Aretha: A Mini-Multi-Ethnic History Lesson

by Leslye Joy Allen

Copyright © Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved

Aretha is/was international and global and pro-Black and pro-people of color long before those phrases became buzz words. But you already know Aretha. She’s part of the soundtrack of my/your life. If you were paying attention, you know about her activism, her once offering to pay Angela Davis’ bail; and the hurt in her voice at Martin Luther King, Jr.’s funeral.  My Dad was there. When he got home he said, “This is the only time I’ve ever heard Aretha sound so destroyed.”  But let’s consider the setting at Atlantic Records that nurtured her after her dad, the Reverend C. L. Franklin decided that Aretha’s voice was as secular as it was sacred; that her piano-playing was as inventive as anyone out there. I always, always wanted Aretha to make an instrumental album of nothing but her on piano, but I digress…

Ahmet Ertegün, our brother from Turkey, along with Jerry Wexler, founded Atlantic Records with the mission to produce some of the best Rhythm and Blues and Soul music ever. They succeeded. Not long after they made Ray Charles a household name, they signed Aretha Franklin, who reigned as Queen on a record label that had no shortage of music luminaries: Big Joe Turner, Ruth Brown, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, The Drifters, The Spinners, The Pointer Sisters, The Modern Jazz Quartet, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, Donny Hathaway, Roberta Flack, The Bee Gees, and the list goes on.  The early days for Aretha consisted of recording sessions with musicians, the majority of whom were young white men from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, a tiny town that still does not have 15,000 residents. The Black brothers in the band grew up with Rhythm and Blues, but these white musicians took a turn toward the Blues and Soul Music and never, ever looked back. These cats backing Aretha produced some of the most poignant, memorable, timeless, and soulful music in the twentieth century.

Beginning in the early 1960s, Arif Mardin served as Aretha’s principle producer for over two decades at Atlantic Records. Mardin, another musical genius from Istanbul, Turkey impressed the hell out of Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones, so much so that after meeting these two Black American musical giants in 1956 after a State Department-sponsored concert, he became the first recipient of the Quincy Jones Scholarship at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. After Mardin graduated in 1961, he went to work for Atlantic Records. Aretha acknowledged him as the positive turning point in her career.  Together they churned out the hits all of us already know.  He produced that incredible gospel album “Amazing Grace” that everybody still talks about, and still plays.

So what is my point?  Well, the whole concept of globalization has always existed in music and the arts; and it, for damned sure existed with Aretha; and for people of color.  That multi-ethnic colored world that some white folks fear, the one that seems to be suddenly upon us has always been here.  You’ve been grooving to it, remember?  But know this: I don’t just know my people when I see them; I know them when and where I hear them. Marinate on that for a while. Rest in Paradise Queen of Soul, Aretha Louise Franklin.

Copyright © Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.

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Before He Ever Got to the White House

Copyright © by Leslye Joy Allen 

A few people just asked me what I remembered about our current president before anyone ever dreamed about his occupying the White House.  Here goes.

First things first. Back in 1993, I watched “The Donald” try to block a Native American Nation from operating a casino in the Catskills because “they didn’t all look like Indians.” He then spent well over a million dollars in attack ads to try to prevent them from running a casino. I wrote a word about this a few years ago.

Second (feel free to click this hyperlink): He spewed the vitriol and helped the criminal justice system railroad the Central Park Five (Thank Goddess that filmmaker Ava DuVernay is bringing these young men’s tragic story to a series for Netflix; and thank God they’re here to witness it.) The Central Park Five were five Black and Afro-Latin young men falsely accused of rape and sentenced to prison. Yusef Saalam was 15-years-old when Trump asked for his execution for a crime he did not commit. These five young men were between the ages of 14 and 16 years old. They were beaten by police into pleading “Guilty” to a crime they did not commit. Nevertheless, they spent between 5 to 13 years behind bars.

Third. He spent three years barking about how Barack Obama was not an American citizen, even though Obama was born in Hawaii.  All of this was done to try to make people believe that the first African-American President of the United States was not legitimate because he allegedly wasn’t an American citizen.

Fourth. This is from me, alone. I don’t need someone to call me “Nigger” to prove they are racist.  Most of the racists I know have grinned in my face. All of those chicken-eating, glory-seeking, money-grubbing Black preachers that met with Trump, along with Omarosa Manigault and her sudden discovery that she was working for a racist; and all the rest of the members of the Coon Show are not necessary for me for proof of the racism, misogyny, and xenophobia coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  I’m not surprised he can divide immigrant families at the border, imprison children or ignore a storm-damaged Puerto Rico like the island and its people are the bastards at his family picnic.  Anyone who didn’t know the above three facts either had their heads buried in the sand or were too busy figuring out how to get their cut of money from the spawn of Satan himself.  I don’t have a short memory.  And I also prescribe to the Book of Malcolm X who said that you do not call any man (or woman, for that matter) your brother or sister until they demonstrate that that is exactly what they are. Peace.

Copyright © by Leslye Joy Allen

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.

A Message for Democrats

by Leslye Joy Allen

About a year ago, I was interviewed by veteran broadcast journalist Maynard Eaton. One of the things I told him was that “No one ever asks educators anything.”  The recent election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old Latina who unseated a veteran Congressman for New York’s 14th District DID NOT COME AS A COMPLETE SURPRISE TO ME.  Ocasio-Cortez is a newly elected Democratic Socialist and her opponent Joe Crowley, a 20-plus year veteran Congressman, out spent her campaign by a margin of 18 to 1.  Go figure. Well, here are about five of my own observations that I think Democrats need to pay attention to:

First things first.  Women are a big trend this year.  We, women are sick and tired of being talked down to, ignored, condescended to, assaulted, raped, murdered, denied equal pay, you name it. The current administration’s open hostility to women has made it abundantly clear that more women should be and are running for office and winning.  Men might start thinking about the fact that women are the majority.  Now, many women will vote against their own interests to keep the peace in their households or to hold onto a deeply flawed belief that the needs of their particular ethnic or racial group outweigh the real problems and needs of women. A lot of young women no longer have the capacity to be that self-sacrificing; and that’s a good thing. Self-sacrificing for others has never gotten women much reward, only fatigue, frustration, and maybe a few extra flowers on Mother’s Day.

Second, women (and a few men I know) are now tired of the “Pissing Contests” far too many male candidates and political pundits make of the Democratic process. I personally find that “male competitive streak” a complete turn off.  Very little productive work gets done when a group of men are trying to out talk, out preach, out pontificate, out work each other in their quest for some top position or for some form of dominance.  This kind of competition can destroy a perfectly good social movement when hyper-masculine egos worry more about what will happen to and for themselves as individuals. Many women have adapted this masculine paradigm, but it rarely works for them.  Women work best when they celebrate those things that are uniquely female and then fight against anything and anyone who works against women’s interests. I never forget that most of the so-called “established” Black male leadership and their attendant pontificators such as Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, John Lewis, along with pundits like Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Stanley Crouch, Cornell West, and Tavis Smiley, all went out of their way to hyper-critique Barack Obama when he sought the Democratic nomination for president in 2008.  NONE of these men were Obama supporters until it became apparent that Obama would win the nomination. They were wrong over eight years ago, so I don’t trust their political instincts and I don’t like their pettiness.  Women of all races and ethnicities were Obama supporters long before a lot of men decided to join his campaign.  Right now, younger women (and by young, I mean any woman born after the Baby Boom) are successfully collaborating with each other on everything from television production to political campaigns.  All Democrats might want to take a play out of the Feminine Playbook of female teamwork if you want to get elected.

Third, the Democratic Party is still currently dominated by aging men and women that young candidates and young voters see as part of a corrupt system.  Some of these Democratic politicians are now in their late sixties or well into their seventies and they haven’t had a new idea in two decades.  However, Bernie Sanders was an older white man that reached young America, the Millennials. Young Democratic Millennial America wanted Sanders as their Democratic candidate.  My own “play niece” CeAvani who graduated Maynard Jackson High School here in Atlanta in 2017 told me that ALL of the students at her high school were “Feeling the Bern.” Democrats, hell bent on focusing on Hillary Clinton, never bothered to find out what portion of Sanders’ message and platform resonated so well with young voters and those who would soon be registered voters.

Fourth, every teacher, college instructor, and college professor you know could have told you that there were Bernie Sanders loyalists sitting in their classrooms.  One of my former students told me point blank that there were elements of Socialism in Sanders’ message.  There’s that terrifying word: Socialism.   Yet, she said, that is exactly what drew her to him. Now, none of these young people are talking about Cold War Era Soviet-style Socialism where the government owns and controls everything. Yet, they do think certain protections (like having healthcare and not drowning in Student Loan Debt) ought to be things that they shouldn’t have to constantly worry about. It is no accident that newly elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is defined as a Democratic Socialist.  I met and meet young Democratic Socialists with a variety of ideas almost every day. Yet, you can’t find any career Democratic politicians willing to examine this particular pulse in the youngest voting population in this country.  (And here’s another sidebar to remember: It wasn’t Democratic or Republican members of Congress that put the National Rifle Association on notice; it was a group of high school students, led by 18-year-old Emma González, who formed the March For Our Lives Movement because they are weary of seeing their classmates shot to death because some crazy guy could easily purchase an assault rifle. They are currently going around the country registering people to vote.)

Finally, young people, and young women in particular, are about to reshape American politics in ways no Democrat over the age of 50 has ever seen. These young people do not engage in Twitter wars of words (a waste of time, if there ever was one).  They don’t respond to or post every ridiculous comment our current president says.  They are back on the streets.  They are knocking on doors. They are going to places of business and schools and talking to people face-to-face instead of doing what lazy ass politicians do: namely, annoying everybody with robocalls. They are doing things not always covered by the news media. They have also discovered and perfected methods of campaigning where they don’t need as much money to get elected as the long term Congress People they intend to replace; and not a single current member of Congress can tell you how these young people are accomplishing any of this.  So Democrats, if you want to regain some political momentum, you need to stop acting like young people have nothing to tell you. They do.  You also need to stop thinking that the only way you should leave public office is in a coffin or an urn.  For God’s sake, please retire with some grace; and remember our young people are not supposed to think just like you and I.  If you care anything at all about them and about our future, you might consider that they are the future. They will outlive and out last us all.  They will turn the tide.

Copyright © by Leslye Joy Allen.

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.

 

A Good Day In Court

by Leslye Joy Allen

Recently I went to court on a routine traffic offense.  Last year, I pleaded “Not Guilty” to this offense and requested a trial.  There is/was no way in hell I was going to roll over for some cop sitting near a corner on a street where the Stop Sign was and remains completely obscured by an oak tree.  Well, after the City of Atlanta finally transferred my ticket to Fulton County Courts—for those of you who don’t know, most of our city is located in Fulton County, Georgia—I arrived on time and anticipated having a long stay.  Well, something different happened.  The Solicitor General of Fulton County, Keith E. Gammage walked in the courtroom.

Gammage told all of us that we were the first group to participate in a brand new program.  This was its first day.  He noted that many of our tickets could possibly be dismissed, and that the Solicitor General’s Office wanted to prosecute real criminals rather than tie up its time with cases involving minor offenses like “failing to yield.” Then the next thing he said floored me.  All offenses for everyone’s minor traffic violations would be reduced to a fine of $75 dollars rather than the $250 to $450 plus dollars that most of us expected to pay if found guilty. My fine, had I been required to pay it, would have been $265.  Gammage stood there and answered everyone’s questions about what plea they should enter to what did they have to do if they couldn’t pay that $75 on their day in court.  Everyone with this $75 fine would have a full 30 days to pay it.

While seated in court and waiting for my name to be called, I made small talk with a Spelman College alum who was also a teacher.  I told her about my dissertation research; and when I discovered that she was a Kindergarten teacher, the conversation shifted to my late Mama (also a kindergarten teacher) and we laughed about some of the crazy things that five-year-olds can do and say.  I mentioned to her that I voted for Keith E. Gammage for Solicitor General after attending a conference devoted to the late Sandra Bland, who tragically died in jail for failing to put her blinker on.  Bland was ordered out of her car by a cop that resented her asking him why she had to put her cigarette out.  My brilliant performance artist-writer-educator-poet-actor-activist-sister/daughter Talitha Anyabwelé organized a “Sandy’s Day” program in her honor.  A young Black woman on Anyabwelé’s panel of speakers named Anana Harris Parris brought up Keith E. Gammage’s name as someone who wanted to help straighten out our criminal justice system.  This same young woman, who worked for a law firm, recalled in vivid and horrid detail how she had been stopped by police one night right in front of her parents’ home when she was a college student. Ms. Anana Harris Parris was physically searched and had her breasts groped by a male police officer right in front of her home.  So when Anana Harris Parris brought up the name Keith E. Gammage as a young Black man trying to do the right thing, I remembered his name…So

as I sat in court, Mr. Gammage looked in my direction, walked over to me and said, “Didn’t I meet you before?”  I honestly don’t know why or how he remembered me.  I told him we did meet over a year ago at a coffee shop in our neighborhood when he was out campaigning to become the new Solicitor General of Fulton County.  We exchanged pleasantries and he handed me his business card.  He resumed wallking around the courtroom.  I turned back to talk with my Spelman sister and told her that I thought he was an impressive young Black brother trying to do the right thing.  She confessed that she was worried about being in court all day.  I totally understood her point of view. When you plead “not guilty” or don’t just pay the fine, the City of Atlanta and Fulton County drags the process out.  Just as she was beginning to worry about having to go out to put money in the parking meter, Keith E. Gammage pulled her aside to speak with her.  When she came back to where I was seated she said that he found out she was a school teacher and since her offense was so minor it was dismissed.  “After all,” he said, “Your money is best spent on the things you need to teach our kids.”  Everyone in that courtroom had only $75 to pay (well below the $250 to $450+ original fines) within 30 days or no fine to pay at all; and for a change being an educator was treated with the respect that it deserves.  Remember the name of Keith E. Gammage because this court date/my court date was one of the very few times it was pleasant.

Copyright © by Leslye Joy Allen.

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.

Woman Boycott

Rosa Parks Being Fingerprinted 1955

by Leslye Joy Allen

What if every male member of clergy in this nation arrived at his church on a Sunday or Saturday morning and not a single woman or girl was seated in the pews, or in the choir loft.  Let’s say there were no women who ushered, and importantly no women putting money in his collection plate. And let’s say that every woman church goer decided to hold her own prayer meetings at a home or some other large venue with all of the other women that had stopped attending and working for these churches.

Now, let’s pretend that all of these women did this for over a year, just like the overwhelmingly Black female majority of bus riders did in Montgomery, Alabama during the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-1956, the one sparked by Rosa Parks.  And what if women stopped worrying about whether they fell out of favor with their pastors, even if many of their pastors were good men? What if they set up their own soup kitchens and their own counseling centers and homeless shelters and never asked Reverend So-and-So for his opinion, his input or his permission?

If women did all of the above in response to the weak and pathetic way too many male ministers have responded to the problem of women’s and children’s sexual abuse and harassment, I bet a lot of male ministers would rethink being apathetic or silent about this issue. I bet a lot of male ministers would rethink ignoring or condoning this kind of behavior.  I bet a lot of male ministers would also do this out of the fear that without his female church members, he might end up at the unemployment office or in the soup line.  Just a thought. Àṣẹ!

 

I’m still not blogging as much for a while…So, you are welcome to read my older blogs until I return later (trust, there is some good stuff in my archives at my blog)…I have to get my dissertation finished, and blogging and responding to every little detail is not on the agenda…In the meantime, stay focused, and stay woke, and for God’s sake don’t fall for the easy answers because the news media is full of “easy answers.”  Do your research.  Think for yourself.  Peace and Blessings. I will see you when I see you.  — Leslye Joy Allen

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.