Sunday, April 29, 2012

HOLY MACKEREL: THEY WERE MUCH MORE THAN COONS!

Okay, so my lips are big and my head is long, but who are you calling a coon?

Look at me, I am as helpless as a kitten in a tree. I feel like I am hanging on a cloud. Well, I realize you can't see me but I am hyped today. I am pumped, I am stoked, I can't control my emotions, and I'll tell you why.


If the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, does that mean I am forever linked to the DNA of my biological family? Does it also mean I am a product of my environment? If all that be true, Holy Mackerel..... I'm in trouble. But I am too much in love with my family to sweat the small stuff.

Did I mentioned that I was dripping with anticipation. In laymen terms, that means I might go on another long journey. If you'd like to come along, I am going to visit a family friend.

My family has spread it's wings in on array of social and economical playing fields. Today I am going to stop by the house of my uncle Kingfish. He has past away. Some of you may know him. His real name is Tim. He is the brother of my grandfather. He played the part of George Stevens, aka Kingfish, on the early television series Amos & Andy. Yes, that's my family tree. He was raised in the same small town that I once called home. This is not a story of family barbecues, nor a tale of bedside chats. This is a story of messages from the past.

I have a collection of the old program that I've shared with my children. Many talking heads have vilified the series as coonery at it's worst. They harped to the extent that it was banned from television. Some of those bobbing head negroes that have a propensity to look through the blues eye of other cultures, seem to have forgotten their past. But let me move forward.

How about these lyric, lets see if they ring a bell.... Temporary layoff/ good times/ easy credit ripoff/ good times/ ain't we lucky we got them/ GOOD TIMES!
WTH? What's good about easy credit ripoff! Did I hear a subliminal message?

How about this one: Beans don't burn in the Kitchen {no mo'}/ grits don't burn on the grill {no mo'}/ took a whole lot of crying/ just to get up that hill {what hill?}/ Now we up in the big league {what league?}/ took our our turn at bat/ it's you and me baby/ and ain't nothing wrong with that/..... We MOVIN' ON UP.


Hold up, wait one minute, don't go anywhere. What the hell was "that"? I mean, to start with, George Jefferson was Archie Bunker's special kind of fool. Sure, George was given a bone by being allowed to say "HONKY HONKY HONKY". But what businessman runs around doing the slop and yelling honky? Give me a freakin' break. George Jefferson made Kingfish look like a choir boy. And, what's this "movin' on up" thang? I mean, the brotha had 2 cleaners on the south side of Chicago. Do I hear a few more subliminal Messages? Lets move on down the road.

The last time I checked, I didn't see any of the following "themes" in the Amos &;Andy series, and I've seen all of them.
I didn't see homosexuality, drug use or gun play. In an episode called "Kingfish finds his fortune", Amos and Kingfish had a argument. They squared off to fight. They waltzed around a table for about 30 second until both got so tired - they sat down. Oh the horror of it all. I shake with fear when I even think about that kind of violence.

I never saw wife swapping or domestic violence in that series. I am yet to see one black person call another black person N**ga. I know I didn't see grown men salivating over the buttock of underage girls. Lord knows I didn't see any images of a grown man dressed in drag.
WAIT! Did you hear that? Shhhhhush, listen, be quiet, I believe Tyler Perry has walked into the room ?

Opps, can we go there? Can we walk down his street? Why not, lets go. But, maybe we should first ask those that said Amos & Andy sent out destructive messages, to see if it's alright. Maybe we should ask them to define racism. Maybe we should see if they have pictures of their uncle Toms cabin. Come to think of it, I am not going to waste my time dissecting the blatant sewer bowl of the wonderful world of Tyler Perry films. Well, not until those same aforementioned bobbin' head Uncle Toms & Tomettes compare them to the Amos & Andy series.

Although Kingfish could be considered a huckster, and a con man, he didn't sell dope and he didn't steal from his fellow man. Nor did he cheat on his wife. Usually he paid for his misdeeds, and there were messages of redemption. Speaking of his wife, she wasn't Hattie McDaniels or Butterfly McQueen, and we all have images of their mammy ways. They are indelibly carved in our brain. Can anyone say mammy rags and ultra passivity? Mrs. Stevens role was unlike many roles given to our present queens of beauty. Who can forget the role given to Halle Barry in Monsters Ball? Can anyone say "flip flop whore". Kingfish's wife and mother-in-law were decent hard working black women. Without Sapphire, Kingfish may have been a lost man.

Today I am thinking about my family and our first black president and the road that got us here. A part of me was a pioneer of black consciousness - one of the first black faces on television. A part of me is the first black face to lead the USA into a new world. Being first can be a thankless position.
Depending on who's writing history, "first" can be erased from history, and replaced by the banter of it's supposed ill effects. Slavery seeps into my mind. A silent and lazy mind can be convinced that new is better than old, or "old" is not worth talking about. Without a first, there can never be a second.

When I go down memory lane with my children, I suggest they seek the good and leave the bad behind. I believe it's important for all people to champion those that have gone before them. At least seek first to understand. Knowledge is king, without such, a person is left to the whims and opinions of another person, who may not have their best interest at heart.

My uncle's house is no longer there. A Martin Luther King Center sits in it's place. The home is gone and so is my uncle, but his memory is alive. It's in me.
Take a peek behind me. Is it dark back there? You'll have to tell me because I am not looking for the bad stuff.

What's in your tree? I've heard it said that if a person doesn't stand for something, they will fall for anything. Holy Mackerel!

12 comments:

RiPPa said...

Carey, watch my blog tonight. I have an answer back post in response to your guest post by one of my readers.

It jumps off at 8PM

Maxine said...

Don't forget, Carey, that you too are a part of this progress.

uglyblackjohn said...

Almost all fortunes can be traced back to some misdeeds (bootlegging, slave ownership, whatever) - but if playing a ficticious character is the worst of your family's problems, you're doing alright.

FreeMan said...

I would like to say I come from a long line of Hustlers! That would be degrading to the fact that all my grandfathers stories and great uncles and all the men in my family all did what was needed to survive. No apologies, not even a lot of stories until I lived a bit of it on my own and then they said how they related.

When all the men in my family died they were all in the service. They all made sure they weren't buried with that fucking American flag. Even recently as I was sitting with my great uncle he told me to make sure those devils didn't put it on his grave.

So where does the apple fall. Unlike most Black people we have our family history intact going back almost 150 + years. Pictures, plots of land and all. We have the names of the people who raped the women, the US gov't not giving my family the proceeds from my family dying in WWII and a hidden past that makes all of angrier than road rage. We were the nation before the Nation!

So the apple didn't fall to far away from the tree in my family. We aren't trying to be part of it, we actually lived it. I'm just the next generation of men who came up never forgiving and never forgetting!

Keith said...

My late Uncle..My father's brother used to come over our house on Christmas..(By "our", I mean the house that I own, that I live in with my wife and formerly my daughter.) and play his collection of Amos and Andy VHS tapes all day long. My daughter didn't like them and would often look for an excuse to leave the house after dinner. It was Christmas,so I didn't stop her..But I got into em, found em hillarious and was rarely if ever offended by them. They were no more offensive to me than the Three
Stooges were to Jews.

I agree...Some of these Black intellectuals who put Amos and Andy and Stephin Fetchit and all of those folks down forget..that this is where we came from...You would think that we would do better now, but a lot of these rappers and other cultural icons are guilty of worse coonery and bufoonery.

I touch on this in the blog post I just finished writing for tomorrow.
("A Tale of two Beefs") Check it out if you get a chance..You and I are on the same accord somewhat.
You'll see.

As usual..Hell of a post...See,I knew you couldn't walk away from this game..I never ever thought of it! -:)

FreeMan said...

Look there is always a conflict of what should be the model for Black America. So depending on how the person grew up they see things differently.

Most things called buffoonery or coonery usually come from people who probably were called KingFish when they were at work. Now my mother thought it was funny and has a whole bunch of dirty records that aren't PG.

I once asked her doesn't she find them embarrassing to us. She said you can only be embarrassed if you care what other people think.

CareyCarey said...

Yeah RiPPa, that was wild.

Wasn't that whole debate something like the message in this post. people only hear or see what they are looking for.

Maxine, you're so deep that I don't know how to respond. Maybe I should say thank you?

Uncle Black, although I my have joked about my DNA, I have no ill feelings about my past or those of my family. But truth be told, when the family stories are passed down to future generations. My story might be one of the "don't do that" stories.

FreeMan, wow, you went deep, but that's what I like about you. You get to the root of the problem. It sounds like your apple (tree) is bitter sweet. But the seed is still intact.

Keith, I can so relate to your uncle and the children. My children didn't really embrace the series. It's a different culture.

The root of my post was just that. The question is.... where have we gone? Who's deciding what's good for us and or children.

I spoke of subliminal message. Well, the mind is a terrible thang to waste. More so, to watse on another's opinion.

That leads me back to FreeMan:

"I once asked her doesn't she find them embarrassing to us. She said you can only be embarrassed if you care what other people think"

Double Bingo. It's a rap!

CareyCarey said...

Keith, it's been very difficult for me to enter your site. Pop up blockers or something.

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

Amos and Andy were cool, and anyone who takes time to watch their old series on YouTube will be surprised. I use to watch them as a young kid, and my parents would laugh so hard. The NAACP stabbed them in the back for not being "assimilated" enough. Grass roots black folks were pissed. NAACP still doing that shit.

CareyCarey said...

Hey Kit, thanks for coming back. You know what. I didn't even know they were on Youtube until the other day! Yeah, although I have family pictures, I wanted one of the whole cast. I'd never seen the one in which the whole cast was introduced before the first episode. Good looking out.

LoudPen said...

I need to watch an episode of Amos & Andy before I form an opinion b/c since I've never seen the show I was little lost on this post.

I loved Freeman's comment that you can only be embarassed if you care what other ppl. think. So deep.

And Carey, check your email. I've sent you two emails. Luvs ya!

Big Mark 243 said...

For whatever reason your posts haven't been showing up in my dashboard. Prolly part of the conspiracy, I tell you!!

A lot of the so-called 'groundbreaking' television of the late great Norman Lear was more or less a Jewish perspective of what they thought of black people... their best and worst customers... liable to purchase the most expensive item in the store at the same time they are trying to shoplift a $2 trinket.

What do I know about Amos and Andy... first of all, like you, I saw different lessons that contrasted to what the media would try to convince me of. Some of the images were a slightly hurtful, but definitely not as brusing as the shows that you have mentioned, along with the commercials, movies what not.

The media has never been kind in how it represents blacks.

What I argue is that we contribute to and lift up these negative images and take offense when someone else points out the inconsistency ... who can use the 'n word' and what not. I guess as long as a profit can be made and the market demands it, rappers and your boy Tyler Perry can...

... don't forget Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence. Though I did not like Flip Wilson's 'Geraldine' for much the same reason as I could not stomach those characters, there seems to be less redeem characteristics shown in the slanderous portrayals of black women by Eddie and Martin. But they made mad loot... so who am I to say?

I know that I have drifted a bit... believe it or no, I am trying not to let macro- issues trouble me to the level of coherency. But I KNOW that I would feel a sense of pride in my blood for what they accomplished. The alternative is to be Sonny Liston returning to Philly after his first beatdown of Floyd Patterson...