Black In The Day: Always Extra, Always On Point

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Welcome to Black In The Day, your bi-weekly serving of yesteryear’s magical, inimitable and unforgettable Blackety Blackness courtesy of Alex Hardy.

As creators of culture and keepers of “The Cool,” our well of greatness is infinite and our brilliance knows no bounds. Let’s keep it funky: even when we’re not physically present, we (and the shadow cast by our inescapable influence) are there. So since the Black Excellence Express shows no signs of slowing down and because there’s a whole generation of babies out here who don’t know about Amanda Lewis or Rolonda Watts, here are a few gems from our ever-expanding catalog of greatness to remind you that french fries do not influence potatoes.

Let’s start the party with uncle Stevie Wonder performing “Perfect Angel,” the song he wrote for madame Minnie Riperton (who had recently passed away from breast cancer) on Soul Train. Stevie’s scaled down version of the two-step-friendly groove from Madame Riperton’s 1974 album of the same name takes on a solemn yet soulful feel, as he was still visibly grieving his late friend. Dampened mood or not, any time is the right time to enjoy that timeless, boundless voice.

My homie Thurston and I were briefly obsessed with the short-lived PBS pubescent whodunit Ghostwriter, which followed a handful of crime-solving rainbow coalition of Brooklyn chirren as they fought injustice and thwarted evil-doers (and heinous middle schoolers) with the help of a ghost. For three seasons, from 1992 to 1995, back in the age of Aaron Hall and Whitley Gilbert when things were phat and slammin’, Thurston and I tuned in weekly to solve these mysteries right along with the show’s meddling-ass cast. Sure, Lenny sang. Alex and Gaby had their sibling banter. And Tina’s superpower was being as forgettable as 1001 Flo-Rida deep album cuts. But no reflection on the series would be complete without a mention of the show’s chocolatey MVP, brother Jamal, the first person to crack open a book and set the homie Ghostwriter free. He was the show’s glue. He, like Sir Martin of Payne, put up with everybody freeloading at his house and graciously dealt with that damn nosey ass cousin Casey and her practical jokes and her getting peanut butter everywhere. AND, Samuel L. Jackson was his pappy. Somebody give that man a damn award.

Roasts are a joy to watch. Hilarious and horrendous comics and randoms assemble to hurl loving insults at the guest of honor, dragging them through the mud and spilling tea amid raucous laughter. Then, the guest of honor returns the favor with darts of their own. It’s like a dysfunctional family’s Thanksgiving dinner, but on primetime. Now imagine Paul Mooney, Robin Williams, Marsha Warfield (from Night Court), and Sandra Bernhard all roasting the hell out of Richard Pryor, the Czar of Comedic Self-Deprecation. Well, it happened in 1977 and the affair was just as wild as I’d expect from anything involving both Pryor and Mooney. It was a sight to behold, especially because it was refreshing to see John Witherspoon as something other than the freaky, vulgar uncle/daddy he’s been playing on screen for most of my life. And, I have never seen Paul Mooney with hair.

The Emerald City Sequence from The Wiz has been known to reunite families, add luster to the dryest of Naturals and end paternity battles. It is magical. Any chocolatey wonder worth their weight in shea butter should be familiar with this dazzling display of rhythmic Black Excellence from 1978’s Negro-flavored adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. The legendary big screen Blackstravaganza also marks the start of a fruitful creative marriage between Michael Jackson, who stars as The Scarecrow and Quincy Jones, who rubbed his musical mojo all over the film’s score. Here is your soundtrack for the next time the the spirit moves you to put on your livest skort set, splurge on those platinum-coated fingerwaves and sliiiiide into your finest jelly heels and juke Blackfully and luxuriously with your favorite cat daddy or sugamama. You’re welcome.

Watch Emerald City Sequence – Green, Red, Gold in Music  |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

Though filmed in 1994, this scene from The Color of Fear on what it means to be “American” still rings true today in the Age of Obama. The documentary series assembles eight men from various social, cultural and sexual backgrounds to discuss race relations in the United States. In the clip, diversity trainer Victor Lewis breaks down all the passive aggression and cultural abandonment and minimizing rAequired for peaceful, integrated colorblind cohabitation. He also masterfully plows through the dehumanizing and draining resistance, silencing, and deflection that minorities face when addressing race (or simply living) with other “Americans.” Contrast Lewis’ commentary with that of castmember David Christensen, chosen for his unintentional bigotry, who would much prefer we all simply called ourselves “American.”

When aligning stars, egos and schedules allow Patti LaBelle, Dionne Warwick and Gladys Knight to do what they do onstage together, you can bet your favorite Tamagochi that there will be howling, passionate flailing and Olympic-level dramatics. And the day these three soul sisters convened on Oprah’s stage for a lively performance of “Superwoman,” originally sung by Karyn White, they did not disappoint. I love everything about this. It started out innocently enough, with the three ladies standing around lamenting unappreciative, unaffectionate menfolk through song. And then aunt Patti, dressed as a matronly majorette, upped the ante towards the end and made sure y’all remembered who she was. Gladys, the sassy deaconess, won me over by giving me all that shoulder drama, working the hell out of those fringes. And Dionne, well, although she missed the group shopping trip, she still served you jazzy substitute teacher realness and held her own. Viva los shoulderpads.

Speaking of collective greatness, this dance performance of Angie Stone’s “Wish I Didn’t Miss You” is sure to brighten your day. Choreographed by Tessandra Chavez as part of Unity LA’s showcase, “Traffic,” the piece was brought to life by Martha Nichols, Britt Stewart, Dannie Boston, Ava Bernstine, and Candace Browna, a lovely squad of chocolatey wonders who have worked in videos, movies and on stages alongside some of music and Hollywood’s biggest names.

One essential viewing from the bottomless pit of Black excellence is 1974’s Claudine, which is the tale of a Harlem-based single mother (Diahann Carroll) struggling to raise, feed, and clothe her six children while being courted by an eager James Earl Jones and contending with the dastardly Mr. Welfare. The film’s Curtis Mayfield-produced score, performed by Gladys Knight and The Pips, makes Claudine perfect for both repeat viewings and educating younger generations on all the greatness that happened back in pre-Madea America.

And what better way to close than with this sibling reunion that summoned the holy ghost in the most ridiculous way, because we are so damn wonderfully extra.

This entry was posted in Art & Culture, Featured.