We’ll not address that here but so much is happily different.
This morning NPR had a great story on John Irving and it made me happy and sad. I was introduced to Irving by Will Coker (RIP) when he gave me A Prayer for Owen Meany when I left LA and it changed my life for a couple of mystical reasons. 1) It’s one of the finest books I can vouch for and 2) its movie version “Simon Birch” was the one movie I could watch the day I found out my father passed away about two years prior to my move. Will did not know that. I have Will to thank for that book and for meeting my husband, Scott Haynes - Will’s East Coast counter part and friend at the company we all worked for. Will told me I’d be in good hands with Scott as I moved back to NYC to work at our company’s headquarters. He may have even known he meant something beyond friends because Will was like that. I’m happy he lived to see Scott and I together and I am sad he’s gone. But he lead me to some beautiful journeys that were life altering - reading John Irving and my husband. Something Irving said in his interview today made me feel like Will is always around: “”I always know where it’s going. I’m writing toward a sentence, usually to much more than a sentence, to many paragraphs, close to a last chapter — it’s like piece of music that you’re writing toward: This is how it sounds when I get to the end. Because I wouldn’t know how I’m supposed to sound at the beginning unless I knew how I was going to sound when I got there.”
My name is Tara, and I have No Shame. I’m a child of a mother who has fought depression since I was young.
When I was less than a year old, my mom and her then husband were out here in Cali, living the life of the metropolitan urban fashionable couple. That is until her husband starting cheating on her with a white woman. My mom, devastated, took me and ran back home to Cleveland to the safety of my grandparents. My grandpa Larry didn’t take any mess and was literally the seam that held the family together. From the deep South, he was the one who taught his eight children to cook and clean. My grandmother, gorgeous and studious, was a college grad and a librarian who wasn’t so much for cooking. Her wardrobe though could knock any woman out in the neighborhood. My grandparents were VERY social and though sometimes couldn’t rub two pennies together, you’d never ever know it from looking at them.
My mother wasn’t doing that great at the crumbling of her marriage. When I look back on it, I am not sure I would be either at the age of 23. I think of me at 23 and the utter heartbreak I was going through and can’t imagine that heartbreak being the source of a marriage and having a kid at the same time. Things were so bad that my grandparents were “suggesting” that they take me while my mom got her head together. She was buckling. But apparently at that suggestion, she realized she needed to pull it together for me. I should have remembered this as an adult but this didn’t dawn on me until recently. When you pull yourself together for someone you’re responsible for, it’s not a cure for your blues. You’re just shoving it somewhere to deal for later.
We got an apartment, my mom got a job, I was going to kindergarten…life was great. Cleveland in the late 70s was great - I had multicultural friends, my mom had us dress up and take portraits together (we are both in denim with the flyest baby hair held down with Pre Con Gel). My grandpa was great. He’d pick me up from kindergarten in his old station wagon. He’d pay me to go to church (three bucks - two of which I gave to the collection plate) and I’d squeal with delight as he ushered folks who got the Holy Ghost and knocked his glasses across the church. My grandmother sat next to me and gave me half sticks of Spearmint gum. My aunt would braid my hair like Bo Derek. My uncles would let me write my name on the ceilings of their room with a lighter. My cousins and I collected enough pennies that we thought we’d go in on a nightclub together (to be fair, I couldn’t really possibly understand money and cost back then). My mom had a village of folks raising me. Then the unspeakable happened. Our seam got ripped from our family when my grandfather was murdered.
My mother, as the first born girl, was a daddy’s girl (much like I would be once my real dad came into the picture - let’s distinguish now that I don’t consider my blood father my REAL father), and when he was murdered, all that devastation from her marriage came rushing back to the surface (didn’t help that she just signed divorce papers and that her ex-husband was about to marry his mistress). My grandfather’s children could not handle his murder, especially since it was never solved. I remember my youngest uncle was watching me when he got the call. I remember blood curdling tears and chaos. I don’t even remember my mother being around. Everyone is just like a cloud of grief that traveled around with me. I’ve written before about my grandfather’s funeral and how I got lost in at the funeral home, trapped in a room full of bodies in caskets. Somehow I found my way out and ran towards an aunt who assumed I was crying over my grandpa. That too but…funerals for me have been obstacles.
My mother was part of that first row of grieving family members. We were all loud and broken. I do remember she grabbed tightly to my hand. Her hands were tear soaked. She’s always had these thin water like tears that crystalized her face. They always silenced me. Soon after grandpa’s passing, my mom met my real dad on a double date. He was from Detroit and came up to visit her a few times. She fell HARD in love with him. He was tall, protective, hard working, handsome and best of all, he loved me. I remember him picking me up from kindergarten once and I was so excited I ran and called him “Daddy” for the first time. He hugged me tight and laughed. We were inseparable from that point on. My mom couldn’t be more pleased, even through her blues.
Ordinarily the story ends there. We all live happily ever after under one roof and become like the Cosbys. Except life is way more complicated. My mom and dad would never live under the same roof, even after she moved us to Detroit to be closer to him. I don’t profess to know the ends and outs of their relationship (I only know her side because, well, she wasn’t afraid to ask me for advice even at the age of 10). My dad wasn’t that kind of person. The only thing he would ever say about my mom is that she had the worst luck. He said that when I was a rebellious angry teenager, threatening to leave the house after one of our massive fights we would have regularly. I insisted it wasn’t her luck. It was her. My mom’s depression crumbled her in every aspect except for making sure I had a roof over my head, my acne was worked on, my homework was done (she was strict), that I didn’t get pregnant and that I didn’t mess around with my education.
But when it came to her, she just kept dreaming. Most of my childhood memories of her include her working and taking the bus home (we never had a car - she wanted one but I think her blues just couldn’t let her figure out how), of her sitting in the dark on Sundays listening to old sad Motown songs on WJLB in Detroit and indulging in substances that would let her forget (I’ll that at that). I was an only child and had an active imagination so I can and always will be able to entertain myself without much help from other people at all. She was happiest when my dad came and got us for brunch, dinner, a movie or a drive. She was saddest when she realized they probably weren’t going to ever get married. I resented her for putting her heart on her sleeve over and over again, begging him, questioning him. I wish I didn’t but I just wanted her to be Superwoman. I wanted her to be strong and independent in every area of her life. She was trying to raise me to be that way but there some days that she literally would be there but not there.
When college came, I couldn’t wait to leave. Two grown women under one roof was torture for the both of us. She wouldn’t admit it but it was wearing her thin and I could be so independent and cold sometimes that her image of us being besties I’m sure was difficult to keep up. When the chance to go to New York came, I jumped on it even though I’d miss my parents (and even though my dad was bribing me with a car to stay). Later, after I had lived in NY for about five years, my dad told me they just knew in their hearts I wouldn’t last a month. But they forgot who they raised. Or maybe they didn’t realize who they raised. My first week at college, my mom called and asked me to do something I didn’t want to do (when I was living under her roof, I would be forced to do what she asked but this was my freedom) and she literally had a melt down. My roommates could hear how loud she was over the phone. I cried for the first time in my life over an argument we had. It was hard for me to do but I knew I had to say no to her because sometimes her requests were bad for her (I won’t say what they were but they had to do with my dad and her desperation to get him back since their break up). When we hung up, I knew that she was in her room, crying like when my grandpa died. And that broke my heart. But I am not the type of person to relent once I think I’ve done the best for both of us. It’s a trait some forget that I have.
I didn’t realize that my move away from home would make my mother’s depression worsen. When I was home, she was upholding the bargain she made with herself to try and keep it together for me. But I wasn’t there anymore and so I am sure the blues floodgates just opened and poured out. She tried to figure out the best way for us to communicate but I was so defensive and so was she. I was so angry about her not being what I expected and she was angry at me for not being the same. I wanted her to suddenly go back to school, get her degree, travel the world, turn into Auntie Mame and call it a day. She wanted me to call her everyday and talk about everything and nothing like she did with her sisters. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted less. It took years for us both to come to some sort of resolve. We’re still not there. I’m not as close as most are there to their moms yet I’m closer than most are to their moms, if that makes any sense. I have recently realized that she is a bit different than I imagined as she is for more independent than I thought. She totally doesn’t need to talk to me everyday but she would do it happily. She’s actually just as well being alone with her thoughts. But this is recent, like in the last 7 years, since my dad died. We both changed when that happened. Even though they weren’t together, her love for him never ever died.And almost six months after his death, my elegant grandmother died too (my mom had moved back to Cleveland to help take care of her…she’s still there).
Recently we made some headway as my mom wouldn’t ever go to a shrink. The whole point of me telling this story as a child of a parent with depression is that this is how our people have dealt with these issues for ages. No doctor, no therapy, no discussion…we just work around it. It’s like a Toni Morrison novel - so dense and thick, so many types of blues floating around these simple things we say to each other that are actually so complex. My mom and I discovered that she has probably been depressed since her father died. Her way of coping is exploring religion and I pray that helps her. My way was to go to a therapist a few times. Along the way I got into a couple of relationships with men who showed signs of depression - one of those relationships very serious but it took its toll on me. I realized I was finding people to save like I felt like I was doing with my mom. Being around depression is hard. It’s isolating, frustrating and a roller coaster ride of other -ing emotions. You never quite feel like you see the whole person for who they are, like they have the blue fog over them. And if you come from that person as I came from my mother, well, it’s a whole other tricky trip because you are the closest and yet so far away.
Lately this thing about keeping our blues to ourselves has become a disease that eats us all alive inside and it’s coming to the surface. As we lose loved ones who are buckling under the weight of all of this, it’s important to talk about these blues. This is the first time I’ve told my story about my mother because I never knew how to begin and I thank Bassey Ikpe for giving me an intro to doing so. I really hope one day my mom gets to find her intro and can tell her own story.
In support of the Siwe project, please visit www.thesiweproject.org to read other stories and share yours if you have one. If you’re on twitter, check out @thesiweproject with the #NoShame hashtag. Silence is really deadly.
I miss you, dad!
It’s fascinating because with the invention of Twitter and Facebook, blogs sometimes come to a standstill because you’ve kind of already said a bunch of stuff in a bunch of places. I’ve been trying to figure out what piece of my writing goes where. I write fiction but I’m trying to finish it! I have random thoughts so I post them to Twitter where they get lost in the ticker tape abyss. I hate Facebook because I feel like there’s far too much personal information that sometime causes you to lose friends and acquaintances (both have happened to me and I hate the feeling of finding out somebody is a bigot or a hater on other people).
So here I am today, with a little more time on my hands. And what do I get inspired to write about? That hot ass mess called “Single Ladies” on VH1. Now, let me back up. The concept isn’t so bad or original. Three women who are friends, navigating single life. I think that was called “Everything Candace Bushnell Writes” or “Any Of Those Hot Mess Reality Shows on Bravo.” But I judge this one particularly harsh because the flaw is in the acting. It’s not always the actors’ fault, by the way. The job of the director is to Tim Gunn It (Make IT Work). If it ain’t working, fix it! Lisa Raye seems really nice but folks aren’t telling her that her reaction timing is off. The vanilla girl is not good for this show. I can’t find anything that would make me miss her acting specifically if she were replaced. They do it on the soaps all the time. Not a big deal. Stacey Dash has always been a bit of a shining star. She’s no Meryl Streep but she makes you want to watch her because she knows her marks.
In the rush to put shows about women, drama and controversy on television, networks are putting up sloppy work. Listen, I’m free if you need some script doctoring. Anything can be fixed.
I suppose we should’ve seen this whole thing coming…the one where the President is always to blame for everything. I mean President Obama saw it coming. He did keep saying stuff like “the buck stops here” and “this is my job” but some of us really didn’t understand what that meant until the weird complaints started coming in. You know…like the death threats from so-called Christians. The impatience from those who have been fighting decades long battles and had expectations that there would be a magic wand waved and all our problems would disappear. Majority of the country who hadn’t pretended to read the constitution since they were in American History class, now reciting bits and pieces to fit their agenda. The ones who forgot this is a democracy and we have other people in government who are responsible for their jobs and that the President doesn’t do EVERYTHING. I mean we’ve never expected the President to do EVERYTHING before so why now?
It’s a blessing and a curse to have a historic President. On one hand, we’ve done something we’ve never done before. On the other, we are now doing everything we did before and worse (economically, socially, culturally - we should come up with new deadly sins) and expect one person to wipe up after us.
Today I’m annoyed because people are pissed at Obama for coming to LA and making traffic bad. Really? Traffic in LA is always bad and none of the local politicians seemed to ever care. If we had a city where things on the road ran smoothly, the whole world wouldn’t collapse because Olympic is shut down. Now I know the Secret Service is part of this ring (and they have a helluva job guarding a historic President given there are people who aren’t happy about his skin color in 2010 - real talk). But how come nobody asks Villagrosa to clean up the HORRIBLE traffic on a daily basis? How come we never find out about the protests that close off streets until we are in the middle of them (I mean I’ve learned more about the Armenian Genocide sitting on Wilshire than I ever did in school and don’t even get me started on the Day without Latinos)? How come the Hollywood Bowl area is a always a clusterfuck no matter which way you go since they hold the lights so people can go stack park their cars for $20?
All this has made me read the news less or get soundbite news. I can’t stand how we present actual facts nowadays. There’s always a sly twist, an unsubstantiated tangent, a rash process of judgment, a disregard for humanity. There is no news anymore. There’s just tone - a sarcastic tone, an angry tone, a defensive tone, a judgmental tone…we’re going so fast that we can’t even hear ourselves anymore. I suppose if I was more tuned in, I would find all of this fascinating but I don’t. I find it exhausting. I’m tuning out.
My blood boils a bit when I hear people being so upset with Lebron James as though he literally stole the check out of their mailbox. People from wackalicious Charles Barkley (who NEVER got a ring by the way) to, well, me, have an opinion about how Lebron should have handled his career. Key word HIS career. Barkley, Jordan, etc all say they would have never done what Lebron did (and by “did” let’s separate the HOW from the WHAT). Times were different back then, old timers. Nobody had to live in Cleveland to make their way. I’m not a Cleveland basher but having family from there (so thus, visiting a few more times than I wanted to), I can say that it is NOWHERE near my top choices to live. It’s around where Philly is but Philly has The Roots so I wouldn’t be TOO devastated in Philly. For Jordan and his years of being off the rader before being the demi-god he turned into, he could do it in fancy Chi-town with all its jazz, good food, metro people, and a budding youngish Oprah who was smashing Phil Donahue in the ratings. Something to do, in other words. Barkley had some nice weather. Bird had Boston where he fit right in, being vanilla and all (If I was vanilla, Boston might be a nicer place for me too). I won’t even get into Magic. I’m from Michigan so I know where Magic came from and I live in LA so I know where he landed. Dude, you had not one complaint. None of y’all tried to make it ago in Cleveland where you literally have to recreate fire.
I imagine it being heavy carrying an entire state’s hopes and dreams. And when people talk about Lebron quitting in the finals, I wonder if they ever bashed Kobe for doing the same (as a message to his teammates) or considered the fact that dud was just tired of being Whole Team Cavaliers.
Haters go hate but there’s nothing wrong with some young men trying to achieve their goals. They outsmarted some rich team owners who sometimes act above the law and they got theirs. Nobody took a check out of your mailbox so fall back and stop taking it personally. I can’t wait to see how many of y’all are camped in front of the tv waching Heat games.
I frequently get a heavy heart when I read the news. More so than I did when I grew up in Detroit and read about Malice Green or the Atlanta Child Murders or even reading about American History. I used to look at pictures of lynchings and water hosing and the Holocaust and Japanese camps and think how hard it must have been back then. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized, we are back then.
We have a black president who stepped into poo for a job. Some may agree or disagree with how things are being done there but I have yet to find any of the alternative rational solutions to be plausible or even without partisan motive. It’s as if the alternative to the president is to be angry, mean, disrespectful or unrealistic. I will never forget, during the President Bush years, I had a mini-conversation with a co-worker who was Republican. She was older and she stopped our conversation from getting any where near politics. She said, “I was taught to not criticize the President, to not talk religion or politics when cocktails are involved.” While my actions are so far from that, I could respect what she was saying. It seems that respect is gone now. Even Clinton with the girls and the scandals garnered more respect than the man trying to do the best he can in office now. I only know what it’s like to be American, to be a woman and to be black. I can empathize with other scenarios but I don’t know them intimately so I can imagine the fear that rests on others’ chest at night as they watch the world change from something familiar to something that they cannot control. Yet this world was never ours to control in the first place. We are only here to get to know ourselves so that we may grow, try to end our lives some place further than where we begin, appreciate our moments, and institute some kind of order that is fair and balanced to all. Beyond that, we get into scary territory.
Yesterday I was saying to the BF that the conservative white people who are afraid of how this country is turning out must not remember that this country has always been about cheap labor. That’s how black people got here, that’s how Native Americans almost became extinct, that’s how Latinos are still here en mass though this “here” was their “here” first like the Native Americans, that’s how most every immigrant has gotten here and stayed here. What did you think would happen? They would pick cotton, tobacco, fruit, vegetables, clean houses, water lawns, build houses and then leave? You called in specialists and paid them nothing. Of course this country is becoming more colorful. You asked for help and you got contributors. You thought you got free or cheap labor to build your Shanghri-La. Surprise. Nothing belongs to anyone. You fight for existence, not your right to be a bigot, prejudiced or racist.
I got a petition in my inbox to sign something to prevent a mosque being built near Ground Zero. I am baffled. I don’t understand why we wouldn’t have all places of worship near such a tragic site. I can’t believe that there are religious people sending this petition around. There were muslims in the towers, alongside other religious/nonreligious folk, that had nothing to do with the terrorists. There were Muslim nurses and cops who were trying to help people. Just as there were Muslims, there were Christians, Jews, Hindis, Atheists and Spirtualists. I am unable to understand how we are not able to make the separation of religion from terrorists. Just because a murderer says he does something in the name of God does not mean we have to accept that. We can reject it. We can tell them that they are murderers no matter what their reason. This is what happens in the courtrooms. Why can’t it happen in our minds? When Timothy McVey bombed children, did we care why he did it? Did we look at young white men funnier after that? Were they held in a different light? When Columbine happened, did we outlaw bullying or get scared when we saw kids walking down the street? There are so many instances where we have chosen different paths of reaction whether because of emotion or convenience but we must know that every choice has consequences.
It is very difficult to watch people’s prejudices and anger come out all at once. I am sure my irrational mind would love it if I acted a fool over the Detroit shooting of Aiyana Jones but my rational mind definitely paid attention to what Al Sharpton said about it not just being a police issue but a community issue. Maybe it is maturity or getting further along in age but what I strive for most is compassion and the struggle for peace. Suddenly I really feel like if people aren’t doing all they can for that then they must look internally for the problems they place at the feet of others. My old math teacher, Mr. Cole, used to ask us to ask ourselves this question before we did anything: “Is it kind and is it necessary?” At the time we thought it was corny but now I realize he was asking us to create a thought prior to action. To examine our motivations to the fullest prior to presenting our ideas out to the world. To pray for the death of anyone, including a president (like the ever growing Facebook groups) seems to so anti-human that I feel bad for the karma it will create to those who think it necessary.
This is a soapbox rant and I’m not sure how many agree and I’m not even sure if that matters. I just wanted to lament my heavy heart at watching the world grow. Puberty sucks. I can’t wait until we get to be fine adults.
I just I just should own it.
I’m a locs girl.
Here’s my story briefly. I first got locs my first year of grad school. I’d been natural about four years. They were great. Palm rolled and no cares in the world. I did have an addiction to hair color that eventually turned them some kind of only-visible-to-me dark green and then jet black thanks to more hair color. I cut them off after my heart got broken and I was in such a state as I would’ve done anything “reckless” aside from harm myself.
And then I went back to braids. This was TERRIBLY convenient as Wudia, my braider, had a shop right below my apartment and I could literally roll out of bed and be there. No travel time!
And then I was with my buddy Schwellie at Jimmy’s Uptown when it first opened, before the stick ‘em ups and the disappearance of Jimmy, when I saw this older women with the most stunning hair. She had the loveliest little locs I’d ever seen. I HAD to know what she had. She told me they were Sisterlocks (I really hate the name and I don’t care if people chastise me for hating the name…I don’t hate anyone attached to it). I got the number to her stylist and I went to my consultation. Well, mine plus about four other women. We were all packed up in her upper Westside apartment to learn about SLs. I was misunderstood because I thought it would just be me and I had put some money away, not knowing how much it would be, in case she wanted to start then. Oh no. This was the opposite of what I thought. With all my hair, she said it would be 800 bills EASY…my breath left em. I was a just started working woman! Plus, even though I group up in Detroit with its 24 hour hair salons, I was not the one to put hair over rent.
I went back traditional. I went to the same woman who started them before. Roberta in Brooklyn who’s house smelled of all of her Aveda stuff. Heaven. She also died them the loveliest shade of bronze. I’m sure all around me were overjoyed given I let my hair rock a blowout afro for 1.5 days before it deflated and shrank.
The second loc exodus just happened November 2008. I took two days off and, with the help of Jamyla who’d done this before, I armed myself with a spritzer bottle of water and a rattail comb. I undid my locs.
I had dreams of I’m not sure what. I think I thought I’d get my hair pressed, I’d do braidouts, I’d do twistouts…I did no such things. I did buns. For a year. I realized something about myself. I’m not really a DIYer because that implies doing things. What I am is a “I don’t want to deal with it” er. The only hair thing I like doing myself is hair color and even sometimes I don’t mind somebody else doing it.
Through a series of life happenings, I was able to finally afford SLs though not at the 1998 price I was quoted (I guess that’s when they were like Howard Hughes…now they’re a bit more known). I have come to terms that I need to put my big girl pants on and get to know who I really am with my hair. I’m somebody who doesn’t like to do a lot and now I’m somebody who starting to put money aside to get my hair done. My mother used to INSIST she and I get our creamy cracked scalps tended to every two weeks and perhaps I was trying to run from what that felt like - being in the salon for HOURS (because we always had the stylist that EVERYONE went to), not scratching my head, fear of it turning out horrible. But now it doesn’t have to be that way. Now I can consider some necessary me grooming time and even make myself believe I’m a little girly for it.
Anyone who really knows me knows that I have ZERO problem with being addicted to certain reality television shows. If Bravo squats it out of their a-hole, I watch (except for that Nine By Design and that’s just because it sounds boring and like somebody higher up made this show happen against better judgment). Also, there’s a slew of crazy wedding reality shows. Having never been married myself, perhaps I roll around these things like a pig in shit too easily. I don’t know what it’s like to feel pressure to chose a big puffy dress or scream on my bridesmaid friends or rob Sallie Mae to pay a caterer. Maybe I should but I don’t feel the urge to destroy my life so much. I hope when the time comes, it will be lovely and peaceful and without bill collectors.
It’s a psychological study for me to watch these things: Say Yes To The Dress, Bridezilla, etc. To be fair, I also enjoy House Hunters but more so House Hunters International (I am FASCINATED how people “work from home” and then decide they need to relo to Fantasy Island at the ripe age of 40). These people, I guess, are the Bridezillas after?
Back to reality…heh…tv that is. It’s now getting to a point where I know people on these shows are just going on to act a fool to get on television. Even my beloved Say Yes To The Dress, which is relatively mild in comparison to the Springer-like shenanigans on Bridezilla. Say Yes To The Dress is just about a bunch of women trying on dresses at the infamous Kleinfeld’s. Whereas before these were princess from Long Island, it’s now turning into African girls from London who are on holiday in NYC and just so happened to stop in with her fiance to spot a one of a kind tissue paper like thing for the price of a village (this actually happened - I suspect she was an actress because she was stunning and so was the fiance and they never came back to purchase the dress despite a long hemming and hawing). Is reality not even sacred anymore.
This post primarily came about as I was cruising my New York magazine Fashion Trend enewsletter and came about a little Vera Wang tidbit. Here it is:
“I dress a great many rock stars and I’m always surprised when they want the most traditional dresses,” she said. On the wedding gown she designed for Jennifer Lopez: “It took eight months and we made three dresses. It pushed me out of my own box and comfort zone.” Read: Lopez almost pushed her over the edge.”
DELICIOUS…where is THAT show? Jennifer’s career is on the downturn so why not make a show about her being a Lifezilla or something? I mean her back up plan could not be Back Up Plan so she might as well go ahead with it. Why am I not a tv show head? I mean seriously. This also got me wondering which damn dress Vera was talking about. Jenny’s been around the block a few times if you know what I mean.
I get in moods. Sometimes I have this great desire to cut myself and bleed all over this page and then, having been put in really weird positions because of what I say here, I second guess myself. I’m a hesitator! So that’s why I can go long bouts of “I’m not here” and be fine.
Lena Horne just brought me out from my cave.
My first encounter with her was through Fred Sanford (hey, I was a wee kid then so don’t get all hot and bothered about how uncultured I must have been). He loved her so much that every other word was “Lena Horne.” And then the real introduction happened: The Wiz. Her song at the end literally made me cry and I didn’t even really get the whole movie just yet (I was still a kid — I had just enough comprehension to be in my pre-school’s recital to “Brand New Day” - we basically just danced around in a circle but I took it seriously.
Detroit in the 80s and 90s was the best place to grow up. TV 50 played old movies all day on Sunday and my mom would make us omelets while we went from “Abbott and Costello” to “Roman Holiday.” Double feature afternoons were my joy. Every once in a while, they played a great black movie. I do remember “Cabin In The Sky” and being mesmerized by this woman who looked white but surely did not sound white singing.
Later she would have a guest appearance on my other favorite show, “A Different World” playing herself, still beautiful, still high yellow and still sounding like she was one of my distance cousins from Mississippi. No wonder men of my grands age loved her so. She seemed like she would TELL you a thing or two.
In college I researched everything about the then lost age of black film from Oscar Micheaux to Freddie Washington. I devoured Donald Bogle’s Dorothy Dandridge’s bio and ate August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” daily.
There aren’t many Lena Horne-types around anymore and, at 92, her death leaves a gaping hole in our cultural fabric. We are lucky enough that her granddaughter is penning really interesting screenplays right now (”Rachel Getting Married”, etc.) but they don’t come like Lena anymore.
Not sure what box we get to put these losses in: Eartha, Lena…but thank god for celluloid.