Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

‘Greenleaf’ brings family and journalism to the small screen

22 Jun

I was going to watch the OWN Network’s Greenleaf, no matter what, since my nephew Lamman Rucker is a principal character. The fact that Keith David and Lynn Whitfield star in it too and Oprah Winfrey is an executive producer and has a recurring role were attractions.

That writer and producer Craig Wright, whose credits include Lost and Six Feet Under gave the show some cred for me.

After watching the premier last night, though, what is most intriguing in my mind is that the story about a Tennessee megachurch, and an uber wealthy black family, centers around Grace Greenleaf, a disillusioned preacher prodigy, prodigal daughter, and (yay!) a truth-seeking journalist. She seems to be the only one, aside from her Auntie Mavis, played by Winfrey, who is interested in getting to the bottom of her sister Faith’s death. She and Mavis are the only ones willing to confront the open secret that a family member is a sexual predator.

Until Spotlight, the Academy Award-winning  film based on the true story of my former Boston Globe colleagues who uncovered a massive international scandal about child sexual abuse by Catholic priests and the complicity of the Catholic Church, I hadn’t seen a movie or television show that portrayed journalism in a way that rang true.

I’m counting on Oprah, a journalist at her core and a victim of sexual abuse herself to get it right. And in the meantime, I’ll be watching it as a proud auntie too.

Memorial Day reflections

28 May

In his New York Age column in 1934, my father wrote, “President Roosevelt in an address to more than 50,000 persons on Memorial Day, denounced three groups as those capable of retarding the country’s progress.”

He then quoted Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s speech delivered in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on May 30, 1934, titled “The Selfishness of Sectionalism Has No Place in Our National Life.”

 “These groups are those who seek to stir up political animosity or to build political advantage by the distortion of facts; those who, by declining to follow the rules of the game, seek to gain an unfair advantage over those who are willing to live up to the rules of the game; and those few who, because they have never been willing to take an interest in their fellow Americans, dwell inside of their own narrow spheres and still represent the selfishness of sectionalism which has no place in our national life.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt

My father continued: “These groups, optimistically observes the President, ‘grow less in importance with the growth of a clearer understanding of our purpose on the part of an overwhelming majority.’

“Obviously, Negroes might wish they could subscribe to the Chief Executive’s optimism, but existing conditions are hardly conducive to such. With unyielding prejudice of the South not content with its morbid environment but rearing its head in the allegedly democratic North, Negroes fail to observe to an appreciable extent the decline of those whites who represent the ‘selfishness of sectionalism.’” Ebenezer Ray

Ebenezer used FDR’s words as a jumping off point to talk about just why black Americans might be less optimistic than their president. He cited as examples the barring of blacks from the House Restaurant in Washington, DC. and the refusal of Blumstein’s, the largest department store in Harlem in his day, to hire “Negro” clerks, despite the fact that 75 percent of their patronage was from blacks.

This column came up while I was searching my father’s writings for some Memorial Day wisdom.

Things have changed. Many of those who have witnessed an African American family residing in the White House for the past eight years might find it hard to imagine that black folks were once barred from eating in the House of Representatives dining room.

Harlem now has Magic Johnson movie theaters, Starbucks and a Whole Foods, who hire plenty of black folks and other people of color, even as many of those workers are being priced out.  Earlier this week, Michael Henry Adams, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times, titled, “The End of Black Harlem,” in which he examines the gentrification that has rendered this cultural Mecca increasingly unaffordable to those who have made it their home for decades.

Barack Obama, Shinzo Abe

U.S. President Barack Obama, right, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands fter laying wreaths at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, western, Japan, Friday, May 27, 2016. Obama on Friday became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the site of the world’s first atomic bomb attack, bringing global attention both to survivors and to his unfulfilled vision of a world without nuclear weapons. (Kimimasa Mayama/Pool Photo via AP)

But some themes in Roosevelt’s Memorial Day speech, are frighteningly resonant. Far from Americans gaining a “clearer understanding of our purpose,” as the president put it, those who represent “the selfishness of sectionalism” appear to be gaining ground. The presumptive Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency, Donald Trump, epitomizes those who “seek to stir up political animosity or to build advantage by the distortion of facts,” while his supporters “dwell inside of their own narrow spheres.”

Ebenezer likely thought FDR’s speech did not, in today’s parlance, “go hard enough.”  But perhaps the president was trying to appeal to his country’s better nature.

That’s what presidents do.

On Friday, President Barack Obama laid a wreath at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and delivered a speech reflecting on the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 at the end of World War II.

“We stand here in the middle of this city and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell,” Obama said.  “We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see. We listen to a silent cry. We remember all the innocents killed across the arc of that terrible war and the wars that came before and the wars that would follow.”

Obama went on to say: “My own nation’s story began with simple words: All men are created equal and endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Realizing that ideal has never been easy, even within our own borders, even among our own citizens. But staying true to that story is worth the effort. It is an ideal to be strived for, an ideal that extends across continents and across oceans. The irreducible worth of every person, the insistence that every life is precious, the radical and necessary notion that we are part of a single human family –  that is the story that we all must tell.” Barack Obama

We must not surrender our ideals to those who distort facts to gain unfair political advantage or  dwell inside their own spheres.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DNA test results just in

14 May

Just got my DNA  test results from Ancestry.com. No real surprises here, I guess, but interesting, nonetheless. More thoughts to come.

 

Ethnicity estimate

A ‘Confirmation’ that subtlety can make for good TV

30 Apr

I just watched HBO’s Confirmation, which told the story, but mostly the back story, of Clarence Thomas’ appointment and ultimate confirmation as an associate justice to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991. Unlike my reaction to FX’s  The People v. O.J. Simpson, which I found much too painful to endure, I found Confirmation oddly  validating and inspiring, even as it steered clear of taking a hard side. Some reviews have described it as boring, particularly compared with the 10-hour O.J. miniseries. (I’ve only watched one episode.) But I had lived through the salacious version of the confirmation story  –  the real-time television saga of 1991.  I was glad that in the age when reality TV pervades every aspect of our lives, including presidential politics,  a historical drama could be produced without hysteria in every scene. I was happy to see Kerry Washington, whom I’ve loved since I first saw her in Save the Last Dance, show her understated emotional range as Anita Hill, and Wendell Pierce’s controlled and searing portrayal of Thomas under siege. Jeffrey Wright as Charles Ogletree was an added treat.

Back in 1991, I wrote a few columns about the Thomas, Hill and the confirmation process.  Here’s one that imagines a big screen portrayal of the hearings, with a bit of commentary on Hollywood.

Copyright: The Boston Globe, October 1991.

Copyright: The Boston Globe, October 1991.

When Doves Cry

30 Apr

Minutes after the news broke that Prince Rogers Nelson had died, my phone started blowing up. “Prince!” one friend simply wrote. “How are you? I’m so sorry,” wrote another. “Purple Rain. Midnight Show Opening Day! A Good Memory,” wrote another old friend.
I was both comforted, moved and amused by the texts, emails, Facebook posts and phone calls from people who have known me from different stages of my life over several decades. I did love Prince’s musicianship, his artistry, his energy, his sexiness, his introverted nature, his insistence on being himself. I dug out an article published about me in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1986 when I visited my hometown. Over the years, I’d been a bit embarrassed  about my response to the question about my favorite movie. After all, I remember hating Purple Rain the first time I saw it, with its misogyny and horrible acting. But I loved the music and went back to see it several  times, so it was an honest answer.  And in honor of his Purple Majesty, I embrace it.

Copyright: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 9, 1986

Copyright: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 16, 1986

 

The (private) life of Riley

4 Jun FILE - In this May 27, 2015, file photo, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry is joined by his daughter Riley at a news conference after Game 5 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals against the Houston Rockets in Oakland, Calif. Curry has been named The Associated Press 2015 Male Athlete of the Year. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

 

I confess. I am under the spell of Riley, Warrior Princess.

I wait with bated breath for the next time I can get to see her don an invisibility cloak, disappear under a press conference table, then reappear, headband gone, ready for her next conquest.

I, like the rest of the world, watch as she melts the hearts of the most jaded sports reporters who abandon their worries about looming deadlines and just let this pint-sized super hero take them away.

I swoon as I watch her father, Steph Curry, multitask, deftly responding to questions about offensive and defensive strategy on the basketball court, while putting on his daughter’s bracelet and keeping an eye out to make sure she doesn’t run away with the mic or bonk her head.

When the Warrior Princess disappears behind the dark curtain, we escape too, from extrajudicial police killings; from Boko Haram and ISIS; from the widening wealth gap and the evaporation of affordable housing; from super storms and drought. For just a few minutes, we too can be two again.

But that’s just the problem. We, the public, with our cell phones and Twitter accounts and Instagram postings, too often act like toddlers ourselves. We – often led or followed by the mainstream media – have an insatiable hunger for proximity to fame. But then we get bored, forget about boundaries, insist that our hunger be sated, without regard for the toll our constant demands have on those whose lives we covet.

So we wait, until we can snap photos of the Warrior Princess turning into a teenager, rolling her eyes at her dad’s bad jokes or wearing her skirt shorter than we deem appropriate. Soon someone is training a long lens on Riley’s first kiss. We are speculating about what is in that red cup or whether that’s a cigarette in her hand or something else.

And when Steph and her mom, Ayesha, invoke her right to privacy we, like toddlers, pretend not to hear, toss our once favorite toy aside or worse, we bite, or stomp away in a fit of pique and insist that her parents are not playing fair.

I am dazzled by Riley, Warrior Princess, and the image of a free, black girl full of joy and self-confidence. I am inspired by the image of the healthy African American family, a tender, humble superstar athlete, husband and dad. But I think it’s time to let Riley go back to being what she is, a little girl.

Managing the public spotlight is a lot like parenting: You have to set clear boundaries from the get-go, or risk losing your moral authority for a long time to come.

Working out

22 Feb

My mother and father walked everywhere; neither one of them drove a car. My family has its share of dancers, actors and athletes whose bodies are the tools of their trades. Yet on the downside, that same family has been ravaged by the devastating consequences of hypertension and heart disease. At the risk of sounding morbid, we’re all going to die of something. But too many of my relatives’ lives were cut short too early by strokes and heart attacks. So I am literally running with the clock. As I say in this video, I think I’ve found what works for me.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 883 other followers

%d bloggers like this: