating out, movies, etc. in an effort to get to know someone better. But paying for rent, childcare for a child that ain't yours, and light bills? That sh*t is just extra.

There's a very thin line between treating a lady to a good time and being a simp. Any guy who buys Gucci bags and expensive vacations for a chick not named his wife just to get close to her is a sucka, plain and simple. The whole thing has me thinking: what's really the difference between "Ballin'" and outright buying the nookie?

I realize this is a topic with a whole lot of gray area, but for the fellas and ladies, single or otherwise, I'm wondering that ya'll think about this.

Question: At what point does the purchase of goods and services to keep a person interested in you become dangerously close to outright trickin'? Fellas, what's the most money you spent to entertain a lady? Ladies, does a guy who offers to throw D's on you and pay for your rent qualify as a baller or a simp?

[1] Is this an epidemic in other cities as well? And come on bruh, buyin' girls new t*tties? F'real? Any man spending $8k to upgrade a chick so the next man (and the next, and the next) can enjoy the fruits of your hard earned labor is the definition of a simp. Stop it. What Would Obama Do?

Original source from

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Just Wright - Are We Really That Different

by today's Urban Chameleon contributor Aireka Muse

I’m frustrated. Irritated.

I saw Just Wright today and set out to write about the relationship between Queen Latifah and Common and got pissed off and sidetracked by a CNN video of a panelists (including Phylicia Rashad and Roland Martin) discussing the movie.

Why is it such a big deal that Black People have jobs?

Why is it such a big deal that an actually well made romantic comedy has two black leads in it?

It just infuriates me that Hollywood has pinned us up so far in a box that once we get a great movie with real non stereotypical shuckin and jivin characters were “defying the rules”. Guess what Hollywood, Black people come in all shapes and sizes, different parts of the country, even come from different social economic backgrounds. And guess what sometimes the big black girl wins! You know the chick with a job, a house, and a father that loves her!

I don’t know why I am surprised. As a black female screenwriter, I deal with this all the time. I once received coverage of a script where the reader said my dialogue wasn’t real because the educated lead character went from being professional to using words like “aint” with her friends. Recently, a hollywood producer was afraid to read my pilot about dysfunctional private school parents because he had a project with an African American writer about an African girl in boarding school. Because we're both black woman obviously the ideas have to be similar, right? There are thousands of Leslie Wright's walking this earth who deserve to see their stories. Tyler Perry is not the authority of the Black American experience. Mike Elliot has been doing this a lot longer then he has. So has Sanaa Hamri. There are thousands of Black industry professionals out there that deserve to be heard. And as shocking as it might seem, all of our stories are NOT the same.

The rant is coming from the fact that I enjoyed “Just Wright”. It was a feel good movie about black people that had nothing to do with race. It’s true sometimes we have a day where we don’t discuss how black we are, or how much race affects our every waking moment. Sometimes our race is just that, so deeply rooted in who we are that there isn’t a separation that even needs to be discussed. I’m thankful for “Just Wright” and hopefully this movie begins to open doors for other folks but CNN, as much as I thankful for the publicity, black people with jobs that fall in love is NOT news. As much as the WASHINGTON POST, NIGHTLINE, and all the other media outlets want you to believe the opposite, black people fall in love, get married and stay together, more often then not.

Towards the end Phylicia Rashad looks just as irritated with the conversation as I am. Just like the Queen she is, she brings the discussion to an end with:

" We were being human, we were being ourselves... People, and I mean people all over this planet, are much more alike then we can ever be different"

Maybe the only thing we need to do is stop making the possibility of having universally relatable films with African American leads a conundrum and the rest of the world will follow.

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Friday, May 7, 2010

All We Do is Eat, Fight, F*ck, Dance and Pray

by today's Urban Chameleon contributor Activist formerly Known as Undungu Goldstein

“Ay-yay-yay! Another damn movie about two black people falling in love over a game of basketball!“

I’m driving through Atlanta’s Westside when the billboard catches my eye. I can’t tell you how over “black movies” I am. You would think there are no other stories to tell when it comes to African American movies. I imagine some film exec has in his office a spinning wheel with very few themes listed on it. Let’s see, there’s; drug family, barber or beauty shop, thug with heart of gold, basketball player, baby mama drama, dance crew, comically-tragic criminal, love interest.

He spins the wheel. The needle lands on “dance crew”.

He spins again. This time the needle lands on “thug with a heart of gold”.

His third and final spin is the heart of the plot “baby mama drama”

He smiles. Another box office hit he thinks to himself. The story almost writes itself; a hip-hop dancing thug is torn between his love of dancing and the responsibility and pressures of being a young father. Ultimately he has to decide between selling drugs or going legit as a backup- dancer for a rap superstar. However in a last ditch effort to get out of the “game”, he gets caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time and is shot in his ankle pretty much ending his career as a dancer. In a Rocky-like, triumphant call of courage, he rebounds partially and becomes a choreographer at a local dance studio and reunites with his estranged baby-mama to raise his child.

Immediately the executive’s mind races, wondering which of rap’s current pop icons he can cast in the lead. The film’s soundtrack will be star-studded. The lead actor/rapper will surely record a Top 40 hit that will sell more tickets to the movie than anyone can imagine. Brands and products will flock to throw money at this project, which in many ways will resemble a 1.5-hour commercial.

It shouldn’t be this easy he thinks to himself. But hey, the system works- why f*ck with it.

What ever happened to the griots? I find it hard to believe that they do not exist any longer. These versions of “our stories” are much too generic to be authentic. These same recycled stories of black life are like hearing your uncle Junior tell that same story over and over again every year at the family reunion. You can tell the whole story without even thinking about it. You know the plot from the title. Where are the original stories or at least creative telling of stories about the African American experience? I think of the wonderful novels and writings from African American authors and black writers from through out the Diaspora like Octavia Butler, Edwidge Danticatt, Walter Moseley, Toni Morrison, Richard Wright, August Wilson and countless others and wonder what happened to our stories. Is it the fault of the film industry or the ticket buying audience? After all, if we didn’t buy it- they couldn’t sell it. At what point does the demand redefine the supply. Things that make you go hmmmm.

The film exec leans back in his Herman Miller Aeron chair, puts his Ferragamo shoes on his glass desk. He lights his cigar and smiles. ‘Money in the bank ‘ he thinks to himself, ‘Money in the bank’.

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Dispatch from Moscow

by today’s Urban Chameleon contributor Jelani Cobb

Note: Dr. W. Jelani Cobb is the chair of the History Department at Spelman College. He is a recent Fulbright scholar who has been teaching Black history in Moscow for the past three months. To give you a mental picture of this scene: imagine if Suge Knight was a kind hearted-CNN-Black history-cultural-expert-commentator, walking around Russia looking for a soy chai latte . Can we give Dr. Cobb a round of applause for his Urban Chameleon self.

The day started with me breaking the buckle on my belt as I left for campus, so I was forced to walk around Moscow sagging like a rapper. Then some students escorted me to the subway and I stopped at a newsstand and requested a bottle of "vodka" instead of a bottle of "water" (the words are similar in Russian because "W" is pronounced as "V"). Then after making it onto said subway with one of the students I managed to trip and land squarely in the lap of a Russian Army officer.

But the students loved my talk on slavery and the origins of the civil war so I'm putting this one in the "W" column. Even the other situations had silver linings -- I learned the word for "belt" (pronounced Ree-Mean"), learned that the difference between vodka and water is largely in the accentuation and that Russian military look very dour in those gray uniforms and fur hats but can be very tolerant of uncoordinated Americans.

On the other hand, not everyone on Moscow mass transit is so tolerant. I had a fascinating experience on the trolley. An elderly man looked at me and then began speaking curtly to the student I was with and abruptly turned his back to me for the rest of the ride.

Thinking like an American, I assumed this was something racial but it was something far more subtle and interesting than that. The only word I caught during his tirade was "Americanski." The student (who introduced himself to me as "Andre, like Dr. Dre") later told me that he'd said "At one time Americans knew not to come to Russia and speak so loudly."

Yesterday was "Red Army Day," kind of the Russian equivalent of Veteran's Day. I'm told that crowds, distinctly skewed toward the older set, gather to chant old slogans and praise the "protectors of the motherland" in tones that betray a strong sentimental streak for the old days.

Come off that kind of sugar high onto a crowded rush hour trolley car to see a large American laughing it up with a young Russian who speaks perfect English, is writing a thesis on Lyndon B. Johnson's civil rights policies and carrying a copy of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in his hand and you can see how it might make a man go Kruschev, so to speak.

I suspect he was, in effect, pining for the good old Cold War days when Americans were kept at arm's length, not invited to campus to help shape the minds of Russian youth. It goes beyond simply the stark lines of East and West that were perilous but, ultimately, fairly simply to comprehend. Yuri Rogoulev, a historian at Moscow State who specializes in FDR and the history of the New Deal, told me that people long for the status and sheer geographical size of the world power that they once lived in. But there were also practical considerations. The breakup of the Soviet Union meant the dissolution of more than political bonds. Families were strained as relatives in one place found themselves in a separate country from their siblings, aunts, children. It's as if people in New England one day woke up and found that they needed a passport to get from Connecticut to Massachusetts to visit relatives and depending upon how the two states were getting along they might not be able to enter at all.

Moscow itself is a fascinating blend of those currents. There are staid Soviet era buildings being crowded out by high rises and bathed in pink neon light from the billboard ads for Samsung computers or the latest BMW sports car. (I told Andre that I have a habit of taking photos of advertisements when I'm abroad because it gives me insight into what people think about. He said "Yes," and then pointed to a sign above a medical office and said "We Russians think about gynecology.")

I thought it superficial but the first thing I noticed about Moscow was how incredibly well-dressed people are. I mean, they are, like, New York stylish. (I saw a woman wearing a purple fur coat and managing to make you wish more people knew how to wear a purple fur like she did.) But even that is part of this dynamic of pushing the old ways deeper into the recesses of history. As Yuri pointed out to me "For nearly a century we were forced to dress like proletarians. Now people want to run in the opposite direction."

Interestingly, Andre wouldn't translate the old man's outburst until we got off the trolley (and I do wonder if he told me everything the man said) but I burst out laughing at the thought of me be decried as an agent of western encroachment, globalization and probably espionage for good measure. "Dre" felt a bit of empathy for him, though. "There are really old people who miss those days. It's sad."

As for the lecture, I talked, they took notes; I cracked jokes, they laughed. They asked questions, I answered. A cellphone went off and I was polite but firm about them being on silent during class and they all were eager to talk to me more afterward.

Happy about all of it.

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