Saturday, June 12, 2010

Amateur Night at the Apollo

One of my favorite shows to watch as a kid growing up in Houston was "Showtime at the Apollo". For a long time in modern pop culture, it was THE place to go not only for Black entertainers but any entertainer that wanted to make it in the "biz". If they could hold their own at the Apollo, they could make it anywhere. The audience was legendary for it's brutal honesty. Many well-known entertainers have cut their teeth on the Apollo stage. Many of them had performances they would like to forget while others found favor with the crowd and with it, stardom. "Amateur Night at the Apollo" was for many entertainers the starting point of their careers...and for many more it signaled the end of their dreams. For those unfortunate acts, the crowd would hoop and holler until the famous "Sandman" Sims would come out with his hook and entertaingly usher them off of the stage. "Sandman" always played it up for the crowd. I likened him to a rodeo clown - part performance art, part diversion, part compassionate intermediary. When you saw him, you knew your time was up.

I wish he were still alive. We have some "acts" that need to be pulled from the stage so-to-speak.

The "act" I'd like to focus on for the time being is the NAACP. Yes, THAT NAACP. You may ask why I think such. Look no further than this latest story courtesy of Fox News. The Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP has created a furor over a Hallmark card that's been out for THREE years because some organization members have complained that the card uses derogatory language against Black women. For those not familiar with this story, the card features Hoops and YoYo, two very famous cartoonish characters that have an entire line of cards within the Hallmark brand. This particular card is for student graduates. The characters are putting the universe on notice that graduates are coming to take it over. The particular phrase that has caused an uproar is, "And you black holes, you are so ominous. Watch your back."

Like any upstanding, PC-conscious public company, Hallmark has pulled the card from stores as a result of the backlash. It's disappointing to me that Hallmark didn't stand their ground on this. I don't believe myself to be a marketing guru but I doubt the powers that be at Hallmark wanted to use a Hoops & YoYo card to slander a segment of the population from whom they seek business. Maybe I'm giving them too much credit, but I think they're smart enough to realize that only select Black male hip-hop artists have been given permission to slander and denigrate Black women to be merely sexual objects with which to toy and have their way.

But I digress! My beef, for the moment, is with the NAACP and with those members that decided to make this an issue to begin with. Correct me if I'm wrong but last time I checked there were bigger, legitimate issues to tackle like the disproportionately high rates of teenage pregnancy, divorce, violent crime, incarceration, single-parent homes and unemployment among those in the Black population. And I haven't even BEGUN to talk to the mostly ignored eradication of generations of Blacks due to pro-abortion organizations like Planned Parenthood targeting predominantly Black neighborhoods as places to set up shop.

The obvious inference from the NAACP's foolish act is that the Black community is in good shape - there's really no need for their organization any longer because the "dream" has been realized. We have a Black president after all, we have Oprah and Black culture's influence permeates pop culture here in the US and throughout the world. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. There are BIG problems the Black community faces, mostly of our own doing (or not doing), that can be solved only if we choose to make the kinds of choices that give us the future we desire - the kind of future our Creator had in mind for us before we were breathed into being.

For the Black community, there are still very tall mountains to climb and strongholds to break through. If the NAACP chooses to raise hell over insignificant trash like this, then I have a message for them. The message is simple - step aside. There is much work to be done, too much change to be made to allow an organization like the NAACP to continue to hold the sway and influence they have over the Black community. The hard, necessary work of a society is done by its common citizens - and it is up to them and only them to do that work. No one can do it for them - not an organization, not a political party, not even a President.

The time has come to put our tap shoes on and show the NAACP off of the stage. Amateur Night is over. It's our duty to show them the way out and get to work.

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