Friday, February 04, 2011

Louis Jordan on the Finally Friday Freakout

It is the month of remembering. It is Black History Month where we are supposed to reflect and learn about those people that made us possible to dream a little higher.

This cat is one of those guys who was rocking and rolling long before anybody knew what rock and roll really was. This is Louis Jordan and the Tympany 5 blowing steady on Jack, You're Dead.

I remember when Black History Month was just a week. You'd spend six months learning about Anglo history and there wasn't anybody other than white men involved. Sure they'd mention Dolly Madison but other than Dolly and Besty it was a bunch of guys in powered wigs or coonskin caps.

Then come February and we'd be loaded up with George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams and Benjamin Banneker. Then the week would be over and back to the dead white guys for the rest of the year.

It was so confusing. I'd have brothers from the Nation of Islam selling Bean Pies and trying to educate me on the true history. Most of the time they would give me The Call newspaper for free.

I'd read it. I wasn't down with the white devil part of the newspaper but they would have actual history that was missing from school text.

There weren't much at the local library about black history that was accessible to a kid. I know this for a fact; I was very through in search those shelves. It was the beginning of children focused history book but not enough at the time. Certainly none at my school until later around 1970 or so.

We heard about Malcolm X but did not truly understand. There was Dudley in a Three Stooges short, the one with the plumbing. There was Julia, the nurse on TV. There was OJ jumping at the airport. Folks read The Tribune for real black folks new.

It was a separate and unequaled world. Even at the movies.

They Call Me Mister Tibbs! was the first movie I was allowed to go to by myself at the Saturday afternoon matinee. It was double featured with Dracula, Prince of Darkness.

Christopher Lee scared me so bad I will not voluntarily watch another vampire movie again in my life. Hate blood suckers in all forms. A big honking Technicolor movie. Drac was gushing it and I was sitting front row center. My cheeks filled with popcorn not wanting to believe what I was seeing. That dude was wicked bad.

Mister Tibbs? Well, being 9 or 10 I thought it was a good movie. I didn't know black folks wore suits in Philly. I'd never seen any around my way except for the Nation of Islam men but they really didn't wear suits but jackets, ties and pants that did or did not match.

Sidney Poitier looked might fine in his shiny slicked up duds. I kept my eyes on the sheriff cuz I was sure he was gonna shoot somebody in the back before the movie was over and my vote was him whacking Sidney.

Yes, I know. Drac made a bigger impression on me than Sidney Poitier. I made up for it in later years by watching most all of Sidney's movies.

My history falls in and out of context with the official American narrative. The context of Black and African American history was and maybe is still presented as surviving. Yes, African Americans do insist on surviving.

But we also create. Innovate. Illuminate. Even in constrictive times that is so.

Constrictive time indeed. These are good days. There will be better ones. A good day, by the way, is one you get to start and finish without major pain or mental injury.

Yep. A good day.

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