Gigi Mac’s Cool Chicks For Black History Month (Family Album)

Aseneth Imogene Allen McIntyre

You really think I’d leave my mommy out of this little party? Strap in. Nothing I write below could have been found via Google or from a book, and my brain is flooding with things I can say about my mom—it’s overwhelming & it might get rambly… but strap in nonetheless.

"Aseneth Imogene Allen McIntyre You really think I’d leave my mommy out of this little party?  Strap in.  Nothing I write below could have been found via google or from a book, and my brain is flooding with things I can say about my mom—it’s overwhelming & it might get rambly...  but strap in nonetheless.  Mom always begins the story the same way:  “You were on the veranda still in your night shirt eating something in a cup, and you were crying…”  I watched my mother get into a car that morning when I was two years old, and I wouldn’t see her again until I was almost six.  At that point, in an unfamiliar place, looking at a confusingly familiar face, in the back of my mind I knew she was mom, but I also remembered her as the nice lady who would send me little cottony dresses with alligators on them, [other ones too, but the Izods were my favorites] really neat coloring books and dollies from America.  Leaving me then was a pang that haunts her until today.  I didn’t miss a thing tho, in theory… had my 6 siblings, my Aunt Lu who quickly filled the mom role when she came up  to help manage the household, our two 'helpers’ [basically, our maids… relax, everybody in Jamaica has helpers… helpers have helpers!] my pet goat & my ridgeback, named of all things 'Ridgie' [no, I did NOT have a hand in the naming] my cat Frowzie [nor that one] and my handsome & awesome daddy!  He was my best friend... It was four years, and that's not really a long time in the grand scheme, but for a toddler maybe it was... not sure... My mother left a country where things were hard, yes, but she was… trying not to use a cliché term here… but yeah, a ‘queen’ in her community—respected, cherished, honored… to come to a hostile alien place she had to navigate like walking on shards of glass, cleaning people’s homes, taking care of their snotty children-- MY mother, almost alone… and you wonder, WHY?  so does she sometimes, when we’re f*ing up—‘why oh why did I bring you children to this place??’ (I’ve heard that a lot! ha!) first thing that comes to mind:  Opportunity, the American Dream.  It’s an intoxicating thing, this Dream. Honestly, if my mom hadn’t been married and had eight children, [yes, if you're paying attention, the math isn't adding up-- there was one more, but that's another story, another day... perhaps] had actually completed school, you’d be reading books about her.  Physics, music, art, chemistry… those things are all rolling around that practical head of hers, and not in the formal, learned, syllabus-engineered way, but more rudimentary, organic even - different means, but the same results… she’s not boisterous, she’s rather reserved & thoughtful… wow, this is hard – I have so many things in my head!  I once saw a video of a Japanese artist who, when you’re watching him speed paint you’re wondering to yourself, what’s this fool doing??  It looks insane… is it abstract? is it surreal?? he whips thru the thing, then he flips it upside down, and it’s a spot-on, scarily perfect rendering of Bruce Lee, and your mind is reeling, but everything falls into place.  That’s mom with a plan, and at the same time trying to keep us sharp.   She’s also perceptive to the point of something that seems to be a 6th sense.   Keep nothing from this woman. She will find out.  I’m not sure about my siblings, but I happily share that with her— sometimes I choose to ignore stuff, but when I’m quiet, things get ‘interesting’ haha...  After the death of my father, mom and I got closer.  I think perhaps because I look like him so much, and have so many of  his personality traits [remember, he was my favorite] & she misses this man who was her husband for 50 years… and because I’m a little different from my sibs in the way I was raised, things I was exposed to in the US rather than JA, but still aware of the JA things, I have a unique perspective on alot—I go in with fresh eyes in a way, and she appreciates that. I’ve gotten to really know my mom, and I now see what the others see—I wish I’d seen it sooner! but nothing's ever too late. This year mom will be 89, and while her joints are getting a bit more creaky, and she’s getting a bit more forgetful, and doesn’t get to see her children as often as she’d like since everyone is scattered about the country-- leaving her lonely at times, but we still have her, and every moment of her life is golden. There's so much more... there's always more! but that's all ya get!! besides, knowing her, she'd be quite peeved at me for putting her business on blast. When I was @ 18 or so I had a really freaky dream starring my mom.  We were on a scooter of some kind… not a bike & not a proper motorcycle…  the kind you see in old Italian or French movies, I’m sitting behind her with my arms around her waist and we’re going down a mountain at top speed! back tire spitting rocks as we make each turn and I’m freaking out… I’m yelling, 'mom!  mom!  I’m scared!  why are we going so fast??'  But she’s smiling, and very calm, maneuvering everything with grace & skill…  and we’re winding down & down & down, and I’m gripping her tight, ‘come on mom, it’s too fast!’ and just as I convince myself that my mother & I, this very day, will perish on a mountain, she turns her head and whispers ‘don’t worry Georgie, it’s just a dream’ and when I see her face, she’s my age! or maybe a little older... Her hair’s long & thick & indigo black, whipping in my face with the wind and she is glowing, and her eyes…. her eyes are filled with fire & joy…  then I relax, and we almost seem to hover over the road as we careen down, laughing all the way– then I wake up, in my room, in bed tucked in safely, but I see her again, still 20ish, still wearing what she had on during the scooter 'operation'…  she's at the door, and grinning, she turns her head & winks at me, ‘told you it was just a dream’ and she whips out of my room, like on air—and then I REALLY wake up, heart in my throat, but laughing at the same time. This quote is something mom says alot these days... she turns on the patois full force for this one to make it adorable-- it's simple, but resonates: "yu is mi lass’ likkle baby...""Mom always begins the story the same way: “You were on the veranda still in your night shirt eating something in a cup, and you were crying…” I watched my mother get into a car that morning when I was two years old, and I wouldn’t see her again until I was almost six. At that point, in an unfamiliar place, looking at a confusingly familiar face, in the back of my mind I knew she was mom, but I also remembered her as the nice lady who would send me little cottony dresses with alligators on them, [other ones too, but the Izods were my favorites] really neat coloring books and dollies from America. Leaving me then was a pang that haunts her until today. I didn’t miss a thing tho, in theory… had my 6 siblings, my Aunt Lu who quickly filled the mom role when she came up to help manage the household, our two ‘helpers’ [basically, our maids… relax, everybody in Jamaica has helpers… helpers have helpers!] my pet goat & my ridgeback, named of all things ‘Ridgie’ [no, I did NOT have a hand in the naming] my cat Frowzie [nor that one] and my handsome & awesome daddy! He was my best friend… It was four years, and that’s not really a long time in the grand scheme, but for a toddler maybe it was… not sure… My mother left a country where things were hard, yes, but she was… trying not to use a cliché term here… but yeah, a ‘queen’ in her community—respected, cherished, honored… to come to a hostile alien place she had to navigate like walking on shards of glass, cleaning people’s homes, taking care of their snotty children– MY mother, almost alone… and you wonder, WHY? so does she sometimes, when we’re f*ing up—‘why oh why did I bring you children to this place??’ (I’ve heard that a lot! ha!) first thing that comes to mind: Opportunity, the American Dream. It’s an intoxicating thing, this Dream.

 

Honestly, if my mom hadn’t been married and had eight children, [yes, if you’re paying attention, the math isn’t adding up– there was one more, but that’s another story, another day… perhaps] had actually completed school, you’d be reading books about her. Physics, music, art, chemistry… those things are all rolling around that practical head of hers, and not in the formal, learned, syllabus-engineered way, but more rudimentary, organic even – different means, but the same results… she’s not boisterous, she’s rather reserved & thoughtful… wow, this is hard – I have so many things in my head! I once saw a video of a Japanese artist who, when you’re watching him speed paint you’re wondering to yourself, what’s this fool doing?? It looks insane… is it abstract? is it surreal?? he whips thru the thing, then he flips it upside down, and it’s a spot-on, scarily perfect rendering of Bruce Lee, and your mind is reeling, but everything falls into place. That’s mom with a plan, and at the same time trying to keep us sharp. She’s also perceptive to the point of something that seems to be a 6th sense. Keep nothing from this woman. She will find out. I’m not sure about my siblings, but I happily share that with her— sometimes I choose to ignore stuff, but when I’m quiet, things get ‘interesting’ haha… After the death of my father, mom and I got closer. I think perhaps because I look like him so much, and have so many of his personality traits [remember, he was my favorite] & she misses this man who was her husband for 50 years… and because I’m a little different from my sibs in the way I was raised, things I was exposed to in the US rather than JA, but still aware of the JA things, I have a unique perspective on alot—I go in with fresh eyes in a way, and she appreciates that. I’ve gotten to really know my mom, and I now see what the others see—I wish I’d seen it sooner! but nothing’s ever too late. This year mom will be 89, and while her joints are getting a bit more creaky, and she’s getting a bit more forgetful, and doesn’t get to see her children as often as she’d like since everyone is scattered about the country– leaving her lonely at times, but we still have her, and every moment of her life is golden. There’s so much more… there’s always more! but that’s all ya get!! besides, knowing her, she’d be quite peeved at me for putting her business on blast.

 

When I was @ 18 or so I had a really freaky dream starring my mom. We were on a scooter of some kind… not a bike & not a proper motorcycle… the kind you see in old Italian or French movies, I’m sitting behind her with my arms around her waist and we’re going down a mountain at top speed! back tire spitting rocks as we make each turn and I’m freaking out… I’m yelling, ‘mom! mom! I’m scared! why are we going so fast??’ But she’s smiling, and very calm, maneuvering everything with grace & skill… and we’re winding down & down & down, and I’m gripping her tight, ‘come on mom, it’s too fast!’ and just as I convince myself that my mother & I, this very day, will perish on a mountain, she turns her head and whispers ‘don’t worry Georgie, it’s just a dream’ and when I see her face, she’s my age! or maybe a little older… Her hair’s long & thick & indigo black, whipping in my face with the wind and she is glowing, and her eyes…. her eyes are filled with fire & joy… then I relax, and we almost seem to hover over the road as we careen down, laughing all the way– then I wake up, in my room, in bed tucked in safely, but I see her again, still 20ish, still wearing what she had on during the scooter ‘operation’… she’s at the door, and grinning, she turns her head & winks at me, ‘told you it was just a dream’ and she whips out of my room, like on air—and then I REALLY wake up, heart in my throat, but laughing at the same time.

 

This quote is something mom says alot these days… she turns on the patois full force for this one to make it adorable– it’s simple, but resonates:

“yu is mi lass’ likkle baby…”

 

 

Hurray for leap years! one more day! and I’m making myself the last Cool Black Chick in my little indulgent series… well of course I would! because…. I’m a [reasonably] cool black chick!

You guys don’t want a long belabored profile thingy do you? meh, I’m here… life is life, whacha gonna do? et voilaaaaa…

[btw, this is my attempt at the disastrous ‘Seflie’ of which I normally find myself in the middle, attempting to impersonate a gargoyle… I was all set to do a whole fencing photographic series– utter fail… my jacket’s too big, my helmet made me look like a serial killer, and…. feh…. haha I’m getting slightly better at the selfie thing tho [maybe it’s my sister’s phone]]

 

 

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Gigi Mac’s Cool Chicks For Black History Month (Part 10)

 

Lisa Hanna, B: August 20, 1975

Does anybody remember this?

Q: “Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can’t locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?”

A: “I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uhmmm, some people out there in our nation don’t have maps and uh, I believe that our, I, education like such as uh, South Africa, and uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uhhh, our education over here in the US should help the US, uh, should help South Africa, it should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future, for us.”

…yes, that happened… maaan, I so wanted to give Miss South Carolina a tender hug during that moment, with a ‘shhh shh shh shhh shhhhhh…’

 

Sometimes pageants don’t go so well… and sometimes, they produce women like the Honourable Lisa Rene Shanti Hanna. Lisa was crowned Miss World in 1993, representing the sunny isle of [where??] JAMAICA! That went well enough— appearances on behalf of the Island for global events, cameos in a couple of movies, even a broadcasting gig, and various mid-profile communications positions back home in JA. Very smart young lady too, with a political and socio-economic bent, even well before competing at 18. So, let’s fast forward to 2011. After winning a seat & becoming a member of Jamaican Parliament in 2007– one of the youngest women to hold a seat, Lisa parlayed that position to be appointed Minister of Youth and Culture on the Island when her party, the Peoples National Party [PNP] was elected to power December 29, 2011.

 

While the position might appear as fun & games, Lisa has quite the task at hand, as not only is she instrumental in shaping and changing Jamaica’s future [children do grow up at some point], but she is also the first point of contact representing our Island in the arts & culture arena — Miss Lou, palm trees & beaches can only go so far… Also, 2016 Jamaica is light years away from 1972 Jamaica when my family was still there — that bloom is off the rose. There have been decades of government corruption & mismanagement that Lisa has probably inherited along with her position, [oh I guarantee there’s been some nonsense!] and that political Jamaican Old Boy Network is like a titanium fortress!. She also has her critics in the arena—many just embarrassing themselves and their country in reaction to a ‘pretty girl in power’. Surely she has to prove herself every day, and over & over again she stands her ground. As long as she can break out of the rigid pageant mold and think outside of the box, Lisa is smart enough and creative enough to be successful.

 

“For me, it is not the position, nor the title that gave the credibility or status; it was the substance that I gave to the journey.”

 

Nina Simone, 2/21/1933 – 4/21/2003

Every time I hear the ‘Feeling Good’ hook progression I imagine someone like Jane Russell or Mae West doing some kind of super sultry burlesque performance to it… slowly slinking around a luxurious dressing room, leading with their hips and arms outstretched feeling the air sensuously as they move thru it, a chaise lounge in there somewhere, well-lit in a muted amber glow… gorgeousness… Unfortunately not written by my gorgeous darling of the day, Nina Simone – actually we have a couple of Brits to thank for this ditty – Anthony Newly & Leslie Bricusse, and while so many have sung it, nobody comes close to Nina [well… maybeMattBellamyfromMuse ::ducking & running::] in capturing it so succinctly & simply but oh so poignantly.

 

 

Nina, nee Eunice Kathleen Waymon, the sixth of eight children, was destined to stir things up a bit… if one is a little stirred up all already, the ‘stirring’, as it were, is inevitable. Here we have a life of musical talent & opportunity, passion, and at times heartbreak and darkness. Her civil rights activism started early too, as during a piano recital at 12, her parents, proud of their daughter, had sat front & center, but were asked to move to the back to make room for the white audience members… it’s rumored that little Eunice refused to play until her parents were moved back to the front row! Oh that pesky Segregation… hanging around like a crotchety old man in high-waisted pants that needs a good washing… The Waymons were a poor family, but they recognized Eunice’s talent [she would later take on the stage name of Nina Simone in order to secretly perform in jazz clubs, singing the “Devil’s” music, as her Methodist minister mother deemed her choice of genre]. There was always struggle with the thought of school and actually getting in. Wouldn’t it be a perfect world to have a situation in which school was completely taken care of and you just show up & do well, then get out and propagate your awesomeness into the world? Not have to worry about the funds, or getting shut down because of how you look? First was the Curtis Institute of Music in Philly, and despite an audition that blew the review staff away, she was denied. Nina was convinced that racism was behind the refusal. Luckily, NYCs Julliard School was around the corner, and while she did well there, sadly, money ran out.

 

So, time to perform! this way Nina could pay for private lessons and get out there & be heard. An Atlantic City bar was her first stepping off point. Her musical style incorporated gospel, pop, a bit of jazz, especially adding that distinct contralto of hers, with a tiny smidgen of classical Baroque woven in [a little of the ol’ Johann Sebastian] as well as Romantic era classical styles… that’s how you blend! Then would come her first album, ‘Little Girl Blue’… unfortunately the financial negotiations of this endeavor weren’t properly nailed down. Nina lost alot on this, but artistically she was still successful, and her talent & drive propelled her into the next decade. Controversy followed our dear Nina; I mentioned the ‘stirring up’ aspect earlier. Her angle of the Civil Rights movement was a bit spicier than MLK Jr. and his efforts for peace. She went the Malcolm X ‘by any means necessary’ route, and she stayed active. When you speak your mind & are forthright, as Nina was, feathers got ruffled. There were also rumors of a temper and irrational behavior. Much of this may have been due to her bi-polar condition, and she would begin taking meds from the mid-60s onward. All of these road bumps hindered nothing. The ‘High Priestess of Soul’, as Nina was nicknamed, continued to be successful in her musical career, even if her personal life got a little dicey. The number of artists she’s influenced reads like an exclusive phonebook! Despite her success here in the States, by the early 70s she decided that living abroad was more suited for her— from what she was witnessing, there were just certain things that weren’t going to change in the US. She would travel & live between Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Barbados & Liberia, performing along the away. Her performance style was captivating– just chatting to or with the audience like she was hosting a dinner party in between selections, sometimes silence… the audience would follow her; she’d hold them there on her every word like magic.

 

Nina fell in the love with Southern France and settled down there in 1993… 10 years later, with Spring upon us, she finally succumbed to the breast cancer that plagued her for some time, and died in her sleep in Carry-le-Rouet, Bouches-du-Rhône. Wouldn’t ask for a better place to kick off! Would have been so cool to run into her at Marché in Arles… Sleep well dear Nina.

 

“The worst thing about that kind of prejudice… is that while you feel hurt and angry and all the rest of it, it feeds your self-doubt. You start thinking, perhaps I am not good enough.”

Loosehandlebars’ Cool Chicks For Black History Month

 

Zora Neale Hurston   January 7 1891 – January 28 1960

 

“I love myself when I am laughing. . . and then again when I am looking mean and impressive.”…now that’s a long but irresistible title for a book. In 1975, 7 years before “The Color Purple” made her name, Alice Walker wrote “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston” for Ms magazine. In 1979 she edited an anthology of Hurston’s work & blessed it with this eye-catching tongue-twister of a title. It’s a selection of autobiography, fiction & folklore from between 1920 & 1950, writing of great energy, individuality & integrity. Who the heck was Zora Neale Hurston ? Where had she been all my life ?

 

Zora is connected to the Harlem Renaissance, an African-American blossoming of culture, philosophy & politics in the years between the World Wars, between days of slavery & the change that gonna come. By the time she arrived on this vibrant scene in 1925, as the sole black student at Barnard College, she had seen & done some things for herself. Raised in Eatonville Florida, one of the first self-governing all black municipalities in the USA, her experience of self-determination, independent of white society, influenced her strongly held views which often found her at at odds with her contemporaries. Aged 26 Zora, in order to finish high school before enrolling in college, adjusted her age down by 10 years. With those cheekbones it seems that she got away with it.

 

Her autobiography “Dust Tracks on a Road” (1942) took liberties with the truth too but is an individual, funny, poignant story, Apparently Zora was quite something back in the day. You don’t hear the word “sassy” much today, “when Zora was there, she was the party.”, her spirit & her intellect show in her writing. As an anthropologist she studied obeah in Jamaica, voodoo in Haiti, the stories of the South in the US. The best known of her 4 novels, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” (1937) makes use of a vernacular which can look awkward today, the story of Janie Crawford, a woman finding her own voice at a time when people didn’t want to hear it, abides as a story that we should know.

 

Zora spent her later years back in Florida, in bad health, working as a maid, dying in poverty. She remains significant & to be celebrated in her own write, as an influence & inspiration to those who followed, preparing the way for Toni Morrison, the blessed Maya & others. Alice Walker, posing as a niece (Zora would have approved), located the unmarked grave in Fort Pierce & placed a headstone inscribed “Zora Neale Hurston: A Genius of the South” Amen !

 

“Sometimes I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can anyone deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”

 

Mavis Staples   July 10, 1939

 

From all the great voices I could have chosen Billie Holiday, Nina Simone (Gigi Mac beat me to it !) or Aretha Franklin. The word “underrated” is banned at this blog, none of the people I choose to celebrate are overlooked round our house. Mavis Staples is there in the pantheon of with all those women singers who made living in the 20th century better than it could have been.

 

Of course we are not the only ones to hold Mavis in such high regard. Her last 3 records (there’s a new one I’ve yet to investigate) were produced by Ry Cooder & Jeff Tweedy. In the late 1980s she was signed to Paisley Park records by Prince. Her group, the Staple Singers are featured singing “The Weight” in the Band’s movie “The Last Waltz”. Then there was her friendship with Bob Dylan who, back in the day, asked her father if he could marry his young, beautiful daughter. You may not have heard Mavis sing in 1963 but she was as fresh & joyous as this photograph. What’s not to love ?

 

Patriarch Roebuck “Pops” Staples led his family on quite a journey in the 1960s. Mavis had been singing with her siblings since she was 11 years old & their gospel-folk sound found them work beyond the parochial church circuit. Pops had a good ear, just as the mystery of “Uncloudy Day” impressed Dylan the Staple Singers recorded “Blowing in the Wind” & then Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You’re With”. His friendship with Martin Luther King led to songs of freedom & redemption. The first LP released on signing to Stax Records in 1968 was titled “Soul Folk in Action”. Stax had an eye on making a star out of Mavis, there were solo records, a double LP of duets but the family ties that bind were stronger than the lure of putting herself out there.

 

And she was right. By 1971 the Staples Singers were ready for their close-up. Wattstax, Soul Train, the toppermost of the poppermost. In a Golden Age of Soul Music Pops & his young, gifted & black daughters, Cleotha, Yvonne & Mavis, didn’t say it loud, they stated their case clearly, considerately & consciously.”Respect Yourself”, “I’ll Take You There”, “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” & many others, music for the head & heart. At the centre was lead singer Mavis, soulful, spiritual & gorgeous, taking us to church, keeping us on the right path. When Curtis Mayfield wanted to record the more secular “Let’s Do It Again” with the group Pops had some reservations. Praise be to your chosen deity that the record exists.Here’s another good one…”got to get up as soon as you get down”.

 

 

Mavis is 76 now, so lovely, still performing & a legend. Her work with Jeff Tweedy rewards a listen & she is by no means on the golden oldie circuit. Those images of her, with her sisters, are exalting & exhilarating. The message, “Respect Yourself” keeps on keeping on

 

“I’m singing these songs to inspire you, to keep you going, to lift you up and give you a reason to get up in the morning.”

 

 

Bessie “BB” Stringfield. 1911-1993

 

Born in Kingston Jamaica, moved to Boston but orphaned at 5 years old, Bessie Stringfield was given her first motorcycle, an Indian, by her adoptive mother when she was 16. Before she was out of her teens she had developed a taste for Harley Davidsons, was looking for adventure & hoped to find it on the road. She began the first of 8 trips across the USA, crossing 48 states. Can you imagine what it was like for a young woman travelling solo on a hog in 1930s America ? You can try but you won’t get near to the stories that Bessie could have told us.

 

Often there was no place for her to sleep out in the Wild West & the segregated South. With her jacket across the handlebars as a pillow she would spend the night with her bike. To make a few bucks she entered hill-climbing races, performed stunts & acrobatics at carnivals & fairs. In World War II she served as a civilian courier for the US Army for 4 years, crossing the country on her blue Harley. After the war she settled in Florida, becoming known as “The Motorcycle Queen of Miami”, founding the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club while working as a nurse, acknowledged as a “Hero of Harley Davidson” & riding to the end of her life. Bessie Stringfield’s  unlikely & audacious experiences would make a great fictional character. She was for real & she rocked.

“I was somethin’.

 

 

Gigi Mac’s Cool Chicks For Black History Month (Part 9)

 

Aisha Tyler, B: September 18, 1970

“Sweetly wicked”. I love that description of Aisha Tyler from Esquire magazine… I am scanning her accomplishments and appointments thus far in her 45 years of life, and my mouth has dropped. When did this happen?? Busy doesn’t even begin to describe the whirlwind rise of this woman’s career. I remember ramen noodle era stand-up comedy Aisha; razor-sharp witted Aisha; hungry Aisha, hosting lame game shows and Talk Soup and laughing at all of it in her adorably smarmy way; smart as a whip, Dartmouth-educated Aisha– and the camera has always been in love with her… I always wonder if you can lose yourself after the graduation of cramming secondhand IKEA stuff you get on Craigslist and lugging it home in your Jeep, to having your assistant procure the lovely little mid-century modern settee you won at a private auction in Milan last week. I don’t watch TV, but I’m sorta aware of this ‘The Talk’ thing Aisha’s a part of these days– a bunch of yammering chicks discussing ‘fascinating’ topics like Kylie Jenner’s new ombre’d hair or Ben Affleck & Jennifer Garner’s divorce vacation practices [did I guess right?? quick! I’m about to pass out from holding my breath!] all of the other carefully engineered appearances with the ‘right’ people sharing the screen. In some of the more recent pictures I notice every now & then, an unmoving forehead, a tightening here & there… I suppose one must do what one must to stay on top of one’s game in a sea of 20- & 30- somethings clamoring for the same position – all of that is so not Aisha! She’d be the one making fun of all of that lovely mess.

 

Aisha’s no longer a struggling comedienne performing in some dank club where her cut of the haul that night may have included a rebuffed polyester shirted, gold-chained, doused in Drakkar Noir, grope. She’s even done proper act-y stuff on proper TV shows, that I’ve clearly missed. She’s paid her dues, but I just hope Aisha hasn’t forgotten her roots, and that freshness with which she’d approach & deliver her material. The right eyes have recognized that talent, and she’s run with it, and keeps running – in fact she’s sprouted wings! big graceful wings to match her 6’0” statuesque awesomeness! She’s even still doing stand-up. Surely the venues have changed, and her audience has expanded, but the Funny is still there. We won’t get Amy Schumer or Whitney Cummings [maybe a little Whitney-ish] material, but the edge, while a tad more smoothed out appropriately, is still there.

 

Back in the 90s Aisha was the kind of chick I’d get some lunch with, and we’d have each other laughing the whole time… the 2016 scenario? well, if I made it past the studio, a couple lawyers and a team of assistants, then*maybe* – waivers for sure would be involved… and no pictures please. Such is the price of becoming a household name. Still adore her, and these days I especially adore her voice work for Archer, a pretty ‘wicked’ hardly ever ‘sweet’, brilliant animation currently in production, the 7th season due to be out at the end of March. Every now & then I hear bits of the old Aisha in Lana Kane’s voice, and I sigh with relief. We haven’t lost her yet!

“Am I going to complain about being typecast as smart? I don’t think so.”

 

Now look, I don’t know WHO this woman is… I didn’t even bother looking her up when I discovered her pic last year. This was enough. Utter. Perfection.

Got nothing else to say but ‘Enjoy’ [I suppose this could be her quote too] …and I’ll go head to a corner to weep, contemplate the universe & question my attractiveness… toodles… ;D

 

 

Mae Jemison, B: October 17, 1956

 

Hurray for the Science Girls! Hurray for being the first black woman in space! It seems by the time we hit puberty, even if a little girl has a ‘leaning’, mysteriously it gets abandoned for something else a bit less challenging. Why is that? Mae Carol Jemison could have been one of those girls, but she was always wanting to learn, always inquisitive. There were big plans in the works for her, but there were obstacles. There are always obstacles… from the classic misguided advice of a shortsighted teacher– Kindergarten Mae: I want to be a scientist! Teacher: don’t you mean a nurse sweetie? and of course, nursing is a noble profession [please! my sister’s a nurse, a good one! plus she looks like Mae! now THERE’s your twist!] but Mae wanted what she wanted, and nothing was stopping her. Then later, at Stanford while pursuing engineering, if she wasn’t completely ignored, she would get the classic, ‘well that’s a dumb question’ reaction from her professors, then young Jimmy would ask the very same thing thing a few weeks later, with the response of ‘well that’s a very astute observation young man’. Yeah, sounds like a bad 80s movie… but it happens, toss in a little racial discrimination and it’s a party.

 

But do you see Mae in her orange astronaut uniform tho! Nothing stopped this woman. Cornell for her Doctor of Medicine degree, travels to Cuba, Kenya and Thailand, Peace Corp volunteering, and throughout all of this, there was also dance, her passion from an early age. Her mother once told her that while she could always dance and be a doctor, she really couldn’t really doctor if she was a dancer. Moms are the best… So dancing was Mae’s outlet throughout all of it—the rejection, the awkward moments, the adulation. Also, remember how Nichelle Nichols had inspired tons of women & little girls? Mae was one of those little girls! She was always fascinated by space travel, and after Sally Ride’s flight in 1983, Dr. [thank you very much] Jemison took the opportunity, this glorious opening, as a chance to apply to the Program at NASA. There was a bit of a hiccup after the Challenger crash in ’86 but this only fueled her desire to participate. The rest of her career was really uneventful, Mae simply accomplished what she wanted to and nothing would stop her. All the fuss & bother of first this and first that was nice enough, but being a very smart woman, she knew it didn’t stop there. After retiring in ’93 she carried on — professor at Cornell University & Dartmouth College, forming her own corporations, foundations, all of which she combines technology with practical medical science – always looking forward to the future & what it has in store for us.

 

“People always think of technology as something having silicon in it. But a pencil is technology. Any language is technology. Technology is a tool we use to accomplish a particular task and when one talks about appropriate technology in developing countries, appropriate may mean anything from fire to solar electricity.”

Gigi Mac’s Cool Chicks For Black History Month (Part 8)

 

Koya Webb- B, July 31, 1981

 

I came across Koya Webb recently during a recipe search from one of my favorite raw vegans, Kristina Carrillo-Bucaram. Koya is also a raw vegan! They’ve actually collaborated on a few yoga-themed projects as well, and that was very exciting to see! Those two are blowing up! I wouldn’t say I’m completely raw or even completely vegan. I would define my eating habits as ‘clean omnivore with raw vegan & fruitarian leanings’ 🙂 and right now, I’m not even doing that! [prep time kills me]. Normally, my first choice would be something green or fruity, but I’m not gonna be an a*hole about it — like go to restaurants and implore the poor wait staff & managers as to the intricate details of how a plant-based item on their menu is prepared, or turn up my nose at work lunch outings [yeay! job!], insulting hosts at a party… eating is a social thing! Besides, a big ol’ rockfish every now & then, grilled with my pomegranate ginger marinade is RIDIC.

 

Koya is still new to me, so I’m finding out that not only is she a raw chick but also a yoga guru + health coach + fitness model + motivational speaker… it goes on & on… She’s the definition of lithe; and she glows! That smile! Those legs! and it seems like she’s making the rounds: appearances on National network news channels, talk shows, various health magazines– Essence, Oxygen, Vegan Health and Fitness, Max Sport and Fitness, and Muscle and Performance to name a few. Hope she really does well… anybody with a mission to: “spread love consciousness mentally, spiritually, and physically worldwide one breath at a time” is worth at least a few moments. I’m not really a clamor-er… I’m not waiting with bated breath for the next ‘enlightened’ guru to ‘show me the way’. I tend to be skeptical about most everything & most everyone, but Koya is definitely inspirational. All of our journeys continue. I’m not there yet, but every day is an opportunity to improve & evolve… I might be approaching 50 in a couple years, but I’ve got a feeling I’ve only just begun…

 

“Being free is following your soul and letting it guide you to your next destination in life. I love experiencing life organically one breath at a time.”

 

Esperanza Spalding, B: October 18, 1984

My first introduction to Esperanza Emily Spalding was on Youtube… one of those natural hair chickies was doing a tutorial on her hairstyle for the Grammies — this pic I chose of her is from that night– never was that psysed about an updo with fluff or curls on top, but it was cute enough and Esperanza’s version was gorgeous, well SHE’s gorgeous… so of course I wanted to know why this woman was so special. I like jazz enough, but not to know everybody’s names… I like what I like when I hear it, if I like it, then I like it… yeahhhh….. have fun with that! [just know that when I ‘like’ it, it’s ON. Locked in. Why do you think I can’t shake flamenco? I have Vivaldi to thank for that!] I got acquainted with Esperanza’s magical standing bass & grooved on for a bit. So this was 2011. That year I discovered the most delightful thing I would ever discover about an artist. It seems Esperanza was caught up in a bit of fresh hell, because she and Justin Bieber were both up for the New Artist of the Year Award[?!] and to the violent chagrin of all the ‘Beliebers’, Maestra [yes I said it] Spalding WON! There was weeping and gnashing of teeth across the globe for young master Bieber… and I just found a new best friend!! If this was all this woman would ever do in her lifetime, it would be enough. Hyenas in heat [no, that’s not a band] could have taken the award instead of Justin Bieber, and we’d be having a celebratory lunch. I’d be in some sort of padded jumpsuit with headgear & goggles, but we’d power thru! …and I *HATE* awards shows! You couldn’t PAY me to watch those trainwrecks! oh you best believe I’ll check out the clothes, but the concept of them & all that posturing is bs, and why we’re up in arms now over all of it is beyond me – hm… all this recent nonsense might be a trick to distract us from something… just you wait ‘enry ‘iggins… haHaa!

::oops, sorry, tangent again, where was I::

 

 

From that moment on, I knew the stars had aligned and I had to dive into what Esperanza had to offer! Quick sweep from the beginning: Prodigy, absolute musical genius, probably from birth. She began officially, playing violin in the Chamber Music Orchestra of Oregon – at 5 years of age. FIVE! Self-taught, then formally trained — on violin, double bass, bass guitar, violin & cello, and also a vocalist—a sweet light, slightly smokey soprano with impeccable pitch control. She has been asked of all the instruments, what drew her to the bass, and her response was simply that it wasn’t a choice, that the bass has its own arc that resonated with her, that discovering the bass was like ”waking up one day and realizing that you were in love with your co-worker”. I imagine this tiny girl then later tiny woman dragging this gigantic instrument around up & down the Berklee College of Music stairs, calluses forming, evolving, assimilating… sleepless nights… endless writing, bleeding fingers, tears, musical nirvana… yeah, all that happened. That love affair was the best gift to all of us. See, Esperanza is a musician sure, but there is more going on in her mind than she lets on- it’s phenomenal and analytical, but she doesn’t get ahead of herself – she has married the idea of sound and science into a beautiful conscious thing with a formula, but she doesn’t draw attention to that– no no, the art must shine… She’s truly a genius—with this beautiful enigmatic fro that changes day to day [sometimes I weep for her ends!] and a gorgeous smile with her signature missing upper canine tooth [or maybe just extra space-y?]… she’s adorable! if she had pointy ears and wings, she’d remind me of a wood nymph. My only fear is of all these studios and labels courting her and trying to change her… I’ve already seen that they’ve fixed her tooth, and she’s landed in a make-up artist’s chair a few times more than not these days… I worry…

 

I’ll be seeing Esperanza at my beloved 9:30 Club in April, and I’m so excited I can’t even stand it! Her new stuff is super experimental—with a Laurie Anderson-ish /Bjork-ish tinge to some of her pieces. Scary! Good-Scary! 😉 There were scads of music quotes from Esperanza, but this one shows her compassion– don’t we all just need to feel valued?

“You can grow up with literally nothing and you don’t suffer if you know you’re loved and valued.”

 

Lupita Nyong’o, B: March 1, 1983

pssst, I’ve got a confession for all of you:…ready ?

 

::I’ve never seen ‘12 Years a Slave’:: shhhh… well, I’ve seen odd & random clips here & there– Mikey Fassbender sliding around a pigpen while chasing down Chiwetel Ejiofor, also a bizarre slave hoedown where Lupita gets an on-the-rocks tumbler hurled at her by a crazy stressed out lady… whatever’s going on, it can’t be good… I’m not chomping at the bit [is it champing?] meh, maybe later I’ll get the dvd, put the comments feature on– should be an interesting listen… blooper reel…?

 

So, like Frank Costanza, I’m goin’ in FRESH! What I do know is the moment Lupita Amondi Nyong’o stepped onto the scene, almost EVERYthing on this beautiful baby was PERFECTION—from her tiny fro to the tips of her heels, including this famous Calvin Klein pearl gown that for a moment was actually stolen from her dressing room, after another one of those lame award shows [not even sure which one – the Oscars maybe?] but eventually returned… There ARE some moments when an unfortunate stylist, possibly unhappy with his or her life, gets into the mix, but for the most part, this woman is always stunningly gorgeous. That’s about it really… I’m just happy to gaze & be jealous for a while… We’ve seen that she’s charming and gracious in interviews, Vanity Fair is on a mission to court her to be one of the ‘gang’, we can look up the Mexico-Kenya connection, her artistic & politically involved family, and her multilingual talents, her past, present & future acting roles, see those neat shots of her with the dots all over her face – I was so hoping that would have been her look for ‘Star Wars the Force Awakens’, but alas alak, that was just super-cool tech at work to transform her into Maz Kanata [she had wanted a role where her actual appearance wasn’t required], catch up on all the humanitarian causes to which she selflessly lends herself, be proud of her producing/directing debut for ‘In My Genes’… but my lord, would you just look at Lupita… ::sigh::

 

“I discovered that joy is not the negation of pain, but rather acknowledging the presence of pain and feeling happiness in spite of it.”

Gigi Mac’s Cool Chicks For Black History Month (Part 6)

 

Nichelle Nichols, B: December 28, 1932

WHO. IS. THIS. SILVER. FOX. RIGHT. HERE??

This is Nichelle Nichols, and we are now entering into the upper regions of coolness. Hold onto something. I just want to know how just THREE years of a series can propel a cast into such legend as the cast of Star Trek, original series! What sort of wizardry is behind this Mr. Roddenberry?? Nichelle will always be Lt. Nyota Uhura to me. Zoë Saldana & JJ Abrams have tried their best, but it just won’t do… meh, somebody’s gotta do it tho, and so far, so decent…

Sometimes typecasting works to your favor. Did you know Nichelle Nichols began her career singing? She can proudly attest to performing with the likes of Duke Ellington & Lionel Hampton. There were also other acting roles she had, including an earlier, short-lived project by Gene Roddenberry called [how fitting] “The Lieutenant”, but all that she did would never equal the groundbreaking event that is Star Trek. Star Trek spawned an animated series, a slew of supplemental series depicting other facets of the franchise—one of which is due out in 2017, hopefully starring Angela Bassett [?! if that’s true, I hope everybody’s ready for those amazing cheekbones on-screen!] movies that are still being made this very day [Uhura even made it to Admiral!] in fact ‘Star Trek Beyond’ will play this summer. There’s a bit of resistance to JJ Abrams’ style by some of the Trekkie purists, but it’s out there, and I’m sure he’s banking on the fans not giving up on Roddenberry’s vision & cutting him some slack… hm… [besides, we know resistance is futile… bahaa…]

OK, back to Nichelle! At one point during the first year of filming Star Trek, and possibly with a broken heart, as Gene Roddenberry, a former lover, had chosen to be formally linked to Majel Hudec [also part of the cast & as well as the voice of the computer in Star Trek: The Next Generation] and would later marry her, Nichelle was tempted by Broadway. She was actually going to leave the show to pursue the stage, until Martin Luther King Jr. himself, a big fan of the show, appealed to her to stay on. See, this was the first time the public had ever seen a black woman in a series NOT being someone’s servant, working alongside a diverse crew—in space! This was exciting!! Women & little girls would be inspired for years to come. So she stayed. Oh boy did she stay! Even after the last episode wrapped, Nichelle, always passionate about space travel, went on to be a volunteer at NASA, recruiting women & minority personnel and even participating in some of the voyages as an honorary guest, launching all kinds of programs for pursuit of space travel, writing books. As long as her health permits, she tries to make it to as many appearances as she can, always holding up the ‘Live Long & Prosper’ hand greeting, always genuinely happy to represent her franchise and she what she believes in. Even though actors have to fight the typecasting gremlin with other roles they pursue, it seems Nichelle had no problem at all slipping into other roles in unrelated shows and movies. In the backs of our minds, we kinda know she’ll always be Uhura, but her acting chops lends itself to whatever she’s doing, and seamlessly –that’s an actress’s actress right there. Class.

 

 

Her health… this brings me to recent events for Nichelle. Just last year, she succumbed to a mild stroke while at home and as of this date is recuperating. I think this year, if I do Halloween that is, I want to be Uhura… I just need a good Captain Kirk…

“Science is not a boy’s game, it’s not a girl’s game. It’s everyone’s game. It’s about where we are and where we’re going. Space travel benefits us here on Earth. And we ain’t stopped yet. There’s more exploration to come.”

 

Harriet Tubman, B: 1822 – March 10, 1913

 

OK, I’m convinced Harriet Tubman had a twin or was a cyborg from the future, because how could this petite 5’0” tall woman throughout her 91 years of life, some of which she spent as a slave [and the only thing she knew, as she was 3nd generation] do so many death defying things, all for the freedom of others? We’re talking covert ops, secret escape messages thru singing, night time maneuvers, bounties on her head, spy stuff! later serving as a nurse during the civil war, and she was doing this with ongoing head trauma injuries suffered when she was younger at the hand of an angry overseer– constant dizzy spells and hyperinsomnia… maintaining a family, and in a full skirt with petticoats! From her memoirs: “Tubman told the tale of one man who insisted he was going to go back to the plantation when morale got low among a group of fugitive slaves. She pointed (a) gun at his head and said, “You go on or die.” Several days later, he was with the group as they entered the United Province of Canada.” gasp emoticon Yes Minty! [that was her nickname] Get em! that man probably has great-grand kids eating poutine & elongating their O’s as we speak!

Frankly, I’m overwhelmed & intimidated… you remember what we touched on during black history month at school! Underground railroads and all that jazz… and you know there was that one kid who didn’t get the concept and thought there were actual trains down there & stuff… but all that didn’t even broach what Harriet [nee Araminta Ross, btw — hence the ‘Minty’… cool nickname! –after she married her husband John Tubman, she took her mother’s first name, Harriet, out of respect] accomplished to bring people to freedom. Abolitionist, Humanitarian, during the Civil war a Nurse & Union spy [yeayy!] even Women’s Suffrage when she was older, alongside Susan B Anthony. That is a life. I’ll leave it here, because I’d be writing into infinity… plus, I’ll be late for work…

 

 

 

 Pam Grier, B: May 26, 1942

 

“Baddest One-Chick Hit-Squad That Ever Hit Town!”

I always wanted to be Pam Grier when I grew up [or maybe raid her closet] she was just so cool! Early on there were some painful moments in Pamela Suzette Grier’s little girl life, and with a military father, her family moved constantly—not good for stability, but a decent opportunity to observe human nature and learn from that— perhaps a helpful way to start an acting career?

 

Now, I wouldn’t know the purpose of a ‘Blaxploitation’ film to save my life. Maybe we came to the States too late in the game, and of course I was a wee one, my main priority  figuring out how I could get my hands on my own set of fluorescent Crayolas [which JUST came out at the time] instead of borrowing the popular kids’ sets who would begrudgingly lend them out to the new black girl from ‘exotic lands’… excuse my eye roll… and knowing my parents, I’m certain this genre of film was banned at our house [please… nobody was even trying to explain the stills on my brother’s Clockwork Orange album! and my questioning was incessant!] I just remember the movie titles had big rounded & colorful fonts and weird names, almost everybody was black, they called the white people weird things like honky and cracker, and the men wore brown-themed and odd colored polyester suits with really big collars and ties– and platforms, lots and lots of platforms; and afros as far as the eyes could see!

 

Most of the women were extra damsel in distress-ish, but Pam knew how to put the hurt down on the bad guys and still look fabulous doing it, and she was crafty! like a spy! my favorite! Perfect fro, super-light highlighter right under perfectly arched eyebrows and a luscious lip! and what about those clavicles! all of which were unruffled after a few well-choreographed roundhouse kicks & karate chops or a gun battle — Ha! Love it! But honestly, I had no clue then; I just always thought Pam was awesome. I guess at this point I have an overall idea on the reasoning of the over-the-top Blaxploitation genre— still not sure if they help or hinder us, but they’re a fun tongue-in-cheek indulgence, and I definitely appreciate homages on their behalf, be it via Quentin Tarantino or a more blatant comedic angle like Dave Chappelle, MadTV, etc., but I could take or leave them. Glad Pam has had the opportunity to branch out and work on other projects to round out her career, and it’s inspiring that her roles are normally ones of strength and independence.

 


“…and as I reinvent myself, and I’m constantly curious about everything, I can’t wait to see what’s around the corner in newfound art and entertainment, and exploration”

Gigi Mac’s Cool Chicks For Black History Month (Part 5)

 

Two Factory Workers, B: unknown – D: unknown

Today is Saturday, and I’m not going to church… not only am I still swaddled in a whole lotta flannel on this bright & freezing Sabbath morn, I’m humming AC/DC’s ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’! ah we the blasphemous few… [teehee] Anyway! Where was I??

So we’ve all seen the famous poster of Rosie the Riveter, that defiant brunette with her red & white polka dotted handkerchief head tie & blue work shirt with the sleeve rolled up, flexing a sinewy yet feminine bicep. Costumes! editorial photo spreads in magazines! publicity shots! tattoos! t-shirts! parodies! even a song! this fictional woman is an icon! We Can Do It, indeed.

 

These two unnamed black women were doing their rivet-y best to support the troops during World War II, and as we all know, everybody pitched in with volunteering during the War effort in any way they could. Noble effort by the photographer to show various & diverse Americans working together… FDR did his best to unify us during this time. However, the truth is, no matter what they portrayed, or the shared emotional highs of the country’s successes during that time, America was still ridiculously & embarrassingly [and bafflingly!] segregated — separate entries for workers, separate lunch areas, extra scrutiny. Even going across the ‘pond’, many Caribbean men & women who had enlisted in the Royal Air Force and Navy were severely treated as if they were underfoot or were the enemy themselves — all working for the same success, the same freedom.

 

So yes, the Allies were indeed successful. We all have our freedom, and we aren’t a Nation sieglheiling each other in the streets, but we shouldn’t fool ourselves. There continues to be ugliness brewing in the dark recesses of this planet, and not so dark — the more they get unnoticed, the further out they venture… We’ve come a long way, and I understand, blatant slavery was just the other day—a skip down memory lane [if you kid yourself and pretend is still doesn’t exist] we’re a slow bunch, we humans… but if we can just step outside of ourselves for a second, put that higher reasoning that only we possess to work, and be just united– revel in our commonality… doesn’t matter if we have a brunette Rosie, a blonde Rosie, a latin Rosie, a black Rosie, an asian Rosie or a native Rosie– united, we can rise above the nonsense [trying not cuss today, it IS Sabbath after all] 😉 and be successful. We CAN do it.

 

Aaliyah Dana Haughton, 1/16/1979 – 8/25/2001

 

We knew this young lady by her first name only—just Aaliyah. That’s all we needed, really. For only 22 years we had the privilege of sharing this planet with this beautiful woman… hold on, let’s get real for a second. When people see me they’re not exactly sure what to expect of me. They assume much. I have conditioned myself to thwart their assumption, because above all, I relish in entertaining myself. They think I’ll speak a certain way. I don’t. They think I’ll act a certain way. Sorry. They think I’ll indulge in certain types of food or libations or other enhancements. Never had it, never will. They assume I don’t know certain things. Not only do I know them to exhaustion, but, feigning ignorance, I purposefully don’t discuss them because I know how circular & pointless the argument will be, counteracting our own interaction… Then because nothing appears to fit in their own limited understanding, they begin to assume I’m one of ‘those’. Wrong again. The thing is, nobody belongs in a box– including them… which brings me to R&B and Hip Hop… This genre of music has its highs & lows. It started off great… meaningful artists with a mission and purpose, working hard, paying their dues… then it slowly turned into everybody with a demo tape cutting deals, and because there are so many vying for the same fame, Talent has turned into Shock Value. Social media has made the evolution even more disturbing — it’s like it’s all caving in on itself. Interesting to watch the buffoonery, but scary…

 

For a brief moment, a 14 year old girl seemingly beyond her years, made a difference— and for eight years following until her death, Aaliyah grew as an artist, forever changing the industry. She always seemed so composed, so calm, so zen… such a feminine and gentle voice—with an actual soprano range. I won’t even get into all she’s done, because frankly it would be too long— you can wiki that. I just know that whenever I saw Aaliyah perform, or talk, or walk around… or just sitting down in an interview, she just seemed like she’s been here before. Yes I understand that entertainers put on a persona for their public to market their brand, etc. etc, but her consistent air of self-possession was always inspiring to me. That combination of self-possession & talent made her prime to ultimately bend r&b and hiphop to her will, redefining the genre positively… but did it last?

 

 

Aaliyah’s death at the age of 22 really was a shock. Disturbing that some of the footage from her last video ‘Rock the Boat’ [frankly, a boring little vapid throw away song that seemed studio-generated for sales] was filmed on the very beach in the Bahamas where the twin engine Cessna, loaded down with equipment & luggage, along with Aaliyah & crew, crashed. The photo I chose wasn’t the typical glammed up, airbrushed visions of perfection – she even looks a little annoyed. I love it though– natural, unpretentious… and those calm eyes, looking like she’s done this all before.

 

This isn’t really a quote, because they were all pretty standard fare… but a recurring nightmare Aaliyah would have up until her death:

“Someone’s following me and I don’t know why. I’m scared. Then suddenly I lift off. Far away. As if I’m swimming in the air. Nobody can reach me. Nobody can touch me.”

 

Michonne, [N/A]

[disclaimer: Michonne is a fictional character on the Walking Dead and is played by Danai Jekesai Gurira, currently alive– and in fact, born February 14, 1978, so happy birthday to Danai!)

As I write this, in my hemisphere, my time zone, it is Valentine’s Day, and while today might be filled with lovey dovey stuff for the rest of you mortals, I’ve got my evening sorted, and it will involve walker guts ponchos, a sunken eyed boy yelling out ‘mom’ amidst mayhem, and a few other choice events, but especially this woman right here! Ladies & Gentlemen, may I introduce to you Michonne– the stealthy, katana [that’s a cool & extra slicey Japanese sword] wielding, dreadlock wearing, mega cool zombie killing machine from a little show we call the Walking Dead. She is somber, quiet, loyal, smart, moves like a dancer, and while she doesn’t smile often, when she does, it’s as if day is breaking! truly a beautiful sight to behold, that smile… From the moment we meet her we realize this gorgeous, somewhat broken woman is all about surviving— a mysterious hooded figure, and flanked on either side of her are two armless and jawless ‘walkers’ [yup, the term ‘zombie’ isn’t known in this universe… one of whom was her boyfriend who met his demise and his best friend, same story] she keeps as ‘pets’… (?!) no, she hasn’t completely gone insane – these pets have purpose, they are to mask her living scent [a dinner bell to walkers] so she can move among the inevitable groups of walkers she would encounter on her journey with relative ease. I actually have a theory regarding that scent concept and fear, but that might unravel the whole franchise & ruin it for you, I’ve observed stuff though— oh you KNOW I’m sleuthy! ;D

 

Brief backstory: some of you may or not know this, but before the Walking Dead was a TV show– which is on its 6th season as we speak, tonight’s episode being the 2nd half of the season after a winter hiatus– it was a graphic novel first [ongoing] and in the comic world Michonne was a lawyer before the apocalypse. They haven’t really disclosed that on the show though, not sure why… she also loved art & frequented galleries and symposiums. In both universes she had a boyfriend and a son, both dead. She eventually joined up with the main group of survivors, and while at first she was a bit of a lone shewolf, she continues to be an integral member of the team. While we shouldn’t begrudge beautiful Danai any role her talented little heart desires (typecasting can’t be fun) Ms. Michonne better not go anywhere any time soon!

“Anger makes you stupid, stupid gets you killed.”

 

 

Gigi Mac’s Cool Chicks For Black History Month (Part 3)

 

Kathleen Battle- B, August 14, 1948

 

I heard Kathleen Battle is difficult. I heard she’s a bit of a b*, and demanding, and prissy, and was fired [oh yes, the MET canned her, dahling… didn’t you hear??] and complained about peas in her pasta, and, and, and… frankly, I’m afraid of her. Kathleen Battle is the quintessential Mozart soprano. Light & trilly, with a warmth that surprises you, then washes over you. I don’t even get that super-psysed for opera… I like it well enough for certain songs, but a steady diet? nahhh…. But I like Ms Battle!

 

Seriously, tho, I’ve never heard a better Susanna in “The Marriage of Figaro”. Whenever I hear her I always think about the scene in “Amadeus” where that soprano tries out for Mozart… I wonder what he’d do if he heard Kathleen! Then again, not entirely sure if she’d make it to Salzburg, or if she’d even be in a position to be heard… hm…;) in MY story she would! She’d be some charming washer woman singing thru her window, and Wolfgang’d be stumbling home from a night of debauchery in the wee hours… then all of a sudden he stops in his tracks: “Wer ist dieser singvogel??“ you betcha Wolfie! The Dark Continent doesn’t disappoint!

 

 

Yes, Kathleen Battle is [was?] a Diva. Entitled didn’t even begin to describe her. Perhaps her very public firing from the Metropolitan Opera House humbled her? I hope not too much. Her soprano is extraordinary and will hold you happily captive. Being a woman of color in this particular vocal arena is tricky – why not jazz Kathleen? How about R&B? or that intriguing pop cross-over?? NO. Tiptoe around & bow obsequiously? Not even slightly. I understand her motive. May have been a bad PR move to go that over the top, but maybe not, because she’s still around, a little older, a little wiser, a little chubbier– still gorgeous… doing her more humble ‘redemption‘ performances- it’s still a business after all… those famous trills don’t go as high, but that voice isn’t going anywhere, while she’s still with us.

 

“The question is not… if art is enough to fulfill my life, but if I am true to the path I have set for myself, if I am the best I can be in the things I do. Am I living up to the reasons I became a singer in the first place?”

 

 

Maya Rudolph- B, July 27, 1972

 

I haven’t watched Saturday Night Live in a hot microsecond… Not even sure who the cast is anymore [not since Seth Myers did the weekend update… that ‘era’… but if Larry David is hosting, I’ll hunt down the clips to the ends of the earth!!

 

I love funny stuff & funny people, and Maya is a very talented chick, so SNL is privileged to have her — if she’s even still part of cast! since once anybody gets any notoriety on there, they spread their baby bird wings & soar off to the undiscovered lands of sitcoms, movies & specials. Plus, she’s half jewish! Judea in the house!! Mazel! …and Minnie Ripperton! That was her lovely mama – “Loving you, it’s easy, cuz you’re beautiful”-Minnie Ripperton, squeaky high part-Minnie Ripperton…

 

 

Anyway, that’s it – getting a bit heavy-handed with the written stuff, and I just woke up, so I’m a little cranky & disgusted with my pathetic life, and in my mind, I’m eyeing my super-ripe bananas & persimmons [rock-solid in the freezer] coconut water, a little cinnamon & some unsweetened vanilla Spirutein – SMOOTHIEEEEEE!!!! lataz…

 

“Most of my life I didn’t feel very normal. There’s definitely been some moments where I feel like, all right, I’ve finally graduated and I’m a normal lady.”

 

Editor’s note:We here at loosehandlebars LOVE Ms Rudolph’s work (& her mother’s too). We are prepared to overlook any number of movies about Bridesmaids because of Maya’s starring role in the great comedy/documentary of modern American society “Idiocracy”.

 

Hatshepsut, c. 1508 BCE–c. 1458 BCE

 

SCANDALOUS! Picture this: 18th Dynasty, ancient Egypt — so what do you do when your father, the king, dies, and you’re forced to marry your half-brother, then this obnoxious dimwit half-brother goes and knocks up one of his courtesans, and the product of that unholy union, barely finishing up potty training, ends up being king when this same half-brother kicks the bucket [and you know this fool was in a compromising position at the time]what do you do?? well… YOU RULE EGYPT, OF COURSE! Hatshepsut was my favorite! What a life! In ancient Egypt, while a female pharaoh was rare, it wasn’t unheard of. Hatshepsut was actually the third such, and there were a couple more after her, including Cleopatra & we know how all that ended… [cue the Debbie Downer music]

 

The title of ‘Regent’ was normally given in a case like this, but not for Hatshepsut, ‘Pharaoh’ was what she wanted and what she was. In fact, after Thutmose III came of age, she didn’t give it up. Why should she? Egypt flourished & prospered during her 21 year rule. There was actually more to her staying in power – that royal family was pretty diabolical, and there was a theory that her strategy was to actually secure the seat for Thutmose III so that nobody else would take it.

 

There was more intrigue in Hatshepsut’s life, a rumored affair with her chief architect, and even at her death, as her team feared desecration of her remains at her mortuary temple in Deir el Bahri, they ended up hiding her body at a different burial site! After her death, a most-likely ill-advised & hot headed Thutmose III had her statues torn down, monuments defaced & her name removed from the records. Up to 2007 with the presentation of a missing tooth, finally a confirmation, there had been much speculation & arguments as to who this particular discovered mummy was, as she wasn’t where she was supposed to be… SCANDALOUS I say! One thing remains however, Hatshepsut was one of the best Pharaohs, male or female, ever to rule Egypt. I’m dying to see this story turned into a big budget film! could totally envision Thandi Newton & Oded Fehr as Hatshepsut & her architect Senemut…

 

“I have commanded that my [titulary] abide like the mountains; when the sun shines its rays are bright upon the titulary of my majesty; my Horus is high upon the standard … forever.”

Gigi Mac’s Cool Chicks For Black History Month (Part 1)

Through every day of February our international correspondent Gigi Mac will celebrate a different woman of color to mark Black History Month. This is too good an idea to slip off the following day’s F-book feed so here, for our delectation & education, is Part 1 of her selection.

 

Josephine Baker 6/3/06 – 4/12/75

 

Normally we see ‘La Baker’ dancing around being the life of the party– topless, in her little banana skirt, feathers, tulle, dripping with pearls & other costume jewelry… I liked this shot, not just because it was glamorous & elegant, but I love her eyes, and how slightly sad they are… tough life in the ’20s, being a flapper of color, not being accepted in her own country, and having to fight her way thru an odd paradox of being the toast of Paris and at the same time exploitation in a new country, but having the smarts & wit to flip it to make it work to her benefit. Later, having the resources & tenacity to pave the way for others as a civil rights advocate. A bittersweet life, but Josephine endured.

“The things we truly love stay with us always, locked in our hearts as long as life remains.”

 

 

Eartha Kitt 1/17/27 – 12/25/08

A life of controversy and drama makes some people more than ready to be a performer. Like Josephine, Eartha Kitt was not a stranger to the success one could garner overseas…in this case, the result of that forced foray produced world-wide notoriety, multilingual fluency and a hunger to perform. Broadway, cabaret, film, dance, comedy, vocals, Eartha did it all! There was a little kerfuffle later regarding her statements about the Vietnam War, but to be that bold to voice her opinion, at a White House luncheon mind you, as foolish as it appears to be, was well-calculated and needed to be expressed. Might as well add activist to Eartha’s list of accomplishments as she was inclined to give back in droves.

 

While Julie Newmar could do amazing hypnotic things with her eyes, making her a very close second, Eartha was still my favorite Catwoman… slinky, playful, crafty… was she just a villain? or purrrrrfectly misunderstood…? I love this shot of her laughing. I suspect a dastardly plan was being cooked up for her lovely Batman as we speak!

“My recipe for life is not being afraid of myself, afraid of what I think or of my opinions.

 

 

 

Louise Vyent – b, January 7th 1965

What?! You don’t know who Louise Vyent is?? The nerve! 😉 I needed to get a model in here somewhere… Actually I wasn’t going to even use lovely Dutch-African Louise, even tho she was my favorite thing in the world when I was 15 – it was a toss-up between Beverly Johnson or Iman, as they were both iconic and ceiling busters when it came to black models… so many women of color in the industry have those very two goddesses to thank for their careers. Figured I’d go with Beverly. I was actually searching for a pic of her to use, and came across an old Revlon ad that had the goddesses and guess who? Louise! Pretty impressive company Ms. Vyent! That’s quite the gig!

 

Well for a while there, without even knowing her name, Louise was all anybody could talk about, but she seemed to do her own thing. There was the supermodel justice league – Cindy, Naomi, Linda, Christy, Elle etc… even your 2nd tiers– Tatiana, Leticia, Veronica… all sort of clumped together, and then you had Louise, working hard and quietly garnering tons of Glamour covers [just pick up a random Glamour from say 1987 and I guarantee Louise will be on it] a few Vogues or Harpers Bazaars here & there… but as their stars rose & shone, hers leveled off, and she all but disappeared, especially in the American market. No, she’s not selling french melon skin care products at 3 am on VH1, she’s not flinging cellphones at her assistants or dating married losers, she’s not laying about in an opium den in Dusseldorf… Louise Vyent rode her career out as a model as long as she could, then got her life back, that’s why I adore her! she didn’t let the Industry dictate her existence. I suspect she witnessed the damage it does, said no before anything got out of hand, and walked away — that’s what I like to think anyway… In reality, perhaps Louise had a bad runway walk, or maybe a designer thought she had a limited look—sometimes it only takes one time for the right person to say ‘feh’… and that ‘feh’ may have saved her life.

Presently Louise Vyent runs a communications firm on the East Coast, and still models from time to time – when SHE decides. Here is an older, wiser, current Louise– my first girl crush. Bone structure still ridic!

“Photography remains the most powerful medium, specifically when it comes to tragic events.”