Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Remembering Michael

Note: This is an old post, published June 28, 2009 on the sister blog, a few days after Michael Jackson passed away. Although I have linked to it in other posts, I wanted to update/repost it here in celebration of MJ's 60th birthday. Back when this was written, I didn't know how to add photos, so I have added a few. I may revisit his legacy at some point in the future (as several other members of our Musician's Royal Family have now transitioned), but in the meantime, Happy Heavenly Birthday! --ADH

Of course I had to weigh in on this...after I had completed my six stages of grief. RIP Michael!

Twenty five years ago, I came downstairs for breakfast and was met by the grim faces of my parents. “Kids, we have something to tell you,” my mother said as we took our seats around the table. A few moments later while my brothers and I ate our cereal, my father disclosed “Marvin Gaye died yesterday.” And although I am unsure that this is exactly what happened next, my father’s scratchy clock radio began playing a Marvin Gaye medley.

For my parents, news of Marvin Gaye’s death stirred up emotions that I, as a child, could not comprehend. He was a DC native whose rise and fall in the music business had been well-known among his fans, and because I was a faithful Jet magazine reader, I knew that he had been in the mist of a career comeback. However, I had no frame of reference for appreciating his earlier career, so Marvin Gaye was just another old R&B singer. While discussing his death among my friends at school that day, we naively disparaged our parents’ grief. As one friend put it, “It isn’t like he was Michael Jackson.”

Now that Michael Jackson has died, I can only imagine that if I had children, our dinner conversation about his death would have been eerily similar to that breakfast conversation my parents attempted with my brothers and me so many years ago. Although Michael had recently announced that he was embarking on a major comeback, my children probably would have shrugged and kept eating while the endless medley of Michael Jackson songs played on the radio (or the iPod). They would have dismissed the incessant news coverage of an old pop singer as misplaced; it isn’t like he was Miley Cyrus or one of the Jonas Brothers…

Michael Jackson. He is so important that my computer recognizes his name as a complete sentence. Michael Jackson. His success was so enormous that Dick Clark hailed him “Entertainer of the Millennium”, and that moniker is likely to endure unchallenged for the next thousand years. Michael Jackson. His talent and influence were so out of this world that if there is intelligent life anywhere else in the universe, there are aliens millions of light years away still dancing to his music right now (my apologies for the nerdy space-time continuum reference).

That only begins to explain the impact of Michael Jackson the Entertainment Phenomenon; alas, there is also the human tragedy of Michael Jackson the man—Wacko Jacko of Neverland, his alter ego. While Michael Jackson the Entertainer enthralled us, the self-indulgent Wacko Jacko repulsed us with an endless sideshow of bizarre behavior. If I had children, I could never begin to explain that.

In death, Michael Jackson joins Elvis Pressley, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and maybe even Marvin Gaye in that exclusive club of gone-too-soon musical talents. Like much of the world, I am in shock, but I cannot say that I am totally surprised that he died young. Old age is the consolation prize granted to those of us who are lucky enough to be average. Michael Jackson the Phenomenon was nothing less than a musical genius—he was Off the Wall, a Thriller, Bad, Dangerous, and perhaps even Invincible. But genius operates on borrowed time, and Wacko Jacko was ultimately consumed by the demons that possessed him.

Wacko Jacko’s ignoble passing does not absolve any of his inexplicable actions in life, but perhaps the blessing in his death is the immortality it ensures to the persona that touched the world, Michael Jackson the child prodigy, humanitarian, musical trailblazer, and icon. Twenty five years from now, fans will make pilgrimages to the family homestead at 2300 Jackson Street in Gary, Indiana; the Apollo Theatre in New York City; and even to a reclaimed Neverland Museum and Ranch in California. They will gather to celebrate the music that enchanted us, not the sideshow that perplexed us…which perhaps is how it should be.

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Politics of Grief

Social media has made public grief a thing. In the past few weeks there has been a lot of public grieving over the deaths of several famous and well-known people, as well as expressions shared at the deaths of friends and relatives, and even of people we don't know (if there were particularly tragic circumstances involved). Death, as we all know, is inevitable.

Death, as we are beginning to learn, is also very political.

This weekend, we learned that Senator John McCain would discontinue treatment against the aggressive brain cancer, and within 24 hours of that statement, he passed away. People have used social media to express their condolences...and then others have used the opportunity to call the man everything but a child of God. Within the progressive community, there has been a debate about the appropriateness of mourning the death of McCain given his conservative voting record. And then there was the tweet by a certain President who shall remain nameless.

Nine years ago, I posted a status update in tribute to the late Senator Ted Kennedy, who ironically had the same type of brain tumor. It came up in my Facebook memories, so I re-posted it and added a "RIP Senator McCain". Then as I continued to scroll, I noted that a few of my friends had taken issue with these expressions of grief, and a few went so far as to indict the tendency among black people to forgive everybody for everything. But if I thought that was the worst, then I saw a particularly nasty sentiment that was allegedly circulating on college campuses that celebrated McCain's death. Then there were the dinosaur digs--folks that went digging for examples of past social media hypocrisy with respect to the death of Senator Kennedy.

And wow. I don't have anything profound to say about any of this because it is so mind-boggling. How did we get to this point as a society? Whatever happened to saying nothing if there was nothing nice to say about someone?

When former First Lady Barbara Bush died, there was a period of dinosaur digging to dredge up her past statements about Hurricane Katrina victims and other tone deaf things she said in her lifetime. When the Rev. Billy Graham died, the dinosaur bones of his past neutrality on certain political matters resurfaced. I could probably go back through the obituary archives of this year, and invariably, there will be some pissing on the freshly dug graves of other public figures.

No one is safe--even us ordinary people are subject to having our deaths politicized. The victims of any mass shooting become martyrs for gun control/rights. The young woman who was killed in Iowa last week has become a martyr for immigration reform. The deaths of police officers and soldiers have become a third rail issue over patriotism. The opioid crisis has revised the debate over the decriminalization of drug use. Any mention of violence in Chicago evokes political responses. And let's not discuss what can happen if you leave behind some pissed off relatives.

I was raised in the church where there are elaborate rituals associated with honoring the dead. In addition to the formality of funeral etiquette, there are expectations of care for the surviving family members. I have lived long enough to see these ceremonies morph into theatrical productions, but I have also witnessed the other end of the spectrum where there has been little to no fanfare at all. I always felt that at least one constant was the notion of respect--that in our grief or indifference, we show some measure of reverence for the life that was and for the loved ones that mourn.

Since I am not an obituary writer, I am selective about the public figures that get featured on this blog for tribute. There are any number of reasons why I would or would not write about someone, but typically they are not political. I've written about entertainers such as Heavy D, Michael Jackson, and Prince, men whose music and life had an impact on mine. I've written about women who have inspired me, such as Gwen Ifill and Mary Tyler Moore. I did not write about Natalie Cole, which I realized when I sat down to write two Aretha Franklin tributes last week (and got their songs mixed up in my head), but I was not really a Natalie Cole fan. I won't have a formal tribute to Senator McCain because there will be plenty of better-written and more thoughtful remembrances offered by other writers, including what will be spoken at his funeral by former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Therein lies my ultimate point--we don't always have to say something in every situation. The fact is, I have written about John McCain in the past, when he was alive and it was probably critical. I won't be linking to those past posts, but I can acknowledge that my political and personal views were divergent from his. At the same time, I can offer condolences to his widow, his children and grandchildren, (and his 106 year old mother), without tacking on any disclaimers.

Life is complicated and contradictory. All of us are human, which means we are all flawed and mortal. We are judged in life and in death for our actions, but there should be more restraint in how we assess the lives of others in the immediate aftermath of their death. I'm not suggesting that public figures should not be held accountable, nor am I suggesting that death absolves a person from their sins, but the dead person doesn't suffer from the sting of those postmortem critiques--their family does. Imagine the pain of losing a loved one, and then having to see a recitation of their worst moments recounted on social media before you've had a chance to process your grief.

Just say nothing. For all of the drama caused by the President's tweet, I actually think it was better that he didn't issue something longer and disingenuous. We already know that he didn't respect the man, and because this President is incapable of saying anything respectful about anyone, I'm sure that whatever else he could have said would have generated more controversy.

Hold your peace--not forever, but at least until after the funeral. And then let the dead rest.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Aretha, the Great

I have more to say about the passing of Aretha Franklin.

Unlike Whitney Houston, whose career I followed from beginning to end (because I was alive during its entire span), I acquired my appreciation for Aretha. But not from my parents, because I do not have memories of them being great fans of hers (like I do with Stevie Wonder, for example). I came to this love for her on my own as a young law school student back when we were all members of the Columbia House music club. I was going through a discovery period of "classic" artists and bought this:

Because for me at that time, Aretha Franklin music was whatever she had been releasing in the 80s, during her so-called comeback era. I knew that there existed this earlier period of greatness that had designated her as music royalty, so I wanted to acquaint myself to that music, the stuff that got played in the basements on Saturday nights on the oldies radio station.

Of course, I was not disappointed.

Right as the news broke of Franklin's passing, I was looking through a sampling of Madonna music to highlight for her 60th birthday. That search was based on her catalog of videos from that early period of her career in the 80s when she was being called the "Queen of Pop". While there is no denying Madonna's star quality and endurance as an icon in her own right, there is a clear distinction between a music video star and an all-around musician and artist. Aretha is, was, and always shall be...(yes, that song is stuck in my head now) The Queen.

In one of my first published online pieces, I questioned whether music (R&B specifically) had lost its soul. That was in 2001 when the video for Lady Marmalade had been released for the film, Moulin Rouge. It's ironic that I thought of that piece, but it contemplates this exact moment in time--the vacuum created by loss of a great artist in comparison to how greatness is defined by modern tastes. How most popular singers of this current era are better known for record sales and provocative award show performances, but it is uncertain whether any of them will be remembered for their music. How many of these singers will be able to rely on their 40 year old hit records when they are long past the age of being able to dance to the original choreography on stage? How many of us who came of age on hip hop or heavy metal are willing to pay good money to see those old heads perform a cover of someone else's music from a different genre (other than Aerosmith and Run-DMC)? In the future, who will be the recipient of a Kennedy Center tribute that brings the Leader of the Free World to tears?

That is the magnitude of the loss of an artist like Aretha Franklin.

And that's why we can't just give away titles to folks on the basis of record sales and concert bookings. Greatness requires more than good looks and media savvy. Greatness is more than the ability to reinvent one's career as popular music tastes shift. Greatness isn't always long-lived, but it is about the quality of the output. Greatness is a heavy burden that exacts an expensive toll.

Aretha Franklin was crowned the Queen of Soul in a 1964 ceremony contrived by a local Chicago radio deejay before her true greatness was even realized. It is safe to say that by the time she was recording the album that would mark her "comeback", she had put in much of the work that gave that title its value. Work in the form of the eight albums she recorded before she switched record labels in 1966, and then in the form of the tremendous output of 1967 to 1976, which would be known as her golden era. She had been a teenage mother, had two marriages, and had weathered various family tragedies, including the death of her beloved father. She had already been a working artist at Arista by the time Whitney was signed.

This is not a dig at other performers, but simply a recognition that Aretha's talent surpassed all of what we would use to define greatness in music today. That's the reason why there have been serious debates on social media about who should be included in a tribute...

(I had been working on this piece off and on since the weekend, and last night I decided to go to bed. I was feeling blocked and uninspired, so the kid and I tucked in to watch TV. I tuned into the VMAs for maybe a minute, and I wasn't following social media, so I had NO IDEA. And I won't even dignify that nonsense except to suggest that it proves my point.)

Aretha was great.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

All Hail The Queen

Today is one of those days that we know will come, but when it does, our shock and sadness still catches us completely off-guard. I was in the middle of posting a Facebook post about Madonna (whose birthday is today), and had just posted a birthday shout-out to Angela Bassett minutes earlier (also celebrating a birthday today). I walked away from the computer for just a minute while You Tube was playing Madonna videos when the news was announced.

And now I am frozen. I missed an appointment. I need to be doing the dishes, the laundry, preparing for the kid's first day of school, taking a shower...any number of other pressing tasks, but this news and this transition at this moment in time.

I am going to ramble, so please indulge me a bit as I try to find the right combination of words to pay tribute to a woman whose music has been a part of my life since the very beginning. And actually, can I say that without it reading like a cliche? But seriously, are there any other artists like her who have been just that significant?

Obituary writers are prepared for these moments, and I assume that the spontaneous TV tributes that I watched all morning had been planned since the news broke earlier this week that Franklin was "gravely ill" and under hospice care. If I were a more disciplined writer, I would have already had a list of songs and would have written parts of this in advance so that it wouldn't be so random. But I just didn't want to think about what would happen once she made her transition; thus, this is just another example of how I must do everything the hard way.

I will be posting an appreciation later. This piece is an index of the clips I will be posting to the Busy Black Woman Facebook page and on Twitter, in case you miss anything.

Earlier when I was posting my Madonna birthday shout-out, I was stuck on deciding which video to post. I could tell you that is the same dilemma I faced putting this together. Because there isn't just definitive one song. There are too many--too many great ones, too many iconic ones, too many popular ones. So I will begin with what I posted on my personal Facebook page when I first heard the news, the footage of her singing My Country Tis of Thee at Barack Obama's 2009 Inauguration because I've been seeing that all week. Last night before I went to bed, Lawrence O'Donnell ended his program with that clip in tribute to her, and I think it is an excellent starting point for acknowledging her status as a true American icon.

Here is another live performance for the Obamas where she pays tribute to another great American icon, Carole King, at the Kennedy Center Honors. Aretha sings Natural Woman, a song King wrote and that they both recorded, but well...(and yes, I was crying too Mr. President).

As for other songs that Aretha sang better than the original are two: Bridge Over Troubled Water (originally recorded by Simon and Garfunkel) and Say a Little Prayer (originally recorded by Dionne Warwick). And no, their duet on Solid Gold does not change my mind.

And while I can state that Phoebe Snow did an admirable job and Boys II Men did the 90s thing, the theme song to one of my favorite TV shows, A Different World, belonged to Aretha. Ironically, her second husband, Glynn Turman, portrayed Colonel Taylor, whose character was introduced the second season when she sang the theme.

Aretha's only official acting credit was in this 1980 Blues Brothers movie, which I have never seen (but everybody knows that scene). She made another cameo in the second Blues Brothers 2000 movie, also that I never saw, so I'm not posting that clip because there are much better performances to share. 

Music videos were the new big thing in the 1980s, and here is one of her offerings from that era, Freeway of Love. I actually searched for Pink Cadillac (which was sung by the late, great Natalie Cole). Same car tho.

It should be noted that Aretha made a cameo in How Will I Know (at 4:00), another video from the same era by another late, great diva. Somehow I forgot they did a duet It Isn't, It Wasn't, It Ain't Never Gonna Be (not hard to see how we forgot about it though). A few years ago, Aretha paid tribute to Whitney in this live performance.

I was a kid in the 80s and didn't realize that was her comeback decade because this clip here is from one of her many appearances on Soul Train. When this clip reappeared on social media recently, we were all tickled that she was And I had to include this performance of Rock Steady because you realize how big you have to be to have your name replace the Soul Train banner???

You also have to be kind of a big deal to be mentioned in a random ass song that no one remembers the name of (I just typed in "Da Ha Ha Ha, Da Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha"), formerly titled the Rappin' Duke (skip ahead to 3:09).

The 80s were also notable for big collaborations, but Aretha was not featured in any of the notable ones. I guess that comes with the territory of being a diva. She did record this duet with Annie Lennox, which was literally the feminist anthem of the 80s. And speaking of feminist anthems, here is another, A Rose is Still a Rose from the 90s, produced by Lauryn Hill.

This isn't a performance, just a series of appearances Aretha made on Oprah, because Queens have no problem bowing down to each other.

And she had no problem with delivering an outstanding show outside of her designated genre. Remember when she was supposed to perform a duel with Luciano Pavarotti at the Grammy's in 1998? He backed out at the last minute so she sang it solo, and then again for the Pope in 2015.

Of course, she was at home in the church, and like all great church singers, she never forgot those roots. She recorded Amazing Grace in 1972 and performed Precious Lord for Mahalia Jackson's funeral in 1972 (here is the full song). Here is an outtake of her singing He Looked Beyond My Faults.

Her gospel roots are unmistakable in these two great movie soundtrack performances from the 90s: Someday We'll All Be Free and It Hurts Like Hell, neither of which were gospel songs, but I guess nobody told her and I'm not at all mad.

I did not know that the soundtrack to the movie Sparkle was an Aretha Franklin album, but we all know her version of Something He Can Feel, which is the only Aretha song that another group could remake (En Vogue) that actually stands on par with hers. For the record they were a group, and she sings on their version too.

I could not choose one song from the classic era of her hits that earned her the title of Queen, so I chose three (live performances): Chain of Fools, Do Right Woman, and Never Loved a Man (and now I bet you are looking for some brown liquor after hearing these).

And now we come to the iconic Aretha Franklin song, otherwise known as R-E-S-P-E-C-T (written and recorded by Otis Redding first), but as we already know, this is now and forever will be her song. Here is a live performance from 1967 and here is the more familiar original recording.

There are so many other songs that I didn't include, but this is not meant to be an exhaustive retrospective, just my hasty Busy Black tribute to an American icon. Rest well, Queen (and Whitney, go on and give Auntie Ree the next few heavenly solos).

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Wolf Tickets for Sale

Twitter is a great medium...and also the worst. I mean, it is great for learning about breaking news, upcoming events, or the random thoughts of your friends about the random stuff that just happened to them five minutes ago. Black Twitter is indescribably the greatest social media phenomenon since YouTube. Honestly, I learn so much on Twitter on a daily basis that I just don't know how we ever managed. At the same time, Twitter is THE absolute worst. I need only mention one name to prove my point...but I won't because this piece is not about him.

On the spectrum of Twitter's greatness is this remarkable tweet posted by Sherrilyn Ifill, someone I deeply respect and admire. It was both informative and poignant, so I retweeted it and in the days since, I have referenced it several times in other tweets on the same topic. 

On the spectrum of Twitter's shamelessness is the very suggestion (via Twitter) to which Sherrilyn Ifill was responding. It was this offer made by Ben Shapiro to debate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Ben Shapiro is a conservative commentator and writer who made this plea on August 8. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a progressive candidate for congressional office from the Bronx who upset a ten-term incumbent in June. This was her response to a taunt by another twit that she had refused to debate Shapiro. In the following days, much ado was made of Ocasio-Cortez's response on Twitter and on FOX, which ran several news stories online about the "spat". Then the ante was raised by this offer, made by Charlie Kirk, a conservative activist who runs the nonprofit Turning Point USA to support the debate offer made by Candace Owens, his communications director. Ms. Owens, who happens to be a black conservative, has spent the better part of the summer demanding that other black commentators debate her on cable news, but we'll come back to that momentarily.

(Yes, I found every tweet. And here is mine in response to Ifill's brilliant analogy.)

I really don't need to restate Ifill's point, but I think it should be noted that of all the progressive candidates on the ballot across the country, the spotlight that has been shined on Ocasio-Cortez is undoubtedly the brightest. And that makes her a target for all kinds of analysis and criticism, such as this perspective, this critique, but also this radical idea that she might represent the future. She could probably use better advisors than the Bernie Sanders folks, but that isn't for me or anyone else to say. I don't live in the Bronx, so I won't be voting for her.

And it doesn't really matter to me which candidates she chooses to endorse in other primaries because none of those voters will be voting for her either. In my best effort at nonpartisan analysis of her candidacy, I am just excited by the prospect that a young Latinx has toppled the establishment and is part of a wave of women who are seeking public office. This Busy Black Woman has no opinion on her politics (to express at this time).

However, I am offended that she is being singled out to "defend" herself by someone who isn't her constituent, isn't currently a candidate for office, and who feels entitled to this request by virtue of the fact that he offered her money as an enticement. Then to Ifill's point, the incentive offer of more money to debate a black woman is exploitative, exhibitionist, and sexist. Who do these people think they are?

To my knowledge, similar demands have not been made of Bernie Sanders, who is the face of Democratic Socialism. But I already know what this is about, so let's pivot back to Candace Owens.

Sis, we see you. And look, I am not going to knock your hustle because I know how the game is played, and you are definitely playing to win. You see the absence of credible black voices on the right, especially with respect to black women (because Stacey Dash does not count), and you need legitimacy. I suspect you are frustrated that some bartender from the Bronx is getting all of this attention for crazy ideas that you think aren't going anywhere, so you feel it is your patriotic duty to take her down.

But this is not an after-school playground fight circle.

You didn't offer money to debate Stacy Abrams, Ben Jealous, or any other high-profile progressive candidates of color, so what you and your editor are promoting is a live-action version of GLOW. You've put up a couple of videos on YouTube and Instagram (I watched one and I am reclaiming my time), got a Twitter high-five from #45, but somehow because you have been on cable news a few times, you believe that you deserve to challenge Ocasio-Cortez to a debate? At least Ben Shapiro invited her on his show, which is cute since he lives in California and isn't running for office either.

I would say bless your heart, but Michael Eric Dyson already did that, and my goal is not to insult you because I don't have a Busy Black opinion about your politics (to express at this time...). I just want to caution you against flying too close to the sun and I would offer the same advice to Ocasio-Cortez. And if you haven't done so already, take some time to read Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man to understand what Sherrilyn Ifill meant by her tweet. Play the game, but don't play yourself.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Trust My Instincts

I have been a mother for three years, four months, and a few days. I carried this child to full term, within a day of the predicted due date, and I was aware from the very beginning that she was going to be unpredictable. Beginning with her insistence not to appear on the sonogram, I learned right away that this child has her own mind. My job is to try to stay at least a step and a half ahead of her.

So when I say something about this child, I KNOW what I mean and I mean what I say. When I said that she would grow and thrive on breastfeeding, note that she is the tallest three year old anyone has ever seen. When I offer instructions on how her hair is to be washed, it is based on a specific routine that I have developed (in consultation with my stylist). When I say that I will take care of a cleaning task made necessary by something she has done or left behind, it is because I intend to actually wash/disinfect/sterilize the situation, and not just make do with whatever hastiness can render it out of sight and out of mind for the moment. When I say that she is fully capable of doing a particular task, there is no need for second-guessing because I have probably seen her do it, or I have enough sense to recognize her abilities. When I roll my eyes during one of her performances for your benefit, believe me, she is ready for her closeup Mr. DeMille. When I tell you that she is probably some kind of genius savant, YOU NEED TO BELIEVE ME.

Don't simply trust me because I am a mother and mothers tend to be right about these things. Trust me because I am her mother.

The Hub and I have been locked in a War of Wills for these past three years, four months, and several days because he still refuses to accept that I am right most of the time. This will be his undoing; he won't believe me until she is a sassy thirteen year old giving him the attitude of a sixteen year old who thinks that she is a smart and street savvy eighteen year old. And God willing, I plan to sit there to bear witness to this showdown with a full box of wine.

Because I saw this movie back when I was the star. Not that this is a repeat of my childhood, but let's just say it is a remake--a new Ghostbusters with women.

As I write this, we find ourselves in a this-child-needs-to-be-potty-trained-in-two-weeks panic mode because she starts school at the end of the month. And she is going because I say so. I am ready for her to go and she is ready to go and she's eligible to go and that's all there is to say about it. The fact that she refuses to tell us when she has to go potty is irrelevant. The fact that she has pooped through an entire pack of panties and a couple pairs of leggings that her day camp threw away is irrelevant. The fact that she has watched that Sesame Street Elmo's Potty Time video over and over and can sing the Daniel Tiger When You Have To Go Potty song and can sing both of the potty songs that I made up for her and STILL DOES NOT USE THE TOILET is irrelevant.

So yes, I am blown because when I began the process last year, somebody was concerned that it was too soon. Somebody got really upset that she broke out in a rash, and insisted that we abandon the effort. Somebody got flustered and decided that it would be easier to let her wear pull-ups. Somebody gave up on the potty watch because the battery died within three days. Somebody expected me to read a book about potty training, when I have barely been able to finish a magazine these last three years, let alone a novel. Somebody assumed that the expensive day camp would handle the bulk of the potty training, so this should already be done.

Yes my friends, the person who made all of those tactical missteps is me. I should have trusted my instincts. At every crucial juncture where there has been an important developmental milestone to be met, I have faced the mountain and climbed, and this is no different. So I went to Target and bought three bulk packs of panties, a mattress cover, some disinfectant wipes, a gallon of bleach, disposable pee pads, two boxes of stickers, and later I will head to the Costco for more supplies.

Alright Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my closeup.

Salty Pretzels: Omarosa

Y'all...I've been holding this in for a while. But the timing of this rant is more about introducing a new feature for the blog that expresses my utter disgust with something or someone than it is about dragging the specific person named in the title.

I sent three salty pretzel emojis to a friend last month when it seemed that she and everybody else I knew was enjoying ESSENCE Fest in New Orleans or the AKA Boule in Houston while I was here in DC. Of course it wasn't everybody, but it just seemed that way from the Facebook and Instagram pics. In June it was watching how my sorors were enjoying the the DST Regional Conferences (even though I have been inactive for the past year), and in May it was a slight jealousy of my Spelman sisters who were at Reunion (even though it wasn't my year). All summer I have been just a tad salty while friends were on vacation and attending festivals and having girls' nights out and going to day parties.

This new label won't be tied to a specific day, so it will just be a feature that emerges from time to time whenever something annoys me and I am in the mood to opine about it. I was trying to settle on the right analogy, so I thought through and rejected several other options. I thought that it would be better to reserve salty tears as a description for someone else's behavior. Nobody but grandparents and nursery school kids eat saltine crackers. And too many folks have peanut allergies these days (even though the tune Salt Peanuts is very catchy). So I settled on salty pretzels since unsalted pretzels are supposed to be a healthy snack food option, and the point is to be intentionally and unabashedly snarky.

I made a personal peace treaty with the idea of not dissing Omarosa because of a chance encounter I had with her at a funeral recently. I had been standing in the vestibule of the church, talking with a few friends, and somehow I ended up holding the door open for her to enter the building. It took me half a second to process and move on from that moment, and honestly because we were at a funeral, the last thing I was interested in doing was gawking at anyone. Later, there was an acknowledgment among my friends that she was there, but again, we all quickly moved on to sharing our collective grief. In that spirit, I had decided that I would not take gratuitous or unnecessary shots at her in the foreseeable future (anymore).

When news of her book and its release began to gather steam, I tried to stay true to that personal pledge. I might have tweeted out a snarky request for one person to buy and read the book to report back if there were any the noteworthy anecdotes. Then maybe I might have posted another tweet that referred to her bombshell revelations of #45s racism as being a bunch of old sad crumpled receipts. And then there was this ELLE interview, which preceded this TODAY Show interview (and I posted both to the Facebook page) and well, now I'm sitting here gorging on a family size bag of salty ranch-flavored pretzels.

ANYBODY can write a damn book apparently. Even if everybody knows this book is revenge porn and this publicity tour is just another excuse for her to glam up for the cameras. I cannot be the only person who is annoyed that this chick is the absolute worst, yet she keeps getting attention! For the love of all that is holy and decent, why does her mediocrity warrant such fascination? Why are so many decent people that I know and respect acquaintances of hers, let alone friends? When does she just go away?

My saltiness is not jealousy--it is my utter vexation that this woman has become one of the most prominent and visual representations of black women in the media. In some respects, this is a respectability rant, but in others it is pure frustration that of all the black women who deserve a platform, Omarosa can simply make an outrageous statement or allegation and that is all it takes. She is the second coming of Paris Hilton, tabloid catnip, this stupid earworm song that I cannot get my kid to stop singing. I would compare her to a Kardashian, but at least Kim accomplished one useful thing this year.

Ugh. There, I said it! WOOSAH.