Under The Radar Significant Contributors To Black History

bhmBetween the 1st and the 28th of February, Black History is having the best month ever. We just heard a few days ago that DMX is going to fight George Zimmerman #justcuz on Pay-Per-View or something which…you know what? Let me go ahead and say this. What if DMX loses? Zimmerman will basically be 3-0 against Black people. He killed Trayvon Martin, beat the system in Florida, AND knocked out DMX, something the legal system can’t seem to accomplish. Point is, if I’m DMX, I’m really rethinking this idea.

Moving on and back to Black History Month. During this month we of course get all of the necessary tributes and odes to giants past. But there are some folks who have made some fairly significant contributions to Black History, but under the radar. To discuss these contributions, I’ve enlisted the help of the VSB superstar, The Articulist, Shamira aka Sham-Diddy (clap for her) to help give some nouns their proper place in history.

I’ll start it out. I’d like to nominate Cam’ron. Why Cam’ron? Well, he’s possibly had a direct influence in one of THE most important aspects of Black History. You see, Cam renaissanced Harlem. Before Cam’ron and DipSet came thru and painted Harlem pink, Harlem had lost a bit of its cultural caché. I mean, it was still Harlem but it wasn’t what it used to be. Enter DipSet and Harlem once again rises and becomes relevant for years. I mean, DipSet took over America. And therefore Harlem World’s prominence was restored. And anybody who knows anythign will tell you that Harlem is a central figure to Black History. Sham-wow, What do you think? And yes, I just called you Sham-wow.

Shamira: *cringes at Sham-wow*  But hey…the Articulist, huh? I rather like that. Gotta save that name for when I finally release my mixtape on DatPiff.com. Don’t worry Peej, I’ll give you co-writing credits.

We all know of my absolute stannery for Cam’ron. If you don’t get it, well…you MAAAAD, dawgie. Cameron Giles irrefutably influenced music, cinema, AND the news industry. And you know who else did?

William Ray Norwood, Jr. That’s right, Ray J the GAWD.

Oh, Ray, how do I love thee? Let me list the ways. Not only did he give us the seminal piece of entertainment known as “For the Love of Ray J”(Never Forget:”Danger, She Smashed The Homie”), and the ultimate Bitter Brian anthem known as “I Hit It First”…he provided what might be the best radio interview of the 21st century.  Under presumably the finest of state-altering drugs known to man , he was Ray Charles to the FCC and proceeded to inform the public of all the ways he was better than us.  And I have to say…he was right. I mean, I indeed do not have seven Rolls Royces outside. Nor do I have indoor/outdoor pools, and corresponding basketball courts. And MOST IMPORTANTLY….I do not have ride or die goons that are willing to defend my right to play piano in Floyd Mayweather’s living room (although if we were all being real with ourselves…One Wish goes, man. When’s the last time y’all listened to it?).

Basically, Ray J is all of the most ratchet parts of black twitter combined. He’s like Captain Planet if the five elements were Subtweets, Absurd Stories, B!tchmade Behavior, Delusions of Grandeur, and Wayyyyy too much free time on his hands. Brandy’s brother is tired of being humble, and we should all thank him for that.

P: Grand choice. Just grand. I’m an avowed Ray J fan. I own most of his albums (okay, I downloaded them on my Spotify Premium account, they’re on the same playlist with Jagged Edge) and listen to them after I read my leatherbound books in my mahogany scented apartment. It’s not quite as big as Ray J’s pool, but hey, we can only aspire.

One can’t bring up Ray J and his contributions without bringing up his one time Co-D, Lil Kim. Which brings up an important point. There are contributions, but then there are Black woman contributions which often go unnoticed, even when heaping ceremony upon our people. Michael Jackson did it first followed by Sammy Sosa (“these b*tches love Sosa” – Chief Keef), but Lil Kim took up the mantle for Black women by being the first Black woman to take Black Sheep’s seminal song “The Choice Is Yours” (the remix of course) to heart and go from this (Black woman, “Crush On You” blue/green wig video hot) to that (racially ambiguous, Canal Street Face/Off knockoff hood chick who put her camel toe on blast). While Lil Kim will never get the accolades she deserves as a rapper and for inspiring this generations misguided young women, she did become the first Black woman to Go MJ In De Face and that says something. Michael Jackson was an icon. So what’s her contribution you ask? She in the Black face arts. And a cautionary tale for kids everywhere.

S: Black face arts, though??? I wish I knew how to quit you.

Well, if we’re going to bring up black women presenting cautionary tales, we’ve gotta thank none other than Yandy Smith for showing us the other side of that ride or die life. For too long, the men of America have been able to champion Tameeka “Tiny” Cottle as proof of the rewards you reap when you hold your trappin’ man down. Yeah, you might have a few outside kids who’s ages in the timeline of your allegedly monogamous relationship make you question everything you know about how conception works, but hey, its the 21st century. Break babies are de rigeur!!! You give that man a firm…er…”handshake” while visiting him in the clink, and he’ll reward you with everything your heart desires. You might even get a TV show out of it that positions you as the modern-day Cosbys, cable-knit sweaters and all!

OR….you can be in your Bronx studio with two kids, only one of whom is actually yours, wondering how your fairytale went wrong. You may end up believing that your fiance who thought he was Big Meech, Larry Hoover, whipping work, hallelujah has gotten shafted…because after all “there are still murderers out in these streets.” You may convince yourself that after a year in federal prison, they are still working on getting him out on bail. You may even find yourself going to K. Michelle for advice on how to raise a man! (Spoiler alert: her answer? You can’t)

And you may even find yourself uttering these words with sincerity: “I mean he’s in jail, what else does he have to do but think about me all day?”

Yandy Smith reminds all of us that while your degrees may not keep you warm at night…your dope boy probably won’t either. More importantly, she taught us that if your man’s name ends with an S, pronouncing it is optional. Or maybe you only pronounce the S when you’re mad? The jury’s still out on that.

P: You know, I have no idea if you pronounce the “s” on the end of Mendeecees either. Maybe its like the “p” in Ptolemy, pneumonia, or pbreakfast. I think the most important contribution that Yandy and Mendeecees have made is this: we live in a world where a ninja named Yandy and a ninja named Mendeecees, met, fell in love, and procreated. In terms of Black name scrabble board, they motherf*cking WON at life.

I’d like to toss in Dwayne Cleophus Wayne (Brooklyn, NY/Hillman College) for his contribution to the Come Up. My man showed up to college as a nerdy doofus on some Can’t Get Right from Life steez. I mean, he weng from Walter Oaks questioning if his mother liked him to having the baddest chick in the game wearing his chain. He pulled Whitley, Freddie wanted him (my big haired muse), and even Denise Huxtable considered it even for a second. If anything, he’s the wavy lightskint girl whisperer which is a contribution all to its own. He went up in Byron’s wedding and said, “don’t be mad. Your b*tch chose me. So we can handle this like some gentlemen or get into some gangsta sh*t.” I may have the lines a bit wrong on that one. Point is, Dwayne Cleophus Wayne doesn’t get enough credit for his contribution to Black Cool. His guidance is the truth, the light, and the way towards realizing your full potential and pulling a bad ass light skint chick. Konishiwa, b*tches.

S: Dwayne Wayne did prove that Nice Guys (TM) can indeed win, internet proclamations be damned. He ruined poor Byron’s life though. Dude went on to marry Olivia Pope’s mom and became the evilest evil to ever evil. (YOU. ARE. A. BOY.)

I just realized that we’ve offered all these women without shouting out the realest chick that ever did it. That’s right…Remy Ma.

For those of y’all who are not acquainted with Remy Ma. Lemme learn you a lil bit. She is the leading lady of Terror Squad. A mentee of Big Pun. She’s the chick in the Ante Up Remix that makes you wanna fight everybody. She taught me that my life is not complete until I am able to utter the words “who’s that peeking in my window/nobody cuz I live in a penthouse, baby.”

She has also been in jail since 2007. Now I know what you’re thinking. Another cautionary tale, Shamira? Au contraire, mon frere. She’s a teacher. What’s that lesson, you ask? Money and friends don’t mix.

You know how the story goes: you shy against lending your friend a few Gs, they avail themselves to it anyway, promise to pay you back with their next paycheck, and then they’re waiting for their tax refund…next thing you know you’re in front of a bar at 4 AM mad as hell. What’s a girl to do? Well, probably not shoot the girl in the stomach…allegedly….and rifle through her purse for your money while she’s laying there wounded…but that’s besides the point here guys. Remy Ma knew how money alters friendships and so she just had to explain it to the girl. Forcibly? Perhaps. But I bet the girl won’t forget it.

By the way, we have so many “Free (Insert person who absolutely did the crap he was arrested for but we like him so it shouldn’t count here)” Movements…Boosie, Max B, why not Remy? Patriarchy, I tell you!! I mean, she has two Source awards. TWO. I would argue that “There’s Something About Remy” stirs something in the little hoodrat inside all of us. I should start said line, and y’all should Support Black Businesses, because it’s February. I mean, if Mama Jones can do it, why can’t I?

*Toe wops all the way to the T-Shirt printing store on 125th St*

That’s what we have. Who do you have that made a significant contribution but flies under the radar? And why?

Happy Black History Month.

(Also, if you are offended and feel that we’re trivializing Black history month…bye Felicia.)

-VSB P and Shamira

Fight Ignorance…With Ignorance?

I know this may come as a surprise to you, but ignorance is my favorite sport. I’m not sure how, when, or why it became so, but there’s a distinct possibility that this doesn’t make my mother proud. So when videos like this one from comedian Dave Ackerman entitled, “What do you know about Black History?” come across my inbox, I’m enthralled.

For those who can’t see the video, Ackerman dresses up in Blackface and dons Utah Jazz apparel and heads to Brigham Young University to ask white people what they know about Black History Month and Black people in general. Shenanigans ensue. Obviously the answer is not much. Even the Black people at BYU didn’t seem to know when Black History Month even was.

And the capper? He asked people if they know a Black person when they saw one, hoping that somebody would point out that he was indeed a white guy with makeup on. According to him, only 3 people made the revelation. Even the Black people he showed on camera didn’t notice. Or care. I can’t determine which one it is.

Obviously a perusal through the YouTube comments indicates that some people were offended all around by Ackerman’s audacity AND the fact that these white people in Utah had very little clue about Black History. The most telling part of the video to me was when he asked people to give their impressions of Black people and without fail, they all did…happily. And with reckless aplomb.

And you know what? They looked like my idea of what white people in Utah giving their impressions of Black people would look like. By the way the fact that a white chick actually said that Black History Month is the month that Black history started is beyond hilarious to me. Again, I enjoy and appreciate ignorance.

Ackerman’s point seemed to have been to expose how little white people at BYU know about Black people. Which might not be fair. I mean, its motherf*cking Utah. Except it is fair because we’re in motherf*cking America. But then again, it is entirely possible to live your entire life in places of this country without EVER coming into contact with a Black person without the Internet or television.

Now, these people are ignorant. Not ignant. And they are on a college campus, which speaks volumes, except it doesn’t because formal education has sh*t to do with social interaction education and exposure. Granted, if I was white, I probably wouldn’t spend much time thinking about race or Black people, especially if I lived in Utah. I’m sure there’s no reason to celebrate Black History Month there (I have no idea if they do or not). Everybody knows Martin Luther King, Jr because we all get a day off now.

But just when you think white people are a total disappointment in race relations, they do surprise you by getting some things. When the girls were asked if they’d rather date a Black guy who acted white or a white guy who acted Black, they all unanimously thought a white guy acting Black was ridiculous and stupid.

Yet, because white people do like to make sure our fistpump moments dont last too long, one of the girls stated that a Black guy acting white is classy. Wompington Whathafuckness, III. Oh, well.

The thing I took from the video, aside from the laughs I got, was the amazement at just HOW little white people know about Black people. I mean, not knowing when Black History Month is? That sh*t cray. I suppose its good that they all got in the right half of the year but still, that’s befuddling.

By the way, the fact that this comedian was in Black face doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I get it. If the ultimate goal is to truly test how ignorant some white people are, being a white guy made up as a white guy and going completely unnoticed despite the fact that he looks like a white guy made up as a Black guy, is the best way to prove that point.

So here’s my question: are videos like this necessary? Do they achieve any goal? Is there any greater good derived from something like this? If we all assume that most white people couldn’t give a flying f*ck about Blackness, and all this does is verify that, then was any progress made?

Further, was anybody surprised by how little these white (and few Black people) were unaware about anything pertaining to Blackness? What say you?

Because while I was amused, I wasn’t surprised. Nor did I care that much. La di da.


****For those in the DC area, Very Smart Brothas and Urban Cusp are teaming up to bring you a conversation entitled “Black Images and Culture in Mainstream Media” on February 22, 2012, from 6-8PM at the Washington Post building. There will feature a live panel discussion featuring very accomplished local artists, personalites, and media figures and light refreshments will be served. Be on the lookout for more information very shortly.****

Three Ways To Make Black History Month Better

Black History Month: Home to the weirdest and worst collages ever made

Whether it’s feeling a certain way about the fact that it’s the shortest month of the year, becoming annoyed with the underlying message that Black American history isn’t necessarily American and needs to be segregated, or being forced to remember the time in middle school when, since you were the only black kid in your class, your teacher — a well-intentioned 37 year old Irish-Catholic woman who thought it was appropriate to rock dashikis to school each Feburary — asked you to read a few pages from Jet Magazine aloud in front of the class each day for a month, there are few subjects that inspire the type of collective angst among a population that Black History Month does for Black Americans.

It’s the proverbial perpetually drunk uncle at Thanksgiving: You know he’s coming and you can’t not invite him, so you just hope and pray that he doesn’t get wasted and face-plant into the greens during grace like he did last year.

But, like the drunk uncle, we do actually love and appreciate Black History Month, and we’d miss it if it didn’t show up. Our angst comes from us just wanting it to do…better.

Here’s three possible ways we can make that happen.

1. Move it to May

Boom. In one fell swoop, one of the most common complaints about Black History Month — it’s the shortest month of the year — is rectified.

Why May? Well, two reasons:

A) Aside from the NBA playoffs and Memorial Day (which, for all intents and purposes, is a June holiday anyway), nothing that actually matters happens in May. I’d even go as far as to say that no one born in May has ever mattered¹. (There’s a reason you’re never going to see a coffee table book titled “A Look At The World’s Most Famous Tauruses Taureans“) Since this is true, why not just hijack the entire month? No one is going to feel bad about it. And, even if they do, they were born in May so their opinion doesn’t f*cking matter anyway.

B) Pushing it to the end of the school year will act as a drop-out deterrent for the tens of thousands of black kids who drop out of school every year. Many of these drop outs occur during the end of the school year (Why? The warm weather and the fact that, by that point, knowing they’re going to have to repeat the year makes it easier to chuck the deuces to school²), and putting Black History Month in May will allow black teachers to give em the ultimate guilt trips. You just can’t learn about Marcus Garvey and Sojourner Truth on Tuesday and decide to drop out of school Wednesday.

“So, Harriet Tubman ran barefoot and hungry through five states to escape slavery and your black ass can’t even walk three blocks to school???”

2. Add “Honorary Negros” to the Black History books

Look, I don’t want to minimize the contributions of any African-American who made their mark on history, but there are some things and people celebrated during Black History Month that have a way of making you think “Umm. I know he’s black and all, but does the guy who invented red Kool-Aid really need his own postage stamp?”

So, instead of grasping for historical straws, why not just add a few people who technically aren’t black but have a strong connection to the black community? How cool would it be to have days devoted to white men who date nothing but black women (i.e.: Roger Ebert, Robert De Niro, “Hesh” from The Sopranos, etc), people who invented things that black people love…even though they weren’t actually invented with that purpose in mind (i.e.: James Naismith, whoever invented the button that allows you to lean the driver’s seat back, the angel who convinced God to invent the ass, etc), and Shelia E.?

3. Pressure Congress To Enact “National Piece of The Pie Day”

While it’s great to recognize and honor those who’ve set the foundation for us, part of the Black History month angst has to do with the fact that, while things aren’t all peachy for us now, they’re much,much better then they were in the past. And, hearing about all the great things some of our ancestors did in legitimately sh*tty situations can make us feel like we aint sh*t right now (Which may be true — there’s a likelihood that we collectively aint sh*t — but that’s a different topic for a different day). 

So, to combat this feeling, why not have a day during Black History Month where the national script is flipped and it’s legally mandated that we have to be allowed to do certain things (i.e.: get bank loans, hail cabs, get great service at restaurants, point fingers in police officer’s and president’s faces, etc) that seem to be reserved for non-blacks?

And, as a way to appease the millions of non-blacks who definitely will have an issue with “Piece of The Pie” day, your special privileges will get revoked if you get caught doing certain “black” things the week before. Not going into detail on what exactly I mean by “black” things, but let’s just say that you may want to pick another time of the year to take a 75 minute lunch break or give a waitress a $2 tip on a $37 bill.

Anyway, that’s it for me today, but I’m sure I’m forgetting a few. People of VSB, can you think of any other additions/changes to Black History Month that would make it better?

¹I know Malcolm X was born in May, but why let facts get in the way of a perfectly good point?
²This could actually be true, but I’m totally making this up right now.

—Damon Young aka “The Champ”

Protect Your Neck: Things You Should Never Say To a Black Woman.

Yesterday we had depth. Today, we go practical.

Lions, tigers, and bears? Mere childsplay.

Having automotive problems in a low-income community where the population has a combined annual income of 37 cents and a stick of gum? Sounds like pure sunshine.

Having the tongs of Thor clamp down on my nether regions in the universe’s most intense game of “Uncle”? I scoff at such displays of plebianism.

Pissing of a Black woman? I’d rather eat my spleen with Captain’s Hook and Iago’s beak.

I know grown men who are deathly afraid of Black women. Now, that’s not to say that we’re afraid of them in general, it’s more the wrath of a nubian queen when she’s tested by somebody she doesn’t deem worthy of handing out Scantrons. And that’s just when your order is wrong at a restaurant. Heaven (only knows) forbid you ask her a dumb question! You’re looking at a possible full on embarassment with a side of “somebody musta done told you wrong.”

By the way, this is not just something white people do. This transcends race as people of all spectrums have gone wronger than MC Hammer at H&R Block. Take a gander, but leave my money, beeeyotch.

1. “Girl look at your a**, your a** is so phat!”

Aside from the general uncouthness here, unless you’re on a pr0n video shoot, there’s no good reason to just utter this out of the blue. Well, not directly anyway. Yelling from afar where it is difficult to discern who said it is probably the best time to do that. Now that I think about it, if you are able to tell how phat a girl’s bootay is from at least 300 paces, I definitely think that you should call attention to it as a sort of community service. Fine hind parts are to be admired and respected, and shared with the viewing public. Oh and if the chick’s name includes -qua, ‘, *, or a number (or any combination thereof), you can totally say this to her and it will be received well.

Liiiiiiiiike, “Hey Qua’qua*qua0, girl, look at your a**, your a** is so phat!”

“Oooooooooooooh, Steveandoorestadojuan, I know. You ain’t gon’ touch it though, you got the cooties.”

2. “B*************tch!”

Unless you’re another Black woman, this is frowned upon more than Amy Winehouse at a Mother’s Against Looking Like Sh*t meeting (MALLS). Plus this one almost GUARANTEES a response. God forbid she’s of Latino descent because you’re going to get cursed out in syntax you’ve never dreamed of.

3. “You are so ghetto.” <—See how I enunciated that? I speak so well. Bumaye Obama.

Especially if you aren’t Black. Not sure when white people started to think they knew what “ghetto” was – probably after the South Central LA movie rush of the early 90s and then anything starring Mo’Nique thereafter – but that’s one of the worst things you can call a Black woman. For one, you’ve probably never seen ghetto…until that moment. You see, some of us Black people have misplaced priorities. We like to enlighten the endarkened whenever possible. So if you call a Black woman ghetto, well, she just might show you ghetto. And it generally starts with your face meeting the ground and ends with two girls one cup.

4. “That’s why he’s dating white women.”

Ouch. If you are ever in earshot of this comment and there are Black women present, grab your Orville Redenbacher, move your chair and watch the fireworks. I envision this conversation would go look something like a pirahna attacking a teddy bear holding a picture of a starving kid from Colombia or Compton. You see, in a Black woman’s mind, there is no good reason why he’s dating a white woman, but you for DAMN sure don’t know why. And lawdhelpyou if her name is Qua’qua*qua0.

5. “You smell like chicken.”

Unless of course she does in which case, bite her.

6. “Black women have too much attitude.”

Do not poke the bear. Speaking of bears, was Winnie the Pooh gay? Or just eternally high?

7. “Your child looks Lavar Burton.”

Them’s fighting words.

8. ” Oh my gosh! Your hair is so rough!”

I actually can’t think of a single time this could ever have a positive spin to it. I mean, it might hurt my feeling if somebody said to me, “Panama, your hair looks like a brillo pad threw up and had triplets on your head”. And I’m bald. Chemo. Just don’t do it.  Mel Gibson doesn’t hate Jewish people as much as that Black woman will hate you.

9. “If you will suck my soul, I will lick your funky emotions.”

Cuz, like, ewwwww.

10. “You look like the Earth.”

Unless she has on a headwrap. At which point, just start singing, “pick yo’ afro daddy, because it’s flat on one side.”

Okay, don’t do that.

Anyway, good folks of the VSB, what are some other things you should never say to a Black woman?

Someone stop the world!