I was sitting here drafting a Black History Fun Fact about the first black-owned TV and radio stations but as I read I noticed a disturbing trend. A trend we can still see present today. To start, I was researching WGPR-TV, first black-owned television station in the U.S. and W.E.R.D., first black-owned radio station in the U.S. WGPR-TV was run and operated in Detroit and W.E.R.D. was based in Atlanta. We’ll go deeper into their history in a separate post but both stations became a platform for black artists, from Jazz and Blues musicians to Dr. Martin Luther King Dr. using it to broadcast his sermons and later, Civil Rights announcements. There are two things I noticed associated with each of these companies as the inspiration to today’s post:
Jesse Blayton, founder of W.E.R.D., also taught accounting at Atlanta University and tried encouraging young black people to enter the field. He was unsuccessful because the students knew that no white-owned accounting firms would hire them and Blayton’s, the only black-owned firm in the South, was small and had few openings.
WGPR-TV was successful from my perspective but because it failed to reach a wider audience, it was eventually sold to CBS. WGPR-TV ran from 1975 to 1995 under its black leadership.
With, black-owned businesses, I notice a disturbing mindset among many of my people in the African-American community that success is synonymous with white support and that, without it, we aren’t as successful as we could be. Society has deceived many of us into thinking unless they have included us in the mainstream public eye, we are unsuccessful. I compare it to publishing in the sense that Traditional Publishing is still seen as a more successful route than Independent Publishing. It is still seen as a sign of prosperity to be signed to a publisher than to be your own publisher through the Self-publishing route because of the exposure. Although many Self-Publisher’s are making far more money, unless the Self-Publisher can look like a celebrity, he or she has not made it (whatever that means). This is flawed thinking and causes many to chase the temporary pleasures of money and fame over integrity.
The Oscars is a great example of this and for the record, I admire Spike Lee and Regina King most especially. The talent comprised in these two people is beyond words. However, the black community’s reaction to their Oscar win is a great example of how we do not often see ourselves as being enough. Spike Lee and Regina King are and have always been two powerful artists. What Spike Lee has done with Crooklyn, Four Little Girls, Mo Beta Blues, Do the Right Thing, He Got Game, Malcolm X and more is nothing short of genius work. That Regina King can simultaneously bring to life two characters in Huey and Riley Freeman is nothing short of genius work. Not only did she capture the personas of two little boys but two little black boys. Whether that is Poetic Justice, Boyz N the Hood, Friday, Enemy of the State or Down to Earth, King’s roles are always down to earth. She’s got this skill that allows her to be relatable in any role. She‘s hilarious and you feel she can easily be your sister.
My point here is this: Lee and King did not need to win Oscars for me to recognize their brilliance. Yet, as a community, we champion this as the official ceremony to which we have received a piece of the pie. We have a track record of doing this, in which we do not see ourselves as successful except that we are integrated into mainstream societies expectations of what that success is supposed to look like. Angela Basset does not need an Oscar to be great.
There is nothing wrong with receiving support across all nationalities and nations of people. However, it is important for the black entrepreneur to know and understand that to be young, gifted, and black is also a success by itself and on its own terms.
For those of you who don’t already know, I’m a native of Chicago, south side. This blog has been closed because this past weekend, we took a trip up to the windy city for the premiere of “Blakk Amerika: From Prophets to Pimps”, a Stage Play produced by my organization, Israylite Heritage, detailing 4,000 years of history of the so called African American people.
The event took place at The Dusable Museum of African American History. Over 300 people came out to see the almost 3 hour show. Words cannot fully express the empowerment expressed through this event. So instead, I put together a post of pics (as promised yess) to help me to give you an idea of what the play was about.
Let’s start with the name, why Prophets to Pimps?
The History of the African American is always told from the perspective of slavery and the America’s. Aside from the scarce mentioning of life in Africa, rarely is the true story of the identity of the black man and woman told from their glorious past before that. Prophets to Pimps embodies the truth concerning the black man and woman today; who at one point was a nation of Prophets, Prophetess, Kings and Queens. A nation of priest; chosen and set-apart to the most high and charged with the duty of teaching and showing all nations of people his ways.
The costumes were nothing short of amazing. As you can see, many of the actors / actresses are dressed in Egyptian garb. This is to showcase, not only the understanding that the Egyptians were a black skinned people, but more deeply, that the Israelites were also black skinned and that they, the Israelites, are the ancestors of the so called African American people. When they came into Egypt 70 in number, they were freed by the most high through the hand of Moses and led into the wilderness. They are dressed as Egyptians because as citizens of Egypt this is how they would have come out of that land.
When the Israelites were freed from Egypt, they made a covenant with the most high. In this covenant that they made, they promised to spread his word to the world. As a result, the almighty would in return make them the most mighty and most righteous nation above all the nations of the Earth. However, if they did not obey the covenant they would be the most despised and downtrodden of the Earth. They would be plagued by disease, oppression, sicknesses, be called by the names of proverbs, mockeries, and bywords (such as Nigga, Coon, Black, Afro-American, African American, American, etc.)., hidden in prison houses and go into slavery in ships. All of this, our entire history, is written and recorded in the bible itself. No longer would we be a nation of priest and prophets, but if we disobeyed the covenant of the most high, now we would be a nation of thugs and pimps. Sadly, we disobeyed the covenant that we made and so began our tragic downfall. We’ve gone from Prophets…..to Pimps.
Interesting Fact: The word pimp first appeared in English in 1607 in a Thomas Middleton play entitled Your five Gallants. It is believed to have stemmed from the French word “pimper” meaning to dress up elegantly. Pimp used as a verb, meaning to act as a pimp, first appeared in 1636 in the book, “The Beautiful Lover.” In the 18th and 19th centuries, the term was commonly used to refer to informers.
The play covered us being sold into slavery on auction blocks and life on the plantation. The audience really enjoyed this segment. The actors and actresses really put on a good show, causing the room to erupt in laughter and in tears when needed.
In this scene, the slave John is called as a prophet and sent to the other slaves to explain their oppression to them. As you can see, the play also included video on the projector screen and music. Combined, these elements added to the significance of the performances.
This is me! Lol….I play Betsy Mae, a slave on Paul’s plantation whose son gets sold away from her. The old me picture is used in a different scene to show to Besty’s great great great grandson Raymond. His mother, Shelia, explains slavery and what happened to her young son.
This is Ezkekiel. He plays the part of Besty’s son who is sold away from her. Isn’t he handsome! Awww lol.
• During slavery in the United States, the slaves referred to the slave owner as Masa. This was not a mispronunciation of the word Master. Masa is a Hebrew word that means burden/oppression.
• The famous Negro spiritual song KUMBAYAH was often sung on the plantations by slaves. According to the bible in the book of Psalms 68:4, the name of the creator is Yah. Like in the phrase, “Halleluyah” which is spelled “Hallelujah” but is pronounced, “Hallelu-Yah” because it means “Praise Yah”. The song KUMBAYAH therefore means “Come by Yah”. The slaves were singing to the true creator of all to come by and save them.
• The prophets carried the name of Yah in their names, although it has been changed to -iah, many of their names ended in yah. As in IsaiYah, JeremiYah, ZechariYah, ZephaniYah, ObadiYah, etc.
• The true name of the biblical messiah is Yahoshua. This Hebrew name means Yah’s Salvation or Salvation of Yah. It is equivalent in English to Joshua.
I also play the Shelia character in modern times, who teaches her son about his great great great grandmother (the Besty character I played in the beginning). The parallel in this scene showcases how our children are still being taken from us. Shelia gets a surprise visit from a DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) agent who tries to take her son away. In this scene, my son is played by Zuri.
The most moving part of the play has to be this scene, when we talk about the lynching of African Americans. The scene begins in a home where a discussion is brewing between a woman who says black men should stand up and defend themselves.
But there’s a knock on the door from the neighbor who says police are looking for black men who they say killed three white women. All of the men ran to the woods to hide except Otis and Lewis who are still in the house. Her voice is filled with fear and urgency.
Otis and Lois
Nina Simmon’s Strange Fruit and live footage of hangings occupy the scene.
Fun Fact: The word picnic came from, “Pick a Nigger”. During lynchings, racist whites posed in front of camera’s, gathered blankets, and brought food to the executions. They brought their babies and children along as well. It was an entire event. And they watched as black men, women, and children hung to their deaths under trees. This is why your picnic must be in a spacious land area and under a tree. Lynchings were the first picnics.
**Disclaimer: We are an organization of all nationalities of people. We believe Yah’s love is for ALL men who accept his truth and walk in his ways. Israylite Heritage does not support any racial superiority doctrine.**
No longer do our children respect their mothers and fathers. Now, they oppress them. They have no obedience for the elders in their communities. They have no fear.
No longer do black women look at themselves as princesses and their men as princes; now we are thots and our men are niggas. No longer do we submit ourselves to their authority and recognize them as heads of our households. Now we don’t need a man because we can pay our own bills and buy our own cars. We have made money synonymous with protection. We have turned our glory into shame.
The leaders and so called preachers and deacons within the Black community have led them astray. No longer do they teach you about your mighty heritage, instead they rob you physically and spiritually. They teach you to give tithes that were reserved for the Levite priest (of which we have no knowledge of today), and that was not money to begin with. They do not teach you to fear your almighty creator. Instead they teach you to worship the Gods and Goddesses of your oppressors. Our leaders buy million dollar jets, monopolize on our sorrows, and give nothing in return. They have led us astray and destroy the way of our path.
My husband as Muhammad. Hubby is actually an experienced actor. He has done commercials, voice overs, and has been featured in films alongside Lorenz Tate, Lisa Ray and others. He has many parts in the play but this particular one is that of the store owner Muhammad. It is to showcase the fact that other nationalities of people come into this country and in no time build up businesses within the Black community. We have been in this country for centuries and have not built much of anything, why? Prophecy says this will happen to the children of Israel if they disobeyed the covenant. People wonder why racism in America always surrounds blacks? Because of every nationality in the world, we are the lowest.And that’s just real.
However, the truth is being restored and we will be made great again.
Because this is already a long post and does not even begin to scratch the surface, I am going to leave it here. However, there is so much response from this play that we are already booking to show it again 3 more times this year in different states and again in Chicago this fall. It is possible that we will put together a tour. Details are forthcoming. In the meantime, here are some more pics of the family, rehearsals, etc. (They are not professional pictures because we are still processing the footage and pictures our camera guy took).