Why We’d Hate Coming To America If It Was Released Today

coming

Although there are Black movies (“Black movies” = “movies featuring Black people and/or Black stories”) that are better (Malcolm X, Glory, Do The Right Thing, etc), more important (The Color Purple, Shaft, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, etc), and even funnier (Undercover Brother, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, The Original Kings of Comedy, etc), none are as universally beloved by us as Coming to America. 

While it’s not definitely not loved by every single Black person, there’s no doubt it would appear on more of our favorite’s lists than any other Black film. There’s even less doubt that, if we took a vote, “Queen to Be” could replace “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as our national anthem.

Yet, after re-watching it last weekend for the 367234th time, something dawned on me: If this movie was released in 2014, it would not receive the same love. In fact, many of us would hate it. Not all of us, of course. Many would still enjoy it. But, considering today’s general mood about comedy — where certain types of humor seems to have to pass through a gauntlet of arbitrarily determined standards before considered socially acceptable — there would be so much negative pushback towards it that even the people who loved it would be loathe to publicly admit it.

The pushback would start on Facebook and #blacktwitter weeks before the movie was even released, as word about the plot and the people involved would begin to circulate.

“A White director making a comedy about Africa? #nocountryforoldappropriation”

“Apparently, Arsenio is in a wig during a scene. And a dress. I couldn’t make this sh*t up if I tried. Does everyone in Hollywood hate Black women?”

As the release date neared, and media people started to attend advance screenings, thinkpieces would start to formulate on Slate, The Root, Clutch, EBONY, Jezebel, and (admittedly) VSB.

Coming to America’s Big, Fat Africa Problem: What The Movie Gets Wrong About African Immigrants, And Why It’s So Upsetting 

Queen To Be? Not If She’s Dark: Coming to America’s Disturbing Colorism 

Lisa McDowell, Feminist or Fake?

Homies or Homie/Lover/Friends? Akeem and Semmi’s Very Peculiar Bond

From Mop to Fries in Three Years: On Slave Wages and Cleo McDowell 

Was it Selfish For Eddie and Arsenio To Play Multiple Characters Instead of Hiring More Black Actors?

By the time the movie was set to be released, there would be so many petitions and protests against it that the studio would pull it from the theaters. WorldStarHipHop would buy the rights to it, replace Shari Headley and Allison Dean with Erica Mena and Dutchess from Black Ink, and release it in six 15 minute long installments on their site.

I don’t know if there would be a sequel. Perhaps there would be one 14 years after the original film was released. Who knows? I don’t.

I do know, though, that no one would ever sing “Queen to Be” at their wedding.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

I Do This For (Your) Culture?

That's the same thing I did Mr. Benjamin.

I saw the movie Marci X this past weekend. My random movie game is not to be trifled with. Not a bad movie, but not exactly one I’d recommend anybody spend time watching. Of course, if you’re bored and don’t have anything else to do, there are much worse movies you can watch than Marci X like say Who Made The Potato Salad?

Well, in the movie, Lisa Kudrow stars as the billionaire heiress to a music company mogul who is trying to get Damon Wayans (his name is Dr. S in the movie) to apologize for some of his brash lyrics. Well, they end up dating and the plan is for him to go and apologize for his lyrics at the MTV Music awards.

Well, as Damon Wayans date to the awards show, Lisa Kudrow’s character does what any white woman dating a thugged out Black man would do…

…she dresses like an Erykah Badu knockoff.

Say heffa say what???

Oh no she didn’t.

She was fully garbed in a headwrap, a kinte cloth wrap dress, some beads, and I could have sworn I saw an African medallion somewhere. Pure and utter non-sense. And it wasn’t offensive or anything, just overdone. Totally overdone.

It got me to thinking about the asstastic mess of a job people do when they’re trying to emulate another culture in attempts to assimilate or show support. And yes, we do a horrible job, regardless of race. This means Black people too. This isn’t just a white thing…this spans ALL cultures.

For the life of me, I don’t understand how people can really be so oblivious to the fact that in our attempts to show support or “understanding” of another culture, we completely turn ourselves into caricatures. For instance, when white people try to emulate Black culture, have you noticed that they pick the most extreme examples of Black culture to embrace? I’m talking gold or platinum chains that hang down to their ankles, doo-rags when they have straight hair, hiphop gear that nobody even remotely attached to Black culture would wear. Hell, sometimes I think that most companies make “hiphop” clothing specifically for the leagues of white people who want to be cool between the ages of 13-24 and think that “Black” culture is the way to go.

And it isn’t like everything is off. It just seems like people take that one extra step that would normally have you falling off a cliff and getting caught by your toenails on a broken bottle of Absolut Vodka hanging out of the side of a mountain.

Let’s not just stop with white people though. Let’s talk about Black folks. Yes, Black folks who think they are doing a service to Africa by wearing sh*t Africans wouldn’t be caught dead in. Have you ever noticed how ridiculous a lot of Black folks look when they are paying tribute to “mother Africa”?

Me too.

Hell, it offends me sometimes. Throwing on some kinte clothe pants some slippers exposing your flour-powered toes and putting on an “African” hat you purchased from an Arab guy in your local mall doesn’t exhibit support. It exhibits an exhibit of what not to do when trying to show support to your African brothers and sisters, most of whom you’ll never actually meet.

Hmm…I wonder. Has anybody ever thought to ask an African what they would wear at some sort of traditional ceremony in their home country?? It seems as if the biggest problem we have is that none of us ever ASKS a person of the culture we’re attempting to copy what THEY would wear.

And that includes Africans too.

I’m not sure whose worse in this case, white people or Africans. See, it would seem that Africans get their Black fashion ideas from the same place white people do.

Television and other white people.

And I’m just not quite sure which shows either of them are watching.

Hmmm…

Africans that try to dress like Black Americans miss the mark so hard you have to wonder where they were shooting. It’s the same problem white people have, and its the same problem Black Americans have when trying to be more “African.”

Just makes you want to slap everybody.

For some reason, in our attempts to show support we end up mocking the very thing we want to support. How dumb is that? Thats why I don’t wear anything traditionally African now. Hell, I don’t want to walk outside and offend an African. Some years ago I bought a shirt that said “I (Heart) Afrikan People.”

Hmmm…

It was a good idea when I bought it. Then I thought about it, even wore it once, and felt a whole lot of weird because I’m not African. Well, not in the traditional sense. I’m clearly of African descent.

But the fact is, wearing a shirt that says I Love African People isn’t exactly showing love, it feels more like a mockery. I can wear a shirt talking about I love Black people because well…I’m a Black dude. I associate with Black people. (Allegedly) African people view me as Black. Basically, its like a white person wearing a shirt that says I Love Black People. The right sentiments might be there, but truth be told, it almost looks like a slap in the face. That’s some shit you say after you say something ignorant to attempt to cover your tracks.

And I’m ignorant…so I know what you say when trying to cover your tracks.

I keed I keed.

Back to the point here…it’s interesting how in our attempts to show support we often end up mocking other cultures, openly.

What makes it even more f*cked up is this. In the movie, Lisa Kudrow dressed up as a stereotypic “down-to-earth soul” sistah, kind of chick. Damon Wayans…was a gansta rapper. That shit doesn’t match. Which highlights another problem. Not only do folks not know what they’re doing…they don’t even know WHEN to not know what they’re doing!

So the next time you see a white chick in a headwrap with some Ankh earrings or a Black guy wearing a kinte cloth dashiki with a map of the middle passage adorning the front…

…slap the living shit out of them then tell them the good news.

You just saved a bunch of money on your car insurance by switching to Geico.

Seriously though, why do you think that we people, as a rule, generally do such a terrible job of emulating and/or supporting other cultures?

Inquiring minds would like to know?

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. LET’S PLAY NICE TODAY aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

PS: VSB recently teamed up with Coliseum Apparel to do a limited run of VSB branded crewneck sweaters. These joints are dope and I’ve already been rocking them about town. It’s still perfect weather for them as well. #teamVSB. Go on over to Coliseum Apparel’s site to check them out and cop you one! They’re going to go fast!!!!

K.O.N.Y. 2012

(For the record, I’m aware that it’s merely KONY 2012, but I’m going to make a point with that.)

Criticism, like love, is a many splendored thing. Truth is, it’s way easier to criticize something or somebody than it is to acknowledge that something or somebody is actually attempting to make a difference and give credit where credit is due. Such brings us to the present day (well last week and running currently) KONY 2012 campaign by the company and organization Invisible Children.

To be fair, I knew very little about this until yesterday when I read somebody’s Facebook status criticizing the Kony 2012 thing on the grounds that anybody who cares about this now and didn’t pay attention to any myriad African causes is hypocrtical and ill-informed. Fair enough, but totally misses the boat. But we’ll get to that in a moment. Back to me just finding out what in Sam Hill this Kony thing is about.

I’d heard mention of it last week when somebody mentioned some video for Kony. Now, I obviously listen to too much hip-hop because I immediately thought it was some sort of King of New York upcoming tribute to the Notorious B.I.G. Or some wayward reworking of T.O.N.Y. by Capone-N-Noreaga. And because I didn’t care, I let that b*tch breathe. Again, too much hip-hop. But after seeing the critical FB message I watched the entire video, all roughly 30 minutes of it, at work, and found myself in awe at this organizations presentation AND plan to bring attention and awareness to a cause.

Let’s forget the actual target of the cause for a second. Let’s talk about the method. It’s sheer brilliance. In today’s social media driven landscape, Invisible Chidlren, created a video where they showed the birth of a movement from inception to action. And that my friends is impressive. And it’s one that takes full advantage of the way youth move in this nation now from creating viral campaigns and utilizing that message to effect change to the point where the President takes notice and does something entirely based on their work and advocacy. That is how you do something. That’s how you make a difference. I must say that I was completely impressed and inspired by the dedication it took to be both patient enough and believe in something enough to stick with it for the long haul. And the method of creating propoganda to make the man’s name a household name isn’t even obnoxious like some of the Occupy camps that popped up. Interesting that immediate reaction was to draw comparisons. I’m human. Sue me.

Joseph Kony, one of the leaders of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army, is undoubtedly a bad man. And while there’s NO way that any 30 minute video could fully capture the complexity of the issue of Kony’s crimes against humanity and the creation of child rebel soldiers, what this video did was create an entire awareness to possibly as many as 74 million people who watched the video on YouTube and who knows how many others who’ve read about it since last week (March 5).

Obviously, that creates controversy. Which is where the criticisms start to come in (all easily Google-able). Is it too little too late? Some say that Kony is nowhere near as much of an issue as he was 10 years ago in Uganda. Maybe true, but he’s still on the ICC’s list of wanted criminals. Some say this video has done more damage than good by giving Kony the heads up that the USA and Uganda are looking for him and will force him to change up his methods of hiding (he’s on the run). Others claim that this organization isn’t clear and transparent about their actual charity work, etc. A claim that the organization itself hasn’t been shy about addressing. Others think the video had the wrong focus. And some folks are claiming some type of “why do you people care now when you didn’t care about anything else….”

I can honestly say that I hate people who make that last argument. You can’t do anything about anything unless you know about it. Speeches only reaches those that know it exists. Knowing what to care about is impossible unless everybody knows where to find out about what’s going on. Which is why this campaign is brilliant. You don’t know who Joseph Kony is? Watch the video. I guarantee you will by the end.

And that’s the point. Creating awareness about somebody in order to get the public consciousness on board. That’s the only way you get change. The Civil Rights movement wouldn’t have lasted if 100 people boarded that train. It wasn’t until the nation saw the brutality in Birmingham and the water hoses and police dogs attacking defenseless and peaceful protestors that the nation got on board (for the most part) with the Civil Rights movement. Which is why I think that much of the criticism levied against the Kony 2012 movement and the Invisible Children organization is sour grapes. This org found a target and found a way to make people care or at least pay attention. I guarantee you that there are people who know Joseph Kony’s name that would NEVER have known under any other circumstance. And that cannot be a bad thing.

At all.

Awareness. It’s the key to change. It’s why the message for every Spike Lee movie is to “wake up”. Pay attention. Be aware of what’s really going on. That’s the premise of Kony 2012. If we were smart, we’d take a lesson from this organization and do the same damn thing with other causes. It’s why Occupy Wall Street both succeeded and failed. It succeeded because for a legit moment in time, everybody was talking about it. It failed because unlike Kony 2012, at some point, it was all just rhetoric and nobody really knew what the hell to ask for.

If you bring awareness to tragedy, at some point people have to do something right. You can’t stick your head in the sand forever. And to me, this method and the cause are worthy of note.

And to be fully honest, at first I was ready to write this entire thing off as more white guilt and liberal do-gooderism until I really started thinking about the fact that you know what, if that sh*t helps to change the world, then I’m all for it. Sometimes, those who seem the most annoying and obnoxious really do have their hearts in the right place and because they care that much, and are white, they’ll have the time, resources, and desire to see something through.

If that helps me get a home loan. Sign me up.

So, good people of VSB, what do you think about the KONY 2012 campaign and ensuing dustup and debate? Hell, do you think about it at all?

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. I WATCHED THE WHOLE VIDEO WHERE’S MY ACTION KIT aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

*Have you signed up for the VSB VIP List? If not, go on ahead and do it so that you can receive emailed listings of events sponsored or supported by VSB and other goings ons in your area. Plus you get more of that good ole VSB charm and pizzazz via email. Look, seriously, my mom asked me to ask you to do it, mmkay?*

Yeah, I Was Just In Africa On Tuesday!

Apparently this is where Nas and T-Boz went in Belly. To some trees. Africa.

Black history month is almost over so let’s talk about Africa.

Something’s been on my mind for quite some time. And it’s bigger than me and you, your mama and your cousin too. It’s a phenomenon that was brought to my attention while reading the book Authenically Black by John McWhorter about this whole notion of Mother Africa and the ability of us black folks to claim any and everything as being inherently African.

And you know what, I agree with him…that’s pure and utter bullsh*t.

Now I’m not a fan of Mr. McWhorter at all. In fact, I believe that he’s exactly what’s wrong with some black folks in America. And it isn’t that he doesn’t have good ideas because truthfully he does. It’s more in his execution. For instance, as opposed to saying that Amadou Diallo was unjustly murdered for pulling out a wallet, McWhorter took the side of police officers in pointing out that they are working under stressful conditions and that they feared for their lives. Now I don’t find anything wrong with that statement except for the fact that THEY SHOT THIS DUDE 41 TIMES AND HIS BACK WAS TURNED TO THEM. Forty one mother fuckin’ times???

Look, I know this is old, so I skip that since most of us have forgotten about it, but sometimes you do have to say f*ck the police.

And like usual, I’ve digressed.

Aha…Africa. Have you seen Belly?? Of course you have. I’ve seen it a good million times. Even bought the special edition. I love that movie. You’re probably wondering how I could love that movie. See, I don’t view it as a movie, more as an extra long form music video. If you watch it like that, it makes complete sense and flows smoothly. And yes, T-Boz and Taral Hicks both need Oscars for their interpretations of hood chicks that can’t act. Shout outs to Octavia Spencer.

[***Sidenote: Speaking of T-Boz, wasn't her performance the absolute worst you've ever seen on screen? Go ahead, you can admit it. I wonder how many times Hype Williams wanted to shoot her, and I don't mean that in the directorial way either. It's hard to believe that her scenes were the best takes they got on her. If they were, then she is living proof that you cannot do anything you set your mind too. See that kiddes, failure is real. Sometimes there are things you just CAN'T do. Sheesh!***]

At the end of Belly, Nas’ character Sincere and wifey Tionne, decide to move to Africa. Where at in Africa??? You’re guess is as good as mine. They showed some damn trees and the sky and the assumption was that you were somewhere in the motherland, as opposed to say, I don’t know, ANYWHERE ELSE THAT HAS SOME DAMN TREES AND THE SKY!!! The voiceover was very clear as Nas says, “Africa…it was so beautiful.”

Hmmm.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a problem. Now I know that we cannot trace our ancestors back very far. We just know that they came over on some party boats and were promised some bubbly and some new digs, and well, we were lied too. But what we do know is that a majority of our ancestors came over from the Western Coast of Africa. Not exactly South Africa or Madagascar. Not Zimbabwe or the Congo. Not Kenya nor Ethiopia.

So why in the sh*t is it that every time we do something we trace it back to Africa??? As a whole?? Now I understand the whole cultural identity thing and the fact that we, as a people, were removed from the original homeland and over time lost our ties to whichever country we originated from and its customs and heritage. Due to this, our history is lacking. We don’t have much of one outside of being Americans, nowadays, and even that’s shady at best.

But that whole notion gets lost on me when we start referring to everything we do as being of African descent. Every dance cannot be traced back to some tribal dance. And I swear, if another dude tells me he got his aim from his ancestors, which is why he’s so accurate with a .45, I just might scream.

Further, I wonder if most people even know any actual Africans. I wonder this because every person I know from Africa refers to their country as their home. They don’t just say Africa when asked where they are from. They say Nigeria or Ghana (or wherever they’re from). When we go overseas and somebody asks where we’re from, we often say America (or some country in the Caribbean if we’re in hostile territory), or the U.S. Kicko, that’s a country…not a continent.

So where do we get off appropriating everything to a damn continent?? Dashikis!! Africa. Kwanzaa!!! Africa. Honestly, none of my friends from Africa celebrate Kwanzaa. Nor have I seen any of them in that overly colorful sh*t you can buy from the African stores in AnyMajorCity, USA. If you ask me, it seems like somebody is pimping Africa. Making money off of the perception of Africa.

Now that I think about it, I also get slightly miffed when folks send out those emails where you list everything about yourself and send it to 30 of your friends or you’ll die a horrible death by papercut, lemon, and telephone cord. One of the questions is always: Have you been to Africa? I can only assume this is the African-American version. I wonder if the white version says, “ever been to Russia?” People always respond to that question with, no, but I’m planning too. So my question is…WHERE in Africa?? Hell does it matter? Does stepping one foot on the continent equate to soul cleansing because of the journey, trials, and tribulation of our ancestors. And if that’s so, does it matter if our ancestors didn’t actually COME from the part of Africa you step foot on??

You see, people, my people, especially black Americans, are quick to point out that Africa is a continent full of beautiful black people all over. Continents have countries and everybody in Africa isn’t the same. Until we come up with something like Kwanzaa or some other random sh*t that cannot be factually tied to any particular country, and just say it’s from…AFRICA!!! I have no real beef with Kwanzaa until people start espousing that cultural tie to Africa thing because then my question becomes…WHERE IN AFRICA??? It’s good in theory but dammit, Africa isn’t a big a** country. Everybody in Africa doesn’t speak the same language or follow the same traditions.

Hell, everybody in America doesn’t speak the same language or follow the same traditions. So how can we be so close-minded as to just determine that anything we do black comes from Africa. Like that makes sense?? Can we determine a country of origin dammit?? Does it make any difference that people in Egypt and people in Sierra Leone do completely different sh*t?? Or is that just inconsequential when we are trying to establish that black people were responsible for civilization??

I’m all for determining our origins. But I really hate that black folks just so quickly make some false tie to Africa for any and everything that we do. Newsflash muchacha: Everything ain’t African. Ebonics??? Questionable tie AT BEST. Kwanzaa…umm…right! Kinte clothe??? Named after Kunte?? I don’t know the answer to that but until I see REAL people from Africa wearing it, I’ll pass.

And until somebody can prove to me that Nas was really in Africa, I’m assuming his a** was in South Carolina somewhere looking at some trees.

Unless somebody can prove he was in Kenya or some sh*t.

To be clear, I do understand the ultimate longing for connection and connectivity, and maybe that supersedes everything I’ve just stated. However, I do think that there is a supreme leeway being taken when it comes to what we state comes from Africa.

But what do you think? Am I reading too much into it or am I selling Blackness short? Talk to me.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. EASTSIDE SOUTH COMPTON aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

DC Folks: This Saturday, March 3, 2012, is another edition of REMINISCE, the party dedicated to all 90s everything. Folks can tell you by now how dope a party it is. And this edition is all about Brooklyn! FREE before 11pm W/RSVP (reminiscedc.eventbrite.com) ($10 after), OPEN BAR from 930-1030pm and NO DRESS CODE. Come party with VSB!!! Peep the Facebook event reminder: http://www.facebook.com/events/109004725890162/

Kwanzaa: The Milli Vanilli of Holidays

***Due to simultaneous emergencies in VSB land last night — Champ was home making soup, P was judging a thong contest at a 24-hour bowling alley, and Liz was actually in the thong contest (she came in 2nd) — we reached out to the homie Luvvie to provide today’s post. She was reluctant at first, but a quart of rice and a half gallon of baby oil eventually swayed her. Enjoy.***

Kwanzaa is the Milli Vanilli of Holidays. It tries too hard to be authentic, but at the end of the day, it’s just a lip-synching, bad locs-wearing version of Hanukkah in Cross Colors Kente.

I’ve never been a fan of Kwanzaa and I doubt I’ll ever be one. This might be because I’m an elitist African. Or maybe I’m just a professional hater. Or both. Either way, I’ve often had to stop myself from saying “Harambe DEEZ” when people tell me “Happy Kwanzaa” thinking I celebrate it, especially because I’m from the motherland. White folks tend to think I’m the person to direct that greeting to and I usually just respond with a blank stare or a half nod. I’m African but I don’t fux with Kwanzaa celebratorily.

According to the official website (which looks like it was built on Geocities), “Kwanzaa was created to reaffirm and restore our rootedness in African culture.” Too bad this celebration of culture and roots isn’t even celebrated by most Africans. I’m not saying I know every African on this Earth, but I know NONE who celebrate Kwanzaa. I didn’t even know about Kwanzaa til I was 9, when I came to theUnited States, and we learned about it in school. I had never even heard of it. My sister even asked me if Al Sharpton invented it in 1984. I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was actually Jesse Jackson.

The fact that Africans don’t celebrate Kwanzaa doesn’t make it invalid, but it’s like saying you’re paying homage to Native American culture by putting a feather in your cap and saying “HEYHOWAREYA” as you dance around a campfire. We don’t all speak Swahili, nor do we fist pump and go “Harambe” as celebration when we kill a goat. Pan-Africanism is all well and dandy but it doesn’t need to come packaged in cowrie shells, dashikis and Swahili. Kwanzaa is that teacher in high school who wears kente cloth on MLK Day that she bought it from87th street. You don’t have to do all that to show pride, or to reconnect to ancestors.

Besides that, Maulana Karenga — creator of Kwanzaa — gets hella side-eyes himself. Apparently, his motives behind creating the holiday was to make sure Black folks didn’t celebrate Christmas because apparently, Jesus was a crip and and Christmas is for suckas. So he decided to put together Black Hanukkah, complete with a menorah and candles in the Pan-African colors of red, green and black. Oh. Ok.

And that whole incident in the 70s where he was convicted of torturing a couple of his “African Queens” with electrical cord beatings and hot irons in their mouths. Yeah… Karenga seems to have hella issues.

BUT, I’m not pissing on Kwanzaa entirely. I guess the 7 principles are nice and useful if practiced. Unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith ARE great principles for black folks to hold dear. But I think black culture is rich enough to where these can be emphasized without being in this Swahili-ness that Karenga decided on. Black Americans, your love is too legendary and the culture is too rich to have Kwanzaa throw it back in your face in a harambe fist pump. I’m all about celebrating African American culture, uplifting my people but to me, Kwanzaa reeks of “try too hard.” Blame it on the Boondocks.

Kwanzaa is the Michelle Williams of holidays. It has good intentions (I guess) but it doesn’t curl all the way over for me. I don’t have a problem with people who celebrate it, though. Besides, I admit my hypocrisy, because I do celebrate Christmas, which is also technically made up. And I know Jesus isn’t a Capricorn but whatevs. I’ll take my December full of materialism, cheesy carols and sweet alabaster white baby Jesus in a manger. And some jolly old dude breaking into my house to eat my cookies (pause)  and drop off a gift. Yes. That’s much better.

Anyway, people of VSB.com: Tell us how you really feel about Kwanzaa.  Do you celebrate it? If so, why? If not, why not?

The Kwanzaa tree(?) is yours.

You can find Luvvie at Awesomely Luvvie, on Twitter, or milking goats at various mangers in the greater Chicago-area. .