Watch First Full Trailer For ‘Black-ish’ Starring Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laurence Fishburne
I laughed at the trailer. I can also relate. I can relate to the father. I went to catholic school grade school and high school, and off to an all girls’ college who was seeking to reach a quota for federal funding and PR. My mother was strong about being black in America, but she did not do it to the point of identifying with her culture from Africa, or not even identifying with African American culture. She did it because it had become a popular thing to do. We are talking about the 60’s.
My mom was one of the first people I knew to have an Afro hairstyle. But again, not for the cultural aspect of it, but because it was popular. She had fried our hair up until that point. In fact, she fried the hair of other friends in the community we lived in. I can still remember that smell of frying hair.
She didn’t talk about black power, or to be young gifted and black, nor did she wear a dashiki, or any other African garb. She wasn’t a nationalist, socialist, communist or a fan of Angela Davis. She was always changing her hairstyle so I guess, it was just a change of hairstyle that she was after. And let me not forget, my mother was a rebel, in her own right, and since wearing an Afro meant you were rebelling against the system, well she did it, just to be rebellious.
|Left, me with my Afro @graduation, 1969|
At the time, I did not see it as rebellion. I thought she was expressing her strong sentiment about her African heritage. Quite frankly, I took that literally and want one myself, just like mom so I could identify with her and possibly make her happy one day????? Like I said, I can relate to this story line.
We grew up in North Philadelphia, a part of Philadelphia, where we were constantly being reminded of how it used to be all white years ago and how after the “blacks” moved in the property value and neighborhood went down, down, down. There was an elder gentleman who had a shoe shine stand on the corner of 29th & Dauphin Streets… He would hire young boys in the area to help him shine shoes. That would be his story, whenever you walked by you would hear him talk about all the white folks that use to live in the area, and now look at it. Well, the area had become all black. Black business, black stores, black churches, black dentist, black doctor, black shoe repair man, black milk man, black post man. In fact, the entire area was “black” except for the insurance man who visited homes on Saturday morning, the landlords, and the man who owned the fish store. Well, I must admit that the school, though full of black people, only had white priests, and nuns… In fact, though I wanted to grow up and be the only black nun I knew, I doubted that I would NOT be the only Black nun in the entire world!! Ha, I found another in college years later.
Somehow, I managed to truly identify with my African culture. I was inclined towards African dance, and
|Me @ African Dance Performance, 1968|
African fabrics, and while I didn’t have access to African fabrics during those days, I managed to create something from some fabrics that looked African, at least to me. I doubt that my emphasis on African culture would have happened had it not been for my perception that my mother was into it.
When I went to college, there were 7 African Americans on campus of 1500 students. My mother told me to go to that college. She knew about racism. I knew she knew, though it was not spoken aloud, except the little innuendos that were said when we shopped in a store that was not black owned. I would watch my mother transform and speak “proper” English so that she could impress the cashier. She would do that on the phone too, when she was making important business calls. It was funny to watch her transformation, but we knew deep inside, she wanted to appear educated and talking like we did in the house among ourselves, friends and family, did not make us appear educated. So again, I can relate.
My mother’s agenda for encouraging me to go to an all white, catholic girls college was simple. “You are a fly in a bowl of milk. They will not, not teach their own, simply because you are there.” We knew what that meant on so many levels. I would definitely get a good education because they give their own a good education. I may miss my “black” friends, but that’s no problem, I can always come home on school breaks to be with them, and… after college, I will still be “black in America”. Yeah, I can relate. Plus, I really wouldhn’t have too much trouble getting along there, my high school was 75% white. It wasn’t too popular for African Americans to be Catholic during those days. Those of us who went to Catholic School were often teased and called “stuck-up” mainly because Catholic school was not free, like public school, and if your family could afford Catholic school, you must have had some money. At least enough to put you in a class slightly upper than the rest of the neighborhood folks. This perception was hard to comprehend, since we lived in the same neighborhood as everyone else, but Catholic education was considered elite during those days. It was brutal, but that’s a topic for another blog.
In 1969, I went to Marywood College, in Scranton, PA. I have to admit it was a culture shock. Grass, trees,
mountains and open spaces????? Full meals cooked 3X’s a day??? Food I had never seen eaten before. White people doing the laundry, cutting the grass, picking up the trash and serving us meals in the Dining Hall?? Yeah that was a culture shock for certain. I had to get used to that. In fact, when they hired ONE African american Service Staff person, they called me in to ask, “How should we treat her?” I was baffled by the question. We never wondered how we should treat white people, what was the problem? My response may have been a bit abrupt but I said, “Treat her like a human being, like you treat everyone else around here.” Not quite the answer she expected, but I was not going to give her a crash course on race relations because they decided to hire ONE Black person as personnel. I wondered who she asked when she got the 7 black students to come to her college.
I am not sure if it was the times, the protests or my desire to affirm my identity, but after a while I had to do
something. I started to lose myself, the way I spoke changed. I began to speak “proper, just like my mom. I did not like that one bit, and I made a concerted effort to reclaim my identity by speaking Ebonics (Black English). Of course I did not use it in my research, term papers and tests, but out of the class, I had to, it was all I had to hold on to. My roommate made innocent fun of me, she would mimic my saying “Maf” and Baf” “You’re going to Maf class and you gonna take a baf.” She was wonderful and very very cool, we would laugh together, and her mother made excellent brownies, but I digress. After a while I found myself speaking Ebonics on purpose, I was getting lost in the sauce.
One day, Arthur Hall Afro-American Dance Ensemble came to Scranton! What a shot in the arm that was for me. I seemed to remember that I was African, Black and that I could hold on to my identity and still attend an all white college. I totally embraced this concept and started a black power movement on campus. I started a Black Student Union. BOSS, Black Organization of Students in the Struggle, by now there were 9 of us. We represented the Macrocosm, as every single type of “us” was there.
|Arthur Hall Afro-American Dance Ensemble|
I read “Black Muslims in America”, “The Souls of Black Folks”, “Black Cargoes” “The Outsider”, “Black Rage” Nikki Giovanni and several other books about Black Americans that I found, interestingly in the College Library. Imagine that!
I started wearing the “Black Power” pins and pendants, red, black and green hat and belts, a khaki jacket and walked around campus like I was a genuine black panther. My English Professor, called me a Pink Panther…. I didn’t take it to mean she was racist or demeaning. Besides, when I found out what the Black Panthers were really about I knew what she meant.
Nevertheless, I became a spokesperson for everything black. Being the most outspoken and outgoing of all the other Black Students on campus, it fell upon me to explain it all to them. There I was in the middle of conversations about being black in America. I would discuss what growing up was like for me in my neighborhood, where we never used the term impoverished, deprived or ghetto. We were resourceful and creative, making a way of no way, making a dollar out of 15cents.
I was in the middle of discussion attempting to explain to folks that Flip Wilson, WAS NOT YOUR AVERAGE BLACK MAN IN AMERICA, when that is all they knew. I was in the middle of discussion with folks who had never seen an Black person up close and were extremely curious as to why my hair grew up and out instead of down. I became the First African American Freshman Class President! Why?? Because I stood out, imagine that, and they didn’t know each other or who to vote for, so why not our token black girl.
I was in the middle of my own desperation along with a Black Classmate, who could tolerate being in that all white environment anymore!!! So one night, we made flyers and put them under the doors of the Nuns who lived in the dorms with us, along with other adult staff who lived in the dorms with us. What did our signs say?
We did that, it was a desperate attempt to retain, reclaim, reaffirm and identify with our heritage, a heritage we knew so little about, but one we felt the need to hold onto at all costs. So yes, I can relate.
|Baba Tunde Olatunji-Drums of Passion|
We knew we were black in a bowl of milk, and that racism was alive and well, no matter how much those around us pretended it wasn’t. We were in the middle of the Civil Rights movement, they had just raided the Black Panthers in Philadelphia, strip them naked, and posted that on the front of Newsweek. They were fire bombing, lynching and terrorizing black folks in the south. They had just opened the restaurants for black folks to come to along with white patrons. They had just killed Dr. Martin Luther King! Yeah, we were certainly aware of the racism but we knew little about our African Culture. And for certain, the administration of the school knew little as well, so when they asked me to do an African Dance for their World Cultures Course, they never knew I was making those steps up and dancing to Baba Tunde Olatunji Drums of Passion. I may have been a fly in a bowl of milk, but I never lost my wings, or my desire to fly.
I remember my trips home, and how different I felt being among African Americans in my familiar environment than I did on campus. Every trip home required a major adjustment.
|Me. 1969 Freshman in College|
I mentioned the Microcosm of the Macrocosm… truly we were. Each one of us represent a different experience being in the African Diaspora. During my stay there I manage to find out where each of these young ladies’ head were. Again, the Microcosm of the Macrocosm. We are as varient in our expression in the African diaspora as we are in our skin color. Our identities span the gamut of Black Nationalism to Integration.
How did we each experience our own bowl of milk??
1. Me (Freshman) – I have already explained my role.
2. KG (Freshman) – from South Philadelphia and sincerely not interested in being in this bowl of milk. She looked forward to leaving next semester and made no bones about wanting to get out!! She didn’t hate white people she just did not want to live anywhere near them.
3. BJ (Freshman) – she came from Northfolk, VA… there was no question in her mind about her identity or racism, she had experienced it first hand, and did not trust a single white person. She was a deep thinker, so deep she spent much of her time being depressed. She also wanted to leave.
4. CF (Sophomore) – who had completely assimilated into her environment, she came there with several white friends and had no problem continuing to talk their talk and relate with them as her best of friends. She did have an Afro though which showed on some levels that she hadn’t completely assimilated, but was basically taking the path of least resistance. If you can’t beat em, you might as well join em.
5. DS (Sophomore) – in a dark room, it would be hard to tell where she came from, or whether she was white or black. There was no indication in her voice that she was anything but a white girl who happened to have black (darkest out of all of us) skin. She was not interested in joining anything that was about Black, for Black, by Black or with Black. She was a person, a human being and she did not relate to the skin she was in at all.
6. VS (Sophomore) She was from the Virgin Islands and due to the color of her skin, she was considered white. Her family was elite and well off. That she would come to the US for an education had her as upper class. She was completely intolerant and disdainful of all that Black stuff, and told me clearly, she considered herself white, as she was considered white where she lived.
7. Novice (Senior) She was so intriguing to me, a black nun. What made her pursue it and stick to it to the point that after Senior year she would complete her training and be a real Nun. I later learned that the IHM order of nuns, had more African Americans in it than any other. And since I was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph, I had no idea. She was sweet and cordial and very much into being a nun. Her main focus was on continuing her training and completing her journey. She was definitely not going to join BOSS!
Next Semester, lost two students and gained 4 black students, one female and one male in the School of Social Work and one Freshman and one Sophomore.
8. DC (Freshman) came from Philadelphia, and she also attended Catholic High School, which at that time were majority White students there. She did not seem to have any trouble getting along with the other students but she was extremely homesick. She cried every night for the first semester it seemed, I could hear her in the hallway as I passed her room. She identified with me to the point of at least being able to have someone familiar to cling to. Her position was not political or religious, she just wanted to get through it all.
9. BS (Sophomore) came from a family that had already assimilated. Nice car, nice, house, 2.5 children, two car garage, father a professional and recognized by the White Professional World, mother an educator who had taken time from her career to raise her children. They were very color struck in my estimation as I remember it being said that she was not allowed to bring anyone home darker than her. In fact, I could hardly tell if she was black or white due to the paleness of her skin and the way she blended. And of course she would not join BOSS. She did wear a curly Afro which she flattened on the weekends when she returned home. No way on God’s green earth would her parents allow her to wear an Afro!!! And since at that time, the Afro was our clarion call to arms, anyone without one was certainly not part of the struggle.
10. JR (School of Social Work).. was from Philadelphia as well. She was older and more refined. She was more accepting of each of us being so different from one another and would often function as a mediator when we couldn’t come to terms with our differences. Primarily, I had become emboldened as I had never really learned about the Transatlantic Slave trade, or much else about African history predating Slavery. . It seemed there was none, well especially not in an inner city Catholic School. And here I am on an all white college campus, learning about these things and so much more.
My mom used to remark how they learned about what Black people did in her school. She lived in Virginia and the educational system was actually better than in the Northern City. She was quite surprised that we were not taught Black history as she was.
11. RH (School of Social Work) was a male student from Harrisburg. It quickly became clear that he was going to be the most sought after Black “man” on campus. The numbers themselves showed the imbalance. He was the only male student on campus as the School of Social Work had opened to male students while the undergraduate school was not. Coming from Harrisburg he had some experience interacting with White folks, being the only black man on campus, he also became the star of every show, that is, those white women who were not adverse to interracial relationships sought him out and so did I.
When I think about it, I really didn’t have any competition with the Black women on campus, because none of them were really interested in him. It was more of “he is the only one and that’s all you got”??? But for some reason, I was interested in him and attempted to get him to join our organization to no avail, he was content, just being the only male student on campus. I think he shared mutual interest but I got the impression that he preferred white girls. Thus coming up from the rear is another aspect of the African diaspora, a black man who prefers dating white women.
By my junior year, two other black female students had come to Marywood. I won’t describe how they presented except to say that one was totally blind, and the other was also from Philadelphia, and the same high school I attended.
My identity crisis came to a head during my junior year. I became a Black Muslim. It was a radical change that made me feel completely uncomfortable on campus. I made the decision to quit college and return to Philadelphia and get married. Another long story.
I would like to note that today, Marywood College is now Marywood University and is coed and has Black folks in numbers. Something that I would have never imagined. I returned there a few years ago with my group, the “Voices Of Africa” Choral & Percussion Ensemble, and to my surprise there were Africans there from the continent!!! Along with the Nun who asked me to do an African dance for her World Cultures Course! Now I don’t know if I opened the door for that or if it is just a sign of the times or maybe a bit of both, but I was floored to find them there, along with African Americans functioning as administrative staff. The black population during my time there was a little over 300 and now they have staff members of color.
From Negro, to Black, to Afro-American, to African-American to African descendant… we have continuously been trying to identify ourselves in a world that is foreign to us, and no matter how much we assimilate, in a world (not just a nation) that has taken up the discourse about the superiority of a race based on skin color… it is quite evident that there will be several attributions made by each of us. These attributes will be affected by the way we are raised, along with how we process our reality.
So yes, I may watch this show from time to time, I don’t have a TV so I will see if it comes on the internet. But again, my own experience, helps me to relate and gives me some insight to the various challenges we face, trying to find our identity in a society that has stripped us of it, and caused us to look upon our heritage with disdain.