follow us in feedly
A brief primer on Black Power Christmas music

album cover
 
Turkey Day has passed us by, and it is officially the Christmas season. And, as the Pamplona of Black Friday reminded us, this means an onslaught of fevered consumerism, fetishizaton of commodities, conspicuous consumption, and all that other icky stuff that turns our red little stomachs stomachs. Exacerbating that nausea is the hallmark corniness of the holidays. “Peace on earth and goodwill towards men” can feel so cliched and forced when contrasted with the materialism of the spectacle. It’s easy to get a little contemptuous at Christmas.

It’s all reminiscent of George Orwell’s essay, “Why Socialists Don’t Believe in Fun.” A self-identified socialist, Orwell begins the piece with an anecdote on Lenin, who was, as the story goes, reading Dickens’ A Christmas Carol on his death bed. It’s said that communist revolutionary denounced the feel-good classic as full of “bourgeois sentimentality.” A fun guy, that one.

Orwell goes on to bemoan the kind of cynicism exhibited by Lenin and his ilk, noting that we dour anti-capitalists can’t seem to enjoy anything nostalgic or sentimental. I think anyone with much experience in radical circles has recognized the tendency. So in the interest of subverting our fuddy-duddy dispositions, allow me to show you one of my favorite Christmas music sub-genres: The Black Power Christmas Song.

Now, I’m not just talking about a Christmas song performed by a black artist, or even a Christmas song performed in a black genre. I am talking about a Christmas song that portrays Christmas itself as explicitly black. Let’s start with “The Be-Bop Santa Claus,” by Babs Gonzalez.

 
This 1957 update of T’was the Night Before Christmas starts out with the line, “T’was the black before Christmas.” Now Babs was a bebop pioneer and poet, and used to go by the name “Ricardo Gonzalez” in an attempt to get into hotels that discriminated against black people; that coy little line is an incredibly personal one. What follows is a perfect depiction of the Reaganite’s boogeyman, complete with suede shoes, Cadillacs, and Applejack; it’s fantastically subversive, unapologetic, and totally self-aware.
 
Of course, I can’t resist including the 1958 white hipster rip-off, “Beatnik’s Wish,” by Patsy Raye & the Beatniks.
 

 
It’s quite the (ahem) “homage.” Paging Norman Mailer…

If “The Be-Bop Santa Claus” alludes to urban poverty, James Brown’s “Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto” leaves nothing to the imagination.

 

 
“Say It Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud” was released as a two-part single in August of 1968. This song was released a few months later on James’ full-length, A Soulful Christmas, which was the first LP to feature “Say it Loud.” Meaning James Brown, already a floating signifier for the Black Power Movement, released “Say it Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud,” on a fucking Christmas album. Take that, Lenin! It acknowledges black poverty as a pressing matter of social justice in a seemingly incongruously celebratory song. Second, the song applies radical Black Power politics to something as traditional as Christmas. (If I could add a third, I’d also say that this is just a sick jam, but I digress.)

This one, however, is my absolute favorite.

 
Performed by Teddy Vann and his daughter, Akim, “Santa Claus is a Black Man” is arguably the most adorable product of Black Power. I mean look at that album cover! Look at her wee little Black Power fist! Listen to her sweet, spastic, bubbly little voice!

Not only can I not overemphasize the significance of radical children’s art being sung by an actual child (we so rarely give children the reigns, so to speak), “Santa Claus is a Black Man” is a brilliantly executed piece of kid-sized politics. You have a black child satirizing “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” which was originally sung by Jimmy Boyd, arguably the whitest damn child in the world. And the hook is, “and he’s handsome, like my Daddy, too,” an joyous assertion of “Black is Beautiful.”

Interestingly, towards the end, Akim says, “I want to wish everybody Happy Kwanzaa.” When Kwanzaa was first introduced in 1966, founder and activist Maulana Karenga promoted the holiday as a way to “give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday, and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.” Much to Karenga’s surprise, African Americans were rarely willing to give up the holiday of the oppressor, and eventually Karenga softened his position to allow Kwanzaa to be celebrated alongside Christmas, though not before “Santa Claus is a Black Man” was released in 1973. In the grand scheme of things, people don’t really want to be sectarian when it comes to Santa Claus.

Of course, none of this music succeeds in making Christmas cool. Even though these are great, subversive little songs, they’re also rife with the exact sort of schlocky sentimentality we’ve come to expect from Christmas music. And why shouldn’t they be? What’s so bad about sentimental and schlocky, anyway? Does Wal-Mart win if we enjoy a little syrupy holiday cheer? Will a few tender moments soften our anti-capitalist resolve? These songs are all navigating a very old tradition in order to reflect the radical ideas, the radical ideas we hope will become our new traditions. They use Christmas to represent the underrepresented and condemn racism and poverty, and they do it all with a little bit of mawkish sincerity and delight.

This Christmas, let’s resist our inner-Lenins, and let’s wallow in a little sentimentality. Hey, it was good enough for James Brown.

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
follow us in feedly
English Disco Lovers - bumping the English Defence League off of Google


 
Big up to whoever it is who has started the English Disco Lovers social group.

A retort to the extreme right wingers, the nasty English Defence League (who I am not going to provide a link to here) the EDL—Disco Division—have been recruiting members on their Facebook page, as one race and one world united under the banner of beautiful disco music. Here’s a brief blurb:

The English Disco Lovers (EDL) are a pro-disco, anti-racism group.

We aim to spoof the slogans and emblems of The English Defence League, showing them for what they really are - racist, outdated and not the type you’d invite to your disco!

Unus Mundas, Una Gens, Unus Disco (One World, One Race, One Disco)!

Recently, the EDL—Disco Division—have passed round a new manifesto, which states their aim to supplant the English Defence League as the top search result for “EDL” on Google, and to get more likes than the English Defence League on Facebook.

Here’s the manifesto, or the disco statement as it has been labeled by the group, in full. It’s well worth a read:
 

 
This is a noble and worthy cause and I tip my hat to the English Disco Lovers.

We may all be losing heart over the wonder of Facebook these days, but if you want to see the Disco Lovers achieve their goal of more FB likes than the English Defence League (they are about half way there already) you can like the group on their page. You can also find them on Twitter.

And in the meantime, here’s some classic disco with a message of social unity:
 
The O’Jays “Love Train” (1972)
 

 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
follow us in feedly
So apparently cross-dressing Mexican wrestlers is a thing
11.13.2012
04:38 am

Topics:
Queer
Race
Sports

Tags:

luchadore
Pimpinela Escarlata, “The Scarlet Pimpernel”
 
There are some things that enrich our lives so much upon learning of them, we wonder how we ever functioned without knowledge of their existence: Cross-dressing luchadors is one of those things.

In this video, we see “Pimpinela Escarlata” at her most fabulous, battling “Pasion Kristal” and “Yuriko,” alongside “La Braza.” I’m not totally up on every aspect of the gender politics of luchadors, but apparently cross-dressing is commonplace for wrestlers that are more charismatic than athletic, so to speak.

Like luchador culture in general, it’s very rooted in theater and spectacle, just with hefty dollops of added camp and the fabulosity of drag. Frequently, the drag wrestlers compete in women’s matches as well. Most recently, “Pimpinela Escarlata” lost to a woman wrestler called “Sexy Star,” which resulted in Escarlata’s head being shaved.

¡Viva Escarlata!
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
follow us in feedly
Greek Neo-Nazi party attempting to open office in Astoria, Queens
10.16.2012
06:55 am

Topics:
Activism
Politics
Race

Tags:
Greece
facism

Nikolaos Michaloliakos
Nikolaos Michaloliakos, General Secretary of Golden Dawn
 
One of the great tragedies of the Greek debt crisis is the flourish of bigotry that blooms so easily in economic panic. The Greek fascist party Chrysi Avgi, or Golden Dawn, now holds 18 seats in the Greek Parliament and are gaining support in an increasingly tense political atmosphere. Blaming immigrants for a bad economy is par for the course in nearly any developed country, but Golden Dawn are particularly overt in their racism, openly denying the holocaust, praising Hitler, and campaigning under the slogan, “So we can rid this land of filth.”

Recently members of the party reached out to Greek American civic organizations in Queens for clothing donations. The boxes they supplied were labeled “for Greeks only”, and the Greek community in Queens has responded by the hundreds in condemnation at a recent community meeting. Astoria has the largest Greek population in New York, and Golden Dawn’s attempt to set up an office there would provide an advantageous and potentially well-funded base of operations, as well as potential for growth in their New York chapter.

While nationalist tendencies can run amok in any community (even a community made up of immigrants), Queens is said to be the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world, and Greek Americans from Astoria are organizing and pushing back against Golden Dawn.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
follow us in feedly
Easier as a Latino? Really? Rosie Perez delightfully skewers Mitt Romney
10.15.2012
04:16 pm

Topics:
Activism
Politics
Race

Tags:
Mitt Romney
Rosie Perez


 

“If you were a gay Latina, this election would be in the bag for you!”

A production of Actually.org. Please share.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
follow us in feedly
Marxist Minstrels: The Beatles want to sexually hypnotize you into Communism!

Communism, Hypnotism, and The Beatles
 
If you’re like me, you can’t resist a good piece of moral panic red-baiting propaganda, especially when it’s directed at a social phenomenon that seems so chaste by today’s standards. As luck might have it, I recently came across the 1974 opus, The Marxist Minstrels: A Handbook on Communist Subversion of Music, by the good Reverend David A. Noebel.

Evangelical tracts denouncing rock ‘n’ roll, especially as related to either homosexuality or “race mixing,” aren’t hard to find if you scour antique shops in middle America, but as something of a connoisseur of the genre, I have yet to find a piece of literature that so succinctly combines the collective fears of old, white, crazy, Christian dudes. David Noebel, ordained in 1961, started his illustrious career with the above pamphlet, Communism, Hypnotism, and The Beatles. He saw the rise of Beatlemania as the result of Communist indoctrination via hypnosis (yup, just like the title), a thesis he developed more thoroughly in his 1964 book, Rhythm, Riots, and Revolution: An Analysis of the Communist Use of Music, the Communist Master Music Plan. The book transitioned from The Beatles to folk artists, focusing on Bob Dylan, his colleagues, and their earlier influences. This is at least slightly more understandable, when one considers the political leanings of the folk movement, frequently with explicit anti-racist, pro-labor lyrics.

The Marxist Minstrels: A Handbook on Communist Subversion of Music however, synthesizes all of his previous work, citing children’s records, folk, and rock ‘n’ roll as being part and parcel to some elaborate integrationist, free-love, Communist conspiracy. As a rock ‘n’ roll propaganda collector, I’m used to trudging through a lot of this stuff, and the majority of it is incoherent ramblings—the sort of thing you’d read in a madman’s personal manifesto. Noebel is compelling because he’s intelligent, coherent, and well-researched, despite being absolutely paranoid and utterly mad. Aside from some inconsistent use of the Oxford Comma, he has a clear, if discursive thesis: rock ‘n’ roll is turning kids into gay, Communist, miscegenators.

Some of his “evidence” is fascinating. For example, Alan Freed’s “payola scandal”—who was paying him to play all those rock ‘n’ roll records to unsuspecting teenagers? Communist record companies invade the airwaves by bribery, infecting the youth with music that is ““un-Christian, mentally unsettling, revolutionary and a medium for promiscuity.” He cites psychological studies, sociological statistics, numerology, etc. to scientifically “prove” the moral degradation incited by popular music, causing everything from sky-rocketing “illegitimate” birth rates to sexual rioting. Lots of sexual rioting. The appendices are incredibly dense and well-cited.

What follows his strange assessment of rock ‘n’ roll is an (actually, semi-accurate) account of the American Left, including some background of the American Communist Party and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Then of course, Noebel posits that folk artists were inspiring the youth to instigate a race war. He believed acoustic musicians like Malvina Reynolds (her “Little Boxes” is the theme music to Weeds) and Pete Seeger were instructing white students to join with “radical groups of Negro racists” so that they might revolt and achieve racial dominance in America. The weirdest part of all this is that by 1974, integration was (at least, on paper) complete. The folk artists who were most explicitly leftist or Communist weren’t a particular focus of pop culture, The Beatles had already long been broken up, and he never quite explains how these two very distinct fanbases are somehow connected (except that they’re obviously both very Communist). One can only imagine the lovely psychosis that The MC5 would have brought him.

Noebel is still living today, and I recommend checking out his extensive collection of YouTube videos and blog, if you’re looking for a laugh. These days, he’s much more on the “Obama’s a Socialist” train and decrying “Warmism” (Noebel’s evocative name for climate change) than he is into denouncing rock ‘n’ roll. Hell, even Paul Ryan loves Rage Against the Machine. Still, his older words bring an odd comfort, when we read his treatise on rock ‘n’ roll, comparing it to a children’s record that supposedly contained subliminal messages only audible when the record is played in reverse; “the noise that many of our youth call music is analogous to the story tape played backwards. It is invigorating, vulgarizing, and orgiastic. It is destroying our youth’s ability to relax, reflect, study, pray, and meditate, and is in fact preparing them for riot, civil disobedience, and revolution.” Dear god, I hope so.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
follow us in feedly
‘Letter to the President’: Snoop Dogg tells the history of Hip Hop, Rap and Politics

letter_to_the_president
 
Ronald Reagan, that evil fuck President who willfully destroyed working class communities to give tax breaks to the rich. Reagan was happy to do it so long as it was African-Americans that bore the brunt.

Reaganomics left half the Black population on welfare. Reagan had no conscience about it. He had a money lust which hit hardest on those who were weakest and least able to fend for themselves.

Stopping poverty wasn’t on Reagan’s tick list. Rather it was cut corners and take, take, take from the poor - which stooped as low as having the tomato base on pizzas reclassified as fruit to ensure he could slash the cost of school dinners. He even tried to do the same with tomato ketchup but failed.

Reagan’s policy was simple - if you were poor: fuck you. If you were sick: fuck you. If you were dying of cancer: fuck you and get a goddamn job.

For young African-Americans in the 1980s, it seemed the hard-earned achievements of the sixties’ Civil Rights movement had been too easily betrayed and forgotten. And when crack cocaine hit the inner cities, it seemed any hope of a future was gone.

Against this background arose a culture of music that was to redefine Black America. Hip-Hop and Rap reflected the poverty, despair and violence of life in the ghettoes. It also railed angrily against the indifference and cynical exploitation by successive Presidents, whose only interest was to help themselves and help the rich.

Letter to the President is a fascinating over-view of the rise of Hip-Hop and Rap, and their importance in bringing a community together against a common enemy. Narrated by Snoop Dogg, and with contributions form Quincy Jones, KRS-One, David Banner, 50 Cent, Chuck D, Ghostface Killah, Nelson George, Sonia Sanchez, and Dick Gregory.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
follow us in feedly
‘Wire’ actor protests NYPD stop and frisk policy: ‘Hey, haven’t I arrested you before?’


 
Actor J.D. Williams is well-known for his role as a drug dealer “Bodie” Broadus on The Wire, but fame can often be a double-edged sword, especially when NYPD officers approach the young actor—who’s also been in Oz, The Sopranos and Homicide: Life on the Street—as if they’ve seen him someplace before… or arrested him in the past!

Perception is everything, isn’t it? Williams spoke out about the NYPD’s “stop-and-frisk” policy while participating in the “Silent March” in Manhattan on Monday:
 

 
Via Cynical C

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
follow us in feedly
Wonderful interview with Muhammad Ali on Irish TV in 1972
06.19.2012
12:23 pm

Topics:
Politics
Race
Sports
Superstar

Tags:
Muhammed Ali


 
Muhammad Ali is a riveting storyteller and has undeniable presence in this entertaining, gutsy and inspiring interview conducted for Irish TV on July 1972. Interviewer RTÉ’s Cathal O’Shannon does a fine job of navigating the enormous personality of Ali and much of what the boxer has to say is painfully true and often way ahead of its time.

The interview took place while Ali was in Dublin to fight Al “Blue” Lewis 16 months after suffering his first defeat at the hands of Joe Frazier.
 

 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
follow us in feedly
‘Boots Sex Dread’: hardcore gay reggae from 1980 (NSFW)


Image by Finsta

This has to be heard to be believed.

Boots Sex Dread is the name of an anonymous reggae act (is it a band or just and MC? or two MCs?) who brought out a one-off single in 1980 that became instantly notorious. Both sides of the release feature heavy dub riddims coupled with explicitly gay toasting. Like, REALLY explicit.

One side is titled “Rinka” and features an MC coming out: “Mi black and mi proud and mi a Rastafari/And mi a ‘omo-sek-shual”. There then follows an hilarious list of anal sex euphemisms. The flip is titled “Prenton Pressure” and features a different, coarse voiced MC regaling us with the story of how he met his Asian boyfriend, and how their sexual relations in a cornership store room (involving lots of bizarre condiments - Brillo Pads?!) were interrupted by the boyfriend’s mother.

Information on this record is scarce, but rumors about who the authors/vocalists may be have been rife since it was first written about in the NME on its 1980 release. The theory that has gained most credibility is that Boots Sex Dread is the work of the British comedian and actor Keith (father of Lily) Allen. An anonymous source close to Dangerous Minds can semi-confirm this:

It was rumored to be Keith Allen. And Rinka was supposed to be named after Norman Scott’s dog who was shot by the hit man hired by Jeremy Thorpe. [Background: Jeremy Thorpe was the leader of the British Liberal party from ‘67-‘76. Norman Scott claimed to be his gay lover, and Thorpe was aquitted on charges of conspiring to murder Scott in 1979.]

But this was the story running the rounds when Julie Burchill banged on about it as being gay Reggae. Not convinced, but it sounds like it could be him. He is an accomplished pianist, as I found out when I spent 3 nights on the batter with him, whilst he was filming Shallow Grave.

Keith had a character he played on Channel 4 late night back in the early 80s, where he played a gay miner, who’s dad was gay and his father before him, etc. Led to religious people saying he shouldn’t be allowed on TV etc, as they thought Keith was genuinely gay.

There a bit more info on this story over at the Uncarved blog. Here are sides A and B of Boots Sex Dread (even the names have been confused over time):

Boots Sex Dread “Rinka” NSFW
 

 
Boots Sex Dread “Penton Pressure” NSFW
 

 
Boots Sex Dread is rare as hens’ teeth, but it was re-issued not too long ago, so keep an eye out and you might find it.
 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
follow us in feedly
Page 7 of 13 ‹ First  < 5 6 7 8 9 >  Last ›