East Of Eden

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East Of Eden

So maybe Indians are kinda, sorta Black?


Bonda girl in Orissa. Image by: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0/Flickr/Otabi kitahachi (via HuffPo)

 

Well, at least some Indians are... a few weeks ago, I confessed up to thinking as a kid that Indians were Black. And a few of my Indian/Bangladeshi friends gave me e-props for it (what up?!). One of them, Wafi, passed on this HuffPo article by Rita Banerji from 2015 that goes into fascinating detail about how there is indeed a strong genetic link between Indians and Africa:

 

 Growing up in India, I never met or heard about Indians with African lineages. Then in 2005 I watched a dance performance by the Sidi Goma, a group of musicians from the African Indian community, the Siddi, and I was astonished and mesmerised. Since then I've...

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Flashback Friday: Lena Horne on the Blacklist.


Lena Horne (Image Source)

Lena Horne- singer, actress, glamour queen of the 1940's- found herself blacklisted in Hollywood, labeled a Communist betrayer of democracy in the early 1950's. It was a particularly spectacular fall, and Horne was determined to not have her career tarnished by smears of Red.

First, some backstory on Horne from PBS' "American Masters: Lena Horne" page:

Born in Brooklyn in 1917, Lena Horne became one of the most popular African American performers of the 1940s and 1950s. At the age of sixteen she was hired as a dancer in the chorus of Harlem’s famous Cotton Club. There she was introduced to the growing community of jazz performers, including Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, and Duke Ellington. She also met Harold...

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Flashback Friday: When Sammy Davis Jr. got devilish.

(Image Source: Vice)

 

Last week in the Anton La Vey post, I mentioned how Sammy Davis Jr. became a member of The Church of Satan for a while. This struck me as... well, pretty weird. I could see why the publicity-loving Jayne Mansfield would sign up to be Team Lucifer, but Sammy "Member of Sinatra's Rat Pack" Davis Jr.? He was so... laid-back and... cool. And Jewish. He most definitely had converted to Judaism. So what the what? Let's go to Helen O' Hara at The Telegraph for more:

 

Sammy Davis Jr, the singer, actor and Rat Pack member whose own philosophy of life drove him to try just about everything that presented itself - women, men, religion, drugs - became involved in 1968. He had noticed a gang of lively young...

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Flashback Friday: When Buddy Holly Broke the Color Line- at the Apollo.


Bespectacled Buddy. (Image Source)

 

Before his shocking death at only 22 in 1959, Buddy Holly managed to make major moves. A native of Lubbock, Texas, Holly began playing the guitar as a kid, and counted a number of Country Music singers as influences. As a teen he began listening to Rhythm & Blues over the radio late at night, and it wasn't long before he combined Country and R&B and began playing the hot new sound of the 1950s: Rock & Roll.

Amazingly, Holly's professional career really only took off when he signed with Decca Records in 1956, meaning he hit the top of the charts, toured the country (and even internationally), and packed theatres in 3 short years (along with his band The Crickets for part of that...

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Come Clean: I thought Indians were Black, too.

(Master of None, Netflix Screen Grab)

 

There's a throwback scene at the very top of Master of None's Season 2' episode, "Thanksgiving", during which little Denise, BFF of little Dev, over for the holiday, mentions that she thinks he's Black... like her. Denise's mom gets the convo started by asking Dev if celebrating Thanksgiving is a thing done in the Indian Community (Dev's answer: They eat lunch together and his dad falls asleep watching "The Godfather".)

Denise is confused; what is this "Indian Community" of which her mom speaks? "Dev is Indian," Denise's Momma, played by the ever-youthful Angela Bassett, explains.

"I thought Dev was Black," says a confused Denise.

...
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The Preachers: Anton La Vey & The Church of Satan.


Anton La Vey and snake. (Image Source)

 

So far in this series, I covered Jim Jones who believed himself better than God (if there was, in fact, a supreme deity); Father Divine, who claimed to be God incarnate; and Aimee Semple McPherson, who despite being a twice divorced female pastor, held to the usual standards of historic, orthodox Christianity, i.e., The Trinity, Virgin Birth, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, and salvation through the grace of God and faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

But for this entry, I'm going to step away from Christians (or those who started off that way... fun fact, Jones, Divine and McPherson all had early roots in the Methodist church), and over to the other side: Anton La Vey, who founded The...

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Flashback Friday: Sam Cooke's Crossover Pop Success and How It Made Change Come.


Sam Cooke (Image Source)

 

Earlier this spring, when rapper Kendrick Lamar dropped his critically praised album, "DAMN", it shot up to the top of the Billboard charts. Thing is, it wasn't just a hit in Hip Hop; it was a certified success in the realm of Pop, too. Slate boasted, "Kendrick Lamar’s New No. 1 Proves He’s Not Just Our Greatest Rapper. He’s One of Our Biggest Pop Stars."

Rappers can be Pop Stars, yes. Twenty years ago (!), the recently deceased Notorious B.I.G.'s "Hypnotize" spent most of May '97 atop the Hot 100 Charts until being bumped by Hanson's "Mmmbop" (!!). But it wasn't long before Biggie's producer/ B.F.F./ kind-of-a-rapper... kind-of... Bad Boy Records founder- buddy Puff Daddy knocked the blond brothers from...

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Flashback Friday: Marlon Brando's Eulogy for a Black Panther.


Black Panther Bobby Seale with actor Marlon Brando. (Image Source: San Francisco Bay View)

 

In a San Francisco Bay View film review for the 2015 documentary "Listen to Me Marlon", the story of Marlon Brando's press-making eulogy for slain Black Panther Bobby Hutton is retold:

In the late ‘60s, Marlon Brando and Jane Fonda are credited with helping to bring the Black Panther Party and their politics to a mainstream white audience. In 1967, Brando gave a speech at the funeral of 17-year-old Black Panther Bobby Hutton who was unjustifiably murdered by Oakland police.

 

...
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The Preachers: Aimee Semple McPherson, America's first female celeb evangelist.


 

Aimee Semple McPherson, the Pentecostal Preacher who could've been a Silent Screen Star. (Image: Foursquare Church)

 Aimee Semple McPherson was... so much. A Canadian missionary to China as a young newlywed; a widow with a sickly infant daughter a few years later; an acutely depressed and miserable mom of two and housewife in New England in marriage number two; and a traveling evangelist headlining packed tent revivals for Whites and Blacks, even in the segregated U.S. South. Oh yes, and that was all before she was 27 years old.

Thing is, when Aimee is remembered today (actually, if), she is reduced to the scandal that irrevocably altered her perception in the eyes of the public. She suddenly disappeared from a public beach in...

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Flashback Friday: The Black Actress Who Launched her career in "The Birth of a Nation".

(Madame Sul-Te-Wan, Image Source: BlackPast.org)

 

And no, I absolutely do NOT mean last year's controversial Nate Parker flick, "The Birth of a Nation". I'm talking the D.W. Griffith, 1915 film that celebrates the supposed end of the "treachery" that was Reconstruction and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan. From Wikipedia:

The Birth of a Nation (originally called The Clansman) is a 1915 American silent epic drama film directed and co-produced by D. W. Griffith and starring Lillian Gish. The screenplay is adapted from the novel and play The Clansman, both by Thomas Dixon Jr. Griffith co-wrote the screenplay (with Frank E. Woods), and co-produced the film (with Harry Aitken). It was released on February 8, 1915.

 

...
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Joan Crawford has risen from the grave.


Joan Crawford in 1959, by Eve Arnold.

 

I wrote about FX's "Feud: Bette And Joan" during my Lenten series of blog posts. I just watched the finale, "You Mean All This Time We Could've Been Friends?", and I'll admit, I may just have shed a tear or two at Jessica Lange's heartbreaking portrayal of the last days of Joan Crawford. 

To be clear, I was far less impressed with "Feud" in it's entirety. While the casting was on point (how fun was Judy Davis as Hedda Hopper?), and the settings were great, the pacing on a whole was off. Some episodes zoomed by ("And The Winner Is..."), while others seemed like slow-moving, unnecessary filler ("More, Or Less"). Also unnecessary was all of the MANY times the audience was explicitly told...

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The Preachers: Father Divine, god to millions.


(Image Source: NewsWorks)

 

I first heard the name "Father Divine" as a child from my mom, musing over her grandmother's occasional penchant for following (via correspondence, radio or TV) some rather interesting ministerial leaders. Her mom, my Nana, was no stranger to church hopping. She was a "spiritual seeker" decades before it became a thing. Raised Baptist, Nana left and checked out Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholicism and even Christian Scientists before settling on Holiness Pentecostal. BUT... Father Divine was way too much for her, and scoffed at her mom's interest in a man who would deign himself the Lord God incarnate. She needn't had worried; my great-grandmother's attention quickly flamed out for Reverend Major Jealous...

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The Preachers: Rev. Jim Jones and the horror in Guyana.

(Image and Caption from "The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones & The Peoples Temple")

 

I just finished "The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones & The Peoples Temple" by Jeff Guinn and, really, I'm not trying to sound cliched or hackneyed here, but the book is stomach-churning, frightening and by it's end, downright disturbing. This is actually a compliment to Guinn; he vividly captures the horror of the story of Jonestown and the turbulent societal years that led up to it.

 

Speaking of hackneyed, despite occurring a few years before my birth, I was quite familiar with the Jonestown Massacre. At least, I thought I was. Much like my experience of watching the OJ Simpson documentary "Made in America" last year, what I...

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Easter 2017

Happy Easter! Sunday was very warm, bright and sunny. Our church's sanctuary was decorated with many lilies and tulips, and the smell of incense wafted through the building. The sun's rays poured through the stained glass windows depicting various scenes of Jesus Christ's earthly ministry. The organ accompaniment, the crisp taste of the consecrated host, followed by the sweetness of the wine- attending Easter services at an Episcopal church is a rhapsody for the senses. Here are a few pictures of our day. I hope you all had a Blessed Resurrection Sunday.

 

 

 

...
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What to expect when you're expecting...

September 2016, and I have (some) hair.

 

 

... to get better, but haven't. Yet. 

...
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Baby, I'm just soggy from the chemo.

 
 
On the April 12th, I underwent the first round of chemotherapy for the stem cell transplant at Northwestern. I was given a rather large, private room, complete with a spectacular view of the Chicago skyline and a large flatscreen TV that I never used on account of the fast hospital WIFI and having my laptop with me. 
 
The nursing staff was nice. Friendly, chatty even, but not too talkative. They knew when to take a bow. 
 
They were quick to provide me with Zofran to combat the nausea from the Cytoxan. Sidebar, but isn't Cytoxan such an appropriately awful name for chemo? Cy-TOX-an? Toxic toxin. Eww. Anyway, they also gave me Mesna and Lasix, which left me having to pee pretty much every ten minutes...
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Not even Marilyn Monroe.


A young Norma Jean Baker in the early 1940s. Many a Penny Pentecostal would still be rocking this same suit style well into the Carter Administration. (Source)


My latest Audible book streaming through my headphones is "Marilyn Monroe: The Biography" by Donald Spoto and narrated by Anna Fields.

Since I was a kid, I've been fascinated by stars who, despite talent, money, fame and beauty, were downed by the suffocating weight of their own inner psyches. Perhaps it was a weird fascination for an elementary school student, but it was there, and only grew as I got older.

If I had to guess as to why, it probably had something to do with my mother's severe depression. She was (and is) my first exemplar of femininity and beauty. She was a...
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I am not my hair.

 

 
"Breast cancer and chemotherapy
Took away her crownin' glory
She promised God if she was to survive
She would enjoy every day of her life, oh
On national television
Her diamond eyes are sparkling
Bald-headed like a full moon shining
Singing out to the whole wide world like, hey"
- India Arie, "Brown Skin"
 
On Wednesday evening, I walked into the bathroom, slid open the medicine cabinet, pulled out a small pair of scissors and paused for about five seconds. I took a deep breathe and cut a large hunk of my hair off on the left side. In less than ten minutes, the sink was full of fro. I was done.
 

 

 
I had decided a long time ago that I'd rather get a hair cut before receiving the chemotherapy that is...
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I don't like Thanksgiving.

Not Thanksgiving, probably Easter 1985, from left to right: (a grumpy me), Bever-leigh, Stevie, Mom holding a carrier with a kicking-baby Jos, and a very goofy Joe.

 

 

At least not like I did as a kid.

 

...
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Forever 28. Three years old.

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Friday marked the third anniversary of my sister Joscelyne's death.

 

Around 8AM, I pulled the black and white photo of her, ensconced in a shiny, mirrored frame, off the bookshelf, and placed it in the center of the piano. I set out a couple of candles, and searched through a closet for the least tacky plastic flowers I could find. I wanted fresh lilies, but due to a sprained ankle I've been nursing for three weeks, that didn't happen.

 

I found some pink and purple ones, part of a bouquet that she had purchased in 2011 for our mom that wound up in my possession. They surrounded the candles, which I lit and watched flicker. Their light could barely be seen because it was bright in the living room. November 20th...

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